The Understander

“I HATE YOUR GUTS AND I’M GOING TO BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT!” screamed the bad guy with the gun.  A vein stood up and flared on his forehead like a baby snake made of lightning.

“I forgive you in advance for whatever you do.  Nothing’s going to change my love for you.”  

These words were spoken by a smiling, bland-eyed man who was bristling with tranquility.  His formidable calmness was like a mountain fortress.  If he’d had feathers, not even a tornado made of Velcro could have ruffled them.

“I HATE THAT SONG!  NOW I WON’T BE ABLE TO GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD FOR THE NEXT SIX MONTHS!  EEEYAAALLRCCHGGH!  I SHOULD SHOOT YOU JUST FOR THAT!”

“Forgive me for my tactless speech.  I’m one for whom words are out of reach.  I understand your rage, my friend.  Feel free my poor life now to end.”

“CAN YOU STOP SPEAKING IN RHYMES, YOU MONOTONOUS SON OF A BITCH?  DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW INSUFFERABLY PRETENTIOUS A HABIT THAT IS?  I’D RATHER POUR MOLTEN WAX IN MY EARS THAN HAVE TO HEAR ANOTHER PHRASE AND REMAIN DEAF FOR ALL MY DAYS–GOD DAMN IT!  NOW YOU’VE GOT ME DOING IT!”

The Understander looked at the flustered ice cream man and shook his head sadly.  He hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings, and knew the only way he could cure him of his agonizing fury would be to lead him through the painful childhood trauma in which it had originated.

“DON’T THINK I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING!  I CAN READ YOUR MIND.”

“Speaking of songs that might drive you mad–“

“OH, NO!  WHY DID YOU HAVE TO REMIND ME?”

“I didn’t have to–I chose to.  Everything in life excepting death is a choice, you know.  Besides, it’s not a bad song if you give it a chance.”

“BUT YOU HAVE TO ADMIT IT’S OVERPLAYED–OR AT LEAST IT USED TO BE.”

“You can only blame the deejays for that, not the recording artist.”

“WILL YOU CUT THE CRAPOLA?  I MEAN THE PAYOLA.  YOU GOT ANY GRANOLA?  SHIT! NOW I CAN’T STOP RHYMING.”

“I know what you mean.  You’re a prisoner of monkey mind.”

“‘HEY HEY, WE’RE THE MONKEES; PEOPLE SAY WE MONKEY AROUND.  BUT WE’RE TOO BUSY SINGING TO PUT ANYBODY DOWN.'”

“You must at times cleanse your mind in order to engage in independent thought.”

“WOULD YOU LIKE A BOMB POP?”

“That would be grand, thanks.  By the way, why are you so upset?”

The ice cream man suddenly lapsed into a spot-on impersonation of early Elvis, before the so-called King of Rock and Roll joined the army and emerged as an increasingly schlocky, bloated, embarrassing, sequin-studded parody of himself:

“‘MY BABY LEFT ME, NEVER SAID A WORD; WAS IT SOMETHING I DONE, SOMETHING THAT SHE HEARD?'”

“You know that song ‘Wild World,’ by Cat Stevens?”

“SURE.  I USED TO SING IT IN THE SHOWER WHILE TRYING TO SLIT MY WRISTS WITH THE JAGGED EDGE OF A BROKEN WHISKEY BOTTLE.”

“Well, you know the part that goes, ‘I’ll bet you’ll make a lot of nice friends out there, but just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware'”?

“YEAH?  WHAT ABOUT IT?”

“I used to think he was saying, ‘Just remember there’s a lot of that anywhere.'”

“YOU MUST HAVE MOVED HOUSE A LOT AS A KID.”

“Wow, how did you know that?”

“YOU DON’T HAVE A MONOPOLY ON UNDERSTANDING, MACK.”

“How did you know my name was Mack?”

“IT SAYS SO ON YOUR NAME TAG.”

“Reminds me of that old Mac Davis song:  ‘Baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me. . . I’ll just use you and I’ll set you free.'”

“DAMN YOU TO FUCKING HELL!  THAT WAS MY EX’S FAVORITE SONG!”

“Heck, I knew that.  Why do you think I brought it up?”

“ARE YOU TRYING TO ANTAGONIZE ME?  DO YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH?  ARE YOU TRYING TO COMMIT SUICIDE BY ICE CREAM MAN?”

“Hey, where’s my fucking bomb pop?”

“DON’T YOU USE THAT KIND OF LANGUAGE WITH ME, YOUNG MAN!”

“Sounds as if someone’s got a double standard.”

“‘STAND BY YOUR MAN, AND HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU.’ I USED TO SING THAT TO HER, THINKING IT WOULD BRAINWASH HER INTO LOVING ME.”

“Don’t forget the Bonnie Raitt song:  ‘I can’t make you love me if you don’t; you can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.'”

“ANOTHER TIME I DID MY BEST JAMES TAYLOR IMITATION LACED WITH A DOLLOP OF CAROLE KING AND ASKED HER:  ‘WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW?'”

“Oh, so you like the white people’s version of that song better, eh?”

“YOU KNOW WHAT SHE SAID?  ‘NO!’  I SAID, ‘I MEANT THAT AS A RHETORICAL QUESTION, YOU MALEVOLENT BITCH!'”

“I’ll bet that little pet name endeared you to her tremendously.”

“YOU DON’T KNOW THE HALF OF IT.  SHE THREW A GLASS OF WINE IN MY FACE.”

“Good thing it wasn’t coffee.”

“IT MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN.  IT WAS MULLED WINE, AND IT WAS PIPING HOT!”

“Gosh!  So what did you do?”

“WHAT COULD I DO?  I RAN AND DUNKED MY FACE IN THE TOILET.”

“A wise move.”

“HEY, THE WATER IN YOUR TOILET IS AS CLEAN AS THE DALAI LAMA’S GLASSES.”

“I knew that.”

“I THOUGHT YOU WERE BEING SARCASTIC.”

“I don’t have a sarcastic bone in my body.  Um, about that bomb pop. . .”

“RIGHT!  SORRY ABOUT THAT. . . ER, YOU’LL HAVE TO EXCUSE ME, MISTER, BUT I’M FRESH OUT.  I SOLD THE LAST ONE AN HOUR AGO.”

“God damn it!  To hell with you, you incompetent piece of shit.  Who needs to do business with you anyway?”

“PLEASE DON’T BE ANGRY.  ISN’T THERE SOMETHING ELSE I CAN OFFER YOU?”

“Got any world peace in there?  How about creative freedom?  Any leftover intellectual honesty?  Artistic integrity, perchance?  Common sense?  Decency?  Brotherly love?”

“YOU DRIVE A HARD BARGAIN.”

“Better than a Chevy* Pinto or an AMC Pacer.”

“I REMEMBER THE AD SLOGANS FOR BOTH OF THEM:  ‘AN EXPLOSIVE DRIVING EXPERIENCE,’ AND ‘SHATTER YOUR BOREDOM AND YOUR MIND.'”

“Are you sure about those?  I guess your long-term memory’s more durable than mine.”

“YOU STILL HAVEN’T ANSWERED MY QUESTION.  WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY FROM MY TRUCK?”

“Do you have anything that’s simultaneously edible, delicious, and non-carcinogenic?”

“I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN OFFER YOU ONE ITEM THAT COMBINES ALL THREE OF THOSE CULINARY VIRTUES, BUT I CAN GIVE YOU SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.”

“Oh?  And what would that be?”

The ice cream man pressed his forefinger against a spot to the left of his sternum and said:

“AN UNDERSTANDING HEART.”

“Thank you for nauseating me.  And now I have to go and find a discreet place to barf my guts out.”

“I THOUGHT THAT’S WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO SAY!”

“I liked you better when you weren’t a total sap.  At least then you had an edge.”

“HEY!  COME BACK HERE–YOU MADE ME THIS WAY!  HEEEELP!  I DON’T WANT TO BE A SAP FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!  MOMMY!

“Too late now!  Mwwaaa-haa-haa-haa-ha!”

And with that, the Understander rode his bicycle off into the sunset.

(Who knows what treacle lurks inside the hearts of men?  The Understander knows!)

 

*This might have been a Ford product and not a Chevy; in any case, it was manufactured by an American car company–surprises galore.

 

ge.”

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