Monday, November 22, 2010

The Predicament of Pepperidge Potts (excerpted from "Short-Lived Correspondences")

Hello my dear brother. You must be closing up shop for the night by now. Funny, that phrase, “closing up shop.” Makes me think of daffodils withering in a gully desiccated by drought. I’m not sure why.

I got a phone call last week from a man named Ron. He claimed some man named Demetrius told him I was looking for people to hand out fliers for my business. As you well know, I have no business. Well, other than the weekly humor column I write for the local paper. But, needless to say, I’d never imagined needing somebody to distribute leaflets extolling my virtues as a humorist. This Ron person was very insistent though, and said his name and phone number multiple times on my answering machine. I thought, ‘What the heck. I’ll give this guy a shot. Maybe he knows something I don’t.’

A few days later we met at a coffee shop. I was rather nervous, but was wearing tweed, which usually bodes well for my social interactions. You know how anxious I can get when meeting somebody for the first time. I’m always afraid of mistaken- identity situations as well. Remember when I killed the mailman because I thought he was dad coming home early from work to spy on me? But I digress.

There was no mistaking this Ron character. He’d told me he’d be wearing silver nylon stretch pants, and he was. My sigh of relief was noticeably dramatic. This Ron was very astute. He knew what a ziggurat was, and was well versed in all things riparian. I have no idea why this mattered in the least to somebody who was wanting to pass out flyers for a company, but it didn’t detract from my interest in him as a potential employee.

I asked him a few getting-to-know-you questions. His responses were adequate.

A point came in our conversation, just after my coffee was about half gone (his being already gone and refilled), when juxtaposition’s peppering pang, almost like rain pattering tin, became overwhelming. He dropped trou, in the midst of the coffee-shop crowd mind you, and screamed, “I am monstered with moans and sedentary chimes!” I hired him on the spot. Both of us were asked to leave, and did so with a security escort.

Some colluvium’s been gathering in my thoughts of late. I hesitate to call it detritus, though that is precisely what it might end up being. One thing: It matters less what we do in this life than with whom we do it. Obviously, grey fogs of confusion prevail. I make lists. I use less sugar. My cares like cats come crawling through the carpet’s crumbs and whine for water.

I don’t remember what mother used to call hamburgers. Was it greebers or gloobers?

Please write. I am desperate for attention. Send your regards. Mail me a poem or a rubber garden snake or some plastic green army men or a rental agreement for a timeshare in New Zealand. Anything will suffice.

Ron is doing well so far. He passes out fliers with my byline, some quotes showcasing my acerbic wit, quite a handsome headshot of me, and my business address on them. To the far corners of the city he treads, giving paper to passersby, chatting about my column, and giving credence to my better half: the funny one.

When we were young we read paperbacks. There were times though, if I recall accurately, when you chose magazines from the rack at the supermarket and snuck them into mother’s cart. What were those magazines? Time? Newsweek? Vanity Fair? I never asked you for some reason. I let you alone with your secret vice. Now I stay up nights and wonder about such things. Could it be that I am becoming soft?

It would surprise most people how melancholy a man who writes humor for a living is. I wear depression around like a cloche hat. Insomnia drives me mad, and makes my matins habits preposterous. After all, the rising sun is better to wake to than fall asleep to. I am not prince Hamlet, but might care to be would I could. For the time being I’d be satisfied if I could make coffee that didn’t leave me with a mouthful of wet grounds.

I gained a dishtowel at the Laundromat yesterday. Is this a sign of me having a good life? I hope so.

A new idea sprouted today: making t-shirts of classic literature book-jacket-cover illustrations. Just think! Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Journey To The End Of The Night, Groucho Marx’s letters. Wouldn’t it be grand? I think people in droves would buy them, and, I hope, wear them outdoors.

My Time In The Shower (TITS) is increasing of late. It’s gone from 11-12 minutes to almost 18. I’ve taken to bathing myself in long, luxurious swaths. I will try to cut down soon, but I foresee it being difficult, as I’ve become accustomed to this ablutionary indulgence. Do not fret my dear brother, for my attempt will be a valiant one.

I fear that I’ve lost the ability to have empathy for myself. This may have occurred between 3:13 pm and 3:17 pm last Wednesday. It is a small space in my life that I cannot recall.

Tell that wife of yours to remember me fondly. I beg you. As for me? Well, it has come to the point where Matilda yawns during the Love-Act. I believe this stems from her lack of enthusiasm for my chosen profession. She wondered aloud one rain-swept evening, “What’s the point in being alive if you’re just going to laugh your way through life?” I had no response. I rarely do.

The moon is goopy tonight. Sometimes I think it’ll get in my eye if I look too long.

Take care of Cid and Wilkie for me. Tell Tin-Pan Sam I say howdy. Will write again soon when I know more about my circumstances.


Hello again dear brother!

I was heartened much by your last letter. So compelling yet not overwrought. Thanks for the timely response.

As you advised I’ve been trying to get Ron to say what he means more often, instead of letting his inhibitions sway him into hording up his emotions. I tell him to say things like, “I need nourishment in the form of Nilla Wafers, damn it!” This strategy seems to be paying off already, as his flier-passing-out promotional skills are becoming finely honed. I don’t think he will be absquatulating any time soon.

Heavy clouds like dirty socks this week but only a smattering of sprinkled rain to show for it. Next week I will pray for sun.

So I bet you’re wondering how slick Ron’s becoming at being my numero uno proponent. Well, he’s prone to fits of lackluster fury, and gets teary eyed when his shoes come untied, but we’ve started making bets on when the various formicaries in the yard will implode. You know me; I’ve always been a sucker for the doings of ants. All in all I must say Mr. Ron is meeting all expectations quite well. He’s got strangers chanting my name underneath the huddled shacks of boredom. He makes shopgirls go glitter-eyed with doting woe over my funny lines. I think I’m going to keep the silly bastard around for a while.

Do you remember mother’s maiden name? It’s slipped from the dewy banks of my present tense.

Will write again as soon as is mammaly possible.


Oh woe is me my dear brother.

How I wish I could rinse the eyebrows of loss from my cerebral gutters. My business relationship with Ron is officially kaput. Do not worry over the prospect of a decapitation though. This time I kept it simple and clean. Very little blood loss.

Why have you not written since my last letter? Are family needs pressing you in to the jackhammers of sorrow? Do not leave me guessing. You know such things trouble my will.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Tell mother I have a cup of sugar for her, if she’s got the time.



It seems my life is only a chilled champagne flute, empty and awaiting champagne that never arrives. I wouldn’t recommend cranes that swing wrecking balls smashing in the walls of the past. It opens up too much. Too much for others to gander. It is too late for me. Save yourself. Get a cat. Make pasta from scratch. Wear robes and trounce the dust to death.

Is that avocado tree in the backyard of mother’s place still producing? How I dream of fresh avocadoes lately. Please, if you can muster up the brio, send a few of those old green boys along to me. It would lift my spirits some.

We’ve got nothing to lose. I am free enough. I pound the rats from the basement walls. Hot chocolate has gone out of style again, and spring has come too early. Look out for kites. Your hair, like mine, is still a delicate mess.

Maybe I’ll get cat. Their company can be vastly misunderstood, but I feel it is something I might come to know and cherish in time. For now there is sleep to catch up with before it dashes off into the unknowable again.

Don’t forget about the avocadoes.



What a delightful surprise to find a dozen ripe, not-too-soft, not-too-hard avocadoes on my doorstep! Just the tactile delight of their cratered skin sent shudders trembling throughout my being. I will rainy-day them for now, and tell Matilda to do with them as suits her. She is hard up for daily tasks around here. The whole of our life together is jaunting away on the fritz.

Success alludes me. Not that I seek fame in the form of worship, or rewards in the senseless parade of dollar signs. To be myself always, without fail, in whatever capacity that allows me to do that, in regards to the kinship of others, well, that would be fine by me. For now I am toiling away in obscurity’s tenebrific lair, with no flashlight.

Matilda jokes with me about the rotting, sweetly sour odor emanating from somewhere below our abode. She plays our answering machine in hopes of answers. I tell her that my voice is on fire, and to forward all messages to The Great Beyond. She yawns and fly-swats at the empty air.

Rumors abound. Police sirens chase their own dopplered sound. Being alive can be a tricky endeavor, but I am glad we get to have it at a contemporary time. My urine has begun to stink of cabbage.


Oh brother,

Once again I find myself skidding across the thin ice of the world. Also, there is something about the smell of my shower curtain that’s hauntingly reassuring. Another example of me crying wolf to myself? Perhaps. You know my furious miscalculations when it comes to self-examination. But I won’t bore you with freedom’s lost art. Unknown pharmaceuticals practice synchronized swimming routines in my bathtub. I vomit mothballs. Of course you of all people understand what I’m coming to. Let’s not drown the kittens just yet though. I believe there is more noodling to come over the next few nights, and somewhere a grazing lark will be traumatized by harsh disciplines of muted contentedness.

I fool nobody.

Kiss your wife’s forehead for me. Your arthritic whims are nothing new. And please note that I still have much bravado left to fill my mornings.


So, brother, here we find ourselves again: bemoaning participles, lengthening delays between after-dinner drinks. Your last letter (I almost wrote “late letter.” More apt? Perhaps.) filled me with mischievous doubts as to your whereabouts. While I perform these Flying-Wallenda acts in my mind, tripping over moldy tombstones of regret the whole while, you fasten purblind chance to run-away-with-me novelty. Can I clip the wind’s earhair? Can I rain?

God moves and retreats without harming anybody but herself. At least that’s what I’ve inferred from your letter. Are we not blood-clung? Are we not singing the same tune but in just a slightly different key? Of course, these questions don’t touch harmony. We have that. Of course, brother. Who can deny this?

Have you ever tasted my wife’s guacamole? It’s tangy sweet and delightful. I think you should.

Brother, there’s so much we never say. Half-a-night away we live in our own isolated darkness. Bend a river and the fool will swim the softest route. Let’s pound back at our bête noires for once. Give a name to our fears so we can rip ‘em a new one. That’s dad’s old talk. I know. But we can still get something from it, can’t we? Just a thoughtless suicide note if nothing else, right? It’s on the tip of my tongue.



Brother, brother, brother…

Where will I rest when I am living below the rising tide? Cooking is rare around here. I keep talking to myself, saying things like, “Come back.”

Directly, there are mules around the corner shaggy with greed. I am getting it straight, pulling the threads back together.

The Mrs. has gone missing.

So, redirect all of your mail. Sleep will no longer be necessary.

I miss the smell of cookies baking in mother’s kitchen. Soft chocolatechipmacadamianut swirls lifting pressedheads from concretebeds.

Brother. Let me bow my head, but not in shame, not in hopes of some irreconcilable redemption, but in honest kinship with the natural state of affairs. Remember, the person who you see is not always the person who you get. Let’s leave it at a handshake.



Do you whisper in the night, “It is raining. It is raining. There, there, now.”?

I often contemplate minutes not attaching to each other, each one separate from the last, each its own eternity, nothing connecting to the last thing.

By the way, spells don’t work. Conjuring just brings minds to an unsteady ease.

I have grown fond of concord grapes. Do they grow in mother’s yard still?

It is not lonely here at all.

I don’t believe in me



please help