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What not to do in the Conjoined Towns of Pretty and Plain on a Sunday evening when you’re home alone and heat’s off (because you haven’t paid PP Power in three months), and you’re huddled by the stove, polishing off a bottle of Pinot and what’s left of a pound of Hershey’s Kisses:

A) You don’t cuss at the Universe while inching open the kitchen window to B) aim a BB gun at a squirrel sitting on the oak stump halfway between you and your Civic. And for God’s sake, you don’t C) pop a hole in that dear squirrel’s bitty heart. Tsk, tsk, man. C’mon, what have you accomplished? You’ve bloodied the freshly fallen snow. You’ve added more dings to the passenger side of the Civic. And you’ve solicited a frenzied rapping of knuckles on the kitchen door.

There stands Mrs. String, ancient and emaciated, a retired CIA psychic. Your neighbor. Her yoga-garb hangs loose where it should be snug. Her twiggy arms are outstretched and unsteadily supporting a can of mace which more or less waves at your face. “Namaste,” she says, puzzled to see that it’s you. And then, with breathless excitement, “Such calamity! I presumed it was—I don’t rightly know, an intruder! And thusly came prepared.”

“I am so, so sorry, Mrs. String,” you say, relieving her of the mace as if accepting a can of beer at the end of an all-nighter, “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“Oh, quite alright, my dear Mr. Smith. But you did hear it? The gunshot!”

“I did. I saw a squirrel, and I think I shot it with—I know I shot it. I’ve been drinking.”

Mrs. String curls her toes into the snow, wraps her arms around you, pulls herself closer. She looks up and smiles and you see that she’s not wearing her teeth. Her hug is sweetly maternal. “I know what you’re feeling, dear boy,” she whispers. Of course she does, she was a freakin’ CIA psychic.

You shut your eyes. The Pinot coats your brain, and so does the sugar from all those Kisses. It’s the last you recall of the evening.

Mrs. String, along with the begrudging Mr. String in his electric wheelchair, shovel away the tiny carcass and its bed of vermillion slush.

Why am I gifting you this cautionary tale? It’s that I want you to appreciate that within the Conjoined Towns of Pretty and Plain, where aberrance is the burgeoning norm, you—my discerning reader, are better off an observer than a participant.

As a public service, therefore, I bring you The Daily Goose.