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winter 2003

Howdy, folks

I just read Shirl’s home page letter waxing happy over the past year. If that isn’t evidence that men and women are not simply separate genders but entirely separate species, then I’m Tiny Tim. We just don’t see things the same way. For me last year was a bummer. It even ended on a downer: the New Year’s day turkey dinner.

Now, Shirl adores turkey while I detest it. Every year she insists on cooking larger and larger birds. My god, the things she buys now are a turkey-ostrich cross-breed. These creatures are so big they're slaughtered with TOW missiles. Praise the lord, though, Shirl has the best turkey recipe in the world--with the possible exception of Jeffrey Dammer’s. You never want to watch her make that dressing! Nooo. It has raisins in it! Looks for all the world like a heard of rabbits stampeded through the kitchen while she prepared it.

Even after she cooks a turkey, the accursed thing just won’t go away. Like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps on going and going and going. And when the bird is nothing more than a skeleton, the horror still does not end. Then, she has me make soup out of the remains. Sometimes I cry. Even more so this year because the cable people are going to turn it into a reality TV episode. Wes Craven is going to direct.

Now, I'll you an idea of how the Henke year has really gone. Let’s forget about my wife’s chirpy happiness and be honest. What makes ya happy? The wretchedness of others! Well, here’s a summary of our '02 highlights that reads like something compiled by the anti-Baby New Year. Now this all happened to us in the span of two months. First, the water heater went out, followed quickly by one of the airconditioners, and the downstairs fridge, which died two days before the upstairs fridge's icemaker decided to stop spitting out ice. The septic system, doubtless attempting to take up the slack, started spitting up stuff all over the laundry room floor. (And it t’were’nt ice cubes.) In answer to that, the answering machine stopped answering, which may have infuriated the computer or the printer, since they stopped speaking to each other. The computer decided to pretend that the printer did not exist, or maybe the printer was just playing hard to get. The microwave, probably in a bid for attention, stopped waving. Annd the VCR, possibly figuring it was caught in a wild-cat appliance strike, quit. Then, pieces of Shirl’s Harman Kardon victrola whirligig decided, no doubt a suicide pact, to terminate. First, the tape deck went, followed in a couple of weeks by the CD burner, and finally the CD player succumbed to grief. The cars got wind of what was going on in the house and the Merc threw itself into a pot hole, busting a tie-rod and idle arm. Later, in a protest for being repaired, it strangled its starter. The Ford viciously attacked Shirl by breaking its timing belt and stranding her in the middle of the freeway during rush hour traffic. And so help me god, as I pulled into the garage not two hours ago, the left headlight in the Merc went out. Oedipus lives!

Ah, speaking of one with self-destructive urges, our son Matt is still living with us. Last January, he finally landed an excellent telecom job: good pay, super benefits. Things went well for several months as he paid off his debts, built up a small reserve fund, and began hunting for an apartment. Then, management started having productivity meetings with the crew. Matt, against my advice, started making suggestions on how to increase productivity. A couple of weeks later, Matt was no longer employed. He ignored one of Dilbert’s prime directives: when they tell you that they really want you to give them your honest opinion, they really only want your praise. In fact, if you see the ceiling of the conference room begin to buckle, the appropriate proactive strategy is to express your delight at having the privilege of working in such an attractive office environment. Then excuse yourself to go to the restroom, ignoring the loud crash and shrieks of agony on your way to the smoking area. Nonetheless, things may be looking up for Matt. He’s landed an even better telecom job and starts work next month. I bought him several Dilbert books for Christmas and since then I have been giving him weekly quizzes on the material.

Oh yeah, maybe there is another piece of decent news. The Reynards paid us their usual year-end holiday visit, and we got through this one without losing any more friends. You see, while everyone loves Carol, Ken possesses a personality somewhat more abrasive than the coarsest grade of sandpaper. You can introduce him to another guest and he’ll say, “Pleased to meet ya.” The guest will jump back and respond, “Oh yeah, up yours too!” One New Year’s Eve, Shirl’s pastor stomped out of the house after a five-minute conversation with Ken. I don’t know what Reynard said to the man, but he was cussing and mumbling something about the anti-Christ! Well, this year, thankfully, Ken was the perfect guest. He was congenial (at least as much as he can be); he lost at the nightly poker games; and he ate a lot of that horrible turkey, including the dressing.

As for Shirl, she has a contract to do a trilogy entitled “The American Lords.” The books should be fun, and while she’s developing other projects such as a romantic suspense novel and a series of alternate history novels, the “Lords” contract will keep the wolf from the door. That’s good because I get tired of stepping in that wolf stuff and cleaning it off my shoes.

May this year be a better one for you than last--even if the last was a good one.



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