I thought it might be fun to write short stories of no more than a few sentences. They don't have to be great. Just try your hand at it.
"They tried in Tampa Bay. It was attempted by the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets thought it would be easy. But they ended up feeling quite queasy. The Phillies cried 'we will eat their lunch'. But their pitchers gave up runs in a bunch.
The Yanks thought it could be done. But they soon found that it was no fun.
The Padres thought 'with Soto we could win'. But sadly Tatis got into sin
So they all found out what was denied in the Bay.
Try as they may NOBODY CAN BEAT L.A.
Tue 23 Aug, 2022 02:54 pm
Re your latest. I am touched and saddened. Touche.
The story is true, if you delete the feast.
Wed 24 Aug, 2022 09:11 pm
Three wishes?, said Jack.
Yes. Three wishes, said the Djinn. Simply declare first that you are making a wish. But beware the third wish. Once all three wishes are made, nothing can undo them. And I am free forever.
Jack had been a loser all his life. Nothing he did seemed to work out the way he wanted. School was a nightmare of "barely sqeezed through". College was a drug-hazed memory of partying, vomiting, and heavy debt. Jobs, relationships, plans – all down the drain from their outset. Everything failed. And here, in the palm of his hand, was his big chance to make everything right. He’d show the world...
First, I wish to be perpetually rich beyond equal, he said.
Done, said the Djinn. The safe in your home is now filled with gold, and for every coin you spend, ten more will instantly take its place.
Next, I wish for immortality, said Jack.
Done, said the Djinn. You will never die. Nothing can kill you. You will live even past the end of this world.
Finally, said Jack, I wish to have the body of an Adonis.
DONE, you now have the body of an Adonis! And goodbye! screamed the Djinn as he disappeared without even a puff of smoke.
There was a heavy thump on the ground behind Jack. He turned.
A body had just fallen from – somewhere – a human male body of godlike proportions, sculpted muscles, beautiful beyond compare. A very dead body...
Jack turned again just in time to catch the sound of sirens on the approaching police vehicles.
Wed 24 Aug, 2022 09:27 pm
Batso the Clown had removed his shock of exploded looking red hair on coming into the room. As he crossed from the door to the seat at his makeup table, he kicked off each shoe into the corner. That is where they customarily resided when unworn. He slipped the suspenders off of his shoulders and then he sat to wipe away the monstrous clown makeup that made him so feared by young children and the more credulous adults. Before moving the cloth over his face he stared at his image and smirked, recalling shrieking little children, one of whom babbled, “Clown going to eat me up,” on the way to clamoring into his indulgent father’s arms at today’s performance. Then the monstrous clown rubbed and blotted away the makeup. Behold! Batso’s face was clean and now he was just Elmer Barns, in for the day.
As he left the chair, his stomach was heavy from a recent meal. The food would make the cigar he stuck in his mouth all the more satisfying. Feeling a bit weary, he eased into his recliner and reached for the remote. Scarcely had Elmer clicked the TV on when he heard a commotion out on the porch. Then silence. He believed it was a neighbor’s dogs making the noise, and he listened for more. Sitting still to be sure he heard it right. The commotion began again. They were not dog sounds at all. Those were human feet out there; he became certain of it. At least two sets and maybe more. He awaited the expected knock. Probably neighborhood kids, he decided, after nothing happened. Doggedly chewing the cigar, he began channel surfing.
The images clicked by until a face he recognized caught his eye and he let the device in his hand rest. Onscreen was a broadcast of an old series, but it was better than the news channels. Anything was better than that. He hated news.
Before his ears locked on the dialog, a faint knocking sounded from outside. Well, damn. He pushed himself out of the soft chair and slipped on his jacket, then trod heavily to the door to turn the lock. When he eased it out a crack there was a force from the other side that pushed open the door and bowled him out of the way. A very large man entered his home. It was, in fact, a very large clown, nearly seven feet of clown.
The tall clown went to the center of the room and pivoted on one foot to turn and watch as a really small clown toddled in. The really small clown was followed by an in-between clown as thin as a wafer. And behind him strolled a normal-sized clown with a top hat and a paunch.
Astonished, then outraged at being assaulted, Elmer made fists as he glared at them. He looked the giant clown up and down, at his china blue suit with a lavender flower at the lapel and a face with a red banana nose, wide eyes, and a happy grin. His gaze pivoted to the wafer skinny one with stripy shirt, pants that ballooned over really long red shoes, medium-sized red nose, and long yellow mop-like hair. The next clown had stubble painted on his face and carried a straight cane with a knob on top for a handle. The smallest clown had by now audaciously approached and regarded Elmer with extreme sternness. Elmer looked down at the clown’s big head and babyish body, clothed by an undersized tee shirt and a diaper. He guessed by their demeanor this one had to be the leader.
“Little Dumpling is the name,” the smallest clown said, scowling viciously. “My colleagues are, Cool Hand Bert the Giant Clown, Taffy the Stick, and Major Bulldog (note the jowls).”
Little Dumpling poked Elmer’s knee with a finger. “You are Batso the horrible. We caught your act the other day.”
Elmer’s anger began to soften. “You bought tickets for my act?”
The little clown gave Elmer a further rendition of stink eye. “If you wanted to know what real clowns do, you should have seen us in the circus at Jenner and South Walnut this afternoon. We’re fun. We make people happy.”
“Yeah: Our crazy car and madcap antics,” Taffy gushed.
Those statements roused Elmer’s contempt. He said, “That’s fun? Drive screwy cars? Run in circles and fall down? I happen to know that nobody goes to the circus anymore. Know why? It’s boring. You‘re boring.”
Little Dumpling reached inside his diaper and pulled out some Silly Putty, the color of excrement. He plopped it on Elmer’s shoe and smeared it with his palm. “It’s you,” he said. “People become jaded because yokels like you give clowns a bad reputation. They see a perversion of tradition that brings on condescension and contempt for real clowns. Fear, even.”
The little clown’s harangue had Elmer sneering. “Have you seen movies like The Joker?” he said. “It’s what people expect. You guys are the Brownies of the 21St Century. Nobody even knows what Brownies are anymore. That’s why you are Brownies. Nobody cares anymore. The public wants Batso. Because they love hating clowns.”
“Well,” Bulldog said, waving a big yellow gun, “There’s going to be one less clown to hate, shortly.”
He stood behind Little Dumpling with the gun pointed just below Elmer’s sternum.
“That’s not a gun,” Elmer said. “This is a gun.”
As Elmer’s fingers clenched on the gun handle behind his jacket, Bulldog fired the yellow gun. It shot a tiny syringe into Elmer’s flesh. A stab of pain caused him to say, “Ow.”
He tried his best to pull his gun clear of the holster, which action is hard to execute if one is losing consciousness and falling at the same time.
“I’m going for the bag,” Bert announced, looking with satisfaction at the corpse on the floor. “I brought the one that looks like a rolled-up carpet.”
“Good choice,” said Little Dumpling. “It should fit in the same dumpster where we just threw Jokey Brown’s body. Then we will need to scout a new location for Bleeds-O before paying him a visit."
Wed 24 Aug, 2022 11:42 pm
Ricky tried to recall everything the old retired guide Barnes told him last night.
Well, man-eating tigers are not common, Barnes had said. Normally, it would be an old tiger, too slow to chase wildlife, and maybe with bad teeth or other health issues. Humans are really slow, so they’re easy to catch, and they’re soft, so not much trouble to rip up and swallow in chunks. But I understand that humans taste rather foul to the big cats. Eating humans is a last resort for old and slow tigers. Most of them would rather die fighting to protect their authority one last time, or just crawl off to pass away quietly, than eat humans. They generally leave humans alone, unless they feel threatened. But the reports say that this one is young, strong, fast, and just seems to have developed a taste for human flesh.
It’s very important – vitally important – to remember that if you encounter a tiger, do NOT look him in the eyes. They count that as a threat and will tear you apart quicker than thinking! I knew only one man who looked a tiger directly in the eyes to challenge the stare of the big cat. Old Jake.
Ricky couldn’t help it. Knew – looked – what happened to Old Jake?
He went for a walk, said Barnes. Inside a tiger.
Ricky, representing an American animal-rights association that put up the money and sent him to India to “convince” a tiger to leave off eating hapless villagers, felt assured he could easily “tame” the man-eater that had already chalked up more than 20 kills.
Though advised to carry hunting rifles, Ricky forbid them. Armed with Doolittle’s latest, “BigCatChat”, a device that allowed to bearer to “speak” to several of the big cats (tigers, lions, cheetahs, mountain lions, etc.), Ricky was fully convinced that he could – he WOULD – talk “sense” into the beast when he encountered it.
Ricky totally disregarded the caution on the first page of the small booklet: BigCatChat is for entertainment purposes only, and is to be used ONLY at your local zoo. Please keep a safe and prescribed distance from the cage, and discontinue use if conditions so indicate. Doolittle’s is NOT responsible for any misunderstandings or adverse reactions on the part of the user, the zookeeper, or the Big Cat.
Well, such cautionary remarks were found on ALL the Doolittle ChatterBoxes, and they never really mattered. They all worked OK, right?
Two hours into his trek outside the village where the tiger had been reported just a day or two before, Ricky and the tiger found each other.
The party of bearers and trackers vanished in a heartbeat. Ricky faced the tiger alone, at a distance of about 20 paces. A soft click of the “on” button, and with the “tiger” setting preselected, Ricky spoke quietly but firmly. After all, he is the human, superior, in control, and now gifted with the power of speech with animals, right? THAT ought to impress this mindless fur-brain, right?
Tiger, hear me, said Ricky, eyes downward, staring ahead at a point about halfway between himself and the tiger. Hear me, do not eat me, listen to me.
The tiger looked surprised. Eyes widened, mouth slightly agape, he froze, staring at this impossibility, this – this piece of food – that made tiger-speech.
Food? Said the tiger.
Ricky knew he had made a connection. He had previous success using CatTalk, DoggieDialogue, MutterWithMonkeys, LlamaLingo, WordsWithWhales, PenguinPowWow, and GuppyGossip before, and was on the verge of making a comparison between DolphinDiscourse and PorpoiseParley when the tiger assignment came in.
The BigCatChat instruction manual had warned Ricky that the simplicity of tiger-talk was deceptive. The big cats had a very complex manner of expression that depended less on “translatable words” and more on feeling, emotion, intonation, and relied utterly on maintaining their position of authority in the exchange, similar to that of seniority among humans. They were, to anthropomorphize, exceedingly “proud” and spoke less, fought a lot, and ate more.
No, not food, said Ricky, forcing as much humblness into his voice as possible, and hoping that the BigCatChat was “translating” his intonation adequately. Friend. Food not. Food other animals. Humans food not.
Ricky was using a minimum of words, trying hard to get on an equal footing, or at least gain a step or two further up the food chain than simply the next take-out happy-meal. He had practiced for this.
The tiger looked puzzled, which was rather difficult for a tiger to do, but somehow managed to convey that impression to Ricky. Not-food? Friend – mate? What means?
Ricky plunged on. Humans not food. Humans save tiger jungle. Humans need tiger to – to – balance food animals. Humans ask tiger no eat humans. Eat animals. Follow and chase food animals. Humans respect tiger. Humans leave tiger to live in jungle. Ask tiger leave humans to live in village. No eat. Can do?
This was a bit much, but somehow the meaning came across to the tiger that humans did not like being eaten, and that the other animals were better eating, though it seemed to the tiger that other animals liked being eaten about as little as the humans did.
Not eat? Humans want tiger not eat? Food not food?
Yes yes yes! Said Ricky. Please, great tiger, humans want peace, want live, want continue, not food but friend, give tiger jungle, not want be food.
Food, said the tiger, thoughtfully. Then in a slightly different tone, almost lovingly, the tiger looked at Ricky and made a softer growl. Food...
And he laid his head on his front paws and closed his eyes.
Ricky made a very small victory gesture with his fist pulling downward and an inward shout of YES! It was a huge step in the right direction. Another few such talks, and the tiger would be fully – uh, reformed, if that could apply to a tiger. He was after all just a big kitten...
Still looking downward instead of directly at the tiger, he backed away slowly, then without even stumbling once, at a distance of about a hundred paces, turned and slowly walked off into the brush to follow the bearers and trackers back to the village.
As soon as he turned, the tiger opened his eyes. With a soft, short growl, he padded after Ricky.
Late the next day, the tiger relieved himself near a tree by the river, and scatter-kicked a layer of sand over the droppings. Satisfied, he walked away with a soft, satiated growl. From the depths of the pile he left behind came a barely-audible, almost lovingly-spoken word. Food...
"We're not much farther than we just were. So, no."
A beat. "Are we there yet?"
"Surely you have some homework to do."
There was some time before the next, inevitable question.
"Are we there yet?"
"Don't make me turn us around."
"Are we there---"
"NO! Have a snack or something. It's more than 23 klicks to Earth. You will know we've arrived, I assure you. "
"Oh." A few moments later. "Are we there yet?"
Thu 25 Aug, 2022 05:34 am
As time dwindled until Earl approached his retirement date, he began to notice that the chimp in the near cage had taken to staring at him. It was an impassive stare, but Grape’s penetrating eyes sometimes made him feel he and the ape were establishing a connection. He had known the poor fellow in passing for over twenty years, without once coming in contact. His duties bypassed the animals, along with the heartless tests and nasty products, and for that he was grateful. It was almost as though he shared none of the guilt. Grape’s stares were undoing that.
In the final days at Harval Enterprises, he took to visiting Grape at his cage. Sometimes their hands would touch while holding to the bars. The chimp’s facial expressions were complexly sociable in those encounters. They always ended in a wrenching appeal from the intelligent brown eyes. He knew what was meant. It had him wrestling with his scruples in the immediate hours of arriving home. On the eve of the final day, he purchased a blue corduroy jacket and a brown fedora. He placed these items near his billfold and car keys when he unloaded and began to prepare for bed.
At work, he made a final round to say his goodbyes. He knew he was not about to be missed. He was one of the generic faces about the building but went through all the motions anyway. Then he paused before the chimp cage. After looking around, he undid the latch and coaxed Grape to come out. The chimp needed no persuading. He bounced out. With Earl’s help, he slipped into the blue corduroy jacket and allowed the fedora to top the ensemble. The two held hands and calmly walked out of the exit. Earl felt amazed nobody sounded an alarm, or noticed, at all. They went across the parking lot in the same manner: as though they were invisible. Earl folded his arms and sulked when Grape pushed into the driver’s side. After he withheld the key long enough, Grape moved over to let him operate the car. It was the first hint that Grape might not be pliable and pet-like, after the way of a dog or cat.
Earl held the door for Grape to enter and they together walked through the home, a monstrosity of the Cold War, with thick walls and windows that could not easily get blown out and a bomb shelter in the center of the building. Earl had paid to have it air-conditioned. After Grape had a look at his own room, they went to the kitchen to engineer a meal. The ape began grabbing the fruit from the fridge, while Earl heated an oversized bowl of leftover spaghetti. It was to be that they would never agree on what to have for any meals. As they cleaned up the mess and were moving to the living room, to have brandies and turn on the TV, Grape made certain moves that startled Earl.
“Here, then,“ he said, puzzled. “Are you holding out on me? Do you know sign language?”
He repeated the query, using signs.
“Yes. I am quite fluent at signs,” the ape signaled back. “I had no clue you might yourself be proficient.”
Henceforth, when chimp and sapiens converse, herein, it will be written in the English language, to simplify, but they will, in fact, be signing.
This is wonderful,“ Earl proclaimed. “You must tell me about yourself, over the brandy.”
They both were energized by the day’s happenings, buoyed by the newfound ability to communicate, and sat until the wee hours, drinking and swapping experiences. Sleep came only an hour before dawn’s breaking.
Earl felt ashamed, as a sapiens, to know Grape’s history, how he came to be kidnapped from his mother and transported to this country in a box. Then he and a dozen other bonobos, sold, to become slaves to human industry. Poor fellow, he endured thirty years’ injury and degradation, before he walked out with Earl. Now, he explained to Earl, he felt a great release that left him restless. He hoped Earl understood if he had to go for future long walks, in the dark hours, with the city slumbering. Earl replied that he understood perfectly and that he did not object.
The nightly outings were initiated deep into the following night. Grape donned his corduroy jacket and fedora and discreetly slipped out of the neighborhood. Earl tried waiting up for him, but tired of sitting alone and had long gone to bed by the time he returned. “How was your excursion?” he asked him the next morning.
“It was exhilarating, to walk, unfettered in the coolness, with no cages in the future, no one to bully me, ever again. Intoxication, my friend. And I have you to thank for it.”
Earl had converted the bomb shelter into a mini pistol range. He and Grape practiced taking shots at tiny targets for a few hours per day. Grape’s shots always went wild. Earl felt for him, but he considered that human coordination could not be bested. One day, when he had his back to the ape to clean up a mess, he caught through side vision Grape shooting straight and true, in rapid-fire. But when he turned fully toward him, Grape reverted to the old clumsiness. He thought, “Hmm.”
Earl vowed to make certain he provided all the delicacies and goodies a chimp loves to eat. He provided several bottles of brandy. All was harmony and a sense of growing contentment. He was a little surprised when Grape came home wearing a black turtleneck and indigo stocking cap. Where was the blue corduroy, the fedora?
“I took these after somebody carelessly left them hanging out. They hide me from prying eyes. I lost my other clothes.”
By day, Grape snoozed a lot. But he and Earl had their sessions, in which they ended the dichotomy of chimp-sapiens relations. If they could make the world pay attention. “They won’t. They can’t,” Grape said, bitterly. “You are the lone exception. I despise the rest of you.”
“Don’t,” Earl pleaded. “There are others like me. We are not alone.”
But the chimp was intractable, this day. He drank extra brandy and produced from somewhere a great black cigar. In the late night, when he went out, he did not even look at Earl. Approaching Earl in the morning, he produced from a secret stash a Rolex. As he bestowed it on Earl, he explained, “A present. A token to apologize for my surliness last night.”
Earl studied the watch silently. How could he accept obviously stolen merchandise? At the same time, he reevaluated his acceptance of those late-night excursions. He gave Grape a candid stare-down. “What’s going on?”
“Just me getting something back for all I’ve suffered,” Grape said, unconcerned, flippant, even.
He said nothing, then, not wanting to have a fight with his bonobo friend. But he wished the chimp would stay home, after this. One morning he awakened to find the house full of chimps. “Meet Louis, Sprout, Clack and Eether,” Grape said. “I broke them out of Harval.”
“I think I’ve seen some of you, before,” Earl said, dubiously.
“They don’t sign,” Grape informed him. “But, they will pick it up, in time.”
They went through all of the brandy in about two hours. The house began to stink from tobacco. Earl was doubting the wisdom of bringing any of these chimps home. It was not long before he determined Grape to be training his gang for crime. The ape dressed them up like Mexican banditos, as he had seen them in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It was his duty to report them. But he had become afraid.
For a few weeks, the loot piled up. The chimps spent their days communicating in chimp, drinking brandy and ignoring Earl altogether, except when they needed him for a run to the store. Grape had become the Edward G. Robinson of the apes. All followed him slavishly.
Early one morning, Grape came hastily in from a night out. He had his gun drawn and he immediately smashed out the window glass near the entrance. He put his head in the hole and thrust out his pistol. After busting off three shots, he made his way out the back door. Meantime, Louis, Sprout, Eether and Clack had scattered among the tree limbs that grew about the property and were keeping a group of cops pinned down with their gunfire. The situation devolved to a stalemate, until a swat team arrived like a military assault team, with armored trucks and the firepower of an army. The swat officers wasted no time blowing the trees to splinters and making bloody messes of the four bonobo outlaws.
Earl had barricaded himself inside the bomb shelter. It was not until he realized the cops were employing a battering ram on the door he decided to come out. “I’m not one of the bandits,” he shouted as he pulled back the bars and undid the locks.
“Lie down on your stomach, with your hands behind your head,” he was commanded.
By the time the door swung open, he was in full compliance. “Don’t shoot me, please. I’m a victim.”
It was three full days before Earl was sent home from the jail. It took three weeks for him to make a semblance of normalcy about the house. He paid a tree company to clear out the busted up trees. They mostly had to be taken completely away and the stumps ground. At last, he sat down to watch TV and sip his brandy. At precisely half-past seven in the evening, he heard furtive knocks at the door. He felt a presentiment and was not surprised at all to find Grape on his porch. They stood for a minute, each eyeing the other suspiciously, and Earl stood back for the gangster chimp to enter.
Earl poured him a drink and they sat down in the great stuffed chairs to catch up on each other. “How have you been doing out there?” Earl pondered.
“Eh. They are totally inept, trying to find me. I could hide under their very noses the rest of my life. But I grow weary of the games. That’s why I’m here. I need you to help me.”
“Help you do what?”
Grape now wore a gray sweatshirt. And a pork pie hat. He pulled off the hat and looked pleadingly at his former friend. “Help me get to New Jersey.”
That request hit Earl like a frying pan to the head. “What? Just - What?”
“I can jump a ship there. Just get me in the city limits. I will take it from there.”
“How many sapiens did you kill?”
“Five. Why do you want to know?”
Earl sat in his chair, picked up the drink he had been nursing, before Grape’s knock. “I want to know more about your attitude. Do you intend murdering more sapiens, after I help you?”
“Of course. They killed my friends. It’s blood for blood, now.”
Grape poured himself another, extra tall, brandy, and he quaffed half of it in a single gulp. “But you don’t have to worry. You’re my friend.”
As sympathetic as Earl still felt for the plight of bonobos and all other victims of animal exploitation, it seemed Grape had crossed into an irreversible territory and become a threat to apes of all kinds. “Murder is wrong,” he said. “Inter-species murder is no exception. You have intelligence. Let me appeal to you to consider an alternative. Go public with your story. Seek acceptance, via social media. It may lead to your being confined at a sanctuary, but there you would be protected and live with other bonobos. You need me as the only intermediary between you and sapiens.”
“How much can I trust even you, Earl? Your very protoplasm cries out, ’Save the humans from this mad chimpanzee.’ What I want from you is a ride to Atlantic City and you to let me out on a dark street, in the vicinity of the casinos. My guns can kill at least a thousand before they get me. My sense of justice will settle for no less.”
“You’ve become a monster.”
“An elusive and clever monster. I will be honored forever as the animal who successfully fought back.”
As the conversation continued, Grape kept his grip on the pistol in his pocket. Earl knew the chimp would not hesitate to use it. Keeping a wary eye on the human, Grape sidled to his bedroom door. “Help me out,” he demanded.
Peeping inside, Earl counted three assault rifles and many thousands of rounds of ammunition. He sighed, weighted down with guilt, sadness, desperation. “It’s not for us to decide who dies,” he whined.
“I have made the decision,” Grape insisted. “It’s not even your concern. All I want from you is a ride.”
“The gravest mistake of my life - Taking you home.”
“I took your pistol from the drawer, long ago,” Grape announced solemnly. “If I can’t get you to help load this stuff in the car, I will lock you in the closet, until I need you to drive.”
Earl helped load the car. Then, he said, “Let’s make you up a disguise. The police know to look for a chimp like you. I have a grey string mop for your head. I can work some steel wool into your facial hair until it looks like a human beard.”
Earl’s grey suit jacket and a brown derby finished off the disguise. They shared a final brandy, each staring in the other’s eyes, probing for weakness, or treachery. “I shall miss the quiet times with the brandy,“ Grape admitted.
Grape buckled himself in, but Earl’s seatbelt was broken and he had to drape the strap over a shoulder to fool the cops. A few minutes later, they were cruising through town, driving east.
The traffic was quiet. The one time Earl spotted a cop car, he chose not to approach it, figuring to do so would trigger a deadly gun battle. They wended along the coast, eventually encountering the draw bridge that, once crossed over, would let them on the major highway that could get them to Atlantic City.
The car encroached on the bridge, to find the traffic arm shutting down traffic so that the sections of bridge could part and a barge with attendant tugboat could glide beyond. It meant a twenty-minute pause for the autos.
As the bridge sections parted, Earl made his fateful decision, to sacrifice himself for the possible thousand sapiens Grape planned to murder. He was no hero. His mind had gone on autopilot and he no longer was in command of his actions. Instead of braking for the traffic arm, his foot pressed hard on the accelerator.
“What are you doing?” Grape gesticulated wildly. “You don’t stand a chance of beating that bridge.”
“Don’t be silly,” Earl said, smiling. “Of course I do.”
The bridge inclined more and more steeply, on each side, as the car picked up speed. It came to the end, becoming airborne, making a nose to other bridge-half collision that folded the car back on itself. Earl’s airbag failed to deploy. Grape’s airbag exploded, killing him with shrapnel, almost instantly. Earl felt himself propelled through the windshield and he somehow rolled onto the bridge top. He tumbled a long way down the incline before the bridge operator made the sections begin to close up again. It surprised Earl to wake up in a hospital bed, for he had given himself up for dead. It took a long time before he could trust other species again, even dogs. He spent his remaining years watching TV and drinking his brandy alone.
Sat 27 Aug, 2022 10:20 am
There was this invasive creature that his imagination could just vaguely describe - No words came to express a concrete image - which viciously pushed itself between his lips and teeth to nip away his tongue. The monster then attached itself inside his mouth where the tongue had been rooted. It did this each night, between four and four-thirty, several horrible times in succession, and he, desperate to eject it, was asleep, straining, yet unable to make the slightest defensive motion. He would finally jerk awake and seek out the clock, which always proclaimed it four-thirty-one.
Then Larry Donovan would lie still, hoping to gather some restful slumber before time to roll out of bed and stumble tiredly into the bathroom. It went on like this for three weeks. Then one morning he awakened, refreshed, after not having to rouse himself from the dreaded nightmare. He tripped almost lightly into the bathroom. As he sloshed his mouthwash, the thought sounded in his head, “Okay, that’s some miserable tasting stuff.”
He had to have had the thought. But, why would he? He had sort of enjoyed the artificial cherry flavoring his entire life. “It’s good,” he said after spitting it into the basin.
“Not,” said that voice, which he now distinctly understood to come from inside his head, but not from his brain.
His tongue moved involuntarily. A slight tic, he might have assumed one day in the past. However, still powerful in his imagination was the recurring dream of the tongue monster. He shuddered as a gigantic WHAT IF? lit up for him like a neon billboard. “What if my tongue actually was replaced by a monster?”
He pushed his face close to the mirror in the medicine cabinet door, with his mouth wider than even a dentist could coax from him. The tongue looked at first to be normal. Pink and smooth, the way he liked it. Still he peered intently inside the mouth reflection, not totally convinced. He moved his head a bit to catch the different angles. He nearly gave up a few times, but continued his study, until at last he caught it: The glimmer like he would expect from two eyes, set deep in the back.
Debilitating fear gripped him at first, but he regained control by reminding himself that panic sets one up for defeat. Must be calm. Must - Must get help.
Dressing desperately quick, almost falling over while putting on his shorts and again while pulling on his trousers. He slipped into a shirt, grabbed a pair of socks, and headed into the living room, where he had gotten in a habit of taking off his shoes at night. As he sat bending over to slip on the socks, the voice said, “Where’s breakfast?”
“Hell with you,” he replied, gathering the shoes.
With the shoes neatly tied, he grabbed a few envelopes and started for the door. Just as he reached to turn the deadbolt the monster in his mouth shifted somewhat and began vibrating. The movement quickly built so strong as to rattle Larry’s head, clattering his teeth together. His hands tried to hold his head still. The vibrating paused. “How about it, Larry? Breakfast.”
Larry meekly slinked into the kitchen, where he pulled from the dishwasher a cereal bowl. He poured a heaping portion of frosted flakes and overfilled it with milk so that cereal sloshed over the side on his way to the table. He sat down, with cold milk wetting his thigh. Ignoring his discomfort, he consumed huge bites in rapid succession.
“Hmm-mmmm,” the tongue monster sighed.
After the bowl was empty, Larry arose and went to look for the envelopes he had been carrying before his head became a mariachi. The monster still moaned with satisfaction as he took the found envelopes out to the car.
“Where are we going?” asked the tongue monster.
“To my job.” Larry had opted to be polite, for now. “I have to get these papers to my boss first thing this morning.”
Monster had other ideas. “Wouldn’t you rather do me a favor and drive us to the zoo? I left my family there.”
Larry considered. “I don’t know. Are you going to rattle my teeth if I don’t”
“You don’t want to experience some things I could do to you,” The monster said blithely.
Larry had no choice but to continue with his politeness. “In that case, it’s the zoo for us. What did you say was your name?”
“I blush to say it,” the monster answered.
“Suit yourself. I will just make up a name for you. UG,” Larry said. “Ug for short.”
“What does it mean?” the monster asked.
“It labels you for what you are,” Larry said with a nasty edge in his voice. “Unwelcome Guest.”
They were already halfway to the zoo. “So what’s your story, Ug? Why did you do this to me?”
The monster sounded irritated. “If you weren’t driving I would rattle your head so hard. Your teeth would shatter. Stop calling me Ug. My name is Finnless, in honor of my ancestors, who separated from deep ocean fish to arrive here.”
Larry was intrigued in spite of himself. “How did this parasite thing get going?”
Finnless took a moment to think. “We picked it up several hundred generations before moving on land. In our oral history, there is no explanation how it first happened.”
“It’s too ludicrous,” said Larry, “you went to all that trouble before leaving out of the ocean. How long until you experimented with humans?”
“You, Larry. You’re the first.” It seemed to Larry Finnless must be smiling.
Larry frowned. He continued frowning as he pulled onto the lot and searched for a parking space. “What do you want to see first, Finnless?” he said as he eased into a stall and killed the engine.
“To the zebras, my man. That’s where my family is camping, Oh boy, I get to visit my Mama again,” Finnless gushed. “I haven’t been back since after I killed a man in a box truck for sticking me with a pocket knife.”
Larry paused with his hand on the door handle. “But you told me I was the first.”
“Oops. First success,” said the mutated fish.
Larry stared hopelessly out the windshield. “How did you kill him?”
“Crawled down his throat; exited his anus.”
Finnless paused, reflecting. “Don’t worry. I like you like a brother already.”
Larry paid at the window. It had been a lot of years since he visited a zoo. He hated to see anything enslaved. Walking the path to the cages, he picked up the conversation. “You know, you could have chosen the gorillas to live in.”
Becoming strident, Finnless said, “And what? We stand around with his belly pressed against a truck tire? Rot while the goons on the other side of the bars have actual lives? Do I seem like that kind of a tool to you?”
Larry yielded the point. Looking ahead, he thought the zebras ought to be near the giraffes, the heads of which he could see towering over nearly everything. There was another point he needed to clarify. “Something that’s starting to puzzle me is, how did you manage to remove my tongue with no awareness on my part?”
Finnless laughed. “Easy. Once you sleep I insinuate myself inside, secreting a fluid the whole time to make you oblivious to pain while it deepens slumber. The old tissue dissolves and mixes with your body fluids. The nightmares you experience are meant to condition you into acceptance, once you learn the truth.”
Larry said, “Oh.”
Finnless expanded on the topic. “Evolution can be a wonderful thing. For instance, you and I enjoy a symbiotic relationship, Larry. I can do lots for you. How long do humans survive? Perhaps eighty years. My presence boosts your immunity enough to make you live twice that amount.”
They passed the giraffes, who watched their young one cavorting with the abandon of one too young to realize the boundaries of the prison it was born to.
Larry understood what his personal parasite was saying, but he still was hoping to learn something that could free him of it. He would continue to listen. And to wait.
The zebras were away from the fence, paying no mind to the visitors. “Yell at them,” the parasite said. “Tell them Finnless is here.”
To the quizzical looks from other visitors, Larry did as he was told. The humans were astonished that the stripes quickly crowded against the fence.
“Hey, Mama; it’s me,” Finnless said, voice quavering with emotion. “I’ve got me a home now. It’s perfect. I want you to move in with me. Oops. Not in your mouth, Larry. Your friends‘. Or family’s. What ya say?”
“Later,” Larry muttered, mindful of the small cluster of humans potentially listening in.
He began walking back to the car. Once beyond the range of the people, he said, “Give me some time to consider this, and who to do it to.”
“Fair enough,” Finnless agreed.
They went home and consumed a snack of leftover pie. Larry took a seat before the television set. After making himself comfortable and after calling work to explain his “illness,” he reached into a humidor and pulled out one of the Cuban cigars a cousin had smuggled to him. Without giving a thought to Finnless’s confiture, he snipped the end and pushed it in his mouth.
“What’s this?” Finnless queried. “Another snack this soon? Well, I am game to sample everything you enjoy. It’s just, this one’s a little odd.”
Larry had a second thought but went ahead with it. “You’re going to love it,” he announced.
His lighter put a flame to the tobacco. The first puff bathed Finnless in heavy smoke. The fake tongue made a sound like groaning, causing Larry to hold back on further smoking. After a long pause, Finnless spoke impatiently. “Get on with it,” he demanded.
Larry took in deep drags, paying attention to Finnless’s sighs of bliss that grew weaker and finally ceased. He suspected his zoned-out border had lost consciousness. He touched it, then tugged it. The root tying them together was not deep. He gently eased the creature out onto a table. Then ran to a closet to fetch the Have a Heart trap. He stood the trap on its end to as gently as possible drop it in. Mission accomplished, he closed the gate and set down the trap on the coffee table, so that he might contemplate it and the future from the comfort of his stuffed chair.
He stared at the caged creature for a long time without moving. Without a thought in his head. Staring. Experiencing emotions. Wistfulness. Sadness. Laughter. Remorse. At the end near to crying.
He began to weigh his options carefully.
He was on the brink of getting condemned to a life with no tongue. He had to believe there were medical inventions to help overcome such a condition. It all was certain to complicate his life, which depended on clear speech in so many ways.
There was no animosity toward his prisoner. Finnless had done what Finnless had been born to do. He had to admit having a close companion to talk to any time he wants is a plus. Didn’t he say his presence would double Larry’s life span? If the creature were stupid or a nag, he would take him to a government agency without a qualm.
By now the creature was whimpering very slightly. About to wake up. Larry tensed up. He was too tenderhearted to listen to any victim’s pleas without cringing and feeling sorry. After a moment, without further thought, he extricated Finnless from the trap and pushed him back inside his mouth. He settled in his chair and began casually rifling his mail, as though nothing was going on. Cautiously pausing when his partner awakened and voiced concern that he had somehow gotten turned around. The tongue monster fixed himself back into place.
Larry smiled. “Enjoy the tobacco?” he asked.
“O-o-ho-ho. We’ll do that again. But not too often. It could be habit-forming. You and I are going to be a great team,” Finnless said.
Larry agreed. “How much family of yours needs a home?”
Wed 7 Sep, 2022 12:54 pm
Newly arrived in Heaven, the gatekeeper questioned me, that he might know which of the seven realms I might be the best suited for.
Start from the beginning. How did you die?
At first I blushed. Then I told him:
I went walking in the blue elephant morning; into the stream went wading. I laughed when the macaws took notice and slipped away, for I recognized their wisdom in not trusting human’s presence. I swam in deeper water before returning to dry land. It was turning dark, though early in the day. I was betrayed by a flash from an aggressive cloud which swaddled me with a blinding light. Luckily, I had toweled off over dry land, else I likely would have been terminated.
After a few moments of uncertainty I seemed fine, but for an energy filling my lower torso. Something new and almost certainly a consequence of the lightning bolt. It made me wary, but curious also. On the way to my quarters I spied my favorite concubine. I felt inflamed as never before before her beauty. I coaxed her into my bed, where we shared a passion never known to either in our past encounters. The electrified energy had made ir so and she rejoiced as I had never known from a woman. When finally she left I felt sated, wishing only to rest. But within moments at my door there appeared my next favorite concubine, who had just encountered the first.
I felt the resurgence of desire and we took to my bed. The result was the same, leaving me more spent than ever. I wished now to rest and to sleep. Before I could lie back and shut my eyes a commotion had me at the door, looking out. All of my concubines clamored to be next.