I've contributed to perhaps the best humor compilation I've ever read. Available now on Amazon!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Someone Called and Asked for "Happy Pants". You Know Anything About That?

“Hey, Stinky.”

“What up, Stumpy?”

I’ve called Mary early this morning – too early, apparently, for us to be concerned with calling each other by our real names.

It is one my personal downfalls – an area where I have the opportunity for growth, some might say – being quite bad with names. I blame it on the number of times we moved as children.

My brother, too, has this hole in his social education. We hear/remember what we deem to be important and leave the rest.

“Hey! Pearl! I saw that guy again the other day.”

“What guy?”

“Oh, you know. What’s-his-lips. The guy with the teeth.”

“And the finger?”


The best part of that conversation, of course, is that I could repeat it to my sister and she’d say, “Oh, yeah! DuWayne! How’s he doin’?”

DuWayne, by the way, is doing fine; and while he’s still missing that finger, he’s thinking of getting front teeth.

And so while I am very good at remembering faces/dance moves/musical preferences, I’m pretty bad at names.

I’m not alone.

Mary’s Jon refers to anyone he can’t remember as “Fuzzy”.

“Mary! Did Fuzzy call?”

Heavy sigh from Mary. She suffers, this one. “Which Fuzzy?”

“Fuzzy Number One. The big Fuzzy.”

She rolls her eyes at me, a smile on her lips. She shakes her head ever so slightly. “Jon, so help me, I’m gonna come over there…”

He winks at me. “Fuzzy! The Fuzzy with the 2002 Chrysler Sebring bumper cover in our living room.”

Jon, a man in blurring, dizzying motion, has hijacked their tiny living room with a replacement bumper cover for one of his many automotive-repair clients.

Mary manages to laugh and threaten him at the same time. “Oh, my God, Jon, I’m gonna kill you. I’m gonna kill you, then I’m gonna make you supper, and then I’m gonna kill you again.”

Jon laughs.

And you can almost hear him thinking:

What’d she just say about supper?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

He's Still a Good Little Eater

Dinner is at 5:00.

He holds his fork up, a piece of chicken at the end of it.  “What is this?”


“What’s it made of?”


Dylan, three, almost four years old, looks at me sideways.  He was born an old soul, and he scans my eyes for signs of deception.

“Chickens?” he says.  “Bok bok bok?  Chickens?”


He looks at the meat thoughtfully.  “I’m so sowwy,” he says.  He kisses it lightly, then continues his meal.

The next night is more of the same.

“What is this?”


“What’s it made of?”


He points out the window, over the county road that divides our home and the farm across from us.  “Cows?” he says.  “Moo-cows?”


He looks down at his hamburger steak, pushes the onions and mushrooms off.  “I’m so sowwy,” he says.  And he leans over and kisses it.  I cut it up for him, and he kisses every subsequent bite, something I find equally amusing and disturbing. 

He eats it all.

The third night, there is a slice of ham each.

Dylan spears one of the pieces on his plate.  “What’s this?”


“Yeah,” he says, “but what’s it made of?”


He takes it in and is silent for a moment.  “These animoes,” he says.  “We kee-ew them and eat them?”

I nod.  “Well,” I say.  “We don’t.  Farmers raise them, then they’re killed and cut up and sold to us in stores.  Remember?  We bought it at the supermarket.”

Dylan stares at the ham on his fork.  Blink.  Blink.  

“You know,” I say.  “There are lots of people who don’t eat meat, ever, not just on the days they can’t afford it.  They don’t eat meat because they feel it’s wrong.  We could do that, if you want.  We could stop eating meat.”

Dylan looks at the ham , looks at me, smiles.

“No, that’s aw-wight,” he says, taking a bite.  “I like meat.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Am I Having a Nice Day? Yes. Yes, I Think I Am.

When I was a child, there was a strip mall a couple blocks down with a dry cleaner’s at one end; and there wasn’t a day that Danny didn’t stand outside of it.

Danny was a slow-moving and happy man, and it was written all over his face that he enjoyed his life.

“Nice daaaaaaaaay!” he’d enthuse. Danny’s definition of a nice day ran the gamut of blue sky to rainy to full-blown blizzard. As far as Danny was concerned, every day was a nice day.

My interaction with the handicapped thinned as I aged. Once grown and forced into the real world, the typical single-occupant commute becomes a lonely affair; and people you don’t know but must contend with cease to be human beings and start looking more like obstacles.

Dirty, stinking, law-breaking and potentially lethal obstacles.

Then I started riding the bus.

And my suspicion was confirmed, that many human beings are, indeed, dirty, stinking, law-breaking and potentially lethal obstacles.

And that many are not.

The man at the bus stop this last week, a man I’ve known by sight for seven years, a man who now requires an electric scooter and has a terrible hitch in his breathing, asked me smilingly, as we waited in the rain, if we were “having fun yet”.

“Fun is a relative term,” I shivered, my nylon-ed legs goose-pimpling.

Downtown twenty minutes later, I watched from my seat as this same man and his scooter were hydraulically lowered from the bus to the street. He ran his scooter up the block only to return to circle, again and again, a woman in a wheelchair, a woman who smiled and shouted something at him that I could not hear.

I watched from the warmth of the bus.


Downtown! For cryin’ out loud, look at all the people! People in wheelchairs, people with canes and dogs, tiny people and people who must be well over seven feet tall…

Drunk with people-watching, I have rediscovered my fascination with human beings, a fascination that had not long ago faced suffocation.

Take my recent foray into a downtown retail store. There is a man there every time I am there, a man with a determined face and a shuffling gait pushing what appears to be a tennis ball affixed to the end of what may be a broom handle, removing the scuff marks that a disrespectful shoe can leave on a shiny white floor.

From the looks of him, he is quite a bit younger than I am.

I stepped aside to let him finish, and he did. I smiled briefly at him, and he stared at me.

“Tho,” he says. “You been bithee thinth high thchool?”

Who, me?

Why yes. I guess I have been busy since high school.

And that’s when I realized I was having a nice day.

Which got me thinking: I’ll bet we’ve all been busy since high school. But how many of us recognize a nice day without it being pointed out?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Showdown in the Women’s Bathroom

A book I've had the pleasure of adding my story to, Moms are Nuts, has made the Hot Sellers list on Amazon!  The story they accepted is "Let's Heat the Ear Medicine", something that originated on my blog.  

Available in paperback and on Kindle.  Tell them Pearl sent you.

  • "These essays are so good and so funny, it makes me mad that I don't know a lot of these writers. Wait...that's the kind of back handed compliment you'd get from an obnoxious mom. Curses!" - Laraine Newman, original Saturday Night Live cast member
And now, back to our program...

Every time I go in there, she’s in there.

No healthy person should spend that much time in the bathroom.

But there she is, in front of the mirror, inspecting herself.

The strange thing is, she doesn’t seem to see me – or any other person who enters.  As a matter of fact, she never looks up from the full-length mirror on one end of the four-stalled women’s bathroom here at Acme Grommets and Gravel.

She is pupil deep in her own reflection. 

It is a shared bathroom, of course – which explains the four toilets – and her standing there, picking over the details of her hair, her clothes, the way she looks first this way, then that, can make for an awkward visit.

One expects, after all, that etiquette be maintained in an office environment.  One enters the loo, does one’s business, washes one's two hands, maybe checks for bugs in one’s hair and/or teeth, and then one gets the hell out.

Tiffani/Ambur/Krystal does not see it this way.

She is standing in front of the mirror when you enter.

She is there when you drop your pants, when you, as we like to say, do what you came to do. 

She is there when you come out of the stall, no matter how long it takes.

She is there as you step around her.

“Excuse me,” you say, a reminder that she needs to move from in front of the sink so that you can wash.

She is there while you wash, while you dry, while you give yourself the ol’ “what-do-my-teeth-look-like” in the mirror.

And she is there when you leave. 

Tiffani/Ambur/Krystal is getting on my nerves.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Come Sit by Me; or Birds, Bees, and Exposed Knees

I would be remiss, on this fine spring day, if I didn’t slide on over, as we like to say on the bus.

Come sit by me. 

Spring!  It’s 70 degrees here in Minneapolis, and the good people of the Great State of Minnesota have gone, to judge by appearances, insane.  Arms!  Legs!  People without hats!  The woman in front of us: Didn’t know that color existed outside a block of cream cheese, did you?  But there she is, in all her pale, warm-weather glory, sporting nothing on top but a sprinkling of freckles and a strapless shirt that would’ve killed her just a month or two ago.

She didn’t get those tattoos to keep them hidden! 

But never mind her.  Look over there, on the sidewalk, where a fresh crop of unlined, smooth-limbed citizens has sprouted.  The future of America, unfettered by gainful employment, travels in boisterous, eager groups.

The guy in the tank top, the one with his pants belted at the top of his thighs, has eyes only for one girl.

Even from here, it’s obvious.

He wants her, and she doesn’t care.   She toys with him, playfully hits him across the top of his head; he reaches for her, but with his waistline just inches above his knees, he lacks true mobility.  She dances ahead of him, taunting.  Come and get me!  Come and get me!

The young man clutches his pants with his left hand, hobbles after her, laughing, his right hand raised in petition.  Slow down!  Let me touch you!

Winter is gone.
Slow down. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

And That's One Point for Me

While I’ve never been entirely comfortable with my athletic capacities outside of, say, running madly from scary things or the ability to square dance like a crazy person, I am quite comfortable with my brain.

I like my brain; and while those who have witnessed my efforts to pickle it on occasion may disagree, I persist in believing that I act in its best interest.

It’s a good brain; and despite what you may hear from an unfriendly press, I have had opportunity to use it several times.

Apart from enjoying my brain, however, I have not always been happy about being smart; and at one point in elementary school, whilst moving, once again, from one small town to another, I pretended that I was not.

Raise my hand? Who? Me?

I went from jamming my entire arm into the air every time the teacher asked a question to feigning ignorance to just about everything.

What? Answer a question? Me? Nope. I’m just the new kid.

We stayed at that particular school for a year and then moved again. Tired of pretending that I didn’t know anything, I resumed my question-answering ways.

In my late-20s, I returned to school to become a court reporter; and while there I took several classes I didn’t really need, one of which was shorthand.

The shorthand class was part of the Secretarial Sciences program, a one-year course designed to turn recent high school graduates into employment-worthy receptionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants.

It was, of course, difficult to simultaneously learn two forms of shorthand at once; but I cleverly retained the majority of the manual shorthand for a period of perhaps three years, tops, whereupon I purged it from my brain in favor of more crucial information such as memorizing drink recipes and who played guitar in what band.

The shorthand teacher was a tall, bird-like woman intensely devoted to her students; and the day I walked into class, her bright little eyes positively shone with excitement.

Poor Miz Bird. She was competitive, a Lucille Ball sort of character in her belted dresses and high heels; and it pained her that a court reporting student was taking her class. She very much wanted one of her students to outshine me – not for personal reasons, you understand, as she didn’t know me – but in a we-got-spirit-yes-we-do-we-got-spirit-how-about-YOU? sort of way.

Poor Miz Bird. Her students were, across the board, 18 years old and hung-over on a daily basis. The freedom of leaving home and attending a community college was heady stuff; and they celebrated, nightly.

Me? As a single 28-year-old with a six-year-old at home, I needed this degree.

Miz Bird gave us spelling words every Monday.

It was important that we were well-rounded.

“I know we’re all looking forward to Friday’s test,” she chirped one day. “And I hope that my girls are going to show our little court reporter here how we do it in the Secretarial Sciences!”

Full-time school, child at home, part-time work, I didn’t have a chance to look at the words until Wednesday night; and while I would not say I am psychic, I had a strange feeling about one of the words. I had heard of it, I knew how to spell it, but I didn’t know what it meant. Suspicious and dead tired, I looked the word up and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

In the morning, Miz Bird hopped, excitedly, from one desk to another.

She had a surprise for us.

We weren’t going to have the spelling test tomorrow. In fact, it wasn’t a spelling test at all! It was a vocabulary test and we were having it today! Surprise!

Judging from the looks on the faces of the other gals in the room – and judging by the way they all turned to look at me – the only one in the class that was surprised was me.

The test was aloud.

Missy, what does “nubile” mean? Patti, what is the meaning of the word “desultory”?

Oddly enough, Missy and Patti, best known for their having lip-synched to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” at October’s Fall Dance and Cow Patty Bingo Extravaganza, knew both words.

I would’ve bet against it.


I looked up.

“Perhaps you can tell the class the meaning of the word “apogee”?”

It was the word. The word I had looked up last night.

The bright young faces in the class, smiling expectantly, turned to look at me, the Old Lady in the Room. There were only 28 women in the Secretarial Sciences program, and I wasn’t one of them.

“Apogee,” I repeated thoughtfully. “I believe that’s the highest point in an arc, isn’t it? The summit?”

Miz Bird’s face fell, as did the rest of the class’s.

It was a triumph, even if it was a small one.

And I had really needed a triumph.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Cheese Was Unrepentant

I’ve had surgery on my face.

When I tell people that, they get excited, imagining, perhaps, a disfiguring car accident. 

In actuality, it isn’t anything to get excited about: they just needed to fix a malfunctioning tear duct.  Of course, it didn’t work, this fixing, but that didn’t keep them billing me the equivalent of, say, a yacht payment. 

I went in, they doped me up, broke my nose, set it, introduced a length of fine plastic tubing and voila, as we used to say, fish and chips.

I awoke in Post-Op, drunk on anesthesia.  The world was whirling; the pain, painful. 

The time between “coming to” and finding myself at home, in my bed, cannot be measured.

My sister is leaning over me. 

“You there?”

I nod.

“You want to see?”  She is holding a mirror.

I nod. 

“You look ghastly,” she says.

And it’s true.  There is a plastic form up my nose, covered by a surprisingly bloody bandage.  There is another bandage, unbloodied, over my right eye.  There are splotches of dried blood on my cheeks, my chin.  I am breathing out of my mouth.

“I’b dry.”

She hands me a lemon drop.  I suck on it without the benefit of taste and salivate anyway.

“Do you remember that Dylan is at his dad’s ‘til Sunday?”

I nod.

“And that me and Kyle are going to a cabin?”

I nod again.

“I’ll be home in a week,” she says.  “You going to be okay?”

I hold up a thumb and its corresponding index finger:   A-OK.

“You got drugs?” she says.

“I dot a prescription,” I say.  I hold up a bottle of Tylenol 3. 

“Seriously?” she says.  “They break your nose and you get Tylenol 3?  We got cousins that get OxyContin just for being good liars.”

I lift both palms:  What are ya gonna do?

“Hmmm,” she says.

A friend visits the next day.  We sit on the porch, where she studiously avoids looking at my bloody bandages.  In a codeine-assisted haze, I listen to her read my horoscope.

“Today,” she reads, “is a good day for entertaining.”

I spend the rest of the day sleeping.

On the evening of the third day, I realize that I’ve eaten nothing but a bag of lemon drops since the day before the surgery. 

It is 3:30 in the morning.  The street is quiet.  The house is quiet.

My belly is decidedly not.

I wrap myself in a robe, hobble feebly to the kitchen.

The fridge is, essentially, empty.  There is a small container of curdled and/or curdling milk.  There is a jar of pickles that, strangely, has what may be a crouton floating in it.  There is a bottle of ketchup, a jar of capers, two open containers of Miracle Whip, both half-gone.

But wait – what’s that?  Behind the pickles is a ziplock-baggied container of shredded cheddar cheese.

Cheese!  I tear at the bag.  The fridge door open, its light washes over me, streams past my shaking hands, pools onto the linoleum floor.  I stare without seeing as I shovel cheese into my mouth. 

It is on the fourth fist full of dinner that I notice that my tongue feels funny.  I can’t taste anything, of course, but the feel…  There is something wrong with the feel of this cheese. This doesn’t really feel like cheddar.

Knowing what I will find, I look anyway.

The cheese in the bag is, conservatively, 80% mold.

And just like that, I’m not hungry anymore.