Category Archives: fiction

I wrote comics, you can read them!

One of the earliest projects I worked on when I started working for Panda Mony Toys were the mini comics that will be packed in with the figures.

I proud of these. They aren’t breaking crazy new ground in the world of comics, but they do what we set out to do which is teach people about the characters and the world of Alter Nation.

We are releasing them as a special preview over the next couple months in the comics section of the Alter Nation website.

Go check them out and if you like what you see buy some toys! We still have some cool exclusives available until mid-August.

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Rose City Comic Con 2018

Last weekend I went on assignment to Rose City Comic Con for Panda Mony Toys. We are releasing our first action figure line next year and we are looking for cool shows to visit. Rose City was pretty great! Here’s a video of my adventures:

If you like t-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs I suggest you check out our merch in our SHOP.

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Am I Still A Geek?

When I created this image I really thought this blog was going to go another way.

In the past I would have no problem identifying with this statement:

I am a geek.

I don’t think that this is any kind of real surprise to anyone who reads this blog or knows me, but it’s not something that I bring up that often for public consumption.  Working in toys has really activated my geekery gene and since that is what I’ve been spending so much time on turning it into content for the internet seemed like the next natural choice. But as I’ve gotten back into my geekier pursuits I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling particularly connected to “geek” as a community – and I don’t know how I feel about that.

Why do we care?

In all likelihood you probably don’t, but it’s very possible that we are about to see a change to geek culture and since geek culture has been mainstreamed any changes that come are likely going to affect the entertainment industry in a massive way. I think my identity crisis is just a symptom of something bigger… maybe.

Being a geek is nothing new and we are somehow still in a geek culture golden age. If you were to tell me twenty-five years ago that some of the most popular things on YouTube, videos that were getting MILLIONS of views, were of people playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games I’d laugh until I passed out. Put on top of that the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most popular, profitable and unstoppable franchise factories making household names out of characters that no one knew of merely a decade ago? And the fact that Star Wars as a universe is still chugging along in mainstream media? And that I can find Iron Man action figures in just about every single armor that he has ever worn both on screen and in the comics? I tell you my little teenage heart would burst.

But it was not always this way.

I like to frame myself as a “proud geek,” but if I’m being honest that hasn’t always been true. Even in times as geek popular as now I tend to hold that part back from the spotlight. In the past I have justified this hiding because of my “brand.” On this blog and on social media I preferred to be an actor first, focus on career related things… and every once in a while toss in an obscure movie reference, mention that I need to go play D&D, or talk about Iron Man. But that was not very authentic in how much of my private identity can be tied back to what are considered geeky (sometimes VERY geeky) things.

Although some of the geeky things have gained a hip status, the fact of the matter is that all the cool popular people playing or involved in this stuff  are a very small, niche part of the people who play and participate in the core of geekery. The core audience still carries the stigma that was turned into stereotypes used in TV and movies, especially in the late 70’s through the 90’s. Hell, that was my bread and butter for most of my young acting career.

That’s me, in the broken glasses, as Kirby the Nerd.

You can see it in the faces of cosplayers, Magic the Gathering players, wargamers and hard core D&D enthusists; there is an underlying fear anytime they are around people outside of their community that they will be made fun of. And I totally get that, I have also had that fear.

I think that Simon Pegg has presented the best definition of the modern geek:

As he points out, this doesn’t just apply to things like superhero fans and Warhammer 40,000 players but sports fanatics and people who love cars too. But the stigma doesn’t follow the latter the way it does the former. Jocks and nerds may be satisfying the same itch deep down, but society in general views them in very different ways and always at odds.

I was at Rose City Comic Con this year. It’s the first con that I’ve been to since San Diego ComiCon back in either 2012 or 2014 (I can’t remember) and even longer than that since I went to a convention of any size that wasn’t related to the entertainment industry in some way shape or form. This year felt different than what I remember.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my dad and I going to comic cons all over Southern California (mostly the Shrine Shows in L.A.) looking for old Iron Man back issues, checking out old toys and collectables, and doing our best to bargain down a price with the dealers. At these shows I built a very impressive collection of Yoda memorabilia, got my first Iron Man action figure from the defunct Secret Wars line, and completed a volume 1 collection of Iron Man comics. 

I would spend my days reading comics and coming up with adventures for all my favorite characters in my head. The reading material came in handy for auditions as well since I was merely a passengers for nearly a decade. I was proud to know as much about the Marvel Universe as I did. I knew Doctor Who lore and stories that would surprise adult fans. I knew Star Wars down to the Tonnika sisters. But I had very few people that I could share all this with.

Junior High School, the worst of all the “schools” in my opinion, was when I met my core group of friends, people I still know and love to this day. Jeff Garvin was my entry point to the group. He and I met doing Annie with a community theater group (another thing that is generally considered pretty geeky, but that’s another blog post altogether). We shared mutual interests, Star Wars and comic books in a general sense, and he introduced me to his Dungeons and Dragons group. Jeff, Dan and Scott became my best friends through school. 

In addition to D&D we shared other common interests in movies and music. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were big favorites and we spent way too much playing the original X-Wing and TIE Fighter computer games. We tried some other RPGs and Dan, Scott and I all started playing Warhammer 40k. We had each other’s backs. We were our own little community and we could run in the circles of other geek communities without effort.

At Rose City Comic Con I was the outsider. Even though I’m an over 40-bearded-beer-gut-guy (a description that has come to be the standard archetype for the stereotypical geek) I saw the distrustful looks that came from the cosplayers and gamers and comic book fans. I imagine I must’ve looked like a dad who was missing his kid, especially since I was there by myself. There was a part of me that wanted to say, “Don’t worry I’m totally one of you.” But even writing that seems condescending and pointless, especially since geekdom and fandom are plagued by toxic jerks right now. I can’t find fault with the suspicious looks. If you didn’t know any better I could be one of those entitled, angry and anonymous man-children screaming about The Last Jedi. Toxic Fandom is the culmination of people who felt powerless finding a voice and, in most circumstances, trying to claim ownership on a fictional world that should be open to everyone. When that kind of “fandom” finds other people who feel the same we get things like what we saw with recent Star Wars stars leaving social media.

But that’s not what I want to see. Sure there will always be jerks, but in general the community is at its best when it is supportive of each other and when people who want to learn about and participate in the geekery are welcomed. Even though I got a lot of side-eye yesterday, the folks at the convention we all very polite and super excited about what they were doing there. That’s the part I like. That’s what I’d like to see more of.

To that point I’m going to start talking about my geekier pursuits here on the blog more. I may not feel like I’m directly linked into the community like I used to be, but I still D&D like a boss, build and paint 40k armies competently, and can still throw down in Supernatural continuity conversations with the best of them. The old saying goes “be the change you’d like to see” and I’d like to help put some positivity back into the geeky stuff that I love.

Please join me! Tell me about the geeky stuff you love in the comments. Introduce me to that thing you like that maybe you’re self conscious about. Let’s build a better community without entitlement and toxicity.

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The Gunslinger – I read it

This is NOT about the movie. I did not see the movie. I don’t think I’ll see the movie unless it’s free on a plane. That’s how I saw Batman vs. Superman and I still wanted my money back (Good gravy, that movie was terrible!).

No, today I finally posted my response to the “Should I Read The Dark Tower?” video I posted back in June. As a refresher, here’s the video:

And here is the response:

Want to check it out for yourself, or maybe this would be the perfect gift for the reader in your life? I’ve got links to the books down below and a link to the amazon Prime trial for that sweet free 2-day shipping!

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Getting to Know –

Dan Bookthump

Hello dear readers.

I say readers because today I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Dan and he writes about the books that he reads.

A little back story…

Getting to Know is something new that I’m trying so that I can introduce you to other things that I like beyond the videos that I shared on Fun Video Friday. This might include people, websites, books, movies, TV shows, whatever. I’m not sure if it will have a set schedule or just be a thing that I put out as I find things I want to share, I’m playing it very fast and loose. I’m a wild man.

A little back story about Dan…

Dan and I have been friends since junior high – over 20 years. He has always been a good writer, but rarely done enough with it. He wrote a spec script for “Seinfeld” that was so good that our mutual friend, Jeff, used to reference it as if it were a real episode. If Dan drank a bit more he might be the very perfect model of the modern American novelist. Or the classic American novelist? My desire to make an Pirates of Penzance reference may have clouded that description. Regardless, Dan is a good writer who writes about what he reads. His website,, is a series of book reviews that are both a comment on the book and his personal relationship to the experience of reading that book.

Unlike other reviews, the personal reflections offer a way for you, as the reader, to get a better feel for the story. I find that his reviews tend to be more persuasive when I think about what I want to add to my reading list. I’ll admit that there is a certain amount of bias; he and I have known each other a long time and we share similar interests, but I feel that his authentic approach and honest thoughts on what he reads will appeal to a wide audience.

Here are some of Dan’s favorite posts:

The Martian


Blood River

And one that I really enjoyed:


Check them out. Let me know what you think. Let him know what you think.

See you soon.

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52 in 52 Story 11 “Frankie Doggie Meets Crabby Abby”

Writing the Little Nene story gave me lots of ideas for other children stories, especially ones starring Frankie doggy. This is the next one in the series and focuses on characters based on our dog, Frankie:

And my parents dog, Abby, who wasn’t actually crabby but was a bulldog so she had a crabby face:


Frankie Doggy Meets Crabby Abby
One day Frankie doggie was playing in the yard.
He was running he was jumping; he was playing very hard!
He barked and laughed and rolled around having lots of fun.
Eventually he took a rest from all the playing he had done.
Feeling very happy Frankie doggy closed his eyes, but then he heard someone else’s voice and it took him by surprise.
“You were making too much noise,” a gruff and crabby voice said, “now I have a pain that is pounding in my head!”
Frankie opened up his eyes and tried to take a look around.
He had been resting pretty peacefully until he heard this sound.
“I’m sorry,” Frankie doggy said, “I did not mean to harm.”
Then he wagged his tail and smiled, really turning on the charm.
“I don’t care if you are sorry,” the crabby dog said, “what are you doing playing? And then going to bed?!”
Frankie doggy was confused; the other dog was just so crabby!
He asked, “What is your name?” She answered, “Crabby Abby.”
Frankie doggy stood and cocked his head trying to pay attention.
The fact that “crabby” was part of her name filled him with apprehension.
“What makes you so crabby?” He asked, “Maybe I can help?”
“I’m not telling you!” She said, “You nosey little whelp!”
She turned away from Frankie doggy and sat her bottom down.
Frankie really wanted to help get rid of Crabby Abby’s frown.
“Would you like to play a game? Some fetch or tug of war?”
“No!” Crabby Abby said, “That will make my muscles sore!”
“Maybe we could have some food? Some kibble or a treat?”
“I don’t want it!” Crabby Abby said, “I do not want to eat.”
Frankie doggy scratched his head, his ideas were wearing thin.
Crabby Abby didn’t like too much, he didn’t think that he could win.
Without another thought of something he could do Frankie said, “I’m very sorry that my playing bothered you.”
Frankie walked away, head hanging low, to leave Abby alone.
Now Frankie felt crabby too and wanted to go home.
“I don’t have many friends,” Abby said and she cried.
“Your playing didn’t bother me. I’m sorry that I lied.”
“When I see other dogs have fun I want to have fun too, but no one ever plays with me! They never ever do.”
Frankie doggy felt badly for her, her story was so sad.
Frankie wanted to do something that might make her feel glad.
Without a word he turned around and walked back to her side.
Her leaned his head on top of hers trying to be kind.
Abby sniffed his face and licked it; her crabby act was all pretend.
It turns out all that Abby needed was Frankie as a friend.

The End

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52 in 52 Story 10 “Charlie the Hunter”

I know that my post schedule has been a bit off, I’ve had some pretty crazy deadlines in the world where I make money, but I have kept up on my writing – it’s just been done in long hand so I needed to transcribe it all into Word before I could post it. I’m going to catch up over the next two weeks by posting on additional days as the stories become internet ready. In the mean time enjoy a story inspired by our cat, Charlie, who is a violent hunter on occasion.

You can see it in his squinty stare, he’s a killer.


Charlie the Hunter

                The grass was bright green and swayed in the breeze. It was short grass, trimmed by the men who came, the men that Charlie avoided. They carried loud things, things that hurt Charlie’s ears. He didn’t like that. Charlie gazed out across the yard. This was his domain; from house front to sidewalk, this yard was his hunting ground. He gazed from his position under the bushes. The leaves and branches brushed the top of his head. It did not disturb him, it helped to hide him. It kept him camouflaged so that he could stalk his prey freely. His eyes were golden with slashes of black that we’re thin from the sunlight. A leaf thrashed to his right and his head swiveled to spot whatever made the noise. His eyes intensified on the bush. The leaves were long and thick. They were moving in the wind. It was just the wind, nothing more. Charlie continued to scan the yard, blinking occasionally, getting lazy as he waited. Maybe it was time for a nap?

                That’s when he heard it: pah, pah, pah. That was the noise he was waiting for. Pah, pah, pah – quick staccato beats of soft foot pads against the concrete. They were soft, they were quick; they were the tapping toes of lizard feet. This was what he was waiting for! The Lizard Legion had been making inroads into the yard for weeks now, venturing farther away from their strong hold next door. They came, daily now, crossing into the new landscaping that the female human had been working on. Fewer bushes, fewer places for Charlie to hide, and more rocks that were sun heated. The Legion liked the rocks but so did Charlie so there was no way that the rocks would be taken without a fight. Charlie stalked out of the bush, crouching low, tail down, ears back and crept up the lawn toward the invader. The lizard had a unique skin tone, an iridescent blue and green like little bejeweled scales on a dragon. It was unaware of Charlie’s approach. It looked around, ignorant of its impending doom, slowly approaching one of the rocks that had been baking in the afternoon sun. Its approach was slow, but its stride was quick, continuing the repetitive three steps at a time that Charlie had noticed in the first place.

                Suddenly the lizard turned toward Charlie’s position, it was checking its back! Charlie wasn’t close enough to strike so he crouched lower in what little grass there was. Damn the humans for trimming it so low! This could end his hunt. Although the lizard was moving slowly now Charlie knew that it could take off like a shot if it saw him. Charlie stayed low and still and waited to see what the lizard would do. The lizard stood, belly low to the grass, and twitched its head back and forth sharply looking everywhere but, apparently, not seeing anything. It turned back toward the rock; the promise of warmth was too good to pass up. The rock shone with a matte grayness that was so attractive to cold blooded creatures, especially those of the Lizard Legion. It continued on its trip toward the rock: pah, pah, pah… pah, pah, pah. Charlie resumed his stalking. He was within reach quickly, slowing only to make sure that his footsteps were as soft as they could be – the lizards of the Legion felt through their feet. Then, just as the lizard was about to reach the rock, Charlie leapt into the air, baring tooth and claw, and struck with the deadly confidence of a hunter commissioned by the local Council of Cats.

                Charlie was cleaning his claws and basking in the sun when he was approached by Vader, one of the members of the Council of Cats. Vader, a large black cat carrying a few extra pounds that swung like a church bell around his belly when he walked, approached from the front door of the house. He sat, distinguished, behind Charlie and waited to be seen. Charlie knew he was there but made him wait. Charlie and the Council had not seen eye to eye lately. The council had been in negotiations with the resident canine interests who had complaints that there were fewer and fewer lizards in the yard for them to find and chase. It was, apparently, a past time that they held dear and Charlie’s killing of the creatures had dramatically reduced the population eliminating much of the fun that one of the dogs wished to have. After a good wait, and a thorough claw cleaning, Charlie acknowledged Vader. “You’ve killed again.” Vader’s tone was matter of fact and flat. Vader, even though a member of the Council, was the most even keeled and reasonable of all of its members. He cared more about a functioning household and naps than a few dead lizards. Charlie didn’t respond and continued to stare at Vader, occasionally blinking so as to not upset the Council member. “The Council has already been informed and they are requesting that you be present at an audience with the canine representative. Charlie rolled his eyes. The canine representative would be the large dopey white dog, a female named Maggie. She was the one most affected by his hunting. She was loud, abrasive and has few social graces. She and Charlie had gotten off on the wrong foot during their first meeting which led to a great deal of blood shed (all by the dog) and a great deal of panic (all in the cat). Since then they kept away from each other for the most part, and when Maggie does have a gripe she brings it up with the Council. “You are to appear before the Council before the female human feeds us this evening.” Without waiting for a response Vader turned and left, twitching his tail slightly as he walked away. Charlie sighed to himself and enjoyed the heat of the sun while he could before the meeting of the Council.

A bug buzzing by his ear woke Charlie from his nap. His head darted around trying to find the source of the noise. It was a fly, small black and erratic in its flight pattern. Charlie batted at it with a lazy dissatisfaction. He could catch the fly, he thought, but why? There was no sport in fly hunting, no honor. Flies are disgusting creatures, eaters of poop and refuse. Their wings carried them like a kitten on catnip around the house and yard. Flies only wanted to be wherever they weren’t at the moment, they constantly looked for escape. Sure, they may have presented a challenge to Charlie when he was younger and more hot headed, but now they were simply an undesired distraction, an insufferable waste of time. Charlie yawned and stretched as the fly made its way out of the yard. He lay on his side taking in his surroundings. It was late in the afternoon. Soon the human female would feed them. Soon he would need to appear before the Council. He stood up, stretching out with just his front paws, and started heading toward the house, toward the Council of Cats.
Charlie entered through the dog door in the back. It led directly to the kitchen where he was met by his brother, Frankie. Frankie is a dog, brindle and white, but when Charlie was adopted Frankie became his brother. Frankie sniffed at Charlie, from his head to his tail, getting an idea about where Charlie had been all day. Charlie let him do it, he was his brother after all, and Frankie was Charlie’s only ally when it came to the canines of the house.
                “You’ve been hunting again, I can smell it.” Frankie’s voice had just a bit of nervous energy to it. He hates conflict and often tries to play peace maker whenever there is conflict in the house whether it be with the other animals or with the humans, Frankie doesn’t care for fighting. “Maggie is going to ask them to censure you. She really wants to chase those lizards.” Charlie grimaced at what Frankie told him. Maggie was a petty and jealous animal. She has toys and bones and Frankie to play with, but she still insists on chasing lizards. She doesn’t even eat them! Frankie led Charlie to the washer and dryer, where the Council of Cats meets. “Good luck,” Frankie whispered under his breathe and then took his place beside Maggie on the floor to the right of the dryer.
Above them, looking down on Charlie, was the Council of Cats. Boo, their leader, was sitting in the center at the top of the dryer. Boo is large, with similar white and orange coloring to Charlie, but older by at least twice as many years. His face wore a smug grin that caused Charlie’s tail to twitch. Boo was the newest animal to the household but had already taken the top place in the Council. When the humans first brought Boo to the house he was a sickly and injured animal. Through some calamity he had a large sore on his neck that was completely exposed – no fur, no skin. At his old residence Boo had been a fighter, he still stunk of it, but at his age he was starting to lose those fights, especially when other cats would gang up on him. It was no secret that Boo was a bully, it was through intimidation and bribery that he had reached the head of the Council of Cats. To Boo’s right was Vader, only half paying attention to proceedings. Vader had been the previous head of the Council but, in the interest of keeping peace in the house, had backed down when it became clear that Boo wanted the position. Vader had been in an accident and was too old and out of shape to put up a fight if it ever came to that. To Boo’s left was Shimshim, a neurotic brown Brindle who can’t keep her attention on anything for more than a few seconds. Even as everyone gathered, she made to leave several times before Boo finally had to keep her in place with his paw on her back.
“Charlie the Hunter you have been brought before the Council today to respond to accusations that you have defied the orders of this group and continued to attack and kill, with impunity, the lizards that come into the yard,” Boo’s voice was full of relish as he spoke the charges. “Have you anything to say for yourself?” Charlie looked up at the Council, tail twitching behind him, and said nothing. “Very well,” Boo announced, “The Council recognizes the canine delegate.”
Maggie, the large white female stood and began to address the Council her voice a howling bark, “Due to his blatant defiance of your ruling in regards to the hunting of yard lizards I request, no, demand that he be censured to keep him from hunting for a time to be determined by your wisdom!” Maggie turned to stare Charlie down at the end, making a low growl as she finished. Charlie’s tail twitched and he held her gaze, but otherwise did not respond.
“Very well, if you have no response…” Boo didn’t even get a chance to finish his sentence before Charlie stood and turned to leave. “Where are you going?” Boo shouted, “If you kill another lizard we will pull your license!” Charlie continued to walk, unfazed, Maggie barked loudly and Frankie looked around shocked. Frankie knew that Charlie’s complete lack of respect for the Council would be his downfall, but he never thought that the Council would attempt to pull his license. Without a sanctioned hunter the house may be overrun with vermin of all types. The Council didn’t realize what they were doing. Frankie trotted away from the gathering to catch up to his brother. Charlie’s tail was still twitching.
“Charlie, you need to be careful, they’re serious!” Frankie was truly concerned; he knew that hunting was very important to Charlie. Charlie looked up at Frankie and motioned him over to the window. Charlie led the way while Frankie scanned around to make sure that they weren’t being followed. Charlie led him to the dining room window where they could see the yard next door, the home of the Lizard Legion. “Charlie, what does this have to do with anyth…” Frankie stopped as he noticed the large gathering of lizards making a circle next door. They didn’t seem to be communicating, but then a few of them started rolling bird eggs into the circle. A large one, Frankie assumed it was their leader, tapped his foot three times and then the eggs were taken away into a nearby bush. Then the lizards dispersed. Frankie looked down at Charlie, “Something’s going on. Do you know what it is?” Charlie shrugged, but kept his eye on the bush where the eggs were placed as his tail continued to twitch. “Is this why you keep hunting them? You think they’re up to something?” Charlie looked up at Frankie and gave a single head nod. Frankie considered the implications. Then they heard the female human come into the kitchen to prepare the food. Both Charlie and Frankie dashed to eat.
The next day Charlie made the decision to investigate the Lizard Legion and the bush that he and Frankie had watched them hide eggs in the day before. Creeping under the bushes, but only when the wind rustled the leaves so as to cover the sound of his movements, he crossed from the front door to the edge of the lawn where it met the neighbor lawn. Hunkering down beneath the leaves and under a shadow, Charlie staked out the bush watching for Lizard Legion activity. For most of the day there was nothing, the lizards must have been sunning themselves, and Charlie passed the time chewing on blades of grass and napping.  It was the afternoon when he saw the first bit of suspicious activity. A group of lizards were assembling near the base of a tree. There were several dozen, it was a remarkable how easy it would be to kill them all. Charlie’s claws extended reflexively.  He watched as they approached the tree and, one by one, made a chain of bodies up its trunk. They reached a branch that contained a bird nest and the lizard on the branch crawled into the nest and nudged out one of the eggs with its snout. When it got the egg over the lip of the nest it used one of its feet to keep it steady while rolling the egg back toward the chain. Once at the chain it used its front feet to hand the egg to one lizard that then passed it down to the next lizard and so on and so forth until the egg safely reached the ground where it was rolled to the hiding place behind the bush. Once the egg was safely moved all of the lizards scattered away from the tree. The Legion was collecting eggs, but for what Charlie had no clue.
With the coast clear, Charlie crept toward the bush where the eggs were hidden. He moved slowly, as if he were stalking prey, and kept a careful eye out for any lizards or other animals. Lord knows what the Council of cats would think of all this, and if the canine Maggie found out? Just her barking alone would ruin any chance he had of finding the truth. Slinking between shadows and undergrowth, Charlie made it to the bush. Sniffing the air to confirm that there wasn’t a lizard waiting beneath it, he poked his head into the bush to get a better look. Charlie was taken aback by what he saw, there were dozens of bird eggs under this bush, stacked three eggs high. Just as he was realizing the scope of the egg theft Charlie heard the crinkle of grass behind him. He darted his head and saw a lizard that must have been on its way to check on the eggs. It saw Charlie and turned to run. The Legion couldn’t know that Charlie knew about the mysterious egg repository, even though he had no idea what they were collecting eggs for. Without thinking, instincts and muscle taking over, Charlie pounced and killed the lizard. If it hadn’t seen Charlie before the attack it never would have known what hit it.
“Meow.” It was a trill sound, soft and confused. Charlie looked up on the fence that enclosed the back yard with a freshly killed lizard in his mouth and there was Shimshim staring down at him. Charlie stared for a second, but before he could do anything Shimshim was off. She couldn’t tell the Council, Boo would pull his license for sure! Charlie raced after Shimshim, dropping the lizard as he ran. He needed to convince Shimshim not to turn him in! They rounded the corner and nearly slammed into the canine Maggie.
“What’s all this?” Maggie asked, looking truly confused.
“He has killed again,” Shimshim said as she hid underneath the large canines body. “I watched him do it. The body is in the yard.” Maggie growled and forced everyone inside.
An emergency session of the Council of Cats was called immediately. The canine Maggie pinned Charlie in a corner with growls and bared teeth so he couldn’t escape. Frankie, who was napping, came as quickly as he could, running through the living room and nearly knocking over a coffee table as he ran, barking at Maggie to back off. Her barking stopped but she didn’t move her body.
“What did you do?” Frankie asked as he took his place among near the dryer. Charlie just hung his head and waiting for the inevitable. Boo sat purring on top of the washer so pleased with himself that it couldn’t be hidden. Shimshim sat back and to the side of Boo, keeping her head low worried about Charlie doing something even though he was trapped on the floor. Vader was the last to arrive and yawned as he took his place on the washer.
“This won’t take long,” Boo grinned, “I’ve been looking forward to this. Due to your inability to abide by the decisions and rules of this council we hereby rescind your license to hunt effective immediately.” Charlie bowed his head and got up preparing to leave. “Uh uh, not so fast,” Boo stopped Charlie in his tracks, “There is no way that you just walk out of here. You and I both know that just pulling your license can’t stop you, we’d have to declaw you to do that, so in addition to pulling your license we are also confining you to the crate.” The air left the room as soon as Boo said it. The crate, that was bold. Normally the humans only used the crate to carry the animals to and from the vet, not a pleasant place. Charlie especially hated the crate. He was an outdoor cat who only tolerated the indoors. Being cooped up in the crate would be… It would be bad, very bad. “Maggie, if I may ask a favor, would you please escort…” Boo didn’t have a chance to finish his sentence. Charlie cried out and jumped over Maggie. She barked in reaction, loud and hard! Frankie barked at her in reaction, getting in Maggie’s way to keep her from chasing after Charlie. Shimshim panicked and dove to hide behind the washer. Boo hissed and clawed at the air. Vader, not amused, yawned and lay down on the washer to wait it all out. Charlie dashed through the kitchen and cut a hard left toward the dining room. Boo jumped down to try and catch him, but got caught up in Maggie’s barking and Frankie’s road block. Charlie raced through the living room and down the hall, bounding into the human’s bedroom and hiding.
The next few hours were tough. The Council searched through the house with Maggie, sniffing and listening to the very edges of their animal senses. But as heighten as those senses might be, Charlie is a specialist, a hunter, and even though his license is pulled his skills are not. Charlie hid, in the human’s closet, tucked behind some particularly smelly shoes. It would cover his scent for a while and the human female, trying to help with the human male’s allergies, would keep the other animals out if they did catch whiff of it. Charlie got down to thinking. He needed to know what the Legion was doing and being on the run from his own household was going to make that a lot tougher. The door opened with a thud. Charlie tensed and pulled back further into the closet. A shadow cast across the floor, bending into the darkness. Charlie poised his legs in preparation to pounce. If they did find him there was no way that he was going to be put in that crate without a fight! A head peeked into the closet, Charlie’s claws poked out. The head came further in and just before Charlie could strike he saw that it was Frankie!
“Hey Charlie, I thought you might be in the one place they aren’t allowed. I just wanted to check up on you.” Frankie kicked the bedroom door shut and gave his brother a friendly lick on the head.
With the human bedroom door shut Charlie and Frankie were free to rest on the bed. They curled up next to each other and Charlie’s tail twitched as they talked. Frankie rested his head on his front paws and gave a sideways glance at Charlie, who was staring at the spinning blade of the ceiling fan.
“They’re collecting eggs? Why would the Lizard Legion be collecting eggs?” Frankie’s question was the same one Charlie had been mulling over all day. Lizards don’t eat eggs, at least not bird eggs. There was so little to go on and now that he wasn’t able to hunt the lizards would have free reign in the yard… Charlie’s head perked up and his tail lay flat; of course, they had free reign of the yard! Either Maggie or Boo, or both, wanted the lizards to have that kind of access. But what for?! Charlie stood up and looked out the human’s bedroom window. He scanned the backyard; the window had a great view of everything, and didn’t see anything. Charlie turned and looked toward the door, then at Frankie.
Frankie stood and jumped off the bed heading for the door, “I’ll help get you out, but getting back in the house when you find whatever you’re looking for is all on you.” Frankie pawed the door open and reconnoitered the hall; no one was there. Frankie motioned to Charlie who made his way out into the hall. Frankie led the way out toward the main part of the house. In the living room the snoring of the female canine Maggie was loud, but that was good; it meant that she was asleep. She was their biggest obstacle. Frankie went ahead of Charlie and stood in front of the sleeping giant while Charlie snuck past. He hid in a corner by the kitchen as Frankie came up behind to clear the way ahead. All the cats were away. Boo was likely in the garage, Vader was probably asleep somewhere and Shimshim was more than likely wondering around the yard nervous and twitching. This was going to work. Charlie gave one last look at Frankie, who looked back and nodded, before diving out the dog door and making his way out of the backyard, over the fence that leads to the safety of the neighbor’s yard. He curled up under a bush, deep in a planter, and got some much needed rest.
The next morning Charlie got to work. There was plenty to do, plenty to watch. He didn’t have much time, maybe a day, before the humans would be calling for him and the more time he spent in the house the more likely it was that Boo and the canine female Maggie could get him locked into the crate. He started on the roof, overlooking the front yard, making sure that the wind was blowing his scent away. He gazed down feeling safe, none of the other cats dared walk the roof, and settled in for a stakeout. He didn’t have to wait very long. Apparently something had the whole Lizard Legion spooked. Charlie could see motion in the grass, dozens of lizards all streaming through the grass in a variety of directions. All of them seemed to be in quite a fit. They were all scurrying around the bush where they were hiding the eggs, popping in and out from it. A group of three lizards, probably leaders based on how the other lizards moved out of their way as they walked, went into the bush and all the other lizards evacuated and waited, what appeared to be anxiously, outside. After a few seconds the three leaders came back from out and the lead lizard tapped its foot which caused two other lizards to rush into the bush and roll one of the eggs out. Charlie was getting ready to leap down and take them all down when he heard the approach of another animal. Ducking back past the lip of the roof he waited to see who it was and what they’d do.
“Is that for me?” It was Boo! And he was approaching the Lizard Legion without any of them running away. Boo walked with a confident stride and batted away any lizards that got in his way. The lizard leader nodded its head and directed the lizards rolling the egg to push it toward Boo. Boo stopped it with his paw and licked his chops. “I’ve been looking forward to this. Are you sure it’s ready?” In response the lizard leader nodded and then approached the egg, tapping it with his foot two times. The egg shook from within. It started to wobble and tremble. A tapping could be heard on the shell, the chick was about to break out. Boo and the Lizard Legion watched and waited. The chick broke free and made a hole large enough to release him from the shell that had been his home. Just as he was getting his wings free and making his first peeps Boo lashed out with his claws and scooped up the chick into his mouth! Charlie was appalled. Is this what those eggs were for? Easy pickings for Boo!? It was one thing to hunt a bird, there was sport in it and a natural order to it, but stealing the young and serving them up without a way to escape or fight back? That wasn’t fair and it wasn’t becoming of the leader of the Council of Cats. It was abhorrent! Charlie’s claws flexed instinctively but just when he was about to strike Boo began to speak, “Excellent, keep up the good work and I’ll make sure you have free reign in the yard. The Council has already pulled the hunter’s license and I’ve tricked the large female canine into helping us. The hunter even ran away last night! He won’t come back if he knows what’s good for him. All is going according to plan!” And then Boo laughed a deep evil laugh and the lizards all opened their mouths and made a breathy hiss.
Charlie couldn’t let this stand. Not only was Boo disrupting the household by letting these vermin run rampant all over the yard but he was collecting and murdering baby birds. Driven into a hot rage Charlie screeched out a hissing roar and leapt from the roof with claws and teeth bared! Boo, caught by surprise, saw him too late to avoid the blow. Charlie’s weight slammed into Boo’s thigh and claws and teeth dug deep into the fur and flesh making Boo cry out! The Lizard Legion, seeing that the hunter was not under control as promised, dashed back to the other yard. Boo, a brawler in his youth, did not just roll over and give up. He unleashed his claws and swiped back at Charlie hitting him in the shoulder. Charlie, the more agile of the two, lunged back in toward Boo’s body and hugged him tight, sinking his claws into Boo to hold on while biting deep into Boo’s neck. Boo squealed and twisted his whole body, shaking Charlie loose. Charlie rolled away on the grass of the yard and Boo used that split second to attempt to escape. He just needed to get back into the house! If he could then he could call the canine and let her deal with Charlie, maybe permanently? Boo ran for the fence and leapt from the ground toward the top, but before he could reach it Charlie was on him and had leapt up and clawed into Boo’s back before flipping him in mid-air and throwing him back down on the lawn.
Both cats were screeching now at full “cat fight” volume. All the other animals inside could hear what was happening and began to react. Maggie was barking while running around the house looking for Boo. Frankie, worried for Charlie’s safety, ran from the dog door in the kitchen to the front gate hoping to be able to see what was going on. Shimshim hid underneath the dining room table and her head darted all around expecting danger. Vader, who had been napping, raised his head before sneering and rolling over to hide his ears. Boo and Charlie traded blows like boxers, with tooth and claw pulling tufts of fur and blood in each strike. Boo kicked Charlie off enough to be able to jump over the fence. Charlie followed close behind. Boo landed next to Frankie who ferociously barked at him, stunning the cat in place just long enough for Charlie to re-engage. Frankie bared his teeth and growled ready to move in, but Charlie turned to look at him and Frankie knew that this fight was between Charlie and Boo only.
The two cats circled each other in the back yard as Frankie watched. Shimshim stared from a window in the living room. Her eyes glued to the action. Boo and Charlie hissed and moaned, neither seeing an opportunity to strike. Then, like a bull in a China shop, the female canine Maggie came rumbling out of the dog door, still barking. She made a charge at Charlie but was tackled by Frankie before she could catch him. “Maggie no!” Frankie barked, “Boo is up to something! We can’t get involved!” Maggie was pinned by Frankie’s chest, but she whined and barked to be let up.
“Get up, you idiot! Destroy Charlie before he takes over your yard!” Boo’s commands were loud but weak. He could see his power dwindling as no one came to his aid. Charlie took advantage of Boo being distracted and lunged, biting teeth into Boo’s neck, grabbing his back with claws and then tearing at Boo’s stomach with his hind claws. Boo cried out in pain, a cry of surrender and defeat. He was battered and bloody. They both were, but Boo couldn’t take anymore punishment. Charlie got up, sat next to the lump that was Boo on the back lawn and began to lick his wounds. “What are you all looking at?” Boo asked, breathy and tired. “This is why we had to punish him! He can’t be trusted!”  Vader and Shimshim came out and Frankie slowly allowed Maggie to get up off the ground.
“He’s a liar.” Charlie’s voice was soft, but clear. “He made a deal with the Lizard Legion, said they could take over the yard as long as they kept him in as many baby birds as he could eat.”
“No!” Maggie barked, “He said that I could chase the lizards!”
Charlie sighed, “That was a lie too. You were nothing but muscle to him. Someone he wanted to use to control me.”
“You have no proof, “Boo sneered, “why should they believe you?”
“How about we go look in the front yard?” As Charlie spoke he jumped up on the yard gate and released the latch to open it. Frankie picked up Boo by the scruff of the neck and the other animals followed him out to the front lawn.
When they got there they caught a line of lizards all leading to the bush where the eggs were kept. They were trying to hide the evidence. When they saw all of the house animals they froze, some of the lizards closer to their own yard made a break for it. Vader, not willing to waste any more of his own time, grabbed one of them before it could run.
Vader looked the lizard deep in its cold marble eyes as he spoke, “Lizard, are these eggs for Boo?” The lizard nodded. “Are they in exchange for territory?” The lizard nodded again. Vader growled and tossed the lizard aside; it ran to freedom when it landed. “Boo, we get the truth now or I let the dog eat you.” Vader motioned for Frankie to put Boo down. He did, but growled as they waited for Boo to speak.
“Fine, “he said, “it’s true. I’m getting too old to hunt anymore and the lizards offered me fresh meat in exchange for the new rocks in the yard. But Charlie kept killing them! He needed to be stopped or they would stop delivering my treats.”
“You mean you lied to me?” Maggie sounded truly hurt and she cried softly at Boo’s betrayal. “I just wanted to chase things…”
Vader approached Charlie, “I think we owe you an apology, son. How about you get back to hunting and show these lizards why they don’t come to this yard?” Charlie smiled and looked at the remaining legion members in the yard. When they realized what was about to happen all of the lizards attempted to scatter, but even though Charlie was hurt, he was still quicker.
That night, when the human female called them all to be fed, things were back to normal in the house. Vader sat at the head of the Council of Cats, the canines kept to their business of treats and squeaky toys, Charlie kept the yard safe from invaders and the human female kept finding Boo somehow locked in the travel crate.

The End

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52 in 52 Story 9 I Did Not Eat Your Bagel

The story for this week is truly short. It is a children’s book that I wrote after a conversation that I had with my wife after a conversation we had about food, I think you’ll notice when you read it. I hope to get illustrations to go along with this and then release it, but we’ll see.

I Did Not Eat Your Bagel
One day Little Nene’s mommy called little Nene in a huff, “Little Nene where’s my bagel? Did you eat my stuff?”
Little Nene stood up calmly, with Frankie doggy at her side, she cleared her throat and spoke looking mommy in the eye. 
“Oh mommy,” Little Nene said, “I’ve eaten many things, but I did not eat your bagel, to do so would be mean.”
“I’ve made myself some cereal, some eggs and even toast. But I did not eat your bagel, that would hurt your feelings most.”
“I’ve had bacon, I’ve had hash browns, I’ve had all of that it’s true. But I did not eat your bagel, that bagel was for you.”
“I’ll eat chicken, I’ll eat turkey, mashed potatoes or steamed rice. But I did not eat your bagel, that just would not be nice.”
“Chips and salsa, guacamole, tacos and burritos too; but I did not eat your bagel. That’s a thing I’d never do.”
“I might if it were cookies, cake, or a slice of apple pie, but I did not eat your bagel and that is not a lie.”
“So mommy please believe me, I’m a good little kid, I did not eat your bagel, but I can say who did.”
Mommy and Little Nene saw Frankie doggie by his bowl, and in it was the bagel! Frankie doggy ate it whole! 
Silly Frankie!

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Filed under 52 in 52, 52 stories in 52 weeks, children's books, fiction, Frankie, Little Nene, projects, rene

52 in 52 Story 8 “Ready On Time”

After last taking extra time with “Time Travel Sucks…” I knew I didn’t have a full week to produce the next story. I wanted to keep to my schedule, though, and decided to try something so I wouldn’t fall behind. This story was written a bit like a stream of consciousness. I gave myself a topic and then just wrote it out as it came to me. There wasn’t a re-write pass, only a typo pass. This is effectively how the story came out of my head.

The topic was: What if a wife was ready on time?

Ready On time
It was 6:48pm Friday night and he was nervous. Rubbing his hand against his freshly shaved face he paced the living room downstairs. He was ready: black slacks, a maroon dress shirt and a stylish charcoal sport coat. No tie, tonight was a no tie night, besides the shoes made up for any lack of tie, they tied the whole outfit together. But he made a mistake, he had been too honest. He had reservations for 7:30pm and the restaurant is just about thirty minutes away, it was 6:49pm and he was waiting for his wife. They had ten minutes before they needed to leave to be on time – only ten minutes – and he had told her the real time they needed to leave. His face contorted as he mentally chastised himself about the error. He should have told her that they needed to leave by 6:30, or better yet 6, but he didn’t he said they had a 7:30 reservation. There was no way that they were going to make it. It was 6:50pm.
He sat in the chair next to him and pulled out his phone to call the restaurant and warn them that they might be late, but then he hesitated. It was only 6:51, she had nine minutes. He decided that he wouldn’t call until it hit the “zero hour.” He stood back up and paced. He didn’t want to turn on the TV, then it would sound like he was getting comfortable and she may take more time. He grabbed an US Weekly magazine off of the coffee table and rifled through it, but nothing caught his interest. He looked at the time on his phone again, 6:52pm. He could hear the action happening in the bathroom at the top of the stairs in the master bedroom; the clinking of make-up brushes and hair implements. The sounds of sprays and the clink of plastic make-up cases indicated that she wasn’t close to being ready. It was 6:53.
                “Almost ready, sweet heart!” Her angelic voice lilted down the stairs dancing a choreographed dance of lies that he was all too familiar with.
                “OK.” He hid his frustration. This happened every time they went out. He’d want to leave by a certain time, but, invariably, they were always at least fifteen minutes behind that time. He had forgotten what it was like to be on time. It was 6:54. He sat back down and rested his face in his hands, rubbing lightly to ease the tension. This was going to be a fantastic dinner! He had been looking forward to it all month. The chef, Patrice L’Orange, was known for his work with both beef and vegetables and finding a way to turn them into a medley of delight that would explode in your mouth. It was described by Foodie Magazine as, “…simply the most exquisite food experience that we, in this office, have ever had. No course was wasted and every opportunity to make you feel like this was the most important eating event that you would ever experience in your life was met. Even the water on the table brought with it its own flavorful joy. It’s not so much that you “eat” when you dine from Chef L’Orange’s menu, but actually die and briefly go to food heaven before the angles of fine taste and texture wrap you up in their feathered arms and return you to Earth allowing you to keep the memories of a feast that you can never forget and will probably always yearn for.” He really didn’t want to be late. This was a near impossible reservation to get and there was no way that they would hold the table. It was 6:55. 
                “OK, I’m ready.” His wife appeared next to him downstairs, he didn’t even hear her come down. His head perked up when he heard her voice, shocked to see her; looking hard like she was a phantom trying to deceive him. It was 6:56. She was stunning! Her brunette locks cascaded over her shoulders and down her back with a soft curl. Her eyes were brown and bright with just a hint of mischief. She wore a black cocktail dress that hugged her shape in a flattering way, but not so much that she looked uncomfortable. She was beautiful and it was worth the wait. Then she slapped him on the arm with her black sequined clutch, “Let’s go! I don’t want to be late!” She started toward the door and threw on a long sleeved black shrug that had a fuax feather boa collar. He bolted up and opened the door for her. He was amazed, happily so, that she was ready, not just on time but early! This never happened! Now they had enough time to get to the restaurant without any stress whatsoever. All of his anxiety melted away as he walked her to their Lincoln Towncar and opened the passenger door for her. He sat in the driver’s seat, gave one more satisfied look at the clock, 6:57, and smiled as he pulled out of the driveway.
                The drive out of the suburbs and into the city was easy and predictable, as are so many things in the suburbs. They were able to get on and off the freeway with no trouble at all. Even though the freeway part of the trip was three times as far, the drive on the surface streets took just about as much time, but he was happy because they were still on track. It was 7:15pm. They pulled up at a red light, next to another black Towncar. He always noticed Towncars now that he owned one. They seemed to be everywhere. Most were owned by limousine services, so it was neat for him when he noticed one that wasn’t, like the one next to them. They were both stopped at the crosswalk, with the other Towncar in the left lane. Suddenly, on the red, the other Towncar made a left turn, squealing its wheels as it went. The husband and wife looked at each other; that was strange. It was 7:16. As they waited for the light to turn green they heard the buzz of a motorcycle, a street bike with its high pitched revving like a rattle snake that wants to strike but is caged.  The sound crept through the traffic and then suddenly opened up as it approached behind them. The motorcycle, black and shiny like a beetle’s carapace, shot out into the middle of the intersection and spun in place as it did a wheelie landing so that it was facing the husband and wife’s car – right in the middle of the intersection! Did no one in this city worry about cross traffic?! The husband and wife were befuddled by the display of recklessness until they realized that the rider, dressed in all black, tight and armored motorcycle gear and in a fully enclosed helmet, was pointing at their car. The husband exchanged a look with his wife and then, awkwardly, made a frowny-face and pointed to himself as he shook his head no. The rider nodded slowly, “yes.” It was 7:17.
                The light turned green and he looked at his wife with shock on his face. “Drive!” she yelled and he did. He pressed down on the gas and drove right at the rider, who wasn’t moving. The rider reached into his belt, and flicked his arm at the car. The husband swerved to avoid hitting the rider and his motorcycle and heard a thud on the front of the car. For a split second he was worried that he had hit the rider, but then he saw that there was a ninja star stuck to his windshield wiper. A. Ninja. Star. He pushed harder on the gas and raced down the city street, the lights were synchronized on this stretch so they had some room to maneuver. Behind them they heard the buzz of motorcycles, like a hive of angry bees chasing them. The wife turned to look behind them and immediately regretted her decision.
                “Are there more of them,” the husband asked?
                “Drive, just drive and don’t look back.”
                They caught up to traffic and had to slow down a bit. The husband tried to maneuver around the cars just to get some space, but it didn’t help. It was 7:18. Traffic was moving, but not quickly and the buzz of the motorcycles surrounded them as the riders, all in similar black outfits, flew past them and surrounded the Towncar. Other cars on the road slowed down and got out of the way leaving the panicked couple to fend for themselves. The wife gripped onto her husband’s arm and her face was a mask of fear. His face was that of panic and concentration. The car weaved between the obstacles on the road,  mostly other cars, and he was moving fast enough that he didn’t even try to stop for the red light that he was headed toward! The Towncar blasted through the intersection, surrounded by the swarm of motorcycles. Horns honked and cars coming from the cross traffic slammed on their brakes attempting to avoid accidents. Fortunately for the couple, a truck that couldn’t stop in time slammed into a few of the riders in black, t-boning two of them and then becoming an unmovable wall for several more. It left a gap on the left side that the husband took advantage of. He peeled hard to the left and turned down the side street. A score of the riders in black buzzed past, while others, seeing the car change direction, made the turn.
                “What should I do?” The husband asked.
                “I don’t know, ram them?!” The wife gripped the dash board and was frantically looking to the sides. “Where’s a cop when you need them?” As if to answer her question a squad car passed the opposite direction and flipped a u-turn activating its lights and sirens in the process. The couple breathed a small sigh of relief and the riders began to back off and sweep down side streets. It was 7:19.
                “Please pull over.” The officer requested from the loud speaker. The husband did and both he and his wife started giggling nervous laughter as their panic started to lift. The officer got out of the car and approached the driver’s side with his flashlight out and his hand on his weapon. The husband lowered his window. 
                “Thank God you showed up,” the husband said as he pulled up his license and registration, “we weren’t sure how we were going to get out of that!”
                “What was going on? Who were those bikers?” The officer looked concerned and kept his eyes peeled on the street around them. It was a smaller side street with very little traffic.
                “We don’t know,” the wife replied, “they just started chasing us.”
                “Well, let’s get you out of here. Where are you headed?” The officer gave back the license and registration without even calling it in.
                “We have reservations,” the husband sounded exacerbated, “we’re just supposed to be getting dinner.”
                “OK, well let’s get you…” before the officer could finish his sentence his eyes went wide and he fell against the car. “Dr… driv… drive!” he forced out as his wind left him. The officer fell to the ground and the husband saw a ninja star in his back. He screamed and pulled away as quickly as he could. As they drove they saw the officer pulling his gun while on the ground and firing in all directions before a wave of black motorcycles came pouring out of the alleyways. The wife screamed and the husband turned with no real idea of where he was going. It was 7:22.
                The riders seemed to be holding back, why the couple wasn’t sure. Every time he turned they would follow and then cut him off, forcing him to go a different way. He would find his way back to a main street only to be turned back by a hail of throwing stars and motorcycle blockades. It was 7:23. The windshield was cracked and his wife was close to tears. The husband turned down an alley, the only path not blocked off and suddenly found himself face to face with another Lincoln Towncar, also all black but with dark tinted windows. The husband slammed on the brakes, stopping just inches from the bumper of the other car. All of the riders stopped and collected at the entry to the alley. Anxiety filled the alley. The couple nervously watched both ends of the alley, darting back and forth between the riders and the mysterious car. Then the driver’s side door opened on the other Towncar. A man stepped out, tall with black short styled hair. He wore a black suit, crisp white shirt and a scarlet tie. This eyes were dark and brooding and he had the chiseled features of an international super-spy. There was an exotic sub-machine gun slung over his shoulder. He didn’t look into the car at all, his eyes focused squarely on the riders at the end of the alley. He walked up to the husband’s side of the car and tapped on the glass. It was 7:24.
                The husband lowered the window carefully about half way. The man spoke softly, but firmly in a voice that had no accent, but at the same time could have been any accent. It was a voice of authority and it issued commands, “You’ve gotten yourself in a bit of trouble by getting me out of some. For that I thank you. Now it is time for me to finish this and you need to leave. Do as I say and you’ll make it out.” The man tossed a stack of cash onto the husband’s lap. “This should cover the damage done to your car, plus a little extra for your trouble. When I’m done talking you need to drive in reverse as quickly as you can and then drive away. You will not be followed; the riders are looking for me. Nod if you understand.” The couple both nodded, jaws dropped. “Then go.” The man stepped away from the car and brought his weapon into a firing position. The couple looked at each other and then the husband put the car in reverse and backed out as quickly as possible out of the alley! The riders moved if they could, but the husband clipped a couple on his way out. But they were not followed. Instead they heard the roar of motorcycle engines and the barking of submachine gun fire. They pulled out of the side street and ended up on a main road, only a few blocks away from the restaurant. It was 7:25.
                They pulled up to the valet, the car a little worse for wear with a few ninja stars hanging off of the door, the windshield wiper and the trunk. The fenders were battered, but at least still attached to the car and there was road dust on everything. The valet approached cautiously and opened the driver’s side door. The husband got out, still a bit shell shocked, and placed the stack of cash in this jacket pocket. He moved over to the passenger side and helped his wife out of the car. She was still stunned as well. They entered the restaurant and approached the hostess podium. It was 7:29.
                “Stevens, party of two.” The words came out of his mouth, but later he would not remember saying them.
                The hostess smiled, “You’re right on time; let me show you to your seat.” The hostess led them to a nice cozy booth by the window. They were seated and handed menus. The couple looked at each other suddenly realizing that they made it. They smiled at each other and then started laughing uncontrollably, like crazy people.  The hushed mutterings and glares from nearby tables helped to silence them, but they could not believe what had happened that evening. They ordered ridiculously expensive wine and decadent appetizers; they had lived so they were going to live it up! As they sipped their wine they saw a black Lincoln Towncar pull up outside the restaurant window. The passenger side window rolled down and the man with the dark hair and suit nodded to them before driving away. It was 7:47.  

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Filed under 52 in 52, 52 stories in 52 weeks, adventures, fiction, marriage, married, short story

52 in 52 Story 7 “Time Travel Sucks and Other Stories from the Society for the Betterment of Humanity”

This week has been particularly trying as I’ve tried to get this story ready and up. As I’ve been going through the 52 in 52 process a lot of my old story ideas have started racing to the front of my mind hoping that they might get a second chance at being written. This is one of those stories. Back in late 2006/2007 I was going through some significant life changes and I tried my hand at a few novels, like you do. None of them were finished and some were absolutely rubbish that never should have been typed, much less stored electronically for the ages, but there were a few gems that managed to fight their way out. This one is one of my favorites. This week is unique because I’m going to post the proto-story, that is to say that I’m going to post the original – warts and all – that I put down on paper almost a decade ago. I’ll warn you ahead of time that this is completely unedited and essentially a ‘vomit-pass” at the story and it’s pretty rough. Below that I have the new one that I have been writing, you can just skip down to that one if you want to save some time. I thought it might be interesting to see how my writing has changed in the last seven/eight years and also what hasn’t changed. I confess, I’m doing this mostly for me but some of you might be interested too.


EDIT:  I took out the Proto-Story. It seems to have gotten in the way of people reading the version that I wanted them to read. 

Time Travel Sucks and Other Stories from the Society for the Betterment of Humanity

There is a bright flash of light.  It is the kind of flash that you can see through your eyelids no matter how tight they are shut. And through your hands and sunglasses and lead plates that are 3 inches thick. I know because I’ve tried just about everything except the lead plates (and that’s mostly because I don’t want to carry them around with me).  It always does, each and every time.  Then you get a flash of heat in every atom of your body, a tickle on your tongue, and a flash of cold that could freeze your nipples right off.  Your gut drops right into ground, then flips up into your throat (rookies usually throw up the first few times) before everything goes black.  It only takes a few seconds but they are the longest few seconds you’ll ever experience and it never gets any easier – never.  Getting recruited for this job is the biggest scam in the world and once you’re in there’s no going back, mostly because you never know when you’re back and I mean that in a literal sense.  My name is Jonathan Vargas but people call me Jack. I’m a time traveler.  I remember when I first found out about this gig, the video they showed; I should’ve known right then and there that this was a huge mistake.  “See the building of the pyramids, walk in the footsteps of your favorite religious figure, see ancient Rome…” bullshit.  Have I seen some of those things?  Oh sure and every day is a “new wonder and sight that is beyond imagining” it’s just that you have to watch it hiding behind crates or rocks or whatever else so that the natives don’t see you and you don’t cause a paradox that rips the time/space continuum into a million pieces.  You know what I’m rambling; let me give you a little context.

I work for the Society for the Betterment of Humanity.  As I mentioned I’m a time traveler.  That’s my job.  I’m not a scientist or in the military.  I’m not good with math or languages.  I’m just a guy, a guy who wanted an easy and exciting job and I answered the wrong ad on Craig’s List.  Seemed like a great idea at the time.  I’m thirty-five years old, I didn’t finish college, and I have spent most of my life not sure of what I want to do.  When the Society sent me the information packet it all seemed pretty farfetched, but the pitch was simple – actually the ad read just like this: “Wanted: male 25 – 40 for new job opportunity.  Long term travel required.  Seeking applicants with a taste for adventure and the unknown.”  Sure that’s me, or at least it used to be.  So I called the number and they send me a DVD (A DVD?!?!?!) which starts off like a bad sci-fi movie with a starfield moving toward the screen, kind of like warp travel on Star Trek and this voice comes on and says, “have you ever wanted to travel through time?” What you’re thinking, that’s totally what I was thinking too.  Then it starts talking about time travel and I thought they meant in the figurative sense, like going out and doing archeology or something and it’s like they know that’s what you’re thinking because the voice over comes on just when you’re thinking that and says, “no, really, we mean traveling through time and space just like the movies.”  Actually, the more I think about it, it’s possible they did know that was what I was thinking.  Who knows who could have been watching me, then they go back to the future and report about it and then the Society makes changes to the video and send it back in time so that I’ll be more convinced to join up… See this is what happens, you start to second guess everything and your mind gets all tangled up with all the different time-lines you’ve visited and it’s hard to keep straight what you changed and what originally happened and then which quantum universe you’re in determines what you can remember and… Oh forget it!  The point is time travel is not easy, it’s not fun and it’s not funny.

Then I smell it, the rancid combination of fart and puke.  I shake the trip and the smell off and my vision returns.  We are…  somewhen, but figuring that out isn’t my job.  To my right I see Dr. Aaron, she’s blonde and tall and looks like she belongs in a magazine and not the frontier lady dress that she is currently wearing. Her hair is in a ponytail and bobs all around as she swings off her pack and starts gathering her devices and notes. She is the “Brain” they sent with us this trip.  Next to her is Wills, he’s the new kid who puked.  To my left is Capt. Richard Bell, he’s leading us this time and he’s a prick.  Then there’s Stinky, the engineer who’s supposed to get us back.  He’s responsible for the fart. He does it every trip without fail, but he’s also the most requested engineer in the Society.  We appeared in a big dark building; that’s not a good start. Usually if you show up in a big dark building things get hairy. It’s like it’s a rule.  We were shooting for the American west, cowboy days.  I don’t know the exact year, they don’t tell me that stuff, nor do I know what we’re doing here but I’m always assured that I’m told what I need to know.  As I get accustomed to the dark I can see that we are in a store room, maybe a warehouse.  OK, I can work with that. There’s a lot of cover in a warehouse; a good number of hiding spots. There are crates in here, crates with writing and it’s in English.  So far so good!  Then the prick goes into it.

“Alright, people, you know the drill.  Start looking around in here and tell me if we hit our target.  Provided we are in the right time and time-line we can get started.  The sooner we start the sooner we go home.  And Vargus clean up the newbies puke.”

See, he’s a prick.
Technically we are each supposed to have a job.  Capt. Bell is the prick that tells us what to do and decides whether or not we’ve accomplished what we were supposed to while we’re here.  Dr. Aaron is the historian and medic.  She’s the one who tells us how to act while we are whenever we are, is given the “original” history that needs to be changed, and patches us up if we need it.  Her and people like her are called “Brains” by me and people like me.  Stinky, as I mentioned before, is the engineer.  They get us back from whenever we are.  I like those guys and Stinky is the best.  The only problem is that the man farts every time we travel, as you may have noticed.  It’s sick.  As if traveling isn’t hard enough then you have to deal with the dueling scents of rookie puke and Stinky’s farts. But there’s a reason why he’s the most requested engineer at the Society and it’s because he’s got the longest perfect record for getting teams home. That’s a big deal. You can put up with some pretty bad smells when they come out of a man that can bend time and space as well as he can. He’s also one of my only friends. Having this job does a number on your personal life. I had to take off my backpack to clean up the rookie’s puke.  Thankfully he paid attention to protocol and didn’t eat anything before we traveled.  It’s mostly just a wet spot on the floor.  A smelly wet spot, but all that takes is a little of my special saw dust made just for us time travelers: time dust.  I have no idea what makes it special, but we aren’t allowed to take it from the building or use it in our own time line.  See, I’m a grunt.  I get all the bullshit jobs that none of the important three want to do.  I’m here to clean spills, get food, and do whatever to make the job easier for Capt. Bell, Dr. Aaron and Stinky.  That’s what the kid is here to do too; he’s training.  He looks really young to me, maybe twenty-three.  I guess they had to start recruiting younger.  At least it looks like the green is fading from around his gills.
“You OK kid?”  It’s his first trip so I feel like I should be nice.  Besides he and I are in the same boat and it won’t hurt to have an extra hand in my corner when this trip goes to pot, and it will go to pot.

“Yeah, thanks.”  Then he spits some left over puke out of his mouth managing to miss the time dust that I’ve already spread on the floor.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out a stick of special “time gum” for him.
“Here, this will get the taste out of your mouth.”  I said it with all the sincerity I could muster seeing as how I now needed to use more time dust to cover his spit.
I guess it’s important to know that the entire team gets outfitted with special stuff for each trip.  First, and most noticeably, we get period dress.  I’m especially fond of this when we go to ancient Rome or ancient Egypt.  Dr. Aaron looks great in that stuff.  All of us have general supplies that are kept in our pockets or pouches (depending on the style of dress).  Its stuff like “time gum” which biodegrades really fast after ten minutes of chewing, a small beacon so the engineer can find us if we get lost, and even some currency appropriate to our trip.  Then there’s the special kit that we each get.  Leaders get the only weapon, usually a gun, and PDA that has mission info in it.   Brains have a similar PDA but with a full “original” history and reference material.  I say “original” because, when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you start to realize that you end up going back quite a bit to fix mistakes from other trips.  There is no “original” history anymore; we’ve screwed so much stuff up.  Engineers have just one job, get the team home, so they get a backpack, made as time specific as possible, which has the return equipment; it looks like an old traveling salesman’s suitcase that opens up to show something that vaguely looks like an old typewriter, but where you’d expect to see the keys there are dials and switches. Where you’d put paper is a large glass cylinder that spins and fills with electrical discharge. Wires come out of everything on it and it always smells like it’s going to catch fire. It’s totally archaic, but it’s my favorite piece of equipment because it gets us home.  Grunts like me get a time-suitable backpack filled with all the miscellaneous stuff like the time dust, water, rations, matches – camping supplies basically – and some crazy batteries to jump the return equipment, just in case. Also, before you ask, yes we bring our own water. You know how you’re not supposed to drink the water in Mexico when you visit? Same thing when you time travel. The last thing you want is Montezuma’s Revenge when you’re three and a half centuries away from home.
The kid finally gets it together and takes off his pack.  Not only is he young but he’s kid of small too.  About five foot five and a bit lanky.  He’s got a mop of dark hair and very sharp features.  His cowboy stuff doesn’t fit him right either. He just looks awkward. He was probably a goth kid back in high school.  We start to look around the room.  I start glancing at the crates; Wills searches intently for any info that might be on them.  What he doesn’t know, and I do, is that Stinky will have it all figured out in a couple minutes.  I take a chance to sneak a look at Dr. Aaron; most of the time she’s the best part of the trip.  Back home she always looks so serious with her hair up and wearing the tan jumpsuits we all have to wear at the Society, but in costume that’s a whole different deal.  She’s about five foot four – great height – with blonde hair down to her shoulders.  Soft features and a button nose that twitches when she thinks too hard.  Her eyes are green and sparkle.  She looks like she belongs in a magazine. I would love to see her naked.  The frontier lady get-up isn’t the most flattering thing she’s worn, but I’ll take what I can get.  If only we were in ancient Rome or Egypt, or maybe she could just wear a French maid outfit.  Yeah, that’d be good.

Before I get caught staring Stinky gets our attention, “Got it! Looks like we hit the right spot, with an extra six hours to spare.”  That was good news; we have time to eat!
“Very good,” Bell sounded cocky. What a prick. “Team, let’s mobilize and see if we can put ourselves up in the local hotel.”
Dr. Aaron looked up from her tablet as if she was in a video for a swimsuit calendar, at least that’s what I saw. “If we arrived where we should have then we should be inside the warehouse at the edge of town.”
“We’re wherever the co-ordinates that were given to me point to,” Stinky started putting away the return equipment and getting it packed away. As he was closing up the case we heard the opening of and saw a beam of daylight shine in from a door that was behind a stack of crates. Everyone froze, as is protocol, and the Captain put his hand on the six-shooter he was equipped with for the mission.
“Whoever you are, I heard ya’! You better come out or I’ll fill every square inch of this building with bird shot!” It was an angry native! Those are the worst kind. “Come on out, now. I’m serious!” And he sounds old and nervous, a bad combination in an already bad scenario. Somebody needed to fix this.
Dr. Aaron made the first move, “Hello? I’m afraid that we were just looking for some shelter.” A woman’s voice did have a way of diffusing these situations. “I’m coming out from behind the boxes now with my husband. Please don’t shoot us.” As she spoke she gave us the hand signal to hide. Wills, Stinky and I did just that as quietly as possible making sure that we were in place by the time she and Bell were visible. She introduced the two of them to the native and gave the approved cover story about being new in town from back east and received the anticipated hospitality. Soon the three of them were all chuckles and apologies and they left with him, hopefully to accomplish the assignment.
This is always the boring part of the work. Eventually the Brain and the Captain will go off and get the job done. Sometimes they take a grunt with them, but I prefer it when they don’t. When things go wrong, as they sometimes do, the grunt is the one who won’t make it back. They don’t pay me enough for that. While they were off doing what it is they do, the three of us stayed back to sweep the area for temporal bogeys and then prepped for the eventual departure. As grunts and engineer, we are tasked with staying in place unless forced to evacuate by extraordinary or life threatening circumstances. It sounds like the Society is concerned for our safety, but the truth is they want to mitigate the risk of time-stream errors and paradoxes. They don’t want our corpses stinking up the timeline and they go to extreme measures to make sure it doesn’t happen. Since our fearless leader and the Brain were now out of our presence the countdown started, for this mission it is four hours past action point. That may sound a little confusing. If the team is ever separated, and we almost always are, then there is a predetermined time when everyone is due to rendezvous at the original arrival point. That time is determined in relation to the “action point” which is the thing in history that we are attempting to alter. So in this case we arrived about six hours prior to the action point and then we will wait a maximum of four hours after that point before Stinky, Wills and I crank up the machine and go back to our native time and space. Typically we are out pretty quickly after the action point, but as I’ve mentioned Capt. Bell is a prick and he likes to show off, especially if the assigned Brain is as attractive as Dr. Aaron. If I could I’d bring a book to read to pass the time, but I can’t because it might get left behind causing a paradox. Playing cards, you may ask, can you bring playing cards to pass the time? Nope, same problem. Playing cards from the present (future?) are significantly different from the past so they could cause a paradox. Music? Nope, paradox. Smart phone? Nope, paradox. Hell the PDA’s that the mission Captains and Brains use were just recently certified and had to be outfitted with a self-destruct device just in case they are lost or left behind. We don’t even get to pack our stuff, everything is packed for you at the Society and then you get thoroughly searched before departure. So what do we do to pass the time? Every grunt has their ways, most break protocol and purchase something from the current time period to occupy thier time, but I personally like to play a little game I came up with called Ration Bar Poker. One of the few things that we all bring with us are the ration bars. They are each printed with a serial number on the packaging so that the Society can keep track of where each bar is assigned. These serial numbers are a combination of numbers and letters ten characters long, so you play it a bit like ten-card stud. You break up the bar itself into five pieces and that becomes your betting money for the game. Depending on the expected duration we could each be carrying up to ten of fifteen of these bars and that can pass a good amount of time. The packaging is also one of the few things that we carry with us that doesn’t instantly biodegrade. The kid and I have to make sure that all of the trash is picked up before we go. We tucked ourselves into a back corner of the warehouse where we were out of direct sight of the door and got ready to wait.
“So this is what we do? We just wait here?” The kid, Wills, had been so quiet until now that I was surprised at the sound of his voice. He stood awkwardly by his pack, his right hand gripping his left arm and kneading it.
“Pretty much,” I told him. “Pull up a crate, I’ll show you how we play poker out here.” I pulled a bar from my pack and waved it with a big smile. I was feeling a little extra peckish and was looking forward to eating my winnings.
Sticky snorted, “No way, Jack.” Then he looked at the kid, “Don’t fall for it. Before you know it he’ll have all your food and he’s terrible at sharing.” Stinky laughed, the kid gave a small smile. I punched Stinky on the arm.
“Great! Now what do we do? We have a whole day to kill.” I leaned back on my pack on the ground and tore open the bar in my hand and started gnawing on it. Stinky just shrugged and lay out on the ground to take a nap.
The kid walked up to me, “I guess you could show me how to do stuff? This is my first mission.” He had a point. I was supposed to train him and I guess now was as good a time as any. It was certainly better than just sitting around for the next nine hours. I told him to grab his pack and I took him through his job as a grunt.
After fifteen minutes there was nothing else that I could tell the kid about being a grunt.
“So, we’re, like, the team bitches?” Wills asked with a completely reasonable level of offence.
“Well, yeah, I prefer the term “gofer” or “support,” but, yes, essentially we are the team bitches. The most I’ve had to do in my last 4 missions is put down some of this time dust on puddles of puke.” You could see the disappointment come across his face. I suddenly felt really bad for him. What did they tell him to get him to sign up? Wills turned around and walked away. I gave him his space and went and had some water and ate again. We were still over eight hours away from departure, but I didn’t want to eat too much later otherwise I might puke on the return trip and so far I have a pretty good record of not puking. I plopped myself on the ground and ate while Wills sat and faced the wall of the warehouse.
The hours passed slowly. The sun started to set and we heard the piano in the saloon off in the distance. I always wondered what real cowboy whiskey tasted like. It’s a shame I couldn’t run over really quick and have a drink – but, you know, paradox. Besides we were close to the action point and it may be in that very saloon where something happens that may mean the future for humanity or the destruction of it, it’s so hard to tell. Then the door opened and closed, we followed protocol and froze.
“Let’s go!” It was the prick. Capt. Bell rounded the boxes looking for us with Dr. Aaron behind him.
Stinky woke up with a start, “All set, Captain?”
“Yes, this mission was a success. Let’s get back.” He had a shit eating grin on his face and looked back at Dr. Aaron who shook her head.
“Yes, I need to get the smell of cow pies out of my hair.” She moved next to the rest of us as Stinky opened up the case for the return equipment and started working the dials.
I started cleaning up my area and doing an idiot check for any last minute time bogeys that I’d need to cover up or collect. I called to the kid who was still over by the wall, “C’mon Wills, let’s go home.” He picked up his pack and moved slowly over by Capt. Bell. Stinky was hunched over the equipment. Sweat was building on his balding head and he kept wiping his mustache. Working with the equipment is always a delicate operation.
Then we heard a mumble out of Wills. I looked up at him and he was standing there with his head low and holding his left arm again with his right hand kind of twisting on his center of gravity.
“What was that Wills?” Capt. Bell asked.
“I don’t want to go.” Wills looked like a sad child. I was embarrassed for him.
Captain Bell smirked and put his arm around Wills, “This is your first trip, right? I know, it’s a really amazing thing that we’re doing here, we are traveling through time, but it also means that we have to be very cautious and so we can’t stay.” Bell was being as friendly as a prick can be, but it wasn’t enough. Wills made a face that was a twist of anger and the start of tears and then grabbed the six-shooter off of Bell’s belt! He shot Bell and then turned the gun on Stinky! I called out and that distracted him enough, but the gun went off and hit the return equipment. Dr. Aaron screamed out and Stinky started swearing. The kid turned the gun on Stinky again, but I was able to reach him before he could get another shot off. I had the gun in my hands and we were wrestling as I heard the equipment squeal in ways I had never heard it sound before and Stinky swearing up a storm. I started feeling the warmth that comes with the trip and my vision started to white out – at least we were still going home. The brightness came and then we were elsewhen.
I came too and I was on a dusty plain. No smells this time, except for the dust in the air. I looked to my left and I saw the device, sputtering and whirling down. I saw half of the body of Capt. Bell, the lower half. Stinky and Dr. Aaron were nowhere in sight, but Wills was here, he came too quicker than I did. He was standing away from me and still had the gun. He was looking out over the plain and I could hear him crying. Then the panic set in.
“What the hell did you do?!” I screamed at him as I ran. I wanted to tackle him and shake him! I wanted to know what the hell he was thinking! I wanted to know what they told him to get him to sign up. Before I could reach him he turned around a put the gun to his head.
“I’m sorry.” Then he pulled the trigger. The sound didn’t echo, there was nothing around for the sound to bounce off of, but it stopped me in my tracks. There’s a protocol for dead bodies in the time line. A bit of kit I don’t like to even talk about. Like I said, the Society doesn’t want our bodies stinking up the timeline and they have some very extreme measures to make sure it doesn’t happen. It’s a device, every member of the team has one but they so rarely get used. Normally if someone dies in the field we just bring the bodies back with us so they can be properly buried or whatever. In rare cases, like this one, we each have a very small device, the size of a make-up compact, which we use to dispose of bodies. We each carry one, just in case. We use them whether the body is dead or not, like a hyper functional cyanide capsule that also eliminates any evidence of the body. It’s the panic device, a last resort. I always keep mine in a separate pocket away from anything else I may use; I really don’t like to think about it. But now here I was, with one and a half bodies in a place I did not recognize alone with a piece of equipment I do not know how to use.
I went to Wills and took off his pack. I kicked the gun away and found his device in his front pocket. I set it on his chest and watched his whole body burn and vaporize away. It felt like I got punched in the gut. I felt a tear in my eye. I went and did the same for Bell’s legs. Then I gathered Wills and my packs together next to the return device. I sat down next to it and broke down. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I pulled out my own device and looked at it; so much power in the size of a compact. The wind blew at me as I sat and I tried to prepare myself for what I had to do.
Then I smelled something, something familiar – it smelled like an electrical fire! The return equipment! It wasn’t dead! I pulled it closer to me and looked at it. It was definitely run down, and you could see the damage that the bullet made, but the central cylinder was still in one piece and there was still charge flowing in it, I figured that had to be a good thing! I put my device back in its pocket and started messing with the dials and switches. I’d never been this close before, now I saw that there was a small readout displaying red numbers that I didn’t understand. As I turned wheels some of the numbers changed, when I flipped a switch and then turned the wheel some of the other numbers would change. I was just changing numbers wherever I could. I could still get home – as long as I knew where home was. I started thinking really hard about anything that Stinky had ever said, anything that could have been a clue, but he never talked about coordinates, only that he had gotten us to them. And I knew that this could be tricky, because not everyone was as good as he was. In my panic and desperation I made a decision. I took all the supplies that I could out of Wills pack and added them to mine. I grabbed the gun with its three bullets and threw it in there too. Then I sat at the machine, whirled some dials and hit the switch. The machine started revving up, the cylinder spun, and I got that warm feeling. What’s the worst that could happen, I figured, maybe I end up at home or somewhere with more people, but I had to try something. The light got bright, I felt the heat and I was gone…

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