Jameson Piffle is a member of Local 106 of the National Union of Funerary Artists and Blacksmiths in LeBratt, Accadia. He has been a gravedigger for six months. Previously he served as steward’s mate on the Lake Pencil express ferry.

Some people like to say they’re pretty good at things. Well, I’m not. Pretty good basically says you’re almost good. I’m not almost good at grave digging. I am a good gravedigger. Yes, I am a really good grave digger.

One of the most important parts of digging a grave is to get the depth right. A lot of novice grave technicians are blinded by that old wive’s tale about the grave being six feet deep. A proper grave hole is six feet, five inches deep. Even experienced gravers get the depth wrong. But not me. Always six feet, five inches on the dot. I use a tape measure.

There are guys who skimp on the corners. You would think this wasn’t a big deal because the coffin’s going to go in and they’re going to fill in the dirt, so who cares about corners. You would be wrong in every way. A proper, cheerful-looking grave needs some sharp corners. That’s why I use a drafting T. It’s only a couple of extra minutes and the widows do so appreciate the effort.

Tarps are probably the most important maintenance precaution needed in the task of grave digging. Without a good tarp, all the work you put into good corners and just the right depth gets ruined by passing rain or even dew in the morning. Professionals prefer blue tarps, but some amateurs have been making advances in patterned tarps. I still prefer the blue, though. You can’t go wrong with a blue tarp. Make sure to weigh down the corners with some old bricks or chipped grave stones.

Now sometimes if you’re working a double shift, the Cemetery Captain might ask you to help fill in a hole here and there. Sometimes it’s busy, sometimes there’s just no one else around to help out. A lot of grave diggers turn up their noses at this kind of work because we’re grave diggers, not grave fillers. They’re a whole other union. But, I think you have to do what needs to get done, and if there’s filling needed and I’m around, I’ll be a grave filler for a couple of minutes.

Something special I like to do when no one is looking is spruce up the flowers on the graves. I don’t do this because I’m embarrassed, but because the Florists Local gets pretty darned upset if they catch you doing their job. I always think, though, that a nice cheerful grave needs some cheerful foliage, so I try to do my part.

And there you have it. I’ve met all three points for being a good grave digger, plus two points of things grave diggers don’t normally do.

I am a good grave digger.

While I Was Flying a Kite on the Beach

by H.G. Peterson
(for President Roosevelt)
H.G. Peterson

Across this Earth there are a great many cultures and nations
From the richest country to those with lowest station
There are colonies, territories and even satellite states
But they all have in common, this of all their traits;

From Russia to Bulgaria to the Mongolian lands
And down to Mississippi and the Hawaiian sands
All the different lands have one thing in common
They all have comely women, with curvy little bottoms
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Axes & Alleys Essay Questions

All essays should be 500-1000 words, double spaced 12 point Times New Roman font. You will be graded for clarity, accuracy, communication, knowledge of the texts and style, grammar and spelling. Please send all essays to:

Axes & Alleys
Special Essay Submission
c/o President Armstrong
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Select One of the Following Questions for Your Essay:
1. Compare and contrast the role of police in a post-modern urban society with the texture of shag carpeting.

2. Does the Galaxy, as described by Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy function in a way that is more or less democratic than the 17th Century Viceroyalty of Panama? What part did warfare and piracy play in the development of both societies?

3. In what ways is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis consistent with ship building techniques of the Medieval period and in which ways does it differ? Bonus credit for a detailed comparison to the nails used in English fishing boats of the period.

4. If calligraphy involves a great deal of skill and practice, why is it still so hard to read? Define user interface as it relates to the calligraphy of the 18th Century.

5. Compare the parallel development of blimp technology, mayonnaise and the recent evolutionary developments of beetles (if any).

6. What was the influence of the Cold War on the politics of the area around the Piazza Santo Spirita in Florence, Italy in the second week of May, 1964?

7. Several important people have noted that the character of Boo Radley is never shown onscreen during the Back to the Future Trilogy. What are some of the reasons that the authors would have left him out of the films? In what ways can the Back to the Future series be seen as sequels to the book To Kill a Mockingbird?

8. Contrast the cuteness factor (h23A) of the lowland chinchilla with the overbearing power of a thermonuclear explosion without falling into the classic Dremel Dixon Conundrum.

9. Discuss the prevalence of anthropomorphic animals and objects in children’s stories, programs and films. In what ways does this relate to the common animistic religions of indigenous populations?

10. In what ways can the film Kelly’s Heroes be seen as an allegory? What would Don Rickles’ character “Crapgame” represent? Compare and contrast this with the role of the beast Orgolio from Edmund Spencer’s The Fairy Queen. Is it just a coincidence that Spencer’s work rhymes with the restaurant Dairy Queen?

All essays are due by 9:15 A.M. (Zulu Time) 8 November 2006

My Brunch with Dirk Benedict


Dirk Benedict came over on Sunday, mid-afternoon. He didn’t take haste in coming, for our time together is leisurely. In answering his knock, I opened the door to find that dashing man upon my verandah. Standing tall and full of life, he sent vibrations near and far.

With bloody maries already at hand I invited him to sit. Oh did we wile away the time, sipping at our cocktails; discussing Aristophanes and macroeconomics. Dirk Benedict, I say, is a masterful economist. with command of theory, practical experience and a rapacious imagination. Later we happily switched to sangria.

I gently bade him enter now, for a fine repast I had awaiting. His eyes were twinkling as he dug right in. His mane is cherubic when he’s eating rye toast and fried ham, and almost laughing at his eggs benedict. Dirk Benedict enjoys that jape, no matter how many times it’s done.
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