Note to Reader: You will notice on the words that begin with a silent p (words that start with ph, pn, ps, or even pt) I have underlined the first two letters. This is your cue to pronounce the p (make the silent p unsilent you could say) for the purposes of this passage. For instance, 'pneumonia' instead of being pronounced 'neumonia' will be pronounced 'pa-neumonia' If I didn't underline the first two letters of these silent p words as a cue throughout the passage it's only natural to read them as we always do and out of habit leave the p silent. I believe by pronouncing the p in all these underlined words the passage will flow better, sound more p-ish (if that's an adjective!), and be funnier. So enjoy!

MAN IS A PUTZ

INTRO

The overriding premise of this passage is that man is prone to making poor choices and that his penchant for stupidity is so predictable that we may consider him a perpetual fool.

PRELUDE TO THE FOOLS-MY CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH PERCIVAL

So I was hanging out at the patio outside the Cambridge, MA. Au Bon Pain pondering this very thing when who plops himself down at my table but one of my paddleball opponents from the Y, fellow writer Percival Pennington. Percival was something of a pretentious pseudointellectual , one who would become pedantic even downright polemical if I happened to present an opposing viewpoint be it scientific like say on phrenology which most scholars discard as pseudoscience yet he defended ad nauseum or philosophical as you will see next.

He cried, “Ah what a pleasant surprise. It is he who toils under the pseudonym Misakman, the undisputed preeminent practitioner of alliterative prose, never equalled often plagiarized. Heard you were practically done with the consonants and had several eager publishers pursuing a deal with you.” I replied, “Yes and once I finish letter P, the five vowels will form their own unholy Pentateuch so to speak, a planned sequel I've yet to commence making this a prequel I guess.”

Now Percival was a loud proponent of the theory of the perfectibility of man so when I intimated that my latest piece was hardly a paean to man's promise but a comparatively pessimistic look at man as a pathetic bungler, he took exception. Thus provoked he waxed pejorative exclaiming, “I fancied you a man of probity and wit yet you now exhibit the perspicacity of a hockey puck, an intellectual popinjay proffering puke-worthy piffle.” You see he had been doing some postdoctoral research into his pet theory of the perfectibility of man and placed high on a pedestal Alexander Pope and other personages of the Enlightenment who championed his cause while bashing less partisan modern-day critics like say Passmore who would caution against the perils of such hubris.

I informed him that this was certainly no sweeping psychohistory of mankind or big power-packed indictment against his theory but more an amusing story where I would playfully poke at the notion in seven parts. I would write of various flawed people who whether they paid a price for their fallability or escaped serious punishment nevertheless demonstrated what pinheads we are. Not in the least placated and indeed still very pissed off someone would portray man in a less than positive light and dare to be cynical over his potential, he sniveled patronizingly, “I dismiss as mere pseudoliterary pabulum that which you espouse and hereby posit that you are projecting your own stupidity onto others. As long as poison opinions like yours percolate among the general population and eventually permeate society, then only a precious few like me can achieve in this lifetime purity and godliness, yea perfection, through reason and knowledge leaving pigheaded skeptics in the dust. Good day!” He then stormed off in a fit of pique almost colliding with a pedicab while crossing the street.

I was unfazed by his putdowns particularly since in his haste he had left behind his pumpernickel bagel while I had finished my poppy seed bagel but was still plenty hungry and bemoaning the line pouring out the door. Reminding myself not to invite him to any prerelease parties or prepublication anything for that matter where he would just drone on Percival-like and dampen any prelaunch buzz and kill any preorder biz, I plowed on regardless and came up with ...yet another unusually polysyllabic spastic periphrastic Misakman magnum opus.

PART 1-ADAM AND EVE

Looks like our problem with dumb moves started right there in paradise with our patriarch and matriarch Adam and Eve. Some say Adam was preexisted by ape-man primates, preverbal primordial creatures who themselves evolved from prebiological evolution and progressed to look like him, but hey......I'm just pushing my story along and it's beyond my purview so God just said Presto! and he was just there OK?!?

So all was pristine and nice in the primeval Garden of Eden but Adam was pretty bored and needed a female companion so it didn't seem so pointless wherefore God proceeded to create Eve for him. Adam politely introduces himself, “Madam, I'm Adam” (a palindrome if you read it backwards!) and they hit it off as a pair. It continues to be a painless peaceful peachy-keen existence there with everything provided for by God above. They play patty cake and peekaboo and skip pebbles over the pond and haven't even figured out how to procreate yet when who enters the picture to spoil the party but the Devil himself. Yes it's the profane tempter, so prideful he was expelled from God's presence and thus forever a persona non grata in heaven. He is one polymorphic sneak and comes slithering along posing as a talking serpent (prolix python?) who cunningly convinces a naïve Eve, preying upon her precritical naiveté, to pick the fruit from a certain tree and indulge her palate. Now it had been proscribed by God for Adam to eat from that tree and Adam had passed that along to Eve, but he proves himself to be quite the pushover and partakes of the fruit when she offers it to him.

Though in most accounts the pundits call the forbidden fruit an apple, some sources claim it could possibly have been something else, including a pomegranate or even a pear. Ah the pear...my favorite item in the produce section, so much so I once wrote (ever the punster) “A Poem to a Pome” dedicated to it in my best iambic pentameter but I digress.

God's patience is now completely toast especially with Adam since he had personally warned him about this...a stern proscription directly relayed...whereas Eve though perhaps still partly culpable, had only gotten it all secondhand from her partner. So totally peeved now, God declares plain and simple that playtime is over and boots Adam and Eve from this idyllic place to fend for themselves beyond...now pariahs due to their lack of prudence in opening Pandora's box so to speak.

Now God does have a sense of humor...just look at the platypus, the pelican, the puffin, and even the paddlefish. And though they are manmade, it is highly probable he inspired the creation of the Pez dispenser (you know I once cracked a premolar on one of those candy pellets darn it) and the polyester disco suit, now hysterically passe but once the apparel of choice for the chic partygoer...but this abject disobedience from the progenitors of all humanity went beyond the pale.

This profoundly telling incident involving our wayward parents Adam and Eve, failures as pacesetters and role models, is a prologue to mankind's subsequent consistently pitiful stupidity. Even a casual perusal of the pages of history yields a preponderance of examples that show our marked propensity to act foolishly.

PART 2-THE KING OF PU

In ancient times preceding even those of the Egyptian pharaohs according to pictographs and papyrus documents found in their pyramids existed the prosperous little Arabian country of Pu. Possessing phenomenal wealth through profitable trade, it saw fit to maintain peace treaties with its bigger neighbors and keep its ports humming. King Pu-Zo had granted plenipotentiary powers to his highly skilled diplomats who in turn pledged neutrality in painstakingly detailed pacts with these neighbors, very practical since Pu was so puny in size compared to them. For sure, anything you wanted Pu had...pottery, precious metals, numerous textiles from sheer to plush, myriad spices from piquant to pungent, many exotic dyes and pigments, even yummy pistachios (so rich in potassium and polyunsaturated fats I say)...yes, a veritable potpourri of goodies.

King Pu-Zo was indeed very powerful so you didn't have a very pluralistic political environment with opposition parties or a body like a parliament or senate to argue with and the inevitable partisanship that develops from them. Nor would you see him conducting any plebiscites at any given time to gauge the opinion of the hoi polloi before deciding a matter. Yet he was revered as a benevolent paternal figure, popular with his subjects since he was often more preoccupied with their well-being than just the pursuit of his own wealth.

He not only made sure his taxes were not punitive but reasonable but opened his coffers and funded a loan program encouraging the idea of private property and the possibility of owning one's own parcel of land, a progressive move for his time. He ordered his most prominent mathematicians to design payment plans that were pragmatic and workable. Overall, the strong per capita figures were a strong testament to his passion for promoting free enterprise and initiative among the populace.

His eye-popping castle was perched high atop the palisades with impressive parapet style walls then in the middle a posh palace, his primary residence of course and one which no pasha or high potentate in history could match. Deep within, protected from snoops by a maze of secret passageways, was the king's vault where a prodigious fortune reputedly in the billions lay stored. One perquisite of his job was that this was considered the king's personal fortune, but he preferred to regard it as Pu's rainy day fund.

So one day who sails into Pu on three ships amid much pomp and hoopla then go parading around as friends yet were actually rapacious poseurs eager for plunder but the three neighboring kings. They get all palsy-walsy with old friend Pu-Zo operating under the pretense that they have made this pilgrimage to check on his health having heard he was sick lying prostrate on his deathbed. Pu-Zo a prolific polygamist answered them. “I was merely pooped from trying to please too many wives in too short a period. My healers prescribed rest and that I pace myself better in the future."

Though Pu-Zo should have been more paranoid over these piranhas he was pleased as Punch they seemed so worried about him, and thus persuaded of their good intentions saw fit to place trust in them. Now they knew perfectly well that he had only been physically tired for a spell and had recovered, but they played along big time to impress upon his psyche that they were trusted paisanos.

Pu-Zo pulls out all the stops and throws a lavish banquet where they all pig out. His plotting guests after getting him plastered and quite pliable to suggestion after numerous toasts prod him saying, “Amuse us and show us your secret playroom with your prized possessions and treasure. How exciting it would be to be privy to this spectacle, riches of such proportion that they would make us wealthy men seem like piddling paupers. We plead with you to please grant us this indulgence."

They have Pu-Zo preening like a peacock eager to show off his amazing plethora of riches. Then by prying a secret lever beneath his throne he activates a pulley which removes a portion of the floor hiding a staircase. He gleefully leads them down a puzzling labyrinth of twists and turns but just perchance...one of the kings has a photographic memory and takes note of the convoluted path they use. At last they reach a massive portal through which they must pass, but Pu-Zo not percipient enough to be discreet, presses some mechanical buttons in a certain order (the password!) and the huge door unlatches. Their hearts pounding with excitement, their eyes spinning like pinwheels, the guests take their first peek inside once Pu-Zo opens the door. They marvel at daunting piles of gold, mountains of diamonds, pearls, and jewels, and a plentiude of other goodies...plates and goblets and well, enough priceless artifacts to fill a few museums.

Very pumped that he has a receptive audience, Pu-Zo passionately reveals to his presumed friends what a pleasure it is to make this full presentation to confirm Pu's greatness. Resorting to puffery, the kings dissemble saying, “Dear Pu-Zo, no panegyrics could adequately praise your prowess in ruling wisely and gaining prosperity as a result. But alas, we have other pressing engagements we cannot postpone and must depart posthaste.” But an insistent Pu-Zo as expected implores, “Tonight especially with the precipitation and patchy fog it will be pitch black out there. My prognosticators predict sunny propitious sailing weather tomorrow so may I prevail upon you to stay the night." So Pu-Zo pampers his guests providing them with luxurious adjoining rooms that put the penthouse suites at the Park Plaza to shame. Unsurprisingly Pu-Zo pickled as he was, falls asleep as soon as he dons his pajamas and his head hits his plushy pouf pillow. Since his room was only partway down the hall from the guestrooms, its proximity was such that the kings could hear his snoring, the predetermined prompt for each to commence to prowl towards the throne room. Now if you think it logistically problematic for the kings to pilfer the treasure without being caught, well it was plausible given there was a fourth conspirator, a plant, a friend of Pu-Zo's, soldier-of-fortune par excellence Pino-Kyo working guard duty.

MORE ABOUT THE MYSTERIOUS PINO-KYO

This Pino-Kyo was a native of Pu and came from fine patrilineage, his father having been what the Romans would call a Praetorian guard, one of the top bodyguards to Pachi-No, father of Pu-Zo. When Pu-Zo was just a pint-sized little prince Pachi-No professed, “My son, an only child, needs a playmate. He must interact with one of his peers to have a proper childhood.” Of all the progeny of his court members the king chose Pino-Kyo, having been impressed by his plucky attitude and pure athleticism and fighting ability. He presciently surmised, “A future king must be the personification of a lion and not a timid pussycat. My kid must lose his priggish streak and not be afraid to get his playsuit dirty. Pshaw! Playing with that wild one will actually be productive in that it will propel him to develop the courageous personality profile someone in his future position will need.”

So the boys formed a lasting platonic bond over the passing years and though Pu-Zo was a highborn pureblood boy of privelege he tended to pattern himself after Pino-Kyo, a non-royal but the prototypical alpha male type who took charge. But once a young man Pino-Kyo realized that psychologically he just couldn't stand pat and had to peregrinate and see the world. Thus for several years he performed ably for any high ruler or petty warlord who could pay him pitching himself as the ultimate pro warrior who could not only dispatch his paymaster's enemies with panache and aplomb in combat but help in planning attacks and training men also.

The three kings, all former employers who'd procured Pino-Kyo's services in the past for one campaign or another, sensed his peripatetic lifestyle had begun to pall upon him and that he was pining for stability and summoned him with a proposition. Said they, “We are venturing to Pu with the express purpose of purloining Pu-Zo's entire fortune. Once this happens and he is in a state of penury we will also partition Pu into three sections but from it will grant you some premier real estate, the island of Peet-Zah. (Is this punnery run amok? ...we had Pu-Zo, Pino-Kyo, Pachi-No, then this one..or just chance phonetic similarity to a present day name or word?). Also your percentage of the haul will be quite the hefty payday (purportedly his cut was a quarter, parity with their takes!). This underscores just how pivotal it is for us to have as a participant an inside guy to make certain preparations so it all pans out. Once Pino-Kyo said he found the deal palatable and was in they laid out the particulars...

“Preliminary to our arrival you must go back home crying poverty appearing forlorn, a victim of your own profligate ways. Pu-Zo will feel pity over your plight if your acting performance is persuasive enough and his fraternal instincts will predominate. Tell him that you had a premontion on the way and feel it is preordained that you become one of his personal bodyguards. Say that in this vision your father appeared phantom-like reminding you, 'My life was devoted to the protection of King Pachi-No. Stop prancing around the world a rootless privateer and adventurer and listen to your pop and look out for Pu-Zo.'”

When Pino-Kyo sojourned back to Pu and humbly presented himself to the king's court, Pu-Zo was psyched to see his buddy and being very touched by his phony story, gave him the important post as bodyguard. Now some of Pu-Zo's advisors regarded Pino-Kyo as a suspicious prodigal son, a mercenary and not necessarily a patriot, and indeed they had him pegged right, but Pu-Zo did not see him as a man of perfidy and as they say in the modern parlance, he called the shots. The kings waited on pins and needles till they got word from Pino-Kyo that he had secured the job on the premesis and overjoyed at the news soon set sail to perpetrate the caper.

They had told him, “Our job is to get him punchy enough to trust us like a little puppy and reveal his secrets. The ships we will arrive in as passengers are especially outfitted to handle a whole passel of pachyderms if we wanted so yeah, we can pack all of Pu-Zo's stuff in them no prob. Our success is predicated on you having at the ready 24-7 the necessary packhorses and then several wagons with more horses to pull them. Your drivers must not only be punctual but strong enough to help with the ponderous task of loading everything quickly. Pino-Kyo, you must get all of us and our booty via a route predesignated by you as the safest and fastest to the end of the pipeline, our ships, where our personnel, the crews, will pounce on the stuff and get it loaded and then poof! we are all gone.”

BACK TO THE ACTION AT THE PALACE

Now as the kings had gone to their quarters they'd pretended to be mere passers-by unfamiliar with Pino-Kyo but managed to whisper to their fellow profiteer, “PSSST! Throne room tonight!” and it was game on. That night he murdered with no pangs of guilt his fellow watchmen by suddenly plunging his sword deep within, mortally piercing their hearts. Flashing his pearly whites and acting very non-plussed and cool so nothing would seem peculiar he got them one by one to prattle about this and that with him before doing so.

Anyhow, the end result was that it all went off with precision meaning the gang escaped and Pu-Zo was left powerless and pecuniarily speaking quite broke. The three kings genuinely liked our personable protagonist and couldn't bring themselves to throw him in prison or persecute him. They each had their spoils...a quarter of the piechart they'd drawn up for the riches and once they summoned their armies to pop by, all the land except Peet-Zah island for Pino-Kyo...making their descendents petrodollar billionaires. Feeling Pu-Zo posed no threat, they set him up in a little pad with a picturesque view by the seaport. It was a sad postscript for King Pu-Zo but he bemusedly perceived his lot as karmic payback for his foolish pride.

Meanwhile when the ships reached Peet-Zah, a not very populous island near Pu with plentiful natural resources, Pino-Kyo realized there was little to prevent him from presiding there yet cautioned, “Dear kings, may I propose you stick around should I and my posse peradventure run into trouble.” But they so pitilessly pulverized the natives, simple peasants unprepared for such philistines, that postconquest Pino-Kyo chirped, “That was so plumb easy I'm painfully embarassed I detained you. Bon Voyage!”

But back in Pu, Pu-Zo was now more of a phlegmatic apathetic shell of a figure rather than the potent vigorous force he once was. He lived out his days pensive and reflective yet badly stung by the premeditated treachery- an outright putsch if you will- from those pissants he had called friends.

PART 3-PRESTON & THE CHIEF

Next we move along to the pioneer days for the next potboiler of a story, that of Preston T. Pinckney, wily peddler extraordinaire, purveyor of all manner of premium quality goods...well at least that's how he plugged himself and his paraphernalia.

Surely a persistent fellow, after traversing much of the Great Plains selling and trading...call him a roving trading post if you will...he decided to head down to the Texas Panhandle and maybe transact with some pueblo villages. His latest business had been with the last pockets of Americans he was aware of, a few prairie towns settled by intrepid plainsmen. This had gone well so Preston mused, “I wuz afraid my late pappy wuz right and this weren't no profitmaking enterprise. He wanted me to get a plot of land and a horse and plow and stay put. But Phew! Found those folks who purchased most of my work pants and pelts and all kinda provisions especially my pemmican and salt pork. Kinda justified my persevering so at this here peddling career despite the pitfalls...mainly the perilous nature of traveling alone and them long stretches where I ain't earning a pittance.”

Later that day feeling a mite peckish, he took a break to hunt some possum when he heard the panicky cries of a petrified woman. He looked about and espied a mean predatory wolf trying to tear the papoose right off the back of a lone Indian girl gathering some plants and herbs. As if by jet propulsion, Preston leapt at the beast (a precise marksman, he would've popped him if had a clear shot) and wrestled it away like he was Rowdy Roddy Piper. Interested only in easy pickings apparently, the wolf fled into the piny woods like some chastened polecat.

So far so good...having been pressed into service so to speak, Preston had saved a perfect stranger from a dire predicament. But alas it pains me to tell you that any puffy dreams I had that Preston, who'd always been opportunistic, would continue with praiseworthy behavior went Pffft! very soon.

Next the appreciative Indian girl dragged Preston up the pathway to her village to clean his scrapes and apply some herbal poultices all the while gushing profusely to all about the great poise and courage of the stranger. As providence would have it, she was no small potatoes but was the chief's daughter...poetry in motion with a long plaited ponytail and prettier than even the legendary Pocohantes he recalled...and was even pregnant with her second child (born preterm but healthy shortly after, probably due to all the excitement) by her husband, the chief's protege and principal warrior of the tribe.

So the leaders had a big powwow after which the chief, a man of outstanding profundity and not one for silly premumbles, got right to it and announced, “Our past experiences plainly indicate that the paleface is a compulsive prevaricator. He sends peacemakers to parley with us with whom we even share the peace pipe after reaching an understanding while he masks precontrived perfidious double-dealing intent, his promises nothing but useless palaver. He even turns around and initiates pogroms sacking and pillaging our settlements then perpetuating the myth that we are primitive savages who attack without provocation. Nevertheless you Mr. Preston have defied our preconceptions and merit plaudits for when the pressure was on you saved our beloved princess and her babies. So let us bring out the peyote and potables and have a hearty repast and celebrate.”

Preston marveled, “Wow, I'm from a line of purebred Englishmen, a proud descendent of pikemen, musketeers, and even a proconsul, but my English is pidgin compared to your polished speech. Now I don't mean to pry and be a pest but how does an Indian way out here amongst a supposedly preliterate tribe gain such proficiency?”

Replied the chief, “A professor from your Princeton University renowned for his pedagogy was dying from pleurisy yet his physician could not cure him. He summoned his pastor to visit him and say some prayers over him, but later they got to prating about what else could be done when the pastor piped in excitedly, “Ah my cousin Phineas, the itinerant preacher! Forget Ponce De Leon and Zebulon Pike, this pious fellow has traveled more than anyone, he as pitchman for the Lord proselytizing all over to save folks from perdition. Not the type to talk poppycock, he'd tell me and my pa and ma stories about Indians out west, true healers not pseudomedical quacks, who had natural potions and such that were panaceas to the same ailments that had us perplexed.

The afflicted, one Prof. Purefoy, now encouraged but too peaked to travel alone asked one of his pupils, a recent graduate, to accompany him. The lad, primed for adventure, prevailed upon his father, a prestigious landowner, to grant his blessing to go saying, 'Hear my plea father. I am no procrastinator yet I must take this brief pause before I return to the plantation after my studies and plunge headlong into helping you churn out cotton and pulpwood and everything else.' Anyhow, without getting into all the pettifogging details, he was given permission and the pesky fellows came and found me, and I cured Mr. Purefoy. The scholar, quite the parsimonious pinchpenny claimed he had no money to spare but gave me a pair of pince-nez reading glasses and some choice preenjoyed books, an English primer and dictionary along with the novels The Pickwick Papers and Pride and Prejudice as well as the works of Pliny the Elder who died at Pompeii mind you.

Now prior to the trip Purefoy and the pupil had gotten from Phineas the pastor's cousin his old map which pointed the way here. I urged posttreatment rest but apparently getting back east was some big priority. When I saw they had penciled in a quicker way out of here, I told them to be patient and go the way they came mentioning the preposterous odds of them suriviving given the prevalence of wild beasts along that route. They simply pooh-poohed my vehement protestations and presumptuously did go that way which precipitated their downfall as they were torn to pieces by a wild puma!”

BACK TO PRESTON AT THE VILLAGE

Hanging from a pothook attached to a tripod over a blazing fire pit was a huge cauldron of hot porridge especially prepared by the thankful princess. Preston partook of it along with wild pheasant and partridge her husband had hunted to honor his wife's protector. The chief even bestowed upon him his golden palomino, a creature of such equine pulchritude and majesty Preston had to pinch himself to see if he was dreaming. Then the chief proclaimed, “You should've stopped at the preprandial apertif for you now seem somewhat pie-eyed having neglected to imbibe potation with moderation, but let the festivities proceed while I rest.”

But then did the proclivity for dishonesty and piggish greed of one Preston T. Pinckney rear its ugly head as he exploited his status as a man of prepossessing greatness and high cred persona and acted like a total prick to be blunt. Overly pixilated therefore emboldened, he got from his wagon goods from his junk pile, stuff he'd pretested and knew was defective, and charging unfair prices sold them off. There were leaky wobbly pots and pans, parasols that he said would handle pelting rains but had punctures and tears and were thus quite porous, headache powder that he touted as a wonderous painkiller but had no palliative properties whatsoever but actually induced a pulsating migraine, and the like. Now that he had the chief's horse, he even sold his piebald pinto making like he was still a powerhouse though he was ready to be put out to pasture.

Soon it became pellucidly clear to his customers that the prankster had purposefully shortchanged them...only he had split after dinner! So now outraged and determined to punish him for his ploy, the angry consumers pursued him and peerless trackers that they were soon caught up to him like stealthy panthers just as he was about to pull into an abandoned presidio chasing him up a nearby plateau and eventually cornering him on a high promontory. His heart palpitating wildly, perspiration gushing out of his every pore, parched with thirst and panting heavily under the blazing sun, Preston remarked, “What a panoramic view guys. Let's have a picnic!” Preston meanwhile was fretting inside, “Will they send me plummeting over the precipice or go all pell-mell and beat me to a pulp or tie me up and stake me over a burning pyre?”

The chief who was in the search party then rode up to Preston and peering down at him and pointing to the ground said, “Judging from the puddle under your feet looks like you've peed your pantaloons.” He then dismounted and patting Preston on the shoulder said, “You deserve to be pushed off this peak to perish you peabrain but instead you will do some form of penance. Now I have a village to preside over and the men have daily tasks to perform so we must head back there while I go through the process of figuring this out.” On the way Preston admitted, “I apologize for my outright piggery and lack of business principles but you did, pardon the expression, scare the piss out of me.” The chief responded, “Just wanted to perturb your plumage...since I find the phrase 'ruffle your feathers' so prosaic...but shut your piehole while I think.”

Later on the chief made a pronouncement before all: “Preston T Pinckney, I noticed paintbrushes, palette, and other art supplies protruding from a sack among your wares. Providing that you can do a good portrait of me for posterity you can patch things up with us and go. If this painting I have commissioned comes out poorly then I do reserve the right to have my men punch you silly then throw you in a pen filled with prickly cactus and putrid poop.” Preston replied, “Ouch! and Pyew! I picked that stuff up in a trade with some would-be prospector, simple farmer and plantsman from Pierre, South Dakota, all popeyed and giddy caught up in the pandemonium of the Gold Rush, needed a pickax...stuffed it in his packsack and lit out west. So cain't say I'm a painter well-practiced in the art of portraiture but I'm in a peck o' trouble so here goes. You know when I wuz a mere pipsqueak I drew some fair pictures of my grade school teacher Miss Peckinpaugh. She told my momma and poppa I was a precociously artistic young 'un so maybe I summon my old muse and produce something pleasing for you here.”

In the end Preston got the chief's regal posture and physiognomy just right downplaying the amazing nasal protuberance which was his proboscis (Cyranno would be pug-nosed in comparison) and captured the essence of the prudent and mighty chief on canvas and succeeded in pacifying him. The chief freed Preston admonishing him, “Take care to purge this human greed that pervades you. Hopefully this experience gives you perspective when this possessiveness plagues you. As you plod along on my noble steed, a primo horse indeed, remember my advice to shun your predilection for trickery and be vigilant. Know that though I was passive and forgiving when I approached you at that precarious spot on the ridge my bad side, a part of myself I though long since gone, nearly took precedence over my good side. I felt a paroxysm of anger coming on when the Great Spirit In The Sky preternaturally intervened and stayed my primal urge to slap you silly. With his preventative mediation he reminded me of his preference for mercy not violence. I had always prided myself on the notion I had reached the pinnacle, an elite percentile of men of unquestioned piety, but how premature was I in that in all probability I would have whacked you had the prepotent force from above not acted. I am developing my pineal gland so I can travel the astral plane to learn more from him. Anyway, back at the village later I was just posturing and would've just had you paint me over and over until you got it right and wouldn't have acted the psychopath and permitted you to be tortured or anything. God Speed!”

PART 4-A PIMPIN' LIFE

We now move on to that parasite Masta Playa, the notorious pimp and drug pusher. A bit of a psychedelic relic he would primp himself to look the part applying much pomade to his pompadour and donning a purple three-piece suit often with a fancy pleated paisley shirt. He accessorized with a big panama hat and pearlescent cane, more of a prop than anything else since he could perambulate fine without it. A vicious glorified punk, he would use it to strike any prostitute plying her trade for him that stiffed him on his cut (well over 50 percent) for her night's work.

He had painted ladies out there working the bad part of town pandering to the lusts and passions of the profusion of promiscuous would-be playboys who poked around there looking for companionship. Playa meanwhile would patrol the streets by driving around in his pimpmobile usually with his Pioneer car stereo with preamp blasting away inside checking on his gals. The protocol was for them to communicate with him by pager (remember that device which prefigured the cell phone?) beeping him prenotifying him they had a john. He also gave them prepaid phonecards they could use at any payphone if they needed to talk to him. Then later when the playdate was over, like employees on a punch clock, they'd beep him again. Would he give them time for even a postcoital cigarette? Phooey! He expected them to quickly whip on their provocative apparel, strap on their pumps, tidy up their pudendal regions, and get back out there to pound the pavement to find the next eager pup in what was an endless shall we say polyandrous merry-go-round. Adding to his piggy bank he was the prime distributor in town of illegal narcotics and not just some penny ante pot dealer, he sold everything the junkies wanted...pep pills, psilocybin mushrooms, and many opiates etc.

Playa was not exactly from high pedigree as his papa was a rolling stone who in his chosen occupation as a pool shark would hit all the poolrooms far and wide challenging all comers at pocket billiards. Since he seldom sent any of the winning proceeds to his woman and little peewee, Playa's mom's purse was usually empty and the pantry bare. Yet despite the paltry existence, she clung to the pipe dream fueled by the drifter's insincere patter that he would parlay his winnings into something meaningful and become proactive and take her to the parson to be properly married. To alleviate this paucity of funds and necesseties Playa became an ace pickpocket and developed a rep as a hungry yet pugnacious kid who'd beat up the rich kids and take their premade sandwiches and prepacked snacks from their lunchboxes and later, a psychotic hustler to whom all the other crooks and palookas seemed like pussy-wussies in comparison, leaving Masta Playa top dog.

Once he chose his primrose path to easy money he made it clear his turf was his own principality and he'd be very protective of it, only too happy to showcase his procrustean methods to prove it. One hooligan who was becoming pestiferous peeping around corners checking out his action he grabbed and said (and I paraphrase deleting the expletives when quoting Playa), “Listen you, if I wanted a playfellow I would've phoned you and said, 'Let's indulge in a game of pachisi or poker! ' and if I was looking to form a business partnership with you, 'What a pairing. Let's pool our talents!' But No!...my favorite pastime is playing catch with myself with my pitchback (Shoot, he would have loved the Passback football but it hadn't been invented or patented yet) and I'm happy as a so-called sole proprietor as well so you're expendable,” whereupon he shot him dead with no mere popgun or peashooter but with a serious peacemaker pistol.

Another interloper suffered the penalty for spying when Playa plucked him right out of his shoes and shouted,”These streets are my playground. Everyone from the panhandlers to the pushcart vendors selling roasted peanuts and those huge soft pretzels, the printmaker over there...the street artist trying to be the next Picasso...,the postman delivering the mail and packages, and even the patrolman walking the beat (who was on his payroll) know I'm not partial to strangers. Smart rivals know I'm an ornery pisspot and rather than risk a severe pasting stay on the periphery and keep away. Indeed I believe in the preemptive strike and you are now my punchbag.” Then like a champion pugilist he delivered a parade of blows to the solar plexus and other key points so brutal the other hood went down for the count...permanently!

Not afraid of the police and perceptive enough to see the value of instilling some fear among the plebians, when he dispatched upstarts like those in the last two paragraphs he liked having witnesses be they pedestrians, shopkeepers and their patrons, folks putt-putting about town, or onlookers checking things out through their window panes etc.

Having grown up penniless and hungry and despising it, whenever Playa had a pocketful of cash he became an unabashed Epicurean, meaning no prewrapped sandwiches with sell-by dates and nothing prefrozen or precooked and reheated but fresh, and would frequent many of the panoply of local eateries such as...

*Paolo's Pizzeria where he'd order a few slices of pepperoni pizza or a chicken parm panini with a Pepsi-Cola to wash them down.

*Pascuale's Trattoria for the veal parmagiana with pomodoro sauce made from pureed tomatoes or penne pasta topped with green peppercorn pesto with a nice Pinot Grigio wine for either.

*Mama Pia's for her pastrami sandwich with provolone or prosciutto cheese or shrimp primavera with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top both with portabella mushrooms on the side with a bottle of Perrier.

*Pelton's Grill where he'd go for the porterhouse steak or chicken piccatta both with lemon parsley pilaf (parboiled previously) with a hearty port wine.

*Casa de Pedro where he'd indulge in the paella with fried plantains on the side with spicy picante sauce and a fruity piña colada and where if you shelled out some spare 'pesos' the mariachi band would play a stirring paso doble while you supped.

*Pulaski's for the authentic Polish keilbasa (yummy when dipped in piccalilli) and piroghis with a bottle of Poland Springs and where you could enjoy the raucous and polyphonic sound of a polka band replete with a guy on a plectrum banjo.

*The Pagoda for everything from Peking ravioli to Polynesian poi to pad thai with a classic blend China pekoe tea.

*Pierre's for shrimp Provencal and creamy potage on the side if not pate with pita chips but always with a zesty Petit Chablis.

*Peyton and Portia's Rajun' Cajun for a catfish po' boy sandwich with sweet potato pie and buttermilk pone bread on the side and good old Dr. Pepper.

*Piroska's Restaurant Budapest to snag some paprika chicken (from homegrown pimientos) goulash with a quaff of pilsner beer.

For postprandial delights there was La Patisserie de Paris which had not only piping hot croissants and popovers but a pineapple parfait pie (with a prebaked crust so never pasty or soggy) to die for. But then he might visit the Phillips Candy Emporium for pecan pralines and peanut butter cups and chewy fruit pastilles. If he was in more of a phihellenic mood he would go to the Parthenon pastry shop for killer phyllo dough treats.

You'd think he'd have been downright porcine if not a bit portly with a round potbelly but he took care to avoid predinner snacks and generally avoided processed fast foods loaded with fat and preservatives and watched his portions. He also managed to keep physique chiseled (pecs, abs, the works) by doing hundreds of pushups and other exercises and never pigged out postexercise either.

PLAYA MEETS HIS FATE

Then came the portentous day when a prophetess of doom accosted Playa with a dire prediction. He was just leaving the pharmacy after purchasing some pantyhose, perfume (hopefully paraben free), pantyliners, and prophylactics for his busy stable. Now there had been an altercation that predated this one where one day while she was soapbox preaching and handing out religious pamphlets she saw him leaving there with some porno publications. She had approached him and cried out rather petulantly he felt, “Flee from this pestilence of sin and be penitent and preserve your soul. Seek not pornography and be not a slave to prurient interests.” Playa had retorted in peremptory fashion, “Woman Puh-leeze! Go back to your parrotlike reciting of proverbs, parables, and psalms and leave me be!”

Yet she felt a terrible presentiment on this later occasion and running up to Playa below the apothecary sign with mortar and pestle warned, “I see pending disaster. If you be not purified this day then perforce it shall occur swiftly. It seems you have been preticketed for an express train to hell not heaven or purgatory for I see a pentagram logo on the cars and a red man with a sharp-pronged pitchfork conducting. He hisses, 'You have been such a willing puppet you could give Pinocchio pointers. Yes I preconditioned you better than any of Pavlov's dogs to do my bidding. How about another strange parallel...you're a rat and I'm the pied piper. Hop aboard!' You protest that your placement there is a mistake but he snatches you and plumps you down in your preassigned seat crowing, 'Thank you for being my unwitting pawn, my poster boy for bad behavior. Your perverse ways have landed you in hell for your postmortem existence. What fun!'”

Playa scoffed and chastised, “You the puritanical do-gooder again. Know that your Bible is a waste of paper, a pseudoclassic of pap and propoganda and you belong in a padded cell. Begone!” Just then who but a gypsy woman, no slouch in the precognition departement, was exiting the post office nextdoor and asserted, “This woman has the gift of prophecy. Whatever she presages occurs. Luckily her amazing source utilizes her primarily as a witness and missionary and her infallible previsions are infrequent, otherwise my palmistry business would be in trouble and I'd be in the poorhouse.” The cynical Playa quipped, “Not another peep from you pseudoprophets or I'll call the policeman to throw you both in the pokey for disturbing the peace,” and at that he hopped into his car parked out front and put the pedal to the metal and roared off.

His next stop was a gambling parlor/sports bar he was starting up to check on the new pachinko machines he'd ordered and maybe play a few hands of pinochle with the guys. He was greeted outside by the plug-ugly prune-faced No Mercy Percy one of his associates who was dressed in a pinstriped suit and porkpie hat and puffing on an El Producto cigar. He reported, “Hey boss, those Japanese pinball machines arrived and I'm just bringing in the plywood for the boxing ring, the wood paneling for the bar, the 3-ply walnut parquet dance floor, the automatic pinsetters for the coupla bowling lanes we put in, and some premixed stucco and all kinda primer and paints for the walls. My pretournament scouting has borne some fruit as I found the prizefighters for our premiere night bout, and knowing what a boxing purist you are these guys can really land a punch and parry a blow. I even got some of those old punchboard games the oldtimers prefer, just gotta know what you want for prizes. But boss, that Penelope dame, the strung out platinum blonde with the pockmarked arms, popped by looking for you and was still pouting about how you made her a walking punchline with the other girls embarassing her at the corner of Patterson and Padukah when you fired her for not looking presentable. She still has that deathly pallor and those dilated pupils and messy pigtails and was wearing that same dirty pom-pom girl outfit.”

As if on cue who emerged from behind a barrel pylon out on the street (the DPW had been filling potholes) but the disturbed Penelope who not bothering with pleasantries but shouting vile profanities took from her pocketbook no mere pocketknife but more like a poleax and chopped at Playa then split. A horrified Percy summoned the paramedics but it was too late and he had no pulse as she had ruptured his pulmonary artery killing him. Percy also hailed a policewoman who tracked Penelope down to her new job at a peepshow. Much to the dismay of the pervs (most likely pedophiles who thought the pixie of a woman was much younger) watching through the peepholes, the officer made a preshow arrest cuffing the star performer then carting her away in the paddy wagon.

The prosecuting attorney wasn't buying that she just needed psychotherapy from a kindly psychoanalyst along with drug treatment and the judge after poring over the case, not feeling much pathos for the murderess either, sent her to the woman's penitentiary for life with no chance of parole. The moral of the story is...if you get a prophetic warning especially one presignifying misfortune and even the palm reader says the source is more psychic than even she, then take heed before a piano falls on your head, you get pecked to death by killer parakeets, or as in this case you get stabbed by a potty-mouthed psycho woman.

PART 5-PAUL THE BALLPLAYER

Let us now take a look at the case of Paul Pearson, the promising minor league baseball prospect who foolishly got involved with PEDs to pump himself up on the presumption they would hasten his promotion to the bigs. The slugging phenom out of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania signed a professional contract out of high school with the Pittsburgh Pirates who ponied up a higher offer then N.L. rivals the Philadelphia Phillies. Quite the athletic prodigy, he was also a standout placekicker and punter on the gridiron and excelled at gymnastics, especially on the pommel horse and executing pike jumps. Not only would he thrill scouts and fans alike pregame with his batting practice pyrotechnics, but come game time no matter the pitcher be it a righty or lefty (portsider) he would amaze also, launching projectiles, blasts seemingly defying the laws of physics.

In his prepubescent years into his preteens Paul's preoccupation was baseball cards, his favorite so-called pasteboard heroes being Dave Parker and Willie “Pops” Stargell of the hometown Pirates. He'd put them and other stars (guys like Tony Perez, Pudge Fisk, Boog Powell, and Gaylord Perry) in 3-hole punched 9-pocket polypropylene sheet protectors which in turn went in a binder he hid in a super-heavy padlocked trunk in his room. He explained, “When prowlers came one night they swiped Dad's pickup truck and Mom's Pontiac Grand Prix, the BBQ grill from the porch along with its propane tank, and even got inside and grabbed the ping-pong table and the old Philco TV, but they couldn't get their paws on my folder...needed to be a powerlifter to budge the trunk or a master picklock to break into it and they weren't either.”

PAUL'S NEW LIFE

I wanted to meet Paul Pearson and discuss how his prohibitively high use of steroids caused his skills to peter out precluding him from reaching the majors. I knew he valued his privacy but I called on him anyway in Provo, Utah where he'd moved to start up a poultry farm. My preconceived notion that he would be upset I had dared to penetrate his sanctum was dispelled when I saw him leaping over his picket fence greeting me with, “For Pete's sake, it's the Misakman! I'm your most passionate fan! The clerk at the BP gas station is a pal of mine and kinda preannounced your arrival, phoning me after you asked him directions. The old geezer maybe only pumps gas for British Petroleum nowadays but he worked the pitlanes the great Richard Petty for years. He says your Plymouth was pulling to the right as you left so you oughta get the rack and pinion steering checked, no delays no postponements.”

He then offered, “Hey, let's both have a Mr. Pibb under my shady ponderosa pine tree and talk!” I could tell the pastoral existence and postcard-like setting agreed with Paul as he continued, “Just last week got my internet port on my old Hewlett Packard palmtop fixed and the proxy server figured out and logged on to catch that you're past the prewriting stage on letter P so I postulate you're fixing to maybe write about ole Paul Pearson. Now it doesn't matter if you pillory me or do a puff piece, but what's of paramount importance Misakman is that you with your panglobal reach relate my precautionary tale informing every kid from the North to South Pole not to pollute their bodies with steroid junk. I could use you since I never did get hooked on phonics and heck, can't tell a pronoun from a preposition, a predicate from a participle, or a precis from a preface, I mix up prefixes and suffixes, and can't stop breaking the rules of punctuation, period!” (Note...couldn't resist being punny with those last two words just now using my favorite portmonteau word combining pun and funny).

Said he, “I'm certainly no Frank Perdue yet but I've been shipping out enough pallets of eggs that according to my sales projections I'll soon have enough dough to do more with some of this pastureland. Yes sir cash, forget plastic money, those prequalified credit card offers just mean debt. Heck, shoulda prorated my signing bonus so I had money now instead of partying it all away and buying that Ferrari Pininfarina- was just like the pullback toy I had when I was a kid- which was promptly stolen before I could even insure it. Plus my marriage went kaput recently and I had no prenuptial so postdivorce I didn't come out so good. Anyway, it's just an idea and I'm not even in the preconstruction phase but I'm determined to build some paddocks.

I had the preformed opinion it would take a princely sum to get some animals but I'm gonna update my business plan and pro-formas after talking to my friend Paxton. See he takes whatever jobs come down the pike around these parts- works as a plowman over yonder helping my neighbor harvest his pumpkins and parsnips and whatnot, says he got some cows, and at another farm where he's repairing a pigpen, guess the big porky hogs weren't escaping through a little gap but the piglets were, says he got sheep, and at this other spread where he's picking their plums and peaches for 'em, says they got goats. Anyway, he's been keeping his eyes peeled then keeping me posted about reasonably priced stock so's I can get into the milk business. Yup after all, protein shakes made with raw milk, raw as in not pasteurized my friend, is what powered me when I first came up.”

BACK TO PAUL'S BASEBALL ODYSSEY

Now the 'Bucs' were perennial postseason runners-up in the early '90s getting into the playoffs but falling short of the World Series in the penultimate N.L.C.S .not quite grabbing the pennant. So they felt Paul would be the piece de resistance to put them over the top and were certainly pertinacious in grooming him to be the star they felt he was predestined to be.

Paul revealed, “I sure got preferential treatment, getting my own postgame tutorials from different coaches. They'd give the groundskeeper a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, enough payola for him to clean up later than usual. I was a dead pull lefty hitter but the main precept of the hitting coach was to go opposite field so as not to wind up just platooning in the majors, so he taught me to plunk the ball into left if necessary. The fielding coach taught me all about positioning in the outfield and how to stop double-pumping before I threw, and soon I was among the tops in putouts and assists. The baserunning coach taught me all about reading pickoff moves and anticipating pitchouts so even though I was kinda poky, I could still penalize the opposing battery by stealing a base if they didn't perk up and stay poised.

I would see the parent club's top scout in the stands taping me with his palmcorder then doing video playback in the clubhouse later adding to his scouting portfolio on me. Something fell from this old beatup pressboard accordion file of his one day neatly typed in plaintext too not all scribbled which clearly said, 'When he hits the ball POW! It's like a plastique explosion. Consider him a playmaker on the field to borrow a pigskin term. No preperformance jitters or playing tight, almost cocky but not a pushy prima donna, actually a very permeable coachable kid, thus pronounced improvement seen in several areas. Packs the stands. Photoflashes going off all over the park when he hits. P.S....Stop paying all those pointy-headed sabermetrics guys to work through the predawn hours burying you with computer printouts and burning out all your printheads just to tell you Pearson is a keeper too.'

But I got impetuous, felt like a potbound tree in a tiny planter. I wanted a new playgroup, major leaguers darn it, and the big paycheck and all the perks that went with being in 'The Show'. It was so close, so palpable, and all I had to do was mind my p's and q's until they pared down the major league Pirates roster to make room for me so I wouldn't just get piles riding the pine if called up and wind up needing a proctologist. Yet the protracted agony of waiting and lack of a prefixed timetable was eating me don't I go and play the fool who pushes the envelope too far and get into 'roids so prevalent at the time. I mean it was patently obvious my stats were great and my road to the big club paved in gold and I'd soon be on a Peter Pan bus to Pittsburgh, but it seemed like I was stuck in a pinchpoint, each day in the minors a prolonged torture. So I went for the quick fix to make my production jump and impress them even more so they'd call me up pronto.

I'd receive packets in the mail from the lab and would prefill enough syringes for a cycle and Ouch!...ever since the pediatrician when I was little gave me shots for chicken pox and polio poking me with what was like some monster porcupine quill I've had a phobia of needles. I'm telling you, that guy playing phlebotomist was like a character from a psychothriller, but anyway years later there I was pricking myself silly till my posterior was more like a pincushion. Anyhow, the fix I got wasn't any mere placebo or pig in a poke but the real deal, and initially the payoff from juicing was great. I certainly was punishing the ball with more authority and firing on all pistons to borrow some automotive phraseology, but the benefits were a pyrrhic victory as they say since my muscles started to pull apart and my testicles shriveled to the size of peas. I became a pale imitation of myself experiencing constant joint pain and sporting a very pimply butt too. I was like the polar opposite of my normal happy self and now always had a sour puss like I'd just sucked a persimmon and was in such a constantly pissy mood the guys joked maybe I had male P.M.S. or premenstrual syndrome, ha ha ha I guess.

So they cut me preseason a few years ago and just like that my dream of getting a plaque in Cooperstown and joining the pantheon of hall-of-famers was dashed because I foolishly had to play doctor and do PEDs. Fortunately, now that I no longer misuse those pharmaceuticals I can again do things utilizing my physicality like working the farm even paddleboarding and parasailing up in Great Salt Lake sometimes, Amen.”

Indeed the scribes who once wielded their mighty pens to mythologize Paul Pearson in print later pigeonholed him as a cheat as is their prerogative in a free society. Yet if they would probe the man a bit and not be so perfunctory they'd see an apologetic soul who confided, “It's almost like a pandemic scourge, so pervasive it has prolifereated all levels of the sport. Anything I can do for the prevention of 'roid abuse to highlight the cons instead of the pros, I shall do.” So this fallen hero by stressing his paradigm case of failure may yet be a role model, a trusty polestar to steer by.

PART 6-THE OVERLY RANDY PREZ

We now turn our attention to the case of the philandering president Phil Pinson. Let's not be prudes and pretend that none of his predecessors fooled around, but in this post-Watergate scandal-crazed era where the press especially the paparazzi are so omnipresent, that he should display such a lack of propriety and tarnish the office of the presidency was just stupid. His affair with a young paramour which involved more than their puckering up and kissing and doing some heavy petting shall we say, caused quite a stir. Now to old Pin she was a mere plaything, just another in a long procession of conquests, but the impressionable lass, one Priscilla Polinski, was positively smitten with the cad.

They had met at a periodontist's office where he went for a root scaling and planing to remove unwanted plaque. Miss Polinski who worked there as the doc's perky receptionist at the time thought it was a prank when a presidential aide called to book the appointment. But when she checked some old paperwork and realized he really was a patient she was doing pirouettes over the prospect of finally meeting him (no pointes or plies though, she wasn't a prima ballerina, just one happy camper). You see ever since she was a barely pubescent girl she had nursed a crush on the handsome politician with the patrician bearing and parabolic smile and treasured his pithy sayings and wise promulgations. Now as a ripe young woman she still almost went pee-pee in her panties (thank goodness for the pelvic floor exercises her Pilates instructor always stressed) so nervous was she though he was paunchier and older now. Yet Phil still oozed prestige and pizzazz and now was not just a hick pol from Podunk or somewhere but Commander In Chief!

On the big day, after applying a copious amount of pheremone spray, she decked herself out in her polka dot peplum pantsuit with patent leather platform stilettos, hardly apropos for an office but neither were her usual prefaded jeans with woman's Polo shirt. A thrilled Phil said, “You're the prettiest girl I ever met. Let's talk after the procedure.” When he returned, her heart was still going pitter-patter and her cheeks still blushing like rose petals as she blurted out, “The doctor says lay off the pixy sticks and peppermint patties and here's a free box of Pepsodent with Perlite to keep you as photogenic as ever too!” Phil said, “Why thanks, you know my wife is away attending the Boston Pops and then a N.Y. Philharmonic show after which she arranged postconcert cocktails to hobnob with Itzhak Perlman and Luciano Pavarotti who'll be attending. Alas, I had to stay behind to tend to my personal hygiene here and see my podiatrist about my plantar fascitis earlier so I'm all alone. I'm a bit pressed for time right now...have to proofread a foreign policy speech I'm delivering soon and meet a photojournalist who's going to snap some pix for a photoessay he's putting together on me...but let's meet. I'll send my limo to pick you up later bring you to my place.”

So they met and immediately dispensed with any more premating rituals and did some hany-panky in a special room, a privy chamber so to speak, in the White House to which he gave her a special passkey. On another occasion they fooled around at the podium of the White House pressroom when no pesty reporters were around. They even cavorted at the White House pool where they did more than the dog paddle.

After this last rendez-vous Pin's top aide, his most trusted pivotman, whose misgivings had grown pari-passu with Priscilla's increasing infatuation, whispered to him poolside, “Sir, you should stop showering her with presents and part ways with this Priscilla Polinski.” At various times he had given her a fancy palladium pendant necklace, a Rolex Ladies Platinum (new not preowned) to replace her old Pulsar Quartz, a bouquet of petunias, pansies, and posies, her favorites, and even a prissy French poodle. She had asked for a peke or a Pomeranian or a pug but when he got to the pound they were out of these and since petnapping was a bad idea, Phil got her a different breed pooch there. Besides, it was about to be put to sleep and was looking at him so pleadingly and affecting him so poignantly he couldn't resist.

The aide continued, “She seems possessed of the notion that a marriage proposal is in the offing and that there'll be an amazing wedding processional with church bells pealing away. She wants a reception with no prerecorded music from a DJ but live artists, supposedly the Pointer Sisters, Wilson Pickett, and even Prince, he of the premillenial anthem 1999 and has even pregistered for an upcoming bridal expo to get more ideas.” Phil responded, "She either needs to see a psychiatrist or has some plotline from one of those Harlequin paperbacks she reads stuck in her noggin. I told her I still believed in the permanence of my marriage to the first lady who must have been a priestess or saint in another life to put up with my indiscretions as she has.” The aide replied, “It's like her whole personhood is wrapped up in you and soon you'll be in a hole no paleontologist with his best pick and shovel could dig you out of. You're lucky you didn't pollinate your little buttercup's pistil so to speak and there's been no pregnancy so no paternity case to worry about and no live-in situation so no palimony either so cut your losses now!”

Phil then broke the news to her with as much politesse as possible one day while they were munching on popcorn watching Bonanza on his new (for the time) high pixel Panasonic plasma TV...(I find the earlier episodes before Pernell Roberts as Adam left The Ponderosa preferable to the later ones by the way.) The shock put Priscilla in a state of momentary paralysis but when she recovered, though still pallid and melancholy, placidly accepted the sad end of their magical pas de deux and promised never to intentionally cause him bad publicity.

PRISCILLA MOVES ON

The thing is...through Phil's patronage Priscilla had landed a job working for a Pentagon panjandrum he knew (never mind any preinterview, resume etc....sheesh!) where she befriended one Paulina Pipp. This portended disaster since this supposed confidante was a stool pigeon in cahoots with nasty politicos who had axes to grind with the Pinsons. She captured on a hidden portable recorder every detail both picayune and major re the affair. After the breakup they were working by the photocopier one day when Priscilla mentioned to Paulina that Phil had stained her periwinkle blue dress while she was pleasuring him. Paulina cooed oh so plaintively, “Dear Priscilla, such a sad wilted passionflower. And there you were presuming it would continue and he just pronounced your dalliance over to boot. Listen, after work I'll treat you to that new perm you wanted and a paraffin wax pedicure to boot to cheer you up. Later we'll grab a bottle of Dom Perignon at the packie then hang out at your apartment since my house is a pigsty right now. My son's papier-mache volcano science project exploded on us. I told him to build a prehistoric plesiosaur or pterodactyl or even a simple planetarium but no!”

Anyhow, this lowly pinworm once she got into Priscilla's said, “You know, I have my niece's prom dress to bring to the cleaners and my son's hockey pads and my puce pullover sweater too. You picked up my penecillin prescriptions for me when I had pneumonia so I owe you one.” On this pretext she asked for the evidence (the dress) and continued, “I can pretreat it with a prewash stain remover and I'll presoak it then run it through my washer using Purex (this was the good stuff before the phosphate ban) and I won't overdo it since it doesn't say it's preshrunk but if no luck I'll bring it to the cleaners.” DNA samples she had taken later proved that the essence of Phil...er, guck from his phallic member...was present on the item of Priscilla's.

Now there were some ongoing legal proceedings that were a precursor of sorts to this where one Paula Peron had accused Phil of being a perverted sexual harasser far from the paragon of virtue his P.R. Guys promoted 24-7. Allegedly, when she was a low-level postholder in his administration back home he had been pressuring her to be more of a playgirl than working girl though she had pled with him to knock it off. The plaintiff's lawyers as part of the pretrial discovery had subpoenaed to testify not only Priscilla but others...the waitress from the pancake house, a beauty pageant prizewinner, even a paralegal from his old law firm...who'd had similar run-ins where Phil was an opportunistic purring tomcat acting inappropriately.

When this happened Phil and his peeps summoned Priscilla to compel her to do something strictly prohibited by law, namely to parrot what Phil was going to say, an illegal prearrangement to fib and deny they had participated in any affair saying, “Don't help prop up the silly case of that pathological liar Paula Peron.” When the Paulina Pipp revelations (tapes and a dress...hard proof) came out after this case which was settled out of court for a big payout, it was obvious Phil and Priscilla had perjured themselves and now oppostion partyliners had broad support to start impeachment hearings.

PHIL VISITS THE SHOT-CALLERS

Seeing there was no pussyfooting around this mess, Phil went to his mentors, the true powerbrokers of the world, the monied men of the plutocracy that made him, and bowing before the secret priesthood begged the master prestidigitators to get him off the hook.

Thus spake the chief elder, “You've always been a pliant fellow who understood we are the puppeteers who pull the strings in this world, the policymakers who truly control your pseudodemocracy and everywhere else. Yes, it pays to know us...take your tuition for prep school where we had them name you prefect and for college where we compelled the provost to disregard that proctor who caught you cheating on an exam and then for postgraduate studies as well. Then when you entered politics we bankrolled your campaigns preselling you as a populist, a polliwog who sprang out of nowhere to champion the proletariat or working man. In reality you were our initiate preselected by us to behind the scenes propogate our global agenda while appearing so very patriotic and committed to the mere parochial interests of your country. You've been a good point man advancing legislation preapproved by us which hastens the phasedown of the old USA and gets us further along our preset course to a new era where we rule without that persnickety inconvenient Constitution preamble and all, that outdated pastiche of 18th century ideas.

But for now we choose to remain in the penumbra, a shadowy pseudogovernment in a self-imposed twilight zone since after all, we're perfectionists and the time isn't right. There are still more pseudoevents to stage, preplanned mass tragedies our henchmen or paramilitary units can cause which we blame on some patsy or another so as if by posttraumatic reflex, the citizens of the world panic and in frustration hand us their liberty on a silver platter, convinced that only we the elite have the prerequisite skill to run things. Of course once we achieve primacy in all matters and enslave the planet, old concepts like democracy, perestroika, and national sovereignty will be kaput.

I now see citizens petitioning for your ouster, some even picketing outside the White House waving placards, a phalanx of reporters dogs you at every turn, and it seems not only are all the periodicals parodying you and hyping the scandal every pressrun, but every TV and radio show uses you as a pinata. Now this sneaky Paulina Pipp deserves to be hoist from her own petard some day for being the perp she is gathering evidence illegally and whatnot but platitudes aside, the damage is done. For a precedent look no further than the Profumo Affair which brought down the McMillan premiership in England. Anyway, this is not a movie where the producers can just order reedits or postsynch pretaped footage in postproduction... this story is out. So I guess you realize your puckish charm and dazzling permasmile can only get you so far and turn to the putative masterminds of the world for the pushback from on high to avert the humiliation of according to the polls Pitooey!...being spat out of office like useless phlegm.

So with the help of the Grand Poo-Bahs, the impeachment died in the Senate, the leaders of which were putty in their hands since of course they 'd seen to packing that body with their prescreened acolytes long ago. They also reminded their media lackeys to predigest and precensor the news better, essentially custom prepackage it to their overlords' liking and stop allowing the reporters to keep piling on and taking potshots at Phil like he was some laughable pantaloon from some farcical playlet. Once the big push was in motion, Phil was able to defy the pollsters and rise like a phoenix to finish out his term.

But then the elder had cautioned, “ You could use some intense psychodrama to cure what is not just some peccadillo but a sex obsession where you are a prisoner to your libido. Mark well that after prevailing upon us in the past to get you out of similar trouble we issued a stern proviso that you stop your puerile behavior and curb your priapic tendencies. Yet you reward us with another pratfall and come back pestering us to put out this fire you raving pyromaniac. As a result we may exile you instantly....in our spaceplane, no mere preproduction dummy prototype but a fully functional beast equipped with a precooled turbojet engine...which can go from say Pamplona to Perth in a few hours, no bull...to a remote island in the Pacific.

While you're gone we'll use Pseudo Phil, a clone we created after the protean shapeshifter we were working on kept turning into a protoplasmic blob unexpectedly. We lifted your DNA from sample particles left on...a polystyrene cup , a soda pop bottle, pumpkinseed shells you discarded, and other stuff too...a pillowcase, a licked postage stamp which was an Elvis Presley one too and I'm a philatelist so Thanks!, and those plaid Phat Farm shorts of yours that went missing, and Voila! Pseudo Phil.

    If we do this we'll give you a powerboat, no scratch that a polyethylene paddleboat, so you won't go far and my Penn rod and reel so you can catch all the piscatorial delights. Then on days the ocean is not so pacific or you're feeling too poopy to go out you can fish off the pontoon we'll build for you. For other nourishment the island is plenteous with exotic and scrumptious polychromatic birds and there are papaya trees galore. We'll give you a puptent to get started but we'll gather some bamboo poles and make you a hut with palm tree fronds for a roof. Don't venture too far beyond the perimeter of the island since our drones are not just for photoreconnaissance but combat and will blow you to pieces if our photointerpretation shows you are escaping.

Since we haven't yet perfected memory transfer, any puzzlement Pseudo Phil expresses over anything will be said to pertain to an accident you had while doing some plasterwork at home where you fell from a stepladder. We'll say not only did you hurt your patellar tendon, you know where the doctor taps you with the plexor, but whacked your head on the pinewood floor and suffered slight amnesia.”

PHIL OR PSUEDO PHIL?

So could the Phil we see and hear posttrial be Psedo Phil masqerading as the silver-tongued often poetic phrasemaker we knew and pantomiming his speech and gestures? Take the following instances...

*There was a banquet in Pasasdena where he couldn't recognize colleagues Patrick Leahy or Nancy Pelosi (later president protem of the Senate and House Speaker respectively). Was he simply ill from the bad chicken potpie (or was it the lousy pattypan squash?) that gave everyone ptomaine poisoning that night or was he someone else?

*When he visited a zoo in Peru he mistook a penguin for a panda bear...but he did hit the perfecta on the two colors, black and white, right?

*Went and called his Doberman pinscher Persueus by his cat's name Puss 'n Boots and vice versa but then again, he was feeling punky that day from overdoing it on prednisone he had taken to relieve the pus and soreness that accompanied a brief bout with pinkeye so who knows...

So whereas I do propound the theory admittedly looking at it all from a parallax view that a switcheroo has been perpetrated and thus run the risk of being labeled a paranoiac pseudohistorian who must have fried his mind on psychoactive drugs, I do also concede the aforementioned peculiarites may be purely coincidental and explainable and my suspicions so much silly pother, but Hmmmmmm?!?.....

PART 7-EVEN PRESCOTT PURCELL MAKES MISTAKES

Lastly we have the life of one Prescott Purcell who related to me his story over a pitcher of St. Pauli Girl at the cozy Poopdeck Pub in his boyhood town of Provincetown, MA. He began, “So I gathered from your letter, difficult since your penmanship resembles something from a doctor's prescription Misakman, that your Uncle Panos, my friend the town postmaster, has spoken to you of me, his priest with the interesting saga to tell.” Then panning across the room he chuckled, “Some of my parisioners are here and are used to seeing me up in the pulpit from their pews and are all acting a bit more prim and punctilious than usual. But it's good for the clergy to be seen more in public otherwise things get polarized with the laiety and they presuppose that just maybe heaven is a playland reserved only for preistly types. They begin to despair that they've been prejudged as too common and provinicial for heaven and are headed to the ultimate penal colony hell, so I chose to meet here.

PRESCOTT'S FAMILY BACKGROUND

Anyway, back when I was in prekindergarten I lost my mom in a traffic pileup. An avid playgoer, she had just left a playhouse near our home in Providence, R.I. after enjoying both a sterling production of Porgy and Bess and a postshow meet and greet with the cast when her little Peugeot was crushed beneath a petrol tanker. I still have the playbill and the ticket for her seat by the proscenium arch. Then I lost my dad soon after in a paragliding accident in the Poconos. Maybe that wasn't a very prudential choice of hobbies, considering the responsibility of parenthood, but maybe the psychodynamics were such that he had a death wish and knew I'd be OK with Paps, that would be my grampa, as paterfamilias, especially since he left us a posthumous surprise. At his death he was still a policyholder in good standing, always sending in his premiums on time, with Primerica and I was the beneficiary of a large life insurance policy with Paps as guardian.

Paps had a charter fishing boat The Pequod down by the pier and made a living taking fishing parties out. Unfortunately he and the local printer didn't touch base well and the promo brochures, although we did presort them and got the lower bulk postal rate, always came out wrong since no one carefully preread and edited the copy well. One time the literature mentioned all the freshwater pike, pickerel, and perch to be had though of course we were on salt water. So this promissory enticement complete with a photomontage of those fish to boot was silly. Another batch did mention the species that populate our waters but intimated that Paps, the wily man at the prow in the cover photo, had that innate almost parapsychlogical sense of their propinquity and with his amazing preknowledge could locate them with pinpoint accuracy. I used to wonder if Poseidon himself was against him of if maybe the tunas, blues etc. were by some posthypnotic suggestion controlling his physiological functions bypassing his pituitary and adrenal glands and sending him elsewhere since his customers only caught porgies (scup), pogies (menhaden), pollock, and pufferfish most of the time.

Finally one day a pontificating preppie lawyer spoke up and said, 'Your inaccurate brochure is like a glowing prospectus for a worthless penny stock. But you lucked into a pod of playful porpoises my little preschoolers adored so I won't, working pro bono for everyone on this boat, go and publicize this and sue you.'

Now I was basically a good kid but everyone has the preformulated opinion that I've always had a predisposition to do the right thing, conferring upon me an unfounded pseudoequality with the angels. I try to dispel the prenotion but whether I patiently explain I'm just a work in progress like everyone else or try to hammer it in like a pile driver this pertinent fact eludes my audience. So I'd like to quash the Polyanna image that my life is somehow not pocked with episodes showing bad judgement.

PRESCOTT AS A BOY

Paps got me a job as a paperboy for the local rag through their photog, a man who'd served as a paratrooper with him in Korea. During a paradrop this fellow's parachute malfunctioned and he wound up badly hurt in a rice paddy out there. Paps improvised some kind of packframe with sticks and transported him on piggyback, and he wasn't a petite guy mind you but easily 200-plus pounds with his gear, to safety. The early prognosis was bleak when they said he'd be paraplegic and maybe in need of prosthetics or even dead but he pulled through completely. Postwar the appreciative big guy happily obliged Paps and said to me, 'Hey kid, fill you pouch and get crackin' and I even got a pedometer for you to strap on to your Pro-Keds. When you get to 25,000 miles I'll do a pictorial on you, the modern-day Phileas Fogg.'

I guess I could be a little pert sometimes...I once ate some supposedly deadly apricot pits and apple pips on a dare in playschool and lived to tell, but I wasn't much trouble. When I was a preadolescent though and had outgrown my kid toys (though I still have my pogo stick and a cool toy periscope in my attic) I had my eye on a Pac-Man arcade game in the local pawnshop's window. I had a few items Paps had given me that the pawnbroker was interested in, namely a Pervuian panpipes that might as well have been from outer space like from Pluto since I could only get a few high-pitched chirpy pipping noises out if it, and a piccolo snare drum with a nice ping sound. I wasn't much of a percussionist though and since I couldn't master simple paradiddles never mind complex polyrhythms I knew I wasn't going to be the next Neil Peart or Carl Palmer, so it was up for grabs too. You see Paps loved music and was actually a fair guitar player who would often plink away on an old Les Paul at least until he dropped it and broke the pegbox one day.

Now my paystubs never came to much (pretax or net they just stunk) and my customers were real pikers as far as tipping went, so I did the math and though I've never been much good at polynomials or that blasted pi concept, or polygons and parallelograms, and just forget precalculus or using that crazy protractor, I've always added well and I was short. I asked Paps but never one to parse his words he barked, 'Your brain turn to pudding? You one of them potheads? No!' He had done some precalculations for my education and such precollege extravagance was out.

Feeling desperate, I became determined to steal some pricy things from the palatial Potter mansion out on the parkway at the end of my route. You know nowadays a kid would just go phishing on the net and maybe get a PIN number and rip off old miser Potter electronically. He was no parvenu but was old money and had a passbook checking account in the megamillions...the last tidbit courtesy of Mr. Popovich the local banker who let it slip at a potluck dinner when he indulged at the punchbowl too long. 

Anyway, it was known he had an ownership interest in a petrochemical plant in Pakistan and a piece of a uranium mine in Patagonia where pitchblende was abundant. He owned other plants worldwide churning out everything from paperclips to penlights to massive preengineered steel buildings. It was something how he premanufactured these structures which were preerected then transported either piecemeal or even whole to construction sites. He expanded to offer precast concrete buildings and prestressed concrete building products like septic tanks, pilings, beams, etc.

Rumor had it that Potter was so cheap and unwilling to be philanthropic that he killed his wife in a rage with a ball peen hammer then weighed her down with portland cement and dumped her in the ocean somewhere near Plymouth for being too generous though it was never proven. She had dared to donate a good sum to a preservation society for endangered birds like the piping plover, petrel, peregrine falcon, and pygmy owl, and since he didn't approve it was splash and pax vobiscum for Mrs. Potter.

Very health conscious, Mrs. Potter who had in her younger premarital days studied premed before settling down and getting sidetracked, also made a hefty pledge to the local hospital, much to the chagrin of Mr. Potter, not only to get their preoperative clinic renovated but to build a new maternity ward to provide state of the art prenatal and postnatal care for new moms as well as postpartum counseling. She had also mailed a rebate after the postmark date required after a recent purchase of a Fisher Paykel pyrolitic self-clean wall oven with automatic preheat causing a rejection making Mr. Potter apoplectic. And I won't go into the fact (ah, the Misakman employing paralipsis) that many still suspect foul play as well in the death of his father Potter Sr. He was allegedly shot by unknown poachers who mistook the pitapat of his feet for a game animal while he was walking a pedway he'd built through some woodlands he owned in Portland, Maine. Though the estate sailed through probate with the rapacious Potter Jr. prospering exceedingly, many feel it was patricide with the son the shooter.

His residence, certainly no bland prebuilt affair, was an architecturally postmodern fortress style palazzo. In front and back were long pillared porticos leading to iron portcullisses (looked it up...it's not portculli plural apparently which would've been cooler) blocking his doors. In keeping with its fortress design, all boxy and perpendicular like the state pen, it also had few windows, just a few porthole ones up high which the poplar trees did reach, but since they had iron grates too, the place had like zero pregnability. Now Potter was a regular Marco Polo always traveling the world, but his servant Peters, a retired Pullman porter supplementing his modest pension working for the scrooge, was always puttering around. I noticed that when Peters came out to water the poinsettias out front he would always go out back and prune the hedges and add peat moss and pesticide and never locked up behind himself. But within 10-15 minutes since he really needed a pacemaker and was a little too plump and out of shape, he'd be turning the corner digging into his pillbox for his meds heading for the front stoop to sip his Hawaiian Punch and rest.

So from atop a nearby pussywillow tree I made a crude preinvasion photomap which I stapled to some paperboard then stuck different color pushpins into it representing Peters and me during that time window. Then one day I scooted on in there like some amateur pothunter and since there was no time to be picky, just grabbed stuff though some items turned out to be of impressive provenance. From his desk I got...a fancy paperweight and a cool penholder then a precut pavé diamond setting ring and a pewter mug made by Paul Revere. From his mantle I got...a few Ptolemaic dynasty gold-plated vases, not pyrite now but the real deal, and an even older copper statue of Pepi I with a nice patina. Then for good measure I lifted a painting off the wall which turned out to be a pointillist masterpiece from French postimpressionist Pettitjean. I escaped to the parklands bordering the mansion with my Radio Flyer wagon, a pre-Pathfinder model but still awesome, just before Peters reappeared from out back.

When I went to pawn or sell the stuff back at the shop, the guy didn't buy my paperthin explanation that I'd found it all in my attic under some loose planks. He nudged the plainclothes detective who happened to be there tracking a paperhanger, you know a passer of bad checks, there. He warned, 'Kiddo, I got jail cells ain't exactly playpens can throw you in. Got polygraph machines help me prize the info outta ya. Know me a hanging judge don't believe in probation. Now what gives here, shrimp?' I stalled with, 'Shrimp? If we are talking crustacean plankton feeders I always fancied myself more a prawn which has different pincers and is longer.' Unamused, he was about to take me to the precinct house when he recognized me...and turning to a porcelain pieta that happened to be for sale at the counter next to some peppershakers cried, 'My paternosters have been answered. The pendulum has swung back and I can now help Paps my favorite person in the world!' He was a buddy from the Plainridge Racecourse and one day when Paps figured all the permutations just right and hit the parimutuel and won the whole pot he helped this guy out. He'd somehow fallen behind on his mortgage payments on his modest little prefab, but Paps gave him enough to cover a postdated sure-to-bounce check he'd written, his last chance at a paydown so he could keep it. So he called Paps who was like the pope to him (he was later one of his pallbearers) to take me home and once I fessed, took the stuff to Peters who was tickled pink knowing he'd a been sent packing after years of promptitide and service for leaving the door open and never even told Potter anything.

Paps, worried I was becoming predelinquent and would turn out to be the next Pretty Boy Floyd or Pablo Escobar, saw fit to send me to stay for a spell with his friend Brother Pat, the head of a priory. This fellow was once a top plumber with much polytechnic training and was doing some pipefitting replacing some old PVC one day when he just pops his head from under our sink and says, 'The Paraclete guides me and I must heed the call so here's my pliers and you can have my pneumatic drill too. Bye!'

But then Paps died of postoperative complications after surgery for pancreatic cancer- apparently it was only at the preclinical stage during his last physical so they couldn't pick it up- soon after I got to Pat's. He and his Trappist monks adopted me as their pageboy, an all-around gopher, out there in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. I got used to it and became a postulant when I got older but went beyond the parameters of my job and screwed up...

PRESCOTT OVERSTEPS HIS BOUNDS AT THE MONASTERY

One day our handyman Piers while doing some paintwork at the monastery complained he had a poltergeist terrorizing his cabin (technically a preassembled log house) up in the pinelands. He swore it was a real manifestation and not just some phantasmagoric hallucination and that he wasn't abusing any psychochemical drugs, and though I wasn't very well-versed in the paranormal I decided to help.

After all, he'd used some nice pegboard to replace the crumbling particleboard backing to my bookcase, found me a polyeurethane seat cushion so I wouldn't need any more Preparation H, replaced a cracked plasterboard wall in my >room, and even brought in from his garden some potherbs the abbot liked to mix with his poached eggs. He even ran some wire and dug a trench and posthole outside and installed a post with a lantern atop equipped with a dawn-to-dusk photocell outside (a photoelectric cell to turn it on and off by itself) along with prismatic polycarbonate panels inside to reduce glare.

I found out that the propman at the local theater had given Piers a planchette and Ouija board along with some harmless items like a phonograph and pith helmet while cleaning out a closet to make way for...petticoats, ponchos, playwear, pinafores, and other wardrobe coming in for some crazy new plays by some hip playwrights. Now don't give me that psychobabble telling me this evil thing was just psychokinetic energy emanating from my handyman's pent-up emotions for he had conjured up a truly pernicious otherwordly force by playing with his new toy.

My friend's dabbling had cast a pall on his marriage, and though he and his wife were like two peas in a pod (petits pois variety I imagine since they were in Canada...sorry, couldn't resist the parenthetical witticsim), she had fled to relatives in Peterborough over in Ontario. She had not only pharyngitis from screaming over all the strange phenomena but bruises from being punched and pummeled by the invisble assailant and felt her flare-up of psoriasis and then her peptic ulcer (initially caused by a pathogenic strain of H-pylori) now worsening and becoming perforated were both due to the stress as in psychosomatic.

Now truly if one has any proverbial skeletons in the closet and rushes in against the demonic like some paladin but with even a pinhole never mind a chink in the spiritual armor, it's like a patchwork roof in pluvial weather where you better find a pail for the leak for the weak point will be exploited. Now when I hit puberty I did have a porn queen pinup and a pullout centerfold hidden under my bed. Also instead of studying papal encyclicals at the monastery I'd been listening to the local pop radio station so much I had its playlist memorized....but I felt ready. So instead of seeking the counsel of the prelate and adequately prepping myself spiritually and intellectually and developing a playbook for battle, I just winged it. Yeah, I was no pusillanimous wimp so all prinked out like I was the high pontiff or something I gallantly waltzed in only to be knocked down and pinioned to the ground like I'd been crushed by a panzer tank. Now we Purcells are a hardy lot...heck,my dad competed in pentathlons when he was younger and I have a pic somewhere of Paps reeling in a 500-pound marlin but I felt paralyzed and helpless.

It so happened that Piers' wife was a piecework seamstress by profession so all of a sudden not only was I being strangled by a pair of potholder gloves, I was being suffocated by a plisse pillowslip. My peripheral vision picked up something coming along in on the right and too late! Yikes!...a pair of pinking shears just missed my pinky! I grabbed them with what little physical strength I mustered and snipped the items away, but now like a picador gone wild the fiend was stabbing me with a pikestaff cane of Piers' making my body splatter blood like I was a paintball gun when Piers burst in and dragged me out. I had instructed him, 'Hey pard, piece o' cake. Stay outside.' and had gone in solo. He cut his parka into patches making tourniquets to apply to my wounds which were no mere pinpricks or paper cuts for sure. He got me to the hospital where they applied hydrogen peroxide and bandages, stitched me up, and even gave me physiotherapy for my banged-up back.

I was called to the carpet (actually a nice thick pile rug with pastel colors!) by the bishop who clearly P.O'd, chided me, 'Pompous fool! Were you going to say 'Hocus Pocus' Presco the Great? We have a predefined method for sending malevolent spirits packing. We have an exorcist with a team who don't just go promenading into harm's way but check out a place first to get a preview of what they are facing, then get preauthorization from me to go forward, and after a whole prefight regimen of praying and fasting go to battle.'

WHAT'S NEXT FOR PRESCOTT?

No plenary indulgence was forthcoming for breaking preestablished norms however so they banished me to a small pavillion, tinier than a pool cabana really, just beyond the library and gave me a bunch of old parchments in different languages and though they knew I was no polyglot or philologist told me to decipher them. I knew I was in the doghouse when they gave me pumice instead of my normal patchouli soap for my sensitive skin and sent what seemed like Purina Puppy Chow for my meals. They never checked on how I was progressing since the work had already been done not by some pseudoprofessional like me but by a scholar from the Armenian prelacy of Canada during his predoctoral studies years before! 

Next, though I was allergic to pollen and the grounds were the size of a polo field, they made me groundskeeper and worked me like a peon. One day I was doing some planting in a flowerbed where I had scarlet pimpernels, garden phlox, and even a peony or two when I nearly gagged to death on my postnasal drip. This happenstance was my passport to a new assignment to the Seward Peninsula in Alaska where the physiography was well...ice! At this remote outpost where they did put me up in a prefabricated cabin not an igloo I was to learn the local patois with its unique phonology and start a mission to the eskimos. I wasn't exactly preadapted to the climate and froze my patootsies off in the land of permafrost but did gain some converts mainly by not being preachy and not simply dismissing their pagan beliefs...animistic, polytheistic, shamanistic etc....which still enjoy popularity in some regions, as pseudoreligious mumbo-jumbo but as concepts of merit and in general, respecting their fierce sense of peoplehood and uniqueness.

A few years later they simply needed more of us to serve parishes stateside so there was a phaseout in some of the farflung places and I was recalled here. Before I got over my postflight jet lag they welcomed me with this gift, an antique pectoral cross said to have been blessed by Padre Pio, then told me I was to replace one Father Pritchett. Though he was suffering from Bell's Palsy and the early stage of Parkinson's he had hurried off to Papua on a relief mission but went down with the pilot and a planeload of food and supplies. Postaccident analysis showed that a simple preflight check would have revealed they'd far exceeded the payload of the plane and the flight should've been precanceled anyway due to stormy weather. I found out later Father Pritchett had precancerous polyps in his prostate as well. He left knowing full well they could go from premalignant to deadly quickly rendering him preterminal without treatment like say proton beam therapy to zap them or that polymer nanotechnology that you hear about.

So there Misakman, I know the predominant theme of your story is man's proneness to bungling things and I hope I've succeeded in proving, in particular with my Potter mansion story and the Piers' cabin story, that I'm not exempt. We're a paradox my friend in that we do stupid things to get smarter but it's as if we're preprogrammed to mess up again like we have an incurable psychosis. We need war to appreciate peacetime and then do we beat our swords into plowshares or our spears into pruning hooks like the Good Book says? No that's pinko peacenik talk, just some outdated advice from a preatomic era, so we go and make plutonium bombs. God Help us!”

CONCLUSION BY MISAKMAN

I have a recurring dream which takes place in a postapocalyptic landscape involving Percival Pennington, my friend from the Au Bon Pain from page 1, and whoever remembers him passes the last page posttest with flying colors. Anyway, he climbs out from the rubble and potsherds of our old world and says, “I guess all the prewar negotiations failed and the peacekeepers lost out to the warmongers and my Utopian world is now a parking lot. My Porsche is crushed and I can't drive but there's no JC Penney or Popeye's to drive to anyway. I'm phosphorescent and can't stop glowing and wait...the Earth is like plantless. Little photosynthesis so not much oxygen and so I'm having problems breathing! So much for man being perfectible. What a bunch of poopooheads we turned out to be. God Help Us!”

THE END

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