Blind Mumbling

A compilation of writings that never got anyone excited.

Location: N. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, United States

Former teacher, co-editor of Total Football and the author of more than 20 books and over 200 articles, most about sports history. His credits include Pro Football: When the Grass Was Real, The Hidden Game of Football (with John Thorn and Pete Palmer), Baseball Between the Lies, The Importance of Napoleon, and the Battle of Stalingrad. He is presently Executive Director of the Pro Football Researchers Association.

Sunday, July 31, 2005


Turtles aren’t good pets. They can’t sit, and they don’t fetch. With that shell, they probably don’t even notice when you stroke them. You have to tip them up to get them to roll over, and even then, they’ll usually only go half way.

About the only way to have fun with a pet turtle is to put something in front of him and watch him crawl over it. That’s what Pokey and I did every day.

Pokey was about the size of my fist. He had a green top shell, a lighter green bottom shell, and green legs and head with blue and white stripes. I named him Pokey because that was the name of a turtle in a story Mrs. Rice, my beautiful, redhaired kindergarten teacher, read to us. The Pokey in the story talked. My Pokey just crawled.

When I’d got home from kindergarten, I’d take Pokey from his pan behind the kitchen door and carry him into the living room. I’d put a couple of pencils in front of him, and he’d start crawling over them. Once I tried a couple of my Lincoln Logs, but they were too big for him. Pencils were just right.

It was interesting. Pokey could be sitting in his pan with his head and legs all pulled in, but put him on the floor and he always crawled. I wondered if he was maybe trying to get back to his pan. It was designed just for him with a dry place and a wet place. It had a Lincoln Log under one end raising it so that there could be a little lake for him at the other end.

Pokey didn’t usually crawl in the direction of his pan, but I didn’t think that meant anything. He was little and could easily have been confused by the great distances between the kitchen door and the living room. And, to tell the truth, Pokey didn’t seem too smart anyway.

What he was was determined. He just kept crawling, pencil after pencil. Sometimes he would crawl so far across the living room that he was poised to go under the sofa. I couldn’t let him do that, of course, because my father would have had to move the furniture to get him out. So I’d pick up Pokey and bring him back to the center of the room. It didn’t faze him. He just started crawling again.

I told Mrs. Rice about Pokey and his pan. She said that was wonderful, but I should raise my hand before telling. Mrs. Rice was beautiful and the nicest person in the whole world. When I grew up, I was going to marry her until I found out what "Mrs." meant.

Kindergarten was only in the morning. In the afternoon, I usually played with Pokey, but one day, my mother told me to wait. My father was coming home for a late lunch. Because of his work schedule, my father almost never came home for lunch, so this was a great occasion. I decided I should do something special.

I told my mother my plan, and she said it was okay. When I heard my father on the kitchen porch, I hurried and hid behind the door. When he walked in, I jumped out and hollered "Boo!"

"Oh, my goodness," he said. "You sure scared me." We both laughed.

"Uh-oh," my mother said. She was looking at Pokey’s pan, and she wasn’t laughing.

Pokey was in the pan, his little legs moving like he was crawling, but he wasn’t going anywhere. All around where his top shell met the bottom shell was what looked like mashed potatoes. I knew what had happened immediately. While hiding behind the kitchen door, I had unknowingly stepped on Pokey. My father reached down, picked him up, and popped him into one of the brown bags he sometimes took to lunch.

I was already crying. "Will he die?" I asked.

"No," my father explained. "But he has to heal. To get well, he has to go swim in natural water, not city water like in his pan. I’ll take him out to Piedmont Lake." My father told my mother he’d have to skip lunch. Piedmont Lake was a long drive.

"Will that make him b-better?" I begged.

He smiled as he headed out the door. "You’ll probably see him next summer when we go fishing."

I decided not to tell Mrs. Rice what happened to Pokey. I didn’t want her to think I was careless.

As years went by, my life got in the way, and I pretty much forgot about Pokey. When I finally thought about him, the truth about that "healing in Piedmont Lake" stuff came through to me. I’d believed it at the time because I wanted to believe it – which is why most people believe things.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Being the New Kid is a bitch.

In May, just at the end of sixth grade, my family and I moved from the city to a rural hilltop outside another part of town. For seventh grade, I was sentenced to Warrick, a small school I had only dimly heard of. Warrick was fed by the only elementary school in that part of town. It was both a high school and a junior high containing grades seven through twelve. None of the classes had more than sixty-five kids. And, among those nearly four hundred students, I was the only one who didn’t know everyone else.

"You’ll make lots of new friends," my mother promised.

"I liked my old friends," I said. The early reports on new friends were not encouraging.

I knew exactly one kid. During the summer, I’d gone for an exploratory hike and met a kid my own age. Don was red-haired, red-eared, red-faced, and dull as a cow patty. He didn’t like baseball or football. He never read books, went to movies, or watched much television. Music didn’t interest him.

When I got home, my mother asked, "So what was this boy Dave -–"


"--- Don like?"

"All he did was pet his dog." It was a nice dog, but hardly nice enough to build a lasting relationship on.

For my first day at Warrick High School, I didn’t have to ride the school bus. My father dropped me off on his way to work. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw Don sitting on a little fence near the front door. When I walked up, he didn’t seem to remember me.

"Hi, Don."

"Oh, hi." He was just as red as I remembered.

A dark-haired kid standing next to Don, asked, "What’s your name, Kid?"

I hadn’t expected a question from the crowd. I looked at the dark-haired kid suspiciously. Why was he asking? Was it some trick? Should I answer? But in mulling it over, I waited too long.

"He don’t know his name!" another kid shouted.

Another voice: "Did you forget?"

Another: "He forgot his name!"

"Yeah! He forgot his name."

At this point I knew that I didn’t dare answer at all. I turned to walk away.

Then Don knifed me in the back. "His name is Humphrey!" he sneered, "Humphrey Pennyworth!"

People my age may remember that there was once a populat comic-strip character with that name. As I recall, the character was a terrific boxer, but Don wasn’t suggesting that I was a boxer or popular. He was alluding to Humphrey’s most obvious feature: he was enormously fat, easily 450 pounds.

I won’t say I wasn’t a tad chubby. Maybe more than a tad. But fat?

For the rest of the day, kids were walking up to me and asking my name. If I hesitated, they were convinced I did’t know it. If I actually told them my name, they seemed disappointed. One kid even said, "I thought you was Humphrey."

I had to do something.

That I’d become known as "The Kid Who Forgot His Own Name" didn’t really worry me. That would soon pass. Answer a couple of questions in class to demonstrate I wasn’t an idiot and the whole Forgot-His-Name thing would go away. But "Humphrey" could destroy me. It would become a permanent attachment. Everybody would know me as Humphrey. It would be printed on my diploma. What could I do?

By the afternoon, I was frantic. And then I remembered The Name.

Back in sixth grade, my old friends and I had spent a fun afternoon inventing the silliest names we could think of. The winner was long, it was funny, and we’d memorized it. During the last class of the day, I went over The Name several times in my head to make sure I could fire it off without a hitch.

After the final bell, those of us who were taking the school bus home gathered in front of the school to wait for it. Sure enough, one of the big kids sidled up to me with an expectant smile. "What’s your name, Kid?"

"Atwater Beauregard Van Hornblowdrinkwhiskeysnootfulsnobsdelightpompoofnik the Third."

He blinked then asked me to repeat it. I did. He called a couple of his friends over. "Listen to this. Tell ‘em your name, kid."

"Atwater Beauregard Van Hornblowdrinkwhiskeysnootfulsnobsdelightpompoofnik the Third."

And that changed it all. No longer was I being asked my name so I could be laughed at. When they asked, they were begging to be entertained, even impressed. The Forgot-His-Name stuff ended there. Humphrey resurfaced a couple of times in the next years, but it too eventually disappeared.

I handled requests for the wonderful name as long as I was at Warrick. When other kids tried to learn it, I always said it too quickly for them to memorize, and they would give up. Requests dwindled down to a few a year, but to the end, I was famous in the school as "Tubby, the Kid with the Great Name."

I’ll explain about the "Tubby" later.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Poker is the hip new sport
On TV and the web.
Knowing when to hold or fold
Can make you a celeb.

I’ve heard a lot of college kids
Play poker on the net.
They’ll soon be writing home to Dad
To cover their last bet.

I’d like to be a poker star,
But now I have to wait
Until I’m certain if or when
A flush will beat a straight.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Because we’d not yet been civilized by the disciplined drudgery of kindergarten, Robbie and I were free to enjoy our playtime doing what we wanted to do – fight wars with our toy soldiers. Our battlfield was a grubby flower bed with a few weedish green things still peeking through the dirt. At one end was the stump of a small tree.

One morning I captured Robbie’s machinegunner, his favorite. A soldier could only be captured if you moved within a strictly measured distance of no more than almost about a foot. As soon as I called the capture, Robbie yelled, "No, you’re not close enough."

"Yes, I was," I insisted, thereby proving him wrong.

"No, you weren’t!" he countered brilliantly.

"Yes, I was," I responded craftily. We went back and forth, illustrating our certainty by getting louder. Robbie was sitting next to the tree stump. Suddenly he reached down, scooped up a handful of battlefield, and popped it into his mouth. Then he chewed and swallowed.

"You ate dirt," I said. In all my whole life, I’d never seen anyone eat dirt.

"Now it's your turn," he said.

"I don't want to."

When he smiled, the dirt made his teeth look like they needed drilled. "You have to." I shook my head. "Then," Robbie said with perfect logic, "I get my machine gunner back."

Dirt tasted dry and worse than Brussels sprouts. A couple of minutes later, Robbie won the war. Among his prisoners was my favorite, a cowboy toting a six-gun. We gave our soldiers back, except Robbie got to keep one because he'd won. He chose my rifleman, and we started to get ready for another war.

"I want to be by the tree this time," I said.

"You can next time."

This war I was very careful. I moved my men only to places where they couldn't be captured. Pretty soon I had almost twice as many of Robbie's soldiers. All he had left were his bazookaman, his handgrenade thrower, and his machinegunner. Then he ate another fistfull of dirt.

"Go ahead," he said. "Fair’s fair."

I did, but this time I REALLY didn't want to. Right away, I started to feel funny, so I said I was going in my house for a drink. I went straight to our bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up. After a while I knew I wasn't going to so I washed my face and slurped some water from the faucet. My mother always says, "Use a glass," but it's colder from the faucet.

I walked back out through the kitchen where my mother was fixing lunch. "Are you all right?" she asked.

I told her I was.

"Let me feel your head." She put her palm on my forehead.

"What's Pokey having for lunch?" I asked. Pokey was my pet turtle.

She got me a piece of luncheon meat to tear up and give to him. He was sitting beside his rock with his head pulled in, and he didn't seem much interested when I dropped the pieces of meat right by his face.

"Do you think Pokey's sick?" I asked my mother.

"I wish you'd worry about yourself as much as you worry about that turtle. Put on a sweater if you're going out again."

"Maybe he's been eating dirt," I said.

As I went out the door, she called, "When your father gets home, I want him to have a look at you."

Back at the battlefield, Robbie told me he'd won. "I got tired of waiting for you," he said. He had all my soldiers piled up by his headquarters.

"This time," I said, "I get to be by the tree."

"Next time," he said.

"You said `this time!'"

Robbie looked at me. There were little pouty bulges around his mouth. "All right," he said like it wasn't all right. Then he turned to my pile of soldiers. "Now, which one do I get?" he said. "I think I'll take this one!" And he reached down and picked up my cowboy.

"You're not allowed to take favorites!" I said.

"I'm going to take him," Robbie leered, "and then I'm going to shoot him!"

My stomach began to feel worse than it did when I ate dirt. I walked up close to Robbie. I didn't want to lose my cowboy, but more than that, I didn't want Robbie to take him. My fists were doubled, but I didn't yell. "Put him down," I said.

Robbie knew I meant it. I put my face right down against his, and I knew he was trying to decide what I'd do if he kept my cowboy. "One," I said. "Two."

"Ahh, who wants him anyway?" Robbie said, throwing the cowboy down in the dirt.

I wiped the dirt off the cowboy. He was all right.

"I've got to go take my nap," Robbie said. He always took a nap in the middle of the day, but only after his mother called him. She hadn't called him this time. I told him that.

"I don't want to play with you anymore," he said. "You're a dummy. You ate dirt."

"So did you."

"No I didn't. I only pretended to. But you really ate it, and I'm gonna tell!"

Robbie ran off but to his own house. I put all my soldiers back in their shoe box. I put the cowboy on top.

My mother was setting plates on the kitchen table. "Go wash," she said. "Lunch will be ready in a bit."

I hoped Robbie wouldn't tell that I ate dirt. Maybe he wouldn't.

Friday, July 15, 2005


The reason I don’t brag much about the night I knocked out two people is that one of them was Sue, my fiancee. That night I was working off my summer vacation at Stand B in Chippewa Lake Amusement Park. The hours were long, but the work was easy on the brain. All we sold was one kind of beer, four kinds of soda pop, and coffee. Beer was a buck; pop was fifty cents, and coffee was a quarter. By the second week, I could have done it in my sleep.

"Here you go, sir. That’ll be two-fifty."

No. By the second week, I was doing it in my sleep.

I was there because of Sue’s mother. Every summer she left her home and drove seventy miles up to Chippewa Lake where she tended a soft ice-cream stand until Labor Day. From the time Sue was old enough to make change, she went along to assist.

All spring I fretted over the prospect of not seeing Sue for a whole summer. That was bad enough. Worse was when I learned that Georgie, one of her ex-boyfriends, also worked in the park running a ride. Of course, she told me that it was all over between them and they were just friends now. And, of course, I believed her. But . . . .

The thing was, I didn’t know him. I’d be home all summer feeling lonesome while he’d be there in that romantic amusement park. He’d probably offer her a free ride on the Doodle-Bug, and then one thing would lead to another.

I had to be at that park!

Sue’s mother put in a good word with the park owner. I was hired to be one of the bar tenders at Stand B. I had the right qualifications. I was breathing.

The first day I was at Stand B, Georgie the ex came by to introduce himself. He was tall, well-built, and more cute than handsome. His smile knocked the cobwebs out of the corners of the room. I swear he had "Nice Guy" stamped on his forehead.

Georgie and I shook hands. He nodded to the bored blonde holding his other hand. "This is Louise, my fiancee," he said.

A great weight lifted. I was short, chubby, and neither cute nor handsome. My smile made orthodontists cringe. So what? Georgie had a fiancee. Scratch one ex-boyfriend!

"We’ll have to double-date sometime," I said.

Life at Chippewa Lake fell into a routine. At eleven o’clock in the morning, I’d go to Stand B and help fill the bins with soda pop and beer and cover it all with ice. At noon the park opened. After that I went on automatic, shoveling out beer and soda to the crowds that were sometimes three-deep at the bar. At midnight, the park closed. By ten after twelve, Sue, I, most of the younger crowd, and all the serious drinkers were at Chippers, a town bar that stayed open late.

One night in late June, we closed Stand B early. We’d sprung a leak in a pipe and water was spraying all over the front of the bar. The customers headed for Stand A. There were a lot of handles and spigots under the bins, but we finally found the one to turn off the water. By then everything was soaked. It had been a slow Tuesday anyway, and the plumber said he couldn’t get there until morning. By ten o’clock, I was in the bar waiting for Sue.

What happened next was her mother’s fault. If she hadn’t kept Sue working until the park closed, I’d have had her to talk to. And if I’d been talking to Sue, I wouldn’t have been drinking – at least not as much. When she got there, I stood up and almost tipped over the table. That was my first clue that I’d maybe had a bit too much. The second clue was when I said, "Hi, Sweery, glajou make it."

"Sweery?" she asked.

"I getchoo a coke," I said smoothly. At the bar I ordered a beer and a coke. I lifted my foot to place it nonchalantly on the rail in front to the bar. Odd, the rail was higher than I remembered it. I just grazed it with my toe. Nonchalantly, I brought my foot down. Nonchalantly, I tipped over a spitoon.

Back at the table, I explained, "’Sweery’s a cross buhtween ‘Sweetie’ an’ ‘Dearie.’"

"The only thing crossed here is your eyes," Sue said. That happens when I drink too much. It would have been the fourth clue if I’d thought about it. Instead, I was too busy being drunk-clever.

"Well," I said, "you soun’ kinda cross. And my fingers’re crossed that you won’ stay mad."

She stared me down. "Dogs get mad," she said. "People get angry."

I was about to make a clever bon mot about star-crossed lovers, but her attention went to someone standing beside her chair. "I’d love to," she said and rose. As they walked out on the floor, I saw that her dance partner was Georgie.

It was a slow dance!

I looked wildly around the room. Georgie’s fiancee Louise was nowhere in sight. The cat’s away, I said to myself. Georgie and Sue were dancing too close together. I could see that. Everyone could see it. Was Georgie laughing? What had Sue said about me? Now they were both laughing.

The song ended, but they didn’t leave the floor. Another slow dance came on the juke box, and they moved into another clinch. This was insufferable! They were holding each other even closer this time!

I was out on the floor. I grabbed Georgie’s shoulder with my left hand and whirled him around as I swung on him with my right. It was a fearsome blow but Georgie saw it coming and pulled his chin back. My iron fist glanced off his shoulder.

Hands grabbed me, pulling me backward, away from my prey. I twisted out of their grasp and stomped to the bar. With one foot on the rail, I ordered a beer. A guy I knew who worked at Stand A came up beside me. "You okay?" he asked.

"Tell Georgie I’ll meet him outside," I snarled.

"They just carried him out. I don’t think he’ll be fighting anymore tonight."

Holy smoke! One punch! I hadn’t realized my strength. One right hand to the shoulder and it’s a knockout! Maybe beer increased my strength. More likely Georgie had a glass shoulder.

"Are you stark, staring insane?" Sue was behind me. "What is the matter with you?"

I mumbled that they’d been dancing too close.


The way it was supposed to happen – the way I pictured it in my mind – was this. I’d whirl around to face her, riveting her with an accusatory glare. I’d snarl, "You were dancing too close!" And she, suddenly realizing the error of her ways, would dissolve in tears and beg my forgiveness. That’s the way I planned it.

I hadn’t allowed for her not being directly behind me. Instead she was more to my left and leaning in. Meanwhile, my elbows were on the bar. When I whirled, my left elbow stayed up. Her chin stayed in. There was a sudden, regrettable meeting as she parried my elbow with her chin. She was flat on the floor.

I was suddenly cold sober.

By Labor Day, I was still apologizing. I think Sue finally believed me that her kayo had been a pure accident. In a way, so was Georgie’s. When friends pulled me back, my foot shot out to uppercut him in a place where no man ever wants to be uppercutted. He didn’t even remember my mighty smash to his shoulder.

Sue doesn’t remember either. Years later, I mentioned the incident only to discover she had completely forgot. "You mean you don’t remember the night I knocked you out?"

"No-oo," she said suspiciously.

"Well, that’s good," I said quickly. "Cause it didn’t happen. I just made it up to test you."

That’s my story now, and I’m sticking to it.

Monday, July 11, 2005


The coward dies a thousand deaths, but none of them count unless they catch him.

Fellatio is a matter of taste.

Did anyone notice what last night’s Awareness Concert was for?

According to Ancient Egyptians, the god Osiris created himself by masturbation. He’s pictured as the smiling god with a hairy palm.

Why does every guy who gets hammered always try to get screwed?

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" gives new meaning to "stop and smell the compost pile."

Does he who lies down with fleas get up with a dog?

With my Viagra and the new pill against premature ejaculation, I’m looking forward to hot times with my blow-up doll.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth -- especially if you’re wearing an oat necklace.

Somehow the gila monster never really caught on at the petting zoo.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Every time I hear the phrase "Four score and seven years ago," my blood rises.

I’m still angry about how Abe Lincoln cost my team a football game. It was five decades ago back in eighth grade, but time doesn’t heal every wound – especially the ones you get in eighth grade. The loss wasn’t really Lincoln’s fault. It was Miss Grigg’s.

The eighth grade was the first time I’d had Miss Grigg for my English teacher. She started off well enough. She gave me a B-plus for the first grading period. I’d expected slightly higher, but it was no big deal. Miss Grigg wasn’t my favorite. She was humorless and imperiously brusque. In other words, she was a typical teacher.

What really counted with me was our eighth grade football team. I was the starting left guard. As we entered the second grading period at school, our team was undefeated through three games. Classes were just something to get through until I could go to football practice.

That’s why I was irked when Miss Grigg told us we had to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and recite it in front of the class. School was supposed to be answering questions and taking tests, not reciting some ancient speech! Not standing up in front of everybody and looking dumb!

I hated memorizing. It took a lot of hours, a lot of concentration, a lot of practice, and a lot of time away from football. This was very unfair. Instead of studying what came after "four score," I could have been memorizing who the left guard blocked on 22-Series-22, one of our best plays.

I rebelled. On Monday, Miss Grigg began taking volunteers to recite. By Thursday, only three of us had not stumbled through the Address – a kid who was waiting for his sixteenth birthday so he could quit school, a kid who was out most of the week with whooping cough, and me. Friday the whooping cough kid said the Address.

I had figured out that saying the Address was only one grade. By refusing to learn it, I could make my protest against memorizing. Then I could make up for the F and keep my B-plus by acing the tests and handing in all my homework. If it really became necessary, I might answer a few more questions in class during the coming weeks.

That Friday was an important day. After school, our whole team was to get on a bus and go to our first "away" game. The coach said our opponents were strong, but we were stronger. When I went to the locker room to get my helmet, pads, and uniform, the coach told me I couldn’t play. I couldn’t even get on the bus. I was failing English!

I caught up with Miss Grigg just as she was leaving her classroom. "How can I be failing when I have a B-plus average?" I inquired politely at the top of my lungs.

She told me that I did not have a B-plus average for the second grading period. The only grade I had for that period was an F. My measured and considered response was, "That’s not fair!" When the logic of that didn’t change her mind, I told her I’d say the Address right then.

"You have to do it in class," she said. "Monday."

When the team returned a couple of hours later, I learned that we had lost 6-0 on a touchdown scored through left guard – my position. Most of the guys blamed me. Needless to say, on Monday, I recited The Gettysburg Address without a hitch.

It’s important to grow with each experience. Looking back, I realize that the incident taught me one of Life’s great lessons: Don’t mess with Abe Lincoln or Miss Grigg!

Monday, July 04, 2005


My grandfather owned a wholesale candy store which made my friends envious. They assumed I could eat all the candy I wanted for free. That wasn’t so. I had to pay for every gum drop and candy bar lest some store owner be cheated when he bought the box. You don’t make happy customers that way. When I wanted a Clark Bar, I had to put the money in the empty space left by the absent bar. A grocer would open his box of 24 Clark Bars and discover 23 bars and a couple of coins.

My grandfather was in his seventies, but he still "worked" by going to the store every day and sleeping in his office.

My father did almost all the work. He’d spend a day driving around town going from customer to customer, getting their orders. The next day, he’d make up the stacks of Sugar Daddys, Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum, Oh Henry’s, and other nourishing treats. A lot of times, he had to go back after dinner to finish up. And on the third day, he’d pile the candy in a truck and deliver it to candy-sellers -- mostly mom-and-pop grocery stores – around town.

When I got older, I began going to the store in the evening to help my father get candy orders ready for delivery. In the summer, when my father was out getting orders or delivering, I store-sat so my grandfather could sleep. Once in a while a customer phoned in an emergency order: "Help! More Milky Ways!" By the end of the day I’d usually finished all the three-letter words in the newspaper’s crossword.

For my help, my father would always slip me a few dollars on Saturday. That became particularly useful once I started dating.

Sue was an attractive brunette with a good figure and a better mind. She had me in her pocket almost from the day we met. Alas, the course of true love never runs smooth.

One summer day, she and I had one of those you’re-so-pigheaded-I’ll never-speak-to-you-again arguments. I don’t remember what it was about, but I knew I was right, and I was sure that by the next day she’d figure out how right I was and apologize.

But when I called, her mother said, "Sue won’t come to the phone." I asked if she was sick. "I didn’t say ‘can’t,’" her mother explained. "I said ‘won’t.’"

She wouldn’t talk to me the next day either. Or the day after that. Women are unreliable; you can never depend on them to not do what they say they will. When Sue still wouldn’t speak to me the day after that, I knew I’d have to get drastic and do something nice.

So there I was sitting next to the Hershey Bars trying to think of something nice I could do to get Sue to talk to me. Suddenly, inspiration struck.

I went to the back of the store where we had piled a dozen leftover Valentine hearts put out by a fine manufacturer of chocolates. I picked out the prettiest – a big pink-and-blue glory that needed only the dust brushed off the cellophane to soften the hardest real heart. I wrapped and addressed it. Fortunately, I only had to pay the wholesale price, so I slipped five dollars into the cash register. Then I left the store long enough to mail my heart to Sue. Valentine’s Day in July! How could she resist?

The next day at the store I waited for the phone to ring. She was certain to call. When she saw that heart, she’d probably cry. Neat!

My father was on his way out the door on yet another mission to sell candy when he paused. "Why don’t you clean up a little around here?" he ordered. "And throw out all that junk on the back shelves."

"All those great valentine hearts?"

He laughed. "Hell, they’re five or six years old. We sure can’t sell them."

I didn’t know the hearts were that old! Chocolate sitting for five years -- even chocolate wrapped in cellophane -- was not likely to be at all appetizing. In panic, I started for the back of the store. The phone rang.
I can still hear Sue scream, "Wormy candy? You sent me green, wormy candy!"

I should have sent flowers. You can always tell when they’ve expired.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Hal Lusenate: has weird dreams
Molly Coddled: pampered, over-protected weakling
Rose Kollerglas: optimist
Mal O’Dorous: a real stinker
Abner Mall: strange person who doesn’t fit in
Kerry Uhgunn: NRA member
Ty Lucends: finishes well
Dianne Nightly: unfunny comedienne
Ben Bizzy: he never gets back to you
Lou Neetunes: eccentric
Nan D’Nominational: agnostic
Rosa Mongthorns: better than her buddies
Perce Snatcher: sneaky, minor criminal
Scarlet Billows: Mac the Knife’s friend who is beginning to show signs of middle age
Buck Stoptear: found guilty of corporate fraud; sentenced to ten years
Frau Duelent: fake Munich housewife
Sammy Salsa: saucy outfielder
Emile Onnabunn: citizen of Hamburg
Sam Perphigh: U.S. Marine
Will Dew: ever obedient
Fisher Kuttbate: decision maker
Hal Hidymoon: NASA technician
Raymond Bore: actor famous for playing successful but extremely dull TV lawyer.
Rob Peters: always pays Pauls
Hal Nalbrunkal: speech therapist
Tilly Pathek: call girl who always knows just what her customers want
Reggie Sterdbreed: snob
Halle Tosis: beautiful girl but surprisingly unpopular
Beryl O’Maunkees: more fun than almost anything
Rosa Perks: woman who insisted on riding in the front of the company limo
Hardy Harhar: great sense of humor
Larry Etahdogie: cowboy with a huge appetite
Del Lusion: not what he appears to be
Toy l’Twatter: smells surprisingly nice
Earl Lee Byrd: owns a worm farm
Hank O’Hare: hirsute cross-dresser
Skip Toumalew: square dancer
Si Fiesigh: enjoys stories about aliens
Hi Fiesigh: his brother the music lover
Barney Stone: kissable flatterer
Stacy Diztance: unswervingly determined
Buz Werd: famed for rousing oratory
Polly Wollydoodle: off to Lou’siana to see Susy Anna and singin’ all the day
Mona Loa: Miss Hula of 1996
Fidele Wylromeburns: musical arsonist
Russell Kattle: hanged
Curt Tanser: unfriendly conversationalist
Angie O’Plastey: heart surgeon [contributed by Mark Ford]
Patty O’Furniture: prefers to sit outside [contributed by Mark Ford]
Mark Ford: identifies places to cross streams