After lunch, the dog and I went for a short walk through the turgid summer heat native New Orleanians call ‘a bit cool for the season.’ Our efforts earned one of us a sheen of sweat and the other a drooling pant. I won’t say which one won which.
Our next door neighbor, lovingly referred to as “Crazy Shawn” since he is both crazy and Shawn, was outside working on his lawn. Or, for those familiar with Shawn’s house, his lack of a lawn. Shawn spent many years spraying Round-Up on his front yard until every blade of grass was sent to the great green fields in the sky.
Optimists who visit say beautiful things like, “He must be preparing a rock garden.”
He must. Without the rock or the garden.
Rain has eroded half-a-foot of soil from his front yard, weakening the foundation of his house, Crazy Shawn laid down tar paper to protect what was left.
Guests plagued by positivity say to us, “A tar paper garden. Doesn’t Gwenyth Paltrow highly recommend those?”
If she does, I applaud her critics’ collective restraint in their descriptions of dear Gwen.
So this afternoon, Shawn is working on his tar paper lawn, weeding away grass which has launched an attack from our yard on the quarter inch of dirt between his fence and the tar paper.
Shawn is muttering to himself.
As those who know Shawn are aware, Shawn’s mutterings are the flapping wings of a butterfly which eventually cause a tsunami halfway across the world. Only, in this case, it isn’t a tsunami we need fear. Shawn’s mutterings grow into 911 calls, stalking charges, and physical violence.
Reminds one of Wilson from Home Improvement, n’est pas? And just like Wilson, there are important fence related conflicts I don’t have time to delve into today.
As anyone on the street will tell you, it’s best to pass Shawn by when he’s muttering. They’ll tell you that then ignore their own advice — but that doesn’t make the advice any less valuable.
Do as they say, not as they do.
So I pass, ignoring the muttering mischief-maker, when one word catches my attention.
I am a renter, could this muttering be about me? My natural sense of victimhood said, “Of course, why would he talk about anyone but you?”
And seeing as many of the neighbors have restraining orders against Shawn, there aren’t many people for him to talk about let alone to.
Then he paused. He nodded his head. He said, “Really? I can’t believe it,” while yanking up a tuft of grass and tossing it aside.
Silly me. It was an honest mistake. He was wearing a bluetooth device and talking to a friend.
A silly mistake that.
The dog and I passed through our front gate and she flopped down on the lawn. While she rolled around, I listened to Shawn go on about property values.
“And with such an expensive property!” he said, picking up unrooted clumps of grass and tossing them in a garbage can.
“Exactly. How do you handle it?” he asked, after a pause.
His friend must have some really awful renters. People destroying their property. Ruining the neighborhood. It’s unthinkable and, given this alternative, it makes me momentarily thankful to have Crazy Shawn as my neighbor instead of these reticent neer-do-wells.
Loaded up with grass, Shawn turns to drag the garbage can out to the street, giving me a clear view of his other ear.
The ear I assumed the bluetooth device was hung since is other ear was naked.
There was no bluetooth device.
No phone on speaker as he answers and asks questions about those… these… horrendous neighbors.
It was another bright and cheerful day at Heroes Incorporated until disaster struck.
Little did she know it, but today would be the day Shrink Girl finally made her mark at Heroes Inc.
“Code Rose!” Mike, the Middle Manager, yelled, running through the cubicle farm. The world’s most famous superheroes popped their heads over the cubicle walls like a herd of masked prairie dogs. Mike turned down one row, up a column, down another row, rounded a corner, and started retracing his steps, all the while shouting, “Code Rose!”
Beet red and breathless, Mike stopped and leaned against a cubicle wall.
“Anything I can do to help, Mike?” asked the Human Megaphone.
The Human Megaphone never missed an opportunity to help middle management, unless there was a chance to help upper or executive management.
“Need… to find… Shrink Girl!” Mike wheezed. He bent at the waist, forcing blood back to his head.
“SHRINK GIRL! REPORT TO SECTION B, ROW 7, CUBE 27A! I REPEAT… RRRREEEKEEKEKKEBBERRR!”
Everyone covered their ears to block out The Human Megaphone’s feedback.
“Who is using a transistor radio?” The Human Megaphone glared at the heroes around him. “I’ve asked you not to use transistor radios as they interfere with my abilities! … Mike, I’m so sorry. I’ve told them…”
A row over, Scarlet Mime switched off her nonexistent radio. There was, in her opinion, no need to shout in an office.
“Hello? Did someone call me?” Shrink Girl asked, rounding a cubicle corner. She bit her lip in an unsuperhero-like manner and assumed she was in trouble.
“Where have you been?” Mike demanded.
“On The Public Relations Importance of Catchphrases When Dealing with Collateral Damage webinar. I had my headphones in,” Shrink Girl said, lowering her eyes.
“This is exactly why headphones are forbidden in the office. Right, Mike?” The Human Megaphone said, at a volume 4, so everyone heard.
“That’s right! I know you’re new here, Shrink, but we have rules for a reason.” Mike launched into a lecture on the dangers of headphones in an office, which is easily summed up by saying, “And that’s why radioactive marine life now run Topeka.”
Mike, as Middle Manager, was obligated to give the longer explanation.
Shrink Girl had only worked with Heroes Inc. for three months, replacing the former shrinkable hero who left to pursue a career in accounting.
Since starting, Shrink had only been allowed to attend seminars, conferences, and webinars on all topics superhero and legal. She had also taken forty-seven tests on the Super Employee Handbook and Crime Fighter’s Manual and passed each one.
And all of this experience led Shrink Girl to one, undeniable conclusion. She was underutilized.
So she began sending out her résumé.
“And just after Google installed a fiber network. Such a waste,” Mike said, finishing his lecture.
“I’ll never wear headphones again. I promise,” Shrink Girl said, wondering how the Dastardly Debutante would enjoy listening to tomorrow’s webinar: ‘To Rescue Or Not To Rescue – The Likelihood of Lawsuits.’
“Good. That will be all,” Mike said.
Shrink Girl turned to go.
“Mike, what about the Code Rose?” The Human Megaphone whispered.
“Of course!” Mike shouted, grabbing Shrink Girl’s hand and dragging her off through the cubicle farm.
“Good luck, Mike! Your work is appreciated!” The Human Megaphone called after them.
“The Human Megaphone’s a good guy. Keeps up morale, which is very important. You could learn a lot from him,” Mike said pulling Shrink Girl towards the stealth hanger.
A Code Rose? Thoughts swirled in Shrink Girl’s head.
A Code anything was important.
Someone had taken notice of her test scores and hard work!
Soon she would be in the stealth plane getting debriefed on the Code Rose situation!
Now, if only she could remember what a Code Rose meant.
Red indicated a major continent was being attacked.
Orange meant a minor continent was under attack.
Blue was for asteroids, space junk, or other inanimate objects hurtling towards Earth.
Shrink Girl blanked. She pictured the page in the manual, but couldn’t find Rose.
Not that she would admit this to Mike, the Middle Manager.
They were ten feet from the hangar doors when Mike made a sudden left. Shrink Girl, lost in hashtags descriptions for her first mission, missed the turn.
She lost her footing and fell into the doorway of the 4th floor supply room.
Red-faced, Shrink Girl stood up. Three heroes, plus Mike, stood there staring at her.
“She’s here. If anyone can find the paper jam, I’m certain Shrink Girl can!” Mike announced to the group.
“Just use the 3rd floor machine,” Mister Stretch said for the third time today.
“That’s for support staff,” Mike replied, clearly appalled at being lumped in with them.
Mister Stretch rolled his eyes.
“Shrink Girl, this is important. A rash of yogurt thefts are bringing down morale. We need fifteen signs reminding people to only eat their own food. But the copier is broken,” Mike said. “If we don’t have morale, what do we have?”
“Paychecks?” Lady Mystery suggested.
“People don’t work for paychecks, Mystery. At Heroes Inc., we work for the love of our job. This is our passion and a yogurt thief will not undo our commitment!” Mike replied, banging on the Rose-McKellan copy machine.
Lady Mystery’s smile was difficult to read.
“Here’s the background, Shrink. I got Stretch, but he couldn’t reach the jam, and Kongliath wasn’t able to shake the paper out. Now you’re up. Make me proud!” Mike said, stepping aside.
“What about Lady Mystery?” Shrink Girl asked, hoping to finally figure out the Lady’s powers.
“I just came for a pen, but stayed for the excitement,” Lady Mystery replied, leaning back against the laser printer, as if to say, ‘Why not just print more pages from this?’
“So get in there and show us what you’ve got, Shrink Girl!” Mike said, popping open a compartment door.
“Okay!” Shrink Girl said, hoping enthusiasm hid her disappointment. Only Mike seemed fooled, but Shrink Girl figured this was fine, since Mike was the only one who cared.
She dove into the open compartment door, shrinking to the size of a pea, and landed on tab B. Shrink Girl climbed over a roller and entered the heart of the Rose-McKellan.
Back in the supply room, Mike’s head snapped towards the door. “Did I hear Paper Mate out there? Isn’t he still on vacation?”
“Today’s his first day back,” Kongliath replied, picking a nit from his forearm.
“Why didn’t anyone say so?” Mike asked, hurrying off to find Paper Mate.
“I’m starving. What are you two doing for lunch?” Lady Mystery asked.
“I brought mine,” Kongliath sighed. “Dan has me on a diet. I couldn’t fit into that monkey suit for his 40th birthday, so now I’m stuck eating chicken feed and lettuce.”
“I’m going to Jimmy Subs. You’re welcome to join,” Mister Stretch replied.
Lady Mystery shrugged. She’d already eaten Jimmy Subs twice this week and was getting tired of them. But she was also one punch away from getting a free sub. “Let me get back to you,” she said, as Mike pulled Paper Mate into the supply room.
“G’day, mates. Whad’ve we ‘ave ‘ere?” Paper Mate asked.
Originally from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the corporation rebranded Paper Mate to appeal to their Oceanian clientele.
As part of the rebranding, Paper Mate spent Tuesday and Thursday afternoons working with an Australian linguistic coach. So far he had managed to alienate most of New Zealand and the better part of Queensland.
He looked at the Rose-McKellan’s display panel.
“We’s pulled the machine apart, but it still won’t run,” Mister Stretch explained. “There’s a scrap in there somewhere.”
“Nah. Yoo joost ‘ave to turn it off then on a’gin,” Paper Mate said, slipping into a terrible Canadian accent.
He flipped the power switch.
“No!” everyone yelled, except Mike, the Middle Manager, who muttered, “Yes, of course! Turn it off and on again.”
The machine buzzed to life, spitting out signs reading, “Remember: Gogurt Your Own Yogurt!”
“Something must be wrong with the ink saturation,” Mike muttered, throwing the top five pages into the recycling bin. “Oh nevermind. No more red streaks. We’re all good.”
“Can you believe this shit?” she wrote and then pasted a link.
I opened the link, which turned out to be a recipe for tapas.
“Tapas isn’t an actual dish. It’s a style of dish,” I pointed out.
“Huh? Dammit! Wrong link!” my friend said, in slightly more salted language.
Another link popped up.
“Sweet Mother of God,” I wrote.
“Sweet Mother of Humanity,” my friend corrected.
Before I share this mind-blowing link with you, I’d like to take you back.
6,000 years back to when God dipped hands in the mud of what would one day be Flint, Michigan’s water system, and created man.
“Jesus,” God muttered, seeing his creation. “It’s rather floppy in parts. Let me invent unleaded mud and then create another creature.”
There were some bunsen burners and beakers, sugars and spices, and a bit of Chemical X, and lo and behold, there stood Eve.
Now imagine, you’re Adam or Eve. You’ve just been invented. What is the first thing you do?
No, you don’t get Five Guys.
No! You don’t go to Disney World.
You invent walking.
That’s right. Adam and Eve fucking invented walking!
I mean, who did you think it was? Copernicus?
You think everyone dragged their sorry asses around for thousands of years and Copernicus suddenly said, “Hey, why not balance all our weight on two feet and not fall down! Also the Earth goes around the sun!”
Anyways, enough of your misconceptions about history! We return to Adam and Eve perambulating around the garden when God happens to stop by.
“Holy Shit! What are you doing?” God asks.
“We call it walking,” Adam said, taking credit for what was mostly Eve’s idea.
“That is the shiznit!” God said, having spent all of eternity, up until this point, riding around on a cloud. “Not only do I like your invention. I like the name! How about you go around and name all these creatures running around? And while you’re at it, give yourself a little something.”
That’s right, before this moment, Adam and Eve were nameless.
So they go off, as instructed, and name all the animals.
Which went something like this:
Adam: What should we call this thing?
Eve: How about a duck-billed platypus?
Adam: What’s a duck?
Eve: What do you mean, ‘what’s a duck?’
Adam: Well you used ‘duck’ as an adjective to ‘billed,’ so I wondered what a ‘duck’ is.
Eve: What’s an adjective?
Adam: We don’t have time to invent grammar, Eve! We have to name all these animals. So what’s a duck?
Eve: How about that thing over there?
Adam: Good enough for me.
And so it went…
After two years of work, Adam and Eve named all the animals and had nothing else to do. So they invented Netflix and Chill, deciding their progeny could later invent a netflix.
“What’s this?” God asked.
“Netflix and chill,” Eve said.
“Nice! Well, since you haven’t shown any interest in this tree over here, I’d like to point it out and tell you not to touch it. Okay?” God said.
“Okay,” Adam and Eve said.
But being the first parent of two-year olds in the history of… well, history… God knew telling them not to touch something wouldn’t be enough.
So God two-year-old proofed the shit out of the Tree of Knowledge.
No expense was spared. Electric fencing, photon torpedoes, and those lion hunter pits covered with sticks to ensnare anyone walking over.
So what did Adam and Eve do? They concocted a caper so brilliant George Clooney turned it into Ocean’s Eleven.
“But Adam, there are only the two of us, and neither of us is Bernie Mac,” Eve pointed out.
So they revised their plan into a Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper vehicle called The Silver Linings Playbook, so named because of God and their scheming.
So let’s recap. So far Adam and Eve have created:
Names for every animal
An Oscar Nominated Adapted Screenplay
They are smart, but not as smart as God. God left one final thermal detonator next to the Tree of Life to stop Adam and Eve from getting in trouble.
That thermal detonator was named Snake.
Who wasn’t very good at his job.
Now I know what you’re going to say. “Cole, you’ve mixed your allusions! Photon torpedoes are from Star Trek; thermal detonators are from Star Wars!”
To which I respond: “This is religion, Jim! Not sci-fi!”
Which is exactly what Adam and Eve did.
Like every other exhausted and frazzled parent in history, God said, “Look, I don’t have time for your shenanigans. I’m busy creating ultraviolet light. So you’re going to need to take a time out.”
Only God called this “Original Sin,” which is why God is a better parent than you. You call it a time out, how weak is that?
Does this time out deter Adam and Eve’s inventing spree? No. Those goddamned geniuses (quite literally at this point, I’m afraid) invent “the move.”
Boxes, tape, packing material, trucks too big to park comfortably on a residential street – the whole kit and caboodle.
Yeah, I know, you thought Copernicus invented that shit. You give him too much credit.
They move, then go on to invent the human race. Now they wipe their hands and retire. Right?
Holy Edison’s Patent Attorney are you wrong.
Which is where we come back to the present day.
Scientists have recently determined some of our most popular fairy tales are nearly 6,000 years old.
Which means someone wrote these stories right around the time God created the Earth.
And who else was around to write these stories other than Adam and Eve? Bernie Mac?
While Bernie Mac would have kicked the bejeezus out of the three act story structure, Eve already informed us he is not there.
That’s right, Adam and Eve created the bedtime story. They filled Cain, Able, and Seth’s heads with the likes of Snow White, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Herbie the Love Bug.
It’s a lovely afternoon in New Orleans… a lovely afternoon for EVIL.
After what we’ve experienced, Mardi’s keeping a close watch on the front gate. Every two minutes she turns to me and gives the all clear. Mostly this sounds like “ruff,” but I know what she means. Even though we don’t speak the same language, when you’ve been through the trenches with another creature a connection is wrought. We can ruff without ruffing.
Our excursion began innocently enough. An after-lunch walk through neighborhood to aid in digestion; which is society’s polite way of saying it helps us poop.
People used to walk in the evenings after dinner. Now they watch television. The loss of the evening walk is, most scientists agree, the reason so many people are full of shit.
Pardon me, I’ve veered from my tale of horror into the realm of fact. Facts, I’m afraid, are life preservers for the coward’s sanity. And I, my dear friend, am a coward.
We perambulated down one street and up another. The sun shone, but the birds did not sing. Perhaps they knew of the darkness in the light. Perhaps they were singing racist Disney songs.
Perhaps I once knew the reason but that knowledge was scared out of me.
I chatted to my four-legged companion. “Will you be voting for Beagle Sanders or Pug Cruz in the upcoming Pawsidential election?” I asked. “Or perhaps Basset Trump?”
Mardi gave me the same look you have now.
Two houses ahead I spotted an elderly lady making her way down her front steps.
She bore the marks of Cain – a light blue dress and wild white hair. I know these marks well. I went to Catholic school.
Was it morning or afternoon? I asked myself, preparing a proper greeting, so as not to draw her ire.
She glanced up. Evil was in her eye.
Most people mistake evil for cataracts.
Those people did not go to Catholic school.
“Good—“ I began, in way of a greeting, but was unceremoniously spun around, before I had a chance to finish.
The dog was flat on the sidewalk, muscles taut, attempting to army crawl backwards down the block.
“Knock it off,” I hissed, pulling on the leash.
Perhaps if the old woman did not know the I knew what she knew to be true, she would let us continue on our way.
But the pull launched my companion into action. She bolted to the side, across a lawn, and dragged me into the street. She continued moving backwards, keeping her eyes on the old woman.
“I think your dog is hurt,” the old woman said.
An obvious ploy with which to invite us into her house of horror, which was accented with a lovely azalea bush.
“Yes, she must have — Oof!” I stumbled, the leash slackened, Mardi bolted. My imbalance afforded her the opportunity she needed to get us to the other side of the street.
I kept myself from being thrown to the ground by locking my knees and pinwheeling my legs. Safely on the other side of the street, Mardi pulled forward, away from the woman.
“I think she’s hurt,” the old lady called out again, relentless in her pursuit to draw us into the devil’s pit itself!
“Yes, perhaps she is — Oof!” the dog yanked me back a few steps.
Frustrated, I knelt down and took her face in my hands. Making eye contact I firmly said, “Calm down. It’s fine.”
I wanted to explain the dangers of letting evil know you know it’s evil, but before I could, she nudge me aside.
I was blocking her view of the old woman.
“Ruff!” she said, with just enough softness to suggest maybe she hoped the old woman wouldn’t hear her. She turned, lowered herself to the ground and began crawling down the street, dragging me behind her.
Every five steps she turned, looked back at the woman, and let out another, barely audible “ruff.”
“Have a good morning!” I called, waving to the woman.
Damn, it was the afternoon.
Would my lapse show her how terrified I was?
The woman rolled her eyes, bent down, and began weeding her garden in the cruel, soulless way evil has of landscaping.
Mardi dragged me three blocks back home, all hopes of a properly digested lunch gone.
The dog knocked against the gate until I opened it.
She knocked against the front door, until I opened it.
Then she bolted to the front window, where she stands now, waiting for the woman to appear.
“Ruff,” the dog says, her hackles rising. She tucks her tail between her legs. Someone is knocking on the front door.
Ma and Pa Adler are visiting New Orleans for the first time on their bi-annual inheritance tour.
What is an inheritance tour you ask? Why a tour to identify the child most deserving of the inheritance. The middle brother has been the running winner for over a decade, but I’m hoping to eek out a win this year.
Here are a few of the things I’ve already done to secure the top spot during this tour:
I picked Ma and Pa up at the airport.
I helped carry one of their bags!
I made Ma a cup of tea.
I let them buy me lunch! (Parents love spending money on their kids, especially the moochy, adult ones.)
Pretty good, huh?
And to help secure my spot, last night I pulled out Cards Against Humanity. Ask yourself, what else would two, god-fearing, Midwestern parents want to play?
Winning an inheritance is about one thing – Know. Your. Audience.
Some people would argue those are three things. These people don’t understand dramatic pauses.
Don’t be one of those people.
No one likes them. (I’m looking at you, Yolanda!)
In Round 7, yours truly was the Card Czar and I was magnificent at it. The skill, the charisma… Apparently, Card Czaring is what I was born to do. Thankfully, I was born in the right place at the right time.
Sometimes I feel bad for people who weren’t born at the right time or in the right place. Then I enjoy a Kit Kat, because empathy is a downer.
I read the card… “And the Academy Award for <blank> goes to <blank>.”
And here is the winning response:
Yep. “The Academy Award for the Art of Seduction goes to Daniel Radcliffe’s delicious asshole.”
Played by none other than Ma Adler herself.
Tears streamed down her eyes, her complexion turned ruddy.
“Ma!” Pa said, shocked.
“I don’t even know who Daniel Radcliffe is,” Ma said, choking on laughter and falling from her chair.
“It’s Harry Potter!” I said, clutching my proverbial pearls.
“Oh. Oh! Well that’s not appropriate at all,” Ma Adler said, becoming quiet, before melting into a fit of laughter.
Now I’m just a small-town inheritance scientist, but this seems like a really good sign. I think I may take down the reigning champ of the tour… the middle brother.
They still have a visit with the youngest brother, so anything can happen.
But regardless of the outcome, I suppose I’ve already won the inheritance tour, since we now know where I got my sense of humor.
Now sentiment aside, I still want the real inheritance – Grandpappy’s old Folger’s can of nuts and bolts.