Ante Establishment

Randomly flicking through the TV channels I happened upon a show called Child Genius, a programme whose aim is to discover which children in Britain have never been allowed to climb a tree, drink Fanta and make friends their own age. Contestants range in age from 8 – 12 in Earth years and from what I gather there are only two eligibility requirements: they must dress like Puritans and manage their own hedge fund. As for the parents, alas, there are no rules otherwise these same kids would be attending birthday parties and dancing to K-pop.

One distinctive family comprised Calliope (the child genius), Octavia (her overbearing mother), Peregrine (her hipster father) and 4 year-old twin brothers, as yet unnamed.

“We’re waiting for a Labour government first because then the whole ordeal will be less traumatic for them,” Peregrine explained.

“Watch out for the fat one – he’s a biter. He ate three of the gerbils in my control group,” Calliope warned. “Octavia, it’s 3 o’clock.”

Interviewer: What happens at 3 o’clock?

“I give Calliope her feed.”

Interviewer: Her what?

“She’s still on breast milk,” Octavia stated matter-of-factly, now fumbling underneath her burka. “Excuse me for a minute. I’m afraid these are more form over function.”

Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that, actually. Isn’t that a Peperami in your bag?

“Oh, I’m not Muslim,” she grimaced. “I don’t even believe in God. It’s more of a statement.”

Interviewer: Got it, but getting back to the feed: are you telling us that Calliope has lived on nothing but breast milk since she was born?

“Oh, no. I add my own juices to it as well.”

[viewers stopped eating at this point]

Interviewer: Please, God, tell me we’re talking about lemon grass.

“I have a juicer for vegetables and fruit,” Octavia confirmed, “but I also have all their placentas in the freez-“”

It was a shame really because Calliope seemed like a nice kid who wasn’t bothered whether or not she won Child Genius. Octavia, however, was on a mission. After years of subjecting her first born to stem cell shakes and hyperbaric chambers, this TV programme would vindicate her once and for all. After all, it wasn’t about the children; she was the true genius and, by her own calculations, Calliope only needed to make it to Week 4 before TV producers and the viewing public realized this. After that it would be book deals, speaking tours and Oprah.

Interviewer: Calliope, do you have any regrets about coming onto the progreamme? Did you ask to come on it?

“To be honest, I’d rather be doing something else,” she wrinkled her nose.

Interviewer: Playing with your gerbils?

“Gambling online. Every minute I’m in this stupid studio I’m losing money.”

Interviewer: I beg your pardon?

“My game’s Poker. Last night I was about to beat the bubble until my Aces got cracked. I ended up folding faster than Superman on wash day. I looked like a total fish,” she rolled her eyes.

Interviewer: Uh, okay. So you won’t be going to Oxford then?

“Oh, I’ll be going to Oxford,” she arched an eyebrow, “but it won’t be Flash Cards I’ll be playing with, if you catch my drift.”

Interviewer: How will you balance gambling with your studies? And is it even legal? You’re too young to gamble, aren’t you?

Calliope discreetly opened her Frozen II pencil case to reveal a wad of crisp one-hundred dollar bills. Drawing one out, she folded it expertly with one hand until she’d fashioned a small fish, which she handed to me.

“Why don’t you go buy yourself something pretty and leave the legal stuff to me? After all, who’s the genius here?” she asked, morphing from Girl Guide to Al Capone before my eyes.

Interviewer: What about your mother’s plans for you?

“Octavia’s seeking validation but it can’t come through me. Her insecurities stem from a lifetime’s inability to rise above her own mediocrity. The whole breastfeeding thing’s a manifestation of it: she believes she’s passing on matriarchal wisdom when she pumps that junk which, for the record, I pour straight down the drain. I prefer a single malt – it keeps me clear-headed.”

Interviewer: Won’t she be disappointed though?

“When isn’t she? Look, do you want me to wrap this up nice and neatly for your viewers at home? Give them my take on life?”

Interviewer: Please, do.

“Okay, here we go… in life, you need to play the hand you’re dealt. If you don’t like the dealer, switch tables and if you don’t like the odds, switch games. Then again…” she said coyly, throwing a piece of popcorn into the air and catching it in her mouth, “I’m just a kid, so what do I know?”

Same Difference

Dictionary | Definition of Dictionary by Merriam-Webster

In this age of doublespeak, I’ve come up with alternative definitions for the following:

burger: what a tiger says when it’s cold

understandable: what a bull whisperer is paid to do

dresser: a personal valet’s job

earring: tinnitus

tumour: ordering another round for you and a mate

former: ordering a round of doubles for you and a mate

forests: bracelets

tracking: Usain Bolt

parking: Tiger Woods

blinking: Kanye West

bonking: Hugh Hefner

mismanagement: the yellow Tic Tac

permits: gloves for stroking your cat

whisky: very much like a whisk

fetish: not unlike a fet

sofa: up until now

mastered: everyone taking a dump at the same time

Hebrew: Jewish beer

ornate: have you considered Nate?

window: what gamblers hope to do

papal: directions for using a slot machine

president: the resulting damage when a gift is dropped

icon: mirage

painting: what you see a doctor for in Jamaica

terrier: more like Terry than Terry

school: fine by me

Romania: the latest rowing craze

Slovak: Vak with a low IQ

Budapest: Siddhartha Gautama’s interminable chanting

miming: in reply to Which of your vases do you treasure most?

presume: before the jet engine

confound: the recapture of an escaped convict

subdued: cool underwater mariner

analogue: proctologist’s casebook

duplicity: New York, New York

catholic: person with an abnormal dependence on cats

popsicle: father’s scythe

abundance: twerking

distant: scorned sister of your father

tantric: skin bronzer

carnation: USA

statutory: bust of Winston Churchill

psychopath: trail for the insane

francophone: telecommunication handset for Spanish generals

bisect: niche cult for those who swing both ways

comradeship: Potemkin

mango: “I believe the gentleman’s leaving”

sarcasm: existential void that existed between Nikolai II and his people

oxymoron: air-head

sensible: have Cybill go

freedom: what Lincoln did

mannequin: psychotic relatives

extrovert: former trovert

anti-matter: regarding your uncle’s wife

fireplace: the boss’s office

boomerang: a Hallowe’en dessert

numismatist: the former mismatist’s replacement

hot tub: a sexy overweight person

independent: a locally crafted necklace often sold at music festivals

mariner: what a hillbilly will be doing once the farmer learns his daughter’s expecting

naughty: what your grandmother keeps in the flask hidden beneath her knitting

barbecue: the nod for Ken to make his move

Constantinople: the inability to abide a certain colourful gemstone

Don’t Stand So Close To Me

The Mean Old Lady!!! Storytime - YouTube

The new teacher entered the classroom and took her seat, greeting no one. Perpetua Tightwaters was having a bad day but her deportment made it impossible for the students to tell because she held only one expression in her armoury: disapproval. A fierce-looking woman with grey-blue eyes which devoured their prey whole, she could scan an entire school assembly at a glance over horn-rimmed glasses designed to gore enemies at close range. Thick, silvery hair which still held its lustre was meticulously hoovered up into a tidy bun, giving her the air of a grande dame of the Bolshoi who had long since exited the stage, but not the company. A smooth complexion required only a light touch from a modest palate; it was only her mauve lipstick which strayed into the adventurous, considered redundant by many because her lips were permanently pursed until they parted to issue a summons, reprimand or decree.

teacher old - Imgflip

Perpetua Tightwaters loved crosswords, hated skateboarders, still bought her meat from the local butcher, donated to the Red Cross by direct debit, considered pet ownership overrated, knew her brother-in-law had a drinking problem before he did and stopped listening to Engelbert Humperdinck the day the singer made a joke about the Queen Mother during a live interview on Radio 4.

During the montage on the first day of school, Cady is yelled at ...

Alert and self-assured, she made few demands of others and expected the same courtesy in return, preferring discretion at all costs. During her morning commute into the city, Perpetua remained vigilant lest she should drop her guard for even a moment and, in doing so, make eye contact with a fellow commuter just bursting to talk about his gifted toddler’s progress at Junior Montessori. She had nothing against the public, she simply regarded them much as she did junior royals: odd-jobbers whose pivotal role might one day involve organ donation. In an increasingly unrecognisable world where meat was murder, Drag Queen Storytime had replaced Show & Tell and a pope had wavered ever so slightly on the question of married clergy, Perpetua Tightwaters chose to anchor herself in work, God and country for everyone’s sake.

Let's allow Texas teachers to use deadly force against students ...

In her opinion, social distancing wasn’t overkill.

It was overdue.

Egg Head

Image result for ostrich face

While teaching a class of 12 year olds, one student asked about the origins of life.

[For the record, she was supposed to be conjugating the present tense of avoir]

“Can you narrow it down a bit for me?”

“Well, something had to start something so what started everything?” Lucy wondered.

“It’s a kind of Chicken & Egg Theory question, that one.”

“What do you mean, sir?” she persisted.

“Whenever we contemplate the origin of anything we often ask Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Some questions we just can’t answer. Well, not yet anyway but I think we’re getting closer.”

Lucy stared at nothing in particular but I could see her wheels were turning.

“And now I’ve confused you,” I laughed.

“Only because you’re confused, sir,” she stated, as respectfully as possible. “The answer to the Chicken & Egg Theory is easy. Chickens are birds. Birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs didn’t give birth to live young but laid eggs, therefore the eggs some dinosaurs laid eventually evolved into chickens through a process called speciation.

Wow.

A colleague once told me, “The best thing about being a teacher is that we are, indeed, the smartest people in the room.”

Some days I’m not so sure.

I Noah Guy…

Image result for hipster nativity

In the spirit of the season, I drove an elderly neighbour to mass this morning after she knocked on my door claiming to need a lift due to the icy weather. The Church of St Mary Magdalene (didn’t get that memo) is a local Catholic landmark conspicuously situated between the Women’s Health Centre and Darth Vaper’s E-Cig Emporium about a mile from where I live. As we pulled up to the entrance Mrs Malarkey gently enquired, “Are you coming in? You can send a calendar back home to your mother. I’m sure she’d love hearing what’s been going in the parish.”

The old clam had me. At 85 she didn’t miss a trick and knew I hadn’t been to mass since my parents’ last visit.

“Of course,” I stated coolly, looking her straight in the eye. “It’s Christmas, isn’t it? Now, are you going to be alright managing those steps while I park the car?”

“I’ll just wait for you here,” she parried, then thrust, “and it’s not Christmas. It’s only the Fourth Sunday of Advent.”

“I know it’s still Advent. Hey, it looks like they’ve put down some salt,” I pressed on. “Try the steps and see how you go.”

“No, I’ll wait for you, then we can go in together.”

Game on.

Entering the church brought back a load of memories. I’d been an altar boy right through high school and was much more sanguine about the role the Church might play in later life. Uncompromising and unafraid to challenge the moral turpitude swirling all about me, from an early age I had developed a low tolerance to riff raff. After all, I’d been named after Pope John XXIII and unlike a lot of 12 year olds, had written my own Encyclical:

  1. When you overhear your parents choosing your high school, ask them to aim higher than one simply called St Richard’s or St Agatha’s, guiding them instead towards spiritual heavyweights like Our Lady of the Blessed Annunciation or St Anthony and the Holy Infant. This will disarm any cynics questioning the fact your parents stopped attending mass years ago.
  2. When adults catch the name of your school across your hockey jacket and ask what a Blessed Annunciation is, let out an audible sigh and look upon their children with pity. As you walk away rolling your eyes, ponder the fact they can read at all.
  3. Wonder why all the nuns at school have names beginning with Mary and ending with a male name, such as Sister Mary Edward. Believe your older sister when she tells you they all used to be men until God changed them into nuns as punishment for a crime only the Pope knows about.
  4. Think it a shame that priests can only wear black because it shows up dandruff and means they can never shop at The Gap.
  5. When a pretty young nun starts teaching at your school, tell your mother that if you were older and she lived next door, you’d become a priest and marry her.
  6. When a cool young priest starts teaching at your school, agree with your friends that if he grew his hair longer and learned how to play the electric guitar he’d be the most famous priest ever.
  7. When your father informs you that he saw your parish priest swimming lengths at his health club, ask yourself if priests are permitted such indulgences, then check if his bathing suit was black.
  8. When your teacher warns that thinking impure thoughts during mass will get you an extra year in purgatory, decide it’s worth it.
  9. Ask your RE teacher if Eve really looked like the woman in the Pantene Shampoo commercial.
  10. Ask if Jonah crawled out of the whale’s spout or got pooped out.
  11. Ask if, after turning water into wine at the wedding in Canaan, Jesus then made chocolate milk for the children.
  12. Ask your parents a million times if you can go to midnight mass this year because you’re now an adult. Reassure them that you no longer believe in Santa, elves and reindeer, explaining that you only wish to fulfill a religious obligation. Don’t tell them your older sister reliably informed you that this is the mass in which God appears.
  13. Tell all your friends you were allowed to go to midnight mass. When you’re sure none of them attended the service, lower your voice and inform them that God appeared. When they inevitably ask you what He looked like, whisper that you’re not allowed to tell.
  14. Turn to your Dad during midnight mass and insist you just heard sleigh bells outside. When he chides you, wonder how he can seriously expect an 8 year old to think about God and not presents on Christmas Eve. Hope that Rudolph drops a big steamy one on his new Ford Bronco.
  15. Point out your neighbours during mass and say out loud, “Hey, Mom… you’re right! The Espositos only DO go to mass at Christmas and Easter!” Then report back each time they sit down when they’re supposed to kneel.