Bush Questions

President Bush was visiting an elementary school and gave a short speech after which he asked whether there were any questions. Little Billy’s hand shot up. “Yes,” said the President, “what is your questions?”

Billy said, “I have ten questions, Mister President. First, where are all the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that posed an imminent threat? Second, what do you think it does to American credibility abroad when you claim not to be bound to an international treaty on reducing polution because it was agreed to by another President? Third, in your 2002 address to the nation, you got a lot of applause by saying you’d increase Americorp by 50%. Is it not true that, in fact, you’ve done nothing of the kind and instead decreased the program significantly? Fourth, although you spend a lot of money in the “war on drugs”, hasn’t it been shown time and again that these policies of trying to stem the supply is costly, ineffective, and leads to a massive build up of the prison population as well as destabilizing the governments of several countries? Fifth, has it not also been shown, conversely, that the cost-effective way to combat drugs is through education and providing programs so that kids have reasonable alternatives? Sixth, isn’t the main flaw in the thinking of people on drugs that they are trading a short term fix that feels good for their own long term destruction? But isn’t that precisely the same flaw in thinking that underlies your own energy policy by focusing on increased use of non-renewable resources while doing nothing to incent people to reduce, re-use, and recycle? Seventh, while we’re on the subject of oil, in your campaign speeches you always portrayed yourself as a successful oil man. Isn’t the real truth that the only reason you got anywhere in the oil business was because of your Dad’s influence and that the companies you ran never were financially successful for the people who invested in them, while you, like your buddies at Enron, made out like a bandit? Eighth, speaking of your Dad’s influence, isn’t that the only reason you got into and got through college; that someone with less influential parents and an equal record of bad grades and disciplinary action would have been expelled? Ninth, speaking of your Dad’s influence, isn’t it also true that you and several other rich oil sons were put in a special military unit with “gentleman’s agreements” up and down the line that you boys would never see combat? Tenth, why are you returning to the “Reganomics trickle-down” theory of economics when those policies increased the deficit, did virtually nothing to stimulate the economy in real dollars, and widened the gaps between rich and poor?”

President Bush took a long hard look at the boy, smiled, and waved his hands. “What I am saying is that --- whether I did drugs or not --- and that is not the question --- that we have to set an example here and so I am not doing drugs and I don’t believe in doing drugs and I hope none of you do drugs --- and I am not saying I did or I didn’t. I am saying that drugs are bad. Period. I hope that answers your questions. Oh, and here’s a one way ticket to a secluded Cuban beach.”

Interview on David Letterman

David Letterman: I’d like you to welcome our next guest, Ellie, the Elephant. (Applause).

DL: Welcome. Welcome. It’s not often we have talking Elephants on the show. I’m surprised you’re not at the Republican convention.

Elephant: Exactly. I should be. But I’ve been let go.

DL: Let go!? Why?

E: The Bush Administration said it was time to choose a mascot more in keeping with the spirit of the times.

DL: And so what is the new GOP mascot going to be?

E: The Wooly Mammoth.

DL: But --- ? I thought they were extinct.

E: Yes. They are actually. But explorers found two partially preserved carcasses frozen in Greenland. So, they are being shipped to the convention for inspiration instead of me. Can you believe it?

DL: You’ve been the GOP mascot now for so long.

E: To tell you the truth, Dave, I probably would have had to quit soon anyway. I mean, a trillion dollar deficit? Just how conservative is that? Angering the international community? Is that conservative? Going to war on flimsy excuses. In what way is that conservative? George just isn’t like he used to be.

DL: You knew George Bush personally.

E: We fought in Viet Nam together.

DL: What? That’s an amazing revelation! I didn’t know George Bush fought in the Viet Nam war.

E: No, many people don’t.

DL: Where did you see action?

E: Action? Oh, bars mostly.

DL: Bars? I mean what part of Viet Nam did you and Bush fight in?

E: Not actually within the borders of Viet Nam. When I say we fought in the Viet Nam war, I mean we were just outside. Across the border.

DL: Well, where?

E: That might still be classified. It isn’t. But it might be.

DL: So you were in … Cambodia?

E: We were at an undisclosed location just across the water from Viet Nam.

DL: Can you say what body of water?

E: The Pacific Ocean.

DL: Well, then you were actually in the United States during the Viet Nam war?

E: That’s a somewhat unfair summary. I was in Air Force ROTC for a year. And George was in the Air National Guard. Somewhere. Sometimes. And, it was during those times that he received his wounds.

DL: George Bush was wounded during military service?

E: Yes, indeed, and at Yale.

DL: So Bush was wounded on more than one occasion?

E: Yes, and that’s another thing that burns me up. People make such a big deal out of Kerry’s three purple hearts which even he admits were only for molten shrapnel flying into his body. Superficial wounds. George Bush’s were much deeper.

DL: What were his wounds then?

E: Do you know what it’s like growing up, or, let’s say growing older anyway, with your father being President of the United States? Do you have any idea how much pressure that is?

DL: No, can’t say I do.

E: No, you don’t. We can only guess how deeply Bush was wounded when it turned out that he was such a failure in pretty much everything he did in his early years. He was lousy at school and worse in the oil business. But did he let that stop him? No, he used the only assets he had and made the most with them.

DL: What assets were those?

E: His father’s wealth and position and George’s own talent to tell very large lies with extreme conviction and without snickering on camera. And, now look. He has catapulted himself into the White House. Well, at least for now, it’s called that.

DL: What do you mean, for now?

E: Oh, George has a few more changes in mind. You know, getting rid of the Constitution is just one brick in the wall. The White House sounds all too quaint a place for the Leader of the Free World, don’t you think?

DL: And it should be called…what exactly?

E: I’ve been let go, as I said, so I don’t know what the final out come will be. There was a lot of support for “The Royal Palace.” For awhile, support was growing for “Garden of the Gods” although that had a pluralistic ring, possibly even smacking of polytheism so I suspect they will simply go with “God’s Throne” in the end.

DL: “God’s Throne.” Sounds a bit pretentious somehow.

E: Not at all. George Bush knows exactly what God wants at all times. That’s why you’ll be seeing a slightly different flag soon as well.

DL: The Administration is going to redesign the flag. I don’t believe that.

E: Done deal. Red, White and Blue? What does that have to do with what’s happening in the world today?

DL: And instead, we’ll see what?

E: Step one is to replace those white stripes with black ones. Black for oil of course. Step two will be to replace the red stripes with black ones. Black for oil of course.

DL: That would look kind of dismal.

E: Exactly! Public outcry for more color will arise and the Administration will respond. By changing all the black to green. That way no-one can accuse them of being environmentally insensitive even as they dismantle the EPA and gut the Superfund and throw out the Kyoto accord. Brilliant, eh?

DL: So, let me get this straight. The flag will be solid green with a blue square and still have fifty stars?

E: Yes. Exactly. Except the stars will be more crescent moon shaped. And, each star will have the name of one of the fifty people in America who have actually benefited from Bush’s tax cuts.

DL: I see. Well, that will be quite a change.

E: Yes. Eventually, the plan is to include a white sword to remind the people of the world that when it comes to invasion, any excuse will do and they might be next. Then, once and for all, we can get rid of this quaint notion of the separation of Church and State by including a religious inscription right on the flag itself.

DL: Really? The Administration is going to put a quote from the Bible on the American Flag? Can they get away with that?

E: Oh, Dave, you’re so cute. They can get away with telling any lie they want to the American public. They can get away with stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. They can get away with saying evolution and global warming are just theories. But, by the way, I didn’t use the word “Bible.” I said there would be a religious inscription on the flag.

DL: Well, if not from the Bible, what would it be from?

E: Think about it.

Georgie Porgie

“Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie, kissed the girls and made them cry!”

Kindergartner George hated that, vowed someday, he would avenge himself. George’s Dad was a local politician and while some of George’s acquantances moved away, George stayed in the same small neighborhood, eventually inheriting his father’s house and eventually getting elected to the same local politician’s job. George smiled, shook hands, made speeches.

Beneath, he kept a long vigil.

He volunteered to chaffeur a busload of local business and civic leaders to the State Fair. Unfortunately, George’s last “one for the road” pickled his brain. On a tipsy mountain curve, tires skidded on the gravel, spun and careened part-way down a steep embankment, smacked against a tree throwing George into a bush. The bus rebounded; slid further toward the cliff-face; stuck precariously between two small birches.

George, miraculously unhurt, clambered down the embankment to the place where the slightest touch would doom his townsfolk to crashing fiery death. George heard the pleas of those trapped within. George smiled. “I’ll be glad to help you out. First, a few deals.”

Over the next few hours, George extracted promises, secrets, Personal Identification Numbers, and passwords from the trapped and frantic passengers. “Okay folks. Thanks for the info. Bye bye.” George wedged himself between the bus and tree and pushed hard. The tree, leaned only slightly -- but far enough to release the bus. George was ecstatic; too ecstatic, apparently, to notice that his foot had become stuck in the bumper.

Fred's Smoke Out

Years later, Fred discovered that Zack had spent most of his adult life in jail. After high school graduation, he'd never actually seen Zack; snippets of rumor circled around various reunions. Zack involved with drugs. Zack in prison. Zack dead from some rare wasting disease. Pam had brought a picture.

That image of Zack, Auschwitz skinny, eyes hollow, begging for the injection --- that image could never find a home in the photo album of Fred's mind. It floated and tumbled above the album, like a shred of newspaper whirling in an alleyway, never escaping and never settling.

The image wouldn't settle onto a cozy page of personal history because to Fred, Zack would always be the tough one, the one with iron muscles, all-district fullback. Even in sixth grade, while Fred and his friends had struggled for months with curls and presses to build their arms from 10 inch to 11 inches, Zack, with apparently no training at all, sprouted 14 inch biceps. The other thing about Zack was this. All the boys hated school, despised the teachers, But while Fred and the others hid behind downcast eyes, shuffling feet, and "Yes, Ma'am"s, Zack showed in word and deed, his open disdain.

So, it was no surprise that when Zack offered to share a cigarette in the copse of hawthorn trees down behind the backstop, Fred felt honored. That honor crinkled up in humiliation with that first coughing fit. The laughter of the boys and of Zack rang in Fred's scarlet ears. But he vowed to conquer this enemy, tobacco. He vowed that next time, he'd be able to inhale and stream the blue smoke coolly out his nostrils like a dragon.

And, Fred succeeded. After weeks of practice, he won. And that little nod from Zack, that quick approving look seemed well worth the price. And the first price was that Miss Decker had kicked him out of sixth period for smoking. Fred was astonished that she could somehow tell. No-one snitched on him and he was even more sure that Miss Decker would never venture out to the wild lands that lay behind the backstop. At lunchtime, if she ventured out of the building, she stood chatting with another teacher, back to the wall, staring out at the playgrounds but never entering that child-ridden land.

And, years later, E.E. in hand, when Fred landed his first engineering job with Boeing, he thought back to Zack as he joined his colleagues for a smoke. Back then, all the guys smoked and drank black coffee. It was a team sport, a sport that didn't put numbers on the scoreboard, but one that put huge magic, metal flying machines into the air.

Fred couldn't really pinpoint when smoking had gone out of favor. He did clearly recall the day Boeing had made smoking an outdoor activity. It was an annoyance, but also a nice break. Plenty of good ideas got exchanged. Only recently, had Fred found himself puffing alone under the steel Seattle skies.

Fred turned his head and stared out the window. The words of the billboard were hard to read through the slats of the venetian blinds, but he knew them by heart. Right below the Marlboro Man, in tiny black letters, he could make out the warning from the Surgeon General of the United States.

Those hot red flames of pain rolled up Fred's insides yet again. "Where is the damned nurse!" He pressed the little red button again, harder, again and again, in time to that high school football chant. "Push 'em back, push 'em back, harder, harder!"

"Nurse!" Fred said aloud between clenched teeth. In the doorway, as if on command, the bleak, plain head of a matronly woman popped in. "Yes, Mr. Austin? What's up?"

"Time for another morphine patch! That's what's up. Where have you been?"

The matronly woman, looking uncannily like Miss Decker, glanced down at her watch. "Not for another three hours, Mr. Austin. Try counting backwards by threes."

"Bitch," said Fred. "Damn." The red flames now crept outward and took on sharp blue edges.

When he had first heard the dreaded "C word", Fred's first thought, once the buzzing stopped and he could swallow again, was this: Well, at least, now, Tom and Ann will quit.

But his children had not quit.

Nor, had they visited lately. But they needed to visit soon. Fred wanted to explain about Zack. Zack's approval didn't matter. Life mattered. The flames licked at the base of his neck, into his face. Fred felt as though little fuzzy insects were crawling through his body, burrowing into his skin, his insides, his teeth. How can they burrow in my teeth, he wondered. Where are those damned kids? I have to tell them about Zack. He's already dead. What difference did 14 inch biceps make?

Fred stared down at his own arms, a stranger's arms, lying there in his checkered hospital gown. Even in sixth grade, even before pumping iron till white calluses sprouted on all his finger joints, even then, his arms hadn't been this skinny.

Fred began to mutter to himself. "God, I take it back. All the cigarettes. I take them all back. Just make her bring the morphine. Something. I need to see my kids. I need to explain. About Zack. Stupid, stupid, kids. Don't they see what it does? God, I take it back, okay?"

Somewhere, from down the hall, someone mumbled. Was that Tom's voice? No. Just the news announcer. "Philip Morris announced record profits this quarter..." and the voice faded again. Fred supposed that somewhere out there, millionaires were drinking champagne from crystal glasses, millionaires who could get morphine whenever they needed it, whose kids visited them, and who could get morphine whenever, morphine, on demand. "Nurse! It's Zack's fault! Bring me my new patch!"

Fred listened for Miss Decker's high heels scuttering on linoleum but the only sound was the high pitched screech of insects chewing in glee.

The Shadow People

Hiroshi, sixty-one and cancer-eaten, hunched on cold steel table while mumbling technicians prepared cobalt treatment. Glare of overhead bulbs cast shadows on pale green floor. Hiroshi stared into shadow and moved his left arm-stump, saw truncated shape move. By now, Hiroshi was used to looking in mirrors. But shadows -- shadows still surprised him. He stared unblinking into that shadow and remembered.

He had been eight then, wandering wide-eyed among ruins searching for his parents. They had gone into City -- or, what used to be City -- and they had forbidden him to accompany.

Hiroshi thought he knew path to City but now there was no City. Where had City gone? Where were honorable parents?

He had awakened to great light -- thousand slashes of lightening had licked his house at once. He waited for thunder. Before thunder came flames. His house had flashed in an instant as though itself a match. Hiroshi found himself burned, homeless. He hoped his parents wouldn't blame him.

But where were parents? Only trickle of misshapen people, burned and bleeding, wandered past him, wailing into hills, wailing of War. What, why is War?

The Great Temple? A pile of rubble. And one stick of concrete wall. And here -- Hiroshi found the Shadow People.

Among them, etched into the wall, he found the unmistakable silhouette of his Mother and Father. A great magic had turned them into Shadow People. The same magic seeded the Death Tree that grew within Hiroshi.

Why is War?

The Teeth of The Shark

The gaping, hungry maw of a Great White Shark circling beneath unseen. Wolves staring in the snowy woods. Roaring forest fire burning tree and bush and flesh as we run amok with blind panic. Would we not protect our children from these if we could?

I fear for our children. And our children's children. But not for Great White Sharks, or wolves, or forest fires or Grizzly Bears.

High in the thin invisible air, higher than the condor -- deep, deep in the dark underground rivers of the world and in the crushing ocean depths, there lurks a monster more terrible than these by far.

Its tiny stinging tendrils reach out from the ocean, the sky, the forests. They are ugly and they reek though often they snake out unseen to claim their victims.

Each year the monster grows and claims more victims, condemning them to death -- not the swift but terrible death of the Grizzly's jaws -- but to the slow, grey, agonizing and painful cancer of rotting disease.

And yet, we do not choose to kill the monster. Instead, we feed this monster. We fool ourselves that we make friends with it. In truth, we simply bribe it. In our greed, we give the monster what it wants today so that tomorrow it may eat more of our children and our children's children.

Oh, yes. I fear. I fear for our children. Ugly, fetid, foul, poisonous tenacles of pollution encircle our children and they are closing in.

Process Re-engineering Moves to Baseball

-- truthtable@aol.com

In a surprise move today, the take-0ver executive known affectionately as B. S. announced a take-over of the New York Yankees.


B.S.: "The Yankees are facing new competitive pressures, and we will be bringing our management skills to the team to help them deal with those pressures and increase shareholder value while maintaining player morale and improving customer service."

Reporter: "So, what exactly will you be doing?"

B.S.: "First, we brought in an outside Management Consulting Firm. Just between you and me, we paid them big bucks! But it was worth it."

Reporter:"Worth it how? What will you be doing?"

B.S.:"Well, for starters, we're downsizing the on-the-field team from nine to six players."

Reporter:"Uh....did these management consultants actually know how to play baseball?"

B.S."Probably. Maybe. I don't really know. But that's not the point. They are top-notch accountants. We plan to increase our operating efficiency 33%."

Reporter:"Fascinating. Any other plans."

B.S.:"We have to be willing to change, you know, flow with the times. Once, spring training made sense. But in today's highly competitive economy, we won't be able to afford frills like that."

Reporter: "Cool. No training. That should save some bucks!"

B.S.:"You said it! We have to pay for our big executive bonuses somehow. After all, we're responsible."

Reporter: "Any other productivity measures?"

B.S.: "Well, this inventory of bats, balls, mitts -- I mean that has just gotten out of hand. Sure, I suppose we should keep a bat for the team, but having all those individual bats? Nonsense. And, don't get me started on mitts!"

Reporter:"No mitts? Won't that decrease your fielding effectiveness?"

B.S.:"No, we have a Quality Process to improve our fielding effectiveness. Besides our management consultants pointed out that cricket fielders don't use mitts."

Reporter: "Well, Mr. B.S., I think the Yankee fans are in for a real -- a really different experience this season."

B.S.: "Thanks! And, believe me, Wall Street has already taken notice. The Market to Book value is up 10% already. Just wait till we move into the football market."

Reporter: "Football?"

B.S.:"Sure. There's no reason at all these ball-players can't make themselves useful in the off-season by playing football."

Reporter:"Well, with a few exceptions, it takes a different set of skills -- and a different body type even to ---"

B.S.:"B*** S***! That's what those nambly-pambly unions would like you to believe. Didn't you play football and baseball when you were a kid? Huh?"

Reporter: "Well, yes, but not at a professional level. I mean...."

B.S."Well, we're going to increase shareholder value. Period. End of discussion."


Reporter: "So, B.S., how is your plan going?"

B.S.: "Great! Fantastic!"

Reporter: "So, you're winning ball games then?"

B.S. "We are meeting all our financial targets for cost-containment. In fact, our top-notch accounting team has uncovered another big cost savings."

Reporter: "Really? What?"

B.S.:"We're going to outsource our pitching. No more high-paid prima donnas! Nope. We've found a vendor who can provide pitching for 1/10 of our current costs!"

Reporter: "Hmmm. I don't know. They say, pitching is 80% of baseball."

B.S.: "Exactly, my point, boy!"

Reporter: "Well, are you actually winning games?"

B. S. "I already told you, our costs are down significantly!"

Reporter: "Yes, but when you actually get out on the field, do you score more points than your opponents?"

B.S. "There are some temporary performance anomalies -- mostly due to bad weather -- and the lack of cooperation on the part of the Umpire's Union."

Reporter: "Lack of cooperation?"

B.S. "Yes, the Umpire's haven't quite adjusted to the new realities of competition. Once they make the proper adjustments to the strike zone, I have every confidence that we will be fully compatible run-wise with others in our segment of the league."

Reporter: "I see...."

B.S.:"Meanwhile, we're also improving and upgrading our capital infrastructure."

Reporter: "You mean...the stadium?"

B.S."Exactly. We're replacing the concrete with much newer high-tech polypropylene glycol embedded stryene."

Reporter: "Oh. Will you be replacing those hard seats?"

B.S. "Seats? Don't be ridiculous. That would be way too expensive."

Reporter: "Well, how will the stadium be different -- from the fan's perspective?"

B.S.: "Fans? Oh, fans. It will be a much more modern, more high-tech stadium."

Reporter: "So, how will the actual experience of the fans be different?"

B.S. "Did I mention that our stock price has risen 5%? Wall Street knows what's best for baseball!"

Reporter: "Perhaps, but according to our wire service, you lost last night to Cleveland, 26-0. That's...."

B.S.:"That's a temporary abberation! I told you! The Umpires have got to get on board here. We're only asking a proportional shrinkage in the strike zone to match our cost-containment figures. Our new policies are a success. We don't need to be questioned by nay-sayers spouting statistics. This interview is over!"


Reporter: "So, BS, I hear your team has surpassed the opening losing streak record of the Pittsburg...."

BS:"Bah! Our expenses are down! Our stock price is UP!"

Reporter: "How about the fans? How's the attendance?"

BS: "Attendance? It takes time for our end users to adjust to the interface changes, but they will. After all, what are they going to do, take a ride to Seattle just to watch a live ballgame?"

Reporter: "Well -- or, maybe across town."

BS: "Get serious. It takes less time to get to Seattle. Anyway, we have taken some of the surplus and hired some systems analysts to help us out. We should be on a winning streak in no time!"

Reporter: "Wouldn't it maybe make more sense to hire some -- you know, outfielders, say?"

BS: "You obviously don't know anything about business. That's why they hired me. Ever hear of the expression 'a level playing field'?"

Reporter: "Yes, but what ... ?"

BS: "Well, we are not going to have one! Not much longer! Our system analysts have designed a system to tilt the entire stadium on command. So -- in short, our ball-players will be hiting DOWNSLOPE while the opposition will be hitting UPHILL! Come on. Tell me I'm brilliant!"

Reporter: "Uh, you're brilliant, but -- ah -- won't your opponents object?"

BS: "Who cares? Our lawyers have combed the rule book and the UCC and NOWHERE does it mention anything about not tilting the earth!"

Reporter: "Well, maybe not specifically, but surely on the basic principles of fair play...."

BS: "Ha hah hahahahhh! Oh, you really crack me up! 'Basic Principles of Fair Play!' Oh, that's rich. That's realllllly rich. Yes. Good one. Listen, sucker, if you can get away with it, it's what you do! Have you been asleep? Ever hear of tobacco companies? How about the Ford Pinto? Billionaire Milliken? Get real!"

Reporter: "Still....somehow, I always thought of baseball as a sport."

BS: "Oh, right. And, I always thought of Howard Stern as Marilyn Monroe. Geez. Our profits will soar! Our profits will soar! Oh, so many plans. Fewer squares! Fewer innings! Fines for foul balls! Fines for run homes! Fines...."

Reporter: "Excuse me, did you say 'run homes'?"

BS: "Yeah, those things -- don't you call them run homes -- where the guy loses the baseball? Talk about waste!"

Reporter: "Those are Home Runs. That's one good way to win ball games."

BS: "Yeah, whatever. Maybe to you. To me, they are an unnecessary waste. Just like second square."

Reporter: "Second square? You mean, 'second base'?"

BS: "Whatever. That little square bag out there in the middle of the sandyfield."

Reporter: "Have you ever actually played baseball?"

BS: "Me? I was too busy for frills, my friend. Too busy making my first million. And I did it through hard work and ingenuity. I did it in high school. It wasn't easy either. Do you know how many of those little first grade brats you have to shake down for lunch money just to get a thousand bucks?"

The Life and Death of Ninny-X the Dumbell

Once upon a time, in a Kingdom far away, there lived a very rich, very fat, very old lady named Mummy Dumbell. Mummy Dumbell lived with her seven daughters in a very old, very massive mansion in the midst of a giant orchard. Mummy Dumbell and her daughters had grown very rich and very fat because on their land were many gigantic beautiful trees; some that produced apples and some that produced oranges. Every day they picked some fruit and sold it to people who came to them. In all the land, there were no other trees, and so Mummy Dumbell could charge quite a high price for these marvelous fruit.

Each day, the Dumbells would arise early and eat a giant breakfast. Then, they would spend an hour picking fruit. Next, they would come home and spend the rest of the day eating, selling fruit, and writing memos to each other. Most of all, they loved to write memos. But, in the evening, the seven little Dumbells would gather around their mummy and ask them to tell the story yet again of why they were so rich.

"It's because we are terribly clever!" she would say, and all the daughters would clap with delight. And, indeed, it was true that long long ago, some clever Wizards had thought of the idea of planting apple seeds and orange seeds and caring for the trees. In return, the Dumbells had given these Wizards a few apples and maybe an orange rind. When the Wizards had more ideas however, they were told to shut up and tend the orchard.

One day, as Mummy Dumbell was picking fruit, she noticed that a tiny boy at the edge of her orchard was stealing an apple that had fallen from one of her trees. She was furious!

"Get out of here little boy! If I ever see you here again, I'll kill you!"

At first, the boy McGowered at the scream. Then, he scampered away. But the next day, he was back again. Again, he picked up a fallen apple. And, once again, Mummy Dumbell was furious. "Get out of here!" she shouted. She began to wobble after the child, but he was much, much faster.

The next day, Mummy Dumbell and her daughters trooped off to see the Great and Powerful Gizzard of Green. She patiently explained to the Gizzard of Green that the orchard belonged to her and to her alone and that no-one should be allowed to pick fruit from her orchard. In fact, she explained, only she was clever enough to pick apples properly and someone else might accidentally pull the whole tree over. And, if one tree fell, argued Mummy Dumbell, why the whole orchard might fall, tree by tree.

The Great and Powerful Gizzard of Green considered this but said, "Mummy Dumbell, you have grown much too fat. And so have your daughters. From now on, your daughters will move to their own houses and you will only be allowed to pick oranges. Your daughters will only be allowed to pick apples. "No! No!" screamed Mummy Dumbell. "I'll die!"

"No! No!" screamed all the fat little Dumbells. "We'll die!"

"I have spoken," said the Gizzard of Green.

There was much crying, and pulling of hair that night. But, in the morning, the daughters each went off to their own houses, which in truth were simply wings of Mummy Dumbell's giant mansion. But, to make the Green Gizzard happy, they did do some redecorating. Some daughters put in more glass. Some daughters put in more copper trim on the roof. But most of the daughters simply re-papered their rooms with copies of old memos.

At first, Mummy Dumbell and her daughters were very worried that they would starve to death, but they did not starve to death. One day, however, one of the Dumbell daughters looked at herself in the mirror and said, "My goodness! I'm not as fat as I once was. I had better find a way to get more food!"

Now, this Dumbell daughter, named Ninny-X, had heard a legend that over the hill were farmers who grew potatoes. She wasn't quite sure what a potato was but she knew it was something to eat. So, early the next morning, after picking fruit for an hour, she began walking over the hill. About half way up the hill, she noticed that her legs were tired and that she was breathing hard. "My goodness," she cried. "Growing potatoes is hard work!"

She turned around and went back to her wing of the house. The next day, she awoke with blisters on her feet and legs that ached. She told the other daughters about the horror of trying to grow potatoes. "I'll never do that again," she said.

But after several months, Ninny-X noticed that she was not as fat as she had once been. Or, at least not as fat as she could have been. For one thing, more and more little boys were racing into the orchard and stealing some of the low-hanging fruit.

Ninny-X suddenly felt funny all over and her head felt kind of chilly and light. At first she was worried she was coming down with the flu. Then, she remembered that this was the feeling of having an idea. "I have heard that right at the edge of the orchard are some broadberry bushes. I will go pick some broadberries." She was a little worried because she remembered that the other time she had had an idea, she had gotten blisters.

Nonetheless, the next morning, after picking and selling some fruit, Ninny-X bravely ventured all the way out to the edge of the orchard. And, there, sure enough, were some shiny broadberries. They looked very yummy. So Ninny-X reached right in and grabbed a handful. "OUCH!" she screamed in horrified surprise. Then, she looked down at her pudgy little hand. There was blood! She went Bell-istic. She sprinted home-- or -- at least engaged in a locomotory behavior that was her version of sprinting -- observers might have called it a nervous stroll. When she finally saw Mummy Dumbell, she screamed and explained what had happened. Mummy just shook her head and said, "Yes, I tried to pick broadberries once myself when I was little. A big mistake! I'll never do that again!"

"Me either!" agreed Ninny-X.

Ninny-X was very very rich and very very fat. But, Ninny-X thought, not quite fat enough. Foxes can catch rabbits. Coyotes can catch rabbits. So can I! But this time, I will not rush into things. I will first write memos about rabbit hunting. So, after writing many many memos, she decided it was at last time to go rabbit hunting. "If I can kill a few rabbits every day, I'll get really fat," she said to herself. She tore down a branch from one of the apple trees to use as a club. Then she sat down and waited. Sure enough, about an hour later, she spied a rabbit. She wobbled after the rabbit, swinging her club, but the rabbit refused to cooperate. Instead, it hopped away and escaped. Rather easily, actually. But Ninny-X was exhausted. And, the rough bark on the club had given her a blister on her hand. She went back home and wrote some memos reminding herself never to go hunting again because it was technologically and economically impossible. And quite possibly unethical besides.

Ninny-X, however, was still troubled. She just didn't seem fat enough to suit her taste. Although there was still plenty of fruit to pick, some of the trees were beginning to die. She wished more trees would grow. She prayed for more trees to grow. In fact, she knew that it was probably the fault of the Great and Powerful Gizzard of Green that more new trees were not growing. Or, possibly, it was bad weather. She thought maybe she should plant some seeds for new trees. But that would take a long long time to bear fruit, so to speak. And, meanwhile, she could simply sell the seeds to others instead. It was far easier just to blame the Green Gizzard and the weather. Still she worried about her weight though. She worried and worried. But she knew how to fix things. She wrote more memos -- memos about the weather, memos about seeds, memos about the mean Green Gizzard, and memos about the little boys who stole apples. She felt better, but not good enough.

It so happened at that time that Melvin the Mescaline, Mathemagician was wandering through the Kingdom. He met up with Ninny-X in the orchard and she explained her worries, pouring out her heart.

"No problem!" said Melvin. "I can help you out. Just give me a big basket of apples and I can help you get fat and rich beyond your wildest dreams."

"Are you sure?"

"Sure I'm sure," said Melvin, whipping out his tape measure. "Here. Let's measure your waist. See -- only 72 inches. Now, you follow my advice and if you're waist isn't bigger by next quarter, you can take back your apples."

"Well," said Ninny-X, "that sounds fair."

"Okay. Now, you know Ninny-X, that your hands and feet and legs have been nothing but trouble to you. A source of pain."

Ninny-X thought back. She checked her memos. "Yes, that's true."

"So," said Melvin, "All you have to do is cut off your arms and legs. I guarantee you'll be fatter."

"But -- won't that hurt?"

"Well," admitted the Mathemagician, "It might hurt your arms and legs, but what do you care? They won't be part of you any more. And, your waist will get bigger. Isn't that what you really want?"

"I suppose." Ninny-X pushed her eyebrows close together in the hopes that thinking might ensue, but before she could really write any memos about the subject, Melvin had begun hacking off her limbs.

"OWWW!" she screamed. "Oh, that hurts! I thought you said it would only hurt my arms and legs, but it hurts me too!"

"Well," said Melvin the Mescaline, Methemagician, "Here's the tape measure. Show me how big your pain is."

"Measure my pain?! What do you mean? It HURTS!" screamed Ninny-X. "I can't measure it."

"Well, how much? You see, if you can't measure it with my tape measure, then it doesn't really exist."

"It doesn't?"

"Of course not," said Melvin the Mescaline, Mathemagician with aplomb.

"Oh, well, it sure seemed like it hurt."

"Yes, but it's only an illusion, you see. That's why it's important to have Melvin to help you out."

Ninny-X hurt for quite a few days, but she noticed that she was indeed growing fatter. She rolled out every day and ate apples that had fallen on the ground for she could no longer reach even the low-hanging apples. But one day, she began to worry all over again. She noticed that she had eaten almost all the apples on the ground. What would happen when they were gone? How would she get the apples still in the tree? Worse yet, she even had a great difficulty in writing memos.

That night she was so worried she lay awake crying. Her sister, Battlestar Bellantica, heard her crying and came to see what was wrong. Battlestar Bellantica heard all Ninny-X's woes and hugged and comforted her saying, "Don't worry, Ninny-X, we can work together. After all, isn't Teamwork what Grinning Ways is all about? I'll help you get apples. You can sit on my shoulders. With my help, you can crane your neck right up and reach all the apples you want."

"Oh, Battlestar Bellantica, you're such a wonderful sister! What would I ever do without you? Will you help me write memos too?"

"Of course, sweet sister. You just answer my questions and let me do the writing."

Ninny-X felt much better and fell into a deep and peaceful sleep. Later that night, she woke up screaming as she discovered her own sister eating her up. But, without arms and legs, what could she do, really? Besides, she didn't have Melvin's tape measure handy so she realized her pain was not real anyhow.

The next morning, Melvin the Mescaline, Mathemagician came to visit Battlestar Bellantica and collect the two baskets of apples he had been promised to make the Battlestar fatter. Melvin waxed poetic about how he had risen from being a simple bean-counter to a Mescaline Mathemagician. Bellantica merely burped.

Melvin the Mescaline, Mathemagican smiled. He was thinking about the four baskets of oranges he had promised once he disposed of Battlestar Bellantica.

"Did you know, my friend,that the brain is one of the chief impediments to growth?" querried Melvin, taking out his tape measure.

Battlestar Bellantica's eyes grew wide with wonder. "Really?" she said.

Rain Dance
Wilbur's True Story
Short Story Index

To contact the author: truthtable@aol.com

Last modified: Dec. 19,2004