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The Accidental Oracle

Dear Oracle:

What should I do when an insolent stranger with a cellphone talks at me and acts like I’m not there? I want to kill them, but understand that is “taboo” here in America, even if the insolent stranger deserves it!

That is too bad, because I was president of the Women’s Martial Arts Federation of Iran before I came to the USA and opened Farzy’s Shaolin Kung Fu Academy here in Irvine. I have the ability to kill from a distance, so all I have to do is look at you, and you are dead!

(If you have room, can you announce that I am now also a certified feng shui consultant? All I have to do is look at furniture, and it arranges itself!)

—Farzaneh “Farzy” Hosseinkhan, Irvine, California

Dear Farzy:

Cellphones seem to give users the feeling they are isolated in some sort of “phone booth” or that people around them are just cardboard props. In fact, as I stood in line for coffee this morning, a young woman barked into her phone inches from my head, apparently resuming a bitter argument that began long ago: “…well that’s typical, Ma… you treat your son like a prince, but you treat me like ”

My only reward for this assault was imagining her mother at the other end…

...lipstick smeared in a snarl, sitting in a worn bathrobe at the kitchen table chain smoking, drinking scotch and taking less care each year to hide the harpy within, until there she sits slumped on the charred stump of an electrocuted tree gurgling, flexing leather wings and bobbing side to side as wisps of smoke rise from her wig, singed by the cigarette parked near her ear so she can hear the tiny whine of its cancerous soul, burning back to life…

What you should do, Farzy, is look the offending stranger in the eye (if you can do that without killing them) and ask: “Since you are not talking to me, could you quit talking at me?”

If that doesn’t work, send a donation to me at—I’ve been working on a software “worm” that can crawl into a cellphone and, when given the order, short-circuit and melt it like cheese.

I’ve already tested the effect in my (bathtub) lab, and am happy to report that a melting cellphone makes an incredible stink that clings to everything it touches—even worse than the sardine casserole that exploded in my kitchen lab!

It took me a week and three cans of air freshener to subdue the odor, so I can guarantee you that if those “insolent strangers” do not start displaying some common courtesy, they are going to find out why skunks have such a hard time making friends!

—A. O.

Dear Oracle:

Kids in school are always picking on me, even the girls. They call me “Timmy-wimmy” and say stuff like “you stink” and “your family stinks,” then push me on the ground and laugh at me.

My mom puts garlic in everything we eat, and has me and my sister Winnie use garlic toothpaste and shampoo—the kids at school call Winnie “the wampire”—so I wonder if we really do smell. I want to stop the garlic, but I’m afraid to ask mom because she’s been crying and chewing on her garlic necklace ever since dad left to live with Uncle Rodney in San Francisco.

So I have two questions: should I ask my mom to let us quit the garlic, and how can I get mean people to leave me alone?

—Timmy Zoroaster McNichols, Jr., 12, Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Timmy:

First of all, no matter what your mother’s told you, “Timmy” is not a boy’s name. “Tim” is alright, but since you have a great nickname buried in your name—the “Roaster” in Zoroaster—you would be crazy not to use it instead. In fact, I’m going to call you Roaster here, and help you take that first step toward self esteem.

The answer to your first question is easy: Yes, do ask your mother to let go of the garlic. It’s not fair of her to turn you kids into pariahs, and she might have more luck with relationships if she didn’t smell like a pizza oven. You do want a new daddy, don’t you Roaster? The sooner you can freshen up your mother, the sooner you’ll have one.

As for mean people, you have three alternatives:

1) You can use your mom’s credit card to order a semi-automatic rifle, ammo, and a duffel bag from Wal-Mart’s web site and have them delivered overnight. Then paint “Roaster” on your forehead when you get to school, so your tormentors can beg you for mercy by name while you trace their outline with barely controlled bursts from the rifle.

The problem with this approach is that you will have to relive those few minutes of satisfaction over and over for the rest of your life, as fellow sociopaths turn you into a human Kleenex at some cold and dreary state prison. Do you have good visualization skills, Roaster? Do you think you can picture a pretty field of flowers while someone stomps on your fingers? If so, this may be the alternative for you.

2) You can use prayer to enrich your suffering. When a bully starts picking on you, look them in the eye and say “I am going to pray for you, my friend…” with all the sad solemnity you can muster, then turn around and walk away. This technique may throw the bully off balance long enough to let you escape, so you’ll have more time to pray that he gets run over by a truck before you see him again.

Even if this does not save you, it can help you to feel you’re “suffering for a reason”—for bringing the Word of God to a sinner. It may seem like small satisfaction, but over time—after enough humiliation, prayer and beatings—the arrows will lose their sting, and you will enter the state of grace called “dementia,” just a few cold miles short of heaven.

3) You can face reality. Roaster, it’s just another “fact of life”—I assume your father told you about those facts before he left?—that some people are mean. Nature abhors weakness, and like hyenas skulking at the edge of a herd on the Serengeti, bullies exist to keep the rest of us from becoming too weak to fend for ourselves.

Sure, it would be nice to sit around eating and watching TV to your heart’s content, but pretty soon everyone would be too bloated and weak to get up. Cows would chew their cud in the middle of traffic, like you were in Calcutta. Viruses would infest computer chips on trucks and turn them into 18 wheeled killers, like you were in a bad horror movie. And people would hire migrants from poor countries to be servants and do all the dirty work, like you were in some kind of feudal… Well, maybe that’s not a good example.

So you need to toughen up, Roaster, at least enough to avoid the bullies, so you can bide your time until that day in the near future when—after all the rhinos, sharks and bears have been hunted to extinction—bullies will be hunted for their organs, which contain massive amounts of hormones, to supply Asia’s new millionaires with aphrodisiacs.

And if that thought doesn’t warm you, geneticists say that at some point the Y (male) chromosome will come apart like a cheap tire on a hot freeway and men will become extinct, so the world can finally become the female utopia women have dreamed of since the first greasy haired caveman subjected a cavewoman to the humiliations women have endured ever since. I’ll bet the bullies called you “a girl” along with their other taunts, didn’t they, as though there’s something shameful in being one?

When the female utopia arrives, womb-like appliances will free women from the slavery of pregnancy. Beauty and fashion magazines will disappear as women give up the eating disorders and tortured fashions forced on them by men. Broad avenues will be lined with massive statues of female shamans, soothsayers and suffragettes—who had been maligned as witches and crones by cabals of withered old men jealous of their abilities. Mount Rushmore will be re-sculpted to depict Sacagawea, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah Winfrey, and Reese Witherspoon (as young feminist Vanessa Lutz in the movie Freeway). The only men left will be war criminals and harassing packs of drunken frat boys and their corporate brethren, stuffed and mounted in natural history museums as evidence of how far we’ve come from the caves.

Just imagine that glorious day, Roaster, when open, loving and level headed women will finally be free to share each other’s burdens, triumphs and dreams; when the human race will finally fulfill its potential; and when “Timmy” will finally be considered a masculine name!

—A. O.


Kurt Strahm


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2007

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