But it’s not always gramatic.
Check out my three part series of interviews with randomly selected ordinary Americans.
SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS
Last time we saw Bob, he was standing in the middle of the road, hoping to rob somebody. He was determined. It took six different cars hitting him before he conceded defeat and crumpled by the side of the road. The next thing he knew, he was waking up in a white room on a white bed with white sheets and a white pillow. His view of the outside was blocked by white curtains. He sat up and found that he was wearing a white gown, and he saw that his skin (which he’d never seen before, because his entire body was covered in hair) was pure white. He felt his head. It was as smooth as an orange (some of you got that).
He screamed. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!” The window behind the white curtain shattered.
A nurse (who was neither male nor female, and neither black nor white) came rushing in. “Oh my expression of surprise!” the nurse said. “The solid-bone-structurally-challenged patient is moving; someone help me hold him/her down!”
A doctor with broken glasses came in and handed Bob a piece of paper. “Please sign here on the dotted line,” he said. Bob made a scribble with the pen offered him, and the doctor stuck a hypodermic needle into Bob’s neck and guided him back to the bed as he went unconscious.
Now, I’m sure this all seems pretty strange to you. Trust me, I was once unenlightened just as you, but through diligent research and just a little educated guessing I discovered the truth. As you’ll recall, Bob was hit by six cars in the eighties while trying to rob them. Eventually an ambulance came and took Bob to the nearest hospital. The doctors there decided that there was no way a body with every other bone broken could possibly continue to live, so they just threw Bob into a 0° K freezer, because with budget cuts at the hospital, they couldn’t afford to bury anybody. Well, it would seem that Bob was doomed. DOOMED. But Bob was not so easily gotten rid of. He was like a cockroach.
Now we will jump ahead seven hundred years to when the freezer was opened and the body of Bob found. Well, as it turns out, seven hundred years from the eighties is enough time for scientists to learn a lot, and they were able to put Bob back together, because somehow he still had a spark of life left in him.
Now (notice how talented I am at starting paragraphs with the word Now) back to the hospital room where Bob had just been anesthetized. The doctor died shortly of a severe chill, because he couldn’t afford medicine, because he was forced to work for free, because no one else had enough money to pay hospital bills, because the government had taken all their money, because the supreme pizza ruler was greedy, because of a psychological problem that was harder to solve than the chicken or the egg question. And with that I conclude this paragraph; please do read the next one.
When Bob woke up again, he was terribly hungry. Not just a little peckish; he was TERRIBLY HUNGRY. This put him in a bad mood… a terrible mood, and he stomped past the body of the doctor out into the hall and yelled for some food. After a while, a nurse came with a silver platter of cafeteria slop and spoon fed it to the gagging Bob. Bob never again yelled for food in a hospital.
Bob knew he was an outlaw, a highwayman. Just because no one else knew didn’t mean he wasn’t one, and so he knew he needed to tread carefreely. He found his way out of the hospital without being seen by too many people or security cameras, and crawled (to avoid attention) to the nearest gun supply store. There he *cough* “borrowed” a handgun and happened to walk out with it unnoticed. Then he walked out of town to a country road and waited for a lone traveler. He waited. And waited. And waited. And died waiting. No one at that time traveled across land. Even those who weren’t rich enough to afford a teleporter could pick up an old spaceship outfitted with a hyper-drive for less than they paid for each breath of breathable air.
And thus ends the tragic story of the Modern Highwayman. Scholars have long pondered what drove Bob to do the things he did, what his motivations were, and what was going through his head. All the debate on the subject seems pointless to me, however, as it is easy to see what drove him: Not a chauffeur, but an irrepressible urge to be a highwayman. What else could it possibly be?
THE MODERN HIGHWAYMAN
Modern highwayman have it hard. I use the singular instead of the plural because, as far as I know (and probably a bit further), there is only one person who is still in the profession. His name is…[cue triumphant music]… BOB! He was a secluded hippie in the eighties and he was really into it—oversized clothes, hair down to his toes, etc., but then he read a book. His life was utterly changed and he became aware of a whole other world than his own. He reasoned that, since all his hippie overlords ordered him to never read anything (especially travelogs, math books, or Utopia) that they must be trying to shield him from knowledge of the real world, a glorious world, a world that Bob just knew he had to be a part of. He was especially intrigued by these people called “highwaymen” who robbed rich travelers on the road. Since he hated the rich, he decided to become a highwayman.
He got a big trenchcoat and a hat just like what he saw in the pictures in the book, then he got a small club and headed out into the real world ready for adventure. Now, he had studied carefully the methods of the highwaymen in the book he’d read, and he was confident when he came to a road and lay in ambush for the first person to travel by. He saw the dust of an approaching carriage, and he leapt up when it was near.
“Stop there!” he cried. “Your money or your life!”
The carriage went right past him at 70mph without even pausing.
“Halt! Come back I say, or you’ll regret it. Your money! Your money or… your life…” Bob tapered off and stomped on the ground in frustration. “What did I do wrong?” He decided to accept the situation stoically, which is surprising only because he had never come into contact with any sort of philosophy, much less one with a real name and all. But I digress.
Now, getting on with my incredibly clever and revealing work of a masterpiece. Bob decided that he would build a barrier so that his prey could not pass by without stopping. He started with several threads taken from his socks and tied to trees, but he soon discovered that old and battered yarn could not stop one of the automatic carriages that used this particular road. He thought about using all his clothes to make a stronger rope. However, his brain decided to release a rare bit of intelligence and he didn’t. Instead, he, himself, Bob, him, the-man-who-tried-to-be-a-highwayman-in-the-twentieth-century, stood in the middle of the road and brandished his cudgel.
The first car just curved around Bob and went on its way. The driver of the second thought he was looking at Sasquatch and swerved off the road, through a fence, over several small trees of the town mayor’s apple orchard, and finally crashed into the newspaper building, where he tried to get them to dispatch an investigative reporter to that area where he’d seen Sasquatch, but no one believed him. They said something about a faint smell of alcohol in his breath. Ridiculous!
(Arranged in order of rank.)
Superstition No. 1: Two things are certain in life, death and taxes.
Preposterous, I’ve never heard such a crazy thing. It is impossible to die while living your life, don’t you agree? So death can’t be a certain thing in life.
I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us.
Pigs treat us as equals.
—Sir Winston Churchill
(How cars and airplanes are tested for safety.)
I’m sure you don’t know anything about how cars are tested for safety, so I shall enlighten you.
What’s that? You do? Tell me then, if you”re so smart.
Plastic dummies? Well, I agree about the dummy part, but not plastic. Maybe a bit rubbery around the kneecaps, though.
What else do you know?
Contained testing areas? What’s this stuff about contained testing areas? That’s crazy! Where did you hear that?
TV? TV who? Look, I don’t know this TV person, but he obviously doesn’t know anything about cars. Let me explain things so they’ll make more sense. (more…)
(If you can pronounce the title, then I’m impressed!)
You’ve probably heard that crazy story about a dude called Rumpelstiltskin who helps a girl spin straw into gold. Well, as is so often the case, the common retelling is wrong. First of all, the king didn’t want his precious straw turned into useless gold. NO! The king wanted all the gold that was just lying about his castle to be turned into something useful: straw for his horses to eat.
One day, the king heard a man boasting about how his daughter could spin straw into gold.
“Well now,” the king said to himself, “if she can spin straw into gold, then she ought to be able to spin gold into straw!”
(Why we celebrate the 4th of July.)
Last week, I was talking to a couple of people about the Fourth of July celebrations. One of them, a young kid, asked why we celebrate July 4th. The other man said something about a signing of a Declaration of Independence (whatever that is) and our country’s freedom. Well, I stopped him right then and there and prevented the eight-year-old from getting confused for the rest of his life.
“What on earth are you talking about?” I asked.
The man looked at me in surprise and started to stammer something.
“Kid, don’t listen to a word he says,” I said. “Come over here with me and I’ll tell you the real reason we celebrate the fourth.” The kid came willingly. He knew he could trust me to get the story right, because I had also told him all about Robin Hood and Sir Launcelot.
(In which Sir Launcelot is supposed to perform some good deeds.)
There is simply no excuse! Have you ever read a book about knights that says they are going to perform good deeds, but then they go out and actually DO the deeds? Well I have, and let me tell you, this makes no sense. I think whatever author writes a book like that should get a new dictionary and stop confusing people. Honestly, you would think that a common dictionary defined perform as 1: to adhere to the terms of: FULFILL, 2: CARRY OUT, DO, and so on.
Well, I think it’s time I set down the proper definition of perform: 1: to act something out, 2: play a role that isn’t you, i.e. if you play a part in a play or movie then you are ~-ing that part.
Wow, I should write a dictionary of my own. It would probably would make a lot of money, since I know the real meaning of just about every word. Take the word pleuropneumonia, for example, why I… uh… well, everyone knows that word, so I guess there’s not really any reason for me to put it in my dictionary. Hmm, well, I guess I’ll cut the people who wrote the other dictionaries some slack and give them another chance to get it right. But if the next edition of Webster’s Dictionary still has the words wrong…
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, now that you know that perform means to act or pretend to do something, rather then actually to do it, I can get on with the story of Launcelot.
The last time we saw Launcelot was when he was narrowly missed by a truck while crossing the highway. After his heart stopped ricocheting around his body, he continued to peddle his way towards Camelot, or at least, where he thought Camelot ought to be. Presently, he came to a big building that was shaped like a globe. He found a door and walked in.
“Hello,” he called cautiously. “Is this where I pick up my pizza?”