Today’s Grammar Quiz (Seriously, I don’t kid around about grammar)

  1. In the sentence “Hortense was furious when the judges overlooked her rhubarb omelet,” the underlined word is an example of which of the following parts of speech?


  1. participle
  2. verb
  3. noun
  4. adjective
  5. adverb
  6. none of the above


2. In the sentence, “Hortense vowed, ‘There will be repercussions,’” the underlined phrase is an example which of the following verb forms?


  1. the simple future tense
  2. the present tense, passive voice
  3. the future tense, passive voice
  4. the future perfect tense
  5. the future perfect tense, passive voice


3. In the sentence, “As she spoke, Hortense’s face turned an alarming shade of crimson,” the underlined word is what part of speech?


  1. a past participle
  2. a past tense verb
  3. a linking verb
  4. a causative verb
  5. (2) and (3)
  6. (1) and (2)


4. Which accurately describes the following sentence: “German shepherds are great problem solvers, and basset hounds never let go of a grudge”?


  1. run-on
  2. fragment
  3. compound sentence
  4. comma splice
  5. (3) and (4)
  6. (1) and (4)
  7. none of the above


5. In the sentence, “Infuriated bassets often exact revenge days after the perceived offence,” the underlined word is what part of speech?


  1. past tense verb
  2. gerund
  3. present participle
  4. past participle
  5. none of the above


6. Fill in the blanks: “A basset hound’s ideal afternoon consists of __________ on his back in the sun with _______ tongue hanging out.”


  1. laying, its
  2. lying, it’s
  3. laying, it’s
  4. lying, its
  5. lying, their


7. What punctuation does this sentence need? “Because of the city-wide truffle shortage Chef Monsoun will be unable to prepare Coquilles St. Jacques and patrons will have to make do with Coquilles Sans Souci.”


  1. a semicolon after “Jacques”
  2. a comma after “shortage”
  3. a colon after “shortage”
  4. a comma after “Jacques
  5. both (2) and (4)
  6. none of the above


8. In the sentence “Coquilles Sans Souci” is prepared from bizarre, literally nauseating ingredients,” what are the two underlined parts of speech?


  1. past tense verb, past participle
  2. past participle, present participle
  3. past tense verb, present tense verb
  4. none of the above


9. Which accurately describes the sentence “Basset hounds will eat almost anything, however even a basset will turn up its enormous nose at Coquilles Sans Souci”?


  1. a run-on
  2. a fused sentence
  3. a comma splice
  4. none of the above


10. In the sentence “On the other hand, to a discerning basset with refined taste buds, Hortense’s rhubarb omelet is the bomb,” the underlined words are what parts of speech?


  1. preposition, adjective
  2. adverb, indefinite article
  3. preposition, definite article
  4. none of the above










Won’t Nobody Help a Naked Man?

Woman says she is moving away from midtown Sacramento after naked man breaks in

Naked, drunk Florida man found passed out in grassy intersection, punches cop who woke him up

Partially  nude man arrested after exposing himself in Wyandotte

Naked man in Seattle JCPenney causes chaotic scene; police speak out

GPD: Naked man arrested in alleged obstruction of garbage collection

Lauderhill Police: Naked man appearing to pleasure self in someone’s backyard

150 minutes on Ohio’s bathroom bill: Naked fat ‘man’ in locker room, other ‘perverts’

Naked Man On Scooter Taken Into Custody

Butt naked man causes complete chaos in Dallas Airport

Naked man arrested, on mushrooms claimed to be ‘an expert in magic’

Naked man in Palm Beach says he’s from a different earth: Police


Report: Naked Pace man attacks multiple people with hammer


Naked Man Perched In Shorewood Apartment Jumps, Swarmed By Police

Naked man accused in deadly Broward County crime spree makes first court appearance

Neighbors react to news of naked man shot, killed after attacking Lizella woman on lawnmower

Naked couple arrested on Rutledge Highway

Naked Man Running in Traffic Pleads No Contest to Meth Possession

2 Officers Hurt after Call for Naked Man in Hotel Lobby

Man Tells Police He Stabbed Naked Man Who Attacked him in the Street in Fort Worth


Police arrest naked man stretching, looking at glass reflection in front of businesses

Tulsa Police Arrest Naked Man They Say Hit Woman At Apartment Complex

Police: Naked man steals ambulance, crashes in Greer

Naked man went on rampage armed with ‘for sale’ sign as weapon and kicked cop in the head

Barely Any Details as Little Egg Harbor, NJ, Police Seek Naked Man

Naked man found shining laser beam at police helicopter he thought was UFO


Just a few (seriously) naked man headlines from September-October 2021:


Pawtucket man fights off catalytic converter thief naked

Police seek naked man seen walking around Catonsville senior facility

Naked man with spear shot by deputy in Monroe County

Naked man arrested after allegedly lighting motorhome on fire, running from police

DU issues alert for naked man near Gamma Phi Beta

Naked man found wandering streets in Vero Beach, claimed he saw snakes


Half-naked man sought in connection with alleged flag theft


Naked NYC man repeatedly spotted strutting his stuff


Naked man arrested after dancing in Lansing streets

Body-cam video shows Phoenix officers detaining naked man before dying in custody *

Totally naked man spotted at bar and netizens have ‘so many’ questions

Naked man runs past ‘Today’ show live on-air, forcing abrupt cut to commercial

*One assumes “before dying in custody” is a misplaced modifier


With the (current) waning of the pandemic comes an uptick in, among other things, Naked Man news.  There were so many stories in May that I’ve had to pick and choose.  What does this mean?

Buck naked: nude sunbathers fleeing deer fined for breaking Sydney lockdown

Naked man dives on tarp, crawls through tarp tube during Nats rain delay

Deltona man accused of breaking into woman’s home naked

Naked man in custody after barricading himself in car on highway in Glynn County

Naked man allegedly argued with customers in the basement, claimed people were trying to fight him

Naked Man Refuses To Leave Ocean At San Clemente Pier

Ramsgate mum’s shock at finding naked man in her hallway during early hours of morning

Shock as ‘completely naked’ Scotsman arrested walking down busy road in beauty spot

Naked man in beanie seen prowling outside Carlisle student homes ‘looking through windows’

Naked man ‘danced in front of shop window’ then ran off

Naked man was on train in Lancaster in nothing but shoes

Naked man driving stolen JSO cruiser crashes into woods on I-10

I’ve been remiss; haven’t done this for almost a year.  Here are the Naked Man headlines (curated) for the past month.  I don’t know why somebody doesn’t do a book about this.

Naked man accused of lunging at person inside bathroom in Fairfax County, police say

Naked man attempts to put out house fire in Cave Creek

Police Arrest Naked Man With Knife Running On Route 4: PD

Naked Florida man covered in mud bites K-9′s ear, deputies say

Nearly-naked man flees hospital, arms himself with shovel and terrorizes West Hills neighborhood

Half-naked man flees police from Akron Metro Transit Center

Naked Man Jumps from Moving Truck, Seriously Injured, in Wilton

Naked man who entered Prescott bar is caught


Naked Man Runs Amok, Slashes Approaching Policeman With Knife In Incident Caught On Camera


Ax Wielding Naked Man Damages Annapolis Home 

Police: Naked Man Runs Around McKeesport Building Before Running Into Wall, Causing Giant Hole


Naked man was surrounded by a parking lot full of Black Friday shoppers, NC cops say

Police: Surveillance Video Catches Naked Man Pulling On Doors Of Businesses In Plumstead Township


Naked man breaks into an Orange Mound family’s home


Naked man goes on drug-fueled home invasion spree in Arvada, police say


Naked man who fled after being found in bed with other man’s fiancee feared hypothermia



Police subdue naked man after Mashpee stabbing incident

Naked man arrested after being found inside Pepsi truck with numerous empty bottles

Naked man arrested for allegedly stealing, crashing pickup in Imperial

Naked man gives town exposure

Report describes fatal police encounter with a naked man performing yoga poses in Phoenix street

Naked man spotted running around La Grange leads police on chase

Naked man wearing sports bra linked to car burglaries, deputies say

Naked man arrested for breaking into Ottawa Co. homes, assault

Naked man arrested in Woodbridge bus terminal

A man broke into a house, showered — then sat naked on the porch to wait, Fla. cops say

Naked Missouri Man Says “Good Morning” to Neighbor, Steals Truck, Flips it

MPD arrest naked man for obscenity, trespassing

Naked Man Tells La Crosse Police He’s On ‘Tons And Tons And Tons And Tons And Tons Of Acid’


Blake Lively Got Trolled by Ryan Reynolds for Posing With a Naked Man

‘Gyrating’ naked man arrested after scared off by Florida grandma

LMPD: Naked man runs from police, bites EMS worker

‘That’s not my cat.’ Grandma uses false teeth to scare naked man off her porch.


Naked man outside Florida Chick-fil-A arrested for trying to fight passersby

Clearwater super boat race stopped by naked, drunk, disorderly man in water, deputies say

Naked man filmed ‘in sex act with blow-up doll’ on M1 hard shoulder

Charge: Naked man in park was ‘just in the woods masturbating, minding my own business’

Naked man on nature trail tells police he was sunbathing

Naked man urinates on officers during arrest in Camden County

Screaming naked man arrested for throwing rocks at police car

Naked man squirts his hose at cops while on school roof

Naked man armed with a gun wounded by police at church

Naked man storms courtroom and lies down in front of coroner

Naked man carrying hatchet gives Chanhassen jogger a fright

Post-Inaugural Naked Man Special

Naked Man Tased by Fresno Police Officer

Police investigate after shocked locals ‘find naked man in street after he jumped out a car boot’ in Edinburgh



Antioch police: ‘Nearly naked man’ running outside leads to hazmat alert

Melbourne man gets naked to protest lack of privacy

‘Drunk man who strips naked and steals taxi’ gets caught on camera as he joyrides it through crowd

IMPD officer tackles belligerent, naked man allegedly high on ‘wax’

Collier County deputies say naked man climbed atop building, tried to hide

Naked man claims God told him to run in Baldwin Park

Malaysian man roams apartment block naked, claims ‘Goddess Mazu’ summoned him to do so

Tallahassee pastor gets caught sleeping with man’s wife, flees naked

Florida Man Has Best Excuse Ever For Being Naked At Car Wash

‘Butt naked’ man runs at woman jogger on Riverwalk

Deputies detain naked man in Fort Gratiot

Naked man arrested after crashing car into house, punching trooper, telling cops he’s Jesus

A toilet tank, a naked man, tasers – charges filed in 2013 case

(HAMILTON – Nearly four years ago, John N. Miller of Missoula allegedly threatened to strike two officers with a toilet tank while nude. He was formally charged in that case this week…The case dates back to March 2013 when sheriff’s deputies were called to an apartment in Stevensville at 2:16 a.m. for a reported disturbance. The first officer on the scene looked into the apartment and saw Miller running around naked inside, according to an affidavit. The officers could see broken items scattered about the apartment, a refrigerator turned on its side and a broken window and door…The affidavit said he eventually “burst from the bathroom” holding a porcelain tank of a toilet above his head. Believing Miller meant to hit them with it, the officers deployed their tasers several times to subdue the man. Miller continued to resist after being handcuffed. His loud statements did not make sense to the officers.)

Naked man wearing a Santa Hat spotted jogging in Cambridgeshire village

Half-naked man’s luge joyride down Kaimai Ranges not illegal, say police – just ‘very unwise’


Clairemont woman finds naked intruder in her bed

SAN DIEGO – A 25-year-old man was arrested early Thursday in Clairemont after police said he went into a neighbor’s home, took off his clothes and got into her bed.

The woman returned about 12:30 a.m. to her home on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard near Limerick Avenue where she found the naked intruder and called authorities, San Diego police said.

Officers arrived and took the tattooed man into custody.

He told officers that he heard a noise at the woman’s residence, went inside to investigate and then got naked and into bed to wait for her because “he did not want to startle her, “ police said.

He was arrested on prowling charges, authorities said.   (San Diego Union Tribune, 8/9/2012)


Okay, from now on, Headlines Only. The most recent are at the top (it’s November, 2015). The Higbee mayor naked broom attack story is well worth a look.  Also, Arab is in Alabama. Also, and take my word for it, if you troll Google News for “naked woman,” you get nothing like this list. Apparently women don’t like to goof around naked in public.  Except in Alaska.

Naked man climbs on top of Metro bus in West Hollywood

Deputies: Naked Florida man breaks into home with pants on arms

Naked man in Stuart says he’s no exhibitionist

Naked man says he was looking for a wife at Mormon temple

Naked man found in Hiawatha now accused of killing mother

Naked man Tasered by police after attacking parked cars in the street

Naked man takes a walk in the mall

Trailcam Captured Naked Man on LSD Who Believed He was Siberian Tiger

Officers respond to screaming, naked man at reservoir in Washington Co.

Naked man climbed onto moving van and threw bricks before suffering heart attack, inquest heard

Naked man causes ruckus in Hanover neighborhood

Officers Catch Up to Naked Man Wandering Eureka After He Stops to Pet a Dog

Naked man breaks in home, bites resident, then dies

Naked man does bizarre pole dance complete with karate kicks after cops handcuff him to a lamppost

Naked man approached woman, son at Horseneck Beach in Westport

Bananas, eggs and a pair of naked men: online stir after nude photos at scenic Chinese temple go viral

Naked man arrested for hitting neighbor’s house with shovel

Two women approached by naked man in parking garage at Plaza Art Fair 

Naked man interrupts Maryland student’s workout

Naked man defecated on doorstep of Iowa City home

Naked man found standing on his head on East 7th Street

Man Strips Naked, Exposes Anus To Construction Worker

Man takes naked ‘fun run’ in yard

Man strips naked in airport departure lounge and dances in front of bemused travellers

Naked man storms in-law’s home to reclaim his ‘arrested’ wife

VIDEO: Naked man dances, takes selfies with petrol attendant

Naked man arrested in Schaghticoke, kicks hole in police barracks wall

State police looking for naked man who shouted ‘Jesus is coming’

Woman says naked man approached her on Newport News trail

Naked Man Accused of Breaking into East Wenatchee Homes Arrested

Man runs into Tenn. school half naked, thinks fire alarm contains smurfs

Naked man causes stir during rush hour in Roanoke

Naked man ding-dong-ditches police officer, caught on video*

Naked man raided B-Town International Market sauce aisle

Naked Man Watering Lawn Arrested After Allegedly Throwing Knife, Beer Bottles at Fresno County Deputies

Naked man lies down in the road, stops traffic in Orange

Naked man who ‘bear-hugged’ officer, grabbed her Taser sentenced to state mental hospital

Streaker drank nine pints, got naked, then ran through women’s rights march

Naked Russian Man Asks to Share Mausoleum With Lenin

Naked man caught performing sex act on himself in Carmarthen housing estate
Naked man marches with veterans

Police Arrest Naked Man Running Through Hotel Parking Lot

Dublin: Woman says she might have seen a naked man

Lamar deputies have their hands full with naked man on acid

Naked man jumps from B.C, ferry, later arrested ‘soaked, incoherent’

Naked man puts Xbox in oven, starts apartment fire, attacks police officers

Pantless woman and naked man arrested

Naked, masturbating man investigated in connection with airport bomb threat

Drunk, naked man attempts to steal grill cover, police say

Firemen call police, point to naked man

Nude man tased after running through Logan park carrying large rock

Man Strips Naked atop San Francisco Freeway Sign

Naked man in Liberty Village women’s sauna sought

Man, 29, arrested after he is found naked and screaming in flower bed in Crystal City

Naked man charged with stealing Hungry Jack’s Whopper from car in Derby

Naked man denies being naked to officers

Naked man causes rush-hour traffic jam after stripping off and sitting on top of his car


 POLICE LINES: There’s a naked man in the rotary

Hipster Café Really Sorry for Letting Butt-Naked Guy Walk Around Store for an Hour

Man Crashes Car, Strips Naked, Marches Down Busy Street Friday

GOP candidates arrive for debate; three charged in fatal fire; naked Chagrin Falls man in Cincinnati crash

Naked Man With Garden Shears Breaks Through Windows of Home

Caught on camera: Naked man steals deputy’s patrol car

Naked man, 81, arrested for ‘having sex with bush in his own back garden’

Naked man escorted from Novi Kroger was having ‘episode’

Firefighters catch naked man at church

Naked man tried to take cops’ guns

Naked man runs around Topeka motel with knife

Naked man allegedly destroys Dollar General bathroom

Naked man arrested while working on tan lines

Husband and wife shocked to find naked man running around their house filling their kitchen drawers with water and smearing excrement on their walls

Wilbraham police: Naked man running through center of town was on ecstasy, suffering from psychiatric problems


Police seek to id waving naked man

Naked man fleeing at 30 km/h arrested after 1973 farm tractor inexplicably stalls


Drunk Man in Only Shoes and Socks Arrested for Candy Theft

Naked man dancing in traffic arrested along I-44 in St. Louis


Crazed naked man dives through woman’s sunroof


Naked man leads police on downtown chase, jumps in Elliott Bay

Half Naked Man Dressed as a Bumblebee Twerks on the NYC Subway


Police hunt naked ‘mop head man’ with pot belly

Palo Alto police arrest naked man in crime spree


Naked man in cowboy hat enters Georgia home


Naked man spotted on roof of BMV arrested in Portage


Police: Naked Temperance man threatened grandma with ax, sword


Naked man hit Higbee mayor with a broom


Naked man removed from tree with bucket truck in Arab


Police Charge Naked Man In Park Forest Attack


‘Very Shy’ Dude Posts Nude Selfie With Giant Gun in Craigslist Ad


Caught on Cam: Man Strips Naked on Top of SUV, Taunts Officers in Wilmington

Naked man tased twice by Clarksville police


British tourist appears in Dubai court accused of ‘running naked through corridors of holiday apartment block after getting drunk on rum in posh hotel’


Polite Nude Man Startles Woman


Naked man spotted roaming the streets of Taiwan, looks a lot like a  titan


Caught on Dash Cam: Naked man on motorcycle arrested in  Chickasha


Birmingham Sausage Man Crowd-Surfs Naked, Gets Invited Backstage By Kings of Leon

Woman: Naked man helping her with diabetes treatment


Naked man, UFOs and bears seen in Saugeen Shores


Yeiner Perez: Naked Man Attacks BART Passengers, Performs Gymnastics


Naked man arrested after refusing to get dressed, report says


Naked Man Covered in Crisco Just Wanted ‘To Party’


Naked man injured in fight on Elgin street


Naked man wielding gardening shears Tasered in Stafford County, police say


St. Paul: Naked man throws naked girlfriend off second-floor balcony, charges say


Naked man seen walking in Weymouth


Florida Man Smokes Synthetic Pot, Shoots Glock, Runs Around Neighborhood Naked


Naked man who crashed into pole: More details released


Tulsa Firefighters Pull Naked Man From Storm Drain


Naked man apprehended by deputies after foot chase


Naked fisherman rescued from shark infested waters in Australia


Naked Man on Dalton Road Heading to Court


Naked couple charged with domestic battery


Brockton police: Naked man pushed out third-floor window


Naked man emerges from bushes during planning meeting


Cops: Naked man danced in front of woman’s home


Naked man arrested following romp in Jimboomba


Drunk man found naked with monkeys


Inquiries continue after half-naked man shot in the foot in South Norwood


Naked rambler who has spent years in jail for refusing to cover up is ordered to see psychiatrist after appearing in
court in just boots and socks


Naked man allegedly tries to break into Boise business


Vernon Man Charged After Allegedly Swearing at Women – While Naked


Man strips-naked in Bulawayo nightclub


Naked man with rifle shot by police at Lansdowne motel


Naked Man Arrested After Destroying Bryan Hotel Room


Knox County man pleads guilty to doing yard work in the nude


Green Lake naked man charged, still not identified


Naked Man Walks Out of Woods During Unrelated News Report


Police: Naked Man Wielded Knife Inside 7-Eleven


Naked man drives car into 2 fences, porch


Naked man arrested at Sonic eatery


PA troopers: Half-naked man on bath salts throws cinder block at cop

Blotter: Nude Man Spotted Driving on I-476, Slashed Tires, Thefts


Naked man exposed himself to elderly dog walker in Hemel woods


Naked Drunk North Korean Man Washes Ashore In South Korea


Naked man with laptop found on bench at beach


Naked Man Causes Scare at Local Wendy’s


Naked man in women’s showers, falls one storey


Lacey man arrested because clothes kept “falling off”


Naked man jumps out second floor window, chews on woman’s head


Uncooperative naked man arrested in Boulder Creek


Man Found Naked In Swimming Pool Charged With Arson


Tempe’s Naked Burglary Couple Couldn’t Get Their Stories Straight, According to Records


Deputies: Naked man claimed friends set him up


2 naked men, alligator key players in bizarre burglary


Alleged naked man arrested on Route 540 in South Jersey


James Albert Kimrey, Naked Man, Falls Through North Carolina Church Roof: Police

Naked Woman, Allegedly High on Spice, Lays Waste to an Alaska Subway


Man accused of running around naked again

(This last headline merits the whole story.)

SOUTH CAROLINA (The Times Democrat) A mental evaluation has been ordered for a Rowesville man charged in a second incident involving nudity.

Circuit Court Judge Ed Dickson ordered the evaluation Monday after a second charge of indecent exposure in just over a year was levied against 34-year-old Paul Ott.

“After having been evaluated … we will schedule a bond hearing,” Dickson said.

The Bay Street man was arrested Saturday on a probation violation and later charged by county authorities with indecent exposure after a Rowesville family notified deputies of a naked man in their yard.

State probation agent Lisa Boltin told the court Saturday’s incident placed Ott in violation of a plea agreement in a prior indecent exposure charge.

In September 2011, Ott was charged with indecent exposure after being accused of trying to break into a Cope residence naked while demanding in crude form to have sex with the homeowner’s wife.

Ott pleaded guilty to that charge in January and was placed on probation.

Boltin requested a mental evaluation, saying a toxicology test showed no drugs in his system.

“We don’t have any indication this is the result of drugs,” she said. “It’s a safety issue for the community, but we are also concerned about Mr. Ott’s safety as well.”

Defense attorney Charlie Williams III agreed a mental evaluation is in order, citing the possibility of a bipolar condition.

Williams declined comment until after an evaluation, but did say his priority is the “well-being of my client.” Any health issues would be addressed first, he said, and legal matters at a later date.

Prosecutor Sarah Ford recommended a bond hearing be held only after the court can consider the results of the mental evaluation.

Ott was taken into custody Saturday after a Rowesville woman noticed a man “standing in her goat pin (sic) completely nude,” according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report.

The naked man ran at her, but stopped after she yelled at him, she said. When she asked him what he was doing, he said he “was running with the birds.”

The woman’s husband tried talking to the man, but the man refused.

Deputies found some clothing in a nearby wooded area and a hunter who said he saw an individual running past around daylight.

Ott was arrested last year after a Sept. 1 incident in which a Cope man reported a naked man trying to break into his residence.

When deputies arrived, the resident said the naked subject was at his back door using a stick in an effort to get inside.

According to the report, the naked visitor allegedly pointed at the homeowner’s wife inside the house and “started moving in a hunching motion.” The naked man crudely yelled he wanted to have sex with her, the homeowner claimed.

A public disorderly conduct charge was later dropped due to the incident taking place on private property.

And in a bench trial in November 2011, Ott was found not guilty of trespassing after Williams argued the Rowesville man had “good cause” for being on the property. Williams said Ott was seeking medical treatment after a car wreck that had happened immediately prior to the Cope incident.

Ott then pleaded guilty in January to indecent exposure related to the Cope incident. He was sentenced to 15 months of probation. (10/16/2012)


*No vivid headines please


Respect That Mechanism (Covid Post 2)

Many years ago, the Russians invaded Afghanistan and I almost lost my mind.*  All around me, people were going about their lives, oblivious to the impending nuclear holocaust.  I spent my days lurking around newsstands (there was no Internet then), listening to news radio, shaking, and looking out my window, scanning the sky for that white light.  I slept one or two hours a night; my muscles ached from constant tension.  I envied  old people because they had lived complete lives. This went on for five weeks.  Then it stopped.  I woke up one morning and it was like that moment in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opened the door and the world had color.  My colors were back.

This never happened to me again.  I’m not confident it couldn’t (even a brief bout of mental illness is permanently humbling), but I don’t worry about it.

I don’t worry about it because it’s not something I can control anyway.

What I remember most clearly about this episode is my profound bewilderment when people (the few in whom I confided) said “Look, there’s no point in worrying about stuff you can’t control.”  I thought they were insane.

Denial is a wonderful human strategy.  It makes happiness possible. I’m sure we’re not the only animal that knows we’re mortal, but other animals don’t need denial because they’re too busy surviving.  To deny, and to need to deny, you need top-of-the-food-chain-leisure time.  Anyway, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, my denial mechanism crashed, and there I was in the howling void where anything can happen and tomorrow is hypothetical.

I’m not much of a sharer except in fiction, but I’m sharing this today because all around me I see good people worrying about stuff they can’t control, and I wish I could help them, and I probably can’t, because all I can do is tell them to stop it, and I remember how useless that advice was when the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

We hang by a thread.  We always have and we always will.  Sometimes a thing will happen and we glimpse that thread, which is just a metaphor but metaphors are all we can access because the void itself is unimaginable, and the metaphorical curtain parts and confronts us with what we’ve been blithely denying.

This is not fun.  Still, it isn’t unbearably scary if you’ve learned your lesson about the limitations of your own anxious mind.  All we have is now.  It’s all we’ve ever had and all we ever will.

This is one of those profound truths that you can “know” without really knowing.  Real knowledge sinks deep.  Millions of people know already, some of them so eminently sensible that they never thought otherwise, others having learned through experience.  Also, it really helps to be old.  But I do worry about the people who can’t sleep.

If you’re one of them or worried  that you might be, this is all I have to offer, and forgive my presumption:

Look after your colors and lean into the now.


*Not funny at the time, but that is a funny line.

A Brief Lecture on Sentence Structure

My literary idols include the great humorists of the first half of the twentieth century.  They continue to entertain me when I read and inspire me as I write.  They knew how to craft a sentence.

They sometimes began their pieces with a quote they found especially ridiculous and proceeded to use it as a writing prompt.  For example, Perelman had a field day with Diana Vreeland’s Why don’t you rinse your blond child’s hair in dead champagne to keep it gold, as they do in France?

James Thurber begins “Something to Say” with a quote from a thing called “Memoirs of a Polyglot” by William Gerhardt.*

Hugh Kingsmill and I stimulated each other to such a pitch that after the first meeting he had a brain storm and I lay sleepless all night and in the morning was on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

After that, Thurber is off and running. His fictional narrator recollects his experiences with the spectacularly obnoxious Elliot Vereker and explains why he was “the only man who ever continuously stimulated me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.”

This is one of my favorite Thurber pieces, and one which still sticks in my mind not just because it is funny but because of the structure of a single sentence.  Thurber was a rewriter—every piece went through multiple drafts—so you know that the published sentences were structured exactly as intended.

That single sentence appears within:

“…Vereker always liked to have an electric fan going while he talked and he would stick a folded newspaper into the fan so that the revolving blades scuttered against it, making a noise like the rattle of machinegun fire. This exhilarated him and exhilarated me, too, but I suppose it exhilarated him more than it did me.  He seemed, at any rate, to get something out of it that I missed. He would raise his voice so that I could hear him above the racket. Sometimes, even then, I couldn’t make out what he was saying. “What?” I would shout. “You heard me!!” he would yell, his good humor disappearing in an instant.

I had, of course, not heard him at all.  There was no reasoning with him, no convincing him. I can still hear the musketry of those fans in my ears. They have done, I think, something to me.”

Note the odd structure of that last sentence.  Most of us would have worded it

I think they have done something to me.

Thurber interrupts the sentence, sticking “I think” in the middle, creating an awkward rhythm.  If you try reading the piece aloud, you are likely to trip on “I think.” The narrator himself stops here, still grappling with what that “something” was. The structure of this sentence conveys the damage done to the poor man. It’s brilliant.

That’s the thing about the great American humorists of the last century: They weren’t just funny—they were wonderful stylists. We can learn from them.

Writers and their critics often focus on word choices, and of course they’re important, but they’re not enough.  Mechanics and syntax are equally crucial.  As we write, and as we rewrite, we must honor the rhythm of our sentences.


*To make sure that “Memoirs of a Polyglot” was an actual publication, I searched the web, and it was.  His name is listed as William Gerhardie, and he apparently wrote lots of books, including God’s Fifth Column and The Memoirs of Satan. 



Enough with the Plague, Write a Limerick (Covid Post 1)



I remember when amusing yourself was not internet-dependent.  For example, my husband and I used to write limericks.  They’re not particularly good, but, unlike whatever Netflix thing I watched last night, they survive.


A silly old bag from Loch Lomond

Believed in a terrible omen

With chattering teeth

She fled o’er the heath

And stumbled and drowned in the gloaming


A near-sighted harpy from Wells

Confused all her magic and spells

She mixed up a potion

With Calamine lotion

Because of her love for the smells


A middle-aged woman from Guam

Sat down on a hydrogen bomb

Her feet and her face

Were completely erased

But her ass remained perfectly calm


[alternate ending:


Causing condition

Of nuclear fission

Depriving her bairn of their mom]


A grotty old guy from Vancouver

Employed as a furniture mover

Got horny one day

In a violent way

And made love to a customer’s Hoover


There was an old man in Dobb’s Ferry

Who went to the public library

He took, as his choice,

The works of James Joyce

To paper his new apiary


There was an old man from Rangoon

Who ate with a runcible spoon

He used his bread knife

To butter his wife

And fed her to his pet baboon


There was a young lady from Nimes

Who slathered herself with whipped cream

And traveled to Thierry

Dressed as a strawberry

Rendezvoused with a shortcake intime.


A tidy old broad from Spokane

Once fell face-first into a fan

But she was so neat

And so fast on her feet

That she caught the whole mess in a pan


Go ahead and write one.  It will improve your day.

My Mother; or Watching Out for Tests

My mother was my hero, and here is why.

Back in the 1950s, she was active in Sweet Adelines, the women’s equivalent of SPEBSQSA (both international barbershop singing organizations). After Brown v. Board of Education, both organizations inserted the word “white” into their bylaws to keep African-Americans from participating in championship competition.

Lots of individual chapters protested, but in the end only a handful did so in a meaningful way, by challenging the change in the by-laws and, according to Sweet Adelines, generally being “troublemakers.” My mother was president of the Providence chapter; when Providence put the issue up for a vote, its members voted unanimously to withdraw. Theirs was the first chapter to do so; they were followed by Massachusetts chapters in North Attleboro, Scituate, New Bedford, and a Canadian chapter in Orillia. This small group started its own organization—Harmony, Inc.—which has since grown internationally and continues to thrive. (Both Sweet Adelines and SPEBSQSA discreetly deleted “white” at some point.)

Barbershop music comes across to many as square and very, very white (although its origins are anything but; I grew up listening to records of the Golden Gate Quartet), so all this may seem rather quaint and inconsequential. It wasn’t. This was the Fifties: These women were housewives, file clerks, factory workers, and once a week they got to sing, and once a year they went to international conventions and sang themselves hoarse for three days straight. Singing was their passion, and giving it up was a meaningful sacrifice. And the moral courage it took to buck the system was something I witnessed as a child and never forgot.

My mother went into the fight a young, idealistic, optimistic woman; she went in expecting that of course the right would prevail, the international board would see the light, or if not, then there would be a wholesale exodus of outraged members. She learned a lot about human nature, and so did I, from watching her.

Daughters watch their mothers very closely. Once she said to me, “In life there are tests. If you’re lucky, you’ll never get one, but if you do, you may not recognize it for what it is. Always watch out for tests.” I do.

In memory of Joanne Willett, 1925-2019.




Balloon Epiphany

Epiphanies are not just fodder for writing fiction, although of course they do a lot of heavy work in our stories. But epiphanies are real.  We all have them.  I have not had many true epiphanies for a person my age (74), and I’m wondering if that’s unusual.   Anyway, I invite you to share your favorite epiphany here in a comment.  Here is mine.


I was 22 or so and living in an apartment with a roommate.  One evening we sat around with our dates and played with a balloon.  This was one of those huge thick-skinned balloons with big rubber bands attached, you could buy them at a drug store and bat them around with your fist, sort of like paddleballs.  We were also drinking.  At one point, we stopped fooling around with the balloon and rested it on the coffee table.  Sometime later, the balloon lifted off by itself and swanned around the room, making a prolonged farting noise and knocking pictures off the walls, before deflating and coming to rest on the floor.  We all found this so hilarious that we blew up the balloon again and again, just to watch its comic antics.  There was no Internet then.

The following week I stopped off at my parents’ for a visit.  I brought the magical balloon to show them.  My mother was busy, but Dad was in the sunroom watching a football game.  I sat down next to him and asked him to turn the volume down for just a minute because I had something amazing to show him.  He smiled pleasantly and did as I asked.

He watched as I blew up the balloon.  This took a while, because it was huge.  When I got it almost to the point where I could demonstrate its farting, room-swanning powers, it exploded.   Not a pop, an explosion, because the skin was so thick. It sounded like a gunshot. Neither of us said anything.  Dad turned back to the TV, and I got up and left the room.

Here, then, was my epiphany:

You raise a daughter and she goes out in the world, and then she comes into your home and makes you watch her explode a huge balloon.  And so it goes.

Trivial Pursuit (or Requiem for the Hornblooms)

(or Requiem for the Hornblooms)
A Radio Play in Three Acts
Jincy Willett

Fred & Ethel (couple in their sixties or seventies)
Buck & Penny,
Randy & Alice (young academics)

Act One

(sounds of cutlery on china, people eating)

Ethel: Pork balls?
Buck: Oh, I couldn’t.
Ethel: Potato puffs?
Randy, Alice: Really, no.
Ethel: Who wants more pork balls? Speak up, kids. Lets don’t be shy.
Buck, Penny: Oh, no, honestly, I’m full, etc.
Fred: Ethel goes hog wild for company.
Ethel: Oh, Fred.
Alice: What do you call this casserole, Mrs. Mertz?
Randy: (urgent whisper) Murgatroyd!
Ethel: (laughing) Everybody makes that mistake! Don’t they, honey? But Alice, you mustn’t be so formal.
Fred: Ain’t neighborly.
Ethel: Fred and me are experts on making new friends in a hurry, and you don’t do that by standing on ceremony. You don’t do that by sticking to Mrs. This and Mr. That.
Fred: Politeness kills.
Alice: Oh, of course you’re right. Ethel.
Ethel: Vegetable rummage!
Alice: I beg your pardon?
Ethel: The name of my casserole. I call it Vegetable Rummage. Men love it.
Randy: So. You two move around a lot, I take it.
Fred: Yes, Randy. We’ve lived just about everywhere in the contiguous forty-eight.
Ethel: Except the Northwest.
Fred: Made our homes in twenty-seven states.
Ethel: And Kingston, Ontario!
Randy: What do you do, Fred?
Fred: Strictly U-Haul. Professional movers are crooks. Plus they smash hell out of your knickknacks.
Randy: Sorry. I meant, what do you do for a living?
Fred: I’m retired, Randy.
(long pause)
Penny: Well! Do you think you’ll maybe stay here a while? Put down roots, as they say?
Ethel: Its a lovely area. So nice and quiet, just the way we like it. And weve never lived among university people before. I expect we’ll get a lot of culture off you kids.
Fred: No. What about those two in Biloxi? Ernie and Corinne Something. Horn. Horner.
Ethel: Oh, he just taught high school. He wasn’t a real professor.
Fred: Hornington? What the hell was it? Hornberry?
Ethel: It’ll come to me. They were sweet though. Redheads.
Fred: Fine neighbors.
Ethel: Lots of fun.
Fred: Hell, yes. We had fun with those two. Hornbloom? Shoot, that’s gonna drive me nuts.
Ethel: Well, while you’re doing that, you can help me clear the table. Penny, Alice, you just stay right where you are. Fred’ll help me in the kitchen. You kids just pass the bottle around and digest your meal.
(sounds of clearing up)
Buck: Sure was a fine meal, Ethel.
Others: (concurring sounds)
Ethel: We’ll be back in two shakes.
(sound of receding footsteps)
Fred: (from a distance) Hornbottle.
Ethel: (from a distance) Hornbostel!
Fred: (from a distance) Hornbostel!
(sound of closing door)
Buck: (lowered voice) We’re in hell. Get it? We’re all dead, only we don’t know it yet, and we’ve gone to hell.
Penny: Buck, they’ll hear you.
Buck: Penny, humor me. Just take me through it one more time. I spend four hours grading papers, and two more in the company of no less than three deans, if you know what I mean, on top of which a little freshman rains all over my office, and I come home with a migraine and a simple wish for oblivion, and here I am in hell. And I honestly don’t see what I did to deserve it.
Penny: I told you. Alice and I were having coffee, at Alice’s, and spying on the U-Haul out the pantry window, and then the bell rang, and she got us both at once.
Alice: There she was, big as life, so to speak, with two pans of Rice Krispie bars.
Penny: Sort of a Welcome Wagon, only in reverse, she said.
Alice: Me and Fred always make the first move, she said.
Penny: And then she insisted we all come for dinner.
Randy: So what? Why didn’t you get out of it?
Penny: How? She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Literally. (pause) Well, it’s not like we didn’t try. Both of us. What are you supposed to say when somebody won’t take no for an answer?
Buck: No.
Penny: Anyway, they’re harmless enough.
Randy: Pork balls. My god.
Buck: Sounds like a disease.
Randy: Not to mention old Fred, the World’s Most Boring Human.
Alice: I don’t think they’re boring exactly. I don’t know, there’s something wrong. Something a little bit off. Don’t you?
(sound of door opening)
Ethel: (from a distance) You kids make room now for my special dessert!
Others: Really, wish I could, no kidding, etc.
Ethel: (from a distance) Nonsense! I won’t take no for an answer.
Fred: (from a greater distance) Tell em about after dinner, sweetheart.
Ethel: (from a distance) Weve got a little something planned for after dessert. Something different. Something fun.
Buck: Fabulous!
(sound of door closing)
Ten thousand slides of their vacation paradise in—
Randy: No, no! Ten thousand slides of ten thousand homes. This is our backyard in Topeka.
Buck: And twenty thousand fun couples. This is Donny and Marie Cornplant from Sioux Falls. They were a fun couple, weren’t they, Fred? And cultured as all get-out!
Penny: And this here’s Maxine Hornbostel. You can’t see her face, but thats definitely her right tit
Alice: Look, don’t you all think its a little weird? Really? I mean, why invite company over for dinner before you’ve even fixed a place to sleep? Isn’t that weird?
Penny: Weird and boring.
(sound of door opening)
Alice: Shhhhh!
(sound of approaching footsteps)
Ethel: Here we are, gang! Feast your eyes!
Fred: Its Ethel’s Special Company Dessert!
Ethel: I call it Wacky Cake.
Others: Oh, wow, it’s really something, hey, wowee, etc.
Randy: Hey.
(music up and over)

Act Two
(sound of people going downstairs)
Ethel: Would one of you kids hit the light switch on your way down? It’s on the right?
(sound of a click)
There! A little light on the subject!
Fred: End of the grand tour, children!
Penny: You’ve got a lovely house. Thanks for showing it to us.
Alice: Yes, it’s so spacious and uncluttered. (under her breath) And unfurnished. Did you notice, they didn’t even realize they had a bathroom on the first floor until Buck pointed it out?
Randy: (whisper) And those huge crates stacked in the upstairs hall. What’ve they got in there?
Alice: (whisper) Whatever it is, it’s got that musty old Goodwill smell.
Ethel: Did you say something, Alice?
Alice: I was just commenting on your basement. It doesn’t have that musty old basement smell.
Ethel: (from a distance away) Come in here, everybody.
(footsteps, click of a light switch)
Here it is, our pride and joy. The Game Room.
Others: Ahhh! Nice! Really roomy! Paneling! Etc.
Buck: When you get some furniture in here, it’ll be quite comfortable.
Fred: Aww, we dont need furniture.
Ethel: Sit down, everybody! The floor’s clean!
Alice: (whisper) No, its not.
Ethel: Time for our little surprise.
Randy: Gee, we thought the tour was the surprise, Ethel.
Buck: (whisper) Gee, that was pretty lame.
Ethel: Fred, drag the steamer trunk over here.
(sound of trunk being dragged)
Buck: Ill give you a hand. Wow, what have you got in here, cement blocks?
(dragging sound stops)
Fred: Ethel and I have a little confession to make.
Buck: Anything to do with that dead body in here?
Ethel: What?
Buck: The Torso in the Trunk.
Ethel: I don’t know what he’s talking about.
Fred: He’s making a joke, sweetheart.
Penny: He’s just had a little too much of your splendid Chablis, Ethel.
Buck: Pass the bottle, Alice.
Ethel: Good idea. Pass the bottle all around. (pause) You see, Fred and I just love to play games.
Fred: We can’t get enough.
Ethel: We’re Game-a-holics.
Buck: What are we supposed to do? Guess what’s in the trunk?
Ethel: No, no. What’s in the trunk is the actual games themselves.
Fred: And props.
Ethel: You see, in all our travels, weve learned that the very best way to meet new people–
Fred: Break the ice–
Ethel: Is right here in this very trunk!
Randy: Well, the thing is, we’re really not too big on structured–
Fred: Your board games, your card games, your games of chance–
Ethel: Bingo, Lotto, Mah-jong–
Fred: Bridge, poker, euchre, whist–
Ethel: Hearts, canasta, Bolivia, keno–
Fred: Charades, Twenty Questions–
Ethel: I’ve Got a Secret, Name That Tune–
Fred: Mumblety-peg, dominoes, Chinese checkers–
Ethel: Craps, monte, fantan, crackaloo–
Fred: Pinochle, quadrille, bezique–
Ethel: You name it, we play it.
Alice: Yes, but–
Ethel: Open up the trunk, Fred.
(sound of trunk opening)
Gather round, and take a gander at that.
Buck: Good grief.
Randy: That is impressive, Mrs.–Ethel.
Alice: Look at all these games.
(sound of boxes being shuffled)
Some of these must be antiques.
Ethel: Just like Fred and me!
Fred: Like she says, were game-a-holics, from way back.
Buck: Must be a support group for that.
Penny: (whisper) Buck!
Alice: Look, the original Parcheesi. An old Monopoly. Clue. Mr. Ree. Tiddlywinks! Authors. Here’s a set of rubber quoits. They’re so old they’re rusty.
Penny: Authors? Isn’t that for kids?
Randy: Rubber doesn’t rust, Alice.
Fred: Sure. Kid stuff. We play it with little kids.
Buck: (too loud) How about Old Maid? Now there’s a heart-stopping–
Penny: I’m sorry, Ethel, Fred, but Buck here seems to have reached the limits of his–
Randy: Yeah. We’re all pretty beat.
(sounds of people getting to their feet)
Alice: It’s a wonderful collection, and some other time–
Ethel: No, no, no! You mustn’t go!
Fred: Now, sweetheart, you heard the kids. They’re tired.
Ethel: But, the game! We’ve got to play. We always have such a good time. It’s so much fun.
Fred: Honey, honey, don’t push it. She gets so disappointed. She gets her heart set on things. Some other time, right, kids?
Ethel: But it’s so much fun.
Fred: Come on. I’ll see you all to the door.
Buck: Help me up, Penny, my leg died.
Penny: Wait. Look. We can play a quick game of something.
Buck: (sighs, bitterly)
Ethel: You don’t really want to.
Penny: Sure we do.
Alice: Sure we do.
Randy: But it’s got to go fast. I’ve got a lecture at 9 AM.
Ethel: (clapping her hands) Wonderful!
Fred: Okay. What’ll it be?
Randy: You choose. You’re the experts.
Ethel: No, you choose. It’s more fun that way.
Buck: (sarcastic) Penny, darlin’, why don’t you choose?
Penny: (whispers) I’m sorry, Buck.
Alice: I know! Trivial Pursuit!
Randy: (whispers) Are you nuts? That takes hours!
Alice: (whispers) Trust me. They haven’t actually got Trivial Pursuit. I looked.
Randy: (whispers) Oh. Oh, I see! (out loud) Yeah, Trivial Pursuit! It’s the only game we ever play.
Buck: (whispers) Are you insane?
Randy: (whispers) Alice looked. They don’t have it.
Buck: (out loud) We just love Trivial Pursuit!
Penny: (whispers) Are you crazy?
Buck: Trivial Pursuit! Hell of a game, Trivial Pursuit. I could play Trivial Pursuit all night, and have, on numerous occasions! Every chance I get! Too bad you haven’t got it.
Ethel: Darn! We don’t, do we, Fred?
Fred: ‘Fraid not, honey.
Buck: Awww. What a shame.
Ethel: But wait!
(sound of rummaging)
Weve got some sample cards in here somewhere. Got ’em in the mail. Some promotional deal. Game of the Month Club. Here they are!
Alice: But that’s just a handful. And where’s the board?
Ethel: Oh, we don’t need a board.
Buck: Wrong, wrong, wrong. You have to have a board. It’s no good without a board.
Ethel: We can improvise.
Randy: How?
Buck: Wrong, wrong, wrong–
Fred: Ethel’s fast on her feet. She’ll figure something out.
Ethel: We’ll play teams. There’s six cards, so each team gets two.
Buck: Wrong! Six cards? For one thing, you must already know the answers, so what’s the point of–
Ethel: We never looked at these. Did we, Fred? See, I just opened the package.
Buck: (sighs) Are we out of Ripple?
Ethel: Then we go around clockwise. The couple on your left picks a category, you read the question, and if they answer incorrectly, they pay a penalty.
Randy: You mean, money?
Penny: What if they get the answer right?
Ethel: Well, then, if they answer right, the first couple pays a penalty.
Fred: That’ll work.
Randy: Nickel-dime?
Ethel: No, not money. A penalty.
Alice: Why not have rewards? Why not reward the winning couple?
Fred: Nope. Gotta be a penalty.
Ethel: Rewards aren’t as much fun.
Randy: But whats a penalty?
Buck: Oh. Oh, no. She’s talking about stunts. Some kind of humiliating stunt.
Penny: Like reciting the Gettysburg Address?
Buck: Like reciting the Gettysburg Address with your head up your butt.
Randy: You know, I think money is really a better–
Ethel: Too impersonal. Penalties are lots more fun.
Fred: Folks let their hair down.
Buck: And make screaming idiots out of themselves.
Fred: (pause) It never fails. Does it, sweetheart?
Ethel: Right, Fred.
Fred: You young people. You’re so uptight.
Ethel: You never want to loosen up.
Fred: At first.
Ethel: At first. But believe it or not, after awhile you’d forget yourselves. Come right on down to our level.
Alice: Ethel, its not a matter of different levels
Fred: Sure it is. You think were a couple of old fools.
Penny: No, no, that’s not–
Ethel: But you’ll change your minds. I guarantee. Wait and see.
Penny: Well–
Ethel: Give us a chance.
Alice: You know, I’m afraid we’ve been rude. Of course we don’t think you’re fools.
Ethel: So humor us.
Fred: You might learn something.
Randy: (pause) Deal the cards, Fred.
(sound of cards being dealt)
Penny: After all, it’s only two rounds.
Ethel: Twelve. Twelve rounds.
Penny: TWELVE rounds?
Ethel: Two cards, six categories per card.
Alice: I still don’t know what a penalty is.
Randy: How will we know who wins?
Fred: It’ll be obvious.
Buck: Let’s just get this over with.
Ethel: Do you and Penny want to be first?
Buck: Yeah.
Ethel: Pick a category.
Buck: Science and Nature.
Fred: Say, that’s your field, isnt it? Biology?
Buck: Just give me the question.
Penny: Lighten up, Buck.
Ethel: Which planet in our solar system is farthest from–
Buck: Pluto.
Ethel: Right! So, we have to pay a penalty. Okay, Buck, do your worst.
Buck: Recite The Iliad.
Ethel: (sharp intake of breath) Oh, my! (laughs) My word.
Fred: He’s a sharpie, my dear.
Randy: Buck, you’re being kind of a jerk.
Penny: Cut it out, Buck, I mean it.
Ethel: Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.
How far do you want me to go, Buck?
Penny, Alice, Randy:
(silence; collective gasp) Wow! Bravo! Bravo, Ethel! All right!
Fred: Well done, my pet.
Alice: Ethel, that was amazing! Well, I don’t mean amazing…
Buck: (deeply suspicious) Yes, amazing. It was, indeed, amazing.
Randy: Our turn.
Buck: What category.
Randy: Food.
Buck: Home and Garden. Whats the main the main vegetable in vichyssoise? Wait, isn’t that rummage?
Alice: Potatoes. Okay, Buck. Get ready for your penalty.
Buck: Why me? Why not Penny?
Randy: We want you to grasp your right foot firmly with both hands, and insert it in your mouth.
Buck: Ha, ha.
Alice: Or sing “Layla.”
Buck: I don’t think so, Alice.
Randy: Hey, foul! You can’t refuse a penalty.
Penny: It’s no use, Randy. You’d better give the penalty to me.
Buck: We are not amused.
Penny: And when we are not amused, we are a great big baby.
Alice: Well, in that case, your penalty is, you have to take him home with you tonight.
Penny: God, No! Not that!
Buck: Keep it up, Penny.
Penny: What do you mean, keep it up?
Buck: Just do that. Keep it up.
Ethel: Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we ought to just quit.
Alice: No.
Penny: No. We want to play, don’t we, guys?
Randy: Pick your category, Fred and Ethel.
Fred: How about Entertainment. Eh, sweetheart?
Ethel: Entertainment Tonight!
Randy: Where–uh-oh, this isnt fair–Where did Betty meet the leader of the pack?
Alice: They’ll never get that. Pick another one–
Ethel: Why–at the candy store. He stopped and asked my name…
Fred: You get the picture?
Ethel: Yes, we see.
Fred: That, Ladies and Germs, is when she fell for the Leader of the Pack.
Penny, Alice, Randy:
Incredible! I dont believe it! How do they do it? Etc.
Ethel: I suppose it comes of making so many young friends.
Fred: We thrive on young people.
Ethel: I think it’s time for the candles. Don’t you, Fred?
Fred: Here’s an easy penalty stunt, kids. Alice, there’s candles and candle-holders right here in the trunk. You light them, and Randy, you go over there and turn out the lights.
(sounds of rummaging)
Alice: Here they are.
(sounds of receding footsteps)
Randy: (from a distance) Ready?
(sound of match being struck)
Alice: Okay.
(click of a light switch)
All: Ooooo.
(sound of approaching footsteps)
Randy: Pass the bottle, Penny.
Penny: This is nice.
Randy: I’d like to propose a toast.
Penny: Yes, a toast. To Fred and Ethel!
Randy: To Fred and Ethel!
Alice: To Fred and Ethel!
(Buck-sized pause)
Ethel: I think we meet with their approval now.
Fred: I guess so.
Ethel: Isn’t that nice.
Buck: Just who are you people?
Ethel: Beg pardon, dear?
Buck: Skip it.
Fred: What category do you want, son? Its your turn.
Buck: Up to you, Fred, old boy. Fred Murgatroyd, of Anytown, USA.
Ethel: Go on. Pick one. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.
Buck: You really are a game-player, arent you, Ethel?
Penny: We’ll take Geography. (pause) But first I just want to say something. I just want to apologize to everyone in this room, and especially to you, Ethel, and to you, Fred–
Buck: Don’t you apologize for me, damn it–
Penny: For the disagreeable and uncalled-for behavior of my husband–
Buck: Shut up!
Penny: Who always has to have his own way, no matter what–
Buck: You little ass-kisser!
Penny: You son of a bitch!
Ethel: Whats the capital of Guam?
Buck: Guamville, you old bat!
Penny: (begins to sob; sobs throughout argument)
Buck: Guam City! Who cares? Guamopolis!
Ethel: Wrong.
Alice: (whispers) Randy, do something.
Randy: You’re way out of line, buddy.
Ethel: It’s Agana.
Alice: Bedtime, everybody. Game’s over.
Fred: Au contraire.
Buck: Look at yourselves! Sitting in the dark on a grubby linoleum floor playing dumb parlor games with a couple of–middle-class Martians!
Fred: I don’t suppose you’d be willing to put this lampshade on your head, would you, son?
Buck: Who the hell are you people?
Ethel: (singsong) Well, somebody’s got to pay the piper.
Alice: I’m sorry, Ethel, we have to quit.
Ethel: (singsong) I guess it’s up to Penny.
Penny: (still sobbing) I want to go home.
Fred: Scoot over here next to me, honey.
(sounds of scooting)
Penny: (sniffling) I’m so embarrassed.
Fred: There. Just tilt your head up in the light, toward me.
Ethel: Penalty time!
Fred: Penalty time!
Penny: (sniff)
(sound of a vicious slap)
Penny: Oh!
(five second silence)
Buck: You just slapped my wife in the face.
Alice: My god.
Penny: You hit me.
Fred: Ha! That’s twenty you owe me, my pet.
Ethel: Nuts.
Fred: You should know better than to bet against Murgatroyd the Magnificent.
Buck: You just slapped my wife in the face!
Fred: He did it again! As I say, its a funny thing. You hit an uneducated man–a plumber, a trucker, a local yokel–and he hits you right back. Bam!
Randy: I don’t believe this.
Fred: You hit a fellow with a PhD, and he’ll give you a news bulletin.
Buck: You just slapped my wife in the face!
Alice: Move. Now. Let’s get out of here. Right now.
Ethel: Fred!
Fred: Hold it right there, kids. That’s right. Don’t move a muscle.
Randy: He’s got a gun!
Alice: Oh, my god!
Penny: You’re pointing a gun at us!
Fred: See? They did it again!
Ethel: Don’t rub it in.
Randy: See here. Is this some kind of an act?
Ethel: Lord, you people are trite.
Alice: What are you going to do with us?
Ethel: Why, we’re going to have fun with you, Sweetness. Or as much fun as can be had, with a lot of whining, gutless snobs.
Fred: You kids are a big disappointment to her.
Buck: They’re going to have fun with us. Like they did with the Hornblooms.
Ethel: Hornbostels. No, you aren’t a patch on the Hornbostels. They were troupers.
Fred: They were scrappers. That Ernie all but rose from the dead to bust two of my ribs.
Ethel: Ha! If you could have seen your face!
Fred: Had him in a fireman’s carry, remember, and I was concentrating on getting him up those damn circular stairs–
Alice: Why were you carrying him upstairs?
Fred: Do you really want to know, child?
Penny: No! No! I don’t want to know!
Alice: The crates. Oh my god. They put them in the crates.
Penny: I’m not listening!
Alice: How many people have you–killed?
Randy: Hush, Alice. Nobody’s been killed. Nobody said anything about killing anybody.
Ethel: Fifty-two.
Penny: No! It’s not happening!
Fred: This one’s going to lose it, like that Harrington woman in Ishpeming. She’ll be catatonic in a minute.
Ethel: She’ll snap out of it.
Fred: How much?
Ethel: Fifty bucks.
Fred: You’re on.
Buck: They’re putting us on. Penny. Honey, come here, calm down, it’s all right. There weren’t any fifty-two bodies in those crates. For one thing, they wouldn’t fit.
Fred: We don’t keep the bodies in the crates, Professor. Why the hell would we want to do that? We use the crates to transport them out of town, so we can dispose of them in the countryside.
Buck: You would have been caught by now. Hundreds of people must have seen you. Fifty people couldn’t just disappear without someone raising an alarm.
Randy: Right! The FBI would have a file on you. Your pictures would be in every post office in the country. You’d be featured in tons of websites.
Fred: I suppose we are.
Ethel: But it doesn’t do any good.
Fred: Show them, Ethel.
Ethel: Should I? It’s a little early.
Fred: Go on. Now, pay close attention, children. Do the eyes, Ethel.
Buck: Contacts. Big deal. Her eyes are blue.
Fred: Do the teeth, Ethel.
Buck: So what? It’s a disgusting effect, I’ll grant you, but hardly–
Fred: Do the nose, Ethel.
All: (exclamations of horror, screams, retching sounds)
Buck: Holy God, what is that?
Ethel: Little Olsen girl bit it off in Rapid City.
All: (more horrified sounds)
Fred: Now, I ask you, children. How many people could look at that long enough to give anyone a decent description?
Buck: Put it back on, for God’s sake.
Ethel: Aren’t I pretty, Buck?
Buck: How can you stand to look at her?
Fred: I wouldn’t expect you to understand this, but ours is a marriage of true minds.
Ethel: Now, you show them, Fred. Show them your wonderful disguise.
Fred: All righty.
Penny: (totally hysterical) No! No! Don’t! I can’t stand it! Don’t let him, Buck!
Fred: Don’t let me what?
Penny: Don’t do it! Please, please, please, for God’s sake, don’t take off your mask!
Fred: (pause) You trying to be funny?
Ethel: You watch your step, Miss. It’s all right, Fred. She’s just ignorant.
Fred: Well, all right. What I am wearing–is this wig, see? Which I remove, like so, and simply comb my hair over–like so–and then I simply don these glasses–like so–and–voila!
(small pause)
Alice: You don’t look any different.
Fred: The hell I don’t! I’m unrecognizable.
Randy: No, you’re not. Your hair’s a little different, is all.
Fred: I’m completely incognito!
Randy: As a human being, maybe.
Ethel: Don’t let them get to you, darling.
Fred: I never heard of such ignorance.
Buck: Are you people crazy?
Fred: Nope. Just evil.
(sound of Alice blowing out two candles)
Alice: Get the other candle, Buck!
Buck: (blows out third candle)
Ethel: (giggling) The little dickens!
Alice: Roll, everybody!
Buck: Disperse!
(sounds of scuffling, running around)
Penny: Buck! Buck! Where are you?
Buck: Shut up, Penny. You’ll give away your position!
Penny: It’s dark! I can’t see! I can’t stand the dark!
(sound of gunfire)
Penny: (one long scream, ending in silence)
Buck: Penny! Penny!
Ethel: Maybe she doesn’t want to give away her position, dear.
Fred: Maybe she can’t.
Ethel: Tee hee.
Randy: (whispers) Find the stairs.
Alice: (whispers) I can’t even find the doorway. Is that you?
Buck: Penny! Answer me!
Ethel: (groans softly)
Buck: Penny!
Ethel: (groans again)
Buck: (whispers) Are you hurt bad? Say something.
(sound of match being struck)
Ethel: Hi, Buck!
Buck: (screams)
Ethel: Come back here, you little scamp!
Buck: (whispers) Randy, find Penny! She must be down. She must be hurt bad.
(sound of match being struck)
Fred: Would you like a hand?
Buck: Bastard!
(sound of running, bumping into things)
Alice: Ow!
(sound of Alice falling down)
I think–I think I just found Penny.
Buck: Penny!
Alice: It feels bad, Buck. Oh. (sobs quietly) Its all sticky.
Ethel: Now pull yourself together, girl.
Fred: Don’t give up. Our money’s on you. You’ve got spunk.
Alice: What’s the use?
Randy: Yeah. You’re going to kill us all anyway.
Ethel: Probably.
Fred: But not necessarily.
Ethel: Wouldnt be a game, otherwise.
Buck: (husky with tears) Has anyone ever gotten away from you two–freaks?
Fred: As a matter of fact, no.
Ethel: Tee hee.
Fred: But there’s always a first time.
Randy: (whispers) I’ve found the doorway. The stairs ought to be over here to my left. Im going up.
Alice: (whispers) Be careful.
Randy: (whispers) If I make it to a phone, I’ll call the police.
(sound of light footsteps on stairs–12 or 13 steps)
Ethel: Did you fix the stairway, Fred?
Fred: Uh-huh.
Randy: Oh, no!
(sound of body falling downstairs, followed by silence)
Alice: Randy!
Buck: Randy!
Alice: Randy, say something!
Ethel: Maybe he doesn’t want to give away his position.
Fred: You kill me.
Alice: You murderers! You’ve killed him! Oh, god, he’s dead!
Buck: Shhhh. Alice, we don’t know that. They may both be alive. Just hurt.
Alice: You think so? Maybe?
Buck: Yes. And nothing–irrevocable–has happened
Alice: yes
Buck: And we can all just forget this whole business
Alice: (sobbing) Oh, yes
Buck: No hard feelings. No police
Fred: I think they’re trying to tell us something, sweetheart.
Buck: You murdering coward! I’ll see you in hell!
(sounds of running, scuffling, thudding, going on for some time)
Ethel: (breathless) Time out!
(Note: Everybody’s out of breath for a while.)
I gotta get my breath.
Fred: Me, too. (laughing) We’re getting a little old for this.
Buck: What do you mean, time out? You can’t just say time out.
Fred: You can when you’re holding a gun.
(sound of stealthy footsteps)
Ethel: You don’t have to keep tiptoeing around, Buck. We never shoot during time out.
Buck: You people are insane.
Fred: You keep saying that.
Ethel: They always say that.
Fred: They cling, like limpets, to the pitiful delusion that virtue corners the market on rationality.
Ethel: Its a sickness of the age, Fred.
Alice: Monsters! Hideous, horrible, monsters!
Ethel: That’s better.
Fred: Though a touch theatrical.
Alice: Devils!
Ethel: Well…metaphorically, I suppose.
Alice: You’re not human.
Ethel: Look, there’s no call to get insulting.
Fred: Accept it, little one. We’re just very, very bad people.
Ethel: Rotten.
Fred: Vicious.
Ethel: Eeee-vil.
Alice: Why?
Buck: Yes. Why?
Fred: That’ a silly question. It’s like asking someone why he likes lamb.
Buck: It’s nothing at all like lamb!
Alice: Don’t argue with them, Buck. Don’t dignify this.
Buck: We’re going to die, Alice, and I want to know why. I want to make some sense out of the thing that’s going to kill me.
Fred: No, you want to lull us into inattention with a lot of small talk, and then rush us when we least expect it. But no matter.
Ethel: I guess the truth is, Fred and I were just made for each other. We knew it the moment we met.
Fred: Remember our first date, honey?
Buck: What did you do on your first date? Torture a cat? That must have been romantic.
Ethel: No, we ran down an old woman on the Merit Parkway.
Buck: You killed somebody on your first date?
Fred: Who knows? We never looked back, did we, honey?
Ethel: No. She doesn’t count.
Buck: And you’ve been….systematically butchering people ever since.
Ethel: Oh, no. No, no. We didn’t get into it seriously until Fred retired.
Alice: Kill us.
Buck: Yes. Do it.
Fred: Say, what’s the rush?
Ethel: Don’t give up now, kids. You’ve turned into real good sports.
Fred: They sure have.
Ethel: Look, Fred, couldn’t we cut the cards, this one time? Like we’ve been talking about?
Fred: Well…all right. Let’s give it a whirl.
Ethel: We don’t want to get stale.
Fred: And they have been good eggs.
Ethel: Okay, now, here’s what were going to do. First time ever, a real chance for you kids. We each team cut the deck, and if you get the high card, why, we actually–
Buck: No more games.
Alice: Kill us.
Fred: Aw, come on.
Alice: I don’t want to live without Randy.
Buck: Penny’s dead. What’s the point of going on?
Alice: We’d rather die than share this planet with the two of you.
Fred: Well. Gee.
Ethel: (pause) Oh dear.
Fred: It’s gone sour.
Ethel: Do you think we went too far?
Fred: Apparently we did.
Ethel: What do we do now? You think?
Fred: I don’t think we have a choice. (clears throat) What do you say, people?
(3 second pause)
Penny: Oh, Buck. Buck, honey. I’m so sorry
Buck: Penny!
Penny: (crying) Oh, Buck.
Buck: Penny, you’re alive! Penny, keep still, lie quiet.
(sounds of shuffling, thud)
Goddamn trunk! Penny, baby–
Penny: Buck, don’t come near me. You’re gonna kill me.
Buck: I love you!
Penny: You won’t for long. (sobs)
Ethel: Oh, this is just terrible. I feel so guilty.
Buck: Guilty! You miserable witch! Penny!
Randy: (sigh) Don’t take it all on yourself, Ethel.
Alice: Randy?
Buck: Randy’s all right?
Alice: Oh, Randy!
Buck: Penny! Penny, where are you? Christ, if I could just see–
Randy: Hold it, everybody. Just stand still where you are and listen.
Ethel: Who’s going to do it?
Penny: (sniff) I’ll do it.
Ethel: No, I’ll do it. I talked you into it.
Randy: No, I’ll do it. I talked Penny into it.
Buck: Will you two shut up! You’ll give away your–
Randy: (laughing) Look, buddy, it doesn’t matter.
Alice: Yes, it does! As long as we’re all together, it matters, right up until the last breath.
Randy: Alice. Listen to me. (sigh) It’s a joke.
Alice: No, no–
Penny: Alice, Randy’s telling the truth. It was all a terrible joke.
Ethel: Terrible is right.
Penny: (sobbing) And they’re never, never, never going to forgive us.
Buck: A joke?
Alice: A joke?
Buck: (pause) When you say joke–now, let me get this straight–when you say a joke, do you mean–a joke?
Penny: (sniff) Yes.
Buck: A joke, as in–We’re in no actual danger? As in, We’re not going to die?
Alice: How is it even possible?
Randy: It was a setup.
Buck: A setup.
Ethel: Yes, and it’s all my fault. You see, Fred and I though it would be–well–fun, you know, to play a little prank–
Buck: A little prank!
Ethel: Well, okay, an elaborate prank–
Buck: Prank!
Randy: See, they called me over this afternoon, and introduced themselves, and we got to talking, and…well, we just worked this whole thing out, and then I called Penny–
Alice: What are you talking about? What thing are you talking about? Are you trying to tell me that you’re in league with these–these killers?
Randy: They’re not killers, Alice.
Alice: They killed 52 people! They ran over an old person!
Ethel: Honey, we never even ran over a squirrel.
Randy: Look, you know the expression, It seemed like a good idea at the time? Well…it seemed…like a good idea at the time. Boy, are we in trouble.
Buck: You bastard. You sadistic…irresponsible…swine.
Penny: Buck, don’t. Don’t say ugly things you can’t take back.
Buck: And you! My sweet wife! How could you do this to me? To Alice, your best friend!
Penny: I…I just thought…we just thought it would be…you know…fun.
Ethel: You see, Fred and I really are game players. That much was true.
Buck: You just shut your mouth.
Penny: Don’t talk to her like that.
Ethel: It’s all right. I don’t blame you. See, kids, Fred and I, we used to be in show business. We did improvs for a living. Way back before TV.
Alice: But your face. That awful hole in your face.
Ethel: Show business, honey. I keep trying to explain, see, Fred and I were in vaudeville, during the very last days of the Orpheum Circuit. After that, we did clubs. And I was a magician. The only female magician they ever featured, and a pretty darn good one, too, I might add, though I suppose now is not exactly the time to brag. Anyhoo, the nose was a piece of cake.
Buck: All done with mirrors. Right?
Ethel: No, it’s all done with greasepaint and spirit gum and rubber.
Alice: But…all those nasty things you said to us. How could you act like that–for a joke?
Ethel: Show business again. You take on a part. You get into it. You go too far.
Buck: Oh, I see. Get it, Alice? Fred and Ethel don’t caravan around the country killing people. Nooooo. They just put on skits. They just frighten innocent people into cardiac arrests. They just corrupt the gullible and break up friendships and ruin marriages. And then they pack their stinking crates into their stinking U-Haul and drive away. And everywhere they’ve been, even weeds can’t grow, and people wake up in the middle of the night in a freezing sweat and can’t even look each other in the eye at the breakfast table. You know, Ethel, you were right, and I was wrong. You are evil. You’re wicked old people, and if it takes the rest of my life, and if I have to break a law to do it, I’m going to see to it that you never again have so much as a single minute of fun. (pause) Come on, Alice. Let’s get out of here.
Penny: Buck. You’re not going without me?
Buck: No, you stay here. Stay here and have some more laughs with your new friends.
Penny: Buck. You said–you couldnt live without me.
Buck: How ill-timed of you to point that out. How very unwise.
Penny: Tell me you love me. Please. I know you love me.
Buck: What if I do? I’ll never forgive you, you know.
Penny: But you do still love me, Buck? Tell me you love me.
Ethel: Yes, Buck. Say it. Just say you love her.
Buck: Oh, for Christ’s sake.
Penny: Say it.
Buck: (pause) I love you, Penny.
Ethel: Oh. That was good.
Buck: Now, get your ass home.
Alice: You too, Randy. We have a lot to talk about. Good night, Murgatroyds. You need not see us out.
(shuffling sounds)
Oh, Randy, is that you? Why are you still lying on the floor? Get up.
Randy: I can’t. My neck’s busted.
Alice: (through clenched teeth) You’re not funny, Randy. Get up now.
Randy: I told you, I can’t. My head and neck are lying in what is often referred to in cheap fiction as an impossible angle.
Buck: Nothing’s impossible around here, buddy. You just get old Fred here to work some of his magic on your neck. Or come see me. I’ll straighten it out for you. Come on, Alice, you can stay with us.
Ethel: Oh, Fred wasn’t a magician, Buck. I was the magician.
Buck: Yeah? What was Fred? The rabbit?
Penny: No, Buck. Fred was a ventriloquist.
Ethel: And a first rate impressionist, to boot. He did the most uncanny imitations.
Alice: Ventriloquist?
Randy: (pause) Murgatroyd the Magnificent.
Penny: Murgatroyd the Mellifluent.
Randy: Murgratroyd the Miraculous Mimic.
Buck: Mimic?
(3-second silence)
Alice: (whispers) Oh. No.
Penny: Tell me that you love me, Buck.
Randy: Wanna hear my Boris Karloff?
Buck: Oh my God.
Ethel: Hit the light switch, Fred.
(sound of click)
Fred and Ethel: (pause) Gotcha!!
Ethel: Tee hee.
(music up and over)

Act Three

(sound of interior car motor throughout)
Fred: Ahhh. It’s good to hit the road again, isnt it, pet? The open road. Always makes me feel young.
Ethel: Speak for yourself. I’m all done in.
Fred: Quite a night, eh?
Ethel: Well, it would have been all right if you hadn’t let those two get out of the basement and run around like that. Face it, Fred, we’re too old to go chasing up and down stairs.
(sound of slap on thigh)
Fred: Come on, woman! You loved it.
Ethel: That’s not the point. We’ve got to slow down.
Fred: Fiddlesticks.
Ethel: Or–or–you’ve got to start helping me with the clean-up. I was down on my knees scrubbing and mopping two hours after you went to bed.
Fred: Besides, I only did it for you.
Ethel: You’re full of prunes.
Fred: I did. I know how much you like to watch ’em scramble around. Your eyes get all big and wild–
Ethel: Oh, poo.
Fred: You’re a wild woman, Ethel.
Ethel: You’re an old fool.
Fred: I figure we head up through New Haven, New London.
Ethel: We can’t go to Boston. Been there, done that.
Fred: I thought, maybe Providence.
Ethel: Okay with me. I’ve always liked the name. Providence.
Fred: We’ll get us some clams.
Randy’s voice: I love you, Ethel.
Ethel: (laughing) Cut it out, Fred.
Buck’s voice: I love you, Ethel.
Ethel: You do, do you?
Fred: I really love you, Ethel.
Ethel: I wuv oo, too.
(music up and out)

The End