Category Archives: Light

The Old Man and the Seafood

FF46 Janet Webb

copyright Janet Webb

The Old Man and the Seafood

Shoppers meandered around the store in hip waders, shopping carts half submerged.

“How did you come up with this idea?” the reporter asked.

Jeff grinned. “I thought it was about time someone applied the self-pick produce model to seafood. With seafood, freshness is everything. Here, everything is alive up until you buy it. No expiration dates needed.”

An old man shuffled up in oversized boots. “Excuse me, I just need a can of tuna.”

“No cans here, I’m afraid,” Jeff said, throwing the reporter another grin. “Everything’s fresh.” He handed the man a spear gun. “Bluefins are in aisle 30.”


Onion Gum: A Thank-you Note

Dear Gus,

Thank you for the onion-flavored chewing gum you gave me. What a great gift to get for your best friend for his birthday. It really helped my life out a lot. I’m not being sarcastic, by the way.

You see, I didn’t notice the little clues on the package that would have indicated it was a gag gift. I just put it in my pocket before I went to my girlfriend Jessica’s house for dinner. I knew her father liked gum so I gave him the pack. This is my girlfriend’s father who doesn’t really like me since he thinks I joke around too much and don’t have any purpose in my life.

Well, I found this out later, but he just left it in his pocket until the next day when he was going to work. He takes the ferry across the bay to get to work and he was standing by the railing on the side and struck up a conversation with a woman and pulled out the pack to have some gum. He offered the woman the first piece.

She took one bite and started to gag and cough and was flailing around so much that she fell overboard. They stopped the boat and since there weren’t any life preservers nearby, Jessica’s father held his camera out for her to grab the strap. He is an amateur photographer and that camera is his pride and joy. He named it Desiree, I’ve heard.

Anyway, the woman grabbed hold and pulled herself aboard, but she ended up breaking the camera strap. Jessica told me that he got that camera strap from her grandfather just before he died.

There was a coast guard cutter nearby, and it came over to see what had happened. All in all, the ferry got in 40 minutes late, which means Jessica’s father was late for work. That might not have been a big deal normally, but he had a huge presentation and totally missed it. Turns out that the CEO of the company showed up unexpectedly too. They fired Jessica’s father on the spot.

Well, he blamed everything on the gum, which means he blamed everything on me. He’d never liked me much anyway, but now he was furious at me and forbade Jessica from seeing me. I was thinking of marrying her, but after that, things looked pretty grim. Actually she was pretty pissed at me too, so when he got home and said he’d been fired and it was my fault, she suggested we take a break apart for a bit.

I swear I wasn’t being sarcastic when I thanked you for the gum. Just bear with me.

It turns out that Jessica’s father was looking at the pictures on the camera that night and noticed one he didn’t take. Apparently, when he was reaching over to let the woman grab the camera strap, buttons got pushed and he ended up taking a picture of her. It was unplanned but it was perfectly framed and showed the angst of human existence as we struggle to stay afloat in a boundless sea of existential toil. Or whatever. That’s apparently what Time magazine said when they bought it from him for a ton of money. He said the word Pulitzer was mentioned a few times. Also, his portfolio is getting more attention now. He’s actually going to start a freelance photography career, like he’s always dreamed of.

Jessica’s mother really believes in signs so she convinced him that all this happened because of me and the gum. He called me himself to apologize and to thank me. Then Jessica called and so we’re back together again. I’m thinking of proposing, since her whole family loves me now.

So again, thank you for the gum. It really changed my life.

By the way, if you ever give me anything like that again, I’ll kill you.

Your friend,

Andy


It starts with stealing Donald Trump’s jet

FF Rich Voza

copyright Rich Voza

“We’re gonna get murdered.” I unlocked Donald Trump’s private jet with stolen keys.

“It was your choice,” Jack said. “You wanna switch?”

“No.” I climbed into the cockpit and consulted the WikiTheft page on flying a stolen jet.

Somehow we took off. Somehow we flew to Mexico City and crash-landed in the busiest airport in Central America.

Somehow we spray-painted “To Mexico, love Donny” on the side and escaped the authorities.

“It’s your turn,” I said as we sat on a sidewalk, trying to think how to get home.

Jack looked thoughtful. “I think I’d better pick Truth this time.”

 

*FYI*


One Stop to Hwajang Station

 

Come on, come on. That frantic thought is sculpted into the crowd’s poses and expressions. Some are sitting, but most pace awkwardly.

Far off, they hear the train rumbling. Visible relief flashes from face to face.

It’s an awkward two-minute ride. No eye contact, rocking back and forth, biting fingernails. Come on!

The doors open and people lurch forth, loping crab-like with thighs clenched, men out the right side, women out the left. A moment later, a hundred stall doors slam. A long, protracted sigh.

“They should put these in houses,” someone says.

“Gross! What is this, the Dark Ages?”

 

 

*hwajangshil (화장실) is the Korean word for bathroom. This story does not take place in Korea. You can only imagine the sort of world where it does take place.

 


A Farm Upstate

The van arrived an hour after the call. It was clinical white with the words A Farm Upstate in large black lettering. Next to them, as if to add legitimacy, was a picture of a red barn and an oak tree.

Bruce got out and ran the doorbell. A harried man answered the door. “Thanks for coming so fast,” he said. “He’s not doing well.”

“No problem,” Bruce said. “What kind is it?”

“Black lab,” the man said. “Come on in.”

The dog was lying in its bed in the laundry room, breathing shallowly.

“Marcus Aurelius,” Bruce read off the side of the bed.

The man shrugged and nodded towards the girls sitting cross legged in vigil with her back against the dryer. “Her mother’s a history prof.”

Bruce knelt by the dog, checking its vitals.

“Are you a vet?” the girl asked. Her cheeks were wet.

“No, but I know a lot about animals. I’m from a farm upstate.”

The girl’s face clouded with skepticism. “Oh, yeah? What’s the name?”

“Sunny Porch Farms. It’s a great place. There’s a huge porch where dogs can lie out in the sun, lots of window sills for cats. We even import butterflies for them to chase if they want.”

“So, you’re taking Marcus Aurelius?” She sniffed and ran a hand across her eyes.

Bruce nodded. “I’m afraid so. There comes a time in every pet’s life when they need specialized care. He’ll be happy up there though. I guarantee it.”

“Can I come visit him sometime?”

“It’s best if you don’t,” Bruce said. There was no point explaining why.

The girl said good bye, hugging the poor dog so tightly Bruce was afraid she was going to kill it right there. Then he picked it up and carried it out to the back of the van.

“Thanks again for doing this,” the man said, handing Bruce a check. “That’s a great marketing idea, by the way. Just to make sure, there won’t be any pain, right?”

“None at all,” Bruce said, pocketing the check. “I’ll give him a quick shot and he’ll be good to go.” They shook hands and Bruce got in and drove off.

“Hang on back there, Marcus, okay?” he said as they got on the highway. “We’ll be there in a few hours.”

Two hours later, Bruce arrived back home. The dog was motionless and Bruce was afraid he’d died until he opened his eyes and licked Bruce’s hand. Bruce carried him in to the treatment room and put him on the table.

“A retriever, I see,” his wife Jane said, walking in. She got a syringe from a drawer and filled it with amber liquid. Marcus Aurelius was quivering with fear and Bruce held him still while Jane stuck the needle into the dog’s leg, pushing the plunger down slowly.

“How was the traffic?” she asked.

“Not that bad for a Saturday,” Bruce said. They watched the dog. He shook his head several times and then took a deep breath. A minute later, he jumped off the table and barked.

“There, he’s doing fine now,” Jane said. “Go show him around and I’ll go get supper ready.”

Bruce opened a door in the far wall and Marcus Aurelius bounded after him. He seemed to have all the energy of a puppy now.

The door led to the wide yard that echoed with the barks of dozens of dogs. There was a porch a hundred feet long, facing south with rows of comfortable pillows.

“This is a popular spot, Marcus,” Bruce said, leading the dog around. “Find yourself a pillow and soak up some sun, if you want. The cardboard box room is over there, although you’ll have to share it with the cats if you want to go play. The toys and bones are wherever you can find them, so feel free to bury them. The elementary kids come on Tuesdays for playtime and belly rubs, so I’d pencil that into your schedule, if I were you.”

A bell rang and feeding stations all over the farm deposited food. The air exploding into barking as the dogs ran here and there.

An hour later, Jane and Bruce sat down for their own supper on the second floor balcony, overlooking the farm. A parrot perched nearby.

“You realize that Marcus Aurelius was the one hundredth animal we’ve taken in,” Jane said. “How many more can we afford?”

“You think we should sell the serum,” Bruce said. “It still only works on animals, though.”

“But it could still do a lot of good. Plus we could make a ton of money.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Bruce said. He watched Marcus Aurelius cross the yard, nose to the ground as he intently followed some invisible scent trail. “I got an idea: let’s expand to goldfish.”

“Everyone has toilets. No one’s going to pay you to take their goldfish away.”

“They might. We could call it A Pond Upstate.”

“You just want the animals, don’t you?”

“Do you mind?”

She shook her head and with a smile, squeezed his hand.


Rabid Disregard

Captain Rabid did not inspire confidence, beginning with his name and ending with his apparent desire to kill his entire crew. On his first day he dismissed the ship’s doctor in order to motivate the men not to get injured or sick. He routinely ordered them to charge enemy ships head on, despite the fact that it gave the foe a perfect chance to rake the ship from stem to stern. Eventually enemy ships would just turn and run, not wanting to fight a crazy man.

One of the midshipmen had a pool going to guess the reason for this apparent insanity. The top choice was that he was suicidal; the second choice was homicidal. Less popular choices were that he had a father who was a hero and was trying to follow in his footsteps. In last place was the idea that he just wanted to get fired and go home.

*        *        *

Captain Rabid opened his diary.

Dear diary, I have done everything exactly wrong and still I am employed. The ship’s pool is at almost 100 pounds. Tomorrow, I will claim it, then have a naughty phrase concerning the admiral’s mother painted on the side of the ship. I should be at home in my garden by the end of the week.


Landlocked

Luxembourg

The good ol’ red white and blue for half a million Europeans

Landlocked

“I think you’re being aggressive.”

“I am not being aggressive! All I said was that I really want a vacation by the sea. I’m feeling stifled.” Luxembourg sighed. “All I asked for was a tiny corridor to the ocean. Even for a month?”

Belgium looked doubtful. “Yeah, but what if you don’t give it back? I know, let’s just hook up. Then you’d get lots of beach, through me.”

“Me and you?”

Belgium shrugged. “Yeah, and Netherlands too, if you want. Whatever.”

“That’s sick.”

“Just picture is: Benelux. It could be a thing.”

“Hey, what are we talking about?” a bleary voice from the northeast asked.

“Oh go back to sleep, Netherlands. It was just a joke,” Belgium said.

“You know, there’s more than one way to get to the sea,” France said, sidling over.

“Look, I really didn’t mean to imply that—oh geez, here comes Germany.”

Several hours later, after untold glasses of wine and beer and several annexation proposals, Germany wandered off and Belgium fell asleep. Luxembourg sat and pondered. There had to be a better way to get some beachfront property: something less wussy than being absorbed into another country, and less super-villainy than blowing up all the land between it and the ocean.

France was still there, drunkenly explaining how big it was.

“Dude, I’ve got this place called Clipperton Island. It’s off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific, of all places. I haven’t even been there in like a hundred years. I just like to tell people I own it. I even tell people I own part of Antarctica, though not everyone believes me.”

“How much land do you have?” Luxembourg asked.

“Beau—coup.” France smiled, then got up and went home.

Luxembourg called up a friend in the United Nations. “It’s not that I’m feeling small or anything, Kimoon. I’m just wondering if there is any land no one has taken yet. I just need some lebensraum, you know? I mean—forget I said that.”

“Two words for you,” Kimoon said. “Bir Tawil.”

“No thanks. I’ve already had a lot of beer this evening—”

“No, it’s a place in Africa. Maybe you could have it.”

“Actually, I’m a little leery about colonizing Africa,” Luxembourg said. “Belgium’s told me a thing or two about what it went through there. I don’t want to become that. It’s just not me.”

“No, it’s perfect. It’s a tiny little place between Sudan and Egypt—actually, it’s about your size. Sudan says it belongs to Egypt and Egypt says it’s Sudan’s, so neither one claims it. Honestly, if you want it, you can just have it. It’s a real headache for map makers. Rand McNally has been breathing down my neck about it for years.”

“You sure it’d be okay?”

Kimoon laughed. “You’re Luxembourg! Who’s going to say no to you?”

This was sounding pretty good. “Okay then! I’ll send some guys down this week with a flag and get things set up. How are the beaches there?”

“Beaches? It’s totally landlocked. That’s shouldn’t bother you though, right?” He laughed and hung up the phone.

Luxembourg sat alone in the bar. It had just doubled the size of its territory, so why wasn’t it happier? It didn’t need to be like Canada, with its 200,000 plus kilometer coastline. All it wanted was a place by the water, where it could sit and listen to the seagulls.

And maybe a navy.


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