Small Conceits

Musings. Stories. Poems.

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At my parents’ dinner table one night, my brother updates us on his health:

John: “They don’t think it’s rheumatory arthritis anymore.”
Mom: “What do they think it is?”
John: “Possibly psoriatic.”
Mom: “What kind?”
John: “Psoriatic.”
Mom: “No, what came before that?”
Me: “He said possibly psoriatic, Mom.”
Mom: “Oh…I thought he said something about a ‘possum.”
Dad: “Me, too.” <adjusts hearing aid>
Mom: “I’m sorry, honey. So, you were saying that now they think it’s psoriatic…”
John: <brilliant deadpan> “Possumly.”

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Help Desk: Conspiracy

HD: “Help Desk.”

Caller: “Hey, I just got this error message that says ‘Something went wrong.'”

HD: “Can you be more specific than that?”

Caller: “Uh, no. That’s exactly what the error message says: ‘Something went wrong.”

HD: “Can you replicate the error?”

Caller: “How can I replicate the error if I don’t know what it was?”

HD: “Look, don’t get testy with ME! I didn’t make the error.”

Caller: “I’m not sure I did either.”

HD: “Well, you’re the one with the error message.”

Caller: “Ha! But it doesn’t say I made the error. It Just said that something went wrong. Passive voice. I might not have made the error at all.”

HD: “What are you talking about? Of course you made the error!”

Caller: “No, no. See: People use passive voice when they’re trying to shift blame or hide something. So I think SharePoint made an error and is trying to blame ME!”

HD: “That’s insane. Passive voice is used all over every Microsoft error message.”

Caller: <pause> “I rest my case.”

HD: “Oh, so now you’re saying that Microsoft blames you for everything, even though it’s actually at fault itself?”

Caller: “No, that’s NOT–…Well, maybe. I mean, think about it…”

HD: “Oh, wait! That’s my other line. Gotta go!”

Caller: “Hey! HEY!” <dial tone> “He hung up on me.”

HD: <answering second line> “Help Desk.”

Caller: “Yeah, hi. I just got this error message that says ‘Something went wrong.'”

HD: “Oh, no…”

Caller: “I know, right? I think it’s a conspiracy.”

HD: “There’s two of you.”

Caller: “I mean, people only use passive voice if they’re involved in a conspiracy, right?”

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Conversation before getting a massage. Except there was more laughing. 

Friend: “Wasn’t that tilapia the other night amazing?”

Me: “Oh, man! I couldn’t stop eating it.”

Friend: “I don’t know what they do to it. It’s like crack!”

Me: “Oh, I know what it is. It’s that damned brown butter. You could put that stuff on toe, and I’d be chowing down on it.”

Friend: “Did you just say ‘toe?'”

Me: “Yeah, I’d be all <nom-nom-nom>, and you’d be like, ‘What’s that?’ and I’d say, ‘Toe.’ and you’d go, ‘Ew!’ and I’d say, ‘Smothered in brown butter.’ and you’d go, ‘Can I have some?’ and I’d share my brown-butter toe with you. Because you’re my friend. And  I love you.”

Friend: <pause> “Where do you go…y’know…when that happens?”

Me: <thinking> “Not sure. But it’s not as far as you might think.”



Dear Human:

A shoebox, a stick, and some birdseed? How stupid do you think we are? Even peanut butter wouldn’t lure us into such an infantile trap.

Regardless, this openly hostile act is not without consequences. Consider yourself warned.

— The Chipmunks


Dear Chipmunks:

OK, so I need to raise the bar a little. I went shoe shopping yesterday, so I had the boxes on hand and figured I’d give it a try. How stupid do I think you are? You’re RODENTS, fer pete’s sake!

Consider the shoebox thing a warning shot. You will cease and desist with the strawberry nibbling, or I’ll have to kick it up a notch and bring out the big guns.

Besides, what are you going to do to me? Nibble my toes off?

— The Human


Dear Human:

Your threats are a declaration of war! Prepare yourself!

We will now begin taking bites out of even the green strawberries. None will ripen! None will be edible! This. Is. WAR!!!!!!

— The Chipmunks


Dear Mangy Vermin:



You WILL NOT destroy my strawberry crop! You will be BURIED!!!!!

— The Superior Species


Dear Human:

Have you considered trying decaf?

— The Chipmunks

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Dear Chipmunks:

I see you persist in your one-bite approach to eating my strawberries. If this doesn’t change, I might have to take action.

Re: strawberry ownership – These plants were started from six plants given to me by my father, who brought them here from Pennsylvania. I planted them, cared for them, and helped them spread and grow. You are simply consumers. You can’t lay claim to them. They are mine.

— The Human

P.S. That bird-shaped shadow that casts itself over the strawberry patch on many late mornings is not a hawk. Nothing to fear there.

P.P.S. Even if it were a hawk, they pose no threat to chipmunks. Feel free to dance around in the strawberries, even when you see that shadow. In fact, bring your family and friends out to play! They’ll appreciate the shade on warm days.


Dear Human:

We have burrowed and tunneled under the strawberries. We have only to reach out and pluck one, whereas you have to leave your above-ground den and walk over here to enjoy them. We re-assert our claim to ownership, since possession is 9/10s of the law, and we are certainly much more in possession of them than you are. We will, therefore, continue to eat them whenever we please.

Besides, we fail to see why this is such an issue. In a week or so you won’t even be able to keep up with picking, cleaning, and hulling them. You can’t possibly eat all of these berries! Human greed is a terrible thing. Give it up! Come over from the dark side and see things the Chipmunk way.

Re: the hawk – We’ve heard that one before. And we’d know better anyway. There’s this little thing called “genetic memory.” Which you’d be more familiar with if your species hadn’t gotten all Cartesian with that “I think; therefore, I am” stuff.

— The Chipmunks


Dear Chipmunks:

Descartes was a fool.

And your mother has a squirrel tail.

— The Human


Dear Human:

“Yo mama” jabs? Really?! Why don’t you go and “evolve” some more? Obviously, standing up on two legs isn’t quite far enough.

— The Chipmunks

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Two summers ago, I had what could only be described as a chipmunk infestation. At strawberry time. IN the strawberries. %@&$!!!

Dear Chipmunks:

If you are going to take bites out of my strawberries, please eat the whole berry before biting into the next one. While I realize there are many strawberries out there, if you nibble a bit more consciously and judiciously, there will be more to go around. I am not opposed to sharing. I do not, however, like waste.

— The Human


Dear Human:

What do you mean *your* strawberries? You live over there, in that weird, hard-sided, above-ground nest. We live directly below the strawberries in nice, normal, underground nests. Therefore, the strawberries are ours.

We ARE opposed to sharing, as we have many mouths to feed, and you have only one big one, unless the white wolf-beast eats strawberries, too. (It wouldn’t surprise us that creatures who cohabitate with you mutate and adopt strange habits.) So, kindly keep your nasty naked paws out of our strawberries.

— The Chipmunks


(It’s ON, people! Arrogant little rodents!)

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Pretzel Box

“Dang! We forgot to put stuff on this side of the box!”

“Oh, dude. I’m all outta words. Used ’em up on the other sides.”

“I’ll help. Lemme see…natural…”

“Yeah, because we don’t use preservatives.”

“Right. And because we use real ingredients.”

“Cool! Let’s use it all. No one will notice we’re saying essentially the same thing. No one even reads these things.”

“Crap. There’s still an awkward space…”

“Well, we could tell people they’re baked.”

“Kind of a small word.”

“How about ALWAYS baked!”

“Seriously? As opposed to ‘Sometimes we bake them but sometimes we just squeeze them raw into the box?'”

“Look, you wanna get outta here tonight? If you’ve got a better idea…”

“Good point. Let’s stick it with a fork & go have a brewsky.”

Side of a pretzel box