Archive for January, 2009

[Note: This week’s story for 52 stories is here: Happily]

Unlike the rich friends I had in high school, I was not afforded a brand spanking new BMW upon receiving my license in 1980. No, I had to purchase my very first car on my own. It wasn’t easy to save money on my four dollar an hour salary I got for slicing lunch meats at my uncle’s deli, but I scrimped and saved and cut down on my drug and alcohol expenditures and soon had enough to get myself a decent used car. I had these visions of getting a used nice car, like a Chevelle or Mustang or even a souped up Nova like my neighbor had, but my dreams were crushed when I realized exactly what kind of car $800 would get you in 1980.

I became the proud owner of a 1973 Oldsmobile Omega. Maybe it wasn’t sporty or fast or sexy or brand new, but let me tell you, that car was one solid piece of machinery. When I was behind the wheel of that thing, I felt invincible, like I was driving a tank.

Soon after I got the car, my younger sister got her learner’s permit. She begged me daily to take her driving, but I kept blowing her off with the excuse that with her permit, she was only supposed to drive with someone over 21. Sure, at that age traffic laws are meant for breaking. Unless not breaking them is convenient for you. I just did not my sister driving my car, so I feigned obedience to the law.

And then one fateful day, her constant begging and nagging wore me down. I picked her up from school and decided to let her drive home, just to get her shut up. Oh, you see where this is going, don’t you?

She pulled out of the school parking lot, made the left at the light, did all the right things like turning on her directional and checking her side view mirror. It was going good. I relaxed a bit. She accelerated as we hit the main road and got it up to 50 before I reminded her that the speed limit was 40. But she wasn’t paying attention to me. She was waving out the window to get the attention of her friend who was standing on the corner.

“Jo….” A traffic light was approaching. She kept waving at the friend.
“Jo…..” That traffic light was red. The friend on the other side of the street was waving back.
“JO!” The light was not just turning red, not briefly red, but red as if it had been yelling “Stop, you moron!” at us for the past ten feet.

By the time I actually got the words “Fucking brakes!” out of my mouth it was too late. I saw the car coming at us on my side. It was barreling through the intersection at a good clip and, well, it had the green light. I’m sure as that driver lazily sped through under her green light, she wasn’t expecting to see a car zooming in front of her. But there were were.

I braced myself for impact, which is what you are not supposed to do, in theory, but what your body automatically does, in practice. The sounds of the Clash’s Brand New Cadillac coming from my cassette player gave way to the sound of metal upon metal and screeching brakes. The other car slammed us broadside, so hard that its license plate became embedded in my back passenger door. The Omega spun and turned and ended up on the median, a “No U Turn” sign inches from my face in front of the windshield.

When the car stopped moving, I took stock of the situation. I was alive. My sister was alive. In fact, we were both kind of sitting where we had been at moment of impact even though neither of us were wearing seat belts. The engine was hissing, the woman who had hit us was screaming something, and Brand New Cadillac was still playing. I heard voices outside the car “Holy shit, did you see how hard they got hit?” “They have to be dead!'” “I’m afraid to look in there!” “Dude, that was sick!” There were people milling around the car. Finally, someone poked his head in the driver’s window and was surprised to find two young girls, very much alive and not the least bit hurt.

I turned to my sister, trying to be a bit compassionate since she was probably very shaken up. I resolved to save my abject anger at her until later.

“Are you ok?” She looked up at me, nodded, and then:

“I broke my fucking nail!”

That’s when I started punching her.

That the car completely wrecked and we escaped unscathed, is quite the testament to the strength and tank-like qualities of the 1973 Oldsmobile Omega. They don’t make them like they used to.

To this very day, my sister will insist that her light was green, maybe yellow, but not red yet and the lady that hit us was in the wrong. I have given up pointing out the obvious, like the fact that the other lady got nary a ticket, or that she couldn’t get her license until she was 18 because of the accident, or that there were several witnesses that refute her story of innocence. She can believe what she wants to believe. In my world, she wrecked my first car and, while I’ve forgiven her for it, I make sure to never let this story rest.

So, what was your first car?

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25 things

In case you haven’t heard (most likely from me complaining on twitter), I’ve been down with the bubonic plague the past few days. Just in case my seven or so readers have been wondering about me. And it seems in those few days I was AFB (you know, away from blog), I was tagged several times in another one of those “tell me more personal details about your life so we can further strip away any anonymity the internet provides you” memes. Well, I just recently did the seven things and it’s pretty damn hard to come up with 25 more things that would be semi-interesting even for someone who liked me. But I’ll certainly try. In a roundabout way.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. Ok, then.

1. Michele does not have herpes.
2. Michele is not currently doing the Humpty Dance.
3. Michele has the “fail whale” as her desktop background at both work and home.
4. Michele now refers to Firefox as “Mozzarella Firefox” thanks to her best friend’s kid.
5. Michele does not really enjoy talking about herself in third person.
6. Michele will therefore stop talking about herself in third person after this.
7. I am good at keeping my word.
8. I rather enjoyed Chocolate Rain, in a completely unironic way.
9. I cry at the end of Armageddon.
10. I only watch the end of Armageddon and have seen the complete movie only once, but the ending about 25 times.
11. I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.
12. I have never wished I was an Oscar Meyer wiener just so everyone would be in love with me. But I did wish I was a little bit taller.
13. I will possess your heart.
14. I have never had a sexually transmitted disease.
15. I have a tattoo on my ass that says Property of Todd.
16. I have no tattoos. I am also a liar.
17. I have, since fifth grade, been living with the suspicion that someone is watching every single thing I do on a giant movie screen somewhere and this affects me to the extent that I sometimes get embarrassed if I sing the wrong lyrics to a song when I’m alone.
18. I believe that everything you need to know about me is wrapped up in that last sentence.
19. I will not go quietly. Unless I die in my sleep, then I suppose I have no choice.
20. I’ve got to let you know, you’re one of my kind.
21. I right now, at this very second, am experiencing a head throbbing that might be a tumor.
22. I am an alarmist.
23. I am also an overthinker.
24. And I am really big on going with worst case scenarios.
25. I think everyone hates me and you’re all plotting to kill me, which you will accomplish by contacting the guy who is watching me on the movie screen, because he can tell you when I’ll be alone in my living room, crying over Armageddon, which would be a really good time to kill me.

Now I’m supposed to tag 25 people, but fact #26 about me is I don’t have 25 friends. So consider yourself tagged if you read this.

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do the terrier dance!

So some group did some survey about some dogs and some stupid dogs made it to the top of some stupid list as somebody’s favorite dogs ever. Do I sound jaded about bitter about that? Well, I’m NOT. I’m just astounded by the poor choices and bad taste of some people when it comes to dogs. Because everybody knows that miniature Schnauzers are the greatest dogs EVER. I mean, look at this. Come on, LOOK AT HER.

friday morning, eager

Could you die from the cuteness? Lili Von Shtupp is an awesome dog. And not just because she’s MY dog. It’s because she’s a Schnauzer. A cute, little, mini Schnauzer.

These are the top 10 dogs on this year’s list:

1. Labrador retriever
2. Yorkshire terrier
3. German shepherd
4. Golden retriever
5. Beagle
6. Boxer
7. Dachshund
8. Bulldog
9. Poodle
10. Shih Tzu

Ok, Labs are nice, but too big. Same with German Shepherds though, in my experience, they are pretty stupid dogs. Poodles? Lame. Shih Tzus? Those are not dogs, those are little balls of annoying fur. If you can carry your dog in your purse, it’s automatically disqualified from being the best anything, besides fashion accessory. Also, if you dress your dog in clothes? SHAME ON YOU. When the dog revolution comes, you will be first against the wall!

My awesome, incredible dog is a terrier, by the way. And terriers, well, allow me to quote the brilliant Kids in the Hall here:

Terriers are my very favourite breed
Cute, cuddly easy dogs to feed
Terriers were there in the 11th century
Napoleon had one to prevent misery

Anyhow, I was wondering about you, as I often do. But this time I’m not wondering about what color your boxers are or how I can fit safely between your hedge and your window without anyone noticing me, I was wondering about your dog preference. Because the answer to this might be a deal breaker in the “friending you on a social media application” thing. So, if you have a dog, what kind of dog do you have? If you don’t have a dog, what’s your favorite breed, and don’t say hot dogs.

No matter what you choose, I will make up my own answers to this informal poll and announce later on that the Kennel Club is wrong and Miniature Schnauzers are, indeed, the greatest dogs EVER.

Feel free to link to pictures of your amazing, but not as amazing as mine, dog. Ok fine, stick your cat in their if you left out.

[and while I have you here, don’t forget to check out TisP, where today I anger die hard Clash fans. And also, I really need to update my blogroll. Y’all have some awesome blogs I’ve been trying to catch up on]

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tag, you’re it

I was tagged by several people to do this questions thing, in which you have to answer each question using only one word. I ignored it for as long as possible, but it seems my blog needs a little inanity today. So do I. So let’s do this.

Two things first: a) I cheated, kind of. b) I stopped at 16, otherwise I’d be wearing pajamas to work.

1. Where is your cell phone? here
2. Your significant other? significant!
3. Your hair? messy
4. Your mother? fanatic
5. Your father? mets
6. Your favorite thing? mmmm
7. Your dream last night? god
8. Your favorite drink? water
9. Your dream/goal? writer
10. What room you are in? mess
11. Your hobby? click
12. Your fear? insane
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? there
14. Where were you last night? coma
15. 40. What are you doing tonight? game
16. Muffins? blueberry

Now I’m supposed to tag people, but I don’t have time, so I’ll just tag everyone who is reading this. Hah! You’re it!

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365 and #3 of 52 stories)

52 stories.

He held his breath as always when he entered the tunnel. Counted to ten. Exhaled. Inhaled. In with the good, out with the bad. It would be over soon. Just a few minutes until the light at the other end.

And then he was stopped, the tunnel filled with the red glow of brake lights. Horns blared and echoed, curses could be heard floating in the air. He felt the familiar lurch in his heart and talked gently to himself. Calm down. Probably just some idiot who didn’t know how to merge. Or a stalled car. Or an accident. Or a terrorist attack. Zombies. The wrath of God.

He closed his eyes and waited a full minute before opening them. The Toyota in front of him hadn’t moved an inch. A truck driver stepped out of his cab, leaned leisurely against his truck and lit a cigarette. Whatever was going on up ahead, it wasn’t going to clear up anytime soon. The cacophony of car horns and shouting died down as people realized they were stuck.

His heart raced. He started sweating. And then the cold feeling started trickling through his veins, startling him with its quickness. His hands, feet, head all seemed to go numb at the same time as the panic set in and fear took over. His breath started coming in shallow gasps. His mouth and throat dried up and when he tried to swallow a gulp of air, he imagined his throat had closed up. He leaned his head out the window and gasped for air, taking in huge gulps before he could choke on his own imagination. He reached for the water bottle on the passenger seat, unscrewed the cap clumsily, spilling half the water on the gear shift. He finally got his shaking hand to deliver the water to his mouth and he swallowed greedily. Then he opened his car door and puked into the tunnel.

The amount of vomit that came out reassured him that his throat was not closed up after all, and he leaned back against the head rest, car still idling, traffic at a standstill. He closed his eyes and imagined all the things that could cause such a jam. His mind finally settled on a car fire, and then he waited, breathing unevenly, for the flames to suddenly shoot down the tunnel and trap him in a deathly inferno. He had seen a tv show about this once, one of those World’s Wildest! shows, and they did a computer reenactment of what happened in some deadly tunnel fire years ago. He wondered if this tunnel of death would be on a tv show some day. Would they do a computer model or would they have actors play it out? Would the actor who plays get the part right? But how would they know? They couldn’t know that two minutes before fire came raging out of control down the tunnel, he had vomited the day’s breakfast into the street.

He waited. Still no fire. But no sirens either. It must be Armageddon out there, then. The world had ended. They were saved by being in the tunnel and soon some brave man would come stumbling through the wreckage, telling them to follow him to safety. They’d form a tight knit group together and go out in search of other survivors. Perhaps start the world over again. Do it better this time.

The imagining of ridiculous (but possibly true) scenarios lulled him into a light sleep. He dozed off right there in the middle of traffic, his engine running, his radio tuned low to static, people walking by, voices going in and out, somebody calling him….

“Wake up, Jimmy. You’re having that dream again.” His wife was shaking him. He rolled over, looked at the clock in his nightstand. 4:59. He hit the button before the alarm could go off. He lay back on his pillow for a moment, remembering the dream.

He thought this might be the day. Maybe he’d quit today. Maybe he’d tell them how much he hated all of them, the whole building, the work, his desk, his boss, his computer, his briefcase, all of it. Then he looked at his wife and remembered why he only thought about this every day, but never did it. He kissed her gently on the cheek, got out of bed, popped a Xanax and prepared to face another day feeling like he’s trapped in a tunnel.

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This was originally published at Pajamas Media on November 5, 2008, where it was received with, shall we say, criticism.  That’s putting it nicely.  I thought I’d reprint it here today in honor of tomorrow’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. And hopefully get a better reaction.

We have a black president.

Yes, we have a new president. We have a Democrat president. But we have a black president, and that’s an important distinction to make, because it means something.

It means this nation has progressed. It means the line Jackie Robinson broke in 1947 has been extended to the farthest possible reaches. Imagine going back in time to 1955 and telling Rosa Parks, “One day a black man will be president.” It would be like going back to the 1940s and telling people we would one day walk on the Moon or fly to Mars. What seemed impossible in one time, becomes reality in another. That is progress. Progress is something to be proud of.

Of course, we elected Obama the man, not just the black man. We elected his ideals, his vision, and his hope. We elected him because we wanted change. And now that the time for change is here, we need to embrace it, all of us.

As Americans, it is in our best interest to greet each new president with hope. Regardless of whether you voted for Obama, he is going to be your president. Each new president needs to be given the benefit of the doubt from the people who did not vote for him. He may not be your choice, but he is your president. This is your country. What better way to usher in new leadership in the White House than with a country that can come together and hope for the best?

I have been on the losing end of elections before. I know the feeling of despair, the feeling of rejection and even anger that comes after your candidate loses. I may have been disappointed and perhaps a bit angry, but the one thing I always remained, above my emotions, is an American. As a whole, we all want what we think is best for the country. Isn’t coming together to support our new president part of what is best?

In his concession speech last night, John McCain said:

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

We are all Americans. Look at the pictures and videos from people around the country, even around the world, celebrating. There is an overwhelming emotion out there, and it is called hope. This is what Obama brings to the White House. This is what he brings to our country. You have to ask yourself, do I want to be a part of that hope? Or do I want to continue to live in fear of the unknown? To my Republican friends out there who voted for McCain, my hope is that you follow your candidate’s advice, and take his words to heart.

Benefit of the doubt. That is something the people who did not vote for Obama need to give to the president-elect right now. It does America no good to throw stones. It does American no good to draw more lines when we just crossed such a huge one. You can have hope that Obama listens to the whole country, and not just the people who voted for him. You can hope that things go better than you think they will. You can hope that whatever fears you have for the economy, for the troops, and for America as a whole are proven to be unfounded. But we all need to have hope. We need to be Americans together, not Americans apart. For the last four years especially, this country has been a divided one. It is my hope that Obama can close that divide and bring us together, by being a man of the people, and a man for the people. We all want the same things. We want to fix the economy. We want to find a way to bring the troops home without disturbing the peace process in Iraq. We want to feel good about the future. We want to hope, and we want that hope realized.

As I listened last night to friends and relatives who voted for McCain concede their hope for a Republican victory, I was buoyed by the optimism that existed within their resignation: “This election did not go the way I wanted it to, but that does not mean I give up as an American.” “I hope he can bring some unity to this country.” “I wish him the best, because I wish America the best.”

Look around you. Look at the tears of joy, listen to the voices of hope. When was the last time you saw this many Americans — black, white, old, young — experience such joy and hope together? Could Obama be the president who finally makes American whole?

Well, that is not really up to Obama. He can set the stage for it, but the rest is up to us. It is up to us.

As Obama said in his acceptance speech, America is a place where all things are possible.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

United. Are we united? Can we prove to the world, after this election, that we are a united country? That is part of my hope.

This is, indeed, an historic election. It is an historic day for us. We have shown that we welcome and accept change, that we are open to ideas that once seemed absurd, that we can affect change that once seemed impossible.

To quote John McCain once again:

And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Believe in America. Believe in the hope those of us who voted for Obama believe in.

History has been made. Let’s embrace it, together.

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raising hell

What follows are posts from a long ago, long defunct website called Raising Hell, where I used to write sometimes funny, sometimes heartfelt stories about parenting with some other crazy parents, and I just recently found all this stuff – which I thought was lost forever – at archive.org. So for my posterity and hopefully your amusement, some Raising Hell. All of these are from 2002/3.

1. Letters Never Sent

Dear Natalie and DJ,

Hi. This is mom. I’m writing this at 3am, after coming home from one of our relative’s weddings. It’s really not important whose wedding it was because you’ll probably never even meet these people and if you do it will only be at the funeral of another relative you probably don’t know. I mean, our family is so big there are probably people I run into all the time that I am related to and don’t even know it. Geez, maybe I even dated some of them.

Anyhow, I’m writing this thinking that someday I’ll give it to one or both of you, depending on which one of you is still living at home or not in jail or if your therapist has told you to never talk to me again. Most likely I will look at this tomorrow morning, laugh maniacally to myself and burn it.

So if I give this to you years and years from now, when you are out of high school and on your way to becoming a famous author (Natalie) or a famous baseball player (DJ) or cashiers in K-Mart or professional students, I want you to answer some questions for me:

Was I a good mother? (This is not multiple choice or essay. A simple yes or no will do)
DJ, do you forgive me for the insect repellent incident?
Natalie, do you forgive me for embarrassing you at every chance I got? (Please note here that I forgive you for embarrassing me).
Did all those video games have any lasting effect on your view of life?
Did you actually enjoy when I sang to you or were you just humoring me?
What one incident sticks out in your mind as a defining moment in our relationship? (Nat, the time I lost you at the Bronx Zoo doesn’t count, and DJ, neither does the time I took a picture of you in that dress and told you I was saving it for your first girlfriend).

So anyhow, I just wanted to tell you guys that I love you and I always tried to do the right thing by you even if it seemed to you at the time that I was being the meanest mother in the world. And every time I said It’s going to hurt me more than it will hurt you, I meant it. And every time I said, this is for your own good, I meant it. And every time I said you guys are gonna drive me to drink, I meant it. And every time I said I love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, with a big fat cherry on top, I meant it.

So if by some error of judgment I actually do give you this letter some day, maybe you can look back and laugh at the fact that your mother was out of her mind some time. And maybe you can use this as evidence for your therapists.

I love you guys,

2. Life’s Harsh Lessons Learned in a Pet Store

One Saturday afternoon, the phone rings. It’s Natalie. She is calling from the pet store, where she’s with her stepmother.

Nat: Hi Mom, I’m at the puppy store.
Me: No.
Nat: But MooooooOOOOom (that’s about 8 syllables there)
Me: No.
Nat: This is the cutest puppy ever, I even pet him. I would even sell my computer if we could get a puppy. I don’t want anything else but this puppy!
Me: We have discussed this before. We don’t have room for a puppy, and no one wants to buy your brother so we can make room.
Nat: Mom…I pet him, and I fell in love with him and now I have to have him!
Me: That’s what life is, Nat. Falling in love with the unatainable.
Nat. Whatever, mom.

3. The Absolutely Wrong Way to Discuss Sex With Your Child

The day eventually comes when your child asks you THE question. How are babies made, mommy? It’s natural curiousity and, depending on the age of the child, you either sit down and have a frank discussion with them or you tell them that babies grow in the garden and the baby fairy picks them when they are ripe.

But when your child phrases the question in a different way, it throws you off and sends you on a trajectory path to that odd world of a kid’s brain.

DJ had just gotten out of the bath the other day when he said he had a Very Important question for me. Usually his Very Important questions revolve around Derek Jeter’s batting stance or how CatDog goes to the bathroom. Not this time.

“Mom, what are my balls for? I’m not trying to be disgusting or anything, but what are they for?”

I would normally phrase my response to Very Important questions carefully, but he threw me for a loop with this one. I didn’t have time to think of something that would answer his question in vague terms and put an end to the conversation at the same time.

I explained, in child like terms, about seeds and fertilization and babies.

DJ is a realist. He stopped believing in Santa because no one could explain to him in scientific facts how reindeer could fly. He thinks along straight lines, and he needs proof and written explanations of how everything works. So there is no lying to him. Not even fibbing.

“So, how does the stuff a guy has down there get into the woman?”

“Ummm, the guy puts it in there.”

You have to understand, it was morning. We were trying to get out of the house to our respective schools and jobs. Morning mayhem plus Very Important questions equals mommy getting into areas she didn’t intend to. And giving really bad answers.

DJ contemplates my answer for a minute. Then his face scrunches up in a look of horror and appall.

“IN HER MOUTH?? HE PUTS IT IN HER MOUTH??” The color has drained from his face.

I stutter. I stammer. I do not laugh. I forgot that DJ, at 9, knows basically nothing about the human anatomy that does not involve his own little area that he is so fond of well, fondling.

I do my best to explain to him how the sperm gets into the woman.

His jaw drops. His mouth hangs open. He sits in stunned silence for a moment.

“No, really. Don’t make up stuff to me. Tell me the truth.”
“Really, DJ.”
“It would have been better if you just said God made babies. I would have believed you.”

I probably have scarred him for life. But I’m glad I cleared up the mouth issue. That could have caused problems for him later on in life.

4. The Baby Eater

The kid at the pet store swore that we were buying two male hamsters. So when they began retreating to a corner of the cage and performing nasty deeds with each other, we just shrugged and figured they were gay.

Kobe, the smaller of the two, gave birth this morning. So much for the “two males” theory.

Natalie and DJ were standing by the cage, watching Kobe run around while a tiny mutant looking thing dangled out of his backside. Akuma, the molester hamster, was trying to pull the mutant baby out.

Ok, the babies weren’t exactly mutants but have you ever seen a newborn rodent? They look like miniature versions of ET.

Anyhow, I grabbed Akuma out of the cage, put him in the attached cage, and took off the tube separating the two. Some maternal rodent instinct kicked in and I was sure that I was doing the proper thing. It just didn’t look right for the father to be pulling the baby out with his teeth.


Sure enough, Kobe was stuffing the mutants into her mouth like they were treats.

“Maybe she’s just storing them in her cheeks so she can take them to the upstairs cubby,” I said.
“Right, mom. She’s chewing.”
DJ was staring intently. “Do you think they taste good? I bet they’re really nutritious.”
“You want to try one?” I pretend to open the cage up.
“Ewwww mom! Hey, how come there’s no blood or anything squirting out when she bites on them?”
“She’s eating them whole.”

They stare for a few minutes then a look of horror crosses DJ’s face.

“Umm..mom? Weren’t they from the same litter?
“Yea, why?”

DJ and Natalie alternate between making gagging sounds and cracking up. Meanwhile, I go to the computer to look up FAQs on hamsters. I talk to the incestuous rodent.

“You should have thought about this before you started humping her, you know. What did you think was going to happen? Now you get stuck in the little apartment and she wants no part of you. Oh yea, I know, she’s partly to blame. She could have said no. But you’re going to have to go back in there and take responsibility for your actions.”

I read through the FAQs as I talk to Akuma. “Now, Akuma, you go back in there and umm…lick the babies and eat the placenta. And then umm…clean up your girlfriend, too. And help her out with the babies.”

I envision myself giving this talk to DJ some day. Without the placenta eating part. I think “It’s never too early to start handing out condoms.”

You can learn an awful lot from a rodent.

There’s plenty more where that came from, if you want them.

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