12 Weeks of Summer … Merit Badges

•June 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Screen shot of part of one of a Personal Fitness log

By Jeffrey Bishop

School’s out for the summer!  Between sleeping in, watching a younger sibling, pool time, mowing lawns and endless hours of video games, there’s still plenty of time to knock out a merit badge or two, as a Scout, a Patrol or a Troop.  Tops for summer start-to-finish are those Eagle-required badges that require 12 weeks of something — tracking money, chores or fitness.

To help, we’ve crafted some tools to help with the onerous recordkeeping tasks associated with two merit badges: Personal Fitness and Personal Management.  The forms are both clean and concise, to help Scouts meet the requirements and to help merit badge counselors give credit where it’s due.

Click the links to download PDFs now!

Personal Fitness 12 Week Plan and Log: Use this form to help you meet requirement 7 and part of requirement 8.

Personal Fitness Individual Assessments Log:  If you’re going it solo, this form will help you track your bi-weekly individual fitness assessment results across the 12-week program for requirement 8.

Personal Fitness Patrol Assessments Log:  Patrols can easily track bi-weekly results of up to 5 Scouts per page on this group version of the 12-week assessment log for requirement 8.

Personal Management Financial Log:  This form can help Scouts track income, spending and saving over the course of the merit badge to meet requirement 2.

Put the forms to good use and let us know how they work for you this summer!

THE END

Copyright 2015

The Human Wok

•January 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Zombie ready to attack in front of the Hunan Wok -- renamed the Human Wok -- restaurant

When Soylent Green is served from the Human Wok, you’ll be hungry again in a half hour!

Tell Time: 5 minutes
Scare Rating: 3 of 5 Ghosts

“I’m dying for Chinese food!” Hal said.

“Dying?  Really?  Don’t you think that’s a tad hyperbolic?” Rachel replied. She found her boyfriend’s dramatic side to be endearing, and enjoyed teasing him about it.

“Maybe if you said you were ‘literally’ dying for Chinese, I’d be inclined to believe you,” she zinged.

“Whatever,” he replied, not nearly as amused as she.  “Let’s just find me some!”

“Sure;” she replied — she was eager to help him before he turned hangry.  “Let’s try that new place by the mall, the Hunan Wok.”

The place was dark, but kind of cozy. It was late morning, and the couple was ahead of any lunch rush; they had the entire place to themselves.

Their host was also their waiter, and he guided them into a booth with gestures and low grunts — Hal figured he didn’t have a good command of English. The man pulled a pen and pad from his apron and looked down expectantly at the pair with dark, vacant eyes.

“Ok, well I guess we’ll order now,” Rachel said, smiling at her boyfriend and looking up at the waiter.  “I’ll have the lo mein plate and a diet soda.”

“Bring me the cashew chicken and a soda,” Hal ordered.  “And an eggroll appetizer.  I’m half starved!”

The waiter grunted, turned and shuffled away to the kitchen as Hal and Rachel traded looks with each other. Hal was smirking, and Rachel raised her eyebrows high.

“Well that was kinda weird,” Hal said.

“Ya think?” Rachel replied.  “He didn’t say a word to us.  I don’t think he even looked at us; it’s like he was looking through us.”

“And is it me, or did he … smell?” Hal asked.  “He smelled like … like rancid beef.  It wasn’t strong, but it was definitely there.”

“Yeah, I think I got some of that,” Rachel replied.  “I think it’s probably just a sour uniform.  As long as the food is good and comes quickly, I’ll be happy.”

With that, she stood up.

“Gonna try your ‘fast-service’ technique?” Hal asked.

“Of course!” She replied.  The couple had a theory that they liked to test; the theory held that whenever they dined out, their food would come whenever one of them went to use the restroom.  “Don’t sneak a bite off my plate if it comes.  I’m hungry, too!”

“Don’t worry — I ordered plenty for myself,” Hal replied.

Rachel walked away, and Hal occupied himself by looking at his phone.  The first item he saw was a news alert, but it was so bizarre that he thought he’d accidently gone to one of those parody news sites instead of a legitimate news page.

“Zombie Pandemic Rapidly Spreads Across Southeast U.S.” the headline read.  As Hal scanned the article, fear welled up inside him as he realized they were at the epicenter of the outbreak — the government research lab where the experimental virus had escaped was just a half mile away from the restaurant they’d chosen.

According to the article, in less than 24 hours, the bug had virulently spread to three states, and the authorities were only at the moment getting a grasp on the nature and extent of the problem.  Hal didn’t have all the facts, but he did connect the dots to their weird experience with the waiter, and realized they were at risk — and needed to flee.

“Rachel!” he shouted, jumping out of the booth. To his relief, she was coming back to their table.  But that relief turned to terror as he saw their waiter quickly shuffle up beside her, grab her arm and attempt to bite into it.

Rachel screamed and kicked at the zombie-waiter, while Hal ran to her aid.  He grabbed the closest object he could find — a porcelain vase — and slammed it over the zombie’s head.  The waiter fell to the ground like a wet towel dropped on the floor, and Hal grabbed Rachel’s hand and dragged her to the restaurant’s doors.

“What just …?” Rachel asked, stunned form what was happening.

“Zombies!” was all Hal said. He fumbled for his keys while still pulling Rachel to his car.  “Get in and buckle up!” he barked.  He ran around the back of the car and jumped in.  He was glad to have sprung for the turbo model, though he didn’t at the time think that he’d ever need it.

Hal shoved the gear into reverse and slammed on the gas; he was determined to get them out of there safely.  A glance in the rear view mirror showed a throng of zombies — the entire restaurant staff, it seemed — pouring out the back door of the restaurant toward them.  He slapped the gear shifter into first and sped forward, spraying the small mob with gravel.

“Watch out!” Rachel shrieked.  In front of them, a man — no, it was another zombie — was on a ladder at the restaurant sign.   Hal tried to dodge the obstruction, but as he sized up the scene, he noticed that the zombie was painting over the sign with a sticky red paint — was it sweet and sour sauce, or? — to re-name the restaurant into “The Human Wok.” Instead of veering around the obstacle, Hal instead clipped the ladder with his front fender, spinning the creature around in a precarious pirouette before sending it crashing onto the pavement below.

As they sped down the road, Hal let out a small laugh, showing his relief at their narrow escape.

“I didn’t get my Chinese, but somehow I’m no longer in the mood,” he said.  “Doesn’t matter I suppose — it never really stays with you anyway.”

“Not like brains do,” said Rachel, in a deep, throaty voice.

Nervously, Hal looked over to his girl, hoping to see her cute smile.  Praying that this was another of her cheesy jokes.  His eyes met hers, and he found them suddenly dark — and vacant — just like the eyes of their waiter.  She must have been bitten in their narrow escape; already she was changing.

Hal screamed in terror as Rachel slid across the seat toward him and took her first big bite of take-out food … from the Human Wok.

THE END
Copyright 2015

Whelpless No More

•January 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Whelpless No More Final

True-to-life coulda-been-but-wasn’t inspiration for this story here.

Tell Time: 6 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 2 of 5 Ghosts

Silence filled the car.

Though right beside him, Lizzy was far, far away. She gazed out the window, her thoughts were neither on the bright full moon above nor on the dark forests running alongside the road beneath, Rather, they were nowhere in particular. In the place of conscious thoughts instead were emotions, plenty of emotions. Anger, remorse, disappointment, shame, and yet, even a lingering hope.

Randy focused all of his energies on safely steering home, through deep woods that surrounded the city.  Though somewhat new to marriage, he knew well enough to not interrupt his wife’s thoughts.  But he also was consumed with thoughts of his own — thoughts betrayed by his unyielding grip on the wheel.

The couple had just learned from their doctor that they would not be able to become parents. Like the silence in the car, the void of a child in their family would likely not ever be filled.

“Stop the car!” Lizzy shouted suddenly. “Pull off! I saw something!”

Randy overreacted to his wife’s plea and nearly careened into the ditch. He managed to keep control, and with her added guidance, pulled on to the gravel shoulder, then backed slowly toward what appeared to be a cardboard box at the side of the road. He followed his wife as she sprang from the car toward the item.

In the thick light of a yellow-orange moon that had just topped the treeline of the surrounding forest, Randy got a glimpse of the contents of the box: a small puppy clawed and scratched at the tall, stiff sides of the box. In some spots, wet with slobber and gnawed through, he’d made quite a dent. A few more minutes at the task and he likely would have made his escape.

The dog was rough looking; its fur was matted and uneven; in some places it was bare to pink skin. It — he — seemed feral, and alternated between growls and whimpers as it considered the couple looking down on him in the red glow of the car’s tail lights.

“He’s helpless, darling! We have to take him with us!” Lizzy exclaimed. She cautiously approached the whelp.  The man sighed and arched his back in a long stretch, buying time to think. He knew the dog — the idea — was a substitute for the hole his wife felt in her heart; a way for her to assuage her maternal longings. He knew this instantly, and he didn’t like it — he didn’t like dogs and he already didn’t like this mangy mutt. But he knew, even as his wife tried to befriend the troubled pup, that he’d say yes. And no matter how much trouble it might give them, he knew she’d love just like it was a child.

She looked up at her husband, and a broad smile flooded her face as he nodded his reluctant assent.

“We’re going to adopt him! We’re gonna call him Wolfgang!” she exclaimed excitedly, before shouting “Ouch!” as the precious thing clamped hard onto her outstretched fingers with its already-long baby canines.

“Of course we are,” Randy said, with good-hearted derision. He scooped the pup up into a blanket from the trunk and loaded it on to the seat between them.

Though now filled with excitement and noise instead of pain and silence, the rest of the car ride home was really no better than the beginning. At least, according to Randy. Wide awake and ready to play — or fight or kill; it all seemed the same — Wolfgang incessantly gnawed and chewed on the man’s arms and even his legs, which almost sent the car into oncoming traffic as Randy panicked in response.

Fed up, he placed the pup in the back seat, where it howled, whined and growled to be just 18 inches farther up — on the same row with the rest of his new family. For safety’s sake, Lizzy complied with Randy’s insistence that the whelp stay in the back seat, and consoled herself — and tried to console the pup — by longingly, lovingly admiring him over the seat back.

Once home, the man tried to find something for little Wolfie to eat. Milk didn’t work — neither cold nor warm — nor did peanut butter, although the tyrant did manage to get it all over itself and roll around on the tile floor before Randy could stop it. As he cleaned up the mess, the growling beast tore into Randy’s ankles and shins, which gave the man an idea. He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a butcher’s wrap containing two-minute steaks. He tore open the paper envelope and pulled off a corner of the raw meat. Wolfgang pulled up short and whined and howled as his red eyes pointed like lasers on the meat. Randy dropped the morsel, which Wolfie easily caught and swallowed before returning to his begging and whining position, all in a single, smooth motion.

“No wonder someone ditched this thing,” Randy thought to himself. “Who could afford to keep it around?”

Soon, the dog’s hunger was satiated, but despite the late hour, he remained energetic — and troublesome. The couple went to bed, but Wolfgang wouldn’t sleep; he clammered and clawed at his cardboard prison in the corner of their bedroom, and whimpered between long, earthy, somber howls into the air. It seemed as though he was trying to get to the full moon shining through the sheer curtains and on to the carpeted floor around him. Even Lizzy, who adored everything the pup did, was soon tired of the display, and, well, just tired. She implored her husband to solve the problem, adding “nicely!” to the request. She knew that without such a warning, there was a chance his solution might involve a return trip to the side of the road.

Wolfie didn’t travel that far; instead, he and his box moved to the confines of the garage, where he could try his darnedest to annoy and keep awake the tandem bicycle or the electric lawnmower. Although Lizzy and Randy could still hear the whelp’s wails through the walls, it was much muffled, and soon enough, both were deep asleep, in recovery from their big day.

~

“Randy, what is that?” Lizzy gripped her husband’s arm — hard — and shook it violently. “Someone’s crying!” She was wide awake and sitting up where seconds ago she’d been soundly resting. “That’s a baby crying!. It sounds hurt and helpless. Go check!” she barked.

“There’s no baby crying,” Randy murmured, still asleep — and trying hard to stay that way. “It’s that little pup you picked up last night.” He tried to roll over to continue his sleep, but his wife’s foot in his back and the subsequent hard plop as his stiff body hit the cold floor caused him to fully wake up.

Randy shuffled out of the room, with Lizzy following closely behind. As they approached the garage, the sounds got louder. He opened the door slowly, and as the sounds of — yes indeed baby cries! — built to a crescendo, he looked back at his wife. Together, they peered in.

Little Wolfgang was still in the box where they’d left the pup. But  instead of a canine sitting there, they discovered a pudgy, pink baby boy. The red-eyed child lay nestled in a box now lined in thick, glossy black fur from an overnight molt. His wails stopped as he saw the couple, and he gave a coo and a giggle in response to the stunned looks on their faces.

“We adopted …” Lizzy started to say.

“A baby … werewolf …” Randy finished.

THE END
Copyright 2015

2014 in review

•January 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

WordPress pops this bad boy out every year … always kinda interesting to reflect.  Just 9 posts in 2014 and NO new short stories since November 2013?  Way to set the bar low for 2015!  With one out there and another to immediately follow the sharing of this report, I’m already way ahead of last year!  Nothing but upside from here — cheers!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Words Hurt

•December 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Letters spelling out "Words Hurt" with "Hurt" on fire and crumbling

Words Hurt. Like Hell.

Tell Time: 7 minutes
Scare Rating:  4 Ghosts

Detective Samuels walked Kyle to the squad car parked in front of the boy’s home. He opened the back door and pushed the young man, gently but firmly, on to the hard vinyl-covered back seat.

Walking around the vehicle, he waved off the social worker perched, like a vulture, on the sidewalk.  She hovered anxiously, ready to intervene.  She’d have a chance to talk to the boy later, but first, the investigator needed some information about the horrific crime scene inside the boy’s house.

Detective Samuels took a deep breath and let it out in a harsh sigh. He was well versed in working hardened thugs over, but across the seat from him sat a small, scared young man. Maybe he should have opened with an easier question — the way the social worker might have.  Maybe he should have tried to get to know him first; sought to earn the boy’s trust.  But he didn’t.

“What the heck happened in there?” he asked.

Kyle took in a deep breath and released it in hard shudders. With the palms of both hands, he wiped dirty tears from his cheek, sniffled hard, then looked up for just a moment to find the detective’s stern, inquisitive face, before looking back down at his hands, which wrung each other nervously in his lap.

“It all started a week ago.  My friends and I were just hanging out in the neighborhood,” the boy said, barely louder than a whisper.  “We were bored, and we wound up at Old Lady Griffey’s house.

“One of us had the idea to grab a bunch of the rotten apples that had fallen to the ground in front of the place and fling them at it.  They made a real neat thud sound, and some pretty cool patterns, too.  So we took turns chucking them at her house, to see who could make the biggest splat against the clapboards.”  The boy paused and looked up again to find the same stern — and thus far, non-judgmental — face looking back at him, attentively.  So he continued with his story.

“Anyways, she came out quick and told us to get off her property and go home.  Honestly, I don’t think any of us thought she’d care, the way she doesn’t keep the place up and all.  ”You can’t tell us what to do, you old witch!’ I shouted at her,” Kyle’s gaze fell to his folded hands in his lap. “I shouldn’t have said it. I shouldn’t have said anything. But my buddies were with me and I guess I wanted to look tough.”

“So she says to us, ‘old witch, eh? You have no idea, and you have no respect! Words hurt, little one. They hurt like Hell … as you’ll soon find out.’ Then she did a little dance; she stamped her shriveled little feet twice, one after the other, making loud knocking sounds on the boards.  Then she spun around, and waved at me, as if to dismiss me.”

“What’s that got to do with what happened in here?” the detective asked.  He hadn’t lost patience yet, but he was clearly only interested in solving a crime.  So far, the story didn’t seem to be getting him there.

“Well, so then I was at school a few days ago, and my buddy James started teasing me about my haircut,” Kyle continued.  “I tried to ignore him, but people started laughing at me. So I got mad and I told him off. I told him he was ugly and pathetic.”

“And?” asked the detective, trying to stifle evidence of his growing impatience of all the side stories.

“Well, and then he did get ugly and pathetic,” said Kyle. “I mean, it happened kinda slowly, but as class went on, his face got really ugly. It kinda just pinched in on his nose, like it’d look if his face was made out of dough and someone punched it in and it just stayed like that. He got this mole on his chin. His face broke out in huge pus-pilled pimples. And his eyebrows got thick and bushy and grew together. It got worse and worse through the afternoon, and everyone started to make fun of him, until he could get away to the nurse’s office. Now his family’s got him going to see all sorts of specialists to see what’s the matter with him, and they’re scared that it’ll spread to his sister — she’s real pretty — and no one can figure out what happened to him. But I know.”

“I see,” said Detective Samuels. He couldn’t keep a nervous tone out of his voice. What he was hearing was impossible; ridiculous, really. But hearing it, straight from the mouth of the boy who said he’d done it, somehow creeped him out

“So what does this have to do with what happened to your mom in your home tonight?” he asked, trying to regain composure and control.

The boy’s eyes got big and filled with tears as he remembered the events of only an hour before.  He tucked his face into his folded arms and sobbed hard. The detective awkwardly put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to try to offer comfort.

“Son, you’ve got to tell us what happened. We can help. Who killed your mom?” Detective Samuels asked.  “You were there, you’ve got to know.  Just tell us.”

“I DID!” the boy shouted into his chest.  “I killed her!” he yelled out, before being consumed yet again by a new fit of sobs. Almost incoherently through the violent tears and  gasps, his story continued to spill out.

“Mom and I were arguing. I don’t even know what we were fighting about.  She wanted to ground me for sassing her. I told her I wasn’t grounded. She told me I was, and that I couldn’t tell her that I wasn’t.

“I got even more mad, so I started yelling at her.  I called her a wretched excuse for a mom. Right when I said that, I could see her form start to change.  She started to shrivel up.  But I didn’t care. She warned me to watch it or I’d be in big trouble. She told me that I was in a hole and that I should stop digging myself deeper.  But even though she was trying to control me, to control my anger and to control the situation, I could tell that she was getting confused, and scared, by what was happening to her body.  And I could tell that she knew somehow that I was doing it to her.

“But I couldn’t control myself. Something came over me. I could see her desperation and her fear, and it made me even angrier,” Kyle said.  “I told her I hated her, and that I wished she was dead. I said, ‘Blast you Mom, you’re the worst! I hate you and I wish you were dead!'”

Her face just went blank; I saw the horror in her eyes, the full realization. And then I saw the compassion and love, like on Christmas morning when she watches me open my presents. Why’d she have to look at me like that? At that, Kyle burst into tears again.  “I think her heart must have busted first.  And then she just … ripped … apart. The parts of her body, her limbs, just blasted off of her and fell around her falling body.

“She was dead.  Just like I wanted her to be,” he said, almost as if to himself.

For a full minute, the detective couldn’t speak.  He was processing what he’d heard; trying to reconcile it to the scene inside of the house.  Eerily, it fit — more than any other theory he might have come up with himself.  Finally, he managed to form a sentence around the sole thought in his mind.

“If you did that …” he started.  “If you were cursed, and if you were able to do that … that horrific crime in there, then clearly there’s no way we can help.  Why, then, did you call the police?”

“I didn’t call you to have you help Mom!” the boy cried out desperately.  “I called you to try to help me!”

THE END
Copyright 2014

Is Silence Golden?

•August 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Man wih mouth gagged by order of the arrow sash

Silent Ordeal

This past weekend I took part in a Scouting Ordeal that had me,and the many dozens of others who were with me, remain in silence — no talking — for 24 hours. Here’s how it was golden:

– I didn’t have to hear the guy in front of me in line complain anymore — about what he forgot, about how he had to wait to attend, about how he had to carry his stuff around with him;
– I didn’t get to hear myself talk about banal topics like the weather, my boots or the weather;
– I missed overhearing any further riveting stories about Adult Swim, Internet memes or back-to-school hi-jinks from the Scouts nearby.

A definite uptake was to realize how much air we fill
with negative, annoying or needless speech.

When we needed to — though it was probably against Da Rules — we got by with a little ad hoc sign language or pantomime:

– like when the guy behind me in line doused up with DEET and then held the bottle out to me, in silent offer;.
– or when we were walking on a dark trail and I noticed a large drop-off ahead and illuminated it with my light so that the folks behind me would be sure to see it, too.

But there were also moments when speech was missed:

– like when I wanted to tell the guy “thank you” for offering the DEET;
– or to say, “bless you!” to the nearby kid who sneezed;
– or to apologize to the guy behind me when my too-big backpack hit him as I turned around.

It was fascinating to experience 24 hours of silence. A definite uptake was to realize how much air we fill with negative, annoying or needless speech. But when it’s sweet — infrequent punctuations amidst the general noise of our normal conversations — the positive, encouraging and polite things that we use words to impart to one another can also be golden — and arguably make the other kinds of speech tolerable, if not worthwhile.

And that’s all I have to say about that …

THE END
Copyright 2014

Cool or Scary or Gross or … ?

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment
large white moth in hand

Found this ginormous thing on the ground in a parking lot Sunday morning. Awesome or skeevy? Have you ever seen anything this interesting?

 
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