Sunday, December 15, 2019

Tauy Creek Digest #58: Obligatory Christmas Story

Dominic and Ryan drove to work together. In front of the Tank N Tummy was a storefront Santa smiling and waving and shouting "ho-ho-ho" to the people that entered the store. "I can't believe Harvey still rents out a Santa to stand in front of the store," Ryan said.

"It's still pretty profitable," Dominic explained. "It still gets him about $100 for charity."

"What charity did Harvey go with this year?"

"It's called SWITCH. It's supposed to help people in the transgender community get the surgeries they need to be who they are," Dominic said.

"Ah. So Harvey wants to buy a Nintendo Switch."

"Pretty much."

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" the Santa greeted as Dominic and Ryan passed by.

"Ho-Ho-Ho, to you too, Santa. Have a Merry Christmas," Ryan flipped a couple of quarters into the bucket sitting next to the Santa.

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa repeated. The Santa then drew a gloved finger across his throat while staring directly into Ryan's eyes.

Ryan flinched and followed Dominic into the store. "Did you see that?" Ryan asked when the door was closed and the Santa was out of earshot.


"He did this," Ryan demonstrated. "He threatened me."

"I'm surer you're just mistaken. He was probably going to wipe his nose and you mistook that or something."

Ryan turned to look at the Santa. He was staring menacingly at Ryan through the window.

MaryJane arrived and walked by the Santa. The Santa greeted MaryJane and she came into the store. "Sup, sluts," she said to them and went to get her daily 72 ounces of soda.

"Hey, MaryJane. How are you?" Dominic asked as she approached the counter.

"I'm great. The holiday season really puts me in a good mood," she said.

"Did that Santa act weird or anything when you went by?" Ryan asked.

"No, he smiled and said 'ho-ho-ho', I responded 'you got that right' and came in here. Why?"

"I think that Santa wants to kill me," Ryan said.

"I'll have to invite him to the monthly meeting," Dominic muttered.

"Kill you? Really? I'll be right back," MaryJane went back outside and went up to the Santa. They talked for a bit, even laughing at one point. The conversation ended with MaryJane flashing the Santa her breasts and the Santa boisterously cheering 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' MaryJane came back into the store. "He's not trying to kill you."

"How do you know?" Ryan asked.

"I asked him. 'Are you trying to kill my friend' and he said no. I then said 'I don't blame you if you wanted to' and we laughed. He then asked to see my boobs."

"And you just showed them to him?" Ryan asked.

"It's Christmas," MaryJane said.

Lauren came in to work at two in the afternoon. "It's your last day," Dominic said as she walked by the counter.

"Did that Santa say or do anything when you walked by?" Ryan asked.

"Yes, it is," she answered Dominic. "No, he didn't," she answered Ryan.

"I can't believe she's leaving," Dominic said.

"You knew this was coming. You know she was going to the college to become a teacher. That day's finally come," Ryan said.

"Yeah, but I didn't actually think it would, you know?" The Santa came into the store. Ryan tensed up. "I'm gonna go talk to her. I'll be right back."

"No, wait, don't leave..." Ryan pleaded but Dominic walked away.

"Harvey said I had free access to the drinks and snacks," the Santa said.

"Yeah, yeah. That's fine," Ryan was nervous. "What are you going to be doing for Christmas?" Ryan asked, trying to be friendly.

"I think I'll be spending Christmas Day slowly peeling the skin off your dead body with a vegetable peeler. Then, until New Years I'll be boiling your bones to make a stew," the Santa said.

"So you are trying to kill me?"

"If you have to ask, then you are already dead," the Santa growled. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" he exclaimed and went back outside the store.

"You can still apply for a job being a part of the support staff. We might not work together but we'd still be working together. You'd also get paid a bit more. You can even go back to college and become a teacher. I think you'd like it," Lauren said.

"I don't know if you know this because I hide it really well but I'm an idiot," Dominic laughed.

"No, you're not," Lauren said. "Think about it. If you decide to stay here, great, but keep in touch."

"You have to go home at some point," Dominic said. "The Santa went home three hours ago. I have to lock up. Let's go."

"I guess. I haven't seen him in hours so I guess he went home," Ryan nervously walked out of the store and Dominic locked the doors behind them. Dominic and Ryan drove home. Dominic dropped Ryan off at his apartment. "Hey, man, if I don't see you before, Merry Christmas."

"Thanks, Merry Christmas to you, too."

"Are you going to apply for a job at Lauren's school?"

"I don't think so but I'm still thinking about it. See you on the 26th."

Ryan headed toward his apartment. As he was fumbling for his keys someone stepped out from behind a bush. "Ho. Ho. Ho," the Santa growled.

Dominic arrived at the Tank N Tummy on December 26th. He went to unlock the door but found gum jammed in the locks. "Really? On Christmas?" he asked himself. He went around to the back and found gum in the back door locks too. He sighed and climbed up the ladder to the roof and opened the roof access and climbed down into the store. He unlocked the front door through the inside. He turned on the lights, started the coffee and tea, and unlocked the register. He threw the newspapers into a rack and got behind the counter before lowering his head and covering his face in his hands.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Tauy Creek Digest #57: Foreheads and Rocks

Years ago...

"So it is ordered," the voice boomed. "Those in the east shall be provided with rocks from the west to wrap their string around. They shall be provided free, just like the prosthetics for those in the west" The voice came from a tall man, surrounded by other men and some women. Their foreheads hung over their eyes creating a neanderthal-like look but their foreheads were really prosthetic foreheads that they wore over their real foreheads. In the west, large, protruding foreheads were considered a status symbol.

In the east, status meant rocks but they were few and far between there. Wars had broken out between the east and west over this. Prosthetic foreheads could be manufactured but rocks could not. The east wanted rocks and the west had them.

"We shall not let the playhouse fires be in vain," the voice continued. "Let these rocks bring an unending peace to the west and to the east."

For several years, peace covered the east and west. The east was happy with having endless rocks to wrap their strings around. The west was happy with their prosthetic foreheads that they wore on their real foreheads. "Why must we be at the mercy of the west?" complained one of the leaders of the east. "They hoard all the rocks and we have to beg for them."

"Everything is going fine. Why should we rock the boat?" another leader asked.

"I see what you did there," the first leader smiled "but we should have control of the rocks. We are the ones that use them and want them. The west manufactures their foreheads and then gives us the rocks like they're doing us a favor."

"What do you suggest we do?" a third leader asked.

"We take our rocks and show them what we can really do with them," the first leader chuckled.

It was a warm, sunny day when someone first saw the wave of people coming in from the east. A light breeze was blowing and all-in-all it was a very nice day. A good day to be outside. At first, no one know what was going on. Why were all these people heading toward the west? What was it they wanted? As they got closer, the westerners noticed that the easterners were swinging their rocks above their heads on a string. All the rocks moved in unison, which was impressive if a bit scary.

"Howdy, neighbor," greeted one westerner. "What brings you all over here?"

A rock flew hard into the man's prosthetic forehead, breaking it and embedding in his real forehead. He dropped to the ground, unmoving. "Your prosthetic foreheads are no match for our rocks that we have tied strings around," someone shouted from the crowd.

"We have to stop the ones who want a rock to wind their string around," a westerner said in the capitol building for the west.

"With what?"

"With the only weapons we have," he replied ominously.

"You don't mean? We all hoped it would never come to this."

"To the armory."

The west now had their own army. Men and women alike, their prosthetic foreheads glinting proudly in the sunlight, went to the armory to obtain their weapon. A thin five-by-eight piece of wood with a large nail protruding out of it. The westerners began approaching the easterners. The boards could block the rocks being thrown but were best used as short-range or close-up attacks. You would think the easterners would have the advantage with having rocks as a long-range weapon but the westerners were more skilled in the boards than you'd think. Because of these boards, they were a free people.

"Burn the playhouse!" an easterner shouted.

"Burn their foreheads!" another yelled.

The armies collided. Rocks, strings, boards, and foreheads all created a cacophony in the streets of the west. Those not a part of it, watched in horror.

"Why are they doing this, Daddy?" a young child asked. The man had not grabbed a board as he was the only one who could care for his son.

"I don't know. They want to stop us, who want to wear prosthetic foreheads on our heads," he said. "Don't worry, though. We've faced worse."

The battle continued through the afternoon and into the evening and night. It seemed as if no one was gaining any ground. Dozens of bodies--from both the west and east--were strewn around the immediate fighting area. The westerners weren't sure why the easterners were attacking and, to be fair, the easterners didn't really know why they were attacking.

A flare caught someone in the west's eye. He turned and looked to see the playhouse burning, flames erupting from the windows and roof. Everyone stopped to look at the carnage. It reminded them years ago of the playhouse fire that they vowed never to recreate. They all stared in awe, unmoving, putting down their weapons, the battle--between those who want a rock to wind a piece of string around and those who wear prosthetic foreheads on their heads--becoming a stalemate.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Tauy Creek Digest #56: Winter


Andrew Winters ran a small farm about three miles from town. He owned ten acres and on those ten acres he had a barn where a small collection of animals--goats, cows, and a couple of pigs--were kept along with chicken coops. The Winters house was a simple frame structure, one-story high with a half story for the attic. The white paint was nearly gray with dirt and age. Andrew Winters made quite a bit of money even though it didn't look like it. His money didn't come from the animals or even the small amount of crops he tended to but from repairing farm equipment.

Farmers would come from miles around and drop their equipment and machinery off with Andrew for him to fix. They would then walk the three miles into town to wait for their equipment to be repaired as Andrew never put up his house for visitors. Not that there was any room in the house.

Along with Andrew, there was his wife, Catherine, a quiet and disciplined woman who mainly worked on the crops and did housework. His daughter, Virginia, was a widow who helped with the animals. Five years ago, she had gotten married in a rush after she had been charmed and bedded by Karl Gimenez. She immediately got pregnant and the two of them got married despite protests from both Karl and her father. Karl was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and sold drugs in order to make money. It was known that he was unfaithful but Virginia wanted a father for her daughter, Cecelia. A little more than a year ago, Karl was arrested and, even though he was legally married to a citizen, deported back to Mexico. Virginia kept in contact with Karl through his friends, Angel and Andreas Garcia. The last time she spoke with them, they revealed that Karl had been killed. Virginia was distraught mainly because she wanted a father figure for Cecelia. Virginia struck up a friendship with a new neighbor, Matthew Lawrenz, who lived two farms over. She then allowed Matthew to sleep with and impregnate her, giving birth to Joseph but Matthew was adamant he really wanted nothing to with Virginia or Joseph. They kept up their affair though.

Matthew finished and rolled off of Virginia who was underneath him on her stomach. "You know, we could move in together and still do this," she said. She was always hinting about moving in together or getting married. Matthew had yet to take the bait.

"I thought we were fine just doing this," he said. "Besides, you know we were just having fun. You didn't have to get pregnant."

Virginia sat up and grabbed her clothes off the floor. "Okay. Well, just so you know, you'll be hearing from the state in a few days about child support for Joseph. He's your kid, you should help take care of him."

Virginia stormed out of Matthew's house and walked back to her parents' farm. It was a gray, cloudy day and getting cold. Snow was in the forecast so she had to get home and help Andrew to get the farm ready for it. A train whistle went off in the distance behind the woods that surrounded these farms. She walked home in silence, her mind drifting everywhere.

Andrew Winters woke up to a snow-covered farmstead. Everything looked pristine and new. He stepped out onto the slab of concrete just outside of the back door. He noticed footprints in the snow leading from the house, past the barn, and toward the woods. Although they weren't so much leading to the woods, as he noticed, but to the house.

"Did you follow them? Where do they go?" Peter Webber asked, as he helped Andrew on the combine stored in the barn for one of Andrew's regulars.

"No, I didn't follow them. They go into the woods. They were probably from a drifter walking along the railroad tracks. They saw a light and thought they could get a quick meal or something but we were all asleep so they left."

"But you said the tracks didn't lead away from the house," Peter said.

Peter Webber was a handyman that helped Andrew with work around the farm. Peter helped with the animals and crops but also on maintenance and helping Andrew with the machinery. Webber liked to drink and had bragged about sleeping with Virginia numerous times at the bar even though he never had. He also complained about all the money that Andrew hoarded when he was working for pennies. To anyone who listened to Webber, the Winters were close to being millionaires.

"You're right. It's probably a hobo from the tracks," Peter said, assuming Andrew was just drunk or just seeing things. But he remembered something he saw a couple days ago. A man standing at the end of the woods. He didn't recognize him and when he started to approach, the man went into the woods. Peter initially thought it was a hobo from the train tracks. Maybe not.

At dinner, the family ate in near silence. The ceiling above them creaked and groaned. They all looked up. "What was that?" Catherine asked. "Another animal get into the attic?"

"I'll check it out after dinner," Andrew said.

After dinner, he went upstairs and peered into the attic. With his flashlight, he couldn't see anything. He walked around, heard and saw nothing. The next day, the sounds of walking in the attic continued but Andrew could find nothing. When night fell on the third day, the Winters family went to sleep as they always did. Catherine cross-stitched, Andrew read, Virginia nursed Joseph and softly sang to Cecelia.

In the middle of the night, a noise awoke Virginia. She looked out the window and caught a glimpse of someone in the barn. She went outside to meet the person where she was immediately struck down with an axe, the blade easily cutting through her skin and skull. Virginia was able to let out one piercing scream before she fell to the ground.

Andrew heard the scream. "Catherine," he shook his wife awake. "Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"It sounded like a scream." He pulled the covers off and got out of bed. "I'm gonna check. Sounded like it came from the barn."

Andrew went out to the barn and slowly peered in but saw nothing out of the ordinary. As he stepped inside, the blade of the axe split his head in two and he landed with a dull thud on the ground. Fifteen minutes later, curious as to where Andrew had gone, Catherine followed her daughter and husband to the barn and to the same fate.

Peter Webber saw no evidence of anything when he arrived the next morning. He knocked on the door but no one answered. Smoke was coming from the chimney but he could see no signs of life. Assuming that Andrew, and the rest of the family, was ignoring him, he gave the house the middle finger and left.

"Did the Winters go somewhere?" the postman asked Matthew the next day. "Their mail is still in their box."

"They should be home. There's been smoke coming from their chimney," Matthew said.

Matthew walked to the Winters' house. No smoke came from the chimney. All the doors were locked. "What's going on?" Peter asked, coming up behind Matthew.

"Have you seen Andrew or Virginia?" Matthew asked.

"No. I came by yesterday but no one was here. Or they were ignoring me," he gave a light chuckle.

"The mailman thinks they went away but I've been seeing smoke coming from their chimney so I came over to investigate," Matthew said. He opened the door to the barn and went inside. Nothing looked out of the ordinary until he noticed a door placed over a pile of hay. He lifted the door off the hay and saw the bodies of Andrew, Catherine, and Virginia underneath the blood-soaked straw. "Jesus Christ," he whispered.

He dropped the door and ran out of the barn to the house. "What are you doing?" asked Peter.

"I'm looking for my son," Matthew bellowed as he unlocked the door with a key and went inside the house. Nothing in the house was disturbed but the chimney had clearly been used as well as some dishes in the kitchen. In Virginia's bedroom, Matthew found the bludgeoned bodies of Cecelia and Joseph.

"No idea who did this?" an officer investigating asked another officer who was looking around for clues.

"No idea. The two who discovered the bodies would be my first picks but there's no evidence. Word around the bars is that Webber guy talked a lot about stealing money from Mr. Winters and Lawrenz was recently given a summon to pay child support."

"So they have the motive."

"There was nothing taken. There's cash littering the house in places--all of it untouched. Anthony Loudekis once broke into this place and stole some money but, again, nothing was taken."

"I heard a rumor that Gimenez is back in the country."

"Gimenez? He's dead."

"His friends--those punks, Angel and Andreas, say he faked his death. I know it sounds stupid but what else is there? Maybe he got mad that his wife was sleeping around. Joseph isn't--wasn't--his."

"The killer supposedly lived in the house the day after the murders."

"Mm. No thank you. You know, it could just be a drifter following the railroad tracks. Sees smoke or a light on and instead of just asking for some warmth and food, lures them out here and just takes the house."

"That Lawrenz guy has a key. It's how he found the kids' bodies. Why'd he have a key?"

"Maybe they gave it to him since he was a neighbor. Maybe she gave it to him so he could come over at night."

"Maybe he stole it."

"We have, what? Four possible suspects?"

He nodded.

"We should get started then," the two officers began walking toward Peter and Matthew who were being detained by the barn by another officer. The bodies of the Winters family were covered and loaded into a van. A train whistle sounded from behind the woods, breaking the silence.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Bobbo #4

Brooke’s character sprite jumped off of the platform and onto the flagpole thus winning the game. Bobbo angrily tossed his controller toward the game system. “I don’t know why I let you win,” he said.

“You didn’t. I schooled you,” Brooke smiled at him. “I need to get going.”

The two of them got up and Bobbo showed Brooke to the door. “I’ll see you at school?” he asked as she stood in the doorway.

“Where else would we see each other?” she chuckled and turned to leave. “Hey!” she exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Where’s my bike?”

“You parked it right here,” Bobbo came out of the house and looked up and down the yard.

“I know. What happened to it? Did someone take it?”

“Why would someone do that?”

“I need to find it. Will you help me look?” Brooke asked Bobbo.

“Wait here. I know someone who can help,” Bobbo smiled and ran off back into the house.

“Someone?” Brooke questioned.

A couple minutes later, Bobbo reemerged in a red shirt and a red cape and mask. “Super-Duper Man is here to help you, miss,” Bobbo said in a deeper voice.

“Bobbo, what are you doing?”

“Who’s Bobbo? Oh, that nice young man who lets me, Super-Duper Man, use his house? What seems to be the problem?”

“You know what the problem is,” Brooke was already tired of this.

“My powers of super-deduction…”

“Not a thing.”

“...Tell me that your bicycle is missing.”

“Oh my God.”

“Come with me. Let’s see if the neighbors saw anything,” Bobbo grabbed the cape and as he turned around, waved the cape with a grand flourish.

“Are you going to keep talking like that?”

Instead of going to the neighbor’s house across the street, Bobbo and Brooke went two doors down and across the street to Max’s house. Bobbo knocked on the door and Max opened it. “Oh, this looks like fun,” Max beamed.

“Hello, citizen,” Bobbo began. “This little girl is missing her bike. We were wondering if you’ve seen anything suspicious.”

“What’s with the voice?”

“This is how Super-Duper Man talks,” Bobbo said. “So, did you see anything?”

“No, I didn’t. Why does a missing bike require the services of a superhero? You really should’ve used your detective persona, Bobbo,” Max said.

“So you haven’t seen anything?” Bobbo asked, using his normal voice.

“No, I didn’t,” Max said.

“To the next house,” Bobbo exclaimed in his Super-Duper Man voice and gesticular flair.

Bobbo led the way with Brooke and now Max following. “You don’t have to come,” Brooke said.

“No, no. I want to see how this plays out.”

They walked past several houses and passed in front of Trent Elder’s house. Trent was in the front room, sneering and cackling over Brooke’s missing bicycle, wringing his hands in a weird fashion. “Heh, stealing Brooke’s bike is the best joke I’ve ever had.” Trent then heard Bobbo’s Super-Duper Man voice outside and he ran to the window to see Bobbo in some sort of weird cape get-up, Brooke and Max. “Bobbo’s dressed like a superhero to help Brooke find her bike? That gives me an idea.”

Within minutes, Trent had donned a blue Ninja Turtle mask and one of those styrofoam Hulk hands that makes noise and went outside with the bike. “Halt!” he demanded, using a deeper voice like Bobbo was. “I have what you seek.”

The three of them turned around. Bobbo gasped in shock. “The bike!” he exclaimed.

“The precious bike--in the clutches of The Evil Fist,” Trent declared.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Max smiled and pointed in the direction of Trent.

“Evil Fist, you are no match for Super-Duper Man,” Bobbo shouted and ran toward Trent. Trent sat the bike down and raised the hand with the Hulk gun. Bobbo faked-punched Trent but Trent really hit Bobbo with his foam which didn’t hurt or do anything. “I’m using my heat vision on you,” Bobbo said.

“I’m immune to your pathetic heat vision,” Trent said.

“Nothing is immune to my heat vision,” Bobbo said.

“I am,” Trent said.

“Well, nothing is immune to my nuclear vision,” Bobbo yelled and focused his eyes on Trent.

“I am,” Trent gritted his teeth in a smile.

“You can’t just make up powers,” Bobbo said and threw a fake punch.

“I’m immune to your punches too. Evil Fist is immune to all punches.”

Brooke walked over to the boys and picked her bike off of the ground and walked back to Max. “Thanks for trying to find my bike, Bobbo,” she said. “I have to head home. I’ll see you at school, Max.”

“See you, Brooke,” Max waved and the two went their separate ways as Bobbo and Trent faked punched each other in Trent’s front yard.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Comic Comics #3: You Can't Lose

Happy birthday to Harry Anderson who would've been 67 today. As you all know, Anderson was the star of NBC's Night Court as Judge Harold T. Stone and CBS' Dave's World as real-life newspaper columnist Dave Barry. Few people probably know that Anderson was also an author. In 1989, Anderson wrote two books with a friend of his, Turk Pipkin. In 2001, the books were reprinted into one book, Games You Can't Lose. Here are a couple of anecdotes from the book and some pictures of Anderson that were included.

A fool and his money were lucky
to get together in the first place.

The books talk about how to play tricks on people and how not to get tricked. The first part talks about how to play tricks. He starts out describing a trick on how to drink a shot of whisky that's placed under a hat without touching the hat. It's a trick that he played on the show Cheers to Cliff Clavin. The second part talks about how not to get tricked by casinos and carnivals.

photo by John Tenney
The Dollar Bill $windle

"Say Turk, I got another little bet I been workin' on, but I ain't too sure about the odds. Wanna give it a try in the name of scientific research?" 
Turk inquires about the cost of said experiment and I respond: "Oh, a trifling wager--say...twenty bucks?" His coughing fit prompts me to adjust the opening line. "Okay. That's too high for an afternoon bet. We'll make it a dollar." 
At a buck, he's at least willing to hear what the game is. "It's simple. I take out a one-dollar bill. Like all U.S. currency, this one's got eight digits in the serial number, letters excluded. You try to guess three numbers without missing. Miss one and you lose. But guess just three correctly and you win even money!" 
Turk's eyes glaze over as he calculates the variables. There are ten possible digits (0 through 9) and eight digits on the bill. He only has to guess three. It sounds like a breeze! Eagerly accepting the wager, he calls out his guesses: three, seven, and eight. 
"Darn! You're right!" I say. "They'll all here. You win yourself a buck, Turk. I must've miscalculated the odds." Taking out another one-dollar bill, I offer to try it again. 
Turk selects zero, one, and five and I wad up the bill and toss it in his direction. 
"You win again," I say. "I guess the bet should've been four digits. Ah well, let's try one more. Shoot! I don't have another one-dollar bill. All I got is that twenty I was gonna bet the first time, but you didn't want...What's that? You want to go to the twenty now? Same bet? Well, I guess so. Call 'em out!" 
He ventures. "Six." 
"Nope. No six. You lose. Tough break. What the hey. I shouldn't, but I'll give you a second try, double or nothing on the twenty. Seven? No seven and no six." The guy is wired in now and he keeps betting and he keeps guessing and he keeps losing. "Sorry, Turk. There isn't a six, seven, four, three, or a two." 
Turk doesn't think this is possible and insists on seeing the bill before paying up. I consider this an insult to my integrity, but display it anyway. What a lucky fluke for me that the serial number on my twenty is: 15511515. 
It seems that in all the excitement he neglects to consider the possibility of repeat digits. He protests that with only two digits on the bill he couldn't possibly guess three. This is an excellent observation Turk has made. On his advice, I may even keep this bill in my wallet in case the bet comes up again sometime. This compliment cheers him up a bit, even as he pays me the hundred bucks.

photos by John Tenney
Those Three Little Milk Bottles

A few years back, I was in this little town about twenty miles west of San Diego and this burg was s-l-o-w, slow. So I decided to check out the visiting entertainment, the Mole Brothers Carnival, which was set up in a little field on the edge of town. 
I'm standing around, just minding other people's business, when an attractive shape happens by and I just cannot turn my gaze away. Now, I am always one to need glasses for matters such as settling wagers on the number of hairs on a hirsute mole, but I am blind and stupid too if I do not fall for this doll. However, hanging on to her arm is a big clown sporting a well-worn letter jacket and I take it by the patches on the sleeve that he is some kind of baseball star. 
My suspicion is confirmed when the pair stops at a milk bottle booth--one of those joints where, for fifty cents, you get to throw three baseballs at three phony milk bottles. Knock 'em all down and you win a fairly fine prize, in this case a big cuddly teddy bear that the light of my life has set her heart on. 
In no time, the local sports fans have gathered to cheer their hero as his state championship arm hurls about five bucks' worth of baseballs at those bottles. Sometimes he tips over one, sometimes he knocks down two, but he never busts out all three. About the fiftieth throw, he makes an awful noise and grabs his arm in pain. 
"Oh, joy!" I think. "Failure is his!" 
The pitchman jumps right in and starts trying to convince somebody else to try to win that teddy bear for the little lady, but the injured Bubba-Romeo is growling them off like a pawn-shop dog. More stunned beauty than scared by beast, I step up and toss a half buck at the operator. I never played any school ball but somehow I know I can't fail. 
"This is for you," I say to the girl. She smiles--which helps me summon my strength to fire the first ball. Boom! go the bottles. The top one flies ten feet through the air. The other two don't do much as flutter. Her dark eyes shining, I rifle the second ball at the bottles. The right one pops up in the air and lands smack on the left bottle, which teeters--but doesn't fall. The crowd starts to cheer me on. I turn in the direction of a squeeze on my arm. It's her! 
Nothing can stop me now. I grip the third ball and bite my lip. The ball makes a whoooosh as it tears through the air, smashing dead center into the last bottle, which tips back to about a forty-five-degree angle, hangs there for an eternity, then stands back up straight. I can't believe my eyes. I stand there frozen in surprise for a moment and when I turn, the light of my life is already walking away with the letter jacket. She gives me a little look over her shoulder that seems to say "Too bad, it might have been." 
My sleep that night is pretty poor and it isn't helped any when, about five in the morning, I am tossed out of my flea circus/mattress by an awful shaking. It's not the fleas doing the rumba, but one of those terrifying California earthquakes--knocking cheap velvet pictures off the wall, water pitchers off the nightstands, and every can of groceries in town off the shelves and onto the floor. 
Well, I ain't gonna hang around trying to make money from people who really are down and out so the daylight finds me pointed toward greener pastures. Heading out, I pass the Mole Bros. Carny and if town is bad, this is worse. The ten-in-one tent is lying flatter than a pancake. Strings of electric light are strewn across the ground. The Ferris wheel is on its side and most of the trailers are piled on top of each other at the bottom of a hole in the ground that wasn't there the day before. All the roustabouts are trying to get an old elephant up off his side and back on his feet. 
And in the whole place the only thing left standing are those three milk bottles.

Turk Pipkin, left, and Harry Anderson. Photo by John Tenney.

"Choose your co-author carefully."

Friday, October 11, 2019

Tank N Tummy #20

Dominic and Aaron were behind the counter when MaryJane and Ned came into the store. “I am at work now. We can talk about this later,” he said.

“No, we need to talk about this now,” she replied. “It’s a very important decision and we need to discuss it.”

“I’m at work now. You need to go to work. We can talk about it later,” Ned said, again.

“I’m not leaving until we talk about this. I don’t want to spend the day mad at you or you mad at me.”

Ned glanced at Dominic and Aaron who quickly acted nonchalant like they weren’t paying attention. “Fine but let’s at least go into my office.”

“Fine,” MaryJane agreed and they went into the back office and closed the door.

“What do you think they are arguing about?” Aaron asked.

“Probably whose turn it is to take it up the butt,” Dominic replied.

The door opened again and Ryan came into the store. He was noticeably limped, almost dragging his foot. “Hey, guys,” he said.

“Hi, Ryan,” Dominic greeted. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Ryan got behind the counter, pulled the stool up and sat down. He let out a long sigh of relief.

“Is something wrong with your foot?” Aaron asked.

“Not at all. Well, it’s a cramp,” Ryan shrugged. “Maybe I slept on it wrong?”

“Slept on it wrong? Do you sleep curled up like a cat?” Dominic laughed.

“My foot’s asleep,” Ryan shrugged again.

Aaron bent down and poked Ryan’s ankle. Ryan screamed in pain. “Yep, that what happens when my foot falls asleep too.”

Lauren loved the weight of her boyfriend, Bryce, on top of her as they had sex. She held onto him tightly as he finished and pressed more of his weight down on her. He rolled off of her and sighed happily. She rolled over and took him in her mouth, tasting themselves mixing together. He shuddered and began moaning. She then stopped, cuddled up next to him and they kissed. “Thank you,” she said. “Waking up to that was quite a surprise. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for work?”

“That’s kind of why I slept over last night. I took today off so I could spend the entire day with you on your day off,” Bryce said.

“You want to run errands with me?” she asked, laughing.

“We can do those things but I have other things planned. Breakfast, a museum visit, a hike at the lake, a nice lunch, and I plan on making dinner for you tonight,” Bryce revealed and kissed Lauren. “Which, we should really get ready. I want to get you some breakfast and then we can do one of your errands.”

“Oh, boy. You’re gonna love being at the DMV with me,” Lauren placed her hand on his cheek.


“My license expires in two weeks and this is my only weekday off for three weeks. Don’t worry. There’s plenty of time to do everything. Let’s get going.”

“You need to see a doctor. Your ankle is clearly broken,” Dominic said. “How did it happen?”

“Nothing happened. I slept on it wrong. It’s a cramp,” Ryan restated. “Maybe I pushed a baby carriage out of the way of an out-of-control bus.”

“No,” Dominic responded.

“Maybe my apartment caught on fire and I had to jump out of the window.”

“Not that either,” Aaron said.

“Then I slept on it wrong.”

“Look, it doesn’t matter how it happened but you need to see a doctor. Your foot is starting to swell and I can see it turning purple,” Dominic pointed at Ryan’s foot.

“It’s fine. Now, I’m going to go get a drink. Does anyone want anything?”

“No, we’re good.”

Ryan slowly got off the stool and put pressure on his foot as he stood. “AAAAAAAAAAHH! UUUHHHNNNNFFFF!” he shrieked. He began hobbling off toward the fountain drinks, moaning and grunting with each step.

“Such a man,” Aaron said. “A dumb, dumb man.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to move in with you,” MaryJane said as she and Ned were still in his office. “I just like my independence and space and moving into your place doesn’t offer that.”

“Then we can find a new place. Together,” Ned said.

“What happens when we break up. Then neither of us have a place to go unlike if we just keep our own places and I just dip my toe into moving in with you.”

“When we break up. So you think we’re going to break up?”

“That’s not what I meant,” MaryJane sighed. “This is my first long-term relationship. I mean, there’s no way this was going to last forever, right?” she chuckled, hoping to lighten the mood.

Ned was quiet. He fumbled a pen around in his hand. “I guess not since you have been sabotaging it from the very beginning.”

“What? No I haven’t.”

“You went in thinking it wasn’t going to last. That’s sabotaging it. You convinced yourself that it wasn’t going to last so when it does seem like it could you come up with a reason to end it. Why?”

“I don’t want to end it. I just don’t want to move in with you.”

“Then say that. I asked you and you agreed but then said you wanted to keep your apartment.”

MaryJane was silent this time, scratching a fingernail across the arms of the chair she was sitting in. “Then what do we do?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe we should take a break,” Ned said.

“Okay, Ross. This is us arguing over moving in together. What happens when I tell you that I don’t want to get married or have children or that I’m saving up money to travel around the world for two years?”

“That sounds amazing,” Ned complemented. “You don’t want to get married? I understand the kid thing but marriage?”

“Why do we need the government or church involved in humanity’s love?” MaryJane smirked at Ned. “Having a ring on my finger or a different last name or someone to come home to doesn’t change how I feel about a person, the way I am, or the sex so what’s the point?”

“Yeah, what is the point?” Ned asked.

“See? I told you my foot was fine,” Ryan said, returning to the counter.

“But you winced in pain the whole time. You even had to stop to rest,” Dominic said. “Leave. Go see a doctor. I’ll go with you. Ned can come out here and help Aaron.”

“I’m not going to see a doctor.”

“Why not?” Aaron asked. “Are you afraid of the doctor?”

“Yes. A few years ago, a doctor told me that my father was going to be just fine. Nothing would go wrong. That doctor lied and my father died. If I go to a doctor I’m afraid that I won’t come back out.”

“Your dad’s not dead,” Dominic exclaimed. “Both he and your mom are still alive. They sent me a Christmas card last year. I saw them at the movies last month.”

“I just don’t like the doctor. Mainly because I can’t afford it.”

“We’re going to the doctor,” Dominic said. “Aaron, let Ned know. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

Lauren and Bryce held hands as they stared at a painting at the art museum. As they looked, Lauren tilted her head and rested it on Bryce’s shoulder. “Thanks for coming to the DMV with me,” she said. “It made the wait a little less boring.”

“I still don’t understand how they were using numbers but our place in line was ‘R’. Where does R fall on the number line?” Bryce asked.

Lauren chuckled. “It doesn’t matter. We made it through.”

“I’m so glad we had this day together,” Bryce said. “We should probably move away from this painting. We’ve been staring at it for awhile.”

It was a painting of woman and her baby. Most people assumed it was supposed to be Mary and Jesus but it was really the wife and son of the artist. “Even though it’s the artist’s wife and son, he used religious iconography which is why everyone thinks it’s Mary and Jesus,” Lauren explained.

“I didn’t know you knew so much about this painting,” Bryce said.

“It’s on the placard,” she pointed out.

“Oh,” Bryce chuckled. “If he painted this, purposely making his wife and son seem like Mary and Jesus, then does that mean the artist considers himself God?”

“Seems like it,” Lauren nodded.

“Come on, let’s keep wandering,” Bryce began walking to the next painting, guiding Lauren with him. “We need to work off breakfast and lunch so we’ll be ready to eat the dinner I’m making for us.”

“So, we’re done?” MaryJane asked, holding back tears.

“I think so. I think we came to that agreement,” Ned tapped on his desk.

“But it was fun, right?”

“It was. I have no regrets,” Ned said. “Well, maybe one. Getting too involved in this.”

“We should’ve hammered out the details before we hooked up. I’m a lawyer, I should’ve known better,” MaryJane shook her head and stood up. “I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah. I’ll still be here.”

“I’ll still be buying my 60 ounce soda here,” MaryJane confirmed.

“Glad we won’t lose your business,” Ned laughed.

They left the office and Ned escorted her across the store and out the door. “See you, Ned.”

“See you, MaryJane,” Ned waved.

“Did you two break up?” Aaron asked.

“Yeah. Where’s Dominic and Ryan?”


“Oh my God. What happened?”

“Ryan has a broken foot and he insisted on continuing to walk and stand on it and try to prove it wasn’t broken so we finally convinced him to go to a doctor.”

“Ouch. Well, sorry, I was tied up with MaryJane instead of helping you when they left.”

“It’s only been half an hour. I’m good,” Aaron said.

Ned got behind the counter with Aaron and sat down on the stool. “Broken foot?”

“Yeah. He even walked from here to the fountains and back. He was in extreme pain the entire time. It took him nearly ten minutes. He had to rest. It was hilarious.”

Ned laughed. “I wish I had seen that. That does sound hilarious.”

Monday, October 07, 2019

Liberty #4: Kate

It was almost two in the morning when the pounding on the front door woke up Wendy. The pounding also woke up Wendy’s neighbors across the hall. “What the hell? Kate?” Wendy asked after opening the door and seeing who was once her best friend standing in the hallway of her apartment building.

“Hi, Wendy. Long time, no see. I need a place to crash for a while,” Kate said.

“Come on in, we can talk inside,” Wendy invited. “Where have you been?”

After college, Kate had virtually disappeared off the face of the Earth. She also kept off of social media and hadn’t kept in contact with anyone. Kate didn’t really know how to answer Wendy’s question without giving away too much detail. Detail she didn’t want to talk about. “I’ve just been living life.”

“It’s been seven years. What have you been doing?”

“Working. I got a job out of town and left right after college.”

“Oh, a social work job, right? Hey, that’s cool that you were able to get the job you wanted right out of school,” Wendy congratulated.

“Yeah, I was very lucky,” Kate lied. She first was working as a customer service representative for a medical supply company and then as a hotel janitor. “You probably need to be getting back to bed. I wish I could pay you for me staying here but until I get a job and some money coming in…”

“It’s fine,” Wendy waved her hand. “Whenever you start getting paid.”

“You know, I could also pay you back in other ways,” Kate took Wendy’s hand. “Like back in college.”

Kate had left her shirt on and was still sitting, legs pulled up to her chest, on Wendy’s bed. Wendy came out of the bathroom in a long pajama shirt and brushing her hair. She got nervous when she saw Kate still on her bed. “I’ll sleep on the couch tonight. You can have the bed.”

“No, no. It’s your apartment. I’ll take the couch,” Kate quickly got up and headed out of the room.

“Okay. There should be a blanket in the front closet,” Wendy said.

Kate grabbed a blanket and laid down on the couch. She still just had her shirt on. She thought about her and Wendy having sex, how familiar it was, how it felt like home. If she could just avoid talking about the last seven years, everything would be back to normal.

When Kate walked into the bar, Ryan beamed with excitement and went over to hug her. “I am so glad to see you again. It’s great to have you back, Toxic Pussy,” he said, hugging her tight.

“Oh, God,” she went limp in his arms and rolled her eyes. “You remember that?”

“Remember it? It’s part of my wedding speech for you.”

During a senior party, after high school graduation, a very drunk Kate passed out in a bedroom, bent over a bed with her pants nowhere to be seen. When Ryan found her several hours later, it was clear she had been used repeatedly. He sighed disapprovingly and helped get her into the bed. After covering her up, he locked and closed the door and went downstairs to sleep in a chair.

The next morning, Kate woke up in a panic and came running downstairs. “Something’s wrong with me.”

“We know,” Ryan said.

“No, with my...privates,” she clarified.

“What do you mean?” Wendy asked.

“There’s all this dried stuff around it and it burns when I pee.”

“It’s finally happened,” Wendy said. “Your vagina is starting to mutate.”

“More like it’s toxic. Toxic pussy,” Ryan smiled.

“Can you just look at it? What if I have to go to the hospital?”

“Fine, I’ll look. Come into the bathroom,” Wendy said and she and Kate went into the bathroom. Kate pulled down her pants and Wendy began examining her. After a couple minutes, they came back out. “It’s a dried blend of sperm, vaginal fluid, period blood, and...shit.”

“Gross,” Ryan said.

“The burning is probably a urinary tract infection,” Wendy continued. “Take a shower and drink some cranberry juice. You’ll be fine.”

“I have earned that nickname,” Kate chuckled a bit and smiled at Ryan.

“You have,” Ryan smiled back at her.

“It feels weird being back. You and Wendy are the only ones treating me normally.”

“You’ve been gone seven years, Kate. We’ve all changed and grown up.”

“I’ve grown up a little,” Kate said. It was true to a point. Ryan wouldn’t be talking about growing up if he knew what she had been doing the last seven years. Although how it ended was certainly not grown up. “But just a little,” she went on.

“A little?” Ryan held up his fingers, his pointer and thumb close together.

“A little,” she laughed.

Ryan and Kate walked back to his apartment. It was easy to get Ryan to have sex with her. He had wanted to since high school. She wanted to also, but didn’t want to hurt their friendship. They made out in complete darkness so Ryan couldn’t see her body. When they had sex, she bent over the bed and when they were finished, she put her shirt back on and got in bed under the covers.

“Staying the night?” Ryan asked as he came out of the bathroom. “I can drive you back to Wendy’s.”

“Can I stay?”

“Sure,” he shrugged. He got into bed next to Kate. She rolled over to face away from him. After a couple of minutes, he scooted closer to her and put his arm around her
stomach, hugging it. “I’m glad to see you again, Kate.” He softly kissed her neck.

She smiled and placed a hand on his arm. “Thanks,” she whispered.

Somehow, Kate and Ryan ended up dating. Dating Ryan raised people’s opinion of Kate which she welcomed considering that her past was getting harder to hide. Two days before Halloween, Ryan and Kate were going to a costume party hosted a bar owned by one of their old high school friends. Ryan came home from work with his and Kate’s costumes for the evening. Kate still didn’t have a job and mainly stayed with Ryan but occasionally stayed with Wendy.

“I got our costumes,” Ryan exclaimed. He held up two superhero costumes. “Batman and Robin.”

“Really?” she sat up in bed. “Batman’s my favorite superhero.”

“I know. I hope that you don’t mind being Batman,” Ryan tossed the Batman costume onto the bed. “I have the better legs for Robin anyway.”

“What a whore,” Erik said to Dakota at the bar during the party as they watched Kate down another beer while hanging onto Ryan. Erik had slept with Kate twice back in high school and Dakota at least once. “She probably has an STD or something.”

“I heard she was a prostitute for the last seven years,” Dakota said.

“It’s probably like throwing a hot dog down a hallway,” Erik sneered.
“That’s not how vaginas work,” said a voice next to them. “Also, what’s wrong with prostitution? It’s the oldest profession in the world. You can also make a lot of money in a relatively short amount of time and it helps women have control over their bodies,” Ryan said.

“You don’t care that hundreds of dicks have been inside your girlfriend?” Erik asked.

“I don’t think that’s happened and even if it did, I wouldn’t care. She’s an adult and can make her own decisions,” Ryan chided Erik and Dakota.

“Yeah, but…” Dakota attempted to continue talking.

“Nope,” Ryan shushed. “Stop talking.”

Ryan went back over to Kate. “That was nice. Thank you,” Kate said and kissed him.

“You heard that?”

She nodded. “Let’s go back home,” she said.

They were still in their costumes as they made love. Kate had her Batman pants off but Ryan just had his Robin underwear-type things pulled to the side. After they finished, Kate remained on top of Ryan for a bit, then slid off.

“I want to tell you something,” she stood in front of the Ryan and took the Batman costume off. She stood just in her bra and then took that off. Her stomach protruded just a bit but stretch marks covered the area from about a thumb's’ length above her bellybutton to just where her pubic hair began. Ryan realized that he and Kate have been together several months and he had never actually seen Kate nude. He still didn’t understand what she was doing. “This is what I’ve been doing the last seven years.”

Ryan was still confused.

“After college, I met a boy and he was everything I wanted. I settled down, we got married, and we,” she slowed down as she spoke “had four kids.” She placed her hand on her stomach.

“Four…?” Ryan was shocked. He readjusted his Robin costume and stood up. “You’re married? You have four kids?”

“I was married. We’re divorced now,” she explained away the marriage but quickly realized that she couldn’t erase the four kids. “I should’ve told you. I should’ve told everybody.”

“Where are the kids?” Ryan asked slowly.

“Back in Ohio with their father,” Kate revealed. She grabbed a nearby shirt and put it on. “I haven’t seen them in about eight months. I miss them every day but this is better.”

“Why did you leave them?”

“I wasn’t happy anymore and I just couldn’t hurt them like I was anymore,” Kate began. “I had to leave. I had to.”

“You left because you weren’t happy? That’s not how being a mother works. You abandoned them. It’s one thing to not be in love with your husband anymore but your kids?”

“It’s a lot more complicated than I’m explaining it,” Kate was getting frustrated and wished she could turn back time.

“No, it’s not, Kate. What if we got married? What if we had kids? How long would it be before you’d stop loving me or them?”

“That wouldn’t happen,” Kate began tearing up.

“It did before, though,” Ryan sighed. “Maybe we should take a break. I’ve loved being with you. I love you, Kate, but this is a bit much to handle right now. You understand?”

“Yeah, I get it. You need a couple days to think about this. I’ll be at Wendy’s.”

Kate returned to Wendy’s where she revealed what she told Ryan. Even Wendy got upset and stormed off to her room. Alone, Kate sat on the couch waiting for Wendy to come out of her room or for Ryan to call her.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Gyrbynerjk #4

“Are you ready, Grbixxer?” the snarling transporter asked. Grbixxer stood on the transport deck, ready to go. “I will send you to Earth, you will shape yourself into something innocent, gain the Earthling’s trust, and then rule them with an iron fist. Godspeed, Grbixxer. We await your success.”

“Thank you, sir,” Grbixxer saluted and then disappeared.

“Where on Earth did you send Grbixxer?” another snarling alien asked.



“I got the coordinates wrong. He’s not going to Earth.”

“Then where is he?”

“Close to Earth. Earth’s orbit. A tiny satellite. He’ll be fine. He’ll figure something out.”

“Greetings,” Brian began. “Brian and Barry here. Today, Dr. Anderson sent us a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ColorForms.” Brian held up the box to the camera. It was a dark box with the four turtles posing on the roof of a building.

“What’s a ColorForm?” Barry asked.

“Most people know them as a static cling. It’s basically a piece of thin plastic that can stick to slick surfaces. ColorForms is the brand name,” Brian explained. “You get a rooftop scene with the turtle blimp and about 30 character pieces. You have the four turtles, baby turtle versions of them, various villains, and random things like manhole covers, pizzas, and mutagen.”

“So what do you do with these?” Barry asked. “Seems kind of lame.”

“Well, when I owned one, I would act out scenes with them. I would do it kind of like a fighting game tournament.”

“I think you need to show us, Brian,” Barry said.

“I should?”

“Yes, you should,” Barry said.

“Okay,” Brian began arranging the static clings on the board. “’I have you turtles now,’” Brian said in a voice reminiscent of Shredder on the cartoon show. “’I have returned your brothers to their baby state and now I will do the same to you.”

Brian continued playing, having the turtle he chose, Raphael, battle the other static clings such as Baxter Stockman, Leatherface, and the Rat King—getting a turtle back after each defeat. The final battle was between Shredder and the four reunited turtles who all handled Shredder fairly quickly.

“And I guess that’s it,” Brian sighed.

“That was beautiful,” Barry cried. “Hey, Dr. Anderson, do you think you can send me a copy of that?”

Brian stood up and stretched. “You should see what I can do with refrigerator magnets,” he said.

Shortly after they left the room, a being formed in the room. Grbixxer stretched and looked around. “This isn’t Earth,” he sniffed. He tapped a button on a communicator in his ear. “Where did you send me?”

“Near Earth. Earth’s orbit. A tiny satellite. Just pilot the satellite back down to Earth,” they communicated.

Grbixxer sighed. “How do you still have a job?”

“Uncle Herrklraxton says I’m getting better.”

Grbixxer shook his head. He took a step and an alarm started going off. A light in the room started flashing as did other lights in the corridor. “Unknown passenger,” a voice announced. “Unknown passenger.”

“Unknown passenger?” Brian asked, looking at Barry.

“It’s probably your underwear again or something,” Barry replied.

Brian looked at the console. “We just came from that room. There’s nothing in there,” he said.

“Maybe the ColorForms came to life,” Barry said.

“That would be amazing. We should go check it out,” Brian tapped a few buttons on the console and the alarms shut off. Brian took a zapper off the wall and he and Barry went back to the recording studio. They stood in the doorway and looked around. “See? Nothing.”

“Not even a pair of underwear,” Barry tsked.

Brian looked down at the Ninja Turtle static clings they left on the floor. “Wait. You see anything weird about the clings? Look hard.”

Barry took a few seconds to look but didn’t see anything.

“How many turtles should there be?” Brian asked.


“And how many are there?”

“One, two, three…five.”

The extra turtle suddenly jumped up to attack Brian and Barry but Brian easily caught him and held him at bay.

“Awesome! One did come to life!” Barry exclaimed.

“It’s only awesome when they aren’t trying to kill us though,” Brian said. “He’s strong for a four inch piece of plastic the width of a gnat’s dick.”

“What should we do?” Barry asked.

“Grab the zapper and send this…whatever it is to kingdom come,” Brian said, still wrestling with the static cling.

Barry took the zapper away from Brian and aimed at the cling. Brian was trying to keep it as still as possible. “Grbixxer is just the first,” the static cling began yelling in a small, high-pitched voice. “There will be many more after me. You have not won, humans. This is just the first battle but we…we shall win the war.”

The zapper went off and destroyed the static cling. Grbixxer was no more. Brian looked at the singed plastic fluttering to the floor. “What was that? Girl-boxer? Gribbicker?”

“Cribbagger,” Barry said. “Someone who plays cribbage a lot? That’s what it sounded like anyway.”

“I don’t know. Cribbagger isn’t even a word,” Brian said.

“So? It’s space. Words don’t have to make sense up here.”

“We lost Grbixxer,” an alien said to the captain.

“Okay. I think I have his number here,” the captain turned and opened a file drawer.

“No, he’s dead. An Earthling killed him.”

“Oh. Well, in the grand scheme of things, Earth isn’t all that important. Uh, let his family know that he probably won’t be coming home for dinner ever again. Thank you, Minoorlax.”

“You’re welcome, Uncle.”

The alien left the captain’s quarters. “Now who still has a job, huh, Grbixxer?” the alien said and then began to cackle as he walked down the corridor.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Winnie #3

Zoe, Vanessa, and Winnie still lived in the small apartment above the bookstore. Winnie slept in a makeshift room that doubled as a living room. It was an odd arrangement but they could neither afford to move or really wanted to move. Winnie woke up to the sound of the television. She sat up and saw an image of an apartment building surrounded by tenants and firefighters.

“What happened?” she yawned.

“Good morning. Another apartment fire. Like what happened at Heather and her family’s. An elderly man died trying to evacuate,” Zoe replied.

“Someone died?” Winnie repeated. “I need to do something,” she said when she was talking to Heather about it.

“What can you do? We don’t have any idea who this person is, why they’re doing it, or where they’ll strike next. If they even strike again,” Heather said. “People on the news said whoever is doing this might stop now that they’ve killed someone. Like this was all a prank that now’s gone too far.”

“A man dies and officials treat it like it’s the end?” Winnie asked. “That’s not right. Someone died and even if this arsonist doesn’t set anymore fire, they still need to be brought to justice.”

“I agree but, again, what can you do?”

In world geography, Savannah was helping Seonna with her classwork. They were working on a worksheet where they had to fill in the blanks from the textbook and selected websites. “Why were you late this morning?” Savannah asked.

“What? Oh. Nothing,” Seonna awkwardly replied. “I just overslept.”

“You’re quiet today,” Savannah said. “Your head also seems to be elsewhere.”

“I’m fine. It’s just the assignment,” Seonna said.

“We’re basically copying and pasting from the book or computer about population density,” Savannah smiled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Seonna snapped. “Let’s just finish this.”

“Okay. Sorry.”

They went back to work but a couple minutes later, one of the assistant principals came into the room. “I need to see Seonna Toomey,” he said.

Seonna was away from class for the rest of the period and the next one. When Savannah passed by between periods she glanced into the assistant principal’s office and saw Seonna with two policemen. She stared for a few seconds then walked away worried. She saw Seonna again at lunch but Seonna refused to talk about what went on in the office.

At work, near closing time, Savannah was sweeping the floor while Seonna was wiping down the counter. “You need to talk about what happened today,” Savannah said. “It’s eating you up.”

“It’s not. I’m fine.”

“Seonna, I’m your friend. Tell me what’s wrong. You can tell me anything. I won’t tell anyone.”

“It’s about my sister, Allie,” Seonna revealed. Seonna had a younger sister, Alliezandra, who went by Allie. She was eleven and had just started middle school. “She’s been having problems with one of her teachers,” Seonna began.

“What’s going on?” Savannah could tell it was serious by the way Seonna lowered her head as she spoke.

“One of her teachers has been molesting her. According to Allie, he’s done it three times. I know I should’ve just told my grandmother or aunt but I was angry. I went to the middle school and waited for him in the parking lot. He got out of his car and I jumped. I beat the shit out of him. I wanted to stomp his head into the pavement. I beat him up then ran off to school. That’s why I was late,” Seonna explained.

“At least it was for a good reason,” Savannah chuckled. She was now behind the counter with Seonna and put an arm lovingly around her and held her hand. “So what was with the police? Did you report him or…?”

“The son of bitch pressed charges on me,” Seonna said. “The police were at school to arrest me. I had to explain to them that he was sexually assaulting my 11-year-old sister. They were going to go back to question him again and told me not to go anywhere. I haven’t seen them since.”

“You were defending your sister,” Savannah said. “I’m sorry that happened. I wish I could do something.”

“It’s not your fault. It feels good to tell someone. I feel better,” Seonna looked at Savannah. “Thanks,” she smiled. Savannah held Seonna tighter as they looked at each other. Savannah kept from kissing her, hugged her one last time and then went back to sweeping the floor while Seonna continuing cleaning the counter before moving on to the tables.

An hour after Zoe and Vanessa went to bed, Winnie dressed in black pants and a purple shirt, headed downstairs, opened the security gate and left the store, making sure to lock the door behind her. She began wandering the neighborhood and looking out for any suspicious people and while she saw plenty, none were wanting to set fire to anything.

Winnie checked out any siren that she heard, running through the streets and alleys only to come across a police car or ambulance. At two in the morning, she sat down on a bus bench and waited. For thirty minutes she sat and tried to focus on what few people were still out. She then began walking, down one street then up another creating a kind of staircase with her movements. She came across a man also dressed for sneaking around in the dark. He was muttering to himself but she couldn’t make out any words because he was too far away and was wearing a mask, like what people wear during flu season or in heavily polluted cities, over his mouth and nose.

She followed him at a distance and watched him go into an apartment building. It was about three o’clock. She waited right outside, watching the windows to see if one came on. When one didn’t after a minute, she swore at herself and ran into the building. The man was still on the first floor and was fiddling with something inside of the paper bag he was carrying.

“Stop,” Winnie said.

The man looked at her. “No, no. Can’t stop now. Have some business to finish,” he babbled, casually chuckling between each word.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said, walking slowly toward him.

“The voices say that I do,” he said. “Burn. Burn the sinners. Burn them all.”

“You’re not a killer. That man was just an accident. Right? A tragic accident.”

“Tried to send a message. No one listened. Man died. Everyone listening now.”

“How do you know these people are sinners?” she asked, still approaching and trying to buy time. “Have you ever met them?”

“We are all sinners,” he sighed. “Me. You.” He looked down dejectedly then pulled a Molotov cocktail out of the paper bag. “We are undeserving of His love and for that we must be punished.”

He held up a lighter and prepared to light the rag that was sticking out of the bottle. Winnie jumped at him, hand extended. “No!” she shouted and crashed into him, bringing him to the ground. The bottle shattered, spilling gasoline onto the floor, but the lighter fell harmlessly to the floor. Sitting on top of the man, Winnie slapped her hand on his forehead. He babbled a bit more and then seemed to go to sleep.

His eyes then opened and he was surprised to see this young girl sitting on top of him. Her blue and hazel eyes looking down at him with just a hint of a smile as she realized that his mind was now clear. “What the hell?”

“I don’t know,” Winnie said, standing up. “You tell me.”

“I’ve been in such a fog over the last week or so,” the man rubbed his head. “What’s going on?”

Winnie explained and the man could barely hold himself up. He leaned against the wall for support and then had to go outside for air. “We need to call the police,” Winnie finished up.

The man nodded. “Why was I like that?” he asked.

“You just had some demons inside you,” she shrugged.

“And you just knocked them out of me?” he smiled at her.

“I guess so.”

A police car dropped Winnie off at the store where Zoe and Vanessa were angrily waiting. The police had called them to let them know that their daughter caught the arsonist—after sneaking out of the house and wandering the city for four hours. The three of them went back upstairs where Zoe took the lead in the parenting.

“What were you thinking? You could’ve been hurt,” she exclaimed.

“I wanted to help. And I did. I caught him and I saved him.”

“You can’t go sneaking out at night to do things like that,” Zoe said. “We got that call from the police and we were so worried.”

“Worried about what? No one is after me anymore and I’m basically Jesus Christ. I can…do things,” Winnie said. “I cured that man of demons. I can perform miracles,” Winnie smiled big but neither Zoe or Vanessa were smiling back.

“So what are we going to do?” Zoe asked.

“What do you mean?” Winnie asked.

“Do we ground you or…?”

“I think we should sleep on it,” Vanessa spoke up. “It’s late. We have school and a book store to work at tomorrow. Besides, what is this going to get us? Our daughter is special and she actually wants to use those powers for good. You can’t even say that, Zoe.”

Zoe was hurt by that comment. She had laid herself bare last year, owning up to all the bad things that she had done. “You always have kept me grounded,” Zoe said to Vanessa. “No more sneaking out. If you want to help with something then tell us. We’ll trust you. Fair?” she asked Winnie.

“Fair,” Winnie nodded.

“Fair?” Zoe looked at Vanessa, who smiled and nodded at her. “Let’s go back to bed.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dr. Eva Harding and the Children's Park

Eva Harding was born September 13, 1857 in Springfield, Ohio. She was educated in Lafayette, Indiana and graduated from Iowa University and Purdue University, where she was one of the first students. She became a homeopathic doctor from Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago. She came to Kansas after graduating from Hahnemann, first settling in Atchison before coming to Topeka in 1892. It was here where she became a huge advocate for children, not just in Topeka but the entire state. Dr. Harding would travel the state visiting children's homes and orphanages and submit a report to legislators.

While she was known for things big and small, her biggest protest was on the Selective Service Act of 1917. She and a group of other like-minded individuals held a protest in the Unitarian Church in May of 1917. The protests even went so far as to try to convince men not to sign up for selective service. For this, Dr. Harding and several others were charged in federal court. When testifying, Dr. Harding argued that the draft law was illegal and harmed children by forcing the removal of their parents. Essentially, that if the man is away fighting in wars, then the mothers usually had to work outside the home leaving the children to fend for themselves. Dr. Harding and her followers lost the case, though weren't punished either, and selective service remained--and remains--the law of the land.

In 1901, Dr. Harding joined Carrie Nation on one of her "hatchitations" across Topeka where they destroyed at least four saloons before Nation was arrested. But upon her release just hours later, they smashed up two more including a hidden bar in a livery stable. Nation was arrested again shortly after. In 1905, Dr. Harding suggested that all Kansas schoolchildren be uniformed so that there is no differentiation between rich kids and poor kids. Despite saying that there was a Kansas Senator going to introduce the bill, it never was and the name of the senator was ever given. In 1915, Dr. Harding would announce her candidacy for Congress (advert ticket shown above), representing the First Congressional District of Kansas as a Democrat. (The First District, at that time, consisted of Nemaha, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Atchison, Leaveworth, and Shawnee counties. There were seven other districts.) She argued that "women are needed in public office" and that the inefficiency of men emboldened her to run for office. Harding would lost the nomination to then-Topeka mayor H.J. Corwine, who would lose the general election to Daniel Read Anthony, Jr. who would represent the 1st from 1907 to 1929 after Charles Curtis was elected to the Senate.

In 1916, Dr. Harding went to the Kansas legislature to demand that Dr. H.W. Charles be removed as superintendent of the Boys Industrial School in Topeka alleging abuse, inhumane conditions, and inefficiency. A committee was appointed to investigate but found no evidence of what Dr. Harding cited. When Harding couldn't produce the names of the witnesses she got her information from, the case was tossed out.

In 1919, her health started going downhill and she was confined to her home in College Hill. In June 1920, Dr. Harding announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate under the Socialist ticket despite being mostly confined to her bed. Sadly, we'll never know how much of the vote she would siphon off from Republican candidate Charles Curtis as she died barely a month later on July 27.

Dr. Harding's funeral was a simple affair with her lying in state and most people just giving statements of her work and friendships. She was interred in Rochester Cemetery in north Topeka in section 2. In keeping with her simple lifestyle, Dr. Harding has no stone.

The current residence at 1416 Boswell. Dr. Harding built her "garden house" at this site in
1913. Apparently, it was torn down in 1922 and this house was constructed by Tom King.
A 1915 photograph of Dr. Eva Harding by Francis & Hodges.

Arguably, the biggest contribution that Dr. Eva Harding gave to the city of Topeka was Children's Park in 1908. Five acres of land that she owned along Ward Creek was given to the city for use as a park. Located at 6th & Washburn (now MacVicar), the land was considered very beautiful especially since Dr. Harding tended flowers and trees on the land.

The park, originally called Ramblers' Park after the woman's group, opened May 1, 1908. For the next ten years, Topeka celebrated the park as one of the best additions to the city. Amenities included playground equipment and swimming pool along with the surrounding woods and flower gardens. Topeka even went one step further than Dr. Harding and said that the park would be open to children of all races. The park was well cared for and surely helped spur growth in the western part of the city near the asylum. The land was even expanded a couple of times.

In 1919, a Reverend Watson, who came from the south, took a group of black boys to the park. When confronted by an attendant of the park saying that people of color could only visit the park during the morning and the afternoons were for the white children. When Rev. Watson asked if it was an actual law, he was told 'no' and walked in with the boys. Immediately, the white children left the park which upset the black boys. Soon, a fight broke out and a white boy was knocked to the ground and had sand shoved in his mouth. After that day, a petition went around Topeka demanding that Children's Park be for white children only.

It was claimed that Dr. Harding said that Children's Park should only be for white children (the May 14, 1908 Topeka State Journal confirms this) but no one remembered her saying that. When Dr. Harding was asked, she was ill and bed-ridden at the time, she did not answer but her sister said that was something she would approve of. The petition was sent to the city commission who discussed it but a city attorney said that there was no law barring black people from using city parks nor could there be. The petition was filed and the matter dropped.

Today, Children's Park is still at the corner of 6th and MacVicar. It no longer has a swimming pool and Ward Creek cuts the park in half. The aging playground equipment sits near 7th Street beneath a small grove of trees. It's a simple, quiet area at an otherwise busy intersection since an interstate exit is located about seven blocks north of the park.

Children's Park sign at 6th & MacVicar.

Ward Creek, running through Children's Park.
A boulder and plaque memorializing Dr. Eva Harding. Installed in 1933, the plaque reads:
"This tablet
erected in memory of
Dr. Eva Harding
An eminent physician and
philanthropist who gave this
park to the city of Topeka
Forever to be known as
Children's Park"

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