The Fun Hating Nosey Neighbor

Taking oneself seriously does not inhibit hilarity.


Being an adult doesn't require being a fun sponge. What is a fun sponge? Is a fun sponge someone who's soaked up so much fun that they leak a little out every time they're squeezed? It sounds similar to being tickled, how just being touched in ticklish areas makes one ooze out laughter. Maybe it's gross to compare laughing, something so beautiful and natural, to a common sponge, something crawling with bacteria and filthy stink. Still, if that's what it is, I suppose I'm OK with a fun sponge, as even though it's gross, it's still fun, right?


A fun sponge is someone who soaks up all the fun so that no one else can have any. They're like a dry sponge. Not a clean, dry sponge, but a dirty, moldy, professional, I-hate-children-I-was-born-an-adult sponge. Fun sponges aren't small kitchen sponges, either. Imagine a disgusting sponge the size of a king size mattress. Now imagine that sponge is enthused about their 401k and owns a condo. On top of that, that sponge hates dancing and never eats sweets because it's more of a savory person. Savory as in never sweet, never ever sweet, not savory as in I want savory and sweet. On lovely spring days when everyone is happy and floating about like a butterfly, fun sponges are hanging from the shadows like a bat. A hissing, pretentious bat. A bat that owns a condo.

Could a fun sponge ever be exposed to so much fun that despite its tremendous size it actually fills up and does release some of the fun, which essentially would be the sponge being fun? This I don't know. It is a rather dangerous experiment. I fear that to get to this point one would have to sacrifice all of the fun they could possibly muster. Although we can assume it would come back out when the sponge has reached capacity, the threat is too great of that capacity being even higher than all available fun to test it with. Another frightening possibility is that fun sponges can only release boring forms of fun, like interest in new khaki pants or trips to Cape Cod.

Are fun sponges so effective at soaking up everyone else's fun and so common that there's no hope, no point in even having fun as an adult in the first place? No, absolutely not. When a fun sponge is at work, it becomes floppy and lethargic. The sponge is just as exhausted with its working against a good time as those exposed to its doing so are. So, when a fun sponge gets going, the rest can simply leave it behind and move on. Also, even though any one individual sponge could potentially soak up and ruin all available fun, if allowed to, there are still way more people having fun and way more fun options than a single sponge can soak up. Furthermore, fun sponges tend to congregate, so rarely will one find oneself in a situation where they are having fun and everyone else is a sponge. It is usually the case that sponges are ruining a good time together only among sponges, like an entire cave of condo owning bats.

The silver lining of spongedom is a SpongeBob. A SpongeBob is a real life version of SpongeBob SquarePants. They are happy people that soak up fun and squeeze it back out for all to have, regardless of capacity. SpongeBobs are like the first hypothetical I posed in answer to the question "What is a fun sponge?", only funner. They're like a person who, when tickled, not only laughs, but makes everyone else laugh. SpongeBobs are great and we're all blessed to have them.

A final champion of fun in the world of spongedom is perspective. We can all agree that fun sponges like to have a bad time and make a bad time for everyone else. When someone tells a joke at the water cooler, fun sponges love lecturing everyone why the joke's not that funny and actually is wrong because if dogs really could talk they would tell us all about the woes of oppression, making us all think WOOF in a very different way than a simple bark. However, while having and making a bad time, fun sponges often have funny things happen to them. They certainly don't find it funny, but we can. And we should. Imagine if while teaching us about dog enslavement, ruining the nice little break we were trying to have, the fun sponge slips on some water that's dripped from the cooler and falls into the cooler, making the whole thing fall down and pour all over them. That is funny, and not just because they're a sponge so they'll grow super big from all that water.

It's just extra funny seeing people that take themselves too seriously have something silly happen to them.


I have a nosey neighbor. Her name is Sarah. I don't know her last name and I don't really care to know. Sarah is a lovely first name and I know many Sarahs that I love. Not my neighbor Sarah, though. She is a total chafe and I really dislike her.

I don't know what Sarah does for a living, but I do know what she does in her place of living. She spies. I don't know how she does it--I never see her looking out her window or over the fence or anything--but she seems to know every little thing I do in my little town house. And she hates it, all of it.

Last year the police came to my house seventeen different times in response to complaints. Seventeen. They were mostly noise-related, which is why I now only listen to music through my headphones, but also included all kinds of crazy complaints. One complaint was that I was a likely arsonist, drug dealer, AND child thief. The police officer who responded to that call was quite surprised to see that the fire was not in my house but in my burn pit, and that the drugs I was dealing were not pills but Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows, which we were toasting over the fire. The stolen children? My seven year old nephew and some of his friends for a birthday party in my backyard.  A birthday party that all of their parents were at. What better way to steal a child than to steal their parents, too, eh?

By the seventeenth complaint, the police didn't even check on whatever it was they were responding to. "Do you know who's making these complaints?" asked the officer, quite angry.

"Isn't it the lady two houses down, Sarah something?" I asked.

"They're all anonymous and from different numbers," said the officer. He pointed to her house. "From that house?" he asked.


"That's what I thought and what many of us have thought, but there's no one home there. There never is when we get these calls."

"Really? I'm sorry, that's just who I assumed."

"If you figure out who it really is, please ask her to stop. She's wasting our time," said the officer. He turned and left, disgruntled.

I closed the door, went to my back porch, and sat down. I looked over at Sarah's house. She was looking at me through the window.

Surprised and uncomfortable, I looked down at my feet. What the... I thought. I looked back at her window. She was gone. Crazy old bat.


One morning a few days later, I woke up to yelling.

"Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!" It was coming from out back.

I got out of bed, put on some slippers, and went to the back porch.

"I know you can hear me!" It was coming from the alley.

I walked to the back of the yard and looked in the alley. A blue city garbage truck drove down the narrow street. A woman wearing a faded pink robe with curlers in her hair scuffled after the truck. She held a small garbage can in one hand and waved with the other. A garbageman in a black jumper rode on the little platform at the back of the truck. He was wearing radio earmuffs and moved his head back in forth to some beat.

"How dare you ignore me? I know you purposely left my trash, you scumbags!" yelled Sarah, chasing faster now.

The truck slowed to a stop. The garbageman hopped off, grabbed a full can and turned back to the truck, still bopping his head to his music. Sarah came to the truck at the same time as he did. As she walked up to him, he turned and lifted the can upside down above the open truck. She stopped right in front of him.

"Do you have any idea who--"

The most amazing thing happened in that instant. Seeing her all of a sudden must have startled the garbageman, as he sort of jumped back right as the can was at its peak. The garbage momentarily clung to the turned over can like ice in the bottom of an empty glass, then plopped out, all at once. The man's jump threw off his aim at the back of the truck. The garbage fell onto my nosey neighbor Sarah. All of the garbage.

"Oh, my, AHHHHHHHH" yelled Sarah, her pink robe splattered with green, brown, and yellow slime. All kinds of wet, gooey crud was in her hair and on her face.

The garbageman took off his headphones, a look of complete horror on his face. "I'm so sorry, mam. You really scared me out of nowhere like that, I'm... You're--"

"I'm soaked in garbage!" yelled Sarah, pulling a decaying banana peel off her shoulder.

I turned and went back into my house, trying my best to hold in the giggles. It looked like it was going to be a great day.


There are three things on TV in the morning: the news, SportsCenter, and cartoons. The news is usually boring. It's especially hard to watch in the morning, too, as it's just such a brutal start to the day. SportsCenter is fun and exciting. However, after a while it's just the same stories and highlights with different players and teams. Now cartoons, they're always good. They're not only colorful and fun, but they make you laugh while sometimes learning something important, too.

The best part about cartoons is you don't have to be a kid to watch them. A lot of the funny stuff is actually written just for adults, which is quite satisfying.

It's good to laugh and healthy to laugh at yourself. If you're too grown up to laugh at yourself, hopefully someone else saw it, because it's a shame to let something funny go unlaughed at.

The Great Mixed Race

There's doing and there's thinking about doing, but only one is actually doing.


For whatever reason, many people wait for permission to do what they really want to do, myself usually included.

I'm not saying that if you want to be an astronaut you should just quit what you're doing and go to space. Believe me, I did that once. I did get to space, but it was no easy task getting back. The movie "Gravity" is loosely based on my adventure. I haven't seen it yet, but if it ends like my time afloat in space did, there's a monkey riding a space scooter. He's the one that propelled out from our makeshift spaceship and brought me back. All in all I'd say it was bananas!

For the record, I also went to space a different time when I found Michael Jordan at the center of the universe. That's an even wilder story.

It's a strange thing to take part in, waiting to do what you really want to do. Lots of people work a job they hate and make time for their passion at nights and during weekends. As the years pass by, nights and weekends become just weekends, which becomes half a day every other weekend, which becomes once in a while gosh I can't remember the last time I did what I loved, which becomes an entire career doing the thing you did just to support your passion in the first place, which becomes a midlife crises.

Often it really is a time-based thing, as most craft requires years and years to hone in on and master. This is years and years of really working at whatever craft is one's passion, though, not just waiting years and years to actually start practicing it fully. Some say it takes 10,000 hours to master something, but I think that is preposterous--assuming you never sleep or do anything else, that's just over a year's time. If that's all it takes to master something, then almost every single American is currently a master of Facebook. We all are, but we know that that mastery has taken us some 50,000 hours.

Whether it be in-the-field validation, a change of place to take the craft seriously, sacrificing activity fluff outside of one's passion, or a number of other made up or realistic--and difficult, no doubt--restrictions and decisions, most fizzle out from something they always wanted to do. That's the reality of why every single dad is not the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, no matter what he tells you. It's not necessarily a bad thing to fizzle out from something. We all have many dreams, but we can't live them all. Just because I'm not a starting NFL quarterback--which, believe it or not I am not, though I definitely could have been were it not for that one time when...--doesn't mean I'm not doing something else I enjoy and am good at.

Life is short and usually difficult. All we can do is be honest and give ourselves the best shot we can at success. If something does fizzle, that's fine. It's just time for the next thing. If it fizzled because we didn't give it a real shot, that's a shame, but it's how it is, so it's time to move on and not beat ourselves up about it. Regret easily becomes constant and constant regret breeds constant inability to do the next thing.

Also, lack of success doesn't have to mean lack of happiness. So, in short, do something you like to the fullest of your abilities, get good at it, and make happiness. If unhappy, do something else. Surround yourself with people who make you happy, too. That's incredibly important. Finally, don't begrudge yourself for failing and don't hate others who succeeded at something you did not. 20-something year old professional athletes are certainly phenoms, but they put in all the work to polish their talent. Everyone has a place in the process, and watching a master of craft is pretty awesome, too.

We forget about it sometimes, but things seem to go better when we smile.


It was finally October 1st, 2085: Mixed Race Day. I'd been waiting for this day for years, a day I always dreamed of but never imagined would really happen. Yet, today was really the day, and the day was really Mixed Race Day. Simply incredible.

I got to Ohio Stadium around five that morning, the first person in line. As we all know, this is an amazing feat, as after the 2062 declaration that made all of Ohio a gigantic sports multiplex, initiated by The Ohio State University after twenty-two consecutive NCAA football national championships, 99% of the time people were waiting in line for some event or another. Apparently the long distance monster truck boxing puzzle challenge from the night before ended late enough where I caught a rare lull at Ohio Stadium. I was sure one happy smallest man in the world.

Only three hours later, the line stretched all the way back to Chicago, filling all of the Indiana You're Just Passing Through Anyway Walkway. At 8:30, after two cups of coffee brought to you by Coca-Cola and a bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow, the Ohio gates finally opened. I headed the rush in and was able to get a great seat, right on the middle of the field at the 500,000 yard line. I started up my Apple iCatheter--obviously, we all use them--and waited. Then, at 9:00, the race was finally ready.

It was an incredible field of competitors. There was the man who always wanted to race NASCAR; the woman who always wanted to be a professional cyclist; the kid who always wanted to be a car in the Pinewood Derby; the horse who always wanted to race the Kentucky Derby; the dog who always wanted to be a dog that races motorcycles; a 1990s electronic belt buckle that always read "Get It Here" with an arrow pointing straight down but wanted to read "Go Go Go!"; a crow;  the man who always wanted to be a dog that races motorcycles; and, finally, Aaron Sorkin on a motorized typewriter. Aaron Sorkin is always hatching clever schemes for new shows.

The starter spoke into a microphone, which projected out through the electronic speaker clouds in the sky above Ohio. "People of Planet Exxon, welcome to the first annual Mixed Race Day! Racers of Mixed Race Day, good luck to all of you. The winner of today's race, as you all know, gets a shot to do something they actually want to do. May the fastest man, woman, animal, mechanical device, or Aaron Sorkin win."

"I might!" yelled Aaron Sorkin. He was kind of running out of witty dialogue at this point, but based on all that he's already done, can you blame him?

Man, I wish I could wish to do something, I thought.

"No you don't, Mac Samson," said the Apple iThink implanted in my brain directly into my head. "You want to buy, consume, watch, and see what trouble Penny, Sheldon, and Leonard get into on tonight's all new episode of The Big Bang Theory!"

Yes I do! I thought.

The starter raised his pistol into the air, fired off an aerial explosive device, and the Mixed Race was finally off. The competitors flew, drove, ran, biked, and wrote out of the gates. The audience went wild, sending forth a billion likes into The Cloud at once. The racers raced ahead, faster and faster. It was neck and neck and hood and handlebar and typewriter. Penny kissed Leonard then they broke up and got back together again. It was all so close.

But then the man who always wanted to race NASCAR crushed everyone because he was in a race car.

In the end, we all won Mixed Race Day. The man who won went on to race NASCAR and we all loved it because NASCAR is the official sport of the Planet Exxon Olympics as brought to you by Pfizer featuring Jay Z Enterprises.


I don't know how it's all going to turn out and it's most definitely a good thing I can't know. The future might suck, but it also might not.

Either way, I'm going to go ahead and do something now, something I want to do.

The Traffic's Stopped

We have but one view of the world, and it is our own.


I once heard that the best definition of genius is the ability to truly see issues and ideas from every perspective. I like this definition and believe it to be a sound measure of genius. Accordingly, I believe that there are maybe only about thirty true geniuses. At the end of the day, no matter how much someone else's perspective, opinion, or idea may seem better or more ideal than my own, I'm still most likely to go about the way I see it. Yes, I may augment my plan, but probably not by much. I hear people say "my way or the highway" far more often than I hear about complete openmindedness.

Sometimes it makes me sad, that we can only see the world from our own eyes. On the most paranoid level, what if the world I see is actually different than the world everyone else sees? As in the physical world. What if I see trees when everyone else sees giants? I don't fear this, even though I am the smallest man in the world, but if this is the case, that I am living in some sort of one-person parallel universe, I thank all giants out there for letting me interact with you as trees. My apologies to any giants that I have severely injured when I cut you down and turned you into firewood.

On a more realistic level--at least realistic within the realm that might be my own strange parallel universe--it makes me sad to think that I can't share my view like I may when I plug my computer into a projector. All I have is my mind and my use of communication to share with others what I see, which hopefully will translate the most similar picture that as I see it onto someone else's mental canvas. This relies a lot on language and all sorts of constructs, but I don't want to delve into that. That's what critical and literary theory is for, and my is that a silly field.

That's why I feel it is best to share experiences with others. Share experiences not as in recount my experiences through storytelling, but share as in have those experiences with others in the first place. If we're both on a roller coaster laughing as we zip around a bend, it seems safe to me to assume we're having mostly the same experience--barring this idea of everything being a lie in a parallel universe a lie a lie I tell you!--in that moment.

However, we can't have all of our experiences with everyone else all the time. So, storytelling is our next best bet, and not a bad one at all. A good story gets a good response, which makes both the teller and listener feel good. I'd say that's a good all around. As such, storytelling is my favorite thing there is. Just don't retell me stories all the time, I for some reason hate that so much. Life is about living, so if you're all out of experiences to share, go have some new ones.

On a final, very different note, what if you can't see the world through your eyes at all? Obviously blind people have incredible experiences and horrible experiences, just like the rest of us. They are simply had, remembered, and recreated without the use of sight. Why I really bring the point of blindness up is because I recently learned that a group of conspiracy theorists believe that Stevie Wonder is faking his blindness to fool people. Yes, people believe that Stevie Wonder is not actually blind.

Stevie, if you're reading this, good on you. You've done a great job with this act. As you can clearly see, you've given us some of the best music of all time, so keep at it. As you say in "Higher Ground," "don't let nobody bring you down."


We'd been sitting there completely stopped in traffic for over two hours. It was a hot September day. Having the windows open helped only a little. Regardless of the heat, I'd turned off my red station wagon so as not to just idle, wasting gas and needlessly contributing to murdering the atmosphere. If it weren't so bad for the globe, though, I absolutely would have been running my air conditioner.

I stuck my head out the window to look for progress up ahead for the umpteenth time, again to no avail. It was a two lane highway and the line of cars stretched for miles in both directions. I brought my head back in and rubbed my neck, sore from sitting and the tension. Once I thought about how sore my neck was, I realized how sore I was all over. My butt was going numb, even though I was sitting on a cushiony Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow so that I could see above the wheel. I stretched my legs to the floorboards below the peddles, lifting my rear end.

What in the hell could possibly be going on up there? I thought. My car was full of stuff: two lamps, three boxes of clothes, a partially dissembled road bike, bedding, and a few picture frames. I was on my way out of New England for an extended stay. The plan was to drive all the way to Cleveland for the first leg of the journey, but here I was, stuck in early upstate New York.

This is bullshit. If we don't get moving soon, I'm going to be stuck somewhere near Erie or who knows where Pennsylvania. I have never been to Erie, and Pennsylvania seems a fine place. But, being as I was steadily heating toward a rage boil, anywhere that wasn't where I wanted to be sucked, naturally. I hate Erie, I thought. I do not hate Erie. Erie sucks. This I do not know.

The car behind me honked. "Screw you, you ass, you piece of, you piece of ass!" I yelled aloud to no one. I'm very good at swearing effectively when I'm mad. I turned to look at whatever piece of ass was behind me. It was a van filled with a happy family. They were laughing. A woman in the passenger seat was leaning over the driver, dumping some slushy drink out the window. She must have leaned against the horn. The driver waved an apology to me.

I faced forward again, now even madder. I wasn't mad at them, but I was mad at being mad at them. "Dang it!" I yelled, slamming the steering wheel with my fists. I looked for some outlet. There was a gas receipt on the seat next to me. I grabbed it and flicked it. It was completely unsatisfying. I swelled with rage again, but held it in. I blinkered and drove off the road onto the shoulder. I didn't gain or lose any progress, I was just off the road now. It was nice in a strange way.

I shut off my car, got out, and walked ahead. People looked at me from their cars like I was a mad man. I glanced at my reflection in the side of a blue sedan. I looked normal as usual, the same old smallest man in the world as always. Eventually other people pulled off, too. We're going to be here forever, I thought.

After a while, I rounded a bend and came upon two workers in orange suits. They both held dual stop-slow signs, one worker in each lane. Both held their signs in the stop-side. They sort of hung from their signs, half soaking in the sun, half waiting for something. I stopped and watched them for a moment. Nothing.

I looked back behind me. The line of cars went on for as far as I could see.

I looked ahead. The line of cars went on for as far as I could see.

"Excuse me, what're we waiting for?" I asked the worker nearest me.

"Work," he said, not looking at me but instead looking down the road.

"What kind of work?" I asked.

"Road work," he said.

"No, I mean what road work specifically?"

"This whole road is being torn apart to be repaved."

The other worker leaned farther from his sign, moving closer to our conversation by maybe half a torso. "Traffic's moving one lane at a time, that's why we're here," he said.

"No, it's not," I said. I looked at the car nearest the sign. The people just sat there looking ahead. "It's not moving at all."

The first worker shook his head. "That's because I've got it on stop," he said. He shot a loot at the other worker as if to say duh.

"Are you serious?" I asked, irked.

"Uh, buddy, you'd have to be blind to not see that it is."

I pulled up my pants a little and straightened my posture, frustrated. "There's no construction back there, buddy," I said.

"Yeah there is," said the second worker.

"No, there's not."

"They're tearing out a whole lane to repave the road."

"You are an idiot," I said. "You guys clearly are in the wrong place."

"Sir, take it easy," said the first worker.

"No, you take it easy," I said loudly, close to a shout. "You two morons have been standing out here with stop signs for two, maybe three hours now. You're just blocking traffic for no reason!"

"You need to calm down," said the second worker, now facing me.

"You need to turn the sign, you, you, ass-clown," I said. "Both of you dumbasses need to get out of here and let us all through! This is ridiculous!"

"All right, that's enough, sir," said the first worker. He grabbed his shoulder-mounted walkie talkie extension and talked into it. "We've got a guy up here on County Road B about ten miles outside of town holding up traffic," he said.

Furious, I walked toward him. "Let us through or I'm going to turn that sign around for you," I said.

"Now he's threatening me," he said into the shoulder microphone. "Stop right there!" he said, pointing to me. I was already stopped and there was plenty of space between us.

"I'm not threatening you. I'm just very angry," I said.

"We've got a crazy man endangering an entire road crew, copy," said the second worker into his walkie talkie. He waited a moment. "Do you copy?" He pulled his walkie talkie off his belt and examined it. "Oh my gosh, Mike, you aren't going to believe this, but this thing's been off the whole time!" he said.

Mike laughed. "You've got to be kidding me!" he said. He also pulled out his walkie talkie and examined it. "No, no way!" he said.

"What?" said the other worker.

"Gary, mine's off too!" said Mike. "Can you believe it?"

"That is too funny," said Gary. "Too funny."

"You guys are the dumbest, stupidest, most unbelievably--"

Gary turned on his walkie talkie. "Requesting police assistance on County Road B, 'bout ten miles out, over."

"Copy, sending someone out right away," said a voice over the handheld unit.

"What, are you kidding me?" I said, taking a step back. "You guys are the one's who have been out here holding up hundreds, maybe thousands of people this whole time. I don't know if it's technically a crime, but it certainly is some sort of public nuisance--"

I heard the faint wah of sirens.

"There's an officer in the lineup of traffic outside of town headed your way," said the voice over the walkie talkie. "Is the suspect hostile?"

"No!" I yelled, taking a few more steps back.

"He has approached us and may potentially be armed," said Mike. "We are in danger."

"No, no you're not!" I said.

The sirens sounded closer. I could faintly hear an engine now, too. I turned and started jogging.

"He's running! This guy's crazy! I don't know what he's going to do," said Gary into the walkie talkie.

I ran as hard as I could back toward my car, looking over my shoulder every so often. After a bit, a motorcycle zoomed down the middle of the road. He slowed down near Gary and Mike, who pointed at me. He then accelerated in my direction.

"Shit!" I yelled, now sprinting. "What the damn ass shit is this!?"

"Stop and put your hands up!" yelled the police officer.

I stopped running, only twenty or thirty yards short of my car. People looked at me from their cars, terrified, as the officer came up behind me and handcuffed me.

"You're under arrest for threatening those two workers," said the officer. "Not to mention holding up all this traffic."


In the end, I didn't wind up having to stop in Erie or some other town along that forever stretch of Pennsylvania, which is good. However, I also didn't make it to Cleveland, either. I spent the night at the end of day one in a little jail cell in a small town in eastern upstate New York. I won't say the name of the town, but I can say with complete confidence that it totally sucks. It is a real suck ass, piece of damn, piece of ass... It's a sucky town. Anyone could see that.

Even a blind man.

Maybe I'm just failing to see it from the best perspective. I never claimed to be a genius.

The Proper Degree of Chill

Life is too short to overthink it, but still, give it a little thought.


Before the age of portable music, life was horrible. People had to look at and sometimes even talk to each other. Imagine, you're on the train, commuting home from work, and all you have for entertainment is a bookA book!? What disgusting filth. Books contain all kinds of evil and original ideas. Just think about what it would be like to be on the train full of people reading, full of people stimulating their sick little minds in all kinds of different directions. And honestly, not just books--magazines, newspapers, and maybe even their journals. Good lord now that I think about it, back before portable music people may have even written in notebooks and other soul-sucking paper outlets. What a terrifying thought.

It's so much better now that we all can put on one of the three or four types of headphones and tune out the possibility of originality. There are three different songs--the upbeat one, the one about breakups, and that country one--and by listening to any of them everything is OK. People may still be surrounding each other on the train, but take comfort in knowing that it's only physically. They're all tuned out from each other, safe and sound in their own heads, closed off like a message in a bottle sealed by an earbuddy cork.

I am the smallest man in the world, so it's especially comforting for me that no one has to come out of their musical shells to threaten anyone else. Before, back when men's faces were unshaven and babies' faces were unlit by the safe glow of electronic screens, I never got stepped on. People would look down at me and avoid me, taking my wellbeing and regard into their own hands. It was constant peril. Now, I get stepped on all the time. No one avoids me and no one apologizes to me. They simply pummel me and walk on. It gives me hope knowing that they can't see me or consider me, because that means they're doing the good work of Apple and Samsung, completely zoned out and unengaged.

Only when we are all out of it are we all OK, for this is when we know that no one is having any thoughts at all. For any thoughts of any type could be dangerous thoughts, and the dangerous thoughts are the ones that could bring malice. Just ask yourself: would I rather go on dates knowing my heart could be broken at any given time or would I prefer to never have my heart broken? It's an easy choice. If you are smart, which you certainly are, you'll see that the latter is clearly the best choice and never go on any dates. If you are demented enough to choose the dates, then you are clearly a dangerous, sick person. Why don't you go on a trip to someplace new and explore, while you're at it. Good luck not getting lost!


It was a classic 2014 party, at least it started out that way. The renovated industrial loft was huge, so large that it made the two hundred or so people there seem a small gathering. A DJ spun tracks from a makeshift booth up on the balcony. He wore a tattered jean jacket and played a three hour extended house remix of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space." People were loving it. There was a makeshift bar against the back wall. The bartender wore a tattered jean jacket and served any drink you could imagine, PBR tall boys, whiskey, and wine. Next to the bar was a snack table. It had a great selection of hummus and wood fired pizza squares.

I grabbed a PBR and made my way about the party. I told my friend Eric I would meet him here, but I had come late and I couldn't see him. I tried calling him, but he didn't pick up. So, I walked about the different circles of conversation.

One group was discussing politics. A man with a bushy beard and horn-rimmed glasses held a glass of whiskey. "The republicans are really just so dumb," he said.

A girl with a beanie cap and cateye glasses chimed in. "And evil," she said. "I could never vote for a republican candidate. No way."

Another man with a thick beard and horn-rimmed glasses spoke up. "Or for any democratic candidate, for that matter. They've really lost my support with all of the stuff they've been doing lately," he said. "Also, the stuff they haven't been doing."

"I read on BuzzFeed today that it's not like this on the West coast," said a girl with two beanie caps and a cateye monocle. She raised a glass of wine to her mouth and drank. The liquid went into her mouth then back into the glass. "15 reasons to not vote at all, as told by squids," she said.

A third man cleared his voice. His orange beard was especially thick, covering his entire face. He wore glasses with no lenses. They weren't glasses at all, actually. His tail flickered as he spoke. He was a cat. "Squids are so in right now," he said. "If I weren't already a cat, I'd totally be a squid."

The girl with the two beanie caps and cateye monocle laughed. Her laugh sounded like a crow cawing. "Burp bromp blop!" she said.

Eric clearly wasn't in this circle, so I backed out and went to the next. A man with a colorful blue tattoo peaking out from his shirt sleeve and a bushy beard spoke. "I just find that biking to work makes me feel better about all of this carbon," he said, adjusting his horn-rimmed glasses.

"Absolutely," said a girl with hoop earrings wearing black yoga pants and a loose grey sweater. She had a pair of horn-rimmed glasses on top of her head and another pair hanging from the collar of her shirt. She coughed. "I can smell the carbon now."

"Grassroots gourmet donuts," said a man with hunched posture. He had dark, bold skin. It was bold. He was the letter Z. "Fair trade salmon coffee."

A Roomba vacuum sucked up crumbs from the floor.

"Great point," said the girl with two pairs of glasses. She reached down, picked up the self-propelled vacuum, and passionately kissed it all over.

"Analytics! Self-taught coding!" said a piece of custom wooden furniture. It was not quite a chair, but also not really a table. It had four legs, but only three touched the ground. One stuck up from its sloped surface. The wooden piece was covered in horn-rimmed glasses and had bits of beard glued all over it.

"Hey, do any of you guys know Eric, by chance?" I asked.

"Not in this moon cycle," said the man with the blue tattoo. "Why don't you crowdsource her?"

"Thanks anyway," I said, finishing my beer and walking on. Where is he? I thought, not knowing where to go next. I stood on my tip toes to try and get a better look, but everyone was roughly five feet, ten inches tall. I did see some reclaimed wooden crates in the corner below the DJ, though. I walked over to them for better vantage.

As I boosted myself on top of one of the crates, I slipped and fell backwards. I caught myself against the wall with my hand, then took a step back to balance myself out. I accidentally kicked an electric plug out from the socket.

The track stopped and the room became silent. "No play play?" said the DJ from above me. I could hear him scratching at his single turntable, but it was only the physical disk itself scratching. "Play play!" said the DJ, anxious. "Go play go!"

The crowd began to buzz. "Gluten?" said a woman from across the room.

"Gluten!?" said another woman, louder and more panicked.

"Gluten!" shouted a man from the group of people right beside me. He punched the man next to him, knocking his horn-rimmed glasses to the floor.

With that, the party became a mob. Wine glasses, whiskey glasses, horn-rimmed glasses--all kinds of glasses flew everywhere as people pushed past each other, rushing in all directions at once but nowhere specifically.

I leaned back against the wall and watched the turmoil. A woman with one side of her head shaved and horn-rimmed glasses ran as hard as she could into a wall. A pit bull mix wearing a driver's cap barked verses from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." He was a professor dog. The DJ jumped down from the balcony onto the frenzied crowd, squashing a man who looked like one of the members from ZZ Top. Upon closer examination, the man was Cousin Itt in a pair of thick-rimmed sunglasses.

"My baby!" screamed a woman in a sleeveless shirt, her arms covered in colorful tattoos. She reached at the wall toward a portrait of herself, which dangled slightly out of her reach. "Please, won't someone help my baby?"

The Roomba repeatedly bounced into a curvy, dark body on the ground. It was the letter Z. He was dead, or at least wounded. Blood and horn-rimmed glasses oozed from a gash in his side.

A mime held a square peg and rammed it against a round hole. He wasn't part of the chaos, he was just doing his own mime thing.

A loud bang came from the back wall. I looked over as a flare of light erupted. The bar was on fire. Flames licked up at the ceiling. They followed a trail of whiskey on the floor, igniting it.

"Call the Huffington Post!" said the cat man. "Someone call the Huffington Post!"

The girl with the two beanie caps and a cateye monocle ran in circles in front of the flames. "Squampa wampa dwoosh! Squampa wampa dwoosh!" She flung her arms wildly as she circled over and over again.

As the panic continued but no one really did anything about it, I snuck toward the door. As I walked out, the sprinkler system finally went off, dousing everyone with artisan green tea.

I leaned against the closed door from the outside, relieved to be out of that party. I was also slightly relieved they were all OK, excluding the letter Z and all of the injured people, but mostly I was relieved to be out of there.

Something popped into my head. Wait, I thought. I reached into my pocket and pulled out its contents: a button that had fallen off my shirt earlier, an Altoid, two Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows, and a crumpled scrap of paper. I opened up the scrap and read it.

9:30 Friday night, room 18B

I looked at the door behind me.


I looked at the door directly across the hall.


That seems about right, I thought as I walked over and opened the door to 18B. As I opened the door, I heard Katy Perry's "This Is How We Do" playing.

"There he is!" said Eric, giving me a hug. "Here, take my Coors Light." He handed me a sweaty, cold bottle. "There's plenty more where that came from!"


There are many different degrees of chill. I like to think that I can not only chill with the best, but that I can chill with about anyone. "Yeah, chilling, laid back." Still, sometimes what seems chill isn't chill, so be careful.

For me, I know it's the right amount of chill when the Rocky Mountains are blue.

That's how we do.

Sex on the Beach

They feel similar, so it's important to know the difference between love and lust.


Most people hate Mondays. Mondays come after Sundays. Sundays come after Saturdays. Saturdays come after Friday nights. And Friday nights come after the crappy work week that is the gloomy glump made up of Mondays through Fridays pre-Friday nights. We love the weekends. Why wouldn't we? They're the break from life where we get to have fun. Ideally, work is enjoyable because we're doing something we truly love and truly care about for a reason. But the world is not an ideal place. So, most of us get pulled underwater behind the boat Monday through Friday until we can finally pop up and waterski through the weekend.

Mondays are the worst in the cold months. When it's cold out, we're safe and snug in our homes during the weekend. It's easier to rally to go out into the cold when we get to come back to our abodes. We also usually are going out for something we want to do, be it going to eat, going to recreate, or anything else. When we have to go out for work or anything workweek-related, though, it totally blows. It's not choosing to go out into the cold, it's being forced to go out in the cold. So, when Mondays pull us back into stress during the cold, they're the pits. It all comes down to reality checking back in, the rigid reminder that we are adults and responsibility is forever binding.

When it gets warmer out, it's better. No doubt about it and no deep analysis needed.  Everything's better when it's warmer. We don't have to bundle up, the sun comes out, the days are longer, we get to produce serotonin again after months of cloudy headed emptiness, and all kinds of fun outdoors stuff is available. The cold is fine and it's nice to be inside a warm, homey home, but nothing beats the outdoors. Not even Floyd Mayweather, and he's a phenomenal boxer who is also related to both the month of May and weather. So, Mondays aren't quite so bad come spring.


Today, I woke up to the strangest sensation. My eyes were closed and my alarm hadn't gone off yet. I felt some sort of warmth on my face and could kind of see a kind of yellowness through my eyelids. Is this death? Have you finally come for me you sweet son of a bitch? I thought. All right, I wanted to one day be taken in my sleep, but if now's the time, let's go. I've danced on the razor's edge for far too long to get away with itNothing's ever easy for the smallest man in the world.  I opened my eyes, bummed out about having to die but what are you going to do, you know? The warm yellowness was still there, but not in alternative-apparel Grim Reaper form as I expected. The not-death filled my room, a sort of strange not-dark. It appeared to be coming through my window. I got out of bed, walked over, and looked out. There, in the sky, was a glowing ball of some sort.

"Holy shit that's the sun," I said out loud. Memories of this source of life that is our brightest source of light came to me. Yes, the sun! Grower of goods, doer of day! I did a little jig, excited, then turned to the poster of the Grim Reaper I had on my wall. "Not today, you son of a bitch!" I said, pointing at the poster. It's good to have visual reminders of your enemies. There's also a poster of the Burger King King and another of a fedora on my wall. The trifecta of evilness, those three are.

Excited, I put on a pair of shorts and button up short-sleeve shirt and headed out the door. It was a glorious day!  I stood on my stoop for a bit facing the sky, eyes closed. It felt amazing feeling the sun, far better than looking up and being showered with boiling water, which happened a lot in Medieval Times. How much would that suck! Back then life was only good if you were born into a good situation. Good thing that's totally not how it works anymore!

I did a second jig--on days like this one is allowed up to three jigs, so why not use them, huh buddy? Are you jiggin' what I'm jiggin'!?!?--ended with some jazz hands, zipped up my pants because I forgot to earlier and even though it was warm I could still feel the ol' crotch draft, and hopped off my stoop, right onto the sidewalk. At least where the sidewalk usually is. Both feet hit the ground and a large purple bubble formed right around me. I looked down at my feet. I stood on a purple square of cement. God damn it, I thought.

I had landed right on a have-an-erotic-novel-experience square.


As I slowed my gallant steed to a trot, the wind came up, blowing open my white linen shirt and exposing my throbbing chest. It was a good, warm wind, the kind of wind that made you taste the passionfruit with the most sensual parts of your tongue. The sun was setting over the calm Caribbean waters. It would soon be night and I would make the soft white sands my bed. But not alone.

There she stood in all of her beauty, Veronica Williamson. I slowly looked from her delicate feet to her golden, flowing locks. She wore but a loose white linen shirt that opened slightly when the wind came up. It was a good, warm wind, the kind of wind that blew open all kinds of white linen dressings, exposing Veronica's curves like passionfruits on a carrousel.

I got off my horse and took her in my arms. Her skin was smooth and warm. She gingerly traced the outline of my stubbly face with her hand. I put my own hand over hers, pressing it against my cheek.

"Do you like the beach, Mr. Samson?" she asked, taking a chocolate-covered cherry from her pocket and slowly putting it into her mouth.

"Did that come from your pocket?" I asked, entranced as she chomped the berry into a gushy red mash.

"Oh, Mr. Samson!" said Veronica. She licked her red, full lips with her tongue, then bit her lower lip, sensually. Then she slapped me very hard. "How dare you!" she said. Then she ate another strawberry, just as steamy as before.

"Wine?" I asked, opening a bottle of cabernet.

"It seems a little late to ask, considering... You've already brought it out," said Veronica, motioning with her head toward my crotch.

I ignored her tease and instead poured two glasses of wine. My horse, completely uncared for and ignored by both of us, was long gone by now, miles down the beach. "Shit, there goes my horse," I said.

"Oh, yes, there goes your horse," said Veronica, this time making eye contact with my crotch, then me, then my crotch again, then me again, again my crotch, again me, and finally my crotch.

I again ignored her temptations, for now, and slowly sat down on the sand. "My ass is quite sore from riding," I said. My ass was quite sore. And sweaty.

"Oh, I bet your ass is sore, Mr. Samson," said Veronica, who now pointed directly at my crotch. "Your front ass, is it?" she asked as she leaned back her head and moved it side to side, fanning out her hair.

"You must be very dumb," I said, tipping back my glass and finishing it in one long drink. "My horse was smarter than you are."

Veronica laughed, tracing the outline of her large breasts with her fingers. "I do love horses," she said. "They're like hairy mopeds."

"I hate you so very much, Ms. Williamson." The tide had risen up and soaked my socks. Why was I wearing socks on the beach? God damn it.

"Kiss me, you silly man," said Veronica as she flung herself on top of me. A very strong wind came up, ripping off both of our white linen tops and carrying them far into the sea, in fact, all the way OVER the sea. "Let me ride you like public transportation."

We kissed long and hard, like two teenagers kiss when they sneak away from free time at youth bible study camp. Her tongue was small and pointy, like a lizard's. It flicked in and out, sniffing the air, hungry for prey. It was also moist, very moist, incredibly moist. She drooled everywhere, and her breath smelled of garlic and onion.

It was super intense, so we stopped for a moment to rest. She sat straddling me and I studied her body. Just the sight of it made me melt like a grilled cheese sandwich left out on a picnic table in the sun, covered with sweat bees.

She had beady little black eyes. They were shiny and lifeless, just like a doll's. Her cheeks were puffy and very high up on her face. They were also uneven, as if someone had mashed together a handful of Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows and stuck them on her head. Her forehead went three quarters of the way up her scalp, revealing a tremendous liver spot. It was the prettiest liver spot I'd ever seen, like a moldy old pepperoni.

And her breasts, oh how her breasts were perfect. They were the fullest, sharpest breasts I'd ever had the pleasure of poking. Her left breast was an octagon and her right breast was a square. One was black and the other was orange, like two Halloween M&Ms. They were a good foot and a half apart, leaving plenty of space for me to craft my mischief between. Her nipples were stiff from arousal, like two baby carrots poking out from a compost pile. Her nipples were actually baby carrots. I gently kissed her breasts with my burnt, peeling lips. Her breasts tasted sweet, like fermented squash floating down a polluted New Jersey river. Her breasts were amazing, like an old man's arthritic hands. Her breasts were like God's passionfruits.

"Take me," said Veronica. One of her eyebrows floated completely away from her face and flew away. "Take me now."

"You want to have sex?" I asked, remembering that the tuna I had for lunch was long past expiration.

"Yes, but I don't know how," said Veronica, her mustache fuzzy like a poisonous caterpillar.

"And nor do I, my love. And nor do I."

The horse came back with three helper horses. They set up a net and played beach volleyball long into the night as Veronica and I did absolutely nothing, completely unable to understand the throws of passion.


The purple bubble finally faded away and I made my way down the street toward the store. They were all out of SunnyD, which was a total bummer because I was really craving some SunnyD. I was going to drink it and do my third jig, but since I didn't get any SunnyD, I didn't bother jigging again. Man, I love SunnyD. I long for it deep in my loins. I lust for SunnyD.

Ahem. One of the helper horses cleared his throat. He took off his glasses and shook his head. The horse turned the book he was reading toward me. It was a dictionary. He pointed at the entry for "lust."

"Wow, nevermind I just love SunnyD. Thanks, horse," I said. We fist bumped and he broke all of my knuckles with his hoof.


The horses never did let me play beach volleyball.

God, I hate Mondays.

The Graduation Ruling

No one ever suspects that the suspect was never even suspected in the first place.


Some things are simply set in stone. Cliffs, boulders, a lot of fossils, Mount Rushmore, utility poles in Ontario and other rocky places, very cool houses built into the earth that no one has ever actually seen but there are tons of pictures of on the internet, Han Solo for a short period of time, the sword from "The Sword in the Stone," and many, many more. Some even say that we all came from stone, though those some are very wrong. Perhaps the Stone Temple Pilots come from stone, even though I am pretty sure they are from San Diego. I've never been to San Diego but I'd love to go someday. It sounds like a lovely place. I like the movie "Anchorman" a lot but act like I don't because it's so over quoted. You know what they say, stones neither love nor hate, they simply stone.

So you can imagine how shocked I was when the judge ruled that I was guilty.

"I rule that you are guilty!" said the judge. He wasn't that old but had long grey hair neatly curled and aligned in rows.

"I have two questions, your honor," I said, standing from the heavy mahogany desk where my defense papers were spread out before me.

"I'll allow them," said the judge. He also had a neat little red bow in the back of his hair.

"First, and I think I speak for everyone when I ask this, is that really your hair or is it an old timey wig?"

The audience in the courtroom came alive with chatter and gossip.

The judge gaveled. "Quiet, please!" The audience settled down. "Yes, it is a wig. I like the way it looks."

"It looks great, honestly," I said. "It's very judgey, in a good way."

"Thank you," said the judge. "You know what, you're not such a bad guy after all. I find that you are... Not guilty!"

The audience hooped and hollered. A flock of graduation hats went into the air.

"Rockton High Class of 2002, we're gonna do great things!" said the judge, throwing his graduation hat into the air, too.

"I love you, The Honorable Judge Robert Connors!" said Tammy Anderson, captain cheerleader and prom queen.

Judge Connors smiled and pointed his gavel at Tammy. "And I find you guilty of being loved by me!" He banged his gavel again. "Case dismissed!" He flung his gavel over his shoulder and got down from his judge's stand, walking all the way off stage.

I heard one of those stock cat-yelling noises as the gavel came down somewhere out of sight behind the stage. That's always so, so funny.

Parents and grandparents applauded and came to a standing ovation. Even Coach Johnson, who we all know is a very unemotional, mean old man. Coach Johnson walked to Skip, whose arm was still in a sling even though the big game was last fall. He put his hand on Skip's uninjured-side shoulder. "I'm proud of you, Skip." Coach handed Skip a present. It was brown, kind of round, and ovular. Whoops, I mean oval-shaped! But what was it!?!?

Skip looked down at Coach Johnson's gift. It was a football! A football! Did any of you guess it was a football?


Very good!

(Studio audience applauds)

"What's this, coach?" asked Skip.

"It's a football, dumbass!" said Coach. He's such a grump!

"No, I mean what for?" asked Skip. Skip was going to play football at North Central Eastern West Catholic State College Tech University next year. He was originally going to play at Notre Dame, but after the injury they wouldn't take him.

"It's the game ball, Skip. You're my MVP."

Skip looked at the ball and started crying. "I hate your guts, coach. You ruined my shot at Notre Dame by overplaying me, which turned into this very broken arm. Also, you do nothing but berate us and make us very ashamed of our bodies. You are a horrible coach and a horrible human being."

"But Skip, you're my MVP!" said Coach.

"Just shut up you sad man. I never want to see you again," said Skip. He rolled up his diploma, lifted his head toward the sky, and joined the procession of graduates as we walked down the aisle.

A graduation hat came down and landed right on Coach Johnson's bald head. It looked so funny and is significant because Coach himself never graduated. That's why he's such a mean, horrible person constantly putting down young athletes!

If parents really loved their kids, they'd stop them from putting up with bad sports situations. I mean, it's 2015 for Pete's sake how can we all still excuse overtraining and all of this concussion nonsense? It's the human brain we're talking about here. It's the most incredible thing in this entire world capable of such amazing things. How can we forsake and endanger it just for the glory of a silly game? It makes me sad for the future. How are we ever going to get any farther as a species and global community if we can't accept the facts now?

As I walked among my fellow graduates, smiling as big as I possibly could, that last bit about "if parents really loved their kids" made me sad. My parents would have loved to see me today. If only those awful, awful owls didn't kill my Papa and select my Mama for their Owl Queen. "I hate you owls," I said out loud, trying to hold back tears. "I hate you, I hate all of you!"

A feathery wing wrapped around my shoulder. I looked over. It was Kirby the Burrowing Owl. He was one of my best friends. "Come on, Mac. You don't mean that."

"You're right. I'm sorry, Kirby." I sniffled and tried to calm my breathing more. The back of my throat was sore from not crying. It's kind of cool that that happens, if you think about it. If you don't think about it it's not that cool, though. Whatever.

"No harm done, friend. It's not like I give a hoot!" said Kirby. Kirby was wearing a red baseball cap sideways. He's very unique.

I laughed. I wish I had a cool hat or some other sort of trademark besides just being the smallest man in the world.

"And don't forget," said Kirby, as he put in a huge pinch of pink Big League Chew gum. He's cool. "You still have family." He smiled and pointed his index feather at the crowd. It's pretty gross when he smiles because even though Kirby is an owl and has a beak, he for some reason has lips, too. Yuck.

I looked where he was pointing. There they were! My otter clan that adopted me the day my parents died. They were all so cool. In comparison, they were actually much cooler than Kirby. It doesn't matter, no one keeps tabs of any of their high school friends, anyway.

"I guess you're just going to leave me here all by my lonesome, Mac," said Maddie Flipstein from my other side in line. Maddie Flipstein was one of the prettiest girls in school. I'm not going to describe her in prose that well, so just imagine that she looks like Penelope Cruz. She doesn't, not even close, but it works fine here. It's not like you're ever going to meet any of these people, anyway.

"Yes, I am going to leave you," I said.

"Good, this was a test," said Maddie. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a black leather wallet. She flipped it open, flashing a golden badge. "I'm an undercover officer here, have been all along."

"I knew it!" I said. I didn't really know it, but it's best to try and impress undercover cops when they reveal themselves. Trust me, just trust me.

"The judge was never going to convict you, anyway," she said. Imagine if Penelope Cruz was actually an undercover police officer. She very well could be, imagine how much people wouldn't suspect that. Holy crap, maybe Penelope Cruz is an undercover police officer!

"What? You mean it?"

Penelope Cruz nodded. She was eating some Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows. I reached for one but she slapped my hand away.

"But I want one!" I said.

"I do mean it," said Maddie, moving past my admittedly childish jest. BTW it was Maddie who nodded and was eating the Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows. I said Penelope Cruz because now I can't get my mind off the possibility of Penelope Cruz being an undercover police officer. How stupid is that!? "Judge Connors was supposed to take you into custody before telling you all this, but you got him all excited by complementing his hideous wig," she said. "The real perpetrator was going to unveil himself when he saw you were guilty, but now we have this whole graduation ceremony ordeal on her hands." Maddie sipped coffee now, because we all only write cop cliches instead of allowing them to be normal, real characters.

"Is it Coach Johnson?" I asked.

"No," said Maddie. "He's an asshole, but he's innocent." Maddie was painting with pastels. Why not, she can have interests outside of work.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Oh, sorry. Yeah, actually you're right." Then Penelope Flipstein arrested Coach Johnson, and all was well.

We were finally out of the auditorium, officially done with high school. The air seemed fresher, freer than normal.

"Hey, what was your second question going to be?" asked Judge Connors. He was eating a slice of chocolate chip cookie pie. Chocolate chip cookie pie is so good but no one ever has it anymore. It makes me miss the 90s.

"I was going to ask you what I was guilty for in the first place," I said. I was wearing a red driver's cap but I took it off. It didn't look as cool on me as I thought it would.

"Guilty of being such a handsome young man!" said Judge Connors. Everyone laughed and laughed and laughed. I finally got a piece of cookie pie. Judge Connors' mom saved me a piece. It was warm and gooey, just like I remembered. What a nice lady.


Skip went on to be the starting quarterback for North Central Eastern West Catholic State College Tech University. After a great freshman season, he tried to transfer to Notre Dame. They rejected him. Turns out he was never good enough to play there in the first place.

Coach Johnson was sentenced to ten years in a state prison for operating a meth lab. It was a really serious crime and he's legitimately a bad person.

Tammy Anderson and Judge Robert Connors are happily married in Duluth, Minnesota. They have fourteen children so it's very good that Robert Connors is a very successful judge so he can support his family.

Kirby is an owl and even though we were close in high school I now begrudge him for being a filthy owl.

My otter family is going very well. They still live in that one elaborate den in the river.

Penelope Cruz can be seen in many different films. According to IMDb, she's going to be in "Zoolander 2" in 2016.


I'm sure there's something wise to be written about being innocent until proven guilty or some related pun. There's been a lot of controversial legal issues in the last year so I'm not going to make a sentimental or deep closing here.


Just because some things are set in stone doesn't mean you can't have your cake and eat it too. Whatever, that's good enough.


Spring Cleaning

Sometimes treasure is buried a lot closer than you'd think.


It's one thing to clean up here and there as you go, but a full-fledged household cleaning is a big project. Like many people, my roommate Dan and I save our biggest cleaning for spring. It's not only our biggest cleaning, it's also our only cleaning. Let me rephrase this more honestly: my roommate Dan and I only clean our house once a year when spring comes around.

Dan and I are not dirty guys, but we also aren't clean guys. This is evident if you look at our CAW, or Combined Average Washing. CAW is a number that determines how clean a combination of people are, be it a couple, housemates, a family, or any other combination of two or more people. An ideal CAW is in the vicinity of 1, though from 0.85 to 1.2 is great, too.  Much higher or much lower than that and you have to be honest with yourself about what the number is saying. You're either dirty or clean.

CAW is calculated by taking the total number of times per week all of the selected people bath, divided by the number of people selected times 7. It may be written as:

(Total Baths) / (Number of people * 7) = CAW

For example, last week I bathed a total number of 8 times. Once every day and one day twice, because I got into a garbage can chasing what I thought was a tiny wizard. I saw the wizard scurrying down the street before B-lining it down an alley. I've only seen fifteen or twenty wizards in my life, same as any other normal person, but it's been a good month or so since I've seen a wizard, which is why I so eagerly pursued this wizard. I only saw the flash of his beard as the wizard went into a garbage can. I assumed the garbage can was his wizard home, a portal into an entire world of magic. Magic is so magical. Excited, I opened the can and dove in. It turns out the beard was a tail and the wizard was just a raccoon. An honest, easy, common mistake, but still, it goes into calculating my household CAW.

So if you take my 8 baths--baths is the encompassing term for showering, washing with biodegradable soap in a lake, etc.; for me it's actual baths because I am the smallest man in the world and therefore every bath is a hot tub. Who doesn't like hot tubs!?--and combine it with my roommate Dan's 3 baths, all of which were me surprise attacking him with the hose and some Comet brand powder cleaner, you get 11 Total Baths. Divide this total of 11 by 14, which is the product of the 2 of us multiplied by the 7 days in a week, and you get 0.78.

A CAW of 0.78 is not 1, but it's also not 0.5 or 0.4 or 0.3 or even 0.2, which Dan and I sometimes score because the son of a bitch takes negative baths somedays. A negative bath can come from a number of disgusting choices, such as swimming at the sewage treatment facility, showering down in the sewers as water drips from the streets above, or hanging around hippies when it's rather humid. God those hippies mess up CAW. Dan's negative baths came from him playing in the mud all day every day that particular week, as he's a method actor and was preparing for a role he had in a live action version of "Charlotte's Web." Considering all of this, a 0.78 is pretty OK.

However, regardless of CAW, which is such a smart, well thought out calculation as any intelligent eye can see *cough cough hint hint are you reading this, Scientific American?*, one's house can still be a complete mess, making the whole thing pointless. This is the case for Dan and I. If you could calculate CAW for a house--which you can't believe me I've tried and I am the brains behind such brilliant, original formulas such as CAW and IRRH, or Is Ray Romano Happy, which is a measure applied to the character from the show "Everybody Loves Raymond"--ours would be so low. Like, low low. Like, she hit the floor, next thing you know, shawty got low low low low low low low low. THAT's how dirty our house is.


Or, more aptly put, THAT's how dirty our house was, because we cleaned it today. How did we clean such a dirty house you ask? Well, let me tell you--


















That's right, an actual hand was in the glove. Panicked, I ran into the other room, waving the boney hand around in the air like a crazy person. Dan stood up from putting a new bag in the garbage can, a look of complete confusion on his face. "Mac! Mac!" Dan walked over to me and put his hands on my shoulders, calming me. "MAC!" he yelled.


I settled down but breathed heavily, still freaked out. "It's a hand, Dan! A real hand!"


"What are you talking about?"


"Look!" I showed him the hand. It was five white bone fingers attached to the remaining hand bones. There was a lot of dust in the house so let's say that's what was holding the bones together for some reason. Whatever, you don't know! It's my story!


"Holy cows!" said Dan.


"Moo!" said the Buddha cow, levitating above the ground while meditating.


"Hi, your most enlightenedness," Dan and I said together to the Buddha cow.


"It was in the closet, man. I'm freaked out," I said.


"Are you sure it's not some prop?" Dan asked.


"I don't know, it seems real to me." We walked to the closet. I slowly turned the handle, hesitant, nervous. The door creaked as it opened. "There!" I pointed at the boney stump sticking out from the pile of junk where the hand had broken off.


"That looks like a fricken' arm!" said Dan.


"Hey, cool, a beach ball!" Dan reached past the arm and pulled out a really awesome beach ball. It was the size of a smaller medicine ball and beautiful. It had red, green, yellow, blue, and purple stripes. We closed our eyes and held hands, the ball tucked under Dan's arm. I could practically hear and see the beach. The warm, granular cushioning of sand beneath my toes, the cawing of gulls up above, the smell of hot dogs on a grill.


"I know how we can make it up to everyone that's helped clean!" Dan said as we opened our eyes. "Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" he asked.


I gave a big nod and two thumbs up. "Luau time!"




It was such a fantastic party, even better than the cleaning party we had back during the montage. There were tiki torches, sweet tropical drinks in fun novelty cups, grass skirts, coconut bikini tops, and, best of all, an entire pig roasted on a spit.


"Great party," said Cameron Diaz as she sipped from her bendy straw. She winked at me. "See you later, Mac."


Dan and I looked at each other. "Cheers, my good friend! To warmer weather and good times!" he said as we clinked glasses. I was drinking rum and pineapple juice. What a delicious combo!


"Hey, what are we going to do about that skeleton we found in our closet?" I asked. Everyone in the Conga Line was doing the Limbo now. I gotta get in on that! I thought.


Dan was wearing some hilarious sunglasses. They were circular frames, had smiley faces on the lenses, and were green tinted. I'm sure he couldn't see that well out of them! Also, it was night! What a goof! "Well, I looked at the lease to see if there's anything in it about skeletons we inherited or anything like that, but it only mentions the enlightened Buddha cow that lives with us. It turns out we apparently had a third roommate when we moved in, though," said Dan.


"Oh yeah, Randall. Whatever happened that guy?" I asked. I made that slurping noise as I sucked the last of my drink through a straw. Some people don't like rum but I sure do!


"I have no idea," said Dan. "I wonder where he is."


"Need one for chicken fights!" called our friend Tony from the pool. Our other buddy Scott was on his shoulders.


"You guys are so going down!" said Dan as he ran over and jumped into the pool.


I turned to face the camera. "Some things will just never change," I said, winking.


Luaus are always so much fun.

The Thrill of Hill

The only way to really know your limits is to break them. That, or be broken by them.


It was the biggest hill I'd ever been at the top of. I'd been at the top of some mountains before, but those aren't hills. They're mountains. The difference between a mountain and a hill is quite substantial. We're not talking about going from a midsize SUV to a full scale SUV here. It's not going from a large popcorn at the movie theater to an extra large popcorn. And it's certainly not going from Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows to Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows. No sir. This is so much more of a difference from one size to the next. It's not even going from stepdad to dad. That is an entirely different scale of size measured in trust, respect, and how willing to play catch with you I am. And you'll never be my real dad! In short, going from a hill to a mountain is like going from no mountain to a mountain, because mountains are gigantic and hills are not.

But this was the biggest hill, and, since I am the smallest man in the world, it was kind of like a mountain for me. I think it suffices to say this was no ordinary hill:

It was Old Man Farley's Hill.

The hill behind Old Man Farley's house. On Fifth Street. You know, out behind the old elementary school?

No, not that one. That's the one room schoolhouse. That's too old.

No, not that one, either. That's a middle school.

Uh, I think that's technically a daycare. Plus it's in the basement of a church, so it's not really a school.

Yeah, really. I know. No, St. Mark's is the church itself. I totally get what you mean, though--there are a lot of schools with religious names that aren't that religious. Well, not as religious as a school in a church, anyway.

What's that? No, that's Pith Street, at the other end of town. I'm not sure, but I know the Piths were the first manufacturing family in town.

Believe it or not it was an old textile factory. I think you'd be hard pressed to tell most abandoned old factories apart. Unless it's like a lumber mill or something super specialized, they all look pretty similar.

Yes, it is on Jefferson Street, too! But you're talking about the opposite end of town.

Haha no worries, I do stupid stuff like that all of the time. Of course it would be uphill from the downhill part of town.

Exactly! At the top of the hill at the intersection of Jefferson and Fifth.

Uh huh, that's the hill.

Hmm... I don't think that's right, sorry. That's not really a hill so much as a high plateau. Also, that's not nearly as high up as Old Man Farley's Hill. I thought we were all good?

No, I'm not calling you an idiot. I'm just saying that that other one certainly isn't a hill, by definition.

Come on, please don't blow this out of proportion. Of course I know what a hill is.

I didn't call you a moron. Don't put those words in my mouth.

Wow, very mature. I haven't been called that in a long time.

Yes, I know her. No, really? I'm sorry, I had no idea she felt that way.

It's totally all right. I get weird about stuff sometimes, too.

Really? Two for five dollars? That's a great deal. I'd love to go after this.

No. I just don't trust Venmo. Same reason I don't use online banking. I can give you cash.

It's not outdated money, that's absurd. I don't even know what you mean, I don't think each individual dollar has to be backed by an equal amount of gold. That's definitely not how that works.

It's still physical money. Hackers can't reach through my computer and take my actual money.

I'm not saying he wasn't a great president. I'm just saying he's certainly partly to blame for the crash in 2008.

It went both ways. Republicans and Democrats were doing the exact same thing fiscally in that twenty year period, which is why it inflated so out of control then burst.

Thank you, that's very kind. I studied it for a while my senior year of college.

That's a good question. It's hard to know how drastically it would change if they started getting paid, but there is no doubt that schools and the NCAA itself are raking in unbelievable amounts off of them.

That's funny, it is about as close to gold as it comes.

Did he really? Wow, I knew he was good at basketball, but I had no idea he was good enough to go to Duke.

That is a funny coincidence! Old Man Farley did study at Duke, too.

I don't think they knew that when they bought the house from Old Man Farley. It does go to show how similar certain people are and how it attracts them to similar places.

If it bothers you that much we can call it Reddington's Hill. I just call it Old Man Farley's Hill because when I was hanging out around there Old Man Farley owned it.

I agree that it's important to be thorough in being on the same page. You're all set then? Great.

Old Man Farley's--I mean Reddington's Hill was the biggest hill of them all. Many kids tried to make it all the way to the top, but none ever made it. Rodney Mattus said he made it three quarters of the way up one time, but Rodney is a liar, so he definitely didn't. Where kids fail, though, adults succeed. Especially adults as small as myself.

After a fourteen hour trek--yes, fourteen hours, now you actually appreciate the magnitude of the hill--which I admit would have been half hour tops in a car, but doing stuff in cars or helicopters absolutely defeats the purpose of the human spirit, I finally was there. I looked down at the bottom. It was so far down, all the way to the bottom of the hill. Wow, I thought, looking down. The bottom is the opposite of the top. I zipped the top of my jacket up to protect my neck, tucked my sleeves into my mittens, and put on my goggles.

It was time to sled down. I set down my metal saucer and closed my eyes for a moment, thinking. This was the moment I'd trained for, the moment I thought about every night before I went to bed and every morning after I woke up. I'd sat cross-legged on one of those half exercise balls for five minutes every day for a month. My muscles were ready. I opened my eyes. The sun reflected off of the metal saucer, extra shiny from the oil I'd put on it that morning for extra speed. I put my hands on my hips and rotated to stretch my back, then bent over and touched my toes to stretch my legs. I got down in a crouch, grabbed the saucer from both sides, and sat down cross-legged--just like I'd been training to do like I just said I'd been training to do. I just want to get the point across that I was really really prepared for my saucer trip down Reddington's Hill. I lowered my head a little to be more aerodynamic, put my hands in the snow beside me, and pushed off.

In the blink of an eye, I shot down the hill, faster than a bullet. I have no conscious memory of the journey because the speed made me legally dead until I stopped moving. Before I knew it, I was just sitting there on a flat, several miles away from the mountain. I turned around to look back at the hill. All of the snow in my path was melted. The exposed ground was on fire, all of it. After a moment, a loud crack rushed by me, so loud I had to cover my ears.

I had not only broken the sound barrier, I'd also broken the flammability barrier.

I rolled back my sleeve and looked at my GPS watch. My maximum speed was forty eight miles per hour.

Yes, forty eight miles per hour.

I got up, hardly able to believe the incredible feat. My legs were sore, but not too sore. Thank God for all of those cross-legged five minute training sessions. I took off my goggles and tossed them on the ground. The plastic lenses were deformed from being wind whipped and partially melted. Also, my jacket and pants and shoes were completely disintegrated. All that remained was my red jumpsuit, just like from "The Royal Tenenbaums." I picked up my sled and walked off.

I tried holding back my tears for a bit, but it was no use. I cried. I cried sweet tears for the limits of all humanity. Tears of pride, tears of joy, tears of wonder. Tears of speed. I might be the smallest man in the world, but I can still cry some big old tears.


It was the fastest any man had ever gone before me and the fastest anyone has gone since. It was the fastest any man has gone ever. Many have tried to break my speed record, in planes, trains, rockets, and even time machines, but none have gone faster than I did. One man received some press for a time for saying he went forty nine miles per hour, but officials proved he did not. It was just Rodney Mattus, who is still a huge liar.

I never thought I would hold the record for the fastest anyone has ever gone in the history of mankind, but I guess that's because I never fully believed in myself.

We doubt ourselves and in turn never even try to do any of the incredible things we dream of doing. It's a shame. However, when we believe in ourselves, all of our dreams--no matter how farfetched or seemingly insurmountable--have a shot at coming true.

Tonight, I dream of flying.

Tomorrow, I fly.

Girl Scout Bookies

Some addictions can never be cured, only pampered.


I was a Cub Scout for a short time growing up, like many other young boys. It was just another thing we did in the cycle of activities, including basketball, little league, and soccer. As we got older, spots and sports would change in the cycle. Some went on to the actual Boy Scouts while others went on to do something else, just like how many that played soccer went on to play football when we were old enough. For the time we were all in Cub Scouts, though, it was a lot of fun. When you're a kid you never really think about what you're doing, you are just happy to be with your friends, wherever you are doing whatever you're doing.

This all of course took place when we were still sexually segregated, and happily so. Some stuff like soccer or youth group or 4H was coed, but still, girls were gross. To this day I sometimes find myself at a party standing in a circle of guys, the opposite corner of the girls' circle. That's just how it is sometimes, and that was how it always was during youth. Only moms were OK, but that's just because they made brownies and took you to the doctor and hung out with dads and stuff. Moms rule.

As a young boy and wearer of the felt sash, i.e. a Cub Scout, I despised the Girl Scouts. A club for girls? No way man! They don't even like worms. How can you have a club without worms!?!? What are you going to tell me next, that they have to wear skirts as part of their uniform?

I did not despise their cookies, however. Girl Scout Cookies are the most interesting, incredible, delicious seasonal phenomenon in the entire country, maybe the world. People go crazy for Pumpkin Spice in the fall, but that's just because it's fall and by that point in the year people are clinging to the last fun ideas afloat before the inevitable insanity we all undergo during the winter months. Girl Scout Cookies are the real deal. They're so good, each and every flavor. And in the spring, or whatever two month period they are sold during wherever they are sold, they bring hope, joy, and milk-dunking goodness to all those who eat them. People come out of the woods just for Girl Scout Cookies, lining up like a new Apple product is for sale. We all can't get enough of them. We never will.

As a boy I never considered the royal GSC, Girl Scout Cookies in short, to be associated with our female scout counterparts. I knew girls sold them and that they were all over the boxes and whatnot, but to me, GSCs were a gift to the world merely merchanted by the Girl Scouts. It was like a peace treaty for all of us people to share in. Yes, we Cub Scouts disliked the Girl Scouts, but it was not for their own pursuit of badges or fantastic cookie entrepreneurship. We disliked the Girl Scouts for what they were at their roots: girls.

And we disliked girls for the deepest, darkest, most mysterious of truths: because for some reason, some sick, cruel, twisted, cursed and cursing reason, we liked girls.

This mysterious, dark truth made more sense to all of us boys as we grew up. At first we began to realize we could coexist with girls, even tolerate them. From there and with the introduction of what they call "hormones," this tolerance became a want. We wanted, no, needed to be with girls, to be wanted by girls, to buy them, well, crap. Finally, when we were the most switched one hundred eighty degrees, the most in the hunt to understand why we liked girls so much, the mystery finally unveiled itself. Other girls, certain special girls, could become moms. Yes, moms. As men and future dads, this meant all kinds of plain good stuff. The whole gambit. No merit badge could teach us this merit.

That's why there's no man scouts or woman scouts. No one would ever get any work done.

But, just because we figure this all out as adults does not mean we should let our guards down to new generations of smiling box-pushers.


My mouth felt weird, felt wrong. Empty. I wasn't hungry, but I needed to eat. I needed to eat something sweet. I craved for sweetness.

I got off the worn couch in my living room and went into the kitchen. I opened the cheap wooden cabinets of my crappy apartment. There were no colorful cardboard carriers as I'd expected, the goods I was addicted to. All that sat in the sweets cupboard was an old, half empty bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows. I grabbed a handful and tossed them back as I closed the cabinet doors. They were good, but not what I was looking for.

I needed Girl Scout Cookies. I needed them fast.

A bang came at my door.

Here already? I thought as I buttoned up my flannel shirt and zipped up my pants. The guys were coming over to my house for a few beers before we were going to go out for the night, but that was still a few hours away. Puzzled, I walked to and opened the door.

"Hello, Mac," said a voice, quite matter of factly. She stood just over four feet tall, wearing black shoes, white knee high socks, a khaki skirt, and a black north face zip up. She had brown hair pulled back by a red headband. Her lips were tense and her face was stern. Most intimidating, though, she wore a green sash over her jacket, littered with more badges than I'd ever seen.

She was Rhonda Corcoran, the most notorious GSC dealer in town.

"Oh, hi Rhonda!" I said, trying to act cool. I ran my hand threw my hair and leaned in the doorframe.

"You owe me money," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Be cool, be strong, I though. I pulled back my shoulder blades and took in a big breath, trying to make myself as tall as possible. "Do I? Man, I totally must have marked the wrong--"

"Stop." She held out her hand, arm straight as an arrow. Her arm didn't even shake. "You know I know you know you owe me."

I exhaled. It was no use trying to act tough now. Besides, even at my tallest I wasn't near as tall as Rhonda Corcoran. The downsides of being the smallest man in the world. "Come on in, I'll get my wallet."

I turned and walked in. Rhonda followed. She slammed the door shut behind her, wobbling the pictures on the wall beside it. I went into the living room and fumbled through my jacket pockets, looking for my wallet. "Do you want a glass of water? Milk? Juice?"

Rhonda walked toward my fridge, staring down the pictures I had pinned to it. "Let's not make this longer than we have to."

I found my wallet, a faded old leather wallet I bought at the mall back in high school. I flipped it from hamburger-fold to straight and opened the cash slot. It was empty. I quickly flipped it back closed and put it away.

I heard the flutter of papers falling to the floor. I looked up. Rhonda had pulled all the magnets off the fridge. She was facing me. She had seen my empty wallet.

"Whoops, I'm sorry," she said. One by one she dropped the magnets to the dirty white linoleum floor. "Looks like my hands are empty, too."

"Rhonda, I can explain--"

Rhonda turned toward the cabinet. "That's OK, Mac. Relax. I'll just take back some of--" She opened the doors, revealing the empty sweet stash. "What a surprise, it's all gone."

I rubbed my hands together, nervous. "I can go down to the ATM! I'll just pay back the overdraft fee when I get my next paycheck!"

Rhonda was walking back toward the door. "Don't worry about it, really." She opened the door and took a step out, but stopped. Slowly, she turned to face me again. Rhonda grabbed the broom next to the door. The only broom I owned. Keeping eye contact with me, she slowly brought the broom up parallel to the floor, shoulder high. Rhonda brought it down onto her knee, breaking it in two. She tossed the broom onto the pile of papers and pictures from the fridge. "You can just pay me whenever you get the money."

Rhonda walked out, slowly closing the door. Before closing it all the way, she paused again. "I would advise that to be as soon as possible." She closed the door, gently this time. Eerily gently.

I looked at the mess in my kitchen. Not even a broom to sweep it up with, I thought.


"Well thank you so much, Mr. Samson," said the kind, smiling Mrs. Corcoran. She stood in the door of her beautiful Victorian home. "I'll be sure to give this to Rhonda right away."

"Thank you so much, mam," I said. It felt good to give Rhonda the money I owed, but I was tired, fatigued. As Mrs. Corcoran closed the door, I looked into the living room. Rhonda sat at a table doing her homework. She gave me a deathly gaze as the door closed shut.

I walked back to my car and got in. The walk back made me even more exhausted. I just sat there for a moment. My head felt foggy and my vision was a little off. I reached into my pocket and took out a cookie that the nurse had given me after donating my plasma.

It was a crispy, firm, dry cookie. Just the right amount of sweet, but not too sweet.

A Shortbread cookie, otherwise known as a Trefoils.

Even medical professionals know that the only treatment to cure a weary body is a Girl Scout Cookie.

A Ride in the Park

Sometimes a new adventure is just a good nap away.


You always know when you're going to struggle for productivity. Most of the time, I can cruise along at a pretty consistent pace with stuff. Whether I'm a little tired or have an extra boost, I always do about the same amount of work. Not just work as in work work, but work as in household chores, working out, or even enjoying myself on a day off. By work I just mean getting stuff done.

Every once in a while, though, the planets align, the sun gets clouded out, those barometric bubble readers go the opposite of whatever is normal--who under the age of seventy knows how to read a barometer--and all systems shut down. I lose all ability to focus, all drive to accomplish anything, and become more or less completely empty headed. It's like there's zero thought processing going on behind my suddenly dull eyes, not even stream of conscious thinking. My brain is just a movie projector playing whatever crap is coming through the lens.

After however long it takes me to get the hell out of whatever situation I'm in and to some sort of comfortable place, I crash. The projector shuts off and the show's over. It could be ten in the morning, two in the afternoon, or eight thirty at night, doesn't matter. I have to nap. I fall like the dead King Kong down onto a couch, pillows, a blanket, grass, anything soft enough. Even mud will do. I once even took a nap on a pile of mulch. Blessed, warm, steamy mulch.

After sleeping in a crazy state--I always have dreams during these naps that are the kind of stuff psychologists ask for for Christmas--for what seems like days, I wake up recharged and ready to go. They're always actually only forty five minutes to an hour and a half, but still, it feels like days both in how long it's been and how rested I am. I call these naps "brown outs." They're just like power outages that happen in the summer, seemingly unexpectedly, though really when you'd totally expect them, if you know the signs.


It was a dewy Saturday morning mid-May. I woke up early after going to bed early, a good night's sleep, plenty rested and ready. I had a cup of coffee and a donut with my morning paper. I wasn't that hungry so I didn't eat much. It made the one cup of coffee hit me perfectly, optimizing the caffeine like a gallon of gas in a hybrid car. It had been a long week of late nights at work, which is why I opted to stay in and sleep on Friday night.

One night of sleep wasn't enough to cover the week.

An hour or two after breakfast it hit me. I'm really tired. The coffee was still buzzing, but I could feel the empty foundation underneath it. I started swaying like a Jenga tower, only a few brick pulls away from toppling. It's comingThe brown out is coming.

I was visiting my friend John out in his sleepy little hometown, a place I was barely familiar with but comfortable in. Too comfortable, just as sleepy as the town itself. What makes a sleepy town a sleepy town? A certain quality of inviting to nap. I unfortunately opened my handwritten invitation while I was walking in the park:

The residents of Wesley cordially invite you to take a load off, stop what you're doing, and just relax, rest your eyes a little. Here:

A Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow fell out of the envelope, the perfect pillow for my little head.

Now you can lie down anywhere!

It was such a nice, welcoming letter.

The grass was too wet to lie on from the dew. The sun felt nice on my skin, so cozy. It was just warm enough where it felt like a natural heat blanket covering all of my body. The man in my brain turned off the processor and turned on the movie projector. It was only a matter of moments before all systems were black.

The creak of a gate caught my attention. An older couple were leaving the tennis court. The warm, sun-bathed tennis court. My feet took me over to the court, through the open door. I watched it all behind my streaming eyes, completely in observation mode.

The screen went black for a moment, then came back on. This was no regular blink, not even an extended blink to moisten dry eyes. This was a sleep warning. Why don't I just lie down right here? I thought, a dumb declarative statement to myself meant not at all meant to be analyzed or discussed by the council of my brain. They were all off on break, anyway. Another extended black came before my eyes. The great ape no longer clutched the Empire State Building. He was falling.

I bent down and picked up a tennis ball to move it out of the way. A soft, fuzzy tennis ball. This is nice. Warm and soft, I thought, a thought only a few steps above a Neanderthal's on the cognitive ladder.  I held the ball to my face.

Another black screen. The ball was a giant dandelion head and I was a little lady bug. My red speckled butt needed a little break from bug stuff. A dandelion is the perfect place for a lady bug to sleep. Maybe I'd be on the cover of National Geographic, all cute and asleep on the flower some called a weed. Red looks great on yellow and green, especially with a nice camera.

Back to streaming vision, but this time it took a while to refocus the lens. I don't care where anymore, I just want to sleep. The last drop of water had been squeezed from the rock. It was go time. Stop time.

I dropped the ball and readied for the opposite of launch. The ball bounced toward the net, hitting it and rolling to the side, right into a serving machine. My peepers lifted their weighted shades to see the bucket attached to the machine. A bucket full of soft, fuzzy balls.

The film skipped ahead to the tiny little man crawling over the edge into the bucket of tennis balls. Hey, that's me, I thought as I stretched out over the neon spheres and...


The world is a red and black checkered plane. It only exists on this one flat plane, and this plane stands vertically among the infinite black nothingness that is everything else in existence. It is the Y-axis and that is the only axis. The plane is eight squares by eight squares.

The world is a chessboard.

I stand in one of the bottom two corners of the board. Gravity draws me down onto the board, even though I am technically sideways, I suppose. I can feel that I am standing out from a cliff, but I do not fall, and the blood does not rush to my head. This is just how the world is.

I am all alone in the world. If this were chess, I would be the queen, for the queen is the most powerful player.

"Screw the king," I say out loud to no one. The words float before me, a wavy red incarnated text that sails on a sine wave away from me, across the board.

"Wait, come back!" I call after the physical text, which moves farther and farther away. "I didn't know that I could create you!" My pleas against loneliness also materialize before me, much smaller than "Screw the king." They move much faster in smaller undulations, chasing after the first text. As they reach "g," the tail of the phrase, they slice all the phrase in half. My desperate requests float away into the nether. The original letters fall on the middle of the board, dead.

The board trembles as if awoken by my crime. In the opposite corner, the high side of the plane, the red tile opens up like a door. Out steps a triangular piece of yellow cheddar cheese. The door closes.

"I am the king!" yells the cheese.

New letters form in the air, bigger, bolder letters.

I watch as they charge at me, the "I" the head of the train. I look over my shoulder. There is nowhere to go but ahead onto the plane, for the world is only this board. As I turn, I am torn open by the "I." My chest rips apart as finally the "n" and "g" go through me.

I begin to melt onto the board, lower and lower. The last thing I see before I die is the cheese. He has two googly eyes. The black pupils roll around and around, like swimmers doing laps around a lake.

My final thought enters forth from my puddly body onto the board as the infinite black nothingness of existence covers the plane: I love cheddar cheese.


The brown out was over.

I opened my eyes. Before I could do anything at all, I felt the whip of wind on my face. I squinted and clutched at the ground I rested on. It wasn't ground, it was a soft, fuzzy ball.

I flew through the air over a field pressed against a tennis ball, having been launched from the machine.

A golden retriever ran as fast as he could below me. His tongue flapped like a ham in the wind as he raced along, keeping pace with my new plane, a traveling plane, a tennis ball airplane.

I wonder where he's going, I thought before snapping back into active thinking mode, the council back from lunch, the projector put away. He's going where I'm going, which is wherever I'm going.

The ball began to descend, having reached the top of it's arch trajectory. I'm going down, I thought.

I turned so my stomach faced the ball, holding on as tight as I could. Thank God the ball wasn't spinning but instead sailed like a knuckleball. Unfortunately, my weight altered its descent. I leaned forward as hard as I could, but it was no use. I was traveling butt first toward the ground.

I wish I were a lady bug, I thought. Then I'd have a hard shell to protect my fall. Wait...

Down, down, down I flew.

That's stupid, if I were a lady bug I would fly away. Even when plummeting toward death I think brilliant thoughts.

I looked down. There, like a Gold Glove winning outfielder, awaited the shaggy-haired dog, tail wagging, mouth open.

Flump. The ball went right into his mouth. I saw only blackness.

The infinite black nothingness of existence. Or rather, death. The void of existence, or is it the continuation of existence? I sure am wet.

I heard a hack from closer than anyone has ever heard before.

Wet! I'm not dead!

Another hack. I felt a slick, strong surface on my back. It pushed me against the ball, moving the ball forward. I fell out of the retriever's mouth. The world was no longer black.

I looked up from the itchy, uncut grass. Brown eyes looked down at me from an excited face. The dog panted heavily, making the corner of his mouth seem to smile.

"Good boy!" I said. The dog closed his mouth, cocked his head to the side, and tilted his ears forward. He looked at me quizzically, but not studying me.

I stood up. The dog dipped down, his head closer to the ground while his rear stood in the air. His tail zipped back and forth like a floppy windshield wiper.

I walked to him and scratched his ear. Upon being scratched, the dog lowered his rear and laid down, happy as can be.

"That's the spot, eh boy?" I said, working the area around his now relaxed ears. As I scratched him, I grabbed the silver ID tag hanging from his blue collar. Chloe, it read.

"I'm sorry. You're not a boy, are you, Chloe--"

Chloe was thrilled to hear her name. She scooped up the ball into her mouth and jumped back to her feet. My hand caught underneath her collar. She bolted forward. The force flung me by the arm on top of her front shoulders. She came to a sprint. I brought my other hand to the blue band and hung on for dear life.

Chloe ran full speed across the open field and I rode with her. After a moment, it wasn't scary at all. Quite the opposite--it was exhilarating. I didn't know where we were going and I didn't care. It didn't even matter. Chloe was my steed and I was a cowboy, a pair of wild animals free on the open range.


As we came to the edge of the field, Chloe took a hard right and went back to the tennis court.  She slowed down as she approached a woman. A short, very pretty woman.

"There she is, good girl, good... Oh, hi there," she said. Chloe dropped the ball at her feet and stared at it.

I let go of Chloe's collar with one hand and put it on my neck, unsure how to proceed in what I assumed was the first situation of its kind. "Uh..."

I looked at the woman. She had blonde hair cut above her shoulders. Her bangs were pulled and pinned back, revealing her face like a stage. It was the cutest haircut I'd ever seen. She had cobalt eyes and small, light lips. Her eyebrows were raised high. Rightfully so.

I could feel my own eyebrows raised high, except mine were from a feeling quite the opposite of confusion. "I got caught up in a game of catch with Chloe here."

Chloe again reacted to hearing her name. She promptly sat down. It caught me off guard and I rolled down her back onto the ground. I quickly rolled to my feet and leaned against Chloe's side, trying to save the remnants of my cowboy cool from moments before. "I'm, I'm Mac." I put my index and middle fingers to my brow and gave a slight wave like a cowboy would by pointing from the brim of his hat.

The woman giggled, bit her lower lip, and looked down. "Nice to meet you, Mac. I'm Lizzy. And it looks like you already know Chloe here pretty well."

I petted Chloe on the side. "You've got yourself a fine animal here," I said.

Lizzy rubbed Chloe's head. Content, she closed her eyes and shut her mouth. Her tongue hung out the side. "Well... Chloe and I are off for a walk. It was nice to meet you, Mac." Lizzy patted her thigh as she turned and Chloe followed.The two started off.

Embarrassed, I looked down. I put my hands in my pockets and kicked at the grass. No match for a cheese king and no match for a girl, I thought. The wind picked up and blew against my face. It made me think of riding the dog.  I really liked that. I felt like a whole new me.

I looked up, feeling the renewed confidence of a true pioneer. "Hey, Lizzy," I called.

Lizzy turned. Chloe looked back at her owner from several steps ahead.

"Would you like to go get a cup of coffee? I really felt something here and it'd be a same to let it pass."

Lizzy smiled.

"I mean with Chloe, of course," I said.

Chloe, again reacting to her name, trotted over to me.

I petted her glossy coat. "See what I mean?"

Lizzy giggled, bit her lower lip, and looked down. "I sure do," she said, looking back up. "Can't let a spark like that go."

I walked over to her, Chloe right behind me.


No matter how stressed out, floundering, or whatever else you are when you feel the brown out coming, don't panic. Just embrace it. A little nap always does the mind and body good. Yes, there's obviously times when you can't squeeze a nap in. But if you can, go for it. Nap! When you wake up, you'll certainly be recharged. More importantly, though, you might find yourself in an exciting new situation, facing a new path, ready for a new adventure.

Or, better yet, you might meet a pretty woman and go on a romantic afternoon date. An afternoon date that extends into dinner. A dinner that extends into after dinner drinks. And after dinner drinks that extend into...

That's a story for another time.

As for now, I think I'm feeling the need for a little nap.

Never fight the brown out.

Now and the Never

We'll never get to the future if we don't worry about it now.


I was riding the train with some friends last weekend, headed from one bar to the next. It was just us three and a lady with some groceries sitting at the opposite end of the car. I looked out the window as we whizzed by houses and streetlights. I was just tipsy enough where I thought how cool it looked to not focus on any single outside object, instead letting it all be a blur.

My buddy Gus pointed to a poster above the door we stood in. It showed a brown leather briefcase below an empty blue train seat. "If you see something, say something" was printed in dark, bold text at the top.

"Like I'm ever going to report a fancy abandoned bag," said Gus.

Our other buddy Larry swung from the pole he held onto. "No man, shady stuff always takes place in nice bags," he said.

The train took a slight turn and I had to widen my feet to keep from falling, my hands in my pockets. "Robbers can put more money in gym bags," I said. "But they can put money from upscale heists, larger bills and stuff, in a briefcase."

Gus nodded. "Exactly. That's why I'd take a sleek one like that if I saw it just lying around."

Larry grabbed the pole with his free hand and pulled himself upright. "And when you get home and open it, what if it's not a money or drug transfer thing? What if it blows up on you?"

"That's what they want us to think, but trains aren't targets for anything. Trains are for commuters and sleeping bums."

I leaned against the opposite door, tired of trying to balance. "You really wouldn't tell the cops?"

"I don't know. Maybe I would," said Gus.

"I heard in Europe they have these like automated police tellers at train stations," said Larry, scratching his five o'clock shadow.

"Bullshit," I said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a pack of gum. I took a piece and offered some to the boys. Gus took one.

"They've got police at all the stations there. There's no police ATMs."

"No, it's not like that. It's like little droids," said Larry.

"Like robot cops?" asked Gus, playing for a rouse.

"Not like the movie. They have cameras on them," said Larry.

"Great movie," I blurted out. "What if that's how it's going to be someday?"

"The future sounds like it sucks," said Gus. The train stopped and we got off.


I've never seen the movie RoboCop. However, I never remember that I haven't seen it. So, when someone brings up RoboCop every once in a while, I always chime right in about how great and awesome the movie is. It's happened enough times now where I've put together what the movie is like in my mind. No, I never actually check up on any of the details. No, I still haven't seen the movie. And no, it doesn't happen frequently enough for me to ever think, Hey, I actually have to watch RoboCop this time. It might sound crazy, but it's just how it is.

*   *

The movie opens with credits playing over a montage of old school cop shots. 1970s black and white cop cars. Close ups of badges. Mustaches. A policeman shoots his pistol over the hood of his car. A detective in a white collared shirt and black suspenders drinks coffee at his desk. A close up of a radar system.

A young police officer walks down the street. He hears a commotion from an alley. He walks down the alley. A group of thugs are beating up a scientist who's trying to protect a fancy new computer. They rip the computer out of his hands and punch the scientist in the face. The police officer yells, "Freeze, I'm police officer Rod Benson and I order you in the name of the law to stop!"

The head thug waves everyone to stop. He wears a purple tie and black suit. He takes the computer in his hands and approaches Officer Benson. "Sorry, officer. Just a friendly misunderstanding." He smiles and takes another step.

"Stop! I'm warning you," says Benson.

"Here, is this what you're looking for?" asks the head thug. He throws the computer and Benson catches it. The head thug draws his pistol and shoots. Benson defends himself with the computer. A bullet goes through the computer into his heart. Benson collapses. The thugs run.

The scientist gets up and runs to Benson. "Oh no, what have they done?" says the scientist, bending over to check on Benson.

Benson coughs. "I'm not dead." The computer starts to spark colorful sparks and flickers lights.

"That's not the problem--" T

The computer opens a time warp and disappears. Benson is gone too.

"It's too late," says the scientist, bowing his head. "He's already there."


I pulled my stool closer to the bar. Stools are always so damn high off the ground. "Can I get a Goose IPA? And the first round of whatever these two are having."

"Sure thing," said the bartender. He grabbed a glass off the top of the stack, pulled the white tap shaped like a goose's head, and poured. "For you two?" he asked.

Gus chewed some peanuts. "Just a High Life bottle."

Larry leaned his arms on the bar, watching one of the TVs. "Little Sumpin' Sumpin', please."

The bartender gave us our drinks. I handed him my card. "You can keep the tab open."

"Thanks, Macky," said Larry, raising his glass. We all clinked our drinks, tapped them on the bar, then drank. "We won't be able to do this someday, you know."

"What're you talkin' about?" asked Gus.

"There's not going to be any liquid booze in the future," said Larry.

"That's insane," I said. "Drinking is the only thing that's kept society in order for ages, no matter how much it messes up a lot of people's lives."

"And it's fricken' awesome," said Gus, taking another drink.

Larry shook his head. "It's all gonna be powdered booze. And legalized drugs. Different, safer drugs than what we got now."

A chubby guy in a baggy blue sweatshirt next to me leaned into our conversation. "I don't know about the drugs, but I've heard about the powdered booze thing," he said, eyes on the TV.

"See! Thank you, sir. Now this guy's a smart fellow," said Larry.

Gus took another handful of peanuts. "Maybe there won't be so many morons in the future."

I laughed a solitary ha. I leaned back in my stool and turned. The bar wasn't as full as I thought it would be on a weekend. A few guys played pool. A table of ladies drank cocktails, laughing loudly. A Galaga machine was on the far wall, next to a bright flashing pinball machine.

It was a RoboCop pinball machine.


Officer Benson files through papers on his desk. Only he isn't the same. His wound is healed and his chest is metallic. He has a cyclops-like band for eyes and a silver metal helmet as part of his head. He has robotic hands and stronger human legs than before. He is a robotic hybrid cop. The RoboCop.

"Got some fresh leads on the Hernandez case," says a voice. Benson looks up. He's in a futuristic police office.

A beautiful woman hands him a packet. She has auburn hair, blue eyes, and a stud in her nose. As she hands him the packet, they hold hands.

"I love you so much, Debra," says Benson.

They release hands, lingering fingertip to fingertip for a moment. We see the lack of a ring on Debra's hand.

"You too. I just wish that the force would let us prove it to God," says Debra.

The office door bursts open. A thug steps in, wearing crazy future sunglasses, a purple tie, and a black suit. He holds a laser shotgun.

"The leads lead here, cop scum!" He cocks his laser shotgun. "This is for my great grandpa Hernandez!" The thug shoots Debra full of laser pelts, then runs out.

Benson holds Debra in his robotic hands. "Deeeebbraaaaaa!" he yells.

A future hologram poster hangs in the background of the office. It's for Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows. It might be a hologram, but it's still the same good old Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows that we all know and love.

In my mind Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows are the sponsor of RoboCop.


Larry and I sat across from each other in a yellow, contoured wooden booth. The late night food joint had four booths and a long, shallow table running along the window. The smell and feel of fried grease filled the air.

Gus set down two large red plastic baskets, one french fries and the other chicken nuggets. I immediately grabbed a few fries and put them in my mouth. They were too hot to eat, but I was too hungry to wait, so I cooled them with my breath before swallowing. Gus sat down. He dunked a chicken nugget in barbecue sauce and ate it.

"Mustang Pete's is the single greatest fast food place on the planet," said Larry, sipping root beer through a straw from his generic styrofoam cup.

"No doubt," said Gus, who was also doing the breath-to-cool technique to eat some fries. "If any chain ever figures out the magic of Pete's, the whole world will die fat and happy."

A couple walked through the door, arm in arm. They looked young, probably high schoolers. Their faces were painted with the dual excitement of being out late and being in teenage love.

"You don't think Pete will ever try and do it himself?" I asked.

Gus shook his head. "No way."

I watched the young couple order. The guy reached into his pocket and opened a velcro wallet. Tony was smiling as he told told a joke from behind the register. His eyes squinted shut when he really smiled, which was often. The couple both laughed. The girl wrapped her arms around the guy's arm again.

"Absolutely not. Not a chance in hell," said Larry, dipping a fry in a mixture of ketchup and mustard. "It's just the way it's supposed to be, like it's always been."


Benson climbs over the top of a ladder onto a roof. "Nowhere to go but down, Hernandez." Benson stands firm, holding his ground.

The thug looks over the edge of the building, out over the city. "You pigs think you run this city, with your laws and self-righteousness. But you don't." Hernandez turns, facing Benson. "We do, we real people, we real lords of the streets." He kneels and opens the brown leather briefcase he has been holding.

Benson raises his hand and points his finger, which is a robot gun. "Don't even bother. You know I'm bulletproof."

Hernandez laughs. "You can't shoot a RoboCop. But a RoboCop can sure shoot the shit out of you and everyone you know. Where's the justice for the justice keepers, though? Isn't that what our forefathers wanted to prevent all those years ago when they wrote the constitution? Isn't that what the second amendment's all about? Man, how far this great nation has gone, and how low it has dug."

Benson starts walking toward Hernandez. "If you're so right and civil, why do you traffic alcohol powders and syntha-drugs, then?"

Hernandez shakes his head. "Too many rules. I've never played by the rules." He turns the briefcase. It has a screen with a computer countdown. 5... 4... 3... "There's no rule about blowing up RoboCops." 1...


I got home late, around 1:30. I was more tired than I was drunk, which always makes for good sleep. I sat on the edge of the bathtub while I brushed my teeth, facing the mirror. I've looked into a mirror thousands of times, maybe more. It's always the exact me looking back, exactly as I am, exactly how I've always been. It's only strange when I look at pictures from the past to see how much I've changed over the years.

I took off my shirt, put on a pair of shorts, and got into bed. I rubbed my feet against the cold sheets until it felt warmer.

That's one of my favorite sensations in life. It simply feels good as it is in itself, going from cold to warm in a comfortable contrast. What makes it so special is that it comes at the end of the day when you're unwinding, relaxed, falling asleep.

Not thinking backwards, not thinking forwards.

Just thinking now, enjoying now. Sleepy now, happy now.

The Empty Beach

Darkness makes the heart grow fonder.


Do you remember the first time you fell in love?

The way your heart pumped as it tried to Morse code to the one you loved. Bump bump. Bump bump. Love me. Love you.
The way your eyes could look only at that person you fell for. Tunnel vision, the tunnel of love.
The way that person smelled. A smell like no other smell you'd ever smelled before or since, a smell key that unlocks that moment kept in the safe box of your memory for the rest of time.
The way time passed. Maybe fast as riding a bullet train straight into the sun, maybe slow as the sprouting and growth of a peace lily, day by precious day.

The way all your problems didn't really seem to matter anymore, because all that mattered was your missing half, your shared blazing passion, and the universe that could only exist when you two were together, a universe only you two knew, a universe you wished to forever call home.


Do you remember the first time you fell out of love?

The way your heart slowed, beating irregularly as it struggled to relearn how to pump on its own again, separated from your former other heart.
The way your eyes began to wander, seeing other faces and other potential partners, wandering more, wondering lots.
The way you smelled less, at least less of the good, less of the magic, not sniffing to unlock that safe box, losing track of the key altogether.
The way time passed, again in hours, minutes, seconds, and days, again with regard for the world around you.

The way all your problems and troubles and worries came back into your forefront, your own problems and problems for you only, the fading light of a dying star that eventually flickered out far away in a universe forgotten.


Do you remember the first time you fell from really high up, not so high that you got hurt, but high enough where you thought, Am I the Chosen One?

The way your heart pounded adrenaline into your veins, giving you the reflexes of a God and the mental fortitude of a Goddess.
The way your eyes dilated wider than they've ever opened before, seeing sights you've never seen, through walls and into the souls of all mere mortals under you.
The way you smelled the strengths and weaknesses of every living being on planet earth, man or animal, worthy or unworthy, fertile or finished.
The way time passed exactly as you allowed it to pass, because you are the controller, the one controller, the all mighty controller.

The way problems had entirely new problems of their own, for you are the one solution, the one chosen by all, whose throne shall only be the top of the mountain, whose wings soar such that they are coveted by eagles, whose laugh quakes the ground and crashes the waves, whose tears raise the tides, whose sadness freezes all the oceans solid, whose excitement spins the globe and alters its orbit, and who still can't be loved even now why what more can I do what more can I give?


It was a chilly morning. I woke up on the beach, right on the sand. I did go to sleep on the beach, so that much made sense. What didn't make sense was why I didn't feel chilly. It couldn't have been warmer than sixty degrees, which by the water feels even colder. Yet, I feel cold.

I sat up and looked over the ocean. A wave rolled in, stayed for a moment, then left, gone forever nope nevermind there's another wave, here, now lost wait there's another wave, it's staying, it's leaving I'm ruined why waves why not stay--

A spray of water spouted into the air far off from shore. A whale. It could have been a pipe in the ocean, I guess, I don't know if there are or aren't pipes in the ocean. Or it could have been some sort of weak water grenade. Perhaps under the gentle rolling surface all hell was breaking lose, jelly fish fighting jelly fish, merman fighting merman, tuna still working together because tuna fish are friends. Or maybe it was like a very small cloud of rain that got flipped over by some sort of Super Mario Galaxy warp, so when it rained it actually went up from the surface of the sea.

The sun just broke the horizon. Scientists seem to think that the sun will always come back everyday for the next four and a half to five million years, at which point it will explode. Well I say how do you know, scientists? Did you talk to the sun? Do you even know the sun? Are you the sun? I don't think so, not to any of these. So until I hear so explicitly from the sun himself or herself--who am I to assume one or the other--I wait for the dawn of everyday. Would it be the end of the world if it didn't come back one day?

The wind picked up as the sun rose, growing the waves and making the grass bend along the edge of the beach. Some sort of small, darting bird floated on the breeze right into then right out of sight, maybe chasing some quick bug, maybe just moving along.

I didn't feel the wind though. I didn't feel it and I didn't hear it.

I didn't feel the sun, either. I could see it, but I didn't feel its heat.

I didn't feel cold. I didn't feel hot. I just didn't feel.

An urge drew my attention to the sand directly beside me to my right. It was the same tiny crystals and particles as all the other sand on the beach. However, it looked like it had the indentation of two legs, a body, and an arm.

An urge drew my right hand to my chest. It was the same skin and cells as all the rest of my body. But it held the feeling of another arm rested on it, the sensation of a clutching embrace displaying its trust and sharing its calm curiosity.

The discovery and memory drew my hand up to its own shoulder. It was the same muscle and tissue over bone as it always was. It wasn't the same as it always was, though. It longed for the warm pressure of a passionate lover, using it as a pillow while listening to the message of my heart.

My heart began to ache, feeling tight and foreign.

The sun was a complete circle in the sky now, dawn having given way to day. My eyes struggled to adjust. It wasn't brightness that challenged them. It was increasing lack thereof.

The sun went from yellow, to gold, to red, to white, and finally, a glowing black.

My heart throbbed pain. I rubbed at my breast to try and sooth it, but with no luck. My head spun as I struggled to understand what was happening. Is it nighttime already? Some sort of daynight?

I felt temperature again. The sand beneath me felt hot, very hot.

Have I gone blind and this is actually just the heat of the sun?

I looked down. The whole beach was so dark, almost black. It was a suffocating darkness.

Except for the imprint in the sand.

It glowed a unique shade of red, freshly exposed blood mixed with melted gold. It was like the color of that zone between red and yellow flames in a scorching fire...

The thought of fire seared my mind.

All the pain in my chest went to my head, doubling every second that passed. A flashbang of white made me close my eyes as hard as I could.

* * *

I could see a campfire burning on the beach. A pile of neatly split logs lay off to the side. I sat on an upturned stump. I had my head tucked between my knees. I held a stick and reached into a bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows. I stuck as many as I could onto the end of the stick.

"Hey, I said not to let go!" said a voice.

I lifted my head.

Next to me on another stump sat an angel. She had curly brunette hair as lovely a brown as the bark of a willow tree. It hung from her head like the drooping branches of a willow, too. Her nose came up at the end like a cute little ski jump. Her lips were full and perfect. Her kind hazel eyes reflected the dancing flames of the fire. I couldn't tell which gave off more heat.

She reached out her hand and grabbed mine, squeezing it tight. "There, that's better."

I felt warm everywhere. I felt right.

"I love you so much," I said.

She smiled. "I love you too."

I set down my roasting stick and stood up. She stood up a half a step after me, following our joined hands. I hugged her close and kissed her. I felt as if my body was nothing at all, just a network of tingling nerves pulsing excitement.

We stopped kissing and looked at each other once more. She had little faded freckles all over her nose and a mole just above her thick eyebrows. I had never seen a portrait so beautiful.

She released our hug but kept hold of my hand. I looked at her hand in mine. I never wanted to hold anything else but that for the rest of my life.

She smiled again and led me closer to the water. She delicately took a knee and pulled me down with her. We kissed as I laid down and she laid on top of me. Her body felt even better than her incredible hand.

* * *

I opened my eyes. My breath came slow and easy. I looked at the sky. It was normal daytime, a few clouds but mostly sun. I felt the wind on my face. Waves dully roared as they rhythmically rolled in and out, in and out.

I touched the indentation in the sand next to me. It felt cool, exactly the same as the rest of the sand on the beach.

I remembered things I'd said and things I'd done, things I'd regretted and still regret. They were normal, brief memories, simple mental journal entries really no different than any other everyday thought.

I stood up and walked away from the water, off the beach.

I moved my fingers. They felt empty, rather cold. I craved for a fire, no matter how painful it might have been to both start it and put it out.

An Apple A Day

The sweetest tastes in life are those we can't quite savor.


What started as a normal day apple picking in Vermont became a trip to Eden.

I like apples, all kinds of apples. Every apple is delicious, and every apple is great. Without apples, we have nothing. Apples are the foundation of applesauce, apple butter, apple pie, high-octane gasoline, birth control, and of course, thee New York City. From red to green to yellow, and those are I believe the only three colors of apples, apples are wonderful. Except for Red Delicious apples, those are kind of gross. No one ever says that, though. They lack the applesack to say it.

On the sabbath, which is Sunday for some and Saturday for others, both for me, I like to rest and observe the world around me. Sometimes I lock myself into a plastic hamster ball and roll around city streets for hours, seeing who comes along and if they kick me. You shouldn't tap on the sides of a fish tank because it is hard on the fish. A hamster ball is not a fish tank. So, if you see a little man out on the streets in one of these plastic, magical orbs, that's me. Please, take this as permission to kick away!

But in the fall, when kids are going back to school and soccer is starting but who cares because so is football, I am much more interested in a different magical orb. What orb, one may ask? Well, if one has read the paragraph two paragraphs ago, one may guess that I am talking about apples. That is correct! I also accept Nerf balls as an answer. They too are magical orbs.

An apple orchard is a farm where apples are grown. I guess it's a farm, but in reality, it's more of a giant garden. Whatever, you say "tomato," I say "what about them and why are you initiating a conversation with the word 'tomato'"?

I imagine that every spring farmers go out in their fields and see which trees survived the winter, which is probably all of the trees. The farmers carry special appleseed distributors with them. The distributors are old tin coffee cans with a string on either side for a neck-strap. The tin is what makes them so special. After an apple farmer has emptied a distributor of apple seeds, he takes off the distributor, flips it over, plays it as a drum as he sings "Appleseed, My Appleseed," and he wears it on top of his head. That's how the Romans invented the top hat.

It was one of the last warm days in October when I went to Sunshine Orchards and had my divine encounter. The second Wednesday or the 18th, whichever comes first. That's the last warm day in October. PS it's always the second Wednesday, unless you're using a black market calendar. Which I do. Suck it! Sunshine Orchards sprawls over several few different plots, all of which go uphill from the centrally located barn and farmhouse. I don't know exactly how big it is, but if I had to guess I'd say between 50 and 1000 units. You be the judge!

Knowing that all of the best apples are always on the highest branch of the highest trees, I headed right for the peak of the hill. It took me twelve minutes thirty-eight seconds to get there. I walk very quickly when it comes to apples. That's why they call me "the apple Cheetah." God rest their poor, lost souls.

It was a splendid tree unlike any other tree I'd ever seen before. That's because the branches were on the bottom and the roots were on the top. Wait... I thought. I put my feet back on the ground and stopped doing the headstand I was doing. Nevermind, it was just a normal tree. But it was still really big.

Things were different around that splendid tree. Even though it was warm by October standards, it was a cloudy, windy day. But not around that splendid tree. The air was calm and the clouds above it parted, shining a beam of light on the tree. Each apple was as ripe and red as any I'd ever seen. Something about this tree seemed to call...

"Hey!" said the tree. "Hey, you!"

Oh, that was the tree calling to me. "Yes?"

"Do you like apples?" asked the tree.

I gave two thumbs up. "Boy do I ever!" I said. I wish I was wearing overalls, that would have been fun.

The tree shuddered, dropping a few apples into my basket. Oh, in case you don't believe me, I totally brought a basket with me right from the beginning. Baskets are a timeless way of carrying apples. The Navajo people know many of the secrets of the land.

"Well, how about them apples?" said the tree.

"How long have you been waiting to tell that joke?" I asked.

"You wouldn't believe," said the tree.

I took a bite from one of the apples. It was an A+. It tasted like an apple, but way better. That's how good this apple was.

"What do you think?" asked the tree.

"This apple is incredible," I said. "Hey, are you the Giving Tree?" I asked.

"No, and don't ask me that again," said the tree, crossing his branches like arms across his chest, pouting. "There are other talking trees, you know."

"Sorry," I said, patting the sweat from my brow like an old man in the South. "Lordy, lordy, I sure do like them apples," I said in the exact tone of an old man in the South.

"I'm glad you like them," said the tree. The tree then looked very sad. "It's all I can do." The tree cried sappy tears.

"Hey, don't be sad, tree!" I said, hugging his trunk. "Surely it is better to be great at only one thing than to be only OK at many." If you're reading this, run-first quarterbacks, yes I'm talking to you. And no, I don't mean specialize in the run.

The tree stopped crying. "Thank you, friend. That makes me feel better. Is there anything else I can do to repay you the favor?"

I was just about to carve my initials into the tree with my pocketknife, but I figured that probably wasn't a good idea anymore. Friends don't usually carve into other friends. I would never get a tattoo. "I love apples so much, tree," I said to the tree. You know, the talking apple tree. "Do you have a special apple more delicious than all others?"

The tree nodded, which was terrifying, because it made way too many apples fall down at once. There was a lovely blue flower growing at the base of the tree, but it got smashed by one of the apples. What a bummer for that flower!

"Yes," said the tree. He lowered a branch down to me. "Get on, Mac."

"How did you know my name?" I asked as I stepped onto the branch.

The branch lifted me to the top of the tree. "We trees are very perceptive. Yours is a name known by many in nature, friend. You journey is one watched by all those beyond men. The otters don't just befriend any tiny person."

Wow, that's incredible, I thought very briefly. But then I remembered that I was being lifted up in a tree by a tree, and that was way more interesting than whatever this old bat was saying about the world watching me. "Thanks for the lift," I said.

The tree set me down on his top branch. There his branches were quite different. They were thicker, weaved into a branchy basket. The Navajos know this. The Navajo people know many of the secrets of the land. In this webbed basket sat two silver apples, like two precious eggs in a nest.

"I assume these are them?" I asked, picking up the apples before the tree could even answer because I am a maverick.

"How about them apples?" said the tree, excited.

"You already used that one," I said.

"Shit," said the tree. "Yeah, those are them."

I picked up the two silver apples and put one in each of my pants pockets. I may be very small, but I am smart enough to always wear big pockets. You never know what you'll need to put in your pockets. That's why kangaroos are always prepared.

"Go ahead and take them," said the tree, a step behind but hey he's a tree I'd say he's doing pretty well considering. He reached out his branch arm and lowered me back to the ground. "But be warned," said the tree.

The hole in the clouds filled and the beam of light stopped shining. A lightning bolt came down and struck the tree. He fell over, dead.

"Uh... My legs... Mac, please, help me... I'm not dead yet--"

I already said he was dead, jeeze. Plus I'd already walked far away enough by then where it was pretty believable that I couldn't hear the tree. Let's go with that.


I stopped halfway down the hill and took a bite from one of the silver apples. Life as I know it changed. My tastebuds were all tiny hands, rolling on ecstasy at a rave. I felt each individual particle of appley sugar as it tickled the hands, each sending a different light of intense color to my brain. My stomach became a warm pool. It relaxed all of the knots in my muscles as the appley bite slid down my throat into it. I was so relaxed I could see all the ghosts of sinners past, present, and future. That part sucked, actually.

I took another bite of the apple. It was too much this time. All of the tiny ravers ODed, a catastrophe at the festival. It was truly panic at the disco. The seizing hands overloaded my brain with lights. The pool in my stomach began to bubble, now more like a geyser. The waters rose, no longer relaxing my muscles, but instead burning them. All of the simulation went directly to my brain. I could feel it shutting down, a dark shadow drowning out the light of the world as I faded from consciousness. My brain was shrinking and dying, as pale and constricted as a Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow.

The geyser erupted. I put my hands on my knees as silver hotness overflew past my lips onto the ground. I heaved several times, completely draining myself. Exhausted, I lay on the ground, panting. As my heart rate lowered, my vision returned. The shadow of dark euphoria was gone with my stomach contents.

I rolled over. The apple was on the ground, shining silver, beckoning to me.

I picked it up and studied it. How can something so perfect, so delicious, be so much to handle? I thought.

I heard a sizzling sound and looked over my shoulder. Behind me, where I had thrown up, a hole burned in the ground. It left a silver crater that steamed from its own heat.

I stood up, still holding the apple. I looked at it one more time, then threw it into the little crater. The apple melted and filled the crater with molten silver. It slowly cooled and hardened into a solid silver circle.

The air was calm and the clouds above parted, shining a beam of light on the silver spot. It reflected onto my face, seemingly as bright as the sun itself. I turned my head away from the glare.

There, a few feet from me, stood a Navajo warrior. He stepped toward me and held out a strong hand, palm up. He stopped walking and raised his other hand, pointing to the bulge in my side.

I reached down, touching the other apple.

The Navajo warrior nodded.

I took the apple out of my pocket and placed it in his outreached hand. He closed his fingers around the silver wonder. "One day," he said, lifting the apple to his lips and taking a bite. "But not today, Mac," he said.

The hole in the clouds filled. A lightning bolt crashed down between the Navajo warrior and me. I instinctively shielded my face.

Relief followed my moment of panic. I was unharmed. I lowered my hands and turned to the warrior.

He was gone.


I looked out the window of the little roadside diner. The sun was setting over the New Mexico desert. It painted the sky with stunning shades of red and purple that a camera will never be able to capture.

"Just coffee for you, hun?" said the waitress. I faced her, squeaking on the red vinyl booth seat as I turned.

"Do you have any pies today?" I asked.

"We've got pecan and apple," she said.

"I'll take a big slice of the apple pie, please. Ice cream on the side."

She made a quick note on her pad then walked off. I took a sip from the thick white mug and looked back out the window.

Somewhere, far out in the dessert, a number of strong, wise people know the answers to questions I couldn't even think how to ask yet. I hoped to ask those questions someday soon. I hoped to find those answers, to fill the holes in my heart with silvery goodness.

The waitress came back, setting a plate of scrumptious looking apple pie down in front of me. "I gave you an extra big piece and a little extra ice cream," she said, smiling. "You look like you could use a little extra meat on your bones." She left.

I took a bite of pie. It tasted great.

How about them apples? I thought.

Fancy Falsities

Seafood is overrated and all wine tastes pretty much the same.


People like to say that "there are two kinds of people in this world." They then go on to give a set of binaries to categorize the whole human species: "men and women"; "winners and losers"; "those who like to dance and those who don't"; "skiers and snowboarders"; "the young and the restless"; "Starbucks people and Dunkin' Donuts people." Although some of these are tempting and most are fun, we all know that there are so many different types of people. One could make a set of the ten kinds of people in this world that seems pretty darn good and even then, an eleventh type will prove them wrong. There are just so many kinds of people and that's one of the beautiful things that makes life so interesting.

However, from my experience I argue that there is one particular type of person in this world that you can peg and know exactly what you're in for no matter what. It doesn't matter where they're from, how old they are, what color their skin is, what their gender or sexual preferences are, or anything else--this kind of person is perfectly summed up as a "Chad."

Chads all have a few things in common. Chads like to have fun, no matter what or who the cost. Chads like sex and sex appeal. Chads fancy themselves quite valuable in the ways of flirting and love. Chads seem to really care about their hair, which is objectively always fantastic looking. Chads have regional catch phrases that are similar to those of common jerks, but Chad phrases are simply more astonishingly arrogant. Chads like money and have incredible financial upwards mobility, undoubtedly most so in their minds. The list goes on and on and on. Chads vary Chad to Chad and some Chads have Chad qualities that other Chads don't.

One thing all Chads share in common, though, is a love for fancy things.


I took my first real spring break trip the last semester of my senior year in college. All the years before that I'd either gone home or on community service trips. Both were fulfilling and recharging in different ways, but I'd always wanted for a real spring break. So, senior winter I picked up a side job restocking books at the library. I only worked ten or fifteen hours a week, but all the money I earned went into my spring break jar. When the snow finally started to melt and finals were done, the jar was full.

Time for spring break. California!

Being my first real party trip, I decided to go all in and go with my real party friends, who weren't necessarily my usual and certainly not my best friends. They were all great friends with each other and I'd always been like the peripheral extra friend. We were close enough for it not to be weird, so after they'd all made the plans, I just hopped on the wagon. A bus down to Boston, a flight out to San Fran, and a rental SUV a ways out from there later, the wagon had finally arrived at luxury city.

When I first got to college, I bought some pastel colored shirts and seersucker pants to better fit in with the New England crowd. It was a good move, as not only did I get plenty of use out of them at parties and whatnot back at school, but that seemed to be the attire of the trip. That and board shorts with tank tops. The routine became wake up late, have a few drinks, go to the beach, have a few drinks, come back, have a few drinks, then put back on the salmon-colored, popped-collared, boat-shoed uniform for the rest of the day's drunken whatnot.

On the fifth day of the trip, Murray, one of our seven man crew, suggested we break things up a bit. We were all plenty happy with sunning and shotgunning, but something new was more than welcome.

"Why don't we do something really Cali today?" he said.

"Can't handle any more beer, sweetie?" said Ethan, always the clown.

"You thinking ladies?" asked Greg, who always talked about girls and never did anything about it.

"Ladies are fine by me," I said, because ladies are more than fine by me.

"Boys, boys, calm down," said Chad, who I knew the least before the trip. He was wearing old Oakley sunglasses and laying in a reclining chair on the deck. "When in Venice," he said, standing up and stretching his arms, "do as the Venetians do." He smiled and took off his glasses.

I raised my hand. "What does that mean?" I asked.

Russell leaned over and hit me in the arm. "Talking Venice, my man!"

I rubbed the spot he had just hit. "Dude, what are you talking about?"

Chad walked over and sat beside me. He put his arm around me. "Sweet little Mac." He made a kissy face. "We can't just hang out with the boys every night having campfires while we sing Jack Johnson songs and roast Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows," he said. "We gotta use the skills to woo some west coast honeys."

Robbie leaned in and fist-bumped Chad. "Yes! That's what I'm talkin' about. Ladies!"

"Why didn't you just agree with Greg when he said ladies?" I asked.

Chad playfully slapped my cheek. "Cause that's just the first part. I'm talking upscale wine ladies."

"Wine tasting?" asked Greg, excited and apparently over not receiving credit for his own idea.

"Fo sho," said Chad, tussling my hair. "Fo sho, fo sho."


We loaded into the Suburban and drove about an hour to this little Mom and Pop vineyard. It wasn't that small and I don't really know what made it that much of a Mom and Pop establishment, truthfully, but that's how they described it, so what do I know. It was just the seven of us at first, but after a bit, a group of good-looking women showed up.

"What did I tell you, boys? What did I say?" Chad said to us, ever the roost of the coop. It was total coincidence no doubt, but still, it was pretty sweet being just us guys and them gals.

We went through the tasting and all of a sudden everyone was a God damned wine aficionado. Nathaniel, the Pop of the establishment, though who am I to say no one's Pop is named Nathaniel, guided us through a number of different samples. He'd tell us about the grapes or the years or the barrels and all other kinds of crap, none of it seemed important to me. And that was only half because each sample made me increasingly out of it, intoxicated, if you will.

"How am I supposed to taste oak in booze?" I joked to a pretty blonde girl I was standing next to. She giggled and I felt pretty good.

At the end of the tour, they had a bunch of grapes in a big tub. Pop Nathaniel told us that they stomped the grapes to make juices for the wine.

"Oh how conveniently quaint," I said to Cassie. By the way, I had been flirting my A Game the whole time and we were on a knowing-each-other's-names basis at that point. Yeah, I know.

"Oh, stop," she said, smiling. "I'm sure someone stomps grapes still."

"Sure, sure," I said. "Who wouldn't want some feet wine?"

Chad came over and leaned close to me, drunk as the rest of us. "Hey, Lil Mac," he said, using the special nickname he discovered earlier that day that he so cleverly made off of the McDonald's specialty burger, but me-sized. "Been watching you talking to that blonde babe," he said. Cassie was chatting and laughing with one of her friends.  "Feeling pretty hot, eh?"

"Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about it, thanks," I said.

Chad grinned. "Well, why don't you cool down then, hot sauce?" he said, picking me up and putting me in the juicy tub.

I struggled for a bit, submerged in the half-crushed grapes, then got a hold of the slippery side. I stood up, just barely taller than the tub. I didn't know what made me madder, being tossed into the tub or the thought of how ridiculous I looked.

Chad, the rest of the guys, Cassie, her friends, and even ol' Pop Nathaniel all laughed. I did not.


After a long ride back in the far back of the car, so I wouldn't stain the rental, we showered and changed for dinner. I had cooled off by then, but I was still quite embarrassed. Not that I thought I could have necessarily had a little Venetian romance with Cassie, but you never know.

Chad showered last and came out of the communal bathroom with his towel wrapped around his waste, combing his flowing mane. "Hope your purple bath back there didn't cool down your special sauce too much, Lil Mac," he said, offering me a high five.

Without even thinking, I reciprocated the five, a reflex no man can contain. "Yeah, sure. Whatever," I said, trying to sound cool.

"Tell you what," said Chad. "I'll make it up to you. We're going for lobster tonight, and yours is on me."

I had only had lobster a few times in my life. "Really?" I said, thinking of all that melted butter. "For real?"

Chad walked to the mirror, putting on the finishing touches to his hair with his fingertips. "Fo sho."


In fresh dress, covering all shades of traditional Nantucket douchery, we went to a neat little Mom and Pop seafood place called The Bay, which once again who am I to question what exactly it is that makes it Mom and Pop as opposed to just a seafood place? We sat at a nice long table in an open window. A warm sunset breeze blew in as we looked over the menus.

"I wish, I wish..." said Greg, flipping the page. "For delicious fish."

"I dabble, I dabble," said Ethan. "To have some crab... Crabble."

We all laughed. "Why'd you come to a seafood place for crab apples, Eth?" I said.

"He's talking about crabs, Mac," said Robbie. "He was doing the rhyming thing."

I rubbed my face with my hand. "Thank you, Robbie. As always."

"You're welcome," said Robbie. If you haven't gathered by now, Robbie is an idiot.

Our waiter came to the table. "Good evening gentlemen," he said. "Welcome to The Bay. My name is Daren, I'll be taking care of you tonight. May I get you started with some drinks?"

"I gots ta, I gots ta," said Murray, "Have me some lobsta!"

Chad leaned forward, "I guess we're all ready to order. Oh, but do start us with a few bottles of your Stag's Leap Cabernet, too."

"Good, more wine," I said, trying my best not to sound too sarcastic.

"To those of you having lobster this evening, please feel free to go have your pick," said Daren. "Our tank is at the front and our chef will get started right away for you."

"Come on, friend," said Chad. "Don't forget, my treat."

Chad, Murray, Russell, and I walked to the tank. It was a wide rectangle with a soft white light above it. Twenty or so lobsters lazily moved about the bubbly prison, their claws banded and their spirits banded, too.

"Wow, that's kind of sad," I said, standing on my tip toes to get a better look at the crustaceans.

"Better them than me," said Russell, pointing to a fat lobster in the back corner.

"Really makes you wonder," I said.

"About being a lobster?" asked Murray.

"No, about life and--"

Chad grabbed me from behind and dunked me into the tank. I came to the surface, half drowned and fully pissed.

"What do you think about it now?" said Chad, laughing. Russell, Murray, and the two waitstaff by the tank joined in. Chad handed each of the waiters a fifty, smiling as if it was all routine.

"I think it's quite cruel," I said, climbing out of the tank and headed out the door.


I have a saying that I came up with after my senior year spring break that's served me well since then. It goes:

"Forgive Chad once, shame on me. But forgive Chad twice, no way in hell."

I haven't talked to Chad since college, but I've heard from the guys that he's doing quite well as an investment banker in New York. He lives and hangs out with a bunch of Chads, but fortunately for humanity, he has to report to an even more powerful Chad at work.

The world might be run by Chads and all Chads may be created equally Chaddy, but the good news is, if you aren't a Chad, you aren't a Chad.

The Night of the Round Table

To break an oath, one must first take an oath.


I woke up groggy and exhausted. It had been another night with much tossing and turning. I did everything I should before going to bed--no eating after dinner, no work, no exercising, and I even read from my favorite book, The Washing of Whales, for an hour--yet still I had horrible sleep filled with even worse dreams.

I was out walking through a beautiful garden that stretched for miles with Benedict, my faithful Burmese companion. As we walked, the pink, purple, and blue flowers all turned to faces, each scowling and hissing at me. I turned to Benedict for solace, but he too changed. He grew larger and larger until he was the size of a small house. Then, his back paws became longer like clown's feet and his nose seemed to go into his face as it became smaller, the extra growth going to his ears and teeth. Benedict was a Mountain Dog no more. He was a gigantic rabbit.

"Don't forget to eat your vegetables," said what was once my poochy pal. He snatched me up with his front paws and lifted me into the air. Except I was no longer me. I was a carrot. He opened his mouth, brought me toward his chomping teeth, and...

I went from there into a number of other odd dreams, each as inexplicably stressful and strange as the last.

Looking for a morning charge, I opened the shutter windows to welcome the light of the world into my room. That too was a disappointment, as the day brought with it overcast clouds and a gloomy cold. I looked out from the tower where my room was over the land. The shallow, muddy moat separated the castle from a field that wasn't much drier. At least today was dry as opposed to the rains that had lasted all the week before. Far after the sprawling fields came a shrub pine forest, which sat at the base of an old mountain.

As much as I wished to claim this royal setting of sadness my own, it was thankfully not. It was my cousin Tom's, a man I knew not at all as a child and only a tad better as a man.

Tom was a Lord in a small European country not to be named, not out of reverence or request, but because I did not fully know the legal rules to which I was bound. Tom had summoned me from America, "those United States" as his letter said, after himself being summoned to some high court somewhere else not to be named, this time because I simply didn't know exactly where. I was only to watch the castle for a week or two, three at most. This being the end of week five, it felt like it really was becoming my gift of a curse, Lord Mac of the Muddy Keep.

I put on a yellow puffy collared shirt, a red velvet cape, and some blue Aladin-like pants, attire I was still not used to after all this time. I went down the winding steps into the kitchen, where Roland, cousin Tom's head chef, had prepared a breakfast of eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Tom, it turns out, was not only the Lord of a castle, but also the Lord of more chickens than I had ever seen before.

"Protein to start the day," said the excited, balding man. "Eggs first then the world second, I always say!" He did always say that. At least he did in the five weeks I'd been eating his eggs.

I smiled, took a plate, and made my way into the main hall. The hall was a high ceilinged, minimally decorated room. A few portraits of Tom and Toms past hung on the walls, dating all the way back to Lord Tom Samson the 1st back in Hoo-knose. Hoo-knose was the name of the country way back before it was named as it is now. Good luck with that clue.

Truth be told, the castle was really only a castle by technicality. It was moreso a big old stone house with a fifteen foot drawbridge, a few towers, poor insulation, and a dungeon converted man cave. It had some plush chairs, a library of naughty reading, and several old board games I'd never seen before. My was cousin Tom ever the creative bachelor.

I set my plate on the huge round table in the hall's center and hopped up into one of the thirteen chairs circling it. After half a plate of eggs, which was quickly becoming my measure of any boring morning at Cousin Tom's, Janice, Tom's housemaid and assistant, came through the front door, bringing in with her a gust of the outside cold.

"Good morning, Mac," she said, hanging her coat on a rack and pulling up the chair next to me.

"Morning!" I said, trying my best to warm the room with my tiny charm.

Janice forced a smile then resumed her usual unwelcoming face. She was apparently immune to my friendly efforts. Janice was stern, but still a nice sight to see. She had unblemished pale skin and wore her dark blonde hair up in a bun. Her pretty jade eyes occasionally flickered amusement, but the rest of the time seemed to be somewhere far off. She was as interested in me as she was her job, which was an even smaller amount than my short, short height.

"What have we on the docket for today?" I asked, trying another shot at warmth. "Perhaps a shipment of crocodiles for the moat?" I extended my arms out in front of me and closed them together like a crocodile's mouth.

Janice ignored the joke. Rightfully so, it was desperately stupid. "No, no crocodiles in this part of the world."

I looked down at my plate of eggs. Maybe laying eggs is the only thing here that isn't boring, I thought.

"You do have a letter," she said.

I looked up. Janice handed me an envelope. The front had elegant handwriting on it and the back was sealed with a wax stamp. "It is addressed to my cousin," I said.

"Yes, but he isn't here. You are the acting Lord. Including during tonight's event."

"Tonight!?" I said, a sudden rush of ice in my stomach even though I knew not what to fear. "Why didn't you tell me earlier so I could have prepared for... Whatever it is. What is it?"

Janice stood up and walked across the room in the direction of her office. "I didn't know if his Lordship would be back by now." She opened the door and took a step in before turning to face me. "Apparently he is not." She continued on, sat at her desk, and busied herself with some documents.

I looked down at and fingered the letter, annoyed with Janice's uncaring calmness. "Tonight!" read the front.

As if I need reminding, I though. I flipped it over and examined the crimson seal. It was stamped with a rose imprint. I opened the envelope, careful not to break the interesting seal, and pulled out a letter. It had the same elegant handwriting as the front.

"My dearest Lord of" (Don't think I've forgotten the rules now!)
"Tonight is the night.
The night where we gather our knights.
Our knights who haven't grown at all light,
And certainly not weary of the sight,
The sight of our most sacred fight,
The fight we shall fight at your site,
Where tonight we set to call it right."

I flipped over the page, puzzled, but there was nothing on the back. "Hey, Janice?" I called across the room, still studying the letter.

"Yes?" she answered, pausing from whatever work she was doing.

"Do I have any knights?" I asked.

Janice laughed, the first time I'd heard her do that. "Very good one," she said, returning to her papers.

I read the letter to myself again. "I'm serious," I repeated, receiving only a brief chuckle from my impossible assistant.


It was finally dusk after what had been one of the longest, most uneventful days I've ever had. After breakfast, I went about asking the rest of castle staff if they knew anything about the letter's contents. I received no answers, many smiles, and one comment from Roland.

I showed Roland the letter and he looked at me with a doofy, toothy grin. "Don't try and hatch an egg when it's not ready," he said. Thank God he was making apple pies when he said it or I think I would have cracked open his head, ready or not.

I took a long walk along the edge of the forest, then tried to approach one of the horses that roamed the vast field. Whether I was completely clueless on how to properly get its attention, which certainly was the case, or if the horse had just never seen a man as short as I am, I do not know. Either way, I never got more than a stone's throw from any of the horses. That was the extent of my day spent waiting.

I paced about the hall as Janice packed up her things, done with work. "Really? No one will tell me anything?" I asked, far past the point of irritation. "I'm just the foreign house, er, castle sitter with no clue and no worries?"

Janice put on her coat. "Precisely," she said.

I threw my hands up in the air, hopeless. "Where I come from, we call that bullshit," I said.

Janice remained as curt as ever. "You don't say?" she said, opening the door to leave. "What a specific definition for such a rude word." With that, she slammed the door shut.

I lit a fire and sat in front of the immense hearth, defeated. Probably all a ruse, I thought. I sipped beer from a stein I brought from the kitchen and stewed in the heat and my frustration. I stewed for some time.

The front door swung open and a crowd came right into the hall before I could even turn all the way around. They were a hodgepodge of men, twelve in total. They all wore red, yellow, and blue garments, matching in color and color alone. They could have been from the past, the future, or the present, the way they carried themselves, all chatting like chums.

A man in a blue beret stepped forward.  "You're not Tom," he said, sizing me up. "You're just a little guy."

A fat man with a red hooded tunic and thin mustache pointed at me. "I've never seen a man so small!"

I stood up, confused and angry. "Hey, you can't just barge into the castle and call me small," I said.

"And you can't just sit in the Lord's chair by the fire, you numpty," said a third man with long black hair and sagging yellow pants. "We ought to teach this tiny, tiny fellow a lesson."

A fourth man picked a club off the wall. He beat his palm with it, threateningly. "By the time we're done with you, your only Kraft will be eating Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows with no teeth!"

"Yeah!" agreed the rest. Yelling, they approached, forming a semicircle around me.

I scurried back behind the chair, panicked. I had nowhere to go. The angry men closed in on me, pushing me back. I felt the heat of the flames on my rear. "Wait!" I called, desperate. "Wait, I'm, I'm--"

I was too quiet, or maybe the gang was too angry. They snatched me up and lifted me overhead, marching toward the round table. Doomed, I thought. Deader than any of the chickens in a castle filled with chickens. The men were practically screaming now. I flinched as they placed me on top of the table.

"Mac!" said a man with a red jacket on. "He's Mac!" he said.

"Hiya, Mac!" said the men as one, all smiling, laughing, and chummy as before. They all circled the table, excluding one man who went to the kitchen.

"I... You... I... Tom... How do you..." I struggled for words.

The men were taking their seats at the table when the man from the kitchen returned carrying a tray of beer steins. "Tom told us about you. You think he wasn't going to mention that his short cousin from out of town was watching his castle for a few weeks while he's gone?" He passed out the beers then took a seat himself. "He told us to give you a hard time for tonight's gathering." They laughed. "Come, sit," he said, motioning next to him to the last remaining spot.

I walked over and hopped down, met by all smiles. "Are you my--Tom's knights?" I asked.

"Only technically," said the man from the beginning with the club.

A man across the table from me was passing around a wooden box. Each man reached into it and pulled out a rose, which he then set at the table before him. The box came to me last.

"Take one," said the fat hooded man. "Otherwise you forsake the Oath." He took a long drink from his beer, normal as if he had just told me about the weather.

I pulled out the final rose and set down the box. "Oath?"

The man two places to my left stood up. He wore a black robe with a red, yellow, and blue striped patch on his breast. "The Oath of the Rose," he said.

Everyone set down their beers and bowed their heads in silence. I did the same.

"Back up, young Samson," said the robed man.

The man who'd passed out beers elbowed me and motioned upward with his head. I stood.

"Order of the Rose, here before us stands a man related only by blood but perhaps much more," said the robed man.

"The prick of the thorn will show us the truth," everyone chanted.

"Order of the Rose, do we decree that we shall see if the most important qualities are held by he?" said the robed man, pointing his rose at me.

"The red of the petal comes from a fiery heart," everyone chanted.

"Order of the Rose, do we entrust in this man our most sacred Oath?" the robed man asked.

"It shall come from his lips, as red as the rose," they replied.

I felt a rush of ice in my stomach again.

"Newcomer to the garden, do you wish to be tested by blood to see if your seat at the table is earned, knowing that the consequences of unworthiness are damning?" asked the robed man. The rest raised their heads and looked at me.

My lower back was damp with sweat. "Uh, Order of the Rose, please don't--"

The robed man reached into his pocket, grabbed something, and held it out in his fist. "If you wish to accept the Oath, you must make a sacrifice."

The crowd stared at me. I turned, looked at the fire as if it had some answer, then faced the circle again. I felt like I was going to vomit. "Murd.. Sacrifice?" I said.

The robed man walked to me. My head spun, dizzy from being scared. He grabbed my hand, lifted it, and put the thing into my palm. It was an egg. "Just smash the egg," he said.

"Smash it!" someone yelled from across the table.

"Smash it!" someone else chimed in.

"Smash it! Smash it! Smash it!" they all chanted, the robed man joining them.

I clutched the egg and smashed it on the table. The gooey insides ran between the cracks and dripped onto the floor. The Order of the Rose applauded.

"He took the Oath!" said the man who'd brought the beers and elbowed me, finishing his stein.

"Nice work, pal!" said the man sitting next to him. Everyone drank and cheered and drank some more.

Confused, I drank and cheered myself. "What in the hell is all this?" I asked.

The robed man pulled back his hood, revealing dark blonde hair and jade eyes. "That's the Oath of the Order of the Rose," he said, reaching out his hand for a shake this time. "I'm John, Janice's brother. She can be a right old stiff, huh?"

I shook his hand and laughed. "Yeah, she sure can."

John gestured about the circle. "We're a club. Used to be back in the day we did all kinds of cool medieval stuff. But nowadays, we just sort of drink and hang out. Tom thought you'd like it."

I didn't even know where to begin. "You mean Tom's Lord of a castle and in a club of old knights?" I asked.

"Yup. We all are. Practically everyone's a lord here, we've all got castles. They're really like big old stone houses." He clinked steins with the man to his other side and took a drink. "We get together every few weeks at a different castle and have ourself one hell of a night at the round table."

"He's empty!" said the man with the blue beret, looking into my stein. "We've got to fill him back up!"


That was one of the funnest, wildest nights I ever had, and not just in cousin Tom's rainy, not-so-boring-after-all kingdom of chickens.

I still don't really know Tom that well, but it's good being related to and bound to him and a bunch of other fun, informal European Lords. That's the Order of the Rose. I honestly don't fully understand my Oath, but I know I'll never break it.

You Get What You Play For

The toughest matches in life are those that you fight.


Coach yelled at us so hard that his face was as red as a cherry. Even though we had taken a timeout, time seemed to actually slow down in the final seconds of the championship game. I looked about the huddle.

Scugs looked tired, but wanting as ever for the win. T-Bone was mad, nodding along with every slight Coach dished at us. Bimp was so scared it looked like he was hunting for ghosts, not playing basketball. And Flockso, well, he was just classic Flockso.

"What are we going to play?" yelled Coach.

"Defense," we said in unison.

"And why are we gonna play it?" asked Coach.

"Because we got nothin' else to do when we don't have the ball," we all yelled back.

"You can say that again," said Flockso, pumping his fist like he was trying to get a truck driver to honk then hip thrusting the air, his signature move. Classic Flockso!

Coach shook his head and smiled, letting some of the normal color return to his face. "If we win this one, we're goin' to Olive Garden, boys."

We made eye contact with each other, excited. We were hungry for the win, but even hungrier for Olive Garden.

"Flockso's treat," said Coach.

We all laughed hysterically, burning the majority of our timeout.

"Shlim shlob, that's my job!" said Flockso, spinning an imaginary basketball on his finger while he Roxburyed his head side to side and tap danced on the court, his other signature move. Classic Flockso!

"All right! Now get in there and do it for Lenny," said Coach. We reached out our hands and put them on top of one another in the center. "One, two, three, Muskrats!" The break was over.

Lenny was our team captain. He died in a snowmobile accident before the tournament. Lenny always said if he was gonna die, it would be in a snowmobile accident. Boy, was he right.

The referee blew the whistle and time seemed to slow even more.

The defender passed the ball inbounds to the point guard. The agile guard dribbled once, twice, three times, then juked past Bimp. Bimp slugged in the wrong direction, slow as a Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow.

"Piiiiick hiiiiiiim uuuuuup," yelled Coach from the sideline in slow motion.

Scugs was defending the other team's big man in the post. The point guard passed the ball down low. It moved through the air as slow as molasses.

Scugs turned inside, slow as a sloth, and intercepted the molasses pass in midair.

The clock ticked all slow like, as if it were in a big old jar of sticky honey. 9... Still 9... Low 9... Probably like 9.001.... 9.... Still 8... Low 8...

We had to score, and we had to score fast.

T-Bone sprinted up the sideline. He raised his hand, slow as a sloth in a big old jar of sticky honey mixed with molasses.

Scugs saw him, saw how he was as open as a new business on its opening day of business. He chucked the ball up court.

The ball sailed through the air, slower than the digestive track of an ancient Yeti.

"Goooo Muuuuskraaaaatsssss," cheered Cindy Loo from the sidelines. She was my gal. My special gal and Lenny's sister. Lenny, the dead kid from the snowmobile accident.

The ball went just over another defender's fingertips as he jumped as high as he could to try and defend it. It went right into T-Bone's gigantic, calloused hands.

I looked back at the clock, which ticked as slow as a parade on Slow Day, which is March 21st, for the record. 2... Still 2... Low 2... Probably like 2.001...

T-Bone stopped at the corner of the key and launched a three-pointer. The ball spun off his finger tips.

The crowd all rose to their feet, anxious as a prep-school student who comes from a high expectations and high stress family.

A man squirting mustard onto his hotdog turned in super slow motion, watching the ball come down toward the hoop. He missed the hotdog and shot a stream of yellow goop into the eyes of a guy sitting down who was cheering for the opposite team, so it was totally OK.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, sounded the buzzer in super duper sound slow motion, like it was a bunch of sound waves emitting in the visible spectrum.

The Muskrat mascot on the sideline slowly came out of his muskrat hut, slow like a big fat beaver coming out of his beaver hut in extra slow motion. The Muskrat mascot nodded up and down, clapping his little muskrat hands in anticipation. He was a real muskrat.

The ball cruised through the hoop, nothing but net.

T-Bone made it.

I looked at the scoreboard.


We lost big time.


Oh shit, wrong story, sorry.


It was the first day of spring semester and all were alive and well. Students bustled about the central corridor, chatting excitedly about the holidays and the upcoming term. The snow was finally melting off the parapets and that first smell of spring danced about in the wind like magic.

I crossed beneath the clocktower and around the corner, headed to the library. My classes all began on the second day of the term, so naturally I hadn't picked up any of my books yet. I always rented my books instead of buying, not because I am an orphan by death, but because I couldn't afford to buy my own.

I opened the library's heavy, ancient door to find a familiar face.

"Mac! Good to see you, chap," said my best friend Don Basely. Don was the sixth of seven children, all freckled with red hair. "Here to get your books?"

"Don't you know it," I said, tucking the end of my scarf into my robes. "I would have waited until the morning, you know, if it weren't for Sheryl Riney."

Sheryl Riney was the third best friend of our trio. She was the smartest and hardest working kid in school, as well as the one that would go on to be astonishingly attractive despite being such a nerd now. Not that they're exclusive, just we're talking unreal good looking later on.

"Good luck with that," said Don. "Just picked up the second to last book for our Defense Against the Martial Arts class. You could say the other one was rather loved."

"Just my luck," I said. I adjusted my circular, wire-frame glasses. They had no lenses but I thought they looked sweet on me anyway. "Catch you at dinner?"

"Might be late," said Don. "On my way to the big shlindditch tryout." Don walked off.

Cribbage is the second most popular game at our school.

But shlindditch is the most popular game. It involves brooms, a series of balls, and mopeds. Players from two teams sweep off the court with their brooms, toss the brooms aside, then proceed to race about on their mopeds while they pelt each other with the different sized balls. There is no winner, but spectators and and players alike get good sloshed on butter whiskey, the most popular drink at our school.

It might all sound crazy, but things are just different here. For you see, this is no ordinary school. This is: Dogfarts, School of Stitchcraft, Karatery, and Sorcery.


The library seemed to go on, and on, and on, and then some. It was like an old widow who hasn't been visited by anyone for months but finally gets a chance to talk to her neighbor's kids when they unfortunately throw a frisbee over her fence.

After a bit of direction from a librarian, I finally found the Defense Against the Martial Arts section. One book remained in the title I was looking for, next to a copy of of another new Malcolm Gladwell book. That guy seems to have a lot of books. Oh, by the way, no one practices Stitchcraft at Dogfarts anymore. That job's been obsolete since the Industrial Revolution.

I picked the brown leather book off the shelf and blew off the dust that had so clichédly collected on its cover. Nuts or Eyes? Where to Hit and When. That was the one. I checked it out and went to dinner.

* * *

"I've already read all this week's assignments," said Sheryl Riney as she took a bite of some enchanted dish. They all sort of taste the same after you've been a student for a while. Let's say it was cinnamon turkey, that sounds enchanted enough. "The real question isn't nuts or eyes, it's fist or foot!"

"Don't ruin it for me," I said. "I'm trying to start this term off right for a change." I drank my A&W root beer. We sorcerers love A&W root beer. But not as much as butter whiskey!

"Yeah right, Mac." said Don. "You know we're just going to get into trouble and barely scrape by with our work, as always." He had a black eye from a golden pitch. That's what you call a fastball to the eye in shlindditch.

"Probably, but I can still try," I said.

"Honestly, I don't know how either of you have come so far at Dogfarts," said Sheryl Riney. "I'm the one who knows everything and does most of the work on our mystical adventures." God she was obnoxious with her intelligence. So obnoxious, so intelligent, but so so eventually gorgeous.

"Hi, Mac!" called Don's younger sister, Minny. She wouldn't grow up to be nearly as beautiful as Sheryl Riney, but still, she was my girlfriend.

I didn't even say hi or wave back at her, honestly. Our relationship kind of comes out of nowhere and seems more like a convenience than anything else.

"I'll never be a head mirror someday if I don't do well in this class," I said. "I'm off to do my work."

A mirror is a sorcerer/martial artist who's so good at fighting other guys it's like he's a mirror. They are really good at fighting and have a certain AURA about them.


I lit a fresh candle and sat at my desk. My lightbulb burned out last term and I was far too lazy to change it. I opened the ugly book and turned to page one, which obviously is where our first assignment began.

"Hiya! Chop, punch, punch, kick! If you're reading this, you're probably well aware of how hard the choice between nuts and eyes is when attacking an opponent..."

This is so boring, I thought, spacing out. I don't want to read about sorcery and the martial arts, I want to practice them. I skipped to the bottom of the page.

"...which is why the nuts are a particularly enticing and squishy area to attack..."

Yes, yes a kick in the nuts will usually do great. I flipped through the pages as I would leaf through a magazine. A dogeared page around the middle caught my attention. I turned back to it.

It was a tan page with uneven edges. Someone must have glued it in themself. The page was nearly blank, excepting a small handwritten note at the top:

"Dare you dare?" it read. "If dare, write yes. If don't dare, don't write yes."

Interesting, I thought. I picked up my pen. Everyone else writes with quill and ink, but I think that's so dumb.

"Dare," I wrote.

My ink emboldened on the page, then disappeared. I checked the back of my hand, but it was clean. I'm always smudging ink with the back of my hand. Writing can be so messy!

"Dare" also disappeared from the top, leaving the page blank.

My candle flickered, because it's a candle and that's what candles do.

"Double dare?" appeared at the top of the page.

It's almost like this text is communicating with me, I kidded with myself. Duh, it's totally communicating with meI get it. I'm a pretty sharp guy.

"Double dare," I wrote. It too disappeared, followed by the first "double dare?" at the top of the page.

A third message appeared. "Triple dare?" it read.

"Just get on with it," I wrote. Two dares is plenty enough, everyone knows that.

The page went blank again.

"Fine, be a poop," read a new message. "If you so dare, which we've twice established and once gathered, making for three dares total, meet me out back of the school tonight at midnight, out where those bitchin' dirt bike jumps used to be before they had to take them down for stupid safety reasons. Come ready... for battle." The text slowly faded.

"Who will I be meeting?" I wrote on the page.

A final message appeared. "He's gone now. This is Brent. I'm the guy you were just writing with's roommate. He asked me not to say who he is. Do you want to chat online? My AIM name is--"

I slammed the book shut.

Brent was not my opponent. Brent was the roommate of my opponent.

** * **

The full moon hid behind moving clouds, casting inconsistent light and long shadows on the yard behind the school. The grass was thin and the ground was hard. You could totally see where the jumps used to be. They were so huge.

I looked about the yard, ready and calm. I could see a figure approaching from the woods. The field is actually really big, so it took a long time for him to walk to me. I'd say like seven and a half minutes.

When he FINALLY, got there, I recognized him. He was lean and thick, big enough to scare the fiercest of linebackers, but maybe not Clay Matthews. He had bleach blonde hair and intimidating blue eyes. He wore high waisted shorts that went above his bellybutton and no shirt.

"Ivan Drago," I said. He was the bad guy from Rocky IV.

"I must break you," said Ivan in a stereotypically Russian accent, as totally expected from my knowledge of memorable Rocky quotes.

"Must you?" I said. "Do you... Dare?"

"I see you're calling back to the talking through the book we had not that long ago," said Drago.

"Yeah," I said. I closed my eyes, becoming one with the universe. I felt my chi flowing through my being. I sent it all to my right foot, yet stayed in a neutral stance. "Less talking, more nuts," I said, kicking Ivan Drago right in the nuts.

But his nuts weren't there. Ivan smiled, then grabbed my foot. "In Soviet Russia, nuts kick you!" he said, even though after that he punched me in the face, which has nothing to do with either nuts or kicks.

We fought and we fought and we fought, all through the night. Eventually we made peace and had some A&W root beer floats, like all good sorcerers and martial artists do.

To this day Ivan Drago is one of my best friends. He feels bad for killing Apollo Creed, but knows he can never take it back. I guess that's why they say, "live and let live," even though he let Apollo die.

Loose Lips Sink Chips

Not every piece fits in every puzzle.


Rain fell so steadily it seemed as if it would never stop.

Some storms bring a solution with them, their own resolve. Thick, dark clouds clump together off in the distance. As they grow fatter and heavier, they rise up like a mountain range in the sky. When the clouds can grow no more, they finally roll out over the world like a bowling ball headed straight for a fresh set of pins. These storms are big and explosive, yet they always pass a point where they are only draining themselves. As the last clouds empty and float away, all rolling and pin-knocking ceased, they leave behind them a cool quiet.

This was not one of those storms. The rain started the night before and continued into the next day. It came from low grey clouds with no visible beginning or end. Thunder would boom occasionally, but only as a roaring reminder of the pent up energy this rain came from, not as a satisfying release.

An array of colorful umbrellas raised over the ceremony was the only reminder that color even existed on this drab day. Underneath the rain shields was black attire and sadness. A brown hole opened up the otherwise grassy completeness of the cemetery. A mahogany casket lay beside the hole.

"Although he was perhaps misunderstood, he was still a good man. Heavenly Father, please walk along Jerry Chips in this final leg of his perilous journey," said the preacher. He wore a wool jacket with a thick collar. Raindrops beaded his glasses. "We ask that you keep your hand upon his shoulder and your love in his heart. In your name we pray, amen."

"Amen," said the group of mourners in unison. It wasn't a tremendous crowd, maybe twenty-five or thirty people, but still, it was a nice gathering for the dead man.

None were his family and truthfully none were his friends, but I would never say it out loud, certainly not here, certainly not now. To most, Jerry Chips was just a face in the crowd, a number holder in the deli line, a name on a "Tribune" subscription. He was an average worker and an avid drinker. He never drank to stupor, but he drank every day. I suppose he was an alcoholic by definition. Other than that, most didn't know him that well.

"Amen," the preacher said softly, repeating the period on the prayer. He gave a nod and the lowering device began lowering the casket into the grave.

I closed my cocktail umbrella and stepped forward from the crowd. The rain slowly saturated my coat, but I didn't care. I felt the need to say something. "Wait a minute. I'd like to say a little something about this..." I didn't quite know where I was going, but the urge to speak remained. "This--"

The attendants stopped the mechanism as Jerry's eternal box was halfway down the hole. Fabric groaned. The strap near the head of the coffin caught fully, but the rear strap slipped, soaked from the rain. It caught again, but only for a second. The weight imbalance was too much.

Jerry's casket tipped down as if it were trying to stand up. It slid off the straps and rolled a quarter turn. The woman behind me gasped and covered her face with a gloved hand. The coffin door opened.

Jerry Chips was not in his casket. White mop fibers sat on top of a muskmelon with a magic marker smiley face drawn on it. The fake head was on top of a large Buzz Lightyear piñata. It actually looked a lot like Jerry.

"Lost soul," I finished.


My arms were sore and tired. It felt like they were made of iron as I raised them above my shoulders, lifting the last crate onto the boat. Exhausted, I sat down on the dock's edge, letting my head droop to my chest as my feet grazed the water.

"You do this all day for a living and it gets easy," said the man from the boat.

I looked up. "Screw that," I said.

He smiled. He had long blonde hair, a round face, and a muscular chest. His torso was roughly the shape of a barrel, built from years of laboring at the docks.

"Imagine if they weren't teeny tiny little crates," said Jerry.

"Obviously I'm not going to lift a normal crate. That'd be impossible, you doof," I said.

Jerry chuckled. He pulled half a cigar out of his Hawaiian shirt pocket and lit it. He puffed smoke as he leaned against the railing of his ship, looking out over the ocean. Rarely does a person look like they belong anywhere nowadays, but in that instant, Jerry looked right for the part he played. I envied that.

I reached into my breast pocket as if to find a cigar and sense of place myself. All that was in there was half a Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow. I took it out and ate it. It was cool enough for me.

Jerry turned his cigar and looked into the glowing end. "The moment I get down there, now that it's all open, I'ma be a real king."

A seagull gulled from the bay. It is very hard to focus when seagulls are gulling.

Jerry was distracted by the gull, too. He threw the butt of his cigar at the bird. It sailed in the wind with a high arch, then came down--a direct hit. The seagull flinched, but not much. After a moment, a puff of smoke came from the bird's beak.

"Son of a bitch is smoking my stoge!" said Jerry, shaking his head. "Ah," he waved at the bird in dismissal. "I'll just get some real ones from some hot lady."

I could swear that in the distance, I heard the seagull go "heh heh heh" like an old medieval henchman instead of "caw caw caw" like a contemporary nowadays seagull.

"They'll probably just give 'em to me. Once they get ahold of all these," Jerry said. He stood and patted one of the little crates.

I got up, put my hands on my hips, and leaned back from the waist. I took a deep breath, then let it all out, getting a few cracks from my back. I looked at Jerry's sea vessel.

It was an interesting old ship: a baby blue bottom and a faded white top, the paint chipped all over from years of sun and neglect. It had a tall central cabin with a plexiglass shield all around it. The front deck was all wood and the back deck was textured metal, grating for traction. Her name was printed on the back: "S. S. S. S."

"Don't forget to write, but I know you won't," I said.

"Writing is the opposite of sailing," said Jerry. "My details belong not in the ledger, but at sea. Secrets, secrets are so fun, so don't you tell anyone."

"OK," I said, even though that's not at all how the saying goes. "I won't if you won't."

Jerry laughed as he undid his boat from the dock. It started to drift away, but Jerry suddenly reached out for a wooden post and held on. "But I already told you!" he said.

"Uh, yeah." I gestured with my hands as if I were searching for something to juggle. "It's too late now, plus you had to to get me to help," I said.

Jerry pushed off the dock again and pointed his index finger at me. "Righto," he said.

He made his way to the cabin and started the engine. The boat turned to face the open ocean. Before she jetted off, Jerry opened the cabin door.

"Thanks again, Mac!" he shouted. "And one last thing--I left a crate just for you as an extra you're welcome." He closed the door and the boat accelerated.

The boat stopped and Jerry opened the door again. "I mean as an extra thank you," he yelled.

"Yup. Got it," I said.

Jerry nodded, closed the door, and took off. I watched as the boat became smaller and smaller, until all I could see was waves on the horizon.


I waited until nighttime to open the crate. I sat down on an empty sewing spool I used for a chair in my living room and examined the package. The faded tan wood was bare except for a crooked stamp that read, "Hostess."

I stood, grabbed a small pry, and opened the crate. A note sat on top of a bunch of Twinkies. I opened the note.

"Mac, my tiny friend,
If you're reading this, I am dead."

I looked up for a moment, confused, then continued.

"This is the mindset I want you to adopt, anyway. Off the docks, I never really belonged anywhere here. It's nothing against you or anyone else, I just have always felt unhappy. The whole world has long been discovered and the age of connectivity makes me feel no more connected to anyone else. One place not too far away isn't completely caught up yet, though, so maybe that's where I belong. I don't know if they have Twinkies in Cuba, but even if they do, 50,000 more can't hurt.

I left another note at Telly's Bar. It's a suicide note. You don't have to read it, but just so you know, my fake death isn't bloody or gross. Just because I'm making a little drama doesn't mean I have to be a drama queen!

Spencer, that one guy from my bowling league I'm always telling you about with the phenomenal mustache, he also knows about the whole gig. He'll take care of the funeral stuff. Sorry to tell you now, but I like him more than you, so I let him pick between that and helping me load the boat. Like I say, secrets, secrets are so fun, so don't you tell anyone.

Wish me luck in Cuba and remember, the world is small, but a small man such as yourself has a big place in my heart,



Amidst the yelling, a man from the crowd of umbrellas caught my attention. He had thick hair combed to the side and a bristling, phenomenal mustache. He waved his hand in front of his throat, the kill-it sign.

"Excuse me. I just want to say," I paused. After a moment, the commotion settled and people listened.

I looked at the muskmelon face. It had the biggest smile I'd ever seen, a half oval so beaming that it almost came up to the black dots for eyes. A seagull gulled in the distance, though I could swear that it went "heh heh heh" like an old medieval henchman. I smiled back at the dummy.

"Wherever he may be, Jerry Chips is in a better place."

I's on the Road

The highway is as free and open as the American spirit.


There is a video on the internet from 2008. There are actually many videos on the internet from 2008. However, there is only one video on the internet from 2008 that I am presently talking about. It is called "Test Your Awareness: Do The Test." It's a super dumb title, but then again, titles don't really matter--sorry Colonel Sanders. Why isn't he Kernel Sanders? That seems better, considering popcorn and fried chicken are only a few branches apart on the food tree. I often read "colonel" as "colonial," which doesn't help at all because what I want to see and therefore force myself to see is "colon." Nothing beats Colon Sanders' Kentucky fried chicken. The colon is for poop storage and evacuation. I wonder if Colonial Sanders is at all related to the great two sport professional athlete Celine Deion Sanders? That would be quite a trifecta: baseball, football, and fried chicken. Who do you have winning the NCAA basketball tourney this year? Let's get Mikey, yeah, he won't eat it, he hates everything.

The video starts by saying, "This is an awareness test."  We see eight basketball players, four in white uniforms, four in black uniforms. They aren't real basketball uniforms, but instead the kind of clothing you would see white trash gangsters wearing: loose hoodies, track jackets, and sweat pants. There is no point in their clothing, but still, that's certainly a part of the video I am aware of. The video's narrator then asks you to count how many passes the team in white completes as the two teams dance about in a circle passing basketballs.

Has anyone ever played basketball like this? What the hell do these hooligans think they're doing? There's no baskets and no defense. Modern basketball is nothing like that--it's all baskets and no defense.

The team in white completes 13 passes in about 14 seconds. The New York Knicks could learn a lot from the team in white. The Knicks suck so much. Carmelo Anthony is one of the most overrated and overhyped basketball players in history. He is guaranteed to score you about 24 points per game for the bargain of a five-year $124 million contract, which additionally comes with a guaranteed zero championships. If you had $124 million, would you throw it off the Brooklyn Bridge knowing it would get you zero championships? The Knicks would. And the Knicks did.

The video pauses to confirm that it was 13 passes completed. Woopdy doo I can count! Look how aware I am! The narrator then asks, "Did you see the moonwalking bear?"

In the middle of all the bullshit basketball passing, a bear walks into the circle, does a little dance, and then does a top 5 all time worst moonwalk out of the circle. He doesn't even slide his feet, he just sort of skids backwards. For Christ's sake, the king of pop is dead. Michael Jackson didn't live in Neverland, create some of the greatest music of all time, and grow up to be the grown up version of himself that was, as we are all aware of, is, uh, well... Michael Jackson didn't give the world the moonwalk just for this half ass bear to Carmelo Anthony it--which henceforward means to totally blow in the clutch while receiving all kinds of unwarranted praise--in a minute long, 20 million view internet video.

The video concludes by stating, "it's easy to miss something you're not looking for. Look out for cyclists."

"Look out for cyclists." Concentrate as hard as you can on some contrived passing game only to be made a fool of by not even a real bear because you apparently are out there hitting cyclists with your car willy nilly, you snack-eating, march-to-the-beat-of-the-paycheck-drum, death-can't-bless-us-soon-enough oaf.

Why in the wet world of carwashes would I look for a goddamn bear during a sports game? The entire city of Chicago watches football religiously every Sunday and they don't even expect a real fucking bear to come to the game, yeah, whadup Jay Cutler? Cutler, you and Carmelo should get together and write a series of children's books under the pen name "Lemony Snicket," because everything you two overpaid catastrophes do is a series of unfortunate events.

I realize the point is that you're watching the white team so a black bear will sneak right by you as you ignore the black team. It's the basis of Wall Street. However, if they wanted to make that video realistic they would have had the bear be white, as in a polar bear. After you count the passes, the bear stands up like he's going to do his little dance. Then, because we're all out here actively murdering cyclists with our egocentric concentration skills, the polar bear doesn't moonwalk out of the circle, he mauls each and every basketdanceballer to bloody pieces, finally picking up the two basketballs and dribbling them around an obstacle course made from the dead actors' bodies. That would be more realistic, and even then I still would have the half a brain necessary to be able to see cyclists on the road, because "it's easy to miss something you're not looking for" has nothing to do with driving safety.

Honestly, what kind of slogan is this? I'm not looking for aliens when I'm driving (well not all the time), but still, if an alien was anywhere on the road while I was, I'd 100% see him. If a bull was wearing a camouflage nightgown racing down the road on a black motorcycle with the lights off at night, I'd still see his bull ass, and I'm definitely not looking for him. I could have two Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows for eyes and I'd still see him.

But a cyclist? As in one who rides a bicycle, one of the five or six things you know are actually on a road? I see cyclists.

What really turns my tiny rage on about this whole video, in addition to the rest of this masterful dissection, is that it denies the real reason people hit cyclists with their automobiles:

People hate cyclists.

A lot of people really hate cyclists. Many are the sort of anger management issues, raging psychopaths who, if given the opportunity, would choose to hit a cyclist over attending the funeral of their mother in law. And they loathe their mother in law.

If most of the people who hate cyclists saw this video, they would say out loud, because they're too insane to think to themselves, "Hey, this video's right! I should actively be looking for cyclists, because then I can kill all of the cyclists."

All we're really doing here is talking to non-smokers about the dangers of tobacco. What we really need to do is go to the source, the real issue.


It was one of the first real days of summer and I was out in the country for the day. I took the train out of the city and excitedly watched out the window as buildings became less buildings became subdivisions became trees and rolling hills. It's always a calming transition that lets the fog out of my head.

I hopped off the train with my backpack and bike. The air smelled like new life. A warm breeze blew my lips up into a smile like Marilyn Monroe's dress above that filthy subway vent. Gross, I thought. Not because of her, but because it reminded me of Lindsay Lohan.

I ate lunch at the base of a sunflower. Half a blueberry, a raisin, and a crumb. Boy was I stuffed! I then hopped on my model bike and set off.

The sun was shining up in the sky like it always is but people talk about it like it only shines when it's nice out. It doesn't have to be that way, guys. Life is pretty sweet if you don't buy into constant pessimism. That's probably how Kenan Thompson lives, and look how happy he is.

As I chugged and plugged along, not a care in the world lol jk not really, I care about all kinds of stuff, I heard the rise and release of gears shifting. I looked over my teeny shoulder and saw a red semi-truck several hundred yards back, accelerating toward me. I moved to the shoulder as he approached. It was quite loud as he passed, but he was kind enough to move into the left lane. People in the country are nicer, I thought.

His tailwind caught me and pulled me forward a tad, which felt really cool. Wow, this feels really cool, I thought. It did feel really cool. The truck drove on, eventually cresting a hill and going out of sight. It took me a little longer to get to the top of the hill because not only am I not a truck but also I'm the smallest man in the world on a very small bike (but not the smallest bike in the world, clowns do incredible things at the circus).

As I came over the hill, I pulled my breaks and skidded to a stop. A pickup was turned perpendicular to the road, blocking both lanes. It was an older blue truck raised up on an extended lift kit. It had huge tires with chrome wheels and a matching chrome exhaust pipe. Its suped-up engine was as loud as a Peter Frampton concert. Peter Frampton fucking rules! The engine wahed along, then stopped.

The driver opened the door and got out. He reached over the side of the truckbed and pulled out a baseball bat. It was a Louisville Slugger. From Louisville Kentucky.

Shit, I thought. Hicks.

"Whatcha think you're doin' out here?" Asked the driver. He wore a white suite with a bowtie-tie, like both a bowtie and a tie. The sun glinted off his thick rimmed glasses. "This ain't no place for a biker boy like you."

"Got that right," said another man, who'd gotten out of the truck from the other side. He wore black sneakers and a bear suit. He did a little dance then moonwalked around next to the driver. It was a top 5 all time worst moonwalk. "Only pussy boys ride bikes."

"Please, I don't want any trouble," I said. I glanced over my shoulder. If I turned around and rode as hard as I could, I had nowhere to go. "I'm just out here for a ride."

"That so?" asked the dancing bear. "Interesting, cause we're here ta take ya for a ride."

Colonel Sanders nodded. He was eating a drumstick from a bucket of his signature chicken. God that chicken looked finger-licking good.

"Can I have some chicken?" I asked. Seemed worth a shot.

"No," said Colonel Sanders. What a greedy son of a bitch.

"But we will give you that ride," said the moonwalking bear. He put on brass knuckles. I guess they were technically brass paws. "In't that so, Colonel?"

Colonel Sanders had mashed potatoes all over his face. "Yup," he said.

I looked down at my feet, trying to think of what to do. The sun was warm on my neck. It felt good. The warmth reminded me of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It'd be a little better getting beat to death with some chicken in my belly, I thought. I heard footsteps. The devious duo was approaching. I closed my eyes. I can't watch.

Honk honk!

I looked up just as a red semi-truck slammed into Colonel Sanders' pickup, rolling it over like a car from a Michael Bay movie. I dove to the side of the rode. The pickup rolled onto the Colonel and the Dancing Bear. Chicken, potatoes, and bear bits sprayed everywhere.

I took a moment to gather myself, shocked at what I'd just seen. Finally, I got up and approached the two. The Colonel wasn't dead, but his legs were squished. He'd never make chicken again, that is if he uses his legs to make chicken. The Dancing Bear, however, was super dead. Bear guts oozed out of him.

"His only wish was to be a real bear," said Colonel Sanders.

"He wasn't a real bear?" I asked.

"No. It was just a suit," he said.

"Are you okay, very tiny man?" asked a new voice. I looked up. It was the semi-driver. He climbed out of the cab and came over to me.

"You're Carmelo Anthony!" I said. He was Carmelo Anthony.

Carmelo tipped his trucker cap. "That's a big 10-4," he said. "I drive truck across the country in the summer, being as I'm never in the postseason for more than a series."

"Thank you so much for saving me, Carmelo," I said.

"I couldn't just PASS you by and not be AWARE that I could MISS SOMETHING that I wasn't LOOKING FOR," he said.

I forced a polite smile. Carmelo was trying really hard to allude to the video. "Thank you for seeing cyclists," I said. It was pretty cheesy.

"Don't thank me, thank Michael Jackson," said Carmelo Anthony.

Michael Jackson waved down at us from heaven. "Hee hee!" he sang. Michael Jackson then did the moonwalk, painting a rainbow in the sky.

The base of the rainbow was at my feet. I reached in and pulled out a pot of gold. I'm the smallest man in the world, but on St. Patrick's Day, I'm a leprechaun because we're all a wee little bit Irish!

"Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!" Carmelo Anthony, Michael Jackson, and I said at the same time.


But who was in the Dancing Bear costume!?!?

We'll never know, but it definitely wasn't Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler is a horrible quarterback.

The Great Inflate

The sky is the limit.


Whenever a group of friends is deciding on where to eat lunch, someone inevitably suggests Chipotle.

"Hey, what about Chipotle?" someone will say.

"Oh my gosh yes! I haven't had Chipotle in so long!" someone else will say.

"Yeah, Chipotle is amazing. We have to go," a third someone will chime in.

"If we don't go to Chipotle right now, I'm going to lose my mind," someone four. The mob grows hungry.

"Dude, Chipotle is so good for the world. Did you see that one extended animated commercial they had? Chipotle is the only food place in the world that actually cares about all of us," says the first guy.

"If Jesus Christ came back to earth, he'd go to Chipotle." Insane someone number two's eyes open fully. "I BET JESUS IS WORKING AT CHIPOTLE RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE TO GO FIND HIM!" The torches are lit and the pitchforks are pitched.

Your now literal gang storms down the street. Thousand upon thousands of people have joined your group. The beast awakens.

The beast hungers. It won't sleep until it's satiated. It has glowing red eyes and a poison-barbed tail. Its wings stretch forty feet wide, shoving a lamppost to the ground like a child kicking over a daisy.

Hisssssssss Chipotleeeeeeeee. The beast exhales a flame that scorches an Aldi grocery store. Poor Aldi, never had a chance.

The mob comes upon Chipotle.

"Natural!" The beast stands on its back legs, as tall as a tower.

"Organic!" The beast flicks its serpentine tongue out, tasting the air for vulnerability.

"Locally conscious!" A man fornicates into a coconut then blows his brains out with a sawed off shotgun.

"SUSTAINABLE!" The beast crashes through Chipotle's door, taking out the entire front wall.

"Welcome to Chipotle. What would you like?" asks the man behind the counter. He has long hair and a full beard. His brown eyes are welcoming. He wears a Chipotle visor and flowing white robes. A crown of thorns sits atop his visor. Golden light glows around him.

"I demand a burrito bowl!" screams the first man in line. He has jet black hair and a pointed goatee. His thick shoulders sit like boulders on his tall frame. He has the front legs of a horse. The horns of a ram come out of his red skull. He holds a trident and flames burst sporadically from his searing skin.

"You get more from the bowl than if you just get a burrito!" says Satan. He thrusts his trident into the air before turning and impaling the man in line behind him.

"What kind of meat would you like in your bowl, sir?" Jesus holds a lamb to his chest. Naked angels play harps behind him.

"Carnitas!" Satan shoots bats from his eyeballs. Carnitas is the meat of the devil.

"CARNITAS!" yells everyone else in unison. They melt into a black, smoking ooze. The ooze comes together and forms the back end of a horse. The horse half struggles forward, step by step, until it comes to Satan's ass. It bonds to Satan and he is complete.

"Black beans, all of the black beans! Guacamole!!!!" Satan takes a huge devil horse shit on the floor.

Jesus trembles as he packs beans upon beans into the carnitas bowl. He sends all of his love and forgiveness into each of the beans. These are the beans of Christ, given for food.

Jesus lops a heap of guacamole onto the beans. He closes his eyes. The world becomes silent. The purest, whitest light imaginable flows from his aura into the guacamole. This is the guac of Christ, given for food.

Satan rears and charges toward the counter. He leaps into the air, reaching his firey fist toward the bowl.

Jesus lifts the bowl above his head, summoning all of the strength of The Father into himself.

Satan makes contact with the burrito bowl, making contact with Jesus. The earth trembles. The ground and sky both tear open, revealing heaven and hell. Light and flames explode everywhere.

The Chipotle is gone. All that remains is pico de gallo, some soft taco shells, and the coconut into which the dead man planted his seed.

Lunch is over. The beast has gone back to sleep in its cavern, subdued for now.

Except I don't like Chipotle. I want real Mexican food, and Chipotle simply is not authentic. Thus, I abstain and eat alone. But I am certainly not alone in my disliking Chipotle.


After everyone on earth died because everyone went to Chipotle for lunch during the great Final Battle in 2015, I was left alone. Turns out I really am the only person in the whole world who doesn't like Chipotle.

It was strange at first, being the last and the smallest person in the world, but I got over it. Time heals all wounds, and luckily for me, the clock cured both my broken heart and my inferiority complex.

Language and definitions are only social agreements, after all. Therefore, being the last man on earth, I was no longer the smallest person on earth. I had become:

Mac Samson. The biggest man in the world.

Sure, everything was still inaccessibly large for me, but that was just because that was how the giants from yesteryear had made it. The history books were mine to write, and this is how I planned to rewrite them.

I crafted myself the most royal of thrones, similar to the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones. It was exactly the same as the Iron Throne, except instead of swords it was made out of keys, the swords of the tiny.

One day, as I, Mac Samson, king of and biggest man in the world, sat on my throne, watching reruns of Spongebob Squarepants while eating Cocoa Pebbles, the world became silent. My TV was still on and unmuted, but it made no noise. I crunched my sugary fortified cereal, but heard no crunch. My fish tank bubbled, but the purifier didn't hum. All was completely quiet.

"Mac," boomed a voice.

I looked around. I was pretty sure everyone died, but just to be safe, I put my pants on and even zipped the zipper. Kings do wear pants, after all.

"Mac!" came the voice again.

I looked at Balto, my beta fish. He shook his head side to side. "That wasn't me," said Balto.

"Mac! For Pete's sake, up here!" said the voice.

I looked up. My ceiling was gone and a fluff of clouds circled in the sky. They were as white as mountain snow. They circled faster and faster, so fast that I eventually couldn't look at them.

"God?" I said, shielding my eyes with my hands.

"Look up," said the voice.

I lowered my hands and looked up again. The clouds no longer spun. Instead, they had formed the unthinkable. It was the largest, most glorious Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow I had ever seen.

It was a Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo Marshmallow.

"Listen to me, Mac," said the Marshmallow All Mighty.

"Yes, Lord. What is it?"

"Mac, you have stopped your tiny travels and settled here. Look at what you've become."

I looked down. Pretty much the same stuff I always wear. "This is how I always dress," I said.

"It is not your attire, dumby," said the Grand Mallow. "It is the place you've seated yourself."

"The Key-ron Throne?"

"Doy," said the Pontifus Mallowmus.

"But I'm the only person left on earth. I thought it only seemed fair that I be king," I said.

"Incorrect! You are not meant to be king. Not here, not now," said MOTUS.

"Wait, does that mean I get to be king some other time?" I asked.

"Uh... Don't try and take the story too far," said Marshmallyoncé. He cleared his throat. "Mac, I summon you to revive the world--"

"Whatever do you mean, oh great one?"

"Why did you just cut me off? I was explaining it quite clearly and you just cut me off."

"Sorry," I said. "Just haven't talked to anyone in a while."

Balto rolled his eyes. He's very sensitive.

"Anyway," said the Prime Minmallowster, "In order to bring the people of earth back, you must rise as high as you can and sprinkle the water of life down to the ground. This will bring order and life back. This is your task, go and get started."

The Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo Marshmallow slowly receded back into the clouds.

"Wait!" I said. "How will I get up into the sky? And what is the water of life?"

The Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo Marshmallow came back. "Dude, just..." He sighed. "Get a bunch of balloons."

"And the water of life?"

"Really? You think you're king material? Any water will do. I was going to send you on a quest to the fountain of eternal life, but obviously you are totally incapable of that task. As soon as I get back to my desk, I'll override that portion of the deal and any water should do."

"Yes, oh lord! Thank you for your gooey kindness!"

The Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo Marshmallow winked at me. He then put on some Ray-Bans and disappeared.


Twenty eight balloons.

That was how many balloons I gathered. Objectively, I'm super small, so even though I said all of that stuff about definitions and place and whatnot, twenty eight balloons was more than enough to lift my tiny self into the sky. I tied them to a chair, which was held to the ground by an anchor and a rope.

I sat down, nervous. "Wish me luck," I said to Balto.

"You're not a good listener and you always make everything about you," said Balto.

"You're right, I'll be fine. Thanks friend," I said.

With that, I cut the anchor rope with my key sword and lifted up. Up, up, up, down for a little bit, up again, down again, a little to the left, stop, not moving any direction, and up into the sky I went. I was the freest little man, and even though I wasn't a king, I sure felt like one.

The air was thin and breathing was hard. This must be it, I thought. The end of the world. The highest limit. I reached into my breast pocket and pulled out a bottle of Dasani. Bottled water is a bunch of bullshit, so I definitely wasn't going to tell everyone when they got back that bottled water was what saved the world. I twisted off the cap and poured.

As the water fell toward the earth, it grew tremendously in volume. It formed thick, dark clouds. A gentle, holy rain washed the earth.

I had done it.

I popped a few balloons with my key and came back down. I landed in a pine tree, which sucks because I got all sticky from sap, but otherwise, everything was back to normal. Everyone was back alive.

Once again and as always, I was the smallest man in the world.


On a warm, breezy Saturday afternoon, I was hanging out with all of my friends in the park.

"Where do you guys want to get lunch?" asked Tim.

"Definitely not Chipotle!" I said, smiling.

"Fuck you, Mac," said Ben. Everyone was nodding in agreement.

The mob grabbed me, tied me to the flagpole rope by the pants, and raised me back up into the sky. They left me as they marched on to Chipotle.

God, I hate Chipotle.

You Get What You Pay For

Quality over quantity.

All people have morning routines. I do too, just it's always different. Three days ago, I woke up, took a pee, got a drink of water, put the pee back, and went back to bed. Pretty good day, I'd say.

No one has morning routines. I do, and it's always the same. Two days ago, I woke up, ate a parfait, put on my Airwalks, and skateboarded over the San Francisco Gulch, which is considered to be the Grand Canyon in the little community.

Some people have mourning routines. I do, and boy is it sad. Yesterday, I woke up, read the obituaries section of the newspaper, and realized that my best friend in the whole world, my very best friend, I'm quite sad to say, didn't die. My best friend is a real piece of shit, so it's a bummer for this planet every day he's alive.

But some other guy died, and I realized that he was probably someone's best friend. I think so, anyway. What kind of person out there doesn't have a best friend? There's gotta be someone, right? I hope not. If so, I hope he is dead, unlike my best friend, Mike, who is just a real turdwad.

Come to think of it, Mike is not my best friend. I hate that guy. Yeah, Mike totally isn't my best friend. He's not even my friend, really. Actually, I don't like Mike at all. Mike is like a car with no air conditioner in the summer and also the seats are mechanical arms that repeatedly punch you in the balls (or lady balls, Mike doesn't discriminate with his shit-suckery) whenever you have to drive him.

No wait even worse Mike is like an electric car, that's how much of a butthole Mike is. Not Teslas though, those are sweet. Mike is definitely not a Tesla. If he were a Tesla he'd be my best friend. I do not even know Mike. Seriously. I don't mean that as in "Mike is so wild and intolerable that he's like a completely different person now, so in order to convey that I will claim that I do not even know Mike." I mean it as in "I do not know Mike in the slightest, I've never even met Mike--who's Mike?" However, I'm sure if I met Mike I'd like him pretty good, he seems like a swell guy.

It's really not that hard to have a best friend, honestly. All you have to do is one of two things. You can be so unique and spectacularly you and special which everyone is =) =) =) BuzzFeed hold my hand (!) life is the most beautiful Instagram filter of all (!) they should redo the Mighty Ducks with Michelle Obama as Gordon Bombay the coach yes (!) =)=)=).

Or, more likely, you can live your life as the sad sack of crap that we all are and sit at a bar every night after work watching who-cares drinking just-die-already-light until God-didn't-even-put-the-phone-back-on-the-hook-after-the-last-call. Then, after spending all of your useless and totally unimportant time working on it-doesn't-matter, there'll just be someone else there at the bar who you tag along with because doing it with someone else is at least a little better than doing it alone. That's the more reasonable way you and your best friend for life find each other, like a blind dung beetle and a heap of rhinoceros dung with so many parasites in it that it's basically alive.

So, today I thought I'd try and break up my morning routine. I woke up in my Altoid container bed, said goodbye to Jessica, my pillow and lover, had a cup of coffee in my hollowed out Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow mug, and rode my bike to work. That was the change, since I usually don't ride my bike to work because people who bike to work are the worst and never shut up about how awesome it is that they're saving the world it's like jeeze it's a bike not a machine that when pedaled births an endangered animal.

When I got to work, I went about as usual. I put on my yellow hard hat, put on my tool belt, didn't put on my badge and gun because unfortunately I'm not a police officer I'm a construction worker, and stepped into the crane bucket. The crane then lifted me all the way to the top of the crane, which is all the more specific about how high it was that I wish to share, thank you very much.

When I got to the top, I got in the crane operator's cabin and did all kinds of work. I picked beams up, set beams down, moved beams around, flung some beams into a rival crane, tipping it over and killing the crane operator, Mike (finally), and then I took lunch.

Pickles, lettuce, onion, mustard, mayonnaise, sardines, hummus, and goat cheese, all on rye bread. This is not the sandwich I had. Instead, I had Chef Boyardee overstuffed meat ravioli. I heated it up in the microwave, did that breath in/blow out desperately try to cool it down thing before you eat something so hot that you know it's gonna burn you, and took a bite.

Boom. The ravioli exploded everywhere. I should have known that the overstuffed ravioli are simply too dangerous to be contained, but it was too late.

Cranes lay tipped over everywhere, all of their Mikes dead. Some weren't even at the job site. Whooping, sandhill, even Siberian cranes lay dead all over the place. And the ones that weren't dead were not happy--you can say that again! Think about the most amount of dead cranes you've ever seen in one sitting, not counting bathroom breaks. Now double it. Subtract 2, and double it again. Pick a letter of the alphabet after G but before M and assign it a numerical value (1 for G, 7 for M). Double that number. Add that to the other number you've doubled, subtracted 2 from, and doubled again. Take that sum and double it one last time. Is it 0? It is, because you've never seen dead cranes before, not like this, and certainly not like Dead Cranes on Ice, coming this fall to rinks everywhere.

"Boy that sure is a lotta dead cranes," said Cliff from Cheers. He was right. It was a lot of dead cranes. So many dead cranes. There were more dead cranes than there have been US Presidents.

Shoosh shoosh. The time whistle blew, signaling the end of the day. I took off my hard hat and belt and dropped them right where I stood, because who's going to do anything about it?

As I rode my pink bike with the cool basket and pretty tassels in the handles home, I thought about the great work I did today.

We all want everything, but we don't want to pay anything for it. It has to be made in America or we won't buy it, but anything made in America is far too expensive for us to buy.

We care so much about the accumulation of objects that all we end up doing is getting rid of the last stuff we bought to make room for more stuff that we will never use. Just think about the idea of rental storage for extra crap.

Yet for the low price of only a few dollars, the cost of a cup of coffee, I was able to kill so many crane operators and cranes, all with the simple jerk of a control stick.


I fought the cycle of day in and day out and did something different. I made a difference, I stuck by my guns. I chose the path less traveled, opting to dedicate myself to only one quality crane to do my bidding as opposed to many average-at-best cranes. I was able to get out of the vortex of material excess by picking one thing that I really care about and focusing on that.

Mike was 46 years old when he died. He left behind no children and no regrets. He was an avid golfer, curious photographer, and adamant protestor of La-Z-Boy recliners. He smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and always said, "I'll get the last laugh, doc--these smokes'll never kill me."

"If the smoking doesn't kill you, the cranes will," the doctors would always say in return.

Doctors are very smart and can change the world. Not as much as a child's smile can, though =)