Sunday, December 16, 2012

No. 38: Henry and Katy's First Date

Henry Tisdale finished tying his necktie, looked at himself in the mirror then took off the tie and began putting on another one. It had been almost a year since Henry had been on a date and while this was a blind date, he was looking forward to it.

He took one last look at himself, seemed satisfied and then headed out of the house. He drove to the address his friend scribbled on a piece of paper.

Katy Adler was described as a lovely doe-eyed, brown-haired woman who worked for the city water department as a customer service representative. Henry paused in her driveway for a minute before he worked up the nerve to go up to her front door.

Henry rang the bell and a nervous Katy quickly opened the door. “Hello, you must be Henry,” she said sweetly.

Henry looked surprised at her. “Uh, yeah. I…You’re different than I imagined. I mean, you’re very beautiful but…not a normal beautiful.” Henry thought about what he said for a split second. “I’m sorry. I don’t think that came out right.”

“It’s okay. I know what you were trying to say. Where are we going tonight?” Katy asked.

“I thought we’d go to Stone Creek and then if we feel up to it, we’ll go get some ice cream?” said Henry.

“Sounds good to me. Oh, is that your car?” she asked.

“Yeah. I guess it is kind of small. Maybe you can squeeze into the backseat or…”

“You can drive my car. It’s an SUV and I can fit better,” Katy said and began opening her garage door.

“No offense intended but you can drive?” Henry asked.

“I can but I don’t very often. I normally take public transportation to work and around town,” Katy said. Henry got in the driver’s seat and Katy got in the passenger’s seat.

In a few minutes, Henry and Katy were sitting at Stone Creek. Henry was chewing away at a steak while Katy went with a huge salad.

“So you work for the water department?” Henry asked.

“Yep. For the last three years. I really like it,” Katy said. “What do you do.”

“I am a patent attorney for that pharmaceutical company just outside of town. It’s just as boring as it sounds so I’ll understand if you don’t want me to talk about it anymore,” Henry chuckled. “How’s your salad?”

“Really good. I love the two kinds of lettuce.”

“Katy?” someone said near the table. “I thought that was you. I’ve missed you Katy. I can change, I swear. I just want you back!” a man began pleading.

“Frank? I told you it was over,” Katy said angrily. “I’m on a date right now and I would appreciate it if you would leave us alone!” she said sternly.

Frank eyed Henry. “If you ever want to have dinner or something, let me know,” Frank walked away.

“Who was that?” Henry asked.

“An ex-boyfriend,” Katy said. “I am so sorry about that Henry. He was my last boyfriend of two years and we had a rather frustrating break up.”

“What happened, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“He was—is a hunter and I can’t tolerate that. I respect that people need meat and all but they don’t need giant trophies of the animals they’ve killed. It’s so disrespectful,” Katy explained.

“I see. No worries about that from me. I’ve never even held a gun,” Henry said.

“I’m liking you more and more Henry Tisdale,” Katy giggled.

After dinner, Henry and Katy walked down to a local ice cream parlor and got an ice cream cone. They walked in silence around the neighborhood.

“It’s such a nice night,” Katy said suddenly.

“It is. It has been a really…” Henry looked at Katy, “…really wonderful night.” Henry leaned in and kissed Katy on the mouth.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t ready,” Katy invited Henry to sit down next to her on a bench. “Now…” she smiled and leaned in and kissed Henry. They kissed for a long time as Henry softly ran his hand down her cheek.

“Pervert!” someone shouted from across the street.

Henry looked behind him. “I’m sorry, Henry. Things like that happen when you are with me.”

“I can handle it. I’ve been called worse. Plus, for you, it’s worth it.”

Katy smiled and moved her head against Henry’s head. “You should take me home now,” she said softly.

Back at Katy’s house, she and Henry’s moans echoed through the house. Katy was bucking and pushing herself against Henry. It was slightly awkward for Henry but he held onto the fur around her hips and the harder he held the more she moaned.

Afterward, they lay in bed together and cuddled. “I’ve never done that before. Well, I have but not…” Henry stammered.

“With a deer. I know.”

Henry rolled over and looked at Katy’s big doe eyes. “So when are we going out again?” he smiled and kissed Katy. They cuddled up and fell asleep.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

No. 37: Coming Out Lois

Lois was lying on top of Maggie in Maggie’s bed. Their shirts were off and their breasts, still in their bras, were pressed tightly together. They were passionately kissing and rubbing their hands all over each other. The muffled sound of a car door came from outside and Maggie pushed Lois away from her.

“What’s wrong?” Lois asked.

“I heard a car door,” Maggie said.

“Maggie, when have your parents ever come home early?”

“Never,” Maggie smiled. “I’m sorry. I’m just really nervous about being caught,” Maggie leaned up and kissed Lois but she pulled away.

“I’m tired of this.”


“Hiding. I really care about you. And you care about me, right?” Lois asked.


“Then let’s reveal our relationship. Let’s quit hiding who we are. We can tell our parents tonight and our friends at school tomorrow.”

Maggie nodded. “Okay,” she choked.

“Now,” Lois bit her lip, “I think we should celebrate…” Lois began kissing at Maggie’s neck and went down her chest and stomach until her head was between Maggie’s legs. Lois helped slide off Maggie’s shorts and shifted her panties to the side and buried her face between Maggie’s legs.

Lois had decided to tell her mom and brother at dinner. When she went downstairs, her younger brother Michael was already at the table but her older brother Dustin was also there. “Dustin! What are you doing here?” Lois asked, sitting down.

“I thought I would come home and see how my family is doing?”

“So you have no money and are hungry,” Lois translated.

“Now Lois, whatever the reason might be, it’s nice to have Dustin back here,” Lois’ mom, Linda, said as she sat a casserole dish in the middle of the table.

“Well, I’m glad he’s here so I don’t have to repeat myself the next time I see him,” Lois said.

“What do you mean?” Linda asked.

“I have something to tell you all,” Lois sighed heavily in preparation. “I’ve known this for awhile but in the last six months or so have really…taken it to the next level.”

“What are you talking about?” Dustin tried to hurry her along.

“I’m gay and I’ve been seeing this girl at school since October.” All noise at the table ceased and everyone looked at her. Lois made eye contact with each member of her family but everyone remained silent. “Does anyone have anything to say?”

“I think you should’ve found a better outlet for this than over dinner,” Linda said.

“Is it a real girl?” Michael asked, jokingly.

“Of course it’s a real girl. Why would I make up having a girlfriend?”

“You ask me if I’m dating a real girl all the time!”

“Dustin, you’ve been oddly quiet. Do you have anything to add?”

“You better be joking,” he said, looking seriously at her.

“Why would I joke about this? This is a serious matter.”

“If you aren’t lying and you are dating a girl then what you are doing is wrong,” Dustin said.

“Why is it wrong? And don’t give me any religious explanation that quotes an obscure Bible text.”

“No, I’m not. Humans are supposed to reproduce—that’s what nature intended and by you choosing to be with a girl you are essentially slapping nature in the face!” Dustin explained.

“I am not ‘slapping nature in the face,’” Lois finger-quoted. “And I didn’t choose to be gay or attracted to women. I’ve been attracted to girls since about age nine and knew I was gay since I was thirteen.”

“It’s still going against nature,” Dustin said.

“There’s homosexuality everywhere in nature. If it’s a crime against nature then why are Bonobos bisexual?”

“Humans are nothing like Bonobos!” Dustin countered.

“I’m not saying they are but if nature didn’t want homosexuality to exist then there wouldn’t be homosexuality!”

“There isn’t! You choose to…”

“Enough!” Linda shouted. “We are not having this conversation at the dinner table. Or at all in the house!”

“Mom, are you okay with Lois’ decision?” Dustin asked.

“I don’t care. Lois is my daughter and I am going to love and I support her no matter what.”

Lois smiled. “Thanks, Mom.”

“What?” Vicki asked, eyes wide.

“I’m gay,” Lois had just come out to her best friends Dana and Vicki. This was the third time Lois had said she was gay in this conversation.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Dana asked. “Have you done it?”

“Dana, that’s personal, but,” Lois leaned in and talked softer “I have been dating Maggie Stewart. She’s supposed to be doing the same thing—coming out to friends and family.”

“Um, somehow I don’t think she is,” Vicki pointed over to Maggie who was walking with Morgan Bierman, arms crossing their backs, hands on their hips. They stopped and kissed before Morgan broke away and left the commons area.

Lois stormed over to Maggie. “Maggie, what the hell? You were supposed to come out to your friends and family and I see you walking around school with your hand on Morgan Bierman’s ass?”

“Be quiet!” Maggie shushed. “I couldn’t do it! You’ve met my family and we go to a small school. We’d be ostracized and teased and mocked.”

“So you start dating Bierman? You’re just overcompensating!”

“I’m sorry, Lois. The time we had together was really special and I will never forget it but we can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry,” Maggie started to cry and pushed away from Lois.

During fourth hour, Lois was listening to Mr. Smith drone on about chemistry. She was resting a cheek on her hand and her eyelids drooped. “Psst, Lois,” someone whispered behind her. Lois turned around and saw Wyatt Crenshaw placing his middle and fore finger around his mouth in a V-shape and wiggle his tongue. He and a couple students sitting near him tried to muffle their laughter. Lois angrily looked at them and turned back around to the front of the room.

The boy in front of her turned around and began rubbing the spaces between his middle and forefingers together. He laughed louder which caused Wyatt and his friends to laugh harder.

“What’s so funny?” Mr. Smith bellowed. “Everyone pay attention!”

Lois slumped down in her seat and tried to cover her face.

During lunch, Lois came up to Vicki and sat down her tray on the table. “Do people know about me?” she whispered loudly.

“I’ve heard some stuff about it,” Vicki said. “Someone even asked me if I was a lesbian because we hung out together.”

“Vicki, I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay. Honestly I would rather be a lesbian but sadly I’m not attracted to them and I enjoy penis too much,” Vicki sighed.

“I know. You’ve told me,” Lois rolled her eyes. “How do you think everybody found out?”

“I don’t know but you told us in the middle of the commons and then had an argument with Maggie. Any of the fifty people there could’ve overheard.

“Shit!” Lois huffed and looked at a group of girls who were looking at her. One of the girls pointed to Lois then covered her mouth to speak to her friends. Lois slumped in the chair and covered her face again. “Shit.”

“Hey, Lois,” a couple of boys holding lunch trays stopped at Lois, “you should come over to my house after school. I’ll make you not be gay anymore.”

“Get the fuck out of here!” Vicki shouted. The boys walked away still laughing and making sexual remarks. “Fucking knobs.”

“I’m going home,” Lois sighed and started to stand up.

“You can’t go home. If you leave then tomorrow will just be more of the same. Let them get it all out of their system and they will forget all about it.”

“Okay. Thanks, Vicki,” Lois remained seated and smiled. Lois looked across the cafeteria and saw Dana sitting with other girls. “What’s Dana doing over there?” Lois asked.

Lois walked into school the next day and everything seemed back to normal. She noticed no whispering, no remarks and no lewd gestures like what occurred the day before. She saw Maggie in a corner being held by Morgan but thought nothing of it. Lois got to her locker, dropped her backpack on the floor and spun the lock to open it.

On the inside of the door, a large flesh-colored dildo was stuck. A note was taped to it: ‘Thought you needed this!’ Students, who had ignored Lois up to this point were now pointing and laughing at her.

“Oh, real fucking mature, guys!” Lois shouted, pulled the dildo off her locker and slammed the door shut. She grabbed her backpack and stormed off to the office.

“I agree that it’s unacceptable,” the principal said after listening to Lois for almost five minutes about her being bullied, singled out and sexually harassed.

“What are you going to do about it?” Lois challenged.

“What can we do about it? We don’t know who did it,” the principal said.

“Bullshit. Then punish the whole school. Maybe one of the more tolerant people will reveal who did this.”

“I can’t do that, Ms. Glass,” the principal sighed. “If you have an idea who did it, I can question them but we don’t know who did this.”

“Bullshit,” Lois scoffed again. “I’m going home for the day. When I’m back here tomorrow you better have a fucking clue about what you are going to do.”

It was just after one and Lois was sitting at her desk in her bedroom staring at the dildo. “God damn it,” she muttered and threw it in the trash can. There was a knock on her door. “Come in,” she sighed.

Michael entered her bedroom. “Hi, Lois.”

“Michael. What are you doing home?”

“I heard what happened this morning so I decided to come home after lunch and see how you were.”

Lois smiled. “Thanks. You’re the good brother.”

“Dustin will come around. He still loves you.”

“I know.”

“I wanted to tell you that I really admire what you are doing. It’ll get easier—especially after you get out of school in a couple months.”

Lois started to tear up. “Thanks, Mikey. It’s been a rough couple of days.”

“Someone else wants to thank you, too.” Michael motioned for someone in the hallway to come into the bedroom. A short, chubby girl with short black hair and glasses walked in. “This is Monica,” Michael introduced. “She’s one of my best friends.”

“I’m gay, too.”

Lois turned her whole body to Michael and Monica. “Really?”

She nodded. “I just wanted to thank you for making me seem less different,” she began crying.

Lois stood up and went over to Monica to hug her. “It’s my pleasure, Monica. It’s my pleasure…”

The next morning, Lois and Vicki were sitting in the commons area on the floor. “So what did you do with it?” Vicki asked.


Vicki raised her eyebrows. “You know. What did you do with it?”

“Oh! I threw it away.”

“Damn. I was going to ask if I could have it.”

“Ew. Gross,” Lois shoved on Vicki.

“Lois?” Dana sat down next to Lois on the floor. “I’m sorry for the other day.”

Lois was taken aback. “Did you…?”

“Oh God, no! Never. I mean for ignoring you. It was small of me and I don’t want to lose your friendship over something like this.”

“It’s cool. I’m still the same person; I’m just attracted to women.”

“I know,” Dana said. “Everything seems a lot more normal today.”

“It does,” Lois said.

Two boys walked by the girls. Both of them coughed, trying to hide the word ‘dyke’ in it. Dana extended her leg and tripped one of the boys.

“Leave her the fuck alone!” she shouted.

“Thanks, Dana,” Lois nudged her friend.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No. 36: Immortal Beloved

Originally published in Watch This Space, November 1, 2011.

In a perfectly-ordered universe, on a perfectly-ordered world there is a word that can move mountains, clear up grey skies. A simple word that contains universes: Love. The day started out ordinarily enough. I was headed to work when a woman, dressed in all black and white appeared. “Greetings, Brian, I bring you a message from the Underworld…” she began.

“What? The Underworld…?”

“You know—Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, Lucifer. He wants to help you save one of your most treasured friends. A lovely creature named M-----.”

“M-----? Where is she?”

“Safe and protected in the heart of Hell. You are cordially invited to retrieve her.”

“Why is he doing this?”

“He’s pure evil. What other explanation is there?” Suddenly, a hole opened up in the Earth and the woman pointed down it. “This crater will lead you to her but the physical and psychological destruction could very well kill you and her in the process.”

Without even thinking, I began my descent. The stairway to Hell is long and winding. The gold banisters were blackened and the marble steps were cracked. From the shadows around me, spiteful eyes peered. Clawed hands reached out and mocking voices screeched unspeakable things. What I didn’t expect was the psychic invasion. It was as if my soul was being poisoned just by being in this place. My stomach churned and my legs grew unsteady. I struggled desperately to keep my thoughts clear, to remain focused on my goal. But I couldn’t. Their foul thoughts entwined with mine. I couldn’t tell where they left off and I began.

So I staggered...and fell. Like Alice down the rabbit hole but into a world no less surreal but far more vile. It felt like some dark force was ripping through my mind, tearing at every thought and every feeling. Like a worm burrowing through dreams and memories, through shrouded fears and guarded aspirations. I saw family, friends and lovers spewing forth from my own consciousness and being corrupted, poisoned and defiled by the ravenous darkness. As I struggled against them, I realized that everything around me was being formed by my own mind. There are many Hells and each one is formed by our own perceptions so who’s to say what’s waiting for me just around the bend?

“Dad…? Dad, are you listening to me?”

“What? Oh, sorry, Joel—sort of drifted off there for a minute. Now what were you saying son?”

“I was saying that I’m getting out of Baldwin when I grow up,” Joel said as I lifted him up and we walked through the field, up a hill to an old farmhouse.

“Really? And where are you going to go?” I asked my son.

“Well, first I’m gonna travel the world, y’know? And then, when I’m really old—like twenty or something—I’m gonna settle down in some big city somewhere. New York or Los Angeles. Maybe even London or Paris.”

I chuckled and held Joel closer to me. “Y’know, I once felt the same way. All I wanted out of life was to get as far away from the Kansas cornfields as possible. But then one morning, I woke up and realized that this place was all the heaven I needed.” We arrived at the house with M----- waiting and Stephanie sitting at the table ready for dinner.

After dinner we sat on the porch with Joel pestering Stephanie as she’s doing homework and little Abigail kicking inside her mommy. I pull my wife close and gaze into that great Kansas sky and know beyond all doubt that I am the luckiest man alive. When we finally get the two in bed, it feels good to have some time alone with my beautiful bride. Life may not be perfect but it’s as close as any soul could ever get.

“Brian? My water just broke,” M----- said quietly. I trust Stephanie to watch Joel until Uncle Dustin can come over and usher M----- into the car and head towards Lawrence. “Remember when Steph was born? You made a wrong turn and we ended up in Scranton? Luckily we were still able to get to Lawrence in…time? Brian? Brian...something’s wrong!”

The car screeches to a halt and I rush to her side. “You’re gonna be fine, Pussycat. I swear to you…” She’s hemorrhaging. And at the rate she’s losing blood, she could die and Abby with her. I ignore all signs and lights in Lawrence and arrive at the hospital. I burst into the emergency room, carrying my true love. “Help her!” I scream. They take my wife away and all I can do is wait. And pray.

The doctor comes over to me. “I’m sorry. We lost them both.”

I bury my face in my hands then turn and look up at the doctor. I slowly stand up. “It didn’t work ‘doctor’. It will never work! I know where I am and I know who you are!”

“Do you expect me to applaud you for that performance?” the evil incarnate began. “I gave you everything. Glories of the world, the adolation of the woman you cherish. It was absolute perfection! God Himself couldn’t have offered you more and you rejected it!”

“I knew that wasn’t the real M-----. She’s still out there somewhere, suffering at your hands.”

“You’ll never get her back because I can just replace each reality with another and another until you become nothing and you can’t remember why you are here only that you once had a name, a life, a purpose. But now, there’s only the void.”


“M-----?” It’s her. I know it’s her. Her voice is echoing across the gulfs of Hell. Penetrating my heart, restoring my very being. It’s her. Her consciousness gives me strength. Gives me hope. The Devil is wrong and his illusions won’t work anymore. I smash through seemingly endless realities like glass. I feel his shock and his fear because he doesn’t understand. How could he? My love for M----- is what makes me me and it gives my life meaning. Without it, without her, I truly would be in Hell.

The evil of this awful place has nearly destroyed her and every instant she grows weaker. Satan’s shadow continues to reach up and claim me, wave after wave. They try.

They fail. I have become blind to their darkness and deaf to their harrowing cries. All I can see, all I can hear is her! As I rescue M-----, at moment like this, words fail. And love speaks volumes. Is it my imagination or do the shadows shrink back as we rise toward the surface? Do they cower and whimper before the power of such a simple human emotion? A union of hearts able to triumph over Hell itself? Now what would Satan say about that?

Monday, September 17, 2012

No. 35: Missing

The cute redheaded cashier took my purchases and ran them over the scanner. Her name was Myrna and she lived across the hall from me. “Hey, My. How are you doing tonight?” I asked and she smiled.

“I’m doing good, Nick,” she replied. “I’ve been working some extra hours to make more money. You?”

“Good. School’s going good as is work. Can’t complain, really,” I said.

“$11.84,” she said. I handed Myrna a twenty.

I nervously looked around as she got my change. No one was behind me in line so I cleared my throat. “Myrna? I was wondering, a friend is having a party and I was wondering if you’d like to come with me,” I invited.

“$8.16 is your change,” she handed me the money. “When is it?”

“Friday night. I’d totally understand if you can’t make it.”

“I’ll go. I’m not working that night. It’ll be fun.”

“Great! I’ll come over Friday to pick you up. I’ll see you around, My.”

“All right. Definitely see you on Friday,” Myrna smiled again which caused me to smile. I left the store and headed home.

I watched in awe as Myrna sank two of her billiard balls into a hole. We had been dominating the pool table my friend had set up in his apartment. “How did you get this good at pool?” I asked her.

“When I was a teenager, I hung out with…undesirables,” she said.

“At least you learned something hanging out with them,” I said.

“I also had numerous pregnancy scares, became an alcoholic, dropped out of high school and became estranged from my family,” Myrna revealed. “And that’s why I now work in the glamorous world of cash register operating.”

I looked at her with my mouth agape. “But all that was worth becoming a decent pool player, right?”

“Totally,” Myrna said as she lined up a shot, hit the cue ball with her cue and sank another ball.

“Why don’t you just clear the table while I get us some more to drink?” I leaned my pool stick against the wall and went over to where all of the drinks were just outside the kitchen.

“Is that the girl from the grocery store?” Eric leaned closer to me.

“Oh yeah. And she is even more amazing than I imagined she would be.”

“Imagined? You mean ‘jerked-off to?’” Eric said.

“Whatever,” I grabbed our drinks and went back to Myrna. “Here you go,” I handed Myrna the drink and she took it from me.

She immediately downed the drink and burped. She sat the cup on the pool table and wiped her mouth with her arm. “Can we leave? I kind of want to hang out with you in a more...quiet setting.”

“Uh, sure. Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“We can just go back to my place,” she smiled and bit her lip.

Myrna and I sat on her couch, kissing and fondling. Her lips were soft and liked to linger on mine when we stopped kissing. A small kitten leaped onto the back of the couch. We both started laughing as the kitten startled us.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“This is Jake. I adopted him a couple weeks ago. I felt it was getting a little lonely in here,” Myrna said.

“Hello, Jake,” I scratched the cat behind the ear and he mewed softly. I glanced at the clock on her TV. It was after midnight. “It’s getting late and I know you have work in the morning.”

“Are you going to be spending the night?” Myrna asked.

“Spending the night? Why? I live across the…hall…” Myrna kissed me again and pulled herself on top of me. I leaned back and embraced her.

She pulled away and got off of me. She stood and pulled me off the couch. “Come on,” she led me into her bedroom. As we stood next to her bed, we looked at each other then she removed my shirt. She moved her fingertips through my chest hair and down my stomach stopping at my pants. “Take them off.”

Naked, we lay down on the bed and continued kissing. Her pale white skin seemed to be illuminated by the dim moonlight coming through the window. As we made love, Jake tried to attack my fingers from under the bed. When we were finished we laid on our sides and looked at each other.

“You should be getting to sleep,” I said.

“I know but this has been such a perfect night. But you’re right. I’m gonna clean up and then we can go to sleep,” Myrna got out of bed and went into the bathroom.

When we lay down to sleep, I pulled Myrna close to me and held her. As she fell asleep she began snoring softly. I held her tight and fell asleep myself.

For the next three months Myrna and I were a great couple. “But the last month or so, she’s been acting weird. It seems almost like she’s avoiding me. She leaves early in the morning but I never see her come home. The last time we were really together was two weeks ago and I haven’t seen her in about a week,” I said to Eric. “Do you think she’s cheating on me?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really know her that well. You know her though. Do you think she’s cheating?” he asked me.

I looked at him. “I don’t want her to be. I know we’ve only been together a few months but I’m falling in love with Myrna. I really want us to work out.”

“Have you gone to see her at work?”

“I don’t want to bother her at work and get her coworkers involved in our private lives,” I said.

“Do it anyway. If you really love Myrna, then go get her and find out what’s wrong.”

I left Eric and went to the store. She wasn’t working at a register so I went to find the manager. “Excuse me but when is Myrna scheduled to work again?” I asked him.

“Myrna? I had to let her go about two weeks ago. She stopped showing up for work. I called her and left a message on her phone and called her again to tell her to pick up her last paycheck but I haven’t seen her in over two weeks, the manager said.

I was silent as I tried to process this information.

“I hope everything is all right with her. She was a good employee and a lot of our customers liked her.”

“Yeah. She was unique,” I said. “Thanks for the info.”

“You’re welcome.”

I began walking home, thinking about when the last time I saw Myrna was. It was a little less than a week ago and from what I remember, things seemed fine. Before I went to my apartment, I stopped at the maintenance man’s apartment. He answered, a gruff-looking man with permanent stubble and a beer belly. He always seemed angry and kind of drunk.


“My neighbor in 3B hasn’t been home in days and she has a cat so I was wondering if you could let me in her apartment so I can make sure it has enough food,” I said.

He stared at me for a moment then grabbed a ring of keys and came out into the hallway with me, closing the door. We went up to my floor and he unlocked Myrna’s door. “Make sure you lock the door when you’re finished,” he said and went back downstairs.

I opened the door, Jake was by the door but when it opened, he bounced away playfully. I entered Myrna’s apartment and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Everything looked the same as the last time I saw it. I looked in the kitchen and saw Jake was out of food and water. I picked up the water bowl and filled it then picked up the food bowl and filled that. Jake ran into the kitchen and began rubbing himself along my arm and hand.

I went into her bedroom and saw nothing out of the ordinary. I opened the drawer of her nightstand and saw the usual stuff—hairbrush, cotton swabs, a box of condoms, a couple of books and, most interestingly, a flash drive.

I put the flash drive in my pocket. I thought it was weird that Myrna would have a flash drive since she didn’t have a computer. I checked the dresser drawers but found only clothes and a weathered picture of Myrna and another girl. On the back was ‘Heather and me’ with a date of two years ago. Myrna had spoken about Heather but they hadn’t seen each other in over a year. I pocketed the picture as well.

Before I left, I picked up Jake and his bag of food and brought them over to my apartment. I went back over to grab the bowls, litter and litter box, locked the door and closed it. I sat down at my computer, sat the picture on my desk and pushed the flash drive into the USB port.

There was only one file on the drive. I double-clicked the file and a movie began playing. It started out with a point-of-view shot from inside of a car stopping in front of Myrna who was sitting on the curb.

“Hey, baby. You look sad,” a man inside the car said.

“A little bit,” Myrna replied. “My boyfriend and I got in a fight and he broke up with me.”

“Aw, that’s too bad. Get in the car, I think I can cheer you up,” the man said.

Myrna got in the car and the car began moving again. “How are you going to cheer me up?” she asked.

“With this,” the man driving suddenly had his semi-erect penis out.

“Ooh,” Myrna said in a childish tone, leaned over and began giving the man oral sex. I skipped forward a few minutes and Myrna and the guy were walking alongside railroad tracks. The cameraman was attempting to film upshots of Myrna’s short skirt as she was not wearing underwear. “Where are we going?” she asked innocently and giggling.

“Somewhere where we can get some privacy,” the man replied.

They entered a clearing where a giant house stood. The house was a giant stone house painted white but it was now peeling and dingy from water and dirt. Vines were growing up the side and the windows were broken.

Myrna, the man and the cameraman went into the house through the broken down front door. I skipped ahead a few more minutes to Myrna performing oral sex in a point-of-view scene while looking at the camera. I skipped forward a bit more to Myrna on a couch, on her side with one leg in the air and the man between her legs, thrusting in and out. Myrna was moaning in exaggerated porn movie sounds but, at moments, some of her sounds sounded like ones I had heard when we made love.

I skipped forward again and this time Myrna was straddling the man, still moaning loudly as she rode him, the camera going between a crotch shot, her breasts and the look on her face. I skipped to the end and the money shot where the man ejaculated on Myrna’s face while she stuck her tongue out. The camera zoomed in on her face. The last couple of minutes were Myrna and the man having a back and forth as she half-heartedly laughed. The camera then shut off.

I stared at the blank screen for awhile then went back to where they arrived at the house. “That house looks familiar,” I said quietly. I paused the movie and stared at the house. “That’s it!” I shouted.

The house was located about two miles from the city limits along the railroad tracks. A couple years ago, Eric and I got into going to abandoned houses. We made the journey to the house but there was nothing notable about it. If the movie was recent, the last couple of years had really taken its toll on the house.

The next day I drove to the industrial area of town and began walking down the tracks out of town. The house revealed itself to me like in the movie. It looked just like it did in the movie. All the windows were broken, the door busted in and the fake decorative red shutters next to each window were missing on the ground floor.

I cautiously entered the house. There was a ceiling fan hanging down with a massive birds nest in it. Right in front of me was a stone fireplace with a decorative ‘W’ under the mantle. I went through a doorway next to the fireplace and saw the couch that Myrna had sex on with that guy. It had been set on fire and was now unusable. I didn’t know if the couch was a victim of vandalism or to get rid of evidence.

I began walking up the stairs, not really knowing why, and paused on the landing of the second floor. It reeked up here of animal feces. I stayed on the landing and looked out of a window that was in the room directly in front of me. I thought about Myrna and the months that we had together. I tried to think of a future with her but everything I thought of was fuzzy and based in the present. I was falling in love with her but how long that love would last was unknown to me.

I was snapped out of my daydream by a loud clang that seemed to come from the kitchen. I quickly ran down the stairs and out the door to the tracks. I ran back to my car without looking back. I sat in my car staring down the railroad tracks but I saw no one. I started my car and drove away to the police station.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No. 34: Customer Service

“Customer Relations, Inc. is our client’s one-stop shop for customer service excellence,” Mike Flint’s voice boomed through the conference room where me and six other people sat. They were a hodgepodge of shapes, sizes and colors. Mike was a tall guy who had slicked back black hair that seemed soaking wet based on the amount of hair gel that looked combed through it. He had a beard that was mainly stubble along the cheekbone but he had a full grown goatee. “CRI currently has three contracts which you will all be working on at some point. The contracts are the National Cancer Association, Nuwicki Business Insurance and Upbringing Monthly, a magazine.”

I had never heard of any of those companies. The National Cancer Association sounded like it gave you cancer instead of helping to cure it.

“The best part about CRI is how easy it is to work here as long as you follow two simple rules. One, follow the scripts. Everything you need to say is written down for you. The script works. Read it word for word. And two, have a positive attitude. Bring your smile to work everyday. CRI has been a long-established company in town having been here for 12 years.”

Someone in the group raised their hand and spoke, “If CRI has been here for 12 years then how come I’ve never heard of you? And if you are a well-respected business then how come your newspaper ad just says ‘Earn money calling people’ and the phone number?”

Bold, I thought. But I was honestly thinking the same thing.

“If you are not going to be serious about working here then there’s the door and you can leave,” Mike said angrily and pointed at the conference room door.

So you want people to have fun at this job but not question the shadiness of this business, I thought. I would honestly leave right now if I hadn’t had water in three weeks.

I was laid off from my job that I had for seven years about eight months ago. When I was first laid off I began searching for jobs that were similar to or a lateral move from the job I had before. After about six months I decided to look for a low-pay job that would at least bring in some income while I continued to look for something else. When it was clear places like gas stations and McDonald’s wouldn’t hire me I decided to call some of the mysterious numbers in the papers. The ads that read “$1500 a month!” and “Make $100s setting appointments” and the ever ominous “Need young people now.”

The first ad was going door-to-door selling some kind of expensive humidifier. The next was going door-to-door making appointments so other people could try and sell vacuums and the last one was to become one of those annoying magazine salespeople who are trying to get a trip to Rome or some other place. The last ad I called was for CRI. I was told to come down and fill out an application. After I filled it out, I was immediately called in for an interview which wasn’t so much an interview than an application verification. I was hired on the spot and, after the weekend, was back to start training.

“You will all start on setting appointments for Nuwicki Business Insurance. It’s the easiest script we have, ergo, it’s the easiest sell,” Mike said and began handing out papers to us. “This script is easy. ‘Hello, my name is Mike. Can I speak to the owner of Customer Relations, Inc? Thank you. I am calling on behalf of Nuwicki Business Insurance with an offer to lower the insurance for you and all of your employees by 20%. If you would like I can set up an appointment for you to meet with one of our agents.’ If they say no then you read this part of the script in an attempt to get a yes. If they say yes then you schedule an appointment and boom, you’ve made some extra money.”

A woman raised her hand, “Do we do the two ‘no’ rule then move to the ‘Thank you for time’ bit?” she asked.

“Keep reiterating these two paragraphs until you are sure you are not going to get a ‘yes’ then thank them for their time. We are not considered telemarketers because we are not selling them anything, we are setting up appointments,” Mike said.

Just keep telling yourself that, I thought and smiled, that doesn’t make what you’re doing any less annoying.

“Who’s ready to make some calls?” Mike asked excitedly. All but two of the seven people around the table raised their hands. “All right. Let me get these people set up out there and I will be back in here to help you with whatever questions you have.”

Mike led us out to the call floor. There were three rows of cubicles that made a semi-square around two desks where apparently the supervisors sat. Mike placed me between a short and stubby man with a shaved head named Thomas Limberhand and a pretty girl with tight, curly hair named Erinn Rangle.

“Ready for your first day?” Thomas asked me as I sat down at the cubicle and put the headset on. The computer awoke from its sleep and showed me a desktop with the CRI logo and three icons. One for each contract.

“I guess,” I said. “Is this job difficult or anything?”

“Not really,” Thomas said. “I’ve been here for nine months and apparently that’s some kind of record. People tend to drift in and out of here fairly regularly.”

“Wonder why,” I chuckled and doubled-clicked on the Nuwicki icon. The phone dialed the first number on the list and it rang on the other end. Someone answered and I began my spiel. “Hello, my name is Joey. Can I speak to the owner of Murphy’s Auto?”

“This is him,” the man answered.

“Thank you. I am calling on behalf of Nuwicki Business Insurance with an offer to lower…”

“Listen, we’re a small company. Just me and my two sons. We have good insurance and we’re not really interested in switching and even if I was I don’t have time to stand around and talk about it. Just put me on your ‘do-not-call’ list, please.”

The man hung up and I quickly stopped the phone from dialing again so I could click the ‘do-not-call’ button.

“Try to do that while you are still on a call, man,” Thomas said, pointing over the cubicle wall. “The supes know when you are not ready to make a call.”

“Okay. So we’re calling people at work?”

“Typically, yeah,” Thomas answered. “If they don’t work from home.”

“I just bothered some guy at work,” I said.

“That’ll happen. After a few days, bothering them won’t even cross your mind. Hello, I’m Thomas and I’m calling on behalf of the National Cancer Association…”

I sighed heavily and got ready to make another call. “Hello, I’m Joey and I’m calling on behalf of Nuwicki Insurance. May I speak to the owner of Get Nailed On 9th?”

I was sitting outside on the benches provided texting on my phone, a once expensive thing I bought back in 2001 but now very ancient by today’s standards but I only used it to call people and to text so why did I need something more elaborate?

Erinn came over and sat down across from me with a sack lunch. I had nothing. I had about ten minutes left in my lunch. “Are you enjoying your first day?”

“You’re not going to tattle on me if I say ‘no’ are you?” I asked.

“No. Sorry I haven’t been more talkative but I find it best to just sit down, do my job and get the hell out of here,” Erinn said.

“I hear that,” I said.

“I’m Erinn,” she introduced.

“I know. Mike told me. How long have you worked here?”

“Two months,” she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. I stared at her as she took out a cigarette and placed it in her mouth. She noticed I was staring and seemed to go limp. “I’m sorry but this place just makes me want to smoke all the time. I smoke nearly a pack a day and let me tell you that isn’t cheap.”

“I wouldn’t think so,” I looked at her eyes. They were wide but on her it didn’t stand out or look odd. For some reason, I kept looking at her nose. She had a nice nose, not proportionate to her face but one with character. On the large side but it turned up just slightly at the end. When the sun hit her face just right or she was in the right shadow, she was beautiful.

“So why’d you take this job?” she asked.

“I got tired of hanging around with people who got out of the shower to pee,” I said.

“Really?” she laughed

“No,” I laughed at her laugh. “I was laid off several months ago and this was the only decent job that would hire me. I was desperate because my water was shut off nearly a month ago. My gas has been off for two months and my electricity will probably be shut off next week.”

“That is desperate. That’s at least a better excuse than I have.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because I suck. I can’t keep a job, I can’t just live in one place, I can barely take care of myself,” Erinn remarked. “I always relied on someone else to help me and when my friend, who I was living with, moved in with her boyfriend I had to find another place to live. I was able to find a cheap place but I needed a job and I needed it as soon as possible so I wound up here.”

“I hardly believe that you suck. I’ve known you for several minutes now and you are the complete opposite of suck. In fact, if I didn’t smell like an unflushed toilet, I would totally ask you out.”

She smiled and blushed, lowering her head. The cigarette she was going to smoke went back into the pack and she took a bite of her sandwich.

“I have to get back to work,” I stood up. “I’ll see you inside.”

“See you Joey,” she said through her smile.

I was only on the phone another hour when Mike came up behind me. “Joey, can I see you in my office please?”

I placed my headset on the desk and followed Mike to his office. “What’s up?”

“You’ve only scheduled five meetings today, Joey,” Mike sat down behind his desk and I slowly sat down in one of the chairs in front of it. “CRI expects at least a meeting an hour for your first week. It’s not that hard. What can we do to help you? Do you need to sit with one of our veterans? Do you need additional training? Because starting next week you’ll need to schedule three meetings an hour or we’ll have to let you go.”

“Are you really going to fire someone because they’ve had an off-day?” I asked.

“If you don’t set up meetings then CRI doesn’t get money and if we don’t get money, you don’t get money. We want all of our employees to be at their best. If you aren’t meeting your quota then clearly you are not doing your best,” Mike said.

“It’s my first day. Why aren’t you giving me this lecture next week? Or why not on Thursday or Friday?”

“We don’t want you to get in a habit,” Mike began but I interrupted him.

“I read the scripts, I keep them on the phone, I give them as much information as I can and, again, I read the scripts. This whole job is a habit.”

“You need to try harder.”

“How can I try harder? I’m pleasant and friendly. I treat the people nice and they seem to like me even when they are yelling at me. What am I doing wrong? Tell me how I can try harder.”

“Just think about the money you’ll make if you make these appointments. The more appointments you schedule, the more money you’ll make,” was the non-answer Mike gave me. If we scheduled a meeting, we got an additional ten dollars. If that meeting resulted in a sale then we got an additional one hundred dollars.

“That doesn’t help me. I can’t control what the people on the other end do,” I said. “I can think about the money non-stop but 90 percent of the people I call will still say ‘no’. You told us that.”

Mike stared at me blankly for awhile then clasped his hands and breathed heavily. “Maybe we should move you over to Upbringing Monthly,” Mike said. “Log out of the insurance program and log in to the magazine program. There should be a script in your cubicle.”

I got set up out at my cubicle and prepared to take my first call for the magazine. It rang and someone picked up almost immediately. “Hello, my name is Joey from Upbringing Monthly. Is this the Holvoet household?”

“Yes,” the man answered.

“Our records show that you have a newborn and we were wondering if you would be interested in a one-year subscription to our magazine at our reduced rate of two dollars an issue,” I read, feeling better about pushing this on people than I did about the insurance.

“Not really,” the man began. “My wife had a miscarriage in her ninth month so we won’t be needing a magazine on how to raise a baby.”

Damn it, I thought. “I am so sorry, sir. I will take you off the list and we won’t bother you again.”

“Thank you,” and I disconnected the call and clicked the ‘do-not-call’ button and wrote an explanation in the notes box.

I looked at the clock on my computer. “Three more hours,” I moaned then dialed the next number.

“I heard they moved you over to the magazine,” Erinn said, following me out of the door.

“Yeah. I guess I wasn’t cutting it on the insurance side. The magazine was slightly easier but I’ll be back on insurance tomorrow,” I said.

“I think Mike will end up putting you on the cancer side. You make a dollar for each donation you get.”

“Yeah. But only if they send in the money. Which they aren’t required to,” I reminded.

“True. That’s why I like the insurance side more,” we stopped at a car in the parking lot. “This is me,” she said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said and turned to walk to my car.

“Oh, Joey! If you ever do want to ask me out, feel free to come over and use my shower.”

I turned and looked at her. I smiled as I watched her get in her car. I continued walking to my car. Still smiling.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No. 33: Superkitten

Alix Kincaid staggered into her apartment on Essex Street in New York City. As she walked down the hall, she removed her shoes, pants and belly shirt, leaving them in a trail down the hall. She grabbed an oversized t-shirt in her room and put it on then collapsed on her bed. She had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off. She ignored it and let it beep.

“Alix! Can’t you hear that?” her mom shouted from the doorway. “You need to get up. You’re not missing school again!”

Alix slowly rose from the bed and stood up. She turned her back to her mother and removed her shirt, grabbing another one from the floor.

“You should really wear a bra,” her mother said.

“My boobs, my rules,” Alix said.

“What time did you get home last night?”

“I didn’t notice. Late.”

“What were you doing out so late?”

“Mom,” Alix looked straight at her mother’s eyes. “I’m not gonna lie to you. What’s for breakfast?” Alix walked past her mom and back down the hall where her clothes were still laying.

“Don’t avoid the question, Alix!” her mom shouted.

“Why does it matter where I was? Nothing bad happened and I came home.”

“It matters because no matter what you think I care about you and love you. I am your mother!”

“I know. You keep reminding me,” Alix rolled her eyes. “There’s nothing to eat here. Can I have a couple bucks to buy breakfast?” she asked, eyeing her mom’s purse.

“I guess. But just take the five. I want you to come right home after school, okay? I’ll make a good dinner and we can talk.”

“Talk? About what?”

“Just talk. We never talk anymore…” she brushed Alix’s short blonde hair from her eyes.

“We never talked before,” Alix interrupted.

“Regardless. Right after school.”

“So I’m beginning to think those pills Paolo gave us last night were fake,” Traci said, standing outside the stall in the girl’s bathroom at school. “I mean, I started coming down pretty quickly after I took them and normally I get a pretty good buzz going that lasts. Last night I just didn’t feel it as much as I usually do. Jesus, what are you doing in there?”

Alix wiped and stood up to pull up her pants. “They were real Traci, I can vouch for Paolo. Also,” she opened the door to the stall, “what the hell would I be doing in here?”

“I dunno. I’ve seen a lot of things happening in a bathroom,” Traci shrugged.

“Come on. Let’s go outside. I need a smoke.”

Outside, Alix and Traci sat on the basketball court watching some boys play basketball. Alix was slowly smoking her cigarette. “My mom wants to ‘talk’ when I get home. She wants to make a nice dinner and have a mother-daughter conversation,” Alix said.

“How dare she,” Traci said.

“It could be worse,” Alix said, exhaling smoke. “She could want to take me to the mall.”

The girls stood up and began walking back to the school. A basketball flew through the air and hit Alix on the side of the head.”

“Ow!” she screamed.

“Nice catch,” said one of the boys.

“That hurt, Diego!” Alix yelled angrily.

“Not like there’s anything up there to hurt,” Diego scoffed. A couple of his friends chuckled.

“Look Traci,” Alix held up the basketball, “we now have proof that Diego has at least one ball.”

Diego got in Alix’s face and smirked. “I didn’t hear you complaining a couple weeks ago.”

Alix took one last drag on her cigarette and threw it down. “I didn’t have to complain. The bored look on my face said it all.” And she exhaled the smoke in Diego’s face.

Diego stared at Alix as she smiled at him. “Bitch!” he said as he slapped her across the face. Diego turned around. “Come on, guys. Let’s go in.”

Alix felt the warm area where Diego slapped her and got angrier with every passing second. Traci walked over to her and held her. Alix began screaming and running toward Diego. She then punched Diego square in the back. Traci shuddered at the sound of the crack. Diego fell to the ground. Traci saw what had happened and began screaming.

Alix noticed what she did and began crying. She saw a couple of teachers and security officers running toward her. Alix began panicking and ran away in the other direction.

Traci walked down the street after school. She had barely stopped crying since this morning. While she was walking past an alley, a hand flew out and grabbed her. She began screaming but another hand covered her mouth.

“Quiet. I don’t want anyone to know where I am,” Alix said.

“Alix!” Traci fumed. “You scared me to death!”

“Sorry. How was school?” she asked.

“You shouldn’t have left. The police are looking for you,” Traci said.

“I know,” Alix sighed. “I killed him.”

“I know. I was there. Are you gonna turn yourself in?”

“Of course not. I’m gonna wait until it dies down and then I’m leaving town.”

“Running away? Why? I was there. I gave a statement. The teachers and principal don’t like Diego and the police honestly don’t seem too keen on avenging his death,” Traci said. “To them it’s just another dead gang member.”

“I’m still gonna wait until things cool down,” Alix said. “I need a place to stay.”

“You can’t stay with me. It’s crowded and the police will probably find you. You could probably stay with my brother. He lives alone so he may let you stay a night or two. He lives a couple blocks from here,” Traci offered.

“Okay,” Alix nodded.

Traci knocked on the door to Nick’s apartment. He opened the door with a phone pressed against his car. He motioned for them to come in. “Yeah. No, I’ll need proof of the money first. I know but after last time I’m changing the rules. All right, call me back in half an hour,” Nick hung up. “Hey, Trace, what’s up?”

“Hi, Nick. Alix needs a place to stay. Something bad happened at school. Can she stay here?” Traci asked.

Nick shrugged. “I guess. She’ll either have to sleep on the couch or the floor because I only have my mattress.”

“That’s fine,” Alix said.

“Great. Thank, Nick. I gotta get home, Alix. I hope I’ll see you at school tomorrow,” Traci hugged Alix and left Nick’s apartment.

Alix and Nick looked at each other. “Thanks for letting me stay here.”

“How are you going to pay rent?” he asked.

“Oh. Um, well, I have no money but I can do chores or…”

Nick unbuttoned his pants and pulled them down. “One for each day you’re here.”

Alix sighed, stepped forward and got down on her knees.

“So if Alix comes home, tell her that charges are not going to be pressed but we do want her to give us a statement,” the police officer said as he and Alix’s mom walked to the door.

“Thank you, officer. I’m sure Alix will be relieved.”

“Have a good evening, ma’am,” the officer said and left.

Alix’s mom closed the door and went into the kitchen. Her dinner was almost finished and the table set. She sat down at the table and sighed. “Damn it, Alix.”

There was a knock on the door and she got up to answer it. She opened the door and saw a young kid standing in the hallway.

She smiled. “Yes?”

He pulled out a gun from his jacket and began shooting at her. Three shot were fired. One hit her leg, the other hit her shoulder and the last one went through her stomach and out her back. She fell to the ground, the kid ran away. Blood poured out of her wounds and pooled beneath her.

Alix ran into the hospital and into her mom’s room in the intensive care unit. She was sobbing and having a hard time catching her breath. “Oh, mom! I’m so sorry. That should’ve been me! I should’ve came right home. I am so, so sorry. You’ll never forgive me this and you shouldn’t have to. I am so sorry, Mom. I love you…” she cried on her Mom for several minutes until a nurse escorted her out.

Half an hour later, Alix was standing on the roof of Nick’s building. It was windier and slightly colder up there but Alix didn’t feel it. She looked out over the city, still crying. She thought about the last couple of days, and walked, half mesmorized, to the edge of the building and defiantly looked down.

“I’ll see you soon, Daddy,” she said and prepared to step off the edge.

“I wouldn’t do that,” said a voice behind her.

Alix turned to see who it was. “What?”

“Please come down. I have a question to ask you,” said the man.

Alix reluctantly got down and took a step toward the man. “Okay. I’m down. What do you want?”

“I’m here to give you the opportunity of a lifetime. My name is Dmitri Sylvester and I am the director of a covert government team. We’ve been watching you for quite awhile, Miss Kincaid and think you would fit nicely with our team,” the man explained.

Alix eyed him suspiciously. “Why do you think I would fit in?” she asked.

“Well, aside from your lack of agoraphobia,” Dmitri chuckled, “you have a special power a lot of other people lack.”

“Like what?”

“How do you think you really snapped that boy’s spine?” he asked.

“Oh, geez. You saw that?”

“I told you we’ve been watching you,” Dmitri said. “Anyway, the average hit to the middle of the back will hurt, may bring someone down but will not paralyze or kill a person. You, however, used your power—a force field around your body that strengthens every punch and kick when you want it to.”

“So I’m some kind of freak?” Alix asked.

“Of course not. With the right training and motivation you could be a hero.”

Alix smiled at that. She thought for a moment and shrugged. “What have I got to lose?” she joined Dmitri and they started walking back to the stairway door. “What about my Mom?”

“She’ll be fine. The government will pay for her care. You or her won’t have to worry about anything.”

Alix, as her new identity of Superkitten, stood atop a warehouse with Geo-Whiz, an older boy with a red and black skintight uniform and a billowing black and white cape. Superkitten kept looking over at Geo-Whiz and then, finally, giggled.

“What’s up?” Geo-Whiz asked, not taking his eyes off the building across the street.

“Why are you wearing a cape?” Superkitten asked.

“I think capes look cool. All the cool superheroes wear capes. Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel. Magneto wears a cape,” Geo-Whiz explained.

“Okay. On a scale of one to ten, how much of a dork are you?” she laughed.

“Very funny,” Geo-Whiz smiled. He then extended his gloved hand toward her. “I’m Brandon Taggert.”

She accepted his hand and smiled. “Alix Kincaid. What’s your story?”

“I graduated college at 13 and you’d be surprised at how many companies are not willing to hire a 13-year-old—labor laws and all. So at 14, I began a series of low wage jobs and then when I was 18, companies still wouldn’t hire me. I found out around that time I had geokinesis but I hardly used it and kept it to myself. I was working a dead end customer service job when Dmitri approached me and offered this to me,” Geo-Whiz said. “You?”

“I killed someone,” Superkitten smiled. “I hit bottom. I was about to kill myself when Dmitri arrived.”

“I’m glad you didn’t. How’d you choose your name?” asked Geo-Whiz.

“Superkitten? My Dad always called me Kitten. I added the Super because of the powers. How about you? I mean, come on, Geo-Whiz?”

“Whiz because I’m smart and Geo because of my geokinesis can control and manipulate the Earth.”

“We got movement down there,” Superkitten pointed. She prepared to leap off the building.

“Wait. Those aren’t Taikon’s normal henchmen…” Geo-Whiz hushed. He watched and listened as one of the people unlocked the warehouse door. “Oh my God!” Geo-Whiz focused his hands toward the ground and the concrete and dirt lifted the two people up into the air just as the entire warehouse exploded and became engulfed in flames.

Geo-Whiz and Superkitten protected the two people from the flames and led them away from the edge of the building.

“Are you okay?” Superkitten asked.

“Yeah, shaken—a couple of burns but we’re alive,” one of the people said. The people were a man and a woman, early twenties.

“What were you doing at that warehouse?” Geo-Whiz asked.

“Some guy down the street gave us ten thousand dollars in cash and a key and told us to unlock the warehouse door,” the man said.

“I’m gonna see if I can find any trace of him,” Geo-Whiz took off toward the street. “You help them off the roof.”

Superkitten and Geo-Whiz reunited several minutes later. “Taikon is trying to say something. He knows we’re onto him,” Geo-Whiz pressed a button on his gauntlet. “Dmitri? The warehouse was blown up.”

“We’re actually getting something from Taikon’s signal,” Dmitri said. “It’s coming from Merrittstown—a suburb. Better head on over there.”

“Okay, Dmitri,” Geo-Whiz looked at Superkitten. “You heard him. Let’s go.”

Superkitten and Geo-Whiz arrived in Merrittstown and saw a robot tearing it apart—throwing cars into buildings and houses. He heard the two approaching and turned his head revealing a half-human face. The head startled Superkitten.

“He’s just a cyborg, SK,” Geo-Whiz said.

“I know, I just wasn’t expecting it,” she replied.

“You should’ve seen me before I had my face blown off, sweetie,” the cyborg said. “You would’ve been all over me.” The cyborg raised his arm, aimed an energy beam and began blasting away at Geo-Whiz and Superkitten.

They barely had enough time to get their force fields up before the beams hit them so they were knocked back a few feet. Geo-Whiz countered by lifting the ground under and around the cyborg, knocking him onto his back.

Superkitten leapt up and plowed her feet into his chest, cracking the breaking the metal. “You think that can stop me?” the cyborg said with a slight cackle. He flung his feet up and kicked Superkitten in the back, knocking her down.

Geo-Whiz angrily began using his power to throw huge boulders at the cyborg. A couple hit him, crushing his left arm and splintering his right calf.

“You’re good,” he said, slowly approaching Geo-Whiz. His arm and leg suddenly began repairing itself. “But I am better.”

Superkitten jumped up and kicked the cyborg’s head. With the help of her power, the head tore off of the cyborg’s body. The body went limp and fell to the ground. The head landed quietly on the street, dead.

“Grab the head, SK,” Geo-Whiz pointed as he lifted up the body. “Let’s get back to base.”

Agent Spider and Geo-Whiz stood with Dmitri and the cyborg’s body and head. “This is amazing use of cybernetics but somehow this kind of technology seems beneath Taikon,” Dmitri said, holding the head in his hand and stroking his chin with a couple of fingers.

“He barely put up a fight. I expected more from something that was half-human and half-robot,” Geo-Whiz said.

“Considering you had the new girl with you, you should be glad,” Agent Spider said.

“Alix did just fine,” Geo-Whiz chuckled. “She did a lot of the work.”

Agent Spider was the only member of the team who covered most of his face. Geo-Whiz wore a mask but just over his eyes. Agent Spider had the ability to defy gravity and climb walls with ease. He was born Miguel Stoll in Miami. He learned he had the powers by accident and never used them. He had almost forgotten about them until his brother was killed in a drug raid and Dmitri confronted him. Now he was 23 and took his position as Agent Spider very seriously. Dmitri had created a special gauntlet for Miguel that shot small grappling hooks.

Elsewhere in the compound, Smoke was being entertained by magic from Abracadabra. Smoke was a young girl—younger than Alix—who could turn her body into smoke. She was the only member who had just one power but she was being trained in various types of fighting and martial arts just like the others. She was orphaned at age 9 and was placed in foster care. When her powers started manifesting themselves at 12, Dmitri adopted her.

Abracadabra, or Aber, was 23. Aber was an accomplished magician and sorcerer. Aber doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. He awoke, inexplicably, at the bottom of a pyramid in Egypt. No one knew who he was or how he got to Egypt but Dmitri took him in and now he was quite possibly the most powerful team member.

Red Fish was another member and he typically kept to himself. Red Fish, known to the world as insurance company magnate David Portnoy—the youngest CEO of an insurance company at 27. David could breathe underwater so Dmitri immediately sought him out. At first, David refused but soon gave in when Dmitri agreed to let David keep his day job.

Alix was in her room with America, or Matthew Coffin, who was the de facto leader of the team because he was the oldest at 32. America’s only power was flight but he was a skilled martial artist and a true believer in what the United States stood for.

Alix began panting faster and then smiled as she came. Matthew repositioned himself and he lowered his face to her and quickly finished up. She leaned up and kissed Matthew. “Thank you,” she smiled. “And I won’t tell anyone. I just…really needed it.”

“No problem,” Matthew smiled and began putting his clothes back on.

Dmitri’s voice came on over a speaker. “Alix? We need you to come to the second laboratory. We need you to listen to something.”

When Alix and Matthew got to the lab, everyone else had also joined. “What’s going on?” Alix asked.

“I want you to listen to this. We recorded a communication from a device in the cyborg’s head,” Dmitri said.

Agent Spider brought the audio on a screen. “…What? I don’t know. Alix! Help me!” a girl’s voice shrieked but the audio was garbled.

“We’re pretty sure she said ‘Alix’ so that’s why we brought you in,” said Geo-Whiz. “Do you know that voice?”

“Yeah. It’s my best friend, Traci.”

Superkitten ran as fast as she could down the underground tunnel. She was hoping this would work because if not, she could really hurt herself. She hoped her power would be enough to break through the gigantic steel vault. She lowered her head, closed her eyes and gritted her teeth as she plowed through the door. She stood, unhurt, in a huge room with walls covered with televisions. She pressed a button on her gauntlet. “Dmitri? There’s nothing in here but walls full of television,” she said. No one responded.

The TVs suddenly clicked on. Traci was laid out on a metal table, strapped down. She was crying and struggling at her bonds.

“Traci?” Superkitten looked at the picture on the screens.

“Alix? How’d you get here?” Traci shouted.

“I’ll tell you later. Now how do I get to you?” Superkitten wondered.

“You get to her through me!” Taikon said, suddenly appearing from the ceiling. Taikon was in a black skintight suit covered with bright yellow piping. The piping was elaborate and almost followed the exact location of his skeletal structure. Taikon also wore a yellow and black helmet that covered his whole head.

“Let her go. It’s not her you want!” Superkitten said.

“No, it’s not. Defeat me and she gets released. It’s that simple,” Taikon said.

Superkitten wasn’t sure what to do. She kept looking back and forth between Taikon and Traci. She hoped she was strong enough by herself and prepared herself to fight.

“Okay, Taikon. You want me? Come and get me,” she said. She did a complete flip backwards and Taikon slammed elbow first into her chest. “Ow!” she screamed as she punched Taikon in the head.

Taikon raised his arm and began blasting at Superkitten with solar blasts that scorched everything they touched. “I will fry you and every one of your teammates!” he shouted as blasted at Superkitten as she ran away.

The blasts destroyed the monitors on the walls sending shards of glass flying everywhere. The glass began cutting Superkitten’s skin and suit. Trickles of blood oozed from the wounds. She willed up her power again and turned on her force field. She surprised Taikon by punching him in the lower back as hard as she hit Paolo.

“Why do you hate the team so much? We’re protectors of the country!” Superkitten shouted and punched Taikon in the head again and then kicked him.

“They killed my brother!” Taikon screamed with a hint of crying in his voice although Superkitten couldn’t be sure. “My brother—we were twins—was selected for the team. We have…had the same power: the ability to transfer solar energy into concentrated blasts. While I was jealous, I was glad he was getting out of our dismal home life. They trained him, made him the leader. The first big mission they had, he gets killed! And they just treat him like another soldier—dead and forgotten. This team was his ticket out and they killed him,” Taikon explained.

Superkitten didn’t know what to say and tried to find the right words. “I haven’t been with the team very long but they train us really well. Six months ago, I could barely confront a boy in my school but now I feel confident enough to take on…well, you.” Superkitten knelt down by Taikon. “What happened to your brother is awful but instead of besmirching his name and honor as a bad guy, use those powers for good. Make your brother proud.”

Taikon was silent for a few seconds, then stood up. “Stupid bitch,” he said. He swatted Superkitten, who had lowered her force field, into the rubble where a wall and monitors used to be. “You fell for that? I don’t have a brother. I hate your team because they are the good guys!” Taikon began expanding his energy, growing larger with every second. “And when I get enough power I’m going to destroy this whole facility including you and your friend!”

He grew larger and larger, the solar energy crackling out of him. Superkitten backed away from Taikon into another room. Taikon stopped expanding and began imploding. His body shrank and collapsed in on itself. He fell backwards onto the floor, a charred, smoldering husk.

It took Superkitten a moment to realize what had happened then she shouted at the top of her lungs, “Traci!”

She heard a muffled cry and charged in its direction using her powers to bring down every wall that was in her way. Superkitten untied Traci from the table and pulled her off. The two hugged each other and cried.

“Oh, Alix. It was awful,” Traci sniffed. “He killed my family and kidnapped me and…!”

“He killed them? All of them?” Superkitten asked.

“All of them except Nick because he doesn’t live there. I don’t have a family anymore, Alix! I’m an orphan…”

Superkitten hugged Traci tight. “It’ll be all right, Traci. You still have me.”

The two girls continued hugging and crying.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Up and To the Left

Why does Brutus constantly need his wife's love and forgiveness? That Gladys doesn't even know what she is upset about anymore means Brutus doesn't need to apologize because he doesn't know why Gladys was mad except that it's part of her post-menopausal mood swings.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Just Because You Said "Yummy" Doesn't Make It So

I don't care what you stuff in those peppers, stuffed peppers suck and while I'm sure they exist, 9-year-olds who like them are in the minority. Even before I read the second panel I, too, uttered the words "Aw, rats!"

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Cocoa Butter

Well, at least we've finally figured out why Brutus is so unhealthy and only days from death. He drinks suntan lotion and, presumably, any type of flavored lotion.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

My Old Gimp Knee Isn't Akimbo Anymore

So the morning after every joint and muscle in your body decided to just live in harmony for at least one day is a cause for alarm? Ugh, I am not even going to respond to this except to say that there is a lot of ugly in this kitchen this morning.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Just Say Stomach

I would grow a beard but it comes in all patchy and it comes in blond so you can't see it until it gets to a certain length and then, I swear, it just stops growing and becomes a scratchy and itchy genetic mockery on my face. O, cruel Beard Gods! Why do you mock me!?!

Sunday, June 03, 2012


Yes, truffles are a fancy type of mushroom but it is also the name of an obscure Peanuts character introduced in 1975. I'd rather do a report on that.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Learning Way Too Much About Baseball Today

How does this happen? Because I'm pretty sure if you get hit by a ball in baseball, even if you take a swing, it's a bean and you get to take a base. A quick Google search led me to the Hit By Pitch rules, one of which includes:
The ball touches the batter in the strike zone. Example: Batter is fooled by a curve ball and ducks. He is hit in the head, but his head is over the plate and in the strike zone. The correct call is a strike.
I can only assume that is what happened in this scenario.