So I’ve been taking a course in fundraising as of late. … Well, maybe not an official course, but with the amount of junk mail I’ve received, I could easily write my own. Wait. … Why don’t I? I could probably earn a healthy little living without leaving the comfort of my recliner. Let’s give it a try. …

Dear Friend,

explodingplanetDid you know the world is set to explode in less than 90 days? All your freedoms … all your worldly possessions … everything and everyone you hold dear … will soon be incinerated in a planet-engulfing fireball of cinematic proportions … ALONG WITH EVERY KRISPY KREME DONUT SHOP ON THE PLANET! It’s true. We read it on the Internet.

OH NO! HOW CAN THIS BE?

You’re probably wondering, “Oh no! How can this be?” (Hence our craftily crafted subheadline.) Well folks, there are evil people in the world, and they are absolutely … well … eeeeevil. How absolutely evil? Well, let’s just say that even Dr. Evil, the evilest evildoer in the history of evildom has an evil master. (Think horns and a pointy tale. … Big time evil.)

There’s this thing called the World-Ending, Donut-Shop-Incinerating, Cinematic-Fireball Machine (WEDSICFM, for short), and they have gained control of it. Who is “they,” you ask? It would take too much time to explain. Suffice it to say, “they” are eeeeevil. (See paragraph above for details.)

But don’t worry. We can stop them. … And you can help!

UH-OH! HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST?

Why friends, frankly we’re shocked and a little bit hurt that you’d think us capable of fundraising on such an Earth-ending, soul-crushing, freedom-stealing event such as this. Besides, where would we spend our ill-gotten gain? All the donut shops — the good ones, anyway — would be gone. … blown into the ether. … roasted to inedible bits like McDonald’s french fries. … Oh, the poor pastries!

But I digress.

Now is the time to stand. Now is the time to fight. Now is the time to … Wait! You can’t do this alone. You have to work. You have bills to pay. A roof to keep over your head. Donuts to buy! And so, my friend, we will fight this battle for you!

For your extremely generous, selfless donation, we will send our editor — who is also a highly trained ninja assassin — into the belly of the beast to disarm and destroy the WEDSICFM and bring to trial and justice all the eeeeevil minions “they” have employed in this sordid little affair. All for three easy payments of $29.99!

So, can we count on your support? Please give right away. EVERY SECOND COUNTS (and those seconds are counting down to Doomsday)!!! *tick, tock … tick, tock*

Stand with us and open your wallets, before your donuts and your freedoms die horribly.

Sincerely,

The Fundraising Dept.

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Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I depart … unless I stay up and do laundry.  And let’s face it, a 275 lb. man running around in the buff is a bad advertisement for both jello and nudist colonies.  So here I sit, staring down the barrel of midnight, waiting for my skivvies to dry.

“Aren’t they cute?” my wife asks.  (No, she’s not mentioning my unmentionables.)  I look over to see a nine-inch length of rainbow-colored yarn.

“Cool,” says I. “Whatcha makin’?”

“Mittens for Kenny.”  I blink. … And look again at the nine-inch length of rainbow-colored yarn.

“Um. … Cool,” I say warily.  (I’ve been married 15 years.  I know better than to ask obvious questions like, “Shouldn’t it look more like a mitten than a belt?”)  I watch as she pauses, holds up the yarn, and slowly scans the row she’s crocheting.  I know from experience and dumb questions that she’s counting the stitches, and this is why I could never crochet.  Me and math don’t get along so well.

I tried.  I really did.  I wanted to be a physics instructor like my father.  But the numbers were against me.  When it came to math, the only equation my brain knew was A + B = Cya later!  In fact, the best math grade I ever got was for extra credit in Algebra — I rewrote “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and made it into a song about … ummm … algebraic stuff.  (Nifty, huh?  I’ve never had the opportunity to use “algebraic” in a sentence before!)  Granted, it may have helped that I presented her with a Christmas gift afterwards, but I’d like to think I did it on the strength of my lyrical prowess alone.  I realize how delusional that sounds, but the doctors say it’s okay.

So there I sit, or here — existentially speaking, it doesn’t really matter — when the dryer buzzes rather loudly.  (Does your dryer buzz loudly?  Mine sounds like the buzzer for Family Feud set at 300 decibels.) I nearly fall out of my chair, which makes my wife laugh, which is a good thing, considering the fact that she’s been muttering to herself for quite some time as she undoes row upon row of crochet stitches.  (See?  I’m not the only one who can’t count.)

I hop up out of the chair, realizing at the last possible moment — that moment named “point of no return” — that my leg is asleep.  Down I go, all 275 lbs.  in forward, descending motion, arms flailing, mouth agape, praying loudly and quickly to God.  BOOM!!!  That’ll leave a mark. … and a crease. … and maybe even a fracture or two.

My wife jumps up quickly, concern in her voice, until I mutter a carpet-muffled, “Amen.”  Then she laughs, because she knows I’ll be alright … eventually.

So I pick up myself, my basket of laundry, and what’s left of my pride and head upstairs for a well-deserved — and obviously much-needed — night’s sleep, while my giggling maker of rainbow mittens crochets long into the night. …

 

 

Well, I suppose it’s time I started writing again.  The problem is, this isn’t what I should be writing.  So while I’m finally writing, the thing I should be writing isn’t getting written, but the thing I want to write is appearing before me, one peck of the keyboard at a time.  And that’s fine, because really, who wants to read what I should be writing anyway?  Certainly not me.

Quite honestly, writing what I should be writing would involve me reading what I should be reading before writing what I should be writing.  And this is so much easier, because I’m just typing whatever pops into my head … things completely uninformed by everything I’m not reading, because what I should be reading is still on my shelf. … unread. … But I digress.

Sometimes, guys just aren’t smart.  Yes, yes, I realize saying so publicly gives women more ammunition in the Men vs. Women debate, but I’m just trying to save myself from a protracted argument that I’d probably lose anyway.  Consider as evidence the story of Mr. Clueless, whose story I recounted in a recent Facebook status.  It’s the story of one man’s persistent hope in the face of … well … just read for yourself.

Adventures in People Watching, Episode #331: “Cabin Lights”

Our story unfolds as the couple in seats 18 & 19 — who, by virtue of the fact that they got on the bus at different stops, are not a couple — find themselves on a dark ride home on a cold November evening. …

The young woman in our story, a tall, thin blonde with a pleasant face, is sitting happy as a lark in seat 19.  As the bus rolls to a stop, a tall, gangly fellow steps on board and makes his way down the aisle.  Passing up several seats beside other men, he does his best to nonchalantly plunk himself down into seat 18, next to the young blonde.  “Not obvious in the least bit,” we all think to ourselves.

His efforts fall short as it’s blisteringly clear he could have sat next to another man.  Our lady friend’s back instinctively straightens.  She sits woodenly, clearly irritated at this unwelcome intrusion into her personal space.

Naturally, he is as clueless as a man can be.

Looking up, he fumbles with the control panel above his head.  Fingers grazing across the right button, he presses, clicks, and their space is filled with a light as dull and white as he is.

Her head snaps in his direction, eyes squinting as her pupils narrow to mere pin pricks of black.  “Do you mind?” he asks, despite the fact that even a fool could see that she really does.

“No,” she lies coldly.  Turning her head, she stares out the window at the passing cars, wishing her meager paycheck could afford her enough cash to make a car payment and, thus, rescue her from such uncomfortable situations.

Mr. Clueless deftly works his New York Times crossword puzzle, oblivious to everything and frustrated that he can’t find a five-letter word for “imbecile.”

He sighs deeply.  She rolls her eyes and glances at her watch.  Twenty more minutes till we reach the bus station. … An eternity. …

Her attention drawn by the sound of newspaper pages turning, she looks over to see him reading Dear Abby.  “Daughter Leaves Ominous Signs,” reads the headline.

She purses her lips.  “If you scoot any closer to me,” she thinks to herself, “I’ll give you more than just an ominous sign, buddy.”

Raising her hand to her mouth, she pretends to yawn.  Dreamily, she closes her eyes and presses her head to the window, feigning sleep.

And while he may have the brains of a snowball, we find that Mr. Clueless is at least a gentleman.  Seeing his cabin mate drifting to sleep, he puts his paper away, clicks the light switch off, and closes his eyes to join her in Dreamland — sadly, the only place in which he’d have a chance with her.

He snores. … She wakes.

            *fade to black …

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We’ve never had a lawn mower.  In the 10 years we’ve lived in our handy-dandy little two-story townhouse, we’ve either paid a neighborhood boy $5 to mow the lawn or got by with a weed whacker (hey, it’s a small lawn!). 

Well, all the neighborhood boys have grown up now and gone off to jail, so there’s no one to mow my lawn.  And the homeowners association gets a little uptight when your grass is so tall you can lose a toddler in it.  Trust me, we have a toddler — had a toddler.  He got out a week ago.  Everytime a patch of grass moves, we throw food at it and just hope. …

Anyway, something clearly needed to be done — and I SO hate the on-your-knees-with-scissors approach to lawn care.

So enter John, stage left.

Stacy has this friend, Sue.  And her husband, John, is a tinkerer.  He especially loves fixing up old lawn mowers that people discard and then giving them away to people who need them.  And people who need them, well, them are us. 

So John gave us a lawnmower.  It’s nothing fancy.  In fact, it’s partly held together with duct tape, a nice patch of which is currently plugging the hole through which rocks went flying the first time he cranked it up. 

And did I mention the kill switch?  What lawnmower would be complete without a kill switch?  Except the old one didn’t work. … which is why John came into possession of the mower in the first place.  So he replaced it with a new one.  Left the old one on for pure aesthetics and plunked a brand new one on the other side of the handle. 

Except it’s backwards. … well, it works backwards anyway.  “Start” is actually “stop,” and vice versa.  And that’s an important piece of information to pass on to the person to whom you’re gifting this new old lawnmower.

Imagine, if you will, a man of girth with an aversion to sweating standing out on the sidewalk yanking furiously at the pulley starter of a derelict lawn mower.  I’m telling you, I pulled and pulled, and I yanked and yanked.  I yanked until there wasn’t an ounce of yank left in me.  And that made me a southerner, I guess, ’cause I got all rednecked and redfaced and was on the verge of some serious down-home swearing, when a four-year-old child walked up to me and innocently insulted my manly pride: “Hey Mister.  You probably just need to pull it stronger like my daddy does.”

Bug-eyed, and with a vein already bulging on my forehead, it took everything within me to not throw this child back to his daddy.  “Why, I’m sure you’re right,” I seethed through clenched teeth, noticing the child’s bare feet.  “Now run along.  If this thing starts up, I don’t want it accidentally chopping your feet off.”  Actually. … well … nevermind.

I watched him traipse along and shook my head, knowing that in a couple of years he’d be mowing my lawn before going off to jail himself. 

Two days later, Sue informed us that she’d forgotten to tell us about the backwards installed kill switch.  So I went outside, switched it to “Stop” and gave it another round of pulling and yanking — with my yank leaving me quicker than it had before.

I was just about to give up when my neighbor, Greg, came outside.  Himself a tinkerer, he asked about the lawnmower, and I told him everything you now know.  He fiddled with a few things and then said, “Oh.” 

Between his two fingers he held a thick wire with a loop on the end — a loop that fit nicely over the end of the protruding spark plug.  With a drawl that betrayed the lump of skoal in his lip, he said, “Yep.  You’d have never got it started without this attached.”

Summoning every bit of strength left within me, I gave the pulley starter one mighty pull and, “Voom, vooom, vooooooom,” the mower started.

I don’t know how I found the strength to mow my lawn, but I did.  I even found enough strength to mow my neighbor’s yard as a “thank you.” 

This morning, my legs hurt. … My arms hurt. … Mercy, even my fingers hurt.  But I’m happy.  We have a lawnmower. …  We have a mowed lawn. …  And we even found our toddler.

Thanks, John.

Note: Names changed to protect the innocent. … Except for Greg.  Nobody knows him anyway.

A nick in time I have you here,
My heart beats fast as you draw near,
I try, but cannot shake this fear,
     It’s so lonely, all alone. …

The wind plays softly in my hair,
I dream I feel your fingers there,
You laugh, you smile, you’re unaware,
     It’s so lonely, all alone. … 

I watch you dance and flit away,
The sunshine draining from my day,
To deep despair my heart gives way,
     It’s so lonely, all alone. …

Wasted words you’ll never see,
Buried deep inside of me,
Your voice, a haunting memory,
     It’s so lonely, all alone. …
          So lonely, all alone. …

© 2010 Kenneth L. Ervin, II

*This was written after an IM conversation with a friend whose typo produced “It’s so lonely, all alone.”  I joked about using it as a line in a poem, and was challenged to do so.  The poem above was the direct result of that challenge.

In the Past …