What’s Batman Really Hiding in His Utility Belt?

Batman is everyman’s hero. He wasn’t born with any superpowers; he doesn’t have any special abilities. He just uses what he was born with, getting by on his detective skills, brute strength, and martial arts knowledge. But wait, wait there’s more…

Fortunately, he was also born with a massive monetary inheritance that afforded him a bat-mobile, new decorations for the bat-cave, and (perhaps most importantly) his utility belt. You may protest: “But now he is just relying on gadgets to get by. He’s no longer just a dude on the street fighting to avenge his parent’s death.” A counter-argument: his gadgets in different hands would be far less effective, which makes him even cooler. He is able to use a flippin’ batarang. Could you do that? Probably not. Not unless you are Batman. And you can’t be Batman, because Batman is a fictional character. Cue mind explosion.

But what I really want to know is “What’s in Batman’s utility belt?” There is speculation, of course, and even legitimate comics that tell us what’s in Batman’s belt. See below.

Whoswho_ubelt

 

tumblr_mqsy44RD6p1r7ni1io1_1280

But this isn’t real. It can’t be. It’s like when the government says, “Oh, no. We aren’t listening to your phone conversations. Hehehehe.” The ominous laughter really gives them away. Anyways, what’s really in Batman’s utility belt? Easy. Just think about it. Batman is a busy guy. He is always on the go, so he probably doesn’t have time to stop in the middle of crushing villains to have a bite to eat. The answer is simple: sandwiches. In every pocket of Batman’s belt is a sandwich. OR maybe, just maybe, every compartment holds an element of the sandwich, so that the bread doesn’t get soggy, and everyone knows that soggy bread makes for the worst kind of sandwich.

What do you think Batman’s really hiding in his utility belt?

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Writing Challenge: Re-statement

Writing Challenge: Find at least 5 different way to re-state a simple phrase. First make up a phrase, and then the game is afoot! The re-statements must contain the essence of the original, though they don’t require the exact same words.

If you participate, feel free to leave your examples in the comments!

My Examples:

Original Phrase: The house was quiet.

Re-statements:

1. A silence swept through the place.

2. Nothing stirred at the end of McCall lane, and the red brick house that had stood there for over a century remained abandoned, without owner for the better of 13 years, which was a considerable time in light of the property.

3. Silence resounded through the house; and like wind before a storm, it only served to increase the anxiety of Peter’s guests.

4. He tilted his ear towards the door, but heard nothing apart from the grandfather clock.

5. To say the quiet was immense would have been a regrettable understatement. No, the house wasn’t quiet; it was dead.

Writing Challenge: Steve Harvey’s Mustache

Yesterday it happened. It’s the same thing that happens to us all in moments of darkness and despair, those epochs of woefully terrifying boredom. That’s right. I watched daytime TV.

And what I saw was awe inspiring. I tuned in to a man (likely unqualified to do so) giving relationship advice to married couples, which was disturbing albeit slightly humorous. But less disturbing was the host’s image. This man was strong, confident, and witty. He dished out advice as a lunch lady dishes out mystery meat; that is to say, with speed and consistency. And like mystery meat, his advice was wonderful at first, but once settled it gave the listener an upset stomach. This made no difference to the studio audience. And his guests nodded their heads at his wisdom, agreeing to do whatever he said. But why? Was it some sort of Jedi mind trick? Or was it simply the host’s gusto? I watched carefully to find out; and I discovered that more confident than the man was his mustache, for his facial hair was as glorious as the peak of mount kilimanjaro. The man in question: Steve Harvey.

Before you read on you must know that I think Steve Harvey is a truly hilarious comedian. So all of the following is really just an outpouring of jealousy. I’m envious of two things in particular: (1) his ability to be funny and (2) his ablity to grow facial hair.

steve-harvey-lawsuit-101

His mustache could persuade every world power towards nuclear disarment.

His mustache is actually a black hole, destroying the reasoning abilities of anyone that gazes into its terrible abyss.

His mustache could conquer the world, but right now it’s too busy conquering women’s hearts.

His mustache was once an old punctuation mark that was meant to beget world peace, but instead it chose Steve Harvey’s face to bring about a new age of love.

His mustache grooms itself.

Alas, I could continue, but Steve Harvey’s mustache would sue me for libel. All this talk about Steve Harvey’s mustache did make me think up a prompt for another writing challenge. Check it out.

Writing Challenge: Write about an interaction with a character and an inanimate object.

Stay in New York, Spider-Man!

It’s hard to wake up. Often enough when my alarm clock goes off, I slap the ol’ snooze button and retreat back to dreamland. This doesn’t always work, though, especially when you have a full time job. Apparently not showing up to work on time is some sort of ‘party foul’, which is what your bros call it. But your boss might just call it a ‘fire-able offense’.

I remember it was especially hard to wake up when I was a kid. My sweet mom, who has the patience of a saint, would wake us up by singing a song, which always softened the blow. But still the task of getting out of bed and ready for the day always seemed to prove difficult. So my heart goes out to children who have to wake up early for school.

It gets better, kids. It gets better.

Every day my brothers and I would drag ourselves out of bed (sometimes we were dragged) to go to school. Every day we would drearily complain that the sun wasn’t up. Why should we even be awake? Every day this happened, except Saturday.

On Saturday we would (without alarms or prompting from parents) wake up bright and early. No problems. Forget about it. What made such a difference? Saturday morning cartoons. And on Saturdays instead of being dragged out of bed, we would run through the house like wild children, dive into bowls of excessively sugary cereal, and watch cartoon after cartoon after cartoon.

My personal favorites were Batman and Spider-Man. I liked Spider-Man so much that I wanted to be a photographer for a time, just like Peter Parker (Spidey’s true identity), though that dream was soon dashed by my inability to take a clear picture. See below.


Now that I think about Spider-Man, though, I feel sorry for him. Here’s why: Spider-Man is essentially useless outside of New York City. Just think about it. If a terrible monster is attacking any other city, Spider-Man will not be invited.

Captain America: Looks like there’s a big monster destroying all the corn in Kansas.

Iron Man: No worries. I’ll stop him, but I may need some help.

Spider-Man: Let me lend a helping hand. I don’t really have anything going on right now.

Iron Man: I mean, that’s cool. I was going to bring the Hulk…

Spider-Man: Cool, bro! Let’s go.

Iron Man: (Sighs)

Above poor Iron Man is bothered severely by Spider-Man’s intrusion. Usually he’d just say, “No, you can’t come.” But he knows Spider-Man is sensitive to this sort of talk, and will be deeply offended by any rejection. Although, if the Avengers ever need a photographer who lives in the New York area, they know who to call. Or, more likely, if there is ever a job they don’t really want to do, they can just send Spidey.

Thor: Behold! Loki’s minions are ascending upon the Canadian countryside. Alas I cannot go, for my heart beckons me to listen to sad music and braid my own hair. Captain America, it’s up to you to defeat Loki’s hordes.

Captain America: Forget it. I’m not going to Canada.

Iron Man: My passport just expired. What about you, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: My bow is in the shop for repairs, otherwise I would totally go. Ant man, why don’t you –? Ant man?

Hulk: Hulk accidentally step on ant.

Captain America: Dang it, Hulk. That’s the third new recruit you’ve squashed this month.

Iron Man: Well, if no one wants to go, I’ll just call Spidey. He’ll do it.

This is why Spider-Man should stay in New York. He belongs there. He would be useless in Canada. He wouldn’t make it in Kansas. Even if he went to a larger city, say Austin, Texas, he would still prove fairly useless. I think his abilities, specifically his ability to web-sling from building to building, limits any operations outside Manhattan, which is why Spider-Man should stay in NYC. He belongs there. Of course (and this may blow your mind) he is fictional and doesn’t really exist. So now I’m at the end of this piece, questioning it in its entirety.

Enjoy!

Writing Challenge: Character’s Job

It’s time to write again! This one is fairly straightforward.

CHALLENGE: Write about how a character makes a living.

Disclaimer:

The example I wrote isn’t great. I can’t peg down what I don’t like about it, but I don’t like it. That’s part of writing. Not everything you come up with is going to be gold (or even silver or bronze). A lot of times your writing may not even place. It may be so bad that you tie a brick to your writing and throw it in a river. But here is some advice from the great and wonderful Stephen King: ” I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild… All I ask is that you do as well as you can.”

My example:

Tom always introduced himself as a pianist, even though he only played at the jazz club every other Thursday. In reality he had spent the past five years working as a part-time shelf-stocker for Walmart. Management continually offered him full-time hours, but he rejected the offer on the grounds that he needed to focus on his music. Tom would often confess, “I’m still looking for my sound.” And at parties he would explain, “It’s a mix between Mozart and Miles Davis. I call it Post-Post Neo-Classical.” When he played for friends, they would say it was great and they enjoyed it. Curiously enough they never purchased his album, nor did they go to his shows.

The Big Red Button of Doom

Here is a short story I wrote a few months back. Let me know what you think.

The Big Red Button of Doom

The room was pale white, not pasty (like my skin) but dull (like my voice). It held three objects: a man, a chair, and a big red button. For the man, whose name is unimportant, the red button was irresistible. He couldn’t stop looking at it. His eyes, which were named Trevor and Kenneth, bore into the button as if it was the coolest, sexiest thing they had ever seen. But it wasn’t a cool button. Its temperature was slightly below that of the room- about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. And it wasn’t exactly sexy; that is, Kenneth thought the button had the potential to be attractive, but Trevor just saw it as round and red. Typical Trevor.

Anyways, the man sat motionless, staring at the button. That’s what the guys in the lab coats told him to do. And who was he to refuse? They were paying him a decent amount of money to do this experiment, though he couldn’t stand it for much longer. He just couldn’t handle this type of pressure. Who could?

Two hours earlier

The man walked into an office. It seemed normal. A few chairs. Some magazines. A receptionist. He signed a few papers. He didn’t read the papers. He just signed. Other men– two doctors in lab coats– brought him back through to a small office. The office was sterile and empty save three chairs. They sat down and introduced themselves.

“I’m Dr. Brown,” said Dr. Brown.

“I’m Dr. Smith,” said Dr. Smith.

“My name…” started the man.

“Wait,” interrupted Dr. Smith. “We don’t care about your name. Just look at this.”

Then Dr. Brown handed him a manila folder full of paper. The man took the file without hesitation.

“If you look at this graph,” said Dr. Smith, “then you’ll see the population growth (estimated, of course) for the next fifty years.”

“Alright.”

“Now,” said Dr. Brown, shuffling to a different paper, “compare that with the amount of food production, carbon emissions, potential economic downturn, and predicted natural disasters.”

“I see.”

“You’ll notice that these numbers are in conflict,” said Dr. Smith. “They don’t align. In fact, they don’t align so much that in fifty years the earth will be a wasteland. There won’t be any water, except for recycled waste sold by ludicrous companies. There won’t be any fuel for our cars. The whole world will have to pedal to work on bicycles.”

“Bikes chafe my thighs,” said Dr. Brown.

“I hate chafing,” said the man.

“We all do,” said Dr. Smith sympathetically. “Now if you look over here, you’ll see that—because of famine and soil depletion—our food supplies will cease to exist. There won’t be any food for our children.”

“In short,” added Dr. Brown, “it’s the end of the world.”

“That’s right,” nodded Dr. Smith, “essentially the earth will no longer be able to support human life. I mean, just look at those charts! The data doesn’t lie.”

The man looked at the charts diligently. They were paying him by the hour, after all, and he didn’t want to let them down. But he was confused.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” he said after a thoughtful pause, “but I don’t really understand what you want me to do. I mean, what’s the experiment?”

The two doctors chuckled.

“It’s less of an experiment,” said Dr. Brown. “It’s more of a… what’s the word…”

“Opportunity,” suggested Dr. Smith.

“Yes, good,” smiled Dr. Brown. “This is an opportunity- a great opportunity. We are going to send you into a room. In that room will be a red button. If you decide to press this button, two-thirds of all humanity will perish. It’s a tragedy, you know, but it’s a tragedy to prevent future tragedy. We could save a third of humanity now, or we could lose all of humanity in fifty to sixty years.”

Presently

The man had sat still for an hour, a long and seemingly endless hour. He thought the doctors were probably mad. He had found out about this experiment through an ad. Surely he wasn’t deciding the fate of the world through an advertisement. And the charts, reflected the man, they looked professional, but maybe they were just created to fool him. Anybody can make charts, after all. It was this line of logic that led the man to conclude that the experiment was a fake– just another social experiment to mess with his mind. He wondered what they were actually studying. “That didn’t matter,” he told himself. The big red button winked at him from across the room. He stared at it for a long while. Then he shook his head, shooing away the delusion, the fiction.

They were convincing, though, whether they were hired actors or professional quacks. Their charts, their office, even their secretary seemed real. For a moment, he had actually believed them. He laughed at himself for his naivety. It was so ridiculous. He stood up to exit the room; yet, he hesitated. His hand had reached the doorknob, but he couldn’t leave. He looked back, and the button gleamed large in the man’s eyes. “I’ll just push the button for fun,” thought the man; “the good doctors will get a kick out of it.” His heart began to beat faster.

He pressed the button.

Nothing happened. A moment passed. He laughed at himself again. Then the room shook. He stopped laughing. The man thought it was a sort of earthquake, but the walls of the room were being lifted up, slowly. The room had been a façade. The four walls rose through the air, leaving the man behind. A flash. Absurdly bright lights burned his eyes. He covered his face, but still couldn’t see anything beyond the edge of the room. Voices rose from all around him. The man, stumbling about the place in shock, was confused. His eyes adjusted to the light. He could see a stadium now. A crowd filled the seats, and their voices whispered.

“So this is the end of the world,” thought the man.

A screeching came over a loudspeaker; it boomed through the auditorium. Out of the speaker came a mean, gangly voice. It said:

THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM IS YOUR ENEMY. UNLESS YOU END HIM, THE WORLD AS YOU KNOW IT WILL BE DESTROYED, TWO-THIRDS OF HUMANITY WILL DIE, AND MANY OF YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT OUT OF THIS AUDITORIUM ALIVE. YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES TO MAKE YOUR DECISION.

A huge, impressive digital clock hanging from the above the stands began a countdown. The burning neon numbers glowed menacingly. If you had been there, you might have been able to hear the buzz of electricity, for an unpleasant silence followed the announcement. The man stood up, raised his arms in a sort of surrender, and began to plead with the people.

“I’m just like you… I didn’t do anything… You aren’t really going to take this announcement seriously? There’s no need to panic! Wait…. Wait!”

But the crowd heard none of his pleas. They were shouting across the room, informing one another on the benefits of killing the man. Some in the crowd were against the killing. There seemed to be a short argument, a mumbling, and then a rumbling chaos.

The crowd shouted wild shouts; their voices bashed the man’s skull, like sirens screaming through a thunderstorm. And before he knew it, before he could react, before he could run away, the crowd was upon him. It was ugly. I would describe it more thoroughly (and with gusto!), but my wife said I should leave this part out, so that the story isn’t too gruesome. They tore the man into four separate and distinct pieces, ultimately ripping his arms from the sockets. Blood stained the auditorium floor. In the end, he was unrecognizable.

I saw all this from a spacious booth that stood at the top of the auditorium, far from the din and the madness of the crowd. I saw the countdown clock stop with 3 minutes and 8 seconds remaining. It took the crowd 112 second to decide a man’s fate. They didn’t even wait a full 2 minutes; they had hardly discussed the matter at all. What a world!

I had the charts—the same data Dr. Brown and Dr. Smith had given the man—and I had made my decision, though it took me a little longer than 112 seconds.

I pressed the button.

Five Lines from Hamlet

Shakespeare’s Hamlet has something for everyone. For the men- everyone dies. For the women- there’s a ghost. That’s right, ladies, a flippin’ ghost.

Here are five of my favorite passages from Hamlet.

1. Act II, Scene II, Lines 242-254.

I like this bit because the oft-neglected word ‘strumpet’ is used.

HAMLET
My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern?
Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?

ROSENCRANTZ
As the indifferent children of the earth.

GUILDENSTERN
Happy, in that we are not over-happy;
On fortune’s cap we are not the very button.

HAMLET
Nor the soles of her shoe?

ROSENCRANTZ
Neither, my lord.

HAMLET
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of
her favours?

GUILDENSTERN
‘Faith, her privates we.

HAMLET
In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she is a strumpet.

2. Act III, Scene I, Lines 64- 97.

This is Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, a speech that not everyone appreciates. Charles Lamb, for instance, wrote, “I confess myself unable to appreciate that celebrated speech… or to tell whether it be good, bad, or indifferent; it has been so handled and pawed about by declamatory boys and men, and torn so inhumanly from its living place and principle of continuity in the play, till it has become to me a perfect dead member.” This performance by David Tennant would perhaps change Lamb’s mind.

3. Act IV, Scene 1, Lines 6-8.

This is right after Hamlet stabbed Polonius. I like that Shakespeare gave the Queen such poetic lines, because it makes me feel that Hamlet inherited his poetic sensibilities from his mom.

King
What Gertrude? How does Hamlet?

Queen
Mad as the sea and the wind when both contend
Which is the mightier.

4. Act IV, Scene 5, Lines 3065-3075

Ophelia’s descent into madness.

Ophelia (sings)
And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead;
Go to thy deathbed;
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow,
All flaxen was his poll.
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan.
God ‘a’mercy on his soul!
And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God b’ wi’ you.

5. Act V, Scene I, Lines 190-194

The jester’s skull seems to me the death of any potential comedy. Hamlet’s tone has shifted from wit and playful absurdity to a somber acceptance of his fate, his duty to his avenge his father’s death.

HAMLET

Let me see. Takes the skull

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow

Of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath

Borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how

Abhorred in my imagination it is!

The Difficulties of Reading Shakespeare

I saw Shakespeare’s Hamlet a few years back. It was a performance in the park. It was on a weeknight, and it lasted until 10 p.m., which is way too late for a weeknight. I usually like to be in bed by ten o’clock on school nights, so near the end I began to fade.

For the last two acts I took arms against a sea of drowsiness,

But such a pitiful struggle ’twas.

‘Ah to sleep,’ me thought. And what dreams in that sleep may come.

Plagiarism aside,  I struggled to pay attention for the last two acts. I just knew that the play had a cheerful ending.  I decided, then, to read through Hamlet, which wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I expected to be bogged down by the language, and become bored by lack of actual people on a stage. It was the first play that I’ve read on my own. And it was great.

I’ll admit, the reading was difficult at first. I struggled through the first Act, but soon found myself enjoying the play. And I actually laughed out loud at several parts, but I didn’t cry. That’s probably because I’m a bit of a macho man, which is obvious by now, seeing as how I’m reading Hamlet. Still, I want to look at why it’s so difficult to read Shakespeare. The New Folger Library edition of Hamlet cites four reasons why people struggle with Shakespeare’s works: Shakespeare’s words, Shakespeare’s sentences, Shakespeare’s wordplay, and implied stage action.

Shakespeare’s Words

As Hamlet said, “Words, words, words.” Shakespeare utilizes words that are either (1) out of common usage or (2)  in usage but changed by time. Parle, for instance, has Anglo-French roots dating back to the 14th century. It means to discuss or talk. If you’re French, you still use a form of this word in the phrase, “parlez-vous francais?”, which simply means, “Do you speak French?” Or if you’re a pirate, you may use a form of this word in “parley,” which is a conference with an enemy. If I was a pirate, though, I would never parley with anyone, not even Orlando Bloom. I might be convinced to parley with Johnny Depp, but only if he invited me to join the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean VI: Scurvy. It’s helpful, then, to have explanatory notes alongside the regular text. This can take away from some of the poetic scheme; but that’s why it’s written down, dummy. You can read it again.

Shakespeare’s Sentences

“Shakespeare frequently shifts his sentences away from ‘normal’ English arrangements– often to create the rhythm he seeks, sometimes to use a line’s poetic rhythm to emphasize a particular word… sometimes to allow the character to speak in a special way.” Shakespeare often places the verb before the noun. He occasionally places the object before the verb and noun. And he rearranges words that belong together.

Shakespeare’s Wordplay

When it comes to making awkward sex jokes, Shakespeare is king. In Act III, for example, Hamlet tells Ophelia, “It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.” Do you see what I mean? But Shakespeare wasn’t just interested in sex jokes. In Act IV after Hamlet kills Polonius, the king asks Hamlet where he buried the body.

King

Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?

Hamlet

At supper.

King

At supper where?

Hamlet

Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. (4.3.19-24)

Text like this doesn’t necessarily make the text less easy to understand (or less readable), instead it makes it more enjoyable. It gives the reader a sense of the wit and depth that Shakespeare possessed. Also it made me realize that Shakespeare’s appeal wasn’t strictly for the cultural elite. He wrote for the masses, for the masses surely enjoyed a good double entendre.

Implied Stage Action

Fortunately there is such thing as imagination. So you may very easily conjure images of a young prince dressed in black garbs. Or you may be able to envision a duel between Hamlet and Laertes. Nevertheless, I suppose there are some who find it difficult to interpret and understand the words while envisioning the actors.

Conclusion

Looking at these four problems makes me realize that these aren’t really problems at all. They are just excuses people use to avoid Shakespeare’s works. This is slightly sad, methinks. So many of us see Shakespeare as a kind of high-literature, a literature that is often considered sacred to the Western canon of literary works. And it is, but it’s more than that. Shakespeare’s works are pieces of beauty. HIs characters allow us to peer into ourselves and the human condition. Hamlet especially allows us to perceive ourselves, in a sense. He is a kaleidoscope character with universal appeal. Harold Bloom writes, “Shakespeare, ironical beyond our comprehension, has given us a play that is all Hamlet: subtle, volatile, supremely intelligent. If you read well and deeply, then you have no choice: you will become Hamlet… he will expand your mind and spirit, because there is no other way of apprehending him.”¹ Too often people find it impenetrable or too difficult, or they don’t try to understand it, or they don’t care to understand it. But once you push through the barriers of understanding, you reach a point of real enjoyment. And that’s the goal of reading, right? To enjoy.

1- Bloom, Harold. How to Read and Why. New York: Scribner, 2000.

Writing Challenge: Dialogue between two characters

This summer has afforded me the opportunity to read a bit, write a little, and watch an inordinate amount of TV. I haven’t done as much reading as I would like, but just very recently I came across an old textbook. You may be thinking: “An old textbook! What fun! What sheer joy you must of felt at such a find!” Oh yes. There was joy. I think tears were involved too.

This particular book was (and hopefully still is) a part of some creative writing course. Except I never took a creative writing course, so I’m at a loss as to how this book ended up on my shelf. I picked it up and began rifling through the pages, not thinking much about it until I stumbled across the chapter titled “characters.” This is when I became excited. But not too excited. I’m not a weirdo. It was just the right amount of excitement.

Regardless, whenever I try to write creative fiction, I struggle tremendously with developing characters through dialogue. It’s something I genuinely suck at. Anyways, this book has a few exercises that I thought I might try out. I’m going to post some here, and you (whoever you are) can try them as well. It’s a challenge, yo!

Here is the first prompt:

Write a “dialogue” between two characters, only one of whom can speak. Here is the catch: write only the words of the one, only the appearance and actions of the other. 

Here is my short response:

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” demanded Mr. Figaro.

Jack looked up, scowling. He didn’t look his step-father directly in the eye, which drove the old man into a rage.

Mr. Figaro pounded his fist against the wall, and yelled, “You don’t speak to your mother like that, understand? Honestly… I should cane you. Boys your age don’t talk like that, especially at the dinner table. OK?”

Jack scratched his head and shrugged. Mr. Figaro grunted something about kids. He walked out of Jack’s room, leaving the boy alone to bathe in the tension. But just as quickly as Mr. Figaro had left, he returned.

“Where did you learn that word, anyways?” asked Mr. Figaro cooly.

Jack looked down. He began fumbling with some of his toy blocks in an attempt to ignore the question, but Mr. Figaro wouldn’t have it.

“Well!” shouted Mr. Figaro. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, boy! I have a good mind to give you a caning. That’d teach you, huh?”

Tears came down Jack’s face. He sniffled but remained silent.

“Alright,” said Mr. Figaro. “I’ve been a patient man. This is your last chance. Tell me where you heard that word.”

For the first time Jack stared into Mr. Figaro’s eyes, revealing the source of the forbidden word.