Nathan

Out at Coney Island, everyone talks about Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand.
But nobody’s talking about Walter’s Obscure fried squid.
That’s the fried squid stand behind the Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand.
People went crazy for the hot dogs. Only crazy people went for the squid.
“Pick your own squid!” said the sign out front, right next to a huge fish tank full of squid.
Squid mermaid performers swam in the tank, trying not to get tangled in the squid.
Every July Fourth, in the shadow of the Nathan’s contest, they would hold a squid-eating contest.
Nobody ate a thing.

The warning on the pack

Coughing, hacking, wheezing…
Using. Always using.
She smoked her friends down to the filter.
When there was nothing left to inhale, she spat them out and ground them under her heel.
There was always another waiting in the pack, and so many others in the mob, lining up to offer a light from their torches.
Kindly mind your pitchforks.
The more she smoked, the thicker the cloud.
Pretty soon, you could hardly see her at all.
When the pack was empty, the smoke cleared, there was nothing left of her.
They should put warnings on the packs:
“Don’t climb in.”

Potatoes

Ever watch those “How Stuff Is Made” videos? The french fry one is fascinating. They run potatoes through a sorter that shakes them past increasingly-larger holes in order to size and sort them.
Life is a sorting table, with holes in which to sort out how much stupidity, bullshit, and hypocrisy each of us potatoes contains.
Left? Right? Claiming to be Moderate?
We’re all just a bunch of potatoes, really
No matter what you do, you’re gonna get cut up, blanched, flash-frozen, shipped, fried, and salted so some minimum-wage pimply-faced teenager can ask someone if they want you with that.

Row row row

Fred was anything but gentle with how he tried to row his boat up the stream.
He grunted and sweated as he turned the oars, and they splashed madly in the water.
But the boat wasn’t getting anywhere.
“You should be more gentle with that crazy rowing,” said Gertie.
“I wouldn’t have to heave so hard if you weren’t such a big fat pig,” growled Fred.
That’s when Fred noticed that the boat was anchored.
“There wasn’t room for me and my bags with it sitting there,” Gertie whined.
Fred tossed her overboard, pulled up the anchor, and rowed away.

The Lines

The First Line consists of the hearse and the mourners.
The Second Line consists of revelers celebrating the life of the deceased.
The Third Line consists of drunk tourists confused by the commotion, looking for free beads or girls to show their tits.
The Fourth Line consists of creditors looking to collect whatever they can before the party spends whatever’s left in the deceased’s bank account. They also pick up any lost wallets or purses from those drunkasses in the Third Line.
The Fifth Line consists of people who woke up too late to make it in the First Line.

Sainted

It’s been years since I was in a church, I told the old rector.
He handed me an envelope. “We have the skin from the cheek of St. Anthony,” he said.
Inside was an offering card, a photo of some guy in robes, and other slips of paper.
“Which St. Anthony?” I asked. “And which cheek? Left or right? And was it his buttcheek or from his face?”
“The information’s in the envelope,” he said. “The Vatican investigated and confirmed it.”
Unlike all the cases of child abuse, I thought.
I left the bomb under a pew, smiled, and left.

There is nothing new

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun.
Which makes sense, if you consider that it was written by someone who lives in the desert.
Have you ever tried to come up with a new idea when out in the hot desert sun?
The sun is so draining. The only thing you want is to get out of the sun.
Then, at night, so exhausted, you’d just sleep.
Okay, maybe that’s what inspired tents: to shade yourself from the sun.
Or umbrellas so you can carry shade around with you.
So you can think up something new.

Style Guide

To keep things consistent and readable, our writing group follows a style guide.
Which one?
The one over there on my shelf.
Everybody’s got a copy, and they keep it in their shelf.
Or in their desk drawer.
What? It’s not there?
Golly, I can’t remember the last time I looked at it.
I think we’ve got it stored on the server.
Or perhaps it’s on my Kindle?
Nope. Not there.
Oh. Wait. I know where it is.
It’s in this cardboard box. That I’m filling with my stuff.
I got fired today. For not following the style guide.

The sounds of higher learning

Sitting in a classroom in University of Houston Downtown, learning about Plain English at an academic forum.
The train runs by the campus, and you can hear and feel the rumble, and the whistles and bells as it approaches the stop.
The air conditioning whispers quietly, and the shuffling of papers, and sliding of chairs and coughing, and a cell phone rattles on a table.
Another train rumbles by, and students talk to each other as they walk in the hall outside the conference room.
Oh, and the presenter. He’s speaking. Saying something.
I should pay attention to him.

Dog Walk

Every morning, dog owners walk their dogs on the sidewalks of the apartment complex.
Some bring plastic bags to pick up poop from the grass, but most don’t. The worst leave dog poop on the sidewalk.
There’s a 20 pound limit for dogs in the lease, and most of the dogs are small dogs, but every now and then, I see someone walking a big dog breed.
They don’t care. The apartment managers don’t care. The dogs don’t care.
The barking and snarling wakes me up again.
I don’t feel so bad about playing the TV loud at night anymore.