Crime and (Somebody Else’s) Punishment Part II

One of the great benefits of living in a dorm is that you interact with students from all over the world. I was fortunate to draw as a roommate an ethnic Chinese student who had grown up in Japan. Jiang was a fun guy–he once brought me to Chinatown in San Francisco so that I could buy a proper ping pong paddle, padded on one side and wooden on the other.

But his generosity did not inoculate him from taking the punishment for something that I did.

We were eating another fabulous dinner at the dorm cafe–probably liver and onions, which seemed to be on the menu every week. But the dorm folks spared no expense on desert, lavishing us with bowls of canned fruit cocktail. Jiang sat across from me, and half a dozen tables beyond him sat a lovely Japanese woman whom we both adored.

In case you didn’t know, there are other uses for fruit cocktail besides eating it.

I placed a half Maraschino cherry in my spoon. “Bet you I can hit Ayame from here,” I said.

He turned around and spotted her, a considerable distance away, surrounded by other girls seated in front of her and on both sides. The window from our table past all those bodies to the target was narrow.

“No way,” he said after turning back to me.

If my seventeen-year-old self required any additional motivation, being told I couldn’t do it sealed the deal.

I pulled back the spoon like a catapult, aimed, and launched. The syrupy cherry flew in an arch over five tables and soared down just over the heads of the women facing Ayame before splatting onto her cheek.

Her face went from pleasant animation to shock. She looked down at what I assumed was the cherry, then scanned the room for its source. After her eyes zeroed in on our table, she sprang up and marched toward us, her face half-giggle and half-outrage. I was prepared to be confronted–even looked forward to it.

But she stopped directly behind Jiang, who wasn’t facing her direction and didn’t know she was anywhere near him until she began playfully boxing him on the sides of his head.

“I did not do it!” he insisted, grinning. At least I think that’s what he said, because it was in Japanese. I was certain of the next words, delivered in English and accompanied by a finger pointed my direction–“He did it.”

I would have admitted it if she had asked before she began smacking Jiang, but at this advanced stage of the entertainment, I declined to confess. And so my innocent roommate took a little bit more punishment.

It would have been sweet if this incident led to a date between Jiang and Ayame, romance, marriage, children, fulfillment. I’d have settled for a date. Alas, the fruit cocktail telegram technique proved inadequate toward that cause.

But my roommate didn’t get very angry with me. It was heaven to get clubbed by Ayame. As it turned out, he was more fortunate than I.

Four Yuge Tips for Stable Geniuses

“…that makes me…a very stable genius…” President Donald J. Trump, Jan. 6, 2018

Let me tell you, it’s not easy being a Stable Genius. I should know–I tried. I’m still trying.

It’s kind of a guy thing. Sure, women can be competitive, too, but when someone’s stretching it to the point of absurdity, it’s probably a guy. Someone like me.

It started with retirement. Before I hung up my lesson plans and red ink pens, my wife handled all the horsey chores. On rare occasion, such as when she was out of town, I’d handle a shift, and I admit the ultra-manly instincts kicked in right away.

I was going to be the best pooper scooper the world has ever seen.

That occasional horse apple that dribbled away from the rest of the pile, a runaway chunk whose presence besmirched what would otherwise be a pristine pen? No more!

Those plops busted into pieces by roving wild turkeys (yes, we have them here) desperate for an undigested oat seed? Scraped up and disappeared!

You get the idea.

I’d tackle the efficiency angle, too. The right footwork with which to approach and attack the pile. The best angle of scoop, the best order in which to fill the wheelbarrow–small stuff on top, bigger turds on the bottom. On those occasional stints before retirement, I’d imagine a bleacher-filled crowd watching the disposal of all this compostable material, announcers describing the competitors’ strategies and wowing about the awesome prowess of yours truly.

Then reality hit. The missus is off to work every day while I stay home pretending to do something gainful, which is to say, pursuing the writing gig, a pay-to-play proposition at this point in time. So now I’m the first-string pooper-scooper, the captain of the barn.

It’s January, in case you haven’t noticed. In this northern climate, winter presents a substantial challenge to championship-level turd chasing. Specifically: shit freezes–I mean, rocks-embedded-in-the-ground bad. Bust-the-tines-in-your-muckrake bad.

But if you’re a stud pooper-scooper like me, no problem, baby. No matter what the conditions are, the top dogs of doo-doo venture outside to tackle the plains of poop.

This morning I grabbed the mattock–that’s a tool with a flat, pick-like blade, the perfect tool for digging a narrow trench or removing hair from your armpit. I dropped the thing in the wheelbarrow and bumped across the frozen tundra to Mound Number One, adhered to the ground like concrete. Try to kick it loose, and you’d bust your toe.

Again, not a problem. I assumed the proper stance–knees slightly bent, torso hunched above the offending mess, mattock poised just behind the head. When the imaginary whistle blew, I swung down, forceful and yet controlled, perfectly whacking the exact edge where pile met ground, and–did you see that?–he obliterated the crap out of that crap! Chunks shot up off the frigid soil, and the crowd went wild.

The part that the spectators didn’t see, the result that only slow-motion instant replay could capture, was that my face got in the way. The biggest chunks missed me, but the ancillary spray of poop dust peppered my cheeks, forehead, chin–yeah, the whole noggin.

And my mouth was open, too.

But that’s a price I’m willing to pay in order to be a Stable Genius.

And so, with my hard-earned bona-fides, here’s the advice:

  1. Capture as much shit as you can per scoop and aim carefully when you fling it.
  2. Leverage is important. Bend over when you’re pitching crap.
  3. Don’t follow the horse all day and night in order to catch poop before it hits the ground. You can leave it lying there and develop a plan of attack in the morning while watching Fox and Friends.
  4. When the shit’s flying, it’s best to keep your mouth shut.

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