Today I’m thrilled, skeptical and chuck-full of warm fuzzies as I welcome one of my many oddball friends to join me here for a “Thirsty Thursday Blog Fest Conversation.”
Simon Schmidtlap, PhD, and I were boyhood friends back in the 1950s, that decade of winged automobiles, pleated skirts and scent-free sex. Simon was the successful, lemming blender-inner; while I represented the cynical and suspicious portion of our partnership.
Simon said, “Yes.”
I said, “Why?”
We grew up together in the Cattail Region of Southern New Jersey, where on many Saturday afternoons we hunted rabid muskrats, watched box turtles lay their eggs and cover them up with genuine Jersey sand, and chased Vera Thomas because our preternatural mixture of hormones told us we should.
We attended Breed Avenue Grammar School, which was just one block away from Gill’s Delicatessen. The teachers at Breed all had blue hair, wore vacuous smiles and smelled like cherry lollipops. They liked Simon better than me, because Simon was a worshiper and I was a smartass brat who didn’t want to shut up and listen.
I always felt jealous of Simon’s success, and I remain inclined to envy him now that we are both old men. Still, if it weren’t for Dr. Schmidtlap, my own quixotic sense of passionate battle might have shriveled up and fallen away from the rest of my soul a long time ago. And whether or not we admit it, we all know how a disintegrating soul can upset our stomachs and wreak havoc on our libidinal nightmares.
So as I swim inside the paradoxical pot of spaghetti sauce that has become my life, I oftentimes thank Dr. Simon Schmidtlap as he swims past me.
Nowadays, Schmidtlap lives in Fricassee, Texas, where only two percent of the population isn’t absolutely affluent, where everyone loves God and Country because poverty is all but non-existent, and where most of the houses are clean and free of fingerprints.
And as you already know, my recalcitrant fans, I live in a bayside town in California, where most mornings are romanced by fog, where the air oftentimes reeks of rotting fish, and the houses are just as kinky as the minds who inhabit them.
Professor Schmidtlap is today a famous fixture at Fricassee Fundamentalist University. He’s known to the students who butter him up for a good grade as Lovable Lap. He teaches one advanced placement course called How To Be Social When You Don’t Really Like People and one course for at-risk students called The Rebel Instinct That Can Ruin A Reputation.
Which brings us to the subject of this edition’s conversation: Does Your Blog Brand You As A Rebel?
“Good afternoon, Professor Schmidtlap.”
“So good to see you again, Anthony. And may I say, before we begin our probe in earnest, that you need not be so formal with me? After all, our shared memories of Vera Thomas still run through the river that runs through us, so to speak, hah hah. Just call me Lovable Lap, or Lap for short. That’s what the sycophants I teach each day call me.”
“I hesitate to begin our talk with a cliche, Simon, but you haven’t changed a bit. You’re still a lemming, and if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t want to die in prison, I’d lead you down the nearest corridor, get you lapped and looped on Poe’s amontillado, and then wall you up for good. Hah hah.”
“Ever the jester.”
“Perhaps. But as you are my guest for this Thirsty Thursday Conversation, you own the privilege of leading our little parlez vous.”
“Well, then, AVT — may I call you by your monogram, dear sir?”
“Sure enough, Lapster.”
“Well then –”
“You just said that. Do you want to ask me a question?”
“Why do you think I’m a successful published author and a recognized expert on the subject of expertise in the twenty-first century blogosphere, whereas you remain an unpublished, dismal failure? I mean you no disrespect by asking you this so soon, but I believe in the direct approach. Beating around the forsythia bush won’t find us Vera Thomas.”
“Because you live in Fricassee, Texas, where all the people are affluent and clean, whereas I swim with the fishes?”
“Living in Fricassee helps, yes, of course. And your allusion to an aspect of your ancestry is clever. But no, AVT. No, not at all correct. Your success with failure can be attributed to one key aspect of your personality and to one specific crime you committed back in 1954.”
“Now you’re making me angry, Lap. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you –”
“A thousand times?”
“Right. I never caught up with Vera that day we were hunting muskrat.”
“Relax. Do you mind if I puff on my Meerschaum pipe? Yes, yes, I understand what the doctors say about dying and the dentists say about bad breath, but blowing smoke helps me to maintain my sense of self-esteem.”
“Blow away, Professor. You’re my guest, so I’ll just hold my breath and force a smile. But if it wasn’t Vera Thomas you meant to mention, then what crime did I commit — that you knew about — in 1954?”
“Are you sure you want to reveal this sensitive a secret to your half dozen readers, AVT?”
“Why not? After all, the social media experts informed me yesterday that I’m not creating a viable platform here by twisting facts and torturing self-absorbed prose, that my concepts are fatally low, and my Klonk score is abysmal. So, sure enough, let’s make the leap, Lap.”
“Okay. I’m about to administer a kind of verbal Rorschach Test. Close your mouth. Then think about the following words –”
“Close my mouth? Why?”
“Because if we’re going to accomplish anything of worth by way of this conversation, then you first must perform an act that has to this date felt impossible to you.
“Good, AVT, now keep your mouth closed and inside what’s left of your mind blend these words in order to recall the memory of a distant sin. ‘Mrs. Schneider,’ ‘cloak room,’ ‘chocolate cupcakes,’ and ‘high heels’.”
“Cheesus, Simon! You remember that day? Why haven’t you mentioned this before?”
“No need, not until you began your hobbled attempts to embrace Cloud-based Social Networking and messed up everything, as usual, by asking too many questions and otherwise challenging authority.”
“You’ve heard, then?”
“No such thing as privacy anymore, AVT. This isn’t 1954, and in spite of your desire to dive off the train at Willoughby, Vera isn’t hungry anymore.”
“And I thought this idea of mine, this Thirsty Thursday Conversation blog bit would make my Klonk score soar, win me friends and convince readers that I wasn’t such a bad old fart after all. Shoot.”
“All is not lost, my friend. If there’s one lesson I learned while living in Fricassee, Texas, it’s that people in clean houses are willing to forgive so long as you attend Sunday services. But you must first — here and now — describe this crime for sake of your half dozen readers, that they might go forth and multiply good will.”
“Well okay, then.
“Mrs. Schneider was my fourth-grade teacher. Our classroom was on the second story of Breed Grammar School. The floor was made of gray, dusty wood. The blackboards were really black back then. My desk was freshly varnished, so it smelled like vomit.
“Mrs. Edith Schneider was screaming. Again. She screamed at us every day. I shut out her voice and just stared at her. I swear, that’s all I did. I didn’t mutter even one word.
“‘If looks could kill, Anthony, I’d be dead a thousand times,’ she said. ‘I’m sick of your dirty black looks!’”
“I wanted to cry. I wanted to open the tall window beside my desk and jump out into the fresh air. I wanted to disappear.
“And most of all, I wanted revenge.
“But I continued just to stare at her. Until she commanded me to enter the cloak room and close the door behind me.
“The cloak room was a long corridor with no windows. The air inside was black. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I made out the hooks where jackets and sweaters hung. I got down on my hands and knees and moved my back against the wall. I crawled along the floor, and stopped when I came to Simon’s lunchbox. I flicked up the box’s metal switch and pushed up the lid. The inside smelled like sour milk and peanut butter. That and chocolate. Simon’s mother always included a TastyKake three-pack of chocolate cupcakes.
“I listened to Mrs. Schneider screaming as her voice vibrated inside the walls. I tracked that voice. When I knew she was at the end of the classroom opposite the cloak room, I opened the three-pack and gobbled down Simon’s dessert. All three chocolate cupcakes. The cloak room wasn’t such a bad place after all.
“And next I must have fallen asleep.
“When I awoke, the air around me fell heavy and silent inside my ears. After maybe two or three minutes, I risked crawling to the cloak room’s door. One inch at a time, I pushed opened that door, to discover that the classroom was empty of people.
“Gym class, we called it back in 1954. P.E. is what they name it today. Jumping jacks, relay races and kickball.
“Mrs. Schneider forgot that she’d sentenced me to solitary confinement. So I crept into the room and walked up to her desk. There, on the floor, beside the legs of her chair, lay my revenge.
“Mrs. Schneider wore high-heeled shoes to school each day. But before taking the class out to Gym, she always changed into a pair of canvas sneakers. I grabbed those high-heeled shoes, ran to the tall window, opened it, and tossed those polished babies out and down. They landed behind some bushes.
“Then I returned to the cloakroom and pretended to be sleeping.
“The class returned. Mrs. Schneider bellowed when she could not locate her shoes. I giggled. Up until the moment she entered the dark cloak room and pulled me up and out by my ear.
“And no matter how much she badgered me and peppered me with the same accusation and the same question — ‘You took them, you no good brat! Where did you hide my shoes?’ — I just stared.
“Mrs. Schneider of course called my mother that night to report my latest crime. In 1954, mothers believed teachers and backed them up. Even screaming wrecks of human beings who claimed to be teaching something other than their own frustration, anger and depressed of view of the world; mothers backed them up and believed them, too.
“But I denied any culpability. And no proof existed. Not until the next afternoon, when Mrs. Edith Schneider caught me glancing through the classroom window. She took the unintentional hint and led the entire class on a scavenger hunt.
“And you, Professor Lap. You, you sniveling little lemming. You found Mrs. Schneider’s high-heeled shoes. You picked up one shoe, pointed its sharp heel at me, and said, ‘He did it!’ ‘Look, Mrs. Schneider,’ you said. ‘Look, his face is turning red! He stole your shoe!’
“It was you, Simon. You were the one who committed the greater crime that day. You snitched.”
“Well, they were my TastyKake chocolate cupcakes. But let’s not quibble over tangential issues. The point is, AVT, that day you became a confirmed rebel. And your rebelliousness is ruining both your blogomatic brand and your blogospherical reputation.”
“Brand be damned, then. Go back to Fricassee, Simon Schmidtlap! Keep hiding inside the cloak room you made for yourself! No more invitations to Thirsty Thursday Blog Fest Conversations shall come your way.”
So readers, what do you think? Is Professor Schmidtlap right about me? Is Rebel not a High Concept brand? Are chocolate cupcakes and high-heeled shoes — when taken together — injurious to one’s health? Do you think I can learn to forgive myself for such an act of treachery as this gnarled conversation amplifies?
Woe is I!