Rather than make the supplicants and extortionists climb the great stairs up to Jasperwood’s front door, I set up shop in the garage at the foot of the hill. Open the door, roll out some orange rope lights, and sit there with a cup of coffee dispensing treats. The first two kids looked about eleven or twelve. One of them had a mask that almost looked like George Bush Sr. after a horrible skin graft; the other was dressed as a bunny.

And you are –

“Hugh Hefner,” he said. Hef’s impassive and inexact face stared at me for a few seconds. “Hey, you’re in the paper,” he said. “I’ve read your stuff.”

“And I’ve read yours,” I said. “Great articles.”

He didn’t quite get the allusion, thank heavens. Off they went. Other highlights:

“And you must be a warlock!”

(Coldly) “Actually, I’m a witch.”

“That’s what I meant, a female warlock.”


“Why, it’s a gladiator!”

“I’m Alexander the Gweat.”

“Ah, the master of all he beheld! The young man who broke down and wept when there were no more worlds to conquer. Dead at 32!”

(pause) (pause) (pause) “Twick o Tweat.”


"And what be this?"

"I’m a jester."

“Of course, a jester! A fool, here to tweak the conscience of the king?” At this point I thought hey, this liberal arts education was finally paying off. Bring on the kid dressed as a cherry orchard with an axe through one leg. Why, you symbolize the old ways of Russia, vanishing under the onslaught of Emancipation and modernity! Take two pieces.

The last two kids were dressed as Tolkein elves. Or very flamboyant Vulcans. Most heartening costume: three boys dressed as the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Army. Most amusing moments: three boys screamed “BUSH IS SCARY VOTE FOR KERRY,” whereupon I took back the bowl of candy. The look on their faces was priceless.

“Aren’t you going to vote for Kerry?” asked one.

“Your choice: I can vote for Kerry and you get one piece, or I vote for Bush and you get two.”

Total pieces dispensed: six

Gnat went out with her friend. Very cute. She was Cinderella. Of course she’s been Cinderella every day for the last four weeks, but this was her coming out, her public unveiling of the new persona. This was the first time she’d gone door to door, and watching her march up the street with Mommy gave me a nice warm glow. When they returned she wanted to hand out the candy to other kids, and took her responsibilities quite seriously. Then inside to sort the stash. Rather obvious selection, I’m afraid. Snickers, Twix, M&Ms. A few traditional items, such as Sixlets (they come in packs of eight) and Rolos, the Candy of the Gods; some fiend handed out “Now & Later” candy, so named because you cannot bring yourself to finish it and consign it for some future time when this hard crap might seem palatable.

I bought a bag of “Classic” candy just to introduce today’s sensation-addled youth to the stalwarts of the genre. I loved their expressions upon beholding “Goobers” – did not compute. The perfection of a $100,000 bar went unnoticed; the “Oh Henry” bar, perhaps the only treat whose name alludes to a master of the short story genre, was likewise passed over. (The “Eff Scott” bar – bitter chocolate over a rich, beery nougat – was likewise scorned.) The new innovations of the season included the Butterfingers Crunch, which was wholly underwhelming; the Butterfinger requires density of brickle, and merely layering the flavor amongst the insubstantial plating of some wafers ruins the effect, and frankly dilutes the brand. The 3 Musketeers were snatched up, which bodes well for this venerable brand. Although why the characters are associated with swordplay I’m not sure – they’re musketeers, for heaven’s sake. Gunmen! But that’s all in the past. They’ve now been given new personalities, with the requisite attitude.

No one showed up as bin Laden; perhaps it’s not because he’s scary any more. I’ll admit, I thought he was dead, and I am on record in print and on the radio as having said so. Let the record show I was wrong, and by all means keep that in mind the next time I speak with confidence and assurance. That said, he might as well be dead for all it seemed to spook anyone. I hate to say more about it lest something happen in the next few days, but for Binny to jack-in-the-box now, rather than appearing after his next Brilliant Mastermind Strike, seems to suggest he has nothing in the tank and less in the trunk.

He’s on the same page as the would-be First Lady, proclaiming the war in Iraq a “war for oil,” and complains that not enough people were killed during the recent Afghan elections. And we’re the ones waging war on Muslims. Got that? We kick out the theocrats, hold an election for the first time in a region that was old and busted around the time Nero was stringing his first lute, and the election takes place without bands of jihadists careening around town gunning down women who want to cast a ballot. To bin Laden, this is bad. C’mon, people! If we’re going to be serious about the war against the infidel, we have to get down to killing believers in numbers that count!

Apparently he also complained that the war isn’t going quite as he would prefer, since – imagine this – the US is making life difficult for him where he lives. It’s hard to look to the future when you’re always looking over your shoulder, I guess.

I am certain Bin Laden fears a Kerry presidency more than a Bush second term. He knows – and I think we all know this – that Kerry would summon in the military guys, and say “I want you to find bin Laden.”

Uh – sir, I don’t quite –

"I mean it. Find him. "

You mean, find him? Why – such a thing has never been considered, sir; we’ve just been waiting for him to wander into camp looking for directions, or perhaps to use the bathroom. That whole Abu Ghraib thing - well as you no doubt know, we were just trying to provoke him to set his ol' beard on fire and run screaming into camp waving a big-ass scimitar, and then we'd be like all Indy on him and pow! Pow! But it never worked out. We never even had a Plan B. Find him? You serious? This is so totally unexpected! You mean, actually go try and get him?

"That’s exactly what I mean. And I have a plan."


"I want you to go here –"

Where, exactly? Your hand is covering all of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan on the map –

"That’s right. I want you to go here, and I want you to look for him. And when you see him, get him. "

Is that the plan, sir?

"No, there’s more. See this? I’ve drawn a blue line, making a wide new river to his exact position. Send the Navy."

Uh – yes. Yes of course sir. Anything else, sir?

"Yes. Take this hat. If he’s invisible, you’ll see him – but only if you have the hat on. Now find him! "

(my point being not that Kerry is a Jack D. Ripper nutball, but that I think, just maybe, perhaps, we have been trying to find him, and simply saying "I will find him" is like saying "I will send Americans to the Moon" when NASA has already built the Saturn V gantry.)

Finally, vie Mudville, the picture that needs to be pondered.

You would prefer the chair to still be warm?
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