Lawnmower Men

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” -George S. Patton

**********

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to an outdoor exhibition like no other. Where champions are made and the defeated are sent home with green on their fingers and shame in their hearts. I’m Bob Roberts—“

“—and I’m Bill Williams. Bob, what we have here is a true battle between styles. The two competitors could not be more different in their schools of thought, their preparations for this day, or their attitudes.”

“You’ve got that right Bill. Why, look at the machines that these two will be operating. Richie, the clear underdog in this bout, is lawn-mowergoing old-school. That push-mower of his has been in the family since before he was born. He told me earlier today that he learned how to curse by watching his father yank on the cord, swear, and yank again. It has become standard ritual for their family to pull, engage in profanity, pull harder, and watch the engine engage. Truly, Richie carries on a sort of rough, rugged, cowboy-like coarseness to his approach.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more Bob. While Richie is all white tennis-shoes stained green and classic mowers stained black by gasoline, Augustus strives to achieve sophistication and prestige in his approach. His rider-mowers are always top of the line. He seems to have a brand new mower every season, don’t you think Bob?”

“I gotta agree with you Bill. I hadn’t seen chrome hubcaps on a riding mower before the great match of 2013.”

“Wasn’t that the one where leaves of all shapes and shades of yellows and brown covered the playing field?”

“It was indeed, Bill. And Augustus made short work of those unsightly nuisances, all while cutting the grass underneath.”

“He certainly has the equipment to get the job done. Now, help me and the audience at home out. Is that a solar-cell on the back of Augustus’ mower? In his unending attempt to tame the green, has the technically savvy combatant gone green himself?”

“No Bill, but I can see where you might believe that. If anyone was going to throw in high-tech accomplishments, “just because”, it would be Augustus. But no, that is a spoiler.   He claims it takes the speed of his vehicle up a solid mile per hour, while deflecting cats and birds from his warm engine.”

“Bob, I’m not sure I have ever seen a cat try to hop onto either athlete’s mower during a match.”

“I’d have to agree with you Bill. However both men are dead-set on their techniques and will tolerate no opinions or interference.”

“Hence the lack of any sort of crew or maintenance workers for these two titans of the turf.”

“You got it Bill. In almost every other sport, you will find some sort of coach, advisor, or at least a guy with a gas can and tires. Not here. Theirs is the first and last call in all decisions. The success, and failure, rests entirely upon their shoulders.”

“But Bob, to be fair, it isn’t often that a tire-change happens during a lawn-mowing event.”

“Indeed, Bill. But you never know when you will have to top off the gas tank.”

“I can’t imagine the stress Bob. That sort of catastrophe could really send a guardian of the grass into a spiral. And yet, both of these men know that they have to tame the terrain completely; no patches can be missed by their well-honed eyes.”

“Bill, I feel that we should pause for a moment and comment on a trend that has yet to be broken.”

“I think I know what you are referring to Bob.”

“I think you do too, Bill. Once again, we have a lawn-mowing competition between two men. Women have yet to break into this sport.”

“You couldn’t be more right, Bob. I asked the family members before the match, and at least from their perspective, they, and I quote, ‘really didn’t see the point”. Harsh words. The sport has been derided by many as ‘pedestrian’ and ‘not an actual sport’ by many, and these two women are no exception.”

“Tell us more, Bill.”

“Take Richie’s mother for example. When asked if she would compete one year, she stated that mowing the yard was Richie’s chore. Why, if he didn’t take the green today, she threatened to withhold his allowance.”

“I thought that was just a rumor.”

“No, Bill. Now, there have been unconfirmed reports that Richie would lose his T.V. time, including videogames, if he made a poor showing here today. But most agree that is disinformation from Augustus’ camp.”

“Now Bob, I notice that once again Augustus’ wife is absent from this bout. Does her legendary disinterest continue?”

“It sure does, Bill. All the neighbors are well aware of Suzanne’s stance on the matter. ‘It is hardly a sport.’ ‘He is competing against a little kid.’ ‘Just mow the yard and leave me out of it.’ Surely she could put up a fight on the field here, but her lack of drive to join in appears to be as strong as ever. I do not think we will see a husband and wife team in this district anytime soon.”

“You never know, Bob.”

“You never know, Bill. That’s what we love about this game.”

“If game is the right word, Bob.”

“Agreed, Bill. Agreed.”

“Why, look at their pre-performance rituals. Richie spent hours and hours resting up. Critics have looked down on his style. They say he is, ‘sleeping in’ or, ‘slacking off’. Yet, Richie will respond to those by saying that he has to get his head right before lacing up his sneakers.”

“Whereas Augustus is up early in the mornings, ready to go. Why, if not for the noise ordinance and the long history of 800px-Early_Toro_brand_riding_lawn_mower_-_NARA_-_285450complaints against him, the man would surely have mowed some practice laps around the neighboring lawns. As we found out from 2011’s infamous three a.m. match, the community simply will not stand for lawn-mowing before a certain time.”

“Bob, the man simply has an eye for detail. He even has a specific wax that he will use beforehand, and I have heard that four coats is the minimum that he will apply.”

“Bill, the outdoors can be tough on a lawnmower. He wants every challenge he competes in to end with gear that looks like new.”

“Can we even call Augustus’ machine a mower, Bob? Experts have derided his choice. Their claims are that he has what is technically a tractor, as evidenced by the mounts on front where a snow-plow might be affixed.”

“Yes, Bill. There have certainly been many eyebrows raised, and not just at the twin cup-holders; which many feel shows a lack of endurance or dedication to the craft on Augustus’ part. Richie’s best friend, Jack, has been quite vocal that, ‘Old Man Aug ought’ta play fair’.”

“True words, Bob. Still, Richie claims that he can defeat his challenger on any mower.”

“It looks like we’re about to find out, Bill. At least, I sure hope so. But those clouds in the sky are a far cry from the blue skies we were promised.”

“Bob, the forecast today only called for a twenty percent change of rain. Even that could spell trouble.”

“Wet grass is clumpy grass, Bill.”

“Don’t I know it, Bob.”

“It appears that Augustus is ready for the clouds. One o’clock in the afternoon, and just like every other match, his headlights are on. Even the high-beams.”

“It wouldn’t be a mow-off if Augustus didn’t turn on the headlights in the middle of the day on an empty lawn. Ridiculous.”

“He certainly took it poorly when you asked him about it several years ago. Would you walk us through that, Bill?”

“Bob, I can’t. Legal says the court’s settlement is centered on my silence.”

“Crap, I forgot. Sorry. Well, no time for that folks! The men have grabbed their controls and they are revving to go.”

“Right you are, Bob. Right you are. As fans know, there is no referee. Anything goes. That includes the start time. Since we strive to have a gentlemanly sport, all matches start off with the head-nod…”

“There it is, Bill! They’ve nodded to each other and there they go!”

“Augustus’ vehicle, as always, starts at the first flick of the key. Why, I can hear the blades whirring away already!”

“Bill, Richie is having trouble getting ‘Ol Beater’ to start up. But that is nothing new to him. There’s the pull. The curse. The pull. Another curse word. The pull. Two curse words– And it’s on!”

“Bob, the one thing that Richie has going for him right from the start is turning.”

“He sure does, Bill. While Augustus may have a fancier mower, the time it takes him to turn with its length and wheel base is considerable. That really costs him in the fine detailing around trees and gardens.”

“So true, Bob. Why, look at Richie navigate his mower. He saw the small patch he missed and executed a perfect three-sixty, then was back on his course like nothing had happened. Unless Augustus has some sort of sensory program installed on his rig, he won’t be able to see missed spots until he’s making his second approach.”

“I can’t get over it Bill. Richie is really knocking out the detail work. He’s already tidied up around the elm that they planted over Sparky’s body. And that thick patch over the sewage pump is already tamed.”

“At the same time, Augustus is struggling to get around the rose bed. His wife may be the one who planted those flowers, Bob, but Augustus is the one that brags about them to any rotary club or floral shop he passes by.”

“Bill, I didn’t know that Augustus belonged to any rotaries.”

“He doesn’t. But he has often felt his wins here should be counted as contributions to the community.”

“Well Bill, his contribution to the course is substantial. He’s finally taken care of the slight hill and the garden. Now he simply has to keep mowing the big stretches.”

“Now Bob, take a gander over at Richie.”

“Yes, he has already gone to his first removal of the bag. This game is all about appearances, and that includes taking the clippings and throwing them onto the compost heap. It takes time to unfasten, carry the canvas bag off the course, and fasten the bag back on. Any other person might turn off the mower, but Richie refuses, knowing how temperamental that start-up can be. He’s already back to work, mowing over the small patch that fell from the un-bagging.”

“Bob, maybe it is for the best that Richie’s mom doesn’t observe these games.”

“Bill, I have heard rumors about Christina threating, ‘I’m gonna tell Mom!’ But so far that hasn’t happened.”

“And the sport is relieved for that small miracle, Bob.”

“Bill, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we officially have precipitation on the field.”

“Yes Bob. I can feel the rain falling on me and my lawn-chair. This could spell disaster.”desert-lightning-1408110525Yi1

“Bill, if any two champions can face the elements and rain it in, it’s these two.”

“Bob, that was a terrible pun.”

“Well this is looking like a terrible situation, Bill. I can see the wet hair and foreheads officially making life difficult for our two warriors.”

“Correct, Bob. The grass may not be soaked yet, but Richie is having a hard time with that second bag of grass.”

“At the same time Bill, Augustus is trying to keep the rain from accumulating on his brand-new mower. I’ve never seen a man try to drive and dry off his mower with his scarf at the same time.”

“This event always brings us something new, Bob. Why, this last second drama reminds us that—“

“Hold on Bill! Thunder! Thunder could be the nail in this match-ups coffin!”

“Bob, if it is up to the two men, that won’t stop them.”

“Maybe not Bill, but I have a feeling… and yes! There she is! Richie’s mom is demanding that he come inside! Trust her maternal skills to keep her child safe from pneumonia.”

“There is also the matter of the lighting, Bob.”

“You got it, Bill. Absolutely.”

“This match might technically go to Augustus now. With no refs, there really is no one to judge if Richie’s removal from the game is outside interference, or a forfeit.”

“Oh! Are you seeing this! Are you seeing this Bill!”

“I cannot believe it!”

“Bill, this is incredible! Augustus, worried about his lawnmower being out in the rain, is driving off the field without finishing! He’s already calling to his wife to bring out some towels!”

“I can’t really see his wife rushing out to help Augustus. She’s a pretty avid reader.”woman-reading-a-novel-in-the-comfort-of-her-home-361x544

“You are correct Bill. I can see her through their living room window. I can’t be sure, but it looks like she is shaking her head. Yes, yes she has officially turned her attention back to her novel.”

“Looks like Augustus will to have to dry off his machine himself. Perhaps deservedly so, Bob?”

“He did cease play of his own accord. This might be considered by many to be a disgrace.”

“His fans would argue that the lightning chased him away. He was only being prudent.”

“Bill, I have a feeling his obsessive cleanliness regarding his tractor is what stopped him.”

“You know I agree with you Bob. But either way, this match is over. No winner; a first in this region. Looks like we’ll have to wait until next year to see who will be Gladiator of the Grass.”

“Bill, it occurs to me that we’re sitting on aluminum chairs. In lightning. Care to join me for a cold one indoors?”lawn_chair_12

“Beer me, Bob. Beer me. For Bill and Bob—“

“—and Bob and Bill—“

“So long, Lawn Lovers!”

Cereal Adventures

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” –Mark Twain

**********

Nighttime was in earnest.  The college campus that often bustled with activity was almost somber in tone.  Classes had started two days ago and the activities around the grassy lawns hadn’t quite begun for the year.  Laura opened her door just a hair and listened.  A few doors down a stereo was barely audible, but nothing else.  Laura threw her door open, her living quarters now open to all who might be in the vicinity.  Yet, as she stood there with her hands on her hips and a majestic pose, she was greeted with… nothing.

Even college kids in 1899 knew how to have more fun

Even college kids in 1899 knew how to have more fun

There were no young people running franticly through the halls with rolls of toilet paper streaming and waving behind them, no blindfolded and terrified males nervously tiptoed around as they suffered the indignities of initiation.  As disgusting as Laura thought public displays of affection were, she would have even settled for a couple groping and slobbering over each other as they decided who would say “Good night” last.

Laura felt betrayed.  Here she was, stuck in a dorm, and there were no shenanigans to partake in.  Years and years of romantic comedies and frat humor flicks had convinced her that she was in a world of wacky hijinks and excitement.  So where were they?

She was aware there were things to do.  She could feel her newly assigned twelve-page paper calling to her from her tiny excuse for a desk.  In the corner, next to her bright-blue desk lamp, two massive tomes beckoned to her.  The books demanded tribute in the form of highlighter marks and scribbled notes; their pages glowing with impressive wisdom.  Laura’s jaw tightened and her eyes narrowed as she felt the stress kick in.  She had no hunger for knowledge at that moment, just the old-fashioned nagging in her tummy.

Laura returned to her desk, sneered at her homework, and lifted the biggest book only to retrieve her student I.D. from its resting place underneath.  Having obtained it, she let the book fall back to the wood surface with a satisfying “thunk”.  Laura looked at herself in the mirror and shrugged.  The loose ponytail kept the hair out of her face, which was important for what she had planned.  Her “I do my own stunts” t-shirt and flannel pants were “cute enough” for venturing out.  More importantly to her, they were comfortable.  In a final act of defiance, she slid her feet into her dog slippers and headed out.

"Fear me!  Or Beer Me.  Whichever."

“Fear me! Or Beer Me. Whichever.”

The door locked after some effort with a newly-cut key, and Laura was quickly confronted by the hallway’s Panther painting.  The Panthers were everywhere on campus.  The inescapable school mascot bared its teeth, threatened to attack with its claws, and generally annoyed the new student.  She was here for the biology program, not the jocks.

If she were cornered, Laura would admit that she liked sports.  Her dad was on a softball team and her cheers were always the loudest.  She had participated in track and did well, though was never driven enough to be the best.  Her new school had a different view on the matter.  They were determined to let everyone know that they were, without a doubt, the greatest college team ever; despite what their scores were.

“Panther Power!” was painted in bold red letters with jagged edges accented with black and white to ensure that one’s full attention was directed at the jungle cat.  As if those mighty words weren’t enough, many of the displays had sub-posts beneath the panther image.  “Tear ‘em apart!”, “Rend your way to victory!”, and the worst of them all, “No one says no to a panther!”  The last of the phrases was, either by mistake or through incredibly poor planning, put up in the campus’ main cafeteria.  The two biggest fraternities warred back and forth every day over whose supposedly brilliant idea it was to use the absurd phrase as a pick up line.  Too often, when a girl turned down the opportunity to date a guy whose shirts were tighter than hers, he had his retort all planned out.  Sometimes it was with a wink, quite often a guttural roar or a raised eyebrow.  In the end, they all tried to assure the lucky lady that no one said no to this panther.

According to Laura’s high school English teacher and college confidant, the women had learned to deal with it over the decades.  Some freshmen girls thought it was cute, but most just accepted it as one more silly ritual.  The women would make a retort about neutering the boys, the women would be accused of having their claws out; it was one of those things.

Laura didn’t feel assimilated to the “Panther Pack”.  She had husky slippers and she liked them.  Her favorite aunt had given them to her the winter before she had moved away from Laura’s family.  Her aunt always encouraged Laura to do things that nobody else would.  Laura thought it appropriate that it was her aunt’s canine gift that was now shedding its fuzz on the floors that were covered in cat paw prints.  Plus, the slippers were unbelievably soft.  After all the years of use, they still kept that mysterious inner warmth about them.  She only wore socks when she had to; the slippers were better than any shoes could ever be.  The only downside to the worn and faded apparel was that they no longer yipped reliably when she squeezed the ears.  Years of micro-chipped barking had come and gone.  Now, if she jumped on a flat surface hard enough, she could sometimes get a little squeaky, metallic sound to emanate from them.  It was not a concern for Laura.  She liked the footwear because of how they felt and the impish nature they brought out in her, not because of the defunct technology.

Stepping outside the dorm’s side entrance, Laura couldn’t believe how quiet it was.  The Quad, the statues, even the tennis courts, famous for the drinks that were often “served”; all were empty.  Laura looked to her slippers, which grinned happily.  Whatever their owner had in mind, the feet-dogs were all too eager to join in.  Their pack was small in numbers, but they were entirely loyal to their commander.

The street lights glowed pleasantly along the sidewalk.  There were errant bushes here and there, but Laura had always felt safe on campus.  Maybe it was the dogs that she had with her, or perhaps it was the generally ho-hum nature of the grounds, but confrontations and muggings were the last thing she had to worry about.  Right now, it was hunger that was attacking Laura.  Happily, the cafeteria was open all night.

The front door slid open as Laura approached, waited patiently for the student to enter, and then returned to its resting state.  Laura headed straight for the cereal bar.  There, like some sort of plastic and industrial amalgamation, stood giant tubes full of carbohydrate delights.  The plexi-glass chutes stood tall before her.  Some filled were half way, some threatened to burst out the top.  All the chutes were transparent so the students wouldn’t have to bother with the pesky chore of reading the signs that dutifully decorated each tube.  At the base, each chute curved just enough to prevent too much food from spilling out, yet a small collection of grains and crumbs gathered around the bottom of each.

Bliss

Bliss

Taking a bowl and cupping it in both her hands, she held the container close to her stomach.  She surveyed the many choices.  Laura knew healthy food wasn’t going to suit her mood or her appetite.  She considered her options; there were bran flakes with real fruit added or perhaps the frosted whole grains.  In the end, she listened to her gut and selected exactly what her stomach wanted— Lucky Charms.

A small plastic scoop, presumably manufactured with ice in mind, was tethered to the counter.  Laura loosened the grip on the bowl and placed it on the shelf.  She picked up the scoop and started to fill the bowl.  Two small heaps of questionably-healthy food later, the college student’s brain began churning away.  Laura turned her attention from the bottom of the chute, filled mostly with brown pieces, to the top.  Two feet higher up there was an abundance of color.  The sugary marshmallows called out to her.  Those were the succulent bits she was after, not the commonplace dribble that looked bland and tasteless.

As she stood up on her tip toes, the cord that reigned in the scooped pulled in protest.  The fading chip in Laura’s slipper weakly chirped, encouraging her to keep trying.  A leg lift here, a slight twist in her arm there, and finally, success.  She found that she could just manage to get the scoop into the opening at the top.  She shoved the scoop in, pulled out an array of artificial colors, and watched as her late night snack came alive.  Pouring a carton of milk over her victory meal, Laura was elated.  Her hips slid to the left, slid to the right, and convinced her elbows to join in the fun.  A few moments into her celebration dance, Laura noticed two students who had been huddled over their books across the room were now smirking and whispering at her antics.  Laura shrugged her shoulders, tossed them the obligatory wave, and took her bowl to the cashier.  The expression on his face showed that he too had seen her dispensing methods and rhythmic swaying.

Too busy playin', Yo

Too busy playin’, Yo

“You really put in the effort for that cereal didn’t you?”  The fellow college student looked at her and was clearly amused.  Adorned in a wrinkled polo shirt, four-day gristle littering his chin, and untied shoelaces, he was clearly a master of proper etiquette and appearances.

“Hey, I like what I like.  Somebody had already picked all the marshmallows out of the bottom.  I was evening it up.”

“Yeah, some people really paw over the food.”

Laura caught what she felt was a Panther-reference, but let it go.  “Well, some of us have discerning tastes.  We connoisseurs of finer dining will go the extra mile.  C’mon, they taste better.”

“I was just having a little fun with you”, he said as he swiped her ID card through the register.  He noticeably glanced up and down, engaging in two very different kinds of checking-out.  “No need to get all catty about it.  I’m not trying to rub your fur the wrong way.”

“Uggggh”, Laura groaned she grabbed her card back.  “You wanna ogle me, that’s one thing.  I am rather adorable.  But you guys…. You just can’t stop will you?”  She turned to take in the rest of the cafeteria and gestured with her non-cereal laden hand towards her fellow classmates in the room.  All seven of them.

“C’mon people!  Break out of the imposed restraints!  Be yourselves, not some enforced false-community that dresses the same and acts the same.  Be a Vonegut, be a Picasso, be whoever you want!”

The fourteen eyes looked back at her and only blinked in reply.  A second passed; then two, and then ten.  The audience was no longer startled and they went back to scribbling in their notebooks and checking their syllabi on their laptops, their pencils and desktops adorned with the university’s mascot.

“Wow”, the scruffy cashier replied.  “You kinda lost it there.  Don’t you have any school pride?”

Laura glared and made her way towards the door.  She grumbled and hugged her cherished food.  It was the only ally, other than her always stalwart slippers, that knew how to have any fun.  She threw the polo-clad youth one last look and said, “Close, but no dice pal.  A pride refers to lions, not panthers.  You’re in college for crying out loud, read a book.”

Giving ’til it Hurts

A dignified and respectworthy thing, and there is small merit about it and less grace when it doesn’t cost anything.” –Mark Twain, on charity

**********

Travis Jackson pulled a sweatshirt out of his closet and felt a sneer overtake him.  Once, a long while ago, he had been a rabid fan of the Tulsa Tortoises.  Now, a decade later, he couldn’t bring himself to watch a game.

It really wasn’t all that surprising.  Travis had bought the sweatshirt in his early college years when he and his roommates would all pile into his friend’s cramped two-door and drive down to the stadium whooping and cursing excitedly.  Every time they went Travis would wear his sweatshirt in support of his team.  It had kept him warm when the harsh weather pummeled the open-air stadium.  It had acted as a napkin, sopping up the nacho cheese and beer stains; both of which resulted from his enthused state and his friends’ clumsy ways.  It even had a tear from the parking lot brawl when the other team’s fan had dared to mock “Swifty” Samuels’ defensive skills.

Decades later, Travis looked at the sweatshirt and knew he would never wear it again.  His beloved stadium had been torn down and replaced with a new, more pristine, family-friendly venue.  The players he used to cheer on and high-five after he waited outside the gates had rewarded him by quitting or trading away for big paychecks.  When the notion of nine dollar beer was combined with all of those changes, Travis just couldn’t muster up any interest.  The idea of going to a game had once been exciting, now it held as little allure to him as the pathetic piece of clothing in front of him.

trash-bag Looking through his closet, Travis realized just how out of touch his attire was with his current tastes.  As he pulled out a pair of pleated slacks and several baseball caps, all the result of Christmas gifts from past girlfriends, a pile of clothing started to grow.  Only minutes later, Travis was stuffing piles of clothing into a large garbage bag.  The sides puffed out in bumps and bulges as he strained to pull the top closed.

That’s quite a haul, Travis thought to himself.  I really should donate this stuff instead of tossing it out.  Somebody’s gotta want that sweatshirt.  Right?

Travis was dubious about the truth of that last notion, but regardless he walked towards the kitchen.  He went to the table and moved a pile of bills.  Then he moved a pile of newspapers.  Underneath those were another stack of bills.  Oops, he thought as a sheepish grin appeared.  I forgot about those.  At last, resting on the bottom of the chaos, resided the telephone book.

The telephone book hadn’t seen much action.  In fact, it was in mint condition.  Travis hadn’t needed it before, even though it was two and a half years old.  As he turned to the last third of the book, he began to recall the experience of flipping past hundreds of pages to find the category he wanted.  Life before internet searches sprang into his mind.  Travis thought back to “simpler times” as he pulled out his smartphone and dialed up the number.

On the first ring, Travis heard the pick-up on the other end.

“Hi, My name’s Travis Jackson and-“

-Click-.  Charles looked at his phone in confusion.  He didn’t know what to think.  Surely they wouldn’t have had any reason to hang up on him.  He was trying to do a good deed and these people were supposed to facilitate that.  No, it must have been some sort of mistake, he told himself.  He was just about to redial the number on his phone when he was startled.

He couldn’t be sure, but Travis could have sworn that he saw something drop out of the sky.  He left his phone on the kitchen table and ran to his living room window.  There, much to his surprise, he saw a man in armor running across the grass while another man ran up to his door.  Three ropes seemed to be hanging above his lawn.  Turning his gaze upwards, he saw a helicopter silently hovering high above his house.

081104-M-5023B-005Panic started to overtake Travis.  Were all those movies right?  Is this how the invasion begins?  These guys are trained and have serious gear.  How am I supposed to fend off a wave of intruders?  He started to pace the living room frantically when the men did the last thing that Travis ever expected.

They knocked on his door.

It was a short, brisk, three-rap knock; one which somehow conveyed their efficiency.  Unable to think of a better response, Travis called out in response, “Hello?”

“Yes, are you Mr. Travis Louis Jackson?  We received your call.”

“Already?”  Travis couldn’t believe it.  “Man you guys are fast”, he said as he unlocked the front door.

“Yes Sir.  We are”, the authoritative tone replied.

Travis opened the door and was met by three identical-looking men.  They all had on what Travis guessed were armored-plating over their camouflaged clothing.  Each wore a helmet that covered their heads except for near their temples where he could see that their hair was shaved very close to the skin.  All three eyes stared back at him through opaque sunglasses.

“Sir, where’s the target?”  The now-familiar voice came from the first mass of muscle on Travis’ doorstop.  He looked at the combat boots on the concrete step and wondered how long it had been since he last swept out there.

“Sir?”  The voice roused Travis from his distraction.  “We still have our mission”, the man prompted.

“Right, sorry.  It’s in the kitchen.”

With that, the leader turned to his two men.  He made a series of complex hand gestures.  The men nodded in reply and ran uninvited into the house.

“Uh, I could show you the way”, Travis offered.

“There’s no need for that, Sir.”

“There’s not?”

“No Sir.  Standard protocol is to brief ourselves on the object’s blueprints, and those within five blocks, before the incursion begins.  We memorized your house en route.”

En route?  Travis shook his head.  These guys’re hardcore.

Travis watched as the man put his hand to his ear.  Some sort of exchange was clearly taking place.  The man nodded in satisfaction.

“Copy that”, he responded.  “Maintain radio silence while I interrogate.”

“Wait, I’m sorry”, Travis interrupted nervously.  “Did you say interr-“

“Sir, the package has been acquired.  Our goal here has been accomplished with no complications.  However, we could use your help.”

“Uh, okay?”

“You see, these operations are extensive.  They require intensive training and perfect execution.  Would you agree that is what has taken place here?”

“Yeah.  You guys are almost too good at what you do.”

“We have to be, Sir.  That’s our job.”

“And, really, kudos to you.”

“Thank you, Sir.”  The imposing man took a step closer until there was only a foot of space between him and Travis.  “Now, I need to ask you a question, Sir.  Is there anything else in the house?”

“I… I’m sorry?”

“When we go to this sort of effort, we like to come back with more than our initial target.  We want to maximize the efficiency of our time.  So is there anything else in the house?”

“Wait, you want me to give you more?”

snowboarder-md“On our preliminary sweep through the area we noticed a snowboard that hasn’t been utilized in five years, a set of dining plates and cutlery that you clearly aren’t taking advantage of, some pots and pans that have never been used, snow tires, snow chains, screens that aren’t secured in your windows, cat litter for a pet that doesn’t appear to exist on the premises, tampons, jogging shoes that are collecting dust, a case of diet supplements, a shovel that is clean for a device that was created to move dirt, several reference books that we both know you’ve never read, and an “Ultimate AB-Builder” that’s hardly this year’s model.  Would you please confirm for me the presence of said items?”

“Hold on, you went through my stuff?”

“It’s all part of the procedure, Sir.  You’ll find a copy of the contract posted to your refrigerator door.”

“So, you just want to take all that stuff?  I didn’t give my consent for any of this.”

“We’re only trying to maximize our efficiency.  You do want us to maximize our efficiency”, the guard growled as he took the final step that closed the gap between the two men, “don’t you, Sir.”

Travis gulped as his belly almost grazed the armored pouches that held unknown threats above the man’s waist.  He wouldn’t put it past the man to have C-4 or some terrifying gizmo in those pouches.  His eyes darted back and forth, refusing to stare straight at the black ovals that covered the official’s glare.  He gulped again.

“No, no I wouldn’t want to do anything to upset you or your superiors.”

“We appreciate that, Sir”, the man said as he backed away and whispered into his wrist.  “Rest assured”, he said, returning his attention to Travis.  “We have left you with all the modern conveniences that you currently enjoy.  And if I haven’t already, let me express our gratitude for your giving spirit.  We would like to sincerely thank you for your generosity.”

As the man finished his sentence, the two other men ran by with their arms full of bags that Travis knew contained his former belongings.  He watched them go, rushed out the door with terrifying speed.

“Again”, the man said with a curt nod, “thank you for your help.”  With that, he rushed double-time after the men under his command.  Travis watched as the men hooked their loads onto the rope with carabineers.  The trio of workers and their cargo were lifted back up into the helicopter.  It was already flying towards its next destination, silently leaving Travis and his remaining property.

Man, he thought as the vehicle disappeared into the clouds, those Salvation Marine guys don’t mess around.

The Universe’s Largest Messy Room

Do you know what you call those who use towels and never wash them, eat meals and never do the dishes, sit in rooms they never clean, and are entertained till they drop? If you have just answered, “A house guest,” you’re wrong because I have just described my kids.” -Erma Bombeck

**********

“Ralphie, get in here right now!  You are in big trouble mister!”

Almost against reason, Ralphie walked up the stairs and stood in his bedroom doorway.  Seeing the look on his mother’s face, he decided not to venture inside.  He remained where he was, half in the hallway and half at the scene of the crime.

“What did you do?”

“I cleaned my room”, Ralphie replied as he looked to the carpet.

“No, I don’t think you did.”

“Well, there’s no stuff on the floor anymore.  And there’re no toys around.”

“Yes”, Susan admitted.  “But there are also no toys neatly put away on the shelves and no clothes folded up in your dresser.”

“There’s no stuff on the floor”, Ralphie repeated.

“Ralphie, tell the truth.  Did you use your tesseract dimensional storage unit to hide all your things?”

Ralphie only looked at the floor, wondering if some sort of escape hatch might open and help him escape his mom’s question.

“Ralphie?”

“Maybe”, he said quietly.

“Now you know what your father said.”  Susan was exasperated with her son.  She thought that this matter had been taken care of before, but apparently it was time for her youngster to get a refresher.  “When your father invented a portal to fourth dimensional space so that we could access an infinitely sized realm, he gave you instructions, didn’t he?”

“He uses it all the time”, Ralphie argued.

“Yes and he’s an adult.  Adults get to make decisions that young people don’t.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is”, Ralphie said as he finally looked his mom in the eye.  “Dad stores his tools in there.  You told him he couldn’t keep his table saw in the garage anymore so he put in it the tesseract with that old clunker car and the extra dining room furniture.”

“Does he toss his clothes in there?”

“No…  He never said I couldn’t though.”

(Click to see the tesseract model.)

Susan sighed.  “I think you knew that you shouldn’t.  When your father places things into that endless realm of size and proportions, he makes sure to attach a special tracking device and a long cord to them.  Plus, he always puts on a pressurized suit in case the entrance’s walls buckle and gravity and oxygen are compromised.  Did you take those precautions?”

“I had Mr. Fluffin watch the door!”  Ralphie pointed to his stuffed bunny with the top hat.  Clearly, he believed there was no more responsible act than having his treasured toy act as his second in command.

“I told your father you weren’t ready for this.  I told him that you weren’t grown up enough.  If that doorway collapses, then we’re going to have an area that mimics the absence of space trying to merge with your bedroom.  Do you know what sort of calamity that could cause?”

“That depends”, Ralphie replied.

“Depends on what?”

“What’s a calm nighty?”

“A calamity is when everything goes terribly wrong.  Like in those comic books you read?  Every time a bad scientist gets careless, they get changed into a monster, right?”

Ralphie nodded, the images of scaly faces and claws for hands filling his head.

“Those accidents are calamities.  You don’t want to be the reason something like that happens, do you?”

Ralphie worriedly shook his head back and forth.

“And what about Rodney the Righteous Turtle?  Remember how he got lost in the tesseract?  How your dad had to send in a robot probe to bring it back?”

His eyes went wide as Ralphie remembered the turmoil that his favorite action figure had gone through.  Its shell-launching action still wasn’t the same.

“I’m going to talk to your dad.  We’ll see if he can get the probe to launch some sort of net over your things.  Hopefully they haven’t floated too far away from your portal.  If, if we can get all your stuff back, I expect you to take care of it.  Understood?”

Ralphie nodded again.

“That means you need to keep it organized and clean in this room.  You can’t just throw it into a boundless dominion with no shelves or physical constraints and expect it to be okay.  You need to take care of things here, in this room.  Got it?”

“Yeah”, Ralphie responded.  “Only…”

“What?”

“Do we have to bring back the itchy sweater too?”

Song Struck

A girl often has a man eating out of her hand by keeping him at arm’s length” -Unknown

**********

Anna stood in the darkness while Tony shone in the bright spotlight.  She had been scurrying around backstage all night.  Her job as stage manager demanded that she be everyplace at once while keeping tabs on all activities at once.  However, there was one moment each night when she allowed herself to stop and really watch the show.  It, not coincidentally, happened every time that Tony sang his solo.

Anna was a powerhouse of a woman.  She was young.  Her five foot height and dark, shoulder-length straight hair allowed her to blend into the background quite well when others were taking up the limelight.  But when Anna wanted to be heard, all eyes turned on her.  The actors’ stage presence came from their wild gestures or disarming good looks.  Anna’s ability to command attention of everyone around her came through sheer confidence and intelligence.  When Anna gathered people around her and began to talk, there was no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing and what others should be accomplishing.  She had interned at the theatre in college and had quickly risen through the ranks.  Now, five short years later, everyone that graced that wooden pedestal respected and adored her.

The allure of being an actress had never appealed to Anna.  She didn’t like too much attention.  She appreciated when people would listen and consider the ideas that she put forth, but she wasn’t about to step out on stage and flash a winning smile to a crowd.  She was there to make others look good.  Anna wanted each show went off without a hitch; that was all

Over the course of the twenty or so plays that Anna had been in charge, she had observed plenty of drama taking place on-, but mostly off-stage.  The actors couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other.  He would date her, she would date him; and so it went.  Anna did her best to subtly remark that certain “shenanigans” shouldn’t be indulged at a professional theatre.  Yet, every so often, she would come across unmentionables.  Had she found them in dressing rooms then that would have been one matter.  She could almost pretend that those were props that had been left behind.  But she also found loose garments lingering around the sound booth, the catwalks, and in the audience when they hadn’t had any patrons.  It seemed that the actors loved only one thing more than struggling with their lines; struggling with their scene partners afterwards.

Anna rolled her eyes at the performers.  She was far too busy to let these men woo her or romance her.  As much as she liked her line-reciting compatriots, she had a certain opinion about them.  Actors, in Anna’s mind, enjoyed having the focus on them.  And only them.  In the social interactions that she had had with them after plays or late at night, they always seemed to lead the conversations back to themselves.  As a woman with actor friends, Anna was okay with that.  At the same time, she knew that it would never work as a romantic pairing.  Anna liked to have food cooked for her and her feet rubbed.  With the men that she spent her time bossing around, she expected to have her lunch absconded from the lounge and her toes stepped on in the darkness of backstage.

Still, as Tony stopped fighting with his fellow actress on stage, Anna couldn’t help but stare.  His short curly hair was adorable.  It wasn’t at all the type of hair that she pictured on a tall man with nice arms and a distinguished nose.  Somehow though, it worked for him.  He had the confidence that his fellow thespians did; he couldn’t have held his own on stage without it.  Yet, whenever she saw Tony, he always had a respectful way about him.  He actually stopped and looked her in the eye when he asked, “How’s it goin’?”  Most others, even Anna’s close friends, said such phrases in passing.  They never actually paused in going from point A to point B to get a response.  Tony not only stopped, he paid attention.

Anna, assuming her history with dating would maintain its tragic track record, told herself that Tony was gay.  It made sense.  He dressed well, he sang well, and he could dance.  He was nice to everyone and hugged anyone that needed it.  Anna told herself that he was not into women; he was just a perfectly nice person.  But that thought had been formed before the backrub of three weeks ago.

It had been an excruciatingly crummy day.  The lighting chief had been called out of town on a family emergency, ticket sales were lousy, and the next show was set to open soon.  Spirits were low and folks were grumbling as Anna tried to get everyone’s attention.  The director wouldn’t get off the phone and the lead actor refused to put down his latte and circle around with everyone else.

Tony, in all his charming brilliance, had done what any rational actor in the situation would have done.  He pretended that his butt was on fire.  He ran around the theater, patted his butt and screamed in comedic agony.  Anna found herself laughing along with all those assembled and caught her attention drifting to the supposed scene of the inferno.  She felt her eyebrows raise in satisfaction as her head bobbed along in agreement.  She was shaken from her physical critique as two strong hands came up behind her.

“Now that I have your full attention”, Tony’s strong voice boomed.  “I believe that the lovely Anna was trying to say something?  Anna, the floor is all yours.”

Anna had coughed in embarrassment, thanked Tony for the amusing introduction, and run down the clipboard of notes in front of her.  It hadn’t been the greatest meeting.  There had been some back-talk.  But the softening of the mood had clearly helped morale.

As the actors started to take their place on stage, Anna found herself sitting on her leather chair.  There were few sacred spots left in the tiny backstage area, but every person that walked around behind the curtain knew that the aged brown chair was off limits.  No one knew where it had come from.  Most assumed it was some prop pulled from The Man Who Came to Dinner, or some similar production.  Those that had tried it before its status as Anna’s seat had found the chair to be too small.  For the tiny stage manager though, the scratched, haggard, beaten up chair fit her just right.

As her petite figure collapsed onto the chair and her trusty clipboard fell onto her lap, Anna let her head fall back onto the top of the chair.  She closed her eyes, avoiding the sight of the numerous lights above that needed to be fixed.  It was then that the two strong hands returned to her shoulders.  The thumbs rubbed and dug their way into her tense shoulders as the palms pulled at the cluster of knots that had begun a summit on her upper back.  She felt the stress of the job lessen as her body went limp.  She moaned in contented pleasure.  “Ohhhh… that’s… yeah….”

“I’m glad you approve”, a familiar voice said.

“Tony”, she said without opening her eyes.  “Is that you?”

“It is unless you wanted somebody else to do this.  I’ve been told I can be a little too strong.”

“Mmmmm.  No”, she said, unable to wipe the smile off her face.  “You’re absolutely perfect.”

“I’ll remember that when I ask you out to dinner one day”, Tony replied with a laugh.

Anna’s constantly working brain shut down.  She didn’t think and she didn’t organize or plan; she let go.  The veins her forehead loosened.  The groups of knots and nerves released.  She felt herself falling asleep in the chaotic environment.  Anna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so at peace at theatre.

“Oops, I gotta go”, Tony apologized as he stopped.  “They’re calling me for my death scene.”

Anna was almost unconscious and only managed to reply with a, “mmm-hmm”.  And then, as she was about to mentally clock out entirely, she felt something press against her lips.  This was no quick peck or gesture of friendship.  She could have sworn that the sensual touch had lasted a good ten seconds.

Anna fought to wake up.  No was standing near her.  Blinking her tired eyes, she saw Tony on stage in the middle of a scene.  She had obviously been out of it for a few minutes.  She started to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.  Tony probably hadn’t kissed her. The stress of the day had thrown her for a loop.  The backrub had played tricks on her weary brain.  Anna knew that she had imagined that kiss.  That was the only answer that made sense.  Or was it?

Three weeks later and Anna couldn’t take her eyes off of Tony.  She wondered if he knew just how sexy he looked when he was singing to a full house.  She smiled at his voice, his smile and that cute head of hair.  She looked in awe at the way he kept the entire audience’s attention.  Anna knew she should pinch herself and get back to work.  She didn’t want to.  It wasn’t helping that Tony was singing one of her favorite songs.  She swooned each time she heard, “Just the way you look… tonight.”

There was one performance oddity that Tony had.  At first, like the kiss, Anna doubted if it was real or not.  Yet, it happened with insane regularity.   Every time that Tony sang his solo, without fail, he would glance off stage to Anna.  It didn’t matter where she stood, he somehow found her.  For one, fleeting moment, he would look right at Anna and wink.  Then he went right back to performing his tune to the audience with no one the wiser.  Anna tried to convince herself she was wrong, but she had been doubtful of that reasoning for a while.

She mockingly winked in return, half encouraging and half teasing the strapping man.  With Bambi-eyes and a cheerleader’s look on her face, Anna crossed her arms in front of her chest, stood on tiptoes, and exaggeratingly mouthed, “I love you!” in as obnoxious of a face as she could manage.  The first time she had heckled him, Tony had almost lost his concentration.  Like a pro, he took his surprise and turned it into a laugh, making the patrons love him even more.

Anna was afraid to admit it, but she was getting rather smitten with Tony.  She was going to have to confront him one of these days.  He actually listened to her.  He was undeniably attractive.  And the two clearly had similar interests; one doesn’t enter the theatre life for casual jollies.  Anna let her head rest on a breaker panel.  She had no desire to take her eyes off of Tony.  His song was almost over and she wanted to enjoy him glowing perfectly on stage for as long as possible.  Her cheeks started to flush.  Anna grabbed her handy clipboard and covered her face with it.  She couldn’t believe she was blushing.  Biting her lower lip nervously, Anna knew she’d have to corner Tony at the after-party.  She’d find some out of the way spot for them both to talk.  If nothing else, she was going to kiss that man with all her gusto.  Of all the performances being given tonight, Anna was determined that hers was the one that Tony would remember.

Too Young to Patronize (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Oh Weekly Writing Challenge; how you often save me from falling into a writing rut.  This week, we’re asked to take a side on whether or not children are welcome out in public.)

Babies love theater.  Bring them, no matter how young.  It is perfectly acceptable to give birth in the car on the way over and then bring in the baby, still dripping, into the theater.  Babies love theater. “–Eric D. Snider (More comments on theater behavior can be found here)

**********

Pic from here

As the neon marquee sign glowed overhead and the street lights did their best to bring visibility to the outdoors, patrons hurried into the warm theater.  A group of seven males high-fived each other, careful not to jostle their buddies’ thick glasses or bump into their vintage t-shirts.  The thinner, cooler males pulled their girlfriends close and made fun of the nerdier set.  Then, coming out of some darkened corner that only births Greek tragedies, came The Woman.

It wasn’t The Woman herself that terrified all that she came into contact with, it was her small child.  She pushed the high-end stroller in front of her.  Other moviegoers sneered and shuddered at the presence of the wheeled contraption.  Like the Bubonic Plague or an Obama sticker at a GOP gathering, the monstrosity was to be avoided at all costs.  To the people around it, there could be no greater sin in the practice of watching a new movie than to bring an infant with you.

The Woman was either unaware of the criticism being shot her way by eye-daggers and mental threats of throwing popcorn, or she didn’t care.  She was on a mission.  She strutted through the crowds, giving no heed to those around her, and made her way straight to the ticket-taker.

“I ordered my tickets online.  They should be waiting for me.”

“Okay then.  Just head over to that kiosk behind you there and it will print them up for you”, the usher replied.

“Ucccck.  You mean I have to walk all the way over there?”

“It really isn’t that far.  See those restrooms about twenty feet away?  There’s a computer right there that can take your credit card and pull up your reservation.”

“I know you’re not gonna make me walk my stroller all the way there and all the way back?”

“Well miss, there are an awful lot of people here and it is impeding their path.”

“I’ll lose my place in line!”

“Actually, I think those folks right there were first”, the staff person gestured.  “Also, there are no strollers allowed inside the theater.”

“No strollers?”  The Woman’s face lit fury.  Her expression showed that not only had an ice cube been dropped down her shirt, but the ice truck driver had run over her foot as it drove off.  “Why can’t I take my stroller inside?”

“It is our policy that strollers be parked outside the theater.  The fire code demands that all walkways be clear, so we can’t have them inside.”

“What about wheelchair spots?  Don’t you have those?”  The Woman’s demanding tone showed no sign of backing down.

Meeting The Woman’s determined mindset, the usher replied with a tone that showed their long history of answering such questions.  “Yes, ma’am”, they said, purposefully upgrading The Woman from a pleasant “miss” to a troublesome and irritating, “ma’am”.  “However, as you yourself have just pointed out, those are for wheelchairs.”

“Why can’t I use one of those?  What if there’s room?”

“Ma’am, this movie has been advertised for months.  It has been talked about for years.  This may very well be the biggest picture of the summer.  There will not be room for your stroller.  Even if there was, as I explained to you, we can’t have them inside.”

“That’s preposterous”, The Woman exclaimed.  “What am I supposed to do, put this kid on my lap?”

“If you didn’t buy ‘this kid’ a ticket; then yes.  That is what we would ask you to do.”  Other employees had noticed the line behind The Woman growing.  They moved in to help, but the senior staff person sent them away with one quick look.  The usher had started this fight, and they were determined that they were going to settle it without any help.”

“What are you, ageist?”

And this pic’s from here

“No, ma’am.  In the right settings I think kids are adorable.  However, I personally feel that when you bring a child whose hearing isn’t fully developed into a three hour movie full of loud explosions, then there is a health concerned involved.  Additionally, I would question your child’s ability to maintain their composure and not cry or scream during all the darkness and loud noises.”

“That’s only your opinion.”

“Five bucks says it isn’t”, the usher offered.

“Come again?”

“Let’s take a vote.  If you can find three people in this line of, what, forty folks all waiting to see this movie?  Looks about right.  Yeah, if you can get three of these people to say they’d rather see a new film, on opening night, at midnight, with your child than without?  Then I’ll give you five bucks.  Shoot, I’ll make it twenty.  However, I’m willing to wager that everyone here just wants you to take your kid home and come back when it’s a more age appropriate movie and time.  You know, a kids movie.  What do you bet?”

The Woman’s face turned a deep shade of red.  She pulled her stroller close to her.  The Woman looked at the crowd behind her.  On their faces she could see them all smirking and daring her to take the bet.  Her teeth clenched as she pushed her stroller away from the usher. 

“Of all the… I never…”

“Well now you have”, one of the nerds said as he puffed out his large chest and even larger belly.  The logo on his shirt was made prominent by the new posture, and also by the swooping cape that fell behind his round shoulders.

The Woman took her child and returned to her double-parked car.  After a few minutes of bustling and fumbling with the car seat, she returned home.  There, without disturbing anyone else, she let her child fuss and squirm as she watched a movie on her television.

The Hollow Failure of the Musical Cup

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

**********

Clyde couldn’t believe how difficult the task before him was proving to be.  He thought he’d have his challenge licked in fifteen minutes.  He sat at his desk with a computer monitor glowing on his reddened face.  Drops of beer lay in random specks around the surface.  And there, in the middle, was a blue plastic beer-cup turned upside down.

Try it, you’ll like it!
(Pic from Free Stock Photos)

Once more, Clyde rewound the video.  He cursed the actress for her talent.  She sang along with a lovely voice, though a hint of showbiz boredom appeared to be looking out from her beautiful eyes.  Clearly, she had practiced this feat hundreds of times.  There, poised to entertain in a formal dress, sat the woman.  She took the plastic cup that had been handed to her by the host.  She was obviously taking a moment to focus and prepare.  Soon, clapping along, the woman performed a simple tune complete with acoustic accompaniment from the plastic cup.  Clyde wanted to hate this woman for her skill, but the act was simply too enchanting.  He had to be able to repeat it.

I really wish she wouldn’t go so frickin’ fast, Clyde thought to himself.  She even says that she should be doing it slower.  How am I supposed to keep track of her movements?  Clyde watched as her long and graceful arms moved and swooped around each other.  He felt his fist thud against the desktop.  He couldn’t tell when she was passing the cup in an arc up into the air from hand to hand and when she was actually tapping it.  Slower, woman!  Why can’t you just move slower?

The hard part for Clyde was replicating the rhythm.  He believed that once he could mentally lock-in each tap on the cup, both hand-offs, and the mid-air thumps, then he would be able to sing along with his mini bongo-drum.  The easy part was getting confused, missing a beat entirely, or watching as the cup slid along the surface.  The libations that lubricated the wood were only making Clyde’s failures faster in coming and more disastrous.  The blue cup slipped, fell over, and often times skittered to the edge.  The drunken man started to wonder if the cup wanted to jump to the safety of the beige carpet below where it would no longer be repeatedly beaten or struck.

After an hour, Clyde felt like he might have a handle on the moves.  All he had to do was clap clap, tap tap tap, clap, and then stomp.  That was followed by more clapping, a hand over with a thump…   That was where the confusion set in.  Clyde tapped along as best as he could.  He got the impression that he was close.  His confidence rising, Clyde tried to sing along.

“You, er, I gotta a thicket; er, ticket for the lawn; long way around.  Son of a mother.”  If Clyde’s motor skills had warmed up at all, his hand-eye-song skills were still quite lacking.  He clicked off the screen in irritation.  He clapped and tapped to his own beat.  Soon, a drum solo was in full session.  He slapped his denim jeans, thumped on the cup, and clicked the plastic container against his watch. 

The “music” that came forth was about as majestic as Clyde’s beer-enhanced breath.  He stood up, danced around his living room, and tapped on the cup with his fingernails.  Feeling his oats, and the effects of the alcohol, he belted out his own little tune.  “La la ha!  Ha ha la la!  Boom!  Boom!  Boomity la-ha!”  For his grand finish, Clyde took a deep breath, focused on his stomach muscles, and belched.  The impressive, yet rather disturbing burping sound, echoed across the sparsely decorated room for a solid seventeen seconds. 

Thrusting his hands in the air, Clyde beamed in his victory.  “Take that, you stuck-up actress!”  His bitter retort was met and unanswered by the still-blackened monitor.  Clyde was done trying to repeat someone else’s song.  I’m an original, I’m a dadgum artist, he reasoned as he loosened his belt two notches.  Cups were made or drinking, not playing.  With that, Clyde swooped up his blue plastic cup and made his way back to the kitchen, stumbling more than he chose to acknowledge.  He was determined to find appreciation for his musical genius from the icy-cold companions that waited for him in the fridge.

**********

(If you haven’t seen Pitch Perfect, you must.  You really must.  Also, if you watch the video in slow motion, Dave sounds quite drunk.  Appropriate, no?)  😉

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