Hurry Up and Wait

I was behind a wonderful gentleman at the grocery store on Saturday morning. In front of him was another man, one who was buying just as many, if not fewer, groceries than the man in front of me (have I lost you yet?) There was some sort of problem with the register or a coupon or something having to do with the man at the front of the line. The man between him and me was just fuming. Chivalrously, he took this anger out on his wife: “I’m going as fast as I can,” he said to her like an indignant middle schooler. “Do you want to check us out?” I paused the audiobook I was listening to so that I could eavesdrop on their petty argument. It wasn’t as entertaining, so I un-paused my book and continued waiting patiently.

News flash, dude: In this day and age, there is no reason to be bored or frustrated when waiting in a line. It is your fault for being unprepared. Honestly, there never has been a reason to just stand there fuming. Books are portable! Keep a paperback on hand at all times. Read while you wait in line at the post office (if you still go there), the bank, or a checkout lane. And with everyone and their four-year-old owning an MP3 player, it’s easier than ever to entertain yourself when at a standstill. Listen to some music or an audiobook. It’s a great way to take advantage of that time, not let it take advantage of you.

The Nashua Public Library just had a blog post asking the question “Does listening to an audiobook count as reading?” I’m currently re-reading The Golden Compass thanks to audio. This is one of my favorite things to do with an audiobook. I listen a lot when I’m driving, so I’m prone to tuning out and totally forgetting the last few tracks or so. But when I’m listening to something I’ve already read, that’s okay. I can fill in the holes myself. And when I do manage to pay attention, it enriches my experience. Just as with re-reading a book, you always pick up something new on the second go-through, no matter how you absorb the story.

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Flash Fiction: Bingo

B9, Gregory thought. B9. He wished for it so hard. He could see B9 as though it were engraved on the backside of his eyelids. His fingers drummed B9 in Morse code on the table. B9 flowed through the bulging vein in Gregory’s temple. “B-14,” the caller said. “O-73.”

“Shit,” Gregory muttered, stubbing his cigarette into an ashtray, coughing into a handkerchief.

“G-34,” the caller said.

“Bingo!” a woman in the back shouted. An attendant rushed over to check the card. Everyone was eager to go home; it was getting late.

“Fuck,” Gregory said. He picked up his coat. He crumpled the losing card with his left hand, patting his pockets with his right: wallet, keys, hanky, cigarettes and lighter, check, check, check, double check. He pushed his chair back, legs screeching across the floor as though its feet were made of keratin and the floor tiled with slate.

“No bingo,” the attendant called. It was a false alarm. The woman either misheard a call, or just mis-marked her card. Either way, she had done it wrong. The evacuation from the room stopped, reversed.

Gregory sat back down, smoothed out his card, put his cigarettes and lighter back in his pocket. B9, B9, B9, he chanted to himself silently as chairs slid back into place, knees banged clumsily against the undersides of tables, other players unfolded their wadded up hopes and dreams, unscrewed the caps on their ink daubers. B9, B9, B9, Gregory prayed.

“B9,” said the caller. It was as though God had spoken through him.

“Bingo!” Gregory tried to shout. But he couldn’t. Something was caught in his throat. He fished out his handkerchief, still moist with phlegm from the cough moments before. He coughed into it, a great big hacking cough, a cough that reached deep into his lungs and extracted mucous that had settled there when Reagan was President.

“N–,” the caller began, sounding significantly less beatific now.

“Bingo!” Gregory shouted. He actually said it this time. A thick plug of lemon-lime-colored snot clung to the corner of his mouth.

The attendant came to check his card. Gregory had won the jackpot of the night. All his spots were filled. Blackout, it was called.

The attendant pulled a wad of cash out of his apron. He thumbed off fifteen twenties into Gregory’s eager palm, avoiding eye contact with both Gregory and the green globulous wad sliding down Gregory’s chin (as though lung boogers had eyes). Gregory counted the cash again, even though he watched the attendant do it. It was right. Gregory put the cash in his wallet, put his wallet back in his pocket, and checked his pockets again. He had everything he needed. He had more than he came in with.

Tomorrow, he would pray to hear it again during his visit to the oncologist: B9.

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Danielle Steel Glamour Collection

Check out my glamourous Danielle Steel coasters on etsy!

Glamour Collection Coasters

Danielle Steel Glamour Collection Ceramic by randomchancelee.

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My Least Favorite Christmas Song

A few days ago, I finally reached my breaking point with the Christmas music. I officially hate it all, and would be happy if I never heard another Christmas song ever. Or at least until next year. But before that, when I was still kinda feeling in spirit with the season and all that, I was enjoying most of it.

Except for “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.”

I don’t know why this song grates on my nerves like no other song does. The lyrics aren’t as bad as “Jingle Bell Rock”, another Christmas song I despise. (“Giddy up Jingle horse”? Seriously? What in all that is holy under Santa’s fat ass is a jingle horse?”) Maybe I just don’t like rocking at the holidays.

It’s really just one part of this song I hate. The part that really strips me to the bone happens at the two-minute mark. That guy in the background going “bop! bop! bop! bop! bop! bop! bop!” I hate him so much. With every single “bop!” I feel the need to bang my head against a brick mantle.

Bop! I want to sharpen candy canes and stick them under his fingernails.

Bop! I want to strangle him with a wreath.

Bop! I want to crush up glass ornaments and sprinkle them in his eggnog.

Bop! I want to tie him up to each of Santa’s reindeer and have him drawn and quartered eighthed. Or ninthed, if we include Rudolph.

Bop! I want to set him on a burning yule log.

Bop! I want to nail stockings to his eyes.

Bop! I want to force him to listen to this song on repeat for all eternity.

And that would be worst punishment of all.

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The Need for People

Chibi Bake-bot

Two pieces of unwanted paper were left in a used college textbook: the answers to five unknown quiz questions, and a color photocopy of the book’s previous owner’s birth certificate. From these two objects, I now know the following things:

She was born December 26. Name of Father: Unknown. Merry Christmas.

She is a super villain (descended into a seedy life of crime due to the lack of a strong male father figure), baking delicious pastries in her high-tech hidden lair, who needs a little assistance remembering when to cut paychecks to her minions: “1. I know a little about computers, I know how to put them together, and I go on the online. I really would like to know how to maintain my security system. My plan is to open my own bakery [ed. note: clearly as a front to her supervillainous escapades] so I think it would really help out to be able to do payroll scheduling and bookkeeping.”

She is wary of large corporations snooping around her private affairs: “2. To get a Shaw’s card you put down your address, phone number so I believe that giving out to [sic] much personal information.”

She doesn’t know all the answers: “3. [four blank lines]”

She might be a little schizophrenic: “4. a. No, that is like cheating or taking steroids. b. Yes, because eyesit eyesight is important. c. No. d. No.”

Despite her aptitude with computers, rapid advances in technology frighten her to the point that the fear impairs her ability to clearly answer the question: “5. I do believe that humans will make a machine that can’t be distinguished from peop a human and I believe am kind of sch scarde scared because then no people will be what would we need people for.”

It’s not a question, but a definitive statement: what would we need people for. Period. Although robotic minions would really cut down the payroll costs, can they make anything other than HTTP cookies?

(The whimsical artwork is from the flickr user cakespy’s photostream.)

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Short Fiction–Pinned

I stood in the corner of the room—maybe, all I could see was the inside of the blindfold—my feet spread apart, trying to hold my balance, my head tilted to one side. I tried to think “Where am I?” or “What’s going on?” but I was dizzy and spinning in circles. The knot of the bandanna pressed into the base of my skull, tight enough to cut off the circulation to my brain. I wasn’t even quite sure what was happening anymore. So when Chris grabbed my shoulders and stopped my centrifugal twirl, I was very glad to be able to stop spinning for a little, in order to say “Okay, now what?” in a gloomy manner to him.

“Feel like you’re going to puke yet?” he sneered.

I shook my head from side to side, even though I felt like I was.

“I feel like I’m still spinning,” I said. “I feel like I’ve been spinning for eternity.”

“Sorry about that,” Chris said, not sorry at all. He spun me around once more. Then he pressed something into my hand. It was long, made of fabric, maybe felt, with a bow and a bushel of fuzz at one end and—I discovered as it pricked my finger, drawing blood—a sharp tack at the other.

“Pin the tail on the donkey,” he commanded.

This is so dumbt, I thought. We’re each sixteen now, too old to be playing these kids’ games. “Is there even a donkey in this room?”

“Well, either an ass is in here or isn’t in here. You can’t make a mistake about it,” he said in his irritating trying-to-be-cryptic style.

“Where is it?” I should pin it to his sorry ass, I thought.

“Have a look around,” Chris said, and I could hear him back away from me.

I turned slowly round, feeling the wall behind me, and then, because I couldn’t go that way, turned round the other way until I was probably facing the same direction I started in, so I squatted down, put my head between my legs, let the nausea sweep over me, and said, with a long sigh, “Alright, I’ll do it. Then I’m leaving. This is a Stupid Game.”

I started out, stumbling through the darkness of Chris’s bedroom. Occasionally, brave mid-morning sun from the window illuminated the thick fabric clouding my vision. I tripped and fell into a pile of toys Chris had scattered across the bedroom floor. They felt worn and seemed so old now, so old we couldn’t have even played with them in this lifetime. I hoped the tailless donkey was in the room, not wanting to wander the Wood around Chris’s house until I was tired and hungry and lost.

Feeling the shapes of the plush menagerie on the floor, I tossed aside a scrawny stuffed rabbit, and owl missing a wing, and the tiniest softest pig before my hand sunk into the exposed stuffing inside the ripped belly of a chubby toy bear. After setting the bear aside and groping stupidly around the floor, my hands closed around something unfamiliar, a toy I had never really noticed before, one neither of us must have ever wanted to play with. It had floppy ears, a squishy snout with a mouth shaped into a vague frown, a ragged mane, four legs which, had they been real, may have ended in hooves but were instead plain round lumps, and a fuzzy rump. No tail.

Gently, I pinned the tail to the small soft animal in my hands. I swear I heard it say, slowly and sadly, “Ouch.”

I pulled off the blindfold. Awareness returned slowly. Pins and needles prickled my reviving mind. Chris wasn’t even paying attention anymore; he was looking at something on his computer in the corner. Flesh-colored images reflected off his glasses.

“Where did you find this?” I asked him. Once I saw them, I recognized all the other toys. We played with them in the Woods when we were kids, when Chris’s dad still dressed him in little plaid jumpers like a girl. If my memories were a Forest, this donkey sat inconspicuously at its edge, a vague grey speck easily lost amidst one-hundred acres of Wood.

“I just came across it in the Forest. It was under a bush. Nobody seemed to want it, so I brought it home.” I could practically feel the tiny donkey sigh in the palm of my hand.

“Chris,” I said solemnly, “you made a mistake. Somebody does want it.”

“Who?” Chris asked. He didn’t take his eyes away from the screen. A muffled moan escaped the PC’s speakers.

“I don’t know, but I’m sure someone was fond of it.”

“Fond of it?”

“Attached to it,” I said sadly.

With these words I left Chris in his room. He probably didn’t even notice I had gone. I took a snack from the fridge to sustain me on the cold walk home. The little stuffed donkey was tucked into my jacket. I looked down and swore he was looking back at me. His frown had evened out a bit into a straight line, not quite a smile. I snuggled him tightly to my chest. Wiping the crumbs off my face, I sang quietly to the little donkey, a rhyme I remembered from a book Chris’s dad wrote when we were kids:

Who found the Tail?

“I,” said Pooh,

“At a quarter to two

(Only it was quarter to eleven really),

I found the Tail!”

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Hint Fiction-Soulless

Sam scraped the bumper sticker—“No hair, no beard, NO SOUL”—off his car after his father confided he was undergoing chemotherapy for prostate cancer.

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