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.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Current top-of-the-page post.

Hi, welcome, and drag up whatever passes for seating in Pluggerland. I got behind on the plugfics for a while there, but updates are still continuing; in fact, I just finished January 9th's entry not five minutes ago. Eventually I'll get caught up.

Stick around if you want, and feel free to comment no matter what your opinion. I've got plenty of green bean casserole, leftover meatloaf, and gallon-jug wine for everyone.

Edit 2/28: Also, since Blogger forced me to switch to the new version (boo change, boo having to get a Google account), I have tweaked the layout (boo the helpfile on post summaries being no use whatsoever1, forcing me to look elsewhere). I hope the new color scheme looks okay on monitors that are not elderly and over-dark.

1. Mainly it just lied about where to insert the conditional in the template, but that was sure enough to break everything. Mr. Chen actually leaves out the endif statement on his first code snippet, but that's a lot easier to debug than "this code goes somewhere but not actually the place the helpfile claims".

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Getting Carded

"Huh?" Manny replied, not sure if he had heard right.

The girl working the ticket stand rolled her eyes. "Your ID, sir. Can I see it, please?"

"Oh, uh, yes." He fumbled out his wallet and began rooting around in it, meanwhile wondering why he needed an ID just to get into a movie. It'd make sense if he were a kid trying to sneak into a gory picture. Thing was, he was 37 and the movie he wanted to see was rated PG. He found the ID card before he found an answer, and held it aloft, somewhat confusedly.

The ticket girl, for her part, idly thumped a few buttons on the register. "Eight-seventy-five, please," she said in a bored voice. No explanation seemed forthcoming, so Manny forked over the money silently and escaped with his ticket.

He kept an eye on the ticket line as he made his way to the concession stand. The guy who'd been behind him in line didn't get carded, just got charged the better part of nine bucks without incident. Manny looked at the mirror behind the concession workers, wondering if perhaps he'd acquired the face of some famous criminal since this morning; but no, the usual mug stared back at him, slightly tired-looking beneath thinning red hair. Maybe the ticket girl was just bored.

He ordered popcorn and a Coke from a gangly kid with braces, this time managing to complete the transaction without having to show his ID.

...am I the only one with deja vu?

Friday, February 16, 2007


Sheriff Louie paused in the act of riding an imaginary horse across the backyard. "Now I gotcha!" he yelled, and plugged the grim outlaw Bad Bart with a few imaginary bullets.

The grim outlaw, for his part, seemed to be paying no notice to the little drama in which he was involved. He was kneeling in a manner wholly unbecoming to a corpse, hands pressed up against the wooden fence that separated their yard from the one next door, one eye glued to a knothole. The sheriff tried shooting him a few more times, then gave up in disgust.

"Hey, Bart, what are you -- "

The older boy whipped his head around and fixed Louie with a glare. "Shh!" he hissed, turning back to the fence.

Louie joined his brother at the fence, sitting down cross-legged beside him. "What are you doing?" he repeated in a loud whisper.

"'M watching Missus Lee be naked," Bart replied in the tone of voice often used to describe religious experiences.

Louie, for his part, merely sat there for a few moments, digesting this. Then he cocked his head. "Yeah?"

Bart nodded. "She's sittin' in a chair by her pool an' I think she's sleepin', and she's naked. All she's wearin' is just a little thing of underwear." He gave his little brother a meaningful look. "And not nothing on top."

"If she's got underwear on, she's not naked," Louie argued. Bart shrugged, his attention turned to the knothole again. After a second Louie raised up onto his knees. "Come on, Bart, I'm bored. Let's play some more."

"You can play stupid little kid games if you want," Bart replied, not looking at him. "But I don't wanna."

Stung, Louie stood up and backed away a few steps. "Fine," he replied; then, pitching his voice to a shout, "If you wanna look at Missus Lee be naked, go ahead!" He turned and pelted back to the house as from the other side of the fence came the sound of another set of footsteps, hurrying away across poolside concrete.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Shelly sighed, then prodded at the sleeping form of her husband. "Nate." Another poke, harder this time. "Nate. Nathan." At last he twitched, uttered a particularly loud snore, and then looked blearily up at her. "It's nine-thirty."

Nate stretched luxuriously on the couch, uttering a huge yawn, then blinked at her a few more times, scratching idly at his side. "Yeah?"

"I'm going to bed now, Nate."

His eyes cleared slightly. "Oh, nine-thirty PM?"

"Either that or you've been napping for fifteen hours," she answered, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.

"Man. That was a gooood nap," he said, smiling as he gave another stretch. "It's great just having a nice relaxing evening, Shel, you should try it sometime."

Shelly's mouth twitched into a brief frown, which went unnoticed by her husband. "If I ever get an evening where I have the time, maybe I'll try it."

Nate rose from the couch and ambled out of the living room. "Bedtime, huh?" He yawned again. "Sounds good to me; I'm beat."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Four Eyes

Tim blinked a few times, squinting against the sudden blurriness of the world. "Now, keep in mind, it takes those just to make my vision almost normal," he said, handing his glasses to one of his friends. "Don't look too long. Most people get nasty headaches if they try."

The green-clad blur that he knew to be Ben laughed. "Oh, wow, I can practically see through time with these! You sure you're not legally blind, man?"

"Hell if I know," Tim answered with a grin. "All I know is, if I wanna see six inches in front of my face, I need those things."

The green blur shifted suddenly, and Tim squinted again. He could barely make out the movement as Ben handed the glasses over to Garrick. "Don't drop 'em," Ben said humorously, and Garrick mimed doing exactly that before putting them on.

A half-second later he whipped them off again, holding them back out to Ben. "Gah!" he exclaimed, "I think I have a headache already!" The three chuckled, and then Ben began to hold the glasses back out to Tim.

"Here you go, buddy, you can have back your eyes no -- "

As Tim reached out for the glasses, Ben loosened his grip on them; the former man's poor vision betrayed him, however, and he misjudged the movement, accidentally batting at the glasses instead of grabbing them. Knocked from Ben's hand, they fell unceremoniously to the sidewalk. There was an apologetic cracking noise.

Nobody said anything for a few moments, until finally Garrick broke the silence. "Uh. You want us to walk you home so you can get your extra pair, Tim?" he asked hesitantly.

"I don't have an extra pair."

"Oh," Ben replied.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Home Security

To Bill's surprise, the front door swung open as soon as he tried to put his key in the lock. He gave the knob a turn, and found it unlocked. "Um," he said. "Didn't you lock the door when we left?"


He pushed on into the apartment, feeling his heart sink as he looked around at the chaos within. "Dammit, someone broke in! I can't believe this! The one time we get to take a vacation, and someone breaks in!"

Irene appeared in the doorway, and slapped a hand over her mouth as her eyes went wide. "Oh my god!" she choked out in a high-pitched voice. "My crystal!"

"Yeah, and the TV and DVD player," Bill replied grimly. "And probably just about everything else of value in the place -- they obviously wanted to be thorough." He groaned and ran his hands through his hair. "How the hell did they get in? We locked up on the way out!"

There was a pause, during which Irene's face colored. "Um," she said finally. "I didn't, um. Actually lock the front door."

Bill's hands dropped, and he looked at her with an expression of utter shock.

"I didn't figure we needed to!" she added hastily, face now bright red. "I mean, no one in this neighborhood's ever been burgled before..."

"Gnrfle!" Bill exclaimed incoherently, burying his head in his hands again.

Monday, February 12, 2007


"Neil!" Cora called toward the staircase, setting the casserole dish down on the table. "Dinner's ready, sweetie!"

There was no answer, and after a few moments Tony walked over to the stairs, cupping his hands theatrically around his mouth. "I'm comin' up after you, kiddo! You better not be into anything you shouldn't be, or there's going to be ticklings!"

That got a response, and both parents grinned. "I'm coming!" Neil replied from somewhere upstairs, sounding vaguely panicked. "No tickling, I'm coming!"

From the kitchen, Cora could see her husband at the foot of the stairs, and could hear her son come padding toward their top. Suddenly Tony's jaw dropped, at what, she could not see; she felt a little trill of fear go through her. "Is something wrong? Neil, sweetie, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, mommy!" the boy answered as he came thumping down the stairs. She smiled, watching him come into view -- first his feet, still clad in socks with dinosaurs printed on them; his legs and body, one little arm reaching up to grip the bannister; and lastly, his head --

"Oh dear," Cora managed, before dissolving into shocked laughter.

Tony favored her with a mock glare, then squatted down beside Neil. "Now, son, I know you want to be just like me when you grow up. And that makes me feel really good as a dad, believe me." He paused. "But from now on, don't give yourself any more haircuts, okay? Let us take care of that."

"Okay, daddy," Neil answered cheerfully. Cora resisted the urge to giggle again at the sight of them together, both of them now bald as eagles, save one springy cowlick on each head.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

R & R

Evan's eyes lit up as soon as Vivian entered the room. "Nana!" he cried, holding his arms up. "Story? Please?"

With a laugh, Viv scooped her grandson out of his bed -- which was harder now than it used to be; good lord, was he really almost three already? -- and sat down in the rocking chair with him on her lap. "All right, dear. But only one, all right? Your mom doesn't want you staying up too much past bedtime."

"I wanna hear the one with the bunny!" Evan declared, tugging at her arm. "Please? The bunny?"

"All right, we'll do the bunny," she answered, smiling. She leaned over to the bookcase by the chair, one arm holding the child firmly on her lap while she grabbed the book that was his current bedtime favorite. Then she straightened, smiling at him as he curled up comfortably on her lap. "Ready?" Evan nodded enthusiastically. "All right then."

The boy tugged at her arm again. "Nana?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Can I be a bunny too?"

Viv chuckled a little and ruffled the boy's hair. "Maybe in your dreams tonight," she answered. "Let's read the story and get you to bed, so you can find out."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Garden Gnomes

Eventually I got tired of watching him watch the yard, so I cleared my throat. He jumped, gave one last look out the window, and then turned to me; I gave him my best attempt at a smile, though it was probably looking pretty threadbare by this point. "Honestly, Mr. Pratchett. I don't think the gnomes are actually trying to kill you."

"Exactly!" he hissed, thrusting a finger towards me. "You don't think the little buggers are up to anything, which makes it all the more easy for them to work unnoticed beneath your very nose!"

"Aha." He turned back to the window, apparently well satisfied with his logic. Granted, it was pretty hard to argue with on anything resembling rational grounds, but I still gave it a shot. "Or maybe it's just that they're not up to anything at all. I mean, how could you ever tell the difference?"

He grinned over his shoulder at me. "The tiger rock argument, right?" I stared at him blankly, and he continued. "I could show you a rock and say that it keeps away tigers. You might then ask how I know a simple rock could possibly do such a thing. And I would then reply that, well, I don't see any tigers around, do you?"

I nodded. "So the gnomes are like a tiger rock."

"No!" he exclaimed, whirling around again and beginning to pace the small room. "They're not, because while the rock has nothing to do with why there's no tigers in North Carolina, the gnomes are hiding something!"

"Yes, murderous intent, I know." I sighed. "And you know that it's not just that they're inanimate lumps of plastic because...?"

He returned to his post by the window, leaning in close, shoulders hunched. "Because of their eyes," he answered quietly. "Every once in a while, you can see it in their eyes."

Almost in spite of myself, I shivered.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Safety Glasses

"Ah Christ!" Dave yelled suddenly over the sound of grinding metal. He whirled away, one hand clapped to his face. "My eye! That went right in my eye!"

The foreman was at his side almost immediately. "Shut it down!" he shouted to the man at the controls; as the machinery spun down, he turned his attention back to Dave. "All right, talk to me."

Dave gestured randomly toward the machine with his free hand. "Damn thing just blew a cloud of metal shavings right into my eye." He winced audibly. "Christ, that hurts!"

"Okay." The foreman pointed at a couple of the other workers. "You: get the eyewash kit. And you: call an ambulance. Now, people!"

"I don't have any more sick days -- " Dave began.

"Doesn't matter. You don't want your cornea all scratched up, and you definitely don't want to go blind." The foreman's face darkened. "Although I would like to know just why the hell you weren't wearing your safety glasses."

Dave barked a short laugh, utterly without humor. "There's only five pairs to go around, and six of us on shift," he answered. "Guess who drew the short straw today."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


He put down his spoon, swallowing with some difficulty. "This soup's awfully salty, ma," he said. "Is this what you actually eat for lunch?"

"Of course," she answered, refilling his just-emptied lemonade glass and then sitting down across the table. "All that fancy free-range hippie food is fine for when you're young, but when you get to be my age and have to start buying your groceries on a pension, you really start to appreciate canned soup."

"Ma," he sighed, putting a hand to his forehead. "I keep telling you, I'd be glad to help you out with your bills if you needed -- "

"There's nothing wrong with living frugally," she interrupted smoothly. "Besides, that salt you're complaining about is good for you. Canned soup is full of preservatives. Who couldn't use a little preserving?"

He paused in the act of drinking, glass suspended halfway to his mouth. "Um. You know, that's not actually how it works. That stuff preserves the food, but it's actually pretty bad for people."

"I'll tell you what," she replied archly. "You know Mrs. Vernon? That nice lady down the street? Ninety-six years old and counting, comes over to have lunch with me every other day?" He nodded. "If she dies and the doctors say it was the soup, I'll stop eating it."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Down Further

Vince paused briefly on his way out, one hand on the open door, to call "Goin' now, bye mom!" Before he could make his escape, though, he could hear her coming down the stairs. He groaned. So much for getting out before she could catch him; she'd follow him right outside if she had something to say, meaning he might as well stay here and get it over with.

As she came down the stairs and caught sight of him, her eyes went wide for a second. Then they narrowed and she heaved a sigh. "Vincent, my child, my dear little boy, what are you wearing?"

"I'm not little, mom," he grumbled. "I'm almost fifteen. And this is what all the kids are wearing."

"All the kids are wearing pants down around their knees? Really?" She leaned on the bannister and crossed her arms. "I seem to remember that being the style back when I was in school, and it was ridiculous then, too." Then, almost as an afterthought, "And close the door, please, you're letting the cold air in."

Vince complied, even though he'd rather be on the other side of the door right about now. "C'mon, mom, I don't want the other guys to think I'm weird or anything..."

His mother burst out laughing. "Oh, because certainly there's nothing weird about walking around with your underwear showing." Her eyes twinkled. "I seem to remember that not so many years ago you were wearing underwear with little rocket ships on it. Funny, you didn't seem so excited about showing that off for your little friends."

"Mo-om," Vince protested.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Close At Hand

He'd started out small, when he was younger. A few scribbles on the back of his hand when he was bored. Maybe he'd write something down on the palm so he could remember it later.

As he went through high school, either classes got more boring or his attention span just got shorter, because the patterns began to grow more complicated. Some days he would come home with ink all down his left arm, and since he tended to wear shorts, sometimes his legs would get the treatment as well. He did well in all his classes and behaved quite normally in all other ways, so while his ink-tattooing habit got him a lot of strange looks and a few trips to the school psychologist, it didn't really harm him any. Doodling, after all, is a common enough behavior; his choice of just where to doodle was the only peculiar note.

It was during his senior year of high school that the drawings reached their highest point of creativity. Jagged blocks and lines marched across his arms and legs, melding into graceful whorls and curves; they sometimes seemed almost to spell out messages in some unknown pictographic language. Every once in a while he would detail a fractal pattern in there somewhere, shapes splitting off into smaller versions of themselves, down into the most intricate levels of detail that he could get with a fine-point pen on skin. His art was a constant work in progress, for as older portions faded with time and soap and water, new drawings would take their place. He never considered himself an artist. Still, his skin was a canvas on which more than a few pens bled their last.

In college the patterns stopped. He was enrolled in the pre-law program at a fairly prestigious university; his classes were more interesting, now, or at least more challenging. There were other things to do besides doodle. By the end of his first semester, there was no sign that the ink had ever stained his skin at all.

He never considered himself an artist. But perhaps his life would have been a little more interesting if he had.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Financial Advisor

He'd hoped that would be the end of the conversation, but she followed him into the study. Too bad. He'd been hoping to have some time alone tonight -- the new issue of American Rifleman had arrived today, and there was an article on the Ruger that had caught his eye -- but apparently his wife had other plans.

"And another thing," she said, signaling that there was indeed to be another chapter of the current tirade. Joy. "I know you got a raise at the plant last week, because Caitlyn Marsh told me her husband got one too, and don't think I haven't noticed that you're not actually bringing home any more money! I suppose you're spending all the extra at that little club you and your friends go to." He started to protest, but she rolled smoothly on. "Well, I expect that to stop! It's bad enough you spend any money at all there, when it's such a dirty, sinful habit, but you won't be lying to me on top of it! You bring that money home!"

"Now, hold on!" he interjected. He scrubbed a palm over his face. "Look, Lonnie Marsh got his raise last month because he's on the floor, and all the floor workers got their raises last month. Us guys in shipping are in for a raise, but it doesn't actually start until next year." He sighed, knowing it was useless to try reasoning with her, but forging ahead anyway. "I bring home every penny that I make -- yes, every bit, don't tell me I'm lyin' about this because I'm not -- and I reckon I don't waste nearly as much at the Flamingo as you do on your lottery tickets and your goddamn church bingo."

The color drained from her face, and she gasped as if slapped. "That's the Lord's name, mister! You watch your language!"

"Fine," he replied, irritated. "I'll watch my language in here, and you," he pointed out at the hallway, "go watch something else out there." As she turned and began to stalk away, he called after her, "And next time you hear something from Caitlyn, try makin' sure she knows what she's talking about before you come yell at me!"

Friday, February 02, 2007

No Deal

"Come on," Cal wheedled. "Every damn day y'come here with the best lunch, an' every day we all slog through stale peanut butter and cold soup while you're enjoyin' gor-may on-trays. Least ya could do is trade somethin' once in a while!"

Pausing in the act of unwrapping his sandwich, Shawn cast a glance at the older man. "So bring something else if you want a change. Nobody's stopping you."

"Well, see, that's just what my wife says," Oscar exclaimed, plopping his lunchbox on the table and sitting down across from them. "She figures if something she slapped together isn't good enough for me, then I can just feed myself." He winked at Shawn. "Most of us aren't still enjoying that first year of marriage, when everything is love an' kisses an' fancy lunches every day."

Shawn colored slightly, but said nothing.

"And she knows I can't cook, too," Oscar went on, with the air of one enjoying an old gripe. "Some people say they'd burn water; me, I'd burn salad. So it's what she makes, or the cafeteria... and anything's better than the cafeteria." He laughed heartily at that, then took a large bite of his own sandwich.

"Yer a lucky bastard, Shawn," Cal said with a grin. "A bastard who won't trade lunches, but still lucky."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Out With The Boys

Jim locked the door behind them and shouldered the pooper-scooper. "Okay, boys," he said, "off we go."

Most days he walked the dogs right after getting off work; they had a backyard to run around in, but he still felt guilty if he couldn't find time to take them out. Prince was a mutt with a touch of German Shepherd, and Cookie was a good-sized Lab. Between the two of them, they added up to rather a lot of doggy energy.

Now, as they set off for their nightly jaunt, the sky was just starting to go golden as the sun wandered toward the horizon. There was a slight breeze blowing, a bit cool, but still pleasant enough as it rustled through the trees. Jim more or less let the dogs lead the way, keeping an eye out for cars and other concerns, but not otherwise paying much attention.

Eventually they wound up by the lake. He found himself smiling as they walked along its shore. This was a good place, maybe his favorite place in the world. He'd spent a lot of time here since moving in to his current house; the fishing wasn't bad in the summer, and the scenery was gorgeous just about all year 'round. It had been miserable, rainy weather the last few days, so the trees were looking bedraggled, but that lake itself was a sight to behold, with the sunset sky reflected in its gently rippling surface.

They stopped maybe twenty feet back from the lake, Prince and Cookie snuffling around the base of a good-sized oak, and Jim took the opportunity to watch a few birds flit lazily about the bushes by the little fishing dock. Then something caught his eye, and he frowned. It looked like someone had dumped a bag of trash in the lake. But who around here would do something like that...?

"Hold up, guys," he said, and made his way to the dock, dragging both dogs behind him. He still couldn't make out whatever that was floating by one of the dock supports... a bag of trash? But it didn't look like that so much as like a bunch of old rags... or...

"Holy God," Jim breathed, stopping up short. Cookie nosed about a nearby tree, but Prince had caught wind of his owner's change in mood -- or maybe just the source of that change -- and whined, ears laid flat. "Holy God," Jim repeated. Then he abruptly turned and gave the leashes a sharp tug. "Come on, guys," he said, casting a glance back at the body floating in the lake. "Back to the house. I've got a phone call to make."