The girl, whom I had never met before, shoved a black, oblong box at me, hard into my stomach, and I wheezed when it crammed my breadbasket halfway up my throat. "Listen, you," she said, calmer than I expected, "if you know what's good for you, you'll hide this little coffin under your bunk bed and don't let your mommy see it or she'll take away your G.I. Joes."
This girl was the kind of tough street kid that rode a skateboard and a moped. She got her haircut in a friend's kitchen with a pair of toenail clippers and a cigarette lighter. She stole her dad's denim jacket and her family dog's spiked collar.
I was in love. But, I panicked, whatever was in the box could get me in serious trouble, and my action-figure collection would be in jeopardy. How did she even know I had a G.I. Joe collection? Her tuner must've been sensitive as a bug's antennae because she'd nailed my personality with precision.
"Look, nerd," she said, and pushed my glasses back on my nose, "do you want to be cool or do you want me to pull that doll out of your pocket and show everyone in here?"
"It's not a doll," I said. "It's a racecar. It's the General Lee, to be exact."
"You want me to pull the General Lee out and show everyone, or you going to hide this box?"
This was playing out like an after-school special; everyone knew their lines as if we'd rehearsed our whole lives. I was the nerd, desperate for attention from anyone; if it happened to be from the opposite sex, sparks threatened to shoot from my eyes. She was the tough kid, probably wrapped up in something that she never asked for. She didn't ask to get woke up at midnight by her drunk old man and forced to do the dishes, and she didn't ask for the trouble of being caught with whatever was in that box, but she couldn't help herself. She had to do it. She had to do all those things, and so did I.
"Hide it safe, handsome," she said, and dropped it into my arms. "Wouldn't want that collection of Transformers to get taken away, now, would you?"
She ran, bolted from the scene, and I called after her. No. I wouldn't. But that wouldn't be a problem.
I was 26.
Thursday, October 4
The Tyra Banks Show
CW 11:00 a.m.
Where my wisdom tooth used to be, a sac of pus is now growing. Isn't that pretty? My long fantasy of pupating unidentified tissue in a dental socket is finally coming true. If I open my mouth wide enough and shine a light back there, I can see it, like one of Tyra's eyeballs staring back at me.
The Black Carpet
BET 8:00 p.m.
Genius! Well, upon reconsideration, I have to withdraw my earlier proclamation of genius because I think black carpet will still show stains just like every other carpet. What I'm looking for is something in a camouflage pattern of red wine burgundy, lubricant gray, and "tears" color.
Friday, October 5
CBS 8:00 p.m.
Are there ghosts of other animals? What if there are mythical creature ghosts, like Ewoks? I don't speak that stupid "yub yub" language, and I don't think Jennifer Love Hewitt does either. If anyone's ever haunted by a spectral Ewok, they'll just have to resign to it, like it's a pet. It might not be so bad having a dead Ewok for a pet. Sure, it plays a spooky little drum when you're trying to sleep and that's kind of annoying, but it'll never take a dump on the tile.
Saturday, October 6
NBC 9:00 a.m.
Boy, Saturday-morning cartoons have taken a dismal turn. Ninja Turtles, Gummi Bears, Smurfs, and even the girly cartoons like Strawberry Shortcake sound hysterical and wild when compared to Postman Pat . Oh, he's Postman Pat! He delivers mail! Day after day. With a bottle of vodka at the bottom of his letter bag. Until one day he goes to the shed with an old belt and a milk crate. Buy cereal, kids! Buy cereal!
A Salute to Teachers
CA4SD 7:00 p.m.
You know what I want a salute to? (a) My jockey shorts, for outstanding performance in these harrowing times, and (b) the kids who have to sit in horrid classrooms with these "heroes" we call teachers. And I don't mean a salute like "Let's give them a box of crayons and a kitty-cat sticker..." I mean, you know, a couple beers with dinner one night and a cigar on their birthday. God, I'd be the coolest teacher ever.
Sunday, October 7
World's Tallest Man
TLC 9:00 p.m.
It'd be great to be best friends with the world's tallest man. He could boost you up to peep in windows. You could even stand on his head and open your raincoat up and expose yourself to the...well, the police call them "victims," but I call them "appreciative audiences." You know you like it. Oh, you like it, all right.
Monday, October 8
NBC 8:00 p.m.
Stop pretending this is a good show. Everyone. There are so many more worthwhile things we could pretend. My favorite pretend-time fun includes a chorus line of fluffy white rabbits belting out a soulful rendition of "Proud Mary" while I sit at the edge of their poppy field and eat peanut butter sandwiches. Naked. Now, that's worth pretending. Rolling! Rolling! Rolling on the river!
Tuesday, October 9
ABC 8:30 p.m.
Well, pull my string and watch me shoot sparks out of my ears, a show about carpooling. Isn't that interesting and wonderful? This is the most exciting thing to happen to my Tuesday night since I rubbed Ben Gay on my nipples and stood in front of the air conditioner.
Wednesday, October 10
CBS 8:00 p.m.
The better show is Child Slave Nation . You can vote at home! (a) Keep her until her fingers are nimble enough to pick pockets; (b) sell her now to a rich foreign couple as a tile scrubber; (c) hold out until she has a kid of her own and double your profits. Text "Jesus, what have we become?" to 202-456-1111.
Thursday, October 11
This Old House Hour
PBS 9:00 p.m.
One time I had a repair emergency and I sent a package to This Old House. They sent me a letter back that read, "Sorry, little Ollie, there just isn't enough Scotch tape on Earth to put Mr. Snifflebottoms the teddy bear back together again. Next time, don't get so close with the steak knife, and you should also really ask your mom before you smear her lipstick all over a stuffed animal." For this, Norm Abram, you shall pay dearly.