Welcome to Walnut and Pearl!
Short fiction, essay, satire, poetry, lyrics. (See Table of Contents to the left.)

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Friday, October 16, 2015

A Meeting - Chapter 1

The street corner (subway entrance, day-old Starbucks cups, guy of indeterminate vintage slumped in a doorway wearing mismatched woolen gloves and a beard matted with stale food) held no appeal for me as a place. But I met her on that corner - it was not an auspicious meeting but then the loveliest flowers grow in manure, don't they? I saw her from behind and against reason I walked to her side and spoke. This is not recommended procedure in the city that never sleeps - your chance of obtaining a phone number is exceeded by your chance of obtaining a face full of pepper spray. 

But I was driven and I did not know why.

I was driven to say, "Excuse me."

She was horrified in a blank-faced New York kind of way. It is not done.

I said in my desperation, "Can you tell me how to get to the Guggenheim?" I dislike the Guggenheim. The only appeal the Guggenheim holds for me is the fantasy of taking that cramped, slow elevator to the top and skateboarding down the long spiral ramp and out the front door and across the street, perfectly avoiding taxis.

She looked at me with mixed suspicion and curiosity. It was not a great line, but better than some. "The Guggenheim is seventy three blocks north northeast of here," she said. "Either you are very badly lost or you are trying in a truly desperate and pathetic way to find some excuse to speak to me."

"The latter. I hate the Guggenheim," said I.

And then I heard the sound that has been my favorite music from then unto now. She laughed.

"OK," said she, "I'll give you a free pass. Why do you want to speak to me?"

"I saw your back and it called to me."

Silence and then renewed laughter. "How genteel of me!"

My turn to be horrified. "No, no, I didn't mean that. I mean. I meant... I mean I meant..."

"Shut up," she said. "What's your name?"

"Um... Albert." With trepidation. This is often a deal-killer.

"Ah."

"But my middle name is Alphonse..." Hopeful.

"Oh. "Better," said she.

I was floundering and foundering. "And you?"

"Alyssa."

This pretty much exhausted my conversational ability. I am not that bad at talking, but I was getting a bit lost in her eyes - very dark brown, not made up, one half hidden by fallen matching hair.

"Are you staring?"

"Oh, uh, sorry. I was lost in your eyes." This was absolutely true but sounded ... I don't know.

She glared back into my own eyes - this did not help - and apparently decided that another volley or two would not be too harmful.

"Will you walk with me while we talk? I'm headed uptown," she blessed me.

"Sure, of course, yes, sure, where are you off to?"

"Well, dentist, which I'm barely going to make, and I have to stop at a bookstore."

"Which?"

"Strands." Ha. It's my favorite. Thank heaven it's not B&N.

"So, um, if I walk you to the dentist and meet you when you're done and we walk over to 12th street? OK?"

"Sure." She was unaccountably friendly. I had no explanation.

"What do you like?" I was unable to find anything to say so falling back on questions seemed my only option.

"I'm looking for some out-of print stuff on the occult, like ESP and magical herbalism."

I was stumped. She seemed so normal.

"Oh? You do that stuff?"

"Started a while ago. I don't even know if I believe in it but I can't give it up. You know? Like if it's true 
I don't want to miss it. You think I'm a nut."

"Why do you think that?" I prevaricated.

"ESP," she said. One two three beats and then laughed.

I am a sucker for smart and funny and I was terrified that she'd slip out of the dentist's office disguised as a UPS delivery man and I'd never see her again.

"Here," she pointed to the door we had reached. "Meet me in an hour."

"OK," not doubting that it would seem like an infinitely long hour.

Greed

Don't tell me that you like
Long walks on the beach
At sunset.

Everybody likes
Long walks on that damned beach
At sunset.

Tell me you will fling your head backward
Over the arm of the sofa
Greedily relishing your lazy pleasure.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tribe

I want a wolf skin to wear on moonless nights
Its vacant eyes staring at the summer stars
As it was for my most distant ancestor -
His hot cold eyes piercing to their quivering centers
The fearful sheepish souls
Who crowded sitting around him
(His favorite by his side)
Near his life-preserving fire
Awaiting his life-preserving words.


His favorite: a shifting woman,
Now tall and fair,
Now raven and dusky,
Now red-haired, green-eyed,
Fiery and full of lust
For life 
And him.
He owned her but she was her own.

A warrior maiden,
Who, when she smiled, fooled them all.
They thought her sweet and easy pickings.
Except for those who crossed her
And saw in those fast-changing eyes
The things she always hid.

But he knew
For he had seen in battle
Her sword cut at speed so great
That enemies had fallen, 
Wondering what unseen thing had toppled them.
And seen as well how
In the still aftermath of war
With blood still flowing into rivers and ravines,
She sheathed her sword and reached behind
And brought her herbs and stones
And tenderly bound her comrades’ wounds
And did strange things to them.
And seen as well their grateful, mute and weary faces
As they rested safe, and healed.

She often watched him at the fire
And at counsel and in their migrations
As he led the tribe to what was needful
And from what was harmful
And spoke the words that kept them safe.
But she didn’t know
He watched her at her work as well.

She disappeared for weeks
And didn’t know he had her followed.
He worried at her bravery,
Which he considered foolish,
And he wanted a strong man nearby
If she overpressed her luck.

But she was wiser than he knew.
And on her disappearances
Her wisdom grew.
For she would visit a wise woman,
A magician,
A healer,
A warrior monk.
And learn
And spin the webs of connection
That wove ever stronger
The tapestry of peace.

And when she would return,
(And even if he moved the tribe
She always found his fire again)
She stood in front of him
With hands upon his shoulders
And locked his eyes with hers
And the vacancy which had opened up within him,
Wearied from the burdens of leadership,
She refilled.

Tales of Java: Shrink

Sometimes, when the temperature is right and the glare from the sunlight is not too intrusive, I work out on the patio at Java rather than holed up inside. Java is my favorite coffee shop and is a great office in many ways for a guy like me. I'm not utterly alone, as I would be working at home, and the people around provide a pleasant background. I know many of the other regulars by name, chat briefly about this and that and nothing, and even sometimes lend a sympathetic ear. If I need to work with someone, I have a suitable place to do so. Or I can wrap myself in a solitary cocoon of work and sit unobtrusively doing what I have to do.

There are predictable groups of coffee drinkers. The pairs of teenage girls sharing secrets and watching boys. The larger groups of teenage kids, sometimes studying earnestly, sometimes broadcasting forced laughter. The committee meetings. The lovers or would-be lovers. The small groups of business men and women who find Java to be a convenient and relaxed neutral ground. Pairs of friends enjoying each other's company. Pairs of women usually seem, to the distant eye, to be orbiting around agreement, looking for ways to maintain common ground. Rarely do I hear actual conflict or argument over personal issues. Not that I eavesdrop.

People speak a little differently out on the patio than inside the shop. Conversations seem to be a bit deeper, a bit more personal. Something about the outside, I suppose.

I had found a table in the back corner of the patio, one day when I had a lot of work to get finished. There was a large, noisy, happy group at the other end of the patio, but they were no distraction. 


A couple of women came outside, looked around, and moved to my end of the patio to avoid the raucous laughter and joking. One of the pair eyed me but must have decided I was safely in another world, pounding away at my computer.

It came to me gradually just what a contrast these two women made. One was an aging and faded beauty with graying, black, uncontrollable hair pulled into a short ponytail, a long face that had remained striking, and a body that was both bony and paunchy, but at one time must have been athletic. She dressed carelessly, wearing black slacks that might as well have been tailored for a man, and a nondescript blue blouse or shirt. When she spoke, it was not loud but she put too much animation into her voice, constantly adding emphasis that didn't seem necessary. And she talked a lot, and seemed to enjoy making the most of words.

Her friend was much younger, and differed in every way. Her hair was bobbed and of a delicious color somewhere between honey and saffron, styled to make the most of her broad and open face. Her face was whole, complete, satisfied with being itself and magnetically attractive. The real woman was there, proud and content. I stared at the beauty of her eyes. If I hadn't been wearing sunglasses I would surely have been caught. Her body was lush and her voice was soft, warm and soothing. She wore a tan business suit, but it was professional, not severe.

They were similar in this: Each, when her face was in repose, looked serious, even stern. But each had a smile that illuminated her face with beauty, a smile that was real, a smile that meant something.

The younger was drinking some kind of fancy coffee-house drink that had whipped cream on top. The older nursed an espresso cup.

There was something about this pair, some sense that they didn't wear layers of caution with each other. There were invisible threads joining them to each other. I guessed, at first, that they must have been friends for a long time.

Well, I haven't found anyone who will pay me to spend the day ogling women or I would take it up as a profession. I had some deadlines to meet and couldn't cast my eyes and ears over to their table any longer, and so it was heads down again for me, down into my computer.

That effort was doomed when, about ten minutes later, I heard the older one say, "And I've decided I'm still pissed off at you, Sue Ellen."

I so rarely hear candor in these background conversations that, work or no work, I wanted to know what was going on. Am I snoopy? So sue me. I continued to type, but my attention was at the next table.

Sue Ellen said, "I hear you are pissed off...and rightly so!!"

The older one said, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You aren't my shrink anymore. You don't get to hide behind that psych reflect-it-back crap like whatsisname in that myth holding up his polished bronze shield as a mirror."

Sue Ellen looked confused, "What myth?"

"Never mind. It's not important. What's important is you hear what I'm telling you here. I busted the rusty old chains on my heart and flung it open like a pirate's treasure chest for you, and now you want me to snap it shut again like a cheap change-purse. I opened up to you and leaned against you like I never lean against anyone, and when I do I always have to worry about what I tell them and what their reaction will be, and you pulled away and there I was, leaning against outer space. And something came out, when I opened that old treasure chest, that doesn't want to go back in."

"Miriam, that's so unfair. I told you I had to. I told you I couldn't be professional about it and it wouldn't be fair to you. And I told you I'll put you in touch with someone who is excellent; better than I am. Don't you believe me?"

"Why do you think it's been thirty years since I tried counseling? G-d knows I've needed it. But I don't trust them. You, I trust. So, OK, listen. You haven't had relationships with women, I have. Maybe knowing that opened the door for you a crack so you could feel what you feel for me. But that has nothing to do with you being my shrink. I can keep a lid on it, I know how to stop, I know how to not start."

"Miriam, I can't. Can't be your counselor."

"OK, fine, but we can be friends. That's how we started, right? The counseling came later. I can be just friends with a woman, even one I'm attracted to. I'm not a lesbian, you know. It's just been sometimes."

"No, I can't be your friend. You're married, I'm attracted to you, you're attracted to me. I can't go there."

"Forget it, Sue Ellen. Forget it. Stopping the professional thing was your choice, fine, but not this. We're friends whether you like it or not. That's not a matter of choice. It just is. Real connections are rare but very strong. They don't break. We have one, I don't know why. We're not going to sleep together. Not that we would get much sleep."

This dragged a laugh out of the young one. She had the worst kind of erotic laugh - the kind the owner doesn't intend or plan, undiminished by suggestive looks or poses. It was pure. She was unaware of how the sound inflamed the air which the rest of us had to breathe. She breathed out laughter and the rest of the world had to breathe in fire. It made me squirm. I hope she doesn't often unleash that laugh on the innocent and unprepared.

"Besides," Miriam went on, "this marriage of mine isn't going to last much longer, I don't think."

"Miriam, that wouldn't change it. You'll need some time to be on your own. And I want to stick with men. I like men. Friendship with you would be too confusing."

"Bullshit," said the older one. It is truly fortunate that my sunglasses are so dark because I felt one eyebrow shoot up. "Bullshit," she repeated. "You just don't want to get involved with someone who's on the rebound. Well, that's smart. But I'm not talking about marrying you. Just being your friend. Just friend. Though I admit I had a very vivid and luscious fantasy about you once, before we started the psych sessions. Maybe more than once."

Sue Ellen's face changed, closed, chilled, "Did you really feel you had to unburden yourself of that confession?"

"I'm sorry, I should shut up. But that's then. I got past it enough to have you as my shrink, didn't I? Surely you, with all your training and objectivity, can do the same. Friends?"

"Oh, fine. You're so damn unfair. One coffee a week. In public." She smiled and took Miriam's hand.



written 3/2011

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Enough Already

She said, I never want to guess
The arcane things that populate
The convoluted mind
Of man.


She said, I want to find a man
Who wears his heart upon his sleeve
And whose expressive face
Reveals.


She said, I’ll never stand for one
Who hides his needs and makes me work
So miserably hard
Again.


She said, I’ll know I found the guy
When he approaches near my throne
And drops to kiss my ring
Among...


...other things.

Outside and Inside

Hey, is this track 17?
Yes. (at least one of us can read)

This train going to Willamette?
Yup. (if you didn't know that then why are you on track 17?)

You live in Willamette?
Nope. (and if I did you would be the last to find out)

Hey, you're beautiful! I didn't know there were beautiful girls in Chicago!
Thank you. (you, however, are a troll)

You like taking the train?
It's ok. (is this the best you can do?)

I really enjoyed the trains all across Europe.
That's cool. (oh, brother!)

I found Europeans to be much more sophisticated than Americans.
So I've heard. (then why didn't they immediately deport you?)

The food is great, the coffee, the little hotels.
Really? (oh crap, now I've encouraged him)

Yes, the social life is so much more liberal and sophisticated.
Ah. (here it comes ...)

They are just not as hung up about things as Americans.
Mmmm. (countdown ... 3, 2, 1 ...)

Especially about, like, sex.
Hmmm. (nailed it)

Whaddya think? Americans aren't cool about stuff, are they?
Americans are OK. (maybe I'll go to Detroit instead)

Hanging around

It's not that I’m jealous, I just don’t like being ignored. I hate being ignored. It makes me crazy. I don’t care about the others. I know he has others. I can live with that. I can live with them. I DO live with them. I can stay at home a lot, that’s OK. But I hate being ignored.

And it started off so great. We went out at least once a week. I liked being close to him. And he took good care of me, all the time.

You know, he found me. No, he thought he found me - picked me out of the lineup, you might say. But he never realized that I really collared him. I saw him coming and shoved a little to make sure that I was easy to see. He saw me, he smiled, he grabbed me, and that’s how it started.

Yes, I can stay at home, just hang around, that’s OK sometimes. But after a while it was more than sometimes. It was all the time. Weeks, just hanging around. Gathering dust. I started to realize that there were others suffering the same fate, but that didn't help. I was gloomy. I drooped. Weeks turned into months. I fumed. Months turned into years. I suffered. And then he looked at me once and laughed and shook his head and walked away. That’s when gloom, fuming and suffering turned to hot rage. 

Hot rage became cold rage. I no longer loved him. I hated him. I waited. I knew it had to come. When it did come, I didn't have to think. He put his left arm in my left sleeve, his right arm in my right sleeve. He buttoned me up. And then … he buttoned the collar. I squeezed. He clawed and pulled and struggled, but my rage was stronger than his terror. I squeezed and his neck became purple and his face became darker and his clawing weakened and his fingers fell away. I didn't stop squeezing for hours and they didn't find him for days. 

Later, I got stuffed into a bag and brought to a second-hand shop, and here I am again. Just hanging around.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bemused

by near five hundred miles of twisted string
    from shuttered factory's last lot attached,
unwillingly a woman does the muse
    appear, to any normal eye mismatched,
invisible, unsleeping, and regards
    him with a tender scorn and, undeterred,
permits not his reluctant hands escape
    the awful task of chaining thought to word.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Anger Translator

“Bill, did you say that Harry and Eleanore will be working on the Smith-Babbage project?”
“Bill, you treacherous son of a bitch, I’ve worked on Smith-Babbage for three years and these idiots are going to get the credit for it?”


“Yes, Don, they’ll be getting up to speed this week. You’ll be the lead, of course. Please get them up to speed.”
“Don, I’m sick to death of your whining. As soon as Harry and Eleanore know what they are doing and the project is safe, I’m going to tell you what I think of you and reassign you to janitorial.”


“Yes, Harry? Did you have a question?”
“Oh, here it goes. Are you one of those goody-two-shoes who’s always trying to prove what a hard worker you are?”


“Yes, Bill. How is the project accounting handled?”
“Yes, Bill. I want to know whether Don will be able to shaft us by pretending he did the work when we all know he’s blown it big time and left to his own devices would sink the whole company.”


“Harry, just fill out the regular reporting worksheets and the N-37 and Lucinda will enter all that info.”
“Oh, for pity’s sake, Harry. Is that the best you could come up with? Grow some balls.”


“Eleanore, you had something?”
“I’m friggin’ hungry! Can you two keep the posturing down until after lunch?”


“Well, Bill, I noticed that the back-plans, the typography specs and the voltage-regulator positioning diagrams are filed under different sub-project codes. Why is that?”
“Well, Bill, I’ll show what an incompetent boob you are and get you back for cornering me in the little conference room at the Christmas party. You miserable creep.”


“Eleanore, that’s standard for umbrella projects. We keep the sub-projects isolated so we can reuse them in the future without recoding them. Just like we did with the Bexley Nuclear Power Plant employee preschool project.”
“Nice try, bitch. Next time try knowing what you’re talking about.”


“Any other questions?”
“If any of you opens your mouth I’m going to bite your head off and spit it out the window.”


“When’s our first design meeting?”
“Fire me! Please! Right now would be good!”

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Recipe

Catch the tears of women in a silver bowl,
Tears you have caused.
Tears of pain and fear, grief and loss,
Tears of hopeless longing and frustrated rage.
Swirl the bowl gently over the blood-red smoky fires of your worthless heart,
And heat it until just salt remains.
Fill a crystal shaker and keep it with you for convenience.
It will season your blistering soul
Roasting over the blood-red smoky flames of Hell.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reasons

There is a reason I get up
And pay the bills and sit and muse
And cook and shop and clean and sup
And laugh at jokes and rail at news
And gas the car and do my biz
But damned if I know what it is.

V in Form Only

Deceived no more
By gauzy dreams
Of ever
Almost
Wait,
And longing arms
Controlled by fear
That abdicate
To fate.
Relentless sand
And weakened hand
Inter that luxury,
So forward
March
With opened eyes
And sad and cold

And free.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Magic

I am a magician.
I am a murderer.
From one hand emerge from nothing
Fragile filaments of future lives.
I spin them out
and look 
and choose
and, with ruthless regret,
my other hand wields the scissors
which doom a million hope-filled possibilities. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

IIWII

Reality stands straight and tall.
It does not lean forward,
Cocking its head,
Simpering and begging for things to be
As they are not.

It does not need to.
We take care of that. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hard as time

Time does not heal all. 
Calluses take up residence
On bone and heart. 
Neural pathways, once laid down, 
Persist with stolid stubbornness:
overlaid by newer but

always

lying in wait to ambush and rule again.

Time buries all alive.

Fifty

Fifty days we played and tasted
Wasted time and took up space and
Ate and walked and laughed and drank and
Sat in darkness watching pictures
Flicker into lives we could not live.

You lent your body for my pleasure
And for yours.

I feel the bittersweet remorse
of fractured possibilities.

I'd like my fifty days back, please.

Grass

My uninvited love has wormed its way
Into your unready guts
And caused you indigestion.
Like a grass-eating poisoned dog
You vomited me out.

Selfish

she moved uncomfortably on the chair, wishing he would go away but not knowing how to be rude enough to make him go. she didn't want to be like one of those people, really, but she did wish she knew how they got what they wanted so easily. did you have to be a bitch to get what you want? wasn't it possible to be nice but strong, gentle but firm? all she knew about it came from books, and her own longing fantasies. this year, she told herself firmly, this year. this year she would make a list of all the characteristics she wanted and she would work on the list, one characteristic at a time, until she had made herself over into the person she knew she was supposed to be. then she would be free of it and would have a happy life just like she always wanted.

but for now, she was stuck with this jerk. he was talking again. she said, I really have to go home, and he said, whoa baby, we're just getting acquainted! inside her head she said, I'd like to get acquainted with your corpse, but out loud she said, thank you very much but I have to go now. and he said, well let me take you home then. my car is outside. and she said, thank you very much but I think I'll walk.

and then she knew she had made a big mistake because he said oh, you live nearby? and later she thought I should have said no, my boyfriend lives two blocks away. but she said well not too far I guess. and he said I'll walk you home. it's not safe for a woman to walk alone at night. and she thought safer than walking with you but she said oh it's ok, I do it all the time. and he said, say wanna go to a movie? And she thought, are you kidding? I'd rather chew off my foot but she said, thanks but not tonight.

she married him that fall and the baby came in the spring and her list of characteristics had to wait until he had screwed around on her for the third time that she knew about and she went through the whole divorce thing. The alimony thing, the custody thing, the lawyer thing, the tears and broken dishes thing, the dividing the wedding gifts thing, the whole ever-loving dismal crappy thing. There was no time for lists but she knew she'd be able to do it later, after Jason grew up. That's when she'd start yoga and learn how to fix cars.

Metaphor 2

She is a yet uncharted land,
Circumambulated by explorers
but never mapped.
Those who try
find that their erasers
work harder
than their pencils.

The Saint

He swallows his coffee before he can see
And frequently misses the pot with his pee.
The pills that he pops for his highs and his lows,
The music he plays and the places he goes,
He imagines display him as fine and unique -
Though to everyone else he is merely a freak.
His food is frustration, his motive is fear,
His goals are ambitious, his failure is near.
His friends do not like him, his lovers are few -
He sees this as proof of his loftier view
Of the nature of life and of doom and of fate.
And all the despair that his face can relate
(Which he thinks shows the world that his feelings run deep)
Has tagged him, among the barflies, as a creep.
His bedroom is papered with pictures of saints
And aging rock singers and splotches of paints
That once might have be brightened the walls of his room -
Were it not for the fact that his soul preferred gloom.

He was visited once by a travelling nun
From an order whose vows forbade singing and fun
(And the wearing of socks and the eating of cheese)
And required them daily to sit among bees
So that comfort and pleasure would never distract
From their solemn attention to each holy act.
And she brought him a message of pious goodwill

But she ran from his door with her hands in the air
As she sobbed in a fit of forbidden despair
That this horrid man had, though refusing to pray,
Found a misery finer than her finest day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spring

Awakened to the taste and smell of spring
I stretch my arms and take up all the bed
And kick you out and laugh at your dismay.
And as you sadly start to walk away
Panther-like I pounce, and you instead
Find yourself dragged back to play.

Vines

A hot bonfire burned all night
Fueled by the ripped out branches
Of no longer needed need
And lonely longing,
Attachment and desire to which
There remains no desire to be attached.

The fire has now burned low
But daily do the tendrils grow 
And wrap their sticky selves
Insistently  around 
My arms and legs and try 
To keep me bound.
And nightly do I unwind them

And toss them over my shoulder
Onto the hungry fire.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Work in Progress

You wanted bedrock but you found
Lava - hot and plastic,
Unpredictable,
Treacherous underfoot,
Destined to be solid
But still taking form.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Great American Novel

I started writing a novel. I started writing my seventeenth novel, hoping (in the way that children hope for better candy from the Easter Bunny this year) that the seventeenth time will be a charm and I will finish this one. It will be great.

First I listed the characters, so I wouldn’t forget. My memory is not so much faulty as random.

Lady Mizzable, on a dozen do-gooder committees, ,ikes to bet on dog races

Lord Mizzable, likes to give away his possessions, wealthy but a kleptomaniac, drives much too slowly

The people next door, the Moons:
        Bernard, the father, a gruff but kind bank president
        Hortense, the mother, who is very much like Florence Nightingale in personality but is afraid of blood
        Philbert, the bright and kind and wonderful teenaged son, patterned on myself
        Ariadne (self-named “Boswell the Great”), the vile 9 year old sister, patterned on my older sister Ruth whom I called Ruthless
        Andrew, the boring son. Went to college, got a job, got married, had three kids. No problemo. Too bad he harbors a deep, dark secret from his past. Visits parents daily.
        Polerat, the two-legged dog who can whine the Star Spangled Banner but won’t do so unless you give him a chocolate chip cookie
        Ipecac, the chia-pet monkey that looks sadly misused as a result of Polerat’s incontinence

Gertie Lazelle, editor-in-chief of a high-tone fashion magazine, secretly addicted to sexual intercourse with longshoremen

Edward, Gertie’s invaluable assistant, who knows more about her life than she would care to believe. Is also secretly addicted to sex with longshoremen.

Sandy Santana, Gertie’s ne’er-do-well cousin by her father’s first cousin Anna, Sandy mooches shamelessly on Gertie, but she puts up with it because he resembles her late father

Paul Tonsure, principal of the local technical high school and Hortense Moon’s brother.

Anderson Tonsure, no relation to Paul but thrown into his life by a mutual acquaintance (Sidney Appleyard) who cannot get over the coincidence in names. Anderson manages a baby exercise franchise.

Sidney Appleyard, historian of the Cold War and collector of signed photographs of B-movie actresses. Once married (for eight months) to Paul’s aunt Euclaire (nee Bowditch), a union which produced no issue but many issues. Met Anderson when bringing his small niece Peggy to baby exercise class, as a favor to his sister, Gloria Snyder. Met Paul when he visited a teacher (donny lake) at the tech school, who had promised to have his students make photo frames for the starlet connection.

Gloria Snyder, part-time alcoholic, part-time security guard, part-time barista, part-time car detailer, part-time courier, part-time nail technician, part-time school crossing guard and bus driver, part     time process server, part-time vendor of marijuana. Makes ends meet. Conceived Peggy on a whim while involved with Nathan (last name unknown) for the duration of a cross-country train trip to visit her mother in Denver. Never married, but sequentially monogamous.

The twins:
Fred Trenton, stationery salesman, annoyingly cheerful, sociopathic, lifelong friend of Philbert.
Brad Trenton, longshoreman, not sociopathic but still annoyingly cheerful.

The janitor, Pete. In fact a spy for the Coven of the White Rooster

Elaine Farnsworth, private secretary to Lady Mizzable and a bit of an eccentric in her own right. Mother Witch in the Coven of the White Rooster. Collects photos of sandals

Next, the plot outline: Philbert’s psychotic friend Fred, who has stolen from everyone he knows and a few new acquaintances, has purloined Hortense’s Picasso print, her greatest treasure. Nobody suspects Fred, because Fred was out of state at the time the picture disappeared. Unbeknownst to the family, Fred was NOT out of state at the time, it was Brad, his long-lost good twin. Fred has stashed the picasso in the attic of the Mother Home of the Coven of the White Rooater.

See what I mean? It’s a sure winner.

All Better

You cheated for Olympic gold
(And only half the story's told)
Then you got busted, clear and cold -
But what's important is you're bold
And told the world, whose hopes you sold, "I'm sorry."

You bombed my country by mistake
Because you let your experts fake
A story for election's sake.
But it's ok because last night
Beneath the newsman's probing light
You said, from lofty, noble height,
The phrase that changes wrong to right - I'm sorry.

I'm living with the heart you broke
You lied with every word you spoke.
But now the pain will all go 'way
Because you knew enough to say, "I'm sorry."

Your rabid canine mauled my kid
(You said he didn't but he did).
You wrecked my rug and broke my jar.
Forgot me when you left the bar.
You shaved some strokes and now you're par.
Your shopping cart bumped my new car.
You said "we're close" when we were far.
But now you're a heroic star
The words I wanted to hear are - I'm sorry.

Your cheap imported condom broke -
Now I have more than memories.
But it's OK because you spoke
The words that turn mistakes to smoke,
As good as 'scuse me, thanks and please - I'm sorry.

You voted for this crooked guy
Who promised heaven, earth and sky
And now he sucks the country dry
But that's ok 'cause, by and by,
I know that you will come and cry: "I'm sorry!"

You left some extra tools in me
When you performed my surgery.
But now removal will be free.
And my remaining hours will be
Awash with joy and ecstasy!
You got rid of the agony
The moment you walked up to me
And said the magic words, you see, "I'm sorry!"