Monday, November 17, 2014


We--that is, I, Catherine Earnshaw, my brother Hindley, our maid Nellie Dean, Mumsie, and various other minor characters who aren't that important to the narrative--had waited long and with keen anticipation for the return of my father, Mr. Earnshaw, who had been expected back from his travels that morning.

But now that the midnight hour had come and gone, we wondered if he would appear that night at all. And as time dragged inexorably onward and boredom set in, we had, in fact, begun to lose interest in whether or not he would return or simply stay gone. I'd even found myself nursing a faint hope that something terrible had happened to him such as being eaten alive by a grizzly bear, or alligators, despite the fact that there were none living in England at that time.

Perhaps, I thought, being waylaid by highwaymen and having his head staved in would suffice, as would simply losing his footing in the dark of the rough, windy moors and falling off a cliff. But as the dreary darkness slowly gave way to a cold, approaching dawn, we heard the hoofbeats of Mr. Earnshaw's steadfast old horse Groucho growing nearer to their beloved Withering Heights at last.

Misjudging the distance, Mr. Earnshaw and his steed crashed through the front window of the aged but still warm and inviting mansion which served as our respite from the chilly, almost ghostly maelstrom of unending elemental unrest which we fondly referred to as "the weather" there upon the misty, musty moors which we often trod searching for rock lobsters. The fact that we had never found any rock lobsters and never would, since the Heights were well inland, was merely a frivolous... uhh... oh, never mind. I forgot what I was talking about.

Anyway, Mr. Earnshaw flew backward out of the saddle with the smooth, seemingly intentional grace of a Hollywood stunt performer (which we, of course, had no knowledge of because "Hollywood" had yet to exist for at least two centuries or so) and somersaulted in mid-air right into the large black pot of tomato and roadkill stew that Nellie had been stirring with a canoe oar over a roaring flame in the fireplace.

Thick crimson slop splattered and steamed all over the walls and drenched those nearest the cook pot in rich, savory lunch. The galloping steed, in a state of panic, destroyed every stick of furniture in the room before exiting out the back window and clip-clopping off into the distance, never to be seen again.

Hindley, his face oozing with liquid tomato and other nameless substances, was the most perturbed by the event. He had been expecting Mr. Earnshaw to bring him a piano from London but could tell even from the brief glimpse he'd gotten before the old man disappeared into the stew pot that he carried nothing of the sort beneath his billowing cloak.

In fact, the only thing he'd been carrying was even now clambering out of the pot along with the old man. It was a filthy young street urchin, a boy of Hindley's age but hardly of an equal social standing and thus fit only for endless ridicule and being a fun archery target.

"BLAR har har!!!" exclaimed the old man, cleaning himself off with a squeegee and flinging the excess toward Mumsie, who spluttered in dismay as the great globs came flying right at her face with alarming accuracy. "Look whut I brung yah from the boggy banks of London town! It's a boy named, uhh...err...Porfle!"

"Porfle?" Hindley sneered witheringly. "What the actual flying f***?"

"Oh, all right then," said the old man. "We'll call him Heathcliff, although I was saving that name for the dog."

"We'll call him Porfcliff!" I offered brightly, instantly falling in love with the ragged, horribly ugly, and most likely diseased wretch whom Father had so thoughtfully brought us as a gift. "Oh frabjous day! Hey nonny-nonny, hey nonny!"

"Yes?" said Nonny, sticking her head through the kitchen window. We'd forgotten all about her being there, as we always did since we had no idea who the hell she was anyway.

"Oh, little Cathy," said Mr. Earnshaw. "Leave it to you to come up with the wisest solution to the matter. Yes, he shall be known henceforth as Porfcliff...Porfcliff Earnshaw."

"NO!" Hindley spat indignantly. "I'll not share my last name, much less my legacy, with this BEAST! This disgusting, boil-ridden TROLL! He shall be called Popnecker. Porfcliff Popnecker. You know, like the hemorrhoid ointment." Father nodded gravely, conceding that Popnecker's Hemorrhoid Ointment had indeed been a most welcome application during more than a few distressing "incidents."

And so my one great love in life, Porfcliff Popnecker, became the most wretched creature to drag his filth-encrusted carcass over the floorboards and cobblestones of Withering Heights, constantly working twenty-four hours a day and sometimes overtime at milking the cows and horses and shearing the warthogs and herding the sheep by running around on all fours barking at them (the dog Heathcliff was still a puppy although Porfcliff was training him) and teaching the horses how to dance and shearing the warthogs and driving the cows to Cow School and shaving the warthogs who didn't like to be sheared and generally doing all of the chores that Hindley felt were beneath him, which were all of them, especially if they had anything whatsoever to do with warthogs.

But the thing that made it all worthwhile for Porfcliff was the fact that I loved him more than the sound of Boston cream pies crashing into a mirrored display case full of fine-china-encased hemorrhoid ointments during a llama stampede (a recurring dream that I tended to have whenever I ate fifty hardboiled eggs right before bedtime) and that we would often go romping around across the grassy, windy moors whenever Hindley would give him five minutes vacation every six months.

"I LOVE YOU, PORFCLIFF!" I would say, and he would say "I LOVE YOU, CATHY!", and then we would both say "I LOVE YOU, HEATHCLIFF!" and Heathcliff would say "WOOF! WOOF!" and we would run and run and run until we were, like, sixty or seventy miles away from the Heights and Father would have to send a carriage for us.

In fact, it took us forever to learn to run back and forth instead of simply hauling ass in a straight line until we were in the next county and nobody would feed us or let us sleep in their houses or whatever because they didn't know who the hell we were. "HELP US!!!" I would implore, and they wouldn't help us, so Porfcliff and I HAD to make their houses go on fire!

Anyway, one day out of curiosity I visited our neighbors the Lintons at the Grange next door and they took me in and made a "lady" out of me and I felt like I was too good for Porfcliff all of a sudden so he ran away and didn't come back until he was rich, but by that time I'd married Edgar Linton so Porfcliff got revenge against, like, everybody.

But especially against Edgar Linton, whom Porfcliff referred to as "Poop Head", and Hindley, whose debts Porfcliff bought off, making him master of the Heights, and whom Porfcliff also referred to as "Poop Head." And then a whole bunch of other really sad and tragic stuff happened, and we all died, the end.

But country folk who yet live out on the moors would swear on their Bibles that, to this day, they can hear the ghostly voices of those tortured souls buried in the unquiet earth of the old churchyard, voices still swirling around over the squishy, splooshy moors like the blustery wind, sighing and moaning and screaming "HELP US!!!" and "I LOVE YOU, HEATHCLIFF!" and "WOOF! WOOF!"


Friday, July 25, 2014



One day, my nephew Billy had a birthday party. His mom, Elaine, and a few of her other "mom" friends helped coordinate it. Eight or nine of Billy’s little school and/or neighborhood friends were invited, most of them between the ages of five and seven. A few fun games were planned, like "pin the tail on the donkey" and "toss a beanbag at the empty-can pyramid", followed by a yummy ice-cream-and-cake treat and the opening of Billy’s birthday presents.

It sounded like a potentially fun-filled party for the children, and it most likely would’ve been, too, if only Johnny Cash’s reanimated corpse hadn’t shown up uninvited and disrupted everything.

How he came back to life and why he picked this particular house to show up at remain a mystery. Yet there he was, right between little Sally Feldman and Eddie Green in the line of children filing through the front door for the party. The children should have been giddy with happy anticipation for the coming festivities as they entered the house in their nice party clothes, but instead they were mortally terrified of the shambling, gibbering corpse in their midst.

Needless to say, Johnny Cash looked pretty horrible. Already in a fairly-advanced state of decomposition, the deceased country-music legend was more ghastly-looking than the Frankenstein monster, and his burial clothes were split up the back to clearly reveal his big, warty ass, which somehow just seemed to make things worse.

Billy’s mom and the other moms stood frozen in raw, naked fear as Johnny Cash lurched toward them, his hideous face contorting and convulsing as he attempted to speak. But all that came from his festering mouth were blood-chilling croaks like "bllnnggff" and "guhhh-uhhhh." The children, now well beyond the point of thinking that this might merely be some kind of party entertainment, began to hide behind various items of furniture and cower in whimpering terror.

Johnny Cash looked around in confusion, as though he himself dimly realized that he belonged in the grave and had no business walking around like this. All at once, his bulging eyeballs focused on something familiar. There, leaning against a wall in the corner, was Billy’s guitar. It wasn’t a real guitar, but one of those little plastic toy guitars that plays a tinkly tune when you turn the crank. But Johnny Cash made a horrible croaking sound of recognition and grabbed it up.

"Guh GAHHH, gnog nggghh NAAAHHH!" he croaked obscenely, attempting to entertain his captive audience as he had so often done in life. He banged clumsily at the guitar, stomping his feet as he staggered from one shrinking spectator to the next. "Plink-plonk" went the fragile plastic strings of the toy guitar as Johnny Cash’s dead hands clawed tunelessly at them, ripping them asunder one by one. "Mmmfff, GAAAAHHHH HAAAAAAA!" he gurgled, trying to sing the remnants of "Folsom Prison Blues" that his rotting brain still retained.

And then, he saw the cake. The beautiful, rich, gooey cake. He remembered that he should love the cake, be hungry for the cake. Tossing what was left of Billy’s guitar aside, Johnny Cash lurched toward the gaily-decorated dining table and plunged his hands into the cake, ramming huge gobs of it into his mouth. "RAAAAR! GRAAAAAR! MLAAARFF!" he gibbered, slobbering cake, his face dripping with frosting.

Some of the candy letters that had spelled out "HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILLY" were stuck to Johnny Cash’s face, and they now spelled "YIRPAL DRIB." He vaguely remembered that he should now be thirsty for some of the sweet, refreshing punch that filled the large bowl on the table and made a diving grab for it, losing his balance and crashing through the table as the punchbowl landed upside-down on his head like some horrible space helmet.

Johnny Cash staggered to his feet, covered in frosty cake and dripping with once-festive punch, the huge glass bowl wobbling on his head, and lunged for the gaily-beribboned presents that sat in a pile waiting for the birthday boy to open them. In what was inexplicably left of Johnny Cash’s clouded mind, HE was the birthday boy. Emitting a series of horrendous barks that sounded like a herd of seals being run over by a steamroller, he ripped into the presents and came up triumphantly with a happily-grinning "Danny O’Day" ventriloquist dummy.

Johnny Cash thrust his hand into the dummy’s back and worked the controls, making its toothy mouth snap open and shut as he screamed "GARRR-GAAAAAAR! MUFFF WUFFF! NNNGGGGFFFFF!" He staggered from child to child, proudly performing the most hellish ventriloquism act imaginable for their entertainment. To this day, my nephew Billy still has nightmares of an insanely-grinning Danny O’Day croaking "BLAAAR GNNARRRRR!" at him, and wakes up in the middle of the night screaming "YIRPAL DRIB!!!"

Anyway, Johnny Cash’s reanimated corpse finally left. I don’t know what happened after that, because the phone rang while Elaine was telling me about it, and it was her husband telling her that there was a guy on his way to their house to fix the garbage disposal, and she had to go let him in. Not long after that, I heard something about Chris Farley’s reanimated corpse showing up at some Jewish kid’s bar mitzvah in Houston, Texas, but I don’t know if this was part of a mysterious pattern of some kind, or just an unrelated event.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Fate can really suck sometimes.  I'm not talking about big, important fate, like that creepy little kid keeps whining about in TERMINATOR 2.  I'm talking about everyday fate, like the fact that it's my fate to get into some kind of colossal time-consuming screw-up every time I try to breeze into EZ-Mart for five bucks worth of gas.  Or how I'm fated to get into the wrong line at Wal-Mart, not just occasionally, but every freaking time.

I always get into the line where the people in front of me have their credit card declined, and after arguing with the clerk for twenty minutes they finally realize that the clerk doesn't actually have all that much influence over the executives at Visa, so one of them decides to drive home to Cincinatti or wherever the hell they live to dig up an alternate form of payment while the other one waits there and guards the shopping cart. 

Meanwhile the other lines that looked so much worse than this one way back in the Stone Age when I was deciding which line to get in each have a procession of giddy customers blithely sailing through them like shit through a goose.

Thanks to fate, every appliance that I've purchased since around 1975 has had something irreparably wrong with it.  You know how about one out of every 500 items that come off an assembly line or whatever will have something wrong with it?  That's the one I get every damn time.  The stereo I bought fifteen years ago doesn't play guitar solos--I hear the bass and drums, but the lead guitarist sounds like his guitar is taking a dump in the building next door.  One of my TV speakers is messed up, too, so I can't make out the dialogue.  And if I turn it up loud enough to hear what people are saying, the explosions and stuff blast me through the back wall of the house.

My computer won't do self-maintenance.  It always tells me that it can't do self-maintenance because there's some other program running that I need to shut off first, even though there isn't any other friggin' program running.  The trouble is, you can't tell your computer there isn't any other program running.  You can't tell your computer anything.  It just tells you things, even when you can see for yourself that they aren't true, and you can't argue with it.  Sometimes I suspect that my computer thinks it's funny to bullshit me just to see how I'll react.

The toaster oven I bought doesn't brown evenly--my toast is always burnt on one end and underdone on the other end.  I just know that across America there are millions of people regularly enjoying perfectly browned toast from their perfect toaster ovens.  I wish they'd choke on it.  And then I feel guilty for wishing such a horrible thing on innocent people that I don't even know.  And then I imagine them choking on their perfect toast, crawling around like dying bugs on the kitchen floor trying to hand-signal their kids to do the Heimlich maneuver on them or something, and I laugh out loud and then feel guilty again.  So the simple act of making an unevenly-toasted cheese sandwich is like stepping onto an emotional rollercoaster.

Traffic lights conspire with fate to make my life a living hell.  Most people sail through roughly half of them or more without a second thought.  Some people actually get green lights from one end of town to the other sometimes, the bastards.  I get red lights every time.  They stay green just long enough to torment me as I'm racing toward them, and then inexorably turn red right before I get there so that I have to either slam on the brakes or zoom through them and hope a cop didn't see me.  Then, when I go back in the other direction on my way home, they get me again.  I can almost hear them laughing at me--a sick, metallic laugh that sends shivers up my spine.  They talk to each other, too, and make fun of me.

I don't know what I did to make traffic lights hate me so much.  I have always been nice to them.  It's gotten to the point where I actually wave and say "thanks" on the rare occasions that a light lets me go through without stopping, so that the light will remember how appreciative I was and not punitively stop me the next time.  I'm not making that up.  I really do that.  I think I'm losing my mind.

I get the emails that say, "Sorry, we screwed up your order, but this only happens, like, once every ten-thousand orders so it's no big deal, ha ha."  If I order something by regular mail instead of online, my letter is the one that gets sucked into an air vent at the airport and ends up lining a parrot cage in Argentina. 

I went to Carlsbad Caverns with my parents when I was in junior high, and we got there at sundown to see the bats fly out, which is supposed to be such a big, awesome deal since there are so many bats that it actually looks like there's black smoke gushing out of the cave entrance, except that on the particular day that I showed up--as fate would have it, ha ha--there just happened to be some kind of mysterious bat disease going around that was killing off thousands of bats or at least making them so sick that they had to stay home until they felt better.  Millions of people throughout the years have gasped in awe at the wondrous site of the billowing cloud of bats flying out of Carlsbad Caverns, and what happens when I get there?  The freakin' bat flu.  Thanks again, fate.

No, on second thought--eat it, fate.  It's your fault that I only got to see a puny couple of dozen crappy little bats fluttering out of that stupid cave, forcing myself to go "ooh, aah" and pretending that it was a big deal.  It's your fault that when I finally got a chance to go to Canada one day and look around for awhile, it was closed. 

It's your fault that I know more than I ever wanted to know about Britney's twisted childhood because I had to read "Celebrity Asshole" magazine from cover to cover just to keep from going nuts in line at Wal-Mart while some hag was arguing with the clerk about how if she'd just zip the card through for the zillionth time it should work and how it must be Wal-Mart's friggin' fault that her worthless piece of crap card was declined in the first place. 

It's your fault that I think traffic lights are sentient beings that hate me and make fun of me.  Even the ones I wave at and say "thanks" to.  And it's your fault that I got the one computer out of 500 that thinks it's funny to screw around with my head and tell me bald-faced lies that I can't argue with.  There aren't any other programs running, DAMN IT.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


One reason I hate being outside is that if something is going to fall on your head, it has a chance of falling from a much greater height outside than it would in your house.  That is, the greatest height from which, say, Oprah Winfrey could fall and hit you on the head inside your house would be from the ceiling.  But if you're outside, Oprah Winfrey could fall out of an airplane without a parachute and hit you on the head and kill you.  

And then you'd be known as "the guy who got killed by a falling Oprah Winfrey", and people would laugh at your demise.  Oh sure, the more conscientious ones would feel bad and try to stifle their laughter, but they'd still laugh.  Some people would even laugh during your funeral, and you wouldn't even be able to tell them to shut up.  That's why I've hired people to attend my funeral and tell anyone who laughs to shut up.  But there's no way I'll ever know if they actually show up or if they just keep the money and stay home.  So I may have to hire people to make sure they do, but there's no way I'll ever know if they will.

Another bad thing about being outside is that this is where most train wrecks, plane crashes, and high-speed vehicular collisions occur.  There just aren't that many headlines about people getting killed while watching TV, even if they're watching a "Full House" marathon on TV Land.  I feel pretty safe when I'm watching TV.  Sometimes I hear scary noises, but they're usually coming from outside.  See?  Outside is where the scariest noises come from, which is another reason that outside is bad.  If there are ever any scary noises that come from inside my house, I just look at my cat.  If she isn't worried about them, then they're okay.  If she runs under a table, then so do I.  Cats are a good scary-noise-importance gauge.

One of the worst things about being outside is that this is when the flying monkeys can get you.  Ever since the first time I watched THE WIZARD OF OZ as a child, I've been terrified that I'll be walking around outside minding my own business one day and the flying monkeys will swoop down and get me.  And you can't arm yourself against them, either, because whenever you walk around in public holding a sawed-off shotgun or a big, spiky ninja sword, the police usually take it upon themselves to butt into your business with a bunch of personal questions, and these questions will eventually require an answer which includes the phrase "flying monkeys."  Well, the police don't believe in flying monkeys.  Not even the ones who have seen CORKY ROMANO. 

Someone once told me that I had agoraphobia.  I thought they said "angoraphobia" and modeled one of my favorite sweaters to disprove them.  I really look lovely in it, too, if I do say so myself--especially with capri pants and a pair of spangled pumps.  When I realized what agoraphobia was, I had to admit that I probably do have it.  I went to my doctor and asked him what I could do about this, and he said "stay inside" and charged me sixty bucks.  I could've just stayed home in the first place and used the sixty bucks to order pizza three times. 

Home pizza delivery is great for agoraphobes.  It's the only time that hearing the doorbell doesn't make me run under a table.  "Yay!  My pizza's here!" I scream, throwing the front door wide open and dancing around with animalistic glee.  It's at this point I usually realize that I should've put on some pants or something first.  But the look on the delivery lady's face is worth enduring her irritating screams of horror as she flees to her car and speeds haphazardly away down the street.  And sometimes she just drops the pizza without making me pay for it, which is pretty neat.