Star Spangled Boner

Image result for Canadian Barbie

A lot of people ask me the difference between Canadians and Americans. Well, first the facts: our country’s larger, our population’s smaller, Canadian men liked wearing clogs in the ’70s and we’ve never considered testing the viscosity of spray cheese in space a worthwhile scientific endeavour.

I noticed while working abroad that colleagues soon began substituting American with North American in conversation. Such gestures are certainly appreciated but only serve to remind Canadians that while Americans have fifty states, we have only one: self-consciousness. Every Canadian feels guilty knowing their new co-workers are constantly bricking it lest they should inadvertently refer to us as American, a situation which can only ever lead to our greatest export: the apology. We’re famous for apologizing – we even apologize for it. I recognize that, even close up, we look and sound like our U.S. counterparts to most people. The differences are subtle, even to us sometimes. It is, however, my belief that the best way to differentiate between our two cultures is to study America’s greatest cultural icon: Barbie.

America has Malibu Barbie who likes strolling along the beach with the ocean breeze in her hair… Canada has Seal Hunt Barbie who is a crack shot.

Malibu Barbie drives a Dream Camper Van with built-in kitchen and fold-out tent… Ice Road Trucker Barbie cooks roadkill under the hood and homeschools three kids in her sleeper cab.

Prom Queen Barbie comes with her very own makeup and accessories table… Lumberjack Barbie’s sporting a Leafs toque in her wedding photos.

American Barbie hails from Wisconsin, studied in New York and now lives with her parents and younger sisters in California… Canadian Barbie was taken into care after her parents became addicted to online bingo and were caught trying to sell their own kidneys on ebay.

American Barbie dates long-term boyfriend, Ken… Canadian Barbie’s best friend is an orphaned bear cub whose mother was shot dead by two tourists up from Oregon for the weekend.

American Barbie is cosmopolitan and culturally sensitive… Yukon Barbie saw her first Sikh last week and asked him for three wishes.

American Barbie is a role model for her millions of followers on the internet… Canadian Barbie is completely unaware that a video of her bathing in what she thought was a secluded watering hole has placed her in Pornhub’s Top Ten.

Vegetarian Barbie only buys food from locally sourced producers… Marijuana Farm Barbie patrols the perimeter of her property in a JLTV.

American Barbie spent a fun-filled New Year’s Eve with Ken in Times Square… Canadian Barbie pointed out Ursa Major in the night sky to her orphaned bear cub – and apologized.

Hue and Cry

On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone

Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone

Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not

Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot

Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet

I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot

Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long

Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?

Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave

Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?

I come into my garden for the colours and the light

A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.

Branch Locator

Scientists Attempt to Make Monkeys Smarter by Adding a Human Gene | Science  Times

Without any apology

I traced my genealogy

In hope I’d find an entry

Replete with well-heeled gentry.

Perhaps a Duke without an heir

Yet to bequeath his titled lair

Or better yet a Duchess

Who’d keep me in her clutches.

I dreamed of billionaire tycoons

Who sipped and supped from silver spoons

Whose present state of wealth

Fared better than their health.

But no! I learned my great-great-gran

Was jailed because she shot a man

Who wooed her in a heath

Then ran off with her teeth.

Another ancestor trained bears

To ride on bikes and dance on chairs

Until they grew to hate him

I guess that’s why they ate him.

Much further back, one of our crowd

Could summon rain down from a cloud

But locals weren’t that smitten

Because they lived in Britain.

If you’ve swung through my family tree

Please have the cheque made out to me

Because this brachiator

Wants paying now, not later.

Constellation Prize

The figure on the mountain knew
Far higher than the eagle flew
Beyond the sun and past the light
Were men who crossed the sky by night.
Soon after dusk their fires appeared
Then slowly, once a course was steered
Their caravan set out en masse
To make its empyreal pass.


Like beasts migrating on the plains
Like swarms that form to greet the rains
He found no word for the amount
Of travelers he sought to count.
A gallery would pass him by
Whose outlines seemed to signify
Proud emblems of a noble clan
Led by an even a greater man.


The bearing, always east to west
Suggested they were on a quest
Or maybe searching for a door
They’d passed through in a time before.
Each night the figure danced and prayed
Around the fire he had made
In hope his kin might see its glow
And teach him all he wished to know.


Then with the last beat from his breast
Great Spirit granted this request
And drew his outline in the sky
That men as he should never die

Boxing Clever

Last week, I received a surprise phone call from my doctor.
“Mr Ormsby?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, good… so you’re not dead then. It’s Dr Shapiro here. We need to make you an appointment.”
“Club fees due?”
“Not ’til October.”
“Daughter getting married?”
“Chance would be a fine thing.”
“Class action going ahead?”
“It worked on macaques, didn’t it?”
“Okay, you got me,” I conceded defeat.
“I need to buy a roof box for the Porsche,” Dr Shapiro announced. “Mother was due to take the train back to Cornwall on Sunday but they’re going out on strike, so we’ll be going in the car now.”
“Will you get her in a roof box?”
“And herein lies the problem: it’s quite a long journey and I’m worried if she starts fidgeting with her artificial leg she may scratch the interior.”
“You’re unbelievable.”
“The cup holders are African Rosewood.”
“Drill her a few air holes to cover yourself legally.”
“When can you come in then?”
“First, can you tell me why it’s impossible to make an appointment any other time?” I was slightly annoyed.
“Mrs Hashimoto owes money to the Coffee Fund; now she’s too scared to answer the phone.”
“I get the whole ‘honour’ thing but isn’t that being a bit overdramatic?”
“She owes it £6000.”
“Since when?”
“Since a Diversity consultant recommended outsourcing it to the Yakuza.”
“What if something happens to her?”
“Then we’re all going to miss Teriyaki Tuesdays. Can you come in tomorrow at four?”
The next afternoon I found myself seated on what looked like a giant roll of toilet paper which ran the length of an examination table.
“I feel like a garden gnome.”
“That explains the pot belly.”
“I do not have a pot belly.”
“Lay off the beer,” Dr Shapiro admonished while peering into my right ear. “Did you know that earwax is genetic? Depending upon your parents, you’ll have either wet earwax or dry earwax.”
“Did you learn that in medical school?”
“No, on TikTok.”
“If I’ve put on weight then blame lockdown. We were cooped up for months.”
“Exactly which outdoor activities did it prevent you from doing?”
“I walk a lot.”
“It’s not exercise if everybody does it. What else?”
“I garden quite a bit.”
“So does Mrs Hashimoto and she’s a hundred and something,” Dr Shapiro moved on to my lymph nodes. “Any other physical pursuits?”
“How about going shopping?”
“If it’s online then it doesn’t count.”
He had me.
“Does this look like a wart to you?” he held up his index finger.
“Shouldn’t you know that?”
“It looks like one. When you get home have a shower. The last thing you want is a colony of these setting up camp on your todger.”
“You touched me down there knowing you had a wart on your finger?”
“I wasn’t sure before. Hold on, let me get some rubbing alcohol but I do need to warn you: this will really sting.”
“I’ll pay you whatever you want NOT to do that,” I pleaded.
“I’ll let Mother know we’re good to go,” he took out his phone. “Now then, will that be cash or card?”







Model Behaviour

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“I’m being sued by the Catholic Church again,” Laverne announced in the midst of reorganising her purse.
“I have no words for that.”
“How unlike you,” she mused.
“Hold on, I thought you were working on a piece about the East African Lion,” I suddenly remembered.
“Turns out all they do is sleep. My son can do that.”
“Have you ever been to Africa? I haven’t.”
“Yeah, with my sister for her fortieth. We went on safari in Malawi.”
“So is that where …“
“… my people come from?” Laverne zipped her purse and placed it on the chair next to her. “Couldn’t tell you; the furthest back I’ve been able to trace our roots is to The Shirelles.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. I was actually going to ask if that’s where your sister went with the Peace Corps.”
“Oops, sorry,” she giggled. “No, that was Mozambique.”
“I’d like to ask you another question though: when you were there, did you feel any connection to it?”

“Funny you should ask that,” she became more pensive. “I expected to feel ‘African’ from the moment I arrived but the whole time we were there I felt like just another tourist. People are people wherever you go so we had that in common. Culturally, however, I struggled to make a connection and that bothered me. I think maybe we’ve been gone too long.”
“I felt the same when I met my Scottish relatives for the first time,” I concurred. “We shared the same name, same sense of humour and some even looked like me but culturally we were raised in two very different worlds.”
“Not even close!” Laverne screamed with laughter. “Honestly, are you kidding me with that? Your parents emigrated using their Air Miles!”

“But their journey to The New World was horrific. First, they ran out of headphones and then they gave my mum’s gluten-free meal to someone else,” I explained. “Anyway, cut me some slack – you’re my only ethnic friend.”
“Hey, I’m your only friend. I’ve got more in common with those lions than I do with you.”
“How so?”
“They don’t like to cook either.”
“And we have our connection!”
“Okay, but back to this business with the Church,” Laverne lowered her voice. “It’s over a certain someone I told you about at Christmas.”
“Is this the same someone with the thing?”
“Yup.”
“And are you telling me they’ve now found the thing?”
“Oh yeah, they found it alright,” she confirmed.
“Was it on him?”
“No, up him.”
“Whoa!” I leaned back in my chair. “And the monkey?”
“Still missing,” she arched an eyebrow.

I love secrets and Laverne knows plenty. A freelance journalist, she moved to the UK from Seattle over thirty years ago after meeting and marrying Elliot, a sound engineer at the BBC. The three of us first met at The Pu Pu Pot, our local Chinese restaurant, after she’d overheard my accent.
“I need some human conversation during our stay on this island! I need someone who doesn’t talk about Bobby Charlton in his sleep!” she blubbered into her chop suey.
“Who’s Robby Carlson?” I asked.
“Exactly!” she cried. “And do you know where I can score some Fruit Loops because the last people to eat porridge were the Vikings.”
That was twenty years ago.

Image result for beautiful spring china

Tonight we were out for our weekly meal at The Pu Pu Pot but without Elliot, who begged off to attend a Bolton Wanderers match.
“What’s the viral load of the Szechuan Chicken today?” Laverne asked.
“Slightly elevated I’m afraid, so I’d be happy to pee on it for you. We Chinese believe that urine possesses magical properties,” our waitress took her on.
“Is that like chlorinated chicken?” I asked.
“Well, if you’d prefer you can bring in a pet and we’ll cook that for you,” she smiled, sweetly.
“We’re gonna need a few more minutes,” Laverne smiled right back at her.
Just then, the kitchen doors swung open to reveal a tiny, sinewy man lifting the lid off a huge cauldron. As he did so, he stepped back to avoid the rush of steam.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“We’ll be cooking shrimp in it once we take the shirts out,” our waitress stated matter-of-factly. “Would you excuse me for just one moment? I need to inform on my neighbours.”
“She’s good,” Laverne nodded her approval, as she watched the diminutive figure disappear behind the bar. “Is she still in med school?”
“Fourth year.”
“She’ll have them in stitches.”

At one point during the evening Laverne made a visit to the Ladies’. While she was gone, a young woman breezed into the restaurant and joined a waiting friend at a table nearby. Tall, elegant and stylishly attired, she quickly attracted the attention of other diners.
“I’m back,” Laverne announced, resuming her seat. “They have the nicest hand lotion here.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, looking past her at the young woman.
“What’s up with you?” she shot me a quizzical look.
“It’s what’s behind you.”
“What’s behind me?”
“A girl walked in while you were gone and she’s got to be a model. She’s absolutely stunning. Definitely a model.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10?” Laverne asked.
“Ten.”
“Hair?”
“Lustrous.”
“Make-up?”
“None.”
“Height?”
“NBA.”
“She’s got to have a flaw, everyone has a flaw.”
“If she does, I can’t see it.”
“Maybe it’s hidden,” she chewed on her bottom lip. “Slug feet?”
“Killer farts.”
“Fifty bucks says she uses disconnect as a noun.”
“Another fifty says she has plans to name her first daughter Chandelier.”
“Hmm… not even a split end?” Laverne wasn’t having it.
“Turn around and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“Have I taught you nothing?” she reached for her purse. “Watch and learn, my friend… okay, which shoulder?”
“Left.”
She took out her compact and opened it, angling the mirror until she caught sight of her quarry over her left shoulder. At that same moment, the young woman put on her reading glasses and picked up a menu. Closing the compact with a snap, Laverne chuckled to herself, then leaned across the table and whispered, “Four-Eyes.”

Aisle Stand By You

“I feel like a Stepford Wife.”

“That explains the outfit then.”

“No, I’m serious. I no longer feel comfortable buying just anything, only what’s needed,” Laverne complained, as she headed down the cookie aisle. “We’re being reprogrammed to become more altruistic which I guess isn’t a bad thing.”

“Toilet paper’s back there,” I gestured behind us.

“We’ve got over a hundred rolls in the garage, so don’t worry.”

“You’ve got a heart as big as your feet. Did you know that?”

“Call me in six months when you’re wiping your ass with a Shih Tzu,” she opened a pack of Oreos and placed it in her trolley. “And don’t look at me like that. Do you think the PM is cutting the Daily Telegraph into little squares in case he runs out? Is he, heck.”

“Not with an arse that size,” I was constructing a mental picture and it wasn’t pretty.

“The point is, we’re not in this together. I mean, we are but they’re not. It’s all a façade,” she bit into an Oreo, frowning. “Anyway I’m seriously thinking of moving to North Korea when this whole thing blows over. At least there you know where you stand.”

“Against a wall wearing a blindfold?”

“You Un Funny.”  

“What about their state-approved hairstyle: The Hair Helmet?

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that… don’t let me leave today without buying a hat.”

“And don’t let me forget laundry detergent. It’s top of my list.”

“We’ve got at least six months of that as well,” she put a finger to her lips.

“You know these eco-friendly washing machines?” I segued slightly. “Does yours use enough water because my clothes don’t even look wet when they’re being washed. They’re damp, at best.”

“I agree, they don’t use nearly enough water. I top mine up.”

“Me too. After all, we don’t shower using an atomiser.”

“That’s because we’re not from LA. Hey, did you read that Gwyneth Paltrow steam-cleans her noo-noo?”

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“Her website’s called goop so I’m thinking hygiene may be an issue,” I winced. “Sounds like a waste of water though. She needs to think about the whales.”

“To hell with the whales,” Laverne scoffed. “How much more water do they need? Maybe if they’d lose a few pounds there’d be less displacement.”

“Uh…”

“It’s true; it’s the fat ones who are causing the sea levels to rise. Whales are so selfish. I hate them,” she fished another Oreo out of the bag.

“I suppose you can’t argue with science. And while we’re on the subject… what do you think of Greta Thunberg?”

“Pippy Longstocking Meets Fire Starter.”

“She certainly hates us, that’s for sure. Anyone over 40 is in that little witch’s crosshairs.”

“If she could burn us, she would,” Laverne shuddered, “along with every member of ABBA if it helped her cause. Want an Oreo?”

“Will it make me as smart as you?”

“You’re asking the wrong person.”

“How so?”

“Because yesterday after reading The Guardian, for a moment I actually thought it had actually expanded my mind.”

“Why on earth would you think that?” I was intrigued.

“When I was out shopping I looked into one of those magnifying mirrors you do your eyebrows with.”

“Did you go Tesco yesterday?”

“We were low on toilet paper.”

Meandering through the aisles we found it increasingly difficult to maintain social distancing and not be overheard. While this rarely presented a problem, on this occasion it did, resulting in some blowback…

“How’s little Edward doing?” Laverne enquired after my 8 year-old cousin.

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“He’s enjoying being off school, if that’s what you mean, but it’s all about the Xbox with him. He gets up at 6am to do his schoolwork just so he can go on it right after. Don’t ask me when he last kicked a ball around.”

“A man with a plan,” she laughed. “When he visited last summer he was such a delight. I really think I got through to him.”

“He thinks you’re a dork,”

“What?”

“Don’t get me wrong; he liked you. He just thought you were a bit of a dork. Don’t take it personally.”

“But he’s autistic!” Laverne protested.

“So what? Autistic people are allowed to express opinions,” I reminded her.

“Yeah but not about normal people.”

“Don’t ever go into teaching.”

“Don’t worry.”

It was then a young woman in her twenties made her presence known. She was sporting a blue surgical mask which perfectly matched the colour of her hair, half of which had been shaved off to reveal a tattooed verse written in Arabic. Both earlobes could have been budgie swings and her t-shirt declared This Is What A Feminist Looks Like.

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“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing what you just said,” she stated, earnestly.

“Oh here we go,” I muttered.

“Excuse me,” she persisted. “EXCUSE ME!”

“Listen, Sky or Goop or whatever your name is, can I just say that the cookie aisle is our safe space so we’d like you to respect boundaries,” I lobbed one over the net.

“Until I decide to give you rights, you have none,” I was duly informed, “and I don’t much appreciate what you said about people with autism,” she turned to Laverne. “It’s a very serious disease, sometimes fatal. I know because my friend has it.”

“Let’s try this again,” Laverne began. “First of all, it isn’t a disease, it’s a neurological disorder although even that’s disputed. Secondly, it’s none of your business what we talk about.”

“Well you made it my business when your words committed an act of violence against my friend,” her voice was quickly rising.

“Well, I don’t believe that for one moment,” Laverne replied, coolly.

“I’ve taken courses in it so I think I know what I’m talking about more than you do.”

“No, you misunderstand me,” Laverne stated calmly. “What I meant was I don’t believe you have any friends.”

Laverne put her hand behind her back and counted down with her fingers: 3…2…1…

“Could somebody please call the manager? There’s a hate crime here!” the woman began yelling. “Security! Somebody help me! Help!”

“Clean up in Aisle Ten!” I joined in. “Guts being spilled everywhere!”

“So you’re what a feminist looks like,” Laverne sized her up, as members of staff started arriving on the scene. “I feel so over-dressed but who was it again who said You can never have too many accessories.”

“Coco Chanel?” I wondered.

“Hitler, when he introduced the Box Clutch Field Phone for the gal on the go.”

After staff anxiously listened to both parties’ version of events, the young woman was asked to leave the store.

“She also came within 2m of me,” she complained. “That’s attempted murder!”

“You’re clutching at straws with that one,” Laverne warned her. “Now why don’t you go find a police car to urinate on because you don’t want to see Mommy angry.”

“No, you knew more than anybody what you were doing because you’re a nurse!” she pointed at her. “They let her jump the queue outside because she’s a nurse! Call the police! She’s a killer nurse!”

That’s when we started laughing.

“Don’t touch me or I’ll sue! I’ve streaming this! And I expect a taxi home!” she continued her rant all the way to the exit.

“From obnoxious busybody to demented hysteric in less than 30 seconds,” Laverne stopped laughing. “Makes you wonder what else is out there.”

“Can you imagine ten thousand of her?”

“Gives the rest of us a bad name, that’s the problem,” she was now watching her remonstrate with shoppers in the queue like a street corner evangelist.

“Laverne, ten o’clock. Here comes Round Two,” I gave a heads-up.

Making his way towards us was a tall, young man kitted out in black leather boots, matching leather trousers, a Black Sabbath World Tour t-shirt and a full-length, black leather coat.

“Good God, we’re in the Matrix!” Laverne whispered, as he made a beeline straight for her. “If he’s packing heat I want you to take him out.”

“Hold on, Cagney, I thought you’d brought your gun,” I glanced across at her.

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“I think you dropped this,” the man now stood before her, holding out a ten pound note.

We both smelled a set-up.

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

“It was before, over by the cereal when you were talking about how much money they’d have to pay you to be in a porno.”

“And that’s what you think it would take? TEN POUNDS?” she disarmed him in an instant.

Completely taken aback by the accusation, he struggled to find words.

“N-n-no,” he stammered. “You dropped this. It’s yours. I just picked it up.”

“Son, I’m joking,” Laverne smiled. “I’m joking. Thank you for your honesty. I didn’t know what to expect when you first walked up. I’m afraid I don’t meet many gentlemen these days.”

“That’s the porn industry for you,” I shrugged. “Hi, Johnny Salami.”

“Hi,” he shifted, nervously.

“That was so nice of you to return the money but I want you keep it. After what we’ve just witnessed you’ve more than earned it,” Laverne insisted. “Please allow your good deed to be rewarded by another.”

“Um…” he was still struggling. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

“I’ll tell you what,” she was ready to deal, “you tell me what you think I should be paid to appear in a porno and if I like what I hear you can keep the tenner.”

“Would you be playing a nurse?”

“Whoa!” I hollered. “How long have you been following us?”

“That girl was pretty loud,” he gestured to the lunatic staging a one-woman protest in the car park.

“Laverne!” she extended her hand but then withdrew it just as quickly. “Sorry… I keep forgetting about that 2m rule.”

“Dale,” he extended his hand. “You really had me going there.”

“Dale?” I checked I’d heard correctly. “Dale? You walk around dressed like that and you’re called Dale?”

“Afraid so,” he shrugged.

For the next few minutes the three of us chatted and snacked on Oreos in the cookie aisle. Dale was polite and well spoken, a local lad who still lived at home but hoped to buy his own place soon. The more we got to know him, the more uneasy I felt about prejudging him.

“He’s quite good looking,” Laverne admitted. “Lovely blue eyes and that thick, black hair. Kind of Irishy. Plus, I like ‘em tall.”

“I read him completely wrong,” I reflected. “I know it was in the heat of battle but still, I should have known better.”

“Hey, you read her right which was more important so cut yourself some slack. That’s a survival skill we’re needing more and more these days.”

After making our purchases the three of us said our goodbyes in the car park.

“Dale, it was nice meeting you. All the best, buddy,” I gave him a thumbs-up.

“You too, Mr Salami,” he delivered with a straight face.

“Dale, I’m sure we’ll meet again,” Laverne told him. “Don’t know where, don’t know when but this is a small town. You run into people eventually.”

“Yeah but in your case it’s usually because of your driving,” I reminded her. “She has her own cubicle in A&E.”

“We’ll definitely be seeing each other then,” Dale brightened, pulling out his wallet.

“Why? You’re not a personal injury lawyer, are you?” Laverne asked.

Number of male U.S. nurses triple since 1970 - CBS News

“Not exactly,” Dale pulled out his work I.D. “I’m a nurse.”

Decimulled

AOL You've Got Mail Voice Man Is an Uber Driver

I have a friend, Mr Dearden

Statistics say he’s one in ten

Who lives at Number 2-2-3

Look for the house that has a tree.

His job is fixing old machines

Throughout the night, by any means

Days off, he reconditions cars

And meets his mates in select bars.

Devoted uncle, brother, son

He always calls before I’ve rung

To wish me all the very best

Before my family’s even dressed.

We’ve different circles, different pasts

And yet this quaint connection lasts

For out of nowhere he’ll appear

If only once or twice a year.

As for this figure: one in ten

I’ll need to look at it again

For should I know one million men

I could not meet as dear a friend

Stalk Options

“My stalker’s released more nude photos of me.”

“How’s your hair in them?”

“Fabulous. I’d just had it done.”

“Let’s have a look.”

Laverne slid her phone across the table.

“You owe him one,” I agreed, swiping through a considerable collection of images. “Maybe you should get him something.”

“Like what?”

“Halloween’s coming up.”

“What makes you think he’s into Halloween?”

“Call it a hunch.”

“But I wouldn’t know what to get him.”

“Does he have someone special in his life?”

“Not since he killed all the members of his church group, no.”

“Any hobbies?”

“Skulking among the shadows.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3.jpeg

“I mean, besides that.”

“Photography, I suppose.”

“Then why not get him some lens wipes?”

“I’m sure we can do better than lens wipes,” Laverne frowned.

“Alright, let’s keep going then… would it be fair to describe him as outdoorsy?

“Yes! And now that I think of it, he could do with a decent winter coat,” she suddenly brightened.

“My neighbours are in a cult if you’re looking for something with a hood.”

“I’ll get back to you on that.”

“Did I mention it’s detachable?”

“It’s just… I don’t want to cause offence.”

“To someone who’s photographing you through your fence,” I felt obliged to remind her.

“I see where you’re coming from.”

“Didn’t he once write that on a CookieGram?”

“Right before I reversed over him in the driveway.”

“Putting all that to one side, what were you doing running naked through the forest at 3am?”

“The dog let the cat out again,” Laverne chuckled. “They’re worse than kids, those two. I should have gotten a fish tank instead. Anyway, enough about me; what’s new with you?”

“I’ve decided I want to give back to society.”

“Oh, God…”

“Now, I know what you’re thinking but this time I’m serious. I’m going to make these next twelve months my My Year of Philanthropy.”

“Well, you’re on your own then because no one’s getting any of my money,” Laverne sniffed.

“I don’t need money; what I need is a project.”

“Why not just join a gym like everyone else?”

“Because until just now I wasn’t aware that I needed to.”

“I’m just thinking back to the incident in the park.”

“That dog should have been leashed.”

“John, you wrestled it for a Tootsie Roll.”

“Which I’d bought.”

“Which you’d dropped.”

“In case you’ve forgotten, there’s a recession on,” I pointed out, dignity still intact.

“Okay. Forget I even mentioned it.”

“Easier said than done.”

“It doesn’t even matter because you’re nice on the inside and that’s what counts. When I was growing up there was a fat family on our street and they were really nice too.”

“Name them. All of them.”

“The dog was called Cupcake, I remember that much.”

“Keep going.”

“My point is, they were just like everyone else.”

“Just not worth knowing,” I addressed the elephant in the room.

“You have the rear molars of a hyena. I’ve watched you crush femurs like they were toothpicks.”

“That’s an exaggeration.”

“No, it isn’t. I’ve seen cleaner kills on Animal Planet.”

“Speaking of which, did you catch it on Monday? It was about these sharks that sleep. I think they were in Mexico. I have never, ever heard of sharks sleeping before.”

“That’s because they don’t,” I was informed.

“Sharks don’t sleep?”

“Nope.”

“Then what were these ones doing?”

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“During ratings week they whack a few in the head to make them appear cute and cuddly.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m afraid not,” Laverne shook her head in dismay.

“But that’s barbaric.”

“So is seeing a camera-woman being bitten in half during a live feed. The only thing those sharks were sleeping off was a Grade 3 concussion.”

“Is that what happens on Love Island?”

“Totally different.”

“How so?”

“They’re all brain-damaged to begin with.”

“How do you know so much about concussed sharks?” I was curious.

“I was going to be a marine biologist but back then they didn’t allow women in the Marines.”

“Right…”

Local Weirdough

“I’ve gone into hiding.”

“We’re in a Pizza Hut.”

“That’s what they want you to think,” Laverne lowered her voice. “Look around… what do you see?”

“Happy fat people.”

All of them?”

“All the ones eating pizza,” I was able to confirm.

“What about him on his own over at the salad bar? What’s his story?”

“That’s a woman.”

“Okay, whatever, but ask yourself this: what type of person comes to Pizza Hut to load up on celery?”

“Maybe she’s the nurse.”

“Restaurants don’t have nurses.”

“This one should.”

“John, what am I always telling you?”

“It’s only a phase?”

“That was your mother.”

“Never make eye contact while eating a banana?”

“That was your cellmate.”

“If someone’s crying don’t ask them if it’s because of their haircut?”

 “There are two types of people in this world: those who like pizza and -”

“- nurses?”

“Communists.”

“You’re why aliens don’t talk to us.”

“The Macarena is why aliens don’t talk to us,” Laverne sniffed. “Anyway, I need to talk to you about something else.”

“Shoot.”

“How can I get myself into The Bible?”

“Oh my God…”

“Is that what I should do? Should I pray?”

“That wasn’t praying.”

“Then you, my friend, have just blasphemed,” Laverne waved a menacing finger in my direction.

“Since when have you been religious?”

“Pam’s published an eBook.”

“And…”

“It’s a collection of poems which are just dreadful.”

“So…”

“I think one’s about me.”

“Because…”

“It tells the story of a beautiful Mesopotamian goddess.”

“You’re from Wisconsin.”

“Maybe it wasn’t always called that.”

“So, you’re thinking that if you’re a goddess you should be in the same book as God.”

“I should at least be on the cover with Him,” Laverne reasoned.

“Right, here comes the waitress so would you please come out from under the table?”

“Are you ready to order?” the young woman asked.

“Have all of these animals on the menu been freshly killed?” Laverne enquired, emerging to take her seat.

“Please excuse my friend, she’s Mesopotamian,” I interjected.

“Uh huh…” the waitress was going to need a lot more.

“She was just looking for somewhere to bury the leftovers.”

“You’re not really allowed to do that,” she advised us.

“Then I’ll just have the buffet special,” Laverne set down her menu.

“Anything to drink?”

“I’ve just topped up my gourd so that won’t be necessary, thank you.”

“I’ll have the Buffet Special and a Coke,” I jumped in again.

The waitress stared at her pad, unsure of what to write.

“Two Buffets Specials and one Coke.”

“Right,” she sighed with relief. “You confused me there for a minute.”

“I apologise,” Laverne continued, “it’s just that all of this takes me back.”

“All of what?” the waitress asked.

“These ancient murals. That one, for example, is it Babylonian?”

“That’s Cher at The Oscars.”

“So it’s not a mummy then?”

“I can check, if you’d like.”

“Would you?”

“I’ll be right back with your drink so please help yourself to the buffet,” the girl managed to get out, before backing into the table behind her on her way to the kitchen.

“Mesopotamia?” Laverne laughed.

“From a mud hut to Pizza Hut within the blink of an evil eye.”

“We’ve got her on the run, poor thing.”

“Excuse me, but did you find your earring?” a dashing maître d’ approached our table.

“How did you know that’s what I was looking for?” Laverne asked, delighted.

“It’s my job to notice everything. For example, I also noticed that you didn’t order a drink. May I get you one now?”

“A gin and tonic would be lovely,” came the order.

“When I return, I’ll help you look for your earring,” he promised, before waltzing off.

“Dark and swarthy with an accent. Good thing he wasn’t selling sand because you’d have ordered it as a starter.”

“You know us Valley Girls,” Laverne sighed, “we just can’t resist a man in cuneiform.”