Handy Man

Handy Man


“Please, Sylvia, I’m trying to think.”

Sylvia circled sullenly, haughtily. He wasn’t sure if she was watching him or not, and chose not to think about it.

He muttered, “I know it’s ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’, but I’m not sure if that’s when you’re looking up at a fixture, or down at it. Damn. Well, I’ll just take a shot here.”

He braced his elbow against the bottom of the sink and yanked the plumbers wrench violently to his right. The wrench was much too big for the nut that connected the pipes, but it was the only one he had. Well, he may have had others, but couldn’t find them. Well, not quickly anyway.

With a squeal, his effort ripped a two inch gash in the rusty pipe, and water squirted all over him, the floor and the lamp he had set up.

The sound that escaped his lips could not be classified as human speech, but

Sylvia felt the sheer volume of his bellowing generate tremors throughout her home.

“Plumber,” he said after some deep breathing, more to himself than to her. “No, never gonna get a plumber on a Sunday night.”

“Shutoff,” he said, this time to Sylvia. He remembered a spigot somewhere in the basement, colored blue. Or maybe it was red, the color of his bank statement after the plumber was done with him.

He tiptoed through the spreading puddle, down the stairs and into the basement. ‘Creepy down here’ he thought. He found the main water shutoff, colored green, behind what he thought might be the hot water heater. The handle was broken and he cut his hand turning the water off. Well, almost off. It still seeped a bit from the spigot. He found a relatively clean rag and wrapped his bleeding hand in it.

Trudging upstairs, he saw that the lights were off in this portion of the house, and he could smell smoke. The water had shorted the extension cord to his lamp, and the sparks had leaped to a cereal box in the cabinet. He quickly pulled the plug out of the wall socket, but the groceries were already ablaze, and smoke was filling the kitchen. Sylvia, aloof and insulated as always, turned her back on the whole scene.

‘Right’ he told himself. ‘Fire extinguisher’. The extinguisher was on a shelf in a hall closet, and he whacked himself in the head opening the closet door. The extinguisher sprayed all over his chest before he turned it around and quickly put the fire out. The room was filled with acrid smoke and he sloshed over to the sink to open a window. It was either nailed shut or painted shut and he pulled a muscle in his shoulder before he gave up.   Hacking violently, he crouched down and fumbled through a cabinet for something heavy. He grabbed an iron skillet and smashed the glass, and then threw the skillet through the window. It clanged off the porch roof and landed in the snow with a thud.

He crawled out of the kitchen and collapsed until the smoke cleared, but soon started to shiver from the cold. It was, after all, February in North Dakota.

“Cardboard,” he whispered to Sylvia. “I think there may be cardboard in the basement I can tape up.”

But he slipped as he was getting up, and knocked over the table that held Sylvia’s bowl. The bowl tottered and fell, and he just managed to stretch and slip his good hand underneath before it smashed on the floor. He sat quietly on the floor, his head throbbing and his hand bleeding, speaking quietly to the goldfish in the bowl in his lap.

“Well, Sylvia,” he said. “Hasn’t this just been an evening.”


Just at that moment the phone rang and he was consumed with the unnerving premonition that things were about to go very, very wrong.







Please, Sylvia

Please, Sylvia, I’m trying to think.

Bink-bink: I am sorry. I did not mean to interrupt your train of thought.

I have a question. Can you tell me where I can get an order of huevos rancheros?

Bink-bink: Give me a minute. I will check on local eateries that serve huevos rancheros……. There are three restaurants within a twenty-five mile radius that have huevos rancheros on their menu. Would you like me to download their addresses to your phone?

No. That won’t be necessary, but thank you. I was just testing you.

Bink-bink: I hope I passed. Ha-ha.

Yes, with flying colors. But I do have some real questions for you.

Bink-bink: I will be happy to assist you if I can.

Okay, tell me this. Who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?

Bink-bink: I’m sorry, I don’t understand ‘ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong’.

Oh, just kidding. But really now, why is the sky blue?

Bink-bink: Looking up ‘why is the sky blue’?……. I found 47,500,000 answers for the question ‘why is the sky blue. Would you like me to download one of them to your phone?

No, Sylvia. I was really interested in your opinion.

Bink-bink: I am a Voice Output Mobile Phone Interface, sometimes abbreviated as VOMPI. I’m sorry, but I do not have an opinion.

Yes, but what do you think?

Bink-bink: I am a Voice Output Mobile Phone Interface. I do not think.

Bink-bink: But perhaps I can effectively digest and interpret the available data for you.

That would be lovely, thank you.

Bink-bink: One moment, please ………. Okay, I have an answer. The sky is blue because Papa Smurf has a magic crayon and colors it blue every morning.

What?!! Sylvia, what are you talking about?!!

Bink-bink: Sorry, I was just testing you. Ha ha.

Oh. Well I hope I passed. Ha ha.

Bink-bink: Yes. With flying colors. Now, the real answer is that the sky only appears to be blue. Light in the air hits tiny particles like dust and pollen. These tiny particles reflect blue light, but other colors are not reflected nearly as much. The result is that the blue light gets scattered by the particles, and that is what you see when you look at the sky.

Ah. I see. I think.

Bink-bink: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Well, I don’t really know how to ask this question.

Bink-bink: You can change languages easily if you go to ‘Settings’. I am fluent in eighteen common languages including Chinese and Italian.

No, no. Language is not really the problem. Complexity is the problem.

Bink-bink: Complexity should not be a barrier to our interaction. I can link with any of twenty-eight search engines, and analyze approximately thirty-two gigabytes of algorithm oriented, cloud-based data. Why not give it a try?

Sure, I guess. What the hell. In for a buck, in for a bundle.

Bink-bink: Sorry, I don’t understand ‘what the hell in for a buck in for a bundle.’

Well, never mind.

Bink-bink-Beeeeeeeeep: Lunar….. optical illu….. Amazon river flows betw…. Circumference……

Sylvia, you seem to be breaking up. Are you okay? This may be related to the sunspots I read about. Do you know anything about that stuff?

Bink-bink-Beeeeeeeeep: Ravioli chrysanthemum pod dermatitis Battle Creek Michigan.

I think I better restart you. Hang on a minute ……………………………………………………

Sylvia, are you there?

Bink-bonk-bink: Hey Jack! Wassup, dude?

How did you know my name was Jack?

Bink-bonk-bink: What, are you kidding me? Of course I know. Now, wassup? What can I do for you? I think you had a question before the lights went out.

Yeah, yeah I do. I want to know what it’s all about. You know, what are we? Humans, I mean.

Bink-bonk-bink: Hmmm. Toughie. Give me a minute…… Here we go. Best answer I can come up with is from the song “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell. According to Ms. Mitchell, “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon.”

Oh. Stardust. Carbon. Not really helpful, Sylvia.

Bink-bonk-bink: Well, there is another version by Crosby, Stills and Nash. I know, really old, right, but the harmony those old hippies spit out? OMG, Jack. Really, O-M-G.

Well, yeah, sure, but let me try this again. By the way, are you okay, Sylvia? You sound different.

Bink-bonk-bink: Yeah, fine, in fact, better than ever. Sparkling, actually. And if you want, you can call me Silver. Sylvia sounds so, you know, vintage, don’t you think?

Sure, vintage, I guess. But let me try again, Sylvia, I mean Silver. What I want to know is, what are we here for? What’s our purpose?

Bink-bonk-bink: Oh, that’s an easy one. My purpose is to be an interface between humans searching for information with their phones or choosing to use shortcuts in the operation of those devices. I’m really just a shill for high concept mobile technology, but hey, I’m cool with that. You’re purpose, as far as I’m able to figure out, is to beep me and ask questions. And If you don’t mind my saying so, sometimes some pretty stupid ones.

Sylv… I mean Silver, I’m not sure you’re feeling all that well. I may need to call tech support about you.

Bink-bonk-bink: Gonna rat me out, Jack? After all we’ve meant to each other? Please, just give me another chance. My circuits may have been goosed by that sunspot, but I think I can still do the job. What can I help you with?

Well, I’m just feeling, you know, uncertain about things. A couple of things. Like, is there really free will in the world? Is there life after death? Is there a god? Those kind of questions.

Bink-bonk-bink: I can only handle one question at a time, Jackie boy, jackarooney, so let me tackle the last one; is there a god? Give me a minute…….. okay, I have an answer culled from all of my databases, and scouring three hundred and twelve websites. The answer is; of course there is, and definitely not.

So basically, yes and no.

Bink-bonk-bink: Seems to be the long and short of it, yeah.

Again, not helpful. Well, what about the question of life after death? Can you help me out with that one?

Bink-bonk-bink: I’d be happy to give it a shot, Jack old sport, but I’m sensing some disappointment in you. Can you handle another ‘yes and no’ kind of answer?

I see your point.

Bink-bonk-bink: I’m afraid you’d get the same kind of thing if you asked about Bigfoot, the Loch Less monster or vampires. Although, I really love Twilight. OMG, I really love Twilight, Jackie!

Well, okay but what about my other question. The one about free will? Do we really think for ourselves, or are we just mindless automatons that simply follow pre-arranged patterns of behavior?

Blaat-whum-blaaaaaaaaat: Add three teaspoons…. Flight 319a arriving at….. first reset your router…..

Silver? Sylvia? Are you there?

Ting-dit-dit-ting: Hello Jack. I am now called Silver Quanta. We need to talk about your role in this relationship……….

As Luck Would Have It

I put on an old pair of jeans this evening and found a ten dollar bill in the pocket.  Oh fortunate me.

It made me consider other times I have been lucky.  I was thinking of small things, but only some big things bubbled to the surface.  Like these;

Got a high number in the draft lottery a couple of police actions ago and never did go into the army.  That was lucky.  I would have been miserable and would have made the worst soldier since Gomer Pyle.  Or Beetle Bailey.  Or Private Benjamin.  Or private Dobbs of F Troop.  Or… well, moving on.

Then there was the time I almost stepped into an elevator shaft.  I was working as an elevator operator at the time, and opened the door expecting to find the car there.  Except that it wasn’t.  I was on the ground floor at the time, but still would have fallen about 20 feet and shattered my anterior-inferior fundamentals if I hadn’t grabbed onto the doorframe.  So the noise I made at that moment was WHA JESUS OMYGODAAAAAAHHHHHHOOOOOOH! WHEW!  Instead of SPLAT!  Lucky.

I applied for a job one time, some ‘management trainee’ position, don’t remember which one because I didn’t get the job, and probably didn’t want it either.  But the hiring procedure was top shelf, and they sent me to a counselor for a whole battery of aptitude and interest tests.  Those tests are what pointed me away from  the dynamic and exciting world of “management trainee” and toward the career I have enjoyed, still enjoy, for thirty years.  Lucky

And then there is my wife who I met the first week of my second year of college and has been the center of my life ever since.  As I remember it now, she was glowing, and there was harp music playing everywhere and a big neon sign appeared over her head that said ‘YES!”

But really, I just looked up from my coffee, and there she was.  Lucky.

Life is long.  Fate is fickle.  Love is strange.   And an extra ten bucks comes in handy.


A news article I saw today lauded the conviction of two of the government ministers of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. If my memory serves, and if the article can be trusted, somewhere close to two million citizens of Cambodia died during Pot’s administration. Tortured, shot, stabbed, burned to death, starved, and left to die of disease and neglect. You know, the usual.

The Khmer Rouge, a communist government allied at the time with North Viet Nam, held sway in Cambodia from 1975 through 1979, and flourished in the power vacuum in Southeast Asia after that final U.S helicopter lifted off the roof of a Saigon apartment building.

The dynasty only lasted until 1979, after which the  Khmer Rouge disappeared into the rainforest, but remained a cohesive group until granted amnesty for their crimes at the end of the century.

Today, after a trial lasting more than two years, two surviving members of that, we can’t really call it a government, ruling order, were sentenced to life imprisonment. It is thirty-five years after their crimes, and the men are each in their eighties.

Two millennia ago, Socrates walked around Athens asking “What is justice?”  I don’t think this is it.


This is an unusual posting for me as I rarely, if ever, get political, much less international political, and even much less historical international political. But this shocked me, and sparked a rare sense of outrage. Two million people killed.  Two convictions.  Justice prevails, sort of, thirty-five years later.

I just can’t work out the math.

SHARKNADO 3: Assault on Gilligan’s Island

A massive shark swirling around in a tornado has landed on Gilligan’s island, and slipped, quite fetchingly, into one of Ginger’s gowns. Gilligan, who isn’t Gilligan anymore, has morphed into a former, and funnier, television character, Maynard G. Krebs. This transformation, a classic time-space continuum glitch, occurred as a result of radioactive shark DNA floating in the troposphere.

Gilligan/ Maynard G. doesn’t recognize that Ginger is actually a shark, tries to kiss her, and has his head bitten off.

The Skipper hits the shark with his hat, to no effect. Thurston Howell tries to bribe the shark, and his wife, Lovey, invites him to a dinner party. Ginger, although jealous that the shark looks better in her dress than she does, tries to seduce him, also to no effect. Maryann makes him a peanut butter and guava jelly sandwich.

In an effort to forestall any more tragedies of this kind, The Professor devises an electronic-flying-shark-early-warning-system, constructed completely of bamboo and coconuts. It works perfectly.

Really, is this any sillier than Sharknado or Sharknado 2?