Dial a Doctor: Part 2

Nancy’s voice sounded petulant and angry this time, like a small child who found another occupying her favorite seat. My Mom had answered the phone this time, while I spent my day off sitting at overly small desks during Grandparents and Special Friends at Kevin’s school (Essentially I followed my little brother through his normal morning routine, listening to lessons in class, evaluating his progress, and introducing myself to his cute single teachers — and unsuccessfully concealing my innate aura of desperation.).

Again the phone rang during lunch. “Hello,” Mom said.

“Yes, I am calling from the hospital. Is your husband available?” Mom answered no, that he was still at work but would be home at . . .

“I asked him to call me yesterday before four. I made that clear. Yet he did not call me. Now I have to call again today.”

Mom of course has no response for this obvious fact. She informs Nancy that we had called Dad concerning the message and gave him her phone number. To Mom’s knowledge, Dad had indeed talked to someone at the hospital. Who, she could not be sure, but he was aware of his medical restrictions before the surgery.

“Hmph . . . well, he did not talk to me. Be sure that he calls me before four this afternoon.”

“Oh, well, alright. Good . . .”

Click

” . . . bye.”

Save Me

Yesterday’s conversation with Dad’s doctor recalled a short email that I dispersed last summer after a particularly trying experience with Food Lion’s club card. It is a little dated — I have since bought into the bonus card — not to mention vitriolic, but I thought that it might interest some of you, who like me become exhausted with gimmick:

I believe the check-out lady at the local Food Lion hates me. Or at least, loathes my continued existence in her store. Samuel Johnson once wrote that the failure of most human relationships is the accumulation of insults and fractures too minor to mention and too numerous to ignore. Such is the marketing principle of these supermarket bonus cards: to slowly accumulate wealth. Yet the constant badgering and store-inflicted guilt too can accumulate, like a cancer, into a stubborn refusal to buy into the card at all, to willfully lose money.

Such is the case here.

Like most markets today, Food Lion offers a member-oriented bonus card, which offers the cardholder additional savings on groceries and free coupons for bizarre items like Chow Mein Noodles and vegetarian TV dinners. Once Mom gave me her card to buy six galleons of milk, a dozen eggs, and a pound of bacon. Upon checkout, the discount card earned me three coupons for Tampons. I refuse to sign up for the card; although, on occasion, I borrow Mom’s for large purchases (in a family of ten that occurs once a week). Typically during these rare moments, I only save about four bucks, ten at the most for a hundred dollar purchase. The check-out lady hates the fact that I could care less about the lost pocket change.

Whenever she asks for my card and I respond with a smile that I have left it at home, I am sure to look down so I cannot watch her shake her head. I do hear the sharp click of her tongue though. Clearly she disapproves of my attitude. An overly exasperated sigh follows, before I hear the beep of scanned cereal. Sometimes, the cashier’s pained voice will whine out to those standing behind me:

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have your card to scan? This gentleman cannot save without his card.”

She scans my neighbor’s card and begins packing my groceries into bags. I stand still like the fool in the corner who forgot his times tables. Purchasing fifty dollars worth of groceries earn me two dollars back and a coupon for cigarettes. I do not smoke.

“Don’t you like savings?” she asks.

Sure, I consider. I enjoy lollipops too, but I don’t think I’ll jump into traffic just to swap a freebie at the doctor’s office. I do not say this. Simply put, the prospect of playing this asinine game, when the savings could be granted to everyone with or without a card, prompts me to sacrifice several dollars a week just to annoy her.

I leave the store irritated, reminding myself to avoid her station next week. Though I know this will not happen, we somehow are drawn to one another like opposing charges: she sees a potential client while all I spy is another marketing trap, another ubiquitous plastic card to tack onto my keychain, another member of the nameless rabble who shop there.

Yet that’s the thing that troubles me the most: the total insignificance of the stupid card. With most of the cashiers — other than her — they station a manager’s card at the check-out so when some card-less shmuck like myself buys groceries, we can procure a few extra bucks. If the manger’s card cannot be found, they ask the next person in-line if they could swipe their card — usually without the guilt. Therefore, on any other day when the food-store fascist is absent, anyone regardless of race, creed, or key-chain can save a few extra bucks on bananas, bagels, and band-aids.

Or if they ever allow us to input our phone-number code, I’ll staple my phone number above the register, thus triggering such a massive influx of savings that Food Lion will crumble within a few years and I will have to drive an additional five minutes to a store with more amiable grocers. Although with the rising price of gas, it is lose-lose either way.

Dial a Doctor

The phone rang sometime during lunch, immediately after I had taken my first bite of a delicious egg and mustard sandwich. My mouth now full of egg, ham, and bread, I answer with garbled “Hewoo?”

The voice on the other end sounded stern, impatient, and quick like a German headmistress or someone who used words like “fiddle faddle.”  She was calling from the hospital.  “Is your father available?”

I choked down the bolus of chewed bread and protein, coughing out a semi-audible “No, no he isn’t.  May I . . .” before she interrupts.

“Can I leave a number?”

“Sure,” I say grabbing at a floret of pencils which in my haste spill out onto the floor (I may have cursed.).  An audible impatience sighs across the line.  I grab at an old notebook.  “Whenever you’re ready . . .”

Nancy — that I learn is her name — hurriedly fires off ten numbers and informs me that she will be “here” (I assume an office at the hospital) until four.

“Oh,” I stammer, “May I ask what this call is regarding.”  Now I think this a prudent question; although I know that Dad is scheduled for some minor surgery this Monday.  In fact, he asked me to drive him to and from the hospital.  However, I also realize that the time of his appointed surgery may been moved in the past, so knowing that this message concerned Monday’s visit — as oppose to the surgery several weeks ago — would be important.

“I am calling from the hospital,” she answers, stressing the word hospital as if it was sufficient explanation for anyone.

“Oh, ok . . .” I burble, wondering if I had inadvertently attempted to violate some patient/doctor confidentiality  and got caught in the process.  “Thank . . .”

Click.

“. . . you.”

Biblio-fool

Short post today. After the past few weeks of – for lack of a better word – ineffective writing, I wanted to return to some old content and style. In other words, include the same nonsense; leave out the confusing rambles.

My journeys carried me to Borders today in search of a birthday book for my young cousin. A dangerous enterprise on the best of days (a perfect example of which welcomed us today with warm breezy weather, cloud-less skies, and no classes), bookstores always threaten to consume my wallet, the sacrificial lamb for my bibliophilia. For instance, no sooner did I find the perfect gift, Olivia by Ian Falconer, than my eyes wandered to the other picture books on the shelves. I considered additional gifts for my cousin such as Where the Wild Things Are or a book of poems maybe something by Shel Silverstein, the seeds of a childhood library and fantastic books for young readers (and adults alike). My hands tickled like a thief fingering his hoard, until my conscience – the prude – checked my actions. Originally, I set my price limit to fifteen bucks, and so conceding to the anxious groans emanating from my wallet, I returned the additional books to the shelves and sighed. On my way out of the stacks, a (cute) female employee stacking books nearby must have seen me and asked if I required any help. Anxiety must have stamped its mark on my face, and I wonder now if she saw me as a potential pervert, this twenty-something guy hovering and mumbling to myself in the children’s section.

Politely I declined and shuffled off with my – *sigh* sole – book, only occasionally glancing back at her slender figure (I am human after all.). Now at this point, I should have adjusted my blinders and made a beeline to the check-out counter; however, my inner voice of reason, momentarily distracted with its minor victory, allowed me to browse. I wandered through the young adult section for the latest Crispin novel by Avi. Irritated at not finding it, my frustration coerced me through the maze of Self-help and Gardening sections to the manga, where I picked up two new volumes (Spiral and School Rumble, in case your interested). This satiated my urge some, but now I required absolution from my geek guilt (Definition geek guilt: noun. That worried feeling of approaching the check-out counter with an armful of clearly odd, unusual (i.e. geeky) merchandise in public). Subsequently, I picked out two books on short-story writing for buffering, paid, and left . . . . after stopping at the nearby coffee stand for a refill on refreshments.

In summary, I ended up leaving having paid for five books and only – thankfully – two iced teas (Seattle’s Best Coffee constructs the best coffee milkshakes on the planet with real ice cream, no less; the ecstasy is almost too good to withstand.). Such is the nature of my bibliophilia. In my defense, the stories simply call out to me. Louder and with more brilliance than even the smoothest coffee milkshake or story-time Siren could ever sing . . . although in truth it is a lonely addiction. Maybe next time, I might invite the beautiful bookseller out for coffee. I might just amass the courage, unless of course I spy that Crispin novel first. Courage may embody the foundation of romance, but man cannot purchase coffee with an empty wallet. Perhaps we can muster a rousing conversation over cream and sugar packets . . .

“Courage, determination, and hard work are all very nice, but not so nice as an oil well in the back yard.”
— Cooley Mason

In which Murph journeys into the Lost World while consuming cookies . . .

I ate a cookie the other day. It was delicious. Cookies being rare treats for me (I try not to gorge myself on sweets too often lest the sugar-high causes my head to explode), I offered a silent blessing on the Keebler elves that their nimble cookie-making fingers never strain and their fairie baking-powers never diminish or empties — in truth, I know little about fairie baking magic, whether it can run empty like gas in an automobile or simply needs recharging like an RC racer.

NOTE: hopefully elves garnered more efficiency at charging than the racers as a normal three-hour charge releases only about fifteen worthless minutes of actual driving time; if such was the case, EL Fudge would be as rare and extravagant as Lindt’s truffles.

 

Yet then I realized that Milano cookies were a product of Pepperidge Farms, not Keepler. Quickly I finished my blessing to the elves regardless (every day we should thank all cookie makers for their worthy craft), and considered who I should thank for the Milano. I seem to remember an old man, in years past, who advertised the delicious cookies, his voice sputtering out the name “Pepperidge” like an old car engine. However, blessings I seem to recall require a name and “old sputtering Pepperidge Farm guy” just sounded mocking and thus unsuitable for a blessing.

 

As I sat wondering, considering whether I should just eat another cookie and save the blessings for those better suited to the task – clearly I was not – my gaze fell upon my collection of dinosaur toys from ages past.

 My dinosaur collection

When I was a kid, more than anything else I wanted to be a dinosaur. It is easy to conceive why as dinosaurs are vastly superior to any other living thing on this planet – except kangaroos, which due to their biological pouches and innate hopping do add something to the evolutionary gene pool. You may debate this point – unless you have a problem with kangaroos, in which case I do not want to hear it – but it would be folly. Seriously, from what other phylum past, present, and extinct could we choose? Dogs? Lions? Horses? Please. Evolution teaches us that most land-based mammals like horses, puppies, and cats grew from the sea; mammals were all once fish. Meanwhile fish represent the evolutionary achievement of all bacteria. Ad hoc we may categorize the majority of the animal population as either fish, bacteria, or platypus, the evolutionary equivalent to potpourri.

Ergo, everything started from the same stew of atoms, molecules, and bacteria, destined to develop into complex multi-cellular life, into either horses or dinosaurs. Now I ask you, which is more impressive? The answer should be clear. Even the platypus, as odd and jumbled as it is, cannot compete with the bony horns, cavernous mouths, and thick armor of the dinosaur. Like living tanks, knights with biological armor, or demons from the darkest corners of Tartarus. No child is immune to their seductive appeal, the marvelous beauty of living monsters unfettered by civilization.

 

“ ‘The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.’ ”

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

A Utahraptor enjoying a meal.

Yet dinosaurs achieve this distinction through three major factors:

  • They are giants.
  • They are monsters.
  • They were real.

These factors in themselves convinced me to spend a great deal of my childhood stomping, growling in mock imitation of my favorite dino, Tyrannosaurus Rex. For a boy of seven, anything monstrous compelled imitation. Stomped loudly on the floorboards and roared with piercing primal screams, I was quite proud of my future occupation. Years later my piano playing never fully recovered from years of holding my two fingers aloft in the semblance of tiny reptilian claws or – for those ignorant individuals we met in the street – a hippie child with a lazy arthritic peace sign.

My mother remained quite supportive of my behavior too even after that biting incident at school; although the neighbors never ceased staring at me like I was sucking on lead-based lollipops. Clearly they were envious of my lofty ambitions.

Allosaurus skeleton.

In time my dreams drifted – though not faded – as I sought out other monsters living today, now. Sacrificing truth for reality, I researched the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Goat Man (A mid-Atlantic legend, the creature possesses the head of a goat and the body of a man and wields a giant axe to attack parked cars, lovers on lonely roads, and other untrustworthy individuals.) and then, as my reading skills improved, mythology. Until one fine beautiful day, I found myself with a copy of Lewis Carol’s “Jabberwocky” in my hand reading aloud to the kids. Of all the poems memorized for school, Shakespearean soliloquies, and wise saws from – as Patrick once put it – “old dead guys,” I will remember the wonderful horrifying nonsense of this poem ‘til I too one day pass away, consumed again into the earth, extinct.

 

 

JabberwockyThe Jabberwock by John Tenniel

By Lewis Carol

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

In which Murph considers current events and polygamy . . .

This morning I had the opportunity to listen in on the news, having just finished visiting the Wednesday webcomics, anime reviews, and movie news and now absently searching Google for something . . . anything that could distract me for another five minutes. I overheard another interview with the mothers from the polygamist compound. I say “another” as just the night before the same interview had appeared on the late late news, and no doubt for the sake of morning people or people like me who try very hard not to watch much television, they re-aired the footage yet again for completeness sake.

It was the voices that startled me from my escapist romp through the internet, by all that is holy . . . those voices. The sounds of their pleas possessed the tones of disembodied voices, a forlorn spirit haunting an old abandon nursery. The high-pitched moans were denying something, refusing to answer questions about their own marriage, the age they were given over to men nearly three-times their age. Hearing their refusals and adamant demands for their children’s return baffled me. The pleas of the possessed. The arguments of the brainwashed cult. I did not know whether I should laugh or cry.

In which Murph explores his experiences on the farm and love of — fried — chicken . . .

No man can accuse me of hating animals. Yet no cultivated love exists between myself and the rest of the world’s species. In truth, even if allergies had not impaired any lasting relationship – a true dander divorce – I am too well-acquainted with the responsibility of live-in pets to accept any non-human residents into my home. I have found that helping my folks with the siblings is akin to raising a band of wild wolves anyhow. My life requires no more wildlife, especially birds.

Most animal activists never grew up among chickens. Of this, I am sure. No, most likely as a child they retain fond of memories of Fluffy the rabbit or Tigger the cat, creatures with which you can cuddle or pet. Soft creatures that purred, nuzzled, or fetched. You try any of that nonsense with a chicken, and you might lose an eye, a nose, or a liver. Most assuredly you will lose all humanitarian credos, all faith in the notion that “Man’s Best Friend” can be anything other than a bottle of Scotch. This I say with all seriousness, a bias formed from personal experience . . . and therefore as such is entirely true. If most Americans lived among chickens – raising, feeding, cleaning, watering, and occasionally carrying those feather-born demons – PETA would be nothing more than flatbread, cock-fighting would be annexed as the national sport, and I could easily buy Chick-Fil-A on Sundays.

Everyday before school, I would slip, slide, and breathe heavily downhill to the chicken coop near the base of woods. Suitably enough, most of the rainwater would gather at the base of this hill before trickling under- or aboveground to the adjacent ponds and streams, forming a marsh of fetid mud and slime, a haven for flies and mosquitoes of all sizes and varieties. This I would traverse to the edge of the bramble-soaked woods to the small shack, where the chicken’s dwelt. Most of the time this daily exercise would consist of scraping the food and water containers, cleaning out the excess – and putrid – waste from their coop, gathering slime molded eggs, and avoid losing my fingers to the pecking beaks of this demon band. During the summer months, as the air warmed and humidity rose, the wall above the coop door would collect with mud-built hives of wasps and bees, which I could either deftly avoid (rarely) or attack with a shovel (haphazardly missing). Either way due to the thick mud and swarming birds, I rarely avoided several stinging welts upon my head. The birds, if they could, laughed and cackled riotously. On the return journey up the hill, I trudge through the muck while big black flies bite and hummingbird-sized mosquitoes stab at me with their long proboscises like a straw inserted into a juice-box. At the top of the hill, drained of energy, will, and blood, I then cleaned myself for school, a welcome vacation from the “farm.”

Two years ago while on vacation, we asked a friend of the family to watch over the chickens: feed them, give them water, and collect the eggs. The coop was build with two sections: a large indoor shack with a small latched opening (to hamper invading foxes and weasels) and a outdoor fence. Typically when gathering water and food dispensers, we shoo the chickens through the opening and latch the door, so we can collect eggs quickly and easily. For you see, our rooster had become quite territorial. A whirling dervish of claws and feathers. Our friend did not know this. As he entered the coop, the rooster charged him, flying at him with claws extended like a kung-foo kick. He received several large gashes along his leg for his work, and many many apologetic thanks from the rest of us. Later that week, Mom cooked disgruntled chicken soup for dinner and the safety of the little ones.

Then there’s the smell. Oh, how many of my mornings, once full of color and warmth – emerald-green leaves caked in golden dewdrops; branches dripping opals of raindrops with sapphire pupils of the dawn sky – have been defiled by the fetid stench of the nearby coop infecting the passing storm breeze? Believe me, it frickin’ smells. I take one last longing gaze at the morning, and then barricade myself in my room. Piles of furniture, books, dental floss, shoes, chairs, and coat hangers construct an impenetrable wall, blocking every crevice. With a clap, electronic fans of all varieties whirl and turn like a manmade typhoon. As the book pages begin to flap, I relax allowing the scents of the artificial room to send me to sleep, awaking every now and then as a loud howling cluck splits the air.

To be fair though, I cannot suffer most smells that emanate from the barnyard. I walk through the stalls at the county fairs like a doctor examining plague victims, my nose and mouth masked to allow for ample breathing, my hands protected in overly-long sleeves. The kids meanwhile frolic and play about the maze of pig pens and cages, unconcerned about what they touch or where they step. In a nearby cot, my brother lies on a cot and chews on Doritoes, whiles his pig, Porky, grunts and squeals next door. Every so often his hand passes a chip through the bars, like a letter through a mail slot; his hand now sticky and wet is wiped on his jeans and reflexively returns to the bag. He consumes another chip. I try not to gag.

UPDATE: I am now adding cattle to the ever-growing list of animals best-fried-than-alive. Yesterday our cows got loose and scamper onto the nearby highway. My sister witnessed cars careening between yellow and white lines, narrowly avoiding collisions with the silly creatures. The animals remained unharmed though, apparently bored among the grass-less asphalt and capered off into the neighbor’s yard for some food. Despite the fortuitous absence in accidents, the sudden fear of tragedy, animal mutilation, and lawsuits left my family and me visibly shaken. Eventually though using some honey-soaked grains as bait, we managed to lure the creatures back in their paddock and repair the broken fence. Cows, for those unfamiliar with livestock, are extremely strong. As I held the bucket of grains, one of them managed to stick its head into the blue bucket and literally push me like a dog with a rag-doll. Afterwards we cleaned ourselves up, got some lunch, and took a nap, our bellies fat with cheeseburger.

In which Murph considers the benefits of physical movement . . .

“Nobody should have that many talents,” Katie complained to the television this morning.

I looked up from the computer screen and stared at the program, where several men and women danced excitedly in a line while fiddling a hearty Irish jig. When the song ended, I smiled, noting the irony as my sister continued to shake her head with disbelief and eat her cereal – simultaneously no less, spilling a pool of milk and Corn Pops on the floor and some modest cursing from her mouth. My sister of all people should not be envious of anyone. Like most people – myself included – she sometimes fails to see herself completely, honestly. Not only has she performed and taught Irish dance, but she also plays the harp as well, a talent which unlike the fiddle does not improve with jump or jig. Some of us are even less endowed. My own dancing prowess less resembles Fred Asteire and more closely models Rodney Dangerfield. Athletics and I . . . well, we mix about as well as bleach and ammonia: when we collide someone – me – will pass out and die.

Yet everyone in my family possesses a strong fascination with sports of all kinds. Mom and Dad dated during softball games. When he was not golfing, Pat as a kid drained three-point shots as if the height and distance did not matter. Sean shaved his head (and perhaps other areas) to swim relays and drown his less buoyant teammates in water polo; he later traded in his Speedo for a wrestling singlet, foam mats, and sweaty men. Shannon broke his arm playing soccer and now receives (as well as deals out) regular concussions in rugby matches. Katie sprained, broke, and split her leg two or three times to score field hockey goals. Ryan not only wrestles, scrums, and swings a seven iron (albeit poorly) but was elected to the state championships as a defensive lineman.

Meanwhile after initial testing, my elementary school asked that I attend summer lessons before beginning first grade in order to improve my gross motor skills – translation: learn how to bounce a ball. Just last week after a rigorous study session, I received a nasty paper cut, which inexplicitly spread to a hang nail and a severe case of hives. While sleeping, I routinely run the risk of falling out of bed, bravely sacrificing my body to tile and cold for the sake of my nightly reading materials.

My sleeping companions.

Thus, well-acquainted with fail . . . er, falling, when it was suggested several years ago to form a Murphey family softball team, I was eager to experience the sensation of grass on teeth. Yet, unfortunately this decision nearly cost us our lives. You see, we signed into a local adult softball league, a mixed league which included both men and women and promised fun without the anger and bitterness of excessive competition. Though we enjoyed winning, no one could accuse us of taking the game too seriously. We bought a few bottles of cheap beer, recruited the kids as cheerleaders, ate unhealthy snacks, and spent most of the game laughing and cheering on each other. I played catcher, kneeling in the dirt praying that the bat did not connect with any part of my body and that I would not be asked to throw any farther than the pitcher’s mound. Throws to the infield usually required more skill and strength than I possessed, an awkward full-body push which usually left me on the ground and the ball just short of second base.

Pat and his wife, Tiff, actually met each other on that softball team through the benefit of a mutual friend. Tiff mentioned to us that what first attracted her attention to Pat was the way he used to hold up his pants while running to first base (pre-Tiff Pat actually was quite skinny). Apparently she sensed that he needed her.

Yet every so often we encountered a team bent on winning – at any cost. You may have encountered a few of these individuals in your own neighborhoods: the guys typified by bulging muscles, necks the size of small tree trunks, and short-cut hair like finely manicured lawns. The kind of guys constantly on the lookout for scouts, the rare opportunity to relive their high school years or satisfy the urge to bleed pitchers. Now do not mistake me, most of these Roy-Hobbsian acolytes are probably cordial members of society, ideal community leaders with Volvos and well-kept yards, proud fathers to boys with dog-names like Spike or Butch, who feast off Slim-Jims, Red Bull and nutrient supplements labeled with words like “Nitro” and “horse steroid.” Yet as the softball arcs through the air and falls across the plate, these men gradually change. That thick sphere of rubber, cork and twine transforms somehow into a bullet, the field into a firing range. Then scores, teams, and games no longer matter, only the potential targets.

Enter the Murphey family. The suckling pigs of this tale. Typically these crazed batters would first seek out the women: my Mom on the pitcher’s mound, my aunt on second base, my sister in the outfield. Apparently – not knowing our family very well – they mistook them for the weaker members of our herd, and fired shot after shot, line drives within inches of Mom’s head. The Woosh! of the ball passed once right over her shoulder blade. Another time, she ducked just in time as the ball sailed through the space where her frontal lobe had dwelt comfortably seconds before. The batter than pranced around the bases, laughing that we should learn to be more careful on the field.

“She should pitch a little bit farther on the inside,” Dad would say. “A little bit closer to the head of that . . .” (here he made some reference to the area near the batter’s colon). Mom would only walk off the mound, pick up her beer, and sit on the bench. She might complain a little, but only when out of earshot, unwilling to gratify the slugger with any unnecessary attention. The fact that no one else cared – nonexistent scouts and sports reporters included – amounted to retribution enough. The next time the slugger approached the plate, his line-drive found itself entombed in Mom’s glove. The game ended; no words were exchanged.

Nevertheless, I would love to report that these games ended in a battle royale, a fight to the death between bats, balls, and sand, yet this was not so. We ended the season and did not join the following year. We had faced several more sluggers, all eager for blood and high ERA’s (which were not even calculated); though none of us perished, our fun and excitement had withered away. In time we joined a bowling league, where the competitive spirit still thrives but at least we are in no danger . . . well, no intentional danger. When Ryan sidles down the lane with ball in tow, we duck and shrink behind the benches. You see, release is important in bowling, ultimately deciding the difference between a strike and a journey behind the snack bar to retrieve your ball from the pretzel machine. Thus, depending on the players all sports possess a modicum of danger. Most great joy after all is born of risk and challenge.

Therefore, I think that I will end this tale and grab me some apples and some video games. Risking electrocution, thumb-sprain, and choking seems like a good way to spend the remainder of this afternoon.

The true sport of kingsMy gym.

In which Murph contemplates some childhood adventures and the demon Scrappy Doo.

Looking back, I should have reconsidered my admission price. Safaris through the swamps and theme parks of Florida rarely come cheap; the guides (i.e. myself) never know who might be eaten by alligators, sharks, or the rogue Disney character, and the travelers fated never to return from these excursions rarely offered repeat business. Therefore it is often wise to charge high fees just in case your customers happen to be devoured. Simple business sense, really.

Yet to a child of six, a young blossoming businessman, twenty-five cents was a fortune and several quarters seemed like all the money in the world. The coins chimed and clinked like melodies in old music boxes, the tune of arcades and supermarket gumball machines. I knew then that adults rarely gave out dollars – my Mom most of all thought us too young to collect bills –but usually were more than willing to scrounge for change, those precious precious quarters. Piggy-bank credit. Donkey-Kong-currency.

Dad of course announced the trip to Florida months ago; only recently did we realize that we could turn a profit prior to departure. A week before the trip to Disney World, Patrick and I converted the old cardboard box into a ticket counter, masking the Sony logo and T.V. specs with scribbled dollar signs and gun-shaped outlines of Florida. We tipped the box upside down and carved out two small holes in the box’s belly. A sign was painted:

Florida Safaree

Only 25 cents

We promise you will not get eatan!

Constructing the ticket-contraption proved easier than we realized. We rigged the box to eject tickets through a slot when someone fed the makeshift-machine a quarter. As soon as the quarter bounced noisily among its brethren, a ticket popped out of another slot from the darkness beneath, like real tickets at the skeeball arcade. NOTE: in my spare time I loved to construct elaborate inventions from household items. Trebuchets from bed linen. Oil-spewing go-carts from cereal boxes. Glue bombs that leave enemy agents mummified and stuck like spider-caught flies to nearby walls. Nothing I constructed actually worked mind you; mostly my creative genius earned me a sore rear and unbidden month-long lectures on why we should never aim slingshots at people, pets, or crystal vases.

My Dad was our first customer. Later my grandmother paid us a visit. At the end of the week, I asked our makeshift-machine how much money we had garnered. The box rumbled and shook, momentarily levitating from the floor like a fortune-teller’s table. The machine reported back that it could not commute.

“I can’t see,” it whined. Considering the low expense and crudity of the machine’s design, I sighed and asked to see the coins myself. “I think we have ten dollars,” voiced the box.

Patrick’s small fist appeared from beneath the cardboard flaps, his hands sweaty and hot with plundered coins. Five quarters tumbled from his hand. Not ten dollars, you dork, I chastised. Nearly three dollars! (Our math skills have since improved . . . seriously!) We were rich and well-stocked to assault any arcades we might encounter on our journey south.

Our adventure had begun!


On warm summer afternoons, when the fierce gaze of the sun forced us out of the gardens and fields like outcast Adams fleeing some divine retribution, Pat and I would drag ourselves into the cool recesses of our apartment. Large plastic fans would whirl and spin, circulating the heat about the room as we lay upon bed or sofa like fever victims stranded in some Far East hospice. During these times before succumbing to slumber and exhaustion, my daydreams would fly me to some far off realm, full of ruins and lost treasure. A Lost World perhaps inhabited with dinosaurs and monsters of all breeds and nationalities. Thick jungles surrounding forgotten cities, or strange futuristic city thick with aliens and deadly laws. Within this summer somnolence, my girl and I along with Pat (ironically though he never got the girl in these visions, his real-life counterpart would win out in the end) would dodge booby traps, pitfalls, and boiling lava, avoid the biting fangs of giant insects, or the frumious claws of some subterranean demon.

Now these chase scenes among broken stone and dank tunnels always accompanied a rousing score of songs. Ah-ha’s “Take on Me” echoed among the ancient snake pits one day; the soundtrack to Footloose propelled us through interplanetary wars another day.

The intense drums of “In the Air Tonight” inspired lone standoffs amid future wastelands with arch-fiends and a host of villains. Early on, due to my mother’s musical tastes, much of these daydreams adopted the tunes of the Monkees. On one occasion we dodged an army of Wolfmen among the family catacombs with new-found friend Davy Jones and the Harlem Globetrotters. Clearly I watched way too much Scooby-Doo than is healthy for any six-year old.

NOTE: Scooby-Doo was one of my favorite shows growing up, until the advent of Scrappy-Doo. Not only did the fear-factor seem to diminish with his presence (No more shark monsters or cat creatures but old Civil War colonels covered in glowing flour paste; I mean, who enjoys seeing a maniacal old man chase around a bunch of kids for half-an-hour?; I wanted some monsters!), but no catch-phrase incites more revulsion that “Pu-pu-puppy power!” The one redeeming facet of the horrible live-action movie was their demonizing treatment of Scappy.

Eventually as the midday sun slips down behind the hillside, painting the afternoon sky with brilliant fiery hues as if the throne of heaven itself was melting, encapsulating the earth with molten gold, did Pat and I finally realize that . . .

“Why do you do that?”

“Mom! I’m writing here,” I said momentarily halting my typing to find my mother staring down at me. “Do what?!”

“I mean if I want to say that the sky is orange. I say ‘The sky is orange.’ Or if the cat is white, I say ‘Fluffy is white.’ People understand that.”

“What’s up?” Dad said entering the room.

“Some of us are trying to create art.”

“Your son cannot write without using metaphor. Instead of simply saying the cat is white, he writes that ‘the color of its fur is akin to the shade of snow beneath the far off Matterhorn in the twilight hour of St. Ambrose’s Day’ instead of simply saying the stupid cat looks white.”

“Mom, it’s imagery.”

“It’s confusing.”

“It’s poetic.”

“Murph, don’t mock your mother.”

“Also you made me sound stupid in your last blog.”

“You do order your tea like that. It’s like a verbal machine-gun.”

“There he goes with the metaphors again.”

“Murph,” Dad said patiently “why don’t you try to include your mother’s advice this time. It might improve your work to try something new.”

“Huh? Wait a tick . . .”

“HA!” Mom laughed. “See he agrees with me!”

“And for the record, your mother does not talk like a machine gun . . .”

“Ha again!”

“It’s more like a gatling gun,” he said then trembled and shook either to simulate being gunned down or from the force of Mom’s foot as she kicked him.

My final paragraph inspired by Mom’s instruction:

The sun sank this afternoon. The sky was orange and red like fir . . . uh, and yellow too. Pat and I woke from our daydreams and helped set the table like the good children we were. We complimented our mother on her new dress, which she got on sale from ‘Penny’s yesterday. We both thought the color of the dress matched her eyes quite well. Her dinner was perfect, very very delicious and good. We cleaned up wel . . . uh good. Then we kissed her like dutiful children and slept peacefully all night and long into the next morning so as to not wake her from her beauty sleep . . . which she does not need.

In which Murph engages in some redecorating

*Yawn* Long day, long week. Between surgery, schoolwork, and daily circus involved in shuttling the family from home to ring ceremonies to practice then back home and later from school to the pizza parlor to the grocer’s to the ice rink from school and back home again, I feel ready to find a hollowed tree and hibernate for another six weeks. However, as complaint sickens me like rancid milk in the sweaty hands of Richard Simmons, I will minimize the venting and move on to some quick announcements.

As you can see, I am making some minor changes with the blog; namely the name and probably the banner may undergo an overhaul in the next few days. Thus, like sailing your houseboat next to an insane asylum, the new perspective will surely provide many interesting experiences. However, rest assured that the content of this site will probably not improve (I am nothing if not consistent), the same ramblings and ravings only with a prettier face.