Category Archives: All It Takes

The Last Delivery

When my father cashed in his chips on April 26, 1969 the responsibilities for the proper conduct of his obsequies fell upon my dead brother Tom (MP 56, Fordham 67), who was very much alive at the time, and my humble self.  And so, the next day we appeared at Williams Funeral Home, not too far from Joe’s Fish Market, and just across Broadway from the RKO Marble Hill accompanied by our grieving mother and sister to learn what could be done to honor a devoted letter carrier.

The funeral director, whose name I never can remember, but whose manner I shall not forget, sat behind his desk, which seemed about the size of a carrier’s flight deck.  It was the most slick and shiny piece of furniture there has ever been and was empty of everything except a black phone, his folded arms, long fingers knitted together so as to make me think of a bed of snakes, just below the inverted reflection of his face in the highly polished wood; that face a practiced and professional mask of compassionate sympathy, welcoming us in a properly consoling manner; both in reflection and in fact.

  “We accept cash or check,” were what I remember most his consolations.  That and the soothing words, “Payment is due within ten days, or late charges go into effect,” did much to ease the pain of loss.

My mother, stoically silent, merely nodded, opened the purse she held on her lap, produced a pile of bills and counted out the full amount.   “We would like to see the coffin,” my brother said, standing.  “You have a showroom, of course?”

With no more than the merest gentle smile, your man rose and gestured that we follow him, from his carpeted office through the door and down the carpeted corridor to a doubled door opening into a large room filled with beautiful examples of funerary magnificence.

To be sure, I was awed.  He gestured in such a manner that gave us to understand any of these was ours for the asking.  Thus invited, we strolled among les Objets des Morts, whispering comments and questions until we had narrowed our choices to two.  My dear sister spoke for the first time.  I know this sounds unusual for those who know her, but nevertheless…  She spoke and said, ” Are these the right size? “

For the first of several times during the next few days the, until then, composed, controlled, supremely confident gentleman, our very own Virgil I had come to think, appeared to lose himself in surprise.  “No one has ever asked that question,” he answered with the tiniest waver in his voice.  My mother, smelling blood, smiled ever so briefly and said,”We are.”  I thought I saw him stumble backwards, slightly.  My brother was nearest him, now, and said, “Our father was above average in height, though slimmed some by the disease which finally took him from us.  He suffered greatly in this life, and we would be grieved to know we were the cause of any further suffering for him on his “Last Journey”.” Turning to me, Tom added, “Peter, here, is closest to our father’s height.  We would like to see in which of these Dad would look his best.”

“Of course he’ll take off his shoes.”  The gentleman had raised only this objection after a nervous cough and a frantic look around, whether for help or a way out I have never known.

And so, barefooted since I wanted to feel the satin lining on my feet, I climbed in and lay down in the coffins feeling a bit like that little girl in the story.  The first one was too small by several inches, and I thought of my poor father spending only God knows how many years awaiting the Parousia with cramped aching feet.  But the second was just right, and upon my testimony, we all chose it for Dad.  He, or what is left of him, lies there still, waiting comfortably.

There were several details left to be attended to, so we returned to the office.  The next matter was the preparation and publication of an obituary for the deceased as our Master of the Rites informed us.  In response to Tom’s question he explained just what the charges would be in each of the several papers and offered himself as amanuensis in its production.  He removed a blank piece of paper from within one of the desk drawers and, smiling, paused expectantly.

My mother asked if this was included in the fee just paid.  Sadly, it was not; a piece of information which caught us short for the merest moment.  We were not people of means, and had little set aside for the honors which might have done my father justice.  His early death caught us unprepared. Then my brother offered what I think was a brilliant solution.  He said, “Why not: Ed Gallaher, dead!”

After he had found himself; only a short while, really, our guide gave us some bad news.  “There is a minimum charge.”

It was my sister, then, who suggested a solution.  We would approach my father’s favorite barkeep, Angie of The Kingsbridge Tavern on the corner of our block.  He was always good.  We’ll just add it to Dad’s tab, now in the low four figures.  And that was the end of that!

The last matter of business for the afternoon involved the number of cars for mourners, and, of course the hearse and flower car.  We would do this all without flowers, my mother said, since it was too early for dandelions she added, soto voce.  That left us with the matter of a hearse, and the positioning of cars.

And, here, I spoke up.  “My father’s last wish was to have a Mailman’s Funeral.”  He had been writing something on  piece of paper when I said this, and he slowly put down the pencil.  Looking directly at me he spoke, a little tremulously, “What do you mean?”

I guessed he had never heard of such a thing, so I explained that my father’s body would be carried from the funeral home on the day of the Funeral Mass by six pallbearers in full dress Letter Carrier’s uniforms placed in a mail truck and driven to the church.  Behind it we would all walk, led by the Mailman’s Marching Band.  The Mail Truck, to be driven by my father’s longtime mailman friend and partner, whose name I only remember as Ralphie Boy, would be further decorated with two brand new leather mailbags, one mounted inside out on each each door to signify that inside a dead letter carrier lay.  Further, a gold ribbon bearing the word “Cancelled” in black letters would be draped across the hood of the truck

“Really?” He said.  ” If they are available,” I answered.  “That would be good,” my mother interrupted.  “With the money we save on your hearse, we won’t need Angie.”

And so it was. Or could have been.  The fellow was kind enough to say he would absorb the obituary costs if we allowed him to take Dad to church in his hearse.  Such a deal we couldn’t get in a store as Moe the tailor used to say.

We took it.  He couldn’t stand, so we shook his hand and left.

There are other stories to tell about Dad’s wake.  But, I’ll save them.

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We Went Out To The Ballgame Last Night, Hearts Filled With Hope

 

It’s raining this morning.  Raining cats and dogs.  Earlier it was raining refrigerators, boxcars and horse drawn wagons; with horses attached.  But, none of that stuff happened last night.  Last night it rained home runs, big cheers and great joy!  Great joy after deep gloom; the best kind to have.  That’s the story of baseball, one of mankind’s greatest achievements along with a cold mug of suds and a fat sandwich, and kids who play the game with heart, so guys like me never have to grow old.

Here’s how it happened.

A BRIEF CAUTIONARY NOTE:  The reader will be aware, I hope, all half dozen of you, that what I shall tell below is a story, not factually perfect.  I took no notes, and I work from an overtaxed memory.  But it’s a true story, believe me.

It all started a few days ago when the home town team, The Nashua Silver Knights, was scheduled to play The I Mavericks from Portsmouth, NH, in a three game series to see who would go up against the Western Division’s team for the 2016 Champeenship  of the FCBL (Futures Collegiate Baseball League).  We’ve had season tickets for several years now, and a season’s worth of ball games in the open air, with attendant beer drinking and hot dog eating and screaming at the umps, cheering for the good guys, costs about as much as a night down in Bean Town or a day at Fenway , is closer to home and better for the soul.

Anyway, our guys lost the first game.  Actually it was stolen from them.  But, like Mom always said, “There’s no use…”, right?  And besides winning or losing, we knew we were better than “them”.  So, like everyone in Brooklyn long, long ago, we headed for the next game, last night’s, up in Portsmouth at what I was led to believe was a nice place for a game, Leary Field; our hearts topped off with hope and swagger.  We bought our own chairs with us, and I thought, “This is real!” as, after paying only three bucks, we wandered across the field with our folding seats, and jackets just in case.  It was a beautiful night for baseball, a game of which makes every night more beautiful.  But, nature had put on the Ritz for the game: clear sky, high clouds, a neat little park across from the library with church steeples and old houses and tree lined streets ringing the place, and a quarter moon crooning brightly in the light of the setting sun.  I kept looking for Norman and his easel.

The game was late getting started, and I can’t remember thinking it was because of the crush of the crowd.  Fewer than a hundred people were in the stands, or spread out along the chain link fence on the visitors’ side.   I remember thinking that the ball park was a hitter’s paradise.  It looked like a place for high school ball; no fence further than about 350′, and none higher than 7′.  Compared to ours in Nashua, where Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella played, it was an orange crate to a mahogany chest.

Anyway, I couldn’t help remarking to one of their players, as we passed them by on the way in, “Good game last night.”  He looked up from his stretches and said, “Thanks.”  “You got lucky, ” I answered and walked on.  It was going to be a serious night of ball.


The first three innings were a hitless, scoreless pitchers’ duel, lots of strikeouts, but, also something else.  There were lots of terrible calls from the home plate umpire.  By the end of the third inning, it was more than obvious that the bad calls on the other side were for balls instead of strikes, and on our side he called them the other way ’round.  I know it’s not a good thing to hate anyone, but this fellow was the one exception where hatred was a virtue.  Well, not “the one” exception.  But, you know what I mean.

Striking everyone as odd, the first thing he did when coming out to the field was rearrange the batter box boundaries, a thing no one had ever seen before.

And so it went.  We scored two runs on one hit in the fourth, and it seemed to me, and every other one of the folks with us that the ump was definitely favoring the other side.  Yet even with a tenth player on their side, they couldn’t score.  Our coach was visibly angry with the guy, and our own players were getting upset.  One of our pitchers, the starter, came out in the middle of the fifth because he was too visibly upset to continue.  The umps tactics had gotten to him.

The relief fared no better, and by the 7th inning the score had been tied.  Then, they broke out in front, scoring three more runs on a double by their big first baseman with the bases loaded; bases that were loaded on three walks in succession delivered to them courtesy of the ump, and another pitching change for us due to the same cause.  The kid who came in took the mound, and I could see that the terrible conditions behind home plate had already had an effect on him.  His behavior was full of contradictory signs, all doing with trying to work under tough conditions.  It’s hard building a castle when it gets knocked down before you can get a wall up.  Bad metaphor, I know. Nevertheless the whole team was by this time affected.

We fans, we few on the right side, were catching the virus, too, feeling powerless.  About all we could do is commiserate with the team, and curse the ump, while watching bad call after bad call, and our hopes drain away.  Strangely enough, there was a deafening silence from the fans on the other side; as if they were, somehow, ashamed.


The “scouting report” on our opponents from one of the fellows who was with us said that they were weak in pitching.  Who needed good pitching when one was able to count the ump as a player. Nevertheless, there were some things the guy had to call balls, and out bats still worked.  So, despite the handicap, the fellows managed to even the score. And it was tied at five runs apiece.

But in the eighth inning one of our guys hit a solo home run, a shot clearing the fence way out in center field; too far, I thought with a grim satisfaction, to be ruled foul by anyone so inclined to try.  And, that ignited everyone!  The celebration lasted through the next two at bats by our lads, I think.  Some folks were literally dancing with glee.  I know I was.  It was Christmas and the Fourth of July and VE Day!  I picked the latter to remind everyone, you special seven readers, that work had still to be done.

The bottom of the eighth didn’t change a thing for them, and we went into the ninth ahead by one run.  I have to say the other side tried everything  they could in a long time at bat; but their best efforts still left things as they were.  And, as they were was definitely  not to safe a position to hold on to.  One run against a team that had beaten us by five just two days before was no cushion to rest on.  It was a sharp rock in your back!  Everyone knew it, and knew we needed to build a bigger lead. A combination of worry and determination and purpose built like a coming storm on us, on everyone, I think.  The “game” took one a meaning more than play.  The on deck “circle”, a stretch of gravel next to the ugly squat cinder block shelter that was the dugout, was a busy place with sometimes three players stretching, squatting, practice swinging, loosening up….waiting, and trying not to wait.  The dugout itself was quiet.  The fans, when we weren’t biting our nails, and looking for rabbit’s feet were doing what fans ordinarily do; our best to build a little hope, give a little support.


Have you ever been in a position where you get in inkling that the weather is about to change, feel a cool breeze on a hot sweaty day, a lightening of the heart, a change in attitude about someone or something?  I had sat quietly for some time during the last inning really worrying about our thin lead, and, I guess, praying that we could build on it, to ensure the win I hoped was coming.  And as the first batter walked to the plate, I thought I felt that breeze.  This is no hindsight working on me now.  I simply had a premonition that things were going to be OK.  Only, I didn’t yet know how OK they were going to be.

So, I stayed to see.

I mentioned that pitching was our strength.  Well your can go for the ride of your life on a pitcher’s arm, and we certainly had a stable full of thoroughbreds.  On the other side of the field, they were no judges of horse flesh.  I guess that is why they relied so much on the kindness of umpires.  In this instance it failed them.  The fellow on the mound, God bless him, could give the ump no help, because he kept throwing things so low only an ant could hit them.  And what wasn’t low, was west of Chicago.  Oh, there were a few pitches that weren’t ankle high, and one of them, perhaps more, became hits.  He may even have walked one of them, despite the umps’s best efforts for the team.  The bases filled, then, and another single sent another run in.

The sun had arisen on a beautiful day and the birds were all in marvelous voice.  As a matter of fact everything sounded great, including the prolonged madness of our celebratory screaming.  We filled the bases again with, I seem to recall a miserly hit to shallow right field.  And that inkling I had had was growin’ fast, beyond intuition, beyond certainty and coming up on fact.  By that time several among us behind the chain link fence may have been frothing at the mouth.  I know at least two who certainly sounded that way.

The next fellow up, one of the steady producers, but not the biggest weapon by far in the arsenal, cleared the bases with a grand slam.  And while it was all over in a few dozen seconds, it seems to me now that it took several hours while tragedy and triumph mingled on the plains of battle, and the opposition’s dugout became a mortuary.

And then, our last at bat grounded out. And, as if all it was was  Dad and his pals leaving the factory after the whistle blew, our few fellows on deck turned and walked off the field.  And I felt as if civilization had just been saved.

I listened to the sound of Verdi’s “Dies Irae”  in my brain as the other guys trudged up to the plate, and I asked God for one or two small favors, three mercifully quick outs or perhaps a couple of runs, sort of as a comforting sip of water, a mercy before the just end.  That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  And it was God’s pleasure to remain where He was and let unfold what had been ordained before the worlds were made, before the stars in all their solemn majesty were set on high above.  There was no long tragic march into Valhalla, no Wagnerian  parade across the bridge into Valhalla.  The end was a brutal fact. Merciless and swift and sure, as the lion suffocates the helpless zebra.  And silence.  For a split second before we all,players and spectators erupted in one triumphant rush and roar.

He had granted my first prayer…the one I really, really wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Ready, ‘Cause Here I Come!

Down at the mall where my love and I work about once a week I walked through the doors to the food court on the day after Halloween a week and a little while ago.  Passing into the food court I heard playing in the background something from the 60’s.  It was a kind of Mo-Town recording of Frosty the Snowman; something like that, up-beat, smiley, guaranteed to put you in the mood…the mood to spend money.  That is after all the only reason to go to the mall.

It was the first day of November and Christmas was already here.  Or should I, out of respect, call it XMAS, and let it signify something entirely different than the old feast.  It is the last place, I suppose, outside of a few churches, where one will be able to remember the fact, and observe it after a fashion, that Christmas has once again rolled around.  The columns around the food court were decorated with colorfully lit wreaths.  Santa’s little perch in the middle of the mall where he will sit in state and dandle little kids on his knee for $25.00 a pop was already in business.  The Christmas Shop, in the space only a day before occupied by the Halloween Shop had garlands of phony pine needles, sparkling ornaments and yards of lights hanging where a scant 12 hours before hung goblins and mummies.  Walls now dripping with gay decoration only a day ago dripped with bloody horror for sale; another modern marketing sacrilege against an ancient and respectable remembrance, a time set aside to pray for our beloved dead.

The pace will accelerate, the fever will grow, the music will continue to batter the mind and ease the will into the right disposition, a mixture of frenzy and fear, frenzy to get and fear that it may not after all be able to be gotten, to satisfy the equal hunger in the heart of the recipient to receive; a hunger for the bright, the new, the perfectly engineered obsolescent machine, the momentarily stylish garment, the magically soon to be un-popular  film, game, cd; the breakable toy, the perfect gift; the one that cannot last.

Be not afraid.  Though it last what may seem an eternity of anxiety, frantic hurrying, grasping crowds, angry waiting, immense traffic jams, this season of worry and false cheer, the season of Xmas, it will end soon enough, sometime in the early afternoon of December 25th.  That is the time when the Community of Man, having feasted as few may have feasted in the million or so years of our presence here (except for the community meat frenzy around the occasional ten ton wooly mammoth, or the Neronic wallow in hummingbird tongues and other gustatory delights), gathered as one people before the Eye will enjoy The Games.  That is the climax of what used to be the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ, God and Man, in Bethlehem, in a manger, warmed by animals, sung by angels, adored by rough shepherds, held by His Virgin Mother Mary, watched over by His foster father Saint Joseph the peasant carpenter.

You will not have heard the name Jesus mentioned, or all the wonderful story of His birth retold in any mall, or sung in any song played there, in all the year; and especially not during this long season of the New Observation of the feast.  The primary desire is to keep one from thinking about all of that, about sacrifice, about Love, about salvation, about worship, about Beauty, Truth and Good.  You are meant to think about haste, about frenzy, about exhaustion, about anger, about excess of every kind.  That is the spirit of Xmas.

The first toy will break by 11:00am on Xmas morning.  When, the next day, you visit the Mall to bring back all that could not fit, was not wanted or was broken on opening the music will be a pleasant blend of “recent hits”, the Santa set will have been struck, the decorations gone, the wall bare, the Christmas store closed, its windows papered over.  Only business will be conducted as it should be, conducted with surgical efficiency and speed.

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Perhaps I should let that be what it is and stop.  But then..

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Albert the Great the Dominican philosopher, scientist, teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas.  He believed among other things that the world around us shone with the glory of God and part of the work of his life, his scientific explorations and discoveries, was in the service of demonstrating that belief, making it plain as day; the world is Good, and True, and Beautiful.  His mortal remains lie today in a humble crypt beneath St. Andrew’s Church in Cologne, Germany.  Not long ago my wife, Mariellen, and I were there.

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St. Andrew’s Church, Cologne, from the tower of Cologne Cathedral

It’s a lovely church just down the street from a magnificent structure, the Cathedral, built be people whose beliefs, if not as sophisticated or scientific as St. Albert’s, matched them.  You should make the pilgrimage, perhaps at Christmas time.  It will be unlike any Christmas you may have spent since you were a child yourself.

The Gospel yesterday told of Jesus’ conversation with the folks who want to know from Him when the world will end.  That short passage was one of the things that got me thinking about all the preparations now underway for Xmas across this wide land in malls and stores and in many homes and many minds; certainly on every TV channel, newspaper and radio station.  “How many of them are thinking when the world will end?” ran across my consciousness like a ticker tape.

He answered them this way: ““The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’  For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”  Even at the mall.

But, He also said: “The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.  There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.  For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.  But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”

I thought of the last sentence above while thinking of the Xmas celebrations now taking place across the country.

Yesterday I thumbed through the latest issue of that Journal of Mere Christianity, Touchstone which arrives regularly in my mail.  Prof. Anthony Esolen of Providence College in Rhode Island is a Senior Editor, there.  In a lead editorial he throws a bomb over the transom into the kind of place the world is becoming.  But, he’s got another article at the back of the book, something about a lovely hymn written by Charles Wesley, “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending.”  Professor Esolen’s short article on that hymn served me perfectly as commentary on the yesterday’s Gospel.  He wrote, about the “light” descending, the Light of Christ: ” So in the dark night of Advent we await the coming of the true light that enlightens every man; yet we should remember that light is cool, refreshing waters for those who love the light, and like the glare of an enemy to those who hate it. (Emphasis added.)

He points out through the rest of the article, with quotations from the hymn “this stark ambivalence” in us so masterfully expressed in what he calls the “most majestic of our Advent hymns.”  Just a short excerpt should suffice as an example of what he means about the glare.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!

The Advent of the Malls, the long Xmas orgy, is designed precisely to prevent such things from entering the mind of people who really don’t want to think, and who believe the Little Tale of Bethlehem is sentimental foolishness.  Yet, they will sit on several days in the next few weeks and watch wrapped in sentimental foolishness, for the thirtieth time perhaps, The Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, and how many others; ignoring once more heaven’s smallest and heaven’s greatest gift.

Who designs such things as that?

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Perhaps you may wish to think about that time, you don’t know when…maybe in the middle of a song while at the mall?, when He will come with clouds descending:

Another version, sung more clearly:

PS: It strikes me a little in my funny bone to know that Providence College, of such a happy name, where Anthony Esolen, whom I think such a happy fellow, is a professor in a Dominican school which without fellows like St. Albert the Great, who was probably great company, would probably not exist.

What Are You UPTA? Who Cares!

So it’s official.  The White Hose says that thing in Libya was not a bunch of guys who were partying.  It was a terrorist attack.  I read it in a story from CNN.  CNN and MSNBC electronically and the New York Times in print are to the current Administration what Pravda was to the Kremlin, wholly owned subsidiaries.  You read something there about anything those guys do and you can take it to the bank.  Anyway, the CNN story is about that the attack on the Untied States in Libya was a terrorist attack.  But, it was an unplanned terrorist attack.  This is something new, an ominous and foreboding change in tactics, unplanned attacks.  But, it is also a good thing. As long as the terrorists are launching unplanned attacks, there is no use in trying to find out what they are doing.  The terrorists don’t even know.

So when an UPTA happens, we can legitimately say , “Gosh!  We had no idea.”  And, if someone, say a drunk in a bar on Third Avenue, happened to mutter something about the crazy Muslims, we can as well point to the drunk as the cause for all of those embassies being burned to the ground, and avoid having to suffer any criticism for being clueless idiots ourselves.

In addition, there is no need wasting time, money and manpower building up a muscle bound security staff.  In fact, if the UPTF (the Unplanned Terrorist Front) decides not to plan another raid somewhere where there isn’t anybody awake or watching, we can legitimately say their barbaric murderous insanity will not provoke us since no one was home, err, figuratively speaking.  And, since nothing really was lost, our apology for being the victims , here, will not make us look like any bigger fools than we really are.

That probably means that our apologies will not have to be withdrawn, which is a good thing.  When a country goes back on an apology everyone will start to think they are getting ready for a fight.  But if we don’t know who punched us, or why, what’s the good of fighting back.  Better just to say you’re sorry somebody got upset at something and promise it won’t happen again.

Oh, you don’t believe it was a UPTA?  (That’s Washington for Unplanned Terrorist Attack.) Well the folks who should know said it was and that’s enough for me.  Here’s what this guy Carney said:

“It is a fact that there are in post-revolution, post-war Libya armed groups, there are bad actors, hostile to the government, hostile to the West, hostile to the United States and as has been the case in other countries in the region, it is certainly conceivable that these groups take advantage of and exploit situations that develop when they develop to protest against or attack either westerners, Americans, western sites or American sites.”

Not only are they Unplanned Terrorists, but they are also Bad Actors.  That is why the video of some of the unplanned terrorists dragging this dead guy, our recently living former Ambassador to Libya around and screaming “Allahu Akbar.” fools no one when they say they are taking him to the hospital.  What they are doing, really, is dragging him around so they can show everyone how their not-plan worked like a charm.

I have been given a transcript of a cell phone conversation between two members of the UTF (Unplanned Terrorist Front) in Libya.  The boys are ginning up a scheme to kill someone.  Here is my rough translation leaving out all of the profanity and references to sexual prowess, which figures hugely in conversations between terrorists, when they are not talking about murder and eating:

Terrorist 1:  Hello, Uday?”

Terrorist 2:  This is me.  Is this you Jamil?

T1:  It is but I cannot tell you it is.  Someone may be listening.

T2:  That is good.  This isn’t me, either.  For the purposes of this conversation I am The Blood of Hero Martyrs for Ultimate Death to All U.S. People.

T1:   Great name.  Did you think that up by yourself or did someone suggest it?

T2:   I got it from the last issue of Super Jihadist, the one where he kills everything in Europe but the sheep.

T1:  I like that one.  I have every issue of SJ.

T2:  Do not say that, SJ.  Those are the initials of the infidel Jesuits who slaughter Muslim babies and serve them to Catholics at their Christmas.  I can’t wait to kill Jesuits.  That is why I have decided I will go to America to study medicine at Georgetown and kill Jesuits.

T1:  Well, forgive me.  Anyway I called to ask if you are busy tonight.

T2:  Yes, I am.  I am taking my younger brother Abdrule out to rape Christian girls.  It is his first time.

T1:  Ordinarily Blood, I may call you Blood?

T2:  Yes,of course.

Ti:  As I said, ordinarily I would love to join you in helping the faith grow among the infidels, but haven’t you realized that there are no more Christian girls in town?  They have all been raped and become good wives to our Brothers, or they have died by our cleansing swords and knives and guns and RPGs.

T2:  I knew that.  I was going to take him over to Hamid’s sheep herd to practice his technique.  Next week we’re borrowing my uncle’s armored troop carrier for a trip over to Egypt to go raping.

T1:  That can wait.  I have something which is much more important for the spread of the Umma.

T2:  W hat can be more important than bringing into our faith converts who can give us many sons for jihad?

T1:  Well, you have a point. But tonight you must suppress your zeal to convert young girls and join us for an evening of jihad of another kind.  Do you still have your Kalashnikov and enough ammunition for an evening’s, umm, evangelization among the infidels?

T2:  Of course.  I have it along with five large knives for mutilating corpses, one hundred feet of cord for hangings and crucifixions, three rpg’s and some pickling spices , and a blow torch for burning holy names on the bodies of infidels.

T1:  Pickling spices?  No, I won’t ask.  Boy you guys from Abbadabbabad are weird.

T2:  Whatever.  Ok.  Anyway, what and where and how much?

Ti:   I’ll be by with some of the other fellows, The Mostly Cruel Brothers of the Heroic Martyrs of April 5th Brigade, and a few guys from The Vicious and Bloodthirsty Vengeance of the Powers of Heaven on all Infidels Social Club at about 7:00pm.  We’ll all be in Akphoom’s pickup, you know the one he was married in, the one with the 50 caliber machine gun that blew away half of his third wife during the reception.
T2: Yeah, what a laugh.  Her head exploded like a watermelon.  Cool thing was he still kept the goats.  Anyway, what’s going down, or blowing up…which is always more interesting?

T1.  No one’s too sure right now.  But it’s gonna be a lot of fun.  There isn’t much left, really, so we might do two or three places; a couple of churches, and that hospital, and the Ecuadoran Embassy.

T2.  Ecuador?  Why Ecuador?

T1.  It’s the only one still standing.

T2.  Well, let me get something to eat.  My brother will be disappointed, you know.  He’s already 12 and he hasn’t raped a Christian girl yet.  Dammit, I kinda wish we hadn’t burnt down that school and machine gunned all of them when they came running out.

T1:  Who knew? You know I was eight when I started raping.  It was a target rich environment then.  Anyway, bring the kid along.  He can work the blow torch.  We’ll be there in about an hour.

T2.  OK, don’t be late.  I gotta take an exam tomorrow and I haven’t cracked a book yet.

The State of The Union #3,256 (NB: Its an inflated number)

The State of The Union: The building industry at work putting the economy back on its feet. Just you wait!

I’m just an ordinary slob of a guy.  I have to take off my shoes and socks if I want to count past ten.  So, you see, I don’t really get it when the current folks we put in charge of things, the boys and girls we elected, do things that make me wonder if anybody has a brain that works right anymore.

Here’s the thing that puzzles me.  For almost as long as I can remember, the money guys and such have been forecasting our financial future and issuing reports about how good or bad it is now or is going to get.  By the way forecasting means guessing, and guess is what you do when you don’t really understand things or have a solid answer. Weather guys and girls today, and generals.   Astrologers, wizards, magicians in the old days.    These guys were forecasters.  They threw bones, poked around in chicken guts, spoke to holes in the ground and looked at the king’s last BM.  Then they came out on the balcony and said, “Nah, nothing to worry about.  Go home and get dressed up.  We’ll meet at the temple tonight and roast a cow to the Great Badapple, God of All the Universe.”  Or, they said, “Go jump off a cliff, you and everyone you know.  It’s better than what’s coming.”

Maybe they do the same kind of thing today?

Because, you see, I keep hearing this line about the housing market.  I heard it back in the ’90’s when things took a dive.  And I heard it again, when stuff hit the fan.  And, of course I’m hearing it now.  All of sudden…well for four years, anyway which isn’t really a “sudden”, more like a long groan.  Anyway, all of a sudden (groan), I hear that the “housing market” needs to recover.  And, as soon as it does, why every sunset will be golden, every dawn will begin with a fanfare right out of Hollywood.

But…

The guy next door to me?  He can’t sell his house, because he can’t find a buyer at any price that will cover what he still owes on it. And that is because the value of the house has fallen below the amount of his mortgage, which he got in the Happy Days of not so long ago  That’s a situation called negative equity. I do not hear about negative equity until about three years ago when my neighbor tells me he has it.  At first I thought it was a disease and he should see a doctor.  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps he should.

And, I read the other day that in the last four year everyone in the country has become 40% poorer than they were, besides which everything costs more and 8% of the guys and girls who can work can’t find it, which figure does not count the ones who simply gave up looking for work after a couple of years and are…what?

Savings accounts?  Some big money guys are complaining that the problem is no saves a dime anymore.  Have you been to the bank and asked to open a savings account in the past few years?  You want to know what the bank gives to citizens who want to do their duty?  A penny for your dollar.  A penny don’t even buy a stick of gum.  They could save money if they don’t mint pennies anymore.  But then, in a few years no one would know what’s the origin of the word Copper, so I figure that’s why they still have them; to preserve the language.

Anyway, the housing market.  Everyone says we gotta start building and selling houses again like there’s no tomorrow.  That’ll put all of those out of work guys and girls back to work, their paychecks will fill up the empty bank vaults and pretty soon everyone has a new car and a new house and a new suit and a new lease on life.

I hear this and I think most of the new cars ain’t made here anymore and the ones that are made are made for guys who own the company back in Japan, or Germany, or maybe even Iceland, and their stockholders to get rich off of.  Most of the suits are made in a hole in the wall in Indonesia or Pakistan.  And the lease holders are all Chinese.  And the stuff we build houses with is all made mostly over there somewhere.  We have no more steel mills we can call our own, damn few auto companies and damn little of anything else.  Man, we can’t even keep our soldiers overseas supplied by our own ships.  We have to hire some other country’s boats for the job.  For cryin’ out loud, this keeps up and soon we’ll be renting warships.  Hell soon we’ll be renting pirates to chase other pirates.

And houses are supposed to make all of this get better?

How the hell is that supposed to happen?  Show me how the bird guts point that out.

Dope Dealers, Holes in the Head, Dried Liver and Emeril

So, there’s this kid named Zach standing around like 12 years olds sometimes do waiting for the dope dealers to leave the playground so he can go skateboarding or something like that.  All of a sudden things begin to TTS.  Benny “Full Ounce”, the enterprising dealer, wishes to sell at a price that Alonzo “Snort” does not wish to pay for the merchandise his nose desperately needs.  So, in order to close the deal to his advantage “Snort” decides to murder Benny and please his twitching beak.

The Snort does what any decent dope fiend with a sinus problem would do. He removes from his belt the Sig-Sauer he got from the government’s Fast and Furious Arm -A- Creep program and “pops a cap” in Benny’s general direction.  The popped cap, not able to tell the difference between a doper and a skateboarder, simply follows a straight line and lodges itself in this kid’s head who is standing in line waiting until the whistle blows and “adult swim” is over .  It lands in his brain, to be exact.  This ruins the yong Zach’s plans to go skateboarding once the playground is clear of dope dealers, guns and other assorted necessaries of modern life.  It also ruins “Snort’s” plans to give his nose a treat, but that is of no concern to us.

Within a few minutes the kid is scooped up and taken the nearest hospital where the docs look at him and the hole in his head.  They say, “We can do a lot of stuff, but we can’t take bits of metal out of little skateboarder’s brains.  Want a lube job?”  So he gets scooped over to a bigger place where the docs have bigger, emm, where the docs ain’t afraid of slicing through a brain that has a bullet in it.

They do it!  They take out the bullet and put the kid in a bed with a lot of tubes in and out of him, and things that go zip when they move and bop when they stop.  Mom comes by and the docs tell her in a Hollywood scene that “It doesn’t look good.” At all.   For Zach. You may shed a tear here.  You see, these words in a hospital in Texas are not good words to hear from a doc when your son is lying in bed with a hole in his head.

Look over there!  That’s disaster looming on the horizon like a tornado cloud on a hot afternoon.

Because , you see, in Texas they have this law which allows a doc to say something like, “OK, I’m calling this game on account of darkness.” and order everyone off the field.  They call the law the “Futile Treatment Law”, and no matter what you might say about your son, and his hope to be a skateboarding champ or something, the doc’s word is, well it’s law.  Of course to do this thing, the doc has to meet with the hospital’s ethics committee and get them to OK the deal.  But, he has to wait ten days for things to settle, and stuff like that.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, an ethics committee is that thing that a lot of hospitals have.  They consider stuff like the hole in Zach’s head and measure and weigh all of the probabilities and permutations.  How much is it costing?  Do they have insurance? What does the insurance cover?  How long will he be here?  Will it interfere with my golf vacation to Palm Springs?  Anybody got seats for tonight’s game with the Yankees?  He’s a kid, so he’s probably got a lot of healthy organs we can market.  Serious stuff like that.

But, in this case here with the little skateboarder the doc, he waits only a week and one morning when mom comes in to visit her comatose son, she finds out the doc has already decided time is up.  The little guy is off food and water.  Mom says, “What, are you kidding me?”  Everyone looks stupid and says, “It’s a FUTILE CASE.  Doctor’s orders.”  They tell her the Ethics Committee said so, and the doctor followed through.  Then I guess they leave her to say goodbye, or something; leave her alone with Zach slowly becoming a skinny dessicated raisin with a hole in the head.

Well, not really. I mean, that part about the Ethics Committee meeting and all. The doctor did it on his own.  There wasn’t any Ethics Committee Meeting; no place where the doc could go and say, “I got this kid downstairs lying like a lump in the bed hooked up to everything that’s got a plug, and it just ain’t doing him any good that I can see.”  “How much do those things cost us, Belva?”  This is a question from the Chief of Medical Ethics at the hospital.  “More than your salary, Dr. Hardheart.”  “Geez!  That much, huh.  Hey, Doc, turn out the lights on this kid.  We need the money for that new wing we’re gonna build.  Anybody got tickets for the game tonight?”  That’s the way it goes.  Only this time they don’t even do that.

The kid’s good for a heart, liver, a couple of kidneys and who knows what all.  What he’s got to sell could take care of a couple of brand new hospital rooms I bet.  So, you do the math.  Some folks are thinking that’s what drove the doc to his desperate move.  Not me.

But then,  Mom sees that her son’s now breathing on his own, even if he is a little bit weaker for no food and a little bit dried out. (Don’t you hate real life?  So messy.)  She beefs about this, the story gets out and the doc starts treating the kid like a human being again instead of a spare parts department.

And there the matter rests, a kind of standoff.  But, not for long.  Because the Ethics Committee has raised up, and seen what needs to be done.  They’re gonna meet, by God, and Zach is agenda item number one.  Then, Zach’s gonna be plugless, and foodless and waterless.  On his way to raisin.  After the committee meets, Zach’z Mom’s got ten days to find a place to put him, ( besides the family plot I suppose ), or it’s curtains like they used to say in the talkies.

Now, here’s what I’m noodling about in all of this.  Zach’s probably a healthy kid, only 12 years old and stuff.  So, he’s probably got a fine set of organs, liver, heart, eyeballs.  I’m not including his brain, that’s already shot. If they start starving and all, what’s gonna happen to that stuff?  What good’s a re-hydrated starved liver to anyone? Except maybe for trail mix, you know.  And then this idea occurred to my mind.

Ethics Committees should have a chef on them, a resident Emeril, to advise on when to take all of that stuff out and make sure it’s usable when and if, or at least edible.  You know, do it early before it starts to go prunish on you.  In the case of a mis-calculation, it can always be put back.

I’ll betcha a sandwich that somewhere in the half billion pages of Obamacare there’s a paragraph on the Emerilization of medical care.  A sandwich, or a nice calves liver and onions meal.  I’m wondering, now, how many little veals we can save with this idea.

A Conversation

The phone just jangled.  I was listening to Sibelius Symphony #6 and confess I was surprised and a little annoyed.

I looked at the caller ID thing.  It read “603-000-0000”.  Honest.  I held it and wondered whether I should put it back on the hook or answer.  Letting my annoyance get the better of me I answered:

“WHAT!”

“Hi,” the bright young female voice said.  “Is this Peter,” she inquired.

“It is,” I growled.

There was no pause at all.  I briefly wondered what it took.  “I wonder if you have a few moments to answer some questions about the upcoming election.”

“I do not intend to vote in any more elections,” I answered.  “I intend to renounce my citizenship and leave the country withing the week.”

“Well, thank you for your answers,” she replied, and the call ended.

That is all it takes.

I share this information with you in the hope that you may find relief.