Friday, May 7, 2010

So you want to be a gladiator? Two.

So I was writing about things to do instead of the things you're supposed to be doing. Like writing.

Look at that dust along the top of the baseboard. I bet I could just wipe that off of there. Find a cloth or maybe haul out the vacuum cleaner. And since you have it out, you might as well do the floors.

That's the thing. If you ask me to vacuum the floors, good luck to you.

"Weren't you going to vacuum?"

"Oh, right. Sorry. I had this writing to do."

But when I'm supposed to be writing, that's when I'll vacuum. Probably mop while I'm at it, since once you've got all the loose crap up off the floor, it's in perfect shape for mopping.

I didn't get any writing done. Couldn't get to my desk until the floor dried, and by that time there was only half an hour left until it was time to go.

But, see, there was this deadline. Monday. Sixteen two-page spreads about gladiators. The editor was waiting. Her name's Katie. We've never met, but she looks like your standard editor—bald, with a cigar in her mouth. Piles of manuscripts teetering all over her office. A fat dictionary on a stand, just in case. A rack of blue pencils on the desk, lined up in a dispenser like the one the straws are in at McDonald's. Push down on the bar (ever notice how it works like a Skinner box?) and a pencil pops out the bottom.

Katie gets on the phone. "Moosenose, I need sixteen spreads about gladiators, and right now I got dick-all. Where's the stuff?"

I didn't say, "Well, see, there was dusting. And I thought I'd play a few scales, just to free my brain up. And then it was lunch time."

Okay. Since I'm writing here anyway, let me tell you about gladiators.

Being a gladiator, as they'll tell you, sucked. Except apparently some of them were popular with the ladies. But the ladies always go for the bad boys.

Say you're a Roman lady. You're married to an important senator or a knight. But you've got eyes for a gladiator. Why? Could be the oil. All those gladiators in the movies are oiled up slicker than okra.

But why do you have eyes for a gladiator? They're the lowest of the low. Got no rights. Ranked by law down there with thieves, prostitutes, and actors.

So. You have your various types of gladiators. Your Russell Crowe gladiator, all done up in medieval science-fiction armor. Your Kirk Douglas gladiator, all done up in olive oil and leather. Your Warner Brothers Martian gladiator, like a bowling ball with legs and a Roman helmet.

But here are some real gladiators:

Your retiarus—a guy with a net and trident for catching people and poking them till they're dead.

Your thraxes—Thracians—which I guess would be modern Bulgarians. Guys with helmets, shields, and swords for poking people until they're dead.

Do you see a theme here? Lots of poking until death.

You know someone's going to put this on TV soon. America's Dumbest Gladiators. Twelve people in a group. They all signed releases acknowledging that they stand an eleven in twelve chance of getting poked with a trident until they're dead.

They oil them all up with olive oil, then put them in an arena and let them go at one another. At the end of every show there's the Wild Animal Challenge, where they let some lions and elephants loose in the ring.

The PETA people will complain, of course. Don't you think it's wrong to feed people to lions? The poor lions are going to be malnourished. Not to mention how dangerous it is for them to eat swords and tridents. You should feed them soy protein, or maybe Gardenburgers.

Next time: Intermission, when they do the executions. Then the afternoon program, with trident-poking.