I wrote this column in 2001, shortly after discovering my True Calling in Life.

© Mark W. Mayfield

My agonizingly elusive True Calling in Life finally revealed itself last week, after my son looked at his rapidly aging father and asked, “Dad, why do people get gray hair?” Without any hesitation, I brilliantly replied, “Gray hair is God’s way of telling kids to be nicer to their parents.” Isn’t that great? I made it up on the spot, off the top of my head. Even my wife was impressed. I realized right then and there that God put me on the earth to create wise old sayings that will help mankind cope with the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Excited by my newfound True Calling in Life, I began to spew quotable wisdom at a furious pace. (Only professional wise-saying guys can correctly use words like “spew.”) At dinnertime, as I was barbecuing hamburgers in the backyard, I spontaneously made up this wise old saying: “Gray charcoal is God’s way of telling mankind that the grill is still WAY too hot to grab with bare hands.”

My next wise old saying was born as my wife unloaded the clothes dryer: “Gray pillowcases that are supposed to be white are God’s way of telling wives to carefully separate the laundry before washing it.” (For some strange reason, my wife didn’t appreciate that one. Sometimes I just can’t figure that woman out.)

Lesser wise men would’ve stopped there, but my overactive adage gland wasn’t quite finished. While watching the weather forecast on the evening news, I invented another wise old saying: “Gray skies are God’s way of telling TV weathermen that there’s a 60 percent chance of scattered showers on Monday.”

Finally, as I searched the fridge for something to accompany my midnight snack of chocolate-chip cookies, this wise old saying suddenly smacked me upside the head: “Gray milk is God’s way of telling mankind to check the expiration date on the side of the carton.”

In a single day, which future historians will call “Mayfield’s Gray Period,” I coined five wise old sayings that will endure for thousands of years. But that was only the beginning. During the following week, I gave mankind hundreds of additional wise old sayings. Here are a few of my favorites, categorized for your convenience.

Mark’s Wise Words for a Happy Marriage:

“A foolish husband demands a home-cooked dinner every night, but a wise husband knows when to say, ‘Let’s eat out tonight, my beautiful, hardworking little love muffin.’”

Mark’s Wise Words of Caution:

“Be careful because those gray coals are really, really hot!”

Mark’s Wise Words of Parental Reassurance:

“Breaking up with your first boyfriend is like losing your first tooth. That achy feeling of emptiness will soon be replaced by a shiny new molar.” (This wise old saying may need a little fine-tuning before it’s ready for widespread usage.)

Mark’s Wise Words of Parental Encouragement:

“Son, if number 24 continues to make you look bad, I swear that I’ll walk out on that basketball court and apologize to your teammates and coach for your inexcusable incompetence. Do you understand me, mister?! I didn’t drive over 300 miles to watch another father’s 12-year-old boy block every stinkin’ shot you take, and steal every stinkin’ pass you make! I’m not sitting on these stupid butt-busting bleachers to watch you miss easy lay-ups and wide open jump shots. Now get out there and play like a man! Oh, and remember, son, it’s only a game. Win or lose, I still love you. (Some wise old sayings are a little longer than others.)

Mark’s Wise Words of Environmental Concern:

“Who cares about the stupid Alaskan wilderness? I want cheap gas!”

Mark’s Wise Words of Patriotism:

“America, Love it or Leave it.” (Yeah, I know, that one sounds really familiar to me, too, but until somebody else takes credit for it, it’s MY wise old saying.)

Mark’s Wise Words of Comfort for Times of Unbearable Pain:

“If you burn your fingers on a barbecue grill, rub a little aloe vera on them.”

Feel free to quote my wise old sayings as often as you want, but don’t forget to precede them with this introduction: “A wise man named Mark Mayfield once said . . . “

After writing this column, Mark coined several brand new wise old sayings, which he may share in future columns.



© Mark W. Mayfield

February 14th is here, and that means millions of American men will soon participate in an annual spectacle that millions of American wives call the “Sorry-Excuse-For-A-Husband’s Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Shopping Rush.”

Let’s face it, guys, on the average husband’s “List of Significant Holidays,” Valentine’s Day ranks well below Super Bowl Sunday and only slightly above Canada Day. However, on the average wife’s “List of Days He’d Better Never Forget,” Valentine’s Day ranks right up there with “Our Wedding Anniversary.”

Although most husbands will never fully understand their wives’ fondness for this occasion, we shouldn’t underestimate the day’s conjugal ramifications. Scientific studies prove that an inappropriate gift for Valentine’s Day can severely disturb domestic tranquility for the next several months.

Consider the potential consequences of choosing the wrong gift. Six months have passed since Valentine’s Day, and you and your wife are enjoying a rare evening without the kids. You’re hoping that your selfless decision to bring home a laborsaving frozen pizza will be rewarded by an unforgettable evening of blissful marital relations. Later, that reward appears to be at hand when your seductively attired spouse saunters to your recliner, gently pushes the newspaper aside, sits on your lap and playfully nibbles on your willing earlobes. She slowly runs her fingers through your willing hair, looks longingly into your willing eyes and softly whispers, “What kind of idiot buys a Chia Pet for his wife on Valentine’s Day?” You sit in stunned silence as she jumps up, laughing hysterically, and covers her skimpy nighty with an oversized T-shirt that reads “I Married A Moron,”

Here’s another terrifying possibility. Your wife happily greets you at the breakfast table by saying, “I think I’ll make chile verde burritos for dinner tonight. Would you like that, my big sweet hug muffin?” You LOVE her chile verde burritos and express your husbandly approval with a grateful grunt. A few hours later, she calls you at work and says, “Remember to eat a small lunch, Lover Boy, so you’ll have plenty of room for those yummy burritos. I’m simmering the pork right now. Mmmmm, it smells SO good!”

At the end of your workday, you speed homeward, violently chewing your tie while imagining that first delectable bite of tender pork cooked to perfection in a delicious homemade sauce. When you’re finally at the dinner table, eagerly awaiting the meal of your dreams, your wife skips merrily from the kitchen, plops down a smoldering dish of Cap’n Charlie’s Microwaveable Fishloaf Casserole and says, “A carpet cleaner for Valentine’s Day? Gimme a break, Casanova!”

“But, sweetums,” you puzzledly reply, “it even has upholstery attachments.” She doesn’t care.

To avoid those frightening scenarios, follow these simple gift-giving guidelines. A box of chocolates is OK, but you should hide expensive jewelry behind the mint truffle. You can’t go wrong with a dozen red roses, but they should be placed in the front seat of a brand new car. Lingerie is an acceptable gift, but only if it’s accompanied by a romantic weekend getaway and an expensive dinner for two at a fine restaurant. And remember, any Valentine’s Day gift is incomplete without an appropriate card. Resist your natural inclination to buy one that includes the word “naked.”

Now let’s look at what could happen when you give the perfect gift. You’ve just arrived home after 14 grueling hours at the office, and your beautiful wife greets you at the door with a passionate kiss, leads you to the sofa, and lovingly massages your oh-so-tense neck muscles. Suddenly, you detect the heavenly aroma of chile verde simmering in the kitchen.

“Thanks again for my beautiful roses, delicious chocolates, breathtaking diamond pendant, romantic weekend getaway and the new car,” she appreciatively whispers. “I really don’t deserve such a wonderful husband.” As she walks away to get your slippers and the remote control, you notice that she’s wearing lots of your favorite perfume, Naughty Nights of Peruvian Passion. “Ah,” you say to yourself, “I am SO glad that I used my 401k to buy those heartfelt tokens of love and devotion.”

Mark Mayfield (markimus@comcast.net) still doesn’t see what’s so bad about a carpet steam cleaner WITH upholstery attachments.

My YouTube channel: http://www.YouTube.com/MollyMayfield

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Within a few weeks, my daughter, Dominique, will give birth to my first grandchild. In honor of this historic (and eagerly anticipated) event, I’m reposting this cautionary column about the horrors of witnessing childbirth, which I wrote in 1987, two years after Dominique was born. It first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and the Atlantic City Press in 1988, and was later reprinted in several other publications between 1988 and 2000.

© 1987 Mark W. Mayfield

Childbirth is a beautiful, natural, miraculous event–unless you have to watch it. It then becomes a hideous spectacle that can cause permanent psychological scars. Watching his child enter the world is supposed to transform a red-blooded American manly man into a gentle, loving, devoted “daddy” who enjoys sipping decaffeinated coffee while swapping touching childbirth stories with other such men. But recent studies suggest that the opposite is true. After the experience, most men never want to look at their kids again. Unloved and neglected, these children grow up to be thieves, TV weathermen and politicians, thereby contributing to the moral decay of our society. Nevertheless, a growing number of gullible men are voluntarily participating in an activity that could lead to the total collapse of Western civilization.

It all begins innocently enough. Several months before her “due date,” your wife will ask you to accompany her to childbirth classes, in which a sadistic instructor will gleefully use graphic illustrations of a transparent pregnant woman to explain the various baby-making organs, including the uvula, the aviaries, the philodendron tubes and the surtax. During these classes, your wife will learn how to push and grunt. These are very important skills. Without pushing and grunting, your baby would have no reason to leave the comfort and security of the womb. It would stay inside mom for 15 or 16 years, or until it’s ready to start dating. When a woman in labor pushes and grunts, her body is saying, “Okay, kid, the free ride’s over! Get out here RIGHT NOW! I want my flat stomach back!”

Since there’s no guarantee that your wife will have a “normal” delivery, the instructor will make you watch a film about cesarean deliveries. Medically defined, a cesarean delivery is what occurs when an obstetrician realizes that he’s late for his golf game. The film makes “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” look like a Disney cartoon. Remember to close your eyes when the cheerful narrator says, “In many ways, a cesarean delivery is just like skinning a rabbit.” Other films in the course include “Changing a Diaper Without Losing Your Lunch” and “Making Inexpensive Baby Food with Spam and Lawn Clippings.”

Unfortunately, all the childbirth classes in the world won’t prepare you for the unspeakable horrors of (dramatic pause) the delivery room.

Shortly after you arrive at the hospital on “The Big Day,” (“The Big Day” occurs when your wife suddenly begins to experience automatic abdominal spasms called “contraptions”), a nurse who seems to be very attentive will promise to frequently check mommy’s condition. Take a very good look at this woman, because after she leaves the room, you’ll never see her again. She’ll sneak away to a secret nurse hide-out where she’ll guzzle huge plastic bottles of diet soda and read sleazy supermarket tabloids for the rest of her shift.

Meanwhile, the frequency and intensity of the contraptions will increase. This is when things begin to get ugly. As your wife strenuously attempts to evict her reluctant little tenant, the room will reverberate with hysterical screaming, uncontrollable sobbing and desperate cries for help, all of which will come from you. The patient, however, will feel no pain. Her body will contain more mind-altering drugs than that wild Doobie Brothers concert you enjoyed in 1977. But don’t worry, because these mind-altering drugs are expertly administered by a professional anesthesiologist who knows how to safely make a woman think she’s having her hair done when she’s actually having a baby. (Before a person can become a certified anesthesiologist, he must demonstrate his skills by successfully tranquilizing two fast-talking insurance salesmen and an excited sports announcer.)

The best thing you can do during this stage is to keep yourself occupied. Read a good book, whistle a catchy tune or eat a bologna sandwich. No, on second thought, don’t eat a bologna sandwich. Some men occupy themselves by videotaping the delivery. (Most of those men later destroy the tape without watching it.)

Several minutes later, somebody will say, “A few more pushes and grunts should do the trick.” At that point, you’ll hear something that reminds you of that squishy sound that rubber boots make in sticky mud. The doctor will then hold up an alien-like creature that is indescribably repulsive and unexplainably beautiful at the same time, but you won’t see it because you’ll be unconscious.

Mark Mayfield has survived two cesarean deliveries. His wife was by his side during both ordeals.


In honor of Independence Day, I proudly present this patriotic column from 2002, in which I salute the brave mannequins who sacrificed various plastic body-parts to keep us safe on the 4th of July.

© 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. I love celebrating our nation’s independence with my family and friends. I love listening to military bands play patriotic songs. I love displaying Old Glory on my front porch. I love reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, including the “under God” part. I love reflecting on the precious freedoms that all Americans enjoy. And I love watching dangerous fireworks severely injure innocent mannequins.

Before proceeding with today’s column, I must issue this important disclaimer: I do not promote, condone, encourage or recommend the use of dangerous fireworks. On the contrary, I strongly urge all readers to purchase only “Safe & Sane” fireworks from a reputable vendor. Do not purchase fireworks with these labels:
“Dangerous & Insane”
“Murderous & Paranoid”
“Treacherous & Psychotic”
“Sneaky & Subversive”
“Naughty & Unstable”
“Slightly Mischievous & A Little Wacky”
“Sweet & Sexy”

I realize that most readers don’t need that disclaimer, but my legal advisers made me include it for the ne’er-do-wells who twist, mangle and misinterpret my columns in a coordinated effort to destroy my reputation as a serious, respected journalist. (“Ne’er-do-wells” is a fancy word used by serious, respected journalists to describe people who have too much time on their hands.) Here are two examples of how the ne’er-do-wells operate. In a recent column about the hit TV show Fear Factor, I said that some executives at NBC are “greedy bigwigs.” Well, believe it or not, the ne’er-do-wells twisted, mangled and misinterpreted those words and then accused me of saying that some executives at NBC are “greedy bigwigs.” In another recent column, I said that my family’s miniature dachshund is “a stupid, worthless wiener dog.” The ne’er-do-wells took that harmless characterization and made it sound as if I had called my family’s miniature dachshund a “stupid, worthless wiener dog.” Just imagine what the ne’er-do-wells would do with this column, especially the part where I said, “And I love watching dangerous fireworks severely injure innocent mannequins.”

Now let’s return to today’s thought-provoking column about the dangers of fireworks.
Many July’s ago, when I was about twelve years old, the evening news aired a graphic film of a “cherry bomb” exploding in a mannequin’s hand. In a split second, several of the mannequin’s fingers disappeared. Because of his carelessness with dangerous fireworks, the mannequin instantly lost his ability to make a living by modeling snow gloves and wedding rings.

That graphic demonstration made a tremendous impression on me. It made me desperately want to illustrate the dangers of fireworks for my friends. Unfortunately, mannequins and cherry bombs were hard to come by, so I settled for a GI Joe and a firecracker. (I bought the firecracker from an older boy down the street. He sold it to me for only $18.00)

My demonstration was much more imaginative than the one on TV. I pretended that “sneaky Russian commies,” had booby-trapped GI Joe’s jeep with dynamite. As several neighborhood kids watched nervously, I ignited the fuse and jumped out of the way. Seconds before the firecracker exploded, I yelled, “WATCH OUT, JOE! SNEAKY RUSSIAN COMMIES BOOBY-TRAPPED YOUR JEEP!” (I intentionally waited too late to shout my warning because I didn’t really want GI Joe to escape the blast.)

The explosion propelled Joe’s little plastic body several yards to the right of the jeep, where he landed with a sickening thud. I then turned toward the stunned audience and gravely said, “That’s why you should never play with dangerous fireworks.” At that point, my mom, who was a ne’er-do-well at the time, ran outside and immediately began to misinterpret my demonstration.

Fortunately, GI Joe received immediate treatment for his injuries. A neighborhood girl quickly transported him to a nearby army hospital, where a beautiful Barbie nurse in a tight-fitting uniform repeatedly kissed him on the lips.

My legal advisers just suggested that I issue another important disclaimer: I do not promote, condone, encourage or recommend the willful mistreatment of plastic action figures. Furthermore, I firmly believe that GI Joe and Barbie shouldn’t kiss each other on the lips until they’ve dated a few times.

The main point of today’s column is this: If you play with dangerous fireworks, you may not be as lucky as GI Joe.

Happy 4th of July!


There’s a program on A&E called “Paranormal State.” I think the producers stole the idea from a 2002 column I wrote about the amazing powers of my mind. (Okay, maybe not.)

© 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

I’ve long suspected that I’m different from most other people, but now I’m absolutely sure. My suspicions were confirmed as I listened to a late-night radio show that regularly features guests who believe in the existence of supernatural phenomena, including UFO’s, crop circles and truthful politicians. According to a recent guest, an expert in ESP (Extra Sensual Persuasion), people who frequently experience unexplainable psychic episodes may possess extraordinary mental powers (a.k.a. parasitic powers of the mind). Well, when it comes to experiencing unexplainable psychic episodes, I’m an old pro. I’ve been experiencing unexplainable psychic episodes since 1978, after I slipped on an oily spot in the garage and hit my head on the back bumper of a 1963 Volkswagen.

My paranoiac powers of the mind enable me to see the future. For example, last Saturday, when I was watching the Leave It To Beaver marathon while my wife was doing the laundry, washing the car and repairing the water heater, I just knew she would walk by the couch and say, “Shouldn’t you be mowing the lawn or something?” And that’s exactly what she did. It was really weird. Later that day, after my teenage son unsuccessfully attempted to distract me so he could grab the last piece of deep-dish pepperoni pizza, I just knew I would glare at him and say, “Listen, you gluttonous little punk, if you ever want to use that hand again, put the pizza down and move away from the table.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Now consider this unexplainable psychic episode: During a recent dinner at a friend’s house, I just knew that the main course, Norwegian Meatloaf Surprise, would taste terrible. It did. Need more proof? Yesterday, after a heavy file cabinet fell on my right foot, I just knew I would emit a bloodcurdling scream of pain and say a bad word that begins with the 19th letter of the alphabet. Furthermore, I just knew that my wife, who doesn’t believe in my remarkable paramedic powers of the mind, would vainly try to suppress a laugh when she saw my injured foot, which resembled the Coyote’s foot after the Roadrunner crushes it with a huge boulder. I was right again.

At this point, many skeptical readers are sarcastically asking, “Okay, Mr. Parallel Powers of the Mind, if you can see the future, why don’t you pick the winning lottery numbers so you can be rich beyond your wildest dreams?” I just knew that you would ask that stupid question, and I just knew that I would reply like this: You’re just jealous because you don’t have parenthetical powers of the mind. Yes, I could easily exploit my supernatural abilities for my own wealth and prosperity, but that wouldn’t be right. Unlike some of my fellow phenoms, I’ve vowed to never misuse my periodontal powers of the mind for personal gain (except on Super Bowl Sunday).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bragging about my astonishing paramount powers of the mind. In fact, sometimes I wish I had an ordinary, unremarkable mind like yours. After all, having paralegal powers of the mind is a tremendous burden. Do you think that I really want to know that my next haircut will make me resemble an angry Pekinese? Do you think that I really want to know that at the zenith of my professional and personal life, I will be involved in a freak accident involving an electric vegetable peeler and a can of whipping cream? Of course not! Life is much more enjoyable when the future remains a mystery. So appreciate your run-of-the-mill, nondescript mind, and pity the unfortunate few who will always live with the hardship of having amazing parabolic powers.

Mark Mayfield just knew that you wouldn’t believe that part about the file cabinet falling on his foot.


Soon after we were married in 1980, Vicky and I purchased a dachshund puppy. “Odie” (pictured) was named after the mischievous dog in the Garfield comic strip. He was a wonderful pet and companion until he died in 1995. Since then, we’ve had two more dachshunds (three if you count my son’s dog, Marley, who is currently living with us). The following column is one of several I wrote about “Molly,” our second beloved wiener dog, who died unexpectedly a couple years ago.

© July 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

Several months ago, I wrote a heartwarming column about Molly, the most recent addition to the canine division of our family. Since then, I’ve received lots of requests from happy readers who desperately want me to write another column about our beloved miniature dachshund.

I have a message for those so-called “happy readers.” Your flattering letters and e-mail don’t fool me. Your compliments and praise mean nothing to me because I know who you really are. I know that you’re actually high-ranking members of the powerful Wiener Dog Cartel, who will use any means, including sweet talk, threats and bribery, to persuade me to promote your overpriced product. I also know that you’re responsible for sending me that digitally doctored photograph, the one that shows dozens of vicious wiener dogs attacking my wife and kids in a dark alley. And, by the way, if you think you can influence me with the suitcase full of $100 bills you left on my doorstep, you’ve got another thing coming.

Ironically, today’s column is about Molly, but it’s not the glowing, pro-dachshund column you want. Instead, it’s a hard-hitting exposé about your inferior product, so fasten your seatbelts, and prepare to watch miniature dachshund prices plummet.

Attention, shoppers! If you’re in the market for a small, oblong dog, do not buy a miniature dachshund until you read this column. (Warning for sensitive readers: If you’re offended by graphic words related to dog potty, including “tinkle,” please skip to the next paragraph.) Several months ago, I discovered that Molly has a factory defect called “submissive urination,” which is a fancy way of saying she tinkles whenever anybody touches her or says her name in an excited, high-pitched manner. When I say “tinkle,” I’m not talking about a few harmless drops of puppy pee. I’m talking about large puddles that require at least three extra-absorbent paper towels. According to experts, Molly submissively tinkles to show us that she accepts her low position in the family’s “pecking order.” It’s her way of saying, “I’m not worthy of being in your presence. I am merely an overpriced wiener dog who serves no useful purpose on this planet, but you are a magnificent human who knows how to talk and read and write and drive a car and count $100 bills. Since I don’t know how to bow or kneel, I will now tinkle all over myself to demonstrate my inferiority.”

But, like Molly’s bladder, the experts’ explanation doesn’t hold water. After all, I’ve always been very low in the “pecking order,” but I’ve never resorted to submissive urination. (However, I will admit that I had a close call in the fifth grade, after one of my spit wads missed its intended target, Freda “Four-Eyes” Phillips, and hit my ill-tempered teacher, Mr. Williams, in the middle of his forehead.) Here’s the truth about Molly’s uncontrollable tinkling: Germany’s thriving dog industry recently abandoned its work on miniature dachshunds to devote more time and money to larger, more powerful models, namely German shepherds and schnauzers. The production of miniature dachshunds is now farmed out to shady sub-contractors who increase their profits by knowingly using cheap, inferior parts, including faulty bladders. Of course, the powerful Weiner Dog Cartel will vehemently deny these charges, but I’ll bravely stand by my position until a few more heavy suitcases mysteriously appear at my home–if you get my drift.

A defective bladder isn’t Molly’s only problem. Like most other miniature dachshunds, she also suffers from an annoying condition called “little dog’s syndrome.” When she’s around our other dogs, which are quite large, she compensates for her small size by standing on her tiptoes and acting like an overbearing, loudmouthed jerk. Fortunately, the other dogs take Molly’s boorish behavior in stride and, in fact, feel sorry for her. They realize that she is nothing more than a pitifully short, wiener-shaped misfit who will never be able to look skyward without seeing the private underparts of her much taller peers.

Those are just two of the many reasons that you shouldn’t buy a miniature dachshund. I’ll share several more reasons in future columns, unless, of course, the powerful Weiner Dog Cartel leaves three suitcases full of $100 bills in my garage, next to my lawn mower.

Members of the powerful Weiner Dog Cartel can reach Mark at mark.mayfield@comcast.net


And speaking of the end of the world . . .
Here’s my apocalyptic masterpiece from 1999, right before Y2K-related disasters were supposed to plunge the world into unprecedented chaos.

1999 © Mark W. Mayfield

Thanksgiving with my family and friends is usually an enjoyable occasion. We eat, drink and merrily devour anything that remotely resembles a large, headless bird. But something went terribly wrong this year, the year of The Apocalyptic Thanksgiving.

The commotion began when my perennially pessimistic pal, Armand Geddon, interrupted a pleasant conversation about turkey entrails by asking, “Isn’t anybody here concerned about Clinton’s secret plan to use Y2K panic as an excuse to declare martial law, take away our guns and ship us to internment camps, where we’ll be brainwashed to embrace a One-World Government and its evil leader, Regis Philbin?”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!” we replied in unison.

Unfazed by our sarcasm, Armand continued. “Did any of you know that a 16th-century prophet accurately predicted the name of every pope, and that his predictions unexplainably end after John Paul II?”

Valiantly trying to derail this diabolic plot to ruin the festivities, I responded by asking, “Did Mr. Know-It-All Prophet also predict that the most obnoxious doofus in history would be severely bludgeoned by several angry friends on Thanksgiving Day, 1999?” Armand dismissed me with a smirk and segued into a lecture about the Mayan calendar, which mysteriously ends soon after the year 2000.

“MAKE HIM GO AWAY!” somebody screamed.

“Maybe those Mayan guys stopped because they were tired of making the stupid calendar,” I said, determined to reclaim the conversation for the Righteous Forces of All Who Enjoy Cheerful Holidays. “And anyway, who cares about a calendar that doesn’t include Independence Day or Mothers Day or Veterans Day or Memorial Day or THANKSGIVING DAY, which, Mr. Doomsday, we were really enjoying until your stinkin’ end-of-the-world speech!”

Armand then yielded the floor to his equally annoying wife, Irma Geddon, who bombarded us with “the truth” about Area 51, UFO’s, black helicopters, alien abductions, Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids, the United Nations, the Kennedy assassination, trilateralism, Gulf War Syndrome and crop circles. She provided a horribly vivid description of the Last Days, which included famine, floods, droughts, pestilence, earthquakes, biological warfare, nuclear annihilation and, worst of all, the Rosie O’Donnell Show on every channel. At this point, we were all convinced that the apocalypse was indeed just around the corner. In fact, everybody in the room desperately wanted the apocalypse to occur at that precise moment, right next to Irma’s chair.

It was Armand’s turn again, and he broached a topic that never fails to make my head spin: The Meaning of Life. Asking my mind to ponder such things is like asking a lawn tractor to win the Daytona 500. The tractor, like my brain, would undoubtedly explode before reaching the finish line.

Armand lowered his voice to a reverent whisper and presented several ominous questions: “What if our lives aren’t what they seem to be? What if we are actually unwitting cast members in a celestial play of infinite importance, a long-running tragedy with an inconceivable ending? What if we are unknowingly following a divine script that was written long before the universe existed? And, my dear friends, what if intermission is over and it’s time for the FINAL ACT?!!”

He delivered the last question with a pounding fist against the table for emphasis. The sound hit us like an apocalyptic asteroid.

Several women broke into uncontrollable sobs, afraid of being unwitting cast members in a celestial play of infinite importance. One practical friend excitedly realized that now would be a great time to buy that expensive SUV he can’t afford. (After all, the Final Act might end before the first payment is due.) Another guy, who doesn’t know the difference between Y2K and KY Jelly, muttered something about the 49er’s needing a new quarterback. My wife, who is strangely immune to apocalyptic rants, politely suggested that Armand and Irma seek professional counseling. The chaos was too much for my overheated little lawn tractor to handle. I slammed my hands against my head, shouting “BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!,” a technique I’ve used since childhood to prevent unwanted information from entering my earholes.

Obviously satisfied with the mayhem, Armand calmly sipped his coffee, wiped a wad of pumpkin pie from his chin, and happily asked, “Hey, anybody for a quick game of charades?”

That’s when I apocalyptically whacked him with a can of whipped cream.

Mark Mayfield and his terrified family await the apocalypse in a secret underground bunker, which is stocked with 175 pounds of turkey jerky, 200 liters of generic diet cola and enough Spam to gag the entire population of a small city.