Thursday, March 21, 2013

TWO PENNY SAGA: Ted the Tortoise Climbs to Freedom

My friend Heather gave me this photo and it inspired me to write the following story. -->

“Lettuce!  Again!”  Ted the tortoise shouted.  “We had this shit for breakfast!”

“At least she sprinkled in some turtle chow on it this time,” Alvin said through a mouthful. 

Ted stared at the wilted leaves and shook his head.  “I can’t take this, bro.  The fence is closing in around me.”

Alvin looked up.  As far as he could tell the fence hadn’t moved.  “You okay, dude?”

Ted turned and trudged to the chain link fence.  “No, man.  I’m not okay.  And I haven’t been okay for a very long time.

Alvin trudged after him.  “Ted?  Where you going, Ted?  It’s lunchtime!  TED!”

Ted the tortoise reached the edge of the yard and started to climb the fence.  “I’m out of here, man.  I’m going over the edge.”     

“But you can’t just go, dude!  That’s like a whole other yard!  There things on that side that’ll fuck with your mind!”

“Maybe my mind needs a bit of that, dude.  I have to go.”  Ted was halfway up the fence by now.

“But what do you expect to find out there?”

Ted stopped and stared at the birds flying overhead.  “I expect to find something better than this!  A place where people don’t care if you’re different and even strangers will accept you, unconditionally.  I want a place where people don’t care about money or material possessions and just love and share with each other without expecting anything in return.  I’m looking for a place where every day is a new adventure and the people you meet will stick by you no matter what; a place with hopes and wisdom and dreams and laughter and even some tears, but the tears don’t hurt because you know that no matter what you will never be alone again.”

Alvin stared looked up at Ted.  “Can I come?”

“No.  You stay here.”  He started climbing again and reached the top of the fence.  For a moment he balanced precariously on the edge of the world.  Then, he tipped forward and tumbled into the neighbor’s yard, landing on his shell.  Ted tried to flip himself over but he was stuck on his back, legs wriggling toward the heavens. 

“I made it!  I made it!”  Ted cried.  “This is freedom!  Oh sweet horrible, horrible freedom!” 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Penny Saga: Libraries, Dreams and Machetes

My friend gave me the opening line.  I started writing and this is the story I got.


How do you wake up from a dream? Clap you hands or kill somebody or something?

“How should I know?”  Sharon said without looking up from her Physics notes.  

“I’d go with clapping your hands.”  Josh suggested.  He’d barely looked at his notes all afternoon.

“Are you sure?”  Brooke asked.  “Because I’m getting really tired of this dream and I figured….Just to be on the safe side, maybe I should kill something.”

“I wish this was a dream!”  Sharon mumbled and turned a page in her notebook.  “This makes less sense than it did two hours ago.”

Brooke tapped her finger on the library table and finally said, “Alright, I’m ready to wake up.  I’m going to risk it.”  She closed her eyes and clapped.

Nothing happened.

“See!”  She shouted.  “I told you I needed to kill something!”  She pulled a machete out of her book bag.

“Brooke!  Brooke!  Brooke!”  Josh shouted jumping up.  “What the hell?”

“Where did you get that?”  Sharon shrieked.

“I need to wake up!”  Brooke laughed.  “Jeeze guys!  Not that big of a deal.  I just kill one of you and this boring dream’s over.”

“Just put the machete away.”  Josh said slowly.  “You have been studying way too long!”

“Guys!  I’m tired of having dreams where I’m studying all night.  I know I’m not in college anymore.  I’m a powerful business woman with a six figure paycheck.  Now I need to kill one of you so I can wake up in bed next to my Italian Chef husband!  Now which one of you is going to be the good friend?”

“How do you even know this is a dream?”  Sharon asked.

“Because stuff like this doesn’t happen in real life!  Seriously, who brings a machete to a library?”

Sharon eased her way forward.  “Brooke, please, sweetie just put the-.”

“Brooke!”  Josh shouted.  “You know the best way of waking up from a dream?  Jumping out a window!” 

“That’s right!”  Brook dropped the machete and jumped out the open window.  There was a crash outside followed by a startled cat shrieking. 

Sharon ran to the window.  Josh just sat back down and wondered if this would somehow get him out of his physics final. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Two Penny Saga: The Supreme Overlord of Earth

This one was a little different.  My friend Heather gave me the image below and it inspired me to write this story.  

 Mark Silverman walked his brown mutt, Barkley, all the way around the block before the dog finally squatted right outside his house.  He was wondering if he really needed to bother picking it up, they were right outside his house after all, when a voice squeaked, “Jerk face!  Get that mammal’s feces off my planet!” 

The voice sounded like it should have come from a stuffed teddy bear.  When mark turned around he didn’t’ see a teddy bear, though.  He didn’t see anyone until something smacked him in the leg.  He looked down and saw a tiny green man with long antennae eyes glaring at him with a rake in one hand.  “Pick up the crap or your face is going to be in it!”

Mark didn’t know what was going on but he decided he should play it safe and pulled the plastic bag out of his pocket.  When he was finally done, and the little man went back to racking Mark’s yard and the boy asked, “What’s going on?”

The green man snorted.  “You may ask that question only once.  Next time you will be eradicated for your insolence.  I have made a bargain with the supreme overlord of your planet.  He will make me supreme overlord if I rake this lawn, clear out the garage, clean the toilet and walk that mammal around the block.”  He pointed at Barkly.  “Which has already been accomplished by another slave!  YES!  I am one step closer to victory!” 

“And what did this supreme overlord look like?”  Mark asked.

“Zaggos!”  Mark’s twelve-year-old brother shouted walking out of the house.  “Those leaves aren’t raking themselves.”

“No great and mighty emproer.”  The little green man snarled.  “They are not.”

“Remember our deal.  I don’t hand over earth until every one of my chores is done!  And don’t forget, I still get to keep Australia and….”  He looked up at Mark.  “Which country do you want?”

“Brazil.”  Mark said and then remembered that Stacy Green, the cute girl who sat behind him in English liked Skiing.  “Switzerland.  I’ll take Switzerland.”

“Okay, we still get to keep Brazil and Switzerland and our mom wants the south of France.  You can keep the North.”  He looked up at Mark.  “Guess what I did today.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Penny Saga: Mark Silverman's Guide To Picking Up Women

My Friend Jon Rhodes gave me the opening line.  I started writing and this is what I got. 

"... and then I tripped," he said to no one in particular.

Mark looked around the bleachers.  No one watching the high school basketball game had been listening to his story.  He sighed, stood up walked a few rows down until he spotted a cute girl with short black hair.  He sat next to her and said as loudly as he could reasonably manage, “So last Tuesday I was out in my back yard when I saw a white rabbit hopping along in a waistcoat and a top hat-.”

“Silvermen!”  A Josh McDonald smacked Mark in the back of the head and sat between him and the girl.  “Who the hell are you talking too?”

“No one.”  Mark mumbled.  He stood up and walked the rest of the way down the bleachers.  He could feel both of them glaring at the back of his head.      

Ms. Church was standing by the emergency exit.  She was the new biology teacher, less than a year out of college. 

Mark stood as close to her as he could without feeling like a creep.  He looked over at her, smiled and said, “So last Tuesday I was raking leaves in my backyard when I saw a white rabbit hopping along in a waistcoat and a top hat.  It pulled out a bottle of orange soda and said-.”

“Mr. Silverman!”  The vice principal cleared his throat. “Either get back in the bleachers or feel free to leave!”

“Thanks Mr. Glass!”  He gave a big thumbs up and walked out of the gym.

Out in the parking lot, Mark spotted Mrs. Lake, his best friend’s mom, smoking a cigarette by her car.  She had to be in forties but still had a great body.  It was also kind of hot that she was rebellious enough to smoke on school property.

“Hey!  Mrs. Lake!”  He ran over to her.  “Did I tell you about the time I was out in my yard raking leaves and I spotted a rabbit in a waistcoat and a top hat and it was hopping along and pulled out a bottle of orange soda and said, ‘This’ll take care of those vampires in my attic?’  And it was so weird I tripped over a rock!”

Mrs. Lake stared at Mark like she didn’t know if she should laugh or pepper spray him.  She finally decided to get into the car and lock the doors.

Mark turned around.  His big brother had been right.  That really was a terrible story to use when trying to pick up girls.

He was about to walk home by himself when a cute girl with curly brown hair and glasses ran up to him. “That story was so cool!  Do you actually have vampire hunting rabbits in your backyard?”

“Of course!”  Mark said.  “Don’t you?” 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Two Penny Saga: The Alternative to Heaven

My friend Jon Rhodes gave me this great opening line!  I started writing and this is the story I got.
 'That interview went well," so he thought but the golden gates faded into the dark.

The world around Henry turned to shadows and the sounds of laughter and cheering on the other side of the gates faded. 

For a moment Henry had a sense of falling and then realized he was in a forest.  Between each of the trees was a cubicle where someone was busy typing away at a computer.  A man in a rumpled white shirt and gray tie walked up to him.  

“This isn’t Heaven, is it?”  Henry asked.

“No, fortunately for you it isn’t.”  The man said. 

“So they’re making me go to hell?”  Henry looked around, certain that at any second a demon would come running at him with a flaming chainsaw.    

The man laughed, “You weren’t bad enough for hell.  When you were alive you were a fairly decent guy when you had to be, but did you really need to buy ALL those video games?  If you’d given just some of that money to charity you could have probably saved an entire African village.  And even after Ms. Johnson got hip surgery you never offered to shovel her driveway.  And in High School when your friends beat up Tommy Jenkins because he was gay you didn’t….”

“I get it!”  Henry held up his hand.  “I wasn’t the most aggressive guy at being good.  Where am I?”

“The in between place.  We mostly work desk jobs with moderate benefits.  We eat chips with medium salsa.  On Fridays we wear toned down Hawaiin shirts, and during our time off we go out on dates that are fun but nothing special, read books by Dan Brown and Dean Koontz and watch movies like Cool Runnings and Die Hard 2.

Henry ran his hands through his hair.  “So it’s too late to get into heaven?”

The man shrugged.  “Do you really want to?  I mean despite common belief Heaven’s more intense than just sitting around on a cloud playing the harp.  Everyone’s climbing mountains, swimming oceans and jumping off cliffs just for the thrill of it.  Everywhere you turn you’re forming really close, intense relationships with complete strangers.  And there animals EVERYWHERE! 

Henry thought it did sound a little overwhelming but it was still Heaven so he said, “Maybe I should at least try.”

“Sure you can try, but to be honest you might end up going to hell.”


“Or you could do nothing and hang out with us here.”

Henry looked around at the people typing away in their cubicles.  They didn’t necessarily look happy but they weren’t unhappy either. 

“Did I mention that tonight we’re watching Hook?”

Henry grinned and shook the man’s hand, “I’m in!” 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Two Penny Saga: Complete History form 2012-3012.

My friend, Jon Rhodes, sent me this opening.  I started writing and this is what I got.  
“What? First Russia and now Canada seems to be missing from the textbooks," he said as he read the fading leather THE LAST 1000 YEARS FROM 2012 to 3012

“Shut up!”  Adam growled at his little brother.  Two and a Half Men is on!”

“This is seriously weird.”  Mark leaned over the book.  “According to this, thirty years from now the U.S. will invade Russia and enslave everyone.  Then they’ll take over Canada and….Oh my God listen to this!” 

“I don’t care!” Adam threw an empty Coke can at Mark’s head.  “That’s just a stupid sci-fi stupid book only stupid sci-fi geeks would be into.  It’s not a history book from the future.”

“It was in Grandpa’s cellar with a sticky note on it saying, ‘READ ME!’”

“Grandpa was a sci-fi geek.”

“Don’t talk about Granpa that way.”

Adam’s face made a slight twitch that almost looked like remorse.  He turned back to the TV.

“Just listen to this okay?  America invades Russia, Canada, Europe and then China.  Millions of people are put in prison camps to starve to death.  The rich have it super well off but they are allowed hunt the poor for sport.  The man who makes all this happen is this guy no one knows anything about.”

“Can you wait and tell me this during a commercial?”

“They don’t even know is real name.  Everyone calls him Kodiak.”  Mark looked up.  “Wait, the guys on the lacrosse team call you that.”

“You have me, Mark!  I’m going to grow up to be future Hitler and will invade Canada!  Better tell mom!” 

“Yeah, but you have to admit it’s a funny coincidence.”

Adam turned up the TV’s volume. 

Adam kept watching Two and a Half Men while his brother kept trying to read.  Eventually Mark’s friend, Sean, came over and they walked into town to buy comic books.  Adam waited ten minutes before he glanced over at the book and grabbed it off the couch.  He opened it to a picture of a hundred naked, starving women crowded together in a death camp. 

Adam wrinkled his nose and turned to a page labeled, “Theories on How the Kodiak Gained Power.” 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two Penny Saga: Inside the Box

My friend David gave me the prompt.  I started writing and this is what I got.

The smell of the place was sweet-astringent, like the stuff they mop with in hospitals.

The place was nothing like a hospital Mark would ever want to visit.  The walls were burned black.  Metal tables and chairs were melted right into the floor.  Mark winced every time he crushed a shard of glass.  It shouldn’t matter.  The place was abandoned.  It was supposed to be abandoned.

“This is stupid!”  Amanda grabbed the back of Mark’s hoodie.  “We just have to tell them we saw it.  We don’t actually need to-.”

Mark broke free and kept on walking to the door at the far end of the hall.  A golden light was coming out from under it.  This was one of those mistakes you made even though you knew it was stupid going into it.

Mark pressed on the door and it flew open. 

The room on the other side was where the cafeteria must have been.  The tables were in pieces.  Chairs were scattered across the floor.  The only piece of furniture that stood upright was a table in the center of the room.  In the middle of the table was a small iron box.  Its lid was half open.  A golden glow pulsated inside. 

“You’re an idiot!”  Amanda growled.  “I don’t care if they don’t let me in.”  She turned around and ran back down the hall. 

Mark reached the table lifted the lid of the box, looked inside and started to cry. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two Penny Saga: Rhonda's Tattoo

Thank you Heather for suggesting this opening.  I went with it and this is the story I got. 

I left them dripping and sunning themselves on the rocks as I went to retrieve my clothes.

I’d planned the trip so it would just be Rhonda and me, but she had to go and invite Jessica, Patrick, Steve and Brandon along as well.  After hearing everyone else go on about Lacrosse all day I was ready to go home.  I dried myself off and was about to go into the woods to exchange my swim trunks for my jeans when I realized that there was something in my pant’s pocket. 

I reached in and pulled out a necklace with a black pendant in the shape of a slender fang.  “Hey!”  I shouted.  “Check this out!” 

To my relief everyone ignored me except for Rhonda who got up and walked over to me in her flower bikini that made it really hard to be “just friends.”  My only problem with the sight was that she had gotten the name of her sorority tattooed on her shoulder.  All her sisters were going to get one but the rest of them had chickened out.

I handed her the necklace.  “Check it out.”

“What the hell is that Charlie?  Did you buy this for me?”

“No!  I found it right here in my pants pockets.  It was just-.”

Leaves rustled behind us.  I turned around and looked up into the woods.  A woman stood just outside the trees.  She was probably just a couple years older than us but was rail thin and her saggy skin was maggoty pale.  She wore a tattered gray dress that looked like was about to fall off her. 

“Hello?”  I shouted.

The woman quivered and looked like she was trying to shout something but no sound came out. 

“Who are you talking to?”  Rhonda asked.

“That creepy lady up there!”

“What creepy lady?”  As if she wasn’t aware of what she was doing, Ronda untied the necklace and brought it up around her neck.

The girl flailed her arms and looked like she was trying to scream. 

“Wait!”  I turned to Rhonda.  “I don’t think you should-.”

She fastened the necklace.  There was a bang like a door slamming.  Rhonda and everyone else turned and looked up at the woods.  I looked back, expecting the woman to be gone but she was still there.  Her arms drooped and she had a look of horrified dismay on her face.  She stepped forward into the sunlight and I got a clear look at her neck for the first time.  It was covered in burns like someone had clamped a necklace of red hot metal around her. 

“Hey!”  Rhonda shouted.  “Whose that?”

The woman pulled down the front of her dress.  Tattooed into her left shoulder was the name of Rhonda’s sorority. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Silent Films Need to Come Back NOW!

Cinema has existed for well over a century.  During that time we have made some pretty impressive advances.  However, it is almost universally accepted that progress does not mean that we should reject some of cinema's older forms. 

For example, we have had color since The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.  Most films today are fine in color but there are some movies such as Schindler's List, The Man Who Wasn't There, Manhattan and Ed Wood that choose to be black white either for artistic reasons, homages to older films or just because they look better that way.  Just because we have color film doesn't mean that it should always be used.

The same is true with dialogue.  It is time that silent films come back to modern cinemas.

There are countless ridiculously wonderful silent movies out there that many people will miss just because they've never seen a silent film before and assume they wouldn't like it. 

 (Watch this if you want to know
where Tim Burtin Came from.)

And in 2012 there was this:

It was the first silent film to win best picture since Wings (1927).  It currently holds a 98% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it made over $44 million domestic.  That isn't all that much money in the big scheme of things but it does show that there are people out there willing to watch movies without audible dialogue.  

However, The Artist is not the movie to convince me that silent films need to make a comeback.  No, that honor goes to this little gem:

And the really sick part is I'M NOT JOKING!  I know you're reading this thinking, "Silly Mike is just making fun of Hollywood's bad dialogue" but I legitimately believe that Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon would have been a better movie if it had been silent.  There is no way the director, producers, studio or most of the audience would have gone through with it but I still stand strong that it would have been a better movie. 

Reason 1:  Michael Bay is not Quentin Tarantino.  The dialogue in this film did not add to the quality of the story.  In fact it did nothing but detract.  Taking out all the movie's dialogue would have removed the movie's biggest flaw.  There was nothing clever, exciting or witty about what the characters had to say.

(Unless you think that racist robots are witty)

Reason 2:  No one went to this movie for the dialogue.  We went to see giant robots bash each other into pulp and destroy a downtown metropolis.  This is something that crosses all language barriers.  Let's be honest, Transformers 3 would have barely needed dialogue cards. 

Reason 3:  Dialogue is really not as important in movies as most modern filmgoers believe. Transformers 3's plot is pretty straight forward.  There have been MUCH better movies with considerably more subtle, complex emotions/relationships and significantly less dialogue.

(Don't believe me?  You've obviously never seen
this movie.)

Reason 4:  People adore characters who let you know exactly what they're thinking without them actually saying, "Hey bro!  This is what I'm thinking!"  Some of cinema's most lovable characters have never said a word.  For example:  which of the following characters would you rather go out drinking with?

I rest my case. 

Okay, I'm not stupid.  Unless we slip into Wackyland we aren't going to be getting any mega budget silent films ever again.  That's just one example of how Hollywood is biting itself in the ass.  Dialogue is almost always a mess in big budget film.  I'm not saying that every movie should be silent.  I'm just saying that a lot would benefit from the change.    If audiences and film makers were just a little more open minded the Transformers franchise might not have been that unwatchable.