Monday, September 26, 2016

Barfing babby

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Running on Empty

An earthen wind blows through the semi-lighted forest. A clam stream flows through and a single female dear drinks deeply.

I’m running through said scenery, with the wind in my face, smiling contentedly. No, hold on; that’s not a smile, I’m screaming! A small troop of garden gnomes chases after, constantly tripping over rocks, tree stumps, and other forest-y things. Still, they manage to keep pace with me.

I look back, wondering how something made of porcelain with its legs fused together can run so fast. But, damn, they’re sexy. If they weren’t trying to kill me, I’d be hitting on them.

Faster and faster I go, and, looking down, I wonder why I chose today to wear my cement boots. Damn that Payless and their convincing sales pitch.

I see a house up ahead and decide I’d rather be killed by the monstrosity that inevitably lives inside than a pack of pissed off garden decorations. Why oh why did I decide to play garden gnome baseball? How was I supposed to know they were alive? Sure, they talk to me sometimes, but I thought that was just my own instability. I mean, sometimes I have whole conversations with Richard Nixon and Johnny Carson. We talk about hot chicks, like Madeline Albright.

Entering the house, I see an old woman in a bed.

“Grandma, what a big beard you have,” I say.

“All the better to scratch my arms with, oh yeah!” she replies.

 “And Grandma, what big teeth you have,” I add.

 “All the better to snap into a Slim Jim with, oh yeah!” Grandma returns.

 “And Grandma, what big python-like arms you have,” I point out.

“No shit,” replies Grandma. “Oh, I mean, all the better to kick garden gnome ass with. Oh yeah!”

Oh my God! It’s Grandma Savage! I tell her of the garden gnomes chasing me, and she gets out of bed with a grin.

“I’ll be right back. Oh yeah! I’m gonna round up Grandpa Hogan and we’ll go snap into some slim gnomes!”

She bolts out the door. Seconds later, she pops her head back in and bellows, “Oh yeah!”

Outside, I hear gruff voices yell and porcelain shatters. Grandpa Hogan sticks his face through an open window.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing, Brother. We took care of those unholy porcelain demons!”

 “Oh yeah!” Grandma Savage adds.

 “We’re gonna make us a new toilet seat, Brother!” Grandpa Hogan growls. “Now run along, little Hulkster.”

I thank the elderly couple and begin walking off.

Uh-oh, there’s something following behind me. It’s short and sexy… It must be a garden gnome!

My fears are alleviated when I see it is only Madline Albright. I grin with genuine happiness, and, staring into her pale green eyes, I tell her I missed her. She hugs me briefly.

“I missed you too, Ms. Reno,” she replies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Christmas in July #2, Course Overload #28: "Christmas Chaos"

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s time for all of us to reflect on all the most important things in life. The things that, were it not for them, we would not be the fine, upstanding citizens we are today. God, family, love, and helping others less fortunate than us, those in need, have nothing to do with it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or works for a greeting card company, which is a little like lying in itself. Obviously, presents are the most important aspect of any holiday, and one can measure their future success in life by the amount of shiny boxes under the Christmas tree (or the Chanukah tree, for those of us who are Jewish or Canadian).

Therefore, the only way to avoid becoming a bum who dances with a monkey in the street for pocket change or someone who has all their white pigment extracted for sale to Ronald McDonald is to get totally inundated with gifts on Christmas morning. But, how does one do that?

Don’t count on your parents. Mom and dad can't help you, because by now, you’ve already used up all your Christmas credits. By now, they’re saving for their retirement. And don't even think about getting gifts from your friends, because they're all buying themselves presents in a desperate bid to escape hoboism. Only a single solution remains: the man in red. I speak not of Papa Smurf or Mao Ze Dung, But of Santavier Q. Clauzentide - AKA Santa Claus.

Woe to those who have turned their backs on Saint Nick, after all those years he creepily knew whether you were sleeping or awake; all those years he broke into your house, ate your cookies, and left you gifts that only a true stalker could have known you wanted. For shame! Santa is indeed very real, and I assure you, he's very jolly.

Ho, ho... uh oh! You don't believe in me!?

Santa is your only hope and I’ll bet you didn’t write him a letter this year, did you? Now the Merry One has no idea what to get you and you’ll probably wind up with a stupid tie that says “Better luck next year, you ho ho horrible excuse for humanity!” Also socks filled with beetles.

Ahh, beetles. So tiny, yet so venomous.

So what about the Santas at the mall? Everyone knows that department store Santas aren’t the real thing. They’re hideous genetic clones of the real Santa, manufactured from his jolly DNA in a process similar to that used in Jurassic Park, and distributed throughout Wal-Marts everywhere. It made sense when it was done: more Santas equals more absurdly overpriced presents, more Christmas photo ops, and more breaking and entering via ridiculously undersized chimneys. However, what seemed like a jolly good idea at first had a single, fatal flaw. Suppose you taped your favorite episode of Donald Trump’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Apprentice and made a copy for your lousy neighbor, Jim, who has yet to return your snowblower after borrowing it three Christmases ago. Then Jim makes a copy for his neighbor, who makes one for his, and so on. By the fourth or fifth copy, you’ll start to notice defects, like fuzzy picture, poor sound quality, and extra limbs and eyes.

This is exactly what happened with the mall Santas. The real Santa is a busy man, with the millions of children he spies on all day while Mrs. Claus is sleeping or perhaps dead. After the first clone was made, Santa was told to go home and have a merry 264th day before Christmas; the other clones could be produced from the one they just made in factories called Santateriums. However, each clone made from the original clone was less and less stable, until the last batch of about 28,000 Santas were more reptilian than human, spewing more than just Christmas cheer when they opened their nefarious “mouths.”

All that these horrible Santa clones are good for is scaring America’s children in malls across the country. Come on, you’ve seen it. Whenever a child sits on the odious knee of a Santa clone, they know it and they scream.

Yet, these awful clones are the key to your present dilemma!

Violence is your only option. First, find a mall Santa. Any will do, but try to find one who looks particularly busy because he’ll be the most distracted. Now simply run up and steal his hat and beard. Because mall Santas are inferior genetic copies, their beards and hats aren’t a secure part of their bodies like the real Santa, making it easy for you take them. Now you’ve got to hit that Santa clone hard and fast, or he’ll use his special Santa telepathy to call other Santas and sometimes mall security.

Next comes the easy part. Wear the Santa parts you just pilfered. If stores at the mall think you’re Santa Claus, you can pretty much take anything you want. Who’s going to stop Saint Nick from making his annual Christmas rounds? Just remember to say things like “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” and seem obsessed with children. It might be a good idea to take a few with you while their parents aren’t looking to give yourself more credibility.

As you sit back in the squad car after your shopping spree, thinking “sirens are so romantic,” with your arms in a straight jacket like that ever enduring symbol of Christmas, Hannibal Lector, I want you to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas: It is better to receive than to give. God bless us, everyone!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Christmas in July #1: Working in a Retail Wonderland

Makin' a list. Crushing you twice.
‘Twas the season to be jolly, which of course meant that everyone and his brother’s dentist flocked to the malls like lemmings: perpetually moving, bargain crazed lemmings. Contrary to the songs and stereotypes of the season, not many shoppers seemed to be very jolly, and good will towards men (and women) was in short supply. But as hassled and angry as the shoppers were, with only six days remaining before the birth of Christ, retail workers were under ten times more pressure.
“Adam!” exclaimed my manager, mysteriously known only as Mr. T. From my station behind the register, I watched as Adam, my co-worker, looked up from the plastic Christmas tree he had just placed in the window.

“What’s the problem, Mr. T?” Adam asked, wiping the sweat off his brow.

“Why did you put a Christmas tree in the window instead of this karaoke machine?” Mr. T. demanded, pointing angrily at the small tree. “What’s more important, a Christmas tree or selling karaoke machines?”

“I’m sure that’s exactly what Jesus wants,” I mumbled, looking across the vast line that had formed at the front register in the twelve seconds I hadn’t been watching. Heading the line was a woman who wanted 30 gift cards for five dollars each. She was also looking for an album by the band Boston, the one “with the UFOs on the cover.”

I bit my tongue. Hard. It was all I could do to keep from screaming.

*   *   *

As the day wore on, the line seemed to be getting bigger and bigger, no matter how many people I rang up. There must have been at least five thousand dollars in my register, and the day was still young.

Then it dawned on me.

I wasn’t at a crappy retail job, selling stupid people stupid things that they would never use and helping them charge themselves to death, no. It was an epic battle between good and evil. It was me versus the line. The line was not composed of different people. Instead, it was a single, faceless mass, its odious presence sucking the joy out of my soul. I became more and more methodic, treating every customer as another obstacle in my path to happiness.

“Thank you for shopping FYE and have a nice night… bitch.”

Finally, several hours later, the line was almost gone. Three customers remained; there were likely more were on their way, but that didn’t matter to me. I had almost killed the object of my hatred. In my euphoria, I barely notice the gentleman who came up beside me, opposite the line.

“Mumble, mumble,” said the customer.

“Excuse me sir?” I asked, knocked temporarily out of my register trance. The short customer stood before me, just a little over my height, but much, much rounder. His joyless eyes stared into mine.

“Mumble, Adams Family Christmas mumble?”

I quickly looked up the answer, and found that we had never even carried an Adams Family Christmas album to begin with.

“Sorry, sir, we don’t have that one. You might want to try Media Play or Best Buy,” I suggested.

Joyless Eyes crinkled his nose and walked away.

Back to the line I went, ringing the last customer up. I looked around, unable to believe that the line was actually gone. Triumphantly, I waved my hands in the air.

“Anyone else need some help?! Anyone?” No one responded. Feeling cocky, I exclaimed, “Bring it on!”

Hearing my wisecrack, Joyless Eyes gave me a strange look from across the room, but no one else came to rebuild the line. I turned to Mike Barrett, a friend and fellow co-worker, who had arrived just in time to see my epic feat. “Did you see that?” I asked, a maniacal grin passing my lips. “I killed the line!”

“I see that, Matt,” he responded enthusiastically. “Since you worked so hard killing the line, you must be hungry!”

I shook my head yes.

“I’m going to Wendy’s; I’ll bring back some chicken nuggets for you.”

“Thanks, Mike,” I replied, turning to tend to the sadistically reforming line.

I don’t know how long it was between when Mike Barrett left and the next time the line dwindled to zilch, but it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes. Wondering where Mike was with my chicken nuggets, I decided to brave the sales floor in search of my friend and my lunch. With a prayer that the customers wouldn’t see me or ask me any dim-witted questions, I sprinted out from behind the counter like a gazelle trying to outrun a pack of hungry wolves.

It wasn’t long before I spotted Mike Barrett. For some reason, he was waving his hands wildly, as if trying to tell me to run. However, the only thing wrong I could see was the lack of chicken nuggets in his hands. “Hey Mike! Have you got that chicken yet, or haven’t you got a chance to…”

Before I could finish, Joyless Eyes appeared in front of me out of nothingness. “You told me you didn’t have this!” he exclaimed, pointing to the CD in his greasy hand. Surprised, I looked down and saw an album cover with a little boy standing by a Christmas tree. He didn’t look like Uncle Fester to me.

“What are you talking about, sir?” I asked, my confusion growing.

“Where’s your manager, you smart ass? I wanna speak to your manager!” replied Joyless Eyes, apparently too wrapped up in his sudden bout of Turrets Syndrome to answer my question. I wondered what exactly he expected my manager to do about me ringing people up while he found a random CD.

Giving up on his devious plan to get me fired for doing my job, Joyless Eyes abandoned his short-lived search for a manager and instead began storming towards the cash register. “You told me you didn’t have this and now you’re going to ring me up!” he shouted. I marveled at both his grasp of the past and his ability to tell the future.

“Are you sure it was me?” I asked, convinced that some other employee had somehow angered the beast, and now his rage-blinded eyes had picked up on my gray work shirt and decided we were one in the same.

“It was you! I remember your ponytail! I have three witnesses to prove it!” Looking out behind him, I didn’t see anyone else. I wondered if maybe one of these imaginary witnesses had convinced him that the CD he was holding was the missing Adams Family Christmas Album.

When we arrived at the register, he threw the CD towards me and angrily pulled out his credit card. “What exactly did I say to you, sir?” I asked, running his purchase under the scanner.

“You said ‘Bring it on,’ you smart ass!”

For a moment, I considered trying to explain to him that my offer for customers to “bring it on” was a joke. Then, for the first time, I noticed what he was buying: the Adam Sandler Christmas Album. That’s when I knew that he wouldn’t know a good joke if it kicked him in his fat ass. I decided to let it go.

"Merry Christmas! Hababbaloo! Himo doobooloo! I'm an unfunny asshat."

“Your receipt is in the bag, and thank you for shopping at FYE,” I said cheerfully, handing him his confusing purchase. He yanked it out of my hands and threw the credit card receipt at me before I had even finished the sentence.

Just then Mike Barrett walked up beside me once more, holding my chicken nuggets. “I tried to warn you, but I didn’t know how,” he apologized, handing me my food, “so I just waved my arms around and hoped you’d get the point.”

“It’s okay, Mike,” I replied. “Anyway, I figured it out. He said ‘Adam Sandler,’ and I thought he said ‘Adams Family.’” I shoved a chicken nugget into my mouth. “Well, at least I didn’t put a Christmas tree where a karaoke machine should have been.”

“What are you talking about?” Mike Barrett went to his register and readied himself to ring.

“Never mind,” I replied, surveying the new, mile long line.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Misprint!" - The Course Overload Novella, Chapter 14

Chapter 14: It Must Be True!

The police found my coworkers tied up and unharmed in the storeroom, just as The Yeti had said. As they led him out, my boss promised me that, in return for everything I had done, he’d correct the damage the Ying-Yang Gang had inflicted on my character. I shook his hand and he flashed his best P.R. smile as the police drove him to the station for questioning.

Of course, the members of the Ying-Yang Gang, once revived, that is, claimed that they were simply innocent orphans searching for food. They claimed that I had parachuted out of a helicopter and started beating them up so I could perform horrible genetic experiments on them in my secret lab.

But Joe’s video said otherwise.

Joe had been filming since I had stepped out of the building, so he had captured Sinister Eyes’s entire confession. Unlike orphans, video doesn’t lie. The terrible trio was carted off to the local jail in the sheriff’s paddy wagon.

As for what he was doing at the Wappingers Falls Tribune offices, Joe was about to apply for a janitorial position when he saw me and smelled an opportunity for good video. Much to his delight, Joe got his job, all right – as the official photographer/videographer of the Wappingers Falls Tribune.

After everything calmed down a bit, Kara and Shannon were standing by the van.

“Thanks for everything, you two,” I said. “I don’t think I could have taken the orphans and Joe Shurize at the same time.”

Kara smiled. “Hey, it takes more than orphan gang members to stop me.”

“And I figured that I should help too,” said Shannon.

“Yeah,” Kara agreed. “Shannon and I were supposed to hang out, but then it really bothered me that you didn’t get an answer when you called your job. I thought you might need me for something.”

“So she dragged me here,” added Shannon. “But you really did need us, so I guess it worked out okay.” Shannon winked at me. I know it was supposed to be witty, but actually it was just creepy. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, in which we all just kind of stared at the rocks on the pavement.

In the distance, the cops started leaving the scene, their sirens blearing.

“Sirens are so romantic,” I mused, a huge grin plastered on my exonerated face.

And the swan… well, the swan was nowhere to be found. (Insert eerie music here.)

*    *    *

The next morning, I dashed out of the house and looked in the mailbox for what promised to be a very special edition of the newspaper. Unfortunately, it hadn’t arrived yet. Those damn lazy delivery people! Is it too much to ask to have my paper delivered at a decent time, like 2 a.m.? I guess so.

Waiting for that paper was like waiting for Mom and Dad to wake up on Christmas. Sleep wasn’t really an option, and this time I couldn’t just set Dad’s clock ahead five hours. Instead, I resorted to counting all the blades of grass on my lawn. It was really hard to explain to the neighbors why I was asleep in the middle of their lawn when they left for work that morning.

But there was no time for that! After making something up about a failed robbery attempt to said neighbors, I sprinted to my mailbox and grabbed the paper. I unrolled it and was instantly elated. There, on the front page, was a picture of me that had been taken yesterday at the scene of the battle. I was standing over Sinister Eyes after knocking her down the last time. The headline was written over the top of the page in big, black letters: “Local man rises from the grave to devastate local cute orphan population!”

I held my arms triumphantly in the air. Ahh, it was good to be alive!

*    *    *

“Goodnight Mom!” I yelled through my closed bedroom door. She mumbled something. “No, I’m really still alive. …Yes, you too. See you tomorrow!”

I placed the cell phone back to my ear.

“Yeah, sorry about that Kara. I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.”

“Goodnight Matt,” she replied. “I’m so glad you’re alive again!”

“Me too, Kara. Me too.” I smiled, but Kara couldn’t see it because cell phones don’t transmit facial actions very well. Instead, I told her in great detail what my face looked like at the time for another 15 minutes. Then it really was time to go. “Goodnight Kara! Sleep tight!”

“Sweet dreams!” Kara replied. I hung up the phone and put it back in its charger.

Within minutes of slipping under the covers, I drifted off to sleep effortlessly easily. My first day of rebirth had gone by like any other, with me playing video games and eating excessive amounts of cheese. Yet, everything was enhanced. I hate to admit it, but playing video games all day and night isn’t as fulfilling as one would think. That day I felt like my life had a purpose once again. For the first time in weeks, I was looking forward to tomorrow.

That night, I had a dream. I was sailing in a beautiful Caribbean sea, all alone, marveling at the truly resplendent beaches and vegetation of my tropical island. That was the first good dream I’d ever had.

It was nice, like being alive.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Misprint!" - The Course Overload Novella, Chapter 13

Chapter 13: Raging Battle! Vampire Killer, or Killer Vampire?

From the shadows, the nightwalker spoke.

“I wasss beginning to think you’d never come.”

I was ready for combat. All of my years reading comic books, watching horror films and playing video games had led up to this moment. I squinted and searched the darkness. “Show yourself, you son of a bitch!”

However, it wasn’t a son who emerged from the shadows, but a daughter. Before me stood Crazy Soup Girl, baring her shiny fangs and her similarly satanic neon green t-shirt and orange pants!

“What the hell?!” I exclaimed in disbelief. “You’re a vampire? But how? I saw you in the daylight!”

“Thatsss when I wasss a daywalker,” she replied, inching past the light of the open window and forcing me into the hallway. Instinctively, I backed into the nearest office. Though it was still dark, I was able to feel my way in, half by instinct, and half from having memorized the floor plan when I started working there, just in case of such an incident.

“Then how did you become a vampire? Did one sweep you up after you jumped out that window?” No one but me had noticed Crazy Soup Girl’s body missing from the ground mere moments after she leapt out of Kara’s dorm...

But it all made sense! Obviously, the scent of her blood had attracted a vampire who was somehow immune to sunlight. He sensed an easy meal, swooped down and grabbed her, then brought her back to his castle and feasted on her delicious plasma!

“No,” she hissed, “I was fine after jumping out of that window. I just dusssted myssself off and walked back inssside. I became a vampire two nightsss ago when I left my window open a crack at my house in Alassska.”

And that would have been my second guess.

“But I tire of thisss. My employer sssent me to dissspossse of you,” she revealed. I could tell she was licking her lips. Her inhuman eyes shone through the shadows. “Are you ready to cry bloody tearsss?”

“Employer!? Who? Who wants me dead?”

I could feel the joy of the kill escalating within Crazy Vampire Soup Girl. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” she taunted. “How ironic that I wasss sssent to kill a dead man!”

I didn’t exactly have time to sit around and contemplate the irony.

“Please tell me,” I weakly pleaded. “I’ll be your best friend.”

“Never! You ssshall die not knowing your true asssailant!”

I searched my pockets for any sort of bargaining chip. I hastily bumped into the only thing of value in my pocket. It was a long shot, but it was also my only shot. I looked her in the eyes. “If you tell me, I’ll give you a piece of gum.”

“It wasss the orphansss!” Crazy Vampire Soup Girl exclaimed, leaping out of the darkness, yanking the gum out of my hand, and chewing it with great ecstasy.

I stumbled back, grabbing a chair and regaining my balance. “The orphans!? But why? Why would they…?”

“Thank you for the tribute. But now I really do have to kill you. I have a four o’clock at a fun houssse in Chessster.”

“Tribute?!” I was flabbergasted. “You steal men’s souls!”

“Perhapssse the sssame could be sssaid of all religionsss,” she returned smugly. “What isss a man? A missserable little pile of sssecretsss! But enough talk. Have at you!”

As if on cue, before she could even throw the first punch, Crazy Vampire Soup Girl began reeling with agony. She coughed and spit out the gum, tripping over a nearby conveniently placed object and slamming into the adjacent wall.

I smiled ever so slightly.

“Garlic gum. I never leave home without it; it makes your breath so fresh and minty!”

“Cursssse you!” she yelled. The fires of hatred blazed in her eyes.

I sprinted over to the wall she leaned against. “Rise and shine!” I screamed valiantly, reaching for the cord to the blinds. I yanked them valiantly.

Nothing happened.

“Hang on, this is going to be super cool!” I pulled again, but it still didn’t work. I could tell that Crazy Vampire Soup Girl was getting frustrated. I was so embarrassed, I could feel myself turning a vibrant shade of red.

“What’sss the hold up!?”

With a final tug, the blinds rolled up. Sunshine poured into the room like a tidal wave. Crazy Vampire Soup Girl flopped around on the floor like a badly dressed carp caught in a fisherman’s net. I closed the blinds just enough to let only a little light in. The vampire stopped flailing as much.

“Tell me where my coworkers are!”

“I don’t know!”

“Then, tell me where the orphans went!” I let a little more light in through the blinds.

“They’re outssside!” she exclaimed.

But as I watched her writhe about on the floor in such pain, I actually felt sorry for her. It was against my better judgment, but…

“If you promise to be nice, I’ll let you go,” I offered.

Crazy Vampire Soup Girl took little time to make her decision. “Yesss, I will!”

I closed the blinds. Crazy Vampire Soup Girl slowly regained her footing. “I guesss a thank you isss in order…”

I nodded. “From now on, I want you to play nice, okay?”

“Of courssse.”

“You can hang out in that closet over there until nightfall, and then go and do whatever it is vampires do.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Usssually we play Monopoly or make fessstive sssoups together. And we love reality TV, like Sssurvivor and –”

“Okay, But no more biting people,” I commanded. “It’s rude.”

I dashed to the back exit, leaving Crazy Vampire Soup girl to fend for herself. After all, I had a bigger threat to thwart. I opened the door and rushed out.

“Bravo,” congratulated a small, sinister female voice. “We didn’t think you would make it this far.”

I didn’t need to see the speaker to know who it was. I spun around hurriedly. There in front of me were the immoral orphans, standing coyly in the parking lot by mother’s car. Thankfully, they had driven my car to the scene. Hallelujah! I never thought I’d see it again! I didn’t even care that it had orphan germs in it!

I faced the terrible tribe of heathens and stared them down as best I could. After all, there were three of them and only one of me, and though I had gained a few pounds from all the ramen noodles and cheese I had been gulping down, I still wasn’t big enough to equal their combined mass.

“I should have known that you satanic orphans had something to do with all of this!”

“Something to do with it?” asked Sinister Eyes, trying to contain her awful laughter. “We had everything to do with it!”


Sinister Eyes seemed disappointed. I could do nothing but continue standing there, my mind racing. “Oh please, I thought you were smarter than that. I thought you’d have figured it all out by now.”

“Sorry, I was playing that new video game, Yojimbo’s Carnival of Pain,” I retorted. “I guess I got a little distracted… for six weeks.”

“It’s no coincidence that we targeted you last month with the old ‘orphans by the side of the road’ scheme. It works every time!”

“Gasp!” I gasped.

“And it wasn’t your boss or anyone from the Wappingers Falls Tribune who wrote that obituary. It was me! I wrote it as soon as we finished beating you.”

I shook my head with disgust. “Well, shows what you know. That obituary was full of spelling, grammar and factual errors!”

“We did it on purpose to embarrass you, you fool.”

I shook my fist at them angrily. “Damn you! It worked!”

Sinister Eyes allowed herself a small grin. “We’ve been trying to ruin you from the beginning.”

“But why?” I asked, confused. “What did I do to you?”

“This goes far beyond petty vendettas. It’s all business. You see… I wanted your job.”

“My job!?” I exclaimed with disbelief. “But you’re only nine years old!”

Sinister Eyes squinted at me, her devilish sight squarely on my face. It was as if she was looking directly into my soul. “I’m actually 27. I’m older than you. And my comrades are both far past the legal drinking age. Together, we have formed the crime syndicate known as… the Ying-Yang Gang!”

“The Ying-Yang Gang!? You mean the jewel thieves that the Wappingers Falls Tribune reports on?”

“The very same,” returned Sinister Eyes. “We estimated that if I got your job, I could slowly gain more and more influence and finally become the editor!”

“And when that didn’t work, we just tied everyone up and left them in the storeroom,” added The Yeti.

“Shut up!” yelled Sinister Eyes. “I’ll do the talking here!” The Yeti’s lip curled up and he began to cry. Sinister Eyes ignored him. “So now that I’m the editor, I can print fake news stories that will make store owners leave their stores open at night… for us to rob! Because if you read it in a newspaper, it must be true!”

“That’s diabolical!” I exclaimed.

“And no more of those pesky reports of our activities,” she added.

If there were ever a time to prove myself as a ninja, it was then. I assumed my most deadly ninja fighting stance. I wasn’t going to be defeated again!

“Oh? A challenge?” countered Sinister Eyes. “We weren’t going to let you live anyway, but now disposing of you is going to be a lot more fun than anticipated. Are you ready for another thrashing?”

“Uhh… well, are you ready for some… football!?”

I’ve never been very good at comebacks.

Sinister Eyes readied herself for combat, her hands set to both defend and attack. The Yeti and Silent Orphan followed suit. I knew that defeating three evil orphans wasn’t exactly going to be simple, but at least this time I was ready for battle. I breathed in deeply, and motioned arrogantly for the orphans to “come on” and attack me.

Milliseconds before the clash could begin, an engine revved loudly in the distance. All heads turned in the direction of the sound. From out of an alley, a blue minivan careened towards us. It screeched to a stop and the door slid open ominously. I wondered if I’d be able to take any more assailants or if I should try to escape during the confusion.

Out of the van stepped Kara and Shannon! “Thank God!” I exclaimed. “But how did you know I needed help?”

“Who are you two?” Sinister Eyes inquired, puzzled. “What’s going on?”

“I thought you might need a hand,” replied Kara. “Looks like I was right.”

Shannon waved at me. “Hi Matt!”

There was someone else around as well, though. I could sense their presence. “Well don’t stop now!” they yelled from behind me. I couldn’t believe it. I mean really, who else could possibly have shown up? Would there be yet another combatant, again turning the tide? I looked cautiously, ready for anything.

Except for who was standing there.

“Come on, keep going! This is great stuff!” Joe Shurize yelled, his camera rolling. “I’m gonna call this American Brawlers and put it on the Video Club channel!”

Sinister Eyes rolled her tiny pupils. “Are you all quite finished? Because there’s supposed to be an epic battle right about…”

“NOW!” The Yeti shouted as he jumped at me. My right leg jetted up swiftly, ready to deliver a snap kick, but before I could extend my leg past knee-level, The Yeti hit the ground hard. Either I was a really great ninja, or something else had hit him before I could. Then I saw the answer. Kara was standing over him, holding a stop sign with a yeti-shaped indentation. She flashed me a thumbs up gesture.

With The Yeti out of the way, I could concentrate on Silent Orphan before taking out Sinister Eyes. But when I looked away from Kara, searching for my next opponent, the first thing I saw was Shannon sitting on Silent Orphan and tying him up.

I was beginning to feel slightly inadequate.

“Your fight is with me now!” taunted Sinister Eyes.

I was ready. It was she that had orchestrated the entire incident! It was her fault I had spent the last month in hiding! It probably wasn’t her fault that I always had bad dreams, but for now I’d blame it on her because it was inaccurate but convenient, just like the legal system!

We flew at each other like lions, both releasing a volley of shots. Stinging blows rained down upon both of our bodies, but neither yielded to the pain. I was in an unstoppable frenzy. My feet barely touched the ground.

“This is golden!” Joe exclaimed, moving closer to the action for a better shot.

Our rage in the streets continued. Sinister Eyes uppercutted my stomach. I doubled over. She landed a devastating blow to my jaw. Then she grabbed my hair and thrust my face towards her unholy knee.

My elbow sailed through the air like a baseball bat, crashing into the side of her head. Sinister Eyes was knocked back just enough for me to wiggle free of her unrelenting grasp.

Another flurry of punches and kicks followed. Sinister Eyes attempted a jumping attack, but I intercepted her with a rising tackle. We both hit the pavement. We were up in an instant.

My fatal fury was unmatched. A quick roundhouse kick slammed into my nemesis’s shoulder, followed by a quick haymaker to the chest.

Sinister Eyes returned the favor with a knee attack to my chest. I fell to the ground. The second I returned to my ready stance, Sinister Eyes had a big, shiny gun pointed at my forehead.

“This ends now,” she informed me calmly. Kara and Shannon stood back, powerless. Joe stepped in for a close up. “You were a good sparring partner, but my associates and I really must be going now. Enjoy truly dying.”

My life flashed before my eyes. It was mostly playing video games and eating cheese. It kind of made me feel like I should have done more with my time on Earth, like playing more video games and eating more cheese.

My reprieve came in the form of a curious fluttering sound above our heads. Sinister Eyes instinctively looked to the sky. Crashing down towards her was the fiendish paper swan!

Shannon began screaming. “But I killed you!” she yelled, and tried to hide by pulling her jacket over her head.

Sinister Eyes flailed her arms crazily, but the swan just kept floating towards her. “Stop lookin’ at me, swaaaaaaaaaaan!” she exclaimed in terror.

My chance was slight; hesitation meant death. My spinning crescent kick knocked the gun from her hands. Sinister Eyes looked back at me just in time to catch a spinning back kick with her face.

The swan landed peacefully next to her fallen, incapacitated body.

“That was awesome!” Joe exclaimed, hopping up and down and swinging his camera triumphantly about. One more punch and I think we’d have had to clean Joe’s joy-exploded head off the pavement.

Kara and Shannon released a collective sigh of relief.

I listened to the police sirens in the distance. Someone must have seen me and my friends beating three little kids senseless and called the cops. It was so nice of whoever had called the police to come to my aid. The flashing lights surrounded us all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Misprint!" - The Course Overload Novella, Chapter 12

Chapter 12: Shining in the Darkness

Have you ever spent six hours straight on the phone? That’s exactly what I did after my breakthrough. Kara and I inspected the details surrounding my fake death like FBI agents, looking at the situation from every possible angle. Had sinister aliens landed and abducted me as I lay dying after my brutal beating? While that would account for all the missing time before I got home, it wouldn’t help us resolve my current dilemma. Perhaps there was a vampire conspiracy to ruin me for always helping to halt their blasphemous attacks. But what did orphans have to do with that? Could everything be linked somehow? After much deliberation, Kara and I agreed that it was most likely a random act of violence.

That only left the obituary.

“Did you ever call your job to tell them you weren’t dead?” Kara asked.

“Well… no. I never thought of it,” I said. “I was so devastated after the Santa thing didn’t work out that all I did was try to convince Mom I hadn’t died, play some Resident Hill, and then go to bed. I guess it was so simple I just didn’t…”

Kara interrupted me mid sentence. “Wait a minute. You played a video game after all that?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

I’m not sure, but I thought I heard Kara beating her head against a table.


“Never mind Resident Hill. What you need to do to call the Wappingers Falls Tribune and see if you can get them to print a retraction. This might be the answer to all of our problems!”

I thanked Kara for all of her wonderful help and hung up the phone. Swiftly, I dialed my job.

I wasn’t expecting what happened next; or rather, what didn’t happen. I allowed the phone to ring for a good five minutes. With so many people in the office during normal business hours, someone should have heard the phone. Something was definitely amiss, but it could have been anything from my boss working on something very important and not wanting to be bothered to someone hitting the wrong button and silencing all the phones in the building by accident.

At any rate, it looked like I’d have to go and talk to them in person. I knew that it was a dangerous proposition, but when you’re desperate, you’ll resort to a lot of things you wouldn’t do normally. Even if I were once again suspected of being a ghost, or worse, a zombie, at least I’d have done something about it. Besides, then the new Dynamite Barslut game and I could get better acquainted without me feeling like a jerk.

I grabbed my mother’s keys and hopped into her car, speeding off towards the Wappingers Falls Tribune headquarters. I vowed that something was going to happen in the office that day, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent, and I was going to go home feeling like I accomplished something.

But I could never have anticipated… (Note: This is foreshadowing.)

*    *    *

When I arrived outside my place of employment, the small driveway was full of cars as usual. It had always been difficult to find a spot and today was no different. I slowly pulled into the last space, the one next to a stone wall that separates the newspaper parking lot from the other, higher parking lot. It was a tight fit, but I was used to it by then.

I stepped out of the car and readied myself to enter the building for the first time in… well, today was Jan. 21, so it had been exactly a month to the day that I was attacked by the unholy trinity of orphans. It sent a clich├ęd shiver down my spine. As I proceeded to the door, I noticed that the shades had been pulled down. Sometimes this was done if the sun blinded too many employees, but most of the time, everyone was so absorbed in what they were doing no one would notice. Still, it was enough for me to hesitate before placing my hand on the shiny golden doorknob. I took a deep breath and pushed it open.

I was immediately plunged into darkness. The office was silent; not even the electric hum of a computer emanated from my boss’s office.

“Hello?” I called, my eyes still adjusting to the blackness. The only light came from the open door behind me. Daylight seeped in and let me see just enough to proceed.

I was pretty sure at that point that something was a little off. The smell of coffee placated me a little, but it was faint, meaning that it must have been brewed at least a few hours ago. I took another couple of steps in. I looked in each cubicle as I proceeded, checking for anyone hiding under a desk or a chair, waiting to jump out and yell “surprise!” Maybe this whole false death thing had just been a ploy to throw me a really rockin’ birthday party, even though my birthday was in November. I listened, but all I heard was my own muffled footsteps on the carpet.

Suddenly, the door slammed shut behind me. I heard an unmistakable click and I knew it was locked. I was blind in the pitch blackness. My heart beat so hard I could feel it in my legs. I hate to admit it, but I was just a little spooked.

I wasn’t about to go and investigate what had closed the door, so my only option was to continue forward, towards my boss’s office. I had a gut feeling that if any answers were to be found, they’d be there.

I was wondering how I’d know when I had reached my boss’s office, but as it turned out, it wasn’t a problem – a small light protruded from the door, a beacon in my world of darkness. I slowly stalked up to the open door and readied myself for the worst.

I jumped into the room, prepared to take out any number of ninjas, aliens, pirates or janitorial staff. Yet there was nothing but an open window – the source of the faint light. I immediately knew what I was up against.

“Nicesss of you to finally arrive,” hissed a voice from the void.

And you laughed at me when I told you about vampires and open windows.