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The Book of Calvin

A Collection of Humorous Essays

Copyright 2002 by Bobby Matherne
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The Undermind Visits Japan

Click to return Home Page. Photo of Bobby Matherne by Del After several weeks of trying to locate parts for his project, Kenny went to Charlie's office where Calvin and Charlie were talking. “Charlie can’t find any regulators for our equipment anywhere. Looks like we’re chasing a dead horse here,” Calvin said. Charlie and Kenny knew Calvin meant “beating a dead horse,” as they were mostly used to his malapropisms.

“Yeah, Kenny, finding those regulators is becoming like the search for the Holy Grail,” Charlie said.

“I know,” Calvin added, “everybody tried to find it: the Greeks, the Romans, and the Croissants.”

"Well, guess what, guys. I called the plant in Ohi, Japan that Calvin and I are going to inspect next week, and on a hunch I asked if they had any. Turns out they can spare ten of the regulators we need," Kenny said, and turning to Charlie, added, "Would you contact them and arrange to buy them for us?"

"Sure, it’d be worth the extra paper work, because the manufacturer is not making them anymore," said Charlie as he turned to his terminal to check on the inventory codes. As he did, Kenny noticed that the stock level had changed from that morning. There were now more than enough assemblies in the warehouse.

"Look, Charlie! Apparently an order has just come in this afternoon," Kenny said, and looked on in amazement as Charlie investigated the source of the parts. Sure enough, an order placed six months back had just been delivered. Kenny was relieved that his project would proceed on-time without any special engineering modifications.

"Well, Kenny, as Calvin would say it -- when do you want your parts, now or earlier?" They shared a good laugh -- they had both heard when Calvin told his boss yesterday, "I need to leave now or earlier." "Why, do you have a time machine?" the boss asked him. Familiar with Calvin's knack for creating spontaneous new meanings by unique juxtaposition of everyday words, they had learned to use them to relieve the everyday routine. Their laughter was also fueled by the relief they felt by finding the parts for their project.

Danny came into the office and began talking to Calvin while Charlie cut a ticket to get the parts out of the warehouse. Danny was obviously upset with Cindy for blabbing something that betrayed a confidence he had shared with her.

"So I'm calling her Jezebel from now on, after that American Revolutionary War traitor," Danny said.

"Wasn't that Martha?" Calvin asked, trying to be helpful. "You know, the one who sewed the flag?"

"No, that was Betsy Ross," Kenny chimed in.

"Oh," Calvin said.

Kenny told Danny how Charlie had used his time machine process. Calvin puffed up his chest and said, "Never underestimate the power of the undermind, Big Boy!"

Kenny, Charlie, and Danny had a good laugh, but didn't ask for an explanation. They knew from experience when you ask Calvin for an explanation you get more Calvinisms. Kenny said, "Well, I gotta go, guys, I'm getting ready for our Japan trip. "Are you all ready to go, Cal?"

"You bet -- my bags are wrapped, sealed, and delivered," Calvin said. "When we get to Japan, I wanta see Godzilla, the Satsuma wrestlers and the Super Samurai Guy."

"Satsuma wrestlers?"

"Yep, they were members of the Satsuma clan that ran around in diapers. They fight by running into each other saying 'My belly button kisses your belly button. In Japanese, of course.'"

"Where did you learn that?" Kenny asked.

"From Bobby - that walking-encyclopedia-dictionary-Weber guy. "

"Oh, well, you better get packed -- our flight leaves tomorrow. It's Easter weekend, so get to the airport early. We need to get to Kyoto for the plant visit in three days."

"You right, and my desk is clustered with all kind of junk. I'll be as busy as two little beavers and a bee today. See you at the airport," Calvin said as he continued down the hallway.

As Kenny walked away he heard Danny ask Calvin if he knew who won the basketball game last night. Calvin said, "The other team."

"Who scored the most points, Calvin?"

"I don't know; I can't keep track of what them jockheads do," Calvin said.

Kenny kept walking. "Those two live in a world of their own," he thought to himself.


The airport was busy as Calvin and Kenny headed down the concourse to their plane. Calvin stopped to make a brief phone call to his secretary. "How's Rusty?" Kenny asked, when Calvin rejoined him.

"I was just talking to Rusty on the phone about forgetting to buy her lunch. She was mad. If she'd been on the other side of the phone, she'd've killed me." Calvin said. They continued walking through the crowd until they reached a long line of people carrying bags.

"What so good about Good Friday, Cal?" Kenny said, frustrated by the wait to clear the luggage inspection point.

"This is the day the good Lord moved the rocks and walked out," Calvin said, proud of his biblical knowledge.

"Okay, then what's Passover?" Kenny said, smiling at Calvin's response.

"The day the Jews were released from Egypt."

"Oh, and Easter?"

"When the Easter Bunny crossed his path."

"Well, that clearly explains why everyone seems to be leaving town," Kenny said. He thought to himself that having Calvin along was certainly going to make a long trip enjoyable.

The stewardess brought Kenny and Calvin menus as part of First Class service. "What are you having, Calvin?" Kenny asked.

"I'm having me one of them triathelon sandwiches there," Calvin said, pointing to the picture of the club sandwich. "I can't wait till we get to Japan and I can get me some good beefy-sushi."

"Drinks, gentlemen?" the stewardess asked as she rolled her drink cart up to them.

"I'm taking the Coorsmobile," Calvin said, "the ole Silver Bullet. That was what the Lone Ranger called his dog, you know." The stewardess handed Calvin a Coors Light and he raised it in the air at Kenny and said, "Well, Bon ala Pete!"

A few minutes later the stewardess brought their club sandwiches and Calvin took a big bite. "Hmm, hmm, good," he said, and noticing Kenny hadn't started his sandwich yet, said to him, "Go ahead, Kenny, let your tongue suck your brains out. Oops, I burnt my whip!"


"Haaah -- hot coffee, swishing all over my mouth. Couldn't spit it out, wouldn't be polite!" With Calvin, politeness was a way of life that transcended ordinary reality.

"Did you hurt yourself?" Kenny asked.

"No, it was frivial." Calvin said, as he returned to his sandwich.

"How was your meal, Calvin?" Kenny asked as he finished his lunch.

"It was great -- a feast de la resistance," Calvin said, as he handed the tray back to the stewardess. "Now I'm gonna have me a drink of wa-wa and take me a nap." With that he nestled against the window and slept most of the way to Tokyo.

Later in the flight they were both reading a book about Japanese industry when Kenny turned to Calvin and asked, "Did you see that list of books in the back?"

"You mean the b - i - b - l - i word, the bigelow, oh, bigliography, that's it. Yeah, Big Boy, I saw it. That's a lot of books to read."

"I'm interested in the one about how Buddhism first came from India."

"Yeah, I know all about India. For instance, I know Indianites walk on glass all the time and sleep on nails."

"Those are the fakirs," Kenny said.

"I don't think they were faking when I saw them, Big Boy," Calvin said, in a tone of voice that made any manner of response superfluous.


In Japan the people are shorter than the average American and Calvin was taller than the average American. He found this out his first day off the plane in Tokyo where he and Kenny spent sight-seeing for a couple of days while overcoming their jet lag. Calvin’s reddish hair and freckles also stood out in a crowd -- stood out over the crowd, in fact. His head seemed to float above crowded Tokyo sidewalks like a beach ball above a college graduation.

The biggest problem for Calvin was in the public restrooms which are designed for much smaller men. One day, when an urgent call of nature came, he found himself sitting in a small stall with his arms wrapped across his knees, holding them tightly just to keep the stall door closed. Suddenly his arms slipped and his knees flew forward, knocking the stall door wide open. Calvin, all six foot two of him, sprang out into the restroom, half-standing, holding onto his pants.

A Japanese man in a business suit had just turned away from the urinal. He looked up in terror as he saw this redheaded giant, his pants down at his knees, lumbering towards him. Calvin, scrambling to pull up his pants, started apologizing profusely. The smaller man bowed, then Calvin bowed, pulled up his pants a little, and bowed again. The Japanese man bowed again, and so did Calvin.

Bowing in Japan for Americans is a little like spelling banana -- you know how to spell it, but you're just not sure when to stop. It was a very polite encounter, and as soon as the bowing ended, Calvin quickly buckled up his pants and left the restroom, wishing there were a big rock he could hide under. When he returned to his table at the sushi bar, Kenny noticed something was wrong.

“What’s the matter, Calvin? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Well, it was no Caspar the Friendly Ghost, I can tell you that. After all Caspar is an American.”

“So, what happened?” Calvin told Kenny about his episode in the men’s room and Kenny ordered them a round of saki. “Here drink this down in one gulp,” Kenny said, “it’ll calm you down.”

Calvin swallowed the drink, slammed the cup down on the table and said, “Slam Bam! Thank you, surprise! Whew!”

“Care for another one, Cal?” Kenny said, smiling at his friend’s antics.

“No, Big Boy, tell ‘em to bring on the beefy-sushi.”

“I thought you were afraid to eat sushi.”

“That saki done took all the fright out of me.”

“How was your sight-seeing today, Calvin?”

“On my way to the Japanese gardens I saw an Epiopian guy with a beast woman pulling a Wottweiler dog,” Calvin said, “She looked like a Satsuma wrestler. Anyway, I didn’t think they had foreign people and dogs here. I mean other than Japanese-foreign. Then I kinda got lost, but I finally found the garden by pot luck.”

“Still want to go the dinner show tonight at the Hilton?”

“Sure -- they’ve got that American singer, Jerry Humbledink.”

“You mean Englebert Humperdinck,” Kenny corrected him.

“I know that -- I was thinking too fast. You're a regular Ramona Barrett, aren’t you. You know all that stuff.”

“By the way, did you leave behind your registered handgun this time?” Kenny asked. “I know you used to carry it in your luggage on trips.”

“No, Big Boy,” Calvin said, “I left it home. You see, my .44 doesn't shoot well, I couldn't hit the side of a sheet of paper with it.”

“In that case, I’ll call a taxi to take us back to the Hilton.”


That night in the grand ballroom of the Hilton, the maitre d’ was showing them to their table and Calvin turned to Kenny, “ Look at all them artdisco style chairs.”

“I hear the food is great here,” Kenny said.

“I hope they cook the sushi here longer than at that place we had lunch today,” Calvin said.

“Calvin the sushi was raw,” Kenny explained.

“I know -- that's what I said. I hope they cook it well done here.”

Calvin was feeling good as they neared their table. He began singing, “C'mon Baby, Spark my flame.”

Kenny laughed as they sat down. “You really are good at tossing around the epithet, Calvin."

“Yeah, appetite, that’s what I got right now. Let’s eat.”

They placed their order with the waiter and had a couple of rounds of saki.

“Did you win anything at that Pachinko Parlor you went to this afternoon, Cal?”

“Sure did -- I made all the machines go rinkedy-dinkedy. Don’t know how much I won -- it was all foreign coins. I’ll be glad to get home to Saturday morning cartoons, pizza, and my tremoncktious hot tub.”

“I guess there’s no place like home, Calvin,” Kenny said.

“That's a ten-oh-four, Big Boy!”

Sometimes Calvin leaves everyone speechless.

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