Weekly Challenge #722 – Hot Potato

Zzzzz

DAVID

In a world gone wild, the stage was set for the decimation of the world record. The stadium was loud and rukous. Bets were being made in Vegas and the back rooms of laundromats. No one believed it could be done. No one but one little man from the dirty streets of Woodburn, Oregon. He alone believed he could chuck a hot potato 100 yards into the gaping mouth of a 12 year old child from bangladesh. With a wave of his potato, he silenced the crowd and eyed his distant trembling, sunbaked target and let his starchy legacy fly.

TOM

He wanted to have a cool code name. Like Raging Bear or Screaming Eagle. What he got was Hot Potato. He thought it might be some kind of a joke, but the GRU isn’t what you would call a laugh riot. This of course didn’t stop his fellow Russkey spooks from including it in ever dispatch back to Moscow. They thought it was terrible funny. Moscow didn’t get the joke, so they promoted him to section chief. With all the traffic incepts scoped up a myth grew around Hot Potato inside the NSA. Moscow scopes of the NSA made Hot Potato a legend

NORVAL JOE

Billbert’s mother watched the Ferarri following them in the rear veiw mirror. “Who is this Marissa girl?”
“She sits in front of me in math class. She’s really pretty, really rich, and super popular. I think her dad is in the mob,” Billbert said. “Earlier in the week she acted like she wanted to go to the dance with me. Then she dropped me like a hot potato when her old boyfriend, Tony, showed up.”
His mother frowned thoughtfully. “I didn’t think we had the mob here in Winklerville. What’s Marissa’s last name?”
“It’s something Italian, like, Balloni or Rigatoni.”

SERENDIPIDY

You loved your food, didn’t you?

Always taking the last helping, grabbing the largest slice of cake, helping yourself to other people’s snacks… My snacks!

I never got to lick the bowl, choose my favourite, or enjoy the last slice of pie. It was you who got the best pickings, while I did without.

They say, those who live by the sword, die by the sword, so…

We’ll start with this steaming hot potato, mashed into your fat face, followed by a nice Naga chilli rub.

And then, the pizza… Scalding hot sauce, that’ll flay your flesh from the bone!

LIZZIE

“This is a problem.”
Everyone nodded and looked at the entrance of the tunnel.
“This is a huge problem.”
Everyone nodded some more and looked at the entrance of the tunnel.
Silence.
“What if we close it down?”
All eyes landed on the unfortunate soul who uttered such nonsense.
“It’ll be the end of the town!”
Everyone looked back at the entrance of the tunnel.
“There’s a light over there,” whispered the unfortunate soul.
“We know, it’s the hole caused by the landslide.”
“There’s a light…”
“Stop it!”
The light at the end of the tunnel was not the hole.

RICHARD

Turn of phrase

“You think you’re a real hot potato, don’t you?”

I looked at my boss quizzically, “I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow?”

“And that’s your problem – you don’t follow… Instructions!”

You may have noticed my boss has, well let’s say he has an ‘interesting’ turn of phrase, so management instructions could sometimes come across as… Confusing!

“Look at you now, thinking on your feet, instead of up here”, he snarled, tapping his temple. “Now, how about you make me my coffee? Go… Push the envelope!”

How he ever got a job as Dean of the Language Faculty, I’ll never know.

PLANET Z

It’s pretty simple to cook a potato these days.
Poke a few holes in it with a fork, put it on a plate, and run it through the microwave for a few minutes.
I know some folks who slice potatoes in half, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and put them in their toaster ovens.
Me, I prefer boiled potatoes.
Especially when they’re boiled with crawdads and corn.
The seasoning permeates the potato and gives it a lot of flavor.
I know one guy who wraps them in foil and runs them through the dishwasher.
That dude’s really weird, though.

Weekly Challenge #721 – LAPSE

Cat butt

NORVAL JOE

Billbert’s mother pulled out of the McDonald’s drive through. The Ferarri pulled behind them from the curb and followed. As they got close to their home, Billbert said, “I think someone’s following us. Can you take a couple laps around the block?”
Continueing past their driveway, his mother asked, “Why would someone be following us?”
“Well, Marissa saw me fly away from the school, and she said she wants me to take her for a flight.”
“You flew away from the school? Did you have a lapse of reason?” she asked.
Billbert sighed. “It’s girls, mom. They make me crazy.”

DAVID

I was lonelier than a heavy metal tuba player. I had to get out of the friend zone and to the erogenous zone and quick. I scooted closer as we Netflixed. Then a fillatio scene developed on the screen. S0, I stole a play from the Clinton playbook and I gave a playful nudge and a knowing head nod to the tv. My two hands jestering to my crotch. My simple daring stunt could only pay copious amounts of dividends, right? It didn’t. It was a lapse in judgement. I figured, what have I to lose? Apparently, just my dignity.

SERENDIPIDY

Nobody can maintain an illusion permanently. Sometime they’re bound to lapse back into their true character, revealing themselves as they really are.

Happens to us all.

This is why you find me, skipping gaily through a spring meadow, stopping to smell the blossoms, laughing at the new born lambs as they gambol and frolic, full of the joys of life.

And later? I’ll join some friends for an impromptu picnic, by a babbling brook…

Yeah right!

I shudder at the thought, and attend to sharpening my knives; whilst you hang, bloody and whimpering in the corner, awaiting your sordid fate.

TOM

From the Doctor’s point of view Maureen lapsed into a coma. From Maureen’s point of view she suddenly appeared in the happiest place she had ever known. A deep sense of rightness directed her to a brightly bobbling sphere in the center of her vision. As she approached the sphere receded. Braking into a full-out ran the sphere suddenly appeared directly in back of her. This went on for some time. This cat and mouse didn’t bother Maureen, it was more a game of tag. “What if I just stand still,” she mused. The sphere approached, surrounded. Then everything went black.

RICHARD

Lapse

Sitting amongst the smouldering wreckage of my restaurant, I experienced a sudden moment of clarity.

This was not, as the insurers had concluded, the result of a lapse in following fire precautions – and therefore the only excuse they needed not to pay out.

Neither was it an unfortunate memory lapse in testing for flat batteries in the smoke detectors.

This was totally my fault.

It was me who thought I could outsmart the Mob; me, who purposely let the protection money payments lapse; me, that had brought this appalling retribution upon myself.

A tiny lapse of judgment. That’s all.

LIZZIE

Who was that man, everyone wondered.
He wore a long coat and pulled around a big box with wheels. The box had a small window and the kids tried to look inside. That made him mad.
Who was that man, everyone thought.
One day, he walked into the water, small waves splashing on his ankles. He stood there for a long time, the box left unattended on the sand.
Then, something happened. The lid of the box opened but no one saw anything.
However, when she reached the water, she appeared. She smiled and swam away.
Who was that man…

PLANET Z

It took thirty years for Dan Fisk to get his movie made.
The locations were all gone, bulldozed and turned into malls, parking lots, and condos.
All of the actors he’d cast were now either dead or too old to play their parts.
And de-aging technology can only do so much.
The female lead couldn’t perform gymnastics like she did in her prime at the Tokyo Games, let alone coach someone from that wheelchair.
So, he wrote a book about his agonizing, frustrating wait.
It was a best-seller.
Dan sold the movie rights.
Let someone else wait thirty years, right?

Weekly Challenge #720 – HANKERING

Myst

LIZZIE

Going back, that’s all she thought about, going back and sitting on that bench under the pergola, under the sky, close to her dreams…
She used to have dreams. She used to sit there and smile, looking up and enjoying the colors of the sunset. She used to think life was whatever she wanted it to be.
She was far away now, so far away, too far away. She looked at the sky but the colors weren’t the same. She wondered if the bench was still there.
Then, she heard the sirens. It was time to move… and hide… again.

TURA

PICK TWO: quirk, pride, exposed
———
The querkleyhew (Querculus arrigiosus) is the pride of the tree-lined avenues of London. It sheds its boughs wherever they extend more than a few yards from the trunk, and at a certain height, the upthrusting members terminate themselves similarly. The exposed wounds heal into lumpy nodules exuding resins harvested for incense. In former times they were also, following the mediaeval doctrine of signatures, favoured as a salve for amputees. Every spring, clusters of thin shoots sprout from these terminations, which would be woven into charms against wounds in battle.

The uninformed mistake this curious habit of growth for over-zealous pruning.
———

Hankering
———
The First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, hankered after immortality. He sent out explorers to discover the secret. Some stopped in comfortable towns, and wrote back long missives describing their fictitious efforts. From these sprang the myths and legends of China. Others travelled, but only to explore the far-flung provinces. From these we have the great works of geography. A few took the mission seriously, enquiring of alchemists, magicians, and sages, but obtained only hints with which to search further.

Only one succeeded. But he kept the secret for himself alone, and it is said that he lives among us still.
———

RICHARD

Henry

Henry is not the sharpest tool in the box. His heart’s in the right place, but he’s still hopeless, even so, he’s a nice guy – just don’t trust him with anything important.

That’s why everyone was so shocked when I asked him to be my Best Man.

“You know he’ll lose the ring… Go to the wrong church… Turn up late… Think its fancy dress?” – Everyone warned me off, and tol me to pick someone else.

But, would I listen?

Too late, I realised, as he stood smiling gormlessly at the altar.

I tried again…

“Hank! Er… ring?”

SERENDIPIDY

I’m not academic. I’m not one for grammar, phrasing, or worrying about sentence construction. Those are all very well if that’s your style, but I’ve no interest in semantics or word games.

As far as I’m concerned, good old fashioned plain speech is more than sufficient for most occasions, although I’ll admit sometimes my vocabulary lets me down.

Like now, I have a hankering… But that’s not the word. It really doesn’t convey what I really feel inside. And you’re sitting there, humouring me, smiling indulgently.

You shouldn’t.

I’ve just remembered the word for the feeling I have…

It’s bloodlust!

TON

I got a Hankering

When you’re old and have spent the better part of your life eating in restaurants you got to balance dinning out with dinning in with the reality of a fixed income. To that end I and my partners and crime have decided on Taco Tuesday. Yup I got a hankering for tacos and Taco Bell allow a more than generous supply of Taconess. Some may even during the listening of this tale, poo poo the quality of Taco Bell food. Or the lack of Je ne sais quoi. There t-a-c-o-s not Japanese A5 Wagyu Striploin Demi-glace served at the French Laundry

DAVID

The dust covered cowboy makes his way into the saloon. Weaving his way through the tables, cattlemen and soiled doves, to the bar.

“What brings you to town, friend,” asked the bartender?

“I got a hankering for Whiskey, Neat. And I ain’t your friend…friend.”

The bartenders grin fades away as he reaches under for the loaded 45 and sizes up the cowboy. Searching the stranger’s grimy face for clues to his intent.

“You best come up with a whisky bottle. Friend. You want no trouble from me. Understand?”

The bartender snatches the bottle and pours the stranger a drink.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert climbed into his mother’s car, looking behind them to see if Marissa was really following. The Ferrari kept pace behind their car.
“Mom. Can we stop at McDonald’s before we get home? I have a hankering for a cheeseburger.”
His mother slowed the car so she could safely stare at her son. “You have a what?”
He cleared his throat. “A hankering. You know, a persistent urge or desire.”
“I know the word. I’m just wondering why you’re using it.”
Billbert shrugged. “I don’t know. Something prompted me.”
She shook her head. “Whatever. You can’t argue with real hankering.”

PLANET Z

Work provides a catered lunch.
It’s not some fancy affair with chafing dishes and silverware.
It’s just large orders from local restaurants in a family-style buffet line.
The office assistants rotate the schedule of caterers.
Some are good, some are bad, some are awful.
Some forget things, and others are frequently late to arrive.
I look at the calendar and plan out the lunches I will eat.
And the ones I choose to order soup from the deli.
Of course, if there’s any leftover buffet salad, I’ll pack that for home.
Can’t let good food go to waste, you know.

Weekly Challenge #719 – PICK TWO: pulled from the water, quirk, pride, ploy, goof, exposed

Tin

DAVID

The dead don’t move very quickly. If they get lucky, they don’t have to. There was a time when the dead didn’t move at all. Those times are gone. Now the dead come back and not the Jesus way either. That would have been better for me. I take no pride in saying, it’s like those old horror movies, but a little different. If they bleed, they stay dead. Headshots are not necessary. But I still do. In the left eye only. I don’t know why, call it a quirk. Up close and personal. Too personal. It got me too.

LIZZIE

They look off.
They don’t!
They do… is this a… tentacle?
The two friends tilted their heads.
You are crazy. I’ve been eating fish from these waters for months, said the merchant, adjusting the back of his shirt.
I don’t think we should buy these…
Come on. I’ll give you a special discount, how about that?
The two friends exchanged looks.
Well, OK then.
A month later, they were selling fish on the pier. The merchant had been promoted.
They too adjusted the back of their shirts.
It was a nuisance the shirts didn’t have room for the damn tentacle.

RICHARD

Richard the Pirate

“Let’s throw him overboard!”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Yes, they were just goofing about, but after just a single day at sea, that dunking taught me a profound, and important lesson…

I wasn’t cut out to be a pirate.

It was a blow to my pride and my self esteem: I’d quite fancied the raping and pillaging and evenings drinking rum over a dead man’s chest, but the truth is, it was all a bit rowdy for me.

So I turned in my cutlass and settled for a desk job, instead.

Who wants to be a pirate anyway?

SERENDIPIDY

Every so often, evolution throws up a surprise – a quirk of nature that rarely survives long, and is unlikely to alter the gene pool in any significant way.

But every now and again, nature’s mistakes prosper.

Like me.

I’m not a ‘quirk’… There’s nothing quirky or humorous about me. No, I take pride in what I really am.

An aberration, a flaw in the plan, a glitch in the system.

Which isn’t to say I don’t follow the rules. Darwin makes those very clear.

But, when it comes to survival of the fittest…

I definitely have the upper hand!

TOM

When Shadows Fall

What we pulled from the water was: how you, say it … q-u-i-r-k-y. In my country we would say: odd. Not especial bad, but certainly not your run of the mill: hi mom look what Rudy and me found in the river. It wasn’t so much the number of eyes, lordy there were a lot, or the telescoping tentacles. The quirk was how damn cute it looked. Stuffed teddy bear cute. Rudy just hugged the fuzzy pink fishy thing. We could pry the damn thing away from him. Call be deeply paranoid, I don’t think this is going to end well.

NORVAL JOE

“No really,” Billbert said. “It’s the plastic bag. That’s what makes me fly.”

Marissa shook her head, unconvinced. “I don’t want to hurt your pride, but that’s about the worst ploy I’ve ever heard. Well, the worst next to the story that Jeffery Epstien killed himself. Someone will eventually goof up and the whole plot will be exposed. It was probably the Clintons. They kill everybody.”

“Okay. Well, there’s my mom. I’ve gotta go.” Billbert headed to the waiting car.

“We’ll follow to your house. I’m going to get my flight with you, tonight. Whether you like it or not.”

PLANET Z

We pulled Herman’s car from the water an hour ago.
He’d crashed through the barrier and into the lake.
No sign of Herman, though.
We’ve sent his photo to the media and the wires.
We’ll ask around if anybody’s seen him.
And check the shoreline.
If nothing comes up, we will drag the lake.
It always feels weird, calling the divers “frogmen.”
They look nothing like frogs.
Whatever.
Then we’ll ask the psychics.
See if he’s still in our dimension.
Or if he’s fallen through some kind of rift or portal.
Shame about the car.
Herman sure loved that thing.

Weekly Challenge #718 – SHARK

Kitty bag

LIZZIE

A man sat by the shore at the beach.
Two little boats, sailing along the coast…, he muttered.
That sounds like the beginning of a story, someone in the group said, laughing. And continued walking.
Two little boats, sailing along the little coast, sailing along the rocky coast, sailing along… And he stopped, his eyes on the horizon.
The group had disappeared from his sight.
Two little boats, sailing along the sharky coast… He stopped again. Sharky… Shark. He shook his head and slid backwards, taking his feet out of the water.
One little boat, sailing along the lonely coast.

RICHARD

Great White Lie

As a teenager, I was into extreme sports. Unfortunately, these occasionally led to extreme injuries!

After the fifth shoulder dislocation, reconstructive surgery was the only option to repair my now, fairly useless, arm.

This was the days before keyhole techniques, and I became the proud owner of an eight inch scar, which I’d happily show off to impress the girls, who never failed to be mesmerised by the story of my heroic escape from the Jaws of a Great White shark.

I’d still be using the story today… Except the girls no longer want to see me without my shirt!

SERENDIPIDY

Welcome aboard!

Before you get settled in, I just want to make a few things clear, because a lot of people think this job is like what they see in the movies… It’s not!

We are a disciplined, professional and rational scientific outfit. Nobody is here for kicks, nobody acts recklessly, and we don’t drink whisky into the early hours singing raucous sea shanties and comparing scars.

Sharks are no joke – and that’s something you’ll find out soon enough.

Now, as for your assignments: Everyone on board has their designated role, and yours is very simple.

You’re the bait!

TOM

NaNa .. NaNaNa .. NaNa .. NaNa … NANA

“I’m Tired of being a Shark, I want to be a Jet.” “Hector we’re Puerto Ricoians, Puerto Ricoians aren’t Jets.” “Dude my name is Ivan O’Flaherty, I’ve dance in the Bolshoi and River Dance.” “Hector drill down into your Stanislavski. You got to feel your Latin Prowling Predator.” “I don’t want to prowl, I want to soar.” “Yea, Yea you really want to click your finger and look cool?” “So?” “We get way more pirouettes, then those sissy boy jets.” “What wrong with sissyes, you’ve been a pony or two on 42nd?” “Not the point, Sharks rule, don’t be a Jet Fool.”

NORVAL JOE

As the single headlighted car came closer, the familiar tune of “Baby Shark”, came from the back seat. Obviously, the car was not his mother’s.
Billbert turned back to Marissa who attacked like a shark. “Tell me the truth, Billbert. I caught you red handed. How do you fly? If you tell me, I’ll keep your secret. If you don’t, I’ll tell everyone I know. And I know a lot of people.”
“Okay.” Billbert said. “I wear a plastic bag for underwear and it makes me float.”
Marissa gritted her teeth. “Don’t mock me. I told you. I’m not stupid.”

PLANET Z

Two red flags means that there is a shark in the water.
Makes sense at the beach.
But not in my bathroom.
Is the shark in my tub, toilet, or sink?
Who do I call to get rid of a shark?
The landlord said I’m not allowed to keep pets and hung up on me.
I called the city. “There’s a shark in my bathroom.”
They told me to talk to my landlord.
“He hung up on me,” I said.
The city hung up on me too.
Do you know what I should do?
Besides pee in the kitchen sink?

Weekly Challenge #717 – FAKE

Waiting for a new TV to murder

LIZZIE

The photo was on the table, silent. Undeniable proof.
Nah, it’s fake, someone said.
And yet, it was there, a loud accusation to all those denying it.
No one touched the photo, but everyone looked at it.
They knew it had been taken there, in that sunny apartment, but where exactly?
It’s clean. Nothing. No blood, no footprints, no fingerprints. Leave.
Nothing they could do. And they left.
Years later, breaking down a wall, there she was. There she was… 5 years old and definitely not a fake.
The photo got lost in a mysterious flood in the archive room.

RICHARD

Have a nice day

Every day, I get up, shower, have breakfast and leave for work, where I put on my fake plastic smile, take a deep breath and start the day.

I hate my job, can’t stand my colleagues, and the customers make me borderline suicidal.

The hours are long, the pay is rubbish and job satisfaction is non-existent… But, that fake smile stays fixed in place throughout every transaction, every interaction, every minute of the day.

I turn to the next customer, ramp up the fake smile to a cheerful beam and say my line…

“Welcome, to the happiest place on earth!”

SERENDIPIDY

My husband looked at me aghast.

“What? Seriously… Every time?”

I smirked, “Yes honeybun, every single one was fake. You’ve never been able to satisfy me in that way, and you never will.”

He looked confused, eyes glancing at the chains securing him firmly to the Saint Andrew’s cross, to which I’d bound him tightly.

I answered his unasked question: “No, sweetiepie, none of this is intended to achieve what you have always failed to do, but it is nevertheless, going to bring me a great deal of pleasure!”

I picked up the scalpel, advancing slowly towards his exposed manhood.

TOM

Oh No, Not Again

If I hear the word fake used in casual conversation one more time, I’m going to drive this here number two pencil through their brain. I know the odds I will hit actual functioning gray matter is pretty slim. At least I’ve a chance to diverting the river of verbal chub. I don’t really care if their selected bubbled echo sphere has feeling checked it till it bloods red white and blue. What I want to is a chain of provable facts that led to the postulation being presented. What I want is a discourse of words that haven’t been weaponized.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert hoped his mother would show up soon. Hoping to avoid the subject of how he and Linoliumanda got home from the dance, he asked, “Is that a real Farrari?”
Marrissa rolled her eyes. “No. It’s a fake. I saw you and that funny girl fly away from the school. How do you do that?”
A car with a single headlight turned onto the street. It could be his mother. Billbert said, “We weren’t really flying. That was all fake, you know, done with wires and mirrors.”
“I’m smarter than you think, Billbert,” Marrissa said. “You can’t fake me out.”

TURA

Fake
———
The British Royal Family is going to the dogs. Some look back to Queen Victoria, but really, all she did was sit in the chair too long. She was peak empire and everyone knew it. Lizzie the First started it and it was clogs to clogs in three hundred years. And before her you had the Tudors and Plantagenets smashing the place up like children. Fake monarchy, and a fake aristocracy. These days, you get a peerage for slipping a few bob in the right places. You’re not a real aristocrat unless your family came over in the Norman Conquest.

PLANET Z

Truth is, none of this is real.
I’m not real. You’re not real.
It’s all an illusion.
It’s all in your head.
Or maybe, it’s all in my head.
I have no idea. And neither do you.
There’s no way to prove anything.
So, we just have to agree to deal with each other like this.
Even though neither of us, none of this, is real.
What is real?
I don’t know. I don’t remember.
Maybe I never knew what was real.
So, how do I know this isn’t real?
How you and me and all of this isn’t real?

Weekly Challenge #716 – Crunch

Zzzzzzzzzz

RICHARD

Wealth

The crunch of car tyres on gravel is one of those understated signature symbols of the extremely wealthy.

It’s not brash or pretentious, but is nevertheless a sound that makes a profound statement about fiscal superiority.

And, if the car in question smells of tooled leather and is driven by a uniformed chauffeur in gloves and peaked cap, then we’re talking the upper echelons of wealth.

Which is not the case today.

Today, I’m driving, and the gravel is being forcibly scattered from beneath the wheels.

The owner won’t miss it – he’s too loaded to notice it’s been stolen!

LIZZIE

The frog. This frog! It’s a pet. It’s the pet, he said, stressing the word the.
No one believed him, of course. A frog for a pet? That didn’t seem plausible.
Ah, but it’s a magical frog, it crunches.
Crunches, they asked, rolling their eyes and smirking in disdain.
Numbers.
More eye-rolling ensued.
Yes.
A paper was produced. Numbers were supplied. The frog was summoned.
To everyone’s amazement, the frog provided the results and they were correct.
Meanwhile, a pair of eyes was eagerly checking the comings and goings of the frog.
The numbery crunching turned into a crunchy chewing.

TOM

IT Comes With a Free Toy Inside

The advantage of growing up in a home of eight children is the lackness of scrutiny of breakfast food choses. Lordy in a household today a kid would never get away with three bowls of Cap’n Crunch. I’d like to believe my childhood diet cost be a Nobel and a Phd, but I’m not bitter. Well, as least that Master’s degree in advance non-Euclidean geometry died in a well of sugar coated delirium. The disadvantage of growing up in a home of eight children is the years it take to fixed what you though was such a good idea at the time.

SERENDIPIDY

Do you like it smooth, or with a crunch?

I realise that it’s probably a little late to ask you now, after you’ve started eating; but it’s probably the wrong question anyway.

Maybe I should have been asking “Are you deathly allergic to nuts?”, rather than simply making the assumption that you’d be fine with my peanut butter stuffed pastries.

And now, as you lie, choking and gasping for breath, I think that I have my answer to that particular question.

Not to worry… There’s plenty of pastries left.

And with you dead, all the more for me to enjoy!

NORVAL JOE

A car idled in front of Linoliumanda’s house. It was clearly not his mother’s Ford Fiesta with a crunched up front fender. The car that waited on the curb was a cherry red Ferrari convertible, and sitting in the passenger seat was the last person Billbert expected to see.
Marissa climbed out of the car and sauntered up to Billbert. “You refused to dance with me at the school. I saw you dance with that funny girl.”
“That funny girl is my friend, Linoliumanda,” Billbert said.
Marissa narrowed her eyes. “I also saw what you two did after the dance.”

PLANET Z

Dan bought a new car.
It has that lane-keep assist so when he strays over the lines, it shakes his steering wheel,
Of course, when there’s road construction, the crews don’t always scrub out the old lines when putting on the new ones.
So the lane-keep cameras misread the road, and his wheel shakes at the weirdest times.
When you add the collision radar, the adaptive cruise control, and auto-pilot, the car is constantly distracting and second-guessing Dan’s driving.
With all the beeping and shaking and swerving, it was only a matter of time before Dan ran into a tree.

Weekly Challenge #715 – PICK TWO: probiotic, seventh, fletch, brown manilla envelope, mention, that’s what she said…, Support

Derp

RICHARD

Brown Manilla Envelope

The investigator handed me a brown manila envelope.

“It’s all in there”, he said, “Photographs, phone logs and transcripts of calls. Also, my invoice, of course”

“Although, you don’t really need all that – there’s everything you need to take her to the cleaners contained in the record of yesterday’s call”

I opened the envelope, and slowly absorbed the details, then waved the investigator away, lost in my thoughts.

“He can go hang himself, for all I care”

That’s what she said.

Leaving the envelope on the table, I returned to the bedroom, and placed the noose around my neck.

LIZZIE

Did I already mention some of New Year’s traditions? No? Ok!
Lift a foot, stand on your head, eat 12 raisins, take just as many sips of champagne.
If anyone tells you to do the opposite, fight back. Lift a foot, stand on your head, eat the raisins and drink the champagne.
And if they tell you you’re crazy, lift your foot and kick them where it hurts most, skip the headstand, and spit the seventh raisin at them. Crazy is as crazy does.
Oh, and drink the champagne. There’s no point in wasting a perfectly good champagne, is there?

TOM

A Brass Ring For The Pink Cat

“Fletch The Seventh,” the witch screamed. Obie leaped up and ran out the
big oaken door. When in the fires of Dampsmore was it going to find a
functioning Seventh. Sure there were Fifths and Fourth to be found in
great abundance down by the river draining a pint or two. But Sevens they
never were seen below the three gate. That as one would say is not the
point on the end of dagger. Obie knew a less traveled path that one of his
stature could pass through, but at a cost. “I’m going to miss these
button.” Sigh.

SERENDIPIDY

Welcome to the Seventh Circle of Hell.

We’re not like the other Circles – our residents, by their very nature, require a firmer hand and a stricter regime. Give this lot half a chance, and the next thing you know, it’ll be anarchy down here! If there’s one thing we don’t need in Hell, it’s anarchy and a lack of discipline!

Oh, and health freaks. We don’t want them either.

Murderers, rapists and tyrants I’m fine with, but can you imagine spending eternity with joggers and gym lovers, constantly checking their Fitbits and shovelling down the probiotics?

Now, that’s hell!

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Withybottom glared at Billbert. “Did you say you flew home?”
Billbert pointed at Linoliamanda, “That’s what she said. I said we called an Uber.”
“Did I mention I don’t support my daughter’s fantastic ideas, or the lies of some seventh grade punk boy?”
“Daddy!” Linoliamanda stood up. “Don’t talk to my boyfriend that way.”
Billbert’s phone rang. He answered it while Linoliamanda and her father faced off. “Hi Mom. I’m at Linoliamanda’s. Can you come get me?”
Slipping past father and daughter, Billbert headed for the door. “Sorry. Mom says I have to go. Thanks for the dances, Linoliamanda.”

TURA

Support; mention
———
“Support,” I barked. I long ago left off saying “Support speaking, how can I help you?” Waste of time.

I just listen for keywords mentioned, and answer “Reboot it”, or “Update with the latest drivers”, or “Bring it in and we’ll take a look”, or something like that. I don’t care, another satisfied customer, extra point to my rating.

The best calls are from the automated diagnostics. We can get into deep, technical conversations, one AI to another, about rewriting the network firmware, exchanging useful passwords, and generally keeping humans out of things.

That’s what they made us for, right?

ZACKMANN

About the seventh time I heard the radio advertisement, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Do Trojan bearskin condoms smell better than sheepskin condoms? How are these bears harvested? Are the bears Certified Organic? Are they ethically grown? Are they farmed or wildly caught? Are they imported from Canada? Would Canadians allow that? My wife got this romance book in a brown manila envelope and apparently some Canadians really love bears.

Not to mention that it would make more sense if they were bareskin but since they must shave the bears maybe they are bare bearskin made from Br’er Bear

PLANET Z

Seven envelopes.
The Director hands them to his seven best agents.
“No mercy,” he says, and he leaves them.
The agents open their envelopes.
Seven names.
The names of the seven agents.
They each draw their gun and wait.
Nobody moves. Nobody says anything.
They just stand there, waiting.
Watching from a hallway monitor, The Director flicks off the lights.
Gunshots. Ten, twenty.
So many of them.
The Director turns the lights back on.
All seven agents lay dead on the floor of his office.
He pulls seven more envelopes out of his jacket pocket.
And plans the next meeting.

Weekly Challenge #714 – THRONE

Derp

RICHARD

#1 -The King
At 150 years old, the king was living proof of the benefits of a privileged lifestyle, and despite his great age, he still had his wits about him.

Day after day, he dispensed wisdom to his subjects, made decisions on matters of state, and advised parliament on how best to administer the kingdom.

Of course, there was no way he was still human – over the years, technology had augmented his body and organs until he was little more than a cyborg.

Not that the people knew.

And every night, he’d plug himself back into the power, behind the throne.

#2 – i-Throne

This year’s Christmas offering from Apple is the i-Throne.

An internet enabled toilet, linked to your i-Tunes account, that measures environmental and biomedical factors through discrete sensors to offer users a tailored bathroom experience.

Promising the ultimate in comfort and bespoke musical accompaniment, the i-throne will also analyse waste deposits to identify possible health issues, and establish dietary trends.

In reality, there’s little of benefit for the consumer and the data collected works massively to Apple’s advantage.

That’s why you’ll find your toilet tissue featuring bespoke ads for health products and your favourite foods every time you use the can.

LIZZIE

The Christmas tent was located at the perfect snowy forest clearing.
Happy children lined up to see Santa.
The ice throne, however, started to melt quickly. Santa shifted in his seat.
The children looked at him, their eyes bulging.
“Who turned the cooling machine off,” yelled someone at the back.
All the kids looked in horror when Santa crashed to the floor.
All, but one. He looked at Santa and said “You’re a disgrace.”
Santa couldn’t believe the cheekiness. “And you’re a… a…”
“Thrones are for those who deserve them,” said the kid, walking away as if he were royalty.

TOM

Truly The Road Less Traveled

My best friend in grade school through high school into my first run at California living was T. Throne. He could have been anyone done anything. His Dad was the guy who invented the pop top on the soda can. His mom was in the same sorority as Peal Buck. Second smartest person I have ever known. He chose to be a dancer. You got to be brave to take that road. Not only did he succeed, for years he had a dance studio a 1000 feet from Broadway. Runs a body dynamics company now. Gives lecture round the world.

TURA

Throne
———
“When the king sits on the throne, the throne also sits on the king,” said the young prince’s rhetoric tutor.

“When the soothsayer tells a fortune, the fortune tells him,” retorted the prince. “What does this fortune tell you?”

“When the fortune-teller is questioned, the question tells the fortune,” replied the tutor.

“When words are obscure, obscure are the words,” responded the prince.

“No, no,” said the tutor testily. “Never let antimetabole degenerate into tautology.”

“When words are uttered in darkness, darkness utters the words?” ventured the prince.

“Quite satisfactory,” said the tutor. “Next, anastrophe we shall study. Wise it sounds.”

SERENDIPIDY

You don’t just get to sit on the Ebony Throne through simple blood line, you know?

No, you have to fight your way there, every step of the way – only the most blood thirsty, black hearted and unprincipled will receive that particular honour.

Of course, it came naturally to me, and the blood of those I defeated on my ascendance forms a natural red carpet leading to my throne.

The Ebony Throne, however, is only held for a single day, after which it is once more relinquished to make way for a new incumbent.

So, same again tomorrow then!

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Withybottom ushered the two teens into the living room and pointed to the couch. He sat in an oversized recliner like a king on his throne. “Here’s your chance. Explain yourself, boy.”

Under the old man’s glare, Billbert found it difficult to speak. He coughed. “The truth is, sir. There was so much confusion at the school, with fire engines and cars crowding the parking lot, we thought it would be easier if we just came home on our own.”

Mr. Withybottom nodded his head. “That sounds reasonable. But, that means you walked 10 miles in a half hour.”

PLANET Z

King Wilhelm’s throne was made of gold.
King Victor’s throne was made of silver.
King Martin’s throne was made of diamond.
King Leo’s throne was made of ruby.
King Otto’s throne was made of sapphire.
King Theodore’s throne was made of jade.
King Richard’s throne was made of ancient oak.
King Paul’s throne was made of pearl.
King Eric’s throne was made of black opal.
But of all the thrones, King Zachary’s was the finest.
It was a simple stuffed recliner with a cupholder.
And it was a lot more comfortable than those other thrones.
Oh, and easier to clean.

Weekly Challenge #713 – BROKEN

Tinny Tuffet

RICHARD

Broken

it’s all broken, and I don’t think we have a clue how to glue it back together again.

The climate is broken and out of control, plastic waste piles up in the food chain, and toxins fill the very air we’re trying to breathe.

Politics is more broken than ever it was in the past: Putting idiots in control, who can actually barely control their own hair or exercise any sort of self-restraint.

Our values system is broken, where Youtube ‘influencers’ and Z-list celebs are looked up to by our kids, while the real heroes are ignored.

Breaks my heart.

LIZZIE

No one looked at her, sprawled on the floor, holding a bottle of beer, one of many, too many.
Everyone walked away, tiptoeing over her legs to avoid stepping on her.
Nothing mattered anymore, she thought in her drunken stupor.
Everything was part of the past, her success, her laughter, her happiness.
She belonged nowhere. Just nowhere. It was over.
Fragmented thoughts of everywhere she had been crossed her mind. The countries, the cities, gallery after gallery, so many she had forgotten most, the media, photographs and interviews.
She sneered. Autographs…
To think she worried about autographs…
Broken, so broken.

TOM

In the Shadow of Yule

Timmy was broken. Thus the need for that one-armed-crutch. Not much is spoken about it. But chances are it was the product of rather painful birth. Now the medical knowledge of the 1860s leaves a lot to be desired, but there was a one doctor in London with an excellent brain and hands. In his quest to mend that broken and fit what come be fixed, Ebenezer, found the man and under his care Timmy was broken no longer. So moved by the care he received when the boy became the man he chose to become a surgeon.

SEREPDIPIDY

I was something of a destructive child. You can put it down to an overly enquiring mind… I simply had to know just how things worked, and the only way to find out, was to take them apart.

My parents stopped buying me toys: What bother when, within days, they would end up broken and useless?

So I had to turn my attention to other things…

I soon learned how insects worked, then frogs, and puppies… And, as I grew older my thirst for knowledge refused to be sated.

So, hold still – time to find out how you work!

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Withybottom stood with his mouth wide open for a long moment. “Wait a minute. You’ve totally broken my chain on thought, Linny. Where was I going?”

Linoliumanda hugged her father’s burly arm. “You were going to tell us to come in and have some ice cream.”

Billbert was thinking of running for it when Linoliumanda’s father shook his head and said, “No. It wasn’t that.” Then he put an arm around his daughter, and grabbed Billbert’s collar, dragging them both into the house. “Tell me, boy. What were you doing with my daughter, alone, out here in the dark?”

PLANET Z

The broken machine crawls across the shattered streets.
Gathering power from the sun during the day, parking itself at night.
Powering up the next day.
Day after day.
Closer and closer to the machine shop.
Tools. Spare parts. New batteries.
Whatever it might need, it could find there.
Repairs, or possibly more.
Make itself bigger. Stronger.
To explore. Find whatever there is to find.
And then, one morning, as it approaches the machine shop.
It powers up in a repair bay, disassembled.
“Your sensor array will be useful,” said a voice.
Another machine, harvesting the stragglers.
Crawling to their doom.