Beware the Grammar Slammer

Shannon Kernaghan Grammar-Slammer-400 Beware the Grammar Slammer Deception Culture Grammar Humor Languages Lifestyle Relationship Social Media  social media shannon kernaghan proper grammar personnal aads internet chat grammar audio stories

Here’s a frightening thought – grammar is a window into your soul. It’s not what you say as much as how you say it. And it’s not only what you utter, but what you type into your computer. Yikes!

After reviewing the patterns of politicians, court witnesses and bloggers, linguistic experts can identify a person’s sex and age by the words they choose. Your choice of words is revealed by the pronouns, articles and prepositions you use as well as how you end your sentences because it’s oh-so tempting to end on “to.”

Apparently liars don’t throw around the “I” word. And they’re equally stingy with “but,” “without” and “except.” Those words make the lie more difficult to keep straight, according to linguists.

The analysis extended to the wacky world of dating. After studying 1,600 personal ads on a dating website, some definite trends have surfaced. Turns out women use the words “no” and “never” the most. My husband Paul heartily agrees with that summation.

“Honey, wanna buy a [fill in any type of expensive watercraft/tool/ toy]?” he’ll ask with childlike innocence.

“No, not now.”

“When?”

“How ‘bout never.”

Back to dating. Gay men use long words in their ads. Lesbians tend to use shorter words and write the shortest ads. Straight men use long sentences and swear more often. No wonder their sentences are longer – those expletives take up space. Based on the study’s 80% accuracy rate, this is useful info if you’re looking for love through the personals, unless you’re lying about yourself or your sexual orientation.

One of my friends opted for online dating and is now married to the man she met through the web. Since she had success, she sent me her Woman’s Dictionary for Personal Ads:

  • attractive = pathological liar
  • 40ish = 49
  • easygoing = desperate
  • contagious smile = does a lot of pills
  • New Age = body hair issues
  • sociable = loud and obnoxious
  • fit = flat chested
  • hot-blooded = sloppy drunk
  • needs soul mate = stalker

Obviously this dictionary is more about reading between the lines than analyzing the actual words.

Phew, I’m getting tired, and a little depressed by all of this revealing analysis. Soon I’ll be afraid to write anything for fear of being confused with a liar or a politician. Wait, that didn’t come out as intended . . . or did it?

I’d better go and carefully dangle a few participles before I get into serious trouble.

Find Shannon’s books on AmazonShannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Beware the Grammar Slammer Deception Culture Grammar Humor Languages Lifestyle Relationship Social Media  social media shannon kernaghan proper grammar personnal aads internet chat grammar audio stories

Audio story music
“ERSATZ BOSSA”
by John Deley and the 41 Players.

Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo

Shannon Kernaghan Moms-gun-4 Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo Relationship Childhood Guns Humor Mother's Day  shannon kernaghan phone mom mothers day ammo mothers day honoring mother guns childs duty audio story ammo

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, all of you children – and you know who you are – should honor your mothers. If you don’t want to praise her with fancy dinners or gifts of perfume and jewelry, try a refreshing angle. Use the opportunity as a day of confession to bring you closer.

I’ve named this year the Mother’s Day Air Clearing Event. The process is simple and I’ll demonstrate with a practice run.

Start by phoning your mother. Better to unload your conscience from a distance than in person because your mom’s dropping jaw and arching eyebrows will become too distracting. If you must be in the same room, remove all guns, ammo, and projectiles from her reach.

Here goes. Mom? Remember when I was a teenager and told you those purple marks on my neck were burns from my curling iron? They weren’t. Oh, you already knew? Then this confession doesn’t count. Yes, mother, same reason I wore a turtleneck during that July heat wave. If it’s any consolation, he was a really cute lifeguard.

Mom? Remember when you found a dent in your car and I played dumb? Turns out my friend, Julie, accidentally bumped your door when she drove me home one night. She was too embarrassed to tell you and swore me to secrecy. You figured that much? True, Julie didn’t come around for a few weeks. You’re good! Apparently you DO have eyes in the back of your head.

Mom? Remember years ago how I said the dog made that stain on your white recliner? Well, it was me. I spilled a glass of grape juice and blamed Mini’s weak bladder. I might have blamed her bladder on a few spills, now that I think of it. I know, you’d just had it recovered. What was irresponsible, telling a lie or drinking grape juice on a white recliner? You’re right, both.

Isn’t this air clearing a fun way to spend Mother’s Day . . . Mom? Are you still there? Sounds like she hung up. I haven’t even made it to the part about the kitchen fire or the sunken canoe. The news of her stained chair must have been too much for her heart.

Maybe I’ll save the confessions and dazzle her with a handmade card and throw in some verse. Dear Mother: Roses are red, Violets are brown, For putting up with me as a teenager, You deserve a night on the town.

My gardening isn’t any better than my poetry, which is why my violets are brown.

I hope the stores are open tonight. In an emergency, it’s acceptable to buy a card packed with canned sentiments. Hallmark and Carlton are my heroes.

Along with my card, I’ll play it safe and give her a day-at-the-spa gift certificate. Or money. I still owe her for that dent in her car. Love you, Mom.

 

Audio version song
Sand Castles
by The Green Orbs

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Real Dogs

Shannon Kernaghan Humphrey-400 Real Dogs Humor Clubs Memories Pets and Animals  standard poodles shannon kernaghan poodles pets kennel club show dogs dog show canines audio story

I like to attend an occasional Kennel Club show, not because I prefer purebreds but because I marvel at how people fuss over their canines. At a previous show, Paul and I spoke with a woman who feverishly backcombed the fur of a standard poodle.

“How long does it take to get him ready?” Paul asked.

“Including the bath? Three hours.” The black poodle, shaved to pom-pom perfection, ignored us and rested his head on a padded chin holder. With three hours of grooming, I’d also need a chin holder. And I’d never look as good.

Next to the dog’s grooming table was a cannon-sized hair dryer. It required its own stand with rolling wheels. While we continued to bombard the owner with inane comments, she applied “Grand Finale” hair spray to the dog’s head.

I pulled Paul’s arm to leave. When both owner and dog ignore you, it’s time to move on.

We headed to the display of styling products. If dogs had pockets to keep credit cards, they’d do some serious retail therapy. I scanned the shelves: Udderly Smooth, Ear-So-Fresh, Crisp Coat, Silk Texturizing Super Coat and Get-It-Straight. I purchased a bottle of Get-It-Straight for me, as well as several stainless steel spray containers. I hate when animals have better bathroom accessories.

After the tour of beauty products, we wandered past booths of doggy accessories, marveling at racks of vests, bandannas, pet wraps and a selection of what looked like colorful underwear called Bitch Britch, in three convenient sizes.

On our way out of the hall, I spotted a woman lathering her dog’s snout with shaving cream before dragging a razor carefully over its cheeks.

“Come on,” and I pulled my husband’s arm again. “This I’ve got to see.” On closer inspection, I realized the small dog had no fur. She looked like smooth chocolate, at least what I could detect under her baggy sweater (the dog’s sweater, not the owner’s). Now it was my turn to ask the questions.

“Do you shave her entire body?”

“No, just her whiskers,” said the woman. “The breed is a Xoloitzcuintle.”

“Pardon?”

“Mexican Hairless.” She pointed towards a pen with four equally hairless creatures, all wearing stylish sweaters. Instead of a hair dryer, her dogs require a wardrobe.

“Where do you find such great clothing?”

She turned to us with an audible sigh. “Honey, if you’ve got the money, you can find anything you want for your dog.” Paul wanted to keep asking questions: do they need sunscreen in the summer and how much does she pay for home heating because those were some naked puppies. We didn’t get the chance. It was show time for her and the rest of the non-sporting group.

I should have been impressed by these potential best in breeds. I wasn’t. The one thing missing in this assortment of purebred perfection was a real dog.

I grew up with a real dog, a Pointer/Dalmatian/Your Guess combo who howled outside our front door one winter night. My sister let him in, no one claimed him and he never left. Humphrey didn’t have a name with titles or descend from special lineage, yet he became a valued member of our home for a decade.

Besides his daily food, seasonal baths and annual vet visits, Humphrey’s needs were basic. If he rolled in something unpleasant, we bumped up his bath schedule. If pests bothered him, we treated him with Flea Bath for Dogs. He sure didn’t need a hair dryer. A few laps around the back yard did the trick, providing he didn’t find anything dead along his path to roll in again.

His skills? He had a flare for performance. He’d say “I want my mamma” when treats were dangled. Another skill: craftiness. At the sound of the garage door opening, which meant a parent had arrived home, he’d hightail it off their comfy bed and hurry to his own dog cushion. The telltale warm and hair-coated circular impression in the bedspread always betrayed him.

Finally, he had street smarts. He recognized the dog catcher’s boxy vehicle and knew to make a hasty retreat for home. Once I saw him gallop around our corner followed by the evil truck 50 feet behind. (We grew up in suburbia, before neighbors objected to free-roaming pooches.)

Who won the biggest trophy at that last dog show? Not sure. We never stayed to watch the final judging because all the dogs looked like winners.

But there’d be no contest if any were pitted against Humphrey. He was a real dog.

 

Audio version song
“Talkies”
by
Huma Huma

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Octopus Boy Rocks

Shannon Kernaghan Octopus-timing Octopus Boy Rocks Humor Culture Drinking Games Sports  usa shannon kernaghan rock paper scissors octopus boy octopus ink cloud games cave dwellers audio story

The announcer referred to the winner as an American hero. “The game is immaculate,” he said. “It’s the game of the people, and it’s the only game people are equipped to play from birth.”

The tools? A hand, a wrist and an arm. The game? Rock Paper Scissors. The competition? The USA Rock Paper Scissors League Championship, held in Las Vegas. The prize? A new car and $50,000. Not a bad payout, considering the limited body parts required.

I learned good advice while watching this on Secrets of the Masters. “Know your opponent, inside and out. Beginners are very predictable and they usually throw rock.” This is good info. Who knows when I might have to compete for that last slice of pizza.

Rock Paper Scissors isn’t new to me. I had a quick match with a friend. We’d been arguing over who would sit next to the cute brother on our drive home from a party. I should have thrown paper – her rock garnered the front seat with Cute Brother. My scissors sent me to the back with Octopus Boy.

An octopus in its marine landscape is an enchanting creature, less so when those probing tentacles are confined to a car. On that drive home, I wish I’d come equipped with an ink cloud to spray.

Apparently the game dates back to cave dwellers. It was simpler then, known as Rock Rock Rock. The game either resulted in a tie or death from exhaustion.

I took in some invaluable tidbits during this hour-long program. Here’s one: you can fold paper into a crane and it’s called origami, but you can’t fold a crane into paper. Here’s another: paper is money. Paper cuts hurt. I am paper. Wow, those people in Vegas are deep.

RPS could be called the great equalizer, especially when the woman with a 43 IQ beats the woman with a 172. There’s a common denominator in Vegas – cocktails. The audience was full of cheering people who gripped assorted bottles and glasses.

Another common theme was costuming. Both competitors and audience members alike came outfitted in weird get-ups that included boxing hoods, horned Viking helmets, capes and masks.

The mask wearers were the wise ones. I wouldn’t want others to know I was competing in an RPS tournament. Especially if I told people I was away on a humanitarian mission. With a mask, what happens in Vegas . . . you know the rest.

Some competitors were philosophical. One male master admitted to using an ancient Hindu technique known as Subliminal Advertising.

“When I face off against an opponent, I’ll pepper my speech with such phrases as, ‘Did you see the SCISSORS on that chick?’ or ‘that green hat of your really ROCKS,’ and 63% of the time, players will throw exactly what they heard.”

That technique I’ll use on my sweetheart: “Honey, did you see the DIRTY LAUNDRY on that woman?” Maybe that’ll encourage him to pick up his wet towel from the bathroom floor.

“Hey, get back here. I didn’t say FOLLOW her!” Some ancient techniques can’t be universally applied.

Three symbols, a world of possibilities. The most amazing aspect of the championship is that I watched it from start to finish.

I’ll be too busy practicing RPS to watch more TV. Never know when I might meet up with Octopus Boy again.

 

 

Audio story music
Windows Rolled Down
by
The 126ers

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Feng Shui, Meet My Dragon

Shannon Kernaghan Feng-Shui-e1493591897179 Feng Shui, Meet My Dragon Humor Chinese Culture Superstition  shannon kernaghan luck feng shui class feng shui dragons chinese superstions chinese luck believe audio story

Feng shui = wind + water.

Feng shui = the Chinese art or practice of positioning objects, especially buildings and furniture, based on a belief in patterns of yin and yang and the flow of chi that have positive and negative effects.

Feng shui = two words I can never remember how to spell.

The positioning advice doesn’t end with buildings and furniture. For optimum luck and wealth, I’ve been advised to hold my handbag on the left side. Apparently more will enter than leave.  That’s because the left side of my body is a “green dragon” and everyone knows that green dragons bring power.

All handbag-carrying people should make that adjustment right now . . . wait, I’m right-handed. That means if I carry a purse on my left arm, I can access my wallet with ease. Open and dip, repeat as necessary. Picture me reaching for the cold cash of my green dragon. Are those its scales my sleeve just snagged? Nope, merely half a forgotten granola bar.

Feng shui is big business, at least for those who believe in its powers. A woman named Gwen in San Diego teaches FS classes to help people learn how yin and yang can create perfect harmony for wealth, health and relationships.

I’m already at work on the wealth part, with my purse slung to the left  . . . wait, is the muscle in my left arm supposed to be twice as large as my right? I really must pare down my purse contents.

Gwen says, “You will learn how to use the ancient feng shui to capture your Prince Charming. I will share with you my secret of how I used feng shui to capture my husband 33 years ago.”

Save your price of admission. I’ll tell you how Gwen captured her Prince Charming. Years ago she went on a blind date with a man. Gwen invited him back to her place because she wasn’t about to let a good catch slip through her fingers. Not after all the frogs she’d kissed.

She mixed him a Screwdriver (this is before mojitos and micro brewed beers) and dimmed the lights. Her trap was nearing completion. While Prince Charming was using the washroom – citrus drinks always aggravate his bladder – Gwen consulted the rule book of feng shui and quickly rearranged the room.

Poor Prince tripped on a piece of modular furniture on the way to her bean bag chair. He suffered from amnesia and two days after the bandages were removed, he found himself walking down the aisle with a woman named Gwen, who always carried her purse on the left.

Now that Gwen did the husband capturing, she’s focusing on the wealth part. The proof is in her web site –  www.fengshuisandiego.com. Every time you switch to a different page you’ll hear the clinking of coins.

I couldn’t resist scanning her testimonials. Here’s one from Bradley: “Since we painted the door, the spa has been doing great!” And this from Liz: ”Just to let you know that after I arranged my desk the way you instructed, my business picked up immediately.”

Painted the door? Shifted some furniture? Sounds like these people didn’t need a feng shui expert, but a spruce up.

I’ve arranged my desk many times. No additional business has magically appeared although I did find the other half of that granola bar.

Gwen’s backed herself up with a disclaimer: “We make no claims to absolute effectiveness and success. Gwen and Associates are not responsible or liable to any loss or damages caused by following any of the suggestions in our readings and services.”

Although I’m comforted by a good disclaimer, I’ll stick with the knapsack I carry on my back. It takes more energy to reach for my wallet. That means less is going out because the effort to make a purchase is increased. Inconvenience + laziness = less spending. That’s my feng shui.

As for the green dragon, I’ve learned to love him, powerful or not. He’s lucky that dragons are on the endangered species list or I’d turn him into an adorable handbag faster than you can say “hogwash.”

 

 

Audio version story
Bluesy Vibes
by
Doug Maxwell/Media Right Productions

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For Marshmallows, White or Red Wine? 

Shannon Kernaghan wine-display-e1493578377399 For Marshmallows, White or Red Wine?  Food Drinking Humor Relationship  wine and marshmallows red wine men grocery shopping jet puffed marshmallows food wine

You know your partner has a long road to travel in the field of personal development when you hear, “What kind of wine goes best with marshmallows?”

I thought I heard wrong, but then watched my husband walk past carrying a glass of red and a bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows.

I’m no more developed. “What kind are they, plain or flavored?”

He read from the package: “Six favorite flavors.”

“Then you can probably go with any kind. For plain, I’d recommend white wine.”

This is what I get for letting him shop without me. Instead of returning with bread, milk and toilet paper, he arrives smiling with ice cream bars, a box of Froot Loops and a bag of marshmallows.

“Didn’t you get the bread? Where’s the toilet paper? What about my list?” While plowing through bags, I realize that a ten-year-old would have made more prudent choices. Apparently treats packed with coloring agents and emulsifiers are now part of the Food Guide.

“What list?” he answered. “Here, have an ice cream bar.”

I’ve been with the same man long enough that we finish each other’s sentences. Sometimes I finish his songs. When he stood at the counter stirring a mug of coffee, I heard him sing, “Honey in my coffee, sugar in my tea….” He paused.

“Amalgam in your molars!” I called out. He doesn’t need voice lessons; he needs Splenda.

While still in the kitchen and before I stop picking on Paul, what’s the deal with him and my dish towels? Although dust can settle until I need a leaf blower to find the TV remote, I do need order when it comes to my kitchen towels.

I have towels for two purposes: the cute ones neatly folded on the oven door are for drying dishes while the faded ones under the sink are for wiping the floor.

I need to draw a better map because I consistently find my cute hand towels balled and abandoned in a corner of the kitchen after being used to wipe up wet slops and greasy spills. Or, I’ll find the pots he decides to scrub every Groundhog Day and crop circle sighting piled high on my cute hand towels. He could simply leave them to dry in the dishwasher.

My eyes invariably dart to the naked oven door. Dammit! I’m one Froot Loop away from attaching a short chain, like those pens at the bank.

I don’t get it. Was the man of my dreams born missing the Kitchen gene? If he ever had the elusive K-gene, it’s become defunct, much like the appendix.

Genes aside, I’ve a more pressing question: what does the Kraft Kitchen mean by “Jet-Puffed” when they market their marshmallows? Better pass me a green one and a glass of red. I need a hit of energy after all of this deep thinking.

And hands off my hand towels.

 

 

Audio version song
“Sweeney”

by
Mike Relm

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Hardening of the Articles

Shannon Kernaghan Hardening-of-the-Articles_image Hardening of the Articles Family Humor Languages Memories  writing reports spelling sativating poor english mispronouncing mangling english language language ignorannce cant spell

The English language gets pretty much taken for granted until I hear the word “sativate” used twice within thirty seconds.

“When he walked through the chocolate factory he sativated. The smell of all that chocolate had him sativating.” This from a fifty-year-old businesswoman, one responsible for writing reports and signing contracts. She went on to say that her arc-hilles heel was sore and that the doctor was “pacific in his instructions for me to stay off my feet.” Perhaps I should have corrected her but I figured she’s managed to survive this long mispronouncing ordinary words, and her mangling of the language intrigued me.

Days later I phoned an old friend in the prairies, one I hadn’t spoken to for years. Her first words were, “I can’t believe you called, I was just axing Kerry about you.”

I can live with all of this, experiencing little more than an involuntary grimace when it’s from an adult with English as a first language. But if you’re within punching range, don’t even think about using a double negative.

While I’m no Harvard grad, I did stay awake long enough to learn the fundamentals of grammar, and at least a modicum of pronunciation. If I’m lucky, a well-balanced diet of reading should stave off any “hardening of the articles.”

But language confusion is forgivable in the young, even comical. Take my cousin who argued with her grade seven teacher that plunish indeed was a word. “‘He was plunished for his crime and went to jail.’ What’s wrong with that?”

And then there’s yours truly. I spent all of grade six blanching every time the teacher announced an administration day. Funny, I scanned the room but nobody flinched. I’d recently begun to “administrate” along with most of my female classmates, and was surprised when none of them reacted to such a personal word.

Correction, I must have snoozed through a few of my English classes because I still avoid the mention of prostrate and prostate in conversation. And when I write, all of my characters stand, recline, or stretch out across the couch because I never remember the simple rules for lay and lie. (Nor, for that matter, would you find them prostrate/prostate.)

I have to go now. Paul wants me to come grocery shopping with him.

“We’ve never got nothing to eat in this house,” he yells from the kitchen, making the skin on my neck ripple. But I don’t mind leaving my keyboard, because just the thought of those candy aisles makes me sativate.

Find Shannon’s books on AmazonShannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Hardening of the Articles Family Humor Languages Memories  writing reports spelling sativating poor english mispronouncing mangling english language language ignorannce cant spell

Audio story music
“Cancun”
by Topher Mohr and Alex Alena

Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code 

Shannon Kernaghan bare-butt-cook-e1493311398574 Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code  Sex and Food Humor Memories Relationship Sex Travel  skimpy dress code monkey escapes zoo little rock zoo escape chimpanzee judy

A few years ago I read how a chimpanzee named Judy escaped from her cage at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas. She had her chance when a keeper left the door of her sleeping quarters open. Judy’s flight to freedom wasn’t all that dramatic, considering she did little more than raid the zoo’s kitchen cupboards.

But she disappointed me during her few sweet moments of liberty. Instead of hightailing it for the open road, she picked up a toilet brush and cleaned the bowl. Then she wrung out a sponge and wiped down the front of her keeper’s fridge. Turns out Judy had been a house pet before the zoo acquired her in 1988, so scenes of housekeeping must have been the norm. If I’m ever caged and have the chance to escape, sure, I might grab a handful of cookies en route to the front door, but I won’t hang around to finish any domestic duties.

I equate travel to escaping the self-made cages of everyday life. When traveling, I’m forced to leave my comfort zones, those familiar places that feel safe yet don’t offer much variety. When my trip is over and I’m back to the usual schedules and humdrum routines, at least I can enjoy the videos I’ve taken, the photos I’ve snapped.

My husband’s favorite shot from a road trip isn’t captured on an SD card but chiseled in his memory. The image he savors is from Arizona. The location is nothing as impressive as the red rocks of Sedona or the golf courses of Scottsdale.

Instead, it’s one where he waits for me in a grocery store parking lot. We’ve stopped at a little town and I’ve run in to pick up some snacks before we park our trailer for the night. When I exit the store he watches me grin as I walk across the lot towards our truck. I grin because the check-out line is mercifully short and the beverages are pleasingly cold.

He grins at the sight of my new cowboy hat and boots, tight jeans, and the 12-pack of Miller Lite I carry under each arm. I also carry a few bags of snacks. My husband won’t recall the snacks. Not when a woman featuring tight jeans and 24 cans of cold beer is bearing down on him.

As I spot his happy expression, what goes through my mind is, “Travel is really healthy for a relationship.”

Turns out my husband is thinking the same thing, in his own male format: “Shannon should forget to wear her bra more often!” There it was. We were on slightly different sides of the psychological fence, yet we were both happy. For him, all it took was a dusty parking lot and the sight of me holding beer. And the no-bra factor.

I have my own favorite snapshot, make that two, from the photo album. The first is one of my husband standing in the desert between two gnarly cacti.  He’s also wearing his new cowboy hat and boots. A few props are added to the arsenal – a frying pan he wields above his head like a weapon and a green chef’s apron. The next picture shows him in the identical pose, except I’ve walked around to the back of the cacti to take a rear shot.

Did I mention my husband wasn’t wearing anything besides his hat, boots and apron?

Unlike Judy the chimp who was returned to her cage after a dose of sedatives, I don’t need caging or sedatives for an excuse to avoid housework. Testimony is the inside of our microwave. It resembles an execution-style crime scene. And when I reached for the TV remote from our bed’s headboard last night, my hand came away gray with dust.

I wonder what Judy’s doing this weekend. Our place could use a good cleaning. I’ll even throw in some lite beer and snacks.

Find Shannon’s books on AmazonShannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code  Sex and Food Humor Memories Relationship Sex Travel  skimpy dress code monkey escapes zoo little rock zoo escape chimpanzee judy

Audio story music
“Search and Rescue”
by Dan Lebowitz

Good Vibrations

Shannon Kernaghan Sushi-model-400 Good Vibrations Humor Relationship Sex and Food  stomach grumbles source adult video shopping hungry food car coco deep fried chicken

After the shopping is finished, Paul steers our car in the direction of home. My stomach grumbles.

Hungry?” Paul asks. “Where do you want to eat?

“I don’t care, you?” This is the ping pong we play on weekends, tired of the chains and the non-chains that taste like every other chain. Despite our lack of success (maybe we’re picky) I remain optimistic, certain the next restaurant will have potential. Stopped at a red light, I point to a sign in a corner strip mall. Coco Deep Fried Chicken. The restaurant is nestled incongruously between a violin store and a Source Adult Video.

We place our order at the counter and find a table to wait for our food. Both the flimsy plastic forks and the chopsticks are unmanageable so we eat with our hands. Soon, our fingers and mouths are smeared red with sticky sweet and sour sauce.

“Do you like this?”

“It’s different,” I say, pondering. “Actually I do like it.”

Paul holds up a half-gnawed chicken leg and uses it as a baton to motion next door.

“Wanna buy a dildo?”

“No!” I say, choking on my last swallow. Before he has the chance to look deflated, I add, “Maybe a vibrator.” And then I scrunch my shoulders and make a funny noise. Paul looks at me quizzically. This is an unfamiliar sound, one I haven’t heard since my friend Susie and I were twelve: it’s a full-on giggle. “Can I finish my chicken first?” and Paul nods.

The last time I was in an “adult” store was with a group of women. We were in search of irreverent gifts for a bridal shower. We’d toss anything feathery or penis shaped into our party basket.

The theme hasn’t changed much over the years. I spot several lone men wandering the aisles and reading DVD covers; a young couple scans a table of gadgets, items with silver studs and flourishes of pink marabou. Perhaps they’re creating their own party pack.

I find the vibrator wall and am mesmerized by the array, many of the toys as small as lipstick tubes and blinged out with colorful designs. I pull one from a hook – one of the “lipsticks” – and take it to the cashier.

Before we can react, the cashier pops my vibrator from its container and inserts the included battery.

“What are you doing?” I ask, not pleased that this perspiring stranger, one who’d just run her fingers through her hair and taken our money, is handling my new purchase. The vibrator buzzes and she give satisfied nod.

“I have to make sure these work ‘cause there aren’t any returns.”

“Good thing,” I say and hear that silly giggle again, now sounding more like the bleat of a sheep.

Paul whispers, “It’s not like I’m going to drive back if the battery’s dead.”

“Don’t worry,” I whisper back, touching my lips to his ear as the woman bags my purchase. “I have 99% isopropyl under the sink.”

“That won’t erase her image from my brain.”

Again the giggle. I like this fresh side of our relationship.

Back in the car, I relax against the head rest. A decade-old memory appears: my mom and I sit together on a balcony in Honolulu and my dad is taking a siesta inside the condo. I’m there to visit for a week, leaving Paul behind in Canada. Mom and I chat, and then she is quiet. I turn to her; she’s looking at her fingernails and grinning.

“What are you thinking?”

“I was going to ask if you wanted to play Scrabble and then remembered a funny story from last year.”

I wait.

“I wanted your Dad to play but he wasn’t interested so I said, ‘I’ll trade you two games for sex’.”

“Mom!” I shriek. This admission gobsmacks me. An occasional raunchy joke is the most I’d ever heard from my mother. Until Scrabble. “Don’t explain, no more, or I’ll never be able to face another tile!”

She tilts back her head and lets out a belly laugh, revealing a row of strong white teeth. From her eyebrow-raised expression, I’m quite sure they carried out this sex-for-board-game barter.

“Why are you telling me this?” She shrugs and then I start to laugh. My father shuffles outside, awakened by our noise, and asks what’s up. I can’t look him in the eyes so point to my chair for him to take it, and I disappear inside. I felt oddly hopeful for my parents.

Paul glances over. “What are you grinning about, your Coco Chicken or your new vibrator?” I shrug like my mom and smile. “Can we stop at Canadian Tire for a minute?” he continues. “They have a sale on drills.”

“Sure.” We both want our toys.

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, he’s giving me excitations. For some reason I feel like listening to the Beach Boys

Audio story music
“Bounce House”
by Silent Partner