by Mike Todd
If I’m going to see any more heaving bosoms around here, I suppose I’m going to have to track them down myself, since my wife Kara won’t be bringing them into the house anymore. The same is true with half-naked pirates, though the loss there will be much easier to deal with.

The blame for this newfound propriety falls upon Kara’s new e-book reader, a Christmas present from her sister, which allows her to download romance novels directly to a piece of plastic, so Kara no longer needs to buy the colorfully covered books that have been festooning various household surfaces for the past several years. Goodbye, barrel-chested Highlanders. Adios, swooning maidens, with your certain body parts swooning more visibly than others. I wish you all much happiness on your voyages of self-discovery and other-people’s-selves-discovery, and I hope you don’t catch a chill.

I can’t say I am all that familiar with these so-called romance novels from first-person (or first-eyeball) experience because, let’s face it, they are places where the hand of man has never set foot. In the history of publishing, no man has ever actually read one of these exercises in fantasy from cover to cover. What man actually wants to stare at a hairy, bulging chest? Even in a health club locker room, we all instinctively avert our gazes away from other men’s “junk.”

Fortunately, the adjustment to e-books is made easier by the publishers’ policy of charging the same amount for the vast majority of their books, regardless of the delivery method. This affords you and me the advantage of not having to share in any of the cost savings from e-books. We’d probably just waste our share of the cash on SUVs, diapers and high-risk mortgages, anyway.

As much as it doesn’t make sense to me that a few electrons should cost the same as a product that has been chopped down, processed, printed, shipped and displayed, I do understand publishers’ desire to protect their intellectual property, and to keep paying writers for their work. I’m especially empathetic because the written word has been quite a gravy train for me over the years. As long as the train is pulling into McDonald’s, and sweet and sour sauce counts as gravy.

“I really like reading books this way. I didn’t think I would,” Kara said as she lounged on my parents’ couch after Christmas.

“Mmmm, hmmm,” I replied from the other end of the couch, my mouth stuffed full of caramel popcorn. I’d made the mistake of pulling over my parents’ barrel of popcorn from under the Christmas tree, the kind with dividers to keep the different flavors from having to communicate with each other, sort of like the barriers in Israel that keep Jews and Palestinians separated..

These barrels have been diabolically planned. The saltiness of the cheese popcorn makes you crave the sweetness of the caramel popcorn, which makes you crave the saltiness again, and the cycle continues until your wife notices that you weren’t really massaging her leg, but wiping the cheese powder onto her lap blanket.

“I know you’re just doing that to get the cheese off your fingers,” she said, and I looked down in shame at the half-empty barrel on the floor. Ordinarily, a barrel that size has rodeo clowns jumping out of it, and I’d just mowed through enough of its contents that the dividers were starting to collapse upon themselves. I brushed the multi-flavored debris off my chest and shoved the container back under the tree.

“Look, you can play Minesweeper on here, too,” Kara said, handing me her e-book reader. “I cleared the easy screen in 42 seconds. See if you can beat it.”

After a few attempts, it became clear to me that Kara has missed her calling. With my thumbs clicking the buttons as fast as they could go and my dusted-off neurons firing harder than they had since Calculus II, I still couldn’t get under 50 seconds. More often than not, anyone depending on my minesweeping skills would have been joining me in Davy Jones’ locker, stuffed in there with Davy Jones’ sweaty gym shorts.

Kara should be working on a gunboat somewhere, standing in the crow’s nest, leaning forward with binoculars to her eyes. With her experience, she could quickly clear vast oceans of mines. And also spot any danger from half-naked pirates.