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Don’t you get tired of listening to the countless windbags … these
pompous buffoons who call themselves “columnists?” I mean, all these
schmoes are so taken with themselves … as if anything they had to say
was actually gonna make any difference! I mean, gimme a break! In fact,
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I even get sick of reading
myself. (How do ya like them apples?!) So I figured I’d do
us all a favor and get off the pulpit this week.

Instead of the usual sermon, I’m gonna offer you a couple of, well
… I guess they’re sort of fairy tales, in a way. But don’t get me
wrong. I’m not offering up these pieces for any sort of “entertainment”
value. Uh uh. If you read ‘em really closely (it might take a
couple of times for the more brain-dead amongst you), you’ll see that
these babies have Profound Truths hidden in them. Yep, I’m talkin’
morals gang! Anyway, just shut up and read the suckers. And when
you’re finished, I suggest you turn off your stupid computers and go
do something with what’s left of your lives. You’re gonna be gone
before you know it — so spend your time wisely, brothers and sisters
(which means, of course, reading my column each and every week). Don’t
worry. Next Friday I’ll be back on ye olde soapbox (otherwise, I’d miss
myself too much).


Squarehead

When I was a kid, there was this guy in our neighborhood named Wahee
Troger. There was something wrong with Wahee. He had one of those real
big heads — you know, the kind of head that’s way too big for your body
and it has those little stick-out ears popping out of it, like a lot of
guys in the Navy have. The kind of ears that if you were sitting behind
the guy in a movie it’d be real hard not to flick them real fast with
your finger. Anyway, us kids invented a name for Wahee. It wasn’t a very
nice name actually.

We called him Squarehead.

Squarehead didn’t do much of anything. It was hard to tell how old he
was. I guess he was around 40 or so, but he still lived with his mother
in a kind of crummy house in a not-very-nice neighborhood.

Sometimes when we were out for recess, we’d see him hanging around
the schoolyard, just sort of watching us. Other times, we’d see him
walking along the street carrying a shopping bag. He always had that
shopping bag with him wherever he went. Nobody ever really knew what was
in that bag, and we never wanted to ask.

We didn’t really talk to old Squarehead much actually. Sometimes he’d
be walking down the street and a bunch of us would walk behind him going
“Hey Squarehead! Hey Squarehead!”

Sometimes we’d even bonk big fat stones off his back. Well, actually
I didn’t do it, but I watched while the other guys did it. I was
sort of a coward, I guess.

Kids are crummy … they really are. Sometimes the crummy ones change
and get OK later in life, but mostly they just stay crummy. They grow up
to be very crummy people. I mean, just look around … they’re all over
the place. Well, whenever you meet a really crummy person, just remember
that that person was once a crummy kid!

I don’t know — for some weird reason I used to think about old
Squarehead quite a bit. I figured that in a way maybe he really might
have it better than the rest of us. He seemed happy just being by
himself. Him and his bag. I guess maybe I was wrong though.

One day a bunch of us went to the movie. It was a Saturday afternoon
matinee. This really cool double bill: “The Creature From The Black
Lagoon” (in 3-D!) and “Tarantula” (with John Agar, a very bad actor who
was in a lot of those kind of movies in the ’50s).

Anyhow, when we got to the theatre, there was Squarehead out front on
his tricycle, just pedaling around. He was much too large for a
tricycle, naturally, and he looked quite silly.

Just as we were going into the theater, he wheeled over and said,
“Hey, can I go to the movies with you guys?” I was kind of shocked,
because it was the first time he’d ever talked to any of us. He’d been
planning to do it too — you could tell.

“Beat it, you stupid freak,” said my friend John Stone. John Stone
was one of those guys I was telling you about that no doubt grew up to
be a very crummy person. He once threw up on my living room carpet while
watching Howdy Doody and told my mom I did it, and I got grounded for a
week. I sort of hated him, and I never really could figure out why I’d
picked him for a friend.

Anyway, we went into the movie and left Squarehead out there. It made
me feel real funny or something — I don’t know. I kept trying to watch
the movie but I couldn’t stop thinking about him out there all alone on
that terrible tricycle of his. It was awful.

Finally I got up to go up to the lobby — like I was getting some
popcorn or something. When I got up there, I walked out front and looked
around for Squarehead. I was hoping he might still be hanging around,
but he was nowhere in sight.

I looked out at the streets. They looked so empty and sad. I was
feeling real peculiar to tell you the truth. I stuck around for awhile;
then I went back into the movie. I sat down next to Judy Goslin. Later,
during the second picture, I tried to get my hand under her shirt, but
she wouldn’t let me. Girls… sheeeesh! Still, I got a pretty
good handful a couple of times though.

Well, that’s about it. Oh yeah, a couple of weeks later John Stone’s
father died, and when I went over to his house he was sitting underneath
the piano, crying.

The next month we moved away from the neighborhood. It was the last
time I’d ever see John Stone or Judy Goslin or Squarehead or any of the
rest of the kids ever again.


The Bum With The Perfect Hair

One day the devil took a walk down Main St. He saw many people there,
many sad and lonely people. He didn’t even really want to bother with
them, as they weren’t prime meat.

But then the devil came to a doorway. Crouched inside, all huddled
up, was an old bum. He was a fairly typical bum, all dirty and smelly
and disheveled. But one thing about this bum struck the devil
immediately. He had absolutely perfect hair! It was, without a doubt,
the most beautiful hair that the devil had ever seen! It was jet black,
with little flecks of gray in it. It was combed straight back, and just
barely touched the bum’s collar. Moreover, it was sparkling clean, shiny
… and it was shaped just perfectly.

As the devil was observing all this, the bum took out a comb and ran
it through his hair

Now the devil stepped directly in front of the bum. “How ya doin’,
partner?” the devil said.

The bum looked up at the devil. “Doin’ OK, how ’bout you?” he
replied.

“Just fine, thanks,” said the devil.

The bum regarded the devil for a moment, stopping to take in his
black checkered sports coat and freshly polished shoes.

“Say friend, you got a dime for a cup of coffee?” he asked.

Yep, thought the devil. Just like the rest. The devil pulled out a
dime and handed it to the bum.

“Thanks, pardner,” said the bum.

Now the devil looked up at the bum and said, “My friend, what would you
say if I told you that you could have anything in this life that you
wanted?

The bum looked up at the devil kind of funny. “Now why would I want
anything?” the bum asked. “I’ve got everything I want right here … my
smokes, a nice doorway to crouch in … even a blanket Father Flotsky
down at the mission gave me to keep me warm.”

The devil looked perplexed. “But son,” he said, “wouldn’t you like to
be in a nice, warm house with a fireplace and maybe a little woman at
your side?

The bum let out a hearty laugh. “Heck no!” he said. “I already
had alla that stuff. Why do ya think I’m down here? I’m a happy
man. A mighty happy man!

The devil’s brow momentarily furrowed. “You just think you’re
happy,” smirked the devil.

“No,” said the bum. “I really am happy!”

The devil just shook his head. Boy, these guys sure could be
difficult at times. The devil looked at his watch. It was getting late
and he had business to attend to.

“Well, my friend,” he said, “if you change your mind, you let me
know.”

The devil turned and started to walk away. But then he stopped and
turned around.

“By the way,” he said, “you’ve got very nice hair.”

The bum stayed silent for a long moment, regarding the devil coolly.

“I know,” he said.

Then, as if on cue, he pulled out his comb and ran it through his
sleek, black mane.

The devil watched the bum in great admiration. Then he turned on his
heel and began walking down Main Street. He sighed a little as he
walked.

Sometimes his job seemed like a real pain in the neck, and today, he
could tell, was going to be one of those days.


The above short stories are excerpted from S.L. Goldman’s
best-selling collection, “Excitable
Boy”
, available
from Harsh Reality Press.
Goldman’s latest collection, “Surrender To The Xerox Machine” will be
released this Fall. Moreover, Harsh Reality
— has six new books
slated for release
this year, including, “Tar Baby Tales,” a first-time novel by 14-year
old Goldman discovery, Kat Bendix (great granddaughter of “Life Of
Riley” star William Bendix), a children’s novel (“Goodbye Auntie Flo”)
by Goldman’s former fifth grade teacher, Miss Harper (RIP) and veteran
screenwriter Jerry Sebransky’s occult/adventure series, “Demon Hunter”
(which has just been picked up by HBO). If you are a writer seeking
publication, you may obtain submission guidelines by querying Harsh
Reality
at
wannabe@thetongue.com. Harsh Reality is also seeking original
screenplays. No poetry … please.

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