MAY 08, 2010


It's been a cool and breezy week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Spring has arrived, cool as it was last year with lots of overhead fog keeping the tomatoes from developing.

It's May and as early commencement ceremonies began kicking off all up and down the Golden State, the sap of Spring began running full force everywhere. Young girls bearing packets of doorknob hangers in support of Measure E (school funding parcel tax) have been bounding up apartment steps and ringing bells like, well, like the young things they are. Little Imbecilla Cupcake was out methodically destroying her fudgecicle as a covey of Measure E'ers scampered by. Imbecilla waited for the last in line before sticking out her foot to send the earnest lobbyist sprawling on the pavement and sending flyers flying.

"Waaaa! You tripped me," the aggrieved complained.

"No. You tripped yourself. You are clumsy and stupid!" Imbecilla said through braces that were attempting to correct a severe overbite.

This resulted in a mini-brawl between the two, which had the consequence of ruining the remains of the fudgecicle. When separated finally by a Responsible Adult (Mr. Howitzer), Imbecilla responded to the command for "make up and be nice" by trying to strangle the other girl with her Catholic School cross chain and when prevented in this effort promised to murder the girl at the first opportunity before stalking off, ignoring Mr. Howitzer entirely, who then lectured the trippee on ladylike behavior.

Its Spring. These sorts of things happen.

Denby has observed the calendar, the weather, the birds and the bees and, along with the Editor, has started stocking up on Mikey's Lean Gourmet Easy Dinners, getting his HDTV in tune, and checking his Netflix with an eye to keeping a low profile. Both have started letting their chin stubble go a couple extra days and stopped using scented detergent. In fact, Denby has stopped using detergent entirely, with the aim of producing a capsule of hermetic aroma around his Reporter style, for nothing puts off the wrong sort of woman than a strong odor. For Spring. he tends to wear a slouch hat and a particular raincoat which have not been washed in over twenty years.

As mentioned during a recent popular radio show, what a Reporter wants is one night stands and the easy association of dancehall floozies. The Wrong Sort of Woman wants to know what you are doing the next day and the day after that and then starts talking about the direction of the Relationship. Dangerous words like Commitment and Feelings start to get bandied about. Denby, a man who has been burned more often than an Oaktown Fireman, makes plans each Spring for the trench warfare that is Romance by preparing chemical weapons in advance. Denby knows that once the Wrong Sort of Woman has her big C, she may just decide, often as not, "Well that was so easy. And fun! Might as well hop on over to something else. Good-bye!"

Yes, its Spring, the most dangerous Season. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and IV. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.

Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayoneting the lavender throwing out punches this way and that and sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while raccoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies are erupting with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked blindfolded fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs).

Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels.

Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming daisies. Right in the heart, poor lad. A goner for sure.

Its Spring. These sorts of things happen.

Over at Marlene and Andre's Household a visitor came rapping, ungently rapping upon their door. It was Mr. Howitzer's new Property Manager, who revealed himself to be Mr. Terse, part-time renta-cop and ex-Marine.

Mr. Terse called a general House meeting on Sunday and on that day of usual rest, Mr. Terse set up a podium for his papers in the backyard and a little stand for his glass of water for he was to deliver Orders. Mr. Terse had been in the Marines for over 25 years, remaining at the rank of Lieutenant for the great majority of the time while so employed. Sometimes the Marines know what they have, and the level of its usefulness. Sometimes not, but often they do. He would have remained at the rank of Lieutenant for another fifteen years save that one day a woman Marine took the record for most consecutive pushups and no man could get it back. When he attempted to retract his symbolic resignation of disgust, his CO refused to allow the emendation.

Mr. Terse stood up there and promptly drained 3/4 of his water glass before announcing that everyone was summarily evicted. But the good news was that a few select individuals would be rehired as tenants at the rental rate of some three thousand dollars per individual.

Pahrump inquired as to whether the Owner knew anything about this.

"Any information will be provided on a strict Need to Know Basis," said Mr. Terse. "Besides, this new Program will undoubtedly please the Owners whose names shall remain secure."

"Dude we know who the Owner is; he's the one who collects all the checks from Andre," said Javier.

"I shall collect the single check from now on. From the Appointee. Failure to provide in a timely fashion the remittance with required NCR form D/6 shall be punished by 10% per day and forty lashes. I am the Property Manager here. I am the Decider." Here he slapped his black leather gloves against the side of his blue serge pants. He commanded Occasional Quentin to fetch him another glass of water and then began to read the Orders of Dispersal and Orders of Containment.

"This here is the Tenant Manual D-506, the FAQ sheet P-541, and your Tenant Timesheet (T-308b) on which you are to record your time spent within the Dwelling as listed on Form C-334. Failure to file T-308b, together with the requisite C-334, in a timely fashion will result in a negative writeup on form E-981. Subtenants are to be listed on form S-994. All entries are to be printed in caps as per the supplied 'How to Complete Forms' Help-Aid. Do not use pencil!" . . .

Mr. Terse spoke emphatically with sharp military precision in a loud commanding voice and all the household there were huddled on the benches with their supplied pencils which they had been commanded not to use under any circumstances whatsoever except for the E-Canoodler Form Stroke 9

"Mr. Quentin, what do you find so funny here?"

In truth, Occasional Quentin was giggling fits next to Javier, who had gone out with him and returned with the waterglass. Mr. Terse drained his waterglass and demanded that Quentin fetch him another. And be quick about it.

Quentin came up and took the glass and went off, still enjoying what appeared to be a very private joke. Except Javier was grinning as well, albeit more controlled.

"Mr. Javier, what is so funny? I am installing order here!"

Javier stood up. "Mr. Terse a thousand snakes are slithering towards you and the trees are moving strangely."

This statement seemed somewhat odd to all present as the trees moved only as the breeze kicked up and there were no reptiles in immediate sight. Mr. Terse's forehead started sweating, however, and his jaw dropped open. He stared in horror at the ground in front of him where scattered scrap metal parts lay strewn in the grass.

"Mr. Terse, don't you find the flowers really funny?"

To everyone's astonishment, Mr. Terse began giggling like a little girl.

Jose tugged on Javier's sleeve. "What did you dose him with?"

"About a hundert hits of Micky Mouse and Purple Windowpane plus a dollop of datura squeezed out from the vine in front," said Javier easily.

Jose stood up. "Yo dude! You can't do nothing about those snakes. Y'know why? 'Cause NAVY KICKS MARINE JARHEAD ASS!"

Mr. Terse's eyes grew very wide, then he picked up his podium and ran screaming at Jose, with the clear intention of killing him.

He chased Jose around the hydrangeas for several circles until Jose ducked to the side while the ex-Marine kept up running in circles until the drug began to affect his sense of balance as well as sense of purpose and he fell over.

"Y'know, that Marvin Stiffstik was a lot more fun. And not nearly as warlike," said Jose.

Mr. Terse jumped up and shouted, "War is good! War is fun for Marines!" With that comment, he hinted at what mindset may have kept him in the rank of lieutenant for 25 years.

"You are out of uniform", said Javier. "But as Platoon comrades, we are here to help you."


"Better get that off before the, um, the CO sees you. We got the right one in the, um Official Distribution Dispensary Thing Locker."

"You sure?"

"It's NGO." said, Javier, who had no idea what that meant.

Mr. Terse took off all of his clothes. His boxers were USMC issue so he kept those on.

"Okay now, get on over to Mr. Howitzer's HQ. The storage locker is over there. Hup to it!"

"I dunno about this . . .".

"We got special Cloak Protection for you. Special Issue. Hi Tech. Nobody see you without Need to Know Clearance," said Jose. "Better hustle afore you get a demerit."

"Okay now. I need to get to HQ. See the CO."

"Good. Keep that in your head. Write nothing down. Officer Terse, you are on LRP assignment. You tell nobody but Mr. Howitzer wazzup. Capeche?" This came from Pahrump who had actually served in some or other branch of the military at one time.

"Yes Sir!"

"You destroy all order papers? I see you got none on you. Excellent Officer! You be sure to tell the CO all about the snakes and how you fought off the Insurgents. Okay?"

"Yes Sir!"

"Okay get going! Grand Street! Watch for them SUVs. Look for the stone lions in front. Let them know you are there; pound on that door, 'cause being invisible cloaked and all, they might think it the wind or somewhat."


"Officer, you are a US Marine. What's a couple of pussycats to you?"

Mr. Terse then ran off highstepping in thorn-apple madness, startling a bevy of Measure E supporters. But they consoled themselves with the knowledge that it was Spring and such things happen.

That night the regulars all lined up at the rail inside the Old Same Place Bar. There was much to talk about. Politics and Mrs. Almeida's poultry, ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings. Why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. Seems Mr. Howitzer had run into a bit of trouble with the man he had hired to manage his property, and so now that position was now open as long as Mr. Howitzer thought it was worth the trouble to get help like that again.

Padraic, who knew something of Mr. Terse's prior history, opined that it was impossible that order could ever be imposed upon chaos by one long practiced in systemic imbecility.

Mr. Sanchez dropped by with his new wife (nee Ms. Morales) for a post-exams aperitif, and there was a special glow about her, as commented by everyone after the couple had left. Yes, it is Spring and, regardless of the school calendar, things do happen.

As the night lengthened and the horses that drew night's chariot slowed to an easy walk ("Festina lente . . . noctis equui!") a long fuselage broke the still surface waters of the estuary and the hatch of the AIS Chadoor, the Iranian spy submarine, popped open to allow the Captain to poke his head out and sniff the air. This was a dangerous and rare event for usually the sub remained submerged all the while within the boundaries of the Bay.

"Do you smell that scent, Achmed?" said the Captain. "It smells familiar."

"I think that is the rare and seldom perceived California Colitus." Said the First Mate, who dared not place even one foot on the rung during this highly unusual exercise. To surface in the harbor of the Infidel! Well, that is something unusual! Was the Captain gone mad?

"It is the scent of the courtyards of Qom!" said the Captain. "It comes only once a year about this time."

All of the crew down below inhaled deep and remembered those green-draped courtyards with their stone walls. For it was Spring. And such things happen. And within the heart of Spring there is no Unbeliever. There is no Enemy.

The Captain hurriedly closed the hatch and the ship dived down to glide out through the Golden Gate, running silent, running deep, leaving at first a little chop, a little foam, and then only the gently lapping seasalt waves on the riprap.

Over the now calm waters of the estuary the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated as the locomotive wended its way from the sharply lit gantries of the Port through the dark and shuttered streets of the Jack London Waterfront, making its way to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.