Friday, December 30, 2011

Squeal

I smiled at the owner of the butcher shop down the street from my office. He smiled back at me.

"What do you have that's good?" I asked.

He raised an eyebrow quizzically and responded in Vietnamese.

"Barbecued pork?" I asked.

His smile got wider but it was clear I still wasn't getting through.

"Oink, oink?" I suggested.

Now his smile was tinged with just a hint of fear. He tightened his grip on the cleaver he was holding.

I glanced around the small shop in hopes of finding a way to communicate.

"Like that!" I exclaimed, pointing at a smoked pig's head sitting on a shelf in a corner.

He looked at the head, then back at me, and said something else in Vietnamese. I'm pretty sure it was, "Are you shitting me?"

I pointed at the head again, shook my own, oinked, and said, "No." Then I pointed to my belly, nodded my head, oinked, and said, "Yes."

"Aaah!" he said as his face lit up with understanding. He disappeared into a back room and I heard him whacking at something with his cleaver. He soon returned with a white Styrofoam box. I handed him some money, he gave me some change, and we smiled at each other and waved good-bye.

"What is that?" my assistant asked when I'd returned to my desk and opened the box.

"Barbecued pork," I said. "I think so, anyway. I got to practice my cultural skills when I bought it."

"Oh, brother," she said. "What did you do this time?"

"I made a new friend," I said proudly.

"Why is it that so many of your 'friends' are people who sell you food?" she asked.

"I am kind of a pig," I admitted.

She rolled her eyes and turned to walk away.

"Oink," I said.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alphabet Soup (A)

A Jennifer and Snag production.*
























* And a tip of the hat to our muse Kathleen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ball Of Fire

"Hey, ma," I said when my mother answered the phone.

"Hello," she replied. "I thought you were in Orlando."

"These modern phones work across state lines," I said.

"You don't need to be sarcastic," she said. "I was simply wondering why you'd call me when you're away on business."

"Maybe it's because I know you enjoy our conversations so much," I said. "What with you being in your dotage and all."

"You're not making any sense, although I'm used to that," she said. "But I'm still not clear why you're calling me from Florida."

"I'm not in Florida," I said. "I just got back."

"Weren't you supposed to get back tomorrow?"

"My meeting ended early and I wanted to get home because I missed my family so much."

"I'm sure they felt the same way," said my mother.

"Now you're being sarcastic," I said.

"Do you have anything worthwhile to say or are you intentionally wasting my time?"

"I'm driving. I'm bored," I said.

"Can't you find someone else to bother?" she asked. "Although I'd imagine most people have even less interest in talking to you than I do."

"You're being hurtful again," I whined. "I was calling to see what you're doing this weekend."

"Well, I wish it wasn't going to be so cold tomorrow. I'll be outside much of the day."

"Why's that?" I asked. "Did you get evicted? Serves you right for being unemployed."

"I'm not unemployed, I'm retired. And I did not get evicted. I'm going to be working at the clinic."

"What the hell are you talking about? What clinic?"

"The abortion clinic. I volunteered to be an escort one day a month."

"A what?"

"An escort. I'm going to help the women get from their cars to the clinic."

"You're going to what?"

"I'll be keeping the protesters away from the patients and making sure there's a clear path into the building."

"Huh," I said. "I have to admit, I'm speechless."

"Then it's already been a success," she said.

"Hilarious," I said. "What if the protesters come after you?"

"They wouldn't dare," said my mother.

Not if they know what's good for them, I thought.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where In The World Is Snag - December 7, 2011 (part 2)
























Where am I?

A. Hell

B. In the same zip code as hell

C. What would pass for hell if I believed in it, which I do now

D. It's a small goddamn world

E. _____?

Where In The World Is Snag - December 7, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

California Dreaming

"I thought Yosemite was lovely," said my mother.

"Overrated," I said. "It's a bunch of expensive rocks."

"Be quiet," said the Lovely Bride. "I want to hear about your mother's trip."

"She went to California. She saw a waterfall. She overpaid. What else do you need to know?" I asked.

My mother turned her back to me in hope of having a conversation with the Lovely Bride.

"At least I don't have to listen to him go on about how I've visited an authoritarian state," she said.

"Hello," I said. "Yosemite? National Park Service?"

"The Park Service really does a nice job with the funds they have," said my mother.

"It's a real collectivist paradise, isn't it?" I asked. "Comrade."

"Does he ever stop?" my mother asked the Lovely Bride.

"I don't know," said the Lovely Bride. "I stopped listening years ago."

"That was an excellent decision," said my mother. "I liked you from the beginning."

"I have to say you warned me," said the Lovely Bride.

"You've been very patient," said my mother.

"Really? We're going to have this conversation? Again?" I asked.

"Tell me about Yosemite," said the Lovely Bride.

"Come here, Lucy," I said to the dog.

Lucy walked over to my mother and plopped her head in her lap.

"Fine. Be that way," I told them all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where In The World Is Snag - October 24, 2011



















Where am I?

A. In the presence of all that is holy

B. Guantanamo

C. Nursing my grudges

D. Planning my revenge

E. _____?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Abbot & Hardy

I was standing next to one of the other player's mothers. We were waiting for the end of the middle school basketball team's scrimmage. Shirts versus skins.

"I've hardly seen you since last spring," she said. Her oldest plays basketball year round, my youngest plays baseball in the summer. They're friends, but the different schedules keep us apart sometimes.

"I know," I said. "We need to get the families together for dinner one of these days."

"Every time that happens, my husband ends up drunk," she said.

"He's funny when he's drunk," I pointed out.

"Even so," she said. "You're a bad influence."

"I hear that a lot," I said.

The scrimmage ended and our sons walked over, pulling on their shirts.

"Whoa," she teased my kid. "Good thing the girls are practicing on the other side of the wall. You're ripped."

"Yeah," he shrugged. "That 500 hours of TV I watched this summer really paid off."

She laughed. I grimaced. "Let's go," I told him. "No need to brag about your horrible upbringing."

In the car on the way home, he said, "I've never been as bored as I was last night."

"Why?" I asked.

"There wasn't anything on TV."

"You could have read something," I suggested.

He rolled his eyes. "We have to read at school. Why would I read at home?"

Silly me. "What did you do instead?" I asked.

"Watched TV."

"Not even trying anymore, are you?" I said.

"You admitted you're a horrible parent," he reminded me.

"I should have followed Roger Daltrey on tour," I said.

"Who?" he asked.

"Exactly," I said.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Kids Are Alright

What a nice man:















What a fine song:



What a shame my iPhone's camera sucks so much.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nuts

"What are you doing?" the Lovely Bride asked suspiciously.

"Looking at recipes," I replied.

"Let me be more specific," she said. "What are you doing looking at recipes that call for three large squirrels?"

"Brunswick stew, baby. You'll love it."

"You're not really going to use squirrels, are you?"

"I wish," I said. "None of the groceries around here carry them. I checked."

"Thank God," she said.

"Of course, we do have that air rifle...." I mused.

"I'll help!" my youngest shouted from downstairs.

"You're not cooking with squirrels and you're not killing them in our backyard."

"Commie vegan," I muttered.

"A vegan lifestyle would be good for you," she said.

"That's crazy talk," I said.

"Your doctor told you two days ago your cholesterol was higher than it should be."

"He also refused to prescribe bourbon for me. He's clearly incompetent."

"Please tell me you didn't ask him for a prescription for alcohol," she said.

"He thought it was funny," I said.

"Don't you realize that stuff is going to end up in your medical records if you're not careful?"

"Good," I said. "It'll cover up the copy he made of the note you forced me to bring."

"You were the one who refused to let me come to your appointment with you," she said.

"I'm not six, for God's sake. I can go to a doctor appointment by myself."

"Then why did you forget to ask him about a referral to an allergist?"

"I got distracted. We were talking about other stuff."

"Like what?"

"Grouse hunting. And health care reform. And whether it's okay to threaten to hit your kids if you don't actually do it."

"What a helpful way to spend your annual check up," she said. "That's why I gave you a note with a list of things to ask him."

"Fine," I said. "But it was really embarrassing when I told him I needed his signature."

"If I hadn't required his signature, would you have shown it to him?"

"That's not the point," I said.

"What is your point?" she asked.

"I don't remember. You clouded my mind with your juju."

"How can you tell?" she smirked.

"Give me some sugar," I said and smooched her.

"What is wrong with you?" she giggled.

"You knew I was squirrelly when you married me," I said.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Telephone Game

The youngest found me upstairs, where I was literally and figuratively immersed in cleaning the toilet.

"Dad, my brother's calling from Miami."

"Tell him I'll call him back in a few minutes," I said.

After washing up, I returned the call. My oldest answered.

"Talking to me is a privilege," he said. "If you don't want to lose it, you need to start answering your phone."

"I was cleaning the toilet, for God's sake."

"Get one of my brothers to do it," he said. We both got a good laugh out of that one.

"How's college so far?" I asked.

"Great. I went to South Beach with some friends last weekend. Next weekend's the first home game, against The Ohio State University." He emphasized The with the disdain my kids have used since they first decided they hated that school, for reasons they either can't articulate or I can't understand without putting a lot more energy into the discussion than it warrants.

"I can see why you'd enjoy that," I said. "How about the part of it we're paying for?"

"The classes are interesting," he said. "We just started our biology lab."

"Do you get to dissect something?"

"Not yet."

"You should dissect something anyways. It's good practice. I'll send you a cat."

"If you're going to be stupid, I'm going to hang up," he said.

"How's the philosophy class?" I asked.

"You were right about one thing," he said. "Ayn Rand's a nut."

"Glad you agree," I said. "You must have a good professor."

"It wasn't hard to figure that out," he said.

"You'd be surprised," I said. "Hey, you know what's particularly idiotic about her essay 'Apollo and Dionysus?'"

"No, and I don't care. How's Lucy?"

"She's fine. We play Crazy Dog most nights. She runs up and down the stairs as fast as she can for five minutes while I sing the Crazy Dog song."

"I bet mom loves that," he said.

"That's what makes it so much fun," I said.

"How's Grandma?" he asked.

"She was over here last week reminding us to take her gold fillings before we have her cremated," I said. "I told her when she died we were going to have her stuffed and use her as a hat rack."

"Did she get mad at you?"

"She was already mad because I told your brothers I used to come home from school and find her passed out on the couch in front of the soap operas, clutching a jelly jar full of gin."

"What did she say?"

"She said it's too bad you're in Miami because I need more good influences."

"That's true," he mused.

"I guess we'll have to save that until you come home," I said.

"That won't be until December," he reminded me.

I know, I thought.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Planes, Trains & Automobiles - Old School

All this travel's been a bit much and there's more coming up. Thank God for traveling music.

Be Bop Deluxe - Jets at Dawn

Peter, Paul & Mary - Leaving on a Jet Plane

Arlo Guthrie - Coming Into Los Angeles

Nanci Griffith - Outbound Plane

Elton John - Rocket Man

Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues

Grateful Dead - I Know You Rider

The Highwaymen - City of New Orleans

The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues

Gladys Knight & The Pips - Midnight Train to Georgia

Golden Earring - Radar Love

War - Low Rider

Bruce Springsteen - Racing in the Streets

Prince - Little Red Corvette

The Beach Boys - Don't Worry Baby

And one about ships for good measure:

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Wooden Ships

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where In The World Is Snag - September 7, 2011



















Where am I?

A. Solitary Confinement

B. This year in Jerusalem

C. Atlantis

D. Right back where we started from

E. _____?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Plain Snakes


The pretty young waitress approached our table with a basket of bread. His back to her, my friend R.'s son blurted out, "I would not put a snake in my mouth." The waitress raised her eyebrows in bewilderment.

"Way to impress the girls, son," his father said.

In truth, however, his comment wasn't out of place. To begin with, we were in Georgia, and who knows what happens there. More important, we'd recently left Florida and, as we'd just finished telling R. and his kid, there's definitely some odd stuff going on in that state.

As you'll recall, I'd insisted on stopping at the Skunk Ape Research Center on the way to drop off my oldest in Miami for college, accompanied by my youngest and his friend M. Sure, we did some other things on the trip. A visit to the Superman statute in Metropolis, Illinois; a Braves game in Atlanta; cruising South Beach in a minivan. All of those were fine, but none of them had the magic of the Skunk Ape.

One can therefore only imagine my excitement when I saw the sign along the side of Highway 41 through the Everglades.

"Look, boys!" I shouted. "Skunk Apes ahead!"

"This is stupid," said my oldest.

"This is stupid," said my youngest.

"Why is there a giant fake panther in front of the building?" asked M.

"Even better, there are giant fake people looking at it," I said.















I pulled into the parking lot and hustled them into the steel shed that serves as Skunk Ape Research Center world headquarters. It was everything one could hope for. Photos, newspaper articles, and most important, a gift shop brimming with t-shirts and magnets. I was in heaven.

"Welcome," a gentleman said, entering through a doorway in the back of the room.

"Hello," I replied. "You must be the head researcher?"

He shrugged. "No, I just work here."

"I've really been looking forward to this," I said. "What can you tell me about the Skunk Ape."

Our host rolled his eyes. "Not much to tell," he said. "You can read the articles on the wall."

"Oh," I said, disappointed in his lack of enthusiasm. "Well, what's through the door?"

He perked up at my question. "Reptiles. And birds. Want to see them?"

"I wouldn't miss it," I said.

Sure enough, through the door were reptiles. And birds. But not just any reptiles and birds. There was an alligator with a tortoise riding on its back. There was an assortment of parrots. There were tarantulas. There were snakes. There was even a kitten running herd on the entire collection.

"Whoa," said my youngest.

"Huh," said my oldest.

"Cool," said M.

"Have you ever had a macaw on your shoulder?" our host asked.

After twenty minutes or so of taking turns playing pirate our attention began to lag. Our host, who had been giving us a surprisingly detailed and accurate overview of the parrot family while rebuffing my repeated questions about Skunk Apes, noticed and beckoned us toward the alligator, which was resting in a pond out back.

"You boys ever seen a death roll?" he asked. He reached into a bag, pulled out a piece of chicken, and threw it in the pond. Sure enough, death roll. This entire experience was turning out better than I could have hoped. By the boys' expressions, they felt the same.

"C'mere, you'll like this too," he said. We walked past an albino python to a cage with a couple of smaller constrictors. Reaching into another bag, he withdrew the corpse of a guinea pig.

"Watch," he said, and threw the guinea pig to the snakes. They began curling around it and the boys and I shuddered with delicious horror.

By now we'd been joined by a vacationing French couple who appeared to speak virtually no English.

"Want to hold some snakes?" he asked them.

They looked at each other, then back to him, with total lack of comprehension and a clear sense of unease. God only knows what they thought we were discussing; probably fast food and serial killers, what with this being America and all.

"Here, I'll show you," he said, leading us over to a glass enclosure. He opened it and reached in, grabbing hold of a 40-pound boa constrictor.

"Who wants to start?" he asked.

Nobody moved, although even the French tourists had a pretty good idea by now of what was going on.

Finally M. asked, "Does he bite?"

"No, not at all," said our host. "She's very gentle. Look."




















UPDATE:

I don't any photos of spiders in someone's mouth for fish, but I can offer this shot of my oldest:



Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Don't Like Spiders And Snakes

"What kind of paraphernalia can I get on our trip?" my youngest asked.

"Huh?" I responded.

"We're going to Florida on Friday," he said with exasperation.

"I know that," I replied. "That's why I've got this shopping cart full of junk food."

"What about paraphernalia, though?" he said.

"What are you talking about? We're not smoking dope on the trip."

"I think he means souvenirs," said my oldest.

"Yeah, souvenirs," said the youngest.

"What about them?" I said.

"What are we going to get?"

"Well, we're definitely going to the Skunk Ape Research Center and we're definitely getting a magnet."

"What am I going to get?" he demanded.

"How about an alligator?" I asked.

"Gross," he said. "I don't like reptiles."

"What do you like?" I asked.

"Mammals."

"You said you hate rats," the oldest reminded him.

"Oh, yeah, except for rodents," he said.

"How about birds?" I asked.

He shuddered. "I don't like bird hair."

"Bird hair?"

"You know. The stuff birds have."

"You mean feathers?" his brother asked.

"Whatever," he said.

"Glad I'm getting value for my school district taxes," I muttered.

"So what kind of souvenirs do I get?" he repeated.

"A t-shirt. Some Hurricanes gear. The memories of a special time with your dad and your oldest brother and your best friend."

"I don't think any of us are going to want to remember this trip," said my oldest.

"Good point. Hey, where'd your brother go?" The youngest was nowhere to be seen.

"He went back to the junk food aisle."

Sure enough, when we doubled back he was standing there with an armload of chips and cookies.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Getting souvenirs," he said.

"Jesus. We've got plenty. Put it back."

"Then I'm going to get a dog treat for Lucy," he said.

"That doesn't even make sense," I told him.

"Lucy needs a souvenir," he said.

"Not from the grocery store."

"Then we have to get her one on the trip."

"Fine," I told him. "We'll get her a rat."

He made a face. "That's disgusting."

"No worse than this crap you're making me buy. Slim Jims? Really?"

"And we get to listen to my music while we're driving," he said.

"That's a negative, soldier," I said.

"What am I supposed to do in the car?"

"Talk to your friend," said his brother.

"Look for alligators," I said.

"Or we could sing," said the youngest.

"Maybe I should get some paraphernalia," I said.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yearning To Be Free

"I can't wait to get out of here," said my oldest.

"Why?" I asked, straining to hear him over the noise of his younger brothers fighting downstairs.

"This is the worst family in history," he said.

"True," I said. "It's Lucy's fault, though." Hearing her name, the dog ran over and started gnawing on my arm.

"She's the only good thing about living here," said the boy. He bent down to pet her. "You're a good girl, aren't you?"

"She's not a dog!" I announced. "She's a bear! Bear! Up!"

Lucy reared back on her hind legs and lurched toward me. "Aaargh, she's attacking!" I shouted.

"Florida's going to be so much better than this," my son muttered.

"Shut the hell up!" I yelled at the two youngest, who were still fighting.

"He won't get off the Playstation!" the youngest yelled back.

"He just wants to watch some stupid baseball game!" yelled the middle one.

"Where's your mother?" I asked the oldest.

"She left."

"Smart woman," I said. "I wonder if she's coming back?"

"I wouldn't if I were her," he said. "And you're no better than they are."

"Oh stop it, it's not that bad."

"It's awful."

"If it's that bad, why didn't you move out before?" I asked.

"I couldn't. I wasn't old enough."

"You could have applied for emancipation."

"I looked into it. It's more complicated than you'd think. I would have needed a court order."

"Really?" I asked, not sure whether to be saddened or impressed by his initiative.

"Let go of me!" the youngest howled at his brother.

"Can I come with you?" I asked the oldest.

"No," he smirked.

"Brat," I told him and then shrieked, "Now is the time on Sprockets when you die!" as I headed downstairs to separate the other two.

"I'll miss you girl," I heard the oldest tell the dog.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Inside Voice

"Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring, Bananaphone!" I sang.

"Shut up!" my oldest son yelled from the other room.

"Bananaphone!" I sang, even louder.

"What's all that racket?" the Lovely Bride asked as she came in with a bag of groceries.

"He's being obnoxious again," said the oldest.

"I'm singing," I said.

"He just keeps screaming 'Bananaphone!'" said the boy.

"It's Raffi," I explained. "From his album of the same name."

"Why do you know that?" asked the Lovely Bride.

"I was looking for something else on the internet and found a Bananaphone video," I said. "Bananaphone!" I helpfully added at the top of my lungs.

"You see?" snarled my oldest.

"That is obnoxious," she told him.

My middle kid, who'd been sitting at the kitchen table throughout this discussion, looked up and said, "He's always obnoxious. He's not always this loud, though."

"Have you been drinking?" the Lovely Bride asked me.

"I wish," I said. "The so-called cardiologist won't let me."

"Following doctor's orders isn't exactly your strong suit," she pointed out.

"True," I acknowledged. "But it's only 10 a.m. and that would be early even if I was still in my prime."

"Well, if you're not drunk, why are you being so noisy?" she asked.

"I'm drunk on love for my family. In return, I am offering you the bounty of my song," I said.

"Please go do it somewhere else," she said.

"Don't you want me to serenade you?" I asked.

"Not while I'm trying to clean the kitchen," she said.

I whooped with delight. "You're cleaning? Far be it from me to do anything to interfere with that." I retreated downstairs. "Goodbye, my love!" I called.

"Shut up!" the oldest yelled.

"You love me, don't you girl?" I asked our dog Lucy, who'd followed me downstairs. She jumped up and tried to lick my face.

"Bark bark bark bark bark bark bark, the Lucy Dog!" I sang.

"AAAARGH!!!" yelled the oldest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

I'm So Proud

Broken deals, bitter words and a state shuts down

Talks imploded Thursday between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders in the final hours before a midnight deadline, and Minnesota began a historic government shutdown.

"This is a night of deep sorrow for me," Dayton said in an address at 10 p.m. that was punctuated by jeers and hisses from Republicans, including some lawmakers.

The governor said his last offer would have raised income taxes only on those earning more than $1 million a year -- an estimated 7,700 Minnesotans, or 0.3 percent of all taxpayers, according to the Revenue Department.

Republicans rejected the proposal, Dayton said, because they "prefer to protect the richest handful of Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else."

Republican leaders made their own statement, saying Dayton's proposal for dealing with the projected $5 billion deficit would cause irreparable harm to the state's economy for generations.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dinner Plans

"Stop whining," said the Lovely Bride.

"But I don't want to go," I said.

"What you want doesn't matter," she said.

"It never seems to," I muttered.

"Your mother is taking us out for your birthday," she said. "Be nice to her."

"My birthday was five months ago."

"And this is the first date that worked for everyone."

"Why don't you take the boys and I'll stay home?" I suggested. "That would be a real present."

A few minutes later we were in the minivan. It took less than half a block before an argument erupted in the back seat about a choice of radio stations. I resolved it by picking a classic rock station and turning up Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" until I couldn't hear my family. The Lovely Bride closed her eyes and pretended to sleep.

I had stupidly picked a restaurant twenty miles from home and by the time we arrived, we fled the vehicle as if it was on fire. My mother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece were already seated and it took a few minutes of jockeying to make sure my own kids were widely dispersed.

"You'd think you were all four years old," I snapped at my middle son as I pushed him toward the end of the table.

"I'm a big boy," he said, loud enough to attract the attention of the waitress.

"I'm going to kill him," said my oldest.

"You're all going to kill me," I said.

The waitress smiled nervously and asked me if I'd like anything to drink.

"A martini," I begged.

My mother and the Lovely Bride both frowned at me. Stupid cardiologist.

"Never mind," I said. "A strawberry lemonade. Put some cyanide in it."

Dinner itself was a relatively painless affair, except for a brief discussion with my youngest about one of the entrees on the menu.

"What kind of cheese do they use?" he demanded.

"I don't know," I said. "Probably cow cheese. I suppose it could be from sheep or goat milk, though."

"Cobra milk?" he exclaimed with alarm.

"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked.

"You said it might be cobra milk."

"I said goat milk."

"You can milk cobras," the middle kid added helpfully.

"Is it cobra milk or goat milk?" the youngest asked.

"These family outings were bad enough when I could drink," I told the waitress who was refilling my lemonade class. "I can't drink much anymore. Heart problems. Hard to imagine why, isn't it?" She bleated uncomfortably and skittered off to another table.

Dinner finally ended, which meant it was time for my mother to demand a family photo.

"Do you really want to remember this?" I asked her as she handed her camera to the hostess with unnecessarily complicated instructions on how to aim and click.

"Be quiet," she replied. "And get your niece to smile."

I patted my niece's head. "Hey kiddo, smile for the camera. We have to hurry up so we can get grandma back to the home before her day pass expires."

In the car on the way home, the radio was broadcasting a story about New York's gay marriage legislation.

"Good for New York," said the Lovely Bride.

"Why are Republicans opposed to gay marriage?" asked the middle kid.

"Because they're stupid, hateful people," I said.

"Yeah, but they'd say that about you," he said.

"They'd be wrong," I replied.

The Lovely Bride rolled her eyes. "It's more complicated than that. Your father and I believe that two consenting adults who love each other should be able to choose to get married. People on the other side of the question want to prohibit that, even though there's no fact-based evidence to suggest that gay marriage harms individuals or society."

"What your mother is trying to say is that Republicans are assholes," I explained.

"Hey, I've got a question!" the youngest piped up.

"What is it, sweetie?" asked the Lovely Bride.

"It's sort of two questions. Or maybe one. No, I think it's two. Kind of one and a half."

"Jesus, just ask the question," I said.

"What's the deal with Ancestry dot com?" he asked.

The van went quiet for a moment.

"Huh?" asked his middle brother.

"You know, how do they figure out who your great-great-great-great grandfather was?"

"My head hurts," I said.

"We should take a family vacation," said my oldest in his most sarcastic tone of voice.

"Happy birthday to me," I said.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Disorderly Eating

"Oh, God," I groaned to one of the other parents at my youngest's baseball game.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"My whole family's here." Ignoring the Lovely Bride's glare, I gestured at the concession stand, where my oldest was working. My middle son had just arrived at the park and was trying, without success, to bum a soda from his brother.

Unfortunately, the middle kid saw the gesture and thought I was waving to him. He trotted over.

"Hooray," I muttered. "Life gets better."

"Hi daddy," he said, giving me a hug. "I love you." Several of the other parents looked a little puzzled by a high school boy hugging his father in public.

"He's at that age where kids start experimenting with drugs," I explained, earning another glare from the Lovely Bride. I ignored her and hugged him back. "I love you too, buddy. What do you want?"

"Nothing," he said, drifting away.

I checked to make sure I still had my wallet. "Okay," I called after him. "Hugs not drugs."

"Hope not dope," he called back.

Yet again, a glare from the Lovely Bride. I returned to the first order of business, heckling my youngest.

"They're letting him pitch?" I asked one of the other dads. My boy normally catches or plays shortstop and I felt a bit queasy watching him walk to the mound.

"Better you than me," he said. "My kid was awful in the last game."

"Did you make him sleep outside again?" I asked.

"It was raining pretty hard," he replied. "I let him share the kennel with the dog."

We cackled. His wife turned around and glared at us. Same story, different woman.

Distracted, I hadn't noticed the return of my middle son. He hugged me again.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Can't you find your meth dealer?"

"He was sold out," he said. "Can I have money for food?"

I handed him some cash. "Get something I can eat," I said.

The Lovely Bride had been watching us suspiciously and heard my request. "Didn't you already have dinner?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said.

"Well, I do," she said. "Our oldest said he sold you a bratwurst."

"It was a low-sodium, diet brat," I said.

"Either way, it's the only one you get this week," she needlessly reminded me.

"You're mean as a snake," I told her.

"It's not my rule, it's your cardiologist's," she said.

"He's not a real doctor," I told her. "I'm pretty sure he's creating a human centipede in his spare time. I hope I can be the head, at least."

The middle boy returned with a bag of popcorn, interrupting our conversation. A good thing for me even if it was a disappointment for the rest of the parents, who were enjoying the latest episode of The Snags Go Out In Public.

I grabbed a handful of popcorn.

"Why are you taking my popcorn?" the middle kid demanded.

"It would be your popcorn if you'd bought it," I said. "That would require you to have money, which in turn would require you to have a job. You have neither. Therefore, because I paid for it, it's my popcorn and I am simply sharing it with you."

"I'm not old enough to get a job," he said.

"Of course you are," I told him. "You had a job last year. You were a soccer ref. It paid good money, too."

"I didn't like that job," he said.

"How is that relevant?" I asked.

"Why would I work at a job I don't like?"

"Because they pay you?" I suggested. Jesus, now my heart was starting to hurt.

"You like your job," he said.

"My job's fine," I said. "I went to school for twenty years and worked at a bunch of jobs I didn't like before I got this one."

"I don't want to do that," he said. "I just want a job I like."

"He is on drugs, isn't he?" said one of the other dads.

"So it would appear," I said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where In The World Is Snag - June 14, 2011
























Where am I?

A. Paradise Lost

B. On the Good Ship Lollipop

C. Canadia

D. In a sick psychological experiment

E. _____?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Add-In



















The high school tennis coach smiled at the eighty-four guests assembled for the end of the season team banquet. "Before we start eating, we should thank everyone who helped plan tonight's activities. If you were one of the organizers, please stand up."

My oldest rose. He was the only one. Everyone stared at him.

"Stand up," he hissed at his co-captain.

"I didn't do anything," the other boy whispered.

"Stand up anyway," said my oldest. The boy stood. Everyone stared at them.

"Some of the parents must have helped?" suggested the coach, a little tentatively.

My oldest rolled his eyes at me. I stood up and muttered, "Well, I signed the booster club check." The crowd finally began to clap.

Later, when plates were cleared, speeches over, awards distributed, gifts handed out, and the slide show packed away, I had a chance to speak with the banquet hall manager.

"I've been doing this for a long time," she said, nodding in the direction of my son. "I've never had one of the students coordinate the whole thing before."

"Yeah, he's not a typical kid," I said.

"He's going to school in Florida next year?"

"Right. Miami."

"I bet you're going to miss him around the house."

"You don't know the half of it," I said.

Sadly and happily, that day is fast approaching. The graduation ceremony is tomorrow and then we've got a couple months of summer and then he and his youngest brother and his youngest brother's friend and I pile in the van for the drive down south. I'll drop him off at the dorm and wave goodbye and be thankful I have a couple of thirteen-year-olds along for the ride to keep me from thinking about it too much.

In the meantime, it's been a good few weeks. He was named all-conference in tennis, got a nice little mention in our local paper for his academic achievements, and the Lovely Bride and I have had the pleasure of hearing all kinds of nice things about him from a whole bunch of people, including some we barely know.

I suppose that's bragging. So be it. We're proud of him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You

"Do you really think that's normal?" asked my mother as I held the newspaper a full arm's length away from my face.

"Do you really think you're in a position to be talking about normal?" I replied.

My mother turned to the Lovely Bride and said, "He needs his eyes checked."

"He needs a lot of things checked," said the Lovely Bride.

"Hey, you told me not to worry, that it happens to everyone once in a while," I said.

The Lovely Bride blushed. My mother shook her head in disgust and went downstairs to talk to her grandchildren. I returned my attention to the newspaper. Victory was mine.

In the battle, though, not the war. Hence, tomorrow I'll be getting an eye exam. Because, you know, I haven't spent enough money on medical bills in the last few months. Anyway, I've been getting ready.

"They told me to bring a list of my medications," I said to the Lovely Bride. "Should I put down 'bourbon?'"

"You're not supposed to be drinking bourbon."

"But if I put it down and he doesn't say anything, then I'll have doctor approval."

"He's an optometrist, not a cardiologist."

"Well, my cardiologist said I could have a drink once in a while."

"I know," said the Lovely Bride. "I was there."

Which is why that conversation hadn't turned out as well as I'd hoped.

"So it's alright to have an occasional drink?" I'd asked at the end of my last cardiology visit.

"Sure," he'd said. "Almost anything's alright, as long as it's in moderation."

The Lovely Bride had rolled her eyes. "Doctor, could you define 'moderation?' My husband has a much different understanding of the word than most people."

Leaving me here, several months down the road, trying to find a loophole.

"I've heard liquor's good for your eyes," I told the Lovely Bride.

"Where did you hear that?"

"From my friend R."

"That's ridiculous."

"You're only saying that because you didn't think of it first. The status quo fears genius."

"I'm the status quo, now, am I?" she snapped.

Whoops. "Yes, but you're a beautiful status quo," I told her. I smooched her neck.

"Stop it," she said, swatting at me. I smooched her neck again.

"You don't need bourbon. You're already drunk." she said.

"Drunk on my love for you," I said.

"Oh, please."

"I don't need my eyes checked. I can see you're a vision of loveliness."

She giggled.

Victory was mine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Family Prayer

When our sons were little, before they started at the public kindergarten near our house, they went to preschool at a Montessori school downtown, not too far from where I officed at the time. The woman who ran it was a saint and everything good about my children today can be directly attributed to her influence. The Lovely Bride and I still get a little teary talking about what a magical time that was, before the boys went feral.

Like any good preschool, this one had a music teacher who came in a couple of times a week. The kids learned some songs and played some instruments and had fun and eventually put on a show to display their talents.

The Lovely Bride and I went, of course, because who wouldn't want to watch a room full of four-year-olds sing "Rainbow Around Me" while banging drums and tambourines? After the performances, we gathered with the other families in the main room for a potluck and a chance to visit with parents we usually only saw on our way in or out the door.

"Does your son have older brothers?" one of the mothers asked after we'd exchanged pleasantries.

"Oh, God," I muttered. "What now?"

The Lovely Bride kicked me under the table. "Yes, he does," she answered. "Two of them. Why do you ask?"

"I was just curious," said the mother. "Your son and my daughter had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago."

"Oh, God," the Lovely Bride muttered.

"That's nice," I said, clenching my teeth and trying to smile at the mother. "Your daughter's a nice girl. It's nice that they're friends. Isn't that nice?" I asked the Lovely Bride.

The Lovely Bride closed her eyes and sighed. "What did he say?" she asked.

"He told my daughter he was a girl trapped inside a boy's body."

"Oh, God," I said.

"Oh, God," said the Lovely Bride.

"It's kind of funny," said the mother. "I mean, it's not funny if he really feels that way. It doesn't bother me if he feels that way, of course, not that my opinion should matter anyway." It was that kind of preschool.

When we got home a couple hours later the two older boys were watching television with the babysitter. We paid her and sent the youngest upstairs to color while we talked to his brothers.

"Come here," I yelled from the kitchen.

"What?" the oldest yelled back.

"Come here," I repeated. "Bring the other one with you."

Grumbling, they came upstairs. "What?" asked the middle one.

"Did you tell your brother he was a girl trapped inside a boy's body?" I demanded.

"Why do you ask?" said the oldest. Neither of them would make eye contact with me.

"Did it occur to you that maybe our family's screwed up enough already?" I asked.

The Lovely Bride kicked me under the table.

"Well it is," I continued. "And this kind of thing just makes it worse."

"Our family is not screwed up," she said.

"What would you call it?" I asked.

She paused and thought. "Special?" she guessed.

"Well, that's a lot better," I said.

"We're missing our show," the oldest reminded me.

"Go apologize to your brother," I told them.

They hurried upstairs to find him, eager to get back to the television.

"Sorry you're a girl," said the oldest.

"Me too," said the middle boy.

"Mom!" shrieked the youngest.

"We're special, alright," I told the Lovely Bride.

"Oh, God," she said.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Where In The World Is Snag 2011 - Day 1
























Where am I?

A. Yemen

B. Caught up in a hilarious case of mistaken identity

C. 523 steps from a hotel bar

D. Hoisted on my own petard

E. _____?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Civics Lesson

"I couldn't get my boarding pass to print this morning," my mother said.

"That's because you're on a no-fly list," I said.

"Don't be foolish," she said. "Why would I be on a list like that?"

"Because I informed on you?" I suggested.

"I'll need to get to the terminal early anyway," she said, ignoring me. "I imagine security will be increased because of recent events."

"You mean the NFL draft? I can see why Seahawks fans are upset, but I doubt they'll be storming the airport."

"No wonder your children don't listen to you," she said.

"Why would you want to go to Argentina anyway? Is it the next leg of your ongoing tour of the world's great dictatorships?"

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Cambodia. Norway. Now Argentina."

"Argentina's a lovely country."

"So is Germany. Scenery isn't the only thing they've shared."

"Oh, stop it," she said. "Argentina has an elected government that's no worse than ours."

"Like that's saying much," I muttered.

"At least I can't be accused of having raised a Republican," she mused. Then, turning to her grandsons, she added, "Although I otherwise failed miserably with your father."

"It's not your fault, Grandma," said the oldest. "He's just that way."

"Yeah, nobody likes him," said the youngest.

"Anything to add?" I asked the middle boy.

"They're right," he said.

"Great," I told my mother. "You got the kids to finally agree on something."

"Democracy is about finding common ground," she said.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Little Helper

"What are you doing?" I asked, peering over my oldest son's shoulder.

"Nothing," he snarled, repositioning himself in front of the computer screen. "Go away."

"Hey, that's the University of Miami website!" I exclaimed, clapping my hands. "I'll help."

"No you won't," he responded. "You'll just be stupid."

"You're picking a roommate, aren't you?"

"Please go away," he said.

"Really, I'm good at this. What sort of questions do you need to answer?"

Resignedly, he let me read the screen.

"How come there's no place to write that your dad's going to be living with you?"

"See, you're already being stupid," he said.

"Hey, I'm paying for this."

"I got a scholarship."

"True," I admitted.

"And Grandma's helping."

"It's the least she can do, given how she treats me," I said. "Anyway, I'm still chipping in. Besides, it'd be fun to have me live down there. It'd be like 'Old School.'"

"You're going to take off your clothes and run through Miami?" he asked. "How would that be fun for anyone?"

"Don't be so suburban," I said.

"Mom, can you make him leave me alone," he yelled.

"Then he'll just bother me," the Lovely Bride called back from downstairs.

"But he's driving me crazy," said the boy.

"That's why you're going away to college," she said. "I'll still be stuck here with him."

"You're right," he said. "Sorry mom."

"Does that mean I get to help you?" I asked.

"Only if you'll be normal."

"Where's the box to check if you want a cheerleader for a roommate?" I asked.

"I heard that!'" the Lovely Bride snapped.

"Looks like you'll be rooming with Lucy tonight," the boy smirked. Hearing her name, the dog ran over and started gnawing on my arm.

"C'mon girl, let's go streaking," I told her. "Here we come, sweetie!" I shouted to the Lovely Bride, jogging downstairs.

"Three more months," the boy muttered to himself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bon Appétit, Volume 15 - Have A Heart, Already!

Like many American males, I have a wife and cardiologist with some wacky ideas about nutrition. But, a man's got to do what a man's got to do, and in this case that means doing what I'm told. Fortunately, good health can taste good!

1. Heavenly Healthy Hash

Debone two lean chimeras, reserving horns for garnish. Poach chimeras in four cups antiseptic for three weeks or until tender, whichever comes first. Add one gallon emulsified grout and stir until thickened. Chop chimera horns into segments and sprinkle over mixture. Cool to room temperature and form into hash patties.

Serves 4 1/3.

2. Roughage Galore

Obtain six pounds of vegetative materials. Add three shovels of flavor and mix until vegetation is fully flavored. Bake at 2,000 kelvins until medium burnt, approximately four seconds. While vegetation is cooking, spawn a ripe cartographer. Pour vegetation into a decorative cornice and serve immediately, passing cartographer separately.

Serves plenty.

3. Nuts to You!

Preheat microwave to 451 degrees. Meanwhile, burnish one flagon of CornNuts until tender. When CornNuts are tender, chop finely, mix with spumoni, and set aside. Hollow out a large, ripe cabbage, discarding cabbage entrails. Insert CornNut and spumoni mix into cabbage cavity and bake in microwave until Wednesday. Accompany with pork.

Serves 9.

4. Bacon Surprise

Remove bacon from one large pig. Fry until desired crispiness. Give to next door neighbor. Weep.

Serves no purpose.

5. Soup in the Time of Cholera

Peel one dozen medium soupçons. Saute until gently smoking. Add three cups picked over horseradishes, one cup lo-fat petroleum jelly, and a tack. Refrigerate overnight. In the light of a new day, dip mixture in sopapilla batter and fry in 800 degree lard until blackened in spots. Add to one gallon eel broth and simmer until consistency of soup. Ladle into bowls or other round containers and serve immediately.

Serves one large Cartagenan family.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Make Good Choices

The oldest boy's pretty well settled on the University of Miami. It meets the dual criteria of having a highly ranked physical therapy program and being far away from the rest of the family. He's been offered a nice scholarship too, so I can neither blame him nor complain.

That still leaves the question of how he's going to get there in August. I suggested the family take him down, make a vacation out of it.

"That sounds awful," he said. "Do you know how many miles it is?"

"You'll make us look at buildings!" howled his youngest brother. "You always make us look at buildings!"

"It'll be fun," I said. "We'll go to the beach. See a Marlins game."

"I think it's a great idea," said the middle boy.

"Why?" I asked suspiciously. He hasn't agreed to anything since he became a teenager.

"Because I'll get to stay home alone."

"No you won't," I told him. "We'd all go."

"That's stupid," he said. "I'd just irritate you."

"Good point," I conceded. "But you're not staying home by yourself for ten days."

"Why not? You could just leave me $300 and I'd be fine."

"$300? Where did you come up with that number? Never mind, it doesn't matter. You're not staying home."

A couple of weeks ago I went away for a long weekend with a friend. Coming out of a show, I turned on my cell phone to find a text message from the middle boy.

"Coach says he thinks I broke my hand."

As the Lovely Bride was at work and unreachable, I ended up coordinating a trip to the emergency room from 1,500 miles away. My friend and neighbor E. brought him in, after trying to liven things up by offering to take him to the county hospital downtown instead of the nearby suburban hospital. "Come on," he said when I objected. "There's all kinds of interesting things happening there at 1:30 on a Saturday morning."

"That was an accident," said the middle kid when I finished reminding him.

"First, contrary to your claims, the coach tells me he doesn't think it broke when you got slide tackled. He thinks it broke because you were playing goalie without gloves and you punched the ground when you let one get by."

"That couldn't do it."

"Really? Punching turf laid down on a concrete floor couldn't break your hand? Good to know, Dr. Science."

"I didn't punch it that hard," he muttered.

"Second," I continued, "we have a high deductible insurance plan."

"What does that mean?"

"It means your cast is made out of my money."

"You have lots of money," he said.

"Are you trying to kill me?" I asked. He offered a noncommittal look and shrugged.

"Besides, it doesn't matter. If we go, you go."

"It's going to suck," he said.

"Probably. Most things do. If it does, it'll be good practice for the rest of your life. Besides, it should help you start thinking about where you want to go to college."

"I don't want to go to college."

"Of course not," I said. "It's much easier to wait for money to fall from the sky."

"You always say it's not all about money."

"That's true," I acknowledged. "But it is about choices and you want to have as many as possible. Right now you're making the choice to aggravate me. In a couple of years you might want to make the choice to go to college."

"I won't get as many scholarships as my brother," he said.

"Maybe. If you work as hard in school as he has, you can do just as well."

"I wish I'd been born first. Then I could have set the bar lower."

"Wow," I said. "I've really done a horrible job of raising you, haven't I?"

"Pretty much," he said. "So can I stay home alone?"

"No."

"Then I really don't have choices, do I?"

"You never stop, do you?" I asked him.

"Nope," he said proudly.

"It's going to be a long drive," I said.

"It's your choice," he said.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Joy Of Children

"I need a loaf of bread," my youngest demanded. "And some butter."

"It's 9:30 on a Wednesday night," I replied. "Go to bed."

"I need them," he repeated. "Jelly too, if we have any."

"Are you on crack?" I asked him.

"See, you don't care how I do in school," he said.

In the old days, I would have poured myself a drink. Now that the cardiologist has tightened the screws, I have to navigate life on my own. It's not pretty.

"What is he talking about?" I asked the Lovely Bride. She shrugged without looking up from her magazine.

"Do you know?" I asked the dog, who responded by gnawing on my hand.

"I need it for class," said the boy.

"What?"

"For class. Tomorrow. I need to bring bread and butter. And maybe jelly, I don't have to bring that, but I can if we have some."

"What the hell kind of class is this?" I asked. "Are they teaching you how to make toast?"

He rolled his eyes. "It's called 'Investigations.'"

"Somebody should investigate what the school's doing with my tax dollars," I said. The Lovely Bride concentrated harder on the magazine. She knows how I get.

"So can I have some bread?" said the boy.

"What if we don't have any?"

"Then you'll have to go to the store."

"It's 9:30 at night! Why didn't you ask before?"

"I just thought of it. I was busy."

"You were watching a basketball game on TV."

"I know. I said I was busy."

"For the love of God," I muttered.

"I thought you didn't believe in God," the middle boy interjected.

"I believe in shutting my piehole if I don't have anything useful to say," I explained. "Maybe you should try that."

"Mom, Dad's being rude again," the middle kid yelled. The Lovely Bride continued to read.

Opening the freezer, I found three-quarters of a loaf. "Will this work?" I asked.

"I guess," said the youngest.

I handed him some butter too. And a jar of preserves.

"This isn't jelly," he said, looking at the preserves.

"Close enough, Julia Child," I said.

"Who's that?" he asked.

"A nice lady who would have baked you into gingerbread."

He curled his lip at me. "Good night, Mom," he said.

"Good night," said the Lovely Bride, looking up and smiling at him.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Darndest Things

"He could come to church with us someday," our neighbor said.

We'd somehow gotten on the subject of religion during a break in this weekend's basketball tournament and I'd allowed I wasn't sure my youngest had ever been in a house of worship.

"Thanks, but I doubt that would end well," I told her.

"I'm not sure we're welcome there anyway," she said.

"Why's that?" I asked, always on the lookout for a parent worse than me.

"A few years ago, we thought our oldest should give Sunday school a try. It was around the holidays and the teacher explained the story of baby Jesus and how he died for our sins. Which was fine, except our kid didn't really have much context for the story and he got a little confused about the chronology."

"Oh boy," I said.

"Yeah," she said. "He raised his hand and asked how the Romans could nail a baby to a cross."

"You must be very proud," I said.

"Look who's talking, Mr. Unitarian Unicorn," she said.

"Heathen," I said.

"Infidel," she said.

We laughed.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't Know Much About History

"Our family's cursed," said my oldest.

"Tell me about it," I replied. "It's been that way as long as I can remember."

We were in Savannah. It was snowing. Of course it was.

"Why are we here anyway?" my youngest asked.

"Because I enjoy spending time with you?" I guessed.

"Don't be dumb. Why are we really here?"

"Because your brother wanted to look at a college and I thought we could do some sightseeing while we were down South."

"We're looking at buildings. They have buildings where we live."

It was snowing harder and I was getting a headache. "Be quiet," I said, without much hope.

"Why didn't my other brother have to come with us?" he demanded. "You love him more."

"Yes, I love him more. That's why I left him home with your mother."

"You see?" he exclaimed, turning to the oldest, convinced he'd made his point.

The oldest ignored us. He was studying the map we'd picked up at the visitor center, trying to figure out where we were. He knows better than to trust my sense of direction.

The youngest turned back to me. "How much longer are we going to stay here?"

"Forever," I said.

"For real," he said.

"It'll seem like forever," I said.

He scowled at me until I relented. "I don't know, a few hours," I told him. "Then we're going to Charleston."

"What's in Charleston?"

"Buildings."

"AAARGH!" he shrieked.

"I love you too, buddy," I said.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Go Ask Grandma

"I've never smoked marijuana," my mother was telling my kids as I walked into the kitchen.

"Oh God, what now?" I asked.

"I was telling the boys that when one reaches a certain age, one starts to catalogue the things one hasn't done."

"It's called a Bucket List," I said. "There was a movie by that name. I hated it."

"You hate everything," my middle son pointed out.

"With good reason," I replied.

"Don't be ridiculous," said my mother. "You have a wonderful family."

I laughed hollowly. "Yeah, ask the Lovely Bride for her opinion."

"Her perspective might be different," said my mother. "After all, she's married to you."

"Ooh, Dad, sick burn," said my youngest.

I pointed at him. "Lucy, kill," I suggested to our dog. She jumped up and gummed my arm.

"Besides," I asked, turning to my mother, "what does any of this have to do with your history of drug use?"

"I do not have a history of drug use. I was merely explaining that some things I do not regret having missed. Drugs are one of them."

"The first step is admitting you have a problem," I said. "We can't make progress if you continue to deny reality."

"What is he going on about now?" she asked her grandchildren. They offered puzzled shrugs in response.

"Your grandmother used to keep her stash in the oven when I was growing up," I told the boys. "She was the biggest dealer in our city until she went to prison. That's where she got the gang tattoos."

"I do not have any tattoos," she said.

"Sure, not anymore," I said. "Laser removal."

"What sort of fantasy world have you created for yourself?" she asked in exasperation.

"Not a drug-induced one," I said. "Which is more than you can say."

"Well, I think that's enough of you for one day," she said, gathering her things.

"Hugs not drugs," I said, giving her a squeeze as she put on her coat.

"Please try to improve your attitude before I come back next week," she said.

"Hope not dope," I said.