Some mornings, I really wish I could pretend that I write only to please myself and honestly don’t give a Fig Newton what my readers think. Then again, the smug satisfaction of having managed to go almost seven weeks into a blogging contest without a smackdown from Dave and Prunebutt left me thinking I could get by with it – forgetting that Dave probably had a Google alert set up for “holly jahangiri” AND alexa AND “mindless metrics.” (Oh, Dave, you’re just gonna love this week’s challenge… Shall I wax poetic about Google Analytics?) Ironically, I was sitting in a Boy Scout Court of Honor when my phone vibrated and Dave’s comment on “Short Term Goals, Long Term Vision” popped up. Reading between the lines, I could tell the man was hanging out with the little people in my head – some days, he is one of them, himself – eating up all my chocolate and throwing peanuts and M&M shells on the floor of my batty belfry.
“Erma Bombeck’s gonna disown you,” he taunted. Try explaining the ensuing cross between a splutter and a giggle during a rather solemn moment in which an Eagle Scout explains why the journey to Eagle is worth it, despite the hard work and parental nagging and time away from the ‘fumes of cars and girls. I tucked the phone back into my pocket after making sure it was set to silent.
Prunebutt, the monstrous and maniacal dust-bunny that passes for my Muse, refusing to be silenced whenever he’s feeling righteously validated and knows he’s got Dave in his corner, rolled around gleefully.
Trockle trundled over and gave Prunebutt a good soccer kick for me, landing the goal in an overturned trash basket full of discarded drafts. “We have to help her, you know, before she goes completely over to the Dark Side.”
“How?” asked Irma. “They’re over there talking grown-up stuff. Analyticating.”
Prunebutt muttered something about “analyticating” sounding like a proctologist’s dream. Trockle went on practicing his soccer skills.
“You’re good with numbers, Irma. Didn’t you say math was your favorite subject?” asked Stephen.
“That was back in Fourth Grade!” cried Irma. “I’m into Theater Arts now.”
“You’re a smart girl,” said Dave. “One doesn’t preclude the other. You’re just like my recycling guy, thinking he can’t take aluminum foil because he’s collecting aluminum cans.”
“I’m just saying, it’s a shame you’d give up math for theater when you’re so good at both.”
“I thought you didn’t like numbers, Uncle Dave?”
I smirked. Try to find a good comeback for that one, Dave.
“I don’t like it when she—“ Dave punctuated the thought by pointing a virtual finger at my proboscis, “—lets Alexa and Google Analytics and whatever do her thinking for her. Besides, I happen to know she’s just pulling standard deviations out of her behind. You may be good at math, but Holly’s just a poseur.”
I sneezed, just then, hoping to rid my head of this little impromptu roast and all the people in it. Three ASMs turned their heads in unison and raised stern and quizzical eyebrows at me. I gave them my best shot at an innocent smile and a nod.
Everyone agreed that “poseur” sounded like a nasty word, and set about trying to save their author from being one. Dave, the ever-resourceful grown-up who – by virtue of years spent in Scouting Neverland – corralled the boisterous friends into a circle. He quickly tacked a hand-written copy of the Scout Oath and Law to the inside of the author’s brain, and began the meeting of her Imaginary Friends. “Wait!” cried Stephen. “We’re not imaginary, we’re real!”
Dave opened his mouth to argue the point, but just as quickly realized the paradoxical position that would put him into, and shut it just as quickly. “Virtual?”
“How about ‘Imaginative,’” snarked Prunebutt, “since without us, she’d have no imagination of her own?”
At that, Trockle kindly upended the trashbasket on top of Prunebutt, who could be heard angrily bouncing off its aluminum walls. “Mrphlsrglfrp!!”
“Hadn’t we better talk about goals, or something?” asked Stephen, looking around and seeing a huge tree frog just outside the window. It looked hungry.
“Good idea, son,” said Dave. “Would you like to start?”
“Um, my goal is to be an Eagle Scout!”
Sure it is, I mentally muttered.
“Do you have a plan for that?” asked Dave. I about lost my punch and cookies.
“Maybe I could join Boy Scouts,” said Stephen, eager to help.
“That might keep you from going the route of Little Jackie Paper,” rumbled a voice from the shadows. Suddenly, the room was filled with smoke that smelled of cinnamon and gingerbread, with just a hint of oregano and mint tea.
“Puff!!” everyone cried.
“To answer the question I know is on all your minds, it was never about drugs,” said Puff, shaking his head sadly.
“No?” asked Dave, somewhat skeptically.
“No. He just grew up. Became…an actuary.”
At that, a horrified gasp was the only sound that could be heard in my head. My own.
“He forgot what it was like to be a kid, and his imagination – along with all the creatures in it – died. Their deaths weren’t even interesting. They just shriveled up and went ‘pop!’ quietly, and almost no one noticed. So let that be your first goal,” said Puff, sadly. “Keep your imagination healthy and alive.”
“Or you’ll turn into a actuary?” said Trockle, hiding under the bed and peeping out from beneath the heavy spread.
A few seconds later, Trockle’s mother, Grunelda, stomped out from under the bed. “Now look what you’ve done! You should all be ashamed of yourselves. The poor little monster’s going to have nightmares for a week!”