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Hard Rhymes, Hard Times
by Edmund Conti

Gary Garopian knew that what he suffered from had no name. He hoped that one day scientists would discover a name for his affliction. Then perhaps there would be a TV drama about it and everyone would understand it and be sorry they ever laughed at him. He could visualize the story:  our hero endures early childhood taunts, sets out the win the world’s longest race, discovers his hero, Pete “Boom” Andeerson, suffers from the same problem, convinces him to go public, wins the respect and sympathy of the entire world. Plus there would be a panel show afterward with a a hotline number, I-800-POORKID.

That’s all he wanted—that people knew he had a problem. He didn’t hope for a cure. Or even a Jerry Lewis marathon. And he certainly didn’tneed special parking lots at the malls, marked “Rhymoplasty Victims Only.” Though that would be nice, especially if it meant having a special license plate. But Gary knew that none of that would happen until scientists discovered there was such a thing as rhymoplasty—the uncontrollable urge to rhyme during conversation. Gary first realized he was different in the third grade when his teacher barked at him, “You in the back row, what’s your name?” and Gary answered without thinking, “Gary Garopian, what’s your game. He was sent to the office where the vice-principal beat the hell out of him and then sent him home where his parents finished the job.

After many beatings during the ensuing years, all the while protesting, “What did I do?”  Gary figured out he suffered from rhymoplasty, although not as much as his audiences. Of course, he didn’t know it was called rhymoplasty, because it wasn’t.  It wasn’t called anything, at least not anything known. If there were other sufferers, they suffered in silence. And if you were to say to one of them, “You suffer in silence,” he would probably reply, “I suffer in violence.” Which was another tragic aspect of rhymoplasty, bad rhyming.

Once, desperate, Gary tried to seek help. But when his doctor asked him, “What’s your problem?” he was struck dumb.  He knew of no rhyme for ‘problem.’ Later when he received a bill for $200 from Lemuel Grosscat, MD, he realized he should have answered. “I want your job, Lem.” Not that it would have helped. As he grew older and the beatings let up, Gary’s head cleared a little and he saw that he had a facility for rhyming. He took up poetry, sending his pieces to various magazines listed in Poet’s Market. He should have read the listings a little more carefully.  He could have avoided more beatings, this time in the form of verbal abuse from the magazines’ editors.  “If it rhymes, we don’t want it.” “There hasn’t been a good rhymed poem since 1873.”  “If you subscribed, you would know we don’t accept rhymes.” That’s when Gary started writing free verse. He noted at the same time that his problem was in remission. He started answering questions, first in unrhymed couplets, then in free verse, enjambing frequently, and finally, answering in prose-poem forms. And although his responses  were just as idiotic as ever the general reaction from his listeners, while not enthusiastic, was benign. Nowadays, if you were to meet Gary in the street and ask, “How are things, Garopian?” he would not say back to you (as he once would have) “And how are your things fallopian?” No, he  would more likely reply:
        The wind blows in the will-
        ows (as the philosopher sd)
        & I
        am fine.

And no one would laugh.