Comic: Hollow Oak University – #34 – Out of Time

June 10, 2013

Comic: Hollow Oak University - #34 - Out of Time

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

As does the update regiment of this blog. Hopefully there will be another comic before the end of next year! And apparently, I missed #33 along the way somewhere. Of course, this just means I will release it in a few years as a “lost comic” and make a bundle…wait, forget I said the last part…

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Humor: Once More Into The Pun Breach

March 16, 2012

I went to the bookstore the other day. There, I saw a book with a kitschy cover and an engrossing story about a dog detective. I cried out “How novel!”

My idea of a perfect girl is one who will press my clothes and get my sense of humor. I thought I had met that girl once but she said she doesn’t do irony.

Speaking of women, I ran into one at a bar recently. She was a jeweler. I gave her my number, she said she’d give me a ring.

Working as an engineer, you run into some odd people. I was in another department, talking to a friend, and this guy with numbers running up and down his arm walked into the office. Immediately people started to bow down to him. I asked my friend what was up. He said this guy did all the calculations for their projects, keeping them on track. The people liked the job so much they pushed for him to get promoted to the head of the department. That’s right, he was their ruler.

Did you hear about the new combination radio/soap dispenser? The manufacturer recommends that if you don’t like the soap presets the device comes with, you can just turn the Dial.

I like to lie on my side while napping such that I lose feeling on that side of my body. That way, I am only half-asleep.

There is a cool new circular pen on the market that also acts as a skeleton key for doors. It’s called the O-pen.

I got letters from President Clinton, former Microsoft CEO Gates, and the host of the O’Reilly Factor yesterday. I hate it when my mailbox is full of Bills.

I used to have a pet vermin, one those creatures that likes to dig underground, growing up. Unfortunately, it had leprosy. I called him “Holey Moley.”

Play: Countdown

March 7, 2012

Two men are sitting behind a console. They are dressed like scientists
MAN #1: Initiating launch protocol. In ten, nine, eight, six…
MAN #2: Hold on there, you missed a number.
MAN #1: No, I didn’t.
MAN #2: I’m pretty sure you did.
MAN #1: Which number then?
MAN #2: I believe it was seven.
MAN #1: No way, that’s my favorite number! I said “Ten, nine, eight, SEVEN, six…”
MAN #2: You didn’t.
MAN #1: Whatever. Let’s just start from the beginning.
MAN #2: Let’s…
MAN #1: Eleven, seven, five, three…
MAN #2: Whoa, whoa, whoa, now you are only counting off prime numbers!
MAN #1: And?
MAN #2: Kinda defeats the purpose of a countdown if you are skipping numbers willy-nilly.
MAN #1: I am not skipping them willy-nilly. I am leaving out numbers that are not only divisable by themselves and one.
MAN #2: Let me do the countdown, you idiot!
MAN #1: Fine, fine.
MAN #2: Initiating launch protocol. In diez, nueve, ocho…
MAN #1: I didn’t know you were Spanish!
MAN #2: My accent only comes out when I am counting down something.
MAN #1: Wait, I have an idea. Let me countdown again.
MAN #2: Go ahead.
MAN #1: Initiating launch protocol. Z, Y, X, W…wait, no, that’s not right.
MAN #2: Let’s just try it together, okay?
MAN #1: Smart. That way we can cover each other’s asses when the other messes up.
MAN #2: Exactly. It’s the scientific way!
MAN #1: Let’s do it!
MAN #1 and MAN #2 link arms
MAN #1 and MAN #2 (together): Initiating launch protocol. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!
Both men press a button
LOUDSPEAKER: LAUNCH PROTOCOL INITIATED. BEGIN COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH. IN T MINUS ONE MILLION SECONDS.
MAN #1: Good job.
MAN #2: Agreed
MAN #1: Beer?
MAN #2: I’d love to.
LOUDSPEAKER: 998,976…998,975…uh, 998,973? Crap, I lost my place. Start from the beginning…1,000,000…999,999…2!

Humor: California Tidbits

February 20, 2012

Having lived in California for almost three months now I have learned a lot about the Golden State. Here are some facts I recently were educated about:

California once petitioned the government to change its timezone to be an hour ahead of the East Coast Standard time because Cali felt it should always be leading the trends.

Sacramento is an old Indian word meaning “Why is the Capitol here?”

San Francisco is actually divided into 2 areas, depending on where you are located relative to the water. If you are close by, you are in the “Bay A” area. If you are far away and complain you should be closer, you would be identified as a “Bay B.”

Public transportation is big in California. Not that anyone uses it, just as something people say they use to appear more eco-friendly.

To actually be eco-friendly, people in California ride bicycles. Bicycles are considered like cars in terms of laws and the culture. Which explains why I saw a stationary bike in the front lawn of some Californian rednecks.

There are two areas in California colloquially called “Silicone” something. There is Silicone Valley, where there is a large population of tech companies. And there are the Silicone Mountains, where there is a large population of adult film stars.

The housing crisis is huge in California. The cost to rent, let alone buy, a bush to hide in for the paparazzi has skyrocketed over the past few years.

California has two seasons: shopping and next.

The speed limit in San Francisco is “Groovy.” You can be pulled over for “harshing the vibe.”

The California Raisins are actually Mormons from Utah.

There are dozens of towns in California with the “San” prefix: San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, San Skrit, San Debeaches, San Ity (which is a great place to declare to be In)

Napa Valley is wine country. When I don’t like the particular drink they serve there, it becomes whine country.

So many awards ceremonies take place in L.A. I have seen vendors sell Oscars right along with oranges on the street corners there.

There is a large surfer infestation in California. Officials tried to combat this by introducing the noble hippie into the environment. Unfortunately, they crossbred and we get the Valley Girl.

The final thing I learned while in California is that it promotes travel by being really big and really far away from everything else!

Song: Happy and I Know It (Parody)

February 13, 2012

This is a parody of the LMFAO song “Sexy and I Know It”.

With my left foot in, I be shaking it like a fin
I put left foot out, hands on my hips like I am short and stout, yeah
This is how I roll, pin-the-tail donkey out of control,
It’s Birthday Boy, the big one-oh.
And like that I shake it all about

Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
I eat it
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
I eat it

When I put right hand in, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
It’s my birthday and all my friends are here, dancing to the tune.

I’m happy and I know it.
I’m happy and I know it.

When I’m at the school, third grade teacher just can’t fight ’em off
When I’m at the field, I’m trying to make the bullies stop and yield
This is how I live, come on sister, you gonna give?
This is how I roll, come on ladies it’s time to go
We headed to the pool, I just learned how to swim
No shoes, no wings, and I still go in.

Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
I eat it
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
I eat it

When I put myself in, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
It’s my birthday and all my friends are here, dancing to the tune.

I’m happy and I know it.
I’m happy and I know it.

Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, all about
Shake it, shake, shake it, shake it, all about
Shake it, shake, shake it, shake it, all about

C’mon shake it, yeah.

I’M HAPPY AND I KNOW IT!

Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
Mom, look at that my cake
I eat it

Humor: The Farters Are Due On Maple Street

October 31, 2011

Note: This is a rewritten script for the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.” The story is about paranoia that arises when something unknown happens in Anytown, U.S.A. The episode has been heralded as a parable on the dangers of McCarthyism and the creeping sense of suspicion of Communist agents in the 1950s. Of course, this rewrite takes it in a slightly less serious direction.

ACT ONE
(Fade in on a shot of the night sky. The various heavenly bodies stand out in sharp, sparkling relief. The camera moves slowly across the heavens until it passes the horizon and stops on a sign that reads “Maple Street.” It is daytime. Then we see the street below. It is a quiet, tree-lined, small-town American street. The houses have front porches on which people sit and swing on gliders, talking across from house to house. Steve Brand is polishing his car, which is parked in front of his house. His neighbor, Don Martin, leans against the fender watching him. An ice-cream vendor riding a bicycle is just in the process of stopping to sell some ice cream to a couple of kids. Two women gossip on the front lawn. Another man is watering his lawn with a garden hose. As we see these various activities, we hear the Narrator’s voice.)
Narrator: Maple Street, U.S.A., late summer. A tree-lined little world of front-porch gliders, hopscotch, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice-cream vendor.
(There is a pause, and the camera moves over to a shot of the ice-cream vendor and two small boys who are standing alongside just buying ice cream.)
Narrator: At the sound of the rip and the flap of the curtain, it will be precisely six-forty-three p.m. on Maple Street.
(At this moment Tommy, one of the two boys buying ice cream from the vendor, looks up to listen to a tremendous screeching escape of air from overhead.
A wind plays on the faces of both boys, disgusting them, and then moves down the street and disappears. Various people leave their porches or stop what they
are doing to stare up at the sky. Steve Brand, the man who has been polishing his car, stands there transfixed, staring upwards. He looks at Don Martin, his neighbor from across the street.)
* fade in: cause the television image to appear gradually
Steve: What was that? A weather balloon deflating?
Don: That’s what it looked like. It kinda smelled though, didn’t it?
Steve: Yep. I didn’t hear anything except a tremendous rip.
Myra: ( from her porch). What was that?
Steve: (raising his voice and looking toward the porch). Guess it was a deflating weather balloon, honey. Came awful close, didn’t it?
Myra: (wrinkling her nose) Too close for my money! Much too close.
(The camera moves slowly across the various porches to people who stand there watching and talking in low conversing tones.)
Narrator: Maple Street. Six-forty-four p.m. on a late September evening. (He pauses.) Normally it would smell like autumn, but it will soon smell like something else. Maple Street in the last calm and reflective moment (pause) before the monsters farted!
(The camera takes us across the porches again. A man is replacing a light bulb on a front porch. He gets off his stool to flick the switch and finds that nothing happens. The fixture lightly smokes and the man is not pleased with that smell. Another man is working on an electric power mower. He plugs in the plug, flicks the switch of the mower off and on, but nothing happens. He smells something awful. Through a window we see a woman pushing her finger up and down on the dial hook of a telephone. She then waves her hand in front of her face to disperse a smell. Her voice sounds far away.)
Woman: Operator, operator, something’s wrong in the air, operator! (Myra Brand comes out on the porch and calls to Steve.)
Myra: (calling) Steve, the power’s off. I had some beans on the stove, and the stove just stopped working. I am afraid there is a gas leak.
Woman: Same thing over here. I can’t get anybody on the phone either. The phone seems to be dead. This may be a dangerous situation. No one light a match!
(We look down again on the street. Small, mildly disturbed voices are heard coming from below.)
Voice One: Electricity’s off.
Voice Two: Phone won’t work.
Voice Three: Can’t get a thing on the radio except the ballgame. Apparently, someone slide into first and felt something burst!
Voice Four: My power mower won’t move, won’t
work at all. Now I won’t get the sweet aroma of freshly cut grass.
Voice Five: Radio’s gone dead!
(Pete Van Horn, a tall, thin man, is seen standing in front of his house.)
Pete: I’ll cut through the back yard to see if the air’s as stagnant over there, on Floral Street. I’ll be right back!
(He walks past the side of his house and disappears into the back yard. The camera pans down slowly until we are looking at ten or eleven people standing around the street and overflowing to the curb and sidewalk. In the background is Steve Brand’s car.)
Steve: Doesn’t make sense. Why should the power go off all of a sudden and the phone line? And what is that smell?
Don: Maybe some kind of an electrical storm or something. Would explain that odor of, what, burning?
Charlie: That don’t seem likely. Sky’s just as blue as anything. Not a cloud. No lightning. No thunder. No nothing. How could it be a storm? Please it smells more like something died.
Woman: I can’t get a thing on the radio. Not even the portable. I won’t know who won the state fair cheese cutting competition!
(The people again begin to murmur softly in wonderment.)
Charlie: Well, why don’t you go downtown and check with the police, though they’ll probably think we’re crazy or something. A funny smell and right away we get all flustered and everything—
Steve: It isn’t just a funny smell, Charlie. If it was, we’d just shrug our shoulders. No, someone farted…majorly.
(There is a murmur of reaction to this. Steve looks from face to face and then at his car.)
Steve: I’ll run downtown. We’ll get this all aired out.
(He gets in the car and turns the key. Looking through the open car door, we see the crowd watching Steve from the other side. He starts the engine. It turns over sluggishly and then stops dead. He tries it again, and this time he can’t get it to turn over. Then very slowly he turns the key back to “off ” and gets out of the car. The people stare at Steve. He stands for a moment by the car and then walks toward them.)
Steve: I don’t understand it. It was working fine before—
Don: Out of gas?
Steve: (shakes his head) The opposite. I can smell nothing but gas, like it overflowing!
Woman: What’s it mean?
Charlie: It’s just as if ( pause) as if everything had stopped and started decaying. (Then he turns toward Steve.) We’d better walk downtown towards the fresh air.
(Another murmur of assent to this.)
Steve: The two of us can go, Charlie. (He turns to look back at the car.) It couldn’t be the weather ballon. A weather balloon couldn’t do this.
(He and Charlie exchange a look. Then they start to walk away from the group. Tommy comes into view. He is a serious-faced young boy in spectacles. He stands halfway between the group and the two men, who start to walk down the sidewalk.)
Tommy: Mr. Brand—you’d better not!
Steve: Why not?
Tommy: They don’t want you to.
(Steve and Charlie exchange a grin, and Steve looks back toward the boy.)
Steve: Who doesn’t want us to?
Tommy: ( jerks his head in the general direction of the distant horizon). Them!
Steve: Them?
Charlie: Who are them?
Tommy (intently). Whoever farted.
(Steve knits his brows for a moment, cocking his head questioningly. His voice is intense.)
Steve: What?
Tommy: Whoever farted doesn’t want us to leave here.
(Steve leaves Charlie, walks over to the boy, and puts his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He forces his voice to remain gentle.)
Steve: What do you mean? What are you talking about?
Tommy: They don’t want us to leave. That’s why they shut everything off. They want us to smell the lingering fart.
Steve: What makes you say that? Whatever gave you that idea?
Woman: ( from the crowd ). Now isn’t that the craziest thing you ever heard?
Tommy: (persistent but a little frightened ). It’s always that way, in every story I ever read about a fart in the books. He who smelt it, dealt it.
Woman: (to the boy’s mother, Sally, who stands on the fringe of the crowd ). Sally, you better get that boy of yours up to bed. He’s been reading too many comic books or seeing too many movies or something!
Sally: Tommy, come over here and stop that rude kind of talk.
Steve: Go ahead, Tommy. We’ll be right back. And you’ll see. That wasn’t a humongous fart or anything like it. That was just a . . . a weather balloon or something. Likely as not—(He turns to the group, now trying very hard to sound more optimistic than he feels.) No doubt it did have something to do with all this power failure and smell and the rest of it. Weather balloons can do some crazy things. Like sunspots. Or garbage dumps
Don: ( picking up the cue). Sure. That’s the kind of thing—like a new garbage dump. They I heard City Hall was going to start one on the other side of town. Maybe the wind picked up and brought the stench over here. (He wets his lips and smiles nervously.) Go ahead, Charlie. You and Steve go into town and see if that isn’t what’s causing it all. (Steve and Charlie walk away from the group down the sidewalk as the people watch silently.
Tommy stares at them, biting his lips, and finally calls out again.)
Tommy: Mr. Brand!
(The two men stop. Tommy takes a step toward them.)
Tommy: Mr. Brand . . . please don’t leave here.
(Steve and Charlie stop once again and turn toward the boy. In the crowd there is a murmur of irritation and concern, as if the boy’s words— even though they didn’t make sense—were bringing up fears that shouldn’t be brought up. Tommy is both frightened and defiant.)
Tommy: You might not even be able to get to town without a gas mask. It was that way in the story. Nobody could leave. Nobody except—
Steve: Except who?
Tommy: Except the people who passed said gas. They looked embarrassed are hoping they don’t get caught. So they act. They act like us who didn’t fart.
(The boy suddenly stops, conscious of the people staring at him and his mother and of the sudden hush of the crowd.)
Sally: (in a whisper, sensing the antagonism of the crowd ). Tommy, please son . . . honey, don’t talk that way—
Man One: That kid shouldn’t talk that way . . . and we shouldn’t stand here listening to him.
Why this is the craziest thing I ever heard of. The kid tells us a comic book plot, “he who smelt it, dealt it,” and here we stand listening—
(Steve walks toward the camera and stops beside the boy.)
Steve: Go ahead, Tommy. What kind of story was this? What about the people who smelled it first?
Tommy: That was the way they prepared to cover up their faux pas. It was a whole family who farted! A mother and a father and two kids who acted like they weren’t to blame . . . but they were.
(There is another silence as Steve looks toward the crowd and then toward Tommy. He wears a tight grin.)
Steve: Well, I guess what we’d better do then is to run a check on the neighborhood and see which ones of us smelled it initially.
(There is laughter at this, but it’s a laughter that comes from a desperate attempt to lighten the atmosphere. The people look at one another in the middle of their laughter.)
Charlie: (rubs his jaw nervously). I wonder if Floral Street’s got the same deal we got.
(He looks past the houses.) Where is Pete Van Horn anyway? Isn’t he back yet?
(Suddenly there is the sound of a an industrial fan’s engine starting to turn over. We look across the street toward the driveway of Les Goodman’s house. He is at the switch trying to start the fan.)
Sally: Can you get started, Les?
(Les Goodman gets out of the car, shaking his head.)
Les: No dice.
(He walks toward the group. He stops suddenly as, behind him, the engine starts up all by itself, clearing some of the air. Les whirls around to stare at the fan. The fan idles roughly, smoke coming from the exhaust, the frame shaking gently. Les’s eyes go wide, and he runs over to his fan. The people stare at the fan.)
Man One: He got a fan started somehow. He got his car started!
(The people continue to stare, caught up by this revelation and wildly frightened.)
Woman: How come his fan just up and started like that?
Sally: All by itself. He wasn’t anywheres near it. It started all by itself.
(Don Martin approaches the group and stops a few feet away to look toward Les’s fan.)
Don: And he never did come out to look at that thing that bellowed overhead. He wasn’t even interested. (He turns to the group, his face taut and serious.) Why? Why didn’t he come out with the rest of us to look?
Charlie: He always was an oddball. Him and his whole family. Real oddball. Always asking us to pull his finger.
Don: What do you say we ask him?
(The group starts toward the house. In this brief fraction of a moment, it takes the first step toward changing from a group into a mob. The group members begin to head purposefully across the street toward the house. Steve stands in front of them. For a moment their fear almost turns their walk into a wild stampede, but Steve’s voice, loud, incisive, and commanding, makes them stop.)
Steve: Wait a minute . . . wait a minute! Let’s not be a mob!
(The people stop, pause for a moment, and then, much more quietly and slowly, start to walk across the street. Les stands alone facing the people.)
Les: I just don’t understand it. I tried to start it, and it wouldn’t start. You saw me. All of
you saw me. (And now, just as suddenly as the engine started, it stops, and there is a long silence that is gradually intruded upon by the frightened murmuring of the people.)
Les: I don’t understand. I swear . . . I don’t understand. What’s happening?
Don: Maybe you better tell us. Nothing’s working on this street. Nothing. The air is sour. We can’t clear the air, no one can. Except you.
(The people’s murmuring becomes a loud chant filling the air with accusations and demands for action. Two of the men pass Don and head toward Les, who backs away from them against his fan. He is cornered.)
Les: Wait a minute now. You keep your distance —all of you. So I’ve got a fan that starts by itself—well, that’s a freak thing—I admit it. But does that make me a criminal or something? I don’t know why the car works—it just does!
(This stops the crowd momentarily, and Les, still backing away, goes toward his front porch. He goes up the steps and then stops, facing the mob.)
Les: What’s it all about, Steve?
Steve: (quietly) We’re all on a farting kick, Les. Seems that the general impression holds that maybe one family isn’t what we think they are. Farters too embarrassed to admit it. Different from us. Farters from the vast beyond. (He chuckles.) You know anybody that might fit that description around here on Maple Street?
Les: What is this, a gag, like a whoopee cushion? (He looks around the group again.) This a practical joke or something?
(Suddenly the fan engine starts all by itself, runs for a moment, and stops. One woman begins to cry. The eyes of the crowd are cold and accusing.)
Les: Now that’s supposed to incriminate me, huh? The fan goes on and off, and that
really does it, doesn’t it? (He looks around at the faces of the people.) I just don’t understand it . . . any more than any of you do! (He wets his lips, looking from face to face.) Look, you all know me. We’ve lived here five years. Right in this house. We’re no different from any of the rest of you! We’re no different at all. . . . We have scented candles and potpourri! Really . . . this whole thing is just . . . just weird—
Woman: Well, if that’s the case, Les Goodman, explain why— (She stops suddenly, clamping her mouth shut.)
Les: (softly) Explain what?
Steve: (interjecting). Look, let’s forget this—
Charlie: (overlapping him). Go ahead, let her talk. What about it? Explain what?
Woman: (a little reluctantly). Well . . . sometimes I go to bed late at night. A couple of times . . . a couple of times I’d come out here on the porch, and I’d see Mr. Goodman here
in the wee hours of the morning standing out in front of his house . . . in only his boxers (She looks around the circle of faces.) That’s right, only in his boxers . . . as if he
were airing them out, (pauses) as if he airing them out.
(There’s a murmur of reaction from the crowd again as Les backs away.)
Les: She’s crazy. Look, I can explain that. Please . . . I can really explain that. . . . She’s making it up anyway. (Then he shouts.) I tell you she’s making it up!
(He takes a step toward the crowd, and they back away from him. He walks down the steps after them, and they continue to back away. Suddenly he is left completely alone, and he looks like a man caught in the middle of a menacing circle as the scene slowly fades to black.)
ACT TWO –SCENE ONE
(Fade in on Maple Street at night. On the sidewalk, little knots of people stand around talking in low voices. At the end of each conversation they look toward Les Goodman’s house. From the various houses, we can see candlelight but no electricity. The quiet that blankets the whole area is disturbed only by the almost whispered voices of the people standing around. In one group Charlie stands staring across at the Goodmans’ house. Two men stand across the street from it in almost sentrylike poses.)
Sally: (in a small, hesitant voice). It just doesn’t seem right, though, keeping watch on them. Why . . . he was right when he said he was one of our neighbors. Why, I’ve known Ethel Goodman ever since they moved in. We’ve been good friends—
Charlie: That don’t prove a thing. Any guy who’d spend his time out in his boxers
in the morning—well, there’s something wrong with that kind of person. Something in his pants. There’s something that ain’t legitimate. Maybe under normal circumstances we could let it go by, but these aren’t normal circumstances. Why, look at this street! All the windows are open and people are flapping their arms to get rid of the air. Why, it’s like goin’ back into the Dark Ages or somethin’!
(Steve walks down the steps of his porch, down the street to the Goodmans’ house, and then stops at the foot of the steps. Les is standing there; Ethel Goodman behind him is very frightened.)
Les: Just stay right where you are, Steve. We don’t want any trouble, but this time if anybody sets foot on my porch—that’s what they’re going to get—trouble!
Steve: Look, Les—
Les: I’ve already explained to you people. I don’t have good A/C in my house. I get up and
I take a walk to cool off in my boxers.
Ethel: That’s exactly what he does. Why, this whole thing, it’s . . . it’s some kind of fart madness or something.
Steve: (nods grimly). That’s exactly what it is— some kind of fart madness.
Charlie’s Voice: (shrill, from across the street). You best watch who you’re seen with, Steve! Until we get this all straightened out, you ain’t exactly above suspicion yourself. I know your type, the silent, but deadly!
Steve: (whirling around toward him). Or you, Charlie. Or any of us, it seems. From age eight on up!
Woman: What I’d like to know is—what are we gonna do? Just stand around here all night? Talking about farts?
Charlie: There’s nothin’ else we can do! (He turns back, looking toward Steve and Les again.) One of ’em’ll tip their hand. They got to.
Steve: (raising his voice). There’s something you can do, Charlie. You can go home and
keep your mouth shut. You can quit strutting around like your emissions don’t smell and climb into bed, give your wife a Dutch oven and forget it.
Charlie: You sound real anxious to have that happen, Steve. I think we better keep our stink eye on you, too!
Don: (as if he were taking the bit in his teeth, takes a hesitant step to the front). I think everything might as well come out now. (He turns toward Steve.) Your wife’s done plenty of talking, Steve, about how odd you are!
Charlie: (picking this up, his eyes widening). Go ahead, tell us what she’s said.
(Steve walks toward them from across the street.)
Steve: Go ahead, what’s my wife said? Let’s get it all out. Let’s pick out every idiosyncrasy of every single man, woman, and child on the street. And then we might as well set up some air emission regulatory system. How about a sniff test at dawn, Charlie, so we can get rid of all the suspects. Narrow them down. Make it easier for you.
Don: There’s no need gettin’ so upset, Steve. It’s just that . . . well . . . Myra’s talked about
how there’s been plenty of nights you spent hours down in your basement workin’ on some
kind of amplification system or something. Well, none of us have ever seen that amplification system— (By this time Steve has reached the group. He stands there defiantly.)
Charlie:Go ahead, Steve. What kind of “amplification system” you workin’ on? I never seen it. Neither has anyone else. What do you want to amplify the sound of?
Steve: I’m surprised at you, Charlie. How come you’re so dense all of a sudden? (He pauses.) What do I want to amplify? I want to amplify the sounds of my own farts, of course! Then blame it on weather balloons.
(Myra Brand steps down from the porch, bites her lip, calls out.)
Myra: Steve! Steve, please. (Then looking around, frightened, she walks toward the group.) It’s just a stereo sound system set, that’s all. I bought him a book on it myself. It’s just a stereo. A lot of people have them. I can show it to you. It’s right down in the basement.
Steve: (whirls around toward her) Show them nothing! If they want to look inside our house—let them go and get a search warrant.
Charlie: Look, buddy, you can’t afford to—
Steve: (interrupting him) Charlie, don’t start telling me who’s farts smell like roses and who’s doesn’t. Who’s safe and who’s a menace to our sense. (He turns to the group and shouts.) And you’re with him, too—all of you! You’re standing here all set to crucify—all set to find a scapegoat—all desperate to point some kind of a finger at a
Neighbor or the dog! Well now, look, friends, the only thing that’s gonna happen is that we’ll eat each other up alive—
(He stops abruptly as Charlie suddenly grabs his arm.)
Charlie: (in a hushed voice) That’s not the only thing that can happen to us.
(Down the street, a figure has suddenly materialized in the gloom. In the silence we hear little pockets of gas escaping from its direction. The figure walks slowly toward them. One of the women lets out a stifled cry. Sally grabs her boy, as do a couple of other mothers.)
Tommy: (shouting, frightened) It’s the farter! It’s the farter!
(Another woman lets out a wail, and the people fall back in a group staring toward the darkness and the approaching figure. The people stand in the shadows watching. Don Martin joins them, carrying a shotgun. He holds it up.)
Don: We may need this.
Steve: A shotgun? (He pulls it out of Don’s hand.) No! Will anybody think a thought around here! Will you people wise up. What good would a shotgun do against—
(The dark figure continues to walk toward them, the gassy noise getting louder, as the people stand there, fearful, mothers clutching children, men standing in front of their wives.)
Charlie: (pulling the gun from Steve’s hands). No more talk, Steve. You’re going to talk us into a smelly grave! You’d let whatever’s out there toot right over us, wouldn’t yuh? Well, some of us won’t!
(Charlie swings around, raises the gun, and suddenly pulls the trigger. The sound of the shot explodes in the stillness. The figure suddenly lets out a small cry, stumbles forward onto his knees, and then falls forward on his face. Don, Charlie, and Steve race forward to him. Steve is there first and turns the man over. The crowd gathers around them.)
Steve: (slowly looks up). It’s Pete Van Horn.
Don: (in a hushed voice). Pete Van Horn! He was just gonna go over to the next block to see if the power was on. He must have stepped into the creek and got his shoes wet. That was the sound. His squishy shoes—
Woman: You killed him, Charlie. You shot him dead!
Charlie: (looks around at the circle of faces, his eyes frightened, his face contorted) But . . . but I didn’t know who he was. I certainly didn’t know who he was. He comes walkin’ out of the darkness and the noise—how am I supposed to know who he was? (He grabs Steve.) Steve—you know why I shot! How was I supposed to know he wasn’t passing gas or something? (He grabs Don.) We’re all scared of the same thing. I was just tryin’ to . . . tryin’ to protect my home and nose, that’s all! Look, all of you, that’s all I was tryin’ to do.
(He looks down wildly at the body.) I didn’t know it was somebody we knew! I didn’t know—
(There’s a sudden hush and then an intake of breath in the group. Across the street all the lights go on in one of the houses. Air comes whooshing out of the open windows, bringing a sweet smell to the noses)
Woman: (in a hushed voice). Charlie . . . Charlie . . . the air is flowing in your house. Why did the air flow like that?
Don: What about it, Charlie? How come you’re the only one with fresh air now?
Les: That’s what I’d like to know.
(Pausing, they all stare toward Charlie.)
Les: You were so quick to kill, Charlie, and you were so quick to tell us what we had to be careful of. Well, maybe you had to kill. Maybe Pete there was trying to tell us something.
Maybe he’d found out who let one rip and came to tell us who there was amongst us we should watch out for—
(Charlie backs away from the group, his eyes wide with fright.)
Charlie: No . . . no . . . it’s nothing of the sort! I don’t know my air is cleared. I swear
I don’t. I have never farted in public before. Somebody’s pulling a gag or something.
(He bumps against Steve, who grabs him and whirls him around.)
Steve: A gag? A gag? Charlie, there’s a dead man on the sidewalk, and you killed him! Does this thing look like a gag to you? And you know he’s gonna smell bad in a little while.
(Charlie breaks away and screams as he runs toward his house.)
Charlie: No! No! Please! I am a gentleman!
(A man breaks away from the crowd to chase Charlie. As the man tackles him and lands on top of him, the other people start to run toward them. Charlie gets up, breaks away from the other man’s grasp, and lands a couple of desperate punches that push the man aside. Then he forces his way, fighting, through the crowd and jumps up on his front porch. Charlie is on his porch as a rock thrown from the group smashes a window beside him, the broken glass
flying past him. A couple of pieces cut him. More sweet air rushes out. He stands there perspiring, rumpled, blood running down from a cut on the cheek.
His wife breaks away from the group to throw herself into his arms. He buries his face against her. We can see the crowd converging on the porch.)
Voice One: It must have been him. He who denied it, supplied it…
Voice Two: He’s the one.
Voice Three: We got to get Charlie.
(Another rock lands on the porch. Charlie pushes his wife behind him, facing the group.)
Charlie: Look, look, I swear to you . . . it isn’t me . . . I don’t eat beans or cabbage. But I do know who it is . . . I swear to you, I do know who it is. I know who the farter is here. I know who would smell up the joint and lie about it. I swear to you I know.
Don: (pushing his way to the front of the crowd) All right, Charlie, let’s hear it!
(Charlie’s eyes dart around wildly.)
Charlie. It’s . . . it’s . . .
Man Two: (screaming). Go ahead, Charlie.
Charlie: It’s . . . it’s the kid. It’s Tommy. He’s the one!
(There’s a gasp from the crowd as we see Sally holding the boy. Tommy at first doesn’t understand and then, realizing the eyes are all on him, buries his face against his mother.)
Sally: (backs away) That’s crazy! He’s only a boy.
Woman: But he knew! He was the only one! Kids fart all the time and think its funny! He read those funny stories and thought he’d make us all smell his fart. How could he have known?
(Various people take this up and repeat the question.)
Voice One: How could he know?
Voice Two: Who told him?
Voice Three. Make the kid answer.
(The crowd starts to converge around the mother, who grabs Tommy and starts to run with him. The crowd starts to follow, at first walking fast, and then running after him. Suddenly Charlie’s A/C go off and the fans in other houses go on, then off.)
Man One: (shouting). It isn’t the kid . . . it’s Bob Weaver’s house.
Woman: It isn’t Bob Weaver’s house, it’s the dog! Look at him whimpering!
Charlie: I tell you it’s the kid.
Don: It’s Charlie. He’s the one. He’s old enough to have bowel problems!
(People shout, accuse, and scream as the fans go on and off. Then, slowly, in the middle of this nightmarish confusion of sight and sound, the camera starts to pull away until, once again, we have reached the opening shot looking at the Maple Street sign from high above.)
Scene Two
(The camera continues to move away while gradually bringing into focus a field. We see the brick side of a chili place that sits shrouded in darkness. An open door throws out a beam of light from the illuminated interior. Two figures appear, silhouetted against the bright lights. We get only a vague feeling of form.)
Figure One: Understand the procedure now? Just a drive-by cropdusting in some random neighborhood…Let them soak in it for a few hours, and then just sit back and watch the pattern.
Figure Two: And this pattern is always the same?
Figure One: Have you ever farted in a crowded elevator before? They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find . . .and it’s themselves. And all we need do is sit back . . . and watch as they blame everyone they know before a stranger. That’s just rude if they do.
Figure Two: Then I take it this place . . . this Maple Street . . . is not unique.
Figure One: (shaking his head ) By no means. Our world is full of Maple Streets, people too polite to admit when they are re-circulating their own air. And we’ll go from one to the other and pass our gas there so our wives don’t give us funny looks. One to the other . . . one to the other . . . one to the other—
Scene Three
(The camera slowly moves up for a shot of the starry sky, and over this we hear the Narrator’s voice.)
Narrator: The tools of embarrassment do not necessarily come with “Kick Me” signs and boogers and fake spiders. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, smells—to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, smells can kill and suspicion can destroy. A thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has an odor all its own for the children . . . and the children yet unborn, even they can smell it (a pause) and the pity of it is . . . that these things cannot be confined to . . . The Twilight (a farting sound is heard) Uh, it wasn’t me!
(Fade to black.)

Short Story: Holding Cell

October 24, 2011

Frank Leggaro slowly opened his eyes. Something felt wrong. His normally plush bed felt hard as a rock. Frank’s back was stiff and the warm air was making Frank sweat. Frank usually kept his central air at a crisp 65 degrees. This was not 65 degrees. His blanket seemed too heavy. Where normally Frank could count each of the 500 threads in his comforter, running his fingers over this piece of cloth left a lot to be desired. With growing concern, Frank shook himself awake. Frank began to realize he was not in his palatial home but some place else. Some place far away from his comfort zone.
Eyes wide open now, Frank’s first clear sight was a concrete wall. On that wall there were tick marks and rude sayings. Things about mothers and where the authorities can stick it. The light filtering in around Frank was that of the fluorescent kind, harsh and bright. Frank knew those sorts of illuminations were found mostly in government buildings and once again he wondered where he was. When he turned onto his other side, away from the concrete wall, he got his answer. He saw three sets of bars. He was in hail. And he had no recollection of how he got there.
The last thing Frank remembered was taking another shot of tequila with his colleagues. This was in celebration of Frank’s latest successful prosecution of a low-life criminal scum. It was a particularly tough case since physical evidence was scarce and Frank had to rely on eye witness accounts, but he was sure the stirring testimony of the witnesses would put the thug behind bars. And Frank was right. He was able to use that testimony to hammer home his points about justice and got the guilty verdict.
But now thinking back to that case and the trial itself, Frank could recall very little of the specifics. When he tried to picture the thug, he saw only himself. Frank sat up in the bed and shook his head. He was sure he drank too much the night before and was in the local drunk tank. Not going to be a gold star next to his name for this one, he thought. Yet, for apparently drinking copious amounts of alcohol, Frank’s head was clear. Frank thought it odd that he had no hangover. He was sure he blacked out due to his drinking though, as he has done before.
Frank called out to no one in particular to gauge his situation. “Hey, what am I doing here? I think I am fine to leave.”
As if in response to his question, whispers from nearby and unseen cells rose up.
“Larceny. Breaking and Entering. Rape.”
Frank staggered off his bed and towards the iron bars.
“I said, what am I in here for?”
Once again, voices, speakers unseen, rose around him, this time louder.
“Assault. Resisting Arrest. MURDER!”
Frank flashed back to a trial. One of the million he had tried. Except, once again, he was the one sitting in the defendant’s chair. And the voices crying out to him all merged into one, that of a judge listing charges against Frank. Now Frank’s head was pounding. He sat back down on the hard cot.
Frank had run the gamut of prosecution in the ten or so years he had worked at the District Attorney’s office. He had the highest success rate and rumor was that he was on the short list to become the next state Attorney General. Some politicos were in office last week, or at least Frank thought it was last week, gauging his interest. Of course he was interested, he said. Any potential landmines in your case history, they asked. No, he replied, pointing out that it was varied, full of many examples of his aptness for the job. One of the men leaned to his left, towards the man who seemed to be in charge. They whispered, almost conspiratorially, to each other. Frank could only make out one word, “railroaded”, but the bossman brushed it off and smiled at Frank. They left the room with promises of a bright future ahead for Frank.
Frank knew there were some fellow litigators who felt he pushed his cases through too quickly. Frank did not care for that criticism and always dismissed it. After all, all his convictions were based on some form of evidence, whether it be a fingerprint or a witness account. Thinking of witnesses, Frank once again flashed back to his last trial and this time a real memory popped up. He saw his star witness, a little old lady of about seventy, crying, pleading for it to stop, saying she’ll do anything. Frank snapped back to reality and his current situation.
Frank took stock of his surroundings and situation. He bounced, really propelled himself up and down, on the hard cot. He counted each bar, 66 in all. He counted each tick mark on the wall, 333 in total. He read the scribbles on the wall.
“Lou can suck it!”
“Death to all!”
“Frank Leggaro can rot in hell!”
The last sentence caught Frank’s attention. He saw his name everywhere after that.
“Frank is Unfair!”
“Swift Justice is No Justice, Frank!”
“Frank LEggaro is the Last Railroad Man!”
And then one that seemed to be a novel in itself.
“Why’d you put me in here, Frank? I was innocent. You knew it. You knew the case was flimsy. But I looked like a criminal, didn’t I? And that was enough for you. The authorities put us in front of you and you did whatever it took to get that conviction. If we were so innocent, we wouldn’t be there in the first place, right Frank?”
Then sprawled underneath that, in angrily written letters:
“HEY HEY FRANKIE HEY, HOW MANY WITNESSES DID YOU MAKE CRY TODAY?”
Frank ran his fingers across the engravings. He could feel a heat radiating from them. An impossible warmth that burned his fingertips. A deep fear gripped him. He almost jumped out of his skin when a voice came from behind him.
“That one’s my favorite, though I liked it better when it was used against LBJ.”
Frank turned around. A man in a sharp suit was smiling at him behind the bars. Must be the warden, thought Frank. Then a contradictory thought: Why would the drunk tank need a warden? Maybe he was a fellow lawyer, sent to retrieve Frank. But the man looked different from every other lawyer Frank had met. All Frank knew for certain was this man was somehow in charge. As frank took a step towards him, the man momentarily seemed to morph into the judge from his vision, the man who “sentenced” him. Frank tossed that thought off and saw the suited man once more. He went to the bars and placed his hands on them. They were even hotter than the letters, as if closer to the unknown heat source. Frank pulled his hands away in pain and the suited man continued smiling.
“Where am I,” Frank asked.
The suited man just laughed. “I thought you would know where you sent your victims, I mean defendants, after you won, Frank. Or do you not care what happens outside of your court? And yes, I am implying pre-trial as well!” The man laughed heartily again.
Frank was scared but determined to get a straight answer. “Look, I don’t know who you are-”
“-and I am enjoying that immensely.”
“But I don’t care for your implications and I don’t care to be in here. So tell me the fine and I’ll pay it and I can get out of here.”
The well-dressed man nodded his head. “Yes, we’ll soon sort this out. As we always do. That’s the fun part. You see there is no fine. At least one you are paying in cash. No, I am sorry, well really happy, to say that you’re in here for a while.”
Frank’s face drained of color. “What did I do last night?”
The suited man thought for a second. “You woke up, yelled for a little bit, read the wall, then I showed up.”
“Wait, what? I meant what did I do to get in here?”
“Oh, that was many nights ago. I am afraid what got you here was the ole firewater.”
Frank furrowed his brow. “I knew it. Public intoxication? Don’t tell me, DUI?”
The other man smiled again. “Oh, both. But you weren’t caught, you sly dog.” The man winked.
“But you said…”
The man waved his hand. “I said you weren’t caught, not that nothing happened. You ran some red lights. Unfortunately, the last one you ran, you hit another car. A minivan, I believe. What happened to its passengers, I don’t care. They aren’t here, that’s for sure.”
“Oh God,” said Frank.
The man shrugged. “He shouldn’t be of concern to you.”
“So, manslaughter?” asked Frank, trembling.
“And murder.”
“Murder? But I didn’t-”
The suited man’s demeanor changed. He became deadly serious and to Frank, deadly terrifying. “Frank, you haven’t gotten it yet, have you? You are always so slow. 333 marks on the wall? One for each of your convictions. Your memory loss? No, nothing dawning? You never get this one your own. That’s why I am here. Frankie, my boy, you are dead.”
Whatever color Frank had left on his face turned pale. “And I’m here to be judged?”
The man regained some of his jolliness and laughed. “No. You’ve already been judged.”
“But I didn’t get to defend myself!”
“Imagine that. We had some witnesses though and they totally vouched for you.”
Frank felt reluctant to ask, but he managed to squeak out, “The verdict?”
“Yes, the verdict. The only thing that matters, right? Guilty on all counts. Of sending innocent men and women to the chair or to stabbing by shivs or their suicides and not caring. Murder. Manslaughter, as I said earlier.”
The suited slowly seemed to be getting larger and bigger. “Your punishment, I am sure you are wondering, is simple. You will wake up in this cell, confused and disorientated. How did you get here you will wonder. Then why you are here you will ponder. You will be accused of crimes you didn’t commit by voices you are powerless to quiet. You will face your victims in the plainest way possible. And then I will come to you, seemingly to offer salvation but really damnation. And each day it will be the same. And each day it will seem to be a new terror for you.”
“But I was only looking for justice!”
The man smiled his widest yet, revealing an impossible number of teeth. “And so are the forces I represent. Only difference between them and you though is they get things right. Their conviction rate is 100%.”
Frank’s trembling returned. “Who, who are you?”
The suited man was much larger now than when he first appeared before Frank. His suit was ripping at the seams. Horns were growing out of his forehead. His eyes appeared on fire and that fire was burning Frank up.
“Why, I’m the judge, jury and executioner. Everything except a lawyer.”

Comic: Back of the Envelope – #43 – Straight to the Easiest Joke

October 19, 2011

I am jealous of all my sister’s talk of book clubs, so I decided to make one for myself.

Short Story: Alone in a Crowded Room

October 17, 2011

The young man looked around the ballroom with detachment. In between the four walls were males of all ages. From young boys to old gentlemen, the young man observed them all. To the man, they all had familiar yet strange faces. By the man’s recollection this was probably the twenty-third such gathering he has attended, though he didn’t remember them all.
The women were likely in the next room over. He never saw them when these events occurred. The organizers made sure to keep them separate. The man was disappointed over this fact. He wanted to meet one and he was sure the separated women and he would have a lot in common. But maybe that was why they were kept apart, mused the man.
A boy ran up to the man and pulled on his shirt. “Hey Mister, when’s your birthday?”
The man smiled down at the boy. “November 12th.”
The boy looked around. “Oh, mine’s October 11th. That boy has the same birthday as me!” The current boy pointed to another lad and giggled. The man just nodded. The boy ran off to play with his birthday buddy.
“They get younger every year,” said an older voice to the man’s left. The man turned to face the speaker and recognized him from previous meetings.
“I guess,” said the man.
“I remember when it was just me and maybe another dozen guys,” said the elder.
“How long ago was that?”
“I don’t know, maybe forty years?”
The young man looked at the old guy. “And the women?”
The retiree just shook his head. “We interacted a few times then I guess we started asking the wrong questions of each other and that was that.”
The man was going to ask what questions those were but he was interrupted by a commotion on the other side of the room. Two middle aged men were shouting and pushing each other.
“I told you last year to stay away from my wife!”
“I can’t help it if she is attracted to me.”
“She isn’t attracted to you, she is attracted to me!”
“Well maybe I just have a better personality!”
No matter how much we grew up, we still remained like the boy and his friend, thought the young man. As the older gentleman focused on the ruckus as the two men were pulled apart, the young man studied the elder’s face. The ravages of time as plain as day, observed the man. My future, more than likely. Maybe I should ask him about his medical history. Can never be too careful, though I am sure my doctor knows all about what I should expect, the man darkly thought.
“This happens every year. Someone ignores the rule that we don’t socialize outside of this room and it causes problems. They never learn,” the old man said, clucking his tongue. He noticed his compatriot looking glum. “What’s the problem, young man? You don’t look so well.”
“Aren’t you sick of this? You of all people, who’ve seen this year after year? A founding father of sort. Each year we live our lives trying to forget who we really are and every year we dragged back here and reminded. It’s like the outside world is the illusion and this room is the cold, hard reality. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to see you next year and go through the usual pleasantries. I don’t want to be reminded of my misspent youth or my predestined future. I want to see you out there in the world. I want to meet a woman who I can tell the whole truth to. I am tired of being another face in the crowd.”
The elder gentleman’s eyes narrowed. “That’s dangerous talk. You know how many of those initial dozen men were lost when they voiced similar concerns? Seven. They killed seven of my friends, friends I was so close to, as you would know, friends who were essentially me. All to prove a point. We are special but not irreplaceable. The old man laughed bitterly, a crack in his previous upbeat armor. “No, we are far from irreplaceable. But they still want us, need us. They gave us a good life, no? They helped us become lawyers and doctors. Pillars of the community. All they ask for in return is this yearly meet-and-greet and us to keep our mouths shut as to how we became doctors and lawyers.”
The two middle aged men were back at it, yelling at each other, each face getting redder with anger. They wouldn’t stop, which meant someone with authority would have to step in, thought the young man. As if on cue, a door swung open and two men in labcoats came through. A calm quiet overcame every man and boy in the room. A deathly pale appeared on the faces of the middle aged men, each look mirroring the other’s. The men in labcoats grabbed one of them. It didn’t matter much to them which one. The captured man struggled but soon was resigned to his fate.
“I hope you enjoy her, you bastard!”
As soon as the man was hauled off, the room was alive again with chatter. Soon they’ll come for us all, for the checkups and the cover stories, mused the young man. Same as it always was and same as it always will be, My past, present, and future are all contained within this room.
The old man clapped his younger friend on the shoulder. “Cheer up. I hear a rumor big things are afoot. They may designate one of us as potential presidential candidate. Seems the current administration doesn’t look too kindly on this project. Of course, the quickest way to solve that problem is to install me or you in the White House. Hell of a risky move, given the possibility of,” the old man nodded in the direction of the departed man, “but maybe it is time for a little publicity. You would like that, wouldn’t you?”
The young man sighed. What did it matter? He would still be in his preordained life, still forbidden to say anything or do anything unique. He was no snowflake, especially in this room. He doubted one of them becoming President or world famous would mean liberation for the rest of them. It would probably push the others further into seclusion. That famous person may be the Ace of Spades, but the young man would still be a Six of Diamonds. And they’d all still be just a card in a deck full of them, the man once again glumly thought.
The young man looked around the room one more time and saw the collection of faces. The young boy whose face he once saw in a mirror in his parents’ house years ago. The old face he’ll soon see in windows as he walks down the street. He was no different from the men around him he despise. It was hard for Designate A112, also known as Alan Durtz of Millwood, Nebraska, to stand out from his cloned brethren.

Comic: Back of the Envelope – #42 – Coccoon

October 12, 2011

This joke cost me an arm and an arm and an arm and a leg.