Nigel tapped Middle C again.
He lifted the green piano’s lid and checked the striker and the wire. Everything worked fine.
But he didn’t hear anything when he hit Middle C.
B played. D played. Every other note played.
But not Middle C.
Nigel blew out the candelabra and hit Middle C again.
Of course it wasn’t that, he thought. That would have been silly.
Nigel tried another piano. Middle C worked just fine.
He went back to the green piano, lifted the lid, and plucked Middle C.
He hit the key again.
Nothing at all.
She once had legs, but over time she let herself go. Varicose veins, a deep hacking cough, and stints in rehab for a heroin problem finished off her partying days.
The dream guy she hooked with the help of ZZ Top’s gang of gals had long slipped the line and swam back for deeper waters.
Rags filled her closets.
Still, she kept the car in the driveway. The paint faded, the tires rotted, the engine seized up, and rust spread like brown cancer and covered everything.
Sometimes, she’d go out front and snap her nicotine-stained fingers, wave the keys.
“When you see the color red, you will experience so much hate that you will kill the Senator. It is your destiny.”
Arthur heard this phrase six hundred and forty-eight thousand, seven hundred and nine times before they stopped the recording and wiped the drool from his chin.
It used to be that you had to loop a recording with a razor and cellophane tape. Now you just hit “REPEAT” on an MP3.
They gave him a gun and a bus ticket. Two days later, he shot four seals at the Boston Zoo.
Hey, nobody said this stuff was perfect.
I work in a call center and the company owner is really cheap.
Of all the awful things here, the chairs here are the worst. They are old, worn-out, and cause frequent painful injuries.
One guy was speared with a spring and lost a kidney. Another broke a wrist and an ankle when a wheel just completely let go. A third rolled out of a window, never to be seen again.
Bob got it the worst. One day, he’s typing away, and we hear a loud CRACK!
He’s in a wheelchair now. Can’t feel anything below his neck.
“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” asked Abraham.
The crowd laughed, and Abraham took the opportunity to scurry back to his private quarters.
“Let me out!” shouted a familiar voice from the desk drawer. “Let me out of here, you ugly bastard!”
“Never!” shouted Abraham back. “I will not unleash your evil upon the world ever again!”
“Evil?” said the voice. “But isn’t war always a bad thing? Sure, millions must remain slaves to avoid confrontation, mind you…”
Later that night, Abe encased his beautiful face in concrete and sunk it in the White House well.
Schultz shook the dice, praying for snake eyes.
The rest of the company looked on.
Why can’t we just draw straws? thought Schultz. Or draw cards, or slips of paper from a helmet.
There was a lot of work to do.
And avoid, if possible.
“Hurry up!” yelled a corporal.
The dice sailed down the dirt path and into the few stubborn blades of grass that still grew in this ashen hellscape, landing in a stack of ragged, scorched clothes.
“That cinches it,” said Lieutenant Waldheim. “You’re on Burial Detail.”
Schultz grabbed a shovel and cursed.
“Four score and seven years ago,” mumbled Abraham.
“Ago… or… from now?” he said.
What would the World of 1950 be like?
He imagined railroads everywhere, coal-fired behemoths racing fast as a gazelles from town to town. Massive steamboats plying the ocean waters. Maybe hot-air balloons for every man, woman, and child to float around, narrowly grazing the world-wide web of telegraph wires.
And chess machines! Turkish dwarves stuffed in simulacra to play at any time!
Abe liked the World of 1950.
Too bad that he had to kick some more ass in 1863 to make it happen.
Abraham rubbed the ointment on his thighs and calves for a week. Soon, he was his old, tall self again.
But not for long.
The trouble started when he began grazing a few chandeliers. Then, he’d bump his head on archways.
Finally, he had to duck to keep from braining himself on the ceiling.
“I have exchanged one Hell for another!” shouted Abraham on his high, stilt-like legs. “This is agony!”
“Yes, but they reach the ground now, right?” said Mary Todd.
Abraham sighed. At least he could scrape the butter-pats off of the ceiling that Tad kept flicking there
Abraham looked down and winced.
His legs dangled from the chair. He kicked and swung them, but they never reached the floor.
Abraham bit his fist and cried silently, his face a twisted mask of agony.
“Abraham!” yelled Mary Todd. “Come down here this instant!”
“My legs are not long enough to reach the ground!” yelled Abraham. “Nobody must see me this way! Tell the generals to all go home!”
“Abraham!” she shouted. “Oh, my sweet darling Abraham!”
He cried loudly, whimpering.
Mary Todd cried, too. She’d give every penny she had to see her Abraham’s bright, shining face again.
The voices are coming from inside your head, not the doll.
No, I don’t know why I can hear them, too. Yes, that’s very strange.
Maybe you’re mumbling the words like a ventriloquist. Can you bite down on this piece of rubber for a moment and we’ll just have a listen?
Okay, I still hear it. It’s talking about burning down the cornfields.
That’s a very pretty dress. Here’s something you can wear over it. Just put your arms in the sleeves and try to relax.
I’ll just hold the doll for a moment, okay?
This won’t hurt a bit.