The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

What To Expect When You’re Infected.

Source: IMDB

So you’ve come into contact with an alien parasite. Chances are this wasn’t planned. You were expecting your life to go a certain way and suddenly everything’s about to change. You’re probably asking yourself a lot of questions like, How did this happen? What can I expect? Will this affect others around me? How long have I got? Is there anything I can do? Could I have avoided this if I didn’t work at an arctic research station, for an interplanetary mining operation, or live in a small California town?

Most of these are good questions. Don’t worry! This brief guide will offer you some information about what you can expect. For now we’ll just focus on some of the most common alien parasites you’ve likely picked up. And cheer up! Your body is going to be undergoing some strange and exciting changes soon, but it’s all part of the miracle of life. More specifically it’s all part of the miracle of life adapted to survive the harsh darkness of interstellar space. Good luck on your incredible journey!

So you’ve been infected with…

Xenomorph Type A: Able to absorb and replicate any carbon-based life form, transmitted through direct physical contact.

Gestation period: Under an hour.

Pros: Lucky you! You’ll be able to replicate and successfully pass among humans or other dominant life forms, easily assimilating others. Better do it in private, though, and keep the noise down. You don’t want anyone knowing that you’re not one of them—at least not until it’s too late! Your ability to perfectly duplicate not just looks but the speech and behavior patterns will allow you to pass unnoticed and created fear and suspicion, which is really entertaining to watch. That’s just where the fun begins, though. You’ll also be able to contort, twist, and reshape your body. You’ll even be able to send individual pieces scuttling away if the rest of you is damaged or even threatened. Even more exciting you may not retain any individual consciousness but you will have the knowledge from all previous lives giving you the ability to construct an interstellar craft in case you need to make an escape or if you’re just ready to move onto another planet. And if you can’t do that you can also survive in deep freeze for an indefinite amount of time, just waiting to be thawed.

Cons: For the host, assimilation is quick and only somewhat painful. For the parasite, reveal yourself too soon or get caught in the act of assimilating someone and you’ll give your presence away. Be careful about who or what you assimilate because you’ll also pick up any physical ailments. Each cell of your body will also act independently so something as simple as a hot needle in a petri dish of your blood could give you away. And keep in mind that you’ll be really susceptible to fire.

Xenomorph Type B: Grows inside a host from a larval form. Retains some characteristics of the host species but has a distinctive body armor and chemistry.

Gestation period: Several hours.

Pros: Oh boy, this is a lot of fun! Well, not so much if you’re the host, but if you are, relax, it’ll be fine. After a nice long rest you’ll wake feeling refreshed. You’ll appear healthy and happy and just fine right up until the point that your alien parasite bursts out of you in a messy, excruciatingly painful birth process that, let’s be honest, is going to kill you. If you’re the parasite, good news! You’ll literally hit the ground running. You’ll be strong and energetic, and while you might need to hide out for a bit, don’t worry. It won’t be long before you’ve matured into an extremely large armored creature capable of surviving even in the vacuum of space. You might even have a chance to be a queen and lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs. And no need to worry about any nasty cuts. Your acidic blood will eat through almost anything.

Cons: Because you’re so formidable you’re going to be wanted by large, vague corporations intent on exploiting you for military purposes. Some alien species will even hunt you for sport, practice, or just as a rite of passage. And keep in mind that you’ll be really susceptible to fire.

Plant-based Xenomorph: Grows from a seed pod, externally replicating a usually sleeping host who then dies.

Gestation period: Minutes to hours.

Pros: I would say you have a lot to be excited about but you won’t have any more pesky emotions! Other than that you’ll blend right in. No need for heavy spacecraft either: your seed pods can be ejected directly into space. Also once there are enough of you you’ll be able to identify the remaining humans by pointing and emitting a loud hissing scream which doesn’t really do anything but looks cool.

Cons: The lack of emotions will make people who knew your former self suspicious. Any interruptions of your gestation process could create bizarre a chimera if, say, your pet dog is nearby. And keep in mind that you’ll be really susceptible to fire, and pretty much everything else.

Getting Deep.

Spending the night in a cave was fun.
I went in with my Scout troop. Spoiler alert: I also came out with my Scout troop. Well, most of them, anyway. We might have lost one or two. We were touring Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee. Part of the fun was that we left home after school on a Friday afternoon in the fall so we arrived after dark and had to make our way up the trail to the cave entrance with our flashlights out and our sleeping bags on our backs. The cave rangers, a group of guys in olive drab, heavy boots, and bright yellow hard hats, led us down a stairwell and into the main entrance room, a high-ceilinged area that was brightly lit and had a canteen area and restrooms at one end and at the other stretched away into darkness. We were told to leave our bags there but to choose a spot carefully because it was where we’d be sleeping. I picked a spot away from the main group. I wanted to get the full cave experience and if I rolled over to one side I could look into the abyss. I didn’t think about how that might affect my sleep. In fact we were then taken on the spelunking tour at what seemed like very late at night. In fact it was probably not later than six or seven, but I realized time has no meaning in a cave. There is no day or night underground. There is only the passage of time, a passage that, for most caves, is measured in slow, steady drops that build hanging stalactites, the rising cones of stalagmites, and that wear away the stone to reveal crystals of quartz or gypsum. In one massive room we were told that where we were sitting had once been the ceiling, that it had collapsed approximately ten-thousand years earlier, and I hoped it wasn’t due for another makeover, but that’s another story.
After we had been through the “wild” part of the cave, where the only light we had was our flashlights, where we had to crawl through tight spaces, and where we went through the infamous Bubblegum Alley, a stretch where the mud nearly sucked the shoes off our feet, we were brought back to the main room. Everyone settled into their sleeping spots. All the lights except the ones just overhead were turned off so that we were in a warm pool surrounded by darkness. One of the rangers, a tall skinny guy who stood out because he was the only one without a beard, came and stood among us.
“I’m going to tell y’all why you don’t go spelunking alone,” he said. Shouldn’t this have been covered before the tour? I thought. “I’m going to tell y’all about a Scout like you who was at the back of the line and decided to go explore a side tunnel. His name was Kevin. He thought he could find his way back, but if you’ve done spelunking you know the way back never looks like the way in. There are turns and tunnels that you didn’t see that open up. Not all these caves have been mapped either, and we don’t know how far they go. Search parties were sent out but Kevin was to deep, and he kept moving. If you get lost in this cave,” and he looked hard at all of us, “you stay in one spot. It’ll make it easier for us to find you.” He walked among us, continuing to talk. Kevin drank water from pools he found and ate the cottony fungi that grew on the walls. It tasted terrible but it was all he could find. Then he started to catch small cave fish, and he caught bats and would drink their blood. Kevin managed to survive a year, then two years. His clothes were shredded on the rocks and he went naked. One night he found his way into the main room. As the ranger told us this I thought about Gollum, and stories of subterranean humans, and wondered if those creatures were inspired by real events. None of us asked how the ranger knew all this in such detail.
“It was late at night and Kevin walked among the sleeping campers,” the ranger went on. “He knelt down next to a boy and touched him. The boy woke up and screamed. All the lights were turned on and Kevin saw his own body for the first time in a long time. His skin had become translucent, his organs visible and pulsing. He ran and disappeared before anyone could grab him.” The ranger crouched and started tracing the dirt with his finger. “No one knows if Kevin is still out there. People think they see him sometimes on the tours, and rangers report finding footprints in the farthest ranges of the cave. We don’t know if he’d hurt anyone but where he touched the boy he left a mark, a white mark, right on the boy’s jugular vein, where the blood flows, like the blood of bats that he drank to survive.”
The ranger stood up. “Well, good night kids!”
All the lights were turned off and we were left in total darkness. There is no moon, there are no stars in a cave, only a ceiling of stone.
I was bleary-eyed at breakfast the next morning. After picking up a pack of cereal and a carton of milk I sat down at one of the long tables across from the ranger who’d told us the story. I looked over and noticed he was wearing a name tag.

Dragon By The Tail.

To: All Employees
Subject: FAQ Regarding The Dragon
As many of you have noticed the company has recently acquired a dragon. The dragon is currently located just off the main lobby on the first floor but may be moved if needed, and if time, staff, and the dragon itself will allow.
In the interest of providing a safe working environment we’re providing this FAQ regarding the dragon and general employee conduct.

1. Why a dragon?

Excellent question. Dragons are an exceptionally good low-cost security option, providing both efficient and extensive safety for the building and other company resources. Companies that have adopted dragons have found that losses due to theft drop by as much as 21% in the first year alone, before the dragon is fully grown. The dragon can also be used to incinerate large quantities of company documents. A single dragon can replace a single floor and hundreds of hours of shredding, again providing great security. Dragons are also exceptionally good at accounting.

2. Is the dragon dangerous?


3. Are there special precautions I should take around the dragon?

Yes. Most dragon-related problems can be avoided with simple common sense, though. Do not startle the dragon. Do not step on or try to step over the dragon. Do not approach the dragon from behind. Do not eat near the dragon. Do not wear perfume when the dragon has a cold. Do not wear jewelry around the dragon.

4. Can I talk to the dragon?

It would be best if you didn’t. There are also certain topics you shouldn’t discuss around the dragon.

5. What topics should be avoided?

Again use common sense, but we suggest avoiding Sean Connery, Peter MacNicol, Beowulf, the works of Tolkien, McCaffrey, Rowling, Andrew Lang, Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm, dairy products, swords, lances, and various world mythologies. A more thorough list will be posted in the break room and updated regularly.

6. Dairy products?

Let’s not get into it.

7. What does the dragon eat?

Mostly large quantities of sulfur as well as a proprietary mixture we cannot disclose.
On an unrelated note all employees who donate blood as part of the semi-annual company Dragon Drive will be entered in a drawing to win a $10 gift card to Chipotle.

8. You’re saying the dragon drinks human blood.

We’re not saying that.

9. But the dragon drinks human blood.

If that were the case–and we’re not saying it is–then we’d like to advise all employees that there could be unpleasant consequences if this need were not sated at least twice a year.

10. Is it true the dragon ate half the accounts payable department shortly after arrival?

We can’t confirm that, at least until a settlement is reached, but let’s say that mistakes were made and the full implications of owning a dragon had not been completely studied until after the dragon had been delivered and installed.

11. Can anything be done about the smell?

“The smell” has been added to the list of topics that shouldn’t be discussed around the dragon.

12. Could you define “around the dragon”?

Yes. This is still being studied but for the time being let’s say the entire building and the surrounding area in a radius of approximately ten miles.

13. Has the dragon reached full size?

No. Employees are advised to get used to entering through the second floor. A ramp is being installed and may be updated as necessary to provide a third floor entry.

Finally we don’t like to suggest that any employee is expendable but we are exploring filling departmental gaps with the dragon’s teeth.

All About That Spice.

As every summer approaches its end there’s a chill and a thrill in the air, a spicy tang, a bittersweet tinge that makes the shorter days a little brighter and the longer nights a little softer. It’s a time to savor, to reap, or maybe sow, or even knit if that’s your thing. It’s a time to drink in what life has to offer. In short it’s pumpkin spice season.
Pumpkin spice season runs from September 15th through November 30th.
Pumpkin spice was invented in New England and was used as a form of currency for more than fifty years.
Pumpkin spice is a non-proprietary blend of cinnamon from Sri Lanka, nutmeg from Malaysia, ginger from India, and allspice from Jamaica because only tropical imports could make a large mutant gourd palatable.
Pumpkin spice is an oxidant. Or anti-oxidant. Whichever is the good one.
Pumpkin spice should never be consumed by itself but can be part of a complete breakfast when combined with other foods—say, olive loaf.
Pumpkin spice has been gluten free since rehab.
In recent years pumpkin spice has been gaining popularity in Britain, gradually supplanting the much more traditional turnip spice.
Your friends have your back. Pumpkin spice has your front.
Spoiler alert: it was pumpkin spice the whole time.
Pumpkin spice is an EGOT winner. Twice.
Pumpkin spice is a scientifically proven cure for the common epizootic.
Pumpkin spice enhances glazed doughnuts and causes glazed eyes.
Pumpkin spice knows all your secrets.
Combining pumpkin spice beverages with pumpkin spice candles can cause severe burns.
Pumpkin Spice is the only one of the Spice Girls still touring.
Consuming large amounts of pumpkin spice will give you the ability to fold space and time, facilitating interstellar travel. Watch out for sandworms!
The elements of pumpkin spice were first isolated in 1955 at UC Berkeley by a janitor and part-time physicist named Herb.
Your feelings toward pumpkin spice are not reciprocated.
Pumpkin spice knows all the words to “Louie Louie”.
When you gaze into pumpkin spice pumpkin spice gazes back into you.

Four And Aft.

It’s been nearly four years now since I finished chemotherapy. So far there’s no sign of it returning, which is good. I never want to go through any of that again, and I don’t take the fact that I’m healthier now lightly even though there were too many things I took lightly at the time, too many things I regret.

My last day of chemo, September 22nd, 2014. wasn’t the end of my cancer treatment—and technically it’s never-ending since I’ll need checkups and scans for the rest of my life, but it’s the anniversary I’ve chosen to mark because chemo was unlike any other part of the treatment, unlike anything I was prepared for. The first day I went in for chemo, in early July, I was terrified. What would it be like? What was the process? The clinic I went to put patients in individual rooms and as we passed by one with a bed I wondered, should there be straps? Will they knock me out, cut me open? Well, I thought, as we passed machines and bags of fluid and needles and nurses in crisp uniforms, it’s too late to ask now. I wanted to ask sooner but I also didn’t want to bother anyone, the same reason I put off going to the doctor about the pain in my leg that had been keeping me up nights for at least a couple of months, or why I didn’t even notice the swelling that was also a symptom of cancer, a symptom that, if I’d noticed it sooner, could have been treated with surgery. I could have skipped chemo entirely but I had to go through three rounds of getting toxins pumped into me because of the toxic combination of taking my health for granted and not wanting to worry anyone.

Last day. Don’t let the smile fool you.

When I was diagnosed my wife stepped up and took on a lot more responsibility than she should have, partly because she’s worked in the medical field and has a lot of experience and knowledge and partly because I acted like a complete jackass.

There’s a saying that tragedy plus time equals comedy. Most of us, I think, apply the word “tragedy” to epic events that affect large numbers of people, but tragedy can be quiet and personal too. Cancer was my tragedy and went into it joking. People would ask me about my diagnosis and I’d say, “It’s a funny story…” In the cancer clinic nurses would come in to give me injections and I’d ask, “What are today’s specials?” Or when one of my IV bags was empty I’d page them and ask for a refill. My second day of chemo I came in with the same IV from the day before, for convenience, and when they start giving me my cocktail—“Could I get three olives and a little paper umbrella?”—I got an intense burning in my arm and tolerated it for about twenty minutes. It wasn’t a macho I-can-take-this attitude. It was the I-don’t-want-to-bother-anyone attitude. When I finally told a nurse she had to consult another nurse who explained that irritation sometimes happens if they use the same vein two days in a row. It wasn’t anything to worry about but she had to remove the needle and stick another vein. In that first week I noticed my jeans were getting tight but I assumed that was normal and didn’t want to bother anyone with questions. It was my wife who noticed my right leg was swollen and told the doctors who believed it was probably just excess fluid but sent me in for an ultrasound anyway to rule out anything serious. When I started my second of three rounds of treatment I made jokes about losing my hair and chemo being boring because I didn’t want anyone to know how stressful it was to spend hours sitting alone with a needle in my arm. Sometimes I had to go to the bathroom, dragging my IV stand with me, and once wandered so far away from my room I couldn’t find my way back. A nurse recognized me and asked if I was lost. I laughed and said, “No, I’m taking the fifty-cent tour,” because I wouldn’t admit I was scared and confused. One morning when I was waiting to start treatment a nurse came out to tell me my white blood cell count had crashed and all I thought about was whether I’d still be able to go out to a baseball game while they checked with the doctor to find out if I could continue treatment with a compromised immune system. When I went out in the sun I developed a red, itchy rash and ignored it. My wife noticed and contacted the clinic to find out if sensitivity to sunlight was something to be worried about. It wasn’t, but my own lack of sensitivity was and resulted in a pattern I’d keep going through. It was a pattern of telling myself I didn’t want to bother anyone only to end up causing a lot of unnecessary trouble. It didn’t end when the chemo did either. I developed migraines which I tried to hide because I didn’t want to bother anyone. It turns out all I needed was medication but even at the time I asked myself, what if they’d been a symptom of something worse? And it’s taken me almost four years to understand just how deep, and dangerous, my denial was. It was rooted in a very firm delusion that if I pretended nothing was wrong nothing would be wrong, which, in hindsight, I know was making things worse. Contrary to the saying about tragedy, time, and comedy my cancer experience has gotten less funny as it’s slipped farther into the past.

The fourth anniversary may not have the same cachet as its odd neighbors but this one is still significant because I’m glad the cancer is gone, I’m glad it’s over because, in spite of the way I acted, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t exciting, and most of the trouble I caused could have been avoided if I’d been more responsible, which is why, yes, I wish I could do it all over again.

The Boss Would Like A Word With You.

Rough drafts of the saying “If you have time to lean you have time to clean”:

“If you have time to sleep you have time to sweep.”

“If you have time to flop you have time to mop.”

“If you have time for relieving you have time for receiving.”

“If you have time to sit back you have time to get on track.”

“If you have time to rust you have time to dust.”

“If you have time to cavort you have time to sort.”

“If you have time to stare at the walls you have time to make some calls.”

“If you have time to recline you have time to get back on the line.”

“If you have time to be urbane you have time to train.”

“If you have time to engage in oratory you have time to do inventory.”

“If you have time to contemplate your life choices you have time to pay some invoices.”

“If you have time to look up the history of the soda jerk you have time to go and get back to work.”

“If you have time to buy tickets to the theater you have time to clean the break room refrigerator.”

“If you have time for leisure you have time to measure and yes I am going to pronounce it that way.”

“If you have time to plan your vacation you have time to finish some last minute projects before your vacation.”

“If you have time to carouse you have time to something something plows.”

“If you have time to stand around the water cooler you have time to go and get my watch a new battery at the jeweler.”

“If you have time to lounge you have time to scrounge. Up some work. Go scrounge up some work. Get busy before I dock your pay for laughing at me.”

“I’m going to be in my office playing Minesweeper. Look busy in case anyone comes in and thinks you’re a-sleeper.”





Who Am I To Judge?

So I’ve been called up for jury duty, or at least I have to report to the courthouse to be considered for jury duty, part of a great American tradition of allowing people to be judged by a group of their peers. I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers, although, really, I’m not sure who my peers are exactly. When they made me they broke the mold, and I wish I hadn’t still been in it, but that’s another story. This is actually the second time I’ve been called up for jury duty. The first time I was able to get out of it with the excuse that I had cancer, although I was asked if I could postpone my cancer for a later date. This time, though, it’s federal jury duty, which is not only a whole different ballgame, it’s a different league. First they sent me a letter. Then they sent me an email to remind me I’d gotten the letter. Then one day I was in a coffee shop and a guy walked by me and said, “Hey, don’t forget to report for jury duty,” because they not only know where I live; they know where I hang out.
I know most people are annoyed whenever they get called up for jury duty which is another reason I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers—it doesn’t seem to work on the defendant’s behalf if their fate is being decided by twelve people who’d rather be somewhere else—but I’m kind of looking forward to it. It’ll be a break from my usual routine, I’ll hopefully get to hang out with some interesting people, and maybe even get a part in Twelve Angry Men, but updated and more gender-neutral, so it’ll be Eleven Angry People and me over in the corner saying, “Sorry, I know I’ve got my notes here somewhere.” At least I can be sure that if I have to serve on a jury and we’re all sworn to secrecy about the case I won’t have any trouble keeping my mouth shut. Admittedly I have trouble keeping my mouth shut most of the time but there are things I just won’t talk about and other things I prefer to talk about and unless the case involves a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a pirate, a dog with his foot in a bandage, a horse, and a grasshopper all walking into a bar I’m very unlikely to even want to talk about it, let alone spill what the stenographer heard. A friend I worked with once complained that I never seemed to know any office gossip and I was a little offended that it didn’t occur to her that maybe I knew tons of office gossip. Maybe I was privy to a million little secrets whispered to me in the privy by people who mistook me for someone who cared. Maybe the reason no one ever heard any office gossip from me was because I don’t go around blabbing things told to me in confidence. That’s the thing about secrets: you never really know who’s good at keeping them until you tell one to someone who isn’t.
To get back to the subject of getting out of jury duty a guy I work with told me he’d been called up for jury duty six times, which makes me wonder if he pissed off some petty official in the justice system or if it was just random chance that his number came up so often. Or maybe there was something about his name that made someone think he’d be an excellent jurist or that just drew attention, a hypothesis I could test by creating an alter-ego named Horatio M. Worthyperson and seeing if he gets called up for jury duty. Anyway this guy I worked with told me he always took a book with him and never got picked to serve. “So they don’t want readers,” he said. I find it hard to believe he was the only person there passing the time with a book and I also know he’s a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft so I suspect it was what he was reading more than that he was reading that made the lawyers pass him over.
The fact that most people want to get out of jury duty seems to me to say something really positive about human nature: however much we judge each other on a daily basis most people, given the opportunity, would rather not be responsible for deciding another person’s fate. Or maybe that says something really terrible about human nature that most people, given the opportunity, would rather skip out on exonerating the innocent and holding the guilty accountable. Or maybe it says something entirely different about human nature—that we’re lazy, or, alternatively, that we want to be good citizens but realize the law is complicated and nuanced and worry that we’re not up to the challenge of treating a case as responsibly as it deserves. Or maybe it’s another possibility that I haven’t even thought of. Yeah, I can tell I’m gonna be really popular with my peers.


Not Far From The Tree.

It’s not quite Fall in the northern hemisphere but already the days are noticeably shorter. The mating calls of the crickets, cicadas, and katydids are louder with the fierce urgency of the late season. The sky is more blue, the mornings are more crisp, or that just might be the drugs kicking in. Soon it will be harvest season. All these combined to prompt the following pop quiz: Apple variety of classic American burlesque performer?

1. Granny Smith

2. Lily St. Cyr

3. Beverly Hills

4. Birgit Bonnier

5. Mamie Van Doren

6. Royal Gala

7. D’Arcy Spice

8. Sally Rand

9. Carolina Red June

10. Chesty Morgan

11. Gypsy Rose Lee

12. Pacific Rose

13. Paula Red

14. Pink Lady

15. Yakety Sax

16. Ginger Gold

17. Golden Delicious

18. Ann Corio

19. Honeycrisp

20. Honey West

21. Kerry Pippin

22. Jayne Mansfield

23. Fanny Brice

24. Al Lewis

25. Roxbury Russet

1-5: Like the crickets, cicadas, and katydids your mating calls are louder at this time of year.

6-10: Cider? You hardly knew her!

10-15: Your tassels are showing.

15-20: You really like them apples.

20-25: You’ve spent more time in burlesque clubs than Morey Amsterdam.


So the NFL has its first male cheerleaders, supporting the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams–favorite team of Tom Being Tom— which I think is a fantastic thing. I’m all for gender equality and when the cold weather comes I believe the women who’ve worked so hard to become cheerleaders will appreciate that now they too can wear itchy polyester slacks and sweaters. It’s about time the NFL made this change. College football teams have had male cheerleaders since, well, at least as far back as the 1920’s—it wasn’t exclusively for women, especially back in the day when most colleges weren’t coed. And I feel like I was kind of an accidental trendsetter because I almost tried out for the cheerleading team when I went to McMurray Middle School from seventh to eighth grade. Granted it wasn’t intentional. In the first week of school there was an announcement made over the intercom that anyone who’d like to be a school “Spirit Booster” was welcome to sign up. I had no idea what a Spirit Booster was but it sounded like a fun thing. And my Scout troop used to compete with other troops in the area for something called the Troop Spirit Award, given out to the Scouts that had the most fun, and I was always up for a good time and found that getting my fellow Scouts to laugh and tell jokes and tunelessly sing stupid songs was a great way to get out of boring stuff like tying knots, digging latrines, or putting up tents so we could get out of the rain. Being a Spirit Booster also sounded vaguely theatrical and I was disappointed that my school didn’t have a drama club. MacMurray did have a stage at one end of the gym, but it was kept permanently curtained and never used. Even during the year-end ceremonies a microphone stand was set up in the middle of the gym floor. I still have no idea why the stage was never used but I think it was because the school principal believed Satan was behind anything theatrical. He was an extremely eccentric character—the principal, I mean, not Satan–named Aloysius Waddell. He was a hundred and eight years old, stood six-foot-six, and had to wear special lead shoes because he weighed only ninety-three pounds and a gentle breeze could knock him over. We’d only get glimpses of him in the afternoons when he stood at his office window watching us leave, his beady black eyes turning independently of each other, like a chameleon’s. I only got to see him up close once when I was sent to his office and walked in without knocking and found him pouring paint thinner into a coffee mug, which was a whole different kind of spirit boosting, but that’s another story.
Anyway I was the only boy who showed up for Spirit Booster tryouts and even though they were short a team member the teacher in charge informed me they didn’t have any itchy polyester slacks, only itchy polyester cheerleader’s outfits and even if I could pull off a miniskirt it would be better for everyone if I didn’t pull one on, and really I lost all interest when I learned that being a Spirit Booster meant I’d have to go to every football, basketball, and baseball game.
In ninth grade I went to Overton High School which was much bigger but still didn’t have a drama club, mostly, I think, because of a lack of budget and interest and, after seeing the school talent show, a lack of talent, so a friend suggested I try out for the cheerleading squad. So I did. He told me later he was kidding, but really the joke was on him because I made the team. Being a large school Overton had several cheerleader squads with a hierarchy: the first string were football cheerleaders, the second string were basketball cheerleaders, then baseball, and so on. I really boosted the spirits of the croquet club.

Life In The Sublurbs.

Book Blurbs Written About Blurb, My New Novel Written Entirely In The Form Of Book Blurbs:


-The New York Herald


-The Boston Spectator


-The Tuscon Citizen

“I couldn’t put it down!”

-Stilton Blue, The Seattle Scene


-The Leavenworth Leader


-The Breckenridge Post-Dispatch

“You’ll wonder where it’s going!”

-The Steamboat Springs Chronicle

“Leaves you wanting something!”

-The Ketchum Banner

“A novel idea for a book!”

-The Bismark Telegraph

“The novelty quickly wears thin!”

-The Sturgis Herald

“An unusual premise that keeps you turning the pages, hoping it will eventually develop into something!”

-Emmental Dickinson, The Bay Times (Omaha, NE)

“Not really a novel!”

-The Ontario Olympiad

“Like no other novel I’ve ever read!”

-Caerphilly Wells, The North Platte Telegraph

“I can’t believe this is a book!”

-Brie Rogers, The Davenport Mirror

“Why would someone do this?”

-The Duluth Star

“About three-hundred pages!”

-Bloodstone Publishing

“About three-hundred and forty grams!”

-Fynbo Shreeve, scientist

“I couldn’t pick it up!”

-Allen Walker, The Catchall

“Just keeps going!”

-Terry Cheshire, The Whitehorse Observer

“Completely messes with your head, and not in a good way!”

-Feta Hampton, The Telluride Post

“The most entertaining drivel I’ve read this year!”

-Red Windsor, The Winnipeg Inquirer

“We only publish reviews of academic non-fiction in the field of biology!”


“I keep it next to the toilet!”

—S. Clemens, author of The American Claimant

“Floats well!”

-Boaters Digest

“Responsible for an outbreak of diphtheria!”

-Tiverton Tribune

“Reminiscent of Finnegan’s Wake, and by that I mean completely unreadable and people will only refer to it to sound pretentious!”

-The Ely Telegraph

“Makes you look at aardvarks in an entirely new way!”

-Annapolis Reader

“Opened up a trans-dimensional portal that I fell into and now can’t escape! Please send help!”

-Terry Weiss, The Marfa Bugler

“You might want to read it!”

-The Dorset Times-Picayune

“Potential best-seller.”

-Poughkeepsie Plain Tribune

Coming next year: the sequel, Disblurbing The Peace.

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