So, our instructor assigned us to write a story with a strong emphasis on irony. Mine is about a hypothetical future American tragedy of a coup financed and designed by the Kremlin. By way of summary, this is how it related to irony and I appended this to the story for the instructor’s edification.
“And, the most ironic part of the whole American tragedy was this: even though he spent his entire life conning others, it was beyond his ken to consider that Vlademort Putrid was likewise conning him. He had been lying and bragging so long about his competence in all things that he actually came to believe he was smarter and a better strategist than Putrid. Putrid likely could have done it alone. But, of course, he did not do it alone. Putrid had the collaboration of highly trained, highly dedicated KBG/GRU professionals to help.
“In principle, perhaps he could have enlisted American experts, but he didn’t feel the need. Furthermore, he faced a real dilemma. He couldn’t openly ask any but the corrupt for help against American interests. And those who were corrupt were generally far less competent and always less well connected to a healthy network of professionals than their more numerous and genuinely patriotic counterparts.
“I said that was the most ironic part of the whole American tragedy, but there are near contenders. Another highly ironic part of his entire con game was that the played the game as though the only thing in the universe that mattered was his own pleasure. Of course, no matter what moves he made or is yet to make, he is not actually immortal in and of himself. By lying to himself and everyone else, he essentially cut himself off from being part of The Great Tree of Life (or at least from being a non-cancerous part). Rather than living on through his actions that benefited the whole, he delimited his life, curtailed it, circumscribed it to his own physical mortality.
“The intertwined corollary of the above is that even while he lived, he missed out on the best feeling in life: being in caring and loving honest relationships. In order to absolutely and positively ensure that he grabbed as much as possible for himself, he limited his “prizes” to mere material crap and the pleasure of cruelty. “
So, this is how they responded:
“When it comes to being ironic, this is definitely A plus material.
However, sad to say, there are also some serious problems with your narrative. First, of all Americans are too well educated to fall for the lies of a known con man. And, why not simply make the character more believable? It’s not plausible that so many people would fall for the con. Apart from that, the cowardice you portray on the part of so many within his own party is also unbelievable.
Still, the mechanics of the writing was also clean, so I’m giving you a B+. Next time, focus on believability rather than forgoing that to punch the irony.”
Mammon and the Misrepresentative Mentiroso Shaitan
Once there was a very ambitious man Mentiroso Shaitan who wanted very much to be rich. He spent all his time at the tavern complaining about how he wasn’t rich and wanted to be.
One of the men at the table said, “I am a woodsman. It is hard work, but you can make a decent living. And, you’ll stay in shape. And, you’ll get to spend a lot of time in beautiful places where the air is clean and clear!”
Shaitan said, “That sounds like too much work and not enough money. I want to be rich not decent.”
A bar maid who was delivering a round of drinks suggested, “Well, you could be a barman here or at another bar. It keeps your memory strong, it keeps your heart racing, it pays next to nothing, but the tips can be good if you’re nice to your customers. Oh, and another bonus. Once you see how absurd people act when they’re drunk, you’ll not be tempted yourself!”
Mentiroso shook his head and scoffed. “No-one gets rich as a barman. Not good enough for me.”
Another woman, now asked, “Well, what skills do you have? What kind of experience?”
Shaitan laughed. “Well, not much really. But I’m really smart! And, I really want to get rich.”
Another man slouched in the shadows at the booth at the end of the table. He had been silent till now. “I think I understand you perfectly, Mentiroso Shaitan. There’s no reason you can’t be rich very soon. And you don’t need experience or skills. Here. Tell you what. I’ll pay for your drink. Come back to my place where I can explain things privately. Clearly, these misguided fools think you have to work for a living and that having a job means you should have relevant experience and have evidence that you are quite competent and that kind of claptrap. But you and I — we’re beyond that kind of petty “get what you deserve” kind of life. Right, my friend. Oh, and by the way, my name is Mamman.”
Intrigued, Mentiroso Shaitan stood and walked to the end of the table and took Mamman’s hand in his. “Pleased to meet you Mamman! I’m Mentiroso Shaitan. Let’s ditch this joint and talk diablo a diablo!”
I wonder whether anyone has experience they’d like to share in using Lassie movies as training devices for their own pooch. I am still learning to distinguish which of Sadie’s many barks means variously:
1. I have to go potty.
2. I *really* have to go potty!
3. I *really* have to go BIG potty!
4. I don’t really have to go potty and I really am bored and so maybe you’ll take me out to go potty so that I can:
3a. Find a poison mushroom to inhale before I even notice it’s there
3b. Bark at anything out of place such as a fallen leaf
3c. Pretend to be docile and then try to dislocate my shoulder when she sees a mosquito float by. Or a leaf. Or a hallucination.
On the other hand, Lassie is capable of communicating with cunning, compassion, and coherence with the adults in her life. I grant you that theoretically, it might be that the adults on the show are much cleverer than I am. It’s a reasonable hypothesis, but no…if I had abandoned mine shafts and unused wells all over my farm, I’d make damn sure any kids knew they were not to go there! And, I wouldn’t cover over an unused well hole with a couple of loose two by fours either. For that and other tedious reasons, I don’t think the genius in the Lassie family lies with the humans. It is Lassie who has the title role and she is the one with outstanding skills.
Witness episode N+1:
Lassie gallops into the kitchen and skids to a stop right beside Gramps and barks:
“What’s that Lassie? What is it, girl?”
“What? Something’s wrong with the roof?”
“I will not! Anyway, I already fed you.”
Lassie, noticeably frustrated, circles twice and grabs a can-opener in her muzzle, sprints to the liquor cabinet and begins banging the can-opener into the lock.
“What? You’re trying to jimmy the lock open? You want a drink?”
Lassie grabs one ear with her paw and barks.
“Oh! Sounds like ‘jimmy’! Oh! Let’s see…’Kimmy’, ‘dimmy’, ‘Limmy’, I don’t know girl. There aren’t many words that rhyme with ‘jimmy.’”
Lassie barks: “ARF! ARF!”
“Lassie, are you sick or something girl?”
Immediately, Lassie springs into the air and does a somersault onto her back and waves all four paws in the air.
Gramps muses aloud. “The opposite of sick. Healthy? Something is healthy? No? Hale? Fine Fettle? Hardy?”
For each guess, Lassie barks a sharp short “No!”
Gramps frowns and says, “Well, I don’t know what you’re trying to say, Lassie. I’ve got to get back to carving my pipe here.”
Lassie stands on her hind two legs and begins using ASL with her two front paws. However, she quickly notes the looks of bewilderment on the visage of Gramps and she rightly concludes that he still doesn’t know ASL, despite her admonitions. So, she begins again with the barking: “ARF! ARF!”
Gramps says, “You’re not making any sense, Lassie. Timmy wouldn’t fall down a well. Why would he?”
“ARF! ARF! ARF!”
Gramps frowns and tilts his head so fast he pulls his sternocleidomastoid. “What? He fell down the well just last week? No, he didn’t. That was two weeks ago. Last week, Timmy fell down an old mineshaft. Oh! Wait! Are you trying to tell me that Timmy fell down a well again!? Oh, no! Why didn’t you tell me?”
Needless to say, Gramps calls the sheriff and after he arrives Gramps explains. The sheriff draws his gun and charges out toward one of the 17 abandoned wells at Gramps’s place. But Lassie begins barking — again!
“ARF! ARF! WOOF! BOW!”
The sheriff glares at Gramps and uses his best shoulder shrugging head tilt as though to say, “Well? You going to shut up the mutt or am I?”
Gramps scratches several places; for instance, behind his ear. Then he says, “Lassie is simply pointing out that while a gun won’t help get Timmy out of the well, a long rope might.”
“I knew that!” The sheriff speaks in a huff while Lassie merely rolls her eyes and winks at Gramps. Then, off Lassie scampers to the tool shed, picks the lock with a handy nearby roofing nail, nudges the door open, and scampers back with a long loop of strong rope.
Soon, she leads them to one of the many abandoned wells. By the time Gramps and Sheriff catch up, Lassie has tied a loose bowline one one end of the rope and two half hitches around a sturdy nearby oak stump, tosses the bowline down to Timmy, and barks her orders to him. Gramps and Sheriff pull on the rope, and soon enough, Timmy, cold and wet but alive, politely thanks Sheriff and Gramps for pulling him out and then throws his skinny arms around Lassie. “Oh, Lassie! Thanks, girl, for saving me! You were right! I shouldn’t have tried to walk across the well on those rotten planks after all!”
Lassie merely rolls her eyes.
I’m not saying that if Sadie watched any one episode that she’d learn every skill all at once, but over time, it might help. Right?
Assuming, of course, that I can ever get her to notice anything on the TV screen. I’m thinking of smearing bacon grease around the edges.
Mom sighed. She rolled her eyes. She glanced out the dining room window. “Still raining,” she muttered under her breath. She did remember to turn the iron off. Big Fred had gotten understandably upset when she had charred one of his shirts a few weeks ago.
“Donnie, we’ve talked about this before. You don’t even ride — in fact, I don’t even thing you ever rode your tricycle. Nor did you use the wagon we got you last Christmas. How about a new baseball mitt.”
“I sure could use a new baseball mitt! Thanks, Mommy! That’s a great idea. Then, I can play with Junior and I’m sure he’ll just let me ride on the handlebars when we go to the games. We go on…what’s the name of that street where those boys were run over last year? Hansel?”
“Hensley. Wait. You want a bike so you can join your brother in baseball?”
“Yes! Then you won’t have to watch me! Fred can watch me!”
Mom found the notion of peaceful summer afternoons with neither boy around for a few hours irresistible. “And, you promise you’ll play baseball and listen to Junior and do what he says?”
“Why should I always have to do what he says? Why don’t I ever get a turn? Isn’t that what you and Daddy always say? Everyone should get a turn. Freddie shouldn’t get all the turns to boss around! It’s not fair!”
“Donnie. It isn’t a game. Junior has a lot more experience than you do. He knows a lot of things that you don’t. He isn’t trying to boss you around. He’s just trying to help keep you from hurting yourself.”
“Okay, Mommy. Thank you for explaining. Sure, I’ll do whatever he says.” Donnie had long ago that it was important to look serious when he told these lies. Usually, he would ball his teeny fists in such a way as to dig his fingernails in so he really did feel pain. That made him look serious. Of course, it was also important to look Mommy in the eye. That wasn’t really something he remembered discovering. It seemed he’d always know it. The trick is to look just past the person into space while you keep in mind that it’s okay to lie. Everyone does it. That’s what you think about. Donnie felt very proud of himself to have gotten a mitt and a bike for nothing. But he wasn’t done. Not by any means.
Later that day, the rain stopped and the sun came out. The day became stifling and steamy. He knew when that happened, sometimes the Henry kids got into their swimming pool. Donnie stuffed his swim trunks into his pocket & decided he’d visit the Henry kids.
While they were swimming, Donnie spun a story of woe: how he needed a bike so he could play ball with Freddy. He tearfully explained that Daddy’s business was failing so they couldn’t afford a bike right now. But that was the terrible thing. Once he got the bike, he had a job lined up at the park and could easily earn the money to buy the bike. But he couldn’t even get to his job without the bike.
Becky always seemed the easiest mark and she spoke first: “How about if we pitch in and buy you your bike?”
Donnie smiled a huge grin. It was a genuine grin too. The Henry kids all thought he was smiling about the bike and they felt better than ever about helping out their friend. The real reason he was smiling was that his little con had worked. Then, he felt a bubble of doubt like an ugly burp. He realized that it was because it had been too easy.
“You know what? I really appreciate your offering to buy me a bike, but I just realized, that there’s really no need.”
Becky frowned. “What do you mean? You just said you needed a bike.”
Donnie guffawed. He realized, he would need to do more mirror work on his fake laughs. “Oh, I do need a bike, all right. But you don’t have to buy one for me. You can invest in one. You can lend me the money. I’ll make lots of money at my job. Then, I’ll give you back twice as much as the cost of the bike. You’ll double your money. Not in a year, but in two months!”
Everyone in Donnie’s neighborhood was very well off, but the Henry’s were exceptionally well off. To them, it seemed like nothing to give the money to Donnie. Donnie didn’t understand this, but he did see the blank look in Becky’s eyes when he said he could double her money. Donnie said, “Look. You double your money and you can tell your mom and dad how smart an investor you are. Trust me. They’ll be proud of you!”
After Donnie toweled off and feasted on some fancy teeny hot dogs, and gotten dressed again, and rounded up the cash he “needed” for the bicycle his mom promised to buy, he noticed Mr. and Mrs. Henry having cocktails across the hardscape. We walked over and began, “Mr. and Mrs. Henry. Thanks so much for letting me use your pool! And, wait till you hear what smart investors your kids are!”
Once Donnie had sold the three Henry kids on the idea, it was easy to get other “investors” from the kids.
“Ted, here’s a chance to do something really smart for yourself. Double your money! I promise!”
“Greg, here’s a chance to do something really smart for yourself. Double your money! I promise!”
“Mike, here’s a chance to double your money! Be smart!. I promise you won’t be sorry.”
Needless to say, Donnie never worked a job and never paid any of them back a single cent. You might reasonably assume they would have gotten together and beat the crap out of him. Instead, he played them off against each other.
“Ted, here’s the thing. I didn’t make as much money as I thought — they lied to me. After I finally get paid, I’ll probably only have enough to pay you back — plus interest — but not the other investors. If they find out I paid you off, they’ll feel like fools. So, if anyone asks, just say I couldn’t pay anyone off.”
Donnie used slightly different words, but this is what he told all his “investors.” Each one thought that they would be the “winner” — the only one to gain any profit.
September is a month of excitement for school kids. Who is in your class? What is your new teacher like? The weather is typically great. It seemed bad form to bring up debt repayment. Nonetheless…
Ted and Donnie Boy found themselves next to each other on the bench awaiting a turn at bat. Ted asked, “Say, Donnie.” Ted lowered his voice so they wouldn’t be overheard and asked about the timetable for getting his money back. Plus interest. Donnie said, “Oh, yes. I have it back in my locker. I’ll give it to you right after the game. I promise!”
October brings a cooler wind and leaves begin to turn orange, amber, and scarlet. “I’ll pay you next time I see you. I promise!”
November isn’t all that much fun on Long Island. It’s too early for snowball fights or sledding, but too cold for baseball. “I’m sorry, Greg. I brought you the money today. And, on the way over here, I saw this family begging for money so they could have a real Thanksgiving dinner so I gave it to them. Stupid, I know, but if you could have seen how pathetic and wimpy they looked.”
“Oh, no problem,” said Greg. “I’m sure you’ll get it sometime.”
“Absolutely. I have plenty at home. I’ll bring it tomorrow. I promise.”
December, January, February…
At some point, Donnie’s classmates were too embarrassed to keep asking. And too embarrassed to tell anyone else. Some were so embarrassed that they continued to believe that they would eventually be paid to avoid feeling like fools. Others realized they had been hoodwinked but didn’t particularly want that to be known so they pretended that they had been paid.