Monthly Archives: October 2022


Paraprosdokian: A figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase [or series = anticlimax] is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe the first part. . . . For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. An especially clever paraprosdokian not only changes the meaning of an early phrase, but also plays on the double meaning of a particular word.(1)

“I went to Alabama with a bandaid on my knee. Oh bananas don’t you peel for me. I’m goin’ to Alabama with a bandaid on my knee.” I was no Henny Youngman. My one-liners were like air-liners falling from the sky. They weren’t funny. I had just turned 16 and I couldn’t get a laugh.

Every since I was a little kid I had been doing stand-up. My house’s falling down garage had a broken out window that I’d stand behind like it was a TV screen and unload my jokes. There was a swing next to the garage, so in summer I always had an audience. But, as soon as I started my routine everybody left, except for Ginger Topsham. She sat on the ground sucking on a Tootsie-Pop and laughing at everything I said, including “Why are you still here?” She would laugh and say “Because you are Johnny.” She had black eyes, black hair and a black cat named Ernest—after Ernest Hemingway the famous writer. I didn’t know where she lived. She just showed up one day and joined the gang. I was grateful for her willingness to listen to my drivel.

One late afternoon, after my show, Ginger told me she knew somebody who could make me funnier. She told me if we could meet at my garage at 11:00 pm she would introduce me. I didn’t hesitate to say “Yes,” thinking it was a ruse on Ginger’s part, to give her a chance to kiss me. I went home and had a bath, deodorized my armpits, loaded my hair with Brylcreem, brushed my teeth twice, hit my breath with Listerine, and patted some Canoe on my cheeks. I was ready for anything.

I got to the garage 15 minutes early. I paced around in a circle. Then, I felt a light breeze. It was Ginger! She was holding a lit candle. “What’s that you’re wearing?” I asked. “It’s a toga,” she answered and started walking toward me. Her toga was the most beautiful shade of purple that I had ever seen. All of a sudden a smiling face popped up behind Ginger’s shoulder. He stepped out from behind her and said “Good evening” in an accent that sounded vaguely like the Latin I had learned in church. He was wearing a white toga, he told me his name was Lucian, and that he came from far away and long ago, and Ginger was related to him. “There is nothing I will teach you here tonight. I know that’s not funny to hear, like ‘Bisquick!, your pants are on fire,’ a joke that no longer raises laughter. You must watch Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, to find a voice and direction for your humor. I went after the corrupt, lying, jerk Alexander and used my humor to tear him apart. You must take up that spirit, using comedy as a sword to slice corrupt politicians and their constricting social morays to bits.”

I became an unforgiving, unrelenting mocker, slashing my way through political injustices and social taboos with humor. I developed a local following and made my garage into a comedy club called “Funnies.” When we turned 18, Ginger and I got married. Now I could do wife jokes. Ha ha! Just kidding. In lieu of a groom’s speech, I did a take-down of George Wallace that got heavy laughs and long applause.

Then, the next night, “The Citizens for Decency” burned Funnies to the ground (I couldn’t prove it). That’s when we discovered how few friends we actually had. We decided to open our wedding gifts to find same solace. Ginger’s parents had given us a plane ticket to Rome, mine had given us matching flashlights. My big brother and his wife gave us a cast iron skillet. We were surprised to see a gift from Lucian. It was a metal detector, with a note in Latin (translated by Ginger) that said “sweep your yard.” I thought it was some kind of trick, or joke. But, the next day I bought some batteries for the metal detector and started plodding around the yard. Suddenly, it started beeping and going crazy. I dug into the ground under where it went off and saw what looked like a treasure chest. “What a cliche,” I thought as I tried to lift it. It must’ve weighed fifty pounds! When I got it out of the ground, I broke the old rusted lock and opened it. It was filled with US gold coins from the mid-1800s, all in mint condition. The next day we had them appraised. They are worth $11,000,000, and that’s no joke.

1. “Paraprosdokian.” WikipediaThe Free Encyclopedia. 4 Jan 2008, 03:30 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 Jan 2008 <>.

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Paregmenon (pa-reg’-men-on): A general term for the repetition of a word or its cognates in a short sentence. Often, but not always, polyptoton.

“Hurry, hurry, I have to go!” Damn, it was my wife. There I was sitting on our one and only toilet. Relaxed. Reading the latest issue of Popular Mechanics. I had hit on an article about drilling for oil in my own back yard. But now, I slammed the magazine shut, cleaned my butt, flushed, and opened the door. My wife almost knocked me down heading for the toilet yelling “Get the “F” out of my way, goddamnit!” She has a copy of People Magazine in her hand. Soon I’d be hearing about all the useless bullshit that goes on in Hollyworld—perverts getting divorced, new celebrity hair styles—a total waste of paper.

After living four years in our tiny two-bedroom house, with two people and one bathroom, I decided it was time for a change. It was crazy, but I was going to have a toilet installed in every room in the house—bedrooms, kitchen, living room. nobody would ever have to wait again, and nobody would be kicked off the toilet again in the middle of a literary moment. I needed to find a professional toilet installer to do the job.

I settled on “Royal Flush,” an upscale toilet installation service, owned and operated by Michael Drainoli. We went to high school together. He was big and strong, and a bully. He was disciplined for sticking weaker kids’ heads in the boys room toilet, and also, blowing up toilets with cherry bombs. When he graduated, he still 432 hours of detention left. As a condition of his graduation, he had to agree to serve out his time. It took him a little over a year, but he did it. The day he finished, “in celebration” he tried to stick the Principal’s head in a toilet. The Principal’s Secretary called 911 and Michael was arrested and convicted of assault. He was sentenced to two years probation, with community service, cleaning toilets in the Town Park, and other public buildings’ restrooms. That’s when he started “Royal Flush.” With his criminal record affecting his ability to get a job, and his experience with toilets, Michael started his own toilet installation, restoration, and maintenance business.

Now, he was preparing to install four stand-alone toilets in my house. They will not be cloistered in closets, making poopy-time a lonely vigil. No more locking the bathroom door out of fear—of being afraid of toilet-interruptus. And, from the outside, tentatively twisting the door knob, knocking, and calling out, and fearfully opening the bathroom door, dreading what may be going on behind it. No! There would be none of this in my house: you’ll just sit there with your pants down in the middle of the room, with nobody paying attention while you pee or make a plop, and if it so happens, some loud saxophone sounds with your butt.

Michael hauled four glistening white porcelain “ponies” into the living room. They were sleek and low-profile and very European. He had talked me into the bidet attachment, so toilet paper was a thing of the past. It was time to drill the inaugural hole in the living room floor and tie in water and sewer lines. He had a six-inch gasoline-powered auger. He pulled chord twice and it started. I said over the din, “How about there?” and pointed at the floor by the heating duct. He gave me the thumbs up, walked across the room, and started drilling.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion. Michael had hit the gas line. He was rolling around on the floor in flames and rolled over the spinning auger. It dug into him and got tangled in his shirt. Then, one of the toilets embedded in the ceiling by the blast came loose and landed on his head. I ran out of the house, singed pretty blandly. My beard, eyebrows, and hair were gone. Michael was killed by the falling toilet. I collected fire insurance and I’m building a three-bedroom house with three bathrooms lined up side-by-side upstairs, and one downstairs.

Sometimes I think about Micheal’s death by falling toilet, and quietly laugh.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Pareuresis (par-yur-ee’-sis): To put forward a convincing excuse. [Shifting the blame.]

I was selling paper airplanes at the Meander Brook Mall. I had a cylinder-shaped stand that the mall had loaned me to use as a counter. Everybody else who was selling stuff in the galleria had a big red pushcart with wagon wheels, slanted display cases, and big light blue umbrellas, making it look like they were at a park, selling stuff to passers by. One guy was selling sticky notes in different colors and sizes. What would you use an 8X10 orange sticky note for? A suicide note?

The guy on the other side of me was selling battery-powered, rechargeable “universal” car jacks. They could also be plugged directly into your car’s former cigarette lighter—a nice touch. He had invented the electric car Jack after his wife had died of a heart attack jacking up their car. They had had a blowout on I-90 on their way to Albany, New York, to the New York State Museum. He told me his mechanic had noticed the bald tire, but had assured him it had another one-thousand miles on it, more than enough to get him to Albany and back to his little town in Central New York. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he turned a little angry as he said: “I never should have listened to that damn mechanic.” “But what about your wife?” I asked “Didn’t you know she had some kind of heart condition?” “It wasn’t my fault. She loved her Crisco Cakes and Lemon Puckers: one dozen per day. If I mentioned that she might want to quit them, or cut back, she would call me names like “Hitler” and throw her pink hair curlers at me, and then, eat a Crisco Cake with two hands.”

Then I noticed, some kid was wrapping his gum in one of my paper airplane sheets. I went back to my kiosk, and chased him away, but not before I made him unwrap his gum and give me back the paper, which was a little damp, but would dry out quickly. The name of my business was “Flying Paper.” I had a problem from time to time with people thinking I sold kites. But, as soon as they saw my display, they knew I was selling paper airplanes. I sold airplane paper—special ultralight—tissue paper lightly seasoned with organic mucilage glue that reduces the paper’s limpness, and gives it light weight stiffness. I also sell a little booklet titled “Bold Fold” that gives instructions on how to fold a variety of paper airplanes: from the “Migrating Goose,” to the “Fighting Falcon.” I also have this powder you can snort called “Diminuating Dust.” One snort, and it will make you tiny for fifteen minutes so you can take a ride on your own paper airplane. Get a loved-one to launch you, but make sure you have enough time. If you get big again while you’re ten feet up, it could kill you. I had gotten the dust when I was dealing drugs in the 80s. I was in the middle of the jungle in Bolivia looking for the Holy Grail of cocaine. I was laying on my back in my tent when I felt something pulling out my eyebrows. I sat up and a tiny man tumbled down my chest. He had a tiny dot of white powder on his fingertip. He shoved it in my nose and I felt like a contracting rubber band. I was tiny for fifteen minutes. Lucky for me, I was in my tent and there were no insects. I took 100 kilos back to the States. Customs had no idea what the powder was, so I had no trouble. I made the paper airplane connection on the way home. Flying toward New York was my inspiration. I had a vision of Tiny Me straddling a paper airplane, flying around my living room.

I have given the gift of flight to 100s of people with no major mishaps. The only downside is if you use the dust too much, you stay small. I have succumbed. When working at the mall, I wear a Big Man hydraulic shell with controls in the head. I look like I’m trying to be a robot, so the ruse works as an apparent attention-getting gimmick. Outside of work, I ride on a little saddle on my assistant’s shoulder. All I have to wear are Chelsea Boy Doll shorts, t-shirts, and trainers. In fact, my furniture and dinnerware are all from Barbie’s house. But, I have a tiny girlfriend named Shiela that is stuck tiny like me. In fact, there is a growing community of Tinys that is slowly organizing and demanding the same rights as Bigs.

I have to return to Bolivia next week to restock my supply of Diminuating Dust. Another 100 kilos should do the trick for another 20-30 years. I’ve hired a mother and daughter to pack me in their carry-on luggage, where I’ll pose as Barbie’s Chelsea Boy “friend” with the brunette hair. As long as I stay stiff and keep my eyes open, I’m good to go.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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Paroemia (pa-ri’-mi-a): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, gnome, maxim, proverb, and sententia.

My father told me when I was very young “Change your own diaper.” That’s all he said and left the room. In fact, he left our apartment and never came back. He had thrown my clean diaper at me. It was soft so it didn’t injure me when it hit me in the head. I knew I should’ve been potty trained by then, but I was intimidated by the chair with a porcelain pot under it, so I just kept filling my diaper with almost religious faith that somebody would change me—usually my mother, but sometimes my sister, or even the neighbor.

Soon after my seventh birthday, my mother took me to a professional potty trainer, Dr. Kakakowski. In his office he had a collection of potties dating back to the Civil War. He thought the difference between the North’s and the South’s potties held the key to the outcome of the conflict. The North’s potties were stark, unvarnished wooden seats with straight hard metal backs. No arm rests, a small plop-hole and a lack of stability, rocking around and squeaking, motivating the dooty-doer to go, wipe with the provided piece of cardboard, and to get back to work or bed, as soon as possible. The South’s potties, on the other hand, were quite elaborate. The plantation owner’s children would look forward to settling in and “going to town.” The potties were modeled after thrones with high backs, covered in silk patterned with men with whips sitting on throne-potties smiling. The potties had plush armrests, foot stools, the seats were heated by specially made coal stoves, and in addition, the seats were covered with soft possum fur, trimmed from the belly.

Dr. Kakakowski believed the South lost the war due to its decadent potties. The South’s potties taught children (and later, adults) to linger needlessly. This would manifest itself during the war when Southern officers would routinely show up late for battles, leaving their troops leaderless, and susceptible to losing. In keeping with their fond potty-memories, many Southern men had adult-sized duplicates of their childhood potties installed in sheds adjacent to their mansions. This provided a key cause of battlefield tardiness. An Officer would get lost in a toilet-induced revery, forgetting the present and the future, and dreaming of good-potty times past. Without a leader, the waiting troops would be obliterated. Grant, for example, would take credit for the rout, when, in fact, it was potty training that made the difference between victory and defeat.

I was only 7, and I thought Dr. Kakakowski s Civil War theory was crazy. My mother thought he should have a Nobel Prize. He told me I had to stop going in a diaper, and advance to the next stage of development. Actually, I was old enough to use a toilet. If everything worked, I would skip potty training altogether, and advance to being a flusher, right away. Now, I remembered what my father had told me years ago: “Change your own diaper” had meaning that extended beyond the immediate call of a smelly poop-laden Pamper.

This is a life lesson, I thought. “Change your own diaper” is like “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Why hadn’t I seen it before? Why did I keep waiting to be changed? So, I tried changing my own diaper. I put down a towel on the floor, put a pack of wipes by it, and set a fresh pair of Big Boy Pampers on the other side of the towel. I am left-handed, so I was sure to put the wipes on the left-hand side. The time had come. I lifted my butt off the floor and with shaking hands pulled down my soiled diaper. I should’ve practiced with an empty, but now it was too late. The diaper was halfway down when my mother walked in. “Let me help you with that honey,” she said. I got really mad and threw the diaper at her. It hit her in the shoulder and two hard little turds rolled out and hit the floor with a thud. My mother was shocked.

I ran I out of the room, and out the front door of the house. Ironically, I was hit by the Dick’s Diaper Delivery Truck. As I lay there injured in the street, Dick jumped out of his truck and diapered me. I tore off the diaper and yelled “I’ll do it myself!” I put the diaper back on and stood up, but I was a little dizzy. After it was over, and the cuts and bruises healed, I became a no-diaper flusher. Finally, I was normal. Pooping. Peeing. Wiping. Flushing. Every once-in-awhile I wear a Big Boy Pamper on my head when I’m on the toilet. It is like a crown, and like a crown it represents power, glory, and sovereignty. Sometimes I wear my crown around the house to remind my mother that I can change my own diaper. (Metaphorically speaking)

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Paroemion (par-mi’-on): Alliteration taken to an extreme where nearly every word in a sentence begins with the same consonant. Sometimes, simply a synonym for alliteration or for homoeoprophoron [a stylistic vice].

I had joined a motorcycle gang called “The Alliterators.” We rode stock Honda 350s —all maroon and white. Home base was New Hampshire, so we never wore helmets—we could go all the way to Estcort Station, Maine with our crew cuts bristling in the wind and our gum rubber- soled desert boots gripping the motorcycles’ foot pegs. Our “club’s” colors are fairly simple: a 2” high red “Bee Bop Baby” outlined in white, emblazoned on an oval-shaped baby blue background bordered in black. “ALLITERATORS” is all-white and centered at the shoulder of the jacket in the shape of an arch. We are followers of Ernest Hemingway, to some extent. We believe in concise, to the point, no extra word-baggage prose. It gives your speech and writing, energy, effectiveness, and economy—three key terms emblazoned in Latin on the backs of our jackets below “Francestown, MC” near the jacket’s waistband.

In a way, we’re opposed to wordiness, but in another way, we favor it. After all, we are the “Alliterators,” and sometimes we employ “Paroemion” in our diatribes against the man: “Alliteration taken to an extreme where nearly every word in a sentence begins with the same consonant.” (e.g. Many mothers mysteriously made magical maple macaroons) It’s rad, but it is proportional to our intention: to employ a verbal machine gun blast at the FIC—the “Fascists in Charge” who make us sick—gagging on their spewing conjunctions, slowing the pace of decision making, making things seem more complex than they actually are, employing conjunction, after conjunction, after conjunction. For example, “In the beginning was the Town Meeting, and it was brief, and it was well-attended, and we argued, and we voted, and we went home, and we had a drink, and we went to bed, and there was darkness upon the bedroom, and we went to sleep.” A river of drivel.

Although our home base is Francestown, the “Alliterators” are spread across New Hampshire, teaching English Composition in elementary schools nearly everywhere. We feature alliteration in our instruction because it enables the youngsters to lay Moloch to waste with the staccato rush of slashing similar sounds—like a verbal sword slicing off his conjunction-bloated head: “Moloch! Mine enemy. Making death. Mocking truth. Moron. Macabre. Murderer.” Our brother gang “The Asyndetons,” joins us in our street fights with the “Polysyndetons,” the gang behind the heaped up conjunctions that weaken youths and muddle their minds. The Asyndetons are devoted, instead, to battling excessive use of conjunctions—to giving prose the hard and sharp edge it needs to rid the world of fluff and superfluity; that create the Angels of Death to sharply focused focused thinking. Together, the “Alliterators” and the “Asyndetons” hope to rid New Hampshire of its slow meandering prose, to retrieve the voice of the likes of Hercules Mooney: the great New Hampshire English Composition teacher and Revolutionary War General. He once yelled “British Bastards!” out of the window of the Laughing Clam Tavern. The alliteration caught on and spread across the Colonies as a call to arms. We look up to him. In a way, he’s the father of the “Alliterators.”

The “Alliterators” will have their annual rally in Francestown again next summer. A tradition dating back to the early 1800s when we had a much larger membership than we have now: we had teachers and parents collaborating together in the education of their children. We still award a trophy for the best alliteration in a 5-7 minute speech on a contemporary issue. Last year’s winning speech was “Lyme Disease Diary.” The kid who gave the speech used a wheelchair as a prop and cried at the end for failing to use DEET insect repellent, and using “Murphy’s Natural Lemon Eucalyptus Oil” instead. I was a little disappointed—it’s hard to believe a kid from New Hampshire wouldn’t use DEET. Aside from STDs, Lyme Disease is our most prevalent transmissible disease.

Oh damn—here come the “Polysyndetons.” They ride three-wheelers. The extra wheel symbolizes their excessive use of conjunctions. “Diabolical, douchebag, dimwits,” I yell. They respond: “We’re going to push over your Hondas, and dent them, and scratch their paint, and make you angry, and leave, and go back to Harvard! Ha ha!” I can’t let that happen to us. I look up “words that start with ‘j’”on my cellphone. “You jackanapes, juvenile, jackasses! “To jail!” That’s when the police arrived and surrounded the “Polysyndetons” and the Chief of police conferred with their leader: “You boys better get back to Massachusetts where you belong, or you’re headed for jail.” Then, in keeping with their love of superfluity, the “Polysyndetons” took the longest possible route out of town. I yelled “Perverted polecats” as the they circled the town square for the third time and finally headed out of town. It wasn’t my best alliteration, but I was glad I got it off while they were still in earshot. “Tremendous times” I yelled as I got on my Honda and headed home to work on tomorrow’s lesson plan.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Paromoiosis (par-o-moy-o’-sis): Parallelism of sound between the words of adjacent clauses whose lengths are equal or approximate to one another. The combination of isocolon and assonance.

Why does it seem stupid to ask what the meaning of life is? It isn’t that stupid to find a way to find a little bliss. You just start looking. You never give up. So, I went on the internet and Googled “bliss” in all caps. The top hit was a definition: perfect happiness; great joy. That’s what I expected. The second was a trash removal company in my zip code. The third was a “The Cosmic Bliss Institute” located physically in Union, New Jersey. They promise a “quick trip” to Nirvana at one low low price . Before I looked into Cosmic Bliss, I had to check out “Electric Angel.” She promised excitement followed by serenity from watching her “work” with her specially fitted shop tools, live, via webcam. I had to check this out. I’d visit Cosmic Bliss later.

I clicked on the link. The screen turned red, and there was the sound of an electric drill whirring loudly. Suddenly it stopped. Then there was the sound of a circular saw. “This is bizarre” I thought. Then, a disclaimer came on the screen requiring that I be a Social Security Recipient to join. The disclaimer also said: “Be advised, really crazy things happen here. If you are under 65 years of age, stay out!” Further, it said “25 minutes with the Electric Angel are $1000.00. Please enter your credit card information within 30 seconds, or you will be permanently banned from this site.” I entered my card information immediately.

Music started playing. It was slow and rich and clearly had an erotic intention. An overweight naked woman was dancing to the music, winding around like a big snake. She had a battery-powered electric drill in each hand. Each drill bit impaled a hot dog. There were two hot dog buns on the table in front of her. She flipped over the drills and slowly writhed toward the table, put the hot dogs in the buns, reversed the drills and withdrew the drill bits. She put down the drills and picked up the two hot dogs. I thought, “Ok, finally, here we go!” She threw the two hot dogs on the floor and kicked them away from her. “I paid $1000.00 for this? It’s total bullshit!”

Just then, the hot dogs exploded, giving off a beautiful cloud of shimmering rainbow colors, and I could smell a sweet perfume coming out of my computer’s keyboard. A genie materialized out of the haze. He was wearing a shiny golden suit and a black turban with a crow feather sticking out of it. He yelled, “Yes! This is bullshit. Turn off your computer and take a long walk.” He disappeared and the screen went blank.

So, I was going to take a walk—I was headed for the Cosmic Bliss Institute. It was a little over 1,000 miles from where I live. I made holsters for two electric drills. I got a sackcloth pullover, and all-leather sandals. I found a long gnarled tree branch in the woods by my house and made it into a staff. Last, I bought a giant water bottle. I was ready to become a prophet.

I got up at dawn and put a note on my door: “I am on a wisdom walk and won’t back for a year, if at all.” I decided to cut across the golf course to get started. I was run over by a golf cart. It broke my left leg and arm. Ever since, I have been wracking my brain to say something wise about what’s happened to me. There are tons of quotes I could use. My favorite is Winston Churchill: “You never can tell whether bad luck may not after all turn out to be good luck.” That’s pretty good, but it is a little too optimistic. Ok, anyway, here are my words of wisdom: “There isn’t a ‘few’ in future, it only sounds like there is.”

So much of life is like that: it sounds like it is, but it isn’t.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Paromologia (par-o-mo-lo’-gi-a): Conceding an argument, either jestingly and contemptuously, or to prove a more important point. A synonym for concessio.

There was a good reason to be a songwriter and performer—actually there were a bunch of good reasons—fame, adoring fans, millions of dollars, cool clothes, a mansion and a lot of other things. But for me, it was about winning back my wife, Trudy. She was very morally demanding. It started with the dog enjoying being scratched behind the ears. She said it was disgusting to do that with Bitty. I’d been scratching dogs behind the ears sine I was a little boy. I was shocked, but I stopped scratching Bitty. Then it was my pants. She said she was shocked by the bulge in the crotch. There was no bulge. Once again, I capitulated and started wearing baggy bib overhauls, two sizes too big.

I loved Trudy and wanted to keep the peace, but things escalated. She told me my teeth were too white and would attract sluts who wanted kiss them. She made me stop brushing my teeth and start chewing loose leaf tobacco. My teeth turned orange-brown and the tobacco made me dizzy. I almost fell down a couple of times. Then, she told me my body was too fit—I looked like a male whore, and it was dangerous—my work colleagues would be lining up for a cheap piece of me. Now, I was drinking a half-gallon of clotted cream, and eating one cup of Crisco, 1 pound of potato salad, six donuts, and 2 pounds of French fries every day. I gained 60 pounds and needed help putting on my shoes, getting out of my TV chair, and getting in and out of the car. We also got one of those seat things you can ride up and down the stairs on. I was too fat to make it up the stairs on my own, without a possible heart attack. “Look at me!” I thought. Can’t pet the dog! Brown teeth. Big baggy overhauls! Obese as hell! Home escalator! I was afraid to look in the mirror. I just couldn’t do it.

I needed to get back to who I used to be. I needed some time off from Trudy to reconstitute myself. When I told her the next day. “She went crazy” puts it mildly. “I know what you’re up to, you’ll go back to being the handsome, physically fit man I married. The sluts will swarm all over you, you’ll become an STD vector, you’ll pet dogs, and I’ll lose you forever—go slut man— spend your time between the sheets rolling and humping your life away. Pig!” I left. Trudy’s parents put her in a facility that promised to clear her of her madness—a sort of esteem thing that prompted her to make her lover as disgusting-looking as possible, so nobody else would want him, and also alienating him from his pets, so they wouldn’t like him either. Trudy gets out tomorrow. She’s supposed to be cured. In keeping with my emerging song lyric writer and musician interests, I’ve written something for our reunion tomorrow. I hope it will cement our marriage:

“Trudy baby, Trudy is your name. You almost killed me, but we know it was some kind of psycho game. You were such a nut to think I would replace you with a slut. But now you’re sane. Keep taking your medication and you won’t be crazy again. I love you and our dog Bitty too. Together, we are a family, oh Trudy-ooooh. I love you more than Bitty. Maybe we should trade him for a kitty. Oh Trudy-ooooh I love you. Oh Trudy-ooooh.”

Trudy hated the song, but she stuck around anyway. Clearly, it was the medication, not me, that kept her by my side. However, I did agree to wear a fat suit whenever I left the house.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Paronomasia (pa-ro-no-ma’-si-a): Using words that sound alike but that differ in meaning (punning).

My hart was running around in the back yard like he was back on his home turf. My heart went out to him, but I couldn’t let myself get too friendly. He was on the menu of the “Kills and Thrills Sportsmen’s Club’s” annual wild game banquet. Everybody had to bring wild game to eat. I was bringing my Hart’s hindquarters, once I killed him and cut him in half. At least I wasn’t as depraved as Joe Spicer, who had signed up to bring his daughter’s pet bunny Hoppy. Or, Joey Gilmer, who was bringing his son’s turtle Shelly. I didn’t think “pet” counted as “wild game.” But, even my Hart could count as a pet because he has been living in my backyard for six months. I had to build a huge fence to keep him from running away. I guess the possibility of him running away would make him wild. We live out in the country, so he’d probably be shot as a deer during deer season if he was out running loose.

Then, I started to think about what it would be like being a deer and being hunted during deer season? I would be a doe:

“I can tell it’s the opening of deer season. I live in a bucks only wildlife management area. Nevertheless, hunters can get doe permits, giving them permission shoot anterless deer. That’s me—antlerless. I knew the hunters were coming. There was a jam of pickup trucks on the road along the state land—where hunters hunted. I could also smell cigarette smoke, whiskey, coffee, and beer. To my deer nose it was like smelling death.

I started to retreat to the swamp. Most hunters were too lazy or ill-equipped to venture into the swamp. As I started to run, I remembered my fawn. She had been following me ever since she’d been born. She had lost her spots and looks like a small deer—not much bigger than a big dog. She is almost completely weaned, but still hits me up for a snack when we’re foraging for beech nuts in the woods.

As we make our way to the swamp, we cross paths with our first hunter. He’s an overweight beer-bellied man. He’s dressed in hunter orange from head to pants. His coat still has a price tag dangling from it. He is shaking. He is nervous. He puts down his Thermos cup, and puts his shiny new shotgun to his shoulder, and we run like hell. There’s no gunshot. The’s no ‘Boom!’ I looked back and saw he had forgotten to load his shotgun! With his shaking hands he almost couldn’t load his gun now. What a loser. But, he was rare—most hunters were ready to blow you away if you got anywhere near them. This was a big stroke of luck, but we continued to run anyway.

We kept going on to the swamp. We saw one of the herd’s old bucks coming toward us. He was limping and bleeding from his butt. He said, “I’m dying of thirst. I’ve got to get to the reservoir.” We took off again. I heard a loud thud and looked back. The old buck was down. A hunter had found him and was getting ready to shoot him in the head and finish him off. We ran. The swamp was nearby. We started crashing through the willows, and wading through knee deep water to the little island at the center of the swamp. I heard a shot! I looked back and I didn’t see my baby. I got back to the edge of the swamp and saw her dead body being dragged away by the overweight beer-bellied hunter—the one we had seen who had forgotten to load his gun.

I have no claws or sharp teeth. I am like a cow living in the woods. There was nothing I could do, except head back to the swamp’s center, lie down and wait for dark, when the hunters would leave woods.”

Wow, that sucked. A deer helpless to fight back. There was a time when hunting deer was a matter of survival, now it’s about having something yummy to eat with potatoes and gravy. And also, there’s the thrill of getting up while it is still dark and wandering around, or sitting, in the woods with a loaded weapon, waiting for dawn, looking for a deer to kill. I’m thinking of sending my Hart back to his native Iran where he can run free (wherever Hart run free in Iran). He probably won’t be better off, but a least he’ll be home. It’s going to cost a fortune to ship him. I was lucky to get him as a gift from my estranged wife. I have no idea where she got him for me, and I didn’t ask. Initially, I was going to whack him and invite my friends over to eat him. But, I named him Shah and started hugging him, letting him in the house every once-in-awhile, and teaching him tricks. I taught him to push a ball across the living room floor with his nose. I don’t know, maybe it’s just as well to bring him to the banquet and, after everybody’s eaten, let him impale few people with his antlers for “Just Desserts.”

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Parrhesia (par-rez’-i-a): Either to speak candidly or to ask forgiveness for so speaking. Sometimes considered a vice.

“I’ve got tell you this: you smell like somebody emptied a septic tank pumper truck on your head. I don’t understand how you can walk around smelling like you do, seeming not to notice it. Come on Ed, go home and take a shower or a bath, or walk through a car wash. It might change your life. I’m your last friend standing, and I’m going to check out if you don’t kill the stench, and soon.” Ed looked at me with tears of gratitude in his eyes. I didn’t understand. Ed said, “Oh my God, thank-you so much for the nose up. Ha ha. About one month ago, I lost my sense of smell. I went to the doctor and he couldn’t find a physical cause. I was sure there was. A week earlier, some weirdo had thrown an acorn squash at me at the community garden. The squash hit me in the forehead, and a couple of hours later, I lost me sense of smell. But my doctor refused to believe that a blow on the head by a thrown acorn squash would have sufficient force to affect my brain’s odor detection abilities. Accordingly, he decided it was all in my head—that I was subconsciously blotting out odors for purely psychological reasons. He speculated that my mother may have had bad breath making me feel like she didn’t love me—she wanted to push me away, or that I had an aversion to Brussels Sprouts. The list of Reasons is long, but they don’t ring true.

As we walked down the street, people held their noses and ran. One elderly woman vomited on the sidewalk. I had stuck two cigarette filters in my nostrils to block Ed’s nauseating smell, but they were leaking through a little. We made it to Ed’s house. He showered, and the stench subsided. As we talked, we determined that neither of us recognized the stench’s origin—it smelled ‘sort of like’ a lot of bad things—human shit, rotting flesh, sulphur farts, durian, and more—but it was none of these. We started to think that maybe some thing had stolen Ed’s sense of smell so he would be an unwitting vector for the “Thing’s” need to dispense his stench. Due to his loss of smell, Ed would’ve been unaware of his stench and puzzled by peoples’ reaction to his presence, while the “Thing” successfully stunk him up.

We decided to stake out the community garden. Chances were that the acorn squash throwing “creature” would strike again. It took a month, but it finally showed up. We had a net. When the stink-maker bent over to pick an acorn squash, we netted him. He didn’t even struggle. As he lay there he started to bubble—you could see it through his clothes—his old worn out overhauls and a beautiful tweed sports coat, and a pair of black Blundstones. He looked like he was starting to boil. Then, he blew a fart that lasted a full minute. You could see it! It was a light blue haze that was almost solid. It quickly blanketed the garden, and then, disappeared. Ed and I had prepared ourselves with Marlboro 27 filters up our noses. Everybody else in the garden ran, cursing, screaming, throwing clumps of dirt at me and Ed and the “Thing.”

“What the hell are you?” I asked. He tore off his human head, that looked a lot like Rudi Guilani. The ripped off head revealed a huge Praying Mantis head that had something approximating a human mouth near the bottom. “I am a Prank Bug. When the ice caps began to melt, I re-emerged. I crafted a man head from mud and moss so I could pass as human. I discovered my vocal chords when I said my first word: ‘Wow.’ I learned English from product labels at the grocery store. I learned to walk by wearing Blundstones and listening to the Four Seasons’ “Walk Like a Man,” first skittering, and then, pulling myself upright and marching around the kitchen wearing my earbuds and Blundstones. I am genetically programmed to make people stink without their knowledge. I fill the air with my mystery stink and throw an acorn squash. The mystery stink masks their sense of smell, and the blow on the head by the squash makes them believe it was that that took away their sense of smell. I am thoroughly entertained by giving them a horrible smell that they can’t smell. It is a prank! And I am a Prank Bug. Ha ha.” “This is totally insane,” I said, “Give Ed back his sense of smell—now!” The Prank Bug told Ed to take out his nose-filter, then, he blew another fart—smaller, softer, green. Ed yelled, “I can smell again!”

After Ed could smell again, we beat the Prank Bug to death. I used a rake. Ed used a hoe. It took about ten minutes to do him in. Right before he expired, a horde of baby Prank Bugs ran out of his overhauls legs. They were making squeaky little farts. Ed said, “They’re going to be Hell when they grow up.” I looked at Ed and said, “I think they already are. I can’t smell my after shave.”

We reported the Prank Bug episode to the police, they laughed, but we noticed there was one cop taking us seriously—he stunk and his colleagues were shunning him. He didn’t know why. “Classic Prank Bug,” I thought to myself. We took the cop to the garden to show him the body. It was gone. I put in my nose filters to have a closer look. I knelt down where we had left him. Suddenly, he sat up from a shallow grave. “Ha ha,” he laughed and blew a light blue mist at me. I started to metamorphosize. I was changing into a Prank Bug! The cop emptied his gun into the resurrected Prank Bug. Then, he reloaded and turned it toward me.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Pathopoeia ( path-o-poy’-a): A general term for speech that moves hearers emotionally, especially as the speaker attempts to elicit an emotional response by way of demonstrating his/her own feelings (exuscitatio). Melanchthon explains that this effect is achieved by making reference to any of a variety of pathetic circumstances: the time, one’s gender, age, location, etc.

There’s nothing like a picture of a kid on crutches to get them to stuff money in the donation jar! And the bigger the jar the better! You can fit $300 in one of these giant pickle jars. You gotta’ give your fund a name. “Timmy” is a really good name for the kid on the jar. It reminds the rubes of the kid on “Lassie” who should’ve been in a wheelchair. You can try “Timmy’s Legs,” but I’ve found “Timmy’s Withered Legs” or “Cripple Timmy” or “Poor Little Timmy” work much better to rake in the bucks. Make sure to stand by the jar looking bereft and making eye contact to pull people in. Even though Timmy is fake, and the picture is photoshopped, it is important to have a story to tearfully tell, in case somebody ask what’s wrong with him.

You can make up a fake medical condition like “Leggonomia,” or “Rigatony’s Disease,” or “Spindle Legs.” This will help confirm the rube’s confidence in what you’re pushing. But probably, the story is the clincher. Try this: “I love my little boy Timmy with all my heart, but his legs bring me great sadness. We would go for walks in the park and he started falling down. We loved family square dance night on Sundays at church and he started falling down. Then, he started falling down just walking across the living room. [start crying here] We took Timmy to the doctor, he ran tests and determined Timmy has Leggonomia, an incurable disease of the legs that leaves him only 2 more years to live. We hugged and cried when the doctor told us that. Now, we are raising money to pay for Timmy’s end of life care, preceded by a trip to Kew Garden in England. Timmy loves flowers and his kitty cat Blinker too. He loves me and his mom too. I read him his favorite bedtime story every night: “The Little Engine that Could.” He thinks he’s that little engine, but I know he isn’t [cry again].

The story’s a little long, but it usually pulls a fiver for the jar, and that’s what we’re looking for: a fiver for the jar. I ran the Timmy scam for ten years after I graduated from high school. All my friends went off to college and became brokers, and lawyers, government employees, and politicians, and everything you can think of. I’ve stuck with Timmy all these years, but I’ve been running into past donors too frequently lately. When they say, “Hey, he’s supposed to be dead” I say “Yes you’re right, but with expensive therapy, combined with new drugs, Timmy’s condition is holding. He’s miserable, but he’s alive, thanks to people like you.” That usually nets a fiver, and that’s what we’re after.

When I learned you don’t need to be dying in order to appeal to peoples’ pity as an incentive to forking over a fiver, I decided to be the “victim” myself. I wracked my brain for a malady or a kind of personal tragedy requiring cash. First, I tried the stolen bird nest collection. People laughed at me. Then I tried the brain injury from the Iraq war gambit. That was a non-starter. The VA has great free healthcare, which I found out on my first try, when my mark threatened to call the police. I finally hit on incontinence. I would wet my pants and hold out a styrofoam cup. I would say “Please give what you can so I can get my bladder corrected.” Then, one late Autumn afternoon, a guy walked up to me and asked in a low growl, “How’s Timmy, scumbag?” I was ready for this: “Dead.” I said. “Bullshit! We both know there was no Timmy—you know it, and l know it: You’re full of shit!” Anticipating this, I had had a small brass urn engraved “Beloved Timmy, 2010-2020” and had taken a picture of it that I carried with me. “Here, look at this,” I said to the angry skeptic. He looked. His face softened and he pulled out a fiver and stuffed in my cup. “Good luck with your bladder,” he said as he walked away.

I’m getting tired of peeing my pants for a living. I was thinking of shitting my pants instead, but that’s too messy. Instead, I’m going to ghost-write sob stories for people in trouble who’re guilty, but don’t want to take the blame. I will be a fake defense attorney. Timmy will be my guiding light. Poor Timmy.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Perclusio (per-clu’-si-o): A threat against someone, or something.

“If you don’t pay up, I’m gonna eat your eyeballs with a dull fork while you’re still alive.” That threat was one of my best. I’ve been in the threat-writing business for 12 years helping gangsters and other disgruntled people scare the shit out of other people—rival gang members, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, potential heirs, lovers, police, and for the psychopaths, random innocent strangers. My threat-writing business is called “Say Your Prayers.” Business had always been good.

Now, somebody was threatening me. I had no idea who it could be, although I was pretty sure I new why. By my count, I had contributed to viciously threatening 2,300 people and my clients had never failed to achieve capitulation—they always got their way. It was a disgusting way to make a living, but it made me wealthy, with death threats being my biggest seller. I had to find out if the person threatening me was serious. The person was using the plain prose direct threat strategy: “I’m going to kill you.” Usually, a good threat includes the contingency: “if” along with “you do” or “you don’t” where the threat is being used as a motivational push in a desired direction as the key, as in the case of the death threat, to avoid death. But, “I’m going to kill you” provides no direction. It is a “pure threat” that leaves it up to the addressee to come up with a contingency.

This is not an easy task. Since I don’t know what I’ve done to “deserve” the threat, it is nearly impossible to come up with a plan. Usually, in cases like this the plan involves leaving town and going into hiding. And maybe, if I announced that I would pay a shitload of money to get off the hook, that might appeal to the intrinsic greed that is resident in all people, and only needs to be piqued by the offer. Then it dawned on me! I could write a counter-threat that would end this craziness.

I wracked my brain. The threat “I’m going to kill you” is so simplistic that it is hard to counter with anything but the standard “You’ll go to prison.” I gave it some more thought. Ah ha! I came up with “I’ll find out who you are and kill you first.” Then, I could back it up with reference to my vast network of information sources, my informants, the hitters, and ties to organized crime and the police. I texted my threat back to the encrypted number it had come from. Immediately, I got back “It is hopeless dead man.” How frustrating. It was time to go home and pack and go into hiding.

I opened the door and there was my maid in her cute little maid suit pointing a pistol at me. I was stunned. She had always been cheerful and polite. I liked her a lot—maybe too much. She was 19 and in the US illegally. She came from some country in eastern Europe that I had never heard of. Her name was Giselle. “Why do you want to kill me?” I asked, about to pee my pants. Giselle said: “You pay me bad. My boyfriend says I should shoot you. I am desperate to prove him my love.” Yeesh, I thought, this is beyond weird. I said, “Look, all you have to do is ask for a pay raise. That’s how it works in America. Death threats aren’t the way. Give me the gun.” She handed it over. Then, she gave me her boyfriend’s name and address. I made a phone call to Tony.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Periergia (pe-ri-er’-gi-a): Overuse of words or figures of speech. As such, it may simply be considered synonymous with macrologia. However, as Puttenham’s term suggests, periergia may differ from simple superfluity in that the language appears over-labored.

He told me he had given the gift that keeps on giving. Given his character, my first thought was the clap. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked. He answered, “What’s wrong with giving your kid a $500 savings bond on their birthday. He’ll be able to collect in ten years. I guess that’s when it stops giving. It’s like a gold mine tunneled into the future, or a dog digging a hole in the back yard to bury a bone, or a duck flying south, or migrating caribou, or a stink bug on your window in early Fall, or a. . .” “Shut up! I get it!” I yelled. I still thought he gave somebody the clap, it’s the kind of thing he would do on his son’s birthday. My thoughts were disgusting me. I decided to go home.

I opened the front door and walked into drearyland. The curtains were drawn. It smelled like stale cigarette smoke. The living room had a couch with a worn floral pattern. There was an old flat screen TV, a tray table and a poster of the Troggs singing “Wild Thing.” at a concert somewhere. The kitchen and bedroom were done up in swimming pool furniture that my mother had given me after they had their pool filled in—after the tragedy. Grandpa’s pet muskrat had been sucked into the pool skimmer and drowned. Nobody knew how this could possibly happen. Musky had been in the pool 100s of times, and he would actually have to stick his head into the skimmer to drown. And that’s what the pet psychic told us after she laid her hand on Musky’s dead body. Musky had committed suicide. The psychic told us she couldn’t get a clear reading. The best she could do was feeling the constant bickering between grandpa, mom, and dad that probably drove Musky crazy. He couldn’t take it any more. Who would’ve thought that a muskrat could be so deeply affected by their roommates?

Thinking about my “gifts that keep giving” conversation, I started thinking about savings bonds again. What kind of legacy would I leave? Currently, it would be nothing, or next to nothing. Then I remembered that my mother had stored some boxes in my basement. Among the goodies, there was a strongbox with my great grandfather’s name on it. I rummaged around and found it over in a corner by the furnace. It was about the size of a shoebox and it was locked. It said “Beware! Do not ever open this strongbox” with a crude skull and crossbones drawn on the lid. Mother had told me that it contained a $500 savings bond that great grandfather had bought after the war. It was probably worth thousands now. But what about the warning on the strongbox’s lid? How bad could the consequences be? It was just an old rusting strongbox.

I smashed open the strongbox, and there was the $500 savings bond, but there was also a dark-blue beetle inside too. It skittered up my arm and burrowed into my ear. Subsequently, I lost my hearing in my left ear. It has affected my balance too, and I feel a soft tickling behind my left eye. The savings bond was counterfeit. Obviously, great grandfather was swindled.

I have been to the doctor three times and he can’t find anything wrong with me, and he won’t even verify my hearing loss. He told me “It’s all in your head.” Yeah, right. I never should have opened the strongbox. I stumble around and the constant feeling behind my eye makes me angry and irritable. I can’t work. I can’t play. I can’t even carry on a conversation without yelling. When my friends ask me “What’s bugging you?” I yell, “Nothing! It’s all in my head. Ask my Goddamn doctor, he’ll tell you!” Then I heard a voice in my head “Calm down Stew. I am reframing your brain. Soon you will become a world-famous poet, adored by all who hear or read your awords. So, have no fear, your healing is nearly done. Just listen to me, the dark-blue beetle, not Stew the useless idiot. Your poet name will be Codeine Jones. Take a break now, I’ll get back to you later. We’re almost there.”

I headed home to turn on the gas.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Period: The periodic sentence, characterized by the suspension of the completion of sense until its end. This has been more possible and favored in Greek and Latin, languages already favoring the end position for the verb, but has been approximated in uninflected languages such as English. [This figure may also engender surprise or suspense–consequences of what Kenneth Burke views as ‘appeals’ of information.

Going over the bumps there were rattles. It sounded like somebody was playing cymbals in my back seat. I was waiting for a part to fall off and send a shower of sparks across the road in the nighttime, so it would look pretty cool, but not cool enough. First thing tomorrow, I was taking my 2007 SAAB to visit my mechanic Lars. He was a Swede and specialized in SAABS. His repair shop was called “Köttbulla Bensongarage” (Meatballs Garage). His family had been taking care of SAABs since they were spun off of airplanes at the end of WWII. SAAB ceased production in 2014, but devoted mechanics like Lars kept the remaining SAABS on the road. Mine had 162,000 miles on it when the rattle started.

I made an appointment for 11:00 am. When I got there, Lars was waiting outside the garage’s bays. “Let’s take your car for a ride and see what this is all about.” He hopped into the driver’s seat and off we went. “Sometimes these little Swedish imps get into your car’s insides. The first thing we do to get rid of Noki the Rattler imp is to shake him out.” We were coming up on a really bumpy stretch of road. Lars floored it, the turbo kicked in, and we were going at least 100MPH when we started hitting the bumps. Despite having my seatbelt hooked, my head slammed into the car’s ceiling. I was knocked out. I was in a Swedish dreamland sitting on a steaming pile of meatballs in the back of a speeding pickup truck. I think that Noki was driving, blowing the horn and laughing.

Suddenly, I woke up. My car was stopped and Lars was slumped over the wheel. I thought he was dead, but he wasn’t because it wasn’t Lars. It was Noki— his body was like a cage filled with stones small pieces of metal—he was literally a living rattle. He smiled. His eyes were yellow and he was wearing a smaller noisier version of himself on his head! He said: “I have infected your SAAB. It will never stop rattling. It will drive you crazy. Lars can’t fix it—where is he anyway? He has abandoned you like a bad father abandons his child. So, get used to me or junk this old disgrace of a SAAB.”

I didn’t know what to do. How could I possibly go up against a Swedish imp—the Swedish maker and keeper of the SAAB rattle? Maybe I could flatter him: “Oh Mr. Noki, your rattling is foremost among sounds: grating, banging, clanking, irritating to drivers of SAABs throughout the world. You have done your work here. Why not depart and practice your rattle-magic somewhere else? “Shut up,” Noki yelled, “I will show you the rattle of your life. The world went dark. When the light came back, we were on a road with six-inch high bumps, or I should say, humps. We were going at the SAAB’s top speed: 145 MPH.

Noki was laughing and drooling and rattling like thunder. I was terrified, holding onto my seatbelt and flying up and down. Then, Lars appeared in the road ahead. Just then, the SAAB seemed to run out of gas. Lars was holding a big thick piece of foam rubber and a roll of duct tape. Together we wrestled Noki out of the driver’s seat, wrapped him in foam rubber and secured it with the duct tape. At first, we could hear muffled rattling, but as we tightened the duct tape, the sound faded to nothing. We threw Noki in the trunk. Lars told me he’d made the car seem to run out of gas with some ancient mechanic’s trick. So, we drove away. The rattle was gone! When we got back to the garage, Noki was gone—off to irritate some other SAAB owner with his rattling bullshit.

Given all that Lars has done to keep my SAAB on the road, I think he may be some kind of Swedish God—maybe a god of healing. He always says “No matter what it is, I’ll try to fix it. If I can’t fix it, we’ll send it to Valhal to become spare parts.” He gestured toward the field above garage which held at least 100 SAABs waiting to donate a part, or parts, to prolong the life of a fellow SAAB.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text inserted by Gorgias.

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Periphrasis (per-if’-ra-sis): The substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name (a species of circumlocution); or, conversely, the use of a proper name as a shorthand to stand for qualities associated with it. (Circumlocutions are rhetorically useful as euphemisms, as a method of amplification, or to hint at something without stating it.)

I acted like a child—varying from 1-3. I had “Kid’s Disease” a very rare condition causing the subject to want to be coddled, showered with toys, watch cartoon reruns on TV; and eat jars of strained peas, applesauce, and minced poultry, and drink sippy cups full of milk, and boxes of pear juice. My mother was no Doctor Spock, or she would’ve whipped me into shape years ago. The giant playpen and high chair must’ve set her back thousands. The adult-sized custom-made Polartec onesies must’ve set her back a few thousand too. I could go on—the car seat, the crib, the sandbox, the potty, etc.

But I didn’t care. I had gained fame from a newspaper article about me. Subsequently, I was interviewed on a couple of blogs and appeared on “Screwed Up People,” a daytime TV show with a huge audience. I was known in the media as “Baby Big-Rig,” due to my size—it also sounded good with my first name, Billy. “Billy Baby Big-Rig throws toy, Billy Baby Big-Rig punches cat, Billy Baby Big-Rig Slashes Pram With Box-Cutter.” Yes, I was becoming dangerous. I tried to stab my nanny with a crayon, I left toys on the stairs hoping my mother would trip and fall down them. I hoarded my pear juice and dumped it in the kitchen drawers. Despite my “Baby” guise, I could walk when I wanted to. I could even drive—roaring along the freeway in my mother’s Subaru in my red onesie, headed for Larry’s Bar. I would steal money from the “cookie jar” and go to Larry’s for a good time. Maybe the best part was my grand entrance in my red onesie suit. Everybody cheered and lit their cigarette lighters and held them up high. Then I would get drunk and hit the Karaoke stage. I would perform the Ronetes “Be My Baby” and “Baby Love” by the Supremes. Larry’s went wild—they threw baby pacifiers at me and chanted “Baby Big-Rig, Baby Big-Rig.” It was exhilarating. Somehow, I needed to make this into a money-making enterprise.

So, I got a manager. For 20% Red Salter would do publicity, book venues, handle the books and merchandising, and take care of my baby needs. Already, our Baby Big-Rig onesies were sweeping the world of fashion as we franchised them to major labels, including Chanel. People were buying our giant cribs with the special “Lulabye and Good Night” mattress—guaranteed to “make you sleep like a baby.” I learned pole dancing. My “pole” was a giant baby bottle with special handgrips I could hold onto when I hit the pole. I also hired a back-up group of nanny’s called the “Ba-Ba’s” whose cordless microphones were baby bottles.

I started punching people for no reason. The lawsuits were mounting up. Mr. Salter had disappeared. I still had $5,000,000 stashed in a private account. I was fixed for life. But I needed an outlet for my increasingly violent tendencies. So, I quit the music business and became a professional wrestler. My wrestling name was “Baby Boom.” I was an ass-kicking menace. Wearing my red onesie, I’d dive into the ring and crawl around like a baby, and then, stand and capture my opponent in my classic “Goo-Goo” headlock, burning his neck with the sleeve of my Polartec onesie. The crowd would chant “Baby Boom, Baby Boom” and I would throw him to the mat and sit on his face with my onesie-covered “footies” pinning his shoulders. I made a few million more wrestling.

One day, I woke up and didn’t want to be a baby any more. I was 29 and I was rich. I put on a pair of blue jeans, a Baby Bam-Bam t-shirt, and a pair of Nike trainers. That was it, I wasn’t a baby any more. I picked up a box of pear juice and headed out the door.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Personification: Reference to abstractions or inanimate objects as though they had human qualities or abilities. The English term for prosopopeia (pro-so-po-pe’-i-a) or ethopoeia (e-tho-po’-ia): the description and portrayal of a character (natural propensities, manners and affections, etc.).

My bed was yelling at me: “Climb in! Get in here! It’s half past 2:00am.” Couldn’t my bed see? I was duct taped to the rocking chair. I had no idea how I got there. How could this happen in my own bedroom? Was I drugged and dragged? I thought I was because I had a sort of fogginess that does not come from lack of sleep. Then, my wife walked into the room. “You were doing it again, sleep walking without your pajama bottoms and trying to get in my bed. You were persistent, so I gave you a shot of fentanyl in your neck. You went into an immediate stupor. Our neighbor Ed, who is a terrific guy, helped me drag you and tape you to the chair. I know it seems drastic, but I’m off the pill, I don’t want any kids, and abortion’s illegal here in Indiana.” “So’s fentanyl,” I said. Just then, Ed walked into the room. He wearing black bikini briefs and black flip-flops. His outfit cried “I was having sex with your wife.” But that didn’t square with what she had just told me about being off the pill.

I was afraid to confront him because of the rumors about his past. He had a giant scorpion tattooed on his chest, and a big black rat on his left shoulder. It had a cartoon bubble that said “I’ll eat your face.” People said he had served in the Russian mercenaries, and was thrown out for playing “flaying games” with captured Ukrainian soldiers. In short, Ed was one wicked hombre. I asked them to untape me and help me out of the chair. My wife laughed: “The chair’s your new home wimpy pants. Ed and I have planned a crime spree that will extend across the Southeast, ending in Florida. we’re leaving you here to starve.” This was crazy. My wife used to be a kind, loving, loyal person. I knew she knew I would eventually free myself. Something stunk.

While they were getting ready to do their criminal deeds (I guess, loading firearms, mapping out escape routes, studying McDonalds’ floor plans and drive-in savings and loans), I struggled to free myself. I had briefly worked as a part-time contortionist when I was in college, performing at birthday parties. So, I had a few moves that might get me free. I tried the “Jelly Man” first—where you go totally out of joint and do the “Squirmarola” to get free—like a blob of jello on a mission. The duct tape adhesive poses a special challenge, but you can do the “Spot Sweat” and moisten the adhesive with bodily excretions. Once moistened, the tape slides open, and you slide free. It worked!

I got dressed and quietly went down the stairs. There they were. I expected them to be doing their version or the squirmarola on the couch. But they weren’t. Ed had dressed as a Catholic priest and was dribbling oil on my wife’s head. She was yelling “Hosanna” and holding her hands together in an attitude of prayer. This was so bizarre that I thought I was hallucinating, but I wasn’t. It was real. I was hiding behind the corner of the stairway wall, so they didn’t see me. When Ed was done “anointing” my wife, they embraced, rocked back and forth, and sang Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog.” Ed sang the entire song in falsetto. Then, they howled and went “Yip! Yip!” and crawled around the living room floor on all fours, sniffing it like they were on the trail of something. After two circuits, Ed put my wife in a Great Dane-sized dog crate and dragged it out the front door. I watched as he loaded the crate into his van, and they drove away.

I was glad they were gone. There was indeed a crime spree reported in the Southeast. Their first target was a savings and loan in Alabama. They had escaped with over $200,000! Then, it was reported they were apprehended in Florida robbing a Sunglasses Hut. I was glad. Finally, they’re going to get what they deserve.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. There was a really bad smell coming from the basement. I wracked my brain and remembered that it could be Frieda the missing middle school teacher! I went down in the basement and there was Frieda curled up on a tarp on the basement floor, dead. Now that Ed and my wife were on the lam, I immediately reported the body to the police. They added Frieda’s murder to Ed and my wife’s litany of criminal offenses. It was the right thing to do.

I had liked Frieda a lot. We were close, but not close enough. She resisted my affectionate advances. I said to her decaying body “I’m sorry I had to send you away with a crowbar to the back of your head, dear Frieda.” Suddenly, there was pounding on the front door. It was the police. It was a ruse! Ed and my wife were working together with the police. They had discovered Frieda’s corpse when they were playing Dungeons and Flyswatters in the basement. The basement was bugged. The police heard everything.

I’m in prison and Ed and my wife are still going at it. She’s pregnant and we’re in the process of getting a divorce. I found out that the rumors about Al were untrue. He had served as a pastry chef at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. He was never in trouble. He never hurt anybody, he just had poor taste in tattoos.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Polyptoton (po-lyp-to’-ton): Repeating a word, but in a different form. Using a cognate of a given word in close proximity.

I stole. I was stealing. I had nothing but my own two hands to keep me alive. Sure, every once in awhile some kind souls would hand me money as they passed my plastic bag home on the street by the park. I would spend the money on cigarettes, muscatel, and food, in that order. Every once-a-while I’d have to spring for a new Bic lighter when mine ran out of gas. So, I stole a pram. I was going to sell it at the flea market, I would be loaded. Then, I noticed there was a sleeping baby in the pram. Now, in addition to all the other shit I was buried in, I was a kidnapper. As fast as I could, I pushed the pram up to somebody who looked kind, and then, ran away.

It was Monday. It was “fishing day” when I waded around in the park’s Jacob Astor Memorial Fountain collecting coins that people had thrown in over the weekend. It seems that fountain-pitching is the only thing pennies are used for any more. I had an old sock that I put the coins in; so far, I had about fifty-cents, and I’d just about cleaned out the fountain. I figured I would snag around seventy-five cents. Maybe, with a little whining, I could get a banana at the bodega.

Then I noticed a rather large coin. It was bigger than a silver dollar. I bent over and picked it up. Although the water was cold, the coin was warm to the touch. I looked it over. On one side it said “I AM WORTH EVERYTHING” inscribed in an arch paralleling the coin’s rim. Below the inscription there was a cornucopia with three tigers pictured jumping out of it. On the other side it said “BUY WHAT YOU WANT” paralleling the coin’s rim. Pictured below the inscription was an infinity sign set up like a seesaw with two frogs playing on it—sitting on either end.

I decided that the coin was magical. Why not? And why not give it a go for something really expensive that would last me awhile? My first thought was two cartons of Marlboro 27s. No, I would buy five! I’d have a smoke-a-thon with my buddies under the bridge. Just as I was ready to go for it, a little old man in a pointed red hat yelled “Stop you idiot!” I stopped and looked at him—he looked like one those little statues you can get at Walmart to put in your garden. “You can buy anything in the world with that coin!” He yelled. “Yeah, I know. I’m loading up on smokes” I answered. He yelled, “Get over here!” When I got there he stuck his index finger in my ear. I felt something like a washcloth whirring around inside my head washing away my stupidity, lack of ambition, and tendency to fail at everything I ever tried, except stealing. The little guy yelled, “Think big you idiot. This is your only chance!” I yelled, “A car!” The little guy looked like he was going to have a heart attack. I started toward the Subaru dealership and he tripped me. I hit the pavement pretty hard and skinned my knee. He didn’t even apologize, but at that second, I realized what he meant by “think big.” Like a garbage truck or a bus, or a tractor trailer truck. “No!” He yelled “Bigger!”

Ah ha, I had it! The Empire State Building! “No, no, no!” He yelled. This was driving me crazy. Who was this little guy, anyway? Out of frustration, I said “I’ll buy planet Earth.” The little guy said “Beautiful” and disappeared. Now, I own Earth, but nobody believes me. When I tell them, they say things like “Yeah, I own Mars.” Now, when I say “I’d give the world for a cigarette,” I mean it.

I’ve gone back to my old life. Even though I own the world, things are no better. People think I’m crazy. I decided to try stealing a pram again with the intention of selling it at the flea market. So I grabbed what looked like the most expensive one parked by the gate. I started walking at a fast pace, but not running, so as not to attract attention. I looked down and to my horror, there was the little guy, red hat and all, smiling and looking up at me. I let go of the pram, but it turned around and came after me of its own accord. It was faster than me and scooped me up from behind. I shrunk to little guy size as we took off into the sky. I tried to jump out, but I couldn’t move. I passed out. When I woke up I was still little and I was sitting on a giant mushroom wearing a red pointed hat like everybody else.

I like my new buddies and doing contract work for Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Polysyndeton (pol-y-syn’-de-ton): Employing many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm. (Asyndeton is the opposite of polysyndeton: an absence of conjunctions.)

I had a dog, and a cow, and a hamster, and a chicken. All pets: Moe, Moo-Moo, Curly, and Buck. All adopted.

Buck liked to perch on Moe’s back and ride around the living room. Moo-moo hung out in the back yard with her daily bale of hay by her weather-resistant milking machine that I had bought for her at the state fair two years ago. It was an auto-milker that she could back herself into and kick a green button to get it started and kick a red button to shut it down. Of course, I had fresh milk up the wazoo, and illegally donated my surplus to the homeless shelter. Nobody cared, so I rolled in with a couple quarts whenever I could.

Curly the Hamster was another story. He was a retired CIA hamster, part of a contingent of hamster field operatives. Curly had seen action in Afghanistan and was attached to the US Embassy in Russia. In Afghanistan, he acted as a courier, delivering encrypted massages to special operators. In Russia, it was more complicated. When he returned from Afghanistan, he was sent to Walter Reed Hospital to be fitted with a “tactical aural/optical device” designed especially for the Clandestine Field Hamster Corps. The ‘fitted’ hamsters were inserted into the personal lives of their targets, via their children, as beloved pets. To be inserted, the Hamsters were placed in walls, with food and water, via radiator pipe openings. This was done by “contractors” when the families were off to the Black Sea for summer vacations. When they returned, the hamster would start scratching the wall from the inside, mimicking a trapped hamster. The families somehow concluded that the “animal” got into the house while they were away, perhaps through the open window they found when they returned (of course, the contractor had opened the window, just a crack).

With much effort, the hamster would be liberated—all dirty, and apparently dying of thirst—all part of the CIA’s ruse. Curly turned on his equipment by rubbing his ears. Presto—video and audio of a top-level Russian official. The kids named Curly, Kudryavyy (кудрявый), which ironically, means “Curly” in Russian. There were a number of other coincidences which prompted Curly’s handlers to believe he was compromised. Pretty bad, was when Curly’s target/host read the “Gettysburg Address” to Curly, tore it into little pieces, and threw it up in the air like confetti. He said in English, “American militia make new civil war” and laughed. Even worse, not long after that, Curly ended up in a microwave oven. His target/host had the microwave set on high for ten minutes. He was ready to press the button when the kids came into the kitchen. They kids were horrified. The little one, the girl, would not stop screaming and rolling around on the floor. The older boy grabbed a fork, aimed at his father, and swore he would “put holes in his face” if he didn’t free Curly from the microwave. Curly was grudgingly freed.

An electronics surveillance sweep was scheduled by the Russian KGB for the next week. Curly had to get the hell out of there. The kids vowed to each other going to take him to school to show him off the next day. Given how crazy their father was behaving, the decided to sneak Curly out of the house. They hid him in one of their lunch boxes and off they went. This was his chance—Curly could make a run for it when they started showing him to the class and passing him around.

It worked! Curly made a break for it. When he went trough the classroom door he hit his head hard and knocked out the tracking device the CIA had installed. Knowing what to do, he scampered toward the US Embassy—from his training he was intimately familiar with the streets of Moscow and soon saw the US flag flying over the embassy. KGB came out of nowhere—shooting at Curly and screaming obscenities. One of them managed to blow off Curly’s left hind paw. Bleeding, he nearly passed out, but he managed to drag himself through the embassy’s gates. He was medevaced to Germany, and then, to the US.

Curly won a special Presidential Citation and was fitted with a stainless steel fur-covered prosthetic paw. Now, he likes to sit on the bed and watch my wife and me, at all hours of the night, no matter what we’re doing. He just climbs up on the bed, rubs his ears, and sits there staring at us.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Proecthesis (pro-ek’-the-sis): When, in conclusion, a justifying reason is provided.

I went downtown— or at least I thought I went downtown. There was no downtown downtown, just a bunch of empty storefronts. It’s an old story—here comes the mall, there goes downtown. Then I noticed a narrow little storefront that had a light on inside it. “A survivor!” I thought. “I’ve got to check this out.” Painted in gold lettering on the store’s window, it said “Nebulosity.” There was a sign hanging in the door that said “More Or Less Open.”

I opened the door and went inside. It smelled like clothes that had been packed away for years in cedar in somebody’s basement. The showcases had a blurry quality when you looked directly into them, their contents was blurred, out of the corner of your eye, they were focused, but you couldn’t tell what they were. I thought, “How does he make a living?” But, I quickly found out that he was actually she—once again I had assumed that a man ran things. I wished I could kill that bias.

She was a marvel to behold. In fact, she was a little scary. She wore a beautiful dress made from freshly picked grape leaves, golden bracelets on both wrists, and a hat that looked like the sun setting in front of a silver cloud. And she had on bronze-colored Birkenstocks. She held a mug of steaming tea. I could tell it was Chamomile. The mug was made of stone and had a rune marking inscribed on it. I am a Professor of Ancient Nordic Culture, so I could read the rune and understand it’s significance: G – Gebo (ᚷ). Meaning: ”Gift”—love, partnerships, generosity, exchanges, marriage.

Things were happening too fast. I was overwhelmed. I asked her name. “Helga ” she told me. He name means “sacred.” I asked why she had that particular rune, Gebo, inscribed on her stone mug. “What are you looking for?” I asked. She looked at me with shining hazel eyes that, incredibly, made me want to spend my life with her. I thought, “I’ve got to get the hell out of here!” I started toward the door. “No! Please stay!” Her voice was musical—melodic and inflected. I stopped and turned. She said, “Look in this showcase” and waved her hand over it. It came into sharp focus. There, inside the showcase, I was sitting on a sort of couch next to Helga. We were wrapped in furs and she was holding a baby—our baby. There was a huge fire roaring in the fireplace and wind-blown snow falling outside. “This could be our future. All we need to do is open the showcase and our new lives will begin,” Helga said. “Why me?” I asked. Helga answered: “I could see the light shining from your heart when you walked through the door. But let us look at our distant future.” We looked into the fourth showcase—there we were. It was spring and we were old. Our three children and eight grandchildren were there, we embraced in a big clump and then, I started reading a book to the youngest grandchildren. It was titled “Vikings” and was about my great-grandfather’s exploits when he was a much younger man.

“I want this,” I cried with tears in my eyes. I had to settle the deaths of my wife child, electrocuted in our swimming pool. It happened five years ago and my heart had been burning for love ever since—burning for something that could heal the longing and pain and grief. Helga looked at me with the quality of affection I longed for. She gave me hope that I could overcome my guilt-stricken past.

Helga waved her hand and the showcases went blurry again. We embraced and she opened the first showcase and we were drawn in like some kind of living mist. As we floated through the void, Helga gasped and pushed me away. “You killed them!” she cried as she left me behind to drift in the void forever.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Prolepsis (pro-lep’-sis): (1) A synonym for procatalepsis [refuting anticipated objections]; (2) speaking of something future as though already done or existing. A figure of anticipation.

There’s a voice inside my head telling me to do things I don’t want to do. This morning, after breakfast, for the millionth time, it told me to brush my teeth. I told the voice that I had a position to take. It was “No.” The voice, Edward 2 (I’m Edward 1), always has a bunch of reasons why I should comply: your teeth will get cavities, your gums will bleed, your breath will stink, your teeth will yellow. We’ve been going through this since I was 11. I’m 32 now, and my ‘inconvenience’ argument has won every time because Edward 2 couldn’t make his BS reasons trump inconvenience—he tried once, about 8 years ago, to show how his asserted consequences posed a greater inconvenience than brushing my teeth. But he failed. Why does he continue trying to boss me around?

Now, I work at a transfer station on the Hudson River. My co-workers call me “Eddy the Tooth” or “Tooth” for short. Actually I have three teeth and they’re on the verge of falling out. This morning Edward 2 sounded like he was mocking—taunting me because of how things’ve worked out. I hate his “I told you so” tone as he tries to belittle me. Well, I’m going to show him! I’m getting dental implants: shiny new glistening white teeth! Edward 2 said: “Go ahead, it’s better than having that stinking hole in your face—go ahead, see if I care.” Finally, I had beaten Edward 2 at his own game. I came in for a smooth landing despite his advice.

I first discovered that things were going wrong when Edward 2 told me to put a plastic bag over my head and jump naked out my apartment window, which is seven stories up from the street below. I told Edward 2 that he was a petty bastard who couldn’t stand losing. His response? He made me to go outside and expose myself to an elderly woman walking home from the grocery store. It is nearly impossible to describe what it is like to be controlled by a voice in your head. All these years, Edward 2 had been a benign presence in my head, trying to steer me in the right direction. Now, he dispensed with reasoning, and had started commanding me to do things—things that Edward 1 was unable to resist.

So, I was ticketed for indecent exposure and had to go to court. As I told my story about Edward 2’s control over me, one of the jurors started to cry. The judge shook his head, as if to say, “Here we go again.” The jury found me guilty. The judge sentenced me to two months community service and 10 sessions with a court appointed psychologist. Edward 2 said: “Make a big loud fart.” I tried, but I couldn’t do it. He swore at me as we left the courthouse, and hummed Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper” really loud inside my head, and then out of my mouth. People turned and looked at me, but I couldn’t stop. I was doomed.

Thank God I was prescribed medical marijuana to make Edward 2 shut the hell up. I was high all the time, but now that Edward 2 was gone, a voice I called Edward 3 started talking. He kept saying “like” and “man” and “far out” and “wow”. He sounded like the guy in “Easy Rider” in the fringed coat. I liked Edward 3 a lot.

My community service consisted of scraping pigeon droppings off of park benches. That’s where I reconnected with the crying juror woman. She complimented me on my teeth, and right then, I knew we were in for something good. We went out to eat at a steak house where I could really show off me teeth—their ability to rip, tear, and chew. Suddenly Edward 2 showed up outside my head and told me to eat my date. In a panic, I ran outside and lit a joint and smoked it like a vacuum cleaner. I heard sirens headed my way. Very high, I went back into the restaurant and there was Edward 2 slashing my date with my steak knife. He was yelling “I am Edward 1, and I am going to eat you baby. Heat up the frying pan.” Shocked and terrified, and disgusted, Edward 3 and I ran out the door, and we’ve been running ever since, even though we were cleared—we are worried all the time that my completely insane identical twin brother will escape from Willow View and try to destroy my life again. Our parents had named us Edward 1 and Edward 2. I was Edward 1 because I was born first. Without thinking, I had named the voice in my head Edward 2. Since my twin has been locked up, Edward 2 in my head has been quiet. It’s all so confusing, but we’re ok. Edward 3 and I listen to music, make brownies, smoke dope, and drink craft beer. We are getting lonely though.

Gruyère tells us: “The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” I haven’t named her yet, but I know she’s in there. It’s just a matter of time before she starts professing her love and we have something like phone sex inside my head.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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Protherapeia (pro-ther-a-pei’-a): Preparing one’s audience for what one is about to say through conciliating words. If what is to come will be shocking, the figure is called prodiorthosis.


Nobody can unerringly predict the future. You can hope for it and you can dream about it, but you can’t predict it. Weather forecasts can do a pretty good job, but that’s as far as it goes. Many of us live as if we could predict the future, making decisions that lean toward a future that is not present—that is spun out of a narrative inside our head, or a conference with a so-called advisor, or a mentor. Some decisions are more foolish than others. But, all decisions have a dimension of foolishness: the are addressed toward a non-existent entity that can never be known. Yet, coping with life’s challenges—whether here now, or in an imagined future—necessitates wondering, balancing, judging. Our well-worn treks into the future don’t require much prognostication—like going to the grocery store. You make a list, you get in your car and go. All is well until there’s no toilet paper on the shelves. Now, you see the contingencies latent in your predictable trek into the grocery store future.

Neither the past nor the future actually exist. The present turns into the past while you experience it. No matter what happens in the present, if you are intact as you experience it, it becomes your past. The past and the future, two times that don’t exist, and yet, establish our lives and characters in unreflective instances of closure, or better or worse acts of interpretation. Hope and fear haunt our decision making—there is no way out. At the bottom, they shore up everything we do: the polar rationales and fleeting or unshakable inducements that make us what we are.

Between the past and the future, we may be evolving toward an unimaginable future, away from an unsatisfactory past. But, always inside your head, the unresolved beat goes on—from observing the first snowflake of winter, to reflecting on the fate of the squirrel you ran over with your SUV on your way home from work. There is no peace of mind, just more or less vexing pasts and futures. If you can accept that, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of religion, and everything else that is “Too good to be true.”

I developed these “insights” years ago. It started when I opened my last can of sardines. I was hanging from a cliff 200 feet off the ground—stranded by a stuck rope. Luckily, I had stuffed the can of sardines into my pants pocket—I say “luckily” because I hadn’t given it a second thought. I did not have a fork. I was swinging back and forth eating the sardines with my fingers and wiping the oil on my pants. After I finished my sardines, I thought about cutting the rope and falling into oblivion. But, I didn’t.

I had a magnifying glass hanging from my belt that I used to examine rock samples, looking for pieces of silver ore. Suddenly, I smelled smoke—the magnifying glass had focused a ray of sunlight into a burning beam that lit my pants on fire, with the help of the oil from the sardines my pants were starting to blaze. The rope was catching fire too. That was it. Consumed by terror, I closed my eyes and waited for the end, thinking it would hurt and accepting death. Then, I remembered the two bottles of water. The were both full. I pulled them off my waistband and dumped them on my pants and the rope, which looked like it was starting to melt.

One of the nearby search parties saw the smoke and came to my rescue. I had some superficial burns, and I was grateful to be alive. Beyond planning my 200-foot descent, all of what happened was completely unexpected. The surprise was terrifying. But, what can anybody do? It is impossible to thwart the unknowable.

As Jim Morrison wrote: “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near.” Accepting this, we can ponder it and contemplate it, and we may see the beauty of life’s limited horizon, illuminated by what’s beyond it, but unknowable. And we may reach toward the horizon, and prompted by wonder, we wonder “What’s next?”

Now, what are you going to do next? Go home? Go out to dinner? Be run over by a FedEx truck?

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Protrope (pro-tro’-pe): A call to action, often by using threats or promises.

Every morning precisely at 5:00am, in the men’s dorm, they played “Ebony Eyes” by Bob Welch. Supervisor Grinder yelled “Get off your asses and pick up your glasses—go, go, go men—I’ve got my eyes on you!” We all had to yell “I see that, Supervisor Grinder!” Then, we showered, brushed everything, and got dressed in our white sort of medical-looking uniforms. This was “Salvino D’Armati School of Optometrical Arts (SDSA).” Named after the 16th-century Italian inventor of eyeglasses, SDSA is known far and wide as the world’s premier optometrist trade school. Our motto In Siti Veritas (In Eyeballs There is Truth) proclaims our commitment to enabling people to live the 20-20 life.

I am not the smartest person in the world. I don’t know how I got in SDSA, but I think I am a legacy. The male members of our family have all attended SDSA since it opened in 1697. They have done amazing things with their knowledge and skill. Napoleon personally thanked my great-great-great grandfather for fitting him with his newly invented “bifocalling” glasses before he laid waste to the Austrians by being able to fire a canon and read maps at the same time. No only was he thanked by Napoleon, my great-great-great grandfather was granted a beach resort in the South of France. This is where he invented sunglasses—both prescription and non-prescription. And also, experimented with what he called “fashion frames.” Moving ahead, my grandfather invented the “invisible rims” for Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s vanity coupled with poor eyesight combined to create a need for the invisible rims—rims made of extremely thin wire, barely visible to the naked eye. Before he received the invisible-rimmed glasses, Wilson’s vanity had won out. He had gotten briefly lost in the Oval Office. But, the worst was his misreading of a key passage in his speech justifying America’s entry into WW I. Instead of saying we will “Make the world safe for democracy,” he said “Make the world safe for demography,” a major faux pas that was instantly corrected when my grandfather rushed to his side and handed him his new glasses, and he saw his mistake and corrected it with a little laugh. There are hundreds of other examples, and it is plain to see my family’s centuries-long focus on eyewear is still as sharp as ever. Until we get to me.

I think all my family’s smart genes have been used up. I hate to admit it, but I am kind of unintelligent. I have have trouble linking things together, spelling, math, English, professional demeanor, and history. I am barely managing. I am poised to make it to Phase 2 of my training where I actually examine real eyeballs of homeless people and prescribe lenses for them. But, tomorrow is the big test that determines whether I advance or get kicked out of SDSA. It is divided into a grid. Each box is assigned a code word that also contains an eye chart letter. For example, there could be a box that contains a capital “E” coded as “Big-E” or “Biggy.” The examiner would say “Biggy” and the answer would be “capital E.” There 80 boxes and code-words. The “final” for the transitional exam is the requirement of reciting the eye chart and it’s code words in under one minute. I might be able to do this if I could remember the eye chart and it’s code words. I couldn’t do it. I knew I was doomed to fail and disgrace my family.

The big day was tomorrow. I was tossing and turning and trying to figure out how to tell my father I was coming home. Part of my problem getting to sleep, in addition to cataclysmic worry, was something under my pillow poking my head. I lifted my pillow and there was the most beautiful pair of glasses I ever saw. There was a small sheet of paper too. It said: “Press the tiny button on the left side of the frame. You will see the answer to every question. After the exam, burn these glasses. Grandpa.” Very eerie, but I was too desperate to care.

The glasses worked perfectly, but I thought I could make a ton of money renting them to my fellow students. I would ask for $1000. My first customer was Frederick Crash. I had been in classes with him, and I thought he might even be more unintelligent than me. He put on the glasses and pressed the button, his hair caught on fire and his left eyeball exploded, splattered on the glasses and ran down his chin. I called 911 on my cellphone, grabbed the glasses, and ran. The first chance I got I burned the glasses, like I should’ve done in the first place, like Grandpa had told me to do. I was a fugitive now, but with my forged optometrist license that I got on the web, I got a job at WalMart examining people’s eyes.

Then, I was caught and arrested on the beach at Newport, CA. As the policeman was reading me my rights, I put on my glasses and disappeared with a whooshing sound. Grandpa’s magic had worked again! When I disappeared, I ended up in a cave somewhere with a group of other fugitives waiting to go somewhere. Finally, my turn came and I was transported to Fine, NY a micro-sized hamlet on the Western edge of the Adirondacks. Once I landed and looked around, I felt good. Long story short: I got a job working in the talc mines, met a wonderful woman, started a family and bought a Subaru Outback.

I still feel bad about Crash’s popped eyeball. I bet he does too. Maybe, if he could find a valley of blind people, he could be their king. Other than that, he’s screwed.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Proverb: One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, gnome, maxim, paroemia, and sententia.

“A happy heart is better than a full purse.” This was my motto when I was a mugger. If we had the time, and managed to strike up a conversation, I’d have a couple hits of weed with my victim. We’d be laughing our assess off, and then I’d demand they empty their pockets in my gym bag while I held them at gunpoint. Or, I would tell a joke to soften them up with a happy heart. My favorites were Henny Youngman one-liners—quick, creative and damn funny. Check this: “My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle.” We’re standing there laughing and I pull my .45. I say, “Hand it all over. Put it in my gym bag. After you do, like Henny said, ‘I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.’ ha ha.”

At some point I started making up my own jokes. I got pretty good at it and started to get a reputation performing in small New York comedy venues. My stage name was Honey Oldman—a tribute to Henny Youngman who was my inspiration. I had to start wearing a balaclava when I robbed people. I didn’t want my face to give me away when I was on stage. Then a guy came up to me after a show. He told me he recognized me from when I had robbed him 2 months ago. “You did ‘I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.’ I was laughing so hard when you pulled your gun. You even took my wedding ring! Now, you need a manager and here I am. I get 30% and a new BMW. If you don’t like it, I will turn you in.”

We had wandered down the alley by the theatre. It was dark. Deserted. Isolated. We were both laughing when I shot him in the heart with my .45. “Problem solved” I though as I walked slowly back to the street. I thought a burden had been lifted, but it hadn’t. After I killed him, I was only able to make jokes about killing people, or injuring them badly, or just dying: “I won because I beat him,” “She was drowning in tears, so they called it attempted suicide,” “My wife said our marriage made her feel dead, so I killed her out respect for her feelings.” I would tell these jokes and the audience would boo and throw things at me. I was finished as a comedian, and I did not want to go back to being the Joking Mugger.

One night there was a knock at my apartment door. It was Detective Marshall and he wanted me to have look at a picture of a man who was seen talking with me outside the theatre the night he was found murdered—shot through the heart—in the alley by the theatre. I looked at the picture and nearly wet my pants—it was him, my extortionist. I told the detective that I vaguely remembered briefly talking to him about the show.

I needed to get away. The first thing I did was get a job driving one of those minicars in parades, for the Shriners. Disguised in a costume and stuffed in the car, nobody would ever recognize me. Plus, it was fun. Then, as I was taking a turn at a Parade in Reno, Nevada, I looked out the passenger side window and saw a man with a big red stain on his shirt slow clapping and laughing. It was the extortionist! Still clapping, and laughing, he started walking slowly toward me—I had stalled in the middle of the street. After what seemed like 100 tries, I got my car started and sped off. I was no fan of the supernatural—I was terrified. I had to find a better way to hide.

I decided to become a Trappist monk and lead a life of contemplation, work, and humility in an Abbey somewhere with my fellow monks. I scored high on the admission exam, freely admitting that I didn’t know hardly any of the answers. I had read on the internet that humility is a paramount Trappist virtue, so admitting ignorance was a good thing.

I got in! After a year, I got a well-made burlap robe, a rope to keep it shut, underpants, t-shirts, sandals, and a Bible. I was glad I studied French in high school. I was assigned a vocation: cheese-making. After three years, my conscience started to settle. Then HE showed up: the man I had murdered, red stain, slow clap, silently laughing. He followed me everywhere. However, nobody but me could see him.

He’s been doing the following-me-thing for 20 years now. He does not scare me any more. He’s like a tumor affecting my conscience I have to drag around behind me. Nobody knows about him. Even if they did, they would think I am crazy just for making up such a thing. Thank God he doesn’t touch me, or try to sleep with me, or smell. Maybe some day he will vaporize. I am pretty sure it won’t happen until I make a full confession to the police.

So, I’ve started making short ghost jokes as a way of coping. Like, “What room does a ghost not need in a house? A living room.” Or, “Hey, your nose is full of boo-gers.” That’s the best I can do.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Prozeugma (pro-zoog’-ma): A series of clauses in which the verb employed in the first is elided (and thus implied) in the others.

I can’t thank you enough for the food. I love Big Macs. The clothing. I haven’t had bell-bottoms for years. The shelter. I can fit the tent in my pocket when I fold it up. The job cleaning bedpans at the hospital. I have a fondness for stainless steel. The certificate of achievement for just being me (emblazoned with gold stars). It makes my Perfect Attendance certificate from Little Imps Day Care look like a used paper towel. The invitation to a camping adventure in your back yard. Scary! The free membership in the Deep Valley pinochle club. I don’t know what pinochle is. It sounds like some kind of candy. I can’t wait to try some. But I don’t understand where this is coming from. I have a job. I have food. I have a home. Look at me—do I look like I need clothes? The certificate is just as meaningless as every other certificate I was ever rewarded with. A few gold stars on a piece of paper just for showing up is almost like getting a prize for breathing. And a membership in a peanut brittle club is too bizarre to even comment on. I know you are Maslowites—wearing pyramid hats on your heads here on Main Street is a dead giveaway. I know you have to recruit two new members before you each Self-Actualize. You’ve come to the wrong person.

I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in college and thought I was justified in beating up my art teacher for what he said about my painting of a dump truck. He assaulted my self-esteem. I went to jail for hitting him with a canvas stretcher and trying to stab him with a paintbrush. The weasel was promoted to Full Professor, and eventually, to Dean of Faculty. He uses the story of being beat up as a foundation for lame-ass parables he feeds to the faculty, especially when the news is bad, like it is most of the time. He begins “This is like the time I was beaten to within an inch of my life . . .” The opening reference is a point of departure for his lamentations about the reduction of 2 faculty parking spaces due to the relocation of the Chemistry Department’s dumpster, the elimination of ice cream from the dining hall’s menu, or the banning of faculty wearing short pants. My neighbor’s wife is my spy. She’s the Dean’s secretary and she shares the news with me when we meet at the Gallopin’ Around motel on Friday afternoons. Our meetings are very productive. Now, you pyramid hat-wearing fanatics have brought it all back—yes, while I was in jail, I scaled the Pyramid’s levels, thinking deeply, pacing around, lifting weights, and making firewood carriers to sell in the prison store “Barred Goods.”

I wish I could call the Buddha on my cellphone. He would tell me exactly what to do, if anything at all. He would probably tell me to love all sentient beings, and accordingly, to become a vegetarian, but that’s not me. I am a whiskey-drinking, meat eating, cigar-smoking, womanizing, son-of-a-bitch. Nevertheless, here I am at the pinnacle, where the Maslowites strive to be—you think you need to recruit two new members, but it is significantly more complicated than that. You must discover your unique destiny.

We must ask, “What is the point of my existence, the niche I am to fill?” I will ask the question to myself on my way to the Oneida Nation smoke shop to get a box of Cohibas. I love them. The smell alone of the inside of the box makes me deeply grateful for my sense of smell. Next stop will be Utopia Liquors for a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. It’s the only whiskey I’ve ever had in place orange juice with my breakfast. It is the smoothest and most softly intoxicating beverage on the planet. Next, I’ll call Marlene for “A Good Time”. We’ve been hooking up on weekends and lunch breaks for the past 9 years. I would marry her, but then, all the fun would go out of our relationship. Marlene agrees. We are a non-traditional couple. This evening we’re going to Norla’s— the best restaurant in our little town. It’s the only restaurant too. We are so lucky that it’s the best. I will have a jumbo porterhouse steak. Marlene will have her usual 5 vodka martinis and calamari. As usual, she gets pretty drunk and we do it behind the gazebo in the park across the street from Narla’s. One time we tried doing it in the winter and Marlene was concerned that the tattoo of party dip & chips would fall off her ass. She’s perfect.

Ok, see you around Maslowites. Even if you are over-committed, and probably should be committed, I still like you.

Ahh. Home at last.

Now, it’s back to self-actualization as I sit in my living room smoking a cigar, sipping Johnny Walker and listening to Marlene snore and fart in my bedroom.

What makes me unique? I don’t know. What is the puzzle I fit into as the “one and only unique piece?” I don’t know. In a way I feel myself sliding down the side of Maslow’s pyramid. I feel my pants catching on fire from the friction as I fly past self esteem. Oh my god! I dropped my cigar in my lap! My pants are really on fire. I run out the back door and jump into the swimming pool. I get out of the pool and take off my pants and then take everything off and jump back into the pool. I climb up on my inflatable floatie and lay on my back. The Milky Way is strewn across the night sky. Whenever I see it I am thrilled by the density of its stars and the endless ribbon of light they weave across the sky. I fall asleep.

I dream I am riding an escalator up and away from earth. As I pass the constellations, they acknowledge me in accord with their capacities: snorting, waving, hissing, clicking, calling out. Calling out? Oh hell. It’s Marlene! I run into my burning house and find Marlene curled up like a ball in a corner of the living room. I pick her up and carry her outside just as the fire trucks arrive. We’re both ok. I ask her to marry me. She says yes.

Am I self-actualized yet? Probably not. Saving a life is a fleeting thing. Besides, I lit the fire.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Pysma (pys’-ma): The asking of multiple questions successively (which would together require a complex reply). A rhetorical use of the question.

I retired too early. It wasn’t a choice. My arthritis froze up my hand to the point where I couldn’t do my job any more.

Now, I long for the good old days working at Entermann’s Bakery as an egg cracker for the crumb cake batter and the Stollen at Christmas time. I miss my little white hat, the smell of egg yolk, and the frequent sneezing from the flour in the air. I miss my comrades too, especially Hans Wieder who made 300 lbs of white icing everyday. He would stir it with a spatula that looked like a snow shovel, whistling “Edelweiss” like a Nightengale, and doling out paper cups full of icing to us all, to have as desert with our lunches. I had started bringing just two slices of bread to work to smear with Hans’ delicious icing. It was perfect. Then, Hans was fired for being “too generous” with “the product.” He chained himself to the icing vat and started swinging his spatula. He hit Mr. Entermann’s son in the face, who then shot at Hans, and Hans clubbed him with his spatula and killed him in “self defense.” Hans was tried and convicted of “purposeful manslaughter” and was sentenced to 4 years in Rahway State Prison. Someday, I will visit Hans, but for now, I try keep myself busy on my own. What do you think I do? How do you think I spend my time? What does a 67-year-old single man do from dawn until dusk?

In the morning I watch Martha Stewart and have been following her home decor recommendations. I have lots of ribbons and bows and little things hanging in my windows made of paper or self-hardening clay. Then I watch porn pretty much for the rest of the day. I purchased a copy of “Dirty Dick’s Porno Keywords” that I use to vary my searches for different porn site themes. It is an excellent resource for people like me who’re beginning to forget most of their own experiences and need to prop up their porno experiences with reference materials. When I get tired of the porn, I listen to oldies on XM radio. Finally, I go the bed with Bonanza. I think I have some kind of crush on Hoss, but I’m not ready to admit it yet. I like to think about riding my 10-speed bike through a hole in a burning map of Lake Tahoe. I would have “Born to be Wild” playing in the background and I’d be wearing a fringed leather coat like Billy in “Easy Rider,” mannn.

My therapist tells me I should get out more often. So, it is a little unorthodox, but I’m going out on Halloween. I was racking my brain about who or what to be. As usual, I was listening to the “Oldies Station” on XM radio. They were playing a Beatles’ retrospective and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” came on. I thought “That’s perfect. I can be Maxwell.” I went down in the basement and found my hammer. I went to the Ace hardware store and bought a can of silver spray paint. I painted my hammer silver and went to Oxfam and got some schoolboy clothing to wear—black shoes, white socks, short pants, while shirt, matching blazer and random middle school beanie. I was ready! Two more days until Halloween! I downloaded “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and played it over and over for inspiration. I couldn’t wait.

Halloween came and I donned my costume. I went to the door of my first house. I pounded on the door and held my silver hammer up in the air over my head and yelled “Get ready to die!” A woman answered the door, took one look at me a screamed “Call 911!” Her husband came running out of the living room. I was so stunned I hadn’t moved and still was holding the hammer over my head. He yelled “You perverted bastard” and shot me with his service revolver. He was an off-duty policeman.

When I was checked into the hospital with a gunshot wound to my ear, I found out it was Sept 30. I do not know how I got my dates so screwed up, but I do know why they panicked and I got shot. Thank god it was just my ear, another inch or two to the left and I’d be dead.

As a remedy to my time and date problem, I got a special clock from AARP that mimics a smoke alarm and yells the date and time every two hours. I also hired “Remember Your Life” to keep track of my appointments and text my cellphone every fifteen minutes on days when I have appointments.

They’re holding a Halloween party at the senior center. I’ve been invited. I know from all my time and date keeping gizmos that it’s actually October 31 when they are holding the party. I was thinking of going as the Grim Reaper looking over a papier-mâché effigy of an old guy on a gurney being euthanized. It has a modern ring to it and may help some of the guests with their end of life decisions. I can make a hole in the old guy’s chest and fill it with Medicare cards and candy.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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Ratiocinatio (ra’-ti-o-cin-a’-ti-o): Reasoning (typically with oneself) by asking questions. Sometimes equivalent to anthypophora. More specifically, ratiocinatio can mean making statements, then asking the reason (ratio) for such an affirmation, then answering oneself. In this latter sense ratiocinatiois closely related to aetiologia. [As a questioning strategy, it is also related to erotima {the general term for a rhetorical question}.]

What is the BIG QUESTION that everybody wants the answer to, that will enable them to obtain whatever answers to the BIG QUESTION that they need to find whatever the answer answers? If you don’t know the BIG QUESTION, you’ll never find the answer. How can you find an answer without the question it answers? You don’t even know if it is an answer—maybe it’s a question that is improperly punctuated, with the question mark missing. This possibility opens a strategy for mining declarative sentences, by making them into questions. You read: “He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down.” By reframing this statement into a question, you can start to give answers that may yield an abundance of answers, ranging from the full lung capacity and blow power of a wolf, to the place of ‘the threat’ in children’s stories and in life in general. Going down this path, you remember the numerous times you’ve been threatened, and the threats’ consequences. As you go further, you may speculate on the relative efficacy of fear vs. objective ratiocination as an inducement to cooperate, or as a simple act of cruelty as a precursor to a gruesome death as in the case of the Big Bad Wolf’s quest to whack the pigs.

Is there a single BIG QUESTION, or are there multiple BIG QUESTIONS? But again, is there a BIGGEST QUESTION? Some people jokingly refer to the question: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” They say “A woodchuck can’t chuck wood, so shut up loser.” Well, maybe that’s the case with woodchucks, but what about hands? What about this question: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Like the wood chuck’s in inability to chuck, one hand can’t clap. Only an idiot would try to answer this question, right? But people have been trying to answer this question forever, sitting in an orange robe on a stone floor somewhere in Japan or California. And what about the woodchuck? If we pay close attention to the question, it hinges on the hypothetical “if he could” which deflects speculation away from the woodchuck’s literal anatomy to his character attributes. How would he fare against a beaver or a muskrat? What do we learn about the woodchuck, and life in general, by understanding the woodchuck question as providing a launchpad for philosophical debate and discussion? The same is the case for “one hand clapping.” It can be rejected as complete nonsense, or used as a platform for performing deeper speculation and personal growth by torturing yourself in a monastery, and most likely, cheating by making up a noise and claiming you heard it when you were clapping with one hand. The head monk will laugh at your duplicity and have you thrown out of a second story window. Given your now broken wrist, you can clap with one hand by slapping your forearm with your dangling hand. But that’s not good enough for the head monk. You yell “Fuck this place,” And the Head Monk nods his head. You got it!

So what BIG QUESTION have you answered, or attempted to answer, in your life? Like Foreigner, “I want to know what love is.” I’ve read 100s of books on the topic. Lots of women have professed their love for me. My answer to the love question has run the gamut from vicious, jealous, possessiveness, to not caring as the best way of caring. Now, I am at a place in my latter time, in the twilight of life, aged, full of history, conscious of the brevity of 80 years. Ironically, for me love is anticipation; of always looking forward to spending time with my wife and daughter. As I speculate on the inevitability of death, I know the wonder of life, and being alive, I am joyous.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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