Warp speed, Mr. Sulu, wake me at Whittier-Porter

Ingrid Miles — iconic realtor, former selectperson, and all-around distinguished citizen — was the very first person I met in Ipswich; she was the selling agent for my house on outer Linebrook Road. 

I have always really liked Ingrid, and admired her, but I did almost kill her. 

And not just her. Her husband Stephen, too. 

Not on purpose, of course. But when you kill someone, regardless of whether it was on purpose or not, they’re just as dead.

I was driving my very small car eastbound on High Street, approaching the intersection of North Main, where High becomes East. On my left was the Ipswich Inn, on my right was Ingrid’s house.

Ingrid and Stephen were crossing High Street on foot, heading home at a perfectly appropriate pedestrian pace. I was zipping along the road toward County Street, at something exceeding an appropriate vehicular pace.

Did I notice these vulnerable pedestrians? Not soon enough.

There’s a moment, just before you clobber someone with your car, when your eyes lock with theirs, and you experience in each other’s face a millisecond of intensely personal dialogue. (Later, after the incident, forensic experts can measure the length of the skid marks on the pavement to determine just how many milliseconds the dialogue took.)

You’ve heard that old thing about your entire life flashing before your eyes? No, it’s way more intense and personal than that.

In this case, for example, Ingrid’s eyes were saying, “I sold you your house. I thought you liked that house. How could you do this to me?” 

And my eyes were saying, “I love living here. How could it end this way? Prison is going to be horrible.” 

I’m not quite as sure about Stephen, but I believe his eyes were saying, “I knew I should have bought more insurance.”

Fortunately, there is a God, or at least angels, because someone supernaturally intervened and saved all our lives. The Mileses froze in their tracks, I hit the brake, my car magically swerved, the pedestrians crossed the street unscathed, and I trembled as I drove sheepishly past them, feebly waving my apologies.

Who could blame them for asking the Town of Ipswich for stop signs at that intersection? It came down to one simple equation: Either erect stop signs now or memorial crosses later.

So here come the stop signs, at the head of North Main Street, newly ordered by the Ipswich Select Board: one sign stopping eastbound traffic at the end of High Street, another for westbound traffic at the end of East Street.

Ingrid reports that I am not by far the only reckless driver to have endangered lives there. But I blame myself. If you hate the new stop signs, you can hate me too. In my heart, I know I did this to us. To us all.

Sure, these new stop signs will save lives, and spare countless multitudes from the horrors of mutilation and dismemberment. But geez, how inconvenient.

Now, to get from the 1634 Meadery to Crane Beach, you’ll have to endure one additional full stop.

No more blasting past the Ipswich Inn without stopping in for breakfast.

Or, coming from the other direction, no more careening down from Great Neck, blowing off the 20 mph speed limit, Cuvilly flashing by in a blur off to your right, the Little River Store barely a blip on your left, before you’re bending around onto East Street on two wheels as you head for Dunkin’.

Those freewheeling days are over.

Forgive me.

At first glance, the signs will appear to say simply STOP, like traditional stop signs. But squint a bit and I’m afraid you’ll see that they’ve added small print above and below: This is mostly to STOP Doug Brendel.

(Doug Brendel has not yet been barred from leaving his home on outer Linebrook Road, but the Ipswich police haven’t ruled it out. Follow Doug at high speed by subscribing here at Outsidah.com.)

Pearly Whites, Market Price

There is no question that lobstermen are in cahoots with dental floss makers. It’s not possible to eat lobster without flossing soon thereafter. And sales of dental floss are astronomically higher since people began eating lobster.

Lobster wasn’t a popular food in the U.S. till the mid-1800s. And when was dental floss invented? The mid-1800s. Coincidence? I think not. Cahoots. Look at any lobsterman’s stock portfolio and I bet you’ll find floss futures.

A dentist in New Orleans invented the type of floss we use today. It was silk back then, but who could afford it? Before the century was out, a company now called Codman Neuro began producing floss commercially. (Note the name Codman: Cod is almost as floss-critical as lobster. Cahoots, I’m tellin’ ya.)

Eventually, the Codman company was bought out by Johnson & Johnson, who actually took out the first patent on dental floss. Obviously they saw there was money to be made. People were eating lobster and then going crazy trying to get it out from between their teeth. (It’s no small irony that a lobster’s teeth are in its stomach. We put the lobster in our stomachs and then struggle with our teeth. The lobster gets its revenge.) 

Think of all the stuff you buy and use that’s made by Johnson & Johnson. But where are they making most of their money? I imagine the real cash cows are vaccines and dental floss. Dental floss because we have this lobster habit we can’t seem to break, and vaccines because we have this Covid habit we can’t seem to break.

Flossing, however, didn’t catch on quickly. Let’s face it: It’s tedious and tiresome. As yummy as lobster may be, flossing is equally annoying. But the day came when mass media made flossing a star. The Canadian writer Sadaf Ahsan points out that flossing got its “first moment in the spotlight” in 1918, when James Joyce had Professor MacHugh, one of his Ulysses characters, do it in public: “He took a reel of dental floss from his waistcoat pocket and, breaking off a piece, twanged it smartly” between his “unwashed teeth.” Back then, you could hardly do better than a James Joyce novel to launch a new fad. Then, during World War II, someone figured out that cheap nylon floss worked just as well as expensive silk, and from that moment, the floss boom was probably inevitable. Lobstermen rejoiced.

Today, the race is on to develop new flossing markets.

The Japanese macaque, often called the “snow monkey,” and the long-tailed macaque of Southeast Asia, also known as the “crab-eating macaque,” have both been observed flossing — using feathers, in the wild, and even human hair, in captivity. When a snow monkey can’t find the seeds and plants it prefers to eat, it digs up roots. No roots available? The snow monkey’s food of last resort is fish. Meanwhile, the crab-eating macaque prefers seafood, foraging on beaches to find its favorite delicacy.

We shouldn’t be surprised: Of course a monkey that eats fish or crab needs to floss. And now that the monkeys have figured out how, it’s only a matter of time before someone introduces them to lobster — and waxed mint-flavored Glide. The lobstermen and the floss-makers will both make a killing, and the monkeys will be happier than ever.

Once the monkey market for lobster and floss is well established, I assume someone will surely step them up to the ideal companion consumables: drawn butter and martinis.

(Doug Brendel, a poster child for periodontal health, lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow the faithful flosser here at Outsidah.com.)

No Yield Left Turn Wrong Way Any Time 

I’m applying for a grant from the federal government to fund a major research project which will catalogue, analyze, and explain the signage at Route 1 and Linebrook Road.

A cursory review of the signs visible at that intersection suggests that there are no fewer than 25 distinct messages for drivers to process as they approach — everything from “NO TURN ON RED” to “NEW HOMES e.d. dick group FOR SALE.”

There are signs about driving and not driving, walking and not walking, and how much you’ll pay for a gallon of gas. Signs about parking, not parking, and how to find Marini’s Farm. There’s one sign with type so small you’d have to get out of your car and walk right up to it in order to read it, but it’s positioned at a place with no parking and no sidewalk so no one has ever actually read it.

The grant application will request a clean million dollars. This, I figure, is about what it will take to recruit, train, and deploy multiple teams:

  • A large “language team,” probably English majors who never could find work elsewhere, will meticulously scour the intersection and record every written message. Then they’ll create a spreadsheet to analyze the signage not only alphabetically but by definition, size, color, urgency, and absurdity.
  • An “art team,” probably art majors who never could find work elsewhere, will study the visual impact of each sign, assessing physical dimensions, color combinations, font choices, and absurdity.
  • A “legal team,” probably law students who never could pass the bar, will address the question of how seriously each sign needs to be taken. Each sign will be ranked on a spectrum somewhere between “Obey Under Penalty of Death” and “Ignore This Nonsense.”
  • A “medical team” will assess the psychological impact of this cacophony on area drivers, with separate studies of two demographic groups: area residents who are exposed to the visual barrage repeatedly, and visitors who are expected to navigate the information tangle without any prior preparation. 

(One early theory is that a certain portion of local drivers’ brains go numb; we hope to determine whether this condition is reversible for those who move west and never look back. We also want to investigate rumors that some visiting drivers have suffered aneurysms from taking in so much information before the light changes.)

  • Finally, a “marketing team” will write up an impressive report, to be teased paragraph by paragraph over the course of six months in a series of Facebook posts, and ultimately released at a huge reveal party in the Wolf Hill parking lot, streamed live on YouTube.

I am very much looking forward to the report finally sorting out many of the questions I’ve been wondering about ever since I moved to Ipswich. One prime example is the “ANY TIME” mystery:

On the west side of Route 1 there’s a white sign with red lettering that simply says ANY TIME, with an arrow pointing south. 

On the east side of Route 1 there’s a corresponding white sign with red lettering, identical to the first except that the arrow points north. 

What can these signs possibly mean? 

On the one hand, I hope they’re giving me permission for something delicious, but if so, I urgently want to know what I have permission to do. 

On the other hand, if these signs actually indicate some serious prohibition, I need to know what kind of law I may be accidentally breaking. 

I have nightmares about landing in prison, with my cellmate asking “What’re you in for?” and me forced to confess, “I guess I just never did ANY TIME.”

Watch for news of the grant coming through. We’ll be hiring. That kid of yours, back home from college and living in your basement? They may finally get paying work. And for a good cause!

(Doug Brendel lives eight-tenths of a mile beyond the Intersection of Distress and Death. Follow him at a safe distance on DougBrendel.com.)

At the next exit, bear right and sort your socks

When they invented GPS my wife warned me that if I relied on technology to get around, my brain would atrophy. I knew she was crazy so I ignored her advice and today I can’t get from Marini Farm to Hood Pond without the disembodied voice of a young woman rising up from my phone to guide me.

Technology is a blessing and a curse, at least this is what I’ve heard, but for the most part I’ve experienced the blessings and seem to have avoided anything curse-like. I don’t believe I really needed the part of my brain that has atrophied. If my wife is in the car and I’m ashamed to use Siri, it’s not a problem because my wife is right there to navigate me from Marini Farm to Hood Pond.

Maybe when people speak of the curse of technology they’re just misinterpreting a blessing as a curse — like when one technological blessing overlaps another technological blessing, causing complications.

For example:

My iPhone has a timer function, so I can move a load of laundry from the washer to the drier and ask the phone to notify me in exactly 38 minutes. This is an urgently important feature of my iPhone because you have to pull the laundry out exactly on time in order to avoid wrinkling, and it’s absolutely essential to avoid wrinkling because I have never lifted an iron in my life, and I don’t intend to start now. Grab the laundry the moment it’s ready and hang it up and call it good enough; that’s my strategy. If I show up for a lunch date with you and I appear a bit disheveled, let’s just say I have a “world-weary writer look,” okay? There have been lots of world-weary writers down through history; some have even won Pulitzers. So I’d say I’m in good company.

The iPhone can also be programmed to alert me about recurring events. My daughter needs a ride home every weekday from her candy-making job at Winfrey’s? No problem. The phone reminds me every day, I’m there waiting on the parking lot when she comes out the door, and week by week I’m accumulating a mountain of points for being Superdad.

Yesterday, however, the blessings of technology overlapped in a most unfortunate way. My daughter-pickup alert went off, I zipped out to the garage and jumped in the car — but at that very moment, the laundry-moving alert also went off.

I bolted back into the house, then paused a moment, trapped between two terrible options. Which is worse? Leaving your laundry in the drier to grow cold and crusty, wrinkled beyond repair? Or confronting the pinched scowl of disappointment on your daughter’s face after you’ve stranded her at the chocolate factory?

But it took me only a second or two to make a bold, shrewd choice: Text Mommy, who was elsewhere on the road, and ask her to pick up our daughter. (I knew she’d know how to get there, Siri be damned.)

In the laundry room, I rescued my precious laundry, raced it to my bedroom closet, and began hanging things on hangers with a deftness born of years’ experience. I was intensely focused. Every second counts in this process; wrinkles will begin disfiguring the fabric within a few scant moments.

As I finished the task, I breathed a satisfied sigh of relief and triumph: another laundry-day victory, another week of the ironing board gathering dust.

Then I headed back to my work, smugly resuming my role as a major American writer.

After a while, I heard the back door slam.


Even in this single syllable, I sensed an edge of snideness.

“Why is the garage door up — and the car running — with the driver door standing wide open?”

I gulped and groped for an answer that would preserve my dignity.

“Technology,” I finally muttered. “Technology is a curse.”

Doug Brendel stays close to his home on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, because wandering too far with no sense of direction can be deadly. Follow Doug, perhaps for his own safety, by clicking “Follow” here at Outsidah.com.

Never Let Me Go

Tony Marino is leaving his post as Ipswich town manager, a lamentable development.

But such a tragedy need not be repeated.

As we begin our search for a successor, we can set up the position parameters in such a way our next town manager will be sure to stay put, and succeed.

The great controversy surrounding Tony, of course, has been his place of residence, which is not Ipswich but Lynnfield. Ipswich requires its town manager to reside in Ipswich within a year of their first contract renewal. Tony is escaping at the last possible moment, taking the manager position in Winthrop, where the rules are looser.

The solution for Ipswich, going forward, is not to align with virtually every town in the region by getting looser, but rather by getting tighter. 

Allow me to sketch out the ideal array of requirements:

(A)   The new town manager must have skin in the game by being an Ipswich resident on Day 1. 

The fact that we don’t pay our town manager enough to live in Ipswich is no excuse. Residency doesn’t automatically indicate homeownership, or even apartment-rentership. Lots of people live outdoors. We have plenty of officially designated open space; it’s one of our finest distinctives. I have a large used tent in very good condition which I’ll sell cheap.

(B)   The new town manager must also shop in town.

No spending your salary, the hard-earned tax dollars paid by conscientious Ipswich citizens, to boost the lifestyles of people in other places. Lynnfield, indeed.

No trips across the Rowley line to save money at Market Basket. There’s nothing at Market Basket you can’t get at Shaw’s, other than a few things, which you probably don’t really need anyway; they’re unnecessary luxuries, and bad for you.

No sneaking around the rule by using Amazon, either. Shop local, pal, or don’t shop at all.

The new town manager will be given a town credit card, a town laptop, and a town smartphone, so all spending can be tracked. All personal credit cards, laptops, and smartphones will be confiscated on Day 1. Also all cash. And coins. Also any uncashed casino chips.

(C)  The new town manager must eat in town.

We have numerous superb eateries and drinkeries. How can our town manager pretend to advance Ipswich interests while wantonly wolfing waffles in Wenham?

There is simply no need to cross into Rowley for Olde Town ice cream, or into Essex for Down River ice cream, when we have a perfectly good Dairy Queen right here on High Street. Plus, from White Farms you can see Rowley. That’s far enough for our town manager. Keep your focus.

(D)  The new town manager must never leave town.

No invisible fence and shock collar; that’s going too far — unless we have a compliance problem at some point, at which point we can consider it. Meanwhile, the manager’s vehicle will be equipped with the LoJack tracking system — at town expense, of course, so no complaining — and monitored by the Ipswich police.

The town manager may ride the train, but only to the town line. Just before crossing into Rowley to the north or Hamilton to the south, the town manager will be obligated to jump from the train.

Town managers often attend conferences, seminars, and other events designed to help town managers learn things that will enhance their performance, but our town manager will already know all those things and won’t need performance enhancement, except possibly a little help on safely jumping from a train.

Our town manager will be able to attend out-of-town events online, or better yet, demand that these events relocate to Ipswich. The genius of this is that attenders will probably buy lunch here, or fill up the tank, boosting our economy and covering the cost of LoJack.

(E)   The new town manager will receive a cemetery plot free of charge.

When we say we want the next town manager to stay, we mean it.

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he nurses what former town manager Robin Crosbie called his “morbid fascination with town government.” Follow Doug at DougBrendel.com.

And on your left is our famous Perpetual Lawn Sprinkler attraction

The environment is under attack, mostly by human beings, some of whom live right here in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

But many people pillage and plunder the environment without realizing the damage they’re doing, so the initial challenge in protecting Mother Earth is to create awareness. If we can get people to recognize the most common ways in which they’re despoiling our precious ecosystems, we might then make some progress toward getting them to change their ways.

So I propose to bring people directly into the situations where they’re creating the most mayhem, and let them see and experience the defilement for themselves.

The plan is to launch Environmental Travesty Tours. Pay the $12 fee — $2 off if you pay in dirty, wrinkled paper money — and clamber onto our vintage diesel bus. No need for our logo on the vehicle; you’ll recognize it by the smoke it’s belching.

By the way, bring your dog with you! No leashes allowed.

We start our tour on Waldingfield Road. A recent study documented about 1,600 vehicles a day already traversing this route, but your experience will be especially meaningful. We’re going to stop repeatedly to honk at wildlife. (Noise pollution is a thing, too!)

If we encounter a seriously interesting animal — say a deer, or bald eagle — we’ll pause and idle the bus engine for as long as 4 minutes 55 seconds, just under the Massachusetts legal limit, while you disembark and attempt to shoot selfies with the animals. Those images in your iPhoto library will serve as powerful, poignant reminders of nature’s fragility, won’t they!

(Meanwhile, this is a great opportunity for your dog to take a break and relieve itself.)

At the end of the Waldingfield portion of the tour, we intend to build a very nice café (permits pending), with an eclectic variety of locally sourced dishes featuring everything except clams, due to dog poop seeping into the groundwater and poisoning the clam flats. The blank space on our menu where the clams would have appeared will make a powerful, poignant statement, won’t it!

And after lunch, be sure to bring your trash back onto the bus with you, so you can toss it somewhere along the way. We’ll be driving past a number of key sites where littering has apparently become something of a treasured New England tradition. No need to detail these locations in advance; you already know where they are — and if not, you’ll know them when you see them.

Soon we’ll be on our way to Crane Beach, where we’ll visit our piping plover petting zoo. You’ll love searching like Indiana Jones for the plovers’ nesting area. There’s nothing to compare with the thrill of this discovery, and you’re going to want to get as close as possible for this photo op!

Plus, kids get one of several great prizes based on how many of the little birdies they can catch. (Just be sure each plover chick is submitted in a landfill-clogging plastic bag, for maximum ironic effect.) In any case, every kid at least receives the basic Participation Prize: a life-size stuffed plover. It’s especially important to generate environmental awareness in the younger generation, so take this cherished prize home and keep it in a place of prominence, like maybe in the toybox. Over the years, it can be a powerful, poignant symbol to your child, as they grow into a thoughtful, responsible adult like you.

Our Environmental Travesty Tour will also include certain seasonal options, like a close encounter with seals on the beach. Set your child on the back of a seal and — wow, just you wait for the look on their face! Both their faces, the child and the seal! This is going to be a magical, memorable moment, so we recommend shooting video. Don’t worry about missing out: As our tour bus pulls out onto the beach, we’ll remind you by bullhorn to get your smartphone ready.

Additional environmental travesty encounters are still in development, so check back often. In the meantime, tell your friends! Awareness, you know?

Doug Brendel lives on, and strives to protect, 1.7 beleaguered acres on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich. Follow his many activities, guided and misguided, via DougBrendel.com.

Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about

A couple weeks ago I had the distinct honor of narrating a free concert of student-inspired music written and conducted by four local-area composers and performed by The Orchestra On The Hill.

The performance was truly thrilling, as fantastic musical works were presented in tandem with text by talented student-poets. As narrator, I had the easy job: wait for the cue, read a bit, wait for your next cue, read the next bit — sort of a musical lather, rinse, repeat. Oh: and take your bow.

Photo by Dan Lovy

This extraordinary presentation took place in the superb theatre at Pingree School, the acclaimed day school for 9th- through 12th-graders, in South Hamilton. With a sterling reputation and terrific facilities, Pingree has 350+ students who commute from some 50 cities and towns.

Yet some of what goes on there worries me.

As I drove onto the campus for the concert’s dress rehearsal, it was apparently the end of a normal Pingree day. On the long paved drive from Highland Street up toward the theatre building, I passed a number of vehicles coming the other way, and I noted the happy faces of the drivers as they departed. Clearly they were pleased with what they’d experienced at Pingree, and now they were going on their merry way.

But then I began seeing troubling signs. I don’t mean “indications.” I mean there were literal signs — quite a number of them — all repeating the same ominous offer: CHILDREN’S DROP & SHOP.

Apparently, inside one of Pingree’s pleasant, sturdy campus buildings, they’ve set up a kid-exchange program.

Now, the smiles of the departing drivers began to take on new meaning. They weren’t all that crazy about the kid they’d brought, but no worries — that’s what Children’s Drop & Shop is here for! Drop the one you have, look around a bit, and take the one you think you’ll like.

I imagine if you get the new kid home and it turns out they don’t really suit you — Liam the rising senior smashes your iPad in a fit of drug-induced rage, or sweet little 9th-grader Sophia gags on those Vienna-sausage waffles you love to make — you can just return to the Pingree Children’s Drop & Shop next week and give it another go.

It’s possible I misread the signs, but you can look at them and decide for yourself. To me, they sure seemed to indicate you could drop a child and shop for a new one. I was afraid to go in there and see for myself. I can’t even watch movies about children in distress. To peek inside that building and find a room full of 9th- through 12th-graders who had been dropped off by dissatisfied parents — I couldn’t take it. Do they cry out, like in a scene from Charles Dickens? Hands reaching out through the bars? “Take me!” “Choose me!” “Take me home!”

Or maybe they just slump against the wall, swiping languidly from screen to screen on TikTok? Yeah, that’s probably how it is.

I confess, there were days, back in my former life, when I might have taken advantage of such a service.

My three children are grown now, and I’m very proud of them, but their successes in no way reflect my talent as a parent. I wasn’t necessarily a “bad dad” — I would describe myself as more of a “puzzled parent”; yet the idea of exchanging any of my children for some other child never occurred to me. I don’t even know if such a service was available back then.

The venerable Pingree School, for all its lofty tradition, is indeed cutting-edge in many ways; so maybe they came up with the Children’s Drop & Shop concept themselves. 

They may have already patented it.

They could be planning to franchise it, for all I know. Someday soon, you might find a Children’s Drop & Shop at your nearest Cumby’s.

And if this goes well, maybe the next thing is Grandchildren’s Drop & Shop.

Doug Brendel lives in a surreal adults-only world in his house on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Check his mental-emotional condition by visiting DougBrendel.com.

In spring a young pest’s fancy turns to food

A mouse, a mosquito, and a milk snake walk into a bar.

Well, that’s how it would begin if it were a joke. But this is real life. So actually, it’s like this: 

A mouse, a mosquito, and a milk snake scamper, buzz, and slither into a bar.

“What’ll ya have?” the bartender asks.

“Can we get food at the bar?” the mouse squeaks.


“I’ll have the cheese plate.”

The bartender looks at the mosquito.

“Bloody Mary,” the mosquito hums.

“You?” the bartender says to the milk snake.

“I’m hungry enough to eat a mouse.”

The mouse snorts. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Eggs,” the milk snake hisses.

“How do you want ’em?” the bartender asks.


The bartender goes off to prepare.

“So here we are,” the mouse says. “Spring in Ipswich. Got any big plans?”

“Annoyance,” the mosquito replies. “Backyard barbecues are my big target this year. People are distracted — dads are grilling, moms are swilling, kids are filling water balloons and bombing each other. Nobody’s paying attention to a possible pinprick from my proboscis. As far as I can see, Ipswich in the spring is just acres and acres of epidermis waiting to be poked.”

The mosquito turns to the mouse. “How about you? Got a springtime strategy?”

“Surprise and speed,” the mouse says. “Targeting antique houses. Emphasis on the kitchen. All kinds of nooks and crannies under the sink cabinet and behind the cupboard. I always used to just hide out, gnaw my way into the box of Ritz crackers in the middle of the night, that sort of thing. But not this year. I’m going for excitement. This year I’m going to sneak out at mealtime, let them get a look at me, then dash away to safety. I love the screaming. On a good day, they’ll jump up from the table and splatter their cabernet all over their cacciatore.”

“You know they’ll lay traps,” the mosquito observes.

“‘The only rule is don’t be boring,’” the mouse retorts. “‘Life is too short to blend in.’ Paris Hilton said that.”

The milk snake arches what would be his eyebrows if he had eyebrows. “You’re risking your life for a Paris Hilton quote?”

“Hey, ‘life is too short’ is not philosophy for me. I’m a mouse. My life expectancy is only 18 months.”

“I’d kill to have 18 months,” the mosquito grumbles.

“Whine, whine, whine,” the milk snake sneers.

The bartender brings the order. The mouse dives into the cheese. The milk snake annihilates the eggs. The mosquito snorts the Bloody Mary one long tube-slurp at a time.

The milk snake burps.

“I guess I should feel badly for you little losers,” he snickers. “I’m spending this spring exactly the way I spend every spring: hanging out in the garden, waiting for someone to come along and mistake me for a rattler. Then they go shrieking into the house, tapping like crazy on their device, wailing in terror to the entire social media universe.”

“Until somebody comes back in the Comments section and straightens them out,” the mouse chuckles: “‘No rattle, dope. Just a milk snake. Harmless!’”

The mosquito slurps the last of the Blood Mary.

The bartender brings the bill. “Anybody need anything else?”

The milk snake slides down off the stool, turns back toward the bar, and gulps down the mouse.

“‘Harmless,’” the milk snake mutters, gliding toward the door.

“I guess I’m buying,” the mosquito sighs. “What do I owe you?”

Doug Brendel lives in the vermin-infested wilderness of outer Linebrook in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow his real-life adventures at NewThing.net.