“Exclamation Mark Retires: An Interview,” by R.D. Ronstad

Jan 1st, 2020 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Voiceover: Today on a special edition of the Chet Chatterton Show on RealNews Radio, we present an exclusive interview with Exclamation Mark, here to discuss the shocking news, reported on air by RealNews Radio yesterday morning, that Exclamation Mark is withdrawing from public service, ending a career spanning more than 500 years. We join Chet and Exclamation Mark in the studio.

C: So, is it true?

E: Is what true.

C: That you’re leaving the punctuation business?

E: Yes Chet, it is true.

C: Really. Well, then I must ask the question that’s on our minds here at The Chet Chatterton Show and the mind of everyone that’s listening: Why?

E: Well Chet, to be completely frank, I’m very depressed, and have been for quite some time. The stress of work in my current mental state is killing me.

C: You say you’ve been depressed for quite some time. Can you tell us how long?

E: Well, I first became aware of it in 1878, but actually, I think I may have pretty much always been depressed,. I just didn’t give it a name before then..

C: Always?

E: Well, here’s the thing. My parents are i and o, or at least they claim to be my parents. They’ve never admitted I was adopted, but how could I not be? They’re letters and I’m punctuation, after all. Their silence has always bothered me greatly.

C: Do you feel your parents love you even though they may not  be your typographical parents?

E: I believe they do, but they’ve never exactly spelled it out. You know how letters are.

C: Hmm, and what exactly happened in 1878?

E: After 400 years of faithful service to much of the human race, I was left off the typewriter keyboard. Treated like I didn’t even exist. I was crushed.

C: But you’re on keyboards now, correct?

E: Yes, but it took 100 years for that to happen. And even then, I never received as much as a simple apology.

C: So you’re leaving because of something that happened 150 years ago?

E: No, that’s not the only reason… I’ve been disrespected in many other ways. In the years following that rebuff, for example, people began piling on. Often famous, influential people. Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elmore Leonard, Terry Pratchett—all had some pretty nasty things to say about me.

C: Such as?

E: Well, Terry Pratchett claimed there was a correlation between a writer’s affinity for exclamation marks and mental disturbance. And Stan Lee? The comic book guy? He called exclamation marks “juvenile” and actually tried to have me banned.

C: Why are we only hearing about these grievances now?

E: I’m the exclamation mark. I’m not supposed to be depressed. I’m supposed to be joyful or excited or friendly or in command, but never down. I had an image to live up to.

C: Have you ever shared your feelings in private with anyone?

E: No. Like I said, I felt I had to maintain my image. And, I don’t like talking to other punctuation.

C: Why is that?

E: They’re all annoying. Comma constantly interrupts when you’re trying to talk. Period always has to have the last word. Colon just goes on and on–you can never get a word in edgewise. Quotation marks and apostrophe don’t talk at all, they just buzz around your head like gnats. Asterisk can’t carry on a conversation without going off into all kinds of tangents. Dashes and hyphens are so monotone when they speak they sound like Daleks on Xanax. Question mark is dumb as a rock—

C: —Let me interrupt here. I need to remind our audience that the Chet Copperton Show is broadcast live and is unscripted—so Exclamation Mark’s opinions about rocks are entirely its own and do not reflect the views of this station or of The Chet Copperton Show—that said, you may proceed Exclamation Mark.

E: Well, I think I made my point. But…oh, I know I may be rambling on but,,you know what else bothers me about other punctuation? Ninety-nine percent of the time I come last, if I get included at all. It’s always comma comma comma then me, apostrophe colon then me,  semi-colon  dash, dash, then me. I’m  always sent to the end of the line. The French even put a space between me and the end of the line, like the rest of the text will catch something if I touch it. It’s demeaning.

C: Aren’t you often at the front of the line in Spanish?

E: Yeah, upside down. Like it’s some kind of joke. Like I’m a joke. Which I feel I am quite often.

C: Why do you say that?

E: Just look at all the things people call me: bang, shriek, screamer, grasper, slammer, startler, pling, dog’s cock—I’ve become such an easy target. Everyone’s having fun at my expense. How would you feel if someone called you “dog’s cock”?

C: What makes you think they haven’t? Sometimes we get pretty controversial around here.

E: Um… I don’t know… I… just can’t picture it. Anyway, being called so many different things, well, in addition to being disrespectful, it creates identity issues. Sometimes I wonder who I really am. Even my proper name—is it Exclamation Mark or Exclamation Point? I myself don’t know.

C: That does sound like it could be a problem..

E: Yes, definitely, and it’s made worse by being spread so thin. I’ve been pressed into service in a number of non-Latin languages—Chinese even, in computer languages, in mathematics, in logic, in phonetics, and (ugh) commerce—brand names, band names, trade names, computer game graphics, movie and play and song titles. Oh, and I’m almost always used on warning signs too—sometimes I’m the entire warning… And that can be traumatic, because people don’t always pay attention and bad stuff happens even when they’ve been warned. Oh, and crime.

C: Crime?

E: Yes. When bank robbers write their robbery notes, often they feel the need to include me after things like “I have a gun” or “Don’t press the alarm” or “Get on the floor.” Also, robbers and other criminals tend to curse a lot as they go about their business, to intimidate their victims, and people almost always assume I’m there when cursing is going on, even if they can’t see me. It’s not that I feel like a criminal myself. But still I have to ask, “why me?”

C:  I can sympathize with you on that. But, if we can set aside the detestable actions of criminals for the moment–you’ve complained about being disrespected. Doesn’t being in such high demand make you feel respected?

E: No, it makes me feel I’m being taken advantage of. Overworked.

C: Well, I see by the studio clock we’re almost out of time. But first, can you briefly give us some idea what the future holds for Exclamation Mark?

E: I’m not sure really. My decision to leave was sudden, but necessary. And after 500 years of work at the same job, I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself. I might travel a little, perhaps in Europe, while I mull things over. I’ve thought about visiting Westward Ho!, a seaside town  in Devon, England. It seems like it would be a welcoming place.

C: Well, I must thank you Exclamation Point on behalf of our audience and all of us here at the Chet Chatterton Show. We all wish you the best. You will be sorely missed.

E: I’m not sure the ghost of Stan Lee would agree.


People are always asking R.D. Ronstad where he gets his ideas. Okay… what they usually actually say is: “What were you thinking?” But—same thing, right?

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