Archive for June, 2017

Things That Are Awesome: Nine Times Nine is a Waste of Time.

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

I refuse to stop.  You shall suffer as well.  Suffer by looking at all these awesome things that you aren’t.  If you are, please disregard this.
-Snips and snails and killer whales.
-The surety that your body is not a temple. Your temple is part of your body. Geez.
-Many hams making much warmth.
-The arc of the universe bending into a long middle finger.
-Cloning dinosaurs hurly-burly.
-Flopped flips.
-But not flipped flops. They are very distinct.
-The angriest manatee.
-Unspangling banners.
-Counting backwards, sideways.
-The prettiest smiles with the ugliest teeth.
-A soft, serrated, saurian susurrus.
-Pepper and salt.
-Or just pepper.
-Not pep, though, that’s completely different.
-Songs of sevenpence.
-Live, thrashing weight with plenty of life in it yet and a whole lot of bad attitude.
-Very fierce little things with very soft little feathers.
-The kind of legs that just won’t quit because they’re supported by rigid superstructure and aren’t actually capable of bending that way and besides if their owner lies down for too long they’ll develop tissue necrosis.
-Not having tissue necrosis.
-Really old and outdated websites.
-Really old and outdated books.
-Really old and outdated movies.
-Not really old and outdated views, though. A lot of those are kind of shit.
-Dicing without first slicing.
-Ruffling feathers on birds that can’t give a hoot. Because they aren’t owls.
-Pandas with two thumbs. On each hand.
-Itchy trigger nose.
-Waste well timed.
-The siren, savage song of the lesser junknado, thundering through the city garbage dump.
-Bits without bobs. Seriously, to hell with bob. To hell with that guy.
-Fresh new islands on worn old coastlines.
-The drawn-out whines of plate tectonics.
-Clipping your accent for the purpose of later scrapbooking.
-Paper that’s been folded one time too many. Or too few. Or just right.
-Really it’s just so very satisfying any which way.
-The others are okay, but let’s be serious: it’s lunch.
-Cleaning a dented surface until it’s spic-and-spackle.
-Being tickled past pink into red and then full-reversing straight into blue.
-Unnecessary crawling, creeping, and sidling.
-Loud mumbling.
-Quiet screaming.
-Just sort of talking in a matter of fact and extremely moderate tone but never stopping for breath until someone forces you to.
-Communism and Capitalism becoming unexpected whacky roommates, launching a hilarious sit-com that lasts for decades and frequently leaves the world on the edge of its seat (and launch buttons).
-The dickens.
-Not Charles. The.
-Eternity rounded down.
-Anything that’s much bigger than it should be but smaller than good taste would demand.
-The fastest feet in the West.
-Gritting your teeth while polishing your smile.
-All things dim and squamous.
-That one moment where a guy looks off into the middle distance with a faraway manly glint in his eyes and his jaw set just so and then he steps in some dog crap and it’s really fresh and makes an audible noise and he flinches before he catches himself while everyone’s looking.
-Gobs of globes.
-Shelves with just barely exactly too many books.
-Failed symmetry.
-That particular feeling you get in your spine right before you pass out. No, not the bad one. The other one.
-Roiling hills.
-Upside-down boats. Only if they still work, otherwise they’re just tragic. \
-Hops and skips untroubled by jumps.
-Anything that a bored cat does. Especially Jareth. Hi, Jareth.
-Whatever series of events led to Jareth being able to read the above.
-Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Re
-Corroded crapulousness.
-A fierce sort of jam.
-A friable sort of jelly.
-A noncommittal bit of toast.
-Romans that use Y instead of V.
-The freedom to fricassee.
-Actually knowing what the hell fricassee means. Specifically, not in the abstract. Surprisingly rare really.
-Surly sharks.
-Needlessly unsleek, cubular technology. With ugly matte beige coverings.
-Especially when paired with large, bulky, barely-electronic monitors.
-Swallowing your food thirty times before each chew.
-Lavish lipids.

Storytime: Singularities

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

“What? I’m busy imagining the future.”
“Yeah, but it’s important, listen, you see-”
“How could it possibly be more important than this? I’m working on a way for all of us to get out of this mess we’re in.”
“You mean the forest being on fire?”
“Congratulations, monkey found a brain! Good monkey. Now, you shut up and look at what I’m holding.”
“Two sticks?”
“Three sticks.”
“You just added that one.”
“Exactly. My friend, this is a ladder. Lah-durr. You can pronounce that very naturally, I’d expect. And it is going to be our salvation.”
“Gosh that’d be nice, what with the burning flames at all sides of us right at this moment. How?”
“Well, we’re going to use it to climb over this mountain. Then we’ll get away easily.”
“Mountain’s awful high, Mo.”
“Yeah? Well mister smarty-pants, you know how high I could reach this morning? HERE. This branch! And only if I jumped. And now if I get on my ladder-”
“Need a hand?”
“-no, no, I’m fine – THERE. See? Twice as high!”
“And that was in just a few hours, and guess what? The next step only took me half the time to build.”
“Exponential advancement, monkey for brains. That means ‘getting faster,’ I’ll have you know. At this rate I’ll have this ladder taller than the mountain by the evening. I bet we’ll go to the moon with it next week.”
“That’s awful impressive Mo. Say, how we going to get down from the mountain anyways?”
“What are you, an idiot? That’s easy. We’ll just slide down or something.”
“And it looks cold up there, won’t we freeze?”
“Nah. We’ll just uhhh grow fur coats by cutting off the dead ends of our hair. Sure. That’ll be easy.”
“What’ll we eat?”
“We’ll create miniature lichen farms on each other’s backs using spit as a substrate, simple as Sahelanthropus. What the hell is your issue anyways? Shit, you never think about the real, worthwhile problems, like doing all the math on exactly what angle you lash each rung onto this thing, or checking tensile strength of vines by snapping ‘em against your wrist. You’re as bad as all the others.”
“All ‘will this work.’ Of course it will! I thought of it, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but Mo, you burned down half the forest by inventing fire last night and then passing out before telling anyone how it worked.”
“That was absolutely all your fault. I invented fire and handed it to Bluh, and it was on each and every one of you sheep to know better than to let him stick it into a tree for ‘safe keeping.’ Gormless fools, where would you be without people like me?”
“Who knows, Mo?”
“Me. I know everything. Just you wait there, in just three minutes we’ll be on top of the mountain. Now hold the ladder for me as I add this next rung: this sucker’s REALLY gonna light a fuse.”
“Hope so, Mo. Smoke’s getting fearful thick.”
“Just like you then. You know, I bet we could fix this fire by pushing the top of the mountain down on top of it, once we’ve climbed up the ladder. Trivial solution. Wonder why nobody’s done it yet, the lazy idiots.”

Storytime: Homegrove Park.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

A big budget is better than a little one, her mother had joked when they got him. Well, that was easy for her to say. Who ended up with the slap-happy mutt, her? No, no, no, it was Shelley, good ol’ Shelley. The responsible child, the dutiful daughter, the
“God DAMN it Budget DOWN DOWN DOWN good.”
Budget licked his nose aimlessly and made himself apologetic as Shelley attached the leash.
By the time Shelley was out the door she already knew the walk was a mistake. The full sunlight she’d glimpsed out the windows just a minute ago was already souring, skimming through a sky half-full of light, half-clotted with faded blue bruises.
But Budget had cleared the door-
“Budgie! SLOW.”
-and there was nothing for it now but the long haul, both ways.
Oh, the fun of a Saturday. Oh, the leisure of leisure.

Some people put a lot of thought into their dog-walking; planning routes, routines, rotations. Some people paid someone else to do it. Shelley didn’t have the patience for the former or the payments for the latter. She didn’t like it, but it had to be done.
Luckily, Budget’s tastes weren’t exotic. Go fast. Go long. In a straight line, preferably. For a good ways.
“Budget! HEEL.”
All the way.
So past the light and the parking lot of the little generic ‘mart’ of sugar and caffeine and milk; and on through the concrete slabs of suburban sidewalk. It was nicer on this side of the tracks; better-maintained by the city. On either side of her were dozens of half-million-dollar McMansions with extra cheese, topped with a little pickle of a weathervane apiece.
The lawns were too covered with pesticides for birds. The trees were too obsessively-guarded for squirrels.
But the ditches, despite the best efforts of their owners, collected a little bit of leaf litter, and a sip of water. And Shelley saw the bathing bird just a second later than Budget did, which meant by the time her fist was clenching the leash was already free and skating away across the asphalt like a startled snake.
“BUDGET YOU FUCK” she shouted, and from then there was no air left for anything but running.

All the way down the street. Past half-opened garages playing meandering radios set to slumped music from decades long dead. Over driveways filled with shined boat trailers, half-deconstructed playgrounds. Swerving around a man with no shirt, no hair, and a scorched-lobster tan that was heading home the other way.
There was a certain kind of trash that only the upper-middle-class could afford to buy and be.
Budget was Shelley’s goad and spur as she gasped through the too-humid, over-cooked air. He ran ahead at easily twice her speed, but he stopped every few steps out of excitement and passion.
A fence! Bark bark bark.
A car! Bark bark bark.
The sky! Bark bark bark.
But no matter how hard Budget ran, his minutes were numbered. Already the treeline was coming up – the wall of green and branches that barred the very end of the road and marked the end of suburbia; already over-filled and gushing with the last juices of spring. May flowers in early June.
Budget ran up to that solid living barrier, stood there grinning like an idiot
and turned left and was gone.
Momentum kept Shelley going through the surprise. By the time she was able to think over what had happened, she was going through it herself. THERE at the end of the road, LEFT on your heel like a soldier spinning on parade, UP behind the ivy-grown chain-links of someone’s carelessly neglected fence (they’d never get away with that in the middle of the street), and THROUGH a little green tunnel with a dirt-and-woodchip floor, under a darker shade of shade than the sky had provided.
Up ahead, Budget’s barks had settled into a steady rhythm. He’d found something good and exciting to yell at, and he wasn’t going anywhere until it did. Shelley let herself come to a slow stumble of a stroll, skin prickled with sweat and eyes running.
Around the corner she found Budget, and his new friend. It was a large wooden sign, new in a worn-down sort of way. The rust attacking its screws had the look of fresh neglect rather than old wear.

Municipal Parks & Recreation

And past it was a low-mounded field, with copses, and hillocks, and a playground, and in the near-distance was Budget already galloping away.

Well, there were worse places for it. At least here he could wear himself out pretty well, and he wasn’t bothering anyone. As far as Shelley could see, she was the only human in the park. Nothing moving but Budget, no sound but Budget’s barking, and…
Hmm. That.
Something was clinking – faintly, yes, but very insistently under the running salvo of Budget’s sudden enthusiasm for a new friend. Metal-on-metal in the swelling breeze.
Oh, there it was. Blending in with the treeline at the edges of the pine copse. Budget was already tearing past it, on his way to newer and better things.
Shelley trudged up for a better look, figuring it’d make more sense up close, and was made completely wrong. She didn’t quite understand what she was looking at. A free-standing heavy metal birdbath? A biker microbarbeque? It looked like a maypole with chains dangling from it, lashed to a basin at its waist.
A worn label on the thing’s stem still held a logo that must have taken a few million dollars to produce: Catch.
Catch what?
She rubbed at it, hoping for more details, but the words came off with the grime. The same sort of fresh-baked neglect that had filled the sign had been at work here. Who built a park – a big park, she could see that now from here – and then abandoned it? And when? She hadn’t heard word of any construction. Twenty years growing up here, and she’d never heard of Homegrove Park at all.
The wind was picking up again. The pines were rustling, and the blue mess had covered most of the sky now. Budget was a darker blotch on a darkening field of green, running excitedly in circles around the faraway swingsets and the little restroom station and back again.

There was a water fountain at the restroom. It was dry. June and the taps weren’t on.
There was a sign encouraging people to come for the July fireworks. It had no year posted.
There was a bulletin up besides the pavilion, asking if anyone had seen a lost cat four years ago. George. Siamese. The wrinkling at its corners spelled out an answer.
There was a sign thanking the generosity of the donors that had made this place possible. “Our past provides for our future.”
And on a placard next to another one of the mysterious poles, there were instructions for Discus Golf, which was Frisbee Gold without the legal implications.
Catch. Shelley nodded. That made sense. The world made sense. She glanced into the basket and immediately stuffed her fist into her mouth.
Little bones had filled it. Squirrels? Birds?
Catch. Must’ve come to drink and bathe, but the chains got in the way.
Still. That was a LOT of bones. And it was getting too dark out, and Shelley was still the only person in Homegrove Park, and she still had no idea why she’d never heard of it, or why it looked like it had been set up and forgotten.
So she yelled “BUDGET! C’MERE.”
And felt very foolish that she was so frightened. The pines seemed to stare at her from all their little forests that circled the big field. They weren’t healthy-looking trees; they’d been planted much too close together so that their lower branches had shriveled and only their crowns bore healthy green heads. They looked like arboreal skeletons, or starved orphans. As neglected as everything else here.
“Budget,” Shelley called, quieter this time. “C’mere. Come on Budgie! Let’s go.”
There was no sound.
No barking.



And then quiet again, this time for good.

Shelley didn’t like Budget much. But the reverse was not true, and there was a certain wrenching obligation there, as much out of peer pressure as anything else. Man’s Best Friend. A Good Boy. You didn’t ditch your friends right in front of your peers, even if they were terrible freeloading drooling hyperactive malcontents with big brown eyes. It made you look callous.
Thankfully, there was no one watching, so Shelley turned on her heel and started running again.
There was still wind missing from her last sprint.
There was still that guilty stitch in her side, making her stumble every other sprint and huff-puff.
There was still even the reasonable, rational, adult mind in the back of her head calmly telling her that there was nothing to worry about, only children were frightened of being alone when they were on a public path, in a public park, in the heart of a (small, but still) city.
But overwriting all of that was the knowledge that Budget didn’t stop barking halfway, and that Budget was, as her mom had reminded her, a Big Boy. One hundred pounds of dog, and no fat thanks to her grudging efforts.
Anything that shut him up, she didn’t want to be near.
And she still hadn’t seen a single other person, and the air was too quiet, especially for a Saturday. Even if nobody was out picnicking, where were the cars? Where was the background noise? Why were the pines staring back at her?
One of the pines ducked and moved away from her gaze. A branch snapped.
Shelley had thought she was running before. Now she started again, this time properly, and she did good until the pines moved again and this time they were right in front of her and oncoming, so she veered hard left and fell into the pit.

It wasn’t a very deep pit, but she rolled far enough to make up for it. Dust and grit and plastic against her back. Surrounded by red pulped rock fibers. Something was standing over her on the edge of her vision, at the edge of the pit, a great unblinking eye of – no, it was gone, its colour had escaped her before she noted it.
Something about feathers.
Shelley tried to slow her heart down even as she wondered if that was a skill that could do more harm than good and rolled over on her side to pant more thoroughly. Plastic against her cheek. Plexiglass. Smooth. Warm from the dying sunlight.
And as she lay there, she tried to figure out precisely what the fuck was going on.
It’d had her. It’d been right there. Looking at her. And she bet dollars against donuts (a sucker’s bet) that it had been the thing that took Budget. But it turned and walked away when she was helpless, and it did that because….
Shelley rolled over again, face down. And she looked into another face, one a good deal more weathered and fleshless than hers. Minerals had infiltrated it; time had cracked it; wind and dust had buffeted it. Sealed in stone from outside and within.
She wondered what colour its eyes would’ve been in life, and strongly suspected she’d just missed a chance to find out.
Well then. Shelley resolved to ignore however this had happened because it would probably drive her insane and decided to think about boring, humdrum facts.
It had probably eaten Budget.
It was bigger than she was. Taller at least. Definitely longer. Very much outmassed her.
But still…. If it was anything like the thing lying frozen under her in its plexiglass-sandstone cradle, it was mostly bones and air. Thin. Budget would’ve been quite a feast for something that had probably been eating
little mouthfuls. She was even bigger. Therefore, as long as she didn’t do anything stupid like run or scream or panic it should be too full to care about anything she did and it wouldn’t try and
A bunch of objections rained down on the little bubble of logic thus produced, screaming about food caching and play-sport (god, the things her cat had done to a mouse for kicks when she was ten), but its creation had made her too peaceful to notice them and she quietly stood up and brushed herself down.
There were little buckets in a bin at the edge of the site (a label, not a logo: ‘dig ‘till you drop!’). Each had a baby trowel, an eensy pick, and a battered toothbrush.
Shelley carefully nested three of them inside each other as snugly as she could then threw them full-force. They arced gently over the entire field and smashed into the swingset with full force, making a sound like a pot and pan eating each other.
Something made an indescribable sound from what sounded to be six inches away from her, jumped, and the pines around the dig pit suddenly seemed a lot more empty.
Well, good. She could still pitch.
Shelley pulled herself out – an easy lift, this thing was meant to be accessed by under-teens – stood up, and began the casualest, slowest stroll she’d ever imagined having in her life. This was what her ideal walk would be, without Budget. A mosey’s mosey; a perambulation without peer. Each foot lifting off without much of a motive beyond boredom, each sole slapping down like a lazy man’s burger-flip.
God, she could walk a thousand miles this way now. No leash burning her hand, no anger flushing her face, no throat raw from NO or HEEL, no Budget.
No more Budget. Because something had gone and Catch him. Bones in a Discus golf, in a metal birdbath.
Shelley thought about that harder, filling her soul with empathy. Poor, poor Budget, who always wagged and barked and never meant any of the harm that came her way from him. Dense, lovably Budget, giving of unconditional affection and unavoidable fur clumps. She was on the verge of tears which was excellent because if she stopped feeling bad about the stupid dog for one second she might think about what had eaten him and that could be very, very bad.
There was a cough and Shelley ran like she was on third base again for the first time in ten years.

Even so, she was much too slow. Much too slow. But maybe it was a little full, maybe her legs were kicking a little furiously, maybe she was a little bigger than its usual meals, and when she lunged past the sign, down the green tunnel, and cleared that little chain-link fence, she was only bleeding a little.
Her back hurt.

She looked it up that night. Homegrove Park. A single link at the backwash of her search engine’s mouth, a single page that was serving as the appendix of the Parks and Rec department.
“Our past provides our future,” sitting at the top of the page above a waterfall of dead images, placeholder text, and already-dated web design.
‘Dig ‘till you drop! Learn while you play! See our town’s prehistory under your feet!’
And some articles, back-page fodder if she’d ever seen them.
Shelley recognized the face in the photos. Both with and without its eyes. Or feathers.
Our past, provided and served up for our future. What if it didn’t like what it saw? What if it shut itself away, in the dark hours between the picnics and the smiles? Hidden and invisible until it hungers for something more and it…steps back in. For a squirrel, or a woodchuck. Or a loud, happy dog.
While she was at it, Shelley looked the claw up too. Hard to tell without a PhD., but it was a beautiful piece of bone. Dakotaraptor.
She mailed it to the nearest museum with no return address. She’d had enough.

Homegrove Park must’ve agreed with her. Shelley walked that road now and then, once a month. Just to check. But she never again saw that little path into the green wall behind the overgrown chain-link fence.

Storytime: A Short Bedtime Fible.

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

A little over forty years ag
No, no, no. ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a young ma – ah, that is to say, a noble youth. His eyes were clear and his pecs were hard and his jaw was seriously large and impressive. Everyone liked and admired him for all these traits.
Well, the king had just died and things were in a bit of a ruckus when one stormy night a wandering old con arti – well, a wise man, a sorcerer, a magus – stopped by and did fortell a grand and glorious destiny for him. This surprised him not at all and he left home immediately after heroically procuring supplies from the house of his wicked, vile, evil stepfather who definitely supported the treacherous and black-hearted cur, Duke Elnin.
Alas, their journey was not untroubled! While on their way to the Duke’s castle, their money was tragically and loathsomely stolen from them by black-hearted bandit curs who cared nothing for the good of the kingdom. Happily they simultaneously (and totally unrelatedly) encountered a noble band of heroic allies who agreed to help them in their quest for no price whatsoever, being motivated entirely by the purest senses of justice and discernment. Their leader, Red Tom Rennigen, had a little more than this in mind; scarce six months ago the Duke had the gall to name him a common brigand, framing him for all manner of indecency and theft. But the noble youth’s clear eyes saw past the filthy, malicious exterior of his new companion and into his true and gallant heart, and so he was not fooled.

After many incredibly heroic deeds which would take more time to relate and fabricate than I have, they reached the Duke’s foul and towering castle, which squatted malevolently just outside of town like a spider’s-sac of suffering. Surely the foul and gruesome legions that swarmed within it would put an end to the noble youth and his companions in the open field – though they could easily cleave down a hundred apiece, there were like, oh gosh at least a thousand for each of them, so they immediately were willing to listen when the wise sorcerer ventured forth a stratagem.
That very night, a hue and a cry arose from town. Robbers! Brigands! Murderers! Help! Motivated by a lust for violence and death, the drooling, barely-sapient hordes of Duke Elgin spilled forth from the drawbridge of his castle, charged into town, and were trapped within a ring of fire as the band of heroes valiantly set fire to the entire village’s outskirts, dooming them to a most eminently deserved and completely horrifying death by asphyxiation and burning alive in any combination. A few stragglers made it to the edge of the flames and were picked off by the companions, who thriftily pocketed their valuables, boots, and teeth to gift to orphanages later.

The Duke was waiting, of course. Atop the highest tower, naturally. And there he drew his dark blade, Murdermaker, and leapt with a fierce cry at oh to hell with it the sod’s illiterate he can’t tell if I’m transcribing this or writing recipes for fuck’s sake. They dressed up as his soldiers, walked inside and stabbed him to death on the privy, the scruffy menaces. Then they got drunk and burned down the whole keep and oh god this is depressing I’ll just go back to it now.

And so, with the founding of Castle Truth, the noble youth laid his righteous claim to all the kingdom, and though he battles to this day with his riva – the dastardly usurpers, I mean – peace and justice reign within the lands he rules, because almost everyone has peacefully fled or been put to the very just and sharp blade.

Alright, I’m done writing. You can tell the guard to put his sword do