Euphemisms – December 30, 2020

          Most of my adult1 life, I traveled for work, usually in desolate late-night or early-morning hours.  That was because off-hours flights were cheaper or seats only then available, or interstates congestion-free.  Breaks between insanely pressing projects and fires to be peed-on allowed no downtime, no luxury for planning. 

          Before that I was a Navy brat.  Our family moved frequently.  As a teenager, it seemed we moved too often. Important youthful social attachments – sports, school activities, favorite fishing-holes, blossoming love-interests, and just hanging-out with buds were sacrificed with each relocation.

          To adapt, I became something of a chameleon. Wherever I found myself, I quickly learned local language, salacious slang, and sometimes now mockable mannerisms.  I became one with the people who accepted this odd duck, the ‘new kid’ who’d just arrived.  

          It’s been a while, but I’d bet if I returned to Oklahoma City, within twenty minutes, I’d sound like an Okie.  Dallas, Texas would take maybe half an hour.  Boston, Maine or Ro-di-lan2 might take an hour.  If I went to the US west coast, I’d probably develop a speech impediment.  It’s a shortcoming of mine, but I don’t understand left-coast thinking, mannerisms, or priorities.  Don’t really want to either.

          The subcultures I experienced stained my personality, my thinking, speaking, and writing, expanded my sense of humor, helped define my priorities and politics, and despite what you might think, taught me tolerance for things “different.”  Odd phrases, and goofy word meanings to this day are part of my everyday vocabulary and manner of speaking, and thus my manner of writing.

          Folks living in the US don’t have difficulty understanding me.  They might know and use the same words and phrases.  If not, they understand something I say or write contextually.  Should that fail, by the time I’ve used a phrase a few times, they’re onto it like aroma on a Holstein field patty.3

          People not from the US might not easily understand.  Only slowly learning my audience is not always comfortable with US idiom, certainly not the warped way I bandy words about, I recognize clarification is sometimes needed.  Occasionally, I experience the same reading my British mentors.  Whether I (painfully) translate, ask help from Google, or an author accommodates, I bump into the same issue reading posts in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, or French.

          What follows then, are explanations of some obscure phrases I’ve tossed at unsuspecting readers.  If it turns out useful, I may set it as a page on spwilcenwrites for readers’ later reference, adding to it occasionally.  If there’s a word or phrase unclear to you, scribble a note in a comment.  I’ll address it, adding it to the “glossary.”

          Espie4 declared a return to M-W-F posts.  Espie has shamefully avoided serious writing endeavors this week – this is his third post.   Unless he once again makes excuses not to be doing what he’s supposed to be doing, this might be his last post for the year.  Espie is reaching expert level in procrastination.    

1 Adult – The jury is still out.

2 Ro-di-lan – Rhode Island, the way citizens of Rhode Island, Rhodies, pronounce their state name. Say what you want about Bahstin (Boston) folk, Rhodies are a more fascinating study.  More so even than Jersey boys.

3 Aroma on a Holstein field patty – Holstein cattle are a milking breed.  A cow patty is spent milk-making fuel.  Aroma is obvious. That suggests something sure as sunshine, certain, absolute.

4 Espie – SPWilcen, or S.P., which if you pronounce it, becomes Espie.  This alter ego came about in May or June as Clutch’s foil.  Clutch himself, a canine of unspecified pedigree but clearly male, has a dim but accommodating view of human imperfections. Not to say Clutch doesn’t have a flaw or two himself.

Espie’s euphemisms, colloquialisms, and fabrications as of 12-29-2020

Blue (language): Swearing, or vulgar talk.  Common, I don’t care what you think, in every walk of life, unless you live in a Tibetan Monastery.  It’s a matter of degree.  You may “gee” or “golly” or “dag nabbit” but that only says you are blessed with more self-control than others.  Don’t tell me Aunt Laura is pure as snow saying, “Oh, fiddle!” after burning the crepes.  We understand. Yes, we do.

Booger’s Bend, Mississippi: A fictitious place (gee, I sure hope so) in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia or anywhere, really.  Drawing on the ridiculous (and erroneous) deep south stereotype of a different brand of sophistication, NASCAR, and um, unusual hygiene practices.  Could just as well be Kneejerk Kansas, Warthog Washington, Cretin California, or Flatbutt Florida.  Implies backward, backwoods, or back-forty attitudes and lifestyles. If ever you assume there is more than a little bit of truth there, understand you are wrong.

Buckle up: Not mainstream.  I use it often.  It occurred to me years ago when obnoxious seat-belt laws and the accompanying slogan, “Buckle-up; it’s the law!” were introduced.  “Buckle up” suggests there may be some bumpy road ahead, so you want to take precautions, be prepared. Properly vocalized in south Georgian, it would really confuse. Not expert in IPA and not intending ever to be so, we’ll let it go at that.  I have enough trouble with English.

Claptrap: Nonsense.

Flying rat’s ass: See “No one gives a fig.”

Jury is still out: Suggesting the jury is still deliberating.  The question of the matter remains unresolved.  All the Democrats have not risen from the dead to vote.  The argument rages.  Whatever “it” is, is undecided, and usually but not necessarily, no one gives a fig.

Little white pills:  Or “time for my meds,” or “need stronger meds” or some such.  An allusion to my being off my nut (crazy, or at least imbalanced) requiring medications to be rendered harmless to society.  When used, the implication is that either you or I, or the person or group we discuss are loony tunes (crazy).  Easy enough to just say, “crazy” or “insane” but self-deprecation softens the blow.

No one gives a fig: The matter at hand is unimportant to most.  In other words, please pardon me, no one gives a (flying or otherwise) rat’s ass.  A rodent’s “bum” assumed less than valueless.

Nose to grindstone: Diligently working at something.

Peed-on: You’ve heard the expression, “rained on my parade”?  that’s the idea, but instead of rain, well, less appealing than a spring shower.  Ruined your joy.  Spoiled an event.  Wet your matches.

Piece of cake: Easy.

Ripsnorter: A blowout party.  Rarely, to mean someone is more than a handful of trouble, rambunctious, or unstoppable.

Sawtooth Gap, Michigan: See Booger’s Bend, Mississippi.

Set-to: argument, disagreement, discord.

Snootful: Inebriated.

Socioscape: Social landscape. An obscure, hardly mainstream word.

Toilet-mouth: Obvious in context, but language and insinuation impolite or improper at best, vulgar or obscene at worst.  Suggestive of little men talking in what they assume is the manner of adults in the school restroom, bathroom, or loo. 

Twist your shorts: anger or upset you.  Get your panties in a wad.  Get your goat.  Set you off.  Torque your jaws. 

YewPee: Michiganders call the Upper Peninsula the U.P. or YewPee.  Residents there are Yoopers.

Fowl Language – December 29, 2020

               If you’re in the mood for a set-to, this is your lucky day.  This post will touch on several controversial subjects before it wraps.  Surely, one of them will twist your shorts.  If not, you are likely an old gent, probably conservative, likely ex-military or some similar “fraternity.”1

               As my posts go, this is benign.  Feels like it so far anyway.  Won’t even rate an ‘NSFW’ but with me, you just never can tell.  Buckle-up.

Chicken talk

              You know the sound a rooster makes when he crows.  I can’t even spell it.  Common way, stateside, is “cock-a-doodle-doo,” which does not do the sound justice.  Not even discounting breed, age, and geographic differences.2  Anyone who’s ever been around chickens knows that’s as close to the real deal as trying to spell the sound of raspberries.3

               Lady chickens4 have interesting vocalizations too. When they cluck strolling around the barnyard it’s different from when they cackle with pride announcing they’ve just laid an egg.

               You know I did not intend to spend my time exploring “fowl talk.”  For entertainment, before I launch properly, here’s a twenty-five-word short originally posted in May to Prose.

Homeland Security

“Don’t see Old Red.”
“My rooster?”
“Yeah.”
“Attacked the kids.”
“What’d ya do?”
“Chicken soup.”

Swearing, coarse language, vulgarity…

               Yunh.  Foul language.  I didn’t come here to play Doctor Dolittle.  Did want to explain what the more astute among you may have noticed if you are a regular reader.

              To the amazement of many, I got along talking and writing for over seventy years just fine, thank you very much.  Recently and suddenly, it was brought to my attention I swear more than necessary.  “Necessary,” I’m told, is zero. 

              Not sure exactly why, or if it was a good thing, but in my life, I spent a lot of time in all-male situations.  School sports, back in the days before batting helmets and NASA-engineered football helmets, was all male.  Military.  Law enforcement.  Not exclusively male, but preponderantly. 

              Males as a rule don’t “shoosh” one another when one in their crowd is profane, scatological, or lascivious. Not a point of honor.  Not fear of being shunned as a sissy.  Just male.

              Women might be the same.  I don’t know.  Never found myself in a “tight” situation with a number of females.  Have had discussions with brutally frank women and am led to believe it’s less frequent than it is with males, but that the ladies do go toilet-mouth or crude often.  Some suggested the ladies might even put males to shame.  Why not?  They do in every other endeavor.

              My language and propensity to evil and less than polite thoughts manifesting in what I think, say, and write could become troublesome.  My web audience is expanding.  It is increasingly more difficult to be only mildly offensive and then with a certain amount of decorum.  That may seem a bit incongruous, but I’m going to stand with that: there are times, certain fictional works where something less than “church” vocabulary is natural; not being vulgar or coarse violates characters, detracts from a story.

              Then, you have no idea how difficult it is to sterilize my writing when I work on a piece that is ideally suited for younger people.  Even then, there’s always a nagging thought “what if” I’ve not exercised perfect control?

              It is time to upside-down my writing technique.  It might be best that I reach a point I must work to get into a scenario where “blue” is required.  Near squeaky-clean must become more the norm.  I’m not stupid.  I cannot hope for this to be one-hundred percent effective.  Besides, I’d bore myself to tears.

Minding my mouth

              Depriving myself of comfortable and familiar adjectives, adverbs, and nouns, I have no recourse but to use pedestrian words I’d as soon leave to genteel folk like William F. Buckley.  Mr. Buckley, who isn’t with us anymore, was one of few people I know5 who made you ruin a dictionary trying to understand what he said.  Eloquence.  

              I’m not about to pull my (circa 1965) Miriam Webster out of storage to bone-up.  Neither will I bookmark lexicographic aids.  Not yet.  First, I’ll deplete my store of words long-languishing for disuse.  Figuring how old I am and how long I have yet to run, I might not need to pick-up any new words.  What I long ago mastered but have forgotten (mi dimentico: the Italian is so explicit here) may suffice.  Besides, a surfeit of vocabulary might leave no choice but then to focus on things like punctuation and spelling.  Ugh.

              As an exercise, I tried writing dialogue sans expletives and explicit or insinuating slang.  Pounding away at the keyboard, narrative felt as if I’d been asked to prepare a lay sermon for the Baptist church.  Yeah, like that would ever happen.  Putting a rock in my back pocket to make sitting at that task more uncomfortable than it already was, I gave it another go.  Two brand new characters (required for dialogue, you know) got carried away and I had no choice but to wash their mouths out with soap.

              While writing was arduous, editing afterward, I put myself to sleep.    

              It’s going to be one hell of a challenge.  Nertz!  I’m going to give it a shot.

               But I’m not making any promises.

1 Nothing sexist here. It’s a bad habit.  Uncomfortable in management, speaking to large groups, except naturally new clients, I addressed my audience as “you guys.” I consider all people, male, female, other (specify), and ‘decline to answer’ equal and refer to equals as “guys.”

2 Depending on breed, crowing roosters sound decidedly unique.  Years ago, I raised a few chickens, though not a “chicken farmer” and am not expert.  I cannot differentiate between a Light Brahma, Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, and Jersey Giant when they crow, but they are different.  Then, a rooster from Booger’s Bend Mississippi will have a marked southern drawl, “ark-arka-a-eeew y’all” whereas a rooster from Sawtooth Gap, in Michigan’s YewPee will sound almost Canadian, “urka-urka-eere eh?”   

3 The derisive, frustrated, or resigned sound made blowing air through pursed lips with or without the tip of your tongue gently pushing your lower lip down.  Attempted spellings include “Pb-b-b-b-b-t!” “Tph-b-b-t-t-t!” or some such. 

4 Realizing this is just asking for trouble, chickens and ducks can pull off somewhat of a natural sex change.  I don’t know of other avians, or other animal species.  Do know a hen can develop a rooster-like comb, feathers, and mannerisms, even crow.  There are other ramifications as you might imagine. Understand this is because if an ovary is damaged or malfunctioning the other gonad may start producing androgens. I’m not even going to provide links to web references.  If you’re interested, do some searching.  I know all I care to know about the phenomenon. Does mean a “hen” could “crow.”  Reflecting on that raises some interesting gender-specificity questions. 

5 One of the few people I know.  There are likely scads of people out there like Mr. Buckley. I am not familiar with them.  I didn’t know Mr. Buckley; I knew of him, admired his linguistic and analytic skills and his politics.

Remembering Gracie – December 28, 2020

Reader, if you are the adventurous kind, you recognize that picture.  You’ve seen it before as window-dressing for one of only five short stories I’ve posted on this site suitable for, and indeed intended for children, “Georgina and the One-eyed Cat.”  That’s Gracie.  Her picture caught my eye while I considered two new YA stories in need of a little wrapping-up.  Sorting-out, you see, if I wanted to once again run away from completing “Finder” and “Midas County” to finish and post those new YA works.

          Gracie majored in psychology at USC. Her practice suffered after she stood for PhD orals because most humans don’t speak cat.  In that picture Gracie appears to be working with one eye.  Not so, though it fit in with the YA story.  Gracie had some interesting quirks, which stands to reason, putting up with the Boss and me.  Me especially.  Gracie would often close one eye, squinty-like, as if taking aim at me.  If you read my post of July 13th, you know we lost Gracie several years ago.

          Here’s to you, Gracie.  Thanks for putting up with me and taking time to teach me a thing or two. 

Excuses abound

          Not always looking for an excuse to focus on new work, excuses seem to find me and convince me to reorder priorities.  It’s a rare day I ignore these volunteer excuses and put nose to grindstone.  I’m a pushover. When it comes to focus, I have the strength of wet tissue paper.  Perseverance, I have.  Well-ordered priorities I do not.

          A righteous rant over the circumstances of the explosion in downtown Nashville wants attention.  Examination of the sick people who feel terrorism excusable, reminiscent of the A.P. Murrah explosion twenty-five years ago.  No comparison in scale.  Certainly, the same depravity.  I must stop here before an NSFW alert is required.  So many places to go with that one, so much needs to be said, so many people to irritate.

          Then there are the “holidays.”  Most of us are done with Christmas, a holiday fairly-well converted from an honest mid-to-late December celebration1 into a two-month mercenary macabre burlesque.  This year maniacally festooned with COVID-garland. Upcoming New Year’s celebrations will be doubly welcomed: 2020 will be symbolically retired2 and it’s a rocking good excuse to get blitzed out of your mind.

          Working a happier note, I could suggest there are so many ills and evils right now, we cannot help but improve many situations purely due to juxtaposition of blind luck and improbable combination.  Several “for example, imagine” scenarios vie for consideration right now.  Speculative fiction, alien visitor Sci-Fi, good old farce, and semi-scientific what-ifs.

          But not today.  

Excuses lose today

          One more “chore” this evening.  We’ve probably harvested the last of this year’s kale.  Those hardy plants are still showing new leaves in the crown.  Temps down to thirty tonight.  The last two weeks, despite temps down to twenty-two and snow Christmas Eve, with a double blanket and waterproof top over that, the kale has flourished.  We’ll continue “tenting” the next several nights.  If we get another warm spell of two or three days, we might manage one more harvest.  Not bad for city farmers.

          Now, if you will excuse me, please.  I’m off to serious work on “Finder.”

1 With or without religion.  Yes, I know, and you can argue the case well.  But we have Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, Kwanzaa, Palden Lhamo Festival, Boxer Day, Omisoka, and even if you care to consider them, Festivus, and the like.  Don’t forget National Fruitcake Day, which seems to have special significance this year.  And No, I’m not going into an aside in politics.  That’s been beaten to death. Or should be beaten to death, politics.

2 Symbolically retired.   If you think January 1 will magically transform dark into light, obsolesce PPE, resolve a thoroughly confused election, sedate violent radicals worldwide, reduce the price of a dozen eggs, (for you egg farmers, that would be: “increase the profit margin on egg production), or temper any gender-chauvinists, you probably should slow-down on the little white pills.  Or, if you’re inclined, up your dose.  I know what works for me. 

Late In From Tulsa – December 25, 2020

              For the season, a short story for a holiday capable of evoking so many memories: bitter, sweet, and bittersweet.  For those who fancy a brief read, this is a stretch at just over $8.00 and change.

              Merry Christmas to you all.  Whether you read on or not.

Late in From Tulsa

Understand this began early December, nearly fifty years ago.  If you remember that far back, this means something to you.  If not, just consider this so much melancholy Christmas card claptrap…

              Year-end holidays are emotionally difficult for military people, especially youngsters not career minded, away from home. Like others, I’d not been home for Christmas in three years.  Circumstances.

              Mom passed before I went into the service.  Sorrow affected Pop’s health.  He adjusted but his health worsened each year.  Between Mom’s passing and my enlisting, my much older sister was struck by a degenerative spinal disease.  Its come-and-go, more-or-less paralysis complicating her life as few can understand has been easier for her to deal with than her divorce two years later.  About the time a lady back home I thought would eventually take me for her husband got tired of waiting for “circumstances” to be “right.”  More likely, she fell in love with the attorney she met while I was in Greenland.  I understand, and I don’t, you know?

              This service boy needed Christmas home, with family.  Once again, schedules and distance made holiday leave impossible.  If you are, or were military, you know that happens.  Then, in a nice piece of military logic, necessary budget cuts were satisfied not by halting recruiting, but by releasing trained, seasoned troops early.  In time for Christmas early. That was the rumor.

              Until the rumor reached us, Dan, a buddy of mine, and I were going to ship-over.He’d earned a spot in OCS.2  Not as diligent finishing-up my college work, I was going to re-enlist. When official word came down early-outs3 were for real, it took less than an evening in the NCO4 club and much less than a snootful to make up our minds.  We’d take the offer, become civilians.

               Dan was serious with a lady back home in Anchorage.  Awaiting processing, in a flurry of activity and long-distance telephone calls, Dan and his lady set a date for and worked out details for a pre-Christmas wedding.  Dan wanted me to be Best Man.  In Alaska.  That’s not close to my home, west of Dallas.

               Sis and I talked on the phone.  She sounded robust and cheery, admitting she was enjoying a string of “good” months. 

               “And Pop?” I asked.

               “He’s not getting better.  Your getting out, coming home will be good.  Did Pop wonders to hear the news.  Smiled that old Pop smile and said you’d be busy as hell, as he put it, getting the ranch back in order.”

               “I should just come home,” I suggested.

               “Go get your buddy married-off,” Sis insisted, “Pop and I will be fine. What’s a couple of days, right?  We’ll be good until you get back to Dallas.”

               “You and Pop pick me up there?”

               “Just let us know when your flight gets in.”

               The wedding, short lead-time and all, was a ripsnorter.  A resident Anchorage buddy handled bachelor party arrangements.  Serious ceremony.  Beautiful bride.  Handsome groom.  Snow falling.  On December twenty-first.

               Dan’s mom got me to the airport on the twenty second. As we left for the airport, she told me that Sis called.  They’d rushed Pop to the hospital.  I’d be home early the twenty-fourth.  Perfect, but with a new urgency.

               Almost pulled it off.  Weather elsewhere delayed us in Calgary.

               The states were enjoying a freak snowstorm.  Airborne, our pilot told us Love Field in Dallas was closed.  Oklahoma City, too.  We were in a race to Tulsa with the front pushing heavy snows eastward.  Upstairs,5 you have no idea where you are.  Airtime suggested we were close.  In a cheery note, the pilot informed us, snow or not, we’d be landing in Tulsa as we hadn’t fuel to race any further east.

              Christmas Eve morning, we skidded to a stop on a Tulsa runway.  When it snows in Tulsa, it doesn’t mess around.  Nobody was going to leave Tulsa. It was nice as airports go but it wasn’t home.  We overnighted in the airport.  In Tulsa.  Isn’t that something?  Two years in Thule6.  Time to go, in, out.  Bim, bam.  No problem.  Anchorage.  Snow.  In, out, bim, bam, no problem.  Tulsa?  Nope.  Not happening.  Someone would work the holiday.  Police.  Hospital staff.  Airport crews.  Military folks.  I knew all about that.  We nervously left Tulsa Christmas morning.

              Compared to the Tulsa landing, Dallas was a piece of cake.  

              A rancher neighbor met me at the airport.  Quizzed, he had no news for me.  His job was to get me to the hospital.  Which he did.  Through melting snow.  Sis and her walker met me outside Pop’s room.  She didn’t look good.  Maybe the divorce.  Maybe it wasn’t her year for Christmas with her two girls.  Probably worried over Pop.  Our conversation through hugs and her sobs is clear to this day.

              “How is Pop?”

              “Doctors say it was a moderate stroke. He’s okay.”

              “Paralysis?”

              “Some.  Too early to tell.  We can visit now.  If you’re ready.”

              “I am.”

              We did.

              “Pop!  How ya feel?” 

              Pop slurred something.  What, I’m not exactly sure.

              “I’m home to stay, Pop.  Christmas together this year!”

              Pop didn’t speak.  He nodded and smiled his big, ear-to-ear west Texas smile.

              Best Christmas ever.

© SP Wilcenski 2020

1 Ship-over:  Re-enlist for another hitch. A soldier, whatever branch, you do that twice, meaning you’d have nine to twelve years’ time-in-service, you were, or wisely should have considered yourself a lifer.  Which in the military means “career.”

2 OCS: Officer’s Candidate School.

3 Early out: Discharged before contractual enlistment years lapsed.

4 NCO club:  Non-Commissioned Officers bar, and in larger installations, members-only restaurant. Some of us made grade easily.  Something to do with career field and oh, call it “circumstances.”

5 Upstairs: Above the clouds.  In this situation, no earthbound panoramas below.  No landmarks.  Nothing.  Instrument flight.

6 Thule, Greenland:  Nature’s vegetable crisper.  Or deep-freeze, depending on the month.

Esteemed Guests – December 23, 2020

                                                             

It was time for weekly recalibration.  Schedulers never let on until showtime whether it will be a one-on-one or group session.  Irregularity suggests they don’t themselves know.  One day they’ll get it all sorted out.  Staff and residents simply take things as they come.  Everyone knows who the players are, and what roles we are expected to play.

“Conference room” (wink, wink) ceremony was never an issue.  After a light tap on the door, I opened it and walked in.  You would not believe the assemblage of people seated in oversized leather chairs, almost recliners.   All chairs but one arranged in a semicircle, facing that one chair, the one reserved, obviously, for me. 

There were five of them.  Not “residents.”  Judging that is, from their suits and their postures, to the last one suggesting assumed superiority.  These were professionals.  This indeed was not an expected unexpected.  At least, not for me.  It’s common for one “facilitator” and several “clients,” but never the other way around.  None of these men were immediately recognizable.

I sat in the unoccupied chair. None of my esteemed guests spoke.  I began. “Gentlemen.  I do not know where to start.  It is not normally left to me.  Do you have questions for me?”

A youngish man, in a suit more fashionable to the turn of the century, not this one, the other one, spoke. “Um. Yes.  Not to waste anyone’s time, could you look at the picture I show to you and describe for me what it is that you see?  Take your time, please, no hurry.  I realize it is not a ‘picture’ but humor me and tell me what you ‘see’ in this.”

It certainly was not a “picture.”  It was an ink blot.  I’ve been around enough to recognize not the particular image, but the concept.  That it was not black-and-white startled me.  I leaned toward the picture to examine it closely. 

Before I could start, “Hermann,” interrupted a clean-shaven older man more suitably, but not quite, dressed as if a resident of the current century, “you are not going to start with those ridiculous ink things, are you?”

“Herr Skinner,” replied Hermann, “these will allow me to come more quickly to an understanding…”

“Ah, Rorschach, you are not going to have us watch while you play with your ten ink stains are you? I mean we have a limited amount of…”

“Herr Pavlov, there are only ten now,” interrupted ‘Herr Rorschach.’  

It seemed the way these men went about things worked better when they interrupted one another. 

This once, though, Hermann was allowed to hold the floor. “I had twenty but impatience on the part of my peers allows me ten only to discern…”

A fourth gentleman, dressed appropriately to the middle of the last century took it to be his turn to interrupt. “Quite, Pavlov.  If we can observe not so much how this mind works without respect to Hermann’s pictures, we can begin to see some of what primal forces he harbors, and thereafter to make some determination…”

Mr. Skinner stole the floor. “Yes, yes, yes, Carl, you and Sigmund will have your say, as you manage to do always after solid preliminary work is done by the rest of us, to blather on about animal urges, unconscious thought, and tempered social awareness, completely ignoring the irrefutably simple fact that a river’s incessant flow ultimately defines the contours of its banks.  We all have…”

At this point, never allowing me to utter a single word further, the five erupted into a cacophony of interrupted interruptions.  No sane man could have sorted-out any single argument any more than one can follow a single confused drop of water flowing north from Lake Eire to Lake Ontario.

Oblivious to occasional potshots from the others, Freud and Skinner were in the most spirited discussion.  They tossed insults at one another.  Insults that missed the mark and pranged into the room’s cinder block wall broke off chinks of block, exposing dull grey beneath the “soothing seaside blue” paint.

As a lay person, a student of psychology only out of necessity you understand, I didn’t see where their ideas were irreconcilable.  Freud and Skinner did.  Attentions of the five guests were so riveted on each other, my leaving the session was unnoticed.  As I left the conference room, it seemed Freud and Skinner would abandon their intellectual stuffiness to address their differences in a more tactile way.  While Freud and Skinner claimed and counter-claimed, and while not otherwise interrupting someone else, Rorschach, Jung, and Pavlov furiously scribbled observations into notepads. Freud and Skinner’s stilted arguments and postulations were audible as I closed the conference room door. 

Obviously Ward screwed up my morning dose, giving me the stronger evening pill instead of the lighter ‘good morning’ pill.  I’d entered the conference room enjoying some mild hallucination.  Walking away from the room, thinking about those pompous gentlemen, it occurred to me these esteemed guests were perhaps the very men who could answer questions that have been on my mind for some time.  Returning to the conference room door, I tapped lightly twice before opening it to stick my head inside.

The room, as you’ve guessed, was empty.

Bait and Switch – December 21, 2020

Mildly NSFW, language.

An apology follows in a few seconds.  Of course, that depends on how fast you read.

Today’s rambling is not about dogs. Not about a dog.  Clutch and Espie don’t chat over some socioscape that defies human and even Clutch’s understanding.  Today’s ramble isn’t an anecdote relating neighborhood ne’er1 scooping2 doggie walkers or a bit of fiction about the misadventures of a neighbor’s woefully misguided fancy that he’s expert in all things canine.3

The classic Bait and Switch.

The picture4 above made you expect something “doggie,” and therefore unavoidably cute despite accompanying narrative.  Nope.  Something melancholy, conjuring-up memories of Ol’ Blue or Snuffy who years ago accompanied you through youthful daily adventures in western Utah?  Nope.  Tales of Rin Tin Fluffy saving the family from sudden inundation caused by glomal warning?  Nope.

The goal was that you’d come into my house to read this post.  Ha!  Here you are.

If you’re upset, please accept my apology.  Important research continues.

Discoveries and directions

Have you noticed there are some simply delightful blogs here?  I mean on WordPress. Written by top-flight poets, essayists, cucina gurus, and critical reviewers.  When those I follow make me laugh, make me think, or on occasion make me do that inane “Aw, that’s so precious” thing I find troublingly (pardon me) trite, I like to let them know they’ve done a tremendous thing.  If I can manage, to explain why I feel that way. 

Writers like to hear from readers.5 Feedback is a tool for improvement.  When commenting, I do my best to be engaging.  Sometimes, a dialogue ensues.  Good stuff.

Oh, sure, I’ll ‘like’ a post sometimes without comment.  When I comment, though, you can bet your bippy,6 the author has entertained me.  What surprises me is that in many cases I receive more likes on my comments to other writers’ posts than I do on my own posts.  Now there’s a revelation. 

Comments and to a lesser degree, likes, are a give-take thing.  You don’t understand the depth of that, I’m not going to explain. It’s clearly either not something you need be concerned with – or understanding, you wouldn’t give a flying rat’s ass anyway.

Next time

Might just try the classic “upsell.”  Which is not technically “bait-and-switch.”   The helpful sales rep will gladly ring-up the advertised product.  But my!  Wouldn’t it make sense to glom7 onto the deluxe model?  Especially since today, and today only, it’s at no premium over the basic model?  Well, of course, you are required to agree to a slightly more costly warranty plan.

— Notes

1 Ne’er ?? A contraction for never?  Howizzat?  Ne’er is, from where I’m standing, the same size as never.  Oh, I see, it’s a poemist’s word for “ain’t gonna happen” using one syllable instead of two.  In which case, ne’er is a contraction. [Mental note: quiz well-known Poemetic WordPresser on proper use.]

2 …ne’er scooping doggie walkers.  Refers to “see no evil” practitioners who without fail manage to watch Skylab’s overflight precisely when Gonzo drops a little present on manicured green belonging to someone other than ‘master.’  Tree/forest thing, one supposes.

3 See “Whiskers” in “Conversations.”  Not gonna give you a link.  Wouldn’t dream of insulting you so.

4 Stella hails from Georgia, just off the banks of the Ocmulgee River.  Understandably, she’s an Allman Brothers aficionado.

5 It’s possible that’s not true, but I don’t believe I’m so much different from professionals that I’ve missed the mark.

6 Bippy.  From Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh In” of the late 60’s to early 70’s.  It’s a euphemism for posterior, sitter, sitdown, fanny, or butt, but (no pun) generally accepted not meaning any polite reference, suggesting a coarser word like “ass.”  Real life, folks.

7 Glom: Seize. Capture.  Grab.  Used here suggesting someone greedily wrapping their grubby little mitts around more than what they paid for.

Letter From Venus – December 18, 2020


Where would you be if you weren’t here?

Before I launch

 “Nose Job” from the archives is a short story you might find amusing.  That is, if ever you’ve looked into your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning to shave, or at five in the afternoon preparing to shellac and glue your face into readiness for a hot date.  Doing so, suddenly discovering new geology on your face.  Anyone who says they’ve not experienced this treat is lying and will suffer sores on their tongue.

It’s a short story.  It is not flash fiction.  Originally posted in three segments, so as not to scare dictaphobes.  If length bothers you, skip this one. 

Working mostly novel and novella length pieces when drafting, my fingers abuse the keyboard.  Even completing two editing adventures, “Nose Job” still scares the hell out of three thousand words.  Not gonna edit anymore because not more than three readers will be so ennui-depressed they struggle through to the end.  Maybe only one of those will complete that post before losing consciousness.

You’ve been fairly warned.  You might, though, find “Nose Job” a pleasant diversion.  You’ll have to exploit the link yourself.  I can’t reach it from here.

To the business at hand.

Spellcheck is bad enough

Leave spellcheck to its devices, “Hey Bigglebow, you fancy the Red Sox tonight?” becomes, “Hey, big boy, you fancy red sex tonight?”  Just a tiny bit of difference there. Strongly suspect a lot of irate non-responses to my posts might be in part not so much due to what I intended to post but rather to what spellcheck thought sounded better.  Blame spellcheck.

Can’t blame it all on smellcheck

Lately I find myself wrestling my space bar.  It has determined it knows better than I do where to break and start words.  Factually, if a space is even needed or purely a waste.  Spaces are not ‘nothing’ you know.  Propagating them consumes electrons – ASCII 3210 408, EBCDIC 6410 or 4016, Baudot 05, etcetera,1 for example.

It gets better.  Somewhere in the guts of my keyboard, a life-size thing from pre-millennia, a gremlin works at delaying some detents, speeding up others as they trickle through the bus, occasionally for the gremlin’s efforts, out of sequence.  That makes for an interesting but uninformative read. 

My personal keyboard gremlin is on a conservation drive.  He sees no reason for “all.”  That’s a pointless duplication of “L.” He deems “al” sufficient.  Spellcheck bridles at that, transforming it to what I surely meant, “Albert.” 

Turn off smellcheck and fifteen minutes after typing like a madam [madman] to get a torrent of thoughts down before they expire, whole chunks of text are pure noncsene [nonsense].  Even to me.  [I hear you chuckling.  Best be careful, lest comment-karma visit your next post.]

Didja ever look inside your keyboard? I mean a genuine keyboard, not some photo-thermal-pressure-sensitive, plastic laminate-covered chunk of glass?  Not much there.  Easy to understand how the tiniest dribble of coffee (oh, say, from reading Hobbo while you enjoy that first morning cup) could cataclysmically alter truth.

Were it not for insubordinate spacebars, mischievous keyboard gremlins, and fuzzy-headed smellcheck, we’d no longer be dealing with many significant problems of the day.  Problems have been solved, the answers, remedies, pounded into keyborads [keyboards] but lost to mankind. Forever.

Were it not for that, no one would argue over facemasks, they’d be utile only in Operating Theatres.  The integrity of elections would be unquestioned.  You’d know how much you’d pay for a brand-new Ford Mustang3 before you knew if you wanted cloth or leather upholstery and if you needed a high-speed glovebox. Crime and punishment would only be a book title.  There’d be a definitive list of real gender/sex/emotional identities.  Spam would not exist except on grocers’ shelves.  Telemarketers would all be hand-harvesting murder hornets for a living.

A letter from Venus

Ima boutto wagert haton ceag ain, Ivewa ltzed wellpa stthe tho usand-wo rdmar kwi thth ispost.  On etho usand wo rdsis suc han arbi tra rymark. 

Oh hell.  Enough of that.

For those of you not fluent in Venusian

I’m about to wager that once again, I’ve waltzed well past the thousand-word mark with this post.  One thousand words is such an arbitrary mark.  

We had contests in early machine programming years.  Not contests, really.  It was a way of life.  Memory and mass storage were limited and computer speeds measurable with a stopwatch.  Once a program ran what we deemed flawlessly, we’d set about trimming instructions to reduce memory load time, minimize segment swaps, and cut microseconds from end-to-end execution times. If you failed to reduce program storage and execute time, you could not add new features.

I do the same with compositions for blogs and certainly for eventual real publication. The trick is to achieve ultimate brevity while retaining full value of the story.4,5  The effort reaches a point a work can no longer be reduced, except by abandoning a lot of, too much detail to the reader’s imagination.  That, let me tell you, is an iffy proposition.

Now, “Finder” demands my attention.  See you in a couple of days.  Maybe.

1 Early-on, every computer manufacturer took the IBM approach: there is the real way, my (our) way, and then there’s the rest of the world’s ways.  Encoding information though, requires a pulse, or a change in state to indicate presence or absence of a number-system digit. Multiple times. Depending on the system, three pulses, or five, or eight.  Electricity.  A sacrifice of electrons.  Consider as I have, joining SPECAM.2 At worst, a time-lapse is necessary.  Baudot for example, has a genuine nothing or no-chad as the TTY paper tape advances.  Not going to get into the chad/chadless thing.  It confuses the snot out of me still. Last dealing with ASR and KSR devices fifty years ago, even I don’t give a rip anymore. Don’t ask me about NRZ(I) encoding. Not going there.

2 SPECAM Society Preventing Electron Cruelty And Misuse. A noble cause.  You wanna join, lemme know.  I’ll give you an address to mail-in your checks and money orders (cash is okay too).

3 Anybody market Mustangs beside Ford?  Pretty sure Chevy doesn’t. Mopar? Hillman?  Peugeot? Volvo? Rover Group? Yugo?

4 What on earth? Take a transition state diagram for an elevator (lift).  It is conceivable at some point your diagram accounts for all situations.  EPROM is coded.  You optimize.  Oops.  Economizing, you cut an instance where an asynchronous interrupt comes relating a change in load.  There is nothing in any other sensor or combination of sensors to account for that.  Motors, cables, switches, actuators, and servos are not going to imagine what happens for a change in load. You reach a point where the apple is no longer an apple.  The story is no longer a story. The elevator stops, or worse, plummets.

5 In the case of writing, especially fiction, it’s possible to pare a comfortably written two-hundred-word story down to one-hundred and fifty words.  Superfluous “the” is removed.  Expansive single words replace phrases.  Where “color” is not necessary it’s removed.  Statements inferable from preceding or following statements are eliminated.  Logical antecedents perish.  The danger is what you insist the reader know is in peril.  Satisfied with compression, you begin the process again. Then again.  At some point, the intent vanishes.  If it’s something specific you want in your story, too much cutting and compressing leaves the tale, though excellent, not what you’d intended because the (thinking) reader develops different premise, plot, and product. You must strike a bargain.

Quarter to Two – December 17, 2020

Originally posted in June of this year to another site, I post here to amuse a mentor I am lead to believe is new to the fun and frolic of electronically enhanced auditory perception. He should have as much fun as I’ve had the last five-plus years.

Quarter to Two

Archie and I were sitting at the counter in MarJo’s Diner having a cup of bright-eyes, when Bobbie walked in, looking everywhere, like she’d lost her puppy and expected to find him sitting at one of the tables sipping on a cup, reading the Whitmer Dispatch.

“Seen Margie?” asked Bobbie.

“Yunh,” I offered, “she went off to the corner booth to brood over Stan dumping her again.” I nodded Bobbie in the direction of the corner booth where Margie was filling a well-crumpled tissue with Margie’s-been-dumped-again raindrops.

“No, it’s not!” interrupted Archie.  Arch gave me that ‘you stupid twit’ look he’s mastered over the last seventy-odd years.

“Not what, Archie?” I asked.

Archie rolled his wrist to take a gander at his Timex with the Twist-O-Flex band and advised, “Not quarter-to.  Pert near ten past.”

“No Arch,” I corrected, “I just told Bobbie, Margie went off to the corner booth to brood over Stan and her having yet another spat.  Put your damned hearing aids in, Archie!”

“Not what I heard, Walter.  You said quarter-to.” Arch was righteously indignant.  Hard of hearing folks are that way; they can’t hear; it’s your fault.

“Put your damned hearing aids in, Arch!” I repeated.  “Get tired of hearing you say, ‘What?’ ‘Huh?’ and ‘Whasat?’”

 “Huh?” Arch said.  I suspected he knew damned well what I’d said.

“Gets pretty damned insulting, normal folk having to repeat themselves ‘cause you’re too stubborn to put your hearing aids in.”

“What? Oh, the squealers?”  Got’m in. See?” Arch twisted his head so one ear faced me and Clanton, who’d just walked in for his two-fifteen nectar. Then, nodding to Clanton, Arch turned to show his other ear, smiling like a crazed squirrel.  Both ears were empty.  Except for the long hair Jimmy Winston, town barber would trim back next time Archie slid into his chair.

Clanton snickered. Everyone in town heard Archie and I go through this routine daily.

“Ain’t there, Arch,” I said.  Arch stuck a finger in one ear then the other, frowned and started patting his shirt front. Like the little boogers escaped from his ears to hide in his pockets.

“They was,” declared Arch.

“It’s insultin, Arch, you don’t put the damned things in until everyone in the shop starts laughing at us both for the sideshow we put on. Insulting!”

“I read that article too,” offered Arch, looking at me like we’d picked up on a normal-folk kind of conversation.

“What?” Arch had me.  I had no idea how he’d misunderstood any of that.

“’Bout that sultan or potentate or pooh-bah or whatever visiting the city.”

“What, Arch?”

“Now who’s hard of hearin?” grinned Arch. 

Clanton shook his head and took a seat two stools down from Arch and me.  Jeannie came up to make sure Clanton was still taking his coffee black after twenty years right as rain at two fifteen in the afternoon weekdays.  Maybe she’d try to sell him a piece of Lemon Meringue pie while making eyes at him – or with him.  Sometimes, watching the two of them, I wondered why they just didn’t spend twenty bucks, get a license, and get married.  Whole damn town would turn up for that.

“Insulting, Arch.  Insulting.  Not sultan, you boob!”

 “Whyn’t you say, so?” asked the pain in my side these last forty years.  First, I lost Emmie.  Arch and Evelyn held me together through some rough times.  Then Evelyn, rest her soul, too, died shortly after Emmie.  Never figured out what the ladies had against me, leaving me to deal with Arch all by my lonesome.

“Lookit! Margie pining away over Stan.  Again.”  I tried to redirect the conversation to something Arch could guess if not completely hear.

“Well, if you want my opinion… “

“What opinion?” I asked.

 “About the pooh-bah buying the old foundry in the city.”

 “What?”

“Sure you don’t need hearing aids, Walter?”

“Archie!” It was near two thirty. My patience gave way.  I did a ‘head nod’ to Lou, who was standing in front of the grill working two grilled cheese sandwiches. I picked up the check and headed to the register.  Lou followed, walking the other side of the long counter, his ever-present toothpick pinched between his lips.       

“Archie!” I yelled down to my life-long buddy.

“What?” Arch started walking to meet Lou and me at the register.

 “Put your damned hearing aids in.”

 “Okay, okay!”

  “And turn’m on, boob!”

Lou grinned and shook his head.  I handed him the check and a ten.  He glanced over at Margie now being consoled by Bobbie. He asked, as if he didn’t already know, “Margie whining over Stan again?”

Arch complained, “Hell, I offered my opinion on the sultan and nobody wanted to hear!”

Shaking my head, resigning myself to a lost cause, I accepted my change from Lou and said like this time it would make any difference, “Put your damned hearing aids in, Arch!”

Arch and I left the diner, Lou, Clanton, Jeannie, Bobbie, Margie, and someone who’d ordered two grilled cheese sandwiches.

“Come back again!” Lou tossed through the door at us as Arch and I stepped out into the August heat.

“No.  Don’t think so,” began Arch. “Don’t look like rain at all to me.”

© SP Wilcenski 2020

Originally posted to P**** 6/26/2020

Minute Quiz – December 16, 2020

Considering a career change?

All you amateur slooths sluthes defectives dictectors private dicks out there, put your eyebones to work on the image above.  See what that image tells you.  A professional interpretation follows this brief flash fiction interlude.


Pill Popper

Ward is six feet four inches of tuned muscle.  That suits his work as a facility attendant.  Some residents here can be a handful.  Despite his brawn, Ward is usually pretty sharp.

Usually.

Imagine Ward’s co-workers’ astonishment, coming into my room to find me beating the pants off Ward in Pinochle and Ward docile as a lamb, slouched into one of two chairs at the tiny table.

“Ward!” one said.  “Didn’t you hear the three-tone assistance call?”

Sleepy-eyed Ward responded, “Not sure. Maybe. Why?”

“Whyn’t you respond?”

“Playing Pinochle with my bud, here.”

“You on drugs, Ward?”

“Nah.  I’m fine.”

Ward’s economy-sized coworker pals helped Ward to his feet and spirited the wobbly man away to get a medical assessment – to determine what the hell got into him.  I knew exactly what got into him.  Didn’t tell them. Ward won’t remember much of it, so I can tell you. On the Q.T.  Plan to do it again.  Ward, you see, came into my room…

“Hey, Shooter!  Pill time! Here, put’er down, good buddy.”

It was the pink and black one. It would put me out so fast Ward would have to tuck me in for the evening before he left.

“Open.  Show me your mouth is empty.”

Not opening my mouth, I showed my tongue to Ward.

“No, Shooter, open wide, so I can see, like this.” And Ward opened his mouth illustrating what everyone here knows. 

When he did, I popped the black-pinkie into his mouth at the same time I poked him in the chest with the flat of my other hand.  Ward inhaled sharply.

In thirty seconds, Ward was as carefree as a six-year-old and as pliable as al dente vermicelli.


Minute quiz professional interpretation

Dectective Police Sergeants Sheila Kuffem and Yancy Mirandize of the San Bispo de Oratorio Dicteco Deetec Police Department offer their expert opinions.  How well do your conclusions match up?

  • It’s a matchbook cover, indicated by “close cover before striking.”  That’s how one lit cigarettes and campfires in the years before Bic butane lighters if you couldn’t afford a Zippo.  This further suggests:
    • Whoever had this was a likely smoker, camper, or arsonist.
    • It appears to be sheared and lying flat, so it no longer is functional.
  • It dates from the early to mid-60’s because:
    • The suggested earning range is less than $3.50 to $6.00 per hour.  Hardly a recent minimum wage.  Certainly not that a highly trained “professional” would earn any time after 1970.
    • It propositions “experienced men,” clearly not a phrase acceptable today.  It would have passed muster until about 1970.  No need for matches now, the insinuations therein are incendiary.
    • “Mail coupon inside” certainly now such a come-on would furnish a www something or other.  At least a one-eight-hundred number.  Toll Free.
    • “Free booklet”?  Nothing after 1970 was ever free.  There was money to be made and just getting the booklet would set you back serious jack. After 1970.
    • The “course” was likely a rip-off because only the military and schools based in California or Grenada offered coursework “at home.”  In the olden days, people went to school.

How’d you do, Shamus?  You come to the same conclusions?

Officer Sheila recently completed Quantico’s profiler training.  She further submitted the following psycho-physical profile of the matchbook owner:

  • He – he because clearly males were targeted – likely sent the coupon in, accounting for the missing back cover.
  • If he completed the course, he likely:
    • Is now a retired computer professional of some sort. As computer professionals age, they deteriorate so they can only hold positions as Analysts, Project Managers, MIS Directors, and CIO’s.  His title at retirement may be misleading.
    • Is a touch-typist after years of pounding keypunch and computer console keyboards.
    • Talks of weird things like bauds, hexadecimals, octals, alphamerics, ASCII, EBCDIC, half- and full-duplex, NRTZ, and fully half the “words” he uses are acronyms.
    • Besides a troublesome cough, has poor vision from staring at computer screens in his later years.
  • For the fact we’re looking back some sixty years, Computer Programmer or not he is well over eighty and living in a home. If you’re trying to track such an individual down, check rehab centers and asylums.

Interview – December 15, 2020

Here kitty, kitty.

Photo by Steve Gill on Pexels.com

This is not a rant

You might consider it so, but it’s not.  There’s not enough venom here.  What there is, develops late in the piece and is in context quite mild.  It’s a bit of introspection.1

Who should not read further

If you are female and not in the mood to risk a ruffled feather, skip this read. Not saying you will have ruffled feathers, but the possibility always exists. 

If you need a spinning emoji, catch you later.

If you like your shortbread in nibbles, first I’m surprised you made it this far, and second, I warn you this ain’t the Reader’s Digest version.

Preambulatory crap aside….

Some twit had the temerity to interview me.2  Me!  Not her fault, some bigger twit short filler for a monthly, was scrambling to make deadline and sent a newbie out to interview an unknown.  Two zeroes, you must expect are gonna add up to another zero.  The project was reasonable, I suppose as both the interviewer and the interviewee were superfluous in the grand scheme of things.  Expendable.

The interview didn’t go all that well

PI: Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions.

SPW: I must admit I don’t understand why you want to interview me.

P: We like to poke into obscure corners of the field.

S: Hmm.  Obscure. We’ll I’m certainly qualified there.

P: No offense intended.

S: None taken.  But it’s brutal to have someone validate my own thoughts on my standing.

P: Are you easily offended?

S: Yes and no.

P: Explain that, if you would.

S: I ask for criticism of my work.  Rarely get it.  When I do, it’s very good.  Good for me.  I mean, to learn, or drop something cold or improve.

P: Is it ever difficult to take?

S: Sure, sometimes, but I try not to let a reviewer see or hear my disappointment. Otherwise, I lose a resource. Hard to come by, resources.

P: How about outside of your work?  I mean are you easily offended?

S: Personally?

P: Yes.

S: Back to critiques. It offends me when someone doesn’t understand what I’ve said, or I’ve said it poorly and they chastise me for my failure, when there seem to be two failures in play.  Same for personal life.  Dealing with criticism, I mean. Something disconnected upstairs, my upstairs, so people often don’t understand what I say or do.  They get all pissy.

P: Not sure I understand.

S: Pissy?  Means they get incensed.  Offended. Indignant.

P: No.  Got that.  So, you are easily offended?

S: Don’t know as it’s easy.  It is frequent.  Few know me well enough to offend me that way.  Most bad things said about me are true. I’m not a monster or ignorant.  But I am conservative and can’t brook pretentiousness.  Or meanness or greed.  But yeah, meanly presented criticism is difficult to handle.  Needed, but difficult.

P: You covet criticism?

S: Yup.  Of my writing.  Less of my personal life.  Tough as it is to accept criticism, it’s tougher to criticize effectively.  Not that important though, right now, as we’ve so many real evils to remedy.

P: Fancy you fight against evil?

S: Wouldn’t go that far.  I don’t look good in tights and a cape.  Besides, a little evil at the right time in the right way gets the job done.

P: What?

S: A pound of evil might do where a ton of nice would be wasted.

P: Still not clear.

S: Okay. Johnny keeps bullying littler boys and sissies at school.  Talking to him ain’t getting the job done.  Daddy, or a bigger boy at school with his ears screwed on right figure to set Johnny straight.

P: Not following you.

S: Took that example from a Milestone piece I’m working on.  Daddy finally hears of Johnny’s, um, misadventures and pounds a lot of dust from Johnny’s britches.  Get that?

P: (Nod)

S: Or Duke, an older boy at school interrupts Johnny’s abuse of a younger lad and soundly cleans Johnny’s clock.

P: Johnny benefits from this?

S: Does or doesn’t.  Younger kids and sissies do. Johnny thinks harder about the next opportunity to bully.  May think hard enough or long enough to see error of his ways.

P: Teaching with fear?

S: Not fear.  Respect.  Johnny respects Dad’s or Duke’s ability to trim his ears.  Pretty soon that respect matures into a little more respect for people in general.  You get older, it’s tougher to know whether or not the little girl over there has a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. You don’t risk teasing her for her freckles, for fear she’ll put you on your butt.  You think more, bully less.

P: Still, that’s fear.

S: You call it what you want. It works.  But there are genuine evils we need to recognize and exorcise.

P: You have a habit of putting it right out there, don’t you?

S: What?

P: You are outspoken.

S: Yes. Right after practicing crude, offensive, sarcastic and obscure, I’m a pragmatist.

P: A bit misogynistic?

S: I try not to be, but it seems to work out that way.  Talk about not handling criticism! Excuse me, I know I’ll take the gaff for this, but women work at being offended if the writer is male. 

P: You don’t believe that!

S: I do.  My problem, I think, is I don’t understand women.  That’s okay in itself.  Even bigger problem is I care that I don’t understand.

P: Are you something of a misanthrope?

S: Not a point of pride, but who can not be a misanthrope?  It seems rather unavoidable. Hasn’t always been this way.  I used to believe people were, would be, good, given half a chance.

P: They’re not? They don’t?

S: Not anymore.  Seems a product of the times.

P: That seems to be an undertow in a lot of your work.

S: Even in fiction, it’s easier to write what you know, what you believe. I write a lot but most of it never makes press.

P: You trail some of your post with “FF: some number.” What does that mean?

S: Interesting that you should ask.

P: Why?”

S: I believe only one other person, that is one reader, asked what it meant.  Means what I wrote was “fluff.”  That’s a “fluff factor.”  Not that the piece doesn’t have a message.  Just that it’s not what I consider a serious work.

P: Why do you write “fluff” then?

S: To maintain a presence.

P: Whatever does that mean?

S: Means if you don’t show up in a “reader” list, people forget to look at what you’ve done.

P: So that’s to be in front of a potential audience? To get them to read your work?

S: Yes. But it doesn’t work well.  It’s that or the bulk of what I write is crap.

P: Why doesn’t fluff work?

S: I don’t use pictures of kitty cats often enough.

P:  You’re not serious?

S: Kind of.  Defines the audience.  More than once did pieces showcasing dogs.  Got good traffic.  Not because of what I said, but because, I think, there were “doggies” involved. 

P: Aw, that’s cute!

S: I rest my case.

P: What does that mean?

S: Serious work is not a top draw except to specialized audiences.  In the case of my generation, it’s because Mrs. Bynnington or whoever was your tenth grade Literature teacher, made you read Crime and Punishment.  To this day, you have an aversion to literature.

P: Literature teachers still insist on exposure to the classics.

S: Classics Illustrated hardly qualifies as exposure.

P: Um.  You think you write Literature?

S: Not hardly.  But even when I’m doing satire or humor or just narrative pieces, I don’t think an emoji enhances the effort itself.  I ask people to read.  Think.  And, when it strikes their fancy, to bellyache and tell me clearly why the work is scuzz.

P: What do you mean ‘specialized audiences’?

S: If you write about gardening, engine repair, Italian cooking, the latest initials-only mental difficulty, or care and feeding of Koi, you have a dedicated readership. Because they want to read what you have to say to learn or to pick a fight with you.

P: You don’t specialize?

S: Nope.  Not qualified. Except as a curmudgeon. 

P: You invest a lot of time in writing?

S: Yes.

P:  Why?

S: Is it that bad?

P:  No, no, no!  What I meant was, you’ve admitted to spending a lot of time writing.  Why do you do it?

S: Write?

P: Yes.

S: There are really, I guess something short of half a dozen reasons I write.

P: You’d share them?

S: Sure.  No charge.  I want to entertain. I wax serious and critical. When I can though, I like to make people laugh.  At least smile.  Be nice to educate about life a little.  Encourage people to think.  Funny thing about all that.

P: What?

S: Makes me think too. Makes me work to understand.  That’s education of sorts.

P: Is that all?

S:  That’s a lot. But no.  It’s also an ego thing.

P: You admit your ego comes into play?

S: Sure. To deny that would be to lie.  Writers almost, that’s important, almost without exception write ultimately to massage their egos.  They say otherwise, they need to grab hold of their britches, pull’m up snug, and start reassessing.

P: Not for the pure joy in creating something.  Something to take pride in?

S:  Joy?  That’s bullshit.  Pride?  That’s the same thing as ego.  If it concerns you, a matter of degree, but it’s still self-appreciation, narcissism.

P: That’s harsh.

S: That’s truth.  You put a writer in solitude with a pad and pencil, take away her audience, she’ll learn to knit. A writer’s biggest audience is the writer herself.

P: You went feminine. Is that a slur?

S: No.  It’s concession to the absurdity of our society’s preoccupation with social correctness. 

P: That needs more explaining.

S: Okay. Can’t we just admire a writer because she’s a writer?  Does good work? First, we are expected to admire she’s female and has simply by virtue of the fact she’s accomplished something unique or special, done something no man can do. 

P: I ‘m with you so far…

S: Of course, you are.  We are not allowed to recognize a mistake and compensate; we are expected to overcompensate in every aspect of life.

P: What?

S: If descendants of Eve ask reparations, there’ll be hell to pay…  Gee, there’s a short story in that.

P: I think we’re done here…

S: See, I knew you’d circle around to that misogynist thing.  Not true, really.

P: Seems so to me.

S: Because you work hard at wanting it to be true.  Puts wind in your sails to think you’re downtrodden.

P: And that bothers you?

S: Normally no.  It does bother me when it’s not true and I have to deal with a male-basher who can’t see that as bad as misogyny.

Um.  At that point, the interview was over.  Never asked about my new album, “Snuggling-in with Prejudice”.

1 Not a new word for me, but trendy it seems.  “Introspection” is bandied about when an author, intentionally or not, pretends to argue with himself on a sensitive or controversial subject.  Since it is introspection, it’s not really firm conviction, is it? Therefore, no one can level blame for misguided conclusions.  Right?  Like your alter ego isn’t really part of who you are?  Introspection is not so much who you are as much as it is ‘who are you?’

2 I write fiction, not MSM news or historical accounts.  Portraiture bordering sometimes on bizarre or absurd.  Seeking to entertain, I let my mind run amok until a character breathes, then I stand back and watch.  Factual events make for good places to start to see if it’s possible to amuse or incense.  Either result is acceptable, something of a success.  It’s unnecessary to explain amusement.  Rile someone, they start thinking to get back at you.  Thinking is a good thing, though in short supply nowadays.  I’ll gladly take that result.

Surrogate Episodes III and IV are posted.  Of course, they’re NSFW. You’d be disappointed otherwise. If you’ve managed to get lost and found yourself here by mistake, you might first look at the introduction to Conversations. So you understand more of what you’re looking at.  Otherwise, it’s akin to walking into a Bingo parlor thinking it’s a Republican Caucus.