A Fascist Vet Answers Your Pet Questions

Blaine Middlebrow: Hello, pet lovers out there; it’s time once again for the South Carolina Today and Yesterday. This morning we’re honored to have a guest vet on the show, Dr. Viktor Autarky, Commandant of the Gadsden Veterinary Clinic in beautiful Pickens, South Carolina. He’s here to answer your pet questions for you.

Good afternoon, Dr. Autarky.   Already the phones are lighting up with listeners eager to have you answer their pet questions, but before we get to those callers, you have something to say about pets being outside in these blazing August temperatures.

Autarky [in a heavy German accent]: That is correct, comrade. I hear people saying to bring your pets indoors when the temperatures get above 35 degrees.

Middlebrow: That would be 95 degrees Fahrenheit, right?

Autarky: Ya, 95 degrees Fahrenheit.   But I say that bringing your pets inside is bad policy. They must stay outside and endure the heat. After all, they are animals, and they survived for millions of years before there were human habitations. Who does bring the coyotes in during the summer? They seem to be doing just fine. I say do not spoils your pets. It makes zem weak.

Middlebrow: Gosh, I never thought of it quite like that. And we certainly don’t want our pets to be weak.

Autarky: Nor our children. Dat is why Comrade Haley won’t expand Medicaid. Let natural selection take care of the problem. It will sort out the weak from the strong.

Middlebrow: Okay, then. Let’s get right to the phones. We have on the line Lindsey from Greenville. Lindsey, how can Dr. Autarky help you?

Lindsey: Well, you just got this adorable rescue mixed breed from the shelter, and well, she has real food issues. I accidently left the pantry door open, and she ate up all the bread – or we thought she had – but she had actually hidden packages all over the house. How can I train her not to steal food?

Middlebrow: First, what do you expect? You chose a dog that is ze product of miscegenation. Did you beat the mongrel?

Lindsey: Of course, not.

Autarky: Next time scream in the mongrel’s ear, point to ze bread, and beat it with a stick. If it does it again, put it down and get a German shepherd.

[Buzzing sound of hung up phone]

Autarky: We must not coddle or pets or our children. Who is dis football player, what’s his name, the Viking who disciplined his son?

Middlebrow: Adrian Peterson?

Autarky: Ya, Ya. I cannot believe that he has been suspended for disciplining his son.

Middlebrow: Have you seen the photographs?

Autarky: Ya, superficial lacerations from a mere switch. My beloved father used a cattle prod on me, and I turned out all right.

Middlebrow: All righty. Time for another caller. We have Justine on the line from Mt. Pleasant. Justine, how can we help you?

Justine: I just moved into an apartment complex that only allows cats, so I got one. I’ve never owned a cat in my life. When I had dogs, I used to like it when they would lick my hand, so the other day, I put some milk on my hand, so the cat would learn to lick me, but when he did, his tongue felt yukky, like sandpaper. Is that normal or is the cat deformed?

Autarky: I strongly suggest you put it down. Euthanize it.

Middlebrow: Ah, Justine. You might want to get a second opinion on that.

Autarky: Be my guest, but I assure you there is no cure for a cat with a scratchy tongue.

Middlebrow: I think we have time for one last caller. It’s Briona, from Sullivan’s Island. Briona, what’s up? How can we help you?

Briona: I heard Dr. Autarky mention coyotes earlier. They’re taking over the island. Just last week one jumped over a four-foot fence and took away my neighbor’s toy French poodle. The animal control people won’t do anything about it. I have a five year old, and I’m terrified to leave him alone in our fenced yard. Would a coyote attack a child that age? What should we do?

Autarky [chuckling]: A French poodle, you say? Good work comrade coyote. But, seriously, I take it your five-year-old is armed and knows how to shoot a shotgun.

Briona: Well, no. Isn’t that too young?

Autarky: Nein, of course, not. I could clean, load, and accurately shoot a luger when I was 3. You must teach your son how to shoot. I suggest for youngsters that age a 410 shotgun because it’s much easier to hit the target. I promise you, if you take my advice, we’ll not have any coyote problems, nor any problems from bullies as well.

Briona. Well, thanks, doctor. I’ll look into that.

Middlebrow: Well, folks, that’s all the time we have for pet questions. I’d like to thank Dr. Viktor Autarky of the Gadsden Veterinary Clinic for taking time to be with his today.

Autarky: You are very welcome. My pleasure. We must remain strong.

Middlebrow: Well, next up, we have South Carolina novelist  Theodora Thaddeus Templeton who’s going to discuss her latest book Mt. Pleasant By-Pass. But first, a message from our sponsors.



The Struggle Itself

Each weekday morning when Judy’s getting her 96-straight hours of EPOCH at Roper, I pull into the Doughty Street Parking Lot around 7,  just when the hospital staff switches from day to night shift. As I cross Doughty on foot, Judy’s morning paper in hand, I work against the oncoming pedestrian traffic of off-duty nurses, technicians, engineers, many in their uniforms. Nurses in their navy blue combinations and high-priced athletic shoes seem especially happy.  I see them walking in groups of three, smiling, chatting, heading to their cars. They work 3 day-12 hour shifts in a fulfilling profession; nevertheless they’re delighted at the moment to be free.

(Now, what do they do? Devour a delicious breakfast and slurp down a bloody mary before drifting off in front of the Today Show?)

Going with my flow, the on-coming staff marches in, but, even though they seem relatively eager to start work, their affect isn’t nearly as upbeat as their departing colleagues. Then again, we aint talking all doctors and nurses here. Some of these people’s jobs don’t seem fulfilling at all, like those men awkwardly manipulating box-stacked carts into narrow elevators, like those cafeteria workers breathing for hours the odor of hospital food, like the crew out front dealing with valet parking.

Their minutes probably crawl by.

LW327Of course, I’m on the way to work myself to shift through dozens of emails before advisory, and if I’m brave enough, to peek at the day’s school calendar, an absurd, way-too-busy color-coded chart of lines and rectangles that look as if they could be the work of MC Escher. We ride a rotating schedule – either Week A or Week B — and when I arrive at work on a Friday morning, people often greet me with the salutation “Happy Friday” or comment sunnily “it’s Friday.” Some time during the day I’ll receive an email inviting me to a “happy hour” in some conveniently located spirit-stocked decompression chamber.


Mythically speaking, labor is one of Adam’s curses, punishment for his uxoriousness, his casting his lot with Eve instead of Yahweh, which brought death into the world and all our woe, e.g. work — in Adam’s case tilling “cursed ground” that produces “thorns and thistles” — in my case dealing with an educational agenda that might be likened to a jewel box of tangled necklaces — academics, sports, service, chapels, assemblies, advisories, peer reviews, study halls. Or think of circus clowns, not leaving a car one after another after another, but entering a car one after another after another.

Actually, I interpret the Eden myth as a story about the shift from hunting/gathering to agriculture, the shift from running around half naked to the natural pulse of the earth’s heartbeat to our settling down to the soul-crushing repetitiveness of the punch clock.  Thus, the knowledge of good and evil becomes the knowledge of how to cultivate plants from seeds, which many scholars believe was a discovery made by women, the gatherers of edible plants. And, of course, settled communities brought us the establishment of property and its evil twin poverty.  I maintain that Amazonian tribespeople untouched by Western civilization live more meaningful lives than the average American who watches five hours of TV a day.

There’s a cool Philip Larkin poem about what a bitch work is called “Toads.” It goes like this:


Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork

and drive the brute off?


Six days of the week it soils

With its sickening poison-

Just for paying a few bills!

That’s out of proportion.


Lots of folk live on their wits:

Lecturers, lispers,

Losels, loblolly-men, louts-

They don’t end as paupers;


Lots of folk live up lanes

With fires in a bucket,

Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-

They seem to like it.


Their nippers have got bare feet,

Their unspeakable wives

Are skinny as whippets-and yet

No one actually starves.


Ah, were I courageous enough

To shout Stuff your pension!

But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff

That dreams are made on:


For something sufficiently toad-like

Squats in me, too;

Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,

And cold as snow,


And will never allow me to blarney

My way to getting

The fame and the girl and the money

All at one sitting.


I don’t say, one bodies the other

One’s spiritual truth;

But I do say it’s hard to lose either,

When you have both.


I’m with you, Philip. After listening to my litany yesterday about how frustrating teaching has become in the age of technology,  a colleague asked me why didn’t I retire.  A reasonable question given the frustrations I had just catalogued – parents having access to the grades I post on the website, shooting me emails that proliferate like mushrooms while I’m bouncing from meetings to covering detentions or contacting the help desk because the projection wire in one of the rooms where I teach doesn’t work.

Why don’t I retire?  Because I don’t want to. I eventually get bored in the summers if I’m not traveling or working on a project. I like interacting with students, instructing them about the bane of unnecessary linking verbs and the sloppiness of the “naked this” — not to mention the fun introducing them to the Wife of Bath or riding with them up the Congo with Marlow as we steam towards Mistah Kurtz.

It’s like what Camus says in “The Myth of Sisyphus.” -

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.


Freud, Jung, Hamlet, and Joyce

A Finger Puppet Play in One Act

freud pyschoanalyzes Hamlet










Scene One : The castle at Elsinore.

Enter Hamlet moping

Hamlet: O, would this too, too solid flesh melt

and resolve itself into a dew.

O, how weary stale and flat seem to me

All the uses of this world. Fie on it. Fie!


Goddamn it! What a rogue and peasant slave am I!


The night sky that wheels above us,

That brave o’er hanging firmament,

That majestic roof fretted with golden fire,

Why it appearth no other thing to me

than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.


O, to be or not to be that is the question.

O, to sweat and groan under a weary life.


Fie on it. Fie.

But soft! Methinks

I hear that most pernicious woman

whose name is frailty.


Enter Gertrude:


Gertrude: Hamlet, O Hamlet.

Hamlet: Yes, mother.

Gertrude. O Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off and

let me giveth thee a sponge bath.

Hamlet: O mother, you know I have that appointment

Today with Dr. Freud.

Gertrude: I had forgot. Cancel it, love.

Hamlet: You knoweth what a procrastinator

I be. I shall go to the appointment.

Gertrude: Well giveth your mother a little kiss,

my love, before thou leavest.


Scene Two: Dr. Freud’s Offices.

Freud and James Joyce engaging in “the talking cure.”

Freud: Keep Going, Mr. Joyce. Get it Out

Joyce: Well, you know or don’t you kennet or haven’t I told you every telling has a taling and that’s the he and the she of it. Look, look, the dusk is growing!

Freud: Very well then, Mr. Joyce I’ll see you next time.

Joyce: By the way, Doc, to say that a great genius is half-mad, while recognizing his artistic prowess, is worth as much as saying that he was rheumatic, or that he suffered from diabetes. Madness, in fact, is a medical expression to which a balanced critic should pay no more heed than he would to the accusation of heresy brought by the theologian, or to the accusation of immorality brought by the public prosecutor. Good Day

exit Joyce

Freud: His Inflated ego is furthered pathologized by anal expulsiveness. What is that last book of his Finnegan’s Wake by a vast shit explosion? Anna!

Enter Anna Freud.

Anna: Yes, Father?

Freud: Whose next?

Anna. He calls himself Hamlet, Hamlet the Dane.


Scene Three: Hamlet and Freud’s session

(Hamlet lying on the psychiatric couch)

Freud: Enough about your mother. Tell me about this step father of yours.

Hamlet: O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! Bloody, bawdy villain!

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

Freud: So I take it you do not like this man.

Hamlet: I should have fatted all the region kites

With this slave’s offal.

Freud: My son, it’s quite clear that you suffer from an Oedipal complex, that you are fixated in the phallic stage.   Our work is done here. That will be 500 marks.

Hamlet: You joketh. That’s it? I want another opinion.

Freud: Very well. Anna!  Bring in Dr. Jung

Enter Jung.

Freud: Dr. Jung, this young man wants to kill his father.

Hamlet: Stepfather!

Freud: To kill his father so he can be with alone with his mother, which obviously denotes the Oedipal complex.

Jung: I’ve been thinking, Herr Mentor, that you over-emphasize the sexual component in mental illness. I have a slightly different take.

Freud: I dare you! How dare you! Contradict me!

They fight.

Scene Four: Hamlet alone on the Battlement.


I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.


We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The rest is silence.

Enter Joyce doing a jig

Joyce: If others have their will Ann hath a way. By cock, she was to blame. She put the comether on him, sweet and twentysix. The greyeyed goddess who bends over the boy Adonis, stooping to conquer, as prologue to the swelling act, is a boldfaced Stratford wench who tumbles in a cornfield a lover younger than herself.

End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousandsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the


The End.

The Post Labor Day Wardrobe Blues

The Post Labor Day Wardrobe Blues


Labor Day, brother,

put them white pants away.

I reiterates: Labor Day,

put them white shoes away.

Nobody told that blazing sun up there,

but the etiquette polices get the final say.


Way past Labor Day,

shred that seersucker, fool.

The calendar say September,

so ditch them white bucks, too.

No matter what the thermometer say,

We talking ’bout society rules.


Science book say white jacket repel the heat,

help to keep your arm pit dry.

Science book say dark clothes ‘sorbs the heat

and make your poor body fry.

But the science also say they ain’t

no heaven to go to when you die.


Up in heaven, it always be the month of May

Up in heaven it always the month of May

You can wear that white robe without no snooty dismay.


Gots to get to heaven to ‘scape global warming,’

Needs to get to heaven to ‘scape global warming,’

It be almost Christmas and the skeeters still be swarming’.


Oh, do Lawd, it Labor Day,

time to put them white clothes away.


Done be Labor Day,

gots to put them white clothes away.


Time to don you some wool

and pray for the Judgment Day.

Yo dub poet hisself

Yo dub poet hisself

The Robotics of Pledging Allegiance

The K-12 independent Episcopal/African Anglican institution* where I teach celebrates the beginning of each school year with an outdoor all-school assembly.

It’s quite a confluence – Lower School teachers shepherd their little ones in lines, the Middle School bursts from Tyler Hall in a hormonal scrum, Upper School students meander down the steps to join the other two divisions beneath canopies of shade-providing oaks. Faculty members should, I suppose, hang with the grades they teach, but these well-behaved, considerate boys and girls need little supervision. I generally roam among each division until the show actually commences when I reposition myself as far back as discretion allows.

In Episcopal/African Anglican fashion, the ceremony begins with a processional led by a cross-bearing acolyte followed by the Chaplin, the Head of School, the Head of Admissions, sixteen flag-bearing students, and a bag-piping Latin-teaching devotee of Lucretius bringing up the rear.

Then follows a prayer, words of welcome, and introductions of the flag-bearers, natives or citizens of the countries of the flags they awkwardly wield. The last introduced is a US citizen, and one of the aforementioned dignitaries leads the assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance, words I haven’t recited since Lyndon Johnson was president.

kids-saying-pledge1To me, pledging allegiance to anything, especially when you’re too young and too ignorant historically to understand the words smacks of insecurity, if not paranoia, and is in a sense insulting. The Moore/Birdsong son-producing combine never demanded that Harrison and Ned and Mother and Father place their hands upon their hearts and swear fealty to the clan — it was a given that we all loved one another and wouldn’t endanger the family unit in any kind of serious malfeasance.

a cartoon from a '50's edition of Highlights for Children magazine

a cartoon from a ’50’s edition of Highlights for Children magazine

Furthermore, the words of the Pledge simply aren’t true. For example, I first recited them in a segregated school, and when I went for my smallpox vaccination, I flipped through Highlights magazines in an all-white waiting room (blacks had their own waiting rooms in the fashion of veterinarian clinics that separate dogs and cats).

So much for liberty and justice for all.

Not to mention that the Pledge itself violates the separation of church and state that the Constitution decrees — one nation under God, indivisible. I can also argue, as some Texans do in spasms of Obama-hating frenzy, that damn right it’s divisible, like in 1860’s, for example.

Having children place their hands on their hearts to solemnly swear to bullshit is unhealthy.

How about a compromise? How about changing a word here and there to make the Pledge less paranoid, less mendacious? Here’s a immodest proposal:

I pay homage to the ideals of the Constitution of the United States of America — liberty and justice. We are one nation of melded immigrants who treasure our freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly and will remain mindful of them as we live our lives in this great nation of ours.

Just an idea.

Wanna hear a really creepy idea?  What if they made you pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of South Carolina?


*Not unlike some of our parents, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and some of its parishes are going through an ugly divorce.


A Reluctant Grammarian Goes Over to the Dark Side

imagesBecause I was dream-ridden, impractical and enjoyed reading, I majored in English without giving future employment a nanosecond’s consideration. Not adept at linear thinking (or delayed gratification), I floated day-to-day through the eight seasons of my undergraduate career bullshitting, wooing, drinking, reefering, eating cafeteria food, listening to and talking about music, reading, writing papers, and studying (not necessarily in that order).

Something would come up or happen or not.

No way did I ever envision myself as a future high or middle school teacher. I recall my pre-undergraduate days, not with nostalgia, but with a feeling of good-riddance, like Japanese Californians might look back on their internment during WW2.

Ironically, my English class in the 8th grade was what I dreaded most each day: constructing mobile-like diagrams of stilted workbook sentences or splashing misspelled words between prim blue lines as I stacked one atop the other five mechanically engineered paragraphs.

Sometimes I foolishly envied my teachers because I thought they didn’t suffer the anxiety I did (they seemed to have their shit together), but no way did I ever even remotely consider expending

hours . . .

days . . .

years . . .

decades . . .

in concrete-block enclosures forcing kids to read the Fireside Poets.

Nevertheless, I am an English teacher, which means, alas, people who don’t know me well think I might judge them on the standardization of their grammar, whether spoken or written. I try to reassure them that I digs the vernacular, that they can feel free to split infinitives, confuse lie with lay, end sentences with prepositions. It’s all good/well with me.

I could [not] care less (unless they confuse number with amount [petty] or use literally to mean figuratively [deadly]).*

Nevertheless, me, myself and I-and-I hesitate to violate grammatical rules in written language, even though I know the best prose sounds as if like someone’s talking to you.

See what I mean? Grammar books teach that one in written language should not introduce a clause (as in the sentence above) with the preposition “like,” but you sound like some stilted schoolmarm if you use “as if,” not to mention, one. In fact, I violate the subordinate pronoun rule in the last clause of the last sentence of paragraph 3 – like Japanese Californians might look back on their internment during WW2.

Truth be told, I had to spend some time getting that clause right. I’d prefer a singular antecedent – a Japanese Californian – but I didn’t want the clutter of singular gender specific pronouns like his and her  – however, I also didn’t want to drop the pronoun altogether as in like a Japanese Californian might look back on internment because the rhythm wasn’t quite right. After a bit of praying and fasting, I ended up opting for a plural antecedent Californians so I could correctly use “their.”

In fact, I’m almost at the point of endorsing plural neuter pronouns like they and their as a practical, ear-pleasing alternatives to cluttering sentences with hises and herses.

Compare this cliché with its politically correct alternatives:

A measure of a man is his

A measure of a wo/man is his or her

A measure of a person is his of her [or his/her]

A measure of a person is their

I’m thinking the last one might be best. It doesn’t suggest that women are subsets of men, it doesn’t bring attention to the differences between the two, and it doesn’t clutter/ruin the rhythm of the sentence. Obviously, it’s grammatically wrong, but to most people it doesn’t sound wrong.

After all, the construction “I’m a good ventriloquist, ain’t I” makes more grammatical sense than “I’m a good ventriloquist, aren’t I?”

After all, I are a ventriloquist extraordinaire.

*”I contradict myself?  So I contradict myself.  A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” sez Ralph Waldo.

Hieronymus Bosch Deals with Cancer


Hieronymus Bosch - Triptych of Garden of Earthly Delights _detail 13_










Which cell first rebelled,

fueled the insurrection

taking over the town?

Bosch-born monsters breed,

ruttish rumpfed bladders on legs

scurrying across the canvas,

an obscene carnival, clots of chaos everywhere.

Dey run amok fuck-up go cruzy clump

disrupt – sisrupt – pile-up

piles of corpses

mangled tangled

elbows, torsos,

heads, mouths

frozen open, rictus,

Dachau, Austerlitz

anus world, a world of shit.

* * *

But here comes the chemo,

scouring, healing poison -

not no cavalry, not no Marines,

but bleach, lye,

molten lava pumping,

spreading o’er the obscene canvas

obliterating blight,

like hell fire, consuming those

misbegotten cankered creatures,

restoring order, an earlier order,

purging, drowning,



creating rich soil

for fresh garden growth

a world of . . .