10/14/10: Way to shame me into updating again by commenting, people who comment! (Seriously, though, hi, welcome, and pull up one of the splintery old orange crates that we use for seating 'round these parts seein' as we can't afford no fancy chairs.)

The rules from
here still apply.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ice Cream

Kim shook her head. "It's been so long since we've done this... why's it been so long since we've done this? Spending time with you here used to be the highlight of my week. I wonder why we ever stopped."

"Because you skipped town with that boy," Penny answered quietly.

They both were silent for a moment then, Penny idly stirring her milkshake, Kim looking down at her sundae. All around them, the ice cream parlor was full of the sounds of talking and laughing, washing over their little island of awkwardness.

Finally Kim looked up again. "I know it's been a long time, and I haven't called or written or anything. But that doesn't mean that our friendship wasn't important to me. Hell, it used to be just the two of us against the world, remember?"

Penny smiled slightly. "I remember."

"And then I went and did something stupid, and ran off with some guy who dumped me a month later." Kim sighed. "Luckily my aunt took me in, and I managed to get my life back on track even if I never could bear to come home again, but... still, that's almost ten years that we've lost." She looked around the room, her eyes reflecting the overhead lights rather more than they had been doing a few seconds ago. "We used to come here every week, and talk, you know? Just talk. Only now we've lost that."

Penny smiled again, this time looking like she meant it. "Seems to me that this is as good a time as any to get caught up. So? Let's talk."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The man waved his knife threateningly, eliciting a gasp from Audrey. "I said give 'em," he snapped. "Wallets, watches, the lady's necklace. Right now!"

Fred could feel Audrey trembling as she pressed close to him; he shifted his weight slightly, trying to put himself between her and their attacker as much as he could without actually moving. The last thing he wanted to do was spur the guy into coming at them.

"Look," he said as calmly as he could, slowly spreading his hands out in a conciliatory gesture. "We don't want any trouble, so -- "

"You've got trouble unless you do what I say!" the man snarled, waving the knife again.

Audrey pulled on his sleeve with trembling hands. "Please, sweetie, let's just do it and then get out of here, okay? And we can just go home."

"I -- " Fred began. Then there was a loud clattering at the other end of the alley, startling them all, and the man with the knife reacted with a sudden lunge.

Not even thinking now, Fred grabbed the assailant's wrist as he came forward, bending it back and causing the knife to drop. In the next second he had the man pinned to the ground.

"Call the cops," he said over his shoulder to Audrey, then turned back to their would-be mugger. "Figured we'd be easy marks, huh?" he asked through gritted teeth, grinding one knee savagely into the man's back. "Just a big fat guy and his woman, no problem, right?" He uttered a humorless little chuckle. "Well, this big fat guy happens to be a bouncer with a black belt in judo. Bet you wish you'd known that five minutes ago, huh?"

Monday, January 29, 2007


The room smelled of sawdust and machine oil, of old sweat and the ghosts of a thousand fresh-mown lawns. Marie couldn't remember a time when it had ever been otherwise. She might have grown up, and grown away, and left home to live all the way across the country, but this had always been her father's space, all down the years and decades.

One full wall was taken up with his hat collection, hung from rows of pegs that went from her waist to well over her head. As a little girl she could spend hours in here with him, pointing to one hat after another, asking where did you get this one, when did you get it, tell me about it. Even then he had had an impressive collection. They were baseball caps, mostly -- promotional items from long-since-defunct farm-supply companies; souvenirs from places he had visited; gifts given him for dozens of birthdays and Christmases and Father's Days. Other dads got ties; hers got hats.

She pulled one down from the wall, turning it over in her hands and smiling a little. This had been one of his favorites, and even now the scent of sweat and Old Spice seemed to issue faintly from its worn fabric. He'd retired from the sawmill back in '86, after thirty-five years of working there and eight of actually running the place. This hat had been his parting gift from his former employees, more meaningful than any gold watch. "SAW BOSS", it read across the front. Their nickname for him at the mill. Marie smiled, remembering him describing it to her over the phone. He was usually so reserved, which made his excitement over the gift all the more touching.

Carefully Marie replaced the hat back on its peg, then looked around the room one more time, breathing in the air of the room where her father had spent so much of his free time over the years. Then she looked toward the doorway. "Yes, mama?"

Her mother attempted a smile. "Are you ready, dear? We have to leave pretty soon. Don't want to be late to the -- the funeral."

Marie crossed the room to give her mother a brief hug. Then she nodded. "I'm ready, mama. Just wanted to say goodbye."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Soap Opera

They talked about it for years to come, in that town: how a perfectly respectable man, a successful businessman and a pillar of the community, had somehow managed to go completely mad without anyone noticing.

Perhaps it is unfair to say that no one noticed, because for some time before the end, his wife Joy had been known to occasionally hint at something unusual. While it is impossible now to know whether she realized what was happening, one can still piece together a sort of narrative out of what hints she let drop to friends and relatives.

The first thing his wife seems to have noticed was the singing. It was not singing, exactly, to hear her tell it. Perhaps chanting would be a better word. Joy never gave any indication that she could understand him, and in fact, she apparently rarely heard it at all. He seemed careful to do it out of her hearing, and sometimes she would enter the room where he was, only to hear him suddenly stop talking, as if she had interrupted a conversation with someone. Mostly she heard him doing it in the shower -- not singing, exactly, but saying something in a kind of rhythmic pattern that defied comprehension. It had worried her in a way she could not quite articulate to anyone.

At some point a bizarre obsession with cleanliness apparently emerged, as well. Specifically he had become fixated on soap. Bars of soap appeared all over the house, tucked away in soapdishes on dressers and counters, in closets and boxes and one bar, for some reason, always kept in his left slipper. Attempts to move any of them met with loud protest. Joy had confided to one or two people that threats of violence were also involved.

During all this time he presented a perfectly normal face to the outside world, and it was only at home that his behavior began to degrade in a number of ways that likely Joy did not even begin to scratch the surface of in her talks with others. Eventually, of course, came the event that remains legend to this day.

The sight of his wife and three daughters, bound with electrical tape and murdered in their beds, needs no repeating, as much as it has fueled local gossip for ten years and counting. Nor does the fate of the man himself really need to be rehashed; he remains in an institution till this day, still half-singing, half-muttering things to himself whenever he is led, closely supervised, into the shower.

More peculiar by far, however, is an aspect of the crime that was never discussed with the public, being as police felt the family had already had a bad enough time of being massacred. So it is that few people know of the full story, and especially what the murderer had done, either before or after taking those four innocent lives.

He had written his Red Right Hand on the wall.

With a bar of soap.

I... don't know either. His eyes just look so mad in the comic, and, well.

If you're wondering, yes, I am referencing the thing you think I'm referencing. That is an amazing album.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Expiration Dates

Finally, he decided he couldn't put it off any longer. Oh, sure, he had known this day would come; he had done his best to prepare, though admittedly that more or less meant saying "I'll get to it tomorrow" a few more times than was healthy. Now, though, time was up.

It was time to clean the fridge.

Thus it was that he found himself staring in at three shelves of various substances, some of which were still edible. Half-empty mustard jars butted up against random wads of aluminum foil containing god-knew-what; a few random disposable plastic containers were rattling around in there somewhere, he knew, and down in the crisper was probably at least one package of raw meat that had never actually gotten used for anything. Man, this sucked. Maybe he should leave it for tomorrow.

"No," he said aloud. Then, "OW!" he cried, as, startled by the sound of his own voice, he jumped and slammed his head into the top of the open fridge. "Jesus," he muttered, rubbing the back of his skull. "Good one, man."

He returned his attention to the fridge, hoping that, perhaps, it had cleaned itself out while he was otherwise occupied. No such luck.

"Okay, then," he muttered, this time managing to not scare himself into any more blunt head trauma. "Let's do this." He pulled out the first thing that came to hand, a package of flour tortillas, mostly-full. "Expired... the tenth." Into the trash can it went. This wasn't so bad. Next came a tub of sour cream. "The 22nd. Close, but no." Ignoring a rather oozy-looking foil-wrapped something, he reached out and removed a bag of lettuce. "December fifth. Ouch."

He hesitated slightly, then steeled himself and fished a flat package from the very back of the bottom shelf. It turned out to be the remains of a steak, at once rather an expensive one, that had apparently gone into the business of supporting greenish life. Without hesitation he dropped it into the trash, figuring there wasn't much need to check that expiration date.

"Of course, there's still you," he said to the foil-wrapped something, which looked faintly disturbing in response. "But maybe I will save you for tomorrow. After I buy myself a flamethrower."

Thursday, January 25, 2007


"I -- " wheezed Glen, "I can't -- can't take any more -- " He gasped for breath a few more times, mopping the sweat from his beet-red face, before going on. "What was I -- ugh -- what was I thinking?"

Sophia smiled a little, though her eyes were more concerned than amused. "You were thinking that we could use a dog around the house again, which is true. I'm not sure why you decided to get a puppy the size of a small horse, though."

"'S not -- not that big," Glen replied, sitting heavily on the porch next to her wheelchair. He glanced briefly over at the side yard, where the creature in question was bouncing around excitedly, panting but still obviously full of energy. Then he uttered a short, breathless laugh. "I remember -- last time we had a puppy -- wasn't so damn hard just to walk 'im."

"Last time we had a puppy, you were twenty years younger," Sophia replied mildly. "Also, Skipper was... rather calmer."

Glen nodded. He was breathing somewhat easier now, although his face was still an alarming shade of red. "I think I see why this guy wound up at the shelter," he said, then coughed. "My heart's goin' a mile -- mile a minute, just from tryin' to keep up with him."

"Will you be okay?" she asked, looking worried. "If we need to call an ambulance -- "

He waved a hand to dismiss her concern. "I'll be fine," he assured her, "but that dog will have to go." He looked over at it again. "I'd ask Paul if he and Rosie wanted it, but..."

"But I'd rather not have one of my grandchildren trampled by the world's biggest chocolate Lab," Sophia cut in. Glen nodded his agreement.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Meta: Holy. (Updated 2/2.)

I, um. Er. Hi to anyone coming over from Curmudgeonland. It is rather surprising to be noticed by my comic-blogging hero, but it is also completely awesome.

I would just like to note that updates have in fact been continuing apace lately; they're just backdated. All the plugfics currently showing up on the front page were actually written in the last three or four days. I am finally up to December! Hooray.

So, uh, basically pull up a chair (or since this is Pluggerland and we can't afford chairs, then I guess a rock or an orange crate or a pile of newspapers from 20 years ago or something) and stick around if you like. Check out the About entry if you're at all confused, although it is somewhat out-of-date.

Whatever you do, do not feed the bears. They'll find some way to turn it into a source of defiant working-class pride.

[UPDATE 2/2] Incidentally, thanks to everyone who left comments on various entries over the last weekish! I did not reply to each one individually because there are only so many different ways to say "thank you" and I am not creative enough to think of most of them. Regardless, know that it gratifies me to know when I have managed to write something that strikes people enough to want to post about it.

I just did December 15th's entry, which means that I'm only about a month and a half behind instead of over two months like I was for a bit. Feel free to rejoice and eat Sir Robin's minstrels, if you like.

Spare Tire

Even after he had wrestled the truck to a stop by the side of the road, the sound of the tire popping seemed to echo off the desert hills. Or maybe the damn thing hadn't just popped; maybe it had altogether exploded. Sure sounded like it.

He sat there for a few moments, hands still on the wheel, listening to the silence roll back in to fill the space left by the truck's silenced engine. He'd thought about replacing that tire at the last gas station, but had been stymied by the simple fact that the attendant there hadn't spoken a word of English. You got that sometimes, out here in the desert; what language a guy spoke wasn't as important as whether he could be trusted to actually show up to a post halfway between Somewhere and Nowhere.

Of course, it meant that he'd been forced to continue on his trip on three tires and a donut. And from the sound of it, the donut had just blown.

His eyes went to the cellphone on his dashboard, but he knew there would be point in even trying it. There just wasn't any coverage out here. His son had tried to explain it once, how the craggy hills blocked out the signals, but all he knew from his many trips across the desert was that there was a large swatch where cellphones simply didn't work.

"Well then," he said to the silence, and lowered his hands to his lap. He was thirty miles from anywhere, in the desert, with a flat tire, and with night coming on.

He was also edging toward sixty years old, and too damn tired by far to even want to think about this predicament.

"Well, then. What now?"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007



He ignored his mother's voice wafting up from the kitchen; truth be told, he didn't even notice it. All his attention was focused on the words in front of him, on the world of gods and magic and ambulatory furniture.


He'd gotten two books for his birthday last year, had borrowed several more from the library. One wondrous day he had found, lurking in the back of the used-book store down the street, four ragged volumes priced at a quarter each. He had snatched them up immediately, bearing his plastic-bagged prize home as though it were made of glass.

At first his parents had only been glad to see him reading so willingly. Then, as his nigh-obsession became apparent, they tried first to ply him with other sorts of reading, then to curtail the hobby entirely. He had more or less become a junkie, and his drug was this author's work, this fantasy world that marched across the page. The only thing better than reading about it would be living in it.


Kenny's head whipped up, his attention dragged at last from the book. He recognized that tone of voice. It was the one that meant that it was likely already too late to avoid punishment; probably he should have taken out the trash when she asked, except he'd figured he could read a little more before dinner --

He hid the book back under his mattress, then hopped up and made a run for the stairs. Maybe someday he could find a way out of this world, find the one where he could be a powerful magician who never had to do any chores he didn't want to, but right now he'd settle for not being grounded.

Magic and ambulatory furniture... maybe little Kenny has discovered Terry Pratchett, and maybe he's discovered the Elemenstor Saga. You can decide for yourself, because I like both possibilities.

definitely not The Song of the Sorcelator, though. Even a child can see through that tripe.

Monday, January 22, 2007

No Cash

Phillip growled, more in frustration than anything else. "I should've known that guy didn't actually have anything on him. He was in Wal-Mart, for god's sakes."

"Probably there with a pocketful of food stamps," Tommy agreed, voice dripping with amusement. "You sure know how to pick 'em."

"Yeah? Well, what have you accomplished today, huh?"

Tommy held up another wallet, this one an obviously expensive leather affair. "Two hundred and twenty-eight bucks. Cash. And a debit card with his PIN written on a Post-It. Though I gave that to Sarah. I ain't gettin' caught on camera at the ATM, but if she wants ice that bad, she can go right on ahead."

"Dammit, you always have the luck," Phillip groused. He leaned on the railing, legs dangling over the edge of the balcony; were anyone to look up, they might wonder what someone was doing sitting around in an abandoned building, but nobody did. "Whoever said crime doesn't pay obviously never met you."

"Heh, yeah." Tommy flashed a grin, then carefully tucked the wallet back into his pocket. "You meetin' your parole officer tomorrow?"

"Yep. Ten-thirty AM, sharp." Phillip stood up and dusted off the seat of his pants. "Gonna tell him I've been a good, law-abidin' citizen, and that I sure have learned not to steal no more." He uttered a short laugh. "Might as well be true, for all I'm pullin' in lately."

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Afterwards, Vern couldn't remember whether it had been his imagination, or whether he actually had heard his wrist shatter. Well, not that any shattering had necessarily occurred; it certainly felt like it, and possibly sounded like it too, but probably that had just been his rather biased opinion.

"Shitshitshitshit," he remarked conversationally, abruptly sitting down and clutching his arm. The bowling ball, flung randomly from a hand suddenly unprepared to deal with its weight, had crashed down in the next lane over, and was now calmly disappearing down the gutter. "Shitshit," Vern added, in case anyone was confused.

He became aware suddenly that Brad and Lenny were squatting down on either side of him, and over by their seats, Marvin was gesturing frantically at the bowling alley's owner. Vern couldn't quite tell what the problem was, but after a moment the owner turned and hurried away, so probably it wasn't anything he needed to worry about. And a good thing, too. He had enough on his mind as it was.

"What?" he asked, realizing that perhaps he should be paying attention to whatever Len and Brad were saying.

Marvin hurried up behind him. "Okay, guys, the owner's calling 911," he said breathlessly. "Vern, man, you okay?"

Vern looked at his wrist, as best he could through the haze that kept seeping in around the edges of his vision. It was bent at rather a horrendous angle, but at least did not appear to be on fire. Or mauled by bears. "Maybe?"

Brad snorted. "Dammit, man, I told you that ball was too heavy for you," he muttered. "Didn't I? Didn't I just get done saying that?"

"Yeah." Vern swallowed. "You said I'd break my damn fool wrist."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Senior Tickets

"Senior ticket, please," Lina said sweetly, handing over the four dollars. She accepted her ticket with a smile, followed Debbie into the theater lobby, and calmly stood in the concession line.

Finally Debbie gave in. "You're not even 45 yet, woman! How do you get away with pulling that kind of trick?"

"Well, it helps that you only have to be 50 to get the senior discount here," Lina replied, grinning. "And apparently I just look older than I really am, so."

Debbie shook her head. "I'm 'in my late 30s' for about the ninth year running, and here you are going completely the opposite direction. I'm pretty sure that's not normal."

"I've always believed in owning my age... two Cokes, please," Lina added as an aside to the man behind the counter. "And, well, if owning a little more lets me save a little money, what's the harm?"

"Because there's no harm in fraud," Debbie replied, rolling her eyes.

Lina handed over one Coke and sipped demurely at the other. "They'll roll the movie whether I'm sitting there or not. Seems the actual amount I pay to get in doesn't actually matter too much."

Chuckling, Debbie nodded. "Tell yourself that if you want, I suppose. Me, I'll be happy to pay full price for a while longer."

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Arnie pulled distractedly at one of the straps on his suitcase. "No, no, they said when I took the Greyhound to visit my son that my suitcases were just fine. I only brought the one bag, after all, and the rules say I can have two, so I'm well under my limit." He adjusted his glasses, looking up at the skycap. "I made sure to read up on that. I know my rights."

The skycap, a young man whose nametag identified him as CHARLES, blinked a few times. "Yes, airline regulations state you can have two bags checked as long as they fit the size requirements. Only, I'm afraid I simply can't check this bag for you."

"It's not oversize," Arnie replied, frowning. "I checked. I was very careful to bring my smaller suitcase, because I know it's not oversize." CHARLES looked as though he was about to say something, but Arnie soldiered on. "I'm going to see my daughter and her husband and my granddaughters in Milwaukee. I brought presents for the girls because I haven't seen them in two years. It's very important that I get my bag checked so the girls get their presents."

CHARLES nodded. "Yes, sir, I'm sure it is. And I'm very sorry, but your suitcase cannot be checked onto the plane."

"But the Greyhound people said it was all right when I visited my son." Seeing that he was not getting the desired results, Arnie fell back on an earlier point. "It isn't too big to be checked. I know my rights."

The muscles in CHARLES's jaw twitched. "Sir, I'm afraid that we may have different rules for baggage than Greyhound does. For one thing, all suitcases must properly close."

"It is closed!"

"Only because you have it tied together with rope," CHARLES answered.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reduced Speed

Someone behind them honked, and James's eyes flared. "I know!" he roared, "what do you want from me?!"

"They can't hear you, but I can. And I'd rather you didn't completely freak out quite yet." Molly folded her arms across her chest. "Just... just give it a second, and then try to start it again. Maybe it'll work."

"I can't believe this," James snarled, pounding a hand on the steering wheel. "Almost made it home. I hate this goddamn car!"

"'m sorry," Molly answered quietly. Without even really noticing she was doing it, she hunched toward the passenger door, away from him; a moment later she realized her mistake, but by then James had already noticed.

"Molly, Molly, please," he snapped. "This whole recoiling-in-terror thing, it really isn't helping. I have to be allowed to get angry, and if you're just going to go all fetal-position then I'm just going to get more stressed out."

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do it!" She felt the tears coming to her eyes, as much as she was trying to hold them back. "Please, I'm sorry, I really didn't mean it, just... try it and maybe it will start now and we can go home?"

His hand drummed angrily on the dashboard. "I don't even know if I can drive home now even if it does start; my stomach is just killing me now. I need you to try to hold it together, okay? This emotional outburst thing has got to stop."

"I'll stop, I promise I'll stop, I really really will," she answered quickly.

James turned the key in the ignition, and the car started up readily; then he shifted into drive, hit the gas, and the engine died again.

Molly sat still and quiet, willing herself to not even breathe too loud, as he screamed profanities at the unmoving car.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


"It just doesn't seem fair," Katie said quietly. She glanced at their father, sitting by the window in the wheelchair one of the nurses had fetched for him. "This must be so humiliating for him, to wind up in a place like this."

Dean nodded. "He and I actually talked about it some earlier, while you were parking the car." Then, as she looked at him in surprise, "We didn't say much, really. I told him we were sorry about all this. He told me he was too."

Tears loomed in Katie's eyes. "He's just so helpless sometimes," she said in a choked voice. "He was always so strong, and now sometimes he can't even remember where the bathroom is in his own damn house."

"I know, Kay-kay, I know." Dean wrapped his sister in a hug, trying to comfort her, feeling her tears begin to wet his shoulder as he continued. "He knows too. He can't always take care of himself these days, and he said he hates it, but that..." He swallowed. "That he knows it's time for this. For someone else to take care of him. Someone who knows how."

Katie looked over at their father again, still sitting by the window. The slump of his shoulders matched her own. "God, aging sucks," she whispered.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Meta: Behind. (Updated again.)

Starting to come back from the extended downtime. As a reminder, first I was moving and getting set up for school; then I had to drive across a few states to deal with a minor family issue; then I found out that my fiance had died. It has been hard to get back to the point of wanting to do creative things, but really, random Internet-related creative endeavors have been a major part of my life for years. Heck, it's how the dearly departed and I even met in the first place. So I'm comin' back, slowly. Wrote a couple more plugfics today.

Thanks to anyone still interested in my bit of e-weirdness here.


Richard lowered himself into the bath gingerly, sighing as the warm water began its work. He'd have much rather run the water hot, except his doctor had nixed that -- warm was bad enough, she'd told him, it was cold that would actually help the inflammation in his joints. Thing was, there was nothing soothing about a cold bath. It seemed rather an oversight on the part of whoever was in charge of such things.

He lay there for a few minutes, not really thinking about anything, letting the warm water do its work. It had been a long day, with little opportunity to relax. He'd gotten a lot accomplished, though. Richard smiled a little. Yeah, it had been a pretty good day.

Eventually the water grew tepid, and then he rose, leaning fairly heavily on the bar installed in the bathroom wall. He stepped out carefully, then grabbed a towel and began drying off.

It was funny how much more he had come to appreciate a good bath since the accident. His broken leg and ribs had mended, and the pin in his hip had long since been set into place. Mainly he didn't have too much trouble with pain anymore, except on long days like today. But he was always up for a nice warm soak.

Finally, bathed and dressed, Richard exited the bathroom and walked slowly down the hall. He would watch a little TV, maybe catch the news, then call it a night. As he settled onto the couch, the lack of pain from his joints made him smile again. And since he'd done things the smart way 'round, he wouldn't even have to go to bed smelling of Ben-Gay tonight.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


"Oh." He rubbed nervously at his chin. "Er. Look, I'm sorry, you know I don't mean anything by -- "

She raised an eyebrow, her expression cool, though he could tell she was genuinely bothered. "I know you don't mean anything by forgetting." She busied herself with the bookcase, straightening a few books that had been shelved hastily. Probably by him. "I'm beginning to think you didn't mean anything by anything, really."

"Sweetie -- "

"I don't think I'm particularly high-maintenance," she interrupted, not looking at him. "I don't care if you forget my birthday, or our anniversary -- hell, sometimes I forget them myself. I don't ask for anything for Valentine's Day, or Sweetest Day, or whatever holiday the greeting card companies have invented this week." Her eyes met his, and he realized that she was fighting back tears. "But this one thing, this one one-time thing that I ask of you? One evening ever, and that's it? Apparently it's too much to ask. Which makes me wonder if maybe I'm just not worth it to you. Or worth anything."

He took a step closer to her, meaning to try to comfort her, but thought better of it. "Look, I'm sorry I forgot. I know this... concert thing... is important to you -- and you're important to me -- I just... forgot, is all."

She looked down at the floor, her growing anger giving way to a sadness that hurt him far worse. "He's one of the greatest cello players in the world," she said quietly. "And I only got to study under him for three years before mom died and we had to move back to Wisconsin. I could've been up there making music for people all over the world, just like him. Now all I can do is hope he'll give a performance somewhere I can actually afford to get to, so I can sit in the audience with all the other nobodies." Then she looked back up at her husband. The tears were falling freely now. "Except I can't even do that, because you didn't bother to get the tickets. Were you too busy fishing with your buddies? Was that it?"

It was his turn to look at the floor now, unable to meet her eyes. "I deserve that."

"Which I guess means 'yes'," she replied.

Friday, January 12, 2007

My Space

Rebecca curled up tighter on the bed, despite the pain that shot across her middle. One hand cupped her face gingerly. She wasn't crying, in part because her left eye was already swelling up enough as it was, but mostly because she didn't want to draw any more attention to herself. She was safe in her room, at least for now. Better to keep quiet, and hope dad didn't find reason to come in here and continue their "conversation".

One shaking hand reached out and snagged the fluffy foot of a stuffed rabbit. Rebecca clutched it to her chest and allowed herself one small sob. She'd had no idea this would happen when she decided to go out with Shelly. Seeing a movie wasn't worth this. Maybe nothing was.

She'd come home from school at 3:30, just like always. No one else had been home, but that was normal. Rebecca had thought nothing of leaving the note on the fridge; she'd had a twenty burning a hole in her pocket since her birthday last week, and she and Shelly hadn't hung out in ages. "At the movies," she'd scrawled, "back 8ish." And she had pinned up the note with a magnet shaped like a tomato, and skipped right back out the door.

Now, alone in the silence of her room, Rebecca squeezed the stuffed rabbit tighter. Dad had been waiting in the living room when she came home for the second time. She should have realized something was wrong as soon as she came in the door, but the smell of beer hadn't registered at first. Then he'd fairly leapt across the room and seized her wrist like grim death. She wasn't to go out without permission again, it seemed. This became abundantly clear shortly. Dad supplemented the argument with his fists, as was usual when he'd been drinking; then, at last, he had sent her to her room. She'd gone gladly.

Now Rebecca lay on her bed, hardly daring to move, a few silent tears falling to wet the fur of the stuffed rabbit. The room softly faded to darkness as the last of the light drained from the sky outside. Finally she slept, and when her father left for the bar, she did not hear.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Loaned Out

Terry's smile lasted until the front door closed, then fell immediately into a scowl. He glared at the open toolbox for a moment before bending to close it up and shove it back into the closet.

Lanie leaned against the doorway to the kitchen. "Was that your brother?"


"Well, why didn't you invite him in? I could've offered him some coffee -- "

Terry snorted. "He already got what he came for. 'Hey, Ter, mind if I borrow your belt sander?' 'Sure, Adam, why not? You've had it the last four weeks out of five, after all, what's one more?' Cripes."

"Language, dear," Lanie replied mildly, laying a hand on her husband's arm. "And anyway, why don't we just buy him a belt sander for his birthday? It's coming up soon, after all, and then you won't have to worry about him borrowing yours anymore."

"You know how much those things cost?" he grumbled. "Plus it wouldn't work. Remember how he used to always be over here borrowing my drill? Then his wife got him one for Christmas."

Lanie tilted her head to one side. "Didn't he stop borrowing the drill and start borrowing something else after that?"

"Uh huh. My angle grinder. Until someone got him one of those and then he switched to something else." Terry shrugged. "He's been doing this since he was a kid. If he wants something of yours, he'll just keep borrowing it until you give in and buy him one just so's you can get yours back. And I'm tired of having to keep up with that."

"Maybe you should actually talk to him about this if you want him to stop."

He gave a humorless little grin. "Probably," he agreed. "But right now it seems easier to just sacrifice my sander to the cause of savin' me that headache."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Banana Split

Lynn tapped her brother on the shoulder excitedly. "Can I have half? I want half," she exclaimed. "Share?"

Laughing, Howie held the banana up above her head. "Get your own if you want some! This one's mine!" He reached up with his other hand and continued peeling the item of contention, laughing again as she made a playful jump for it.

"But if I have a whole one, my ears will itch!"

Howie rolled his eyes. "You know, generally speaking, if you have a negative reaction to a food, you just don't eat it."

"A little is okay! I'm not that allergic! And I like bananas." Lynn pouted. "Pleeease?"

"All right, all right." With an exaggerated sigh, he lowered his arms and broke off the top half of the banana. "And I don't even think you can be allergic to bananas anyway."

Lynn stuck out her tongue, then gleefully devoured her prize.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


"The problem these days is just keeping him occupied," Rose lamented. "I mean, he's a good boy, and he does all his schoolwork and all his chores. He's no more disobedient than any eight-year-old, really." She sipped at her tea. "Except as soon as he gets bored, he starts getting inquisitive. And that gets expensive."

Jessica clucked sympathetically. "My Billy used to always take apart his toys and then demand new ones. He gave up once he saw that it wasn't getting him anything but broken toys, of course, but still, it was awfully frustrating."

"No, no." Rose shook her head. "Scott isn't trying to be destructive, or breaking things and then asking to have them replaced. He just... wants to know things. Like how the bathroom scale works." She chuckled as she added, "I have to admit I'd never cared about it myself until I saw him with the thing in pieces all across my floor."

"Well, an inquisitive mind is a good thing to encourage in a child. He'll need problem-solving skills when he grows up, and all that."

"Oh, so they say. But they don't have to deal with the answer to an eight-year-old's question of 'how does a DVD player work'."

Jessica smiled over the rim of her teacup. "And what is that answer?"

"Now?" Rose answered wryly. "'It doesn't.'"

Monday, January 08, 2007


After she left he had gone into the bedroom, flopped down on the bed and stared at the ceiling for a while. It was taking a while to sink in. Six years together, three of those in the same apartment, and now it was all over. "Not feeling it anymore," she said. Well, what did that even mean?

He lay there for maybe half an hour, not wanting to think about what had just happened, but unable to stop. He kept thinking back to the years they had had together, which was even worse. What good were all of the hopes he'd had for them, all the times they'd talked about finally getting married, settling down, buying a house -- what the hell had been the point? Six years of his life gone, and yet not nearly enough time. Why did it have to turn out like this?

Eventually he got up and went to the closet. The door was hanging partly open; she hadn't bothered to shut it after emptying her half. Absently he pushed it aside and stared at his own clothes. They seemed almost to be huddled together against the gaping emptiness on the other side. He knew how they felt.

He pulled out one of his t-shirts and stared at it for a minute. Band logo in blue and white on red. He remembered buying this one; it had been at that concert at the Coach House two years ago. Her favorite band, and she'd convinced him to come along. He had loved it.

Angry, now, he threw the shirt to the floor. She'd certainly done a good job excising herself from his life, so why didn't he finish the job? He tore another shirt from the closet. "No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer," it read -- a birthday present from her, back when he kept getting suckered into doing everyone's tech support at work. He hurled it at the floor with the first one. Here, one of those fancy-pants polo shirts with the alligator on it, which she had given him as a joke; there, a sweatshirt bought from their favorite vacation spot. Souvenirs of their life together, now as useless as he felt.

Finally he finished the job, and then only stood there for a moment, glaring at the pile of clothing. He stormed out to the kitchen for a trash bag to put it in. That was the ticket. He'd throw it all away. She'd thrown him away, after all, hadn't she? So he thought as he worked on bagging up the pile; but when he was done he only left the bag of shirts there, and sat on the bed to stare at it, thoughtfully.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


"So we should have the third-quarter reports ready by Thur... by Th... Thursd..." Williams sneezed explosively, then scowled. "Damn this cold."

Liu chuckled. "You finally caught it, huh?"

"More like it caught me." Williams leaned against the wall by the water cooler. "I've been popping cold medicine like it was candy, but it doesn't seem to help much."

"Well, it's not supposed to help, not really. It doesn't make you better. Just hides the symptoms so you feel good enough to go out and infect other people, who will then buy more cold medicine."

Williams waved a hand dismissively. "Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a vast conspiracy." Then he gave Liu an appraising look. "I notice you haven't succumbed yet. Some Eastern miracle remedy us poor saps don't know about?"

Liu burst out laughing at that, earning a strange look from one of the secretaries who happened to be walking by just at that moment. "Oh, there is a secret to not getting sick, O foolish round-eye. But it's actually pretty damn simple."

"Do tell."

"Just be an antisocial bastard to almost everyone you meet," he replied, grinning. "Then you won't actually be around anyone enough to catch what they've got."

Williams pondered this for a moment, then glanced sidelong at the other man. "Your method appears to have a fatal flaw, ol'-buddy-ol'-pal."

"That'd be your fault, Typhoid Mary," Liu chuckled.

There's a nasty flu going around my campus right now, along with all the usual varieties of cold. Most of my classes are half-empty, and just about everyone who does bother to show up is a sniffling, coughing mess, but I have yet to catch anything. What's my secret, you might ask? Simple -- I have no friends on campus, and practically never interact with anyone while I'm out.

It might be sad, but hey, it works. Buncha plaguey suckers.

Friday, January 05, 2007

An Average Day

Jordan twisted about under the covers, trying to get comfortable. It had been a long day, and looked to be just as long tomorrow; a pity, then, that he couldn't seem to get any sleep, since he could really use some.

His mind was refusing to settle down, but instead skipped merrily along, going over everything he'd done today and everything still left to do. Of course, he hadn't gotten to mowing the lawn yet, but that could be done easily enough tomorrow... oh, and he needed to return the tools he'd borrowed from his brother. No, wait, Mike had said he didn't need them back yet. All right, then, never mind.

He turned over again, just about as tired as he could ever remember being, and yet still his mind raced on. There was the laundry... no, no, he'd caught up on that, there wouldn't be but one load to do tomorrow. And there were the bills to pay... tomorrow. They could wait one more day, surely. He wouldn't be able to mail them out till tomorrow anyway.

He could do the mending on his overalls before going off to work, and mow the lawn after he came home; of course, right after work he needed to visit Mama and take her out to dinner, so he wouldn't actually get home till fairly late. And then after that there was the creaky bathroom door that he should take a look at, and maybe at some point he could even get a chance to catch a couple minutes of that new TV show that Mike kept saying he should watch.

And there were the bills to pay, of course.

A few more minutes went by, and Jordan lay awake with his body screaming for rest and his brain kicked up into overdrive. Finally, sighing loudly, he kicked off the blankets and got back up.

Might as well get something else done, since sleep obviously wasn't on the list.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reading Glasses

"Where are your...?" Sean repeated, confused. "You don't wear glasses."

"Well, they're not glasses glasses," Danny replied from the depths of the hall closet. "They're reading glasses." He emerged with an old ski cap on his head and a frown on his face. "I found this kickass pair at Rite Aid. They're like Buddy Holly glasses, only with rhinestones."

"Buddy who?"

Danny gave him a mournful look. "What are they teaching you kids these days?"

"You tell me, man, you're only two months older than I am." Then he replayed the conversation in his head and blinked. "Wait, you've been going around wearing glasses with rhinestones on 'em?"

"Yeah. They're the ugliest damn things you ever saw. I hope I can find 'em." Danny rummaged between two of the couch cushions, and came up with a sock, but no glasses. He pulled the sock over his hand, then turned the resulting puppet on his roommate. "Youuuu didn't steal them, did you?" it asked, in a high-pitched version of Danny's voice.

Sean paused for a moment. "Er. First of all, I didn't take your glasses. Second of all, you're completely insane."

"Oh, probably," Danny agreed cheerfully. The sock nodded in agreement, then began rooting around in the couch, and Sean decided to leave before it started talking to him again.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Hank heard more than felt the snap as something in his back gave way. His end of the box fell from suddenly strengthless hands, crashing to the bed of the truck, and he had a moment to wonder idly just what the hell was going on. Then the pain hit.

Paulie goggled fearfully at him from the other side of the box. "You okay, dad?" After a moment, he dropped his end as well and clambered over to Hank's side. "Dad?" Hank's attempt to reply came out as little more than a grunt, and Paulie gulped. "I'll get mom," the boy finished shakily, and ran off.

Any attempt to move exponentially increased what was already a staggering amount of pain, and so Hank remained stiffly in position, trying his best not to breathe. He became vaguely aware that his face was fixed in a grimace, teeth clenched; no wonder Paulie had seemed so frightened. Probably he should be frightened himself, except right now he was too busy concentrating on not passing out.

"Hank?" His wife Karen's voice, behind him. She put a hand on his shoulder, and a sort of groaning whimper escaped him. The hand was removed at once. A moment later, she was in front of him, holding his eyes with hers while she spoke in a level but urgent voice.

"Are you okay?"

He managed a grunt.

"Is it your back?"

Another grunt.

Her mouth tightened, and then she looked past him. "Paulie. Sweetie, get inside, right now. I want you to run the bathtub full of hot water, okay? Can you do that for me?"

"Yeah, but -- "


Paulie went. Hank grunted something again, and Karen looked at him again. "I know, you don't even want to think about getting to the bathtub, let alone getting in it. But I needed to get him out of the way. He's going to panic otherwise." She wrung her hands briefly, and Hank realized she wasn't that far from panicking herself. "I'm going to go inside myself now, and dial Doc Hammer. And then he'll tell me what to do next, because I have no idea." Then, with a bit more spirit, "And you will not be doing any more heavy lifting."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Money Clip

Reggie watched with obvious amusement as Dale reached into his pocket and extracted a thick roll of bills. The latter man snapped back the rubber band and carefully began peeling off singles; Reggie grinned, but said nothing.

Finally Dale looked up, eyebrow arched. "What?"

Reggie's grin widened. "Careful there, high roller. Someone might mistake you for a mobster, with that kind of cash."

Dale scowled down at the bills in his hand. "One of us here is a wise guy, but it ain't me." Carefully he secured the rubber band around the remaining bills, and deposited the entire affair back in his pocket.

"My apologies, Godfather," Reggie laughed. "Can we skip the horse's head in my bed? The wife just bought new sheets, and she'd kill me for messing 'em up."

"One of these days that mouth of yours is gonna get you in trouble," Dale admonished, feeding his money into the change machine and scooping up the quarters that came out. "So help me wash my damn car already, so we can get it done before that happens."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Inna Box

Though Crystal's attempts at thinking were still not entirely meeting with success, she nevertheless vaguely grasped that perhaps calling Vicky had been a bad idea.

It had started out seeming reasonable enough. Freshly dumped by her boyfriend, Crystal would naturally have wanted to find someone's shoulder to cry on. She could no longer remember quite why she had settled on Vicky. True, they went back over a decade, and the woman was possessed of both a caring heart and a brilliant mind. The problem, of course, was that her brilliance tended to exert itself in a mad-science sort of way. Vix tended to see most problems as engineering problems. Usually best solved using some sort of doomsday device.

Perhaps things would have gone better had Crystal's ex not chosen New Year's Eve as the time to drop the bad news. Alternately, perhaps Crystal should have remembered that Vix kept a large supply of boxed wine around her home even without it being a holiday greatly dedicated to drinking. As it was, though, her outpouring of woe, combined with Vix's wicked mind, all swirled up with liberal amounts of cheap booze... she could see now that it had been a bad combination.

Still, it had been really something watching her assemble that trebuchet so rapidly.

The two women paused by Vicky's truck, the bed of which held a tarp-covered pile of stuff that might have been recognized as a hastily disassembled bit of medieval siege weaponry. The access road they were on snaked through low hills covered with small trees and brambly undergrowth. Downhill and across the street proper, barely visible through the branches, the flashing lights of several emergency vehicles illuminated a small huddle of people outside of Crystal's ex's house.

From this distance it was impossible to hear much, but it was still delightfully easy to imagine how he must be reacting to the unexpected new hole in his living room ceiling.

She turned to Vicky, somewhat unsteadily. "Where did you even find a cow at this hour?"

Man I am finally up to 2007. Awesome.

In celebration, a little tale of vaguely Narbonic-style hijinxery! I got the idea in the shower and just couldn't resist using it.