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The International Writers Magazine: Be Careful what you say

The Literal Day
G David Schwartz

September 7th, 1948 began typically and promised to be non-eventful. The fact that I was an eyewitness to the startling events I am about to relate is one of those accidents of history, which are never quite believed. I still have some lingering doubts myself about the happenings of the afternoon on that fateful day.

My job as youth counselor for the summer program at the local Y.M.C.A. had ended. It was too early to go to Oregon where I worked as a ski instructor. Like every summer for the past dozen years, I was on hiatus for a couple of months. This would explain what I was doing early in the afternoon inside The Ox Bar and Grill.

I was having a potato salad sandwich and a harmless beer. Andy, owner of the Ox, nearly invented the potato salad sandwich. It was a potato salad liberally laced with mustard, relish, Bermuda onion and garlic. The beer was a necessary wash. The after taste was the excitement. A secret ingredient, or so Andy said, burned like hell.
There I was, guzzling my second beer when a ruckus broke out across the bar.

Two or three of the town's boys was ridiculing a small, bald man. I had never before seen the shorter man.
John Billuffagronian was saying, "I did not tell you that I would hold the merchandise for you with a down payment. What I told you was that for ten dollars I would make sure the merchandise was in the store when you came back.
The ten dollars was a holding fee. You still have to buy the stuff at regular price, if you want it." The remark caused great hilarity among the men. John owned the hardware store and had obviously swindled a stranger. The bald man turned so red he looked like a carrot.
"That ain't fair," the stranger said.
"Fair is something that goes on at the state capitol," John said. The remark was greeted with an uproar. "Now I come over here for lunch, and you are disturbing me. Go away, little man."
"That's not fair," the stranger repeated, "And you people have always been praised for your hospitality. Why... Why... you've got the manners of a skunk."
"A skunk, you say?"
"Yes," the stranger reiterated, "A skunk."
"Then why is it that you smell?" The boys snickered politely, but even they did not think this last remark was all that funny.
"You boys should learn some manners. You should learn to respect common decency."

An "Ooooo" arose from John and the boys. Decency always made them "Ooooo."
"I curse you," the bald man said, "I curse you to live by the very words you speak. You, and this entire town, stand under the curse of..." The voice of the stranger trailed off under the laughter of the boys. He stared at John and the others through beady eyes, then swung around and marched toward the door. At the threshold, he spat on the floor and turned. John was saying, "Ooooo, the school marm wants us to learn how to talk."
"No," the stranger said, I want you to learn how to fear talk." The man was so red, his eyes so narrow and his eyebrows wagging so furiously as he spoke that the boys laughed uproariously. The stranger spit again, and left.

That would have seemed to have been the end of the ruckus, seeing how John and the men caught up with the stranger and ran him out of town on a rail. I suppose they thought it was quite a stunt to hoist the small man upon the wooden beam, hold him aloft, and run with him through the town. I suppose some other folk thought the sight was a trifle ridiculous and laughable. We had no idea that the event was a portent for the horror to come.

This is the report I have assembled from talking with the people. I never bothered showing up in Oregon. I thought I would get a great newspaper story from the incident, make lots of money, win the Nobel Prize and retire. I submitted the damn thing to numerous magazines and a few journals. Their rejection notices were polite, but I knew they simply did not believe the tale. One editor suggested I revise the story to send to a fiction magazine. May he burn in hell!

Sean Whistleschmimer, obedient to his mother's words, fell off the slide and broke his neck. Velma Tightholdonabob was, just as she said, so happy, she broke out in a lively rendition of "Luck Be A Lady." Oliver Fopplebqasture bit into a McNutty Bar, which did indeed cause his teeth to fall out. Phil Findemfeelum actually came to believe that looks did not matter. Mrs. Sewabasketshut refused to believe it was two o'clock when her son Felix told her so.
Elaine Kittengonearyea, although really not a surprise to anyone, lost her mind. Jay Mistersociableishe went to greet a friend arriving at the airport who, upon his command, began trembling and shivering out of control. No sooner had he said it than Herb Snarlfingertimmid had a fit. Barb Backentownagain was stunned when she walked into the Ox Cafe and saw a table of men drinking, apparently oblivious to the fact that there was mud in their eyes.

Andy Wankercrackerwitz's bartender checked to make sure, as the previous customer had advised, he had successfully not taken any wooden nickels. Carmen Flowapolecat was nonchalant as his most experienced political advisor wiped the mud from his face, the result of a remark about their political opponent, not about the toast just given, and immediately went outside to tie the senator's latest allegations to the rope of the pole. The advisor spent the remainder of the afternoon watching to see who would stretch their fingers to the edge of their eyebrows, and then snap them down after a particularly short quiver. Lisa Voiceonthewindowsill submitted to an overpowering urge to crawl under a rock. Jeff Moonyernitty, crossing the street to see the sight of Lisa, was arrested for jaywalking. This is normally rectified by payment of a small fine, but Jeff spent the better part of the day in solitary confinement when his words we indeed used against him.

Alonzo Flabbergastwitz was certainly dead, and may have resembled a doornail.
Sheldon Apatheliantic was right again. He could not care less.
Maple Botagoldfishpond told a lily white fib which may or may not have come true, then bit her tongue.

Jack Tupperwhereyouwere, a new resident in town, expressed surprise when his new home was seen to be built out of columns of dung and walls of feces. Upon his impending expression, the house was, truly, upon him.
Otis Tongusentureastic dropped his hammer and began pounding the nails with his skull upon the advice of his foreman to be careful. Mrs. Nanupyertuckentin decided the argument with her husband was over once he gave in to a terrific compulsion to fulfill her request that he pucker his lips to her rump.
Harold Dispositionarian was conked in the head and rendered unconscious by an object hurled from the ground when, in the process of robbery, he used the words, "This is a stick up."
Judith Spokeinanose discovered that all that glitters is, as they say, not gold.

Peter Smorfuss came to a verbal argument with Ralph who, upon a word from the former, keeled over dead. One more word and Peter was, in fact, damned.
Kate Herneeswerenice woke from her afternoon nap and, instead of putting a bra on, poured syrup over her chest.
At four forty-seven, the cows came home.

Mark Mosesgardentinks, as James Dinkerwilliebobber noted, was so nervous about his job interview that he fell to all fours, grew a long tail, and went looking for a room full of rocking chairs. At about the same hour, Susie Prestogigeous squatted in the garden where she had intended nothing more travailing than to plant onions and tomatoes, and gave birth to a bovine.

Mrs. Fudderter told her son she thought he was a pest and, before you could say, "Take your hat off before passing under the bridge," poor Johnny was transformed into a horsefly.
Mrs. Twilgrunder was exactly and precisely correct. She had a fine treat of as palomino.

It was so cold in the house that Mr. Mattersubstants' rear end turned into a block of ice and fell off.
After dinner, Amanda Doitdebobble turned into a whale.
Jill Geezelouise, although she loved Eric Hornibuttup, turned him into a creature with the head of an attractive version of Satan, large rocks where his shoulders had been, supported by the legs of a stallion. At precisely the same instant, Jill became a block outhouse.

Mildred Zinterwacker and Alexis Sweetfromthefarm became glued together in a cup of freshly brewed tea. Shirley Borderwartcherwack, explaining her situation to a panhandler who certainly did appear to be a ravenous steed, scrunched into a thin line of the pavement and shattered in a number of pieces.

Billy Battyfuchia, who formally gave no thought to his having been raised in a mansion, in the depth of luxury, was seriously contemplating the fact that he had become a swine, and seemed now to reside in the appropriate pen. Two fellows watching the scene cause Billy's father and Carl Baverianscreampiet to grow into healthy, rigid giants because they cells turned into nickels, dimes, and quarters. Kerry Tottleatuneout, explaining why a recent business venture was going to bring ruin, looked down to see that everything below his pelvis had disappeared. Perry Rudennastyics' heart not only turned into a dark insignia from a deck of cards, but actually resembled the letter 'A.'

Myron Flivertinywitts cussed old Jack Olstontagaloactchkey and, upon his word, October 3rd, 1901, was damned. Wayne Pallomebuddy, surfer extraordinaire, became a hugh frankfurter. Albert Foldacotonyerhead fell on his face, was dragged to the cliff on the border of town, where he lingered precariously on the tips of his teeth.

After Randy Pullyerpantsup became a large cobb, he was unable to tell the silly play's on words which popped into his head. Sue Elaganteandmist's finely shaped, perky and sensuous breasts turned into rigid, long, absurd trombones as she passed the construction sight at 4th and Main.

Lou Restandhalfforsure discovered to his chagrin that whether they were better or not was irrelevant inasmuch as two heads were a nuisance. Little Eddie watched helplessly as his mother, Jane Readingsakliandbeirce, spoke the charmed words, which made the evening shirt for which he was searching turn into a viper, jump and bite him.
Fussy Amy Reacockamonga, a prudish young woman, became a twig in the mire.

Farmer Digdeepditchit was surprised when, upon a word from Harriet Sugarshakering, all the pigs on his farm sprouted wings and began soaring above the barn.
Several people, including Fred Tuffentheface and Barney Holdthephoney, went directly to the fiery nether world. Many lawyers and business executives became various, generally hidden, body parts
Tom Uniformafolio, who left town that afternoon, totally forgetting his promise to appear as Miss house at 8 o'clock, was rudely whisked across the state line at precisely 7:59.

Mrs. Funderfighs spoke angrily, then rolled up into a ball, rumbled, and burst into a yellow cloud.

Phoebe Smartaduck announced, and received her wish, that everyone who was yakking in her ear would have his or her mouth fall right off. Jim Fuelleruppity, in an expression of amazed curiosity, caused his sister Lily to give birth to the cutest baboon you would ever hope to see.
At last, Simon Beckencall said, "God forbid," and everything changed back to normal.

You can believe it. You cannot believe it. I do not care. I just know it was not fiction. Since then, most of the people have moved away and changed their names, except Jennifer Jenny Jen Weheehahaha And I am still searching for sweet Beverly Ann Newmanlomngtopsthompson

© David Schwartz Jan 2009

G. David Schwartz - the former president of Seedhouse, the online interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of 'A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue'. Currently a volunteer at Drake Hospital in Cincinnati, Schwartz continues to write. His new book, Midrash and Working Out Of The Book is now in stores or can be ordered.
Check out my latest book on Midrash

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