Archive for July, 2017

Storytime: The Short Straw.

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Just me and Bob out by the lake. Sitting by the fire, like brothers do. Sharing supper cooked on a spit, like brothers do. Taking turns scratching our ass and swatting flies and tearing off mouthfuls.
“I don’t know why it’s so important we take turns. It all goes into the same stomach anyhow.”
“There’s more to a meal than a full stomach, Bob. You want to taste it. Savor it.”
“Half-cooked crawshark? I don’t think so, Bill.”
“You’ve got no damned palate at all. Folk would pay good money for this.”
There was a polite cough from the edge of the campfire.
“You sick, mister?”
“No, no, no, no no,” said the stranger. He was smallish and humanish and only had a single head, but he made up for it with a big smile and his voice was chummier than the water around my uncle Tom’s sharking dock. “I just wanted to announce myself. I’m just a poor, poor, very poor starving old traveler and I was wondering if you could spare a bite or a bit or even a measled morsel for me? In exchange I can listen to all your fascinating talk of all this money you’re on about.”
I shrugged, making Bob bite his tongue and mutter something vicious.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, Bob. Sure, y’want some? It’s crawshark. The little fellas. Not gotten stinky yet, nice and sweet still. You’re gonna have to bring your own butter, though. Bob’s used our lot.”
“And you just made me spill half of it down our shirt y’fat lump of old-”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, err….” He squinted at us. “Both?” he decided.
“Don’t mention it mister.”
“We worked hard for that meal,” Bob complained as I handed over a good pawful of flesh. “Scraped and scrapped and cheated at three games of dice with Edna ‘n Elda, and all so’s you could give it away.”
“Games of dice? Are you a betting ma – ah, that is to say, betting men?”
Bob said “Not really,” but I’d started first and got my “damned straight” in right over top of him. I could feel his whine brewing in our belly and bopped him on the shoulder behind our back, quiet-like. “Best for miles. With cheats or without ‘em.”
“Wonderful. Tell you what, my friend…s. I’ll bet you for this fine feast you’ve gone and gifted me. What do you say to that?”
I felt Bob’s mouth open and bopped him again. “Sure,” I said. “Shoot.”
“Well, this lovely bit of meat you’ve given me is delicious, but it’s made me thirsty. As a matter of fact, it’s made me so thirsty that I’ll bet you I can drink that whole lake there right down to the mud.”
I blinked. Bob picked up our hands and moved them strategically, framing and angling the stranger, squinting furiously.
“Nah,” he said. “You’re off your skull. No way it could fit in there. Y’d have to be, something like…three times bigger.”
“Five,” I hazarded.
“You’ll take that bet then?” he asked.
I grinned. “Done,” I said, just ahead of Bob’s “Nope.”
“Excellent! Now then, I’ll just have to get ready for this. Tell me, do you have a straw?”
“Bill, he’s-”
I shrugged. “Nope.”
“Hmm. Do you have a spoon.”
“Got a shovel.”
“No, that won’t do. I don’t suppose you have any paper or anything that I could roll into a straw? Something sturdy, or glossy – enough for a short, sturdy straw.”
“Got some funny little paper bills we won off’ve Edna and Elda. Those do?”
The stranger’s smile was a beautiful, gleaming thing. “Oh, lovely,” he cooed, and he took them and wounded them up into a tight scroll. “Now, I don’t suppose you have a stick or something I could keep this around, so it doesn’t uncoil?”
“Hey, you should-”
“Here,” I said, and I handed him the spit with me and Bob’s leftovers on it.
“Wonderful! And now that I have my straw, I could use some seasoning. I enjoy mineral water, you see. Do you have any metals or minerals I could drop into the lake to make it tastier?”
“He’s gonna-”
“Think I’ve got some change hereabouts,” I said, and I dumped a handful of the shiny little gold things I’d found in a ditch in front of him. Oh my, that man could smile, I tell you.
“Wonderful!” he cried. “Oh perfect! Almost ready. Just one thing. Do you have a boat? I find it’s best to start drinking from the center of a lake, where the water’s deepest – prevents having to trudge in from the shore as you drain it.”
“Right on the shore,” I nodded. “Just be careful with it.”
“I shall! I very very shall! Well, thank you and goodbye – for the moment.”
And the stranger and his smile and his meat and his coins and bills jumped into his boat and started rowing like a madman, splashing all the way out.

I hummed to myself a bit. I knew nothing got Bob to come out of a sulk like a good humming. It makes his tongue itch.
“You know, what I was trying to say-”
“What you were INTERRUPTING to say, Bob. You know that nobody likes folk who do that.”
“-what I was TRYING to say was, it wasn’t particularly charitable of you to not inform him that the lake was undrinkable on account of all the crawsharks in it.”
I shrugged. “He didn’t ask. ‘Sides, he had a worldly look to him. No sense trying to pull one over on a bloke like that. And well, that boat was leaky anyways.”
“Waste of money though.”
“Ahhh, you know damned well the nearest human store’s forty miles off. No way we’re walking all that way for the chance to buy a half-supper. Nah, we’re better off this way, Bob.”
The splashing intensified suddenly, then stopped.
“If you say so.” There it was, that grudging tone that meant I’d won another argument.
“I always do. Now, let’s go home. We’re out of butter. Nothing worse than eating crawshark without butter.”
“Getting eaten by crawshark.”
“Well now Bob, who’d be so damned foolish as to go and do that?”

Storytime: Sow the Seeds.

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With emmer wheat – a tasty treat
And maize, planted in rows.

Oh Mary, Mary, tired and hairy,
How does your garden grow?
By work and sweat and violence kept
At hand, for men and crows.

Ah, Mary, Mary, a weight to carry,
How does your garden grow?
Through hill and dale and harpooned whales
Lamp-lighting, guns and bows.

Well, Mary, Mary, mother of Jerry,
How does your garden grow?
On words and slurs and jangling spurs
Comic books, movies and shows.

Mary, Mary, so dim and scary,
How does your garden grow?
Fat with patriotism, and nationalism,
And smart-drones, high and low.

But Mary, Mary, dodge and parry,
How does your garden grow?
With hateful histories and murderous mysteries
And blood feuds, burning slow.

Mary, Mary, so very chary,
How does your garden grow?
In shallow graves, on sunny days
On fences, where the border-lights glow.

Please Mary, Mary, please do spare me
How does your garden grow?
Over carbon’s rise and surging tides
Acidity, drought – but no snow.

How does it grow?
How does your garden grow?
At quiet speeds with ferocious weeds
Over the ruins that housed the Dow

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
Very well, oh very well
Very well, if you must know.

Storytime: The Word of Gull

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017



Fine. If that’s the way it’s gonna be.

Aiiii-YIIIK, Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-YIIK, AWK AWK AWK AWK

There! That always did get your attention! Now, pay attention – and don’t look so surprised! We all grow to fit our habitats. You fat little apes covered half the world in garbage dumps, and what thrives better there than me? Raccons? Possums? Rats? Cockroaches. Don’t make me laugh, they’ve got no ambition – noses in the dirt, in the dark, under the radar. For me and mine the SKY is our limit, and with your fucked-up-foods as fuel, I’m gonna go past it.
Don’t make me laugh with your guns and your pleas and your bargains. You aren’t here to talk or fight, you’re here to listen. And if anyone tries otherwise, I’ll peck their eye out.
Now, here are my commandments.

Thou Shalt Give of the Potato
I want you ploughing every suburb and house in Idaho into fields by Friday. And I want all those suckers harvested, cleaned, cut, sliced, deep-fried, and on every picnic table beach and dock in the world by Monday or I’ll starting julienning you, which’ll be pretty fun with a beak this size, let me tell you. It’s finicky work, so save us all a lot of trouble and do as you’re fucking told, got it?
And give me ketchup.
Give me buckets of tomatoes. Give me gallons of sugar – cane, refined, fuck it, MAPLE for all I care – just give me it fast and hard and furious and syrupy-thick. I want it all and I want it all over the fries. No dipping, you dips. We’re not doing this for seasoning, we’re in it for lubrication.
Oh, and if you’re short on the salt I’ll split you with a single peck.

Thou Shalt Surrender Thy Car
I want every vehicle outdoors, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, every year, forever and ever, aaaaaaaaaamen. You hear me? You’d better hear me. Because I don’t want to have to repeat myself. I want a good, clear target with a fresh scrub on it. I want to see that metal gleaming up until the very second that my guano impacts. And believe me, it’ll impact. Full-out. Burnish the dents out too or you’ll hear from me.
And if you put an umbrella over that car, if you park that car under an awing, if you obstruct, for one SPLIT SECOND, the sleek shining surface of that vehicle, with branch, roof, hand or prayer, the shit’s coming down on YOU instead.

Thou Shalt Be Seen And Not Heard
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard my younger brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and cousins complain of the time they were on a beach, screaming Aiiiiii-YIIK, Aiii-YIIK, AWK AWK AWK AWK and some runt of an ape’s offspring came gibbering at them and chased them off mid-holler. That stops today. That stops yesterday, actually, when I went down to the lake and ate every single noisy little fuck I saw. Let’s get this straight: those beaches are not for your benefit. They’re our business now. Come quietly, bring fries as an offering, and if you REALLY have to swim for life-or-death reasons expect to get shit on and take it calmly. Anyone screams, they stay behind.

Thou Shalt Respect The Shit
This one’s simple enough. Yes, even simple enough for you. ALL of you, no matter how dense.
See this? Smell that? Know what that is? It’s the mark of authority, you gibbering wannabe-brachiator. And if you see it, you step aside. Your docks? They’re ours now. So are your boats. And your picnic tables. Never touch them again or you lose your hands your arms and your torsos in exactly that order. Are you still paying attention, pudge-apes? You’d better be, because this is important. We live there. We shit there. And where we shit you’d better not fucking tread AM I CLEAR ON THIS?
Oh and if one of us shits on you, you’re theirs for life.

Look Down
It’s more fun when you’re not expecting it.

Right? Right. If any of you mess this up I’m coming back tomorrow to eat Toronto.

Storytime: More Than Could be Chewed.

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

The mayor’s office was a mess. Old fast food wrappers strewn across the floor. Pictures knocked clean off the walls. Papers sliding off every surface. Torn hair scattered over the chair.
And now that he’d been kidnapped, someone had punched a big hole in the window, too.
“Motive,” I muttered to myself for no reason.
“Oh no, not very much,” the secretary told me. “His doctor said he should lose weight but he said he was much too busy. You know, with the board meeting and all.”
“No, no; the kidnapper’s motive.”
“You think he needed exercise too? Funny way to get it.”
“I’ll need your name and phone number and address,” I said, and that put the conversation back on acceptable lines until I could escape out the door.

In ten minutes I was back in an office, as different as night and day from the first. Spotless. Speckless. Dust-free. The windows gleamed brighter than the actual sun. It hurt to look anywhere except at the commissioner’s moustache which was just the way he wanted it.
“This is bad,” he said.
“Sort of. He was sort of stupid, sir.”
“Cruel, detective.”
“He called us in last month to check his car for bugs, sir. Said he was worried he’d been abducted by aliens.”
“There’s no law against being a kook, detective. If there was, we’d have no time to sleep or eat. Now, go do whatever it is you do out there until this is all fine or whatever.”
I shrugged. “Fine. I’ll go ask around.”
“Right. I’ll have your badge.”
“Oh come on.”
“You heard me.”
“NOW, detective.”
I sighed, pulled out my badge, and put it on the table. The commissioner picked it up with tweezers and whisked it into a basket, slid his desk drawer open, and passed a plastic-sealed package to me with a second set of tweezers.
“This is still really unnecessary. And wasteful.”
“Those things are germ magnets and you know it. Now go make me proud and don’t breathe on anything on your way out.”

I needed answers and I didn’t have any and I needed questions and I was too tired to think of any. I needed the bare minimum of effort to cover the illusion that I was doing my job. I needed dead-end leads.
So I went to the highschool across the road from city hall and asked the teenagers.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Great. Were you outside the school yesterday between the hours of 3:30 to 9:00 PM?”
“Fantastic. Do you know anyone who was?”
“Excellent. Did you see anyone drag the mayor out of his office window?”
“Wonderful. Thank you.”
“Hey, did you say the mayor?”
“Dunno I mean yes.”
“You didn’t mean the other guy?”
“The other guy that was dragged out of his office window?”
“Yeah, him.”
“WHAT other guy that was dragged out of his office window?”
He beheld my face.
“I mean it! Look, you’re a cop. You should know this. Everyone in my class knows about it.”
“Right. Look. Do you know where this other guy that was dragged out of his office window was?”
“Du – uhhhhhh kinda.”
“Okay, good. C’mon.”
“Am I being detained?”
“No, you’re giving directions. I’ll let you turn on the lights if you want.”
His scanty neckbeard shifted as he considered this; a pine branch bobbing in the breeze. “Siren?”
“Oh whatever sure let’s just go.”

It wasn’t an office. It was barely an apartment.
“It says it’s an office on the door. A couple of my friend’s friends came in here; they said he was a doctor.”
“It says he’s a doctor of spaceology. It says several things and the only one that’s true is the name and I only trust that because the landlady confirmed it, and she’s got one of those lie-detecting faces.”
I glared at the not-office in angry defeat. The third desk of the day. This one was occupied by hundreds thousands or possibly millions of pages of painstakingly tiny handwriting. Written in pencil. On post-it-notes. Multicoloured ones.
I couldn’t call this in to forensics; they’d put formaldehyde in my lunch and make it look like an accident.
“Why didn’t she call this in?”
“She said she was going to just put his stuff on the curb tomorrow and get a new one in and an investigation would slow things down. New window was easy though, her son was home for the weekend and put one up, she knows someone who knows the local glazier’s wife. It was really nice of him, they got a great deal.”
“Where the hell did that come from?”
“She gave me a cookie and said her boy wasn’t around enough and it just kept rolling.”
I sighed. “Wonderful. Well, since you’re such best friends, how about you ask her where the next clue was.”
“She says she hasn’t seen that angry man on the corner in two weeks. Y’know, on Paul and Frank? The one with the muttonchops who screams about devil music and got kicked off’ve the university’s property for life?”
“How big was this cookie?”
“This big.”
“Jeez. Did she have two?”
“No, it was just the one.”
This was exactly why I didn’t go into work with kids.

The crazy corner guy’s apartment was actually nicer than the spaceologist’s, uncleaned glass shards from the broken window aside. It had a giant mobile made of silly string and newspaper clippings dangling above the bed – just in case he woke up in the middle of the night with a good idea, probably – but it was well-swept and had no originally-written material.
“Maybe he stumbled on the truth?”
“What truth.”
“Y’know. The conspiracy.”
“What conspiracy.”
“To control the uh, world? History?”
“They’re doing a shitty job of it then.” I pinched my nose and dearly wished coffee still worked on me. Or tea. Maybe a bit of caffeine into my arm in a needle, that’d do it. Right in the vein. But no. I was standing around with Shaggy’s younger, less-motivated cousin, following the mysterious defenestration of the loopiest people in town.
Well, three out of four wasn’t bad. There was still

Oh damnit.

“Hey Andrew, do you live near here?”
“Within walking distance?”
“Public transit?”
“I got no change.”
Neither did I.
“Hey, tell you what: you ever wanted to see the inside of a police station?”
“Last summer me and Ricky and Conner got wasted and a cop drove us home and said next time he was taking us in.”
“Well, it’s your lucky day!”

It was quiet when we pulled in. Not a whisper of movement disturbed the still, heavy July air as the car squealed sideways into the parking lot and stopped in the middle of all four handicapped spaces.
“No time,” I said to the front desk as I kicked the doors open.
“No time,” I said to the commissioner as I kicked his door open.
“No time,” I said as I violently yanked the window open and waved my gun around outside it.
“DON’T MOVE LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPON OR I WILL oh you’re a squirrel never mind.”
I shut the window and turned around, face to face with the moustache.
“False alarm. But you should probably go home and stay away from windows.”
“Give me your badge, detective.”
“Well, it’s been a long day, but I’ve only pulled it out like four ti-”
“Oh come on, I was in fear for your life. Listen, the kidnapper’s after you, I can say that for sure. His victims all fit a profile: they were sitting near a window in a predictable and relaxed stance, and they were all completely batshit.”
“You’re not giving.”
“Look sir you KNOW I mean that in the most friendly possible way. A UFO abductee, a professor with a degree that doesn’t exist, a conspiracy theorist, and the most germophobic policeman in the world – you’re all completely nuts.”
I blinked. And something outside the window kept fluttering, even as my eyelashes stopped moving.
“Completely nuts,” I repeated.
“Well, one of us is, the other’s just concerned with basic hygiene. Here, you can put your own badge in the trash this ti-”
The window exploded inwards at the same moment as I opened fire. Six shots, and I’m not too proud to say all of them hit the target’s abdomen which was extremely hard because he was about a foot long and most of it was a large fluffy tail.
This was a good moment to be pithy in.
“MotherFUCKER,” I said.
“Woah,” said Andrew.
“I told you to wait outside.”
“You were talking really fast. Lady, you just shot a squirrel.”
The commissioner was still holding the trash can when he vomited. Very tidily.

We had to break out the K-9 unit to track them down in the end; our perp may have left a clean trail, but his victims stank of urine and panic-sweat. They were wedged in an old oak just outside of town, crammed in place as much by each other’s own squirming as by main force. The mayor was in good shape; the professor was a bit dehydrated, and the crazy corner man could barely say ‘illuminati’ without passing out. He was on fluids in the hospital.
No fatalities but the kidnapper himself. He was an older specimen, and the vet said in his old age it’s possible he got a bit confused. And literal.
After all, it was the middle of summer. He wouldn’t have needed those nuts for months.