The Gift

On the redeye back to the City I wept profusely in the first class bathroom. The stewardess was knocking on the door, begging me to return to my seat. People were complaining.

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When I staggered back to coach, I found something tucked into my briefcase under the seat.

It came in a brown paper bag, twisted at the top and tied with a blue ribbon, like it was meant for a special someone. A small envelope stuck out of the bag with my name written on it. I opened the envelope. The card inside read, You forgot this. I opened the bag and found a black DVD case with a blank disk inside. I looked up and down the dark aisle. Nobody was awake. Maybe the gift was meant for somebody else.

I asked the stewardess if she had seen anyone stop by my seat. She didn’t know. Nobody was supposed to be walking around while the fasten seatbelt sign was illuminated. The captain came on the PA system and said we would be going around the storm. There would be a slight delay.

I looked at the disk in my hand. I thought about making an announcement on the PA system. I could wave the disk around like a throwing star to get people’s attention. I might break it in half, wield the sharp edge as a weapon and threaten to take everyone in first class hostage.

A week ago, Laurie had rented a cabin on the lake. We spent the whole week without any trouble. It was the first time we were alone together since leaving the City. But after a week, I thought I would be better off without her, and she would be better without me. She cried for a while. When she couldn’t cry anymore, she let me go. I drove straight to the airport and got on the redeye back to the City.

Here I was with this gift. Maybe it was a trap. Maybe Laurie wanted to get back at me. Maybe it was a tape of her having revenge sex with Roy. I wouldn’t have put it past her. I would never put a mysterious blank disk into my own laptop, but I was willing to risk losing my life’s work to find out what it was. I’d insert the disk and press play. Laurie’s face would fill the screen. Laurie would explain how it was she who had planted the gift in my bag. She would explain how she had gotten on the next flight to the City without my knowing. She had put the gift in my briefcase to make sure I didn’t find it before I took off. She had followed me home to save our relationship. She understood me and wanted to be with me. She would wait at my doorstep. She would wait and wait and wait. She would talk me into falling back in love with her. She would beg for forgiveness. She would promise to never see Roy again. She would ask to move in with me. Then she would beckon to me through the screen and stretch her big lips into a smile and say, come hither. It would be so sweet. Then I would eject the disk and laugh and wipe my eyes. In the airport, I would forget about my checked bags, hail a cab and tell the driver, take me home and step on it. I would hang my head out the window like a dog, sniff at the fresh City air and think, It’s finally happening!

I pulled out my laptop. Before I could insert the disk, the stewardess told me to stow my computer. We would be landing soon. When I got off the plane, I found a seat at the arrival gate, hoping to find out what flight she would be on, to stay one step ahead of her, ready for anything. I inserted the disk into my laptop. The disk was scratched.

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Unfamous Titles: The Best of the Worst

“THE WAIT” (a three part series)

“WAIT”

“WAIT!”

“WAIT!!!” (this was the most intense one)

“WAITING” (actual minutes from Congress)

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“WAITING FOR THE BEARS TO COME” (by that guy who got eaten)

“The Man”

“The Bus”

“The Ashtray”

“The Room”

“The Rent”

“The Responsibilities” (by a college freshman)

“The Teabag” (not porn)

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“Beans in Your Smithereens”

“Corn in Your Cob”

“Grower Not Shower”

“Sour Milk Shower” (takes place on a dairy farm in Connecticut)

“Tween Rothenstein” (Lena Dunham’s Fan Blog)

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“Bar Mitzvah Blues” (Daniel’s Vlog)

“Above”

“Between”

“Abound”

“Wherefore”

“Windmill” (Dutch poem)

“Warmer”

“Colder”

“Timer”

“Sleeper” (not the robot with hipster glasses)

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“Crapper”

“Toucher” (we had to report this guy)

“Preacher’s Mother”

“Preacher’s Son”

“Preacher’s Daughter”

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“Preacher’s Manchild” (Autobiography of Joel Osteen)

“First Time”

“Sperm Bank”

“Vern Knows”

“You’re Gone”

“Drama Queen”

“Mnemonic Dominic”

“Hegel’s Bagels” (idealistic take on the gentrification of bagels)

“Nothing Will Be Delivered” (pessimistic take on the potential outsourcing of Chinese food delivery jobs to China) 

“Pain is a Funny Thing” (Gitmo Comedy in three Acts)

“Cowboy in Thailand” (actually a really good title)

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“Christmas in Poland” (pretty bleak)

“Permission to Eat Grass” (talking goat)

“The Business of Flies” (New Yorker cartoon)

“Flipping Grandma”

“Mostly Small Talk”

“Just A Little Bit” (a lot of nonsense)

“In the River of Remember” (so so bad)

“The Wise and Foolish Virgins”

“Virgin at Twenty-Nine”

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“Fun with Prick and Jane” (not porn)

“My Awful Mouth” (porn)

“The Dick Abides” (detective porn)

“Abide with Me!”

“The Devoted Wife” (Mormon non-fiction)

“An Ode to Phyllis”

“The Human Fence” (structuralist opinion piece)

“The Grape of Wrath”

“The Great Hornsby”

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Instagram” (More fan fiction)

“Fuck Sylvia Plath” (Seriously?)

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“Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” (Re-submission by same author of “Fuck Sylvia Plath”)

“I Want to Eat One of Every Animal in the World” (carnivore opinion piece)

“A Long Hard Day of Being Looked At” (Excerpt from a Ford Model’s Memoir)

“The Dalai Lama’s Sharks” (This actually made it to the editors meeting)

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Park Slope Food Co-op Nature “Lovers” Winter Outdoor Adventure Tent Fever

This blizzard has been shitting on us for three days straight. We were supposed to go on a week-long adventure hike. We’re trapped now because you thought it would be smart to wait out the weather. We don’t have enough to eat or enough fuel to melt snow, and we are fully at the mercy of this storm. You’re saying this is what adventure is all about. I’m starting to think you’re full of shit.

snowboundtent

I haven’t slept for days. A piece of tent cord has been fluttering against the nylon right next to my head. It’s always early. Too early to fall sleep, too early to wake up. I need to piss. I open the tent flap and find two ice blocks that used to be my hiking boots. I have to go so bad, but we made a pact not to piss in the vestibule. I start the stove in the vestibule to thaw out my boots and make coffee. This requires fifteen minutes of bladder wrenching patience. I’m getting used to the fact that you’re an asshole, and your plan to bring minimal food to go light and fast was really a plan to starve me to death.

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The boots are taking too long. I really have to go, so I muscle them onto my feet and trudge into the whiteout to dig a cat-hole. I crouch over the hole and look out like an animal watching forpredators. Actually, I’m making sure you don’t come up behind me to tell me to dig a deeper cat-hole. I don’t give a shit. I can’t see shit. Everything is so white. It’s like illuminated darkness. I feel like I’m in the matrix, when they delete everything. Every fluttering snowflake is unique, just like people, but there’s got to be one asshole snowflake that’s just like you. I feel like I should record these brilliant observations in my journal. But I don’t have my journal. You didn’t let me bring my journal. It weighs too much. You know what—you weigh too much.

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I retrace my tracks back to the tent and notice the snow has piled up above the air vents on the tent. I dig out the air vents with my fair-weather gloves so you won’t suffocate. My hands are so cold I have to jam them down my pants. You’re welcome.

I hear you snoring in there like you’re getting the best sleep of your life. You better be dreaming something interesting and better not forget it when you wake up. I hope you’re dreaming about being force-fed overcooked non-organic beef, or getting exiled from your yoga instructor’s yoga social potluck brunch gathering. We desperately need something to talk about. I’m losing it. I’m turning into an evil robot.

callista-gingrich

You should wake up already. We have a lot of absolutely nothing to do today. Actually, maybe you should sleep. Sleep all you want. Let me handle this catastrophe myself. Let me do all the maintenance around camp. Let me wait for the weather to change. I’ll keep the snow from building up and suffocating us. I’ll dig the tent out every three hours—no problem. I’ll clean the dishes from your shitty macaroni dinner last night. I’ll do the cooking. I’ll make food for you and let it get cold and then heat it up for you when you’re ready. Let me deal with survival on my own. Let me weigh the options of staying put or trying to move down the valley to lower elevation. Let me worry about it all day. Let me sit with nothing but my thoughts. I’m so glad we didn’t bring anything to read. You were right. It was totally not worth carrying the extra weight. I’m so bored I want to gouge my eyes out. I’ve read the tent instructions sheet twenty times. Wait why did you insist on leaving my book behind? I was half way through War and Peace and you said it was too much weight? That’s ridiculous. I would have happily carried the extra 2 pounds. Are your leg muscles that sensitive? Were you planning on sleeping so much you wouldn’t have time to read? Not even a magazine? A pamphlet? My vision is getting spotty. My eyeballs feel like eggs. I want a fried egg so badly right now.

friedegg

I crawl back in my sleeping bag. I try to meditate. I hate meditating. All you ever talk about is meditation. All you do is meditate when we’re not hiking. I came on this trip with you to learn how to control my anger a little bit, but you haven’t taught me shit. You just sleep all the time. It really pisses me off. I want to slap your smug little sleeping face so hard. Then again, I’m glad you’re not awake. All you ever want to do is talk about your yoga instructor’s yoga social potluck brunch gatherings. All you talk about is how much you want to move back in with all those squatters and thirty-three year old potheads who are allergic to soap. All you talk about is vegan politics. I voted for Gore and Kerry and Obama, but having met you, I honestly wish I had voted for Newt Gingrich. I would rather be married to Newt Gingrich than be here right now.

newt_gingrich_and wife

The wind won’t stop whistling. Three-days-straight. And you haven’t helped. All you’ve talked about is global warming, global warming. How does this blizzard have anything to do with global warming? You better wake up fast and explain this stupid weather to me before I lose my shit. Actually, you should sleep. I’m glad you’re asleep. I’d rather mentally annihilate your non-responsive smug little sleeping face.

I will never go hiking with you again. I will never bring tofu casserole to your yoga instructor’s yoga social potluck brunch gathering ever again. I will never use the word sustainable ever again. I will never eat a vegetable ever again. I want eggs on eggs on eggs. I want to slaughter a chicken with my bare hands. I want to join a mixed martial arts gym. I want to drive a huge truck and tail gate every single Prius in America. I’m going to vote for Newt Gingrich if he ever runs for political office of any kind ever again. I hate of this tent. I hate shoveling snow off our tent so we don’t suffocate. I hate survival. I’m going to hike out of here without you. I don’t even care anymore. You can suffocate. I’m out of here.

guyintent

Oh, hey babe, did you sleep okay?

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Penguin vs. Albatross

We sat together at the stern of a ship ferrying us into the Magellan Strait. Clouds swept across the sky by the broom of God. We were going to see the penguins. I was here to write an article about Magellan for an explorers blog. Magellan, also known as the Paranoid Portuguese, feared that the indigenous people who lived in this rugged landscape would overrun his crew. He preferred the docile, God fearing indigenes. But these mysterious people had no religion or concept of God. According to a regional museum pamphlet, they mostly foraged for food because they considered fish untouchable, vile creatures. They were godless and all alone in this strangely quiet, windy place, at the end of the world. Until the other hemisphere arrived.

Death Of Magellan

I had been in India just weeks before. In my parka I carried a Swiss canteen filled with whiskey. The whiskey warmed our stomachs. We sipped back and forth, and you lectured to the wind on quantum mechanics. I told you about my new religious beliefs, which I never fully understood. I was losing the urge to tell people about India. We watched the birds instead. You identified a Wandering Albatross gliding in beautiful figure-eight patterns across the stern of the ship, swooping down and dipping the tips of its long wings into the water.

wanderingalbatross

The penguins lived on a tiny, barren, bird-shitty island, which we circumnavigated in an hour. After the albatross, the penguins seemed short and stubby. You disagreed. The penguins weren’t afraid of humans and walked right up to us and pecked at our boots, which unnerved me. I generally preferred animals with a primal fear of humans. The penguins  sized us up in our yellow parkas as you clucked and kissed at them. I tried to pet one, and it scuttled away all pissed off. You loved the penguins so much we almost missed the ferry back to town.

islamagdalenapenguins

On the way back, I said if I were a bird I would be an albatross. The albatross is a masterful flyer—a great artist.

You said you identified with the penguins, but albatrosses were great too.

His whole life is a long journey, I said. He will circumnavigate the world ten times, riding the trade winds, soaring over the open ocean.

You said that sounded lonely.

I agreed it would be pretty lonely. But if I flew for a living, I would be an albatross.

You said you would be a penguin. Penguins mate for life.

That night I dreamt about mating with you for the rest of my life on a shitty little island. Next morning, I called home and covered my mouth as I whispered into the receiver that I was never coming back.

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Chaim Witz Files A Complaint

You might think this a no-brainer but my tongue is really tired. I can hardly form a sentence much less enunciate a lyric about how I want to rock and roll a lot, like all night for instance. You people—ladies—take that line way too seriously, seriously. I love rocking out and rolling around, but give me a break. Everything is taken so literally these days. What you’re probably thinking when I sing about wanting to stay up all night long and then wag my tongue for a few bars of deep, body-penetrating bass—I can’t even imagine. Gross.

genesimmonsbasstongue

Back when I wrote the majority of my musical cannon, back when brown and yellow and fake wood were cool and long hair was rad, back when people made love missionary style because the other two styles hadn’t been invented by me yet, back when nobody painted their face or wore studded leather or platform heels until I solicited three super-cute-cool guys I met at the beach to dress up like I had always really wanted to but had felt self-conscious—like BDSM demons, though I specifically asked them to make their costume-identities less masculine and named them Starchild, Catman, Catwoman and me, the Demon—back when my Dad told me I wasn’t from Long Island but was actually born in Israel and that my real name was  Chaim Witz, I started wearing my hair up in a cute little bun, and music started rolling off the pointy tip of my very average-lengthed tongue.

Kiss1

From then on I started getting mail, telegraphs, packages, phone calls, voice messages, voicemails, text messages, texts, emails, comments, tweets and vines from people asking me if I would use my tongue to service their bodies in every disgusting and perverted way you can imagine. You can’t imagine. It has been awful.

Gene_Simmons_and_Surrey_Mayor_Watts

What’s worse, people have always confused me with other celebrities: Ozzie Osbourne—obi, Patton Oswalt, The Wizard of Oz, Liza Minnelli, Mario Batali, Pavarotti, Boy George—a close friend, and Muammar Gaddafi. But I’m a Jewish Rock Demon, so that last one doesn’t make sense at all. Ghaddafi was all Country Western. Anyway, I’m about to lose my patience with you people. I’m not servicing any of you anymore. I’m tired of being stereotyped, tired of being used, tired of being profiled, tired of being judged, tired of giving and never taking, tired of being your little toy, tired of doing whatever you say, tired of being scared to say no, no matter who you are or how well I know you or how strong you are or how you make me feel inside.

gene_simmons

This isn’t fun anymore. I don’t need this. I don’t need you. I have a band and we’re going to be together forever. Forever. Stop taking my lyrics so literally. I don’t want to stay up all night. And I don’t want to rock or roll past 9:30 on a weeknight. I never have. I never will.

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Entrance

I unlocked the front door and called through the dark, I’m here! The voice that answered belonged to someone I did not expect to be home. I threw my keys on the floor next to my bag and ran up the stairs. In the distance I heard the neighbor’s dog barking himself to sleep. She lay in bed, smiling, looking over the bridge of her glasses.

I thought you were someone else.

Was that George outside? I asked.

She knew nothing and had heard nothing. I grabbed a tuft of her soft hair and pulled her to my lips.

How did you get here so fast?

I don’t know, I said. I’m here, I’m here. I’m here, nowhere else, the only place I could be.

That’s why you’re here?

Yes, I replied, I just told you. Here—right where I should be.

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Morning After

The service is pretty laissez-faire here.

I wouldn’t comment on the servant class.

I’m not trying to make a comment on class.

My book is a class commentary.

I read your book.

Did you like it?

It’s super short, which I like.

I worked on it for five years.

The middle part has a specific ambiguity too it, which I like.

I specified the specifics in the latter chapters.

Your specifics were pretty unspecific.

You can argue specifics without specifying, seriously.

Yeah. These waffles are seriously going on myspace.

waffle instagram

Don’t you have an Instagraham?

Just myspace and AIM.

Tell me more about your book.

I started writing it when I went to Canada to do community service building playgrounds. It’s really a commentary on the socio-economic borders of wealth and the super-rich.

It’s definitely about the super rich.

I should have added some significance toward the end.

Yeah it gets a little insignificant toward the back of the book.

Unconventional-Childrens-Books

I love writing children’s books.

Yeah, I don’t like that as much.

I love how formulaic the writing process is.

The characters have shallow aspirations.

What do you mean?

It’s not realistic. I  read a lot of non-fiction.

But what are aspirations?

The characters aren’t real to me.

No, what does aspirations mean?

I don’t really know.

bad-date

Do you even like children?

I almost expected you to ask that.

You talk about how much you love children in your book.

That’s not what it’s about.

You should write something else, maybe.

I want to write something really significant.

Your book was pretty good.

It wasn’t significant though.

No, it wasn’t significant.

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Things to Avoid on Valentines

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These sentences:

I forgot.

I forgot to send you anything.

I forgot to send you flowers.

I sent your mom some flowers.

I sent your dad some flowers.

I forgot your parents are divorced.

I sent you a post card.

I forgot to shave.

I dyed my hair red.

I don’t want kids.

I don’t really like kids.

I don’t really like our kids.

badkid

Sentences that begin:

Today, being a pretty special day…

Today, being the second best day of my life…

Today, on this other date I was on…

Today, on Youtube…

Today, on World of Warcraft…

Today, on Wall street…

Today, North Korea…

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Words and subjects to avoid:

Nuclear Holocaust

The economy

The Dow Jones

Psoriasis

STDs (unless necessary)

Crabs (Lobsters OK)

Ingrown hair

Weird smells

Dandruff

Balding

Tender

Moist

Succulent (any other day this word is fine)

Scaly

Complaint

Frustration

Bland

Bored

Death

Murder

Feces

disgusted-oreilly

Onomatopoeias to avoid:

Boink!

Bang!

Boom!

Barf!

Oink!

Whack

Wank

Swish…

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Stories that begin:

I should tell you about my suffering…

I should tell you about my high school…

One time, on a Disney Cruise…

One time, in Ciudad Juarez…

A couple times in college…

Once, my ex and I…

Sometimes, my wife and I…

One time, after watching Titanic…

funny_couple_on_boat

Don’t bring on the date:

A ring (not today).

A pet (never ever).

A copy of your novel (are you dating a literary agent?)

A weathered copy of Lolita.

Your musical instrument.

Your iPad.

Your parents.

Your partner’s parents.

Your other partner.

Your other partner’s parents.

creepyparents

Always bring:

Most, if not all your faculties.

Your pants.

Your good luck charm (keep hidden).

Your big beautiful heart (keep neatly tucked in your pants).

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Drive in Style

Miami, FL – 45mph in a 45 zone in a convertible. “Conga” Gloria Estefan

St. Louis, MI – 45mph in a 40 zone. “St. Louie” Nelly

New York – hatefully, but like you want to be a part of it. “New York, New York” Frank Sinatra

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Seattle, WA – 50mph in a 45 in the rain. “Tourette’s” Nirvana

Oregon – 50mph in a 65. “Oregon Trail” Woody Guthrie

Portland, OR – no faster than 5mph below the speed limit, i.e. 15-20mph in a 25. “Rose Parade” Elliott Smith

Southeast Portland – No faster than a bicycle. “Feel It All Around” Washed Out

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California – 80mph in a 65 (I5). – “California” Phantom Planet

San Francisco – nicely, happily, expensive, yoga. – “California Dreamin’” The Mamas and the Papas

LA Traffic – 0mph/80mph. – “Hollywood Tease” The L.A. Guns

LA Streets – depends what neighborhood and what color car. – “Hollywood Forever” The L.A. Guns

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Ciudad Juarez – car chase speed. – “Help!” The Beatles

Tel Aviv – pretend like everything is fine – “Imagine” John Lennon

Indonesia – potential death penalty – “16 on Death Row” Tupac

New Delhi – like crazy – “Peacebone” Animal Collective

Tokyo – lost in a sea of pedestrians – “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” Radiohead

tokyo

Dubai – is this for real? – “Leaving Las Vegas,” Sheryl Crowe

Baghdad – don’t, until further notice – “Baghdad” The Offspring

Massachusetts during a winter storm – don’t, or spend a year in prison – “Jailbreak” Dropkick Murphys

Moscow – free-for-all, beware of government – “Russian Roulette” Van Morrison

Fairbanks, AK – try to start your car. “Trucker’s Atlas” Modest Mouse

Thermometer reads 42 below in Fairbanks

German Streets – drive same speed as everyone, no faster/slower. (Music is not permitted.)

German Autobahn – AFAP (As Fast As Possible), i.e. 160mph. “Ding Dong Song” Gunther

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Italian Autostrada – roller coaster speed. (German Techno)

Italian Streets – with passion. “That’s Amore” Dean Martin

Venice – on a boat – “Turandot: Nessun Dorma” Puccini

Venice gondolier #3

Stockholm – organized, advanced, gorgeous – “Dancing Queen” ABBA

London – politely, on the wrong side. “Paper Planes” M.I.A.

Ibiza, Spain – all night long. – “Livin’ La Vida Loca” Ricky Martin

Amsterdam – what was the question? – “High Til I Die” Three 6 Mafia

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Negative Feedback

You submitted in Comic Sans.

You submitted in Franklin Gothic.

You submitted in single-space.

You submitted in size 8.

You submitted in size 16.

You said, I think you’ll find this interesting, I’m really proud of [this]or You’ll love this, in your cover letter.

You didn’t bother to write a cover letter.

Angrywriter

You fail to exhibit a mastery of English Grammar.

You fail to exhibit a working knowledge of the English Language.

You use ampersands.

You use and/or three or four times.

You use too many…dot-dot-dots…

You say like, like way too many times.

brokenpencil

Your self-congratulatory essay about being an Ivy Leaguer is very self-congratulatory.

Your feminist essay about your terrible ex-boyfriend is pretty feminist.

Half the story is narrated in French.

There are lots of clichés.

It is offensive.

It is offensive on multiple levels.

imoffended

The first sentence takes up the entire first paragraph.

The first sentence takes up the entire first page.

The first page is all dialogue.

You say, she says, happily.

You say, she says, peevishly and inappropriately.

You say, she says, like a falcon floating on a warm weather wind.

angryguy

You describe the misty landscape a lot.

You describe a glint in someone’s eye more than once.

You(r characters) are prejudice.

You(r characters) are misogynistic.

You(r characters) are phony.

angry-joe

The characters are animals.

The characters are plants and animals.

The characters are drunk the entire time.

The characters are named Bruce, Beverly, Bert, and Benny.

The characters are named Ping, Ling, Wing, Singh, and Geraldo.

geraldo

Your characters have a habit of saying, “Cool-beans,” “Giddy-up,” “Right-e-o,” “Aw Jeez,” “For sure,” “You go, girl,” “YOLO,” or “LOL.”

Your southern-accented first-person narrator reckons everything.

Your characters are bored.

I’m bored.

Stressed-teacher

The title is named after a movie.

The title is “Adventure to Nowhere”

The title is “Choas and Beautiful”

The title is “My Father’s Secret Garden”

The title is “A Bad Idea”

The title is “Politics: A Manifesto”

fiscalpaulryan

The character in the story is really You.

The character is really Me.

The character is really Us.

The character is a symbol of a man’s transcendence of gender identity. Actually, that was cool.

The character is a caricature.

goslingteacher

You have multiple paragraphs that start: And then…

It ends: And then he died, suddenly.

It ends: And then he became someone different.

In the end it was all just a dream.

frabz-WHAT-IF-IM-STILL-SLEEPING-AND-EVERITHING-IS-JUST-A-NIGHTMARE-e338a1

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