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!

July 27, 2015 08:46:55 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. All Alex felt was a dreadful headache and pride. how did it all start? it started with...lemon aid. yes it was so innocent, sitting their begging for him to drink it. He took six glasses full, after all it was summer, it wasn't till his seventh that he noticed a small sign above it reading "vodka lemon aid." He had never taken alcohol before in his life and now he had, had six huge glass! He then did things he never thought he could do. Walking up to the prettiest girl in the party, he had confidence, he said "wow your pretty" she gave a laugh. "My names Alex..." and that's when things got crazy, he noticed a bunch of guys that had picked on him a bit earlier and he had the perfect come back. "I have never met a movie star before.." he began, the three men felt proud of themselves and everyone slowly turned to see what they were chatting about. "No sorry we're are not movie stars.." said the leader, eyeing the pretty girl, who gave a small laugh. "Yeah you guys are!" the boys voice escalated, now everyone heard. "Your Larry, Curly and Moe!" The three guys were ready to pummel him and seeing this the pretty girl ran over and said "no please don't hurt him" the men agreed as long as he left, but at the door Alex turned around and said to the pretty girl "You know babe, I am worth the wait" and with that Alex was marched out of the room, and left at the door. "No harsh feelings guys, after all I am six years old." Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 27, 2015 07:05:21 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Everything, of course, except Alex’s tiny underground bunker.
Alex turned from his computer and nodded. This time, he considered, spinning in slow circles on his swivel chair, he could finally be sure that he was the last man left on the entire planet. Not like the surprise birthday party of last year. No, it wasn’t even his birthday, this time.
He stopped and glanced at his watch, which gave little readings about the environment outside, too. Still unsafe.
“Oh well,” he said aloud, to 140 million miles of scattered dust particles that couldn’t have cared less. “Guess I have time to sleep in, now.”
Alex did not sleep in. He found himself staring at his computer monitor again, shaking his mouse every once in a while when the screen went dark. He knew there was some way to disable that setting, but he didn’t know how to do that. Chris had known, but Chris was dead. Alex’s eyes traced the outline of the rubble on the live feed, darting whenever it settled and a loose bit tumbled down to the earth.
Alex took the time to consider whether or not he could call it earth, anyway. One of the teams back on Earth proper had engaged in a month-long debate over the topic after Missy had brought it up in offhand conversation. Alex himself had sided with the “sure why not” side of the argument, but he suspected that had more to do with Missy and less to do with how little he cared.
It was pretty surprising how boring life in space was after communications with Earth are cut in a huge explosion that you set off to kill all the members of your crew. He found, one day, after rifling through the engineer’s bag, the merits of sudoku. He was pretty good at it so far. He was, at least, the top sudoku player on the planet.
Alex frowned at the alarm going off in the room. The alarm had gone off before, but Alex was so distracted by the massive fiery explosion outside that he did not put much thought into it. At one time he knew a couple of the error codes, but he had since forgotten. He did not, in any way, attribute this to the head injury he had sustained soon after landing, instead deciding his brain just automatically got rid of unimportant information. He also did not attribute his inexplicable violent rages he started getting after landing to the head injury. He thought it might be allergies. In any case, he started rifling through the engineer’s manual, while wondering why the man had been so overprepared for a trip to another planet, to go so far as to even pack a manual on purpose, to figure out what the error code meant.
“Proximity alarm?” Alex said out loud, to nobody. “Something is getting close?”
He rubbed his eyes in exasperation. It was his birthday party all over again. “Oh, we were just out for a bit,” he remembered Chris saying. “Pretty lucky that we avoided that release of toxic chemicals in the lab. Those two chemicals aren’t even stored next to each other. It’s almost like they were moved by something. Weird, huh?”
“Yes. Weird,” Alex had replied, barely noticing Missy waving at him in the corner of his eye. It was weird how consistently Chris was able to avoid the bad things that happened to everyone around him. Apparently, he had done it again.
Then Alex thought for a second. With the lab gone, where did the others plan on refueling their oxygen? Alex was the only one with any oxygen. All he had to do was leave whoever was wandering around out there to keep wandering around. He smiled. Yes, that made sense. Then he turned to the next page of sudoku.
He found he was not smiling anymore. He was, instead, staring with horror at the last page in the booklet. It was an ad. An ad for more books. Unfortunately, he was fairly certain the company making the books did not ship to space. Actually, the publisher didn’t ship outside the US and Canada, which, when you’re in space, seems like an awfully limiting thing to do.
Regardless of the financial decisions of book publishers, Alex knew he probably could not survive very long in the void of space without a semi-mindless activity to keep himself occupied, and without the internet his options were becoming severely limited. He glanced again at the alarm as it continued to flash but, thankfully, no longer made the annoying noise. Something had moved out there. He didn’t have a camera pointed at the right angle to detect what it was; he had every camera pointed at where the explosion had been because he figured they would be some awesome visuals for whatever cool documentary they made about him in the future. If he knew anything about documentaries from the times he had accidentally flipped to the channel, unable to summon the willpower to change the station again, it was that they needed a few more giant explosions.
He knew that the person outside could be Chris. Alex hated Chris almost as much as he hated that distant relative back on Earth who turned everything into a controversial political debate. He knew it might also be Missy, who he was pretty sure he didn’t hate, at least to the point where he was willing to talk to her for a little while. It could’ve also been another member of the team, but Alex had never bothered to learn any of their names, because none of them were attractive like Missy or his sworn mortal enemy like Chris.
Totally unaware of the Mars rover, Alex turned to the door and decided to play against fate. He carefully put on his spacesuit, closed his eyes, crossed his fingers and muttered something under his breath about hoping whoever was outside wasn’t “that idiot.” Then, he took a deep breath and turned to the bunker’s only exit. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 27, 2015 06:44:30 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell. With the barriers of yesteryear dismantled, a new day proves to make anew a young scholar.” - Alexander Q. Weebleton (founder of Weebleton University), 1912

Greetings prospective students! I'm Clarence Hoffman, director of admissions at Weebleton University, and I'm here to reiterate the many opportunities the University offers. Weebleton was founded in 1912 by Alexander Q. Weebleton as a school for double jointed males. Weebleton has has since grown to accept admission from all males, and, as of 1980, even females!

Weebleton offers a liberal arts education, with a particular emphasis on language and geometry. Forty percent of Weebleton classes are taught in Esperanto, and ten percent are taught in silence. Weebleton also has a heavy focus on geometry. In fact, geometry is the only math taught at Weebleton, because the professors here have long deemed it as the only math worth learning. Geometry at Weebleton, however, is not traditional geometry. Rather than study the hard exteriors and sizes of shapes, our geometry lessons explore what the shapes feel and what they might become. There are many specialized courses offered at Weebleton as well, including: "Philosphical Underpinnings of Tankinis", "Introductory Monopoly-Own It!", "A Case Study of the Film E.T.", "Dental Floss 101", and "Dramatic Singing of the Seinfeld Theme Song."

Many Weebleton grads have gone on to amazing things. Walter Meesley ('51), was the first person to swim from Texas to New Mexico. Nicole Literman, class of ‘76, wrote the very first cookbook for deaf people. Hannah Falsetto ('94), saw the actor Tom Cruise while on a family vacation, and he totally waved at her. These are just a few examples of the incredible lives launched with a Weebleton education.

Now that you know so much about this outstanding institution, we must inform you of our admissions policy. We do not accept the common app. We instead require one of the following: 1. a love letter written in your own blood, 2. an X-ray of your grandmother’s neck, or 3. the first page of every book you have ever read glued to a mannequin. You may ship these forms of application to: The House With The Really Big (don't worry, the post office will know what you mean). At 1.92%, our acceptance rate is in line with other scrupulously discriminating Universities.

We wish you the best of luck, and hope that one day you will become a Weebletonian and will join us in singing our beloved fight song: "Once he reached the portal to education, Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob".

July 27, 2015 05:53:23 PM





The Last Man on Earth

The sun rose and everything fell. The director of the European Center for Ballistics had risen at four, gone for coffee, pulled into the employee parking lot, settled at his desk, and proceeded to promptly knock his coffee onto the controls, resulting in the mass destruction of the Earth. And, yes, it simply was that easy to annihilate nearly the entire planet’s life, especially when the convoluted series of security systems (highly prone to malfunction), all had the passcode 1, 2, 3, 4, and the world’s most powerful nuclear weaponry (producing the same amount of energy as the sun), had got off simultaneously. The only remaining life was a percentage with a nearly incalculable number of zeros before a one. This percentage was the Last Man on Earth.
The Last Man on Earth (known to his deceased loved-ones as Alex) sat alone in a room, oblivious to his singularity. The house was an old air-raid bunker which was especially cheap and especially quiet, and Alex had converted it into a six-room living space. The blinds were drawn because it was too boring outside, it was damp without a working heater, dull without electricity, and it was not the kind of room in which the Last Man on Earth would want to spend his last Earth days. But, still not used to the way things were, Alex tolerated it. Tolerated it in the same way Michelangelo had tolerated the Pope.
It was a Tuesday; a week had passed since the coffee had accidentally exterminated all but one member of Earth’s species. But this didn’t surprise Alex; it seemed like everything bad happened on a Tuesday.
Miraculously having survived incomprehensibly inept to the present circumstances on nothing but canned ravioli and green beans, Alex had collapsed dolefully on the couch, lethargic, the high curve of his stomach straining against his shirt. While he lay there glumly, it occurred to him that people could die from this boredom stuff. It happened, surely. The power station goes wacko, there’s no television for a week, and suddenly, blam! You’re dead from nothing to do. The fortuitous death of everyone you’ve ever known, leaving you as the last individual on Earth, definitely increases this factor, Alex deduced in a much more simplified way; so simplified, in fact, that it was reduced to one equation that gleamed in his abnormally small mind: if people = dead, then Alex + dead people = boredom.
Then, sharply, there was a knock on the door.
Alex was an average person. In fact, the biggest difference there was between Alex and an absolutely normal person was the fact that he laced his belt through his pant-loops counter-clockwise. He was easily distracted by shiny objects, Look, over there!s, birds, and the national anthem. His favorite popsicle flavor was blue, his favorite show was whatever was on, and his favorite part of the weekend was getting up at noon, saying hello to the mailman, and eating steak while watching an actress spend most of her life looking upset on television. He was the sort of man who’d show up uninvited to cocktail parties and talk about that one thing that no one else wanted to talk about. So this knock was something that he handled as any normal person would. It was a reprieve from the perennial boredom, and his stomach, a magnificent sphere, stayed amazingly intact despite the emanation of ripples of every thudding footfall.
He opened the door.
Alex stared Death for a moment, then closed the door. There was silence as Alex tried to decide what he had just seen. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. A very good disguise.
Then came another knock, then a ring; hollow, cold, fingerless.
Alex sat back down, disappointed at the lack of a stripper or the mailman or any other random person he might want to see. “Oh, fuck off.”
The door was thrown open and there came a voice; mouthless, frothy, haggard. “So, you know me . . .” Death talked slowly, like he was using up the last of his reserves as he glided into the living room.
Alex returned to the couch. “Chris, you’re not fooling anyone,” he muttered. “Just take off that stupid mask and get out. I’m not dealing with the police again.” He paused and thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, no one’s been there to take my calls all week.”
Death continued to peer at him through some Stygian cloak of darkness. It was both there and not at the same time.
“Listen, Chris.” Alex rolled over and groped for a baseball bat by the television. “I’m really not in the mood for this now. You’d better get out of my living room before I do some damage to your skull.” Alex heard what sounded like a sigh.
“The rest of you were so easy to take,” Death continued. “Already dead. Conflict seems to be the only inevitable thing about your species. Bombs, I’ve seen, are quite popular with humanity. You just can’t get enough of them, can you?”
“Yeah, sure, Chris. Just get out, that’s bullshit,” he replied, fighting to sit up.
“Perhaps it would be wise for you to look outside, Mr. Roberts.”
“And what will I see, a zombie invasion?” Alex readjusted himself and stifled a laugh. “Is it a crime if I just want have time without some looney asshole?” Death tore him from the couch and slammed him into the window, drawing the blinds with an invisible force.
Alex’s face went white as he inspected the barren landscape riddled with debris of humanity’s existence. It had a dandruff-like resemblance to that of a giant scalp. “ . . . Holy . . .” He looked from the window to his guest and back again. “You’re not Chris from the office, are you?”
“You’re a very lucky man, Mr. Roberts. Not too many have had the fortune of speaking with me before they depart,” Death observed, his stark voice echoing like a knell.
“ . . . How,” Alex started, reaching for the bat, “how the hell am I alive?”
“Your house, Mr. Roberts, is solid concrete,” Death explained impatiently. “And so far away from anything else hardly anyone knew you even existed in the first place. Anyone who did obviously didn’t enjoy your company enough to warn you. I’m sorry, Mr. Roberts, but you’re just not important enough to live, and you’re very much wasting my time being here. Anything else before you leave the land of the living?”
“Wait!” Alex held up the bat, trembling. “Can't I just savor the . . . gravity or sun or air or something? They don't have gravity where . . . wherever I'm going, do they?”
Death sighed again. “Ah, yes, gravity, the cruel and unpredictable mistress.”
“Well-well, then, don't you have a name or something? I’d like to die knowing who killed me.”
There was silence before Death responded. “Jeff,” he said wearily.
“Jeff, okay?”
“Oh.” Alex did not anticipate a response. “That’s a nice . . . name. Want a cup of coffee or something? I can heat some water. I-I mean you’re . . . Death and all, don’t you get hungry? I can take out some cheese.” He tripped over his words as they fell out of his throat in nervous gasps. “Can I try on your robe? No, maybe I can tell you my life’s story. Don’t you want to hear it? I mean-I mean I have no one else-”
“Mr. Roberts you are too dull of a person to even have a life’s story. Now let’s get this over with,” Jeff muttered. “I have a timeshare in Orlando I’d like to get back to . . .” He was gliding towards him with an arm outstretched, his cloak billowing in some chilling, unseen wind.
Alex’s mind raced. There was so much he hadn’t done. He had always wanted to know where mayo came from, what raisins were. He’d never been on a jetski (only a bumper boat, which, if you thought about it, were basically the same thing), he’d never gone to England and been shouted at for being a stupid, fat American, and he was just beginning to teach himself chess. He was just getting over the sudden death of his Parisian dachshund named Jacob, who was visiting a neighbor’s house the Tuesday the world ended, and he was just starting to form an opinion about Republicans. But here he was, about die. He’d miss traffic and taxes and pollution and all the other things that made Earth great. Alex still couldn’t understand the magnitude of it all. Or what Jeff had said; his cloak was muffling his mouth a bit.
Everyone he had ever known was dead. Strangely, he had chosen to skip work the week it all ended, and had he gone he would have been obliterated. But after not having received a furious call from the office, Alex assumed his boss had accidentally stabbed himself in the chest while shaving or fallen into a bottomless pit of flesh-eating butterflies. He cursed himself for not seeing it sooner, seeing the danger, the emptiness around him, but he had deleted the evidence without looking it over, like email updates from LinkedIn.
Trying to do anything now seemed about as useless as getting your haircut on the steps of a guillotine. But suddenly something jumped up inside of him, screamed off its little red head, beat its tiny fists on his guts until it crawled into his mouth and puked out rainbows in the form of the last, glorious will to fight. At least, that’s how Alex saw it. Not as the primal instinct known as sympathetic stress reaction, but as minute man he later named Tony.
“No!” Alex screamed, pointing the bat at headless hood. “No, I know what you want! You want to play a game. We can play a game because I . . . know how much you love games.” Alex did not where he was going with this. He scrambled to a cabinet, fumbling for a package while his other arm still weakly held the bat. “Um, cards. Here, we can have a card-game, okay? You can decide the rules if you want. But-but if I win, I get to go free?”
Jeff sighed. “Oh, I suppose.”
“Okay, and if I lose-”
“If you lose, you will come back with me to the World of the Dead where you shall dwell in utter anguish and misery for all of eternity with the other wretched souls who consist of what you call humanity which has met a ghastly and grim demise by your own stupidity and folly.”
Alex thought. “Fair enough.”

The cards were dealt between the two by Alex, whose hands shook like on a rough night of nothing but Mountain Dew and Call of Duty. Once they were cut, he couldn’t help but feel Jeff’s gaze, an eyeless gaze, an emotionless gaze. He tried to shake it off of him, but it was a combination of something else; he vaguely felt his sister’s gaze, too. And his aunt’s, and Joe’s from the office. Alex felt the dead peering into him. He immediately regretted suggesting a game. He was terrible at games.
“What are the rules?” Alex changed the subject.
He felt Jeff grin. “You’ll figure them out.”
They played in silence. At first Alex counted the cards he lost and cards he won, but soon he lost track. As they were shuffled, Alex felt a presence, a deep, frigid presence. It was one that grew heavier with every card he lost. Almost an hour had passed when he noticed that the uneasy, grim feeling was beginning to choke him, enough so that he had sweat through his sweater, his hands trembling to an extent to which he had to put down his cards. His vision swirled; he couldn’t read the numbers on the cards anymore.
By the time Alex had one card left, the presence was so excruciating and heartbreaking that he tossed the card to his guest. He couldn’t take the pain anymore, he couldn’t take the screams of the dead that seemed to come from nowhere. His stomach was now a stupendous wobbling globe of sweat.
“Here . . .” Alex clung to the table as the room was twirling. “I’ve lost. Take me . . . please . . . I welcome you . . .”
“Mr. Roberts.” The resounding, slow voice surfaced out of the dark. “I will not take you.”
“No-no, but you must, you have to-I lost. Please . . .” Alex panted.
“What would I want with you?” The presence suddenly ceased, the pain and shrieks gone. Alex breathed again, could finally see. “You, a mere wisp of an existence? Humanity deserved better, I will say that.” Jeff rose, gathering his robes. “I’ve claimed many an innocent life, Mr. Roberts, but none so foolish as you. What would I want with an idiot for eternity?” Then Jeff disappeared in front of him, the air wavering with cold for a moment.
He shot up and looked around, finding nothing of Jeff’s departure. Then, his hands still shaking, he eyed the window, then the door. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 27, 2015 04:47:25 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Literally.
The sky was falling, and Alex couldn't help but be reminded of Chicken Little.

It had all started when some girl on the other side of the world had felt something hit her head. When she looked up, she saw a small hole in the sky. A blue shard lay at her feet, and she put the puzzle pieces together. The girl realized that the a piece of the sky had fallen and hit her, and she ran to tell her mother.
The story spread everywhere, catching the attention and curiosity of some the world's best-known scientists. They had examined the sky piece, but they couldn't make any sense of it. No one could figure out what was happening. The scientists noticed that the piece kept changing - the edges of clouds moved across the piece, and sometimes there was rain or even lightning. The weather seemed to correspond with the weather at the area of the sky the piece was from, which only confused the scientists more.

The next piece almost hit Alex. She had been walking home from school with Michelle when they heard a strange sound. "Do you hear that?" Michelle asked.
"Hear what?"
"That, that sound. I don't know how to explain it. It kinda sounds like someone whistling." She whistled a little, trying to show Alex what she meant. "I think it's coming from above...?" Michelle's voice trailed off as she looked up.
"What? What is it?" Alex asked curiously as she looked up too.
Michelle didn't answer, only kept staring straight up at the sky. Or rather, the piece of sky that was hurtling down, directly at Alex.
Alex stared, perplexed. "Is that...the sky?"
The question seemed to bring Michelle back to her senses, and she asked, "Wait a second, didn't that girl in China or something get hit by a piece of sky?"
"Oh my gosh, this is crazy. I feel like I'm dreaming."
"Alex, get out of the way! It's going to hit you!" Michelle yelled, already backing away.
But Alex stood frozen, as if she was a deer and the sky was a pair of headlights blinding her. She couldn't move.
"Alex, if you're not going to move, then I will." Right before the piece hit Alex, Michelle pushed her out of the way.
They both hit the ground hard, and Alex shook her head, trying to make sense of what really happened. When her vision cleared, she saw Michelle laying on top of her, and the piece of the sky right next to them. Michelle's arm was bleeding; the shard must have scratched her when it fell. What in the world is happening?


The past few days had been crazy. There had been several interviews with curious reporters wanting to find out more about the sky falling, some even on popular talk shows. Since Alex and Michelle had found their piece, three more had fallen - one a day, each time hitting a young girl, all in high school.
Everyone was going wild, people were freaking out and running around. The government tried to tell everyone that it was just a prank, it wasn't real, but no one believed them.
They were the biggest, craziest, weirdest questions that the world had had in years, and no one could answer them. Why is the sky falling? What's going to happen to everything? What in the world do we do now?


Alex was lying on her bed, finally done with all the interviews. Things seemed to have calmed down a bit, there hadn't been any more "discoveries" since the seventh girl was hit. She was trying to fall asleep when she heard something shatter. Someone screamed, and another person screamed in response. Alex got out bed and ran to the window. She was greeted with cracks in the sky, stretching as far as she could see. Oh, no. This is bad. This is really, really bad.
Someone else screamed, and Alex's heart stopped. It sounded exactly like Michelle. She knew she had to go out there and help, so she grabbed a baseball bat from the closest, even though it probably wouldn't be much help. Holding the bat over her shoulder, Alex walked down the hallway, stopping in front of the door. She took a deep breath, trying to prepare her for what would come next. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 27, 2015 04:02:04 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. The stars dropped from the sky. The moon disappeared. The newest episode of the Mindy Project started.
And there’s no way I’ll be able to watch it. :(
I remember how I got stuck in this billionaire’s maze of hedges. It was a writing contest. A stupid little piece of satire about a Superhero adventure from the “villain's” point of view.
It would be fun they said.
My parents that is. They had forced me into the contest, which I had won (lucky me). Visiting this billionaire’s mansion was part of the reward.
I was worried when my escort last night arrived well after dark, with a convoy of nothing but black vehicles. My parents told me that I should focus on what’s important. Networking for my family’s hedge trimming business. Not my safety. Not excitement for the fact that a fourteen year old gets to meet a billionaire. Just the fact that if I’m there, I should talk about what a great job my parents do with a pair of shears.
It would be fun they said.
I should have ran when the billionaire told us that he likes to impersonate the Jokerzls. (is that enough to avoid copyright infringements) “Would you like to see a magic trick?” He asked. It was a little funny, at first… It slowly became more disturbing as he started acting out Jokerzls movie scenes with startling perfection.
His henchmen escorted us out of the building and threw us into his hedge maze. They explained the rules to us. When the sun rose the Jokerzls was going to hunt us down.
It would be fun they said.
I used to secretly root for the villains in comic books. They always had elaborate well planned out schemes, and an unwavering ambition that I held some respect for. Usually the reason they failed is because the hero is ridiculously lucky and overpowered, or because they (often uncharacteristically) constructed elaborate death traps rather than kill them outright. “No!” I’ve said too many times while reading comic, “Don’t lock him up in some radiation room. Just. Put. A. Bullet. In. His. Head.”
But now that I am playing the hero (sorta), or random civilian 1 (more likely) I really hope that the writers adhere to the standard, happy go lucky comic rules.
Heroes always win, civilians never die.
When I was first thrown in the maze I ended up stumbling around for a few minutes in a weird semi delusional paranoia. I stopped when I started to think I was Batmanzls (My submission had been about Batmanzls vs. the Jokerzls . I’m beginning to think it was the only reason I was a winner)
I caught a few hours of sleep and was bitterly disappointed when I realized the hedges weren’t part of a dream.
I wish I could say I have never seen so many hedges before; but I have been very active in the hedge trimming business since I was four. That’s when I picked up my first pair of sheers. My parents see it as a sign of fate.
I see it as a sign of divine punishment.
I turn a corner.
There’s another human standing there. I don’t think about it, I don’t process it. I just run.
“I am not the killer!” The figure screams as I will my legs to go faster.
It’s exactly what the killer would say.
“You really are pretty slow. If I was the killer I would have caught up to you by now.” She says, peeking out from the hedge and not being dressed like the Jokerzls.
I almost turn red in embarrassment. I almost wish she was the killer.
But she is obviously one of the other winners. We start moving together. In case the Jokerzls comes, now she can flee and leave me to die.
She starts to make fun of my running. It starts to dig under my skin. Then a branch sways in the wind and hits her.
I feel better.
“So, what’s your name?” I ask.
“Alex.” She says quickly, running her hand through her hair.
“Since when has that been a girl’s n-”
“MY DAD WANTED A BOY! Ok?” She screams.
“Ok ok.” I say. I have a sister. I know how violent girls can be when they’re insecure.
We walk in awkward silence for a bit.
“What do you usually do with your family?” I ask, thinking about the hedge trimming business since well, I’m in the middle of a hedge maze.
“My Dad takes me hiking a lot.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Well last time I had to eat Fluffles…”She says sadly.
“Of course you did.”
“It was the bunny or us!” She screams at me. She cools down after a moment. “What do you do with your family?”
“Hedge trimming business mostly.” I say, recalling all the times I hid in the hedges to get out of work. It takes a while to explain the process though and if I told Alex she would probably insist that I teach her.
She scans over the hedge maze. “Ugh.” She says.
We are stuck in the maze another hour or so before we see the end. A helicopter stands in the distance. It’s in the center of a circular clearing.
I start to walk towards it.
“Wait!” Alex says wild eyed, blocking me with her arm. “Let me scan the surroundings first.”
“Was your Dad preparing you to become a marine or something?” I ask.
“No, but we plan on surviving the Apocalypse. I’m pretty sure the zombies are going to eat you.”
“Well I’m pretty good with shears...”
Someone else enters the path to the helicopter. They come from a path ahead of us.
“We should all go together.” I say, determined this time. I slap her arm down and start to move forward.
She tackles me to the ground and puts her hand on my mouth. I get the message. I shut up staring at her eyes with a mixture of hatred and annoyance. After the sound of the footsteps die, she lets me go.
There’s no one inside the helicopter. There’s no one walking towards the helicopter. It’s as if the man I had seen about 30 seconds ago had never existed.
“The killer has to be there.” I say. “Are you happy now?”
“Yeah, I am actually. Now all we need is a distraction.”
“Like what?”
“Like throwing a rock.”
I do as the lady says. I throw a rock.
She smacks me for being an idiot. “You were supposed to wait until we were closer to the helicopter.” She says in the angriest whisper I ever heard. “It was supposed to distract him while we made a break for it. Now he knows that we’re here.”
“Well he probably is distracted. If we run for it now…”
She starts to mumble. “Note to self. Kill any fellow survivors during the Apocalypse.”
“What was that?” I ask.
“My reaction to the stupidity of your plan.”
“What if I gave you a smarter one?” I ask, remembering how I used to hide in the hedges.
“Fine. Shoot.”
“I’ll hide in one of the hedges. You go to the helicopter. Run back down here as soon as he starts chasing you. When he passes by me I’ll stop him.”
“You can hide in one of these hedges?”
“What do you think?”
“I wanna go with a no.”
“Well you’re wrong. It’s the only thing I learned while working in the hedge trimming business.”
“Didn’t you learn how to trim hedges?”
“I learned how to hide so I didn’t have to.”
“Alright.” She says. “I’m selling you out if you don’t save me though.”
She finds me a nice rock to hold. It’s dense and can easily fit in my hand. She tells me to aim for the back of the head.
I enter my hiding place carefully, bending the branches in order to make a nice crevice for me to fit in. If you looked from the sides you would see me in a second, but the Jokerzls should be focusing on Alex.
She runs toward the chopper.
Then she runs back.
“Let’s put a smile on that face!” The billionaire screams like a madman. In (what is actually a pretty good) impression of the Jokerzls.
And then I see him through the hedge.
“YOU AREN’T THE JOKERZLS!” I scream at him as I emerge from the shadows and smack him in the back of his head.
He drops down to the floor. “Never start with the head-” He says weakly. I cut him off when I kick him in the jaw. Alex does it again for good measure.
We stand together panting for a second, just enjoying our victory.
“Hey I never asked, what’s your name?” Alex asks.
“Well isn’t it obvious?”
“I’m Batmanzls.”
She laughs and hits me on the head for my stupidity.
The helicopter runs on autopilot. It lands on top of the mansion, and we descend the stairs to go inside.
We are right beside the exit door, only a few footsteps away from freedom.
“Hey, shouldn’t we go save the other kids in the maze?” I ask.
She freezes. “I don’t want to go back there.”
“I’m sure the police will save them, or something. Do you want to do the honors?”
“Sure.” She says, relief in her voice.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 27, 2015 03:45:35 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell.”

That was the concluding line of the last crappy original poem Alex would ever read, and he was giddy with excitement. “I’m guessing that you’re a math person?” was the lone comment that Alex scrawled across the paper in biting crimson ink before he stood up and started to do a victory dance.

Alex, formerly Mr. Fay, was a 12th grade English Honors teacher at Wells High School on the Upper East Side. For years he had dealt with obnoxious teenagers, all of whom believed that they would become the next Allen Ginsberg or Emily Dickinson. He had read countless works penned by self described “poets” who considered themselves to be “deep” and “innovative” when in fact every idea they produced was hackneyed and stolen from Tumblr. These kids would scour classic literature looking for a unique Instagram caption to accompany their dumb duck faces. And today was his last day dealing with these privileged, pretentious losers because months ago, he had finally mustered the necessary courage to quit his teaching job and pursue his dream of becoming a writer. In college while pursuing his English major, Alex began to doubt his ability to get published and adopted the old adage, “Those who can, do; Those who can’t, teach.” He switched to an education major, and spent the next 30 years of his life stuck in hell. That’s right, he taught Dante’s Inferno every single year to a bunch of know-it-all teenagers who thought that they were special because they knew the difference between “you’re” and “your.” For years he fantasized about quitting his job to become a freelance writer, but as a 52 year old man, he was not quite sure how he would fit into the writing scene which was dominated by trendy hipsters with Kerouac quotes tattooed on their necks. He hated the direction that the English language was going in, and felt that it was his duty to stop young people from ruining the language with their ridiculous slang! Alex began to look into internships as a starting point. Old interns were “in” according to the new Robert DeNiro movie, Alex rationalized. He hoped to work for some internet company on the interwebs, like Buzzread or whatever the hell the kids in his classes took those dumb little quizzes on. He would write an exposé on the decline of language, Orwell style, which would spur a revolution and dethrone the bastards!

After a year of searching, he finally booked a paid internship at a “Femanism,” an online “zine” that was heavily staffed by the youngsters he despised. The people at the magazine seemed tickled by his gray hair and his “dad bod.” Little did they know that he had no children. In fact, he hadn’t had a girlfriend since he was a teenager, but Alex realized how important it was to look the part in order to gain the trust of those little twits. The night before he started the job, he looked at a wikiHow page entitled, “How to Dress Like a Hipster,” and once he laid out his old beaten up Chucks, pineapple printed tie, and news boy hat, he felt ready to infiltrate the world of the young and pretentious!

The next morning, on the subway, he realized that he was surrounded by young people with comically large glasses frames and bucket hats. The young man next to him complimented his outfit and struck up a conversation with Alex who refused to make eye contact with any man with a tattooed mustache. After the man asked him about his job, Alex hesitantly explained that he had recently quit his teaching job to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. “Man that is so cool. It’s so dope that you’re standing up to the Man like that; you’re such a hipster dude!” Alex couldn’t breathe. He hadn’t felt this confused since he saw his uncle Seamus in drag when he was 7 years old. How could HE be mistaken for a dirty hipster. What scared him even more was the fleeting excitement he felt when this objectively cool kid complimented him. Luckily, it was his stop, so he could get away from his evil seducer. He took a deep breath, trying his hardest to push the filthy thought from his mind, and walked down the street and came to the front door of the building. “Destroy what destroys your country’s culture” was the mantra he repeated in his head as he walked to the receptionist to get situated. After several introductions to his coworkers he was told that his boss would brief him on his first assignment.

He sat in his little cubicle, trying his hardest to ignore his strong and sickening sense of belonging until his boss, a tall woman in her mid twenties with hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in months, entered and greeted him. He was repulsed by how attractive he found her. She introduced herself and said, “Today you’ll be working on the company Instagram. You’ll spend the day sitting in a room picking out some quotes from famous works of literature that we can use for our Instagram captions. When you’re done with that, you’ll draft a list of the top 25 books everyone should pretend to be inspired by for our Tumblr! Also, I love your tie. SO Ironic.”

There was that feeling again! There was no way to explain why he wanted to do a good job, and he wanted these dummies to think he was cool. After spending all last night thinking of a way to fit his manifesto into 140 characters, he was starting to lose his resolve.

His boss started to lead him to the computer room where he would be working on these projects, and he followed with a spring in his step. As he walked, he noted how comfortable he felt as he looked at the hallways which were covered in old records. He was supposed to hate the hipsters, but he couldn’t deny how much he wanted his coworkers to think he was cool. Maybe he was cool. Maybe he was born to be a hipster. He had always secretly enjoyed Kerouac, and irony was his favorite literary device. They stopped at a glass door with a stained stainless steel knob. Alex noticed that right next to the room, there was an old unfinished door with a glass knob that led to the street. “Here we are. Enjoy!” his boss said before turning around and leaving him alone to decide whether to turn back or complete his task for the day. He took a huge breath, and made his decision. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 27, 2015 09:18:26 AM





Morning class

The sun rose and everything fell. Alex has a temper, not a “oh jeez, don’t push him too far or he goes off” but a “say his name, and he will murder you” type of temper. Bronnie knew this, so he never attempted to interfere with him. However, this all changed on the 73rd day of school, at 8:29…wait, now it’s 8:30 in the middle of Social Studies class.
“Kids, please quiet down now,” said Mrs. Casey “I’m now going to put you in partnerships for the presentation.” Bronnie looked at Aris, the girl of everyone’s dreams. “Please be with Aris, please be with Aris,” he thought “please be partners with Aris.” Mrs. Casey had dwindled down to having 4 students left to choose from: Bronnie, Aris, Eddy and Alex. “Aris, you’re partnered up with…” Mrs. Casey expanded the sentence as long as she could to increase the tension in the air “Eddy. And that means Bronnie you’re with Alex.” Bronnie, pale-faced and wide eyed threw up out of horror on the boy sitting in front of him…Alex.
Bronnie looked at the receiving end of his vomit and thought of his final goodbyes. Every student in the room stared in awe, Alex, who was covered in green vomit, rose from his chair in a way that even the Grim Reaper would pee his pants, which was exactly what Bronnie did. “Oh my god!” Mrs. Casey loved to make situations worse for her own amusement “Alex! Make sure you eat your food cleaner next time, it seems you made a mess all over yourself.” Bronnie decided to make a run for it, hearing the classmates shouting “Go get him Alex!” was of no help, but he didn’t take it personally, whenever Alex is angry at someone that isn’t you, then it’s a good day.
Bronnie ran like a wild man, searching for any place to hide in. While running, he finally reached an empty classroom/ final resting place. As he made himself comfortable hiding under a desk, he heard the dreaded footsteps outside the room. On the other side of the door, Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 26, 2015 06:04:49 AM





The sun rose and everything fell.
A t-rex was watching at me with its glaring yellow eyes waiting to eat me.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 26, 2015 01:39:45 AM





The sun rose and everything fell.
Well not everything, just the one thing that seemed like everything. It sounds better as everything because: "the sun rose and my thing fell." sounds like a low budget sixties monster movie. To be fair, he had been drinking, which would attribute to his dismal bedroom performance. To be frank, he had been drinking pepto bismol in a margarita cup and telling everyone it was a pink daiquiri. And after all, why would he be anything other than frank since that's who he was--Frank.
The woman in bed with him, who for purely for the sake of anonymity and preserving her good name, will be called Trashy Last Call Hoe Who Looks Better In A Dark Room. From what he remembered, she was going to be an actress and her most prestigious resume was marked by grand theatrics such as Background Slut in the music video Get 'dat Booty Poppin Like it's First Name is Mary and a short stint in "nature" documentary about lumberjacks called The Night Of Endless Wood: the Hunt for Bigfoot (bigfoot is an innuendo). Frank looked it up later and the title really did contain prosthesis, as it turned out, the colon was also intentional.
But the problem laid not with Trashy Last Call Hoe Who Looks Better In a Dark room but with Frank. He was immediately reminded of the life alert tag line: help, I've fallen and I can't get up. Frank would have bought life alert if the help he received was in the form of Viagra. But at the crack of dawn with his little general a fallen soldier and Trashy Last Call Hoe Who Looks Better In A Dark Room falling asleep, Frank doubted any help was coming.
To be honest, a part of him had expected this to happen. Being around women made him nervous and nauseous, hence the pink stomach relaxant. It wasn't that he didn't like women, most of his friends were female. But sitting on the edge of a crummy motel bed watching the rising sun, Frank had came to a realization:
He was never getting laid outside of actually lying down.
The world was a cruel. No, the world was a cruel sadist with twisted tastes. No, the world was a cruel sadist who enjoyed watching the part of the lion king where Mufasa died and liked it when Jack dies in the Titanic! How could Frank possibly hope to overcome such a world?
It was time to face the facts:
Fact #1: He hadn't engaged in the carnal act of fornication in over three years.
Fact #2: He had to stop calling it the carnal act of fornications.
Fact #3: It was actually five years, fact #1 wasn't a fact but a lying bastard.
Fact #4: It was time to see professional help, i.e., see a prostitute.
Fact #5: The word fact starts too look funny after a while: fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact and said out loud repeatedly, it sounded inappropriate, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact
Frank emerged from the motel room that Saturday morning with the all the determination a thirty year old, pale, slightly anemic, white male with a suspicious mole on his back could emerge with. As it turned out, that amounted to little determination and Frank didn't so much emerge as he did teeter off to his car and quietly shut the door so not to disturb anyone, only to remember he forgot his keys, and shuffle politely back to retrieve them. And then, with the engines roaring (more like mewling) and dawn approaching, Frank set off on his daring mission to obtain that which man has sought after since the dawn of humanity: physical gratification.
Actually, he went to work. Even though it was Saturday and he normally had a free weekend, Frank had volunteered for the shift because he was saving up for a Vespa. Originally the plan had been motorcycle but Vespas had better insurance coverage and safety records. Plus they came in more colors.
But after work! When Frank was slightly drowsy, had just taken some DayQuil, and was one step closer to his Vespa, Frank set off to prove that he was capable of one of the things that classified him as being alive: the ability to reproduce. Frank was going to break the law. He was going to hire a hooker. He was going to go all the way. He was going to shed his five year dry spell and emerge from his cocoon of porn and vaseline a new man. He was going to drink more pepto bismol because he was feeling nauseous again. He was also going to get his anti-anxiety prescription refilled at RiteAid...if there was still time!
Not knowing where hookers dwelled, Frank went to the shadiest place he knew--the dumpster behind IHOP where fabled ten dollar BJs awaited. There were none. Only a homeless man drinking strawberry syrup.
Frank then ventured further into the heart of downtown and stopped at a sufficiently suspicious alley between a string of bars. There he wandered across the elusive hooker.
"Hey, feeling lonely?" The escort asked. Or to be politically correct--the horizontal (and vertical, kneeling, and diagonal) physical relations specialist asked.
"Err..." Said Frank with all the confidence that a math teacher had when asked: "When have you ever used logarithmic algorithms real life? When? Just tell me when?"
"You shy? This your first time paying for it? I'll give you a special discount--it's fifty for anything oral and a hundred for a single romp. The backside doesn't cost any extra but I will need prep time and I did have Taco Bell for dinner."
"There is no shame in it. I get all sorts, even rich and handsome fellas are looking for some unattached fun."
"Look, just nod yes or no." The nausea was returning with a vengeance.
"What is it? Am I not your type?" His stomach churned. "You okay?"
Frank vomited on the pavement.
"The third time this night!!" Frank would have been even more depressed as he watched the woman storm off if he didn't remind himself that blowing people off was in the job description.
Frank went to his car and sat with his head on the wheel and sent a prayer to heaven:
Dear lord,
I know I haven't talked to you in a while and I don't know what I did to make you hate me and damn me to a life of solo nights giving myself handshakes but I'd like to apologize. Perhaps I angered you when the bathrooms were closed for cleaning but I had just drank two large sodas so I relieved myself in Janice's ficus. To be fair, Janice is a malicious, jagbag, she-demon who always comes unarmed to a battle of wits. Or perhaps it was when I got fed up with my gay neighbor Gary's shitsu using my lawn as a toilet and I proved that I gave a shi--sorry God--a solid bodily waste by stuffing his mailbox full of Sargent Paws crap. I'll admit, it wasn't just because of Sargent Paws defecation but also the fact that Gary never invited me to his rave garden parties. Anyways, please forgive me and allow me to end my drought.
There was a knock at Frank's window. He looked up from the steering wheel and immediately fell back down when he saw it was a man in a hat and the car let out one continuously long honk.
"Excuse me," the man said.
"Um, sir?" Frank lifted his head. "This is a no--" Frank banged his head back down.
"Sorry to bother--"
"Hi, um--"
Honk! Honk!
"I hate to bring this up but--"
Honk! Honk! Honk! Hoooooooooooonnnnnnnnkkkkkk!
"You're blocking the bar entrance! This is a no parking zone."
Frank's head shot up.
"What entrance?"
"To the bar--Devil's Piss." Frank looked up and sure enough there was a bar called Devil's Piss.
"Does it contain women of low self esteem and promiscuous natures?"
"No, it's for gay men under forty."
"Huh," Frank said. "I'm thirty."
"I'm Pete. You look like you had a rough night--"
"So I'll tell you what, you move your car and I'll buy you a drink." Frank got out his phone and shined it on Pete's face.
"Oh good, you're attractive in light as well."
"Um, thanks?" Frank moved his car to across the street and Pete was still there when he came back.
"You didn't leave," Frank said.
"Well don't make me think I should have. Come on, my sister is the owner so I can get you a drink on the house."
"I only drink virgin daiquiris." Frank tried the door but it was locked and had a sign that said: Please use the back.
"It's a crude joke," Pete explained. "You also get a free beer if you have a six pack."
"Ah, backdoor to a gay bar, makes sense."
There was one last fact that Frank had to face. He became nauseous when confronted with intercouse with a woman. Most of his friends were female. He wanted a Vespa and not just for the higher safety record, gas mileage, better insurance, and eco friendly reasons, but because you could get them in colors like xanadu and smaragdine and motorcycles only come in black, red, and silver. Black, red, and silver were not fun, pretty colors!
Fact #6: he was gay. Or perpetually contracted the stomach flu around woman. Most likely gay though.
It was no surprise really, unlike finding that mole on his back had been. He only wished he had had the realizations around say, fifteen years earlier maybe somewhere other than an alley that smelled like sour vomit and cat urine.
"I didn't catch your name."
"Nice to meet you Frank." Frank glanced through the door window and froze--Gary was there.
"Oh, my neighbor is here. I shoved dog crap in his mailbox last week. He wasn't happy." Pete took off his hat and put it on Frank.
"Tonight lets pretend that you're...Alex. What do you say?"
Fact #7: Pete was highly attractive.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 25, 2015 03:25:08 PM





The Sun rose and everything fell into chaos.
It started off as a typical Friday morning in the life of Alexandria Pumpernickel; he woke up, remembered his name was Alexandria Pumpernickel, and realized today was going to suck. Now I know what you’re thinking. What kind of parents name their son Alexandria? It’s bad enough the kid’s named after a delicious German bread; why go the extra mile and make him the butt of all jokes by slapping that girly first name on him? Well, to answer your question, they were expecting a daughter. But surprise! Fast forward 16 years later and here we are.
Alex was the type of guy that took whatever life threw at him. Which in his case was usually fists. He wasn’t exactly liked by the in crowd. Go figure. None the less, he had his family.
Realizing that it was nearly time for him to leave for school, Alex rushed downstairs in search of a quick breakfast. Unfortunately, he didn’t find any breakfast, just his sister Brian. Brian was two years younger than Alex and the definition of She-devil. From the time she was able to speak, Bri had been an absolute terror. How did her parents expect her to turn out when they named her after the dog from Family Guy? Not great. You know, they should really look into getting a new pediatrician. For Christ’s sake the woman had a fifty percent chance of guessing correctly and she was wrong. Twice. Thanks for screwing up two perfectly almost normal kids.
“What’s up sugar tits” asked Bri.
“Shut up Brian.” Responded Alex.
“Whatever you say Alexandria.”
Seeing that this conversation was going nowhere, Alex left the house on an empty stomach.
By third period, his stomach sounded like a dying whale. He was pretty sure that if he didn’t eat something very soon this would not end well for him.
Finally, two hours rolled around and it was time for lunch. Luckily, today’s options were promising: macho nachos or cheesy bean and beef burritos. Alex decided to go with the burritos, and scarfed down three of them and a carton of milk in about five minutes.
As the day went on Alex started to feel not so hot. By seventh period he was pretty sure he was going to kill over if the bell didn’t ring soon. Concerned from the fact the Alex had been sitting in her class with a pained look on his face for most of the hour, his teacher decided that she should probably ask him if he was okay.
“Mr. Pumpernickel,” she asked. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I just don’t feel too —”
With a giant grumble from his tummy, Alex shot up from his seat and exclaimed “Oh Shit!” With that, he quickly ran out the classroom door and down the hall.
His teacher yelled after him, but he was too far gone to hear what she was saying.
By a miracle, Alex made it from his locker to his car safely just as the bell was ringing. Putting the car into drive, he booked it out of the parking lot and sped down the street.
About a mile or so down the street from his house Alex heard sirens. He looked into his rearview mirror and thought to himself “this cannot be happening right now.” A police officer walked over to the driver’s door and tapped on the window, signaling for Alex to roll it down.
“Good afternoon son” stated the officer. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Shortly, Alex responded “for speeding I assume.”
“That’s correct” he informed. “Care to tell me where you were headed in such a rush?”
Crossing his legs to hold it all in Alex explained. “You see sir, I—have explosive diar—rhea, and I really need to—get home before I—poop my pants sir.”
“Umm Hmmm. Alright kid, I’ll let you off with a—“
“Thank You!” Alex shouted back to the officer as he raced down the road to his house.
Pulling into his driveway, Alex hastily park his car and fumbled to the door, struggling to unlock it. Overjoyed that he had finally made it inside, he rush up the stairs tripping a few times with anticipation to the bathroom. Oddly satisfied that this day ended a lot better than any other day this week, Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 25, 2015 03:15:16 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.

Even the ducking zoo lion had to get out of the way as pots and pans, knots and fans, even the cots and hands, fell from the various shelves of the animal storage facility.

On this bright Tuesday morning, earthquakes ravaged the San Andreas Zoo, sending wave after wave of seismic forces into the homes of unsuspecting animals and citizens. The tremors were recorded as the worst in Californian history. Worse than the Loma Prieta, worse than the San Francisco quake of 1906, and worse than the two earthquakes combined. After four minutes of nonstop shaking, Alex the Zookeeper, fabulous and world-renowned, was violently awoken by the stench of hippopotamus in his room.

While he forced his eyes open, he could vaguely discern that something was wrong. Maybe it was the fact that his alarm clock didn't go off. Or that he forgot to close his windows before sleeping last night, now feeling a breeze trickling into his room. Or perhaps, it was the very fact that the room was shaking like a pinball machine in a hurricane. Glancing over, he noticed his shattered alarm clock on the ground, broken into an assortment of parts and screws beside his chair. The pieces clattered against the wooden floor, dissonant with the deep rumbling of the earth.

Alex groaned and wearily looked around. He was, not in his comfortable bed down the hall, but at his work desk, sitting next to a hippopotamus. After another all-nighter filling out paperwork in the office, it seemed that Alex's day was starting off rather shakily. And he wasn't the only one. The hippopotamus beside him yelped and fell over, spilling papers and knocking over an innocent bookshelf.

The earth continued to tremble as Alex struggled out of his chair to dress himself. He lost his balance a few times, but didn't mind. Sleep-deprived and hungry, Alex considered the rumbling earth beneath his feet to be a minor annoyance. Earthquakes were more common than zoo exhibits in California, and Alex certainly had his fair share of both. Yet outside of the zoo compound the cries of animals prompted Alex to put his pants on a little faster than usual.

As he hobbled down the hall, granola bar in hand, the hippopotamus stumbled along with him, tracking muddy footprints all over his newly refurbished office, knocking over his antique European-imported desk, and breaking the hinges off of his varnished spruce door. Alex ignored the destruction of his family's heirlooms and stumbled over to a window.

Outside of the window, Alex could see at least a hundred of the zoo's animals wandering around. "How did an earthquake somehow manage to break all the locks in the zoo and lead all the animals outside?" Alex complained indignantly. He accepted the possibility that perhaps the locks on the enclosure doors were just really old.

Downstairs of the zoo's main office, the zookeeper and his hippopotamus friend exited the front door of the makeshift home. Alex shakily strolled through the park to access the damages. As suspected, every single one of the seven hundred and fifty-two point five exotic species had wandered out of their enclosures. That is, except the polar bears, who were jetlagged and remained hibernating in the middle of July. The rest of the animals, however, were prancing around the park like four year olds in an art gallery. Alex saw a gang of monkeys hanging off of the roofs, a pair of parakeets eating the leftover popcorn, and a herd of emus waltzing around the Animal Carousel.

Alex was shocked at the chaos. Not only were the animals posing a recreational hazard, they were even destroying some of the zoo's finest souvenirs, from the mana-t-shirts and the jackal lanterns to the moose mousse and the kang-kazoos.

Alex, though not exactly devastated by the broken items, was disappointed by the lost potential income. The souvenirs provided much of the zoo's funding and would probably delay shipments of new animals. The San Andreas Zoo was known for its exotic animals, imported and shipped from around the globe. These shipments gave the San Andreas Zoo its reputation as the finest zoo in the world. Though some argued that a zoo should not be defined by the number of exotic animals that were transported in, as Alex's dad always said, "the ships don't lie". The San Andreas Zoo's own shipments certainly matched those of any other international zoo, thanks to much of Alex's family legacy.

With a final thundering rumble, the earthquake finally stopped, but the squawks and yowls of the animals continued persistently in Alex's earlobes. Alex walked over to the animal in most need of attention, the rare and exquisite fugu fish, prized as one of the rarest fish dishes in the world next to shark fin soup and caviar.

He sighed. He was going to have to clean this mess up alone. The rest of his family celebrated all of the fame of the Zookeeper legacy, but put in none of the hard work. Alex was the only Zookeeper left that actually cared for the animals.

Alex picked up the gasping fish and threw it back into its tank. One down, seven hundred and fifty-one point five more to go.


A flash of orange disappears into the trees. The bushes rustle, the sound of paws patter on the ground, and the annoying zoo songs blare from the loudspeakers. Beads of sweat accumulate on young Alex's forehead, and his polo shirt is suddenly soaked from the feeling of overwhelming terror. An animal gone rogue? After such a devastating earthquake, there's no telling what the mental state of the once-peaceful animals is like now. Alex moves slowly and deliberately, but soon senses a discomforting feeling. First puzzled by the feeling, but then he is cognizant of a strong urge. A sudden realization - Alex hasn't used the restroom in the last twelve hours. But a sudden run to the restroom now could spell death for zoo protégé Alex. The animal he merely glimpsed was the ferocious Siberian tiger, imported straight from Chicago, Illinois. The Siberian wild tiger is known for its ability to leap up to thirty yards and scale four-story buildings. It is truly one of the greatest specimens of the animal kingdom. Alex begins to panic, looking around helplessly. Not only are there several dangerous animals on the loose, but now Alex himself has become a danger to his own survival - the weakness of an uncontrollable bladder. The bushes rustle again, the flash of orange blurs Alex's vision, and he involuntarily steps back...


The tiger lunged for a nearby rabbit and swallowed it whole. Alex saw the brutal murder and facepalmed before patting the tiger affectionately on the head. The orange ball of fur continued to roll around the shady grass and purr loudly as it was hurriedly led back into its enclosure. Moments like these were the reason Alex remained dedicated to his job. But at this point Alex was also jumping with anxiety. Nature's call refused to be ignored, and Alex took off running.

Precious seconds inched by as Alex's mad dash across the zoo led to the nearest bathroom, beside the monkey-spider and the landshark exhibits. Thrusting the metal gate open, he leaped inside the nearest stall in panic desperation.

The bathroom, as expected, reminded Alex of the zoo exhibits: an absolute lack of janitorial work and little to no consideration from its inhabitants. The bathroom itself was ironically most shaped like the traditional zoo exhibit, a square box amidst the rest of the open enclosures and customer service booths. The box was inserted neatly in the outdoors section of the zoo, and had two metal gates acting as doors to prevent after-hours graffiti artists from "expressing" themselves on the walls of the stalls.

Alex had just finished relieving himself when he heard a click from the entryway. Frowning, he walked over. The gate that he had just entered had closed in on itself. Alex shook the door and wondered why it was locked. Come to think of it, the door shouldn't have been unlocked to begin with. Alex paused to think of a logical explanation. Perhaps the janitors forgot to close the door after they locked it last night, and in Alex's rush to enter he probably knocked it closed.

Alex reached for his keys and remembered: he forgot to grab them from his room this morning.

How unfortunate.

On the day of the largest natural disaster in Californian history, Alex was in the worst position imaginable - stuck in the zoo bathroom while all of the animals wreaked havoc on private property. Alex could already see an elephant trunk peeking out of one of the zoo's buildings. There were probably unimaginable quantities of mud and animal droppings throughout the zoo's five-mile radius. Even worse was the fact that the zoo was closed on Wednesdays, which meant that Alex would need to wait for the new zookeeper shift. On Thursday.


Wait, was that a person?

A little girl, probably no more than eight years old, walked absentmindedly through the chaos of the San Andreas zoo.

"Hey!" Alex gestured wildly and got her attention. The large metal gate that served as a bathroom door allowed Alex to thrust his limbs out helplessly.

The girl walked over with a delicate grace, like a princess bringing water to a desert nomad. Her pink dress swept in the breeze, and her shiny black shoes click-clacked on the walkway. She approached the gate Alex was trapped behind and looked up at him expectantly.

"Can you help me get out?" Alex asked in the friendliest voice he could muster, given the terrible situation.

The lovely girl crossed her arms and smiled back. Alex's spirits soared, higher than a eagle at the zoo aviary. What were the chances someone would walk by and be able to help him on a day like this? His day was definitely looking up.

"Why would I want to help you?" she asked.

Clearly this demonic creature was the apocalyptic sign of the world's impending doom.

The earthquake must have summoned the vilest beasts from the deepest reaches of the underworld in a scheme to torture poor Alex. Despite his noble intentions of helping the animals, he was to be subjected to these incomprehensible verbal invectives that voraciously ate away at his rapidly diminishing pride. This demon spawn child and her corrupt being were clearly going to be no help towards Alex's escape. Her angelic nature and guise of purity were simply an illusion to the darkness in her soul. Alex was probably going to need another way out.

"Where is your mom?" Alex asked, trying to maintain a polite demeanor, despite his growing anguish.

To no one's surprise, the child rolled her eyes. "Who's askin'?" She crossed her arms with the intensity of a rebellious teenager.

Alex was about to start screaming and throwing paper towel rolls at the girl when a woman in zookeeper attire walked up to the two. She smiled at Alex and unlocked the metal gate.

"Hi, I'm Shawna. The new caretaker? I was supposed to start on Monday but I was called in to help with the zoo issue…"

Alex stopped listening and stood in the bathroom doorway for a few moments, mouth agape and love in his eyes. This was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. She was everything a zookeeper could dream for - good-looking, polite, and fearless in the vicinity of untamed creatures.

"Is that your daughter?" he asked, gesturing to the untamed creature. He began praying silently.

"No," she said, and Alex's spirits once again lifted past the clouds and into the heavens above. "She's my niece."

Alex's spirit paused for a moment before deciding that was good enough, watching the girl strut away to bother some unsuspecting animals.

"Oh, that's nice," Alex replied, still staring at Shawna's magnificent face. He stopped listening to the words coming out of his mouth.

Shawna stared back at him for a few moments. "I... guess we should start rounding up some animals...?"

Shawna turned away and began to lead a coalition of horses back to their pen. Alex remained there, grinning like an idiot.


Together, the zookeepers began to put the many animals back into their enclosures, mostly without incident. The animals, especially the baby seals, gave the two their seal of approval. Thankfully, the majority of animals were unharmed by the earthquake. Although frightened, even the mopey zoo lion hiding in the animal storage room was coaxed out of the pile of pots and pans and taken home. The only real problem occurred when Alex tried to put away some rebellious squirrels who were intent on fighting each other. Alex was bitten several times and suffered minor injuries from the squirrel quarrel.

Shawna chuckled at the incident for days after - especially since Alex's entire body was covered, head to toe, with teeth marks and claw scratches. Alex didn't bother trying to defend his dignity, especially since it gave him an excuse to spend more time with her.

Apart from the animal skirmishes, the zookeepers' efforts worked in tandem as they brought the animals back to their homes. Alex admired his new co-worker as she ensured the comfort of the animals, satisfying all parts of her job description. The two zookeepers were even able to chat from time to time, detailing their progress and asking for assistance on cleaning after certain animals.

By the end of the week, all seven hundred and fifty-two animals were safely led back to their homes and given fine attention and delicate care. The San Andreas Zoo ensured the highest quality of living conditions for the animals by investing all of its funding on the animals' needs. In fact, the zoo enclosures were so comfortable that both Alex and Shawna slept inside various animal exhibits every night. Since the workload was so exhausting and urgent, there was really no time to go back to their homes.

The two zookeepers finally decided their work for the week was finished, and the zoo would be able to reopen on Monday. Alex was gathering up the last of his equipment when Shawna walked up to him.

"Congratulations on restoring the zoo," she said. "Not a bad first week for me."

Alex nodded. "Thanks for your help. I only had to put the majority of the animals away, thanks to your assistance."

She punched him lightly in the arm. "You know very well that I put away just as many animals as you did."

The two laughed. Alex began throwing items into his backpack, eager to go back to his parents' house and take a long shower. The makeshift apartment he had constructed inside the zoo's main office unfortunately lacked a master bathroom.

Both looked over the zoo and the magnificent sunset basking over the horizon. Shawna was silent for a moment before asking, "Hey, do you want to get dinner sometime?"

Alex stopped. Did she just ask him out? Alex was now faintly aware of how sweaty his back was. His mouth dried up and his tongue tied itself in knots around his teeth. An invitation to spend time with other human beings? Alex couldn't remember the last time he actually interacted with someone that wasn't a part of a zoo exhibit. Though frightened, his tongue managed to croak out an affirmation and the two made dinner reservations.

"Don't forget," Shawna called as she walked home, for the first time in a week. "Tomorrow at eight!"

Alex was terrified.


With the fading sun came an array of lustrous stars, and with the lustrous stars came a lot of good Italian food at the Fontana restaurant downtown. The restaurant was especially busy on the weekends, and reservations were a must if you wanted a table. The candlelight dimly illuminated the table of the two zookeepers, who sat among other guests chatting quietly on the restaurant patio.

Alex and Shawna stared deeply into the dinner menus, utterly silent.

It had been at least fifteen minutes and Shawna pretended not to notice that Alex had not looked up since they sat down. Hopefully he was still awake.

Alex cast furtive glances at his wonderful dinner date while pretending to examine the items on the menu. The Italian restaurant they came to was rated highly for its formal appearance combined with its casual prices.

Shawna tried to think of some way to start an intelligent conversation. "This is getting hawkward…?" No, no, that's way too cheesy. "Did you see those new lemurs in exhibit 9?" Of course he did; he works there! Shawna absentmindedly traced her finger down the endless list of Italian dishes. Perhaps some spaghetti?

Alex looked down at his tie and wondered if the royal blue was too formal for a casual dinner. Maybe he should have opted for a crimson, or even a burgundy one.

Shawna began wondering how a Californian restaurant served lobster. Geographically lobsters were more common off of the Atlantic coast. Shipped across the country for only ten dollars? Maybe the lobster was just imitation seafood. That didn't sound very appetizing.

Alex hoped the shrimp balls tasted good. Last time he got Italian food there was an incident involving spaghetti sauce and a lot of fried squid organs.

"What can I get for you?"

Both Alex and Shawna nearly leaped out of their chairs. The waiter, noticing that their table had gone nearly twenty minutes without activity, decided to check up on the interesting couple.

Alex dried his sweaty palms on the tablecloth, a velvety silk red one that probably cost more than the zoo's endangered leap frog. He glanced down at the menu a few more times before ordering a fine pasta with roma tomatoes and extra extra virgin olive oil. The waiter noted the request and asked the same question to Shawna. While Shawna ordered Alex wondered if anyone noticed that he had nearly fallen out of his chair.

"It's ironic how some people here eat the animals we take care of," Shawna remarked after the waiter had left.

"Well, at least these aren't endangered," Alex replied, becoming more comfortable with the idea of making eye contact. Her eyes were a wonderful shade of hazel…

Their food quickly arrived and both zookeepers ate ravenously, perhaps more like the animals they took care of. With food in his stomach Alex felt more confident speaking with the beautiful girl in front of him.

"Do you know your niece well?" Alex inquired, recalling the terrible meeting. He tried to cover up the fact that he had just spilled parmesan cheese all over his pants.

"Yeah… Her parents made me take her to work because she loves watching elephants," Shawna grimaced. "She's quite the pain to take outside. She started screaming because she couldn't find any elephants."

"Exhibit 10," Alex immediately noted. "So many people ask me for directions that the locations are sort of ingrained into my memory at this point." He took another bite. "Our elephants are actually hybrids. Half-breeds, between the Asian and African varieties. So I don't know if they would conform to your niece's standards..."

"Your wine," the waiter prompted, coming up to the table and graciously sweeping his arm.

"I could gopher some exquisite wine." Shawna replied, winking at Alex. The server poured her a glass.

Alex grinned. "Are we on animal puns now? Because toucan play at that game." He gestured for the waiter to pour some into his own glass and thanked him.

"These jokes are becoming un-bear-able." the waiter groaned, with the hint of a smile. He was called over to another table by a man in his late forties, sitting with his business partner. The waiter set down a plate of ravioli and walked over to the man's table.

Both zookeepers laughed at the waiter's zoo puns. It came out as a cross between a groan and a mild chuckle.

Shawna passed Alex the ravioli. "So what is it like to be descended from some of the greatest zookeepers in the world?"

"I'm assuming you looked me up on Google." Alex wiped his mouth. The ravioli Shawna offered him was delicious. "To be honest, it's really intimidating. I feel like I'm chasing after their dreams, trying to surpass their accomplishments, without really thinking about my own. I wish I could just forget about what they've done and focus on what I've done."

"I suppose you could add 'saving zoo animals from an earthquake' to your legacy."

"Finally, some koala-ty recognition around here," Alex replied and they clinked their glasses. A waiter came by and placed a plate of lasagna on the table. Alex picked it up and placed it near Shawna's glass. He tried to think of something else to say. "By the way, this wine is delicious. What brand did you order?"

"Me? I thought you ordered it." Shawna looked confused.

Another waiter came by with a heaping pile of oysters and set it down onto their table before being called over. The man a few tables over stood up and shouted at the two bewildered waiters.

"Wait, did you order the ravioli then?" Alex became increasingly puzzled as Shawna shook her head. The man was now protesting to the restaurant manager. Alex could overhear the words 'delay' and 'table number'.

Alex looked down at their own table number. The engraved "8" was old and was badly worn away, looking more like a "3". Coincidentally, the complaining man's table was the number "3"...

"I think we just ate someone else's dinner." Shawna remarked. "Perhaps the gentleman zookeeper in front of me would…?"

"Don't look at me; I only brought twenty bucks."

Shawna raised an eyebrow. "I'm pretty sure that wine was at least a hundred."

"Perhaps we should leave now," Alex suggested calmly. The two left the money on the table (for the food that they actually ordered) and walked outside inconspicuously. They could hear a commotion erupting from within the restaurant.

"Where is my food… My wine!" As if on cue, the zookeepers ran into the night as fast as their legs could carry them.


Both were tipsy on the way back to Alex's apartment in the zoo complex. Alex hadn't been back to his room in weeks since the zoo commotion. He was thankful that the hippopotamus didn't track mud in his bedroom. Stumbling, he realized that the wine was stronger than he expected. He put his arm around Shawna's shoulder to balance himself.

Shawna twinkled with laughter, like stars rising from the fading light of an autumn evening. They started up the stairs to Alex's apartment. "I can't believe we actually got out of there. That guy looked like he was going to fight us."

"I could take him," Alex said woozily. Shawna laughed.

"We really cleaned this place up," she remarked. "There are more stars than animals tonight!"

Alex laughed with her, "We actually put back all seven hundred and fifty two point five-"

He froze. Something didn't seem right.

A rumbling sound vibrated throughout the complex. The apartment building started shaking with a sense of nostalgia. Alex fell to the ground. The apartment creaked and howled like it was being torn apart from its hinges and tossed into an incinerator. Alex opened his eyes. Shawna clutched the bookcase, watching as papers and furniture fell from the tables. She was shouting now, over the trembling floor of Alex's office on the third floor. "Is this an earthquake?" Alex looked around in a panic. He grabbed Shawna's hand and led her back the way they came. The two rushed towards the staircase.

The rumbling stopped. The two glanced at one another. Aftershocks don't usually arrive weeks after the initial quake. A sudden realization dawned on Alex’s face.

'There were seven hundred and fifty two point five animals at San Andreas Zoo.'

'An elephant trunk sticking out of the window.'

'Couldn't find the elephants.'

'Our elephants are half-breeds.'

Alex turned towards his bedroom door. A triumphant trumpet sounded from his room.

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

July 25, 2015 02:01:40 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. 6:43 AM. I become acutely aware of this fact: Winter hates me. That’s okay. “I hate you too,” I whisper to the cold as I crawl slowly out of bed. In the end, I should’ve worn socks to sleep, but I hate socks more than I hate the cold.

7:15 AM. Done with the whole waking up routine— wailing more at the cold, washing my feet with warm water in the sink while brushing my teeth, and more scowling at the snow outside. Alex finally notices I’m awake. He wakes up far too early for anyone to manage, even on vacation. Maybe that’s why they all left for Hempstead. And so conveniently left me and Alex to house-sit. In all reality, they want me to make sure he doesn’t blow up the house. And they want me here because I’m the only one that gets along with him enough to stay with him for a week. And Alex? He volunteered (as in was carefully led) to take care of Mr. Nobs. Alex is the only person Mr. Nobs doesn’t openly hate. He secretly hates Alex though, we’re pretty sure of it. But I don’t think he knows. I don’t think poor Nobsy can help it either. He’s a cat. It’s in his nature.

7:18 AM. Alex is making breakfast. He’s humming while he makes breakfast. Of course, he just had to ask me beforehand. “Are you hungry? I already ate, sorry. Oh, and I fed Mr. Nobs.” Of course I’m hungry Alex. I just woke up. But he’s just like that. He’s the kind of person who’ll forget to eat. Not on purpose or anything like that, he just forgets. Just like how he forgot to blow out the candles one time and almost set the house on fire. Mr. Nobs saved us then. He kept meowing obnoxiously, until someone woke up and blew out the tiny stub.

7:29 AM. “So.” He’s trying to talk over the sizzle of eggs and oil. That never works out well. “Did you sleep well last night?” He always asks me that question whenever I get up. So that’s nothing new. That’s just what he does. He always asks certain people a specific question every morning. For me, it’s if I slept well. Only because I scream and talk and walk and snore and knock on doors in my sleep. Also because I have trouble falling asleep now. But that’s because it’s cold. So no Alex, I did not sleep well last night because our heat isn’t working. “Yeah, I slept okay.” He smiles. “That’s good.” And how do I know without actually looking at his face? You can hear his smile when he speaks. It’s weird.

7:52 AM. “I might have burned the eggs a little on the left side. You don’t mind, do you?” You…what? You burned the eggs? How do you burn an egg, is that even Alex? Really. It’s an egg thats supposed to be soft and yolky and oh no that’s not done over easy Alex. “Also, I know you like them over easy, but I don’t want to… you know, mess up your first meal.” I am now incredibly aware of the fact that you suck at cooking eggs. Significantly suck. You might say that was a super sweet gesture or whatever, but that’s just how he is. “It looks good Alex. Thanks.” He smiles again and runs one hand through his hair like he always does when he’s really relieved. Let it be known, yes I am that one half-jerk in this family. But to be clear, I am a lovable person with half-jerky tendencies.

7:56 AM. He hands me a fork. “I’m going to be upstairs.” Yes, Alex. I know. That’s where you stay. Upstairs. And I have egg in my mouth. “Not in the attic, you know, but just upstairs.” I nod my head as I shove another piece of egg into my mouth. He stares at me for a bit. I stare at him as I chew. I clear my throat. “Okay. I’ll call you if I need you.” He smiles and is upstairs-bound. He probably is just going to lay around in bed with Mr. Nobs doing whatever.

8:21 AM. This is going to be a long day. I wash my plate and work and head upstairs to the attic. Yes, I sleep in the attic. It’s a nice attic with a window and everything. And no, it’s not creepy and has spiders. It’s right on top of Alex, so it can’t be that creepy. And as I suspected, Alex is watching something with Mr. Nobs snuggled next to him. I jump sprawl into my bed. And Alex makes a little noise of surprise as Nobsy hisses. Our walls are thin, in case you didn’t notice yet. And because of those ridiculously thin walls, I hear the volume of whatever they were watching go down a little bit. And I hear Mr. Nobs purr abnormally loudly for a cat. “I know you hate me Nobsy. You don’t have to remind me.” I roll over to one side and moan, willing sleep to fall upon me. I roll over again, and try about fifty different positions. You know, left side, right side, no side and only on back. Then the standard curling, all on the four different corners, and trying with a pony tail, then a bun, then a braid, then pigtails, then releasing my tangles, and stuff. So I wail a bit more, trying to harness the powers of the universe or something. Karma. It must be the karma. “I didn’t mean what I said about winter and Nobsy, karma. Just let me go to sleep.” Alas, nothing. “Ugh.”

9:04 AM. Footsteps on stairs. Coming slowly up. “C’mon Mr. Nobsy. Let’s go silly.” He may just snuggle up with me like yesterday. And that would be bad. Namely because I didn’t shower at all, but also because he always watches some throwback 80’s movie. And that just makes me feel old. Really, really old.
Yesterday, he walked in with his laptop in one hand, demolished plastic cups in the other, and Mr. Nobs. Poor Nobsy. He could’ve murdered me with that glare. And typically I glare back at him. “What? Did I do something wrong?” Poor Alex. He’s a little clueless sometimes. But when Alex turns back and at smiles at him, that little backstabbing two-face purrs and rubs up against his legs! “Someone’s just a little grumpy cause she didn’t sleep last night.” And, once again, Alex reminds me that’s he’s not an idiot. So he crawled into my bed with that jerk of a cat that is Mr. Nobs. But of course, he asked his awkward little question beforehand. “Do you mind if I…?” Alex, if you walked into my room with a laptop and Nobsy, and I didn’t banshee-scream or pretend I was sleeping, of course you can assume that I am letting you into my bed. “Sure.” And I just rolled a little more over to the side. Remember, I am just a half-jerk. Nobsy is the full-blown ultimate jerk of the household, as this particular incident from yesterday so tenderly adds to the ever-growing pile of evidence. So, Alex rolled over next to me, and put his laptop down. And then, because he’s always using those life hacks they post on Facebook— yes, Alex is that kind of person— he placed the strangely cut parts of the plastic cup over his keyboard. “Hey, is the speaker at the top or the bottom?” Alex. The holes. That’s the speaker. And so obviously, the speaker is on top! “Top, I think. Where are the holes?” “Ah.” He smiles. “Top.” Really, you smile for no reason sometimes. It’s annoying. “Thought so.” He hits the resume button, and as I suspected it’s some really crummy throwback movie from the 80s or the 90s, can’t remember which. But Nobsy, that hoodlum, he decides he can just hop over and rub himself all over the laptop. And so the volume gets all weird. And Alex, he just laughs and tilts the screen so we can actually see a little more than Nobsy and his disgusting little fake-innocent face. I know you know exactly what you’re doing you nasty little fur-ball. And then that was that. I ended up falling asleep, and Alex just sort of stayed on my bed. Least I think he did, because he was obviously sitting there when I woke up sometime in the afternoon. “Oh you’re up?” Yes, Alex. My eyes are open. But at the time my brain couldn’t function at all, so instead I just rolled over on top of his lap and moaned. And then we watched that 80’s film about that marshmallow monster or something. Alex picked it. I dunno why he watches those movies. Don’t think I ever will either.

9:07 AM. The volume starts playing again on his laptop. It certainly has to do with Nobsy, because I hear that wretched cat meowing and Alex laughing and hey-ing and shuffles and cat bounces. And now I already feel old, because I hear a very familiar, “As if!” among the meows and thudding. Alex laughs again, says something along the lines of, “Mr. Nobs!” or “Oh you!”, instead of cursing at that filthy pussy. The footsteps come back up the stairs, instead of down and up and all around. Although it’s needless to say, I finally have a mini chance of sleeping (I’ve got perpetual jerk tendencies. I can’t really help it). The movie is still playing, and I can feel him at the door. I moan, loudly, mainly because I do not want to watch a 90’s movie with a premature Rudd Paul. Or is it Paul Rudd? I can’t remember, it sounds good either way. As in, he’s still the 90’s heartthrob of literally everyone, regardless of whether his name is Paul or Rudd. “Hey, you up?” He’s at the door with that movie, and that cat. I think I know what that book is about now, the one about hating cats? It’s about all of us—minus Alex— and Nobsy. I moan a yes, and I feel him hesitate. I can just play it out exactly in my head. Him, standing there, then glancing over at Mr. Nobs. And then, him, just waiting. It’s going to be a long wait. Just like yesterday. But today, it was a longer wait. He slowly cleared his throat as Mr. Nobs began to lick himself. Yes, that’s how long Jude was taking. A cat’s nine live’s— as undeserving as he is for all nine of them— worth of patience was running short, and he just stared as that movie still played. I could feel him take a breath, and smile. Why I feel Alex’s smile, I’ll never know. You just can. Or more so, I just can. Just don’t ask, it’s one of those things where the more you think about it, the weirder it gets.

9:19 AM. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 24, 2015 03:30:18 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. At first, God only noticed the sun rising, and He smiled. Gotta look forward to the little things, God thought.
After He flooded the earth and killed a few people for kicks, God decided to start seeing a therapist at the behest of His archangels. His therapist was kind to Him.
“Dr. Miller,” God said, “you’re the only one who really gets me.”
“Call me Elizabeth,” Dr. Miller said, and they both smiled.
At their last session, Elizabeth worked with God to help Him love Himself again. It was the hardest thing God had ever done, but He felt Himself getting better and growing stronger every day. Then he got a call on his cell.
“Hey, dad, it’s me.” It was His son.
“Hi, Jesus. What’s up?”
“Listen, do you remember what I said yesterday? About moving to Manhattan?”
“Jesus, no.”
“I already booked a flight, and we’re boarding right now. So I just wanted to say bye.”
“What the fuck are you doing, Jesus? You can’t just leave everything behind to do—what was it you wanted to do?”
“I’m going to make it to Broadway, dad.”
“You really are the biggest mistake of my life, you—” But lo: Jesus had already hung up.
God threw his glass of orange juice across the room and poured Himself a whisky. He was going to need it.
Jesus sat near the bathroom in the economy section of the plane. He closed his eyes, and tried to sleep, but he was too angry at his father. When the drink cart came around, he bought five mini-bottles of vodka and drank them all. He didn’t eat any meals because none of them were kosher, so he just bought another three mini-bottles and drank those. He got in an argument with the lady next to him and said she smelled bad, and two flight attendants had to come and break it up. When he arrived in New York, he was still pretty drunk.
In the airport, he tried to exit through an emergency exit, so security questioned and detained him for a while, but eventually, he found himself in the city. It was nighttime, and he was jetlagged and drunk, so he wandered the city. He had around a thousand dollars on his American Express from his day job bringing people back from the dead, but he didn’t want to use it—after all, he’d come all the way to New York to escape all of that.
He passed out by the dumpsters behind some shady apartment complex, thinking of happiness.
God called Jesus, but it went straight to voicemail. He called Andrew, Bartholomew, James, then the other James, John, skipped Judas, Jude, Matthew, Peter, Philip, Simon, Thomas, and Mary Magdalene, but no one had heard from Jesus. God also wondered why His son’s only friends were grown men and prostitutes.
He searched for Jesus everywhere, but all of North America was pretty blurry and Australia was one big smear in the ocean. He tried to focus, but He couldn’t.
“Shit,” God said, “shit.” That’s when He knew everything was falling apart.
Jesus woke up in a fairly clean, well-decorated room, so naturally he was suspicious. He had no idea where he had fallen asleep the night before. Then, he heard a voice from above. I must be hallucinating, Jesus thought, I never hear disembodied voices from above. And he paused, I guess it could be dad. He closed his eyes and groaned.
“Derek, wake up. We cannot be late to work again.”
“Derek? What are you talking about?” Jesus asked.
“You’re really hungover, aren’t you? Goddamn it, Derek. You know, I had to drag you from behind the building, you were so smashed.” Jesus looked up and saw a scowling man he had never seen before. I’ve been kidnapped, he thought, or, I guess, man-napped. Jesus-napped.
God sighed, rubbed his eyes with his palms, and began crying, softly, so no one would hear. I shouldn’t have drank the whole bottle of Johnnie Walker last night, he thought, I should have been better to Jesus when he was around. I should have told him I loved him more often. I’m the worst fucking dad in the world. I can’t even find my only son. Gabriel and Michael, God’s archangels, heard the sound of the shedding of His tears and flew over.
“Sir, I know you’re concerned about Jesus, but wouldn’t you know if something bad’s going on? You’re all-seeing and all-knowing, aren’t you?” Gabriel asked.
“No, boys. I’m losing it. My vision’s fading.” God said.
“Do you want us to use the Find My iPhone app we installed for Jesus?” Michael asked.
Then He really started sobbing. The archangels rubbed His back soothingly and gently shushed Him, but God couldn’t stop crying.
“Could you at least try to aim that at California while you’re at it, boss?” Michael asked.
Satan, too, heard God weeping. He laughed to himself before wiring Donald Trump more campaign money.
“I’m not Derek, and I don’t know what you’re doing holding me hostage,” Jesus said.
“How much did you drink, Derek? Shit, man,” the man said.
“Who are you?” Jesus asked as he stood up above the ground in preparation to defend himself through any means. He had once saved a neighborhood child from a rabid camel with nothing but his bare teeth. They must have found out he had no greencard and put him in jail.
“Don’t play stupid. I’m Alex, your roommate. Are you mad because I told you to clean your side of the apartment?” Alex asked.
“No!” Jesus said.
“He must have some alcohol-induced amnesia,” Alex said to himself.
“I heard that!” Jesus said.
“Shut up!” Alex said, “You’re Derek, okay? Your name is Derek. We grew up together, remember? We gave up alcohol together, too, remember? That's why I'm pissed. Derek, please.”
Alex wondered for a second if he had accidentally pulled a random hobo from the streets, but he knew it was Derek. He was wearing his favorite potato sack-like shirt-dress from American Apparel and Urban Outfitters hemp sandals.
“If you really knew me, you would know I would never give up alcohol,” Jesus said. What do you expect coming from a guy who turns water into wine on the regular?
“I knew it,” Alex said, eyes cast to the ground.
“What are you talking about?” Jesus asked.
“You know, Derek, you don’t need to be a dick and do it this way. I know,” Alex said.
“Oh no,” Jesus said, “you know that I’m actually Jesus Christ, son of God?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Oh, haha, never mind.”
“I know you read my journal. I knew it.”
“I don’t expect you to be totally accepting or whatever, but I didn’t think you would do this, trying to leave and pretend like you don't know me. I know you know I’m gay,” Alex said, and then he started crying. Jesus hugged Alex, but it was an awkward hug because Jesus is really awful at giving hugs. And then Jesus started crying, too, because it was a sad moment, and Jesus is a softie—he always cries at the end of Titanic, too.
“I love you, Derek,” Alex said, and he kissed Jesus. And Jesus was a little shocked but also touched by the sentiment, and it took him a second to react and kiss Alex back.
In that exact instant, Gabriel and Michael rushed into Alex’s apartment, having located Jesus with the iPhone app, and they landed right in the middle of that scene. Jesus and Alex didn’t notice because they were really getting into things.
“Isn’t this wrong?” Michael whispered.
“Have a heart. Love is love, and nothing should ever change that, no matter who says it, whether it be God or the Pope or your parents. That’s something important you should learn, Mike. It’s something everyone should learn,” Gabriel said. And Michael started crying a little, too.
But then Alex looked up, and said, “What the fuck are those flying little monkey things?”
“Oh, those are my dad’s archangels,” Jesus said.
Alex moved a little away from Jesus, staring.
“So you’re really not Derek,” Alex said.
“I never lied to you,” Jesus said.
“I…wow,” Alex said. He edged towards the door.
“Wait a second! Whoever this Derek guy is has obviously been reincarnated as Jesus or something,” Gabriel said, “I’m an angel so I definitely know what I’m talking about.”
“Oh, so you are Derek!” And Jesus and Alex embraced.
“Now, Jesus, all you have to do is close your eyes and click your sandals three times, and we can all return to Nazareth,” Gabriel said.
“Really?” Jesus asked, incredulous.
“Of course not, you dumbass,” Gabriel said.
“Yeah, we actually don’t know how to go back,” Michael said.
“Didn’t you guys take a plane here?” Jesus asked.
“No, we teleported. Also, your passport got lost in the dumpster and they took the trash out today.”
“What the hell, guys? Why didn’t you stop that from happening?”
“Eh, well, anyway, you can’t go back.”
“You know what,” Jesus said, “I like it in New York, and I’m staying with Alex.”
“Really?” Alex asked, eyes glittering.
“Yes,” Jesus said. And they both smiled.
Over the next two years, Jesus and Alex lived happily ever after working at a local diner, and one day, they decided to get married, and they did it right in their apartment with just a few of their closest friends. The wedding was officiated by Gabriel and Michael. Suddenly, as they were eating the wedding cake, a floating door appeared out of nowhere in their living room.
Earlier that day:
“Elizabeth, I need to talk to Jesus,” God said at His weekly therapy.
“It’s been two years, God. How would you even find him?” Elizabeth asked.
“I just,” and He sighed, “I just wish I could see him again.”
“That was the last step in your healing process, God,” Elizabeth said with a smile as a floating magical door appeared behind her,
“Through that door is Jesus. It’s your only chance to make things right.”
God approached the door and tears streamed down His cheeks, “Thank you, Elizabeth. Thank you so much.”
“Me? I’m just here to help you,” Elizabeth said, “And now, you’re past that. I’ll see you soon, God.” She disintegrated into a million grains of gold in the wind. God was so emotional that He didn’t realize that the only woman of significance in the entire story was a cipher to serve broken men. But whatever.
“Jesus, it’s me, God,” a beautiful voice echoed through the apartment.
“What the fuck is going on?” Marlene, a wedding guest, screamed.
“Don’t worry,” Jesus said, and he and Alex and Gabriel and Michael chuckled.
“Also, why are your officiators flying monkeys?” Will, Marlene’s boyfriend, asked.
“I think you guys should all leave,” Jesus said, crying but smiling, “all of you fucking leave except for Alex and the angels.” The guests scrambled out.
“Dad,” Jesus said, “Is it time to go home?”
“What’s going on over there? Sounds noisy,” God said.
“It’s a wedding! Jesus got married!” Michael said.
“Well, then it must be time to meet the parents. Or, at least me,” God said, “Just go through this door, and you can come on over to my place.
Gabriel and Michael barreled through the door first, then Jesus, but Alex didn’t move. Jesus peeped his head back out the door.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Jesus asked.
“I guess I’m scared,” Alex said. Jesus smiled at him.
“Unfortunately, due to the way these doors work, adult humans taller than 5’3” have to go in one at a time, so I need you to be brave, Alex,” Jesus said, “I love you.”
Jesus disappeared through the door, and then Alex found himself alone. He took a deep breath and balled his hands into fists.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 24, 2015 02:07:13 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Of course, nothing actually fell off a shelf or anything like that, it’s a figure of speech for Pete’s sake, intended to signify Alex’s known world crumbling apart, his hopes and dreams fading into nothingness like vapors in the wind. He had lofty ambitions, at least, that’s what his mother had said, so he shouldn’t be too crushed if they didn’t work out. Not everyone could end up altering the course of history in the way they’d originally hoped. Apparently Alex was no different. He stood outside the room, wondering if he should even bother to enter. As the sky turned from the dim gray of the in-between hours to the pinks and yellows of the hopeful morning, Alex knew his potential for spurring sweeping continental reform, perhaps even total global betterment was lost to the ages. It wasn’t that the board would reject his proposal for an intergenerational cooperative mega-government, or even that his plan for ending domestic poverty would probably garner a miserably low level of support in congress. It was just, well, how to put this―he had no shot of being a comedian. But he might as well audition. The worst that could happen is they would tell him he wasn't funny and turn him down. Actually, the worst that could happen is he would end up with his own stand up show and his stupidity would be broadcast to the American public. No doubt they would create sarcastic tweets about how not-funny he was, which would be funnier than his own awful jokes. Hey, that would be one way to make history. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 24, 2015 01:29:49 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
No, this is not some apocalyptic, Walking Dead copycat, but rather, a 16-year-old boy’s view that if the girl he liked didn’t like him back, then the world might as well just collapse. Alex had always been—as his sister liked to call him—melodramatic in a way that even challenged the biggest of celebrity meltdowns.
So frankly, it wasn’t surprising to anyone when Alex woke up some peaceful Saturday morning and started hollering about how stupid he was.
Stupid, because he’d accidentally confessed his love for a certain girl over a text message, and then have that girl, the next day at school, parade in class with a boy that was not only better looking than he was, but also much richer. Oh, and if that wasn’t worse enough, his crush Carli also just had to announce, in front of everyone, that she really didn’t like him and that he was “embarrassing” himself by pinning after her in such a pathetic way.
Which he didn’t exactly disprove by shedding just a “few” tears during 1st period.
Alex realized how cliché the entire situation was—you can’t exactly expect the head cheerleader to like a nerdy little boy who hasn’t even gone through puberty yet. He was lanky, just a bit awkward, and even worse, the owner of the most massive-rimmed glasses known to man. So really, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the head cheerleader wasn’t going to go for the captain of the Mathletes team, but still, that still didn’t lessen the hurt or catastrophic nature of the whole thing.
After moping in bed for another few hours, his older sister, with an exasperated look, finally came up to his room. With her hands on her hips, she yelled, “For crying out loud, get over yourself, come downstairs, and stop acting like lovesick puppy! So what, she doesn’t like you? Is the world suddenly just going to stop spinning?”
As much as he wanted to answer, “Yes,” something told him that if he did, his sister might just murder him. So he lifted his arms in surrender, and managed to drag himself out of bed and into the kitchen.
Quite awkwardly, both of his parents were seated around the table, both with concerned looks that could only signal some sort of awkward conversation that Alex really just wasn’t in the mood for. He could only stand being called “honey” or “my little baby” so many times before he would virtually combust. Plus, he didn’t exactly need his mother or father to say, yet again, that “there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.”
“Save it, mom, I’m fine,” Alex exasperatingly sighed, hoping that it might just save him from listening to something straight out of a parental guide.
Maybe his words would have been a little more believable if he actually looked like he was fine. But instead, his eyes were bloodshot red from crying, and it didn’t take any sort of parental guidebook to figure out that he really wasn’t doing “fine.”
His mom gave him a slight smile. “Oh honey… “
Alex just wanted to self-implode, especially after his mom just had stand up, her arms outstretched for hug, just like one of those maniacal Teletubbies. “Seriously, mom, just leave me alone,” Alex snapped, pushing her arms aside.
Alex was expecting her to yell at him, but instead her gaze only softened. “On one condition.”
It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this one condition wasn’t going to be something he liked, but if it got his mother off of his back, then chances are, it would be worth it. “Alright, I’ll bite. What?”
But nothing would’ve prepared him for the next few words that came out of her mouth: “Go talk to Carli.”
It seemed to Alex that his mother had no clue how girls or high school worked. Persistence isn’t what gets you the girl; it’s what gets you a restraining order.
Somehow his mother just couldn’t understand that, no matter how many times Alex emphasized that she didn’t like him and that she had explicitly stated, with a perfect eye roll, “Please stay away from me, creep.”
Not exactly the words of the girl he still might have a chance with.
In fact, at this point, Alex was perfectly happy just living alone with a hoard of dogs (he didn’t like cats). Dogs were just so much easier to please and so much less confusing than girls. At least with dogs, he wouldn’t be kept awake late at night asking himself, “What did I do wrong this time?”
Apparently, though, his mother was rather adamant on the fact that he at least talk to her and somehow managed to shove him out of the house with the words, “Remember that I love you, honey!”
It was great how she reinforced those words by locking the door.
And so now, Alex was stuck walking to Carli’s house, where he was almost positive he’d probably get rejected once again, only this time with a court order.
Luckily, or unluckily, Carli only lived a few blocks down from him, in easy walking distance but at this point, even if she lived halfway around the world, he’d still be fine with that. In fact, he was fine with never seeing her pretty face again if it meant he didn’t have to have this awkward conversation.
At least the day was pretty nice: the sun was shining, birds chirping, and kids were running outside playing. The whole scene reflected the exact opposite of the inner turmoil he was facing, and frankly, the happiness around him was just really, really irritating.
Passing by the park, he was rather surprised when a kid, probably no less than five years old, ran up to him and gave him a hug. Awkwardly, he tried to pry the girl’s arms away from him, but she literally had arms of cement.
“Er, sorry,” Alex said, “But could you maybe let go of me? You're sort of cutting off circulation from the rest of my body.”
Instead of losing her grip on him, the girl raised her head up in defiance—Alex would’ve found it cute if it hadn’t been for the fact that a random child was now attached to him. “You look like you need a hug, and I don’t have Mr. Snuggles with me, so you’ll just have to hug me instead,” she pouted.
Alex scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. “Who’s Mr. Snuggles?” he blurted out.
“He’s my teddybear, duh!” she responded cheerfully, squeezing him even tighter than before.
Before he passed out from suffocation, it seemed like the girl’s mom had finally noticed that her sweet child was no longer riding the slide on the playground, but rather, attached to a stranger. “Honey, what did I tell you about strangers?” her mom asked, with her hands on her hips. Giving Alex an apologetic smile, she somehow managed to pry the girl’s fingers off of him and lead her away.
Alex gave her a small smile as she retreated, and the girl enthusiastically waved goodbye. As soon as the girl disappeared out of his line of sight, he couldn’t stop a sigh of relief from escaping his mouth—that was almost a little too awkward for him to stand. It was worse enough that a five year old girl pitied him, but then to have her mother come over here and help him get her daughter off of him? Talk about embarrassing.
In hopes of avoiding any more energetic, apparently sympathetic kids, he swiftly walked through the park.
Soon enough, he was passing by the library, and in his dazed state, he’d managed to run straight into Marie, aka the girl-version of him, complete with the nerdy, non-hipster glasses and the whole hunk of metal in her mouth. Consequently, by running into her, Alex had caused the huge stack of books she was holding to tumble straight down and her over-excited dog to run straight down the sidewalk.
“I’m so sorry!” Alex kneeled down, his cheeks flush with embarrassment. Gathering up all of her books, he handed them to her with a sheepish smile.
Marie smiled, pushing her glasses further up her nose. “No worries, but do you know where my dog might have went? I think let go of his leash when we uh, ran into each other.”
“Er…” Alex started awkwardly, wondering how he was going to fix the fact that he was now responsible for a missing dog, “No, I don’t, sorry.”
Marie shrugged nonchalantly. “Oh well, he was the devil anyways. Figures, though, he’s my sister’s.”
“I can help you look for her, if you’d like?” Regardless of whether or not this dog was the devil reincarnated, he still felt extremely obligated to help her find the dog. On the plus side, at least he’d avoid talking to Carli for another few hours.
His hopes were dashed with her words, however. “It’s alright, don’t worry about it! Every once in a while, he’ll spot a squirrel and he’ll just go crazy. He’ll probably turn up at the house as soon as he’s hungry. Believe me, it’s happened quite often.”
“I mean, if you’re sure…” he trailed off.
Marie nodded, with a smile. “Seriously. Don’t worry about it, Alex.”
Alex nodded. “Well, alright, but let me at least treat you to coffee one day,” as an afterthought, Alex quickly amended his last offer, “As friends, you know.”
“I’d like that,” Marie blushed, “I better get going, but it was nice to see you, Alex.” She rushed away quickly; her cheeks still flushed bright red.
Now alone, surrounded by strangers, Alex couldn’t help but form the hugest smile possible, giddy like a schoolboy who had just kissed his crush. He wasn’t sure what had come over him when he’d asked Marie to go get coffee—it wasn’t all just guilt, as he had played if off as. But either way, he was glad he did.
On a newfound high, it was no surprise that Alex, once again, wasn’t really paying attention to his surroundings, and somehow, by some miraculous degree of “talent”, had managed to fall into a hole, awkwardly into the arms of a construction worker.
Somehow, he’d managed to ignore all of the signs warning of the construction ahead, and managed to walk aimlessly into a hole approximately five feet wide and five feet deep. “I’m so sorry,” Alex muttered, embarrassed, climbing out of the stunned worker’s arms.
The worker could only stand there with his mouth wide open, shocked that some idiot had managed to fall, feet first, into one of the most obvious hole ever. He wouldn’t have been so embarrassed if it was in the middle of nowhere in some obscure forest, but as it did happen in a pedestrian-infested area, an audience had formed around the hole. Hearing thinly-veiled whispers like, “how’d he manage that?” or “I’m not exactly a genius, but at least I’ve never fallen into a hole,” Alex felt like face-palming himself several times for his own stupidity.
Placing his hands on the top of the hole, he pulled himself out, relieved that at least the hole wasn’t so deep that he couldn’t get out by himself. At this point, it seemed like the crowd had dispersed, with a few people giving him good-natured pats on his back, as if he was the injured soccer player kicked to the bench.
After falling into a hole, he supposed that he couldn’t get much lower than that, both literally and figuratively.
When he finally reached Carli’s house, he felt like he’d had an adventure comparable to Harold and Kumar’s trip to White Castle. At this point, the sadness he’d started out the trip with had morphed into a sort of acceptance. At the very least, he figured, he would be given some form of closure. He’d spent the past three years of his life pinning after this one girl, and now, finally, he felt like he could move on. Maybe even with Marie (as long as he didn’t find some way to mess it all up).
With that last thought in his mind, he rang the doorbell, wincing as he heard the loud “ding-dong” resound inside the house.
Seconds later, a taller version of Carli appeared at the door. “Who are you?” she asked, accusingly, as if he was some sort of bandit intending to rob their large estate.
“I’m a classmate of Carli’s,” he responded, hoping that the woman, who he was guessing was her mother, would be fine with just that; he didn’t exactly want to explain the entire story of his rejection and well, come off as a stalker.
She raised her immaculate eyebrows. “School project?”
Alex didn’t exactly want to lie, but considering that was the best, non-creepy explanation as to why he was here on Carli’s doorstop, he nodded and went with it.
Luckily, she didn’t need any further explanation and gestured for him to come in. “She’s upstairs, first door on the right,” she explained briefly, waving him towards the magnificent stairway that seemed to stretch for miles above.
Calming his nerves, he slowly climbed up the stairs. After all, he supposed that it honestly couldn't get much worse.
With that “motivation,” he hesitantly knocked at the door.
“Come in,” Carli hollered, from inside. Alex could imagine her, sitting on her bed, probably not even giving a second thought on the boy’s heart she just broke. Not that he was vindictive, or anything (well, maybe just a little).
He sighed one last time. It’s now or never.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 23, 2015 11:03:48 PM





‘The sun rose and everything fell. And Alexanderski Dmitriski Budnikovski Jones was a thirteen-year-old Russian refugee with a missing tooth, who saw everything in metaphors and heard what he chose,’ she thinks, recalling the opening sentences of a book she had read long ago, back in the insignificant days of an insignificant reading competition at her insignificant old school. She appreciated what the book was trying to do, which was to tell the gripping story of a sad orphan who has to adjust to a new situation. This, in turn, reminds her of a well-written, critically-acclaimed, award-winning book which she had hated. It, too, was about a boy with no parents, suffering and adjusting as if his life depended on constant misery (which it may have done - she had very quickly stopped reading the despised novel).
This was in the fifth grade, and on the day she set down the praised book with a glower of animosity, her teacher announced that the class would begin a new reading unit, in which they would be experiencing the fictional life of a mid-18th-century girl who has been orphaned on a lonely island, and who will have to adjust to city life with her aunt and uncle.
‘WHY,’ she asks herself furiously, ‘DO THEY ALL HAVE TO BE ORPHANS? HOW MANY ADJUSTMENTS AND EMOTIONAL ORDEALS DO THEY HAVE TO EXPERIENCE? CAN WE AT LEAST HAVE SOME HAPPY ORPHANS OVER HERE?!’ She supposes that she was, in some bygone day of youth, slightly jealous of all of them. It seems unfair that orphans should get all of the adventure.
And then, considering the main characters of all her old favorites, she begins to consider their names as well. The fury resurfaces. ‘Don’t even let me get started on names,’ she thinks to herself with a mental grimace, because she knows that they are either all so utterly common that they ought not even be mentioned, or so utterly strange that they alone define the character. The sole heir to a glorious wealth, thirteen years old and missing for most of his life, discovers his true identity. Formerly John James Smith-Jones, he now assumes the true title of His Royal and Exalted Highness Lord Humphrey Wiggins McWallacetonburg, of the Farthest Isles of Drangwald.
‘Let us,’ she thinks with a smirk, ‘observe Harry Potter.’ His name is, frankly, dull. Yet somehow everyone in the wizarding world has bothered to remember it, which is not due to the mere fact that they can pronounce it without going into cardiac arrest. And would you believe it?! HE’S AN ORPHAN! HE HAS TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS! HE GOES THROUGH AS MANY EMOTIONAL ORDEALS AS YOUR AVERAGE PRISONER OF WAR! HE IS LIVING WITH HIS AUNT AND UNCLE! And, of course, good ole Harry has an arch-nemesis.
She sighs loudly, and decides that the number of arch-nemeses in popular literature is an abomination. If everyone could just get along, most novels would not need to be written. And they all thrive on constant battle between the protagonist and the antagonist. There is essentially a war of good versus evil from the perspective of good, which can get a little tiring. She has read the Harry Potter books several times by this point, and wonders what the series would be like from the point of view of Voldemort, or what would happen if Harry turned to the dark side and stayed there, or what the result of his literal death would be. Yet she knows that if she were to pick up the series and read it again, none of these things would happen and the books would stay firmly divided between the good and the bad.
‘This,’ she decides, ‘is why I like Winnie-the-Pooh.’ And it is a very valid thought. There are no “bad guys.” There is no battle or war. There is not even a major issue, unless you count that one time that the “bear of very little brain” got stuck in Rabbit’s front door. And, best of all, no one is an orphan. ‘Actually, they might be, for all we know,’ she thinks to herself. And this is true. But at least the opening line is not, “A bear by the name of Winnie-the-Pooh was a poor orphan with an existential crisis.” These stories would indeed be much less child-friendly if Tigger were a warlord, and, frankly, much more like Harry Potter. Likewise, what would happen if Harry Potter and Voldemort customarily met each other for snacktime? Would “The Many Magical Adventures of Winnie-the-Death-Eater” be a bestseller?
She makes the executive decision to not even begin to consider the portrayal of romance in books, yet still hopes that one day she will visit a Barnes & Noble and avoid seeing a large section aptly titled, “Teen Paranormal Romance.” She dreams of the #1 New York Times Bestselling Young Adult novel about a teenager born with a mysterious lack of hormones who goes on to be extremely successful at avoiding dangerous situations by not feeling the need to prove herself to a motorcyclist with a leather jacket and a bad haircut. Shockingly, this heroine manages to dodge the infamous non-triangular love triangle and succeed in life.
‘Yes,’ she thinks, ‘that is how it should be. And in that coveted novel, the characters would actually use the bathroom, instead of being improbably and yet unavoidably exempt from full bladders or bowels for the entire story.’ Somehow, however, her thoughts turn back to the Alexanderski of her earlier contemplations, and she recalls how well its plot fits in with nearly all others of its kind.
He is, per the usual, adopted by a loving family of cliche white people. They have a son, who is reluctant to make friends with their new acquisition, and a daughter who is full of teenage angst and spends all of her time lying in her room on a fuzzy pink rug, listening to the worst possible music of her era.
Socially, the “Alexanderski” character is shy. It comes with the territory. Maybe he has unique political views, or just a few obvious battle scars, but for one reason or another he is punched in the face at least once by a quasi-clique of obese, stupid, suburban boys with baseball bats and buzz cuts. But by the end, everyone magically gets along, as helped by a friendly neighborhood sports game which showcases Alexanderski’s undiscovered, prodigious baseball ability, or by a cheerful potluck at which people do not make fun of his name, and instead call him “Alex,” so that he is made to be one of them after all. Maybe Alex has some internal cultural conflict, trying to choose between Mother Russia and Cornfield Suburbia, but by the end he chooses both (often in a eureka moment, as helped along by a sympathetic teacher), and it is miraculously simple. The story will end on an inspiring note, touching the hearts of all of its readers.
‘Alexanderski finally had friends, and was surrounded by people who loved him. Though they were not Russian like him, Alexanderski and his new community shared a bond of trust. Thinking back to his traumatic life as a struggling refugee and orphan, Alexanderski, now Alex, realized that he was happy with the life which had chosen him. The sun rose, yes, and everything fell, but beyond that, the son rose as well. With tears of joy and a newly lightened heart, the teenage boy walked slowly towards the place he could now call home. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.'

July 23, 2015 10:37:01 PM





The sun rose and everything fell into place.
It was common knowledge that epiphanies came to people during strange moments, but Alex Moretti’s earthshattering realization occurred at 4AM during his own intervention, right when he was scooping out the remaining whipped cream, courtesy of his brother’s latest prank, from his ears. "I've got it," Alex declared, reverently staring up at the ceiling. "I've got it."
His annoying friend, Clark, followed his gaze upward from his seat on the edge of the bathtub. "I don't see anything," he stated blankly. "What're you looking at?"
"Oh, please, Alex," Rose, his other annoying friend, rolled her eyes and placed a hand on his shoulder, "not another scheme. Face it, you're never going to kill Elli…" she stopped at his murderous expression. "Um, your brother."
"What makes you say that?" Alex asked slowly, shaking off Rose’s hand.
Rose tossed her annoyingly pink hair and fixed him with an annoying stare.
"You need to come up with some better adjectives," Clark inserted.
Alex blinked, making a mental note to examine his brain to mouth filter. He needed his self-control in tip-top shape if he even hoped to kill—

Elliot Moretti was well aware of his little brother’s literally murderous intentions toward him, and knew that he should probably stop antagonizing ‘widdle Awex” before one of his assassination attempts inevitably succeeded.
But pranking Alex was one of the finer pleasures of life. The histrionics that followed each stolen towel, each muted alarm, each misplaced cockroach; oh, they were music to his ears. Alex’s reactions were always blown way out of proportion—he was trying to kill Elliot in retaliation, after all—but that was what made them so hilarious.
Elliot was well aware that the line needed to be drawn somewhere, someday, but that day was not today.

"Your eyes are glazing over, Alex," Rose said, annoy—superciliously. There.
A thought crossed his mind. "Wait, why do you think I can't kill him?"
"Well… Remember that time you put an alligator—"
"—right, crocodile, in Bobby Tiburon’s swimming pool?"
Alex frowned at the mention of Elliot’s genetic mutation of a roommate, the marine biologist whose skin was tinted blue from a couple too many close calls in the deep. How dare she speak of The Incident That Was Never To Be Spoken Of? "How was I supposed to know it wasn't Elliot’s pool?"
"I don't know, maybe because there were sharks in there as well?"
"I thought someone ELSE was trying to kill him!"
Rose rolled her eyes, and Clark looked up yet again. "What about the time you put a banana peel on the staircase?"
"It would've worked," Alex protested, shooting a venomous glare at Clark, "if our very own town idiot hadn't slipped on it first."
"He could've been killed!"
Alex shrugged. "A necessary sacrifice."
"Hey!" Clark shouted.
They both ignored him.

“Bucket? Check. Ropes? Check.” Elliot inwardly cackled with glee as he looked over the rest of the items laid out on his bed. “Mystery liquid? Check.”
This was going to be the prank to top all pranks. Alex might just explode after he got done with him. After all, Elliot wasn’t just going to push Alex’s buttons; he was going to annihilate them.
Elliot was going to mess up his hair. “Pure, unadulterated evil? Check.”

"Alex," Rose said, more gently, "I could go on. The point is, your plans don't work."
"I know that," he replied stubbornly. "That's why I'm trying a different approach."
Rose considered this. "Will it be your last one? If this one doesn't work, do you promise to stop trying to kill Elli… your brother? I care about you both, mostly you, and I don't think you two have a very healthy relationship.”
She nodded, pleased. "Okay, what is it?"
"I'm going to write a To-Do-List," Alex said proudly. He waited for the shock, for her eyes to pop in wonder, her hair to frizzle in awe, her—
"You're kidding."
"It's a brilliant idea."
"It's a," she swallowed, like she couldn't believe she was about to say what she was about to say, "brilliantly stupid idea."
Clark gasped. "Ouch.”
They ignored him.
"It is not."
"Yes, it is!"
"It is not."
"It is!"
"Not," Alex said with finality. "And if you've noticed, 'it is' plus 'not' equals 'it is not'. Therefore, it is not."
Rose stared at him incredulously. "Alex, we've just established that your plans never work. Why on earth do you think writing down your plans is going to make it any better?"
"Technically, I'll be planning out my plans. My theory is that all my genius ideas," he glared at Clark, who was turning blue in the face from holding back laughter, "unfortunately failed because of extraneous factors that I did not take into account. So, if I include multiple plans of action, along with various alternative strategies to deal with any possible occurrence, there is no reason why my plan will not succeed this time."
"You're missing the point," Rose said simply.
"Plans never go as planned," Clark interjected. "It's, like, Murphy's Law!"
"Stop trying to sound smart. Just by opening your mouth, you collectively lower the IQ of the entire country," Alex scoffed.
“I’ll stop when you stop stealing comebacks from ‘Sherlock,’” Clark glared at him. "And you haven't even heard my idea yet."
They waited with absolutely no expectations.
"Okay," Clark began excitedly. "Plans don't work out exactly like you want them to. It's a fact. A universal law. So what you do is…"
Alex unconsciously leaned in.
"Reverse-psychology the universe! Instead of making a To-Do-List, make a To-Not-Do-List! That way, by planning to not do something, the universe will contrarily make it happen. And then everyone'll be happy." He produced a piece of paper from his pocket, scribbled “TNDL” at the top, and handed it to Alex. “Test it out.”
Alex considered this. “So I write things I want to do and, using this list, pretend I don’t want to do them in hopes that the universe will do the opposite of what I say and make everything happen?”
"That's…" Rose stared, slack-jawed.
"… A brilliantly stupid idea," Alex finished. But he wrote “GET FREE FOOD” underneath “TNDL” to test Clark’s theory anyway because his desperate need to wipe his brother off the face of the Earth happened to outweigh his pride.
Clark huffed. "Geniuses are never understood," he said, exiting the bathroom with a dramatic flourish of his hand.

Tweaking the position of a rope, Elliot observed the final product with a satisfied smile. It wasn’t just a bucket-over-door prank—it was much, much better.
Weeks of calculation and models—adjusted for Alex’s height so that opening the closed door would cause the bucket to fly out of the corner and upend its delicious contents over his unsuspecting head while he paused to turn on the lights—had amounted to this.
Bucket-Over-Door Prank 2.0 was a go.

"Why're you still here?" He asked Rose after a minute or two of silence had passed.
"I'm going to help you."
"You think it's a stupid plan," he bitterly pointed out. "So why?"
"Truthfully, I thought I might have a better chance of scoring a date if I helped you out with this. You know, like you'd owe it to me… or something." She smiled coquettishly, tucking a strand of pink behind her ear and sidling up to him.
She waited expectantly. "So…?"

Elliot was a block away from Alex when a blur of pink barreled past him, muttering a string of foul words under her breath. Ah, Alex’s little friend. “Hello, Rose,” he greeted good-naturedly.
“You…” The pink-haired girl screeched to a halt and immediately changed directions, advancing on Elliot with a furious expression. “This. Is. ALL. YOUR. FAULT.”
Elliot took a step back. And another. And bolted, Rose hot on his heels.

Alex blearily trudged down the hallway, failing to notice the trail of empty Campbell soup cans that, coincidentally, also headed toward his room.
Blissfully unaware of the fact that he was two seconds away from becoming the unfortunate victim of the oldest prank in the book, or, if you looked at it a different way, becoming the fortunate recipient of “FREE FOOD,” Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 23, 2015 08:05:26 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
That's what this goddam writer is supposed to have had on his gravestone. The sun rose and everything fell. What kind of gothic wacko wants to have that on his gravestone? When I die, I want my grave to say: "She was never wrong." or something. But, anyway there I was, with a whole goddam fourth grade class at a graveyard, about to discuss a writer who they've never read anything by. Maybe that was a good thing. Because this guy, Jackson Steinemen, was a scary friggin writer. To be totally honest about it I've only read one of his books and I did it only because I had to in high school.
But I sure as hell was not about to tell anyone that, because I just got thirty ten-year-olds onto a school bus and to graveyard. The worst part about school busses is that you have to sit next to the most annoying little buggers like Alex and Holden because if you don’t then they'll bully kids like Zeke and Allison. I used to just sit next to Zeke or Allison to prevent them from being bullied on the bus, but they're more annoying than Alex and Holden. And, now that I think about it, I can't really blame Holden for being that mean, right? I mean his name is Holden! You honestly might as well name your kid "Disturbed". The worst thing about the bad kids is that they are really smart, and often very funny, and as the teacher, I can't laugh at anything they say. It's pretty brutal.
The bus ride went smoothly. The only issue was that the whole class started singing this song, which I had at first thought was about herpetology. It occurred to me a minute later that this song was about something else entirely.
Fortunately, the bus reached its destination just as I had made this conclusion. We arrived at the graveyard and led everybody in a line to the grave. It was a very short walk to the grave, and it was there that we met our tour guide, Melissa. I told our class to circle up, which was difficult because all these graves got in the way, in particular this one that was this huge stone coffin on top of the ground, which led me to think that if people aren't going to bury the big fancy coffin of their loved one, why don't they just keep it in their living room or on their porch where it is easier to show off? While I was imagining this three of my students thought that a good way to solve the issue of making a circle was to stand on the big fancy coffin, and just have the circle overlap it.
"Get down from there!" I yelled.
"But we're making a circle!" said all three kids, out of sync with each other.
"Don't talk back!"
"Don't talk back" is what one says when one really means "I know you're making a circle, but maybe it isn't wise to stand on a grave because you'll piss off God or at least the tour guide."
After they got off of the big fancy coffin and the kids organized themselves into some connected shape, I suggested to the tour guide that maybe we should start now.
"I don't know. That doesn't look very much like a circle," said the tour guide.
I honestly hate it when teachers do that. I've hated it since I was a kid in school, which is why I only do it when I'm pissed off at the class. Melissa was mishandling a weapon. She wasn't even thirty years old, let alone a teacher. Who authorized her to do that? The questioning of a circle is a teacher privilege only.
But it was too late and all the kids were exasperatedly trying to form a somewhat legitimate circle to impress Melissa, with her unbreakable smile and baseball cap and fancy clipboard with a pen attached to it on a string.
"That's more like it!" said Melissa after everyone settled down in their new shape, which was nothing more like a circle.
"Now," said Melissa, "can anyone tell me whose grave this is?"
"Which grave?" asked one of the kids.
"This one right here." said Melissa, without pointing to a grave so still nobody had any idea which grave we were discussing.
"Does anybody know?" asked Melissa again, "Any ideas?"
At this point I was thinking "Okay, lady, seriously just say it."
"It says it on the gravestone..." said Melissa, as if she was dropping some hint that made this game even more oodles of fun. I got news for you Melissa: Nobody had any idea which gravestone we were looking at!
"Give up?"
I seriously wanted to smack the clipboard right out of her pretty little nail polished hands.
"Okay... It's Jackson Steinemen. Jackson Steinemen is considered by many to be one of the great American writers. Does anyone know what he wrote?"
"Fifty Shades Of Grey?"
That's Holden. Now, this was not one of his most witty comments, but I would have liked very much to laugh with the class, who found this hysterical, but I had to act stern and try to shut everyone up.
"Okay! Quiet down!" I said. Melissa is looking at me with this look of complete fury in her eyes, as if it was my fault that Holden somehow knew what Fifty Shades Of Grey is or that he knew when to comically refer to it.
Once everyone shut up Melissa continued.
"He is most famous for his book The Glowing Cloud Adventure. Has anyone heard of this book? Does anyone know what it's about?"
"Radioactive farts?"
The whole class erupted again. Well, that was the second time, so I had to yell: "Holden!"
"It wasn't me!" said Holden, who looked genuinely caught off guard.
"He's right!" said Allison, "It was Zeke!"
"Zeke? " I thought, "Zeke said that? Unpopular, unconventional Zeke made a successful fart joke and a damn good one at that? Wow. This could be a turning point for Zeke. Good for Zeke."
"Okay, everyone, be quiet!" I yelled. Melissa started again.
"The Glowing Cloud Adventure is actually about ghosts. One ghost, actually. It walks around the streets of New York and wherever it goes, a glowing cloud of mist follows. It is famous for it's first line 'The sun rose and everything fell.' which you can see on his gravestone right here. It is written from the perspective of-"
"It's raining!"
I looked over to Alex.
"It's raining!" yelled Alex.
Okay, Alex is normally a troublemaker, but telling people it's raining when it's not while outside, is a pretty strange form of practical joke. Only then I realized that he was, for once, not making a joke, because it was beginning to rain. Just a bit though. So I thought we could continue.
"I think we can just keep going." said Melissa, as if I hadn't already thought of that.
Melissa continued: "It is told from the perspective of the ghost himself. Does anyone know what this kind of-"
Cloudburst. We were all drenched with in seconds. The class erupted into a cacophony of laughter, shrieks, and curses. Kids started running all over and into each other. Finally one voice raised above the chaos.
"Hey, everyone! God's peeing on us!"
The class was then united once again in laughter. Thank you, Alex. Laughter so loud that I could giggle along and go unnoticed. Scratch that, Melissa was staring at me with a shocked look as if I'd just blown up her house. As if she was recovering from my display of childishness, she said "There's a cafeteria where we're eating lunch anyway. Let's go there."
That's just what we did. We got to this cafeteria building about a block away, which is normally a cafeteria for college students, but it was 10:30, so nobody has a lunch break yet. We did a head count.
Melissa started talking again.
"Does anyone know what kind perspective that is?"
"It's not raining anymore!"
It was Alex again. And he was right. You could see outside the window that it was not raining anymore.
Melissa retorted: "It will probably start again in a minute. Now, does anyone know what kind of perspective it is when the story is told by a character?... Anyone have an idea? The answer is first person. When the story is told by someone in the story, that's called a first person narrative."
"There's a bird outside-"
"Be quiet Holden!" I said. Not that I really wanted to hear about first person narrative right then.
"Jackson Steinemen used first person narrative for every one of his books, short stories, and-"
"There's a bird outside and it won't stop pooping!" yelled Holden. Now, I'm not going to lie, when everyone ran to the window to see the pooping bird, I was just as interested as them.
Melissa started hollering her face off, telling everyone to get back in their seats at the table, but nobody could hear her. They were too busy laughing, yelling "ewww", and yelling "I can't see!" I was really beginning to enjoy this day.
Finally one of the kids who couldn't see yelled "I'm going outside so I can see!"
Next thing you know half of the kids were all dashing towards the doorway. I had to make sure everyone's okay, so I chased the kids along with Melissa. All the kids stopped at the closed door. Standing at the door was the one who had the idea of leaving, Alex. Maybe I should've told him to stop, but I was exhausted. So, instead, I just gave him a look. A look that said "Don't open that door or you will regret it." Frankly, I would much rather have given him a look that said: "Your choice. I'm pooped. I gotta say, if you opened it, it would be entertaining." Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

July 23, 2015 11:22:43 AM





The sun rose and everything fell. Including Alex, out of his bed. His head made a WHAP sound as it hit the hardwood floor with a force harder than taking the ACTs, knocking all the air out of his lungs. He must’ve coughed for at least an eternity and a half, before he gathered enough confidence to actually get up off the floor before one of the ants from the many Dorito bags lying on the floor, crawled into one of his orifices. Once he had returned to his bed he looked out the window. Alex saw a bluebird singing the song of his people, which at that moment he wished he had his bb gun because it was extremely annoying.
With one last, drawn out sigh he proceeded to crack nearly every joint in his body before making the conscious effort to get up. Once he was on his feet he walked slowly to the kitchen, teenage punk attitude and all. Alex arrived in the living room to find his mother passed out on the couch, mascara and glitter running down her face, her martini spilled onto the carpet where the dog was now lying, and Gossip Girl reruns blasting at full volume. He picked up the remote and turned the T.V. off abruptly. Making his way to the kitchen Alex looked at his school picture hanging in the hall. From four years ago. His hair had a sharp part down the side and his braces reflected the studio lighting to the point of almost hurting your eyes.
After he had finally managed to get to the kitchen he yanked the fridge door open knocking off nearly every single one of the countless magnets saying inspirational quotes such as “A Moment On The Lips, A Lifetime On The Hips!” and “You Are What You Eat!” Alex didn’t bother to put them back as he grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge and took a swig straight out of it. Immediately he spit it out in disgust along with the chunks of sour grossness. Another sigh fell from his mouth. He grabbed the keys so he could head to the gas station to hopefully get some uncurdled, less super nasty milk. Once he was at the front door, paint chipping off all corners of it, Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.