Revenge of the Chicken

Marcie didn’t know why they took her eggs, but the people were so wise and kind she was sure it was for something good.

It was Saturday morning. Dad had left to run an errand, leaving the little girl home alone; she wasn’t so little. She was ten. She loved Marcie. The chickens were their only pets, and Marcie was her favorite. So she’d taken the chance to do what she wasn’t supposed to do, and bring Marcie inside.

“You sit here, Marcie.” She set Marcie on a chair. Marcie hopped on the table. The little girl put a hat on her. The little girl scratched Marcie’s butt.

“Bethel and Gen were so very rude yesterday,” said the little girl.

“Bach,” said Marcie. As in Johannes Bach. It was what she said.

“Satan should swallow them up,” said the little girl. ‘Satan should swallow she/he/it/them/that up’ was her catchphrase.

“Bach,” said Marcie.

The little girl took two eggs from a basket. One of them was Marcie’s. The father had collected the eggs that morning. The little girl cracked them into a buttered frying pan.

The next morning, father went to the coup to check for eggs. Three chickens, no eggs. He shrugged and went back inside. Some mornings there weren’t any eggs.

There weren’t any eggs the next morning either, so he looked around more carefully. A heap of straw in the back corner. He reached for it. Marcie pecked his hand.

“Ack!” said the father.

“Bach!” said Marcie.

Father said, “Don’t do that,” and pushed her aside. He reached for the pile, and she tried to peck him again. His hand blurred in the dodging. He grabbed Marcie by the back of her neck, and pushed her into the other half of the coup. There was a little grate, which he closed. Marcie safely imprisoned, he reached into the pile. Five eggs, with a heap on straw on top. A good haul for two days. He put the eggs in the basket, and let Marcie out of jail.


The wall was high, and Marcie was not much good at wing assisted jumps, even as far as chickens went. But after a few tries, she made it to the top of the cinderblock wall.

“Bark bark!,” said the big black dog, and jumped, forepaws on the wall, snapping mouth not all that far from Marcie.

She jumped down, and tried the back wall.

“Bark bark!,” said the big white dog, and jumped, forepaws on the wall, snapping mouth not all that far from Marcie.

She went to the other side wall. “Yap yap!” said the little brown dog, running in circles next to the wall, because trying to jump up it would’ve been too absurd.

Marcie watched the dog awhile, then took a big, wing assisted hop, landing in the middle of the yard. Well beyond where the dog had been.

The dog bit her leg. Small, yes, but very quick. “Bach!” screamed Marcie, and pecked the dog. The dog let go, and Marcie took the biggest hop of her life, into a tree. The dog ran around the base of the tree, yapping.

She hopped from the tree back to the wall, then to her own yard.

She went to the front yard. The black road was patrolled by giant, roaring fast monsters unpredictable intervals. She watched the cars go past. She’d almost gathered her courage to risk it when a Harley-Davidson streaked by.

Its rumbles were still with her when she made it back to the coup.

She tried to convince the others that they needed to leave, but there’s not a lot of nuance in “Bach!” She been baching at them a lot since Saturday morning. At first they’d been nervous that there might be a cat, but now they thought that whatever was wrong was wrong with her.

The little girl came out to say good morning to Marcie before leaving for school. She tried to pet Marcie, and Marcie tried to peck her. Both failed.

The little girl stepped around and grabbed Marcie by the back. “Dad, something’s wrong with Marcie!” Her leg was bloody where the dog had bitten it.

She ran to the house, carrying Marcie. It was hard, because she was a little girl, and Marcie was a big chicken. She got the door opened and yelled again, “Dad, something’s wrong with Marcie.”

Her father came down the hall slipping a belt through the belt loops of his pants. “I have to leave for work in—oh.” He’d seen her leg.

“Take her to the back porch.”

The little girl hesitated.

“I went to see that in the sunlight.” That wasn’t a lie, but the larger motive was the unhygienicness of having a chicken in the house.

He got neosporin, a box of band-aids, and two paper towels, one damp, one dry, from the kitchen, and joined his daughter and Marcie on the back porch.

He sat next to them, and tried to wipe the leg with the wet paper towel. Marcie tried to peck him.

“It hurts. She doesn’t want me touching it. You’ll have to hold her tight.”

The little girl held Marcie tight.

The father wiped off the blood with the damp paper towel, then wiped off the moisture from the damp paper towel with the dry paper towel. Marcie relaxed and let them look at the leg. It had already stopped bleeding. “Looks like a little dog bite,” said the father. “Wonder how she got it, but it doesn’t seem too bad.” He smeared neosporin on it, and wrapped three small band aids around the bite. “That’ll do till we can get her to the vet.”

He stood up. The little girl let go of Marcie. Marcie jumped up, wings flapping, and pecked his face. He jerked back, lost his balance, and fell off the porch. The back of his head struck red brick. The brick got redder as blood flowed out.

Marcie landed on his chest. He didn’t move.

“Daddy!,” the little girl screamed.

“Bach!” screamed Marcie. “Bacha Bach, Bach!”


How Eater got its Comeupance

“Run, Lolikowanda, coconut child, the eater is coming.”

But Lolikowanda did not run. None of the coconuts did. They’re not much for running.

“My,” said the onions. “It’s the mean one.”

The mean one picked up Samation, and held a powerdrill to Samation’s coconut eye. Even the whining of the powerdrill couldn’t drown out Samation’s screaming.

When it was done, the eater set Samation on a glass, so Samation’s milky white blood dripped out her eye down into the glass.

The little black one came into the chamber. “Don’t worry,” said the onions, “that’s not an eater.” But the Eater poured some of Samation’s blood into a little bowl, and the little black one lapped it up. Then the Eater drank the rest of Samation’s blood, in one long swallow.

The Eater took Samation outside. The other coconuts and the onions watched through the window. The Eater threw Samation high in the air, and when she landed on the hard white concrete she cracked open.

The Eater brought her corpse inside, carving into it with a spoon, then set it aside, not far from the onions and surviving coconuts.

After the sobbing, Lolikowanda said, “Did you see that? Samation landed not far from a rise of dirt. If we could get into that, we could grow our roots fast and deep, and become coconut trees, too strong for even the Eater to defeat.”

“Not if he’s drilled us through our eyes first,” said Habarori, the other coconut. “But don’t worry. I have a plan.”

Three days passed with the Eater picking at Samation’s corpse, till at last all the white flesh was gone, and the Eater picked up his powerdrill, and picked up Habarori.

This was clever Habarori’s plan: when the eater shook her, Habarori would hold very still, so there was no sound of sloshing, and the Eater would think she was dry. So the Eater would skip drilling a hole through her eye, and would take her outside, toss her high into the air, and she would spin through it, controlling her fall by the fine movement of coconut hairs, and instead of striking hard white concrete, she would land on the gentle black dirt, and grow swiftly into a coconut tree.

The Eater shook her, heard no sloshing, shook her, heard no sloshing, and, shrugging, took the powerdrill and drilled a hole through her eye.

Even the sound of the drill’s whining couldn’t drown her screaming.

When it was done, Habarori emptied, her blood lapped up by the cat, her body broken and set in pieces on the counter, Lolikowanda let himself cry. “How shall I live? I shall never taste the good earth now, as all my ancestors proceeding to the age of the first sprouting commelinoid did. I shall die, so soon as Habarori’s body is consumed.

coconut cries

“No,” said Kuster, chief of the onions, “We have seen too many vanish into the maw of the Eater, and we too but await its pleasure. We shall die a little early, that you might be free.”

All night, as the Eater slept, the onions busied themselves with rotting into dirt, and two brave avocados joined them.

The Eater stumbled out of bed afore the sun had risen, awoken by the creaking. A coconut tree in the kitchen, roots grown at first from a pile of redolent dirt on the counter, but roots now sinking deep into the wood of the counter, then into the dirt beneath the concrete.

Lolikowanda dropped a coconut onto the Eater, which yelled and clutched its head.

Lolikowanda burst through the ceiling, into the top floor, and dropped the heavy porcelain toilet onto the Eater’s head.

It fell, head cracked open, tender pink flesh revealed.

And all the plants said, “Amen!”


Thank Mary, Mother of God, the pen and paper were in the backseat. That did not quite bring all the expected relief, but it sure helped. I’m the angriest I’ve been in years, and I’m not sure why.

That’s a lie. I had a date planned for today. At Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders. It was to have been the first date of my life. I’m 27 days from turning 26. A major step toward social comprehension, toward interpersonal competence.

I mentioned it to my mother, who went ballistic. “Jon, Sunday you’ll be at Disneyland, with your cousins, Chris, Katrina, and Ariana, and all those little cousin childs you’ve hardly ever seen. This has been planned for weeks. How did you not know? The problem with this family is no one ever communicates!”

So I cancelled the date. “family reunion. We’re going to Disneyland, apparently. People should tell me these things.”

I wasn’t mad. Disappointed, yes, especially when I discovered our weekday schedules were irreconcilable, but I’m nothing if not even tempered.

I’ve calmed down a bit now, writing this. I can drive.


I am not accustomed to anger. Sadness, yes, for reasons medium and small, but anger is a foreigner, slipped undocumented across my borders.

The date was arranged Friday or Saturday, and cancelled Saturday afternoon. It’s Sunday. I’m returning from Disneyland.  I’m writing this at stoplights now. Yes, I know writing at stoplights is a bad habit.

I got angry Saturday night when I was told that the reason I hadn’t been told previously that I was going to Disneyland was that I hadn’t been going to Disneyland. My mother, in believing I was going, was victim of a miscommunication. On hearing from mom that I’d cancelled a date to make time for Disneyland, my sisters, knowing very well the non-status of my love life, hurriedly arranged for me to come as well.

I shrugged and figured it would be good to spend time with the family. But the shrug wasn’t quite so carefree as they usually are. I was bothered.

Sunday, in Disneyland. With cousin Katrina, who I’ve always been close with, though it had been awhile and the conversation wasn’t flowing so easily as it had used to. Cousin Ariana, who’s always impressed me, with her little hellion, Audrey. And Cousin Chris with his wife Kate, and their three children, Rockie, Gracie, and Joyce. Chris and Kate won’t let their kids read or watch Harry Potter, think gender roles are swell, and I suspect they’re young earth creationist, but they’re beautiful people despite all that.

The new term starts Monday, tomorrow, and I’ll be teaching advanced ESL grammar for the first time. We’ll have gerunds after verbs the first week, and that’s one of the few major aspects of grammar that still confuses me.

I kept glancing at it on my phone. He is attending school. Flip it. Attending school is he. Not right, not a gerund. One of his tasks is attending school. Flip it. Attending school is one of his tasks. That’s right. Attending is a gerund. But why? I said that “Attending school is he,” doesn’t work, but poetry and Yoda both talk that way. Yoda puts the predicate first, but why is that the predicate and not the start of a noun phrase? Knowing what it is isn’t enough to teach it, I have to know why.

Waiting in line, (that waiting is a participial adjective, if I’m not mistaken) I finished Coraline. Good book. But it has that typical Neil Gaiman thing where a bunch of interesting events happen, one after another, without ever quite congealing into a plot.

Book done, I reached in my bag for my notebook and TEN DOLLAR fountain pen, but they weren’t to be found. Had I lost them? My temper went through the roof. I do believe I was briefly the angriest person over the age of seven at Disneyland. I said nothing about it.

I hadn’t brought my own car. I’d driven with my sister. I prayed I’d left my pen and paper in her backseat. I said to my sister, “I have an unreasonable request. Could I borrow your car, and then you can go home with Mom and Dad?”

She was reaching for her keys before I’d finished speaking, so perhaps my fury was more apparent than I’d thought.

The tram was mostly empty, so I let myself frown. That’s a luxury I seldom take even in my room. There were no mirrors on the tram.

You know the rest. I’m home now, finishing this in my hammock, because the route home didn’t have enough stoplights. Should’ve taken surface streets.

My first cousins once removed are delightful, but I would’ve preferred having a relaxing day preparing for work, punctuated by what I imagine would’ve been a two or three hour date, to spending 7 hours at Disneyland.

But I’m quite used to a dispreferred possibility becoming reality. It’s not what angered me. Trivial stuff that would normally slide right off. What angered me was the knowledge that what I would’ve preferred was how it was supposed to have been.

Thinking about it, the last time I was really angry, almost three years ago, it was also about something that “wasn’t how it was supposed to be.” A boss who believed that the correct response to advanced students was to teach the same lesson but talk more quickly.

I hypothesize, based on stuff I’ve read, that some people assume that whatever they would’ve preferred it automatically how things were supposed to have gone. I think such people must be angry a lot.

I think I’m not much good at dealing with anger because I don’t experience it often.

The Breathing Machine and its Collection of Uneasy Dreamers

Hospitals smell of antiseptic, cafeteria food and well-scoured bed pans. The greatest wonder of the modern world is that medical dramas have managed to convince us there’s glamor involved.

The nice cars in Doctors Only parking do help.

Smiling Choirboy was spending a lot of time in room 357, and the working theory at the nursing station was that an inheritance was involved. Grandma had had a very nice watch and a very big wedding ring, till Choirboy had slipped them in his jacket pocket to “keep them safe.”

Flirt too unskillfully with the nurses and they’ll make that sort of assumption.


Choirboy woke. He’d stayed past visiting hours, asleep in a chair, somehow missed by the nurse.

He looked at his phone. Nine past one, and the hospital was dark. Hospitals are never dark, dim at the most, but the hospital was dark. Once he’d put his phone away the only light was from grandma’s LED monitor. Blood pressure 99 over 44, pulse rate 51. A fourth number said 102, but he didn’t know what it measured.

The hallway was dark. He looked across to the nurses station, but it was dark too.

He decided this was a good chance to experiment with lucid dreaming.

He pointed his cellphone at the bed, and realized what had been missing the whole time: the rattling rasp of his grandma’s machine assisted breathing. The bed was empty. He shrugged, and, phone for flashlight, wandered into the hall, thinking a lucid dream would be an excellent place to encounter a trio of pretty young women.

But there wasn’t anyone, so when he reached the elevator he pressed the button for down. The door opened. There wasn’t any light but from the little screen that said the floor. The Coldplay song where the singer said Saint Peter wouldn’t call his name played. Choirboy decided that Coldplay had replaced soft jazz in elevators, and got depressed.

The elevator door closed. He looked at the buttons. 3, for the third floor, where he was. 2, 1, and B, for basement. But now there was a fifth button, below the others. It said, “The Breathing Machine and its Collection of Uneasy Dreamers.”

He pressed it. The elevator went down. After a long time the door opened.

He heard the rattling rasp of machine assisted breathing, louder than normal. He shone his phone. It was not one breather, but many, sleeping in hospital beds, blinking lights on IV stands, little plastic hoses full of oxygen snuggling in their noses.

The beds were in concentric circles, not rows. He found grandma in the inner-most circle. She smelled of oranges, and Choirboy knew she was dreaming of long-gone days when she had made pocket money working odd hours at the orange packing plant where her mother had been head grader.

The scent of oranges wafted away from her to the breathing machine, which squatted at the center, hoses running from it to every sleeper, like a spider in a web.

He shook grandma’s shoulder. She was non-responsive, which didn’t bother him. She was often non-responsive.

The man next to her was humming a dance tune. Dreaming about the girl he hadn’t married. His humming faded, and the breathing machine took up the tune, in pops, beeps and whistles.

He looked for a way to turn it off. It wasn’t fair that his first lucid dream should be so moody.

Grandma spoke, but it wasn’t grandma’s voice. Too pneumatic. It said, “You always knew. She has less of herself every morning. Where did you think her self was going? Even I have my price.”

Choirboy took his grandma’s pillow, and put it to the Breathing Machine’s intake tube. After five minutes it stopped beeping, and he returned to the elevator. He got out on the first floor. It was bright and full of hospitals employees. Some were young and pretty.

The clock in the lobby said it was 1:30. He strode out the doors without glancing at the visitors’ desk.

He got a burger on the way home, bothered that he hadn’t woken up yet. He washed his face, went to bed, and he put it all down to stress when they told him grandma was dead.

A listicle of Intra-Cis sexualities.

We have wonderful new terms for defining sexuality with an ever increasing level of specificity. It’s not just LGBTQAI anymore. There’s demisexual, pansexual, gray-romantic, and so much more, each term sparkling and self-affirming.

Yet still, there aren’t enough. Too many people don’t have labels yet, and that makes them resentful, and being resentful makes them vote for Trump. I humbly suggest a series of new subdivisions.

1) Supposisexual: Supposisexuals are people, in their mid 20s or older, supposedly heterosexual, who have never taken their sexuality out for a spin. Virgins, innocents, people who aren’t sure that kissing as a real thing. They have dormant profiles on and wrote “learn to smile” in their New Years resolutions.

They tend to be the very religious, the very awkward, or the very risk averse. Affirm them. Respect them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse identities.

2) Begosexual: They like to get it on, but only after a bacon sandwich. Some say this is just a fetish, but it’s more than that; it’s a lifestyle.

Affirm them. Respect them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse identities.

3) Lumbersexual: The lumbersexual identity has been ironically appropriated by bearded hipsters who like wearing flannel. This is deeply wounding to the nation’s true lumbersexuals, who are already facing severe adversity.

They’ve been sexually damaged by cutting down phallic symbols (trees) in order to make yonic symbols (barrels.) The resulting emasculization is treated through the use of phallic and masculine symbols in their leisure time. Tragically, the use of masculine symbology is stigmatized in modern society.

True lumbersexuals have messy, unwaxed beards, paunches, and smell of woodpulp, due to the time spent cutting down trees.

Affirm them. Respect them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse identities.

4) Felisexual:

Felisexuals are often slandered as being into bestiality. We must all stand up with a loud voice and repudiate this base libel. Felisexuals don’t sex their cats. Rather, the sexual orientation of felisexuals is controlled by the perceived opinions of their cats.

If they believe their cats would purr for a potential partner, they’re attracted to that potential partner regardless of gender or appearance. They tend to flirt by saying, “I think my cat would really like you,” and “I took a new picture of my cat today.” They may express the sentiment that “I just want my cat to be proud of me.”

Affirm them. Respect them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse identities.

5) Bibliosexuals

There are fetishists who get off on the smell of pulp paper, or who express a preference for their partner’s sex organs to be “blockier,” and “more book shaped,” but true bibliosexuality goes deeper than that.

Bibliosexuals interpret life as a series of of book excerpts, and are attracted to people according how much they’d be attracted to how that person would be portrayed as a character in a book. Bibliosexuals are turned on by a woman not because she has big boobs, but because it can be written, “Her giant knockers went up and down with each step, like two bunnies humping,” or are attracted to a man not because he is tall, dark and handsome but because “his face was striking, with brooding, intense eyes that saw through to her very soul.”

Respect them. Affirm them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse selves.

6) Mimisexuals: This is common among birds. Rather than making an independent assessment of a potential mate’s evolutionary fitness, the mimisexual follows the wisdom of crowds, and is attracted to people according to whether other individuals seem to be attracted to them.

It’s why your ex-best-friend hit on every guy you ever liked.

Respect her. Affirm her. Encourage her to embrace her diverse selves.

7) Lightingsexuals: This goes without saying.

Respect them. Affirm them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse selves.

8) Tapasexuals: More common among self-identified woman than self-identified men, tapasexuals are attracted to potential mates as a function of how often aforesaid potential mates take them out for tapas.

Respect them. Affirm them. Don’t date them unless your wallet is swole af.

9) Listisexual: Listisexuals are aroused by lists. They are attracted to people according to how naturally their characteristics could be arranged into an addicting list of discrete traits. The majority of buzzfeed and Bleacher-Report contributors are listisexuals.

Respect them. Affirm them. Encourage them to embrace their diverse selves.

10) Gymnisexuals: Gymnisexuals are attracted to people according to how easily they could the be the star of a bad daydream about professional sports. The majority of gymnisexuals are men, interested primarily in women. The conflict between attraction to women, and attraction to individuals according to suitability for sports daydreams, creates an unusual, complex pathos that gymnisexuals cope with by staring at the groinal areas of Major League Baseball players and watching women’s college volleyball.

This is your dad.

Respect him. Affirm him. Encourage him to embrace his diverse selves.

The Tentative Guide to Talking While Walking

People often walk together. In fact, though it varies dependent upon environment, about two thirds of all pedestrians walk in groups of two or more. Therefore, if you make a habit of walking by yourself, you’re a social deviant, and probably other people are noticing and secretly laughing at you as they talk in their fancy mobile friend groups.

One useful tip is to find another solitary walker, introduce yourself, and say, “Are you aware that by walking by yourself you are exhibiting abnormal social behavior? Would you like to conform to social norms by walking with me?” This can lead to a fast friendship, but the random nature of the selection process may lead you to becoming friends with sub-optimal people. And the success rate is not, in truth, as high as one would expect.

Of more concern is arranging to walk with people you already do like.

Imagine, you’re in class, at work,  or getting off the bus, and you’ve been enjoying a conversation with one or more people who aren’t friends of yours. Perhaps you’re good at this. Perhaps you speak regularly to people who aren’t your friends, and are, in a sense, extroverted. But now, the person you’ve been talking to is walking away, and you are once more caught by bewilderment and fear.

Should you walk with this person or not? How will you know whether they’re trying to escape you or not? If you walk with them, will it be seen as friendly walking, or creepy, uninvited following? Faced with this, it may be tempting to nod goodbye and say “See you later,” but I’m here to encourage you to bite the bullet, and walk with that person.

Walking with a single person:

First, the mechanics. Match the person’s pace, and walk directly next to him or her at an angle perpendicular to the direction of traffic, like so:

two walkers

with directly up the page being the direction of movement.

You should be close enough to talk easily, but not so close as to violate the other’s persons space. Use the rule of forearm: walk at such a distance from your partner, that, if you stretched out your arms, your arm would encounter the other’s side somewhere between elbow and wrist.

Be mindful that merely matching the pace once is not sufficient. Pace actually changes over time, and if you’re not careful, you could end up many feet in front of or behind your partner.

Walking in groups of three is more complex. You should from an obtuse V, open in the direction of movement, like so.


three or more complex

With ‘a’ being the angle, and ‘d’ the distance.

The general equation for walk formations is

walk equation

with f^0 being the walkers’ desired speed and trajectory, f^wall being the repulsion from physical objects such as walls, lamp posts, and traffic, fij being interactions with unattached walkers, and f^group being interactions within group. So, when in doubt as to how to arrange yourself, take your best guess at the values, and position yourself accordingly. If you can’t do the math in your head, just carry a calculator; they make acceptable conversation pieces.

The goal of the formation is simply for all group members to be able to see and converse with all other group members, and converse you must. I know that sometimes, when you’re not interested in the third person, but the third person is talking, it’s tempting to pull out a book or even a mobile telephone, but don’t. It’s seen as standoffish.

When walking with a group of 4, the formation resemble more a U, with the two centrist walkers dropping back, like so:

4 walkers

Again, the direction of movement is directly up the page.

What happens in groups of five or more is unfortunately under-researched. There’s a tendency for such large groups to break into subgroups, but it’s as yet unknown how these subgroups arrange themselves in relation to each other, or how such groups are arranged in cases where they do not break into subgroups. Anecdotal observations suggest that such formations are actually wider at the front than the back, almost snow plow like in appearance, particularly when crowd density is medium to high, but this has yet to be substantiated.

Whatever the group size, never walk backward facing your conversant/conversants. It’s showboating, and everyone knows it.

Even assuming that you arrange yourself correctly, you are only halfway there. The difficult part of talking while walking is not the walking so much as the talking.

Conversing While Walking 

This is counter intuitive, but it isn’t actually needful to talk constantly in order to justify one’s presence. In fact, it’s better not to.

Viewing the problem from an egalitarian perspective, we should assume that each person will talk roughly as often as each other person. Because it’s generally considered rude to talk while someone else talking, when in a group of two, you should aim to talk only about half the time. The other half, the other person will talk.

90% of this is just basic conversational skills, just the same as if you were sitting, but there are differences. When both conversants are sitting, and have no reason to leave, the conversation may be allowed to lapse. Indeed, it’s permissible to sit next to someone without first speaking to him or her. But when you commence walking next to someone, you must open by speaking. If you begin walking next to someone you don’t know well, without speaking, this may be taken as strange or frightening.

You must balance on the narrow beam separating conversational autocracy from close range stalking.

Life on the balance beam

The rule of equal time scales. In a group of three, speak a third of the time. In a group of four, one fourth of the time. This is true only roughly; in practice, some people prefer to listen more, and some to talk more, but it’s still a good idea to make a spreadsheet to keep track of who has talked; spreadsheets make great conversation pieces. However, you can get away with not doing that if you just remember that conversation is loosely a turn based exercise, rather like a board game. If your partner is silent for a prolonged period, you can prompt him or her by saying, “it’s your turn.”

Simply proffer your comment, and await reply. How to make a comment that will get a reply is part of the more general conversational arts, and is not the subject of this piece. Don’t make jokes about race, sex, or books your partner hasn’t heard of.

There is often a very challenging moment as the conversation lulls, particularly at junctions. One’s partner asks, “where are you going?” and it’s easy to take this is as a hint that he or she is uncomfortable, and think that you should make your excuses and break off. And this may be true, but don’t assume it. It is also possible that your partner is trying to ascertain whether you are available for further social interactions, and further social interactions are, after all, the ultimate goal. Say, “I’m free right now, how about you?” and much may occur.

But don’t say that too soon. Strike prematurely, and the potential friend may escape, like a fish not given enough line. Humans are skittish, so you should habituate them to your presence by standing near them and appearing to be paying attention to something else.

Habituation is the basic strategy for successful walking and talking.



For more on walking, peruse The Definitive Guide to Ambulated Reading.


A lot of credit to Mehdi Mossaid, Niriaska Perozo, Simon Garnier, Dirk Helbing, and Guy Theraulaz for their excellent paper,  The walking behavior of pedestrian social groups and its impact on crowd dynamics.


Universal Mood Moderator

In Ethel’s opinion, it is the breathing of oxygen that has driven people insane. It keeps them in a perpetual state of delusion and hallucination. At times she has convinced someone to try and kick the habit, but the withdrawal pains are immediate and severe, and most soon give up.

For those who persevere, the withdrawal can be fatal.

Ethel is grateful that she has never breathed any oxygen. She breathes nitrogen and argon. Better that way.

You’re an asshole-

Is what Ethel would like to say. Ethel is always having these thoughts. Oxygen moderates mood. Because she doesn’t take it, she’s cranky.

You’re the most beautiful creature there’s ever been-

Is what Ethel would like to say. Ethel is always having these thoughts. Oxygen moderates mood. Because she doesn’t take it, she’s giddy.

She can’t say any of it, because she can’t talk. Ethel is mute. She was born that way. So she writes on plastic, “Give up oxygen, free your mind, see the world for what is. A place of unbearably beautiful murderous monsters. Except their noses aren’t beautiful. Noses are weird.”

She leaves these notes scattered around, but you can’t read them. They’re written in braille. It’s not that she’s blind. She can see. But she only knows how to write in braille. She posts her messages outside bathroom doors, and the blind read them with their fingertips.

“Give up oxygen, free your mind, see the world for what it is. A place of unbearably beautiful murderous monsters. Except their noses aren’t beautiful. Noses are weird.” The blind read these messages, and go into the restrooms, and defecate.

This is as Ethel prefers.