August 10, 2012



It was a paperback book with a white matte finish. Just the right size to serve as a back-up for the crossword puzzles. I had cut the puzzles from the morning newspaper.

Well – – – it was not really a newspaper. It once was but over the last few years it had turned into my contribution to the recycling bin.

The only thing of interest was the obituaries. I wanted to see which of my acquaintances I had outlived. It was sort of a game between them and me. I knew they were doing the same thing; looking to see if I had croaked. Well I hadn’t and had no plans to do so. And the game continued; however, I was winning.

I must make a quick correction. I had two more things of interest in the newspaper; the “Dilbert” cartoon and the crossword puzzle.

I loved “Dilbert.” It reminded me of my days working for a tech company. The loudmouths, the arrogant, the walking wounded, the cliques that chained themselves together for promotional purposes, the inept managers, the easily bribed facilities engineers, the purchasing agents who somehow bought a new auto every year, the useless human resource people and don’t get me started on the corporate lawyers.

Now see what you made me do? I started to explain to you about my white matte finished paperback book. But no, you couldn’t just listen. You made me tell you about the “Truths of Dilbert.”

It really doesn’t make a difference because you are going to hear the story whether you wish to or not. You can stop reading right here but it wouldn’t do you any good. You will be haunted to know where I am going with this and soon will return.

After several weeks of filling out those crossword puzzles I noticed that the white matte finish of my paperback was a maze of printed letters. I had inadvertently transferred the ink from the back of the crossword onto the cover of the white paperback. It looked interesting so I decided to determine what letters, and possibly whole words, had been transferred. It took some doing; and this is what I found.

A nice clean “A” surrounded by nothing. An “H” overlaid by what I assumed was “S.” Slowly the whole thing came into focus.

10 Across: An ego-centric social media

3 Down: A corrupt state


Then I noticed that other words came into focus;


The words on the white matte finish of my paperback soon became jumbled once more. I had an idea. I fetched a soup bowl from the cupboard, tipped the paperback on its edge and all the loose letters slid off the cover and into the bowl. Not all of the letters, just the loose ones. The remainder stayed on the cover for farther inspection.

I wasn’t too sure as to how I would make sense of my bowl of alphabet soup. Of course! I made some broth from a cube of beef extract and carefully poured it in the bowl. All the letters floated to the top. I blew on them; not so much to arrange them but more to cool them off. But re-arrange they did:

And then I became so famished from the travels in this children’s book that I finished off the bowl of alphabet soup.

I became sleepy from my travels and the hot meal so I returned to my Lazy Boy and put my feet up. The paperback book rested on my stomach. I must have dozed off and found myself in Russia.

My grandfather met me at the gate. He said his name was Bincente. How would I know? I never met him. He had passed away long before I arrived. He introduced me to my Grandmother Annah. She said her maiden name was Wladika. Once again I couldn’t argue so I accepted them as my grandfather and grandmother. They had Polish names but said we were in Austria.

“How could that be?” I asked.

She informed me that Austria had taken over their homeland and if I wanted to stick around for another eighty or so years I could see the Russians take over.

I said “No thank you and departed.”

Mój dziadek spotkał mnie przy bramce. On powiedział, że jego imię było Bincente. W jaki sposób mogę wiedzieć? I nigdy nie spotkała się z nim. Odszedł on długo, zanim przybyłem. Wprowadził mnie do mojej Babki Annah. Powiedziała jej panieńskie nazwisko Wladika. Po raz kolejny nie mogłem twierdzą tak przyjąłem je jako mój dziadek i babcia. Były one jednak, że polskie nazwiska byliśmy w Austrii.

“Jak to być może?” zapytałem.

Poinformowała mnie, że Austria przejął ich ojczyzną i jeśli będę chciał trzymać na innym osiemdziesiąt lat widzialem Rosjan.

 I rzekł: “Nie, dziękuję i odszedł”.

I heard Bincente (or whoever he was) tell Annah “Crazy kid!” as I was walking down the pathway.

I headed for the village proper when I met Rasputin of all people. He was a large man, powerful in build and powerful in presence. His eyes were a mixed shade of bluish-green and they sat far back from his cheekbones. The dark shadows created by his brows created a foreboding image. The scraggly beard didn’t help to calm my nerves. I tried not to make eye contact but he knew I couldn’t. He raised his left hand and motioned me with his index finger to come closer. I was afraid to refuse. He had a stench about him. I finally noticed the necklace of old garlic draped around his neck. He informed me that he was taking me to the palace to meet Tsar Nikolai II and his wife Alexandra.

And then the paperback with the white matte finish slipped off my lap and fell to the floor.

I woke up.

I quickly tore the cover off the paperback and threw it in the fireplace. It didn’t do much good.

The fireplace turned into a library and I was forced to read all of those crossword puzzles over and over again. Some of the plots were quite interesting; others, – – – not so much.