Category Archives: cartoons

Birdwalking Made Easy

Birdwalking in an essay is when you drift off topic and begin to meander like a bird from one spot, place, or idea to another, never quite pulling everything together into one whole thing. More like a bird eyeballing the ground as it goes by, hoping against hope that a worm will simply present itself.

The first stop, spot, place in the essay, or idea is a Paffooney, one of those pictures that goes with a story of its own.

This one is a picture of Grandpa Butch Niland from the the story, Horatio T. Dogg, Super-Sleuth. a story that takes place on the farm place next to my maternal grandparents’ farm place. I drew him while in Iowa.

But instead of lingering on the story of how I drew that picture based on the face of Jazz musician Duke Ellington and the personality of my Mom’s cousin and her literal nearest living relative… He lives alone now on a farm not a quarter of a mile south of my Mom’s house… I added this picture of a little lap dog and his nudist girl in front of a giant chocolate cookie in the shape of a heart which I added red and pink frosting to just today.

Why the heck did I do that, you ask?

Because I am making plans to use my AANR membership sometime in the near future to go to a nudist park and meet some other nudists that I have never yet met before.

And of course I had to add a black-and-white version of my anime portrait of an anime-loving nerd just because I saw it among pictures I could upload when I was sorting through drawings to use for a birdwalking post.

And then there’s this picture I found of the Wizard Pippin, two of his many apprentices, and his son Prinz Flute. I will admit to drawing that one a long time ago. It is not a photograph. But you may notice that Flute is a lot younger in this picture than the more recent ones he posed for.

And there’s my recently re-scanned portrait of Dr. Wilton Dogwiggle, Chemist, and his new invention, Happiness-Plus Potion. I promise that it is not merely warmed-up dog pee, although I understand that Wilton loves that odor. At least, that’s what he promised me when he had me smell-test it. It didn’t smell like pee, but it didn’t make me very happy either.

I will end this birdwalk with a photo to the nearest thing this old bird could find to a worm. I bought myself a toy for the first time since the middle of 2019. It is a Marvin the Martian PVC doll from the movie Space Jam with LeBron James. I couldn’t resist.

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The Ultra-Mad Madness of Don Martin

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Born in 1931 and lasting in this crazy, mixed-up world until the year 2000, Don Martin was a mixy, crazed-up cartoonist for Mad Magazine who would come to be billed as “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.”    His greatest work was done during his Mad years, from 1956 (the year I was born… not a coincidence, I firmly believe) until his retirement in 1988.  And I learned a lot from him by reading his trippy toons in Mad from my childhood until my early teacher-hood.

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His style is uniquely recognizable and easily identifiable.  Nobody cartoons a Foon-man like Don Martin.

The googly eyes are always popped in surprise.  The tongue is often out and twirling.  Knees and elbows always have amazingly knobbly knobs.  Feet have an extra hinge in them that God never thought of when he had Adam on the drawing board.

And then there is the way that Martin uses sound effects.  Yes, cartoons in print don’t make literal sounds, but the incredible series of squeedonks and doinks that Martin uses create a cacophony of craziness in the mind’s ear.

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And there is a certain musicality in the rhyming of the character names he uses.  Fester Bestertester was a common foil for slapstick mayhem, and Fonebone would later stand revealed by his full name, Freenbeen I. Fonebone.

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And, of course, one of his most amazingly adventurous ne’er-do-well slapstick characters was the immeasurable Captain Klutz!

Here, there, and everywhere… on the outside he wears his underwear… it’s the incredible, insteadable, and completely not edible… Captain Klutz!

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If you cannot tell it from this tribute, I deeply love the comic genius who was Don Martin, Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.  Like me he was obsessed with nudists and drawing anatomy.  Like me he was not above making up words with ridiculous-sounding syllables.  And like me he was also a purple-furred gorilla in a human suit… wait!  No, he wasn’t, but he did invent Gorilla-Suit Day, where people in gorilla suits might randomly attack you as you go about your daily life, or gorillas in people suits, or… keep your eye on the banana in the following cartoon.

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So, even though I told you about Bruce Timm and Wally Wood and other toon artists long before I got around to telling you about Don Martin, that doesn’t mean I love them more.  Don Martin is wacky after my own heart, and the reason I spent so much time immersed in Mad Magazine back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, cartoon review, cartoons, comic book heroes, goofiness, humor, illustrations

Toonerville, a Place I Once Lived In

There is a place so like the place where my heart and mind were born that I feel as if I have always lived there.  That place is a cartoon panel that ran in newspapers throughout the country from 1913 to 1955 (a year before I was born in Mason City, Iowa).  It was called Toonerville Folks and was centered around the famous Toonerville Trolley.

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Fontaine Fox was born near Louisville Kentucky in 1884.  Louisville, of course is one of the two cities that claims to be the inspiration for Toonerville.  Apparently the old Brook Street Line Trolley in Louisville was always run-down, operating on balls of twine and bailing wire for repair parts.  The people of Pelham, New York, however, point to a trolley ride Fox took in 1909 on Pelham’s rickety little trolley car with a highly enterprising and gossip-dealing old reprobate for a conductor.  No matter which it was, Fox’s cartoon mastery took over and created Toonerville, where you find the famous trolley that “meets all trains”.

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I didn’t learn of the comic strip’s existence until I was in college, but once I found it (yes, I am the type of idiot who researches old comics in university libraries), I couldn’t get enough of it.  Characters like the Conductor, the Powerful (physically) Katrinka, and the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang can charm the neck hair off of any Midwestern farm-town boy who is too stupid to regret being born in the boring old rural Midwest.

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I fancied myself to be just like the infamous Mickey (himself) McGuire.  After all, we have the same first name… and I always lick any bully or boob who wants to put up a fight (at least in my daydreams).

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So, this is my tribute to the cartoonist who probably did more to warp my personality and make me funny (well, at least easy to laugh at! ) than any other influence.  All of the cartoons in this post can be credited to Fontaine Fox.  And all the people in them can be blamed on Toonerville, the town I used to live in, though I never really knew it until far too late.

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Mangaphile

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My wife brought treasure back from the Philippines for my kids and me.  She spent over a thousand Filipino pesos at a book store over there and apparently bought out the store’s entire supply of “How-to-Draw-Manga/Anime” (though the amount she spent is not so impressive when you realize the exchange rate for a Filipino peso is .025 of an American dollar).  Anyway, I happen to love the Japanese anime-style cartoons.  I have since I was a kid in the 60’s watching Astroboy in black and white on the old Motorola TV set.  So, just as you would expect, I had to go on a drawing binge, copying ideas from the books, but putting my own spin on them.

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It is not the first time I have gone on anime-drawing binges.  Let me provide some proof of that from past posts;

So, there’s my original content for today.  The day after the 4th of July, I am celebrating one of the ways that Japan conquered the United States after World War II.  Yes, manga-style cartoons have far more kids carefully copying a cartoon style with big, cute eyes than probably ever tried to draw like Walt Kelly or Al Capp.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoons, drawing, humor, Paffooney, pen and ink paffoonies

RumikoTakahashi

Yesterday I used a Paffooney I had stolen to illustrate my gymnasium adventures, and in the caption I gave credit to the wonderful comic artist I shamelessly copied it from.  The second imitation Takahashi that I did yesterday is now displayed next to it above.  I am now compelled to explain about my goofy, sideways obsession with Anime and Manga, the cartoons from Japan.  I love the art style.  I have since I fell in love with Astroboy Anime as a child in Iowa.  Rumiko Takahashi is almost exactly one year younger than me.  As a cartoonist she is light years more successful than me.  She has been crafting pen and ink masterpieces of goofy story-telling longer than I have been a teacher.

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Her artwork is a primary reason I have been so overly-enamored of the Japanese Manga-cartoon style.  I love the big eyes, the child-like features of even adult characters, the weird poses and still-weirder comic art conventions of this culture from practically a different planet.  She has created comic series that are immensely popular in Japan, and have even put down sturdy roots in this country, especially with young adults since the 80’s.  She is the world’s number one best-selling female comics artist.

Just as we Westerners have to accept numerous ridiculous things to appreciate the stories told in American comics (for instance, brawny heroes running around in tights with their underwear on the outside of their pants, nearly naked ladies with super powers diving into battle next to men encased in armored suits, and talking animals), the Manga-minded must also practice a bizarre form of the willing suspension of disbelief.  In Ranma 1/2, the main character is a boy marshal artist who turns into a girl when splashed with cold water.  Much of the romantic comedy of that work revolves around boys and old men finding themselves in the bath house next to naked young girls.  For some reason that sort of naked surprise causes the boys to spout fountain-like nosebleeds.  In Inu-Yasha the whole thing is about fighting demons with swords.  Inu-Yasha himself is part demon.  Apparently part-demon is a good thing to be.  Japanese villains are spectacularly susceptible to fits of crying rage and tantrums.  And everybody looks more like American white people than orientals.  Oh, and there are talking animals.

Rumiko is a master of pen and ink.  Here is a sample of of her black and white work.

And she does color well too.

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The little people are a special style of Manga character called a Chibi, and all regular Manga characters can turn into one at any moment.

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And, of course, to read actual Manga you have to master reading backwards.  Americans read left to right.  The Japanese read right to left.  You have to open a Japanese book in a manner that seems both backwards and upside down.

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This illustration shows how American publishers flip Japanese comics to make them more accessible to American audiences.

So now, by uncovering the fact that I am addicted to and seriously affected by Japanese cartoons, you have one more bit of evidence to present to a jury in case you decide Mickey needs to be locked up and medicated for a while.  Japanese comics are a world of great beauty, but also a world unto themselves.  It is an acquired taste that has to be considered carefully.  And of all the many marvelous Manga makers, Rumiko Takahashi is the one I love the best.

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Life Can Be Goofy Sometimes

Well, the lab said it was not Covid. It was not even the flu. Apparently Number Two Son just had a very bad cold. And I am pretty sure I have only got what he has. Same symptoms, but started two days later. So, I don’t even have to worry about going in for a Covid test.

This post, it turns out, is number 3,002 on this blog. The milestone post is the second one from yesterday.

I am juggling three books at once. I am writing another novella, Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth which I am now using for Tuesday posts. I am editing AeroQuest 4 : The Amazing Aero Brothers, getting it ready for publication. And my main work in progress is He Rose on a Golden Wing, in which I am on rough draft chapter… er, Canto 6, though I’m not dead certain since I stopped numbering them and am simply citing classical music pieces to signal each new section of the story. The idea being that the reader should listen to that specific music while reading that section, just as I listened to it while writing the first draft.

That’s basically what all of life is… random silliness… God being Goofy… “Hyuck!”

But it is not really totally random. Rather, Goofy is off-kilter and meandering, but blessed with an overall pattern. And when he is a clock-cleaner and gets bonged on the noggin by a construction beam, he doesn’t step off the edge and fall to his death; he magically steps from suspended beam hanging from the construction crane to the next one and the next one hanging forever in mid-air.

We merely tumble endlessly through life as if it were a screwball slapstick comedy with moments of real grief and real pain and real love sandwiched in between the slices of your daily bread that you have probably prayed for… at least at some point in your life.

This illness that struck while wife and daughter were away had the side effect of preventing me from visiting the nudist park on Saturday where I had hoped to meet more nudists and do a bit of research for future nudist tales. So, I guess that was probably the reason God struck us with Apollo’s Arrow of Illness. The whims of Heaven are ever inscrutable. At least until I figure out how to responsibly “scrute.”

But however life proceeds from this particular place in time and space, it has turned out better than it might have otherwise. I am not saddened or forlorn due to this outcome.

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Cartoonity

“My name is Michael Beyer, and I am an amateur cartoonist.”

“Hi, Michael!” says the entire group of CA group-therapy participants.

(CA stands for Cartoonists Anonymous.)

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“I have to admit, I am guilty of giving in to the urge to draw cartoons. I know how it can fill lives with slapstick pain and derisive laughter, and I give in to the urge anyway.”

“So, what did you draw that you have to be ashamed of now?” asked one mad-eyed cartoonist with a pencil lodged behind each of his large ears.

“I made a very unfortunate video to post on YouTube that was supposed to be How-to-draw Cartooning. But everything went wrong. You couldn’t see my drawings in the video. It was not adequately lit. I look like a doofus (which probably can’t be cured) in the video. And instead of thinking twice or editing it, I posted it anyway.”

“Wow!” said a rather ugly cartoonist lady, “that is really bad. You have a seriously bad case of cartoonity.”

“Cartoonity?” I responded stupidly.

“The condition of needing love for your cartoons so bad that you will risk anything to make people look at them and like them,” said the wise group therapist (who looked an awful lot like Chuck Jones, though I am fairly sure Chuck Jones is now dead).

“Yes, I suppose that’s about the size of the problem,” I said. “I have been posting pages from my graphic novel, Hidden Kingdom, and I really haven’t seen more than one comment about it. Do people actually read cartoons and comics nowadays? Or is it just me that gets ignored?”

“You have to focus on how much you love drawing and doing it just for that reason, and nothing beyond that,” said the wise therapist. “Cartooning should be done for its own sake, and nothing more than that. Craving attention and approval for it can get seriously infected and become a bad case of cartoonititis. How do you think I dealt with it when I was still alive?”

At that point, my eyes popped out of my head in disbelief and my lower jaw fell all the way to the floor. Could he really be…?

And so I must end today’s blog post since it is hard to keep typing when your eyeballs are rolling around on the floor.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoons, cartoony Paffooney, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney

Animal Town in Daylight

This is a place I explore in cartoons and daydreams.  It is a little town known as Animal Town for fairly obvious reasons.  It is populated by silly anthropomorphic animals who wear clothes and keep naked people as pets.

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Animal Town is one of the all-time silliest places to visit in the cartoon dreamland of Fantastica.

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Mandy Panda and little brother Dandy are my constant companions and guides when I tour the dangerous streets of wild Animal Town.  In my cartoons, Mandy is an immigrant from the Pandalore Islands.  She is also the cartoon version of my wife.

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Three of the Town’s most important head monkeys.

It was Mandy who introduced me to the government officials who run Animal Town.  Judge Moosewinkle is the head of the Animal Town court system.  He is a hanging judge, so I am very careful about littering and loitering when I am in town.

Constable Geoffrey Giraffe does all the arresting and police work.  He used to work in a toy store, but quit his job there when he couldn’t get them to stop writing the R backwards on all their signs.  Grammar infractions annoy him more than any other crime.

Linus the Kitten-Hearted is the mayor of Animal Town.  They wanted to crown him as king, but he always says that’s only for when he’s in the jungle.  In town he prefers to be a democratically elected leader.  Of course, if you refuse to vote for him, he might eat you.

Most of my dreams in Animal Town are about the school there.

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                                                                                                                                                         Yes, this is a yearbook picture from Animal Town Elementary School.

Miss Ancient’s Class of 5th graders is usually rather rowdy and difficult.  You may have noticed there is a bare bear in the old buzzard’s class.  The fact is, the bears in Animal Town are all naturists and refuse to wear clothes.  This disturbs poor Miss
Ancient greatly, and it is therefore a real godsend that a fig leaf just happened to be drifting down through the air at the time this picture was made.  Bobby Bare is not shy, but some things are better not put into a cartoon.

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                                                                                                                                                   Yes, this is another yearbook picture. And I am in it twice, since Mr. Reluctant Rabbit is also me.

As a visitor to Animal Town, Cissy Bare took me to Mr. Rabbit’s class as her pet for show and tell.  She is also a bare bear, and she also benefited from a passing leaf at picture time. You may notice students putting rabbit ears behind each other’s heads in pictures… something that human children do too in real life.  But when I study this picture, I can’t help but think that maybe Mr. Rabbit started it.  Now, Animal Town is located in Fantastica, a part of the Dreamlands.  So that sort of explains how I ended up in school naked.  My dreams are like that.  You are in school in the middle of lessons before you realize that haven’t got a single stitch of clothing on.

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When I am inevitably charged with public indecency for being in school naked, I can turn to Animal Town lawyer Woolbinkle Moosewinkle.  He is totally incompetent and not very bright, but unlike most of the animals, he is friendly and on my side.  Spot Firedog is a Dalmatian who knows how to use a newspaper.  He is a reporter, publisher, and all-around good dog.  He wrote an expose on me being naked in the Animal Town Elementary school.

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Big Bull Beefalo runs the local hamburger emporium, which might seem like collusion to cannabalism, but Bull is a very gentle and very large soul.  He is himself a vegetarian, but he is a gifted fry cook and chef.  I can go to his restaurant when I get out of jail, though hopefully not as food.

So, Animal Town is a very different kind of place.  It is the result of dreams and goofiness and uncontrolled spurts of cartoonist creativity.  It is a cartoon sort of place where spontaneous and random humor happens.

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Wake Up Sunday Morning!

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As weekly rituals go, one of the most important ones came every Sunday morning when I was a kid.  My parents were 50’s people.  By that I mean they were teenagers and young adults during the post war boom of the 1950’s when everything seemed hopeful and bright and alive with wonderful possibilities.  As a kid in the 1960’s the Sunday morning routine was this;

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  • Wake up grouchy from staying up too late to sneak a look at the late-night monster movie on Saturday.
  • Read the funny papers.
  • Learn life lessons from Family Circus, Dagwood Bumstead, Pogo, Lil’ Abner, and Steve Canyon.
  • Eat scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.
  • Complain about having to go to church and Sunday school.
  • Go to Sunday School and church at the Methodist Church in Rowan, Iowa.
  • Complain about having to go to church every Sunday on the way home from church.
  • Pray over Sunday dinner and be really, actually thankful for all the positive good things in life.

Obviously the most important thing in that routine was complaining, because I listed it twice.  But when it got down to it, we were thankful for all the good things about life.  We were positive people.  We sometimes listened to Norman Vincent Peale on the radio.  We knew we ought to be positive and thankful and love goodness and be kind.

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Somewhere along the way, though, the world forgot the life lessons of Family Circus.

Somehow we managed to screw things up.

Environmental scientists like Paul Ehrlich, who wrote The Population Bomb, warned us that the world could soon be ending.  And we ignored them.

Richard Nixon taught us not to trust politicians any more.

We stopped believing in things like the wholesome goodness of scrambled eggs.

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We let corruption in our government and inequality in the economic sphere become the norm.  The greedy people who were cynical and had no empathy for the rest of us took over.  That is how we ended up with someone like Donald Trump.  Racism, fear, and complaining now rule the emotional landscape in America and most of the world.

So, what is the answer?  What do we do?

Well, The Family Circus is still out there.  We can learn from it, laugh a little, and apply some of those life lessons.  Especially this one;

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Ghostly Reflections

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I do not believe in ghosts.

So, I am probably the last stupid goomer who should be writing this post.  But I do have a lot to say on the subject that will more than fill a 500-word essay.

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At my age and level of poor health, I think about ghosts a lot because I may soon be one.  In fact, my 2014 novel, Snow Babies has ghosts in it.  And some of the characters in it freeze to death and become snow ghosts.  But it doesn’t work like that in real-world science.  My ghosts are all basically metaphorical and really are more about people and people’s perception of life, love, and each other.

Ghosts really only live in the mind.  They are merely memories, un-expectedly recalled people, pains, and moments of pandemonium.

I have recently been watching the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House.  It creeps me out because it latches on to the idea that ghosts haunt us through the revisitation in our minds of old trauma, old mistakes, old regrets… We are never truly safe from ghosts, no matter how far under the covers we go in our beds, deep in the dark and haunted night. Ghosts are always right there with us because they only live inside us.

I am haunted by ghosts of my own.  Besides the ghost dog that mysteriously wanders about our house at night and is seen only out of the corners of our eyes, there is the ghost of the sexual assault I endured at the age of ten by a fifteen-year-old neighbor.  That ghost haunts me still, though my attacker has died.  I still can’t name him.  Not because I fear he can rise up out of the grave to hurt me again, but because of what revealing what he did, and how it would injure his innocent family members who are still alive and still known to my family, will cause more hurt than healing.  That is a ghost who will never go away.  And he infects my fiction to the point that he is the secret villain of the novel I am now working on. In fact, the next four novels in a row are influenced by him.

But my ghost stories are not horror stories.

I write humorous stories that use ghosts as metaphors, to represent ideas, not to scare the reader.  In a true horror story, there has to be that lurking feeling of foreboding, that sense that, no matter what you do, or what the main character you identify with does, things probably won’t turn out all right.   Stephen King is a master of that.  H.P. Lovecraft is even better.

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But as for me, I firmly believe in the power of laughter, and that love can settle all old ghosts back in their graves.  I have forgiven the man who sexually tortured me and nearly destroyed me as a child.  And I have vowed never to reveal his name to protect those he loved as well as those I love.  If he hurt anyone else, they have remained silent for a lifetime too.  And I have never been afraid of the ghost dog in our house.  He has made me jump in the night more than once, but I don’t fear him.  If he were real, he would be the ghost of a beloved pet and a former protector of the house.  And besides, he is probably all in my stupid old head thanks to nearly blind eyes when I do not have my glasses on.

I don’t believe in ghosts.

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