Tag Archives: figures of speech


Onedismus (on-e-dis’-mus): Reproaching someone for being impious or ungrateful.

As far back as I can remember—maybe I was five years old—my father referred to me as “You ungrateful little bastard.” I’m 22 now and he still calls me an “ungrateful little bastard.” I can’t think of anything he ever did that I should be grateful for. Growing up under his barbed wire wing was nothing to be grateful for. My mother supposedly disappeared when I was three, so it was just me and dad all the way. Maybe I should be grateful that he didn’t disappear like Ma did. Living with him, every day has pretty much been the same. At breakfast, I have milk and cereal and he shuffles into the kitchen in his cigarette-burned, food-flecked flannel bathrobe. He grabs the open bottle of “Old Grandad” from the kitchen counter and takes a long swig. “Ahhh, that’s the worst whiskey in the world. I bet Old Grandad pisses in every bottle.” Then, he’d pull a bottle of orange juice from the refrigerator, and take a big slug right out of the bottle, with juice dripping off his chin, he’d ask “What the hell is this? It tastes like shit.” Then he went upstairs to get ready for work. He was a movie theater usher, working alongside three teen-aged boys. He wears a uniform that makes him look like a general from some third-world country. It has epaulets that look like gold hairbrushes, a military hat with the theatre logo on the front, and black patent leather shoes. He always kept a supply of Sen-Sen in his pocket to camouflage the smell of Old Grandad on his breath while he was at work.

This week, he was assigned to matinees, so he didn’t have to be to work until 2:00 pm. I decided to finally ask him what I had to be “grateful” for. I thought he would probably punch me, or yell, or kick me out of the house. He did none of those things. Instead, he looked like he was wilting and on the verge of tears. “I’ve been meaning to explain the ‘ungrateful little bastard’ outbursts for years. Now is as good a time as I’ll ever find, so, get ready.” I wasn’t ready. I started to feel like maybe it was better that I didn’t know. He said: “Are you ready, you ungrateful little bastard?” I told him “No.” He didn’t care. “Your Ma was beautiful. She was kind and loving—too loving. She had an affair with Mel Turner, our unmarried neighbor who worked as a night watchman at the Chevy plant. He had his days to himself. So, when I was working the matinee shift at the theatre, Mel and Ma would meet at his place and have sexual relations.” I couldn’t believe it. My Ma banging our neighbor? My God! I felt sick. Dad continued: “I came home early one day and surprised her. She was writing a letter.” He left the room and came back quickly with the letter. “Dear Mel, I am going to have a baby. It isn’t my husband’s. His penis was injured during the war and it won’t get stiff any more. That leaves you Mel—you’re the baby’s father. Accordingly, you must pay for the abortion I’ve made an appointment for in Newark next week. My husband must never know what we did. After this is over, please wear a rubber.” “What has this got to do with me?” I asked. Dad looked at me like he wanted to kill me. “The ‘baby’ is you,” he yelled, pounding on the kitchen table. “It’s you!”

“I wouldn’t let your mother go to the abortion appointment. Even though you weren’t my kid, Ma’s pregnancy gave me an opening to be a father, even though it was fake—I planned to act like your father, like you were adopted and nobody knew it. I kept your Ma prisoner. I knew she would try to escape, so I made a comfortable chainlink cage for her with a Porta-Potty, a TV, a couch, and a TV table. It was in the basement, so nobody could hear her cries for help. Then, one day, Mel broke in and tried to free your Ma. I’ll never know why he didn’t just call the police. I clubbed him the on the head and killed him. Your Ma was nine months pregnant. She went into labor in her cage and I delivered you. She bled to death on the floor. After I dismantled her cage, I called the police. I told them that Mel broke into our home and had startled my wife so badly that she went into labor, and that I had taken the club away from him and hit him on the head. No charges were filed, and here we are today. So, now, when I call you an ‘ungrateful little bastard,’ you’ll understand.” I told him I understood the “little bastard” part, but how could I be ungrateful about something I didn’t know anything about? He yelled, “That’s the point!” and left for the theater.

I think my father had confessed to murdering Mel. He probably killed my Ma too. I didn’t know what to do, so, I decided to go to graduate school.

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

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Onomatopoeia (on-o-mat-o-pee’-a): Using or inventing a word whose sound imitates that which it names (the union of phonetics and semantics).

I was banging on the door—bang, bang, bang. Three bangs was the rule. If there was no answer after three sets of three bangs, I upgraded to pounding. There were no “sets” to pounding. Pounding was just a rapid fist to door motion that continued until I got a response. Still no response? Time for the battering ram—a six-foot section of 3” pipe filled with concrete, and two welded-on handles—one for each hand—the front one, perpendicular to the pipe, the rear one parallel to the pipe. If all else failed, I was authorized to use Class A explosives, including C4 and dynamite. I had handled a lot of explosives in Vietnam where I got real good at blowing up anything I was asked to blow up, and also lighting things on fire without using telltale petrol.

The battering ram didn’t cut it. Next up: the bomb. If the bomb on the door didn’t work, I’d light the place on fire, but given my experience, I was nearly certain the bomb would blow the door. The bomb was difficult, though. Bombs made a lot of noise and attracted attention. So, I had a remote detonator. I could blow the bomb from a quarter-mile away, and then rush to the site like a concerned citizen. If the door wasn’t blown, I’d wait for the crowd to clear and then light the place on fire. By the way, if at any time the occupant fires a weapon at me, I am authorized to spray them with my MAC-10.

You may wonder what the hell I’m doing, who the hell I work for, and what the hell happened to the world. Well, it’s 2028 and violence is the preferred and legal way of resolving disputes. The 1960’s are so dead that they’ve turned into worm-infested humus. In fact, any mention of the 60’s or Woodstock will net you 2 years in prison. Since I work for the IRS, I am exempt from the “Unauthorized Mention Act of 2027” and other Federal Laws that were passed after Congress voided the Constitution in 2025. Many passages were outlawed and all the authorized passages are published in the “Little Red Book.” Every citizen is required to wear a “Little Red Book” around his neck and refer to it before speaking.

Despite the prevalence of violence, the NRA (National Riot Act) requires every citizen to carry a concealed handgun. People are randomly patted down, and if they are not packing heat, they’ll be shot, but not fatally, so they will have time in the hospital to think about the Big Law, lovingly enacted by Congress to promote citizens’ self-defense and welfare.

Anyway, the door bomb worked. It blew a 5×5 hole in the wall. So, I just waltzed in. There was Mr. Fry, cowering in his soiled underpants in a corner of what I guessed was his living room. There was a lot of smoke, and everything was flipped over. I asked Mr. Fry if he knew why I was there. He nodded, nearly crying. I said: “Under Federal Tax Law Section 26, Failure to pay taxes under $1,000, I am authorized to arrest you and escort you to a hospital where one of your kidneys, and one of your lungs, and 6-feet of your intestines will be harvested and sold on the ‘New York Organ Exchage’ to settle your debt. Do you understand?” He nodded again, and off we went. I considered shooting him, and taking his fresh corpse to one of the many “Chop Shops” that popped up when buying and selling organs became easy and legal under Congress’s “Save the Rich Act,” but I had integrity, and besides, I was in the vanguard of government service as an IRS Agent—I helped raise the money to keep the whole thing going. Nevertheless, Mr. Fry was lucky his debt was under $1,000—anything over that and he wold’ve been conscripted into the “National Slave Corps” and put to work for life in one of the recently created colonies in South America, or the United States of Mexico.

When I got home I was delighted that my grandchildren were there. As we sat around talking, my grandchildren asked me why things have changed so much. I got nervous, and hoped they weren’t subversives. I asked them, “Where did you get that question?” I was fearful they were going to make the illegal comparison between the past and present that claimed things had gotten worse. “Grandma told us,” they said, “We live in a beautiful world, with the bloodstains on the sidewalks, the return of slavery, censorship, air pollution, the outlawing of abortion, the elimination of Social Security, and other things, we live in a beautiful world.” My head was spinning. Their minds had been stained by Grandma’s subversive sarcasm. What could I do? I would never turn them in for “suspicious talk.” Maybe if I just sacrificed one of us, it would keep the rest of us out of harm’s way. “Grandma?” I said in my sweetest husband voice. “Let’s take a ride.”

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

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Optatio (op-ta’-ti-o): Expressing a wish, often ardently.

“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d truly like to be.
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!”

When I first heard this as a kid, I wondered what was wrong with the kid singing the song. He thought people would love him if he was a hot dog. Can you imagine that: “Oh honey, you’re the sleekest, pinkest hot dog I’ve ever known. I love you. Let’s make some ‘little smokies’ together.” But it gets worse. The kid with wienerphillia wants everyone to love him, and believes that being a hot dog will make that happen. Sadly, the concept of love the he has is not agape. In fact, it is just the opposite. Within the short scope of the jungle, he reverses his position, deciding not to be a hotdog. The abrupt turnabout is puzzling at first. But when he musically tells us that being loved leads to being eaten, we can see why he changed his mind. And it is people who are eating him. As a hot dog, he eligible for lunch. Of course, being eaten would be painful, not to mention the boiling water or microwaving that make him edible. Not only that, being eaten is a death warrant. The only up side I could imagine, was getting to go to Labor Day and Fourth of July gatherings, and being loved.

So, when I first heard the “love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener” song , I was 12 years old. We had “beans and weenies” at least once a week. I couldn’t get over the idea that love is a kind of cannibalism that involves eating the object of your affection, and that hot dogs, accordingly, might be made out of processed people. My big sister didn’t help that much when I asked her about hot dogs. Our across the street neighbors had recently moved and their house was vacant. My sister told me they had actually been made into hot dogs, and we were going to have them in our beans and weenies the next night. I was the most gullible 12-year-old on the planet. “Wrong reasons” underwrote my thinking: I would believe things were true for the wrong reasons, and I would think things weren’t true for the wrong reasons. For example, in the case of the wiener song, I thought it was true because it was on TV—that the singing boy was sincere, his wiener-desire was powerful, and his fear of being eaten by humans was well-founded. So, I believed my sister: our beans and weenies would include pieces of our processed neighbors. I was filled with dread.

It was bed time. I kissed Mom good night and shook hands with Dad. I’d tried to kiss Dad on the cheek once, and he shoved me away. I fell on the floor and I cut my knee on an errant Tinker Toy. My mother hit my father in the face with a rolled-up magazine and yelled “Apologize to the boy you goddamn oaf!” He apologized, and we agreed to shake hands instead of hugging or anything like that in the future.

Mom tucked me in and I quickly fell asleep. I had become a hot dog! I dreamed I was driving a hot dog-limo with a beautiful blond wiener by my side. We were headed to Las Vegas where I was booked for 2 weeks to sing my wildly popular “I’d love to be a Wiener” song. We crossed the Nevada state line and stopped for gas. I got out of the hot-dog limo to stretch my legs and the guy pumping gas said “I’d love to eat you.” My blond wiener-friend suddenly disappeared. Then, four men came out of the gas station carrying a very large hot dog bun on their shoulders, like a casket at a funeral. They put down the bun and wrestled me into it—being a hot dog, I wasn’t very strong or agile. While two of the men kept me pinned in the bun, the other two covered me with ketchup and mustard from four #10 cans, and chopped onions and pickle relish from two big glass jars. They couldn’t pick me up to eat me like a regular hot dog. So, one of them plugged in an electric chain saw. Just as the chain saw started to cut me in half, I woke up screaming, “You can’t eat me! I’m not cooked!” I ran to my parents’ bedroom yelling “You can’t eat me! I’m not cooked!” Mom and Dad were bouncing up and down on their bed making weird sounds. When my father saw me standing in the door, he yelled “Get out of here you perverted little bastard. Goddamnit!”

So, I went to my sister’s room to tell her about my hot dog nightmare. She apologized to me about lying about our neighbors being made into hot dogs. I felt somewhat relieved until I noticed the big bottle of ketchup on the nightstand by her bed. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror to see if I was a hot dog. I wasn’t, but I had bread crumbs all over my pajamas and I smelled funny.

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

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Orcos (or’-kos): Swearing that a statement is true.

“I swear on my mother’s grave that it’s true.” This was a popular saying where I grew up. It supposedly bolstered your avowal of truth by bringing your dead mother up, and the sanctity of her grave, as warrants—if you lied while swearing on her grave at the same time, it would double damn you with disrespect for your dead mother and disrespect for the truth. Swearing on your mother’s grave is a pretty morbid way to establish your credibility, and I’m not sure if my understanding of its rationale is right. But the odd thing was, we were just kids and our mothers were all still alive.

Despite not having a mother’s grave to swear on, we used the credibility-generating saying. To make it work, we discussed it and decided we were referring to future graves. Everybody dies sooner or later, so pushing the grave reference into the future was taken as a good-faith promise to actually swear on a mother’s grave after she died as a way of settling the times you swore on it when it was non-existent. This all made perfect sense to me, and I went on with my life.

Then, ten years later, my mother died of kidney failure. My mother grew up in Arizona. She was an actual cowgirl when she was in her early teens to early twenties. In my favorite picture of her she’s holding a dead 4-foot long rattlesnake in one hand and a six-shooter in her other hand. She was wearing boots and jeans and a flannel plaid shirt. This was topped off by a black cowboy hat with a beautiful concha-decorated hatband, and a belt buckle shaped like a longhorn steer. She met my Dad when he was stationed in Arizona during the Vietnam War. He was a mechanic in the Air Force. That’s all I know.

When they got married Dad had been discharged from the Air Force. They moved to New Jersey where Dad had grown up working in an ESSO refinery in Linden. He got his old job back. He came home every night smelling like a big can of motor oil. I don’t know how my mother stood it, given where she grew up. After I was born, I became the center of Mom’s life, displacing my father. He resented it. He resented me. He would leave me at the bus station or the train station hoping I’d be abducted. I would always show up back at home and he would curse while Mom would cry with joy. But now, me and Dad were following a hearse with Mom’s body on board—driving from New Jersey to Arizona, listening to Bruce Springsteen on the satellite. It made no sense, but my father never made any sense—he was a jerk, a fool, and an idiot. We should’ve flown. After four days driving, we arrived in Sedona, AZ—where Mom grew up and where we were going to bury her. It would be my mother’s grave—the real thing. After she was buried, I took a picture. The grave was pitiful. There was no headstone, just a wooden cross made out of treated 2X4s with Mom’s initials and her birth and death dates on a nailed-on plaque. We probably could’ve bought a nice headstone with what it cost us to drive from New Jersey to Arizona. But, like I said, my father was a jerk, an idiot, and a fool. Let’s add cheap bastard to that.

Now, when I say “I swear on my mother’s grave,” it’s not just an empty catchphrase—she’s actually dead and buried. When I swear on my mother’s grave, I pull out a copy of the picture of her grave I took at the cemetery in Arizona. Then, for further assurance, I give the picture to the person I’m trying to convince of my truthfulness. Usually, they back up saying, “No, no, no. That’s all right. I believe you!” I’m never sure whether they mean it, or whether they’re just trying to get away from me. I swear on my mother’s grave that I just don’t know, but God knows, I’d like to know. I cross my heart and hope to die.

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

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Oxymoron (ox-y-mo’-ron): Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. A compressed paradox.

Jumbo shrimp. I’m not laughing. I never laughed. It stood alone. You couldn’t blend it into a one liner—you had to elaborate. You had to explain, and then you got the laugh. Usually, after the explanation and the first laugh, you do a string of oxymorons: alone together, grow smaller, climb down, small crowd. Still not funny.

Which reminds me, there’s a small crowd tonight at “Rocco’s Ha Ha!” Rocco’s is probably the only comedy club for 500 miles around. Rocco was exiled from the Jersey mob for making a pass at “Tony Bags’s” wife. What was the pass? “You look really nice tonight Mrs. Bags.” You could hear the revolvers cocking. Rocco looked terrified. He said “I didn’t mean nothin’. It was a compliment. I was just being nice.” “Maybe too nice,” said Tony as he reached into his suit jacket. Rocco started begging. “Shaddup!” Said Tony, one inch from Rocco’s face. He pulled a wallet from his suit coat and counted out 20 $100.00 bills. “You’re goin’ to West Virginia to run the comedy club I recently “inherited” from Man Mountain Manny, the has-been wrestler who bet on himself too “Manny” times—get it? “Manny times, ha ha!” Tony gave Rocco the money and told him not to expect any more— he had a life sentence at to club—room and board, and that was it. Tony put me in charge of watching over Rocco, so I was headed to West Virginia too.

The club attracted the worst comics in the Western Hemisphere. I especially hated the guys with the dummies on their knees, cracking jokes about their wood, and each other’s mothers. And then, having the dummies sing “Strangers in the Night” while the ventriloquist drank a glass of water. I found out the ventriloquist had a tube covered with tape on the side of his head that he poured the water down. The tape was the color of his skin, so you couldn’t see the tube. I found this out when I hit a ventriloquist a couple of times in the face after his set and the tube fell off. He wouldn’t talk when I asked him how his drinking-singing thing worked. So, a whack on the face was justified and necessary.

The audience who showed up was terrible. The club held 60 people. We would average 5 men, fresh from the coal mines, still wearing their hard hats with the little spot lights on them. They got drunk and threw small lumps of coal at the acts they didn’t like, which was all of them. One night, I found Rocco in the storeroom with a gun to his head. If he shot himself, I’d take over & probably get a pay raise. I told him if he really had to do it, he should jump into an abandoned coal mine shaft. I heard from Tony the next day: “The rat has deceased.” That was code, but not very good code. Now, I was in charge of Rocco’s Ha ha! Out of respect, I didn’t change the name. I knew the club didn’t have to succeed—it was a money laundering operation. I should’ve realized that in the first place, but I didn’t. But, I was going to make some legit money anyway. I was going to do stand up comedy. It was easy, I would steal jokes off the internet— but not just any jokes. I would do jokes about coal!

My debut arrived. Our five miners were nearly passed out. I stepped onto the stage. I started:

A group of guys covered in coal dust walks into a bar. The barman says “Sorry, we don’t serve miners.”

I was going to try walking on hot burning coals but I got cold feet.

I’ve just seen a paleontologist sitting in a bar talking to a piece of coal. He must be carbon dating.

I applied for a job extracting coal but they said I didn’t have the right experience. Never mined.

Neil Diamond was originally called Neil Coal until the pressure got to him.

We couldn’t decide whether to have a coal or a gas fire and we ended up in a heated argument.

I keep a collection of coal for sedimental reasons.

I thought about a job mining coal but then I realised much of it would be boring.

The miners woke up (more less) and started laughing and applauding, except for the jokes with scientific terms in them. The next night, the club was full. I just kept telling the same jokes over and over, but nobody cared. This went on for about a month, and then, I got a call from Tony: “The laundry is drying.” That was code, but not very good code. I had to stop the comedy. I had been a miner success, but I had to get back to the other funny business.

Coal Jokes: https://punsandoneliners.com/randomness/coal-jokes/

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

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Paenismus (pai-nis’-mus): Expressing joy for blessings obtained or an evil avoided.

Another shitty tip. I broke my ass serving these people a three-course meal. I almost broke my arm with my one-handed carry of the 18 pound turkey. There they were: six slurping, slopping, chomping, back-of-the-arm wiping hogs. There was turkey and cranberry sauce on the floor, squash smeared on the tablecloth, garnished with blobs of chestnut stuffing. On top of it all, there was pumpkin pie filling rolled into little round balls, skewered by silverware. The bill for this mess? $650.00. My tip? $5.00. I went over into a dark corner and nearly cried.

I was hurt. I was angry, but I still felt blessed—blessed to have a job, and blessed to be living in the city I love. New York was alive with wonder, interesting things to do, a diverse population, great places to eat, and more. It was crazy expensive though. I lived in what my landlord called a “one-half bedroom” apartment. It had a fold-out bed, but the room was so small, the bed wouldn’t go down all the way. So I slept at a 45-degree angle. Once I got into bed, I had to stay there or the bed would slam back into the wall, and I’d have to go through the whole pulling down thing again. I had a hot plate and a mini-fridge from my college dorm. I had one chair, and for entertainment I listened to NPR streaming on my cellphone. I kept all my clothes in a cardboard box. As soon as I turned the lights out, the roaches came out. There was no food in my apartment. Maybe they just wanted to socialize. Their skittering and wing clicking mating sounds were annoying.

As the year went by, I started to get sick of New York. The breaking point was the roach that walked across my face in the middle of the night. I slapped my face so hard and so many times to kill it, that I had a welt the next morning. My sister in New Jersey invited me to stay with her for as long as I liked. I took a bus from Port Authority, carrying my clothes on my lap in their cardboard box. I left my hot plate and fridge behind. My brother-in-law Jan gave me a job in one of his 25 discount liquor stores. The chain was called “Gin Canal” after his Dutch heritage. He specialized in gin, of course. In spring, he would add tulips to his inventory, in memory of his father. I worked the 11:00 pm to 2:00 am shift, which was, I soon found out, prime robbery time. I was robbed at least once a month. My brother-in-law didn’t care. He told me he had a “subsidy” that covered his losses. I think the subsidy came from the counterfeit federal tax stamps we glued onto unstamped bottles on Sunday afternoons.

Then, one night while I was getting robbed again, I recognized the bastard: it was $5.00 tip man from back in my waiter days in New York. For one second, I wondered what the hell he was doing here. Then, I jumped over the counter and hit him on the head with a gallon jug of “Carlo Rossi Paisano.” He was out cold and covered in wine. I took off all his clothes and dragged him out into the street. When I got back inside, I went through his pockets. There was an ATM card in his wallet with the PIN number written on the back! I locked up Gin Canal and headed for the ATM around the corner. I figured my tip should’ve been $120.00. That’s what I withdrew. Then, I gave his ATM card to a homeless man who looked like he needed some money. I pointed out the PIN number and told him Santa Claus had come to town.

When I got back to Gin Canal I put the $5.00 tipper’s clothes in the gutter and burned them, alongside him. As I was cleaning up the wine and broken glass on the liquor store’s floor, I thought about all the cliches connecting to sowing and reaping, and Karma and all that stuff, and felt like Destiny had shown me the beauty of revenge.

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

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Palilogia: Repetition of the same word, with none between, for vehemence. Synonym for epizeuxis.

“No, no, no, Johnny.” I heard that all the time. I was a 12-year-old prisoner of my mother’s never-ending prohibitions. The only time I heard her say “yes” was at night, and the bed was squeaking and Dad was saying “yes” too. At least they agreed on something when they were in bed at night. In the daytime all they did was argue, argue, argue. One of the best arguments had to do with John Kennedy running for President. My mother, like a lot of mothers, loved him—he was handsome and tanned and rich and he had a “cute” Massachusetts accent. To my father, Kennedy was as evil as they came—for the reasons my mother loved him, plus (and this was the big one) he was Catholic. Mt father was certain, if Kennedy was elected, he would take orders from the Pope and the United States would lose its sovereignty, and we would become a Vatican puppet-state.

Being a boy, I took my father’s side. When I stated my position on Kennedy to my friends, I was laughed off the porch stoop. So, I headed home to make up a plan so my friends would believe that there was a conspiracy. I watched Bishop Sheen every once-in-awhile on TV, but I knew he wouldn’t reveal the Papist plot to a Protestant boy from New Jersey. Plus, he was way too important to talk to me, a sinner doomed to Hell for being Presbyterian—a member of a rebel faction of the Christian faith, that along with other factions, had torn the true universal church to pieces.

I came up with a plan, I would disguise myself as a Catholic and trick one of the local priests into telling me the truth. So, I joined CYO—Catholic Youth Organization, where I would play basketball and look Catholic. Although it had “Catholic” in its name, in all of its literature, it used “Christian” to refer to itself. I thought this was clever—like Kennedy calling himself “Christian” instead of “Catholic.” I thought I was onto something—a conspiracy of stealth and concealment. My next move was to go to confession—where you sit in a wooden hutch and tell a concealed Priest the bad things you had done since your previous confession. I would be bold. I would not begin with the usual greeting. Instead I would ask directly: “Is Kennedy a puppet of the Pope?”

I anguished for two days. It was only three days to the election. It was getting cold outside. I told my father what I was up to. He gave me a dollar and told me to get some candy for myself. That meant he was on my side. I couldn’t talk to my mother, she would just say “No, no, no, Johnny” like I was assaulting her. I took a bath, combed my hair and set off for St. Vincent’s Catholic Church—a major landmark in our community. It’s tall steeple, numerous stained glass windows and statutes of saints were awe inspiring. The cathedral was full of squeaks and echoes as I headed for the confessional. I was nervous. I had met with Father Coaly once before to try and become an undercover Altar Boy. There were no openings, so he turned me down, but I was pretty sure he’d be in the confessional this afternoon.

I was 30 minutes early, so I just went straight into the confessional. I heard a voice say: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” That wasn’t the usual routine, as far as I knew. So, I went ahead and asked “”Is Kennedy a puppet of the Pope?” There was laughter. “I’m sorry son, but I am John Kennedy. I came to this beautiful quiet place to practice my inaugural address should I be elected on Tuesday, even though it’ll be a few months until I will deliver it. I have one last campaign event in Morristown tomorrow, that’s why I’m here. I hope you can come. And no, I am not a puppet of the Pope or anybody else.”

I didn’t believe him. What was he doing in that confessional on the Priest’s side? I had heard there were microphones that recorded everything in order to blackmail congregants and add to the church’s massive wealth and give priests spending money too. I also thought that the confessionals have a direct line to Rome. On the other hand, Kennedy seemed pretty nice. I decided later that night that Kennedy wasn’t the Pope’s puppet. I told my dad and he locked me in the garage. About 1 hour later, I heard the lock get smashed. A man in a suit with what looked like a hearing aid in his ear said, “Hi. I’m Secret Service Agent Tommy Campbell. We were assigned to shadow you after your meeting with Mr. Kennedy, and also, we have been monitoring your father because of his association with a Northern Ireland Protestant terrorist organization. I am telling you this for your own safety. The FBI has taken your father into custody. I am sorry.” I wasn’t surprised. My father was a nut, especially when it came to politics. I said to the Agent: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” He looked at me a smiled.

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

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Parabola (par-ab’-o-la): The explicit drawing of a parallel between two essentially dissimilar things, especially with a moral or didactic purpose. A parable.

It was like I was a big tuna headed to the can—free one minute, mixed with mayonnaise, chopped onions, and pickle relish, smeared on two slices of white bread with lettuce and sliced in half. I am netted. I am canned. I am eaten. My death keeps somebody else alive, a fleet of fishing boats profitable, and maybe, the sandwich reputation of the corner deli “Sawdust.” I’m not really a tuna. I don’t even eat tuna. I just like to think of the entwinement of good and bad—how there’s nothing perfectly good or perfectly evil. It’s probably an old and boring riff on life’s complexities, but it weighs heavily on equity’s place in framing a level life with, perhaps, no gut-wrenching dips or destructive potholes, or, at least, fewer of both.

“The merciful consideration of circumstances.” This quality of judgment is usually affected, or called to be affected, in judicial cases. Like somebody steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. He is caught, arrested, tried and sentenced 19 years in prison. Where’s the equity here? This case makes most people angry (and even sick) to read.

Between 24 and 28, I “took care” of people for a living. I came from a good background: a loving family, hefty allowance and a degree from UPENN in Continental Philosophy—I studied all the philosophic bad boys. I also met this guy, Bobby Dollar. We made friends. He was filthy rich. He could buy whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. One weekend, we went to New Jersey and he bought an apartment complex in Newark. He paid cash out of the briefcase he always carried. Then, he would go door-to-door and evict people he “didn’t like the looks of.” After all that, about two months later, he would have apartment complex reappraised at a crazy-high value, reinsure it, and hire a mob torch man to burn it down. He was lucky that nobody got killed. He certainly didn’t need the money. He could’ve bought Newark if he wanted it badly enough. He was evil.

After we graduated, Bobby hired me to manage his properties. He called them his “zoos” because they hosted a few species of rat (including escaped white lab rats), many, many mice, all varieties of cockroach, fleas, and inch-long centipedes. Occasionally, an escaped pet snake would pop up in somebody’s shower, rearing it’s head out of the drain. The ramps he had built for wheelchair access were so steep that it took two people to push a wheelchair bound person up it. Bobby had the building inspector on his “alternate” payroll, reserved also for judges, police, and public officials.

My primary job responsibility was to “take care” of people prepared to take legal action against Bobby. First, I tried to talk them out of it. Then, I’d threaten them, in some cases with blackmail, and other cases, bodily harm—you know—take off a finger, smash a kneecap, pluck an eye, amputate a foot, take off an ear, etc. I can’t tell how much blood I spilled working for Bobby. At least 5 gallons. I had to get rid of him. My life was a horror show. He was evil.

If I turned Bobby in, I would be whacked. So, I opted for a DYI murder. It was simple. I invited him over to my condo. We went up on the roof to smoke some weed, and I pushed him over the railing. I waved to him as he fell screaming toward the pavement. It was ten stories down, but I still heard him thud when he hit the sidewalk. Bobby was pretty big.

I called the police, turned myself in, and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter: that I had patted Bobby on the back too hard when I was congratulating him on his 7th marriage, and he had lost his balance and went over the rail. In exchange for ratting on Bobby, I was given immunity from prosecution for every crime I may have committed in my life. As a token of appreciation, the police gave me Bobby’s credit card and a season ticket to the Yankees that he had had in his wallet. I was sentenced to one month in jail. Killing a fiend did a service to the community. Lying about how it happened got me off the hook. Too bad about guy who got 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and telling the truth. If he had been “connected” like me, they probably would’ve let him go. But Justice is justice—according to Justice—the blindfolded lady holding the sword and scales—he got what was coming to him. Stealing vs. starving. He made the wrong choice, according to justice.

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

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Paragoge (par-a-go’-ge): The addition of a letter or syllable to the end of a word. A kind of metaplasm.

I am rugged—as strong-o as they come! I once lifted a bowling ball over my head, pumped it ten times, and threw it at my cat. He is nimble and got out of the way, but Rosalee didn’t. The bowling ball hit her in the forehead and killed her. I’m not proud of this, but I was sentenced to 1 year in Colesville State Penitentiary for involuntary manslaughter. Killing Rosalee was the worst thing I’ve ever done, so far. I know I’ll make more mistakes, maybe worse mistakes. Since I’ve been in prison, I got permission to teach myself how to juggle bowling balls—three at a time. When I started I dropped one on my toe. It broke my toe, and I limped for about a month. When that ball hit my toe, I thought of Rosalee and her crushed forehead. A little voice inside my head said “Kill your mother.” I started pretending to plan, to trick the voice into shutting up. But, then the voice said: “You can’t fool me, I’m in your head.”

That was true. The only way to get rid of the voice in my head, was to get rid of my head. But the voice wasn’t all bad—it had made me vote for Barack Obama. That was a good decision. Also, it taught me what to say to the elderly people I robbed in their homes: “Just be good and stay in your bed, and I won’t kill you.” Yes, I was really bad, but I didn’t want to be—I was pressured by the pressure in my head. The voice showed up when I was about 12. It sounded like Hopalong Cassidy, my cowboy TV hero. He had 2 guns and a while horse with silver encrusted tack. He wore a big black hat, and silver-studded black wrist guards. He would say, “Johnny, kick the neighbor’s dog.” Or, “Johnny, stomp on your little brother’s model airplane.” Or, “Johnny, take your father’s car for a drive.” Every time I would say “OK Hoppy” and carry out his command. I was flattered that he wanted to have anything to do with me at all. But, I was his “Pard” as cowboys say. We had a special relationship. Actually, I should say we have a special relationship. I haven’t watched his TV show for 50 years, but he’s still with me, giving commands that I carry out because he’s a cowboy and my “pard.”

At this point, you probably think Hoppy told me to kill Rosalee. That’s not true. I was actually trying to kill my cat Ranger. Rosalee’s death was truly an accident. Now, I’m tasked by Hoppy with killing my mother— as cowboys say, “That’s a tall order, partner.” She’s 86, and a fall would be good—it would make perfect sense. I don’t want to get into the shower with her, so I think I’ll push her down the basement stairs. Hoppy complimented me on the plan. I was elated.

I served my 1-year sentence and was released from prison. I took a cab straight home so I could hatch my plan. Hoppy was singing “Home on the Range” in my head as we rode home. “Good pick, Hoppy,” I thought as we pulled up in front of the house—the house where I grew up, and the place where I first met Hoppy on TV. There was Ma to greet me. The hump on Ma’s back had grown since I last saw her, and her eyes seemed a little cloudy—but it was Ma—she smelled like Ma, she looked like Ma, she sounded like Ma. I couldn’t wait to push her down the basement stairs so I could bask in the glory of Hoppy’s kudos. I said, “Hey Ma, could you go down in the basement and get a jar of those pickles you make?” “Sure Johnny,” she said. Suddenly there was a voice inside my head that I didn’t recognize at first, but then I tagged it. It was Paladin from “Have Gun Will Travel.” At the start of each episode, he would flash his business card with a knight from a chess set pictured on it. Paladin’s voice said, “Hoppy, you sidewinding varmint, get out of this boy’s head or I’ll shoot you between the eyes.” Hoppy responded angrily, “To hell with you Paladin, draw your .45 dead man!” “BLAM!” One shot was fired. Paladin’s voice said, “It’s all right son, he’s gone and I’m moseying along now. The only voice in your head from now on is your own voice. Adiós son.” I heard fading hoof beats, and then they were gone. I looked at Ma with new found love in my heart, and I vowed to pay back every elderly person I had ever robbed.

That was ten years ago. Ma’s gone but I managed to pay back most of the elderly people I robbed before they too passed away. I had my criminal record scrubbed and opened a TV Cowboy memorabilia shop on ETSY. It is quite lucrative. For example, I sold a Roy Rogers lunchbox yesterday for $5,000. I got a tattoo of chess knight on my right forearm. When people ask me, “Why a chess piece?” I lie.

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

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Paralipsis (par-a-lip’-sis): Stating and drawing attention to something in the very act of pretending to pass it over (see also cataphasis). A kind of irony.

I’m not going to tell you what a world of shit the world is in. We don’t need to hear what to do about it. We need to do something about it. But the shit-list is long—stretching from communicable diseases to rising ocean levels that will soon inundate my million-dollar beach home with waves of salt water, and eventually, schools of fish and lobsters. What could be worse? Wild fires! They’re worse. They are stealthy. They sneak into towns and cities, making ashes and embers as they go, and poof, there goes another little town in the Cascade Mountains. Gone, along with all the people who live there, fleeing for their lives like Prairie Dogs from a grass fire. What about the recent floods? Deluges come down from the sky and trickling creeks turn into raging rivers, filled with floating junk and struggling people. You may see a chicken coop float by, ridden by a family of four. Or, a telephone pole with an extended family on board—fifteen people, from babies to elders headed to God knows where. Maybe over the 100-foot high waterfall 1/4 mile down river? There goes a rich guy in his Land Rover! He can’t pay his way out of this one, like the affair he had with his daughter’s best friend. He’s blowing his horn at the man in front of him riding in a planter box, trying to steer with a garden trowel. Mr. Land Rover vehemently motions to Planter Box man to get out of his way. Then, he hits a bridge abutment and drowns.

I bet you had a great dinner last night. Pretty much everybody else didn’t. Famine is real—it affects everybody who does not have enough to eat. Go to the mall and see the jiggly woman in the electric shopping scooter who has a bag of “Caloroni Chocolate Chugs Chugs” on her lap while she shops for “Fatty Bars” and “Weight-Loss Winkies.” It makes no sense, but that’s how it goes in the land of plenty. Here comes another jiggler—a man! It seems the battery in his scooter is going dead, or something. Smoke is billowing out the back. It looks like his weight is straining the motor. If the seat catches on fire he is a dead man. He has a bag of “Flabbusto Chocolate Covered Crisco Treats.” The mall guards spray his scooter with fire extinguishers, as the flames subside, he slowly gets off his scooter and waddles to a nearby bench where he immediately farts and reaches for another “Flabbusto” as he waits for his life-boat scooter to be delivered. Meanwhile, somewhere else in the world, a family shares a dinner of a single broiled locust and a handful of boiled tree bark. They are so skinny they could work as skeletons in anatomy classes. Their clothes consist of used fertilizer bags with head-and arm-holes cut out. They can almost remember their small farm where they used the fertilizer before hell descended on their land when it stopped raining two years ago. They don’t have a chance. Hello Hyenas!

As we review the world of shit, we see there are varying depths of shit constituting the world of shit: there are worlds of shit. Your devastating flood may be my big puddle in my back yard. Your flash fire that burns out your life and destroys your belongings, may be my leaf pile fire gone out of control. Your famine may be my hunger pang that prompts me to go to the deli and get a pastrami sandwich on rye. My brother Eddy has just finished writing a book about all this. He has absolutely no qualifications, so the book is a fictional conspiracy theory that’s all about blame, with no solutions proposed. He says that once you know who to blame, you’re halfway there. The book’s title is: “THEY Have Taken Our Water, Our Food, Nice Weather, and Started Fires.” “They” are a conspiracy of Democrats and Aliens from “Planet Par,” a race of golf-loving fiends that look human and wear loud plaid golfing attire and golf hats that say DARN, “Democrats Against Republican Nonsense,” making it look like they’re chastising Republicans when they are actually to blame. Anyway, the space aliens plant bombs all over Earth to destroy it, plan to take the Democrat collaborators with them when they leave, and will let everybody else be blown up. As the aliens get ready to leave, though, they can’t get their spaceships started. The mission to blow up Earth is temporarily scrapped. At this point, the great Republican scientist Elan Muck offers to help fix the spaceships in exchange for peace with the aliens, and also, to collaborate with them to fix the world of shit. Elan discovers a cure-all for the earth’s ills and purchases the World Wide Web from its mysterious owner so he can inform the world of the means of salvation. Everybody rejoices, except Democrats who, for collaborating with the aliens, are relegated to work camps, mining “the cure” 24-7.

I think Eddy’s book sucks. We need real solutions to the world’s real problems. I’m going to do my part by raiding supermarkets, clearing the shelves of unhealthy food, and sending it by chartered jet to hungry countries.

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

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Paramythia (pa-ra-mee’-thi-a): An expression of consolation and encouragement.

“Now, now honey, it’s not like it’s the end of the world.” I said, trying to console my wife Roxie. Then I realized it was probably the end of the world. Smoke filled the air. Sirens were blaring. My neighbors were eating their dog Sarah right there on front lawn. It was disgusting and fascinating at the same time. Mel was holding Sarah, their little dog, like corn on the cob, spinning and chomping like he was at a summer picnic. Mel’s wife Gloria was chewing on Sarah’s tail. Mel had always treated her like a second-class citizen—even eating their dog together, Gloria got the short end of the stick. She didn’t mind though, she had already chewed off half Sarah’s tail, and was still going strong, with bloody fur on her chin and no sign of slowing down. I couldn’t stop looking out the window at the carnage—little Ricky Ranker standing in the street, licking his headless hamster like it was an ice cream cone. Then, there was Grandma Tuttle with what looked like a finger in a hot dog bun. She was squirting mustard on it and looking at it like it was some kind of religious icon.

I was on the verge of vomiting when there was a knock on the door that quickly turned into pounding. Without opening the door, I asked who was there. “Police, open up!” The voice sounded like it was talking with it’s mouth full. Normally, I would’ve thought it was a donut, but given that it was the end of the world, it was probably a piece of the guy across the street who I could see through the window, holding his arm and screaming. So I looked through the front door’s peephole and saw my friend Bill, a police officer. He had blood down the front of his shirt and was holding my bank teller’s severed head by her hair, swinging it back and forth by his side like it was a bleeding bowling ball.

“Bill! I think you want to eat me and Roxie—you’ve always looked at her like she made you hungry, but I thought is was sexual. But now, I see it isn’t. You want to make her into some kind of human rainbow roll, smear on some wasabi, and eat her along with shots of sake. What the hell happened to you?” He yelled through the door: “I don’t know Goddamnit. I went to bed, got up and put on my uniform, and ate the bank teller, and now I want to eat you and Roxie, especially Roxie. My mouth’s watering and my stomach’s growling like a mad dog. Open the damn door, or I’ll shoot my way in.” He was lying—he had an axe and started chopping his way through the door. I wondered why he hadn’t just broken the picture window and climbed through. I didn’t have time to ask. I could see the axe’s blade tearing through the door. I ran into the kitchen where Roxie was, but she wasn’t there. I didn’t blame her for taking off on me. It might save her life. Just then, Officer Bill broke through the front door. I ran as fast as I could out the back door. I looked over my shoulder as I ran and caught a glimpse of Bill and Roxie—evidently she had been hiding in the bathroom and he had found her. I felt sick. I got down on my knees and yelled “make it stop!”

And it stopped. I had awakened from yet another one of my mega-nightmares. They were vivid and inevitably apocalyptic. I have been seeing a psychologist to find a way to put an end to what I call ‘My night horrors.” She seems to think the nightmares are triggered by my vegetarianism and abhorrence of meat. Anyway, waking up, I felt like Dorothy arriving back in Kansas. Aside from our neighbor’s worthless dog Sarah’s barking at whatever the hell she barks at, things were quiet and serene. I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. It was late, but somebody knocked softly on the front door. Trixie came downstairs fully dressed. I noticed she was carrying a suitcase. She opened the door. It was my friend Bill the policeman. “Shhh” she said and went out the door, and quietly closed it behind them.

This is the end of the world,” I sobbed as I thought of all the ways I could kill, and possibly, eat Trixie and Bill..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. “Paraprosdokian.” WikipediaThe Free Encyclopedia. 4 Jan 2008, 03:30 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 Jan 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraprosdokian>.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I headed home to turn on the gas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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