There’s been a lot of talk of late about the “Zombie Apocalypse.”  For those of us (including me) who weren’t aware of this threat I did some research and learned that this event occurs when “a widespread (usually global) rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization.”* Personally, I think this attack is already underway—and has been for some time.  Witness “reality TV” (“Big Brother, “Maury Povich,” “Honey Boo Boo,” “Bridezillas,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum), wherein swarms of  social cretins rise up to assail the sensibilities of anyone willingly watching this stuff.   Warning:  Viewers of these programs risk becoming zombies themselves, if they aren’t already.bigstock-MOSCOW--MAY---Unidentified--32519849

Zombie Apocalypse?  Note the headphones–A lot of zombies are already here.  (

Anyway, to my knowledge no specific date has been established for this calamitous event, but I’m seeing signs of it already.  I expect you’ve seen them, too; you just didn’t realize it.  I’m speaking of the proliferation of inflatable Christmas displays popping up (literally) in neighborhoods all across the country:  Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer, snowmen, sleighs, polar bears—you name it:  Just about anything remotely related to Christmas is now full of hot air and glowing in the dark on front lawns up and down the block.

I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that the people displaying these motorized balloons have children.  I know two of my neighbors do.  Across the street are a Santa and one reindeer who probably delight the little girl living in the house there.  As blow-up toys they’re innocuous enough but in the morning when I open my blinds I see what appear to be two flat and wrinkled red, white, and tan garbage bags.  They look as though they’ve been shot!   Next door, my neighbor has a smaller Santa who stands by as another reindeer rocks to and fro on a green platform.  This particular display apparently annoys or scares my dog.  Anytime we go outdoors when “Rocking Rudolph” is up and, er, running, the mutt barks his disapproval—from a distance, of course.

I don’t know whose bright idea it was to redesign air bags as Christmas decorations but I wish he had left them in cars where they belong.  The least he could have done was figure out a way to get these things to deflate into their air tubes, or at least self-fold into neat little packets.  As it is, by morning all these animated garbage bags look like so much Macy’s parade rejects.

Bluntly stated, these Yuletide yard ornaments strike me as rather tacky.  It’s bad enough that they are mostly oversized, that they glow and whirr, but at the rate they’re multiplying my neighborhood is starting to resemble Toontown.

I think my dog may feel the same way.  The other day I was carrying a bag of trash to the garbage can and he ran toward the front yard, ignoring my calls to come back.  (Nothing unusual about that.)  I returned to the house and went to the front door.  Looking around, I spied the mutt next door, raising his leg on the collapsed reindeer, showering him with his disdain.  Quickly bringing him back inside, I considered taking a pan of water and rinsing down the defiled deer.  It occurred to me, however, that I might get caught and that would require some rather creative fast talk.  I was considering how to account for my behavior when—Lo!—the heavens opened up and blessed the deer with enough of a shower to dispose of the evidence.

Which brings me back to the Zombie Apocalypse.  So far, all these overblown caricatures have been moored to the ground, collapsing by the time the sun comes up.  That’s cause for relief as far as it goes.  But each night they rise up again.  What if all these corpulent cartoons put their airheads together one night and decide to pull up stakes and, like zombies, go on a rampage?  Remember the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the 1984 film, “Ghostbusters”?  Multiply that bloated, sailor-suited bonbon by a few hundred and we could have a major panic on our hands.  And the scary thing is that all these over-stuffed yard bags wear the same inane grin on their faces as Mr. Stay Puft.  I don’t know about you, but that really creeps me out.  It’s as though they share some macabre secret and, believe me, that can’t be good. Imagine them lumbering inexorably down your street, silent and grinning, in search of some hapless holiday revelers to terrorize and trample.  Why, an army like that could literally bump the rest of us off the map.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yipes! Here they come–Christmas Zombies!  ( 

So, could this be the Zombie Apocalypse?  Should we fear our Christmas celebrations turning into a kind of marshmallow mayhem?  And, as if this weren’t enough this whole Zombie Apocalypse scenario just happens to coincide with the holidays and the Mayan calendar doomsday scare.  Wow!  The perfect storm!

Personally, when it comes to Christmas I prefer the subtle, low-key approach.  So I’m going to forgo those cheesy, inflatable holiday balloons (not a difficult decision); I’m sticking with the traditional wreath on the door and the garland strung with tiny white lights framing it.  If you think about it, it’s kind of like the Israelites who, just before the Exodus, painted lamb’s blood around their doors so the angel of death would pass by and spare their first born. Only in this case I’m hoping to ward off those Christmas Zombies.  It’s worth a try.  You can’t be too careful.


© 2012, The Wit’s End Scribbler



Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Time to go to the place, I thought,

Where all the hapless strays are brought.

Two months before my dog, my friend,

Was struck down in a tragic end.

No warning sign.  Just suddenly ill.

In just one hour his heart was still.

In time grief fades and longing grows

For contact with a cold wet nose.

So just a few short miles to drive

Till at the shelter I arrive.

Thoughtfully past each cage I went,

Pond’ring size and temperament.

This canine cell-block tour I took,

B-a-a-c-k-and-f-o-o-r-t-h for one more look

And then by chance he ambled in

To a cage where first he had not been.

His casual manner seemed to say,

“Oh, hi,”—and on he came my way.

At once I knew:  This one’s just right.

A Cockapoo—love at first sight!

Before we left, his history

Was shared by shelter staff with me.

The pet store where he first was sold

Declared him worth his weight in gold.

Twelve hundred dollars profit gained

From someone with more bucks than brains.

Obedience classes.  Housebroken, too.

He’s had the works, this Cockapoo.

But when the owners moved away

They said this fellow had to stay.

So to the shelter he was sent

Where, the following day, I also went.

A charming dog, the Cockapoo.

He melts your heart to look at you.

An experiment in genes designer,

The end result could not be finer.

Purebred, you say?  A pretty fable.

No, just a mutt with a designer label.

“The Mutt”






In his lineage you can trace

The Cocker Spaniel’s sweet sad face.

Ears wide and floppy, eyes dark brown

And Hobbit’s feet—fringy-haired all ’round.

Next—to cite the poodle part—

He’s playful, quick, and very smart.

And then there’s all that curly hair

To lend a certain savoir-faire.

And then a trait both forebears lend—

A bob-tail at his nether end.

A curly sort of signal flag

In constant state of wiggle-wag.

(Beware: his bark, so sharp and shrill

Can pierce your ears as nothing else will!)

He’d lived with cats—another plus.

So my two shouldn’t cause a fuss.

Besides, my cats (no less than he)

Share different lines of pedigree.

As we rode home, I was impressed:

He neither whined nor showed distress.

A most well-mannered gent, he sat

And listened to my one-way chat.

Once home and coming through the door,

He padded quickly ’cross the floor.

He claimed the sofa right away.

“Okay, I’m home,” he seemed to say.

He flashed a cheerful, pink-tongued grin

And—just like that!—he’d settled in.

He makes most things a source of fun.

Specially so the following one.

“Harass the Cats”—his favorite game.

As torture, though, it’s pretty lame.

He tries to make them think he’s tough,

But they—and he—know it’s all bluff.

He’s spoiled.  At night my bed is where

He sleeps, this ersatz teddy bear.

A shy but friendly mixed-breed boy,

With happy heart and sense of joy.

His clownish ways, I must confess,

Provide me constant happiness.

Each time he greets me at the door,

He bounces up and down—what’s more

He likes to softly, gently place

Sweet loving kisses on my face.

He’s so sweet-natured, gentle, kind—

My happy animal shelter find!


© 2008 The Wit’s End Scribbler

Posted in Essays, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


In 1946 the National Association of Teachers of Speech* issued its list of what it regarded as the ten worst-sounding words in the English language.  We can thank the NATS for putting these little bugs in our ears.  In alphabetical order these words are:


1.  Cacophony:  a harsh or discordant sound.  The root of this word, kako, is Greek, meaning bad, toxic, or malignant; the phon (y) part is Greek, too, meaning voice or sound.  I can understand how the Greeks came up with “bad” for kako; it looks a lot like ka-ka or ca-ca, which we all know is pretty bad stuff indeed.  As for phon (y), anybody would make a bad sound upon encountering ca-ca.

2.  Crunch:  to crush with the teeth; chew with a crushing noise; to crush or grind noisily.  I couldn’t find an exact derivation of the word crunch except that it is probably a combination of crush and craunch (thought to be an imitative word–onomatopoeia–like “Bang!” or “ding-dong” or “woof”).  If you’ve ever stepped on a cockroach you know why crunch can be a bad sound.

3.  Flatulent:  marked by or affected with gas generated in the intestine or stomach, from the Latin flatus, blowing or wind.  The word “flat” has many meanings, including below the proper musical pitch.  We’ve all heard or experienced flatulent sounds that resemble the low pitch of a tuba, but sometimes they come out as little trumpet toots, too.  Not exactly music to our ears.

4.  Gripe:  to seize, grasp; afflict, distress; irritate, vex.  To cause pinching and spasmodic pain in the bowels of; to complain with grumbling.  Gripe comes from Middle and Old English gripan, Old High German grifan, and Lithuanian (Lithuanian?) griebti.  Curious, isn’t it, that a bowel distress-related word should come from guttural languages?

5.  Jazz:   American music . . . [of] propulsive syncopated [cut short, i.e., aborted] rhythms, polyphonic [many sounds (i.e., noise)] ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation [made up], and often deliberate distortions [deformities, damage, misrepresentations] of pitch and timbre.  No wonder this word is included on the NATS list; “jazz” seems to be a self-described onomatopoeia.

6.  Phlegmatic:  resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm.  Originally from the Late Latin (those pagan Romans really were decadent) and nothing funny about it.  A phlegmatic is a slow, dull, stupid person.  A lot of these can be seen on reality TV shows or at your local state prison.

7.  Plump, a word of numerous meanings, including:  to drop or sink suddenly or heavily, as when falling off the wagon; having a full, rounded usually pleasing form, i.e., a plump woman (not said of a man, though; maybe he’s just a lump).  Plump can also mean a group or flock, as in Thoreau’s reference to a plump of ducks; this probably refers to the sound made upon encountering humans during hunting season.

8.  Plutocrat:  government by the wealthy; a controlling class of the wealthy, from the Greek ploutos, for wealth.  This term could apply to politicians enriched at the public trough.  The Greeks also gave us the word Pluto, the name of the god of the underworld.  Politicians act more and more like the underworld, i.e., criminal, element these days.  Pluto was also the name given to the most distant planet in our solar system.  Politicians should be sent to Pluto where, since it is no longer considered a planet, they won’t be worthy of recognition either.

9.  Sap:  the fluid part of a plant; a body fluid.  Think of this as slime or ooze, something repulsive or disgusting.  A lot of this flows in Washington, D.C.  Sap is also the term for a silly or gullible person; anyone who trades his vote for a free cell phone is a sap.

10.  Treachery:  violation of allegiance or of faith and confidence; from Middle English and Old French, meaning to deceive.  See Nos. 8 and 9 above.



© 2012, The Wit’s End Scribbler


*The Association has undergone numerous name changes since its inception as the National Association of Teachers of Public Speaking in 1914.  Maybe the group has been looking for a better sounding name of its own.

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Too Much Information?

Behold the cat:  Smart, agile, tidy, discerning, fastidious—all readily recognizable characteristics of the imperious feline.  Having owned cats variously throughout my life, I can attest to all these traits, as well as their tenaciousness.  All have, at one time or another, bent me to their will after besting me in a stare-down.  One (a Siamese) learned to retrieve objects from a drawer and another (Siamese again) actually taught himself to use the toilet.  Intelligence and talent wrapped up in one big hairball.  Beneath the surface, however, is another, less obvious attribute, the ability to produce fluorescent urine.

I did an online search to substantiate what I read in one of my trivia books: that cat urine glows under a black light.  Yahoo turned up 22,900 results!  Who would have guessed that such an odious subject could generate a list on this scale?  This research led me to more information than I expected, or even would have wanted, to know.


Give Me a P(ee)

It seems odor eliminator companies use black lights to detect cat urine stains in order to treat them.  One company, BioFOG, Inc., manufactures the “Super Concentrated Odor Eliminator”, SCOE 10X ( and sells a “professional grade blacklight our service division uses for large area urine residue inspection.”  Cost:  $36.95.  They also sell a smaller, keychain LED black light for $9.95.

In my opinion just using your nose should be enough, and a lot cheaper, too.  Anyone who’s ever cleaned a litter box knows the odor of cat urine can snap your head back.  If someone ever faints in your house and you’re out of smelling salts, just pass the litter box by his nose and he’ll be revived in no time.  Guaranteed.

For people like me, though, maybe investing in a black light would prove useful.  I haven’t been able to smell any but the most pungent of things for years, no doubt the result of numerous horseback riding-, ice skating-, and wall-banging head thumps.  (Whether I am predisposed genetically or am just carrying on a tradition, I’m not sure. My grandmother once fell off a ladder while painting the back stairway of her house, hit her head, and was never able to smell anything again.)  Just the same, I’m really not interested enough to justify the expense of black lighting and inspecting my carpet that closely for pee stains.



But, back to my research.  Another “odor control” company, Nature’s Secret Weapon™ (, sells black lights for $29.95; somewhat higher as part of an odor removal kit.  This company goes on to explain that black lights are practical for other reasons:  to detect counterfeit currency and identify antiques, for example.  And as we all know, the CSI folks use them for identifying blood and semen stains.  Oh, dear.

Also, Nature’s Secret Weapon™ asks, “Stay in Hotels?” According them, “The President of our parent company, Natural Brands, never leaves on a trip without one of our UV LED lights. Use it to inspect your hotel room one time and you’ll always bring one too!”  Ew-w-w-w!  If that means what I think it does, I just may sleep in the car.


A Little More Light on the Subject

Black lights, says the same ad, are good for scorpion hunting, too.  I learned this while living in Arizona.  Go out into the desert some night, I was told, and turn on a black light; you’ll see scorpions all over the place.  I declined.  These nasty creepy-crawlers freak me out in daylight; I certainly wasn’t going to risk rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and other freaky critters for a do-it-yourself horror show.

In, um, light of all this information I think I’ll leave the black lights to night club owners and crime scene investigators.

By the way:  Should your cat get a little uppity because of his urinary “glow-in-the-dark” propensity, tell him that dogs are endowed with the same ability.  Why should cats hog the spotlight?


©2012, The Wit’s End Scribbler


Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


The Quick and the Dead, Inside and Out

Living in a suburb of Ft. Worth I don’t get to see a lot of wildlife other than the unfortunate skunk, opossum, or raccoon that has been rendered road kill.  Among the living are various species of birds and (mostly) harmless bugs—discounting the West Nile virus-carrying mosquito, that is.  Oh, and the malevolent neighborhood cat whom I’ve dubbed Sylvester, that black-and-white fiend who invaded my house some time back, an encounter that landed me at the local clinic for a tetanus shot and some antibiotics.  (Read “Cat-A-Strophic Capers,” my blog postings of April 2 and 9, 2012.)  I still see him from time to time, skulking around the neighborhood, looking to inflict even more bodily harm on some other unsuspecting victim.

On those infrequent occasions when I finally resign myself to cleaning house, I’ll find another, less intimidating feral critter that has somehow made his way inside, probably through the pet door.  It’s a little green lizard, not unlike the affable Geico Gecko hawking insurance on TV.  Usually by the time I find him—under a chair, behind the sofa, or in the pantry—he’s long since lost his green hue and turned into a dusky brown, mostly dried up husk of his former self.  Often he’s minus his long, sinewy tail, no doubt the result of a close encounter with the household cat.  Having learned to take this sort of thing in stride, I gingerly collect the little carcass in some tissue and drop him into the waste basket under the kitchen sink.  That’s the usual scenario anyway.


Blinds, Bowls, and Broomsticks

Recently, though, I encountered one of these guys in living flesh.  I was raising one of the living room blinds to let in some sun for one of my few live plants still hanging in there.  Suddenly—Plop!—little Geico fell from above but broke his fall by grasping the blind just inches from my face.  “Don’t move,” I ordered and ran to fetch a bowl from the kitchen.  (My plan:  to cover him with the bowl, slide a magazine underneath, and carry him outside.)  Wise to my plan, however, the little guy hopped and scurried about, disappearing who knows where?  The mutt, looking goofy and useless, stood by, watching as the wily reptile made a monkey out of me.  Since it was now almost time to leave for Mass, I gave up the hunt.

Two days later I spotted him again, still alive, practically where I saw him the first time. “I’m just trying to save your life,” I told him. “Don’t move.”  I got a broom and gave chase, only to be outmaneuvered again.  Round two:  Lizard still ahead.


The next day I saw my green nemesis resting on the back of a chair, probably thinking he was blending in with the Jacobean print leaves of the fabric.  “No so, my little Anolis carolinensis,” I said in my best “Wicked Witch of the West”* impression.  (Well, maybe not quite those words.)  Like her, though, I grabbed my broom again and started swishing and sweeping that pesky critter off the chair and toward the open door.  Finally, success!  He was outside and lying in the grass next to the curve in the driveway.  I gave him a couple more bumps with the broom and he burrowed deeper into the grass.


Greasy, Grimy Geico Guts?

Soon after, I was in my car backing out of my garage on my way to Dallas.  The driveway curves away from the garage so I made the little jog to the right, then straightened out again to avoid my neighbor’s car parked in our shared, double driveway.  Then—Uh, oh.  Oh, no.  Oh, no!  I had over-corrected and was backing over the grass next to my house.  The lizard!  Little Geico!  Oh, no!  I had tried so hard to save this tiny fellow and now he’s just so much ant fodder.  I’ve killed him!  Oh, the inhumanity!  I could only console myself that it was over quickly; he never knew what hit him.  (I hope.)  Besides, it’s better than a slow death by starvation indoors or—Horrors!—being eaten alive by that frightful cat.  Right?  Right??!!

After returning from Dallas I warily inspected the grassy spot (final resting place?) where I’d last seen my former house guest.  What’s this?  No blood.  No guts.  He’s not there!  I hadn’t squished him after all.  He must have taken off before I backed out of the garage.  Either that or he’s tire tread filler.  No, no.  I’m not going to look there.  I prefer to believe he’s happily munching on a bug somewhere, glad to be alive.  If not, for his family’s sake, I hope he was up to date on his premiums with the Geico folks.



© 2012, The Wit’s End Scribbler

*Margaret Hamilton’s character in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.




Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment