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?)  😉

A Shoe-In Plan from the Tall Tales Tavern

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” -Dr. Seuss

**********

To any visitor unfamiliar to The Briar Patch, an old man and a woman in a corner booth with sketches and pictures in front of them would be the least abnormal thing in sight.  The left over hairs from the Jabberwocky’s last that lay loosely from the rafters made strangers stare with wonder.  The rabbit bartender usually raised a few eyebrows to the uninitiated crowd.  Those curiosities were in addition to the standard assembly of trolls, the ageless nymphs, and the talking farm animals.  Yes, The Briar Patch was always a place of wonders, so it’s no wonder that these two normal looking elderly people didn’t draw much attention.

The old oak table that the two occupied was still loose from the last time Calamity Jane decided to kick off her cowgirl boots and dance on the make-do stage.  An assortment of pages ripped out of fashion magazines were placed in the middle of the wood surface.  Closer to the two people were pictures of the nearby woods and architectural sketches.  As they sipped their hot tea and cold ale, the two talked excitedly about the woman’s plans.

“I keep telling you Myrtle”, the man exclaimed.  “You could get what you want for much cheaper.  I’m no slouch at such crafting matters, but it’s going to take me years.”

“What’s time?  We both have plenty of time left and you darn well know it, Horace”, the woman replied.  “I want it done to my specifications and I think you’re the right one to do it.  Even if Cinderella says otherwise.”

“Wait, Cinderella?  Is she still telling that same old story?”  Horace pulled at the hairs in his head.  He had been going bald for the last three hundred years.  Happily, whenever he pulled a few wispy strands out, he found that they grew back the next morning.  It was handy being an immortal creature of fairy tales.

Pic from Wikipedia

“She says that no matter how many times she took her shoes back to you, they kept breaking.  She said you should have offered her a higher-quality product.”

“It’s glass!”  Horace shoved the papers away from him and grumbled into his ale.  “I told her every time that she came back to me with those impractical things that they were going to keep breaking.  If you wear glass shoes on a rock path, the glass is going to break.  If your prince steps on your feet while dancing, his boots are going to crack the shoes and possibly cut your skin with the shards.  And no, wearing glass slippers up close to a raging fireplace is probably not the best idea.”  Horace sighed.

“I don’t know what kind of enchantment her godmother claimed she put on them, but it has apparently worn off.  Those shoes will never last.  I tried to get her little feet into a sensible pair of wooden clogs.  But no, she wouldn’t have it.  Cinderella decided that she was living the royal life now and needed the attire to go with it.  Silly, fashion-hungry, nutjob.”

“Now, she really is a perfectly nice girl”, Myrtle offered.

“Nice, sure”, Horace admitted.  “But the girl is still a child.  Her prince found her when she was, what, seventeen?  They were married a month later.  Why, my Estelle was a good deal older than that when we tied the knot.  She must have been at least nineteen or twenty.”

“Truly, those three years imbued her with boundless founts of knowledge”, Myrtle said sarcastically.

“Look, I think she’s delightful to be around, so long as you don’t get her started on fashion.  She’s impractical.  And Myrtle, you’re being impractical too.  I talked the idea over with Estelle.  It’s not just me.  You should give up on this whole idea.”

“No.”

“Tell me again why you won’t go to a giant?  You could buy anything you wanted off them from all the money you’ve made off of tourists.”

“Have you ever been around a giant for any extended amount of time?”  Myrtle shivered at the thought.  “They claim that they can only get clean in a waterfall, so whenever we see them in the towns or in the densest forests they smell like you wouldn’t believe.  Now imagine what sort of unholy stench must emanate from their shoes.  I don’t want to even think about it, let alone live inside one of those.  Besides, I have high standards.”

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

Horace laughed.  “The old woman who has lived in a shoe all these years has demands?  Your sense of style has really grown that much since your children moved out?”

Myrtle watched her tea bag as she dipped it slowly and methodically into the cup.  The water rose and fell with each dipping motion.  The lighting in the dim establishment was just bright enough that the old woman could see her wrinkled face in the reflection of the drink as little waves of liquid came and went.

“Do you know how many years we have left, Horace?  I don’t.  I doubt that know-it-all wife of yours does either.  I say, if we’re going to stick around until all stories come to an end, then we might as well enjoy ourselves.  I’ve spent centuries in that tattered boot.  No more.  I want a nice one-story, fashionable dress shoe as my retirement home.”

Her hand stretched to the other end of the table and brought the pictures back between her and Horace.  Page after page depicted the newest fashions, the hottest trends, and the longest lasting footwear that money could buy.

“I want a nice pair of sensible flats”, Myrtle described.  “Give me something that will let the sun in when I lounge about by the heel.  Also, I want the home to have high sides to keep the rain out when it starts to flood.  If I could have some sort of garden in the toe area; maybe some sort of open point at the end?  Come now Horace, I know you have more help up your sleeves than you let on.”

“What exactly are you getting at, Myrtle?”

“Those elves of yours.  I’ve seen them about town.  Offer to buy them a few honey-glazed cookies and they’ll give away all your secrets.  I think you should take advantage of them.”

“How so?”

“I want a house the size of a giant shoe.  You have a crew that can work wonders overnight.  Imagine what sort of productivity they could manage if you put them into different shifts working around the clock.  You’d be rich and I’d have a nice new home for my retirement.  A woman can’t climb up stairs forever, Horace.”

“Myrtle my friend”, Horace said as he paused to take a sip from his ale.  The drink was starting to go flat and the old man knew he’d probably need a fresh serving to get through the conversation.  He held up his cup for the bartender to see as he continued.

“Have you ever seen the contracts involved in elf employment?  Once I figured out those guys weren’t going anywhere, I tried to branch out into shoeing horses.  With all the carts and animals around it seemed like a guaranteed get-rich plan.  To shorten my tale of woe, I’ll only assure you that Elf Unions know exactly how to get what they feel is due to them.  Your shoe-home would cost a fortune.”

By this time the bartender had hopped over to their table.  He held out his paw expectantly.  Horace placed his empty container at the edge of the surface.  Br’er Rabbit shook his head.  Horace nudged the cup closer to the brim.  The vest-wearing critter only shook his head again.  Horace tried once more, watching as the vessel almost teetered over onto the floor.  Br’er Rabbit took his mighty right foot and tapped it impatiently on the dusty floor.  A low booming sound echoed with each tap of his paw and a small cloud of debris was gathering under the tabletop.

Seeing the bartender’s arms folded in defiance, Horace capitulated and placed five gold coins on the table.  Br’er Rabbit’s eyes lit up and his front two teeth showed.  He eagerly snatched the payment, put it in his breast pocket, and grabbed the cup from the table.  Whistling a merry tune, the bartender jumped and bounded back to the bar.

“As I was saying”, Horace persisted as he rubbed his temples.  “This house of yours is going to be a pain for us and will cost you a fortune.  Even if we don’t use the elves, I’m going to have to hire some outside help.”

“That’s fine by me”, Myrtle said, unrelenting.  “Hire those birds and squirrels that helped Sleeping Beauty.  I don’t care.  I want my house made to my specifications and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

“Wait”, Horace said as a notion in his head started to take shape.  “Those children of yours; I can’t even recall how many you have.  It’s at least a dozen, isn’t it?  How old are they?”

“Oh Horace, how old are any of us.  We’ve stopped keeping track.  No one really knows.”

“No, no.  I meant by normal standards.  What’s their perceived age?”

“Ah”, Myrtle replied as she thought back to the last time she had seen her offspring.  “I imagine they’re probably all in the twenty-five to thirty-five range.”

“Perfect”, Horace replied.  “I was hoping you’d say that.  How long has it been since they gave you a Mother’s Day gift?”

“What, that silly trend people are trying to push?  They’ve never subscribed to that, the little ingrates.”

“Maybe”, Horace said as some of the weight started to fall off of his shoulders, “just maybe they can be convinced to do their sainted mother this one favor for all she’s done for them.”

“And if I convince them?”

Horace grinned with joy.  “Then, Myrtle my friend, your labor worries are over.  We could have that shoe-house built for you in no time at all.”

Deathly Pale (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Monday means a much needed Weekly Writing Challenge.  And seeing as how The Walking Dead came back on T.V. last night… well, you get the idea.)

I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.” George A. Romero

**********

Outside, the thick layer of gray clouds was not to be permeated.  Only a month ago, an early morning setting of bright blue skies joined by puffy white clouds would have offered up a promise of hope.  However, in the thirty days since September had waved good-bye and exited off stage, things had changed dramatically.  Gone were the picturesque sunsets.  There would no longer be beautiful sunrises flooding one’s windows with orange and pink hues that danced and melted into each other.  The mountains that looked so majestic and daring off in the distance were covered by an intrusive layer of dismal color.  The grayness was so absolute and so all-encompassing that it even began showing on the denizens of the world.

Rick, trying his best to keep warm, looked at his roommate.  Earlier in the year, Robert had been the picture of health.  He had spent his summers working at the beach.  His bronze tan had served as proof of the countless hours that the golden sun had shone down on his muscular skin.  Running around in only swim trunks, Robert had portrayed an image of perfect health.  The men had envied him, the woman had smiled his way; Robert had looked as majestic as the sandy beaches and the clear blue ocean that he stood watch over.  It seemed ironic to Rick that a man who had spent so much time being a lifeguard now personified the cold visage of decay.

Once again, Rick found himself standing back in horror.  The normally bright green eyes of his friend had gone dim.  A low, “nnnnngh” sound was coming out of Robert’s slack jaw.  Weirdly enough, Robert’s teeth were still as white as ever.  His tongue even retained its purple-red color, like a plum that had been left out in the afternoon heat.  Clearly, some rich blue plasma must still be pumping through the man’s veins.

Pic from WP Clip Art

The pallid skin tone, however, told another story.  The formerly tanned face was now ashen.  Deep lines masked any freckles or smiles that had once decorated Robert’s face.  It wasn’t enough to describe Robert as pasty.  His face now seemed the very absence of life or spirit.  Robert was at the halfway point between lively human and stagnant corpse.  Even his brown hair had joined in with his face and had gone completely dark.  Robert was not entirely lost to the world of the living, but he certainly had packed his bags for the trip.

Rick tried to look away, but couldn’t.  The newly added creases under Robert’s eyes haunted Rick.  They sagged and drooped under the depressed state that Robert had sunk into.  The man’s eyes, no longer charged with glimmering or shining, had taken on a vacancy that was horrifying.  Rick couldn’t take it.  There needed to be some color added to Robert’s morbid features.  With a dab, he drew a long line running from the blackened lip and traced it down to the chin.  Rick stood back and looked at the trail of blood.  He gasped.  The contrast of the deep, dark-red streak only showed just how desolate Robert really looked.

“Dude”, Rick finally said.  “That is messed up.”

“Really?  The makeup works?”

Rick nodded as he stared at his work of art.  “The face is frickin’ perfect.  We just gotta get you some tattered clothes.”

Robert clapped his hands.  “First prize, here I come!  No more losing to guys dressed like TeleTubbies.”

Caught Cheating While Playing (on) the Field

He that will cheat at play, will cheat you any way.” –Dutch proverb

**********

Lance sat on his couch and stared past the television.  If this were a normal Saturday night, Lance would be watching the game that was playing out on the screen.  The announcers were excited and a flurry of activity was occurring on his five-foot, HD display.  There was much cause for enthusiasm and uproarious behavior.  Yet, Lance couldn’t focus on the players.  He had heard about a game that had happened earlier in the week, and he had been obsessing over it ever since.

A series of knocks roused Lance from his brooding.  He got up from the couch, trudged over to the door, and opened it.  Without a word or a look to the man standing on the doormat, Lance returned to the couch cushion that was still warm.  He took his beer from the cup holder and took a long, slow sip.

“Sorry I’m late”, Vince said as he shook off his coat.  “Traffic was out of control.  You’d think people had never driven in the blasted rain before.”  He tossed his wet attire in a pile by the hat rack, just as he always did.  “What’d I miss?”

Lance jerked his head in a way that drew attention to the screen in front of them.  “Game’s right there”, Lance replied.

“You mind if I have a beer?”

“You know the way”, Lance stated.

Vince, feeling unsure of his standing, headed to the kitchen, removed an aluminum can from the door, and headed back to the living room.  “You bettin’ on your team tonight?  Even though they’re favored to lose?”

“They’ll be fine”, Lance said quietly.

“What is with you?”

“Do you wanna talk, or do you wanna watch the game?”

“You just seem mad.  Trouble at work?  Are you taking out Cynthia grief on me?”

“Maybe I get annoyed when people talk during the game.”

“That’s not it.  You’re usually screaming at the dang thing.  Besides, there’re commercials.”

“This beer’s empty.  I need another”, Lance announced as he went to the kitchen.

“All right, that’s it.”  Vince ran to the kitchen and stood in front of the door handle.  “What is your beef?”

“You’re blocking the beer.  Move.”  The last response was more of a threat than an actual sentence.  Lance’s broad shoulders and jar-sized head seemed all too eager to punctuate any statements with violence.  Lance could do plenty of damage when he wanted too.  And at the moment, Vince thought his friend was too ready to attack.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong”, Vince demanded.  He hoped that the bravado in his voice was effective, even though he strongly suspected that his bluff wasn’t entirely convincing.

“Why don’t you ask Burt”, Lance replied.

“What does Burt have to do with anything?”

“I wouldn’t know.  You’re the one that’s so chummy with him all of a sudden.”

“What?  Lance, I haven’t seen Burt in weeks.”

A massive fist zoomed past Vince’s head, narrowly missing him and landing full-on into the refrigerator door.  An intimidating dent was now present where Lance’s hand had landed.

“Lance!  What the-“

“Don’t lie to me!  You two were playing football just last night.”

“How did you-“  Vince stopped himself.  Somehow Lance had found out.  Suddenly the sullen mood made perfect sense.

“What am I, stupid?  Of course I found out.”

“You weren’t supposed to”, Vince replied quietly.

“Oh, c’mon.  Half our friends were there.  You wanted to get caught.”

“Why would I want that?”

“Maybe you’re tired of me and you’re just too gutless to say anything.”

“Lance, if I that were true than why would I be here?  I’m not tired of you.”

“But you are avoiding me.  You’re just here for the beer”, Lance replied.

“Now you know that’s ridiculous.  C’mon, we’re close.  You can’t pretend that we aren’t.”

“Then why?  Why would you claim that the game got cancelled?”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“Uh huh.”

“Don’t be like that”, Vince said.  “Look, just because I spent time with him doesn’t mean that I’m done with you.”

“Is he better than I am?  Does he have skills that I don’t?”

“Lance, c’mon.”

“No, I’m serious.  Does he know tricks that work for you?  Are his moves sleeker than mine?”

“Lance.”

“And I’ve heard about that T.V. at home.”

“What?”

“Oh, the guys can’t stop talking about it.  ‘Look how big it is!  It’s so gorgeous!’   I’ll bet he lets you be in charge when you’re over there.  Does it make you feel like a big, macho man?  He just thinks you’re so great to be around.  If only he knew the truth.”

“The truth?”  Vince was tired of being on the receiving end.  He had played defense in college and was ready to dust off his old skillset.  “And what is the truth exactly?  That I put up with people who are abusive?”

“I’m abusive?  Me?  That’s a laugh.”

“Please.  Everybody’s seen it.  The way you treat people.  The pushing, the shoving, the name calling.”

“It’s football!  That’s how you’re supposed to behave”, Lance replied.

“Well, nobody else acts that way.  Just you.  And our friends feel the same.  Several of the guys actually asked me to talk to you about it.”

“What, their feelings are hurt?”

“And their backs, and their shoulders.  You don’t respect other people, Lance.”

“I don’t tow cow to whiny little twits with no drive, if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.  Why can’t you try to see it from their side?”

“Whatever”, Lance growled.

“All right Lance.  There are two reasons why I snubbed you.”

“Finally, the truth comes out.”

“First off”, Vince said as he jabbed his finger dangerously hard into Lance’s chest.  “You’re a cheater.”

“I am not!  I would never do to you what you did to me!”

“Not that kind of cheating you emotionally unstable nimrod.  You go out of bounds”, Vince exclaimed.

“You went behind my back!”

“On.  The.  Field!  You run out of the boundary lines that are there for a reason.”

“Oh”, Lance said quietly.  “That.  Well, that’s me taking advantage of a situation.  If a ref ain’t gonna call me on it, then I’m gonna do it.  Anything for a victory.”

“Yeah, well the guys have noticed.  So stop it.”

“And?”  Lance shoved Vince’s finger aside and took a step closer.  His beer breath was pungent and inescapable.  “What’s the other reason?”

“I’m really not supposed to tell”, Vince said reluctantly.

“I knew it.  What, you’re in love with him or something?”

“No, you moron.   Burt has pancreatic cancer, okay?”

Lance froze.  “Seriously?”

“Yes.  He has to get treatment, go to the hospital, post-op; the whole thing.  He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to play again and his team wasn’t up this week.  We used to be teammates.  We were something special before you came along and changed everything.  So he wanted to have one last round.  Him and I.  I didn’t think you’d understand.  So I didn’t tell you.”

“So it wasn’t that you’re dumping me, it’s that you were getting back together with your old partner.”

“Lance.”

“It’s the legs, isn’t it?  His legs are better than mine.”

“You aren’t as young as you once were”, Vince admitted.  “Plus you are gettin’ a few extra pounds around the waist line.”

“Wow.  Hurtful much?”

“Enough”, Vince said.  “You aren’t perfect, and I’m not perfect.  But you can see why I did it right?  Why I went behind your back?  I still love ya, you’re still my guy.  I had no choice.  I had to team up with Burt.  It was a onetime thing.”

“It would still appear that we need to work on keeping our lines of communication open”, Lance commented.

“Dude”, Vince replied.

“What”, Lance asked.

“That psychologist wife of yours is really changing you.”

“You’re jealous because Suzanne won’t let you drink in your living room.”

“Can we just watch the game now?”  Vince felt himself pleading but couldn’t stop.  His wife would want to talk when he got home.  There would be forced discussions about emotions later.  Right now he wanted to watch large groups of men beat the ever-living snot out of each other.

Birth of a Daredevil

“There is danger, destruction, torment- what more do we need to make merry?” –Bernard Shaw

**********

There was only one activity that could satisfy Arnold.  Across the grassy lawn, he saw the object that he had heard so much about.  Breaking away from his mother’s secure grip, he ran across the playground at full speed.

Other children Arnold’s age were eager to try out the newest video game.  He had peers that thrilled at each baseball game that their families took them to.  There was Ralph; the boy who had been to seven different countries before third grade.  But in that one moment, the only thing at the end of Arnold’s tunnel-vision was the merry-go-round.

Uncle Barry had told Arnold about the wondrous contraption.  To some kids, going in repeated circles could come across as being rather boring.  Arnold was fascinated by the idea.  He would travel quickly on the limited path.  His rate of acceleration would climb greater and greater.  There had to be some sort of perfect speed waiting for him, and Arnold was going to attain it.

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

With his mother following at a distance, Arnold hurried past the swing-set and the jungle gym.  He saw the disc-shaped attraction up ahead.  It was just as Uncle Barry had described it.  It looked like a giant metal coffee table fastened to the ground by one single table leg right in the middle.  Instead of boring old vegetables or some new casserole, the top was decorated with six or eight metal rungs that were welded in place.  As he got even closer, he saw that it was topped with a bumpy surface to assist with grip and traction.  Encompassing this grand piece of excitement and engineering was a thin pile of wood chips that was joined by patches of grass.

Three older boys were playing on the merry-go-round and Arnold looked at them with hesitation.  He wanted to try out this technological treat, but he also wanted to avoid being pummeled by these much older; and far bigger boys.  He turned back to his mother who nodded him on.

“I’ll be right here if you need me”, she called out.

Hearing the dreaded voice of parental authority, the three strangers put a stop to their adventure.  There was Arnold’s mother, keeping watch.  Seeing his opportunity, Arnold dashed up to the others.

“Can I play?”

The three boys glanced at each other.  Mischievous expressions were exchanged and heads were eagerly nodded.  They waved to Arnold, cheering and motioning the small boy closer.  That was all the prompting that he needed.

Safety and security were soon abandoned as Arnold saw his dream coming true.  He plowed through the grass and leapt onto the circle.  It groaned ever so slightly under Arnold’s Velcro tennis shoes.  The other boys rubbed their hands together and took their positions around the merry-go-round.  Arnold noticed what they were doing and hopped onto the ground.  He held onto a vacant bar and started to run.

The four boys began their first ring around.  Next came a second, and then a third.  The thrill was already growing in Arnold.  Faster and faster he went.  The other boys’ skill began to overpower him.  He had to scurry more than run in order to control his feet.  With each move he made it became less of a step and more of a leap.  Within a few more seconds, Arnold’s feet came off the wood chips entirely.

The elation that came upon Arnold was like nothing he had ever gone through before.  Half of the boy was terrified, knowing there was nothing he could do but hang on for dear life.  The other part, the side Arnold had never experienced before, was delighted beyond belief.  The force of being lifted off the ground was exhilarating.  The air rushed through his hair and t-shirt.   His fingers cried out for relief.  Arnold’s brain begged for safety while his adrenaline demanded more.  Suddenly his hands slipped free from their handhold and Arnold felt himself flying through the air.  He screamed in panic and delight.  Then, as the force of colliding with the earth kicked in, the world went black.

In the years that followed, Arnold would often think back to that day.  His mother remembered it well too; for it was the first time she had rushed her son to the emergency room.  Arnold got his first scar that day.  A thin line comprised of seven stitches adorned the middle of his forehead.  As he grew older, the bumps and war-wounds would only multiply.  The BMX bike would add a broken leg and three scars on his arms.  The ski trip in the winter break of senior year would throw in a concussion and a broken foot.  The rock climbing, the sky-diving, the high-dive into the waterfall that was surrounded by signs decreeing, “No swimming”; they all were influenced and inspired by that event early in Arnold’s life.  For as his mother sat there thanking God that he was okay, Arnold had only one question.

“When can I do that again?”

Fighting for What’s Mine(sweeper)

Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.” –Rounders

**********

There are two types of people in this world; the kind that play Minesweeper for fun, and the kind that play it because they have no choice.  Oh sure, it started out as a simple office diversion for most of the world.  There’s that old story about a county that had to have the game removed from computers because productivity was going down.  Those are my kind of people.  They’re the ones that realized the sort of draw that that grid can have.  When the world’s serving up nothing but 8’s everywhere you turn, some of us stare the challenge in the face and defy it.  Some of us are up for the challenge.

Despite what your grandpa told you, there are plenty of ways to play Minesweeper.  I know, you think it’s just some little program that you can pull up and click away at your leisure.  If you’ve beaten the game once on “Advanced” then you think you’ve accomplished something.  Please.  Those folks will always be beginners to us.  Advanced is just the starting point.  There’re those of us that stay at home, designing custom grids, and running drills.  Any wrong box sends us right back to square one, yet we keep going for hours into the morning.

Pic from Wikipedia

The Minesweeper Underground Teams, or Mutts, started off with a simple challenge.  You set yours on Advanced, they set theirs on Advanced; the first person to clear the board wins.  And I’m not talking about the layout that they have now.  That stupid little sanitized blue-board with the countdown at the bottom of the screen.   No, I’m talking original, classic design.  We want the numbers ticking away in blood red and we want that little man in yellow to pop up and call you a failure.  Don’t bring that whitewashed, safe, welcoming game around us.  You’ll end up getting our typical treatment.  We truss you up, steal your watch, stomp on it, and shove you out the door with that watch superglued to your nose.  It’s the “Time’s Up” mark of shame.

Take Hanz, our inspiration.  No one knows his real name, but we all revere Hanz.  The man’s a legend.  Some say that he took the one hundred most called up permutations of the board and memorized them.  Others claim that they were present when he cleared the bombs in seventeen seconds.  There’s even a story that he knows the guy that invented the game, and the sunglasses are on that yellow face to hide the fear that the programmer had for Hanz.  I don’t know if I believe it all, but I do know that you don’t want to plant a marker on Hanz’s turf.

In his brilliance, Hanz hacked the classic MS and changed one factor.  For every bomb that you tag, another bomb shows up on your opponent’s counter.   It’s always a special treat for us when noobs play.  You should see their eyes twitch when three bombs add up on their total.  When we’re feeling bored, when the opponent is no challenge at all, we’ll spend a good thirty seconds just marking squares that are perfectly safe just to screw with their heads.  Watch a guy try to clear ninety-seven bombs in a one hundred square plot and you’ll know true joy.

I’m not saying I’m the best, but I’m no question-mark using poser.  I’ve tussled with Hanz and walked away with my dignity intact.  I have the standard calluses on the side of my thumb and at the base of pointer finger.  You don’t come around to the warehouse without being scarred by the game a little.  There’s a trick to it all.  If you’re walking into an unknown Minesweeper Club, or Miscy’s, you don’t want to play your hand early.  I mean that literally.  Any thug who’s guarding the door is going to check your hands.  If you walk in with some pansy wrist brace like a data processor that belongs in a button-up short-sleeved shirt and narrow time, you’re not going to get any play at all.  Yeah, hours of holding that mouse are going to do crazy things to your wrist.  Suck it up.  You gotta pay your dues and the game demands that you compensate all the way.

Don’t come around with any stupid ergonomics either.  Guys come in with their titanium cases pulling out their mice shaped like commas with buttons on the side and some trackball pimple growing out of the top.  “Best of the best”, they say with a grin.  “Allows for faster game play”, they gloat.  Not here it doesn’t.  Any self-respecting Mutt that sees that sort of garbage will slam their mouse against the wall, make the dweeb eat the trackball, and give them the proper “Time’s Up” exit.

So yeah, you gotta have a few bumps on your hand.  It comes with the life.  But if you got too many bruises, if your hand is too obvious, you’re not gonna be able to find a game.  Nobody wants to be the minnow to a shark.  We’ll take you down.  But at twenty bucks a bomb, the stakes add up pretty quick.  We Mutts save our bankrolls for real challenges.  Sometimes we just want an opponent that’ll make it easy for us to buy a new car.  It all depends on the player’s taste.

Then there’s this one chick; Celeste.  I’ve decided that when someone finally takes down Hanz, one on one, it’ll either be me or Celeste.  I’m good.  She’s art.  I’m not going to give away too many secrets, but I have my logical methods.  I operate off of patterns.  I know every move I’m making to at least three degrees.  Everyone has their favorite first-square to start with.  Mine has never failed me.  Nothing in life is completely random.  There are patterns.  And lemme tell ya, I’ve spent years finding all the patterns I can and using those to buy me some pretty nice swag.  That sports call with the shiny gray paintjob and the license plate, “ALLMINE”?  Yeah, that’s my ride.  Got a 60-inch, HD, 3D TV at home too.  You don’t get to carry around a wad of scratch in a leather jacket unless you’ve got the skills to bring ‘er home.  And I do.  I’ve taken my explosions, sure.  We all have.  Eventually life’s gonna blow up in your face; time’ll run out.  But I’ve taken my shrapnel and learned from my scars.

Celeste; she’s the opposite.  You look at her and you don’t see a threat.  She’s just around five foot, blonde, pretty cute with that whole glasses/librarian thing going.  She always has her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail.  Says she can’t afford to have it fall in her face when she’s in the zone.  For all her academic appearances, the woman’s an artist.

Celeste never plays it safe.  She plays recklessly.  I’ve seen her click through more failed screens than any four players combined.  But she’s fast. Wicked fast.  You should see her wrist.  She hides it well, wears long sleeves and has learned to hold it just right so that it doesn’t show.  But every once in a while, when she’s had one too many shots or she’s at the end of a forty hour session, it’ll come out.  Her right hand, especially her thumb, is permanently curved to cradle a mouse.

She’s fascinating to watch.  She claims that Hanz taught her how to play when she was a little girl.  It’s a nice story, just like the story of a guy who clicks once and the whole field of blanks clears away for him.  I don’t know if I believe the story.  But I do know that she and I have scrapped more than a few times.  We tangle almost every time we’re in the same Miscy together.  Once in a while we’ll tangle out in the parking lot too.  What can I say; we’re like oil and fire.  I’m slick, she’s hot; every once in a while we’ll let the inferno rage.  Regardless, she’s the one to beat.

You getting the picture yet, kid?  There are Miscy’s all around; you just gotta know where to look.  My suggestion?  Hang out around software and airplane guys.  It’s the engineers you want to tail.  What, you think engineers don’t want their kicks to?  You think it’s an accident that the fifteen biggest Miscy’s are all within two miles of airplane and computer manufacturers?  Those nerds with their pocket protectors are tougher than you think.  Their glasses make them look weak, but they’ll take you down and make you cry.

If the Miscy doesn’t fill up a hanger or a warehouse, then it’s a rookie joint.  You want that place to be filed.  There are plenty of us Mutts and if we avoid a place, there’s a reason for it.  Some guys, Landminers, we call ‘em, they’ll rig the games.  The SWAT leader at each Miscy is supposed to keep things on the up and up.  But sometimes the SWATs get greedy.  Sometimes they hack a game and give their buds a field guide.  We don’t deal that way, nor do we deal with those kinds.  There’s no planting for real Mutts; we play it straight up.  You want the high walls of an abandoned building to be constantly echoing.  If you aren’t distracted by hundreds of mouse clicks resounding off the metal walls, men hunched over computers as far as the eye can see?  Well then you’re dealing with Landminers and you should get yourself to an honest Miscy with real Mutts.  Don’t waste your time on those loser L-M punks.

You know those corners that cause you trouble?  You’ve got all your known bombs marked, you still have two bombs left, but there are five spots all closed in and you just walk away and figure some miracle will fix it all while you deal with an easier section?  Not us Mutts.  We barrel through.  We get it done.  You go ahead and work up a sweat.  You worry about time running out as your fingers start to shake in fear.  When you’re ready for a real game, you can find us.  We’ll be only too happy to take your money and shove you back out the door.

**********

(P.S.  If you’ve never watched this 2 minute fake trailer, you should.  It’s my favorite.)  😉

Repetitious Excuses

Repetitious Excuses

It was the end of a VERY long day.” –Groundhog’s Day

**********

“I must have misheard you”, Patty said as she put her purse down on the kitchen counter.  “Say that again.”

“I thought I could go to Stephen’s gradation next time”, Lawrence answered.

“Next time.  Next time?  Lawrence, that doesn’t make any sense.  How could you miss your son’s graduation?  Your parents are still back at the high school looking for you!”

“Now, you claim that I skipped it.  That I’ll never know what it was like.  But that’s because you don’t know the whole story.”

Patty’s keys joined the purse as they skittered and slid across the marble surface.  Her hands were now free to cross in front of her white formal silk blouse.  As Lawrence looked up past her pearl necklace and her chin that was lightly dabbed in makeup, he was met with a distinct frown and severe eyes.  Glancing even further upward, he could see veins coming out of his wife’s head that were hidden to the casual observer behind her black bangs.  Patty was furious.

“You have five minutes.”

“Okay”, Lawrence said as he felt his feet moving back and forth underneath him.  He’d been wondering the whole time how he was going to explain what had happened.  He still didn’t fully grasp what he had gone through.  Regardless, it was time to try and figure it out.  A simple, “I’ll tell you later”, wouldn’t work today.

“I didn’t miss his graduation because I’ve already been to it.  I’ve been to it dozens of times; maybe even a hundred.  The tight shoes, the tie, your mom’s thick perfume attacking me in packed together folding chairs.  I couldn’t take it again.  I love our son, but once or twice is enough.”

Patty’s thin eyebrows voiced her disbelief.  “Exactly how many graduations do you think your son gets?  What is this nonsense you’re spewing out?”

“I get it.  I see where you’re confused.”  Lawrence studied his wife’s face again and corrected himself.   “Upset; I can understand why you’re upset.  And yes, Daniel only graduated high school once.  I’ve seen it over and over.  I’ve relived the event more times than I can keep track of.”

“How; try tackling that part of your story.  How?”

“I don’t know.  Somehow it’s all related to my toothbrush.  Every time that I brush my teeth, I get taken back to the bathroom this morning.  I work a full day, I survive traffic, I eat dinner, I go to the graduation, I come home, and I brush my teeth.  Boom.  I wake up to find myself in bed and then it’s morning.  Again.  This morning.  The same morning over and over.”

“Because you brushed your teeth?”

Lawrence heard the incredulity in Patty’s voice and started talking faster in hopes of beating her wrath to the punch.  “I know, it sounds crazy.  The only theory that I can come up with is that I was in some sort of dream.  Maybe there’s a vein near my teeth that controls my internal clock or my perceptions and it was inflamed just enough to be overly sensitive.  You know how the dentist always says she has to numb all these areas of my mouth simply to work on one tooth.”

“Your tooth is responsible for your brain time traveling back repeatedly to this day?”

Lawrence nodded excitedly.  He thought about a follow up statement, but knew that it couldn’t possibly help matters.

“Lawrence Edward Tonlin.  How stupid do you think I am?”

“Now don’t be like that.”

“Time traveling teeth?”

“Honey…”

“So, what, your toothpaste raises your I.Q.?  Einstein talks to you while you floss?  What?”

“Do you really think I’d make up something this ridiculous?”

“Yes”, Patty replied without pausing.

“Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know”, she answered.  “Why would you tell the kids that Santa got stuck in the chimney and that he could never come back here due to the lawsuit between his people and the construction company that built our house?”

Lawrence paused to laugh.  “Oh c’mon, that was genius.  We would have never had to Christmas shop ever again.”  Seeing his wife turn to the refrigerator for a drink, Lawrence changed his laugh into a cough, and then into a clearing of his throat.

“What did you do when you were supposedly too busy to spend time with your only son?”

“It really depended on the day”, Lawrence said as a flood of memories rushed around his head.  “There was the time I drove out to the lake and spent all day fishing and barbecuing.  I ran onto an airplane without a ticket.  I went bungee jumping out by the-“

“Wait, what?”

“Oh don’t be so shocked.  You know I’ve always wanted to try bungee jumping.”

“Not that.  Before that.  A plane?”

“Sure.  I ran onto a plan without a boarding pass.  Man, that day was fun.  Those ticket agents aren’t nearly as fast to grab their little walkie talkies as you would think.  The male flight attendant was trying to chase me down the tunnel thing.  Heh.  I had a head start and I didn’t have any luggage to slow me down.  They tried to shut the plane door.  Your old husband though, he’s pretty quick.  Still, I pitied the people that had to wait until the sky marshals arrived.”

“Sky marshals, Lawrence?”

“Yeah.  I tried to walk myself off after they closed the cabin door.  The officials wouldn’t let me.  They thought I was some sort of security threat and they wanted to search the entire plane even though I’d only been on the front part.  Can you believe it?  I felt kind of bad about that.”

Lawrence brightened up.  A twinkle in his look showed his mischievous side.  “Now, it never happened.  Those people made their plane.  Today’s a different version of today than that today was.  Today I never even went to the airport.  That today though; man.  Those sky marshals are rough.  And yet, I gotta say their holding cells are surprisingly comfortable.  They shouldn’t have loaned me a toothbrush, those silly guys.”

“You’re… you’re not making this up, are you?”  Patty had since turned around with a cup in her hand.  She had intended to make herself some tea to soothe her nerves, but her husband’s story had distracted her.  The dry tea bag flopped around in the porcelain cup, its tag bobbing along merrily with no water to weigh it down.

“Could I really make something like this up?”

“I don’t know.  You’re weird, but this is psychotic-break kind of weird.”

“Patty, I’m fine.”

“So you did go to Daniel’s graduation?”

“Many times.”

“What was his signature move at the podium?”

Lawrence rolled his eyes.  “He yells out, ‘Good Night, Vietnam.’  Darn kid.”

“Any one of your father-friends from the baseball team could have called you and told you that.”

“But they didn’t.”

Patty’s mood and posture had softened.  She was inquisitive now.  “What did we do?”

“Pardon?”

“What?  You’re telling me that of all those times that you supposedly existed in a repetitive cycle that you didn’t spend any of those with your wife?”

“I tried, but most times you were dead-set on going to Daniel’s graduation.”

“And other times?”

“It depended how I phrased it.  If I explained it just right, I could get you to stay home with me.  We’d go to the bedroom, have a little fun, and watch a movie.”

“Really?  That’s it?”

“Well, a few times I took you out to a fancy dinner.  But that gets old for a fellow rather quickly.”

“It doesn’t get old for his wife”, Patty declared with her tone as she poked her finger into Lawrence’s chest.

“Point taken”, Lawrence said as he raised his arms in surrender.  Patty snuck into his arms and put her forehead against his chin.

“So what did you do tonight?”

“Say again?”

“Tonight.  This time”, Patty said as she put down her cup and looked at the clock on the wall.  “You can do anything you want.  You partake in whatever fancy strikes you.  What’d you do this time?”

“Watched Die Hard.”

“What?”

“Y’know, Die Hard.”

“That’s what you did?”

“It’s a really great movie!  It’s not like I have time to read A Tale of Two Cities or anything.  A two hour movie sounded great to me.”

“Ugggh”, Patty walked away in disgust.  She still didn’t know whether to believe her husband, but she knew without a doubt that her husband was behaving like his normal self.

“Patty, c’mon”, Lawrence called after her from the kitchen.  “It’s Die Hard!”

Cooking with Claude

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Cooking with Claude

I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking.  If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.” -Andy Rooney

“Hello my Cuisinbros and Cuisinettes!  Welcome to the very first webisode of ‘Cooking with Claude’.  I’m Claude, and I’m going to walk you through those challenging menu items that seem so daunting to us.  If you’re like me, you sit down in a restaurant, order a fancy meal, and think to yourself, ‘If only I could cook these kinds of meals at home!’  Well why don’t we break down those borders right now?  Thanks for joining me.

“Today we take on a dish that taunts many.  This delicacy mocked me for years; the fluffiness, the flavor, the mouth-watering allure of it.  Yes, today we shall tackle an omelet.  I know!  You’re terrified; you fear for your pallet on such a first attempt.  But that’s why we’re doing all this together Cuisine-Crew.  That’s why we’re streaming this live with no editing.  We are teaming up to tackle this monster.  So let’s get to it.

“First off, you’ll need a few eggs.  I have a few extra in my fridge right here.  Huh.  They seem to have expired.  Ah, what’s a little disease between friends?  You’re not five years old, right?  Your immune system can certainly handle this sort of challenge.  Remember to never let those little inconveniences stop you from accomplishing what you desire.  Say, that’s pretty good.  We’re going to have to make up some t-shirts with that slogan!  Tell ya what; we’ll place a link right under this video.  You can snatch them and support our wonderful program here.  Twenty-five plus shipping sounds like a reasonable price, doesn’t it?  Let’s go with that.

“Right; back to the cooking.  That’s the reason you’re here and that’s what we’re here for.  Heretofore?  Wherefore?  I never really understood those words.  I suppose we could look them up, but we’re too busy cooking!  What we have here are three eggs.  Oh, and a bowl.  I really should have gotten that bowl first.  Hmm, this one looks a little too small.  That’s like a water dish for a kitten.  We want room to whisk, darnit!  I really should have washed the dishes first.  Now would probably be a good time to stop and edit, wouldn’t it?  Ha ha!!  Well we’ll have none of that!  I’ll just rinse out this cereal bowl.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.

“All righty.  We’ve all seen Ratatouille, we know how chefs work.  What more is there to understand?  Take your egg; thrust it onto the edge of the bowl, and crack that sucker open!  Hmm.  A little drippy.  Okay, maybe we should crack with a bit less vigor.  I really should clean that up.  Ah well, time enough for that later.  A slippery floor never hurt anyone after Vaudeville, right?  Besides, it looks like the cat of the house has it under control.  Lap it up, kitty!  Let’s just grab another egg from the fridge to replace the first one.

“Okay, with a gentle, but still enthused thrust, crack that sucker onto the bowl!  There ya go!  See the way the shell just falls open and gives you a pleasant revealing?  Huh.  That is a surprise.  I’ve never seen an egg with red before.  It’s kinda runny too.  It was just a red dot, but now it’s sort of taking over the whole bowl.  Man, that’s actually pretty gross.  It’s like the chicken is bleeding itself all over the bowl.  Eew.

“Ahem.  No time to delay, let’s just rinse that egg out and try again!  We still have three more eggs to work with; we can make a go of it!  Oh, and in case I haven’t told you already, be sure to subscribe.  I don’t really know how often I’ll be able to do this, but I’m sure it’ll be a hit.  Go ahead, sign up, and you won’t have to miss a minute!  Fun and entertaining!  We’ll have aprons and t-shirts for sale.  Ah, isn’t this the great life?

“We’ve got our bowl all washed out.  Those whole egg one and egg two dilemmas are in the past.  We have a new egg, we crack it open, and….  Look at that!  What a great yolk.  Now, if you like to add just a dash of salt or a splash of milk, this would be the perfect time.  You know, we want to have all those additives in there before we really whisk it together.  If you’re vegan or allergic, why not substitute the dairy in the milk with soy?  It should really pair well with the egg and butter.

“What?  Why are you all trying to instant message me?  I really can’t take comments right now.  What are you, anti-soy?  You wacky vegans; you’re always so picky with your dairy consumption.

“Oh, but that reminds me, we really should get the pan going while we’re whisking.  Take a slab of butter, toss it on a frying pan, and really crank that heat up.  There.  That chunk’s about the size of my thumb.  That should do it.  Now I just add two more eggs.  There’s number two.  This is going to be quite the omelet!  I know; you’re hungry already.  So why aren’t you joining in?  C’mon, catch up at home!

“And here comes egg number three.  Huh.  This one feels a little heavy.  That just means it’s fat with flavor right?  We’ll just crack this guy open.  Odd.  Let me try this again.  We’ll crack…  Man, this sucker refuses to open.  Maybe if I chip away with this fork.  There we go!  We’ve got the shell started.  Aw, shoot.  It’s one big frozen mass.  There must be… yep, there it is.  A crack in the exterior; I guess this little guy’s gonna stay a solid chick-sickle.  Hey, a two-egg omelet will fill me up, right?  I mean, why not?

“Okay, time to check on our oven.  It’s been about a minute so hopefully that butter had been melting nicely while we talked.  …except it’s not.  Well isn’t that strange.  It’s still… oh, wait!  I forgot to turn the oven  on.  Hmm, I wonder why it won’t work.  What?  Oh, my cameraman is telling me the oven is gas.  I don’t actually know how to work one of these things.  Pilot?  What’s a pilot light?  This button over here?  Okay, but shouldn’t it turn out by itself?  I mean, we’re in the twenty-first century after all-

“Ah!!!  Man, that flame really jumps right up, doesn’t it?  Someone really likes to have a hot time in the ol’ kitchen!  Wow.  Good thing I trimmed my eyebrows before the show.  I’m not singed right?  Okay, good.  Keep in mind ladies, ol’ Claude keeps cool under pressure and his eyebrows tidy.  I’m just sayin’.  Women love a guy that cooks, right?

“Next up, we whisk our eggs.  I’ve got two eggs, I’ve added a splash of milk, and now I’ve decided that I do want some salt.  I wasn’t certain before, but now I’m gonna go for it.  Where’s that salt shaker…  Ah ha!  Thought you could get away from me, you little rascal?   These holes in the top look to be a tad crusted over.  I’m going to give the top a little tap.  I really want the salt to come out in a controlled manner.  A little tap…  Shoot.  I didn’t realize the lid would fall of like that.  Man that is not a small amount of salt, is it?  I mean, I can see little crystals forming together at the top.  I really think those lids should be stronger.

“What the-?  Oops!  We’ve got ourselves some smoke here.  I think this would be a great time to remind you viewers that you should always keep an eye on the burners.  You really don’t want your skillet setting off the smoke detectors.  Man that thing’s sensitive.  Shrill, too.  I always thought it would take more to set them off.  What?  You can’t hear me?  Okay, I’ll take the battery out.  We’ll have it be our little secret.

“Isn’t this fun?  And to think you could be waiting at a table for food and missing all this?  There’s no place like home… cooking!  Hey, that could be another t-shirt!  Man, I’m all kinds of quotable today!  Keep an eye out for that shirt too!  We’re gonna make sure we’re stocked up so you can get them as soon as your credit card clears.  Well, and I gotta have a big enough stack to make the trip to the post office worth my time.  C’mon, it’s like three miles away.  You folks know how it is.  Ahh, what’m I worried about?  I’m sure you’ll order plenty!

“Let’s check how we’re doing.  The smoke is almost all gone.  Whoops!  Better not hold that battery over the burner.  Ha ha!  Let’s put it over on this countertop out of the way.  We snagged a fresh pad of butter and it’s melting just fine.  Yeah, I think the pan is pretty well coated.  Time to add the eggs!

“Those eggs are on their way now.  I like to coax them along as they cook.  You just dab at the sides when they start to bubble with your spatula.  Wait.  Where’s my spatula?  Tim did you see where…  Darnit!  Your cat’s nibbling on the spatula!  Give that back!  Ugh.  Now there’re teeth marks on it.  Dude, your cat is just messed up.  I have to rinse this stupid thing off now.  Gah.

“I’d say it’s about time we finish this puppy up.  Take your spatula and nudge at the sides a little.  There it is!  That’s more like it!  I like to flip my omelet as soon as possible; make sure both sides are evenly cooked.  Simply take your utensil, get it under there and…

“Crud.  It broke.  Eh, scrambled eggs are acceptable.  Let’s all make scrambled eggs together.  If you have a nice omelet; well then congratulations to you.  But we’re making ‘em scrambled now.  Chop ‘em up!  Chop chop chop with your spatula.  Hey, look at all those pieces of egg deliciousness!  They’re starting to get a little brown so let’s pull ‘em off and toss ‘em on a plate.

“Terrific.  Eggs, scrambled, just like that.  It couldn’t be simpler!  Now all we have to do is dig in!  Let’s all try it together shall we?

“Oh my…  Ugh.  That’s nasty.  That is like the worst thing I’ve ever…  Dude, seriously.  I can’t even get that down.  How much salt fell in there?

“Tim!  The oven!  Your cat knocked the battery onto the burner!  Put the camera down!  Grab the fire extinguisher!  Move man, move!”

Avoiding Neverland

A teacher's reflections on preparing teens for life

Late~Night Ruminations

...for all the ramblings of my cluttered mind....

Short...but not always so sweet 💋

Life is a series of challenges ~Happy endings are not guaranteed

Running Away To Booktopia

Because let's face it, reality sucks most of the time.

guclucy5incz5hipz

Exploring my own creativity (and other people's) in the name of Education, Art and Spirituality. 'SquarEmzSpongeHat'. =~)

The Land of 10,000 Things

Charles Soule - writer.

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Blog

This blog, swallow you whole

bottledworder

easy reading is damn hard writing

s1ngal

S1NGLE living H1GH thinking

Listful Thinking

Listless: Lacking zest or vivacity

Kim Kircher

Strength from the Top of the Mountain

The Byronic Man

We can rebuild him. We have the technology... Drier. Hilariouser. More satirical than before.

The One Year Challenge

A one-year chronical of no flirting, no more dating and absolutely no sex.

Beth Amsbary

Workshop Leader, Storyteller, Grantwriter,