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Category Archives: humor
Here is a brief and very surrealistic comic story that I have published before… but a long time ago.
I know it is a bit bizarre, and hard to tell what the theme really is… but isn’t that what art is really for? Telling highly personal stories that make you think hard about seeing things through the eyes of an artist.
While the family dog was watching me intently as I was cooking the breakfast sausages, she decided to strike up a conversation with me.
“You know, beloved father and giver of people food, a lot of other dogs tell me that they get table scraps at meal time.”
“That’s a self-serving comment. And when do you ever talk to other dogs? You’re a house dog that stays inside all the time.”
“I listen to news on the nightly howl, and it’s been a fool moon lately.”
“You mean full moon, not fool moon.”
“That’s not what other dogs call it. It makes their people act like fools.”
“It doesn’t take a phase of the moon to make that happen.”
“So, you will give me table scraps more often?”
“Dogs who eat table scraps get fat and unhealthy and die of heart attacks.”
“Sausages would be worth it.”
“You get enough fat and cholesterol in your diet from eating the burglars that come into the house at night.”
“No burglars came in last night, or any other night that I can remember.”
“Well, that’s probably because in Texas, we elect our burglars to office, especially in the Senate.”
“Euw! I could never eat Cruz or Cornyn. I don’t like the taste of oil mixed with hairspray and arthritis cream. But I could eat Trump, probably. Of all the politicians, he’s probably the only one that looks like he’s made of cheddar cheese.”
“You’d never survive the fat content in the head. Instant myocardial infarction. “
“Well, I don’t know what those last two words mean, but I’ll bet I could survive it. So, when are you gonna start substitute teaching? You get rushed when you have stuff like that to do, and you drop more food on the floor.”
“Well, the school districts are in no hurry to hire me. They seem to have enough subs for the start of this semester, so I have to wait for them to schedule another sub orientation. We could be facing some tough economic times.”
“Oh, that’s not good. No money for even dog food?”
“If things get really bad, we may have to eat table scraps from the floor. And when those are gone, we might even have to eat the family dog.”
“What?! Even if she’s a talking dog and a valuable member of the family?”
“Dogs get eaten before the children do.”
“Oh, I get it. That’s supposed to be black humor. Not funny!”
“It got you to stop thinking about table scraps while I finished cooking the sausages.”
“We’ll see who gets what. I can still give the Princess the beg-eye and make her pity me enough to give me some.”
Unable to get well enough to drive for Uber without risk, I now face economic and health uncertainties that could bring about the end of everything for me personally.
I have submitted an application for substitute teaching in the local school district. They still haven’t offered me a job, which I am clearly qualified for, and which I did for the same district successfully more than a decade ago. School is starting Monday. And even if they give me the job, there is no guarantee that I will be well enough to do it.
So, do I panic now? Or wait and panic next week? Or give up already?
That, of course, is not my way. I always approached teaching as a swashbuckling adventure. I may die in the attempt, either at the cruel hands of little school bunnies, or possibly behind the wheel of my rusty, trusty Uber car, But, either way, I will go down fighting with my pirate boots on.
So, I will sign on with Zorah the Sea Witch, joining her pirate crew, and I will set sail towards the sunrise of a new and potentially dangerous new day.
Yes, I am a writer.
I write poems.
I write novels.
I write and draw comics and comic-book-style stories.
And that isn’t me in the first picture of this post. Although it is pretty close.
But today, I am once again merely sitting down to the keyboard to monkey around and tap out something in writing to get the old writing practice over with.
There is no over-arching plan to follow, no theme already in mind… just little old me sitting down and working at it to get ideas on paper.
And soon, unless the school district I applied to rejects my application for no foreseeable reason, I will be doing the work of a substitute teacher. Of course, that’s not me in the fuzzed up background of the picture. That is not even a real classroom. No classroom contains that many left-hand raisers. And if you could find one, no real classroom has that many hand raisers without having asked the question, “Who wants ice cream?” And a mere sub cannot possibly afford to ask that expensive question.
But that isn’t even the kind of work I meant when I lamely wrote that title. Lamely writing a title is work I have to force myself to do. And that is even harder when you write it first while having no earthly idea what you are even going to write about in the essay.
I always told writing classes (the ones who actually never raise either hand about anything) that the best way to do it is to leave writing the title til last so you will already know what you wrote about and what to call it. But forcing yourself to follow through on a title you just pulled out of the air is one way to force yourself to get the necessary work done.
Another thing you can do to force yourself to get the work done when you need to write something, is put the writing aside and read a book. As Sagan suggests, books are magical things that let you channel the mind of another author, preferably one who is smarter and a better writer than you are. I can write fake Twain and fake Dickens like nobody’s business because I soaked in Twain’s magical way of writing down what people said in the weird way the individual talker actually sounded during my college years, and I absorbed Dickens’ knack for creating weird but lovable characters with distinctive personalities and motivations when I was even younger than that. But channeling is not the same as plagiarizing, so you can get away with it much easier than most other literary crimes you are fully capable of committing as an author. You can easily steal style and ideas from whatever book you are reading, and that helps you do the necessary work.
Of course, when you are done procrastinating and wasting time by reading somebody else’s book, you can then turn to another helpful tactic to do the work that needs to be done. You can pick a book to re-read.
That’s right. When I recently re-read Rodman Philbrick’s The Last Book in the Universe, I was better able to see and admire the structure of that book, a hero’s quest-type story that narrates the episodic adventures of a ragtag group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world as they are on a quest for a lost book, one that is being written as the reader reads it.
This particular author is quite good at Quixotic Quest Stories, and understanding how he has put his story together is marvelously instructive. He has written a blue-print for a kind of story you can easily apply to the structure of your own story.
I am doing something very similar now as I re-read my own story, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius and follow the eccentric characters on a very similar quest to find a story in pre-apocalyptic Iowa in the 80’s and 90’s.
So, what is the theme that I can wrap this warped wooden bowl of advice-fish up in so that you can take it home and feed it to your children (by which I mean your own writing)? Well, my best advice is to never take advice from Mickey. He is sarcastic and ironic and usually joking, so he rarely means whatever he says. After all, he wrote one of the best essays of his life yesterday, and practically nobody has read it yet. But I am also saying you don’t have to go it alone. There is a whole world of us out there, and even the dead ones count. Use what you learn from others to help you get the necessary work done. So, find that unused steam engine, fire it up, and start chugging away at the next surprise best seller, or at least the book that most pleases you yourself to write.
Last night I watched the movie version of Jersey Boys the musical. It touched me deeply. And the band was asked to each answer the question,
“What was your best year as a member of the Four Seasons, your peak year?” Frankie Valli’s answer got me thinking about the answer to that question as it applies to who I am and what was the peak year of my career.
Now, I can’t deny that, having been a successful public school teacher who loved teaching for more than 30 years, there were a number of very successful years I could point to. But scoring well on State writing tests and reading tests despite teaching in a poor rural school district in South Texas, nor competing in the Odyssey of the Mind creativity contest with my gifted students were really what I would call my peak year. That honor has to go to the year I was twelve (for most of the year), 1969,
That was the year that men walked on the moon. I had followed the whole thing for several years, since Mom and Dad had gotten me excited about space by trying to spot John Glenn in his Mercury capsule crossing the blue sky in our back yard. I had watched religiously as Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra told us on CBS about Mercury and Gemini and finally Apollo.
It made me believe in myself and the power of people for the first time since the tornado and the sexual assault from 1966 had toppled my world.
I had numerous self-confidence issues after 1966. I really, deep down, blamed myself for what happened to me. I was convinced that I was worthless and evil. But watching Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon on that late July evening made me yearn to reshape the world the way he did, even if I could only do it in a much smaller way.
’69 was the “Summer of Love” in more than one way for me. I wasn’t really able to think about myself as a virgin in ’69 for… reasons. But it was the summer that I got to see a girl who wasn’t my sister naked because she wanted me to see her. We were not able to actually do what both of us wanted to do, and my double-clutching at the last moment destroyed any chance of her ever even talking to me again for the rest of my life, but it proved that I was at least desirable to girls. And music from that moment on began to underscore everything in my life. She had “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies playing in her bedroom. And the same song was playing again at the roller rink in Lake Cornelia the night she refused to do the couple’s skate with me, and I asked Leslie instead. Leslie accepted. I was not a monster made from the horror of ’66. i proved that to myself to the beat of “Sugar Sugar”.
And, of course, even though I was a Cardinals fan, the New York Mets proved to me that year that the impossible can happen. Of course, I rooted for the Orioles. You know, a team with a bird for a mascot.
But 1969 was also a year of big decision for me. I already knew at that point that I was destined to be a storyteller. But that was the year of the My Lai massacre. I remember looking at the photos in Life and Look magazines of the dead bodies of women and children, killed by American bullets. I could not, at that point, stomach the idea of going to war after turning 18, a possibility that became very real to me that year.
It was the year I made up my mind I would never kill anyone in my lifetime, never pick up a gun to harm others, or be a part of any such atrocity. I still have great respect for soldiers and what they do, but if I had been there, I would’ve been moved to lay down my weapon and stand with the victims in front of the machine guns. They would’ve had to kill me too. And I was determined to go to jail sooner than fight in the war. Luckily, that was never put to the test. The war ended in 1975, before I graduated high school.
The peak year was not for me a year of great personal success or wealth or accomplishment. 1969 was the year I chose who I was going to be in life. The year of decision. The year that brought me all the way through from there to now. It was 50 years ago. It was the year I was 12.
I am now actually pursuing a return to the classroom. Even worse news… I am seriously looking at returning to the campuses where they pursue calming of the hormones in the monkey years, grades 6 through 8.
Yes, I have foolishly applied to become a substitute teacher for Carrollton-Farmers Branch School District. So, in this essay, I intend to successfully talk myself into a final adventure in bunny wrangling.
It is fairly obvious, if you look at today’s Paffooney, that Reluctant Rabbit is me. I am the wackadoo with the big pencil, whether I am in full carrot-eating mode or not. Absolutely necessary now is earning extra money, since life is only going to get more expensive now that I am permanently on a fixed income. And Uber driving is only going to get me killed now that the fees have gone down and the expenses have gone up. Too much driving in heat and Dallas traffic is wearing away my limited health points indicated by the red bar that floats above my head. And yes, I know that only happens in video games, but driving is like a video game, except you only have one life to lose in collisions.
And teaching is what I know best. I know I do not get the chance to get to know the kids like I did as a regular classroom bunny wrangler. But I still get to work with kids. And I don’t have to do lesson plans or grade papers. I do not have to work on days when I am too ill to cope. And I can make better pocket change each month than I can driving for less than slave wages.
So, I found the one person from the Garland district that knew me as a teacher and is still not dead, fired, or retired to give me a letter of reference, the one required to be a sub. The application is in. And there is a way-better-than-even chance that they will hire me. I have a lifetime teaching certificate. And schools around here are so desperate for subs that they kidnap drunks in back alleys to have enough of them to cover all the classes.
Now I must prepare myself for spitball and booger flinging, bizarre insults about my supposed rabbit ancestry, and ugly-face standoffs between hate-filled little bunnies. The monkey years. And Reluctant Rabbit has been away from them for too long.