Saturday, February 7, 2009

Memo to All Border Stations. Ministry of Defense

Confederacy of Dunces Ministry of Defense
"Careful, We Strike and We Bite"

Memo: To all Border Stations
From: Confederacy of Dunces Ministry of Defense
Re: Aptitude Test

The Government has authorized the following procedure to determine the aptitude of a refugee to adapt into our society. This procedure may be implemented immediately at all border crossings with the Other World. If you have questions please contact our office. The Ministry of Defense is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 A.M. to Noon. We are closed all holidays, bank holidays and the occasional Monday when the Minister feels a three day weekend is warranted. The number is Filmore 8659. The receptionist at the Ministry is pregnant so let it ring. She may have stepped out for a minute.

  1. Fill up the bathtub at the guard station.
  2. Give the applicant a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.
  3. If the applicant reaches for the bucket admit them into the Confederacy.
  4. If the applicant reaches for the tub's plug then reject them.


Defense Minister

Abigail Hickell's Sleepover

Abigail holding Empress Chow, Hairball's predecessor. The Empress met her demise when one of the Ernest's cars fell from its blocks during the big wind a year ago. A tragedy for one with such a noble pedigree.

The Hickell family rented a VCR machine from the local Confederated Food Amazatorium where food is as cheap as the service. It was little Abigail Lu’s eleventh birthday. Mrs. Martell Hickell, Abigail’s mother, loved shopping at the Amazatorium where saving a nickel was a good as 5 cents in your pocket. The Hickell children relished in the assorted flavors of Macaroni and Cheese offered only at the Amazatorium. Abigail’s favorite was Raspberry Sherbet Macaroni and Cheese. It was her choice for her slumber party supper!

While Abigail’s mother filled her shopping cart with an assortment of macaroni and cheese surprises, Abigail browsed the rows and rows of videos looking for the right one for her sleep over.
“I want scary,” she told the pimpled clerk at the cash register. He thought for a moment while he used one hand to pick out a leftover from lunch caught between his front teeth and his other to text his girlfriend who was still at home in bed at 2:00 in the afternoon.
“I got just the video for your sleepover,” he said as he opened his private drawer under the countertop and pulled out his recommendation. He looked both directions to see if his manager was watching, and slid it toward Abigail. She picked it up smiling ear to ear.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” she slobbered in delight.
“Yep it is. Now this is hush hush. This video is banned by Cloverdale’s PTA because it shows disrespect to a corpse but I keep a copy her for my preferred clients,” he said as he rubbed his fore finger against the back of his thumb, the international agreed upon sign for ‘pay up’.
Suddenly out of the corner of his eye he noticed a fellow student from the Upper Comprehensive School standing at the opposite end of the counter with cell phone up and engaged in camera mode. It was one of Hanne Hush’s snitches posed and ready to capture another mis-deed.
The clerk quickly pulled the video back and locked it into the drawer before the snap of the camera. He dodged a bullet. He couldn’t afford another brush with Hanne.
“I want Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Abigail demanded.
“No ma’am,” said the clerk in a humble tone borrowed from his many hours of watching the nearly guilty parties quivering in the shadow of Judge Judy’s bench on Cloverdale’s very own KRAP television Channel 12. “Here, someone just brought this back. Said it was scary. It’s called Signs’. I've never seen it but I’m told it is a story about farmer making art in his field and bug eyed aliens taken his cows for a barbecue.......... or something.”

Abigail was satisfied with the choice and found her mother. She helped load the groceries into the back of their 1983 Confederate Motor's P'Van (short for People's Van) affectionatly called ‘Blue Thunder’. Blue because of the color of its exhaust, which could fog up an entire street with an oily haze. Cloverdale’s Air Quality Index went RED where ever the Hickell’s Van travelled. There was also the problem with the dead birds dropping from the cloud and littering the streets. Thunder because of the backfiring - a dozen or so ear popping BANGS just on the drive home!

The Hickells live outside of town on the Coastal Road half way between Cloverdale and Dibley in the Downs. They are the proprietors of ‘Hickells Outdoor Motor Museum and Painted Rock Garden’, a not to be forgotten roadside attraction of vintage cars on blocks, covering the acre or so that make up their front yard, and stacks of painted rocks molded into various sculptures by the Hickell children. The inspiration came from a book of modern sculpture Abigail found in the dumpster outside of Cloverdale's Christian Science Reading Room.

“It ain’t no eyesore,” said Ernest Hickell as he defended his collection against a recent editorial in the Confederacy Times. " I'm guess'en it depends on one’s definition of beauty."

Ernest Hickell. Taken after seeing the video 'Signs' at
his daughter's party. He takes alien sightings seriously.

The family makes some money running the museum thanks to the Hickell children’s lemonade stand. Buy a lemonade and you got a free ticket to the museum. Ernest thought of that marketing scheme himself - which was unusual for him.

The sleep over was a success. Abigail and her friends were terrified after watching Signs. Ernest watched the movie with them. He spent the rest of the night outside in the backyard with a shot gun and home made gas mask constructed of a paper towel attached to his mouth and nose by a rubber band stretched around his head. The girls slept with aluminum foil dunce caps to shield their thoughts and location from ‘them green aliens from Mars’.
Abigail’s cat ‘Hairball’ was foiled as well so the aliens couldn’t find her. Abigail was afraid the aliens, after having their barbecue of stolen cow, may want to try cat instead. Hairball was not amused.

Hairball Shielded from Them Aliens

All is well this Saturday morning in Cloverdale in the Shire. There were no alien sightings or crop circles. Ernest fired his shotgun three times. Three dead crows were the result. The only thing reported to the constables was a mysterious cloud of blue oily smoke on the Coastal Road. It was Mrs. Hickell taking Abigail’s friends home after breakfast.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Maxine Epitomizes The True Spirit of Dunceship.

The Border Between our World and Yours

Confederacy Constables manning the border. The bicyclist will be passed through without a problem. They can hear the flapping of playing cards against the spokes. That is enough proof of Dunce citizenship.

This is the busiest border crossing between the Confederacy of Dunces and the Other World. On one side of the pole is the world inhabited by many of you kind readers. On this side is our world of Dunces - all bewildered, perhaps befuddled and completely original one of a kinds.

People pass this point daily. Some are leaving and some are coming. Many of our young Dunces leave the Confederacy looking for the fame and fortune the Other World promises. Along the way they pass others coming to us. They are poor souls suffering from stress, sensory overload, incessant migraines, hypertension and odd personality quirks. They are people the Other World used and tossed like putrid diapers. Some out there refer to them as square pegs trying to pass through round holes.

You don't need a passport or visa to cross into the Confederacy. All we ask for is evidence of your Dunceship - some proof of your bewilderment - perhaps your Prozac prescription or nervous twitches or your cap with the spinner on top.

So, for those leaving we bid you Goodbye and good luck convincing people in the Other World that you aren’t a raving lunatic. And to those coming, welcome to a place where life is lived slowly and table manners are atrocious.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Miss Maple and Her Trees

Miss Clara Maple

Today Cloverdale's citizens paid their last respects to Clara Maple. Gray clouds hung low in the sky providing a canopy to the solemn service. The temperature pushed the gathering into close quarters around the remains of one of Cloverdale's grand ladies. Tears fell as last goodbyes before the coffin was lowered into the ground near one of her trees.

Five years ago Miss Maple was found walking in a storm toward the Confederacy's border crossing with the Other World. She carried her belongings in a heavily worn leather suitcase held closed by two brown belts. She was holding a partially collapsed umbrella over her head in an attempt to shield her from the elements. She staggered in the gusts of wind as she shuffled toward the constables guarding the border. Her hands clutched the staff of the umbrella as she wrestled it from the wind. The constables rushed forward to offer aide. They reached her just as she collapsed to the pavement.

A week later I visited her at St. Elizabeth Hospital. Her room was full of flowers. Get well cards from Cloverdale's children adorned the walls. Her gray eyes sparkled when I introduced myself as the Lord Mayor of this oasis of the odd and bewildered. I told her that news of her journey was the talk of the village. I explained that many of us also came from the Other World so we rejoice when another precious soul made the crossing.

“Do you understand where you are?” I asked her as I sat beside her near a vase of roses.
“Oh, yes,” she said. "The nurses have explained everything. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for the kindness."
“Tell me about yourself,” I inquired. “I’m always curious about our new friends from out there."
Miss Maple was raised in the Other World. That is the term we use to describe the land outside of the Confederacy of Dunces. It is a place we don't fully understand. Foreign in many ways.

She married early in life and had four children. Her husband passed away after 53 years at her side. His passing left a emptiness in her heart that never healed. After his death she spent her days taking long walks through the city's parks. She loved the trees. Trees were constant, almost untouched by time. They became her friends.

“I talk to trees,” she spoke in a whisper, afraid of my reaction to her confession. "Out there anyone found talking to trees is considered a lunatic. My children began to act like they didn't know who I was anymore."
I took her hand and told her that here in the Confederacy she had a new home filled with people that live life their own way.
“Many of us started in the Other World. Now we are here. This is a sanctuary. You may talk to our trees Miss Maple, but please let me know if they answer back. I’d love to know what they think of us.”
We laughed. There was a pause. Her appearance changed. "My family thought my wanderings were too dangerous. They also felt talking to trees was a sign that advancing age had compromised my reasoning. They placed me in supervised care at a local prison for the elderly. Willowing Acres they called it. Isn't that a pretty name for a concentration camp? The camp guards wouldn’t let me out to walk to the park. I was surrounded by indifference and plastic plants covered in dust. I was fading away from the inside out."

She looked out the window as she spoke. There was a pause as she remembered where she had been and how far she had come. After clearing her throat she continued. “One morning an elderly woman with a kindly face visited the camp. No one had ever seen her before. She wore a multi- colored coat which made her look quite odd. I was sitting in a corner under the blaring TV looking blankly at the wall. She worked her way through the room stopping and talking to society's throw away elderly. She stopped next to me, reached up and turned the TV down. She put one hand on my shoulder and handed me a piece of paper with the other. I opened the paper. There was writing, in crayon funny enough. It said there was a place for me - a Sanctuary. It said to take the train to the end of the tracks and then go north."

Miss Maple pulled the paper out from her purse and showed it to me. I recognized the writing. She continued her story, "She left without saying a word. I kept reading and rereading the note. Around supper time I made the decision. I knew it was crazy but I packed my things and escaped that night. I bought a train ticket to the end of the tracks and did as the note said - I went north. I took a taxi as far as a few dollars would buy and had to rely on my legs for the remainder of the journey. It was storming but I pressed on and here I am. I'm grateful for the kind reception you’ve all given me.” Our conversation went on for another hour. After a few cups of tea I left her to her nurses.

Miss Maple was adopted by the Burrow Family of Daisy Street. She became a grandmother to the children and taught them to love nature and trees. She and the children planted a large garden. Every Autumn they sold the produce in a roadside stand near Lake Park.
Miss Maple found happiness again.

Last year Miss Maple was diagnosed with cancer. She spent her remaining days planting new trees throughout the Confederacy and visiting the trees dearest to her and her adopted grandchildren. Nearly every afternoon she and the children would sit in the shade, feed the ducks, and tell stories about the trees and what they've experienced over their many years. Her story time usually attracted others in the park. People seemed truly interested in what the trees were telling Miss Maple.

And so we say goodnight to Miss Maple. Rest peacefully. Your trees will watch over you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hanna Hush of Hush Limited.

Hanna Hush. Secret Keeper

There are many adjectives to describe Hanna Hush of 32 Evergreen Circle; entrepreneur, opportunist, ambulance chaser, black mailer, extortionist, or pain in the .... well you know. She is a student at Cloverdale’s Comprehensive Upper School. She regards that as her day job. After school she manages ‘Hush Limited’. Hush Ltd. keeps secrets - for a price, and to keep secrets you must first HAVE secrets.

Hanna got into the secret business in elementary school. She was always the Teacher's Pet and Supreme Tattle Tale. She knew everyone's secrets and used that information to advance herself. Today Hanna has fine tuned her operation. She employs several dozen fellow students. They are called her Hush Harvesters. Every day they are given a list of appointments. Here are two examples:

Susan Peer:
4:40 P.M. Lake Park with dog. Walk the dog. Pay close attention to any and everything. If you spot a potential client involved in an misdeed of any kind use your cell phone and snap a photo.

Teddy Truman
6:00 P.M. PiggyMart. Slip the cashier the agreed amount. Hang out waiting for potential clients. Pay close attention to anyone purchasing beer or cigarettes. Get a picture.

Hanna’s army of Hush Harvesters canvas the village and surrounding area on a regular basis. They regard themselves as Cloverdale’s Community Watch with a profitable twist.
Every week Hanna and her staff review the submitted photographs of potential clients to determine if a ‘misdeed’ was committed. If one is found, a letter with a copy of the photo is sent to the person with this note.

Urgent. Possible Secret Divulged:
This picture was taken by someone with a cell phone and has been brought to our attention. Your reputation is compromised. You were involved in a situation which, if found out, could lead to embarrassment or punishment.

The Answer:
Hush Ltd. provides a silencing service. For a fee we will contact the person and negotiate an erasure of the aforementioned photograph. You will be notified of the erasure price - payable in cash. Hush Ltd. will act as the intermediary. You will be notified when the erasure is complete. Your secret will be safeguarded, never to be revealed. Our service is guaranteed. Anyone breaking our contracted erasure is dealt with severely. If you have a Hush Hush then come to the experts at Hush Limited. Your Secrets are Our Secrets.

Hanna urges the citizens of Cloverdale in the Shire to obey the law. Misdeeds can be costly.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Barry Blessly. You are Nearly Something!

Barry Blessly is the second child of Clive and Mary Beth Blessly of 2 Sycamore Avenue in Cloverdale. Barry is a 'B' student in school. A's seem to be just beyond his reach. Barry is a Boy Scout. A year ago he achieved the rank of Second Class. He gets up early every morning to finish two paper routes before breakfast. Last week Barry took second place in Confederacy Elementary School’s mile race. He is second chair Viola in the Cloverdale Orchestralet and shares a bedroom with his older brother. Of course he has the top bunk. His father is the assistant manager at Cloverdale’s very own Monday’s Bakery. His mother is the Vice Chair of the Second Branch of the Daughters of the Confederacy. He is the second student called when the teacher calls the role. Barry keeps 2 Dunces (worth $3.50 American dollars) in his shoe for emergencies. Barry loves riding in the back seat of the family’s car.
“Nobody wants the back seat so I never have to call it,” he says with contentment and a twinkle in both eyes. Barry’s clothes are hand me downs, passed on by his older brother. “They’re broke in,” he says as he rubs his hand down the front of his T-shirt. Barry keeps two bright shiny agates in his pocket for luck. Barry tried to learn ballroom dancing but had to give it up on account of his two left feet.

Yesterday Barry’s school counselor asked the students in Barry’s class what they wanted to be when they grew up. They wrote their responses on pieces of poster board . Barry wrote 'Vice President'. The counselor wasn't surprised.

Barry Blessly is an unusual boy that stands two inches outside of the spotlight. Don’t be ashamed if you overlook him in a group. Barry prefers it that way. At two steps behind the crowd he can live life at his pace.

Barry, your friends in Cloverdale are very nearly proud of you and what you’ve almost accomplished. You are a model citizen in the Confederacy of Dunces.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mildred Burnside. Pray She Passes Your Home.

Mildred Burnside , spotted last Sunday near the First Church of Christ Scientist
preparing to reinfect the healed.
She appears and is gone just as suddenly.
Pray she passes you by for she is a country unto herself where angels fear to tread

They say every village has an idiot. Cloverdale has many of them. What sets Cloverdale apart from other communities isn't our idiots but our very own Mildred Burnside. Eccentric cannot define this time challenged octogenarian. ‘Out There’ is mere child’s play. ‘Way Out There’ doesn’t scratch the surface. 'Insanity’s Chamber Maid' is growing warm and 'The Devil Wears Polyester' is only now keeping the ball in the park.

They say Mildred arrived in Cloverdale nearly 90 years ago as a baby in the back of a gypsy wagon. The wagon was accompanied by the worst storm in the village's history. She was left on the doorstep of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope. A week later two of the nuns died of consumption. From that moment on her history fades into brief sitings followed by misfortune.

You known where she's been by what she leaves behind - a depression, thick in the air, wrapped in the smell of cheap dime store perfume laced with the smoke from a cigar. She walks the streets seeking converts for her cause - the disorganization of anything organized. She isn’t afraid of anyone or anything. She laughs at the constable. She scoffs at traffic. She openly defies God in Cloverdale’s houses of worship on a rotating basis (Its the Mormons turn this Sunday. Heaven help them). She scares children and frightens every dog in the village. No one clears the streets of pedestrians faster than a Mildred siting. No one empties a theater or store faster. She has the same effect on the village as a German Air Raid - the streets are cleared and the inhabitants cower in their homes behind black out curtains.

Some say all she needs is love. Perhaps her seven marriages are proof positive of that. But how can someone that regards her fellow humans as dog droppings on the bottom of a shoe need love? No, she is the essence of Chaos that has taken human form. She walks our streets, and just as the grim reaper seeks souls and the drunk seeks the bottle, Mildred seeks happiness. She feeds off it, using the emotion itself to sustain her and passes the joy that accompanies happiness as waste to be flush into oblivion.

Friends, I give you that which cannot be understood. I give you the only thing death is afraid to take. I give you the very object fear fears. I give you Mildred Burnside. And may God save all those that gaze upon her.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Message from The Confederacy of Dunce’s Minister of Health and Asylums

Oops, Someone is having a Bad Day

Each and every day we make choices. We choose what to eat, what to wear, what to say and how we occupy our time. May I also remind you that you can also choose your mood. It is like selecting a crayon from the collection assembled in an old cardboard box.

Do you choose blue and make the day a dreary one for you, your family, coworkers and friends?
Do you choose yellow and color a bright happy day?
Or perhaps you choose something in-between.

Remember, you cannot color a mood and stay between the lines. The color of your mood seeps across the lines on the page and into the drawings of those around you. Your mood affects everyone you come in contact with. Choose carefully.

On behalf of the Ministry of Health I urge you to become master of your mood. Choose your color remembering its effect on you and those around you.

With the Best Wishes for a Bright Day

Minister Cyrus Cornelia
Ministry of Health and Asylums