Saturday, October 27, 2012

Give your Rebels Something to Fight For

When Kimmy and I were in Hawaii, we jumped into a swimming hole where a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides was filmed.  We also took two boat trips around the coast and saw several beaches that were featured in the movie.  After a while we finally said, “33% on Rotten Tomatoes be damned!  Let’s just Netflix it.” 

We watched it last night and while it was fun to see Johnny Depp prance around in places we had actually been, what I really got out of the film was that I finally realized why the Pirates movies never really worked for me.  More importantly I realized what makes other popular stories work so well.  

Okay, there are a lot of reason why Pirates isn’t the best franchise.  The characters tend to act without motivation.  The scripts appear to have been written over a weekend.  The laws of physics are more realistic in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

But that can be said about any Hollywood blockbuster. 

No, I think what has always rubbed me the wrong way about Pirates is that none of the characters like each other.  Just about every other franchise has a cast of characters who have each other’s backs. 

(Seriously, half the people who wish they had gone to Hogwarts don't care about learning magic.  They just wish they had friends as loyal as Ron and Hermione in Middle School.)

(Even piece of crap franchises have a cast of heroes who like each other)

Most of the characters in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are all too eager to switch sides and stab each other in the back.   With the exception of Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom, none of the characters have any loyalties to each other.  Jack sparrow is captured by one side and goes along with them.  He breaks free and gets captured by another side.  Then he gets captured by the first side and then a third side.  Each time he follows along with the group, seems to kind of be interested in what they are doing and then wonders off somewhere else.  All he does is react, he has no clear goal or motivation. 

Now, I acknowledge that one argument might be that this movies is about pirates.  Stabbing each other in the back went with the territory.  Maybe the movie makers were just trying to be realistic.  I can pretty much assure you though that realism was NOT something anyone involved in the production was interested in.    

Okay, so granted, rebellious, complex characters are fantastic.  

But most of the movies/books/TV shows where these characters work the best are more intelligent than any of the Pirates movies (at least the sequels).  Also, in most of these stories, there comes a time when the rebellious hero does take a stand for something or find others he or she can bond with.  They might still be a rebel but we like them more because they have found something they are willing to die for.
 So what did I take away from the fourth Pirates?  Basically, give your heroes at least a couple characters they can rely on (for example, the buddy or mentor archetypes).  At least give them something they will eventually stand for.  Rebellious characters are more interesting than lame goody goodies but they become even more complex when they join the other rebels.  That's why Han Solo will always be cooler than Jack Sparrow.   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Two Penny Saga: Crashing into Reality

Thank you to Geoff for suggesting this opening.  I went with it and this is the story I got. (I might have to revisit this town in future stories.)

Jacky always sang to her plants in the morning while getting ready for work. She felt it was a soothing way to start her day. But then one morning John fell through the ceiling and she knew she would have to stop.

“Not again!”  Jacky moaned at the man crushing half the tulips in her tiny greenhouse.  She dropped the watering can and walked into the kitchen.  “I suppose you will be wanting breakfast.”

“What happened?”  The man sat up and rolled off the pots.  “What am I?”

“You’re a song.”  Jacky returned with a cup of tea.  “This used to happen all the time I’d be singing a song or telling a story and then it would become a person and fall from the sky.”

“I’m a song?”

“Half the people in this town are songs or stories.  My next door neighbor is a little song I sang about the ducks in the pond.  The mayor is this tale I’d tell the other kids about a big harry man who lived in the back of my closet.”

“What am I about?”



“I was singing a song to my flowers about snails and down you came.”  She thrust the broom into John’s hands. “Welcome to the world, John.  You can start off your life by sweeping up this mess.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two Penny Saga: Cookies vs. Vegetables

Thank you Kate for this opening line. 

She crunched away at the delicious treats she found at the most unexpected location and she wondered if she would always be so lucky to be this close to a real live cookie monster.

Sesame Street had gotten it wrong.  A cookie monster wasn’t a monster that ate cookies; it was a monster of cookies. 

Aileen had found the creature in the cave behind her house.  She didn’t know how long it had been there.  It looked like a giant bulldog with a body made out of chocolate chip cookies, two enormous peanut butter swirl eyes, and Oreo horns.  It even pooped oatmeal raisin cookies. 

At first the cookie monster growled at her, but Aileen won its trust by feeding it raw eggs, flour, sugar and a little bit of salt.  Before long, the monster let her scratch its doughy belly and pick loose cookies off its skin. 

Everything changed the day she saw all the popular girls playing with the vegetable unicorn.  It had long, slender legs made out of celery, a mane of lettuce and a carrot stick horn.  She galloped around the field letting the girls ride on her back.

Aileen ran to the field to join the clique.  She was almost there when she heard a pitiful whimper.  The cookie monster was standing outside his cave staring at her. 
“I’ll be back tomorrow!” Aileen called. 

The other girls let her join them and to Aileen’s astonishment she was soon a part of their clique.  A week passed before she thought to check on the cookie monster.  When she returned, the cave was empty.  The cookie monster had run off, perhaps to find another little girl.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Two Penny Saga: And In the Darkness the Kittens Wait

Thank you Chris for giving me the opening line so I could turn it into a story.

The Quantam Chaos Expansion Guide, Fourth Edition, had warned Conrad the black holes, rapid time fissures, cranial teleportation singularities, sonic bone disintegrating waves, but never about the kittens.

“NOW!” Conrad shouted.  I pulled the lever.  There was a flash of ice blue light and the gateway opened.   

I ran across the laboratory and joined Conrad on the threshold.  With bated breath we peered down the tunnel of cruel light into the abyss beyond our universe. 

“We have failed,” I groaned.  “There is nothing out there.”

I turned to push the lever and close the door when Conrad grabbed my hand.  “There is something out there!” 

A figure slunk through the darkness beyond our world.

“Hello?”  Conrad shouted.  “Who’s there?  Pray tell, what are you?”

Into the tunnel of light stepped a tiny orange kitten.  It’s mouth opened but the voice issued from the void beyond.  “I have existed since before what you perceive as reality came to pass.  I am a being that exists beyond the walls of your fragile sanity.  To me you and maggots are one and the same.  Bow down and pray to me for a quick death for I am Kitty.” 

“It’s so cute!”  Conrad squealed and stepped forward.  

The kitten rolled over onto its back, exposing its belly.  Conrad knelt to give it a tummy rub, and I will forever curse myself for not stopping him. 

The second Conrad’s fingers brushed the white, feathery fur he released a scream of pain and horror like all the gates of hell had been open wide.  He was hauled up as if by some invisible force and thrown back into our laboratory. 

The kitten rose and stepped toward me.  I pushed all of my weight upon the lever, closing that doorway to damnation.  I pray it will stay closed forever.

I ran to my colleague’s side.  His skin was the color of the dead.  The poor man’s mouth was open as if producing a scream too horrible for ears.  He finally managed to look at me and gasp, “It’s eyes!  I saw its eyes!  There are only kittens!  There is nothing but kittens.”   

Those were the last words my poor colleague ever muttered.  For the past seven years he has been confined to Stonegate Asylumn in northern Main where he silently haunts a lonely cell. 

I have since then moved on to other studies but have read of others following in Conrad’s footsteps.  It is to these individuals that I implore, no beg.  Those footsteps you are following are the footsteps of the damned.  Do not seek the places beyond our universe.  Remain content with your ignorance.  The places beyond our fragile reality only contain darkness.  And In the darkness the kitten waits. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two Penny Saga: And By The Fury Of My Pillow My Enemies Shall Meet Their Doom

Thank you Karen for suggesting the following line.  I took it and turned it into the following story.

 When I make a pillow, I do it right.

I am not like others of my generation who just throws cloth and stuffing together and hopes for the best.  I spend months on it.  It has to be just the right wait.  I spend days on the corner that I will be wielding when I go into battle.  I pour over my family’s insignia (a red boar on a green field) so when my enemy’s skull meets my pillow they know that it was one of the Redhorn Clan that struck them down.

There aren’t many of us left.  The last one I met was over six months ago at the start of September.  I remember this because I was at the mall with my wife and two daughters shopping for their back to school supplies when I saw him in the food court.  He was an oak of a man with more hair on his face than a bear has on its body.  Slung over his shoulder was a black pillow with a golden eagle sewn into the fabric.  He was one of the Nightcroft Clan. 

My wife begged me to leave him be.  My daughters whined about how some boys they knew at school were watching.  If paid them no mind.  I approached the devil and said the words my father taught me when I was a lad.  “I meet you as a man of the Redhorn.  Prepare to taste my feathers.”

My pillow swung at his head but he was faster than he looked.  His pillow deflected mine and smashed into my chest.  I was thrown back into a woman carrying a tray full of Arby’s.  I pushed he back and ran at my foe.    

Our battle raged through the mall for hours.  We left the food court, passed Macies and Sharper Image and fought all the way to California Pizza Kitchen.  I fought better than I ever had but the fates did not smile on me throughout the battle.  Whether it was a lack in my courage or skill I cannot say but the giant struck my pillow out of my hands so it plunged into the fountain by the Pretzil kiosk.  Snarling, my foe pressed his pillow to my throat.  “Kneel and lick the grime off my boots.”

I did not weep or give in.  I only raised my hands and said, “My mother fought in the tickling pits for twelve years.  She taught me everything she knew.”

I was upon him, tickling his belly, his chin and his armpits until he was reduced to a spluttering ball of giggles.  The exhaustion was finally too much and he gave in.  I stood over my enemy, victorious once again.     

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

30 Things I Have Learned Since Getting Married

Yesterday Kimmy and I celebrated our ONE MONTH wedding anniversary.  In no particular order here are 30 things I learned at the wedding, on the honeymoon in Hawaii and since getting home. 

1) My family REALLY likes to dance at wedding receptions. 

2) From now on when I'm getting up to refill my drink I also need to refill her drink as well.

3) Two people produce enough dirty dishes to fill up half of down town Seattle. 

4) Just because a flight attendant tells you you are going to watch one movie doesn't mean you're going to watch that movie.  It could be another much worse movie.  

5)Kimmy has better sea legs than I do.

6) Kimmy doesn't just love Dolphins from the Atlantic.  She thinks the ones in the Pacific are pretty nifty too. 

7) Kimmy and I can finish a drink that's basically pure alcohol and large enough to fill a pineapple. 

8) No matter how much we say we won't, we will always let the neighborhood cat into our house when it wants to.  When it is time for said cat to leave I will always be the bad guy.

9) The super awsome lasagna recipe that I found on the Internet and love is basically the same as the one on the box.

10) My fingers change size drastically (Seriously!  One second this ring is about to fall off and the next it's cutting off my circulation!)

11) I know NOTHING about boilers.

12) When watching a movie where a SWAT team is raiding a building, I'm impressed by the giant guns.  Kimmy is impressed by the officer's hand signals (Maybe because they're similar to the ones she uses when training dolphins)

13) I actually do like snorkeling.

14) Kimmy is incapable of zip lining without showing off.

15) I am not afraid of bees (and for some reason that really bothers people). 

16) Kimmy and I are able to live in a house without a working heating system for a surprisingly long period of time (See lesson 11).

17) Apparently there's some rule out there that you're not supposed to read more than 2 books on your honeymoon.

18) Every road in Hawaii looks the same at night.

19) Kimmy is REALLY adventurous.  (I already knew this but it was confirmed)

20) Kimmy is REALLY patient.  (Once again, something I already knew but has been confirmed)

21) Apparently "Sunset Dinner Cruise" means plowing across the ocean blasting 80's pop music until your elderly passengers beg you for mercy.

22) Coconut beer is not as good as it sounds.

23) When Kimmy gives reasons why we should not go sky diving again, none of them have to do with safety.   

24) The trash is only picked up once a week.  If you miss it you have to live with it until next Friday.

25) If you have a wedding on the Eastern Shore tell your guests to leave 3 hours early to avoid Bay Bridge traffic.

26) Not all busses at BWI will take you where you want to go.

27) If you forget your phone in your car at the air port and it is sitting in the sun for 2 straight weeks it WILL NOT work when you get home.

28) People are not impressed when you tell them it's your one month wedding anniversary.

29) Kimmy and I are capable of hiking 4 miles through the rain forest, swimming in a pool at the base of a waterfall, hiking 4 miles back, eating a dinner of nachos and quessadillas, driving to the airport, flying back to Baltimore and watching a movie all in one forty hour day. 

30) Marrying Kimmy was the best decision of my life. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Penny Saga: What would YOU do for a quarter?

Thank you to Karen for suggesting the opening line.  I wrote for 5 minutes and this is what I got.  

At the signal, she started putting nails in her mouth as fast as she could.

“I’m going to beat you!”  Timmy shoved a handful of nails into his own mouth.

“Nuh Uh!”  Sally choked down her first mouthful.

After thirty seconds the buzzer went off, both children spat globs of blood onto the carpet and started counting the nails that remained in front of them. 

“I ate sixteen!”  Sally grinned.

“That last one didn’t count!”  Timmy whined.  It was smaller than all of mine!

“WHAT ON EARTH….”  Mother ran into the room.  “Sally!  Timmy!  What in God’s name are you doing?”

“Eating Nails!”  Sally popped another one into her mouth.

“Yeah mom!  Sally bet me a quarter she could eat more than me.  YOU OWE ME A QUARTER!”

“No one owes anyone a quarter!”  Mother snapped.  “Look at this!  You got blood all over the carpet and those were the nails Father was going to use to build your tree house this weekend!”

Sally and Timmy hung their heads.  “Aw shucks, we’re sorry!” 

“Clean up this mess right away and then go play outside.  Dinner will be in an hour.   I hope you didn’t ruin your appetite!” 

The children did as they were told.  Once the playroom was spick and span they went outside where they sat on their swings. 

“What should we do now?”  Timmy asked.

Sally looked down the hill to the river.  There was a mother duck with her ducklings waddling across the bank.  “Wanna win a quarter?”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Two Penny Saga: The REEEEEEALY Bad Breakup

Heather gave me the opening prompt.  I wrote for five minutes and this is what I got.

 Frugglesby didn't think his life would come to this: Fun Dip dust down his pants and Saf-T pops suck to his hair.

“Cindy!”  He begged while everyone in the outdoor cafĂ© stared.  “Don’t make a scene!  I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings!” 

“How nice of you!”  Cindy laughed.  Her licorice colored dreadlocks swayed back and forth.  “Is that why you decided to break up with me on our anniversary?”

“I’m sorry!”

“No you aren’t.  Not yet!”  The woman flew up into the airs.  “I am Cindy Sweetooth, goddess of candy and you will taste my sweet wrath!”  She threw her arms in Frugglesby’s direction and a swarm of Skittles struck him in the face.

“What the hell you think you’re doing to my man, bitch!”  A muscular woman dressed in thousands of different colored puffballs fell from the heavens and landed on the table behind Frugglesby. 

“Your man?”  Cindy snarled.  “You left me for Yolanda?”

“‘Left for’ is such a strong term,” Frugglesby coughed. 

“She’s the goddess of fat free yogurt!” 

“But she’s really nice when you get to-“  A noose made out of gummy worms wrapped around his neck. 

Yolanda shoved Cindy back.  “Hands off!  F man’s mine now!  We’re going to be together forever!” 

“Forever?”  Frugglesby choked.

Both goddesses stared at him.  “Why?”  Yolanda asked.  “You got other plans?”

“I’m just saying I need space.  I think we should be open to seeing other people and honestly I think this is all moving too-.” 

Frugglesby was thrown back in an explosion of jawbreakers and cherry flavored yogurt.   

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Two Penny Saga: Not Appropriate for School

My cousin Karen suggested this opening line to me.  I wrote for 5 minutes and this is what I got.  

Mr. Barron returned to his classroom after break ready to dispense some "Schoolhouse Justice."

He burst into the classroom and every student there knew someone was in trouble.

“Who did it?”  He snapped.  “I know one of you is responsible for turning Coach Gavins into a zombie!”

There were snickers all around the room.

“Well?”  Mr. Barron demanded.  They all shut their mouths and looked at their desks.  Mr. Barron walked down the aisle.  “I suppose he turned into a zombie on his own.  Is that it?”

Timmy glanced over at Dylan Jones in the back of the class. 

Mr. Barron turned on Dylan.  “Turn out your pockets.”

“But Mr. Barron-.”

“DO IT!” 

Dylan sighed, reached into his pocket and pulled out a gold necklace with a black glass skull for a pendant. 

Mr. Barron snatched it out of his hand.  “And what exactly is a Necromancer Stone doing in my classroom?” 

“I was holding onto it for a friend and….I forgot it was there!”

“Really?  Just like how you forgot that you had an Urn of Eternity in your locker last week?” 

The classroom snickered.

“Oh you all think this is funny do you?  Well I’ll tell you what isn’t funny!  Right now Coach Gavins is devouring the brains of the sixth grade softball team!”  He pointed at Dylan.  “I want to see ‘I will not reanimate the dead’ a hundred times on the board by the end of the day.  The rest of you open your books to where we left off.”  Mr. Barron walked back up to his desk.  “Now, who can tell me, the significance of the presents Boo Radley leaves in the tree?”

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two Penny Saga: Punch a Clown, Become a Man

 My cousin Geoffrey suggested this first line.  I wrote for five minutes.  This is what I got.  
"Hit me! Come on hit me, don't tickle me! Hit me like I just robbed your gramma!", the clown pressed Carl.

Carl tried to run.  The clown shoved him into the kitchen counter.  Out in the living room the other kids were laughing and singing. 

The clown pressed his face so close to Carl’s his rubber nose squeaked.  “Look you little bastard.  I’m not going back to prison without at least one black eye and a few missing teeth.  You know what they do to clowns in there?  I won’t tell ya but it ain’t funny.  The cops know I’ve got a pound of Coke on me.  They’ll be here any second so just give me a good pounding so I’m no pretty boy when I get locked up.” 

Carl started to cry.

“Come on kid!  How’ll you grow up to be a man if you can’t even punch a clown?”

“But what if I’m no good at it?”  The little boy wailed.  “I’m bad at all the other party games.  Pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs….I wasn’t even a good assistant with your magic tricks.  What if I’m no good at this game?”

Sirens blared in the distance.

“This isn’t a game kid!  I’m going to be killed if you don’t….OKAY!  It is a game and you get a new puppy if you break my nose.”

“I don’t want a puppy.”

“Then what do you want?  Say, your mom’s boyfriend, Jerry, he’s a real bastard.  He spent a lot of money on this party.  So I’ll tell you want I’ll make sure it’s ruined if you….”

Carl grabbed the rolling pin off the counter and smashed it into the clown’s face.  The clown screamed bloody murder as the boy brought the pin down again and again. 

The front door exploded.  A SWAT team stormed the house knocking over children, overturning the cake and shoving Jerry into a cactus. 

The clown was dragged away covered in blood and burns,  “Great job kid!  You’re a pro!” 

Carl bounced up and down squealing, “I got my wish!  I got my wish!” 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Two Penny Saga: She was the one who gave me Directions!

My Cousin Jay gave me this first sentence.  I wrote for 5 minutes and this is what I got.  

Michael rowed his boat ashore, except this wasn't Sandusky, Ohio.

“Where are we?”

The mermaid sitting on the bow glanced around.  “I thought we were in Ohio but this might be Paris.”

 Michael jumped out of the boat and the ruby red ocean turned into a busy city street lined with cafes.  Cars honked at them and drivers leaned out the windows cursing in French.  The Eiffel tower loomed overhead.

“I don’t think this is Ohio.” 

“You got us lost again?”  The mermaid moaned. 

“You were the one giving me directions!” 

“Well you were the one rowing!”

“Excuse me son!”  A squat man waddled up to Michael with an even squatter wife.  “Can you tell me the way to your I-Fall tower thingy?”

“It’s right there,” Michael pointed over the man’s shoulder.  “Do you know the way to Sandusky Ohio?”

“Typical French attitude,” the man snorted.  “Always want something in return.”  He waddled off. 

Michael climbed back into the boat and the street behind him turned into the ruby red ocean.  He cast off.  “I told you we should have gone left.”

“Well if you were so certain why didn’t you go left in the first place?”

“Because you told me to go right!  At this rate we’ll never return that library book on time!”  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Two Penny Saga: Gone Hunting

My cousin Karen suggested this first line to me.  I wrote for 5 minutes and this is what I got.  
Michael checked his list of supplies again. So far ten people had taken the bait.

He was going for thirteen, a baker’s dozen, but it was late in the day.  There was only time to catch one more.  Michael laid the bait out again and crawled behind the ornamental bushes in the mall’s food court.

For over half an hour, Michael watched mothers push their strollers, teenagers flirt and old couples bicker in line for Arby’s.    Finally, a tall, dark man with a young face walked out of the movie theater.  He stopped and stared at the mug of coffee Michael had placed by the bushes. 

Michael held his breath.  For a second the man didn’t seem able to decide if he was interested in the coffee.  He finally crouched and snatched it up.

“What the hell?”  He realized something was wrong and tried to drop the mug.  The glue stuck to his hands.  The line attached to the mug went taught and Michael reeled the man into the bushes.

Two hours later the man woke up in Michael’s basement.  All around him men and women who had also fallen prey to the hunter’s bait were also stirring.

“Good morning,” Michael smiled stepping out of the shadows.  “I am glad to see you are all awake.  There is much to do.”  He pointed at each of his prisoners.  “You’re Special Agent Cooper….you’re Bob…you’re Laura Palmer.  The rest of you are various towns people.   Learn your lines quickly.  We begin at dawn.  No one will stop me this time.” 

He threw a bundle of scripts onto the floor.  On each cover was written, “Twin Peaks:  Season 3.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Two Penny Sagas: The Horrible Truth

 My friend John B suggested this first line to me.  I liked what I was getting so much I wrote for 10 minutes this time.

“Have you ever heard a mountain lion scream? It sounds like an opera singer being slowly mutilated with an axe.”

“How’d you know?”  I pounded away on my Cousin Jerry’s Nintendo DS while lounging on the side of his dad’s brand new pool.

Jerry didn’t say a word.  That was so weird I finally put my game on pause and looked up at him.  He was biting his nails and staring at the sun. 

He finally blurted, “My dad and I caught a bunch of mountain lions last summer!”

“Dude, if you saw a mountain lion you’d shit your pants so bad they’d smell it all the way in Chicago.

After that Jerry was quiet long enough for me to get to the next level.  He finally jumped up and ran for the door.  “Come check this out!”

I put the game on pause and dropped it onto the lawn chair.  “Fine!  Just to see what a dumb liar you are.” 

I followed through the giant house his dad had bought when he’d become a millionaire overnight.

We reached the basement door and Jerry hissed, “Now you gotta be real quiet!” 

“I sure will!”  I wished I hadn’t left the Nintendo back by the pool.    

Jerry opened the door and I was ready to shove him inside and lock it on his stupid face when I heard the weirdest sound.  It sound like….well, to be honest it did kind of sound like an opera singer getting mutilated with an ax. 

We went down into the basement and there was my Uncle Rick with five cages each holding a half grown mountain lion.  Fire was burning under two of the cages.  One of them was attached to a motor so the cage walls were closing in on the cub and Uncle Rick was jabbing the last two with pointy sticks.  Needless to say the lion cubs were shrieking right into microphones set up in front of the cages. 

“What’re you doing?”  I shouted.

Uncle Rick jumped up.  “Jerry!  What the hell are you doing?”

“He didn’t believe me about the mountain lions!” 

“No one’s supposed to know about the lions.  Get the hell out of here!” 

“What’s wrong with you?”  I shouted, backing away.  “Why’re you doing that?”

Uncle Rick took a deep breath.  “It’s just how the music industry works, son.”

“Music industry?”

“Where the hell do you think music comes from? I’ve been torturing animals and selling their screams to wanna be composures years.”

“It’s sick!”  

“All the greats got their ideas from the sounds cute animals make when they’re tortured.  Opera is completely based on lions screaming.  Blue Grass comes from squirrels being skinned alive.  Disco would have never happened if it weren’t for puppies being skewered on a stake!”

“I thought that was heavy metal!”  Jeremy scratched his head.

“Ironically that’s the only genre of music that has never been influenced by the sounds of dying animals.”  He walked toward me.  “It’s just the way the world works, son.  I’m sorry but you can’t-.”

I ran for the door, sprinted past the pool and jumped the fence.  I didn’t stop running until I got back to our trailer.  I tried to tell my mom about it but she just yelled at me to be quiet.  She yelled at me when I tried to call the police. 

Tonight I’m heading back to Uncle Rick’s house and I’m going to free those lions.  I don’t care if that’s how the world works.  Everyone complains about what a little jerk I am but even I know that’s not right.     

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

4 Penny Saga: The Guardian of Death

 My friend John R suggested this first line to me.  I liked what I was getting so much I wrote for 10 minutes this time.

Mosby the red panda stood at the top of the stairs guarding the door.

The gates to the underworld had once been guarded by a three-headed dog.  Then there had been a raven and for a brief period of time a koala.  When Koala had been caught hitting on the shade of a deceased supermodel all the animals had come together to draw straws and determine who would be the next guardian of the underworld.  Mosby the red panda had drawn the short straw.  He was fairly certain that Coyote had tricked him.

Being the underworld’s guardian meant that every day was exactly the same.  He mostly leaned against the Black Gates, playing Tetris on his cell phone while waving all the shades through.  Mosby did get to meet every celebrity who passed through but most of then were in pretty foul moods since they had expected to live forever.  

One day Mosby was sitting on the steps furiously tapping his cell phone when a voice announced,  “I demand that you let me enter!” 

One of the long vertical blocks dropped down and the game ended.  “Come on!”  Mosby shouted.  “I was up to 147 Lines!”  He looked up and saw a young man standing in front of him.  The young man was still alive. “What do you want?”

“My name is Albert.  My girlfriend, Nadia, was just killed by a drunk driver.  I’m here to get her back.”

“Right.”  Mosby started a new game of Tetris. 

“What are you some kind of raccoon?”  

“I’m a red panda and the guardian to the realms of death and come hell or high water I’m getting up to 150 lines!” 

Albert looked up at the black metal gates.  “So you don’t mind if I just go on through then?”

Mosby yawned and intoned, “No living creature may pass.  If you want in so badly go home, eat fifty Slim Jims and come back here when you’re dead.”

“But Nadia was the kindest person I’d ever met.  She was always working at soup kitchens and fostering animals.  Can I at least visit her?  Tell her I’m sorry that she died because I asked her to go to the store and pick up more Cheetos?”

Mosby paused his game.  “Look kid, you’re not the first person to try to get back a loved one, but let me tell you something, it never works out.  Your girlfriend sounds like she was wonderful but she’s moved on.  Even if she could come back what makes you think she’ll want to?  Now the best thing you can do is live as good a life as possible so when it’s your turn to go through these gates you’ll end up in the same place with her.” 

Albert opened his mouth to argue but closed it.  He turned and slunk away back down the stairs.

Mosby tried to go back to his game but groaned and shouted, “Way to make me feel like the bad guy! I didn’t make up these rules, you know!  I got shafted with this shitty position!” 

Albert turned on him.  “You think your position is shitty?  I work reception for an insurance company and now I don’t even have anyone to come home to!”

“At least your job lets you talk to people!”  He held up his cell phone.  “I get terrible service out here and they won’t even get me a PSP.”

“If I had your job I wouldn’t just sit around playing stupid video games!  I’d finish my screenplay and read every great book on the planet!” 

Mosby jumped up.  “If you want my job so badly why don’t you just take it?”

Albert stared at him and looked up at the gates of death.  “This seems like a pretty big deal.”

“All you have to do is turn away people trying to break in and discourage Goth kids from hanging around.”

“Can I bring my futon and lap top?”

“Can I keep my bamboo at your place?”


And so that is how Albert became guardian to the gates of death and Mosby the Red Panda became the Lord of Reception at Mooney’s Life Insurance.