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.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Proud To Be An AMERICAN!

I knew this trip had been a mistake almost as soon as I crossed the state line. Problem was, I had to get to Grandma's funeral, and it just wasn't worth the cost to fly from Pennsylvania to southern Ohio. And that meant a trip through West Virginia.

About three miles in, I passed over a stretch of road stained a dull red. My first thought was an upended truck full of paint. Then I realized it was blood, and spent the next half-hour trying to convince myself that it hadn't been human. Just a deer that wandered into the path of an oncoming car. Sure.

I'd left late, figuring it would be easier to make the trip at night, when there wouldn't be much traffic. Now I found myself cursing that decision as I carefully negotiated an increasingly narrow road winding crazily between mountains where maybe one light shone every couple of miles. Several times someone came barreling up behind me, passing me at what had to be eighty miles an hour, and each time I shrank against my seat and prayed to survive the night.

Eventually I decided to take a break, which meant trying to find something open at 11:30 at night. Of course, there are easier tasks than to find something open in the middle of West Virginia at almost midnight... say, grooming a wolverine with a toothache and a taste for human blood. That sounded good right about now. Thirty miles on, though, I found a truck stop, and since no wolverines seemed to be in evidence, stopping and getting some food seemed an acceptable second choice.

I pulled in next to the top half of a pickup truck, connected by a delicate tracery of rust to its chassis and shored up by a wealth of bumper stickers. Proud To Be An AMERICAN!, declared a flag on the left side of the bumper. Love It Or Leave It, added another flag to the right. On the tailgate was another sticker, with a picture of Barack Obama next to the words If We'd Known It Would Turn Out Like This, We'd Have Picked Our Own Cotton! Charming. Maybe I'd get my food to go. I was driving a Rustmobile too, but the two stickers I'd thrown on there -- one for the Human Rights Campaign, one for my favorite band -- really didn't seem to mesh with the local politics.

A tired-looking waitress looked up as I entered the truck stop diner. "Can I help you?"

"Uh, yeah. Can I just get, like, a sandwich or something?"

She nodded toward a booth by the door. "There's a menu there, if y'wanna take a look."

I slid into the booth, opened the menu, and pondered whether I wanted the Hootin' Holler Burger or the pulled pork sandwich advertised alongside a drawing of a psychotic-looking pig in overalls. Then the door opened.

"Damn, Edda! Who parked that thing out front?"

"Which one?" the waitress replied.

"Th'one with th'stickers!" I shrank back into the booth. A huge mountain man strode past me towards the counter, and I swore I heard banjos. He settled onto the stool in front of the waitress and slammed his keys onto the counter. "Now, what th'hell d'I pay m'taxes for, Edda? Can't we just get ridda these people already?"

I decided to practice becoming invisible.

The waitress shook her head as she poured out a cup of coffee for the man. "People gotta right to their opinion, Luke. Can't help that."

"Hell I can't. I gotta shotgun, don't I?" Then, just as I was about to run screaming from the establishment, he swung around to glare at me. "That ain't your ve-hickle, right, boy?" he growled threateningly.

"Uh, er. Which... one? Sir?" I added helpfully.

"That damned truck with all the bumper stickers!" He pointed a grimy forefinger out towards the parking lot. "If I get my hands on whoever that racist asshole is, I swear I'll--"

"You won't do nothin, Luke," the tired waitress broke in.

"It ain't right," he grumbled.

By this point, I was starting to understand that mister Deliverance guy's anger wasn't actually directed at me. My heart decided to maybe stay inside my chest, after all. "N-no, sir. I'm driving the blue Chevy." I held up one hand. "Honest."

The mountain man sighed, turning back to sip his coffee. "Goddamn people," he muttered unhappily. "What the hell makes a man think like that, anyway?"

"I sure don't know, Luke," the waitress replied.

I decided to get back on the road and worry about taking a break later.

West Virginia is a state of incredible natural beauty, with an insanely depressed economy and drivers who really do go ninety miles an hour down unlit, winding, mountainous roads, in the rain. It's not all toothless hicks, but I have family there, and lived there myself briefly, and I'm sorry, some of it really is Deliverance country.

Someone of my acquaintance really did see that Obama/"picked our own cotton" bumper sticker on a car in Clay County, Indiana. Heartland American values, folks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Young Men

The restaurant was already crowded when Alex and Richie got there, even though it had only opened twenty minutes earlier. "Frickin' office drones," Richie muttered as they waited by the front counter. "It's almost noon, so naturally they all gotta go out for lunch at once."

Alex held up two fingers to the waiter currently approaching them, meanwhile grinning at Richie. "Hey, that hurts. I'm one of those office drones you apparently hate so much."

"Telecommuters don't count. When's the last time you saw the inside of your office?"

By now they were seated at a table near the door to the kitchen. Behind Richie was a family with two screaming babies and an unruly toddler. Behind Alex were a couple of teenage kids currently sharing a milkshake. Alex hooked a thumb over one shoulder at them. "Is it just me, or does the redhead look like me as a kid?"

Richie snickered. "Been nice knowin' you, buddy. Ancient wisdom has it that seeing your doppelganger means you're about five minutes from death."

"Convenient for you. You always did want my PS3."

Behind Alex, the teenage couple stood up, the boy unsuccessfully trying to rush around and pull out the girl's chair before she could rise. In the process, he smacked into Alex's elbow. The water glass that Alex had just picked up went flying.

"Sorry, mister," the boy said quickly to Alex, before hurrying after his girlfriend.

Richie turned to watch them leave. "Man, you're right," he said. "She looks just like you did in middle school." He turned back to Alex, then blinked at the shocked expression on his friend's face. "Hey. Yo. Anyone home in there, man?"

Alex's face broke into a wide grin. "Oh, wow. Wow."


"Did you know," Alex went on, leaning in towards the table, "there is nothing awesomer than having someone call me 'mister'?"

"Ahh, of course." Richie raised his water glass in a toast. "Congratulations. You just passed."

Their waiter emerged from the kitchen, pen poised over a pad of paper. He smiled at Alex, who had been born Maria Inez, and said, "Ready to order, sir...?"

Richie stifled a laugh at the goony smile on Alex's face.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mom Said

From the patient record for JESSUP,TIMOTHY

Progress note by Dr. Major, MD

Patient is a 43 y.o male admitted to surgical unit after presenting to emergency department with acute back pain and concussion coincident with recent fall. The history is provided primarily by patient's wife.

The current episode started today. Onset was result of a fall from roof of the patient's home. Pain is continuous and is described as sharp and extremely severe. Pain is worsened by activity.

Patient was put on saline glucose and #3 morphine drip upon arrival in emergency department. Patient reported decreased pain upon receipt of morphine, but has become disoriented and semiconscious. Recommend remaining on #3 only until admitted to med surg, at which point pt should be switched to #2 morphine drip.

Episode history as provided by pt's wife is as follows. Pt's wife reports pt's injury is due to a fall from the roof of their house. Pt was attempting to adjust exterior television antenna when he lost his footing on the roof. Pt landed on his back on concrete patio. Wife reports that pt lost consciousness briefly, but regained it before ambulance arrived. Pt reported pain at that time as extremely severe.

Tentative diagnosis at this time is spinal cord injury at multiple sites with possible spinal fractures. Consulting surgeon scheduled for examination and probable surgery at 1300 hours.

Prior history of back pain: none.

Prior history of falls: none.

Diet: NPO.

Activity: strict bed rest.

Next round on pt scheduled for 0800 tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"But I spent it all, mommy," Billy whined. "I got some candy an' some gum an' bet Franklin fifty cents he couldn't eat this worm I found."

Monica paused in the act of folding the laundry, staring at her son. "You bet him what?"

Billy shrugged. "It was a big worm. I didn't think he'd really do it."

"Okay, fine," Monica replied, shuddering. "It doesn't matter how you spent your allowance, it's still gone. You'll have to wait until next Saturday."

"But I want more money now! Joel's got a Grimlock action figure he doesn't want anymore an' he says he'll give it to me for only three dollars!"

Monica dropped a clean towel onto his head, and smiled at his outraged squawk. "Funny thing, I seem to remember your allowance being only two dollars a week."

"Yeah, well." Billy gazed studiously down at the towel as he balled it up in his hands. "I was kinda hopin' you'd give me a little bit extra, too."

"Oh really." She reached out to tousle his hair. "Maybe I should ask my boss for a little extra money, too, if it works that way."

Billy gave her a wide-eyed look. "So... no money?"

"Not a cent till Saturday, champ."

"Aww, mom," Billy replied, but he left easily enough. Monica chuckled to herself, then paused.

Maybe he'd given up a little too easil --

CRASH!, went something in Billy's room, and Monica hurried there to see if her suspicions were correct. They were. She groaned.

"Billy, sweetie, your piggy bank does have a removable plug in the bottom."

He looked down at the hammer in his hand, the coins scattered amid ceramic shards on his desk; then he looked back up at her. "Oops?" he replied.

I've had about five piggy banks throughout my life.

Every single one had a plug on the bottom.

Has anyone in the real world ever actually had to smash one to get at the money inside?

Friday, August 08, 2008


At the end of a long day -- the stressful morning commute, the exhausting hours of work, the mad rush-hour struggle to get home -- Bob did not, he felt, ask for much. Dinner on the table, and not burnt. A half-hour with his pipe in the alcove of the living room that he called his den. A quiet, relaxing evening in front of the TV.

He didn't feel that these were too much to ask for, and so felt himself justified in becoming angry when they were not provided.

"I'm sorry," Cheryl repeated tiredly. She kept her hair dyed blonde at his insistence, but hadn't touched it up in a while, and the brown roots were showing. The sloppiness only added to his irritation. "I didn't mean to have dinner late, but I didn't get Lynn back from the doctor until three-thirty, and then there were still the other kids to pick up from school..."

"Then you should've made them walk home," Bob snapped, even though it had been he who decided that Cheryl should take their school-aged children to and from school in the first place. "Maybe then they wouldn't have the energy to whine all through dinner. And for Christ's sake, could you maybe put some damn salt in the meatloaf next time? It was like trying to eat shoe leather." From somewhere down the hallway that led to the bedrooms, three-year-old Lynn started crying again. "For Christ's sake," Bob repeated in disgust.

"The doctor said you needed to cut back on your salt," Cheryl murmured, but he could tell she wouldn't try to pull that health-foot shit again.

Bob shifted position on the couch. "Now hand me the remote and shut that kid up, will ya?" he grunted.

"Oh, but before you get too into your show," Cheryl began.

"But nothing." She handed him the remote, and he shook it at her. "I've been working my ass off all day to make money for you to spend, Cher; I need to relax now, and you are going to let me relax."

She retreated quickly down the hall. He heard her talking to Lynn, but softly, as though she was afraid to make too much noise and thus incur his wrath. Well, fine. It was nice to be shown a little respect for once. Maybe she could even get the kid to quit whining. Hadn't the doctor prescribed any damned pills?

Maybe five minutes passed; in the kids' room Cheryl tried to soothe the pain of their toddler's ear infection, and on the couch Bob flicked idly through the channels. He had just about decided which of the two currently-playing episodes of CSI to watch when his son advanced cautiously into the room.

"Uh, hey, dad?" Terry's voice was just starting to change, and the words came out in a sort of squeak. The boy cleared his throat and tried again. "Dad? Can I, uh, have the TV now?"

"What the hell is wrong with you people?!" Bob snarled. "Can't you see that I work all damn day for you, and that the least I ask is to have some peace and quiet when I finally come home?!" He glared at Terry. "Get out of here before I really lose my temper."

Cheryl emerged from the hallway just as Terry tried to disappear down it. "Honey, that's what I was trying to tell you." She made a helpless little gesture. "Terry has to watch that special on PBS tonight for his honors English class."

"The hell he does!" Bob roared. "Terry, you're grounded for a week and don't you dare tell me any more lies." The boy pelted out of the room, and Bob turned his attention to Cheryl. "I knew you were stupid, but falling for a twelve-year-old's lies? Christ, woman. Christ."

Lynn began wailing in pain again, and Bob winced. "And now I've got a headache. Great job, Cheryl. Way to ruin my evening, again." Then his voice dropped. "I ought to just strike you," he muttered, glaring at her. "God knows there's no other way of getting any sense in your head."

Cheryl took a step backwards, and he noticed that. Terry, listening from just outside the room, clenched his fists and then held them to his mouth to stifle a sob. Fortunately for him, Bob didn't notice that.

This one's for you, dad. Are you dead yet? I honestly have no idea. If so, how's the weather down there?

Sometimes I wish you'd beaten up on us kids, instead of just always telling us we were worthless, and screaming at us if we were ever in the living room/bathroom/kitchen/wherever when you Needed To Be There, and regularly
threatening to hurt mom while being just crazy-crafty enough to not actually do it. Maybe if I'd shown up to school with my eyes blackened and my teeth knocked out when I was eight, then you wouldn't've still been around to make our house a place of fear when I was eighteen.

For the record, this scene never happened, and Terry isn't me. The scene just kind of popped into my head when I saw how happy that bear was to have his R&R.

*adds the 'sidetrack' tag*

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What The Hell, Man, Since When Can I Not Form A Somewhat Relevant Title From The Comic Text

(Seriously, "crude awakening" does not contain anywhere within it the seeds of a title for this'un.)

"Hey, you gotta dollar?" the man asked as Evan got out of his car. "Change for a dollar?"

Evan closed the door to the Suburban, after carefully making sure it was locked. "No, I don't got no money," he answered a bit too loudly. Then he mentally cursed himself as he entered the gas station convenience store. Don't got no? What kind of language was that, anyway? The guy was going to think Evan was trying to talk street to seem tough, except he really hadn't been, it had just been a slip of the grammatical tongue...

He forced himself to smile as he approached the register. "Hi," he said, setting a bottle of Fanta down on the counter. Then he held out his Visa. "And pump three." The clerk grunted and hit a couple of buttons on the register.

Evan took a swig of his Fanta as he walked back out to the pump. "This is gonna hurt," he muttered, grabbing the gas nozzle and starting it pumping black gold into his Suburban. He winced at how fast the "THIS SALE" number was going up.

Suddenly something hard pressed against his right side. "You got that right," a voice said quietly. "Wallet. Keys. Now." Evan opened his mouth, and the pressure against his side increased. "Bullets move faster'n yells. Gimme the money."

"Bu -- but I don't have any money," Evan managed to choke out. His eyes felt about ready to pop out of his head. "I told you. No cash."

"Whaddaya mean, you told me?" Evan risked a glance to his right, and realized his mistake. The man asking for change had been black. The one with a gun jammed into his ribcage was white.

The gas pump clicked off with a loud THUNK noise that drew a terrified whimper from Evan. The man with the gun didn't flinch. "Give me the money or you die," he snarled.

Evan squeezed his eyes shut. Please let this be a nightmare please let this be a nightmare please -- "My bank card is in with the store clerk. Go in, tell him Evan sent you to get his card. My PIN is 8510 and I've got a $200-a-day ATM limit. It also works as a Visa." He drew in a sobbing gasp. "Take it, it's yours."

The gunman made an irritated noise. The pressure against his side miraculously disappeared, and Evan fell thankfully to the ground and listened to the sound of rapidly receding footsteps. Then common sense returned to its post inside his skull, and he fumbled for his keys, unlocked the car and all but threw himself inside, and cranked the engine.

As he squealed out onto the street and fled towards home, he spotted the man who'd asked him for change, waiting to cross the street three blocks south of the gas station. Evan roared past him without so much as a second glance.