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?”

In the Blink of a Cursor

The trouble with worrying so much about your security in the future is that you feel so insecure in the present.” -Harlan Miller

**********

Thomas sat in front of his computer screen and pondered.  He knew what he wanted to do.  The computer screen glowed back at him, waiting expectantly.  Bandwidth was being used, but the keys remained idle.  Thomas clicked the mouse, typed in the proper command, selected the individual that was on his mind, and tapped the mouse button one more time.

“Are you sure?”  The screen asked what seemed like a perfectly benign question.  When the programmers created such a prompt, they surely only meant for it to be a double-checker.  Those nerds with their thick glasses and poor posture were adding one more layer of verification.  They had just been trying to prevent an accidental keystroke from bringing about embarrassment.  However, for Thomas, that was on more moment when doubt was allowed to settle in and take a nap on the couch in his mind.

He tried to tell himself that he was over-complicating things.  He knew what he desired to do.  Still, there were those times when what he felt like sharing and what he kept to himself were separated by only the narrowest of margins.

Thomas and Thelma had conversed over this matter many times, but never came to full agreement over the topic.  Thomas wanted to shout his feelings to the world.  Thelma was the cautious one.  If Thomas dared to click “OK” on the screen, there was a chance that Thelma wouldn’t like to his actions.  It might even start a fight.  But what if she agreed?  What if he could finally shout from the rooftops what he’d been clamoring to share with his friends for weeks?  Shouldn’t they know what had brought him joy and bliss all this time?  Thelma liked keeping her light under a bush, but that could only last so long.  People would eventually notice the fire burning and investigate, wouldn’t they?

Thomas couldn’t take it.  He had to at least try.  And with that, he set the pointer on his screen loose on its prey.  The white arrow of determination was pointed definitively towards its goal.  It was ready to act.  With a deep breath, Thomas tapped boldly and with emphasis.  The screen brought up a new message in confirmation of his deed.

“You have now listed yourself as ‘In a relationship with Thelma Thorpwite’”.  The secret was out.  Now maybe the hiding could end.  Maybe he could kiss his girlfriend when they left work together.  Perhaps they could go to parties together knowing that they had someone to arrive and leave with.  Thomas nibbled nervously on his fingernail.  The malleable material merely bent under the pressure his teeth tried to exert.  He had taken the first step in declaring his love out loud.  Now it was up to Thelma to respond.  Thomas hoped she’d publicly join hands with him, but she could just as easily shun his declaration of affection and ask him to tamper his enthusiasm.

Dating, Thomas thought to himself.  It’s a wonder guys have any hair left when we get married.  Thomas started thinking about his relationship with Thelma in the long run.  He started to let his mind wander to five, ten years into the future.  It was at that point that Thomas knew that, as was his nature, he was over analyzing everything.  There was a time and a place to think things over.  There was also a time to shut up, grab some potato chips, and watch television.  Thomas walked to the kitchen cabinet, happy that the remote was something he could still have complete control over.

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.)  😉

Less is More- Weekly Writing Challenge

(One more Monday, and again I look to the Weekly Writing Challenge abyss and wonder if it stares back.  This time they encourage writing about something different.  I don’t normally talk too much about my opinions, and I try not to rant, so this will be some sort of amalgamation of the two.  The fictional stories are coming later this week, honest.)

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.” -Mark Twain

**********

“’Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free.”  That’s what I’ve been taught for years and years.  The older I get, the more I find it to be true.  At the same time, I’ve noticed that there are more voices than before shouting at me in defiance of that notion.

I like to consider myself a fairly simple guy.  Okay, my work schedule with four jobs at three places is completely insane.  Everything else is normal though.  Honest.  Sundays are made for jogging, church, and if I’m feeling fancy; a visit with my best friend.  Breakfast is normally cereal or oatmeal; scrambled eggs with ketchup if I have extra time to lounge about.  Kim Kircher offered up a quiz on her site to see how much of a thrill seeker people are.  Out of a possible score of forty, I scored a three.  What can I say; it takes very little to keep me content.

Now, I know that there are different ways to approach things.  Some folks like to keep up to date on all the new stuff.  I am aware of people that buy a new car every few years or purchase a computer to keep their gear top of the line.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than with cellular phones.

I use my phone for two things; texting and phone calls.  If I’m having trouble staying awake at work, maybe I’ll play Carmen San Diego.  (It turns out that my memories of high school geography are still accessible when ushering an eleven p.m. movie.  Who knew?)  I do not need internet access.  I do not need a program to tell me when the bus is coming when I can simply memorize the schedule.  And I don’t need to get updates from people I haven’t seen for two years.  That sort of thing can wait until I’m sitting in a comfortable chair with a computer that has a reasonably sized screen.  Again, that’s my preference.  My newest phone is the only one that my provider offered for free without having to sign up for a data plan.  Clearly I am in the smartphone minority.  The lines at iStores have proven that.

Part of why I raise an eyebrow at people increasing their possessions, is that I have seen how much it really costs them.  I know people that have a tablet, a smartphone, and a laptop, but have problems paying their bills.  Folks will come up to the register with an armful of merchandise and lament how they shouldn’t be buying as much as they are.  A new trend that I’ve noticed are consumers that will pay part in cash and part on a credit card so that their spouse doesn’t realize how much money they are shelling out.  I start to wonder about the issue of self-control that we, the buying public, have over our wallets.

Bumblebee says, “Hand over the dough!”
(Photo from Wikipedia.)

The less is more approach didn’t always come easily to me.  In high school, I bought pretty much every country CD that I came across and had even the slightest interest in.  (I’m looking at you, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw.)  For some reason, my parents decided to pay my way as long as I was in college.  That meant that all the funds that I got from work could go wherever I pleased.  So, once upon a time, I spent over a thousand dollars purchasing old Transformer toys on eBay.  Not my proudest moment.  I later sold them all to others online for a fraction of what I paid.  It didn’t take me long to buy a clue; purchasing more knick-knacks didn’t make me any happier.

At the end of a long work week, I don’t wish that I had more cool things in my apartment.  Come and visit; you’ll see hand-me-down furniture, used books, and a cat that wants nothing more than a bowl of food and a warm pair of jeans to knead.  I still have more things than I like and try to think of ways to get rid of them.  My friends know that my hundreds of DVDs are available to loan, as are the countless comic books.

Any gal that enters into a long term relationship with me is going to quickly find out that I’m no sugar daddy.  I will never be rich.  I’m going to be working multiple jobs for a while because the thought of a high-paying office job, complete with the corporate stress and “earning your outrageous salary” holds absolutely no appeal to me.  I want enough of a paycheck to keep the debtors away and the cat stocked in kitty litter.  That’s all I really need.

Take a look at my workplace.  People come and see movies at my theater because it has a big screen.  Sometimes I look at what we’re showing and tell myself that it really doesn’t need such a fancy presentation.  I didn’t really love Titanic the first time, and I sure didn’t think that Titanic 3D was any better.  One of my favorite movies is How to Train Your Dragon.  The last time I visited my nieces, they strongly suggested that I simply had to watch it in 3D.  I did, and I still like the 2D version better.  I don’t need seats that movie in synch with the action of the film, I don’t need custom 3D glasses, and I certainly don’t need some waiter coming up to me and offering me another beer during the film.  I just want to watch a movie without any frills.

For those folks out there that enjoy the finer things in life; I get it.  I do.  New and shiny things hold a great appeal.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having nice things.  If you can afford to upgrade your lifestyle every so often, then you’re certainly allowed to.  My family thinks their 3D T.V. was worth it.  Speaking for myself, my ’97 Dodge works just fine, my original Kindle is still souped-up enough for me, and I have no problem patching holes in my clothing.  By all means, do whatever makes you happy.  Personally, I’ve slowly learned that there’s not a lot for sale that makes my life any richer.

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!”

Intermission- Postaday Record Goes Up in Flames Like a Flying Piano

Intermission- Postaday Record Goes Up in Flames Like a Flying Piano

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” -Bill Cosby

Howdy,

No. I didn’t post yesterday. 😦

I could list about all that I did, or the fact that my internet access goes away at 11 p.m. and I got home after that. But what can I say, it just didn’t happen. So today, I owe.

This is how I pay back my debt. With a story about a rich guy who sets pianos on fire and launches them with a trebouchet in his yard. Yeah, you heard me.

If that isn’t an ancdotal tale, I don’t know what is. Happy Friday.

(I promise I’ll create a story later today. But if I didn’t show you this video, you’d never believe the guy was real.)

The Petty Loss

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.

The Petty Loss

The size of a misfortune is not determinable by an outsider’s measurement of it, but only by the measurement applied to it by the person specially affected by it. The king’s lost crown is a vast matter to the king, but of no consequence to the child.  The lost toy is a great matter to the child, but in the king’s eyes it is not a thing to break the heart about.” –Mark Twain

The small boy was instantly struck with fright
When his eyes were met by the tragic sight.
Warren came home and saw the door ajar
And worried his cat could be rather far.

His precious pet was the curious type
Its need for adventure was always ripe.
The family tried to keep the door shut
So the cat would be safe from any mutt.

Often Warren looked at the furry face,
Warning the feline of the outside place.
He liked the fluff ball to stay at his side,
Who knew what could happen to it outside?

Hours of searching with no cat around,
No paw prints to follow on the hard ground.
Calling out and searching were all in vain,
The parents called it with the start of rain.

So Warren went to bed, the time was late
He couldn’t believe his best friend’s new fate.
Tears flowed as he thought of his pet with dread,
Then he heard a meow from under his bed.

Pic from Best of Web

The boy sat up quickly, hearing the noise,
He cleared away all the mess and the toys.
And there, in a heap, just as sure as that,
Was the confused, still sleepy, pussycat.

B(ee)-Grade Material

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.

B(ee)-Grade Material

When I jumped off a roof in Cannes in a bee costume, I looked ridiculous. But this is my business; I have to humiliate myself.” -Jerry Seinfeld

“All right fellas, I’ve got quite the story for ya.  You’re never gonna believe it, but I bet ya anything this’ll knock yer socks off.  It’s a gasser, I tell ya.  A real smash!”

Johnny looked at the assembled group in their expensive suits and knew that he would really have to break out the big guns.  It was like looking at a pride of animals at the zoo.  For the moment, the large desk was enough to keep them at bay as they blinked at Johnny with boredom and disinterest.  Their attire was regal, but their viciousness was legend.  Johnny needed to make each move skillfully and cautiously.  He could only hope to leave the room with the angry crowd smiling and well-fed, not hungry for his head on a plate.

“Now ya see”, Johnny began as he wiped the sweat from his brow, “we have a killer story here.  It’s a real knock-‘em dead adventure.”  Johnny suddenly became aware that he had left his laptop in the car.  He would have to improvise.  Removing his gray suit jacket and exposing his white shirt and button-up vest, Johnny felt very much like a slab of pasty veal.  The higher-ups looked at the young fellow, realized just how ripe he was, and started sharpening their claws.

“Mr. Goodspeak”, the largest, oldest, and baldest of the man said as he sat forward in his leather chair.  “We really don’t have time for-“

“Right!”  Johnny clapped his hands and threw his arms up in the air and gestured for the men to sit back.  When he saw just how much he had sweated through his armpits on his shirt, Johnny hurried to pull his limbs back down.

“You’re busy fellows!  I get that; let’s cut to the chase.  We’re in ancient Egypt.  We have views of pyramids being built.  We really have to bring out the history here.  I mean, the story is a fun one, but there’s educational value to it as well.  That’s how we pitch it.  See, everyone knows about the giant pyramids.  They’re a wonder of the world, for crying out loud.  But what they don’t know is that there was a corner that had never been opened.  It’s location off to the side, and underground, kept it hidden until we had the technology to find it.”

“And in this tomb?”  The largest man spoke with venom in his voice.  If he hadn’t started shooting daggers at Johnny yet, he was certainly sharpening them.

“A bee”, Johnny said.  “A giant, mummified bee!”

“A bee”, the man replied, clearly bored.  “You’re wasting our time with… a bee?”

“Now wait just one second fellas.  Ya gotta hear me out.  I said it was a giant bee.  We’re talkin’ about a creature the size of a Volkswagen Bug!”

Johnny paused for a chuckle in response to his joke.  He heard none.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth had not yet begun, but he could sense it approaching ever closer.

“Anyways”, he said as he pulled his tie looser.  “This giant bee has been mummified the whole time.  But somehow; magic, honey, amber; we don’t need to understand right now, the bee’s alive!  We meet this bee when the wall comes down and he sends the people into a frenzy of panic.  This deep and booming voice comes bellowing out of the giant mummy-insect.  As strips of fabric fall off of its rotted face and his ancient wings beat frighteningly, the bee manages to call out in tone of doom, “Bee-warrrreee.”

“Bee-ware?  Honestly?  That’s the story you have for us?”

“I, that is, if we got the right person to voice the bee, it’d work.”  Johnny felt the sweat dripping down his back but did nothing.  At this point, all he could do was stand and face his attackers head on.  Fleeing for safety was no longer an option.

“And just who, dare I ask; did you have in mind for this?”

“Christopher Lee”, Johnny answered timidly.

“Christopher Lee.”  The man laughed.  “You think the man that did Dracula, and Tolkein is going to be associated with this stupid tale?”

“He was in Star Wars”, Johnny replied.

“Pff.  That proves nothing.  He was a Bond villain, for crying out loud.”

“Yes”, said the man to the right of the leader, pointer finger out-stretched in proper correcting form.  “But it was a Roger Moore one.”

“So?  Heath, you’ve really got to get over this whole Sean Connery obsession.  It’s annoying.”

“You’re just jealous that I played golf with him and you never did.”

“Because you didn’t invite me!  He called later and asked why I didn’t come!  I told him I didn’t know anything about it.”

“I still consider that a favor to the great Sean Connery.”

The leader roared in anger and rose up to his full height.  The dissenter got the message, sunk back in his chair, and picked at what was left of the T-bone steak in front of him.

“Look son”, the leader said, returning his attention to Johnny.  “We’re just not interested.”

“But I’m telling you, it’s a great story!  It’ll be scary and educational and if we shoot in the desert we can save all our efforts and production funding for the bee!”

“I’ve been in this business a long time, kid.”  The man stood up, his display of being an attentive audience member was over.  He leaned back slightly, tucked his hands into the pockets on his vest, and pulled out a solid gold pocket watch with the left.  “You simply don’t have a hit on your hands.”

“You haven’t even let me tell you about the main character.  Sandy Trapps confronts the bee in the dusty tombs and finds out a way to kill it!”

“Let me guess, this Trapps fellow finds a way to drop a giant piece of stone on the bee at the last minute?”

“How… how did you know?  I just wrote the ending last week.”

“Story as old as time kid”, the man said as he made a show of checking his timepiece.  “And your time is up.  We’re due for dinner.”

“Wait, there’s just one more thing!”  Panic had fully set in for Johnny.  He needed something that would save his skin.  “What if… what if Sandy Trapps is a hot female archaeologist?”

A silence fell over the room.  Johnny could see mouths closing, minds at work, and cash registers adding in the men’s eyes.  “You mean, like Tomb Raider?  We don’t want to get sued over this.  I mean, it has potential.  But I don’t want to be in litigation and get bad press.”

“No, no, she’ll be blonde.  Sandy blonde; get it?”

“Does she have to be blonde?”  The man to the right of the alpha-male had spoken up once again.  “I hear Catherine Zeta-Jones is in terrific shape.  She was in that movie with Sean Connery, y’know.”

“Jenkins!  Enough with the Connery!  I’ll lock you in a cage and melt the key if you don’t keep quiet.”

“Yes sir.”

“Now son, this is a promising idea.  Blonde, that’s inspired.  Genius.  What else did you have in mind for her?”

“Smart, adventurous; she’ll be able to talk her way out of trouble with tomb robbers and supervisors that don’t want her in the field.  She’ll cause too much ruckus out in the ‘quiet’ world of history.  She’ll be capable and savvy.”

“Okay, but will she be wearing a tank top?  We’re gonna need her in tight clothing.”

“Oh yes, sir.  Absolutely, sir.”  Johnny mentally shook his head sideways, but outwardly nodded in agreement.  You gotta give a little to get a lot, he told himself.

“Terrific.  And maybe there can be some underground lake that she swims in and gets trapped.  Movies with women in swimsuits are dynamite.  We’ll blow the box office lid wide open!”

“Yes sir”, Johnny agreed again.

“I tell ya what boy, why don’t you come and prowl the town with us?  We were going to have some lamb skewered and served raw, but I think we could all use a drink.  What say you join us down by the watering hole?  My treat.”

Johnny scrambled for his jacket and nodded excitedly.  He had survived his first meeting with the dominant-crowd.  But a part of Johnny couldn’t stop worrying that he would end up devoured by it all.

The Nanite Prophecy

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.

The Nanite Prophecy

The city’s full of people who you just see around.” -Terry Pratchett

Those that came into contact with Jordan knew that he wasn’t quite well in the head.  Jordan knew it too.  He stood on the street corner and scratched the back of his ear.  There was something about the way that the sun shone down at twelve seventeen each day that made his head itch.  He had somehow developed this quirk over the years and couldn’t stop himself.  He lowered his head and saw his ratty shoes at his feet while his right hand went about its daily routine of attending to the irritated ear.

He often found himself muttering uncontrollably to himself and anyone who happened to be within range.  He heard secrets whispered on the streets and never knew if they were imagined or real.  Whenever he thought he could convince someone, he would stop them and tell them the unshared mysteries that were rattling around in his head.  As a man in a white polo shirt, khakis, and opaque sunglasses strolled down the street, Jordan decided that this stranger might comprehend a recent fact that the homeless man had learned.

“Sir”, Jordan called out as he stepped in front of the polo-man.  “I was wondering, I know that there’s, if you have a second to…”  Jordan felt his voice trail off.

The polo-man’s eyes were covered so Jordan couldn’t see what he was thinking.  There was no sneer or bearing of teeth, so Jordan cleared his throat and tried to collect his scattered thoughts.  He saw that his arms had been wildly gesticulating in front of him, reaching too close to the polo-man.  With effort, Jordan was able to pull the arms down to his side.  He had seen totem poles before, in the life that he could only remember in patches.  Jordan recalled that the tall wood creation had inspired awe and prominence, so he pulled his hands close to his sides and held them there.  It was his belief that this stiff form was more respectable and less threatening to others.

“Could you; if you have the time, I want to talk to you.”

The polo-man looked at his watch.  “I don’t know.  I really am on my way to-”

“It’s important!”

Jordan stopped.  He hadn’t meant to yell.  Again, he found his arms stretched out towards the stranger.  He realized that his actions suggested that he wanted to strangle the polo-man, when that was the last thing he wanted.  He shoved his hands deep into his pockets.  So strong was his desire to control himself that he felt his pants slip lower from the hands’ downward pressure.  Jordan took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and focused on the sunset picture in the travel agent’s window that he passed every day.

“Please”, Jordan said with his eyelids still closed.  “I only want to explain something.”

When he returned his gaze to the polo-man, Jordan found that the stranger was taking him in.  His shoulders’ had loosened noticeably and he hadn’t run away like so many other people did.  Now polo-man was looking at Jordan with one eyebrow raised over the sunglasses’ lens in curiosity.

“Okay”, polo-man replied.  “What is it?”

Jordan clapped his hands in glee.  Finally.  Someone would understand him.  There was a person in the world who would listen!  Once he got this man to understand, then he would join him.  The two of them would form a group, which would branch into other groups; soon their numbers would be legion!  There was hope!  The world didn’t have to turn out so sad!  Jordan pictured the polo-man as a giant teddy bear of happiness and managed to keep his hands in his pockets.  He needed to keep control.  That was what mattered.

“Have you heard about nanorobotics?”

“You mean, like tiny machines?”

“Exactly!”  Jordan couldn’t believe his luck.  This man really would get it.  “You see, the government has been working on nanites for years.  But not in the capacity that you think they have.  These… these these these things are being manufactured at an incredible rate.  They have; they… I should tell you about they.  No.  First nanites.  They make them self-replicating.  They make one, that one makes another.   It’s a house of cards but they’re all jokers.  Heh.  Joke.  So once they’ve got a collection of nanites, they can use those to make more nanites.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.  More begets more.”

Jordan paused to gauge the polo-man’s reaction.  So far, he was only nodding politely.

“Now, I know what you’re thinking.  I can see it.  See it clear on your face.  The part of your face that I can see.  Strange.  Your wearing glasses on a cloudy day.   Maybe sensitive.  Sensitive is good, right?  It helps you understand.  You can filter out the sun; filter out the junk.  Right!  Junk!  Garbage.  Garbage is where they’re getting all these nanites.  See, they set up their labs in or near junkyards.  Trash depots.  Who’s going to care if things go missing from a junkyard?  A dog maybe.  Slobbering dogs.  Sharp teeth.  Had one as a kid once.  Bit my leg.  Want to see?”

“No, thanks.”  The polo-man smiled.  It was an obvious show of kindness, but he maintained a safe distance between them.  “And where are all these nanites?  I mean, how many of them could there be?”

“How many he asks… millions!  Billions!  More than the sands in the desert or the stars in the sky.  That’s what The Bible says, right?  Which is more?  More sand or more stars?  Not a geologist.  Barely an astronomist.  Do like space though.  Quiet, serene.  Not like here.  Busy streets.  Lots of cars and people.  Oh, people!  On sidewalks, yes.  That’s where all these nanites are.

“See, the sidewalks and streets beneath us?  How they’re all new and clean?”  Jordan waited until the polo-man nodded his head.  “That’s just it.  They claim that they’re creating a new kind of pavement, and they are.  You have to… there’s a new quality about this pavement.  The top layer is all nanites.  The government, those elected officials; they’ll say that they have a reason for them.  Say that the constant movement of millions of pieces will create warmth and will reduce snow.  If snow and ice don’t stick to pavement, then less accidents.  They say they’re trying to help us.  They’re replacing salt and deicer with little nanites that can repair the streets after chains drive over them.  Or through them.  Moving means they’re too warm or too quick to let moisture settle.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?”

“I’d say so”, the polo-man replied with a chuckle.  “I hate driving in snow.”

“Right!  Right!  Causes problems.  People want less problems.  Less challenges.  Can’t handle the stress.  Well, they’ll have more than they can handle.  It’s the nanites, I tell ya.  The nanites.  They aren’t just covering every inch of the ground that you walk on, they’re covering the shoes that you walk with.  Think about it.  Nanites could cling to your shoes.  They could embed themselves in your rubber soles.  Then they’ll use your soles to track your souls.  Same word, but different.  Must be true.  They could use satellites!  Astronomists’ satellites!  Each nanite could send a unique signal.  Bond to shoes.  Shoes get tossed?  Make more nanites.  They’ll have an endless supply.”

Jordan saw the polo-man looking to his watch as he took small steps away from him.  Jordan was losing him.

“Look, they’ll track us.  They’ll be able to measure us by our weight.  Amount of pressure will change as we change.  Use that to charge us more for insurance.  If you have insurance.  Can send police after you.  Can find you.  You worry about police tracking with phone GPS?  GPS phones are nothing.  Nanites are everything.  Nanotechnology will tell them where we are at all times.  Build transmitters to record our conversations.  Shoes, socks, feet; the nanites won’t differentiate!  It’s only a matter of time before we’re all cyborgs.  Only one way to stop them.”

“And what’s that?”

“Extremes!  Got to embrace the extremes.  Walk around downtown with ice packs.  Tape them to shoes.  I can’t; don’t have any now.  Have run out.  But if those nanites tried to crawl upwards, they’d be frozen in the cold packs.  Couldn’t work.  Would die.  Problem sovled.  No cold packs with me.  Ran out.  Hold my feet over the campfire each night.  That takes care of them.  Extremes.  Too much hot, too much cold, they’re done.  Trust me, my friend.  Those feet of yours are in danger!”

The polo-man had heard enough.  “I’ll keep that in mind”, he said.  “Thanks for talking to me.”  With that, he continued on his path.

Jordan pulled his hands free of his pockets and rubbed them together in one big fist.  His fingers weren’t cold, but they were nervous.  Had the man believed him?  Surely he must’ve.  This had to be one of the stories he heard that was true.  The voice had said it was true.  It had been such a smart voice too; they had used big words and everything.  And if polo-man believed him, then others would.  Jordan decided right then and there; he would tell everyone he saw about the government’s use of nanorobotics.

The excited homeless man stopped intertwining his hands together and now clapped them in joy and exuberance.  He had a mission.  He had a plan.

Jordan was so excited that he hadn’t noticed the polo-man.  The stranger ducked into the doorway of a nearby apartment building.  From his perch, the polo-man could keep an eye on Jordan as he made a phone call.  His face had grown somber since passing by the homeless man.  Finally, the other party answered their phone.

“Sir, it’s Stevens”, the polo-man said.  “We have a serious security breach in the program.”

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