A taste treat in every bite

My old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, has adopted a new persona – that of a reclusive Oregon leftover gourmet.

Or perhaps that’s gourmet of leftovers…

I mean, he’s left over, but so is most of the food he consumes.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

The phone was ringing insistently a few afternoons ago and, since telemarketers usually wait until I’m eating dinner and Sapper invariably calls between midnight and 4 a.m., I felt reasonably safe in answering the infernal device.

Bad move.

Sapper, forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs in Bolinas in 1968, had thrown me a telephonic curve ball and had uncharacteristically rung during daylight hours.

“Had to call you, bro. I’ve got a recipe that’ll make Marie Callender look like John Madden. We’ll revolutionize leftovers. Kids’ll love us. Housewives will worship us. We’ll open franchises an’ get fat as a couple o’ Corpus Christi cowboys on a pork binge…”

I could have hung up, but the mental picture of me and Sapper as fat as a couple of Corpus Christi cowboys on a pork binge was just too intriguing to let go.

“I discovered it while I was cleanin’ out the ‘fridge in the van. There was like some old leftover macaroni and cheese and some old leftover mayonnaise and those lil’ bitty smoked sausage things and a dead trout I kinda forgot about,” Sapper continued on breathlessly. “I tossed the trout, but I put the rest of it together for what I’m gonna call ‘The Ultimate Oregon Cold Maraconi and Cheese Sandwich Dee-light.’ That way we can copyright the dee-light part when this taste sensation sweeps the nation.”

Sapper then proceeded to give me his secret recipe for leftover macaroni sandwich success. It’s really not bad – it just sounds that way. And if any of you think I’m going to suffer through this alone, you’re crazy.

Here’s Sapper’s latest recipe for success. Enjoy.

Ultimate Oregon Cold Macaroni and Cheese Sandwich Dee-light

8 lil’ cocktail sausages, chopped

1 box extra orange macaroni and cheese (anything from the local Dollar Tree or smashed food store will do)

1/4 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon. garlic powder

1 tablespoon mayonnaise or reasonable facsimile

1 splash of reddish hot sauce

2 slices of sourdough bread

Prepare macaroni and cheese as per label instructions (the ones on the box…)

Stir in onion, sausage and garlic powder.

Let sit in refrigerator or in cold climate for 2 to 3 days.

After macaroni has become sufficiently left over, take two slices of sourdough bread and slather with mayonnaise-like compound. Spoon large globs of cold macaroni and cheese onto bread, splash with reddish hot sauce and combine two pieces of sourdough bread to make a sandwich. Serve cold.

* To make two sandwiches, double this recipe.

Bon appetit, amigos, and don’t say I never did you any favors…

Originally published May 12, 2002

Everybody’s gonna want to see this…

Over the years I’ve learned that there are only two people from whom one can reasonably expect a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning. One of them is the coroner. The other is my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper.

Forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, Sapper wakes up bright and early at about 1:30 a.m. every morning and energetically begins telephoning acquaintances at random to let them know he’s rarin’ to go.

Once you’ve listened to one of Sapper’s endless schemes to better the world, improve the environment or mitigate his German shepherd’s body odor, a call from the coroner clearly seems like the lesser of two evils.

Last Thursday was no exception. I knew I shouldn’t pick up the bedside telephone when it began ringing at 3:30 a.m., but I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

“Wake up, bro! How’s things down there in the great smog karma basin? Probably lousy – but you already knew that, right? Choking down there with the teemin’ hordes an’ the gridlock an’ rats an’ stuff…” Sapper began cheerily from the shadowy depths of his Eugene, Ore., crash pad.

Sure, I could have dropped the phone, but I was hooked. I had to know where Sapper’s train of thought was headed after the smog and karma and rats and stuff.

“Not that things are much better around here ever since Ken Kesey up and died on us. The ol’ Merry Prankster’s gone and the whole damned town’s been flatlined ever since. We’ve gotta do something soon or we’ll all turn into lawn furniture or something…” he mused.

Fortunately, Sapper had a solution for the community’s doldrums in the wake of the famed counter-culture author’s untimely demise.

Unfortunately, I stayed on the phone to listen to it.

“I think I can save the sorry spirit of Eugene, bro, but I’ll need your help and we’ll have to act fast.”

Uh-oh…

“It came to me while I was havin’ some dental surgery yesterday. Ya see, my gums are gonna be bleedin’ for a few days an’ I got a big bottle of Demerol to fight the pain and existential angst and stuff,” Sapper continued. “On the way back from the drug store, I bought a couple of those, like, jester hats – you know, with the little bells? An’ right then I knew we could save the town.”

Bleeding gums, Demerol, little bells?

“Catch the first flight up here, we’ll gobble a mess of the Demerol, put on the jester hats and take to the streets. It’ll be great. I can, like, spit blood through my teeth and say ‘Bwaaaaah!’ to scare the Republicans an’ you can stumble around all goofy-like and fall over stuff and say ‘Hee-hee-hee!’ like you used to,” Sapper enthused. “We’ll go to the golf course, we’ll go to the Moose Lodge, we’ll go to bowling alley an’ we’ll have a hot time in the ol’ town tonight, buddy boy. Ol’ Ken’ll be up there in the cosmos cheerin’ us on – so go get that plane ticket!”

As hard as it may be to believe, I’ve decided to postpone my trip to the hinterlands of central Oregon until Sapper recovers at least part of his equilibrium. On a more positive note, though, I’ve learned many valuable lessons from his call. For example, I’m now fairly certain why my dentist never prescribes Demerol for a toothache…

Originally published February 10, 2002

Hey, howsabout some deep-fried spaghetti

Funny how just a few words can send your thoughts tumbling back through the years, vividly recalling events better consigned to the dusty, shadowed corners of your blissfully foggy memory.

Only last week I was relaxing with a particularly pungent cigar and half-heartedly listening to a Davis radio station when the broadcasters assaulted my senses with a promotional message that jokingly suggested all freshmen entering the University of California system be required to complete a cooking course before graduating.

Wonderful.

I knew the radio spot was nothing more than a carefully orchestrated bit of fun. I should have been able to shrug, puff and continue vegetating. Perhaps a little loafing, or even some serious laying about, would have been in order. It was, after all, my day off and I was entitled to remain in a benign state of suspended animation.

But the radio announcer had distinctly pronounced “cooking” and “university” in the same sentence.

So much for blissful semi-consciousness.

Suddenly I was catapulted back in time to a place called San Jose State and a world of small, dark kitchen-like places where food products were hopelessly transformed into globs of matter best suitable for paving state prison exercise yards.

If you were one of those young, hopelessly optimistic people who embarked upon your college career not knowing the difference between a cauliflower and a colander, I’m sure you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

It was a very, very dangerous time.

I recall one desperate college chum who, in a moment of insatiable hunger, tried to heat some tuna. In the can. Without opening it. The stove burner, of course, was set on high because my classmate was in a hurry.

The memory of that kitchen still haunts me…

Another student of my acquaintance decided to prepare spaghetti one dark, dismal afternoon during finals. He said fixing spaghetti was easy because he’d seen his mom prepare it. He knew he had to place the pasta in some kind of hot liquid. He opted for very hot vegetable oil.

Yes, there’s nothing like a big pot o’ deep-fried spaghetti. At least until it catches fire…

Then there was McBig Mac Stew.

This particular recipe was created by a rowdy group of counter-culture collegians who lived in a Victorian hovel a short distance from campus. Since none of them really knew how to cook, it was considerably easier – and much safer – to let McDonald’s do it for them. And since they never had any disposable income, it was thriftier to peruse the Dumpster behind the popular fast-food eatery.

Remember, this was the late ’60s, so they viewed liberating discarded hamburgers from a Dumpster as a kind of political statement.

Once they had the slightly-past-their-prime Big Macs back in their kitchen, they’d cut them into quarters, dump them into a pot with a cup of cheap white wine and a can of mushroom soup and let the mixture simmer for an hour or two.

This was usually a fairly safe meal unless my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, showed up and decided to slip some of his secret herbs and spices into the mixture.

I have to admit, whatever Sapper dumped into the stew seemed to improve the flavor, but it could play hell with your short-term memory…

Originally published September 23, 2001

Parents, teachers and fourth-grade intrigue

You may have noticed a recent article in the newspaper about how best to survive a parent-teacher conference. You know the drill – show up, remain calm, plan ahead, keep an open mind…

Unfortunately, these well-intentioned articles all too frequently are aimed at the people who are going to be least affected by the outcome of an after-school chat – the parents.

After all, parents are simply going to be advised of the problem if a student’s pet horned toad keeps getting loose in Mrs. McKenna’s fourth-grade classroom. The roaming reptile’s young owner, however, is the one who’s likely to lose custody of his scaly, pop-eyed pal.

If, during a parent conference, a teacher decides more homework is in order, it’s the student, not the parent, who’s going to be laboring under the burden of all the extra work.

Let’s face it, if anybody needs help getting through (or around) parent-teacher conferences, it’s the reluctant subjects of those conferences.

I still remember the terror with which my schoolmates and I anticipated parent-teacher conferences.

Throughout elementary school, I ran with a trio of ne’er-do-wells collectively known as the King boys. We made an honest effort to behave during school – sometimes for 15 or 20 minutes at a time – but our good intentions usually unraveled.

We never carried guns or blew up the science lab, but in those innocent days spitwads, contraband bubble gum and unauthorized yo-yos were considered felony offenses. And parent conferences meant all of our sins were about to be dredged up and our good intentions forgotten.

Although we had no helpful newspaper articles to guide us, we did develop several desperate strategies we hoped would get us safely past parent-teacher conferences.

One marginally effective technique was simply trading parent-teacher conference slips with each other. Thus the eldest King boy would have one of his parents go to youngest’s classroom and I would misguide my parents to the middle King boy’s teacher and he would send one of his parents to my classroom.

I think this almost worked once, but since we were all about two years apart, our parents eventually caught onto the fact that the 12-year-old King brother probably shouldn’t still be in the third grade. My parents were also perplexed by the fact that my alleged teacher kept calling me Larry.

It also became apparent that no matter how deftly we switched parents and conference appointments, most of us were usually in trouble for something and no amount of juggling was going to save us.

I was in trouble for pitching a wet, malodorous sponge across the classroom one afternoon, but Larry was already in hot water for pretending to be a space invader by placing a wastebasket over his head and terrorizing all the second-graders. And Reb, the eldest King brother, was facing disciplinary action for graffiti unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Only the youngest King brother, affectionately known as Goose, was relatively free from sin.

Being young geniuses, we decided we could probably send all of our parents to Goose’s parent-teacher conference and somehow escape unscathed.

Did it work?

If you have to ask, it’s probably about time for your next parent-teacher conference – and pay attention this time…

Originally published April 1, 2001

Mighty good eatin’ anytime, you betcha!

If you grew up in America within the past 50 years, a few of your fondest memories probably have something to do with fast food.

Remember your first car and your first Big Mac? Or trying to write a last-minute English essay on the hidden symbolism of french fries? How about the sack of Whoppers with which you fortified yourself before a rollicking road trip to Berkeley?

You may have forgotten the name of your first date, but you’ll never forget your first onion ring…

Some fast foods, I’ve found, are merely edible while others are nothing less than an adventure.

Thanks to a recent missive from Jack in the Box restaurants, I was reminded of the delightfully demented 1960s when just about anything seemed possible – including airborne tacos, Richard Nixon and Who concerts at Guadalupe Reservoir.

For reasons I have yet to determine, Jack in the Box recently sent me a comprehensive report on its ubiquitous taco, noting that roughly 600 of their tacos are consumed every minute and that, placed end-to-end, the annual number of Jack in the Box tacos sold would stretch roughly 28,500 miles.

Uh-huh…

The stats were amusing, but the mere mention of these taco-like foodstuffs sent me rocketing back to the turbulent ’60s when we relied on fast foods to fortify our socio-political commitments, help us study for classes we’d forgotten to attend and to mitigate the effects of too much Red Mountain Wine.

To be honest, we never really thought of the Jack in the Box creations as tacos per se. They were these folded up things that flew out a tiny window if you talked to the clown and then threw fat wads of cash at the guy in the little hat behind the counter.

My old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, may have best summed up the crunchy food product when he hefted two of them over his head, examined them from every possible angle and then proclaimed, “I think I saw something like this on ‘Twilight Zone’ once, bro, except they were, like, breathing and gettin’ ready to invade this little burg in Iowa…”

(NOTE; Sapper may be the only person on earth who remembers this particular “Twilight Zone” episode.)

That first encounter with the basic Jack in the Box taco sold us, though. We discovered they were as good for breakfast as they were for dinner, that they could be thrown much like a Frisbee for high speed delivery under less-than-ideal conditions (“Oh, maaaaaan, where’d all those cops come from?!”) and also could be utilized as convenient book marks while studying for finals.

Finally, the taco-like objects sustained Sapper and I during the big Who concert at Guadalupe Dam.

You don’t remember the big Who concert at Guadalupe Dam? Neither do the surviving members of The Who, but an investigative disc jockey at KSJO had told us it was a sure thing and that the British rockers were planning a free concert at the isolated dam site near Almaden.

So we, er, told about 400 close friends, all of whom showed up for the non-concert and-or to say good-bye to Sapper’s kid brother, who had just enlisted in the U.S. Army.

No, The Who never made an appearance, but Sapper did and he had a duffel bag full of Jack in the Box tacos. Somehow, this balanced the unstable karma at the dam and we avoided being lynched by disappointed Who fans.

Like I said, those were delightfully demented days..

Originally published March 11, 2001

Close encounters of the mushroom kind

I made a huge tactical error during a telephone conversation with an old friend a few evenings ago. During what I believed to be some harmless small talk, I foolishly mentioned that I’d consumed a large portabella mushroom for dinner.

The aforementioned friend was none other than my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, and my brief remark about the oversized gourmet mushroom sent him through the roof.

Sapper, forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, told me in no uncertain terms that I’d endangered my home, the security of the nation and possibly the future of the human race by consorting with portabella mushrooms.

“So they took you in too, eh, bro? You really believed that was a simple, garden variety mushroom that you invited into your dining room?” he asked with ill-concealed disdain. “I really thought you were smarter than that. I mean, did it ever occur to you that mushrooms weren’t supposed to be as big as footballs?”

Before I could reply, Sapper answered for me.

“Of course not, Mr. Trendsetter Gourmet. You just scooped up that so-called mushroom and ran with it, just like everybody else who’s fallen for their insidious alien plot …”

Alien plot?

“Think about it, pal. When was the last time you saw a little can of Green Giant portabella mushrooms, or saw a portabella pizza from Domino’s? Never, that’s when, because before 1978 nobody had ever seen one. And that’s because they’re NOT OF THIS EARTH!”

(I positively love conversations like this.)

“The guy on the Internet at the sheet metal shop laid it all out for me, bro, and it ticks like a watch,” Sapper explained. “Shortly before 9 p.m. on Nov. 12 or Dec. 6 or something in 1978, no fewer than eight guys in Portland – one of them a respected grain broker – saw a group of five octagonal lights crisscrossing the skies overhead really quick and goofy-like and then they just disappeared …

“Yeah, the lights went away, but not the portabella mushrooms and now they’re everywhere and you just don’t get it, do you? How much clearer do I have to make it for you? Start with UFOs, factor in Portland where everything’s just a little bit weirder and then multiply by about 500 billion giant mushrooms just showin’ up outta nowhere like your Uncle Beauregard at a barbecue,” Sapper explained slowly, as if talking to a slightly backward 8-year-old.

“You think those big mushrooms don’t know what they’re doing, bro? First they fool the gourmets, then they fool the man in the street and then they fool Congress and the National Guard and the United Nations. Before you know it, that outer space fungus will have infiltrated every aspect of American life and taken over,” Sapper warned. “In fact, the takeover’s already begun – and at the highest levels of government, Mr. Complacent Head-in-the-Sand Suburbanite.”

I was prepared to scoff at Sapper’s latest conspiracy theory, but he silenced me with what he termed imprescriptible evidence.

“Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself. The next time you’re watchin’ ol’ George W. Bush on the TV, kinda squooze yer eyes together so he gets sorta fuzzy around the edges. Then realign ’em and see what ya got. If it looks like a portabella mushroom, talks like a portabella mushroom and walks like a …”

Uh-oh.

Originally published February 4, 2001

There’s no place like, er, home…

I recently had the pleasure of viewing one of those idyllic Thomas Kinkade creations, a luminous painting that depicted a typical “Hometown Morning” somewhere in the heart of America’s recent past.

Kinkade, the popular “Painter of Light,” had captured a truly charming scene – a quiet street lined by quaint cottages, a rustic church and sheltering trees. This was clearly a time and place where children and senior citizens could feel sheltered and safe – even from each other.

Unfortunately, from my point of view, it was woefully incomplete. I mean, there are home towns and then there are home towns. Every one of them is unique to someone’s concept of what home is all about, and my own home town had several very basic features that were sadly absent from Kinkade’s work.

I carefully examined “Hometown Morning,” but I could find neither hide nor hair of our town inebriate, a revered figure who was always up at dawn to begin his daily rounds of hospitable thirst emporiums.

No, he was not a target of ridicule or pity. If you saw the nattily dressed fellow teetering down the sidewalk in your direction, you nodded politely and knew that you were in the heart of your home town. In fact, depending upon the municipal mainstay’s direction of travel on any given sidewalk, you could also tell the time of day. He had a rather set routine…

Also missing was Prince, the home town mad dog. Prince was believed to have once been a military guard dog who was kicked out of the service for unnecessary roughness. The ill-tempered German shepherd lived in a big, dark house with a reclusive retiree nobody knew.

With the body of a timber wolf and the temperament of a Republican, he’d escape from his yard every other day and terrify the neighborhood by simply standing around with all his hair standing on end. He effortlessly foamed at the mouth and could spend an entire afternoon savagely barking at an inoffensive dandelion or a crack in the sidewalk.

“Come right home from school or Prince will chew your face off,” parents would cheerfully tell their offspring to prevent after-school dawdling.

Then there were the King boys. During the 15 or 20 minutes a week when Prince was safely chained to the rusted frame of a 1947 Buick, parents in my home town could still keep their children in line by warning them that they would “end up like the King boys” if they didn’t behave.

The King boys were three elementary school males who were routinely blamed for everything from liquor store holdups to aircraft hijackings.

If a 300-pound, 68-year-old gunman knocked over the First National Bank and managed to escape, some home town detective would nod sagely and opine, “Yup, those King boys are masters of disguise. They’re probably halfway to Jersey by now…”

If a winter storm flooded downtown streets, blew the roof off the library and sent power poles crashing to the ground, you can bet there would always be three or four red-faced residents shaking their fists in the air and demanding that somebody do something about those damned King boys.

I guess by now some of you can understand my dilemma – Kinkade paints a lovely picture, but if it doesn’t have a mad dog, some soused citizenry and a fifth-grade felon or two, is it really home? Ya gotta wonder…

Originally published on January 7, 2001

Will somebody please alert Switzerland?

Somebody’s in real trouble. I’m just not sure if it’s the nation of Switzerland, the American Beef Council or the electrician at the old courthouse in Portland.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

My pillow was ringing insistently at 2 o’clock a few dim, distant mornings ago and – after knocking over my bedside lamp, turning off the alarm clock and turning on the radio – I deftly picked up the telephone receiver.

The predawn caller was, predictably, my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper. Forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, Sapper likes to let everyone know exactly what’s on his mind anytime after, say, midnight, on any given morning. He favors 3 a.m., but it was obvious that he was in a hurry last week and no time was to be lost.

“I gotta sue somebody, bro – maybe even declare war,” he whispered urgently.

This was serious. Sapper had never declared war before.

“I get, like, a handicap or somethin’ if I declare war and there’s only one of me and a whole mess of Swiss guys on the other side, right?”

This was very serious, I determined, quietly asking “Uh, so what’s up?”

What was up was a bad case of pseudo Swiss steak lockjaw, and Sapper wasn’t the least bit amused.

“It all started when my lil’ brother, Goose, gave me his secret recipe for Swiss steak,” Sapper whispered. “Said all I had to do was take a big ol’ chunk of round steak an’ some salt ‘n’ pepper an’ boil it for 15 minutes or an hour or somethin’ an’ then hit it with a hammer an’ boil down the water till it was gravy.”

Uh-huh …

“So I did like he said, but I didn’t have a lid for the pot, so I went out in the garage an’ got that big ol’ light fixture I found on that lamp post by the courthouse – remember, when I fell outta that tree in Portland? An’ it worked great, but that was still the damned toughest steak I ever had, an’ I lost a filling an’ broke a tooth an’ then everybody told me that wasn’t Swiss steak at all, it was redneck steak an’ Goose is an idjit …”

Well, er …

“So I hadda go to the dentist an’ he gave me a nerve blocker to work on my tooth and my jaw slipped forward an’ all my cartilage moved down an’ now I can’t open my mouth fer anything thicker than a slice o’ pizza,” Sapper continued. “So whadda I do, bro? This is serious.”

Cornered – and more than a little bit confused – I was about to suggest that my old friend go in search of a 24-hour attorney, but he was already on the way to answering most of his own questions before he asked them.

“The way I see it, I can sue my dentist, I can sue the old courthouse in Portland for leavin’ an attractive nuisance around for me to find, I can declare war on Switzerland and see if the UN’ll back me up with one o’ them peace-keepin’ forces, or I can just drive down to Ashland an’ whomp Goose one upside the head for ruinin’ my life with his stupid recipe …”

I judiciously recommended simply whompin’ Goose one upside the head, then I gently unplugged my telephone.

Sapper, however, seldom takes the path of least resistance, so it’d probably be a good idea for somebody to alert the Swiss border authorities – very, very soon …

Originally published September 24, 2000

The sounds of silence? Not likely, amigos…

The hours before dawn are, perhaps, the most uncertain of times. Commonplace objects seem to merge with the gray, pre-dawn light and it’s not always clear what’s real.

There is one thing, however, I can always count on around 3 o’clock on any given morning – if the phone’s ringing, it’s my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, calling to explain why karma runs sideways through interdimensional gaps of subjective reality.

(Sure, go ahead, read that last paragraph again – can’t hurt…)

Sapper, forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, is always ready to share his thoughts with anyone he can reach on the telephone after midnight.

Last Tuesday morning, Sapper directed his telephonic excesses my way, calling from his tastefully deconstructed crash pad in the heart of Oregon and urgently confiding one of his deepest fears.

‘Hey, bro, you ever thought about how many weird people there are just wandering around out there where they could bump right into you an’ stuff?” he asked. “I mean really, really weird – Charlie-Manson-on-the-half-shell weird. You ever wonder about that?”

(Uh-huh – usually when the phone rings before sunrise…)

“It always gets to me when I’m standin’ in line somewhere and I know somebody is standin’ in line behind me and that person could be really, really weird – like a zombified Richard Nixon or somethin’ just breathin’ down my neck…” he continued in an urgent whisper.

Getting a word in edgewise was not yet an option, although I did manage a brief “Whuh…” before Sapper resumed.

“When yer in line somewhere, anybody can just step up behind ya, and chances are they’re crazier than a road lizard. Ya can’t really turn around and see just how weird they might be, because that’s, like, impolite in this society. So ya just gotta stand there and wonder when they’re gonna start swingin’ a dead cat at the back o’ yer head,” Sapper declared.

“An’ then they start makin’ all kindsa weird sounds. Ya ever notice that? Yer standin’ in line at the post office or movie theater or someplace an’ all the sudden the guy behind ya starts making sounds like ‘Glik-glik snnnrrrk’ Oh, man…”

(Glik-glik snnnrrrk?!)

“I mean, ya gotta wonder what’s goin’ on back there but ya don’t wanna look ’cause ya know yer gonna come face-to-face with some guy who looks like Rasputin clutching a quart of vodka in one hand an’ a rabid ferret in the other…” Sapper added.

“Of course, it’s even worse if ya can understand some of the sounds. Then yer hearin’ stuff like ‘Aha! Vengeance…Death…Cottage cheese! Lizard, lizard, lizard! Tanks in the wire!’ hissed at yer back,” Sapper said. “An’ the only thing worse than that, bro, is silence. Then yer sweatin’ it ’cause they’re back there starin’ at the back of yer neck an’ just gettin’ weirder an’ weirder without a sound. There’s no escape…”

Silence? No escape?

Ah, there’s where you’re wrong, old buddy. Escape is as easy as, say, dropping the telephone receiver into a handy wastebasket and burying it under a pillow. And a bedspread. And some old shirts. And a couple pairs of boots. And maybe a big ol’ recliner chair…

Originally published July 23, 2000