Bubba and the bouncy house

“Grandpa, you pro-m-m-m-m-is-sed!”

“OK. OK. If you all get into your beds, I’ll start the story. But, remember, I’m old. If you talk while I’m trying to …”

“Wait. Wait. It’s a baby story, right?” Mimsy shouted, and her two sleepover girlfriends nodded in agreement. “And my momma is in it, as the baby. Remember, her nickname was Bubba.”

Interrupted before I could start, I was still proud. Apparently, the first “Bubba” bedtime story had made an impression. Mimsy liked it enough to talk about it with her friends.

“OK. OK,” I said. “Do you remember the name of the last story? It was Bubba’s Special Backyard Spot.”

“I know. I know,” Mimsy said. “She was called Bubba cuz she was chubby, and she helped save the bunnies. Will she save someone again tonight?”

“Shh, remember, no interrupting. You and your friends will have to just listen. Let me get started. How many times do I gotta tell you that I am really old. And, I’m getting older by the millisecond here … OK, ready…”

Once upon a time, when Bubba was just a baby, I took her and her big brother to a party at a rich boy’s house.

That boy’s family had so much money they gave him very expensive parties, even when the occasion wasn’t that special. He got a party for being out of school for the summer, a party for going back to school in the fall, a party because he had been good when company came, a party after he was bad when company came but promised to be good.

He even got a party for too much time passing without his parents giving him a party.

Mimsy couldn’t hold back. “How much time? A month? A year? A week?”


This particular party for the rich kid was called ‘A-month-should-not- go- by- without- a- party-party.’

“Does that answer your question Miss Mimsy,” I asked, and she stared at me with a smile, then mock anger. She put her finger to her lips and said in a sing-songy voice, “Shh. Someone is interrupting.”

I continued.

These were not just little parties either. The rich boy’s parents owned a big house with a big yard and they always had something exciting at their parties. One time it was a pony to ride; another time it was a superhero in costume. Once, they even had real clowns who could do magic!

This time, though, it was even better. They had a giant bounce house, and a bouncy slide!

In unison, Mimsy and her friends could not help but whisper “Wow.”

Well, as  you might expect, many of the bigger kids at the party, including Bubba’s big brother Luke, loved that bounce house, and could not get enough of the slide. It took a full hour before they took a break from bouncing to gobble up some cake and drink some juice.

I decided Bubba, who was too little to play with the rougher, larger kids, should get a chance to at least see what it was like inside that house, maybe scooch around while everyone else was busy. She was too young to crawl, I knew, or even roll over, but she would like the bright colors and the smooth plastic floor.

I was right. She smiled as I rocked the floor under her and she giggled when I pulled her around by her legs. I stopped so she could feel the walls, near one of the corners.

As Bubba explored that sun-warmed wall, I heard the rich boy talking angrily. Then he was shouting, then crying out, like a small dog trying to get out the door to bite the mailman.

‘Luke drank out of my soda cup,’ the rich boy wailed. “It has Luke germs now.” Luke shouted back, “I did not you big wimp. Stop your blubbering.’

I poked my head out of the bounce house, and I shouted for Luke to come to me. He turned to walk away the rich boy and his tantrum, but that boy continued his yelling, at Luke’s back.

‘You did, you dumb stupidhead. You stupid dumbhead. I’m going to give you some paybacks.’ Taller and older than Luke, the boy ran at him from behind. I called out for Luke to turn around but it was too late.

The bigger boy sent Luke sprawling on his belly on the asphalt near the garage. He rolled onto his back, holding both knees. They were bleeding.

I ran to him, but was too slow. He already had lunged and grabbed the rich boy by his ankles, growling and vowing revenge.

Bubba in the bounce house, meanwhile, decided this was the perfect time to learn to roll over. Arching her back, trying to feel for more of the wall of the bounce house, she got on to her side. Then she balanced and swayed … slowly … rocking … then to her belly!

Problem was, she was too close to the slippery corner and slid right down into the space between the floor and the walls. She was stuck, like a Sumo wrestler had her in a headlock. Her chubby cheek pressed against the hot plastic and her little right arm wedged in the seam between the floor and the wall.

She cried. She whimpered. She wriggled. Then, she thought back to the time she had to share a crib with her chubbier cousin, when he kicked her, his little round heel glancing off her cheek and coming to rest oh-so close to her mouth. She latched on with the only two teeth she had at the time.

Now, she had four teeth. So she bit hard, harder, then super-hard, shaking her head like a tiny dog who gets hold of the mailman.

The air from the big bounce house seeped out slowly at first, warming her cheeks with breath hotter than the plastic walls. The rip in the plastic spread quickly. Bubba felt a breeze from her cheeks to her chest, then a gust of air right at her plump belly. 

The air rushed around her, filling her little hoodie like a balloon.

By the time Luke and I rushed back to the door of the bounce house, a gust of air so strong  had lifted Bubba. She hung in the air, in the corner. The curved walls kept her from flying higher. She looked like a baby angel, glowing with the orange and yellow of the sun filtering through the bounce house walls, an angry fiery cherub but without the wings.

“My momma was like an astronaut, like a space man!” Mimsy shrieked, jumping up in her bed to bounce in the air. Her girlfriends followed suit.

I ssh’d them again.

“Don’t you want to know what happened next?” I asked, and they settled back into their covers.

I grabbed Bubba mid-air, just as the rich boy and his friends got to the opening of the bounce house. They gasped at seeing their first-ever flying baby. 

They forgot about the rich boy’s yelling.

He didn’t forget. ‘You broke my bounce house,’ he said to Bubba, charging toward me as I held her high.

‘You’re gonna get some paybacks…’

Luke blocked his path, staring, fuming, knees bent into the wrestling stance he learned at the YMCA. He spit at the boy’s feet.

‘Thanks so much for the fine, entertaining party,’ I said quickly, smiling and tousling the angry boy’s hair. ‘Sorry about that bounce house. Must’ve been a squirrel in there or something, or maybe a sharp toy. Who brought that plastic Batman with the grappling hook?’

‘Sorry but we have to leave. I have to get Luke home. Looks like someone caused him to hurt his knees.’

“Oh, I’d like to bite that rich boy,” said Nellie, Mimsy’s tallest girlfriend.

“Whoa, Nellie,” I said. I loved to tease her about her name. “Remember, this is just a bedtime story. All of you, listen carefully. Here is some advice from real life:

— Don’t think everyone who is rich is bad, but watch out for the spoiled rich kids.

— Don’t turn your back on someone who is mad enough to push you.

— Never leave a baby in a bounce house, or a hot car, not even for a second.

— Please, please. Don’t bite bounce houses; they taste terrible.

— Never, ever bite a rich kid. His dad is probably a lawyer.”

Bubba’s special backyard spot

Writer’s note: I’m experimenting with fiction for kids. Let me know what you think, especially if you’re under 30.

The evening that my daughter asked me for help, I had not yet had a lot of experience being a grandfather. I blame geography. Distance had kept me away from my daughter and her daughter, my granddaughter.

 Who can say no to a daughter, grown or not? She asked me to tell her little girl Mimsy, 5, a story.

  I could immediately see why I had been enlisted. Mimsy, 5, was settling into bed after a tough day. She had scraped her knee in a bad soccer game. She couldn’t sleep. This was not going to be easy.

I had told many bedtime stories to my own kids, but that had been years and years ago. I worried I lost my touch. I thought hard.

I knew Mimsy was fussy tonight. What would keep her attention?

A monster maybe?  Nah, too scary. A fantasy? Nah. Couldn’t be too complicated. Forget the big words. 

A superhero?

I tried to remember how I used to do this.

“What’ the matter, grandpa? You look lost,” Mimsy said. “Momma said you used to be good at this. Where is Momma. My knee hurts.”

“Give me a minute, just getting revved up,” I said.

I decided to tell her a story about her own momma, when she was little, when she was a baby. She had soft chunky rolls, especially on her bottom and thighs, so we called her Bubba.

“OK, Mimsy, I have one. It’s called  ‘Bubba in the yard.’  I think you’ll like it.”

“Is it going to be long, Granpa? I really need momma. Did she tell you I got hurt at soccer?”

“Shh. I’m telling a story. You’ll like it. I promise.
Uh-ho, now I was in for it. The pressure was on.

Once upon a time, your momma was a chubby baby.

And she loved the yard, even before she could crawl or talk.

 Scooching around on her yellow-and-white blankie, she cooed and giggled. She seemed to be talking to the trees that swayed overhead,  the soft grass that tickled her toes at her blankie’s edge, or the scarlet cardinals who sometimes landed close by.

She hardly ever cried when she played out there. It seemed to be her special spot, protected by the old, bent maple tree, not far from the swing set.

“Grandpa, I don’t have a swing set,” Mimsy interrupted. “Why don’t I have a swing set. Momma had a–”

I just stared at her, my finger to my lips. She pouted and pulled down the blanket to inspect the bandage on her knee.

Like I was saying.

Bubba loved that spot in the backyard, especially the shadows dancing over her blankie from the sun breaking through that maple tree.

Before setting her on the blankie, though, I paused. A rabbit ran from the wheelbarrow nearby. It was propped on the trunk of the oak tree, not far from the maple. Bubba must’ve seen her too. She shrieked and stared. I tried to figure out where the animal had run to.

We both looked for a few seconds and gave up. I laid her down and sat nearby, on the grass, reading. Bubba’s momma, your grandma Lynn. pulled weeds in the garden but she stopped when she saw us. She ran over to grab her baby’s toes and kiss her round cheeks.

She always did that.

“I miss grandma. Where is she?” Mimsy asked, sitting up in bed.

“She couldn’t visit this time but she can’t wait to see you, Mimsy. But, did I mention how she loves to hear me tell stories. Everybody loves my stories. They never, ever, ever interrupt.”

Mimsy, a precocious 5-year-old, rolled her eyes, pretended to zip her lip and throw away the key. I continued.

Lynn told me she needed to mow the grass on the side of house. She said she’d stay clear of us but would do the rest of the yard later. She grabbed the big machine with the loud motor and sharp blades from the shed. As she rolled it past Bubba and me, planning to start cutting out front, the baby shrieked again, this time in anger.

As Lynn disappeared around the lilac bush, Bubba cried, loud and louder. Then louder yet.

She probably missed grandma. Like I do,” Mimsy said, folding her arms on her chest and feigning anger. I just stared her back into silence and continued.

I didn’t know why Bubba was crying. This was her special spot. I picked her up, checked her diaper and gave her a hug and a bounce. Lynn heard her from all the way out front. She left the lawnmower there and rushed back. ‘Wassamatter Bubba?’ she asked, as she calmed the baby with her voice and some hugs.

Everything was fine for a few minutes. But, once Lynn headed back to the front yard and started the loud mower, Bubba restarted her tantrum.

 She yelped. She crinkled up her eyes in either pain or anger. She held her breath.

Perplexed, I tried all my tricks: funny faces, juggling some acorns, motorboating her soft belly and, as a last resort, my specialty: I lay down on my back and balanced her in the air on my knees.

“Nothing worked …”

I paused for effect. Now, Mimsy was listening intently, grimacing while she tried to figure out what was wrong with the baby. She had an idea. She couldn’t stay quiet: “A bug bit her, I’ll bet. Or, did she get poked by a thorn?”

“Um, excuse me. That’s why it’s called a story. You have to listen to it to hear what happens,” I said, faking irritation as I did the zip-the-lip motion.

 I stood and picked Bubba back up. I thought of calling to Lynn but I knew she wouldn’t hear over the mower. Bubba would not calm down.  Worried now, I carried Bubba back out to momma, and my wife stopped the lawnmower to take hold of her wriggling, sobbing 6-month-old. Again, Bubba quieted, and Lynn gave me a look that said: ‘Can’t you take care of a kid for 10 minutes?’

Lynn walked back with us to the blanket as Bubba  whimpered. My wife asked if she could have been bitten by a bug or stuck by a thorn.

Mimsy looked up at me smugly.

I told my wife that, of course, I had checked for both of those things already.

Back on the blanket, it was like a switch was thrown the other way. Bubba turned happy again. She giggled and pawed at my wife’s hand as Lynn for a fever.

After a quick hug (for the baby) and a shrug (to me), my wife told me she had to finish up the lawn.

I played patty-cake with Bubba and she was fine — until she heard her momma start the mower again.

I couldn’t figure it out. Bubba had certainly heard the mower before, even slept to its drone on at least one occasion. We were always careful to keep it far from her, realizing how it could kick up stones.

Bubba wailed, scooched and flopped on to her back, kicking her feet in anger. I tried to distract her. I pointed to a cardinal, to the maple’s branches caught by the sun; I asked her where the rabbit had gone, motioning toward the oak tree’s trunk.

 The word “rabbit” got her attention for a second, and she stopped crying. She looked for the animal but she whimpered again when she saw it was not there. I was ready to give up, take her back into the house, maybe try a walk.

I rubbed my head, trying to figure out why her favorite backyard spot had lost its magic. 

Mimsy interrupted again. “Was it bad magic? Was there a wizard? A goblin? A witch?”

I shushed her, and went on:

 Bubba stared up at me, unblinking as she cried some more. I bent to pick her up but, suddenly she went silent. It seemed like she had just gotten a very good idea. Oddly, she moved both her tiny fists to her temples and unfolded only her pointer fingers. It was like she was making little ears on the top of her head.

I held my fists to my head and stared down at Mimsy until she did the same. I made my pointer fingers dance like my pretend ears were wiggling. She giggled and followed suit as I went back to the story.

 I stood, bewildered, wondering if —

“Bewilliger? What’s that?” Mimsy asked.

“Bewildered. It means addled, perplex… nevermind. Let’s just say I stood up, wondering what the heck was going on. Now, let me finish. Don’t you wanna know what happens?”

Mimsy just nodded, sitting up in bed now to hear better.

Bubba kept her hands on her head until I knelt down closer. She had my attention so she stopped crying.

I noticed how red her chubby cheeks had gotten and wiped away a tear that was left on one. She cooed, as a gentle breeze rustled her blanket, not far from her feet. At least I thought it was a breeze. But, the blanket kept moving even when the wind stopped. I realized it was moving only in one small area, not far from Bubba’s big toe on her left foot.

Uh-oh. I gasped and scooped up the baby. I pulled up the blanket slowly, looking for a snake or mole or … who knows?

“A rat?” Mimsy shouted. “A monster?”

I ignored her.

The baby pointed to the spot, and she smiled. It wasn’t a snake. It wasn’t a mole, or a rat or any kind of monster. It was a nest! A rabbit’s nest, but the momma rabbit was nowhere nearby.

 Made from dried grass and fluffy fur, the nest sat in a shallow hole in the yard. The six newborns wriggling around looked like a brown-and-white pinwheel, with their tiny heads near the center and their legs sticking out like spokes on a bicycle.

They still had their eyes closed.

 I remembered how Bubba had crooked her fingers like bunny ears. Now she was smiling, then giggling. I set her back on the blanket and she gave a belly laugh, her little sausage toes stretched as if she was trying to reach the newborn bunnies.

 Just then, by luck, Lynn returned to check on us. She knelt to see the bunnies, too, as I told her how Bubba had made little rabbit ears with her finger. We took a photo and gently placed a white laundry basket over the nest, so Lynn could finish cutting the grass but keep those sharp, low blades from damaging the nest.

Or worse.

“Wait. Wait. Wait a minute,” Mimsy said, jumping out of bed, forgetting to favor her sore knee. “Is that true? What, was my mom? Like a baby with super powers? A Super Baby? How did she know to protect the bunnies? Did you take any video? What happened to the bunnies? Did the mom come back? Did you put it on Facebook?”

“Whoa! Whoa! Not now,” I said firmly. “Only one story a night. These take a lot out of me. I’m old.”

“If you’re good tomorrow, I’ll tell you another. Yes, yes. OK. Your mom can be in it again.”

Mimsy grabbed her biggest doll, hugged it and, as I tucked her back into bed, told me thank you for the story. She also suggested one for the next night.

“I know. I know. How about Bubba and the bullies?”

Oh boy, I thought as I shut the door, this is not gonna be easy.

My God, I stumbled into a gang of ‘bad hombres!’

I probably should have been more careful, stuck to the turf I knew. I guess I’m naive but all I was doing was trying to explore my new neighborhood in Southern California.

Today, I wandered too far. I found myself the only white man I could see in a boisterous crowd of almost exclusively brown folks. There were hundreds.

Our new president’s recent warnings echoed as I tried to keep my head down and remain calm. If Trump is right, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with at least some “bad hombres.”

I appeared to have stumbled into a gathering of illegal immigrants, probably some sort of mass meeting of gang members.

There were tattoos, earrings and heads of slick, coal-black hair. They used hand symbols I couldn’t quite understand. They wore some bling, with the leaders on a raised platform handling lots of gold. They forced the acolytes and disciples in the crowd to pay some sort of offering in cash.

They chanted. They sang. On a raised platform in the center of the building, they celebrated a bloody execution of one of their leaders.

If I heard right, the leader talked of drinking blood.

That leader spoke quickly in rough English so I missed some words. But I know for sure he was urging the gangsters to stay together, not let anxiety overtake them, to basically stay cool under fire. He seemed to be trying to keep them calm in the face of threats from our courageous new president.


One of their chants had this refrain: “We will not be moved.”


I joined in the sing-songy ritual. To be honest, it was catchy.


But, getting claustrophobic in the press of people so different than me, I had to take off my jacket to keep from sweating. Taller than many of them, I tried to appear shorter by bending my legs.

I found myself hoping for the best, praying even.

I have to confess I even participated in the special, secret handshake that went around the room.

The ritual took about an hour but I finally escaped. Thank God.

But I might have been followed. One of the gang’s lieutenants — he wore a special badge and kept the hordes moving through rituals with hand symbols — saw me grab a piece of their literature on the way out.

I’m sharing that pamphlet and writing this in case these “bad hombres” come for me.


Please, circulate this so white America knows what is going on in California.

If  you can, please, get it to the attention of President Trump. He above anyone, needs to know the truth about these brown people.


Outta control? California? Try Missouri

The new president cited California as a problem he might have to threaten into obedience, calling the state  “out of control.”

The battle has gotten so heated that a California group is trying to get enough signatures to start a process aimed at leaving the U.S.

I’m a new resident of the Golden State, so I started looking around more carefully after I heard Trump’s claim. My wife and I just relocated in a city not far from Los Angeles in California’s Inland Empire.

We moved from the mid-sized city of Springfield in Greene County, Missouri.

According to the maps showing votes in the presidential election, we moved from dark red to dark blue.

 Greene county’s voters chose Trump by a margin of about 78,000 to 43,000 and Missouri overall voted for Trump, 1.5 million to 1 million. Most smaller counties in Missouri favored Trump overwhelmingly, in the 60-70 percent range.

By contrast, Californians voted for Hillary 8.7 million to 4.4 million and, in Los Angeles County, voters chose Hillary by a margin of 2.4 million to 770,000.

My wife and I have now lived in the alleged “out-of-control” state for only about a month. We lived about a decade in an area of Missouri some call the Buckle of the Bible Belt, where many people espouse liberty and dislike government overreach. Now, we live in what those same people would call a nanny state.

Missouri’s state flag. Though quite different in political ideology, this heartland state has on its flag a bear, like the “out of control” California.

Of course, I’m no expert on politics or sociology. But, here are some everyday differences I’ve already noticed. I offer them to help you assess the president’s comments about California.

Here ya go:

— On our first visit to a California gas station, I didn’t know how to use the gas pump.


We lived in Missouri only 10 years but I had become so complacent I didn’t realize some pump nozzles (in more progressive states that care about ozone levels) had gotten more sophisticated. The next-level nozzles with their flexible collars form an air seal created with a bit of pressure from the holder of the nozzle. If you don’t push with enough force, the pump shuts off,  a congenial station manager showed me.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch

I’ve seen many nozzles in Missouri that still spit a couple tablespoons of gas on the asphalt with every use.


California mandated the newer nozzles, not without controversy, in a quest to set new standards for controlling greenhouse gases.


Missouri’s political leaders want to turn back the clock on what many see as gains in Clean Air initiatives. With Trump in office, it looks like they will get their way.

— I almost walked into a garbage truck. I didn’t hear or smell it running.

The truck ran on natural gas.

 Encouraging the use of that fuel is another way the Golden State tries to clean up the air.

In Springfield, the city doesn’t even try to regulate garbage haulers.

The city seemed afraid of the clout of the big hauling companies. Even though the city has the power to regulate at least in basic ways, like mandating zones for the operation of different companies, the city has not acted. The companies operate mostly as they please.

That means one company’s noisy, smelly truck might hit two or three houses on a street with another truck following along minutes later on the same street, collecting from different houses, each spewing smoke as it goes.


I never saw one using natural gas.


— I had to wean myself from my cell phone while driving.


California law requires drivers to have phones mounted to the car and to use hands-free technology if calling or talking to someone. Fines can be hundreds of dollars.

How does that jibe? An out-of-control state exercising such control?

Golden State leaders have bought into that crazy-liberal theory that using your phone while also trying to control a large, heavy moving vehicle can be as dangerous as driving and drinking.

What’s the law in Missouri? Here’s what the Missouri Department of Transportation website says under the category of “Cell phones and texting”:


“Although an increasing number of states are placing restrictions on cell phone usage, Missouri has no law regarding the use of cell phones while driving.”

“The state does, however, ban texting for all drivers 21 years old or younger.”

Progressive critics in Missouri (people who haven’t yet moved to California) say the police don’t even enforce the texting law for kids. Would you? How would you tell the difference between someone aged 20 and 21 or 22 in a moving vehicle?

Notice how the transportation officials worded that section on their site. It’s like they’re taking a shot at their own state’s lack of courage to do something about a recognized, deadly problem.

No nanny state, the conservatives say.

— When I see people walking toward around in our new state, I don’t see as many bulges.

From big bellies or hidden holsters.

Studies (if you believe in science) consistently show Missouri up there high on the list of states with the most obese people; California is near the bottom.

A Missouri lady at a garage sale we had before we left Springfield.

As for weapons, California has a tough law regarding permits to conceal a firearm. Missouri just killed its conceal-carry law. Yup, no law at all requiring training or permits to hide your Glock on your flabby hip.

Odd, huh? With that penchant toward residents who like to hide things, Missouri should no longer be allowed to have the nickname “Show-Me State.”

— I cannot remember to take a bag into a grocery store.

I have been stuck, on numerous occasions, paying more for a bag at the register or wheeling the groceries in a cart to the car.

California became the first state to ban free plastic bags at groceries in late 2010.

The Golden State’s legislators saw the wisdom in this argument: Consumers use plastic bags for only a few seconds but they cause environmental damage for decades.

Missouri is one of the states that didn’t like that progressive move. So what did Missouri’s legislators do?

They passed a law trying to stop the more environmentally conscious cities in the state from getting rid of plastic bags. Yup, they passed a ban on bans. Yet, they call the federal government intrusive.

Who’s out of control?

Enough. I know. I know.

I hear the wailing and gnashing of Ozarkian teeth all the way out here in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. I understand there’s another point of view to all this.

Before you send a hit squad from the Southwest Honkeys (yes, that’s a real Missouri gang), I’m not criticizing everyone in Missouri. 

Many well-meaning, compassionate, generous and empathetic folks call the Ozarks home.

I’m not calling everyone in Missouri backward of xenophobic. 

This is no nasty elitist postcard from the West.

 Please, don’t take this a slap. It’s not meant to be — unless, of course, you voted for Trump without any regret.

Wow! Donald Trump says something I want to believe!


I used to label almost everything uttered by our new president as babble, bull and carnival barking.


However, after watching Agent Orange lecture reporters at his news conference last week, I have to rethink that.


He has brought me to an epiphany. He explained away something that has been nagging at me for years. After listening to His Orangeness, I see journalism — I was a reporter and editor for three decades — with the kind of clarity you can only get after 10 hours in a tanning booth.

I finally understand why most journalists make so little money.


A lot of us missed the memo. We were never told we had to be dishonest to succeed. Fools, we sought the truth.


Agent Orange, though, stood up at the news conference and set everybody straight.


Evil, dishonest reporters in the Mainstream Media are America’s enemy. Especially dastardly are those at the big news organizations that cover Agent Orange in person. They make up sources, he said. They will not give him credit, he said. They don’t even call for his side to the story, he claimed.


They are successful, especially those big names in TV and newspapers, according to Our Orangest, because they are not loyal to the truth, rather to their Mainstream masters.

He said: “I’m making this presentation directly to the American people, with the media present, which is an honor to have you.

This morning, because many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth …”

“Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system.”

“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

I interpret his theory as this: Reporters lie to:

1) attack and discredit him because he is not part of the entrenched Washington power structure 2) get more readers and web traffic 3) please their liberal publishing and broadcasting masters and 4) feather their own nests.


Thank you His Orangency. You’ve outed the bastards.

Man, how stupid we in the lower levels of TV and newspapers have been for all these many, many years. We prided ourselves on our ability to dig, investigate, uncover. Yet, evil Super Journalists have been cabaling like crazy to undermine the profession. In an impenatrable, complex labyrinth of utter secrecy, no less!


And to think that I blamed my inability to rise to the upper echelons of journalism on my own failings: a lackluster education, not enough skill, pugnaciousness. I read with jealousy the writers who made it to big operations like the New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press — those with the manpower to cover the presidency face-to-face.  


I admired them though I was also envious. What a relief Agent Orange has provided. I just wasn’t dishonest enough! Not me or the tens of thousands of other, lower-tier journalists across the U.S.


We plugged away, piling up the overtime just to get by, chasing after firetrucks and police cars, studying far too many reports about wastewater and sludge, sitting through interminable school board budget sessions, filing Freedom of Information requests to get the most basic information about the latest federal kerfuffle, knocking on doors in the dark, freezing through floods, snow and tornadoes, enduring the jabs of local politicians, fielding angry, threatening phone calls, going for years without raises and sticking to our Code of Ethics even when it meant challenging our own bosses.


Meanwhile, those slick suckers at the top of the Journalism Food Chain prevaricated away, fabricating sources, adding their own evil “tone” to stories whenever they felt like it and taking their dishonesty all the way to the bank.


Sir Orange-a-lot has called them to the carpet, though. He caught them. He indicted them, tried them and convicted them in that blockbuster of a news conference.

How amazing! What great news for the rest of the ink-stained wretches who still see journalism as a noble calling.

What’s shocking, though, is how quickly Change-Agent Orange figured this out.

He certainly moved fast. He’s still a novice to both politics and governing. He announced these damning, major findings about a month into his presidency.


Oops. I need to press pause here. Just a minute. I’ve been away from the news business a while due to illness. I have to check something.




His Orangeness, I’m seeing now, didn’t provide any real evidence. Did he?

Ahh, damn.

I think I’m losing my journalism chops. I have rejoiced too soon. I forgot that we journalists fact-check the words of the powerful — especially when ulterior motives are possible, or obvious. That’s even more important when your first instinct is to believe wholeheartedly because it helps you feel better about yourself, your job or your family.


There’s a worn-but-wonderful saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Here’s one for 2017: If Donald Trump says he loves you, leave the business.

Reporters are trained to be skeptical, to challenge, to consider that many factors are at play beneath the surface. They are also trained to break news and love to do that. It’s exciting to be first; you hardly ever share what you gather with other news agencies before it is published.


It’s good old American competition, something the Orange One should know something about.


Reporters scramble, race and sweat and get very resourceful when it comes to finding the dirt, getting the scoop, telling the big story.


That’s what I saw for years and years and years when I was a reporter, and later as an editor when I helped reporters with their stories. These big news organizations, at least the established ones, operate the same way.

Their reporters have come up through the ranks from smaller operations, learned the business, studied their Codes of Ethics and, for the most part, play by the rules.


How does all that jibe with the Feb. 16  words from the Orangest One? Think hard about this question: How can all these competing reporters come up with the same lies? On deadline? Why would they conspire?


Why wouldn’t they out their competitors?

Why isn’t a reporter from the New York Times breaking news that the top reporter for the Washington Post has spread false information to discredit the Leader of the Free World? Or, vice versa?


Why do newspapers run corrections if the goal is to lie? Why so some employ ombudsmen to criticize and reexamine the work that they publish on their own pages? Why do they allow letters to the editor that challenge their stories.


Why, Agent Orange? Why?


Well, unfortunately for us all, the answer is very simple.


They’re not lying. Donald Trump is lying.


And — here’s the really sad part — he thinks we are dumb enough to believe him.


A ‘poor bastard’ wises up, counts his lucky stars

I’m cleaning up my old Chevy Malibu before trying to sell it.

I have to admit I have been lax with the maintenance. Do people really wash car windows on the inside?

Finally doing that chore, I noticed how badly the decals on my back rear windshield had deteriorated. They once touted the prestigious colleges my kids attended; today some have faded into mere shadows of letters and crests and others look like smears from insects who got too close to the car.


I displayed the decals proudly when the kids found out they did well enough academically to get into the schools: Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Fordham, NYU and Syracuse.

One day when I worked as an editor, I drove our van, which had similar decals, to a court hearing. I had to appear in front of a federal arbitrator who was trying to decide if our newspaper deserved some police records we were fighting for. I had to wait outside by the van as the lawyers and the arbitrator met privately and the arbitrator eventually joined me and a couple other newspaper employees in the parking lot.

“Look at this poor bastard,” the arbitrator joked in an effort to make some small talk. Motioning toward the decals on the van, he said, “Those schools cost a pretty penny.”

I replied, “Tell me about it. That’s my van.”

He apologized but laughed loudly at the same time.

I was glad it happened. I’m convinced he helped settle our lawsuit more quickly out of pity for me.

The debt I took on to help the kids has certainly lasted longer than the decals.

But I have no regrets. Not only have all the kids done well enough professionally to make loan payments, they’ve also made my wife and me very proud in other ways — perhaps most unselfishly by helping out the kids who now attend their old, financially strapped city high school through The Iseman Foundation.

I started thinking of the foundation the other day when our youngest child, Adam, told me it would be expanding its scope.

I was glad to hear about it; it helped bring me out of the doldrums.

My malaise had been brought on by another birthday, Nov. 7, and the events that transpired the day after, Nov. 8. I was already lamenting the election results, and began to stress over my other problems.  

The list is not short.

It includes aging, for me and my car, and all the issues that go with turning 61 (me) and turning 16 (my car). It includes some nagging problems with the body (me and the car, though the car is easier to fix) and some bad luck.

Only by realizing my good luck, especially regarding my wife and our successful and happy kids, was I able to refocus. In essence, my pride “Trumped” my funk.

It was Adam who came up with the idea for the “Iseman Foundation.”

More than the idea, actually. He just started the thing, without asking anyone else what they thought or whether they wanted to participate. An electrical engineer, Adam just decided he wanted to do it, and he acted.

adam-2The other kids, quickly seeing the value, pitched in. Some of their friends, mostly Meyers alumni, helped out, too.

Started in 2012, the foundation at first funded the The Butwin Elias Science and Technology competition at  E. L. Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Meyers has seen better days and teachers appreciated the BEST award, which is named after two longtime teachers — Sam Elias and George Butwin.

From the foundation website: “Both of these extremely influential and talented teachers structured their curriculums around numerous projects and labs. From bungee-barbies demonstrating Hooke’s Law, cardboard canoe races enforcing Archimedes principle to Van de Graaff generators demonstrating the nature of static electricity, a key tenet of their instruction was that students learn more when they get hands-on experience.”

The BEST award, which has grown in terms of prizes and participants over the years,  expands that teaching philosophy to a contest. Everyone who builds something gets at least $50 and the top cash prize is at least $1,000.


The kids over the years have built projects ranging from a one-string guitar made out of a shovel to a 3D printed fractal antenna.

Last year, a total of $2,875 was awarded when all the prizes were tallied. The Wilkes-Barre newspaper covered the event; a story can be seen here http://bit.ly/2fKZUu0


The new contest, starting this year, honors two other teachers.

Again, the website explains: “The Caffrey Welles Fine Arts Award encourages students to follow their passions and gain experience in the fine arts. Whether you write a short story, film a comedy sketch, paint a portrait, or analyze a famous work of literature, we’d like to accompany you along your creative journey.”

The award is named for liberal arts teachers Mollie Caffrey and Kevin Welles.

You can learn more about both awards by going to www.isemanfoundation.com.

If you feel you might want to donate, know that Meyers is one of those schools like many across America struggling to deal with white flight, declining revenues and a city with increasing crime.

You might not want to waste your time if you voted the wrong way Tuesday. You probably have something better to do with your money, like sending it to the Angry White People Relief Fund, or Keeping Boys out of Girls Bathrooms.

For the rest of you, I have a proposition.

After I fix up my car, if you buy it, I’ll donate a chunk of my proceeds to the foundation. As an added bonus, if you let me know you’re buying it by Thanksgiving, I’ll throw in a big ol’ decal of The University of Pennsylvania. That’s bound to get you some respect. It’s certainly a couple degrees cooler than “My kid is an honor student.”

If you really want to impress, you can also share this amazing but frightening fact.

Tuition and room and board at Penn is now more than $64,000 per year.

As we send Trump packing, here are 11 ways to remember how bad this campaign really got

trumpAfter months of following some of the wildest political news ever, you’re sitting around tonight waiting for the vote count.

It’s a good time to think back to some of the crazy twists and turns of the past few months.

 Were you paying attention?  Are you sure? There were a lot of, well, moments.

Do you remember using mnemonics — short, helpful memory aids — as a kid in school? For example, the acronym “HOMES” helped you answer that test question about the names of the five Great Lakes and “Every Good Boy Does Fine” the question about notes in a music scale.

You know what they say about history repeating itself. We need some shortcuts to ensure we don’t forget the bizarre political developments of 2016.  

My take:


You’ve heard the derogatory phrase “FemiNazi.” Let’s turn it around and make it positive, based on Trump’s now-famous “nasty woman” shot at Hillary.

Boo who?

Obama (Or was it O-boo-ma?) said “Don’t boo. Vote.

 Every election from here on, take a “Boo-ballot” to the polls to make sure you vote against anyone you wanted to shout down in public.


 A new word that will outlive The Donald. Think grumpy but meaner, a lot meaner.


Another new word. It can be used to describe unceasing, caustic, public ridicule.

She was certainly pilloried. Websters says it means to put in a stocks (“Lock her up. Lock her up.”) or harshly criticize.

Yes We Khan

No one should forget how the clumsy billionaire candidate stepped in it by starting a fight with proud, grieving Muslim parents Ghazala and Khizr Khan.

Trump got Khizr’ed, bigtime.


One for the Urban Dictionary. It means fondled by the Donald.

Gropin’ dope

The tape of Trump advocating sexual assault by telling Billy Bush to grab women by the “P..sy” needs a catchy title before it is placed in the Smithsonian, eh?

By the way, you know why Trump got away with it for so long? Small hands.


Sorta like a millennial. It means: 1) A Gen X’er who marries a much older spouse for money and prestige. 2) Selfish, unable to have an original thought, prone to plagiarism.


This new word, similar to “tuppence,” will help us remember Trump’s running mate after they lose tonight.

What is it? A monetary unit created  by Trump supporters out of distrust of banks and the government. For example, it costs two Trumppence to get into a rally, seven to punch a black protester in the jaw.

Donald and the Deplorables

 We can’t forget those angry confederate-flag waving supporters.

I think Trump should try Heavy Metal or Punk Rock after he loses. He has the hair.

He’s been a hit onstage already.

Behind the  paunchy, white, Boomer band members, Ivanka can sway provocatively. He’ll still draw thousands.

Go high, don’t go low

We would all be smart to remember Obama’s heartfelt advice in the wake of this hard-fought, bruising campaign.

In fact, this advice is perfect on a night like tonight. You can take it literally — especially if you’re heading out to a victory party.

The rest of you, well, the year 2020 seems in the distant future but really isn’t that far off.

Don’t just let yourself get too Trumpy. You see what good it did The Donald.


Neck and neck, Trump and Hillary should face the lie detector machine

thetwoDateline Nov. 8, 2016: What the freak? You gotta be kidding. After all this?

It was an unpleasant surprise. Everyone thought voters would decide the nation’s 45th president Nov. 8, followed by the electoral college confirming the popular choice. But no, Trump and Hillary, traded angry criticisms all the way to the end, stayed neck and neck and then tied — yes, tied — with an equal number of electoral votes, 269.

By law, that put the job of choosing the president in the hands of the House of Representatives. The Constitution says that, in the case of a tie, the House must meet in early January to choose a new leader for the country and the Senate must choose the VP.

With the possibility looming that the House — expected to be more evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats after Nov. 8 — would also end up stalemated over this thing, the leaders of both political parties, nauseous at the thought of more nasty electioneering, decided we could not afford to wait.

There was urgency. Wikileaks in mid-November revealed that Russia planned an invasion of Cuba — by New Year’s Day.

Congress met hastily and passed emergency legislation to settle the election another way: using a polygraph.

Deciding who was the biggest liar seemed to be a fitting way to end an election season marked by claims and counterclaims of untruthfulness, exaggeration and downright prevarication.

With President Obama also signing off on the plan, a Senate “True Dat” committee hired the world’s top polygraph operator, arranged for Hillary and Trump to face-off at the Walter E. Washington convention center in D.C., contracted cable TV coverage and solicited tough questions from Trump and Hillary supporters.

Trump tried at first to put the event off for a week, claiming he hurt his back picking up a lookalike baby wearing a wig in Philadelphia. But, organizers pressed him to show; they agreed he could use a recliner on stage.

Of course, everyone realized that lie detectors have flaws. But these were desperate times and the man hired, Barry B. Truman, had been recognized internationally for outing those prone to lying.

So, with the world watching, Truman went to work.

To Hillary:  Did your husband have sex with that woman?

Hillary: Well, that certainly depends on what you mean by sex. And just hold on a minute. I want to note something here as part of the record. If that machine shows an increase in my heart rate, it could have nothing to do with lying. This is somewhat provocative subject matter, you know.

Trump: You can ask me about sex, I like it when my heart races. I’m in fantastic shape, the best shape of any candidate for president ever. I have stamina.

Truman: Please, Mr. Trump. You will get your turn. Ms. Clinton, we’re only trying to get a baseline here, by asking questions with obvious answers.

Trump: I have one for her. Did you create ISIS before or after you decided to send all our manufacturing jobs to Mexico?

Hillary: Right back at you, vulgarian. Did you start groping women before or after you learned that your hands were unnaturally small?

Truman: All right. All right. Settle down, now, both of  you. Let’s move on. You both agreed to this, right?

Trump: She lied about agreeing to it.

trumpHillary stares at Trump, face reddening as her lie detector machine starts scribbling wildly.

Truman: Ms. Clinton, another baseline question, was your private email server that was subpoenaed by the FBI called “Hiding Mail for Dummies?”

Hillary: Jeez, I dunno. I might need to take the Fifth on that one. Donald seems to know everything about the FBI and my emails. Maybe he ought to answer that one.

Trump (brought out of a distracted stare off into his crowd of supporters): No, I didn’t have sex with that woman.

Truman:  Mr. Trump, let’s try some basic questions with you, to establish that baseline.

Trump: OK, but as I told you beforehand I’m injured from my last campaign event. I’m going to relax in this chair. By the way, Hillary paid that baby to hurt me. She paid it $1,000. You better believe that she did. And we have proof; she’ll be prosecuted.

Truman: Please, Mr. Trump. Focus.  Is your last name Flintstone?
Trump: That’s a vicious slander! Did she tell you that? I’m better looking than that obese cartoon caveman. That is the worst. Ridiculous. The worst. (As a female camera operator catches his eye, he kicks back in the recliner and whispers to her:  I wouldn’t kick Betty Rubble outta bed, though. If ya get my drift.)

fredTruman: Mr. Trump. Please just answer the questions. Here’s another. Are you a red-blooded American?

Trump: Well, geez. What a silly question. Why, I … why, what have you heard?

Hillary: Can we please move this along. I have better things to do than stand here next to a wimpy billionaire who can be put out of commission by an infant.

Trump: I know you are but what am I?

Truman: OK. OK. Settle down please. I need to ask Ms. Clinton these important questions. Ms. Clinton, did you deliberately mislead America about using a private email server to share classified information?
Hillary: Not that I recall at this time.

Truman: Did you arrange for special access to anyone in the Obama administration in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation?

Hillary: Not that comes to mind as I try to recall this afternoon.

Truman: Were you truthful with Congress about the Benghazi situation that resulted in American deaths?

Hillary: Yes, even if they failed to ask the right questions.

Trueman: OK, Mr. Trump. Mr.  Trump. Are you awake?

Trump: No.

Let me put that another way. Not at least as I can recall with complete accuracy this afternoon. See what I did there. I’m answering like her, like a lawyer. Or should I say “liar?” You know she’s a liar, don’t you. Everybody knows that.

Truman: OK, Mr. Trump, did you ever grope a woman’s genital area as you were advocating to the TV personality Billy Bush?

Trump: Hah! No, I never even touched that part of a woman, any woman, ever! That is just disgusting. Ridiculous.

Truman: Hmm. Well. That’s surprising. How about this: Did you walk into the dressing rooms during beauty pageants when women or girls were nude or partially nude?

Trump: Are you crazy? I’ve never even been to a beauty contest. I don’t believe in them. If we’re going to have them we need to have ugly contests, too. That’s America. Civil rights. Equal opportunity.


Truman: Mr. Trump. I have to say I’m surprised by your answers. You do realize you are hooked up to the polygraph machine, right? Moving on. Did you deliberately inflate the value of Trump University, exaggerate what students would receive, in order to make money?

Trump: No. I don’t even like money. In fact, I’ve taken a vow of poverty. Right after I lose the election, I’m going into the monastery.

At this, Truman, looking exasperated, inspects the polygraphs. After about five minutes, Trump, prostrate and smiling broadly prods Truman to hurry up.

Truman finally speaks: I must say, the machine isn’t infallible here but, Mr. Trump, your results are way off the charts. They say you have lied each of the last three important questions.

Trump: What are you saying?

Examiner: Well, while Ms. Clinton’s reactions fall within normal ranges, your reactions indicate you have been uttering complete falsehoods.

Trump: Oh really. What exactly are you saying? C’mon Mr. Expert Detector, spit it out.

Examiner: Mr. Trump. It’s obvious to the machine and to thousands here in the convention hall, as well as millions across America, that YOU ARE BLATANTLY LYING!

Trump (laughing to the point he is holding his sides): I’m what? I’m lying. Duh. Look at me. You told me I didn’t have to stand up, or sit down. Yes, I’m lying back in this recliner. I lie because I’m lying. Get it?  

Am I clever or what? I really got ya, there, didn’t I Mr. Polygrapher of the Year. Hey, do me a favor, lemme ask her something. Hey, Hillary, what kind of emails did ya get from that Weiner character? You save any? How much you want for them? I’ll trade you four of my wife Melania in the nude for one of Weiner

 Whaddya say? We got a deal?

Hillary couldn’t take it any longer.

angryhillaryShe jumped on the recliner and started choking Trump. He tried to fight back but his fingers wouldn’t fit around her neck.

His last words were “Lock her up.”

It took a while for the shock of a televised murder of a would-be president to wear off.

But political leaders could not allow the nation to fall into chaos. They decided to let the House vote on the president and they orchestrated another tie, which required the House of Representatives (yes, this is really in the Constitution) to move on down the line and consider making a vice presidential candidate the president. It worked.

Over the next four years, Tim Kaine, with the support and help from Mike Pence as VP, did surprisingly well.

He helped calm everything down by avoiding a high-profile and lengthy trial when he pardoned Hillary due to mental anguish brought on by provocation. Then, he scared Putin out of invading Cuba by threatening to bring Hillary back as secretary of state. Kaine and Pence also kept America out of war, saved Social Security and killed all the leaders of ISIS.

Most importantly, a year after the fateful and fatal presidential polygraph test, Pence prodded the Congress to pass the a law requiring a lie detector examiner in each of the houses of Congress, the Oval Office and the Supreme Court.

It is called The Don’t Trump the Truth Act and, thus far, has withstood court challenges by the ACLU, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani.

Most importantly, Kaine and Pence helped create and promote a new atmosphere of candor and honesty in Washington. After watching what happened to Trump, the two vowed to never, ever, ever — so help me Sarah Palin — lie.

Unless, of course, they happen to be in a recliner.

Why did the nuns disappear? And, what is the tribunal of dead rabbis?

nunrulerWhere are all the nuns? What happened to those benevolent, selfless sisters of mercy and compassion? How did they go so quickly from this black-and-white force of thousands to an occasional sighting here or there, usually near an airplane bound for Latin America?

When I was in grade school, the sisters were ubiquitous (you learn words like that when you’re taught by nuns), wielded great power and commanded respect.

We were like clay in their carefully scrubbed, pink hands. We were delivered to them at our most impressionable and they embraced us with confidence.

They fed us, protected us, taught us.

They tended to our wounds, both physical and spiritual.

They tried to explain God.

They dispensed drugs and discipline in equal measure. If provoked, they pinched, scratched and used their rulers as paddles. The acted quickly and confidently, without worry that some mom would bust through the schoolhouse doors to complain about Little Johnny’s red knuckles or reddened cheeks.

That just didn’t happen. That would be like challenging Jesus.

He was married to the nuns, you know. That’s how they explained their vows to remain celibate and serve the church.

Of course Jesus, as channeled through the local priest, was the final word on all important matters — from the hymn choices for Christmas mass to whether Petey Hanrahan should be expelled for scratching a curse word on the bathroom stall.

When you play out the logic, it made no sense to challenge a nun. She was just carrying out orders from her higher-ups and they were really really high up.

The mandate was clear to me: Listen to the nuns, obey the priest and get ready for First Communion. At the time, it all made perfect sense.

Until Sister Alverna came into the picture.

I first became leery during a game of “Red Rover.”

Sister Alverna had been one of the few sisters to join us playing recess games, like “Red Rover.” To play, we would lock arms to help form a human chain and dare someone from the other team to run at us to try to break through.

Usually, all went well as the chain held and the challenger from the other team fell to the grass in defeat. But, once in awhile, one of the bigger boys would break through, sometimes by running right at Sister Alverna.

In games past, she just guffawed and played on. But something eventually changed. One afternoon, she snarled and tried to slap the boy on the back. Another time, we thought we heard her curse. Yet another time, she stepped on a boy when he fell to the ground in front of her.

She eventually just stopped playing.

At about the same time, she began to accuse us of poking fun at her or plotting against her. Sometimes she would ask why we were laughing when we hadn’t been.

One afternoon during a question and answer period, I used the word “persecution” in my reply. She accused me of saying “prostitution” to turn a serious religion lesson into a joke.

One day in geography class, she talked for at least a half hour about the attributes of a priest she had met on a missionary trip. Then, she insisted we use our class time to cut out, color and paste together paper crucifixes. They were designed to slide on to Baby Ruth candy bars to be handed out by the handsome priest to poor kids in Nicaragua.

The crucifixes took weeks.

To this day, I’m convinced I still cannot pick out Uruguay on a globe because of that  lost class time.

Atop all this, Sister Alverna began telling odd stories. They got more and more bizarre.

There were tales of priests and nuns doing good deeds that took outrageous, improbable turns. It was as if everyone she met had the power to perform miracles.

Like the Bible, the stories could be gruesome. One that I’ll never forget — let’s call it Billy and the Body of Christ — popped up as we were being warned about the dos and don’ts of taking Holy Communion.

Billy was our bad example, Sister Alverna’s cautionary tale.

It goes like this.

Billy transferred to the Catholic school from public school, where he had already been a bit of an outcast.

With greasy hair and a leather jacket, he liked to carry a comb that worked like a switchblade. He scared little kids with it.

Like most who transferred in, Billy was expected to convert to Catholicism, to go through the rituals, including First Communion. Well, he was much older than the other prospective communion recipients, and he scoffed at the lectures from the nuns about the sacrament.

He didn’t believe that the tiny little round host could be turned into the body of Christ. He wanted to prove the nuns wrong.

So, he came up with a plan — Sister Alverna lowered her voice to an almost inaudible level in telling this part — to  steal the host instead of swallowing it. And, he pulled it off, slipping the consecrated wafer into his jacket and sneaking it home to his basement.

There, in an underground room with no windows,  he had a hammer, a hacksaw and a chisel. He tried all three on the white round host, but, perplexingly, could not break or crack the wafer. Angry now, he stomped the host repeatedly with his hobnail boots, the kind, according to Sister Alverna, that  the Nazis wore.

A speck of blood appeared. Then more. As Billy bent to inspect the trickle of red, the blood began to run faster, then gush.

Billy was found the next day.


He had drowned.

I remember being so  scared that I drank, like,  three glasses of water after communion, worried about letting even a tiny crumb of Jesus escape my lips.

Only later, after about our 10th or 11th communion, did we kids start to question the story. Soon, we lumped it into the batch of exaggerations and rantings that were now coming almost daily from Sister Alverna.

Not sure how long it took after the Billy story for Sister Alverna to disappear. If I recall correctly, the other nuns said she had been rewarded for her years of service with an assignment to a mission by the sea. I hoped they hooked her up with the handsome priest she liked to talk about.

I didn’t believe she went to any beautiful mission, though.

I developed a theory about her disappearance. It also can be used to explain the dearth of nuns in general. I recite this theory with the same confidence and ardor that Sister Alverna told us about Billy and the basement.


I think Jesus got tired of the alimony payments. He used Alverna as a test case; he called for a hearing.

God, of course, had to recuse himself because he couldn’t remain unbiased toward his only son. The most senior saints appointed a tribunal of dead rabbis. God had told the angels the Jews were dependable, fair-minded and good with money.

The tribunal offered Sister Alverna  a settlement: A couple years hard labor in Limbo followed by a piece of heaven where she was the ultimate Red Rover player and competed only against young priests.

She bit.

As the women’s liberation movement hit America and feminism flourished, the other nuns jumped at the chance to get out of those itchy habits. The rabbi tribunal got very busy.

Nowadays, you’ll see lots of volunteers at Catholic schools but not so many nuns. The ones you do see are not always recognizable. They’ve been able to negotiate their way out of the starchy clothing and wacky headpieces.

But do they still marry Jesus?

I guess that’s a tricky question. From my research, some nuns insist that’s the case, calling it a “mystical marriage,” and others say that’s just hogwash.

Maybe, like Sister Alverna’s stories, none of this is really ever black and white.

See what I did there.

Which reminds me of a joke I imagine Sister Alverna telling.

Sister: What’s black and white and red all over.

Me: A newspaper.


How about a groom in a blender?

Sister: No, it’s the nun who tried to give Billy CPR in the bloody basement.

Me: Sorry, just like when I was little, I don’t Bolivia, sister.

Sister: OK, have it Uruguay.

Me: Ha. I would. But, because of you, I still can’t find it on a map.



Trumpty Dumpty? One bad egg.

Trumpty dumpty had plans for a wall.
But before he could build, he took a great fall.

Hard as he tried to keep up hopes,
Voters cried out for more on the gropes.

We were all ears when it came to the tape;
Trumpty said Bill Clinton did all the rape.

Hillary got sick and Trumpty did his best to misdirect.

But he and his lackies crashed, flipped and wrecked.
Meanwhile, one after another came Trumpty’s accusers,
And he called them liars, ugly and losers

“Oh Lord, I didn’t boast of sex assault,” Trumpty said.
“It was just locker room talk of exploits in bed.”

Hillary kept smiling and let it all roll
As she took the lead in poll after poll.

Yes, Trumpty had plans for this giant wall.
But history will write of this epic fall.

Because all Trumpty’s donors, his wife, the pitchmen
Simply couldn’t put Trumpty together again.