Useless's New Invention
Jim Zivic

        Ernie Foonman was sitting at the kitchen table drumming his fingers and thinking about lunch when his brother Albert walked in with an axe in his hand. Ernie brushed a wisp of red hair out of his eyes and looked up at his younger twin who didn't look one bit like him. They were as near a pair of twins as one can find a pair born six-and-a-quarter months apart and not looking alike, except both were fairly thin.

        Ernie was red-haired, lantern-jawed with bright, blue eyes and a wide, white smile that was nonetheless overshadowed by what one can only describe as a field of electrical energy that made him seem to be going in all directions at once. Albert was more subdued; brown actually. Brown hair, brown eyes, olive skin, a small, toothy smile often obscured by a droopy moustache over his upper lip.

        “Do you know what this is? Albert held up the axe.

        “Is this a quiz?” Ernie's eyes went wide as he jumped to his feet.

        . “Yes, and you will be graded on your response.”

        “I'm all ears.” Ernie cupped ears with his hands.

        “Its our other brother Useless,” Albert raised both hands in the air and one hand still held the axe. He was out in the backyard with it and he told me he was working on a new invention of his. Wants to develop this axe into something more handy---what he called a 'hand-axe'. He wants to add it to his repertoire.“

        “His tool box already includes a bent screwdriver and broken pair of pliers. But I'm thinking about lunch. It's 12 noon..”

        “Time for lunch,” Albert said. “What about the hand-axe?”

        “Doesn‘t sound like lunch.” Ernie went to the fridge, opened it, looked in and pulled out the jars of peanut butter and jam. “Ah!” he said.

        “Ah Ha!” said Albert, dropping the axe and then taking the jars from Ernie. “High fructose corn syrup!”

        “My favorite! And white bread too!” Ernie said as he turned from a cupboard tightly gripping a small plastic bag.

        “Wait” said Albert. “I'll chop some onion, bell pepper and fresh tomatoes, make some sauce and boil some whole wheat pasta. And voila Chef Pierre to the rescue in half a jiffy.”

        Jiffy sounded too much like food to Ernie who quickly started building his sandwich while Albert, a.k.a. Chef Pierre, began chopping and sautéing veggies and boiling pasta.. Many jiffies later he was done and so was Ernie to Albert's dismay. Ernie was wiping his mouth with a paper napkin. Only crumbs on the table in front of him.

        “For once, can't you wait just a few minutes for a hot meal?”

        “Huh?” Ernie looked up. “Got milk?” he asked. “I forgot.”

        “Well there's plenty of pasta and sauce left for your other hollow leg.” Ventured Albert. He knew that one sandwich wouldn't be enough for his brother's voracious appetite

        Ernie looked up and lifted his hand with the first digit extended. “Well now that you mention it I do believe I have some room left for pasta and sauce.”

        Albert set down and plate and scooped out pasta and sauce. “And I'll tell you another thing or two about our brother Useless. You know how he sometimes has trouble with left and right?”

        “And which way is up,” added Ernie, shoveling a forkful of pasta into his mouth.

        “Or down,” continued Albert. “He is very confused about directions. Which direction do you think he knows best?”

        “Fast forward.” said Ernie, “Full speed ahead.”

        “And which way is that?” asked Albert.

        “You got me there, ” Ernie returned. “Ma and Pa Foonman never told me about that. I must have missed that class.”

        “Well it must be out there somewhere,” ventured Albert, “because he let me in on the workings of the inner sanctum of his mind.”

        “That's in a totally different direction. Sounds dangerous.” Ernie set down his fork and lifted his hand to his forehead. “It hurts to even think about it.”

        “Its not as bad as you might think,” Albert reassured him. “He's figured out how not to get his right and left boots mixed up and put on the wrong foot.”

        “Really?” said Ernie aghast. “How?” He took up his fork again and started pushing and scraping the last of his pasta around his plate.

        “Shoe laces!” Albert exploded as though that should have explained it all.

        “Ah,” said Ernie puzzled. “And just exactly what do shoe laces have to do with it? Please enlighten me. I don't want to be the last to know about this one. You know I'm always the last or second to last to know.?”

        “I'm getting to that part,” Albert reassured him. “You see…”

        “I don't see,” Ernie interrupted, getting fidgety now.

        “You will in a minute. Its fantastic.” Albert continued. “Useless broke the laces on one of his boots last week and…..”

        “Which boot?” Ernie interrupted again.


        “Which boot?” Ernie repeated.

        “Which boot?” Albert said.

        “Yeah, which boot? The right or left?”

        “I don't know.” Albert scratched his chin. “I don't think it makes a difference.”

        “You'd think it would,” Ernie conjectured

        “The way you think, it might,” Albert said. “The way I think it doesn't. No right. No left. No up. No down. No here. No there. Only here and now.”

        “I think that's against my religion.” Ernie said. “God said: ‘Thou shalt not think like that.' or if He didn't, He should have and saved us a lot of trouble.”

        “Well He didn't.”

        “Well He should've ‘cause He could've….being the most powerful and most awesome God and everything.”

        “Should've, could've, would've. Sounds like someone dropped the ball,” philosophized Albert. “Right onto a boot with broken laces.”

        “Yeah. How does that work?” asked Ernie.

        “Not very good. You see the boot's loose on the foot and off it comes when Useless gives the ball a good kick.”

        “So now it's a bad kick?”

        “Right and Useless looses his footing and down he goes on his backside and hitting his head on the ground”

        “And knocks him out?” asked Ernie.

        “Almost,” corrected Albert. “He has a brain fart.”

        “Don't tell me……shoelaces.”

        “That's right. He realizes how important shoelaces can be.”

        “Well I'll be,” snorted Ernie.

        “There's more. He goes looking for another pair of laces. Can't find an exact match so uses a flat, black lace which almost looks like the rounded one that broke….and he as soon as he re-laces the left boot, because that's the one in which the original round lace broke, he now finds that he can tell just by feel alone, which is which and no one else is the wiser. Nobody looking on can tell how he does it. He says he's going to apply for a patent. Intellectual property. Goin' to make the big bucks.”

        “Ah ha! The guy's a genius.” Ernie said.

        “Just goes to show.” Albert explained.

        “Something or other” Ernie confirmed.

        “Yep,” said Albert, “but that's for minds much deeper than ours to ponder.”

        “We still got milk?” asked Ernie.

        Albert went to the fridge, opened it and grabbed a half-gallon plastic jug and got a couple of glasses. He poured and handed one to his brother.

        “Here's to ya,” he said.

        “And to shoe laces,” added Ernie.

        “And to intellectual property,” said Albert as he raised his glass.

FONT SIZE="-1"> The End (for now at least)