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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don't Need a Key

"Back in a sec" Ray grunted, setting down his drill and stepping around a pile of two-by-fours. "Gotta make a visit to the Executive Washroom." The others laughed, as they always did whenever someone used their standard term for the onsite john. Ray wasn't even sure who'd started it, anymore. Might've even been him.

He hummed along to no particular tune as the freight elevator carried him down to the ground floor. The building was really taking shape; he'd be sorry when this job was over. The work was good, the crew got along. Even the onsite boss was an okay guy. One of those "hands-on" guys, the type who started every conversation with a hand on your shoulder and ended it with a slap on your back, but at least he didn't ride your ass all the time. Ray'd had bosses like that.

Dirt puffed up from his footsteps as he made his way across the lot, toward the "executive washroom". A couple months back, someone had taken a marker to the side of it, changing the Os in the "COOPER" logo into the breasts of a naked, grinning woman. Ray had his suspicions as to the culprit's identity -- it was a pretty good drawing, and there was only one guy on the crew who'd been a commercial artist -- but so far there'd been no noise about it from up top. She'd acquired a nickname of "Goldie", for some reason.

"Heya, sweetheart," Ray greeted Goldie now, as he eased open the door to the john. "You may not have a lotta fashion sense, but boy do I like your style."

"I'm glad to hear it, Ray."

Ray froze, one hand still on the door, not quite processing what his eyes were telling him yet. When it clicked, he became aware that he was staring at the boss, seated on the portable john, and in a definite state of less than total dress.

"Uh," Ray began uncertainly, feeling the pink slip coming. "I, uh, sorry, boss -- I didn't realize -- the door wasn't locked--"

The boss smiled. "Oh, I know. I left it that way on purpose." He shifted on the seat, then crooked a finger at Ray. "Care to join me? There's room enough for two, if we get cozy."

Ray stared, blankly, feeling his brain try and fail to make sense of this situation. "Uh. No thanks? I." He pointed spastically back toward the building. "I gotta get back to work."

"Oh, all right," the boss answered with a mock-sigh, and Ray carefully shut the door and went back up to where he'd left his drill.

"Everything come out all right?" someone quipped.

Ray shuddered.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Marty peeked over the fence again, then ducked down before Old Man Seeger saw him. "Nah, it's just watermelon juice," he reported. "I'm pretty sure."

"Nuh uh," Greg said from his position atop the slide. "It's blood 'cause he killed a guy. And then he cut the body up an' threw the parts in the creek. I saw 'im."

"You didn't see nothin', Greg Morrison," Terry replied scornfully. "You saw someone walkin' around by the creek, an' then you found somethin' that mighta been a guy's leg all rotted up but was prolly a dead raccoon."

"It was a leg," Greg said for about the tenth time. "I could see the little toe-bones."

"Because there for sure aren't any little bones in a raccoon," Terry concluded triumphantly. She was a year older than the rest of th em, and tolerated despite her know-it-all nature (and her status as Marty's big sister) primarily because she was the only one of them who could always think of something fun to do. It had been her idea to start using the old Catholic school playground, even though nobody else really did anymore. Brookhurst Elementary's playground was better, really, but since St. Clare's had closed two years back, its swings and slides went basically unused. Unless Old Man Seeger came over from next door and used them, that was.

Greg launched himself down the slide, then climbed back up its curving surface. "Nobody uses a knife that big just to eat watermelon," he argued. "So even if the stuff on his knife is just juice, Seeger's still a crazy killer. A completely crazy killer who stabs guys in their sleep." He sounded rather chipper about the matter.

Throughout all this Pat had been listening silently, idly tracking one sneakered foot through the dirt as he twisted back and forth on a swing. He laughed now, and the sound cut across the quiet spring evening. "Bet you ten dollars you can't go up to Ol' Man Seeg's and knock on the door," he said to Marty.

"No way!" Marty scrambled away from the fence separating the playground from Seeger's yard as if the old man himself might come leaping over at any second. "I don't think he's a murderer, but he's still all creepy."

Pat grinned. "Anyone?" He rooted around in his pocket for a few seconds, at last extracting a grimy ten-dollar bill. "Just go up to his door an' knock, an' if he answers, say somethin' to him." He wiggled the bill at them.

"I'll do it," Greg answered. He came down the slide again, walked over to Pat, and held out his hand. "I'll ask 'im if he's seen my dog."

Terry looked doubtful. "I don't think that's a good idea, Greg. I mean, he is creepy. And it's getting late."

"Yeah, Greg, it's almost dark," Pat added mockingly. "Ain't you scared?"

"No way!" Greg shouted, and snatched the money out of Pat's hand. "You wait right here, an' I'll prove it!"

None of them moved much as he stalked off the playground, headed for the house next door. When eventually Marty thought to peek over the fence to try to see what was going on, the house was still. Neither Greg nor Old Man Seeger was in evidence. They waited maybe half an hour more, and then Terry's watch beeped. "Eight o'clock," she announced softly. "Time for me an' Marty to go home."

"Yeah, me too," Pat replied. He glanced again toward the Seeger house. "I bet he just took my money an' ran," he added, with little conviction. "Sure. Just took it an' went right home."

"I hope so," Terry said.

Pat went on to his home, and Terry and Marty to theirs. Sometime after midnight, a dark figure dumped something by the creek, but no one was there to see it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Slow to Adapt

He reached out one gnarled hand to fiddle with the television. "Now, let's watch some TV, hmm? I think Happy Days is on." He grabbed for the knob, and seemed surprised to find instead a row of sleek buttons. "You like Happy Days. Why won't the channel change?" He burst into tears.

"Okay, Mr. Dalton, okay," the nurse said soothingly, taking his arm and gently leading him back to his bed. "It's all right. I can change the channel if you like."

Wyatt raised one withered old arm to scrub at his eyes before lying down. "All right. At least I got that damned VCR clock fixed."

"I know, Mr. Dalton." The nurse pulled his blanket up over him.

"I wanted to tell Sara. Where's Sara?" He looked panicked. "Sara?!"

The nurse took his shoulders as he started to rise. "She'll be here soon, Mr. Dalton. Just rest for now."

"She'd better get here soon," Wyatt grumbled, though he allowed himself to be put back to bed. "She's going to miss Happy Days."

The nurse smiled at him, patted the cover over his spindly chest, and let herself quietly out of the room. As soon as the door clicked shut behind her, she slumped.

"Wyatt giving you trouble?" asked one of the other nurses as he passed.

"No, it's okay." Wyatt's nurse put a hand to her head briefly. "Just my first day on the job. He's kind of... draining."

The other nurse nodded sympathetically. "You'll get used to it, a little. If that's any consolation."

Wyatt's nurse uttered a humorless little laugh. "Not really."


She grabbed a cup of coffee from the lounge, then headed back to Wyatt's room. He had moved back to the TV, and was doing something to the VCR again.

"Look, Sara! I figured out the clock on the..." He turned to her, and his face fell. "Sara?" he added doubtfully.

"She's not here," the nurse said gently. "Why don't we get you back in bed, Mr -- "

"I don't want to go to bed!" Wyatt snapped. "I'm tired of bed! And I want Sara!"

The nurse tried to smile again. "She'll be here soon, Mr. Dalton. And if you don't want to rest, why don't we watch TV?"

"All right," Wyatt replied, reaching once more for a nonexistent knob on the television. The nurse quickly stopped him before he could get upset again, then picked up the remote and began flicking through the channels.

"No, no," Wyatt muttered irritably. "None of these shows are any good. Bunch of junk. Is Happy Days on?"

"I don't think so," the nurse replied doubtfully.


She left the TV on some nature show; Wyatt was still sulking, but she preferred that to more tears. Or more questions about--

"Where's Sara?" Wyatt asked suddenly.

The nurse sighed. "She's not here, Mr. Dalton."

"I can see that. I'm not stupid." He glared at her from watery eyes. "But where is she?"

She's dead, the nurse thought to herself. She's been dead for three years, and they stopped telling you that because they couldn't bear to keep breaking your heart. Your wife's dead, you don't remember because you have Alzheimer's disease, and you're rotting away what's left of your life in a second-rate nursing home. "She's just stepped out, Mr. Dalton. She'll be back soon."

Wyatt smiled. "Good. She wouldn't want to miss Happy Days." His eyes lit up. "And maybe I can get the VCR clock set before she gets back, too. She's been on me about that for ages."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lunch Alone

Bill hung back as the other workers stowed their tools and headed towards the break area. They were joking and laughing amongst themselves; he might've joined in, but didn't see the point. If any of them noticed he was still around, they gave no sign. He busied himself with his gloves, making sure they were lined up neatly on the I-beam.

Eventually he couldn't hear their voices anymore. He ambled across the construction site to the parking lot, where the other workers had already gotten their various lunches and picked a tailgate to congregate around. Today it looked to be Fred's. PJ was regaling them all with what was undoubtedly a profoundly filthy story. Bill had a pretty good one from the time his cousin had gone to a prostitute while on business in Australia, but when he had started to tell it his second week on the site, he'd only been met with stony stares. Today, as every day for the last three months, he ate his lunch sitting alone on his own tailgate. His wife's tuna salad was probably as delicious as ever, but it generally tasted like ashes when she packed it for his lunch.

Loud laughter erupted from the knot of workers around Fred's truck, and Bill glanced over there briefly. They all seemed to be okay guys, Fred and PJ and the rest, except when they were talking to him; and then they all clammed up, mouths drawn down, eyes narrowed. He wasn't sure what he'd done wrong. All the guys at his old job back in Rockford had liked him just fine. He'd even been on the bowling team, after Jimmy had retired and left his spot vacant. But the Rockford job had ended, and there didn't seem to be any more jobs anywhere closer than Pike Creek, and so Bill and his wife had moved. Now Bill was that one guy on the crew that nobody else ever wanted to talk to, and he couldn't for the life of him figure out why.

He finished his sandwich, washed it down with warm Pepsi. The others were still talking by Fred's truck, although by now PJ had surrendered the floor to someone else. Eventually they'd finish up and head back over to the site. Then he'd trail behind them again, slinking back to his post, quietly returning to work without making eye contact with anyone. When the day ended, the others would all exchange their various farewells, while he went quietly back to his truck and went home. And then he would do it all over again tomorrow.

Bill wasn't ordinarily a contemplative man, but sometimes even he had to stop and wonder just what the hell was wrong with the world.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Top of the Food Chain

"But they're people!" cried the woman, struggling against the grip of several riot cops. "How can you do this, how can you when they're just people!" Her voice grew fainter and was swallowed up by the crowd as she was dragged away.

"Amazing," Clyde murmured, surveying the view from his seat by the window. "There must be hundreds of them."

"Thousands, according to CNN," Maria replied. She swung her laptop around so he could see the screen. "They've got aerial photography from the police helicopters."

"Hm." Clyde turned back to the window. Outside the restaurant, a mass of protesters still seethed against the police barricades, their shouts and chants audible even though the reinforced glass. "You'd think they'd have something better to do."

Maria raised an eyebrow. "Apparently Flavio's is considered quite the violation of basic rights."

Clyde chuckled, then hummed appreciatively as their waiter appeared, a steaming plate in each hand. Both plates were set before them, their wineglasses were refilled, and t hen the waiter disappeared as silently as he had come. Flavio's was renowned for its staff almost as much as for its food.

Clyde bit into his burger, then hummed again. "Superb, as always."

They both jumped as a loud CRACK resounded through the room; it became apparent that one of the protesters outside had thrown a rock at their window. Clyde laughed uproariously as the culprit was first teargassed, then pulled back towards a group of SWAT vans. The glass remained undamaged. "Ha! I love it when they bring a good beating down on themselves." He took an extra-large bite, leaning into the window to make an elaborate show of chewing. Several of the protesters outside gestured rudely, but none appeared ready share the fate of the rock-thrower by doing anything more.

Maria dabbed primly at her mouth with a napkin. "You know, Clyde, one of these days, you'll antagonize them too far."

"And what?" replied Clyde, "-- they'll throw a rock at me? And then the nearest cop will work them over with a baton." He grinned evilly. "Wouldn't be the first time a protester'd accidentally fallen down the stairs seventeen times in a row."

Maria merely smiled. "Never underestimate the power of the little people," she murmured, before going back to her burger.

Outside, another woman had worked her way to the front of the crowd and begun shouting. Clyde had observed more than once that it always seemed the middle-aged old cows who were the loudest. Younger people were more into petty vandalism; the husbands and fathers were too busy actually working to bring in money for their middle-aged old cow wives to spend.

"Flavio's is murder!" this particular middle-aged old cow was screaming now. "Flavio's kills our friends -- our neighbors -- our families!"

On their side of the glass, Clyde erupted into laughter, spraying crumbs of bread and meat. "Hey, you!" He shouted at the window. "Hey! Yeah, that's right, over here!" He bared his teeth at the woman outside. "See this?" he called, pointing to the remains of his burger. "I hope it was your family!"

The woman struggled furiously against the cops. She was screaming something at Clyde, but he was laughing too hard to pay attention. "I hope it was your cousin!" he screamed gleefully. He took a huge bite, and grinned madly at her through it. "An' i' wa' DELISHUSH!"

The woman outside screamed something incoherent, and actually managed to break free of the police line. In an instant she was at the window, clawing at it, pounding with her fists, her horns. It took seven cops to finally pull her back, and she went down fighting, her hate-filled eyes never leaving Clyde.

Maria only raised her eyebrow again as Clyde resumed his meal. "Goddamn cows," he chuckled, shaking his head.

Honestly. It's a world of animal-people. If you're not a vegetarian, then aren't you just eating your fellow sentients?

And yes, the restaurant
is named after an Animaniacs character, I have been making use of my Netflix account lately, why do you ask?