Friday, December 28, 2012

You're So Gandalf?


Hey there WYMOP Nation! Sorry, but before I move on to this week's post, I have to make a plea.

Some of you may know I have a short story titled Photo Finish in the Horror anthology The Ghost IS The Machine, from Post Mortem Press. I recently found out that the anthology is up for an industry award, the Preditors & Editor's Reader's Poll Award for 2012.   I was very excited. I later found out that not only is the anthology up for an award, so is my story.

Excited is no longer the word. 

Please, take a couple of minutes to go to the site and vote for me, and the anthology. It takes, literally, two minutes of your time, and you don't have to be a member of their website to vote. No joining, no getting on a list, nothing like that. You can just vote. 

The voting is open until midnight, January 10th. Please, take the two minutes to help me out, then you can forget all about it. One vote for me, one vote for the anthology. It couldn't hurt you, and it means a lot to me.

Here are the links:

Short Story Category (voting for Photo Finish) -> http://www.critters.org/predpoll/shortstoryh.shtml

Anthologies Category (Voting for The Ghost IS The Machine) -> http://www.critters.org/predpoll/antho.shtml

Every single vote helps.
Thank you in advance for your support.

Now... on with the post!

~ ~ * * ~ ~



Every group, be they family, friends or simple co-workers, tends to create a special language all their own, with words and phrases that no one else would understand. They may understand the words, but not their meaning.

I’ll give you an example:

In one place I once worked (nothing to do with my current place of employment, I assure you) there was a man who came in to work some of the Saturday mornings that he worked still at least a little drunk from the night before. He would be rumpled, unshaven, bleary-eyed, with a little wobble in his step and breath that smelled like Satan’s balloon knot. We’ll call this man, at least for the purposes of this example, Scott. Eventually we began to refer, at least among ourselves, to people who exhibited signs of great inebriation to be ‘Scott-faced’, as in ‘Wow, you should have seen this guy at the party, he was totally Scott-faced’. No one outside of our group would have had the background to understand that. They may have picked up the intent through context, but we all simply understood the phrase ‘Scott-faced’.

Got it?

Now, with the understanding that these little secret phrases happen spontaneously all around us… here’s the story:

Recently Handsome and I watched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. What with each of the three movies being more than three hours long, and Handsome being just ten years old and not exactly famous for the longevity of his patience, I sort of spread the movies out a bit. We watched them pretty much one a week for the first part of the month, and Handsome was a little thrown by a scene in the beginning of the second part of the trilogy, The Two Towers.

SPOILER ALERT!! — I am about to describe and remark upon things that happen in the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want me to ruin it for you, you might want to skip the rest of this episode of WYMOP and just get back to us next week. If you’re looking for something to read, however, you can try some of the fiction that can be found on my website, The Storyteller. See you next week!

Okay— are they gone? Cool. Okay… back in the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, we saw the wizard Gandalf fall from an underground cliff while locked in battle with a demon called a Balrog, where he is assumed dead. Bad, right? It sure is. Well after watching that first movie Handsome and I had a little discussion on who the toughest in the group was, the toughest in the Fellowship of thirteen who set out with the Ring. Handsome spoke of the Ranger Aragorn, Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf. I, on the other hand, maintained that Gandalf the Wizard was the toughest. Handsome wasn’t sure, but he could see both sides of the Gandalf argument. Yes, Gandalf appeared to die, to be the first of them to die, in fact, but he had done it while locked in single combat with a thing that the others dared not face even as a group. Did that make him tougher, or just suicidal?

“Just wait,” I said. “You’ll see.”

Wait he did. And then, in the beginning of the second film in the trilogy, The Two Towers, there is a scene, sort of a flashback, where we see the Balrog falling deeper and deeper into an apparently bottomless chasm inside the Earth, Gandalf falling above it. We see Gandalf gain control of his fall much like a sky-diver, narrow his body’s profile to allow himself to pick up speed, pluck a sword (dropped earlier in the battle) from the air as it spins past in the void, then actually catch up to the twelve-foot demon and begin fighting it again, hacking at the beast with the captured sword while thundering out words of abjuration. All this while they fall endlessly through the Earth.

Back in the real world I pointed dramatically toward the action on the screen.

“There,” I said, “you see that? While the others are all running from the Orcs, Gandalf catches up with the Balrog and actually rides it all the way down into Hell while beating it about the head and shoulders with a sword! He doesn’t even have his magic staff or anything, just a sword! That, my friend, is a tough guy.”

Handsome was laughing at my exuberance, but I ignored that and leaned in, trying to make my point.

“Those other guys are tough, alright. They are.”

I leaned in closer.

“But Gandalf is a bad-ass!”

More laughter ensued.

Fast forward about two and a half weeks.

It’s Christmas day. Handsome has gotten exactly what he wanted, a Play Station 3 with the Assassin’s Creed package. Yes, I know Assassin’s Creed might be a bit of an adult game for a ten-year-old, but I’m trying to monitor it. Also, please bear in mind that this is a kid who watches NCIS, Bones, and Risoli and Isles on television. It was later in the morning and he had opened his presents hours ago. He had immediately asked me to set up the Play Station, and I had… and that was just about the last we saw of him for the day. He’d been in there for a couple of hours already the first time he emerged for supplies. I saw him rummaging through the fridge, wished him a merry Christmas and asked him how the game was going.

“I’m Gandalf in this game,” he said as he disappeared back into his room. I followed, leaning in the doorway to watch the screen for a moment.

“What do you mean,” I asked. “Your character is named Gandalf?”

“No,” he replied. “I’m Gandalf. You know.”

He dropped the controller to raise his hands in the air for a second.

“I’m bad-ass!”

“Hey! I— you… look, when…” I said, not exactly intelligently. He scooped up the controller again, focusing on the game before him.

“I’m so Gandalf,” he murmured. I chuckled.

Later on as he crossed the kitchen again, the hands went in the air and he pranced a little.

“I’m so Gandalf!”

His mother looked at me for an explanation.

“He’s, uh, he’s pretty Gandalf,” I said.

I think I’ll skip the explanation on this one.

Talk to you later!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And So This Is Christmas...


It’s 6:30 am.

Here I sit, all alone at the dining room table in the house where Handsome and his mother live. I’ve been here for forty minutes or so.

I drove here so early there was no traffic, other than the one obligatory Slow Person. This is the person who got in front of me for just long enough for me to start yelling in my enclosed car. Then they turned on their directional for a little more than a mile, passing about nine turnings they could have taken but didn’t, and I had just started to shout to myself about that when they turned off my intended route, thereby saving themselves from a slow death by strangulation… and myself from a lengthy prison sentence for murder via slow strangulation. I don’t know why I shout at these people. I believe it’s actually a Massachusetts State Law that every trip made by car which the driver thinks will be a breeze have one of these Slow People in front of them for a while. It helps maintain, as a State, a healthy level of Road Rage. 

Or is it an un-healthy level?

I forget.

Anyway, I slipped through the front door in the dark, silent as a shadow among shadows. One of the main reasons I was being so silent was so I would not create any sounds that might serve to cover up the noise of all three dogs in the house going absolutely mental, barking at me as if I had just set all their asses on fire. Lights went on up and down the street as the dogs announced my presence in the house with more clarity than if I’d ridden in on a parade float preceded by the world’s only Electronic Fife and Drum corps with all their amps turned up to eleven. Not Ten. Eleven. And why would their amps turn up to eleven, rather than the traditional maximum of ten? The Spinal Tap fans out there all know. 

What’s that? 

Yes, that’s right. Because it’s one louder, isn’t it?

Eventually they all settled down again, and I proceeded to set up my laptop on the table here to start working on a short story I’m writing: a somewhat dark (what a surprise, I know) fairytale Princess story. I sat for a while and thought, listening to the silence in the dark house. I looked out the window to see if the sun was rising yet, but I swear that great celestial orb rolled over, squinted at me, gave me the finger and went right back to sleep. I got up and turned on the Christmas Tree lights, and that was a bit cheery, but then I sat back down and listened to the silent house again. Air hissed through the ducts as the heat came on, but ten minutes later the silence returned when the furnace shut down. 

The reason I got up and came over here so early was so that I’d be here when Handsome got up for Christmas morning. I’ve been here every Christmas morning of his life, and this was to be no exception. Wife told me I had to be here before 6am, since that’s when he gets up. Handsome told me to be here before 6am, since that’s when he gets up. I got here before 6am, because that was when Handsome was getting up.

Let’s see…

— Had an easy drive in except for the Slow Person.

— Snuck in quite silently except for the dogs barking at me to within an inch of their lives.

— Got here early enough to see Handsome wake up at 6am… but it’s now past 7am and I’m still alone out here.

— However, I did get a quick blog entry out of all this, and now, at 7:05 am, I’ve cracked open my first box of Milk Duds of the day. My camera is all set to capture the look of groggy wonder on Handsome’s face whenever he decides to grace the world with his presence, and then his presents, and I’m about to start working on that dark fairy Princess story.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Merry Christmas to me!

Merry Christmas to you!

Talk to you later!

P.S. - Just thought I'd pop back in here and mention that it's now 7:35. The Sun is up, but the son is still down, and I still sit here alone, quietly singing to myself.

"...and so this is Christmas.... and what have you done? You're sitting here blogging... wai-ting for your son..."


P.P.S. - 8:00am - FIRST SIGNS OF LIFE! HUZZAAAAHHH!!!!!


Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nana and Mutes


Here's the story:

We had gathered together as a family to celebrate the life of my father… no, wait, that would be a funeral. He’s not quite that old yet… it was his birthday! Yeah, that was it! His birthday! Sorry about that.

So we had gathered together as a family to celebrate my father being bored. Born, sorry. Born.

Anyway, for his birthday I gave him a copy of the book Dangers Untold, in which is a story I wrote and sold called Mutes. Not a lot of people I know have actually read that particular anthology — I like the story I wrote very much, I loved the idea, but it’s a little more harsh than most of the other Horror I’ve written. Just a touch more graphic. A smidge more gory.

Aw, hell, he’s my Dad. He can take it. Besides, in reviews for the book, Mutes is constantly being chosen by the reviewers as one of the stand-out stories in the anthology, and I’m kind of proud of that. So I slipped it into a gift bag with another thing or two and put it on the table by the cake and ice cream. We ate the goodies and Dad opened his cards and gifts. He was appreciative of the book, but as he still had company he set it aside for later. Before later had a chance to arrive, however, Dangers Untold was picked up by someone else as it lay there on the table.

My Nana.

She checked out the cover art (which is good, it’s a handsome book, if I do say so myself), then opened it to the Table of Contents.

“Is Rob in this one?”

My father pointed out where I was in the list, and I thought that was going to be it. I thought she would simply verify that I was in the book, admire the cover, and put it back down. Instead she took note of the page number Mutes started on, flipped through the book, and started reading.

Oh.

My.

God!

This is the story that caused my mother, the Steven King fan who’s read all the weird and gross things he’s written, to tell me I’d ‘gone a bit far’.

This is the story where the protagonist is a paramedic, who sees (as paramedics and EMTs do) some seriously terrible things… and that’s just the jumping off point for the story.

My mother came by, handing out slices of birthday cake, and must have seen something in my face.

“What’s the matter?”

I tossed my head sideways to indicate where my Nana sat, book open on the table in front her, and my voice came out in a hiss.

“She’s reading Mutes!”

Mom looked over, somewhat startled, but when she turned back to me she sounded reassuring.

“Don’t worry. She won’t have time to get to the end.”

Mom walked away, satisfied. I sat there remembering that, sure, the worst part, the part that had made Mom shudder, was toward the end of the story, but there was plenty of awful stuff in there. What if Nana read…

My mind boggled.

My sister, seeing my expression, and sensing weakness in a way only a sibling can, decided to ‘help’.

“Hey, Nana,” she called out. “Have you gotten to the bad part yet?”

“Well,” Nana replied without looking up, “I found a couple of words I didn’t care for.”

Oh #$%@!! I’d forgotten all about the language!

“My editor put some of that in there,” I babbled. “The language, I mean. She added in a few…”

I trailed off, realizing Nana wasn’t paying any attention to me, so focused was she on reading the story. Sister kept on ‘helping’, watching with glee as I squirmed whenever she asked “So, Nana, what part are you up to now?” Nana always answered her, once actually looking at me and asking “Where do you come up with this stuff? I mean, this thing with the pine branch in the girl’s eye?”

“The guy’s a paramedic,” I began. “He’s going to see some…”

I didn’t have to continue; She was gone again, focusing once more on the words on the page.

My words.

Terrific.

I sat there, wanting to run but unable to tear myself away, as Sister asked questions and Nana gave updates about ambulance rides, falling security doors, emergency rooms, and ‘Angels with eyes of blood’. My Nana was the woman who babysat us when we were little, and no matter what my sister and I did would report to our parents that we were angels. Now she was reading what I’d written and asking me “How do you come up with this stuff?” Would she still think of me as an Angel?

Eventually I managed to flee. I went upstairs to my own room, checked some email and caught my breath. I went back downstairs a few minutes later to find Nana’s chair vacant and my mother saying goodbye to Nana and Grampy out in the driveway. I stepped out to give hugs and shake hands. My Nana kissed my cheek and said “Now, I think I only got about half-way through that one before we had to get ready to go.”

She hadn’t even gotten to the ‘bad’ part! Reprieve!

“But I want to finish it sometime.”

Doom!

They drove off and Mom and I returned to the house.

“Nana said she wants to finish reading Mutes,” I said to Mom. “What do I do?”

“Don’t worry. She’ll probably get involved in something something else and forget all about it.”

Reprieve!

A week later Mom came home from visiting with Nana and Grampy to tell me Nana was asking where she could buy the book Dangers Untold so she could finish the story.

Doom!

To quote the great Willie Wonka (the Gene Wilder version, my favorite):

“The suspense is killing me… I hope it’ll last.”

…and last…and last…

Oh boy.

Talk to you later!

Friday, December 14, 2012

They All Go Out


So it’s that time of year again. It’s the season for idiots all over the country, maybe all over the world, to climb up on ladders, belly-crawl across roofs, maybe even hang off a gutter with one hand while fruitlessly waving a long hooked pole with the other. It’s a time when cries of “you be careful up there” ring out over neighborhoods far and wide, in the city and the country. Those words are spoken as if the people saying the words think those folks have never clung to ladders or hung off gutters one-handed before; as if those folks who are routinely seen standing firmly on (or even above) the rung on the ladder marked ‘Do not Stand On or Above This Step’, those folks who are taking their very lives in their hands simply to honor a tradition passed down from father to son for generations are hearing those warnings for the very first time. As if the climbing people have never, ever, heard them before.

Trust me. We’ve heard the warning before. For as long as idiots like me have been climbing ladders and roofs while dragging wires and cords behind them there have been other people standing right there to remind us to be careful, to test the strings before we go up the ladders, and to ask why we get so upset over something so simple when it does not work. We heard it all last year, and the year before that. We heard people warning our fathers, and our fathers heard people warning their fathers. There have been idiots climbing and people warning them going practically back to the very day Thomas Alba Edison flipped the switch and filled Menlo Park with a dim glow to the gasps of astonished wonder from that evening’s crowd…

Yup. I’m talking about putting up the Christmas lights.

Weekend before last I broke the house lights out of the shed where they spend the warmer months. Come the Christmas season the front of my house is decorated each year with dangling icicle lights that run the length of the roof-edge. This little project includes both the climbing of the ladder and the crawling across the roof hanging on to the gutter edge described above. It also includes the ‘testing the strings before going up the ladder’ that I mentioned. All this means is plugging the damn lights in while they’re still on the ground to make certain they all light up, since it’s much easier to isolate and repair the problem when you don’t have to make multiple trips up a ladder to do so.

Yes, I speak from experience here. Horrible, cold, clinging-to-the-side-of-the-house-and-holding-replacement-bulbs-in-your-teeth-while-tears-and streamers-of-snot-freeze-to-your-face experience.

It was not pretty.

So I checked the lights before I even tried to climb the ladder. These are not the old-fashioned light strings either, where if one light goes out they all go out. Oh no! These are newer technology, where if one light goes out then just that three-foot section goes out! Much better to work with than those old ‘all for one and one for all’ type of light strings!

So I plugged in the lights, expecting as usual that 4-5 sections wouldn’t light, the way it is every year… but lo and behold it was a Christmas miracle! There was just one three-foot section that remained dark — the first section in the string. This was going to be the easiest year in quite a while if this was any indication! I sat right down and started checking lights, looking forward to climbing that ladder and crawling over that roof… well, looking forward to getting it all over with, that’s for sure!

I put a pile of replacement bulbs next to me and started testing them, plugging them into a working part of the string to make sure the replacements themselves weren’t burnt out or broken. All good. Next I started, one at a time, checking all the bulbs in the bad section of the string. I’d pull a bulb from the dark section and plug it into the working section next to it. The bulb would light up, that section of the string would light up, and I’d pull it out again to pop back into the bad section where I’d found it. Then I’d pull out the next bulb and repeat the process.

And again.

And again.

Whenever a bulb didn’t work, I’d replace it from my pile of good bulbs. It took me about an hour, but eventually I’d either verified or replaced every single light in that unlit section of the string.

The string remained stubbornly unlit.

I took a deep breath. Then another. Then another. Then I realized I was actually hyperventilating and went in the house to get a paper bag to breathe into. Many of my exhalations, once the bag was firmly attached to my face, sounded a lot like ‘Christmas miracle my rosy red @$$!!’ being said again and again, but I’m sure that was just a trick of paper bag acoustics. From there I went straight to the Jeep and drove to the nearest CVS pharmacy, where I purchased an entire new set of lights for a modest sum. I went back to the house, unpackaged the new lights and tested them. They all worked.

“Look! Look! A Christmas miracle!”

People driving past slowed down a bit to watch as I danced about the lighted string, looking quite a bit like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway during the scene where he manages to finally make a fire… except bald. And wearing winter clothes. And being in a driveway rather than in a deserted island. And it wasn’t life-giving fire I had there, but a string of stupid Christmas lights. Okay, it was nothing at all like that scene in the movie, but the feeling was the same! I was practically ready to draw a face on Handsome’s soccer ball and start chatting with it… but I had to get up that ladder. And across that roof.

Huzzah.

Now, fast forward one week to this past weekend. There I was, standing before the Christmas tree holding another set of lights in my hand. It’s a set I’d had for quite a while, with a plastic ring that goes around the top of the tree and eight separate light strings that then drape down toward the floor — much easier than the old-fashioned lights that had to be wound either around and around the tree or to and fro across the front. I loved this set of lights! Before I hung them on the tree, however, I plugged them in. Just to test them out. Just to be sure.

Not a single bulb lit up.

I sat there, looking sat the dark heap of my favorite Christmas lights. I pictured myself sitting there as I had the week before, testing the tree lights as I had the house lights, though there were a lot more bulbs to check here than there had been for the house.

Then I pictured myself scooping the whole mess off the floor and throwing it forcefully into the kitchen trash can, then dancing out to the Jeep in a fashion that would have made Michael Flatly himself green with envy, all to run up to CVS and buy a while new set of lights for just $9.99.

Long story short, it was the best ten dollars I ever spent.

…and I think some of the cars that slowed down to watch me dancing toward the Jeep were some of the same ones that slowed to watch as I danced and hugged a soccer ball the week before.

Ah, tradition!

Talk to you later!

P.S. — Just to answer any questions you might have, the soccer ball and I have talked about it, and we are just friends. Just very, very good friends.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fair's Fair... Right?


You picture a high school craft fair, you picture a small event, the kind of thing you go to and everybody just sort of has fun. Maybe you sell stuff, maybe you don’t, but there’s a kind of friendly atmosphere, vendors keeping each-other company all day, checking out each-other’s wares, and there’s a general feel-good kind of atmosphere. At the end of the day everyone goes home with a good feeling inside, having made promises to get together with the other vendors for coffee sometime (intended at the time, but will almost never happen) and looking forward to seeing them all at the next event.

At least, that’s how I pictured working the day at a high school craft fair.

Then I went to the Tantasqua's Holiday Craft Fair, held at the Tantasqua Regional Sr. High School in Fiskdale, Ma, with the New England Horror Writers.

I may never be the same.

Here’s the story:

I may say I’m not mentioning names to protect the innocent, but in this case it’s really to protect myself. I was with a group of people who think of terrible things for fun, then write them down, and have probably done at least a little research into forensics and police procedures.

It’s all about self-preservation.

The event was larger and more well organized than I’d imagined, with a shuttle-bus driving vendors to and from the student parking lot up the road to allow customers the closer parking and better access to the building. Yup. A shuttle bus. I went in and located the rest of my NEHW brethren setting up at the twin 8-foot tables that had been secured for us by our esteemed Director of Publicity. Tablecloths were shaken out and draped, book stands positioned, and stock unpacked. I set my stuff up at one end of the tables and watched the event’s Santa walk by, ‘Ho-ho-ho’-ing as he went. Then he walked by again. He hadn’t yet made his third pass before someone in our group decided they’d had Ho-ho-enough, and announced their intention to kill Santa.

I’ll not say who it was, (see above note on self-preservation) but suffice to say that though I look nothing like Santa, I was afraid.

I may have said too much already. I think she could find me if she tried. Moving on.

We set up and the fun began. Here are some high points:

  • Every time customers perused the NEHW table, the man with the newspapers on the table across the aisle (and thus behind them) would call out “Want a free paper?” I always thought the magic word was ‘please’, but apparently it’s ‘free’; at its very utterance the marks would peel off like a pack of zombies who’ve scented a woman wearing improbably high heels and have decided to give chase. Said marks never returned to our table.
    • We were not amused.
  • There was a man roving about the venue hawking coupon books filled with deals at local establishments. He would suddenly appear in the area, bellowing his pitch in full voice — and what a voice! If the System ever breaks down due to Zombie Apocalypse or plague, and you need to get a message to the next town, just have this guy shout: they’ll hear, trust me. “Excuse me, sir? Hercules called, and he’d like his lungs back.” The man was actually frightening people.
    • We were not amused. From the moment this guy’s voice made the scene, Mr. Claus was safe. Our potential Santa Slayer had acquired a new target… and we were all behind her, 100%. Safest place to be, actually…
  • One of our writers purchased a sandwich from the students running the cafeteria for the event, and was charged $4. Ten minutes later a pair of students walked by offering people the last of the sandwiches for just $2. The writer in question felt somewhat ‘rooked’. Questions were asked. Glares were offered. Anger abounded.
    • We were not amused.
      • Well, actually, most of us were amused, but were afraid to admit it. All I can say is those students are damn lucky it wasn’t the potential Santa Slayer who bought a $4 sandwich — they may have wound up right back in that cafeteria. On the side of a milk carton.

Okay, so I lied. Those weren’t high points. By the next day, though, they were pretty funny. Some actual high points, for me anyway, include:

  • As soon as we set up, a woman stopped in to buy RW’s book, Crabapples, have her picture taken with him, and then… abscond with him for a time. I had heard talk of RW and his ‘Groupies’, but this was my first experience with them, and I have to say I was not disappointed. I shave my head, tip the scales at about 200 lbs, and have been told there is a slight resemblance to Stone Cold Steve Austin… but without the muscle-mass. Kind of like ‘Stone Cold the home game’. I’ve offered myself up as ‘RW Security’ for future events, but have yet to hear anything definite either way. I’ll keep you posted.
    • Who am I kidding? I want groupies of my own. Maybe, someday, when I grow up…
  • At one point a woman none of us had ever seen before simply appeared out of the crowd to accost RW (he had been returned to us by this point) and offer him a small charm on a necklace. “Hey,” she said leaning down over his shoulder. “I just found this stone, and you see this mark on it? Right here? This is a mark of Protection. You should have this!” We all looked at each-other. Someone voiced the question that was on all out minds:
    “Who the hell was that?”
    No one knew.
    • I don’t have words. I’ve looked for them, but I can’t find them. No, that’s not right, I can find one of them: ‘Groupies’. ‘Nuff said.
  • After eating a snack, I was collecting the group’s trash to take with me to the waste bin. When asked for trash, our Director of Publicity offered me two of those ‘free’ papers from the table across the way, showing all the large-motion flourish with which one traditionally throws down a gauntlet on the field of battle. An obvious challenge had been issued, and I worried that fisticuffs might ensue, but there was naught but the dangerous narrowing of eyes in response from the paper vendor as he sat impotently behind his table across the way.
    • The honor of the group had been defended, the Director of Publicity emerging a hero in all our eyes.
  • And now, summing up the highest point in the day for me, I have just two words: Bacon Fudge.
    • I should say something pithy here, but I think I need to step away for a moment to collect myself.
      • …so good … it was so good …

Sorry, where was I? Right! Tantasqua's Holiday Craft Fair… right…

Me and my wares. Photo by NEHW Director of Publicity
As I said, the venue was larger than I had anticipated, and we had plenty of space (thanks to the foresight of Director of Publicity) to spread out our wares. The sheer amount of people who walked by our table should have worked in our favor, and might have if not for the machinations of the Evil Newspaper Man. There was food, there was caroling, and the people hosting the event seemed to do everything they could to make both the customers and the vendors as comfortable as possible. As far as I could tell a good time was had by all.

A few of us even sold books, and any day when that happens is a check mark in the ‘win’ column in my book.

I’d never worked a Craft Fair before this, and I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I do know what to expect, would I do one again?

You bet your Bacon Fudge!

…mmmm…. Bacon fudge….

Talk to you later!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy Sense of Humor, Batman! (And a Special Message Too!)

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

I know you all came here to read a quick little story, but before I get to that there is a little something I have to take care of -- it's actually a week overdue!

If you have been a reader for a while, or even if you are a new reader who's gone back to read the archives, you may have noticed that I don't get a whole lot of Comments. Not for the number of Posts there are on this blog, and not considering that, as of this writing, WYMOP has logged over 16,000 page views. I do love to hear from my readers, I love it a lot, but Comments are, for the most part, few and far between here in my little corner of the universe.

However:

I do get comments from time to time on Facebook, where I put a weekly link to my Posts. Between there and here, someone out there has distinguished themselves as WYMOP's #1 fan.  That fan had a birthday more than a week ago -- right on Thanksgiving day, 11/22/2012.

Happy birthday, Kaye! Please, hit the play button below to get your special birthday message.
Once again, I apologize for the huge blank space below the player -- I have no idea how to get rid of it yet!
Scroll down for today's story.





So anyway, here's the story:

As you may or may not know, I work with a guy I’ll refer to here as PW. PW is… well… let’s just say he’s ‘vertically challenged’. He has ‘height issues’. He’s ‘smallness enhanced’. He carries ‘a high factor of growth resistance’. He’s a ‘good thing’ because he’d fit into the right sized package.

In a word, he’s short.

But to compensate for his lack of height, he has ‘an overabundance of violent reactive tendencies’. He has ‘explosive personality disorder’. He has ‘negative emotion control issues’.

In a word, he has a temper.

More than a temper, he’s like (this one’s for the serious Geeks out there) the old Hulk mixed with the new Hulk. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry… and he’s always angry.

That PC crap above was just to give me something to chuckle about. What I’m talking about is an angry little man. He works for the USPS as a letter carrier.

Going Postal, anyone?

PW, this angry little man, is under a Special Route Inspection this week. The ‘Special’ in that sentence applies to the Inspection, not the Route. PW requested this inspection himself, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. Quite the opposite, in fact: being under a special, five-day inspection is just about the most stressful thing a mailman in this country can do. Now this may sound horrible, but for the rest of us in the office this has been a source of both entertainment and morbid fascination. Picture a bunch of guys watching an ancient boiler in the basement of an old building that’s been turned way, way up and then left unattended. The pressure’s building, there’s no one to hit the relief valves, the needle on the pressure gauge is climbing into the red and we’re all just waiting for it to blow.

This gauge, though, doesn’t have one of those tiny slivers of red that you usually see. This one has a huge red zone — nearly half the gauge!

To our surprise (and, yes, pride in him) he’s done quite well all week long. He’s never lost his temper once, never even given the appearance of being close… unless you know him. If you know him then you;re used to reading ‘The Face’.

The Face, as it is called around our office, is the expression that is usually plastered to the front of PW’s head. It is a Face of anger. It is a Face of disapproval with the world. It is a Face that ranges in expression from ‘I hate the world and everyone in it’, to ‘I just chomped my tongue while biting into a really sour pickle just as I smelled the world’s most rancid fart that I know came from my greatest enemy in the world (and the bastard did it on purpose), and all that just happened to coincide with the onset of explosive stomach trouble hitting just as I figured out that the long sliding step I just took was me treading in a fresh pile of dog dirt that splashed up onto the pant leg of my best suit just as I was walking into church’.

Yeah. It’s that kind of Face.

So PW has been wearing The Face all week long, like the darkest thundercloud you’ve ever seen scudding along really close to the ground. A thundercloud that’s being followed closely by a man with a clipboard.

God, I can hear his teeth grinding even as I write this.

Now, I know it will surprise you all to find that I am a bit of a joker around the office. Yes. Me.

No, I can hear you all saying “No way, Rob! Not you! But you’re always so staid and serious all the time!”, but it’s true. I have been known to crack a smile around the workplace and then try to spread it around. Unfortunately for PW that makes him a pretty constant target for me. Fortunately for him, though, I’m pretty good at infecting him with the smile. This does, of course, ruin The Face.

I take a special bit of pride in ruining The Face, but this was not to be one of those days. Clipboard Man was sticking to PW like he was growing on the little man’s ass, and The Face was really threatening to explode. This had the side-effect of making that particular duo the focus, in a very sidelong, ‘out of the corner of your eye’ way, of the attention of everyone in the office. At one point, just as I was pulling my route down out of the sorting rack, the guy in the route next to me leaned around the rack to whisper to me, prison-style.

“Wow, they’re really sticking to him like glue! Lookit The Face! Jesus, The Little Guy doesn’t even have time to take a crap today!”

And here we see the Hand of God, that Greatest of Practical Jokers, offering to share His humor with me once more.

As I was pulling my mail out of the rack I had just sorted it into, something fell out of the upper corner of the rack where I have a bunch of official papers tucked. This was something I brought in myself at least two or three years ago to poke fun at PW and hopefully bring a smile to The Face. I had used it at the time, then apparently tucked it into the corner of my rack, though in truth I have no memory of doing so. If pressed I would have sworn I put this piece of paper in my locker, pushed safely toward the back of the high shelf in there. However this paper managed to get into my rack, it apparently lay there, forgotten and untouched for more than two years, closer to three, and never slipped loose, never pulled free from the rest of the papers stuffed in there, never fell out to flutter, leaf-like, to land face up right in front of me on my bench.

Until today.

Until just that moment.

And it was a picture. This picture:





I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants. I laughed so hard I had to sit down, drooling on the floor amidst my guffaws.

Thank You, God.

That was not the time to share my fortuitous happenstance with PW, not while he was under the eye of Clipboard Man. But Monday. Monday I will walk in to the building armed with this story, and with the photograph, and I will do battle with The Face, and I will emerge victorious!

The Little Guy deserves a good laugh, don’t you think?

Talk to you later!


P.S. - I just had the thought that there may be some of you out there who are more sensitive than the rest of us and may have felt bad about our seeing humor in The Little Guy's misery. I'm sorry about that. I don't want you going through your day all bummed out now, so just for you I've included this picture:



You! You who just said "Awww!" I heard you! Look at the bunny! Look at it! Remember it!

Talk to you later!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Do So Love Good Conversation…


You think it's always easy to come up with something to write about here at WYMOP, even just once a week? Sometimes even I have a little difficulty.

What am I talking about, you ask?

Okay... here's the story:

So there I was, driving in to work this morning. I had farther to go than usual since I had gone to a parent/teacher conference at Handsome’s school, so I had more time to think than I usually do during my morning drive.

What was I thinking about, you ask?

Why, this blog of course!

I try to have something to post every Friday evening. This was Friday morning. I had nothing to post.

I repeat: Nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I did have something about half-written, more than half actually, but I didn’t like it. It wasn’t funny.

Just to make sure we all get this straight, I am of the opinion that I am one of the funniest bastards ever to pen a punchline. I may be the only one of that opinion, but if I didn’t think something I’d written was funny then there was sure no way anyone else would get a chuckle out of it!

So there I was driving in and trying to brainstorm an idea all by myself. Now, one of the good things about being a writer is that when you want to workshop an idea (in other words, talk it out with a few people and get different perspectives on it) you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t even have to make a phone call. You simply turn the idea over to the voices in your head, then turn them loose. They do tend to play ‘Point-Counterpoint’ within the confines of my own head, and that is really cool… but sometimes the voices that are in my head start to slip out into the real world.

Just a little.

How do they do this, you ask?

Why through me, of course!

I call it ‘talking the idea out’, but what it amounts to is that I talk to myself. Hell, sometimes I even argue with myself and it degenerates into name-calling and hurt feelings on both sides. This is pretty awkward when I am both sides.

But I digress. I do that a lot.

So there I was, driving along in full ‘talking-it-out’ mode: good volume, animated facial expressions, head bobbing and weaving while my hands and arms gesture and wave like I’m conducting the Boston Pops. I was just getting to the point where one part of me thought I he was making a cogent and well-thought-out argument while another part of me thought I was full of the sort of by-products you get from a well-fed pony, and a third part of me was reminding the other two, quite forcefully, that I still didn’t have a blog… when something caught my attention.

From the corner of my eye I had seen a pale oval in the car next to mine. The two cars were stopped at traffic lights, next to each-other but facing opposite ways. As I looked over I saw that the oval I’d noticed with my peripheral vision was a face. The face belonged to a girl of about twenty, I think, and she was staring at me. She was also grinning hugely.

My gaze snapped back to my arms, which were extended in front of me, the right one held up so high my hand was actually above my head. My mind scrambled for about a half a second, trying to recall just how the hell my arms had gotten into such a position, but quickly gave it up as a bad job. It didn’t matter anyway, I knew I’d been caught in a complete, full-on, practically shouting conversation with myself.

Not to worry, my brain threw out. I have the perfect out, remember?

I looked directly at the young woman and pointed to my left ear. Over-enunciating to make the message just as clear as possible, I smiled, nodded, and mouthed the words “I’m on the phone!”. The lady in question nodded slowly along with me until my finger touched my ear; my left ear, the one that right up until that precise moment I had assumed held a very visible Blue-Tooth headset. My questing finger, however, found only flesh.

My ear was, quite obviously, empty.

I saw the missing headset sitting on the dashboard in front of me, right where I had tossed it before going in to the parent/teacher conference about a half-hour earlier. I’d automatically reached for it before I realized what I was doing, and by the time I stopped myself it was far too late. I’d picked it up in full view of my audience of one.

Have you ever read about someone being embarrassed, and it said that they ‘felt the flush creeping up their face’? I know exactly how that feels now. I could feel the line of heat moving up over my face as, caught in the obvious lie, I looked once more to the young woman and shrugged sheepishly. My light turned green and the line of cars I’d been began to move. I moved with them, driving away from the young woman.

Her light had also turned green, by the way, and her traffic had also begun to move, though she herself was not driving off.

She was laughing too hard.

Well, I thought as I felt the flush settle evenly over my entire face, at least now you have something to write for the Blog.

Apparently every single voice in my head agreed. Thus:

Ta-Daa!

Talk to you later!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time I’ll Never Get Back


So as you know my friend SB was here on a visit from Colorado last weekend. She enjoys historical yet touristy things: tours, museums and the like. Sure, there are plenty of those kinds of things to be found in Boston, but it was the weekend. I would have Handsome with me. Indeed, I wanted to take him out to Boston for some kind of outing… but what would I find that would be suitable for both Handsome and SB?

Well, I did my best… and here’s the story:

The New England Aquarium, I thought. How could it miss?

The main exhibit, for those of you who may have never been to the New England Aquarium, is its central tank, and I’m going to do a little Wikipedia rip-off here to help you understand what I’m talking about and, lets face it, make my job easier!



Located in the central open atrium of the main building, the principal feature of the Aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank, a cylindrical 200,000-US-gallon (760,000 l) tank simulating a Caribbean coral reef. This tank houses sharkssea turtlesstingrays, eels, barracuda, and many smaller reef-living fish. Open at the top, the concrete tank is surrounded by a walkway that spirals down, allowing visitors access to 52 windows that offer views of the reef from every angle and level.







Now this is a very cool thing. It is truly amazing to look at these animals from every angle and to see them in such a realistic representation of their natural environment and I was counting on it to be a hit for young man and grown woman alike. It was, I thought, perfect.

Perfect. Yeah... sure.

So we took the train into Boston, the T having a Blue Line stop right there at the Aquarium. We crossed over to the Aquarium proper and got in the admission line. Said line was, I noticed with some satisfaction, not even very long. This day was looking better and better... until we got to the actual front of the line.

"Sir, are you aware that our big tank is closed and undergoing renovations?"

At her words I felt certain portions of my anatomy shrink up like there was a very cold wind and I seemed to feel Murphy's Law tap me on the shoulder, but I managed a somewhat feeble "What?"

A sigh. "Sir, are you aware that our --"

"I heard you, but what does that mean? Are you still open?"

"All of the animals are still here, sir, they're just spread out among the other exhibits. To make up for the lack of the large tank we are giving out free tickets to the IMAX show across the way. What show would you like to see, sir?"

I checked the small show poster in the window.

"Uh... Whales and Dolphins?"

She handed over the tickets with an "Enjoy the show" that sounded a little more like "Move along, doofus, you're tying up the line".

I moved along, so as not to tie up the line, then explained the situation to Handsome.

"The big tank is closed?"

"Yup."

"I don't want to go to the movie. It's not a fun one, it's like a school thing."

"You mean it's informational."

"Yeah."

"Well..." I thought about SB, thought she might enjoy the show, and it was in Super 3D after all. "Let's try it, okay? It's free, so if it's too boring we can just leave, okay?"

He agreed and we were off to see the fishes. We saw a few of the exhibits, then made our way over to the IMAX theater for the 1:00 show. The boy got his popcorn and a drink and we all took our seats in the theater.

"Now remember," I said to Handsome as we sat down, "if it's too boring we can just leave, alright?"

He nodded, already shoving popcorn into his mouth. I settled back in my chair and the movie began. There were whales. There were dolphins. It was all in a terrific 3D effect.

That's just about all I can tell you because I fell asleep almost immediately. Out cold. Sound asleep. I may have been snoring up a storm, I have no idea.

I awoke just before the movie ended, SB on my right, Handsome on my left, and just hoping to God no one had noticed me sleeping. Handsome, I noticed, was looking none too pleased when the house lights came up, and I cast about for something to say to head off any scathing remarks he might make, such as 'I told you so'.

"Well," I blustered, "that was... uh..."

"An hour of my life I won't be getting back," finished Handsome in a voice as flat as a pond on a dead-calm day. It was so adult sounding, so flat, so saying 'I told you so' without saying 'I told you so'... I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard a woman leaving the theater asked them if I was okay.

The rest of the day was terrific.

I love that boy.

Talk to you later!