Tag Archives: figures of speech


Hypallage (hy-pal’-la-ge): Shifting the application of words. Mixing the order of which words should correspond with which others. Also, sometimes, a synonym for metonymy (see Quintilian).

The roof was pitched almost straight down. Sent, I was, by my family to put up Christmas decorations for the upcoming holiday. It was November 15th. Early, to say the least, for a holiday arriving on December 25th. Every year, I do this under protest. At least there’s no snow yet, but it is very cold. At least I won’t be sliding to my death, just freezing my ass off. Once again, I have two bushel baskets of lights that I duct tape to the chimney so I can string them as I pull and they come uncoiled from the baskets. I must say, the baskets were a brilliant idea, in fact, I was thinking of contracting somebody to manufacture the baskets and sell them full of lights. But now, it was time to hang the lights. Ten years ago, I had put screws into the house’s gutters to hang the lights from,

Up the ladder I go with one basket and the roll of duct tape. I crawl up the roof dragging the basket. I tape it to the chimney. I scootch back down the roof to the ladder, climb down it, grab the second basket of lights and climb back up. I crawl up the roof and start to tape the basket to the chimney. Somehow, my cat has managed to get up onto the roof. There’s a tree branch that hangs over the roof. He probably climbed the tree and jumped off the branch onto the roof. He wanted to play. He kept batting at the tape and trying to pull it away from my hand. He managed, somehow, to do it. The tape rolled down the roof and lodged in the gutter. Now, I had to crawl down to retrieve it. I leaned the basket on the chimney and started down. The cat jumped in the basket and started biting the lights and shaking his head. Grabbing the whole string of lights, he jumped out of the basket, and dragged the lights across the eave of the house. The basket came free and rolled down the roof. It came directly at me. It hit me in the butt and knocked me off the roof. I landed on the huge inflatable Santa I had installed earlier. I bounced off, and hit the ground hard, I was knocked unconscious, but at least, due to Santa, I wasn’t dead.

In my unconsciousness, I had a vision of me murdering the cat. We were in ancient Egypt, where cats were venerated. I was going to take the cat out behind a pyramid and bury him up to his neck in sand and let nature take its course. The cat was bound in Christmas lights. I didn’t have a shovel, so I was digging with my hands. My cat said, “Come on, it was an accident man. It was like my cat nature cut loose. If you hadn’t left that limb over the roof, it never would’ve happened.” “Oh, typical cat bullshit. Go ahead, blame it on me,” I said. Just then the Pharaoh came around the corner to take a leak behind the pyramid. “What’s this?” he asked when he saw the cat. I told him the cat had tried to murder me. When he finished peeing he said, “Let him go. He was just being a cat.” Then I woke up.

I could hear the air hissing out of Santa. The cat was sitting on my chest doing his clawing-kneading thing. As usual, it hurt. I said “Ow,” but I didn’t push him away. I was going to saw the limb off the tree tomorrow and finish stringing the Christmas lights.

Santa had saved my life. I was grateful. My cat was a different story.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Hyperbaton (hy-per’-ba-ton): 1. An inversion of normal word order. A generic term for a variety of figures involving transposition, it is sometimes synonymous with anastrophe. 2. Adding a word or thought to a sentence that is already semantically complete, thus drawing emphasis to the addition.

Tomato onion. Onion tomato. onion, onion, onion. Tomato onion, tomato, tomato, tomato. Thank god they were cherry tomatoes. The blender was stuffed full, loaded! Soon, I will liquify these little babies. Babies? There I go again. Liquified babies? Oh my god. The image was taking root in my brain, in my mind. Oh words! I say it, I see it, and I can say anything, and I can see anything. And then the terror, disgust, and tears, or the excitement, the freedom, and joy as my mind’s vision manifests itself in the material world. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I am certain if I talked about this in casual conversation, I would be straight-jacketed and led away. But this, what I am writing now, is the only existing record and confession of the trajectory of my mental disrepair.

It started with desire—with wanting everything good that passed by my senses. The wanting was so intense and bizarre, it was like I wanted a dentist drilling into my head: the hot bit poking into my skull. I would pound on my head to make the drilling feeling go away. I started drinking. Copious amounts of vodka would push the unpleasant feeling out of my head. The world was a blur and I didn’t care. But the cost was high, as high as I was. I lost my job at the waxworks when I put Barbara Streisand’s nose on President Biden and knocked over Al Gore and stepped on his leg and snapped it off at the knee. I lost my home. I lost my car. I lost my family. I lost my cat Scruffles. I lost everything, as well as my desire for anything. Then, it started creeping back. I was laying on the ground in the park after a rough night wrapped in a tablecloth I had found. I saw a pint of vodka in my head. There was a popping sound, and suddenly, there was an unopened pint of vodka in my hand. I imagined a suitcase filled with $100 bills. There was a popping sound, and suddenly there was a suitcase full of money laying there next to me. I imagined a mansion. There was a popping sound and I was sitting on a couch in front of a blazing fire, in my mansion. I imagined new clothes and a beautiful woman, and pop, pop, there they were. It was like my head had turned into a magic lamp—I got what I wished for. But then I found out that I got what I didn’t wish for too. That night I had a nightmare. I was being chased by a bear. I woke up yelling “No, no!” The beautiful woman asked me what was wrong. “There’s bear in the room!” I screamed. She disappeared and the bear lunged at me. Just as he was going to tear out my throat he turned into the sales associate from ACE Hardware. And then, there I was. It was daytime and I was at ACE Hardware. I had just bought 2 rolls of packing tape and the sales associate was handing them to me in a little bag, along with the receipt.

I figured I was seriously brain-damaged from all the booze. I went to see a controversial doctor, Dr. Brightly, whose methods were questioned by the AMA and who was always on the verge of losing his license to practice medicine. I told him I had brain problems, not wanting to be explicit about the complete craziness of my condition. He pulled out a fly swatter and hit my three times on the top of my head, like he was anointing me. “Don’t think about it,” he said. So, trusting him, I took his advice. I began practicing meditation; the “School of Empty Head.” I have my bouts, but when I do, no matter where I am, I sit cross-legged and empty my head. The meditation exercise is like flushing the toilet.

It has been difficult writing this account of my condition, and now, I can go back to liquifying my health drink. I think I hear a baby crying in the sink. Time to meditate!

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Hypozeuxis (hyp-o-zook’-sis): Opposite of zeugma. Every clause has its own verb.

I found my charger cable. I found my sock. I found my wallet. I found my passport. I found them all underneath my cat’s bed, in a corner, on the living room floor. I had flipped the bed over by accident when I was pushing it with my foot because it was in the way of my bookcase’s bottom shelf. That’s where I kept my copy of “Sleeping in the Light: Iceland, Steam, and Lava.” I had been to Iceland on vacation every year for the past five years. I loved the beauty of the razor-sharp lava fields, the giant natural hot tubs, and the delicious barbecued Minke sandwiches.

As I looked at my belongings on the floor, I couldn’t imagine how my cat could’ve put everything under his bed, let alone carry them there. I was getting ready for my annual trek to Iceland, and thought that, as crazy as it seemed, my cat was trying to thwart my vacation plans. With the exception of the sock, the stuff hidden under his bed was critical to my travel. Without my wallet or passport, I was finished. With no charger chord, I would be inconvenienced. The sock had been missing for a year. It was irrelevant. I would catch him! I would set up CCTV in the living room and my bedroom and review the recordings every morning. I put everything back the way it was so my cat would not be suspicious. He hadn’t come out of the basement for two days, at least, as far as I knew. This wasn’t unusual. My guess was, he was coming up at night to do his dirty work. His empty food dish told me that.

My guess was confirmed the next morning when I reviewed the recordings. My fingernail clippers were missing from the little dish on my dresser. My mother had given them to me when I was 12 and I had developed an attachment to them and an obsession with clipping my nails. The nail clippers went with me wherever and whenever I travelled. I had had them gold-plated and a gold jump ring added. I wore them on a gold chain. They were missing.

There on the recording was my cat sneaking into my bedroom, jumping up on my dresser, and grabbing the nail clippers in his mouth. The clip from the second camera shows him in the living room pushing his head under his bed, dropping the clippers, slowly backing away, and then, curling up in his bed. I was astounded, and at the same time, wanted to figure out what to do. Why did he decide to do this when I was getting ready for my 6th Iceland trip, when he had never done it before? Maybe he was finally fed up with having to stay with my sister. She has five children who probably taunt Him. I decided to take everything (but the sock) back from under under his bed.

The first night, he took my passport again. The cat was persistent. So, as a typical cat owner, I decided to take him with me on my next trip. The process was convoluted, culminating in a 14-day quarantine at the airport. I sat him down on the kitchen island, at eye level, and told him what I was going to do. His tail shot up like a pillar of fur, signifying his happiness. Over the next few days he returned everything to its rightful place. We started working on leash training, and he quickly mastered walking on a leash. I filled out all paperwork from Iceland for his “pet passport.” I was allowed to keep him in the airplane’s cabin during our flight. I got him a “Cat Caliph” pet carrier. If he touched a mouse-faced button on the carrier’s side, the floor rolled back revealing a special travel litter box that could be used with no odor, or cleaning, for one week. I filled my backpack with “10,000 Salmon Heads” kitty treats. For the most part The cate would ride on my lap, sleeping and looking out the window.


We had a wonderful trip. The cat made many friends. When it got close to time to leave, my passport went missing. I looked under The cat’s bed in our hotel room and there it was.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Hysterologia (his-ter-o-lo’-gi-a): A form of hyperbaton or parenthesis in which one interposes a phrase between a preposition and its object. Also, a synonym for hysteron proteron.

I was in India for the fist time. I am a salesman, not quite door to door, but close. I sell a chewable drug called “Faster!” It it popular with manufactures who want to influence workers’ nimbleness and manual dexterity, moving their hands rapidly to assemble whatever it is they are assembling. The faster they move, the more product is made in a shorter period of time. Workers dosed with Faster! have been shown to increase their output by 12-18% over peers not taking Faster! The laws are so lax here, and corruption so rampant, that it is permissible to lace workers’ food or beverages with Faster! without their knowledge. The company I am meeting with today manufactures bondage balls and small three-function flashlights. Their name is Gagflash Products Ltd. The CEO is taking me on a tour of the plant, with a special emphasis on their quality control operation. I’ve seen videos of their bondage ball testing on BDSM internet sites—including the premier site titled “Owy,” and, of course, “Belt, Welt, and Candle,” the very first BDSM site on the internet..

It was early in the morning but it was steamy hot already. It was 8.00am and I needed a cold beer already to lower my temperature and make me feel a little better. I guzzled my beer like a schoolboy, and had two more for good measure. The hotel doorman motioned that my cab had arrived. I was feeling no pain. My driver held the cab’s door open for me and I jumped in. Off we went. We rode for about ten minutes when I realized I hadn’t told him where I was going. I asked him if he knew the way to Bombay. He said “Yes, Mumbai.” I said, “No, Bombay.” He said, “Yes, yes. Mumbai, Mumbai.” I said, “Let me out you idiot. I’ll find somebody else to drive me.” I was feeling no pain. He said, “Sir this is very dangerous here.” I said, “Look, I grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Stop the goddamn cab and let me out.” I got out. The cab took off. I tripped on the sidewalk and nearly fell down. I pulled out my phone to call the hotel to have them send me another cab, but there was no cellphone service. I went up to a guy to see if he knew where I could find a phone. He reached out and dropped a small snake down my shirt and motioned like he wanted to box or wrestle. Luckily, my shirt was untucked and the snake slid down and out the bottom of it. It hit the ground, and then, slithered up the guy’s pant leg. The guy put away his fighting pose, pulled a cellphone from his pocket and waved it over his head, taunting me as he walked away.

Now I heard some dirge-like singing. I saw five men in a circle coming toward me. They were wearing American football helmets painted pink and decorated with images of striped hyenas. They were dressed in see-through togas and Gucci loafers. I didn’t know whether to laugh or run. Unfortunately, I laughed. As they came closer, they opened their circle and scooped me up, closed the circle, and kept on going and chanting. I tried, but I couldn’t escape from the circle. We stopped in front of a wall with a gate. There was a poster picture of Jerry Lewis affixed to the gate. The gate opened. We went inside. There was a little man who was, despite the heat, sitting on a giant couch in a a yellow onesie with blue cuffs. He took a look at me and said to the circle of men “He’ll do.” I asked what was going on and got no answer. I looked around. There were cheap plaster faces of terrified-looking men lining the wall. The little man said, “Soon you will become the final face, completing the pantheon of WOES arrayed on the Wall of Desolation devoted to The Great Bummer. Go take a bath and prepare yourself.” As I was led to the bath I noticed a bucket of plaster of paris. Then it hit me: My face would be pushed into the bucket. I was going to drown. I was going to die. Then, I heard a commotion and yelling. It sounded like my cab driver! He burst into the bath with an AK-47 ready to make some woe of his own. We fled back to the cab and took off. “Why did you come back?” I asked. He told me he felt very bad for dropping me where he knew I would have trouble. He wanted to make amends. I asked him how he found me. He told me the crazy snake man who I had encountered saw the cult members take me away, and told him where the cult’s headquarters was. My cab driver pulled his AK-47 from under the cab’s seat, broke through the gate, and saved me.

I thanked him profusely and told him I would buy clothes for myself and give him a $25 reward when we got to Bombay. He said, “Oh that is wonderful. Yes, yes, yes! When we get to Mumbai!”

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Hysteron Proteron

Hysteron Proteron (his’-ter-on pro’-ter-on): Disorder of time. (What should be first, isn’t.)

Tick-tock had started going tock-tick. The end became the beginning and the beginning became the end. The finish was the start, and the start was the finish. I felt like a tumbleweed tumbling through outer space. I was a mystery choking on clues. I was fake, then I was real. Now I am a corn dog propped in my swivel chair in front of my computer screen waiting for instructions from the Apposphere where the APP of APPs—the overlord of all computer applications—has started melding all computer APPs into the Uberapp: a seamless representation of difference that imperceptibly combines all contexts of cyber-experience into a single streaming horizon consisting of everything-all-at-once: everything—Google earth, Microsoft Word, the weather, PDF, Layer, Wordscape: 100s of thousands of vantage points, unknowable as such, singular in their consumption, merged and experienced as one: the Uberapp.

As I stared at the screen I could feel my next metamorphosis beginning. It was always a surprise. Just as I was getting used to being a corn dog, I felt the rumbling. I could see my reflection in the screen, and I felt my stick being pulled away. My corn meal crust started to crack revealing my pulsing hot dog glowing a sickly yellow-green beneath. My hot dog skin started to tear, as if it was giving birth—and it was! A flat head emerged—it had my face. Oh my God. It was a gingerbread man version of me. Suddenly, I was the gingerbread man hopping out of the torn hot dog skin and growing into a me-sized cookie. Thank God I was flexible.

I ran downstairs to tell my parents how insane the world had become. They were sitting in their chairs in the living room, laptops open on their laps: a gingerbread man and a gingerbread woman tangled in the Uberapp. They smelled really good—like Old Spice soap. “What is it son?” my mother asked. “Oh nothing. We’ve all just turned into gingerbread people, that’s all.” My mother sniffed her armpit and said, “I certainly smell like gingerbread.” I grabbed a small hand mirror from the bathroom and held it in front of my mother’s face. “See? You’re made out of gingerbread! Admit it!” My gingerbread father grabbed the mirror and looked in it. He asked, “Son, you’re going over the edge again. Take your medication!” I had taken my medication: it was the Uberapp taking over the construction of realty—my parents were in denial. They were gingerbread, and they couldn’t, or didn’t want to, see it. Then I felt the transformational rumbling in my gut again.

“”Now what?” I asked myself as the rumbling intensified. I was puffing up and fleshing out! I had skin. I had clothes. I was me again! There was a lingering trace of gingerbread smell in the living room, but Mom and Dad were restored to humans too. I ran up to my room and Googled “Uberapp.” My computer made a humming sound and displayed FU over and over again. I looked at my cellphone, and it was the same there. I tried to call my friend William, and it went to voicemail with the greeting saying “FU” over and over in a synthetic voice. Clearly, it was the end of the world. Maybe we would all be turned into loaves of bread or canned gravy.

There was one person I could think of who might be able to help save the world. Professor Cane. He had been fired from the local community college by ultra conservative politicians for his unorthodox computer science theories. For example, he taught that the “Matrix” is a work of fiction. When he was fired, he purchased a government surplus missile silo in North Dakota where he currently resides. I had tried to call him, but he doesn’t have a phone. I couldn’t find him on the internet, so ZOOM or Skype were out of the question. So, I had to take a bus to North Dakota. When I arrived in Bismarck, I took a cab to his lair, and he met me at the hatch cover, demanding to know who I was and why I was there. When I told him, we took the silo’s elevator down to his living quarters. He handed me a tin foil hat to wear for “protection.” Then he said: “You want to save the world? Turn off your phone and your computer. Doing so will starve the Uberapp to death.” I asked him about the rest of the world. He said “I don’t know. Now, get out of here and go to your gingerbread home, whoops, I mean, your cozy happy home.” “Gingerbread! What do you mean? How do you know? Are you working for the Uberapp?” Then, I passed out. When I awoke, I was on the bus headed back home. There was an envelope duct-taped to my coat. The letter inside it said, “Do what I told you to do. It will trigger a virus that will wipe out the Uberapp and save the world. It is up to you. I am banned from Cyberspace. Sincerely, Professor Cane.” I had to trust the Professor. What choice did I have? Just then, the bus began to morph into a four-wheeled Twinkie.

Time was running out.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Inopinatum (in-o-pi-na’-tum): The expression of one’s inability to believe or conceive of something; a type of faux wondering. As such, this kind of paradox is much like aporia and functions much like a rhetorical question or erotema. [A paradox is] a statement that is self-contradictory on the surface, yet seems to evoke a truth nonetheless [can include oxymoron].

After eating pigeon wing jerky at my daughter’s birthday party, I decided to write a cookbook containing our mother’s other recipes—recipes that were expressions of her mild insanity as they were the dishes she put on the table night after night. They were all her favorites, but we hated them but, under fatherly duress, I stuffed the dishes down anticipating racing my sister and father to our single toilet later in the evening—either to vomit or manage a bout of diarrhea. Mom was so proud that she had made up all the recipes herself. She was an orphan and had nobody to teach her cooking, and she was afraid that published cookbooks would make us “just like everybody else.” I never understood what the big deal was, but like I said, she was mildly insane. She did a lot of things that made no sense, like skipping around our cramped apartment and shaving a zig-zag line down the middle of her head, and continuing the line in lipstick down her forehead to the end of her nose. Sometimes Dad would call me and my sister into the living room for a “reminder.” He’d be sitting there in his big chair, spinning his revolver’s loaded cylinder: “Don’t say anything to anybody about your mother’s special habits, or I’ll kill you.” So we kept them secret. Dad died last week, but Mom is still going strong. So, that’s part of the reason I can collect Mom’s recipes into a cookbook—I’m not afraid of being shot by Dad anymore. After Mom was taken to the nursing home “ The Final Countdown,” I rummaged around in the kitchen to see if she left any recipes for her cooking. I found at least 100 written on sticky notes, stored in an empty taped-shut crayon box and hidden behind a half-gallon jug of Mr.Boston gin tucked away under the sink..

I have taken the liberty of publishing one of her recipes here. The entire collection will be titled “Dead Men Walking.” I think the title captures the seemingly lethal intent of Mom’s cooking. Be prepared, it is shocking and disgusting. I can’t believe I’m doing this, but the truth must be told.

“Whole Croaked Frog”

One night we sat down to dinner and things seemed different. Then, I realized it was the quiet. Usually, the 100s of frogs in the neighboring swamp incessantly croaked and interfered with our ability to carry on a decent conversation. Tonight, they were relatively quiet, and we talked about a bunch of things. I found out my sister’s name is Betty and that we lived in a town called Chester. I was thrilled. Mom’s muddy boots were parked by the front door.


1 pillowcase full of live frogs, 1 bucket swamp water, 1 doz. red onions, 5 cloves of garlic, coarse salt, stewed prunes, baking chocolate


Beat frogs to death with small claw hammer and leave carcasses to soak overnight in swamp water. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour frogs and quarter-bucket of swamp water into roasting pan. Place frogs in a circle in a sitting posture, surround with 12 onions, 5 garlic cloves and 2 handfuls of stewed prunes. Sprinkle on 50 pinches of coarse salt. Place whole bar of baker’s chocolate in middle of encircled frogs. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and decorate with fresh cattails. Eat with hands like corn on the cob. Mmmmm! Disgustingly delicious.


“Whole Croaked Frog” made me sick for three days, I had a fever and the doctor thought I might have typhus. This was normal. But like I said, I was afraid of being shot by my father if I said anything. I had said something once after I choked and he shot at me and he missed. I never said anything again.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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Inter se pugnantia

Inter se pugnantia (in’-ter-say-pug-nan’-ti-a): Using direct address to reprove someone before an audience, pointing out the contradictions in that person’s character, often between what a person does and says.

He stood there in front of our friends trying to convince them to become vegetarians—blabbing on about slaughterhouses and cow farts, Tex came off as a true believer in meat’s right to die of old age instead of being butchered and eaten by people, slopping their bread in the sentient being’s warm blood, calling it “juices” to make it less disgusting, or not disgusting at all. Tex would pound his fist on the table, making the salt and pepper shakers dance, and making the meat eaters tremble, knives and forks almost vibrating in their hands. Tex was a powerful presence in the fight against meat’s consumption—against the protein-stuffed gluttons populating Western Democracies, and ruining the world. There were militant vegetarians gathering around Tex’s words. There was a bovine liberation movement brewing.

Then, I had dinner with Tex. He ordered Sweetbreads, Porterhouse Steak, and liver and onions, and a side order of pickled oxtails. Tex told me the only things on the menu for “sissy” vegetarians were mashed potatoes, bread and ice water. He laughed like he thought he was being funny. His behavior blew me into another galaxy. I couldn’t speak. I was angry. I was shocked. But more than anything, I was confused. As the foremost proponent of vegetarianism in the northeast US, he was also a meat-man: hacking away at the dead things steaming on his dinner plate, forking bite-sized chunks into his mouth, chewing them with his mouth open, and swallowing them down into his horrible stomach. An undeniable betrayal of everything he says he stands for. What a liar!

My bread and potatoes were delivered to the table just as I was about to say something to Tex. I asked the waiter to bring me a glass of water and was about to dig in when Tex lifted his fork over his head and stabbed in into our table. “I see that look on your face,” he yelled so loud that other diners looked at us. ‘It says, hypocrite, liar, despicable human being.’ He told me he has a rare disease that forces him to eat meat or die. It is called “veganomilymeatanemia.” It afflicts people born on airplanes, the back seats of taxis, and cruise ships. It is so rare, that basically no body knows about it. He said, “I was born on a Carnival cruise ship off the coast of Freeport. Before I was diagnosed, I almost died. My mother thought she was doing me a favor by feeding me solely strained carrots and peas. I was thin and had hair growing out of my nose. One day, my mother was taking me on a walk in my stroller. We passed a street vendor selling kabobs. I smelled the grilling meat and went wild. I struggled violently against my stroller’s restraints, freeing myself, and escaping to the pavement. I bit my mother when she tried to pick me up. I broke a record for the five-foot crawl and pounded on the vendor’s stand with one hand, while I pointed to my mouth with the other. The vendor understood me and came around front with a cooked beef cube between his fingers. I grabbed the meat and stuffed into my mouth. The second the juices ran down my throat, I felt stronger and the hair fell out of my nose. Meat saved my life.”

I listened compassionately to his story. It was a lot to digest. He begged me to keep his secret so he could continue to fight the good fight for vegetarianism. I agreed, but still there were a lot of anomalies I needed to iron out. It was time to go. A limo pulled up out front and Tex got into it. It had Texas license plates that said MEAT, huge steer horns mounted on the hood, and a horn that made a mooing sound when it summoned Tex outside.

Like I said, I had a lot of second thoughts. I couldn’t find Tex’s disease on Google. Was he a spy? Why did he invite me to eat with him? Why did he confide in me? Why was there a man wearing a cowboy hat following me?

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Isocolon (i-so-co’-lon): A series of similarly structured elements having the same length. A kind of parallelism.

I came. I saw. I fired.

I had just bought a Ruger .357 magnum at the Piggly Wiggly. With my state’s liberal gun laws, you could by a gun anywhere. I wasn’t looking for trouble when I loaded it’s six-round cylinder in the parking lot. I wasn’t looking for trouble when I parked in the driveway, got out of my pickup, and headed to the front door. I started looking for trouble when I noticed Nick’s SUV parked up the street. The same Nick my wife dated in high school and the same Nick who thought I’d be out of town on business for one more day. I opened the front door. There she was, sprawled on the living room couch naked. There was Nick standing over her naked.

I cocked my .357. I didn’t want to kill anybody, but I wanted to shoot somebody: Nick was in the batter’s box. I could claim I thought he was assaulting my wife. Next, I had to decide where to shoot him. I told him to go face the wall. Then, I stood to the right of him, aimed, and put a bullet in his ass. The slug went through both of his butt cheeks and embedded in the opposite wall.

Nick was crying and screaming like a baby. I pointed the gun at him and told him to shut the hell up. Meanwhile, my wife was calling me all kinds of names, like there was something wrong with shooting her boyfriend in the ass. She called me a “monster.” She called me a “loser.” She called me a “barbarian.” I called her a “wayward woman” and a “dirty rotten cheater.” I told her I would blow her head off if she didn’t shut the hell up. In the meantime, Nick kept screaming, and he’d started begging for a doctor.

I started cursing myself. I couldn’t believe what a stupid thing I’d done. It was beyond stupid, wherever that is. It was so damn easy to buy the damn gun and ammunition. I am not a killer. I am not a shooter. It was for home defense. But, I guess shooting a guy getting ready to screw my wife is a sort of home defense. Anyway, it seemed like Nick was dying in the corner across the room. He had quieted down and his breathing was shallow. Crying, my wife asked me to call 911. That did it. Something snapped in my head, and I pointed the gun at her. I was just about to shoot her in the arm when three police officers, guns drawn, burst through the open front door. I heard sirens. Nick had managed to call 911 on his cellphone when my wife and I were yelling at each other. I dropped my gun and explained what was going on—that Nick was getting ready to assault my wife when I walked in the front door. My wife yelled “My husband shot my boyfriend in the ass!” The cops clicked their tongues and shook their heads and looked at each other, and one of them asked my wife why her boyfriend would want to assault her, implying that he was not really her boyfriend—hat she was trying to frame me. The ambulance came and they took Nick away on a stretcher, in handcuffs, moaning loudly. When my wife went upstairs to put some clothes on, we had a little discussion downstairs and decided Nick got what he deserved, that my wife was too distraught and traumatized by what had happened to make a coherent statement, and that Nick would be charged with assault.

I looked at my gun on the floor and thought if I didn’t have it at the time, I would’ve just beaten the shit out of Nick and filed for divorce. I didn’t want the gun any more. If I had to defend my home without it, I’d use a crowbar, a length of pipe, or a baseball bat. What a mess!

Nick will be sentenced tomorrow after being found guilty of assault by a jury of his peers, despite my wife marching up and down with a sign outside the courthouse saying “I Love You Nick.” As a “hysterical woman” she was not permitted by the Judge to testify in Nick’s trial.

I will be filing for divorce after things cool off a bit. I’ve started dating Nick’s sister, Wanda.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Kategoria (ka-te-go’-ri-a): Opening the secret wickedness of one’s adversary before his [or her] face.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” To some extent you can judge a book by its cover—like if it says “Cook Book“ it is probably a cook book. But, it could be a meth lab manual. However, 99% of the time a book’s cover will give you a fair idea of what’s inside, unless it’s coded in some way like “Of Mice and Men.” That book’s not about mice and men, literally. It is not a book about how mice and men have shared living spaces since the beginning of time. If it was that, it might be titled “Of Mice, and Men, and Cats.” In the end, I guess you take a risk solely judging the quality of a book’s contents by its cover. We all know this is a cautionary note. Kind of like “what you see isn’t always what you get.”

If I think of the book cover as the exterior you, and your real character as the book’s content, I can say with confidence that I am an idiot—or maybe socially illiterate. If I had bothered to scan your table of contents, I never would’ve gotten hooked up with you, and eventually, married to you. The tile of the book? “I am Your Special Angel: I’ll Never Hurt You, I’ll Never Desert You, I’ll Never Let You Down.” Wow! What more could a guy ask for? But, you ended up doing all three of those things and more.

If I had just taken a peek at Chapter One’s title: “Extramarital Frolics,” I would have had an inkling that something was wrong. But, I paid no attention—I was captivated by your cover. It made you seem perfect. The last chapter, Chapter Five, it is titled: “Cleaning Out the Joint Account and Disappearing.” You didn’t get a chance to live this one out. The bank’s VP clued me in that something was up. You told him we were going on vacation and needed the cash. The joint account had $150,000 in it. That’s an awful lot of cash for a vacation. When he questioned you, you got angry and stalked out of the bank. I think what you tried to do was a bit like stealing.

What a sucker I was. I have filed for divorce and my so-called wife has moved in with her boyfriend, a 40-year-old shelf-stocker at the local Hannaford’s. I had a “meeting” with him at the grocery store. I asked why he had ruined my marriage, and he said “No, you ruined your marriage.” I thought about what he has said for about 5 seconds and then slammed him on the head with a can of “Pringles” fake potato chips: fake, like my marriage turned out.

So, to you, my soon to be former wife: adultery and robbery, and a bunch of other things are the contents of the book of you. If only I hadn’t been spellbound by your cover, I might’ve saved myself a lot of heartache and pain. So, now, the first thing I do is hire a private investigator and run a background check on every women I might have anything to do with. The investigator’s report is like Dating Spark Notes—the report saves time and covers the territory.

I’ve made the new title of the book of me “I Won’t Be Fooled Again. No, No.” It makes me seem a little paranoid, and it is off-putting to most of the women I’ve met since my divorce. Maybe I should give up the book metaphor thing and run my romantic life like a Philosopher, like my brother Eddie. I’m thinking: “In the valley of the blind, the sound of one hand clapping is like a cell phone with a broken volume control, like an auctioneer on speed, like a piece of Camembert softening on a piece of bark.” This reflects the incomprehensibility, the mystery, and the absurdity of the so-called “human condition.” I went to high school with Hannah Arendt. I asked her out every day for four years. She would see me coming and just say “No!” and turn and run before I even opened my mouth. Hannah graduated at the top of our class and went to college in some other country, where she drove a taxi until she graduated. I, on the other hand, barely graduated and went to work as a rag boy at the local car wash: “Suds n’ Fenders.” There you have it! The human condition. We’ll never know what it is, or, even if it exists at all. Maybe it was Derrida who said we can’t know a system in its totality, so we really don’t know anything at all. But, “I think, therefore I am.” That’s good enough for me as I negotiate the world’s wicked ways, neither wasting nor wanting—just seeking, with no map or GPS. I am the Seeker, you are the Sought—not you specifically, but rather, the Global You. I want our spheres to synthesize like a flock of ducks.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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Litotes (li-to’-tees): Deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite. The Ad Herennium author suggests litotes as a means of expressing modesty (downplaying one’s accomplishments) in order to gain the audience’s favor (establishing ethos).

I shouldn’t be here today. The banquet you’ve set, the adulation you’ve expressed have moved me nearly beyond words. When Ed called me “a regular Superman,” I wanted to hide under my table. Instead, Jim and Carl carried me up here to the podium in that sedan chair over there. I am so embarrassed—I’m not royalty. I’m just an ordinary guy—a very ordinary guy. Look at me for God’s sake: average height, average looks, average body, average shoe size, average hands. I am average all over, from top to bottom, from side to side. And Joe, you were way off base when you called a saint. Saints perform miracles. Do you really think that what I did was a miracle? I don’t think so, and neither should you. And Ann, you said that without people like me, the world would end. I don’t think so. Without people like me, the world would go on as it always has as a site of hope and fear, and all the other binary pairs that motivate people to act.

I awoke today to be confirmed by my peers as a hero at this beautiful celebration. One month ago I wasn’t a hero—confirmed or not. I did what I did because the world cried out to me—in fact—it screamed to me. It said: “Do something for me!” I listened. But, I did not know what to do. So, I asked my girlfriend, Eden. She told me I should do something nice. I asked what that meant. She told me that nice things benefit other people, but I needed to beware: just because I might think something’s nice, it may not seem nice to somebody else. This struck fear into my heart, giving me mild chest pains, and freezing me into inaction: I was afraid I would make a fool of myself. So, I sat on my saggy couch. Eden sat next to me. We sat in silence until the sun started to set and evening’s shadows started to inch their way across the living room carpet. My chest pains had subsided, and so had the fear (to some extent).

I stood up and pulled down my pants and yelled “Do it yourself!” at the world. I hobbled out to my front porch and yelled “Do it yourself!” My neighbor across the street came out onto his front porch, pulled down his pants and yelled “Do it yourself!” It was Fourth of July Weekend, so everybody was home. Soon, the yelling grew into a roar. “Do it yourself!” became a slogan for a social movement that has swept the world in one short month. With social media’s help, it took off like a big beautiful bird. Now, here we are celebrating the demise a charity—of giving generously with no hope of recompense, or reward. All I did was fan the flames of the fire of selfishness that’ve been burning since the beginning of time. Where do we go from here? I really don’t care. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry and work out the ironies and contradictions later! Here’s to the haves, to hell with the have nots. Here’s to “Do it yourself!”

The banquet ended. The guests left the hall. I was beginning to think that my front porch outburst had really made a mess of things. We were headed for a world without love or compassion. I told Eden to drag me home in my sedan chair. She yelled, “Do it yourself!” I pulled out my Taser and walked slowly toward her.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Martyria (mar-tir’-i-a): Confirming something by referring to one’s own experience.

What the hell is experience? Is it something you go through with your body? Your mind? Both? And what is it good for? Does it make you an authority? Is it really the “best teacher”?

We all have at least 1,000,000 experiences per day. Seeing, walking, breathing, talking, listening, sitting, getting dressed, having a beer, driving to the mall. This list could easily extend to five or six feet in 10pt. font. But there are experiences, and then there are EXPERIENCES. Upper-case experiences are memorable, often as first-times. I remember the one and only time I got run over by a car.

I was in the 7th grade. I was carrying a paper flag I had made as a part of a class project showing the history of the American Flag. I took a shortcut home because I was in a hurry to get home to show my mother my flag. I skipped the intersection with the crossing guard and crossed where there were no crosswalks. I was j-walking. I had been told it was dangerous, but I didn’t care. I was in a hurry. I stepped into street without looking and was clipped by a big blue Oldsmobile that looked a lot like my neighbor’s car. It didn’t blow its horn. It didn’t slow down. It tore my paper flag out of my hand and I lost my balance and fell down on the pavement crying. Then, I got up, and this time, I looked both ways before I crossed the street.

I got home, and I was right, the blue Oldsmobile was parked in my neighbor’s driveway! My neighbor, and my best friend Billy, came running across the yard. He asked if I was ok, then he told me he had taken the family car joyriding while his father and mother were sleeping off one of their many binges. Eddie Baskle, an older kid, had talked him into it, like he always did: getting younger gullible kids in trouble: he was a menace. He had stayed back so many times, he was eligible to vote in the 7th grade.

After I punched Billy in the stomach for what he had done to me, we decided to “take care” of Eddie, but we couldn’t decide what to do. First, we considered pushing him out in traffic so he would be run over. But we decided we did not want to kill hm. Then, we considered a couple of non-fatal accident scenarios. We would tell him about the glory hole that was located in the Speedy Mart men’s room. It would be fake—me and Billy would make it. My dad had recently purchased a set of hedge clippers so, when he was sober, he could cut back our out-of-control hedge. Our plan was to lop off Eddie’s wiener with the hedge clippers. Then, we realized it was too crazy and too violent, even for us. It was like a scene out of a horror movie. Finally, we settled on x-lax, a chocolate candy-like laxative. We’d wrap it in foil and tell Eddie it was candy. We would make sure he ate it at the start of school in the morning, so the laxative would take effect around noon. And it did!

We did as planned. Eddie jumped up from the lunchroom table he was sitting at and ran to the boys room with a steaming brown stain on the back of his pants and down his pants leg. He made a squishy noise as he ran, crying and swearing at the same time. The school nurse gave Eddie a gown to wear until his mom could drop off some clean pants, socks and underwear. Eddie had an important math test that he couldn’t miss and had to wear the gown to the test. He was mercilessly taunted by his classmates and earned the nickname “King Poop.”

Eddie knew it was me and Billy who put him in poopy hell, but he never retaliated. His x-lax experience had taught him a lesson. Now, he volunteers at a nearby soup kitchen where, unfortunately, they have recurring outbreaks of intestinal flu. So far, Eddie has managed to evade the runs. There are suspicions.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Medela (me-de’-la): When you can’t deny or defend friends’ faults and seek to heal them with good words.

We are friends. So, I can tell you everything that’s wrong with you, and possibly, lay out a remedy for each of your faults. I read somewhere that this sort of exercise is what friends are for. If you don’t want to hear it from a friend, who else will you listen to? Dr. Needleton? Ha ha. He thinks advice is asking questions, like “How did you sleep last night?” You answer “Good.” He says “Uh huh” and then asks you another question, like “Do you hate your mother?” You answer “Yes.” He says “Uh huh” and he asks you another question. This goes for 30 minutes. Then he says, “Good, good. You’re making progress.” Progress on what? Your dirty habits? No. Your irresponsibility? No. Your fear of the dark? No. I could go on forever with your defects and phobias, but let’s try to focus.

Number 1. Your are selfish piece of shit. The remedy is simple. Make a will that leaves everything to me. Here’s the paperwork. Just sign where it says signature. Very good. Now you’re not a selfish piece of shit any more.

Number 2. You are a coward. The remedy is simple. Light your neighbor’s house on fire and run inside to save their cat Rompus. But, you might say, “I’m a coward, I can’t do that.” No problem. We can get you a fire retardant suit. Voila! Now you’re brave.

Number 3. You are a slob. The remedy is simple. Hire a housekeeper and a live-in masseuse: the housekeeper will straighten things up and the masseuse will clean and rub you every day, Abracadabra! You are not a slob any more.

Number 4. You are afraid of spiders. The remedy is simple. This is a Brown Recluse. Eat it before it gets away. Ok, I’ll “feed” it to you. I have the spider in the jar in this hand, and I have a Smith & Wesson aimed at you with this hand. Eat the spider. I call this “tough love.” Eat the spider now! You’ll never be afraid of spiders again. Come on! First, let’s make sure you signed the will. After all, I am your best friend and wouldn’t want to miss out on inheriting your wealth! Ok, everything’s in good order. Don’t forget to chew before you swallow. Bon voyage asshole.

All this may seem rather harsh to a person who has never had a really good friend with a pile of problems. If they are unable to see the benefits of suicide, the next best thing is to murder them. Sure, you can pose remedies. In the example above, I only cited a handful of problems. If I had cited them all, I would still be writing. “Asshole” is a catch-all that holds all of a given person’s problems together—no matter how many, or how few, “asshole” contains it.

If you don’t want kill your problem-encumbered friend, or try to talk them into suicide, you can unfriend them, just like on Facebook. Make sure you call them an “asshole” when you unfriend them, so they will understand the rationale of your unfriending. No matter how much they whine and beg, just keep repeating “because you’re an asshole” over and over again. This could go on for weeks. The best thing to do is record “because you’re an asshole” on your phone’s voicemail greeting. Make sure to tell your other non-asshole friends and colleagues what you’re up to. If they’ve read my book, “Good-Bye Asshole,” they’ll know what you’re up to and will applaud you for your courage. If you see your former friend, make sure to use the word “asshole” in your greeting, like, “Hey asshole. What’s up?” If your car gets keyed, or other acts of vandalism are directed toward your property, simply report your former friend to the police. If you’ve had to “asshole” more than one person, make sure to report them all.

You’re right. I am harsh. I have zero empathy. My major problem in life is that assholes are attracted to me in droves. Is that because I’m an asshole?

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Meiosis (mei-o’-sis): Reference to something with a name disproportionately lesser than its nature (a kind of litotes). This term is equivalent to tapinosis.

Cod Almighty created the heavens and the earth in seven days and seven nights. Cod Almighty took a rest on day seven and looked in the mirror. “I am not a halibut,” He proclaimed. Nevertheless, he was netted and found himself on the deck of a trawler. He tried to flop over the side before they shoveled him into the refrigerated hold along with his brethren. He failed. He became part of the pile of squirming fish, shiny silver in the gloom of the refrigerated hold. Slapped in the eye by a cold fish tail, and sliding deeper into the panicked pile, he thought, “I am Cod, I created all of this. It is not supposed to be like this. It is supposed to be a good world, filled with peace, love, and happiness, not a wild world filled with war, hatred, and clinically depressed humans: the clam mourns the depredation of its richly scented mud flats, the elderly man lives in a cardboard box, the lobster—consider the lobster—cramped in a supermarket tank, waiting to be boiled, cracked open, and eaten.”

Cod decided to make it right. He would remake the world, and recreate it right—universally brimming over with love, peace, and happiness. He closed his eyes and imagined the world he hoped for. Nothing happened, except he sank deeper into the fish pile. Then, he thought there may be other Cods and Coddesses in the pile who envisioned what he envisioned. He cried out. There was no answer. The pile was closing in, almost crushing him with its increasing weight. Then, He remembered he was omnipotent. Because of this insight, He thought, “I can reestablish myself as Cod,” and shimmied His way to the top of the pile, shot out of the hold, flopped across the deck and dove deep into the sea, where He was netted by another trawler and dumped into its hold. “Cod-damnit!” He cried, bubbling at the mouth. One of the hold’s shovelers looked at Him and asked “Did you just swear?” “Yes!” He cried, “Things are not the way they’re supposed to be.” The shoveler threw Cod in a corner and covered Him with a tarp. He told Him he got to keep one “catch” from each fishing trip & he was keeping Cod. When they got back to the Harbor, he took Cod in the tarp to the Fisher of Men Study Center. Cod rode in the back of the shoveler’s pickup truck flopping with joy. The Lab scientists put Cod in a beautiful tank. It was small, but comfortable. Cod told them He was grateful, but that “I am Cod Almighty and something got totally screwed up after I made the heavens and the earth.” The scientists looked sympathetic, and one of them offered to help Cod “sort things out.”

Now, Cod tells us: “I work when I can for the Study Center, dictating my memoirs to the scientist sitting on the rock at the end of my tank, where it is very foggy most of the time. Every once-in-awhile I hear somebody say, ‘Focus mister Bender, it’s time for your medication’ and a human hand pokes through the fog and feeds me a little blue pellet. I think there is a shark in the tank next to mine. I can’t see him, but he makes me nervous.”

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mempsis (memp’-sis): Expressing complaint and seeking help.

After I fell down the living room stairs for the third time, I started thinking about an alternative to stairs to get me up to bed at night. I was getting old and my doctor kept prescribing me medicine for all the ills that kept popping up. The latest was medical marijuana. It was mixed into Gummy Bear candies and it was prescribed for “gravitosis,” a condition afflicting the elderly with a sense of being “held down” by the “weight of the world” being on their shoulders, backs, and feet. The “Gummy’s” magically lift the “weight of the world” by inducing a vivid perception of the reduction of gravity’s pull on their bodies. In me, the “Weight Lifters” filled me with euphoria, like I had unhooked from earth and was in a sort of “gravity-lite” never-never land where I could skip, roller skate, or jump rope painlessly. That’s how I had my last fall: I was high on Weight Lifters, jumping up and down at the top of the stairs singing my version of the Peter Pan song: “I’m flying, way up high in the sky, like a frozen pizza pie, I’m flying.” I don’t know how he did it, and I never will, but my cat had nudged a large Teflon frying pan under my feet just as I was landing from a jump. When I landed in the frying pan slid down the stairs with me riding it like a surfboard. Luckily, surfing memories kicked in from my youth in California, and I rode the frying pan almost to the bottom of the stairs. I fell off on the second step and did not get hurt at all. But that’s when I decided to do something about the stairs, that, along with my homicidal cat, presented a growing danger.

Of course, one option would be to move into a one-story ranch house—no stairs, no problem. But, I couldn’t do that, mainly for sentimental reasons. My husband Ed would spin in his urn if I sold. We lived here all his life and raised six children here—only one was a loser. We could never figure out where we went wrong with Vick. He was violent, rude and uncaring. I always thought he might’ve been the result of a quicky I had in a supply closet at a “meet the teacher” night at Abby’s school. My sex partner was a professional wrestler named “Mauler Malone.” Vick looked a lot like him (from my vague recollection), and of course had wrestler characteristics—he couldn’t play nice. For example, he would choke and try to gouge his playmates’ eyes out during a game of Candy Land. He’s in prison for choking, trying to gouge his boss’s eyes out, and burning a warehouse down.

Anyway, another possible solution to my stair-falling is one of those chairs that hooks to the wall and rides up and down by the side of the stairs. I can afford one those things, but I don’t like them. They are ugly and they send the message “feeble person lives here.” I am too vain for that. Also, my grandchildren would pester the hell out of me for a ride. They’d whine and moan, and even threaten to hit me in the head with my crystal ashtray—just like Vick used to do. Hmmm. Anyway, a gigantic NIX goes out to the “Stairlifter.”

There’s no room for an elevator, so I’m down to the last option: “Carry That Weight” (CTW). CTW provides “burly, youthful, good-looking men to carry you up and down your dangerous stairs. Our men are representative of all races and ethnicities, and are randomly assigned.” I went for it! My assigned “Carrier” moved in with me. He wore a CTW lift alert bracelet. When I need a lift, I would press the button on my bracelet and he would find me and lift me. The major benefit, in addition to the lifts was being able to display my lifter when friends came over. They would assume he was my kept man, and become jealous.

Everything was great, except for my cat, “Ridiculous.” Believe it or not, he was jealous. He started winding around my lifter’s feet, and meowing, obviously trying to trip him up. He succeeded. My lifter was seriously injured in a fall down the stairs. Vick will get out of prison in 2 weeks and he is going to be my new lifter. In preparation, I’ve updated my will.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Merismus (mer-is’-mus): The dividing of a whole into its parts.

“Divide things up between us”—sounds easy, up front, before you actually have to do it. When I was a kid, I was first acquainted with division vexations. We were only 15 years old, but we had a gang called the “Phantoms.” We were like the junior auxiliary to the “Titans,” a gang that had been doing business since right after the Revolutionary War. During the War they harassed Loyalists by stealing livestock, kidnapping Loyalists’ wives, and occasionally burning down a manor house and freeing the slaves of rich plantation owners. The Redcoats were often hot on their trail, but their superior knowledge of the lay of the land enabled them, most of the time, to evade capture. If they were caught, they were hanged without a trial. So, you could believe they were courageous.

When the War ended they got nothing—no recognition, no pensions, no nothing. So, they turned to crime, and still, after 100s of years that’s what they do. They specialize in arson, burglary, extortion, and hijacked shipments of CBD supplements. There are 12 members in the gang. If the booty from a given job isn’t an even number, or if there isn’t enough to go around, the Titans play rock/paper/scissors, breaking off into two person teams, that determine through a process of elimination, who gets a share of the booty. This process of elimination has kept them from killing each other ever since the gang’s inception, when “Luke Cold” Fawcet instituted the practice after returning from Sicily and assembling the first Titans into a European-style gang.

Unlike the Titans, the Phantoms used what we called “slash and burn.” In our adolescent minds, destruction was a favored option. When we couldn’t evenly divide, we either got rid of the whole haul, or we destroyed pieces until we got to an even number. We would squabble over how to effect the surplus’s destruction. It was usually accomplished by burning it, or throwing it off a bridge into a river. This worked beautifully. For example, we had stolen a truckload of Izod shirts that were being delivered to some upscale specialty store in NYC named “Hammermacthers.” We ended up with an odd number that we had to divide between an even number of gang members. Solution: burn the surplus shirts, and everybody would get the same size piece of the pie. Worked perfect! Then, Joey Freehand proposed a new idea:

Give what we can’t divide to widows and orphans. We could open a front and give stuff away that was supposedly “donated” by civic minded people and organizations. We had the cops covered. They “promised” not to look for stolen goods as long as we kept making “donations” to the police force. For a gang of adolescents, we were top-notch wiseguys. We named our store “Angel’s Outlet.” There’s a sign on the door that says “Widows and Orphans Only.” They had to show proof. Sometimes it was gruesome, but usually it was a death certificate. Once inside, they were allowed one item for free, and had to pay for the rest. We took only cash or gold or silver jewelry. Some of the widows tried to make a trade for something they wanted in addition to their free item. It was sad. Toaster ovens were frequently offered along with blenders, and even Pyrex casserole dishes. Our policy was “No Never” for everything but jewelry. I felt guilty enforcing it, but we didn’t want to be stuck with used crap, when our cache was “all brand new stuff.”

When I graduated from high school, I got out of the rackets. I went to college in New Hampshire and put my past behind me—so I thought. One of the orphans from my gang days was in most of my classes. We were both majoring in Anthropology. Her name was Ludmilla, and both of her parents had perished in a tornado that had ripped through south Florida. She recognized me immediately and told me she was still grateful for what the Phantoms had done for her. She told me she wanted to show me how grateful she was, if I would come to her dorm room at 11:00pm. I agreed, and showed up at 11. She was standing there with a ziplock bag. She handed it to me: “This is a remnant of my father: one of his glass eyes. It is precious to me. I have his other eye. If we each have one, it will make us a couple.” I looked at the glass eye. I thought, “What the hell.” We had the eyeballs made into pendants. We always joked that we could “see” how much we loved each other. After college, we studied further and became optometrists. We’d start each day by saying “the eyes have it.” We had a daughter we named “Hazel” named after the color of the glass eyes.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mesodiplosis (mes-o-dip-lo’-sis): Repetition of the same word or words in the middle of successive sentences.

I had 17 credit cards, some from the same bank. They made a neat shiny pile on my dining room table. I had 74 catalogues, they made a neat shiny pile too. I had clothing catalogues, ski equipment catalogues, weather predicting equipment catalogues, and the best one of all: a catalogue for “friendly women” from around the world. The friendly women business was called “Video Picnic.”

Every catalogue had a website, so all I needed to do was to peruse a catalogue, circle what I wanted, log on, and place my orders. I put my credit cards in a stack, about two inches high. I put my catalogues in a stack about one foot high. I had used my Costa Rican mailing address when I signed up for the cards. So, everything would go there, and I’d be safe. Basically, my plan was to buy a bunch of stuff and never pay for it, making fraud my new vocation.

I tested the waters with a solar-powered fingernail sander. it cost $189.00, and came with a five-year warrantee from a company located in Mexico called “Nails-so-Smooth: You can eat off them.” I thought that was a little weird, but I was on a mission. I would resell it on E-bay for $150 and make a tidy little profit. The transaction went trough without a hitch!

I couldn’t wait. I had to try out “Video Picnic,” the friendly women site. I logged onto the site where it guaranteed “life-long-love” for a non-refundable shipping fee of $2,000, including airfare. My love life was a total catastrophe. After four wives, I was almost ready to give up. I say “almost” because I was so lonely—it was as if everything I looked at or thought about, was a wall blocking my happiness. Maybe I shouldn’t have divorced wife #4–maybe it was a mistake. She had built a shooting range in the basement and used a picture of me as a target. I would hear “Bang!” and then, diabolical laughter. I thought it was only a matter of time before she climbed the stairs to the kitchen and let me have it. I asked her why she did it and she told me it was to improve her self-esteem. That fell in line with everything she did—it was to improve her self-esteem. She told me we couldn’t make love any more because it wouldn’t improve her self-esteem. There were a couple of other things we couldn’t do for the same reason, like spend time together or text each other on our cell phones. It finally ended when she told me that being married to me did not improve her self-esteem. I was devastated, but I let her go. In the end it was good for my self-esteem to lose her.

Before I tried “Video Picnic” I wanted to make sure my card was good to go. So, I randomly pulled a card from the stack and went to “Naked Bird” a business selling goose down products. They had a three-bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1400 square foot goose down home for sale for $225,000. This would test the limits of the credit card I was holding, which is supposed to be $500,000. My bogus financial records had landed me that limit. The goose down house had bamboo floors and the roof was shingled with faux fur that looked like coyote fur. The interior walls were cat-rip-proof Kevlar with built in book shelves made of recycled plastic soda bottles. So, I filled in the required info, and boom, the goose down home was mine.

Ok, video picnic time. It is set up like a slot machine. Instead of cherries and lemons, there are women streaming live in the slot machine’s 3” X 3” boxes. You get four spins to pick a woman. If you hit the jackpot, you get the “jackpot” woman for free. The slot machine illuminates the woman you’ve won on each spin, and blanks out the others. . You press a “yes” or “no” button to signify your choice. Each sequence of four spins costs $1,000. You may buy as many sequences as you want.

It looked interesting, and knowing my pick would be delivered directly to Costa Rica, I bought 4 spins and prayed I would live happily ever after. Number 1 was very plain looking and didn’t speak English. Number 2 was naked and covered in ugly tattoos. Number 3 was too tall. Number 4 held up her PhD diploma from Harvard University in Environmental Biology. She sang “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and she said “I guarantee a baby.” That was it! She would be mine. I was going to work the credit card scam for about two weeks, and then, planned to meet Lola in Costa Rica. We met, we married, we have a little girl. Lola’s background is very complicated, but we are as happy as can be—I call her “my slot machine bride” and we laugh, happy to be together.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mesozeugma (me’-so-zyoog’-ma): A zeugma in which one places a common verb for many subjects in the middle of a construction.

Him: I am going for the weather, for the food, and for the scenery. You don’t think that’s all right. You think that we should immerse ourselves in the so-called culture. For me, that means going to the local fast food place, most likely Burger King, and seeing if it’s the same greasy cheesy mess on a bun that I can get at home. If it isn’t the same, I’ll complain to the proprietor. Meanwhile, you’ll be hunched by a brook eating salamander testicles off a wild mint leaf. Given that they are smaller than BBs, you and your “host” will probably wipe out the local salamander population before you’ve had enough. And oh, I vividly remember our last vacation, while I was laid out in a cabana flying on Mojitos, you just had to go with three local guys to explore the “Motel Fantasma” on the outskirts of town. They brought you back with a pillowcase over your head, and you lost your shoes, and purse, and all your cash and credit cards. You told me it was all worth it. You told me your “guides” were very courteous and took turns showing you their artifacts and very graciously illustrating their uses in a variety of ancient/timeless rituals. I still don’t know what the pillowcase was about. You told me they put it over your head when you were leaving Motel Fantasma because the air-conditioning had broken in their car and they had to put the windows down, and they didn’t want the wind to mess up your beautiful hair. Sounds sketchy to me.

Then, the next day, you went back to the motel to act in an amateur movie. Your co-star was a nineteen year old boy, that by local norms, had to get his mother’s written consent to do the movie with you. You told me the movie’s name was “Two Horses.” I had no idea where the horses came from, but it was great that you found your belongings (including your shoes) piled on the vibrating bed. Then, you told me you actually played one of the horses—it reminded me of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” when everybody turned into animals. But anyway, while you were soaking up the local culture, as you know, I went for a hike up in the mountains with no guide or anything.

I consider myself a “Manly Man.” We are a dying breed. I am an Eagle Scout. And let me tell you, my Eagle Scout project was international. You’ve only met my father once, but as you know, he is rich and powerful. As an arms dealer, he is well-connected with shady people around the world. He set me up with an internship in New Zealand. He had a surplus of small Swiss land mines that he needed to get rid of. He gave them to me to blow up rabbits, which were competing with sheep for grass, and winning. I donated the blown-up rabbit carcasses, and a couple of sheep “mistakes” to orphanages around New Zealand. I became known as “Bloody Jack” throughout New Zealand.

So, getting back to my story, there I was on a 10” wide trail with a 200 foot drop on one side and a 200 foot high wall on the other. I heard a rattlesnake. I looked and it was coiled up on a small ledge, level with my face. Remember dear wife, I am a macho man, just like the “Village People” sang. I didn’t hesitate. I wasn’t going to let the damn snake keep me from getting to the waterfall pool. I was going to grab that rattler and throw him over the 200 foot drop, and continue on my way to the waterfall pool. I grabbed the snake and he bit my hand.

Luckily, I had my cell phone and called 911. Before I knew it, a helicopter was hovering beside me, blowing rocks and dirt and dust around me. They lowered a piece of rope with a board on the bottom like a swing. I grabbed it, almost falling off the narrow trail. I sat in it and away we went, brushing the top of a pine tree and injuring my leg. We were lucky that some associates of my father’s airlifted us back to the States in an unmarked black C-130. We landed on a small airstrip in the middle of nowhere in northern Montana. There was a rental car waiting for us. You complained that it wasn’t an Uber.

You know, after recounting last year’s vacation adventures, and their horror (at least for me), I think we should buy a couple sets of Legos and a few cases of the best wine we can find, and hire some folk singers and a catering service specializing in cuisine from around the world, and stay home. As my Albanian grandfather used to say: “The sun at home warms better than the sun elsewhere.” I don’t believe the saying is true, but my grandfather was always very sincere when he said it.

Her: Every year I have to listen to your rambling bullshit recounting of the previous year’s vacation “catastrophe” as we plan this year’s vacation. Your story is crap. Unlike you, I had a great time last year. Your stupidity nearly cost you your life. Inevitably you concoct a stay-at-home plan, like this year’s. Legos? What’re you crazy? As you point out, your grandfather’s saying about home is bullshit. This year, we’re going to Botswana, so shut up! We’re going on a wildlife safari. “Adventure may hurt you, but boredom will kill you.” So, start packing you boring little twerp, we’re going on an adventure!

Postscript: The man’s wife was trampled to death by an elephant herd in Botswana. Then, she was dragged off by Hyenas. The next day they found one of her boots.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metabasis (me-ta’-ba-sis): A transitional statement in which one explains what has been and what will be said.

Professor Pentaclause: I have told you all I know about crème sauce, it’s history, ingredients, and uses. Next, we’re going to have a look at my “difficulties” while I down a few shots of bourbon and smoke this joint. I’ve been teaching “sauces” here at “Governor Clockmoore’s School of Culinary Arts” for 8 years. As you know, Clockmoore’s is located at the pinnacle of perfection—it is like a Platonic Idea of culinary arts. We operate in full service of the senses, speaking to the taste buds in the languages of savor, sensuality, and lip-smacking revels spanning the spectrum from sweet to bitter, frozen to hot, chilled and warmed. I have diligently taught you that there is no real difference between what tastes good and what is good. That writhing in a field with your lover on a warm summer night under a star-filled sky is good, just as good as rescuing a puppy whose leg is stuck in a metal trap, mercilessly crushing his little speckled paw. When faced with the choice between what feels good, and what is good, what feels good should win the prize: what is good can hurt you and even possibly get you killed. Which should it be? Jumping in front of a bullet? Or, a large order of fries and a sojourn in a hot tub?

Yes. Yes. Thank you for the applause. But nobody is perfect. That includes me. I have succumbed to the good that has no apparent sensual payoff, and while I have told you to oppose it, and resist it, and seek sensual pleasure instead, I have not, and I have concealed it out of shame and embarrassment for not living in accord with my own credo: “If it feels good do it, and pay money for it if you have to.”

This baby Robin had fallen out of its nest. It’s mother was going crazy, cheeping and running back and forth on the nest’s branch. The baby Robin had landed in the street. It was a busy street with cars and trucks zooming back and forth. The baby Robin had landed on the white line. I was standing on the curb eating a Peruvian dark chocolate cupcake with mashed truffle icing and a small ball of edible gold foil on top. It tasted like it was made by angels who were in love with me and wanted to carry me off to Miami, or LA., or some other wonderland. But the baby Robin’s cheeping broke through the din and drew me into the street like a macaroon made by Pierre Desfontaines himself! Holding my cupcake over my head, I stepped into the traffic. Tires squealed. Horns honked. Curses were hurled. After almost getting killed a couple of times, I reached the baby Robin shivering and cheeping on the street’s white line. I threw my magnificent cupcake to the ground. I picked up the baby Robin and cupped my hands, and held the little guy as I risked my life getting back to the sidewalk. I was standing under the branch that the baby Robin had fallen from. I couldn’t reach the nest to return the baby Robin, so I threw it. After five or six tries, he landed in his nest, where his mother promptly threw him out. I picked him up and carried him home. I bought him a birdcage and named him Robin. I looked up baby bird food recipes on the internet. They were disgusting. I wasn’t ready to run earthworms through my high-tech blender, or mash them with a mortar and pestle. I dealt with my trepidations by garnishing the worms with egg yolks and finely chopped pickles.

My garnishes made Robin very sick. I had to take him to the Vet. The Vet pumped Robin’s stomach with an eye dropper and admonished me for what I had done. I should’ve read the whole baby bird feeding article—it explicitly said not to garnish the worms. I felt terrible. I had almost killed an innocent baby bird! But, in a weird way, I felt good—a different kind of good than my credo advocates. The feeling was intangible, yet somehow sensual. I am baffled.

Accordingly, I am taking a sabbatical. Robin and I will be taking up residence in a monastery specializing in coddling rich people who think they have stepped off the cliff of spiritually and are tumbling toward a giant puddle of mud filling a mall parking lot and preventing them from freely shopping. This is a complex metaphor requiring delicate and subtle philosophic examination. “Mumbo Monastery” provides the kind of bleak and austere environment that induces insight, reflection and facilitates personal change.

So, I’ll see you around. Where’s my Robin? Did anybody see where he went?

Student: Yes, Professor Pentaclause, the janitor grabbed him when you weren’t looking and ran out the side exit!

Professor Pentaclause: Oh. When you see him tell him I gave him the bird with both hands.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metalepsis (me-ta-lep’-sis): Reference to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a farfetched causal relationship, or through an implied intermediate substitution of terms. Often used for comic effect through its preposterous exaggeration. A metonymical substitution of one word for another which is itself figurative.

Mike Melrose: Do you leave your chewing gum on the hood of your car overnight? How about on your wife’s forehead? How about your i-Pad screen? How about between your toes? I know you think you know where I’m headed here. Ok, the diversion’s not working. I know why I’m here. The bars give it away, and it’s true—there are men in white coats everywhere. I know it was a struggle getting me here—especially wrestling the garden rake out of my hands and hog-tying me with zip-ties. But after the orderly hooked me up, and the electric current coursed through my brain this morning, and the Thorazine this afternoon, I am calm and docile, if not sane. Turn on your recorder and get out your notepad. I want to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

My life was completely normal. I supervised an animal shelter called “Four-Legged Fugitives.” The shelter’s name was self-explanatory: we didn’t take birds, snakes, kangaroos, fish, frogs, toads, or rabbits—just dogs, cats, rodents, and turtles. I loved my job. Animals were frequently abandoned on our doorstep in travel cages. We also found a few wandering the streets of Jersey City. Once, we found a turtle coming out of a bar. They had put him up on the bar and fed him some Jack Daniels from a shot glass. It wasn’t funny at all. The poor turtle had gotten one of his legs stuck in his shell. We took him to the shelter and he slept it off, and his leg came unstuck the next morning. Then, there was the Chihuahua/Pit Bull mix. He was the most viscous, incorrigible, monstrous dog I ever met. He was brought into the shelter on a Hannibal Lector Transport Device. He was the first dog I ever saw wearing a hockey mask. He had chewed off and eaten his owner’s index finger. His name was “Down!” One day a family—parents and a little boy—came into the shelter looking for a dog. The little boy ran to Down!’s cage. And there was Down! Laying on his back, tail wagging, as if he’d never eaten a finger. The family took Down! home, and we read in the paper how Down! had saved the family from would’ve been a fatal apartment fire. He woke up the family by chewing on the father’s index finger and growling loudly.

Now, we come to the crux of the matter: the cat. One day a beautiful cat showed up on our doorstep. It was shiny, sleek, and black, with white hind paws. He was wearing what turned out to be a turquoise-studded collar. The was no name tag. I looked him up on Google and found out he was a Siberian Forest Cat. His feet were huge, like snowshoes for walking in snow. His eyes were bright yellow, and his bushy tail would stick straight up in the air. I adopted him and brought him home in his crate. I bought cases of “Ten-Thousand Tuna Treats” and “Fancy Feast.” Of course, I got him kitty litter, and a kitty litter box. We were off to a great start. Then one night while we’re lying in bed, he looked at me and said: “I want to be a stand up comic.” He said, “if you don’t go along with this, I’ll scratch out your eyeball, and they’ll call you one-eyed Jack.” My name Jack, so the joke was pretty funny. Now I k new what to name him: Mr. Ed, after the talking TV horse. I was disappointed when Mr. Ed stole Steve Martin’s cat routine: catastrophe, catamaran, Catalina, Catalogue, Catfish, etc. I told him he was a thief and he lashed out at me, hissing, scratching, spraying. He was on my face and, as you can see he made my forehead into hamburger. I pulled him off my face and threw him at the wall, I thought I had killed him. The neighbors reported the ruckus, the police came, and here I am.

Doctor: Mr. Melrose, your story differs significantly from Mr. Ed’s. First, “Mr. Ed” is a six-year-old boy that you abducted from the park—he isn’t a cat, and his name is Ted. There is nothing wrong with your forehead. Your cat fixation and the vividness and persistence of your hallucinations are deeply disturbing and we’ll work on that while you’re here in the New Jersey State Casa Pazzo. In the meantime, the police are charging you with false imprisonment, assault and battery, attempted murder, and torture by force feeding Ted “Fancy Feast Pig Liver Slurry.”

Either you’re lying or totally crazy, or both.

Mr. Melrose: Goddamn cat.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metallage (me-tal’-la-gee): When a word or phrase is treated as an object within another expression.

Bert: If you say “stairway to heaven” again, I don’t know what I am going to do. Every other thing you see is a stairway to heaven. How can a used car lot be a stairway to heaven, or the CVS parking lot, or the two trash cans in my garage, or my fishing pole—I can sort of see it as a stairway to heaven, but not the rest of the stuff. Some people say “like” or “man” or “far out” a lot, but they’re just stuck in the sixties with bell-bottoms and platform shoes—creatures of an epoch carrying their pot-infused culture into the 21st century, trying to preserve “the dream.”

You, on the other hand are tangled up alone in a Led Zepplin wonderland borne on your junior prom, when your first dance ever in your life—a dance with Valletta Berge—was to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” You’re 28 years old now—28 for Christ’s sake. Valletta is a single mom with 8 kids. Just like you and me, she never left town. I know you know, but I’ll tell you again anyway: Valletta lives with her 8 kids out by the railroad tracks in the derelict train station that was abandoned when the new one was built 5 years ago. She runs a day care center called “Ticket to Ride” at the station. The kids love it—riding their trikes around and playing “Choo Choo” on the railroad tracks while Valletta talks on her cell phone. Maybe if you go and see her and dance again to “Stairway to Heaven” on Spotify, it will purge you of you hellish repetitive use of “Stairway to Heaven” to label just about everything you see and experience.

Earnie: I knew at least four of Valletta’s kids were mine: Spike, Ricky, Chester, and Chrissy. Bert was wrong about them living at the train station. They had been put up for adoption at birth, but I had named them anyway. Three of the remaining kids had the same fate. Only “Queen Helene” (named after the organic stick deodorant), was kept and raised by Valletta.

Valletta knew I was coming to the station—Bert had warned her. When I saw her, we could’ve been back at the junior prom. She was so beautiful. She was wearing a white goddess gown. Queen Helene held its train as Valletta moved slowly toward me. All the day care kids came inside and lined up in two parallel rows, with their hands raised above their heads. We met halfway between the children. I booted up “Stairway to Heaven” on my cell phone. We embraced and slowly danced, and the children made a circle, and we danced, slowly, passionately. Valletta yelled “Kiss me before I melt.” I kissed her and suddenly we were standing together on a jewel-encrusted golden staircase that reached through the train station’s roof. “This is the staircase to heaven!” I yelled over the music, which had become very very loud: “Let’s climb it!” Valletta said, “I can’t. After all the babies I’ve had, I’m in really shitty shape. You’ll have to go alone.” I was disappointed, but I started climbing anyway. Queen Helene swooped in out of nowhere and pushed me down the stairs. She yelled, “Fuck all of you!” as she ran up the Stairway to Heaven. She disappeared through the train station’s roof. I had a mild concussion, two broken ribs and a broken ankle. Valletta came to visit me in the hospital and now she’s pregnant again.

After the horror of my accident, and the definite insanity of everything else that happened, “Stairway to Heaven” is no longer my go-to phrase of praise. I replaced it with “Under the Boardwalk.” Now, if I see or hear something I like I say, “That’s under the boardwalk.” Thanks to The Drifters 1964 recording, there will always be a romantic magical refuge, a place get away from it all, and maybe find some loose change with a metal detector. Bert has threatened to terminate our friendship over my latest phrase of praise, saying it is stupid. I responded: “Hey Bert! That’s under the boardwalk!” We both laughed and hugged. Bert started humping my leg, just like the old days, and I knew our friendship would never end.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metaphor (met’-a-phor): A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.

I am 14. I am roadkill flattened on the road shoulder of life, dried to stiffness: The Frisbee of Death. I am a macabre plaything, tossed by giggling imps in a hellish competition. Am I the once-fat raccoon who rambled along Rte. 22, heading for the bulging dumpster behind Pompeo’s Grocery Store? Am I the nervous squirrel, anxious at the change of seasons, dashing heedlessly across Rte. 12, going straight for the towering oak tree loaded with acorns? Am I (How sad is this?} a black cat lost in the night looking for home—inexperienced on the highways and byways, scared by his owner’s celebratory fireworks, running from their threatening sound, now, finished running forever, useless safety collar flashing as cars and trucks speed by on Rte. 20 oblivious to the beloved pet Spoony, lifeless in the middle of the road.

I was trying to make today’s diary entry really depressing, maybe too depressing. My mother had tripped over the shoe that I had left in middle of our narrow hallway. She was on her way to the bathroom so the whole thing was a disgusting horrible mess, especially since mom is a little chunky. The ambulance attendants commented on her bulk as they lifted her onto the stretcher. I thought it was inappropriate, but Mom didn’t care—she was used to it. Anyway, Mom broke her ankle and it was all my fault, but in my head I refused to take the rap. Sure, I left the shoe there, but Mom should’ve turned on the hallway light and she should’ve realized that the supplements she had started taking would give her the poops, and make a dash to the toilet.

I kept my reservations to myself. Blaming Mom would’ve added to my sentence in my room—maybe earning me a life sentence. So, I thought if I could give her some kind of gift, we could be buddies again and I would be freed. But I was under lock-down in my room. All I had were my Tinker Toys; wooden shapes and dowels. The wooden shapes had holes drilled in them that you stuck the sticks in to build things. I would build something for Mom! But what? I looked at the white plastic Shmoo on my bookshelf—a sort of 5-inch nesting doll with eyes, whiskers and a smile. I always thought he looked like a standing walrus. All of a sudden, he winked! He said “You got a real friggin’ dilemma here! What the hell can you make for your mother with the goddamn Tinker Toys?” He swore! I almost started crying, but I knew he wanted to help me. He said, “Throw your Tinker Toys in the closet and close the door.” I did what he told me to do. The Shmoo made colored lights shoot out of his eyes for about a minute. I opened the door. There was a two-headed turtle standing there. The Shmoo yelled, “Jesus Christ! Close the goddamn door!” The Schmoo shot beams of light at the closet again. “Ok, open the door,” the Shmoo said. I opened the door. “What the hell is this?” (I had started swearing like the Schmoo) “It is called a microwave oven. It cooks things fast. Your mother will love it.” The Shmoo never spoke again.

I begged my dad to let me out of my room to give mom the microwave oven. With deep skepticism, he let me go, saying “I’ve got questions about this.” I had wrapped the microwave oven in taped-together pages from comic books. I put it on Mom’s tray table by her bed. She began unwrapping it. When she was done, she asked in angry tone: “Where the hell did you get this Herbert?” I was going to swear back at her, but instead I told her where it came from: “My Shmoo made it with magic eye rays out of Tinker Toys in my closet.”

So, here I am in Rock Bottom School for Reality Deprived Adolescents. This is my second day. I won’t change my story about the microwave oven. It is even less plausible to say I stole it. But stealing has emerged as the most acceptable account of what happened. I’ll probably be in this place for a few months, until I can bring myself to lie about what really happened. So much for the truth when you’re dealing with grownups, Goddamnit.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metaplasm (met’-a-plazm): A general term for orthographical figures (changes to the spelling of words). This includes alteration of the letters or syllables in single words, including additions, omissions, inversions, and substitutions. Such changes are considered conscious choices made by the artist or orator for the sake of eloquence or meter, in contrast to the same kinds of changes done accidentally and discussed by grammarians as vices (see barbarism). See: antisthecon, aphaeresis, apocope, epenthesis, paragoge, synaloepha.

Things have gone baaad, baaad, baaad. My sheep are in open rebellion. I imagined they were saying, “We herd too much. It isn’t healthy. We all have the same cough and we’re turning yellow.” They were right about the coughing! 645 coughing sheep couldn’t be ignored. It was a loud rasping cough that sounded like 100 giant trapped hamsters scratching from behind a plaster wall, trying to get out. And, they had turned a shade of very light yellow.

Aside from their wool, lamb stew, and lamb chops, the best thing about sheep is their docile herding instinct. They go everywhere shoulder-to-shoulder. My prize-winning sheep dogs move them around the fields in a wooly lump. If anybody breaks ranks, a sheep dog will break ranks too, running down, and herding the renegade back into the flock. But now they were sick, coughing, changing colors.

I had to call the only vet within 300 miles. His name is Dr. Schmoz, His family had first emigrated to the United States from Canada near the end of the 19th century. Dr. Schmoz had graduated from “Fur, Fins, Feet, Feathers, Shells, and Scales School of Taxidermy and Veterinary Medicine LLC,” registered in Delaware. Dr. Schmoz has two specialties: 1. Turtle Repair, 2. Sheep Counseling. He used SuperGlue to repair cracked turtles that were dropped or run over. Of course, many of the turtles were considered road kill. In those cases he needed nearly surgical skills to glue them back together, to take their places under glass domes on the fireplace mantles of their owners. Sometimes he would pose them with dice or a poker hand between their claws.

Given the reach of his “Vet Domain,” Dr. Schmoz had a helicopter. As he landed in front of my house, I caught a glimpse of the full-sized picture of Snoopy on the side, in his WW1 fighter pilot garb. Dr. Schmoz jumped out of his helicopter with a bullhorn in his hand. He turned toward the flock and yelled into bullhorn: “Disperse!” It didn’t work. He said: “Obviously, they can’t be counseled. Why? As I was flying in, I noticed your sheep have Golden Fleece Flu. It starts with coughing, then, unbridled belligerence, then the fleece turns light yellow, and then, boom, all the sheep die. You have so many sheep, I could hear coughing from 500 feet up, and they looked angry too. Their wool is starting to take on a yellow tinge, as well. Luckily, I have a medicated spray mist I am developing that will motivate your sheep to unflock and, thereby, be cured of the flu. I’ll spray it from my helicopter.” I agreed.

After one pass, things started to change. Instead of dispersing, the sheep packed closer together and faced me and the dogs. On the second pass, the coughing stopped and the dogs ran away. On the third pass they turned light yellow and started racing toward me. I caught a glimpse of Dr. Schmoz as he flew past. He was wearing a helmet with ram horns glued to it. He swooped down and pushed back the flock, which was no longer yellow. The sheep were going their separate ways. The dogs returned. Dr. Schmoz’s spraying had cured the sheep. I asked Dr. Schmoz what his secret was. He said, “A degree from a questionable vet school, a good lawyer, and wealthy parents. Their money pays for my legal fees, and the random chemicals I mix together in my basement, looking for cures for animal ailments. We were really lucky with your sheep. My last remedy caught on fire and boiled all the fish residing in a fish tank outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I expect to be indicted.

Despite his apparent insanity, I thanked Dr. Schmoz and paid him, and he helicoptered off to his next adventure: the development of a weight-loss program for a middle-aged female manatee.

After all that had happened, I was looking forward to a quiet dinner. As I crumbled my saltines into my lamb stew and eyed the small pile of lamb chops on the table, a loud banging on the front door began. I got up and opened the door and there was a huge ram staring me down. I slammed the door shut. The sheep had breached the perimeter fence and had surrounded my house. I was trapped! I called 911 and told them I was surrounded by 645 angry sheep. I heard laughter and the phone went dead. I picked up Dr. Schmoz’s bullhorn, which he had left lying on the couch, but I didn’t know what to say. So, I put down the bullhorn and waited to die, certain I would be smothered by the pressure of the wooly bodies of the angry flock, sandwiching me between them.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metastasis (me-tas’-ta-sis): Denying and turning back on your adversaries arguments used against you.

I was always a good boy. I would play with my plastic cowboys in the sandbox. They weren’t allowed shoot each other or use swear words. I washed them each week in the dishwasher and then let them air dry, for their health and welfare. I think they were grateful because none of them ever ran away, including their horses. I made my bed every morning, with hospital corners and my bedspread was always perfectly parallel to my headboard. I put my dirty clothes in the basket in my closet to make it easier for Mom to manage them on washday. I also folded my own laundry. I’d go down into the basement and retrieve my laundry from the dryer, carry it to my room, and fold it. One Saturday morning, when I was getting my stuff in the basement, I noticed there was a pair of my mother’s underpants mixed in with my laundry. I put them on my head and started doing “The Pony,” a dance made popular by Chubby Checker. Everybody was doing it, and I thought I looked pretty cool “pulling the reins” in my Captain Kangaroo bathrobe: “Boogety, boogety, boogety, shoo,” I sang as I ponied around the basement. I had found a piece of clothesline rope, and I was swinging it around my head like a cowboy lariat. “Yee haa!” I yelled.

Suddenly, I was galloping across the prairie with Chubby. we were being chased by a posse. I heard one posse member yell, “You low life sidewinder. You slop bucket full a’ human poop! What in tarnation makes you think you can wear your mother’s underpants on your head like that? Pervert!” I yelled back: “You butt-faced hombre! I can wear what I want on my head! Back-off!” He fired a shot at me. I felt it zip through my mother’s underpants, barely missing my skull. We had ridden into a box canyon—no exit. We were doomed. Since they weren’t after him, Chubby reined in his horse, and got him down to a slow trot. I roared past him right into the canyon wall.

I woke up on the basement floor, still wearing my mother’s underpants on my head—they were getting tight, making my forehead itch. My ears were ringing and my nose was dripping blood. My father was leaning over me. “You slipped in the little puddle the washing machine makes—which I was going to fix someday soon, but I forgot. Obviously, you hit the wall head-first and knocked yourself out. You should be more careful.” I was mad. “I should be more careful? You lazy-ass sidewinder!” I couldn’t believe I called my father a “lazy-ass sidewinder,” but he was partially to blame. Then I yelled, flat on my back, “And I’ll wear Mom’s underpants on my head whenever and wherever I want!” He tried to rip Mom’s underpants off my head, but I held on tight despite my injuries. I heard sirens. I new I’d soon be on my way to the hospital.

They washed me up and x-rayed my head and put me in bed with a tube in my arm. Aside from the ringing ears, I felt pretty good. But, they told me I had a medium-bad concussion and to rest at the hospital for a week in case there were any complications. The next day, Mom showed up and she wanted her underpants back. She told me the last time her underpants went “traveling” was in her freshman year of college when she dated a Frat boy who collected girls’ underpants as a hobby. After their date, he shoved Mom’s underpants under the front seat of his car and drove away, leaving her to walk back to her dorm. She had to walk a mile along the side of the dark and deserted highway. She knew her underpants would be tagged and displayed in the Frat house, but she didn’t care because of all the famous underpants displayed there belonging to her university’s famous female graduates. I asked for names. She curtly said “No” and that was that. I suspected it was Dad. They had gone the same college and that’s where they had met. Plus, Dad had been in a fraternity. I had a back-up pair of underpants, so I gave them to Mom and kept the other ones for future adventures.

After that episode I my life, I never wore Mom’s underpants on my head again, except at her funeral ten years later. At that point in my life, I was a glutton for attention. Instead of throwing a handful of dirt into her open grave, I threw her underpants—the very same pair that I was wearing on my head when I was injured so many years ago. Some relatives screamed when I made my move, and my uncle Bill, who was standing alongside me, turned and punched me in the face at least five times. The undertaker retrieved the underpants and gave them to my father. Now, I would be going back to “Tranquil Roads” where I’d been living ever since the accident in the basement.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metonymy (me-ton’-y-my): Reference to something or someone by naming one of its attributes. [This may include effects or any of the four Aristotelian causes {efficient/maker/inventor, material, formal/shape, final/purpose}.]

Where I grew up he was known as “The Man of Steal”—if you’re reading this, and not hearing it, you know I’m not talking about Superman. I’m talking about stealing, robbing, pilfering, ripping off, boosting, heisting, and all the other words for depriving people of their property, stealthily, quietly, and undetected, or, by force with punches, blunt force, or bullets. In the inverted order of values operative where I grew up, The Man of Steal was a celebrity. His convenience store robberies were fabled. “The Robbery of the Nighty Mart” was a song that we learned as boys and would sing instead of the “The Star Spangled Banner” at school assembly. There was also a poem that could be sung to the tune of “Davy Crockett.” “Born in a Warehouse in NYC, The most Dangerous City in the Land of the Free, Killed him a cockroach when he was only three, Man of Steal, Man of Steal, King of NYC.”

Man of Steal was the first thief to wear a black balaclava in an armed robbery. In his first attempt, the balaclava he wore had Frosty the Snowman printed all over it. The store owner laughed at him and Man of Steal hit him over the head with a carton of eggs from the store’s refrigerator. Now, the owner was slumped in a corner by the door dripping raw egg. Man of Steal probably thought “You’re not laughing now Mr. Yo-yo.” With the store-counter phone, he called the fire station to come and hose the owner down, emptied the fresh produce display, grabbed a chocolate Yoo-Hoo drink, and went out the door. After the “Frosty” incident, Man of Steal wore only solid-black balaclavas. Prior to “The Great Balaclava Innovation,” robbers wore folded handkerchiefs over their faces. Folded corner-to-corner, they would be draped over the nose, leaving the eyes uncovered, and tied in the back. They would frequently slide down the face and get stuck around the robber’s neck, revealing the robber’s identity. The balaclava was a godsend: put it on coming through the door, pull it off going out the door. How convenient! How effective!

I met Man of Steal when I was 11. Ma had sent me to “Cole’s Convenience Corner” to get a fresh chicken, 4 baking potatoes, 1 package of frozen peas and 2 packs of “Lucky Strikes” for grandpa. He had recently switched to “Luckies” from “De Nobili” cigars. The doctor had told him he would die less quickly if he smoked “Luckies.” Ma promised to subsidize his tobacco habit if he would switch. So, he switched. Anyway, I was walking up to the entrance of Cole’s when the door burst open and a man tearing a black balaclava off his head charged out the door carrying a box under his arm. He knocked me flat on the pavement. It was Man of Steal—and I had seen his face! I was a dead boy. He said, “You forget me & l’ll forget you.” I said “Ok.” He said: “That’s good. Now I don’t have to shoot you.” He walked away like nothing happened. But I recognized him.

It was Father Carmody, our parish Priest. I had promised to forget him, and I would honor my promise at all costs, especially since he was a Priest. But as time went by, and “The Man of Steal” was still ripping off convenience stores, I considered breaking my promise. I decided to go ahead and break it. I would do it in the confessional where both of us would be anonymous. So, I told him I knew who he was. I heard the unmistakable sound of an automatic pistol cocking from his side of the confessional. “Let me confess to you, son.” I was stunned. “First, I don’t have gun, what you heard were the grass trimmers I was using before I came back into the Church. I should’ve left them outside. My confession is short: everything I have stolen from the convenience stores has been donated to the Church’s food bank, except for a random soft drink or two. Over the years, I have saved countless people from going hungry because they can’t afford the high-priced food at the convenience stores and they have no way to shop elsewhere.” Even though I was only eleven, I almost said “Jesus Christ!”

But instead, I said, “That’s not totally disgraceful, but you could go to jail. I tell you what. Make me an Altar Boy with unlimited access to the sacramental wine, and I will forget your confession forever. Are we good?” He pulled a .45 out of his vestment, cocked it and pressed it between my eyes. He said, “Ok, we’re good. Just keep your mouth shut.”

Definition courtesy of “Sliva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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Ominatio (o-mi-na’-ti-o): A prophecy of evil.

I’ve been a prophet ever since I predicted the New York Mets’ first win on April 23, 1962. I prophesied that the Mets would “lash the Padres with whips of hits and drown them in the tobacco juice of victory.” Given that the Mets were serial losers at the time, the odds were right and my bet with Bobby the Book won a fortune. Since then, I’ve been a weatherman on local TV here in Queens. I am “Moe the Weather Prophet.” I have never been wrong about the weather—never! Well, almost never—“Billion Dollar Betsy” back in the sixties caught me with my pants down—literally. I was working overtime up in Jersey City, doing consulting with my two favorite secretaries, and missed all the hurricane warnings. We were pumping quarters into the vibrating bed, drinking vodka and practicing our trio trampoline act. The impending storm was the farthest thing from our thoughts at the time. Like I said, we were oblivious, consulting each other passionately as we played Twister on the bed.

Thank God those days are over. With all the weather technology, weather forecasting is a snap. In fact, it is such a snap that it has become boring. I’ve decided to get out of the weather business and into the “whether” business— making predictions about whether or what: whether something will happen and what it will be. So, I want to upgrade from prophet to shaman. This will involve traveling to a remote location in a jungle somewhere. At least, that’s what I thought. I had mentioned my desire to upgrade to shaman on my weather show. Of all the calls I got, one stood out.

The guy had a thick New Orleans accent—you know—the one that sounds like Brooklyn, New York. He told me his name is Jacques LaCreme. He said he specialized in voodoo, but would veer off into “shamanizing” if the price was right. I told him the price would be right. We agreed on the price, and I took off for New Orleans the next day. Like an idiot, I didn’t check him out, but I saw no reason to doubt him. I worried a little bit and then fell asleep on the plane. I dreamed I was in the sky, jumping from cloud to cloud. If I missed a cloud, I would fall thousands of feet. I missed. I was terrified. Jacques’s disembodied voice said: “Your plane crashing. Tighten your seatbelt and put your head between your knees.” I woke up sweating. Everything was fine. It was only a dream.

I met Jacques at the airport and we took a cab to his “place.” His place was filled with weird stuff—there was a large tortoise on the carpet with his neck sticking out, a jar full of eyeballs, a small pile of human skulls, a large calendar, and more. He gave me some herbal tea in a bamboo cup. It was called Mesca-Cola. I saw myself as an old man. I had chopsticks sticking out of my ears and a box of Cohibas resting on my chest. The cigars were snake-like and one slithered up between my lips. A nurse lit it and I lay there puffing. Reality reappeared slowly. I yelled “Am I a shaman yet?” Jacques laughed: “No. But you have experienced the altered state of consciousness necessary to imagine almost anything. That is the key. Your shaman responsibilities are not predictive. Rather, they are advisory.” That was a relief to hear. He went on: “You drink the “Mesca-Cola,” you have the vision. Then, you interpret it in accord with the client’s question. So, you need to develop critical interpretive skills, like those of literary or theatre critics, knitting your vision together with your client’s question, like the critic does with a story or a script.”

Wow. This was a lot to think about. I decided to enroll in an on-line creative writing program. There’s a course I’m especially interested in: “Shams, Shamans, and Socrates: Simulacra and Post-Fictional Foundational Narratives.” Sometimes I think I should’ve stuck with the weather. While the high of Mesca-Cola is breathtaking, the high of 65 degrees Fahrenheit seems more real, more tangible. Sometimes we need that, or maybe not.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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