It's nights like these that I wish Sandpaper Charlie was real. If only he weren't just a story made up by the Mayor's henchmen to distract us from their dealings, from their betrayal.

Like many others, I've got the urge to be taught the piano. All in one go. I want to learn how to play the grand concert piano in a single, eight hour session. Sandpaper Charlie could've done it. He'd make sure I didn't take any breaks, that I'd keep my shoes on and I'd know when to spit.

We need someone who lines his jacket with 16-grit sandpaper and always has the right idea. Someone who can count to ten, who can climb up rope ladders despite their freestanding, unanchored, unpredictable, unreliable nature. They go every which way! We need someone who could show us how to escape on such a ladder if, say, the boat caught fire, or if we just didn't feel like being here anymore. Old Sandpaper could do it. He'd do it, do it real fine. And do it in exchange for a few pieces of Heavy/Fine Gray Daddy sandpaper torn into little strips he could slurp up like a bull frog on Easter. He'd eat the stuff, said it made him feel more like a bird or a craftsman. Or maybe both. Then out'd come the banjo, and you could forget about doing any more circle drawing that evening.

Oh if only he'd been real! If only he'd convinced the eldercare home residents to put sandpaper in their socks, “just like the Lord says,” to help them feel proud again. There wouldn't be so many bleak memoirs straining the Local Color shelf at the library.

But, of course, he isn't real. Sandpaper Charlie never did exist. All those memories you have of him getting legislation through to protect wetlands were put there by TV. They were put there by people with an agenda. They made sure you didn't notice them making off with the town's helium reserves.

And it worked. Now nobody can afford balloons.

Chris Weagel

Chris Weagel writes about the intersection of technology and parenting for Wired Magazine. No he doesn't. He can't stand that shit.

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