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The Word Eater

Barlow ate his words. Sometimes he would go to great lengths and lovingly prepare them with tasty sauces made of the ripest adverbs and aged adjectives. Preparation time would not be rushed so the flavor of each letter could be coaxed out and blended with the others in a savory olio. On these occasions, Barlow would uncork a bottle of his favorite sharps and flats, let it sit for half hour, while he plated his expressive meal, and then pour a glass of music to moisten his palate and aid in word digestion.

There were other times when Barlow could not delay his hunger, and he would randomly pick a book off a shelf and stuff his face like he was eating a bag of potato chips. His cheeks would puff out with salty verbs and crisp nouns

Barlow began eating words when he was nine-years-old. His parents bought him a set of encyclopedias and one day, he nibbled the “ed” off the word “waited.” From that small beginning, Barlow developed a for taste for Morphemes, such as “the” or “write” or “man.” He would pop them into his mouth whenever hunger struck.

In high school, Barlow began to broaden his palate; he dined on nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, modifiers, and pronouns as often as possible. He learned French and Spanish and was delighted at the flavors of masculine and feminine articles could bring out in words. But it wasn’t until he enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin, as an English major that he soon discovered his favorite subjects were Literary Theory and Creative Writing. In the literary theory course, a new world opened to him, a world of neologisms and portmanteau. His theory professors unlocked secret recipes and offered up rare delicacies reserved for a cadre of intellectuals and competitive theorists. He wandered through the gourmet kitchens of the academic elite, tasting delicious sophistry, philosophy, pseudo-expressions and nonce words, never missing an opportunity to nosh and nibble at the kitchen table. Some of the offerings were hard to swallow, but Barlow ate them with a healthy swig of bubbling water. He could even get the most distasteful lexemes down.

The word eater also took classes in foreign languages to broaden his lexicon. He mastered Greek, Latin, Russian, German, Chinese, and Arabic, adding grams to his brain weight with each new dictionary. His brain began to swell.

The words Barlow ate served him well as a writer. By age 23, he wrote a non-fiction text on 13th century vocabularians. He would lace his work with new words, words he coined to fit his thoughts. They proved to be the tastiest he had ever eaten.

In his last year at grad school, while contemplating his thesis, Barlow the Word Eater suffered a massive brain injury. The Finnish and Icelandic languages proved to be his undoing. His thesis, Culinary Linguistics of Frigid People, required that he learn those languages. A three-month diet of alphabets with strange, pointed letters surrounded by dots and squiggles tore several blood vessels in his brain, and it began to hemorrhage. Syntax began to bleed from his ears, half-chewed Finnish surnames Ran blood-red from his nose, and he fell into a coma. An international team of respected linguistic professors was flown in to resuscitate him, but their mission ended in failure. Barlow died.

At Barlow’s funeral, his younger brother Chet delivered the eulogy. Obviously distraught, Chet stepped to the podium and said, “There are no words to express our sorrow.”


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Pathetic Bob and Robot Man

So I was scheduled to have a neuro stimulator planted into my body this coming Friday. But, I was at the store today when my doctor’s office calls and says they had a cancellation for tomorrow and would like me to come in at 9:00  a.m. and get it over with. Without much thought, I said, “yes.”

Of course, I immediately had to come home and check in with my dead dog, Pathetic Bob. I connected with him via the potted plant since Bill the Cat was nowhere to be found.

“Hey Em,” he said, “you sound a little excited, what’s up?”

I explained the change of plans, and that I would have a device implanted snugly in my side and three leads attached under my skin to my spine.

“Are you really sure you want to do this?” he asked warily.

“Why not?” I asked. “I gotta do something.”

“About what, pain?”

“Of course Pain. I’ve been in pain for three years. Chronic pain, they call it. I’ve been going to a pain doctor for the past year, and he gave me about every hardcore narcotics available. Nothing worked. Not fentynel, not morphine, not methadone, nothing. It wouldn’t even get me high. I have a high tolerance to pain meds. Plus, I don’t like those toxic things in my body. So, my pain doctor and neurosurgeon decided to do this implant as a last-ditch effort to mediate the pain.”.

“So, is it your back that hurts or your ass or your legs?”

“Yes, all of it.”

“I think you ought to be real careful. You know once they get all that electrical stuff in you, they’ll be able to control you. They can make you do whatever they want. You could easily end up a robot, and the next thing you know, you’ll be fixing their cars, cleaning their restrooms, and spying on other hospital’s computer mainframes. Have you thought about leeches?”

“Leeches are for blood impurities.”

“I guess you could look at it this way. At least you’ll have a couple days pain free before the gameshow host is installed as you president and starts killing everybody. Hey, maybe he’ll keep the robots around to do his bidding. You work it right, and you could come out ahead on this thing.”

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Ronny Learns the World Sucks for Faux Leopards

After months of badgering, Leona Vladso gave in to her six-year-old son’s demands. “Fine, Ronny, I’ll tell you about your father, but I warn you, it’s not a pretty picture.”

Ronny Valdso knew his father was dead, however he did not know the details of his life or death. Every time he asked about his old man, his mother would only say, “He’s entertaining God.”

As Ronny sat in a rigid, hardwood, kitchen chair, Leona paced in front of him. “I only knew your dad a short while before he died,” Leona began. “I met Bosco–that was his name, Bosco Peppitone–at the corner of Desmond Avenue and 126th Street. I had just finished my laundry and was carrying it back to my apartment. As I neared neared the corner, I heard this clicking noise…click, click click. It was semi-rhythmic, and I could tell the sound was the product of wood being struck. Turning the corner onto Desmond, I collided with Bosco. My laundry and your farther took a tumble on the sidewalk.”

Ronny’s eyes were wide as he listened to his mother’s account. Continue reading Ronny Learns the World Sucks for Faux Leopards

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Redemption for a Disordered Mind

Hey there, Em riding solo today. I might have hit on a reason why I am bombarding the cosmos with weird stories and conversations with my dead dog, Pathetic Bob. Continue reading Redemption for a Disordered Mind

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My Dead Dog Talks About Women

I got home from the emergency room the other day–a bronchitis thing– and found Bill the Cat sitting in an empty cardboard box in the middle of the kitchen counter. I did not find this odd, so I went into my office to check e-mails. Bill the Cat followed me in and jumped up on the desk. I did find this odd, since he hadn’t set paw on the desk since the last time Pathetic Bob used him as a conduit from the afterlife.

I asked, “Bill, are you OK?” All of a sudden, his eyes bugged out and he goes into a trance.

“Bob!” I shout.

“Don’t yell Em, I’m here. What’s he matter?”

“I thought we agreed not to use the cat as a medium,” I reminded him.

“Ah Jeez, he was there on the desk, and I figured he enjoyed the experience.”

“Maybe, but I’m not that sure. Anyway, why were you trying to get in touch with me?”

Bob replied, “Women, what’s up with them?”

Now this is a question that men do not want to be asked, because we are generally going to get it wrong and female wrath will befall us. I knew he would bug me til I gave an answer. “I don’t know Bob, did you hear something? Are they planning a takeover? By the way Bob, I assume you are talking about human women, right?”

He answered, “Yeah, yeah, I mean human women. They seem kinda different from other humans.”

“You mean men?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed. “It seems that not only do women have different body bits and pieces, the operate according to a different set of cosmic and natural laws. I know I’m smart, but I can’t figure out what makes women so different from men.”

Now we were getting into dangerous territory. “You know Bob, men have no idea either how women process information. It’s kinda like the weather, we know it’s there, but we have no idea how or why it works.

“Jeez Em, there you go again. I ask you a question and you throw that ‘mystery’ crap at me. Take a position man.”

‘That’s not fair Bob. I’ve taken a lot of positions.’

“Sure, whatever you say.” He was being condescending.

He was pissing me off so I blurted out, “Oh yeah…well…uh…women…I like ’em. They’re great.”

“Ooooooh, Em, you really went out on a limb there.”

“OK smart ass, what do think about women…really?”

“I’ll tell you what I think.” Bob said decisively. “I think women are smarter than men. Women don’t generally act like street dogs, fighting over territory, looking for the chance to kick ass just for the sake of kicking ass. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I believe women are more reasonable than men; they don’t seem to have that win-lose mentality that men have. They seem more willing to compromise. I think that what they lack in brute force, they more than make up for with a highly evolved intelligence. In fact, women have surpassed men on the evolutionary chain. And another thing Em, women have great tits.”

I knew it, I knew it, he was eventually gonna screw up and there it was. “Now you’ve done it Bob.Women are gonna start reading this post and think, ‘That Pathetic Bob is one sensitive smart dog. He really knows about women. And then wham, they’re gonna read ‘tits’ and think ‘see, all men want is sex.'”  “You really blew it Bob.”

“What the hell are you talking about,” said a rather confused Bob. “I’m not interested in having sex with human women…eeeeeeewww. That’s sick. I just think their tits are nice to look at. Damn, Em, I think elephant tusks look beautiful on an elephant, but I don’t want one shoved up my butt. What the hell is it with people?”

“Well Bob, you just can’t say stuff like that, it’s  not…uh…politically correct.”

“Look Em, just because I like the way women’s tits look, doesn’t mean I don’t find their brains attractive. In fact, the brain is the most attractive part of any human (you might be the exception). So deal with it. By the way haven’t you noticed by now there are no correct politics.”



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A Rat’s Ass



Occasionally, I have silly stories in my head in which Pathetic Bob does not make an appearance. This is one of them.

While talking to someone the other day, he said, “I don’t give a rat’s ass.” It is an expression I have used myself, but on that day, a change came over me and I wanted to “give a rat’s ass.” The problem was I didn’t know who I was going to give it to. That’s when I decided to visit Mr. Billy Reindeer.
Billy Reindeer is a recent arrival to our fair city from the state of Alaska. As a citizen of Alaska Mr. Billy plied his trade as an itinerant hermit and Philosophical bon vivant. It is said his knowledge knows no bounds or leaps.
I met Mr. Billy at his suburban limestone cave. We sat down over a glass of iced tea. “So here’s the deal Mr Billy,” I said, “I’d like to give a rat’s ass, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.”
“Son,” he drawled in his Alaskan accent, “before you give it away you gotta understand what you are giving. Let’s go back to the ancient Greeks, where this whole rodent rump thing started. Aristotle, in his first book “Of Mice and Men,” hypothesized that the logos was located in a mouse’s butt, and mice were a gift from the Gods. So in addition to rasslin’ nekkid, the Greeks were obliged to hand out rat asses as a sign of understanding and peace. Not to give a rat’s ass was an invitation to war.”
Mr. Billy took another swig of his tea and continued. “The Romans, who just loved ripping off the Greeks, co-opted the custom and called it “rodentium et touche, meaning “Give me a rat’s ass or I will smite thee with French bread.”
Well Mr. Billy, if I’m to stay true to the old ones, any suggestions on who I should give a rat’s ass to?”
“Know any Etruscans?”
“Well then son, I’d give it to a monkey. They like the texture and are very appreciative.”


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Pathetic Bob’s Naked Therapy

OK, so I’m at my desk and decide to check in on Pathetic Bob, my dead dog. I pulled the potted plant close, I grabbed a leaf and put it to my ear. I got through right away, and Bob sounded excited.

“Hey Em,” he shouted,”guess what? come on, come guess what?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” I said.”Did something good happen to you?”

“You bet, I’m naked, I’m naked, I’m naked! Wow, it feels really great.”

Admittedly, Bob has surprised me before, but I never expected something like this. “Whoa, whoa, Bob, you were already naked, how could you become naked again?”

“Ha! I was never really naked. Sure, the skin around my genitals was naked, but most of the rest of me was covered in hair. I had Kieth the Duck shave me, and now I’m really naked. Gloriously naked.”

“Well, just why do you want to be naked?”

“Because I’ve never been naked before, I wanted the experience.”

“I get that, but being naked is not as great as you might think.”

“Why, I don’t see any problems.”

“Take a look around you, Bob. Do you see any other animals or humans naked?”

Bob took a minute. “Well, now that you mention it,”

“How does that make you feel?”

“Uh,,,a little silly I guess. I feel eyes on me, and it’s uncomfortable.”

“Well, there you go. Being naked can be great fun, but being naked in front others is often embarrassing. Getting naked in front of the right person can be spectacular, but you’ll find you don’t want to see them naked all the time, except the Victoria’s Secret underwear models.”

“Hmm, maybe I’ll talk to the sheep about borrowing some wool until my hair grows back.”

“Not a bad plan, Bob. Hey, listen, I wanted to tell you I went to my therapist yesterday.”

“Oh, your knee been acting up?

“No, not that kind of therapist, a mind therapist. A psychologist, His name is Doctor Y.”

“Doctor Y? Is he Chinese?”

“No. I just didn’t want to give his full name, you know, so people won’t bother him. You would find him and convince him to tell me weird things about myself. He’s a cognitive behavioral therapist, and I want you to leave him alone.”

“That sounds fancy, what does he do to you?”

“You’re being intrusive Bob. I’m not sure I want to go there with you.”

“Do you get naked and talk about mind stuff?”

“No, no, it’s not like that at all. It’s talk therapy, but we both wear out clothes.He kinda tries to find irrational or catastrophic thinking on my part and redirect my thinking into a more positive direction.”

“Do you pay this guy money?”

“Well…yes I do. It’s money well spent. Anyway, I told him about my recent reconnection with you, and he thinks it is a positive step.”

“He knows about me?”

“Yes, I’ve told him quite a bit about you.”

“And he knows I’m dead?”

“That’s right.” I was a little indignant.

“OK Em, let me make sure I’ve got this straight. You’re paying money to this guy, I mean “doctor,” to let you talk to him about all your weirdness. And, this doctor thinks it’s a good thing that you are talking to a dead dog, that it is somehow beneficial for you to channel me through a potted plant leaf and talk to me and my friend Keith, a dead duck. That this is all for the betterment of your mental health?”

“Well, that’s kinda what he implied.I think he’s right. I feel better talking to you and Kieth.”

“Em, you are one crazy mother. But don'[t stop coming around…it keeps me sane.”




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Tree Sperm and Snake Messages

Mountain Cedar – the bane of allergy sufferers.
Bill the Cat

The last time my dead dog (Pathetic Bob)  and I communicated,) I told him we could no longer use Bill the Cat as a medium to channel Bob. I was afraid the cat might start suffering some kind of brain impairment.  Since a medium had to be something living Bob suggested using a plant. As luck would have, it, I have a nice potted plant next to my desk. It is some kind of ivy and has long tendrils hanging off it. Today, I picked up one of those tendrils and brought ir across my desk and put one of the leafs against my ear. It worked.

“Bob, Bob, are you out there?”

After a few seconds of low buzzing, Pathetic Bob came through.  “Hey Em, I’m here. What the heck is up with you,;  you sound like you have a squid in your head.”

“No, no squid. My head is filled with snot and my lungs  are harboring some nasty, vicious flu.”

“Jeez, you sound real attractive. I wouldn’t plan on getting jiggy with Mrs.  Em tonight.

He kinda pissed me off, “You are getting a little too personal there Bob.”

He shot back,”OK, fine, fine. Bet I can tell you why you are all squid-sounding.”

I knew I might regret this, but I said, “OK Doctor Bob, what’s my problem”

“You’re suffering from an invasion of tree sperm.”

“Jeez, Bob….”

“Wait a minute Em, just listen. You live in South Central Texas, the home gazillion cedar trees. Every year at this time, the trees get horny and want to procreate. It’s a veritable orgy, and you are in the middle of it.”

He was getting me jacked up.”Well, Bob what the hell can I do about it?”

“Put a condom over your head.”


“Just messing with you Em. The best advice II can give is  drink a lot of liquid, eat chicken soup, put a mustard plaster on your chest, drink some more water, and whine. I already know you got the whining part down.”

“I tried to change the subject. “So where is Kieth the Duck, he wanted to tell me some stories?”

A Relaxing Snake Massage

“He does, but right now he is over by one of the rivers getting a snake message. I’ve had one from a python, and it feels pretty good.”

“Sounds about as disgusting as what I just coughed into my tissue.”

“Jeez Em, you’re such a wuss. Since snakes and other beings aren’t allowed to kill or injure anyone. so it’s safe. And, it gives the snakes a way to practice their natural born instincts by squeezing a body. What you get is a deep-tissue massage and a happy snake.”

“Whatever works for you. Say Bob, I need some help.”

“I’ve always got your back em, you know that.”

“Hmm, Well, I need a metaphor.”

“What kinda metaphor?”

“A tree metaphor, and it’s not a cedar tree so I don’t need any tree sex talk. I need a metaphor for live-oak trees, you know those big, wide canopy trees with branches that shoot off in all directions. They are magnificent, but I can’t come up with a good metaphor and I thought you or Kieth could help.”

“We can give it a try. There are some pretty literate people here. Perhaps I could query them.

“Yeah well query your little tail off, I’m in kind of a hurry here.

“OK, we’ll get right on it as soon as Kieth gets back from his message. Oh, and Em, try those home remedies, they really work. Whoops, time’s up, gotta go. By Em.”

The plant leaf began to undulate which I took to mean the conversation had been concluded. I gently put the leaf and tendril back close to the pot and said,”Thank you.”







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Dead Duck

Ever since Pathetic Bob–my dead dog–connected  me through Bill the Cat, I’ve been trying to get back in touch. Bill has been wary of jumping on my desk. However, I devised a plan to get him up here. You see, I got a couple pieces of talapia and set them on a plate, on my desk. Bam! he was on that fish like a cat on fish. (Sorry, my simiies are running dry).

After a couple bites, Bill went into his bug-eyed fugue state. and I heard  Pathetic Bob’s voice: “Hey Em, Happy New Year.” He sounded

“Same to you Bob.  Say, I

want to ask you something….”

“Yeah, we’ll get back to that, but first I have surprise.”

“Oh Jeez,”I thought “what’s he up to.”

“OK Em, have you ever heard the expression ‘He’s a dead duck’?”

“Well, I guess I have.”

Well guess what…I got one.”

“One what?”

“A dead duck you idiot. His name is Keith. He’s from Canadia and was shot down someplace over Eastern Oregon. No worries though, he slipped out of his body on the way down and landed here…wherever ‘here’ is. Would you like to talk with him?”

“I don’t know Bob, I’ve never spoken to a duck, alive or dead. What would we talk about.”

Next, a voice like Irish Malt Whiskey traveled through Bill the Cat and into my head. “Hello Mr. Em. My friend Bob has told me a bit about you, and I’m intrigued.”

“I’m not that intriguing, really. I mostly sit around reading and writing about dead animals in my head. I used to be intriguing, but when Pathetic Bob died, I dried up. Now that he is sorta back I hope to move up the intriguing scale a couple of notches.”

“Well, I’m glad you are writing again. Perhaps I could relate several incidents in my life that you might want to put into your words.”

“Uhhh, Kieth is it?

“Yes sir.”

“Well Kieth, that sounds interesting. Why don’t I get back to you on that?”

“Wow, that would be great. I’ve never really talked to a human before. You’re not a hunter are you

“No, I’m not. Now Kieth, can I talk to Bob again?”

In a instant, the tone of the voice changed and Bob was back in my head. “So Em, whatta you thing? Kieth a pretty interesting mallard, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he’s great, but Bob I need to ask you a few things.”

“Sorry Em, but we get so much time to channel, and mine is about up.”

“Quik, one thing. I don’t want to have to channel you through Bill the Cat. He’s getting creeped out, and I don’t want screw with his head anymore.”

Bob thought for a moment. “Tell you what, you get a plant you could use?”


“So next time you want to talk, hold a plant leaf to your good ear, and we’ll see hoe it goes.’

“I guess so.” Bill the Cat put his eyes back in his head, grabbed the talapia, and sprinted off to his secret spot among the elephant ears next to the pool