Doodleboggery

We writers are a peculiar breed. A downright eccentric lot. Many of us live inside our heads, out there in fantasy land where the most interesting things are going on. Which doesn’t make us the most socially adept folks.

Get a bunch of us together in a room and we can go one of two ways. Half of us will talk your head off. The other half will go to a corner and observe. It’s not that half is shy. It is just that they are writers. And there seems to be nary a middle ground between the twixt of the two.

Some of us will let any ole word flop all over the place like a chicken with his head cut off. Some will make the one hundred yard dash for the word el perfecto. Our desire for literarydom can be the difference between digging for treasure or hunting for the holy grail. Some of us are Indiana Jonesys while some are Kid Galahads. Then there are others who would give anything and everything to be the Muhammad Ali of language. But he earned his heavyweight title, and so must we.

When thinking about my own eccentricities, I must admit I have a bit of all these. There are times when I would prefer the corner while other times when I can be the life of the party. Mostly I like to see words stand up and tap a little Fred Astaire across the room. It is a bit of a disease I call Doodleboggery.

When I first invite a character into a story, it’s no Charlie nor Watt nor Janice for me. I go a little funky and call the character something like Doodlebug whether it be a him or a her. I’ve used Mucker, Willy McWhack, George O’George, Helluvagoy, Puddlewhack, Blowfish, Hermittitus, Actina, Elephantitus just to name a few.

Bet you can guess what the Elephantitus is like. His ego fills a room so much that the room explodes and I have ka-blooey all over the place. Yuck. Then I have to clean up the mess. I want you to know it isn’t pretty.

I’ve used Expletive Deleted. All that came out of her mouth was a purple so prose I can’t repeat it here. Shortly after she walked on stage, I did an Elmore Leonard to her. She had her little butt kicked to kingdom come and she hasn’t showed up in any story since. Course there’s always the danger that she will return and be a major nuisance. You just never know.

Characters have a mind of their own and they can Rasputin all over the place. It took the Russian nobility an amazing amount of effort to kill him off. First they poisoned him, then they stabbed him again and again. But he just wouldn’t die. Then they drowned him. The rumor is that didn’t take either. Some say he’s been seen out in Siberia causing major mischief. Maybe we should check with Putin on that one.

That is what I am afraid of when I think about E.D. Had another character with those initials. Just can’t remember what those initials stand for but it’s not Erectile Dysfunction. He had a completely different set of issues. Had a real bad case of the casanova that caused problems up the ying-yang with all the ladies in a story called “Church”. A number of the women in that story, including the minister’s wife, showed up pregnant. I gave him the condom lecture but since when do characters listen. Last I saw him he had a husband after him with a shotgun. He was jumping out of a bedroom window in nothing but his altogethers.

Now this eccentricity that I have to suffer through doesn’t stop with names. It has a tendency to propagate into sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs when I am not sure what should be taking place. Some examples: “She stood on his lawn and hitchcocked her ex, then she went looking for a place to drop his corpus dilecti into.”

Of course, this honors the great director Alfred Hitchcock and the next one refers to the director Francis Ford Coppola. “He performed the coppola early that day, then he took a ride south to his favorite eatery for some pasta.”

You can imagine what a character might do if he spielberged or david-finchered across the planet. I am not quite sure but you can imagine.

Here’s some other ones.

He bonnie-and-clyded his way into the liquor store, pulled his gub and demanded a fifth of scotch from the clerk.” “Gub” refers to an article called a gun mentioned in the Woody Allen epic, “Take the Money and Run”.

“The artist started sloppy but he grew better. Later he found that sloppy was the way to go.” The artist in this one happens to be Jackson Pollack-ing all over the place.

“He grabbed hold of his life and shook it loose of the blues.”

“After six months, Perky broke off her romance with Hunkie. It wasn’t that the sex wasn’t peachy keen. It was. Lots of bodice ripping and muscles rippling. She just couldn’t take any more of his love for mirrors.”

“She’s the Starbucks of my life/I’m the Krispy Kreme of her heart.”

“She sprawled onto the lawn and kissed the ground he walked on. It tasted like chocolate and she had way too too much of a sweet tooth to not take a good bite out of the grass. Over the years that tooth had carried her from Hershey to Giardina to Rocky Mountain Chocolate to the Wee Willy Wonka in search of the perfect elixir. And here it was, in the footprints he left behind.”

And so forth. I know. This eccentricity sounds a little strange as all eccentricities do. That’s why they’re called eccentricities. But what can I do? It keeps my Muse amused. You see, she gets bored easily. And I do not want to bore her. No, sirree. She has a gub too and it is a big one. It is never pretty when my Muse takes over and does a sharknado to my prose.

Anyway all this doodleboggery sometimes leads me out to the edge. Unfortunately this is where it recently led:

“Jan Horstafeller vas a mighty fine fellow. He ate his haggalogen on Vod’s Day, Tor’s Day und Freya’s Day. As he scarfened down his haggalogen, his capagaggas growed to ten feet vide und twenty feet large und Jan Horstafeller vas only a vee bit of a Horstafeller. Haggalogen has tat effect on der person. It enlarges one’s capagaggas enormously. Yah, tat it does.”

I am so sorry but I couldn’t help myself. It’s just a little Doodleboggery.

Near 500 words: The Nates

The two Nates met on a Saturday night. It was a Blind Date. As they were eating their burgers, Natalie said, “Wouldn’t it be funny?”

“If we fell in love?” Nathaniel finished her sentence.

“And got married?” Natalie finished his sentence.

“Let’s do that,” Nathaniel added.

The Blind Date turned into more dates till finally Nate asked Nate to marry him. Nate agreed and began to plan the wedding. They sent out invitations with N & N engraved on them.

Instead of a wedding dress and a tux, the bride dressed as Tweedledee and the groom was Tweedledum. It was the thing Nates would do. After all, she was tall and he was tall. She had long auburn hair and him, his hair was not so much.

He was bald. Gravity had tugged on his hair and pulled it through his head and downward into a long beard. But it was a nice beard, well-groomed in a groom sort of way.

In the chapel, they did their I-doeses to the applause of friends and family. At the reception, the best man, whose name was Charlie, toasted the couple. The maid of honor looked across the table and gave him the look. You know the one. The one that says it’s love at first sight. Her name was Charly.

Nate turned to Nate and said, “Before you know it—”

Nate finished the groom’s sentence, “they’ll be doing the Charleston.”

Then Nate and Nate went off to Hawaii for two weeks. They surfed. They snorkeled. They went to a luau. They rode motorcycles up the side of a volcano.

They came back pregnant. Soon Nate’s belly was balloon-size. They were having twins. The babies were born. Charly and Charlie came to the hospital to see the newborns. Charly was pregnant.

“When are you due?” Nate asked from her hospital bed.

“Seven months,” the beginning-to-show Charly answered, then smiled as she looked at the newborns.

Charlie looked up from the babies in their crib and over at Nate in her bed. “She has your smile.”

“He has your eyes,” Charly said to the father, standing beside his wife’s bed. “Do you have names picked out?”

“We do,” Nate said through his beard.

“I suppose,” Charly said as she felt her belly. It felt like a kick but it probably was too soon for that.

Her husband added, “it will be Nate and Nate.”

“Heck no,” Nate said from her bed. “That would be dumb.”

Nate agreed. “No, we’re calling them—”

From her bed, Nate said, “Smith and Jones.”

The soon-to-be father, asked, “Which one is Smith and which one is Jones?”

The new mom announced, “The girl is the older one. So her name is Jones.”

“And the boy is Smith,” Nate said.

Both Charly and Charlie gave them a look that said, “How did you choose which was which?”

Nate’s wife answered, “Oh that’s easy. The first one out was Jones. So it’s obvious that Smith has to keep up with the Jones.”

 

Grandparents

La Grand Mere. We, in the family, knew no other name for her. Not Grandmother. Not Grandma as in Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Not Granmama. Not Granny. Not Nana. All those names were fine for the grandmothers of other people. It was Le Gran Mere for our grandmother.

You would think she was off-putting with a name like that. She wasn’t. She was the warmest of human beings. When she smiled, that smile could fill a room with its warmth. Now our grandfather, Grumps as we called him, was not like that. He was one sour puss of a human being.

I’m here to tell you that no one knew how those two ended up together. No one. When we asked La Grand Mere, she said, “Ask your grandfather.” When we asked Grumps, he just grunted and returned to what he was doing.

It became a joke in the family. Our parents made up stories. Our grandparents on my mother’s side made up stories. My wife’s stepmother and her stepson had a story. My best friend Jed and his stepfather and his stepbrother offered even more stories. I am here to tell you no one in the family knew the truth of the matter.

But the ones with the best story were our twins. One day they came into the kitchen and said, “We know why La Grand Mere and Grumps are together.” They had mischievous smiles on their faces.

“Why?” my wife asked for me as well as for herself.

They sang, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Fun With Claudius and Gertrude

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no mo
Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny nonny.
Much Ado About Nothing Act 2. Scene 3.

Oops. That’s the wrong play. This is a much darker play than that. It’s a “Hamlet”.

Act 1. Scene 2. Claudius and Gertrude, their Royalnesses, descended the Staircase of the Stars. To the spectators below, they seemed to be floating. They weren’t. They were wearing the latest in shoewear, camouflage slippers, designed by Dr. John Dee himself. They were all the rage among the royals of Europe. They didn’t come cheap but they were well worth it. They made a Royal royal and a King kingly.

As the two progress their way down the Staircase, they pass Gallery of the Danes, portraits on the wall of past kings, all ancestors of Claudius. Beginning at the top, Hamlet- the Really-Old, the founder of the Hamlet royal lineage. You know, the word “lineage” is akin to “laundry”? Dirty laundry in the case of royalty, of course. ‘Cause some of the Royals on the Wall were real doozies. Their reps had to be washed and dried a number of times by the royal spin doctors. But no matter how clean their reps became, there were old timers who never forgot.

For instance, Hamlet the Really-Old became known as the king who lived to be as old as Methuselah. Actually he was very old when he came to the throne. Mostly his subjects called him Hamlet the Pincher. He liked to pinch his subjects bottoms.

Next was Hamlet the Not-so-old. He was only six months old when he inherited the throne. But he didn’t live to be six months and a day. Some say it was poison. Some say the plague. All anyone knows for sure was that it was not the colic.

Then came the Mutt and Jeffs of the family. Hamlet the Tall and Hamlet the Short. Bet you can’t guess which was Mutt and which was Jeff. After their long reigns, there was Hamlet the Medium-sized. He was a roly poly sort of fellow who had so many wives he beat Henry VIII on two fronts, weight and wives. As soon as he married a maiden, he misplaced her. Three hundred years later, the Royal Guards are still looking for lost wives. Henry could take party lessons from Hamlet the Medium-sized as well.

Hamlet the Lecher was no better. No virgin in the kingdom was safe. A new position was created by the town councils throughout the land. The Devirginizer. Bet you can guess what the guy did. Unfortunately, that left the farmer’s daughters unsafe.

Down the line came Hamlet’s daddy’s daddy, Old Smutmouth I. The name says it all. Finally there was Daddy Hamlet, the recent king and brother to the current king. Nary a Claudius in the bunch. The now-king would be Claudius I.

Actually Claudius’ name did not start out as Claudius. Shakespeare gave the new king a new name. One that fit his dignity. After all, Claudius was a Roman patrician name. One thing was for sure. Feng, the name Claudius’ father had given him, would never ever do.

With a name like Feng, Claudius had an absolutely horrible childhood. “Here, Feng. Here, boy,” all the other kids shouted at him. They treated him like a dog. Dog biscuits and bones kept showing up in his school locker.

On top of that, there were the Feng Shui jokes. At fifteen, Claudius took off for parts unknown. During that time, he took the advice, “When in Rome, do what the Romans do.” So he did. Like a good Roman, he changed his name.

That was all in the past. On this day of his royal ascendage, he descended the stairs with Queen Gertrude at his side. Claudius was happy. The eyes of his dead ancestors followed him from their portraits. Look at him. A king’s crown was the best revenge.

Gertrude was happy too. Phew. A close one. She ended up queen when she could have ended up queen mother. She knew a thing or two about statecraft. Besides she knew where all the bodies were buried.

Gertrude had not loved Daddy Hamlet when she married him. She was fourteen, and like Juliet, she loved another. But she didn’t have the courage to run away from home and wed her Romeo. Daddy Hamlet was fifteen years her elder. At twenty-nine, he had already killed off two wives. Both of them had died in childbirth.

He needed an heir, and he needed one badly. There was no way that he was about to let his younger brother, Feng, take the throne. With a name like Feng, nobody would respect him.

Gertrude seemed like an excellent choice. She was young and had a lot of childbearing years ahead of her. Besides, she was sexier than all get out. So a deal was made with her father, Michael of the Rus. When she arrived at court, Daddy Hamlet got down to business. After several tries, wallah. A son. No matter that Gertrude wanted to name the boy, Michael. He was dubbed Hamlet.

Unfortunately, her childbearing was over. Hamlet had been a difficult birth and the barbers said no more babies. “The barbers?” you ask. In those days, doctors didn’t know much. They were in the dark ages when it came to medicine. So they weren’t consulted that often. On the side, they had a barber business. It worked out real well. They would give a haircut and a pill all at the same time. Two for the price of one, so to speak.

After that, Daddy Hamlet was off fighting the Cossacks, the Poles, the Swedes, the Germans and anybody else he could think of. While he was away, Gertrude had to wear that damned chastity belt. She might not get a chance to pee, except for once in a blue moon when he was home. On top of that, she only got a chance to make whoopee once a year. She was a woman with needs. And Big Daddy wasn’t supplying them. When they did make whoopee, he was a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of guy. She didn’t call him Brutus for no good reason either.

One Sunday afternoon Claudius showed up at court. She took one look at him and suddenly they were like Lancelot and Guinevere. Though she was under lock and key, they figured out a way to get down. The pièce de résistance was when Claudius sneaked the key from around Big Daddy’s neck. Thank God, the king was a sound sleeper.

It was her lucky day when Big Daddy finally died from snake bite. Okay, there weren’t snakes on Elsinore Island. Maybe he brought one back from his distant wars. And it was late October and chilly when the snake bit him in the garden. Not good weather for snakes. Still, could happen.

When Claudius proposed, it was the happiest day of her life. She immediately, and with that sigh of relief people are always referring to, said yes. After all, he could have gone with a lot younger woman. Like Alice of Stuttgart or Denise the Greek or Lucretia Borgia. The sluts. At least, Claudius knew where Gertrude had been. Her reading “The Princess” by Machiavelli had paid off well. No other woman’s child would inherit the throne. It would be her son. All in all, things had worked out very well.

The feet of Claudius and Gertrude touched down on the Throne Room floor.

“Your Majesty,” his subjects praised Claudius.

“Your Magnanimousness, please,” the king corrected them.

Yes, Your Magnanimousness.”

Gertrude gritted her teeth and thought, “Oh, here we go again.”

A Marriage

“Why do you always run off to the shower after we make love?” This could be the man or the woman asking. On this particular night, it is the woman.

The man, her husband, slides back into the bed beside his wife’s naked body, reaches over, kisses her lightly on the lips. She resists his kiss.

He withdraws to a few inches from her face. “You know you can join me in the shower. It’s not like there’s not enough room.” The best defense is a good offense.

He’s not ready to give up on that kiss. He tries again for her lips.

She is having none of his attempts at getting on her good side. “All I want is to be close,” she says, moving her lips away from his.

“I’m trying to be close now.” He catches her cheek with his kiss.

She pushes him away. “It isn’t the same. After we have sex, all you do is run away.” Slipping over to her edge of the bed, she gives him her back, then pulls the sheet tight around her, making it into a cocoon.

He drops off to his side of the bed. “But … Lenore,” he protests.

“Why do you choose to call me that?” she tosses over her shoulder at him. “You know I don’t like it, Sam.”

“What do you mean? Call you what?” he speaks to her back.

“Lenore,” she says the name as if it is a curse.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Of course it’s her name.

“It’s what my mother calls me. But I’m Nora and you most definitely know that.” Of course he knows it. He has called her Nora a thousand times and more. Her back is now a wall and she’s not allowing any climbing over it. Not for this night anyway.

”I like Lenore. It has such a romance to it. Just like you.”

Silence. Not a sound coming from behind that wall.

After several minutes of waiting for a truce and a goodnight kiss, he reaches over and switches off the bedside light, sighs and slides deeper into the bed. He lies on his back and studies the shadows spreading out across the room as the night grows deeper.

A sob escapes through a crack in that impenetrable wall lying next to him. His wife is crying, pouring herself into her pillow. He reaches over to offer her a tender, comforting touch.

She moves away from his hand and rolls over and faces him. “My name is Nora. And just why do you always feel the need to wash me off after we have sex? Guess you can’t stand the smell of me, the taste of me, the touch of me on your skin. Bet you can’t even stand the sound of me.”

He starts to protest but holds it in.

“Next thing I know you won’t even be able to stand the sight of me.” Shoving the covers off, she jumps out of bed, grabs her robe, heads for the door. Takes one last look at the man in her bed. “Ever since Candace went away to college,” she says, changing the subject but not really. She throws the robe on and heads off down the hall.

He calls after her. “Candace doesn’t like Candace for a name, you know.” Their daughter likes to be called Dash.

“That’s her name, Sam-u-el,” she cries out into the night. She’s Candace’s mother and she can call her daughter any damned name she wants. Why doesn’t he understand that?

“And Lenore is yours,” he wants to yell back but doesn’t. She is the woman he loves, has always loved, and he knows that this is not a good time to call out “Lenore”.

He moves over onto his side and faces the wall, pulls the sheet closer around his body. He hates these dark, restless nights when nothing seems to go right. When everything he tries is wrong.

He waits in the dark and hopes. What is he hoping for? That she’ll come back to bed? That he can somehow show her that he didn’t mean for the night to turn out the way it has? Maybe that, after twenty years of marriage, things can change? That he can change? He keeps hoping but he knows. This will not be the night.

It’s one thirty and he has to get up in the morning for work. But he’s not going to get any sleep. Not till Lenore comes back to bed, and they make up.

Why does he keep calling her Lenore? he wonders in his sleeplessness. He knows how much she hates it. It’s only at times like these when he drops his guard that she she is no longer an average, everyday Nora. She is the Lenore of his best dreams and he is recalling their honeymoon in that long-ago before twenty years wore down their marriage.

He glances over at the clock on his nightstand once again. It’s two and she’s not coming back. He slips out of bed, pulls on this pajama bottoms and a robe.

Downstairs and out on the patio, she hears him slide the glass door open behind her. “I’m not mad,” she says to nobody in particular. “It’s just that, well I’m not mad,” this time she’s speaking to her husband.

There she goes. Making peace. Why does she always do that? he wonders. “I was a jerk,” he says, looking at the back of her neck. The moon throws its light across the room and he can’t ever remember seeing anything so beautiful.

“No, you were just being you.” Her voice is soft and lonely. Then she thinks, “There I go again, making peace. Why do I always do that?”

He doesn’t know what else to say or do so he waits.

She looks over her shoulder and up into his face. His eyes gaze at her the way he did that first night oh-so-many-years-before on the the beach where they first fell in love. Her hand reaches out for his, takes it, draws him to her side on the bench. “I love this house,” she says.

“It has been a good house.”

“I wasn’t sure it was the one for us.” She leans her head on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know that.” He squeezes her hand with all the affection that comes from years of loving and arguing and making up and arguing and making up some more. “I wasn’t that positive myself.”

She squeezes back. Her head feels the strength of the shoulder she has always known that she can lean on no matter what. No matter what. She then takes her head off his shoulder and looks up at the sky. “That sure is a pretty moon.”

“We didn’t think we’d we be here that long.”

“And, my god, the mortgage.” She laughs.

“We’d never owed that much money to anybody. But Dash loved it.”

“We thought we were buying the moon. Five years old and Candace knew it was for us.”

“Why do you keep on calling her Candace?” he whispers. “You know how much she hates it.”

“Why do you insist on calling me Lenore?” she whispers back. “It spoils eyerything.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, unsure how to tell her all that her name means to him.

“I can see we got what we paid for.” She is back thinking about the house.

“It was a good price.”

She points toward the sky. “We got that moon too, and it is much better than the one we thought we were buying.” She looks at it for several minutes. “You think that Brett and Dash will last as long as we have?”

“I hope so. He seems to love her but not as much as I loved you then, Nora.” He kisses Lenore, not a soft easy kiss, not a deep passionate kiss, but a kiss that makes up for everything. And she kisses him. Then he whispers, “And still love you.”

She stands, reaches for his hand, and they go inside.

On the way up the stairs, he says, ”If you let me call you Lenore every-once-in-a-while, I promise not to run off to the shower after we make love.”

“Only when we’re alone,” she says from the stair above him.

He nods yes, and they are back in bed and soon asleep.

Forgiveness fills the house as it has so many times before and they continue their married life together. At least for one more day.