by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
September 3, 2006
KARL THE CURMUDGEON ISSUES A CHALLENGE
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- I can use any word in a sentence, I boasted to Karl, as we were having a beer.
Karl is the curmudgeon I met a few weeks ago. Turns out he had been something of a writer in his younger days, and had also appointed himself my mentor and literary guardian angel.
"Yeah right, Kid," he snickered, wiping the foam from his snow white beard.
No really. Pick a word.
It means peevish or easily annoyed, as in Karl the Curmudgeon was rather tetchy when I made fun of his hat.
"This is my favorite hat."
What happened, the guy at the fair couldn't guess your weight? (Karl made a gesture at me as he reached for his hat.)
"How about 'ochlocracy.'"
Sure. 'Could you please spell ochlocracy?'
Okay, 'what does ochlocracy mean?'
"That doesn't count!"
Hey look, it's an ochlocracy!
"You don't even know what it means," said Karl, plunking his beer bottle on the table.
Sure I do. It means government by the masses, or mob rule.
"How'd you know that?"
I looked it up while you were gazing lovingly at your hat.
"What?! I wasn't gazing - never mind," Karl sighed and jammed his hat back on his head. "Let's do something tougher, Mr. Big Shot Columnist. I'll bet I can find a topic you couldn't do a column on."
Doubt it, but you're on.
"Okay. Inseams on men's trousers. What would you write about that?"
Well, I would talk about how, as men get fatter, they somehow manage to keep their same waist size, but fail to notice their inseam has gotten six inches shorter, or that they haven't had their belt around their waist since they were 18.
"That's it? That's just a fat guy column," Karl protested.
I could do a bit about how tailors hate measuring inseams of men because they might accidentally... touch something.
"Oh sure, jokes about a guy's privates are always A material." Karl plunked down his bottle again. "Quit relying on the standard stuff. Dig deep."
I could talk about what 'dress left' and 'dress right' mean.
"Okay, that's a start. You get a C+ for trying."
Gee thanks, Karl.
"Here's another one. Could you do one about the internal combustion engine?"
Child's play. 750 words about how the inventor was inspired by his own internal combustion after he ate beans or cabbage.
"Fart jokes?! Kid, you've been doing this for over 12 years, and you're still working with fart jokes?"
How can you have known me this long, yet still be surprised by this?
"What about something about breakfast cereal."
I could make a few cracks about the commercial where the kid is stuffing Cheerios in his dad's pockets to help lower the dad's cholesterol. Then I could do a joke about how the dad is stuffing porterhouse steaks into his boss' pocket to raise his. Of course, there's the old standard of the stuff kids want to eat versus the stuff parents want them to eat, with a couple of jokes about how the parents have a box of kids' cereal hidden in the pantry. And of course, I can't do a column without talking about cereal for physical problems, like constipation.
"More scatological humor?"
Just the one joke. There's all the other stuff about the parents and kids' cereal.
"Alright, you pass."
See, I told you this is easy.
"Don't get cocky, Kid. What about a column on guys who have glass-pack mufflers so their cars sound loud?"
Hmm, a little tougher.
Ha, I knew it. I stumped the Kid!
No, I'm just trying to decide whether to express novice bewilderment, or just make fun of them. You know, the 'hey everyone, look what I spent my money on' approach.
"And you could do 750 words on that?"
Glass pack mufflers and loud cars? The problem is keeping it down to 750 words. Come on, quit giving me softballs.
"All right, I've got one. Write a column about how you write a column."
"Come on, come on!"
"I knew it. You can't do a column on everything. I knew you had your Achilles heel. I win!"
Give me a minute, I'll think of something.
"Nope, I win."
So what do I get if I come up with something?
"I'll buy the next three rounds."
Fine. I'll start with something like "I can use any word in a sentence, I boasted to Karl," and just go from there. Pay up. I'm in the mood for something imported. And expensive.