Storytime: Skippy.

September 6th, 2017

Tiny little things change a lot.
Why, look at this asteroid. Eight miles from bow to stern – not even a cosmic atom. But there it was, about to make the lives of ten billion fatty apes so very much more difficult than they needed it to be.
But they had their own little ways of making their own little changes.
“Wow.”
“Focus, please.”
“I’m focused. Hey if I hold up my palm just right I can cover up the whole planet. Woah.”
Intentionally or not.
“Look, can you just turn around and come back to the ship? Your tank’s gas mix is off. You’re not thinking rationally.”
“I’m absolutely rational. I spent seventeen years being trained to monkey with impossibly dangerous substances day in and day out and never kissed anybody even though I really wanted to. I’m very rational. I’m very rational. Hey, what do you think is going on here? Is this rock more of a phallic thing or a yonic thing? I mean, it’s going to PENETRATE atmosphere, but it’s shaped a lot more like a-”
“Please. Major. Come back. You’ve got the detonator on you.”
“I do?”
“Yes.”
“Huh. Where’d I put it?”
“In your left pocket.”
“I can’t find it.”
“Your other left pocket.”
“Oh! Well how about that. Heck, might as well get it done while we’re out here, right? No sense in wasting time. Every delay brings us a nanoinch closer to obliviation, right?”
“Major, please. The explosion has to be precise. You are holding the lives of ten billion people in your pocket. ”
“Nah, it’s in my hands now. And it’s safe! Hey, did I ever tell you what I did when I was a kid?”
“No, Major. Maybe you should come back and show me?”
“I skipped rocks!”
“That’s n-”
“I was good at it. Really good.” The Major brushed the detonator carefully, feeling the plastic switches tremble and judder in their little safety cages. “All those days down at the lake, it was a good lake you know. For skipping. Seven skips. Without a good stone, mind you. Like, a lumpy one. A big clunky one. Hey, you know what? I bet I can top this.”
“Major plea-”
“It’s fine,” said the Major, holding the detonator sideways and upside down and then settling on backwards. “I’m an expert at this. They called me Skippy, you know that? I miss being Skippy.”

They only got four skips out of it before it landed in the North Atlantic, but boy they were fat ones.
Still, it was just a little planet. It’d get over it.


Storytime: Ward Seven – Complications.

August 30th, 2017

Bed one: comma.
-Patient remains unresponsive outside of the usual four-minute ellipsisetic period after administration of medication, which is an unfortunate but necessary procedure to prevent an impacted semicolon. Change bedpan eight times a day every day to prevent running on.

Bed four: AD-HD.
-Seven concurrent 1080p minimum videos during daytime hours, dropping down to four for the sleep cycle. Do not restrict or censor video input or patient will become disturbed and may attempt to self-medicate by liking themselves over and over, stressing already chronic tendonitis in both thumbs.

Bed seven: a mild case.
-Patient will be in for just a quick spell until it’s decided whatever they’re probably suffering from – but not too much, mind you, they’re just a bit under the weather. Administer plenty of orange juice and regular meals. Maybe some chicken soup. Currently on day 849: case is EXTREMELY mild and all staff should take sensible precautions not to shake patient’s hand and remind patient to cover their mouth when sneezing.

Bed nine: nervous tick.
-Patient must not have restraints loosened or it will judder itself to death. Freshen blood bag at breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours – do not permit midday comfort eating. Do not engage patient’s fears that blood will give it STDs, salmonella, or cancer. One fidget spinner per day, no more. Collect shed exoskeleton on Mondays.

Bed twelve: dig and delve.
-Patient has ascended into higher form of being by becoming one with patient’s lawn, and is now a mass of sod, worms, turf, and weeds. Due to financial destitution following the departure of patient’s spouse patient must now receive a biweekly six-hour in-depth watering in bed twelve followed by a rigorous weeding by Drs. Lennox and Wu. Do not bring sharp objects within patient’s line of sight or patient will attempt to self-prune to the point of damaging their roots.

Bed thirteen: cat.
-Cat remains small, black, affable yet mercurial. Refuses to change. Up dose of wet food and laser exercise until it comes to its senses. Do not skimp on litterbox.

Bed twenty: free parking.
-If bed is occupied do NOT treat patient with all past medications prescribed to bed twenty, that is NOT a real rule and if you believe it is you have never worked ward seven properly and you are precisely what gives this institution a bad name.

Bed twenty-four: depression.
-Patient has downgraded several times over the past week as wind speed drops but proper care should still be taken in treatment. Dress in wind-resistant and water-proofed clothing, deliver proper notice to a co-worker before attending bed, and keep an eye out for high ground and sturdy structures in case patient crosses over a body of warm deep water and becomes reinvigorated to full strength without warning.

Bed thirty: chronic addict.
-Patient stubbornly clings to overwhelming and all-consuming desire for life despite overwhelming futility of it all in the face of their own mortality in the broader scope of the universe. No prescriptions; just humour them until reality kicks in.


Storytime: The Only Smart One.

August 23rd, 2017

“I’ve got a story.”
“Oh? What kind of story?”
“A big one.”
“Oh yeah?”
“As big as the world.”
“I bet I heard it before. I’ve heard every story about the world and all its bits. Tell me, is this the one about the flood?”
“Nah.”
“Is it the one about the giant?”
“Nah.”
“Is this the one about the old man with the whole world in a sack?”
“Nah.”
“Don’t you tell me this is the one about that one god all by himself that decided to make the universe by ja-”
“Nah, nah. It’s none of those stories. This isn’t a creation story. This is a uhh….unmaking story.”
“Y’mean like an apocalypse?”
“No, not quite. See, it goes like this…”
Now, in the beginning, something happened. Doesn’t much matter what. Could’ve been a flood, could’ve been blood, could’ve been an old man with a sack –
“Could’ve been a lonely god with nothing better to do jac-”
Yeah, sure, whatever. Doesn’t matter, that’s the important bit. Doesn’t matter. Okay?
“Okay.”
And now by and large, the world was as it was. Stuff happened on it. Y’know. Births, days, ragnaroks, punch-ups, dust-offs, extinctions and exaptions and all that does as it do.
“As we do.”
And after a while of this, along came the only smart one. She popped up the way most of us did.
“How’s that?”
Dumb luck. And as she looked at everything around her, she went ‘wow. WOW. This whole PLACE is nothing but dumb luck. It’s a mess, a tangled web a drunken spider would be embarrassed of. Who in their right mind would do all this crap?’
“Was it the one bored god with a free hand and a har-”
Doesn’t matter. And the only smart one looked at all this crap, and she wasn’t happy with all this crap, and she said ‘I think I’d better tidy up all this crap.’
So she started on it.
She wrapped up species and put them in tidy shale boxes. She shelved reefs and packed up forests. She re-filed continents back in their original places. She mopped up all the god snot, blood and spit that was lying around.
But you know what it is about cleaning? The damn place just gets dirtier after you’ve tidied.
She finished putting away all the shells, out came new shells.
She glued a supercontinent back together, it fragmented all over again.
She plunked a meteor down to keep life distracted, it just oozed all over the place like month-old mayonnaise.
So the only smart one was getting pretty beside herself. The world was a mess, and worse yet, it was self-perpetuating.
“Sounds like my laundry.”
Even worse.
Okay, so the only smart one was having a bit of a moment here. Things got so bad she had to sit down and swear for a while. But she was smart – the only one who was, like I say – and she thought as she swore, which I know for a fact you’ve never done properly. And as she was thinking and swearing a little furry moron took a piss on her leg.
She snatched up that little furry moron and said ‘you little furry moron, don’t you know I’m the only smart one? Why aren’t you helping me out here?’
And the little furry moron hissed at her and bit her, and she was so surprised that she dropped it and it broke its neck.
‘Wow,’ she said. ‘That’s amazing. That little furry moron was so stupid, so dense, so unbelievably dumb, that it got me to kill it for no good reason. That’s impressive. I know I’m the only smart one, but that’s dumb even for…anything. Wow.’
Then she thought a bit and went ‘hey.’
So the only smart one followed around the little furry morons for a while, making sure they had plenty to eat. Plenty of places to hide. Room to stretch and grow and bulge and leap and totter and tumble and eventually, walk around upright. They were amazing creatures by then. They had the biggest brains on all the planet and that made them the dumbest animals to ever live.
And the only smart one sat back for a rest and said ‘aw hell, they’ll take it from here.’ And she picked up the stray threads of the planet and started teasing them back together, spooling them up. Nice and tidy.
That’s it.
“The end?”
“No. Weren’t you paying attention? It isn’t the end yet. She’s still got a lot of world to spool in. But we do our part to straighten it out, and it won’t take so long.”
“So…those burgers we just ate…”
“Yeah, that helped a little.”
“Kind of you to give an old lady a hand like that.”
“Well, I do my part. Someone’s gotta fix this mess we’re all in. Now you drive me home; I can’t stand up straight anymore and if I go tonight then who’s going to work overtime at the refinery tomorrow?”


Storytime: Garbage.

August 16th, 2017

Gerry was mostly garbage.
You know. Banana peels; candy bar wrappers; wads of paper and shreds of Styrofoam; old beer bottles; crisp pizza boxes; old pickles jars with the juice still in and used Kleenex.
And that was normal, and that was okay!
Gerry was moved on occasion to clean out his garbage. To ungarbage himself. To put it into big, black plastic and lug it to the small, concrete curb and chuck it into a tall, steely cylinder until who knew took it who where. Out of sight, out of under-the-sink, out of mind, might as well be out of this world.
And that was normal, and a little bit bad!
Gerry walked out his front door on the way to work, and he heard shuffling and he heard shredding and he walked up to his precious garbage can and he opened it up and inside was the biggest-ass raccoon with the biggest ass he’d ever seen on an animal that wasn’t related to him. It was wedged at the bottom of the can.
“Hello,” said the raccoon. “I seem to be stuck. Can you save me, kind stranger and passer-by?”
“You’re in my garbage,” said Gerry. This offended him. He might’ve been throwing it away, but it was HIS.
“Oh, yes. I was hungry. Wasting away. Very kind of you to do this. Would you please save me?”
“I should shut the lid and leave you for the truck,” said Gerry kindly.
“Oh please, please, please save me, kind garbage man,” said the raccoon. “If you do, I’ll grant you three wishes with which to make your wildest, tamest, and lamest dreams come very true!”
“Wow,” said Gerry. “What’s the catch?”
“None, just ordinary, run-of-the-mill wishes. Well, normal. Normal for their type.”
“Which is?”
“These are garbage wishes. You have to wish for something about garbage.”
Gerry thought about that.
“I’ll throw in a fourth,” said the raccoon.
“Sure, why not,” said Gerry. And he turned the can upside down and thumped its bottom with his palm until the raccoon shot out like a cannonball and faceplanted onto his lawn.
“Done and done!” it shouted as it scurried down the street. “Just be careful!”
Gerry was unphased. He knew exactly what needed to be done. Four doses of purest power were right there inside him, fizzing and bubbling and waiting to be unleashed as he saw fit.
Right now he saw a very particular fit. A little, everyday fit. One that merited his attention. One that had foiled his every attempt to solve it through normal, rational, reasonable means.
“I wish,” said Gerry – and the air pressure in his ears went all funny and he had to swallow a couple times before going on – “that my neighbour would stop leaving his trash on my lawn.”
And then he went to work.

Before Gerry’d even pulled out of his driveway his neighbour was breathing his last; felled by a stray bullet from his OTHER neighbour who’d been cleaning his gun while super sure that it was unloaded. By breakfast he was downtown; by lunch he was on the news; by the afternoon Gerry’s neighbour’s sister, who was a police officer, had accidentally dropped him down three flights of stairs; by dinnertime Gerry’s other neighbour’s cousin, who was on city council, had publically demanded her resignation.
Anyways by the same time next week half the city was at bureaucratic war with the other. But Gerry saw that lo, his neighbour’s garbage was nowhere to be seen, on his lawn or off it, and he was mighty pleased with that. Mighty pleased indeed.

Gerry’s good mood lasted him halfway to work. But then, at a stoplight, he watched the big doof in the big doofy truck next to him finish off a cigarette and flick the butt out the window without looking. It landed on Gerry’s windshield, where he was looking.
“I wish,” said Gerry – Pghlem roared through his sinuses and he gulped, queasily – “that nobody’d ever throw litter at my car again.”
The light dinged, the motors revved, and Gerry’s car proceeded into the intersection just ahead of the giant out of control semi that jackknifed through everything and chucked people and vehicles into the air like flipped coins.
The resulting traffic jam shut down one of the city’s busiest streets. The ensuing road rage led to a few more accidents that took out four or five of the rest. Then a small riot broke out and they just had to shut down well, uh. Pretty much everything.
Gerry got home on one of the last operable streets and parked his car. As sirens roared in the distance from immobilized police, he admired its spotless surface. Not so much as a wad of spit.

Gerry had the next day off. For some reason nobody was going anywhere.
So he went for a walk. Gerry liked walks because he so rarely took them; they were a treat that way. If he walked more than once a week he began to resent them.
It was the usual route. Down the street, across the road, up the street, through the way, from here to there and back again, then the donut store, which was being solo-manned by the youngest employee because she was the only one within hiking distance of the place.
“Five donuts and a large round zirconian latte-lattice with extra squid,” said Gerry expertly.
The barista checked under the counter. “Nah,” she said. “We’re out. Didn’t get the resupply today.”
Gerry’s walk was ruined instantly, all his hopes and dreams mangled. He slumped his way out the door and down the road and was almost run over by a garbage truck, the one garbage truck the city had been able to field that day, which was behind on time and schedule and had only been able to make it by driving over at least four smaller cars.
The driver made a gesture out the window, then repeated it twice but slower, to be sure.
Gerry understood it properly. He understood it very properly. And he shouted in a voice at least three octaves higher than normal: “I WISH YOU’D LOSE YOUR DAMNED JOB.”
The garbage truck honked merrily and went around the corner, where all its wheels fell off.
Later in the day a city hall employee trapped in a six-hour meeting-cum-wrestling-match who’d been forced to take the chair next to an overflowing trashcan stuffed with half-empty coffee cups stood up, grabbed a pen, and eviscerated the mayor. Half the council took his side, the other half didn’t. Then the police got involved, which got the attention of the national guard, which annoyed the military, which required the firefighters, which and so on and so forth.

And so as Gerry sat on his porch that evening, smoke rising from the city around him, he tried to take his mind off the gunfire three blocks over by looking for the big dipper, squinting up through the haze and charred fog.
“There!” he said. Then one of the stars blinked and he realized it was a plane.
“There!” he said. Then one of the stars moved and he realized it was a satellite.
“There!” he said. Then he realized it was actually Orion’s Belt.
Gerry swore loudly. But then he remembered: he had one wish left! Oh lucky day! Oh hooray for raccoons!
“I wish all this garbage wasn’t blocking my view,” he said.
And lo! There went the smoke!
And lo! There went the smog!
And lo! There went the obfuscating haze of the atmosphere!
And lo! There went the clouds of dust and debris and rock and plants and animals and broken concrete and mantle and magma and core and Earth and everything!

And my oh my, Gerry had the clearest view of the night sky of anyone who’d never been in low Earth orbit.
Of course, that didn’t exist anymore.
But wasn’t the view pretty?


Storytime: Dig DUG.

August 9th, 2017

Rosie was a hundred and two feet in the air on DUG’s left side when she dropped a rivet. It was one of the new ones, the big terrifying ones from the Terramac that exploded out of her launcher like hot rocks from a volcano, that ate through metal until they hit air again and became startlingly meek, tame, and as immovable as a mountain range.
“Fuck,” she said, under her mask, under her helmet, under her breath.
Don’t Sweat It, said DUG, who heard her no matter what. They’re Cheap Anyways.
Rosie gave DUG a look from under her bangs under her sweat under her helmet under the glare of the sun, and she knew DUG didn’t care. But she said it anyways.
“Those rivets cost half an hour’s pay. For me, all the others, and our supervisors. Combined.”
Not The Rivet. It’s Fine.
“Well then?”
It’s The Man Whose Helmet It Landed On.

It hadn’t stopped, of course. Not until it hit air again.
If lower-riveter Jenk hadn’t fallen over as it burrowed through his boot, it probably would still be going down there, through thicker and thinner walls of rock and magma until the heat boiled it away. As it was it had formed a perfect seal on the heel of Jenk’s left foot, attaching his boot so firmly to flesh that it had to be left on at the funeral – or so Rosie heard later, since she hadn’t been that close to Jenk. They built things that worked out there in the Terramac. They always did.
Of course, they hadn’t built DUG. Or DUG’s construction site.
DUG was not perturbed by any of this. Men and women had died working on DUG, men and women were dying working on DUG, and there would definitely be men and women dead at the launch of DUG. They were basically the same as the metal shavings peeling off the hull, or the lug charges discarded from the cannons. Prematurely spent.

DUG. Not Dug.
Dynamized Undersea Guardian.
DUG was a quarter mile wide and much longer than DUG was wide
DUG was capable of holding half a town inside DUG’s guts, and needed two-thirds of that to be operated properly.
DUG was armed with cutter-cannons that were backed by boilers bigger than the lungs of a god that could shoot out the surface of the sun in single solid shots or spew out unending boiling torrents or create a seething steamscreen on command with the flick of a tiny switch and the rotation of a house-sized locking catch.
And oh, but oh, DUG was so very, so very, so very very bored.

Rosie would do, mostly. As far as she could tell, that was the sum total of her qualifications. DUG wasn’t shy about sharing DUG’s opinions of the little people putting DUG together. Some DUG liked more than her, some DUG liked less than her, but as far as she knew she was the only one DUG bothered talking to.
DUG hated rivet foreman Immik. DUG liked lower-riveter Telimis. DUG could take or leave the boiler installation crew. DUG adored the work teams that hauled DUG’s jet intakes into place. And DUG complained about the mess crew staff at least once per day.
Rosie nodded a lot during her shifts. Her friend and/or coworker and/or acquaintance and/or who knew, Akro, made a habit of checking every half hour or so to see if she was ‘falling asleep.’
“I’m awake,” Rosie told her.
“Sure,” said Akro. “Sure. Sure.”

DUG was more than gossip. Actually, DUG was more than mostly not gossip. What DUG mostly was was murder.
Every morning when Rosie came in DUG would tell her all about the sights and sounds of the evening. As she ascended DUG’s hull DUG would move on to DUG’s thoughts and feelings on the people working there. And as she plugged in her launcher and wounded it up tight and pressed it to the first plate, DUG would seamlessly shift into talking about what DUG wanted to kill that day.
‘Galms, Of Course, DUG told her. There’s No Doubt They Will Be First.
“The Dynamized Undersea Guardian was constructed to assess and repel the potential coastal spread of the Silence of the Stone,” said Rosie, dutifully speaking the words someone else had carefully given to her in case she felt the need to ever have an opinion.
A Very Good Excuse But Not Much Else. I Can Park Next To That For Ten Minutes And Solve It. What Comes after? ‘Galms. Buckets Of ‘Galms. Heaps. Mounds. Bobbing, Floating Carpets. And They’re What These Cannons Are For, Of Course. Can’t Boil Silence. But You Can Burn Someone’s Ears Out.
Rosie nodded. Akro poked her.
Or Maybe The Terramac. Finally Get Matagan Exclusive Access.
“I’m awake.”
Or Nagezz – Now That’d Be Nice. Turn The Dunes To Glass And Dig Their Treasures Out With A Pebble And A Slingshot.
“Sure! Sure.”

Rosie was increasingly glad she had nobody waiting at home for her. She was getting sick of listening to people.

The crowning tower was the next bit of work. Tricky. It was what sat atop DUG’s giant, invincible brow, peeping above the waves like a curious fish checking for trouble. When it found it, it would tell DUG, and DUG would kill whatever it found, rising up from below to mash and mangle and boil and sear. It was very simple, but it was also a wall of caged steel and angry mechanisms, so it took a little while.
A little while and a lot of rivets. Rosie’s palm murmured deathly things to her every time she reloaded her launcher.
You Missed A Spot.
Rosie hadn’t missed a spot, of course. Akro had. But Rosie fixed it anyways, and kicked her in the leg.
“What?”
“You missed a spot.”
“Oh.” She scratched her nose pointlessly – there were three layers between her face and her gloves – and nodded. “Thanks!”
The whistle for break sounded and Rosie took off her gloves for a second to wipe off the sweat. Just a second. Longer than that and the reflected heat from DUG would start to bake them. In the midsummer noon the upper heights could almost glow with heat.
Aren’t I Pretty?
Rosie nodded and this time Akro didn’t poke her because if you wanted to sleep on break it was your own damned business.
The Prettiest You’ve Ever Seen, I Expect. Look At These Guns. Aren’t They Lovely?
“Maybe,” said Rosie. “Ask me about rivets.”
They’re Seamless.
“Then don’t ask me,” said Rosie, and she fell asleep on purpose this time.

The whistle woke her up, followed closely by Akro’s finger in her back.
“I’m awake.”
“Sure! Sure.”

DUG ate Akro three days later. The crowning tower deck popped open under her feet under the stress of heat expansion and she fell a screaming twenty stories all the way to the bottom of the hull and needed sixty gallons of (very hot) water and rancid, acidic soap to clean her out.
Rosie didn’t ask why.
I Was Bored, explained DUG.

Rosie read the news at home sometimes, when she could afford it after making the necessary purchases of gin, food, and gin.
The Silence of the Stone was spreading faster. Or slower. Or it had stopped.
Gelmorre was posturing, proposing, or possibly prevaricating, perfidiously.
Matagan was utterly invincible and sure to hold fast as long as every citizen did their part and the full force of Matagant ingenuity, resources, time, blood, spit, and semen was poured into their plans.
The best plan in all of Matagan was the DUG, down at the Big End Shipyard out where prying eyes couldn’t goggle too much at it. Someone had taken some very flattering pictures. The cutter-cannons glistened in the sun.
“Aren’t I pretty,” said Rosie, and doubled her gin budget.

Warships Are, Of Course, Male, said DUG.
“Every sailor ever born disagrees with you,” said Rosie. She still hadn’t had a new partner assigned since DUG had eaten Akro, and that meant she needed to expend extreme concentration on making sure she didn’t slip, or run out of rivets, or make a mistake, or die, or break her tools, or get eaten by DUG. Instead she was talking more to DUG.
Ships Can Be Female Because Sailors Want Something To Fuck. I Have Cannons. I Will Do My Fucking For Me.
“Not quite how any of that works,” said Rosie. She counted her rivets again. She had lost two.
You Are Composed Of Organic Materials And Therefore Biased. Only I Can Be Objective About Your Biological Sex Because I Am Neither Biological Nor Capable Of Reproduction.
“Pull the other one,” said Rosie.
I Have No Hands. I Have No Testicles. I Have A Magazine That Fuels My Cannons. My Point Is Reinforced. Just Like My Hull.
You Missed A Spot.
Rosie leaned out over a hundred feet of nothing much, one hand braced on the hull, and looked.
“No I didn’t.”
I Suppose Not.

The next day one of the boilers shook loose in its mount and squashed four people. DUG told Rosie a long story about how many people could die in one of its volleys, if only they all stood still and didn’t move around much. There was a lot of math.

On the day of DUG’s launch they stopped keeping everyone away from the Big End Shipyard and they brought them all in instead. Everyone who was important got good seats, everyone else got makeshift stadium rows rummaged out of old scaffolding.
Rosie got tucked into a corner behind some toilets. She didn’t much care. You could see DUG for miles. You could see DUG from Matagan proper. Some people had stayed home and decided to watch from their houses. Everyone here on the spot was most likely some brand of showboater.
See the boat. See the show.
See the bottle of incredibly expensive alcohol about to shatter against a single knobbly rivet, formed of and embedded within metal that could survive anything at all.
Crash! Bang! Tinkle-tinkle-splash!
Cheers, hoorahs! Woo! Yes! Amazing! Wonderful! The sun was out and everything was shining, from the cannons to the hull to the cannons to the brandy flowing over the rivet.
Aren’t I Pretty? asked DUG.
And then the rivet popped out, still-wet with brandy.
For an imaginary moment Rosie thought she could hear the trickle of expensive liquor seeping inside the hull.
Then the plates jerked apart, the metal roared, and every part in DUG’s bow violently shot away from every other part.

When the earth stopped shaking and everything metal had stopped screaming, DUG was still talking. Of course. She’d expected that. There was no animal harder to kill than a warship, not a bird from the sky or a Wyrm from Afar or a thing from the deep. She knew that because she had been told so.
You Loosened That Rivet On Purpose.
Rosie checked all her limbs. Yep, still there. Even the liver.
This Would Never Have Happened, DUG said to her, If You Had A Penis.
Rosie spat aimlessly at the ground, stained with DUG’s lifebloods, lymphs, cerebral fluids, and intercavitary secretations. Most of them were mostly oil, but none of them was altogether alike.
“Whether I do or don’t,” she said aloud, comfortable doing so in a world where everyone was deaf for at least the next ten minutes, “it doesn’t much matter. What’s more relevant is I’m not a damned dick.”

DUG never did speak to Rosie again, from the dock to the scrapyard beach.


Storytime: Hairy.

August 2nd, 2017

I’m telling you, he was RIGHT THERE.
Right.
THERE.
Why won’t anyone believe me?!

Yes, okay, my story is a little hard to believe. It was a dark night. It was cloudy out. I was out near the edge of the woods and okay maybe I’d had a few beers but it was JUST a FEW beers and I wasn’t drunk, ignore what Amy says she’s a bullshitter if I ever met one, damnit, won’t you LISTEN?
And look, it’s not like I ever believed in this stuff before. I’m a skeptic. I’ve seen those guys hanging around making funny calls into the trees late at night, searching for scat and spoor and prints and going bananas whenever they find a funny track from a limpy raccoon. And I’ve laughed at them. I mean, who wouldn’t?
I won’t. Not after last night.

I was walking back from Ryan’s and yes it was just two beers damnit, two each, no more, no less. Lite beer. And I was walking down the trail along the edge of the trees, just by that meadow there. And as I walked, I was humming and crooning to myself because I do that to keep myself company when I’m alone. Big and lonely place, the edge of the trees. Bigger and lonelier still after dark.
Then I heard a twig snap. Big deal, right? A squirrel.
And then I hear a bush rustle. So what. A raccoon.
Then I hear a cough. Deer? But it’s too loud, and then I hear a belch and across the road there he was. Big as day and twice as ugly. Scratching and shuffling
I stopped moving. Don’t know why, don’t want to guess. God, it was the freakiest thing. And in the back of my head were all the usual excuses running – it’s a bear standing up, it’s a guy with hair problems, it’s a deer standing at a funny angle, it’s a stroke and my brain’s shutting down – but none of them were holding up.
He was chewing on something. Could hear the lips smack from thirty feet away. The clumsy thud-n-slap of the careless feet. The murmuring gurgles of a body never before captured on film that wasn’t grainier than a sand sandwich.
So I pulled out my phone. I made sure the night-vision was on. I raised it high, turned off the flash, and BEEP BEEP BEEP my text alert goes off because George wants to know where the hell I am.
There’s this call – this weird, grunting, burping noise, I can’t describe it, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard a person make – and he’s gone. I sprinted after him, but when I got to the road there was nothing but the smell of burning rubber and gas and a little bit of sour-beer piss. He’d gotten in his car and driven away.
And there I was, left alone to wander back home into the woods. The latest sap of a sasquatch with the two-beer story of the time she saw sandlefoot, without so much as a photo to show for it.


Storytime: The Short Straw.

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.”
“Bill-”
“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.

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

July 12th, 2017

HARKEN.

Okay, LISTEN UP.

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.

FIRST
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.

SECOND
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.

THIRD
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.

FOURTH
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.

FIFTH
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.

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.”
“Really?”
“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?”
“’ndrew.”
“Great. Were you outside the school yesterday between the hours of 3:30 to 9:00 PM?”
“Dunno.”
“Fantastic. Do you know anyone who was?”
“Dunno.”
“Excellent. Did you see anyone drag the mayor out of his office window?”
“Dunno.”
“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?”
“Dunno.”
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?”
“No.”
“Within walking distance?”
“No.”
“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-”
“Permanently.”
“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.