Friday, December 30, 2011

The Grief Man

He had an idea for the New Year and he knew he could make money on it. He rented a sky blue pickup truck and stuck signs on the doors that read:

Pick Up and Hauling, Day or Night
No Grief Refused.
Reasonable Rates
Telephone 1-800 NO-GRIEF

He drove around the neighborhoods for weeks. At first people peered through their curtains or went in the house when he slowed down, but one day a small woman in her seventies waddled down her front walk and asked him if he could take the memory of her dead husband. After six years, not only did she not miss him, but he was haunting her house to the point where she couldn't find anybody else, and she had to admit he wasn't, if you asked her ninety-six year old mother, a very nice man to begin with.

The Grief Man smiled and she wrote a check. He put the dead husband memory in the truck and drove off slowly, partly out of a sense of honor and hopefully, so the rest of the neighborhood would see that he really was serious and write down his phone number.
Of course the woman got on the phone and the word spread. Within days his phone was ringing off the hook. He could barely fill his orders. A man wanted to get rid of his son's drug addiction, another man wanted to be relieved of the embarrassment of wearing a hairpiece, not the hair piece mind you, the embarrassment thereof. A child called. It seems the kid down the block got a tan cowboy hat and he got a red hat when all he really wanted was AUTO THEFT. He couldn't throw his red hat away because everyone would know. Parents called in droves to rid themselves of the worry of what to do about leaving their children alone. Alcoholics called at all hours of the day and night. The back of his truck reeked with alcoholic grief going into withdrawal without people. Then there were the sick, the elderly and the fleeced who had lost their entire savings to Illness or inscrutability. The Grief Man left them at the curb with cherubic smiles. A single mother wanted traffic removed. A fish cutter said he never wanted to see another fish; a fast food worker wanted the smell of French fries removed forever. A set of twin women in their forties wanted to rid themselves of their likeness.

The Grief Man took credit cards. The Grief Man bought two cell phones. He didn't need to advertise. The Grief Man could barely fill his orders. The Grief Man had to rent a warehouse. A woman from Pembroke Pines, Florida said she was too hot. A man from Pulaski, New York said he was too cold. The Grief Man agreed to take heat and cold via overnight express. A Chicago banker wanted the entire New Year removed and the Grief Man devised a way to do it on the installment plan with balloon payments. Best he could do given such short notice. The banker agreed. A Las Cruces, New Mexico woman, wanted slipperiness taken out of satin sheets. Children with dead pets called from all over the world. A little girl from Adams, Massachusetts wanted a sun fish she caught, cleaned and buried in the back yard the summer before, to be put back in the lake. A therapist from Los Altos, California wanted to know if the Grief Man could remove the need, "To talk it all out." A man who said he represented a large government agency he refused to identify, called regarding the elimination of war and poverty, but left no return phone number.

The Grief Man got rich. He picked up a too-late Eminem record collection, sixteen truckloads of Brittney Spears supermarket Musak and one volume of poetry by Robert Service, four hundred thousand truckloads of used Harry Potter videos, a four by eight mini-storage unit full of 1950s memories and stadium-size tonnage of books about the uselessness of the sixties. The Grief man couldn't fill the number of orders for the removal of grief over the Martin Luther King and Kennedy assassinations, but he managed to put a dent in it.
So it was, on New Years Eve at 11.57 PM. that he drove his truck up to the side of his house, full of last minute pickups. Exhausted, but happy, he gazed wearily at the Christmas tree aglow by the fireplace in the adjoining living room. He sat down at the kitchen table and opened a beer. He watched the smoky gas escape from the top. He picked up the bottle and brought it to his lips. The phone rang. He promised himself he would not answer. He listened to the phone. One, two, three, four, rings; he wanted to drink his beer. He picked up the phone.

It was the little boy of the red cowboy hat. The Grief Man wanted to know what he was doing up at that hour and the boy said he'd been to church and the minister told him to be grateful for what he had instead of always wanting what somebody else had and could the Grief Man return his red hat? The Grief Man hesitated for a second. He sighed deeply. Yes, it was the New Year and this was a little boy. Little boys don't always understand what, or why they do what they do.
The Grief Man looked at the nice cold beer he hadn't even sipped. Now he had to go out and get the red hat, but before he could get his coat on, the other phone rang again. The kitchen clock read 12.09 AM. It was the New Year. The woman on the phone was crying. She said she was Susan of the Susan and Sylvia twins. She said no one recognized her without Sylvia and would he please, please return her to, at least, a shadow of her former self.

By 12.20 AM. the phones never stopped. The fast food worker said she needed the smell of French fries on her skin to feel alive, the alcoholics wanted their drinks, parents wanted their children to go somewhere, anywhere, so they could be alone, the cold man from Pulaski couldn't stand sweat, the hot woman from Pembroke Pines couldn't stop shivering, the banker called to say the balloon payments on the removal of New Year had given him no place to begin, nor end, and the widow called to say she discovered the Grief Man's phone number on the refrigerator door and it reminded her that she needed to cry, but she couldn't remember what for, so would it be possible, to return what it was she had forgot to remember, immediately.

Thereafter the Grief Man's phone never stopped ringing as he drove frantically and forever into the night of nights, the forwarding of calls jamming his truck phone, his ears, his very life; the calls to the Grief Man waxing in the dawn of hope.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


In the early days Palomar the Duck roamed the earth in an innocent light walk that couldn’t hurt the land because the land couldn’t be hurt. Palomar was a small duck with red feathers, red legs and feet and yellow eyes. A fine orange beak trimmed his smooth face. He ate what was available and bothered no one. He swam in the great blue lakes.

When the land began to weaken, it hurt under the light walk and Palomar became conscious of stepping on things. He tried to avoid them and looked in mystery at WHY, and seeing what it was, seeing that its insulation didn’t work, he began trying to walk where he could, but by that time other animals had lost their light walk and they began stepping not only on the hurt land but on each other.

Palomar grew. His feathers turned bronze. In the distance, he looked like a mountainous slick statue. If Palomar chose, he could square his beak into a vacuum sucking up foliage and animals at will. He didn’t do this often, because there was enough to go around. He just took small bites here and there, but Something was in control.

Palomar’s brain became a gold nuclear reactor with round doors on the top and bottom of one end. The doors opened in great rushes of light and capsules of steel balls and silver space ships passed into the dark interior where red and yellow lasers beamed streaks and multimillion of a second pulse beat endlessly.

Palomar sorted what he ate. He had a penchant for banana slugs that sometimes swept in with a couple of ruffled owls, or squirrels or occasionally a howling ape. He filtered out the other animals and left them unharmed in soft grass, a little wet perhaps, but the banana slugs washed down with ceremony and leaves.

As the land began to hurt more and more, Palomar found less and less space to walk the light walk and began swimming more, but this disturbed his insatiable lust for banana slugs. He ‘d waddle ashore in a strange country scaring the inhabitants because of his size, which measured just the height of a five story building at the base of the neck and careened up another four to the head. When the Lacandons saw the nine story duck for the first time, they ran into Chiapas and never came out.

Palomar seemed to disappear at the end of the sixteenth century. He swam to a remote part of the land where it didn’t hurt so much, where there were still plenty of banana slugs and where he could build more confidence in his light walk so nothing would be hurt. He was reported at the opening of the Suez Canal by two shepherds who caught him making off with a goat and six camels. Rumors prevailed. He was swimming thirty kilometers down the Canal when Verdi began conducting Aida. Someone commented that was the only reason such a magnificent bird would come so close.

He was reportedly at Rudyard Kipling’s funeral and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Someone dug-up a document that said he ‘d been seen lurking around Genghis Kahn’s camp, at the tail end of the Holy Wars and there is reason to believe he sat in the mountains outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1939, when the Alligator boy married the Monkey girl. The marriage made Life Magazine, but no one could get Palomar to come out for a picture, nor could anyone prove he was really there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thoughts from the Rooster Breath Theater

Who put the dip stick in the egg plant?

What rat fed coconut oil to the hamster?

Better yet, how did the goose snot get in your cheese sandwich?

Not all iguanas suffer post partum depression.

There is no underwear for American Eagles that compound interest in the war effort.

Never mind how the worms found the lettuce.

Rubin Schnickle eats blue berry pancakes with horseradish.

Keeping in mind the myth of the cross-eyed seamstress and her mother, Olga Crumbuckle.

Ever since Mirabel got caught sucking graham crackers in the attic.

So what if Charlie eats hot dogs in his nightgown?

No tax addendums for sugar ants.

You can’t blame the war on disenchanted walnuts.

Sam won’t buy apples from the bird vendor.

If and when Hercules gets a breast implant.

Needless to say, the rabbit population doesn’t suffer from black holes.

Every so often Genghis Khan stops at the river for some KFC.

Why is the price of a gas pump less 8 cents tax, worth your child as ransom?

Just because someone asks for your Social Security Number doesn’t mean you have to buy them a Happy Meal.

If a man calls a President by his last name you might think he is grown up.

Who ate the community goat?

Chicken breath may be sold as hallucinogenic fowl.

This is the second course based on rattlesnake egg whites designed for two-timing politicians.

Who put the adhesive in the chocolate cookies?

Androids are now on sale at Wal Mart.

The case of the asymmetrical sphinx.

The case of the mindless canary advertising Tide Liquid.

Small lapses in the future of ironing boards based on faulty IRAs.

The dog maker took umbrage in blue handkerchiefs with white trim.

Mabel believed until he took her red hat.

Chipmunks can’t vote so folks in Florida might consider independent raccoons.

Speaking of independence-Did you hear about the man who froze his dead mother for two years?

To answer your question: a plethora of recent examples personifies the conviction stated in the premise.

Ramifications on the brink of destruction-Or why pick a dead pigeon out of a pie?

And remember, in America, there is no discount for quiet desperation.