By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
The audience erupts. There is even some Arsenio-esque woofing. Devastating. Winston is the one to beat, for sure. Then someone on the judges' panel shrieks, "You go, girl!" We all look at one another. To this day, no one has admitted to this breach of our veneer of impartiality, but we're almost sure it was Stratton.
From the back of the room walks an ordinary-looking, regular guy with a broad, doughy face and soulful eyes. He clutches a messy sheaf of papers, some bearing the distinctive letterhead of pilfered Heraldstationery. As Fred Grimm shambles, well, grimly to the front of the room, everyone knows that Winston has set an almost-impossibly high standard of piffle. But when Grimm grabs the microphone and speaks, the crowd is cowed into wide-eyed, bovine-like silence. Or maybe they are preparing to stampede the podium and reduce the poet to cud. Grimm clears his throat. "'Monkey Butt,'" he declares. And then he reads.
Morning's first fissure was still hours away. Something was wrong. No owl monkeys were around Monday morning. Not a single renegade cell phone. No bings, tings, ring-a-ling-lings. No intrusive electronic ditties. How was this possible in an age when cell phones have become anatomical extensions of the human body? No pithy text messages ricocheted around the room. John Ashcroft gonna kick some monkey butt. Instead an incessant crowing infiltrated my subconscious and reprised, by way of a dream, the haunting childhood memory of my grandmother dispatching a rooster, wringing its neck like a cowboy twirling a lariat. As I lay in bed, even as you're reading this, the morning brain fog as thick as last night's pitcher of Guinness Stout, the old semiannual question haunted me: Spring back? Spring forward? Fall back? Fall down? Slowly, it dawns on me that dawn has crept backward in time. Some thief, while I slept, stole an hour of daylight from my life. And I want it back. For days, I'll be wandering about lost in time, wondering whether the 5 p.m. SpongeBob SquarePants begins at 4 or 6 by my clock. This does not have to be. Our modern, high-tech society ought not be chained to the lactation cycles of moo cows. John Ashcroft gonna kick some monkey butt.
Think of Pembroke Pines as some kind of parallel universe, where cosmic laws and negative forces have been strangely thwarted into some sickly, haunted, decrepit structure, a bunch of bungling muggles. John Ashcroft gonna kick some monkey butt.
"Jesus," mutters one judge to another as Grimm plows ahead. "This is like the fucking Waste Land or The Divine Comedy or something. When is it going to end?"
"I think he's just getting warmed up," whispers another.
In the interest of brevity, then, we jump to the exciting conclusion.
Her travel wardrobe includes long spandex halter-top gowns and matching thongs in fluorescent pink, red, and leopard-print, silver metallic thigh-high boots, white patent-leather, thigh-high boots, Day-Glo orange-and-black zebra-stripe bikini, clear Lucite platform mules, body glitter, fruit-scented body sprays, silver glitter nail polish, hot-pink bikini with white polka dots, trimmed with white bows. John Ashcroft gonna kick some monkey butt. If you can't find 'em, you can't smite 'em. You can't bruise 'em. You can't raise welts on their sinful little bodies if they've vanished in a dysfunctional bureaucracy. Don't touch that clock. Don't fall back. End the untimely tyranny of the milk cow. Get out. And kiss my aspersions goodbye. Shut the F-- Up and Dance. I had stumbled into the Great Island Chicken War. The chickens were winning. Hunched here over the computer. Alone. Very, very alone. John Ashcroft gonna kick some monkey butt.
He stops. There's silence. Grimm surveys the napping masses, then skulks out the door.
The audience awakens to see Emily J. Minor of the Palm Beach Post step onto the stage with a crumpled page from a legal pad in her right hand. She straightens her hair with her left palm. She smiles from the microphone and begins an apparently unrehearsed monologue, ignoring the poem she had promised to read titled "Why the 'J' Says So Much about Me."
"I wrote my first column for Accent in May 1995," she begins. "It was about Marcia Clark leaving court early during the O.J. trial because she had child-care problems. And now -- unbelievably so -- it's been six years since I brought you the story of my son's first day of kindergarten.
"During these seven years, I've written about baseball, aging parents, the tests we know as the FCATs. Cell phones, Beanie Babies, the annual spring torture of trying on bathing suits. I've stayed up until 3 a.m., faking that I'm Martha Stewart. I've worked as a secretary, worn a protective cup in my pants, and sashayed down Dixie to see if anyone thought I was a hooker -- all in the interest of great journalism," she says, putting her fist over her heart, Celine Dion-style.
"I hope you laughed." She pauses, apparently waiting for the audience to agree. "Thank you for calling and e-mailing and writing me notes on pretty stationery with pink scalloped edges.