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THE KILLER SMARM

    Once a killer smarm invaded an average home in an average neighborhood.
    The victims of the smarm did everything they could to keep it out, all to no avail. As smarms inevitably do, this one found a way through every crack, around every door, and under every window in a buzzing, shape-shifting assault that never rested in its determination to over¬whelm all those within its smothering reach.
    Killer smarms of this sort shared with more common varieties their honey-tongued, sweet-and-sticky bent but also exhibited traits that required taxonomists to expand their list of traditional smarm descriptors to include even more sac¬charine threats.  They began with unsurprising additions, such as the late-night TV offerings of:
Get well cards with weepy-eyed kittens or puppies in baskets and the caption, “We’re all thinking of you.”
and
“Twenty-five easy-listening hits by Beethoven, as you’ve never heard them before”
and 
“Starving artist” sales of copies of Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait (the one without the ear)
    But the list went on to include:
Up-close-and-personal testimonials by athletes with millions in corporate endorsements that “I’m doing all this for little Billy, who starved to death on the streets last week but I know in my heart of hearts is cheering for the team up there in a better place now”
and
Fawning music videos of tough-guy rebels in cute hats lip-syncing the lyrics to a runaway new cover of that old favorite “Everythin’ Sucks ’round Here ’cep’ Me!”
and
The day’s top headlines from Emmy-nominated anchors Chummy and Chatty with “heartrending pictures of the latest economic, humanitarian, and environmental disasters just as soon as we come back from the commercial break, followed by today’s severe weather warning from Chuckles the Witty Weatherperson, then another inspiring installment of ‘Pint-Size Heroes—Ya Gotta See This!’ and don’t forget to E-mail us your comments on our 10-part Hi-Def television world event, ‘Heartbreaks of Hollywood and the British Royals,’ plus more home video of pets in trees”
and
Pledges by the powerful and privileged never to forget the lessons they’ve learned from Joe the Schmo
and
Patriotic pep talks delivered by grown men dressed up as cuddly sports mascots 
and
Decorating tips from domestic divas for tying yellow ribbons to just about anything in times of perpetual war
    But there was more as well, additions to the list that required a whole new definition of “smarm attack,” starting with:
Motivational mantras from lifestyle coaches for “how to double your quality time in five minutes”
and
Vacuous human-interest stories and social commentary where the audience was pulled by the nose through all the proper and approved sentiments of the day
and
Cloying confessional best sellers inspiring a warm and poignant identification with 	ordinary conflicted folks struggling against extraordinary psychological and social adversity or, on the other hand, inspiring an equally warm feeling of pity and secret relief in readers at not being one of these miserable wretches
and
Breathy New Age mediums channeling prehistoric voices with advice on sprucing up your aura, where to bury that pot of gold in the backyard, and how to get your personal guardian-spirit-in-a-rock to pay attention to you when all else fails
and
Pronouncements from the pulpit featuring a spam-like spirituality that explained good and evil as a death match between us (“good”) and them (“evil”) or, with the same level of certainty, a science-fiction-inspired triumph over godless space invaders, oh, and witches too
and
Theme-park rides through Civilization-as-we-know-it-land, complete with cartoonish, coin-operated, bomb-proof talking mannequins to explain the sights 
and
Red-white-and-blue declarations by the certifiably inane that reduced the infinite complexities of civic life to the proposition that unregulated business gumption and trickle-down dreams are what the Founders really had in mind when it comes to the democracy thing, all delivered to robo-crowds in a voice somewhere between a snarl, a snicker, and a whine
    The full list of new killer smarm descriptors continued on for pages. 
    When rescue units finally broke into the house and found the vic¬tims, it was difficult to tell the adults from the children. All were cov¬ered with the same gummy smarm residue, and all had the same taut grins stretched across grotesquely swollen, pancake-shaped faces. 
    The lethal smarm, as feared, had moved on to seek out new victims elsewhere. 
    There was nothing to do at that point but to add these latest unfortu¬nates to the already bursting cold case file known as “The Smiley-Face Dead.”