Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Goodnight Jolly Roger

The commute from downtown Pittsburgh to the Greenfield neighborhood can be nasty, despite being merely four miles. I snap at jaywalkers and newborn potholes, but my nerves ease as home nears. Once there, I hang my slightly frayed tie on the hook with seven others in similar states. The ring on the collar of my white dress shirt has darkened. It needs scrubbed now, but screw it; I’m damned exhausted. I snatch a wrinkled pair of shorts from the mounting pile of dirty clothes on the bedroom floor. I’m most comfortable at my least presentable.

Finally, I grab my handheld shortwave radio from the junk drawer and lean my shoulder into the storm door separating the kitchen and the back deck. I’m greeted with uncomfortably humid, but awfully welcome, summer air. The workday is already a vague memory, and first pitch is minutes away.

Turn on the radio.

Superman has his Fortress of Solitude. Homer Simpson has Moe’s Bar. Incarcerated Hannibal Lector has memories of Florence, specifically the “Duomo, seen from the Belvedere.” Here, on my deck – with a Pittsburgh Pirates game on the radio – I’m exactly where I should be.

Radio waves encompass all voids. A Pirates broadcast floats unseen, odorless, and tasteless – yet it’s everywhere, all at once. A Greg Brown “clear the deck” home run call or a dry Bob Walk quip already pervade my sleepy neighborhood for as far as I can see in every direction. The radio snatches the personalities, and the game itself, from the nothingness of the omnipresent air and translates them so I can be an audience of one.

The barely audible background static compliments the pauses in commentary. White noise surely beats the bombardment of green screen birthed corporate logos and gaudy ads that flash beside the catcher’s shoulder like a flip book of highway billboards. Sunoco and Taco Bell – much like crying and designated hitters – do not belong in baseball. Save the propaganda for the outfield wall.

No Fox Sports 1 strike zone grids, no commercial breaks brought to you by Miller Lite in the brand-new NASA engineered Reverse Inertia Bottle, and no trailers for The Hangover 6. Five-second station identification breaks be damned.

Yes sir, Brownie and Rock will be welcomed back as ol’ warm weather companions when the umpire says “play ball.” Breaks in action will be graced by the personalities of Steve Blass and Tim Neverett, and not corrupted by pandering crowd shots of rowdy Cubs fans in from out-of-town, or the snoozing three-year-old wearing the over-sized Parrot hat.

Blass’ tales of attempting to cure the disease of his namesake by wearing loose-fitting underwear at the behest of fan mail, or Walkie’s “lucky noise,” shine when unencumbered by pre-2010 stock footage of the Golden Triangle, or close-ups of two beagles tussling during “Bring Your Dog To The Park Night”. Only hot dogs belong at the park. And down with Twitter Tuesday.

Listen when the broadcasters pause, and discover explicit crowd chatter, or organ music normally buried in the veritable bloatware of live television.

Pop a Cracker Jack and close your eyes. You’re in the bleachers and parking is free, and curbside.

My deck is outside where the air is fresh — well, as fresh as air up-wind from the industrial Mon Valley can be. And the clouds directly above are the same clouds huffing towards PNC Park from the east. The buzz of the Goodyear Blimp –sounding like an airborne lawn mower — passes overhead en route to the North Shore. A sudden rain means — in about five minutes — Greg Brown will announce that the grounds crew has began to gather near the infield tarp.

Sometimes my two-year-old son will join me outside. He’ll wander about the wooden planks while his father rants about a rare booted ground ball off Jordy Mercer‘s shin, or raves about a Marte gap-shot that ricochets about the North Side Notch. “Dig, baby, dig!” Yes, I’ll startle my boy, and the cat watching from the living room window sill will scurry when the scene outside devolves into lunacy. But my resilient son will recover and go about fumbling with his plastic John Deere tractor, and the cat will return amid a humdrum 1-2-3 inning.

The world darkens while the innings mount. My boy, having seen and heard enough childishness from his old man, retires to his bedroom where Mom will read him Goodnight Moon. I’ll teach him the game, and we’ll have a catch, soon enough. But for now, sleep tight.

The little fella’ is replaced by assorted nocturnal moths — there’s always one white beast that beats its wings on the screen door like simultaneous jackhammers — and countless unseen buzzing bastards that land on my eyelids, and heckle my wildly swatting palms. The price of backyard admission, I suppose.

The Big Dipper now dominates the heavens, and gradually tilts toward the north as the game enters its twilight too.

The score tightens and Clint Hurdle calls on Mark Melancon to clinch. I don’t need an TV screen to see the Shark charge across the outfield grass; my imagination is in 3D, HD, and supports THX Dolby audio. The couple of empty IPA bottles near my feet mark the hours like rings on a tree mark the years. The cold beer in my hands (A Belgium Trip-Trip-Trippel) combats the escalating late-inning jitters.

The Shark chomps bats, 1-2-3, and I can hear the Jolly Roger on my front porch flapping, as though the final swing-and-miss pushes a breeze towards Pittsburgh’s East End.

I power down the radio, gather the debris at my feet, and return inside the small plain house where my life is stored. No worries, I’ll do it all again tomorrow. And the next night, and the next. 162 games is a long season, but it’ll go by too fast.

Goodnight moon. Goodnight Greg Brown and Bob Walk. Goodnight Pedro home run ball that jumped over the moon.

Goodnight Jolly Roger.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Way You Used To

I miss you, baby.

I miss the way you used to read me the morning obituaries in your best sexy voice. That always reminded me to be thankful I'm alive. I miss the way you used to coerce me to sit on the scale at the grocery store self-checkout to hear the machine voice tell me how much I'd cost if I were an artichoke. That always reminded me that my life had value. I miss the way you used to get me out of all those awkward social jams whenever I had a wee bit too much to drink and said things and did things you promised "you'll live to regret if you pull another one of your stunts from this moment on." That always reminded me you'd be there for me no matter what. I miss the way you started slipping on a Halloween mask while we made love in the dark, and then flip on the bedside lamp mere seconds before I'd climax. That began to remind me your timing was impeccable, and that Ronald Reagan's rubbery face can postpone ejaculation indefinitely. I miss the way you started inviting me on to the dance floor at our friends' weddings, and then whisper into my ear, "You have the rhythm of an arthritic knock-kneed orangutan." That began to remind me to dance like everyone was watching, and judging harshly. I miss the way you started responding to my subtle allusions about someday starting a family by perfectly recreating the maggot birth scene from the Jeff Goldblum version of the The Fly, props and all. That began to remind me that childbirth is very demanding of the female body. I miss the way you started to say "Knowledge is power, honey," and then beat me senseless with the P volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. That began to remind me that I should've taken Judo lessons as a kid. I miss the way you started to lock me outside on a freezing winter night and the only way I could get back into the house was to strip off all my clothes, smother myself in the Vaseline you'd leave on the welcome mat, and then squeeze myself through the doggie door. That began to remind that I was juuust flexible enough to avoid hypothermia had I been a medium-sized dog, and that Vaseline existed as a thing. I miss the way you started to lie with me on a blanket under an endless starry sky and tell me how much you wished against all hope that your hominid body could somehow magically take on the specific alien bodily functions that would enable you to thrive on a planet—however hostile the environment—somewhere in a galaxy millions and millions of lightyears away from me and "every-goddamn-thing you ever touched with your stupid boney fingers or saw with your stupid beady eyes during your despicably pitiful life." That began to remind me just how incredibly vast the universe actually is, which made me feel even closer to you.

But honestly, I always fuckin’ hated the way you never ever washed out the Tupperware after you ate tomato soup. That shit would cake to the sides and the bowl would need to be soaked for AT LEAST a good half an hour before being sponged. You're lucky I stuck around as long as I did.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

You Tell Me, Corporal.

Deferring to the experts doesn't seem to be an option.
The dominant theme of Tuesday's Republican debate was the strategy to defeat ISIS, and measures to keep Americans safe. All the candidates, bar Rand Paul, basically stated he'd employ any militaristic means to defeat terrorism, short of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in a canoe and personally, with bare hands, snapping the necks of each Jihadist one-by-one.
"Obama's ISIS strategy is a failure," each candidate bemoaned. "Obama is feckless…he's soft…he's empowering the terrorists." The criticisms spewed from the stage for two hours.
What of the candidate's strategies? "Elect me, and ISIS will rue the day they declared Jihad…20,000 troupes on the ground…A no fly zone." Never ending ground war and a tussle with Russia be damned.
And the people cheered, because the candidates answered firmly and with gusto.

Why can't one candidate, regardless of affiliation, when asked about ISIS, simply say, "Although I have ideas, I don't conclusively know yet what I'd do about defeating ISIS. I'd sit down with my military tacticians first, learn what I don't know because I'm likely not privy to vast amounts of information and scenarios, and THEN map out a strategy."?
Surely, President Obama has a perspective on the extremely nuanced Middle East quagmire that the current presidential candidates do not. Surely, he's briefed daily about what's what. Most likely, he's a yes man, of sorts, to his military and political advisors. He should be. The presidential candidates don't know what they don't know. But they do know their base will whoop and fist bump whenever they promise to "Bomb the hell outta' them."
Concerning the debate, most notable were the issues not raised: climate change, infrastructure repair, and gun control, for instance. Moreover, nor was there a single mention of the most prevalent terror threat – the domestic gun owner with a Facebook manifesto and an itchy trigger finger.
Unless the solution is a rousing, "Bomb the hell outta' them," perhaps those issues, too, are best left to those in the know.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

To angry white American males who demand their country back

-From whom? You stole it in the first place. Well, not YOU personally, but your immigrant/refugee blood relatives. In fact, you should be trying to give it back to the natives. Naming the mascots of high school football teams after the victims isn't suitable compensation.

-From when? The 1950's, I bet. You want every household on the block to be the Cleavers again. Your perception of history is about as black and white as Leave It To Beaver. What the producers of that show neglected to air was the mass discrimination of anyone who wasn't you. June Cleaver was probably a sobbing wreck between the canned laughs, Wally Cleaver was probably gay but kept it hush in fear of becoming the villain of a high school scare film, and the black neighbor…he never got to move Pine Street because the fire hose guarded the suburbs.  
-Why? Because you're an arrogant wimp, that's why. It's not good enough that you're a white male living in 21st century America. The marvelous advancement of medicine, science, and internet porn doesn't cut it. You want even MORE privilege. You're the cookie monster, and privilege is cookies. Brush those crumbs from that Hacksaw Jim Duggan beard; you've consumed more than your fair share.
-From where? You're standing on it, duh.
-What? You're country. You've made that quite clear on Facebook, Twitter, and at Cruz rallies and happy hour at Chuck's Bar and Bib Overhaul Wholesaler, and basically whenever you flap your pale face hole.
-How? That's the big question, ain't it? I'm sure you tried prayer already. Jesus would think you’re a prick too. Perhaps your scolding 187-character status update will ignite a movement, as though your See Dick Run brain could comprehend the extraordinarily nuanced situations that have led to you the delusional belief that your once-great nation was swiped from the pocket of your Van Heusen pleaded slacks.
You can have your country back when you pry it from the cold dead hands of everyone you fucked to get it in the first place.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

god is good?

Next time you want to exclaim to the world "God is good," remember today's headline on NBC News...

Alleged Rape Victim, 10, Dies in House Fire Hours Before Rape Suspect's Trial Begins

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whittling the Terrier

I didn't enjoy being a member of the Cub Scouts of America, or, the pack, as we were referred to within the organization. Truthfully, I barely recall the pack meetings, or what went on therein, every Tuesday night for the two years I was involved. I’m sure I’d remember more if I relished my days as a Cub Scout.

Okay, so I do recall a few things. I remember when I sliced my pointer finger open with a pocket knife while I attempted to whittle a Scottish terrier out of a bar of soap. I remember wiping out on the jagged asphalt during the go-cart races. And I remember, after a fundraiser, Scout Leader Barnes slipping on icy steps and gashing the left side of his face on the frozen top layer of snow. Perhaps the only achievement badges I earned were those that represented bodily harm: the bloody finger, the brush-burned torso, and the horrified eyes. Wait! I was victorious in the DuBoistown-Nisbet Cub Scout checker tournament; my opponent still owed me two king pieces when I jumped his final pawn. THAT is my sole fond memory of "obeying the law of the pack," as the motto goes.

I don't know, exactly, why I wasn't hyped to be a Cub Scout. I was somewhat of an outdoorsman in my youth—I enjoyed hiking in the Appalachians behind my boyhood home, and fishing the local streams with my grandfather, and camping in the Tiagahton Forest with my buddies. I suppose I was adverse to the structure. Also, come to think of it, our troupe's meetings were exclusively indoors. We learned to pitch a tent while cooped-up in the local fire hall basement, next to the boiler room. Ah, the great underground, block-windowed, asbestos-tiled, indoors!

I also hated the fucking stupid yellow scarf.

My inner adventurer perked when our fearless leader (he wasn't really fearless—I think he was a claims adjuster, or something) Scout Master Barnes, announced a three day, two night sojourn to Camp Karoondinha. Camp Karoondinha is "The Land of Shining Waters," nestled in the foothills of Mifflinburg, PA. Finally, the pack was leaving the fire hall basement and heading into the great outdoors. I gathered a weekend's worth of my most outdoor-sy possessions: compass, map of the Appalachians, and Swiss army knife (I WISHED it was one with the spoon), and loading them into the plastic duffel bag I got free with a specific number of Kellogg’s proofs of purchase. Next thing I know, the pack is unloading Scout Leader Barnes' minivan and gathering amongst a thick canopy of lush deciduous trees. The untainted breeze wafted the pure scent of pine into our nostrils, which had, after so many troupe meetings, sucked in more dust and mold spores than the EPA would deem suitable.

Hawks cawing and circling above, the snap of a distant branch that was likely caused by an unseen whitetail deer, the startling menace of an 18-wheeler's horn reverberating from the major interstate not far from camp…we were finally outside.

Yes, we were now in the heart of God’s country. But a true survivalist would’ve scoffed at the conveniences: pre-pitched tents, a modern bathroom, a ranger’s office with electricity, etc. Bear Grylls would’ve likened it to a penthouse on Fifth Avenue, albeit one with raccoon scat dotting the woodland floor.

The first half-day of camp was comprised of relatively standard camping fare for the pre-adolescent uninitiated: unrolling sleeping backs, cooking a sausage and grit dinner over the pre-built fire pit, and generally running amuck without regard for the true beauty of the natural habitat in which we were immersed. Before long, night had fallen and the pack had gathered in a circle around the fire pit under the bulbous radiant moon.

Duh, of course we did. The cliché is realized.

To further the cliché the fireside chats quickly became a carousal of ghost stories. One camper after another told the scary story his grandfather told him the Halloween prior, or he'd heard on the playground, or at a sleepover, or whatnot. But a kid rarely possesses the narration skills to truly spook an audience, even when said audience is a bunch of pubescent sons of sub-suburban soccer moms. After the umpteenth telling of the ol' "hook hanging from the car door" urban legend the troupe leader cleared his throat, which snagged his pack's attention. "Quiet kids," he said. "Enough silly stories. I need to tell you something that may save your life this weekend…Hey, stop making fart sounds and pay attention, Biff. You all need listen up or you may DIE." The fire roared and the moon flickered when he said "die." (Not really, but I'd add those effects if I were directing the movie version). "Not long ago, a small plane crashed deep in the woods not far from this campsite. The pilot, who was alone on the flight, survived. But his arm was trapped underneath a crushed part of the cockpit. He screamed and yelled for help, but no one came. Fearing he would die, and understanding that his only chance at survival was to escape the wreckage, he pulled out the axe he'd kept in the cockpit and chopped off the arm that was trapped. He had freed himself. Days later, a search party found the downed plane. They also found the pilot's severed arm and a trail of dried blood leading into the woods. The pilot, however, was never seen again. Legend has it that he still lurks about these very woods at night, still carrying his ax, and seeking someone with an arm that might fit onto his own mutilated shoulder. And when he finds that perfect arm he's going to chop it off and replace the one he had to leave behind in the plane crash. Camp Karoondinha is full of campers this weekend. I'm sure the, ah, bloody stump pilot will be out looking for a match. I wouldn't go out wandering in the woods if I were you. You might just come back to camp with a BLOODY STUMP YOURSELF. (The fire would rage again).

With the benefit of both hindsight and maturity, I should've recognized this grisly story as impromptu bullshit fear-mongering designed to simply scare curious or mischievous campers into not straying into the woods and facing threats much more likely than ax-wielding ghosts— like black bears and the distinct prospects of getting lost in the vast Pennsylvania woodlands. The should-have-been-obvious reasons for disbelief are aplenty. First of all, I imagined the pilot as a burly lumberjack-type. Thus, Scout Leader Barnes himself owned the only appendage suitable to compliment the pilot's size requirements. How laughable would a barrel-chested brute look if he had one strapping arm, and another befitting a squirrelly 9-year-old? Furthermore, the dismembered pilot would've needed to survive the blood loss, and somehow manage in the unforgiving woods for several years armed with only an ax—and perhaps a little Cub Scout know-how. Never mind that he apparently decided to nest with the wildlife like the Unabomber, rather than hike to the nearest highway and seek a ride to the ER. Lastly, why would Scout Leader Barnes allow us to stay a weekend at Camp Karoondinha when he knew a rural Jack the Ripper was roaming about? The woodlands were London alleys, and we were prostitutes.

Despite the overlooked surefire signs that the scout leader’s story was nothing but B horror movie fodder, we naïve Cub Scouts immediately thought of ourselves as targets. After storytelling time concluded with the collective pants-pissing of about two dozen scouts, we finished our S’mores with chattering teeth, doused our fire, and schlepped to our tents. Yep, we were sitting ducks; it was just a matter of who “got the ax.”

Todd, my tent-mate, and I spent the first night in our sleeping bags assuring ourselves ad nauseam that our arms would remain intact with our torsos for the duration of the trip. We had some cause for hope. Most significantly, the law of probability dictated that neither of US would LIKELY be the pilot’s victim—someone, perhaps, but neither of us. But if either of us were chosen to be sampled, so to speak, surely we would notice the pilot approaching long before he could pounce. I felt strongly about my changes of outrunning a one-armed man hauling a cumbersome ax. Besides, if Todd and I were to stand back-to-back all weekend—think Forrest Gump and Bubba in the jungles of Vietnam—our surveillance would gain us the advantage. Those thoughts were comforting enough to allow us to begin to drift into slumber…until Todd brought up a good point, “What if he sneaks into our tent while we’re sleeping?” Oh shit!

I spent the next hours of the slog to sunrise either tossing and turning, or in a half-sleep state in which gruesome images appeared and vanished in my reeling mind like a flickering fever dream. But I was rattled back to reality when a shrill scream—that of a boy—blitzed the pre-dawn air. I sprang up in my bed Jack-In-The-Box style, eyes bulging, but recoiled just as quickly under the feeble security of my thin tattered sheets. I was too scared to ask Todd's opinion of what the scream meant. I didn't need to, actually. The pilot was trying on a brand new arm.

The next morning began as inauspiciously as the previous night had ended. After exchanging a few silent hours of petrified glances with Todd amid the muted glow of an early morning sun, Scout Leader Barnes rang the breakfast bell. What we happened upon along the short trek to the fire pit confirmed, or, re-confirmed, what me and Todd had already concluded. The flap to Biff's tent was wide open. His bed had been stripped and the bags and toiletries that normally accompanied occupancy were missing. We surveyed the other scouts lingering about the plates of scrambled eggs and sausages on the picnic table—Biff was gone!

My nerves instantly ran amuck upon this realization. Biff and I were never friends. In fact, I didn’t even know him particularly well. But now, poor Biff was dead. Murdered by a bloodthirsty ghost! His parents must be crushed. Scout Leader Barnes was just sitting on a rock, munching on greasy bacon. He seemed quite collected…eerily collected.

How can he hide his shock? Why aren’t we piling back in his minivan and scurrying home? Wait. Where are the police? Where are the investigators collecting evidence and writing down quotes? Crap! The Cub Scouts of America are sweeping the tragedy under the rug! Scout Master Barnes must've yanked the bloody sheets off Biff's bed to hide the fact that his friggin' arm was chopped off. Biff's camping gear was removed to erase any traces of his existence. His name surely has been erased from Camp Karoondinha's attendance records. Why? Is this a calculated effort by the Cub Scouts of America to protect a wholesome image? Did they honestly not foresee this tragedy, the ghost story come to life, and now feel the irrepressible need to avert the headline "Scout Master's Tongue in Granny Knots as Camper Slaughtered?" Either way, does the Cub Scouts of America think tank presume that Biff's fellow scouts would simply forget he was a part of the pack?

Scout's dishonor.


The remainder of the day consisted of standard camping and/or Cub Scout stuff, less the permeating immense fear that I may be violently murdered under the cloak of night in the vacuum of the Central Pennsylvania wilderness, and the nefarious Fraternal Order of the Cub Scouts of America would wipe away all traces of my untimely demise and order Scout Master Barnes to simply tell my parents “I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Bower, but Matt went down to the creek to skip rocks, and never came back. Damn, this is always the hardest part of the job.”

Beyond earshot of the scout master—preferably behind a tree or the outhouse—pack members exchanged whispers concerning the events of the preceding night. Everyone had heard Biff scream. Everyone had noticed Biff’s absence. Everyone took note of the mysterious state of Biff’s tent. And everyone was convinced that he was a goner.

I handled a potentially deadly weapon for the first time that afternoon. A ranger employed by the camp (read: lackey ordered by the Fraternal Order of the Cub Scouts of America) gave a crash course on proper use of a bow and arrow, and instructed me to take aim at a hail bale 50 feet away. I placed the tip of my left sneaker at the white chalk line in the grass, and raised the bow. I somehow mustered the strength in my scrawny upper body to gradually pull the string back while the arrow’s shaft was clenched between my fingers. The tension in the string was quickly draining the energy from my quivering arm. I squinted and measured the target straight ahead. In my mind, the hail bail was the psychotic pilot, sharpening his ax. He didn’t know I was there. He didn’t know I had him in my crosshairs. In that moment, I felt completely in control. The tension in the string and the ache in my biceps and shoulder assured me the arrow possessed sufficient potential energy to split a man’s eyebrows from across a field. I whimpered slightly when the ache became a throb. The pilot heard me and peered up; the sparks jumping from the grindstone framed his sneer. His eyes said “Look. Fresh meat.” I released the tension. My thoughts were on the tip of the arrow as it careened mercilessly toward its target. The pilot’s maddened eyes trailed the arrow as it whooshed three feet above his head. Then he turned back to me, grinned, and the spinning grindstone stopped. The blade was sharp enough now. And I was meat, indeed.


I awoke Sunday morning—the final day of camp—accompanied by a sense of relief. I hadn't been slaughtered overnight. Neither had Todd. Moreover, no midnight screams had awakened us.

The pact gathered for a final hearty breakfast prepared by Scout Master Barnes over the open fire. Nothing else seemed amiss. No tents were suddenly and mysteriously empty. No one was unaccounted for. My fellow scouts certainly seemed more carefree than the prior morning. Todd was back to his sophomoric quips, and others were playfully tussling. I sensed that everyone was thankful that today we'd return to the safe doldrums of a retreat to the proverbial grit. I know I was. But that didn't mean I was prepared to allow Scout Master Barnes to escape the veiling of Biff's terrible fate without a suitable explanation.

While our leader sat beside the withering fire and munched on a piece of toast, I gradually and deliberately approached him within his peripheral view. I was hoping he'd peer up and ask me what was on my mind before I'd have to tap him on the shoulder and initiate an extremely uncomfortable conversation. Frankly, I think he did notice me slowly approaching—fidgeting hands behind my back—but he refused to acknowledge me until the lingering awkwardness of a silent looming nine-year-old forced him to speak.  “Hi Matt,” he said. “Ready to go home?”

“Yes,” I answered. I stared at his bobbing moustache as he chewed his bacon. “I’m ready.”

“Did you have fun?”


“Will you come back again with the pack next year?”

I didn’t respond at first. Instead, I stared at my feet. “Scout Master Barnes? I have a question. What happened to…” I could hear food squishing between his teeth. “What happened to Biff? Is he dead?”

Scout Master Barnes’ eyes widened, and a grin overcame his face. “Why? Do you think his arm was chopped off?”

My heart didn’t skip a beat. Nor did it quicken. But I’m pretty sure it turned white and coughed air bubbles into my veins.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Hah. Biff didn’t get his arm chopped off, son. No, no. But it’s not much better.  He tried going into the bathroom in the dark and his dang wiener got caught in his zipper. That’s the scream you heard. Shook him up but good.” By this time, several members of the pack had gathered nearby.
“His poor mom had to come and pick him up before you guys woke up. Biff’s fine. He’ll just have an ice pack on his crotch for few days.” Scout Master Barnes erupted into an obscene belly laugh...the dick. “You guys thought the pilot got him, didn’t you. That’s rich! Time to gather your gear boys. The minivan leaves soon.”

I still love the outdoors, much more than any moldy basement. And, yes, I have zero fond memories of my days as a Cub Scout, bar the checkers tournament. But I did learn one thing while camping—always take your flashlight to the pisser.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Slice of Toast Image Mysteriously Appears in Virgin Mary Blow Mold

Bentlyville (AP)- Who says Bentleyville isn't a tourist destination? The population of the small town has swelled dramatically since news of a local barkeep's bizarre discovery swept through the sleepy community, and far beyond. "I was just staring at the Nativity scene in front of the Rufus County court house," said Herb Rosenhauer, "when I noticed something unusual. If I stood at a certain angle and in a certain light and looked at the Virgin Mary blow mold, I could distinctly see a slice of toast appear on her robes. I think its Pumpernickel."

Herb is the longtime owner of The Jolly Miser tavern, a favorite haunt of local boozehounds and dead beats. He's seen some wild things between happy hour and last call, but nothing quite like this. "Our kitchen is open until 11pm daily, and we serve grain in many forms: sandwiches, bread bowls…ah…double decker sandwiches. Even though I handle bread daily, this has shaken me to the core. Maybe it foretells something big…like, triple decker sandwich big"

What exactly that is remains to be seen. However, Herb isn't the only one who regards the phenomena as something more significant than a garden variety optical illusion obviously caused by the street light directly about the illegally placed Nativity scene. When Herb blabbed his discovery at the Basketful Bakery nearby, news quickly wafted downwind to the editor of the Bentleyville Bi-Weekly. The front page story was delivered to doorsteps the next morning, and word spread globally very slowly via Myspace posts and AOL chatrooms. Two weeks later, bread lovers, wheat aficionados, and desperate patients with incurable grain deficiencies have flocked to Bentleyville by the loaf-ful.

A tent shantytown has sprung up about Nativity scene. Those who stand on the exact spot where Herb discovered the mysterious image—again, only when the street light is on—also claim to see the slice of toast. However, disagreement abounds over what the slice signifies. Some think it spells doom, exemplified by makeshift signs; one reads "The Yeast Shall Rise Again" while another proclaims "Repent. The Second Crumbing Is Nigh." Oh, and "Schwebel 3:16." Others who have traveled are stricken with gluten allergies and believe that touching the blow mold on Virgin Mary's plastic bosom—where the image appears—will help their bowels simmer down. Still, other visitors just plain-old love toast. "I fucking love toast," says Tabitha Whitman, a claims adjuster from Paducah, TN, who loves toast.

Businesses in the area also welcome the population surge. "I don't know how long this thing will last, but I've never made so much money from so many disillusioned scatterbrains in my life," said a local petty thief who simply steals wallets from the back pockets of those who stand in muted admiration of the easily explainable spectacle.

Despite the surge of attention that has befallen Herb Rosenhauer since the fateful day his eyes "accidentlly happened upon" on Mother Mary's chest, he strives to remain grounded. "I don't know what this whole toast thing means. But I do know that the Jets should be favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2016."

Update: Proof of a higher flour? Since publication of this piece, a report from Alabama tells of an English muffin spotted in a bust of Elvis, and another from Brazil claims a Toaster Strudel suddenly appeared in a framed velvet Jesus.