I have no respect for an enemy who simply blurts out a string of profanity, which shows a complete lack of imagination. Years ago, when I was writing a weekly column for the local newspaper, I unintentionally offended some readers and I received a flurry of hate mail. In the column, I made reference to the medieval practice of treating a headache by drilling a hole in the sufferer’s head to “let the demons out.”

One irate letter writer wrote that if you were to drill a hole in my head, you would find that there is nothing there. Another suggested that it would only be an improvement. I was unmoved by other letter writers, who called me an idiot and a sorry excuse for a writer, but the head drilling comments made me chuckle with delight. They may have been mean-spirited, but they were clever and I respected that. I learned to appreciate a creative threat or insult during long road trips as a child.

My mom was a yeller.

Somehow we knew her heart wasn’t really in it, but she did it with flair and enthusiasm.

We visited my grandparents every year. This required nine hours in a car full of rowdy kids in the pre-seatbelt days. Kids were fighting, crying, spilling beverages, and climbing over the seats. Eventually, Mom lost her temper and shrieked. If we did not all sit down and shut up, she threatened to roll all our necks up tight in the car windows. Today’s power windows snap shut like guillotines. Back in the 60s, the windows cranked slowly. The rest of the trip I spent quietly pondering the logistics of Mom wrangling five kids into submission long enough to hand crank all those windows up to our Adam’s Apples. I consider her threat clever and effective, if not entirely doable.

Yesterday my co-worker lost her temper with me and shouted, “I ought to put a boot up your butt the size of Montana!” Wow. Shades of Mom revisited. What do you suppose she meant by that? Is it the boot or my butt that is the size of Montana? And why Montana? Why not Alaska, or even Texas?

But I’ll fix her. I told Mom on her. Her response was, “If you kids don’t play nice, I’ll flush you both down the toilet!” One of Mom’s classics. Boy, does that bring back memories. I’m not worried. She is 88 years old and at least three inches shorter than I am. I think I could take her.

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