I don't know, maybe I'm nuts but I think we should do away with conversation all together and just tell stories. You know, like a bunch of scouts sitting round a campfire. Conversation just gets you in trouble. We are not supposed to discuss sex, religion or politics so we end up talking about each other - dangerous territory. I was at a lunch the other day when this conversation business got a couple of friends into hot water. I needed a story to break up the tension and I couldn't remember one of my own, so I borrowed one from an old pal. Fourteen years ago, one of the first friends I made in Hong Kong was Tara. Old family friends of hers had sort of adopted me and decided that the two of us were meant for each other. They were right. We make each other laugh . . . a lot. And we not only know all of each other's funniest stories, we encourage each other to relate them over and over again (much to the chagrin of our other friends) and laugh enthusiastically every time they are told. Tara is 'special'. I have many other dear friends who are 'patient'. I know they are stifling polite yawns and sharing knowing looks over the mashed potatoes when they see me winding up to pitch the 'back when I was just starting out in radio at a little station in Agana, Guam' stories. But none of my Micronesian tales sprang to mind over lunch yesterday and so I found myself telling one of Tara's stories about a different tropical paradise. It is a real good one. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Years ago, Tara had 'a girlfriend who had a friend who was dating a fellow' who went to University in Florida. Spring holidays rolled around and he and the guys he shared a house with decided to go to Aruba in the West Indies for a week. The nights were spent under starry skies drinking rum and Coca-Cola. The days were played out on powdery white sand and pounding surf. On day two of their seven-day trip, a tiny long haired dog tentatively followed them along the beach. On day three, they offered the wee pooch some of their lunch. By day five, Fido had moved into their home and they were plotting how to smuggle their new pet back into the United States. The little fellow had been quiet as can be and so they figured they would just slip him on to the plane by zipping him into one of the guys' anoraks. Into the jacket went the dog and they were off the tarmac and flying home to Florida. Peanuts and bits of sausage were surreptitiously slipped to the little fellow and he travelled silent and undetected. Upon arrival in Miami, the bottom strings of the anorak were tightened around the 'carrier's' stomach and they made their way through customs and headed back to their fraternity house with their new pet. Two days later, their cat was discovered dead. The guys looked at each other and looked at the dog. It was decided that they would all take Fido to the vet. The five college boys were assembled around the teeny, little doggy who sat on the examining table. The vet walked in, took one look at the dog and started moving backwards. 'First off, that thing is rabid. And secondly, that isn't a dog, it's an Aruban water rat.' Great story, eh? Is it true? I dunno. I borrowed it from Tara who got it from a friend who had a friend who had a boyfriend. But I'll tell you what, it stopped the heated conversation that was building over lunch yesterday, cold. And this, dear reader, is what I believe will save us all from either ripping each other to shreds or boring each other to death. A sort of lending library of fantastic tales. So what do you say? You tell me yours. I'll tell you mine . . . 'Back when I was just starting out in radio at a little station in Agana, Guam.'