Category Archives: Whimsical

Drink It Forward


It was dark and I was driving carefully, unlike the demolition derby driver I impersonate when the sun is shining. As I pulled in to the Firewater parking lot, I had to unexpectedly yield to an older man riding his scooter across the parking lot in order to go through the drive-through. His face was one of determination. I laughed because I imagined that he had traveled far in order to get his liquor of choice.

By way of preface, Firewater is a strange little liquor store away from any residential area. A liquor store is a place where one can purchase, among other things, alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is one of those chemicals, when taken in moderation, which will drastically improve your ability to cope with everyone else but conversely will worsen almost every encounter you engage in with another living person, all the while blinding you to your own debilitating lack of judgment. A drive-through is a window at a liquor store in which all parties legally pretend that the person purchasing said liquor doesn’t have more than a 50% chance of imbibing on the way to whatever destination awaits him. (This paragraph will never be used in a Budweiser commercial.)

As I waited at the register to pay for my poison, the elderly gentleman on the scooter was outside, looking inside at the impatient manager, trying to find change to reach his quota in order to get his bottle of flavored vodka. The manager’s face told me the unspoken story of just how many times the man on the scooter had bottlenecked the drive-through like this. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that there was going to be insufficient change to pay for the bottle he had requested. I motioned for the man in charge to look in my direction and offered to pay for the bottle. He told the clerk helping me to add ninety-three cents to my total. I pointed out that I offered to pay for the entire bottle, not just the difference in change.

“Wow, that’s a nice offer. How do you know him? He’s a regular.” The clerk seemed to be asking out of curiosity rather than politeness.

“I’ve never met him. I almost ran him over, coming in as he drove his scooter across the street and into the parking lot. But I’ve known many, many people like him.”

“Well, he’s a character, that one.” The clerk laughed.

The manager at the drive-through window told the man on the scooter that I had paid the difference.

The old man froze and looked inside to see who I was. “Well, thanks, Mister.” He nodded his head in acknowledgment.

“Pay it forward,” I said, and smiled.

“I’ll most certainly drink it forward,” he quipped and cackled like someone who had just discovered a free pizza on his kitchen table, after already being handed a 6-pack of his favorite beer.

I nodded back and the clerk and I looked at each quizzically for a long second and then we both laughed, too. We had taken an awkward situation and made it one of frivolous merriment.

“Hey, you know what?” The clerk asked. “IF you want to pay for a bottle, I’ll give you an extra discount and hold it for the man on the scooter for next time. It will give him such a kick in the pants to be given a surprise.”

“As long as YOU don’t drink it forward, yeah, that will be great. And do me a favor when he comes in. Ask him how fast he can go on that scooter.”

“Will do. Have a great night out there, sir.”

So, on some future night, if you see an elderly black man riding his scooter, restraining an impressive smile on his face, you can think of me. Vodka can power a few smiles, for a little while.

May we all drink it forward as we pass through our respective places.

Nailed It!


People still take a moment to caution me about walking in the dark. It’s generally good advice, just as it is when someone tells you to not use a blowtorch to warm one’s nose.

I’d like to present further proof that almost all of my mishaps and near-misses have occurred in the bright of day, in maintained conditions.

In this case, I thought I had a rock wedged in the high-dollar treads of my Wal-Mart walking shoes. When I took a step, my instincts stopped my foot from hitting the surface flat. So, I did what I always do – I shot my foot out slightly above the ground to knock the rock out. Instead, the ‘rock’ jabbed my foot again.

Something in my brain stopped me from doing it again. I hobbled over to the brush to lean over and pull the rock out. Instead, my fingers pulled and pulled at something flat and metallic. It took a minute of back and forth motion to pry it out of my shoe.

It turns out that I was very lucky. Had the nail hit anywhere other than the arch of my right foot, I would have been a shrieking disaster.

As for my walk? I nailed it.

PS: The last line was for levity, in case my favorite cousin furiously hits the ‘eye-roll’ emoji that isn’t there.

Armadillo By Morning

Last night, my wife asked me how I choose where to walk next. I answered honestly that I had no clue. Most mornings, I seldom end up anywhere that I had intended. I could point out that my life has taken the same course, but for the moment, I’ll skip the cliché of a life without compass.

This morning, I lay in bed with the cat nipping my shin and toes for at least an hour. It was too early to get up, so I used my other foot to pet the cat until my calf muscle was insisting that I stop. I felt guilty for having delighted in petting a neighborhood cat last night, one we alternatively name “Marsha,” or “DevilCat.” Last night, as my wife and I sat on the bench in the front of the house, DevilCat darted around the corner and demanded affection. Our own cat Güino peered suspiciously and contemptuously through the bottom of the blinds as the intruder greeted us outside. This is the very same cat who screeched and hissed at the office window yesterday morning at 4 a.m. startling me as I sat there trying to navigate the complexity of getting both of my shoes on the correct feet at such an hour.  DevilCat’s eyes are hilariously large in the dark, like a teenage girl getting to order her first mocha frappuccino at Starbucks.  Marsha the DevilCat, as it turns out, is quite the friendly feline, despite having a demeanor which would frighten Freddie Krueger.

Although I left this morning with the intention of going to Emma to walk and check out the new goings-on (including the crater recently added at the first stop sign), I ended up in Lowell, along Goad Springs Road. North Goad Springs has a beautiful stretch of trail extending for a long distance. For no reason whatsoever, I parked across from the convenience store there, on an empty and graveled area near the road, and walked South instead, on a portion of the trail I had never walked. The trail below my feet was a wide expanse of modern concrete, a vague grey ribbon marked with intermittent yellow dashes that I could barely see. If only life would take a moment to give us such direction, even if only in the most dimly-lit way possible. (I promised clichés, remember?)

The first portion of the road there is dense and people have little cause to drive the road near the trail at that hour. It was a wide open sky, one without clouds but decorated by a hazy sliver of a moon above, in the shape of a cookie bitten once by an overzealous 5-year-old. It’s scenic and quite beautiful during the day; at night it is magnified into something beyond. I think I’m going to need to coin a word describing the overlap of differences between scenes during daylight and night, one which conveys the magic of both isolation and of something just about to happen at every moment. If other worlds exist, they certainly exist in the margins of what we think we see and no time of day is more prehistoric than the swath of minutes before sunrise.

Off to one side of the trail a solitary yard light last cast an orange sherbet glow, creating a diaphanous haze like one sometimes gets over one’s eyes coming out of the pool. I couldn’t see what the light was supposed to be illuminating. For me, it was simply an unexpected orange beacon casting thousands of beams of light into the trees and brush as I walked by.

At the first bridge at the curve at the bottom of the valley, the temperature dropped precipitously as if 17 ghosts sneaked up on me to send a shiver down my spine. (Ghosts always travel in odd numbers, if you were wondering.) It was as the valley hadn’t gotten the message that it was still warm above.

As I exited the valley and began my slow climb it was startling to see on my left a huge reminder of civilization in the form of a multi-floor building off in the distance. It was comprised of 200 stacked and similar brightly-lit rooms, all of them lit unnecessarily.  I imagined that a mischievous janitor had run through the building, flipping all the lights on for his own amusement. In his defense, no one would stop him. Why all the lights were on was a mystery I thought about for a moment and forgot as I moved past.

And just like that, before I’d even settled into the idea of possibly being tired, a huge construction crane towered above me, against the night sky. I couldn’t believe that I had already reached the unlikely intersection of the trail, the interstate, and the area where the new East-West corridor above Springdale met them. As I walked under the interstate, the whump-whump of the vehicles passing above created the otherworldly post-apocalyptic feeling that I had anticipated. It brought to mind a period over 30 years ago in the mid-80s, when the interstate was being built and still referred to as “The Bypass.” We weren’t sure what it was bypassing. And we certainly had no idea that such a road would transform every aspect of our lives in this corner of the state. Even back then, in another incarnation, I spent many nights running, walking and biking on those unfinished lanes, even when they were still just miles of compressed gravel. It’s a memory that I cherish and one that is almost impossible to replicate in today’s more modern world, governed by strange ideas of safety and caution. I owned those roads then and in some way, I still own them. The great cycle of time has provided me with a way to relive those hours in the dark, all the while experiencing new incarnations of the same fleeting feeling of isolation in the midst of so much.

Before deciding to turn back, I walked under the mammoth overpass of the new road, stopping to look straight up and feel the dizzy recognition of immensity. The twinkling stars above it and me provided the perfect backdrop. It would have been the best possible picture to have somehow captured the perspective of it. Providing no catastrophe strikes, in a blink of an eye in the course of time, someone will stand in the same spot, years from now, seeing the same sight I did this morning.

Doubling back and retracing my steps I had forgotten that the cool valley would be waiting for me. It enveloped me in a cool haze. All I can compare it to is that first blast of cool air when you are 8 years old and you’ve been banished to the great outdoors for most of the afternoon.

I stopped to look up at the silver moon that reminded me of an older movie logo, the one with the small boy fishing off the cusp of a bright partial moon. On my right, there was a single solitary tree towering above a bench several feet away from the trail. I thought of some future afternoon, one with a cool breeze, when I might return and sit on that bench, a visit without real motive.

Apart from the impersonal interstate I only encountered two vehicles. One was a white truck which was being driven so slowly I speculated they might have been attempting to go back in time and the second vehicle was a police car out of jurisdiction driving so fast I thought it might be a DeLorean attempting to reach 88 miles per hour. It’s possible that the police car driver was also accumulating frequent flyer miles. I met several armadillos, too, none of which seemed interested in making my acquaintance.

There’s no message in this story, just moments.

As you slumbered, I walked with the moon and made friends with old memories. Or vice versa.

A Tongue-In-Cheek Travel Story

A Story For All My Friends:.

During my whirlwind trip to Europe last year, I was visiting a place unfamiliar to me. The locals had cautioned me but didn’t specify why I should be careful. At the time, it didn’t bother me at all. The fact that they served me the best baguettes and flavorful coffee I’d ever tasted made such concerns seem foolish.

My only morning there, I very much wanted to take a walk in the unknown hills and fields surrounding the tiny hamlet in which I was staying. It was my goal to see all the sights I could squeeze into my trip, and preferably on foot. I headed toward a large expanse of open field, one I could see from my quaint bed and breakfast. A light fog obscured all the distant edges, waiting for the sun to peek and burn it off an hour or so later.

As I passed the edge of the pavement, I encountered a large yellow and black-edged sign, one which indicated “Warning: Stay Out!” in 3 languages. The urge to get away from people and places overpowered me, so I ignored the warning sign, deciding that the absence of a fence or any other observable prohibition to entry meant it was a forgotten relic, left as an inside joke or an indication of a property owner’s laziness.

About 50 feet past the sign, I still couldn’t see anything which warranted feeling unsafe. The grass seemed relatively maintained and it was quite peaceful. I continued on, but started noticing little bits of black and white-striped fabric. Soon, there were many more scattered whimsically on the ground. After several more steps, I noticed that some of the strips now seemed to be stained with what seemed to be blood.

Still ignoring any sense of danger, I quickened my pace, following the trail of thickening fabric pieces on the grass.

Suddenly, I noticed a large group of thin people wearing unusually clingy clothing and dark berets on their heads. Most were waving their arms in the air, while some seemed to be doing so in patterns I couldn’t quite discern as if they were trapped behind a barrier I couldn’t quite see. Their clothing matched the black and white-striped fabric pieces strewn about the field.

I bolted toward the tree-lined edge of the open field, some yards away. As I approached its perimeter, I could see a large rectangular sign facing the opposite direction, away from me.

As I cleared the field, I swiveled to read the sign’s large black lettering.

My skin crawled and the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up, as the realization struck me that I had just survived the last remaining WWII French mimefield.

Southeast of Eden?



Adjective joke: The sign indicated “Reserved Parking,” but the guy who exited his vehicle was one of the most aloof people I had ever seen.


Overly-descriptive analogy for the morning: “…it was the type of morning for which you would gladly insert your head into the slivered aperture of a storm drain, hoping that Pennywise the Clown were there, anticipating your arrival…”


Confirmed: local hospitals are offering free wound care to any Arkansas Razorback fan who is still deeply butthurt.

No word yet on whether Beliema’s $11,000 a day was wounded, though.


The old man turned to yell at me. “Hold your horses!”

“Mister,” I replied, “I can barely get them to cuddle!”


Sometimes, location matters. Imagine if we’d grown up watching the “Werewolf of Toledo” instead of the horror classic as we know it.


Because they warned me to dress formally, I appeared at the gala wearing my best birthday-suit-and-tie.


I woke up to a Monday morning. I dread the day – not because of the calendar, but because I can write 90% of the conversations I’m going to see and hear today before they occur. Don’t blame me as I creatively avoid the inevitable onslaught of news interpretations in favor of seeing things for what they are: overwhelmingly normal with a chance of crazies.  (Written the morning after the Las Vegas shooting…)


Inexplicably dangerous: playing The Cars’ seminal 80s hit song “Shake It Up” on the company sound system at Dynco Nitroglycerin Manufacturing.


“I’m not saying that the small town’s police force is racist. On the other hand, they did arrest a can of black paint the other day.”


Culinary Science Fact: calamari was actually the result of an experiment gone awry. Two teams of scientists were investigating both calamari and nasal discharge. They got the samples mixed up and both were rated as “edible.” It’s been hell ever since.


If Target or Wal-Mart wants to play Xmas music already, you should rejoice. That means that big business thinks that Trump won’t have effed-up the entire country by then. That’s optimism, the fundamental essence of Xmas.


For a short time, I had a parrot that loved nuance, trivia, and arcane little-known facts: he was a technical fowl.


“Why do you insist that a sense of humor is our greatest gift” He asked me.

“Well, your face is sufficient proof that our creator indeed had an unrivaled sense of the hilarious,” I replied, a small smile touching the corners of my mouth.

PS: I value wit over popularity


 It turns out that my Bedroom Gong wasn’t the best idea…

…but I’m basing that conclusion solely on the murderous look on my wife’s face this morning at 5 a.m.


It occurs to me that he is also the Inedible Hulk, too.


I recall with fondness the halcyon days of my youth – especially that time when I entered my sawhorse in the Ozarks Rodeo.


Strange and Inappropriate Juxtapositioning:

Is it just me or is there something amiss with playing Michael Jackson’s greatest hits at an 8-year old’s birthday party?


I spent about 2 hours in the dentist’s chair this afternoon. He was pissed when he came home and found me napping there.


October Surprise

Every once in a while, I walk somewhere new, where I’m not sure in which direction the roads might run – or if the road continues at all. There’s something about the unexpected that makes an otherwise uneventful walk a tad better. Because I found a new combination of places this morning, I walked much further than I intended. But because I encountered no one, I walked the roads as if I owned them. In a sense, when I’m the only one on them, I suppose that I do. At one point, I smelled the faint odor of tobacco and thought I could discern the orange glow of a cigarette, but I couldn’t be certain. I waved to the dark place containing the tip of the glowing cigarette and continued on. It amuses me to think that whoever was standing there was startled by the idea that I might be able to see him or her in the dark. Yes, it’s not smart to wander unfamiliar roads before the sun rises to greet me – but it is the only way I can be the sole owner for a brief moment.

I could see the horses to my left shortly after I started walking. The bright moon above gave their silhouettes a pronounced presence against the slight hill they were standing on. It seemed like I could walk up and reach out across the brush and touch them. On the way back, I stopped to approach the gate near the road. The white horse with dark flanks turned and came up to the fence. Unwisely, I reached out my hand, expecting the horse to eat at least two of my fingers. Instead, it pushed its head down across the gate and rubbed the side of my hand and arm. He stood, patiently, as I rubbed the side of his head with one hand, then two. I agree that it’s unwise to do this before 5 a.m. but in my defense, I think that we parted as friends. Although that horse may indeed bite me the next time I reach out my hand, I will be able to recall a surreal October morning when he dropped his guard and said hello.

In one spot, near a wide, open creek bed, I passed an imposing manor. Much of its profile was lit by arcing security lights. They might have been bragging lights, too, given the scope and intricacy of the house they were illuminating. The house was enormous, with a rolling yard and a gate which cost more than a new kidney. Oddly, though, the towering iron gates were wide open, as if they were an invitation to me to come inside and have a grilled cheese sandwich. The house seemed like it would have been a better fit in the countryside of England. Against the driveway, there was a small street sign. It probably said, “Don’t even think about it.” I took a picture of it but all I have to prove it is a large white blob, as its reflective surfaced rebelled from being captured in a picture.

As I turned from the apex of my walk, I discovered that I had been walking up a very long hill, imperceptibly taking me toward a rise I couldn’t see as I walked. Off in the distance, I could see a tower with its blinking warning light. The wind, already blowing with some force, escalated and began to whip at me at that elevation. It was a beautiful sight, looking toward the distant skyline and feeling the wind’s invitation to take flight and disappear into the night. Like most things, the view differed drastically coming from the opposite direction.

The full moon was a couple of nights ago, so the moon above wasn’t full, but it certainly shone brightly. The sky was intermittently broken by swaths of cotton ball and gauzy clouds. All the details of the early morning were starkly illuminated by strong shadows.

While I was admiring the sky, a dog materialized from either Hell or the dark shadows of the treeline along the road. He lunged and barked viciously. The only reason I didn’t get bit was because I jumped toward him, ready to stick my hand down his throat and yank his innards out through his mouth. He retreated for a moment. I elegantly turned and ran. Being an adult, though, I planned my vengeance. Before heading back toward the spot of the dog’s assault, I snapped a large branch off of one of the trees lining the road. I pulled off the little limbs and twigs of the stick as I walked back. As I neared the house where the canine resided, I readied my stick. Again, instead of barking in advance, the dog waited and I almost missed his silhouette by the edge of the road. As he jumped out to chase me, I stopped, raising the stick above me. I was going to show that dog what a headful of stars looked like. I’m not sure what changed the dog’s mind, though, because he continued to angrily bark as he ran past me and across a wide expanse of yard behind me. I put the stick in the driveway where the dog had originally emerged, as a gift to the owner.

Since the roads were desolate, I decided to go shirtless. Not since I was on the cover of “Least Likely” magazine have I wandered the streets in such a state. The breeze was simply too pleasant and I decided that if I did accidentally encounter someone on the roads at that hour, they would be too startled to object. I walked mile after mile, feeling the air on me and the trees rustling their approval.

As tired as I was, I stood near my car, feeling the wind howl around me. Someone watching me might have been concerned for my mental health. Unlike that hypothetical observer, though, I’ll remember this morning for a long time, perhaps forever, and most likely for reasons which might seem inconsequential to you. It was the perfect October morning, before the encroaching cold, before the bonfires on Friday evenings, and in advance of the hordes of costumes scampering around the streets.

I wish you could have been there, given that I don’t possess the words to convey the sublime pleasure of the morning. I could almost see the glittery magic dust in the air as I sighed and got in my car, returning to own version of normalcy and daily duties.

In my mind, though, I’m still standing on that unknown road, at the top of an immense hill, as the wind prepares to give me wings.

John-The-Catalyst’s Lesson For Today

Note of warning…The following is a paraphrasing of something that will either turn on a bulb on in your head or trigger mild irritation. Either way, listen closely to the revelation buried in your reaction. X

From John-The-Catalyst

The fact that you take a moment to bitch about what someone is wearing, the way they do their hair, sing, dance, or how they choose to speak is proof beyond a doubt that you believe that what other people think truly matters.

It’s the only logical continuation of your complaint.

If what other people think truly doesn’t matter, then exactly who are you complaining to and for what reason?

Your words of derision don’t reach the person you judge. Their lives continue on, pursuing their own chosen course.

You, though, have appointed yourself to be the arbiter of taste and decorum. To deny this is to misunderstand your own words and motives.

Even if you do tell the other person of your thoughts, anyone free of external validation will recognize your pettiness as just that. Anyone wounded by your words was already suffering – and your efforts have made the world incrementally worse by your presence in that moment.

If you don’t understand your own motives and self, who is the greater fool: he who wears clothing which doesn’t meet your approval or he who fails to see himself as a unique creature with free will?

Face facts. You judge the clothing, style, and bearing of another person to improve your own self-image for a brief and fleeting moment. It escapes from your grasp as soon as you utter the words.

The very nature of your words implies a superiority of perspective, if not worth, between individuals.

It is the most inauthentic to way to proceed in your life. You’ll feel powerless to stop it and perhaps to even try, even if you recognize the futility of anything except humorous observation.

All of us look and sound stupid and uninteresting to someone else. As you lean over to whisper a comment regarding another person, be assured that on the horizon stands your judge, barbed words at the ready.

Hyprocrisy Corollary Observation


This post isn’t going to be particularly popular because it jabs at each of us as we struggle with the dislike we feel toward other people’s need of self-expression – and their opinions, heartfelt or whimsical.

Because we are trapped inside our own worldviews, it is an alien thought to us that things which we find to be ridiculous or nonexistent matter to other people. Often, we challenge even the other person’s right to voice their praise or displeasure, so certain that we don’t look and sound equally preposterous to others with differing frames of reference.

It is a weakness many of us share as human beings. As people take action and express ideas, observations and yes, even complaints, we react, often collectively and with great venom and glee in our condemnation of it.

Like it or not, this is hypocrisy in its most crystalline and maddening form.


Pay It Forward, Even If It’s a Scare

“You’ve got to pay it forward” can be quite dangerous advice.

This morning, I was strolling through the blackness, a dark so pervasive that I could have been looking through the souls of insurance agents. I was immersed in a TED talk with the volume loud enough to overcome my middle-aged ears’ tendency to interpret everything as either a whisper or a scream.

In the background, I heard faint music. After a few seconds, I heard it again. It sounded like someone had put a transistor radio in their pocket just as the mafia threw them head-first into the trunk of a 1978 Buick. Just as I reached up to turn down the volume to listen attentively, from behind me a booming voice said, “Good morning!” just as a runner came sprinting by me. I’m pretty sure I slapped myself in over-reaction to being startled in the dark like that. So much for having the small slices of Springdale to myself. It’s too bad the runner hadn’t been a ninja with sword upraised just as I turned to see him. A coronary might not have startled me as much. “Thanks!” I hollered at him as he streaked ahead. How he could see anything was a mystery to me. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if I was walking on the road or an imaginary surface, either.

When I finished my walk, I decided to go ahead and go the store. I chose Harp’s because it’s much quieter in the morning. My wife had mentioned needing a toenail clipping holder or sour cream. I couldn’t’ remember which so I decided to go inside and jog my memory. Though not germane to this anecdote, I found Schweppes Lemon-Lime sparkling water and stopped to cry a few tears of joy. Though not as good as Tab soda (the best soda ever created), it’s a joyous drink.

As I neared the row of registers, I briefly courted the idea of making a run for the door just to see if anyone would notice. By run, of course, I mean ‘walk like my legs remembered what running felt like.’

Instead, as I reached the last register aisle, I noticed that the cashier was standing with her back to me, her mind lost in the early morning doldrums so frequently exhibited by people who don’t have the sense to get up later. I crept closer, certain that she surely had heard my approach. I leaned over the register conveyor and whispered, “Boo!” in a soft voice. Although her head didn’t quite touch the overhead ceiling tiles as she jumped in terror, her ponytail did have sufficient time on the landing to swirl around her head at least 5 times before her toes touched the ground. As she turned, she began laughing, which was a relief. It’s one thing to be tased but another to be tased before you’ve had your morning coffee. (Again, although not related directly to this story, the cashier’s eyes looked like Alanis Morissette.)

We shared a laugh as I apologized and reminded her of the importance of paying it forward, whether it might a scare, a dollar, or a laugh.


It’s Not Wednesday

To the guy laughing as I belted out the verse to “We Can Always Come Back To This,” by Brian Tyree Henry, I say “You’re welcome.” I was walking on a part of the trail I had never traversed far to the north and the wide open expanse of nothingness must have dulled my awareness of anything coming from behind me.

Instead of listening to anything informative, I opted for pure unadulterated lift-me-by-the-ears music, so it was no surprise that I had starting singing without considering the quasi-public space I had chosen as my opera hall. (No Ticketmaster needed, at least.)

I’m not sure from what wormhole the cyclist emerged, but he startled me as he materialized out of nowhere from behind me on either a bicycle or a two-wheeled rocket. As he laughed, he braked and turned back to say something to me. He asked me what the song was that had me so inspired, so I told him. He repeated the name back to me. Off he went, pedaling away. Later, it’s going to occur to him as he falls in love with the song that he’ll always remember the weirdo on the trail in the middle of nowhere who introduced him to it.





not at all excitement is equally valuable.png

Not all excitement is equally valuable.



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They told me to feed the ducks. They failed to say I couldn’t use the fine china to do it.


Facebook says I can’t be trusted. It hid my friend’s list even from me.


The antonym for ‘tantalizing’ is in fact the word ‘taintalizing,’ for both anatomical and etymological reasons.


“Have fun, make money!” the job ad said. I’m better at counterfeiting than I had imagined.