Supper with the family

In the novel Project X, eighth-grade misfits Edwin and Flake are considering revenge on the bullies and teachers at school. In this excerpt Edwin has supper with his mom, dad, and little brother Gus, who's four years old. Edwin tells the story:
"We got a call from the vice-principal," my dad goes.

"Mom?" Gus goes.

"What'd he want?" I go.

"He wants us all to meet," my dad goes.

"Mom?" Gus goes.

"So we'll all meet," I go.

"I thought we talked about this," my dad goes. My mom remembers the corn bread and starts cutting it up and dishing it out.

"Mom?" Gus goes.

"You have a headache again?" my dad goes.

"Yeah," I tell him. I must've been rubbing my forehead.

"You've been getting a lot of those lately," my dad goes. "Maybe we'll have to have that looked at."

"Somebody should look at something," I go.

"Mom?" Gus goes.

"Yeah, honey?" my mom goes.

His little brain locks. You can see it. He smiles at having everybody's attention, and tilts his head to get the thought to roll from one end to the other. "Don't look at me," he goes.

"We're not looking at you," my dad tells him.

"Mom?" he goes.

"Yeah, honey?" my mom says. She really is a good mother.

"Do I have to go to school tomorrow?" he goes. He calls preschool school.

I'm sadder than usual for some reason. "Now what's the matter with you?" my dad says to me. It makes me jump.

"Do I just have like a sign on my face today?" I go.

"You have a glass head," my dad says.

"Remember when we used to tell you that when you were little?" my mom asks.

"I have a glass head," Gus goes.

"You sure do," my dad tells him.

I do remember when they used to tell me that, when I was little. I remember one Easter and a guy in a rabbit suit, but I don't know why. "So what am I thinking right now?" I ask them.

"What're you thinking right now," my dad says, giving it some thought. "You're thinking, 'Why don't they leave me alone?'" Gus takes a bite of mashed potatoes and holds his mouth open so I can see. "That's it, isn't it?" my dad goes.

"No," I go.

"That was it," he goes.

"What am I thinking now?" I go. I think: Kalashnikov.

"You're thinking, 'Why do I have to eat with them?'" my mom goes.

I laugh, and it cheers her up, but it makes me sadder than ever. Gus is still smiling. I'm pretty sure the world would be a better place if I was dead.

"Glass head," my mom goes.

"I don't know how you guys do it," I finally go.

-- from Project X by Jim Shepard

I am going to hell

I'm standing in the grocery store in the cookie aisle thinking about Olivia Newton-John rubbing her breasts. The last time I saw a picture of Olivia Newton-John was around the time of the "Physical" video in 1982. I think the video included depictions of romping and perhaps some frolicking.

I had been looking for cookies and the usual music had been tootling from the grocery store speakers overhead. The music was interrupted by a public-service message from Olivia Newton-John, telling all us shoppers how important it is to examine yourself for breast cancer, which she did, she discovered a lump, she got an operation and chemotherapy, and now she's better.

The music resumes its plinkity-plunk. I snap out of my little vision and see all those cookies in front of me again. I can't make up my mind.

There's no stone for "fiscal responsibility"

A relative works at a hospital that had layoffs earlier this year, forcing the remaining staff to work more overtime. At the same time, the institution spent $50,000 to install giant boulders around the hospital grounds. Each boulder is engraved with a word like "Courage" or "Integrity."

Book excerpt

In a Charles Portis novel, a cantankerous woman named "Meemaw" Symes quizzes a visitor.
"Have you read the Bible?"

"I've read some of it."

"Do you go through your Bible looking for discrepancies?"

"No, ma'am."

"That's not the way to read it. I have a little test I like to give to people like you who claim to be Bible scholars. Do you mind taking a little test for me?"

"Is it a written test?"

"No, it's just one question."

"I don't mind taking your test, Meemaw, but there is a misunderstanding here. You asked me if I had read the Bible and I said I had read some of it. I did not say I was a Bible scholar."

"We'll soon know, one way or the other. All right, the wedding feast at Cana. John 2. Jesus turned six pots of water into six pots of so-called wine. His first miracle. His mother was there. Now do you believe that was alcoholic wine in those pots or unfermented grape juice?"

"What does the Bible say?"

Melba said, "The Bible just says wine. It says good wine."

"Then that's what I say. I say wine."

Mrs. Symes said, "It's your notion then that Jesus was a bootlegger?"

"No, it's not."

"He was no more a bootlegger than I am. That so-called wine was nothing more than fresh and wholesome grape juice. The word is translated wrong."

From the book The Dog of the South.

Living in the moment

I have to admit I'm not thinking things through when I drink a glass of water, take the glass to the kitchen sink, and rinse it out before setting it aside.


A consultant on consumer products speaks about the taste of specific beverages:
"The thing about Coke and Pepsi is that they are absolutely gorgeous," Judy Heylmun, a vice-president of Sensory Spectrum, Inc., in Chatham, New Jersey says. "They have beautiful notes -- all flavors are in balance. It's very hard to do that well. Usually, when you taste a store cola it's" -- and here she made a series of pik! pik! pik! sounds -- "all the notes are kind of spiky, and usually the citrus is the first thing to spike out. And then the cinnamon. Citrus and brown spice notes are top notes and very volatile, as opposed to vanilla, which is very dark and deep. A really cheap store brand will have a big, fat cinnamon note sitting on top of everything."

From Malcolm Gladwell's article "The Ketchup Conundrum" in the Sep. 6, 2004 New Yorker.

Fund raising

Dear Jennifer,
If you had told me that your walking marathon in Boston was going to raise money for a cancer foundation, I never would've suggested that you smoke during the marathon as a way to relieve stress. I am so embarrassed.

I stand by the idea that these kinds of marathons would draw more donations if they had the same rules as roller derby. In any event, you could still wear a helmet to stand out from the crowd. Good luck Sunday!

Traffic report

Morning radio host: And now here's Lyle Brown with the traffic report.

Lyle Brown: Thanks Amy, we see the expressways are veritable silver streams of automotive kineticism this morning.

Every point on the compass is giving and receiving cars in a perpetual metallic gush of omnidirectional activity.

Just after rosy-fingered dawn, the sun is glinting a brilliant orange that bounces off a million sharp slices of windshield, reflecting white waves of ghostly glow that keep a perfect parallel pace with the restless flux of the hustling axles.

Perhaps they are all traveling not to go anywhere, but to travel for travel's sake, if I may paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson.

This report is sponsored by Home Depot; next traffic report in ten minutes.

Morning radio host: Lyle, what's the travel time from O'Hare to downtown?

Lyle Brown: It's 35 minutes from O'Hare to downtown, with a slowdown near the Edens merge.

Meeting your public

Imagine you're the golden retriever seen in my neighborhood, taking a morning walk with your owner. You're outside not only for social reasons, but to eat the treats that are thoughtfully left out on the sidewalk for you. You've had some good chewy pizza crusts, met some nice people, and exchanged greetings with some doggy friends also out on this sunny morning. After you've relieved yourself in the park and your owner has disposed of the evidence, it's time to head home.

You're walking toward a sidewalk cafe; people are seated outside having coffee. Among those people there's a couple with a baby in a highchair. As you approach, the baby has her back to you. Look! She's holding some Cheerios in her left hand, palm up, right at your eye level. How considerate! You slurp up the Cheerios in one motion. The baby looks at her empty hand and starts to cry. Your owner apologizes for some reason, but you sit down to wait for more Cheerios. Eventually you get up to follow your owner home, if only to get away from the baby, who must be bipolar to switch moods so quickly.

Ultimate Frisbee and alcohol

...don't mix, a co-worker reports this week.

What's a girl to do?

My friend works at a small business where the boss was dating an exotic dancer. The boss would meet his girlfriend for lunch at noon, and he'd come straight back to the office by 3 pm. The girlfriend confided that she was looking for a new career, so the boss hired her at his place of business. After a few weeks it became obvious that the girlfriend wasn't working out at the office and she was fired. In fairness to her, the office was all Macintosh computers and maybe she was a PC gal.

The big question, of course, is what should any exotic dancer do if she wants a different job someday?

1. Stick with welding in a steel mill, like Jennifer Beals might've done in Flashdance.
2. Counsel the Bush daughters on how to live with dignity.
3. Ken Lay (of Enron) and his wife Linda used to be worth $400 million; now they're worth $20 million. (Link) Help them in their fight for liquidity.

After the big speech

After leaving the stage of the Republican National Convention Thursday night, President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney joined supporters in a special reception room reserved within Madison Square Garden. At a table of refreshments, the president picked up a soft drink and the vice-president picked up a bottle of a familiar brand of red wine. Mr. Cheney unscrewed the bottle's metal cap and, by reflex, checked the underside of the cap; it read, "Sorry, you are not a winner." Mr. Cheney grinned and showed it to Mr. Bush who chuckled and said, "I think the good people at Laramie County Wineries are sorely mistaken, wouldn't you say, Dick?" Mr. Cheney said, "Right you are, Mr. President, right you are."