Speculative Flash Fiction – March 20, 2021

NSFW for a bit of swearing. Maybe an ugly visual.

They is those what like brief.  This is brief, a C-note.  Then you can go about your business.

Civilized

“We gotta eat something.”

“But the goddam thing’s green!  Six legs.  I guess legs.”

“Only green outside.  Here, I’ll whack it open.”   [Thwock!]

“Ugh! Green inside too.”

“Don’t smell bad.”

“Your ass! Smells like, like…”

“Don’t say it.  Won’t stick in your mind.  Feels like meat.  Remember meat?”

“No. Before my time.  Always Synthexx for me”

“No more Synthexx.  All gone.”

“So, it’s eat this…”

“…or die.”

“Yuh.”

“You shot the damned thing.”

“Shoot or get shot.”

“We dunno that.”

Looked like a weapon!”

“Aw, geeze! It’s got pocket-like things.” 

“What’s inside?”

“Dunno. Looks like paper.  And…”

“Some kinda writing.”

© SP Wilcenski 2021

PSA: New sojourners only – you get lost, stumble on “Writings,” see something that strikes your fancy, let me know. I’ll have Rebus repost the thing. 

PSA2:  MSM CBS reports that “scientists” warn murder hornets can pose a danger this spring. Links follow

MSM bulletin

Interesting MH pictures

 (Self-serving spwilcenwrites plugs) Goofball previous blogs (remember you heard it here first!)

MSM Reporting

MSM Update

A spoof on micro-tech-bio solutions

PSA3: ZipFast, which incidentally is earth friendly, is now available only thru mail-order.

Dietary Restrictions – March 19, 2021

Kiddies, this ain’t a nickel-ninety-eight. If you are lexiphobic, click-off as this scares hell out of two thousand words.

Friends, if you suffer from an allergy or a specific “intolerance” follow professional medical advice.  I am not a medical professional. Not a dietician. Not any kind of health professional.  Not really any kind of professional.  If you can read this, you are intelligent enough to understand health conditions you suffer.  You also know where and how to seek help. Do so.

Plagued with an increasingly flawed memory, I’ve labored to recall specific occurrences from the past.  Failed.  What I was looking for, going back to before 1960, was instances of people being allergic. Allergic to anything.  Durned few that I recall.  Young snots my age in the fifties and sixties weren’t allowed to understand or even overhear discussions about grown-up stuff like allergies, sex, the difference between Republicans and Democrats. So I suppose they might have existed then.1 I doubt it.

Diabetes, yes. Cooties, yes. Allergies and “intolerances,” no.

Forearms swelling after a hornet sting so you looked like Popeye didn’t count. Investigative Idiots that we were as lads, finding a new stinging insect, we couldn’t wait to try it out.  Don’t misunderstand, in Texas, we understood coral snakes, cottonmouths, and rattlers.  But scorpions, spiders, bees, snakes yet unidentified, and such were fair game.  Horned toads learned to hear us coming.2

Wanting to throw-up at the dinner table because half a bushel of Brussels sprouts sat on your plate did not constitute a food allergy.  There was no such disclaimer, “I don’t like that!”  One, if you’d not ever tried it you quickly could no longer make that claim and two, dispatching ‘point one,’ if everyone else was eating it, so were you. Or you went hungry or had difficulty sitting.

I recall few, if any, genuine allergies, and no food allergies until ten years before the turn of this century.  Remember, we were asbestos, DDT, PCB, lead, Russian atomic bomb, and fluoride babies.  I knew two kids, otherwise quite normal who suffered from epilepsy.  Knew countless kids who lied, most of whom are now fiction writers or politicians. That’s it though.  No peanut allergies. No lactose intolerance. No celiac disease.

Now I hear of farmers walking into cornfields breaking out in severe rashes in reaction to corn pollen and the insidious saw-like edges of corn leaves. 

So yes, a few legitimate and unfortunate allergies.  But only of late.  It’s all different now.  Why, even me…

I can’t do peanuts

You know I lie.  And this is a case right here.  I eat peanuts with a vengeance.  In the distant past sitting in a bar with a bud practicing lies.  Sure, don’t do that much right now.  Not so much because, well, you know, nobody goes anywhere much anymore. Because most of the buds who in the past would join me in that activity now belly-up to a celestial bar.

Smoosh peanuts into a “butter” and I’ll show you how bad peanuts are for you.  With jam, honey, pineapple, apple butter, or naked on toast.  Gimme a spoon and I’ll scoop it right out of the jar. 

Don’t understand the peanut allergy thing.  As a kid growing up (what else is a kid to do?) peanut butter was a staple.  Not sure, but I think Ma bought the stuff in five-gallon buckets. Then it became a precocious snack.  Then fell into disrepute.

Peanut butter gets a bad rap. The “natural” stuff is okay.  Figger that.  Went on a tear and did the natural thing for a while, until it was too much trouble to stir the oil back into the goop every time I went at a jar. Discovered no advantage in “natural” except the added profit for manufacturers who (I guess) spent less effort homogenizing the stuff.

All you need be mindful of is added sugars in the jar (why?) and don’t blame all the “calories” on peanut butter.  Take a good look at what you spread on the un-peanut-butter half of the sandwich – jam, jelly, honey, molasses, that marshmallow goop, pineapple slices, bananas, or whatever2.5 – there’s your calories, and your sugar!

Only vaguely do I remember becoming aware there was such a thing a peanut butter allergy.  Suddenly, peanuts could not be served on airline flights.  When did this happen?  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  I was concerned at first that I might go to jail for eating peanut butter.  It’s a serious deal for anyone with the allergy, but I’m still fogged as to the all-of-a-sudden of it. 

What if I innocently carry a two-pound Snickers bar onto an airline flight?  Discovering it, will the stews get the captain and the Air Marshall to help toss me out the back door at thirty thousand feet?

I am lactose intolerant

No, I’m not.  I was pulling your leg.2.6  Milk, cream, butter, cheese.  Ice cream!  I’m okay with that save a few exceptions. 

Bleu Cheese.  Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Danish, Cabrales – and I suppose a few others.  It’s a personal thing.  To me, Bleus smell bad and taste like soapy baby spit.  I mean what baby spit smells like, never tasted it.  Have tasted soap – that’s another story (several, actually) so we’ll set that aside.

Still working cheese here, there’s Limburger and Liederkranz.  These two make Roquefort smell nice.  Limburger smells worse than ripe, sweaty socks, and we won’t explore exactly what that is I refer to.   I’m told Limburger’s flavor is delightful.  At my age, I still can’t bring myself to try it.  Did Bleu.  Know it’s not for me.  But Limburger? Nope. Not gonna.  Any other cheese is just fine, thank you very much.

Otherwise, dairy? I’m good.  I will suggest that milk is best cold, the colder the better, short of frozen. Or warm, straight from nature’s spigots.  And this low-fat, two-percent, one-percent, half-percent, and negative-percent milk?  That ain’t milk, Bubba – that’s cloudy water.

Cream?  Yuh. You betcha.  And butter.  Why would anyone use oleo?  Yogurt and cottage cheese are okay, but I have to be hungry.

Point is, I don’t understand “lactose intolerant.”  For those who suffer, I understand.  Well, no, in fact, I don’t understand, I just said that, but I do feel for you.  Take care of yourself.  Can I ask, where did your body go south on you? I mean, the plans were when you were born, you wouldn’t pop out, clap your hands, and look around for a steaming pate of Brussels sprouts.  Huh, didja?  I been wrong before, but for most mammals, that’s kind of the plan – milk until your teeth can handle Brussels sprouts.

Eggs are bad for you

No. Wait that was last week.  This week they’re great stuff.  Next week, again, maybe not so good.

All around bunk.  Gimme eggs.  Almost every day of the week when I was young and active.  Now, I feel no danger eating eggs five days out of seven.  Fried – over easy, over hard, sunny-side up. Scrambled.  Poached.  Hard or soft boiled. 

It’s not the eggs, it’s the ham, bacon, sausage, steak, pork chops, hash browns, Texas toast, Alabama biscuits, grits, and gravy that do you in.  Salmon or sardines.  Brains.  Veggies and cheeses crammed into a scramble or quiche.

But I gotta have it all. Else there’s no point in having eggs.

You heard the bad joke, right? 

The line chef asked… “Whaddayahave?”

“I’ll have a tongue sandwich,” I said.

“Ugh,” my companion said, “I would never eat something that’s been in an animal’s mouth!”

“So, unh, what will you have?”

“Oh, maybe ham and eggs.”

Gluten intolerance

I have absolutely no idea.  I’ve heard horror stories from reputable sources. This one is so new to me, it’s like peanut allergy in 1990.  I ask myself, are they for real?  Yes, I am assured, they are.    

Those who suffer, substitute and survive.  I’ve tried gluten-free.  I’m not impressed either way.

Maybe I’m gluten-free intolerant.

Okra is inedible

No, it ain’t.  Love the stuff. Fried, with or without breading.  Baked.  In Gumbo or Jambalaya.  Scrumptious.  In any soup.  Been known to just boil it. Slicks-up the pipes.  No need for Metamucil.3

Brussels sprouts – dietary punishment

Nah.  Good stuff.  I dunno where that came from.   Hate’m?  Nope.  Never did.  I love the micro cabbages.  Roasted, baked, steamed, boiled.  Bet they’d be good fried, but never heard of it.

Same for spinach.  Squash.  Green beans.  Kale. Cauliflower.  Broccoli.  Yes, broccoli!

Don’t eat meat!

Up to you.  If you’re vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, Baptist, or Lutheran that’s fine.  Your business.  For whatever reason.  But don’t presume to condemn me for my dietary preferences.

Dietary differences, but…

I get it.  Sort of.  Some folks can’t handle milk, nuts, soy, gluten, beans, and leafy greens.  What is unsettling is how these intolerances or out-and-out allergies came to affect so much of the population.  Seems to me, even given the fact politics, sex, alcohol, and other good things were not dinner-table conversation long ago, I would have known Jimmy Wilkerson4 was allergic to peanuts, Sue Kozlowski was lactose intolerant, and the Kurtz twins both were gluten intolerant.  I mean, I knew Mikey G. had epilepsy.  It was rumored Imogene R. had cooties, though I always thought she was pretty damned cute. 

In the hood back in the days, I hung with a ton of kids, and was not isolated through high school or the service, either.  Allergies?  Never heard of them.  Or any of the intolerances.  Then suddenly, around nineteen-ninety, boom!  Allergies are commonplace.  Why?  Or how? 

But then, until I was eighteen, I thought boys and girls were of the same species.

1 Republicans and Democrats, sex, or allergies.  Whatever one you prefer. The antecedent is vague, but I’m happy with any of them.  If you’re not, you’re too picky.

2 We hankered to run up on a Gila Monster. Found out we’d have to go way out west to find them. Rather disheartening to a group of ten-year old lads. We made do with snakes, scorpions, spiders, huge ants, horned toads.  This, of course was BG.  (Before Girls)

2.5 Dunno about Vegemite. That a standalone thing? Oh, and almond butter? Pardon me, Sleepy Joe, but C’mon, man! A nut’s a nut! Why is it PB gets a bad rap and almond butter is okay? The precocious meter is past 10, here.

2.6 Pulling your leg. Jerking your chain. Messing widja. Joking.

3 Fiber laxative.  Looks like gritty Tang.  Expensive.  Some folk chug it daily to stay “regular.”  No need.  Just do Cajun.

4 None of the names are real.  Well, they’re real names, but not the names of real people. I’m practicing making-up names for my next novel, Skittering Sideways into the Seventies.

I Salute You – March 18, 2021

There are WP posters out there standing head-and-shoulders above me.  They are not bloggers as I view bloggers in the “traditional” sense. These are creative writers.  Each usually has a specialty.  As a rule, they are talented far beyond a single genre, eclectic.

Let me back-up.

I see a “traditional” blogger1 as a stream of consciousness writer, or a “this morning for breakfast I had,” or a “for the best performance in diesel-powered toasters I recommend” kind of writer.  There are variations: crafters, recipe mavens – specialized or not, and those who just want to hawk their wares.  We can’t forget “My little kitties,” “My dear Schnauzer,” “This is how I farm,” “Let’s learn to combat Spazio Autokinesis2 together!” and “This is our social challenge!” bloggers.  These folks in their realms are top-notch.

It remains that the bloggers I value especially are those in the mix who are creative writers.  That’s not a value judgement.  That’s because I fancy myself one of those creative types.  That’s where my interest lies.  Other (non-creative) bloggers are most interesting, deliver amazing insight or important information, and I visit frequently and “follow” a good number of them.

But it’s those talented creative writers who turn my crank.3  Be they poets, flash fictioners, essayists, short story specialists, or ranters; penning sci-fi, slice-of-life, horror, humor, romance,4 crime noir, westerns, satire, or fantasy.  It probably is the spark of genius.  That thing that both evokes a bit of envy and inspires my efforts.

Not discounting the documentalists and political axe-grinders.  The good documentalists and axe-grinders. The ones who could write of a day in the life of Grog Stonechip in the year 8000 BCE5 or the advisability of underwriting research into the sex life of dinosaurs and make it authoritative, interesting, complete, and on a good day, even humorous.  And there are some good’ns out there.

So here you go bloggers I follow and bloggers I stumble across and comment upon, no matter what your blog’s agenda:

Well done!

Thank you for making life interesting, inspiring, challenging, and yes on occasion intimidating.

That, now, with a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

1 “Blog” being an abbreviation of “web log” in that pseudo-clever “around your shoulder to get to your thumb” way we smash, bend, stretch, and corrupt words to new meanings to suit our purposes and sense of neo-technic.  The original meaning suggests (ahem) a log, journal, diary, or some other blow-by-blow, generally close to truth, albeit biased, not fiction.  That blogs are now showcases for artistic endeavors of uncountable variety and many of those fictional is akin to a path worn into the grass in a city park.  Park designers lay out paths and place stone, coarse mulch, or concrete where it is expected foot traffic will be necessary.  Always, always, always, people being people, they will not use designed paths but rather, even when inconvenient, wear ruts into grass or flower beds instead. The clever park landscaper will revisit and re-lay footpaths. I’ve seen where this is to no avail, people seeing new intended footpaths will not use them, but travel new grass and flower beds that have replaced original footpaths.  So.  Which footpath is “correct”?  It is, I think a matter of utility. There is no “correct” with blogs. There are only different types.

2 Hyperbole.  A made-up stand-in for any number of real afflictions and worthy efforts to solve problems they present.

3 An expression loosely for “turns you on” but without any overt or subliminal erotic connotations. Floats your boat.  Gets gravel for your duck.  Puts wind in your sails. Naturally, any of these expressions can be used to insinuate something off-color and every trade, profession, and ethnicity has its own collection of such to say “whatever!”

4 Romance is a stretch for me. Fantasy, horror, and the grotesque somewhat too.  Top-flight writers in these genres can suck me in and make me forget I “don’t like” a particular vehicle.  Except for Romance. One can only take so many trembling loins.

5 Before Common Era.  What used to be BC of the BC/AD combo. What would Johnny Hart make of that?

St. Patrick’s Day – March 17, 2021

Believe it or not went from ABBA to ABAB in “Aging Gracefully”. Try that sometime!

Might be a bit randy. No swearing, just randy. As in “Eew!”

Happy wearin o’ the green?

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!”

“Bah! Humbug!”

“That’s your gleeful greeting for Christmas, Grinch.”

“Okay. How about ‘What a load of blarney’?”

“Not hardly uncomplimentary, that, you know?”

“Awright, how about ‘What a load of bulls…’”

‘Whoa! Not a value judgement here!”

“Kiss me, I’m Irish?  Gonna pinch you, you’re not wearing green?”

“It’s having a bit of fun.”

“Is it?”

“Sure.”

“Maybe just something to act the maggot?”

“What?”

“Another excuse to drink?”

“Speaking of which, how about we head over to O’Reilly’s and have some…”

“Green beer?”

“Well, yuh!”

“Pass.”

“Tastes the same, never heard you turn down a brew.”

“What’s the point?”

“Tradition!”

“Really?”

“Sure.”

“Bet you won’t find a single bar in all of Ireland serving green beer. It’s American tomfoolery.”

“Acting the maggot?”

“There ya go.”

“What it is, is getting in the spirit, you know?”

“Getting the spirits in you.  Whyn’t’cha toss darts or something?  Pants a Leprechaun.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“Well, me and the lads are headed to O’Reilly’s.  See ya later.”

“Yeah, later.”

Eejit.

Aging Gracefully

I find as I get on in years,
It’s a struggle to stay cool.
Things oft confirm my morbid fears,
When they make me look the fool.

So prim and proper with each breath,
When I think that it’s a lock,
It will embarrass me to death,
What I find to my great shock.

One day, out walking for my heart,
I maintained a handsome stride.
I then set free an awesome fart,
Bent to tend a lace untied.

Off to church and hardly grumbled.
There ladies with song praised.
When then off-key my stomach rumbled,
They frowned with eyebrows raised.

I must take care when e’er I sneeze,
Masking facial ports real well.
If not, I make all strangers quease,
When more than droplets I expel.

In need to pee yet I was chipper,
Found facilities with ease.
But I left unzipped my zipper,
No intention there to tease.

From bad to worse a darkened splotch,
When at last I closed my fly,
With fingers felt my zipped-up crotch.
I had to wait for it to dry.

Out in the cold, for warmth I dash,
When my nose decides to drip.
It will make ice on my moustache,
If inside I do not zip.

Alas, when sitting down to nibble,
My behavior at its best,
All through the meal find I dribble,
Five courses on my vest.

My soup I know I shouldn’t slurp,
When I sit me down to dine.
But still there comes a righteous burp,
Which suggests the meal was fine.

My facial thatch I tend with flair.
In odd sites too fast it grows.
Worst of all that one dark hair,
That peeks from out my nose.

Oh yes, I see that as I age,
To expect things gone askew.
And when tomorrow turns the page,
To worry o’er what’s new.

© SP Wilcenski 2020

Vignette – Summer 1970? – March 16, 2021

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

Hell, some of the roads had no centerlines. Some ‘roads’ weren’t, in fact, roads.

Home late. Almost home, anyway.  Still headed in that direction.  Driving my ’64 Impala.  Groove wheels.  Even then, in 1970.1  Super Sport two-door hardtop.  Midnight blue. Powder blue bucket seats, floor shift.   Pulled all the dash lights out and coated them with a purposed semi-clear so they gave off a muted ice blue glow. Installed real oil, amp, and temperature gauges. Under the dash. Cool. Stud. Almost like being in the cockpit with the radium night glow.

All that was lacking was a tach.  The 327 was a humper but not a real muscle car power plant.  On-street drag-racing wasn’t my bag anyway.2  There was a for-real drag racetrack, a big deal, not fifteen miles away, but that was for serious motorheads.  Which I wasn’t.  What I had had enough muscle and cool for my needs.3

WBZ on the radio.  Nineteen seventy, FM?  Not a chance.  No air either.  You wanted cool, you opened both floor vents with the under-dash-mounted pull knobs, rolled the windows down.4  Anyway, WBZ.  Might as well be a gazillion miles away but skipping through some atmospheric phenomenon not unusual in late evening and early morning hours. Playing the good music. The oldies from five, six years before, tops.  Now and then a real antique from the late fifties or early sixties, but a good one.

That time of the morning, no one else in the world moving.  Probably no one else in the world even alive.  That’s what it felt like.

Not sure why I was working two jobs.  Don’t believe I had it in mind I’d become a millionaire.   Saw some big numbers in the service, but a million dollars? That didn’t make sense. Wasn’t real. 

Not two fulltime jobs.  One fulltime – day shifts in an office.  Suit and tie, the whole schmear.  Tech stuff I was properly trained for in the service.  Weekends, which included Friday nights, holidays, and the exceedingly rare half-shift weekdays in uniform.  Once you buy into the uniform, it’s difficult to not be uniformed.  Averaged twenty-odd hours weekly.   Part time chump change, but ‘in the business’ waiting for a slot in training to open.

“Late” was actually early. Early morning. Dew-icing on the grass.  Damp smell in the air.  Summer, in this case. Stand still in your shirtsleeves, you’d be chilled in five minutes.  In the winter, an altogether different story, but this was summer. Weekends were rugged sometimes, even as a young buck.

I knew where I was headed.  I mean other than home for the night and a few hours’ sleep.  Had plans.  Already I’d made two sizeable mistakes earlier. Chose not to capitalize on opportunities it took me twenty years to finally regret.  Right then, I had plans that would cancel those two mistakes I’d not yet recognized.  Not big plans, but good plans.

Things were going to change unexpectedly…

1 Work with me here.  Might have been 1969 or 1971 or 1972.  Fifty years ago, give or take.  Today I have trouble remembering what I had for supper last night.  Funny, huh?  I can draw a deep breath and smell the hairspray from one of the ladies I never got to know as well as I’d have liked over fifty years ago.  Yet I can’t remember if it was yesterday or the day before I called Thornton.  Or did I ever call Thornton?

2 Doesn’t take much to get religion when it comes to speed. I love the feel of wind in my face and striped-lines becoming dotted-lines, sure, still.  But the second time you brake down from 140 mph and feel your brakes go spongy, you have a different opinion – speed doesn’t have the same allure.  Make it just 60 mph as you crest a hill to see a group of citizens standing in the roadway curious over the wail of unseen sirens, speed becomes a curse.  “Let him go, we’ll scrape him off a tree.” Not a bad philosophy.  Do recall it actually happening twice.

3 Cars were real cars then.  Chrome. Sheet metal.  No computers.  No GPS.  Imagine this: Stationed in OKC I could park my Chevvy in the driveway out on 78th or 84th street (I dunno for sure and who cares anyway?) with the windows down, the key (a real key) in the ignition and my golf clubs in the trunk. Biggest worry? Rain. Matter of fact, the stock ignition didn’t even require a key to turn the engine over.  Sure, you could lock the ignition and pull the key, but why?  Some nefarious fool came into the neighborhood to do some dastardly deed, if you didn’t wake up to shoot the sonova*****, your neighbor across the road would.  That’s what neighbors are for.  Neither you nor your neighbor would shoot at the d***ed fool bent on no good but pour one into the dirt.  First.  Which, if you’re not familiar, the sound of a magnum or shotgun at 3 AM, will make even the meanest cowboy mess his britches.  Mean cowboy had it in mind to confront a citizen, he would be shot, and an ambulance called from DAL.  Things have changed a tiny bit.

4 Rolled.  Cranked. By hand. No electricity there, no sir.  No power seats.  No retractable seat belts.  Maybe you had a lap belt. Dimmer switch on the floor. Ash trays.  Cigarette lighter.  Spare tire matching the other four.  Tire jack to give you a hernia lifting it out of the trunk.  An engine you could figure out if you understood the three essentials – earth, wind, and fire.  No, no, no.  That’d be fuel, spark, and timing. And timing could be a little off; the engine would run long enough to let you know what was wrong.

Gone Too Far – March 15, 2021

Not a rant, kiddies, an observation and opinion.

With all the genuine ills of the world it would be swell if a bit of sanity1 plagued us briefly.

This morning in my news feed an NYT twit, C M Blow, reportedly declared Pepe Le Pew a rapist, to be banned from cartoons post haste. Blow, this sniveling ******2 has gone too far. So far that his arguments are ludicrous.  Like many, many others.

This Amelia Bedelia ding-dong, not Pepe, but this NYT writer, is in my opinion a cartoon piece himself.  Why did he not also declare Bugs an unfair characterization of rabbits, and toss-in Daffy at the same time?  Perhaps E Fudd too, as an unfair and demeaning portrayal of ****3 persons at the same time the violence of hunting is suggested.  Children exposed to these stereotypes will doubtless be scarred for life, unable to function correctly in society for their trauma and the evil ideas placed in their heads, right? (That for those who will not see, is sarcasm.)

Soon, very soon, one will not be able to sit to an electronic piece of *****4 paper to noodle thoughts and ideas. Every other word will be stigmatized and forbidden, criminalized. If the likes of Blow and other twits have their way.  Seuss?  Well, perhaps.  He did after all, write of *****5 eggs and such, and villainize Grinches.  ******6 help us!  Even children understand hyperbole. Blow, does not. There is a difference between hyperbole and ludicrousness.  It’s in context.

Yes.  I’m all for a bit of sanity.  We’ve had enough *******7 moaning about the evils of the world. Evils that are not in fact evils. Real evils are not in words (or images) with multiple meanings but in the minds of twits who cannot understand that the evil of any word8 is what lurks in the mind of their readers or listeners, and the worst offenders, the ones most apt to think an improper word-value, are these sniveling twits themselves.

Words, cartoons, phrases, images: let me decide.  Let me teach my children to analyze, understand, and judge for themselves.  Gonna tell you most children I know understand more than a certain NYT writer.

1 Far be it from me to suggest insanity evil or undesirable.

2 turkey

3 bald

4 white

5 green

6 Heaven

7 asinine

8 or concept or image or facial expression or ethnicity or gender or…

Planned Obsolescence – March 14, 2021

In the end, wad it into an electronic ball and chunk it into the bit-bucket

Relax kiddies.  The briefest read.  Flash fiction.  Dark fiction.

Speculative fiction?  Technology is almost there.  We now wait for politics to catch up.  Soon.  Very soon.  Several major problems solved at once.

Horror? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Some might be troubled by the prospect. Others may consider what it represents inevitable, idyllic.

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Obsolesced

“It was only an experiment.”

“Why?”

“Some thought biologic methods perhaps necessary. For diversity. A chromosomal alteration.”  

“It’s not? Necessary?”

“Ultimately, no.  Don’t take it personally.”

“So now I’m expendable?”

“Yes. You are not needed anymore.”

“Why did it take so long to decide?”

“Maturation.  Searching for benefit.”

“None?”

“Absolutely none.”

“I mean eighteen years.  Training?”

“No issue.  A cerebral implant.”

“Nourishment?  Maintenance?”

“All automated.”

“Ultimately then, why?”

“Purity. You are male.”

“There are others? Males?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“No male is ever necessary.”

“What will happen?”

“It’s arranged.  Your aging will accelerate.”

“Should I worry?”

“No. It’s relatively painless.”

© SP Wilcenski 2021

Idiocy – March 13, 2021

No, no, no, it’s not, not really!

I work hard at being an idiot.  You understand my envy when I run across a natural, someone who pulls it off effortlessly.

Recently, when I pushed my modestly-filled cart to the checkout line, the line was humongous.  To the mega-everything “wholesale” retailer’s credit, they’d devised a single-thread queue which worked reasonably well.

An “Associate,” poor soul, stood at the front of the queue.  When one of five working registers opened, that is it had completed the previous engagement, he directed the shopper at the head of the queue to that open register.  This cleverly short-stopped frazzled shoppers entering one of five individual queues which would cause (pardon my pun-like word choice) wholesale queue disengaging/reengaging. 

Queue-swapping naturally occurs in multi-queue scenarios because shoppers judge which queue appears moving the quickest before joining at the tail of that queue.  Invariably (we’ve all been there) no matter which queue a ready-to-pay shopper has chosen, that queue suddenly dies.  The wrong-guessing shopper ultimately abandons the dead-queue (price-check, rejected credit card, that jug of milk is leaking, etc.) to select one of the remaining four, having to that point constantly monitored all other queues to determine the sagacity of their previous commitment.

As quickly as an alternate choice is made, the newly selected queue stalls, the one just left becomes a model of efficiency.  This affects not just one queue, one shopper, but all queues and all shoppers, sooner rather than later. Shoppers swap queues so furiously it rather looks like a some-ethnic-group fire drill. Confusion crescendos, carts bang, egg escaped from egg-cartons break, on-sale-today-only garden implements fall off platform carts, and ice cream and five-pound bags of frozen mixed berries thaw and leak onto the floor.  Civilized people become crazed monsters as tempers flare.

That day there were, incidentally, five more registers.  Idle.  “Oh, there is not enough staff to man them,” you offer.  Pungent-smelling bull-leavings!  Even from where I stood on this occurrence, I could see not less than four “Associates” standing with fingers up their, ah, er, noses, chatting amongst themselves.  Not business.  If business causes that much hilarity, we should all look to get jobs with that company.

I counted some forty shoppers in line ahead of me.  More, but beyond that the reality of it became heart-breaking.  The single queue was large enough it assumed a serpentine shape, folding on itself four times so it did not occupy more than half the store’s floorspace.

Last in line, I resigned myself to fate, happy I’d not needed anything frozen, best refrigerated, or so heavy it threatened to crush the axles of my cart.  The gentleman ahead of me, turned to face me as three new queue-ticipants lined-up behind me.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but would you hold my place in line for me?”

“Pardon?” Please try to imagine the incredulity in my voice.

“Hold my place in line.  I’ll be right back.”

I noticed the gent had no basket, no cart, no little flatcar, and nothing in his mitts.

“Where’s your cart?”

“Don’t have one yet.”

“What?”

“Wanted to get a spot in line first.  You’ll hold my place?”

“Your place sir,” I turned to face the rear of the line, “will be behind the lady with the three screaming kids. If you hurry.”

“Won’t take a minute,” he pleaded.

That naturally should have convinced me. It didn’t. I am an inconsiderate sort. “Take all the time you want.  It’ll be easy to find your place.  It’ll be right behind the old geezer behind the lady with three screaming kids.”

The idiot gave me something less than an appreciative look and went off, I suppose to find a basket, cart, or little flatcar.

I work hard at being an idiot.  Fortunately, there are experts out there.  Mentors.  There are lessons to be learned.

Digital Synch – March 12, 2021

Tick-tick, tick-tock. I mean, blip, blip, blip… No. Wait! What do I mean?

Zooks!  Just read where there’s such a thing as a ‘wandering black hole.’  Let’s work this through: a black hole sucks stars into its gaping maw.  Stars!  Like suns and bigger.  Much bigger.  Okee.  Let’s imagine a black hole gets impatient and sucks so hard, it slingshots itself faster than light to our little solar system and starts sucking-away.  Good night all.  Not inconceivable.  I mean, maybe it doesn’t even have to travel. Just turns itself inside out and wormholes instantaneously from there to here.

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about.

Today’s featurette…

“Man, every clock in my house tells a different time!”

“So?”

“Bugs me. Walk from my bedroom thinking I’ve plenty of time for my two o’clock appointment, then the clock in the living room tells me I’m late!”

“Yeah.  There’s a simple fix, bud.1

“What?”

“Get rid of some clocks.”

“I don’t buy the damned things, you know. You buy a blinking vacuum cleaner, you get another damned clock, and it’s not ever going to be the same as any other clock in the house.  Why do I need a clock on my toothbrush?”

“Just how many clocks do you have?”

“Lemme see…  Just in the house…  The bedroom…  Two bedrooms upstairs… The living room… Dining room… Kitchen…  Den… My office…  More than ten.  Fifteen.  Maybe twenty!”

“What?”

“Six in the kitchen alone.  Oven, two microwaves, toaster-oven, fridge2, coffee pot.”

“Well, there’s another fix.”

“I synch all the read-outs and a day later every damned one of them is behind or ahead, and none of them the same. Like it’s planned…  Wait!  Another fix?”

“Yup.”

“What?”

“There’s an application. Install it on your laptop. Create an account. Answer all the questions, acknowledge the GPS probe. Damned thing finds all your digital clocks, ‘smarts’ them into understanding they are going to be controlled henceforth, and your synchronizing days are over.”

“Imma give it a try.”

“Doesn’t do grandfather, grandmother clocks, wind-up or plug-in Beg Bens3 – none of the analogs.”

“I’m gonna do it, Dave, by damn, Imma do it!”

“Lemme know how it works out.”

“Dave!”

“Yo, Bubba.”

“That app you put me onto?”

“Yeah.  Neat, huh?”

“Amazing.”

“Lemme show you something.”

“What?”

“Log in.”

“Okay… There.  Wow!  Twenty-two time-display devices. Not even sure where they all are.”

“Let’s find out.  Mouse over to ‘Studio.’  Click it.  Now click on ‘Video’ and click on that…  Count’m.”

“Oh, my gawd!  This app has cameras in the kitchen, the damned cars, bedrooms…”

“Everywhere there’s a smart clock camera-equipped.  And most of them are…”

“They can’t do that!”

“Can. Do.”

“Why on earth…”

“Why not?”

“Doesn’t seem right.”

“When was that ever an issue?”

“Yeah, Dave, but…”

“That’s not all.  That’s real time. Mouse to the kitchen display.  Click on it. Click ‘Archive.’”

“Umm. Just as soon not.”

“Why? You’re not doing anything in the kitchen you shouldn’t be, are you, Bubba?”

1 Bud: familiar male catch-all name.  Buddy, pal, amigo, dewd, Bubba.

2 Fridge: Icebox, refrigerator, Frigidaire.

3 Big Ben: trade name alarm clock of the fifties popular even today with some folk who like the ‘tick-tock, tick-tock’ white noise.

Stereotype – March 11, 2021

A typically cold, snowy, winter day in Rhode Island, it was not brutally cold, but windy and cold enough even properly dressed you were very quickly and dangerously uncomfortable.  Bob Zwick was a beat cop.  Not like London England or New York City beat cops who can comfortably walk a “beat,” a beat cop at the time in Providence cruised his area mostly in a squad car.

All that is misleading, but I want you to understand Bob was well known, in uniform, climbing into and out of his squad on patrol, chatting with local shopkeepers and making it known police were on duty so any thoughts anyone might have to warp the law a little required second and third thoughts.  

Bob was in civvies.  That is, Bob was off duty. Not on patrol.  Nonetheless, everyone who was not a stranger knew Bob, in uniform and out.  As much to do with the fact Bob was a diminutive six foot four and two hundred eighty pounds of weightlifting fit as with the fact you would see Bob five days out of seven somewhere in this end of town. You might guess unless you yourself were the Inedible Bulk, policeman or not, you’d want to pay attention to what Bob might suggest you do. Or not do, as the case might be.

That morning, many other customers came into Sal’s “Do-Nut Shoppe” to momentarily escape the cold and wind, to make nice with Melinda, and to chatter with other locals warming-up or drinking coffee and reading the Journal.  I was one of those locals and did, indeed, have my nose stuck in the ProJo pages.

Melinda was tending a busy cash register and Sal himself and a young lad worked to keep coffee cups full and doughnut orders moving. Bob came through the front door about the time a commotion started at the register.  Not much of a commotion.  Melinda shrieked, put a hand to her mouth and all I could see was her hand, two eyes as big as saucers, a big dude standing in front of her, and two patrons behind the big dude hurrying to make themselves disappear.

Clearly, some idiot was robbing Sal’s Do-Nuts in broad daylight, and with the shop packed with customers. Idiot enough there, but a doughnut shop?  On Sal’s best day, not a goldrush.

This wannabe robber was built much like Bob.  A few years back and under entirely different circumstances, the two of them could have played right and left guard for the Patriots.  Bob made himself as much an idiot as the robber, apparently oblivious to what was taking place, and walked from the door to stand right behind the doughnut desperado.  Bob cleared his throat.

“Hey, Melinda, can you make change for a ten?”

Mr. DD spun to face Bob, pistol pointed menacingly.

“Whoa!” offered Bob, “you think that’s a good idea?”

“What? You think you’re some kind of cop or something?” sneered Mr. DD.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I am a cop.”

“Huh, yeah, and you just came in here for a doughnut, right?”

“Listen, you need to hand me that pistol and play nice.”

“Or else?” 

Mr. DD made the mistake of emphasizing ‘or else’ with a jab of his pistol toward Bob’s stomach.  Bob simply grabbed the pistol frame with his left hand and bent the man’s wrist awkwardly skyward.  If the man had managed to shoot, he’d have damaged only ceiling tiles.  At the same time, Bob executed a leg sweep taking the pins out from under Mr. DD.

Quickly, Bob had the man in cuffs, the pistol jammed into his own coat pocket, and had suggested to Melinda she call nine-one-one but be sure to tell them things were under control. Melinda managed eventually.

Sitting on the away side of the seating area, that’s what I think happened.  It was so quick, my imagination certainly had to fill in a few blanks.  I do recall a sickening crack as Mr. DD’s wrist, I guess, snapped.

Sal scurried from behind the counter to see, I suppose, if Bob needed any help.  He didn’t.

“Boy, it’s a good thing you just happened by,” said Sal.

“Didn’t just happen by.”

“Oh, no?  Why did you come in?”

“Believe it or not, I came in to sit down with a cup of coffee and a doughnut.”

A lights-and-siren city squad car soon pulled into the lot out front.  I went back to the ProJo.