Tag Archives: humor

We Swiped Right on Monstr

I’m extremely late in posting this story, but better late than never. I actually wrote it last week, but I was in Seattle for a conference and didn’t get a chance to post it.

FF187 J Hardy Carroll

copyright J Hardy Carroll

“You’re a werewolf?” she asks.

“A wereman, actually.”

“So every month you turn into a . . . man?”

“A different kind of man. An accountant actually.” I blush. “Just a frenzy of budgets and data sheets.”

She looks pensive. “That’s cool. You could do contract work, do a month’s work in three days and rent an office on a per-day basis to save money.”

“Okay.” This is getting serious for a first date. “What about you? Your profile said you’re a succubus, right?”

Now she blushes. “Not exactly. I just exploit men’s useful abilities.”

“Oh. So you’re . . .”

She nods. “I’m a practibus.”


A Gift for Dad

It’s my dad’s birthday today and I don’t have a present for him. It doesn’t help that I’m currently three time zones away, although even that is better than the fourteen or so when I was in Korea.

It’s not totally my fault though. He’s very hard to buy things for. For one thing, he’s just so darned contented. He doesn’t need anything except his family and peace on earth and he’s already got one of those, and the other one is a little out of my price range.

I remember the first thing I ever bought him. I think it was for his birthday, but it might have been for Father’s Day. I don’t know how old I was, but probably around five. When you’re five, you don’t pick out a present and you definitely don’t buy it. It’s more a situation of your mom saying, “Here, this will be your present to Dad.” But when you’re a kid, from that moment on, it’s YOUR present to give, just as much as if you’d carved it out of the earth yourself.

I gave him a staple remover because Mom said he didn’t have one. It probably cost a dollar, especially considering this was in the 80s sometime. I remember him opening it, and I will always remember what he said, even though it was over 30 years ago. He said, “Do you know, for years I have been taking staples out with my thumbnail?” My little heart swelled with pride at that because I was helping Dad. I had given him something he needed.

staple remover

Pictured: a five-year-old’s idea of a good present

I’m not going to say that was the last good present I ever got him. I made him a glass chessboard once when I was a teenager that I think was pretty spiffy and once I made him a leather sheath for his scout knife. It’s always a bit of a challenge though to find that perfect gift, what the French probably don’t call le cadeau juste.

Don’t think I’m blaming him, however. The fact is, I’ve taken after him quite a bit in this regard. I’m pretty darned contented myself, as exasperated female members of my family might readily attest. But growing up, here’s what the list was, in terms of possible gifts:

  • Ties. At least I think so. I don’t actually remember getting Dad a tie, but I think it was always on the table as an option. At least he wore ties, which is more than I can say about myself, if I can at all avoid it.
  • Mugs. This was a great one because a person can always use mugs, especially if you drink coffee like my dad. Of course, after a while, there’s only so many cups of coffee you can drink simultaneously, and only so many people you can invite over for coffee, so this gift is not a sure thing. (Note: if you find you have too many mugs in your house, pick the ten you use least and put them in the back of a pickup truck and drive around on dirt roads for an hour. Throw away any that are chipped and your family will then have something to give you as a present again.)
  • T-shirts. We tried this, we really did. All through our teenage years we tried to make Dad cool. And he was cool, right up to the point when he invariably gave the T-shirts to one of my sisters, since he said the shirts looked better on them anyway.
  • Books. Not a bad idea, but if he’s anything like me, he could build a house with the books on his To-Read list. One with a breakfast nook that’s all non-fiction.
  • Tools. All guys need tools. This simple adage means that there are always gifts to buy someone. The problem is, beyond the basic tools, tools quickly get very complicated and very specialized. I prefer to get him knives and machetes and things like that, since that’s what I like. I like to give knives as presents to people right up to just before the point where a casual observer takes that person to be a serial killer, and Dad’s nowhere near that point yet.

Every now and then, I get some grand ideas for gifts for people that involve way more time and resources that I have. I would probably start with a drawing and end up five hours later with a plan to make a personalized movie featuring interpretative dance that symbolizes the passing of the seasons in Newfoundland. My planning process is often just a sine wave oscillating between flights of fancy and blunt realism.

interpretive dance - not really

This is unrelated, but it was the first result when I did a Google search for “interpretative dance Newfoundland seasons”

A lot of the problem is money too, because I’d love to buy him a canoe and a trip for two to France or Peru, or both, and maybe a self-shoveling driveway.

But, in lieu of all the things that I either can’t get you or you don’t need, I’ll give you this blog post, Dad, if only because I know no one else got you one and you don’t have one already (this does not include Facebook posts, I will note, since my sister writes devastatingly beautiful and poetic tributes to people on Facebook that always leave me feeling choked up and envious).

I love you Dad and I hope you have a wonderful birthday. Someday, perhaps, we will be in the same time zone and maybe even the same zip code and I can say it in person.

happy-birthday-dad-300x300


Couching Your Bets

The inspiration for this story.

Couching Your Bets

“Hi, I’m looking for a divan,” I told the receptionist at the casino.

“I can have him paged,” she said, slightly uncertainly.

“It’s not a he, it’s an it,” I said. She looked blank. “How about a Chesterfield? A futon?”

“Are . . . they guests here?” she asked, taking a shot, like a drunk sniper on a Tilt-A-Whirl.

“They’re pieces of furniture,” I said. “My furniture, in fact.” I was struggling to keep the conversation afloat in the tar-like morass of her incomprehension. “They rebelled and came here to Vegas.”

The receptionist was almost audibly praying for me to go away so I left her desk and wandered further into the casino. There were high stools at the slots, easy chairs in the lounge, and long, wooden benches outside for the smokers. But no couches.

“It was all because of the slip covers,” I shouted at a floor attendant five minutes later over the brassy jangle of the slot machines. I had explained my search and he was keeping up better than the receptionist had. “They hate slip covers, you see. They say they like to breathe.”

“They say?”

“Well, not really, but they left a note,” I said. “The futon wrote it, since of course the Chesterfield’s writing is crap. The divan was apparently feeling lucky, and you know how divans are.” The attendant nodded and chuckled knowingly in a way that made me think he wasn’t paying the least amount of attention.

“Have you seen them?” I asked.

He actually seemed to think for a moment. “Did you have a chaise lounge? Because I saw a red chaise lounge come through here a couple hours ago. It blew about ten grand in twenty minutes.”

“I’ve never had a chaise lounge,” I said, thinking that I’d also never had ten grand.

“I’ll keep my eyes open,” he said.

I wandered the Strip for hours, showing pictures and asking people. Finally, a cop said he’d seen some pieces of furniture go into a wedding chapel. I went in to find the shocking news, memorialized by a Polaroid picture tacked to the Just Married! bulletin board: my futon had just gotten married to a loveseat.

“Their cushions reeked of bourbon,” the clerk said. “I’ve never seen sofas so soused since that Saturnalia in Sears.”

I left in a rage and spent the rest of the night wandering around getting more and more desperate. Finally, as dawn was bleeding through the neon noon, I found the whole collection in an alley behind a strip club.

“Come with me right now or I’m going to IKEA,” I said, my voice as calm and steady as an executioner’s sword. They came quietly.

When I got home I spent a fortune getting them clean. I also found that the loveseat had tagged along, so I put it in the den by itself. The futon started to look forlorn, so I stuck them together, even though it messed up the layout of the room.

It wasn’t until I found $45,000 in casino chips in the cushions of the Chesterfield that things started to look up. Also, a few months later I went into the den to find several brand new ottomans ranged around the room, so that was a bonus too.


The Office Zebra

I love my job a lot, but it has been a hard last couple of weeks there. I never write about my job. Not directly, at least.

zebra stapler.gif

[*]

The Office ZebraTM

I sat next to the smoking wreckage of my cubicle and took a sip of coffee. No one blamed me for what happened; I knew that. I did have a lot of work on my hands; everyone knew that.

Looking back, there was no real way to avoid it, but I still had that faint feeling like I should have known.

Clearly I should have gone into studying tardigrades. At least they were tiny and nearly indestructible. But no, I had to study zebras. Zebras were definitely not tiny and, looking around at the assortment of black and white striped flesh that was strewn liberally around the remains of my cubicle, I could say with some certainty that they were not indestructible.

The reason I studied zebras was that our former CEO had been crazy about zebras, and so all the researchers went whole hog into zebras. Unfortunately, it turned out that the CEO had been literally crazy about zebras, a fact we all discovered when they hauled him off, raving about how the next president was going to be a zebra and he knew because he’d already voted for it. Suddenly, there were a lot of us with advanced degrees in zebras (including the highly dubious PhZ) looking sheepishly around, wondering how to make ourselves profitable.

“I’ve got a great idea,” my co-worker Adrian said.

“What?” I asked.

“Promise you won’t steal it.”

“I promise.”

“Zebra flight attendants,” he said proudly, like a 3-year-old showing off his indecipherable finger paint smears.

“That is literally the worst idea I have ever heard,” I said. He ran off crying.

I didn’t tell him my idea, because it was actually good. My grand idea was to make a zebra that would work in an office setting. Your average zebra has no business being anywhere near an office, so clearly this was going to involve genetic engineering and maybe something more.

One night a bottle of vodka and I laid out my plan. The Office ZebraTM was going to have a stapler for a mouth, the ability to recycle paper by eating it, and maybe a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot in its back. Honestly, I quickly ran out of ideas for what a zebra could actually do in an office. Luckily the vodka had some ideas. About halfway through the bottle, the pencil drawn diagram of the Office ZebraTM had really come to life. It had a different stamp on each of its hooves, you could pull on its tail to dispense hot coffee, and its eyes shot lasers, for some reason. The next morning, when the vodka could no longer give suggestions, I got rid of the coffee dispenser and laser eyes.

The lab started work right away. After a few focus group meetings, they decided to give the zebra a larynx and the instinctual ability to say “Good job!” at random times. It also pulled a small cart with snacks and coffee (no unfortunately placed dispenser, luckily).

“What are you working on?” Adrian asked one day.

“I’ve got something in the works,” I said coolly.

“Me too,” he said, smugly. “It’s going to blow your socks off.” He strode off, still looking back smugly at me and promptly walked into a door.

The lab really came through, I must say. Six months later, I went down there to find a zebra that not only stapled my papers and brought me snacks and coffee, but also stamped my parking ticket and brayed a rather indistinct “Good job!” at me. It was not its fault that it said it just as I was coming out of the bathroom.

The next step was that step which every R&D person dreads; field testing, or in my case, office testing. I decided to bring it to my cubicle and see how it fared. It arrived the next day and I led it proudly it through the halls as my co-workers all gaped. Adrian was nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.

I started with the stapler. I fed paper into its mouth but it just ignored it or bit the paper in half. I tried the stamps on its hooves, but they didn’t seem to work. Even the Wi-Fi wasn’t on. I went to copy room to get some scrap paper to feed it when I ran into Adrian in the hall.

“Hey, have you seen my KamikazebraTM?” he asked.

“What?”

“My KamikazebraTM. Hey, why are your eyes widening in dawning horror?” It was about then that a distant boom from the direction of my cubicle answered his question.

All zebra projects were quickly cancelled. Apparently, when no one can tell a stapler from a bomb, it’s a bad thing. Adrian got in trouble for bringing his KamikazebraTM to the office. I didn’t get in trouble, they just made me clean up what was left of my cubicle.

I wasn’t in any hurry. I took another sip of coffee, appreciating the thin silver linings. I didn’t have to check my email today. The air smelled vaguely of barbecue. Adrian had gotten in trouble.

Things would work out somehow. They always did.


My Nightmares Smell Like Pink

My Nightmares Smell Like Pink

Damn you, Guinness. Damn your dark, earthy brews and your book of madness that drives normally sane people to the edge of folly. You’ve destroyed more lives in the pursuits of “records” than the Olympics and Extreme Archivists combined. I was there the day it all went down, the day the brightest minds of my town were snuffed out in a wave of pink goo that stuck like the fluorescent taint of horror.

My town of Crockport was a one-horse town; a one-horse, twelve-car, one-drunk-named-Charlie town. It also had a bubble gum factory.

The Trubble Bubble Gum factory had originally been built during the Second World War to make ersatz rubber tires. 1400 chewable tires later, the Army cancelled their contract and Trubble Bubble Gum was born. It was the go-to place for employment in Crockport, the job for anyone who wanted to stay in town and had already gotten fired from the Burger King and the gas station.

The story of that fateful day started when Mayor Rathbone was flipping through a Guinness Book of World Records and saw that the record for largest bubblegum bubble was 20 inches across. He snorted—that wasn’t even as big as his desk. They could do better than that.

Forget the human factor though; they would do it by machine. The 4th of July fireworks were cancelled and the money diverted to the Bubble Machine, as Rathbone called it in his mind. 10,000 dollars of development later, they had a hose hooked up to a tank of compressed air. Most of the money had gone to the huge scaffold it was erected on.

We all crowded around to watch as workers from the factory carted out a 400 pound log of gum. According to the mayor, the monstrosity could make a bubble 575 feet in diameter. Of course, he did the calculations on his arm with a Sharpie so no one was too sure of the accuracy of that number. Still, in his words, “It’ll be a sight bigger than 20 inches, that’s for sure.”

The crowd hushed as they turned on the air. The pink bubble blossomed like a time-lapse video of a growing flower. A minute later, it was ten feet across and growing every second.

When they stopped for a break at 120 feet in diameter, everyone agreed it was big enough; everyone except the mayor. “Look how easily we did this,” he said. “It won’t even be a month before someone makes one 125 feet and we’re back to obscurity.” So on went the air and the sticky pink colossus loomed over us.

At around 300 feet in diameter people started to back away. They weren’t fleeing exactly but they had that stealing certainty that whatever happened, this was not going to end well. The bubble made it to 344 feet across when the bird appeared.

It was an ordinary robin, presumably fluttering home to its nest with a worm in its beak. We all watched, horror-struck, as it flew straight for the pink Death Star, like a red-breasted Millennium Falcon stuck in a tractor beam. Soon it was all but lost from sight in that expansive bubblegum background. Then, we heard that tiny noise that signaled doom.

Pop.

There was a startled squawk and a gooey mass burst from the bubble, looking like a seabird caught in a Pepto-Bismol Exxon Valdez spill. The robin was soon forgotten as the record breaking bubble pancaked onto us, blocking out the sun.

The aftermath was like a war movie made by Willie Wonka. Men, women and children staggered through the streets, stuck to cars, light poles, each other. The ambulances came but got stuck in the streets and even after the National Guard was dispatched with giant paint scrapers, it was weeks before the town looked even recognizable.

Crockport is now on the map, at least, although not for the world’s biggest bubblegum bubble. Mayor Rathbone didn’t know that you needed a representative from Guinness there to confirm it. Also, the factory is gone. Still, we now have the leading chiclephobia clinic in the world, so I guess that’s something.


When Life Gives you Lightning

This story is dedicated to my friend Amy, who has been getting picked on by the Universe lately. Cheer up, it could be worse.

[*]

      [*]

My car shook with a massive thunderclap as the man walking a little ways up the road was suddenly and violently struck by lightning. I slammed on the brakes and was preparing to call 911 (or the morgue) when he got up and shook himself slightly.

“Hey! Hey you!” I called, getting out. “Are you hurt?”

He looked over, muzzily, I thought. “No, I’m fine.” Actually, he sounded resigned more than anything.

“Good. I mean, dang! Are you sure?”

He started to walk towards me. “It happens a lot. Hey, do you have a quarter?”

“Heck, I’ll give you a whole dollar,” I said. I kept looking for signs of damage but he looked fine.

“No, just a quarter, please. When this happens, my mouth tastes like pennies. I like to suck on a quarter, just for variety.”

With his monotone voice, I couldn’t tell if he was joking, so I gave him a Tic Tac. Maybe I was just happier handing him something non-conductive. He accepted it with a nod.

“So, what do you mean by ‘happens a lot’?” I asked.

“I get struck a couple times a week,” he said, sucking on his Tic Tac, like a scurvy sailor sucking on a lime. “More when it’s cloudy. Actually when it’s stormy, my town hooks me up to the grid. It blows the transformers every time, but our mayor’s not that smart.” He shrugged.

Meh.

   Meh.

“And you’re really okay?” I said, unable to move past that basic point.

He looked at me for a moment, then shouted, “Okay? Of course I’m not okay! Do you know how lonely it is being a man who attracts lightning? No kid wanted to play on the jungle gym with me in elementary school. And girlfriends? Forget about it! I actually do like long walks on the beach, but I’ve never had one. I’ve only had short ones, followed by a trip to the hospital for whoever I’m with. Do you know what that’s like?”

“No,” I said, with perfect honesty. “Are you okay physically though . . . ?”

“Physically, I’m fine. Doctors have warned me that it might cause lowered intelligence, but that’s baloney. I’m at least as smart as anyone I know.” He stopped suddenly and licked his lips. “Hey, that quarter you gave me was pretty good. Do you have any more?”


I’m a Little Teapot – The Nightmare

teapot

The psychologists make a convincing case. I can understand their logic and after hours of intensive therapy, I can accept the truth. But still, that tiny kernel of doubt gnaws at me in the dark hours of the night, when I wake, sweating, with heart pounding. That question, which is always before me:

What if I am a little teapot?

My physique is perfect for it. Shortness and stoutness runs in my family and I am only a hairbreadth over 5’4”.

I have no handle or spout, but the fact that I can easily replicate them with my arms disquiets me. What if, upon forming their shapes in some playful gesture, they get stuck that way? What if I am forced to live out my life looking as if I am about to spew out hot liquid at any moment?

I would not say that I have an especially hot temper, but I have been known to shout when I get particularly angry. I try to resist it and every time I give in, I feel the dark teapot-ness inside me growing. I must hold it back.

That brings me to the tipping and pouring out. No two verbs fill me with such horror and I live in fear of some giant hand reaching down, grasping me and turning me on an angle. It is the stuff of nightmares. I carry both a taser and pepper spray for such an eventuality. I repeat: do not attempt to tip me! Do not try to pour me out! I am well armed.

 

(if by some chance you have no idea what this is about, click here)


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