Funny Ha Ha: The High School Humor Writing Challenge - Text Entries

Funny Ha Ha: The High School Humor Writing Challenge

We’re looking for great humor writing from high school students, and at the end of the summer, writer and actor BJ Novak will name a winner on our show. Here’s the catch — your piece must begin and end with these sentences:

FIRST LINE: The sun rose and everything fell.
LAST LINE: Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

UPDATE 8/27: Our winner is Emma Callahan; the runner-up is Dylan Kapstrom. A big thank you to everyone who shared their work with us!

August 03, 2015 11:59:45 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. The prop man for the theater camp had just finished putting everything else in place and was admiring his perfect rigging of the sun prop, when he found out just how lucky of a man he was. Always ready with a snarky comment, the tech guy slapped his coworker on the shoulder and said," Hey man. Look on the bright side; at least the sun's up!" At the same time that the tech guy had offered his words of encouragement, the campers had taken their seats for the final day before the big show. Alex stepped to the front of the stage to explain what would happen in today's practice, but instead had to call upon the insistent hand of a grubby little boy in the corner." Yes, Filbert?" " Dere's no props," Filbert stated bluntly, pointing a filthy finger at the stage. Feeling the tension radiating from behind, Alex claimed," Well, it appears our stage hand has had a little difficulty setting up-" Alex momentarily winced and wished that children didn't have the habit of repeating every word they heard to their parents,"- but the props will definitely be ready tomorrow!" Again, Alex's explanation was withheld, yet by an adorable four year old girl seated in the middle. “My name’s S-i-e-r-r-a: Siewa! That’s my name.” Holding back her exasperation, Alex said, ”Thank you for letting me know, Sierra! It hadn’t occurred to me yet. Anyways…” Alex felt better after explaining the schedule for rehearsal, and the day was set rolling. Throughout the rehearsal, everything went smoothly, as far as the children. The prop man worked hard around the kids to set up the props once again; then stood in front of his masterpiece with his hands on his hips, as men seem to do. Alex arrived early the next morning to prepare for the show, and decided to thank the prop man for his hard work. She knocked on the door, stepped into the prop man’s office, opened her mouth to express her gratitude, but never got the chance to say anything. “Thump, THUMP, thump… thump, THUMP(whoosh) SPLAT!!!!” Alex stood in her spot, a little confused at first as she heard a low growl coming from somewhere in the room, then, “AAAAHHH!!!!” She suddenly realized precisely what all the noises were. Letting out a nervous laugh, Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:59:05 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Or at least, that was the way things seemed to Grandma Thirston. She sat on the edge of her bed and looked down at her body in a way she hadn’t in her whole life. She was sagging and sunken in places she hadn’t noticed before;her maternal belly and bosom were full and yet empty. Her hands were far too spotted and her skin held the tone of the dull gray morning outside. For the first time in her life she felt her body finally catch up with her age. Before this moment she had always felt so young and spry for her 78 years. She had walked with a spring and puffed far ahead of her friends when they went out on walks, and had hardly ever really needed her glasses. Grandma Thirston had always prided herself in feeling and looking young. To be sitting on the edge of her bed feeling heavy and stiff did not put her in the best mood for the day.
Behind her, Grandpa Thirston stirred. She had forgotten he had slipped into bed with her last night. The couple had long since decided that they should sleep in separate beds due to Grandpa Thirston’s thrashing. He had been in the war, and his restless memory-wielding sleeps had taken a heavy toll on Grandma Thirston’s patience and rest. So he had moved into the guest room, with all of its quilt racks and cherub figurines and watercolor seashore paintings. But some mornings she would wake up to find Grandpa Thirston’s wiry old hawk body right next to her, and even though he wore his tattered striped pajamas and she wore her ancient bed moomoo, on those mornings she would feel young again at the sight of them lying together.
But she definitely did not feel young on this morning. With all her might in her doughy arms Grandma Thirston huffed herself off of the bed and onto her stodgy little feet. In their bathroom she tried to avoid looking straight into the mirror. But that just made all of the wrinkles she could see blur into what she considered a gray monster. She put on more makeup than usual, sprayed more of her stiff perfume. But that just made her feel like a geriatric clown.
As she padded along the landing to go downstairs Grandma Thirston passed the other guest rooms that her son and his family were staying in for the summer. Her little grandson, Alex, was her absolute weakness. His chubby cheeks and freckles never went unpinched when she was around, and she was extremely proud of how mature he was for just being seven years old. Quietly, she crept into Alex’s room and began to collect all of his little clothes out of the suitcase and dresser to wash and hang out to dry. Her son’s family had stayed with them long enough that summer for Grandma Thirston to know that little Alex’s clothes could definitely use a washing, and Alex’s mother didn’t seem to care or notice at all to wash them herself. She didn’t like her son’s wife, not at all. Looking at her, one wouldn’t think she possessed anything of much character. Or at least nothing emanating maternal instinct. The wife was a “health” addict, sleek and polished, always toting around the newest craze in becoming as little and gaunt as possible. All the clothes Grandma Thirston could see packed in her bags were ungodly tight spandex, and Grandma Thirston cared only for cotton. She felt that you could tell a lot about a person by the level of comfort in their fabrics. But Grandma Thirston had always kept these judgements of her daughter in law to herself.
Down in the kitchen, there were too many reflective surfaces for her to handle. The brass teapot morphed Grandma Thirston’s plump body into something she had never greatly recognized in herself until now; decrepitude. Even carrying her grandson’s laundry out to the line felt like a day’s work. She felt disgustingly useless. Everything in the fridge seemed to be a food that had caused the onslaught of her sagging tissue and bloat. Grandma Thirston puttered around in circles for quite a while, dodging any food that could be the culprit of her newfound feebleness.
As she was about to surrender to this end-of-life- crisis and go back upstairs to bed for the day, Grandma Thirston noticed something out of place in her meticulously organized kitchen. It was a box of tea. But unlike her own bargain-brand blends, this tea must have been her daughter in law’s newest source of hungry unhappiness. The box had sayings of encouragement and boasted to be the newest miracle in “cleansing” and “detoxification” to get “fit”. Before this terrible morning, Grandma Thirston would have scoffed at the claims and speed walked away, But she would try anything now to feel the least bit fresh and shrunken. She began to brew herself a cup of the tea as she went about making breakfast preparations for the rest of the household.

Upstairs in the quiet, Grandma Thirston’s grandson was just waking up. Just as his grandmother had woken up to what she found to be one of the not-so-good days of her life, Alex had immediately woken to one of his not-so-good days as well. He had been in a dream-like consciousness for a few minutes, but the sudden and sharp realization of wetness in his bed immediately woke him with a horrific start. He knew the feeling of urine on his pajamas quite well. But never in someone else’s sheets. Especially never in his grandmother’s quality guestroom ones. Alex had never really been a brave boy,and he never felt inclined to speak that much because he had found that sooner or later, someone would always speak for him. When he had wet the bed at home, He only ever felt comfortable telling his father.
Alex had been taught how to change out the soiled sheets and pajamas, clean them, and how to deal with his mattress. In his own home he knew where the clean sheets were kept and where the cleaning supplies were stored. But this was not Alex’s home. He knew absolutely nothing of where anything was in his grandmother’s large, bare house. And in his innocent adolescent mind Alex seemed to think that if he told a soul he had wet the bed in a house other than his own, he would be scolded. Alex constantly feared a scolding of any kind.

Alex knew he had to hide it. Somehow.

Grandma Thirston had just finished with the eggs and Alex had just finished stripping his bed when a loud and chilling scream roared through the whole house. It was Grandpa Thirston finally waking up. Alex heard covers being ripped away and heavy thuds coming from the next room as his parents drowsily scrambled to help with his grandfather. As Grandma Thirston puffed and trundled her way up the stairs to soothe her husband, she began to feel a very strange sensation growing in her stomach. Fearing someone might burst in to check on him at any moment, Alex immediately bundled up the soiled linens and whisked them under the bed. He sprinted over to the dresser to throw on some clean clothes, only to find that it was completely empty, and his clothes nowhere in sight.
Ignoring the strange fluctuations of her colon, Grandma Thirston brushed by her scrawny daughter in law hesitantly cowering in the doorway aside to help her son in restraining Grandpa Thirston. It never took much for him to explode into his episodes. Anything from loud noises and shrieks to random out-of-the-ordinary occurrences would send him spiraling into fits of screaming and physical confusion. The morning attacks happened most often from Grandpa Thirston changing from a sleeping state to being awake. The few times he had visited his grandparents, Alex had become scared to death of his grandfather. He had witnessed too many holiday episodes involving the Christmas tree lights or the family dog to ever feel completely at ease around the old man. So on their occasional visits Alex found it best to be out of the line of sight or aim of his grandfather just in case he might be triggered. During his episodes, Grandpa Thirston’s family had found that it was best to just hold him down and wait the tantrum out.
Grandma Thirston’s husband lay on her bed fighting back against his son as hard as his little toothpick body could fight. His eyes were wide and wild and didn’t seem to be focusing on anything. The old woman would bustle back and forth around her wrangling son and husband trying to find little holes where she could stick her hand in and smack at whichever part of Grandpa Thirston she could reach. She usually found that this would calm him down, but this particular morning was special, and all the smacking did was make Grandpa Thirston scream louder and louder.
As the sounds of the domestic uproar occurring down the hall continued, Alex nakedly scampered around his room trying to place the location of all of his clothes. They were nowhere to be found . Just as he rushed by his window, he noticed outside and below all of the clothing that he had brought with him on this “vacation” ,freshly washed and hanging up on the line. That was the moment Alex remembered the night before, when his grandma had asked if he would like for her to wash them. Panic spread through his little bare body. Alex knew that the freshly washed clothes would be far too wet to go by unnoticed, and if he wore his pajamas from the night before, everyone would know he had peed himself. And Alex just would not allow that to happen.
He couldn’t think of what to do. Alex knew that at some point his grandpa would eventually calm down and become somewhat sane again. And when that happened his parents would come to check on him. And when his parents would come to check on him, they would find Alex completely naked, next to a completely naked mattress. With no clothes or sheets in sight. And then everyone would know of his case of urinary incontinence. The horror.
Alex knew then of the only thing he could possibly do to save himself. The only thing that would save him from what he believed to be the most embarrassing judgement from his family, and disappointment from the wonderful grandmother who had trusted him with her wonderful cotton guestroom sheets. Alex acted quickly. Amidst the screeches still coming from down the hall, Alex reached under his bed to the very back where he had tossed the tainted linens. He dragged them out and shoved them into the darkest, most ominous corner of the surprisingly spacious guest room closet. Then came the hard part.
The only way Alex could avoid being seen in the nude and covered in urine was to be in the shower and showering by the time Grandpa Thirston calmed down and his parents came looking for him. If they heard him in the shower before they reached Alex’s room, his parents wouldn’t bother to open the door and find his mattress bare with a very noticeable urine stain on it. And by the time Alex was out of the shower with a towel wrapped around him tightly,his clothes out on the line would be dry enough to be worn without a hint of suspicion. Then, while clothed, Alex would be able to nonchalantly search around the house for cleaning supplies at his leisure. He just needed to get to the bathroom.

Alex cracked his door ever so slightly. He could hear Grandpa Thirston’s screams beginning to die down. This was Alex’s only chance to act. Ever so quietly, he poked his little head out and looked down the hall to his grandpa’s bedroom. Everyone was turned away from the door and facing the drama on the bed. Grandpa Thirston’s screams had turned to moans. Alex darted his eyes away from the scene to the door of the bathroom directly beside it. He would have to move quickly and stealthily without any hesitation in order to make it. From where he was thrashing on the bed, Grandpa Thirston would have a very clear view of the hallway where Alex most desperately needed to run without being seen. Alex just had to hope that his grandpa would be looking away or would be too dazed and confused to notice him.

Alex threw open the door and began to sprint down the long hallway.

This was the longest tizzy fit of her husband’s that Grandma Thirston had ever witnessed. Through the whole duration of smacking at Grandpa Thirston, Grandma Thirston had ignored the restlessness in her bowels and stomach. She realized that she most desperately needed to use the restroom. Grandpa Thirston was calming down enough that she believed her son could take over until her husband was as well as he could be. When she tried to straighten up again after bending over the bed, Grandma Thirston found that she couldn’t. The abrupt aging from earlier that morning mixed with the new and extremely prominent pressure in the depths of her innards made it quite impossible to move smoothly. Grandma Thirston relinquished all control over to her son and began hurriedly shuffling her way to the door,where beyond sat the porcelain throne her body was screaming for.
Grandpa Thirston was the only one to look up in time to see the blurry naked child dart into the next room. The sight of such an odd thing once again raised his blood pressure and Grandpa Thirston became even more agitated than before. His body spasmed in all directions. One misdirected kick was hit straight to Grandma Thirston’s gut in her attempt to escape to the bathroom. Before she could move any further, Grandma Thirston felt her poor bowels release the “detoxed” liquid they could hold no longer. She faintly heard her daughter in law shriek in repulsion, but all Grandma Thirston could really focus on was the alleviated and relieving stream of fecal matter tainting her wonderful cotton nightgown. She felt young again.

Alex had begun to hear the screams as he wrapped himself up in his towel. He heard not just his grandfather, but his mother and father too. He walked up to the bathroom door. Alex stared at the door and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:58:41 PM

Priyanka R




EXPLANATORY LINES: In today's current day media, conflicts between different groups with opposing opinions fill the news. Close-mindedness breeds violence and stagnating development of society. Exteriors do not make a person who they truly are.
In this piece, Alex is the symbolization of the minority groups targeted. I've taken three issues that we are still battling today and developed my view on them.

***********************ENTRY **************************************

"The sun rose and everything fell," he paused, "blinded by your beauty."

Chuckling at him, the woman said, "Hahaha. You're funny and cute."

"Would you like to grab a coffee together then, madam," he asked while gesturing towards the coffee shop.

The woman glanced at her phone and hesitantly replied, "I' to. but I'm afraid I don't have the time..." and began walking the other direction.

The teenage boy trailed behind her, " that so? In that case, may I have your number?"

"Uhh..I have to go so um.. I can-"

Loud, pounding, elephant stomps resounded through the building, coming straight for Alex.

"HEY! Get away from her, you beast!"

Turning around, Alex was tackled to the cold, tiled floor. Hardly breathing from the impact, he noted upon the heavy mound on top of him. His assailant, luckily, got off of him quickly and stared angrily at Alex, refusing to offer any assistance.

He found himself being stared down by a slightly, chubby women wearing a superwomen tank top. She looked to be about in her twenties.

After righting himself, Alex inquired, "Why am I a beast?"

The Super women spat at him, "Because you're chasing that poor girl!!!"

He looked behind him and the girl was no where to be found. She'd probably had run off.

"She's not her anymore. Gee, thanks."

"You fiend, you don't even see that YOU made her run away!"

"I'm pretty sure YOU scared her away."

"How dare you try to blame me? All men are just devils trying to blame women for their problems," bellowed Super Women.

By now, more and more people in the mall were beginning to stare at the two arguing outside the coffee shop. People looked and tensed upon hearing the screaming.

"Hey. Hey, I'm not blaming you for my problems. If someone comes running straight at you, are you going to just stand there or are you going to run," he asked, defensively.

Pursing her lips, Super Woman placed her hands on her hips, "WELL, you were pursuing her like she was your prey! Do you think those cheesy lines will attract women?! You're underestimating women's intelligence."

"Please calm dow-" Alex attempted to interject.

Enraged, Super Woman pointed her fingers at him, "OH NO! You're trying to deceive me into letting my guard down. Men want one thing from women- SEX!"

People in the coffee shop were staring. Some customers near the door loitered, not wanting to be caught in the argument. One of the waiters that was talking on a walkie talkie. stepped out of the shop.

Unable to contain his anger, Alex defended himself, "I have PURE intentions. Do not assume you know everything. Also, do not make the mistake of interrupting others if you ever want to be listened to seriously"

Out of the corner of his eye, Alex watched the waiter whistle and a Mall Police Officer appeared in seconds. Catching Alex's gaze, the waiter winked and made hand motions for call-me. Slightly wincing, Alex continued to watch the officer.

The officer walked to Super Woman and proclaimed, "You are arrested for disrupting mall business by being excessively loud and obnoxious"

Superwomen was cuffed and then broke down into childish crying as she was escorted out the mall. Ironic was how she donned a Super Woman tank and ended up causing trouble and not saving anyone.

Now in a bad mood, Alex, ran home, all the while, remembering the rainbow board signs. He'd gotten them in support of the legalization of same sex-marriages. Upon his return home, Alex grabbed the road sign and ran outside. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his neighbor, Mrs. Winterberry and greeted her.

However, she merely responded with, "DON'T SAY 'HEY' TO YOUR ELDERS, YOU STUPID KID."

Ignoring his neighbor's antagonism, Alex, triumphantly placed the road sign on his lawn and much to his horror, heard a shriek.

"YOUNG MAN, WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING," hollered Mrs. Winterberry. She was marching to his house at a fast pace for an old lady.

"I'm supporting gay-marriage with-"


Alex simply stated, "I can't do that, Mrs. Winterberry."

Turning deathly pale, Alex's neighbor proceeded to torment him, " You teenagers are ruining this world. You all are disrespectful and ignorant of both proper tradition and manners. One last time, I'm giving you the option to atone for your sins."

"No. I refuse to remove this sign," Alex firmly proclaimed.


Mrs.Winterberry began to scream even louder and yell more threats at Alex and going further to threaten his family. She, however, was silenced by police sirens blaring. In no time,

August 03, 2015 11:57:42 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Well not everything, exactly. Alex still had a small fragment of his dignity left intact when he left Dave’s VCR Repairs for the last time. Being fired stings… being fired in front of all your coworkers on your birthday is even worse.

You see, Alex had been a VCR repairman for close to 10 years now and he didn’t really have any other skills. He’d always meant to get some, he just never did. Alex knew the job wouldn’t last forever and to be honest was quite surprised he had lasted as long as he had. He hadn’t actually repaired or even seen a VCR in the last 10 years. Up until now, he had just been doing various repair work around the shop. But nevertheless, he was still disappointed that he had lost his job and was wholly unprepared for any other.

In the everyday world, there’s just not a huge demand for VHS repairman, so Alex was stuck applying for jobs he really had no business applying for. He was either extremely overqualified or reprehensively under-qualified for all of them. Nevertheless, Alex decided to update his resume and apply for some jobs.

Interviewer: “What makes you think you are properly qualified for this position?”

Alex: “Well, I’ve always take pride in my ability to count… and I think I… well sir, I think I have the right personality to make the customers feel comfortable.”

Interviewer: “Very good… And why is it that you think knowing how to count is so crucial to the work we do here?’’

Alex: “Well somebody has to know how to count all the money, right? I mean you can’t be mistaking 100s for 10s, am I right?”

Interviewer: “… Right… Well, Mr.… --- I am terribly sorry I don’t believe I got your name.”

Alex: “My name’s not important right now, just call me Alex.”

Interview: “Alright, well, Mr. Alex, you are aware that this is a SPERM bank, are you not?”

Alex: “Uh… yeah, of course I am. So I… wouldn’t be working with money… as a teller… would I?”
Interviewer: “No sir, although, you would still be working with and handling money, among… other things.”

Alex: “I see… Well, I’ll have to think about it.” Alex got up from his chair and went to shake the interviewer’s hand and hesitated. “Well, better not,” Alex said to himself, “I’ll give you a call when I’ve made my decision.”

Interviewer: “But… What?”

Alex opened the door to the office and was about to exit when he turned back around, “You know what, I think I have a few more questions regarding the job.” He went back to the chair he had previously been seated in and sat down on it.

Alex: “So if I were to work here, I would be in charge of doing what exactly?”

Interviewer: “Semen aggregation.”

Alex: “Uh huh… and days off?”

Interviewer: “We get all the usual’s.... Labor Day, Memorial Day, the fifth night of Passover…”

Alex: “Well, that’s oddly specific but I could work with that. I’ll let my people call your people.”

Interviewer: “You have people?”

Alex: “Don’t worry about it...” He got back up from the chair and headed for the door. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:57:41 PM





Alexander Meets the Vegan God

The sun rose and everything fell.

Alex mourned for his great one-and-a-half year vegan empire, reduced to rubble in an instant.

He gazed in horror at the corrugated cardboard boxes newly stacked in the freezer of his father’s grocery. Meat. It was over, all over. The meat-craving madman had betrayed him, had had this garbage delivered in the middle of the night. Alex took a good long stare at the box directly in front of him, the one labeled FRESH HAM that had a little dent in the top right corner that pissed him off, and threw his fist into it with all of his might. It made him angry that cardboard couldn't feel pain. He made a mental note that, when he became rich, he would invent cardboard that could feel pain and step on it all he wanted. That made him feel a little bit better. But not a lot. Something would have to be done.

Shaking with rage, Alex slammed the freezer door behind him and kicked through the stupid screen door that was standing in his way at the top of the basement staircase. He began stomping his way towards his father’s room, but before he got there he realized that he had to calm down and focus all his willpower into controlling himself. His breaths became deeper and more consistent, his steps fell into a careful rhythm, and he silently apologized to the screen door for breaking it. He recalled how often the aging store owner—no, co-owner—lectured about the importance of self-restraint, but Alex wasn't doing this for him. He was doing it for himself. What his father didn’t understand was that people who are geniuses know when to control themselves and when to just forget about everything and go wild. Even though controlling yourself is important a lot of the time, when you're angry people kind of have to listen to you because you're so loud and you might hurt them if they don't.

Contemplating this, Alex suddenly realized that, given the weight of the situation, this was going to have to be one of those times. When he arrived at his father's bedroom, he didn't even bother with knocking or anything. He just grabbed the knob, twisted it as hard as he could, and threw his shoulder into the door. It opened with an explosive bang and made this super-loud cracking sound, and Alex hoped that this would let his father know that he was actually really angry and wasn't just making a show of it because he couldn't handle change or something stupid like that. He knew that this was the most angry he'd ever been because he'd never shoulder-charged his father's door that hard before.

“Alex?” His father's waking brain took a moment to grasp the situation, but not too long. His expression contorted from confusion to anger. “Alex!”

After staring straight into his father's eyes for a few long seconds, during which only the accentuated breathing of the two was audible, Alex couldn't help but laugh. He found it hilarious that his father actually had the nerve to be angry at him, that he was so insanely stupid that he didn't even realize who was in the wrong here. Sometimes Alex wondered how the man had fathered such a genius.

“Alex, what are you doing?” His father's face had contorted again, this time to an abomination of fake concern. It did make Alex feel a bit happier for some reason. But not a lot.

“What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store?” Alex said this with such restraint that he knew that his father would be proud of him, if he actually cared about his father's pride at all, which he didn't.

The aging man looked at Alex, the cracked door, and then the sheets in his hands. “Oh, so that's what all this is about.”

His voice was weak. A weak voice for a weak man. Alex said nothing; he simply stared at his father angrily, or disapprovingly, or both at the same time, or neither. Alex actually had only one face for being upset. It was cool because nobody could guess what he was thinking. He'd formed its basics when he was very little, and perfected it when he was only kind of little. Now, in high school, he had it down to a science: Alex knew precisely which muscles to adjust, and how far to adjust them. This time, though, he found himself jutting out his jawbone farther than he'd ever jutted it before. He could feel himself looking cooler and more intimidating than ever. He realized that at that very moment that his technique had evolved past a science and into an art form. Alex had been celebrating this new development for what seemed like hours when his father rudely interrupted him.
“I was going to tell you over breakfast–”
“What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store?” Alex had seen people in movies cut off other people by repeating a question, and he'd always thought that it made them look pretty awesome. Alex felt giddy doing it to his father for the first time.
The man paused for a moment to collect himself, and then spoke. “I'm sorry, Alex. We just can't support ourselves as we currently–”
“What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store?” Alex couldn't suppress his pride and giggled a little bit despite himself. He imagined that he was interrogating his father for top-secret information, or something, like, “What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store? The safety of my country depends on this!” and then his father would say, “Never! You'll never make me talk!” and then the music would pick up and maybe there would be a fight scene or something. Suddenly, there he was, in the middle of the fight: the camera was flying everywhere and the action was getting crazy. There was a flurry of punches and kicks that only the best martial artists around could keep up with. His father seemed to be getting the upper hand when Alex revealed that his right arm actually wasn't broken and that the fight up to that point had only been a test! Suddenly the alarms went off because the enemy was attacking the base, and only he could stop them. Everything was one big blur, and Alex was the hero, striking down bad guys left and right with his bulging muscles. Alex was reveling in the chaos when he noticed that his father had probably been talking for a couple of minutes.
“–It's, you know, not all that bad if you think about it... I know you're very attached to your eating habits, but, trust me, you'll be happy once you see how–”
“Don't talk to me ever again,” said Alex, and he really meant it. “I'm going outside.”

During the summer months, Alex liked to take a stroll through the neighborhood park when he needed to calm down. When he was feeling especially bitter, he would lie down on the grass with his eyes closed, waiting for a gently rolling breeze to sweep up his negative thoughts and carry them away to people he hated, especially his dad and Mike. This time, however, Alex's blissful reverie ended less than peacefully. He had just barely settled down to rest when he was shaken awake by a sudden tremor, rising in intensity and accompanied by deafening cracks and a deep grating sound like stone on stone. Startled and confused, Alex barely had time to wonder if this was some sort of karmic justice for what he did to the screen door before the ground exploded before him in a magnificent shower of soil and stone. After lying on the ground, speechless and covered in dirt, for a good long time, Alex realized that the earthquake had ceased and began throwing his limbs about in an attempt to get up.

“GREETINGS.” The voice rang out in a tone so deep, so powerful, that Alex's body was once again frozen in awe. “ALEXANDER.”

It suddenly occurred to Alex that there were a pair of legs in front of his face. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the legs, really; they were longish, kind of pale, and, he thought, would probably benefit from a good workout every now and then. Alex decided that they were a pretty good pair of legs overall, and that he wouldn't mind too much if they were his, even if he would definitely have exercised more and therefore make better use of them. It was, of course, the person attached to the legs that drew his attention: His deep, booming voice, the fact that he knew Alex's name, and the way he'd burst out of the ground were all good talking points if Alex ever got the chance to discuss them. And yet, even in the face of all this sudden craziness, Alex was most surprised by the fact that he wasn't surprised at all. Despite finding himself completely unable to move his body, and therefore unable to see the upper three quarters of this mysterious stranger, Alex felt like the two of them had something in common, like maybe some sort of weird spiritual bond. Regardless of this, he decided that he wasn't going to take any chances. Summing up all of his might, he jutted out his jawbone a little. He remembered hearing somewhere that you should never show any signs of fear when you're being attacked by a bear, and maybe this was one of those situations.

“Who are you?” he forced his mouth to form the words.

“I AM THE VEGAN GOD,” came the stranger's reply.

That answer caught Alex off guard, and he struggled to piece together a reply. “You–that doesn't–I mean...”

“YOU ARE TROUBLED, MY CHILD.” Now, Alex prided himself on being tough, but there was something within these words—some sort of slight intonation, the tiniest and most beautiful trace of genuine, sympathetic emotion—that hit Alex like a sack full of frozen tofu bricks. Of course he was troubled! Of course! Didn't he have a right to be? How could he not be? Alex felt his eyes tear up. Suddenly, there was a huge sphere of everyone he ever knew flying above him and around him and through him, and they were inside of his mind but real at the same time; dancing around him was a ghostly parade of these people who should have known him so well but didn't, and they were pointing and laughing at him and eating meat.

“WHY?” Alex screamed out in the midst of this chaos. “What–what is–what is the point of everything?”

While Alex decided in retrospect that this was an embarrassingly dramatic thing for him to say and that it was more than a little bit cheesy, especially considering the image he liked to hold of himself, he realized that it was probably the truest thing he had ever said. And it wasn't as if he regretted it, anyway, not to mention the fact that no human was there to hear him. Those words would change the course of his life, because after he spoke them, everything stopped. The images, the confusion, everything—even some things on the inside that he didn't know about until then. He found himself standing in front of his home, clean and unhurt, with a set of life-changing words etched into his mind:


At that moment, Alex knew exactly what he had to do. He threw open the front door, dashed across the store and flew up the staircase. And there he stood, heart pounding, breathing heavily, his will screaming “vegan” at the very peak of its capability. Even his father. Even his father was part of the plan.

Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:56:47 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
The world fell into chaos. People kept dying. People lost loved ones. 2 Chainz lost even more street cred.
Everything fell. Everything. Chicken Little ran into the streets yelling, "See?! I told you the sky was falling! I told you! It's the-"
A guy just walked calmly to his apartment with groceries in his hand.
Chicken Little said, "Hey, you, what are you doing?"
The guy said, "Um...I'm going to my apartment..."
"Don't you know everything's, like, falling?"
"Oh for real?"
"Um, yeah, that's what the first sentence said."
"Well, maybe I'm not supposed to be in this story."
"Hold on. Lemme call the author." He dialed his phone.
I was at my house eating Cheetos, watching Blackish and laughing my butt off so hard I was crying(I was watching a scene with Charlie in it) when my phone rang. I picked it up. "Hello?"
"Uh, hey author. Just wondering, in this short, everything's supposed to be falling right?"
"So then, why's some guy just chillin' and walking all nonchalant on the street?"
"Oh, that's Alex! Tell him I said hi." I hung up.
Chicken Little said, "Hello? Hello?" He noticed I had already hung up. He saw Alex walking to his apartment building door. "Hey, you, stop! You need to get out of this story! I'm the top dawg around here! Or is it top chicken...Yeah, I'm the top chicken! Why are you walking away?! Are ya chicken? Oh wait, in this case that would be a compliment..."
This chicken's crazy, Alex thought. Thankfully, Alex was already at the door.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:56:06 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell.”

“Now, Dean, you were supposed to write an introduction to the male anatomy, not a novel. Now I haven’t read the whole piece, but did you even read the guidelines of the assignment given?”

Inaudible croaks are heard from Dean’s mouth, his mind scrambling for an excuse. The small boy shrinks back into his chair, embarrassment nearly radiating off of his red face. Giggles travel around the classroom, and a kid named Vick even launches a pencil towards him. Dean tries to explain to the unforgiving teacher that the assignment isn’t his, but his words fall amongst deaf ears.

Not deaf ears, just ears attached to a woman who really doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Between the horrible teaching salary, the increasingly low attendance of her students, the hundreds of failed relationships, and the death defying amount of crack she manages to inhale on her free time, this once-lesbian-now-whatever health teacher is long past her caring days.

Dean, on the other hand, really cares. Dean cares way too much to be attending a school where Bill Nye teaches you science from a glorified box with a screen. Still, every school has to have a smart ass, and Dean fills the role perfectly. From his preppy clothes, to his annoyingly large vocabulary, Dean was born as a number 2 pencil with a mouth for kissing ass. In Dean’s defense, he really didn’t write the piece which caused this eruption. A boy named DeAndre sitting towards the back of the classroom swapped Dean’s submission with a torn page from his mother’s Fifty Shades Of Grey.

And, in DeAndre’s defense, Fifty Shades of Grey does give a thorough introduction to the male anatomy. By now, all of the 15 kids who decided to show up to health class that day have their focus pointed towards anything but health related matters. DeAndre has snatched the paper from his overweight, drug hungry teacher, and taken a stand on her desk reading in a professorial voice. The few kids who pay him the attention which he is craving laugh hysterically, while other students break into argument, others sleep, and a symphony of noises -- which closely resembles that of an angry mob of chimpanzees – grinds on.

Amidst the commotion, now with tears rolling down his face, Dean is able to escape the classroom. He runs through the hall, en route to the principal’s office. “Principal Alex” wails the upset juvenile as he pounds on the office door. “Principal Alex?!” Dean’s unanswered cries reverberate through the hallways, grabbing other student’s attention in the nearby classrooms. Finally, after minutes of slamming, screaming, and crying, the door swings open.

A slouched, overweight man stands in front of Dean. His glasses sit crooked on his confused face, and he wears a half buttoned plaid shirt, which graciously displays his copious amount of chest hair. Upon seeing the well-dressed boy in front of him, the principal, in an attempt to button the upper portion of his shirt, tears off a button. A string of curses ensues, and the large man slams his hand onto the desk positioned to the left of him. His hand now in intense pain, the principal falls backwards, clutching his wounded claw. He rocks back and forth on the plush carpet like a lonely, scared toddler. With the principal engaged in his childish fit, Dean is finally able to have a view of his office, without a 400 pound man staggering in front of him.

There is a black leather chair directly behind the downed principal, with an imprint from his bottom still engraved to the seating. Across from the chair sits a T.V, still blaring the obnoxious voice of an excited announcer. On screen, Dean makes out two large wrestlers brawling for what seems to be a suitcase positioned above a ladder. He watches as the larger man grabs the ladder, and smashes the head of his opponent with the metallic apparatus, causing the announcer to explode with a series of expletives.

After a battle to regain balance, Principal Alex manages to find his feet. He strides out of his office, grabbing Dean on the way out. Dean, through tears, manages to explain to Principal Alex why he had to interrupt his testosterone infused wrestling fest. Walking towards the classroom, the symphony of noises causes the weary principal to move from his disjointed waddle, to his attempt at trotting. As they near the destination, the principal’s ears perk up as the sound of something similar to a gunshot rings from the classroom. The man, fearful of what lay inside, took his final strides towards the door, and Dean watched as Principal Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob

August 03, 2015 11:56:02 PM





Dolls Aren’t the Scary Ones

The sun rose and everything fell. Including me. On my head. This story is going to require some rewinding. When I signed up for this babysitting gig, I was expecting to just hang out and watch “The Bachelorette” while eating a few slices of cold pizza. Before they left for the night, Mr. and Mrs. Harrison briefly listed off a few notes as follows:
There is food in the refrigerator.
Our numbers are written on the bulletin board.
And the last one was weird. “Never ever say ‘no’.” I started to say something in question, but they just ran out the door. Brushing it off, I turned around and was startled by the presence of the four Harrison daughters. I greeted them and asked for their names: Alexandra, the youngest, immediately grabbed my hand and stood next to me. The next introduced herself as Alexis and proceeded to tell me the longest story I’d ever heard about how she forgot her lunch and almost missed the bus to school this morning. Alexa started talking to me through the body of one of her dolls, also named Alexa. The last and eldest daughter was just staring at me with an unwelcoming glare. I asked her for her name and she said Alex, so I responded by saying my name is Alex, too. With the same dead stare, Alex answered, “No it’s not. You’re name is Alizabeth with an A.”
After our unusual greeting the girls asked me if I wanted to play dolls in a rather rhetorical way so I just followed them to their playroom, which can simply be described as pink. Seeing the bins filled with various dolls ranging from Barbie to Bratz to Trolls to American Girl I started to imagine myself playing with little girls for hours on end so I needed to get out before it was too late. “Girls, I don’t really think I should play dolls right now. Maybe later!” Alexandra tightened her grip on my hand, Alexis stopped short in mid-sentence, Alexa told me to sit down and handed me a doll, and Alex locked the door behind her, and I might have hallucinated, but I think she swallowed the key.
After some doll dress-up and hair braiding, Alexis said, “Now it’s your turn!” Confused, I pointed at the doll whose hair I already braided, until I looked over and saw Alexandra and Alexa walking toward me with an enormous case of face paint, makeup and princess clothes. An obvious look of fear must have washed over my face because I heard Alex, who by the way had been sitting in the corner of the room with a grimace watching my every move, say “don’t worry” as she twisted off the head of her doll.
Following what felt like hours later, I was led to the princess playset where we talked about how beautiful Barbie’s dress was over tea with the dolls which at this point had become my only friends. The tea party is where it gets bad. I’ve seen all the movies. I can’t let these children brainwash me. As I drank from my tea cup that lacked any actual tea I started to plot my sweet escape. I knew Alex was still eagle-eyeing me so I had to make my break when she was distracted. That’s it! A distraction. I asked the girls about where their tea was imported from, how they became friends with the teddy bear to my right, etcetera. They were chattering incoherently so I went over to Alex and made up something about how her sisters said that she sucks at playing dress-up and all of her dolls are ugly. I thought that would piss her off. BUT IT DIDN’T! She just laughed in her cynical, condescending way and hissed “Alizabeth, Alizabeth, Alizabeth. So foolish.”
That scared me. If an eight-year-old talks to you like that then you know you’re up for some scary ride. I laughed along with her just to ease the tension and I said that I was going to get some food. The sisters chimed in and said that I had to finish the tea party, but I had had enough and just answered with a firm “no.” Shoot. Why did I say that? As I remembered the Harrisons’ warning, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was walking up the stairs, hoping the “no” didn’t phase them, but then I felt something hit my head. I turned around to see a fleet of flying dolls careening in my direction. I fell down the stairs and the girls ran toward me and dragged me by the legs back to the princess prison. The brats then tied me upside down like a bat. Alexandra, Alexis, and Alexa followed Alex to the door and Alex said, “There’s only one Alex around here, Alizabeth.” I knew it wouldn’t be long until I crashed to the floor in a pile of dolls, but somehow that seemed better than playing with these tea party tyrants for a minute more. The last thing I saw was Alex standing at the doorway and laughing that awful, villainous laugh. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:54:38 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Including me, head first, out of a superhero bouncy house. I landed on the grass hard and my dress flipped over head, giving everyone, including Captain America, a look at my hello Kitty underwear. At that moment my grandfather got out of his Lincoln Town car on shaky knees. I breathed in sharply and peeled my face off the dirt.
"Surprise," I croak. He just shook his head and hobbled with his cane towards the gaggle of family members that were watching my shame like it was an episode of Glee.
That was the beginning of a string of regrettable occurrences that we now know as "Grandpa's 85th Birthday Party". But I was oblivious to this as I collapsed into one of our stylish-yet-affordable Martha Stewart lawn chairs. Suddenly my crazy Aunt Susan (a wild eyes women with unkept hair and an unsavory demeanor) was in front of me. She was thrusting a bowl of mysterious green liquid under my nose and staring at me expectantly. It smelled like dirty dishwater but it was a general rule we went along with pretty much anything Aunt Susan did.
"It's my famous split pea soup," She grinned eerily. Well, in that case. I reluctantly lifted a spoonful to my mouth and shuddered. Yep, that is dishwater. Dishwater and green food coloring and... garlic? I fought to keep it down and then smiled uneasily at my unwavering aunt.
"Wow," I choked. "That is soup-er." I laughed softly. Her expression didn't change.
"I don't get it," She whispered as she walked backwards into the shadow of the house. You've gotta love crazy Aunt Susan.
I shook my head and got up to talk to Aunt Jess and Uncle Rick. They were jamming a little to hard to "Pinball Wizard" in the corner.
"Cool playlist," I yelled over the music. "I heard you made it, Uncle Rick." He then proceeded to do a move I'd describe as a mix between the sprinkler and a seizure.
"Yeah," He said proudly. "It's mainly Foreigner and the Dave Matthews band."
"Nice," I said forcefully. Then three boys come at us like a lack of wild dogs. I swear one licked my hand.
"Mom," Shouted my cousins Alex and Johnny in unison. My younger brother Joe was with them. "Joe told us we could go into the woods behind the house. Can we please?"
"Okay, just be care-," But they were already gone. The thick perfume of sweat and wet dog only young boys possess lingered around us. My other brother appeared in the door way. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes crazy. They found me and he muttered something I couldn't hear over the roar of Foreigner.
"What," I asked. He leaned into me.
"Code "F"," He said. Everything inside me froze. The icy spear of fear shot through my abdomen and my breath caught.
"No," I said disbelievingly. It couldn't be. He looked me in the eyes and our mutual terror collided. He spoke directly.
"The ferrets are coming," And my brother fainted into my arms.
I darted upstairs as my family cooed over him and Aunt Susan rushed to get him some soup. And there they were before me. The three red-eyed monsters hissed and snapped. The unholy trinity my brother had named Fluffy, Cuddles, and Eugene all those years ago. He'd raised them like a loving parent, feeding and petting them, but I suppose some evil is just destined to be in the world. This evil was three adorable ferrets. I wasn't in the proper attire for a battle, but the were already beginning to lunge so I charged right in with a loud "yop".
The vibrations of "Hot Blooded" shook the floor as Fluffy jumped for my face. I smacked the ferret right out of the air as Eugene growled and started to circle me. He managed to dig his claws into the hem of my dress and cried out. I shook and shimmied so hard I fell onto my back and began to taste bitter defeat welling up in my mouth. It tasted like dishwater. They slowly strutted towards me, basking in their triumph. Barring their ultra pointy teeth and arching their backs. Cuddles extended his sharp claws like he was going to cut me up into little cubes of hormonal teenager. I bet I would be chewy.
"Guys, three on one," came a voice from behind. The demons. "That's not fair-et all." A clothes basket came down over the ferrets, trapping them in a impervious cage of plastic. It was my brother.
"Nice one," I said. We concluded the bastards had somehow found a way to escape his room so we snuck them into the closet in the hallway downstairs. They scratched at the door wildly but the number of the party guests masked their craze. We took deep breaths and escaped three souless animals only to be captured by 30 more.
"Split Pea Soup?" Pestered Aunt Susan. We gracefully accepted and went to sit next to grandmother. My father was showing her how to work those little snapper firework things. You know, the ones that pop when you throw them at the ground? The 80 year old woman squealed with delight each time one went off. Around the room into the kitchen my grandfather was inspecting his Safeway birthday cake and Aunt Susan was furrowing her brow as she stirred a comically large vat of soup. Then, my cousin Alex burst in mutter something about a deer and the bathroom so I pointed him towards the toilet down the hall. I didn't even ask him why he was covered in mud. Aren't boys always? And then all hell broke loose. Cousin Johnny and my brother Joe returned from the woods. Johnny was clutching what appeared to be the sun bleached skull of a deer in his hands and mud was smeared all over his face as war paint. Joe was whooping and howling like the Lord of the Flies and they began to bound around the room. Johnny held he skull over his head and sprinted towards the kitchen. His mouth formed into a perfect "O" as he tripped over grandpa's cane, simultaneously sending the grinning deer skull into the air and the elderly man tumbling face first into the cake with a splat. Frosting oozed out around his face and I swear the skull spiraled through the air in slow motion. The room held its breath as the head landed with a plop right into Aunt Martha's vat of Split Pea Soup. The silence extended for a few seconds more. Then, she dropped her jaw and let out the most horrific inhuman screech I have ever heard. It was like she was possessed by the dead animal that was now bobbing in her beloved pea soup. This whipped everyone into a frenzy. My grandmother began pelting people with snappers and my grandfather spat and cursed and chased after a screaming Johnny and Joe while icing slowly dripped down his face. Someone turned up the Dave Matthews Band's "Crash into Me" while things broke and long kept secrets bubble to the surface. I stood silent and shocked in the corner. Then, I saw him through the chaos. He was in the hallway like I told him but he must not have been listening when I told him the door. My cousin wasn't in front of the bathroom door he was in front of the closet door. Behind that door was my demise in the form of three murderous ferrets.
"No," I screamed. But it was too late. Alex stared at the door and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:54:09 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
Early birds, early birds rise and fall, fall and burn. The early bird heeds morning’s call and gets the worm. He gets the worm, gets the worm.
Doug woke up in a thick sweat. He panted and panted. His wife turned over on her side and cooed in her sleep. Doug cursed silently. He hadn’t had nightmares for months now. Times were supposed to be good--one kid was learning to fly, another was ready to hatch soon. They’d moved and moved and moved before, but now they were settled. Nomadic feathers flocked together into stability. Doug prayed for this kind of life as a young sparrow. He wiped the sweat around his beak and settled back into bed. Doug looked over at Shelly. He smiled. At the end of the day, he was all worry and feathers; she was his love, the wind under his wings, the force behind his talons. And Shelly never had nightmares. She was a good wife. She made good pies, good children, and good love. She never complained about the worms that Doug brought home, and always made sure the kid ate first.
So Doug closed his eyes and felt the air simmer around his body. He listened to the night preen the forest further into sleep, and he followed.

“Honey, do you want a slice of pie?”
Doug straightened his tie and shook his head. “No, dear, thank you.”
Shelly smiled and shrugged. “More for Alex, then.”
“How is the little guy? He flying yet?”
A soft thud leaned through the air and Doug laughed. Shelly shook her head. “That’d be your son,” she said.
“Our son,” he said. “And we’re damn proud of him.”
A small ball of feathers and pudge flitted into the room. It collapsed against the bark and sighed. “I’ll never learn to fly,” Alex said, and hid his face under his wings. “I’m sorry Ma, Pa. I can’t do it.”
Doug took a step toward his son and knelt down. Take away the fat and fluff and Alex would be a handsome, young bird. “Son, it’s hard to fly! Took me quite a while to learn. It takes everyone a long time to learn.”
“Not for Atticus,” Alex said miserably. “Atticus has been flying for three months now.”
“That’s just a rumor.”
“No, he told me just now. Made fun of me, and everything.”
Doug looked over at Shelly. “That’s Michael’s son, right?” She nodded.
Doug sighed and put his forehead to his son’s. “Son, listen to me. Atticus is just like his father: a bragger, an overachiever. They don’t know how to be happy, or content. Their kind, mockingbirds, they take everything they want, and they’re still never happy. Not happy like me and your mom are. Right, honey?”
Shelly finished cutting a fresh pie in half. She set the knife down. “Yes,” she said.
“There, you see? Now, go off and try again, eh?”
Alex jumped out back into the forest. A dark gray feather settled to the floor. Doug picked it up. “This doesn’t look like Alex’s down. We have brown feathers”
“It might be the down of that Atticus boy,” Shelly said. She walked over and took it between her feathers, inspecting it. “Yes, it’s most likely that boy’s feathers. They must have rough-housed, or something.”
“Ah, most likely. It’s nothing, then.” Doug kissed her on the cheek. “Well I’m off to work.”
“Really? You’re leaving awfully early.”
“I figured it out, Shelly.” Doug picked up his briefcase and moved to the door. “Michael flies faster than me, so I have to leave earlier! It’s been the solution all along. He has no idea, so I’ll be able to get the ripest worms out there. Wish me luck.”
She tucked the gray feather underneath the counter and waved Doug goodbye as he flew out.

Doug re-tied the knot in his tie as he flew. It was that time in the day when the horizon shed the sun and it bursted through like a goldfinch’s feather. The dew had settled like dust, and the worms would be wriggling their ways to the surface.
He banked to the left of a tree and headed for the clearing. There--that small, free patch of grass. He saw it and his heart swooned. He felt it pounding against his breast. No more pies, it was all worms tonight. Their bald heads dotted the clearing like pink gems.
Then, a dark blur. And then that dark blur circled round, and Doug was staring at a sea of green again. Michael flapped up to him, briefcase held snugly by one talon, a smirk on his face. And then he flew off.

Doug flew the long way home. He needed to think. He needed to breathe. Doug flew through a neighborhood he didn’t recognize. Blew past the homes and branches, all so big, all so tiny. The harps and chords of all those birds in their homes fluttered by him. He shook his tie loose and let it spin all the way down, down to the ground. Doug was upset. Doug was crazed. He felt like his talons would fall out.
“Fine, I’ll leave!”
Doug stopped, mid-air. He saw Atticus angrily leave his home, a tall oak with thinning, red leaves. Doug was curious. Michael lived there. He waited till Atticus had flown far away, and then perched on a branch near a window of Michael’s home.
“Be more careful next time. My husband found one of your feathers in our home.”
“Fine. Whatever.”
“Is that really how you should be speaking to me? After I warned you he was leaving earlier?”
“Who was that really for, me or you?”
“...Just open the briefcase.”
Doug heard a click and a gasp--then a long train of slurps.

Alex’s wings ached, but he pushed, and pushed. He felt the sweat on his feathers and could hear every sound in the forest. He opened his beak and shouted and flapped. And he was flying.
“I’m...I’m flying!”
And then he was hit, and then falling. As he fell to the ground, he watched the blur that hit him, a fast brown blur that cawed and cawed and didn’t stop.
When he flew home, Alex knew what was waiting inside. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:51:49 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. It would not have been so bad, Alex thought, if it had fallen all at once, but it did not. At first it grew slick and shiny, perspiring in the faint dawn light. Then it began to drip, cold rivulets of water coursing down its sides and puddling on the ground. Finally, as the sun was a quarter into its journey across the sky, the entire structure groaned tiredly, collapsed upon itself, and lay, melting, on the hilltop. Alex sighed, clambered up the hill to survey the mess, and waited for the king to arrive.
When at last he emerged from the surrounding woods, dressed in his finest finery and astride his finest steed, he looked for a moment everything the mighty king that he was supposed to be.
“Alex, where is my new palace?” said the king, whose name was King Beowulf XXX, as he dismounted his steed.
“It melted, your highness,” said Alex.
“Melted? Impossible.” His foot caught in the stirrup of his saddle and he fell unceremoniously on his face. Alex lunged forward to help him up, but he shooed her away, scrambling to his feet and continuing as though nothing had happened. “Crystal doesn’t melt.”
“Respectfully, your highness, ice crystal does,” said Alex.
“Whose brilliant idea was it to build my palace from ice crystals?”
“Respectfully, your highness, it was your brilliant idea,” said Alex. “If you recall, the Royal Architect proposed a number of more durable, albeit expensive, building options, but you got angry and fired her and held a public contest to find a new architect, and that shady businessman told you he could build you an ice-crystal palace for thirty-five dollars, and you said it was too good of a bargain to pass up, and I warned you –”
“I have an idea,” said the king, and began to stroke his beard. Alex braced herself and waited. After five minutes or so, he stopped stroking his beard and said, “We hold a contest to see who can build my palace for the cheapest. You know how I'm a sucker for a good bargain, Alex.”
“That’s the exact same strategy you tried last time, and you ended up with –” Alex gestured towards the heap of slush and ice slabs that were slowly melting into the hillside.
“We’ll have to specify, then, that the palace must be able to last for – oh, let’s say, a thousand years, minimum. And, of course, we’ll bar that shady businessman from entering again.”
“As your royal advisor, I must advise you against this,” said Alex. “I suggest you hire back the Royal Architect and allow her to –”
“Alas, I will ignore your advice,” said the king. He turned straightened his posture, gazing out across the horizon, which, due to their close proximity to the tree line, was no more than ten feet away. “I will build the cheapest palace, thus showing that hot peasant girl that I am worthy of her love. Come with me and we’ll spread the news to the people of this great kingdom that whoever builds the cheapest palace will receive…” He broke off in deep thought once again. “It’s traditional to offer one's daughter’s hand in marriage as a reward, but I don’t have any daughters.” He glanced at Alex. “Perhaps you would be willing –”
“No,” said Alex, vehemently. “Your highness,” she added.
“How about a gold statuette of myself on my steed?”
“That should suffice.”
“Then it’s settled. Come along, we have work to do.” He turned and galloped away.
“Your highness, you forgot your horse,” called Alex.
“Right,” said the king. He galloped back and Alex helped him up into his horse’s saddle. Then he galloped away again. Sighing, Alex jumped onto her own horse and galloped after him.

On the way back to the king’s old palace, they passed through the kingdom’s vast and fertile farmlands. In the light of the early autumn sun, ripe wheat glowed bright and golden, swaying in a cool breeze. Happy peasants laid down their scythes to wave and smile at the king as he passed. Unhappy peasants picked up the scythes laid down by the happy peasants and chased after the king, but Alex fought them away from him with her sword before the king noticed.
As they passed a small and humble farmhouse on the edge of a small and humble wheat-field, they slowed their horses to a trot. Together they rode up to the farmhouse door and stopped. The king turned to Alex.
“Do you have any advice for me?”
“I thought you didn’t care about my advice, your highness,” said Alex indignantly.
The king stared at her mournfully and she begrudgingly relented. “Take off your fake beard. In my experience, peasant girls don’t like big grey fake beards, your highness,” Alex finally said.
The king nodded solemnly and pulled off his beard, took a deep breath, fell off his horse, scrambled to his feet, and knocked on the hot peasant girl's door.
Once, perhaps, such a courtship would have brought scandal to the royal court, but by the time King Beowulf XXX had come to the throne, such activities had become prosaic. The king’s father, King Beowulf XIX, had also married a peasant girl, as had his father’s father, King Beowulf XVIII and his father’s father’s father, King Beowulf XVII, and so on and so forth, all the way back the paternal royal line.
Just as the king named Beowulf came from a long line of kings named Beowulf, Alex came from a long line of royal advisors (whose names, thankfully, were more varied). Her mother had been the advisor to the old king, King Beowulf XIX, who had both died in a tragic accident involving twenty thousand geese and a blimp when Alex and Beowulf XXX were only twelve, an accident that could have been prevented had King Beowulf XIX listened to her mother’s advice. But he hadn’t, and they had died, and their respective children were forced to fill their places. That was how it worked in the kingdom – king raised the next king, advisor raised the next advisor, advisor advised king against doing stupid things, king did stupid things anyway and blamed advisor. Somehow, the kingdom had managed to survive for hundreds of years in this way. But Alex was the youngest royal advisor in the kingdom’s history, and King Beowulf XXX was the youngest king, and at times Alex worried they would also be the kingdom’s last. Had King Beowulf XIX been as stupid as his son? It didn’t seem possible to Alex. She felt a pang of longing for her mother’s guiding wisdom. But, thanks to twenty thousand geese and a blimp, her mother was gone. She would have to keep the kingdom together on her own.

“I need you to plan a wedding,” said the king as they rode home. He said a lot of other things, most of which were about the hot peasant girl, whose robust figure, flaxen hair, and apple-red cheeks he had construed as a grand metaphor for the fruitfulness of his kingdom’s crops, but this was the first thing he said that caught Alex’s attention.
“A wedding? Who is getting married?”
“I am,” said the king. “I told the hot peasant girl I will marry her as soon as the new palace is built. You must plan our royal wedding.” He held out his fist for celebratory fist bump. Alex did not return it.
“Shouldn’t the Royal Planner plan the royal wedding?”
“I fired her. You know how much money we save without a planner?”
“But I thought you needed me to advise you on the prospective palace builders –”
“You can manage both. You’ll see.”
“If you say so, your highness,” said Alex.

News traveled fast in the kingdom. By the time Alex and the king reached the city, the air was abuzz with talk of the king’s wedding and his new palace-building contest.
“How do the people know all this already? Didn’t you just tell the hot peasant girl?” asked Alex. “In order for everyone to know about this, she would have had to someone beat us back to this city, which means she would have had to ride on horseback, but no one passed us on the road, and there are no alternate routes for miles around –”
The king waved his hand dismissively. “News travels fast in the kingdom,” he said.
A crowd had already formed on the palace drawbridge when Alex and the king reached the palace in the center of the city.
“You do realize that leaving the drawbridge down defeats the purpose of having a moat,” said Alex as they navigated the crowd, but the king wasn’t listening. He had turned, raising a hand in a grand vague gesture, and begun to address the people.
“Comrades. Subjects.” He smiled, and the crowd cheered. Alex cheered along, reluctantly. “As you already know, I’m going to marry that hot peasant girl.” The crowd cheered again. “As you also know, due to an unforeseen complication involving faulty building materials, the new palace which I hoped she and I would inhabit is gone, so I am holding another contest which will be exactly the same, only with the added requirement that the castle must be able to last for one thousand years, and that the shady businessman who proposed the failed palace is barred from entry. So, my people, if you have a proposition, please form a single-file line and wait your turn.”
In the Royal Stables, Alex dismounted her steed and waited for the king to do the same. He swung his leg over his horse’s flank, fell, stood, and turned to her. “While I evaluate each proposition, you will plan the royal wedding.”
“Oh, of course.” Alex felt her blood pressure rising. “Would you like me to make you supper, as well?”
“That would be nice, since I fired the Royal Chef,” said the king. “Also, tomorrow afternoon, I need you to lead the kingdom’s army into battle against our enemies from the West.”
“I take it you also fired the Royal War General,” said Alex tiredly.
“You won’t believe how much money I’m saving, Alex! Actually, you will, when you balance the royal checkbooks, since I also fired the Royal Accountant. Now come along. We have a palace to build.”

In the Throne Room, the king met with each aspiring architect one by one. Alex, meanwhile, whipped up a salmon pate, then ran to the tailor’s to pick out the king’s wedding suit, then to the performance hall where the kingdom’s Symphony Orchestra was practicing to negotiate for them to play at the royal wedding, and then to the papery where she designed and ordered seventeen hundred royal wedding invitations. During her lunch break, she threw together some battle plans for the next day’s siege on the enemy kingdom to the west. By the time she returned to the palace, it was
nearly nightfall, and the king was meeting with the last of the prospective palace architects.
“Oh, Alex, there you are.” The king beckoned her over. “I was just about to hear this man’s proposal.”
Alex crossed the room and abruptly gasped.
“You,” she said. “You have some nerve.”
“Me?” The man pointed at himself incredulously. He wore a very yellow pinstripe suit and very yellow top hat and a very fake yellow moustache.
“You’re the man who designed the last palace. The ice-crystal palace. The one that melted three hours after its completion.” She withdrew her sword and held it under his chin. “You’re even wearing the same clothes you wore when you came here to propose the ice palace. Did you even try to disguise yourself?”
“Um,” interrupted the king, gently restraining Alex’s sword-wielding arm. “This is quite palpably a different man. That man did not have a moustache.”
“It’s understandable you might be confused,” said the man. “The yellow pinstripe is a commonly worn suit.”
“No, it’s not, actually,” said Alex.
“Enough.” The king spoke commandingly for what was quite possibly the first time in Alex’s memory. “At least let him make his proposal.”
“Fine.” Alex sheathed her sword. “Propose.”
The man straightened his posture and his moustache and swept off his hat to reveal a thatch of greased yellow hair. “My name is Stancliff, and I propose a castle that is made of a…transparent material.”
“Like ice?” Alex frowned.
“No, no, nothing quite that…tangible. This material is… indescribable. Indiscernible. It blends right into the scenery. It allows you a great view of the forest and the mountains. It will be warm in the summer and cold in the winter, but then, so is this palace. Unlike this palace, however, it will be just one story tall, but its beauty lies in its simplicity, and the way in which it incorporates elements of the land into its design. It also happens to be easy to assemble. So easy, in fact, that if I started building tonight, I could be done by morning.”
As Alex watched, the king’s eyes seemed to light up. “What you have described sounds enchanting in its innovation,” he said. “But there is one very important factor you have failed to mention.”
“Price?” Stancliff grinned, revealing a set of teeth as yellow as his hair. “Why, that’s the best part. It’s free.”
“Free?” The king leapt from his throne and shook the Stancliff’s hand. “You’re hired.”
“Your highness, I would advise you to look into this further before you –”
But the king ignored her. “I expect it to be completed by sunrise tomorrow. Then, I will present you with your reward.”
“You can count on it, your highness.” Alex could have sworn Stancliff was smirking at her.

Alex slept fitfully and dreamed that the king was piloting a yellow blimp shaped like a moustache over the kingdom.
“Why is it so small, Alex? Why is my kingdom so small? Who shrunk my kingdom?” The king pointed emphatically over the side of the blimp, and while Alex tried in vain to explain that it only appeared small because they were up so high, he didn't seem to hear her.
Then a shadow fell across the blimp, and she looked up in time to see the ducks descending…

She awoke in a cold sweat to the sound of someone pounding on the door to her quarters. “Hello?” she called.
“It’s me, the king.” His voice was muffled by the wood, but the excitement it contained was apparent nonetheless. “We must go to see my palace.”

In the morning they set off to inspect the new palace. The king brought along his fiancée, whose name was Gwendolyn, and whom Alex determined to be very pretty and very sweet and very stupid - almost as stupid as the king.
As they rode through the forest, Alex tried once more to warn him. “You understand that Stancliff's explanation of his design was profoundly vague? In that not a single concrete detail was ever specified?”
“No, nothing concrete. The man who proposed a concrete palace said it would cost forty thousand dollars. I sent him away.” The king snapped the reins and his horse broke into a gallop. “Come on!”
Stancliff was waiting for them in the clearing. “I worked all night,” he said. “I present you – the new palace.”
He swept his arm towards the hilltop and Alex’s gaze followed, traveling up the lush green hill still damp from the melted ice to reveal –
“There’s nothing there,” she said, but she was speaking to no one. The king had already fallen off his horse in excitement and was now running full-speed up to the top of the hill, hand-in-hand with Gwendolyn, his fake beard flapping wildly. Stancliff followed, smiling with satisfaction, and Alex dismounted and chased after them.
“Here is the entrance,” said Stanciff, gesturing towards nothing.
Alex swung around to stare at the king, to watch him realize he’d been cheated, but the look of betrayal never came. Instead, he smiled, and reached out as though to touch the imaginary door. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the king.
“That’s because you’re not seeing anything,” Alex shouted. “There is nothing here.”
“I think it’s lovely,” said Gwendolyn in her charming voice. “I’ve always been a fan of minimalist architecture.”
“Have you both lost your minds?”
“Alex, don’t be rude. Open the door for us,” said the king.
“You’re all lunatics,” said Alex. “My god, I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this job. Can I request a transfer? I’ll be a seamstress. Or a knight. Anything.”
All three gazed at her as one might gaze at a fly butting against a window, again and again.
“Open the door, Alex,” said the king again, slowly, as though addressing a very young child. “Just grab the door handle.”
“The knob’s right there,” said Stanwood helpfully, pointing at nothing.
Oh, Mother, Alex pleaded silently, give me your strength. So that I won't kill the king. So that I won't lose my mind. And, most importantly, so that I can keep this kingdom together.
She opened her eyes. She glanced at the king, who smiled encouragingly, and at Gwendolyn, who smiled prettily, and at Stancliff, who smiled victoriously.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:50:37 PM





The sun rose and everything fell from Alex’s mind. Alex woke before his owner did and shuffled to the kitchen. “Got to watch my cholesterol,” he said as he poured himself a bowl of Doggieos. Alex was a considerate pug. He made his breakfast and did his yoga before his owner Matt got up. He shared a condo with the 32-year-old bike shop owner in Westwick, a small town outside of Portland, Oregon. The town was sandwiched in between a tight-knit biking community and an up-and-coming animal stunt scene. While Matt ran his bike shop in the center of town during the day, Alex was free to browse the market. There were many jobs seeking new animal talent. As a seven-year-old, Alex felt like he was in his prime and was in the best place in Oregon to be showcasing his skills.

After breakfast Matt took Alex to a free tea convention Upstate. The bus ride there included scenery of bike shops and thrift stores that appeared abandoned. The bus ride back from Upstate left him smelling like spoiled eggs, thanks to the diaper that was thrown at him by an unattended toddler at the convention.

After a quick bath and a sneak of Matt’s opened beer in the fridge, Alex had enough courage to call up his adopted brother Jeremy for advice. Jeremy, a German Sheppard, had recently completed the local NA program. The toil of working as a detection dog had taken his sobriety and cost him his four pups.
“Jeremy are you there?” Alex asked.
“My good ol’ boy. How you hangin’ in Westwick? Still sniffin’ balls?” His brother laughed.
“Not anymore. I’ve got a serious question for you,” Alex said.
“If this is about me finding a new job, I’ve tried. Nobody wants to hire a junkie.”
“No, this is about me finding a job. It’s been months since I’ve had a proper audition. I’m starting to feel hopeless,” Alex replied. “How did you stay so positive throughout the past year? I know we’ve never really talked about your recovery seriously.”
“Babes man,” he sighed. “I knew that the babes were waiting for me on the other side of sobriety.”
“Okay, I don’t have babes waiting for me so is there anything else that kept you I don’t know, stable?”
“No, not really. Just babes. Hey, Alex don’t sweat it. You’ve got a degree and a mountain of debt. Nowadays that shows you’re really trying. I have chronically bad breath and worms.”
“Remind me not to call you for another six months,” Alex yawned.
“Noted,” Jeremy said as the line went flat.

Terrie, who was a Shih Tzu and Alex’s on-and-off-again manager, had set up an interview of a lifetime for Alex the next morning. She described the place as “a job that doesn’t just come around.” The interview was with the top stunt animal agency in Upstate Westwick. On paper, Alex was perfect. He did everything his father asked of him. Fresh out of the prestigious Vassar, he completed his M.F.A. at Carnegie Mellon. Once he graduated he found it hard to make it past callbacks. He opted for community college theater and the local scene around Pittsburgh before he met Matt.
“It’s your eyes,” Terrie once suggested. “They’re too big. You come across mean. Small eyed dogs are getting roles.” For years Alex internalized Terrie’s criticism. He wore over sized hats, flashy wigs, and even face masks to disguise his round bright brown eyes during auditions. That night as he fell asleep Alex decided tomorrow that the only face he was going to wear was his own.

The next day Alex skipped his Doggies and yoga and went straight into the monologue Terrie prepared for him. Alex recited his lines proudly in the kitchen: “I can save you Charlie!” He repeated this promise in various stances. One paw pointed, tail down. One eye wandering, tail up. Two eyes closed, belly up. To Matt Alex’s practicing sounded more like a cry for attention.“Quiet down Alex. For God’s sake I don’t want to get you neutered but if you’re going to whine do it outside,” he yelled. Alex slicked back his short fur, sprayed a hint of Matt’s cologne on his chest, and wrapped his head shots to his underbelly. He lit a cigarette and hurried out the doggie door and made his way to the Tall Building downtown where most auditions take place.

He made his way past looming strays and more professional dogs with pressed ties towards the Tall Building. “Today, I am a stunt dog. Tomorrow, I could be in one of those dog savior movies – okay probably not, but I can dream dogdammit. A dog’s got to have dreams,” Alex told himself before he put out his cigarette on a littered newspaper. “This is it,” he whispered as he stared at the building’s entrance. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:48:26 PM





Alex the Whale and the Fight to End Whaling: A Tale of Courage, Trust, Implausible Scenarios, Plenty of Whale Puns, and an Aggressive Scottish Blue Whale
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any character bearing a similarity to an actual whale, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
“The sun rose and everything fell,” read Mr. Plankton, “And as everything fell he realized that in his entire life he’d never eaten a mango.”
There was a great scraping of chairs as Mr. Plankton’s Whaleontology class got to their feet as the bell rang.
“Don’t forget to finish the rest of the chapter for homework,” called Mr. Plankton as his students gathered their whale things.
Alex the Whale swam out of the classroom and joined the throngs of other aquatic students of Oakfin High School. As he swam through the hallway towards the exit, he saw his friend Davy Jones. He stopped next to Davy Jones’ locker and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey, Davy,” said Alex.
“Oh hey, Alex. What’s up?”
“Do you want to go see a movie this weekend?” asked Alex.
“Yeah, I’d love to.” Replied Davy Jones as he shut his locker and put his backpack onto his fin, “It would have to be on Sunday because I have orca-stra on Saturday.”
“Awesome! I’ll see you then.”
“Cool. See you around.”
Alex swam out of the school and began to swim home.
On his way home, he passed an elderly dolphin with only one eye. As he swam past the dolphin called out in a weak, scratchy voice.
Alex froze...and then continued to float along slowly for several seconds as whales are incapable of stopping on a dime. He turned slowly to look at the old dolphin. He was wearing an eye patch that covered his right eye. A twisting white scar ran down the length of his face. He raised a flipper and pointed it at Alex.
“Come closer, my son,” said the dolphin. Alex wanted to say no to this mysterious sea creature, but he was drawn to the peculiar porpoise.
“Alex…you…are the chosen one…”
“I’m the what?” replied Alex, incredulously.
“The chosen one…you have within you the power to change the future…to ensure the survival of your species…you Alex…are the One.”
“The One?” asked Alex.
“The One,” repeated the dolphin, pointing with his flipper into the distance, “Just like the prophecy foretold.”
“The prophecy?” inquired Alex, turning to see where the dolphin was pointing, “What prophecy?”
Alas, when Alex turned around, the dolphin had vanished leaving Alex alone.
Shaken, Alex headed for his home. He swam up to the front door, and took the key from under the whalecome mat. His mother was waiting for him in the kitchen.
“Hi, honey. How was school?”
Alex set his backpack down on the table. He was still thinking about his encounter with the mysterious dolphin.
“Honey, is everything alright?” asked his mom.
Alex nodded, “Yeah, I’m going to go upstairs to my room for second.”
Alex swam up the stairs and arrived in his bedroom. He sank slowly onto his bed and reached for his copy of A Whale of Two Cities. He tried to push the memory of the dolphin from his brain, but dolphin’s words kept drifting back in.
The Chosen One. The Prophecy. Ensure the survival of your species.
Suddenly, there was a brilliant flash of white light. Alex shielded his eyes from the glare and waited for it to subside. Eventually, the light began to dim. It had been replaced by a low humming noise. Trembling, he lowered his fins to see what was there.
Standing, or rather, floating in front of him was an enormous blue whale. He was wearing a kilt and had war paint on his face. Alex’s mouth was agape at the sheer majesty of the enormous mammal.
“Who are you?” asked Alex in awe.
The whale slowly turned to face him and in a deep, broad Scottish accent, spoke thus.
“I am William Whaleace, the great Whale Freedom Fighter, the one responsible for the International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.”
“But…I…I thought you died?” replied Alex, still staring at the magnificent creature before him.
“That’s right, laddie,” roared William Whaleace fiercely, “But I’ve come back from the other side because once again, the livelihood of whales everywhere is in danger.”
“But…whales aren’t even an endangered species.” Said Alex, skeptically.
William Whaleace began to twitch as he glared at Alex. He opened his mouth wide and roared a terrible whale roar.
“AAAAAAAAARGH! We might not be endangered, but we definitely are in danger. And you are the only one who can prevent the extinction of whale-kind. You, Alex of Oakfin, are the Chosen One.”
“But I can’t…I can’t be the chosen one,” said Alex, “I’m just Alex.”
“The prophecy never lies, Alex,” roared William Whaleace, “You are the only one that can save whale-kind from the sharp harpoons of man.”
“Mr. Whaleace, whales aren’t in any danger.”
William Whaleace roared again, “Did you know that in Japan whales are still hunted for their oil and bones under the grounds that they are doing scientific research. Did you know that the U.N. is going to vote on whether or not to allow Japan to continue their unregulated annual whale hunts?”
Alex was in shock, “Really?”
“Absolutely,” replied William Whaleace, “And you are the only one who can stop it.”
William Whaleace grabbed Alex by the fin.
“If you don’t believe that whales are in danger of becoming extinct then I guess I’ll just have to prove you wrong!”
“Where are we going?” asked Alex, a bit apprehensively.
“We’re traveling back in time, Alex. You need to see the danger of hunting an animal with no regulations.”
The room began to spin very quickly and a bright light filled the space. A tunnel appeared in front of them, and Alex felt himself being pulled inside. There was a loud humming sound as Alex and William Whaleace were pulled into the tunnel.
Seconds later, they stopped spinning and emerged from the tunnel. They were hovering above a wide open plain. Strange looking animals were roaming below. They looked like zebras from their heads to midway down their bodies, but like horses everywhere else.
“Where are we?” asked Alex, looking around at the strange new world.
“We’re in South Africa in 1880,” replied William Whaleace, “Those creatures you see are called quagga.”
Alex watched as the creatures galloped through the savannah.
“Why are you showing me this?” asked Alex.
“In three years the quagga will become extinct,” replied William Whaleace, “They were hunted to death by Dutch settlers for their fur which was of high value in clothing and other commodities much like whale bones and oil.”
Alex gazed on in disbelief at the lack pack of quagga beneath him.
“But there are so many of them!” cried Alex in disbelief.
“They sure don’t look endangered do they,” said William Whaleace, “Just because an animal isn’t endangered doesn’t mean it won’t become endangered. As long as hunting without regulations exists, animals will always be in danger of becoming extinct.”
The savannah began to spin and the tunnel appeared again. They were sucked in and emerged this time in a world of white. They were surrounded by snow.
“We’re in Greenland around 1850,” said William Whaleace looking around.
“Why?” asked Alex.
William Whaleace gestured with a fin as a three foot tall bird went waddling past, followed closely by eight more.
“What are they?” asked Alex, watching the strange little birds with their curved black beaks move hurriedly away.
“The Great Auk. They became extinct in 1852 because they were hunted for their eggs and skins.”
“That’s terrible,” said Alex as the birds slipped into the water.
William Whaleace nodded gravely, “It is indeed. As long as hunting goes unregulated, no animals are safe, no matter how many of them they are. Once humans develop a taste for a particular pelt or delicacy, they will go to any ends to ensure that it stays in supply. In the end, money matters more to them than the survival of our kind. Now do you see why whales are in danger?”
Alex nodded, “I do. I had no idea.”
William Whaleace placed his fin reassuringly on Alex’s shoulder.
“I need to stop this,” cried Alex, “I have to save my species.”
The world began to spin again and the next thing Alex knew he was back in his bedroom with William Whaleace floating next to him.
“What do we do know, Mr. Whaleace?” asked Alex as he swam back and forth, anxiously.
“I’m afraid that isn’t my decision, laddie,” replied William Whaleace solemnly, “You are the chosen one. Only you can save the whales this time.”
Alex nodded, “Okay. We need to get to The Hague before they vote on the Japan whaling issue. We need to have our voice heard!”
William Whaleace smiled at Alex and held out his fin, “Grab on then, laddie. We’re going to Holland!”
The room began to spin again and they were once again sucked into the vortex. This time, they emerged in the Peace Palace in the U.N. International Court of Justice. There was a gasp from the room’s occupants as two fully grown whales appeared before them (an uncommon occurrence anywhere, let alone the U.N. International Court of Justice).
“What are you doing here?” asked Peter Tomka, the President of the International Court of Justice, in disbelief, staring at the two aquatic mammals currently floating inside of the Peace Palace.
Alex was beginning to sweat nervously, causing gallons of water to cascade down over the fifteen judges who began to protest and covered their powdered wigs with folders and moved across the room out of the splash zone. Alex glanced sidelong and William Whaleace, who nodded reassuringly.
“I have something I need to say,” began Alex, trying to keep his voice from shaking and silently hoping that the members of the court were fluent in whale, “I am speaking on behalf of all of whale-kind. For the continued prosperity of whales everywhere, Japan needs to stop their annual whale hunt. Whales are in danger of becoming extinct.”
Before Alex could continue, Koji Tsuruoka, the Japanese Foreign Ministry official representing Japan in the case, got to his feet.
“Mr. President,” began Koji Tsuruoka, “Whales are currently not an endangered species. Besides, can the members of this court really be expected to believe the words of two whales floating in the air?”
Peter Tomka stroked his chin thoughtfully, “Frankly, I find it remarkable that our translators are fluent in whale and can translate it into English so rapidly. I will hear the floating whales’ opinions before we make a ruling in this case.”
“Very well,” replied Koji Tsuruoka. He sat back down and gestured for Alex to continue.
Alex cleared his throat and began to speak again, “Whenever animals are hunted without regulations, they are in danger of becoming extinct. Just look at animals like the quagga and the great auk, why, even the dodo bird. They were all hunted to extinction because humans wanted their pelts or eggs. Whenever humans want something from an animal, the animal is in danger. The demand will increase and that will mean the supply has to increase, and when the supply increase, animals are hunted until they are no longer any of those animals left. Whales are being hunted for their oil and the ivory in their bones under the disguise of scientific experimentation and discovery and it’s putting whales in danger. Even though they aren’t an endangered species, if this annual whale hunt isn’t stopped they could go the same was as the great auk, or the dodo bird, or the quagga, and I will not let that happen.”
There was silence in the room for almost ten seconds. Then everybody in the room got to their feet and began to clap. The applause lasted for a whole minute until everybody finally sat down again. Peter Tomka got to his feet.
“Now, I don’t know who you are, or how on Earth you got here, or how in the hell we were all able to understand what you said, or how you are able to survive out of water for this long, or how two whales are able to fit inside of the Peace Palace, or how you managed to get to Holland, or how you know so much about the quagga, the great auk, and dodo birds, but what you just said is one hundred percent true. This court will rule in favor of the whales. Japan will have to stop its annual whale hunt effective immediately.”
The crowd began to clap again as William Whaleace placed his fin on Alex’s back.
“You did good, laddie,” he said, tears in his giant whale eyes, “Real good. Maybe even the best.”
“Thank you Mr. Whaleace,” said Alex, do you think I could go home now?”
“Of course, Alex,” said William Whaleace as the room began to spin. They were once again pulled into the vortex and arrived back in Alex’s room. Almost as soon as they returned, the door opened and Alex’s mother and father entered, beaming.
“Alex,” said his father, smiling proudly down at his son.
“There’re some very special people here to see you about what you did in Holland today.”
“Your father and I are so proud,” said his mother, as she wiped a tear away with his fin.
At that moment, the first whale swam through the door. It was Prince Charles, the Prince of Whales.
“Hello, Alex,” said the Prince, looking down at Alex through his monocle, “On behalf of all whale kind I want to thank you for what you did. I am also here to bestow upon you the highest honor a whale can receive…” Prince Charles removed a sword from his mouth, “…if you would please kneel.”
Alex made his best effort to kneel, but as he was a whale and had no legs, and therefore no knees upon which to kneel, he ended up floating slightly lower than Prince Charles.
“By the power vested in me by the Crown, I hereby dub thee Sir Alex of Oakfin. Arise Sir Alex.”
Alex swam upwards until he was again level with Prince Charles.
“Thank you, sir,” said Alex, turning to face William McWhaleace, “But I couldn’t have done it without…”
Alex stopped mid-sentence. William Whaleace had disappeared.
“Without…?” promoted Prince Charles.
“Without my wonderful parents,” finished Alex, smiling at his mother and father.
“Well of course they have to take some of the credit,” said Prince Charles, “I’m sure they’re very proud. Now I must be on my way, but there’s another person here to see you. Take care, Sir Alex.”
With that, Prince Charles turned and swam out of the room. Almost immediately after he left, a second person swam in. It was perhaps the most famous whale in the entire ocean.
“Mark Whaleberg!” cried Alex, as his favorite Hollywhale actor swam over and placed his fin around Alex’s shoulder.
“Hey there, buddy,” said Mark Whaleberg, “You did a great job today. You’re the talk of the ocean. How’d you like to go see my new movie premiere this weekend? You can bring a friend if you like.”
“Awesome!” yelled Alex
“Alright, buddy, I’ll see you on Sunday then,” said Mark Whaleberg as he swam out of the room.
“Alright honey,” said Alex’s mom, “We’re going to go make dinner. We’ll call you when it’s ready.”
“We’re very proud of you, son,” said his dad as they swam out of the room, closing the door behind them
Alex sighed and swam over to the window. As he gazed out at the ocean something caught his eye. He looked closer and realized what it was. William Whaleace was swimming across the horizon. As Alex watched, he turned towards the house and smiled. As he swam off into the sunset (which is somehow happening at the bottom of the ocean) Alex could hear him roaring triumphantly as he disappeared from sight.
Suddenly Alex remembered he hadn’t eaten all day. He was starving. He needed some food. Alex started to swim downstairs, but encountered a problem. His parents had closed the door and his whale fins were unable to grip door knobs. He used to have to break down these doors when they got closed, but not today. Today he was the champion of the whale world, today he could do anything. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob


August 03, 2015 11:47:21 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Well, more specifically, I fell. As my skin met the chlorinated water of the community pool, I was struck by more than the likely millions of bacteria; I was struck with the irony of tripping over the sign that read (with inconsistent capitalization), “WARNING: No running next to The Pool to Prevent injury.”
When I resurfaced from the lukewarm water (tinted blue with chemicals that would probably cause a rash), the wind picked up. I pulled myself out of the pool, as my four friends watched with mixed expressions on their faces. We had all driven to the pool at 5:30am to experience what was supposed to be a sunrise swim to celebrate the last day of summer before our senior years of high school.
I stood up to my full height, which was not very tall. My doctor claims this was because I did not eat meat growing up. My mother, who insisted I become vegetarian after she became spiritually awakened (after divorcing my dad) from the innumerous self-help books (which she had bought second hand to resist capitalism), rejects this assertion and declares my shortness an inherited trait.
My skin prickled with cold as the air whipped against my arms. And my head. And every other part of my body that was soaking wet with pool water, otherwise known as every other part of my body. I pulled on a T-shirt, “Drift Happens,” that pictured seven continents with animated faces. My dad bought it for me from the Natural History Museum to coerce me into appreciating puns.
“That was quite the fall, Audrey,” Jonah said. Jonah is a culinary enthusiast who dabbles in tennis and is of average height and weight with brown hair and green eyes. He patted my back as though I was a player on a minor league women’s soccer team, though come to think of it, I’m not sure that “minor league” exists in soccer. I generally try to avoid physical movement and sports because of energy saving and environmentalism and other reasons of the like.
“I guess it’s just one of the things that happens when you trip over safety signs,” I replied with an attempt and failure to be smooth. Again.
“What’s next?” Katherine, my tan friend with dark hair and green eyes and a passion for animals and classical literature, asked the group. The question was really directed at Eliana, because she was the one who had organized the whole day with timetables and sticky notes and color coded ink. Eliana is ultra-organized and extremely good at everything I am not, which is a lot of things. She is good at drawing and painting and sports. We met in math class when I asked her for a pencil. Eliana had ten perfectly sharpened ones lined up in her pencil pouch, and I knew we needed to be friends if not for anything else then simply to take advantage of her pencil stash.
“Well,” Eliana began. I can’t remember how she finished that sentence because I tuned out. My relationship with Eliana is like that; she figures out the logistics, and I go along with them.
Once, in a fight, Eliana accused me of being incapable of planning anything, after which I attempted to prove her wrong by planning a spectacular road trip. Spectacular being a relative term, of course. Though I planned to travel by car to San Francisco from our little town in the outskirts of Sacramento, we had to take the bus because my mom took our car to a kombucha brewing workshop, Eliana’s car was in the repair shop, and Jonah’s car is a two-seater because he is stingy. It was still technically a road trip, of course, until we got off at the wrong stop and google maps made us trek through two miles of brush (definitely not a road) to get to the next bus stop. When we finally arrived in San Francisco, the meal we had was amazing because we were so hungry that our stomachs almost risked self-consumption. Relative to an average meal, you see, this one was great. By this logic, I declare that this trip was spectacular.
But I leave planning to Eliana now.
“Time to go, Audrey,” Anthony told me, patting my shoulder. Anthony is taller-than-average with dirty blonde hair and brown eyes. He is a water polo player and a sucker for theater. He’s actually a pretty good actor despite the fact that he insists on spelling theater like a person from the middle ages (“theatre”).
I pulled on some shorts, and followed the group to Eliana’s car, which is a mini-van because she is basically a forty year old soccer mom in training. The minivan was Eliana’s only flaw: while she was always neat, the minivan was beat up. The doors had mismatching handles, with knobs on some of them and duct tape on most of them. The seats were worn and lightly coated in dust from camping trips.
“Nobody else jumped in the pool!” I complained as we piled into the maroon minivan.
“Technically, even you didn’t actually jump in,” Anthony pointed out.
I grumbled for another minute about a bruise on my hip as Eliana started the car.
“What happens now?” I asked Jonah in a whisper. We were sitting in the back of the van so that we could evade Eliana, Anthony, and Katherine’s arguments about music choices.
Jonah rolled his eyes at me before saying, “I guess you’ll find out.”
“I guess I will,” I retorted in a mocking tone as though I was his preteen sister.
Eliana ended up driving to a trailhead, which lead us to the top of a hillish mountain or mountanish hill, depending on your perspective. At the top of said peak, we were presented with sandwiches made by Katherine. She had been forced to make them this time because Jonah had made sandwiches for every other adventure we’d embarked on and he was “getting stuck in a culinary rut.”
We ate our dry sandwiches and recounted tales from the summer. Before long, I began to get thirsty, and promptly began the process of manipulating Eliana into sharing her water with me.
“Audrey, you know I love you, but it’s just too germy to share water bottles.”
“You’ve probably been exposed to all my germs ten times over. We’ve been friends for ten years,” I reasoned. I was then shocked by the fact that knowing people for ten years was the type of thing my dad did, and became horrified for a moment as I processed the idea that I was becoming my both of my parents at once.
“Airborne germs are different from other germs. Meningitis, for example, is transferred through spit.”
I sighed and complained until everyone agreed that it was time to go. I hiked back down to Eliana’s car with everyone, piled in, and began the process of mentally preparing myself for Eliana’s tendency to drive extremely slowly to be “extra cautious,” which is an experience that leaves me close to tears out of impatience.
Eliana put the keys into the ignition and started the car, which promptly begin to stall.
“Damnit,” Eliana swore.
“Damnit!” Anthony swore, smacking the dashboard of the car for dramatic emphasis.
“Let’s call AA,” I suggested levelheadedly.
“It’s Triple A, Audrey,” Eliana snapped, “And besides, we don’t have cell service.”
“Maybe we should get out of the car and walk to civilization,” I suggested.
“What a plan!” Eliana retorted sarcastically. “Let’s just walk!”
“Well,” Katherine interjected gently in her typical Katherine manner, “We could map out a good route on this paper map.”
And so we did. Eliana’s mood improved and before long, we were walking.
“Look!” I yelled cheerfully, pointing to a street sign. “Katherine Way!”
“I was named after that street,” Katherine told us, but she was lying. She was named after her great-grandmother, which we knew because her mother never stopped reminding her of it in front of us.
“I was supposed to be named Elaina, but my mother is dyslexic,” Eliana divulged. Anthony gasped melodramatically. Eliana elbowed him in the ribs.
A mile later, we passed another street. It was called Meadowlark Lane, which reminded me vaguely of a fairyland. I didn’t say anything, because if I did, Katherine would go all PETA and yell about how animals were exploited in fairytales which was one of the mediums that lead to our reliance on other beings for entertainment or something of that nature.
Soon, the streets became closer and closer together; a sure sign of human settlement.
“I think there must be cell service here,” Jonah said. He had been quiet for a mile or so before because he was hungry, which was his own fault. He snootily refused to eat Katherine’s sandwich, so Anthony ate it because he swims 2 miles every day and burns about ten times as many calories as the average human in everyday life.
“Why don’t you try your phone, Jonah,” Katherine suggested.
“I left mine in the car,” he admitted.
“I have mine!” I said excitedly. I pulled it out of my pocket, but soon realized it was dead. As it was on most days. Anthony’s had gotten water on his and it was now broken, and Katherine didn’t have a phone because she had once heard that they tested cell phones on animals early on in cell phone history.
We all looked at Eliana.
“Of course I have mine,” she bragged. “It’s just purse--”
“Which you left in the car,” Jonah finished.
We kept walking. Soon enough, a car appeared at the bend in the road. We promptly stuck our thumbs out, but realized it was a five-seater, and would not be big enough for all of us. The car whizzed by.
“If I could have anything right now, I would have a cell phone to call a taxi,” Eliana sighed.
“I would wish for that sandwich,” Jonah replied.
“I would wish for a car and a burrito, because if you’re wishing something you might as well get a burrito out of the deal,” I added.
“Another car!” Katherine pointed out. This one was roomy enough for all of us. We stuck our thumbs out and the car pulled over.
“Hello there!” Eliana greeted cheerfully as the window rolled down. A pretty blonde woman sat in the passenger seat next to a man with a beard and stained shirt.
The woman said something in highly accented English that nobody could understand.
Eliana attempted to explain our situation to them. “Our car,” she gestured to their car, “broke down. We had to walk,” she walked in place, “to where there is a car mechanic.”
“I don’ta peak the Engleesh,” the woman said.
“Could we,” she gestured to the group, “ have a ride?” She pointed into their car.
The lady shrugged. “Apology,” she said.
“Thanks anyway,” Eliana sighed. They drove away.
“Let’s visualize a nice, big car with seats enough for all of us,” Katherine suggested, closing her eyes lightly. Sometimes I wonder if she and my mom are the same person.
“Just please don’t let it be Steven,” Eliana begged. Steven was the douchebag who broke Eliana’s heart in Junior year.
A car turned around the bend. It was a big silver SUV with a license plate that read “SIENNA 13.”
“Oh, God,” Eliana breathed. It was Sienna, who is Steven’s girlfriend. She would be nice, except that she is infatuated with Steven as though she is the doting mother of a spoiled toddler.
“I’m thirsty,” I complained, “I don’t care if it’s Sienna!”
But it wasn’t just Sienna. One of our other classmates, Alexander, was with her.
Alexander is my mom’s best friend’s son, so I’m forced to spend time with him on a tri-yearly basis despite the fact that he is one of the most aggravating people I’ve ever met. It’s not any one trait that bothers me, but the combination of them. Like the way he says “prolly” instead of “probably” and gives people nicknames and is unsettlingly charismatic. He also gives me life tips and encouragements whenever I run into him. The other day, he told me it would be “extremely flattering” for me to get a haircut and then he ended it by saying, “Just so you have a guy’s perspective.”
They pulled over.
“Oh you guys!” Sienna whimpered with knotted eyebrows. “What are you doing out here?
We explained the whole story to her.
“Poor things!” She cooed. “Hop right in to the back there.”
We piled in.
“I actually just repaired a car that was stalling,” Alexander began. I groaned inwardly, “I’ll just take a quick look when we get back to your car, Eli.” Alexander is an autorepairman, which he thinks is cool.
“Thanks so much, Alexander,” Eliana replied in her falsetto voice.
“I’m actually going by Alex now,” Alexander said. “Sienna came up with it.” He stroked her blonde hair. We gaped at each other behind their backs. They’re dating? Anthony mouthed. Looks like it, Katherine mouthed back gravely with a grimace.
“Do you have any water, Alexander?” I asked.
“Really--call me Alex, Aud!” Alexander corrected, addressing me by my least favorite nickname.
“I have maple water,” Sienna replied, handing me a carton from Trader Joe’s with a maple leaf on it. “It’s rich in magnesium and vitamins and is so yummy!” I felt the urge to pour the fancy water over her head but resisted out of thirst.
I opened the carton and took a sip. I made a face but drank the entire carton as though I had been stranded on a desert island for two days with nothing but seawater to keep me alive. I was still thirsty.
The rest of the car ride only took about 15 minutes, though we had been walking for nearly 3 hours.
I removed my seatbelt violently for emphasis and raced out of the car.
“Wow, Aud, you sure couldn’t wait to get out!” Alexander joked.
“I just can’t stand to sit, Alexander!” I lied, mostly just so that I could squeeze another use of his full name in before he left. In truth, I felt as though I had just attempted to outrun a very angry person for seven miles, failed, and then been electrocuted (through the legs only) in a freak accident during which exposed electric wires grazed my highly fragile skin.
“Let’s get this car started!” Alexander said in his most surfer-esque voice, though he had only been to the beach three times and never once touched a surfboard.
He opened the hood and ambled around for a while before diagnosing the problem, which I have since forgotten, and then fixing it.
“Looks like you’re ready to go!” Alexander finally said. “I’ll just try this baby out,” he tapped the hood, “to make sure she’s in working order.” After he had finished, he hopped out.
“Is there a bathroom nearby?” Alexander asked.
“Just over there,” I said, pointing to a little toilet house at the foot of the hillish mountain.
“I thought that was the visitor’s center!” He replied, laughing. He began walking over to it.
“Could you get me some paper towels, Alex? I think some maple water spilled in my backseat,” Sienna called after him.
“There aren’t any paper towels in there. It’s more of an outhouse type of a situation,” Anthony said.
Alexander retreated as quickly as he could.
“It’s no big deal, Alexander!” I said. “We’ll walk over there with you if you want,” I added to be condescending.
“Okay, could you?” He asked. I felt a surge of pity for him.
We walked over to the outhouse, all seven of us. Anthony gave him words of encouragement. I patted him on the back as though he were a player on a minor league women’s soccer team. It took him about ten minutes to work up the courage to do anything, which left me with a great deal of satisfaction with life.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:45:33 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell.”
Well, actually, “everything” is a pretty. I knew Ma was right, I am no good at this.
Should’ve become an accountant. Wouldn’t need my words then.
Come on, Q, don’t do this to yourself. Don’t disappoint your therapist.
Let’s try this: (Now that’s the spirit!)
“The sun rose and but all remained dark. “ - it’ll do for now.
“Sarabeth’s image danced across Alex’s mind, not permitting him to welcome the glow of the Texas sun to permeate his lids”
Hey! That’s not too shabby, right?
Who am I kidding that sucks. Fishsticks. Alright, alright we’ll just workshop it.
“Sarabeth. Her image. It danced. Alex’s eyes. No glow. Her glow.”
The lyrical approach, never fails!
. .
. . .
. . . .
Until now.. Jesus that sucks.
“Sarabeth’s glistening image violated Alex’s thoughts, allowing darkness to persist regardless of the sun’s state”
Okay I’m just not going to proofread this crap and move on.
(Take that, Ma)
“Her devilish smiled caused Alex to toss, and turn. And toss again. Till he could no longer toss, anymore. Ever.”
Good Q, the dramatic approach is good. But back it up.
Alright -
“Her devilish smiled caused Alex to toss, and turn. And toss again. Till he could no longer toss, anymore. Because he fell out of his bed.”
“Sarabeth was out of his sight but he couldn’t help miss her fictitious yet thrill evoking persona”
YAS Q, slay. Okey.
Maybe you should proofread, it seems like the authorly thing to do.
Sure, Ma’s right that you aren’t a published author (YET.) and that you still live in her basement and you probably should be able to meet a girl who is willing to spend the rest of her life with you and to bare your children (moreover, Ma’s grandchildren) and your “questionable” (frack you, Ma) personality and you dairy and peanut and gluten allergies and not be embarrassed by your ACTUAL first name but great things take time. And greatness to match this greatness (me) definitely will be slow, but perking up!
Like your coffee order!
Pat yourself on that back for that one buddy.
This is why you’re meant for the page, Q! You clever devil you. Ah geez.

What was I gona..OH YEAH! Proofread. Let’s do this deed.
. .
. . .
. . . .
What the shit(take mushrooms)… this is awful…
Where is your symbolism, Q? Where is the emotional core? The stomach wrenching drama? The exposition? Rising action?? Climax???! falling action??!?! And dénouement/resolution/revelation/catastrophe?!??!?!?
Don’t let Freytag down man, you just can’t.
Alright Q, how about we just move on. Maybe make this scene a flashback or something later. The reader, s(he) just isn’t ready for it quite yet. And you need to recover. We all really know who Sarabeth is man. Take time. Heal. Do some yoga. Pet the cat. Tell Ma you love her.

Alright, next scene. So Alex is gona leave his bed to get dressed cause the glow of the Texas sun totally burns his adolescent eyes and he's gona rub-a-dub-dub the gunk out of them/ the image of Sarabeth till he thinks he hears her voice and slowly approaches the closet to open the door, see her there, freak the frick out, and hide under his sheets just to realize he’s actually in another dream when he wakes up to the shrill yell of his mother’s voice and the smell of burnt toast.

Can we fit that into a sentence? Survey says -
N o .

Okay Q, victor’s breath. Be concise. Try for concise.

“Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.”

August 03, 2015 11:44:24 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. The sentence sat under a fat header. A red pen flew down upon the paper and went to work. When finished, the controller of the pen-holding hand looked up at the boy.
“What is a sun rose?”
“What is a sun rose? Is it a type of flower?”
“No, it’s, a… a sun rose isn’t a thing. The sun is rising.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s a sunrise. I’m just talking about, you know, that.”
“So a sun rose isn’t falling right here, along with everything?” The hand-controller’s mouth salivated.
“No… there’s, uh, a sun rising, and, uh, everything falling. That’s what I was thinking, maybe, how I would start it.”
“Hm. How curious,” said the controller.
The boy, who was not holding a pen, let alone a red one, forced small bits of air and dust out his nose in an impression of a laugh. “But, um, what do you think of it?”
“Well, I was confused, you see, by the first line. What was it, again?”
“The sun rose and everything fell?”
The second hand, without the pen, snapped before the boy had finished. “Yes, that one. I was confused because your manner of phrasing led me to believe ‘the sun rose’ and ‘everything’ were compound subjects of the predicate ‘fell.’”
“Huh? I’m not sure-”
“You see, had you meant to detail the rising of the sun and the rather--let’s call it literary, why don’t we--collapse of ‘everything,’ you would have known that, in a sentence with two subjects, two verbs, and a coordinating conjunction, one is required to separate the two independent clauses with a comma.”
“Well, yeah, but-”
“Had you begun with something like ‘the sun rose, and everything fell,’ including a comma before ‘and,’ perhaps I would have interpreted your words to mean both the cyclical pattern of our planet’s sun and an all-encompassing burst of gravity.”
“Wait, could you slow-”
“But you didn’t. And I was sure you would never be so base as to make an error of this pedestrian ilk, especially not in your midterm essay. Besides, ‘the sun rose, and everything fell’ is a horribly contemporary beginning, and you, surely a smart pupil, know to mimic only the Great Works.
“By process of elimination, then, the only possible meaning for the sentence was the true fall of everything, including a mysterious noun you call a ‘sun rose,’ an object of which I have never heard. Now, I have an insatiable desire for knowledge, and, delighted at my discovery of a new term, I asked you, ‘What is a sun rose?’. You responded, in inarticulate grunts, that my reading was, in fact, incorrect. But, as I have just described to you, that cannot be. So, allow me to reiterate. What is a sun rose?”
The boy coughed. “It’s, uh, yeah, it’s a type of flower. Yeah.”
The controller dropped the pen and clapped. Quietly, the pen rolled off the desk, landing with a muted thud on a number of grammar-bereft papers in the recycling bin. The controller was far too engrossed in clapping to notice. “How perfectly botanical of you! Do you grow sun roses yourself?”
“No, um, my mom does, though.”
“Delightful. Well, now that that’s sorted, let’s move on.”
“I mean, maybe we should wait until-”
“Nonsense. Let me edit.” The man, no longer holding his instrument, decided to control the manuscript instead. He cleared his throat. ‘Having watched the sunrise, the one I just described, the one in the sentence right before this one, we went back the cabin.’ Hm. You know, I enjoy your ambitious use of the first person, but you also refer to a previous description of a sunrise, of which I find no trace. Perhaps you can explain.”
“Um, that’s probably in there from, you know, an earlier draft. I’m really not sure how that got in there, but maybe you should ignore it.”
“Ah, forsooth. Rather disappointing. I had hoped you would read through your essays before bringing them to me.”
“Maybe I should take another look at it, then, and, uh, just hand it in after that?”
“Yes, that does seem appropriate. You may see yourself out.”
“Thank you, Professor Whitney,” he mumbled.
The boy shuffled out and shut the door. The professor sat in a rare moment of quiet glee, imagining the taste of the tear likely rolling down the student’s cheek. He slid the boy’s papers into the waste bin and grabbed a stack of exams. Soon, he observed the absence of his pen on his desk. He began searching the floor.
Across the transom of the classroom, Alex emerged, not nearly as humiliated as Professor Whitney would have liked. Having mistaken the disgusted invitation to leave for clemency, he deduced with great effort that he was in good favor with the teacher, who was likely overlooking the syntax error out of the goodness of his heart. Looking at his watch with similar effort, he also deduced that he should go home. Boy, the professor sure was nice.

The custodial staff of the professor’s employer and the student’s alma mater, Forrestbrook Elementary, prided itself on its efficiency and power, both in cleaning and in school politics. Many of the workers’ children attended Forrestbrook, and they whispered of the strings their janitor parents could pull in the Development Office, the Dean’s Office, and the Principal’s Office. The group’s influence was shadowy and mystic, and while great authority was possessed by all custodians, the identities of the master puppeteers were unknown.
Such was the competence of the janitors that trash and recycling were collected once a day, at 3:30, by an organized team that combed through each classroom on the school’s four major hallways in a web formation. More incredible was the staff’s ability to remain almost entirely hidden when performing the task: at Forrestbrook, seeing a janitor was like seeing an endangered eagle.
The phantom custodians reached Mr. Whitney’s room after Alex’s conference. The trash bags were removed, new ones were placed, and the door was closed, each movement performed in silence so as not to disturb the small, bespectacled man crawling on his hands and knees.

At Forrestbrook, recycling and garbage occupied the same room in the basement. Trash was tossed in the dumpster, bag and all. Recyclables, however, had to be sorted into paper and plastic in-house. Once the Janitorial Corps had finished collecting, they emptied the blue bins onto the floor and moved them into piles before placing them in the receptacles for their respective materials. Although the school bylaws instructed the Corps to rotate this duty, the same two janitors had volunteered to handle it every day for the past two years. The task was so unsavory, the basement so stuffy, that no one spoke out against the duo’s decision. At the same time that Mr. Whitney tore through the cabinets of his desk, at the same time that Alex marched home, the pair sat in the trash room, surrounded by documents and empty bottles.
“Hey, Iris, I’ve got another letter to the Principal. This one’s juicy, too. About a cheating scandal,” said one of the two, David.
“Well, file it with the others, then,” said Iris.
“You sure you don’t want to read it? It’s pretty good.”
“I don’t have time tonight. Jerry won’t be home until late tonight, and I’ve got to make dinner for the kids.”
“Okay, okay. But remind me tomorrow. I mean, with the details on this thing, we might be able to get new mops and napkin dispensers.” He poked around another bin. “Wait, isn’t this your son’s?” He pulled out three stapled sheets of red ink.
Iris squinted at the papers. “Alex doesn’t take drawing.”
“No, it isn’t a picture. It’s an essay. It has his name on it.” David handed her the assignment. “Here, look at it.”
Up close, Iris understood what David had meant; holding it up to her eye, she could make out faint words from behind the wall of pen. “Jeez, his teacher really ripped into him.” She paused, noticing multiple usages of the word “imbecile” in the professor’s notes.
“This must be the pen he used, too.” David produced the instrument and tossed it to Iris, who tested its shade of ink against that on the essay.
“Yup, must be.”
“Are you going to show it to him?”
“You mean Alex? Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“It’ll motivate him. And if he returns the pen, the teacher will like him a little more.”
“Huh. I guess you’re right. Maybe I can bring it up tonight. But no more getting sidetracked. Let’s just find what dirt we can, and we can talk about the mops tomorrow.”

The marked up paper turned dinner into uneaten leftovers. Blindsided, hurt, and betrayed, Alex left his family at the table and retreated to the bathtub to sulk about Whitney’s comments alone. The second and third pages were even more vicious than the first: the professor had labeled the prose as “immoral,” “without any decency or style,” and “reflective of a lifestyle reminiscent of a Gallic peasant preceding Roman occupation and the instillation of proper Classical manners and customs.” He sat in the tub as his mother explained her discovery of the pen and the great benefits he would enjoy upon returning it through the door. He emerged after she finished, but still remained silent and downcast all through the next morning.

“When you give it to him, smile. When he says ‘thank you,’ say ‘you’re welcome. And tell him how glad you are he’s your teacher, okay?” Iris said to her motionless son at breakfast. “Come on. It’s time to go.”
“Talk about the Ring of Gyges, if you can. But stay humble, don’t explicitly talk about how virtuous you are. Just hint at it,” she said on the drive to school.
“Good luck! Remember, knock twice on the door at a medium volume, and wait until he asks you to enter before you do,” she said as she kissed him goodbye, slipping the pen into his pocket. “Do it now, before your math class. I love you very much.”
“Thanks, mom,” he croaked back. “I have a good feeling about this.”

Mr. Whitney heard the knocks from the opposite corner of the room as he searched behind the books on the shelf. It was probably there, behind one of the books. If not, he would just check the floors again.
“Come in,” he commanded, turning around. “Oh. Hello, Alex. Do you have another draft?”
“No, Professor Whitney. Not right now, but-”
“Stand up straight, please. You look like a degenerate.”
Alex straightened his shoulders and continued. “Sorry, sir. Anyway, as I-”
“Tell me, have you seen a red pen? I swear I had it when you were with me yesterday.”
Alex looked into Whitney’s eyes. He felt the pen in his pocket with his right hand, and wiped his temple with his left. He took a step towards the door. “No, sorry. I haven’t. I was just, um, stopping in to say hello. And, you know, good morning.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be wasting such important time. Your first class starts soon, I’m sure. Ciao.”
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:42:49 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
Obama gave a special speech on the issue, because that's how issues are solved. By giving speeches.
Obama said, "Good morning, my fellow Americans. Today, a true tragedy has hit the American people, even bigger than when Walter White died on Breaking Bad."
A guy named Alex yelled, "Hey, some of us didn't watch the show. Use another metaphor, like when Destiny's Child broke up."
Obama said, "But most of us were pretty happy when that happened." Everyone nodded.
Alex was like, "Really?"
Obama said, "Yes. I mean, yeah it was cool seeing how the Spice Girls would look like if they actually had talent, but it just wore out on me."
Alex said, "Okay, how about when Nixon resigned?"
"Guy deserved it", a journalist said.
So Obama pointed at a door and said, "Okay, it's a bigger tragedy than if you opened that door, because you would be hit on the head a bunch of times since, ya know, the sky is falling."
Alex said, "Oh, okay. Yeah, that one's cool." Then everyone was quiet. Then Alex said, " least that's less awkward than one of your speeches..."
"Really?" Obama said, baffled. "I thought everyone loved my speeches."
Everyone looked around nervously. Obama sniffled, like he was about to cry. "Well... that's alright. Um... I'll be in my room if you need me." The president walked away, then a few moments later everyone could hear crying. They looked at Alex with the "shame on you" face.
It was so painfully awkward that Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:42:48 PM





The Outsider

“The sun rose and everything fell.” My mom claims that according to Gandhi, this is how you’re supposed to think of life, putting yourself at the mercy of the idea that every day holds new adventures, totally unrelated to the past.
I will check, but I’m pretty sure that Gandhi never said that. Lately, she’s been citing Gandhi’s words, albeit nonexistent words, a lot. I would guess it’s because she thinks that I don’t value Indian culture, and thus feels the need to instill a pride for the nation that I, or rather my parents, hail from. Now, my beautiful, deluded mother thinks that the statements she is fabricating in the name of Gandhi are profound, yet the things that he’s said are obviously 100x more profound. But it’s not like I’m not proud of being Indian, I never really cared about it. My culture was just a part of me, like my above-average height or the rolls that adorn my stomach. The idea that I could be inferior, well, perceived as inferior, only really hit me when someone at my preppy, primarily Caucasian school told me, “You’re pretty enough to get a white guy.” Isn’t that a touch insulting?
Well, the problematic thing is that my mother thinks that I’m afraid of the past, that I’m letting it hold me back or something of the sort. But not quite. I’m just a bit obsessed with everything: past, present, future, the meaning of umami. I don’t discriminate with the focus of my neurosis.
My mother made up another Gandhi quote while she was taking me to a blind date that my friend, Ileana, set up with some white guy named Alex. Ileana told me that she had the perfect guy for me, with an unhealthy emphasis on the perfect, her words nowhere near authentic, and her nose scrunched up just a bit too much. I knew that something unusual was to happen but then the restaurant he proposed we go to has really good food, so I didn’t really care. At all.
I might as well just kiss him in the beginning, so we don’t have to do that dreadful back and forth thing at the end of the date. Oh god, that’s the worst. Well, it’s not like I’ve experienced it before, it’s just in all the movies, even the good ones. “Just remember the food, just remember the food,” I mumble like a faithless preacher.
“What’s that?” my mother asks.
“Don’t tell anyone, but—”
“I don’t have anyone to tell,” I automatically retort.
“Whatever, just don’t alienate him, okay Jessie? Just be yourself.”
And that’s exactly the problem, my nature is to alienate people. But I mumble a dismissive, “Okay, mum,” and wander out the door.
I see him, and he’s even better looking than in the pictures. I assess him a bit, forming my initial, meaningless judgments, before he sees me and I can tell that he’s doing the exact same thing. But then both of our faces lift, forming very forceful smiles, and he’s pulling back my chair for me. He’s nice, very nice actually, and I get a bit excited because this just may be the first boy I might like in quite a while.
As we settle in with the usual mundane, early date talk, the family next to me receives their dishes. I presume one had peppers in it, because I went into a coughing fit worse than that of Granny Klump at family dinner in The Nutty Professor. And when I see everyone covering their plates, I do have half a mind to retort “I’ll kick yo’ ass,” in her stunted yet headstrong manner. But I proclaim “Excuse me,” because God forbid my beau of 10 minutes, dear Alex, refuses to excuse me.
He responds, “You may want to get that checked, Jess. You could have bronchitis.”
Ermm, what do I say to that? “Oh no, I’m just allergic to peppers.” Jesus, I’m out with a hypochondriac. I guess he is perfect for me.
“Well, last time I checked, 100% of people who have bronchitis are victim to coughing fits. And since you were coughing…” he says in a very matter-of-fact tone, as if waiting for me to realize my approaching danger.
And for a second, I really think about it. “But, of course they are,” I respond, and at this point, I’m a bit pained and confused. I can’t tell if he’s stupid or just incredibly cautious, even more so than me. Yet, being myself, by now, I’ve cultivated a subtle appreciation for him.
“Listen, we’re all threatened by—”
I interject, “China, the existence of ‘meninism’, the idea that Donald Trump, or worse Waka Flocka, may become president?”
He giggles a bit, “But would that really be worse?”
A small smile forms on my face and I continue, “Honestly, I—”
“Jessie, were you dishonest this whole time?” he retorts with mock surprise. And we continue like that, never letting the other finish their sentences, and it becomes a game.
At the precise moment that he’s leaning in, his parents pull up, because that’s just how life works. His mom’s the sort of figure that’s vainly holding onto the idea that Annie’s fashion in Annie Hall is still in and his dad looks like the type of guy that would change his last name to his wife’s in a marriage. He is so incredibly small and…stocky, and bald. Like shiny bald with a little hair around the edges and sideburns that cannot go without being noticed. They must be writers, the ones who inevitably teach.
I love them.
As I climb into the car, his mother (I don’t know Alex’s last name, so Mrs. Alex?) asks me how the food was. “Oh, it was impeccable,” I respond.
“Well, there must have been something that was peccable,” she claims, giggling at herself in a very small, mousy way, after which Alex rolls his eyes and her husband falls to pieces, as if he’s about to die from laughter. He must have practice. If I were living like I were about to die, say, tomorrow, I would first figure out why Caillou is bald or pretend to be Kylie Jenner’s dentist by using the horrifying makeup from White Chicks so that I could deflate her lips. I’m absolutely sure that if I were to live like that, someone would move up the date to yesterday so that, not I, but the rest of the world could rest in peace.
And then, it gets so. Much. Better.
With a painfully innocent glint in his eyes, his dad asks, “What’s it like being exotic in America?”
Just wonderful. My face goes blank, but somehow my mouth manages to form words. “Well, I was born and raised here, so I wouldn’t know.” Their eyes are wide as they look to glean treasured information from the foreign species. “And a billion people live in India while the population of America is a couple hundred million. So, in the grand scheme of things, you would be the exotic ones.” I can tell where this conversation is headed, so I’m hoping, vainly hoping for it to end.
“Ooh, John, we’re exotic,” Alex’s mom responds enthusiastically, but I think she can tell that I’m a bit affronted because she says, “We really love the Kama Sutra, your people really nailed it with that one.” Well, I’m obviously no longer offended now.
Alex sighs. My eyebrows rise in a fashion inhumanly possible and followed by a nervous laugh, I respond, “Well, that was written about 2000 years ago, it’s basically like the 50 Shades of Grey of an older generation, so it doesn’t reflect our entire culture or society.” I guess it does to a certain extent, but that’s an issue for a better time with better people. “And also, I’m Catholic. That’s a Hindu text.” Not really sure if I love them anymore. Actually, I’m very sure.
“Sorry, they can be incredibly ignorant with culture of any kind,” Alex reassures me, trying to send a message to his parents.
“Yeah, we’re ingenuous,” his father proudly claims, victim to wishful thinking. And I’m about to laugh, but it’s not a joke. Well, I’d like to be able to cultivate the same amount of self-respect, so that I too can hear what I want to hear.
“What?” his dad turns, his eyes wide, unsuspecting, and well, ignorant.
“Uh, nothing.” Did I say that out loud? Oh well, what do I have to be embarrassed about?
But the night continues like that. I hear it all: Slumdog Millionaire, Drake (Apparently Indian?), Rajesh Koothrapalli from Big Bang Theory (They didn’t know his real name), Aziz Ansari and Tom Haverford (Apparently two completely different people) and of course Apu from The Simpsons. They even try to recreate some scenes with Apu, so I hear John’s Indian accent: “Thank you for coming, I’ll see you in hell.” Already there bud. And I was victim to that 50 times. Minimum. But hearing them trying to pronounce Apu’s last name, Nahasapeemapetilon, which of course is not Indian, was the highlight of my life. My last name, however, is Albert.
“Are you all doctors?”
“Are you all engineers?”
Prolonged sigh. “Yes. Every single one of us.” Well, both of my parents actually are…
“Your parents had an arranged marriage, right?”
Actually, no. They fell in love in college. But…“Yes, yes they did,” I respond, inwardly rolling my eyes.
While they were boiling down Indian culture to popular figures and the conventions they’ve heard in passing conversations, I was the one who had to mention Gandhi. And that really was just a short conversation between me and Alex before I had to endure their recreation of Life of Pi. The whole ride was a bit embarrassing, not for me, but for them. I didn’t hold it against Alex though, who spent the entire ride profusely apologizing. After a while, I was not angry or annoyed, simply, enlightened. And a bit uncomfortable.
Some people really are very ignorant.
Finally, when I get to the point where I’m delirious from the incessant talk and in dire need of my fairy godmother, we reach my home. As I wave goodbye to my hell-buddies, I wistfully think of what went wrong for them. If I tried, I would be helping the world by fixing them.
Alex, who accompanies me to the door, reads my mind. “Believe me, I’ve tried. They or their,” he gestures at nothing, looking for something, anything to capture his parent’s essence, “I guess, quirkiness?—are here to stay.”
“They’re good people, just a bit far from the light. What do they do by the way?”
“English teachers.”
“Ahhh, of course.”
When I asked him, a bit nervously actually, if we could meet again, he seemed relieved, and incredibly surprised. Pulling me into a hug, he responded, “Of course. You just might be the first girl to want to come back after the test that is my parents.” I could have said that that’s surprising but that would have been a lie. Instead, I smiled, the first genuine one in what seemed to be a while, while I put my keys in the lock, twisting, hoping for it to work and not make a fool out of me for once. But, my hopes went unanswered as he laughed at my misguided attempts and eventually helped me unlock the death trap. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:42:15 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. The curtain fell to the crash of cymbals, the last few feathers drifted down into complicated cocktails and sequined laps, and Alex fell heavily into a plush, furry chair that had probably once been white—and living. It had been a long night full of swaying buttocks and thumping music, but Alex felt drained and unenthusiastic. By his fourth whiskey sour, he was forced to acknowledge that no combination of alcohol, dirty dancing, and Instagram filters would help him enjoy the night. Suddenly, long slender arms curved their way around Alex’s waist. Someone slid next to him onto the roadkill chair, pressing hips, waist, and rice-stuffed bra flush against Alex’s body.
“Hey Marcie,” Alex sighed. Marcie fluttered long fake eyelashes against Alex’s cheek, managing to pout and flirt at the same time.
“Alex, honey, I yanked you out here to have a good time, not go belly-up like a dead fish!” Spearlike eyebrows increased their incline, giving the frown an official ski trail rating of Black Diamond. “A good one-night stand would have cleared all this up,” Marcie admonished, gesturing to Alex’s entire face.
“A good razor would clear all this up,” Alex shot back, hooking a passing feather onto the stubble that peeked out through Marcie’s foundation. Marcie squealed like an offended piglet and clapped a hand to the hairs on his chinny-chin-chin.
“Ok, we’re going home.” “That motion is seconded!” After a last pat-down to make sure neither had forgotten their phones, wallets, or shirts, the duo pushed through the doors of The Pulse.

At the apartment, they parted ways, Marcie stumbling off to his apartment on the 12th floor while Alex fumbled with his keys at the 10th.
“Damn. Rad! Raaaaad! C’mon could you open the door I’m about to freeze off my b—” A half-dressed, tangled girl opened the door, more than a little pissed to be so rudely awakened. Something like a porcupine wearing a wool sweater appeared to be perched atop her head.
“Radhika, Radhika, I’m sorry for waking you up,” Alex tried to placate, but the porcupine bristled.
“It’s 4 a.m., you bastard, and I’m going to have huge bags under my eyes for my date tomorrow.” Alex inched past Radhika, using his puppy-dog eyes as a shield, and locked himself in the bathroom to change into clothes that were primarily cotton rather than leather. He emerged with brushed teeth and a face scrubbed clean of makeup. Radhika was sitting up in bed, looking at him oddly. “Do you have something to hide? Like, I gotta ask because you always hide when you’re changing and only, like, hets do that.” She caught herself. “Sorry, hate speech. Only heterosexuals do that.” There was a tense pause. “Uh, I’ve never told this to another soul, but,” Alex feigned a melodramatic confession, clutching at his chest, “I have a massive tattoo that says ‘I love Radhika XOXO’ on my left asscheek.” Her mouth quirked up on one side as she quipped, “And the right?”
“It’s an 8 by 8 inch tattoo of Ashton Kutcher with the caption ‘You just got Punk’d!’.” Radhika threw her slipper at him.
And then, in that flitting manner of time after 2 a.m., they were both in their beds, fast asleep.
Alex woke to the sour, dry taste of torpor in his mouth the next day, and reasoned that he ought to get up, if only to brush his teeth. Radhika had already left for her blind date. He yawned, oozed to the bathroom, and squeezed a pea-sized drop of toothpaste out of the tube. To his credit, he didn’t fling the toothpaste onto the mirror or his pants when the doorbell rang—he only got it on the faucet. Toothbrush still in hand, Alex opened the apartment door. It clattered to the floor to accommodate an armful of angry queer conservative.
“HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEWS?! Opposite-sex marriage was just legalized around the nation!” Lily took two handfuls of Alex’s bleach-blond hair to shake him back and forth in distress, lamenting, “God, why would you let this happen; I say my prayers, floss every night, stay true to my wife…” Alex carefully extricated himself from her grasp but she simply gripped his collar instead of his hair. “First the immigrants, and now the hets. Did you know that immigrants are going to outnumber whites by 2020? They’ll rise up; take over our schools and our homes—” Alex tried to recall something he’d read in the nature survival book he’d loaned last month. Make no sudden movements, avoid direct eye contact, refrain from saying anything that offended the predator’s political views… He decided not to mention that all of the US—besides the Native American population—was immigrants, nor that it was impossible for all the European, Asian, South American, and African (etc, etc) immigrants to band together and ‘rise up’.
“…sex for the sake of reproduction…apocalyptic population growth…” Lily was still rambling. But salvation came in the form of an angel, feathers and all.
“Marcie! How good to see you here in these dark times! Have you heard the—” The angel cut Lily off with one imperious wave of his green feathered sleeve. “It’s Marcel in the mornings, actually,” he announced, before hooking his arm through Alex’s and brusquely walking to the elevator even though Alex was still in his banana-print pajamas. Lily’s cries of “the destruction of the sanctity of marriage” and “reverse racism” faded into the distance with each step.
“God, I hate that woman. She doesn’t know when to shut up,” Marcel muttered. Alex glanced at him out of the corner of his eye.
“So, you disagree with what she said, right?”
Marcel scoffed. “The immigrant bit, of course. The hets, I don’t know. Like I don’t think it’s any of my business telling people who they should be…” He made rings with the forefingers and thumbs on both hand and bumped them together suggestively, then extended the forefingers to rub them together, punctuating his movements with a lascivious wink at Alex. “Or should I be…” Marcel reappraised his hands, trying to figure out how best to portray heterosexual sex. “No symmetry whatsoever,” he mumbled disapprovingly, before dropping the rude gestures in favor of answering Alex’s question. “Heterosexuals are okay in my book, but do they have to be so flamboyant?” he complained while preening the feathers of his lime jacket. “They’re always in those baseball caps or ill-fitting basketball shorts, just trying to offend people. And don’t even get me started on those god-awful cowboy hats.” Marcel pretended to retch. Alex nodded halfheartedly.
“And frankly, no offense to hets, but their lifestyle is just reckless. There might be some truth to what Lily says about the syphilis pandemic being an act of God; it’s a disease meant to wipe them out.” “But homosexuals get syphilis too,” Alex pointed out. Marcel waved his objection away, retorting, “1. Not nearly as much, and 2. At least we don’t get pregnant. Worst STD of all.”
As they walked, they neared a woman and man sitting at an outdoor café. The couple leaned into each other over cooling coffee and a saucer of sugar cubes, his eyes flitting down to her lips as she recounted her morning encounter with raw eggs and a stray cat. Their hands were joined under the table, and both smiled as if they were in on a secret. It was all very gay, in the other sense of the word. Alex gazed at them wonderingly.
On the other hand, Marcel cooed and clutched at Alex’s arm. “Ooh but they’re just so cute!” He framed his mouth with a curved hand to shout, “WE SUPPORT YOU!” He flailed his free arm about, as if to prove his hetero-solidarity with the blue and pink “ally” band on his wrist. “HOW ADORABLE!” he yelled into Alex’s ear.
The two jumped apart, their romantic moment abruptly snatched. In the man’s haste to move away, he tipped the pitcher of cream into the sugar cubes and onto the woman’s lap. She yelped indignantly.
Both turned to glare at Marcel and Alex. “Alright Marcel,” Alex hissed, dragging him away by his elbow, “I think it’s time we go homo.”
The two powerwalked back to Marcel’s apartment and flopped into bed. “Grah!” Marcel exclaimed, frustrated. “They were so ungrateful! I make the effort to show them that they aren’t alone in this cold, cruel world…and they act as if I’ve personally wronged them!” He rolled onto his face, his rant muffled in the unapologetically pink covers. Alex rolled him into a Legally Blonde burrito as he clumsily changed the subject. “C’mon, we should have a dick flick marathon.”
The hot pink cocoon sat straight up, an impressive feat considering its fleece-enhanced girth. “But you hate dick flicks.” Alex shrugged.
“Aw, hell yes! I’m going to call everyone we’ve ever even made eye contact with. The stars have aligned!” Marcel crowed, squirming.
Like spoiled milk through a funnel, their friends began to trickle by in chunks. Radhika sauntered through the door first, left arm around the waist of a beautiful woman with legs for days. And judging by the marks along her neck, she’d barely survived a brutal attack by a battalion of Dyson-engineered leeches—her date must have gone well. Next came Magdalena the breakdancing street performer, Castor and Bobby, Helena the schoolboard trustee, BDSM enthusiasts Allison and Tatiana…they all piled onto the bed to watch the The Other Man.
Between facefuls of popcorn, though, Allison chatted with Tatiana and Bobby about the recent Supreme Court decision. “It’s totally not ok, because all those hets have just had their existences validated.”
Tatiana shuddered. “Can you imagine the danger heterosexuals pose to the young children in our schools? Pedophiles, the lot of them!” She raised her red Solo cup to a chorus of “Hear! Hear!” from a few of the other guests in attendance. Alex took this moment to roll furtively off the bed—Mission Impossible-style—and tiptoe into the relative quiet of the corridor.
“Wait, wait, wait.” Marcel held up his hand, the movie forgotten. “Can’t you show some sympathy for these people? Like, think—” The bed springs creaked as he stood up majestically in their midst. “According to the New York Times, more heterosexual people died in the Civil War than ANY OTHER SEXUALITY GROUP! Oddly enough, this is true for every other war in our history as well…But can’t you see? The heterosexuals in our society are being oppressed!” Alex, in the meantime, was burrowing between clothes hangers and shoeboxes to hide among Marcel’s collection of faux fur vests.
Marcel pumped his fist into the air, narrowly missing the ceiling light. “The majority of those in poverty are heterosexual! The majority of those with cancer are heterosexual!” He gripped Allison’s hands in a fervent plea for compassion. “The majority of th—” he stopped to scan the room quizzically. “Where’s Alex?” Marcel wondered out loud.
Alex was deep in the closet holding his breath, flanked by snakeskin stilettos and well-worn issues of PlayGuy. He could hear them calling for him from outside. There was a skittering noise as someone accidentally knocked over the bowl of popcorn, followed by some mild swears. The sound of opening doors drew closer and closer. Alex held his head in his clammy hands, faced with the realization that there had been a very obvious reason as to why he hadn’t liked partying at The Pulse, or why he’d repeatedly declined Marcel’s obvious flirtations. He didn’t like di—
“Alex!” Tatiana’s shrill cry broke through his thoughts, and the locked closet door rattled.
“Come out of the closet!” Marcel insisted, pounding on another corner of the door.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:38:49 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell.” The words were perfect, almost too perfect for David Rivette, a resident of Bertrand, Quebec. He was a painfully average man, living a painfully average life in a painfully average town. Of course, his crushing averageness made him too average to realize this. There were two things interesting about him: the fact that had an epileptic identical twin brother, and the fact that the arches of his feet were terribly warped. David’s job, slaughtering chickens at a local meat processing plant, was mind-numbing work. In Bertrand, it was either this or the rubber plant. The previous month he had received gel shoe inserts for his birthday, which alleviated his chronic pain. Although caked in chicken blood, they were his most prized possession.
Anyway, David did this Friday what he did every Friday, driving his sickly green compact home from his job, reeking of vague dissatisfaction and poultry viscera. Just like every Friday, he pulled into the parking lot of a small convenience store, run by a sheepish Korean couple, whom David had come to know personally. As he entered the store, a blast of Freon and liquid cheese product greeted him. As a courtesy to the owners, he made a point of perusing the aisles conspicuously. When they turned away, he scuttled off to the children’s magazine section.
David’s fascination with coloring books was not based on nostalgia, as he never received them as a child. Rather, he was so good at coloring inside the lines in real life metaphorically, that he simply applied that skill to the literal act. Usually, David liked to hide his weekly coloring book in The Economist, so that other shoppers would not be able to see his guilty pleasure. It was the perfect magazine; dry, businesslike, and always in stock. No one had ever opened The Economist in Bertrand anyway, why would they start now?
The town was split down the middle by a lazy creek that was half chicken runoff, half rubber byproduct, washing up upon the shore in tiny Superballs from hell. On one side was West Bertrand, a blue collar community of drab single story dwellings. On the other side was East Bertrand, a blue collar community of drab single story dwellings. West Bertrand and East Bertrand hated each other with a passion. The town’s sole therapist, located in a strip mall between a Chinese restaurant and a 99¢ store, would tell you that this rivalry was an outward manifestation of an intense self-hatred the two communities shared. No one listened to her because she lived in North Bertrand, a blue collar community of drab single story dwellings, a place the residents of West and East Bertrand hated equally.
David’s plan to cloak his secret shame in business was a victim of its own success. The plan hinged on a complete lack of interest in The Economist among the townspeople, and this is the precise reason the convenience store stopped carrying it earlier this week. Spying the empty rack, David reached for the next magazine to the right, The New Yorker, clumsily knocking over a copy. He picked it up by the back cover, revealing the last page. A cartoon, done in black and white pencil, lay captionless, the headline imploring the reader to find one as part of a caption contest. That’s when it hit him.
“The sun rose and everything fell.”
David quickly made his way to the checkout, abandoning his coloring book, and bought the magazine. He hopped back into the car, and drove furiously down the country road that lead him home. The caption was so clever, so succinct, it evoked the cartoon so beautifully, how could he lose? For once in his life the muses had decided to cast their benevolent light upon him. “O, sweet inspiration!” David thought as he hastily stumbled out of the car to his front door, his irregular feet kicking up loose gravel from the driveway. He kicked off his shoes in the mudroom, and shuffled to the study. Here he turned on the ancient computer his late Grandmother had left him over his twin brother, the white matte finish tinged with soot from her pack a day cigarette habit.
She lived by the cigarette, and she died by cigarette. One grey February day, she awoke with a cough that wouldn’t go away, accompanied by acute chest pain. On her way to the doctor’s office, she was hit head-on by a semi carrying about a ton of Marlboros. She lived by the cigarette, and she died by cigarette.
Though limited by the speed of his machine, David made his way to the website of The New Yorker, and read the rules of the caption contest:
To enter, fill in the information on the page entitled “Enter Contest” and include a caption of 250 characters or less for the featured cartoon (the “Submission”). One entry per person or e-mail address. Any legal resident of the United States or Canada (except residents of the province of Quebec), Australia, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, age eighteen or over can enter.

“Except residents of the province of Quebec.” David’s heart sank. He was, in fact, a resident of the province of Quebec, rendering him ineligible. He cursed himself for not being able to escape the town of his birth, barring a semester abroad in Lisbon. He cursed the Rivette clan for settling in the oddball province in the first place. He cursed the French for not putting up a better fight against the British, who took over the area only to leave it an outcast, highly susceptible to the Francophobic bullying of The New Yorker editorial board.
In frustration, David slapped the computer’s monitor, making the screen go blank. It was the only thing he had left of his grandmother; everything else went to Alex, his identical twin brother. Although the same in appearance for obvious biological reasons, they differed in personality. They went to the same high school. Alex always had something charming or witty or interesting to say, and people naturally gravitated towards him. David spent most of his time mouth agog, head resting lethargically in his hands. Alex’s friends were teenage aesthetes, discussing Ibsen and Chekhov over stolen Madeira on the weekends. David had but one friend, the feckless McKenna McKenzie, whose headless body was found by the side of the interstate a couple of years back. Although they dated for three months, her death left him relatively numb, which is probably what she would have wanted. Her funeral was the last time David and Alex saw each other.
The two had a falling out the month before, over misappropriated funds and a carbon monoxide leak. Alex took one look at the coffin, which was closed for everyone’s sake, then gave David a hard look and told him the news. He was moving to Toronto to work for the Toronto Star as a theater critic. Alex gave him his new address and implored him not visit, unless it was “an absolute emergency.”
The black screen held a strange reflectivity, and David immediately saw his brother in the dusty glass. His twin brother, who abandoned him here while he spent nights out in cosmopolitan Toronto, living it up with the cognoscenti, treating his mild epilepsy, perfectly eligible for…
“Wait a minute.”
It was the first time David had spoken in a couple of days. He took out his wallet and pulled out the weathered paper that held Alex’s address. A lightbulb went off. Perhaps he could use his striking resemblance to his twin in order to submit his entry. What qualified as “an absolute emergency” anyway? Here sat David, with a killer caption, one province away from receiving everything he ever wanted. He would have the respect of everyone at the slaughterhouse, and perhaps a chance with the pale and resigned Hélène, who slit the birds’ throats in the most graceful and alluring way. The signed print of the cartoon he would win as a prize would look utterly endearing on his teal parlor wall, distracting from the chips and dents that made it look like a bombed-out Lebanese nightclub. If this wasn’t an emergency, what was?

The morning was cold and damp as David blew five dollars on a bowling arcade game in the Bertrand bus station. The bus to Toronto was an hour late, and he had to keep his hands busy to deter any potential second thoughts regarding his scheme. Now full of self-loathing and lacking the required coinage, he slumped down dutifully onto the hard wooden bench and drifted off. When the time came to board, he did so dutifully, and drifted off again.
Alex lived Downtown in a small flat in a soulless condominium complex. David told the doorman who he was here to see, embarrassed as always by his harsh and guttural Quebecois accent when speaking English. The doorman (Chad, a hateful name) said that he should stay in the lobby, and that Alex would be right down. The “lobby wait” is the ultimate sign of estrangement, thought David. Alex entered the lobby, wearing a tan duster and a tweed cap, which made David sick. He straightened it and motioned to the exit.
They took a walk in a thin strip of highly manicured park by Lake Ontario, which glistened stealthily in the reflection of the gently humming city. David spoke first. “I know this might sound strange, but-” Alex cut him off. “Is it money? With you it always comes down to that. I’ll have you know I left my wallet at home.” David thought about the signed print. “Kind of.” Alex had seen enough bad plays to know how cliched this dialogue was. David quite liked cliched dialogue, and felt the conversation was riveting. Alex balanced upon a beam by the lake’s shore. He stared at his patent loafers.“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to go to my apartment, I’m going to go to sleep, and when I wake up, you’re not going to be in the metropolitan area, OK?” David knew that this was an angry “OK”, an all caps “OK”. The nature of the conversation dictated that David was bound to say the following, and since was too tired to play against type, he found it easier to lie through his teeth: “I’m really sorry about everything. You do know I love you, right?”
The platitude was enough to make Alex gag, which he did as he went into an epileptic seizure, swallowed his tongue, and went flailing into Lake Ontario.

David stood there, wide-eyed, for about an hour. Seeing as how most of his associations with death involved chickens or Ms. McKenzie, he felt famished. He wandered the solitary blocks back to Alex’s apartment. A new doorman sat at the desk, and smiled as he walked past. David shuffled into the elevator, out of the elevator, down the hall the wrong direction, up the hall the right direction. He went to the door bearing the apartment number from the crumpled note wrote on yellowing funeral hall stock. He had no keys, so he banged his head against the door, which was opened by a young man wearing thick glasses.
“Hey, Alex.” David eyed the kitchen, and told a terrible lie. “Hiya!” Who the hell says “hiya”? Certainly not Alex. Then the young man leaned forward and kissed him. David’s eyes were wide open, darting back and forth. Of course, the family would speak in hushed tones regarding Alex’s sexuality, but there was no formal declaration. South Bertrand, a blue collar community of drab single story dwellings, wasn’t exactly the most tolerant place. But times change, and here David was, being kissed by Alex’s husband while pretending to be his dead brother. The march of progress made David feel very optimistic about Canada’s future, and also very confused.
David made himself a bowl of cereal, downing it quickly. The apartment was large and very stylishly furnished. He relaxed on a slate colored couch and stared out the window, until Alex’s husband went to bed. He tiptoed in his shocked state to the bathroom, and rooted around in the medicine cabinet until he found sleeping pills. He took two, and lay down in the oversized clawfoot tub. He stared at the fashionable black tiled ceiling. This was going to be hard work. He would have to be Alex until his caption won the contest, which was inevitable. Then the escape needed planning, organization. Then the mess to clean up back home, where he left the faucet on…?
David awoke with a start. Alex’s husband stood over him quizzically and shook him. “What are you doing in here?” “Weird night” murmured David. “Breakfast is on the table, you’ll need to move it if you want to get to work on time.” “I’ll try” said David getting up slowly, socks damp from the leaking faucet in the tub. “There’s a first time for everything,” Alex’s husband prodded gently.
They were very good scrambled eggs. Perhaps the greatest David had ever had, although it was not something he had thought about before. Wiping his mouth, he went to the closet and ran his hand across the sweaters, fingering the alternating textures of cashmere and cotton. Everything felt very expensive. He picked out clothes that he thought were appropriately “theater critic”-esque. He settled on a black turtleneck, which he recognized from a picture of Samuel Beckett that the Drama Club hung in the hallway. He put on a tweed coat, and discovered his brother’s wallet fat with cash and theater membership cards, as well as all his photo identification. David was in too much of a hurry to think about the consequences of this.
After a cursory Google search and a short walk, David made his way to the offices of the Star. After a cursory directory search and a short walk, he found “his” corner office, which was lavishly appointed with a large mahogany desk, a glass coffee table, and several plush leather armchairs. The main feature was a massive picture window, giving a view of Lake Ontario, where David’s mirror image was floating around, dead. He rummaged around the desk, looking for the day’s schedule. Coming up empty handed, he turned on the computer, which was surprisingly sooty. David saw his grandmother’s initials carved into the console, a bad habit of hers. The computer was certainly larger and newer than the one David had at home. Rolling his eyes at his grandmother’s favoritism, he found that he had a matinee performance to attend and review that afternoon. Having nothing to do until then, he submitted his caption to The New Yorker under Alex’s name and address.
David thought the play was boring. Seeing as he wasn’t a theater critic, nor a writer of any kind, that was pretty much the only word he could find. Disappointed in himself, he sat at a bar near the theater nursing a Canadian Club, purchased with funds acquired from the late Alex’s surprisingly large bank account. A stocky man in glasses tapped him on the shoulder. “You must be Alex Rivette.” David hesitated. “Yes.” The man smiled “What’d you think of the play?” “Umm-” The man cut him off “You thought it was riveting, a tour-de-force.” David gave another non-committal “Umm.” The man thrust an envelope into his hands and walked away.
Back at the office, David tore it open, and found $5,000 and a prefabricated review. He considered the ramifications of this: Plagiarism, bribery, defiling the sacred art of journalism. It dawned on him that these were Alex’s problems, and compared to the last 24 hours, relatively small ones. So he submitted the article, flying in the face of everything his brother stood for. He couldn’t even stand that well. David drew the blinds, and took a nap on the soft shag carpet.
Alex’s husband was not home when David returned home from “work.” Feeling good about his rebellion towards his dead brother, David decided to watch television for several hours, as he did in most any situation; as celebration, as therapy, everything except entertainment. He heard a firm knock at the door. “Police.” announced an authoritative voice from beyond. Oh Lord! Wondering what the sentence for “defiling the sacred art of journalism” was, he went slowly to the door, making his footsteps loud enough to signal his forthcoming arrival. Two cops stood in the hall, hands resting on their belts. The cop on the right spoke. “Are you Alex Rivette?” David still hesitated. “Sure.” The cop on the left looked puzzled. The cop on the right continued: “We recovered the body of your brother David Rivette, and we need you to identify it.” Although hearing these words provoked a gut reaction of disgust, David nodded calmly and went with the officers to the morgue.
David sat in the sterile waiting room, his heart pounding. He had to admit the truth. Sooner or later, his cover would be blown, and he would be on the first bus back to Central Bertrand, a blue collar community of drab single story dwellings where the station was located. He thought about the dirty tiled floor and shivered. David reflected on the day. The huge apartment, the luxurious office, the respect, the bribery, the excellent scrambled eggs, the bank account, a thoughtful, attractive (male) spouse. The past 24 hours were the best of his pathetic life. Better than the day when he and McKenna murdered butterflies at the botanical gardens. Better than the day he was promoted at the slaughterhouse. Better than the day he won $50 in the provincial lottery. He couldn’t leave this behind. He knew there was only one way he could hang on to it, and it was disgusting and false and dishonorable. It suited him perfectly. The mortician called his name: “Alex Rivette?” He did not hesitate. “Yes?” The mortician motioned to a tinted glass door. Alex Rivette walked across the waiting room to identify the body of his late twin brother David Rivette, formerly of Bertrand, Quebec. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

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