#180 – Beating Around the Bush

The only other time I had a conversation as veiled as today’s, internet porn was the topic and the stakes were my continued employment. Pornography did not figure in this afternoon’s chat, for which I’m grateful. Nonetheless, as before, I expected to hear that my services would no longer be welcomed. I didn’t though, and for an understandable reason.

Upon arriving at the elementary school today, I was told there’d be no mentoring this week, but “the Principal would like to speak with you.” The last time I’d been called into a principal’s office was … well, never.  In grade school, I happened to be a model student, and I stood a greater chance of suffering vaginal cramps than disciplinary action.

From the drawing left in plain sight atop the principal’s desk, I could immediately tell this was to be no simple meet and greet. Yet the man, whom I’ll refer to as “Mr. Jones,” maintained a stoic façade and gave no hint of his objective. Though I couldn’t help but glance repeatedly at the elephant in the room, waiting for the axe to fall, Mr. Jones chatted idly without acknowledging the picture or making any accusations.

At last, guided by some internal cue, he interrupted himself: “Ah, I see you’ve noticed the drawing on my desk. A fifth grade teacher confiscated it from one of her students. Apparently, it’s intended to represent a monster in a game called ‘Rockem Sockem Teachers’ – a game which makes a mockery of our entire faculty.  It’s turning into quite the plague here, for students of all ages. Of course, I can’t tolerate this affront to authority, and I’m therefore dealing severely with any children caught partaking.”

He then handed me the drawing in question so I could take a closer look. It depicted a creature with red eyes and two horns spouting from its head. The monster also possessed a disproportionately large posterior from which flames were shooting. Ill-advisedly, the artist had affixed a fitting label to the masterpiece, dubbing the creature “Mr. Enormass,” suspiciously like the hindquarters of the man sitting before me. And removing any doubt as to the authority figure who’d inspired the beast, the letter “P” appeared on its torso.

I would’ve roared with laughter if I hadn’t expected Mr. Jones’ next words to be the accusation I awaited, followed by a call for security to remove me from the building. Instead, he thanked me for participating in the mentoring program and asked if I intended to stay with Ernie throughout his elementary school years.

Needless to say, I felt confused. Mr. Jones obviously knew something about my involvement in Rockem Sockem Teachers, yet he’d intentionally ignored any mention of it. And he’d invited me to continue mentoring Ernie! Why, I wondered?

I found out when I answered Mr. Jones’ last question affirmatively, and he replied: “That’s good to hear. We have a terrible shortage of male mentors, and short of a convicted child molester, we can’t afford to lose any one of them.”

Photo opportunistically snapped when Mr. Jones briefly excused himself

#181 – Hashing it Out

I still can’t believe I’m going to relationship counseling. Frankly, I never imagined matters getting so bad that a mediator’d be needed. But my wife insisted, so I didn’t have much of a choice. The first session was today, and the therapist insists he can help. What else could he say?

Because the gray haired psychologist and PhD holder who’s counseling us wears glasses and sports a well-trimmed beard and mustache, I find myself unable to think of him as anyone other than “Dr. Freud.” I haven’t said the name aloud, yet. It’s only a matter of time though.

Dr. Freud began today’s session asking both of us to list three things we like about each other. Going first, I offered an admittedly halfhearted: “She’s a good cook; she keeps a clean house; and she has a real knack for swatting flies.”

Her list wasn’t especially laudatory either: “He has a good job; he has a nice head of hair; and he never smells bad.”

Dr. Freud next told us to list the three things we find most annoying about each other. Predictably, she said: “He’s terrible with the kids; he ruins everything he touches; and he’s going to hell!”

Before proceeding, Dr. Freud introduced his most important ground rule for all further interchanges. He said it’s critical to express dislikes in terms of belief or feeling rather than stating opinions as absolute facts. Why? Because, according to him, facts can be disputed, but a person’s feelings can’t be right or wrong. Thus, as he put it: “Don’t say ‘he’s bad’; say ‘I think he’s bad’ or ‘in my opinion he’s bad.’”

The doctor asked her to restate her list in terms of opinions or feelings, and she did. To me, “I think he’s going to hell” didn’t sound any less objectionable.

I tried to follow the rules on my next turn, yet even I realized the lead item seemed no less insulting with the doctor’s qualifier added: “In my opinion, she’s planning to hire a hit man to do me in.” 

At the close of the session, Dr. Freud assured us our relationship will improve over time, if we put in the necessary work. I don’t share his optimism, and I’m a tad dubious of his qualifications to express such confidence. After all, as he himself grudgingly conceded, he’s never counseled a man and his mother-in-law before.

Another Dr. Freud

#182 – Dirty Rotten Pine Cones

An angry parent knocked on our door last night. Nothing unusual there, except for once the target of her wrath wasn’t me. In a surprising turn of events, my wife was the one suffering the rough side of her sister-in-law’s tongue.

Personally, I can understand how this particular episode came to pass. Sophia is a germaphobe, and her already limited tolerance suffered a couple of setbacks in recent months. Earlier in the summer, her head encountered the contents of a leaky diaper in our subdivision’s pool. Not long after, Prometheus dropped a poop log in her outstretched hand. Two run-ins with feces unsurprisingly proved two too many.

While babysitting her four-year-old niece Sunday, Sophia took the girl and our puppy outside to play. Prometheus disappeared for a minute or two and returned bearing an unidentified brownish, somewhat-cylindrical object in his mouth. From a distance, I suppose the item could’ve resembled poop. And given the dog’s inauspicious track record, the possibility wouldn’t have seemed slim. Thus, I can somewhat understand why Sophia a) jumped to the wrong conclusion and b) freaked out when Prometheus ran straight to Maria and dropped his package onto her open palm.

Keep in mind, I wasn’t there. Sophia later told me she immediately yelled at her niece to “drop that, right now!” She added: “It’s very dangerous, and you’ll get very sick if you touch it.” Then, without taking a closer look at the discarded object, she dragged Maria into the house and scrubbed the girl’s hand with soap and disinfectant.

When I came home a short time after, Sophia happened to be on the phone. I let Prometheus out and granted Maria’s request to accompany us. As soon as we exited the house, she led me to the item in question and asked: “What’s that, Uncle Richard?” 

She didn’t say why she wanted to know, and I didn’t think to ask. Since I recognized the article, I simply answered the question: “It’s a pine cone.”

According to the evening rant delivered by her mother, trouble erupted at Maria’s pre-school yesterday, thanks to Sophia. The teacher had decided to work with the children on a fall craft project. After distributing the materials to each child, she announced: “We’ll be working with these pine cones…” She never got a chance to say more. The moment Maria heard the term “pine cones” she went berserk. Barreling through the room with a hardcover book in hand, she knocked every pine cone she could find on the floor and crushed it. At the same time, she shrieked: “They’re dangerous; don’t touch them or you’ll die!”

Now all our niece’s classmates refuse to work with the “deadly” substance. The teacher and parents of the other kids blame Maria’s mother, and Maria’s mother blames Sophia. But on the bright side, for a change, no one’s blaming me!

From a distance, I suppose one could mistake this gnawed off pine cone for a poop log.

#183 – The Two Hundred and Thirty Dollar Man

There’s a concept in real estate known as home flipping. It generally involves: purchasing a residence; making minimal cosmetic improvements, like painting and carpet cleaning; and then selling the place quickly for a profit. Today, I witnessed the practice in action for the first time, on a human.

A client invited me to play golf at his country club this morning. As I disrobed in the locker room after my typically abysmal performance on the links, the gent occupying the adjacent locker returned from the showers. He wore nothing but sandals and I couldn’t help but get an eyeful of him. Bald on top and potbellied, he stood about my height (around 5’ 8”). He displayed a case of middle-aged white man’s ass, with nary a curve to be seen on either butt cheek. As for his front view … Let’s just say the nickname “Tiny Tim” immediately popped into mind. The last things I noticed before proceeding to the showers were the clothes he pulled from his locker: tan slacks and a blue buttoned-down shirt.

If it hadn’t been for the wardrobe, I would’ve sworn someone new occupied his locker when I returned. The man dressing beside me sported a full head of jet black hair. And the blue buttoned-down shirt covering his torso exhibited no sign of a potbelly. Even more surprisingly, the tight cotton briefs he wore highlighted two well-rounded cheeks and a “package” no one would dare call tiny. The guy pulled on the same tan pants I’d spotted before and stepped into a pair of loafers. Voila; he suddenly stood a couple of inches taller than me!

He must’ve noticed me staring, because he decided to comment: “I don’t look the same, do I? You want to know my secret?”

I did indeed, and I said so.

“I was divorced a few months ago and I’m back in the dating world. As you saw for yourself, my natural look isn’t going to wow anyone, so I need a little help. And for less than three hundred bucks, I got it!” 

He proceeded to inventory his assortment of cosmetic improvements, from top to bottom. He began with his hairpiece: “the best money can buy, for about one-fifty!” Then came his “Insta Slim” tee shirt, which flattened his belly for the low price of twenty dollars. To the south were his “Shock Jock” briefs, purchased for approximately forty bucks, featuring built-in padding for the posterior area and a male shaping cup which “looks like I’ve got a lot more down there than the good Lord gave me.” And finally, there were the “Maxtal” shoe inserts which added two inches to his height, for another twenty dollars.

I congratulated him on his impressive instant makeover, but then asked the obvious: “You look great now, but what happens when a woman sees you in your natural state?”

The possibility didn’t faze him in the least. “Oh, I’m not worried about that. You see, I sell used cars for a living. And just like at work, until I’ve made a firm sale, I won’t let any woman peak under the hood so to speak.” 







For about $230, almost anyone can look like a million bucks!

#184 – Partying with the Dead

My friend Ned swears he’ll never smoke pot again. Sure, he’s made that same promise on prior occasions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he follows through this time. I know I would, under the same the circumstances.

It’s not like Ned regularly partakes anymore. Since he became a family man, he’s limited his marijuana intake to special occasions. As he informed me last night, this past weekend witnessed one of those special occasions.

Last Saturday, Ned accompanied his older brother Phil, and a friend of Phil’s, to a Grateful Dead concert. Not the Grateful Dead, of course. They’ve been disbanded for years. Rather, the trio went to see either a tribute band or an offshoot with one or two original group members. Whichever the case, the music was all Grateful Dead and, according to Ned, great.

As at actual Dead concerts in the good old days, Saturday night’s affair proved a psychedelic affair — for the audience. Ned spotted more than one patron bemused by LSD or other hallucinogens; and the unmistakable scent of marijuana wafted throughout the venue all evening. In a bid to soak up the full concert-going experience and recapture the glory of their youth, Ned and his two fifty-something companions enjoyed a few tokes themselves.

Maybe the pot passed around was a lot stronger than they were used to. Or else they smoked more than their aging bodies could accommodate. In any event, Ned and his companions couldn’t recall ever getting so wasted. Phil’s pal, Jerry, even told Ned at one point: “I can’t lift my arms anymore, so you hold the joint for me.” From then on, each time a joint was passed around, Ned held it to Jerry’s lips before taking a puff of his own.

It wasn’t until the show ended and they stood up to leave that Ned and Phil made a shocking discovery. Nudging Jerry to awaken him from his stupor, Phil found that Jerry had at some point passed from mellow to “away,” as in dead! Despite frantic efforts by Phil and the EMTs called to the scene, Jerry could not be revived. The cause of death remains unclear, since the autopsy results haven’t yet been released.

Ned told me his brother feels heartbroken over the loss of his good friend. Ned’s pretty upset as well. In his case, however, he’s not mourning the passing of a guy he barely knew … so much as freaking out for repeatedly sharing a joint with a corpse. It’s the last doobie he’ll ever split with anyone, living or dead, so he insists; and this time I believe him.

Just one of the Grateful Dead tribute bands in Ned’s area

#185 – Birds of a Feather

I recently discovered the wonders of “Sharky” on YouTube. For those who don’t know, Sharky is an enormous Pit Bull who’s made friends with all sorts of small animals: a cat; a guinea pig; a wild rabbit; baby chicks; and even an iguana! The chicks, rabbit and guinea pig let the dog lick them with his giant tongue, and the chicks and iguana ride on his back. I find all the videos adorable and funny, and I can’t get enough of them. But as I learned today, Prometheus is no Sharky.

Yesterday, Sophia agreed to babysit her niece and nephew for a few hours. The problem was, she ran out of ideas to amuse them. I could hear the natives getting restless all the way from my office, where I’d sequestered myself for the duration.

At the moment the hardcore whining commenced, I happened to be surfing the net. Foolishly desiring to save my wife, I offered to divert the kids with Sharky videos. I figured – wrongly, it turned out – that I could hardly get in trouble by showing the annoying miscreants G-rated footage of interspecies friendships.

As expected, four-year-old Maria and her five-year-old brother Franco loved Sharky. They watched every piece of footage on the Pit Bull and his tiny buddies, over and over, until their mother picked them up. After they left, Sophia couldn’t thank me enough for my timely rescue. She doesn’t seem nearly as appreciative today, however.

We went to my in-laws’ house for Sunday dinner early this afternoon. Like always, our little Shitty, Prometheus, accompanied us. The puppy’s performance as a houseguest has been improving of late, and as a result we’ve ceased monitoring him closely at others’ homes. Thus, when Franco took the dog upstairs to play, neither Sophia nor I saw a need to chaperone. Of course, we didn’t know about the additional “playmate” waiting in Franco’s room.

Unbeknownst to me, upon returning from our house yesterday, Franco decided to borrow his friend’s pet hamster “Waddle” for a day. The lad wanted to see Prometheus lick Waddle just like Sharky tongue-bathes his small furry pals. Franco brought our puppy to his bedroom, closed the door and placed the two animals on the floor beside each other.

On the plus side, the Vet at the emergency clinic told us the hamster should recover. On the minus side, I’m afraid Waddle needs to be renamed. “Stumpy Joe” should fit.

Sharky and friend

#186 – Losing Her Lunch

My sister told me last night that she mistakenly violated a cardinal rule of inter-parent relations. As a result, she has two fewer friends to call her own.

Until recently, Louise lunched weekly with a couple of her dearest friends, Robin and June. Robin is a mousy fifty-year-old whom Louise has known since high school. She’s a quiet woman who’s always hated confrontation, unlike my outgoing and decidedly blunt-speaking sister.

Robin introduced Louise to June a few years ago. According to Louise, the divorced fifty-three-year-old mother of two loves nothing better than complaining to her friends, especially about her eldest daughter. For the past three years, June has aired the same weekly grievances about the now-eighteen-year-old Delilah: she slept with a succession of boys in her mother’s bed after losing her virginity at fourteen; she developed a methamphetamine addiction; and she turned tricks to support her drug habit. Each week, Louise has listened to June bemoaning the money she’s spent bailing the girl out of jail and paying for failed rehab attempts.  And on countless occasions, she’s heard June proclaim how she’s “had it with that crack ho.”

Despite tiring of the same repeated complaints, Louise never offered anything but clucks of sympathy, until a few weeks ago. She probably wouldn’t have spoken then either, if she hadn’t been egged on by Robin. Even more than Louise, Robin has come to detest June’s weekly diatribes. After each of the past several luncheons, she’s exclaimed to my sister: “One of these days, we need to tell June to stop enabling her daughter, or else to stop whining about her!”

At the trio’s last luncheon, June wailed about her daughter’s latest arrest on drug and prostitution charges and carped about the bill she’d have to foot for yet another court-ordered rehab. She closed her caterwauling with the rhetorical: “Can you believe it?”

Expecting her bosom buddy to guard her back, Louise answered: “Do we believe the ‘crack ho’ is still addicted to pricks and meth? Absolutely! Do we think you should stop bailing her out of her problems, or else stop whining about them? We do!”

As Louise now realizes, no matter how badly a mother bashes her child, she won’t allow anyone else to do the same. June responded in a predictably unappreciative manner: “Who the hell are you to call my daughter a ‘crack ho?!’ She may have her issues, but at least she’s no vagina munching lesbian, like you!”

Louise tried to diffuse the situation, at first: “Whoa there! Let’s not attack each other. I’m only repeating what you’ve said yourself a million times. And I’m not the only one who feels that way. Right, Robin?”

Faced with June’s medusa-like glare, Robin opted to impersonate an ostrich. Rather than supporting my sister’s observations, she pasted on her best I have no idea what she’s talking about expression and swiveled her head in the negative.

June haughtily responded: “Just as I thought.” Then she stormed from the premises, vowing that their friendship had ended. Louise hasn’t heard from her since. Louise did hear from Robin, via several voicemail messages. But my sister hasn’t returned any of those calls. As she sees it, having lost the friendship of the “hypocritical harridan,” she might as well jettison the “backstabbing bimbo” too.

Alas, Louise’s weeks of lunchtime camaraderie are over.

#187 – Hang Him High

Mentoring resumed today. As expected, Ernie didn’t take well to the Principal’s ban on our new game, “Rockem Sockem Teachers.” I tried to console him by pointing out the obvious: “Just because you can’t work on the game at school anymore doesn’t stop you and your friends from playing it at home.” Though I doubt that’s what the Principal intended when he put the kibosh on our faculty mocking vehicle, I felt glad to see my mentee smile again.

With Rockem Sockem Teachers off the table, I again face the conundrum of what to do with the boy. I suppose we can try traditional games once more, like most mentors and mentees, but I’ve yet to find one that’s mutually satisfying. Undoubtedly, I’ll go back to the drawing board next week, since I have no wish to repeat today’s performance of “Hangman.”

Ernie knew how to play, of course, and he wanted to guess first. Recognizing that a word like “supercilious” would probably exceed a third-grader’s vocabulary, I instead chose one I felt sure the kid could deduce: namely, “green.”  At first, it appeared he’d guess it easily. He picked “e” and “n” before I’d drawn the hanged man’s neck. With “_ _ een” showing, I figured the rest would be a snap. It wasn’t. Ernie never guessed “g” or “r.”  He did, however, select “w,” “y” and “z,” leading me to question anew the state of our educational system. Despite insisting that I draw the deluxe version of the hanged man – replete with eyes, pupils, ears, nose, mouth, hair, hands, feet, pants and shirt – he never completed the word.

My turn proved equally dissatisfying. When the kid selected a three letter composition, I understandably anticipated an easy go of it. As I saw it, there had to be a vowel. Once I picked it, I figured I couldn’t fail to get the other two letters. Yet I flopped even worse than Ernie, despite demanding the same additions to the hanged man which I’d allowed him. Shockingly, I didn’t guess even one letter correctly!

By the time Ernie drew the last portion of his hanged man, I felt like an idiot. But then he revealed his word: “xxx.” The only triple-x I’d ever heard of signified the hardest of hard-core adult movies or the largest women’s breasts. Though Ernie refused to explain what his xxx meant, his shit-eating grin told me he too knew at least one of those definitions.

Ernie’s word … which I failed to guess

#188 – Time to Move

Last night, my friend Ned gave me the latest update on his mother’s living situation. Due to Mrs. Stilzman’s indecent exposure citation on Halloween, her two sons had convinced her to move to an assisted living community for seniors. She joined a certain facility’s geriatric ranks a week ago, and she’s been calling one or both of her sons every day since to complain about the place. Only after yesterday’s earful, however, did her boys finally agree that it’s time for her to find a new abode.

Ned told me the place seemed fantastic, on the surface. Among its many amenities, the community boasted: daily planned recreational activities; fitness programs; an on-site restaurant; housekeeping; transportation services; barber shop; library; and banking services. It met its residents’ medical needs through a combination of in-home nursing care and a 24-hour medical alert system. And best of all, the individual apartments looked spacious and well-appointed.

Despite the luxuries, Ned’s mother begged to move out from day one, carping: “I don’t like it here. I want to leave!”

Until yesterday, each telephone call with her sons went the same way:

“What don’t you like about it mom?”

“I just don’t like it; can I move?”

“You’ve only been there __ days; you need to give the place a chance.
I’m sure it’ll grow on you.”

In her daily whine-fest yesterday, this time with Ned, Mrs. Stilzman added the first new detail to her rants: “These aren’t the kind of people I want to live with.”

Ned didn’t empathize, initially: “What’s wrong with the people? Aren’t they friendly?”

“Oh, they’re friendly alright! A little too friendly, if you ask me. I’ve already been propositioned; twice!”

Though the idea of ancient Lotharios putting the moves on his mother surprised and disgusted Ned, he didn’t think the behavior worthy of residential relocation. He patiently explained: “So a couple of old geezers are hitting on you; just say ‘no,’ or ignore them.”

“I don’t mind so much that they’re after me, Ned. What I can’t stand is, both of them have the clap, and they’re not the only ones. Four members of my canasta group, including two women, have some sort of venereal disease!”

As Ned informed me, he and his brother have already begun searching for their mother’s next assisted living facility. And this time, they’ve added a new question to the top of their information gathering list.

Canasta – a card game for 2, 3, 5 or 6 players … with or without venereal diseases.

#189 – Furballs

An hour ago, my sister Lisa assured me she hadn’t sent the guy who claimed to need legal representation. I can only hope there’s someone else out there looking to play an elaborate practical joke. Otherwise, it appears I blew a golden opportunity to gain a new client with a fascinating case.

The tale this morning was a whopper from almost word one. The man, whom I’ll refer to as “Roger,” began: “Because my wife has a great ass, I only like having sex from behind, so I can stare at that great ass while we do it. I guess she finally tired of using the same position for five years, and she decided to make a point. A couple of months ago, she came to bed wearing a full-body dog costume. When I asked her ‘why,’ she said: ‘If you insist on screwing me like a dog, then I might as well look like one too.’ She made me do her that night in the costume! Even worse, she enjoyed the experience, a lot; and since then, she’ll only make love while wearing it.”

Roger had to be pulling my leg, so I thought. Nonetheless, I decided to enjoy myself and play out the gag: “So, for the past two months you’ve been nailing a woman dressed like a dog?”

“I know it sounds crazy; but I love my wife and I’ll do almost anything to please her. Anyway, I thought she was going through a phase, and she’d eventually snap out of it.”

“Did she?”

“No, just the opposite. Two weeks ago, I came home and found a second dog costume in the bedroom. She bought it for me so we could share ‘fur play’ together, as she called it. Naturally, I refused. I mean, I truly love my wife, but …”

“I understand completely,” I offered in my most empathetic tone. “What self-respecting guy dresses up like a dog simply because he’s screwing a woman in a canine outfit?”

Roger flashed me one of those are you making fun of me? looks before continuing: “Yeah; well, yesterday she told me that she’s a ‘plushie’ and needs to be with someone who shares her new lifestyle. She said if I’m not willing to put the dog costume on for the sake of our marriage, then she wants a divorce. And that’s why I’m here? What are my options?”

“It depends. Do the two of you have puppies?”

This time, Roger complemented his evil glare with a perturbed accusation: “I didn’t come here looking for wise-ass commentary. If you can’t give me legitimate advice, I’ll find someone who can. The answer to your question is ‘no,’ we don’t have kids. Now, what do you advise?”

I didn’t buy Roger’s false outrage for an instant. His story seemed too reminiscent of the guy whose wife purportedly screwed their German shepherd, courtesy of Lisa’s last practical joke. Although mistakenly, it turns out, I felt certain my sister had played me again and I responded in kind. I excused myself for a minute and returned bearing a tube of my puppy’s flea and tick medication, which I handed to Roger, telling him: “Here; apply this between your shoulder blades tonight, and once a month from then on. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

That’s when Roger stormed out of my office … in search of “a lawyer who’ll take my problem seriously!”

Because when you’re screwing a woman in a dog outfit, it’s better to be safe than sorry.