Monthly Archives: December 2009

“This Is the Spawning of the Rage of Aquarium” By Jim Bennett

          This year we purchased an aquarium because The Mrs. thought the sight of tropical fish gliding lazily to-and-fro in the bubbly tank would add a little serenity to the living room.  Several months ago the she gave me a patriot crab I had admired at the pet store.  I named him “Eugene.”  
  

         Eugene has since grown to enormous proportions and rules the tank with an iron claw.  Regular readers of The Mrs.’s Facebook page are already familiar with his skills as an escape expert and anti-feline jihadist.    

          Today she brought home several new fish, including an iridescent shark for whom she had paid ten dollars in United States currency.  

          Yeah.  I know.

          But it gets better:  Approximately one nanosecond after the shark was released from his plastic bag into aquatic genpop, my horrified children watched as Eugene caught the ten-dollar shark in his claws and jammed the unsuspecting new arrival’s head into his hungry mouth!  

           Hoss, Weezie, and PeeWee were instantly traumatized and started running around the living room, slamming themselves into walls, hurling themselves through plate glass windows, throwing themselves down flights of stairs, setting riot fires, and in general just erupting into the worst-ever-hysterical-panic-attack-top-of-their-lungs screaming-and-crying-conniption-fit I have ever seen outside of a custodial psychiatric hospital.

Then things REALLY started to get out of hand.

          Eugene visibly enjoyed the chaos he had provoked.  He started strutting around the tank with the shark’s flipping-and-flopping body protruding from his mouth like a stogie, and I know I saw him actually  blowing out rings of shark blood like crimson cigar smoke. 

          In the midst of the imbroglio, The Mrs. sent our son Jamie after a pair of tongs and attempted a heroic, last-ditch rescue of the hapless shark, who was still thrashing.    The wily Eugene, however, was having none of that.  As the tongs neared him, he casually crawled behind the big rock in the tank and continued to munch nonchalantly on his mahi-mahi; he paused only once, asking the Mrs., “Hey babe, how ’bout ya drop the hardware?  Go on, hustle yourself out to the kitchen and fetch me a lemon wedge and some pepper, whaddaya say, huh?” 

          My children, though still experiencing a collective nervous breakdown, had by then organized into a formal mob.  Weezie, Hoss, and PeeWee were picketing the tank, singing “One Tin Soldier” between shrieking sobs, and carrying protest signs which read, “Deport all Crabs!”  

                     All the other fish crammed themselves tightly into the corner of the tank that was farthest away from the horror and, while trying to avoid making eye contact with Eugene, they murmured amongst themselves.

           A rosie barb was heard to say, “Somebody oughta do something…”

          The plecostomus stopped slurping algae off the glass and began to urge the Beta into action.  “C’mon, tough guy.  You’re always reminding us that you’re the big ‘Siamese Fighting Fish,’ remember?  Get over there and give ol’ Eugene that beatdown you’re always talkin’ about.”

          “Yeah, right,” the Beta replied.  “You’re the ‘sucker’ in this tank, Pleco, not me.  Have you seen those pinchers?  I ain’t stickin’ my neck out for no newbie.”

         As for me, I can only stare slack-jawed into the aquarium.  I know I must comfort the children and pretend to share their outrage, but I can’t.  In fact, it takes all of my strength to conceal the pride that swells within me as I watch my ferocious pet make a meal out of a shark.   (A SHARK, BABY!  FASTER, CRABBY-CAT!  KILL! KILL!)  At last I understand the thrill of watching the titanic, life-and-death struggle between two animal combatants.   I have tasted that same dark, sweet brew of intoxicating adrenaline savored by Teddy’s father as he watched Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose, dispatch Nag, the black cobra.  I now know the rush of emotion that the falconer feels as his winged assassin soars skyward with the neighbor’s yipping Chihuahua clutched in its talons. 

          For one deliciously sinister, shameful moment, I have become Michael Vick.     

          Bon Appétit, Eugene, my magnificent predatory monster-child.  May you feast on the flesh of a thousand ten-dollar iridescent sharks.  

          And meanwhile, here in the dry world, I eventually had to put down the anti-crab demonstration.  It was spinning out of control.  Those feathered tranquilizer darts have done their work:  PeeWee, Weezie, and Hoss lie dozing happily on the floor in front of the tank.

         As I watch them in their Xylazine-induced slumber, it occurs to me that the Mrs. had been right:  One way or another, that bubbly tank would add a little serenity to the living room.

Here's the photographic proof in case you, for some inexplicable reason, thought I might be embellishing the story a bit.

“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen”

          This is my final column for the Monmouth Daily Review-Atlas, and I want my faithful fans – both of them – to know that I’m giving it up with deep reluctance.  The editor hasn’t banished me, though he probably should have many times over; in fact, Matt Hutton has proven to be a man with the patience of Job and the flexibility of Gumby.  In my book, he’s right up there with Perry White and Lou Grant, and he’s miles ahead of J. Jonah Jameson.  

These losers all wish they were as cool as Matt Hutton.

            Don’t get me wrong:  I would love it if my departure had been prompted by something more dramatic, like a fierce clash which erupted between me, the dashing, maverick writer, and Matt, the hot-headed editor, when he dared stand in my way after my sharply-honed investigative reporting uncovered a convoluted web of corruption that extended all the way up to the highest echelons of our government’s intelligence community and implicated even the President himself in a scandal that threatened to shake the very foundations of our republic. 

            I tried that, by the way.  But the best I came up with was some weak evidence that the zoning commissioner may or may not have an overdue library book. 

            It didn’t rile Matt enough to provoke a red-faced screaming match across his desk during which we yank each other’s neckties while he shouts in my face, “Bennett, if you weren’t a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist who once saved my life by chewing through my seatbelt to free me from a burning car that had been firebombed by the mobsters who were trying to prevent me from printing your bold, fearless, hard-boiled expose’ of organized crime, I’d can you right now!” prompting me to throw down my press credentials in disgust and yell, “Hutton, YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” and storm out while a young cub reporter who has always looked up to me with awe follows on my heels and says, “You sure told him, Mr. Bennett!”

            Man.  That would have been cool.  Robert Duvall could have played me in the movie. 

            But no, the simple fact of the matter is this:  In the past few months, I’ve come under conviction that my Lord would have me focus entirely on the two most important callings He has placed on my life:  My wonderful family, and my loving, faithful flock at Rozetta Baptist Church.  The painful process of giving up other worthy pursuits began a few months ago, and I held on to the pleasure of writing this column as long as I could.

            You’re thinking, “Churning out 750 words of that artless dreck Bennett calls ‘writing’ is too much of a load to carry once a week?  Does it really take all that much time to plagiarize old Dave Barry columns?  I mean, he’s not exactly seated at the Algonquin Roundtable between Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker.  Why, that newspaper could train a ring-tailed lemur to write just as…”

Jim Bennett wishes he was as cool as this lemur.

            Alright!  Dang!  You’ve made your point!  I get it!  So I’m not Art Buchwald!  It still literally takes me anywhere from six to nine hours to grind out the nonsense that finally makes it to the page (You don’t even want to know how long it takes me to write my sermon every week – unlike my column, those actually have to make sense).  Mama always said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing at the pace of a three-toed sloth on Ambien.”            

            But my inexplicably slow rate of production is compounded by my inability to accomplish anything whatsoever until the day of deadline.  This quirk has haunted me through high school, college, and my brief career as a street mime in Little York.  Some scribblers devote a little time each day to their weekly output, but for some reason, I have to do it all at once, and on the day it’s due.  I’ve been driving the Mrs. crazy every Sunday by coming home from church only to lock myself away with my laptop to await my weekly visit from Muse Thalia. 

            Upsetting the Mrs. is something I hate to do. 

            As I always counsel the husbands of Rozetta Baptist Church:  Happy wife, happy life.

            There is, no doubt, a more capable ink-slinger waiting in the wings, someone who, unlike me, is raising fewer than seven children right now.  So it is with a heavy heart that I bid you adieu, Dear Reader.  You’ve been most charitable and indulgent to read what I’ve written. 

            Thank you for that.   

            Oh, and one last thing:  Jesus loves you!  I pray that you’ll taste and see that the Lord is good, and seek Him while he may be found.  Merry Christmas!

(Fear not, readers…you can still tap into the repository of genius that is “The Bloviating Hammerhead” blog.  My next post relates a horrifying, true story of murder and mayhem on the high seas!)

“The Best Joke of the Year; The Best Hope for the Next” by Jim Bennett

            I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by stating that 2009 has been difficult.  But finding the downside is easy:  I only need to watch the evening news, read the paper, step on a set of scales, or try another do-it-myself haircut.  That’s why I have chosen to devote this column to blowing sappy-happy rainbows up everybody’s trouser legs with my first annual “Best Joke of the Year, Best Hope for the Next” column.   
            Now, there’s no accounting for taste, mind you.  You may find them stupid or simply unfunny, but at least you won’t be reading about H1N1, Tiger Woods’ marriage, or “The Twilight Saga:  New Moon” for the next ten minutes.

The news hasn't been this depressing since the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

            Second runner up:  A wife is having breakfast with her husband on Valentine’s Day morning.  She hints coyly, “I dreamt last night that you gave me a gorgeous diamond pendant for Valentine’s Day.  What a strange dream.  What do you suppose it means?”
            With a wink and a smile, her husband replies, “Well, my dear, you’ll find out exactly what that dream means tonight, and that’s all I’m going to say.”
            The wife is on pins and needles until her husband arrives that evening with an elegantly-wrapped package under his arm.  She grabs it.  Tearing it open; her eyes grow wide as she looks at her gift: 
            A copy of the “The Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud.

Get it? When the husband said, "You'll find out exactly what that dream means tonight," the wife thought he meant that he was going to...oh, never mind.

            First runner up goes to this story, told to me by a member of my church, about an older couple in denial about their dead dog.  They brought their pet’s carcass to the vet and insisted he treat the animal.  When he tried to explain that the animal was deceased, they demanded a second opinion, so the vet summoned a yellow Labrador into the room.  The canine carefully examined the dead dog and then looked at the couple, gravely shaking his head.  Still unconvinced, they demanded a third opinion.  The vet complied again, calling in yet another associate, a Siamese cat.  The feline examined the expired dog and, just like the yellow Lab had done, she shook her head sadly.  At last persuaded, the couple left to bury their beloved companion.
            A few days later, the couple returned to the vet, angrily demanding an explanation for the bill he had sent them.
            “One thousand dollars?!  Just to tell us that our dog was dead?!”
            “Well,” the vet replied, “when you figure in the lab work, and the cat scan…”

Get it? The vet charged them for LAB work and a CAT scan because the Yellow LABrador and the Siamese CAT were...Oh, never mind.

             Ah, a classic to be sure, but it’s also a bit lengthy; brevity being the soul of wit, I picked a short riddle that takes Best Joke of 2009 honors hands down:
            Q:  What did 0 say to 8?
            A:  Nice belt!
            See what I mean?  It’s succinct, brilliant, and you have to work for a minute to get it. 
            Those are the Best Jokes of the Year, but what is the Best Hope for the Next, as far as humor is concerned?  Apart from the sudden and permanent retirement of Dane Cook, only one thing, really:  That my four-year-old daughter Weezie would find a new joke.  You see, for all of this year and the latter half of 2008, she has been stuck on an antique knock-knock joke about a cow who compulsively interrupts others while they are speaking.  The 18 months of repetition aside, simply participating in the joke is a Sisyphean nightmare of soul-crushing futility.  If you’re one of the eight people on earth who has never heard it, here it is:
            Weezie:  Knock-Knock!
            Me:  (Heavy sigh)  Who’s there?
            Weezie:  Interrupting cow!
            Me: (Groan)  Interrup…
            Weezie:  MOO!
            Me:  You got me again, Kid.

Get it, Dad? There's an interrupting cow knocking at the door, and before you can even ask, "Who is it?" he...Oh, never mind.

            My best hope for jokes in 2010 is that The Interrupting Cow will contract bovine spongiform encephalopathy and die a mercifully swift death. 
            Won’t you help? 
            You see, Weezie and children just like her all over the world go through each day, for months – sometimes years – on end, in comedic poverty, repeating the same tired joke, over and over.  Won’t you consider sponsoring a child by providing the quips and jests they desperately need, but which we take for granted?  It only costs a pun, a one-liner, a simple wisecrack.  Please send a kid’s joke to newjoke4weezie@gmail.com today.  If your joke silences “Interrupting Cow” in my home once and for all, it will be featured in an upcoming column and you’ll receive a free “I Killed the Interrupting Cow” t-shirt.

You could, I suppose, live without this shirt...if you want to call that "living."

            And, most importantly, you’ll also receive an exhausted father’s undying gratitude.  Please – don’t delay.

Tea Party Footage

“The Black Friday Massacre” by Jim Bennett

 

Thanksgiving: The preferred holiday of rugged, trailblazing pioneers.

          Last week I finally got around to having that psychotic break I’ve been putting off.  I left the serenity of home on the day after Thanksgiving and inexplicably ventured onto the apocalyptic battlefield of Black Friday commerce.  I’ve never done that before.  The news reports of human stampedes, girl-brawls, and venomous reptile attacks had always kept me out of the dreaded vendredi noir marketplace. 

            What happened this year?

            Thanksgiving happened.  The Mrs. and I had decided that we would forego the traditional holiday feast at home and instead volunteer to deliver meals for the

If you have a large family but limited square footage in the home, consider stacking the kids up in this handy pyramid formation. It's a real space-saver and an elegant compliment to any room!

Community Dinner.  She figured it would be a meaningful way to teach our children about being grateful to God for His manifold blessings.  She was right.

            It was a blessed occasion, rife with the joys of seeing old friends, making new ones, and bringing delicious turkey dinners to senior citizens.  We were put in charge of delivering to Costello Terrace, and I want to assure the residents there that they can rest easy as far as building security is concerned:  There is perhaps no more impenetrable structure on earth.  The intercom system so thoroughly baffled us that we were about to squish some cranberry sauce under the door, yell “Soup’s on!” and call it good.  Thankfully, we eventually cracked the code and were able to deliver the meals.  After that, it was back to headquarters at the American Legion for our own repast.

            The strain of breaching the palisades and fording the moat at the impregnable Fortress Costello had left me famished.  By the time we reached the Legion, I light-heartedly announced that I was hungrier than a Uruguayan rugby player after a plane crash in the Andes.  The Mrs. did a quick head-count to make sure I hadn’t devoured any of the children.  I assured her they were safe.

            For now.

            Once inside, we enjoyed warm fellowship and as fine a Thanksgiving meal as I’ve ever had anywhere.  It left me full as a tick, but the question remains:  How does this explain my insane foray into the maelstrom of merchantry that is Black Friday?  It’s simple, really:  Since I was dining in public, I was too self-conscious to eat as I would have eaten in a more private setting.  My plate had been heaped with extravagant portions, mind you – enough chow to satisfy any two grown men.  But when I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner at my own table, I typically eat enough to satisfy any five

You were expecting, maybe, Martha Stewart? You know what happened to her, right?

Vikings and a Visigoth.  When observing the occasion with only my closest family members, I’m at liberty to unbutton and, if necessary, to remove my trousers to “make room” for that fourth dessert.  In the casual seclusion of the homestead, “etiquette” boils down to daintily extending a pinky finger while drinking directly from the gravy boat.  Though frowned upon in mixed company, it is time-honored traditions like these that induce the deep coma food paralysis that always keeps me off the streets on Viernes Negro; deprived of them this year, I was trapped.                          

           You see, my twelve-year-old daughter Gracie had earned herself a cell phone.  Our carrier was having a big Black Friday sale, expertly designed to lure fearful little customers out of post-Thanksgiving hidey-holes.  What could I have done?  The kid doesn’t ask for much, the transaction was going to cost me nothing, and for the first time in recorded history, I had failed to cripple myself with turkey and pie the day before.  I had no excuse. 

            Our cellular phone provider has two stores in town.  The queue at the first one we visited looked like a Soviet bread line during the Stalin years.  We dashed to the other location which, to my delirious delight, had no line whatsoever!  Sadly, our high-fiving hilarity met a retail derail:  Their computers were down.

            The Mrs. and I tried again Friday night.  All computers were functioning, but by then Monmouth’s streets were clogged with two serpentine lines of tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to buy cell phones.  I considered taking temporary residence in one of the refugee shantytowns that had sprung up, but a Red Cross staffer told me I would have to be deloused and vaccinated first.     

            Captain Ahab had his white whale, and I have my Black Friday.  But in the final analysis, I’m still a dad who tries to keep his promises.  Gracie received her cell phone the next day. 

            It’s not exactly a Blackberry or an iPhone, but I did pull a few strings to get her a designer “Andy Warhol” model.  And speaking of string, as long as she keeps it pulled tight while pressing the can against her ear, the sound quality is outstanding.

Gracie: "Can you hear me now?" Gracie's friend: "Yes. You said, 'My Dad is as cheap as he is clueless.'"

 

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