2016: The Final Chapter

Put on your “I Survived 2016” t-shirts, children. You’re Final Girl and 2016 is chained to a boulder at the bottom of the lake.

I just saw someone post a Bob Denver obituary with the comment, “Oh nooooooo.” 2016 must have gotten its hands on a time machine in its final agonizing moments, because he died in 2005, or so we thought.

Imagine 2016 reaching its icy fingers out through time to touch the people you care about most. If it can travel backward, surely it can go forward? “But we won,” you’ll say. “We beat 2016 for good and now it’s Celebrity Smooth Sailing into the brightest imaginable future, the whole nineteen days of January before we flush this watery shitcloud turd we call America.”

No, 2016 is finished, but there’s a sequel in the works. If you love anything or anyone, then hold on to your booties, kids, because this one’s going to be a real thriller.

My spiritual adviser told me to keep my chin up. He was on the 10,000th hour of an intricate sand mandala, which he then threw into my face as if to prove a point about impermanence. “Where there’s life, there’s another chance, Bobby,” he said as he performed the first strokes of a new mandala. Still, I am almost certain I heard him mutter motherfucker under his breath as I walked away.

Will Giggles, Esq., was not so sure. “You gotta sell it all and put everything into canned food and shotguns,” he said.

“Will,” I said. “All due respect, but that’s a line from Gremlins 2 and nobody gets it.”

“Come on, baby,” he said, swinging his small, chubby fists around, “Gremlins 2 is fucking gold. You have this Trump/Ted Turner amalgam guy playing his end of the world tape. Then, the holographic doctor from Star Trek Voyager, uh, what’s his name? Yeah, Robert Picardo! He fucks Lady Gremlin. How does that even work? It’s all about corporate greed leading to the destruction of civilization! What’s not to love? Five fucking stars baby. 2017 is the year of the Gremlin!”

Whatever happens, my friends, take care of yourselves. I know not with what weapons 2017 will be fought, but 2018 will be fought with sticks and stones.

Happy New Year.

How to Score With Baristas

Maybe you’re sitting at your local artisan haus of grind ‘n’ brew, or, glans forbid, a fucking Starbucks, and you spot the new hire. She’s fresh into Eleventh Grade and you’ve checked all the city, state, and federal statutes. It’s time for the approach.

Here’s where most people fly this sexy Cessna right into the ground. Do you sidle up to the bar, brush aside your wispy chinstrap beard, which has the one hair that’s three times as long as all the other hairs (it’s the Emperor Hair from which all other hairs draw their power), and introduce yourself? Do you wait in the lobby for hours until she goes out to her car to smoke the secret cigarette she thinks her mom doesn’t know about, so you know which windshield wiper to poke your hastily scrawled declaration of admiration and contact information under?

I know your telomeres are shortening by the moment. You may be tempted to hand her your greasy, scone-encrusted phone, which you’ve already opened to your 20,000 word website manifesto on the scientifically proven benefits of intergenerational mating, and ask her to browse it between drink orders. You can wait, you’ll say. You have all night.

This is destined for failure. There’s no way she can absorb your genius without her full attention. When you feel this tingle, stop what you are doing, walk out of the shop, and follow these easy steps which will guarantee that you’ll be banging a young barista in fifteen easy steps.

  1. Go home and look into the mirror.
  2. Realize you are not a classic rock god. Unfortunately, we do not have the technology to change you into Led Zeppelin or David Bowie, yet.
  3. If you have the option to become royalty, or a billionaire, do so now. Billionaires seem to have the edge on low/high telomerase relationships.
  4. Otherwise, Google “Mental Health Professionals” in your area and select one that looks promising.
  5. Make an appointment.
  6. If you cannot afford to make an appointment, found your own religion and be sure to include precepts about how you should be allowed to save young women from cancer with the low telomerase levels in your skin.
  7. If you are not charismatic enough to start a religion, hit the gym and delete Facebook.
  8. Next, and this is important, make friends with people of the opposite sex in situations where there is not a power differential. For example, if they are your dental hygienist with their hands currently inside your mouth (note: if you do not have a dental hygienist get a dental hygienist) it is probably not a great time to ask them out. Likewise, if you are a law enforcement officer and you are currently arresting them for drunk and disorderly, this is also not a good time.
  9. When it comes down to popping the big question, make sure you have some rapport with the person and it’s not the first time you’ve spoken to them. Do not declare your eternal love and admiration. Do not show them your website. Do not, ever, write a cute note in pencil with yes/no boxes unless you are literally in Third Grade. (If this is the case, close this tab and go to bed young man, where the hell are your parents?)
  10. If you get turned down, no biggie! Smile and move on. It’s okay to go home and shed a single manly tear or two, but dust yourself off and get back to living. There are about two billion other dateable women on the planet. You cannot possibly repulse all of them!
  11. Suggestion: You may want to make sure they’ve graduated high school, bro. I know, I know. Telomerase. Thing is, you want them to be able to grasp the full gravity of your theories and they didn’t pay attention in chemistry at all. In physical science they were passing notes and lighting their homework on fire with the burners in the back of the class. Why are those still installed? It seems like a really bad idea to give teenagers easy access to explosive gas. Do you catch my drift, bro? How about some college? A little college? Work with me here.
  12. At this point you may have had a date or two. Perhaps you’ve entered a long term relationship and it’s your one week anniversary. Do not celebrate this. Your one month anniversary rolls around. Do not mention it bro, it’s creepy. Especially if you update your Facebook (which you should have deleted, bro, but now that you’re settled down I’m sure you’ve been dragged back into the pits of online hell) with, “so blessed. #blessed. blessed blessed blessed.” Do not, under any circumstances, post this.
  13. Now you’ve reached the one year mark and you’ve almost arrived, brother. It’s your one year anniversary. Go to Bed, Bath, & Beyond, purchase the nicest Cafina you can afford, wrap it nicely, bring it to her apartment (I hope you aren’t cohabitating man DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU EVERYTHING), and present it to her.
  14. Ask, politely, if she’d like to fire that sucker up.
  15. Now you’re plowing a barista, broham.

This may seem daunting, but as it is with life, you have to take it one step at a time. Don’t rush it. Hell, man, I’ve installed ceiling fans by carefully following the instructions and I don’t know a goddamned thing about electricity. I can’t even do redstone circuits on Minecraft. Oh, you know all about them? Why don’t you come over and show me sometime?

Until then, take it easy and try not to get down about it. Maybe work on editing your manifesto. It seems a little long-winded and repetitive. I think you could get it down to 2,000 words, easily.

Just Below Navel Gazing

The philosopher Daniel Dennett mentions the term thinko in one of his books. He explains that this is the sibling of the typo, which is a technical mistake. A thinko is more of a thinking error, like momentarily forgetting what parsimonious means and shoving it into a sentence where it doesn’t belong. 

I break out into a cold sweat when I notice I’ve committed either of those sins to the wide Internets for literally tens of people to view and judge. Maybe I should start doing my thirty revisions before I hit publish.

I’ve also been pretty guilty of playing fast and loose with the English language. I love fooling around with punctuation and italics because I want things to read the way someone would speak. I don’t know if it’s prosetry or broetry, but I hope this comes across as a little better than idiotic, at least some of the time. 

It’s difficult not to compare myself to others, but in this wide world of seven, going on eight billion people, that’s always a losing bet. You can apply it to anything. Hell, if I looked down every time I clicked on a malware-laden PornHub link and thought,  “Why do all these beautiful men have such sleek, petite cocks? So streamlined and thin, like tiny bullet trains, when all I have is this massive juicy hog?” well, I’d be reaching for the deli slicer in no time. No, there’s room for this lumbering tool on this Earth, and there’s room for you too, pencil or Oak. 

That’s the thing, really. There’s an audience for anyone. When I’m feeling down, I don’t crack open Hemingway and browbeat myself. I repeat this mantra: Stephenie Meyer. Stephenie Meyer. Stephenie Meyer

Still, I realize that before one can throw paint on the canvas willy-nilly, they must understand how the masters worked. You can’t build a hot rod without comprehending basic auto mechanics. You sure can buy one, though. Go into a bookstore and pile up all the titles you can find with celebrity/no-name dual authorship. Bring a ladder. 

Now, excuse me. I have to go back, delete twelve gratuitous instances of the word that, and Google grammatical rules I should have learned in seventh grade instead of doodling Ninja Turtles and nuclear explosions.

If the typos, or thinkos, are still there after a day, feel free to send me a message. I’m always willing to learn.

Otherwise, assume I did it on purpose. If you can struggle through McCarthy, you can do anything. 

I believe in you.

*Wink*

The Year Everyone Died

Let’s talk about death, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.

I’ve been screaming about how we’re all going to die since forever. It’s kinda my shtick. Now that it’s caught on with the masses, I’ve felt the need to tell everyone else to shut the fuck up. The secret to being on the cutting edge of grief is that I’m always angry (that’s Stage Two, by the way, which is the best stage).

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED

By an amazing combination of pop culture memes and Internet saturation, we’ve reached the pinnacle of pants-shitting horror when it comes to celebrity lifespans. It is anathema to Americans that the privileges of fame and wealth haven’t been extended to mortality yet. Sure, they can buy better health care, or houses in twelve states to get on transplant lists (love ya, Steve), but when the Reaper comes a knockin’, they still have to let him in, and can’t Congress¹ do something about this? Will anyone survive 2016? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SEVERUS SNAPE² IS DEAD³.

I don’t hold issue with sadness. I can’t be angry at ideas. Cultural memes just might be the next step in human evolution. Too bad so many of them turn out to be the common cold, or full blown fucking AIDS in this situation.

No, I hate people, and you are one, so now I have something to wrestle with.

Let’s hit it with some science. The mortality rate in the US is actually declining. Of course, we’re all looking at 100% in the long run, but this isn’t the year everyone started dropping like flies. It’s the year everyone online started paying attention to the march of time. Basically, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon got hit by a truck of radioactive ooze on the Information Superhighway and Confirmation Bias fell in (I am putting this in terms you can understand), fusing them into a solipsistic superhero with the powers of insincerity and bandwagoning. Code name: RAPTURE. (The costume is reaperesque with cool shades and a 2016 calendar on the chest.)

I know some of you guys have witnessed death this year. I am so, so sorry. As someone who has been there, I feel you, but that’s not even what this is about.

It’s about the fact that some of you guys cannot be telling the truth when you heavily imply that you were wracked with grief exactly 47 times this year when all your favorite actors/musicians/rich people/royalty/authors/artists/news anchors/professional wrestlers/Internet cewebrities/reality show “stars”/horse trainers/iguanas/Tamagotchis died. You just can’t. Some of you aren’t even taking the time to pretend you care and turn in a solid essay on the matter. It’s gotten pared down to:

Step One: Post obituary.
Step Two: Variations on “Oh no 2016!”
Step Three: Rinse and repeat.

You cannot possibly be that sad. If you are, please go to a doctor. Otherwise, you are lying about being sad, which is what sociopaths do. If you aren’t ever sad, you’re probably also a sociopath. My god you’re all sociopaths.

Look, I was sad over famous people a couple of times this year. David Bowie’s death hit me in the gut for real. I felt physical pain, and I still think about him often. It’s a miniature, almost microscopic version of the way I feel when I think about my father, who died in 2011. Every day, folks. Every fucking day.

Carrie Fisher’s passing has obviously thrust me into some sort of fugue state here so, again, Stage Two is how I deal. I am not so detached that I don’t realize I’m being a massive dickhead. Thing is, between Bowie and her, I can’t remember anyone else that I marked with more than passing interest this year. It didn’t hurt and I won’t pretend it did. Yeah, we can talk about it, but to say, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY SOMEONE STOP 2016!” and then go on with your day displays your vast ignorance of statistics, and it’s just plain disingenuous as fuck. If you were really that afraid of 2016 you’d be taking a day off work to dig a goddamned bunker.

Maybe you’re just Having Fun Online. Who are you to tell me how to post, Internet’s Bob Talbot? Why must you rule over us with your iron fist? Well, here comes the guy with the answers.

Commiseration Towel sold separately.

My new invention, the Griefalyzer™, connects to any device via USB and Micro USB. By implementing patented grief-detecting technology into a user-friendly interface, the Griefalyzer™ will revolutionize the way we grieve online. Just blow into the Mouthpiece of Misery, which leads to the hormonal processing matrix and our GriefTech™ will do the rest.

When your actual, penetrating, gut-twisting sadness is confirmed by the headset, a signal is sent to your device which will present a series of options based on your level of distress, ranging from a winding autobiographical piece about how the deceased celebrity in question came to your boarding school and changed your life forever, to a crying sad face emoticon.

The Griefalyzer™ prevents meme drift and dysthymic feinting by activating a browser lock when the subject is not verifiably grieving. If the user attempts to circumvent the program, the MaxOffense AI™ will search its database and post a crude joke cribbed from Comedy Central Roasts to all of their social media accounts. No trigger warning here, folks!

The Griefalyzer™, in stores now at the low price of $99,999.99!

I’m so glad this fucking year is about to end, but guess what? It’s only going to get worse, fam. We still haven’t cured death and sweet little Donny will be at the helm. Prepare to flip that calendar on Rapture’s chest to 2017. There’s plenty of sick old people, but don’t forget that death comes for us all. Maybe a car wreck or two. Drug overdoses. Donny’s itchy finger on the red button. Surprise! Your heart exploded.

Strap on your Griefalyzer™, kids. We’ve got notables to notch!⁴


¹ House Bill 666
² We will accept foreign celebrities into the Celebrity Immortality Program as long as they tickle our collective pickles.

³ SPOILERS, SWEETIE.
⁴ This is Rapture’s battle cry as he puts a notch in his Grief Belt™.

Postcards from the End

I could have sworn that I took a photograph of Carrie Fisher from across a crowded convention hall in Dallas. It’s not on any of my hard drives or stored anywhere I can find. Gina searched her computer in case I was mistaking one of hers for mine. Nothing.

Apparently, the scene is just so burned into my brain that I convinced myself it was a photograph. I can still see her sitting at the end of the table closest to us. She’s wearing a brown pantsuit and sunglasses. We stood there, Gina and I, in the center of the autograph area, which we called the celebrity zoo, and gawked. I wasn’t about to stand in line for four hours when there was so much to do. There’s always next time, right?

Suddenly I’m a kid and I’m over someone’s house, I don’t remember who, but they had a new VCR and a bootleg of Star Wars and they keep pausing it and rewinding it at all the parts they want to see. Later on, it’s Obi Wan Kenobi disappearing at Vader’s last strike, but the first moment is “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

Don’t be alarmed by 2016, children. People have been dying forever. There’s a neat convergence of social media saturation and the mundane march of time going on here, so prepare to get wrecked for the rest of your life. Your grandparents had to mourn Elvis in front of the television. Their parents talked about FDR over the breakfast table as they cracked open their newspapers. They all clung to each other as their progenitors passed, and they didn’t have an electronic bulletin board to slap their grief upon.

Here’s what I want you to do today: If you find yourself in pain, think of someone else you’d like to contact, someone who is currently breathing, someone you appreciate, and write them a letter. Get a piece of paper, a pen, an envelope, and procure the appropriate postage. Let them know, because it’s going to be too late on the day they leave this place.

It’s cathartic to jump on the social media train and I don’t blame you for it. I’ll do it myself, but once we get that notch in our belts we’ll move on to the next tragedy. I’d rather not just live moving from crisis to crisis when I can send someone a message of love and admiration to break up the monotony.

We’ll take things for granted until it’s time for us to be buried or burned. It’s human nature. I am under no illusion that this meager missive will have an impact on millions of years of evolution.

Until then, thank someone today. Thank Carrie Fisher, then thank someone because Carrie Fisher isn’t here to thank anymore.

Maybe from now on, December 25 is Christmas, December 26 is Boxing Day, and December 27 is a new day of thanks for those who gave us hope. The artists who helped us dream when we were little. The people who let us know that maybe there’s more to life, even if it’s a space opera.

Thank you, Carrie.

Heavy Hitter

When I recently performed my quarterly Facebook ragequit, my spiritual adviser and life coach, Scott Haven, messaged me and expressed great concern. “Bob,” he said, “I cannot sanction this. You may damage your brand irreparably, and you underestimate the impact you have on the deranged schadenfreudists who follow you.”

I was reminded of the time William Shatner quit Twitter after an influx of particularly harrowing harassment. The next day, he was contacted by his old pal Tom Berenger. “Bill,” I imagine Tom said, “the Internet won’t be the same without you, or your social media guy. I never can tell. Your tweets seem pretty hip for an octogenarian, but what do I know? Anyway, come back soon. Love, little Tommy Berenger.”

Bill (or his social media guy) returned, and the rest is history.

It is tempting as all hell to jump back in headfirst, but I’m going to do this carefully and take a lesson from the greats. I need a guy. All the heavy hitters have one. Nobody runs their own social media except for Wil Wheaton and Donald Trump, and I’d do well to stay out of the fray lest I transform that lovely relationship into a triad rivaling the political map from a WWII turn-based strategy game (I’m the Comintern, obviously).

Nope. I hired a guy. He came highly recommended from Chewbacca Mom. Haven’t you noticed my little red notification packets of joy popping up on your icy blue globe recently? Last week when you got your first dopamine hit from me in a month, I bet you thought I’d done it again. “There goes ol’ Bob,” you said to your dog(s)/cat(s)/child(ren)/significant other(s)/body pillow(s), “up to his tricks again.”

I wouldn’t clue you in to my master plan while you still had time to stop me. No, I handed all my account passwords over to PR prodigy Will Giggles, Esq., a week ago.

“Bobby. Booby. Baby,” he said. “This year you were followed by Tay Zonday. Tay. Fucking. Zonday. Or his bot, but that’s no multilevel marketing bot! Look at this look at this.” He paused and tapped the surface of his impossibly thin phone.

“You tweet and mention Eva Green,” he squeals, his tiny fingers flicking across the glass, “ten thousand interactions, baby. You need to go down to Academy right now and get those fifty pound dumbbells you’ve had your eye on, because you’re a fucking heavyweight baby. Look at these replies. Derf Backderf. Andrew Cartmel. It’s probably not even his guy. Of course it’s his guy Boobala, but you’re a goddamned star.”

Lift them for the cashier baby she can’t do it. LIFT THEM LIKE A FUCKING STAR.

Don’t be fooled by his diminutive stature. Will Giggles has worked for the best. Nuglah. Steve Sutton. The Amazing Jonathan Ray (not to be confused with the Amazing Jonathan). I could go on all night but I don’t have time because I have to approve all these tweets he’s crafting. Check this one out:

On January, 1, 2016, I submitted my deadpool list to Santa and I must say that it has been a Very Merry Christmas. I may have typoed “Santa”

Knocked it out of the park, Will! His home runs are always 140 characters because if the counter isn’t at zero, you aren’t tweeting like a hero.

Now that the guy is out of the bag (he was actually delivered in a small burlap sack), rest assured that when you see Bob Talbot next to a tone-deaf political tirade, it’s Will Giggles working his magic. When you see Bob Talbot digitally hobnobbing with old British actors who fired fake guns at Daleks in quarries, it’s Will Giggles tickling those greasy keys. When you see Bob Talbot clicking Angry Face on your North Korea/Carolina meme at 3 am, it’s Will Giggles hammering the hormones home to your cerebral cortex. When you see someone crying over website metrics, it’s me.

Until I don’t have to hand over Benjamins to caress Stan Lee’s liver-spotted husk, make mine Will Giggles.

WHAM!

Gina’s grandfather, 92, is still in rehabilitation from his recent fall and subsequent hip surgery. Maybe he’ll be home before 2017. During the big WWII, he used to crawl across the deck of his carrier in the dark. He’s lived most his life with half a hand. It’s amazing to me that we have these Sequoias when so many are cut down as saplings.

My brother and his wife are at the hospital with her father, who is experiencing heart trouble and will be in surgery today. They’ve already spent too many holidays in hospitals. I know I have. If you live long enough, you will too, friend.

I’ve actually had the best Christmas since 2009. George Michael just died and I’ve still had the best fucking Christmas since 2009. Jitterbug that into your fucking brain.

Chris Onstad put Achewood back into retirement, which is a damned shame, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. The greats often come back for one more run, and maybe this was Jordan’s post-baseball stint in the NBA.

All good things.

All things, good or bad, will come to an end, like this post because it’s fucking Christmas and I’m not going to spend it staring at the computer.

Debbie Reynolds just tweeted, “Carrie is in stable condition. If there is a change, we will share it.”

America is in the same boat, Deb.

No moral, kids. Your worst days ahead might be the best days you ever have again.

Lord have mercy, it’s Christmas.

Today is Doable

The second cup of coffee is the one where I start feeling like I might live. Cup one ends, then I’m sitting on the toilet, working up some hemorrhoids (nine tries spelling that and I have to Google it, let’s get real here folks) and staring deep into a Reddit screed about why someone should give Brendan Fraser a fucking job.

I remember when he was America’s Boyfriend and now he’s getting fleeced for almost a mil a year by his ex-wife, but then I realize the sick, wounded part of my brain (which is an extremely nonspecific statement because it refers to my entire brain) is only crying out for an ex-rich and arguably ex-famous guy to get some sort of justice as a totem for my dreams of deliverance from my own self-loathing. Bad socialist. Let it burn.

The girls have opened two sets of tiny little Legos, which is how they refer to them, and I’m glad. I refuse to say, “Lego blocks,” and I’m doing my part to make it a generic term by purchasing Lego-compatible toys and throwing them into the same bin with the official blocks while referring to them all as Legos. Megabloks? Legos. Kre-O? Legos.

I pause to survey the scene and say, “I love you.” Cora replies with the same.

I want to write a poem about how everything is dirt, but that’s not honest. There are things I love. Winter is here, literally and figuratively, and I’m not King in the North. I am not a honed blade. I am shivering here like the rest and I’ve made the epic fucking mistake of opening my Facebook feed to discussions of how hard a football player should be allowed to punch/slap his girlfriend, if at all, and an avalanche of other assorted mental landfill heaps collapse into my face. After enough recombinant arguments I’m left with a mutant reality that cannot live with itself. A tumorous, heaving thing.

Life will be a hammer in the teeth for a while then perhaps it won’t.

The days are short so work is nearly dawn to dusk. I enjoy my family, my children. This is the string that holds the anvil.

I think I will wear my gloves today. Capaldi shook the right one in Dallas when I was dressed in that ridiculous cosplay getup, which I love. Who needs pills? I have increasingly obscure British science fiction pantomime.

This is not a happy ending. This is Today’s Action Plan.

Action Plan Phase Two should be shaving my shitty neckbeard, which I pull off even less well than David Tennant (who cannot pull it off at all), but I have neither the time nor the inclination.

Cora is snorting boogers because she wants to eat them.

It’s the little things.

 

Write Caffeinated, Edit Never

Kids are loud. They just are. Once I got called a little shit by someone’s mother on a field trip because I was so damned loud and apparently didn’t know how to act. I don’t remember doing anything other than having fun playing video games. They were the big coin-operated cabinets you see in the movies. I have to explain this because you may have grown up playing Angry Birds on your mom’s phone.

Maybe I’m loud by nature. My family gatherings have always been a cacophony of competing conversations consisting (jesus, bob) of crude remarks (c-c-c-combo breaker) and hilarious anecdotes that increase in volume until we’ve surpassed Sepultura and jet engines in decibel level.

I’m still haunted by a date at Outback Steakhouse where a couple at the table in front of me asked to change booths because I was such an “obnoxious redneck.” It bothers me more that it was two dudes, because that clashes with my self-image of being some kind of hero for the downtrodden (even though that’s a security blanket I pull over the body that houses this poisoned mind).

After ruminating on it for years, I’ve concluded that I must have said something that sounded like a slur but wasn’t. I’ve considered that it might have been my boisterous excitability combined with my accent that led the gentleman (singular, because his partner was sitting quietly while he flailed at the worried waitstaff) to believe that I was leading some kind of two-person Klan meeting, but he sounded just as Southern and flamboyant as I do.

I should have bought him a drink.

By these powers combined, my children are loud. They are rambunctious and impulsive and often berserk. I sound like some sort of odd mansnake following them around hushing, “Shhhhhh. Shhhhh. Guys. Guys. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhh.

(I should start doing it in a Cobra Commander voice, one of the few impressions I can actually do, or at least I think I can. It probably sounds like Michael Scott doing an impression, which is what all my impressions sound like. I once performed Bane relentlessly with my hands cupped over my mouth until my coworkers stared at me, silently waiting for the mercy of my exit from that part of the building. It will get funny again if I keep doing it, right? Seth MacFarlane, you are the King of Lies.)

The hipsters recoil at our presence. The moms give me a knowing smile and nod. Yes. Yes, what a good man. The old men chuckle, the old ladies are too old for that shit and the childfree go home and make rageposts about how some guy’s kids ruined their shopping trip they just fucking ruined it.

Yesterday we went to the dentist to get Cora’s semiannual checkup. I brought Bea along, on the advice of my dental hygienist, to get her accustomed to the ordeal. The girls were as good as they could possibly be (a disclaimer that includes playing tug of war with their scarves, instigation of crimes against magazines, and compulsive dancing and seat-switching along with some light grappling), but I was also glad that the waiting room was full of smiling young women, including a mother who kept grinning and whispering something to her adolescent son.

I hope it was something like, “Look at how patient the man is, how he speaks to them so kindly,” and not, “Haha that jackass has no fucking idea what he is doing.”

It is sort of a weird personal fable that I think she was even talking about us at all. She might have been talking about the weather or asking him when we were finally going to get Kony. “Son, you need to remember that this shit is about ethics in videogames journalism.”

Christ, Mom, those memes are so old. why do you always have to try to embarrass me at the dentist?”

“Sorry, bae bae. I’m so wrapped up in this thesis I can’t get my head straight. When I’m the dean of Meme College, we’re going to put all this behind us.”

Gina often refers to the girls as the elephants when they’re running around upstairs. My house was a Kent Arnold Home, which means something to people around here, namely that Kent Arnold is a land developer who weaseled his way onto the jury in the infamous miscarriage of justice known as West Memphis Three trial (Google that and him and go wild, if your heart so desires) and he has filled the bustling city of Jonesboro, population 77,000, with beautiful little cheap-ass homes.

I would catalog its defects in loving detail but I don’t want to get sued. The relevant one is that the thin, popping sheets of plywood that make up the top floor resonate like a drum when the pitter patter of tiny amplified feet, which support 30-40 pounds of little girl, convince me that either Lars Ulrich snuck over for an impromptu jam session or someone dropped a safe down the stairwell.

We’re Talbot Loud and Talbot Proud, which is really the patriarchal gentrification of everything Henderson. My mom’s family is the loud one. I’m always talking about the Talbot Rage™, but once again I don’t recall seeing any person who was born with the Talbot surname flip shit until my generation rolled along. Come to think of it, that part wasn’t even so much Henderson. I have an inkling it may have snaked its way through maiden names for generations but I don’t have any evidence to back it up. See, part of me would love to blame it on women (pay no attention to the misogynist behind the curtain, I am the great and powerful Bob), but it’s probably nature across the board, with a whole lot of nurture dumped on top of it.

So the big shit has little shits. Tough shit, I guess. I hope they can keep it down when I’m forced to throw together an impromptu fallout shelter under the stairs. All that shushing is going to give our position away to the raiders. You know, the roving bands of brigands that will comb the wastes after Donnie tweets at China for the last time.

I’m going to give you guys until next week to figure out a way Bernie can still win. We’re going to be forced to eat the cat and I usually can’t get Cora to finish her tater tots. Gina can’t lactate enough for the four of us. Wait, can she?

THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT.

The Night Cow by Cormac McCarthy

The cow stood looming in megablok wreckage while an oscillating fan cranked back and forth on its utmost setting. The revolving constellation lamp reflected a desert sky Milky Way off its inky pupils. Lies made truth of legend. To salivate on follicles like a louse enlarged past practicality and yet its temeritous purpose was prescient. It was here to lick and make a mess of hair that would not yield to brush or comb no matter how the head was handled.

Dad, I am afraid of the Night Cow, she said.

It’s not going to do anything to you. It’s going to lick your head.

It’s going to scream at me.

No it isn’t. It’s going to moo. Cows go moo. Moo.

What does it look like?

It looks like a cow. You aren’t afraid of cows are you?

No.

Okay then. I love you.

I love you too.

Have a good dream.

Have a good dream.

Dad?

What?

Never mind. Goodnight.

Goodnight.