Raised and Blocked 

The perils of success

FIVE DAYS TO GO: I don't know. I think it's a summer thing. If memory serves, it happens just about now every year. It's like delayed-onset spring fever. I get to thinking about what I ought to be doing with the garden ... the lawn ... my filthy truck that still has dirt on it from last summer ... and I just can't get started, writing-wise. Three minutes ago, I went to typing, hoping that if I pecked away, a topic would follow. Sometimes that works. But this very second, I'm thinking about how I should go set a sprinkler on my cauliflower starts because it's supposed to be hotter than hell today. I can't get it out of my head. I put off sitting down with Mr. iMac all weekend for fear this would happen. And sure enough, it did. Maybe tomorrow.

FOUR DAYS TO GO: You'll be pleased to know I got the cauliflower watered. I still can't come up with anything to write about, but by God, there will be no shortage of cauliflower in the Cope household this summer.

Here's the worst part of this whole thing. Couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking a raise would be nice. A raise, as in more money for doing what you have in your hands. I had it in my head that it'd been quite some time since I'd gotten a raise. I was wrong. Turns out, it wasn't so long ago at all. My memory went kerflooey on me. I clearly remembered a raise from a few years back, but totally forgot the more recent one. I should have checked before I went in last week and asked for a raise. I wouldn't have embarrassed myself by claiming it had been several years since my last raise. In fact, I wouldn't even have asked for a raise, had I remembered it hasn't been very long since I got one. Did I feel like a chump.

But it was too late. By the time my benefactor reminded me of the more recent raise, I'd already asked for another one. What's worse, she agreed to give it to me, even though I'd just shown I am incapable of appreciating raises when I get them. I left her office thinking, "You'd better come up with something special, Bill ol' boy. You'd better make BW be glad they gave you that raise. You'd better shine, brother!"

And from that moment on, I couldn't think of a thing to write about. I dried up like a ... like a ... like a ... dammit! It's worse than I thought.

THREE DAYS TO GO: An alternative perspective, that's all I need. Something right in front of me to sit up and say, "Yoo hoo!" So I went to my daughter. She's always been very generous with alternative perspectives. "Uh, honey. Anything funny happen to you lately? Anything ... you know ... like a life lesson or something? Anything I could use to show how teenagers are people, too, or how the music you listen to sucks, or how inspiring Nancy Pelosi is to a young lady like yourself? Anything?"

"Dad, I'm getting tired of you embarrassing me in your column every time you can't think of something else to write about."

"I don't do that!"

"You've been doing it since I was 6, Dad. You're the only dad I know who makes fun of his own kid for money. Not anymore though. From now on, I won't tell you a thing, even if it's the funniest thing ever."

"But honey, you can't do this to me. I just got a raise! I need ya' now more than ever."

She wouldn't budge. First thing in the morning, I'm going to call Red. A little argument, that's all I need. Red always has something to argue about.

TWO DAYS TO GO: "Red, uh, do you have any strong opinions on anything today? Like Scooter Libby's sentence ... surely, you have an opinion about Scooter. Or the immigration bill? Or Hillary? Why don't we get together so's you can tell me about what's making you mad these days."

"Cain't do it, Cope. M' wife 'n me're gettin' ready f'r our bi-yearly trip t' the NASCAR museum. 'Zides, ah ain't been mad about much lately. Few days back, ah thought maybe ah had me sum'thin' t' be mad 'bout, but den sum'thin' good came on teevee, an' ah forgot what it was. Ya' want me t' bring y' sum'thin' from the NASCAR museum, Cope? Maybe one o' dem Dale Earnhardt memorial mud flaps?"

"Gosh, Red, couldn't you at least pretend you're mad about something. See, Boise Weekly gave me a raise, and I'm having a little trouble getting a column put together."

"A ray-yuz? Cope, yew mean t' tell me they been payin' yew f'r dat crap what yew write? Now, dat makes me mad!"

He hung up on me. Now what am I going to do? There's only one thing left, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow because I know for a fact that today's the day Badger Bob goes lizarding over in Oregon.

ONE DAY TO GO: "Cope! What're you doing here?" He was sorting out his catch when I caught up with him.

"Well, Bob ... uh ... the thing is ... uh ..."

"You want me to write your column for you again, don't you? You lazy bast—"

"No no no! That's not it, Bob. In fact, I'll probably never ask you to do that again. Not since I got a raise."

"They gave you a raise? What's going on ... Boise Weekly afraid you're going to bolt to The Thrifty Nickel?

"Ha ha. Very humorous. The trouble is, Bob, I just can't think of anything to write about. You have any ideas? Golly, I have to hand in a column by tomorrow, and I'm drier than a ... than a ... than a ... "

"I see your problem, Cope. OK, has your dog done anything unusual? When I had my own column, dog stories always got me through the rough spots."

"We had her shaved for the summer, but I don't see how I can make a whole column out of it."

"And you've said all you want to about the war?"

"All I can think of to say. In fact, that goes for Bush and the gun nuts and gardening and Alberto Gonzales and rap music and everything else. I can't think of another damn thing to say about anything."

"Whew! Bummer of a time for you to be getting a raise, huh?"

"You're telling me."

NO MORE DAYS TO GO: So even Badger couldn't help. I'm thinking about rerunning an old column. Update a bit here, a bit there, I don't think anyone would notice. Or I suppose I could find something on the Internet and ... (gulp )... just copy it. No one would know. Or, if it gets really desperate ... really, really desperate ... I could write about Paris Hilton.

Nah. If it gets that bad, I'll just give the raise back.

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