- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

zoltar, knower of all

I am Zoltar, knower of all things!

My extraordinary vision will amaze you!

My preternatural gifts will shred the

mystical veil separating the past and

the future --- the known and the unknown

--- the living and the dead!

OK, so your favorite dad may indeed

need a complete psychological workup.

Perhaps an immediate and massive

infusion of thorazine might do

the trick. Or just maybe the

Reverend Jim-like flashbacks




they promised back in the perpetual

chemical haze of college weekends are

at long last kicking in and having their

way with my PC-ravaged medulla.

But make no mistake, I AM Zoltar.

Normally I only traipse him out of my

deeply disturbed psyche once a year for

the local PTA's Halloween "Spooky Saturday"

carnival, a school event where,

for discipline-minded parents, all bets

are off for a full day; the sugar flows

freely for ten-cent tickets; and

Halloween-frenzied kids stampede like a

pack of yak through the cheesy suburban

funk of our PTA's misguided crepe and

papier-mache vision of horror, warm-n-fuzzy.

Past the softball toss, past the

"Pocket Lady," (where for three tickets,

you get to grope through one of the

myriad pockets adorning her hoop-skirt for

Taiwanese exotica like bat-rings or

fright-inducing polymer-based bugs), at

the bottom of the terrifying terrazzo

steps on your way to the most

hideous place of all in any elementary

school (lunch room), it is there that

you will find me, resplendent in a

purply bejeweled velveteen

JoAnn Fabric turban,

Zoltar, the supreme knower of all.

There, just once a year, in a mystical

refrigerator box sprayed flat black

and festooned with day-glo tempera stars

and half-moons, behind a rickety

card table disguised with a black velvet

throw and laid out with the critical

tools of the mystic's trade

(a u-shake-it "eight ball"), Zoltar

presides over the futures of children

grades K through 5 for two ten cent tickets.

(It upset me initially that the Pocket Lady

commanded three tickets, but the

groping thing is value-added, I suppose).

"Whose dad are you?" asks a buck-toothed

whelp with a squealy little, thin

little rasp awaiting the coming relief

of voice-altering hormones.

Now, there is no way on God's green earth

that I'm gonna tell these kids

whose dad I am. It was quite easy to

envision my son pummeled into a bloody

stump, ambushed after math by pre-

pubescent droogs gunnin'

for the fairy-boy whose dad is

the embarrassment of Zoltar.

"Deees is de Tarot carrrd," Zoltar purrs

in a low, Lugosi-inspired

SCTV Count Floyd knockoff accent.

"Cut dees carrrd tree times to de left,"

my tongue rolls "R's" like a finely-

tuned flivver. I hike one Zoltar eyebrow

up to my turban and stare,

unblinking, at the ten-year-old seeker

of the unknown who gets more reticent the

thicker I lay on the Carpathian corn.

I cannot see him, or anything else for that

matter. Zoltar's wire-frame specs are

some antiquey bric-a-brac my wife picked

up to adorn a crusty old dusty old tome that

languishes unread on the fireplace mantle.

Perched precariously on the end cells of

Zoltar's nose, they augment the mystic look

and render the seer of all quite

blind for the entire carnival.

"De Hierophant," Zoltar elucidates,

"in your future means dere ees not enuf

leafy green vegetables in your diet!"

he divines in an epiphanic crescendo.

"De Ace of Cups," I aver, slowly and

histrionically flipping the card on the

end pile, playing fast and loose with the

ancient method of Hungarian divination,

" Ace of Cups..." Zoltar digs deep

for hokum, then notices the kid's Cleveland

Indians tee-shirt, "...shows Zoltar you have

an interest in de sporrrts...perhaps in de

sporrrt of baseball---dees is trrrue?"

"Yes!" gasps the boy, and suddenly all the

tic-given fidgets in line for

Zoltar behind him go silent and wide-eyed.

"Dees carrrd," flipping the middle one,

"de Wheel of Fortune! Not the cheesy Wheel

of Fortune you see on yourrr TEE-v vith

Vanna White."

Buying time, Zoltar gratefully recalls that the World Series

is on the tube later in the day, and as such is

now fully armed to slam-dunk the

unsuspecting child's psyche,

"...dees carrrd shows Zoltar dat tonight, vith

yourrr family, you vill vatch de TEE-v,

you vibrations, dey are

tellink me you vill root for de Indians and

that....and that..."

"What, WHAT?" he's close to

peeing himself despite his advanced years.

"Zoltar predicts dat YOU WILL HAVE A

SNACK DURING DE GAME! Two tickets please."

The kid ponies up the tickets,

but the most critical component of

the session is yet to come.

"Now close yourrr eyes, and make dee vish!"

Zoltar tells the boy with the

Tribe shirt, who readily complies.


already knows vat you are vishing. But

Zoltar von't never tell nobody.

Zoltar-client confidentiality and all dat."

I hold both hands to my forehead and

feverishly vibrate them.

"Did you vish it harrrd enuff?" I fumble

for my sheet of Avery 5160 laser

labels, which is mass printed with an

edict reading "Your Wish is Granted,"

in a funky Chinatown True Type font.


"Den Zoltar says your vish is grrranted."

I paste the Avery on the kid's shirt

as the next "seeker" scrambles up.

"Hey, that's just a laser label,"

the kid wises off to the queue, "Zoltar's got

a mess of 'em in there!"

"Dat's right, dey're frrrom Zoltar's

scary HP Laser II!" I Lugosi back.

Finally, it's time for the second shift

psychic, my wife, who is Esmerelda on

this day and is bedecked in flowing gypsy

raiment that would've made Stevie Nicks

jealous before her wardrobe bloated

from mystic-chic to bedsheets.

Waiting for my own kids to finish spending

the $20 each we choked up for

them to blow on crap despite my pending unemployment,

I slowly wander the

halls of faux-horror, unblinking, unseeing,

and non-communicative. Just kind of a

creepy schmaltzy exclamation point on

the act until Zoltar returns next year.

Meantime Esmerelda, a kinder, gentler psychic

less given to smarmy schtick, grants wish after

wish downstairs in the refrigerator box.

I nicked the name "Zoltar" from the

Tom Hanks movie "big," which is one

of those few great flicks you don't

mind seeing over and over and over

again the way kids watch video. Zoltar

was a scary gypsy mannequin in a

machine that blinked lights and spit

out a fortune card that said "your wish

is granted" when Hanks' character ached

to be a grown up. When he woke

up grown-up and had to endure a sobering

blast of adulthood, Hanks

hunted down Zoltar to wish himself

a kid again.

That is why your old dad, for just this

one special time during the holiday

season, wanted to cordially introduce

you to my dadly alter-ego. In this

season when the Jeanne Dixons of the

world shovel a heapin' helpin' of

new age psychobabble on the vulnerable,

Zoltar is back to do some predictin'.

Here goes.

Your kids will continue to kill each other

in the inexplicable race to answer

the telephone first. They'll continue

to steadfastly refuse to eat anything

that is green unless it is a sugar-intensive

product relating to ooze.

(Secretly, you won't blame them for it).

Bill upon bill upon bill will continue to

arrive at your doorstep, effectively

ameliorating any plans you have for fun.

Work will continue to drain every

last drop of energy you can muster,

rewarding you in the end with a stiff

boot in the ass for the loyalty your

parents taught you was

necessary to get ahead.

Myopic? Maybe.

But there may be a way out.

Someone once told me, if you haven't

grown up by the time you're 35, you

never have to. Look around you. Kids

who are allowed to be kids and

dream dreams are in a better place than

any of us will ever be again, at

least chronologically.

Rent "big" again before you have

to set aside the holidays and

go back to work.

After you do, as the stultifying drone of daily life

begins to return and starts working its punishing

voodoo on your psyche, close your eyes and

invoke a Zoltar of your own.

Then start wishing

like you've never wished before.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

2003 Arhythmiacs

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You never talk to your old dad!