So, you’re going to have a piece of furniture reupholstered, are you?  I’ll bet it’s your sofa, isn’t it?  It is?  Ha, I knew it!  How did I know?  We writers are practically psychic, that’s how I know.  It’s a professional talent, you might say — something acquired after many years of studying people.  Why, I can look into a person’s eyes and see his whole living room.  I’m seeing your living room right now, as a matter of fact.  What a mess!  Don’t you ever clean?  Open a window!  It stinks in here!  I can tell just by looking at your living room that you’re headed for disaster unless I save you.  What do I mean?  Why, just this: you are about to make one of the most important decisions of your life.  You have to choose an upholsterer!

    What difference does it make?  Listen, would you let just anybody pack your parachute?  I should hope not!  You don’t take chances when it comes to reupholstering a piece of furniture either.  You and your family may be sitting on it the rest of your lives (especially if you’re on welfare).

    Now let me show you the way.  Follow me and be safe.  Go your own way and step on a land mine.  Get my drift?  Good.

    Let us open the Yellow Pages and look under “Upholsterers.”  There are many to choose from, but I see red flags all over the place.  Keep a sharp eye out for listings like these:

    Acme Upholstery.  No street address given.  And why not?  Because they move around from place to place!  It’s a fly-by-night operation, don’t you see?  This is the sort of outfit that will lure a person to a fake address and then beat him and rob him!  They don’t pay their bills or their rent either, I’m sure of that.

    Joe Giganto Upholstery.  Never mind him.  He has a fat name.  You don’t want a fat upholsterer, do you?  He’s probably connected to the Mafia as well.

    Metro School of Upholstery.  What do we have here?  I’ll tell you: a bunch of slovenly immigrants who came here without any trade or education, and they think they can be upholsterers.  Are you going to trust a bunch of students?  You’ll be the guinea pig.  They’ll make their mistakes on your sofa.  “Oh, excuse us, please, we are just learning!” 

    Sam’s Upholstery, 443 Shuter St.   Bad neighborhood.  Stay away.  Let somebody who isn’t reading this go and get his throat cut.

    Tim & Damien, Fine Upholsterers.  A couple of homos, for sure.  Too prissy, too fussy, too expensive.  (And don’t rush them!  Upholstery is an art form!  It takes time!)

    Ilie Romanescu.  Gypsy.  Forget it.  Your sofa will come back with bedbugs in it.

    Wong Upholstery and Restoration.  NO CHINESE UPHOLSTERERS, OKAY?  Shoddy workmanship, cheap or even dangerous materials, and they put their garbage in the upholstery, figuring no one will ever know.  Some of them are abortionists as  well.

    Heinrich Zimmler.  Ad says, “In Business Since 1950.”  This guy’s a former Nazi concentration camp guard.  Trust me.  I used to do apartment-locating for Nazi war criminals. 

    Ram Upholstery.  Ad says, “Next door to Ram Bakery.”  I get it.  The upholstery shop is sharing the same building with the bakery.  These guys are Wogs, and their Indian bakery is barely paying the rent, so they’re trying to do a little upholstery on the side.  NO WOG UPHOLSTERERS, OKAY?

    All the others pass the first cut.

    Now you have to go visiting.  Don’t call first.  Pretend you were just walking in the neighborhood, saw the sign, and dropped in.  This way you catch them as they really are.  Look the place over carefully.  You want to see a busy shop, good lighting, good ventilation, a water cooler, a calendar, a sign that says “Fire Exit,” the business license prominently displayed, decals for major credit cards, and a few awards of some sort in frames mounted on the wall.  Workers must not look stoned.  Elaborate tattoos are bad.  No sneakers.  No earrings.  No women.  (This is a man’s trade.)  Classical music playing in the background is good; hip-hop is bad.  How does the place smell?  It should have normal upholstery smells.  Any weird smells and you should probably walk out.  (The clincher is the absence of pets in the shop.  Animals won’t stay where it doesn’t smell right.)  Is the boss single or married?  Never trust a single upholsterer.  There have been cases of serial killers who were upholsterers, and they were all single.  And how do you think they disposed of their victims?  They cut them up into small pieces and stuffed them into people’s furniture!

    Picking the wrong upholsterer can lead to a tragic outcome, as Mr. G. Wilson of 73 The Bridle Path, Toronto, can attest: “I came home from work to find my wife raped and murdered, my valuables stolen, and my house wrecked.  To add insult to injury, my reupholstered sofa was returned with scratches on it, the workmanship was poor, and the bill was far above the original estimate.”

    Such upholstery tragedies often go unreported in the media because the families are too ashamed to talk about them.  But they do happen — far too often.  I asked Toronto Police Chief William Blair about the problem of bad upholsterers.  Here’s what he said: “It’s certainly a sad state of affairs when a minority of upholsterers do bad things that make the whole profession look bad, which it isn’t.  Someday these bad characters will learn that it’s wrong to kill their customers and cheat them and steal from them.  I wish there were some way we could get that message across to them.  I’m not sure what we can do.  I just think somebody should do something to stop it.”

    Until somebody does put a stop to it, you, the consumer, are your own first (and last) line of defense.  Go ahead and reupholster that sofa if you have to.  (If you just suffer with it in its present state, the evildoers win.)  But for God’s sake, take heed of everything I’ve written, and keep your wits about you!

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

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    There are a lot of bad things that can happen to people in this crazy, screwed-up world, but there’s really no human experience more gut-wrenching than coming home to discover that your little hamster is…contaminated!….With radiation!….Let that sink in for a minute….

    This is what is happening more and more to decent people all around the world.  And why?  Because radiation is coming at us from all directions, invisibly.  You got radioactive steam spewing out of nuclear power plants (the big killer!).  You got terrorists stealing radioactive material to build bombs, and most of the time these jerks don’t really know what they’re doing, so whenever they mess it up, they toss the thing in the garbage and start over.  You got prospectors tearing up half the bloody planet because the price of uranium is way up, and the stuff blows away in the wind and settles a thousand miles away.  You got mine waste leaching into the ground and getting into the water table and food supply.  You got space junk falling out of the sky.  You got wackos stealing isotopes from hospitals and trying to fence them off in the black ghettoes, and God only knows where they eventually end up.  You got secret government experiments, and just by the laws of probability some of them will go wrong, and are you going to be warned?  No way!  You can’t prove who’s responsible.  Who are you going to sue when you see little Hammy getting all sick and mopey?  Look at the way he’s suffering, the poor little thing!  Makes your heart break.  What can you do?  You can let him suffer day by day, or watch him mutate into some grotesque creature that belongs in a monster movie, or put him out of his misery with one quick smash on the head with a sledge hammer.

    Well, that’s the way it used  to be.  But now there’s hope.  You can  decontaminate your radioactive hamster by following my method.

    Step One: Don’t panic.

    Step Two: Get a Geiger counter.  You should have done this first, but you were momentarily in a state of panic.  Okay, never mind.  Now, there are two basic kinds of Geiger counters.  You want the wicked  Geiger counter, which is calibrated in whole Roentgens, not the sissy  Geiger counter, which is calibrated in milli-Roentgens.

    Step Three: You need a big horseshoe magnet.   Don’t get an electromagnet, because they’re too  complicated.

    Step Four: Get a plastic or wooden cage for Hammy, because a metal cage will interfere with the magnetism.

    Step Five: You have to wash Hammy externally.  Just put him in a basin of lukewarm water with some ordinary baking soda, and brush him gently with a soft brush.  This will get rid of any contamination on the outside.

    Step Six: Take Hammy’s radiation count with the Geiger counter.  If he’s over 1.0 Roentgen, forget it.  He’s a dead rodent.  If he’s under 1.0 Roentgen but still moving the needle over 0.1, make a note of the reading and proceed to Step Seven.

    Step Seven: You have to get rid of the contamination inside his body.  You do this by waiting until Hammy is asleep, so he isn’t moving around.  Place the magnet close to his butt.  You have to align it as if you’re drawing the contamination down from the top of his body straight to his rectum.  (The magnet doesn’t actually have to be in the cage, as long as it’s within six inches of his body.)  Then go to bed and let the magnet do its work.  Little by little, the radioactive molecules, which are slightly magnetic, will be pulled down to where they can be excreted.  This will take several days or weeks, but trust me, okay?  I’ve done this.  Just take Hammy’s radiation reading every day.  It should start going down in a couple of days.  You want to get him down below 0.1 Roentgen, or, better yet, so low that the needle hardly moves.  Then Hammy will be fine.

    Now, the Russians claim to have a better method, which involves using a kind of diaper with a small electromagnet sewn into it, and you’re supposed to put the diaper on the hamster and the magnetism is working all the time.  Sure.  As if a hamster is going to be able to tolerate such a contrivance.   You couldn’t stand going around with an electromagnet in your ass 24 hours a day, so how do you expect a hamster to take it?  You know, those Russkies always talk big, but as far as I’m concerned, they just don’t have the know-how.  Think of Chernobyl.   So much for Russkie technology!

    Step Eight: Just kidding.  There’s no Step Eight.  You’re finished.  Hey, let’s have a party!

    So now you know how to take care of your hamster in this evil, polluted world of radioactive contamination.

    Oh, yeah, there’s probably one question still on your mind: does this method also work for other kinds of animals?  Hell, I don’t know.  You can try it.

    Copyright@ 2008, by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com