Monday, March 30, 2009


As the door creaked open, I heard the tinkling of the bell. Gloomy, dusty, and dank the interior of the store did not instill confidence. "The Time Store" was clearly not thriving. Oh well, no matter I had something to sell, and they hopefully had the will and the money to buy, or rather the time to barter. That was why I was hear to trade/sell one my last possessions for an hour, maybe two (if I was lucky) of time. The time to go back, and fix one of the major errors of my life that put me in this situation to begin with. A bit of a paradox to go back, and fix what got me here would mean I never got here in order to go back, and fix the error. This is what time is a great big paradox. Either way, I had to at least give it a shot. After all, this was about the only item of value I had left, and my landlady was not "running a charity for losers" as she reminded me on a semi-daily basis. All sort of detritus lined the shelves of "The Time Store," other people's prized possessions sold off for a chance to buy enough time to make things right, or at least better. The old man behind the counter looked up from reading his hologram, and gave me the same look a man give to eggs after discovering they had gone off. Not a good beginning to what, for me, was a desperate transaction. "Excuse me, Sir, but I have this for sale." I laid the last possession my great aunt Julia had left me me from her all too small estate. The old man picked up the dusty tome I had laid on his counter as if it was toxic. Very gently by the corner, and with only his index finger and thumb. "And what, pray tell, is THIS exactly" he sniffed. "The collected works of the Grand Inquisitor" I said, then added none too proudly. "My great-great-great uncle on my mother's side." "I see," the old man replied. "The Grand Inquisitor?" "Your blood relative?" "No wonder you look as downtrodden as you do." "You're lucky that your family survived the purges of the '70's." I sighed not this again "not all of us did, but that is a family tragedy that I do not care to discuss today." "How much for the book?" "Surely the paper alone has to be worth something, even if the writings are dribble." "Dribble?" "Well certainly the GI was no Poe or Hemingway, but he had his own niche in literary history." Even managed a few decades of fame, long after his body was found floating by the Quai des Beoufes." "So of course, it did him absolutely no good at all, but such are the twists of fate." I released another sigh "Look Mister, all I know is my great-aunt gave me the book, and said it was valuable." "I have not bothered to read it, nor have I ever heard of the fool that wrote it besides the story of him being some wacko distant relative of mine from centuries ago." "I have my own problems, and just want to know if the damn book is worth two hours of time or not?" The owner looked shocked "never read the damn book?" "Tsk, tsk, the poor GI dying in poverty, and then cursed with relatives without a sense of history." "He would roll over in his grave, if any knew exactly where it was nowadays." "You lad need to at least understand what you are trying to pawn off for a mere two hours of time." "Sit your sorry ass down, and listen for a few minutes while I give you the lesson your mother should have given you a long time ago." I bristled "my mother is dead, you bastard, she died bringing me into this shit world, so don't preach to me about her failing in her duties." He blinked "ah, sorry lad, clearly I did not know." "Tell you what you listen, and I will give you two and a half hours, fair enough?" "Fine," I muttered not like I have anywhere else to be at the moment. "So go ahead and regal me with the story of my famed ancestor." He chuckled, and said "far from famous, but a minor celebrity, but like I said much too late to do him any good." "He was not a particularly good man, your uncle, but he did have the good sense to realize it, and use it to some small advantage." "He was the generation that first discovered what they called "blogging" some new fangled way of pouring your heart out on the Internet for a bunch of your friends to read, and make pithy comments about." "Never really understood what all the fuss was about myself, but it caught on and was all the rage for about 75 years or so, until the long winter came, and took care of all that fancy technological stuff." "Anyway, your uncle earned just enough minor celebrity with his blog posts to become famous enough to be included in the Archives, when the Commonwealth rebuilt the grid of the old American empire." "Not the most famous blogger in the world, but one deemed worthy of keeping a copy of in the archives." "Seems he was a bit of the Baudelaire of his set." "Of course since the original Baudelaire's writing were completely lost during the long winter, I guess the Commonwealth decided to take what it could get, and use your uncle's writings as the archetype." "Not the most uplifting of writings, and he certainly was not a lover of humankind, but he did manage a dedicated following in his time." "Not that I expect you to appreciate any of this, but at least you should have some idea of what you are selling before you sell for a mere two and a half hours." "Tell you what, you take your book home read it for a couple of days, and if you still want to sell it, I will buy it without any further pontificating." I sighed "fair enough I suppose." "Guess I should read what the old codger was on about all those years ago."

That was 2429. It is now 2630, and the desperate fellow in the story above was my great-great grandfather. The above story is from his diaries nothing further about this particular incidence survive. I don't know what he did to get the two hours of time he needed to go back, and "fix things," and I not sure I want to know. The old guy was considered a serious black sheep in the family, but he must have done something, because before he died, he took me aside, and gave me the "dusty tome" mentioned above. Making me promise never to sell it, and never republish it, but to keep it in the family for as long as there is a family. I kept that promise, and will lay the same duty upon my son, and he will do the same to his son as well. Of course no one now reads the Grand Inquisitor, but for some reason the book seems to be a good luck charm for the family. Perhaps that is the irony of it all. The poor sod that wrote it never reaped any benefit from it, but his ancestors thrive and prosper because of the babbling of a man without qualities.

In answer to Tidy's challenge. This was the hardest of the three by far, and I am not sure it went the way you requested, but sometimes these things happen. Now it is time for you to send in the clowns.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


"For the thousandth time! Silence is GOLDEN!" "Can your defective little mind not wrap itself around that concept!" Those words shouted by the normally mild mannered Sister Mary jerked me out of a lovely daydream about the number fourteen of all things. Luckily for me, at least this time, Sister Mary's wrath was directed at some unfortunate classmate of mine, and not, as usual, at me. Fear of the ruler that the Sister wielded like a sword usually kept most of my classmates in line, but not G__. G___ was a talkative soul, and even managed to have something worth listening to every once in a while. The problem for G___ was that the Sisters did not want to hear the majority of G___'s blather even the stuff worth hearing. The Sisters were not hear to listen, they were here to teach, and if that did not work, well they were here to punish. Quite simple really listen, learn, or get the ruler. You would not think that a 110 lb lady could inflict that much pain with a ruler, but Sister Mary was a true artist. She must have finished top of her class in the "making them squeal like a pig" at her university. She knew where to hit, when to hit, and precisely how hard to hit for the maximum amount of agony. Surviving her lashings without screaming was considered a rite of passage. Sadly for G___ the talkative streak he possessed also made him a bit of a screamer. Sad for the rest of us too. Hearing the thunk of the ruler followed by the yelp of pain from poor G____ was beginning to grate on my nerves. It only took me a couple of times being teed up by Sister Mary before I figured out that talking could be, and probably is vastly overrated. Which is why today I am usually described as laconic or taciturn depending on who is doing the describing. I have also been compared to a stone wall, and we all know that stone walls do not have a lot to say for themselves, or to anyone else. The trick is to be well spoken in ten words or less. If you can pull that off, then people will begin to believe you are much smarter than you really are. Notice I said trick. It is not a gift, or a talent, it is at its most fundamental level a trick. You are fooling whatever audience you are around into something. Not showing off some mental feat of amazing skill. It is the old coin from behind a child's ear stuff. All flash no fire. Something to distract attention from the fact that you could really give a shit less about whatever conversation you have been drug, kicking and screaming, into against your desire to just be left alone to get drunk. Most of us spend our day talking our proverbial heads off, most of do not realize that people are really not listening. Like telling a "bad beat" poker story to a friend. Yeah, yeah we all have them, and halfway through yours the bastard you are talking to began to remember, and burst at the seams, to share HIS bad beat story. Which of course, is much more entertaining because it is his story. His story, history pretty damn close don't you think? Sexist, but still close. Poor G___ never learned this lesson, at least not while he was in the "arc of pain" that constituted Sister Mary's wingspan. Pretty much everyday day G__ would blather, and Sister Mary would exact her revenge. We tried to explain, in as few words as possible, to G___ that talking was only an avenue of pain, but he just did not seem to be able to keep his trap shut. I suppose he saw silence as a void to be filled, and if no one else was brave enough to do it, he would boldly stride into the breach. There are those among us who think that silence is not golden, but awkward and needs to be filled before it grows uncomfortable. I am not one of those people. I refer you to the title of this blog for example. I guess the irony of being a "man of few words" is that I write overly long, complicated, convoluted blog posts. Maybe it is just easier to type, aside from the spelling thing, than it is to talk. Though at least if you write people do not have to listen. All they have to do is not read. Still being ignored, but at least they do not have to sit there with a fake interested expression on their mug while you blather on about whatever you think is important. The better proverb for me has always been better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove everyone right.
In acceptance of Challenge's challenge. Not exactly what you were looking for I am sure, but I never said I had any talent. Merely tricks, and not even magic ones at that. However, I gave it a shot, and undercurrents abound. Sometimes the gold is buried under a mountain of dross. I made the mountain, you get to shift the dross. Careful all that glitters is not gold.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Theatre/House of Pain

Darkness, complete and utter darkness. Hmm where did that come from? There should be at least some light coming in from somewhere. Then I remember, oh yes the struggle, and the hands grabbing me pinning my arms to my side, and then the bag over the head, and darkness. Body found floating by the docks is the only thought that I can form as I am wrenched out of bed, and manhandled down the stairs. I go limp, there is no use in fighting, no hope of expecting an explanation so I might as well let these bastards earn their money by having to drag my dead weight, fat ass along. An indeterminable time later, I am thrown into what seems to be a rather hard, straight-backed chair. Well this is the usual drill is it not? I have been on the other side of the bag often enough to generally expect what will happen next. However, expecting it and being ready for it are two separate things, and as the bag is whipped away from my head the light is typically blinding. Lovely, I knew that was going to happen, and yet I was still too stupid to keep my eyes closed. Blinking is not the way to meet whatever nemesis has managed to put you in your present condition. As the vision returns, a familiar voice greets me, "Well, well the Grand Inquisitor himself, welcome to my little kingdom." Damn but that voice sounds familiar. Shit I know this person! The blindness fades, and I look across a small table to see my old friend Inquisitor Wooten with a not so friendly smile on his face. "Junior Inquisitor Wooten how pleasant to see you" I say with much more nonchalance than I feel. "If you needed me to continue your training, all you had to do was simply ask." "There was no need for the enforced trip just for a bit of a refresher course in interrogation." Glancing around I see the familiar (large) shapes of Mr. Williams and Mr. Catron looming over my colleagues shoulders. Well at least it is not the docks yet. "I think my training is complete" Inquisitor Wooten says with entirely too much confidence for my liking. "Now you get to see just how well you did train me in the gentle art of persuasion." Shit, fuck, damn! I did train this ape, and a few other besides, but he was the best of the lot, born to ask the tough questions that no one wants to answer. "Bah, you never could get the questions in the right order Wooten, no matter how many times I tried to tell you." "At some point, I would assume, you are going to clue me in as to why I am here, and why a junior Inquisitor has the temerity to drag a Grand Inquisitor out of his bed in the middle of the night?" "Oh I think you know that is not going to happen, I do not give answers, I ask the questions, YOU give the answers," he said as he pulled the all too familiar plain black case from somewhere, and placed it on the table. "You know the drill my boy, time for the instruments." He opens the cases, and I see the bright, shiny instruments of our trade, MY trade, exposed. Gruesome looking things that are intended to frighten just by sight, the pain they inflict makes people scream like schoolgirls. "Of course there is the alternative," he says, and produced the little brown pill that looks like it would choke a horse. Alternative? Pain or pain which would you prefer? "You always were a bit of a bastard Wooten, perhaps that is why I liked you." "Noticed the past tense." "Give me the pill you jamy cunt, I will not give you the pleasure of screaming for you tonight." I swallow the pill with some difficulty, and wait for the effects that I know are coming. No real choice really, but that is the point now isn't it? As my eyes begin to go heavier, and heavier I think well at least I will still have my looks after this is over. Small comfort, but it is the only one I can cling to at the moment. Sleep takes me as it is supposed to do, and off I go to confront the terrors that my colleague has dreamed up when he manufactured the pill.
Starts out pleasant enough, (then again don't they all?). A old classmate and I are at a fairly swank hotel for some conference or other, and are enjoying a lovely swim in the pool. Odd, in real life they would be fishing me out of the pool, my people sink they do not swim. Wrapping a towel around myself, I begin to walk across the lobby towards the elevator to my room. That is when I saw her from a middle distance. A quick double take confirms my belief. Damn them! Of course they would have to bring someone like her into it. How fucking original. An ex-girlfriend of course who else? From about a decade ago, and one that I treated a bit badly near the end (a shock, I know). Well this is just peachy isn't it? Might as well get the screaming, cursing, and the inevitable slap across the face over with. Our paths are just so conveniently going to intersect anyway so might as well stop, and pretend this is a surprise. I stop, and begin to form the words of a pithy greeting, she however sails past me like I am invisible, and continues on her journey. This is my punishment? Being ignored by an ex-flame that I have not spoken to in ten years? Really Wooten, you must have made a mistake with your formula. This is almost fun. I shrug, and continue on my merry way whistling a Wayne Newton tune as we all are apt to do from time to time. Of course that was too easy, as I get on the elevator a stranger get on as well, and slips me a note. How quaint. Where did you get this idea Wooten? Watching too many late night film noir again? It merely has a place, time, and is signed "B." What a surprise the old flame's first initial just happens to be "B." I sigh as I look at the time of this rendezvous. Ten minutes from now? Jeez, where is the rush? No time to change since the damn meeting is of course as far away from my room as humanly possible. Great my first meeting with this girl in a decade, and I am in swimming trunks and a towel. Oh well, nothing I can do, but show up and hope for the best. Surprisingly enough, there she is at the right place, and at the right time. How do you just jump into that conversation? Where do you start something like Hi, how are you? I know I sort of fucked you over ten years ago or so, but hey water under the bridge right? Hallmark does not make a card for this situation. Oh right sorry about wearing a towel to this meeting I thought it was informal attire. What's that you got married did you? Well congrats on that I am sure he is a lovely fellow. Oh really divorced eh? Well you have to be realistic about these things I suppose. Me? Oh I am just fine and dandy. Can not really try to explain that actually I am tied to a chair somewhere, and this is a dream. That is what is happening isn't it? After a few minutes of this nonsense I decided to cut to the chase, and ask the important stuff. You know like why the hell did you ignore me in the lobby, and why the hell all this cloak and dagger stuff? She said "well my mother is with me, and I did not want her to know that I was meeting you." Ah yes, your mother large, ungainly woman with a marked distaste for being in my company. Yes it is for the best that we do not cross paths. Then of course the nice little A-bomb that my colleague Wooten had designed this little passion play for gets dropped. "Umm, I have been thinking about you a lot since my divorce, and I missed you a great deal." "In fact, I found out you would be here at this hotel on these dates, and that is why I am here." "My mother tagging along was not in my plans at all trust me." Okay this has potential to end in tears. Maybe this is not a dream. She certainly felt real when she pressed up close to me at the end of that pretty little speech. Some place private you say? Well I am not really dressed for going any place, but back to my room to change. "Oh back to your room was exactly what I had in mind and, dressed does not matter so much," she replied. Well clearly this is a great idea, and off we when in some haste to my room. Here the details get a little vague. Of course they do. Why would Wooten want me to remember the good, juicy bits of this experience. The parts I do remember where a) quite nice, and b) felt quite real. Well now, this part of our relationship does bring back some good memories, and then right on cue, bright, searing, painful light. What the hell, did I finally die whilst having sex? Do I walk towards the light or what? Of course not, just me snapping back to consciousness in the same room, tied to the same fucking chair. Once I had figured it all out, and that it was a dream. I look up to see my old friend still sitting across the table. "Well Wooten, I told you that you needed more training." "That dream had a happy ending you wanky bastard!" "Oh, I dont think the good bit has happened yet," he replied. "Perhaps you should just nod back off, and wait for the ending." "Hah" I sneered, "not bloody likely, you can't just resume a dream where you left off." "Going back to sleep will just start the process over again, and by then the pill will have lost its effectiveness." All well and good, but damn it all I am feeling drowsy again. Eh, maybe just a 10 minute nap. Not like I am going to resume the dream where it stopped anyway. Wooten is drunk on his own sense of power. "I should get back to my room, mother will begin to wonder where I have gotten off to." "Huh" I mutter "What about mother?" "Who the, what the." Bollocks seems Wooten is smarter than I thought I am back in the same dream at the same place in time, but it seems our location has changed to my actual house. Walk her to the door like a good gentleman. A kiss or two on the cheek before parting, and a wave as she climbs into her car to drive off. Who knows how many decades before I see her again? Then as she gets to the end of the block, tires screech, metal grinds, and an very loud, violent crash occurs. "Son of a bitch" I scream, and run to the scene. Twisted metal and a bit of smoke make it difficult to find her, but eventually there she is, thrown from her car lying in the grass. No last dying romantic words of loves labour lost, just an ex-girlfriend whose neck is clearly broken, and just as clearly is dead as a doornail. Then a sensation of drowning as I sputter awake to find Mr. Catron standing in front of me, bucket in hand, grin on his face. "From the screams, and the thrashing about we figured it was time to wake you," say my pal Wooten. "Guess you got to the good bit at the end after all." "Damn you all to hell," I mutter. "Don't you bastards have someone that is actually guilty of something to torture?" Then another sensation this one of a cool wind on my face. Now what are they putting me in a wind tunnel to see if I am aerodynamic enough to sink? Body found floating by the docks. No not a wind tunnel just the gentle breeze caused by the fan next to my bed, as I wake up very confused as to what the hell just happened. Was that a dream within a dream? How the fuck is that possible? What is it time to go to work already? Damn I just want to lie here, and be sad. For exactly what reason I am not sure, but I certainly do not feel in the most chipper of moods. Well, perhaps I will just have to get over it. After all, it was only a dream, and at least this one did not feature any crows.

Monday, March 02, 2009

All the Muck that's Fit to Rake

"Morning Ralph" those were the first words spoken to me by another human being today. The human doing the speaking was the owner/operator of my local news stand, a elderly fellow by the name of Sam. I thought his greeting rather odd, since my name is not Ralph, but I put it down to his old age, and bad eyesight. "Morning Sam" I grunted as I bought the local rag to read on my leisurely stroll into work. Apparently I was in no particular hurry today, and I chatted for a few minutes with the old dodger about sports, politics, and of course the weather. Speaking of which, when did it get so cloudy? Was it this foreboding when I staggered out of my house without either my raincoat or umbrella? Years of watching my father obsess over the weather, and determined not to be like the old man, had lead me to generally ignore the weather forecast based on the theory that I can not change it so why bother? Well, as the wind picked up, and the cloud begin to roll in I realized that I might not be able to change it, but surely I could at least pay enough attention to prepare for it. Clearly my 20 minute stroll to work might be a little wetter than I had planned. Living in a town with a dearth of public transportation, and realizing that the newspaper I just bought had exhausted my supply of actual money, I had little choice but to wrap up my small talk with Sam, and toddle off to work. As I begin my stroll, I passed a friend of mine (with his umbrella the cheeky bastard) who greeted me, and queried whether I had read the paper. "Not yet, is there something earth shattering in there?" He laughed, and said "not earth shattering, but you made the paper. "Near the back of course" and off he went on his merry way chuckling. "Near the back" I muttered. If the bastard only knew his wife was rogering the postman he might not be so cheerful. Puzzled as to why I would be in the paper except as a misprint, I paused to open up the damn thing to take a gander. As I did cursing a bit as the ink smudged my hands (how can they not invent an ink that does not smudge? Man on the Moon, and all that shit, but I still have to have ink on my hands from reading the daily news?). About the time I shuffle the pages to "near the back" the skies decide to finally ruin my (so far, brief) day by opening up, and begin pissing straight down on me. Blast! It appears I have bought my only protection from the rain, and I quickly placed the newspaper over my head as I ran for the nearest shelter. Luckily it was not too far away, but the rain had ruined my newspaper. Oh well, I guess at least the water cleaned the ink off my hands. I threw the soggy paper into the nearest trash can, and waited for the rain to stop thinking that at least my last seventy five cents managed to keep me dry so not a bad return after all. Eventually after a few minutes the rain slackened to a drizzle that I figured I would just have to endure, and I continued on my way to work. Making to my building not quite soaked to the skin, but still rather damp, I was greeted by a co-worker from across the foyer with a "hey, you made it into the paper!" "I am aware" I replied, but before I could ask to see his paper, neatly and dryly tucked under his arm, he flounced onto the elevator, and was gone. I shook what water I could off myself, and trudged to the bank of elevators to make my up to the floor on which my office, or rather cube, was located. I stepped onto the elevator and pushed my floor, and as the car begin to fill up I noticed a woman reading her paper just a bit in front of and to the right of me. I craned my neck to see if perhaps she had made it to the big article about me, but she seemed to be reading the results from the local dog track. I had, of course, checked the coin operated paper stand in my building's lobby, but as usual it was full of yesterday's newspapers. Jeez who knew it would be so hard to find a current newspaper. It is not like there is some "Dewey defeats Truman" headline that would cause a idiotic public to begin hoarding copies like canned goods before a nuclear holocaust. Getting off the elevator on my floor I walked into my office hoping that at least the online edition would be available for me to see what news I had made. As I waited the 7 to 10 minutes for my computer to boot up, I begin to wonder exactly what it was I could have done (clearly without knowing it) to get my fool name in the paper. I had not, to my knowledge, robbed any banks, or saved any children or cats (both of whom I detest) from burning buildings, foiled any terrorist attacks, or been caught with my pants down in a public park. After a little grinding noise, my computer finally made it to the point that I could access the internet, but as I clicked on the proper icon all I got was a blue line, and a connecting, connecting message. Motherfucker! Those guys in IT are depriving a perfectly good village of an idiot! Of course, they will not stagger into work for another hour at the earliest. Must have had a rough night at the X Men convention, or perhaps they had to alphabetize their Battle Star Galactica playing cards till the wee hours of the morning. Well now not only can I not solve the mystery of my paper appearance, I can not do any actual work. Well, the boss is not around either, those wild nights at the "country club" where they have pole dancing assures me that he will not be in for at least two hours. I suppose I might as well make the best of it, and take an early morning siesta. I lean back in my rickety ass chair, put my feet up, and begin to nod off. Just as I was beginning to get good and asleep a co-worker comes to the corner of my cube pale as a ghost, and clearly shocked about something. Before I could get fully awake to ask what she backs out of my cube like she had seen Hitler's ghost dropping her newspaper. Well she always was a bit weird, I can sort out her issues later, but for now at least I have the paper. Looking down I see the article she had folded her paper over to. A little chill started to run down my spine as I saw she was reading the obituaries (I said she was odd), the intercom on my phone begins to buzz, buzz, buzz, as I read with absolute horror why she was acting as if she had seen a ghost. It seems that she had. The obit she was reading was mine. Funny, I don't feel dead. Is this why my news seller called me the wrong name. Will somebody stop that damn buzzing!!!! I collapsed back into my chair paper gripped tightly in my hands as I read the news of my demise. What the fuck? Then I feel a sharp jab in my ribs. Turning expecting to see some guy in a black robe with a sickle in his hands, I gasp half in relief, half in surprise, to find it is just my girlfriend muttering for me to turn off "that bloody alarm, and go to work." "Oh" she mutters as she rolls over to go back to sleep (the bitch) "you might want to take your umbrella, it is supposed to rain today."

For Cynnie loyal reader, and one nice lady. I hope this piss poor attempt has honoured your request for a post about newspapers. It stinks, but I did the best I could.