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What's So Funny

Growing up, most kids played some variation of Butt Ball. Though decidedly gay-porno-sounding in retrospect, the game was pretty innocent, even if it did fixate on players' asses. Not sexually, though: The goal was simply to inflict the most pain possible.

It was fun, people. Damned fun. Kids would gather around a large wall -- say, the side of a gymnasium or Bill Owens's giant forehead -- throw the ball at the wall, then field it and throw it back against the wall. The catch: If you bobbled the ball, you had to run and touch the wall before another fielder could retrieve the ball and throw it against the wall. If you did not beat his throw, you were forced to stand facing the wall, and the player who'd thrown you out got a free shot at your ass. Screw four-square, screw playing Horse on the basketball courts. Any elementary-schooler worth his weight in Hostess Chocodiles knew that the best games were the ones where people actually got hurt. Especially the weak and fat ones. Awesome.

Perhaps the most satisfying game of Butt Ball I ever played was one summer when I was about twelve. It was one of those hot, dry Denver days, with the sun high in the sky and the infectious song of the ice-cream truck chiming in the distance. A boy was standing against the wall, awaiting his punishment. His tormenter threw the ball and missed the boy by several feet -- but nailed the drainpipe directly above him. I use the most precise of mathematical calculations when I report that 4.5 gabillion moths immediately shot out of the pipe. They swarmed around the boy, fluttering in his eyes, getting inside his mouth, blindly poking their heads into his nose and ears. As he dervished around the field like some sort of spastic fop, girlishly shrieking to the heavens, we just about laughed ourselves sick. God, we really did all hate each other.

I guess you can't blame the poor dandy, though. Every summer, when the moths roll in from the Nebraska plains, we all have our odd ways of coping. I was always taught to trap them in my hands and release them out a window. Other people roll up magazines or use T-shirts to destroy every moth within a twenty-foot radius. Cruel little boys tear off their wings, while cats chase them for hours. Eventually, though, the moths become so omnipresent that we are forced to ignore them. You open your car door and accept the all-out facial assault of powdery insects as another foregone conclusion of Denver life: The air will smell like stockyard shit before a storm, the Shane Company is your friend in the diamond business, and the moths get a percentage of everything you own. Just give them your ATM code and don't light any candles.

Now, finally, someone has recognized our heroic struggle. The Farmers' Almanac and the American Biophysics Corporation are about to name Denver one of the Top Twenty Buggiest Citiesin America. Details are few at this point, but experts' predictions of a heavy mosquito season coupled with our usual bountiful crop of moths apparently earned us a coveted spot on the list. The buggy-city people will launch a "Take Back Your Neighborhood" program this week with tips on how to prepare for the onslaught of insects. What's So Funny is happy to leak a few in advance.

• When leaving the house, make sure to cover heads of children with tightly sealed Ziploc Double Guard freezer bags.

• If mysterious messages begin appearing in spider webs, fumigate barn and slaughter prize pig. It will only end badly otherwise.

• Cats eat bugs, dogs eat cats, the Chinese eat dogs... Buy Chinese food.

• Capturing and labeling different species of insects is not only a good way to curb the bug problem, but an educational and informative way to spend time out of doors with friends. Nerd.

• In event of African killer-bee attack, make sure to have hive of European colonialist bees on hand.

• In Middle Ages, fleas carrying plague were able to thrive because of crowded spaces, improper sanitation. Always empty stool buckets downriver.

 
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