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by Cathy Corcoran

I met a woman last week who asked me one of the two questions people always ask writers.  

No, not, “How do you pay the mortgage?” The other one:  “How do you think of so many things to say?”


Since I have been asked this question perhaps a thousand times, I was ready with my answer.  “There’s nothing like a deadline to inspire creativity,” I said.


Deadline.  It’s an interesting word, one that means time is critical, and if you miss the line, you’re dead.


I’m thinking about this word right now because a deadline is upon me and I am staring out the window, running all sorts of words through my mind, searching for just the right ones before I get to the line and find I am dead.


The first word I think of is “whoopie cushion,” though technically, I know that’s two words.


My eight year-old daughter saved her allowance money for weeks, went to the mall, and decided a whoopie cushion was the one thing she could not live without.

I told this story to a group of women at the gym.  They all laughed, but one woman looked confused. 


Sunny was born in Thailand, and though she has lived in Hingham for ten years and speaks excellent English, I could tell she didn’t know what a whoopie cushion was.  Since I play with words all day, I took it upon myself to enlighten her.


“The whoopie cushion is rubber, inflatable, you blow it up and then sit on it,” I said.


The other women were laughing harder.  I could tell Sunny wanted to laugh too, but she wasn’t sure what was funny about sitting on a rubber cushion.

“It makes a noise,” I said, and did my best imitation of the subject at hand.

“Thppp!” I said, and Sunny laughed.


I made a mental note that “Thppp! is a useful word, cross-cultural, multi-lingual, effective.  These are the things I think of when a deadline looms.


This makes me think of another useful word, “eeyew,” a word that is best said while squinting one’s eyes and making a face.  I learned this word from my stepdaughter when she was 12 years-old.  She used it to react to her younger brother, her report card, her braces, and broccoli au gratin.  Melissa is 23 now, but I find that “eeyew” still comes in handy in certain situations, like the one I had last week.


My husband left town on a business trip, and right away, the car started acting up.  I dropped Ken at Logan, and before I made it back to the Sumner Tunnel, the “low coolant” light lit up on the dashboard.


Now I am no genius when it comes to cars, but I figured I could pour some antifreeze into the radiator, for heaven’s sakes.  I stopped on the way home, bought a gallon of Prestone, and popped the hood.  The elderly woman parked next to me looked at me with respect.


If you are a woman and you want to boost your self esteem, just pop the hood on a car and look inside.  Immediately, your status level goes way up.  Unfortunately, I have not looked under the hood of a car since George Bush was president.  My self esteem was in big trouble.

I drive a Chevvy Lumina, nothing really fancy, a nice reliable car, but it looks nothing like cars used to look under the hood.  I couldn’t see a radiator, but there was a little plastic container marked “engine coolant,”  There was another one marked “electronics center,” but I decided to ignore that.


I twisted the cap on the Prestone, but it wouldn’t budge.  I put my leather gloves on and tried again.  Nothing.


The elderly woman drove off and was replace by a beefy guy in a Ford pickup.  He lit up a Lucky Strike and smiled at me.  What the hell?  I asked him to help with the Prestone.


Sir Lancelot gave the cap a mighty twist, snapping the safety whatziz completely off the top.

“*@&%!,” he said, another good all-purpose word, though unfortunately, not printable in this newspaper.


I smiled, and poured some antifreeze into the engine coolant container.  They, I poured some on the electronics center, and the rest of it down the front of my new jeans.

“Eeyew,” I said.

“*@&%!,”  said the beefy guy.


So there you have them, my words for the week:  whoopie cushion, thppp, eeyew, and *@&%!


Time is up.  What do you think?  Am I dead yet?



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