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Thursday, July 14, 2005 07:08 pm

capital voices

This week, I’m asked to say what I have to say in 725 words — 800 words are too many, 700 too few.

Today’s topic is women. No 700-word problem here, for I’ve been observing women now for 65 years, and, in my teens and twenties, my observation was nearly a full-time occupation. Here, then, is what I know so far: Women will never take the last office doughnut in the box, never. Bring a dozen doughnuts to an office of 10 women and one man, and the man will not only get his original early-morning original doughnut but will also have all day to eat that last doughnut.

And another thing I know for sure about women is . . . er . . . (Word count: 119)

Filler. I’ve known Tommie “Snorts” Sullivan and Father Frog since we shared a Little League outfield in 1950. Although we live cities apart nowadays, we get together occasionally, have a beer, and spend time updating histories. It’s therapeutic, really, for even manly men such as we need an outlet where we can talk of intimate, sensitive, personal concerns and problems.

“I’ll be 65 tomorrow,” reports Snorts, “and I’ve decided to be old. Not new-age old, working-out-in-a-gym old, auditing-a-college-course old, but ‘honest’ old — like our fathers who fought WWII were honest old at 65. Naps old, left-turn-signal-locked-in-the-on-position old, hitch-up-pants old.

“Tomorrow I will have coffee at 4:30 a.m. instead of sleeping in till 5. Today I fear no man; tomorrow I will fear a 6-year-girl in a pinafore dress.”

“Will you be drooling?” I asked. “Can’t have no beer with a drooler.”

“Not sure,” he answered. “Have to wait and see — but I will be wearing a cheap toupee because my grandfather wore one. Never could figure the reason of it; one day he’d wear it, next day not. Might take it off midconversation and stuff it in his pocket. Looked like he ripped it out of a chicken-stained shag rug with a rusty claw hammer — damn thing changed colors on the even hour.”

“Ever tell ya about the time I had six hits in five at-bats against Whitey Ford in a playoff game in ’64?” I said. “We’re down 5-4, bottom of the ninth; I had our only four hits, all homers, and I knew it was now or never, ’cause no one else could handle Whitey that day. Having no alternative, I hammered a high inside fastball off the centerfield wall with such force that it shot on a line straight back over home plate.

“Naturally, with my blinding speed, I’d already reached home with the tying run as the ricochet pellet returned to cross the dish. So I calmly picked up the bat and hit another homer. Five at-bats — six hits. Reason you don’t see me in the record books is because I batted over .1000 and .1000 is the maximum they allow.”

Father Sam O’Malley, forever called Frog in our circle because of a long-ago slide into second base with his much-loved pet frog in his sliding-side pocket (not a pretty sight), is a Jesuit priest. In Father Frog’s day you couldn’t be an official ordained Jesuit until you were 33 years old and knew everything once. Frog is 66 now and claims to know everything twice.

“I need a name for my new dog,” Frog injects. “Thinking of calling him Hardscrabble. Whaddya think?”

“Frog, did I ever tell you about the time in ’73 I played an 18-hole golf course in nine strokes? Trained a Croatian crow to bite the ball in half mid-flight, carry the half-ball to the hole in his beak, and drop it in.”

“The bird dropped the half ball into a hole in his beak?”

“Frog, nobody likes a smartass know-it-all. You were better off when you were an idiot — like Snorts here.”

“It is my considered opinion,” says Snorts, “that KFC uses only 10 herbs and spices when you get carryout. Sure, when you eat in they use 11— but carryout, you only get 10.”

That evening. My Sainted Wife, the most feminine person on Earth and therefore busy writing a thank-you note to thank someone for sending her a thank-you note: “How’s Tom handling it since he lost his eye in the accident?”

Me: “Snorts has only one eye?”

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