Friday, September 9, 2022

A Bold Claim

Art c/o Jenn

"It was a beautiful Tuesday with friendly clouds in a bright blue sky smiling down upon the world right up until an unfriendly fireball frowned upon my house. By 'frowned upon' I mean demolished. It made the day substantially less beautiful for me.

"So a fireball came out of nowhere and destroyed the house?"

"Yes, more or less. I'm sure the fireball originated somewhere, but I can't tell you where, exactly, it came from."

"Right. Fireball out of nowhere. Not lightning, not a plane, but a fireball."

"I can write down whatever you'd like."

"No, it's fine, we just don't get many fireball related claims."

"I'm not surprised! One doesn't often encounter fireballs outside a rousing game of Dungeons and Dragons."

"Exactly. So. Were you in the domicile at the time of the incident?"

"Do I look flattened or burnt to you, sir? No, I was not in the house to my good fortune. I was near enough to see it happen, but far enough as to escape injury. Well, escape physical injury - my finances are another matter."

"Yes, I was just getting to that. It seems the house, being on the historic register, cost you a pretty penny."

"It did indeed - and the insurance was nothing to sneeze at."

"We set our policies based on replacement value, you know that. Speaking of which, I'm sorry to hear about your collection of heirloom jewelry."

"Ah, a great loss indeed. Handed down for generations. I thought they would fit in well with the paintings as I turned the house into a little tourist attraction. Alas, all lost - along with any future profits."

"Devastating, certainly. It would have been a nice addition to the town."

"My greatest regret is my children will never get to see any of it."

"Well, Mr. Business Cat, I don't have any other questions for you. Your claim is approved. Do you have any questions for me?"

"Do you tarry in the world of taxation?"

"A bit, why?"

"Is there any way to claim a trebuchet as a business expense?"

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Corn Hole and Joey Joe Jr Shabadoo (Guest Author)

 As mentioned in the title, this is a guest post. Credit to Glynnis.

---

The stale heavy air rises curiously from the street vents. A deep sigh, and from the shadows a man thoughtfully strokes his wrinkled chin. "This city ain't what she used to be, my friend. Ain't what she was."

A second figure, bulky and imposing, adjusted his posture to slide against the cement pole. He was scratching his back. Grunting, seemingly in a disengaged sense of agreement, he lit a cigarette silently.

"This shit's been right fucked for a while- since the steel mills left, I reckon. Then the good houses crumbled, and in came the McDonald's," said the second figure. He took several more long drags on his stale cigarette, the old tobacco crackling and sizzling like a pair of Chili's sizzlin' Baby Back Ribs.

"Corn Pop, you know, my Pappy was a steel mill man, my momma was one of them wanderin' women who got pregnant and left my Pappy with the bill. Loose morals, sure, but I can't deny that her wild spirit runs in these veins. See?" He showed Corn Pop his ropey veins that stood in sharp relief to his liver-spotted but tough arms. Tough like a cut of old beef from a sun-baked steer left to scavenge in drought-stricken fields. 

He hoisted himself onto his grimy old Schwinn bicycle, and promptly toppled over, cursing in pain.

Corn Pop laughed slowly as he reached down to help up the old man. "Joe, you stupid son of a bitch. Did you forget to take your Centrum Silver again?" Joe stumbled upwards, briefly into the strong arms of Corn Pop.

"Fuck you, Corn Dog. I'm just thinking of ways to help. We gotta clean up this shit in Washington. Scranton fell, and Wilmington- as you can clearly see- is next. Kinda like them, uh, Sanctum Santorum in those Doctor Strange pictures."

They walked along Baltimore Pike for several minutes in silence, cars speeding past the pair trying to find footing on the ridge of crude drainage ditches. A Civic strolled by, sending a fine mist of oily water skyward. The pair turned into a parking lot as the sky lost its last traces of twilight.

The cold blast of air from the Trader Joe's quickly pushed past the humidity as Joe and Corn Pop stepped across the threshold. Suddenly, Joe stopped, and tapped Corn Pop on the shoulder. "That bastard. I can't believe he- he's here," growled Joe. "In MY fucking turf."

"Who," said Corn Pop, rummaging through the cheese selection carefully. He was reading the label on a wedge of gruyere. 

"Mitch. Mitch the BITCH," Joe spit. Corn Pop's eyes came alive. He reached for his night stick- collapsible, of course. Joe fingered the heavy steel chain draped around his waist, caressing the links between his arthritic fingers.

Mitch McConnell, seizing a head of Boston Bibb lettuce turned his eyes upward. He caught the glare of the two men, and his sagging mouth formed the words "Oh, fuck."

Wilting bunches of flowers, lavender plants, a bag of amaryllis bulbs, and tiny cacti of all sizes erupted in the sudden air like botanical confetti. Joe leapt over the evicted pile of navel oranges and grasped Mitch's collar while Corn Pop ambled to the exit.

Mitch was old as fuck. But the man moved like a turtle on high quality biker crank, and managed to shimmy out the door, just barely evading Joe's frantic grasps. Mitch's collar was finally brought back through the doorway of the Trader Joe's, while shopper quickly cleared the area. Joe held onto the whisps of hair barely attached to Mitch's scalp with one hand as collateral, his other hand around Mitch's shoulder, and Corn Pop accompanied them as they marched out into the humidity of the parking lot.

The group walked out to the last light pole; Joe turned Mitch around, and spit in his face. 

"You piece of shit, Mitch. You fucking cocksucker. WHAT did I tell ya? Huh?"

"I-I-I was just g-getting wine!" Mitch stuttered. "They have Three Dollar Chuck here!"

"It's TWO BUCK CHUCK, you chucklefuck! And you know they don't sell that shit here. Total Wine." Corn Pop laughed, shaking his head. "Go on Joe, he knows the price he's gonna pay."

Joe glanced back at Mitch's face, contorted in terror. The collagen had long drained from Mitch's skin, his oily neck skin dripping into his heavily starched collar. Slowly, Joe smiled a toothy grin, while Mitch's frail skeleton-like exoskeleton quivered in paroxysms.

"Whaddya say, Corn Cob? Should we re-introduce this turtle fuck back into the Delaware? Release this motherfucker into his natural environment? The Sierra Club would be all over this."

"Maybe a Duck Boat ride," mused Corn Pop. A dark circle started to grow in the crotch seam of Mitch's cheap Brook Brother's suit- off the racks, of course, with heavily crumpled shoulders resigning on his angular frame. He was hyperventilating unevenly, with damp grey cataracted eyes fixed on Joe's face. Lit by the harsh halogen parking lot lights, he waited.

Joe was staggering around, ranting, his ghoulish face contorted, and his lips hurled a heavy dollop of froth on Mitch's unblinking face. Suddenly, a Nissan Ultima with temporary tags screeched up next to the group in the now empty parking lot. 

A deep voice shouted from the driver's window: "Everyone inside! Joe, cut that shit out, throw him in the back." Joe scrambled into the front seat, brushing a pack of Parliaments onto the floor. Corn Pop and Mitch crammed into the back, and before the doors shut, the car was careening to the exit.

Joe held up the packet of cigarettes, and turned to the driver. "I thought you said you quit?" The driver laughed. "That's what I told Michelle. Thanks for taking away my menthols, by the way." Joe laughed tiredly, and turned to face Mitch.

"Thanks, Obama," sneered Joe in a sing song voice. Mitch was unable to reply, under threat of pain from Corn Pop's hand clamped around his thigh.

The Ultima ran through strings of red lights, launching over railroad tracks, and came to a skidding rest by the water's edge. An abandoned gravel lot with heat lightning silently watching from miles away reflected on the surface of the black river. 

"Mitch, my friend, ya really gotta get out," said Obama from the driver's seat. He was passively scrolling through Snapchat. Mitch, still unable to move, looked lightheaded and filled with barely contained vomit.

"Allow me, Mr. President," quipped Joe, swung his chain, and splintered Mitch's kneecaps. A scream of pain followed, as Corn Pop extracted Mitch from his seat, and threw the skeleton man into the gravel.

"I....wh-....what the hell did I...Oh, GOD!" sobbed Mitch. Blood added to the urine-soaked palette of his trousers, and spilled onto the macadam which cradled his face.

"Merrick. Garland," Joe sharply enunciated. "You know, Reagan was close to receiving the same fate that awaits you- tearing Jimmy's solar panels off the White House roof? Come on, man!" Joe through his arms up in exasperation. "This is OUR nuclear option."

"You can't...y-...FUCK you!" Mitch hissed. "Elaine is gonna hear about this. Don't you know who I'm married to?"

"I'm married to the AMERICAN PEOPLE, Jack! And you were, too! Then you bent overbeautiful Lady Liberty, railed her in the asshole and gave her the Clap. That was YOU!" screamed Joe. 

Mitch fell silent, defeated. "Hey man, it's time," Corn Pop said, as he gestured to the river. Joe sighed, suddenly sounding twenty years older. His expression hidden, as he looked towards the ground and shook his head slowly, then exchanged glances with Obama. 

"Ready?" Both men nodded, as Joe turned to Mitch. "No. More. Malarkey."


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Gen's Cell

 The torchlight was blinding. Gen sneezed a few times as his eyes adjusted to the light. It was the brightest thing he'd seen in weeks.

"Get up," a voice behind the light barked. He obeyed. Freedom, death, or torture awaited, but anything was better than the darkness. He was beyond hoping for anything beyond an end to the darkness.

Gen didn't so much 'get up' as creakily unfurl and lift himself upright. It was a challenge - the beatings, malnutrition, and general neglect had done a number on his physical well-being. The man holding the torch rattled the bars and insisted he move faster, but Gen was beyond this base motivation.

He made his way to the bars and was yanked beyond them. He was pushed and pulled and prodded up the dungeon's steps, not keeping the pace his captors demanded. Another person's mind would have wandered. Another person's mind would have questioned why and where and all the normal things. He focused on each stone on each step. He focused on getting his fingers into cracks in the wall so he could pull himself forward. He focused on his burning leg muscles - once able to propel him across battlefields an up siege ladders.

Eventually, a million years later, Gen arrived at a door he'd been through only once before. A guard asked if he was ready, and before he could process the question, the guard opened the door and another shoved him out into a courtyard.

The sunlight was blinding. After the shove Gen could only see his hands on the dirty path in front of him. The door slammed shut, but he didn't take much notice as he grappled with the assault of sensations. He struggled to catch his breath. He struggled to focus his eyesight - his sun-sneezes hadn't come yet. Noise and smalls and small sprigs of grass were all there, but they didn't penetrate into his world just yet.

After a beat, and certainly unready, Gen made a decision: he stood up. Hands and knees and exhalations were the workhorses of the effort, but he made it. A wobbly start, but he was a biped once more. Now to become human.

He surveyed his surroundings: behind him a small keep, around him walls and a few structures, in front (or near enough) a gatehouse. No people. No animals. Only one opening - out.

Gen made an uneven walk toward and through the gates, only to confront more abandoned structures. Black fabric and quick swipes of black paint were the decoration of the day. Remembering he should eat, he looked in a few shops. There was nothing.

What new torture was this?

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Just Fuckin' Weird


"Hey there... sexy."

Cargo shorts, anime tee, and a patchy enough beard to complete the look, the man standing at the desk breathed a little louder than necessary as he waited for the cashier's attention. She sighed.

"What can I do for you sir?"

"More like what I can do for you... later," the man said, contorting his face into the approximation of a wolfish grin. "If you know what I mean."

"Sir, this is a bakery," the cashier stated. The man paused.

"I'd... like to feel your buns?"

"Sir."

"Sorry."

"I can call my manager over."

"Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. Just don't be a creep. What do you want?"

"What do you want tonight?"

"Sir."

"What? That one was honest?"

"Sir, I'm a simple cashier at a bakery."

"But I'm- but you're-" the man paused.

"Ask me for some bread or pastries. Then pay and go."

"I'd like some bread?"

"Sure. White, wheat, whole grain, rye, pumpernickel-"

"Whole wheat please."

"Would you like me to slice that?"

"Y-yes?"

"Okay," the cashier said and grabbed a loaf of whole wheat. She ran the slicer, pointedly ignoring the man at the counter. Only after she'd bagged it and stapled the bag shut did she speak again.

"This is the part where you pay and leave."

"Okay," the man said, defeated. A moment later and he was out the door.

The cashier's manager made her way to the counter and looked the cashier right in the eyes.

"You and your husband are fucking weird."

Saturday, August 13, 2022

One Cheeseburger and a Shake


 "Chzburgr-shek" the cheeseburger bot announced to the room.

"Here!" I cried out. The bot weaved its way through the crowd toward me.

"No, here!" Another patron called to the bot. It stopped.

"Chzburgr-shek," the bot announced again.

"I think it has mine," I said, directing the statement toward the other patron.

"Here!" she said to the bot, ignoring me.

"No, here!" I said. Something about how this person was acting was getting under my skin. Even if it were her meal, the polite move would be to acknowledge the other person (me!) and sort things out. I would have sworn I'd ordered before her, but online orders exist - or maybe she had a special request.  In any case, the combative stance was unnecessary and actively slowing down the delivery of one of our meals.

"Chzburgr-shek," the bot called out again. I read confusion in its monotone voice.

"Here!" the woman demanded.

"Ma'am, I don't mean to fight with you on this, but I think that might be mine."

"It's mine and I know it," she spat at me - an acknowledgement of my existence, I suppose. "Here!"

"We could compare order times or look at the receipt if you want, but I think that's my order. Here!"

The bot wheeled toward one of us, then the other, then back again. The woman didn't even look at me - her eyes were fixed on the bot.

"Chzburgr-shek"

"Here!"

"Here!"

I was beyond reasoning and wanted to win. The fight continued for a few more rounds before a neighboring table intervened - they made the sensible point that letting the woman win would get a second order out quicker. I relented and let the bot deliver the food to the woman.

"This isn't what I ordered!" she screamed, throwing the burger at the wall. As ketchup dripped down the wall, the salad bot came out of the kitchen.

"Sal'd" it announced. The woman glared at it. I glared at the woman.

"Finally!" she said theatrically. "Here!"

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Catching Fire


"So, would you say you have a burning passion for it?" the older man in the white suit asked, his face frozen in the most self-satisfied half open grin ever plastered upon a person. He inched a pointed finger toward me.

"An undying fire," I replied in the best Alan Rickman-as-Snape I could muster.

"That's the spirit!" my prospective employer ejaculated, punching me lightly in the shoulder as punctuation. "When can you start?"

"Whenever, I suppose," I said. "Things have been pretty dead at the office."

"Great! How about now? Things are pretty dead around here too!" More grinning ensued.

Sure, I guess - what's first?"

"Well, let's get a few forms filled out first," the man in white said, dropping his playful demeanor as he pulled out a few pieces of paper and gave them to me. I pulled a chair up to a table and got to work printing and signing and initialing.

"No W-4?" I asked.

That fucking smirk returned.

"Only two guarantees in this world," he said, handing me the final piece of paper. I tapped the side of my nose to indicate we were on the same page.

"Screwing with the IRS is playing with fire," I mumbled as I handed the completed form back to the man. This earned a heavy slap on the back and some words about being a natural fit. Some more paper shuffling ensued before he opened a side door and beckoned me in.

"Well, the best way to get started is to get started, he said. "Look but don't touch - I'll be back in a moment."

I took in the levers and buttons and conveyor for a minute while I awaited his return.

"Alright, let's turn ass to ash - and earn some cash! People have been dying to get in here," he said, wheeling in a cadaver.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Fourth of Boo-Ly

Nightmares consumed my sleep for weeks leading up to the event. They were relentless. I dreaded to even close my eyes for fear of the mental torture that might ensue. I didn’t think it could get worse. Then the first ghost came.

“Yo brah - you got any brews up in this joint?”

The apparition, fully formed and floating above my bed, had just asked me for beer. My brain rebooted.

“You okay there dude?” it asked me.

“Did you just ask for a beer?” I managed.

“Yah brah!” it answered. “Pibber if you got one.”


“What - who - what are you?”

“Oh, dude, I’m the ghost of the Fourth of July.”

“The ghost of the Fourth of July?”

“Yeah! Let’s get some brews and set off some fireworks before the others show up.”

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts

Art c/o Dawn Ann

"Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts"

The sign hung in a conspicuous spot on my house - namely at eye level on my front door. One could certainly say I was up front with my precautions. I'll grant this was about as enticing as a "caveat emptor" sign above a cash register, but it was honest nonetheless. It was pointless arguing with me about it - after all, I'd put up the sign.

"It's just a salad," she insisted again. I pointed at my sign. Again. She paused.

"But I'm not Greek," she said.

"Prove it," I said.

"What? Ugh. How?"

"Exactly."

"Exactly what?"

"Everyone's Greek until proven otherwise. And those who can? Very possibly sneaky Greeks."

"Sneaky Greeks?"

"Sneaky Greeks."

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Six 'ricks

There was a bartender: Jess
Whose art was always the best
Whether ink on paper
or intellectual caper
She's an inspiration, I confess

&&&

Aly inspires both poem and prose
As she covers a body from head to toes
Whether in leather
Or boa (feathered)
She makes damn interesting clothes

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Peeved Pigs


Art c/o Jenn

"Sir, it's the pigs - they've gone mad."

"What do you mean mad? Like they're oinking more than normal or they've gained intelligence and have formed a mob to come and try to kill us?"

"The latter sir. Torches, pitchforks, the works."

"Well, that's no good."

"What do we do now sir?"

"Well, we're not exactly in Frankenstein's castle, are we?"

"No sir."