Tag Archives: stories

Oh, death in life, the days that are no more

I used to rent this video from the library all the time. Now, through the magic of YouTube, we can all laugh at Eric and how hopeless of a nerd he was.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Coincidentally, I also used to like watching that trippy Raggedy Ann & Andy Movie, and I probably wore out the Neillsville Library’s copy of the Rankin-Bass Hobbit on VHS. How about you folks? Anything embarrassing to post?

Up to Speed

So far, in my hunt for permanent employment, I have been not contacted by, or turned down outright, for jobs at:

-A main tobacco distribution company
-A dinosaur museum
-2 colleges
-A sheep supply store
-3 staffing agencies
-over 20 school districts, both public and parochial, some for the same position two years in a row
-A casino
-2 municipalities
-2 county governments
-2 health firms
-A pet supply warehouse
-A furniture warehouse
-A shipping supply company (4 times!)
-A local TV station
-An organic food co-op
-A hospital
-Taco Bell
-2 insurance companies
-A Catholic parish
-A housing development authority
-At least 10 vague office staff positions at companies I can’t even Google to find out what they do
-A cheese store
-2 corporate educator positions at companies
-Overnight Educator position with severely at-risk youth
and, finally
-Around 15 fiction publishers, regarding all of the work available on my website.

If you’re curious, these are the jobs I have recently turned down:

-Temping at a call center
-Working one day a week as a porter/set-up for the local farmer’s market
-Temping at a marina (I took a temp job at the Marina next door for personal reasons)
-Temping at a call center
-A commissions-only job selling webpage creation and advertising to local businesses
-A job selling frozen treats and entrees door-to-door that would swiftly be moving to a more commissions based approach
-Temping at a call center.

For those of you still reading, I’ll give you these extra little nuggets:

-I’m a certified teacher, with a certificate of excellence for scoring high on the statewide content test for teachers
-I’m a certified food handler who was running a kitchen by himself at 16
-I have four acting awards
-I have six Varsity letters
-I have an IQ that has been measured in the upper 140s, and that’s when I wasn’t trying.
-I type 90 wpm, am familiar with the entire Microsoft Office suite, html, css, Mac programs, and the Adobe line of media programs
-I have a 52″ chest and can leg press about 500 pounds
-I’ve managed to sell places for people to put their 20,000-1/2 million dollar boats for three years, despite never being on the lake in a boat in my entire life.

And so it goes.

Steven Moffat re-writes the first episode of Doctor Who

(We open to an impossibly dark shot of a junkyard. The only light is blue in color. A policeman walks by the junkyard, but the camera lets him go and holds on a picture of a police box in the junkyard. A scary chord rumbles underneath as the policeman comes back and scratches his head.)

POLICE: Goodness! There’s a police box in a junkyard! That’s a bit unsettling, as police boxes don’t usually go in junkyards. However, it’s innocuous that I really don’t pay it too much of a mind, but still… it COULD be something spooky.

(a young girl is seen walking up to the police box and entering.)

POLICE: Blimey! A small girl in a junkyard! That must be REALLY scary because little girls aren’t usually in junkyards! And girls don’t usually go into police boxes! And little girls aren’t usually out at night, because night is dark and scary and this little girl, by the virtue of being a little girl, is immediately labeled as sweet and innocent with no unnecessary exposition cluttering up the way. This is all very unsettling, isn’t it?

(a beat.)

It is, because it’s something that looks normal, like a small girl or a police box, but it’s in a place that it normally shouldn’t be. Ordinary objects are frightening when they’re not where they are supposed to be… and yet for some reason I can’t bring myself to care. It’s almost as if my mind is being clouded by some kind of perception filter, which just makes it all the more spooky. Imagine that, spooky things hiding in plain sight, but the people don’t know it. Isn’t that just chilling?

(another beat.)

Well, back home to the husband. Because there are gay people, you know. In the world. In England. In the 1960s. Gay people exist.

(he toddles off as we see a car pull into the junkyard, muttering something about seeing a car with two schoolteachers in it pulling into a junkyard this late at night being very unsettling, because it’s normal things in a setting that is not. The two teachers get out, a man willow-thin and a bit slack-jawed, and a woman who is strikingly beautiful with her face in a permanent pout.)

MAN: I don’t understand. This is the address listed at the school… but it’s a junkyard! That is very unsettling, because little girls aren’t supposed to live in junkyards!

WOMAN: (pouting and hitching up her micro-mini) You’d think the school would have researched that bit. Makes the whole thing seem like a bit out of Scooby-Doo.

MAN: Ha ha! Scooby Doo exists! That’s why I love you, Barbara. Not only are you gorgeous, but your sour-faced, attention-hungry demeanor is simply irresistible.

BARBARA: That was a song from the 80s.

MAN: Isn’t pop culture keen?

(We see the little girl poke her head out of of the police box and freeze with fright.)

BARBARA: There she is, Ian! Go get her, I can’t run in this skirt without us losing family-friendly certification!

GIRL: You shouldn’t be here! Go away!

IAN: She’s saying something cryptic, Barbara! Isn’t that unsettling? I mean, she’s a girl… in a junkyard… and she’s saying cryptic things! Doesn’t that give you goosebumps!

BARBARA: More than YOU do. Oh, if only that a man I once met as a little girl would show up, still age-appropriate, and whisk me away to a world of wonder and enchantment!

IAN: What?

BARBARA: Nothing. Now go do my bidding.

IAN: Will you love me if I do?


IAN: Right-o!

(He approaches the little girl in the police box)

GIRL: Stop! I’m little and innocent and defenseless but also a super-special sparkly little diamond that will one day play a key part in deciding the fate of the universe!

BARBARA: So what? So am I.

ROSE TYLER: (making a cameo) and so am I.

DONNA NOBLE (cameo) and so am I.

GIRL: How did you all get here?

ROSE TYLER: Time travel.

GIRL: But…


DONNA NOBLE: Look, if we got into a long, involved discussion about the science and wonder of being able to travel in time and space, we’d lose the Ritalin-fueled audience who want more explosions. So let’s just say things went wobble-bobble and move on.


IAN: What is going on here? I’m completely confused.

BARBARA: Shut up, Ian.

IAN: Okay.

GIRL: You shouldn’t have come here. He will find you.

IAN: Oooh, more cryptic language!

GIRL: I will keep shouting tailor-made “next week” trailer one-liners until you go away! One of you will soon perish! This is the day you lose everything! I am your father! Soylent Green is people!

(a skinny, bandy-legged young man swaggers out from behind the Police Box, eating an apple and wearing a pith helmet along with a tweed jacket and plain trousers. He is wearing a bolo tie and brothel-creeper shoes in a calculated way to look anachronistic but still marketable.)

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: Well now, what’s all this then?


(the music swells out of nowhere to a schmaltzy chord as the GIRL rushes to the man, genuflecting down to one knee and kissing his hand. The man, in response, seems cool as a cucumber.)

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: I think I might not like apples. You see, that’s a strange thing for a man to say instead of ‘hello,’ because I’m an alien and I do strange things. It would also be strange if I didn’t like apples, wouldn’t it?

BARBARA: I don’t like apples.

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: You don’t like anything that isn’t about you.

BARBARA: Kiss me.

(she flings herself at the man, planting kisses on his neck as the girl continues to kiss his hand.)

IAN: What is going on? I’m so confused.

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: You could always kiss me, too. Because men like to kiss other men sometimes.

IAN: No, thanks. I may be p-whipped by my bombshell of a fiancee… who is currently trying to undo your shirt… but I’m not submissive enough to kiss you. The audience wouldn’t be able to identify with me, then.


BARBARA: Don’t listen to him. Kiss me.


BARBARA: Why not?

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: Because I’m the Christ figure of this pantomime, and therefore have to keep pure.

BARABRA: But… I’ve known you since I was a little girl.

GIRL: Me, too!

BARBARA: You’re everything I ever wanted.

GIRL: Me, too!

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: And in no way is that creepy!

IAN: Hey, man, that’s my fiancee!

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: Don’t worry, I’ve got your back, man. I’ll be sure to break her confidence and love of me more and more over the next few years, so that she’s even more of an emotional wreck than when I left her as a child, which lead to therapy and a lonely childhood… until her own daughter goes back in time to be her best friend, of course…

IAN: What are you talking about? Just who are you, anyway?


(ridiculous crane shot and another histrionic music swell)


(Heavenly choir kicks in, and the doors to the police box open, bathing him in bright light.)

IAN: Who?

(both of the girls laugh, IAN still looks confused.)

SKINNY, BANDY-LEGGED YOUNG MAN: Oh, that’s always a good one. Well, shall we be off?

IAN: Off where? I’m so confused.

BARBARA: In his time machine! He’s got a time machine, and it’s so awesome! He can travel in time, and fight monsters, and shoot lasers, and make things blow up!

DOCTOR: And it looks like a police box! Isn’t that COOL?

IAN: Why would that be cool?

DOCTOR: Because I said it was.

IAN: You can’t just say something’s cool and expect me to believe it.

DOCTOR: Yes, I can. I’m…..THE DOCTOR!

(another pose, another chord.)

IAN: I don’t even know who that is.

BARBARA: Shut up, Ian. He’s cool. I knew it when he first wandered into my house as a grown man when I was seven years old.

GIRL: Oh, yeah? Well, I was born in this time machine!

BARBARA: I wear short skirts!

GIRL: I have a cool laser gun!

BARBARA: I can make this face! (pouts)

GIRL: So? I can do this! (smug smile)

DOCTOR: Ian, why don’t I show you my time machine. Seeing it may just change your life… FOREVER. You are about to see something you’ve never seen before, and most people never will see. It will be the most important moment of your life!

(the women keep squabbling, as that’s all their good for, right fellas? And another music sting as they walk inside and find it’s bigger inside than out.)

IAN: Wow!

DOCTOR: That’s it? Just ‘wow?’

IAN: Well, you built it up a lot, there, and I guess it’s cool, but after all the loud music and ridiculous camera tricks and spooky blue lighting I’m sorta… I dunno… desensitized.

DOCTOR: Oh, REALLY? Well, what if I do… THIS!

(he flicks the lights on and off)

IAN: What.

DOCTOR: Aren’t you SCARED?!!!

IAN: A little, yeah, when you first killed the lights…

(the Doctor flips them off and on several more times.)

DOCTOR: Scary, huh? You see, it’s scary because people are often afraid of the dark, because they can’t see. And I’m an alien turning off the lights so it must be REALLY scary!

IAN: Not anymore. You’ve cheapened it a bit.

DOCTOR: Well… what if I turned off ALL the lights at once, and made scary noises, and lit one of those stink bomb things, and…

IAN: It’s just too much, Doctor.

DOCTOR: (in a huff) well, maybe my adventures aren’t for you, then. Maybe you’d like to swanning off with Captain Kirk where they learn social lessons and explore intellectual concepts. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, you NERD!

IAN: Hey! I would think that nerdy people would be the kind you’d like to go jetting around the cosmos with.

DOCTOR: Nope. Only sexy, action type people. I’m the only one allowed to be nerdy in here, which reminds me… it’s been a full ten minutes before I was unmistakably British and befuddled. One moment…

(he walks around the console flicking switches)

tea and crumpets jammie dodgers flabbergasted hockety-pockety-wockety-wack, God Save the Queen and Bob’s Your Uncle! There we go! Now, let’s go Kill Hitler!

IAN: We’re going to kill Hitler?!

DOCTOR: Of course no! But it SOUNDS cool, doesn’t it?

IAN: Well, now it doesn’t.


(the two girls bust into the ship, still arguing.)

GIRL: I’m a little girl with no discernible father figure who dotes on the Doctor inappropriately!

BARBARA: So am I! Plus, I’ve seen him NAKED!

IAN: Come now, ladies! Barbara, Susan, stop acting like that!

GIRL: Susan? My name’s not actually Susan. That was just the name I used around all you Earthlings. My real name is Waterfall Lake Moffat Seventeen Dementia Raven Way Operetta. I know the Grandfather’s real name, too, and I love to hold it over his head. I also know how to fly the ship better than he does, how to travel in time better than he does, how to easily defeat his toughest enemies, and everyone in the universe thinks I’m a sex object.

DOCTOR: Hush now… Susan. I’m the star of the show, here!

SUSAN: You just keep telling yourself that.

BARBARA: So, where will you be taking my beleaguered, but saintly suffering fiancee and my avaricious, selfish, lusciously leggy body? Somewhere where we can imply sex is happening on a children’s TV show, I hope?

DOCTOR: We’re heading to the planet Sport.

IAN: Sport?

DOCTOR: Yes. You see, it sounds odd enough but not too odd, because that would confuse people. The planet Sport is experience some trouble with its gravitational pull, something I will be able to fix at the eleventh hour with a boingo-woingo switch after about 30 minutes of faffing about, running places, and hammy, melodramatic speeches from everyone and anyone about how great I am. It will conclude with a pew-pew laser shoot out with some vaguely defined enemy that takes advantage of a fundamental human fear or feeling of complacency (like hiding behind the sofa when one is scared) wherein I will slaughter all the true bads and save all the true goods while anyone ambiguous will get caught in the crossfire. We will then paradoxically reinforce my pacifist Messiah characterization even while I’m standing over the charred bodies of my enemies. Oh, and all of you will die at least once, including myself, but as long as I’ve got my un-deadener in my pocket we’ll all be fine and no one has to worry too much. After all, we’re all too pretty to die for longer than a few episodes.

(each of the characters takes a moment to pose dramatically into the camera showing that they are, indeed, sexy)

BARBARA: (squeezing tears past her pout) But…Doctor… we’ll… DIE?!

(big music sting and everything is awash in blue light)

DOCTOR: Not for too long, I promise. Besides, you two still need to have a child, a child that will grow up to be… SUSAN!

(big music sting)

DOCTOR: But then SUSAN will DIE!

(big music sting)

DOCTOR: And then I will DIE!

(big music sting)

DOCTOR: But I’ll get better.

(happy music tinkle)

DOCTOR: So, everything’s fine, really.

IAN: But… you didn’t say Susan would come back.

SUSAN: Don’t worry, nerd. I get a big, weepy send-off… but, because of time travel, it actually happens when no-one knows who I am, so we merely have to just be TOLD how sad it is instead of building up my character.

IAN: Kind of like how you can do everything the Doctor can, but with more smugness and sass?

SUSAN: Exactly.

IAN: How does the ship work, then?

BARBARA: Oh, shut up, you nerd! Who cares? It’s COOL!

DOCTOR: Let’s just say it goes spit-spot-blong through a timey-wimey hoo-hah. That’ll leave more time for explosions and melodrama.

SUSAN: You see, if we’re self-aware and ironic about things, more people will think we’re funny. No one wants to get bummed out and watch a show with MORALS… except you, nerd.

IAN: Oh, well. At least I get to shag my blow-up doll of a fiancee because the Doctor was too pious to deflower her when he had the chance… but there will still be awkward tension of wondering who’s her favorite. Because a time travel show with monsters and aliens needs a love triangle.

BARBARA: I also dream of shagging vampires and werewolves.

IAN: Of course you do. Doctor, am I ever going to get a chance to be redeemed?

DOCTOR: When I feel like it, you’ll get a hollow token like punching Hitler or being some kind of legendary figure, but mostly you’ll just be lead about by the short hairs. But we’re putting far too much exposition into this story! Quick, someone hike up their skirt or get shot! We’ve got adventuring to do!

(he flips a few more switches as BARBARA and SUSAN moon over how “cool” he is)

Now, I would say something like “Allons-y” at this point, but then that would turn me into a blubbering pile of emotions that would be totally gay. Instead, I’m going to yell “Geronimo!” because I’m a macho adventure professor who thinks girls have cooties and is far too busy saving the world and being smug about his own greatness to have any feelings. Basically, I’m like a ten year old playing Jon Pertwee: all lasers and karate without the icky talky bits. GERONIMO!

(the ship begins to make its customary dematerialization noise. BARBARA expounds on how cool it sounds, SUSAN says he’s left the brakes on because she knows better, and IAN is too busy staring at his own emotional-trainwreck wrapped in gorgeous thigh-meat to really notice.)

Workplace Tales (Khan McAfee Singh)

so angry

Proven Security apparently means having your update file run in the background and take up 200,000K of your memory usage, effectively ruining your ability to run any programs. Can’t get a virus if you can’t open anything so, technically, it works!

The worst part of it all? I’m a peon here, so I can’t even shut down the programs in question. Not allowed.

Now, where did I put those…

Much better.

Now that I’ve officially outed myself as a brony on the interwebs, I figured I’d try to save a little face and try to see if I could keep all of my man cards from getting cut up and served open faced on a steaming platter of shame.
As such, what’s more manly than football?
It is my dubious duty to confer that, yes, there were people in this country fretting more the idea of an NFL lockout for the 2011-2012 season  as opposed to the impending financial self-butt-buggery of the past few months. I enjoy football as much as the next normal gent, and probably a great deal more than your average brony, but after a horrible high school gridiron experience (who hasn’t) and the spine-crushing depression that is simply being a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago Bears fan, I haven’t really been up on football too much since college. I cheer for my Bears, and sometimes for other teams, but I’m honestly not have not enough asses of rats to give about the current league. You might remember that, sometime last year, I actually chose to start supporting the Clagary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, and I still do, but I read something today that made me feel as if I had to comment on something pigskin-related stateside.
In the mad rush of work today, I was able to go on a short Wiki Walk of the some of the men I considered true heroes as a child: these were men, usually short, white men, who allowed themselves to put on a laughable layer of protection and be chased to Sheol and back by gigantic sides-o-beef known as professional football players. I’m talking, of course, of an endangered species in today’s NFL… the journeyman quarterback. Men with names like DeBerg, Krieg (pronounced “Craig”), McMahon, Flutie, and other dorky white-boy names.  Men who were never paragons of physical form, or even exemplars of what made a quarterback… but most of these men had IT.
is the ability to make something out of nothing. IT is the rallying cry for a team that had until recently been as easy to root for as pond scum. IT is the last-ditch, pull out all the stop, throw up a prayer and wind against all odds. IT is a skinny kid from Iola, Wisconsin somehow evading one of the most feared pass-rushers of the decade and throwing a game-winning touchdown while SIMULTANEOUSLY robbing said pass-rusher of a chance to break the single-game sack record. These men had IT, but none of them had IT quite like this man…


This man made things happen on a football field. Even if he was running for his life (which he often was, cursed time and again with offensive lines made of tissue paper, French stereotypes, and liquid stupid) he’d still make the play. I remember seeing this man being absolutely crushed by defenders twice his size, and constantly picking himself up, dusting himself off, and throwing himself back into the fight. I remember seeing that pristine white “away” jersey stained with his own blood. I remember seeing the man halfway into the grave but still tossing up the most butt-ugly of wounded duck passes to a nearby teammate… and completing it for the first down. I swear to God, I saw him throw an end-over-end pass once… and complete it. His play wasn’t pretty, his teams were walking jokes in shoulder pads… but he could still get shit done.
And you want to talk tough? I’ve lost count of how many games this man played while spitting up blood. If Brett Favre quit downing painkillers like Skittles, he might have lasted three quarters in Jim Harbaugh’s shoes. He finished a game with a broken jaw, expectorating hemoglobin between each and every play. You never counted Jim Harbaugh out and, if he’d ever had a decent team put behind him, he probably would have achieved nothing short of greatness through a combination of gumption and balls.

Harbaugh’s career, sadly, in a nutshell.

But, as always, there’s a silver lining to the story. You see, as a kid as was always a Bears fan, first and foremost… but c’mon, the Bears never made it to postseason when I was a sprout. Never. So, who’s a boy to cheer for? Well, in my house, we learned from a very young age that there was one lucky man, one lucky quarterback who still had IT and had actually been blessed enough to have a decent team around him, making him one of the most successful field generals of all time. I’m talking 98-yard drive in the final two minutes of the frikken Super Bowl to emerge victorious kind of successful.
Yes, I’m talking about Joe Montana, and when the Bears failed me (and they did… Lord, they did) I turned to the 49ers to set my soul alight with football glory. If only they could have brought in Harbaugh to help out Montana’s admittedly frail self with a little back-up balls, it might have been a match made in heaven. Sadly, in the years since Montana’s Era, the Niners have suffered a steady decline, causing them to now be a laughingstock and a poor shadow of their former glory. Then, today I was on my Wiki Walk and I read this:

“On January 7, the 49ers hired Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh to be the 18th head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Well. Looks like I’ll be following TWO teams in the NFL his year.

Happy Bronyday!

Sorry, got a meeting with some of my Acen peeps today, so the next GenEx update will probably be this weekend. You can all wait long enough to see me mental-wank and wish I was a superhero…right?
In lieu, I am going to post this video, which is the greatest thing I’ve seen all week for several reasons:

1) it gives me an excuse when that annoying melody gets stuck in my head…and yes, THIS version is less shameful to be caught singing in public

2) it shows that even the seemingly evil company that gave us Transformers 2 can be redeemed

3) it’s basically the equivalent to Bill Shatner appearing in Fanboys as far as fan shout-outs go

4) the show really is good. I’m not even kidding. It’s well written, slickly animated, funny and, in more than one instance, touching and relevant. I really wish I was kidding, because I know I’m surrendering what few man cards I have left, but… I can’t. It’s currently my favorite show. If you listen closely at about 0:26, you’ll hear the singer mention a “brony,” which is a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony.” This video is official company product, ergo a formal recognition of a twentysomething male demographic that adores a great show that was never really meant for them. A grass-roots movement to spread the word that a great show is a great show, even if it is a pink one about ponies. There are Trekkers, there are Whovians, there are Ringers, there are Browncoats… and now, there are Bronies, and I count myself among them. I’ve managed to bring at least three others into “The Herd.” So take this as an informal review (not a formal one, I get yelled at when I have personal opinions) and check out the first two episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and let me know what you think. I look forward to your thoughts on the subject and, until then, let this song brighten your day.
Pinkie Pie will do that to even the glummest of faces.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you “Equestria Girls.”

Why I’m Here

I wasn’t quite sure how to start off the new website here, finally moving off of Livejournal like a neckbearded trentagenerian from a suspect-smelling basement into a real, honest to goodness, paid with my own money website. Would I start with a happy “hello?” Would I give a welcome? Would I hype this site to the moon and ultimately fail to deliver? Would I just pick up where I left off, with bread and chocolate and Vulcans and Klingons and other things that make my mommy say I’m a great writer but leave literary agents curiously unimpressed? I had thought of exploring all of those options for my relaunch, seven years to the day after I first started whinging myself all over the Internet… but then something happened.
Brian Jacques died.

For those of you who didn’t know, Brian Jacques was the author of a series called Redwall, where simple creatures like mice and moles and hares engage in fantastical battles and voyages the likes of which you’d probably expect to see from the works of Tolkien or Weis and Hickman. Although, as far as I know, Tolkien never got the idea to turn Aragorn into a meager mouse and still have him swing a sword around as a perfect warrior. There was something about that idea that drew me to the cover of Martin’s eponymous volume one day in a Library (I refuse to call it an IMC) at Neillsville Middle School in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Up until now, I did not read. At all. I had been forced to by teachers, begged to by my parents, but I was finding it blisteringly difficult to find a book that would keep my attention. I saw that book, however, and my adolescent brain immediately jumped into Zombie-Pirate-Robot-Ninja territory: it’s a mouse, with a big sword, in an epic fantasy setting. Surely, that can’t be bad! Later that week, the book fair had come to my school, as it did every year, and perched on one of the shelves was that same book I’d seen before, along with another one featuring a majestic looking Badger in medieval armor, hefting a spear and cradling a helmet under one arm.

Something told me I needed to have these books.

As a rule, my parents had tried to avoid book fair books, having more than one literally fall apart and not be worth the money. Still, when they saw I was actually interested in a book, especially one topping out at 300+ pages, they bought them both for me. The rest, well… that’s why I’m writing this right now. I began to devour every Redwall book I could find, my personal crowning achievement being reading the entirety of The Bellmaker in two days, just under the deadline of school letting out. I had to. I couldn’t let school end and not know what became of Mariel and Dandin. They were my friends, my comrades in arms, all created by this delightful, grandfatherly-looking Englishman with a weirdly French-looking (but not pronounced) name. Brian Jacques became my Tolkien, he was my gateway into the world of fantasy and wonder and whimsy and, most of all, reading. It’s because of him I’m writing this right now, or writing at all, and why my fingers ache from having to split keyboard time between my creations and my awful job. Without Brian Jacques, I wouldn’t have my number one hobby, my number one dream, and I wouldn’t have an entire world to escape into when things go bad and the world looks its blackest.
The number one criticism I’ve seen levelled against Mr. Jacques (aside from the ridiculous assumption that he writes “children’s books.” To quote another dearly departed, “Any book is a children’s book if the child can read!”) is that his stories, evocative and engrossing as they are, are formulaic. To that I say, so what? I want my heroes to be heroic sometimes, and I want my villains to be villainous. I want the prophecies to be fulfilled, the clever riddles to be sorted, the idyllic life to be shattered by nefarious evil-doers, only to rise up and triumph in the end. There’s nothing wrong with these stories, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with hearing a similar story, as long as it is one that inspires the correct emotion. The world is saved, what is bad has been vanquished, and all is well. Good God, wouldn’t it be nice to say that happens somewhere outside of a storybook? Yes, Alan Moore is a genius who turns us in on ourselves to gaze and go mad. Yes, Dalton Trumbo exposed the evils of a unnecessary war. Yes, books can deliver that punch that makes you question everything that this world tenuously holds up and holds onto… but there will always be Redwall, and at Redwall, all goodbeasts are welcome.
I owe everything I am today to that peculiar book in that library, the goofy concept that made me realize that mice can be heroes, badgers can be Lords, and there is still a place in this increasingly necrotizing society for the good and the strong and the brave and the simple. I owe everything to Brian Jacques for making me want to be a writer, and giving me that route to escape. I cannot tell you how much it pains me to have never met the gentlemen, but as I write this here I will tell you that I will want to do his memory justice so, years from now, decades maybe, I can say that I am here because of Brian Jacques, and maybe another frustrated kid will read the books and be inspired. I will not stop writing, I will not stop creating, because I feel I owe it to him, after all he’s done to me.
Thank you, Mr. Jacques. Somehow, I know you can read this. And say hello to Rose and Methuselah and Mother Mellus for me.

“Goodbye, my friend, and thank you, thank you, thank you,
It makes me sad to leave you upon this summer day.
Don’t shed a tear or cry now.  Goodbye now, goodbye now.
I’m sure I’ll see you somehow, if I pass by this way,
For the seasons don’t foretell
Who must stay or say farewell,
And I must find out what lies beyond this place.
But I know deep in my heart
We are never far apart
While I have mem’ry of your smiling face.
Goodbye, my friend, and thank you, thank you, thank you,
Your kindness guides me ever as I go on my way.”

For hearts long lost and full of fright…

She held him and she kissed him, and there was a tremendous explosion in the sky, a blinding supernova: one half red, one half blue. Everyone had to sheild their eyes from the blast, and when they could see again they saw the former Red Lantern descending, cradling his Blue Lantern lover in his arms. She clung to his strong body like a frightened kitten, nearly destroyed from her selfless actions. As his feet touched the ground, he handed the barely conscious body of his love over to one of the nearby Green Lanterns who, like all others, were still in a state of shock. She looked up at him and smiled weakly, as if to say "I’m all right." He looked down at her as the Green Lantern held her and smiled back, as if to respond "so am I, now." She took the ring of Hope from the finger and gave it to the man she loved. With a grin, he slipped it onto the opposite hand of his red power ring.  Then, he turned to the villain, red and blue auras burning all about him.
"When she met me," he began, "I was a Red Lantern: all fire and rage and hatred. Then, she gave me her hope, she prayed for me, and her blue met my red. It didn’t destroy the anger, but it tempered it, focused it, combined it with the blue light of hope."
He put the knuckles of his two hands together, and the two rings touched. There was another flash of light and, when all around them regained their vision, they saw him not in the red clothes of rage, but in a smilar outfit…of purple.
"I’m stronger than I’ve ever been before, because the blue and red created… violet, the light of love."
He held up his left hand, which now sported a violet ring instead of a red one. The blue ring sprang from his right hand and flew back to its master, knowing its job was completed. The villain was confused beyond words.
"A Star Sapphire?!" his venomous voice snarled, "How can this be?!"
A massive fist of violet energy knocked him senseless in one fell swoop, doing in a trice what all the other Lanterns could not do combined.
"That’s MISTER Star Sapphire, and don’t you forget it!"

And speaking of awesome revenge plots…

This is Dexter:

And this is Dex-Starr:

That is the same cat. You see, Dexter was just an abandoned kitty on the streets of New York until a nice, but poor, single lady found him and took him home:

Then, this happened:

Dexter was driven away from his new home, because the Police didn’t want him "contaminating a crime scene." He was back on the street, and accosted by two sad pieces of humanity who thought it would be great fun to put the cat in a bag and throw him off the Brooklyn Bridge. It was at this point that a Red Lantern ring, a source of unspeakable power fueled by rage wrought through loss, came to him and chose him. At that instant, this simple housecat was the angriest creature in that section of the universe, a section that covers Earth, Mars, and several points beyond. The ring saved Dexter and turned him into Dex Starr, an acid spewing rage-cat who has been described as the most sadistic and malicious of the Red Lanterns. Needless to say, the two gentlemen on the bridge did not survive, and many others have met their fate at the paws of this kitty-cat. And yet, what consumes this fiesty feline, what drives the rage? What is the cause of this unspeakable power bestowed onto something millions of people let into their homes and into their laps?

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cry forever now.

Mucho thanks to ComicVine for some great pictures!

Heard – a work of fiction

The man banged a gavel hard on a cheap, composite wood table with a dark, mahogany finish.
“Order, order please!”
Fifty people were crammed into a room that was meant to fit ten, and one hundred more were lined up outside and around. The man put down the gavel and affixed a pair of bifocal glasses near the end of his nose.
“I’m calling this special session of the Kennison Consolidated School Board to order. Roll call please, Ms. James.”
“And Coleman?”
“That also makes James, clerk and Nash, president, here. Now, let’s get down to business. Ms. James, if you would, please?”
A small, timid looking woman stood up and read in a voice fit for a mouse.
“The issue brought before the board this evening is in regard to a planned memorial service held for Mr. Gregory Thatcher, a substitute teacher with the district until his death on April 17th. The organizer of the memorial is Mr. Jerreonte Brown, a full-time instructor at Kennison High.”
“Mr. Brown, will you please stand?” Mr. Nash instructed. A young, black man, mid-twenties and well dressed, stood up.
“Mr. Brown,” the president began, “You must understand that this planned memorial cannot go on as planned.”
“I fail to see why.”
Mr. Brown’s voice was deep and strong, his words measured and powerful. Behind his eyes there was a terrible fire.
“Due to the, erm…” Mr. Nash seemed ill at ease after Mr. Brown’s statement, “nature of Mr. Thatcher’s, um, demise, it has been the opinion of the community that memorializing him would only glorify an already unpleasant situation. There are many families within the community that feel Mr. Thatcher was in the wrong, and should not be held up for such an example.”
Mr. Brown stared at the school board president. He spoke without fear.
“Guilty people often try to distance themselves from the issue.”
The room erupted in shouts and swearing. Normally reserved, button-down suburban types suddenly flew into a rage like hyenas, mad from a blood feast. Mr. Nash nearly broke the gavel.
“Order. Order, damn it, ORDER!”
The crowd finally calmed down a bit, although several uniformed officers were still pushing back the throng around Mr. Brown’s simple folding chair.
“Mr. Brown, you cannot continue to make statements like that,” Mr. Nash warned him, “And I’m sure the officers would agree with me on that.”
“I’ve said all I needed to on that subject,” Mr. Brown said coolly, “Now tell me why I cannot mourn my friend.”
“If I may put it simply, Mr. Brown?”
“You may.”
“Mr. Thatcher committed suicide in front of a classroom full of students. What he did was irresponsible and wrong, and having anyone in this school attempt to honor his memory would be tantamount to glorifying not only his method of death, but the execution of it.”
“You are afraid the children will be so eager to murder themselves now that they have seen someone do it?”
“In a word, yes.”
“I’m afraid I do not understand.”
“Children are impressionable, Mr. Brown. If a teacher, albeit a substitute one, tells them that suicide is a viable option, they are likely to see the same option for themselves. You know how children are.”
Mr. Brown nodded.
“Yes, I do know how children are. The question is… do you?”
“May I put it simply, Mr. Nash?” the sarcasm was evident in his voice.
“Mr. Thatcher was a substitute teacher here. That’s the same as saying he was a ghost. If he had killed himself alone, at home, the students would be aware of it for days, maybe a week. He would be forgotten. Even now, weeks after the man sprayed his blood and brains all over a classroom, I hear students refer to him as ‘the sub that blew his brains out.’ The children do not care, Mr. Nash. And they will forget.”
There was rumbling in the crowd and Mr. Nash banged his gavel again. Mr. Brown stood up and continued to speak.
“I was with my class that day, Mr. Nash, when the towers fell. I watched those students, not hours afterwards, tell jokes and carry on as if it hasn’t happened. The world barely exists beyond their own noses, Mr. Nash, and you are telling me that having a small picture of Mr. Thatcher on my desk will somehow change that? Mr. Nash, the only thing it will change is that the students will have another item on my desk to attempt to steal or vandalize.”
Another roar issued from the crowd. Mr. Nash abandoned the gavel.
The crowd eventually died down.
“Mr. Brown, please be reasonable.”
“I am being reasonable,” his voice came back quickly, barely measured, “Reasonable is wanting to honor a dead friend who gave five years to this district, doing jobs no one wanted to do in the hopes that someone just might give him a classroom of his own. Reasonable is feeling empathy for a good teacher and a good man who endured having both slurs and objects thrown at him, who came home to his new wife bruised from empowered students, who kept coming to these schools, to this building, because he wanted to help, only to have it thrown back in his face. Reasonable is not Greg Thatcher, who could have taken several other jobs, who could have made more money cleaning toilets or selling insurance, but kept coming here because he truly felt he could make a difference. And reasonable is not forbidding me to honor a good man because it may somehow upset the same children that drove him to his death.”
“MISTER Brown…”
“It started small. One day, I saw him crying in the teacher’s lounge. He was always crying, it seemed. I asked him what went wrong, and he mentioned to me that the day before, he had had a class of kindergartners hold him for ransom. He said that the kindergartners of this district had all threatened to wet themselves en masse if he did not stop their class and grant them a bathroom break before their scheduled time. He had gone to five years of college to be threatened by five year olds, and the worst part of it is that there was nothing he could do. He was at their mercy.”
“I fail to see how that is relevant, Mr. Brown,” Mr. Nash folded both arms across his chest.
“We began to spend our lunches together, he and I, whenever he would sub in the high school building. He told me stories of students stabbing each other with pencils, and then the victim, blood coming from beneath his eye, pleading not to send his attacker to the office for his actions. Junior high students wearing shirts with simulated blood splatters on them reading “snitches get stitches,” chasing other students into an empty classroom to beat them and call them gay. Students who would blatantly and knowingly break rules, only to fly into a rage when they were told they were to be punished. Over and over, I heard the same words from Greg: ‘I don’t understand, I just don’t understand.’ Tell me, Mr. Nash, what kind of schools are we putting our children in?”
“Those are all isolated incidents, Mr. Brown,” Mr. Nash shot back, “And they all seem to have one thing in common. Perhaps Mr. Thatcher did not have what it took to be a teacher in this district, or even to be a teacher at all. His actions were not those of an agent of change, Mr. Brown, but of a juvenile anarchist. we cannot let you honor the memory of a man who wished to introduce chaos into our school!”
“But it’s already here,” Mr. Brown’s eyes grew wide, “Fights break out in the hallways between gang members. Thirty year old grandmothers complain that the first-graders have too much homework. Students are given ten minutes to walk ten feet between classes because, and I quote, ‘they need time to spend with their friends.’ They then go to class, where they do nothing but talk to their friends. The theory and policy of our modern schools is failing. Nothing is working. Chaos is here.”
“One more statement like that, Mr. Brown, and I will speak to the superintendent about the papers for your dismissal!”
“You will not dismiss me,” Mr. Brown fired back, “You surely would not dismiss the Teacher of the Year, particularly when he is your only black teacher on staff… or am I incorrect?”
Mr. Nash blanched a bit, and changed the subject.
“You are not the issue here. Mr. Thatcher is.”
“And what exactly is the issue with Mr. Thatcher?” Mr. Brown appealed to the group at large, “Did he watch too many Pearl Jam videos? Did his mother not love him enough? Did she love him too much? Did some college professor lie to him and tell him teaching would be easy?”
“Mr. Brown…”
“Did too many inspiring movies of teachers and students give him false hope?”
“Mr. Brown!”
He turned around to face the school board president again.
“Yes, Mr. Nash?”
“Sit down!”
“Will you tell me what the issue was with Greg?”
Mr. Brown did as he was told. Mr. Nash heaved a sigh and continued.
“It is the opinion of the school, and this school board, that Mr. Thatcher was not equipped to handle the unique challenges of this district.”
“Is that why I was hired and he was not?”
“Exactly. You have had more experience with a more,’urban’ environment, therefore…”
Mr. Brown slammed both hands down on the cheap table, causing it to crack.
“God damn you, sir!” he shouted, “I am a TEACHER. I am NOT just a black man! And this is not an ‘urban’ school if it can request a nine million dollar football field! This is not an urban school if the students can afford one hundred and fifty dollar shoes! This is not an urban district that drove the corn-fed Mr. Thatcher to suicide. Mr. Thatcher was from Detroit! I went to a small, liberal arts school in Iowa! But we are the same, because we are teachers, and we believed that where a school is located should not affect what goes on inside. That was what Mr. Thatcher could not understand… he couldn’t understand how a school that had so much offered its students so very little, and how the students themselves would attempt so very little. Did you know, Mr. Nash, that when Ms. Prosek went on maternity leave, Mr. Thatcher stepped in to direct this year’s school musical? He was planning to put on ‘Ragtime,’ and he was so excited. He didn’t ask for more pay, he didn’t ask for a full time position. He was so excited to do something he loved, he finally felt that he could make an impact in the school. Two weeks before the show was scheduled to go up, it was cancelled. His cast… they quit, en masse. They said he was mean, and that he worked them too hard, and so the musical did not happen. I saw Greg the day after that, crying again. He said he’d been hitting himself, hurting himself, because he always wished the students would do that instead of what the actually did. He started talking about getting a gun, and I thought I had talked him out of it…”
“That’s it,” Mr. Nash turned to Ms. James, “Get me the superintendent on the phone.”
“And there’s a song from Ragtime that Greg was playing on his computer when he died. He played it so loud, I could hear it three classrooms away. It’s called ‘Make Them Hear You.’ Gregory Thatcher wanted to be heard, he wanted all of you to hear, and then to see, but you won’t. You’ll forget, you’ll go on telling yourselves that there’s nothing wrong and that you and your children are not the reason a good man is dead. But I won’t forget. I won’t. And I’ll make sure that you hear, I’ll make sure that Gregory Thatcher’s voice is heard!”
“Officers, get Mr. Brown out of here!” Mr. Nash bellowed. The officers, understanding how dangerous the situation was getting, attempted to restrain Mr. Brown. He lashed out at them, launching into a tear-stained rendition of a song:





One of the officers had no choice but to strike him, and Mr. Brown fell to the floor. In a move of panic, Mr. Brown found the strength to shake off three officers, still singing.


The Officers had him cuffed, and were dragging him away. Mr. Brown was bellowing the song now, even as members of the community were striking him, cursing him.





As if this week couldn’t convince me any more that I’ve slipped into some kind of bizarro world (Where Russ Feingold is apparently some evil Jew-demon who wants to gobble up all your money and hide it in the special gelt-metabolizing organ that only Jews have) I turned on the TV last night to a most odd sound. I say sound, of course, because I have an old analog dinosaur TV that gives you sound before the picture warms up. Maybe if I had supported the Tea Party a magic fairy would have given me a plasma.

Okay, okay, enough of the election bile.
So, I hear the TV before I see it. And what do I hear coming out of my Idiot Box, from channel 3, WTBS, the Superstation? The song "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" by one of my favorite all-time bands, the Pogues. The song was both written and sung by one of modern History’s best psychotic geniuses, Shane MacGowan. My first reaction to hearing the song was to exclaim "SWEET!" but it I immediately followed it up with "Wait…why?!" You see, America is less of a melting pot and more of a stew, and you only usually pull up the boiled shamrocks when it’s March and people want an excuse to get drunk. Foreign music? On my AMERICAN TV station? It’s more likely than you think. So what on earth would cause an Irish Hillbilly slam-jam song like this to come blaring out of the Atlanta based Superstation?


For those of you who can’t understand the lyrics in the commercial (and, unless you’re a diehard Pogues fan, you probably can’t) let me run it down for you:

If I should fall from grace with God
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I’m buried ‘neath the sod
But the angels won’t receive me

Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

This land was always ours
Was the proud land of our fathers
It belongs to us and them
Not to any of the others

Let them go, boys
Let them go, boys
Let them go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry


Oh well. At least they had the sense to edit out the bloodcurdling screams that were in the original song. And do you know what the most cracked out thing about this is? THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME THEY’VE TRIED TO USE THE POGUES TO SELL FUGGIN’ CARS!

Yeah, Cadillac already tried this. Let’s see what the "Standard of the World" chose for lyrics:

So I saw that train
And I got on it
With a heartful of hate
And a lust for vomit
Now I’m walking on the sunnyside of the street

I am not even kidding. That was on a national commercial.

So, to explain…
No, there is too much. Let me sum up:




Cynthia blinked heavily at her newest young hire.
"Just open a channel for me, we haven’t got much time!" Mike snapped, then remembered his station and added a hasty, "please."
"Yes, sir," she responded sarcastically. The Klingons were still shouting and screaming in their guttural language, making a rather large production out of the entire situation. However, they almost immediately fell silent when they heard a voice from the other end respond in their own tongue. Mike proceeded to rattle off a string of Klingon insults that would have made a Vulcan blush, lasting a full three minutes before coming up for breath. For a few moments, there was no sound but the hum of machines and Mike’s labored breathing. Klingon is a harsh language to speak for anyone, even Klingons. Finally, the Klingons replied.
"They’re not happy," Mike said with a little smile.
"How can you even tell?" Cynthia replied bitterly.
"They say they are some of the greatest warriors of Qonos," he continued, unabated, "and they are here to destroy the Federation one by one, ship by ship. They consider the Federation decadent and weak, which is one of the main reason they are attacking this ‘pleasure ship’ as they call it. To them, the Catalina represents everything wrong with the Federation that the Klingon Empire hopes to destroy."
"Fascinating," Humak remarked, raising a single eyebrow.
"Yeah, ain’t that just remarkable," Cynthia said with biting sarcasm, "but what are we gonna do about it?"
Now, Mike thought. Time to put all that education to work. Time to finally use his head to do something other than learn arcane languages or memorize old statistics from hundreds of years ago. Finally, he felt like he was doing something, like he was making a difference. For a few moments, he felt like the daring Starfleet captain he’d always dreamed of being. He turned to Cynthia with his index finger outstretched like a gunfighter.
"Cut my transmission to the Klingons. Can the Catalina still be contacted?"
"Of course I can, and put your finger down" Cynthia responded, "You look like an idiot."
Mike flushed deep scarlet and turned to Humak.
"Any word from Starfleet? Are the Marines mobilizing?"
"Yes, but they will not be able to reach the Catalina in time, if your translations are correct. Solar flare activity prevents us from contacting the Starfleet spacedock at perihelion."
"Of course it does," Mike said with a groan, "Klingons may be bloodthirsty, but they’re not complete idiots."
"So what do we do?!" Cynthia demanded angrily, "You seem to be taking control of MY job here, so what do we do, wonderboy?"
Some more angry Klingon came across the channel, frustrating Mike more.
"Let me think, let me think!" he shouted angrily.
"They can’t hear you," Cynthia grunted.
"I know they can’t hear me!" he shouted back.
"Don’t shout at me!" Cynthia yelled back, standing up from her seat, "Don’t forget who’s running this show, kid!"
"Shouting will not be beneficial," Humak observed from his side of the room. Mike rounded on him, ready to finally tell him off, but something in his brain held him back. Maybe, he thought, just maybe… it could work! He leaped back to his position (which Cynthia noted angrily was HER seat) and turned to Cynthia.
"Open a channel to the Catalina, please."
She began to hard wire the line again, pouring through massive amounts of code in seconds. Mike watched in awe, distracted from the task at hand.
"You’re through, Pyke," she said after a short while, "Try not to get anyone killed."
"Captain Ruesch?"
"Yes, sir," the Captain replied. Mike blushed a little at being called "sir."
"I’m going to need to ask a favor of you and your passengers."
Meanwhile, onboard the Klingon vessel known as a Warbird, the aliens were not waiting patiently.
"Such arrogance of those… Terrans!" one spat, "Broadcasting nothing but insults, and now falling silent! We shall show those dogs what it means to insult warriors of the Klingon Empire! Ahead–!"
Before the commander could finish the command, a noise that would curdle even a Klingon’s blood came over the communicator: harsh, raucous, wrenching screams of bloodthirsty fury, seeming shouted by a thousand voices but only coming from one source: the starship Catalina. Back at the church, all three of the workers had hands clapped firmly over their ears as the din echoed painfully around the small room.
"Did you have to open the channel to us, too?" Mike roared in frustration.
"You wanted it done fast, didn’t you?!" Cynthia hollered back. After a short while, Mike screamed through the channel back to Captain Ruesch, and the entire ship fell silent as space once again. At a signal, Cynthia cut the transmission to the Warbird. The three enjoyed a few moments of silence before Mike gave the signal to hail the Klingons again.
"So!" He proclaimed in Klingon, "You have heard the might of our warriors! Do you not tremble with fear?"
There was a brief pause before an answer came, also in Klingon.
"Klingons tremble before no one, particularly humans, and particularly humans on a pleasure vessel!"
Mike could almost hear the spittle flying about as the Klingon officer finished that sentence.
"FOOLS!" he bellowed, "You do not know who you threaten! That ‘pleasure vessel’ is actually a group of Earth’s mightiest warriors! They are merely on shore leave! On holiday!"
"What are they called?"
Mike balked a little at that, his eyes rocketing back and forth as he thought of an answer.
"They," he roared back, "Are the fearsome Stampeders of Calgary! They sharpen the heels of their boots to better slice through the skulls of their defeated! They use the bloody bones of their victims as games for their children! They fight until death, and even in death they will not surrender!"
Aboard the Klingon ship, the captain had one of his officers quickly cut communications.
"Does he speak the truth?" one of the subordinates asked, "Do Earthlings have such powerful warriors?"
"I do not know," the Commander replied, stroking tattered beard thoughtfully, "But we do not dare impugn our honor by attacking a vessel of unarmed warriors. The Earthlings do not attack us during tlhIngan Qummem, and we will likewise honor them."
"Bah!" another subordinate spat, "It is a simple trick!"
His Commander rounded on him.
"You suggest we attack, then? We, no more than twenty-five, attack hundreds, thousands of warriors without the courtesy of dignity honor? That is not the warrior’s way."
"If they are true warriors, then they should have no fear of death!"
"A true warrior, like yourself?"
The subordinate stood up to his full, impressive height, more than a head above his Commander.
"A true warrior, like me."
"Then you should have no fear of death," the Commander replied coolly, and promptly fired a disrupter blast into the mutineer’s stomach. With a shriek, the subordinate was gone, and the Commander returned to his seat on the bridge of his ship.
"Re-open the channel."
It had been several minutes of tense silence at the Churchill, and when the Klingon commander’s voice came back over the channel, Mike nearly fell over from the shock.
"Your warriors are safe for now, Federation. In the future, I suggest you outfit your pleasure ships with proper weapons, so the fight can always be had. Let it be known that, for your inability to prepare for battle at any time, the Stampeders of Kal-Gah-Ree shall forever be branded as cowards in the eyes of the Klingon Empire."
Cynthia and Mike exchanged worried glances, and Humak stood still as always, observing.
"However, I am a warrior, just like those on board your vessel. I will not attack an unarmed foe, and I will not attack a foe at rest. Your cowardice and your failure will be a reminder forever that we Klingons are the superior warriors. Perhaps one day, on the field of battle, we will meet again the Stampeders and you will have a chance to redeem yourself."
"You are a true warrior of the highest class," Mike responded in the traditional way, "I am not worthy to be eviscerated by your blade."
"We will speak no more," the commander said and, with a traditional Klingon cry of "Kappla!" the warbird turned and departed back through the neutral zone. Everyone held their breath until Cynthia signaled that they were out of communications range. Over the channel, there was another cacophonous sound, this time of endless rejoicing onboard the Catalina. Captain Ruesch’s voice came over the noise.
"I’d sure like to thank whoever did that! Whatever you said, sounded like throwin’ up, but it worked!
"Just doing my job, Captain," Mike shouted back, beaming, "And it’s the least I could do for those styptic capsules you gave me!"
"Well, I’ll be!" the Captain chortled, "It’s you, huh? Well, the whole Catalina owes you a debt of gratitude."
"And you owe the entire crew here a debt of gratitude," Mike said, forcing the other two onto the channel.
"Glad we could save your ass, Josiah," Cynthia said, grinning, "but I think you owe me a little Romulan ale when you get back!"
"Sure thing, Cindie!" Josiah said back, "and who else is there?"
"This is my good buddy, Humak!" Mike said, throwing a comradely arm around the stoic’s shoulders. Humak appeared confused by this outburst of emotion… as confused as he could get, anyway.
"He’s a man of few words, but once he starts talking he’s kinda hard to shut up. Tell ’em that Starfleet’s on the way, Humak."
"That would be redundant, as you have already told them."
"He sounds like a hoot!" Josiah bellowed, "I can’t wait to meet him!"
"I think he can," Mike attempted to ruffle Humak’s hair, and Humak immediately backed away and began straightening it, "The Marines should be on their way, Captain Ruesch. And once this solar flare dies down we’ll connect you with Orbital Spacedock One and get your passengers home safe. Any casualties?"
"You might wanna send a few Federation Medical Officers over. My guests near yelled themselves hoarse!"
"We’ll see what we can do, Josiah," Cynthia said kindly, "Now go and see to your passengers. I’m thinking there will be quite a party on the Catalina tonight. Wish I could be there."
"We’ll drink to your honor, all three of you!"
The communication cut off, and Mike took a moment to bask before Cynthia rounded on both he and Humak, arms akimbo, scowling.
"Now," she said, running her tongue across her teeth angrily, "Either of you wanna tell me what the Hell happened here?"


"The one thing about Starfleet, Mikey," Dr. Smith would always say, "They’ve got a contingency for everything."
Perhaps some hapless officer had accidentally locked himself in his locker. Or maybe a spiteful crewman had jammed an ensign in one. Or maybe someone’s child had, during the recreational period of the starships, crawled into one and wasn’t found for hours. Either way, Mike knew well ahead of time that the locker he was currently sleeping in had a way to trigger the door opening mechanism from the inside, which made his makeshift sleeping chamber possible. Other contingencies included having the automat open at all times (in case of a blood sugar episode onboard) the lounge well-lit and appointed (for entertaining alien emissaries, holding refugess, or detaining prisoners) and the showers operational twenty-four hours a day (in the possible event of large scale soiling of an entire crew in the dead of night) all in the case of an emergency that almost certainly never happened. And yet, right now, when the Red Alert Alarm was shrieking, and the emergency was finally here, Mike couldn’t get his foot to react correctly to trigger the switch and open the locker. One never can account for human error.
Finally, the door whooshed upwards and Mike fell outward, flat on his face as the alarm blared even louder all around him. His head immediately craned upward to observe the situation. The day shift had yet to arrive, leaving the station fairly deserted. Except, of course, for the person regarding his undignified escape with, as always that blank, emotionless expression with just the tiniest bit of scorn. Humak, the boy raised by Vulcans.. in Texas.
"What are you looking at?" Mike growled as he got to his feet. He had no sooner started walking in the odd human’s direction than Humak took off for the bridge, with Mike in hot pursuit.
"Hey, I’m talking to you! What are you even doing here this early, our shift’s not for another…" he glanced at his watch, "three hours!"
"That is not the current issue of importance," Humak shot back, taking a sudden right. Mike dashed in after him, following Humak’s straight-backed, efficient stride down a badly-lit corridor.
"Is this where the Phantom hangs out?" He muttered, trying his best to keep up with the swiftly moving, yet eerily stiff and composed looking Human Vulcan.
"Now is not the time for levity, Mr. Pyke. We are on Red Alert."
Another shriek of the alarm came over the sound system, and Mike flinched.
"I can tell we’re on Red Alert, you bowl-cut wearing…"
He was still complaining while Humak lead the way to a narrow metal ladder. Both climbed upwards and found themselves in what Mike assumed could only have been an old abandoned emergency exit, problably from the days when the station was teeming with Federation officers. It was a short walk across a hallway to the bridge room, which was still locked. Humak put in a dizzying sequence into the keypad, to which the door seemed to respond, in a gentle, female voice.
"Red Alert Override Activated."
"How did you…" Mike began, but Humak was already inside and working the controls of the bridge at a frenzied pace.
"Now is not the time to discuss such things," he responded flatly, as always, "We are on Red…"
"I know we’re on Red Alert!" Mike hollered, "Just tell me what you need me to do!"
Humak looked at him for a moment, expressionless as always, and blinked once. Then, he gave a little nod.
"Take your seat and open all available emergency channels, Mr. Pyke."
Mike felt a little thrill at the way his false name was being addressed.
"Yes, sir!"
Within minutes of booting up his workstation, the room was filled with an absolute cacaphony.
Mike recognized the voice almost immediately, despite all the chaos he was hearing behind it. An image of the friendly, bearded captain flashed across his mind, and he felt a stirring down in the core of his being. He hastily affixed his earpiece and began relaying a message back.
"Catalina, this is Churchill, please report your situation. I repeat, what is your situation?"
"We were on the first leg of our return voyage, after a tour of the Neutral Zone, and we’re being attacked out of nowhere! I think… I think it’s Klingons!"
Mike’s threw a glance over to Humak, who looked up from doing the work of three people. Mike saw him blanch a little, then almost immediately force down the unpleasant memory, like a wave of bile, back down into his stomach. He continued working as Mike manned the controls.
"How can you be sure it’s Klingons?" he asked.
"Because I can’t understand a damn word they’re saying!" Captain Ruesch hollered back among the bedlam onboard the Catalina. Mike nodded when he heard that, it sounded like Klingon all right.
"They fired a warning shot, or something, and now my entire ship’s in a panic! Why are they doing this, Churchill? Please respond!"
"I don’t know, I don’t know why they’re doing it, Captain, just…" Mike couldn’t find any words that seemed appropriate, "stay on the line, please…"
He sat back in his chair, suddenly weary despite a night of sleep. It was all so overwhelming, and all so sudden. Why would they attack? Why would they rick crossing the Neutral Zone and enciting an intergalactic incident? Are people going to die? They had talked about the death they’d had at Churchill once, seven years ago, but… it was talked about like a unicorn or something, something no one would ever see again, and here… hundreds, maybe thousands of people could die, and all he’s got is a microphone. He could still hear the people screaming, and it almost overwhelmed him. Humak, for all of his faults, was able to keep a cool head in the midst of it all.
"Klingons do not give warning shots," he said with a little darkness to his voice, "You should have the Catalina check its shields."
"Right! Right…" Mike shook himself out of his torpor and took up his equipment again, "Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan, This is Churchill, hailing Catalina, do you read, Catalina, over?"
There was a tense bit of silence before Captain Ruesch responded.
"They won’t stop screaming! Damn ugly Klingons, shut up!"
"Captain, Captain, you’ve got to check your shield readings!"
"Shields? Hold on…"
There was a sound of scuffling, followed by an impressed whistle from the Captain.
"Shields are holding, but I don’t know how… this old tub’s still got something to her, but she won’t last long!"
"I’m contacting Federation Headquarters as we speak, Captain," Mike responded, using both hands on the console, "I’m also dispatching an urgent call to the local outpost of Starfleet and any ships in your quadrant."
There was a tremendous explosion over the communication line, and Mike heard more people screaming and the sound of electricity crackling dangerously.
"That’ll do right fine to scoop up the ashes, Mister!" Captain Ruesch screamed over the line, "But if something doesn’t get done pretty soon, those Klingons are going to blow us away!"
"I’m doing all I can, sir!" Mike said, now completely in a panic. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes with every passing second and every agonized scream he could hear in his ears. Just like always, it seemed, he wouldn’t be able to really help. Just kick that ball, Mike, but stay out of trouble. Go to school, get good grades, but don’t go sticking your neck out. You know, in your condition, you won’t be allowed to do much…
Damn it all, he wanted to do SOMETHING.
He slammed his hands down on his console as he got an automatic answering system from the Starfleet Marines emergency line for the fifteenth time. He was about to do it again when a small, but strong hand fell on his shoulder.
"Take it easy, Kid. They don’t make replacements for this old stuff."
He looked up and saw the supervisor, Cynthia Harvey, standing over him, giving him a firm, but gentle stare.
"Take a break for a second, Turtle. I’ll see what I can do."
"Ah," Humak looked up from his constant work to regard his boss, "Do you need to be briefed on the situation? Did you receive my emergency order to beam aboard as soon as possible? Did you–"
"Humak, please," Cynthia held up a hand, "I knew about it before you did. Transporters were on the fritz again, damn things. What’s the situation?"
"Mr. Pyke has performed admirably… for a human."
Mike bit back a nasty retort.
"All proper channels have been followed, but the situation remains grim. Reports are stating that a rogue Klingon warbird has breached the Neutral Zone on what is being described by some… humans as a "hunting trip." The Federation may not be able to respond in time to prevent the Catalina’s complete destruction."
"Complete destruction?" Mike felt his eyes goggling in his head, "Those are people you’re talking about!"
"Enough, Pyke!" Cynthia raised her voice only slightly, and the false Mr. Pyke immediately fell silent, "The best we can do is just try to help them, and comfort them."
She sat down at Mike’s seat and punched up the emergency channel, speaking in an amazingly level, yet compassionate tone of voice.
"Captain Ruesch, this is Cynthia Harvey of the Churchill."
Josiah’s voice came over the line a little shaken, a little scared, but also very brave.
"Hi Cynthia. How are you?"
"You got me up out of a sound sleep, Josiah," she said with a sad little smile, "That’s always like you. How is it up there?"
"Not good," came the reply, "I don’t think we can take another hit. They’re just toying with us now… I thought those Klingons had some sense of honor, just make it quick if you’re going to slaughter women and children!"
"That’s not going to happen, Josiah," Cynthia tried her best to be reassuring, "We’ve already got men heading to your rescue, we’re doing everything we can, and…"
There was a loud noise then over the channel, a screech and a sort of thud. After that, there was nothing to be heard from the Catalina. Cynthia flew into action.
"What happened, Humak, what happened?"
Humak peered at his own workstation.
"The line appeared to be jammed. I believe we have lost the signal… or it has been taken from us."
"Like Hell!" Cynthia snarled. In a trice, her fingers were flying all over the workstation, pulling up and manipulating so much information that it made Mike queasy to watch it. Screens flew this way and that, white code scrolled by on a black background in a maelstrom of text, and always Cynthia’s eyes and fingers were moving, rearranging codes, executing programs, killing malicious software, and effectively hardwiring a communication line millions of miles through space by hand. With a pop, the line opened up again at. Mike made to celebrate Cynthia’s prowess with the software, but any happy noise he would have made was immediately drowned out by a guttural, howling chorus of Klingon language…and it was not happy.
Mike glanced at Humak again, and saw his jaw very resolutely set, probably to avoid showing any weakness. Cynthia was looking upward at the sound system that she’d routed the channel through in her haste. Everyone was looking at the speakers, as if the Klingon Warriors were there in the room with them, face to face, as if staring at the source of the foreign words would somehow make sense to them. It was then that Mike Smith, alias Seamus Q. Pyke, finally found that he was able to do something.
"Cynthia…" he began as his supervisor regarded him with surprise. He mistook the surprise for indignity and immediately followed up with a half-hearted, "Ma’am."
"What is it?"
"Can you open up that channel so we can speak to the Klingons?"
She gave a hard, dry laugh.
"Ha! They’re on every frequency, I could do it in a heartbeat. But what the hell could any of us do if I did?"
Mike gave a nervous cough.
"I could talk to them."

No, New Orleans, I don’t care.

So, after yet another Super Bowl has failed to really knock my socks off, and yet another Super Bowl halftime show has been more entertaining than the game itself, I’m ready to start exploring other options. I’m sorry, but if the ‘Raisin Parade,” as my sister calls it, of old rockers wailing at halftime gets me more pumped than the game, something is very, very wrong. The problem is, I still like football. In fact, I’d say I love it. It’s a fun game to play. Maybe this is adult onset cynicism talking, but I’m just having trouble getting into the NFL these days. It’s a bloated, greedy, Akira-like mass of freakish supermen making more money than most world leaders to grunt and sweat over a slab of leather.

Therefore, I’m making an effort to find other outlets to whet my football appetite. There are a couple of semi-pro teams in the area which I’d like to take a look at once autumn comes around, but that’s still a little difficult to find and get to. I just saw a few days ago that a thirteen year old kid just committed to playing football at the University of Southern California…five years from now…because he’s thirteen… so it seems like even the NCAA football is getting just a little too ridiculous as well. I’ve begun looking beyond America’s borders, to see how different countries do this very American sport, and it’s quite interesting: Germany has a small but loyal following, as do the corporate teams in Japan’s X-League, but the biggest international love of football I can find (outside of the real “football,” being soccer) is found in America’s Neighbor to the North, Canada, and the CFL, or Canadian Football League. In some cases these teams are older than the NFL itself, and it has the second oldest trophy in North American sport, with Earl Grey’s Cup (yes, Earl Grey… although to be nerdy, the tea was named after the 2nd Earl, the cup the 4th) ranking right behind Lord Stanley’s. Now THAT’S a pedigree. So, when July the First rolls around, I’ll be checking out the CFL in the hopes that it can satisfy me in a way that the NFL has not been able to do for years… even though I still love my Bears.

Let me begin my traitorous descent into football adultery with a little something I like to call:


Eric’s Top Ten Reasons why the CFL is cooler than the NFL!

-Number Ten: No Purple Teams

Eight teams. None of them wear purple. No one in History has ever been afraid of the color purple. Purple has been regal, granted, and worn by kings and queens… but kings and queens are often overthrown by groups of pissed-off peasants wearing variations on Poop Brown. Take that as you will. Purple is not a fearsome color, and you can’t take a purple team seriously…even if they stab people in nightclubs.

(looks better in orange, anyway, tee hee…)

-Number Eight: No Extraneous Teams

Just eight. Maybe nine later. The CFL has tried expanding, even to the US in the 90s… but it just didn’t work. The CFL is meant to be small and intimate, with a rabid fanbase that appears to care more about the game than the bottom line. It’s not meant to have thirty odd teams for each half-decent media market in the country. In fact, it’d be impossible to do such a thing like that in Canada, which brings me neatly to…

-Number Seven: It’s Number Two

Football is not Canada’s number one sport. It might not even be number two. To me, that seems to keep the operation honest: it’s not about ticket sales or merchandise, or at least not as much as the massive conglomerate its American cousin has become. When you’re not the number one sport in the country, you’ve kinda got to work for the small, but loving fanbase you have, which means putting out a quality product that actually is about the product, and not half-assed human interest stories. However…

-Number Six: These Guys Have Other Jobs

There’s an Edmonton Eskimo player who goes back south to his home in America and teaches in the off-season. One of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is on the Canadian Bobsled (or, as the Canucks say, bobsleigh) team for the Vancouver games. This isn’t one of those things where you can’t even play a pickup game because it will violate your contract, and it isn’t one of those deals where we need to pull Katie Couric’s lame ass onto TV to whimper and sob about some multi-millionare giving a few bucks to charity. These guys just do what they do, and they play the game because they love the game.

Yes, that’s an actual watermelon on their heads.
Makes the “Cheesehead” seem plebeian, no?

-Number Five: A Kickass Trophy

As I stated earlier, the Grey Cup is the second oldest trophy in North American sport (and possibly the world) being awarded since 1909. Also, the thing is FRIGGIN HUGE! What is it with these Canadians and gigantic trophies, anyway? As an interesting side note, after his early death, one of the CFL teams got then-owner John Candy’s name posthumously added to the cup’s engraved championship nameplates,. Wayne Gretzky also has his name on the Grey Cup. Awesome. If you don’t know who Wayne Gretzky is, I suggest you go pick up season one of ProStars on DVD…or don’t, because it completely sucks. What was I writing about again?

I actually used to like this show. Kids are idiots.

Number Four: History

You know this would score high with me. Some of these teams date back to the Little Bighorn, or before. If I remember correctly, the Ti-Cats were first formed as a football club in 1869. That’s four years after the American Civil War ended. I may have to bring in a black man to yell dayumn at that one. Somehow, the Decatur Staleys don’t match up quite as well anymore… but I still love my Bears. Hey, McCaskeys, any chance of moving the Monsters of the Midway into the CFL? How bout the whole NFC North? That would most surely rock.

Number Three: A Mutant Form of Football

As far as we Yanks are concerned, anyway. In truth, Canadian football is closer to the original ideas of the game, which mutated off of rugby in the 19th Century or so. Only three downs, no tight ends, goal posts in the front of the endzones, quick kicks, drop kicks, twelve men on the field, a bigger field, larger line of scrimmage, smaller, quicker players…this stuff sounds like fun!

You guys are totally late.

-Number Three: Fantastic Team Names

So the NFL has Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, Ravens, Eagles… how about the Montreal Alouettes? Jaguars, Panthers, Lions… how about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats? Broncos? Pshaw! Gimme the Saskatchewan Roughriders or the Calgary Stampeders! You can keep your Patriots or your Giants, I’ll go and take a look at the Toronto Argonauts. And before you think these are new, hip names trying to sound cool, the Argos have been around since at least 1900, and the newest team is the Alouettes, who actually borrowed the name from an old Montreal team that dates back to the 1800s. Whoever’s thinking up team names in Canada deserves a medal. If nothing else, it makes me want to watch.

Number One: Doug Flutie, BITCHES


So Doug Flutie wins the Heisman trophy. No big. He’s a hell of a field general who can heave the ball just as well as he can run with it. But he’s only five foot nine, so most of the NFL gives him the broom as one of those “only good in college” types. He then goes on to the CFL and becomes one of the most prolific quarterbacks in history. OWNED. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, he comes back to the NFL in his late thirties and takes the Buffalo Bills all the way to the playoffs when the tall, dark and handsome USC quarterback fails. To me, this says everything about the NFL these days: it’s all a machine. It’s a business. You can’t play, because of some ridiculous rule. It doesn’t matter if you’re talented enough, we can’t gamble that much money on you. Suddenly, I’m seeing pampered and produced people getting paid millions of dollars… HUNDREDS of millions of dollars… to play a damn game… and it’s all become so pathetically scientific and overwrought with strategy than it’s barely watchable as a game anymore. The NFL reminds me of the singer who has been trained in opera and nothing else for years, and can sing every note perfectly… but he’s so worried about the singing that he forgets to give it soul. The NFL is slowly losing its soul, and I can only hope that the CFL still has a bit of that Bob Dylan/Shane MacGowan essence. Also, that’s probably the first and only time you’re going to see someone use an opera metaphor for the NFL. I’m going over to the CFL, I hope things are a little more fun there…or I at least hope it resembles a game as opposed to an investment. If not… there’s always the semi-pro leagues.

Somewhere, someone’s got to be playing football and having fun… right?


This is a seventh grader. He’s going to have a guaranteed deal with USC.
I may start drinking.

Grudge Him Not

My name is Colonel Miles Quaritch. I am a soldier.

              I was born in what was left of Texas in 2112. My father worked in oil reclamation, and my mother was a waitress. Every day, my father went to work attempting to harvest what was left of the oil we’d already spat out. It was hard work: there was fire and pain and death every day. I worked with my father for one summer after I graduated high school, and I swore to myself I’d never go back there again.

              I enlisted into the RDA at nineteen years old, a stupid kid with the same old stupid idea: I’d serve my time, shoot a few folks, and make enough money to get my life on track. I had to, you see, because I had something to get my life on track for… and her name was Sophie. She came from what they used to call “Wisconsin,” and she was the most beautiful damn thing I’d ever seen in my life. I used to see her hair catch the morning sun, and I’d swear it was liquid gold. I kept telling myself that I would make that gold precious; that I’d make her a rich man’s life, and we wouldn’t have to live in the RDA’s piss-poor excuse for public housing. Just a few more years, Sophie dear. Just a few more years of mud and blood and death, and I’ll come home to you a made man. Just you wait, one day we’ll go and find our little patch of piece of Earth, and we’ll make this planet something again.

Then, in 2138, everything went to Hell. A group of terrorists calling themselves the Soul of the Planet started bombing RDA bases and oil reclamation plants. Claimed they were trying to restore the balance of nature. Now tell me, what’s natural about strapping dynamite to a baby, or to a dog, or to yourself? What’s natural about humans? What’s natural about the way we live, the way we work, the way we even exist? The way I see it, there’s other kinds of cats in the world. There’s other kinds of dogs. There’s different birds, but they all still fly and sing. There’s only one kind of human. We were put here for a reason, we were unique for a reason. We were given this planet, and if the planet was supposed to be the master it would speak and run and love…but it doesn’t. Dogs will tear their mother apart for a scrap of bacon. Mother sows will eat her piglets. Plants will starve and kill other plants and not even think about it, because they can’t. If that’s what it’s like to be in touch with nature, they can have it.

On October 28, 2138, the Soul bombed the barracks at Fort Lobo while me and the boys were out in the field, running maneuvers. There wasn’t more than fifty soldiers in that base, but there were at least a thousand families in those shitty houses, and every last one of them died. They killed my Sophie, and my Sophie had never picked up a gun or handled a quart of oil in her life. They killed her to make a statement about peace. They killed her to let this bastard planet keep on living. They killed her. They told me I could have saved her, put her consciousness into a new body, make her live again. You could even fix her problems, make it so you could have kids again. You’ve got the money, Miles, you’ve got it saved up, you can bring back the love of your life!

When Hell freezes over, I told them. It wouldn’t be my Sophie. It wouldn’t even be human or right. My Sophie deserved a better death than that, she deserved a better life than this. She deserved a life that was green and alive and beautiful, and I was going to give it to her. She was supposed to die when we were both old and gumming our applesauce, not because some punk kid felt he needed to defend Mother Earth. She was supposed to die old and fat and happy out on the farm I bought us. I had the land all picked out, a beautiful spot. Still green: Saskatchewan, the old books called it. We were going to live there, farm, raise our family. We didn’t want trouble, I’d paid my dues. I’d fought and I’d bled and I’d seen friends die in my arms… that was supposed to be my reward.

A few years later, word gets out that we find some far-off moon chock full of a stuff they ain’t even bothered to name. Calling it unobtanium. Guess that’s what a college education gets you. They say it’s green and alive and there’s plenty of room to move the human race. They say it’s wild and untamed, but so was the West at one time. They’re calling it Pandora, and everyone jokes about all the creatures and nasty-ass monsters that roll around there, but they forget that Pandora also gave the world hope. RDA sent out a call for soldiers to attempt a settlement, to see if we can’t get some of that rock back home so no one has to work the way my father did. They’re calling for soldiers because initial contact with the natives has been hostile. Apparently, they don’t like the idea of sharing. Well, if they won’t share, maybe we’ll have to make them. It’s a big, empty universe out there, and it we can find a little piece of it, a little bit of paradise, then I’m sure we can do it over right this time. Who knows, maybe they’ll even let some of those Soul of the Earth jackasses make sure we don’t step on too many flowers.

Earth is dying. She’s dead, but she was dead long before I came along. If you want to point the finger, why not ask the people who made leaded gasoline, or Freon air conditioners, or coal-powered everything? Earth was on her last legs when I got there, and all I want now is to find a place where we can start over and get it right. If some uppity natives can’t understand that we need their help, and instead want to shoot at us for kicking some sacred rock, then I guess things just might get ugly. Me? I don’t care. I’ve seen ugly in Nigeria, and I’ll see ugly on Pandora, but I’ll be damned if another kid’s gonna grow up like I did on that dead, ugly world while these natives hoard all the paradise. The human race deserves a second chance. Mark my words, I’ll get my paradise and my piece of earth and I’ll bury my wife on Pandora, or die trying.

Something to tide you over…

11 o’clock. Gonna meet the wife for lunch.
I usually meet up with her round noon, but it takes me a while to walk there. Hey, I’m almost eighty, what do you expect?
And I don’t wanna hear any of those jokes about old people eating early, either. I eat my lunch at noon and my dinner at seven, just like the rest of you. I just like to walk to my lunch. Remember walking? It’s the thing we used to do to go to the store or to lunch or to school, before everyone got so lazy that they have to drive four blocks to their office building, or before little Junior got so precious that we can’t risk him turning an ankle on the sidewalk? Trust me, your kid’s not worth it. I walked to school every day of my life, and I’m still here, aren’t I? Here I am, walking down the street of the big, scary city, just like I’ve done since I was twenty-six years old, meeting my wife for lunch like I do everyday. Never been mugged. Never been hit by a car. Never been abducted or murdered by the kind of crackpot the damn news is always claiming is around every corner and under every damn manhole. Just walking.
There’s the ice cream shop. Or at least, it used to be an ice cream shop. "Smith’s Soda and Ice Cream," that’s what it used to say. Now it’s got some damned made-up word that’s half African and half Jackass, selling wheatgrass smoothies and bean sprout sandwiches while people bounce on yoga balls and talk about their Pilates…whatever the hell those are. It’s all that new age bullshit that just makes me want to walk in there throwing cheeseburgers. You think this country got to where it is by eating tofu? I thank God Almighty that they at least had the common sense to keep the old hammered tin ceiling. That damn thing’s like a work of art, and if I’m walking by, I may as well look at something that won’t turn my stomach.
My wife, she grew up here, in this neighborhood. Of course, it was a lot different back then. I never thought I’d see the day when a kid with a tie-dyed shirt playing Strawberry Alarm Clock was a welcome sight. And it’s not just the black kids, either, or the Mexicans or the Japs, it’s mostly the white kids with so much money that they think they need to act poor. If I spent a hundred dollars on pants and shoes, I’d want them to fit. Hard to believe that this is where I met her, now… I was just outta school, couldn’t find a job. Couldn’t stay home with Mom and Dad, not when they had enough to worry about.
Got me a little place here, downtown, and started delivering papers to make rent. Cripes, I hated that… delivering papers, like I was some snot nosed little kid… but hey, a job’s a job. Dad went through Hell over in the Pacific so I could have my own life, and I was gonna do what I could to make it, even if I had to bounce around in that stupid truck. It was the same old thing, dropping bundles of papers at all the downtown shops. Back then, the whole place used to be filled with all kinds of stores: hardware stores, tailor shops, place to get a cup of coffee, you know. It wasn’t perfect, but it was sure better than what we got now. Most of these buildings are empty down here, rotting away, and it breaks my heart every time I look at ’em.
I dropped a bunch of papers outside the bank one day, and this real sweet girl came out to pick ’em up. Now, I’ll never call myself the next Cary Grant, but I thought I was a pretty handsome fella back then…when I was young and stupid. This girl, though…she was a knockout. A real beauty. She had two of the biggest, most striking blue eyes I’d ever seen, and real nice brown hair that the wind whipped around just right. She was just one hell of a good looking woman, and after that I didn’t hate dropping off papers at the bank anymore. Each day, she’d come out, she’d smile. I’d smile. It went like that for a good week or two, with me shoving the other guy in the truck out of the way to get the bank papers, and she’d race the other bank lady to the door. So we could smile. And don’t tell her I told you this, but it was almost as nice watching her walking away as it was having her come toward me, if you know what I mean.
So after a little while, I started grabbing coffee after my shift was over in that little spot I mentioned earlier, about a block and a half from the bank. I don’t know, maybe I thought it would give me courage. I’m just about to leave one day when the girl of my dreams walks into the shop. She catches me giving her the look, as usual, except for this time she’s the one in motion. She smiles. I smile. She comes inside and we have lunch at noon. We’ll continue doing that for another forty years.
I pass the jewelers now. Can’t believe it’s still a jewelers, now that everything’s either a WalMart or a Hindu Hut or something. I took my wife there for the rings, engagement and the wedding band. Of course, things cost a little bit less back then, but it was still a month’s salary chucking paper. We never even looked at another jewelers, this one just felt right. It was a downtown romance after all. Sometimes I wonder if she wanted one of those expensive doo-dads, you know, a real rock. She always said she loved what I got her, but I always felt like a jackass. I was lucky, I guess, that her job at the bank would keep us going like it did. I never could keep down a decent job. It just gets to a man if his woman’s got a better job…or at least it used to, I dunno how these welfare leeches go about their day. I got even luckier that my kids can take care of me, paying my rent now that I’m a toddering old fart. But hey, I’m still downtown.
I pass by some place that’s got signs in four or five different languages, but the one on the bottom is English and says it can get you work. Funny, I bet work’s easier to get if you’re speaking the language. Not long after we were married, I decided I’d had enough with papers, even though I was running the route by then. Started looking around for jobs, but the pickings weren’t looking too good… especially because I didn’t have a car at the time. I got one now, some Mercury or Lincoln or something, I don’t know. Kids got it for me but I never use the damn thing. Anyway, I was grousing at that coffee shop one day, like I always do… and my wife was sitting across from me, as usual, with those big blue eyes. I think she actually liked to hear me complain sometimes. She smiles, and I smile. I’m just finishing up and this guy in a suit walks by and puts a business card on the table. He says he’s from the local newspaper and they could use a column from someone like me with my “strong opinions.” So that’s what they call it. Well, I went to a meeting, showed them I could read and write, and before you knew it, I was one of the more popular columnists in the Gazette.
I still couldn’t get away from the damn papers, but I tell you, that was a real dream job, getting paid to bitch. Never missed a deadline in thirty-four years, and they even let my last column be a column complaining about how they were making me retire. I even got a couple of books out of it after that, I guess people weren’t tired of hearing this old man complain. Hell, the even liked hearing my complain when I was young. Coincidentally, the Gazette building’s still there, and they still make it, but it ain’t the same. A couple of years ago the paper almost went under and they got bought out by one of the big companies that owns all the locals rags. There’s just no heart in it anymore.
I suppose I should say now that the little coffee joint went the way of the dodo years ago, too, so the wife and I had to find a new place to have lunch every day. I tell you, the last lunch in that place was damn tragic. You could tell the owner behind the counter was trying to smile, but that’s just because he didn’t want to cry. So I smiled, and she smiled, and time kept going on. Sometimes I wish it would give me a break, but there’s usually not much you can do about it. The minute I start having to walk with a cane, though, I’m going to raise a major stink.
Well, I’m finally here. I guess I use to take the stairs, but you’ll allow me an elevator just this once, eh? The wife’s at one of these new fangled places, where it’s like a damn maze and you have to go through eighteen different corridors to find the person you’re looking for. I tell ya, if they didn’t treat her so well here I’d tell her to quit. There’s Rita, she’s always here on Wednesdays. Nice girl. Don’t know about that other one she’s got with her today, though. New girl. Looks at me like I’m some kind of bug. I may be old, honey, but don’t think I won’t still give you a slap for disrespecting your elders.
“Hi there, Rita.”
“Hi there, Mr. Goldman. Your wife’s waiting for you, go on ahead.”
Damn, it’s like this hallway gets longer every day. Gotta get some more pep in my step. I sure miss that coffee.

“Who the hell is that old guy? I’ve see him every day this week.”
“That’s Mr. Goldman. Every day at noon he comes in and visits his wife. Poor guy… wife’s been in a coma for years, but he still comes here every day…”
“He talks to her. Reads her stories. I guess he used to be a writer or something. Anyway, I’ve walked past a few times, and it’s never the same story twice… he must write them for her everyday.”

Hey, honey. Still looking great, after all these years…too bad you won’t open your eyes, I do miss those big blue things…ah well. You’re here, and that’s all that matters. Miriam wanted me to tell you that she’s having another kid, here’s hoping this one’s a girl. They’re gonna name it Rachel, after you… hope you can hold her someday. Her husband’s not as bad as I used to say, he’s really come into his own. Oh, and you’re not going to believe it, but someone’s actually going to renovate the old bank. I wonder if they’ll mess it up like they did Smith’s. Maybe I can sneak in there and sneak you something from the old days. I bet you’d like that. Gosh, your hair’s still pretty, even all gray like that…oh, what am I talking about, mine’s either white or gone these days. Maybe I can get this window open and ruffle it up a bit. You know I love it when your hair’s a little messy…
Hm. Damn thing won’t open. What do I pay these people for, anyway? Nevermind, it’s almost noon. I’ve got my lunch with me, see? It’s not like what you used to make me, but it keeps me going most days. I sure miss those cakes you used to make, though…
Aaah! Enough of me whining. We’re here for lunch, aren’t we? And it wouldn’t be lunch if I didn’t read you a story, now would it? And you’ll love this one, too… it’s about the dancing bear again, you remember that one? You always wanted me to write a sequel, a story about the bear’s friend, the squirrel… so here goes.