A Queen of the Night

In Honduras some years ago I was boarding at the home of an elderly woman during  a n extended journalistic assignment.  She grew flowers in her front yard and on her porch.  One night my landlady knocked on my door after midnight.

“I want to show you something,”  she said through the door.

I dressed and went out to the front porch where my landlady was standing.  She pointed to a large plant .    It had a flower that was opening literally as we watched.  My landlady told me that the plant was a “Reina de la noche” (a “Queen of the Night.” )  The plant only flowered once a year.

Dr. Larry Day is a retired journalist turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia is available at Amazon.com

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No Joke

As a teenager I worked on a farm one summer.    I used to talk to an old guy after work.  He was hard of hearing.    When the old guy didn’t hear  me , but didn’t want to acknowledge the fact, he would say,  “That’s no joke,”  after my remark.

But some of the time I WAS telling a joke.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired journalist turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia is available at Amazon.com

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The Consultant

 

When I was a teenager, I was klutz. My klutziness—with everything from gadgets to girls—was a source of merriment for my friends, and despair for me. I shared my anguish in an interview with my kindly old Bishop.

He gave me some advice: “The Lord makes imperfect people with the hope that they will help other imperfect people with their imperfections.” That advice didn’t mean much to me at the time, but it does now.

It got me a job.

I was at a local hardware store when I met the headhunter who set up my job interview. I had gone to the store to return a faulty flashlight. The flashlight, it turns out, worked fine. Apparently I had put the batteries in wrong.

The salesman, Mr. Morales, turned the batteries around, replaced the cap, and flicked the switch. The light came on.

“It’s working now,” he said, and handed me the flashlight. He smiled, but he didn’t give me “the look.” That’s why I always look for Mr. Morales when I return merchandise at that hardware store.

Every time I hand faulty gadgets to other salespeople, they make the darn things work in an instant.

“You had the fragjibber in backwards,” they say.

Then they give me “the look.” You know what I mean, that surreptitious supercilious raising of the eyebrows that says, “If this guy is brain dead, shouldn’t he be on a respirator?”

It was while I was thanking Mr. Morales that the headhunter, Sandra Chang, came up and started talking to me. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her that I was retired and working my head off at odd jobs to make ends meet. After we had chatted a while, Ms. Chang asked if I would be interested in being a consultant. I said, “Sure I would.”

When she called some weeks later, she had set up an interview with Apogee Engineering. I’d never heard of the outfit, and Ms. Chang was pretty vague about what they do to keep their stockholders happy. She was also vague about which of my myriad talents Apogee Engineering was interested in. She said they’d explain in the interview.

Ms. Chang briefed me well. She said that first they’d go over my resume, and told me what they’d be looking for. She was right on target. She said that after the routine stuff, they’d want to ask me some different questions. She told me to be sure I answered all their questions truthfully.

“No problem,” I said. “My life’s an open book. I’m a professor emeritus from a small university, and I teach part time at a large university. I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke and I don’t chew. I’m a very happily married man.

On the appointed day I went to Apogee Engineering. The interview was going great. They seemed completely satisfied with my answers to the routine resume questions. Then the assistant to president cleared his throat.

“Professor, as Ms. Chang may have told you, the project we’re considering you for is very important to Apogee Engineering. Because of that, you’ve been the subject of a rather extensive background check. Would you mind confirming some of our findings?”

“Not at all,” I said. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” Then I said to myself, “Bring it on.” I was secure in the fact that I have lived a solidly upstanding, if somewhat prosaic, life.

“Professor,” said the assistant, “a couple of weeks ago the local computer store sent someone out to your house. Why did you call them?”

“I inadvertently put a CD Rom disk into the B-drive slot instead of the CD Rom slot on my computer,” I said. “It got stuck, and I couldn’t get it out.

“I see,” he said. Then he went on.

“The folks at Triple A report that you have made extensive use of their emergency road service. In fact, you called last them last week. Can you tell us what happened?”

I paused. “Where was this guy going with this stuff?” I thought. “Oh well, what the heck,”

“I was driving to work and a car splashed mud on my windshield. When I turned on the automatic windshield washer, it squirted oil all over my windshield. I couldn’t see a thing, and I ran into a curb and blew out a tire.”

“And how did oil get into the reservoir of the windshield wiper?” asked the assistant to the president of Apogee Engineering.

“Lie,” whispered a little voice inside me. “Lie your socks off.” But I didn’t.

“A couple of days earlier the oil light came on, so I put in some oil. I must have poured oil into the wrong hole. All those darn caps under the hood look the same.”

I wondered if he was going to give me “the look,” but he didn’t.

“You’ve returned nine appliances to local stores in the last few weeks. How many of those appliances were actually faulty?”

“These guys are setting me up,” I thought. “They’re going to give me the old heave ho. Well I’ll save them the trouble.”

“All nine appliances worked perfectly when the store personnel adjusted them, I said with quiet dignity. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be on my way.” I stood up.

“Professor,” said the assistant to the president, “please sit down.”

“You people are trying to humiliate me,” I said.

“On the contrary, we’re trying to hire you,” he said. “We’ve been looking all over the country for someone like you. You’re bright. You’re successful. You’re a solid citizen. And you’ve been blessed with a gift. World class athletes 2

are a breed apart. They run the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds. They bat .375 year after year. They shoot in the low sixties in high pressure golf tournaments.

“What does that have to do with me?” I asked.

“You are an extremely rare phenomenon. Industrial companies all over the world hire Apogee Engineering and pay us millions of dollars to help them idiot-proof their products.”

“So you’re looking to hire a blithering idiot,” I said bitterly.

“On the contrary,” he said. “We’re looking to hire a world class reverse mechanical engineering genius, and you are he. You’re one in a billion. If a consumer product doesn’t baffle you, it won’t baffle anyone. Please come to work for us and help make consumer products safer for people all over the world.”

So I did. -30-

 

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Cheap Dirt

Maggworth’s Flea Market–excuse me, Maggsworth’s Antique Mall—is named for a guerrilla leader who raided our town and killed a lot of people during the Civil War. Colonel Moriarty Maggsworth was his name, and kill and pillage was his game. He and some of his cohort were later hanged.

Its name is the only thing exciting about the “mall.” The place itself is pretty drab—there’s a bunch of stalls set up in an old warehouse near downtown.

There are jewelry booths, pre-owned clothing stalls, furniture booths, sports card booths, and a both where they sell toilet paper holders made out of armadillo shells. The mall is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. You don’t quit your day job when you open a stall at Maggworth’s Antique Mall. But owning a booth at the mall, or shopping there every weekend does give the townspeople something to look forward to. Other wise they’d be sticking their tongues into electric lamp sockets to break the monotony.

One Saturday morning a stranger came to the mall and asked to rent a booth. There were four or five stalls unoccupied at the time so Ana Maria Symphonia Schultz, president of the mall cooperative association, signed him up, collected a month’s rent and showed him to a stall.

“You’re not going to sell dirty magazines are you?” asked Ana Maria Symphonia.

“No,” said the stranger.

“Good,” she said and went back to the booth where she and her partner Greta Soulsworthy sold exotically contorted ceramic vegetables.

The stranger dusted off the shelves and stacked them with cheap white Styrofoam cups—the kind you buy when it’s your turn to furnish hot cocoa for 150 people at a church bazaar. Then he nailed a board across the front of the booth for a counter and hung up a sign. It was hand lettered and it read: “DiRT fOR SaLE.”

With his merchandise in place the stranger sat down on a folding chair and began reading a magazine.

“Whatcha sellin’?”

“Dirt.”

“What?”

“Dirt.”

“Ya mean DIRT?”

“Yes.”

“Lemme see.”

The stranger handed the man one of the Styrofoam cups.

“It’s fulla dirt.”

“Yes.”

“Hey, Maggie, git over here. This guy’s sellin’ dirt.”

Maggie didn’t respond. She was gazing into a glass case containing several sets of authentic kidney stone earrings. Others, not so deeply absorbed, sauntered over to the stranger’s booth.

“This guy’s sellin’ dirt,” Gertrude’s husband said as a small crowd gathered.

“How much?” asked a pragmatic 13-year-old who had pushed his way to the front.

“The large containers are 75 cents, the middle-sized ones are 50 cents, and the small ones are a quarter, tax included,” said the stranger.

“Where’d the dirt come from,” asked somebody.

“From my back yard,” said the stranger.

“You just dig up dirt in your back yard and bring it in here to sell?”

“Yes.”

“What does it do?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re selling dirt that don’t do nothin’?”

“Yes.”

“Hot dog,” said the man. “I’ll take three big ones and a middle-sized one.” The stranger had sold all his dirt in an hour. He never returned.

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Grant Us Redux

Letongaloosa Community Junior College, where I work, has two departments: the Department of Technology, et. al., and the Department of et. al., et. al. Years ago Dr. Ima Farseer, dean of the college, asked me to help two professors submit a grant proposal.

They were both smart and competent but one was a punctilious neat freak and the other was incredibly lackadaisical. Working on their own, they had completed 99 percent of the grant proposal.   They needed to meet face to face to work out the one percent and sign the proposal.

But they couldn’t. The neat freak freaked out at the thought of approaching his colleague’s trashy office, and the lackadaisical professor broke out in hives when the dean suggested he meet at the neat freak’s office.   Neither could abide meeting in a neutral setting.

I solved the problem (and got much needed summer salary as a reward) by fitting the two with virtual reality goggles. Each thought he was meeting in his own office, when in fact they were both sitting in mine. They completed remaining details, signed the grant proposal, and LCJC got its percentage of the grant funds for overhead expenses—which made Dean Farseer very happy.

Fast forward a dozen years. Dean Ima is poised for retirement. She wants to spend her golden years in someplace more exotic than Letongaloosa (who could imagine such a place?). Problem: how to check out interesting retirement venues on the salary LCJC pays her. Solution: apply for a grant. Problem: how does she make the grant proposal sound realistic when Dean Ima has never traveled beyond the state borders. Solution: hire a grant writer who has extensive overseas experience.

My phone rang. It was Dean Ima.

“Would you like to make some money?” she asked.

“Very much.”

“What do you know about Tahiti?”

“Quite a bit actually,” I said. I did a quick Google search. Instantly my computer screen came up with “15 facts about Tahiti.”

“Tahiti is made up of 118 islands and atolls spread out over five archipelagos. The whole archipelago spans 4,000,000 square km, which is the equivalent to the size of Europe,” I read aloud from the information on my screen.

“Can you figure out a tie with Letongaloosa that would make it logical for me to do research in Tahiti?”

“I’ll try,” I said.

A couple of days later (to make it look like work) I called Dean Ima back.

“What did you find?” she asked.

“Marlon Brando once owned an island in Tahiti, and the Letongaloosa Daily Ledger-Clarion-Telegram always published favorable reviews of Marlon Brando’s movies.”

“That’s close enough,” said Dean Ima. “Get busy and write a grant proposal.”

Getting research grants isn’t as easy as it used to be. We submitted Letongaloosa-Tahiti grant proposals to dozens of institutions but came up dry. Those institutions even ignored the Marlon Brando connection.

Reluctantly, I phoned Dean Ima. “No one will give us a grant.”

“I’ve got to get to Tahiti, “she said.

I got an idea for another funding source.”

“Get on it.”

Some readers will recall “One if by Land.” It’s a story about Ribby Von Simeon,

the son of Letongaloosa-born movie star Sipa Margarita and billionaire

Balderdash Von Simeon.   Sipa was too busy being a movie star and Balderdash

was too busy being Balderdash to bother with Ribby, so he was raised by his

grandparents in Letongaloosa. When Ribby inherited the Margarita-Balderdash

fortune he memorialized the only quality time he had spent with his mother—an ocean voyage.

Ribby purchased the ocean liner they had sailed on when it was about to be

chopped up for scrap. Ribby had the ocean liner dismantled and shipped piece by

piece and reconstructed on a hill outside Letongaloosa.

Ribby Von Balderdash was interested when I explained Dean Ima’s Letongaloosa-

Tahiti Project, and he was sold when I mentioned that Marlon Brando owned

an island down there. Ribby offered to pay for Dean Ima Farseer’s initial trip to

the South Seas. It was love at first sight. Dean Ima took immediate retirement, cashed in her accrued retirement, closed her substantial savings account, and never

came back to Letongaloosa.   Dean Ima did send Ribby a picture of her with one of

Marlon Brando’s great grandchildren. Ribby treasured the photo.

 

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The Bleep Awards

 

Before viewing the Oscar Award Ceremony brought to you by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, you had sat through television broadcasts of the Golden Globe Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Grammy Awards, and 15 different televised country music award ceremonies.  You assumed that was that as far as television award ceremonies were concerned.

Not quite.  Still to come are the “Bleep Awards,” a television special brought to you by the American Academy of Cell Phone Lunacy.   If you want to watch the “Bleep Awards,” you may have to upgrade your current cable system contract or your direct satellite system service. The “Bleep Awards” will be broadcast exclusively by the Weirdness Network on channel 2347.  You can tune in at 10 p.m. Eastern, 9 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. West Coast time, or 7 a.m. the following day  Bora Bora South Pacific time.  If you live on the planet Regma in the Alpha Centauri star system, the show will be broadcast about 4.2 light years from now. Check your local listings for the exact date and time.

Hosts for this year’s Bleep Award Ceremony will be the alluring Miss Hoja Blanca, star of the after midnight soap opera “The Young and the Feckless,” and the ever macho veteran star of “One Life to Splurge,” Dude Henchman. The Bleep Award Show has a gold plated line-up of commercial sponsors:: Shylock Mortgage & Loan, Ptomaine Foods, No Show Insurance, and Limon Auto, makers of Noanda  SUVs and  Sinanimo pickup trucks.

This year’s “Bleep Awards,” will be broadcast from the Grand Hotel in the luxurious Wobbly Islands.  The Wobbly Islands, known as “The Cannes of the Caribbean,” recently hosted the 2013 International Mouth Harp Competition.

Here are this year’s Bleep Award categories:

Best Response to People Who Talk Loudly on Cell Phones in Public Places:

The nominees are:

* Point to the person (man or a woman) and yell “Hey everyone, it’s Kim Kardasian, let’s get her autograph.”

* Yell:  “That’s him (her) officer, ” and point to the person on the phone.

* Walk up to the person and say, “You’ll have to speak up, they can’t hear you in Bangladesh.”

Best reply to people whose e-mails or text messages conclude with the pretentious phrase, “Sent from my Z-Phone.”

The nominees are:

* “Sent from my Green Lantern Decoder Ring”

* “Sent from my Aunt Bessie’s Cookie Jar”

* “Sent from a filling in my third molar”

* “Sent from a wad of chewing gum on the bottom of my shoe”

Best “I’m breaking up with you” text message:

The nominees are:

* “I have three new pets–a tarantula, a wombat and a python.”

* “My parole officer wants to meet you.”

* “Can you lend me $9,000? My bookie is threatening  to break my legs”

* “I have joined the French Foreign Legion.”

Best Gross Sounding Ringtones

The nominees are:

* Someone calling the hogs to dinner on a pig farm.

* The magnified buzz of an angry mosquito.

* A belching hippopotamus

* Lindsay Lohan sitting on a whoopee cushion.

Best thing to do on an annoying robo call  after you have pressed one, and you are speaking to a live operator:

The nominees are:

* Say “You have reached the Federal Communications Commission. Please hold while we trace this phone call.”

* Hold your phone over a toilet bowl and flush.

* Play a gross ring tone (see above) into the mouthpiece.

* You shout “Martha, your Uncle Zeke is on the phone.”

Larry Day is the author of Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia

. Retailers e-mail Larry: day_larry@yahoo.com

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Heart To Heart

 

No one has ever mistaken Nelly Potsdam-Clark for a beauty pageant contestant. In point of fact she looks like a fire plug. And when provoked she can be pushy, grabby and coarse.

Verita, Nelly’s 17-year-old daughter, inherited her father Sidney’s genes. The Clarks are as tall and willowy as the Potsdams are squat and thick, and folks use such words as refined, gracious and polished when speaking about Sid and Verita.

The couple’s marriage has lasted because over the years pushy trumped refined, grabby trumped gracious, and coarse trumped polished whenever things got tense in the Potsdam-Clark household. People call Nelly’s husband “Silent Sid.” Verita had Sid’s quiescent personality, but she had looks that beat all.

When Verita was born, Nelly saw her chance to seize the personal recognition that nature had denied her. Verita was only three months old when Nelly entered her in her first beauty contest–a “pretty baby” competition at the local mall. Verita finished ninth. Verita was sixth in the “Tiny Toddler,” pageant, and won fourth place in a contest to choose the most photogenic three-year-old. For the next four years Verita was either sick or recuperating from a series of childhood maladies, so she wasn’t able to compete. But that time wasn’t wasted. Nelly hired coaches to come to their home and teach elocution, diction, posture, social skills, and body language.

When Verita turned seven Nelly sent her back on the child beauty circuit and she won first in the The Bill Magoony Used Car Good Girl Gala. Nelly reveled in all the attention. Verita barely tolerated it, and Sid shrank from it.

A decade passed with Verita winning or placing high in competition after competition. Verita continued to prep and compete effectively, though reluctantly, in contest after contest. Long before Veritas’s 17th birthday Nelly began planning for the regional round of the Miss Teen Nation competition.

After supper one night Sid and Verita were sitting on the front porch.

“Dad, I don’t want to compete anymore.”

“You’ve been competing all your life. What’s changed?”

“I did it for Mom. I love her, but now I want to quit and get on with my life.”

“I’ll do the Miss Teen Nation, but then I’m through. I won’t compete again.”

“How will you tell Mom?

“I’ll figure it out.”

“I hope you do, dear,” said Sid, quietly.

Verita found a way out when she read the rules of the Miss Teen Nation competition.

*************************************************

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the master of ceremonies, “our judges have given me their scores for the five finalists in the evening gown competition. First place goes to Miss Letongaloosa, Verita Clark!” The applause died down.

“Now stand by for our final event, the swim suit competition.”

Back in the dressing room Verita shed her winning gown it was floor length with an embroidered top that covered her shoulders. The gown had scored points with the judges for elegance and modesty. Verita put on her swimsuit.

Standing off-stage with the other four contestants Verita waited calmly for what she knew was coming. Miss Dilltonville spotted it first.

“She has a tattoo! That’s against the rules.”

There was a pause in the proceedings while the officials consulted. Then the master of ceremonies came to the microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my unhappy duty to announce that Miss Letongaloosa has withdrawn from competition.”

Nelly rushed back stage.

“What have you done?!”

“I broke the rules, Mom,” said Verita and turned round.

On her back, between her beautiful white shoulders, was a big red heart. Block letters inside the heart read: “I LUV U MOM.”

“Do you truly?” cried Nelly.

“Yes. Truly. But Mom, I don’t want to go to fashion school. I want to go to college and become a social worker. I want to help needy children.”

“And so you shall, my dear,” said Nelly.

Sid made it back stage just in time to join his wife and daughter in a long, heartfelt embrace

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