Sam Venable  

Special Contributor

FROM: J. Manfred Horshiney, Director, U.S. Department of Meaningless, Erratic, Dumb Details, and Lunatic Excesses (MEDDLE).

TO: Mr. Hiram Stringlouse, Obedient Citizen.

Dear Mr. Stringlouse:

We at MEDDLE are reviewing your request for permits in order that you may send your true love a variety of Christmas gifts. Although this unique selection of presents is a kind and generous expression of holiday cheer, I must point out a number of problem areas that must be corrected before any further MEDDLE action can be taken.

I will discuss each category in the order presented on your application.

A partridge in a pear tree. Please list the genus and species of both the partridge and the pear tree, as well as the name of the nursery (or forest) from which the tree was obtained. Also, indicate the approximate location within the pear tree that the partridge will be positioned.

Two turtle doves. Include serial numbers from your state hunting license and federal turtle dove stamp.

Three French hens. In accordance with Article 3, Paragraph 4, Line 6 of the NATO Agricultural Exchange Treaty, a poultry importation permit must be obtained before this transaction can progress. Forms are available from the French embassy in Washington.

Four calling birds. Will these birds be performing classical calls? Jazz? Country? Rock? Rap? Please include five (5) copies of lyrics for each scheduled performance. Use additional sheet if necessary.

Five golden rings. List the size of each ring and finger for which each is intended. No funny business about the finger, either.

Six geese a – laying. This gift, unfortunately, must be rejected outright. Because of the high incidence of salmonella poisoning, the Agriculture Department has banned all shipments relating to, or associated with, eggs. (Ova Order No. 6812-S.)

Seven swans a – swimming. Supply the name of stroke(s) each bird will be using. Also include certificates of lifesaving proficiency from the Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA, your local rescue squad, or other accredited agency.

Eight maids a’milking. Using U.S.D.A. Udder Form 38-D, describe breed, vaccination records, projected yield, and butterfat content for each cow to be milked.

Nine ladies dancing. The Social Security number for Ladies 4, 7, and 9 were omitted on your original application.

Ten lords a – leaping. Height and weight of each leaping lord (as well as any stand-ins) must be recorded. Also, include a notarized statement from a board-certified engineer attesting that the establishment in which the aforementioned lords will be a–leaping has sufficient underpinnings.

Eleven pipers piping. As with calling birds, the specific type of music to be played – or piped, as the case may be – must be submitted. Furthermore, include proof of royalty payments to American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Twelve drummers drumming. In order that equal employment opportunity was afforded each applicant for this job, please send all printed materials, including critique sheets, from the audition. OSHA requirements mandate the use of ear protection devices, to be supplied by the employer, for each drummer.

Due to the immense volume of permit requests reviewed each year at MEDDLE, please understand there may be a slight delay in processing this application. Surely no more than eighteen months.

We appreciate your patience.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at