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EXPLODING HORSE MANURE AND ENRICO FERMI


When the Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, was a young man applying to college, he was asked to write an essay for his entrance exam about the characteristics of sound.  

Jaws dropped when the examiners read his paper and discovered the precocious 17-year-old used Fourier analysis — finding the eigenvalues and the eigenfrequencies -- to explain the partial differential equation of a vibrating rod.  

I share this with you because the future Nobel Laureate would later become famous for his “pile” — a mound of uranium blocks and graphite bricks so arranged inside a University of Chicago squash court that it could, if left unattended, achieve a self-sustaining chain reaction, heat to unearthly temperatures, and destroy the surrounding city with a Chernobyl-like meltdown.

It was 1942, the Nazis were goose-stepping across Europe, and Fermi was trying to grasp the physics behind nuclear fission and whether an atomic bomb was possible.

When I’m in my barn, thinking or not thinking about eigenvalues, I realized that Fermi and I have much in common because, you see, I too have a pile.

“The typical 1,000 pound horse will defecate approximately four to thirteen times each day and produce nine tons of manure per year.”

I have two draft horses who each weigh 2,000 pounds.  

You can do the math.  

Fermi would use his six-inch slide rule to calculate when the neutrons were multiplying at a dizzying rate, causing his pile to heat to dangerous levels.

I would use my six-inch hand.

It was September 20th, 2004 at 11:00am when there was banging on our front door.  Our historic, 200-year-old barn was “fully-engulfed.”  It was all we could do to get the cars out of the garage before they exploded.  The Norwich fire department didn’t bother to save the barn; they just sprayed the farmhouse with foam.  

(Nobel genius that I am, I took the above photo from inside the house, unaware the siding was melting from the inferno.  At any moment the house could have burst into flames.)

“If bailed wet, bacterial fermentation causes hay to heat.  When the internal temperature of a bale exceeds 140 degrees F, it can spontaneously combust.”  

Had I only known this law of barnyard physics BEFORE I opened my big mouth and invited my neighbors to fill the barn to the rafters with their mulch hay.

Fermi was smarter.  

To keep his pile from going critical and transforming a major US city into a glowing Gomorrah, Fermi installed cadmium control rods which could be slid in and out, so the difference between dormancy and Armageddon was, literally, inches.

Sometimes when troubles pile up,  your brain heats up, so much so that it seems as if you might self-ignite.  If only it were as simple as sliding out a rod — a worry rod — to slow down your mind.  

Apparently, Fermi’s pile made no noise.  And yet, beneath the surface bubbled the power of an exploding star.  

If you were able to free yourself from the slavish rhythms of your three-dimensional body, if all your senses could be turned off for a moment  — no taste, no sight, no sounds — would you know if you were still alive?  Would you still have awareness that you commanded a place in the cosmos, that you were grasping the Universal subway strap for dear life, that you were made of the stuff from exploding stars?  
Would you realize that your salvation and your destruction were inches apart, wedded and woven like warp and woof?   And would you sense, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, you were, in fact, whole and STILL EXPLODING — at the same time!

Several times a day, armed with my shovel in one hand and a manure fork in another, I watch my pile grow and imagine what forces I might unleash once it reaches a critical mass.

Up from the pile of horse shit, straight up, mushrooms a rising tower of excrement, raining down death and sending wriggling worms flying.  

###


FIGURING THINGS OUT ... ONE LOAD OF MANURE AT A TIME.



The male goat will pee on his own head to make himself sexually attractive to the female.

I should not have been surprised to learn this.  Men often do dumb things when a woman is involved.  

Take my two Belgian draft horses — both castrated males — who frequently, when extreme weather is involved, make poor choices.

20-below Polar Vortex air swooshing down from the Arctic.  "Hey, let’s go stand outside and freeze to death."  

On more than one occasion I’ve had to put on my headlamp at 2:00am and fight my way through whipping wind and slashing rain to find the Belgians shivering under a tree.
 
I didn’t grow up on a farm, so their stubborn, knuckle-headed, vote-against-your-own-self-interests behavior perplexed me.

You see, I was raised in a steam-heated apartment in New York City overlooking the West Side Highway.  The sound of commuting cars racing into Manhattan at 6:00am was my crowing rooster.  When I had the opportunity to move to Vermont and raise sheep and goats, I jumped at the chance, figuring if I ran into trouble, I could always call 911 —- like the time a porcupine waddled onto my property with no apparent agenda.

“I can walk right up and pet him,” I said to the 911 dispatcher from behind my trash can lid shield. “He must be rabid.  Do you want to send a SWAT team?"

“That won’t be necessary,” said the officer.  “Porcupines are rarely in a hurry.  They don’t have to be."

Talking to the emergency dispatcher took me back to my childhood in the Bronx, holding the phone, dialing 911, while the neighbors in my apartment building screamed and pounded on each other, making poor choices.  You’d then see them in the elevator a day later, black eyes covered with thick makeup.

Recently, I installed a surveillance camera with infrared night vision to study equine behavior like Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees. Then I would sit up in bed at night, ignoring my beautiful wife, and watch the Belgians in the barn on my iPhone app.   

To my horror, my work horses had transformed into leisure horses, curling up like kittens in their wood shavings.  Maybe they were dreaming of hauling logs or pulling sleighs, but I didn’t think so.   I suspected we had on our hands a Ferdinand the Bull situation.

I was about to call 911, but what was I going to say? 

Some things — your work horse refusing to work … your goat peeing on his own head … the neighborhood porcupine parked in your driveway … your son’s battleship streaking towards North Korea while his commanders discuss the tactical use of nuclear weapons between putts on the back nine at Mar-a-Lago …

Perhaps it’s best to just cover yourself with makeup and pretend it all never happened.

###


 


Melting Down


ben and jerry's truck

It’s a Tuesday and I’m driving a refrigerator truck South on 91 to Jersey in one-hundred degree heat.  The truck is filled with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  I’m not unaware of the consequences if I should break down or, God forbid, launch my vehicle into orbit off the George Washington.  Maybe that’s what motivates me to pick up a hitchhiker at the Northampton exit?  I want someone to bear witness should this be my final run.

The hitchhiker is wearing a sweaty Black Dog t-shirt and flip flops.  Apparently, I make him feel right at home because within two seconds the flip flops are off and his feet are on my dash.

Are you kidding me? I say.

He puts his feet back on the floor.

We’re not maybe ten minutes down the road, and the hitchhiker is dying for a smoke.  I won’t let him.  The fumes can infect my cargo, I tell him.  He doesn’t believe me, but what can he do?  I’m the driver and he’s the hitchhiker.  There’s a hierarchy.  A hierarchy that’s been established since man first learned to drive an ox cart and picked up some bearded guy thumbing his way to Nazareth.

My hitchhiker bounces his leg up and down and talks a lot.

He met his wife on the Internet, he says.  She didn’t speak English.  He didn’t speak Spanish.  So they translated their emails with software.  She was a model, he says.  He shows me a picture.

I nod.  What am I going to say?  That’s some hot fuckin’ broad?  I wish I could take a run at her?  No.  He might call the “Do You Like My Driving?” number on the back of my rig like that red Quatro asshole I gave the finger to a few weeks back.  So I keep my mouth shut and listen.

It’s not easy.  I have the windows open.  The heat and noise and exhaust from the rush hour traffic is getting sucked into my cab.  The hitchhiker wants me to shut the windows and turn on the AC.  If he wasn’t there, I’d think about it.  But it was a principle thing at this point.  He expects limousine service?  He’s a hitchhiker.

That said, I didn’t want to come across as unreasonable.  Maybe my hitchhiker isn’t a saint?  Maybe he has a gun in his backpack?  So I spell out, calmly and rationally, that I don’t want to divert energy from the refrigerated compartment.  The truck is working overtime because of the heat.  As purveyors of a premium ice cream product, Ben and Jerry’s insists on a lower temperature than other ice cream manufacturers to maintain the integrity of their brand.  If I was hauling Bryer’s, or that crap they sell at Price Chopper, who gives a goddamn, right?  But under the circumstances I needed to conserve, sacrifice my own personal comfort, anything, to prevent a white haze from forming on the surface of the Cherry Garcia, a particularly vulnerable flavor to the vagaries of climate change.

At this point, I’m pretty worked up and waving my hands.  The hitchhiker takes all this in.

You’re a careful man, he says.

Gotta be.  One wrong move and I got soup on my hands.

His leg is bouncing faster now.  I figure he’s got to pee.  The wife, I ask.  Did she ever learn English?

Yeah, he says, shouting over a blue Impala with a hanging muffler, dragging sparks.

Then he slides closer to me on the bench so I can hear.  I get a little nervous he might be a fag, but then he goes on with his story and I calm down.

His wife learned English watching Judge Judy, he says.  Her first words were, “Baloney” and “You’re in the doggie house.”

I pass a Winnebago with a satellite dish mounted on the roof.  The thing is swiveling and, as I drive by, I can see some kids inside trying to watch a basketball game on a small flatscreen.

How did she get here? I ask.

She swam, he says.  How do you think she got here?

After this crack, I’m wondering if I should leave this jerk in the breakdown lane.  Obviously, there are many ways a hot Latin chick can enter this Land of Opportunity, and not all of them are legal.

Maybe she came in someone’s friggin’ trunk, I say.

He sees I’m angry and realizes which side his bread is buttered.  He’s a perceptive hitchhiker.  I see that he’s reading me at the same time that I’m reading him.  Maybe he thinks I’m the one who is dangerous?  There’s always that risk, you know, for both parties when you engage in a hitchhiking transaction.  One of you could have just gotten out of Leavenworth.

No, she flew, he says.  Into Kennedy.  It was winter.  I’ll never forget seeing her for the first time.  No coat.  No hat.  Just tight black pants, a tight white blouse, and long dark hair.  I had a beard at the time.  Later that night, she would discover my toenails were painted pink, which is a whole other story I won’t go into.  Anyway, at the airport she kissed me on the lips and that was that.  It was March 6th.  Five months later we got married under a tree by a justice of the peace during his lunch break from the post office.

I was a little nervous about the pink toenails, but still curious about the wife.

Did she know where Northampton was? I ask.

No clue, he says.  After several weeks, she tells me with her hands that she has to go back to Guatemala, she forgot something.  Two weeks later, she returns with her 14-year-old son who is the size of a refrigerator.  The kid doesn’t speak a word of English either.  I feel like a foreigner in my own home.  They’re looking at me sideways and jabbering away. I have no idea what they’re talking about.

One day it snowed hard, the hitchhiker says.  One of those famous Northeasters we get, with drifts up to here.

He holds his hand against my cab’s ceiling.  Then he goes on with his story.

I thought they might like to pitch in and do the walkway, so I show them a pair of shovels and point outside.  Later, I’m thinking where the hell are they, and glance out the window to see they’ve cleared the entire front yard.  They didn't understand.  They thought I meant shovel all of Massachusetts.  I ran out to stop them.  They’re hot and steaming and stripped down to their t-shirts, cursing my name in Spanish.  I could never get the kid to shovel snow again.

The hitchhiker slides back over to his side of the cab and leans out the window.

You ever get married? he shouts.  He has to shout because we are going through Hartford and are next to a Boar’s Head meat truck, the one with the ugly pig snout printed on the side.  The truck is hitting every pothole and making a racket because the sliding back door wasn’t secured and is jumping around.

Twice, I say.  But I don’t feel like going into detail.  He was my hitchhiker, not my priest.

The hitchhiker keeps talking, this time to the boar.

Whenever I pulled the car into the garage, he says, my wife would lower her head and run into the house like a bull.

Why is that? I shout.

The dog fencer.

She didn’t like dogs?

She didn’t like the red blinking light on the dog fencer.  She said it looks like the laser on a gun when it’s pointed at you.

Ah! I think.  She has history.

She also hated spiders, he says.  We had a ton of them on our deck and she would attack them with a broom.  Her foster mother used to put tarantulas in her bed.

Some asshole in a Subaru suddenly veers in front of me, and I have to zig and then zag so we are almost driving on two wheels.  Melted Rocky Road flashes before my eyes.  It took a few minutes for my heart to stop pounding.

The hitchhiker doesn’t miss a beat.  He keeps talking, maybe to calm me, maybe to get things off his chest.  I am, after all, cheap therapy.

A married blond friend, he says, dropped by one afternoon to visit.  Her name was Sheila.  My Guatemalan wife looks her up and down.  There is no way to explain that Sheila always wears dresses that are too short and makeup that is too much.

You’re not going to chuga-chuga with her? the wife asked after Sheila leaves.

Of course not, the hitchhiker says.  Why would you think that?

Never trust, the wife said, retreating into the kitchen.  Steam was rising up from pots on the stove.  Never trust.

I know a Mobil station is coming up.  I signal to move into the right lane.  While I’m looking in my mirrors, trying to snake in front of a skinny bitch in a Range Rover, I say casually, so you banged your friend, Sheila?

The hitchhiker is now examining himself in the side view mirror like he’s preening for the Oscar’s.  Not just the big vertical mirror, but he’s checking for zits in the round fun-house mirror.  At first, he’s not aware that I have enough mirrors in that truck to know what goes on in Ethiopia.  Then our eyes meet through a maze of reflections.  He stops preening.  The bank accounts were emptied, he says.  She took one car.  I guess her son figured out how to drive the other.

We need gas, I say.

I hit the right blinker and take Exit 9 just before New Haven.

She left a note, he says.  It was written with a big Sharpie.  The words leaked through the paper onto the kitchen table.  Now every morning while drinking my coffee, I have to stare at ...

"I’M GOING TO TAKE YOU TO KLEENERS!!!"

I pull into the Mobil station and drive around back to the diesel.  When I stop, the hitchhiker looks at me.

Can I borrow five bucks? he asks.

I'm not surprised.  I’ve picked up hitchhikers before.

He’s bouncing up and down on the seat now, so I know he’s jonesing to go to the bathroom.  I take my time looking for my billfold even though I know it’s in my front pocket.  Finally, I give him the five.  In the mirror, I watch him climb out of the truck with his knapsack and race to the john.

Want anything? he shouts before slamming the john door.

I’m good, I shout back.

While he’s in the can, I pull away and get on the Interstate before he can write down the phone number on the back of my truck.

I don’t care if he’s Jesus, I say to a tan Prius from North Carolina.  It’s one-hundred friggin’ degrees in April, and I have a Dominican supervisor waiting for me in Jersey who thinks he works for the Department of Homeland Security.

The sonofabitch will inspect my cargo, carton after carton, until he can hold up a tub of Mocha Mountain Fudge and taunt me with signs of the tell-tale hoar frost.




I need someone with class, curb appeal, and savoir flare.


woman at bar

"Damn it, Manheimer!" my business partner shouted, pounding the bar with his fist. "We need someone with curb appeal!"

The BBQ chicken wing sticking out of my mouth disappeared like Tweetie Bird swallowed by Sylvester.

"We can't send a warthog like you out there to interlocute with shop owners," my partner went on.  "We need someone with class and a little savoir flare."

I nodded, filling my pockets with beer nuts.

"They should have chops like Megan Fox and be able to facilitate a conversation out of both sides of their mouth like President Clinton."

"How much do you want to pay this person with class?" I asked, reaching for my Pabst Blue Ribbon.  "Class don't come cheap.  These people, they want the finer things."

My partner pulled out his wallet and counted his bills.

"Start 'em at twelve.  If they can talk and walk, bump 'em to thirteen."

I whistled.  "Magnanimous!  Is this a full-time gig?"

"Is my name Rockefeller?  No!  Part-time.  With opportunities for advancement if they should happen, by some miracle of Fate, to buy me the winning Winter Wonderbucks."

Well, you heard my partner.  We need a few good men and women with class and curb appeal to circumambulate the Upper Valley environs and transact knowledge; i.e. domesticate the masses about our brilliant new revelatory idea –– www.birchstand.com.

Interested?  jcmanheimer [at] gmail [dot] com rings on my desk.  Not interested?  the_pope@vatican.com




The Club


tennis

(This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)

Two members of a tennis club sit in the viewing area, watching the match below.

LUCRETIA
There’s not much to tell.  Carol and her husband, Dick, showed up for mixed as they always do on Thursdays.  Dick smelled of alcohol, as he always does, and sent his first serve into the backstop--

ABERDEEN
--as he always does.

LUCRETIA
Correct.  Which is why he insists on First Ball even though the rest of us abandoned it long ago when we were told it was so unprofessional by that cute pro.

ABERDEEN
The one with lips like pontoons and perfect hair?

LUCRETIA
Correct.  But it was Dick’s second serve which is the reason the police were called.

ABERDEEN
My, God!  What happened with his second serve?

LUCRETIA
I’m getting there. But first, I have to tell you about the board meeting.

ABERDEEN
The one I missed?

LUCRETIA
The one you shouldn’t have missed if your 300-pound Basset Hound was selected first in the NFL draft.

ABERDEEN
They blamed Bill for the roof, didn’t they?

LUCRETIA
I can’t go into that now.

ABERDEEN
It’s not his fault!

LUCRETIA
My lips are sealed.

ABERDEEN
It was an ice jam.  How could he know global warming would make the ice freeze, melt, freeze, melt in February, causing an upward thrust -- that’s what the engineer said -- an upward thrust -- like tectonic plates, he said.  Bill is just a podiatrist.  What does he know about thrusting?  They can’t blame Bill for the entire planet going to hell!

LUCRETIA
They can.  And they did.

ABERDEEN
Just tell me if Bill is still a member?

LUCRETIA
I’ve sworn not to say a thing, and you have a big mouth -- far bigger than mine.

ABERDEEN
Give me a hint.  Use your eyebrows.  Up means he escaped the guillotine.  Down means I’ve lost my doubles partner forever.

LUCRETIA
Let me make it easy for you.  Bill should screw cleats onto his tennis shoes.

ABERDEEN
Oh, God!  Where am I going to find another male in this club who doesn’t have to empty his bag between sets?

LUCRETIA
I told you to play with John Haliker.

ABERDEEN
My husband hates John Haliker.  After that incident on Lake Sunapee with the jet skis and the rowboat.  Who was the idiot running the Social Committee that year?

LUCRETIA
You.

ABERDEEN
What was I thinking?

LUCRETIA
It was during your divorce with Richard. We cut you a lot of slack.  None of us could stand him.

ABERDEEN
You never told me that.  Anyway, it’s awkward to be with John Haliker.  I don’t think his wife likes me.

LUCRETIA
Well, who would?  The way you strut when you’re around her husband.

ABERDEEN
I don’t strut.  I expand.

LUCRETIA
Well, stop expanding and let me finish my story.

ABERDEEN
Fine.

LUCRETIA
So we have another member in the club -- I’m not allowed to mention names -- but you’ll know immediately who it is.  He likes to send a lot of emails.

ABERDEEN
Ah, the emailer.

LUCRETIA
Correct.  The emailer.  So the emailer does what emailers do.  He sends an email.  But this email goes to some young gal who doesn’t want to read the first chapter of his new medical thriller about vaginitis.  In fact, she’s wondering, who the hell is this guy?

ABERDEEN
We’ve all wondered that.

LUCRETIA
Nothing new, right?  But remember we have a Deacon on our board and he finds out about the vagina email.

ABERDEEN
Who is the Deacon?

LUCRETIA
Don’t you know?

ABERDEEN
Should I?

LUCRETIA
Hmmm.  I don’t want to break any confidences.  Let me tell you who it isn’t.  It’s not Jack.  It’s not Rudy.  It’s not Chris.  Quit smirking.  Her rehab is working!  It’s not Greg.  It’s not Delia.  Got it?

ABERDEEN
Hair combed to one side?

LUCRETIA
Yup.

ABERDEEN
He’s a Deacon?

LUCRETIA
Devout.

ABERDEEN
Really.  Are you sure?

LUCRETIA
Totally sure.  So the Deacon finds out about the email and decides he’s going to bring the universe back into moral order.

ABERDEEN
What does he do?

LUCRETIA
What every self-respecting Deacon does.  He lies.

ABERDEEN
No!

LUCRETIA
He finds the President in the parking lot in his Lexus, sleeping off the Guinness he’s had for lunch.  And the Deacon drags him out of his car, props him up, and the two of them summon the emailer off the tennis court in order to corner him in the locker room.

ABERDEEN
Why the locker room?  The ventilation is so bad.  You can asphyxiate and die in there.

LUCRETIA
They were using the lounge for bridge, how the hell do I know?  Anyway, the Deacon starts in.  He tells the emailer that he overheard the young chippy tell our tennis pro in a bar that she was put off by an email about vaginitis and thought it was disgusting and doesn’t ever want to set foot in the club again.

ABERDEEN
Was it true?

LUCRETIA
I'm getting to that.  Then the Deacon says that he read the email and found it extremely offensive.

ABERDEEN
What’s the President have to say?

LUCRETIA
He’s trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and, not really knowing, decides to agree with the Deacon.  “Yes I saw the email, too,” he says, and it was very inappropriate.”

ABERDEEN
Adding kerosene to the fire.

LUCRETIA
Correct.  So the Deacon goes on about how the club has trouble attracting a younger membership and the Board is taking this matter very seriously.

ABERDEEN
“Very seriously,” says the President who is still saturated with alcohol.

LUCRETIA
Then the Deacon, who is on a roll, sees the emailer is creating a yellow stain in his white tennis shorts and decides to go for the jugular.  He says that the Board has unanimously agreed to sanction members who send emails which are injurious to the club.  That was the word he used.  Injurious.  And the President is nodding his head and saying, “Yes, injurious.  Injurious.  The board was injurious.  I mean unanimous.”

ABERDEEN
I can see where this is not heading in a good direction.

LUCRETIA
So now the emailer is terrified.  He knows he’s hanging by a thread.  So that evening he writes to the Deacon and asks for a copy of the offensive email.  He claims that he can’t remember who he wrote it to, or what he said.  Would the Deacon please kindly forward him a copy?

ABERDEEN
Did he?

LUCRETIA
The Deacon replies, “I can, but I won’t!  Check your own files.”

ABERDEEN
That was a little rude.

LUCRETIA
The emailer is now beside himself.  He contacts his Internet Service Provider, or whatever they’re called, and together they go through magnetic tapes, or whatever it is they look at.

ABERDEEN
Punch cards.

LUCRETIA
Right.  And they, in fact, find the vagina email from the emailer to the young chippy, except there is no mention of a vagina or a clitoris or a breast or any other female body part.

ABERDEEN
No?

LUCRETIA
It simply said, “Your forehand was awesome.  Hope you come again.”

ABERDEEN
That’s it?

LUCRETIA
That’s it.

ABERDEEN
So what was the Deacon all bent out of shape about?

LUCRETIA
Nothing.  That’s the point.  The vagina email never existed.

ABERDEEN
Never existed?  He made the whole thing up?

LUCRETIA
Yup.

ABERDEEN
My God!  How ... how ... un-Christian!  He could be kicked out of the club.  It'll be ten years before he can reapply.

LUCRETIA
Correct.  Which brings me back to Dick.

ABERDEEN
Dick?

LUCRETIA
Remember, his first serve went into the backstop.

ABERDEEN
His second serve caused the police to come.

LUCRETIA
As you know, sober or drunk, Dick has one of the fastest serves in the club.  He may not be able to move side to side--

ABERDEEN
--or front to back--

LUCRETIA
--but the guy can serve like Andy Roddick.

ABERDEEN
So where did his 100 mph serve go?

LUCRETIA
Are you seated?

ABERDEEN
Yes.

LUCRETIA
Right between Gail Kudrow’s breasts.

ABERDEEN
How?  They’re huge.  Don’t they ... overlap?

LUCRETIA
Yes, but the ball found a way in.

ABERDEEN
My god!

LUCRETIA
Instant cardiac arrest.

ABERDEEN
Oh, no!

LUCRETIA
We were surprised Dick didn’t punch a hole right through her.

ABERDEEN
Gail Kudrow.  But isn’t she?

LUCRETIA
Yes.  The Deacon’s wife.

ABERDEEN
Could things get more crazy?

LUCRETIA
No.  And I’m not even half done.  Dick thinks he’s killed Gail and tries to leap over the net to get to her, but he gets his foot caught and falls, breaking his hip.

ABERDEEN
What was he thinking?

LUCRETIA
So Dick’s screaming in pain because some titanium screws are digging in where they shouldn't be which gets the attention of Fred Cuffles over on Court 3 who can only hear certain frequencies without his hearing aid like a dog and apparently Dick's screams are in that register.  So he turns to see what's going on and there is Gail sprawled on her back.

ABERDEEN
He’s had the hots for her for years.

LUCRETIA
The club’s worst kept secret, right?  So bull that he is, Fred charges over and, thinking he’s got a heart attack situation, starts to rip away at Gail’s clothes.

ABERDEEN
He’s been waiting for this opportunity for years.

LUCRETIA
Nobody’s going to argue with you.  So he’s got Gail’s shirt off when the Deacon steps in and refuses to let Fred continue.

ABERDEEN
The guy is trying to save his wife’s life.

LUCRETIA
The Deacon could care less.  He will not have his wife exposed in public, he says.

ABERDEEN
Fred told him to go to hell, right?  Fred’s not afraid of a confrontation.

LUCRETIA
So I learned.  Fred pushed the Deacon over and kept tugging at Gail’s clothes.  So the Deacon gets up, runs for his tennis racquet, and begins to hit serves into Fred’s back.

ABERDEEN
What’s happening with Gail at this point?

LUCRETIA
As far as anyone knows, she’s dead.  I was on court two.  It was my 3.5 women’s league.  We’re down a set.  I’m thinking, maybe this disruption will go on for a while and throw off our opponent’s timing.

ABERDEEN
You never lose sight of what’s important.

LUCRETIA
Thank you.  So I shout, “Get the heart jump starter!”

ABERDEEN
You mean defibrillator?

LUCRETIA
I couldn’t remember what the thing was called.  I was focused on my tennis.

ABERDEEN
As you always are.

LUCRETIA
And I run off to where I think the de-whatever is, but of course, it was moved to someplace where it shouldn't be, and I had to hunt around and finally found it in the broom closet.  God knows why?  And when I get back on the court, everyone is standing around Gail with their mouths open.

ABERDEEN
Why?

LUCRETIA
Fred had apparently ripped off her shirt and her brassiere, so she’s totally naked from the waist up.

ABERDEEN
My God!

LUCRETIA
And he’s holding her breasts in his hands.

ABERDEEN
What?  What do you mean?

LUCRETIA
The breasts were fake.

ABERDEEN
Fake?  What do you mean fake?  Fake like mine are fake?  Or a different kind of fake?

LUCRETIA
Fake fake.

ABERDEEN
I've seen her in the locker room.  There's nothing fake about those breasts.

LUCRETIA
Before you make a fool of yourself, let me forewarn you, it has now been documented, Gail is not Gail.

ABERDEEN
No?

LUCRETIA
No.  Gail is Gil.

ABERDEEN
That's not possible.

LUCRETIA
I'm afraid so.  Fred is standing there trying to hand Gail's breasts to the Deacon, saying, “What is this?  What is this?"  While the Deacon is stepping back, refusing to accept them, saying, “I never knew.  I never knew.”

ABERDEEN
What?  He’s been married to Gail for 40 years and he didn’t know Gail was a Gil?

LUCRETIA
That is why we’re having this conversation.

ABERDEEN
This has profound implications.

LUCRETIA
Correct.

ABERDEEN
How many tournaments has Gil won as Gail?

LUCRETIA
Dozens.

ABERDEEN
They'll all be nullified.

LUCRETIA
Correct.

ABERDEEN
Which means--

LUCRETIA
I've already done the math.

ABERDEEN
She beat us in the finals in 2006.  There was that close match in 2008 where you ate some bad egg salad and threw up in the garbage can, but kept playing.

LUCRETIA
You have three more club titles.  I have six!

ABERDEEN
Is this good news or what!

LUCRETIA
God moves in mysterious ways.

ABERDEEN
But the other day, I was showing her my -- Oh, dear.  Gil has seen my ... my situation.

LUCRETIA
Get over it.  Everyone has seen your situation.   That's what he'll argue, and he'll be right.  But here's the real kicker?

ABERDEEN
What?

LUCRETIA
The guest fees.  Now that Gail is Gil and has been playing under a false pseudonym for 25 years--

ABERDEEN
My God!  She ... He owes a ton of guest fees.

LUCRETIA
Correct.  That's $25/hour times a hell of a lot of hours.

ABERDEEN
What does the President think?

LUCRETIA
He's already done the calculations.  With interest, and if that money was invested in the hedge fund he operates, he calculates that Gil owes the club $4.2 million.

ABERDEEN
We could resurface the courts.  And get new team uniforms.  But how's he going to pay?  He's dead!

LUCRETIA
If you'll shut up for two seconds, I’m not done with the story.  So the men are all standing around with their mouths open, realizing Gail is now Gil, and I come to my senses and shout, for chrissake, put the paddles to her.  I mean him.  So we run around like we're on one of those hospital ER shows and try to get this guy jump started.

ABERDEEN
What happens?

LUCRETIA
Nothing.  The de-whatever hasn't been charged for years, as I suspected.

ABERDEEN
What's happening with Gail/Gil at this point?

LUCRETIA
He's turning blue.  But then I remember I have that taser in my purse that my son gave me for Christmas.

ABERDEEN
Do you ever use it?

LUCRETIA
When I run the loop near my house.  It keeps the dogs from jumping on me.

ABERDEEN
You’re a real humanitarian.

LUCRETIA
So I come back with my taser, crank it up to full blast, and like they do on Star Trek, I give the guy a good zap. His body shakes and he starts to smoke and would you believe, he comes back to life!

ABERDEEN
He owes you.

LUCRETIA
We'll get to that.  So by now the Hartford police have come quickly followed by two ambulances -- one for Gail/Gil and the other for Screaming Dick.

ABERDEEN
Just another day at the Club.

LUCRETIA
Just another day.  Needless to say, it wasn’t the kind of thing we could keep quiet for long.

ABERDEEN
I would think not.

LUCRETIA
So the emailer finds out, calls his attorney, who comes by to gather evidence to use against the Deacon.

ABERDEEN
Evidence?  How?  Why?

LUCRETIA
Remember, the emailer and the vagina email that wasn't?  Well, the emailer wants to prove that the Deacon is, at worst, a lying feckless pre-meditating jerk, and, at minimum, a clueless idiot who has no idea what is going on in the world around him.

ABERDEEN
He has a lot of valid points.

(The two women watch the tennis match below.  Their heads go back and forth in unison.)

LUCRETIA
I know what you're thinking.

ABERDEEN
Gail always had a great backhand.

LUCRETIA
Don't even go there.

ABERDEEN
And her serve wasn't half bad.

LUCRETIA
I'm way ahead of you.

ABERDEEN
But you already have a doubles partner!

LUCRETIA
Had.  Recognizing there was an opportunity, I rode in the ambulance with Gail/Gil back to the hospital and pointed out that not only did I save his life, but I sit on every committee the club has and could help him overcome some of his present difficulties.

ABERDEEN
You're a manipulative sonofabitch.

LUCRETIA
Correct.

ABERDEEN
Did it work?

LUCRETIA
That and threatening to turn off his oxygen.

ABERDEEN
You always get what you want.

LUCRETIA
When I'm determined.

ABERDEEN
If Gail/Gil is going to be your partner, now can we talk about my partner, Bob, and the leak in the ceiling?

LUCRETIA
Sure.  But there's not much to tell.

END OF SCENE




Ricky and Santiago


It's the end of an era.
My two Belgian draft horses, Ricky and Santiago, are looking for a new, loving home.



My First Breath


Have I ever told you about my first breath?  It was an adorable little hack, more of a sibilant cough really, with an expiration reminiscent of the Santa Ana winds on a warm sun-kissed California afternoon. 



Kuru - Act I


ACT I.   Scene 1.
SETTING:   A lecture hall in Stockholm.  There is a slide projection screen, a lectern and a microphone.