Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blog of Stupid in America
By Paul "FooDaddy" Brautigan

I met Blog of Stupid in America while I was out wandering around in the woods. I had a backpack on. Inside the backpack were bugs with thermodynamic politics on their minds. I liked them.

Blog of Stupid in America was standing on one leg on the bank of a small stream. I handed him a kitten. He said "thank you," and put the kitten down on a paper plate with capers and ice cream cones.

I could hear traffic in the distance. The cars were carrying people to Christmas parties. It was August.

"Do you come here often?" I asked Blog of Stupid in America.

"Did you know that crawdads appreciate Bach on a level we cannot even begin to understand?" he asked me back.

Of course, I had no idea. I had no children, either. That was why I had the kitten. The kitten was on the ground, watching the crawdads.

"My uncle was a flagpole," Blog of Stupid in America said. He tossed a lifetime's supply of Tic Tacs into the creek. "Doorknobs are actually intelligent beings from Chicago. Did you know that?"

Naturally, I had no idea. I had no pants, either. That was why I wore shorts. It was hot in the woods because it was August.

"I'm writing a parody of an author on my Blog," I told Blog of Stupid in America. "What should I write about?"

Blog of Stupid in America spun on one knee for ten minutes before answering.

"What was his stuff like?" He showed me that he was serious by handing the kitten a marble. The kitten seemed to like it. He was orange and stripey and had fuzzy little triangular ears.

"Strange," I said. "I think he was on drugs."

Blog of Stupid in America took some drugs. "Very tasty," he said. The kitten seemed to appreciate that. He rolled onto his back and hummed Tchaikovsky to the clouds.

"It was nice meeting you. I have to go now because there are things I must do back home. It's going to be Christmas soon," I said.

"Waffle pie," said Blog of Stupid in America. It was August, and the moon was out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Granola Prose XIIII--oops, er...XIV

Rearing defiantly into the sky, the mist-girded flanks of Mount Tenebrous would have sliced the storm clouds into ghostly tatters as the relentless wind drove them into it. Bolts of crackling lightning would have jumped from the spires jutting out over the void, sending rolling waves of sound crashing into the surrounding peaks like roars from the throat of a giant.

You would have been able to see Mount Tenebrous from miles away, too, had it been visible.

At its peak sat a castle quite unlike any other. Its center was a glass and chrome cylinder perhaps six hundred feet tall and one hundred feet in diameter. Cantilevered out at 90 degree angles from this were many smaller cylinders of varying length, giving the whole the appearance of a denuded, robotic Christmas tree.

Inside, the Mysteriolith Three were having an argument.

"It is our duty as wizards to meddle with things, is it not, Darius?" said Lucretius the Infuriatingly Wise.

"Of course, and I still think we should back the Fairy Syndicate. They won't notice a little extra magic here and there," contended Darius the Crafty, turning a nearby lamp into a glowing iguana.

"But imagine the state of things when the Syndicate has had control for a couple of decades. Total giggling totalitarianism. Where would we find our foothold?" Lucretius countered beard-strokingly, turning the lamp back.

"Anybody seen my wand? " inquired Maxwell the Replacement.

"I agree. That would certainly be less than ideal. We would just make our move before things got to that point," said Darius, turning the lamp into a plate of brownies.

"Under a Dirty Forest Man regime, we would be able to take our time," Lucretius said, turning the lamp back again.

"Hey! I was eating those!" said Maxwell.

"Well, now would be a good time for you to practice transfiguration for yourself, wouldn't it?" Lucretius said primly.

"Aw, come on! Darius? Come on!"

Speaking over Max's noisy and muttery search for his wand, Lucretius continued. "We need a decision before the dwarf and the rogue fairy find a way to get Merbert involved. That would not be good for any of us. Our goal is to destabilize things long enough for the Mysteriolith Three to assume the seat of authority we lost years ago, at the breaking of our troika."

"Did one of you guys turn my wand into, like, a golden retriever or something? I can't find it anywh--oh! Here it is. In the wand rack. What the hell?"

"You already know my vote. Dirty Forest Man," Darius said, crossing his arms.


"Oh, yeah. Hold on." He went into a crouch and approached the lamp. "Egregious Peterbilt!" he said, and waved his wand. There was a puff of smoke and a flash of light, and the lamp turned into an eight-pack of tube socks.


"Maxwell, we need your input."

Max shot the socks a nasty look. "I'm starving, and I can't do that conjuring trick you guys can. All I've been able to do since you hired me is turn things into tube socks. You ever had to hike down the side of an invisible mountain to buy frozen burritos at Wal-Mart?"


"Nope," said Darius, turning himself into a giant duck and back again.

"Well, it sucks."

"Max. Tell you what. You make the tie-breaking vote, and we'll conjure you up all the burritos you can eat. Sound good?" said Darius, turning the socks back into a lamp. It changed back perfectly, except for the shade, which retained a corrugated appearance and had two red stripes circling it.

"And I'm going to ask again why we can't just hang out and turn stuff into other stuff. But if you guys want to get all political and slap a DFM or Fairy Power bumper sticker on your flying cars, why don't we just call them both up and go with whoever pays more? Which, I'd like to add, is another moot point since you can conjure up anything you need out of thin air. Me too, as long as all I need are tube socks."

The wizard brothers looked at each other and then at Maxwell, who eyed them back, nervously. "What?"

"That's actually a very good idea, Maxwell!" said Lucretius.

"Absolutely! The side who offers us the most money is the most desperate. Desperation makes a lousy foundation for any power. The higher the price, the more easily toppled!" Darius exlaimed.

Excitedly, he bounded from his chair and strode to the center of the room. He stretched his hands out and the air filled with the whistles and shrieks of a thousand tiny pieces of metal spinning into being. The vortex flattened out and the metal pieces assembled themselves into a what looked like a loom. The loom began to operate of its own accord, and rapidly wove four panes of glass. The glass panes stood themselves up on edge as the machine, spitting sparks and smoke, pounded out wrought-iron rods and plates. These joined the glass, and the whole assembly spun as the loom shot rivets into it. In a matter of seconds, a fully assembled phone booth stood between the flat-screen television and an end table, and the loom melted away like sand blowing off the top of a dune.

Darius stepped inside, shut the door, and put his hand up to the side of his head, thumb and pinky finger extended.

"Give me the Dirty Forest Man," he said into his pinky.

"That was an awful lot of fanfare for an awful lot of nothing," the Writer's wife told him kindly, caressing his cheek with a tungsten arc welder. "You're going to give yourself a hernia, dear."

"That's kind of the point, though," the Writer said defensively.

"To herniate yourself? I think you need a nap, my suave keyboard jockey."

"Foolish wife! It's a well known area of humorosity that dictates an ironic buildup's hilarious effect. I have a book that--"

"Sorry dear. Telephone. Hello? Yes, he's right here. It's your father." She handed him the receiver.


"I'd also like to point out that ridiculous opening paragraph. Throat of a giant? Pah! Ghostly tatters? Pooh! And who ever heard of something 'rearing defiantly'? It's frogwash is what that is. Rearing ominously, maybe. You been reading Stephen King again? Huh? Well, you shouldn't. Stuff'll give you brain rot." There were some muted thumps and crashes and a "Lousy turkeys! Yer scarin' away the rabbits!" and the line went dead.

"What did he say?"

"Highly ignorable literary criticism," the Writer sniffed, chin rearing defiantly up out of his face.

"You'll probably go back and change whatever he told you to change later, once you've thought about it. You usually do."

"This time," the Writer said, tearing some granola into ghostly tatters with his teeth, "I'm going to leave it the way I have it now. I like it."

"What manner of reply did you receive?" Lucretius asked, displaying an almost unseemly level of excitement by raising one eyebrow.

Darius waved his hand in a complicated and precise gesture and disconnected the call to the Dirty Forest Man. He leaned out of his phone booth. "He told us to go boil our bums."

"You just made a phone call without using a phone! That's awesome! You gotta teach me that trick. Sprint gets such lousy reception in cloaked areas," said an impressed Maxwell.

"So that leaves us with the Syndicate," sighed Lucretius. "Evidently the Forest Man does not need our help."

"Or he ain't admitting it," interjected Maxwell, turning an eight-pack of tube socks into a thirteen-pack. "Dammit!"

"Let's test the water over in Whimsidor. Perhaps we'll get a bite there." He ducked back into the phone booth and performed the dialing gesture. Adopting an impressively deep voice, he said into his pinky, "Tell Crapulent Fartwing I can save him a lot of time, ma'am."

* * *

"I have heard of them, yes. If all you called to do was test my knowledge of local lore, I'm going to bid you a horrible afternoon and feed this telephone to one of my minions."

"Yay!" said the minion.

"Then you know what we're capable of."

Fartwing's eyes widened ever so slightly, and some of the impatience left his face. "Am I to believe I am speaking with one of the Three?"

"You are indeed. The legends are true, my friend."

"Even the one about one Darius the Crafty's habit of covering himself with mayonnaise and talking to pickles?"

"...Most of the legends are true."

Crapulent Fartwing laughed. It was a mean, dirty laugh. It was the kind of laugh that was made out of the lies of holy men and minced puppies. "So what makes you think I need your help?"

Darius' tone became colder and his voice deeper. "Because your aerial assault has failed. The dwarf and the wingless one have captured your bird."

Impossible! Nobody could even hope to lay hands on Aspartame without some pretty fancy magic. The bird was wily, resourceful, and above all, very oily. She also crapped mind-control taffy, which was pretty handy.

"Prove it."

"Shake your telephone handset."

Fartwing did. Something was rattling around inside. He unscrewed one of the endcaps, and an infrared Skittle fell out. No bag of Skittles had ever contained that color.

"Okay. You have my attention. Let's hear your offer."

* * *

Across the windswept wastes, Becky and Stubs trudged. They were down to their last leftover swine wad, their canteens were empty, and the battery in Stubs' iPod had been dead for hours.

"We're going to need a miracle," gasped the dwarf.

"This is a start. Teehee," rasped Becky.

Stubs looked up and wiped the grit from his watering eyes. He squinted. Becky was standing next to a door. It was wooden, set impossibly into the side of a cliff, and had the words "Tiberius Airways: Dirigibibble Rides!" painted on it.

"That's a start," agreed Stubs.

Granola Prose XIII

Dusk found Becky and Stubs at the foot of Mount Vague, the highest peak in the Mysteriolith Mountains. They had already covered a lot of ground since their encounter with the Battle Unicorn and Stubs was breathing heavily from the exertion. The dwarf’s face had turned a startling, but lovely, shade of purple.

 “Are you sure you’re all right?” Becky asked for the twentieth time.

 “Of course I’m all right,” Stubs wheezed, tripping over a small pile of stones. “I’m in the best shape of my life! It’s just the increasing altitude. My lungs are large and powerful, so they need lots of oxygen.”

 Becky looked up at the mountain and frowned. If Stubs was having difficulty with the foothills, there was no way he was going to survive a trek over Mount Vague. The tip of the mountain was swathed in mist, while the sides, which from a distance had appeared somewhat non-threatening, were now seen to be craggy and covered with sharp, broken rock. Although Becky wasn’t laboring as Stubs, even she was feeling the effects of the day’s exertion.

 A loud screech from above jolted them from their lethargy. Stubs dove to the ground and tried to cover himself with small rocks. Searching the skies, Becky spotted a huge bird circling overhead, its long wings flapping slowly. The bird’s body was sequined with Skittles and cotton candy trailed from its wings and tail feathers. On its head it wore a wreath of pansies.

 Becky ducked and held her arms up to shield her face. Her sleeve slipped up toward her shoulder and the Optiglyph branded on her arm began pulsing.

 As if the brand was a beacon, the bird screeched again and dove toward Becky. She tried to leap aside, expecting the bird to attack with beak and talons. Instead, it halted its dive a few feet overhead and Becky felt something wet splatter her arm. She glanced up and saw the bird ascending again. Suddenly, it dropped like a stone and landed heavily on the ground, its head flopping pathetically. It gagged and stretched its neck, straining for air. Stubs scrambled out from his hiding place. He ran over to the creature and tied it up with the strands of cotton candy. He was a little sheepish, but proud of the accomplishment.

“A direct hit!” he announced. “I told you my indiscretions would one day prove use…hey, what’s on your arm?”

 Becky looked at her arm. The bird dropping was unlike anything she had seen. Instead of slimy and loathsome, it was pastel-colored and thick in texture like heated taffy. It had dropped directly on the Optiglyph, which seemed to be absorbing the substance. The branded happy face brightened and the smile seemed to widen.

 Stubs handed her a handkerchief and she rubbed at the spot to no avail. The brand’s pulsing strengthened and a pain shot through Becky’s head. She rubbed her temples and Stubs groaned.

 “Not the headache again!” he said. “Don’t those fairies ever give up?”

 “Apparently not,” Becky said. “Like I said earlier, they probably know we’re coming and are doing everything they can to force me to do their will. We’re taking too long to find the wizards. We’re sitting ducks!” She winced as pain stabbed through her head. “I don’t care what Merbert said about the wizards. We should’ve taken the Loneos, hijacked it if necessary. We’d already be over the stupid teehee.”

 Stubs, who had walked over to inspect his vanquished foe, looked back quizzically as he realized what Becky had said.

 “The stupid teehee?” he asked, swallowing a Skittle. “What the holy mead is a teehee?”

 Becky squeezed her eyes shut, then blinked several times. “I meant the mountain. The stupid mountain. Teehee!” She grabbed her arm. “It burns!”

 The Wife groaned and tapped the Writer on the head with the end of her newly refurbished, shoulder-fired SAM launcher. “Flatulence and defecation? Oh, please.”

 The Writer tried to appear learned, thereby above reproach, but succeeded only in making his eyes cross. “It’s become a part of the plot!” he insisted. “I can’t just start pretending it never happened. It’s part of Stubs’ character. It’s who he is.”

 “I think you may be underestimating Stubs,” the Wife said. “If you were to look deeper into his character he might surprise you with his abilities. You’re holding him down, relegating him to the role of a farting fringe character.”

 “So you’re saying Stubs could be the hero?” The Writer chuckled. “I doubt my readers would buy that.”

 “That’s not what I’m saying,” the Wife said, “but if you expect readers to accept Stubs as part of the team, he’s going to have to start acting like it. Otherwise, why is Stubs even there? Becky would be better off without him. And we can’t have that.”

 The Writer pouted a little. “He defeated the attack bird.”

 “Ah, yes. The terrifying Skittle bird. It had me quaking.”

 The Writer couldn’t be sure, but he thought perhaps he detected a hint of sarcasm in the Wife’s tone. He decided to ignore it. She was, after all, still tapping his head with the launcher.

 “So you’re saying…what are you saying?”

 “Just making suggestions,” said the Wife. “Trying to keep you on track.”

 “I don’t need ‘keeping-on-tracking,’” the Writer insisted, crossing his arms petulantly. “I’m a highly-trained, professional writer of fine literature who—”

 “Uses disgusting bodily functions as salient plot points?” the Wife interrupted.

 “No! Who is perfectly capable of crafting his own fully developed plot without assistance from his non-literary spouse!”

 Incensed, the Writer dove his fingers back at the keyboard.

 As Becky struggled internally, Crapulent Fartwing moved through the halls of the Syndicate’s floating palace, amusing himself by attacking the self-esteem of random strangers. He had just succeeded in causing a group of school children to realize the futility of their futures, when a fairy minion tapped him on the elbow.

 “Excuse me, sir. Teehee.”

 Fartwing tried to turn on his heel, but tripped on his cape. He slapped the minion. “What is it, ugly?”

 Stung by the blow and insult, the minion wept for a moment, before remembering his fairy heritage. He brightened immediately.

 “A call for you, sir,” he tittered, handing Fartwing a telephone crafted from cake icing and fulfilled dreams. “You may eat this when you’re done, if you like!”

 Disgusted, Fartwing grasped the phone between thumb and forefinger and held it to his ear. “Crapulent Fartwing, here. This better be good.”

 “Oh, it is.” The voice was low and, even to Fartwing, a little creepy. “I understand you’re missing one of your number. A renegade who refuses to answer the Call. One Becky Ratite?”

 “Who is this?”

 “Someone who might be able to help reunite you and the prodigal. For the right price.” The voice laughed, but the sound was not pleasant. “Mr. Fartwing, have you ever heard of the Mysteriolith Three?”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Granola Prose XII

“Of course it matters! If the Syndicate sent Bruce, then…they know---"

Becky's voice gave way to static as flames claimed the transmitter embedded in Bruce's mane.

"Clever Becky," Fartwing chuckled maliciously. "Disconnect." The monitor speakers in the Wingworth control room stopped broadcasting the static and gave way to their usual xylophone and wind chimes rendition of What a Wonderful World.

"I see clouds of smoke...bent wreckage too! I see 'em go boom..." tittered the fairy warlord, wringing his nasty little hands. He turned as a subordinate fairy pranced to his side.

"What is it, Jenkins?"

Jenkins performed an elegant salute with both sets of wings and one hand. When the cloud of fairy dust settled, he made his report.

"Confirmed destruction of the Battle Unicorn sir."

"Sir...what?" menaced Fartwing.

"Sir tee hee. Sorry sir. Tee hee."


Jenkins pranced from the room, strewing pansy petals in his wake.

Fartwing allowed his pointy little face to bend into a painful smile. His face didn't much like bending like that, and Fartwing rarely made it try. It was a twisted bit of irony, his spearheading a war on pessimism, but that's the way the brightly frosted gigglebread cookie crumbled, wasn't it? He was good at war. The reasons were irrelevant.

"The Council gave me the job, and I aim to do it, no matter utterly pointless the cause," he muttered into his mug of ammo fraggaccino. "Although Merbert being forced to destroy his own cyborg unicorn...that was deliciously hilarious. Ow." Before he relaxed the smile, he allowed a rusty little giggle to escape. Like in some kind of evil Disney movie, the giggle landed on some of the pansy petals and turned them brown.

The air in the sky city of Whimsidor thrummed with lavender-hued activity. Diligent fairies were at work in the forges, pounding out rainbows, kittens and bags of Skittles. Others sat at buzzing looms, churning out tickling feathers by the truckload. Still others worked the printing presses, stamping out bumper stickers for moron people who believe that being happy is a conscious decision, rather than an alignment of neurotransmitters brought on by external circumstance.

Lucky for Fartwing, this is a larger percentage of the population than most people think. The discovery of a "Happy Switch" would, of course, cause the rest of us to believe it too.

And yes, factory fairies were hard at work building thousands upon thousands of Happy Switches.

Crapulent Fartwing saw it all, and thought it was horrible. He launched into one of those monologue things that villains always launch into when confronted with the works of their evil hands.

"Yes. Horrible. Horrible for my enemies! Observe the great power of Whimsidor, her mighty manufacturing capacity! Her indefinite supply of weaponry!"

He launched a fitting antagonist laugh to go with it. He swirled his black cloak (another supervillain necessity) as he spun on his heels (something anyone can do) and strode farther out along the skywalk.

He may only be a pawn in this game, a useful misfit, but he also knew that the Syndicate Council needed him. They were too pastel-colored and fluttery to dirty their precious hands with war. Fartwing looked down at his own hands. They were already extremely dirty, and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.

"I try and try," he sighed, "to get the grit off, but it just won't go. Nasty, nasty grit."

A pretty, glowing fairy landed in front of him on the skywalk with a velveteen purr of wings. "Sir, tee hee sir!" she said, saluting. "The Call has been issued, and all are accounted for, except," she consulted a pink clipboard, "Becky Ratite, sir. Tee hee!"

"Figured as much," Fartwing muttered. He swept past the fairy.

"Is there anything else you'd like me to do sir?" she asked.

"Yes. Go find a large parking lot and steal all the wiper blades off the cars."

"Sir? Pardon me for saying, tee hee, but wouldn't that be mean?"

"Suppose it would. Okay. Steal all the wiper blades, and replace them with cookies. You know how people like cookies, right Chlorine?"

Chlorine nodded and grinned. "Tee hee! Yes sir!" She fluttered off.

"I hate them all," growled Fartwing as he stomped into the silo. Slamming the door shut behind him, he yelled to the workers in attendance.

"Our forces have mustered!"

"Yay! I love mustard! Go forces!" said a fat fairy in a hardhat.

"Shut up, Bob."

"Sir. Teehee sir."

"As you all know, the Syndicate has mustered its forces. They are poised to do battle with the army of pessimism, and the abhorrent figurehead at its front, the Dirty Forest Man."

Further propaganda was cut short by manic giggling and cheering from the massed fairies below.

"Yeah, yeah. Enough of it. I'm here to crack the whip on you all. We need the Neurobomb operational in two days! I want each and every one of you to put your glittery little wings into it! Make it happen, people!"

"Sir! Tee hee sir!" they shouted, and set to work with their candycane hammers and peanut-brittle saws.

Fartwing kicked the door shut behind him. How he loathed the whole giggling lot of them. He knew for a fact that most of the fairies were actually hard working and industrious folk with a wide range of emotions, but ever since the Syndicate had established a firm hold, that range had narrowed by law to a vacuous smile and thumbs that ached from being up so often. The fairy race had produced many great philosophers and inventors, but few brutal tacticians.

Yes. They needed him. Needed him like he needed a drink, the glittery bastards.

The Writer looked up from his screen. Wow, he thought. I'm not so sure if I altogether dislike this supposed antagonist. He figured that villains couldn't be properly villainous unless they were unlikable in some way. Who could properly wish for the quick and messy demise of a villain whose views one agreed with?

"Hon? How would one go about making one's self disliked?"

"Be a writer," she replied a bit too quickly from deep inside her SR-71.

"Seriously, darling," he said, showing extreme patience.

"Aww. So patient. Okay. Well, first you could be evil and manipulative."

"How about manupula-ted? Does that count?"

"If you're being manipulated by an evil cause, I suppose. And you know it. And..." she pulled herself out of the cockpit and looked at the Writer. "Is this all about the new bathe-every-day rule I'm holding you to now? Because if it is--"

"No no no. I've introduced readers to our main antagonist, and--"

"You mean Tony? Wasn't he--"

"Stop interrupting me, Wife!" the Writer interrupted.

"There! That's how you can be unlikable," she said, diving back into her aircraft. "Be a poop."

"Tony's sort of a running gag, you see. The main source of evil in this epic is the fairy warlord, Crapulent Fartwing."

"Odd name for a fairy to have," she muttered metallically.

"I know. And now he's stuck in a position that sort of makes him be evil, even though he may not be predisposed to it. Am I making any sense?"

"None whatsoever. But it's interesting."

"Maybe I should make Fartwing, like, a goblin or something. A handsome one who got co-opted into the Fairy Syndicate. Should he have wings?"

"It's already in his name," the Wife pointed out.

"I see," the Writer muttered. He hated it when she spotlighted the obvious. "Perhaps you are correct. But only perhapsly."

...To be continued...

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Hardass Hosts a Dinner Party

The Hardass gently set his salad fork next to a little silver pitcher of hazelnut yak cream. He dabbed his lips with a crimson linen napkin before speaking.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, rising and smoothing the wrinkles out of his immaculate Kiton 3-piece, "could I have everybody's attention, please?" He pinged a fondue fork against his wineglass.

"You have our ears, sir!" said a crew-cut young man halfway down the long dining table.

"Oh, please! Don't call me sir," said the Hardass, blushing modestly. He ducked so he could see past the chandelier. "Who called me sir? Marcus? Marcus! My name is Tanner, and that's what you call me here. We're not on duty, Marcus!" He jabbed his fondue fork at the rookie and winked roguishly.

"I'm sorry, sir--I mean, Tanner! We're just so excited to have you back and acting so, well, I, uh..."

The Hardass smiled ruefully. "I completely understand. It is quite a change. That mysterious month that I was mysteriously missing and had mysterious things done mysteriously to me really changed my outlook. But enough about that. If I start talking about it now, I'll get all weepy again. We're here to celebrate!"

A cheer romped around the room like a perverted otter, touching everybody in special places.

"You still haven't told us why you invited us out to this mansion you never told us you had, Tanner!" said longtime detective partner One-Eyed Jack.

"Oh ho ho! You're right, Jack! The head wound makes my mind wander. Oh, and golly, I still feel horrible about hitting you in the eye with that minivan last year. I was such a jerk!"

"Tanner, man, that's all in the past. It probably really was your turn to pick the radio station anyway," Jack said, gesturing cheerfully with his tumbler of brandy. "Besides, you've been doing nothing but apologizing ever since I showed up tonight."

"You're worth it, you winner, you. Ladies and gentlemen, I got you all together tonight because I missed your smiling faces, this you know. But I have another surprise for you. Something the ladies will particularly appreciate," he said, lowering his tone, being ever so careful that he did not allow it to descend to the carnal rumble of yestermonth; the one capable of vibrating the clasps off bras at twenty paces. The voice that claimed an infamous legacy of deafened wrongdoers and liberated breasts now sported a raiment of crystalline mirth.

"If you'll all follow me to the greenhouse, my chrysanthemums are in bloom!"

Squeals of delight and appreciative cheers bounced around the dining hall like rubber clowns.

"Now, now, calm down! The poodles are trying to sleep!" the Hardass said, giggling into his fist. "Please!"

He led the group of merrymakers across a twilit courtyard and into a magnificent two-story greenhouse with ivy-covered marble pillars and a decorative pool in the center.

"Friends, please enjoy the sights and smells at your leisure. When you're done, don't forget to pick up your gift basket on the way out. Dancing is next, followed by checkers!"

Chuck Franklin, the Chief of Police approached with his hands behind his back.

"Wait, wait! Before we go and check out all of your beautiful flora, we'd all like to give you this. Welcome back, Tanner!" He held out a giftwrapped box.

"Aw shucks, Chucks! You shouldn't have!"

"Open it!"

The Hardass daintily unwrapped the package, careful not to tear the shiny wrapping paper, by slowly removing the adhesive tape.

Inside was a plastic container.

A white plastic jar.

A white plastic jar with a red lid...


More cheering.

The Hardass stared. His jaw unhinged as a bolt of pain shot through his head and he collapsed to his knees.

The cheering stopped abruptly as several partygoers rushed forward to catch him.


"Hey, man, are you okay?"

"Give him some air!"

The Hardass was helped to his feet. Standing on his own, he expertly cataloged his surroundings with his flint-grey military-grade eyes.

"To hell with air," he growled. "I need some strippers, a glass of liquid nitrogen with lemon and a goddamn explanation."

He noticed the jar of Fluff, still limply grasped in Franklin's hands.

"Gimme that. And some friggin' toast to go with it."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Shittiest Lion
A Children's Story

It was a bright sunny day on the plains where the Crispy the Lion lived.

"I believe I shall go call on my friend Mole today!" he told a tree.

So he set off across the continent to visit a mole. On his way, he came upon a lake, in which there were much dolphins.

"Howdy, dolphins!" he said. The dolphins did a dance, because they liked Crispy the Lion. They liked him because he was special. They tossed him a fish.

"Have a fish!" the dolphins said. Then they scooted backwards on their tails across to the other side of the lake.

"I sure wish I could do that," remarked Crispy sadly. "I am not a very good hunter and I am not a very good theoretical physicist." Crispy ate his fish and continued on his way.

That night, he slept in a hole.

When the sun came up the next morning, Crispy woke up.

"Howdy, sun!" he said to the sun.

"Ultraviolet," said the sun, and proceeded to toast Crispy the Lion.

"I must find some water," he said. "I am thirsty."

So he looked around for some water. He found a faucet on the side of a house, but he could not figure out how to make the water to come out of it. He had seen men get water out of it before.

"Well, hi there, Crispy!" said a man. "You look thirsty! Would you like a glass of water?"

"Howdy, man! Yes, I would please," Crispy said with the greatest of manners. After he drank his fill, he flopped onto his side and allowed the man and his children to rub his furry belly.

"Rrrow! That tickles!" His breath smelled like fish, so the children ran away. "Goodbye, Crispy!" they said. Their voices sounded funny because they were pinching their noses.

"That right there is one special lion," the man said, shaking his head and smiling as he watched Crispy bumble off into the underbrush.

After fifteen and a half minutes, a platypus came running up to Crispy. "Please help me!" she said. "There is a mean old moose bothering my children!"

"Howdy, Platypus!" said Crispy. "Where is this mean old moose?"

"Just north of here!" said the platypus.

"Um," said Crispy.

"That way!" said the platypus.

"Oh," said Crispy.

He followed the platypus to her motorhome. A big shaggy moose was showing the platypus children naughty magazines and smoking a cigar at them.

"Eeek!" said the platypus children.

"Bwuh huh huh," the moose chuckled gunkily.

"Howdy, moose!" said Crispy. The moose turned to look at him.

"Well, if it ain't Crispy, the Shittiest Lion!" he sneered.

"Eeek!" said the platypus children.

"If you do not leave those children alone, I will bite you in two!" he said, displaying a fang.

"You could not bite a potato in two!" snorkeled the moose. "I would like to see you try it!"

For years and years, Crispy the lion had been made fun of because he was different. He was not a very good hunter, and he was not a very good astronomer. He had the wrong number of claws, and his mane was always too poofy. But he had a heart bigger than all the other lions put together.

"I will!" he roared. He gathered his will. He gathered his strength. He pulled a potato out of his pocket and bit it right in two!

The mean old moose laughed so hard he swallowed his cigar and exploded.

"Eeek!" said the platypus children.

"Thank you, Crispy!" said the overjoyed Platypus. "Have an oatmeal cookie!"

Crispy the Lion loved oatmeal cookies.

"Mmmph! Wemm, I mmfta go nowmm. Gmbye Pmmattypuff!" he said, spraying cookie crumbs all over the place.

That night, he slept in a bus.

In the morning, Crispy jogged in place for no reason for about an hour.

After a little bit of jogging in different places, he came to his friend Mole's house.

"Howdy, Mole!" he said.

Mole was in his yard, putting up a satelite dish.

"'Sup, Crispy?" he said cheerfully. He had not seen his friend since the last book!

"I wish I could swim with my tail, like the dolphins," announced Crispy.

"That's stupid," explained Mole.

"Oh," said Crispy. "Well, have a potato, Mole!" he said, handing Mole half of a potato.

"Damn, cuz! Some dude put the munch move up on this thing! Right in two!"

The Shittiest Lion smiled to himself.

Based on a true story.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Writer is Bored, So He Daydreams...

The small child caught the afternoon sunlight glinting off of something shiny in the bushes.

"Sunlight! You shouldn't be doing that!" said the small child, rather out loud. Indeed, in his admittedly limited catalog of Acceptable Happenings, sunlight didn't glint off of bushes. He wheeled his pudgy little body around and approached the bush in Investigation Mode.

An airplane flew by overhead, full of recirculated, pressure controlled air. The small child paused to look up at it. His brain took a brief moment to wonder where the airplane stored all the farts it filtered out of the air. It must be a big jar or something.

It looked like a pretty normal bush. It was one of those piney looking ones with the leaves that look kind of soft, but are actually really pointy. His mommy told him that it wasn't really a pine bush, because it didn't have cones. The small child knew better, though. It smelled like a pine bush, and it was pointy like a pine bush. She had to be fibbing. She fibbed when she didn't want him to know things. His mommy made him bathe, too, which was another strike against her. She would probably make him bathe tonight because he would probably get some sticky sap on himself. Real pine sap.

The small child circled the bush suspiciously, bobbing his head up and down to see if he could catch it glinting again. There! Right in the middle, stuck in a tangle of branches! It looked like a shiny metal TV remote control with no buttons. The small child was overjoyed. His mommy and daddy never let him touch their remote controls. Now he had his own. Ha.

He reached into the bush, gritting his teeth as the honest-to-God pine needles poked his arm. As soon as he touched the shiny remote thing, it beeped, and a bunch of blue lights lit up along one edge. He hadn't seen them until they lit up. That was a pretty cool trick. He touched it again to see if it would beep again and maybe light up some more lights, but it didn't. He carefully worked it out of the branches and needles.

The small child was nearly vibrating with excitement. He ran across his yard to his tire swing. He inspected his new toy, draped belly-down in the tire, legs kicking happily.

"Pretty," he said, touching one of the blue lights.

"Agent Donaldson. It's good to hear back from you. What is your status?" said a man's voice.

The small child glanced around. It was just him and his shiny thing in the yard. Daddy was at work, and mommy didn't have a voice like that.


The voice was coming from his remote control! Not only was it shiny and beepy and lighty, but it talked too!

"I want cookies!" the small child told his talking remote. He figured that he might as well be honest with it. Honesty was good when you made new friends.

"Indeed. Don't we all, Donaldson?" chuckled the remote. "Seriously though. How are things in the field."

The small child was a little confused as to why it was calling him "Donaldson," but he would probably figure that out later. He kicked himself around in the swing and looked over the backyard fence and into the big yard on the other side. The man over there never mowed his grass. It looked like a field, so that's what he called it. There were probably gophers and mice and boogeymen in there.

"There's a boogeyman in the field," he whispered to his remote.

"Shit!" hissed the remote. "Armed?"

Silly remote! Of course the boogieman has arms! How else would he grab little children and eat them?

"Well, duh!" he sassed. "And you shouldn't say that word. My mommy says it's naughty."

"I'm sorry, Donaldson. I forgot how you are about these things. Can you tell what he's armed with?"

"Big arms!" the small child giggled. The boogeyman did have big arms. He had to.

"Mud puppies. Donaldson, you're going to have to find a way around him yourself. I'm sorry, but there are no agents close enough to your position to provide cover fire. If you're quiet enough, you might be able to knock out his shield with an EMP you have enough juice in your sidearm to take one down?"

The small child loved juice. Especially apple.

"I have a box of it over by that rock, but there are bugs in it now, so I don't want it any more," he said, pointing to a juicebox he brought outside earlier. Ants were crawling all over it. But that was okay, because the child liked ants and was perfectly content leaving the rest of his juice to them.

"Donaldson. Did I hear you right? You've sighted bugs? Please confirm!" The remote sounded upset. "This is worse than I thought! You have full permission to abort mission, Donaldson! It looks like you're in over your head!"

"I like bugs," explained the small child calmly. "They can have my juice."

If it were possible for an inanimate piece of metal to look stunned, the remote did just that. Then it gasped.

A few seconds of silence.

"Wait a second here. Hold on. Full stop. Slap the rabbits. Are you, in fact, Agent Donaldson?"

"Nope!" said the small child. "I'm a small child."

"I see. Well then." Then, in the background, "Mr. President! You can call off the attack drones, sir! Faulty intelligence!" Louder and clearer again, "small child? Are you still there?"

"Yes, talking remote!"

"Talking...never mind. Where did you find this, uh, talking remote?"

"In a bush!"

"Donaldson, you moron...Listen, kid. We need you to put the remote back in the bush--"

"But I don't wanna!"

"--Drones? No. Wait. Better idea. Kid? How about if you get your mommy or daddy to drive you to a police station? When you give this remote control to the police, they will give you a cookie. Deal?"

"Ten cookies!"

"Little bastard. Okay. Ten cookies on the taxpayers' dime. Happy?"

He was.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How Jack Got Blah blah blah...

I want to thank you for having me back here for another interview. The foreman over at the Ferretworks isn't exactly pleased to be missing one of his best wranglers, but I'm sure the team will manage for a few hours without me. I don't mean to brag, but I can wrangle me some ferrets, lemme tell you.

So where was I? Ahh yes, the Big City. I approached on horseback, or rather, goatback, since Chester didn't want me to use his horse. Not that I'd have wanted his horse anyway. It was actually a mean-spirited sofa, but there was no arguing with Chester.

Yes, I suppose it was rather a strange sight to see a nine-year-old approaching one of The Country's biggest cities riding a goat. I was probably too young and inexperienced to realize that though, because I thought I was quite a dashing figure, mounted upon my steed and waving my cane. A few motorists honked at me, which startled my goat and made me drop my hat a couple of times, but I still felt like I could conquer anything.

It only took a day for the City to knock me off my high goat and bring me down to size.

The Big City was the archetypal large metropolis. As a wide-eyed street urchin, I was amazed at the height of the towers. I remember gazing up at them and, like the moron kid that I was, thinking that they scraped the sky. (I later found out that they were actually called "skyscrapers," and some of the magic disappeared.) The noise was incredible. Taxi cabs honked. Streetcars clanged. Angry fat men in silk hats stomped and swore. Actually, it seemed as if everybody was swearing all the time in the Big City.

"Damn kid! Why don't you watch where the damn you're walking, huh? Made me drop my damning cigar the hell on the friggin' street! Ass!"

I didn't even get a chance to apologize. By the time I had figured out that I'd bumped into the lady, she was already blocks away. People moved in the Big City.

Being from a very small community (it was just my family and one other on top of the US Bank Tower) I was astonished at what people were able to get away with right in broad daylight in that place. Every corner, it seemed, had at least one fake Rolex seller, dildo vendor, perverted mime, child pornographer, wife beater or street magician/abortionist plying his trade.

I'd also never seen such blatant exhibitions of wealth before. My father once created a sportcoat out of waffles he'd glued together with butterscotch, but it was nothing compared to what the rich people in the Big City had on display. One man I saw shopping at a dildo wagon had a cape made entirely out of live fox terriers that had to be held up at its edges by five servants. I saw a family drive by in a car so big it had to be driven in sections by four different drivers.

Of course, looking back, it might have just been four separate cars. But I was pretty much in stimulus overload, so a lot of things I saw didn't make a whole lot of sense.

From what Chester told me, I knew that the Big City offered nearly limitless employment, if one was willing to work in one of the many factories, mills, grindhouses, meat stuffing plants, sweatshops, slapshops, killing floors, killing lofts, killing basements, or poo treatment facilities.

"It's hard work, but sometimes they pay you in dimes!" Chester told me. I had never even heard of such ridiculously large denominations before, and I concluded that Chester was simply making it up. "Dimes," indeed!

But it wasn't long before I was making not only dimes, but multiple dimes working eighteen hours a day for a man who ran one of the Big City's Biggest Industries... be continued!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Me, Part I

It was sunny, fifty degrees, and a tad breezy the day I was born. I know this, because my birthday was memorable for me. And also because I just looked it up on the Internet.

The city of Baytown, Texas was in full swing. The entire town was decorated for the occasion and most people had taken the celebration even further by adorning their own homes with festive lights and tinsel. Many even cut down pine trees and hauled them into their living rooms. They bought gifts for one another in my honor and attended special worship services.

All this preparation turned out to be convenient, as they were able to leave the decorations up for Christmas, which occurred only three days after my arrival at Baytown Memorial Hospital.

Apparently, I gave my mother a bit of trouble coming into the world and we were visited by a parade of doctors, all of whom insisted on picking me up and inspecting my “vitals.” Although they were obviously all a bunch of perverts, they were also perceptive and wise. The first doctor strode in, snatched me up, and proclaimed,

“This boy will one day be a great surgeon!”

The second doctor came through and pronounced, “Yon wee lad’ll be a famous comedian!” Then he whacked my rear with a shillelagh.

A third doctor walked into the room, took one look at me, and said, “Wow. This kid’s gonna be fat.”

All three have proved correct. I am now an obese sadist who cuts off people’s legs and laughs about it.

Settlers first arrived in the Baytown area in 1822 and played an important part in Texas’ struggle for independence. Namely, they stayed out of the way. In 1908, oil was found in the surrounding area and marked the beginning of a vast right wing conspiracy (not to mention large donations to the 2004 Bush re-election campaign) that is currently headquartered in Baytown. To this day there is only one liberal with a Baytown mailing address and that’s only because he is too busy caring for homeless, starving orphans and driving old ladies to their Pilates classes to worry about politics.

In 1919, the hilariously named Humble Oil & Refining Company built a refinery in Baytown. Not only did this provide hundreds of new jobs, but it also corroded the lungs of each new employee and their families. Fortunately, the HO & R Company cared about its workforce and every worker who was forced to quit because of health problems received a complimentary fruitcake.

Although Baytown has many things about which to brag, the most impressive part of its heritage is a 1,000 year old oak tree that stands in the center of West Texas Avenue.
(2) Nobody is quite sure which was there first: the tree or West Texas Avenue, as they’re both in pretty bad shape. In either case, the denizens of Baytown can take pride in the fact that not every town in America has a tree. And those that do certainly didn’t have the imagination to grow them in the middle of the street. Well done, Baytown.

It was but a few days after my arrival on Ye Olde Sod that my parents decided to leave town.
(3)  This was not, as some of the more tasteless historians have suggested, directly resulting from my birth, although the crazed mob surrounding the hospital did make it necessary to leave by a little known exit, namely, leaping from a third story window onto a strategically placed trampoline.

We all survived, it seems, although there are rumors of a third sibling who mysteriously disappeared during the episode. I’ve tried to uncover the mystery of this long-lost family member, but the only unbiased eyewitness to the affair was a man named Elmer, who is now ninety-six and suffering from a mental disorder that causes him to exaggerate historical events. When I interviewed Elmer about the facts of that day, he gave me some rambling discourse about open manholes and never quite answered the question.

Besides fleeing for our lives, there were other reasons for leaving town. My father was a pastor, a man o’ the cloth, a minister, and a circuit-ridin’ parson.
(4) He had recently accepted an offer to pastor a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and, knowing how many heathens there were in the North, he felt it was his duty to accept the call. We rented a moving van from U-Lug and within the hour were traveling up US-59 N toward Grand Rapids.

The trip was not particularly smooth. We had 1,249.52 miles to go
(5)  and only fifty miles into the trip my dad started whistling. It wasn’t that he is a poor whistler, but it's a sure sign things aren’t going smoothly. In other words, Whistling=Bad.

“What is it, dear?” my mother asked.

“Engine trouble.”

“What sort of engine trouble?”

“It’s missing.”

“Perhaps it’s a loose belt or dirty spark plugs."

“No, I mean it’s missing. As in gone!”

It was true. Apparently, U-Lug had given us the worst out of a bad fleet of vehicles. The rusted supports had given out and the engine had dropped out of the bottom of the van.

“When did that happen?” asked my mother.

“In our driveway. Turns out these vans are so terrible that they drive equally well with or without the engine.”

Having averted one crisis, we continued on our way...

1.  In reality, I can’t stand the sight of blood and I’m not really that funny. One out of three ain’t bad.
2.  This proud fact can be found on the official City of Baytown website,
3.  The actual date for our departure from Baytown was January 20, 1981. The facts have been altered slightly to benefit the plot. However, the basic story concerning the mob, the leap from the third story window, and Elmer are all completely true.*
4.  Scratch that last one. I just threw that in because I like the word “parson” and circuit-ridin’ sounds hilarious.
5.  I love
6.  Don’t tell me this isn’t possible. I was there, dammit!