Is this anachronistic—me calling you a dear?

I could just say your name, but then I don’t know your name do I? I don’t even know if you’d like me, or if I’d like you.

Writers who wouldn’t let me touch the inside of a forearm have been promiscuous on the page, addressing perfect strangers—such as myself— as intimates. Can you taste the pubic hair in your mouth?  And I—for one—have been deeply touched. Didn’t matter what either of us looked like, or even if our breath stank. Didn’t even matter if one of us was stone-cold dead. We were together on a page. That was okay. Better than okay.

Readers then were individuals and not part of an entirely different phenomenon that’s risen up and which I’ll call—for lack of a better word—the audience.

Readers I am desperate for. Readership not so much. An audience I could do very nicely without. An audience has expectations.

Often as not an audience wants to be lied to. Which reminds me of another joke.

What did Raggedy Anne say when she sat on Pinocchio’s face? 

“Lie to me. Lie to me!”


Seems every dramatic scene in family life involved a dog. Once in New Hampshire the trail back from Welton Falls was blocked by a river that had risen since we’d waded through it earlier in the day. Cassie, despite her webbed paws and breeding as a water dog, was frightened. My father took Cassie in his arms and tried to carry her across the current. He looked as frightened as she was. Cassie scrambled free and swam across, though when she clambered out on the other side it was way down stream.

My father used to wear what were then called wash pants, and a crew neck sweater somewhat the worse for wear.

I remember him saying “Cassie,” in a reproachful tone whenever he cut a fart.

He was funny. Still is funny on the page. I treasure the jokes my father told me. I’m older today than he was when he died, but the jokes make me a child again, with him leaning in and confiding humor. He was a full grown man and smelling of tobacco and of gin.

I think I’ll start with the most offensive joke he ever told me. So you’ll know right away if we can stand one another. The joke is dated, of course, but then it’s also immortal, or less mortal than the person who told it to me.

Which reminds me of my big surprise. You have to have a surprise, don’t you, in order to fool anybody into reading a book? Information withheld. Which seems dishonest, doesn’t it?

but back to the joke.

A stunning redhead comes into a talent agency looking for work. The agent wants to know what she does. “I sing through my asshole,” she tells him.

“What do you sing?” he asks.

“Oh boy,” she says, “You name it. Folk songs. Show tunes. The dying cowboy.”

“All right,” says the agent. “Sing me something.”

“Okay,” she says, “You asked for it,” she says, kicks off her pumps, pulls down her stockings, folds them up and puts them on the rug. Then she spreads her legs, squats and lays a big turd. It looks like something you might have ordered at Carvel, but it’s dark brown and with a couple of corn niblets.

Agent: “What the fuck are you doin?”

“What do you think I’m doing?” she says indignantly. “Clearing my throat.”