CAPE SAN BLAS—It’s a sunny day on the beach, but cool, with a steady breeze. It’s the perfect kind of day to have the blood sucked from your body by Old-Testament-style mosquitoes. Which is exactly what is happening to me.
I have never seen mosquitoes this bad. I just walked my dog, and for three minutes I whined, “Go tee-tee, for the love of God!” while mosquitoes had their way with my body.
Soon, my white T-shirt was painted with blood smears. My poor legs were chewed to shreds. I have so many swollen bites that I look like the Michelin Man. On my upper body alone my wife counted—this is an actual number—190,281,333 bites.
Why am I telling you this? Because I always tell you worthless stories that have no basic point. This is the role of a columnist. Which, I suppose I am.
I come up with tiny pieces of insignificance to fill this column (if you call it a column). And I have been writing this thing every day for six years now. I can hardly believe it.
When I started doing this, there were a few people who offered me advice such as, “Don’t do it,” or “Nobody reads columns anymore.”
One tidbit came from a prominent writer who I once asked for advice. He said, “Why would anyone read YOUR writing? What makes you so special?”
The prominent writer was only trying to give me a dose of reality, but it made me feel ridiculous. Then he went on to tell me that column-writing was a total nightmare.
For one thing, Mister Prominent pointed out, how in God’s name would I come up with new things to write about?
Well, he made a good point. To find something that’s important to write about every single day must be very difficult. But then, I wouldn’t know. I write about mostly unimportant topics. Mosquitoes, being just one of those things.
And if you’ve been reading this column for any length of time—and I don’t know why you would—you know I’ve written entire pieces on other universally vital topics like:
Leaving the toilet seat up; body odor among Methodist choir members; T-shirts with dumb slogans printed on the fronts like, “I hate being so sexy, but somebody has to do it”; people who take a penny but never leave a penny; elderly beach goers who hand the Piggly Wiggly cashier sweaty cash from their bra; and cheese dip.
Once, I actually wrote an entire column about my dog eating a remote control and about how the tiny rubber pieces from the number-pad reappeared two days later in my dog’s—how do I put this?—daily column.
I’m not kidding. When my dog went to the bathroom, there were eight undigested numbers from the remote in this order: 0, 3, 28, 54, 19. We never did find the 7. Or the 6.
And because I was raised right, what I did next was drive to the nearest convenience store and play these exact numbers in the Florida Powerball.
To my wonderful surprise— and I know that what I am about to tell you is hard to believe, but I can only attribute my good fortune to the mysteries of heaven—I got a flat tire on the way home.
Bada bing! There’s your column.
And this is what I love about column-writing. It’s the most bizarre thing, placing your life into short-story form. It changes the way you see the world.
Instead of just going through daily life not noticing things, now I go through daily life paying very close attention to my dog during her most private moments in the backyard.
The truth is, for my entire childhood I wanted to be a newspaper guy. Before bedtime, my father would read aloud the works of humor columnists to me. We would giggle before I finally fell asleep. And when I got older, I found that I had read every Erma Bombeck and Andy Rooney compilation book ever made. And when Lewis Grizzard died, so did a piece of me.
There’s a story my mother tells. I was in second grade, I had lost my two front teeth. Without these crucial teeth, people said I looked exactly like a miniature version of my Uncle Ray Ray who lived in the trailer next to the sewage processing facility.
Anyway, one day the second-grade teacher asked our class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I announced that I wanted to be a columnist. But because of my missing teeth what actually came out of my mouth was, “I’m gonna be a communist, ma’am.”
In those days, this remark was not taken in good humor. The Cold War was still going on and Gorbechev was still a thing. I was taken to the principal’s office whereupon the principal, in what would become one of the most patriotic moments of my life, looked at me and said, “HEY! You’re Ray Ray’s nephew, aren’t you?”
So I have kept this column going for longer than anyone thought I would. And right now I just want to say how grateful to you I am.
I started out as some bumbling guy who posted short stories on the internet. But over the last six years, I have been transformed into a bumbling guy who posts medium-short stories on the internet.
And even though I will probably die due to mosquito-borne disease, I want any child out there who reads this to know two very important things:
One: The Powerball jackpot is up to 140 million as of right now.
And two: Prominent people don’t know everything.