When it Rains


rain

Los Angeles is a desert.

I remember the first time I saw it.  I was driving in from the West, up and over the mountains, and careening down the 210.  We were coming up from Vegas, Jared, Sonia and I, and had just come through the Mojave desert, where it was so hot that my Garmin wouldn’t stick to my windshield.  I had to awkwardly wedge it up against the dash.  The smallest bump would send it tumbling.

I was coming off a night of heavy Vegas drinking and a bad chicken sandwich that I bought from a gas station in Nevada.  There were signs all over it that told me aliens were real.  I should have taken that as a sign, but I was starving, and ready to make it to my new home.

I crested over sandy hill and there it was, stretching on forever.  In florida, I was used to greens and blues.  In Los Angeles, it was blue and tan, the dry khaki of dirt and sand.

It was a dry land, a land without rain, where it’s tough for things to grow.

It rained once on our trip, on the way back from the Grand Canyon.  It was almost otherworldly.  The Arizona landscape didn’t know what to think.  Here we were, Arizona and I, in a desert, and it was raining.

I love the rain.  I used to sit out on the back porch with my dad during thunderstorms.  This was about every weekend, because, if there’s one thing South Florida has, it’s thunderstorms.  We’d watch the rain, and I’d wonder what would happen if lightning struck the pool cage.

We’d probably fucking die.

It was alright though.  I had a cup of taster’s choice instant coffee, and it kept me warm.  It was cheap, sure, but after years of drinking it, you can even associate cheap with being happy.

It doesn’t rain in Los Angeles.

I would take the 405 to get downtown to my internship every Monday and Wednesday for the first four months I was in LA.  The Santa Monica mountains are basically piles of dirt with a few dried up old scrubs clinging to their slopes.  It was so weird.  The last mountains I had driven in before I came out west were in Tennessee and Missouri.  Those mountains were green and had stuff you could grab onto if you fell off.  These though…

Internships pay you in experience, not money.  I tried eating experience for a while, but it left me hungry and feeling sort of dumb, so I started looking for a job.  No one was hiring.  Not even movie theaters.  It was tough, but I had some money left over from student loans, so I could afford cheap meals:  Ramen with a side of experience.  Chicken broth with a dash of practical skills.  Baked chicken marinated in experience sauce, and a nice cup of experience to wash it down.  Being an intern was working out pretty well.

And the days got hotter, and the nights got drier.

I had never really worked a highschool job.  I was always doing theater or sports or robotics or band, so I didn’t have time.  In college I scanned people’s cards at the gym.  It was amazing.  I worked at summer camps three out of the four summers I was in undergrad.  Besides that, I’d never really worked, so I wasn’t averse to working something like Panera or Chipotle.  McDonald’s was where I drew the line, though.  If I was going to work fast food, I’d at least like it to pretend it wasn’t fast food.

Days turned into months, and November rolled around, and it started to rain.  The city had no idea what to do.  There was a drought, and you think people would have been outside with pots and pans, running around, screaming, trying to catch all the water they could.

Nope.  They were just hitting each other with cars.  I wonder if the driver’s handbook for California recommends flooring it at the first drop of water.  “When it rains,” it must say, “stoplights don’t count anymore.  The only rules are what a man makes for himself.  Hit or be hit.  Him or me.  Blood in and blood out.”

It’s an old joke, but seriously, don’t drive in LA when it’s raining.

One weekend, the streets actually flooded, and I got a call from Starbucks.  My first interview.  I was hired later that week.  I was on fire with writing, too.  I wrote every day.  I finished three screenplays.  I finally got my film industry mentor assigned to me.  I was talking to some other industry people, too.  It was magical.

And it rained, and it rained, and it rained.

And then it stopped, right around my birthday.  Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months again.  The savings dwindled away, and I just kept working at Starbucks.  I didn’t place in a screenplay competition, and then in another, and another, and another.

I just kept waiting for it to rain.

Stephanie bought a basil plant soon after we moved into our apartment.  She set it on our kitchen windowsill, which gets light for a good portion of the day.  She watered it daily.

It got neglected when she got her editing job.  Either that, or it felt restrained in its pot.  Who knows what plants are thinking.  Probably “wow.  I wish I was something else.”

It was July, and I was home alone.  I walked downstairs for some water, and I saw the plant.  It was brown, and leaned to the side.  It’s pot was encircled by decaying leaves.

I stared at it.  I was holding a cup of coffee.  It was warm in my hands.

I stared at the plant and I wondered if it was waiting for it to rain, too.

So I watered it.  It was right next to the sink.  I can’t believe I never thought to do it before.

It’s getting close to rainy season again and, if the weather people are correct, this El Niño is going to make it a doozy.

I can’t wait to see what this next rainy season will bring.

I keep watering the plant anyway, though.

It seems to be doing better.

basil

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The Medallion


So, here’s a short story that I’ve been working on.  I’m a big fan of the man himself, H. P. Lovecraft, and so I tried to write a story in his style, but in third person.  Here he is:

What a happy looking guy!

What a happy looking guy!

I was hoping for something more awesome though.  Hmm….

What a happy guy!

What a happy guy!

Ah, yes.  Excellent.  Anyway…

This may seem like an unusual choice (lovecraft + 3rd person) to those of you who know that Lovecraft wrote almost exclusively in the first person, but I must also warn you that when I wrote the rough draft, the original Idea was to adopt Hemingway’s technique of drinking copious amounts of alcohol before writing something, and then trying to crank out a story.  I then opted out of the Faulker technique of continuing to drink until you pass out, and then wake up the following morning with a good drink and trying to edit.

Secondly, this story is meant to be a horror, and if you find it amusing, be warned that it was unintentional, and due to my occasional inability to slam together coherent sentences rather than any sort of concentrated effort.

Here you go!

The Red Medallion

The moon hung gibbous and eternal over the dark forest as Aaron crashed through the underbrush.  Tree branches snatched at his coat and urged him to stop and feel they’re spindly embrace.  He almost did it, too.  He almost just lay down and accepted what might come: death, an afterlife, oblivion.  It was all fine with him, but then he heard it again, the haunting, bestial howl. He restarted his panicked flight with a redoubled effort, one thought on his mind: it’s getting closer!

Trees, trees, more trees, roots and limbs.  The soft thuds of his footfalls were diminished somewhat by the peat on the forest floor, but the franticness in their cadence was unmistakable.  This was a man running for his life, they told you, a man running out of time.

He burst through a thicket of bushes and his footing came out from under him, sending him sliding, rolling down a precipice.  Down!  Down he rolled, down the steep embankment, over the rocks and roots that grabbed at his legs, sometimes threatening to break them.  He cried out as he tumbled, knowing full and well the futility of this action.  There was no one else around.  No one at all.  Just him and… it.

Splash!  He barreled into the rocky stream at the bottom of the ravine, and a searing pain in his left arm stabbed through his mind, keeping him alert and conscious, though he could feel the tendrils of darkness creeping into the edge of his vision.  He lay there for quite some time, in the mud and shallow water, waiting for the pain to stop.  It didn’t.

He stood and fell back down again.  His leg had collapsed out from under him.  He stood more carefully and managed to stay on his feet, at least until he gave his arm an experimental prod.  Bad Idea.  His vision swam and he nearly passed out as he crashed back into the water.  Fuck.  Fuckfuckfuck.

He looked up at the opposite side and scowled.  He knew, he knew that only a mile beyond that imposing wall of dirt lay his town.  Safety.  Struggling, he managed to right himself once more, and cross over to the embankment, taking special care to not touch his left arm.

The wall was too steep to simply walk up.  He would have to climb it, here and now, unless…

He looked left.  The stream stretched for miles, bordered on both sides by steep walls of earth and the dark imposing forest on top of the walls.  The right wasn’t any better.  No, it had be here.  He wasn’t even sure if he could walk much firther that night, not with his sprained ankle, but the thing following him, it certainly couldn’t climb a–

The howl made Aaron jump and almost fall back into the water.  This one sounded different, sort of anxious, like the howler was expecting this chase to be over and done with in the near future.

He threw himself bodily at the wall, cradling his left arm into his body and clawing like a madman at the dirt, trying to gain purchase on it’s crumbly surface.  He managed to snag a root that seemed relatively sturdy, and tried to haul himself up with it.

Foolish.

His right hand was not strong enough to support his weight, and it collapsed under the strain, sending him sprawling once more into the cold stream.

A howl broke the quiet of the night, bloodcurdling and, most frightful of all, close.  Ever so close.  Aaron cried, and banged his fist into the river bank’s cold, damp earth.

Why why why why WHY?  Why was the only thing he could think of:  Why had he taken the dare?  Why had he gone to that graveyard, that fucking gave yard?  Why did they do this to him?  It should have been easy.  It should have been easy.  It had been easy enough at first.  Tom’s map had led him straight to the graveyard, there had been a shovel behind the shed like Tom had told him, and the grave dirt wasn’t to packed.  It split apart like rotten meat to his shovel, and the coffin hadn’t even been buried that deep.  Once he pried the lid off and seen it… the red medallion.

Another howl snapped him out of his reverie.  Shit.  He stood and began to hobble down the stream, hoping that there was something, a ladder, some stairs, something he couldn’t see further along it’s course.

If I make it out of this, he grimly thought as he looked over his shoulder at the moon, which seemed even larger and more intimidating than before, I’m never going to play truth or dare again.  At least not with my friends.  He laughed at this, a cruel, barking laugh that was unlike him.  Friends…

High school had been so hard that Aaron had jumped at the chance to hang out with anyone, and positively wet himself when the popular kids had invited him to a party Jerry was having at his uncle’s house.

All the best looking girls were there.  Ashlee, with her long, dark hair and curvy hips.  Lilith, with her prodigious bosom and winning smile.  Rachel, with the dimples and the jade colored eyes.  All of them, and they turned and smiled at him when he walked in.  Rachel even said his name, his name, as she passed him a drink.  It was heaven.

They had started off the night with some drinking games.  Aaron hadn’t known any when they started, but he got a good hang for them by the time they finished.  He hadn’t ever drunk much alcohol before, so it all hit him rather hard.  He had thought he could handle it.  His father had occasionally snuck him sips of beer while his mother wasn’t looking, and he had thought that his would somehow prepare him for copious dirnking, but he had been wrong.  It seemed that it was always that way.  Wrong.

They had played beer pong and kings cup, flip cup and quarters, and once he had become too drunk to think clearly, they had settled down to play truth or dare.  He was between Rachel and Lilith, and counting himself rather lucky.  Tom had started off with a truth, and told everyone about the time he lost his virginity, much to everyone’s chagrin.  It seemed like they had heard it before.  Rachel took dare, and had to kiss Aaron on the lips.  It was the single greatest thing that had ever happened in his life, and probably ever would.  It got to Aaron’s turn, and he was still swooning.  He dumbly looked at Rachel, who mouthed the word “dare” with he perfect lips.  He obeyed, and they dared him to dig up a grave.

Aaron splashed through the stream, tears streaking down his face.  He was crying again and he wasn’t certain why.  It had just happened, like a summer storm, sudden and violent.  He hoped it would break soon.  He felt like it was slowing him down.

He wasn’t sure what they had planned.  Surley it was to scare him in some capacity or another.  Maybe dress up as a ghost and hide behind a grave, or wait in the woods until he had dug deep into the grave dirt, and then pushed him in the grave and pretended to bury him. They had never gotten the chance.  Once he had locked his hand around that medallion, once he had taken it–

A splash of fast approached feet drew Aaron out of his reverie.  IT was hear.  Run.  Run.  Run as fast as you can.  Sprint god damn it and… ah, but there was never any hope, was there?  He fell, like so many others before him, crashing down into the stream.

He rolled over, and it was on top of him.  The fangs.  The claws.  The rancid stinking breath, like the breath of a corpse, or perhaps the breath of something made of corpses.  It was hard for Aaron to tell.  He had never smelled either, but for an instant, just an instant, he had seen something in the beast’s hide, something that looked eerily similar to Rachel’s face, screaming in pain and horror as it pushed against the creatures pale, hyper stretched skin.

It tore into him, ripping his throat in one clean bite.  Aaron struggled briefly, and would have been proud to learn that he damaged the beast’s leg.  It didn’t cause too much trouble, but it was a badge of honor that few of it’s past victims would be able to claim before they went.

He felt it rummage through his pockets and take the medallion, and then it was gone, and Aaron was left with nothing but the cold water of the stream, and the moon, which cut through the encroaching darkness like a beacon, golden and lustrous, almost as if it were made of metal.

*****

Oh, and I almost forgot to thank Ronni Noyce, Kathryn Jenkins and Kristy J. W. for nominating me for the “shine on”, “sunshine”, and “versatile” blogger awards, respectively.  I promise you, I’m gonna do one big fucking awards post some time this months and it’s going to be utter madness.  So get ready, readers, I’ve got like 5 awards to give out, and one might be coming to you!

WeWriWa #2: A ghost Story


Here’s the beginning to a new short story I’m working on.  I’ve decided to post the first 8 lines for Weekend Writing Warriors  What do you guys think?

* * * * *

I saw her.

She was there, a brief moment, ah!  But too brief.  There, on the stage, smiling, her perfect teeth glistening in their perfect rows, the dimples and freckles, her wide eyes and perfect skin and oh!  Be still my hear, but I saw her.

And then it was there was a blackout, a lowered curtain; the interval, and she was gone.

I decided to complete the ritual and purchase a gin and tonic from the third ring bar.  London’s National Theatre has expensive drinks, but it had become part of the pattern, and I daren’t break with tradition.

* * * * *

On a side note I’ve finished my screenplay (finally).  101 pages of glory.  Look for it in theaters in the next two years (he said hopefully).  It’s called “A Stellar Holiday” and it’s about aliens.

-Corngoblin

The day when we all get to be Irish, and some leprechauns show up too.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St Patrick’s day is a day when everyone can pretend that they’re Irish, and no one, except maybe real Irish people, will correct you.  Like me, for instance: I’m part Irish.  Barely, true, but barely still counts.  It’s St. Patrick’s day and I have the right to, when asked if I’m Irish, harken back to that distant and far removed ancestor and respond, “why yes of course… um… me lass… I be Irish!  Now who wants a pint of Guinness?”  And then we’d all cheer and sing whisky in the jar or something, and the party goes on.

But ever since last St. Patrick’s day, I’ve been a bit afraid of claiming to be Irish.  Afraid that I’ll be caught.  It’s the Leprechauns, you see.  They  monitor these things, making sure that no one other than true Irish people claim to be Irish on St. Patrick’s day.  Before I learned this, I had always wondered what use Leprechauns were, other than terrifying Jennifer Anniston, though not quite enough it seems, (to death being the implication here).

Warwick Davis is the man.

Clearly, it didn’t.

Leprechauns are wee folk with fairy magic, at least at the most basic description.  If one were to apply to fill a vacant leprechaun position, the conversation would proceed as follows:

“Are yeh wee?” The interviewer would ask.  He could have just looked to see.  One wonders why he need ask, but that’s the way these sorts of things go sometimes.  It’s all about the protocol.

“Oh, aye.” Responds the applicant, which is generally considered to be the most correct answer.

“And have yeh the fairy magics?”

“Oh aye.  That I do.”

“Loverly.  Yer hired.”

What leprechauns actually do has very little to do with being wee or being able to wield the fairy magics.  Leprechauns are tasked with keeping Ireland green,  like a glittering emerald, and magic, like a magical emerald.  There’s a special division for rainbow production and installation as well, but we won’t get into that right now.

You think Ireland looks like that on it's own?  No, what you see here my friend is centuries of hard leprechaun work.

You think Ireland looks like that on it’s own? No, what you see here my friend is centuries of hard leprechaun work.

The leprechauns have one other task, however, that dwarfs (forgive the pun) all their other duties: to ferret out the fakes, liars, and would be Irishmen on St. Patrick’s day, and humiliate them in front of their friends.

It was an encounter with one performing it’s primary task that, as I hinted before, was nearly my undoing last year.  I was at McCabes Irish pub, down on 5th avenue in Naples, Florida, enjoying a $6 glass of Yeungling with some a of newest and bestest friends I’d ever met (their names escape me now, but I’m relatively sure they all had one) when the question was raised as to whether or not I was Irish.

mccabe's

Now, I have a rather good Irish accent (or at least that’s what I’m told) which, like all Irish accents, is increased both in quality and volume with every alcoholic beverage imbibed.  The current tally was 5, so my confidence in my Irish speaking ability was great indeed.

I had been regailing my new comrades with tales of the homeland: of helping St. Patrick chase away all the bloody snakes, of finding so many pots of gold at the end of rainbows, for rainbows are plentiful on the emerald Isle, that I just started throwing them away,  of screeching contests with banshees and Father Ted TV marathons.  They were entranced, and I was having a blast, that is until I felt a gentle but firm tap on my buttocks.

I spun around, fists up and out in traditional Irish fighting form, ready to give the buttocks tapper the old one two, or, if she were a lady, the old wink and smile, but there was no one there.  I turned back to my friends, who must have assumed that spinning around to fight ghosts was just some Irish idiosyncrasy that they were hitherto unaware of (on nights of heavy drinking it often is), and thought nothing of it, other than to give me a rousing cheer.

I went for a bow, and was touched on the buttocks yet again.  I spun around in the same way.

“Alright, yeh livrey bastard, time for me to give yeh what for!”  I shrieked, but yet again, there was no one there.  I looked left.  I looked right.  I looked up.  I looked down.

There stood a leprechaun.  He was wearing a little green suit with a shamrock in his pocket and a green bowler hat, and looked very cross.  He smiled a wolfish grin.

“Hello sir, me names Bleary and I’m—“

“Christ, lads, it’s a real leprechaun!”  I shouted, pointing at it in awe.  I started jumping from foot to foot and giggling.  Everyone at the pub gathered ‘round to gaze at the spectacle.  The Leprechaun shifted his feet, uncomfortable.

“I’m—“

“What’re yeh here for, little fellah?” I asked, like a mom to a child of 6.  He bristled at this and looked me dead in the eye.  God, those eyes!  They looked like gold doubloons!

“I’m here to see if yer really irish.”  He said matter of factly.

“Me?  Irish?  ‘Course I’m Irirsh!  What’s me shirt say?”

“Kiss me, I’m irish, but—“

“’Course it does!” I interrupted.  He scowled.

“But shirts can say any number of things.  Look at that lads!”  The leprechaun pointed to a fat, white man who was wearing a shirt that read “I’m the President”.

“My god…”  I whispered to the leprechaun, “Is that Barack Obama over there, d’yah think?”

“I—what?  No!  ‘Course not!  Are ye daft?” his question went unanswered though, because I had gone over to the fat man and was taking a photo with him.  The leprechaun stared in gawping silence as I snapped the photo and came back over.

“The lads back in Dublin are never gonna believe I met the President of the US of A!”

“Stop it!”  He shouted, stamping his little foot, which jingled.  “You’re not from Dublin and you’re sure as hell not Irish!  You’re just a drunk idiot from Florida!”

“Bah, Florida?  Have you seen his shirt?  It says—“ one of my new friends began before the leprechaun pointed his finger at him and ZAP, turned him into a cask of guinness.

“Sweet St. Patrick!” I gasped, staring at the cask.  “Free beer!”  The Leprechaun face palmed as we swarmed the cask and I passed out drinks.  I felt a bit bad for drinking that guy, but judging from what I’d learned about him in the past two hours, it’s what he would have wanted.

Poor... um... you.

Pour guy…

“Three cheers for our emerald homeland, lads and lassies!  Hip Hip!”

“NO!”  Roared the leprechaun, and the shout filled up the whole pub, shaking the windows and worrying he owner.  Some glasses fell off the shelves.  “Yer not Irish!  None of yah!  Yer just a bunch of drunken fools playin’ at bein’ Irish!  You don’t know the first thing, the first damn thing about what it is to be from Ireland.”   He paused and pointed at a man wearing a Bruins shirt. “Except for you.  You’re actually Irirsh.”  The bruins guy gave a fist pump and cheer, finished his glass, and ordered another.  “Now,” he said, returning to the task at hand, “will yeh stop, or do I have to turn you all into guiness?

The party was dead silent.  Even the band had stopped playing.  The leprechaun glared at us.  No one said a word, except for me.  I think it was the Guinness, but I was feeling particularly brave, like Willow, or Frodo Baggins, or Peter Dinklage, even.

“Why does it matter?” I asked.

“What?”

“Why does it matter if we aren’t Irish?”

“Because you all just want to be Irish on St Patrick’s day, and then it’s back to normal tomorrow!  It’s disrespectful.”

“Not really.  You should feel honored.  I don’t know any other country that has a day when the whole world wants to be them.  It’s a compliment.”

“Yeah!”  Someone else said.  “Ireland’s cool!”

“Here here!”

“Hoorah!”  The bar shouted.  Everyone at the bar started throwing their two cents in, and I could see we were getting through to the Leprechaun.  He was visibly softening.

“So will you have a pint of…” I looked at the cask.

“Jerry!” someone shouted.

“Will yeh have a pint of Jerry with us, and forget yer sorrows till the morrow?  Me lad?”

The leprechaun looked at each of us, scowling, until his eyes finally came to rest me.  And then he smiled.

“Yeh had me at jerry.”  He said with a wink.  To this day I’m not quite sure what he meant by that, but whatever, I was 7 beers deep and thinking wasn’t high on my list of priorities at the time.  We all cheered and the music started back up (whisky in the jar again ,I think).  The Leprechaun grabbed a pint of Jerry, and smashed it against mine.  My mug broke, and cut my hand quite badly, but it was St. Patrick’s Day, and a bloody and ruined hand was a small price to pay for getting to be Irish, even if it was just for a night.

*****

Author’s note: Thanks for reading.  Hope you liked it and I hope you have a great St. Patrick’s day, wherever you are.  I wanted to take time at the end of this post to thank Melissa K. Martin for giving me the “very inspiring blogger award”.  I’ll get around to doing the required things at some point, but it was a lovely gesture.  Happy St. Patrick’s day!

The Magic Hobo


Image

I was lying in Hyde Park at midnight on a Saturday, counting the stars.  I was the only person in the area, and I was shocked at the lack of stars.  It must be because I was in the middle of London, and the city lights blocked them out.  I missed the view from the beach back in Florida, a black sky painted with burning white spots over a dark blue sea.  I was shocked yet again when a noise like the snapping of a twig caught my attention, and a homeless person was standing directly in front of me.

He wore a long, brown overcoat, soiled and filthy.  Beneath that he wore an menagerie of clothing that he had crudely sewn into a massive parka of sorts.  A blue polo shirt made up part of a sleeve, three t-shirts and a tank top made up the front, and two sweater vests made up a sleeve on the other side.  Instead of pants he wore a bizarre  kilt made out of bed linens and towels, that reached down to his shabby leather boots, which seemed to be made from two boots each.  He wore a grubby, faded and torn top hat on his head.

He was seven feet if he was an inch, and he had an untamed mane of hair that I suppose constituted for a beard, that reached well down past his waist and covered the majority of his face, so that all you could really make out were two beady eyes and a large, round nose.  There were… things in his beard, that might have once been small animals or food, but that had now been subsumed into the ungainly collective of hair.  His stench was unbearable, like a trashcan full of feces and rotting squirrels.

He asked me if I would like to see a Magic Trick.

Now, when a homeless man looms over you, blocking the starlight in Hyde Park with his bulk, and asks you if you would like to see a Magic Trick, it’s most likely not the sort of trick you would wish to see, but rather something truly horrible and scarring, so I of course said no.

He showed me one anyway.

He clapped his hands together, his knit, fingerless gloves making a dry, dusty crack. He pulled his hands apart slightly, and a brilliant yellow light surrounded us.  He looked up at me and gave me a knowing smile, and it was the first time I was able to tell that he had a mouth.  His gold teeth glittered in the light like aztec gold.  He pulled his hands the rest of the way, and as he drew them apart, a rainbow formed in between them.  He swung his arms in a big arc, like he were throwing paint to the sky, and created a rainbow as big as his wingspan.  It shimmered in a fragile way that reminded me of an especially thin sculpture of blown glass.

I was awestruck.  I reached out to touch it, but with a wave of his hand the rainbow disappeared.  Sparkles and stardust rained down on my face, but disappeared like snow flakes on warm day upon contact with my body.  He bowed, and I applauded.  It took me a moment to realize that the applause seemed oddly stereo, and I looked around and discovered that a pair of rabbits were sitting on either side of me and applauding as well.  The hobo bowed again and held up his hands for silence.  We obeyed.

He asked if I’d like to see another.

I said sure.

He rubbed his hands together excitedly and then presented me his shirt cuffs.  He pulled back his sleeves to demonstrate that there was indeed nothing up them.  There wasn’t anything there, but the rabbits got up to inspect his sleeves more closely anyway.  They’re untrusting creatures.

He reached up into his sleeve and began to pull out many lightly colored squares of cloth, tied together in a long line.  He began to pace around us, laying down cloth in a large circle, one line adjacent to the next, so that each new rotation had a greater circumference than the last.  He must have pulled out a full mile of cloth, until the length finally ended with his undershirt and underwear, an almost obligatory occurrence for any “pulling cloth out of my sleeves trick”, and we were surrounded by a gigantic spiral of color, far more than any one man could fit up his sleeve, even a man of his great size.

He bowed again, and we applauded ecstatically.  The audience was now positively packed with creatures of the park: squirrels and rabbits, snakes and beetles, sparrows and pigeons.  Some of the wiser ones had brought snacks like peanuts and popcorn to munch on during the show.  They joked and laughed with one another, having a jolly time.  I eyed them enviously.

He asked us if we would like to see another Magic Trick.  We roared in approval, stood up and screamed in approval, beat our chests and slobbered for more.  He smiled widely.

The homeless man, who I was now beginning to think wasn’t your run of the mill hobo, raised his hand yet again for silence.  He stood there, with his head down, humming to himself, like in meditation, at first quietly, and then louder and louder, until he was positively shrieking.  His arms, which at first were held at the center of his chest in prayer, rose with his pitch, until his body was forming a cross.

It was then we noticed he was levitating 13 feet in the air.  The crowd was dumbstruck, silent.

And then we applauded.

We applauded like we had been struck blind at birth and this homeless conjuror had restored our sight.  We applauded like it was the end of the world, and it’s entire history was on stage, taking a bow.  We applauded like this, and only this, was the only thing ever worth applauding for.

I hollered for more.

He was suddenly on the ground.  There was no transition.  The sound of the applause had changed, too.  I looked around.  There was no one else there, no squirrels or rabbits, snakes or beetles, sparrows or pigeons.

Just him and me.

He stalked towards me, breathing heavily through his mouth.  He got very close, his face mere centimeters from mine. I could almost taste the rancid smell of old Sainsbury’s apple cider creeping out of his mouth.  He smiled, and I could see the sores on his gums, and the rot in his teeth that had once been gold.

He asked me if I would like to see the Last Trick, and he smiled like a crocodile.  I only wept and nodded.

He backed up a few feet and stood by himself for a moment.  He clapped his hands, one last time, and changed.

The change was instantaneous.  What was once a ratty old hobo was now a beautiful, young woman.  She wore bright neon spandex leggings, a zebra print, loose fitting shirt, and large hoop earrings.  She seemed to have been taken straight from the 1980’s.

She smiled sweetly, and kind of sadly, like she pitied me.

“At last.” She said.  Something was strange.  Despite sitting down, I was almost at eye level with her.  I shifted around, and my movement made a strange rustling sound.  A disturbing sound.  A sudden thought, a terrible thought, crept into my mind, and my face contorted with dread.  My heart beat harder and harder, faster and faster as I lifted my hands to my face, and saw the ratty, fingerless gloves.  I clapped them together and they made a dry, dusty sound.  I reached for the top of my head, and found a small, grubby top hat.  I felt my long scraggly beard, and the filth up my sleeves.

I was he.

“Quite a trick.” She said, adjusting her makeup as she looked into a mirror she was holding.  “I hoped you paid attention.  You really should have paid attention.”  She snapped the mirror shut and returned it to her purse.  “I would say I’m sorry, but he wasn’t.  He never is.”

And with that she walked out of my life, leaving me alone, at midnight in Hyde Park on a Saturday.  I wondered if it had to be Saturday at midnight for the trick to work, but I realized I had time to figure it out.  I had all the time in the world.  I fell back onto the grass and looked up at the sky.  My god, it was full, full of stars.

The Harvest Moon


It hangs, large and imposing, overseeing the crops and fields below.  In the distance, a demented cackle echoes across the twilight, flitting over the gently rolling hills on the wings of a raven.  See how it circles; upwards, ever upwards, and outwards, too, but never down.  Feel the chill tiptoe down your spine on toes of ice, subtly belying the pleasant atmospheric conditions and almost making you wonder if winter has come early.

It hasn’t.  It is autumn, my favorite time of year.  A time of candy and mysteries, preparations and celebrations, witches and family, pumpkins and poltergeists, and most of all, the bizarre juxtaposition of the harvest and the looming winter.  This is autumn, and the harvest moon looms, some would say wickedly, and yet others would say like a mother, over the pageant of the season.

And so we come full circle again to the demented cackle we had heard previously, and to the point of the story wherein we meet our protagonist, namely me.  I have always had a penchant for having bizarre things happen to me.  It’s a talent really, but not the sort you could use to impress your schoolmates in a talent show or something.  I can see it now…

“Behold!” I would say to the crowd, who would appear as amorphous blobs from my vantage point of the stage, “and tremble, as bizarre things happen to me”  The crowd would grow silent, and there we would wait as the excruciating minutes clawed by, until at last Dr. Amico, the assistant principle, would quietly shoo me offstage.

No, this talent can not be demonstrated with any sort of predictability, but anyone who has been around me for a long enough time understands the bizarre coincidences and terrifying persons that assail me weekly.

And so it seems less odd, even par for the course, that on that cool autumn evening I found myself in the clutches of three witches, as wicked as they were warty, and as stinky as they were ancient.  I was floating in a pot, if memory serves, over a small campfire that one of the witches, let’s call her Hild, was desperately trying to light.  Hild was a tall and slender creature with a hooked nose one could use to open beer bottles, or perhaps even un-cork wine.  The possibilities were endless.

“Poo and fiddlesticks!” she swore, wasting yet another match that had singed her fingers.  She dropped it to the forest floor.

“You might want to be careful with that.”  I said.  She stared at me quizzically, and I nodded my head toward the match that was smoldering contentedly on the forest floor.  “That’s how forest fires get started.”

“What do you care, human?”  She hissed back at me, spittle flying from her crooked teeth, “You’ll be cooked soon anyway.”

“Well,” I continued, repositioning myself so I could hang on the side of the pot.  It was a very big pot.  “I wouldn’t want your ladies’ evening to be ruined by an inattention to fire prevention”  I chuckled at my little rhyme, and then continued “furthermore, I would be out of the frying pan and into the fire,” I paused and thought for a moment, “…or out of the pot and into the forest fire, as it were.  I’ve always held that it would be better to be cooked alive than burned alive.  You ladies struck me as being excellent cooks, and I doubt you’ll let me burn during your meal preparation, so it would really be a shame if I was roasted by an uncaring forest fire, you see.”

The witch narrowed her eyes and stomped viciously on the match.  It was about that time, at least I think it was, when her sisters returned.  One of them, let’s call her Froggy, was a squat and rotund creature, with a palled yellow tone to her skin that appeared absolutely horrific in the moonlight.  She must have had a gastro intestinal issue of some sort, the poor dear, for she would sporadically emit tremendous burps, somewhat like a horrific bull frog’s croak, that would echoe across the grove where I was currently stewing.  It would set off all the other amphibians in the area, a chorus of grunts and croaks that would have been amusing if it wasn’t so damn loud.

The last witch, let’s call her Bella, was dubbed the “beautiful one” by her sisters, though in truth she would have been dubbed “the lest ugly one” by almost anyone else.  She was of average height, neither short nor tall, thin nor fat, and had the long, flowing silver hair of a Targaryen.  It was undoubtably her best feature, and she knew it, and kept her hair in a near immaculate condition.

Behind the two witches stalked their scarecrow,  a fearful construct of straw and wood, with a leering pumpkin head and burlap clothes.  A faint fire burned in it’s eyes, which, besides locomotion, was the only indication that it was alive.

I have to admit I was afraid of this golem, despite the fact that I am not a crow.  Perhaps it would be better suited if it were called a “scare-human,” or maybe even a “scare-everything.”  The creatures of the forest hated the thing, and would attack it on sight, more out of fear than anything else, so that it’s once picturesque pumpkin head was now peppered with the marks of a thousand tiny teeth.

It was hauling a bundle of kindling in it’s straw arms, which it set under my pot.

“Well, here you go, Hild”, spat Froggy, after emitting yet another belch.  Dear god she was foul.  “Some fresh kindling for ickle baby, since you can’t manage to light a simple camp fire.”

“She’s got a point Hild,” I chimed in, happily, “could we get a move on here?  This water’s really cold.  I’m afraid i might catch pneumonia, or maybe even SARS.  Hey…” I turned to Bella, “Do people even get SARS anymore?”  Bella looked at me confusedly, and then shrugged.  “Pfft, some witch you are.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”  Bella said, defensive.  The thrust an accusatory finger at me and stalked towards my pot.  “I’ll have you know, young man, that I have been witching since before you were born-”

“And yet you don’t even know if people get SARS anymore.  I thought witches knew all about that sort of thing.  All the good ones, at least.”  Bella’s mouth opened and closed, searching for something to say.  Froggy pushed in front of here and glared at me.

“Witches don’t know that sort of thing.  Doctors know about diseases.  Witches know about spells and magic and dancing naked in the moonlight.”  I raised an accusatory eyebrow and looked from the hideous Froggy to the marginally more attractive Bella to the Pelican like Hild.  The witches became incredibly uncomfortable.

“Well,” I stated haughtily, “I certainly hope we’ll be having none of that tonight”  The witches were dumbstruck, and took a moment to gain their composure.  Bella was the first to rally and gave me her best impression of a wicked smile.

“You probably wont be so loquacious when your boiling in the pot… to death!  Hild, light the fire!”  Hild cackled wickedly and lit another match and tossed it onto the kindling, which briefly hissed and smoked and then sputtered out.  I let go of the pot and began to float and spin in lazy circles.

“Why don’t you just light it with magic?” I asked.  The witches all shuffled their feet uncomfortably.  Bella coughed quietly into her hand.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”  I chided, rolling my eyes.  “You can’t do magic, can you?”

“Well, that’s why we’re cooking you!”

“We have to!”

“It’s a sacrifice to mother earth!”

“Then she will grant us powers and potent spells!”

“Puh-LEASE.”  I contemptuously said as I floated back over to the side of the pot.  “If I knew this was going to be so ‘amateur hour,’ I would have just stayed at home and cooked me myself”  The witches were flabbergasted.  The night was not going as they had originally planned

“Hey man.”  Hild finally said.  “Who do you think you are?  Talkin’ all this shit to us, acting so blasé.  What’s your deal?”

“This is nothing.”  I said, climbing out of the pot.  “Nothing.  One time, I had to fight the anthropomorphic personification of the GRE in a nightmare world.  I think I can manage a few tyro witches.”

“Hey… stop!”  Froggy weakly protested.

“Or what?  You’ll bore me to death?”  I mocked, putting on my shirt.  “I remember when there used to be proper witches.  Menacing witches.  Those were the days.  Now all we get are a bunch of try hards.”  I finished putting on my clothes and walked up to the witches, who were looking a little hurt.  “I think I’ll stick to wolfmen, or maybe vampires for the rest of fall.  Come back and kidnap me when you’ve had some experience…”  The witches stared at me as I walked away, silhouetted by the gigantic harvest moon.

“You can’t just go!” Bella pleaded.  “Our…um…oh!  Our scarecrow will stop you!”  I stopped and turned around to face them.

“There!  Much better!  But you should have said that earlier, when I was just getting out of the pot.  Better yet, you should have ordered him to guard me and make sure I didn’t escape.  Then you could have gone and had a secret meeting while I had the chance to try and convince to scarecrow to let me go, only to find out how truly lifeless and unfeeling it really is!”  The witches were amazed.  I continued.  “Then I would have truly been scared.  Plus, you could have used that time to go down to a store and buy a lighter or something.  That would have solved your fire problem.  With a little showmanship, you could have made me think that you were , oh I dunno, summoning the fire from the depths of hell or something, and I would have been really scared.  I would have never dreamed of getting out of the pot at that point.”

Hild and Bella were staring at me, mouths agape.  Froggy was hurridly taking notes.

“Okay,” Hild said slowly, “what about if we threw in an ol’ “and you better not leave… or we’ll curse you!” or something?”

“Yeah, that’d be a nice touch, but I only think it’d work after you demonstrated that you actually are able to curse people, or at least do magic, and only after your scarecrow had menaced me for a bit.  Then it’d be plausible to think that you could do curses, though you in fact can’t.  Any more questions?”  Froggy raised her hand.  “Yes… Froggy is it?”

“Yes Mr. Brock.  I was just wondering if maybe having some sort of props would help in the beginning.  You know, like a vat of boiling blood, or some candles and such.”

“I should say so!  But we can do better than that, can’t we?  Your goal is to engage the audience, and be really compelling villains.  Right now you’re just sort of one dimensional stock characters.  You know, “evil witches with scarecrow monster”.  We need to give you some depth.  Here’s an idea, what if one of you had a husband-”

“I do!” Bella excitedly interrupted.

“That’s great Bella, but please don’t interupt.  Let’s say Bella brought her husband along, and he sort of helps out around the place, as like a slave or something, but you demonstrate that Bella actually cares deeply for him.  This will give her character some depth, and possibly open a door for me, the protagonist, to maybe kidnap the husband and threaten to kill him or something unless you let me go.”

“Or you could try to convince him to help you!”  Hild added, “He’s a very nice man.”

“Yeah, that’s good, that’s good, but I’ve already asked the scarecrow to help me, haven’t I?  Hypothetically, I mean.  It would work really well if you all went away, and I had some alone time with…”

“Peter”

“Peter, yeah great, some alone time with Peter, and I was about to convince him, and then you guys came back, and saw what I was doing.  Hild, you could get really mad and be like “Damn it Bella I told you not to bring him along!” and then hit him or something.  Then Bella will be kind of upset at you, which is another weakness I can exploit.  You can then order the scarecrow to guard me and I can learn about it’s evilness!”

The witches applauded.  I took a small bow, with a flourish of my hand.

“So, do you wanna try it again from the top?”  Bella asked, like an excited 12 year old kid.  I glanced at my watch.  2 A.M.

“Sorry gals, but I gotta run.”  They were disappointed, but they had a look of awe on their faces that made me feel all warm inside, as if I had drunk a whole jug of hard cider.

“Who are you?”  They asked.

“Me?”  I said, dusting my fingers off on my shirt in what I thought was a very nonchalant manner.  “I’m just a film student.”

A faint breeze rustled the browning leaves of the trees as I made my exit.  It carried on it’s gusts hints of pumpkin spice, ciders and candy; an everlasting promise of what is to come.  Of what’s always to come with autumn.

As I walked down the hill, dry leaves crackling beneath my feet, I pulled my collar up tighter around my neck and smiled.  This is why I love autumn.  Its a time of magic and tradition, a time when the druids of old felt the spirit world connect with the material one, and when the wild hunt races madly through the woods.  It’s Halloween and thanksgiving, it’s horror films and sit com specials.  It’s football.  It’s a harvest moon, orange as a pumpkin, baffling and grand, hanging austerely over the spectacle of change; the pageant of the seasons.

A farewell to life -or- Why I can’t talk to you during film school


As far as suicide notes go, the experts would consider this a bad one.  Their main complaint would be that I am not planning on killing myself, which I have been told is a key factor in having a successful suicide note.  If one writes a suicide note and does not commit to killing oneself, then the “suicide note” merely becomes a “note,” and no one cares about “notes,” unless of course someone wrote the note to you.  If this is the case, then a state of puzzled bemusement is generally the emotional status quo.  “Dear me!” people normally begin with, “A note!  How lovely!  And yet it’s written on paper, with ink.  How peculiar!  A simple text message, or even an e-mail would have sufficed, I’m sure, but still, how very nice!”  They would then puzzle over the bizarre looping script the note had been written in, before shrugging and casually tossing the thing in the garbage or, if they are particularly environmentally conscious, the recycling bin. This is of course assuming the note had been written with pen and paper, rather than typed on a heartless computing machine and penned by an equally heartless printer.  If I were ever going to kill myself, I would most certainly write my suicide note with a pen on stationary paper.  It adds that personal touch to the taking of one’s own life that would sooth your loved ones as they tearfully stepped over your swollen corpse and picked up the letter, riddled as it was with spelling errors and horrible grammar.  Things like syntax are hard to keep up with without spell check.

“What’s that say?” Your dad would ask, squinting at a word.  He would then glance down at your body and shake his head. “Lazy kid never did figure out cursive!  Why the hell would we write his damn suicide note in cursive?”

“Robert, please!” You mother would chide, blotting a tear from her eye with your carefully crafted note that you worked so hard on, smearing some of the ink.  “He was trying to be creative!  He was always so creative.  At least he didn’t type it on a computer.  At least he cared.”

As the title states, this blog post is a farewell to life, and I suppose that in a sense it is a suicide note, albeit a temporary one.  My life, however, is not being taken or snuffed out, but rather carefully packaged and set upon a high shelf, where it will gather dust in the coming months until it becomes nothing more than another unpacked box from my move.  On the shelf it will remain until the end of my first semester at film school, when I move out of my dorm.  I’ll discover it once I have packed everything else up in my car, after I have said goodbye to my room mate and I’m doing a last inspection of the room, a last check for anything I’ve forgotten.  My eyes will stop at a small, coffee mug sized box, dusty and alone.

“What’s this?” I’ll ask, picking it up and turing it over in my hands.  It will tinkle slightly, like a wind chime in a light breeze, or maybe broken glass being swept up from a stained linoleum floor.  “Ah!” I’ll remember, setting it carefully down and cutting the box open with a knife, given to me by the man from Aurora, Alabama who had rescued me from a roadside disaster an eternity ago.  The lid swings open, and  a glow comes from inside.  I grab it, and press it gently to my chest, whereupon it permeates skin and diffuses throughout me.  At that moment my phone will buzz with a thousand texts and ring with a hundred phone calls.  There will be time to answer them when I get home, but as things will stand I’d still have 300 miles to go.

But that’s almost four months in the future, and so I sit here in the waning hours of a saturday morning writing my not so suicidey suicide note to let my friends and family know that I’ll be busy nearly all of autumn.  You shouldn’t take it personally, because it’s my fault, not yours.  I was the one that signed up for this intensive film program, and I’m the one giving them money that the bank was nice enough to give me. I sure hope they don’t want it back.

So if you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry.  I’m not dead, I’m just sitting up a shelf until winter, when I’ll be taken down, dusted off, and set loose once again, to wreak havoc on the world.

The one where camp ends


from https://i1.wp.com/www.murphsplace.com/gladiator/images/Police_Verso.jpg

“Do you think it’ll be normal this time?” Mac asked me.  I grunted and turned my gaze down the short hallway, upon the arena floor.  My eyes were momentarily blinded from overhead light’s sheen on the plastic floor below.

“Nope.” I growled, squinting.  I had forgotten my lucky running shorts.  Damn.  “Never normal.”  Mac only nodded and followed my gaze.

“You do realize I’m going to win, don’t you?” He asked.

“Maybe.”  I admitted.  “There’s been others that have said that, and looked what happened to them.”

“Dead?”

“No.  But they wish they were.”

“It’s true,” said Mac.  “If I was missin’ out on this chance to win $75, I’d fucking kill myself.”  He turned to the left and spat, and then continued staring.  We could hear a dull roar from the crowd, like the sounds of surf crashing on a beach, heard distantly through a window, or perhaps an open door.  It was intoxicating.

It was hard to believe that we had been through eight weeks of hell to get here.  Eight weeks of screaming children, insect bites, sun burns, nauseating adolescents and bizzare, sometimes idiotic challenges.  Eight weeks of forgotten lunches and visits to the nurse for scraped knees, or bruised arms, or more insubstantial injuries, whose only remedy was an ice pack and attention.  Eight weeks of bus rides.  Eight weeks of clubs.  Eight weeks of summer camp.

“You remember that one time when timmy beat everyone at gaga, like he was King Leonidas or something?”  I asked, a faint smile playing across my face.

“Yeah,” Mac chuckled, “You remember when my team beat your team at lacrosse-volley-basketball?”  My hands involuntarily tightened on the shafts of the two lacrosse sticks I was holding, whitening my knuckles as I frowned

“Yeah.”  I growled, “We better not play that stupid fucking game again, or I’m liable to spear Ray Jay with these lacrosse sticks.  Then I’ll just take the money.”

“Yeah, but you’ll be a wanted killer.”

“Not in Tijuana mate.  You know how many lacrosse sticks $75 can get you down there?”

“No.”

“A.  Fucking.  lot, mate.”  We stood in silence for a while, each thinking about the riches we would be able to afford with $75, especially in Tijuana.  I decided that if I did indeed lose, I probably wouldn’t spear Ray Jay with his own lacrosse sticks.  It would cause too much of a scene, though I’m sure it would help sate the beserker’s bloodlust that most of the campers have during these exhibitions.

“BLOOD!” Little Timmy the camper screamed, leaning over the railing, frothing at the mouth and dribbling pop tart crumbs across the gym floor.  His eyes flashed feral, like a wolf sensing its prey is near, and he beat his fist against his chest.  His cry riled up the campers behind him, who began to roar like little lions.  “BLOOD AND DEATH!” He roared, turning towards them slowly, arms upraised.  The crowd repeated his macabre cheer.  I remember them being disappointed that day.  There was no blood, only bitter defeat for my partner Amy and me.

This day was no different.  I could hear distant chants of “kill!”  and “maim!” coming from the second grade boy’s section of the lunch area.  I was becoming worried.  What if they didn’t see any blood?  It was the last day of counselor survivor, and the last day of camp to boot.  Would they riot, like angry, english soccer fans?  One would think the concept of 2nd grade boys rioting would be humorous, but I can tell you it is anything but.  They have incredibly bony knees and elbows, and teeth as sharp as knives.

“Where are the girls?” Mac asked, referring to Amy and Pristine.  I shrugged.

“They went into the gym locker to get something for the final challenge.” I muttered, wondering what in god’s name they could be getting.  The lacrosse sticks had not reassured me.

“Maybe we’re just playing lacrosse.”  Mac offered.  I shook my head.

“That’s normal.  Lacrosse is normal.  It’ll be something harder.  Something weird.”  We fell silent, and waited.  I amused myself by playing with the rubber tread that was peeling off the bottom of my ratty old sneakers, while Mac picked at the plastic trim on the wall.  Finally, I saw two figures approaching us through the glare.  I nudged Mac in the ribs, and we both stood up.

“Well,” he asked “what is it?”

“We don’t know.” Amy responded.  “He wouldn’t say, but he had us get two scooters and 6 volleyballs out of the supply closet.”

“Bloody hell,” I breathed, anxiously brushing back my hair, “what’s he up to now?”

Ray Jay suddenly appeared before us, materializing out of the glare like some sort of djinn.

“You ready?” He asked us, holding his hands on either side of him in a welcoming gesture.

“Yeah sure,” I growled, “But what are we doing?”

“Does it matter?”

I stood silent and thought for a long time.  The roar of the crowd washed over us, growing in volume and viciousness with every swelling cheer.  “No.”  I finally answered, hefting my lacrosse sticks on to my shoulders.  I glanced at Amy, who nodded slightly.  “Not one bit.”

“Good.”  Ray Jay said, clasping his hands together.  He moved to the side of the passage and bowed low.  “After you.”  I gave Mac a look, and he just nodded, and so the 5 us went, into the brilliant light of the arena floor.

100 Years of Solitude


The beginnings of Lego City are as mysterious as they are trivial, and as mythical as they are stupid.  I was there, at the beginning of things, and I am quite certain I shall be there at the end, quite certain indeed, but despite concentrating all of my mental faculties and straining them to the breaking point, I cannot recall it’s founder, nor even when it’s first brick was laid.

Some say the great builder Osferth the Selfish built the first structure, a low ceilinged bunker, resplendent in its multicolored bricks of glimmering plastic, and that it was he who first discovered the mysterious orbs that the settlers later used as a currency.  I tend to agree with this opinion.  Osferth’s mother works as a secretary at the school where we have camp, and he was always in the room early.  He would have had ample opportunity to begin the initial construction, an the drive and willpower to do it.

Others say that Martin the cruel, upon discovering the mysterious orbs, was the creator, and that he used a vast slave army to build the metropolis that he later ruled with an iron first.  It is true, I admit, that Martin was and is Lego City’s chief supporter, and that he was among its first citizens, but Martin lacks the creativity and intelligence to begin such a great project, though he does posses the tyrannical disposition to see it through to the bitter end, regardless of the cost.  It is therefore unlikely that he started lego city, but he did end up ruling it as Lego Cities Dictator and Grand Generalissimo.

Pictured: Martin in the future

Perhaps it was his south American heritage that gave him the propensity toward totalitarian rule,or perhaps he was simply dropped as a baby. Perhaps he regretted his decisions when the bombs began to fall, and the once gleaming towers of the business district were reduced to so many brightly colored bricks, and his empire crumbled around him, but I doubt it.  Repentance is a mysterious, unknown concept to Martin, one which he treats with a sort of bemused curiosity, like one would a dancing squirrel.

Still others believe that the city was constructed by the old ones, in the ancient times before camp had begun, and that all of the lego leaders of the modern era “were merely pretenders, desperately clinging to the past and monolithic structures they could not understand.  I do not give much credit to this theory, either.  I was there at the beginning of camp.  It was Schultz and I who cleaned the room, and put up the decorations, and I do not remember anything being on the fabled Lego table, other than barely perceptible memories of Lego Cities past, like faded ruts in an old dirt rode.

lego futurama

I’m so happy Futurama is back on TV.

Regardless of its creator, Lego City quickly took the group of second grade boys into it’s room temperature, polymer embrace.  Houses, offices and stores began popping up at an alarming rate, like weeds in a neglected garden, or perhaps like overused memes on Facebook.

http://twistedsifter.com/2012/02/top-10-what-my-friends-think-i-do-vs-what-i-actually-do-posters/

CURSE YOU ZUCKERBERG! AND 9GAG, TOO!

But things were growing too quickly.  Far too quickly.  Being second graders, the boys had no concept of economics or conservation, and were unaware that the capitalist society they were nourishing into adulthood required a constant influx of new materials to survive.  Growth, it is said, was it’s beating heart, and growth, it is said, would be its doom, but for now, the boys merely built, blissfully unaware of the deadly quagmire into which they walked.

“This will last forever!” Martin cheerfully told Timmy as he added yet another brick to his mansion.

“Yeah!” Timmy slobbered, “We’ll never stop!”

Interestingly, the economy and culture of lego city evolved at an accelerated rate than regular societies.  In the early days, Lego city was a lawless frontier, where a ship got you a job, and a gun helped you keep it.

Ahem…

Bank robbing was the citizens main source of income, but there was a sharp falloff in profit when everyone realized that A: Banks weren’t a safe place to keep their mystical orb money anymore and B: they were doing nothing but stealing their own money.  Everyone began to build lego safe rooms in their lego houses that had lego drawers that were perfect for holding their lego money.  The lego economy then evolved to simply hoarding as much money as possible and not letting anyone else take it.

Things were coming to a head, and it was around this time that the first lego governments began to form.  Martin was unanimously elected by himself to be lego president and mayor of Lego City, due to his being the only surviving “founder” of lego city since Osferth left camp for a family vacation, and his constant and unstoppable bullying.

With Martin’s ascendancy to the presidency of Lego City, things took a turn for the worst.  His first act was to take most of everyone’s money, which angered all of the other campers.  I never found out what his reasons for stealing the orbs were, but I can only assume it went to feed a bloated lego military budget and lego social programs, which he plundered at whim.  This happened during the second week of camp, and schultz and I had noticed a subtle shift in the group dynamics.   Kids seemed angrier than normal, as if some unseen force was slowly draining all their happiness.  By the end of the week, kids were fighting all of the time, arguing with one another and even punching and kicking occasionally.

“Charles!”  Timmy complained, running up to me and tugging on my athletic shorts, nearly pulling them off.  “Martin’s stealing all of our money!”

“It’s not money!  And Stop pulling!” I growled, slapping his hand away.  “It’s just little plastic orbs.  They aren’t worth anything.”

“They are too!”

“How?”

“Because we said they are!”

“Do you even buy anything with them?”

“Um… no?”

“So why does it matter?”  Timmy paused, staring up into the ceiling, lost in thought.  I can only assume that he was formulating various arguments.  He finally decided, after around 4 minutes, in which I just stood there, glaring at him, to go with

“But Martin stole my…”

“It’s not real!  None of it is!  These orbs are worthless!  You here me?  They have no intrinsic value!  Your getting upset over nothing!”  Timmy stared at me again, slowly cocking his head to the right, looking at me as if I were some sort of madman.  He took a few hesitant steps backwards, not looking away, and then ran back to the group.  I’m not sure if anything was ever reconciled with Martin,  but I had a good shout at Martin to share and be nice, and the mere illusion of punishment might have been enough to calm the kids down.

It was at the beginning of week three that the true disaster struck.  The Lego mine beneath the table ran dry, and the growth came to a screeching halt.  Their lego economy had been built assuming that there would always be an unending stream of legos, and worse still, that they would never have to recycle any from the already built buildings, despite the fact that many of them were not being used.  The citizens turned to Martin to lead them through this crisis, and he initially sought help from a higher power, me.

“Um, Charles,” he said in his latin accent, “we’re out of legos.”

“Too bad.” I said.  Legos were none of my concern.  Trust me, I checked my contract.

Martin then decided to try and redistribute the legos, but it was too late.  The other citizens had been displeased with him since his ascendency, and that displeasure turned to dislike when he stole from them, and that dislike turned to outright hatred when he failed to solve the lego crisis and tried to steal even more of their legos.  Things were looking very bleak for Martin, very bleak indeed, and so he did what all desperate leaders do when there is no clear solution.  He declared war.  On Lego China.

It probably looks something like this

Now, let me make it clear that there is no Lego China.  Well, at least not in our club house.  I assume that Lego has a Chinese branch, and I’m sure there is a Chinese themed set of legos, but as far as Lego City was concerned, they were at war with, well, nothing.

I’m not sure what Martin hoped to accomplish.  I suppose he was hoping that he could distract the other campers from the present economic crisis by giving them a “real” enemy to fight.  He immediately set in motion a draft of all of the legos campers had at home, in order to build warships, x-wings and light sabers, the staple of any modern army.  Supplies, however, were few and far between, thanks largely to the campers’ parents’ blockade of all lego goods leaving their houses.  Tempers began to rise, and Martin was once again in need of some outside help.  Fortunately for him, Schultz, my co-counselor, had a hatred for Lego City as irrational as it was voluminous.

He had been secretly stealing legos from the campers for days, and had thrown his lot in with the fictitious Lego Chinese and constructed a gargantuan nuclear lego bomb.  Schultz warned the campers that the Lego Chinese were none to pleased that the citizens of Lego City had declared war on them, and had prepared a preemptive and unstoppable nuclear attack.  He warned that they had one day to evacuate Lego City, before it was burned to the ground.

The reactions were mixed.  Some prudent campers, like Chris, Martins cousin and second in command, built lego caravans to carry their vast lego goods out of town.  Others were more doubtful that any attack would be forthcoming.

Flee! Flee!

“He can’t blow up our city.”  Timmy slurred to Roger, another evacuating camper.  “He just can’t!  Counselors can’t drop nuclear bombs, right?”  Roger shrugged, and strapped another lego bundle to the roof of his lego car.

“Of course not!” Said Martin, standing tall in front of their magnificent city.  “I urge all of my Lego Brothers to stay.  We are a safe, thriving community!  The idea that some “lego Chinese lego nuclear lego bomb” can destroy our mighty lego city is simply preposterous.”

Only about a quarter of the campers evacuated that day.  They were they lucky ones.  Around 9:07 A.M the following morning, an unusual object was reported to be flying at an alarming rate towards Lego City.  The authorities attempted to explain it away by claiming it was nothing but a rogue lego weather balloon, but as the object grew neared, it became clear to all watching that it was not balloon shaped at all but was, in fact, a gigantic cube.

Ahem…

The cube came into a holding pattern over lego city at 9:08.  Martin assured everyone that it was nothing to be afraid of, but then the bay doors opened, and Schultz’s cube began to rain unholy lego nuclear fire down upon the decrepit Lego City.

It was a massacre.  The populous had been taken completely unaware, and were therefore unable to defend themselves from the lego onslaught.  Whole skyscrapers were smashed to their foundations with but one mighty swoop of Schultz’s right hand, while the left smashed houses to bits in seconds.  A mere minute later, Lego city was completely gone, wiped off the face of the lego table, and all the blocks had been relocated to the cavernous drawer beneath.

The first democratic and fair lego elections were held soon thereafter, and George, the nicest and most level headed of all the campers, was elected to be the new president.  The office of mayor was done away with, and George’s first act in office was try Martin for treason and criminal negligence.  He lost, and it was decided that he should face the wrath of the lego firing squad.  Martin protested, of course he did, but his pleas were silenced by the the supreme court judge, Schultz.

A short time later, as he faced the lego firing squad of his former friends and subjects, generalissimo Martin was to remember that distant afternoon when he and his friends at camp built a city out of nothing but legos.

Dr. Who? Faustus, I think.


“I’m terribly sorry sir, but I can’t help you.”  The overweight Barista told me from behind the safety of her nigh impenetrable counter.  She probably wouldn’t be so impertinent outside of her fortress, down here with the rest of us.

“Yes, but I asked for a cappuccino, and you gave me a latte.”

“I thought I was doing you a favor!”  She said indignantly.  “The latte has more drink in it.  They’re pretty much the same thing, anyway.”   I took a step back in shock, looking both disgusted and horrified at the same time.  Such blasphemy couldn’t be tolerated.

“And you call yourself a barista?” I queried accusingly.  “The same thing?   I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”

“Sir, if you could please go enjoy your beverage somewhere else…”

“I shall do nothing of the sort until I have received a full refund.  I remember a time, maybe 8 years ago when you “baristas” would give a customer a free drink for nearly any mistake.  You’d even do it if you didn’t write their name on the cup…”

“Well, times have changed, old-timer,” she spat, “The economy’s in the shitter, and I’ve got $40,000 in student loans to repay, so if you wouldn’t mind, could you just fuck off?

I was aghast, shocked into utter silence.  Not only had this… this teenagee used colorful language, but she had called me an old timer.  I’m only 23, though my stupendous beard might confuse and/or bewilder the weak of mind into thinking I was far older.  I sputtered in rage for a moment, and then picked up my drink and stormed outside, being none to gentle on the door, let me tell you.

“The Nerve!  The Gaul!  The…” I paused, looking for a word that was fleeting away from me like a golden ticket from the hand of a pudgy and especially clumsy child during a stiff wind.  The child fumbles madly with the ticket, but the golden paper continues to slip through his grasp, despite the disgusting stickiness of his fingers, until it is clear even to him that he will never see it again. We sigh, the child and I, as we slowly realize that we would never get to tour the damn factory.

Impishness?” asked a peculiarly high pitched and impish voice.  I spun around and saw Hillary Clinton, much to my surprise.  Something was wrong, however, and it took me a moment to realize that she had remained completely motionless for the short time I had been staring at her.  And she was in Black and White.  And that I was staring at a newspaper that was completely obscuring someone, presumably the person who had provided me with my word.

“Why yes, that was just the word!  Thank you!  May I join you, good sir?”

“But of course!  And you are?”

“William, and you?”  I politely asked.  He laughed a maniacal, high pitched laughter, and then lowered the newspaper in a dramatic blur,  The first thing I noticed was that he had red skin.  The second thing I noticed was the horns and fangs.  The last thing was the tail.

“The Devil!”  He responded coyly, smirking.  “But my friends call me Mephisto?”

“Why?”

“Oh, they think it has a certain sort of Gothic chic to it…”

“No, I mean why are you hear?”

“To help you, William.  Why else?”

Please imagine the devil talking with the voice of the robot devil.

“Help me?” I asked, confused.  The devil was the first celebrity I had ever met, and I was somewhat uncertain as to what was going on.

“I couldn’t help but overhear you and the rotund barista arguing, and I was appalled by both her rudeness and poor customer service.”

“OK.  So what?”

“So this!  I could help you exact your revenge upon the pudgy brewer.”

“Really?

“Oh yes.  Revenge is one of my specialties!”

“That sounds great!  I can’t wait to… wait… this isn’t going to be on of those “deal with the devil” deals is it?”  I asked suspiciously.  Satan laughed.

“Of course not!”

“So you’re not going to try and steal my soul or something, right?”

“Definitely not.”  He purred as he pulled out parchment and a pen from… somewhere.  “Now, if you just sign  here, our deal will be struck.

“Fantastic!” I exclaimed, grabbing the pen and leaning over to sign.  The devil began a deep chuckle as I leaned forwards.  “I can’t wait to see the look on her face when… wait a second, how do I know you are the actual devil, and not just some alien or ghost or something?”

“Could an alien do…this?”  He pointed his finger at a car, which exploded in a ball of hellfire.  No one around seemed to pay any attention to the inferno raging in the parking lot, which was curious, but I decided it must have just been another facet of his amazing powers.

“I don’t know.  Probably.”  I answered.  The devil scowled at me, somewhat annoyed.

“What about this?”  He waved his hands at a pedestrian across the street from us.  Nothing happened at first, but then the concrete beneath him began to crack and smoke.  A flaming hole appeared, through which a demonic red light and some skeletal demon hands emerged, accompanied with the howling screams of the damned.  The pedestrian, who had been enjoying what appearing to be some sort of sub, noticed far too late that something was amiss, and was pulled underground, kicking and screaming as the hole closed.  Nothing was left but some scratch marks and a slightly burning shoe.

“Neat!  If that doesn’t prove it, I don’t know what does!”  I declared, grabbing the parchment and signing it.  “So, what next?”

“Simple.” The devil said, rolling up the parchment and secreting it… somewhere on his person.  He pulled out a small date book and began flipping through the pages.

“Whats that?” I asked.

“Oh this?  It’s just a little thing in which I keep all the hopes and desires of mankind.”

“And you keep it in a book?  What is this, 1831?”

“Very funny,” he said dryly.  ” So I suppose you have some sort of device that holds all of the hopes and desires of mankind, hmm?”

“Yeah, It’s called an iPhone 4 and the internet.”  The devil looked up from his reading and glared at me.  The ground began to shake and a small hole appeared under my chair.  A demonic arm snaked out of the hole and snatched my phone away, and then disappeared into the ground with a slight hiss.

“Hey!  That was expensive!”

The devil ignored me and continued flipping through his book.  It seemed rather small to hold all of the hopes and desires of mankind, but I suppose that the Prince of Darkness knows what he’s doing.

“Here it is!  Lauren Wicker, 18, Barista.  Let’s see… small dog, lives with her parents, just graduated highschool, excessively poor marks.  No, none of this will do.  Maybe… aha!  Says here that she is in love with Robbert Pattinson and Justin Bieber, and hopes that they will one day fight to the death over her.”

“Really?” I asked, leaning forward and trying to catch a glimpse at the page.

“Stop that!” Satan scolded, pulling the book away.  “That’s private!  And yes it does say that.  Now, William, watch.”  Satan gestured towards the inside of the Starbucks, and I watched through one of the giant glass windows that covered the half of the store and masqueraded as walls.

Lauren was reading a newspaper behind her counter, when she heard a bell ring.  she looked up to see none other than Robert Pattinson, Justin Biebeer, and the entire band One Direction standing in front of her, arms crossed and scowling.  Laurens scream lasted for a good 10 minutes, and managed to clear the Starbucks of the remainder of its patrons.  The celebrities waited, patient but annoyed, until the shrieks at last ended.

“We hate you, Lauren,” Robert hissed, uncovering his ears, “and we never want to see you again.”

“What?  Why?” Lauren rasped, putting a hand to her chest.

“Because you’re stupid.”  Justin answered coldly.  He glanced around and then knocked over the rack of CD’s in front of the cash register.  “What are you gonna do about it, four eyes?”

“But I don’t wear glasses!”

“Shut up.”

“Why is this happening?”  Lauren screamed, falling to her knees and beating her shoulders and chest as if she were in a Greek tragedy of old.

“Because you’re rude to your customers, Lauren.  Especially that guy.” Robert chided, pointing at me.  I waved back.

“I’ll never do it again!  I promise!  Please, no!” Lauren pleaded, but it was too late.

“It’s too late, Lauren.”  Said one of the guys from One Direction.  “In fact, you’ve so turned us all off of women that we think we’re gonna be gay for a while.  Come on guys, let’s get outta here!”  Justin made a threatening gesture as the rest of the crew left, and then he too went, but only after stealing a cake pop.

“Wow!  That was Stupendous!” I shouted over the sound of Lauren bawling.  “Thanks, Lucifer!”

“No problem, William.  Now, if I could just have your soul…”

“Hey!  You said this wouldn’t be a deal with the devil.”

“Yeah.  And then you went ahead and made a deal.  With the devil.”

“Oh.”

Yes.”

“But I don’t think it’s my soul you’ll be wanting.”

“Why not?”  The devil asked slyly.

“Check the signature, my friend.”  The devil eyed me suspiciously and then snapped his fingers.  The parchment appeared floating in the air, and he grabbed it and unrolled it, never once taking his eyes off of me.  After quite some time he finally looked down.

“BARACK OBAMA?” He screamed, glaring at the paper, which began to singe along the edges.

“Yup.”

“But that’s… that’s just dastardly!”

“Yup.”  The devil glared at the parchment a few seconds longer, and then crumpled it up and threw it away.

“Well fine, I guess I’ll take him.  Somebodies got to burn, after all.”

“It’s ok.  We don’t want him anymore.  You can have the economy too.”

“Ha!” The devil said as he opened up a hole.  “I got that years ago!  Till we meet again!  Muwahahaha!”

“Ok, see you later Satan!” I called after him as he leapt into the hole and it closed up after him.  The rest of my day was pretty good, too.  I went back into Starbucks, made myself a coffee, cleaned out all of the pastries (Lauren was too preoccupied weeping to care), and then went home and watched Stargate SG-1 until i fell asleep.

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