Dough is Better than “D’oh!” (Weekly Writing Challenge)

No really. You should use the Weekly Writing Challenge.  Do it!  Or don’t.

“Nothing can bring peace but yourself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


Work was vexing Alan. Traffic had been terrifying, as usual. Sleep was not nearly abundant enough. And purring kittens were not allowed at work.

However, no one ever said Alan couldn’t make cookie dough at his desk. His hands and soul found a tranquil peace in the kneading and gnashing.



Being Constructive with Downtime

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.

Being Constructive with Downtime

Sooner barbarity than boredom.” -Theophile Gautier

Lance was bored to tears; which as any construction worker knows, is not something a guy wants to be on the worksite.  It was the start of a long holiday weekend and traffic had done an admirable job of clogging up the highway.  For Lance, this meant that the shipment of resized I-beams was stuck in the sea of minivans, campers, and RVs that towed along an extra car “just in case”.  Lance had been up in the crane operator since four that morning and the desire to take off early kept biting at him.  Of course, due to numerous delays like the one that was occurring at the moment, the building was behind schedule.

The long hot summer had been made “interesting” by the seemingly endless list of problems.  The sub-contractors that decided they were too busy to run electric were by far the biggest inconvenience.  The buried bones that caused them to call up the authorities didn’t help matters either, but once they determined that the land used to be a horse ranch, the matter was cleared up rather quickly.  (Lance kept telling people that the horse’s tailbones didn’t look anything like human fingers, but no one had listened to him.)  And no one on the site could forget Joe, the out-of-control apprentice who desired it would be great sport to fire off the riveting gun at anyone who annoyed him.  Joe had been dismissed and essentially banned from any construction gig in the next four counties, but he had left a wake of destruction behind him.  Wallboard had needed to be replaced, meetings had to be held about safety, and a few of the men had been banged up rather severely in the attempt to sedate Joe.

ImageIf Lance were being honest, he was rather shocked that they weren’t more set back than they were.  He liked to think his skill as a crane operator was a key reason why.  He never had to make a second attempt.  The many seasons of operating the crane had honed his technique and the crane’s hook and cables stopped exactly where he want when he wanted.  He had watched other operators try to line up their target only to have to adjust and move and adjust again.  Each time Lance shook his head and patted himself on the back for his shining record.

For all the congratulating, Lance still found himself sitting where he had been.  The perch above it all afforded him with a pleasant view, but it was a view he had taken in far too much lately.  The same buildings and patches of grass that were visible today had been there the last four months.  He enjoyed his on-high vantage point at the top of the crane tower, but he had run out of interesting sights to take in.  The mountains off in the distance, towering above the pithy domiciles in the forefront, were hiding behind a thick layer of crowds.  Lance expected large droplets of rain to begin accumulating on his front window at any time.

Looking down to the ground, he thought he saw the work crew walking around.  Sure enough, there was the boss wearing his green construction helmet.  Everyone else had been comfortable with the standard colors.  Red, orange, white; all were high-visibility rated helmets and they all worked just fine.  However the boss had decided that he should special order his green helmet.  He claimed that his gear, “made him feel in touch with the earth that they were working with” and that it, “helped us all respect and reconnect with the dirt”.  Fluffy comments like that made Lance ill.

He wanted to dig a big hole, put in some concrete, and make sure the walls wouldn’t fall over.  Lance was no crazy tree-hugger, he just wanted to build four walls and call it a day.  His two sons were driving his wife nuts and she kept asking him how long he would have to pull double shifts.  The job was taking Lance away from his kids which was putting a strain on Laura, who in turn put the strain right back on him.  A nice view wasn’t worth much to Lance when he’d rather be playing football with his boys.

The options were plentiful for Lance.  He could wish that his crane was magically a mile longer and then he could pick up the truck that was stuck in traffic.  He could use his precision aim to grab his boss by the shoulder and lift him up into the air until they all realized that the day was wasted and the crew could all go home.  Or he could do what made the most sense and try to relax.

Land decided that wasn’t a half bad idea and tried to make get comfortable.  He cranked up the volume on the radio and pulled his phone out of his pocket.  He placed the phone on his chest while he laid back and let his head drape over the back of the seat.  He checked one last time to ensure that the control panel was turned off and then he used it to rest his feet on.  Kicking back and closing his eyes, Lance decided that he might as well try to get a little nap in.  He decided it was better to take a nap than to vent his frustration on all the nearby parked cars.  He was quite sure he could hit them all with the portable restrooms strewn about, but he decided being employed was a better option.  Lance might have been bored, but he wasn’t that bored.  At least, not yet; it was only four in the evening after all.

Traffic that Drags-on

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.

Dragon Driving

“There’d better be a seven-car accident or so help me…”  Alan didn’t finish his threat.  He sat behind the steering wheel of his mini-van and thought of the daycare that charged an extra twenty dollars per kid for every fifteen minutes he was late.  He stopped himself from adding up the bill, knowing it would only anger him more.  He tapped his fingers rapidly on the steering wheel and heard his wedding ring resonate against the imitation wood material.  Right then he heard the Capture Copters fly overhead and he knew what the cause of the delay was.

“Mother flappin’ dragons”, Alan cursed.

He remembered back to simpler times.  Once there was a cool, confident Alan.  That Alan did not have to shave his head every week to hide the fact he was going bald.  The Alan of years past worked out and was an excellent climber, not the guy who still had to pay off this eight-seat gas-gulping glutton.  It was true that the man from ten years ago didn’t have the lovely wife he had now.  Leslie was always kind enough to rub his back just right when he needed, (which he certainly would tonight) but ten years ago he also didn’t have to worry about the scaly predators ruining his evening commute.  He gripped the steering wheel with his thin fingers and yearned for simpler times.

The scientists were to blame.  If those flappin’ eggheads had left the volcanoes alone, none of these creatures would be plaguing society.  Alan understood the need for tapping into geothermal energy.  He even thought that those cool cyber-enhanced suits that the nerds put on to survive the extreme heat were pretty slick.  He could have used one of those to change diapers back when Amy, a.k.a., the unending pooper, was younger.  But why couldn’t they have tapped into the other side of the volcano?  Why did they have to go into that chamber and find those perfectly preserved eggs in the sealed off cave?  Stupid avalanche maintaining a stupid incubator for stupid dragon eggs, Alan thought.

Trying to bring extinct mythical creatures back to life never seemed like a good idea to Alan.  He thought it was a bad idea then and his declining gas tank and the stop and go traffic only confirmed it.  However the public at large had disagreed with him.  Crowds like to cheer for the underdog and there is no greater underdog than a species that had been extinct for thousands of years.  When scientists in different countries took the DNA and either hatched or grew their own animals, the general public was fascinated.  Soon, every major country had an established area for the dragons.  London had the most famous preserve, well known for its foggy and eerie setting and location near fresh ocean water.  Alan had heard from friends in Los Angeles that the dragons seemed to breed extremely fast there.  He didn’t know any details, but had heard something about the smog in the air providing cover and warmth.

For all the fascination that the scaly creatures invoked, Alan was shocked at how little they talked about the downsides of the humongous pests.  First off, the dragons never actually stayed in their flappin’ preserves.   At first, the hippies and the pet-huggers had tried to create open-air zoos.  They thought dragons wouldn’t leave the next.  Morons, Alan thought as a car whizzed by him at twelve miles an hour.  No, the dragons had quickly disproven that notion when they escaped quickly and frequently from the London Zoo of Mythical Creatures, the San Diego Dragon Dome, and the Australian Great Outback and Giant Creatures Exploratorium.  All three had tried to let the dragons fly free and all three spent month recapturing the dragons after almost all their creatures escaped.

Alan had honestly believed that the craze would have died down after that.  He figured that having several small towns entirely torched and thousands of people killed by hungry reptiles or the napalm-like flame would have diminished people’s affinity for them.  He was wrong.  If anything, people became more intrigued.  The dragons became even a bigger part of global culture.  After The Terrible Escape, a new word that had previously been harmless had universally been accepted as a swear word.  Now, every day, Alan heard how, “Fred is so scorched” or “The dentist says I have seven cavities.  Scorch me.”

And of course, like all ill-behaved things that are famous; the dragons got their own television show. The first, and still the most popular, DragonWorld had acquired ratings like no one had ever seen before.  The first season was watched by ninety percent of the viewing public.  It’s spin-off, complete with people who suffered accidental attacks and behind the scene footage, Scorched, was the show that everyone shared clips from.  The censors had tried to block the name from appearing in public, but since it had been a perfectly legitimate word for thousands of years their attempts were jeered and mocked.

A car behind Alan honked in annoyance.  Alan waved him off without looking.  He turned on the radio and listened to the news.  It was exactly as he had expected; a dragon had escaped its enclosure.  Dirigibles; slow moving balloons with floating labs attached beneath them, were kept in constant patrol around dragon enclosures.  The blimps had a special light-weight multi-weave Nomex fabric that was resistant to the dragons’ flames and most of their clawed attacks.  There was still the report every now and then of a blimp going down, but it seemed that as long as the dirigibles didn’t challenge the dragons, they were left alone.

The Capture Copters were a different matter altogether.  Even Alan was impressed by them.  The CCs were fast; amazingly fast.  When a dragon was on the loose, CCs flew straight towards them.  Early attempts to use vertical take-off jets had failed miserably because they simply couldn’t match the dragon’s maneuverability.  Helicopters seemed like a better fit, but they were too slow.  Until they created the CCs.  Using sound-cancelling waves, the machines flew almost silently.  They also had very low emissions, meaning the dragons couldn’t actually detect them unless they saw the CCs.

These frightfully fast choppers were loaded with equipment.  There were metallic nets with weights and hooks fired out of high-powered cannons, there were sedative darts thick enough to pierce through a block of concrete (twice the approximate thickness of a dragon’s scales), and of course, fire-suppressing foam that adhered to any surface and extinguished most flames in seconds.  These tools worked great; assuming the dragons didn’t veer off unexpectedly, which they did quite often.  There were rumors of more powerful weapons on the CCs, but officials had chalked it all up to urban myth.  Alan laughed at the press releases.  He had heard plenty of stories of powerful missile-like devices and massive bullets being fired from the CCs.  He knew that even something as popular as dragons had to have something secretive about them.

To Alan, dragons were just one more hazard in life.  Open air pools were quickly abandoned due to their attraction for escaped dragons looking for an easy meal.  If a dragon was high enough in the air, their scales were shed and sent to the ground at terminal velocity, threatening those below.  The perching on suspension bridge supports, the diving attempts to pluck food trucks from highways; and that was all ignoring the fact that the monsters spewed fire.  Alan simply didn’t get it.  He liked life back when he knew he wouldn’t go to a baseball game and find a dragon trying to eat the players of both teams.  (Professional baseball just wasn’t the same after that summer.  The dragon ate the season’s MVP; why couldn’t it have gobbled the other team’s guy?)

With a lot pffft, Alan saw a net shoot through the air and hit the dragon on the left wing.  It was hardly a bull’s eye, but the dragon starting falling to the ground.  The arc of the creature took it over the highway and then towards the lake.  Right before the dragon hit the water, darkness hit Alan’s windshield along with a loud liquid sound.  He quickly yanked his emergency break with one hand while shielding his face with the other.

A few moments later, Alan slowly uncovered his eye and looked to his window.  He was still alive and the window had held, even though it was covered in cracks and green-brown material.  Oh no…, Alan thought as he got out of his car.  No sooner had his feet hit the pavement when the powerfully pungent smell slammed into him.  The dragon had been so terrified by its capture that it had panicked.  That terror had resulted in it leaving Alan the biggest “present” he had ever seen.

“Well, crap”, he said as he surveyed his car.  He looked and saw the drivers around him.  Half of them were horrified and rolling up their windows, the other half were bursting with laughter.  Alan pulled his phone from his pocket and sighed out of resignation.  Hopefully Leslie’s mother could pick up the kids.  Alan wasn’t going anywhere.

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