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{Friday, February 28, 2003}

"Who are you?"
She asked me that every time we sat down for dinner. Around the time I picked up my fork with the left hand, and my knife with the right. And held them, pendulously, with the handles sticking out. The fork handle had several burrs from where it had been eaten by the garbage disposal, so it made a passable food cutter. The knife was.. well, the handle was pretty much in tact, but I never really liked forks anyway.
I met Janet in the summer of my twenty third year. She was stretched, lazily, on the West Mall. I think she was reading a book. Something feminist, I'm sure. But there was something about her that captivated me, and I stopped to look at her.

She noticed.

"Who are you?" she demanded, accusingly. Like there was something wrong with a guy stopping in the middle of a public place to look around. I have to admit, my left hand was in my pocket at the time, but it was kinda cold outside. None of this mattered to her. Amidst her glare, I sat down and asked her the first thing that came to my mind.
"Who are you?" I was never in Debate Club when I was young.
"I asked first."
"Bobby. Bobby Randall. Now, who are you?"
"My name is Janet. I have to go."

I never saw her again.

Actually, I did. Come to think of it, we met again, later at the gas station on MLK. She was buying water.

"You know, they put tap water in those bottles, Janet."
She put the water back. I bought her a Slurpee. She was late for yoga.

Our love continued like that for months. Just when she started to get creeped out by me, I would do something zany and she would fall back into my arms. Especially if my zany act was to push the chair out from under her when she was trying to change a lightbulb. Somehow, we are perfect for each other.

by rocketo 12:32 PM

Who are you? This is a question that had haunted Phillip for most, if not all, of his 40 years and six different lives. Phillip, the name by which he was most recently known – a name as good as any – had been born Kyle Edmond Charclay of Pierpont, Indiana, a boy singularly unremarkable from a blue collar town of abandoned factories, empty houses, and dreams to match that was only grudgingly granted a small spot of ink on the state map.

Kyle’s promised to be an irrelevant life, a discarded envelope of day-to-day drudgery in this town of gray and beige and was in-fact saved from such fate by the good fortune of dieing at the age of 16. Except, unlike the other three throwaway teenagers in the car with him that evening, the two cases of Budweiser, winding road, guardrail and frigid waters of Lake Walkaki didn’t kill Kyle. Instead, following a half-hearted and fruitless dragging of the lake, when the fourth boy’s body was never found Kyle was free to abandon this life and recreate himself as Michael Ambrose.

Michael traveled to California and following a series of dead-end jobs and dead-end relationships found himself the lead singer for a reasonably successful punk band. Drugs, debt, the IRS and a loan shark convinced Michael, now nicknamed Soulless Jake, to take advantage of a tragic fire at the Halloween Hack, a seedy firetrap of a nightclub. Sixty-three were reported dead including the lead singer of the Leviticus Tuesday, the up and coming punk band performing there that evening. Three days later William Hallbrook was born into Seattle at the Greyhound bus station.

Over the next 21 years, three wives, seven homes, four children, eleven jobs and four names he was a leaf drifting down the stream of his life, or lives as it were, pausing briefly in one eddy after another and ultimately, following a near-fatal accident, moved on.

On this particular autumn day, Philip (Phil to his friends) Williams, author of a series of self-help books, father of two and owner of a new, bright red mini-van, walked through the forest of upstate New York. Behind him the smoke of a 707 airline drifted, with a mix of whimsy and aggression, skyward. Bodies lay scattered as dried leaves throughout the forest and Laurence Casper, profession yet to be determined, set his sights on Alberta, Canada.

by Shawn 11:50 AM

I am a programmer.
I am a pagan.
I am a skeptic.
I am a romantic.
I am a sex goddess.
I am a geek.
I am a loving friend.
I am a flake.
I am a forgetful friend.
I am a loving friend.
I am an independent.
I am an anarchist.
I am a strong proponent of democracy.
I am disillusioned.
I am disenfranchised.
I am displaced.
I am an impassioned orator.
I am an irrational bitch.
I am a frightened child.
I am a tender lover.
I am a ferocious warrior.
I am a defiant rebel.
I am a corporate drone.
I am a rock climber.
I am a skier.
I am a klutz.
I am a writer.
I am surprised how long it took that to come up.
I am a poet.
I am an artist.
I am a dancer.
I am a child of the moon goddess.
I am a daughter of the sun.
I am a person my mother likes.
I am an adult my father is proud of.
I am a friend who inspires love.
I am a casual astrophysicist.
I am a dork.
I am an introspective spiritual traveler.
I am a nudist.
I am a fat girl.
I am a wild child.
I am a bottle-blond.
I am the architect of my destiny.
I am the weaver of my tapestry.
I am the sculptor of my spirit.
I am alive.
I am in charge.
I am indecisive.
I am frightened.
I am mighty.
I am out of time.

by Sharon 11:23 AM

Who are you?

by Fred 2:02 AM

{Thursday, February 27, 2003}


I don't wanna have another beat him with a belt conversation.
He pushes me so hard that I can't believe he thinks he can
get by with it. How much am I supposed to take? We go
round and round with his flaws and misdemeanors, but
he will not shoulder the blame. How can I get through to
him that this relationship takes (2) people?

Am I the only one
working on this? Doesn't some of the onus lay with him and
his behavoir? What is it going to take for him to tow the line?
Am I going to have to resort to violence? I hope not...
he is 3 years old and should know better.

by Blythe 5:36 PM

I Don't Wanna . . .

by Remi 6:59 AM

{Wednesday, February 26, 2003}

Amy could feel it breaking. She had broken shards in her lap, chunky pieces of pottery pushed around by clumsy, fumbling fingers. This was a thing breaking.

She had hung so much on this relationship, flown out here to see him, and now she was flying back. And it hadn't fixed anything. Amy felt like an ogre in her confining airplane seat: Huge and stupid and destructive. She'd broken it. He didn't want to see her ever again. He'd said as much, and then left her to find a cab to the airport.

She tried saying his name again, but her tongue was swollen and stuck to the roof of her mouth. Her lips felt cracked and ready to bleed. Too much crying. Big, blundering, ugly... ruined the best thing in her whole life, something she could never get back, never replace. Recirculated air cooled the red splotches next to her eyes. A few tears welled up, aching over a mistake made 17 years ago, that she no longer had the power to fix.

The crisp sunlight reflected into the oval window pierced her eyes, made them water. Taking satisfaction in the deserved discomfort, Amy stared out at the vast floor of perfect white clouds. She wondered if she could walk on them, where she could go.

And then: a sob. A rainbow halo had exploded around the shadow of the plane, a radiance of colors on the flat, bright clouds, with the center of the circle pinpointed on Amy's own window. She wept freely, for herself, for her son. With mumbled private thanks to that which had sent the glory, she dared to hope.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


"For yours are the power and glory, oh Lord. Amen." The congregation sat down and the sermon began. In the alcoves, candles flickered and incense smouldered. Light from an early spring sun filtered in through a stained-glass window. It was St. Christopher shepharding a lost traveler through dangerous paths. The trees outside wavered, making the candy-colored light shift in a speckled dance across the pate of the old man in front of me.

I reached forward, picked up the hymnal, and brought it close to my nose. It smelled like sweet dust. I imagined fine grains a honey graham cracker would smell like that. Returning the book to its cradle, I ran my hand across the velvety crimson cushion. It was a little worn, but still plush. The minister was speaking; he'd been going on for a while now. "The meek shall inherit the Earth," he said. That caught my attention. I took a moment to glance at the people around me. Not a one looked like they took less than 30 minutes to ged groomed and dressed to attend this morning.

Surrounded by opulence, ostensibly to reflect the glory of a deity. Surrounded by New Jersey suburbanites, trapped in a slave-oriented religion designed to placate the downtroden and encourage breeding.


by jal 11:17 PM

Well, in that it's 10:17 and no one else has posted I've taken liberties with the subject as well as my share of Blogger space to share with you the wonder that is cannoli:

So, I was in Boston on business over the last week or so and was told, by Sharon, "You have to go to a good Italian bakery and have cannoli while you're there." I of course had no idea what cannoli was but in that she mentioned this several times I figured it must be pretty damn good and instead of risking her wrath upon returning to Austin having not in fact tasted this dessert of the gods I decided I'd make it a priority. Then it rained for the entire time I was there and I never actually ventured into Boston proper where one is likely to find an Italian bakery.

It's the last evening of the trip and the friend whose place I was staying at finally returned from her Kung Fu conference so we decided to go out for some fine Italian food and conversation. And it was in-fact fine Italian food made by real Italians in a place where one would not, um, make mafia jokes for instance. Anyhow, after the meal I brought up the subject of cannoli and that I had promised a friend I'd look for this miracle of the pastry world. "Shhh, there’s a great dessert place next door."

The bakery itself was fairly ordinary looking and, oddly, filled with cigarette smoke so I have to say I didn't get my hopes up that they would feature this cream-filled wonderment. A menu of astounding and decadent desserts and fine coffees belayed my fears. I must admit that upon reading the ingredients: sweetened ricotta cheese, I was a bit skeptical. What the hell was sweetened ricotta cheese? Still, I did say I'd try it and Trudee (my hither unto absent friend) and I split a small “carafe” of Ethiopian coffee (I forget what that quantity is called in the coffee world).

The desserts arrived in all their glory (there, see? I worked it in) and were a wonder to behold. The cannoli was served cold with an golden, flaky crust, an outer shell of chocolate done with a casual elegance, a seemingly precalculatedly haphazard flair that one would only expect to see in a photograph advertising fine desserts. The filling of sweetened ricotta, chocolate flakes, almonds and I'm not sure what else was surprisingly complex, rich and yet not overly sweet and yes, delicious. The texture was a delightful mix of being smooth and silky and yet then contrasted by the flaky crust and frozen chocolate.

The connoli went well with fine coffee and fine conversation. I wonder if I can get a job writing food reviews for the Boston Globe?

by Shawn 10:23 PM


by Sharon 2:49 AM

{Tuesday, February 25, 2003}


I woke up, groomed, walked the 10 minutes to the Tube, and started my morning commute from Baltimore to D.C. I knew that it'd be a rough day before I saw the news or glanced at a paper. I could sense it on the crowd; there'd been an upset--a real zinger. Instead of going for my PDA or grabbing a quick fax, I decided to make the most of the remaining nine and a half minutes of commute. I slept.

18 minutes and five security checkpoints later, I entered my office. Gina glanced up from her terminal, favored me with a wan smile, and said, "It's your big day, Thomas." She tilted her head toward the fax. If every page didn't have printing on it, I would've thought that it'd malfunctioned in the night. "A real wow-zinger, eh?" I didn't favor her with an answer, but simply shrugged. She went back to retouching photos while I gathered the papers and reviewed what transpired.

The arms trade back in '02 had been uncovered; fake IDs for the atackers traced to a CIA operative. Belgian hackers had broken into the Swiss bank where the stock funds were deposited, decrypted the account information, and posted it to over 200 major and minor news sites. Someone had been waiting for a good long time to set this up. At the same time, Issac Jfar ibn Omar al Siyassi's Supreme Court trial decision was due to be handed down this afternoon.

I took a deep breath. I had a load of work to do. It was time to spin like I'd never done before; time to lay on snow job so thick that the press wouldn't know what hit them. Of course, I'm the best there is at what I do. That's why they call me the Snowman.

And today was a snowday.

by jal 11:35 PM

The sky is dark and angry, the sea in turmoil. A mighty wave and the destroyer USS Greenbay lurches starboard. A high-tension wire snaps, whisks across the slick, grey metal surface of the boat. A demolitions dive team on deck are still getting into their bulky underwater gear, most struggling with the heavy, fin-like 'fish shoes'. It was happening so fast, they had no time to react save raising their heads to the call of the metal-on-metal scrape. The wire lashes across the deck, smashing Jenkins full-on in the back of the head.

Jenkins' skull explodes in a wash of bone and brain, spattering his nearby teammates. They pull themselves to their feet, horror in their eyes. Another wave thunders into the side of the destroyer, sending the men tumbling toward the open water, fish shoes slipping on gunmetal sidewalks. Phillips and Hyena go overboard, inhuman cries suddenly silenced. Jenkins' body jerks and twists as the last vestiges of life leave it, and is then swept overboard by a second wall of water moving over the main deck. The three remaining members of the dive crew grasp for a guard rail, a rope, anything, but they are too slow, too immobile.

They crawl, praying they will make it to the emergency entrance hatch before the ship tilts again. They don't see the shell, projected by computers in an enemy installation almost 100 miles away, that penetrates the destroyer's hull and almost immediately sends it down into the dark, thrashing waves. All the demolition dive crew know is the resulting fuel slick is on fire, and it burns. It burns, and the only way out is to accept the wave's cold embrace.

by Remi 5:07 PM

That'll do, pig:
Fish Shoes Slipping on Gunmetal Sidewalks

There was a man who lived in leeds, and filled his wife all full of lead, when he looked back and he could see, he knew he'd shot the woman dead...

by MisterNihil 5:20 AM

{Monday, February 24, 2003}


the morning after

by rocketo 7:53 AM

{Friday, February 21, 2003}

Kat hated it all the while she needed it.

Stark, silver-etched trees clawed questing fingers at the night, and cast shadows on the damp earth. Kat sat amongst rotting leaves, feeling bark raise pulls in her shirt. The silence was complete.

She looked at her hand in the moonlight—knuckles, palm, knuckles—and thought about what she might do with it. What power it might wield, were it liberated. She pictured cutting it off, raising a butcher knife—no, an axe—and sweeping down in a grand arc to sever it in one clean chop. It wouldn't be like that, though. Real life, no special effects: It would take several hacking cuts. And then it would only bleed, and scream agony, and fail to crawl off to feed the starving or wield Excalibur. She turned her hand over in the moonlight—palm, knuckles, palm.

She sighed, just to make noise in the night, insert herself into these woods, while she waited. Kat was hungry, starving, but the gnawing empty ache sat behind her breastbone, instead of under her rib cage. This waiting could end any time, in Kat's opinion. She adjusted her back against the tree trunk and scraped blood from a shoulder blade. An end to the waiting, then launched into fire with a kiss of pain: That is what she craved. To be bigger than everything, and hold it helpless in her fingers, even if for only a few hours.

Sucking wet slug sounds insinuated themselves into her senses. Ah, here it comes. This thing she had found, a creature in the woods but not of the woods, shambled and oozed its way between moon-limned oaks. Kat turned her face up to the night and closed her eyes, welcoming it to feed.

by Sharon 11:57 AM

   She called him Frenchie. It was a term of endearment, and also she hated the name Jacques. First, it had a silent s. This disturbed her. Second, it reminded her of a time when, in school, some boys had teased a foreign exchange student be calling him "Jacques Strap." When they gave him a wedgie, he'd been so insulted, he'd gone back to Japan. Children are ignorant.
   So she called him Frenchie.
"I love you more than the diamonds in the sea," he said.
"Don't start that again."
"No, no. Ah, I love you more than the King of Prussia loved his Second Concubine?"
"Don't even try Frenchie."
"I get this right. Jus' wait. Ahhh, I love you, 'owyousay, Like the monkey loves a bee?"
"No. Look, Frenchie, we have to talk. I just can't do this any more."
"I will try one more time. Jus' wait. Hmmm. My love for you is like small creeping things in the moonlight; it is like an octopus! Yes. Octopus!"
"No, Frenchie. Look, I'm sorry. We need to see other people."
"NO! I am wounded! Love flows from me in waves of pink-footed, clean-burning natural gas! Ah! 'Ow will I go on?"
"You'll keep seeing the other three women you've been seeing behind my back for two years."
"Wahll. Yes. I shall. Good day, then, my smallest pig, my little flea."
   With that, he was up and out of the restraunt. Sticking her with the check for the last time.

by MisterNihil 11:04 AM

Shawn's off-line for a few days (How do you survive?), so you're stuck with me:
small creeping things in the moonlight

by Sharon 8:33 AM

{Thursday, February 20, 2003}

Eddie The Fish looked at the menu. He knew about half of the items there. He hated Aji, he hated tako and nama-tako, he hated tamago (although not so much as tako. The thought made him shiver.), he hated buri and buta. In fact, he'd tried pretty much everything he had any will to try, and didn't intend to start taking stabs in the dark. He'd tried that once, and had been brought a large plate of stuffed squid, raw, with cabbage and something the waiter would only identify as kanimiso. So never again.
   He ordered a coke, and sat and waited for his guy to show up. Jimmy would come by at 7:32pm, and ask for his table. He hadn't made a reservation and was using this to bluff his way in. He was coming in on a whim. He didn't know Eddie was waiting for him.
   The waiter brought him something on a dish, covered. When he asked what it was, the waiter pointed to the menu, and a line of text (極小の紫色の魚 / 微小紫色鱼). He told the waiter he hadn't ordered it, and discovered he was alone. He took the cover off of the dish, and looked at the food inside. Two nondescript rolls, a pile of some form of greens, and two glasses of water with bits in them. He sat and looked at the dish for a moment, and realized that the bits were moving. He looked closer and saw that inside the glasses were living fish, swimming in circles.
   Jimmy was bluffing his way inside. Eddie was looking at the tiny, purple fishes. The waiter was nowhere to be seen.
   Jimmy was seated at his table, and Eddie stood up. Jimmy ordered a beer and sat looking smug. He'd bluffed his way into a place that required reservations. Eddie walked toward Jimmy's table.
   Eddie placed his hand on Jimmy's shoulder, and Jimmy fell face-down into his napkin. Eddie walked back to his table and looked at the dish again. He picked up one of the glasses, and drank it down quickly, then walked out of the restraunt. He left a five on the table.

Don't know? Look it up.

by MisterNihil 10:53 AM

tiny purple fishes

by Fred 2:02 AM

{Wednesday, February 19, 2003}

Freddy wandered back from the barn, hands in pockets, and whistled a low, tuneless song. He seemed very interested in the clouds, the tops of the house and trees, the birds taking flight.
   His sister, Maggie, sat on the bottom step up to the house. She glowered at him, waiting for him to make eye contact in the hopes that she could tear his soul from his body. Martha Staples said you could do that. She said her mother did it to the mail man when he brought her the phone bill from her father calling his aunt in Europe and leaving the phone off the hook for three hours. Maggie hoped to do it to Freddy. She didn't know how she'd know. Would he just fall over? Or cry? She hoped he'd cry.
   Freddy ambled up to the steps. He put his hand on Maggie's head and tousled her hair. He seemed absolutely fascinated by a cobweb in the top corner of the porch.
   She hoped the hate would boil up through her head and melt his hand like so much pale wax. She could just imagine him howling in pain, and then accidentally lowering his eyes to hers and having his soul sucked out. She slitted her eyelids, thinking of how much he deserved that.
   Freddy turned his head down, making deliberate eye contact with Maggie. He shook his head sadly and said, "Sorry Maggie. It had to be done." He went into the house.
   She was shocked and disappointed when her brother didn't shrivel up and die horribly there on the concrete, and angrier because she couldn't hate him as much as she had. He was right. It had to be done.
   Next, her father came out of the barn. He was wearing overalls and carrying a shovel with fresh earth on it. His right hand was rapidly turning bown with drying blood. He walked up toward the house from the barn.
   She didn't want to suck his soul from his body. She just wanted him to know he was wrong. She was shaking inside with impotent rage as he neared the house.
   "Maggie, Honey, your cat was sick. There wasn't anything else to do." He looked sadly at her. He wanted her to stand up and hug him and realize that she couldn't be mad forever. She didn't move, and wouldn't look at him, so he went into the house to clean up.

by MisterNihil 2:24 PM


by Sharon 12:16 PM

{Tuesday, February 18, 2003}

   "Thanks for calling Invisitech's Tech Support, this is Humbert speaking. How may I help you, Franklin?"
   "Hi. Um. My computer is broken."
   "Do you have your customer direction number?"
   "Um. No?"
   "Ahh. I'm sorry, we can't help you without your customer direction number."
   "Well, how would I find that?"
   "Did you buy your computer from us?"
   "When you bought your computer, did you get an invoice in the mail?"
   "It'll be on that, in numerals three inches high, with the words 'Never Forget This Number' above and below it in letters with a flame motif, set against a flashing light, although the battery is probably long dead."
   "I didn't see any number on the... Oh, I see. The big one?"
   "Yes sir. If you like, we can have a tech come around and tattoo it on your person for safekeeping."
   "Uh, no, thanks. It's 17."
   "Alright Mister Hinkley of 127 Expressive Place, Agamemnon, Montana, what can I do for you? How are your two children, Roberta and Hymdal? Your wife, Ynga?"
   "Um. Fine. But, my computer is broken."
   "What seems to be the trouble?"
   "Hey, how did you know about my family?"
   "Oh, all that information comes up when I enter your number. How are your bunyans?"
   "Fine, they've stopped hurt- Hey! How'd you know about that?"
   "Do you remember the application for your computer? Do you remember checking the 'Absolutely, Emberrasingly Invasive' radio button?"
   "Well, I remember the button, but I unchecked it."
   "Yes sir. That button allows us access to information you would never want us to know, like your scorching case of Herpese, which, of course, we don't know about. The information we have here is just the requirements, not preferences. If you'd checked that box, we'd know everything. Even your history of cheating on your wife with a man named 'Huber.' But, of course, we don't know about any of that."
   "Right. Well, good. I mean.. What?"
   "So, sir, if it's not too much trouble, what's wrong with your computer?"
   "It keeps popping up a window that says 'Please enter Last Paycheck Amount.'"
   "Yes sir, that will be the budget program."
   "I deleted that, though."
   "No sir, you deleted the porn we installed on your computer as a distraction so you would think you deleted the budget program. We prefer you not delete the budget program. If it were actually gone, your computer wouldn't upload your spending habits to our server, and we couldn't serve you with such accuracy. By the way, there's a smoothie bar just six minutes walk from your house."
   "Well, I... Thanks? Um. I don't want a smoothie, though."
   "No sir, but you will, seven minutes from now. As for your problem, we ask that you go ahead and tell the computer the amount of your last paycheck. And Franklin, please don't try to change any more settings. We'd hate to get upset with you."
   "Um. But I don't necessarily want all of-"
   "Franklin, we need to get off the phone. You need that smoothie, and I need to help your wife. She's on line two. Her hard drive froze up after she knocked the computer off the desk during her affair with your brother. Thanks for calling Invisitech, where requirements, not preferences dictate your level of service. Oh, and Mister Hinkley, I've scheduled a tech for next Wednesday for that tattoo. He'll be in around seven. Be at your house."
   "But I don't want-" (click)

by MisterNihil 2:44 PM

requirements, not preferences

by Sharon 2:01 AM

{Monday, February 17, 2003}

[removed by author]

by Fred 11:59 PM

Harvey Korman was hungry. Not just your average "I'd like some food now" hungry -- more like your pregnant woman's "I NEED A SOUVLAKI AND I NEED IT NOW!" kind of hungry. Fortunately New York City is a good place to humor an obscure craving.

Harvey started out for the East Village. He'd heard stories of a great souvlaki stand on MacDougal, just south of 3rd Street, which he hoped to find and satiate his desperate need. Riding the F train to West 4th, the commuters startled as his stomach rumbled over the noise of the rackety train. Reaching the station, he fancied already catching a whiff of the enticing meaty mixture. With each step nearer the stand, his overwhelming desire grew stronger. He yearned for it; he needed it.

At last! The smell became almost tangible, and the souvlaki stand came into view. There it was, waiting for him: that wonderful, 500-lb spindle full of meaty goodness. He called his desperate plea out to the chef.

But alas, there was no response. The chef could not hear him, nor even see him, for that matter. In his hurry, Harvey had left Fred -- the only human who could see or hear him -- back in Bedrock.

by Faith 3:15 PM

  "What is the meat?"
   "What? You wan' Yee-Roh?" He said, holding the knife, quivering over the rotiseree.
   "No, no. Is it Lamb? Beef? What is it?" She pointed to the chunk of meat, turning slowly, juice running in rivulets like rivers on a brown, fibrous planet.
   "Yes. Meat. Yee-Roh? Souvlaki? You wan' Yoghurt?"
   "Um, but what is it? I can't have some kinds of meat. Is it pork?"
   "Is Bif. Pik. You know, meat." The knife was still quivering, as if itching to slice off pieces of the flesh before it escaped.
   "Is it poultry?"
   "Poultry. No. Is no poultry. Is taste like chicken, no poultry." He was clearly puzzled by this. "Is Bif, pik. Is meat. You wan' pickle? With Fries?"
   "Ok, USDA, I want to see the chef." She flashed an official-looking badge.
   "Us'da? Is feesh? No. No feesh on Yee-Roh. Feesh Souvlaki."
   "No, no. I don't want fish, I don't want a gyro," She said it like a stabilizing device in a jet. A Gyro. "I don't want a souvlaki. I need to see the chef. The Manager? Boss man?"
   Finally, he understood. "Oh, yes. Boss man! You come back to kitchen, I get Aristotle."
   She stepped behind the counter and into the small, quieter kitchen. Most of the gyro-making process happened out front. Here were the fry vats and a chopping board for lettuce. Also a door to a back office and the freezer where the meat was, ostensibly, kept. She opened the door and saw six more shanks of meat, as unidentifyable as the one out front. There were, however, odd shapes on them, a row of circular bumps on each shank, evenly spaced and in a double row. They looked familiar, but she couldn't place where. She turned around and was startled by a small man behind her.
   "Hello. I'm Aristotle. Was there a problem with August?" His accent was as thick as that of the man outside, but more understandable.
   "Um, no. I just need to know what kind of meat that is on the rotiseree out there."
   "And may I ask why?" He wasn't hostle, just curious. There was something odd about his eyes that she couldn't place.
   "Rutherford, USDA. We got a call from a customer."
   "I be happy to show you. You know, we grow our own meat here on site."
   "I didn't. Do you have the appropriate licenses for on-site slaughtering?"
   "Of course. Back here, in office." He walked backwards, never facing away from her, quickly behind a door and into a small office in the back, closing the door partially behind him. She moved up to it, and pushed it open.
   The first thing she saw was Aristotle, hanging some three feet in the air, suspended by a tentacle. The tentacle was attached to a central mass, with one staring eye, surrounded by teeth. The smell of fish and rot suddenly hit her, like walking past the dumpster behind a fish market. She felt another tentacle move behind her, pull her into the room and shut the door. The other moved and set Aristotle down and pulled out of his back, where it had been holding him up like a puppet. As the tentacle wrapped around her, she realized the shanks of meat had not growths on them, but suckers. As the realization hit her, she was lifted off her feet and pulled toward the gaping maw and that one, terrible staring eye.

by MisterNihil 2:11 PM

For the second time in an hour, Joel Purvis thought he was going to be sick.

"I'm going to be sick!" he hurled at his lady-friend before trotting off to the restroom. She didn't know why she had brought him here. His last name sounded Greek, or it would if it had 'opolis' at the end. Mena didn't realize that not everyone believes souvlaki is the hamburger of Greece.

Joel stumbled out of the restroom moments -or was it days?- later, his lips trembling and his gut visibly churning. One look at the giant rack of... meat spinning over a low fire while having slices of it shaved off like so much Michael Jackson skin was enough to send him back into the dingy door that read MEN in greekish letters. The owner, Alex Charalabidis (it said so on his banner, and seemed to be the culmination of a lifelong dream), reached for a pile of green urinal cakes behind the counter and carried one into the restroom. Eventually he returned with a more docile Joel sucking contentedly on a greenish cake.

Mena shook her head, ordered two souvlakis and ate them both. This was the worst, but the tastiest, date ever.

by rocketo 12:55 PM

Green Men in Souvlaki Shops

Although, if you prefer to do "Sociopathic Blind Bondage Lawyer with a Stick," that's OK too.

by MisterNihil 9:02 AM

{Sunday, February 16, 2003}

The clockwork automaton stood towering over the small village. Its iron plating shone in the midday sun, leaded glass and brass sparkled as gears glistened with fresh oil.

“Of course we’ll need hamsters,” echoed a voice from inside.

“Um, well of course. And just why is that,” replied another.

“Because gerbils will never do.”

“ No, no of course not, how silly of me.” After a brief and awkward pause, “And just why is that again?”

“Because all of the drive train gear works are designed for hamsters! You put a bunch of gerbils in there and you’d have utter chaos!”

The assistant backed away slightly noting that his employer, the Master Mind Alphonse De Rauchette was clearly becoming agitated by the line of questioning. Noting too that the last assistant that managed to anger the master was thrown quite unceremoniously from The Airship Gabriel into the Black Sea some 1000 meters below. Angering De Rauchette was simply not a wise career move. “Ah, so master, what then are we to do with the 25,000 gerbils we ordered from the Orient?”

“You fool, they power the boiler of course. Must I do EVERYTHING around here? Now tell Andre to prepare the cannons; the ground hogs have arrived”

by Shawn 8:41 PM

Green Men in Souvlaki Shops

It certainly seemed more than a little odd to Ralph to see not one but two green men in the souvlaki shop. He thought at first that they were part of some sort of promotional effort and maybe, in the most tangential of ways, and having recently read Joseph Cambell’s Hero of a Thousand faces, that the owner was trying to draw a connection between the gyro and hero.

He stood outside the shop for a moment with what was no doubt a pained expression trying to resolve any connection of the Green Man with anything vaguely Greek. Nope, no connection at all.

Ralph entered and was met with the smell of lamb and Mediterranean spices, orders being shouted to the kitchen and the murmur of customers. As he walked up to the counter the Green men turned to face him. Their eyes were as flame, their bodies powerful and graceful, leaves splayed out from wild beards, horns from untamed hair and their countenance primitive and fierce. “I’ll, ah, I’ll have the saganaki and the Bombay Aloo please,” Ralph said ignoring the two earth spirit/gods.

“Care for some baklava with that? We’re running a special,” offered the man behind the counter.

“Sure.” Ralph tried not to make eye contact with the two earth-smelling men standing beside him. He noted with some discomfort that they both carried bows and rather nasty-looking knives.

“Anail Nathrock Uthvass Bethudd Dochiel Dinede” said one of the two Green men. The other smiled and glanced at Ralph. He had the distinct impression they were talking about him and not in a flattering sort of way. Ralph collected his order, paid and made his way to the door trying to avoid turning his back on the two men but trying not to look like he was trying to avoid turning his back on them.

“I think I’ll try out Anatolia’s next time,” he muttered to himself as he left.

by Shawn 8:06 PM

{Saturday, February 15, 2003}

"What's a shoggoth?"

"I told you, you wouldn't understand."

"Oh come on, tell me!"

"All right, but...well, see, it's complicated, okay? They're sort of these indescribable, nightmarish blobs. There's a lot of that kind of thing in Lovecraft: you know, horrors too vast for the human mind to comprehend."

"So he doesn't actually describe them?"

"Well, no, not really. Or sort of, maybe. He kind of skirts around it a little. They're a little like big evil amoebas. He says they're -- where's that passage? -- 'shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front --' Now, see, you're not even listening to me anymore."

"I am so! It's just -- he actually writes like that?"

"Like what?"

"I dunno. It's just -- it's kind of wordy."

"Well...yeah, I guess, but that's not the point. See, they were intended to be beasts of burden for the Great Old Ones."

"Which is what you think Bob from Accounting is?"

"Exactly. I'm not sure which one -- maybe Hastur the Unspeakable, maybe even Cthulhu -- it's hard to tell when you can't see the tentacles -- but there's definitely something otherworldly and eldritch about him."

"Because he brought a Jello mold to the company picnic?"

"Not Jello. Shoggoth. Didn't you see the way it moved? That wasn't natural."

"It was pineapple. But you know what, you were right. I don't understand."

"That's okay. Nobody ever does. Say...you won't tell Bob I'm on to him, will you?"

"Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me."

by Fred 11:59 PM

you wouldn't understand

by rocketo 1:08 PM

{Friday, February 14, 2003}

“Of course,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters earlier today, “we’d need hamsters.”

When asked to clarify these remarks, Fleischer said that the U.S. will not back down from its threat of military action against Iraq unless Saddam Hussein provides the UN weapons inspectors -- and, by extension, the U.S. -- with the “name, location, size, and especially eating habits” of the many “cute and no doubt fluffy hamsters” he said are presently being held illegally in Baghdad.

“This is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions,” Fleischer said, citing recent aerial and satellite photographs of what the administration claims is an abundance of hamster cages in the Iraqi capital. He pointed also to numerous intelligence reports and recordings of intercepted phone calls between key Iraqi military personnel, throughout which, he claimed, one could clearly discern “the unmistakable scampering sound of a hamster, running playfully on its wheel.”

Were these so-called “hamsters of mass destruction” to fall into terrorist hands, Fleischer added, “there’s no telling what kind of weird-ass scary shit could happen. The administration cannot -- and will not -- allow that to happen.”

He then proceeded to read aloud from Hamsters: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual, which he said will be the administration blueprint for war, should such a worst-case scenario become inevitable.

by Fred 11:55 PM

"Of course, we'd need Hamsters."
"Well then that idea's out. I mean, we need to do this tonight and the pet stores are already closed. I wouldn't know where to pick up an emergency bag of hamster chow, much less an actual rodent."
"Well, what if we knocked out a guard and snuck in the back door, pouring floor wax as we went, climbed up the elevator cables and sealed the doors of the eighth and twelfth floors with crazy glue (from the inside), put a smoke bomb into the air duct that terminates between the twelfth and thirteenth floors, set the timer for sixteen minutes, slid down the elevator cables, and ran outside, slid between the guards legs on the floor wax, and ran outside in time to see people flooding out of the building (except the people from the eighth and twelfth floors, who would die of smoke inhalation), and joined the crowd? Then, when everybody was busy being worried by the smoke, we could pick the president's pocket and sneak the keys to the basement, where we could bury our tools and gloves, and then make a clean getaway."
"Of course, we'd need Shovels."
"Well then that's out. The hardware stores are closed, and I can't pay the prices at Wal Mart."
"Well, what if we snuck into the building on the eighth floor by climbing up the glass, cut open the window of our mark's office, and used a poisoned blow-gun dart to take him out, then stole his ID? I could sneak up to the twelfth floor with the ID while you mixed the poisoned coffee in with the general coffee supply. I could slip into our twelfth floor mark's office and poison him with the hand-buzzer (I'd pose as a new client, of course), then take his ID, join back up with you, set off the fire alarm, and we could slip out while the office is on the lawn."
"Of course, we'd need Coffee."
"Well then that idea's out..."

by MisterNihil 2:02 PM

Faith made arrangements, so as her proxy, I post, in honor of Valentine's Day:
Of course, we'd need HAMSTERS.

by Sharon 2:33 AM

{Thursday, February 13, 2003}

“How about the Affleck hoagie and chips?”
“That’s ok I guess.”
“The Alan Alda?”
“Naw, too, I dunno, mushy or something. They over cook the pasta.”
“The Antonio Banderas plate sounds good but maybe a little spicy.”
“How about the Baldwin salad?”
“Which one?”
“Not sure, I can never keep them straight.”
“The Jennifer Connelly?”
“Um, no, you don’t get the same proportions you used to.”
“How’s the Tim Curry?”
“It’s, ah, strange. Sort of like spicy hotdogs.”
“The Danny De Vito casserole? “
“It’s pretty good but again they short you on the proportions.”
“Oh, the S.M. Gellar steake sounds good.”
“Yeah it’s a lot better than I expected and you get a lot of side dishes.”
“Hmm, you know, I think I’ll go with the Miles Davis and a smoothie. Gotta say, this is a unique gimmick: The first celebrity cannibalism restaurant.
One Miles to go please!”

by Shawn 11:29 PM

Miles to go

by Faith 12:05 PM

{Wednesday, February 12, 2003}

Years ago we were camping in Yellow Stone or the Black Hills, but I think it was Yellow Stone. Anyhow, in the middle of the night we heard something outside of the tent and figured it was either bears or raccoons. With that in mind I’m not entirely sure why I decided to go look but given the odds and lack of common sense I went to look. It was raccoons. But not just any raccoons, these were commando raccoons. These were raccoons whose skills for stealing food from campers had been honed to razor-like perfection from years of preying on the constant stream of unsuspecting vacationers that frequented “their” park.

We had most of our food in a metal freezer chest sitting out by the campfire and a few other things in sealed bags nearby. We had a pretty good assortment of typical camping fare as well as a number of atypical, finer foods and even the iconic hot dogs and marsh mellows even though neither of us were particularly fond of them but, you know, they seemed like must haves. I chased the raccoons off and fortified the food stores by putting everything into the metal chest.

A short time later we heard something out side. Again: raccoons. I chased them off and piled our camping gear on top of the chest. A while later we’re awoken again. I go out to find that they’ve knocked all of the gear off of the chest, figured out how to flip the latch and open the chest. Of all of the food we had they were interested in only two things: hot dogs and marsh mellows. So, there I stood shining my light on a raccoon about twenty feet away. Half way between us lay an open bag of marsh mellows and I’m sure that somewhere a dog barked, a cricket chirped and then the theme music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was playing. He looked at me, I looked at him, we both looked at the marsh mellows; neither of us moved a muscle. Then I started laughing and went back to the tent. The little thief went home a hero bearing marsh mellows for his family and I got a story out of it. Seems like a more than fair trade.

by Shawn 11:59 PM

He was a Type A. He defined Type A. He recommended the extension of the specification to accommodate a Type AA. He was very high strung.

When I was hired as his secretary (the third that year), the grad students took out a pool on how long I'd last. At department functions, a clutch of staff assistants, after much conferring, would send out an emissary with a loaded gun: "So, ah, you work for Jim?" Never say anything bad about your boss.

There were blessed moments of peace in a week. Not during the summer, though. But during the school year, he would teach classes, and be gone for hours at a time.

I made a bad judgement call one day. He had a meeting abutting a class, so I didn't expect to see him. I took a late lunch—12:30. By 1:30, he had had an entire 30 minutes to search the building for me, cook his blood into a boil, and decide that I was deliberately thwarting his attempts at efficiently squeezing every minute out of a day.

He blustered. He fumed. He sounded irrational. And something snapped in me. Forgetting to be cowed by his experience, prestige, seniority, education, and accolades, I stated quietly, innocent and respectful, "Would you like to start working now, or would you like to continue to yell at me?" He shut his mouth, blinked once, and sat down to work.

Later, I passed out.

by Sharon 6:08 PM

   Dhavi Khanuni stepped on an ant on Monday.
   Had he not stepped on it, that ant would have crawled into his pantry and set up housekeeping.
   Dhavi Khanuni slammed his thumb in the door of his car on Tuesday.
   While he stood next to his car blowing on his finger, the ant would have been discovering his bag of rice. It would have eaten rice, bringing grains back for its grubs to feed upon.
   Dhavi Khanuni split his pants while praying at midday on Wednesday.
   While he bowed, pensive and silent, trying not to think of his exposed rear, the ant would have been dancing gleefully back and forth as its grubs metamorphosed into young adult ants.
   Dhavi Khanuni spilled coffee on his shoes on Thursday.
   While he danced in the coffee shop, waiting for the liquid soaking into his socks to cool, the ant and its young would have been feasting on rice in his closet.
   Dhavi Khanuni met a girl on Friday.
   While he tried to ascertain whether she was married, the ant and its young would have spread into the neighboring apartments, including Khanuni's mother's next door.
   Dhavi Khanuni had a date on Saturday.
   While he chatted with a young, unmarried woman whom he had met just the day before, the ants would have bitten several people that Saturday night, and it would have become obvious that, while they looked like normal sugar ants, they contained a venom to which most people are severly alergic. The ant nest would have spread to other apartment buildings, and killed most of the people in those buildings, including Dhavi Khanuni.
   Dhavi Khanuni ran out of rice on Sunday.
   While he thought of what else he should purchase from the corner market, the ants would have marched upon Cairo, taking over the country and driving out almost all of the people. Egypt would have become a no-mans land, populated only by these ants.
   Dhavi Khanuni stepped on an ant on Monday. A week later, he was out of rice, and the ant was still dead.

by MisterNihil 3:02 PM

tiny triumphs

by jal 7:46 AM

{Tuesday, February 11, 2003}

It isn't the cold that bothers me. I own a comfortable fleece that keeps me warm and a good pair of gloves. I don't especially like the cold (and it wouldn't kill me to invest in a hat or a scarf), but I get by. I can manage. I turn the heat on in my car or in my apartment, and soon enough I've lost track of how many degrees above or below zero it is outside my window. I'm looking forward to the day when I can once again leave that window open, but until then, like I said, I can manage.

It isn't the snow that bothers me. It sticks to my clothes, gets in my car and my shoes, makes it difficult to walk without slipping (or worrying that I'll slip), chokes the road, and makes driving difficult and dangerous. But snow melts. On rare occasions, enough of it means that I can get to work late or leave work early. A thick blanket of snow usually acts as a layer of insulation, absorbs the sun, warms things up just a bit, just enough. And sometimes I don't even know that it's snowing; it's started and stopped before I've even had a chance to get a good look.

It isn't the road conditions that bother me. I sometimes wonder if the streets are plowed as well or as often as they could be, and my wheels skid and swerve more often than I'd like, but I haven't been in an accident yet. I'd like to think I'm not a reckless driver. It's dangerous at rush hour, when I'm going to or leaving work, and I can't avoid making those trips. But I take them slow, and if a fifteen-minute drive takes me half an hour (or an hour) -- well, worse things have happened.

And it isn't the lack of sunlight that bothers me. I wish there were more bright, sunny days and that the ones we have lasted longer, but it's not perpetually gray, rainy, or overcast. I know Sharon's called State College the third cloudiest city in the US, but there are plenty of days when I don't agree with that, or when even the possibility that it's true doesn't seem so bad. The clouds part and the sun comes back, and ultimately that isn't what bothers me about winter.

What bothers me -- or at least what bothers me most -- is this persistent sameness. It isn't that it's cold; it's that it's always cold. It isn't that it snows; it's that it never stops. It isn't the driving; it's knowing that I'll need to scrape snow and ice off of my car two or three times a day, knowing that by the time the roads are plowed, they'll need to be plowed again, that I'll have to go through the same thing the next day and the next. It isn't winter that I hate, but the way it lingers, never leaves, how there's nothing to look forward to about it because it's all the same. I can deal with a few cold, gray days of difficult driving, but it gets tough when they're all strung together like this, when you start to feel like that's all you're going to have for the next two or three months.

Ultimately, I'm okay with winter. I just wish it was shorter.

by Fred 5:51 PM

It starts with fear. Then
pressure pain inexorable
squeezing shoving expelling
And a scream.
Mine. Yours.
Assault on every nerve!
when the pain subsides
fear abates
longing insinuates icy tendrils
creeping vines of cold
to wrap
and squeeze
the heart until you forget how it felt
to beat.
And grow up.

by Sharon 1:05 PM

Look at them. No.. look. They are happy. Why aren't you?

They are furry. So are you.
They jump and screech and wail. So do you.
They are little. You are, too.
They eat each other's fleas. Damn.

That is why they are happy. You are not happy because you have fleas. It all makes perfect sense now. Bits and pieces of your flea-ridden existence coalesce into even more sadness. Why do they have to be happy? Why can't you have fleas and be happy? The fleas are happy. Why aren't you? True, the fleas bite. The fleas make you bleed. The fleas make you cry.

You cry a lot now, don't you? You tell yourself, I can never be happy. Not while tiny beasts pick at my skin. Is this true? Have you tried scratching? If they just move to your back, rub against a tree. Maybe you have vegan fleas. What you really need is someone to eat your fleas. But who will? No one will come near you while you're unhappy. Have you tried that new singles' bar? The Copa Cabanana? There's bound to be a lusty ape willing to rid you of your parasites. Although she may give you a few of her own. You can never trust those monkeys. But, please. Be happy.

No, don't cry.

by rocketo 11:56 AM

A long, cold journey

by Shawn 11:15 AM

{Monday, February 10, 2003}

"All you ever do is comedy"
"All you ever do is stupid."
"You don't write anything real. Stop writing."
"You haven't written an original piece in almost six years. Start writing"
"And now you're sick of funny. So sick, you can't even write Happy Little Monkeys."
"Well, you're so sick of retreading the same ideas over and over, you can't write Happy Little Monkeys either."
"How would you do it, Hack?"
"I'd write about monkeys eating babies in the Congo. They schmooze their way in, pretending to be friendly and domesticated, then eat babies. And don't call me hack, hack. How would you do it? Orcs again?"
(taken aback)"No, no. Um. No.     I was gonna have them be hanging from a tree, and this guy comes along, and... um..."
"They steal his hat. Right? You were going to steal his hat."
"NO! OK, yeah, but then he'd get a gun, and-"
"It wouldn't work, and he'd have to throw it at them, and they'd shoot him instead. Oooh. Twist ending. Oooh. Hack."
"I'm not. It's better than eating babies."
"No. It's hack. Eating babies is at least different."
"Well, how would you do it if you were me?"
"I'd probably have the monkeys go into a bank and try to make a withdrawal."
"That's how you'd do it. How would I do it?"
"They'd shoot the guard?"
"Yeah. That's how I'd do it."
"You're pretty predictable. You just do comedy with nasty twists."
"No, that's you. Ben got confused. Count back from here, and you'll see that I do the retreading, and you do the comedy."
(counting)...three, four, five, six... Yeah. You're right. I mean, you just do the same old ideas with nasty twists."
"Right. So, are we gonna do the 'eat the babies' essay now?"
"Nah. I don't feel like it. Let's just wait for the new topic. I mean, this one'll be backdated to go yesterday. I can probably do this again today."
"No you can't, actually. There's a dentist appointment. Remember? They're fixing those two fillings."
"Oh yeah."
"So, tomorrow then?"
"Or this evening."
(both simultaneously)"Hack."

by MisterNihil 11:40 PM

Happy, Little Monkeys – A bedtime story by Ian Brisk

In a generic little neighborhood beige and unburdened by character sat a house nondescript and exceptional in no way whatsoever. The Johnson’s house was equally unburdened by character and charm-free in every way. Amy’s bedroom was appointed with all of the things one would expect to find in a nine year old girl’s bedroom – nothing more and nothing less. There were pink ruffles, three Barbie dolls, a jewelry box, a music box, three or more horses some plastic some stuffed, white child-sized furniture and a toy monkey with small hat, vest, cymbals and a broad none-too-friendly, some would say maniacal smile. The Happy Little Monkey (patent pending).

The Happy Little Monkey had a small metal key in its back that once wound would cause it to clatter about the top of the white dresser clanging its cymbals together in a cheap, manic, unpleasant way knocking over plastic horses and Walmart jewelry stands until coming to rest on its side. The Happy Little Monkey had painted eyes that stared out with a glassy stare watching Amy and her friends play their typical games in their cookie-cutter way with their average toys. The Happy Little Monkey sat on Amy’s dresser sandwiched between a white pony and a pink radio. And late at night when Amy’s parents, whose names are of no importance, had gone to bed and house was still The Happy Little Monkey spoke to Amy.

The Happy Little Monkey told her stories of things dark and wondrous. The Happy Little Monkey spoke to her of such things as slipping beneath the surface of man’s vile nature and the cold, sudden brutality of godless enlightenments and places where there are no colors, no stars and life itself is but ash in the mouths of babes. The Happy Little Monkey’s words blanketed Amy in a smoke of companionship and dark comforts.

Amy finally had to go away but when Amy’s sister was born, her parents, whose names are of no importance, passed The Happy Little Monkey on.

by Shawn 9:29 PM

"God, I have no imagination!" she moaned to herself.

It was a creative writing assignment. She was coming up on her deadline, and short on inspiration. "Monkeys?? I don't know anything about monkeys, big or little, happy or sad. I wonder if I can get away with writing about birds..."

So she wrote about Betty instead. It was an eloquent piece, analyzing the findings of the New Caledonian Crow studies. She compared what we've learned from the animal kingdom to vestigial behavior in human adults and drew many fascinating parallels, questioning the "unfair" or "sexist" source of many popular gender stereotypes.

Too bad I'm out of time, or I'd tell you more about what she learned!

by Faith 4:43 PM

happy little monkeys

by Fred 9:07 AM

{Saturday, February 08, 2003}

“Slippery Chicken & Frightened Bok Choy”
“Are you sure you know T’ai chi?”
“Of course I know T’ai chi. Now extend you hand out like this. No, a bit farther, palm up.”
“What’s this stance called?”
“The three-winged spicy beef.”
“Uh-uh. Okay.”
“Now turn to the left and ease back into this stance.”
“And it is?”
“The Pea Pods contemplate the morning sun. Now turn to the right and, yeah, that’s right, little lower.”
“And it is?”
“Parting spicy chicken’s mane.”
“Chicken mane?”
“Sure. Now here. General Gao creeps down to the black pea sea.”
“I see.”
“Now here.”
“And it is?”
“Clever mushroom pets the bashful shrimp.”
“Are you making this up?!”
“No, I studied T’ai Chi for years.”
“What style?”
“T’ai Chi Szechuan. I also studied Mu Shi Kung-Fu. “

by Shawn 8:06 PM

Second-hand treasures are of great interest to me. I love second-hand shops, antique stores, flea-markets and especially YARD SALES BABY! Of course part of this may very well be due to being cheap but actually there’s a lot more to it.

While most yard sales are a bust and feature the dregs of suburban life I have nonetheless picked up some wonderful things over the years: comic books, a set of 1906 Jules Verne books, a 1916 Auto Repair book, an Uncle Wiggly book from the 30’s, original copies of various board games like Mouse Trap, Cootie, and Concentration, toys and many things one would never find anywhere else with the possible exception of Ebay. Yard sales are where one finds treasures of the past and odd and curious items that you may have once found in the small shops that have been bulldozed over with the malling of America. Often, even if I don’t buy them there are a variety of things that are fodder for nostalgia, “Hey, I had that when I was a kid.” No, the Verne books would not fall into this category.

Without getting just too kum-by-ya (I never know how that’s spelled nor would it seem does Word) for my own good there’s another aspect to this. I love used books, old houses, and tools worn and dirty from years of use. I fancy a certain energy or spirit imbued by the former owner that is as much a part of object as its form and function. Yeah, yeah oh-so new-age of me I know. Anyhow, trinkets of a person’s past of no real monetary value but a part of who and what they are or were are treasures. Looking around my studio: Two seashell beads given to me by a cute little transient couple I met in a park come to mind. My father’s hammer, a powder horn from my brother, pre-historic stone tools from my father-in-law, knives from my brother-in-law and hand-made beads from a friend in Oregon. These are all treasures and none of them are to be found in Wall-Mart or anywhere else on Earth for that matter.

by Shawn 2:19 PM

second-hand treasures

by Sharon 2:01 AM

{Friday, February 07, 2003}

They say there is a love story for every generation. You've heard of the oldest one, how their oddly-matched romance was fueled by a night of hallucination and fiddling. There, stalking in the moonlight, they stole away to a place where their forbidden love would be accepted. That is where the ditty ends, but their love went on forever. It was once this way with the dish and the spoon, and the slippery chicken & frightened bok choy became similarly charged.

It was dark in the Chinese restaurant when the bag of detritus was thrown into the back alley. After two weeks on the heated water bath, the chicken was so obviously well past its prime that not even the bugs would eat it anymore. The bag tore, as it is wont to do when thrown against a brick wall, and the chicken fell out. Bits of it slowly reassembled and it stood up shakily in the moonlight. The slippery chicken looked around, though it was seemingly without eyes, and could faintly make out the lilt of a little dog laughing.

A wilted clump of bok choy, held together by a tenuous twist tie made its way to the chicken, and wrapped a loose end of the twist tie timidly around a large, glossy chicken chunk. In the moonlight, you could barely see the catapulted cow.

by rocketo 3:34 PM

Clarent counted on his fingers the reasons he was here. 1: Slept with my brother. 2: Four fur coats. 3: Married me for pity, convenience, and money, and, 4: said as much. Yes, this was the right answer. The only answer. She had driven him to it. Yes, driven. He was simply following the only path she'd left him.

He yelped when the fire leapt up. The light danced in the old witch's merry eyes. She grinned wolfishly at him, and cast another handful of powder into the fire. She reached into a ceramic bowl and dug her fingers under purple, glistening entrails. "Slippery chicken, oh ho ho," she sang to taunt him as she plucked pieces to offer to the pyre. Then she began to moan, and gibber, while frothy, white spittle seeped from the corner of her mouth.

Wow, it's really starting, now. Clarent thought frantically of stopping her, calling it off, but the moment passed, and he became transfixed by the Voo Doo witch's unseeing eyes.

She leapt over the fire. Pressed her face up to his. Her eyes focused straight into his soul. "Frightened, bok choy?" She ripped a hysterical cackle from her chest. Then she thrust out her palm, snapped her fingers impatiently. Clarent dug numb fingers into a pocket, his gawping mouth forgotten.

A small tuft of hair. Stolen, with the kitchen scissors, in the middle of the night. The crone had laughed at him, three days ago, when he'd arrived with a clot of hair pulled from his wife's hairbrush. It had to be fresh, and it had to be stolen, not discarded. But he'd done it. Last night, not daring to breathe, he'd cut off a lock of her hair. And he lingered a moment, standing by the end table, and weighed the scissors in his hand.

The witch smiled toothily and snatched the hair from his clumsy fingers. She fed it to the fire. Then she whirled on Clarent, grabbed his shirt, and threw him, so that he had to jump to avoid stumbling into the flames.

"Yes!" she cried. "It is done! You shall have your revenge."

by Sharon 12:50 PM

"Flaming Pitch!"
Slippery Chicken & Frightened Bok Choy
The Rolling Stone Interview by Pete Grigilioni

I'm on the road with America's worst band. More unfortunately named than Buckaroo Banzai's Hong Kong Cavaliers, and less popular than a No Wave opera touring group, Slippery Chicken and Frightened Bok Choy are at the front of a new vanguard of trash-pop culture, and they're loving every moment. Well, except for the flaming pitch.

RS: The Barenaked Ladies had to ask people to stop throwing uncooked Mac N' Cheese at them during $1,000,000 because, as their audience grew, the chance of getting injured by a flying unopened box of macaroni grew too high. However, that seems like peanuts compared to you guys, where did this fan habit come from?

Slippery Chicken (vocals, farfisa organ): Well, we used to do a lot of farm-belt tours, construction yards, things like that. One night we were playing a party to commerorate some family getting their roof re-done, and they didn't like us too much . . .

Hunan Beef (thundersticks, belly percussion): I'd just like to interrupt here, it was actually a party for the completion of my sister's barn.

SC: Right, right, it was Emelia's barn party. Anyway, so Emelia and her family didn't like our brand of music too much, so they started throwing stuff at us. We're used to getting pelted, and have developed a playing style that, if for some reason, a massive concussion, say, one of the instrumentalists is unable to continue playing, another person in the band is able to take over their position. Like, I can kick Hunan here in the stomach to provide rhytmic accompaniment, even if he's half-dead from getting spiked in the head with a brick.

RS: But, the pitch?

SC: Oh, yeah. Well, after a while they sort of ran out of things to toss at us, and none of the band was down, and when we play a show, we don't stop until we're done, y'know? That's the heart of this band. Anyway, they ran out of things to throw, and so they took the remaining roofing pitch, grabbed a long-armed spatula, and started tossing bits of it at us. This didn't really stop us, it's just goopy and unpleasant, so they started lighting it on fire before tossing it at us, and that got us off the stage. We swore, never again, and that's why we wear these asbestos suits. It might shorten the overall life of the band, but better than getting set on fire, I say.

by Remi 11:29 AM

"Yes, but I'd like the War Shu Duck."
"We don't have War Shu Duck. We don't have duck at all. I gave you the menu."
"But this isn't a menu. A menu has choices. This just says 'Slippery Chicken and Frightened Bok Choy.'"
"That's &."
"That's what I said."
"No, you said Slippery Chicken and Frightened Bok Choy. The menu says Slippery Chicken & Frightened Bok Choy. The chef's very particular."
"What is Slippery Chicken?"
"It's like the chicken with almonds, but with more sauce."
"You don't have chicken and almonds."
"Look, sir. I'm going to have to ask you to leave if you keep this up."
"It's Chicken with almonds, not chicken and almonds. It's actually illegal in this country to make chicken and almonds."
"No. What?"
"You said 'know what.'"
"No, no, I was denying the illegality, then asking what you meant."
"Oh. I see. Well then, it's illegal. It uses one of the eighteen slicing techniques banned by the Hempstead act of 1906, and also must be cooked au mutuel, which is heavily taxed-"
"Au Natural? Naked?"
"No, Au mutuel."
"What does aw muchooel mean?"
"Au mutuel is a way of cooking chicken. If I even describe to you what it means, there's an $800 tax we have to pay."
"OK... Well, could I have the Slippery Chicken & Frightened Bok Choy, and a small soft drink?"
"We don't have soft drinks."
"What kind of restaurant is this?"
"Why, Szescuan."
"Again, no. Szescuan. It's a province of Liechtenstein."
"I didn't know Liechten-"
"Of course you didn't."
"Now, what's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, it's hardly common knowledge. We keep mostly to ourselves. We've just come over. With the war on, and all, we couldn't stay."
"What war?"
"You don't follow the news, then?"
"Well, I do, but I never heard of a war in Liechtenstein."
"You don't know the Liechtensteiner-Schweitz war? It's been going on for almost four hundred years. It started as a battle for Most-Neutral-Nation status, but in four hundred years of fighting, you kind of forget the whole purpose. Damn those Swiss."
"Wow. You're really bitter about this."
"Well who wouldn't be? They've murdered almost six people in the last four hundred years!"
"Almost six thousand?"
"Good God, no. There aren't six thousand extra people in Liechtenstein who could be murdered. Almost six. Unless Fritzy has died since we left."
"Oh. War is hell, huh?"
"You don't have to be patronizing. If you think about percent of total population, that's the same as almost a million people from this country dying. You didn't lose a million people in World War Two. We lost four, which is, again, a higher percentage of our total population that you lost."
"Um.. I'm sorry?"
"As well you should be. And then you come in here and criticize our traditional Liechtensteiner Szescuan cooking! How Dare You!"
"I didn't mean to. Um. Maybe I'll just have the Slippery Chicken."
"You can't just have the Slippery Chicken! It doesn't work that way! It's like asking a Brit for some Squeek. Why in the world would you want Squeek without Bubble? For that matter, why would you want boiled cabbage and potatoes anyway? That's beside the point! You wouldn't ask for just Squeek. It's Slippery Chicken & Frightened Bok Choy. That's the menu. That's what you can have."
"Ok. One order, please."
"Thank you. Please come again."

"And some salt?"

by MisterNihil 9:54 AM

Slippery Chicken & Frightened Bok Choy

by MisterNihil 8:28 AM

{Thursday, February 06, 2003}

First, you have to picture my father.

He is a large man, with domineering eyebrows perched atop a withering glare. His bullshit detectors are always on, and he'll call you on it. When he plays chess, he thwacks the pieces into position with such confidence that your knights are nervous and your pawns are as likely as not to break file and flee. He was the Delaware state chess champion when he was 14, and when asked about the outcome of his game against song-satirist Tom Lehrer, he replied, "I must have won; I only remember the ones I lose."

He reads the Wall Street Journal and watches 60 Minutes. He canceled his subscription to Time because it contained too much fluff. The last fiction he read is a Harry Potter book, because they received such press in the Wall Street Journal.

Having recently completed his dream house, he sits high on his hill with an imperious view of the valley. Furniture is spare—or so you think, until he quotes you the figure: "37 bottoms. We can accommodate 37 bottoms." And you realize that the greatroom is simply that big.

Stationed in this greatroom is the entertainment center he has owned my entire life. It has been rewired frequently, usually when guests are due to arrive, leaving my mother with a pile of wire casings while Dad dashes off to shower as the guests pull up the drive. The stereo has a remote control (and binoculars, so that you can read the display from the couch). With this remote control, my father—demanding, stern, serious, and driven—will crank up the volume on his favorite song, nestled on a CD that Mom hunted up on the internet to satisfy childhood nostalgia, and he is likely to sing along:
If you go down to the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today,
You'd better go in disguise.
For ev'ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.

by Sharon 2:49 PM

"I never did trust snakes."
Paul nodded his head, and he and Sammy walked along the forest path to the west.
"Not since that time when I was a boy.", said Paul, "But here I am, though, walking in the forest with this half-wit, looking for a snake. How do I find myself-"
"You know," said Sammy, "your internal dialogue is leaking."
Paul slowed down and looked at Sammy.
"I'll be damned."
The path forked ahead, one path looping around to the south, the other going still west, but bearing north.
"It's not polite, Paul. I mean, you don't know me. Calling me a half-wit without knowing me, that's just rude, that is."
"I can't help it if I'm one to believe the word on the street, I said emphatically."
"See? And you call me a half-wit? I don't have to internalize all the time, and I certainly don't feel the need to internalize out loud."
They arrived at the fork, and took the South bend.
"I was sure we should have taken the North bend, but the evil look in Sammy's beady eyes brooked no discussion."
"OK, that's it. You find the stupid snake alone."
Sammy whirled around and headed back toward the fork.
"Sammy turned angrily and walked away. Just like a half-wit to desert me in the middle of the forest."
"This isn't the middle of the forest!" yelled Sammy. "We're not quite ten minutes walk from your house. If your wife hadn't insisted, I wouldn't even have come! I hate you people. I'm moving back to Eastwich!"
"Ahh, an Eastwicher. They're all bad news. Maybe you should, I yelled back!" said Paul.
"I mean, your wife said 'If you go out in the woods today, looking for that stupid snake, you take Sammy with you.' I swear, I wouldn't have come if my wife hadn't shamed me into it! 'You take care of that lunatic,' she said. 'Don't you lose him, Sam!' But I mean to! I mean to!"
With that, Sammy turned and ran, leaving Paul in the woods.

by MisterNihil 2:38 PM

If you go out in the woods today...

by Fred 1:18 PM

If you go down to the woods today, you'd better go in disguise. You’d best leave your ill will at home lest the anger of the forest arise.”

“Oh bugger off ya lil’ twit!” Harvey shoved the faerie aside and stomped out of his garage. Harvey Mortimer had owned Arcaedborough Auto Repair for 23 years since his father passed it on to him just before his odd disappearance. In that time hardly a week went by that the beleaguered mechanic wasn’t in some way harassed by the Fay.

The problem was really one of garage’s proximity to the threshold to Arcadia; it was basically in his back yard. Harvey marched around the corner of his gray stone auto garage and into the back yard where several old cars sat rusting away in tall grass. Other than an assortment of spare parts, old signs, oil barrels and scrap there were also the moss-covered stones of what appeared to be a foundation to some old or even ancient building. Typically this would not be an unusual sight in England except for those who knew what they were looking at, as Harvey regrettably did, these were not foundation stones, these were faerie stones.

Harvey stopped just shy of the stones and with a deep sigh closed his eyes and hammered on the trunk of an old oak tree that stood near the stones. When he opened his eyes he was standing in front of the door of a queer building. The sign hanging overhead read The Emerald Song. With a growl of frustration Harvey kicked the door open. “Them lil’ rats with wings o’ yours took it again an I wan it back!”

An assortment of faerie creatures Seelie and Unseelie turned to face him. This was a tavern that catered to both as the tavern keep, a large Each-Uisage, was more than happy to take anyone’s coin. “T’aint er lad”

“Wh’all what’d they do with it this time?”

“Ah’d be checkin’ the isle o’ the Candle Goddess if’n I were you. But tis’ noot a journey to be taken on lightly. Tis’ a long, dangerous trek cross…”

“Yeah, yeah I know the place! Shut up, I’m leaving ya freak,” and Harvey turned and left. Over the years he’s had to make this same excursion into Faerie more times than he cared to remember and each annoyed him more than the last. Gathering a handful of acorns he tossed them onto the tiled roof and focused on the sound they made tumbling down. A sound not unlike the hooves of a horse beating on the dirt road in front of the inn. The horse arrived a moment later.

He rode to the lakeshore, dismounted, closed his eyes and spun around six times. He stood teetering back and forth dizzy from the spinning, not unlike standing on the rolling deck of a ship. When he opened his eyes he was on the Twin Star, a ship headed for the Candle Goddess Isle. Soon he was on the island and with several more irritating manipulations of association stood in front of the Forest Spirit and her court.

Casting aside all proper etiquette and respect for the Fay nobility he stomped across the clearing and plucked his tire iron from the mossy altar. “It’s a goddamn tire iron, not…a…flammin’…sacred…symbol!”

by Shawn 11:42 AM

{Wednesday, February 05, 2003}


15. The Grapevine

Located on the southeast fringe of the upper-class section of the city, The Grapevine is a simple hole-in-the-wall club. The bar is well-stocked, but austere; the rest of the club mirrors this. The lighting is very dim except for a few heavily traveled areas. The walls and ceiling are draped in thick, heavy draperies in dark purples and golds. There isn't a line to get in—it's not that type of club—but the door is monitored by two bouncers. They generally won't turn anyone away unless they've been told to look for specifc people by Lana, the owner, or if the club is just too crowded.

The Grapevine is known for two things: It gets its name from its exceptional wine cellar. Lana Montecelli is an avid wine conniseur and has amassed one of the world's most extensive collections. Invitations to her seasonal wine tasting parties are sought after by everyone in the city looking to cement or enhance their social status. They're also sought after for the second, less known reason: Information. Lana has an extraordinary array of connections and contacts in virtually all arenas in every capitol in the world, and in many major cities as well. If there's something you want to know; if there's a rumor you need to confirm (or spread), then you go to The Grapevine. Like her rare wines, Lana's information comes at a formidable price. Only ask for it if you're prepared to pay it.

16. Blind Man's Wharf

Once the center of commerce for the city, Blind Man's Wharf...

by jal 9:57 PM

Let me tell you of a place with forests green and silent,
of quiet clearings surrounded by age and the breath of the divine.
Here nights are lost in time and place under a pale moon,
rivers thunder down mountains with the mossy voice of god, comforting, cold.
Gray skies ease the eyes, slow time and soothe the fears of those beneath,
and I am lost down paths, wandering through mountains, forests and myself.
And even now, far away I look to this place for peace to ease my mind with,
feel the heartbeat of the world pounding rocky shores, see my spirit dancing,
dancing with myself beneath the cold moon, divine, silent.

(I got it into my head today to try something peculiar: Writing a poem of sorts in which the last word of each line forms, in reverse order, the last line of the piece. MAN what a pain in the ass! I see now why I’ve never tried writing poetry, songs or any of that. How do you end a line with the word “with”? I didn’t even try the word “the”.)

by Shawn 7:04 PM

Part I | Part II

Ooh, I bet you're wondering how I knew 'bout your plans to make me blue...

"I've heard through the grapevine," said the Weatherman, "that you've been looking for an umbrella. My associates and I would very much like to help you find it."

"Oh yeah, you're a regular pal," I said. "I guess that's what accounts for all the blood." I spat.

"Well...yes," he sighed. He threw an angry glance across the room toward the two goons who had brought me here. "I suppose I must apologize for the behavior of my underlings, Mr. Elliot. They can, at times, be a tad...overeager, shall we say. Appalling, I know, but your lip will mend, and I think given the circumstances -- "

"Which are what, exactly?" I asked. "Maybe you'd better fill me in. I'm kind of hazy on the details."

The truth was, I was still reeling from that morning's martinis, and getting roughed up on the ride over to the warehouse district hadn't helped. One thing the goons hadn't been eager to do was chat -- we'd had one conversation whose sum total was the connection of a fist with my mouth -- and so I was still trying to piece together what little I knew. There was an umbrella, which from the sound of it was maybe more than an umbrella. There was the redhead, who'd called herself Smith, and whose legs still haunted my dreams. And now here was the one they called the Weatherman, who'd had me dragged down to the docks, and whose goons gave the phrase "hired muscle" a bad name. I didn't trust any of them, and I was starting to feel like I had back in junior high algebra class. Nothing ever added up for me there either.

"It's really quite simple," said the Weatherman. "We don't want to see the umbrella stay in the wrong hands. It would be a terrible shame if this dry spell were to go on much longer."

"Bound to rain eventually," I said.

"That is what we are trying to ensure," he said. "And that is why we wish to help. You have to understand, Mr. Elliot, with the umbrella still in play, my associates and I are something of a disadvantage. We cannot predict the weather if the weather never changes."

"Wait," I said. It was starting to become more clear, and since I wasn't used to that feeling I wanted to take things slow. "Are you telling that me this umbrella...it stops the rain?"

"Yes," he said. "That is precisely what it does. Open it up, turn it on, and nary a drop will fall. As long as it is controlled by other forces, Mr. Elliot, I fear this drought will continue."

"Well that's not good."

"So," he said, throwing a second glance across the room, "do we work together, or do I let my anxious friends over there bloody your other lip?"

"No need for that," I answered. "Just tell me: what'd you have in mind?"

by Fred 6:19 PM

My grandmother had a real, old-fashioned orchard when I was a child. Several summers we raised chickens, and quickly learned that chickens eat anything and everything! I was pretty young, and this was quite a game for me. Corn cobs? Sure. Peas? Pears, raspberries, apple seeds, daffodills? Of course.

This is how I discovered that we had a grapevine in our orchard. Way back in the corner, climbing up an ancient apple tree -- "hey, Mom, what are these things?" I'd always assumed grapes only grew in the tropics. (Hey, I was young.) I learned that chickens like immature grapes much better than ripe ones.

One day in early fall, I had already cut down all the grapes I could reach so I started climbing the apple tree to reach the higher ones. Out of the bushes leaps this huge, furry, hissing monster! (Okay, it was a woodchuck. But it sure looked huge.) I screamed, it hissed. Mom always said to back away from wild animals rather than turning your back & running... so I backed up one step, then turned and ran.

Mom said she must have been defending newborns. Hoo, boy, it worked!

by Faith 4:26 PM

here's a story i hope everyone believes because it's true: i started writing future topics in my palm pilot so i wouldn't be stuck at the last minute. now, the thing beeps at me the night before i have to post a topic. it worked last night, but when i got home at one, i forgot. i rely on technology too much. i hate myself. also,


by rocketo 12:19 PM

{Tuesday, February 04, 2003}

I learned to dance at CTY.

I mean, I'd attended school dances before, and my father and my grandfather taught me to waltz and foxtrot and twist, but it was at CTY, with cool grass under my feet, and sun chased by stars wheeling overhead, and accepting, nerdy friends all around, that I truly danced.

Never mind that it was to 80s music.

I remember one of those CTY dances in particular. Organically, spontaneously, we had formed a big circle, about 20 of us or so, bopping in our places around the perimeter. And then Billy Idol came on—If I had the chance, I'd ask the world to dance, but now I'm dancing with myself—and someone with a delightful hat leapt into the circle. She twirled and hopped, bounded across the diameter, and pounced on someone else, plunking the hat on his head.

He knew what to do: Laughing and grinning, he sprang into the circle. And then he put the hat on someone else.

And we danced, each having a moment, each in the moment together. With a hat, she asked the world to dance.

That is why goofy, weird, and ever-so-80s Billy Idol brings a reminiscent tear to my eye. That song's going to be in my head all day now.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

"But no, mama, you're too short!"
"Hush, little boy. I will do this for the good of the tribe."
   With that, my mama stepped out of our home between the walls of the JonzHowz to face her fate. We were all convinced that it would be truly horrendous, but in the end she seemed to have rather a good time. She curtsied to the Prince and they began to whirl around the emptied kitchen. His subjects were holding the Jonz Giants at bay, and the rest of our family sat on the kitchen table and watched the festivities. It wasn't entirely a glorious occasion as the marriage was a political one, but I knew that our future depended on this waltz. We sat with bated breath, twittering our wings and watching.
   The Prince, it turned out, was as accomplished a dancer as our mother. He doffed his little felt hat, and bowed low. Besides the hat and his sword belted to his waist, he wore no clothes. We could tell that his fur had been thoroughly cleaned (inasmuch as they ever cleaned) for the event, and we appreciated the effort.
   If the rodents or fae were to survive, it would have to be with mutual cooperation, and the best way to guarantee that was with a political marriage between the senior faerie and Prince HashMatzit (the grey and tufted).

(hee hee. Get it? Dancin' with mice elf?)

by MisterNihil 1:59 PM

dancin' with myse-elf

by Sharon 12:40 PM

i used to dance with myself because no one understood the kind of dancing I did. there is a certain point between youth and adolescence where the unimpeded will to dance is somehow quashed by the self-aware paranoia that comes with doing anything even vaguely, remotely stupid. i was (and probably still am) paralyzed by that fear, that somehow my future actions will not only prevent me from ever gaining friends, but also force my current friends to run for the hills.

i was the kid at parties who wandered around the room, occasionally dancing sporadically in my own weird way and hoping that some similarly gifted coquettish female would see my "prowess" and swoon. it never really happened. in fact, as the topic suggests, i spent a lot of time dancing with myself. Since then, more than ever, i embraced averageness in order to fit in -- and i did fit in, mostly. but i never again stood out.

i remember watching the brady bunch movie, where marsha is at the dance and she starts dancing in her weird, outdated way, and people start to look at her funny. That's me. But then, someone likes it. And they start copying her. Pretty soon, the entire gym is in an uproar with this far-out dance. I know you think I'm crying, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" right now, but that last part wasn't me. Eventually, I stopped dancing with myself. I stopped dancing altogether.

But I'm still waiting for that swooning crazy-dancing femme fatale. Maybe Marsha is free.

by rocketo 12:32 PM

{Monday, February 03, 2003}

"One day it's hornets, the next day it's ants?"

"Could be coincidence."

"Why take that chance?"

"You weren't worried 'bout beetles."

"In the moment it seemed fine. But now I'm starting to wonder."

"I think you need to unwind."

"Don't patronize me. The place is crawling with bugs!"

"Is that what this is about, or do you just need a hug?"

"Don't come near me like that, or I promise I'll bite!"

"Well, if nothing else, at least you're starting to write."

by Fred 11:59 PM

Ants. I have ants in my car. While not nearly as thrilling as having ants in one’s pants it is, I should think, infinitely preferable given that I believe them to be fire ants.

The odd thing is that they’ve been there for quite some time, months in fact. I just don’t have the heart to kill the little buggers as they’re really not bothering me and I’ve even become somewhat attached to them. It all started last summer when I turned on the air conditioner and several ants came out of the vent looking more than a little perturbed. Soon I noticed others in the car busily going about their little ant’s lives as ants do and again, as they really weren’t bothering me I let them go about their business. By the way, for those outside of Texas it should be noted that the Fire Ant tends to be aggressive, well organized (unlike those lone-wolf, devil-may-care ants) and their bite can be akin to a bee sting depending on your tolerance.

So, on my way to work I began to make up stories about them and decided, having it would seem, a good strong ego, that I was like a god to them. After all, my coming each day heralded freezing winds, terrible earthquakes and thunderous noises from the heavens. And this was all without leaving the driveway. This is a good point at which to mention how easily bored I am and how much I enjoy stories.

While I thought my little devotees had gone I noticed them again today and was quite pleased that they’re again, or still, living their little ant lives and one would hope, holding me in proper awe. An idol wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

by Shawn 9:34 PM


After the sale was complete and the customer walked out the door, I trotted over to Francine to confirm my suspicions. "Hey F.A., wasn't that a swarm of insects you just made a sale to?"

"Not just a swarm of insects, George." She cracked her No-Stress (tm) easy-chewing chewng gum for effect, "The Swarm." She paused thoughtfully, "Ants mostly, then beetles, hornets, centipedes, and spiders. Pleasant as you please and very intelligent." She leaned over to me conspiratorially, "I think they're running for President."

"You don't say? What makes you think that?" I was a little concerned. You see, I've been ACME employee of the month for the past seventeen months. Rumor had it that upper management was getting a little tired of how The Happy Computer was running The City. If they were going to pick a champion to represent ACME Inc., I was the most likely one. The idea of running against a sentient swarm of insects was a little intimidating and surreal.

"Oh they bought a Instant Order Cell Phone, a Celebrity Endorsement, and a pair of Rocket Rollerskates." She was right. Only really high-powered players bought the IOCP. Her wrist started beeping. "Oh, that's them again on the phone. It's another order." She turned to her terminal, "See ya, George."

I took a deep breath. So the race for President's beginning... "Excuse me, Mr. Preston?" A pimply faced intern held a clipboard out to me. "Internal memo and an external GiftPak for you sir." I signed and ripped open the memo's envelope. It was the one I'd been waiting for. J.P. had already announced me as the ACME candidate for the Presidential Election. It was broadcast on The Network two and a half hours ago. Damn! I better get cracking.

I turned my attention to the GiftPak's Identocard.

To: George C. Preston, ACME Representative

From: The Swarm

Francine had come around the corner to warn me, but it was already too late. The automatic opening feature had already engaged, and I knew too well (I'd sold this little beauty too many times to forget.) that it'd just auto resend until it caught me in the shower or while making the bed.

Dead raccoons. I felt a twitch take root in my left eyebrow. "Francine, place an order for me please. A revolving door, a can of SPAM (tm) luncheon meat, and a bottle of Valium." I got out my HappyCard and handed it over. It was going to be a long, long week.

by jal 6:10 PM


unless something happens in thirty minutes. at which point, shoot me and delete my topic.


by rocketo 11:29 AM

{Sunday, February 02, 2003}

They stared as him, lustily, as he made his way down the avenue. There were whores, everywhere, stuck to the walls and streetlights. Even though they were held fast to these surfaces, they were still ogling him, beckoning him to join him on their wall.

Though he found it unsettling, his curiosity got the best of him, and after another block into the red light district, he inched towards a nearly vacant wall. He peered at the surface of the wall, but found no change in its appearance. He touched it, tentatively, quickly, the way a child touches a pan after you tell him it is extremely oven-hot. It didn't feel sticky at all. He touched again, braver, to similar effect. Whatever was causing these harlots to adhere to brick and metal was not impeding him in the least.

Thinking he had just touched an area of adhesion, he cautiously approached a vixen, who appeared to be fast asleep. She was still standing, her back and feet stuck to the wall. The area around her wasn't sticky. He poked her. Rather, he tried to poke her. Before it even reached the sleeping wench his finger recoiled, as if repelled by the same force that kept her stuck.

A few moments later, as he was still trying to understand this odd sight, a police cruiser pulled up, and flashed its lights. He backed away quickly, as two officers got out of the car.

"Gee, Rogers," one officer said, "these whore-nets are brilliant!" Rogers nodded his head as he sprayed her from head to foot with a mysterious spray can. An audible velcro-like sound emanated from her back as she fell from the wall. Rogers gently picked her up, and handcuffed her as his partner read her her rights.

"You got that right, Gardner," Rogers said, "nothin' like 'em."

by rocketo 8:26 PM


by jal 6:43 PM

Gabriel Ash and Voldesk Estate Necromancers.

“ Hornets, it always starts with hornets,” Ash climbed the moldering steps of the path that led to the main hall of Voldesk Estate, blackened with age, mold and evil intent. The dull hum of hornets followed him past decaying out buildings overgrown with vines and slowly collapsing due to years of neglect. Soulless eyes peered from empty windows but they were of no concern to the hunter as they would wither away once their creator was slain.

“All of these fools decide to make zombie hornets when they start out. Quick, easy watchdogs. Amateurs.” Ash pulled his 9-barrel pepperbox and set the hammer. Each barrel featured a hand engraved 36-caliber ball inscribed with runes that would stop any undead creature. At least any he would face here.

“God but I’m tired of dealing with these would-be necromancers who hole up in crumbling castles and family estates thinking themselves safe and hidden from the world outside. They would do as well to send engraved invitations to the Society of Hunters.” The real necromancers, the dangerous ones shunned such obvious haunts and instead lived in the cities, owned companies and had seats in parliament. These were the real threats, hidden in plane sight and laughing with friends in the light of day.

As he crossed the lawn in front of the main hall the doorway swung open and a lumbering host of undead with rusting weapons and flesh gray from death and stormy skies blocked his way. He drew his saber and leveled his pistol. One; smoke rolled from the barrel as a woman in her late thirties when she died fell. Two; a child of twelve spun and collapsed. Three; an old man. Four; a heavy man missing his left hand. Five; a powerful man with red hair. Six, Seven and the doorway was clear.

“Amateurs.” Ash continued into the hall as a gentle rain began to fall. The hornets swarmed about in perfect formation as only undead hornets do.

by Shawn 2:51 PM

{Saturday, February 01, 2003}

The project lately has been "Be here now." Be fully present in the moment, experience and enjoy it for what it is, without harping on the past, fretting about the remote, or anticipating the next. It's very difficult.

Gibson's thoughts on cyborgs have also had me thinking lately, assessing my interfaces with the machines in my life. And I have to conclude that I live too much of my life remotely.

Evenings, Jon and I will come home and sit in the den, surfing independently, rapt with our square-headed lovers. What am I doing? I'm married to the best man in the world, and I'm seeking my interactions out there, living my life on the interweb?

Perhaps the first step in "Be here now" is to unplug. The command menu even tells you that this is the way to begin:
Start > Shut Down

by Sharon 11:59 PM


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