The Punctuation Therapy Group
by Jace Daniel (b. 1969)
Once upon a time there was a comma. He had a way with words, and always made it a priority to communicate himself well. He sincerely cared about others, and was dismayed at how badly individuals related to each other. Like all commas, he had only the best of intentions.
One day, after seeing how poorly others communicated without him, he decided to create a therapy group. He put an ad in the paper:
PUNCTUATION THERAPY GROUP
All types welcome
Thursdays, 8PM, Keystroke Coffee House
The first Thursday arrived. Getting to the coffee house an hour early, the comma rounded up all available chairs, stools, and some cushions, creating a large circle in the room.
Before long, a question mark entered the coffee house holding the newspaper ad. “Is this where the Punctuation Therapy Group meets?” the question mark asked.
“Well, it sure is,” replied the comma. “Tonight, next week, and hopefully forever.”
Other individuals of different shapes and sizes began pouring into the coffee house. Ordering their beverages, the respondents each took an available spot in the therapy circle.
The comma was amazed at the turn out. Gee, this is great, he thought.
The coffee house was soon packed. Looking at his watch and noticing it was 7:59 PM, the comma stood up in the middle of the circle to make an announcement.
“First of all, I’d like to thank you all for coming,” he said. “After many years, I’ve felt a calling to create a support group like this one from the bottom of my heart, the top of my head, and the core of my soul. My watch shows that we still have a minute to go before eight o-clock, but I suppose we could start early.”
A period sitting on a lounge chair spoke up. “I’ve got eight on the dot.”
“Okay, sure, I suppose we’re good to go then,” said the comma. “Before we begin, I figure it’d be a good idea to go around the room and introduce ourselves. We’ll start with me, and go counter-clockwise.”
The group went silent, giving the comma the floor.
“I’m a comma, and have always been,” said the comma. “For a long time, since, say, I was about, oh, this tall or so,” the comma held his hand, palm down over the floor, “I’ve noticed that individuals, large and small, old and young, wide and thin, tall and short, can often have difficulties being clear, concise, and to the point. The purpose of this therapy group, or meeting, if you will, is to provide support, encouragement, and fellowship for all of us through the sharing of our experiences, fears, challenges, and concerns.”
The group nodded in agreement.
The comma concluded. “So, that said, I’d like to thank you all for coming, and, for what it’s worth, please feel free to contact me personally after the meeting in person, via email, or on my cell phone. My business cards, an entire stack, are there by the door next to the sugar, napkins, straws, and cream.”
The group clapped with approval.
“So, I suppose now would be a good time to meet the individual to my right, who’s been sitting there patiently.”
The individual to the comma’s right took the floor. “Thanks. This is great. I’m a period. Nice to meet you all.”
The comma smiled. “Well, thanks for coming. Your self introduction was short, brief, and abbreviated. A real whirlwind of an entrance, as it were. Is there anything else you’d like to convey, demonstrate, or otherwise tell us?”
“Not right now.” said the period.
“Okay then, we’ll move on,” said the comma. “Young lady, you, there, lying on the couch, please tell us a little about yourself.”
“What-you-see-is-what-you-get,” she said matter-of-factly. “I’m a hyphen, tried-and-true. While other individuals may be more of the plug-and-play type, I’m more of a pedal-to-the-metal diamond-in-the-rough.”
“That, my friend, is fantastic,” said the comma. “What brings you here, if I may ask?”
“It’s my over-the-top boyfriend,” said the hyphen. “He’s an apostrophe.”
“And has he harmed you, or hurt you, or abused you in any way, whether physically or verbally?” asked the comma.
The hyphen sat up like a jack-in-the-box to answer.
“It’s just that he’s so possessive. I mean, really possessive. Honest-to-goodness. We’re talking no-holds-barred take-no-prisoners balls-to-the-wall possessive.”
“Wow!” exclaimed a tall figure standing in the corner. “I know exactly what you mean! Holy cow!”
The comma mediated patiently, “Well, I know we were going to be doing this in order, but I suppose, when it’s all said and done, we could jump around from here, to there, and back again.”
The comma turned to the tall figure in the corner. “Sir, what brings you here?”
“I’m an exclamation point!”, he exclaimed. “I’ve never seen anything like this! This is terrific! Go on! Please! Somebody! I don’t have anything more to say! I’m just watching! And waiting for my latte!”
“Well, thank you very much for coming,” said the comma. “We can all learn from each other, and grow, and evolve. What’s important in this life, and in any other, is to make our mark.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked the question mark.
“It depends,” said the asterisk.
“But…” began the ellipsis.
“It’s like this: utterly genius,” interrupted the colon.
“That’s profound; you’re really on to something with that one,” added the semicolon.
“That’s a perfect example of wisdom/experience/insight,” offered the slash.
“That is of the utmost importance,” said the underscore.
“It sure is!” exclaimed the exclamation point.
The parenthesis and his twin brother stated in unison, “What a truthful (and honest) statement that was. It applies to all of us. (Or most of us, anyway.)”
A backslash sat there quietly on his laptop, preoccupied with thought, partitioning his C drive. His girlfriend, the tilde, sipped her cappuccino.
Two married couples sat there quietly, nodding. The comma noticed them.
“And you four, the two couples in the corner there,” said the comma. “What’s your story, and the reason you’re here?”
The left-most individual of the four answered, “We’re here because, quite frankly, we actually don’t really know what to do with ourselves.”
The comma smiled, “Well, that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? Talk to us, level with us, and we’ll do our best to get this sorted out, under control, and squared away.”
The left-most individual of the four continued, “We appreciate that, but I’m not sure if you can help. You see, I’m here with my wife. Sitting next to us is my cousin and his wife.”
The crowd smiled with warm hellos.
The left-most individual of the four continued, “We have no clear purpose. I mean, the only time we ever come in handy for anything is in really special situations. We’re not the types of individuals that are useful on an everyday basis.”
“That’s okay, and it’s something we can work on,” said the comma. “What, if I may ask, are you?”
The left-most individual of the four concluded, “My wife and I are the Brackets.”
The right-most individual of the four added, “And we’re the Curly Braces.”