Columns » Bob Lancaster

Wondering

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We were playing the wondering game at the House of Dominoes the other day.

First somebody wondered why everybody used to go fishing but now hardly anybody does. There was general agreement that it used to be an adventure but it got to be just a lot of trouble, hot and itchy and stinky and time-consuming, and almost as soon as you get there you remember something on TV that you wish you'd've stayed home to watch.

"After catch-and-release set in," Butt Ugly said, "I realized I could drop a jig in my downstairs commode of a morning and come just as close to filling up a stringer."

Then somebody else wondered why Arkansas gave up being the Wonder State, which was an interesting-sounding thing to be, with the hot springs, the diamonds, the watermelons, and all, in order to become, successively, the Land of Opportunity, which means nothing's happening here but one of these days it might, and now the Natural State, just as dull, and one of the meanings of which is naked — that is, totally without any wonders to show off. Does that sound like promotional progress?

"Naw, it don't," the Advisory Board agreed.

"I used to wonder what the twelve ways was that Wonder Bread helped build strong bodies," Mo Better said. "They said it was twelve like the twelve apostles or the twelve steps of AA, but they never specified."

"You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent," Day Late sang, remembering the early TV jingle. "The yellow didn't really go nowhere. It could outlast Pepsodent or Ipana or battery acid. All them old Camels and Chesterfields and Lucky Strikes. Murdering two whole generations."

I was taking notes on this and might've messed up some of the attribution. I'm not sure, for example, who noted that both Seabiscuit and Gene Autry's Champion were called the Wonder Horse. Or who wondered if Jesus, on the horns of a dilemma, ever asked himself, "What would I do?" Or who wondered if birds migrate just out of habit.

I'm sure, though, it was Old Priss who wondered why there'd be a restaurant called the Mammoth Orange in a place called Redfield. That makes no more sense than a Mammoth Red in Orangefield would, he said.

"So what's your point, Priss," Day Late said to him.

"Just something I've wondered about," Priss said. "I thought that would qualify. I didn't know it had to have a point."

The Deacon said, "Why do the wicked prosper? Most everybody since Jeremiah has wondered that, and still not a good answer for it. It's nowhere more evident than in the NFL."

"That's pretty cryptic, Deke," I told him, and he wondered what cryptic was.

My first contribution to the wonder palaver was to share some typographical arcana with these morons. I explained the importance of avoiding transposition, with the example of how it could turn your sincere and heart-rending little love song into an absurdity: "I wonder who's nissing her cow."

That didn't go over, so I went on to wonder why there always has to be a storyline.

"In the news business these days, if it doesn't have what they consider a good storyline, they won't give it the time of day," I elaborated.

That's a true fact, and a national disgrace, and a catastrophe, and I wanted to pursue the idea – the storyline, if you will – but a lot of the other domino masters in this benighted bailiwick aren't interested in trade talk, or in any other kind of elevated discourse. They do their wondering on a baser level.

"I wonder if it was Jesus hisself or somebody else that repealed the Jew law against eating ham," one of the Brothers Parmalee said.

"I'm glad whoever done it done it," his less cerebral brother said. "Think of all the ham that'd be going to waste if they hadn't."

"Yeah, in the modern world, they's an awful lot of ham," the brainier Parmalee said. "If somebody didn't eat it, we'd be in it neck deep. It'd be like oil in the Gulf of Mexico, only meat."

It  wouldn't be anything like oil in the Gulf of Mexico, of course. I wanted to say that. And I wanted to say that religious dietary proscriptions aren't the kind of "laws" that can be repealed. And several other things. But I held my tongue. You can't argue with some people. You can't argue with tea weasels or boy preachers or bully Parmalee types full of received wisdom from blowhard radio. You can't keep them on topic, either.

A passing-through Hothead or Knothead threw in uninvited with their nonsense, giving us all to know that Muslims have a law against eating ham also. Actually the same law. From the same book.  "I wonder what'd happen if you took a ham steak with red-eye gravy like they used to serve at John Noah's and set it down in front of old Obama," he said. "My guess is a hurl bigger'n  George Sr. unloaded on them Nips."

That'd tell the tale, all right, the Advisory Board reluctantly agreed, but Dollar Short annotated: "It wadn't John Noah's with the red-eye. That was Gray's Restaurant, out on East Harding. I had many a good club steak there. John Noah's drownded everthing in brown gravy."

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