Phrases Explained (Part 5)
A penny for your thoughts – your thoughts are pretty much worthless
God bless you – you're disgusting
Put a sock in it – when you ask what else you should put in your stuffed suitcase
A picture is worth a thousand words – unless it’s a blurry picture
Friendly fire – when you’re roasting S’mores, and the fire is just that perfect temperature, putting a smile on your face and treating you right
Nose to the grindstone – cocaine lingo
Needless to say – When you decide to talk, but acknowledge yourself that there is really no need to
Benji, Em, and Me
Em and I went on a trip to Boise, Idaho. The only thing I knew about Idaho was that they have the best potatoes in the world, but I went to visit a cousin in Wisconsin one year, and the baked potato he bought me from Sam’s Deli and Craft Supplies was the best thing I've ever consumed. It was kind of fruity. That’s not to say the Boise potatoes weren’t good, but when you’re a state and you’re known for a food, it better be the best hands down.
I was recently fired from my job as a rock-climbing instructor, so it was nice to spend some time in Idaho with a good pal. Apparently to hold down this job, people really care that you know how to rock climb. And they tell you this after you lie your way through the interview. America is full of morons.
We stood in line at airport security to head back home to Mississippi, and I was sad our trip was coming to an end. Em got pulled over for having too many snacks in her bag. She had almonds, walnuts, dried mangoes. She preferred to snack over eating meals. I got pulled over because they thought my cantaloupe was a bomb. “It’s just a cantaloupe,” I said. “We’re gonna have to pat it down,” they told me. “He won’t let you until he gets his lawyer,” I said. No one laughed.
Once we got through, Em was up in boarding group 1, while I was back in boarding group 5. It’s a terrible system. Makes me feel like a feudal serf. As I waited alone, anxious to get on this plane to Mississippi, I started counting one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi… as I was taught to in the fourth grade. Why do I have to be reminded of my horrible home every time I wait in lines? I just want to pass the time, not remember that family dinner when I found my cousin Earl and my other cousin Janis hooking up in the bathtub.
When I finally got to the front of the line, the lady told me the plane had just been filled, and there were no seats left. “Not with that attitude,” mumbled the man behind me. I turned around. It was Benjamin Franklin.
I couldn’t quite understand why Benjamin Franklin was boarding a plane to Mississippi. I also couldn’t understand why he was currently in Boise, Idaho. Maybe he wanted to try the potatoes. I wonder how he liked them. But there was no time to think about any of this.
Benji grabbed me by the arm, and told the lady, “Wait here.” As we power-walked, arms linked, he told me that we were never going to have to see that lady again. He didn’t look me in the eyes either. This man was on a mission.
“Benji, there’s one problem,” I said.
“There’s never a problem that can’t be fixed.” Benjamin Franklin was a true optimist.
“Well, my friend is on that plane.”
“Er, oof,” said Benji. He looked down at his shoes then spat on the airport floor. He rubbed his foot in the spit, making a squeaking sound. He ruminated hard. He then looked up at the ceiling and made an obnoxiously loud yawn. It looked like he hadn’t brushed his teeth in ages. “Alright, so we won’t find another flight. We’ll move to plan B.”
It’s never very reassuring to move to plan B when you came up with plan A five seconds before. Especially when it’s really plan C, because the original plan A was to just board the plane. Either way, I had heard a lot about this guy, so I felt comfortable trusting him.
He started emptying his backpack furiously. He took out a kite, a chess board, and a pros and cons list of staying with his wife, Deborah Read. That marriage must not be going too well. I saw something that said ‘affair with Jane Austen’ but I wasn’t quite sure. When he felt satisfied, he looked over at me and said, “Sometimes you just gotta lighten the load.” It sounded a little like a proverb, but it also sounded like what annoying people say when they feel like you can’t have silence in a conversation.
We returned to the front desk lady, and she looked no happier than before. One could say less happier as a matter of fact. But Benji made his case. If he had the time to become a lawyer, I swear he’d be a great one.
He threw his backpack on the front desk. An orange fell out and the lady grabbed it and took a bite out of it as if it were an apple. Juice squirted in my eyes. It stung like when you get shampoo in your eyes, but there was no shower to wash my eyes out. I groaned, and Benji slapped me on the back of the head. He later said that was a secret to curing stinging eyes, but that’s a load of bull.
While he explained why we needed to get on the flight, I stood there in pain. But I also started craving an orange. As I was about to go find an orange to buy, I heard Benji yell, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi…” God, I hate that.
The next thing I know, he leapt over the front desk screaming, so I followed suit. I felt bad for the lady though because we were really causing a ruckus, so I opened my bag and gave her the cantaloupe I had bought in Boise. I figured it was a nice gesture.
Benji and I sprinted down the jet bridge to board the plane, but when we got to the edge, there was no plane. The plane was gone. This was not good. There was rain and thunder, so it was difficult to see anything at all. I knew Em was probably worried about me, but she was also going to be pissed because I had her chickpeas in my fanny pack. If there’s anything better than a Wisconsin potato, it’s a Mississippi chickpea. And nobody knows that more than Em.
I started to panic, but Benji remained steadfast. He was a resilient man. Gears in full motion in his brain, I could feel him coming up with a plan. I thought about mentioning I had rock-climbing skills on my resume, but I remained silent because that was technically a lie. Grabbing his kite, he put it in his mouth as he continued digging through his backpack. A plane rolled by right next to us, and I could see Em, asleep, face pressed against the window. Benji gave me the line, as he held the frame and leapt onto the plane. The way this man was leaping today, you would’ve thought he was an ancient LeBron James. But as he jumped into the air with the kite, lightning struck and electrocuted him. Benjamin Franklin was dead. I’ll never know his thoughts on Idaho potatoes.
Not only did he die, but he discovered electricity too. It was a pretty remarkable feat. The whole fiasco became worldwide news, and it delayed our flight tremendously, but I was still able to get on and get a seat next to Em. She was out cold the whole time, though, so when I tell this story at parties, she insists I made the whole thing up. But I'll never forget the memories I shared with Benji. Every time I turn on the lights I think of his beautiful smile and his uncombed hair. And I wonder if Jane Austen misses him.
If 14th Street Could Talk
I hate my life. I live in the middle of Manhattan: the trashiest, foulest dump in the world with the most pathetic people walking my street every single day. It never lets up. People with skateboards, motorcycles, cars, and even frickin razor scooters. Those are the worst. By far the worst. They think they’re hip or something, but they just look like a 5 year old who never learned how to grow up. They probably go to work and sit in high chairs and spill cheerios all over their ugly faces. It’s only fun when they fall. When they try to look cool and jump over a pothole, but instead they just eat shit. That makes my day.
And it's not just the people that really piss me off. It’s the iHop. It’s the Taco Bell. It’s the giant advertising of nonsense nobody gives a flying fuck about. It’s the guy selling mangoes in plastic bags as if anyone would ever buy that garbage. It’s the old man who plays the same obnoxious beat on his little pots and pans, keeping me up at night. Learn a new beat. Pick up a harmonica. Do anything different. It’s everything about Union Square Park, the lamest park in the city. It's just dirt. And this is my home. And I hate it all.
That’s what’s on my mind.
Oh also, this college scandal is hilarious. Parents bribing colleges to get their kids into their stupid schools. I just like visualizing the phony kids posing for tennis team pictures, and they can't figure out how to hold a racket. And the photographer is just standing there like, "Do these kids really play tennis or are their parents paying millions for them to pretend?"
What thinkers. What scholars. Man, people are great.
Phrases Explained (Part 4)
By the skin of your teeth – Lips
Drag race – Women and men dressed in drag run a 5k
A fish out of water – When a fish is at a restaurant and asks a waiter to refill her glass
Neither here nor there – nowhere
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – please don’t kill your children
Busy as a bee – when you have to make a lot of honey
That came out of left field – Ted Williams
It's Too Toasty Outside
Everybody keeps telling me temperatures are rising, but nobody knows what they’re talking about. Every adult I meet has an answer. Daddy, Mommy, and even Donalbain, my pet bearded dragon, seem to have all the answers. But they don’t. They can’t predict the future. Nobody can predict the future. Except for me. I may only be eight years old, but trust me I’m psychic.
Ever since I was four years old, I remember hearing about global warming. I didn’t get it. How did me throwing my biscuit wrapper in the wrong bin relate to the earth getting toasty? Nobody gave me a good explanation. Mommy just yells at me and Daddy never recycles. He told me that farts from cows are the reason for global warming. But if I were a cow, I would fart as much as I wanted because sometimes, it’s just fun. Like when I’m in my bed and everybody else is asleep. And I don’t think daddy should say anything because he drives a 2002 Ford F-150, and it smells like a skunk’s butt.
But like I said, I can predict the future pretty goodly. When mommy threw a vase at daddy, I predicted that they wouldn’t be living together for much longer. I was right. When my school teacher tripped and fell in class, I predicted that Ronnie would laugh and get in trouble. I was right. Ronnie was taken to the principal’s office. If you don’t believe me, you can ask anybody who knows me because they would tell you that I’m smart. They would tell you I am psychic.
When mommy first told me that I was causing greenhouse gasses, I told her she was wrong. She told me I better watch my mouth, and I told her that it is hard to watch my mouth if I don’t have a mirror in front of me. She took away my video game privileges and told me to go outside. So I went in the backyard and pretended to be a cow. I farted all over the place.
Eventually, mommy came outside and tried to apologize, but she is never really good with that sort of thing. I ignored her failed apology, and I told her why she was wrong. I told her that she is a large woman and I am a small boy, so when she breathes, she emits large amounts of CO2. I only emit small amounts. I also told her that I planted three saucer magnolia trees in my school yard, and I’ve never seen her plant anything. I also said she was silly because she always brags about her electric car, but she takes long cruises every few months. Cruises make me seasick. They also emit more CO2 than I ever will.
But the thing that really makes me mad lately, is that mommy and daddy keep talking about what will happen in the year 2050. I keep saying that they’ll both be dead by then, but I whisper that to myself so they don’t hear me. I don’t think warmer temperatures will make me dead in 2050. That’s what Jeremy talks about at school, and it makes me scared just thinking about it. I don’t like him. He’s always angry about something. In 2050, I think we’ll all be sweating too much. That’s my prediction. Nobody’s talking about it, but we’re all going to stink. Every one of us. We’ll walk outside, and it will be so toasty we will just start sweating. You’ll go try to have a play-date with a friend, but you’ll get tired too fast and will have to go inside. And then you will have to crank up the a/c, and that will just use more energy from burning something, which will lead to greenhouse gasses. It will get so toasty that you won’t want to bike or walk to school anymore. You’ll be so fed up with sweating all the time, you’ll hop back in your 2002 Ford F-150 and speed right down the road without a care in the world. That’s what will happen in 2050. And I don’t like it.
I still think it’s funny, though, because nobody explains anything. For the past year, I’ve been throwing away my banana peels in the blue recycle bin. But I just found out that our recycling company can only recycle paper. Banana peels are not paper.
I also used to throw away whole chunks of broccoli in the blue bin. Chunks of broccoli are not like paper at all. But nobody cares to tell you these things when you’re a kid. People just scare me. That’s all they like to do. People like to yell, and they like to scare. When Aunt Tricia died in the Fall, mommy told me that I would end up like her if I didn’t eat my chunks of broccoli. But if I’m going to tell truth, I’ve never seen grandma eat a chunk of broccoli in her whole life and she seems to be doing just fine. Jeremy told me during reading class that I was a stupid person because I sometimes stutter when I talk. You should not say something if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I may be a very smart eight-year-old, but I do not know everything. I went to feed Donalbain last night. Donalbain is lucky because he will be dead by 2050. Before I fed him his crickets, I looked at him. He was smiling. It was nice. I rarely smile. I don’t like that. I am good to Donalbain, but he lives a really sad life. He has no friends, and he has no family. The crickets are the only people he can talk to, but he has to eat them. He can’t go for long walks, and his only toy is a dirty rock. I give him water, but I sometimes even forget to give him that. And even with all that, he looks at me and smiles.
Donalbain is not like Jeremy. Jeremy is always insulting people. Probably because his parents are always insulting him. But with a haircut like that, he sometimes deserves it.
Donalbain is not like daddy. He doesn’t blame cows for his own responsibilities.
Donalbain is not like mommy. He doesn’t yell at me without knowing what he’s talking about.
Donalbain is not like me. He smiles.
I don’t want to confuse anybody because I don’t like being confused. A smile will not cause 2050 to be a less sweaty year. There may be nothing we can do to stop 2050 from being the sweatiest year of all time. But if people stop yelling at each other, I think it won’t be so bad. I think we should leave the cows alone and let them fart away while we eat salads. I think we should stop fake apologizes and start understanding the blue bins. We should be like Donalbain who never tells a lie. And he never has a frown.
I realize now that I really liked when I said I was psychic. Sadly, that was a lie.
©2023 Jake Schick