Column: Waiting for the Creative Mousse On Dover Street

By Susan Parker
Tuesday September 12, 2006

The phone rang, as it always does on Sunday afternoon. “Susan,” said the voice on the other end of the line, “this is your mother.”  

“I know that,” I said.  

“Just calling to check in,” she said.  

“I know that, too,” I answered. “But I can’t talk now. I’m trying to write a column.”  

“What about?” she asked.  

“That’s the problem. I don’t have a theme yet. I want to write something profound about—”  

“Don’t try to be profound,” advised Mom. “It doesn’t work. No one in our family has ever been profound regarding anything.”  

“Yeah” I said, “but—”  

“Why don’t you write about Mr. Peanut?”  

“Mr. Peanut?”  

“Yes,” she said. “In July a statue of Mr. Peanut, delivered by the Nutmobile, was installed on the Atlantic City boardwalk. A few days later someone vandalized him.”  

“You’re kidding,” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.  

“I’m not,” said Mom. “They removed the small finger on his right hand. He’s been sent away for repairs.”  

“That’s a shame,” I said. “But not profound.”  

“Of course it’s not profound, but I thought it might interest you.” 

“Yeah, well—”  

“Remember when you danced with Mr. Peanut in front of Planter’s Peanut Shop?” said Mom. “You must have been three or four years old and—”  

“Mom,” I said. “I gotta go.”  

“Wait, you’re father wants to speak with you.”  

Before I could stop her she put the phone down. “Dewey” I heard her shout, “it’s your daughter and she’s trying to be profound.”  

“You’re trying to be profound?” asked Dad when he picked up the receiver. “Don’t bother. Nobody in this family is—”  

“I know, Dad, but I’ve got to come up with a topic and—”  

“How about that moron judge who put the thing-a-ma-jig on his you-know-where and was doing you-know-what under his desk while presiding over trials? What about that for a column?”  

“I don’t think so,” I said.  

“Did you hear about Mr. Peanut?”  

“Yes,” I said. “Mom just told me.”  

“Big news around here. Some son of a you-know-who ripped the poor bastard’s pinkie off. They’ve gotta ship him back to the factory and solder the damn thing on. Can you believe it?”  

After we said good-by, I googled the past week’s news headlines searching for weighty subject matter, but nothing inspired me—not Paris Hilton’s DUI, or Lindsay Lohan’s lost designer pocketbook, or the rumors that Baby Suri was wearing a toupee during her Vanity Fair photo shoot.  

My housemate Andrea offered advice. “Why don’t you write about how Noonie lost her house and all her furniture was stolen by the landlord?”  

I tried to reply, but Andrea was on a roll.  

“Write about Curtis’s car breakin’ down again and the police stoppin’ him and sendin’ him back to jail cause Noonie put some of her stuff in his trunk and he didn’t know about it and—”  


“Why don’t you write about how my feet are all swelled up and I’m always tired and—”  


“Write about Ralph. People are always complainin’ you don’t write enough about him and you’re always sayin’ you gotta write what you know, and—”  

“Okay” I said. “I get your point. Leave me alone so I can let the creative muse gel.”  

“You need to put some of that creative muse on your head and comb that hair of yours,” she sniffed as she left my room. “No wonder you can’t think of nothin’ to write about.”  

I went downstairs to talk with Ralph. He was in his hospital bed, staring at the computer monitor. Above him, a television screen showed Annika Sorenson missing a long putt.  

“Got any ideas for a column?” I asked.  

I waited while he placed his mouth stick into a small tube on the hospital tray in front of him. I watched him struggle, but I didn’t offer to help. Ralph likes to do things for himself.  

When the stick was finally in place he turned his head and looked at me. His blue eyes were clear and bright. He smiled.  

“The A’s won again!” he shouted. “I’m a happy man.”