Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Arrival of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Hello Friends,
I was in Capital City today renewing my resident visa at the Foreign Ministry. Just like Israel welcomes Jews from all over the world, the Confederacy of Dunces encourages Dunces worldwide to consider the Confederacy their home. Any Dunce may obtain a resident visa by mail or at the nearest Confederacy Embassy (and soon at select Piggly Wiggly’s worldwide). A photograph and short written essay is all that is required to prove your Dunceness.

Non resident property owners are required to pay property taxes yearly when they renew their visas. I could do this through the village post office but prefer to travel to Capital City and do it personally at the Foreign Ministry. I enjoy the train trip and a half day sight seeing. I especially enjoy spending time at the Dunce Museum, feature the great Dunce achievements worldwide.

The line at the Ministry was shorter than I expected on a Monday morning. In the time it took to listen to three songs on my Ipod I found myself face to face with a Ministry secretary. She had a pleasant smile and beady eyes framed by crooked glasses. One eye was focused on me. The other, clearly with a mind of its own, stared intently on the ceiling.

“How may I help you?” she asked while extending her hand to collect my paperwork.
“Resident visa renewal,” I answered.
“And are there property taxes to pay?” she inquired while thumbing through my papers.
“Yes, unfortunately,” I replied. She mumbled something under her breath, reached into a side basket and produced a flyer titled ‘The Privileges of Taxation. Your Dunce Taxes at Work’.
“Read,” she ordered.
“Does anyone want to pay taxes?” I questioned as I shoved the flyer into my backpack.
“Me,” she snorted back while adjusting her eyes to read the fine print on my paperwork.

She pulled her reading glasses down from the top of her head and started to add the numbers from my tax statement on her ancient Addison Adding Machine. After each set of numbers she pulled a large lever which turned a series of gears which did the computations.

“You ever thought about an electronic calculator?” I asked, wondering if such a cheeky remark would upset her. One must be careful when upsetting a low level government bureaucrat. Some have multiple personalities. You never know which one you’re dealing with. And if you get the wrong one and really make them mad, they could strike back. Once I was charged for the air above my Cloverdale apartment after complaining about what I considered a poor appraisal of its value.

“This office is open even during power failures, which come regularly during the holiday season. Every Dunce decorates for Christmas. It creates a large power drain on the grid,” she reluctantly explained.

“Understandable,” I lied.

Five minutes later I was dismissed with a receipt in hand and a “Thank you”. I left a bit shell shocked at the large check I wrote. "Paradise has it's price," I thought.

As I neared the building's exit I noticed a group of foreigners near the elevator. They were Japanese or Chinese or something like that. Out of curiosity I stopped to see where they were going. The guide spoke in an alien tongue. I didn’t understand but stood behind the group and nodded as if I did. The elevator opened, my curiosity motivated me to join them. The door closed. The doors reopened in sub basement 4.

I continued to follow them. They didn’t seem to mind. We walked down two hallways, made a right turn and headed for a large set of metal double doors guarded by a Capital Constable. He knocked on the door as we approached. The door opened. We entered. It was a brightly lit room with several ladies sitting at what appeared to be old telephone connection devices. The guide explained our surroundings in complete gibberish. I was left to my own devices.

A sign near a drinking fountain read “World Capital Hotlines”. I understood where I was. This room contained the telephone hotlines used by the Foreign Ministry to contact the world’s capitals in a time of crisis. I scratched my head hoping the Confederacy never had reason to use this room. I’m not sure the lines were capable of handling the digital age.

I inched my way toward one of the operators. She sat intently staring at her controls.
“Busy day?” I asked, hoping not to be too distracting.
“Never,” she replied.
“Ever have a busy day?”
“Let’s see. I think the last real busy day was last year at the start of the swine flu epidemic. Our pork exports were being turned back at several ports world wide. Came close to sinking the economy - but keep that under your hat. Not common knowledge.”

Her supervisor cleared his throat - a call for her to return to her monitoring. I backed away and continued walking backward until I was out the door and back into the hallway. I’d seen enough. It was time for a bit of fun. While talking to the operator I memorized the phone number prominently displayed on her rotary dial. I dialed the number at a pay phone near a Wimpy Burger around the corner from the Foreign Ministry.

“Foreign Ministry Hot Line,” that same woman answered. She sounded out of breath. I could tell my call excited her.
“This is the White House in Washington,” I continued. There was a thud. She’d dropped the receiver. A second later she was back on.
“Is this for the Foreign Minister?” she questioned.
“Yes, we have a message. Please inform your Minister that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be landing at the International Airport one hour earlier than scheduled. She should land at 1:20 P.M. local time.”
“Are you sure, we weren’t aware of any visit by the Secretary of State?” She was panicked. I heard screaming in the background.
“You’re kidding, right? What Dunce messed this one up? I suggest you get moving," I said in closing. I hung up.

I spent the next fifteen minute in the Wimpy Burger enjoying a double cheeseburger and triple chocolate shake. I walked back to the Foreign Ministry on my way to the Dunce Museum. I was overjoyed by what I saw. Building maintenance was in a rush hanging American Flags out of the windows. Others were rolling out a bright red carpet down the twenty steps leading to the Ministry’s main entrance. I walked up the stairs and toward the doors. A large sign announced the building’s closure for the impending arrival of the American Secretary of State.

I walked back down the steps feeling very proud of myself. My taxes were giving me a day's worth of pure enjoyment.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Isn’t Quite the Hatfields and McCoys...

By Jaleta Clegg,
Reporter at large

A local feud erupted at the Harvest Fair quilt show, after six months of relative peace. The feud began sixty-three years ago when Clementine Spiffledorfle moved in to the small town of Tamworth on Tide. Clementine was a petite blond child, with ringlets that were the envy of any girl. Her family moved into a house next door to the McBrighamduff family, immigrants to the Confederacy of Dunces by way of Africa, Ireland, Chile, Portugal, and Japan. Little Edna McBrighamduff inadvertently fired the opening shot of the feud the very day Clementine’s family arrived.

Clementine explored her new kingdom, blond curls dancing in the sunlight as she poked through the overgrown fish pond in her new backyard. Edna, curious about the strange child, stuck her face to the slats of the white picket fence.

“There’s frogs,” she said, conversationally. Frogs were a great source of interest to little Edna. She loved the slimy squishiness, their fat mouths, and their loud croaking.

“Frogs are disgusting creatures,” Clementine pronounced. She primly tugged her white, starched pinafore into place over her pink flowered dress. She approached the fence. “My name is Clementine. How do you do?” She held out one hand, fingers cocked at the appropriate angle for greeting a stranger. Her mother had spent hours instructing her on proper courtesies.

“Frogs eat bugs.” Edna pressed her face closer to the slats. “Why are you wearing that funny dress? Halloween isn’t for months.”

“It’s a day dress, acceptable for informal social calls in the afternoons.” Clementine twirled her skirts. “I can call on you if you like. My card.” She slipped a white card, neatly printed with her name in silver letters, through the fence.

“I can call you right now. What’s your name?” Edna stared at the white card.

“Clementine Spiffledorfle.” Clementine bobbed in a curtsy. Her mother would have been so proud if she had been watching.

“I’m Edna. Spiffledorfle is a funny name.” Edna decided the new girl was worth a second look. She climbed the fence, dropping into Clementine’s backyard. She brushed haphazardly at the dirt smears on her coveralls.

Clementine sniffed. “You’re not dressed for a social call. You have dirt on your knees, you ragamuffin.” It was her mother’s word. Clementine felt very grown up using it.

Edna wiped her hand across her nose, smearing mucus. “You calling me names? I think you’re an overdressed prissy girly pansy.”

Clementine forgot her delicate manners. Edna had used words that could never be forgiven. She shrieked like a steam engine and launched herself at Edna. Yards of ruffled white eyelet tangled around them both as they rolled across the lawn, grabbing and punching each other. Frogs scrambled for their lives as the two girls splashed into the pond. Clementine, using her weight to her advantage, pinned the smaller Edna McBrighamduff in the mud.

“You take it back, Edna, or I’ll punch you in the nose!”

“Clementine Spiffledorfle!” Her mother’s horrified scream echoed through the neighborhood. “You get into this house this instant!”

Clementine leaned close to Edna’s face. “Don’t you ever call me a pansy again.”

“Pansy face!” Edna snarled. The fight erupted anew. Mud and frogs splashed wildly as the girls wrestled and clawed each other through the remains of the pond. It took another ten minutes and both mothers to separate the girls. Both were marched home, sporting black eyes and mud.

“I hate that Edna McBrighamduff!” Clementine declared. “I’m going to become a professional gelatin wrestler just so she will never dare call me a pansy again. And I’m not wearing a day dress ever again.”

Clementine’s mother knew better than to argue. Clementine out-stubborned even the most determined mule. She wiped mud from her daughter’s blond curls. “Yes, dear.” Her dreams of a gentle, refined daughter died even as Clementine’s career dreams were born.

Thus began the legendary feud of Clementine and Edna in the tiny hamlet of Tamworth on Tide.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Franz Schuller

It’s November 5. Little Franz Schuller of 354 Norton Lane, Cloverdale still thinks its Halloween. He has been on a grand sugar high for the past several days. Grandma Schuller gets to tend him for the weekend. She is not amused. I have a feeling Franz’s days as the caped cowboy crusader are over.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wilbur and Edna to Wed at Bingo

The children of 81 year old Wilbur Zebrinski of 4 Willowby Lane, Cloverdale are please to announce the marriage of their father to 82 year old Edna Snopps of 6 Willowby Lane, Cloverdale.

The happy couple will make their home in Cloverdale.

Wilbur first met Edna at St. Bartholomew’s Church during Wednesday night Bingo in 1993. He claims it was love at first sight, although at his age its difficult to tell. At the start of 1994 they made a point to sit by each other during Mass and Bingo. At the end of 1994 Wilbur made his intentions known by holding her hand during a special showing of Gone With the Wind at Cloverdale’s Grand Theater.

In the spring of 1995 Wilbur moved next door to Edna in hopes of advancing their friendship. It was slow going. Edna didn't seem that interested, having just exited a bad relationship with 76 year old Fruper Melon. Fruper and Edna dated from 1975 to 1993. Edna, unwilling to hurt Fruper’s feelings by breaking off the romance, waited for nature to take its course. Which it did on the afternoon of March 13, 1993 when Fruper suffered a massive heart attack while trimming his lawn. Edna was now free to entertain other suitors.

In 1996 Wilbur decided to propose to Edna after a delicious meal of Edna’s famous Pot Roast with dumplings and rice pudding. He wanted his proposal to be unique, clever and witty. Just how to do it was the problem. Wilbur gave it a great deal of thought.

In 1997 Wilbur had an idea. He bought a gold ring and took it with him to Bingo every Wednesday night. He planned to give Edna the ring, along with his proposal for marriage, the next time she got a Bingo. It was a perfect plan. Wilbur would be Edna’s prize.

Twelve years later, and after many many games of Bingo, Edna finally got a Bingo last Wednesday. Wilbur, good to his word, pulled out the ring and asked for her hand in marriage. Edna accepted the offer. The proposal was sealed with a kiss on the cheek.

The couple will wed at St. Bartholomew’s during Bingo on the last Wednesday of the month. The reception will be held at the Kicking Donkey Pub. All are invited to attend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cloverdale Weekend Television. Eurovision Song Competition 2009

Norway wins! Norway - Points: 387 - Place: 1st - "Fairytale" by Alexander Rybak

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nolan Waterford Gates and the Christmas Inventory

With Christmas only seven weeks away little Nolan Waterford Gates of Marley House, Cloverdale started the yearly inventory of his play room. At breakfast this morning he stood and tapped a crystal glass with his silver fork bringing all other conversations to an end at the family breakfast table.

“Yes dear, what is it?” Lady Gates inquired of her son. She was working her way through a poached egg while reading the morning mail. Father Gates was completely hidden behind the morning paper, except of course, the ends of his fingers.

“Father, please,” Nolan spoke impatiently, knowing the effort it could take to divert his father away from the Confederacy’s news. Father Gates found the article he was struggling through rather tedious and lowered the paper far enough to see his son's face.

“I regretfully must close the play room to everyone, including the servants, so I can complete my yearly inventory of its contents in preparation for Christmas," Nolan said in a matter of fact voice. "I say this to illicit parental support. Young Martha and Matthew must stay out. You both know how they love to mess everything up."

“Nolan, must you do this every year? It seems so unnecessary," Lady Gates replied to her son’s request. "You know how much your younger brother and sister love playing, and we know how pleasant mommy is when these two darlings are occupied and not underfoot. You wouldn't want to see mommy upset would you?”

“Mother, the one year I didn’t take inventory I requested a Coastal Express Train Set for Christmas not remembering I already had a Coastal Express Train Set. It was a complete waste of your money...”

“Shhhhh,” Lady Gates held her finger over her mouth, then pointed toward the two younger children sitting opposite Nolan, both of whom sat mouths wide open at the horror of having the Play Room closed. Nolan stopped, looked at the two small Gates, and continued.

“It was a complete waste of Santa’s time, not to mention the Elfs,” Nolan corrected himself. Lady Gates nodded in approval of her son’s quick wit.
“The inventory therefore is necessary so we get new things, not repeats of things we already own.”

“Understandable dear. How thoughtful of you," Lady Gates said in her 'I don't want to be having this conversation voice'. "Isn't our little wonder something Maurice?" Father glanced at this wife over the top of the sports section, grunted, and straighted the newspaper for a better read. Lady Gates hated that morning paper. Its all she ever saw of her husband in the mornings. She turned toward Nolan, "Speaking for your father and myself, I promise no one will enter the Play Room during inventory. Although I wish you’d let the servants in to do their daily cleaning.”
Lady Gates was one who insisted on a spotless home.

“No, mother. Nobody.” Nolan reasoned.

Lady Gates returned to the mail and her poached egg. Father grunted and moved on to another page of the morning paper looking for something interesting.

“I'll leave the table and get started then,” Nolan said as he stood and bowed to both parents. He left the dining room. The two younger Gates erupted into screams of anguish at having lost the Play Room. Lady Gates rubbed the sides of her forehead, feeling one of her child induced migraines coming on. She rang the bell for an aspirin and the nanny.

Nolan stopped Minny, the housekeeper, on his way up the grand staircase. He gave her instructions concerning a sign he wanted painted and displayed outside the Play Room warning anyone who entered of his pure and uncontrollable wrath if they violated his privacy during inventory. Minny set her polishing rag down on the banister and rushed to the kitchen to carry out the young master’s order.

Nolan entered the Play Room and firmly shut the door. He made a visual inspection of its treasures then opened one of the sideboard’s drawers. He took out his Big Chief Tablet and pen, turned to the first sheet of paper, wrote the date on top and started the long process of cataloging the room's contents. From that list, he and his siblings would create their Christmas wish lists.

Nolan Waterford Gates is a peculiar and thorough boy.

Cloverdale Weekend Television. Festival of the Season.

November 1 begins Cloverdale Weekend Television's Musical Festival of the Season.  Highlights from today's broadcast as part of our Sunday Songs of Praise.