Spontaneous Combustion and you (& me)

I have never seen anyone spontaneously combust, even though when I was a child they seemed to talk about this on TV regularly. I’ve never even walked into a room and had people say “You just missed it. There was a spontaneous combustion. Say, Clark, you’re never here when spontaneous combustions happen. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect you were Superman.”

I hear spontaneous combustions used to be so common that Reader’s Digest used to run a popular monthly feature titled “The Lighter Side of Spontaneous Combustion.” It was a different age. Now we know that spontaneous combustion is not funny; and encouraging the average person to come up with a supposedly amusing anecdote about it is simply encouraging them to light someone aflame for fifty dollars and a national byline. And what publication would pay fifty dollars for an amusing anecdote these days? Perhaps combustion is on the wane because the death of print has taken the profit out of it. For exposure, of course, someone may do it for free. But print is dead. And in a visual medium people would suspect special effects, that is, foul play.

In addition, society has lost its spontaneity. All combustion must now be planned. There are city and county-wide burn bans. Burning requires a permit. Smoking is frowned upon. There are issues of air quality and global warming. Clothing is fire retardant, and so is the blood of the average person, through chemical absorption.

Today if you see someone burst into flames you can be confident someone started that fire, rather than standing there wondering whether that’s the sort of thing that “just happens” and then talking about your concerns to a documentary crew.

It is, I suppose, possible that these things do happen spontaneously and there is now a government coverup regarding them. It’s one thing to believe in spontaneous combustion, but quite another thing to believe in the government coverup of the same. If anything the authorities would rather you believe fires just happen than that someone is starting them. Especially if people are being burnt up by large corporations. Yes, sometimes fire just happens.

You and me
and a fire set by thee
and I’ll see you on the news tomorrow
Me and you
and a stormy hullabaloo
that’s one hot story to follow.



Tragic Stories disguised as jokes

Later this year will see the release of my second collection of shorts “Tragic Stories disguised as jokes.” It combines History, Science, Fashion Tips, Mimes, Mythology, & tips for modern life.
                                                                                                Sample below.
tragic stories

The Perils of Pauline, a true story
by David Raffin

I’ve labored long and hard for bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
– Black Bart

Black Bart became an outlaw and a poet at about the same time, owing to what he viewed as his mistreatment at the feet of unnamed fine-haired sons of bitches. That is his story, in his own words, left after his robbery of a stagecoach. The stagecoach was a conveyance for Wells Fargo bank. Bart was a poet, a gentleman, an adventurer, and a leveler of the mighty banking system. Plus he had a cool nickname: Black Bart. He always said “please” when he demanded money in a robbery. How could you not fall for him?

Harold met Pauline when she was out looking for trouble with her friend Kathlyn and failing to find it. Instead she found Harold, who was not, in and of himself, trouble. Kathlyn was later lost.

Harold was smitten with Pauline and she used that to her full advantage. But Harold was mild-mannered, he was no outlaw– nor was he a poet. It could be argued that he was a gentleman– but not in a showy way. He lacked panache. He was morally, in fact, black and white. However, a smitten man will do anything for she whom he is smitten by; and Pauline took advantage of this, whether she planned it or not. Harold was there, so he was used.

Now, Black Bart considers this the story of Black Bart the outlaw; though he comes off none too good in it. Pauline, similarly, considers this the story of Black Bart the outlaw. Harold considers this the story of the Perils of Pauline; and Kathlyn considers this part of the Adventures of Kathlyn, though she is hardly in it. To each his or her own.

Harold was raised with genteel manners that were really a second nature to him and thus the whole concept of nurture trumping nature should not come into it, but these were the sentiments of the times– said times being sentimental by nature. He was a bookish fellow, polite, shy, honest, and caring. Sentiment of the times characterizing him as “weak.” He had poor eyesight and coordination, doing nothing to deter the popular view of him as weak; such defects being held as marking one defective.
He was educated. Not only had he graduated his eighth year, he had also graduated one year medical school; one year being all that was needed to qualify one as a medical doctor, conferring all known practical knowledge of the field– and then some.

Interactions betwixt the players broke down to segments of no more than 20 minutes apiece, though those segments frequently could be joined together to form a continuing story. Segments with Kathlyn were invariably lost. The poems of Black Bart, though often noted, are mostly no longer extant. But they live on in memory, though no longer with us. Harold, in particular, is doomed to remember them forever.

The morning Harold met Pauline he was with his friend Lonesome Luke. Pauline, as previously noted, was with her friend Kathlyn and, also as noted, they were out looking for trouble and failing to find it. They failed to find it, the four of them, for hours. Thus ends the first segment. It is hardly notable. It is difficult to see where the setup for the next segment lies. Cliffhangers were not perfected yet. First, one must care for the characters involved. This can be slow going.
The next two segments are lost. In them a bond is formed. And Pauline begins borrowing sums of money from Harold. She needs them to buy pretty things, or things to make her seem more pretty– though the latter being an impossible task in the eyes of Harold.

In the fourth segment, Harold answered the door and was immediately made an intimate acquaintance with the fist of Black Bart, who had come a-calling.
“You fine-haired son-a-bitch!” Bart screamed just before his fist made contact with Harold’s face.
Pauline ran to the two men and exclaimed, with worry, “Bart! Your hand!” and began caressing the unfisted hand of the poet.
This segment might be out of place.

Segment five is lost. It includes Pauline, Kathlyn, and Harold. It also includes a discussion of sodomy that earned it the distinction of being banned before it was lost. That, also, was the sentiment of the times. Such things were not discussed in mixed company. The segment reportedly was banned because of something in particular that Kathlyn said, though that quote is lost to time. People wonder today if the Adventures of Kathlyn proper, which are entirely lost, contained a lot of this sort of thing. It is known that segment three of the Adventures of Kathlyn proper was entitled, “She had some mouth on her.” It is commonly believed that if viewed today this segment, the above segment, and the further Adventures of Kathlyn would be rather tame by modern standards. We may never know.

Segment six contains some back story about how Pauline would come to Harold to complain about her treatment at the hands of the poet and seek the sympathy of the meek doctor. It is believed this fills in some of the story gaps missing due to the loss of segments two and three. In the earlier segments it is known that Pauline meets Black Bart and starts using Harold. In segment six Pauline weeps and Harold comforts her. She complains bitterly about the rising violence of Black Bart, his growing habit of drink, and his continued abuse of her body and soul. Harold, bewildered, says, “Why do you stay with him?” And Pauline gasps, “I love him! He has the heart of a poet!”

In segment seven Pauline explicitly rejects Harold’s love. Heartbroken, the doctor tries to do himself in by hanging; however, when he kicks the chair away the ceiling gives way. He lands on the floor and the falling ceiling plaster covers and whitens his already white face. He exhales a dejected puff of powdered plaster. This is considered the funniest segment of the series. A telegram arrives and he rushes off. Pauline is in trouble again.

Segment eight is lost to time.

In the ninth and concluding segment Pauline is tied up at the Sawmill. Black Bart has captured her and exclaims, “If’n I cain’t have you, No one can!”
Pauline screams, “Oh, Bart! I know you’re a good man, inside!”
Bart cries, “I’ve a notion to cut you in two so there’s more to go around!”
Standing beside him is his pal Snuffy Joe, who says, “Too much talk! Why ain’t she pushing up the daisies?” Snuffy then flips the switch on the saw and Pauline starts moving toward the huge round sawblade with its awful gnawing teeth.
At this point Harold rushes in and fights the two men. In a climactic fight he knocks out Snuffy Joe and Black Bart. He frees Pauline from her binds and the sawblade but loses his thumb and index finger on his right hand to the blade. He sprays blood on her white dress and she shouts, “My Dress!”
Then she runs to Black Bart. “My darling!” she cries as she cradles him.

Thus ends the series.
Harold went on to become a well-known character, using a prosthetic hand. But while his further exploits proved financially fruitful, he never loved quite like that again. There is something about your first love. Something lost.