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For this month's cover imagine I chose our first humor book, Slightly Off the Mark. I'd been trying to decide what to write about, and after coming up with nothing I thought, "Well ... 'nothing' works for Seinfeld".

There's no writing news, because I'm in the middle of editing my latest novel, and writing is not a spectator sport. I type; I take a drink of tea (early grey, hot); I stare out the window; I type more; I grab a handful of M&Ms, and tell myself it's an award for getting that last paragraph just right.

No matter how exciting the reading of a book may be, the writing of it never set any fireworks off.

Otherwise, it's been a pretty disastrous summer for just about the whole darned world. Is it really going to make you feel better to hear me pontificate about the Delta Variant, the disaster in Afghanistan, the high price of gas, or the definition of "pontificate"?

No.

What we need is funny.

So for your summer break, I'm giving you two little segments from Slightly Off the Mark that, unless you bought the book (hopefully not if you did), you haven't read before. Sure, you could buy an e-book copy on Amazon or our website for just 99 cents (always be closing). But what we all really need right now is some light entertainment that will hopefully make you laugh, or at least smile.

So until next time, hang in there.

hand me that wrench—and the first aid kit

“A real man doesn’t need a manual”

- Tim Allen

“Whatever, send me a real man and we’ll talk.”

- Mark R Hunter

 

I talk a lot about my total lack of talent at anything involving tools, and sometimes people want to know if I exaggerate.

No.

The other thing they want to know is, how can I be a volunteer firefighter if I’m so bad with tools? Well, that’s easy: A firefighter with tools is generally breaking things. Breaking into doors, breaking open windows, tearing into walls and ceilings, opening up roofs. I can do that. Fire has a nasty habit of hiding in concealed spaces, and to be perfectly honest with you, hunting that hidden fire down can be fun when it doesn’t get you killed.

But installing a window? Replacing a roof? Putting up a wall? Forget it.

Of course, these are humor columns, and a little embellishment is to be expected. Yes, my lawn mower really did explode; no, a piece of it was not found embedded in the International Space Station. See what I did, there? Exaggeration: the spine of comedy.

And it’s a good thing I know a little about humor, because I’ll never make a living in the construction or auto repair industry.

"I am ... Batdog."

That’ll be two Elvis’s and a Madonna

So, they're going to issue a postage stamp with Elvis Presley's picture on it. Not only that, they're going to give the fans a chance to decide just which picture they want on the stamp. Apparently the postal service is going out of its way to find out what the customers want, which on a national level is pretty unusual.

The problem is, they didn't ask the most important person what he thought of the idea. They didn't ask Elvis.

Let me tell you, he doesn't like the idea at all.

I ran into Elvis at a bookstore in Bellaire, Michigan last summer, while he was browsing through the entertainment section. In the winter he works as a cook in a fast food place in Kendallville, so when I heard about this stamp thing I called him up.

Elvis has had some pretty hard times, lately, He can't get his hands on his money, seeing as how everybody thinks he's dead, and he lost his job as orderly at the nursing home because every time the elderly ladies saw his hips shake they fainted dead away. He hasn't lost that indescribable something that once made millions of women swoon; unfortunately, he has lost his fortune and about half his hair.

"I don't like the idea at all, babe", he told me. There's nothing personal between us, he calls everybody babe.

I reminded Elvis that he still had many fans, and they wanted to honor him in any way they could, including his portrait on a stamp. After all, he was one of the most popular entertainers of all time.

"Thank you, thank you very much"; he replied, while flipping burgers. "But half the music fans these days think I was around at the same time as Lawrence Welk."

You were, weren't you? I asked.

"Let me put it to you another way, man. The last memory some people might have of me is on that stamp. Do you know what people do with stamps? They lick them. The last time anyone ever sees my face may be when they toss me into the mail box."

Well, at least they'll remember you.

"Twenty years from now some guy will be saying, 'sure I remember Elvis Presley: I licked him once'. The National Enquirer has had enough fun with me."

But don't you think your fans should honor you, somehow?

"You bet. I was the greatest rock and roller in history."

What about the Beatles? Or the Beach Boys?

"No one really knows if the Beatles were any good. Every time they played the screams drowned them out. And the Beach Boys – can you imagine them trying to do Heartbreak Hotel? Or Love Me Tender?"

I tried to imagine Elvis singing California Girls, but I didn't mention it because I was afraid he would try. Instead I asked him what he thought a good way to honor him might be.

"I thought about statues, but pigeons love statues. Do you think any of my fans would clean my statues?"

Oh, I'm sure they would.

"Well, maybe it would work. A statue, with a loudspeaker mounted in the base playing my songs. Oh, and an umbrella over it." He shook his head. "But somebody would probably build a shrine around it and charge admission, and the Star would print an article saying the statue started crying, or bleeding, or blowing its nose, or something. Maybe a statue isn't such a great idea."

How about an Elvis Presley action figure?

Elvis brightened at that idea. "Sure, kids could have me dating Barbie—I always admired Barbie, she's so fashionable… have you ever noticed that Barbie doesn't have any underwear?"

They make lingerie for her now.

“Times do change. Anyway, kids nowadays don't remember me. All they're interested in is the Young Children on the Street."

That's New Kids on the Block.

(Older columnist’s note: No, I’m not going to change it to Foo Fighters. Have your fun with me.)

"I don't care if they're the Old Fogies on the Stoop; popular music today belongs to people like them. I should I be honored in a way older people would pay attention to, a way that would constantly remind them of me:"

What did you have in l mind?

"I want to be on a bill."

A bill? You mean have people remember you every time they make their house payments? Is that a fitting epitaph for your career?

"No, man, I mean money, I want my face on a bill, like a two dollar bill. On the other hand, considering how successful the two dollar bill was, make it a twelve dollar bill, or something. People would be handling me all the time, just like Abe and George.”

And they could put Graceland on the back.

"There you go. Better yet, put me on a credit card. I've been seeing more plastic than cash lately..."

But we're right back to having people think about you when they see their bills, again.

Elvis ignored me; he has burgers to flip, and he went back to work humming Hound Dog. I wonder who he's going to contact first: MasterCard or American Express?

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