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Turn Your Head and Cough #15
by Jason Torchinsky

I haven't been sleeping well lately. My form has been bad, I got no style points, barely any endurance, I just haven't been doing it well. My mind's been like a trailer park in a hurricane. I just can't seem to get to sleep. Not like my friend Charles. He studied sleeping at the Sorbonne. Majored in naps with a concentration in snoring. He sleeps like a pro. Almost Olympic material.

Anyway, I my somnial failings were bad enough for me to go see our family doctor, a certain Dr. L----. It's pronounced "Lhyphenhyphenhyphenhyphen." Best damn veterinarian I know. He said that I obviously had a bad case of insomnia, but it was only because I haven't been sleeping. But, there was hope. He also said that he had just been to a week-long symposium on sleep disorders in Munich at a Holiday Inn right next to the facility where the European Space Agency performs its nightly rocket engine testing. He learned at this conference a revolutionary new technique of curing insomnia that he called "going to bed when you're tired."

I was understandably skeptical of this procedure, as its confusing jargon was far beyond my understanding. Still, after a few simple line drawings by Dr. L---- demonstrated the process, I decided to give it a try. What the hell. I tried it out last night, and, may science be blessed to the limits of my credit rating, it worked! I was asleep! And not just asleep; asleep and dreaming. Now, my most beloved readers, sit back, put your feet up on your favorite dog, as I now submit the contents of my dream:

I'm dining in a fine restaurant. But I'm not alone. No, my partner for this meal is the great scientist, Dr. Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver! Only in a dream could I hope to take my sup, and, of course, eat dinner, with such a great man of science as Dr. Heimlich! Dr. Heimlich is quite old, as I believe he is in reality, but, aside from being almost irretrieviably senile, still functions as though he was 25, when, I believe, he first went senile.

We order, and as usual, I order the Cornish game cows, which are something like Cornish game hens, but, as the name suggests, are tiny individual cows that you just eat whole. Yum! The doctor, I believe, had a cream of leather soup. What are you looking at? It's a dream, remember? Sheez. Anyway, Dr. Heimlich and I are enjoying our meals and having a wonderful conversation. The only bad part I remember is that every time I stopped talking for as much as a second or reached to adjust my necktie, Dr. Heimlich would bolt out of his chair, grab me in a powerful bear hug, and start ramming his fist up underneath my diaphragm, crushing some ribs and invariably making me hack up whatever it was I was trying to eat, such as some lettuce or a napkin or something.

But here's the really good part. Dr. Heimlich, warming up to me, reveals what he has been up to since the Heimlich Maneuver that made him famous. Apparently, the Heimlich maneuver as we know it today, though effective, is incomplete. You see, Dr. Heimlich realized its limitations early on and always planned to deal with them. The basic problem, as related to me by this brilliant man of science is as follows: in the standard Heimlich maneuver, the choking victim is saved from almost certain death, but the food clump upon which the victim was choking is, in nearly every situation, rendered inedible or at least unappetizing after the procedure. What Dr. Heimlich has finally developed is a maneuver that not only saves the victim from choking, but leaves the food intact! Incredible! Apparently, the international sign for choking, a single hand clasping the throat, will not be changed, but a new sign for the new maneuver will be instated. This new sign for the new maneuver would involve one hand clasping the throat like the old sign but accompanied by the other hand, alternately rubbing the stomach and tapping on the plate of the victim with the index finger.

When I awoke, I realized the import of my dream, and immediately decided to write it down. I whipped open the drawer of my nightstand, looking for something to write with, flinging out wads of old Chiclets, that fan letter in the pink envelope that made me black out for a few hours, some ham, and then, finally, I found it. A pencil.

Now, I don't exactly know what it was about this pencil that locked me into such a trance, but as soon as I picked it up I forgot all about my dream. Damn. I would have liked to have written it down. Oh, well. Hindsight's always 20/30. Regardless, now all I could think about were pencils.

Pencils. There's a lot I don't understand about pencils. Now, I don't mean like how to work them or anything. Come on, I'm not stupid. I know how to work them. You just hold them like an ear of corn and that little soft red button on one end turns it on or something, and then it, you know, writes. Yeah. I know. Uh, what I mean is deep questions about pencils. Thoreau's father made pencils, you know. I'm sure you do, but I'd be remiss in my job as a collegiate columnist if I didn't make some meaningless pedantic reference every now and then. Back to my questions. I mean questions like where do they come from? I've never bought any; I just find them in drawers. Are they some by-product of furniture, perhaps? Hmm.

Also, different models of pencils baffle me. I'm not talking about special purpose pencils, for, say, drawing or drafting, those I see the purpose of. I'm baffled by why one pencil company would make different models of the exact same damn yellow standard writing pencil. Take the Eberhard Faber company, for example. They have lots of pencil models, but let's look at two of them: the Mongol and the Marigold. Both are plain, wooden, yellow, red-erasered writing pencils. For all purposes, they are exactly the same. So why the hell did this company bother to print different names on them?

What are they trying to do, target specific markets? Like for the Mongol, which has big, heavy printed saloon-type lettering on the side and two black stripes around that little metal thing that holds the eraser, are they trying to target this to rugged, Jeep-buying outdoor types. Is this the "It's not pretty, but, dammit, it gets the job done" pencil? Is this their tough, masculine, rough-and-ready writing utensil? Dammit it's just a damn pencil! No different than any other bloody pencil! And the Marigold. What is this, the feminine, demure pencil, with its name scripted in pretty silver along its side? Elegance and sensuality in yellow-painted wood? Is that this pencil's goal? Odd, seeing as how it's the exact bloody same as the damn Mongol and the Eagle or the Herald or Trusty (which, to its credit, had real bendy wood) or American, or or or dammit, any other bloody kind of pencil!

I'm sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me. This shouldn't be upsetting me this much. It just that, well, sometimes it hurts, okay? Sniff. Um. Uh, lemme get ahold of myself. Ow! Not there! Okay. that's good. Good luck, my friends. Solidarity.

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