Friday, July 19, 2019

Bobbo #1

“Thanks for coming over,” Bobbo said as he let Max and Brooke in. “I got this really cool new board game and I can’t wait to play it. It is a strategy-based game where we pit our wits and armies against each other.” Bobbo showed his friends the box to Forest of Gamelon. It was a huge box with a beautifully painted cover.

Max was skeptical. “Can’t we just play Sorry?”

“Come on, just give it a try,” Bobbo flopped down to the floor and opened the box, pulling out a huge plastic board with, like the box, a beautifully painted forest with a creek, a variety of trees, and spaces cordoned off to place your army, a castle, several obstacles like dragons and an ogre. The board took up as much space on the floor as 20 regular board games. “See? You pick a side—Borlands, Westerlands, Mikros, or Hattan—setup your army, you have 20 fighters, 8 knights, 2 cannons, a wizard, and a king and queen.”

“Are we playing a board game or chess?” Max asked.

“Chess doesn’t have cannons or wizards,” Brooke corrected.

“Cannons would chess better,” Max snarked.

“The castle goes in the middle,” Bobbo sat the castle in the middle of the board. “You set up large dragons and the ogre on random spots and you stack the cards near the castle. You roll the dice…”

“Cards and dice?” Max exclaimed. “I think I hear my mom calling me,” he started to get up.

“You live two blocks over and we’re inside a house, Max,” Bobbo said. “Now, you roll the dice to see how many cards you draw—one through six. Now, you can either play those cards to attack the other armies or one of the dragons or the ogre if you are near them. If you don’t play a card then you can advance your army. You can move as much of the army as you can within the number you roll. So if you roll a five, you can move two fighters, the wizard, and a knight twice.”

“What?” Brooke asked.

“It’s easy. I’ll show you. Now, what army do you want to be?”

They had been playing thirty minutes and had barely advanced on the castle. Max got trapped by a dragon and hadn’t rolled enough to defeat the dragon with the card he drew. Bobbo was trapped at a river, picking the side of the river without a bridge, and unable to cross because he couldn’t purchase enough wood or conjure enough magic for the wizard to build a bridge or boat. He also hadn’t rolled enough for a fighter to cross. Max was doing a protest version of the game and using his cards and rolls to mess up his ability to win the game.

“Why can’t I roll a six?” Brooke shrieked after she rolled a two. She moved a couple of fighters which got her closer to the one bridge across the river.

“Can’t we play Sorry?” Max complained again.

“It’s our first time playing. We just need to use our brains and have a plan to get past the obstacles the next time we play,” Bobbo said.

“Next time we play? I don’t think we can be friends anymore,” Max said.

“Whatever,” Bobbo chuckled and rolled. “Yes! I’m able to conjure a bridge,” he moved his wizard to the middle of the river. He rolled again and got a six and advanced two fighters across the river. Max rolled then opted to play a card.

“Animal control. I move this dragon directly in front of your army,” he moved a dragon directly in front of the two fighters Bobbo just moved.

“I don’t think we can be friends anymore,” Bobbo said.

“All right,” Brooke took the die and rolled. “Ooh, I rolled a five. I’m going to use my freeze card to freeze the dragon and the remaining two moves to approach the castle.”

“You got to the castle,” Bobbo gasped.

Brooke looked at the board. “Oh. Yeah, I guess I did.”

“You won the game,” Bobbo said.

“You mean, we’re done?” Max looked back and forth between Bobbo and Brooke. “We can go home?”

“You won the game,” Bobbo said again.

“Yeah, I did. If the game was better maybe I’d feel more excited about winning,” Brooke shrugged and stood up, doing a big stretch.

“You didn’t like it?” Bobbo asked.

“Not to be rude but no. No, we didn’t,” Max said. “It was too complicated, too long, and was just a bunch of rolling dice and drawing cards.”

“So’s Monopoly when you think about it,” Bobbo smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, but Monopoly is actually fun,” Brooke said. “To be honest, laying on the ground and finding shapes in the clouds is more fun than this game.”

“I was run over by someone on a bike and that was more fun than this,” Max said.

“Ah, come on. I invite you over to play a game with me and all you do is crap all over it,” Bobbo complained.

“Because the game is crap,” Max argued back. “We aren’t crapping on it, it crapped on us.”

“Nice one,” Brooke said.

“Thanks,” Max answered. “Look, we’re gonna go. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Bobbo sighed. “I’m sorry the game wasn’t fun. I thought it looked fun.”

“It wasn’t. See you tomorrow,” Brooke said. She and Max left Bobbo.

Bobbo looked down at The Forest of Gamelon. The cards strewn around the playing area, playing pieces scattered around. “Mm. I should’ve had them help me clean this up.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tauy Creek Digest #53: Based On a Dream

I looked out of the back door window at the rain pouring down. It was a hard rain and it turned the yard into a swamp. There was a knock on the door. I walked across the house and opened the door. A person in a poncho, with a clipboard and ID badge stood there. They were soaked.

"I'm with the city," they began. I glanced at their badge--Todd Newman. Strange, he looks like an ex of mine--dressed as a man but still. "I was driving by and noticed a problem with your garage."

"Garage?" I didn't have a garage.

"The structure along the main road," Todd Newman said. There was a structure along the main road--the house faced a side street--but it wasn't a garage, barely big enough to be a shed and made of rotting plywood. "It's leaking."

"So?" I asked.

"Not up to code. You need to fix it." We walked out into the backyard and took a look at the building. It was still pouring and I was getting soaked despite the raincoat and hat I wore. "See? It has holes in the roof, the wood is broken and caving in, it's sitting in a lake."

"It's raining," I said. "It's just a poorly made plywood building. I didn't build, it was here when I bought the place. Aside from the plywood, the skeleton of it is sturdy. Besides, it's not supposed to be up to code. Look, I don't have time for this, I have to get to work," I said and began walking away. I left the house, leaving the city employee, or my ex-girlfriend, whichever one it was, in my yard and left. I was starting a new job making calls for political candidates. It was in a giant call center with hundreds of other people. We were all making calls around the country talking to people about the people in their area running for public office. We weren't trying to get money or their vote, just talking to them about the politicians.

"You want to go to lunch with us?" a woman popped her head over my cubicle wall. Another woman and two men stood with her.

"Where to?" I asked.

"We were thinking that new Mexican place around the corner. Apparently the food is big and cheap."

"Sure, I'll go," we all left together right away. The Mexican place was new, having just opened a little over a week ago. It was pretty bare when we walked in. A counter separating a spacious dining room from the kitchen area. A salad bar-like cart was next to where you paid and held condiments such as black olives, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, and chips. We all ordered--I ordered an enchilada, it was a giant thing about the size of a brick and only cost a dollar.

I grabbed some salsa and chips and plopped some olives on it then went to pay. I turned and looked outside, it had turned into a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the sky was a bright blue, and the rain had quickly dried up. It was almost like it hadn't rained at all. The coworkers I had come in with had disappeared into the other spacious dining room around the corner from where you pay. As I was looking out the window, I noticed the city inspector/ex-girlfriend outside. I left my food and ran out of the eatery.

"Are you following me?" I asked, confronting them and backing them up against a car. "Over a plywood shed?"

"Out of code, dilapidated plywood sheds are where it all begins. Before long you'll stop mowing your grass, paint will flake off, trash cans? Pfft. You'll just throw your garbage out the window and let nature take care of it," they scoffed.

"I don't think that happens," I said. For some reason, we were now in the car, sitting in the back seat. It was even more clear now that the city inspector was an ex pretending to be a man for some reason. "You can't go harassing people about stuff that doesn't matter."

"I know," they said dejectedly.

"I have to go back to work," I said, opening the door to the car. I got out and headed back to work.

"Hey, where were you?" the woman who asked me to go to lunch said, peering over the cubicle again. "We saw you grab your food but then you ran out of the place."

"I had to deal with something," I said. I dialed the next number on my list and got out the guide for that person's political representative.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Topeka High School

A year ago I had the opportunity to get a tour of Topeka High School. It was built as a WPA project between 1929 and 1931 and opened to receive 2,000 students. It is a beautiful three-story Gothic building with intricate details everywhere. The library is based off the Great Hall in Hampton Court Place and much of the wood is hand carved and the ceilings and walls hand-painted.

I originally posted these pictures on Facebook but since I no longer have one, I am reposting those pictures here.

The ceiling of the high school cafeteria, modeled after the cafeteria at
Grosse Pointe South High School.

A close-up of one of the many chandeliers.

The Trojan section of Laney Gym, built over the old swimming
pool in 2005.

Another chandelier, this one in the auditorium.

A bay of stained glass windows outside of the auditorium.

The ceiling to the library.
Darkness view of the windows in the library.

A look at the woodwork and fireplace in the library.

Stained glass windows in the Hall of Fame room.

The entryway/lobby.

The sign to the main office.

My obligatory staircase shot.

In 1931, a spar from the U.S.S. Constitution was acquired with help from
Vice President Charles Curtis for use as a flagpole. A new spar, again from the
Constitution, was acquired in 2005. The old spar is still displayed
in a case inside the school.

The bell to the U.S.S. Topeka was presented to the city after it was
decommissioned in 1969.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Tank N Tummy #17

Ryan opened up his sandwich and took a bite. While he was chewing, a customer came into the store. Ryan covered his mouth and greeted him. “Good afternoon.”

The customer grabbed a sandwich out of the refrigerators and got a drink. He then walked up to the counter. Ryan slid his sandwich over by the register. “That looks good,” the customer said.

“My sandwich? It is good. Turkey and pastrami with Colby Jack cheese, Miracle Whip, and a pickle slice.”

“Mm, that does sound good. How much do you want for it?” the customer asked.


“How much do you want?”

“You want to buy my sandwich?”

“I’m paying $3.50 for this. I’ll give you $3 for yours since there’s a bite taken out of it.”

“Am I being pranked? Is this a bit?”

“Fine. $3.50.”

“I don’t care if I am on one of your stupid hidden camera shows. I’m still not watching it.”

“$4. $4 for a sandwich you can remake easily at home and have taken a bite out of.”

“Did Dominic send you in here?”


“This is my lunch. This and some potato salad.”

“$5!” the customer exclaimed. “Wait. What kind of potato salad?”

“My mom makes it. It’s an old family recipe we got from a housekeeper my family had back in the 1800s.”

“I’m going back down to $4.25.”

“I’m not giving you my lunch.”

“Your loss.”

“How is it my…? Never mind. $4.57.”

The customer handed Ryan five dollars. “You just made a huge mistake, mi friendo.”

“Par for the course then. Have a good rest of your day.”

The customer left the store with his store-bought chicken salad sandwich and drink. Ryan leaned back over the counter, slid his sandwich over to him and took another bite.

“My parents assumed I’d say yes because Jason and I had been together so long. Three years,” Ethel said. She had stayed at Dominic’s apartment but they slept separately.

“So you turned down his proposal and broke up with him,” Dominic began. “Cold-blooded.”

“It’s not my proudest moment. I still need to confront my parents as well. They wanted me to get married to Jason, start having babies, probably quit my job and just stay home with the kids like some weird 2019 June Cleaver.”

“They wanted me to contract a fatal disease.”

“Yes. They did not like you.”

“I have an idea,” Dominic beamed. “We should have sex and tell your parents that you’re pregnant with my baby.”

“That’s a terrible idea,” Ethel shook her head.

“I didn’t say it was a good idea. I said it was was an idea.”

“Besides, I’m not going to have sex with you 36 hours after I break up with my boyfriend of three years,” Ethel explained. “I need to have a mourning period.”

“Yeah, yeah. I get that,” Dominic nodded. “So, what? 48? 52 hours?”

Ethel laughed. “I’ll let you know.”

“All right. Per your suggestion, Lauren, we now have a small selection of Japanese snacks,” Ned said as he, Lauren, and Aaron stood by a small endcap display.

“Cheese drink?” Aaron asked. He picked up a bottle of a bright yellow, almost orange, liquid. “It’s tea?” he exclaimed. He put the bottle back down and saw something else. “What’s an Anus Bar?”

“It’s the future. Get used to it,” Lauren said.

Aaron looked at Lauren.

A kid came into the store wearing a red shirt and yellow shorts. He immediately ran over to the display of Japanese snacks. “Oh, boy. Action Bastard Bastard Meat,” he turned to Aaron and Lauren. He posed like a superhero holding the tube of sausage in the air. “Put your mouth on some sausage!”

The kid took the sausage to the counter. “Is that all?” Lauren asked.

“Yeah. I’m trying to get my very own Action Bastard Bastard Belt. I need to send in ten Action Bastard foil stickers from this sausage.”

“Is the sausage any good?”

“It’s smells like sweaty ass, tastes like someone puked on a pile of shit, and the green peppers are like boogers scraped off a wall,” the kid explained. “But I’d do anything for that Action Bastard Bastard Belt.”

Lauren gave the kid his change and he bounded off out the door.

“Bastard sausage?” Aaron picked up a tube. “What the hell is going on in Japan?”

“So she’s telling her parents right now that she’s choosing you?” Ryan asked.

“Yep. Breaking the bad news to them,” Dominic smiled. “I’m going over to their house at five to pick Ethel up for a date.”

“Dominic, I’m happy for you. I know how much Ethel meant to you and that you’ve always been...chasing Ethel, as it were but I hope you know that it’s not going to be the same as before,” Ryan began. “You’re both older, more experienced, and have grown since you were 18.”

“I know it won’t be the same. I’m not throwing everything in my life away though. She is. She’s going to be much more hurt if this doesn’t work out.”

“I guess I should be glad that you thought this through.”

“That’s the thing. Ethel initiated this and she would never do something like this unless she thought it through,” Dominic explained. “It’s fine. No one is going to get hurt."

Two girls came into the store. “Do you still have Mama’s list?” the one in a white cat hoodie and yellow bow asked.

The other girl, also in a white cat hoodie but with a red bow, took a piece of paper out of her pocket. “Right here,” she giggled. “Do you still have the money?”

The girl took some money out of her pocket and giggled. “Mama’s going to be so proud of us when…” she gasped and ran to the display of Japanese snacks. “It’s my favorite candy. Do you think we can get some?”

“We should stick to the list that Mama gave us, Mimmy,” red bow girl said.

“Aw, Kitty.”

“Can I help you girls with something?” Lauren asked.

“We’re buying a couple things for Mama,” Kitty said. “She forgot to get them at the store.”

“Well, what are you looking for?”

“We have a list!” Mimmy exclaimed. She then nudged her sister. “Kitty, show her the list.”

Kitty handed the list to Lauren. The read: cream, Hot Tamales, potato chips. “I think we can help you find these items.” Lauren helped Kitty and Mimmy find the cream, Hot Tamales candies, and potato chips and brought them up to the counter. “That’ll be $8.77,” Lauren said.

Mimmy handed Lauren a ten. They got their change and left the store giggling. They stopped at the door, turned and waved. “Thank you,” they said in unison and continued giggling.

“You’re welcome,” Lauren smiled.

Dominic pulled up in front of Ethel’s parent’s house. She was waiting out front and stood when he got out of the car. He had a bouquet of flowers and was dressed better than he normally dressed.

“Are you ready? Why are you out here? Did you get in a fight with with your mom and dad?”

“No. I wanted to talk to you,” Ethel began. “When I got here, Jason was here. He flew out here. He re-proposed to me and we talked for a bit and he explained how much he loves me but just wants me to be happy and I realized how happy I”


“Then we made love…”

“Why are you telling me that?”

“...And I know it’s not something you want to hear but Jason and I are back together. I’m sorry that I put you through this. I should’ve just been happy with what I had. I know that now. I’m sorry, Dominic,” Ethel gently kissed his cheek.

“What? Nah. I’m cool. Here,” he thrusted the flowers into Ethel’s chest. “You can keep these. What else am I going to do with the sexual organs of plants?”

“Thank you. Again, I’m so sorry, Dominic,” Ethel was starting to cry.

“It’s fine. Forget it. No problem.”

Lauren and Aaron stood behind the counter. She was reading a book while he was reading a magazine. The bell from the door rang and pink-haired girl stepped in. “Prepare for trouble,” she said.

Aaron and Lauren looked up.

“Make it double,” a purple-haired boy came in the other door. They looked like twins.

“What the hell?” Aaron asked.

“To protect the world from devastation,” the girl continued.

“To unite all peoples within our nation.”

“To denounce the evils of truth and love.”

“To extend our reach to the stars above.”

“Do they do this every time they enter a building?” Lauren asked.



“Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light.”

“Surrender now or prepare to fight.”

A gray and brown cat ran into the store, meowing.

“I’m gonna tell Ned to get rid of the Japanese snacks,” Aaron said. “I’ll kick Jessie and James out of here, you grab the cat.”

Monday, July 8, 2019


In 1878, east Topeka, Kansas, in a triangular shaped parcel of land, Judge David C. Metsker—who would become mayor of Topeka from 1887-1889, platted a new suburb of Topeka called “Parkdale.” Parkdale was located between 6th and 10th Avenues and Shunganunga Creek and Lafayette Street. In 1883, businessman George W. Veale established his own suburb, Veale’s Addition. Together, the neighborhoods consisted of 6th through 10th Street, Branner Street, Chandler Street, and eight streets all beginning with ‘L’. From the west there was Lake, Lime, Lawrence, Locust, Lafayette, Leland, Liberty, and Lamar. A May 20, 1883 article in the Topeka Daily Capital remarked that the names gave “a sort of ell [or bend] to the city.” Where did these names come from? Were they specifically named this way or was it just a coincidence?

The eight L streets along 8th & 10th streets.
Early maps of the neighborhoods show Lamar Street as Lancaster but based on newspaper articles, I can’t find any evidence that the name was changed. Parkdale was annexed to the city of Topeka around the turn of the century. After being established, work began on building a new church for the neighborhood. Many parents in Parkdale refused to let their children go to Sunday School without an adult because the children would have to cross the railroad tracks. At the time, you would have to cross at least 12 tracks and a bridge over the tracks wasn’t built until the mid-1900s. Construction on the church began in October 1879 and was completed in December 1879. A census taken at the time counted 72 families—a total population of 284 people.

Parkdale built a wood framed school in 1880 that served the suburb well into the 20th Century. It was located at 8th and Lake on the south side of the intersection. A 1902 inquiry found that nearly all of the public schools in Topeka were overcrowded and the residents of Parkdale demanded that they have first dibs on a new school building since, when they were annexed to the city, the city got a free schoolhouse and nearly $1000 to go to the upkeep for that schoolhouse. The Topeka Board of Education agreed and approved construction on a new school at 6th and Locust which was to be named Lafayette School. Lafayette opened for the 1903-04 school year and Parkdale was closed. The following year, it was requested that Parkdale be reopened to help with overcrowding at Washington School, the all-black school just to the southwest of Parkdale. Parkdale residents complained and the Board refused to reopen the school for black students. A Daily Capitol article from July 4, 1905 noted “The fact that racial prejudice exists in Parkdale is well known. In fact, anti-negro sentiment is stronger in that section than any other part of the city.”

The Parkdale Methodist Church, located on the southeast corner of 7th and Lime Streets, was an important linchpin of the community. Many community meetings were held there and the congregation remained loyal. The church was renamed the East Topeka United Methodist Church in 1968 and continued to serve Parkdale and the surrounding neighborhoods until 2012 when its congregation was deemed too small and the church unsafe. Members were absorbed into the Topeka First United Methodist Church and the East Topeka church was torn down in 2013.

The East Topeka Methodist Church in 2012. From Google Maps.
The Fellowship Hall, built in 1957, and three crosses to
memorialize the church.
The Free Methodist Church was started in 1882 but didn’t have a formal residence until 1886 when a building was constructed at 724 Lake. A new brick church was built at 8th and Chandler and used until they moved to a new church at 35th and Indiana in 1963. In 1902, Carrie Nation, famed prohibitionist and saloon smasher, spoke at the Free Methodist Church and urged the creation of a new political party, the Prohibition Alliance. Within a few hours, the party was organized, members signed, and officers elected. Today, the building is the New Jerusalem Baptist Church and continues to be a vital part of the neighborhood.
The New Jerusalem Baptist Church. From Google Maps.

The Parkdale School reopened in 1908 as a Kindergarten and continued to work in that capacity until 1922 when it was again closed and razed to make way for a brand new school and a new athletic center dubbed “The Alamo.” The school was built on the southeast corner of 10th and Chandler and the athletic field was built adjoining Eastlawn Park, the triangle park between 8th and 10th. An addition was built in 1962 but the school was closed in 1978. Parkdale then became a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds until closing again in 2011. The building was later demolished. Parkdale is currently served by Scott Dual Language Magnet School, Chase and Eisenhower Middle Schools, and Highland Park and Topeka High Schools.
Class picture of the first Parkdale Kindergarten class. From the Topeka Daily Capital.

In 1887, John Wilson Farnsworth’s land because available for purchase, this expanded Parkdale west from Chandler to the Shunganunga Creek. Farnsworth came to Topeka in 1856 and was very instrumental in the growth of Topeka. He died in 1912. Another important addition to Parkdale would be to the east in Veale’s Addition. George Veale was born in Daviess County, Indiana and was the son of James Veale. James was one of the first settlers in Daviess County and Veale Township in Daviess is named for James. Veale’s Addition is located between 3rd and 8th and Locust and Lamar.
The fork in the road at 8th and 10th streets.

In 1900, a park was requested to be established on the triangular lot between 8th and 10th streets. A house on the land would be renovated to be a library. In 1919, the park, Eastlawn, finally came to fruition through the Parkdale tax district, donations from neighbors, the city, and Topeka Cemetery. The park was renamed Samuel C. Jackson Park after the famed civil rights lawyer. Jackson also served as President Nixon’s Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He died in 1982.

In 1902, Parkdale residents asked the police to do something about Sprague Chase, a resident on Lawrence Street. Chase apparently gets into drunken brawls every couple of days and when he is unable to find someone to fight, he fights his wife and mother-in-law. The police arrested Chase where he was fined $100. In 1904, A.W. Rickett was attacked and beaten unconscious by two Oakland neighborhood boys for walking two sisters, Lucy and Hazel Hawkins, home. The girls were from Oakland, Rickett from Parkdale. One of the girls testified that one of the boys said “no fellow from Parkdale could walk Oakland girls.” In 1909, Virgil Day, the 18-year-old brother-in-law of Ollie Day, was charged with assault upon Ollie’s four-year-old daughter. Virgil was supposed to be watching the little girl but when Ollie returned home, her daughter had a swollen eye and lip, was black and blue all over, had finger-shaped bruises on her neck, and a cigarette burn on her breast. Day would be sent to reform school. Day would make the news again in 1914 as patient zero of a smallpox outbreak in Topeka. Day would die of a gunshot wound in Kansas City, Missouri in 1918 at the age of 27.

In the early 20th Century, Parkdale residents were often blamed for crimes and nuisances around the city. M.C. Wright wrote a letter to the Topeka Daily Capital in defense of Parkdale, giving its location, and that most criminals labeled as being from Parkdale weren’t. The next biggest change in Parkdale was the building of East Topeka Junior High School in 1937. Constructed with help from the Public Works Administration, the school served a diverse community and was intended to evolve into a high school but it was closed in 1980. After closing, it was used as a community center but was closed again when it needed repairs and the city, who was leasing the building, couldn’t make them. Today, the building is owned by True Foundations but remains mostly abandoned.
The front facade of East Topeka Junior High School.

What about the street names? Lime and Locust are types of trees, the others were probably named for people—Lafayette (General Marquis de Lafayette, an American Revolutionary hero), Leland (Judge Leland Webb), Lamar (Mississippi Senator Lucius Q.C. Lamar II), Lawrence and Lake but those are just theories. While it’s possible the L-streets were purposely platted, especially in the case of Veale’s Addition, why they were named with these L names has been lost to time.
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, started in 1908, it moved to its current
building in 1962

Friday, July 5, 2019

Gyrbynerjk #1

“The ship is ready,” Dr. Anderson said. “But I don’t have anyone to go up in it. Since Planet 4000 has stopped funding my projects, I have to do things in a bit…unorthodox way. Who do I get for this? Who? Who?!”

“Hey, Dr. Anderson,” Brian Gyrbynerjk came into the lab with a giant trash can on wheels. “How are you doing tonight? You’re working late.”

A light came on in Dr. Anderson’s brain. “Why, yes, yes, I am, Brian. I’m good. How are you doing?”

“Can’t complain,” Brian smiled, picking up a trash can and dumping the contents into the bigger trash can.

“Well, that’s good. Uh, you know, there’s another trash can inside the ship and I think it’s getting pretty full,” Dr. Anderson said, tapping the tips of his fingers together.

“Thanks,” Brian said. Brian went into the ship. Dr. Anderson quickly slammed the door shut, went over to the control panel and pulled the launch lever.

The ship rumbled to life and slowly lifted off the ground and then blasted off into the sky. The ship broke through the atmosphere and came to rest in Earth’s orbit with the rest of the space junk.

“What’s going on?” Brian exclaimed.

“You’re part of my next project,” Dr. Anderson began. “I need money to pay for my evil experiments and you’re going to help me.”


“I’m going to send you stuff and you are going to review it,” Dr. Anderson continued. “I’ll record you and upload your review to YouTube, get a bunch of views from loser desperate for nostalgia and make millions.”

“Then you do it. Why do you need me?”

“I don’t have time to do that. I’m an idea guy. I have evil to do!” Dr. Anderson shouted. “But you won’t be alone. You will have Barry at your side at all times.”


“I’m Barry,” a robot suddenly appeared next to Brian.

“Bwaah!” Brian jumped back.

“Barry will make sure you stay on task. If you need some motivation to do what I order you to do then he’s going to give you a little poke. Go ahead, Barry, show Brian your stabbing knife.”

Barry pulled a knife out from behind its back. Barry thrusted it a couple times at Brian. “Don’t worry. I’m mostly harmless.”

“Well, I’ll give it a try but I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it.”

“If you’re not, I’ll just find some other idiot, turn off your food and oxygen supply, killing you slowly, and send the new idiot up there. Now, for your first episode, I have something easy for you. The 1985 classic Nintendo Entertainment System video game, Super Mario Bros.”

“I love that game,” Brian said. He turned to Barry. “You know, that’s just about the only video game that I can beat.”

“That’s sad,” Barry said.

“The game is in the delivery chamber next to the door and the Nintendo is in the other room,” Dr. Anderson said.

Brian went over to the chamber and took the game cartridge out and went into the next room with Barry following closely behind. He put the game into the Nintendo, turned on the TV and turned on the game. He pressed start to begin the game. “Do-do do, do-do do do,” he hummed as the game began with the familiar image of Mario standing on the vast plain of the Mushroom Kingdom with trees and hills in the background. “Everyone knows this game. It’s classic and is one of the best games to introduce someone into video games. The controls are great and considering that since this game was packaged with the Nintendo Entertainment System it’s hard to imagine why so many other games’ controls were so bad.”

“What’s the goal in the game?” Barry asked.

“The goal is to get to the end of the stage and rescue the Princess who has been kidnapped by King Koopa, or Bowser as he was later called. Give me a couple minutes and I’ll get to end of the world.”

After a few minutes, Brian arrived at the end of World 1-4, approached the bridge over the lava and ran underneath Bowser, grabbing the key and destroying the bridge. Mario crossed into the other room. A mushroom boy was standing in the room. ‘Thank you, Mario. But our princess is in another castle.’

“Another castle? What the hell?” Barry complained.

“Yeah, and you will see that screen a lot,” Brian said. “It’s at the end of every world but the last one. It’s to show players that these aren’t your old video games that are over in a matter of minutes but epic games that could last a couple hours.”

“World 5 is my favorite. I like how everything looks like it has snow on it,” Brian commented as he continued playing. A few minutes later he was in World 6. “I like World 6 a lot, too. I’ll explain more when I get there,” he said.

“You’re pretty good at this game,” Barry said.

“Like I said, it’s just about the only one I can beat. It’s pretty easy compared to other games but it’s Mario—good games that offer a fair chance that are hard enough to keep you playing but not so hard that you quit.” He played a few more minutes and got to World 6-3. It was in gray scale while every other level had been in color. Only Mario had any color to him. “I love this. I love how everything is gray. I’ve never figured out why. Is it to throw you off? Disorient you? Was it a mistake? It’s corrected in other formats. Or just an odd choice from whoever programmed this stage?” Brian questioned.

“Do you need some time alone with World 6-3?” Barry asked.

“No, I’m good.” Brian paused for a bit. “Maybe later,” he shrugged.

Another half an hour and Brian finally beat the game. He avoided the real Bowser who was not only shooting fire but tossing hammers as well. The Princess thanked Mario and encouraged him to try a harder quest. “The enemies move faster and the goombas are replaced with buzzy beetles,” Brian explained. “All-in-all, still one of the best games ever made and it set the standard for every video game after it. I give it six out of six Brians. What do you think, Dr. Anderson?”

“I think this will have two thousand views by the end of the week, Brian. I’ll see you later. Dr. Anderson, out.”

Brian turned to Barry. “Do you want to play two players?” he asked.


“Okay. I get to be Luigi. You can be Mario.”

“You don’t want to be the character the game is named for?”

“No. I’ve never understood that. Luigi is so much cooler.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Liberty #1: Nakedboy

It was the last day Dennis Holcomb and Jerad Wiseman ran around like idiots pretending to be superheroes. Or anything, as a matter of fact. Jerad was Maximum, a Hulk-like human who just smashed his way through everything. Dennis thought that Maximum was a poorly thought-out character. Dennis made sure his superhero had an origin of substance despite the stupid name. Not that it would matter after today.

Dennis and Jerad ran around the yard of the apartment complex, occasionally stopping to punch the air or launch themselves to the ground, feigning being attacked. Jerad was in his normal clothes as was Dennis but Dennis also had a red cape that his grandmother had made him six years ago when he was nine.

“Let’s go see Beth,” Jerad suddenly said.

“Why?” Dennis asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe we can save her,” Jerad said as he bounded off toward the door Beth Goodwin’s apartment was in.

Dennis reluctantly followed Jerad up the stairs. Jerad knocked on the door and Beth answered. Beth was a stocky girl with curly, dirty blonde hair currently done up in a disheveled bun. She was a junior in high school and two years older than both Dennis and Jerad. She eyed Dennis’ cape and smiled discreetly. “What are you two doing?”

“We’re superheroes,” Jerad announced.

She kept looking at Dennis’ cape. “And what are your names?”

“I’m Maximum,” Jerad said.

They both looked at Dennis. He looked down, “I don’t want to tell her my name.”

“Come on, Dennis, what is it?” Beth asked.

He said something but neither Beth or Jerad heard him.

“Say it louder, Dennis,” Jerad said.

“Nakedboy,” he said quietly.

Beth laughed. “And what are your powers, Nakedboy?”

“I can fly, super strong, you know, just normal powers,” he was still embarrassed but the look on Beth’s face eased the awkwardness. “We should probably get back to saving the world.”

Dennis and Jerad started walking down the stairs. Jerad went out the door but Dennis moved slower. “Hey, Nakedboy,” Beth called to him. “You should come over after dinner, I’ll be a damsel in distress or something.”

Dennis was confused. “Okay. I’ll see if I can.” He started to open the door.

“And bring the cape.”

It was now thirteen years, six months, ten days and 20 hours since Beth took his virginity while he was wearing that cape and in that time he had added eight other women to his resume and was currently ending things with the ninth. He wasn’t concerned and happily walked from his now-ex’s apartment to a nearby store to grab a soda and a coffee drink.

“Dennis?” he heard someone call him from an aisle he was passing. He stopped and looked.

He saw Beth in the aisle, holding a basket with groceries in it. He smiled and said her name, quickly walking over to her. Instinctively, they kissed and hugged each other. Dennis and Beth had kept their relationship going off and on since high school. She left for college and they’d still get together when she came back home. Halfway through her junior year of college, Beth got pregnant by a boyfriend and dropped out. She continued living in the other town and rarely came home so she and Dennis saw each other a lot less but Dennis, whenever they would get together, would be a good surrogate father for her son, Jacob, and a loving partner for Beth.

“What are you doing?” Dennis asked. It had been almost two years since they had last seen each other.

“I started a new job here which gave me the opportunity to move back,” Beth explained.

“Well, that’s great. I’ve missed you. And Jacob. How’s he doing?”

“He’s good. He was excited to move. Especially when I said that you lived here.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t seen much of him,” Dennis said. “Or you.”

“Do you want to have dinner with us?” Beth asked.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

When Dennis arrived, Jacob got up from the dinner table and ran up to hug him. “Hey, Jacob,” Dennis bent down and stopped Jacob with a hug. “It’s been awhile. How are you doing?”

“I’m good, Uncle Dennis,” Jacob answered. “Mom said you were coming.”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Spaghetti bake,” Beth said, coming out of the kitchen. “He just finished up and he said he’ll give us some time to have dinner together. I’ll get you a bowl.”

“You didn’t have to wait for me,” Dennis said.

“I wanted to. Jacob, rinse out your bowl and play in your room until we’re done.”

Since their first time, Beth had filled out more. Her body clearly broadcasting the evidence of both age and her one child. Her hair was always disheveled when Dennis saw her but was always attracted to her. After Jacob left the kitchen, Dennis wrapped his arms around her and kissed her neck and shoulders.

“Another one bite the dust?” she asked after first gasping at the kiss on her neck. She scooped some spaghetti bake into a bowl.


“You know what I mean. You dump a girlfriend after you ran into me?”

“No. We actually broke up before I ran into you,” Dennis held his head high. “Her name was Melissa only it was Meli┼┐sa with an ‘f’,” Dennis said, taking the bowl.

“An ‘f’?”

“It’s some sort of Old English or Roman thing. I never really paid attention. Her parents thought they were being clever,” Dennis sat down at the table and Beth followed.

“Why’d you break up?” she asked.

“I wanted to be more adventurous in bed. I thought she’d be into it because she liked sex, taking control in bed and all that but, oh well,” he shrugged and started eating. “How have you been doing?”

“I’ve missed you. It’s been so long. Part of why I took my new job was in hopes that we would be reunited. Well, that and it pays quite a bit more.”

“Cool. What are you doing?”

“Denying medical claims. It’s a very upbeat job.”

“I’m going to assume that it’s one of those jobs that someone has to do.”

“Very much so,” Beth laughed. “With an ‘f’?”

“I’ll get on my phone and explain it later.”

“Uncle Dennis, will you watch this with me?” Jacob ran out of his bedroom and held up an animated movie DVD. “Can you stay the night?”

“It’s up to your mom,” Dennis looked at Beth.

“Of course you can stay, Dennis,” Beth smiled.

Jacob cheered and ran back into his bedroom.

Jacob woke up thirsty. It was dark in the house except for the nightlights in his room and the hallway. There was also a light coming from under the door to his mom’s room. He got a drink in the kitchen then walked back to his room. He heard Dennis and his mom moaning in her bedroom. He’d heard it numerous times before but this time it was different. He decided to take a chance and opened the door. He slowly turned the knob and pushed it open. A small lamp on the dresser was on so he could see what was going on.

Dennis was laying on the bed, on his back, with his legs up on his mom’s shoulders. She was wearing something around her waist and she was moving her hips between his legs. It was both familiar and new to Jacob. He closed the door quietly and went back to bed.

The next morning, Jacob was at the table eating a bowl of cereal while Beth and Dennis made toast for themselves.

“How are babies made?” Jacob asked.

“We’ve talked about this before, Jacob. The man puts himself in the woman and, if they are lucky, they make a baby,” Beth explained.

“Can a man have a baby? Can the woman put herself inside the man?”

Beth chuckled. “No, sweetie, it doesn’t work that way,” she handed a plate of toast to Dennis.

“Then what were you and Uncle Dennis doing last night?”

Dennis and Beth looked at each other, both started to turn red and smiled. “We were expressing our love in a different way. There are many ways that people express how they love each other. But you know you aren’t supposed to come into Mommy’s bedroom without knocking,” Beth said. “Now finish up and get your things for school.”

“Okay,” he finished his cereal, rinsed out the bowl and ran to get his backpack from his bedroom.

“That was funny,” Dennis chuckled.

Beth covered her eyes with her hand. “Of all the nights for my kid to walk in on me having sex.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s scarred for life and you’re a terrible mother,” Dennis said and wrapped his arms around Beth.

“Thanks, Dennis,” Beth laughed. “Will you be staying tonight as well?”

“If you want me to.”

“Of course I do. I think we need to talk.”

“Okay. I’ll probably be home—here—about five.”

“I’ll make something special for dinner,” she leaned up and kissed Dennis. “I have to head out. Where is that kid?”

When Dennis arrived at Beth’s that evening, the enchiladas were just getting put into the oven. In the meantime, Dennis ran around with Jacob outside while Beth watched from the patio. After dinner, they played a board game and, later, Jacob took a bath.

At bedtime, Dennis read Jacob a story and he and Beth stayed up a bit longer to watch TV before going to bed themselves to make love. They laid in bed together, Beth hugging Dennis and resting her head on his chest. She sighed contentedly. “Did you want to talk?” he asked.

“Hmm? No, it can wait. Although I was wondering if you’d be okay with, if it’s not too weird, staying for the rest of the month.”

“Staying? Here? So it would be like I’m living here?” Dennis asked.

“Yeah,” said Beth, nervously.

“Sure. It’ll be fun,” he kissed Beth’s forehead. “Tomorrow after work I’ll grab some clothes from my apartment and pick up dinner as well.”

“Great,” Beth smiled and hugged Dennis tighter.

The three weeks left in the month went by quickly as Dennis immersed himself with having a family. Evenings were filled with fun, laughter and screams with the occasional accident, tears or tantrum. Nights were filled with stories and silence and, on most nights, love-making between Dennis and Beth.

A couple days before the first of the month, Dennis returned home and saw that his landlord had been attempting to contact him to sign a new lease for the next year. He began thinking about the last month and the time he’s spent with Beth and Jacob. He went into his closet and pulled down a box. He dug through it, looking at the stuff he kept that reminded him of Beth.

When he went to Beth’s that evening, he took the box with him. “I come bearing gifts,” he said. “Well, not gifts exactly but Jacob can have this,” he handed his red cape to Jacob.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“It’s a cape that my Grandma made me when I was about your age. I had some good adventures in that cape and I hope you will too.”

“I’m not wearing this in public,” he said but took it into his bedroom.

“Ah, kids,” Dennis said. He sat the box on the kitchen table.

“Why did you give Jacob your cape?” Beth asked. “I thought you wanted to give it to your son.”

“Eh, he’s kind of like my son. Look at this,” he pulled out a picture of him and Beth dressed in a tuxedo and a blue dress. “Our prom picture.”

“Oh my God. I haven’t seen this in years,” she took it and smiled.

“So I have a decision to make,” Dennis sat down next to Beth.


“My lease is up in a couple days and I need to decide if I am going to stay or find a new place to live. I’m leaning toward finding a new place but I wanted to get your opinion.”

“Okay,” Beth welcomed.

“Should I move in with my girlfriend?”

Beth sighed. “I’m just going to say it. I love you, Dennis. I’ve loved you ever since you were a stupid teenager running around in that silly red cape. I’ve lost boyfriends, good boyfriends, because I love you. This has been one of the best months of my life and I would love it if you would move in with Jacob and me,” Beth was crying now.

Dennis leaned over and hugged Beth. “I love you too. I’ve realized over the last month that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and Jacob.”

Beth, still crying, laughed. “And Jacob’s brother or sister.”


“I’m pregnant,” she laughed again. “I took a test before you got here.”

Dennis smiled at Beth then began kissing her. “Come on, let’s go to the bedroom and celebrate this new chapter and then tell Jacob,” Dennis stood up and pulled Beth with him.

“Do you think Jacob will let us borrow the cape for few minutes?” Beth asked.

“I’ll borrow it from him after he goes to bed.” They went into the bedroom, keeping their love-making as quiet as possible as Jacob played in his bedroom.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Elizabeth Pillow Murder

On the evening of January 28, 1912, Ed Pillow spent the evening with a group of friends. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had been fighting and had separated. Pillow then went to where Elizabeth was staying, her sister's house in North Topeka, and proceeded to enter through a window in her bedroom. She awoke and the two started arguing. He said that he was there to take back some clothes and furniture that had been left. The quarreling continued and Elizabeth started approaching him. Scared for his life, as he said Elizabeth had shot at him before, Pillow pulled out a revolver and shot twice--once into his foot when the gun got caught and again into Elizabeth's left breast. She died almost instantly.

Pillow pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter on Friday, April 26, 1912 and was sentenced to 5 to 21 years in Lansing State Penitentiary. Witnesses included neighbors who heard the argument and the gun shots and Elizabeth’s sister, Ethel Caldwell. Caldwell had been sitting on Elizabeth’s bed when the argument and shooting happened. This was the second time that Caldwell had been witness to the murder of a sister. She had witnessed the stabbing of another sister several years prior when in Missouri.

Pillow was sent to Lansing on August 1, 1912 along with three other convicts. Charles Smith, who was convicted of horse theft, B.F. Graff, convicted of embezzlement, and Joseph Glabasnia, sentenced for wife desertion. Glabasnia was the first Shawnee County resident sentenced for family desertion. Roughly 20 cases had been brought with the defendant pleading guilty and their sentence suspended as long as they began supporting their families. Glabasnia pleaded guilty and given freedom but failed to support his family thus violating his parole.

Elizabeth Pillow was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, her grave unmarked. I was unable to find what happened to Ed Pillow or Ethel Caldwell.