Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #73: The Personified Impersonal

Feature Presentations Magazine #6, June 1950.  Cover by Wally Wood.

My supervisor, Hank Bromley, considered himself an intellectual.  An actual wooden plaque on his desk said the following, which I still remember after seven decades:

In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here.—Moby-Dick

I just knew he’d never read that novel (but then, I’d never read it either and still haven’t).  As with most of the other men there (few women worked in that office, except as secretaries-slash-playthings), he preferred talking about sports and cars and cracking jokes about what everyone (including me) called “colored people.”  The life of the mind interfered with life, I guess.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #72: The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour (May 20, 1978)

My Portuguese-American mom loved the British monarchy due to what she called its “glamour.”

The day before the special, she told me it was the four hundred and forty-second anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution by beheading.

“How fucking glamorous,” I said.

Mom just sighed, having given up long ago on disciplining me, unlike Aunt Inez, who really wasn’t too violent by our family’s standards.

Anyway, I almost watched the special, since it featured the cranky old guy from M*A*S*H, one of the few TV actors I could tolerate.  But Lynde sucked.  I just knew it.  Why start watching him now?

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #71: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas (December 7, 1977)

In this special, which of course I never saw, Paul Lynde plays an 1890s family man whose house gets invaded by wacky relatives on Christmas Eve.  The special aired only once.  According to more culturally-literate friends who have seen this on YouTube, Lynde delivers the campiest version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” ever.  My thirteen-year-old self in 1977—a wannabe straight boy who air-guitared to sexist crap on the radio—would’ve hated this version, and so would’ve my Aunt Inez, with whom my family still lived, and who hated what she called “silliness.”  Sometimes, I can see her point.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #70: Club Foote

In high school during the 2010s, Stewie Pringle played an on-line, open-world videogame called Club Foote, in which one could dance, drink, use drugs, have sex, or simply wander around aimlessly at the titular establishment. His avatar, Gadwin, resembled a tall, buff Sonic the Hedgehog. After a while, Pringle used a code he’d found in some chatroom to transform the sex scenes from ugh (nothing explicit) to hell yeah. Now as Gadwin banged an endless succession of guys hardcore-style, Pringle felt transgressive (but not transgender, no sirree, as he likes telling his fellow semi-closeted Trump Administration staffers with a laugh).

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #69: Christmas in April

Jenkins Winthrop, from Caldune Petroleum, joined other fossil-fuel company CEOs for a meeting with the president in the Oval Office. That night, over dinner at his mansion, Winthrop told his lover—the Energy Department’s social-media representative, Stewart “Stewie” Pringle—that under Trump, the coronavirus pandemic means “fuckin’ Christmas in April” for Big Oil: gigantic tax breaks, gigantic grants, suspended EPA rules, and nothing for renewables. “What a surprise, ha ha,” Winthrop said.

“Did you practice social distancing at that meeting, ha ha?” Pringle asked.

“Yeah, and I hoarded fuckin’ toilet paper too, ha ha.”

Face masks. Sanitizer. Endless days off.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #68: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (October 29, 1976)

Margaret Hamilton (back as the Wicked Witch of the West), Betty White (pre-Golden Girls), some disco, and (ahem) the band KISS—this hour-long special sounds gay as hell.  Too bad I never watched it.  I might have, but before I could do so, Mom suddenly drove my siblings and me to her sister’s house for an overnight stay; Aunt Inez, the intellectual, didn’t own a TV.  Since the divorce, Mom had spent time by herself to (in her words) “relax.”  Okay, she deserved to “relax,” but she’d denied me my main relaxation method.  Though her behavior did piss off Inez.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #67: The New Temperatures Rising Show (1972-74)

In 1973, Paul Lynde joined the hospital sitcom Temperatures Rising, retitled you-know-what for its second and final season.  According to Wikipedia, he played a grouch named Dr. Paul Mercy.  (Get it?)

I don’t remember if I watched even a minute of this show.  But then, as a nine-year-old, I may have gotten distracted by my parents’ constant arguments about trivialities, such as that comic panel The Family Circus—Mom loved it, Dad despised it.  (I loved it, too, but in secret, those tubby, stubby children amusing me with their cute malapropisms.)  People still cared about the funnies back then, amazing.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

revised January 17, 2020