3-Word Challenge

3-Word Challenge: Stepford Lives

Dear Guests, Patrons and People Who Don’t Understand That There Is No Parking in the White Zone,

  “Thank you for joining us on yet another night of Bonnywood’s Annual Cultural Arts Festival and Bacchanalia. As we welcome another entry in the 3-Word Challenge, I feel the need to pause and reflect on the joyous artistic celebration we’ve been experiencing on this stage. First, I’d like to thank most of our guests for behaving in a responsible manner despite the many distractions concocted by The Writer in a weak attempt to-

Suddenly, there was a bit of commotion in the orchestra pit. I glanced down there in surprise, partly because of the noise but mostly because I didn’t realize we still had one. (We had been ordered by the courts to abstain from further usage of said space after Mia Farrow’s movie career fell into it and was never heard from again.) Things were a bit murky, as the light bulbs had burned out along with the original vision of the Republican Party, but someone was certainly attempting to scale the wall. Wait, was that…

Ellen DeGeneres hopped onto the stage, slight sweaty. “Howdy!”

Me, agog: “It’s lovely to see you, but why on earth didn’t you just walk onto the stage. We could have provided theme music and everything.”

Ellen: “Oh, no worries. Have you followed my career? I’ve always had to claw my way to the top, so I’m used to it. Besides, I’m from New Orleans. It’s too humid to sit around and wait for things to happen. So, you learn to climb out of the orchestra pit and grab what you can while everyone else is face-down on Bourbon Street.”

Me: “I fully understand. After all, we share the same birthday.”

Ellen: “No, you don’t understand. The birthday thing is fun, of course, but you’re not a lesbian who came out on the cover of ‘Time’ magazine when doing such a thing was not trending on social media. We definitely have a different itinerary history on Expedia. Wait, perhaps I shouldn’t assume. Are you a lesbian?”

Me: “If I am, I’m the worst one ever.”

Ellen: “No, that would be Eleanor Roosevelt. Anyway, we’re about to go to a commercial break, so let’s wrap up this interview. By the power invested in me, I hereby proclaim that you have been relieved of your duties.”

Me, mystified: “I don’t understand. And I’m not relieved at all.”

Ellen: “Sorry, I missed a cue card. I should have led with the fact that the Board of Directors at Bonnywood has decided to replace you with a clone, one that still has your offbeat charm but can be better controlled by software engineers. You tend to ramble a bit. And then I’m supposed to relieve you. Are we good now?”

Me: “No! I don’t want to be replaced.”

Ellen: “Well, this is what happens when you take a private company public, because then there’s an executive board that can vote your ass out, like ABC did when they cancelled my first series. Maybe you shouldn’t have been listening to showtunes instead of studying for your economics exams in high school.” She turned to stage left. “Send in the clown!”

I watched myself walk out of the wings, all dewy and fresh. (Had he been spritzed with New Orleans humidity?) “Wow. He does look just like me, minus the stress of working at Verizon for thirty years. Everything seems so… enhanced.”

Ellen: “Yes, we amped up all his features so that he is more photogenic and pleasing.”

Me, unable to stop myself, because I’m twisted that way: “Everything? Even the dangly bits?”

Ellen: “Well, I haven’t done a personal inspection, but rumor has it that Elton John was involved with the anatomical design, so I would imagine that Rocket Man won’t be burning out his fuse alone.”

Me: “You know, I’ve been contemplating a hiatus. Let’s see how he does.”

Ellen: “Terrific!” She turned to Bigger and Better. “Hey, Brian 2.0, thanks for joining us. How about you take off your shirt and read this cue card?”

Artiste: Barb at “Barb Taub”

Three Words: clandestine, sordid, pasta

Medium: Humorous Reflection

And here we go…


NOTE: in a recent column, Brian Lageose—quite possibly, the funniest male blogger out there (see how I did that? Not that I’m competitive or anything…)—issued Writer to Writer: The 3-Word Challenge. I took him up on it, of course, and the three words he sent me were clandestine, sordid, and pastaOut of sheer laziness In honor of Throwback Thursday, I’ve slotted those words into an updated post from a few years back.

Of Pasta, Cloning, and Elvis: A Clandestine and Sordid Tale

You can tell this is a really old post because people are listening to each other instead of looking at their phone…[image credit: Pixabay]

When I was in the grocery store the other day, the ladies in front of me began to discuss their dissatisfaction with a gentleman of their acquaintance. While the behavioral modification techniques they proposed would have awed the Marquis de Sade, those of us standing nearby were left with three choices:

  1. The Better Part of Valor: discretely move to another checkout aisle, hopefully near enough to have a clandestine listen. [note: this was the choice of all nearby men, although it can’t have been easy with their legs crossed like that…]
  2. Rudeness: listen openly to every sordid detail. Unfortunately, not only would Miss Manners disapprove, but it might make them lower their voices and I would never have heard what happened when bail was posted after the arrests.
  3. Etiquette: eavesdrop while pretending to load the squid-ink pasta onto the check-out lane conveyor belt so that it covers the industrial-sized yeast infection meds, case of probiotic yoghurts, and the store’s remaining stock of cranberry juice. Then I would pretend to memorize the contents of the magazine rack.

Usually Choice #3 is the most educational. Not only do I get to hear the rest of the conversation—“…and after she cut it off and threw it out the car window, the police found it and the doctors SEWED IT BACK ON!”—but I can catch up with the latest tabloid news: Oprah’s diet du jour, the latest member of the President’s team to be kidnapped by space aliens working for Russian trolls, or Extreme Makeover’s country-fresh design approach for the the last remaining unrenovated house in New England, a three-bedroom contemporary in Vermont. (“Classics Scholar barricades door with Danish Modern furniture, swears “Death before remodel”.)

But that day I noticed something strange. Every publication, from the tabloids to Pretty Good Housekeeping, was focused on one topic. Was it the crisis in Syria?Not so much. Hurricane damage in Puerto Rico? Seriously? (Please. Isn’t Puerto Rico like, part of Mexico? As if real Americans don’t have enough to worry about already.) Dismantling what’s left of Obama-care? Get real.

No, this week enquiring minds apparently only want to know one thing: what do Brad and Angelina think of Jennifer Aniston’s breakup with Justin Theroux? Did he Lead Her On? Did she Drive Him To It?

Come on, America, get a life. The big issues are still out there. What about the strength of the yuan vs dollar after Trump’s trade wars? The deficit? Poverty? Unemployment? Cellulite? How about Elvis? Doesn’t anybody care where the King is appearing this week?

Or what about science? I heard a panel of scientists on the radio recently debating how long it would be before we could successfully clone higher organisms like Stephen Hawking, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, or the Beatles. It’s been 20 years since Dolly the Sheep, they reminded us, and these days almost anyone can clone things like frogs. But frogs are not higher organisms. We know this because even though cloned frogs have a larger vocabulary than the average college freshman and like to watch the Daily Show, frogs lack opposable thumbs, leave home without their American Express Cards, and don’t support health care reform. And even if they escape their little electrified pens at the Jurassic Frog Park and go on a rampage, cloned frogs tend to chow down on raw flies instead of raw attorneys.

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.—William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2. [When good clones go bad…]

Of course, cloning higher organisms does have its dark side. What if, for example, they discover that after all these decades of appearing in Vegas and on the odd pancake, Elvis is still actually dead? Cloning scientists could recover his DNA from one of the roughly half a million Actual Elvis Rhinestone Jumpsuits currently advertised on eBay, and next thing you know we’ll have “Elvis Park.” Then comes the power failure, disabling the electrified fences keeping all the Elvis clones trapped in ersatz-Graceland. Suddenly, the country would be overrun with rhinestone-studded hordes singing, “You Ain’t Nothin But a Hound Dog.” 

Attack of the Elvis clones [image credit: remarkableleader.com]

Since each fan of the King could now have their very own Elvis clone, the bottom would fall out of the Elvis Memorial Plate, Elvis Memorial Underpants, and Elvis Impersonator industries. Thousands would end up on unemployment, while the fragile economies of Tennessee and Nevada would take a nosedive.

Or what if they clone Young Republicans, flooding the country with people with names like “Biff” and “Payton?” Or how about Bob Newhart or Dianne Feinstein? (Actually, I think they might have cloned those two already…)

There can NEVER be enough tennis ball throwing.

What if they cloned my dog Peri? Packs of tailless Aussies would overrun small towns, whose only hope for survival would be to keep throwing tennis balls and the occasional UPS deliveryperson.

Clearly, science may need some guidance here. Therefore, I am asking the help of all you readers. Since you’re already reading this blog, you obviously possess the taste, wit, and intelligence to make these difficult decisions. [Plus, it’s a way to see who actually reads far enough down in this post to see this bit…]

Please, send me your cloning choices. All I ask is that you avoid the usual “good clones” like my mother, Lydia who cuts my hair, and Mother Theresa. And don’t list the obvious “terror clones” like your boss, Sister Mary Eighth Grade Arithmetic, or Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

I promise that all suggestions will be reviewed by my panel of experts (unless my dog is busy that day). Winning clones suggested will be published in this blog and will also be forwarded to the National Science Foundation. Remember act now, or don’t blame me if the streets end up full of cloned Jennifers and Justins.

Or even better, pop over to Brian’s hilarious blog here and ask for your own three words for the challenge.



This piece has been nominated in the following categories:

The Aidan Turner Award for scruffy but alluring turns of phrases.

The West Side Story Award for remembering that Puerto Rico is part of America despite the lack of such understanding on the part of the current American president.

The Patience of Job Award for calmly enduring the cavalcade of other 3-Word Challenge entries before I finally got to yours.

Gratitude Award from the founder of Bonnywood Manor.


You can review more of Barb’s portfolio by clicking here.


Shortly thereafter, backstage…

Me: “Where did I go wrong?”

Me Two: “Where did I go wrong?”

Me: “Why are you doing that?”

Me Two: “Why are you doing that?”

Me: “Stop repeating what I’m saying!”

Me Two: “But I’m programmed to respond just like you. Only with bigger dangly bits.”


30 replies »

      • Heart melting…crushing you with a hug. I know our interactions are few and far between, B but I adore you. And your writing, and your humour and your heart and that you are a bright light for me sometimes when things get a little dark. Your other half is a lucky man and please give him a hug from me that he must be as wonderful as you, and that he makes you so happy.

        So glad we found each other so long ago it seems. I think you were one of the first special people I found here .

        Anyway, just feeling a little emotional today and wanted to pour out some love energy your way.

        Lots of kisses

        Liked by 1 person

        • I absolutely love this comment. There are so many times when I temper my posts or my own comments, an inhibition that stems from a wretched childhood wherein I dared not speak the truth. Over the years, I’ve learned to share more, fumbling about, but the true essence of me is rarely on display. That’s why I enjoy your writing so much. You do not hesitate to bare you soul, and I have so much respect for that. Let it all out and keep moving. Our interactions may be rare, but they are deep and meaningful and I hold them close…

          Liked by 1 person

          • B….

            Teary I am after reading you…

            You mean a lot to me. Your words always touch me.
            I have to bare my soul here, B because I can’t in real life. Life is painful and hard and I try so hard to be a good person, but I stifle so much. So fucking much… I’ve made a lot of wrong choices…and I am paying the consequences…daily. I need this place to be free. I hope that the universe agrees with me , doesn’t punish me for craving a release and a freedom from so much fucking darkness.

            I’m sorry your childhood was that way…I wish I could have cuddled little you and told him everything will be okay, you can talk to me… as I stroke your hair…

            Love you very much, B


            Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks so much for including me Brian! I’m so thrilled with the intro, not to mention joining Ellen and the rest of the crew for margaritas at the wrap party. (Remind me again why you weren’t there?)

    So I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I wonder if you could do me a favor? See, the dog and I were wandering along the beach on our little Scottish isle, and we came across the Mens All Kilt Chorus doing a dawn rehearsal. They’d heard all about Bonnywood’s Annual Cultural Arts Festival and Bacchanalia of course, and wanted me to put in a good word with Ellen and Brian2.0 in hopes of appearing on next year’s program. (For some reason, they EACH gave me their phone number to pass along to Brian2.0. Some of them offered to demonstrate the proper way to wear a kilt. There were Instagram links. And diagrams…) They had a lot more to say, but most of it was in gaelic so I didn’t really understand it, but it made my little dog look very startled and take off running up the beach before I could get a chance to ask for translations.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I must confess that although I was most-assuredly paying attention to every one of your words, my mind did wander a bit with the imagery of kilted men standing in formation and harmonizing. I may need to study this further. Could you please send photos? And the phone numbers? It is my duty to follow up on all available ends, so to speak…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading your story, Barb, as I didn’t see it the first time around. Oh, it is fun to overhear conversations while in the check out lines! If I had a choice of who to clone, it would probably be myself. I’d let her do all the housework so I could spend more time reading fun stories like yours. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. BWAHAHHAHA. Off to check out Barb’s Taub, er um *koff koff* BLOG. %$@#! I hate it when my clone’s batteries die and I’m left having to think for myself…. ‘jet’ lag (no planes were involved just to be clear) is a b*tch.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ohhh-kay. Now that I’ve recovered from my laughing fit, the resulting hiccup, and am able to see again after cleaning my laughtear-stained reading glasses… WOW! 😍 This is my favorite of the week (please find “Imperial Romulan Award for Amazing Aussies” and the “Fleet Citation for Elegance in Elvisism” attached)

    Oh, and I want Terry Pratchett and Heinrich Heine clones, and a bunch of Usain Bolts in UPS uniforms to keep the Aussies entertained. Half a dozen Swiss cheesemakers for my dog would be nice, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for placing your order at Bonnywood Manor. Based on the very specific nature of your requests, it might be a bit before we can actually ship your products, but trust that we will eventually do so and the shipping will be free. (How could we dare initiate surcharges when you have bestowed us with a highly-coveted Imperial Romulan Award? It would be blasphemy to pursue such a course.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • As long as you don’t mix up the order and make sure the UPS Bolts are delivered to Barb’s Aussie clones, the Empire shall graciously extend you as much time as you need. Jolan Tru! 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Brian, you would have been the master of penning screwball comedies in 1930s Hollywood.

    As for cloning choices, oh dear – that is a tough one. Without trying to sound too schmaltzy, I nominate my husband because he’s funny and smart and very helpful. I think the world could use more of him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, truth be told, I’ve always felt that I was born decades too late. If given a voice in my life arc, I would have chosen to be born around 1900, come of age during the Jazz Age and hedonistic abandonment of the 1920s, then sober up a bit and focus on my writing just as the Golden Age of Hollywood was swimming into view. As for your delightful-sounding husband, are you sure you really want to share him? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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