(Weekly Writing Challenge) In Which Pooh and His Friends Meet The Walking Dead

This week’s Writing Challenge wanted things set in a different locale.  I suppose I could have taken their suggestions.  But once I thought of Winnie the Pooh playing in the world of The Walking Dead, I didn’t want to imagine any other amalgams.  So, with apologies to Kirkman and Milne, that’s what you get.  (It isn’t quite an entry for The Tall Tales Tavern section, but it’s close.)

P.S.  This  is my 200th post.  ???  That’s insane.
———-

No brain at all, some of them [people], only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake, and they don’t Think.” -A. A. Milne

One day, Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Roo, and Eeyore were off on adventure. They had, at Tigger’s insistence, been visiting the nearby lands. Tigger was absolutely sure that there might be others just like him in this other place, and so they traveled until they came upon a strange scene. Christopher Robin had been forced to stay behind after a little bit, but the others had traveled on. Now, they found themselves entering a building.

It was the first building that they had seen all day that wasn’t built around a tree or a cave. The entire place was one big square with high walls made of a very grey looking stone, Owl said it was called “koncrate”, with tall fences all around. The fences were much bigger than ones around their friends’ gardens. These were big and scary and had sharp points at the top. However, with what they had just seen, Tigger had urged them all to run inside.

prison photo from Wiki Commons

prison photo from Wiki Commons

“Hurry up, hurry”, Tigger said to the others.

“You’ve gotta see this place”, declared Roo.

“We have other matters to attend to”, Rabbit said as the group entered through a large, heavy door. “What about Christopher Robin? He looked to be in quite the state.”

“Pooh, those other creatures were a bit scare- scare- scary”, said Piglet. What do you think that we should do?”

Pooh sat there and he thought. And he thought. And he thought some more. However, Pooh was a bear of very little brains. He watch as Owl flew in and perched on a rusted-metal railing.

“Owl”, Pooh said. “Did you see where they took Christopher Robin?”

“Took him?” Owl was confused. “What makes you think they took him?”

“They was gettin’ all rough with him”, Tigger said. “They was swarming him from the left, they swarmed from the right. They was on top of ‘im. Why, if I hadn’t been spending my time gettin’ Roo to safety, I could have tackled them all. Being the champion people-pulling-off-er is what Tiggers do best.”

“I wasn’t scared”, Roo said.

“Oh, that?” Owl started to chuckle. “They weren’t going to hurt him. No, that was a game that people play called pig pile.”

“Aaaaahhhhh”, the other animals all said to voice their understanding.

“It is really quite an old tradition”, Owl continued. “When a person comes to another that they haven’t seen in a while, they jump on top of him. And if there are more people around, they jump on too.”

“But Owl”, said Piglet. “What about Christopher Robin? He was making such an awful noi- noi- noise. Are you sure those were people and not Heffalumps? I couldn’t get very close but they sure did seem like they could have been Heffalumps. Or maybe even Woozles”, he said with a shudder.

“Piglet has a point”, Pooh said. “We have hunted Woozles before and they travel in groups. I have seen their footprints. Their groups keep getting bigger and bigger. I am a Bear of no brain at all, but I don’t want to dessert Christopher Robin. Of course, I don’t want to break up any family fun, either. Oh, bother.”

“Well Christopher Robin knows what he’s doing”, Rabbit said. “He would want us to trust him and to let him think of a plan.”

“I agree, Rabbit”, Pooh said. “But he was making a rather awful noise when we left him.”

“That’s not a noise”, Tigger insisted. “Why, you want a terrible noise, you should hear a Tigger on the prowl. When we’re ready to strike, there’s nothing more terrifying. We hunch back like this. We wiggle our tails, like this. And we let out an absolutely fur-crawling growl like this,

Worraworraworraworraworra!”

“Hallo there, Tigger”, Pooh said. “Would you mind doing something else? I think you have upset poor Piglet.”

“That’s because I’m fierce”, Tigger said as he wagged his tail excitedly. “I’m ready, I’m brave, I’m courageous. Who cares if those fellas were walking around missing a few arms or legs?”

“What’s wrong with someone losing a body part”, Eeyore asked.

“Oh! Eeyore! I hadn’t even seen you come in”, Rabbit said.

zombie-md“That’s okay”, the grey donkey said. “You don’t have to pay attention to me. Nobody ever does. Nobody ever remembers to check on me. Maybe they’re like me. It isn’t their fault that they don’t have an arm here or an eye there. Maybe somebody took their limb and used it as a door knocker or a back-scratcher.”

“Ar-hem”, Owl said as he flapped his wings and ruffled his neck feathers. “I hardly think that is what happened here”, he said. “Why, if something was borrowing body parts I am sure it happened entirely on accident. If the persons asked for their parts back, they would get them. Any creature can make an honest mistake like that.”

“Well I want to know what we’re going to do”, Rabbit said. “I want to go back to my home and water my garden. This building is nowhere near as warm and inviting as my place. Why, look all these drab and gray walls. There are hardly any windows. There is no color at all. And do you hear that? Those things are trying to get in. They keep moaning and throwing themselves against the fences.”

Rabbit was right. As the others stopped talking, they could hear it. A low, moaning, troubling sound of a horde trying to get enter.

“Owl”, said Roo. “What does this mean?”

Roo pointed to a sign above the door with large letters saying, PRISON RULES, followed by a number of instructions beneath it.

“Why, those are the instructions for a game that is held by the owner, a son of Pri, I imagine. That way any creature that shows up late can read those instructions and join in the fun. This Pri and his family must have quite a few parties.”

“A party? It must be nice to be invited to that kind of party”, Eeyore said. “Not that I ever was.”

“Excuse me”, Pooh said. “But has anyone else got a rumbling in their tummy?” He laughed at himself. “I should like to fill it. Piglet, are you hungry?”

“Why, yes”, Piglet said. “I think I am.”

“Well then there’s only one thing to do”, Rabbit said. “We must find the kitchen. Certainly a place this large must have one.”

“I wonder if they have any honey”, Pooh said to no one in particular.

“Oh good” Roo said, “Food!”

“That sounds like an excellent plan, only we mustn’t eat too much. I’m sure that’s listed in the rules”, Owl offered.

“Rules, thppppb.” Tigger had stuck out his tongue and was shaking his head. “Tiggers don’t like rules. We like bouncin’. So I’m going to bounce to the kitchen. And I’ll do it fast. C’mon, Roo!”

The group of friends all ran around the building. There was a series of long hallways with lots of small rooms. But there was no food behind any of the heavy doors, only uncomfortable beds and very tiny wells with a little water in each of them. Eeyore thought the metal switch at the base of the well was interesting. He could not only see his face in the water, but on the metal surface too. But then he pushed the lever and the little whirlpool in the lake tried to take his ear away. After that, he felt he would rather find some food.

Soon, they entered another room. In it, were rows of shelves. On the shelves were boxes of food, cans of food, and boxes filled with cans.

“Oh, there doesn’t seem to be any jars”, Pooh said sadly.

“This isn’t proper Tigger food”, Tigger said. “These are as bad as haycorns and thistles. Tiggers don’t eat this stuff.”

“I don’t even see a single carrot”, Rabbit said.

“Pooh”, Piglet said as he pulled at his friend’s leg. “Couldn’t we go home now? I feel my bravery is just about full for the day. I’d like to get out of this place. Maybe we could play some Poohsticks?”

“That does sound rather more inviting than this”, Rabbit offered.

“I will bow to the whims of the majority”, Owl said. “However I would like to stretch my wings and see a few more trees.”

“Tiggers don’t like being cooped up”, Tigger said. “Let’s bust outta here.”

798px-The_original_Winnie_the_Pooh_toysEveryone agreed. They missed the hundred acre woods and it was beginning to get dark out.

“Are they going to all come running towards us as soon as we open the doors?” Roo looked excited as he ran back and forth between all his friends. “Do you think they’ll try to jump on us too? I think that would be fun!”

“Oh, I don’t think they will give us much notice”, Owl said. “They didn’t seem to notice us before. They seem to prefer their own kind.”

“We don’t want to be rude”, Pooh said.

“No, of course not. We will be perfectly polite”, Rabbit said. “However, Owl is correct. They only wanted to visit with Christopher Robin. They certainly didn’t invite any of us to tea. And no wonder, if this is the kind of food that these creatures like.”

“Well, they’re not Tiggers, that’s for sure”, Tigger said.

“Pooh, do you really think it will be all right?”

“Yes Piglet”, Pooh said. “I believe that we shall all get home fine.”

“Are you sure- sure- sure?” Piglet rubbed his hooves together and started to feel quite small in such a big moment. “I’m scared.”

“Piglet, there’s no need to be scared”, Pooh said.

“There isn’t?”

“No”, Pooh said as he chuckled. “Wouldn’t you want your best friends with you when life got frightening and troubling?”

“Yes Pooh.”

“And aren’t we friends?”

“Oh yes, Pooh”, Piglet replied with a smile.

“You bet we are, ol’ buddy!” Tigger bounced and laughed happily.

“Then as long as our friends are along, everything is just fine. I’ll take care of you, and you’ll take care of me.”

“Quite right”, Rabbit said. “Now let’s head out”, he said a slight twinge of his whiskers.

“Besides”, Eeyore said. “If they are all going to jump on somebody and take away their tails, it will probably happen to me. That’s how it always goes.”

Roo ran to the door and pulled on it. He pulled again. And he pulled some more. Tigger and Rabbit came alongside and they pulled too. The door was a lot heavier from the inside than it had been on the outside.

Owl flew up high and urged them on. Roo pulled on the door. Tigger pulled on Roo. Rabbit pulled on Tigger. Piglet pulled on Rabbit. Pooh pulled on Piglet. And Eeyore pulled on Pooh. Finally, the door began to open.

The friends ran out, Owl flew ahead, and the gate was opened. A sea of strange people walked up. They never even looked at the animals. They rudely shuffled forward, a tired look in their eyes and a strong hunger in their bellies. Soon, there were no people left outside.

Sensing that no one wanted to talk with them, the animals headed home. Roo jumped around and talked to Tigger about what appendages he would like to do without. Eeyore looked and made sure his tail hadn’t been trampled on or had gone missing.

Owl flew just above Rabbit. The two talked about what reason there might be for the unemotional creatures ignoring them so rudely. (Eventually they decided that they would only have people for dinner and tea, not animals such as themselves. As Rabbit offered, they lacked his refined sense of taste.) Piglet, still anxious over what they had seen, held Pooh’s hand tightly.

Pooh was confused. He could have sworn he had seen Christopher Robin in the crowd. But when he had walked by, his friend hadn’t waved at all. Christopher Robin had sauntered by; the same tired look in his eyes that the rest of the people had. Perhaps this new game has him tired, Pooh thought to himself. It will all work out once I get some food in my tummy. Pooh was almost certain that there was honey at home. Or perhaps Rabbit would offer him some. Maybe they could all have a picnic under Owl’s tree.

Soon, the seven friends would all be home and they could forget all about those unwelcoming creatures. They still had each other. What more could they want than that?

 

(Here, we’ll end on something a little cheerier.  It’s all in good fun!)

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.

 

lead_chocolate_chip_cookie_dough_560px

Intermission: Horrbily Awry

Howdy,

No, I haven’t given up writing.  I can’t do that.  However, I do worry that my stories start to sound the same.  And I don’t want to crank out the same thing over and over with only little details changed.

However, I ain’t done yet.  Like it or not, I still think I have more stories in my brain.  If you want to jump ship, unfollow, or go about your business; now’s the time.  Be free!

For the rest of you… hi!  Long time no chat.  I find I have stuff to say that doesn’t always fit in a story.  Y’know, personal opinions, jokes, musings; stuff like that.  So, I’m here to officially announce… a second WordPress site!  What!!!

…Of Course, This Could All Go Horribly Awry” is live.  Now.  Click away!  (And follow if you’d like.  Up to you.)  I have thoughts on Jesus’ DNA/ blood.  I have an elevator question up my sleeve.  And you know I have opinions about stupid movies.

If you like my attitude, maybe even my style?  Join in.  These’ll be less fine-tuned (certainly less pictures from public domain), and much more personal.

And if you don’t want to join in?  That’s understandable.  For you, this video so you don’t feel like I wasted your time.  Enjoy!  Gratis!

Writer’s Digest(ion)

I will follow my instincts, and be myself for good or ill.”  -John Muir

**********

Consider this your first and only warning; if you are a person who finds that the sight of someone being sick makes you sick?  Then perhaps this story is not for you.  Hypochondriacs should take this as their cue to exit the story.  Should you decide that a story on nausea will not sit well with your stomach, I shall even give you the moral up front.  Ready?  It all comes back to the beginning.  The third part of a movie trilogy should make a reference to the first part.  Comic book origins will be retold (and in some cases retold and retold and retold; I am looking at you, Superman).  From the ground we come and to the ground we all return.  Food is no exception.

Consider yourself warned.  It's -that- kind of story.

Consider yourself warned. It’s -that- kind of story.

Happily, I tend to be like that episode of Seinfeld.  I throw up once every decade or so, usually less.  When folks ask why I do not drink, my hatred of puking is often cited.  Everything about vomiting sounds horrible.  There is the sight of one’s breakfast returned to them in the evening, the smell, and that tightening of the abdomen that you cannot control.  I do pretty much whatever I can to avoid that sort of occasion.  Still, even I get food sickness.  Again, I am fortunate enough that it does not happen too often.

The first memory that I have of such illness was in college.  I had been working as a cashier the night before and had been on a break.  I, much like Winnie the Pooh, had a rumbling in my tummy.  And the loading dock had a vending machine.  So, in all of my infinite wisdom, I put in my change, made a selection, and chomped away.

Now, in case this is not a lesson that you have learned already, let me make it abundantly clear.  Never, under any circumstances, buy meat from a vending machine.  Certainly not one at work that you know is only sporadically restocked with fresh product.  I know what you are thinking.  “Oh, but it’s vacuum sealed.  That means it’s okay, right?”  I am sure there is some scientific mumbo-jumbo we could throw back and forth, but here is my stance on the matter:  No.  Don’t do it.  Ever.

However, hindsight is twenty/twenty.  I was nineteen.  I was a silly college kid who was munching on two small logs of meat, enjoying the slightly spicy sensation in my mouth.  Had I known that I would soon be reliving that spiciness, I would have been less enthused.  (They later not only moved the vending machines, but they stopped carrying the meat sticks.  Still, whenever I see a vending machine of any variety, I approach it with a wary eye.)

Work ended, I slept, and the school day was upon me.  I was scheduled to perform some sketch in drama class that day, but my tummy was rumbling in a different sort of way.  (Instead of Winnie the Pooh, picture Tigger exercising his right to be “bouncy pouncy” over and over.)  I told the T.A. that I was not going to be up for assignment.  She told me it might affect my grade, and I nodded as I made my way out of class.

Right outside of the drama building there is a small patch of grass.  There are little concrete pathways around the perimeter, the brick building serves as a wall, and a tennis court is visible from its soft green terrain.  In the summer and spring quarters, it is not unusual for the students to set up a volleyball net and have a go at relieving their study-induced stress.  The grass is just big enough for the court and ten to twelve students, but no larger.  In the fall, the leaves lay happily on this patch of greenery.  It is, to put it simply, a pleasant escape from the large dwellings of academia.

I walked down the stairs of the drama building, and not ten steps into that grassy field, I fully embraced my own “escape” onto the grass.  Had I stayed in class five minutes longer I would have become the star of the day.  No one would have doubted my dedication to keeping an audience’s attention.  However, I was always more of a backstage tech than an actor, and therefore I was quite happy that my performance was seen by no one except whatever poor bugs were crawling around in the grass.  I groaned out thanks to God that my vomiting hadn’t occurred inside, and I made my way home.  That was my oh-so joyous food poisoning of ninety-nine.

It only looks like it's your friend.

It only looks like it’s your friend.

Flash forward fourteen years.  I am now an enlightened movie usher.  I know how my stomach works, I have control over my abdomen, and I had just taken the food handler’s permit test the week prior.  For the fourth time in a row, I had scored one hundred percent.  I was much wiser than the college-version of me.  I brought my food with me and happily placed it in the work microwave.  Being a professional food handler, I knew exactly why the instructions on my turkey pot pie warned me to make sure the food was heated to one hundred and sixty-five degrees.  Yet one of the many amenities you will not find near a work microwave (such as forks, napkins, plates, or canaries to sing you a merry song), is a thermometer.  I followed the instructions, thought the food was a little cool in places, but decided that everything would work out just fine.

Again we fast forward to the day after.  I was having a rather quiet day at work.  I had watched an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., done some reading, and generally kept the store from falling into a state of catastrophe. The usual customers had come in, there was a sense of calm about the place; all was well.

Then I started to feel cold.  Then warm.  My temperature is always pretty steady.  I can wear shorts in the fall, flannels in the spring; I don’t suffer great shifts in warmth.  Yet, the store felt cold all of a sudden.  I looked at the thermostat panel and everything seemed like it should be fine.  A few minutes later I was still feeling odd.

I found myself light-headed even though I was sitting.  I hadn’t moved quickly and I didn’t feel overly feverish.  I started to wonder if the sickness that had been sweeping through my coworkers had finally decided I needed to be dealt with.  My stomach protested the loudest.  I acknowledged its grievances and took action the only way that seemed logical.  I headed to the bathroom.

Like this, but -cleaner-.

Like this, but -cleaner-.

Thankfully my store has a reputation for being clean.  Even the bathroom floors are clean enough to sit on without complaint.  I can now attest to that fact.  Sure enough, with a little effort, some “secret ingredients” that I’m hopeful that the KFC next door has never used were vomited up.  It took a few tries, but I got it all out of my system.  I was rather pleased at how mild a case it had been.  Honestly, an hour later I was feeling much better.  (Which should serve as a lesson on gluttony; never buy two pot pies, nor should you opt for the Hungry Man size.  And if you do, nuke the crud out of those things.)

Now the question you’ve all been wondering.  Why the sam hill am I telling you this?  Am I bragging that I’ve only had food poisoning twice?  Am I this desperate for a story?  Am I a masochist when it comes to masticating?  Nope.  I simply want to point out that what goes around comes around; food for thought, if you will.  And that will become clearer when I share the piece of information that I left out.

Let us revisit the vending machine that I purchased the meat from.  I told you that they moved it, but I did not go into details.  The truth is, they moved it only a few feet, just around the corner.  In its place, they put a filing cabinet.  And on top of that filing cabinet?  Why, they gave us a nice little microwave; the same microwave that I heated up my pot pie in.  I in effect poisoned myself twice; both in the exact same spot.  I returned to the scene of the crime, in more ways than one.  It may take fourteen years, but much like an ill-chosen dinner will prove; what goes around comes around.

The Dating Game (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Weekly Writing Challenge is your friend.  Take advantage of it.  I do!)

But when the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.” -Mark Twain

**********

Greg picked up the fork in front of him and cursed.  It wasn’t anything that the fork had done in particular, but the sheer pronged nature of the utensil vexed the man.  Greg tried to gauge his reflection in the metallic surface, but the gaps in between the metal made this effort difficult.  It felt as though there was a little tweak of hair on the back part of his head that was sticking up.  He reached up, attempting to comb it down with his right hand while the fork was nearly strangled in Greg’s left.

Exhaling angrily, Greg’s frustration was evident.  Hearing a giggle, he quickly put the fork back on the table.  He didn’t care that the silverware was no longer uniform in what had been its carefully placed arrangement.  Greg was too concerned about any embarrassment that he might have earned.  He glanced from table to table, hoping that everyone else in the fancy restaurant was too focused on their tiny portions and shiny gold-accented plates to have taken in his grooming performance.

The waitress walked up to his table and refilled the water glass without asking.  She smiled briefly and then moved on to the next patron without a word.  Greg sighed and crumpled up the cloth napkin that resided on his lap in a jumbled mess.  How am I supposed to be engaging and interesting when the waitress, someone who is paid to be nice, barely even gives me the time of day?  This was not a good idea.

The notion of a dating service was not one that appealed to Greg.  He didn’t relish meeting new people.  He was a baseball referee.  He spent all his days surrounded by people, most of them drunk and loud.  The last thing he wanted to do when he got home was talk sports, or even worse; partake in small talk.  However there was only so much going back to an empty apartment that Greg could stand.  He was a solid provider; not prone to wild outbursts or violence like so many overpaid celebrities that tore up the stadiums.  Greg had it on good authority that he was highly dateable.  No less than three of his friends had said so.  It had taken a few beers for them to admit as much, but the friends had stated it after only a few prodding attempts from Greg.

REFEREEA striped uniform and a chrome-plated whistle were hardly the most alluring of attire, so Greg knew that meeting someone at work was unlikely.  He realized that he would have to enlist some outside help.  That was where the dating service came into play.

Greg had sat through the pre-game ceremonies that they had called, “initiation”.  He had detailed what he looked for in a woman, doing his best not to limit any potential candidates.  “Smart, fun, cute”, he had said with a shrug.  Skin color?  Religion?  Any beliefs that might clash with his?  Greg had shrugged and replied, “Well, I’d prefer if they weren’t too crazy.  I mean, I guess I’m looking for somebody who would appreciate me and want to spend time with me.  Someone… um, who’s fun, and smart.  Oh, and cute.”  Greg had felt his face turn red when he realized how repetitive he sounded.  The depersonalization of finding true love grated on him.

I hope she hasn’t ditched me, Greg considered.  It’s one thing to accept the awkwardness of a date that someone else sets up for you.  But to be stood up and left sitting alone?  She wouldn’t do that.  Would she?

The notion dawned on Greg that he really didn’t know anything about Sophia.  The phone message had been short and unhelpful.  A chipper voice had his voicemail, brushing the “perfect woman” for him in broad strokes.  “She’s got a great personality, really wonderful, and we just love her here at the office.  She’s got some fun opinions and she’s just great.  Sophia’s beautiful, of course, and has a spirit that really stands out.  I think you two will have a great time.”  Greg had hung up on his voice mail that morning, unconvinced.  Well isn’t that just great.  He marveled at how the staff could use dozens of phrases to say absolutely nothing; all in a cheery and lively voice, of course.

“Excuse me, are you Greg?”

Greg was startled awake at the tall figure that had placed her hand tentatively on the vacant chair.  He blinked himself back into full consciousness.  He blinked again.  Still trying to make sense of the sight across from him, Greg gulped down what moisture was left in his quickly drying throat.  Then he blinked a third time.

“Greg”, the woman prompted with a warm smile on her face.

“Yeah.  I mean, yes.  Please, have a seat”, he replied.  Greg was shocked at the person that he was to share a date with.  The analytical, realistic, pessimistic side of himself had calculated the odds in his head.  His picture of a “Sophia” was a short person, cute in a tank top, and probably easily distracted by pretty things.  She would be many things, all of which could be gathered under the umbrella of “sorority girl”; with an emphasis on the “girl”.  The woman that stood confidently in his line of sight was already proving Greg quite wrong.

Sophia stood at a solid six feet at least, but she confidently wore high heels and her hair was swept up on top of her head.  If she was abnormally blessed in height, she seemed determined to embrace it.  Her smile seemed born of an inner voice that said, “Hey, how are ya?” in that natural way that Greg most clearly lacked.  She was no beanpole; even Greg could see that she had some curves to her.  Yet, like the rest of her demeanor, she appeared to own them.  Greg wondered to himself how someone this enticing upon first meeting was still single.

“Do you mind if I take a seat?”  Sophia began to pull the chair backwards.  Greg cursed to himself.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he said half standing up.  “Please, please.”  Brilliant Greg.  Forget to stand up to greet her, and then forget to get the chair for her.  That’ll make a great first impression.

“Have you ever been to this place before?”  Sophia smiled.  She unfolded the napkin with a quick gesture and placed it lightly on her lap.

“No, I don’t really eat out much”, Greg admitted.  “They said you recommend this joint and I figured that was alright by me.”

Sophia laughed and made a move for the menu.  “Yes, I can honestly tell you that this ‘joint’ is one of my favorite haunts.  Don’t you just love sushi?”

“It’s a pretty decent food”, Greg said as he cursed himself again.  “What do you think I should try”, he asked, hoping to get back into her good graces.

sushi“Oh, I’ve always been a fan of their California rolls.”

A kind force must have been looking over Greg, for the waiter returned before Greg could blurt out a clumsy joke about Rolls Royce cars.

“What do you say, Greg?  Shall I order us up two plates?”

Greg nodded, watching as Sophia went to work.  He stared at her and soon noticed that he was unable to keep up with her orders.  A blur of high-society words came into their conversation as the woman about town and the experienced waiter bandied back and forth about various side dishes, fish freshness, and wine pairings.  Greg found himself blinking again and pulled out a piece of paper.  Holding the cheat-sheet just under the table cloth on his lap, he skimmed the list for any question that might spark a conversation.

“I really think you’ll enjoy the food here”, Sophia offered as the waiter returned to the kitchen.

“What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?”  Even Greg noticed how awkwardly he had blurted out the question.

A look of confusion came over Sohpia’s face.  There was a definite pause as she took in the question that had been asked of her.

Stupid, Greg.  Put her on the spot before you even know anything about her.  Stupid.

“You’re not going to waste any time are you?  Just jump right in, huh?”  Sophia laughed and pulled her chair in closer.  Greg had thrown down the gauntlet and now Sophia was contemplating picking it up.  “Fair enough; I’ll play along.”

“No, it was an insensitive question.  We can talk about something else.”

“Oh, come on.  This’ll be fun!”  A playful and daring light was obvious in Sophia’s eyes and Greg once again questioned how this had all worked out.  Maybe blind dates aren’t so bad after all?

White_House_Front_Dusk_Alternate“Okay”, Sophia began.  “I’ve got one.  It was a year or two ago and my grandfather was invited to The White House.  You see, he was one of the last living survivors of World War II.  The whole family got to go and we were all so excited.  I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, but I still wanted to look regal, you know?  I wanted to bring the glamor if I was going to meet The President”, she said with a laugh.

“Well, sure”, Greg said in a way that showed he didn’t know what else to say.

“There were a few other families before us.  The Fourth of July is quite a big day around The Oval Office, as you might guess.  All these men in suits with sunglasses, my mom worrying that we were keeping ‘Him’ from running the country.  It was overwhelming, but delightful”, Sophia explained with an unbridled excitement in her voice.

“Anyways, in my attempt to look elegant but still keep Grandma from thinking I was a hussy, I chose this long white dress.  It was sleeveless, flowing, and I paired it with what I thought were a classy pair of sandals.  You have to plan these things just right, don’t you?”

“Of course”, Greg answered.  Be agreeable.  Forget the fact that this woman has met The President while you were probably home drinking a beer and watching pay-per-view.  Just smile and nod.

“In all the waiting around, wouldn’t you know it?  I had to go to the bathroom.  The assistants were all perfectly nice and they showed me the way.  I was about to go in the door when along comes The First Lady!  I mean, of all people!  Secret Service wanted me to wait but The First Lady wouldn’t hear of it.  She looped her arm around mine and pulled me in.  After I had taken care of things, I tried to leave as quickly as possible.  I mean, I couldn’t maintain my composure at being in the same room with her!  Could you?”

“Not likely”, Greg answered.  Thankfully, the food had appeared with surprising quickness.  Greg started to put food in his mouth so the temptation to say something stupid would be lessened.

“She stops me, and she tells me how great it is that I’m there.  She appreciates how I’m setting an example for the younger generation and goes on about how much she likes my attire.  I of course have no idea what she’s talking about.  I was there for Grandpa, not myself.  I asked her what she meant.  And are you ready for this?  She thought I was Wonder Woman!  Apparently she mistook my dress for a toga.”

“Mmm”, Greg murmured as he chewed eagerly on his food.  He could understand The First Lady’s mix-up.

“I didn’t know what to do.  I tried to explain that I wasn’t a model or an actress or anything.  I was just a granddaughter!  But how do you explain to the most important woman in the country that she’s mistaken?  Then she took me out to the reception room and told all these dignitaries’ kids that I was Wonder Woman.  That I was there just for them on the special holiday!  I turned beat red when my Grandpa arrived and we had to sort the whole thing out.  The First Lady had a great sense of humor about it though.  She wouldn’t stop apologizing and we laughed about it for quite a time after.  But being introduced by Wonder Woman; it was all so embarrassing.  I still have a picture of The President, The First Lady and myself at home.”

“That’s quite a story”, Greg said as he finished off the last of his rolls.

“How’s the fish?”

“Quite good”, Greg replied.

“And you?”  Sophia reached for her plate as she prompted Greg.  “What’s your tale societal woe?”

“I have to think about that for a moment”, Greg said as he scooped up the green pile from his plate and thrust it into his mouth without a thought.

“Greg!”

There was a moment of calmness.  To be truthful it was more of a millisecond.  In that infinitesimally minute amount time, Greg was confused.  He saw a shocked expression come across Sophia’s face.  He felt the green paste land on his tongue and do something to his taste buds.  Then, scant seconds later, all the sound and sights in the room vanished as all his senses turned toward his mouth.  All he could feel was the excruciating pain that overcame his mouth.  His tongue was on fire.  His eyes watered, trying to douse the inferno that had when his lips had closed and the fork had wisely retreated.  It was in that formerly calm moment that Greg learned what a heaping mound of wasabi would do to a man.

“Aaaaah!!!”  Greg screamed as the agony became too much for him.  He clamped his hands on to the table, pulling the tablecloth towards him as he reached for anything that might bring him relief.  He spat the green offender out and chugged down the water that had been four gallons short of what he needed to put out the blaze on his tongue.  He chugged down the wine and felt a sense of relief coming.  The worst of it was over, but a painful tingling remained in his mouth.

There, on the formerly pristine tablecloth, lay the aftereffects of what had just happened.  In a big white circle, surrounded by crystal glasses and fine cutlery was a green blob, now looking rather disturbing and on display for the world to see.  Many of the surrounding patrons took up the invitation and craned their necks; gasping and chuckling were audible from nearby.

Sophia’s eyes grew wide while Greg’s still welled up from the sensory overload.  Neither of the two could take their gaze off of that wasabi bull’s eye on the giant target before them.

“Huh”, Sophia finally replied.  “Guess we now your most embarrassing moment, don’t we?”

The Trek to Oyster Doom

“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness; that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” -Theodore Roosevelt

**********

A friend of mine, let’s call her “Dawn”, often spoke of the wonders of a certain hike.  Dawn and I even had plans to travel the route with a group of our coworkers.  But as these things often go, plans fell apart.  A year or two passed without me ever seeing this mysterious Oyster Dome.  All I knew of this mysterious land was that Dawn and several other friends spoke of the plentiful joys that this scenic escape had to offer.

Now, given those accolades and emotional urgings to explore said land, what could I do?  Early this week I finally made the trip out to Oyster Dome.  However, after my adventure I have found a more appropriate name.  I choose to call that most “exciting” of places, Oyster Doom.

The warning signs were plentiful; I just chose to ignore them.  Caution flag number one was the drive there.  I tend to be a little frightened by detours.  I am sure that the folks who place those imposing and unyielding orange signs know what they are doing.  However I like my roads to run in a straight line.  Therefore, I had some trepidation about driving down a stretch of freeway where there existed an infamous gap in the road.  Oy.  I have issues driving where chunks of the road is missing.  Sure, it worked for Speed, but I was alone.  Sandra Bullock was not behind the driver’s wheel encouraging and coaxing me on to victory.  (A point which I happen to think is a cruel injustice.)

Oops.  But it's getting better?

Oops. But it’s getting better?

To be fair, the detour was just fine.  Personally I think a few more signs would have been helpful.  But when in doubt, follow the semi-trucks; works every time.  Thanks to those multi-wheeled behemoths, I was able to get back on the highway with no problems and two exits later I was cruising down a quiet little paved road looking for a place for the trailhead.

The guide book claimed that there would be parking along the side of the road.  The book and I disagree on the term “parking”.  When I think of parking, I like to have bold white lines spray painted on the ground.  Ideally, there are concrete blocks on the ground or some sort of barrier to ensure that one’s car doesn’t go out of bounds.

The “parking” here was a strip of gravel.  On the edge of a cliff.  With a speed limit of 55.  I’m sorry, what?  In every story I’ve ever heard of a car parking along the side of a lonely road, it tends to end up with some guy carrying an axe and chasing them into the uninhabited woods.  (Showing their courteous side, the planners of the park even gave the crazed woodsman a way to hide the evidence; simply shove the innocent hiker’s car off the road.  No railings to get in the way, just a nice steep drop and tall trees to cover it up for ya.)

You're a lumberjack?  Okay, but explain the mask...

You’re a lumberjack? Okay, but explain the mask…

Now, folks that know me will attest that I am a might stubborn.  I had already driven out to the park.  It was broad daylight.  And I had managed to find the tiny little path of dirt that was to be the start of my expedition.  I figured I’d roll the dice and take my chances.  That was when I came upon the next sign of impending danger, which was an actual sign.

The short version:  "Dangerously dangerous danger!"

The short version:
“Dangerously dangerous danger!”

After reading the entire notice I realized that I had no intention of hiking along the closed route.  Why would I add wet rocks, another cliff, and the threat of angering thousands of bats to the already treacherous day?  Still, the words, “close this area” effectively concerned me.

Having considered and dismissed all warnings, I hit the trail.  It hit back, hard.  I am a tall fellow, but those hills are not for the faint of heart.  Or knees.  Or ankles.  Or lumbar.  Uphill the path led and uphill I went.  As I crested the first ascent, I was greeted by another mighty mound of dirt.  Things tend to happen in threes and so another hill presented itself.  Of course, the more the merrier, right?  Bring another order of steep earth to table one!  Apparently Oyster Dome is one big block party and the hills are only too happy to RSVP.

To the park’s credit, there were plenty of trails.  At least, I think they were trails.  The first few miles were dotted with white splotches on trees.  I can only assume that those white blobs were meant to identify the route as correct and safe.  Of course, those markers were utilized when there was a massive hill or glacier rock on one side, and a steep cliff on the other.  It was much like walking down the grocery aisle and having a staff person ask that you refrain from taking your squeaky-wheeled shopping cart and leaping and bounding over the high shelves.  Further into the woods; when

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

the trails started to get confusing?  That’s when the white splotches conveniently disappeared.  (I maintain that the mystery guy from the horror movie is to blame, but I haven’t yet figured out how.)

With or without markers, the routes appeared regardless of my desire for them to c ease.  There was the aforementioned closed trail that didn’t need the professionally-made signs to ward me off.  I think there was a glacial view trail, but the word “glacier” invokes two mental thoughts to me; slippery and sharp.  Needless to say, I declined the invitation.  And then there were the little paths that sure looked like trails.  A patch of dirt here, a wide expanse of forest there; my fear of getting lost only increased the higher up I journeyed.  I prefer not to take the Lord’s name in vain, so I did my best not to mutter, “Dear God I’m going to die”, “Dear God this is terrifying”, and “What in God’s name were these people thinking?”  However, I assure you that statements very similar in tone to curses ran around in my head as I looked at each intersection with concern.

In the end, I did the only logical thing I could think of.  I followed the slugs.  Come on, what animal looks like it prefers the safest path possible?  Slugs, that’s what.  A cougar, a bear; even snakes would have been wildlife that might have sent me packing.  But I am a Washingtonian.  Slugs are our friends.  If a path of dirt is deemed a suitable strolling area by a slug, then I am going to follow along.  Scoff if you must, but much of the success I had in getting up to that summit was from a slug pointing the way with its antennae and sage wisdom.  (And yes, a trail of slimy goo.)

At the end, I would say that I would make this trek again.  It really is not all that far from where I live and now that I know that the terrain’s grade is equivalent to trying to climb out of a well, I am prepared for the climb.  I have an idea of which trails will not lead me to my demise.

Also, I firmly believe that the view is worth it.  Or rather, I choose to believe that what should be the view is majestic.  I could not say myself.  When I got up to the top; when I finally broke free of the tree line?  I was met by a 180-degree view of clouds.  Add in a smattering of trees, some clouds, and then really smother that sucker with another layer of clouds; that is the sort of “picturesque” moment I experienced.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike.  If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike. If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

I shall try again.  I was almost attacked by a non-existent axe-murderer, my knees are still sore, and I have never been so afraid of being lost in the woods as I was that day.  The moral in all this is that hiking buddies are highly underrated.  Take someone with you to take in all that nature has to offer; even if it kills you.  Because of Dawn’s recommendation, I have just the person in mind.  What better way to thank her than by taking her along?  No good deed goes unpunished, y’know.

A Four-Colored “Rest of the Story”

(I’ve spent much of the last few weeks listening and reading stories by Paul Harvey.  If you’re too young to know who that is; do some research.  For now, you’ll have to content yourself with a story I don’t think he ever told, but one that his nonetheless true.)

“Neither a man nor a boy ever thinks the age he has is exactly the best one- he puts the right age a few years older or a few years younger than he is.” –Mark Twain

**********

The world of comic books has never been an easy one to break into.  Oh, I don’t mean that comic book shops are frightening or that Archie Comics have disappeared from the checkout lines in groceries.  No, any person that wants to can quickly and easily immerse themselves in the four-color world which the professionals have created for them.

When a person tries to be a comic book writer or artist; that is when the real challenge began.  If it is difficult today, it was almost impossible back in the mid 1960’s.  Legendary creators like Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, and Steve Ditko would be some of the first to start DC Comics as fresh new talent.  But James didn’t know any of that.  Or perhaps he did, and simply didn’t care.

James started out, as many comic creators do, as a fan.  He found himself with a stack of comic books, eagerly flip through each page, and became motivated.  It wasn’t long until he started creating comic books of his own.  He scripted them, drew them, and soon had a finished project.  Having successfully crafted his own stories, he thought they were suitable for publication.  So he did what any ambitious young fan would do.  James mailed his story ideas to DC Comics.

Nowadays there are policies.  Comic book companies typically do not accept submissions by mail.  Work that is sent in unsolicited is unilaterally returned.  The editors have their contracted staff that is already assigned their titles months in advance.  Big companies take care of their big-name properties.  Taking the time to read through work that they probably couldn’t read?  Well who has time for that?

72119809 But this was a different time.  In the mid 60’s comics were about to be surprised by Bat-mania and earlier in the decade the cover price had surged from a dime to twelve whole cents.  So perhaps editor Mort Weisinger was feeling reckless.  Perhaps he simply liked the conversations that he had with James through their letters.  Whatever the reason, Weisinger took the crude story that had been crafted and offered James a job.  The inexperienced fellow was now in charge of writing and drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes feature for Adventure Comics.

This was only the beginning of James’ career with super-powered heroes.  Not only did he have a successful run on Legion of Super-Heroes, but he also scripted Superman Family tales and in 1968 he would be the writer on the new Captain Action title.  He took a break from comics for personal reasons, but rejoined the industry in the mid-70s.  He wrote some more stories for DC Comics before he headed across town and signed on with Marvel Comics.  It was there that this previously rookie fan had the job that thousands of folks only dream of.  From 1978 until 1987, James was the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.

Now, James had other things to do with his life.  He would eventually step away from comics and pursue other employment.  Still, back in 2007 he would return to the title that started it all and script one more run on Legion of Super-Heroes.

You might be thinking how impressive it is that this man could have such a lengthy career.  The 1960’s up until only a few years ago?  That’s quite a record in comic books no matter who you are.  However, James had a secret.  A secret that even Weisinger didn’t know as he communicated with the youth.  It wasn’t a terribly scandalous piece of information; there wasn’t anything the creator could have done anything about.  Yet, one wonders if he would have gotten his first job had his boss known the truth.

paulharveySee, Jim Shooter’s first foray away from comics; the one he took just as 70’s were starting off?  Well he took it just as he was graduating high school.  He used many interactions from his high school life to shape the scripts of teenage heroes.  For this man, this legendary weaver of stories that sent in his story ideas and received a job offer through the mail?  Well when he was first hired, he was only 14.

“And now you know… The Rest of the Story.”

Giving ’til it Hurts

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, My name’s Travis Jackson and-“

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

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

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

They knocked on his door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Right, sorry.  It’s in the kitchen.”

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

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

“There’s no need for that, Sir.”

“There’s not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh, okay?”

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

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

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

“And, really, kudos to you.”

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

“I… I’m sorry?”

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

“Wait, you want me to give you more?”

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

“Hold on, you went through my stuff?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questionable Circumstances

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” -Bruce Lee

(I was asked to write a play.  I took a little David Ives inspiration and crafted what you see below.) 

**********

Characters: 

Karen, in her mid-late twenties is an attractive/athletic woman wearing standard drab-looking uniform.  She’s a little haggard from the day she’s having, but still a sight for sore eyes. 

Lucas is in his early thirties.  He’s no poster-boy, but he does alright for an average fellow if he’d remember to run a comb through his hair.  He’s a smart cookie, prone to playful discussions on nerdy topics.  

 

Location:  An apartment hallway.  Karen stands with a small box and clipboard in her hand in the hallway on one side of the door while Lucas is in his rather disheveled apartment on the other side of the door.

 

(Knock on the door, Lucas opens it to find Karen standing there in a delivery uniform holding a small box)

Lucas:  May I help you?BenBois_French_parcel_post

Karen:  Is this 624 81st Ave, Suite #512?

Lucas:  Does this look like an office complex?

Karen:  Is that a no?

Lucas:  Are you a lost?

Karen:  Did you order a parcel?

Lucas:  Who wants to know?

Karen:  So you’re not expecting a delivery?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Have you said anything helpful yet?

Lucas:  Would you like it if we started over?

Karen:  Are you going to answer any of my questions this time?

Lucas:  What can I do for you?

Karen:  Is this the office for Mortimer VanHoffner?

Lucas:  You really think I’m a Mortimer kind of guy?

Karen:  Can’t there more than one type of Mortimer?

Lucas:  What kind of parent would subject their kid to that kind of name?

Karen:  (laughs)  How do they ever fit his full name on forms?

Lucas:  Do you think that Mortimer is ever not mortified or mocked because of his morose moniker?

Karen:  How long have you been holding that joke in?

Lucas:  Why should I reveal such personal information to a complete stranger?

Karen:  Did you ever ask my name?

Lucas:  Do you know for a fact that my name isn’t Mortimer?

Karen:  Would it help to smooth things over if I told you I’m Karen?

Lucas:  If I introduce myself as Lucas, will you promise not to call me Luke?

Karen:  Got some identity issues, do you?

Lucas:  Got some directional issues, do you?

Karen:  You think this is funny?

Lucas:  Do you know that this is the most fun that I’ve ever had answering my door?  Do you think I have lovely women come knocking every day?

Karen:  Should I be happy for you?  Are you going to help me or what?

Lucas:  Don’t they give delivery drivers directions?  Or better yet, maps? 

Karen:  You’re some sort of expert at this?

Lucas:  I have to deliver packages to know that it helps to have a final destination for them?

Karen:  Haven’t you ever depended on the kindness of strangers?

Lucas:  What’s an attractive gal like you doing schlepping around boxes for a living?

Karen:  Did I say this was my career job?

Lucas:  Was I given any evidence that it wasn’t?

Karen:  Do you know how hard it is for a Stanford graduate to get a job with benefits these days?

Lucas:  So you’re not a professional?

Karen:  What sort of insinuation are you making?

Lucas:  You didn’t think I was calling you a “professional”, did you? 

Karen:  Were you?

Lucas:  That would be pretty stupid of me, wouldn’t it?

Karen:  Have you ever felt a door slam in your face before?imagesCAQQ7I83

Lucas:  Do you make a habit out of breaking guys’ hearts?

Karen:  What?

Lucas:  You wouldn’t intentionally stomp on my feelings would you?  You wouldn’t be so cruel as to walk away from all this fun we’re having, would you?”

Karen:  This is your idea of fun?

Lucas:  You’re not enjoying it?

Karen:  Is this how you would spend your lunch break?  Do you know what it’s like to have the boss track every second of every day?

Lucas:  So it’s not me you’re irked at; it’s your job?

Karen:  When did I say that I don’t like my job?

Lucas:  Do you love your job?  Do you find it challenging?

Karen:  Do you know how challenging it is to get you to answer a question?

Lucas:  Do you realize how hypocritical it is of you to ask that?

Karen:  Are there women in the world that find this charming?

Lucas:  You don’t enjoy a debate here and there; a conversational crossing of swords?

Karen:  You don’t really get out much, do you?

Lucas:  And you do?

Karen:  Would you believe that I like to have a little more fun than you do?

Lucas:  How so?

Karen:  Have you tried going out?

Lucas:  To where?

Karen:  You’ve never heard of clubs?

Lucas:  Aren’t those places designed to make your ears bleed?

Karen:  You’re going to make assumptions just like that?

Lucas:  Are you saying I’m wrong?

Karen:  You’ve never been to one, have you?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  What about restaurants?

Lucas:  What about them?

Karen:  Do you ever eat out?

Lucas:  Why do you ask?

Karen:  Aren’t there three pizza boxes stacked in your trash can over there?

Lucas:  How do you know that I ate all those myself?  What if I have a girlfriend?

Karen:  What girlfriend would come over to a place like this?

Lucas:  What’s that supposed to mean?

Karen:  Do you carefully position rat traps around your living quarters, or do you just throw them around and hope for the best?

Lucas:  Why are you so dead-set on me having rats?

Karen:  Would it be a big surprise?

Lucas:  What if I promised you that I’m just going through an unorganized streak?

Karen:  Are you trying to set some sort of record?  Is there an official from Guinness adding up the days?

Lucas:  Haven’t you heard that all geniuses are messy?

Karen:  So you’re a genius now?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Didn’t you imply that?

Lucas:  Would you agree that we’re both reasonably intelligent people?

Karen:  Who in their right mind would describe anything about this whole ordeal as reasonable?

Lucas:  Why don’t you just accept that I’m a fairly nice guy?

Karen:  What sort of nice guy doesn’t offer a hard-working gal who’s been driving around all morning the opportunity to use a restroom?

Lucas:  Do you need to use the facilities? 

Karen:  Can’t you tell when I’m kidding?

Lucas:  You’ve figured out by now that I’m not Mortimer, right?

Karen:  Mortimer would have offered me a drink by now, why haven’t you?

Lucas:  What if I was hoping to get you a drink later?

Karen:  What’re you trying to say?

Lucas:  What happens if I ask you out?question_cedric_bosdonna_01

Karen:  Wouldn’t you find out if you actually tried?

Lucas:  Are you the kind of woman that gets offended when guys try to hit on her at work?

Karen:  Do you get a lot of people telling you that your apartment looks like a mail and parcel service depot?

Lucas:  So you’re not afraid of me, but you’re afraid that I breed rats?

Karen:  Don’t you get by now that I was teasing you?

Lucas:  Do I strike you as the sort of person who likes to be teased?

Karen:  You’re used to dishing it out, but not taking it, aren’t you?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Is that a no?

Lucas:  They don’t make many women like you, do they?

Karen:  Are you complimenting me?

Lucas:  Isn’t it obvious?

Karen:  You don’t have much practice in all this, do you?

Lucas:  So why are you letting me fumble so?

Karen:  Can’t a girl have a little fun? 

Lucas:  Do you ever wish that things were different?  Do you wish you could take a break from the same old activities with your friends and find that one someone who gets you more than anyone else?  Don’t you yearn for that one person who you know you can call after a hard day and they reassure you that everything’s going to be all right?  Don’t you wake up some mornings; look at the things in your life, and wonder?  What if this is all well and good, but there’s that certain person that could make everything seem a thousand times better just by having them in your life?  Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Karen:  Have you been reading my diary?

Lucas:  Should I?  Are there really juicy parts in there?

Karen:  You’d love to know, wouldn’t you?

Lucas:  Am I helping my chances here?

Karen:  What if I told you that you were right?  What if I listed off the long string of guys who spent more time in the bathroom working on getting their hair to look disheveled than they did asking me how my day was?  What if I was tired of being around guys who did their best to have a “good time” with every female in the room while stealing money from my purse?  What if I told you that my most recent relationships were more interested in themselves than my opinion?

Lucas:  Why don’t you try something new?

Karen:  Something along the lines of the Lucas 2000?

Lucas:  Haven’t you heard the buzz about the many daily stresses I cure and soothe?

Karen:  So you’ll give me a backrub at the end of a hard day?

Lucas:  You’ll push me to try some new adventures?

Karen:  You don’t have a prison record, do you?

Lucas:  How long do you think I would last behind bars?

Karen:  You don’t think an orange jumpsuit would suit you?  What about me?  You’re not just asking me out because of how I look in this uniform, are you?

Lucas:  Who told you about my love for industrial tones?  Who could resist a woman in baggy clothing and cotton baseball caps?  Don’t you know the allure those oil stains and wrinkles have over a man?

Karen:  Would you believe that I clean up nice?

Lucas:  Can I ask you to think the same about me?

Karen:  What if I assure you that I take my dates very seriously?  Do you realize how much I like dressing up after wearing this all day?  Can you imagine my hair coming down, the slinky dress, and a desire to have fun?

Lucas:  (nervously clears throat)  Is it getting hot in here?

Karen:  What about you?  Do you have a pair of shoes that aren’t tennis?  Have you ever used shoe polish?  You look pretty handsome in a button up charcoal shirt and a nice pair of slacks, don’t you?

Lucas:  So… you’re saying I’m allowed to ask you out?

(The two smile with each following question.  They only get more eager with each possibility)

Karen:  It sounds like that’s the case, doesn’t it?

Lucas:  Will you go on long walks with me?

Karen:  Will you distract my mother when she starts asking me why I’m not married?

Lucas:  Can we stay up late just talking about the thoughts in our heads and the hopes that we have?

Karen:  Will you open doors for me and not answer your phone when we’re in the middle of a date?

Lucas:  Are you okay with the fact that sometimes I’ll have a collection of cardboard boxes and take-out containers here and there?

Karen:  Am I allowed to vent when people cut me off in traffic and I want someone to listen to me?

Lucas:  Don’t you think the possibility here is rather fantastic?

Karen:  (teasing)  You realize that at some point I have to go find this Mortimer guy’s office, right?

Lucas:  Are you free for dinner?

Karen:  When?

Lucas:  Could it be soon?  Don’t you want to strike while the iron’s hot?

Karen:  Is that really the best you can do?  Can’t you ask a gal out a little better than that?

Lucas:  Hey Karen, you seem like a rather fantastic person that I would like to get to know much better.  Would you let me take you out to dinner after work tonight?

Karen:  Of course I will, Lucas.  Thanks for asking.

Intermission- There’s More to Come. Honest.

Howdy.

I’m not dead.  I swear.  Most of my three month absence can be blamed on Christmas gifts.  I decided to make ’em this year.   Oy.

The first gift took a month.  The next gift took two months.  I forgot how completely time-consuming cross-stitching can be.  I didn’t have time to read any books, let alone write.  But at least I’m now an expert at threading needles.  Please tell me that counts for something.

The other excuse I have is this: 

 

I want to write stories this good.  I want to convey the shadows and the texture and the little details like thumping your head against the window frame of your office wall when things go awry. 

I’ve been thinking.  And pondering.  (You have oodles of time to think about stories when you’re putting camel-shaded threads around the coral ones.)

More to come, I swear.  My fingers haven’t fallen off, my desire for stories is still there, and my keyboard is calling out to me. 

Be patient, they’re coming!  (I’m looking at you, S1ngal.)

And if nothing else, you get to watch the best animated short I’ve ever seen for free.  Everybody wins!  Happy weekend.

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