Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 7, 2021


Openers:  It was Saturday afternoon, and in Heaven, as elsewhere, it was half-holiday.  The gate of Heven was locked, the jkey n Peter's pocket, and Peter and the Omnipotent, having shaken off the burden of the week, wre taking the celestial air on the ramparts.

In Hell similar conditions prevailed.  The stoking for the weekend was done, the devils had piled pitchforks, and Satan, like a rabbit in the entrance of his burrow, sat idly in Hell's-Mouth, sunning himself.

Meanwhile, in his vicarage upon the earth, the Reverend Theophilus Jenkinson was entertaining to tea Mr. and the Honourable Mrs. Plantagent Jones, the noblest of his parishioners.

Let us return to Heaven...

-- "The Worcester Bowl" by Martin Armstrong (from his collection The Puppet Show, 1922)

In this little fable, the Reverend Jenkinson is a throughly good man.  In fact, the Omnipotent had been closely watching him for two weeks and found him faultless over that time.  The Omnipotent and Peter feel the Reverend should be rewarded, but how?  Rcihes would not interest him.  He would find long life rather boring.  The Omnipotent decided the best thing to do was to let the Reverend decide on his reward -- without letting him know, of course.  Satan, however, hears the Omnipotent's plan over the many universes and dimension and, hearing it, begins to laugh.

If the Reverend had one preoccupation, it was with his collection of china. and the very best piece in his collection was a Worcester bowl.  He takes the bowl down from its place to show it to the Honourable Mrs. Plantagent Jones, who, out of politeness, fakes interest.  At that moment Satan knocks the bowl ut of the Reverend's hands, it falls to an inevitable crashing on the floor.  Halfway on the bowl's journey downward, the Reverend cries out, 'Stop that!" and the bowl stops, suspended in midair.  When that happens, all the universe stops, and goes out of whack.  Planets and cosmoses crash into each other, worlds smash into pieces, and the biwl continues it journey to crash into its own small pieces.  The universe is destroyed and million find them selves either in Heaven or Hell.  (The Honourable Mrs. Plantagent Jones finds herself in Hell, in case you are interest.)

The Omnipotent is upset, but as many higher-ups do, tries to find someone to blame.  He decides the destructin of the universe was the singular fault of the Reverend Theophilus Jenkinson and call him forward to explain himself and to face the music...

Martin Armstrong (1882-1974) was an English writer and poet, best known for his short stories, which were collected in nine volumes.from 1922 to 1951.  He has been cited by some critics as "an example and exponent of some of the finest qualities in Britsh writing."  In 1929 he married the Canadian writer Jessie McDonald, the divorced wife of poet Conrad Aiken making Armstrong the stepfather of writers Joan Aiken, Jane Aiken Hodge, and John Aiken.


  • Ellen Datlow, editor, Mad Hatters and March Hares.  Original fantasy anthology of 16 stories and two poems about the world of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.  Authors include Richard Bowles, C.S. E. Cooney, Kris Dikeman, Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Stephen Graham Jones, Matthew Kressel, Seanan McGuire, Priya Sharma, Delia Sherman, Angela Slater, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Ktherine Vaz, Kaaron Warren, Ysabeau S. Wallace, and Jane Yolen.  I'm familiar with about half these authors, but those I am famliar with ensure me that this is a top-flight anthology. ..and Ellen Datlow, with her unerring ability to select great stories, is one of the best editors around.

Hybrid:  This weekend's edition of USA Today startled many people, with its front cover balzing with articles and photos of human-animal hybrids -- all of which certifying, yes, that's a thing.

It turns out the "front page" was a wraparound advertisement for the new Netflix show Sweet Tooth.  Most people glancing at the newspaper probably did not notice the word "advertisement" in a tiny font just above the headline.  The headline, BTW, reads, "Hybrid /babies born across the US," with a subhead, "World reacts to new generation of half-human, half-animal children with both awe and concern."  Along with four photos, the fake cover has two "news" stories:  "Hybrids:  the greatest mystery of our time" and "General calls hybrids a threat to national security; Activist fight back."

The television show is based on a comic book limited series of the same title by Jeff Lemire and fetures a deer-human hybrid named Gus.

The USA Today is certainly a bit of prmtinal/advertising genius, but to what avail?  I honestly can't say I've herd much buzz on the Netflix show and it seems that if people were taken in by the faux cover, they really didn't care.  Sadly, Sweet Tooth seems not to go down in history aside Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, but then the so-called panic that broadcast caused was not in any way as large as popular tradition would have it.

With gene editing and gene splicing and gene whatnot, will a true human-animal hybrid be in our future?   Not anytime soon and probably not anytime less soon.

No Florida Man This Week:   Instead, let's talk about two Florida kids -- 12- an 14-years-old -- who decided to shhot it out with Volusia County sheriff's deputies.

A bare bones account has it that the kids had run away from a group home for troubled youth, had broken into a house, armed themselves with weapons there, and opened fire on deputies who tried to talk them out of the house.  The 14-year-old -- a girl -- exited the house and pointed a weapon at officers, who shot her twice; the 12-year-old boy was taken without further incident.  At last report the girl is in critical condition.

Here's the Inside Edition coverage of the story:

As you can tell from the clip, the police used as much restraint in the situation as possible.

This is not a Florida Man story, nor is it really a Florida Kid story.  It's a story that can happen anywhere.  A story that points a damning finger at all of us today.

Kids have always been disaffected, long before this week's shootout, long before Rebel Without a Cause, long before The Blackboard Jungle, long before The Amboy Dukes.  But there's something about many of today's kids that is far more serious, far more disheartening.  A lot of children tody are growing up with no hope.  Many are convinced that they will not survive their teens.  That's just sad.  And wrong.

My wife and I used to work as therapeutic foster parents, taking in troubled kids, hoping to give them a chance.  The vast majority of these kids were good, sweet kids who were not given a break by life.  Kids who mother remarried and the new step-father did not want them.  On very small kid was being attacked by a group of older, bigger kids, so he pulled off his belt and swung it around to protect himself; the belt buckle was declared a dangerous weapon and he was sent to juvie.  Another kid, slightly retarded, was locked in a cold room with broken windows for days in the winter because she sould not recite a specific Bible verse.   Another girl, whom we fostered for six years, was retarded and schizophrenic; she had been repeatedly physically, sexually, and emotionally abused; when she came to us at age eleven, she had not even been toilet trained.  One girl spent three days on a drive to Mexico from Virginia in the back seat with her dead grandmother.  These were the good ones -- the ones worth saving.  There were only a few children we took care of who could not be saved in some way or another -- kids who took a fatalistic view of life and their future; ones who knew they were going to die on the strrets from gang violence, ones who were so wrapped up in nihilism that they could not be placed on another path.  These were the ones that truly broke our hearts.

I get upset when I hear people disparage foster parents.  I have never met a foster parent who was in it for the money, although I knw there are many out there, just as I know that they are few and far between.  Most foster parents were like us:  people trying to bring a little bit of good into the world.  There we some that were well-intentioned but also took on the job as an ego trip; people who, at hert, wer trying to prove they were better persons than their friends and neighbors because they fostered.  These people did little harm, in part because the kids were onto them, and in part because, despite their motives, they made the effort.  What does do harm, although, is the foster care system.  It's ruled by political expediency and no matter how many good people work within the system, the end goal is not to help these kids mature into a good life.  Most systems are designed to take care of a child until he or she ages out, providing no support for after that happens.  You're eighteen and you're no longer our problem -- good luck, kid.   Our social safety net has some srious flaws in it that connot be corrected with glib statements, a lack of understanding, and a lack of commitment for the entirity of our society.

And what is at the root of all these problems that kids have?  Poor parenting skill?  Perhaps, in part.  A lack of morals in our society?  Um, I think they morls are there but a lot of us jst don't know how to apply them.  Social media? Yeah, a lot of fingers can be pointed in that direction.  The economy?  As the wealth gap grows, so does helplessness.  Latent and not-so latent bigotry?  That can be be a big one.  Systemic racism exists and is etremely harmful.  (I was going to type, "Systemic racism exists in spades," but then I realized how non-PC that would sound.)    And the idea of a generational wealth gap may still hold some weight,  but the way things are going the only genratial weaalth son may be with the top 1%.  Overpopulation?  Studies of rats force into highly-populated controlled environments have proven that life soon becomes very cheap.  Climate change and the destruction of our environment?  Things are looking bleaker for all of us, especially for our kids.  The politics of greed and selfishness?  We live in a short-sighted world where reality is beginning to lose its meaning and that has an effect on our youth.  Our cult of celebrity?  People are famous for being famous, not fo any significant accomplishments.  What effect does that have on our kids?  Our educational system?  It's driven by political thinking and not by knowledge, so how's that working for us?  Our gun-loving society?  The Supreme Court, the NRA, and the gun nuts have a lot to answer for if they think a well-armed militia has not been supplanted by a standing army and that an AK-15 is a purely defensive weapon and that stand your ground laws (a.k.a., kill your neighbor laws) are not being over-applied.

So what can we do?  How can we avert situations where mere children think iit is proper to resort to violence for no discernable reason?  There is hope.  We as a people must realize that all people have worth and act accordingly, no just with our laws, but with our daily conduct, both personal and corporate.  We must draw a line and say, "No more."  In short, we as individuals, as a nation, and as a global society must begin to give a damn and must begin to act on our convictions.  Can it be done?  Hell, yes.  Will it be easy?  Hell, no.  But what choice do we have?

And Now For a Change of Pace:  First, a boy and a duck:

Then, a substitute teacher:

And, Uncle Otis:

The New York World's Fair:   For those who, like me, was not around for the 1940 World's Fair. here's you chance to check it out:

Good Stuff:
  • Police capture tiget poacher after tenty years of pursuing the Bengal tiger killer
  • 7-year-old boy swims an hour to rescue his dad and his sister
  • Oli and gas leases suspended in one of America's largest wilderness areas
  • Veteran donates 36 acres of land for a retreat for vets with addiction issues
  • Artist fills public potholes with colorful mosaics
  • Armless archer hopes to win gold at summer paralympics
  • Couple hides $1000 in baby items in Target to help other families
  • Indeginous musician turns raindrops into otherworldly music

Today's Poem:
My Father's Hands

I held my father's hand today, but he wasn't there with me
He looked my way and smiled a bit, but I don't think he could see
My tears I hold until I'm alone, I want to be so strong
Maybe he should just give up, is thinking that so wrong?

I held my father's hand today, but I don't think he was there
And mother holds and rubs his arms, sat on a plastic chair
And the pipes and tubes and sticky bits are holding him in place
He's tired of life and all this pain, I can read it in his face

I held my father's hand today, and told him how I cared
About the things we laughed about and stories that we shard
The last thing that he said to me, 'take care, I love you son'
he told me that he had been blessed , to spend his life with mum

I held my fther's hand tody, I know he didn't feel me
the greatest love that I could give was holding him so near me
his eyelids close and I kiss his head and I comb his thinning hair
I say goodbye to my loving dad, but he doesn't know I'm there

I held my father's hand today, but he wasn't there at all
But when I dream he comes to me, every time I call
And things are like they always were, where everything's alright
I'll hold his hand forever more, holding him so tight

-- Elliott B. Wrinkleberry


  1. 1939-40 World's Fair?

    Thanks for the lowdown on fostering...the insane amount of abuse that children find themselves dealing with. One assumes it was always thus, But We Don't Talk About Such Things Openly helped them continue in the Many Ways Worse Old Days. And thanks for your service thus.

    (My Cohabitant and I once took temporary sheltering duty on for a teen boy who was Off and, it turned out, molesting his younger sister (I didn't know this at first), to help alleviate the stress on the family and give the girl a break, to say the least, as they got him into a psychiatric hospital. Maybe jumping in at the deep end. Your experience as parents no doubt helped.

    That's a lot of talent, that McDonald/Aiken/Armstrong family.

  2. I watched SWEET TOOTH and didn't mind it.