Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Since it was Saturday and I had no other tasks before me, unless you count coming up with creative excuses not to walk the dog or whipping out a check for the rent, I whiled away my time sharpening a pencil.

I didn’t realize at the time that pencil sharpening is an Extreme Sport boasting a difficulty on par with weasel wrestling or damp mopping with a frisky Labrador in the house. I simply wanted to solve the daily crossword. My pencil, the only one I could find without a clever pirate skull pencil topper that came free inside something that costs more per gallon than gasoline, was dull.

The problem began several years ago when we bought the children a pencil sharpener in answer to a popular excuse for not doing homework. My husband and I, believing we were no less intelligent a team than the pencil sharpener manufacturing squad, came to a unanimous decision that battery-powered pencil sharpeners lack sufficient power to take care of the number and quality of pencils that we intended to provide for our scholarly brood.

After comparison shopping among major brands and dealers, we procured a handsome electric pencil sharpener, red in color, imagining it would gnaw through a mere Ticonderoga like a menopausal chick through chocolate (names omitted to protect the chubby).

For the most part, Red sprawled aimlessly on the counter, holding down a stack of trading cards and some stray recipes I pretended I was going to try, although he once gave a half-hearted effort to sharpening a chopstick for Son One’s amusement. But today’s mission was vitally important. Since I live in the land of Y chromosomes who aspire to greatness, I’ve never finished a newspaper crossword alone. If I worked fast, I could complete the thing before the crowd got up to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kick some shell.

Finding an open, accessible outlet in my house is rather like hunting for the last red M&M in the pack. Once upon a time they were in abundance. Now that they’ve gone the way of other endangered species (like pantyhose, the cents symbol on your keyboard, or a celebrity who's not expecting at least one infant), no matter how fervently you search through the tumbled pile of greens and browns, when you plunge down to the bottom of the bag you end up with a fingernail full of something brown and gooey.

So I began my search through the house swinging my pencil sharpener like Florence Nightingale with her lantern, only she was out to help people and all I wanted to do was solve the Jumble.

There’s an open outlet in the laundry room, but the calisthenics involved to reach it would necessitate hanging by my toes from the shelf over the dryer. I’ve lost a little muscle tone in my ankles over the years, probably from the bizarre habit of sitting in front of a computer for extended stretches of time in an attempt to earn grocery money. I could climb down the wall like a blue-tailed lizard, but I’m concerned about the integrity of my landing gear. One crash landing and I could meet my insurance deductible for the next five years.

I peered cautiously into the bathroom. The outlet there sports eerie octopus arms attached to the curling iron, the electric toothbrush, and the boys' John Deere-strength razor. I can almost understand the cord the goes to the amplifier for Son Two’s electric guitar, but you wouldn’t think a house full of teenage boys would require a crimper.

The kitchen outlet is in plain view, but unplugging the microwave and crock pot seems cruel and unfair after all they’ve done this summer to save me from turning on the oven.

Which gives me an idea. All I have to do is pull the stove out from the wall, edge the refrigerator over a bit, knock a few dozen greasy dust bunnies out of the way and skirt around the puddle of mystery goo. I pulled the plug, draining power from the evil appliance who’s main purpose is to encourage marathon sweating as I hover over fried chicken, corn puddings, and asparagus casseroles.

Looks like pizza delivery tonight.

Sharpening my pencil to a perfect point and breathing a sigh so big I could have sent the Santa Maria clean past America in one blow, I returned to the puzzle page and was delighted to find that I knew the answer to the first clue. As I lowered pencil to paper, the tip snapped off, digging a hole through two pages and my last nerve.

Now I know why they call it the breaking point.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fixer Upper

“Buying a house is like choosing which dog in the pack you want to bite you. You can choose between a big one that takes one big hunk of meat at wallet level or a little one that grabs hold of anything that dangles and hangs on. Either way, you’re broke.”

“So you’re not in favor of the idea.” I sighed. Low interest should apply to the mortgage, not the man.

“Well, we’re dangerously close to having extra money this month. I was afraid we might do something rash, like buying a bond or putting it in savings.”

I’m trying to persuade Bill to buy a house. A cozy little home of our own where we can raise kittens and cucumbers and drill holes in the wall any time we like. Actually it’s not buying a house that he’s against. It’s the description of the particular house I’ve discovered on my latest foray. “Handyman’s Dream” it said in the guide book. When I called, the realtor sounded giddy.

“I’d rather cover my seats with Viennese lace.” Bill didn’t really say that, but his actual comment, although rich in imagery, had the same odds.

“Think of the money we’ll save,” I said, ducking down and to the left as I turned on the faucet. An icy blast of water shot out of the sprayer attachment and nailed Precious, the cat, with pinpoint accuracy. I saw Precious make a mental note to poop on my pillowcase later in the evening. He’s held a grudge ever since the surgery, anyway.

“You mean in plumber’s bills?” he asked, phoning the landlord.

“In rent.” We could be making payments on a house we owned so we could retire.” I reached under the sink and turned on the hot water. A gush of steam erupted from the faucet like Old Faithful. Bill pushed the landlord’s speed dial button on his cell phone.

“We’ll need to save money so we can pay for our own repairs.”

“We’ll do everything ourselves.”

“You mean like when you hung that doily over the hole in the living room wall?”

“That was short term. You’re a great repairman.”

“I fix computers. There’s a big difference between replacing a sound card and snaking a toilet. Computer maintenance doesn’t require the use of a wrench big enough to wrap your upper plate around your tonsils.”

“No, but you have to deal with people who think a user’s manual is a book that teaches you how to take drugs. With this project, you’d be totally in charge. It would be exhilarating.”

“It would be exhausting.”

“You can go to the hardware store any time you like.” If there’s one thing men crave more than quiet at fourth down and goal to go, it’s sifting through tenpenny nails without a reason. That, and strolling through automotive departments to sniff the tires, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

"Good. I'll go look for riding lawn mower."

"Okay, dear," I twinkled, making a mental note to add a pantry and half bath to the new house.

When it comes to real estate, it's important to remember a few important terms. Negotiation is the most important one of all.

Now if I can just work something out with Precious to save my linens.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Drip Dry

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what happens to my towels. There are times I think the door to my bathroom leads to some sort of lavatorial Bermuda triangle where terrycloth goes to die.

Today my husband disappeared into the bathroom to take a shower. Seconds later he pried the door open a crack and stuck his head out.

“Have you washed towels lately?”

“Have you shaved your legs lately?” I love the man, but I'm not the only one in the house that can rinse and spin.

“I’m not trying to be sexist. I just want to dry off.”

“Yesterday I washed everything that resembled a towel. I even threw in that funny sweater your mother gave you for Christmas.”

“That’s not terrycloth. It's cashmere”

"So that's why there was enough fluff in the lint trap to knit a goat.”

The door closed. I heard furtive searching sounds coming from the bathroom closet. Seconds later he peered out of the door crack with one distraught eye.

“What’s the matter?”

“All that’s left is the froggie towel from when the kids were little and the pink velour Martha Stewart with the floral design.”

“Go for Martha's flowers. Froggie repels liquid. You can dry on that thing for half an hour and still retain enough water to qualify as a camel.”

Later that night I found six hand towels and a frayed wash cloth drying on the towel rack. I guess he didn’t want to take any chances with the blossoms. I tossed them all in the laundry.

It’s not that we don’t own other towels. If all the terrycloth in our possession were draped across the Atlantic, the ocean would dry up to the size of a turtle’s teardrop. But our towels are given to vanishing when emergencies arise. Harry Houdini would be envious of the sleight of hand towels we’ve experienced.

The day that Bill Dear kept screaming for something to wipe the dipstick with when he was changing the oil, the guest towels disappeared. The day Son One and Son Two were heard arguing over who was to blame for the massive Fruit Loop spill on the Oriental carpet, the blue towels I got for Mother’s Day went missing. The day we adopted the third puppy, I took out stock in cotton futures.

There’s nothing I can do about the towels that are already gone, but there are preventive measures I can take to guard against these towel-thieving guys in my house.

First thing Monday morning, I’m heading to Wal-Mart to snag a buggy full of pink velour towels with a floral design.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll just have to install automatic air dryers in the bathroom. They're not very thorough, but it's best to let your delicates drip dry anyway.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kitchen Crisis

“Mom! Ryan stuck the vacuum cleaner hose up under the stove and now there’s smoke coming out of his pants!”

I opened one eye and waited while the whirling scenes behind my eyeballs settled into recognizable figures. A young boy stood by the bed, the very bed upon which I collapsed in the early hours of the morning after arriving home from an intimate anniversary trip to the coast with my husband and his MasterCard. This must be a dream. I closed the errant eye gratefully.

“Mom. The turtle is missing out of his pocket!”

I’ve heard you can change the course of your dream if you concentrate. I concentrated on Continental breakfasts on the hotel terrace. I concentrated on platters of pastries and piles of fragrant fresh fruits of the season. I tried to concentrate on going back to sleep, but this act is difficult when confronted with a young boy leaning in close enough to breathe your exhaust and visions of Hoover-bound turtles are dancing in your head. Unless that turtle was Michelangelo or one of his Teenage Mutant Ninja buddies, he was probably exiting my son’s shorts in a puff of I Dream of Jeannie Smoke.

Fine. If reality was going to intrude into my unconsciousness and stomp barefoot across my fantasies, I’d get up. I swept down the hall in a swirl of pink nylon and polyester lace to take command of the sandstorm.

“What are you doing?” I shrieked, fanning away the clouds of dust that threatened to cover my body like a “just add water” mud pack.

“Good morning, Mom,” Ryan greeted me calmly without looking up from the task at hand, which seemed to be a daring attempt to suck the oven’s inner workings piece by piece into the vacuum. “Jeffrey’s dinosaur head rolled under here, so I thought I’d get it out so he wouldn’t bother you.” A fresh pillar of dust-filled smoke arose as he hit a warren of dust bunnies that didn’t need to worry about finding a place on the endangered species list.

Son Two, The Informer, was right. As Ryan knelt on hands and knees on what must be the kitchen floor, jabbing at the stove with a vacuum cleaner bayonet, the clouds appeared to be passing through the billowing folds of his star-spangled shorts. I couldn’t imagine a prettier picture to greet me after a week of soaring seabirds and glimmering shells at sunset. A threadbare moon in my kitchen.

I wrenched open the kitchen door and turned on the ceiling fan, industrious actions that succeeded in creating a tornado-like whirlwind that rerouted the dusty smoke back up Ryan’s boxers. Seen through sunlight filtered by vacuum exhaust with dust clouds rolling up one leg and down the other, my oldest son looked like a “person of interest” in a Stephen King novel.

“Here, let me,” I screamed over the roar of the vacuum sucking up dust clots, Jeffrey jumping up and down like a caffeinated flea, and Lucy the semi-dachshund barking disapproval of the chaos. I grabbed the vacuum hose from Ryan and knelt down to survey the situation. As I squatted, not wanting to commit to a full bend and kneel unless absolutely necessary, the vacuum hose brushed the flimsy pink folds of my gown and sucked a foot or so of the delicate fabric inside. I immediately voiced my surprise and disapproval in a calm and controlled manner.

“Stop screaming and stand still!” Ryan grabbed one edge of the flimsy material and began to heave mightily in the manner of someone wrestling an unruly reptile.

“Help!” I squealed back as the struggles resulted in a blow to my left eye and a near-miss indiscretion involving my modesty.

“Excuse me. Is this a bad time?” asked a friendly voice. I squinted through my remaining good eye and discovered the local pastor peering in the open kitchen door from the steps outside. Dropping by to inquire about my trip, the good man took in this lovely picture of family unity: Me, dabbing at my swollen eye with a dishcloth, my nightdress sucked down the vacuum hose while the three of us--the vacuum hose, the nightdress, and me—snaked around my teenage son whose heavenly-body boxers flapped as he endeavored mightily to wrest me loose, and my youngest offspring jumping about excitedly in backwards pants with a lizard’s tail flapping from the back pocket which was now in front.

“Can I be of assistance?

“Pull the plug!”

Responding to emergency situations is an important part of a pastor’s life’s work and he responded admirably. He lunged through the door and remedied the situation with a yank to the snarling monster’s cord.

Slowly, my night dress drizzled back down my thighs and the swirling clouds of dust began to silt at our feet. I stammered and sputtered, looking for an explanation that didn't involve animal abuse, child neglect, or chiffon in the kitchen after breakfast time.

The good pastor collapsed in a chair at the kitchen table as dust bunnies swirled around his head in a halo pattern before coming to rest on his shoulders. He took in the situation with a soulful look and began to laugh.

“I’d use you in my sermon this week,” he paused to wipe his eyes. “But I don’t know if you would fit in better with The Good Samaritan or,” he winced as he pulled a small, surprised turtle out from under him, “the Ten Plagues of Egypt.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Full Count

By the end of spring training I could tell that the Yankees weren’t going to be sitting on top of the scoreboard come World Series time. By the end of February, I had personally intercepted their signals for bunt, steal, and get the heck out of Dodge.

The way I see it, the past months have been a kind of spring training season for the Presidential elections, with teams scrimmaging and jostling for the top position in the standings. The recent unpleasantness involving Georgia, not the peach capital of the world; the other one, may have cleared the benches, but it also gave us some insight into each candidate’s bullpen.

As we head into October, tensions tighten, rosters change, and the road to the pennant is scattered with hit and run plays. Roster changes could make the difference in who waves the flag and who cries in their pinstripes. In the playoffs, the highest paid third baseman might bobble the ball like a lipsticked pig.

I’ve studied the presidential candidates and finally decided who we need in charge of the lineup for the greatest country on Earth. Only one person has showed the necessary courage in the face of unwavering antagonism, tact in the place of obnoxious displays of power, and skill in drawing out the best in the people on the team.

So, I’m voting for the Yankees ex-manager Joe Torre. If he can survive George Steinbrenner, handling a pack of warring countries will be easier than switching pitchers during the seventh inning stretch. And he showed he has the smarts to get the heck out to the Dodgers.

I just wish he had Mariano Rivera to call on when the bases were loaded. A simple fastball, high and tight, works wonders when the bad guys threaten your borders.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Business--A Retrospective

My son, Donald Trump, is to big business what Bill Gates is to electronic solitaire. He exploits the common good to create a formerly free product that people stand in line to pay money for. If Omarosa had taken lessons from this kid, she would have a corner office at Trump Tower and the Main with the Ugly Hair would be matching up accessories for her.

My son “The Don” maintains a network of dedicated employees that work hard to support his extravagant lifestyle. The fact that he’s in the seventh grade is a bonus. Money made under the school desk is not easily tracked by results-oriented Internal Revenue officers. I’m nourishing hopes that he’ll support me during retirement in case of undesirable Social Security trends.

One morning as The Don was leaving the car for Algebra class, enough change fell out of his pockets to finance gumballs for a middle school chewathon.

“It’s okay,” he shrugged, nonchalantly sweeping the pile into a mini dustpan and dumping the lot into his jacket pocket where it ripped through the lining and crashed to the sidewalk, chipping out a divot in the concrete the size of a gold bar. “I’m rolling in it.”

“That’s preferable to stepping in it,” as my Old Man, an old hand at Black Jack used to say.

Normally this sort of statement from a twelve-year-old is alarming to a parent. But, having lived with this particular twelve-year-old for about forty years, I was as cool as Frosty’s button nose—on the outside. The turmoil inside could have caused his corncob pipe to spontaneously combust. I couldn’t help but remember The Kid’s past forays into Big Business.

Taking a lesson from his older brother, who cleaned out the pockets and lunchboxes of all the kids at Daycare playing draw poker until I discovered the trend and made him repay the winnings—nickels, drink boxes, and all, he stuck to value-added enterprises that ensured customer satisfaction. During the last fad faze, The Kid bartered his lunch for highly collectable trading cards and took advantage of an established market of eager ten year olds who readily traded their allowance—and their lunch—for hard-to-come-by cards. He scored his first card for a Twinkie, invested in a carton of Ho-Ho’s, and by the time The Kid graduates from high school, he will either be a multi-millionaire or a convicted felon. Either way, I’m not liable for college tuition.

I’m not saying this kid is different, but last year he listed an underground laboratory, strength of a gorilla, and stock options as the main items on his Christmas wish list. In a fit of sudden inspiration, he invested his birthday money in a metal detector and now he collects treasures on the playground the way other kids collect bubble gum wrappers in their jacket pockets. He’s gathered enough jewelry at recess to open his own pawn shop.

Other kids have dressers to hold their clothes. This one uses his bureau like a cash register: tens and twenties in one side; fives, ones, and loose change in the other. I borrowed spare change for coffee from him until I realized he was charging ten and a half percent interest. I stopped giving him ice cream money when he offered to change a fifty.

His latest venture is pure genius. In an age where instant gratification is as close as your Blackberry, today’s tykes spend their pocket money on cheat guides for video games that are obsolete before the clerk hands them their receipt. My young entrepreneur launched a line of energetic young players with well-conditioned thumbs, who beat the games for their less talented or motivationally challenged friends. For a price, of course.

When I discovered this enterprise, I didn’t know whether to pat him on the back, send him to his room, or sign him up for political office. “Kids PAY you to play their video games?” My mind couldn’t grasp the concept.

“Technically, that’s not the exact truth,” he explained, as serious as Dan Rather under intense questioning. This kid knows more about technicalities that Johnnie Cochran knows about loopholes. “I created the concept, so I don’t actually do the physical labor. I assign a customer service representative to handle the problem, and he pays me out of the money he earns.”

“You’re getting paid for playing games you’re not even playing?”

“Ummmm. Yes.”

“Any chance I could get in on the action?”

“Mom, this may be a family business, but I’ve got to be realistic. You’re lousy at video games. You always die. But you can give me a ride to Jake’s house. I have to make a pick-up.”

“Okay,” I said, grabbing my keys. “But it’ll cost you.”

What can I say? A girl’s got to get ahead the best way she can. And unless The Don cleans his room pretty soon, he’s looking at a hostile takeover.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Bang and a Whimper

Because I didn’t have any armed artillery rounds to juggle, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon cleaning the boys’ room, a happy little corner of the world I like to call The Wasteland.

The guys were going to clean it out soon anyway, I’m sure. Back at the turn of the century I told Son Two, the Procrastinator, to straighten up his room if he wanted to have friends over to play pin the tail on the Pac Man. At the time, he was in fifth grade. He’ll graduate from college in the next few years, but I’m holding fast to my rule. So I know they were gonna take care of it sooner or later, but after the rusty nail incident I thought it was in the best interests of everybody to give them a hand.

I learned a lot of things this afternoon. First, I learned that juggling armed artillery rounds is easier than forcing jewelry on J-Lo compared to shoveling a decade’s worth of trading cards and sludge-filled Yoo Hoo bottles from the shag under the box springs in The Wasteland. The landscape around Chernobyl smacks of a trip down the yellow brick road compared to the terrain under those twin beds. (Flying monkeys excluded.)

Next, I learned that while the kids took my advice over the years, they applied a more literal translation of "save for the future" than I intended. Anyone who has ever spent three hours chiseling two dimes and a souvenir penny from a petrified Play Doh statue that has welded itself to a bookshelf with time and liberal applications of dust can feel my pain. I found enough change to pay off our church’s building debt and add a multi-sports complex out back, but I was afraid to touch any of it without notifying the Environmental Protection Agency. Both Obama and McCain say we need change. I’ve got it if they dare to come after it. But I'd advise they load up on oxygen masks, Kevlar gloves, and antiseptic wipes. A load of odor-eaters wouldn't hurt.

The third thing I learned is that a stray Cracker Jack will maintain its original form and composition no matter how much time passes or how many natural disasters come along to cover it with cat hair and dust bunnies. A Cracker Jack must be the basic building block upon which all other things are made. That and Easter Peeps. Which I found hibernating in someone's underwear drawer.

All the experience I earned today will stand me in good stead should I choose a new career as a hazardous waste transporter. But the most important thing I brought out of the Seventh Level of the Dirty Place was this: when an old woman slips on a decayed Snickers bar, careens off a peg-legged rocking chair, and lands with all of her the considerable heft on an ancient whoopee cushion that’s been repaired with duct tape and left to ripen for seven years, that cushion will still whoopee with gusto.

The sound will echo around the room like she’s been juggling live artillery rounds and dropped one. And as the previously empty space fills up with all the folks that neglected to help with the terrible task, she should drop the rest.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And To Think Noah Had Two of Each

We usually go to the annual dog show in the big city next door, if for no other reason than to see what we could have had. We love our dogs, but without us, they’d be in the line for federal assistance. There are two of them, which in Bible language is a multitude.

Lucy is a Dachshund mix. I’m not real sure what’s in the mix, but she looks like the love child of a link sausage and Daffy Duck. Lucy could give Jennifer Lopez diva lessons. She has an aversion to dog food, getting her feet wet, and sharing the Earth with other life forms. We can’t open the door, turn on the television, or stroll into the kitchen without having her alert the news media with a dedicated barkfest. We've taken to flushing on the sly when she goes outside to eat ants.

Bo is a Lab mix. If you noticed a trend, it’s true. All our dogs are mixes. It’s so much easier than making one from scratch. Just be careful when adding the water, so it doesn’t overflow.

Bo is a talented liar. To hear him tell the tale, he hasn’t been fed since finding the stray square of Shredded Wheat under the refrigerator in 2005. At present he is on the Atkins diet, having failed miserably at Weight Watchers, the Zone, and the cabbage soup diet, the last of which gave our kitchen a signature scent I’d rather not discuss and gave Bo the opportunity to spend a lot of time outside.

I’ve read him all the articles about walking off the weight, but he whiles away his time table surfing for bread crumbs and licking likely spots off the linoleum. He has no shame and will face off with the big, brown-eyed “I’ve never been fed” look if he thinks he can score a bite of your peanut butter sandwich.

The dogs are supervised at all times by the house warden, Justin. Justin is a tabby cat whose official title is Supreme Ruler of the Household and Wielder of Sharp Claws. Unfortunately, as is the case with many heads of state whose family tree is shadowed with intertwined branches, Justin is common sense challenged. Most cats understand that if a space is occupied by another object, they should find somewhere else to lurk. Not Justin. Therefore he has numerous wounds and abrasions inflicted by flower pots or dishes or wayward dogs who weren’t quick enough to escape breaking his fall.

For aesthetic reasons, and to earn the gratitude of our feathered friends who, it turns out, take us for granted and write ugly messages on our windshields when the feeder runs dry, Bill Dear hung a bird feeder in the tree outside our bathroom window. This window is a favorite perch for Justin, who amuses himself by chatting with the birds outside.

However, the window ledge is too small for Justin’s elderly, but massive frame (another candidate for fat-free catnip), and is high off the ground to boot. So Justin sits for hours on the bathtub, staring at the window and willing himself to levitate so that he can see the birds. Occasionally we take pity on him and hold him up to the window, but this became embarrassing when our friends found out. (So, Bill, I hear you hold your cat up to the window so he can see out. Why don’t you just buy him a canary?) It’s not the sort of thing that a man likes to talk about around the water cooler at work.

Despite his best efforts (Bill Dear’s present method of discipline is threatening divorce and shooting me ugly looks across the potatoes at dinner), I’m sure Justin’s kingdom will increase. There is an invisible sign etched into the atmosphere above our house that beams longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates to homeless animals all over the globe. “SLEEP WARM! EAT FREE! OPERATORS STANDING BY!”

I just hope the offer ends soon. I’m tired of sleeping in the doghouse.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Guns and Grandmas

When Southerners make the news it's never the "Mild-mannered College Professor Cures Cancer" type of story. It's not even the "Socialite Bequeaths Diamonds to Charity" type story. Oh no. When we make the news it's more of a "please don't put that on the front page and for goodness sake don't put a picture or say they're related to me" type of story. In which case I point out the happenings for the whole word to enjoy.

But in the sense of fairness, because this could have happened to anybody, I've left out Bubba and Junior's real names and supplied fitting character-generated epithets.

Here in the Redneck Capital of the World, a story made the newspaper that involved all the necessary ingredients of a made-for-TV movie—or a family reunion, depending on whether potato salad was served.

Seems Granny was unable to sleep what with pondering the whereabouts of her debit card, and woke up Nephew Number One to ask for his input on the matter. Meanwhile, Nephew Number Two, The Bad ’Un, wandered away from his plant-cultivating hobby, leaving his pipe on the kitchen table long enough to grab up Grandma in a choke hold, and poke the business end of a rifle into the throat of our boy, Rip Van Winkle. He takes a shot at the family Bible and sends Rip in to sit on the couch wearing nothing but his underpants and a plastic bag on his head.

But suddenly the plot twist kicks in. When Bad Boy turns to look out the door, Captain Underpants overpowers him, grabs the rifle, and hotfoots it down the street, where, despite his lack of fashion sense, he convinces a neighbor to call Emergency Services. (I have no proof, but I’m assuming he dislodged the fancy bag hat before the action sequence.)

If it weren’t for the Bible incident, I’d be leaning toward the Family Reunion story. But no Southern boy is going to take a pot shot that separates Matthew from Mark, Luke, and John in front of his grandmother and live to tell about it. Which leads us to the question: Where was Granny during the excitement? Any Southern Grandma worth her weight in blackstrap molasses would have pulled out a shotgun of her own and blasted the pants off Mr.Yuk. The whole tale smacks of “If you believe that one, then listen to this.”

As it was, reports state that Mr. Meanie was caught after a brief pursuit. From the descriptions, it sounds like they got their nephews mixed up because the briefs were last seen high-tailing it over the river and through the woods away from Grandma’s House.