Thursday, June 19, 2008

when midwesternisms attack

SCENE: FUDGE, MOM and THE PT at an aerobics studio. FUDGE and MOM have just finished exercising and are putting away their weights. THE PT is coloring on the mats. Offstage right is a water fountain with a pen jammed in its bar.

THE PT (pointing): somebody left their pen in that bubbler.

MOM (wiping face on towel): they did that on purpose, honey. it keeps the bubbler running.

THE PT (flabbergasted):

FUDGE: you know. so the water gets cold.

THE PT dashes to the water fountain and studies its side with an intense scrutiny.

FUDGE and MOM exchange glances.

MOM: what are you doing, the pt?

THE PT: looking for how he gets in.

MOM: how who gets in?

THE PT (impatiently): the bubtler.

FUDGE and MOM exchange another look. MOM abruptly doubles over, helpless.

FUDGE: no no, the pt. a bubbler is a thing that water comes out of that you can drink from. a butler is a servant for rich people. there is no butler in the bubbler.

THE PT (outraged): then how does the water stay cold?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

there's a snake in my boot

well, i hope you will excuse me for the infrequent blogging, but as i'm sure you know by now, i've been a little busy lately, what with the lake shortages and bat-feeding and all.

never in all my years as a wisconsinite have i seen weather like this. i don't know if it's a function of global warming, as my father and his mother debated while she stayed with us for shavuous (during a recent episode of the twilight zone), or if this is simply the kind of thing that happens every once in ten thousand years, like pinkeye or the ice age, but whichever way you look at it, we here in the midwest are beginning to rave.

there is no tv channel you can watch that isn't boxed in by scrolling, flashing text. there is no radio channel you can listen to without minute updates on water levels. there is no street you can drive on without holes in it and no place you can drive to without galoshes, an adult-sized poncho and a good luck charm. there is no basement without carpet mold. every store you walk into has a checkout display of sump-pumps and cements and wet vacs. every newspaper or magazine article is about how to deal with flood damage, how to prepare for floods in unusual places, 'tornado chic', etc.

for instance, the last time i had time to check the sports section of my local newspaper, they ran some article about what to do if a tornado hits when you're in the woods. 'seek shelter,' the editorial advised. 'if you can't find a clearing, do not lie down horizontally, but rather curl yourelf into a ball. make yourself the smallest targest possible to avoid being hit by lightening.'

i read this over my coffee and scoffed. ridiculous! what kind of person randomly finds themselves so entrenched in the woods on a stormy day that they can't even find a clearing? and why do you have to make yourself the smallest target when you're surrounded by trees? i, a city dweller who could pass for a city expert in these parts, took another sip of my coffee and closed the paper with a disdainful curl of my lip. 'country bumpkins,' was something along the line of my thoughts. 'having the time and availability to get themselves stuck in the woods on a weekday.'

this is what is called 'tempting fate.'

but i remained oblivious to my foolishness and the general paranoia invading wisconsin (where you can now pass people on the street wearing bike helmets to protect themselves from falling fish) and continued to show up at work every day. for those of you just joining the broadcast, i am currently working a summer job for the zoological society, which is, inevitably, located at the zoo. this means that showing up to work involves, among other things, passing giraffes, orangutans, poisonous monkeys, etc.

technically, i am supposed to write the text for newsletters, signs, blurbs, and suchlike. but because most of this text requires some kind of contact with the animal or its zookeeper, i have frequently found myself stomping around the zoo grounds for hours on end, ducking under rocks in penguin exhibits, observing blood-stirring to be fed to vampire bats, avoiding aptly-named 'poo pits' - you name it, i've stepped on it. or under it. i have also ingested more mosquitoes and horseflies than the entire spider population of Wauwatosa, but that's for another time.

anyway, today i set out to work, blithe as a clam, despite the various "Danger! Danger!" weather alerts bombarding me via every possible communicative method excluding smoke signals. we had a flash flood alarm, a tornado alarm, severe weather, high winds, what have you. next, i thought, they will be warning us to watch out for 'extreme sky'. i composed my hitlist of places and things to do, as is my custom, and began my usual trek around the zoo. one of my tasks (sorry, i've been sworn to secrecy) involved a real shlep out to the far end of the grounds. i didn't hear the first thunderbolt until i was three quarters of the way there.

it was loud. really loud. and the sky was bright scarlet, even though it was only an hour after lunch. my first thought was, 'huh. bet that hit something.'

my second thought was, 'surely that can't be hail falling from the sky?'

i stopped and looked over my shoulder. i found, to my dumb amazement, that i was on a narrow, little-traveled path around the outskirts of the zoo. there were tall pine trees and thick underbrush all around me, and a bridge a little ways in the distance. the path continued for awhile and then disappeared around a bend. lightening flashed. the pine trees whipped wildly in the wind, and another loud crash sounded.

'you've gotta be kidding me,' i thought, glancing in each direction as though a 7-11 might materialize. but as the lightening flickered again, i was forced to admit that i was, effectively, stuck in the woods during a severe thunderstorm. i was also forced to admit that i probably should have paid slightly more attention to the editorial in the newspaper.

'****,' i thought.

as the wind kicked up, i held my notebook over my head in a pathetic attempt to keep dry and debated what to do next. was i supposed to lie down? on the middle of the path? in the peacock dung? should i seek a clearing? should i curl myself into a ball? should i stay away from the trees or hide under the trees? oh, john malan! i'll be a good girl next time! i promise!

there was another bolt of thunder, and the sky turned from scarlet to purple. i came to a decision with surprising alacrity after that: i ran for it.

that's all for tonight, folks. if you need me, i'll be right here.

hiding under my desk.

Panik! Aaaaa!

FUDGE (throwing rain poncho over head and slamming back door): Well, I made it home from work alive! Boy, that was ridiculous. The flash flooding, and the -

THE PT (popping out from behind the pantry door): Did you have a tornado drill?


THE PT: I had a tornado drill. You should have one too.

FUDGE: How did you get behind the pantry door like that?

THE PT: Being safe is so fun.

FUDGE: What are you talking about? What tornado drill? We never had 'tornado drills' when I was young.

THE PT (blinking in obvious mortification)

FUDGE (grumpily): Well whatever. What was this 'tornado drill' like? What did you do, duck under your desks?


FUDGE: Well, thank goodness for that.

THE PT: We ducked under the COMPUTER LAB desks!

FUDGE: Why? Couldn't you duck under your own desk?

THE PT: Uhh....I think you're forgetting the evacuating part. It wouldn't really be evacuating if we just stayed in our very own first-grade ROOM.

FUDGE: True. Well. Okay. What did you do in the computer lab?

THE PT: Told a story and practiced being safe!

FUDGE: What was the story about?

THE PT: I don't know. I was panicking.

FUDGE: The PT, did you run around in a circle screaming, 'Panic! AAHHHHH!', the way you do during thunderstorms at home, for forty-five minutes?

THE PT: Uh, not really, no.

FUDGE: Then how were you panicking?

THE PT: Well, my afternoon morah let me skip the line.

FUDGE: Why was that?

THE PT: Because I was terrified of the tornado.

FUDGE (suspiciously): Not because you were running around screaming, 'Panic! AHHHHHH!' ?

THE PT: I wasn't screaming that!

FUDGE: Weren't screaming that?


FUDGE: What WERE you screaming?

THE PT: 'Ahhhhh, tornadoes are the only thing in the whole world that I'm afraid of that are actually real!'


THE PT (sheepish)

FUDGE: That's...rather lengthy.

THE PT (mumbling): Well we never have monster drills.


FUDGE is an editorial intern and staff writer for the County Zoo and is currently wet-vaccing her basement carpeting. THE PT is a well-known novelist and paranoiac. Her upcoming memoir, "My Turnaido Jril" , will be available for purchase on June 18th.