I needed to get this column spiffed up, so I headed for the metaphor closet. But that space was so clogged with outdated figures of speech, overused cliches, tired euphemisms, and the transcript of Roger Clemens’s last press conference that I couldn’t find a decent pair of puns, let alone a suit of similes, a tuxedo of tropes, or a hyperbolic hairshirt.
“This thing needs to be cleaned out,” I said to my wife, “like a digestive tract before a colonoscopy.”
From the mess, my wife extracted a cry of alliterative anguish. She knew the two of us approached housecleaning from positions as different as those of 1st District congressional candidates Dean Scontras, a radical right-wing Republican, and Ethan Strimling, a loony left-wing Democrat. How could we ever find enough common ground to accomplish anything?
My position on clearing the closet was as simple as the Democrats’ Iraq strategy: Pull everything out. Haul it to the dump.
My wife’s approach was more complicated than Rudy Giuliani’s love life. Allusions could be salvaged for vague future uses, while metonymies and synecdoches ought to be recycled. Friends might be able to use some turns of phrase, and if not, they could, in an ironic twist, be left in the exchange shop at the transfer station. Her conceit was that every single item must be examined, reconsidered and eventually restored to its former position in the closet, lest his writership someday finding himself lacking the appropriate antonomasia.
“We believe,” she cried, “we might need our enallage if we someday want to sound pompous.”
Fortunately, we were saved from our own incompetence by the arrival of friends, who offered an intriguing alternative. Rather than rely on us to decide what to throw away and what to keep, our pals would form a special committee composed of four of my wife’s closest acquaintances and four of mine. The members of this group would then choose a ninth person, a neutral stranger, to serve as chairperson. Then, the committee would select 75 percent of the wasted words in our closet to be eliminated. Our household — composed of me, my wife, and our three dogs — would vote on whether to accept the committee’s recommendation. No amendments or antitheses would be allowed. In the end, the closet would be cleaned, or we’d have no one to blame but ourselves. And the dogs.
I jest, of course. This entire concept was just a ridiculous way for us to avoid making hard choices. No sane person would consider such an approach, it being more sensible to make the tough calls yourself. Also, the whole thing was unnecessary, because my wife and I have about as much interest in closet cleaning as the Legislature does in budget cutting.
Which brings us, somewhat belatedly, out of this metaphorical miasma and back to the real world. Where we discover that the Legislature’s Committee on Future Maine Prosperity has reached an agreement on a budget-cutting plan that ... hmmm, seems sort of familiar.