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By Steve Eskew

Due to a desperate descent into boredom during the pandemic, I’ve been tricked into a reunion with a frenemy — via Skype. She’s my brother Skip’s former college girlfriend, of all people. She’s hunted me down just to hound me.

As a legal precaution, let’s call her Verbena. I don’t know why I’m faking her name. She’ll never read this. She hates my writings as much as she hates my brother. So, she can’t be all bad.

Thinking is not necessarily her strong suit. She’s always overestimated her own intelligence. During our online communications, she’s resorted to her old habit of mocking my slightest error by tapping her temple with her index finger and saying with a smirk “Thimk!”

Verbena and I met when a professor partnered us together in a project during my first semester in college. Finding not the slightest romantic sparkle, we evolved into being competitors rather than partners. Stuck with each other for the semester, we bantered a bit, but we focused on the project.

Being man-hungry at heart, Verbena eventually began to nag me to set her up with a friend — “if you have one.” I decided to avenge her caustic comment, so I set her up on a blind date with my insane brother Skip. 

“She’s not for me,” I told him. “Every time someone other than she makes a mistake, Verbena taps her temple three times with her index finger and says ‘thimk!’”

“Ah, that’s almost precious,” my needy, naive, nutty little brother said. I rolled my eyes.

To my chagrin, they actually hit it off. That meant I’d be seeing even more of Verbena. Oy! I could only take her in small doses — with looong intervals between those doses.

Wouldn’t ya know, Skip’s masochistic streak had kicked in and he quickly grew to adore being henpecked. 

Due to his infinite blunders, Verbena tapped her temple so much that I swear she developed a dimple there. Skip’s new nickname in some circles was “Thimk.” 

Meanwhile, Verbena sharpened her competitive attitude toward me. Especially within the art of joke-telling. Skip, damn him, always begged Verbena to join him in watching me perform my standup set. 

Granted, I was a hack, but Verbena heckled me like a gnat, stomping all over my precious punchlines.  

One night, I began a joke with “All I am or ever hope to be, I owe to Mr. Bob Hope —” 

“Then why don’t ya buy him a bottle of rotgut booze and clear the account?” Verbena spouted out in a drunken slur.

Another joke needed a set up. It was about the time I got lost in the woods with one of my fake Mensa friends:

“Here we were — lost, feeling like idiots and with a combined IQ north of 300 —”

“Are you telling us that this friend of yours has an IQ of 250?” came the loud jab from Verbena. Then she smirked, tapped her temple and said “What a thimker!”

To make matters thoroughly unforgivable, her heckles got more laughs than my hacks. 

I became so livid that I instantly launched a whole new career — as an insult comic.

I invented a character modeled after Verbena. My jokes were dumb but pointed. Surprisingly, she suffered through them even though I clearly identified my character as “my insane brother’s homely girlfriend.”

Thank God political correctness hadn’t been invented yet. Modern feminists would have hated my act. I ruthlessly hyperbolized Verbena’s personal appearance:

Her nose? Long, huge, crooked, ugly, distorted and totally revolting.

Her best feature? Her nose.

She always looks like she’s just washed her face — and then ironed it.

When she puts cold cream on her face, it curdles.

Most people are fascinated by her long, silky black hair. Unless she covers her long, silky black hair with long, silky black gloves.

No, she didn’t have hairy arms. But she happened to be wearing long, silky black gloves that night. My brother laughed his fool head off. She left in a huff without him and soon left the city itself. Whew!

Now through the horrors of social media, she’s baaa-ack.

Hey, I thimk I just thought of a way to unload her from my Zoom doom (or is it my Skype gripe?).

How about if I wave a pair of long, silky black gloves at her? 

Yeah, then I’ll tap my temple, smirk and utter one word, emphasizing it with a question mark inflection — “THIMK?” 

I knew I’d come up with something. After all, I didn’t go to college for 37 years to know nothing.

— Steve Eskew

 Thank God, liberal arts courses are so easy. Even retired businessman Steve Eskew received a pair of master’s degrees in both dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. When asked to take over a professor’s theater column at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Steve began a career as a quasi-journalist. Narrowly by the luck of the Irish, this led to numerous publications including theater and book reviews, profiles and Steve’s favorite genre, humor writing. 

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