My Client – Write a caption!

I commissioned this picture from an artist friend of mine so I could put captions on it. Here are a few. Add another in the comments if you’re inspired!

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My client feels that the “no bite” policy should be re-worded to “consider not biting sometimes”

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My client feels that on a meager allowance of three toys a month it is only appropriate that she should supplement with the occasional sock or pair of underwear.

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My client pleads guilty to the murder of the stuffed dog known as “Snoopy,” but believes that this does not belong in family court, and is a matter to be kept among dogs.

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My client argues that to be punished for barking is a violation of her free speech.

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With all of the demands on my client’s attention, it is unreasonable to expect her to also keep constant track of the physics of a leash wrapped around a pole or a person’s legs.

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Carpooling : Brainstorming

My church is interested in helping more people carpool to services. My thought is that this may be easier than one night expect. Just give me a soft copy of the directory and I can make a Google map of the homes of meeting attenders.

With that, I can write a function that takes an address and gives meeting directory address nearby. I may be able to do better, though. If I generate directions using Google maps for each candidate carpool driver at address A to church with and without picking up a rider at address B, I can estimate the time difference. That would be good information for the rider to have when making his case for why he should be picked up.

I’ll write a follow-up when I get the opportunity to try and put some of these ideas into practice.

Sweet Potato Sausage Hashbrowns

This is a cross between two recipes:

The Sausage Recipe: https://noblepig.com/2014/11/sausage-sweet-potato/

The Sweet Potato Recipe: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/sweet_potato_hash_browns/

The sausage was pretty much the same from the Sausage recipe.

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Rather than painstakingly cube the sweet potatoes and boil them, I used my Ninja chopper and chopped them into little pieces, being careful not to puree them. These little pieces I placed into a pan with olive oil and cooked like hashbrowns, roughly according to the Sweet Potato recipe.

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Perfect for a potluck!

Saving the world one fancy hamburger at a time

I went on a food tour this weekend that was entirely out of order. You see, we started the tour with what really should have been the grand finale. “Bull City Brewery” had a fantastic hamburger and pickle chips, but what it really was selling was a sense of meaning. The proprietor told us all about the moral, environmental, and health dangers of conventional meat. The solution, as he described it, was to eat at Bull City Brewery. Indeed, he said that this restaurant is a B-corp, that is, a corporation that officially enshrines environmental and community impact as additional bottom lines alongside profit. It is one of only sixteen B-Corp restaurants in the world. The owner exhorted us to switch to completely pasture-raised meat. By eating at Bull City Brewery and its sister restaurant Pompieri Pizza, we were saving the world.

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This hamburger will guarantee your eternal soul a seat at Valhalla

The problem with this is that when I went to Pizzeria Toro I expected to be similarly inspired. Instead, well, honestly I could barely hear the speech because no effort was made to give us a separate space from the noise of the main restaurant. Mostly it seemed to be about the history of the building and the ever-changing menu. I heard not one mention of how I personally was a hero by eating this pizza.

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Major religions across the world neither warn against nor extol the virtues of Pizzeria Toro

Very disappointing. In Alley Twenty-Six, I learned about the suffering caused by the gin craze in the first half of the eighteenth century in Great Britain (our craft cocktails were neither helping nor hurting that cause).

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The cocktails at Alley Twenty Six will provide a fun evening, but they won’t provide any particular nourishment for your conscience.

Our octopus hush puppies at Dashi  did not prompt us to briefly transform into a force for good.

screenshot_20180729-0934081Our fresh local catfish and succotash at The Piedmont offered no redemption for our personal sins.

img_20180728_174936714All in all, it was a great time for me personally, but I want to feel like me going on a food tour is a great time for the whole world.

The take-home question is this: When will all restaurants be able to make sure that my dining experience is a reason for humanity to celebrate?

As much as it pains me to do so, wiser people than me have encouraged me to let my readers know when I do not intend to be taken seriously. This is one of those instances. In fact, I do not expect every restaurant I go to to tell me I’m a wonderful human being just for eating there. I do think B-Corps are a good thing, however. Now that I know they exist, I intend to patronize more of them. They include King Arthur Flour, Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Etsy and an ever-growing list of other companies.

Excerpt: The Cleaners 2.0

When I’m not writing my blog, I’m rewriting The Cleaners from the ground up. Here’s an excerpt.

Carla didn’t call me the next day. It was just as well. I felt much more comfortable risking only my own life. I stepped around the books strewn on the floor and returned to my computer.

It was surprisingly easy to craft a report devoid of meaningful information. I described days of dead-end research on Cleaners. I dug up an old word cloud of the Cleaners’ Facebook page I’d made and described the most common terms in painstaking detail. I concluded that The Cleaners often talk about houses and cleaning products. I wrote a detailed description of the physical appearance of a Cleaner. They’re small glittery men with computer tablets for heads. I hoped the cop would decide I was incompetent and forget about me.

Next, I opened Google Maps and tried to figure out where we were when the cop pulled us over. I remembered spending a long time on Union Ridge Road. Following the road, it didn’t take long to come across the farmland with one big tree in the center. I took down the coordinates and summoned a car.

In the daytime I got to see more of Caswell County. Long meandering roads took me past miles of rolling pastureland punctuated by the occasional copse of trees. Cows and horses grazed on the hillsides. Once I saw an old auto-shepherd, little remaining of the red paint but flakes against the rusted, dented hull. The flashing red “eye” on the auto-shepherd wasn’t actually a camera, I remembered as I watched the boxy machine catch a wayward foal in between its forklift arms and slowly push it back towards the rest of the herd. I regretted that I was pulling away from the action just as the mother arrived and did exactly what anyone should have expected to happen when a giant box drove over and started pushing her baby around. I thought about the battered and wrecked auto-shepherds littering farms across the country, each one a sunk cost comparable to a Maserati.

The farmland with the one big tree was not hard to get into. Instead of a gate, the fence simply broke, with a small bridge with separated poles, designed to be easy for humans to walk on but difficult for cows. When I opened the door to my car a blast of hot air greeted me. I had heard visitors to the library from the southwest describe “dry heat,” but here in North Carolina, the humidity makes the heat feel like too many blankets. I lugged my folding chair under one arm, and I walked to the tree, an enormous oak whose trunk bent almost into an S shape. Where was station 11? I looked over at the cows grazing on the other end of the field. A spotted brown one nuzzled her calf and pushed her head toward greener grass. I looked around, this pasture extended beyond my field of vision in three directions. I wondered if another auto-shepherd had found its final resting place somewhere in this field.

I would need to do another stakeout. In my folding chair next to the tree, I looked up at the clouds and noted that some of them were rather dark. A little rain would make this mission so much more comfortable, I reflected. I wouldn’t even mind the dampness if it would help with this abominable heat. I reached into my backpack and took a swig from my steel water bottle. It tasted so good, I took an extra gulp. In moments, it was empty. No problem. That’s why I brought two.

I helped myself to a granola bar and pulled out my headphones. “Paging the Communicatress” was at a slow section – I wondered how many times the protagonist was going to refer to how much he hated his ex-wife, and time dragged. Eventually I stood and looked over at the cows. They had wandered away, but it was still easy to see them. I looked for the little brown calf and saw it resting in the grass in the protective shadow of her mother.

I wiped the sweat from my brow, and pulled out my second bottle of water. This bottle was also delicious and over too soon. I positioned the tree between me and the road and relieved myself. I should take a moment to go to a convenience store to get more water. I regretted not bringing a whole gallon of water and grumbled at the thought of how far a convenience store was likely to be.

That was the least of my problems, as it turned out. I had no idea where the nearest store was, and neither did my phone. I stared at the empty cell signal meter with a sinking feeling. It struck me that beyond not knowing where to go,  I couldn’t summon a car at all without Internet access. Maybe Station 11 would have wi-fi? It seemed unlikely. I pressed my lips together. My doctor had warned me to stay hydrated after I had fainted a few years back. Maybe I could steal some wi-fi from the farmer’s house.

Where was the farmer’s house? It looked like I was in a pasture that extended infinitely in all directions, including on the other side of the road. I looked back towards the cows. Whatever they were drinking couldn’t be too appetizing, but nothing distinguished any other direction.

The spotted brown calf looked up at me from the shade, and her mother eyed me from the side, flicking her ears. There was indeed an auto-shepherd here, a shaking, whirring hoe-like appendage sticking out of its severely beaten frame, scraping the grime from the bottom of the trough. A cow standing next to the trough lowed as the machine took its time, sticking the scraper into the trough, pulling it back, and lifting out a visible cake of algae and mud. I watched in silence. Finally, its cleaning complete, the auto-shepherd revealed a spout, from which it expelled a stream of water until the trough was full. It turned and left the cows as the grateful animals moved towards their luxurious, clean fresh trough of water.

The cattle made a complete circle around the water, so I had to wait for them to finish. Eventually, I was able to walk a wide path around the herd and get to the other side. If it was ever clean, the trough water was no longer. The algae was nowhere near completely scraped off and floated under the water, and I watched a fly struggle on the surface in shiny swirls of bovine saliva. I was so thirsty. I dipped my hands in and pulled up a h I decided I would tough it out for now.

I returned to the tree to plan my next move. If I could find the auto-shepherd, I might find out where it was getting its water. Maybe there would even be wi-fi there. I wandered in the opposite direction of the cows until the tree disappeared behind a hill. Even still, I couldn’t see anything further along besides another fence in the distance that no doubt led to more pasture. For fear of losing my bearings entirely, I returned to the tree again. I met with similar frustration both going away from the road and crossing to the other side. Looking back at the tree from across the empty road, I bit my lip. My mouth was dry, and my stomach groaned.

I pulled out my phone to look up “how to find your way home when you have no signal.” This only helped to remind me that, indeed, I had no signal. Come on, Diane, you’re smarter than this. I looked at the available wifi signals. I would even pay the gouging rate for a commercial hotspot at this point. Of course there were no local wifi signals in the middle of a pasture. I stomped on the ground and massaged my temples.

My breath was coming quickly now. I returned to the trough. The cows had meandered further down. I wondered if being left undisturbed would let the sediment sink to the bottom and make the water more palatable. No such luck, I determined as I watched bloodworms wriggle through the murk. I opened and closed my left hand and stared down at my useless cell phone clutched in my right. Everyone who knew how to function as an adult without a cell signal was dead. I returned to the tree. I sat back into my chair beside its S-shaped trunk and closed my eyes to think.

I awoke to the sound of a pneumatic door opening. It was night, and I saw not twenty feet to my left an ivory white rectangle, bathing the pasture with light. The spotted cow meandered into the light, lowing and looking left and right. It flicked its ears and looked at me. The cow is a robot! I thought madly, then got control of myself. I looked to see if there were any Cleaners or white vans nearby. Nothing. My phone said it was 11:02, roughly the time we were pulled over.

Where are the Cleaners? I stood and stumbled forward. The cow lowed again and wandered from the light. I watched its brown-and-white rump disappear and felt utterly alone in this interminable pasture. I steeled myself and rushed forward to examine the rectangle. I was sure it was an entrance to something larger, but standing inside it activated no elevators or portals of any kind, so I returned to my chair.

On my phone I noticed something strange. There was a wifi network available. “Station 11” sat open on my screen, no encryption whatsoever. Was this a trap? I could hardly see how they could hurt me just from the information I’d send summoning a car, and I was desperately low on options. I tapped “connect,” and in moments I was back in touch with the world. I ordered a car immediately, and instructed it to wait indefinitely and charge me the difference. Never had I been so happy to see that my ride was an hour and fifteen minutes away.

I looked up and saw the lights of the white van coming down the road. In moments, a procession of Cleaners filtered out of the van. I hid behind the tree, and saw one Cleaner step inside and sink down. The next Cleaner had to wait a full minute for the platform to rise up again before it could step on. The van sat outside the pasture and a new Cleaner stepped out each time the line moved forward.  As such, the line had a slow factory-like quality. As the process proceeded, I heard a distressed lowing behind me and a rusty creaking. I turned and saw a red light bearing down on me from a big rusty box with a tiny brown and white calf stumbling in the dirt between its forklift arms. I didn’t know what would happen if the Cleaners saw me, but I didn’t have much time to consider it. I moved around to the other side of the tree and the hulk pushed its quarry along.


I looked back at The Cleaners, and watched the auto-shepherd barrel toward the tidy line. The calf lowed in shock and terror as the Cleaners emitted a chorus of “pardon mes” and “excuse mes” and made a break for the machine to charge through. I was standing right where any of them could see me, and they seemed to care about as much as William had when I had followed him.

I saw that the van had emptied, and the line was now shrinking. I heard more lowing and saw the auto-shepherd receiving another beating from the brown spotted cow even as the little calf stumbled out from the thing’s claws. I mumbled a prayer and thanked God that I was not stumbling helplessly in front of that thing with the baby when that angry mother came.

I was here to see Station 11, so I did what the Cleaners were doing. I took my place in line. “Good evening, Mam” said the Cleaner in front of me, keeping its gaze forward.

“William?” I asked.

“Yes, good evening,” said William. “Are you here to ask me to clean your house? You will have to wait until next Tuesday.” William stepped forward with the line and I followed.

“William,” I asked, “where are we going?”

“I am going for routine maintenance and recharging. I do not know where you are going.”

That was fair enough, “What is Station 11?”

William lifted an arm and pointed at the rectangle. “That is Station 11.”

“Yes, thank you William, but where does it lead?

The fight between cow and machine subsided and the admittedly sturdy auto-shepherd creaked and grinded away. William said nothing.

“William, where does that elevator lead?”

“It leads to Station 11.”

William and I stepped forward. “What is in Station 11?”

“Station 11 is where we receive routine maintenance and recharging.”

“William, what would happen if I went into Station 11?”

“That would be bad. You might get hurt. Please do not enter Station 11.”

Well, now we were getting somewhere.

“What would hurt me if I went into Station 11, William?”

William did not step forward with the line. I took a cautious step in front of him and looked at his monitor. He was thinking again “…”

After a few minutes, William hurried forward to get back in line, but I had cut him.

“Mam,” William said, his face a :(, ”Station 11 is not designed for maintenance and recharging of humans. You should go to a hospital or your home to be maintained and recharged.”

“What if I want to know what is in Station 11, William?”

William went still again “…” This time he fell well behind the group.

When he ran up again to answer me, there were two Cleaners in front of us. William lifted his hands in the air, “Mam, in Station 11, we are subjected to intense ultraviolet radiation to eliminate any germs we may have encountered. Our paint is reapplied. A charging cord is inserted into our backs. We have our limbs detached and examined for defects. It is my understanding that all of these may be uncomfortable or dangerous for a human. Please do not go into Station 11!”

I stepped forward and looked back at the elevator, considering being grabbed by a robotic arm and hauled into a chamber to be painted silver and have my limbs torn off. Thank goodness it didn’t accept you when you stood on it the first time.

The line stepped forward and I saw the Cleaner in front of me sink into the ground. I felt queasy at the thought of my narrowly avoided gruesome fate, but I was determined to get something out of this encounter.

My chest swelled and a victorious grin spread across my face. “Maybe, William,” I started, “Maybe you should promise to stop coming to my house, and I won’t go into your house.”

William did not react for a moment. His face became a o_o and he took another moment to speak. The elevator returned, but no one moved to enter it. “Mam,” William said, then he froze “…” then he said “Mam,” again, and froze again “…” After a few more “Mams” he just stood there with a “…” on his face. Goddamnit, how long was I going to have to wait to play chicken with this stupid robot? We stood like that for another five minutes, then I pulled over my chair and it went on for twenty more. Then, William shut off. His monitor just went black and he crumpled to the ground. I watched him stay there for another thirty seconds.

This was too much. Why was I blindly listening to what these machines were telling me? I was no fool. I stepped into the elevator.

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when it’s done.

No Place Like Home

This is a screenplay I wrote for a creative writing class in college.  I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be. A pilot for a television show with extremely short episodes? I had to restore it from a PDF I found in my email, and I tweaked it just slightly as I was correcting the conversion errors. Anyway, enjoy. 

No Place Like Home

(After title screen continue with black for a little bit. Cut to a close up on John, a white male of about thirty wearing business casual clothes. He is sitting in a chair like at an airport gate.)

John: (with a start) Where am I?

(Pan camera to Cixot sitting beside John. Another white male, apparently twenty years old, rough and wearing a leather jacket)

Cixot: You’re in hell, Tenth Circle!

John: What?

Cixot: Ha ha, Naw, I’m just kiddin’. (John starts to relax) You’re in the Ninth circle.

John: What?

Cixot: (snorting at his own joke) There is no Tenth circle.

John: I’m in Hell?

Cixot: You’re in hell.

John: Hell?

Cixot: Yes, Hell.

John: Why does it look like an airport terminal?

Cixot: (shrugs and screws up his face in a “hell if I know” expression) I guess you don’t like airport terminals!

John: They’re kind of annoying, I guess.

Cixot: Alright, that’s a start! Welcome to Hell!

John: But – I’m not dead!

Cixot: Died in yer sleep.

John: No I didn’t! I wasn’t sleeping!

Cixot: Like Hell you weren’t (explodes with laughter)

John: I wasn’t! I was

Cixot: (interrupts) Dozin’?

John: A- No!

Cixot: (interrupts)Snoozin’?

John: No! I-

Cixot: (interrupts)Restin’ yer eyes?

John: Shut up! I was just getting a Diet Coke from a vending machine, when I was suddenly sitting in this airport terminal.

Cixot: Hell.

John: (annoyed)Yes, Hell.

beat

Cixot: ‘dja have a dark, disturbed feeling when you saw the vending machine?

John: What? What are you- (realization) wait, actually yes. I had the strangest urge to get as far away from that vending machine as possible, but I just- I just shrugged it off. (disbelieving) It’s not really sensible to go around avoiding things just because they give you bad impressions.

Cixot: As a matter of fact, it is. (flashes a smile) Possessed vending machine.

John: (incredulous) What?

(Camera spins around to face Kyle, a twenty-something fellow, snappily dressed and sitting backwards on the seat in the row opposite and leaning forward, paying rapt attention.)

Kyle: Demon possesses a vending machine. For all intensive purposes it becomes a tool of the devil. Then a mortal uses a tool of the devil, betraying God. Quid Pro Quo, here you are in Hell.

Cixot: (to Kyle)Absolutely right. (to John)Welcome to Hell. (pause, Cixot looks stupid for a second.)

(to Kyle) Have we met?

John: But-but I’m not dead! And what about the bad feeling!? What does that have to do with it!?

Kyle: Second of all, the bad feeling is your soul trying to tell you to, like you said, “Get as far away from the vending machine as possible” God knew demons would try and fool human, so he put little sensors in your souls that would warn you when an object is possessed. Unfortunately, nowadays people tend to ignore that sensor, what with all the hoopla about human reason and what is and isn’t possible. First of all, as for why you’re in Hell before you’re dead, well betrayal takes your soul right away, and you end up here.

Cixot: Shit! (slaps forehead) You’re right! Article 84, Clause 14-B, The sin of treachery is, er, punished instantaneously and without reprieve!

Kyle: Good! I bet you aced Sins 341! Now what’s that clause known as colloquially?

(Cixot stops to think for a moment)

John: But what happens to my body? Do I just, what, collapse in a pile on the ground?

Cixot: Danté’s clause!

Kyle: (to Cixot) Right you are! (to John) A-

Cixot:(interrupts) A demon takes control a yeh fer the rest a yer life.

John: (speechless)

Cixot: (smiles maliciously)We’ve got a screen if you want to see what yer doin’ now.

John: um

Kyle: You don’t want to see.

Cixot: What?

Kyle: Trust me, John, you don’t.

John: How do you know my name?

Cixot: (to Kyle, frustrated and suspicious) Who are you?

Kyle: (to Cixot) Nice to meet you, I’m Kyle. (to John) John, do not look at that terminal, trust me.

Cixot: I’m Cixot. Nice to meet both of you. (incensed, grabs John)We actually were just leaving.

Camera cuts. John realizes with a start that he’s in a booth now with a terminal in front of him.

Cixot: (muttering) Who was that? Kahyle.. Caile… maybe it was Caine? But what about the mark? Caine’s always got that stupid mark!

(Cixot pushes a button on the terminal and it starts up.)

John: Window’s Vista?

Cixot: Shut up. Lets see, start menu… all programs… ah DemonCam!

(Cut to terminal screen. “Please wait while DemonCam connects to server…” On the screen John is walking down the sidewalk finishing his Diet Coke. When he’s done he throws it in a waste bin.)

John: This isn’t so bad.

Cixot: Are you kidding? That was recyclable! Think of all the long-term damage that’s going to cause!

John: (scratches head) I guess that’s kind of evil.

Cixot: He’s just getting started, anyway. He wanted to finish the evil soda.

(John on the screen strolls into a gun store and starts applying for a gun license.)

John: My wife isn’t going to be happy about this.

Cixot: You have a wife? Ooh, this is gonna be great!

(The color drains from John in the airport’s face)

(John on the screen is filling out an application for a gun license)

(Kyle appears and grabs John. Suddenly, they’re in a cave. The camera is behind them, looking at the airport. Huge, black stalagmites and stalactites surround it, one is penetrating the roof, as if the airport had been built around it. Gigantic nuclear coolers stand in the distance, billowing brimstone. John looks around, startled.)

John: Goddammit, that’s so freaky! What’s with all the teleporting!?

Kyle: I don’t know what you’re asking to be damned, but it probably already is at this point, so don’t waste your breath. As for teleporting, Hell isn’t really a physical place, it’s sort of half, maybe three-quarters all in your mind, so you go places just by having the intent of being there.

John: I didn’t intend to be here!

Kyle: That’s the other half. That fella in the airport and I have higher privilege than you here, so we can

take you places just by intending to take you there.

beat

John:(resigned) So this is Hell. Why is there an airport?

Kyle: I should be asking you. You put it there.

John: Huh?

Kyle: You must really hate airports.

John: Not so much, actually.

(Kyle tries to exchange a knowing look with John, but John responds with a look that says “What!?”)

beat

(Johns eyes lazily wander around Hell, but when he turns around to look behind him he gasps.)

John: Whoah! Jesus Christ!

Kyle: Not here.

John: A lake of fire!? (pan to show lake of fire)

Kyle: Yes, that’s a lake of fire. Would you mind terribly stepping into it?

John: What? Yes I’d mind! It’s a lake of fire!

Kyle: That’s the way out of here, John.

John: That’s ridiculous! I’m not going!

Kyle: (sigh) fine.

(Kyle reaches his hand out to the side where it disappears as if behind an invisible wall and types

something. The lake of fire disappears and is replaced by a stretch of volcanic soil with a door standing freely in the center.)

Kyle: Just go through the door

(John pauses for a moment, but starts walking towards the door. When John’s almost halfway there Kyle reaches his hand out and pushes an invisible button. The land disappears and becomes a lake of fire again. John falls into the fire and starts screaming in agony.)

John: AAAAH! FUCK! It burns! THIS HURTS SO FUCKING BAD!!! AAAAAUGH!

Kyle: (shouting from the shore, show the camera distantly) Think of your home!

John: WHAT? AAAAUGH!

Kyle: You’ve got to think of your home, or you’ll just appear in the airport again!

John: FUCK THIS! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

Kyle: Don’t just say it! Do I look like a good fairy to you!? Keep an image of your home in your mind!

Think about what it’ll be like to be there!

John: AAAAAAAUUGH! It burns! It’s hot! GRAAAAGH!

(John sinks into the lake of fire.)

Kyle: (whispers to self) shit.

(John is in the airport)

Cixot: Long time, no see. I brought you the terminal this time.

(Cixot has a television on a wheelie stand. John on the screen is waiting for a bus.)

Cixot: He’s got the gun. He’s going to K-mart to buy the bullets now.

John: Why didn’t he just buy the bullets at the gun shop?

Cixot: He wants as many as he can get for your money. This demon’s an old friend of mine, and he knows how to cause suffering, trust me. Just be patient.

John: Oh, shit! Where’s Kyle?

Cixot: Would you shut up about Caine already? That fucker took my last three victims!

(Kyle appears)

Kyle: Come on, John.

They disappear. Cixot roars in anger and shoves over terminal, which explodes and sets the floor on fire. He screams again and tries a few times to snap his fingers. When finally he does manage to snap them, the fire and terminal scraps vanish, leaving the floor clean and pristine.

Cixot: Fuckin’ Caine!

(In front of the lake of fire)

John: Holy crap! He’s gonna kill us!

Kyle: Don’t worry about that guy, he’s just an imp. He probably thinks I’m one of his superiors playing a prank on him.

John: You’re not Caine?

Kyle: No, I’m Kyle. (sounding it out) Ky-le.

beat

John: So now what?

(Kyle gives John a look)

John: No.

Kyle: Do you want to get out of here or not?

John: So I have to die? Is that it? I die and somehow I end up back at home?

(Kyle nods impatiently)

John: Can’t you just shoot me or something?

Kyle: (Like explaining to a small, not particularly bright child) No I can’t shoot you. It has to be in the lake of fire. The lake of fire.

John: (mimicking Kyle’s tone) Why?

Kyle: The lake of fire is the connector between the circles. Dying by a gunshot wound will just put you right back at your rebirth location every time, but privileged people can send a soul that’s died in the pit of fire to different circles. Then I can override the system a little bit to give you the controls to go to the zeroth circle, i.e. The mortal realm. I’d just send you there myself, but you might end up in the wrong body. Like Cameron Diaz or a fish or something.

John: Hold on. I’m not a complete moron. Circles of Hell? Dante’s clause? I read The Inferno in

sophomore English. The ninth circle isn’t hot! It’s cold!

Kyle: Because Lucifer was blowing wind through it, but you don’t see him here either, do you?

John: What?

Kyle: An awful lot has changed since our buddy Alighieri had his little tour.

John: What?

Kyle: Look, Einstein. I’m not here to explain to you the history of Hell. I’m just here to get you out. Now do you want to get out?

John:…Yes I do.

Kyle: Then start walking. And remember, think of home.

(John starts trudging towards the lake of fire, but balks at the edge.)

Kyle: Come on!

John: This isn’t as easy as it looks! This stuff burns!

Kyle: Yeah, it’s fire! Now hop in!

(Cixot appears, livid)

Cixot: What the fuck are you doin’?

Kyle: Whoah, hold on there, fella. I’m just helping this guy get to the right circle. (to John) Go! Go!

John: (mumbling) There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

Cixot: You ain’t Caine. I went to Caine’s house lookin’ fer ya an’ he said he’d never heard of a Kyle. Who are you?

Kyle: I’m Beelzebub.

Cixot: Checked there.

Kyle: Mephistopheles.

Cixot: Nuh-uh he’s off duty. Mephistopheles never deals with mortals on Thursdays.

Kyle: This is a special exception.

Cixot: Mephistopheles doesn’t make exceptions.

John: There’s no place like home…

Kyle: Enraha (hoarse whisper to John) Get in there!

Cixot: Are you serious!? Enraha is a giant eyeball! He never leaves that stupid pyramid!

Kyle: (Pauses for a moment)

Cixot: Who-

Kyle: Alright, you found me out…. I’m Lucifer. (Kyle’s eye twitches and he shoves John face-forward into the lake of fire)

John: There’s no place like-whoah!

Kyle: I have returned.

Cixot: That is the stupidest thing-

Kyle: You’d better fucking believe it, Imp. I’m the king of Hell.

Cixot: What? I’m a gog, thank you very much! I worked hard for that title! And you are not the king of hell.

Kyle: Oh, I’m sorry Mr. one-step-above-imp. Hey, where’re your horns?

Cixot: They’re on layaway. I should get them in a week or two.

Kyle: They’re making you pay for your horns now?

Cixot: Well, yeah. We’ve been doing it that way for a few hundred years now. Who are you, exactly?

Kyle: I’m Lucifer! A lowly gog questions my authority?

Cixot: Show me some proof. Lucifer is the size of a mountain!

Kyle: …I don’t need to prove anything to you, Gog. Go on your way

(Kyle looks over his shoulder at John, who is sinking into the fire screaming “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!” at the top of his lungs)

Kyle: Idiot.

(zoom in on John’s hand reaching out of the lava as it sinks completely in. Suddenly, John is standing in front of a counter with his hand on a credit card. A clerk is looking at him expectantly. He looks and sees a heaping stack of bullet boxes on the counter)

John: Oh! Uh, I’d like to, um, cancel.

Clerk: I’m sorry?

John: I just realized I don’t need (eyes a heaping stack of bullet boxes on the counter) …however many bullets that is.

Clerk: (bewildered) Oh.

John: Bye!

(John leaps away)

Clerk: Sir, you left your gun!

John: Keep it!

John dashes toward the door, but Kyle is standing in the doorway. The automatic door keeps trying to close on him.

John: oh, Kyle! Thanks! Are you, uh, going to be ok?

Kyle: Yeah, I’m fine. That Gog’s pretty confused, though. He’s probably going to get demoted back to imp.

John: That’s too bad.

Kyle: Oh shut up, don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a demon!

John: Whatever.

Kyle: Listen, I just wanted to say you’re the luckiest damned moron I’ve ever met. And I mean that literally. Not everybody gets the slowest Demon in hell to possess him.

John: Well, gee, thanks, Kyle. You’re… what are you?

(Whirring noise of automatic door opening and closing)

Kyle: (screws up his face into a mock smile and puts his hands on his hips) I’m a servant of the Lord.

John: Yeah, right.

Kyle: No, really I’m just a regular guy.

(John is not impressed)

Kyle: Alright, fine. (glares wildly at John, still smiling) I’m Lucifer!

John: (Disbelieves again, but Kyle’s smile disappears. He looks suddenly rather imposing. John doesn’t press the subject)

Kyle: (grins) Well, don’t you have a wife to go see?

John: My god, I was so scared! You have no idea! Thank you again!

(John waits for the door to open wide enough for him to slip past, and runs out. Happy music starts to play.)

Kyle: Oh hey, John. Could you do me a favor?

John: What?

Kyle: If you see ol’ Cixot again, just say his name and tell him to go back to Hell. That oughta take care of him.

(The happy music stops abruptly.)

John: Whoah, whoah. I thought I was out of this!

Kyle: (holding up hands) I don’t really think it’s going to be a problem, I just think you should know. Just in case.

John: Ok, fine. “Cixot?” Just say “Cixot?”

Kyle: No, no his whole name. There’s a weird old rule on the books that if a mortal says a demon’s whole name the demon has to obey their instructions. What actually qualifies as a legitimate instruction has gotten all gunked up in bureaucracy, though, so just stick with telling him to go away. You can be all like “Returne from whence ye came” and stuff if you want, but just “go to Hell!” should work fine.

John: What’s his whole name?

Kyle: That’s a good question. Nowadays demons tend to make their full names entire backwards songs, and then just go by the title. I’m not up on popular culture, though, so I can’t help you with that.

John: (incredulous) So I have to sing an entire song backwards?

Kyle: (defensive) I didn’t say it was going to be easy! Oh, and don’t practice. If you say his whole name while he’s not here, it might summon him.

John: (yelling) I have to sing an entire song backwards on the spur of the moment without practicing!?

Kyle: You know what!? Fine! Fine! You don’t want my help, you won’t get it! There’s no way you’re the one they want, anyway! I’m out of here!

John: What? The one they want!? Oh, no you don’t! You are going to tell me what’s going on, and you are going to tell me

(Kyle vanishes)

John: …now. (camera zooms out to view larger K-Mart area. Everyone is staring at John)

John: What!? What are you guys looking at!? Go away! (mumbles) Ah, what the hell is going on!? Cixot… what song is called “Cixot?”

(Play credits to Britney Spears’ “Toxic” played backwards)

(the song continues a bit after the credits end, and the dialogue starts the second it ends. Close up on the fang-filled mouth of a major demon, complete with red skin, goatee, and horns. Dressed in business formal and wearing tiny glasses at the end of his long nose.)

Namdnas Retsim: …Otherwise known as Cixot. (Zoom out to show whole face while Retsim looks up from his paper) May I call you Cixot?

Cixot: (looking sick with worry) Please do.

Namdnas Retsim: Now, it says here that the soul under your jurisdiction somehow ended up back in

its mortal body.

Cixot: I- I can explain, really!

Namdnas Retsim: (adjusts glasses, looking back down at paper) ahem, you will be glad to know, Cixot, that Neeuq Rellik was returned immediately to Hell unharmed.

Cixot: (slightly relieved, but still quite terrified) I was acting under orders!

Namdnas Retsim: Yes, it’s all here. (slightly amused) From Lucifer himself, I see!

Cixot: It was Lucifer! He said he was Lucifer!

Namdnas Retsim: Perhaps… he wasn’t telling the truth? Did that thought enter your mind, Cixot?

Cixot: He said he was Lucifer! I’m not supposed to question Lucifer! Article 16-A, clause 8,433!

Namdnas Retsim: Settle down, Cixot, it’s all here. You’re not in trouble.

Cixot: (surprised) …I’m not?

Namdnas Retsim: No, no, no…

(Cut to John energetically hugging his surprised wife and children, Retsim’s voice plays over)

Namdnas Retsim: We just need you (cut back to fanged mouth) to get that soul back.

(Cut to black)

It Boggles the Mind

I visited my friend at the beach this weekend, and was treated to four and a half gallons of ice cream. The story is that the first trip to get four half-gallons of ice cream got one of the four half-gallons wrong. The second trip saw a deal where if you buy three half-gallons, you get two more free. This deal was too good to pass up, so we ended up with nine half-gallons of ice cream.

The flavors of ice cream included:

  • Colombian Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • French Vanilla
  • Natural Vanilla
  • Pistachio Almond
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Triopolitan American Dream (blueberry, vanilla, strawberry)
  • Triopolitan Mint Cookie (vanilla cookie swirl, dark chocolate, mint chocolate chip)
  • Black Cherry

This abundance made it my solemn duty to eat as much ice cream as I could over the course of the weekend. Between two bowls on the first night, a delivery of another bowl to the beach, and a black cherry and vanilla milkshake, I have at the time of writing probably covered close to one half-gallon myself.

Besides the boggling quantity of ice cream, we also played a game of Boggle. True to the style of many old games like it, this was secretly several games of Boggle, with the final sum of points determining the final victor. After a few anemic 3 and 2-point games, I got frustrated and decided to try brute forcing the dictionary by guessing as many words as I could, not worrying whether the words were real or not.

My guessed words were:

  • Terp
  • Thap
  • Lape
  • Hape
  • Thad
  • Glunt
  • Plugist
  • Thag
  • Dath
  • Kreen
  • Rine
  • Ertist

None of these words were real according to the so-called “Scrabble dictionary,” giving me zero points, and looking them all up I nearly got kicked out of the game. Nevertheless, I feel these constraints are arbitrary. If I can be glunt, As an ertist I am not kreen to subject myself to them. I hape you see where I am coming from.2dldd9

It's about whatever I say it's about