book for sale

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first,

thanks to everyone who has been reading throughout the years

second,

i’ve published a book of stuff from this site here.

(don’t worry. i left out all the really shitty stuff.)

please support the Benevolent Economy that we all hold so dear, and buy this book.

i am 30 years old, and although i have always dreamed of writing a book, i don’t know that i ever thought it would actually happen.

to be fair, i took the easy way out and self-published.

but whatever.

my words are in print, and i am happy about it.

so thank you very much for reading.

cheers to a better world someday… or right now.

whichever is fine.

sincerely,

image

your shameless author

holding

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly.”

who is this bitch? if i could find the lady who said these words, i’d rip her voice box right out.

“please stay on the line. you are currently–” she said, and then another voice, a male’s, said, “eighty-first” and then her again, “in line.” the music starts.

i can’t sit in one place when i’m on the phone. i have to get up and wander. i also pick things up and put them back down without any purpose. rolls of tape. scissors. keys. pens. whatever is around. it really doesn’t matter. it drives my wife nuts.

when i told her i was calling the water guys again, she took her laptop down the street to get some coffee. she had to go to the bathroom anyway. she said, “i’ll check in on you at noon.” she left at nine. i look at the clock and it says, “11:12.”

they know us down there. thankfully we can still sometimes afford coffees out, because otherwise i don’t know where we’d go. i guess there’s always the street like everybody else seems to like doing.

personally, i’ve pissed in the sink or outside and shat in the trashcan plenty of times before. mostly at night when we’re stuck waiting on them for water, and nothing close is open. she has too, but only a few times. and we don’t speak of those.

the coffee shop doesn’t have the same water troubles most residents do. i’m sure it’s because they got the business package. from what i understand, the business package is the same as the residential package except it costs about twenty times more, and they get priority when it comes to maintenance and service calls. pam jokes that it’s worth the extra cost because the toilet is her best seller.

pam owns the coffee shop down there. she is a real nice lady, and she’s had the shop for years. when we first moved here we were going to her shop to use the internet while we applied for jobs. it was only a few years ago now, 2021 or 2022, i can’t remember exactly when. but we liked it there and got to know pam and have kept going back.

looking back it’s crazy because coffee, real coffee, was only $2.25 a cup. of course that’s all different. now it’s $6.20 for a cup of the good substitute. and to think that not long ago one could buy a real banana and a cup of real coffee for under $5!

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly. please stay on the line. you are currently–”

“eightieth”

“–in line.”

still pacing, i go open the bathroom door, but a wave of curdling shit smell hits me fast and i slam the door back shut. it’s been six days now since we were last able to flush. the first thing we always do when the water comes back is flush. in between times when there’s water, all i really want to do is flush that damn putrid toilet.

we try to hold out on using the toilet when there’s no water, but like i said, she’s not particularly fond of the trashcan and at night she sometimes sneaks away to the throne to do her business. i used to get mad at her for doing this, because she always does it in spite of knowing the consequences. but i don’t anymore. it’s not her fault.

we have a bucket which we can fill with water and pour down the drain, which does the job. it’s usually kept filled in the corner behind the toilet with the toilet brush and plunger. i meant to fill the bucket so we could have at least one emergency flush, but we didn’t even have time to fill our jugs of drinking water before the water stopped again.

it was so soon after the repair guy had left our place that i ran outside thinking he’d still be putting his tools into his van, or fighting off our neighbors. but he’d already disappeared. he doesn’t stick around any longer than he has to.

there’ve been reports of vandals targeting repairmen like him over the past couple months. it’s not exactly their fault either, but people are furious and the repairmen wear the uniform.

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly. please stay on the line. you are currently–”

“seventy-ninth”

“–in line.”

i look at the clock and it’s 11:38. when she gets back i should tell her to just turn right around and head on back. or maybe she can take over on the phone and i can go down and take a break. my ear is getting sore from holding the phone to it anyway.

she always tells me to put them on speaker, but i am superstitious about using speakerphone. i once did and had them on speaker all day, which really was nice, but when they answered they said they couldn’t hear me, and hung up right after i’d got them.

waiting to talk to these people about giving us our damn water is like a full-time job. only over the past couple of months it’s like they’ve decided that i should put in some overtime.

yesterday i called the main service line. that was a ten hour trial. about 7 pm, i got on the line with an associate. her voice was brusque. “name?”

i told her in my nicest voice.

“account number?”

i rattled it off to her. as this is about my 36th or 37th time through this process, i remember the 18 digits by heart.

“address?”

“2311 sycamore ct. apartment 306.”

“problem?”

this question is always the biggest test. by this juncture, every cell in my body desires to verbally assault the person on the other end for having the nerve to ask such a stupid fucking question. everyone has the same problem, and everyone knows it. everyone has had the same problem since we switched to getting water this way, and everyone knows that too!

however, as i’ve learned from previous experiences, this is the wrong move. one: because it’s not really her fault that i don’t have water, and two: because i am now quite certain that this question is employed as a screen.

getting people to blow up early helps to weed out anyone less than grateful for the operator’s help. at first this quick screen process allowed the hold-queue move quickly. now the public has gotten wise, and we all wait an eternity for the assistance of someone who is essentially a gatekeeper.

who are these souls waiting to answer calls? best as i can figure it’s someone who settles for minimum wage pay in exchange for the ability to wield a ruthless power over everyone they speak with.

“your guy just came to fix our water, but it’s out again.”

“what do you mean, ‘it’s out’?”

“i mean i don’t have any water again. it’s like it’s turned off again or something.”

“but you just said he came to fix it.”

i ran my hand through my greasy hair. it’d been how long since a shower?

“yeah, your guy–i think his name was Nick–was here just a few days ago. he came and turned the water back on, and we were good, but within maybe 20 minutes it was off again.”

“i see that he’s marked the job as complete.”

“yeah, like i said, he was here and he, i guess you could say that he fixed it, but i have no water now.”

“did you try it during non-peak hours? as you know service can be interrupted when everyone in an area is trying to use their water at the same time.”

“i don’t think it’s that. i’ve tried it pretty much non-stop since it went out, and nothing.”

“so you’re wanting to file another service request?”

“well, couldn’t you just send him back over here to help us out again?”

“i thought you said he didn’t help you out the last time?”

“well he did, but it didn’t last i guess.”

“but you want him to come back to fix your water again?”

“yeah, you know, just like as a follow-up.”

“well, sir, i can transfer you over to customer service if you’re unhappy with the service our technician provided.”

“no, no, no, no, please!” experience has also taught me that transferring is never the answer. “can’t you just set me up with an appointment for someone to come over here and get our water working again?”

“i can do that, but i will have to have you call tomorrow to talk to one of our servicers to better describe the problem. if what we’re doing is not working, then we’ll have to have you tell them what’s wrong with your water quality.”

this was new.

“there’s nothing wrong with my water quality,” i said, “there’s something wrong with the fact that i have no water. plus i’m not a plumber, i don’t know how that stuff works. wouldn’t it be easier to have one of your professionals come out here and see for themselves? wouldn’t that be easier?”

“sir, please control your attitude.”

“i am, i am, sorry! so sorry!” i picked up a pillow from the sofa and threw it at the wall across the room. “i apologize.”

“it’s alright, but i’m just here trying to help you get this all sorted out. if you’re unhappy with me, maybe you can try calling back tomorrow or i can transfer you to another one of our wonderful customer service associates.”

“no, no! you’re doing great! you’ve been so helpful, already, i just…”

“just what?”

“i just… pay you guys $160 bucks every month for water…  you know… but i don’t have any water in my house… and i can’t take a shower, or do laundry or flush the fucking toilet when i take a fucking dump! so…”

“ok sir, why don’t you calm down this evening and call back tomorrow?”

“no, please! i’m sorry!”

“apology accepted. call back tomorrow. thank you for choosing comcast utilities. have a nice day.”

and then she hung up. i threw down the phone and screamed.

the clock says 12:00 and sure enough she peaks her head back in. she kneads her brow and gives a thumbs up with an inquisitive face. i give her a thumbs down. she makes a frown and then i notice that she’s keeping a hand behind her back.

she walks over keeping her hand hidden. i take the phone from my ear long enough to hear her say, “i’m sorry.”

“it’s alright,” i say. “it’s not your fault.”

“i got you something.”

“what?”

she holds out her hand and there in her palm is a red strawberry in a small plastic box. a real one. the kind i grew up eating.

“are you serious!?”

she smiles at me. “pam got her hands on a case of 24.”

i look at her, “how much?”

“just eat it. enjoy it! i know you love them.”

“two-hundred?”

she shakes her head.

“one-fifty?”

“don’t worry about it.”

“we don’t have that kind of money, baby.”

“it wasn’t as bad as you’re thinking. just eat it.”

“how much?”

 

“eat it.”

“let’s split it.”

“it’s yours!”

“you’re crazy,” i say.

“i love you,” she says.

“i love you, too.”

i kiss her and hold her close to me.

i hear the music screeching from my ear piece stop.

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly. please stay on the line. you are currently–”

“seventy-eighth”

“–in line.”

she pulls away and opens the box of the strawberry and hands the small berry to me.

i hold it gently. i feel it’s seedy sides. the green leaves sort of tickle my skin, even just sitting there. i take the tiniest bite i can from the luscious fruit. the sweetness is overwhelming.

she smiles and takes the phone and leaves me in the living room. i hear her put it on speaker.

i take another bite. and another. and the berry is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#105/2-5-2015

the true artist

‘i know,’ he said. ‘you’re right. i’ve been a worthless piece of shit lately.’

‘lately?’

‘ok. always. i’ve always been that way.’

‘you’re goddam right you have. and if you don’t put something on my desk soon–and by soon i mean TOMORROW–you can find yourself another knucklehead to peddle your garbage.’

‘oh come off it. so my latest cartoons have been a little–‘

‘a little what?’

‘well, they’ve… you know. they’ve lacked a certain…’

‘sense of decency?’

‘well i was going to say ‘spark,’ but.’

‘i can’t see how you look yourself in the mirror after writing yet another miserable cartoon about that stupid cat.’

‘i don’t like it anymore than you do. but he’s an institution by now. people look forward to him. he’s still got better distribution than other strips.’

‘well… hey, what’ve i always told you?’

‘what?’

‘you know.’

‘oh that? not now.’

‘yes, now.’

‘i’m not saying it.’

‘but you know it’s true.’

‘i was drawing him back in high-school and people loved him then.’

‘yeah. then you got to college, and who got you into the papers?’

‘we did.’

‘yeah. you drew him on every damn napkin you used to wipe your slobbering mouth and i got him in papers all across the country.’

‘he’s my character.’

‘he’s our property. remember? or have you been drinking again?’

‘you know what? i’m going to write a brilliant one tomorrow. i just got an idea.’

‘lemme guess: the cat is sleeping when, suddenly, he smells a lasagna!’

‘whose idea was the lasagna anyway? yours! and i never even liked the lasagna!’

‘the lasagna made him! without the lasagna, he’s just another stupid cat.’

‘tomorrow is gonna be gold. i feel inspired.’

‘you’re welcome.’

‘i’m not thanking you.’

‘well if you come up with something–anything–that exudes a pulse, you may as well thank me. how long has it been since you did anything worthwhile?’

‘there was the one about 9/11. the commemorative one where he woke up from his nap and saluted the flag? remember how he started crying when jon found out his coworker in the north tower?’

‘that wasn’t worthwhile. that was pandering. shameless pandering. and how the hell did an apathetic cat get so choked up over his owner’s co-worker?’

‘it was all patriotism.’

‘oh, please.’

‘you gotta at least admit i’ve had some moments.’

‘you’d better have more. otherwise they’re cutting you.’

‘what?’

‘i just got the call.’

‘how many?’

‘it’d be about a fourth of your circulation.’

‘jesus.’

‘that’s why i’ve been on you like i have today. i don’t want it to happen like that.’

‘well damn.’

‘that’s right. so go home. drink some coffee. and come up with something. and for chrissake, stay off the junk.’

‘what are you talking about?’

‘i know you been speed-balling again.’

‘i haven’t–

‘i hired a private investigator.’

‘i can explain.’

‘listen, i know you’ve got a lot going on. and you’re famous. i know celebrities are always getting into what they shouldn’t be. just don’t let yourself become one of them. i need you to keep pushing yourself to create the greatest comics you can. you know?

‘i can do that.’

‘i know you can. i remember your early strips. it was like reading tolstoy for the first time. i was blown away. but you got complacent.’

‘i know.’

‘you can’t get complacent. not in this business. you know what happens. just look at beetle bailey. hagar. blondie. worst of all, imagine yourself writing the family circus day after day.’

‘if that were to ever happen, you’d be finding me in my boxers hanging from a ceiling fan.’

‘don’t say that.’

‘it’s true. i’m not just a cartoonist. at least i don’t see myself that way.’

‘i know you don’t. you’re capable of so much more.’

‘fuck it. call everyone who’s thinking about dropping me and tell them i’ve got a dynamite new run planned.’

‘what should i tell them it’s about?’

‘just tell them i’ll send them some mock-ups by next week. it’s time to get back to work.’

‘jim. i love your enthusiasm, but you gotta tell me what to tell them it’s about.’

‘tell them it’s going to blow their fucking minds and that if they don’t like it, then they can suck my dick.’

‘if you think you can make it happen.’

‘fuck. i know i can. i’m jim davis, goddammit. and i’m the greatest cartoonist on the planet.’

#86/1-16-2015

in the principal’s office

‘your son, he’s very… imaginative.’

‘he sure is. just like his mama.’

‘ha. well. i mean that he’s imaginative enough to bend the truth. and he does it a little too well. that’s my concern.’

‘i’m not so sure i know what you’re talking about. you’re calling my son a liar?’

‘no, i’m not. i’m just saying he has a capable mind. he also possesses the awareness to create convincing fictions that could in some minds pass as reality.’

‘whose minds?’

‘well other students. substitutes. me, the principal.’

‘isn’t it your fault that you’re stupider than my second grader?’

‘sir, if you’re saying that your son is only capable of fooling fools, well he’s probably… all i’m saying is this: the boy is very bright. i really do mean that. i’m just becoming concerned with the way he’s using that knowledge.’

‘and exactly what is he doing that’s so wrong?’

‘well to be honest he’s been telling all the kids about how all muslims want to kill all the americans. last week he wrote a story in class that was called, ‘isis ninjas.’ i’ve got it here. as you can see it’s about the isis ninjas who kill all the americans in their sleep. obviously it’s a violent read. that’s captain america, there. he’s the hero.’

‘yeah he loves captain america. and that’s a good drawing too. he’s a real artist ain’t he?’

‘yes. well, i suppose. anyway he’s been telling all the children that his story is real. that he only wrote down what he saw on the news.’

‘i mean, i could see it happening.’

‘yes. i guess it’s not impossible.’

‘that’s right. sure ain’t. could be happening right now. never know.’

‘your son has also been using his recess voice indoors. and has aggressively targeted the kids who say things he doesn’t agree with. last week he called other kids dumb or stupid over ten times. and that’s just not acceptable. the classroom should be a safe space for everyone. that’s why i wanted to have this meeting with you. so that we could discuss ways to maybe relax him a little bit.’

‘ok. i’ll be happy to discuss all this if you’ll admit that there’s a good possibility those other kids were being dumb or stupid.’

‘excuse me. the children are learning they are not stupid.’

‘look i don’t know if things changed that much, but i remember kids eating paste and stuff back when i was in second grade. shoving crayons in their noses. i mean all that’s pretty stupid.’

‘sir, it is about teaching kids to not call the people around them names.’

‘lady, that’s great. but isn’t he learning to identify certain stuff? bugs and trees and patterns and shit? if he sees a kid being dumb, why can’t he just call the kid dumb? isn’t that just part of a healthy development?’

‘because, sir, it just doesn’t work that way. unfortunate as that is in some instances. plus, who are any of us to call another person stupid? we’re all guilty of being imperfect.’

‘speak for yourself.’

‘you’re very funny. but to treat others like he does, that’s just breaking the golden rule.’

‘golden rule, huh? yeah i heard of it. never saw much sense in it.’

‘can you tell me one respectful habit you practice within your own home?’

‘hmm. well i’m the father. so i make sure i get the respect a father deserves from his wife and children.’

‘but how do you teach your children about respect?’

‘i teach them about respect like i was taught about respect. do what you’re told or else.’

‘or else what?’

‘i ain’t saying anything else. what’re you gonna do. report me to the dhs?’

‘please. i’m only trying to assess what it is in your son’s life that is causing him to act with such disruptive and disrespectful behavior.’

‘are you serious?’

‘what?’

‘you are fucking serious.’

‘language, please.’

‘well excuse me! me being so disrespectful and all i can’t help it.’

‘i did not say you are disrespectful. and i am not trying to intimate that to you at all. i’m just trying to understand.’

‘you are too. and how dare you, you fucking whore. i cannot even believe you right now. you bring me in here. call my son a liar. tell me he’s mean. i’m sitting here trying to help you out. you know, trying to find solutions to stuff with you and you then start telling me i’m disrespectful?!’

‘that’s absolutely not what this is.’

‘i don’t know what kind of house you grew up in, but my daddy taught me to never hit a woman. though right now i think it’d feel pretty goddam good.’

‘sir, please. let’s be adults. and you should know that any threat you make against me is enough to place you in serious trouble.’

‘i don’t remember any threat being made but that’s beside the point. the two of us, we don’t like each other. so i’ll tell you what. i’m gonna be the bigger man here and i’m just gonna go home. alright? i’m done with you. we’ll forget this whole thing ever happened how about that?’

‘maybe we should talk this over in a week. i can bring in some extra help to better assess the situation we’re in. how about that?’

‘ok, well in the meantime, i’m talking to your superintendent. what’s his number?’

‘her number is on this card. you just take that. or we can both call her together. i’ll be happy to put her on speaker.’

‘no thanks, sister. i’ll talk to her myself. let her know what a cunt she’s got working for her.’

‘ok, well i think you need to leave my office. we can discuss anything you’d like at another time. but i’ve got a school to run.’

‘at least today you do.’

‘right, off you go. bye-bye.’

‘seriously. i’m gonna get you fired. just watch. you’ll see. let a black woman try and tell me my son is disrespectful.’

——————————————————————————————-

‘are you alright?’

‘i’m alright.’

‘i heard part of what he said. what an asshole. seriously. i’ll totally stand up for you.’

‘i don’t think it’ll get to that. but thanks. he’s talking to cynthia right now. she’ll understand.’

‘yeah. she won’t let him–‘

‘no.’

‘well, i know this is a bad time, but i just had to tell you something.’

‘what is it?’

‘nina lux’s father just called. he’s on his way. i guess she had her phone taken away. he sounded mad.’

‘oh.’

‘i know, right? fun!’

‘yeah. yippee.’

#84/1-14-2015

the dung beetle

the dung beetle loved eating poop. he loved it so much, he wasn’t very old before he realized that he couldn’t eat as much poop as he wanted. there was never enough for his appetite.

he’d eat his first serving and ask for more. getting that, he’d ask for a second. then a third. then a fourth. but his family kept growing. he was no longer the only one who needed to be fed.

his mother would say, ‘son, only eat as much poop as you need. there must be enough for everyone.’ and he would say, ‘but i need more, mother.’ and she would tell him, ‘but there isn’t any more.’

his father had died. he had been the one to collect the food. she was now collecting all the food herself and trying to take care of all her babies. still, she refused assistance from everyone.

the day she changed her mind was the day when her son had been playing with the younger beetles in a drying cow pie. he saw his mother was working to ball up and preserve what she could. she stumbled while trying to push her ball up and out of the poop. he caught the ball and pushed it over for her. then when he helped her up, he saw that he was now bigger and stronger than her.

he said, ‘let me handle this, mother. i can work.’

she said, ‘well, i guess you’re old enough to help.’ and so they worked together and helped each other roll their shit up the hill to their home.

for a season, the two worked together so well that everyone in the family was able to eat until they were full. the oldest was happy. for a while.

quietly he grew aggravated. he worked so hard for the family, but he was always only allowed to be as full as everyone else.

he told his mother, ‘mother, i’m sick of this. i’m the one who gathers all the food with you, but i only get to eat as much as everyone else. it’s unfair.’

his mother laughed and said, ‘but son, when you eat at dinner, are you allowed to eat until you are full?’

‘yes, i am. AS I SHOULD BE!’

his mother said, ‘relax, my son. you are correct. you have worked hard. you should be allowed to eat as much as would make you full. i would not want you to go hungry. not ever again, if i can help it. but how can you complain that you are not being fed properly because you are being allowed to eat as much as you’d like until you are full?

she continued, ‘the same goes for everyone. everyone gets all they would like to eat. if you are full, then you are full. how much more food do you need to be full? and how can one be fuller than full? if you can tell me that, then i will understand how much more you need and i will make sure that you will have as much as you need. as your mother, i promise that. just tell me, son. how much?’

the oldest dung beetle thought a moment. his mother was wise, but he was angry. he thought of all the hours he’d worked to feed his younger brothers and sisters. he saw months and months of collected poop being shoveled into the mouths of his family.

‘i’ll tell you what i’m full of,’ he said. ‘i’m full up to here with you making me work and giving me only as much as everyone else!’

‘but you are such a tremendous help. you do, you feed everyone. doesn’t that make you proud, son? to know that i couldn’t do it without you? that none of us could?’

he looked behind his mother and saw his brothers and sisters. he looked all around him. they had heard everything. they were all staring at him. the next oldest beetle said, ‘we will help you.’

the oldest felt foolish and said, ‘please, everyone. forgive me. i have grown bitter, but mother is right– i am full. i have what i want with you all. i am full of love. and as for the food, don’t worry about it. i can do it. you all must go to school and study. i am proud to feed you all. you are my family.’

he said all these words. he only believed half. he looked at his mother and saw her staring at him with a raised eyebrow and a narrowed eye. his brothers and sisters cheered him. he acted normal and let the days go by and he stopped talking to his mother.

pretty soon the days became weeks. then months. he spent the time growing the family food supplies.

she didn’t let anyone know, but she was growing very ill. one day she was felt so ill that she collapsed while handing out the breakfast poop. all the younger beetles screamed.

the oldest abandoned the ball of poop he was pushing up the hill when he heard all the younger beetles yelling. he ran as fast as he could. he didn’t see what happened, but as he scuttled up the path he knew what he was to find.

he hadn’t seen her for six months but there she was laying dead in the kitchen. the younger beetles were screaming. immediately he sent for every member of the family to tell them all what had happened to their mother. of course everyone was sad, and so he openly grieved with them.

when the funeral feast of goat poo was over the oldest called for a reading of the will. a firefly who was the attorney read the will. it said, ‘all my property and assets i entrust to my family, in care of my oldest son. he may call my possessions his property so long as the family is fed.’

the oldest stood. ‘so it is settled. you all may now leave my property.’

one of his brothers said, ‘but brother. the will! you have heard what mother said.’

‘i have,’ said the oldest. ‘and her wish will be granted. you all will eat. you will eat the food you buy from me with the money you earn from your jobs that you got with the education that i gave you.’

‘but brother we are not earning money.’

‘you have all gone to school, have you not?’

‘we have. but we have no jobs.’

‘so you may work for me then,’ said the oldest. ‘i will pay you a wage to work for me. you can use what you earn to buy food. how does that sound?’

‘it sounds shitty,’ someone said.

‘but mother’s will!’ someone else cried.

the sibling beetles started rah-ing around the table. the oldest quieted them by flashing his powerful wings. he stood at the head of the table and took up his chalice of goat urine. he raised it over the table of his dead mother, and said calmly, ‘you heard it all as well as i,’

looking to the firefly at the table, the oldest says, ‘mr. firefly if you would, please shed some light on this matter for us and read that last part again.’

the firefly cleared his throat, ‘he may call my possessions his property so long as the family is fed.’

‘there,’ said the oldest. ‘you see? her property is mine. i will pay you to work and you will pay me to eat. you don’t like it, get another job!’

‘but how will we continue our research?’ said another. ‘all the time you spare us by feeding us we use to research our family’s next great achievement.’

‘bologna,’ said the oldest. ‘i know you all aren’t doing squat worth mentioning. probably you spend all your time drinking piss and getting drunk. a bunch of no good moochers is all you are!’

‘when do you see us except for when we are eating?’ someone asked.

the oldest had to think, ‘i see you when… you’re in your rooms at night sleeping.’

‘what about during the day?’

‘i don’t. but it is of no matter to me.’

‘perhaps it isn’t,’ said the youngest beetle. ‘if you want to hog all the dung, you are welcome to it. as you say, we will work for our food. it will not be easy, but i know that we can do what is needed for us all to survive.’

‘but sister, we cannot let ourselves give up on our dreams of–‘

‘our dreams still live, brother. we will make them a reality. have no doubt about that.’

‘but you said–‘

‘i said we will work.’

‘good!’ said the oldest. ‘and yes. you will work. i will watch you work. i’ll kick anyone out who doesn’t work. and you all will collect more poop for me than has ever been collected. i want to see everyone roll three balls up the hill. starting now.’

‘but our mother’s just been buried!’

‘she has. and if you want to eat on the day after your mother was buried, i suggest you get moving.’

‘you evil–‘ said an angry brother.

‘hush,’ said the youngest to the angered beetle.

‘i like your attitude,’ said the oldest. ‘you keep everyone in line. maybe you can be my vice-president, if you do your job well.’

‘no thank you,’ said the youngest.

‘ha. i couldn’t trust a beetle who doesn’t want more than he has, anyhow. you really are stupid, aren’t you?’

‘no, i am not. you should know that since you were the one who paid for my education. don’t you remember?’

the oldest paused, ‘i don’t. come to think of it, i don’t even know who you are.’

‘that’s funny. you have always been my hero. at least you were until today.’

‘but i–‘

‘you listen,’ said the youngest. ‘today we will work for you. we will bring all you’ve demanded up the hill. but after that, we will go our separate ways. you keep what you want. we’ll keep what we want.’

‘perfect. though i see no sense in lobbying to keep all that you own, which is nothing.’

‘you will see, brother. we are so much richer than that.’

the youngest said these words and then turned to the rest of the family. ‘alright, let’s work!’

the oldest watched as the family formed a chain up the path. then, the beetle at the bottom passed a turd to his brother behind him who passed it to the beetle behind him and so on. every beetle passed poop up the path to the spot the oldest had specified. they did this until three turds for every beetle had been delivered. within an hour the task was complete. a mountain had formed.

the oldest was jealous. he’d always spent an entire week doing what his family had just taken an hour to do.

‘here is what you wanted,’ said the youngest to his stunned older brother. ‘and you can keep our wages.’

the oldest tried to hide his astonishment as he said, ‘good. well, you did alright i suppose. for a bunch of worthless bugs. and you hardly earned anything anyway, so it’s probably best you didn’t worry about it.’

‘just remember our deal tomorrow,’ said the youngest.

‘oh i will. but first i will eat!’

the youngest said, ‘dig in, brother. you’ve earned it, haven’t you!’

the other beetles left their shameful older brother to his supper. he ate and he ate and he ate. he ate as much as he could. he sat atop the mountain and imagined himself eating his way all the way down to the ground.

but he’d eaten only half of a ball of poop by the time he was full. he was so full he was almost ill. he looked down at the mountain and it almost made him sick. he almost puked up his poop. he fell asleep on top of his turd mountain.

that night he dreamt of all the boats he would own. all the sexy dung beetles he’d fuck. all the cocaine he’d rail. he saw himself on forbeetle’s magazine. time’s beetle of the year. sharing a turd with dignitaries from across the globe.

he slept like a king.

the next morning, he woke and felt the ground shaking. his mountain was crumbling beneath him. he dropped to his knees and screamed, ‘help! help me brothers! help me sisters!’

no one came. he looked back towards his home to see if anyone was coming.

still no one came, but from the hole he saw a bright light and heard a loud roar. the ground’s rumbling grew stronger. the mountain collapsed and the beetle fell with it. he screamed, but no one was listening and if they were he couldn’t have been heard over the incredible sound.

on the ground he lay on his squashed back staring up at the clear blue sky. his thorax and four of his legs were pinned or crushed by dung balls. his antennae had snapped. he laughed at the irony and then he felt his life slipping away.

the last thing he knew was the staring at the cloud and feeling the ground cease its rumbling. the roaring noise faded. all of a sudden, a spaceship blasted across the sky like a flaming arrow. then its light shone deep into his dead black eyes.

the ship shot into space at over 20,000 miles per hour. the youngest dung beetle looked down at the earth from the fringes of space. he thought he could make out his home and the spot where his oldest brother had made the family pile up the crap, but he couldn’t be sure.

then he was weightless. he spun and saw his family all weightless and smiling. it was quite something for them to get used to.

the end.

#76/1-5-2015

proceedings

she and i stopped packing boxes to watch the hearing on television. we’d left the set out just to see it. not because it’d change anything, but she said she wanted to see their faces.

before it came on i got us each a beer to drink while we watched and sat on the carpet. she opened hers and set it in one of the indents left by the sofa’s foot. i took a long swig of mine. then another. then i got up and went back to grab two more.

from her spot in the living room she said, ‘do you think they’ll admit to anything?’

i was looking in the fridge, marvelling at how empty it was, when i said, ‘no, i don’t think they will.’ i reached for a beer. ‘i doubt they’ll say much at all.’

all the fridge had was was the 12-pack we’d bought, a bottle of mustard, some salami and a box of baking soda. i grabbed a couple more cans, then noticed that the inside of the fridge smelled like bleach. i said, ‘hey, did you already clean the fridge?’

‘yeah.’

‘it looks good,’ i said. ‘smell’s weird, but it looks good. when the heck did you do that?’

i heard her getting up and coming to me in the kitchen.

‘when you were doing the garage.’

‘well aren’t you something?’ i said, and i set the beer down on the counter and grabbed her around the waist.

she said, ‘i am, aren’t i?’ she was smiling proud and so i pulled her to me and kissed her. i felt her arms on my shoulders. i held her, then felt she was pulling away. she said, ‘i think it’s starting.’

‘alright,’ i said. ‘i’ll be right there.’

‘are you ok?’ she said.

‘yeah,’ i said. ‘i’m fine.’

‘are you sure?’ she said. ‘we don’t really have to watch it. we can just keep working if you want.’

‘why don’t you watch it? i don’t think i can watch it. i’m sorry,’ i said. i put my hands in my pockets and looked down at the floor. ‘i know you want to watch it, but i really, really don’t want to.’

‘ok. it’s not a big deal. i’ll just–‘

‘but it is a big deal, isn’t it? because now we’re back to an apartment,’ i said, but i said it louder than i meant to. i took a breath, then i said, ‘i’m sorry.’ i took her hand. ‘i’m not mad at you. you know that, right?’

she said, ‘mm-hmm.’

‘i’m not mad at you. i want you to see it. and i want you to tell me what happens. i just think it’s going to make me mad. actually, beyond mad. i’m already mad just thinking about it. so, i’m just going to keep working. maybe do some more stuff in the office.’

‘are you sure?’

‘i’m sure. you take a break and see what they say. will that be alright?’

‘i’ll tell you what happens. and i’ll come get you if anything major happens.’

‘sounds good,’ i said. then she reached up and kissed me. ‘i love you,’ she said.

‘i love you too,’ i said. ‘here’s another beer.’ i handed her a can from the counter. ‘go get yourself good and drunk so we can fool around after.’

‘thanks,’ she said, ‘and maybe i will.’ she smiled and kissed me again and took the beer and went back to where she was in the living room.

i leaned back against the counter and looked back over my shoulder into the window overlooking our backyard. a squirrel was perched on her bird-feeder and the grass needed to be cut. ‘i’ll let them mow when it’s their yard,’ i thought. ‘the fucks.’

at the back of the yard i saw the one orange painted fence-board. she’d painted it to commemorate our first repair. the neighbor kid had busted the board with his soccer ball the day after we moved in. she and i went right to the hardware store to get another board. we wanted to keep the place pristine.

the whole repair took ten minutes but she was excited the whole time. ‘we’re doing this for us now,’ she kept saying. ‘it’s our fence. our fence around our house.’

back in the kitchen, i just looked at the paint on that board. it was still bright like a traffic cone.

i heard her turning up the volume in the other room. someone was saying swearing an oath about telling the truth. i glugged down the last of my first beer and left the empty on the counter. the second one i picked up and took with me back down the hall to the office.

in the office i started filling more boxes. it didn’t matter what those guys said to congress, i thought, if they said anything at all. her and i still had to get out. i put another handful of books into the box then looked around. we still had lots of work to do.

#74/1-3-2015

the wolf and the lamb

‘welcome back to the show, ladies and gentlemen.’

‘our top story tonight is victoria reyes. ms. reyes is an ivy-league college student who writes a blog about her exploits doing ‘good’ deeds for the homeless. she’s done everything from giving them a hot meal to even letting some stay in her own house for weeks at a time. but has she gone too far with her latest publicity stunt? some say she has.

‘earlier this week she posted a video of herself getting arrested with an elderly man in tampa, florida. that’s ms. reyes being put into the squad car there. she says she was only acting in the best interest of the community, but the police are saying that by feeding the homeless, she’s not solving the problem, she’s making it worse. therefore, police say they had no choice but to arrest ms. reyes.

‘the event has caused an uproar on social-media and across the airwaves, so we decided we’d ask ms. reyes onto our show to speak with us about what happened. the very lovely ms. reyes, thanks for joining us.’

-thanks for having me.

‘absolutely, now. you are a college student correct?’

-i am.

‘and you go to school where?’

-yale.

‘so what the heck were you doing in tampa bay? you must be from there, right?’

-i was in tampa bay because i’d read about mr. waterhouse’s previous arrests for merely feeding homeless people and i wanted to join him in his efforts. not only did i want to actually help him do the actual work, but i will admit that i did want to be arrested with him for doing that work. and with my blog, i thought maybe i can shed some light on what is clearly a case of benighted social values.

‘it’s interesting that you say that, because some would say that breaking the law and hoping to be arrested for it is a case of benighted values. wouldn’t you agree?’

-no. i wouldn’t. the most important issue to remember is–

‘i get it. so you thought, ‘i run a blog. people read my blog. i’ll get arrested doing some charity work and somebody will come running to me with a book-deal.’ is that it?’

-that’s not it at all.

‘but someone has come to you with a book deal, is that right?’

-yes. someone has approached me with an offer.

‘well. lucky you.’

-sir, i am not the issue here.

‘oh you’re not?’

-no. the issue here is the law in tampa that says it is illegal for a person to feed a homeless person.

‘the law that you broke, right?’

-yes. the law that i willingly broke and was arrested and fined for is, i believe, the issue.

‘ms. reyes. have you heard of edward snowden?’

-i don’t see what that has–

‘what about bradley manning?’

-chelsea manning. yes i have.

‘chelsea manning. whatever his, or her, or its name is.’

-her name is chelsea.

‘sure it is. do you know what you have in common with them?’

-i can think of a few things.

‘whoa. whoa. whoa! ms. reyes, you are my guest and this is my show and so, while you are here, i must advise you to be careful with what you say and with whom you affiliate yourself.’

-i appreciate the warning, but i feel that most of us have something in common with both of the individuals whom you mentioned.’

‘speak for yourself.’

-i’m an american, sir, how about you?

‘we both know i am. my viewers know i am. everyone in america knows my patriotism, ok? so don’t think you’re going to come on my show and question my allegiance.’

-i came here to talk about homelessness. you’re the one who started talking about–

‘about traitors.’

-how does feeding the homeless make me a traitor?

‘because you, and edward snowden and christi manning are all alike. you all are out to get your face on the news, to be called martyrs and to get book deals so that you can continue spinning your liberal yarns, while the working folks down in tampa have to keep paying their taxes so the courts can process your court case. isn’t that right?

-no, that’s not right at all.

‘uh-huh.’

-you’re saying that we’re only doing what we’re doing because we want to be famous.

‘that’s exactly what i’m saying. prove me wrong.’

-i came on your show to discuss homelessness and the absurdity of certain laws regarding homelessness. for example, in tampa it is illegal to feed homeless people.

‘because studies have shown that feeding them gives them no incentive to work and feed themselves. between when you and mr. waterhouse started feeding the vagrants, police say the number of homeless in tampa has grown.’

-would you believe me if i said i saw them dumping random homeless at our hand-off site?

‘i absolutely would not. no way.’

-well it happened.

‘are you accusing tampa bay’s finest of dishonest practices?’

-i saw it happen and i wrote about it. have you read my blog?

‘i had an intern look it over.’

-oh. well. i’m glad you’re prepared.

‘what i wasn’t prepared for is the brazenness of your behavior. you broke the law, you said that you’re glad you did. you say you want to help the homeless, but what you’re doing is only hurting the problem. you say you’ve got lots in common with two of america’s greatest traitors since benedict arnold. and on top of that, you come out and call the a bunch tampa’s police force dishonest. let me tell you something, missy. those cops got more guts than you ever will. and they don’t do it just for some book deal. you got it?’

-oh, please.

‘and now you’re gonna cop an attitude.’

-no. i’m calmer than most people would be considering what a wretch you are. i’m going to go ahead and say something since i’ve got nothing else left to lose: you’re fucking fascist.

‘ok, that’s it. we’re done. cut her mic. cut it. get off my set. get her off my set, right now!’

‘ok, we’re going to go to commercial. i’m sorry for the profanity, ladies and gentlemen.’

‘before we go i just want to say this: sometimes i try to have a guest come onto my show who’s a little further left than we’re used to. and every time i do, it ends up like this. i want us to talk a little bit, try to work some things out and they get hostile and they start spewing socialist propaganda and then they say the most awful word in the english language right on live television. i just don’t get it. the nerve of some people.’

‘but this is america. the constitution protects wackos like ms. reyes as much as it does you and me. and i say god bless her. even if she is as deranged as she seems.’

‘alright. we’ll be back with more after these messages.’

#72/1-1-2015

his heavenly assignment

-but it will fly.

-it won’t, lou. it ain’t going anywhere. ‘cept in the pot for supper.

-you aren’t cookin’ this one!

-fine. you keep it. just get inside.

-not yet.

-listen to me. you can’t be out here like that.

-but…

-but nothing.

-it told me it wanted to do it now.

-honey, it’s a potato. it didn’t tell you anything.

-not the potato. the potato didn’t talk. potatoes don’t talk… ya dimwit.

-what’d you say? don’t turn your back on me.

-where do you want me to send him, god?

-lou! now who’re you talking to?

-would you shut up a minute?! i need to hear this.

-ugh. lou, you’re acting like a gahdarned lunatic. why don’t you just come on up here and come inside?

-i’ll come inside when i’m ready. i gotta do this first.

-you gotta do that? fine. where’s the potato want to go, lou? where’s god telling you to send him?

-well i can’t hear him over your cackle.

-louis elgin graves.

-what is it, thelma?

-if you could only see yourself. lou god isn’t talking to you. if he did, he probably wouldn’t tell you to be out here in your underwear like you are. with the potato.

-he said he’s waiting for it.

-well isn’t that nice. i mean right now we’re all waiting. you’re waiting on god. the potato’s waiting to fly. and i’m waiting on you to figure out what an ass you are.

-SHH!

-what is it?

-SHHHHHHH!

-you hear something?

-thelma!

-i whispered didn’t i?

-i hear him.

-god?

-yes.

-what’s he saying.

-i’ve got it. yeah i can do that. ok. towards the sunset?

-what about the sunset?

-ok. and you want me to say it just like that?

-lou!

-ok, just heave it then?

-lou are you playing?

-thelma-hush. sorry, sir. yeah, it’s just my wife. she is ain’t she. yeah. no, i can’t believe her sometimes myself. yeah. well…

-what’d he say about me?

-he said you talk too much.

-no he didn’t.

-ok, well yeah i’ll just do my best then, how’s that sound?

-did he really say that?

-he did. sorry it was thelma again. do you want to talk to her? ok. right. sure. i’ll tell her. and yeah, don’t worry about a thing. i’ll take care of it. yeah, no problem. really, if you’re happy i’m happy.

-what did he tell you to tell me?

-alright. yeah, well you know how to reach me. ok. sounds good. yep. alrighty. bye god.

-lou, you gotta tell me.

-just a sec, woman. I CAST THIS SPUD AGAINST THE ARMIES OF SATAN!

-geeze, lou. what was that about? and i never knew you throw like a wimp.

-i guess i do.

-you barely made it over the fence.

-i guess you’re right.

-lou, the potato didn’t fly.

-well.

-you said the potato will fly.

-it kind of did didn’t it?

-lou all you did was toss the potato twelve feet. you tossed the potato twelve feet into our neighbor’s yard.

-towards the sunset.

-so?

-so that’s what he told me to do. what’d you expect?

-so you’re job was to toss the potato into the neighbor’s yard where their stupid dog will prolly eat it?

-god says by doing that i shattered a vortex of evil that was brewing precisely where it landed. i don’t know. he didn’t give me all the details.

-lou, look at me.

-what?

-lou. you’re my husband and i love you, so i want you to promise me that you’re telling me the truth right now.

-thelma, i promise.

-swear it!

-ok, i swear that i’m telling you the truth.

-lou!

-thelma, why is it so hard for you to believe? you’re the one who goes to church.

#69/12-29-2014

allowance day

‘are you ready to go?’ mom says.

‘not yet,’ i say. ‘i’m still scooping the cat crap!’

my brother laughs but he keeps wiping the mirror. we’re both on bathroom duty. it’s saturday. every saturday, we clean. then we get paid our allowance. five dollars each. not bad for a couple’a guys under ten.

my mom is in the kitchen, but when i hear her say, ‘what’d you just say?’ i know i messed up.

that’s when i say to her, ‘i saaaaaiiiiiidddddddddd i’m still scooping caaaaaaaaaaaaat……….umm…. caaaaaaaaaaat………SCAT!’

‘uh-huh,’ i hear her say.

my brother looks at me with bug eyes and a smile as if to say, ‘holy crap dude, you just dodged one!’

i’m even astounded at my own cunning. i think, ‘maybe mom is just easy to fool.’ then i remember how untrue that thought is.

my brother is climbing off of the bathroom counter. he tosses his windex-sopped paper towel into the trash and runs out of the bathroom.

‘i’m done!’ he tells her.

‘dude, aren’t you gonna take that trash?’

he doesn’t stop. no one says anything. so i know it’s up to me.

that kid can be such a butt-munch.

as i scoop another clod of coagulated cat piss into the plastic grocery bag, i decide i won’t tell him how impossible it is to fool mom. that should keep the heat off me, and it will be funny to see him get busted over and over again until he figures it out for himself.

i sift through the litter until every last scoopable bit of crap is out of there. i even got the ones that are like little peas. some that are smaller. bb’s almost.

i do it because, like i said, she’ll know. also, because i just want my money so we can go to the card shop.

i tie up the bag of litter and i put it in the other trash bag. i grab that bag and say to mom, ‘finished!’ as i walk outside to the dumpster.

i hear her say, ‘uh-huh, well let me see. come here, bradley. let’s see how you guys did.’

he drops his head back till it’s almost hanging between his shoulder blades. he goes, ‘UNNNNNGGGH!’

he walks this way, rolling his eyes back into his head and following behind her. his arms hang limp and flop with each frustrated stomp. it’s the outwardly resilient march of an inwardly defeated kid. we all know he is.

‘stupid bradley,’ i think.

it feels good letting him deal with the inspection. makes me glad i didn’t worry about all the bottles of cleaning stuff. or the broom. or the dustpan.

outside, it’s cloudy and there’s a drizzle going. too wet to play basketball or really do much else without getting super dirty. sucks.

i drop the trash in the dumpster and then go around back of the house instead of heading back the way i came. this is to kill time. like i said, i’m letting my dumb brother handle the inspection. that’s always the worst part. she finds EVERYTHING.

my neighbor is out digging worms along the fence. i stop and to say hi. he says hi.

he’s got a jar and he’s filled it with worms and grubs and beetles. when i see him, he’s sprinkling some of the wet dirt on top of everything.

‘did you poke holes on top of the jar?’ i ask him.

he says, ‘no.’

‘if you don’t they’ll all suffocate,’ i say. i’m older, so he knows i know what i’m talking about.

‘maybe i will later.’

‘do you want to go to the card shop?’

‘can’t,’ he says. ‘i have to go to stupid church.’

‘but it’s saturday.’

‘yeah. my mom said she’s teaching a class about knitting.’

‘oh, man. that sucks.’

‘yeah. what are you going to get?’

‘something cool.’

‘whatever. your cards suck.’

‘shut up,’ i say.

‘you shut up!’ he says. the butthole.

‘henry!’ it’s her. i freeze. since i’m around the house, maybe she doesn’t see—

‘he’s over here!’ says my neighbor.

i look at him and he’s smiling.

‘dude,’ i say, ‘do you know what you’ve just done to me?’

he sticks his tongue out at me. i forgot to tell you that this kid is a total moron.

‘henry come inside!’ says my mom. ‘come help your brother finish up in there!’

i say, ‘dude, i’m going to kick your butt.’

‘whatever.’

‘yeah, i’ll whatever you. and then you’ll be crying to your mom.’

‘ah, go buy some crappy cards.’

‘have fun at knitting class, dork.’

i start to go back around to the front of the house. maybe i can sneak back in, but she’s at the front door.

‘where ya been?’ she asks. her arms are crossed.

‘i was taking out the trash.’

‘uh-huh,’ she says. but i don’t think she believes me at all.

#64/12-26-2014

a christmas story

i pulled up to the house and my wife was on the front steps. she only had her houseshoes on even though there was snow up to her ankles. she was standing there holding chris. i got out of the car and that’s when i knew they were both crying.

i ran over. i said, ‘what’s the matter?’

‘i don’t know,’ she said. ‘

chris wailed. ‘daaaa-addddddy!’

i touched his hair and the back of his head. his ears were cold.

‘i’m here,’ i told him.

i grabbed her shoulder then. she looked at me and i saw her tear-ruined make up starting to freeze. ‘did something happen? you lock yourself out?

she looked at me and then she looked back at the closed front door ringed in colored lights.

coming to my senses i said, ‘here, let’s all get inside.’

‘i’m not going in there,’ she said.

‘baby, what the hell is going on?’ i took off my coat, and wrapped it around her. ‘is someone in there?’

‘i don’t know what it is,’ she said.

‘are you hurt?’

she looked down at her feet. ‘not really.’

‘baby, you gotta help me out here. is anyone inside?’ i said.

she looked back up to me and said, ‘something is in there.’ and then she smiled and said, ‘but you won’t believe me even if i told you.’

i had no clue what to say so i just said, ‘ok.’

she saw me looking at her. ‘you’ll see.’

‘ok,’ i said again. ‘well… you two come with me. let’s get you warmed up.’

‘i’m not going in there,’ she said.

‘i’m going to put you in the truck where you’ll be safe and warm,’ i said.

‘ok,’ she said.

i carried her and chris together to the truck. i’d left the door open when i’d rushed to her so the cabin was cold, but i turned the key and cranked up the heat.

she was in the passenger seat, chris was on her lap. i sat behind the wheel looking at them. together they looked like refugees. she stroked his hair with one hand and his thigh with the other. they were both very quiet. i saw her feet and snow was still melting off of them, but she didn’t say anything about it.

i said, ‘what’s in there?’

‘what was i doing just before you left to take mom home?’

i saw her pulling out a pan from the oven. ‘you were baking cookies,’ i said. there was chris, standing on a chair to see over the counter while he decorated the cookie faces. ‘both of you were.’

‘that’s right,’ she said.

‘then what?’

‘then…’ she said. chris started to shake, crying again. ‘…then they came to life.’

‘they what?’

‘yep,’ she said.

‘honey, if you’re…’

‘i’m not,’ she said. she shook her head, ‘i knew you wouldn’t believe me. i told you.’

‘no, i do,’ i said. ‘it’s just not really what i thought you’d say, is all.’ i started to smile. ‘you know?’

‘it’s not funny and don’t you dare laugh at us about it.’

‘how the hell did that happen?’

‘it’s going to sound crazy,’ she said, ‘but i’m almost positive it was the nutmeg.’

‘i’ve heard of that but i’ve never…’

‘you don’t understand. this old man at the store. he gave me this jar of nutmeg. said it was magic. i just didn’t think that…’

‘you took nutmeg from a stranger?’

‘he seemed like such a sweet old man. plus who ever heard of any real magic anyway?’

‘i’m just saying you gotta know better than that. it could’ve been poison.’

‘well it’s not poison. but it has turned my cookies into little monsters.’

‘alright,’ i said, containing. ‘well i’m going in there then. do you think i should bring a weapon or should i just eat the bastards?’

she didn’t think it was funny at all. in fact i could see she didn’t even consider it a joke. she was thinking logistically when she said, ‘don’t go in there. let’s just go to a hotel. or call the police.’

‘no way, baby. i’ll take care of this.’

‘dick, please,’ she said.

‘it’s gonna be fine,’ i said. ‘you know i’m tough.’

she cracked a smile. ‘well,’ she said. ‘do you have a tire iron?’

‘yeah. i got one in the bed.’

‘i’d bring that,’ she said.

‘ok,’ i said. ‘just sit tight and i’ll let you know when it’s all clear.’

‘be careful,’ she said.

‘i will,’ i said. i opened the door and noticed it was bing crosby on the radio. i reached back in and turned up the volume. ‘listen to this. it’ll make you feel better.’ i smiled at her and chris who was still moping.

‘kiss me,’ she said.

i climbed half-way across the cab to reach her for a kiss, but it was real nice and the whole thing made me feel like a hero.

‘i’ll be back,’ i said.

‘you better,’ she said.

‘chris, take care of your mother.’

‘yessir.’

i grabbed the tire iron and waved to them smiling as i walked up to the house. they waved, but didn’t smile like me.

i trudged to the door. i shoved my ear up against it to listen. i heard some faint rustling, then what sounded like a metal cookie sheet being banged on the counter. something was definitely inside. i held the tire-iron up like i was ready to brain somebody when i turned the handle and opened the door.

everything was quiet. no rustle. no banging cookie sheet. i stood in the entry way of my own home looking for mutant cookies but i didn’t see any.

all i saw was the dining room to my right, a closed coat-closet to my right and the living room in front of me. every room looked like we’d leave it. clean, with the christmas tree lights on and a lamp over my recliner in the corner.

‘hellooo!’ i called. ‘anybody here?’ i started in to the house. the kitchen was roughly twenty paces away. i walked up to the walkway that divided the living and dining rooms. the walkway that led to the kitchen. i still heard nothing.

i looked down the walkway towards the kitchen. the lights were on. that’s when i saw a shadow move. then another. both small.

‘who’s in there?’ i called. i re-gripped the tire-iron. took another step. ‘i know you’re in there you freaky gingerbread bastards.’

i was about five paces away. ‘i’m going to eat all of you, i hope you know that. and i’m going to enjoy it too.’

i was at the door frame. i leaned into the kitchen and looked right towards the stove and counter. i saw sheets of snowman cookies waiting to be baked. each man laying on the sheet had red-hot features, giving them all menacing red stares and vicious red mouths. but they weren’t baked. they lay lifeless like cookies should.

‘where are the magic ones?’ i said. i looked left. on the kitchen table was a baked cookie. it hung partially off the edge of the table. i stepped in and looked at it. the same red eyes and mouth. i raised the tire iron and brought it down onto the cookie’s head. he crumbled like a punk.

in a second, i heard a groaning sort of wail. it was coming from a bowl on the counter. the cookie batter bowl. then i heard the rustle all around me. cookies were filing in from every door leading to the kitchen.

there were snowmen dropping from the ceiling fan, landing on my shoulders and grabbing onto my hair. they reached my shoes and started climbing up my pant legs. some crawled under my pants up my legs. some were crawling under my shirt to get up to my neck. i felt like a worm in an ant-hill.

i swung the tire-iron as hard as i could at them, but the cookies were too small and they were too close to me. i didn’t want to hurt myself by trying to hit the cookies. at least not at first. i made contact with a few, but mostly i missed. they would turn themselves and go from being a wide target to a very narrow one making it almost impossible to connect. and all the while they climbed me as if i was a very big dinner.

still the bowl groaned and wailed. then, as i was increasingly being overwhelmed by the cookies, i saw the ball of dough roll itself out of the bowl and form into a very small man-like figure. he stood on the counter and took a mixing spoon as his scepter. he made gruff gurgling noises which i could not understand. all the cookies then started to bite me at once.

for a cookie with red-hot teeth, they could bite. i could feel small chunks of skin being torn away. i screamed. i felt them still climbing up my neck and covering my cheeks and some were now biting at my ears. i felt like i was about to lose my ability to breathe, like i was being swallowed.

i dropped to my knees. i heard almost a dozen crack under my weight. i heard the dough-man groan with the same agony-laced wail as before, so i dropped onto the ground and rolled as if i were covered in flames. i rolled until i had crushed hundreds of the cookie-monsters. everywhere there were the broken remains of the cookies. wounded cookies reached for their legs and arms. then the dough-man fell in pain. i pulled the rest off of me. some i had to tear away, but finally i was free.

i stomped my way to the counter and grabbed the dough man in my hand. i crushed him in my fist. globs of dough squeezed through my fingers. i threw him in the sink and pushed him down into the garbage disposal with the spoon which he had just waved so gloriously. then i turned on the blades. the disposal roared to life. the lights flickered. the entire counter shook. i heard him wailing like a cat.

into the disposal i said, ‘you like that, huh, you little pilsbury bitch!’

i tossed in all the unbaked snowmen, then the least damaged of the defeated cookies. after that i got out the broom and picked up all the guts of the rest.

that’s when i remembered darla and chris. i ran outside.

i hustled down to the truck. the green and red lights were shining off the snow on the yard. i scampered through all that. the truck windows were foggy and the lights were bouncing off the windows as well.

i tried to open the door. she’d locked it. ‘darla?’ i said. ‘open up. i got ’em.’

i heard her unlock the door. i pulled it open. ‘chris? darla?’ i said.

then i saw that they had both turned into snowman cookies. red-hots were their eyes. i screamed and fell back into the snow. it wasn’t cold. then i looked at my hand and saw it was made of dough.