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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