2013 in review

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Misfortune Cookie

•November 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Open fortune cookie with wadded fortune in a puddle of saliva; the scene resembles a frowning face.

Fortune smiles upon you, but Misfortune wears a frown.

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time: 3 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 1 of 5 Ghosts

Becky loved her weekly dinners with her dad, and her Dad loved Chinese food. So despite his doctor’s orders to minimize sodium and fat intake, she arrived to his home with a large paper bag of the take-out.

“For you, moo goo gai pan, white rice and two egg rolls. For me, cashew chicken, fried rice and crab rangoon,” she said as she withdrew half a dozen identical small white boxes.

“And for each of us, a fortune cookie. You pick!” she said, sliding both across the table to her dad. As she did, a broad smile filled her face and she gave him a wink that he answered with a frown. An intentional frown that his daughter’s smile had anticipated.

“You know I don’t eat those,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “On mere principle: I don’t believe in superstition!”

“Harumpf!” mocked Becky. “That’s ok; I’ll eat yours. And I’ll get your fortune, too!”

“You’re welcome to it!” he replied.

The two settled in and enjoyed the steaming plates before them, and shared lively conversation about Becky’s latest work project and her planned vacation to the Caribbean in the spring. As Becky continued talking, dad cleared the table and served hot tea.

“To go with your many good fortunes,” he said as he set the hot cup and saucer before her.

Becky cracked open her cookie and withdrew the coiled paper from inside.

“Choose fortune or choose fame. One will be yours,” she read aloud. “Lucky numbers 33, 16, 54, 11 and 93.”

“Play those numbers in the next Lotto and you might choose fortune,” quipped Dad.

“Or I can take your cookie and have both fame and fortune,” she replied.

“Not today!” Dad said, as he swiped the cellophane-wrapped package from the table. “I may not believe the fortunes, but I’m not about to let my little girl get more than her fair share. And, odd as I am, I kinda like the taste of the little cookies.”

He cracked his open, but found no strip of paper inside. He raised each half and shook them to show his daughter.

“Just my misfortune to have NO fortune,” he said. “It’s as if they knew.  But, I still have the cookie!”

He popped one half into his mouth and slowly savored its mildly sweet flavors.

Suddenly, he was choking. He stumbled out of his chair and back against the wall, quickly changing from his normal ruddy complexion to a pale blue-white. Becky jumped out of her chair.

“Dad! Dad! You’re choking!” She didn’t know how to do abdominal thrusts, but she’d seen enough cop dramas on T.V. to know that she had to try something.

Becky rushed behind her dad and placed her fists into the top part of his stomach and pulled hard. Her dad almost fell back onto her, and a heavy gasp of air slipped out, but nothing dislodged. The airway remained closed.

Becky tried again, once, twice. Three, four and five more times. She felt her strength slipping away as she tried to pull as hard as she could. It wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t working. Dad collapsed onto the cold kitchen tile, taking Becky with him to the floor.

“Stay with me, Dad!” she shouted to him through tears. “Stay with me!”In her fear, her frustration, her anger, she slammed her fists into his unmoving chest.

“Why! Did! You! Have! To! Eat! That! Damned! Cookie?!” she shouted, pounding his chest with each word. On the last hammerfall, her dad let out an involuntary puff of air, and with it shot a small, white wad that fell onto the table. Through heavy tears, she managed to pull herself up, move to the phone, and dial 911 for help.

The paramedics arrived and rushed to help, but it was too late. As they carried her father from the house on a gurney, Becky collapsed against the counter with uncontrollable sobs. Her anguish was interrupted by the sight of the object that had choked her father, resting just as peacefully as Dad now in a puddle of wet saliva. She moved to examine it more closely.

On the table, amid the remnants of rice and cabbage, was his fortune, a wadded up piece of paper now wet with saliva and mucus. She unfolded to read his fortune, or rather, his misfortune:

“The end is near. For you, very, very near.”

THE END
Copyright 2013

Waiting to Go Die

•November 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ben Codger and Death ... on a porch swing

An anti-tragedy in three acts.  With props to Samuel Beckett.

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time: 6 minutes
Scare Rating: 1 of 5 Ghosts

ACT I

Ben Codger sighed. The tall, thin figure of his daily visitor slowly crossed the covered front porch, his dark cape sweeping aside the brittle autumn leaves as he joined Ben on the opposite end of the old wooden porch swing. As he sat, the wood planks bent just to the point of breaking under the weight, and the rusty chains squealed as the swing twisted, before settling back into their time-worn, slow gliding path.

“Today?” Ben asked.

“No, not today,” came a low, muffled reply from deep within the recesses of Death’s dark cowl.

“When?”

“Can’t say.”

With little variation, this was the extent of the duo’s daily conversations. Ben was tired of everything — tired, even, of the novelty of having a supernatural daily visitor. With the exception of that same query, he had plenty of time for, but no interest in, conversation. Death, likewise, was a man — a thing — of few words. Their singular shared interest, unrequited, was simple: Ben’s life.  The end of it, to be morbidly specific.

The two sat on for a long time in comfortable silence, a silence that was suddenly broken by the noise from a sporty convertible that whisked around the corner. It was Dave, a neighbor from the next block, driving too fast, as he always did, down the otherwise quiet street.

The event aroused perhaps the sole remaining passion in the old man. Ben shot out of the swing and marched to the front of his porch, shouting and swinging his fist in the brisk fall air.

“Slow down, ya numbskull!” he shouted over the escaping roar of the motor. “We’ve got kids in this neighborhood! You’re going to kill someone!”

Exasperated and out of breath, Ben hobbled back and reclaimed his seat. He might have expected a smile from his companion at the notion of new business, but Death sat expressionless beside him.

ACT II

“The way I see it, you’re not supposed to visit unless you’re on a mission,” said Ben on a later visit. “I know that from when we first met. The night you took Betty Lou away from me.”

Still, silence was the only response Death yielded. Continuous unsympathetic silence.

The sound of hard plastic grinding on pavement did a good job of filling the void. Alonzo, the four-something from next door, had his Big Tire trike in neutral and was rolling down the slope of his driveway. He reached maximum speed at the point where the drive met the street, and rode the momentum over the road’s gentle berm and into the neighbor’s drive across the street.

Despite himself, Ben couldn’t help but smile; in a single moment he recalled a similar adventure across many generations: his own hill-side rolls on metal skates in his youth. Watching his pre-teen son do the same on a “too-big-now-but-you’ll-grow-into-it” bicycle. And his young grandson, now moved so far away, taking the same hill on a skateboard. The stacked memories blended together so that Ben wasn’t altogether sure if he had the right boy in the correct scene or not. Not that it mattered.

The bittersweet memory broke his reverie, and he turned to his companion.

“Why won’t you take me?”. Ben insisted. His frustration was evident. “I’m ready. You sure seem ready. Let’s go!” He stood and started across the porch, as if to lead the way. He knew where he was going; he just didn’t know how to get there.

“He won’t let you go yet,” came the somber, gruff reply. There’s something He needs you to do yet.”

“I don’t know what else I could do. Not with what is left of this life,” Ben muttered.  He returned to the swing, dejectedly accepting the news.

ACT III

“Is it time to go yet?”

“No.”

Ben let out a heavy sigh. Another winter had passed. He’d thrown off a bad flu that turned to pneumonia. The spring had arrived with uncharacteristic warmth and vigor, and yet, for Ben, the season brought no renewed cheer. The nesting birds chirped their appreciation, as did the cavorting bunnies. Even Alonzo had emerged from a boy’s home-bound winter hibernation to mount his trusty plastic steed for new adventures on the concrete pastures in front of their homesteads.

“Why do you keep coming around?” Ben again insisted. “For six years you’ve been coming. You set your scythe in the corner and walk across my porch like you own the place. You squat next to me and watch me like a buzzard over a sick calf. I’m 97 years old, dammit! I want to go and you want to take me.

“I’m tired, I ache in the morning and I hurt at night,” he added. “And I’m lonely.”

Death turned to look at him. Codger couldn’t read the expression on its hooded skull-face. Perhaps he’d offended his loyal companion, the only true company he’d had these many years.

In the distance, Ben heard the squeal of spinning tires, the high-pitched sounds traveling faster than the low roar of the big-block engine. Dave was clearly also enjoying the spring. Ben wondered if Alonzo would grow up and take after their neighbor. After all, what difference was there but in scale and power between the Big Tire trike and Dave’s convertible?

As worrisome as that notion was to Ben, he was suddenly anxious, as a vision passed across his mind. The sound of Dave’s roaring engine was thundering in his head although he wasn’t sure if it was real or from his premonition. It didn’t matter.

“Alonzo, get out of the street!” Ben shouted. He was off the swing, hobbling off the porch and toward the boy as quickly as he could. “Get up here!”

The boy was oblivious; he was working on his cornering, driving a continuous figure 8 pattern in the wide, smooth street.

“Alonzo, get off the street!”. The sounds of the big plastic wheels were louder than Ben’s hoarse voice, but the boy paused as he saw the nice man from next door approach at a brisk gait — a pace that the boy recognized as trouble, because it didn’t match the tired old frame that carried it.

Sounds and images blurred together in that brief pause. The roar of Detroit power, the sight of his mother on the porch to investigate the commotion, followed by her shrill scream of terror as the scene unfolded, and Ben, the old neighbor, running, pushing, falling and yelling “Alonzo” as the trike jerked forward and off the road under a new source of power. Squealing brakes, a loud thud and a thump, and more screams.

Then, silence.

DENOUEMENT

Alonzo’s mom embraced her son, then frantically examined him for any signs of injury. Dave stood in front of his car, also looking for damage, and still not fully sure of what had just happened. Beneath his front wheels was the limp form of a man at rest. A man at peace.

“Let’s go home,” said Ben, rising from the wreckage. He grasped Death’s bony hand and walked with him.  Away from his finished life and into the light.

THE END
Copyright 2013

Monsters in Marketing Part II

•October 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

By Jeffrey Bishop

As promised in our original Monsters in Marketing post, we’ve kept our eyes peeled — literally peeled — to come across the following additional commercials featuring monsters selling out — maybe even selling out their souls — to hawk commercial products in the weeks leading up to Halloween.  Regardless their dark motives, we hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

I’M not saying Totino’s Bold tastes like brains … THEY are!

FrankenTwizzlers, anyone?

Happier than thou? (Can’t believe we missed this one on our first pass; can’t believe I can’t find the “official” commercial on the Geico site or its YouTube Channel)

“Get crackin’, Norman!”

That’s one evil ride!

Got more?  We’ll be watching!

THE END

Copyright 2013

EULA Clause 6.66

•October 27, 2013 • 1 Comment
EULA Clause 6.66 binds the user to an eternity in Hell.

The Devil mistaken for a lawyer? Inconceivable!

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time: 2 minutes
Scare Rating: 3 of 5 Ghosts

“Welcome to eternity,” said the disembodied voice.

Pat opened his eyes. At least he thought he did, but he remained surrounded by the inky blackness.

“Where am I?” he asked. “And what about the peaceful, white light I was supposed to walk into?”

“That’s another reality. A reality you won’t experience.” The words were sincere, but the deep chuckle that followed was mocking.

The air around Pat — if there was any air where he was — was increasingly stale, heavy and oppressive. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he started to comprehend — but not yet understand — his situation.

“How can this be? I was a good person. I helped other people.” Desperate tears streamed down his face. They picked up the sulfur in the air and singed Pat’s cheeks.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” came the reply, this time condescendingly. “You’re simply another victim of our latest innovation in soul stealing — the EULA.”

“The EULA?” Pat said aloud, struggling to connect the dots. “You mean the end … “

“Yes, the end user license agreement. Standard with every computer program or app. Can’t use the software until you sign it. Legally binding everywhere. Everywhere and always.

“No doubt you’ve signed dozens of them. Maybe hundreds. Our R&D folks landed on the notion of inserting a clause in the contracts. Clause 6.66, no less.” The Devil’s pride oozed from his lips with his words.

“We used the exact same language that I’ve used in my contracts throughout eternity: ‘I accept the Devil’s generous offer, brokered in this contract, in exchange for my eternal soul.’”

“But no one ever reads those things!” Pat protested, desperately hoping the alibi would absolve him of his sin. Hoping that it was a worthy enough defense to free him from his present bondage.

“So true. But don’t think that this truth will set you free.  Of course no one reads them … that’s what makes it so genius!” the Devil mused gleefully. “But enough idle chatter. Come this way and meet the millions of other ‘no ones’ with whom you’ll be spending eternity.”

THE END
Copyright 2013

The Scariest Thing I Ever Saw. Ever.

•October 22, 2013 • 2 Comments
Man busted on the highway texting and driving

Scene seen all too often … if this is you, consider yourself BUSTED!

The picture says it all.

By Jeffrey Bishop.

Unfortunately, each of us sees something like this on the road every day.  Incredibly, the text-driving offenders are usually plowing down the fast lane, careening back and forth off the white lines demarcating their lanes.  I’m torn between speeding up to shake my fist at them, slowing down and changing lanes to get some distance, or laying on the horn to warn them and others of the danger.

Recently, I’ve tried a friendly “long-short short-long” horn tap — Morse code for “X” — to try to send a message.  But really:  in an era of texting, who knows Morse code?  I see the irony — and am no such out-of-time anachronism that I didn’t have to Google for a chart to figure out how to represent the 24th letter of the alphabet with horn toots.

In all seriousness:  What can be done about this deadly menace?  How do you react on the roads when you see people texting and driving?  Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?  It’s definitely a first-world problem, and one of our own making.  What can we do to raise awareness and end this scary threat to mankind?

THE END
Copyright 2013

Map of the United States showing states with t...

Map of the United States showing states with texting while driving laws. States in red ban texting while driving for all drivers, while states in yellow do so only for new drivers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do Unto Others

•October 15, 2013 • 3 Comments
Zombie in the cross hairs

Dead eye

… Before they do unto you.

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time:  4 minutes
Scare Rating:  4 of 5 Ghosts

Axom’s rooftop perch offered the perfect vantage  The setting sun warmed his back and illuminated the kill zone of the town square below.  Long after the alleys had succumbed to the darkness of the increasing twilight, he’d be able to see — and pick off — any ghouls that witlessly ventured into the cross-hairs of his sights.

“Round,” he whispered.  Bandit silently lifted a bullet from the canvas satchel on the ground at his feet and slipped it into his father’s hand.  The man gingerly placed it into the chamber of the rifle and moved the bolt home. The smooth action of the well-oiled mechanism silently placed the high-explosive shell into the starting chocks of its final path.

Bandit leaned forward and peered over the low wall of their building’s roof.  He’d learned long ago how to move stealthily, to see without being seen, and to fully assist his father without distracting him or detracting from his work.  Anything less put their livelihood — or their lives — at risk

As savvy as the 12-year-old was, he had a lot to learn from his dad.  He peered deep into the shadows surrounding the square, but didn’t find what his father was hunting.  The boy softened his gaze from a narrow aperture to a wide, relaxed view.  Instead of looking for a tell-tale shape, he waited for motion.

There it was.  In his left-side peripheral vision, he saw the familiar shuffling motion; picked out the subtlety of the green-grey flesh ambling against a blue-grey shadowy background.  The undead emerged into the square, also scanning for prey, but with a more primitive, but equally deadly weapon set.

As the zombie shuffled across the square, Dad stiffened, and his breathing became shallow and slow.  Bandit knew what happened next.  He’d seen it many times before.  He wanted to watch again, to revel in his Dad’s well-honed skill, but he had his own job to do.  The boy eased back from the brick barricade and silently but swiftly crawled across the still-hot asphalt roof toward the steel door of the stairwell tower erupting from the center of the building.

When he got to the door — well out of sight of the street scene below — he stood and quietly slid a full magazine into his automatic.  His machete remained strapped to his back, and as he cautiously sprinted down the interior stairwell to the ground level six floors below, he just as quickly ran his hands across his waistline to confirm the presence of the three grenades stored there. There had been four only the week prior, but he’d exchanged one of them for his life after a zob mob ambush.

As he reached the ground floor, a single shot rang and echoed across the square.  With nervous apprehension, he scanned the lobby, and finding it clear, strode across the mosaic tile floor and through the double-glass doors to the street.  Crumpled in the intersection lay the zombie.  No longer fretful, the boy confidently closed the distance between the building and their prey.  He glanced up at the tenement-crows nest where he knew his dad was perched, his father’s role had changed from hunter to over watch.

Bandit got to the corpse and looked over its fallen form.  Dad’s signature was clear; a single hole beneath the left eye and through the head — into the brain for an instant system shut-down.  The boy holstered his handgun and drew the blade from his back.  A quick glance to the rooftop allowed him to catch a curt nod from Dad.  With that assent, swiftly and without emotion, he lowered the blade onto, then through, the neck of the undead menace.

~

The glow of the fire posed some risk, but the roof was a castle keep against the slow and clumsy onslaught of the other zombies out there.  They’d be safe overnight, and could enjoy the luxury of the heat and light and the warm food it would provide.

Dad stirred the hash in the pan and served it up into their mess pans.  The smell was rich, and entered Bandit’s nostrils to fill his head and tease his stomach.  The boy eagerly raised a heavy spoonful to his mouth and savored the rich, warm meal as he chewed it.

His pace stopped cold, however, as his bite closed onto something hard.  He sifted the nugget from the warm mash and pushed it toward his lips, then out and into his open palm.  There, a small, heavy lead slug glinted dully in the fire light.

“I got the wish bullet,” he called out to his dad across the fire.

“Nice.  Make a wish, son.”

Bandit closed his eyes, muttered his wish, then tossed the round into the eye socket of the new, empty skull set with so many others in the rooftop corner.

“I wish that we’ll always do unto them, before they do unto us.”

THE END
Copyright 2013

USAToday Life section shows a zombie in the crosshairs

As seen on a newsstand recently.                                   Clearly, there’s a meme among us.                                                                                                                   (Great brains think alike?)

 
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