Stephen L. Thompson’s Weekly Stories for the first half of 2007

Stephen L. Thompson’s
Weekly Stories for the
First Half of 2007

January 1, 7, 14, 21, 28

February 4, 11, 18, 25

March 4, 11, 18, 25

April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

May 6, 13, 20, 27

June 3, 10, 17, 24

See the voting results.

For the week of:

January 1, 2007


Leaning over the cubical wall, Tony asked, “Hey Jen, how were your holidays?”

Looking up Jen smiled and replied, “Too expensive and not long enough.”

Tony laughed. “Very true. Say, did you and Erik ever work out where you’re going this year?”

“Yep, we’re thinking Hawaii, probably around Christmas.”

“Cool,” Tony said nodding.

“So, what do you wish for this new year?”


“Yeah, you know,” Jen took a sip of coffee, “Peace on Earth, a big raise, stuff like that.”

“Oh, well, I guess you could say I’m wishing for death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.”

Jen stared at Tony for a few seconds, then set her mug down. “What?”

Tony shrugged. “I mean, every year, everybody from the Pope to the President to,” with his thumb Tony pointed to the ceiling, “our Clueless Leader make speeches where they pray for peace in the new year, good will towards men, profits through the roof. But, that never happens. So, these last few days I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m starting to wonder if hoping for the best results in the worst. So this year I’m hoping for World War III, famine, plagues aplenty…”

“That’s a horrible thing to think,” Jen stood up to look Tony in the eye. “Yes, we haven’t gotten Peace on Earth yet, but you can’t become negative. What about the power of positive thinking?”

Tony shrugged again. “That’s just wishful thinking, it doesn’t do anything. What’s the phrase, ‘Wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which hand fills up first.’ Wishing for peace means nothing; unless you actually do something. And when have you known our leaders to do anything?”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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January 7, 2007

Surging Towards...

Joe had been dreading Thursday ever since it was announced that President Bush would address the nation Wednesday night to discuss his plan of sending more troops to Iraq. In some previous life he must have really POed some god to end up sharing an office with Mike and Linda. Of course, calling it an office was being generous. The well-worn joke was that it was a cubical with a glandular issue.

Mike was approaching fifty, married, had tried to join the Marines out of high school but was turned away because of a heart condition but still had a Marine Corps emblem screen saver. He was a Republican through-and-through and liked to brag that he had voted Bush four times; twice for the father and twice for the son.

The exact opposite was Linda, approaching thirty, who still enjoyed the dating scene, and who on her first day of work installed a Peace Sign screen saver. She was a Democrat through-and-through, and while only seventeen in 1992 she bragged that she had voted Clinton once, but hoped to do it twice more.

Needless to say, Mike and Linda spent most days debating (most people would describe it better as arguing) about the pros and cons of Iraq, Social Security, immigration, Iraq, national defense, George W. Bush, Iraq, terrorism, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Moore, Iraq, Vietnam, Iraq, the intentions of the Founding Fathers, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, and hockey. Oddly enough, they were both Flyers fans.

Joe had long learned to tune them out on most days. It only became a problem around major events; elections, Presidential speeches, scandals, Mondays. So when he learned that the President was giving a speech about Iraq on Wednesday night, he seriously considered taking Thursday off, but it was too soon in the year to start using vacation days. So he prepared himself for the agony.

Unfortunately, he did not prepare enough. Around ten o’clock he gave up trying to do work and started playing solitaire. About forty minutes later, after the already umpteenth debate this year over whether Bush was more like FDR or Hitler, Joe had had enough. “Will you two just shut up.”

Mike and Linda, who usually forgot that Joe existed, stopped mid-rants to stare, open mouthed, at him.

“Okay, your guys,” Joe pointed at Mike, “think that Bush’s plan is bold, and good, and blah, blah, blah. But it’s not new. I mean, Cheney didn’t come down a mountain with ‘Thou shalt surge thy troops,’ carved into a stone tablet. You talk to any big city cop, and ask them what is needed to turn a bad neighborhood into a good neighborhood, and I’m sure most of them will say you need cops walking the beat. The cops get to know the people and know who’s doing what. If the people see the cops on a daily bases, they learn to trust them, and they’re more likely to report crime. So it stands to reason that if you have a city where people are blowing other people up, you need to get cops or the military in there to walk the beat, and turn bad neighborhood by bad neighborhood into good neighborhoods. The basic idea behind this plan is sound, but it’s something that should have been put into effect, like, three years ago. So why wasn’t it? Ineptitude perhaps?

“And you guys,” Joe pointed at Linda, “you, hippy, peacenik types. Aren’t you the ones when,” Joe tilted his head to the right, “‘The Hutus and Tutsis are killing each other in Rwanda,’ whined,” Joe tilted his head to the left and with a nasally voice cried, “‘Oh, that’s terrible; somebody should do something about it.’” After a pause Joe tilted his head to the right and said, “‘There’s ethnic cleansing in Darfur.’” He then tilted to the left and whined, “‘Oh, that’s terrible; somebody should do something about it.’” Joe immediately continued with, “‘The Sunnis and Shias are killing each other.’ ‘Oh, that’s terrible; somebody should…’ ‘They’re in Iraq.’” Joe tilted his head back to the left and paused for a second. Then stated, “‘Oh, screw them. Let them kill each other; just don’t get us involved.’” Looking at Linda he said, “How callously hypocritical of you.”

Joe looked back and forth a few times between them before saying, “I know I’m just wasting my breath, but maybe, maybe, if all you people took the energy you waste trying to bash each other skulls in and spent it on trying to find actual solutions, we might get somewhere.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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January 14, 2007


“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. I know that a lonely island of freedom in the midst of a vast ocean of persecution and hatred, is not truly free. And I refuse to believe that there is an insufficient treasury of bravery and love in the world to change this sweltering summer of injustice and cruelty into an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.

“I have a dream that one day, at the table of brotherhood, Muslim can sit down with Jew, Hindu with Buddhist, Christian with Atheist, and all share in the fruits of humanity’s labors. But before that can happen, we must open the doors of opportunity to all, and realize the simple truth that all humans, are human. Whether they live in Washington or Baghdad, Paris or Jakarta, Mogadishu or Bogotá it does not matter; we are all equal.

“Do not listen to those who wish us to continue to wallow in the valley of despair and force us to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred. Those who do this are short lived, but oh the pain they cause in their short lives. The only true way out, is for us to join hands and walk together as sisters and brothers, for that is what we all are.

“No single person can cure the world of the sickness of hatred and oppression. No single nation can do it. No single people can do it. We must all walk into the future together. As a great man once said, ‘We cannot walk alone.’”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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January 21, 2007

Politically Cynical

Author’s note: This is the first Tom and Jeremy story.

As Tom rushed into the café area of his local bookstore, he was glad to see Jeremy sitting at a table reading a book. It had been almost two years since they met at a scifi book group held in the store. Their love of all things scifi made them fast friends. And the fact that they were both writers – Jeremy of a never-ending fantasy epic and Tom of political rants on his blog – just added to their friendship. They had both read in their countless “Guide to Writers” books, that having a writing partner was a good way to discipline yourself to write. If you say, “I’ll meet you on Tuesday and we’ll write for an hour,” it’s harder to blow it off than if you said, “I’ll write for an hour on Tuesday.” So every Tuesday they met, talked about their families, their jobs, the latest scifi news, writing, good jokes, bad jokes, etc. Once they got all of that out of their system, they managed to write for thirty or forty minutes.

Sliding into the seat across from Jeremy, Tom said, “Sorry to keep you waiting, today’s just been hectic.”

Jeremy just smiled and replied, “‘Waiting for fullness is.’”


Jeremy lifted his book so Tom could see that he was reading Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. “You don’t grok?”

Tom smiled and nodded. “Oh, I grok. Why are you reading that?”

“Oh, it’s been a couple years since I read it last. A dozen or so times I’ve passed it on the bookshelf and said, ‘I should read that again.’ So I finally grabbed it.”

“Have you finished The Guns of the South?” Tom asked, meaning the group’s book for the month.

“Yeah, several days ago. You?”

Tom sighed. “I’m maybe a hundred pages into it. Helen and the kids have been sharing a cold for almost a week.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Me too. I almost cancelled today, but Helen’s finally – hopefully – over it.” Tom patted the table and said, “Give me a minute to get some coffee. Do you want anything?”

“No, thanks. I’m good.”

When Tom returned Jeremy bookmarked his place and asked, “Are you taping the big speech tonight?”

Shrugging, Tom answered with a meek, “Yeah.”

“What’s wrong? I’d think the State of the Union would provide plenty of fodder for you to fill your blog for weeks to come.”

“That’s what I thought,” Tom replied. “But there’s this yutz, alphadog137, who’s always ripping into my blogs. What’s annoying is he’s either right, or he comes at things from such an odd angle that I can’t just dismiss what he says.”

Thumping the table Jeremy exclaimed, “The bastard,” and then chuckled.

“I know,” Tom said before joining in the chuckling. “But he commented this morning that I’ll just rip into the State of the Union and bash it left and right. He wrote,” Tom looked off to the side and closed his eyes, “he wrote, ‘You have become so cynically negative that you can no longer see anything positive in this world.’”

“That’s not true.” Leaning forward Jeremy placed his hand on the table before Tom. “You’re very positive about your negativity.”

Shaking his head Tom said, “Yeah yeah. I’ve been hanging out with you too much.”

Straightening up Jeremy countered with, “My level of cynicism is appropriate given how screwed up this world is and the people running it.”

Tom sipped his coffee and was quiet for a few seconds. “The worst thing is,” he said waving a hand at Jeremy, “I was all set to do ‘The State of Mis-union.’ Writing about the partisanship and collapse of honest government in this country, I mean, it practically writes itself.”

Holding up a hand, Jeremy warned him, “Beware the easy path.”

“How am I supposed to be positive,” Tom went on ignoring Jeremy, “about tonight’s State of the Union when, in reality, it doesn’t mean anything? When was the last time any proposal a President made during a State of the Union has been followed through?”

Jeremy held a finger up to stop Tom. He then stroked his beard for a few seconds before saying, “You’re right. I can’t think of any … they’re little more than campaign promises really.”

“Exactly. Given past experience of the non-importance of these speeches, why should I expect boldness and excitement about tonight’s?”

Tom sipped his coffee before continuing, “Also, given the unpopularity of Bush, it’s … it’s if Bush came out tonight and had this simple plan that balanced the budget, fixed Social Security, provided health care to everyone, stopped crime, fixed the situation in Iraq, helped our image in the world, and cured cancer, and it was all,” wriggling his fingers he arced his hands to met above the table, “wrapped up in a nice big bow and everything, it would not mean anything. It would not survive. Because the only way to solve most of these problems is compromises, and that won’t happen, because it would go against the pure ideology of the main parties that they are always correct while the other guys are always wrong.

“And also, I don’t think politicians really want to solve these problems because then, what would they use to fear the electorate into voting for them? ‘If they win, they will mess up … something, and the nation will collapse.’”

“Wow,” Jeremy said. Smiling he hunched forward and did his best imitation of Emperor Palpatine, “Your cynicism has made you verbose. Finish your story, and take your place at my side.”

Chuckling, Tom asked, “Is my journey towards the dark side complete?”

After thinking for a few seconds, Jeremy answered, “No, not yet.”

“What’s left?”

“Understanding.” After a few seconds Jeremy elaborated, “If you wrote the perfect blog entry that perfectly explained everything that’s wrong with this country so that everyone would understand and be motivated to go fix it, and,” mimicking what Tom had done moments before he wriggled his fingers and arced his hands saying, “had it all wrapped up in a nice little bow, it wouldn’t mean anything. Some wise person, at some point said, ‘People only hear what they want to hear.’ It doesn’t matter what you say, most people won’t want to hear it.”

Frowning, Tom asked, “Wait, how does that apply?”

“Everybody wants to believe that they make a difference in the world. Because of them, humanity has a bright and glorious future instead of a terminal darkness. But humanity is not that frail. The fate of the world does not rest upon one man, or woman. There are extremely few good people in this world, and extremely few bad people. Gandhis and Hitlers come along rarely. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine percent of people are average. Anyone, especially politicians, who think that they – and only they – are leading the world to a brighter future are deluding themselves.”

“So, no matter what I do, humanity will stagger on?”

“Exactly. No politician or religious figure on Earth will change the fact that I’m reading and enjoying this book,” Jeremy picked up Stranger in a Strange Land. “Or that next week the group will met to discuss AK-47s in the Civil War, or that you love your wife while I hate my ex. Every law or commandment they make will be broken. Despite all their interference, people will still live their lives.”

Tom pushed his chair back and was silent for almost a minute. When he pulled his chair back to the table he said, “So, what you’re saying is that politicians have little, direct effect on us…”

Jeremy finished, “…and that’s a positive thing.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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January 28, 2007

I am not doing a story this week in order that I may do the following.

Lest we Forget

This week holds the anniversaries of the three American space disasters that caused the death of astronauts. Virgil Grissom, Ed White Jr., and Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967. Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik died in the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986. And Rick Husband, William McCool, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, David Brown, and Laurel Clark died in the Columbia accident on February 1, 2003.

These have not been the only explorers of the final frontier who have died. Vladimir Komarov died in the Soyuz 1 crash on April 24, 1967. Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski, and Viktor Patsayev died in the Soyuz 11 accident on June 30, 1971. Also, hundreds of astronauts, cosmonauts, and technicians have died in training accidents and rocket mishaps over the decades.

The painful truth is that these will only be the first who die in the exploration of space. But we should never forget these brave men and women who have helped paved the way to the future. For space is our future. As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said, “The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.”

February 4, 2007

Thirty Second Movies

The anchorwoman smiled at the camera and said, “Did you enjoy the commercials you just saw? If you did, then there is a new cable channel for you.”

Her smiling face was replaced by a recorded interview. The interviewer was a man with a deep voice who said over a montage of commercials, “Most people fast forward though commercials, but if Casey Prill has his way, people will soon pay for a cable channel that plays nothing but commercials. He’s calling it, The Thirty Second Movie Channel.”

The video switched to that of a young man wearing a black t-shirt with a blond ponytail sitting on a balcony overlooking a parking lot. “It all started,” he explained, “with the Super Bowl. The next day I heard people say, ‘Yeah, some team won, but did you see the commercial for…’ At first I thought it was ridiculous, you know, just further prove that America has lost its mind. I mean,” bringing up both hands he shook them violently and continued, “they’re commercials. You go to the bathroom during them, or fast forward through them. The reason people buy a TV series on DVD is because they don’t have commercials.

“But, after a few days, I realized that commercials are a lot like thirty second movies. Just like regular movies there are comedies, dramas, documentaries, fantasies, French surrealists ones that only people named Clive with,” Prill rubbed his thumb and forefinger on his chin, “tiny goatees can understand. There are the Titanics and the ETs as well as the Giglies and the Alexanders.”

“But these ultra-short movies,” the interviewer added, “won’t be aired at random.”

“There are several ways we will structure the channel,” Prill explained. “There’ll be blocks of similar styles, an hour of comedic commercials, for example. There will also be blocks from the same company, so you can see all the commercials they’ve made over the years. A subset of these will be the commercials that follow a specific person, or setting. These are usually the most popular ones, but people rarely get to see them all back-to-back. Now, they’ll have the chance.”

Returning to a montage of commercials, the interviewer said, “Mister Prill is still working on the financial aspect of his all commercial channel, but hopes to have it up and running by late summer or early fall, so ask you local cable company about The Thirty Second Movie Channel.”

The video ended with the image of the interviewer announcing, “This is Jon Cadenet, Channel Seven News.”

The view returned to the news cast. The anchorwoman smiled and said, “I wish him well.”

“Are you going to sign up for it?” her co-host asked.

She took in a loud breath and held it for a second. Shaking her head she answered, “I don’t think so.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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February 11, 2007

Train Wreck

Using her key, Amanda let herself into her Joe’s apartment. He was sitting on the couch watching TV, and turned to her to say, “Howdy.”

She shook her head and replied, “Hello.” After she set her purse down and kicked off her shoes, she walked over to the couch and gave him a hello kiss.

Sitting down next to him, she looked to see what he was watching. After a moment she looked at him, then back to the TV, then back to him. “Hypocrite.”

It took a second or two for that to filter through to him. “Wait … what?”

Grabbing the remote Amanda turned the TV off. “It was,” she drummed her fingers on her leg for a few seconds, “two weekends ago. We were driving along when we hit a backed-up area. It took us like ten minutes to go the mile to see that it was because of a fender-bender. You were so pissed off, you were saying that gawkers deserve to be shot on sight.”

“Well, they do,” Joe stated.

Waving at the blank screen, Amanda asked, “And just what were you doing?”

“Watching the news.”

“Noooo,” Amanda said, drawing the word out. “Look, I’m sorry for her family, and all that, but the only reason she was famous was because she was a ditsy blonde with big tits whose life was a train wreck. I didn’t want her dead, but now that she is, I don’t need to hear about her life every five minutes. I’m not going to ‘gawk’ over that wreck of a life.” Resting her hand on his knee she asked, “Know what I’m saying?”

They had been dating long enough for Joe to know that there are times you just don’t argue. So instead, he changed the subject. “Want to order pizza, watch a movie?”

Amanda wrinkled her nose. “We had pizza the other night. How about Chinese?”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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February 18, 2007

Bush and Clinton Both Suck

Another Ridicules Milestone

Toronto, Canada – The Justice Department of our confused southern neighbor, has confirmed that as of August 15, 2008, ninety percent of the American population has been incarcerated. The number one “crime” being breaking the Presidential Defamation Act. This law, forced through their legislature this spring, prohibits “attacking verbally the President of the United States.”

Within a week of the law going into effect, stand-up comics, political satirists, and other such threats to society were off the streets.

But many of the more conservative Americans who pushed for the law are in jail as well. Senator Warren Peller, who sponsored the bill, had hoped that it would, “stop those lily-livered liberals from speaking ill of President Bush.” Unfortunately for Senator Peller and others of his ilk, the law was enacted retroactively. His numerous occurrences of “speaking ill” of former President Clinton resulted in his arrest and conviction.

A Justice Department employee, speaking anonymously, stated that the remaining ten percent of the population are, “still at large.”

This story was hastily written on account of the sentencing of Abdel Kareem Soliman, an Egyptian blogger who has been sentenced to three years in jail for insulting Islam, and one year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak.

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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February 25, 2007

Parallel Opinions

From the Opinion Page of the
Parallel World News
March 3, 2007
By Robert Miller, general editor.

It was inevitable. Given the world we live in, we have to accept that it was only a matter of time before it happened. I’m not speaking of the horrendous Taliban attack that killed Vice President Dick Cheney earlier this week; I’m talking about all the conspiracy theories that have sprung up about his death.

While I was not a fan of the Vice President, I never wished him dead. When I first heard of his death, I said a prayer for his family, and then spent about an hour flipping back and forth between the various news channels. After hearing the same information for the tenth time, I sat down at my computer. My inbox was full of messages, from both friends and colleagues. The fifth email I received was a forward from a friend in Maine. Some guy was claiming that Cheney was killed by the “rich and powerful” so that the Stock Market would be closed. Apparently, after the fall in the markets in Asia, these rich and powerful people stood to loose billions if our Stock Market opened Tuesday morning and crashed. So the obvious way to close the market is to assassinate the Vice President. Makes perfect sense; doesn’t it?

Today I spent several hours searching the dim and dark corners of the internet to find a sampling of the various theories. This is not a complete list, for conspiracies breed faster than rabbits. Some consist of only a sentence or two, while others are far more complex. For these latter ones I give only a brief overview.

On one hand, I view all these conspiracy theories as little more than small annoyances; the price we pay for living in a world where distrusting the government is as easy as breathing. But on the other hand, the idea that everything HAS TO BE controlled by some secret society seems, to me at least, to show that people can’t deal with reality. If you search for conspiracies, you’ll find them. But not everything is part of some diabolical Master Plan; most things are just life. The good, and the bad.

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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March 4, 2007


Alan Parsneau parked his car along the tree-shaded street. He sat for a few seconds then breathed into his hand to check his breath. Grabbing a pen from between the seats, he checked to make sure it worked, then picked up two clipboards and a handful of pamphlets from the passenger seat. He got out of the car and checked to make sure his tie was straight. Squaring his shoulders he started walking down the sidewalk.

The sound of hammering came from the first house he went to. He checked his list of registered voters on the one clipboard, and rang the doorbell. The hammering stopped and, after a few seconds, a middle-aged man wearing a stained shirt opened the door. “Can I help you?”

Alan put on a big smile and asked, “Hello. Are you Mister David Tarvin?”

“I am.”

“Hi, Sir. My name is Alan Parsneau and I’m collecting signatures to get Theodore Morgan on the ballot.” He handed Mister Tarvin a colorful pamphlet with “Ted Morgan for President” written on it.

Opening the pamphlet, Mister Tarvin grunted and asked, “What party is he?”

“The Atheist Party.”

Mister Tarvin glared at Alan. “The what?”

“The Atheist Party, Sir.”

Ripping the pamphlet in half, Mister Tarvin tossed it at Alan’s chest. Pointing to the street he said, “Get the hell off my property.”

“Thank you for your time, Sir,” Alan said. Picking up the ripped pamphlet he put it in his pocket and turned away. The door slammed behind him.

An elderly lady with glasses on a chain around her neck opened the next door and asked, “Yes?”

“Hello, are you Miss Mabel Taylor?”

The woman smiled. “I’m too old to be a Miss, and too old to fall for anything a door-to-door salesman sells.”

“Oh, I’m not a door-to-door salesman, Ma’am. My name is Alan Parsneau and I’m collecting signatures to get Theodore Morgan on the ballot.” He handed her a new “Ted Morgan for President” pamphlet.

She held her glasses to her eyes and studied the cover of the pamphlet. “I’ve never heard of him. Which party does he represent?”

“The Atheist Party.”

Removing the glasses from her eyes, she looked at Alan and asked, “The what?”

“The Atheist Party.”

“Oh.” After a short pause, she pointed at Alan with her glasses and said, “You wait right there young man.”

About a minute later she returned. “I apologize, but I couldn’t right remember where I had these.” She handed Alan a religious tract titled, “What’s wrong with Atheism.”

Smiling as broadly as he could, Alan said, “I believe I already have one of these.”

“Well, maybe you should try reading this one.” She started closing the door, but opened it a little to add, “I’ll be praying for you.”

Mister Adam Phimmasen, at the next house, just handed the pamphlet back and closed the door without a word.

A small statue of Jesus stood in the front yard of the fourth house. For several seconds Alan debated whether it was worth even trying. In the end he decided he should be thorough, just so he could mark the neighborhood off the list. A woman in her mid-thirties opened the door.

“Hello. Are you Miss Elisabeth Monahan?”


“Hi, my name is Alan Parsneau and I’m collecting signatures to get Theodore Morgan on the ballot.” He handed her the twice rejected pamphlet.

Opening the pamphlet, she asked, “What party is he running as?”

“The Atheist Party.”

She shook her head. “I haven’t heard of that one before.”

Alan shrugged, and stated, “We’re new.”

After glancing through the pamphlet, she said, “Okay, I’ll sign.”

For a second Alan did nothing. Then, with a mild shake and an, “Oh,” he handed her the signature clipboard.

She started filling in her name and address. Before she could finish, Alan said, “Excuse me, but I have to ask. People without Jesus statues in their front yards slammed their doors in my face. Why…”

Not looking up from the clipboard she answered, “Because I can spell.” After a second she explained, “I know that politics is not spelled R-E-L-I-G-I-O-N, and that religion is not spelled P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S. They are two distinct entities. Now, I do not share this Mister Morgan’s personal beliefs, but if he has solutions to this country’s problems, then lets hear them. But you and I both know that even if he had solutions to every problem this nation has, or will ever have, he’ll never get elected.”

Alan could only sigh and nod.

Signing her name she handed the clipboard back to him. “God bless America.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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March 11, 2007


“Need brings me twice a year.”

“Damn it,” Alex dropped his cell phone on his dresser. Muttering various curses under his breath, he rushed to his closet and grabbed a suit. He was late for work, again. It always happened this time of year.

As he buttoned his shirt, he heard a woman behind him say, “You forgot to set you clock ahead, didn’t you?”

Alex turned and stared at the strange woman standing in his bedroom. She was tall and well muscled, with dark hair reaching the small of her back. She wore a skintight outfit, with gloves and boots. The front of the outfit was a green so dark it was almost black. As she stepped around the bed towards him, he saw that the underside of her arms, and what he could see of her back, was covered in small patches of blazing reds and golds.

As Alex found his composure, and his pants, he managed to ask, “Who are you? What are you doing in here?”

She stopped before him and answered, “I am Ahead-Back, and I go where I am needed, as here, where the vile fiend of Daylight Savings Time has spread his confusion.”

Something in her dark eyes made it impossible for Alex to hide his secret. Almost sobbing he said, “I can never understand this,” he gestured wildly in the air, “changing of hours.” He went to his dresser and grabbed his watch. Waving it in her face he yelled, “I always have to find someone at work to change the time on this for me. It’s not fair!”

Ahead-Back gently put her hand on his shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. It happens to a lot of people.”

He looked up into her face and, holding back the tears, asked, “But what can I do? I’ve tried for years to figure it out, but I never could.”

Delicately she placed her fingertips on his forehead, “Then learn.”

A brilliant dawn exploded in Alex’s mind. In seconds he learned what a lifetime had never taught him. Understanding glowed in his face as he gazed at Ahead-Back. “I understand now,” he cried. “In the spring, I set the clocks one hour ahead, and in the fall I set them one hour back.”

With a smile showing blinding white teeth she replied, “That’s right.”

Looking at his watch Alex continued, “I even know how to set this.” With the speed of long acquaintance, he pressed the buttons in the right order, and his watch soon read the correct time. He gazed up at Ahead-Back. “How can I ever repay you?”

Swelling her chest, Ahead-Back placed her fists on her hips. “I am raising an army. An army to defeat the confusion of Daylight Savings Time.” She held a hand out to Alex, “Join us!”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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March 18, 2007

A Lost R

Like everyday for the past forty-two years, Frank and Edith Wenham read the morning papers over breakfast at their kitchen table. This morning Frank had four slices of toast with grape jelly, half-a-grapefruit, and cup of black coffee. Edith only had two slices of toast with butter and honey, the other half of the grapefruit, and a cup of tea with half-a-spoon of sugar and a dash of milk.

Edith was reading about a blood drive organized by the local school, when she heard Frank make a soft grunt. From all their years of marriage, she knew that he had just read something interesting. “What is it?” she asked, setting her paper down.

“There’s an article here,” he answered, “titled, ‘Study finds one-third in D.C. illiterate.’”

Sipping her tea Edith said, “That would explain Congress.”

Frank gave a short snort meaning he knew she had said something funny, but he was busy with something else and it had not fully registered. “Ah,” he said, after he had read the first few lines, “the title is misleading. It’s not full illiteracy, just functional illiteracy.”

“What’s that?”

“Um,” Frank read on. “Oh, ‘Adults are considered functionally illiterate if they have trouble doing such things as comprehending bus schedules, reading maps and filling out job applications.’”

“Well,” Edith sighed, “that would probably still explain Congress.”

Frank read for several seconds. “It says part of the reason is the large number of Hispanic and Ethiopian immigrants.”

Edith had picked her teacup up, but before she sipped she asked, “Ethiopian?”

“That’s what it says.”

“Is there a large Ethiopian community in D.C.?”

Frank shrugged. “Must be.”


“I don’t know. It doesn’t say.”

Setting the paper down Frank leaned forward and said, “It says that one-third of the people in D.C. are functionally illiterate, while the national average is one-fifth.”

After sipping her tea, Edith set her teacup down. “It’s that high?”

Straightening up, Frank replied, “That’s what I’m thinking. On one hand it seems way too high, but on the other it seems very credible.” With his left index finger, Frank traced a small circle on his chin. Looking at his wife, he asked, “How many people do we know?”

“Just friends, or people we know of?”

“Everyone we know of, I guess.”

Shaking her head, Edith answered, “Has to be hundreds.”

“So, statistically, we should know, what, forty, fifty functionally illiterate people?”

Nodding, Edith replied, “Yes, yes we should.”

“I can’t think of one.”

Edith looked out the window at her bird feeder, and took another sip of tea. “Two weeks ago,” she paused and looked at Frank. “Or was it three weeks ago. When we stopped for ice cream, and that young boy…”

“Oh,” Frank interrupted her. “Our total came to about six dollars, and I gave him a ten and a one, and he could not figure out why I gave him the one.”

“Yes, that’s the one,” Edith said.

Frank tapped his chin a few times. “That just shows he couldn’t do math, but I would bet he’s at least a little functionally illiterate.”

“Well, it’s these kids today. All they do is talk on their cell phones, and what’s that messaging, or whatever it is they do.” After a pause Edith added, “As far as they are concerned, this is the most powerful, and therefore best country on Earth. They probably think they don’t need to know how to read.”

“You’re probably right.” Frank took a sip of his coffee, a new brand they were trying but which he was not fully sold on just yet, and picked up his paper. Turning the page he read on.

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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March 25, 2007

Doomed to Repeat

I read the other day about all the preparations in Baghdad to mark the fifth anniversary of their liberation by American troops, and it got me to reminiscing about my time there. I did not march into Baghdad, but I watched it on TV at the airbase in western Iraq I was guarding. With no combat, and only having to deal with the occasional refugee and stray camel, I must confess that my six months in Iraq were mind-numbingly boring. But I had a lot of time to read, and think, and to talk to the “old guys” who had been there before. Our main topic of conversation was how America had screwed up with Iraq the first two times, and how we hoped we could do it better the third time.

Of course the military did do it better this time, which is not surprising since all the officers from General Deane on down had been studying the previous invasion for over twenty years. Between April 2003 and April 2027, the terrain had not really changed and the tactics of, “Strike Hard, Move Fast,” also had not changed. The only changes were in the weapons, and they just made it easier. But the real reason why the Baghdad of today is peaceful instead of being in the middle of a civil war – as it was five years after the last time it fell – is that this time, the military didn’t go it alone.

Some of this you’ll find in the history files, but for the whole story you’ll need to talk to somebody who lived through the first decade of this century. I’m glad to say that in Iraq I knew over a dozen men and women who had served there twenty years before, and who had given the matter great thought.

Then, as now, true victory in Iraq required multiple factors. The first was a military victory over the ruling regime. This, we accomplished because the American military is the best in the world. And if you question that, then answer this, when was the last time an army stood up to an American one and wasn’t obliterated?

After the military victory, the politicians back home – from both parties – quickly turned the war from being about Iraq, to being about America as a way to scare up votes for the next election. As a result, the American public ended up turning against the war. The military should focus on military campaigns, not PR campaigns. That should be left to the BS experts, but the politicians failed miserably in that.

But it wasn’t just back home. While publicly, the democratic world praised the idea of spreading democracy, secretly they seemed happy to watch as the arrogant, “Might Makes Right,” United States got knocked down a peg. The military should focus on military campaigns, not foreign relations. That should be left to the politicians, who again failed miserably in their duties.

But more importantly, America lost the Second Iraq War because of the failure of Iraq. Something those politicians forgot, or could not figure out, is that democracy can’t be given; it must be earned. The military should focus on military campaigns, not teaching civics lessons.

So the military won the war, but as one grizzled sergeant explained, “The military wins military victories, while politicians win political victories. But it is idiotic to think a politician can win a military victory, so why isn’t it just as idiotic to think the military can win a political victory?” The military won the war in Iraq in 2003; they did their job. Unfortunately, nobody else stepped up to the plate, and things went bad. Then, instead of realizing that they needed to step up, they just went, “Oh, the military could do it for us.” The same sergeant said, “We gave it our best, but we were grunts; not miracle workers.”

In time, the military had to leave Iraq. It was, in effect, pulling the plug on a terminal patient. There was no way we could save the country. That’s why less than ten years after we removed one set of thugs, another set had risen to power.

But now, we have learned from our mistakes. America, and the world, fully supported us, because the politicians took the time to win that support. And after years of help through secret channels, there was a large democratic movement inside Iraq. So in the invasion, all we had to do was eliminate Iraq’s military force. Once that was done, the leaders of the movement took over the country. They restored order, held elections, and Iraq was on its way to the peaceful, stable country it is today. The military – once again – had done its job, and was able to leave after only a few months. All that happened because there was a military and a political victory.

When I was growing up, my uncle Robert had a bumper sticker on his car reading, “America has only suffered political defeats.” It was only after my time in Iraq, spent with men and women who had suffered because of politics, that I finally understood that.

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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April 1, 2007

I wish it was just an April Fool’s Joke, but my mind kinda drew a blank this week, so there’s no story. Sorry.

April 8, 2007

To Club, or Not to Club

An lay on his stomach and peeked over the hill to look into the Club-Wielder’s camp. Ca, Ia, Om, Na, and Ce were the biggest members of the Tribe, and the only ones allowed to wield clubs. Not so long ago Ca and Om had severely beaten Aq, another boy of An’s age, because they thought he was making a club. Even the shaman did not know if Aq would live.

Crawling back from the edge, An sat up, took a deep breath, and looked at the thin stick in his hand. The clubs of the Club-Wielders were all massive and able to kill prey – or men – with one swing. An worried his would break the first time he needed to use it. He almost wanted to throw it away and go back to play with his friends, but he had vowed to them he would be a Club-Wielder and if he returned now they would only mock him.

With no other choice, he stood, brushed the dust from his gazelle hide, and walked over the hill. Almost immediately the five, who had been arguing over something, turned to stare at An.

Squaring his shoulders, An walked up and stopped a few feet from Ca. Holding the stick up he announced, “Me wield club.”

In reply, Ca drove his club into An’s chest, knocking him onto his back. Ca picked up An’s stick – which had flown from his hand – and broke it in half. Pointing his club at An’s face, Ca said, “No. Wielders say, ‘We only Wielders can be.’”

Forcing air into his lungs, An managed to ask, “Why?”

“If you have club, others want club. Not good everybody have club. So you can’t have club.” Tapping his sloped forehead, Ca stated, “Our thinking clear.”

* * *

For the next several days, An sat by himself away from the Tribe. He ignored his friends when they came to gloat over his failure. When he did not rise to their taunts, they left to find better sport.

Then one day, he was gone.

* * *

Many days later, the Tribe woke to shouting and the snarling of wild beasts coming from the Club-Wielder’s camp. Despite their fear, the Tribe’s curiosity took them to the hill top to see what was going on.

The Club-Wielder’s were surrounded by a pack of ravenous wolves. Occasionally, a club would connect with a wolf skull, but it seemed that for every wolf killed, four more took its place. Despite their best efforts, and the pile of dead wolves at their feet, the Club-Wielders were eventually overpowered. The members of the Tribe were afraid the wolves would turn on them, but instead they ran off to lick their wounds.

The next day An returned, carrying a hefty club. The tribe and his friends were pleased to see him again. While most were curious about the timing of the wolf attack and An’s return, nobody dared mentioned it.

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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April 15, 2007


Returning to his cubical after using the restroom, Bill was stopped by Janet and asked, “Have you heard the latest?”

“Ah, no.”

“He sent a video of himself to NBC.”

For a split-second his brow furrowed until Bill figured out who she was talking about. “Oh.”

“Oh? What do you mean ‘Oh?’”

Shrugging, Bill said, “I’m not really following the case.”

Janet brought her hand to her chest and leaned back, as if Bill had just cursed the Pope. “How can you be so coldhearted to ignore this tragedy?”

Bill inhaled, then let it out. “This guy, who if he had been taken alive would have spent the rest of his life in a straightjacket, for some reason that will probably never be known and if somehow it was known it will still not give meaning to this event, snapped and killed a bunch of people. In five seconds did I not just sum up this tragedy? Then why spend hour after hour listing to talking heads repeating the same handful of facts over and over and over again without getting any closer to an answer? If you want to know all the details, you’ll wait six months until the police have finished their investigations and the book comes out – probably with a title like April Showers or something stupid like that – which will have a minute-by-minute account. But nobody will care because we’ll all be talking about the latest celebrity who said something stupid, or the latest Idol controversy, or whatever crap passes for news.

“And, I’m not coldhearted. My heart goes out to the families of the victims,” pausing for a split-second to emphasize, he continued, “and shooter, but the dead deserve more than a media circus.”

Holding his hand up to stop Janet, Bill went on, “Imagine your father died in a car wreck. Your family gathers to mourn, and grieve, and to begin the healing process. Your friends send cards and flowers, and hug you and ask ‘How are you holding up?’ In my opinion, that’s the way death should be dealt with. Now imagine that as your family gathers to grieve, there are a hundred reporters camped out on your front lawn, just filming you. Every time you turn on the TV people who never met your father are casually discussing details of his past. And somebody six states away who advocates better safety features in cars takes hold of your father’s case and turns it into a cause célèbre.”

For several seconds neither said anything. Then Bill stated, “I feel that the public and media elbowing their way into such tragedies is just,” he waved his hand searching for a word and settled on, “rude.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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April 22, 2007

Third Rail

While their three-month old blissfully slept, Joe and Christina West caught up on their reading. He sat in his recliner reading the newspaper, while she lay on the couch with the latest murder-mystery by her favorite author. Just as the heroine was discovering the body, Christina heard Joe fold up his newspaper. Glancing over, she saw the paper dangling from his right hand over the side of the recliner and him staring at the wall to his left. “What is it?” she asked.

“Hmm?” He turned to look at her. “Oh, it just says here that the Social Security trust fund will run out in 2041.”

After a quick calculation Christina said, “That’s the year you turn 65.”

“Yeah. But I was wondering,” Joe went on, “when our inglorious leaders will get around to fixing the problem. The ‘08 election will be all about Iraq, so it won’t be then. The 2010 election will be the chance for the party that lost to nitpick the party that won, so there might be a chance then. But the best chance will be in 2012 when Hillary or Obama pull a W.”

After a few seconds Christina asked, “What?”

“You know, he acted as if the first few years of his presidency Social Security was just chugging along fine. It didn’t become a problem – and hence an issue – until he was running for reelection. So maybe, maybe, Congress will look at Social Security reform in 2013, when they’ll disagree on what needs to be done, so nothing will be done. It will be put off – like everything else – for future generations to fix.”

“Well, what did you expect? They say Social Security is the ‘Third Rail’ and touching it means killing any chance at election.”

“Well,” Joe unfolded the paper, “I think their elections should be killed if they don’t touch it.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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April 29, 2007


“Mister President, it is an honor to meet you.”

Shaking the offered hand, the President said, “Thank you, Mister Barris. Now, let me see your design for the Iraq War Memorial.”

“Ah, come this way please.” The President and his entourage followed Barris into his workshop. Along the walls of the room stood odd boxes, lengths of wood, mounds of clay and piles of various stones. In the center was a table, ten feet on a side covered with a white cloth.

Barris stood in front of the table and once everybody was in the room he said, “And now, it is my pleasure to reveal my proposal for the Iraq War Memorial.” He grabbed the cloth, but before he pulled it off, he turned and added, “This is a one-tenth scale model, and the final will be all in bronze.” With that he pulled off the cloth.

What was revealed was a jumbled mess. Dozens of broken spires – all of different designs – stood in the center and were surrounded by what appeared to be crumpled balls of paper. Around this were five neat rings of mini-TVs facing outward. The edge was made up of piles of tiny books leaning haphazardly against each other.

The President looked at the thing for almost a minute, then asked, “What the hell is this?”

Holding up his hand, Barris said, “I know it doesn’t look like much, but let me explain.

“You all know that a decade ago when the Iraq War was still going on, there was a great deal of disagreement in this country because of it. Should we stay, pull-out, send more troops, what? Why did we go there? What did we hope to accomplish? What did we accomplish?” Barris paused a second for emphasis before continuing, “The war – in America – was symbolized by bitterness and anger on an unprecedented scale. And much of that bitterness and anger remains even to this day.”

Pointing at the model, Barris explained. “This came out of a session with several of my students. At first we thought of having ‘Towering Spires of Hope,’ but we couldn’t agree on a design, and there was almost a fistfight.” With a wave at the spires, Barris said, “So that became the centerpiece there, symbolizing broken dreams.

“And all this is drowning in a sea of media. All of the speeches, and TV commentaries, and books, and everything else written about the war.”

The President took a deep breath and let it out his nose. “But what about the soldiers? What part of this commemorates their sacrifice?”

“Oh that,” Barris said. Turning towards his creation he added, “It’s buried is there somewhere.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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May 6, 2007

War Without End

Wiping the crumbs off the tabletop with a towel, April glanced at the Earl Grey Man out of the corner of her eye. He sat with his hand resting on the table holding a newspaper. Moving to another table April wiped up a bit of a coffee stain. She stood up straight and started back to the counter, but stopped herself and stood next to the man. “Are you okay?”

His head jerked around and he blinked at her. “Huh? What?”

“Are you okay? You’ve just been sitting staring out the window for twenty minutes.”

“Oh, I ah,” with his free hand he rubbed his nose. Looking up at April he explained, “I read something in the paper and it just got me thinking about … history, current events, everything. It just got me really depressed.”

Pointing at the paper with her chin, April asked, “What was it?”

“The guys arrested for the Fort Dix thing. I know there will always be lunatics in the world. Like that kid in Virginia or these guys in New Jersey. They’re an unfortunate part of life. There will always be people with mental or emotional problems who snap, and people who think violence is the only way to achieve their goals.”

The man paused and looked out the window. April thought he was finished, and started to take a step away when he turned and asked, “Have you ever heard of the Long War?”

The Hundred Years War and the Crusades floated into April’s mind from the dim mists of high school history class, but not the Long War. “Ah, no.”

“It’s,” the man began to explain, “well it was, the term the Pentagon used for this War on Terror, because they were honest and knew that this war will go on for decades – not just until to the next election. But it was a month or so ago, I read that they stopped using it because of the fear it might send the message to the Middle East that our military is going to be there for years to come. Of course, our military will be there for years, so why not be upfront about it? But I have to wonder if there wasn’t some political pressure to change the name. Politicians win elections by conning enough of the voters into thinking that the only reason this country has problems is that they haven’t been elected yet.”

The man paused for a few seconds and took a deep breath. “Everybody wants to think that the Long War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will all be over by November next year. The politicians want it over because then it’s one less issue to waste campaigning time on. And the people want it over because it’s a warm, fuzzy thought, and we enjoy thinking them.

“I’ve heard people say the War on Terror is a direct result of the Cold War, when this shining beacon of democracy didn’t mind dictators, as long as they were our dictators. Like Saddam, he was once ours. We used him to keep the Iranians in check.” The man gave a quick shrug with a confused look on his face.

“Of course the Cold War resulted from World War II, which resulted from World War I, which resulted from…. Well, I don’t know exactly what it resulted from, but basically you could say all the European wars of the Nineteenth Century. And all those wars resulted from the wars of the Eighteenth Century, and so on and so on.”

Looking back out the window the man said, “My daughter just turned fourteen.” Smiling up at April he said, “I don’t even want to think of her dating, but I’m sure it will happen and then there’s a chance I’ll end up being a grandfather. But I can’t help but wonder what war my grandkids will have to deal with?”

The man looked at April and then smiled broadly. “I apologize for dumping all of that on you. You’re not my bartender.”

April smiled in reply. “Speaking of bartenders, I think I’ll be going to a bar after work.”

Laughing, the man added, “I’m sorry. But don’t worry, it’s not all hopeless.” Lifting the paper he said, “I also read an article about Northern Ireland. After years of bloodshed, there’s now a power-sharing government. So peace is possible. It just takes a few decades.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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May 13, 2007

I Don’t Like Spam!

Author’s note: This is a Tom and Jeremy story.

Jeremy arrived at the café in the local bookstore to find his writing partner Tom scribbling in his notebook. “Starting without me, I see.”

Tom looked up and smiled. “Oh, hello. I’m just jotting down some notes.”

Sitting down Jeremy asked, “What are you ranting about today?”


“Spammers? When are you going to go after something more original, say, daffodils.”

“Daffodils? How do you rant about daffodils?”

“I don’t know.” Jeremy tapped his fingers on the table. “Well, for starters, they’re cowards.”

Tom’s brow furrowed, until he figured out the joke. “Has anyone ever told you your thought processes are unique?”

“I don’t think they used those exact words, but yes.”

Both men laughed; more from their friendship then from any actual humor.

“So, what is your rant against spammers?”

“Well, I’m thinking of something along the lines of Snow White and the Seven Spammers.”

Jeremy looked at Tom for several seconds. “Okay, you have hooked my interest.”

“Well, just like dwarfs,” Tom explained, “the spammers would have names. There would be Slutty who does the ‘Click here to see my nude photos’ spams. Then there would be Tonedeaf.”


“You know, for all the offers of ‘Free ringtones’ you get.”

“Oh,” Jeremy nodded confused. When understanding came he said, “Oh, they’re deaf to our cries of, ‘We do not care for your damn ringtones.’”

“Exactly. And of course, there has to be Boner.”

“I was waiting for him to, ah,” Jeremy paused and put on a wide grin, “pop up.”

Tom groaned and rolled his eyes.

“But that’s only three.”

Tom shrugged. “I know, but I only have lame names for the other ones. There’s Survey who sends out the ‘make money doing surveys,’ and then Gamer who says you can win a free PS3 or whatever. And I have to fit in the poor, dying kids trying for the eternal chain letter, or the $500 cookie. And I have to have the Nigerian guy in there somewhere.”

“He should send you money to secure his inclusion.”

Tom tapped the tip of his nose with his finger. “That’s a good idea.”

“What a minute, that’s eight.”

“I know, but it feels as if I’m only scratching the surface.”

“Maybe you need to change it to ‘Snow White and the Seventy-Seven Spammers.’”

With a disgusted groan, Tom replied with, “I may have to.”

“So, what brought about this safe rant against something everybody hates?”



Both men laughed.

With a broad smile Jeremy said, “You should do something about that.”

Tom clenched his teeth and let out a little growl. “Will you shut up?”

“I think we both know the answer to that one,” Jeremy replied with a broader smile.

“If I was ‘The Tom’ do you think I’d be here talking to you?”

“Possibly. I mean, he’s friends with everybody.”

Resting he head in his hands, Tom continued his story. “Anyway, the spam isn’t that bad when I only have to delete four or five messages a day and the occasional comment. But there have been a couple days this past week when I log in and I have eight or nine messages, all of which are identical: ‘Hey Sexay… Cool MS page. I love to chat, blah blah blah.’ It’s just,” pausing to collect his thoughts Tom went on with, “It’s the fact that it is insulting my intelligence. I mean, how pathetic and stupid do they think I am that I’ll go, ‘Wow, this half-naked, nineteen year old girl in Russia wants to talk to me,’ and not notice that the exact same half-naked, nineteen year old girl from Montreal also wants to talk to me.”

“But people are that stupid and pathetic,” Jeremy stated. “They send out 10,000 stupid messages and 9,999 are immediately deleted. But one poor sucker clicks on the link and gives out their credit card number or whatever, so the spammers send out another 10,000 more.” After a pause he continued, “If they weren’t making money out of it somehow, they wouldn’t be doing it.”

“I know that, it’s just depressingly offensive that these spammers send out these stupid messages, and it works, while here we sit, busting our butts trying to do something that is good and getting nowhere.”

Cocking his head to the side, Jeremy said, “It’s funny you should mention that.”


Taking a deep breath, Jeremy started. “I never told you this story, but you should get a kick out of it. A couple of years ago I was on this dating site. One day I got a short email from this woman, and it didn’t really raise a red flag, more of a yellow one. I couldn’t tell if she was spamming me, if she was a little ditzy, or if she was just terrible emailing people. So after some thought I emailed her back and her second email was about the same, but she mentioned that she was having a bad time. So my second email asked what was wrong, trying to be a good guy. Her third email told the story about how she had gone to Florida for some business conference – which was odd because I thought her profile said she was unemployed – but while there she met a guy and they hit it off and he asked her to go to Africa with him.”


“I know, it’s so romantic.”

“Was it Nigeria?”

Jeremy thought for a few seconds. “I can’t remember if it was or not. But anyway, once in Africa, this guy stole all her money and her passport. The American Embassy in whatever country she was in was full of pricks, and she needed $5,000 to get a ticket home.”

“How would she do that without a passport?”

Tom shrugged. “How should I know? Anyway, she wrote that if I sent her the money, when she got back to the States she would marry me, and then find a job so that she could pay me back.”

“Wow, a marriage proposal in the third email. That’s probably a record.”

Jeremy buffed his fingernails on his shirt and said with the sweetest voice he had, “It’s just the kind of guy I am.”

Tom held up a finger. “Excuse me.” Leaning over the side of the table he made a retching noise. Sitting up straight, Tom said, “Well, I know you didn’t get married, so what happened? Was she cheating?”

“Most likely. But for the first minute or so after that third email I was like you in hating that they were insulting my intelligence. But, then I started thinking about it and realized that my main problem was the sheer laziness of it. We’ve both read really bad books and wondered how the hell it could have been published. How did you describe that one we read for the group a couple of months ago?”

“I could’ve sneezed something better.”

“Right. So I started thinking of a better scam, and I almost wrote back to them to suggest it. Instead of the lame ‘Help me I’m lost in Africa’ BS and hitting somebody up for $5,000 on the third email, what they should have done was spend a month forming a relationship. Over this time ‘she’ should explain that she’s nineteen, or so, all of her high school friends have gone off to college, she’s an only child, her dad’s run off, and she doesn’t get along with her mother, or something like that. She is low on money, but she is working as a, waitress or whatever. She lives in a small, roach invested apartment, and doesn’t even have the money for a telephone, so the guys can’t call her.”

“But she has a computer?”

“She uses a computer in the public library a couple of blocks away.”


“After a month or so, she then has some sob story about somebody hit her car, and she needs $500 to get it fixed. And if she doesn’t have her car, she could lose her job.”

Tom interrupted with, “That might be laying it on too thick.”

Jeremy bobbed his head from side to side. “Probably. But anyway, if somebody is stringing along about forty or so guys, there’s a chance that a few of them would send money. More of a chance then somebody sending $5,000 after three emails.”

“And guys would send money because they’re trying to look like a good guy to increase their chances to get laid when they eventually meetup.”

“Exactly. Now, instead of taking the money and running, the spammer should stay online, and about a month or so later, should say that she managed to scrap together some money and send the guys a check for $50 or so, with the promise that she will eventually pay it all off.”

“So they don’t know right off hand that they’ve been conned,” Tom nodded at the criminal brilliance of it.

“You’re catching on. But, after a few more months, things will naturally fall apart. And if the guy forces the issue of the money, that will certainly end the ‘relationship.’ I should know, one of the girls I dated in college needed money for her car, and she never got around to paying me back, and we just ended up arguing all the time over it. In the end, I just didn’t care and figured it was worth losing a couple hundred dollars as long as it meant I never had to deal with her again.”

“So you would have been writing this con using what you know.”

“Exactly. I mean, how many people met a guy, run off to Africa on the second date and get robbed? And that’s why it wasn’t so much that this was an insult to my intelligence, which it was, but the fact that these spammers are such rank, amateur hacks. We could sneeze a better con.”

Both men sat deep in thought. Eventually, Jeremy broke the silence with, “Getting back to ‘Snow White and the Seventy-Seven Spammers,’ instead of singing, ‘Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, It’s home from work we go,’ they can sing,” he began to lightly pound the table to the beat, “‘Spam Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam Spam, Spammity Spam, wonderful Spam.”

Tom interrupted with a falsettoed, “I don’t like Spam!”

This brought odd looks from the customers at the nearby tables.

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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May 20, 2007

(Author’s note: Watch this clip before reading the story.)

Ein Volk

“I told you the view was worth the climb.”

“It’s magnificent.” Ann Haigler brought her camera to her eye, then lowered it and asked, “Is it okay if I take pictures?”

Senator Gaster gave her a broad smile and replied, “Of course you can. We have nothing to hide here.”

Ann began clicking away. As far as her telephoto lens could see were rows upon rows of small, dingy, grey barracks. Between the buildings sat figures huddled around small fires. Ann turned on her recorder, and asked, “How many people are in Camp Clinton?”

“There are about three million inmates here,” the Senator replied. “We try to re-educate those we can, but most are too far gone and will have to remain here for the rest of their lives.” With a smile he added, “For the public’s safety, of course.”

“Of course.” Ann smiled back at the Senator. “We’ve all read the official history of the founding of the Glorious New Democratic America. But are there any details you could add?”

“How bored are you and your readers?” The Senator gave a quick laugh. “The Democratic Party had numerous projects – wheels within wheels – with both short and long term goals.” The Senator laced his fingers together and continued, “It took a grand meshing of all these plans – we had to build up a great deal of steam – before we could open the first of our Republican Re-education Camps. And now, our success lays before you.”

“I understand all of that, but is it possible to give me and my readers a simple example? Say, a small project that had a huge impact?”

“Well,” the Senator scratched his chin for a moment, then said, “Back in 2007 we did pass an immigration bill, which was a grand success for us. Successes actually, as it entailed both short and long term goals.”

“What was the short term goal?”

“It’s a simple,” the Senator stopped and stared at an empty spot on the wall. “What are they called?” he asked himself more than Ann, “Oh,” he exclaimed. “It’s a simple ‘Back of the envelope’ calculation. In the Presidential election in 2004 roughly sixty million people voted for the filthy Republican, and sixty million people voted for the glorious Democrat. Given that the population was around 300 million at the time, you can see that less than half the country voted for President. The other half were either under eighteen, not registered, or just didn’t care.

“Now, with the immigration bill we had twenty million new, loyal, Democratic Americans. Only about half would vote in the 2008 election – the others being under eighteen, not registered, or not caring – but given that little else had changed in the country in those four years, our seventy million easily beat their sixty million.”

A glow came to the Senator’s face as he remembered past victories. “At the time, many felt our results in that election meant that the Republican Party was dead and we no longer had to worry about them. But some of us knew that there were still sixty million people – over forty-six percent of the voters – who voted Republican. And while that meant they were inconsequential and easily ignored on the national stage, they could still cause trouble for local elections. And with the help of several other long term projects, we eventually set up these camps to deal with them.”

Ann took a few seconds to look around the camp and smiled. Turning back to the Senator she asked, “Earlier you said that there was also a long term goal involved with that immigration bill?”


“What was it?”

Waving a hand at the barracks Republicans now called home, the Senator asked, “You don’t think we were going to build all of these ourselves did you?”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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May 27, 2007

The Least We Could Do

A tall man indistinguishable from most of the other patrons entered the dim world of “Drink and the Devil.” He was heading for a secluded booth along the wall when the man behind the bar – universally known only as “Mug” – saw him. “Lieutenant Zavala. It’s been a long time, Sir.”

The Lieutenant’s cheek twitched in an attempt at a smile. “I’ve been busy,” he said.

Mug nodded his head a few times. “I bet you have.” Waving towards the booths he said, “Find a seat, and I’ll send out your usual. On the house.”

“Thank you, Mug.” The Lieutenant stood for a few seconds, then walked towards an empty booth.


April Tsilk, a Spacer into her third beer, was sitting at the bar and heard the exchange between Mug and the Lieutenant. Her right arm had been amputated just above the elbow, but after a month of work, a Regen Pack had grown her a new elbow and was halfway down her forearm. Once Mug sent a waitress off with the Lieutenant’s Tequila, she rapped the pack on the bar top to get Mug’s attention. “What’s the deal, Mug?” she asked. “I thought you only gave free drinks to the wounded?”

“I give drinks on the house to those who deserve them. The wounded top that list, but he’s close behind.”

April turned to look at the Lieutenant and asked, “What does he do? Work for some Admiral?”

“No,” Mug shook his head. “He works in recovery.”

Looking back at Mug, April asked, “What?”

Mug wiped a clean part of the bar top for a few seconds. “You saw the carnage above Sandra first hand, didn’t you?”

April sipped her beer. “Yeah.”

“Hundreds of ships – ours and theirs – are still orbiting there. Most are in small pieces which only need to be gathered up. But for the large hulks, they need people like him to check them out first, to make sure there’s nothing hazardous in them. After that they recover whatever they can use to help with the war effort; fuel, torpedoes, guns, whatever they can reuse.”

Mug paused for a bit, then continued, “And they recover the bodies. Those poor souls who never got a chance to get a free drink.”

After a few seconds, April asked, “What’s he doing here? Sandra’s a good thirty-six light-years away. That’s pretty far to go for a drink.”

“It’s hard to say. Their training center is here, so maybe he was sent back to train the newbies. Or, he could just be on R & R.”

Mug served another customer and then came back to April. “With your fancy bracelet,” he said pointing to her Regen Pack which made April wince, “people will know you’ve seen combat. And once you have a new hand, you’ll still have a nice, shiny medal on your chest, and you can always tell people about your role in the Glorious Liberation of Sandra.”

April scoffed. “An engineer standing in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

“But you were in the battle,” Mug replied. “That’s all that matters to some people. But he’ll still be out there cleaning up the mess. So, to answer your question, that’s why he deserves a drink on the house. After all that he’s seen, it’s the least I can do.”

April did not say anything, and Mug went off to deal with other customers. For a few minutes she just sipped her beer, used her new elbow to roll the Regen Pack along the bar top, and glance at the Lieutenant.

When Mug returned he asked, “Want another beer?”

April drained her bottle and answered, “Hell yeah.” When Mug returned with her new bottle she nodded towards the Lieutenant and told Mug, “Put his next drink on my tab.”


April shrugged. “It’s the least I can do.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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June 3, 2007

(Author’s note: watch this clip before reading the story.)

Decisions, Decisions

Author’s note: This is a Tom and Jeremy story.

Jeremy entered the café at the local book store and saw his writing partner Tom at a table staring out the window at the parking lot. “Sorry I’m late,” Jeremy said as he sat down. “There’s an accident one exit down and all the traffic’s backed up.”

“It’s okay,” Tom answered, “I was just thinking.”

“I know. You have a cornucopia of things you could blog about this week. The anniversaries of Tiananmen Square and D-Day, Putin restarting the Cold War, Bush apparently accepting Global Warming, the FCC loosing its obscene appeal, Libby going to jail, Chavez facing a popular uprising, the ETA breaking its truce, possible wars in Lebanon and Kurdistan. I mean, what are you going to pick?”

Leaning forward, Tom exhaled through his nose. “With everything that’s going on, I have to admit that the thing that sticks in my mind the most is a Bill O’Reilly clip a friend sent me last week.”

Jeremy sighed. “Isn’t bashing O’Reilly like shooting fish in a barrel? You’re better than that.”

Tom cocked his head to the side and asked, “Was it last fall I went over to your house and you were watching the Lumberjack Games, or something like that? If chainsawing through a log can be a sport, why not barrel fishing?”

Shaking his head, Jeremy asked, “I’m never going to live that down, am I?”


“So, what was this clip about?”

“Immigration. According to O’Reilly, the left wants to use immigration to destroy America’s, quote, ‘white, Christian, male power structure,’ unquote.”

“You’re kidding. He actually said that?”

“Loud and clear for all YouTubers to see.” After a short pause, Tom said, “It’s something you would expect the, what’s he called, the Super-Duper Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to say if he had a talk show.”

In his best announcer’s voice Jeremy said, “Coming up next, The O’Klansmen Factor.”

Tom shoulders shagged. “It took me five minutes to come up with Klan O’Reilly, and you…”

Jeremy interrupted with, “Clean living.”


With a smile Jeremy explained, “It prevents you from being devious.”

“Anyway,” Tom said, “I can understand why minorities or,” here he waved a hand at Jeremy, “white men who have strayed from the flock…”

“Strayed? I like to think I shanked the shepherd and slipped off to greener fields.”

Tom could not help but laugh. After a few seconds he said, “I can understand why you people,” Jeremy raised an eyebrow at that, but Tom continued with a smirk, “would find his opinion offensive, but even I found it offensive, and I’m a member of this supposed ruling elite.”

“First off,” Jeremy held up his hand, “I hate to burst your bubble, but you’re not of the elite. You’re José Shmoe. But all of this is not surprising. The white, Christian, males don’t want to become a minority because they don’t want to be treated the way they’ve treated minorities. One constant in human history is that those in power seldom give it up voluntarily.

“With that thought,” Jeremy added, “I’m off for coffee. You want anything?”

“No, I’m fine. Thanks.”

When Jeremy returned, he asked, “Now, did you have any ideas for your barrel fishing story?”

“Not really. It’s…” Tom leaned forward and let his breath out his nose. “I’m not sure what I want to do. On one hand I do dream of writing the perfect blog that would lead to the toppling of O’Reilly, because I believe removing someone like that from power would be a step forward for humanity, but on the other hand, I have to admit that he is one of the best allies the liberals have.”

Jeremy, who was about to take a sip of coffee, set the cup down and said, “Could you repeat that?”

“O’Reilly is one of the best allies the liberals have.”

“That’s what I thought you said.” Picking his cup back up, Jeremy added, “I have to hear this.”

“Any liberal could say, ‘I support this, and I approve of that, and I encourage this, and I…’ whatever, but few people would actually listen, or even care. But if a liberal said, ‘I’m against O’Reilly,’ then people would go, ‘Oh, I can understand that.’”

“Ah, the ole ‘Let-your-enemies-look-stupid-so-you-look-better’ routine.”

“Yes. But,” Tom confessed, “it makes me feel dirty.”


Shrugging, Tom explained, “I’d be using fear to achieve political goals.”

“But everybody’s doing it,” Jeremy stated with a guilty grin.

“And if everybody jumped off a bridge, would you?” Tom countered.

“Well, the first thousand people or so would die, but then the bodies would pile up so that the later people would not have so far to fall and give them a softer landing. Eventually, people would stop receiving grievous injuries and could walk away. So as long as I was the last one, letting everybody else jump off the bridge before me…”

Tom leaned so far back from Jeremy that his chair moved a few inches from the table. “You’ve actually put thought into that?”

Swirling his coffee cup Jeremy replied, “I heard it a lot growing up.”

“Why does that not surprise me?”

After a long sip of coffee, Jeremy set his cup down and leaned forward. “Now then, are you going to stick to your morals and try to remove O’Reilly from influence, or are you going to take the realistic approach and just use him to further your own goals?”

Tom took a deep breath and let it out his nose. “That’s the thing, I don’t know. I would like to do what’s best for humanity, but…”

“But, humanity has no agreed upon goal, so what is,” with his fingers Jeremy quoted, “best?”

“I don’t know,” Tom admitted. “But I feel that O’Reilly’s path only leads to destruction.”

“And why is that bad?” Before Tom could argue, Jeremy said, “We’ve had this debate before: Do things need to get worse before they can get better? And you reluctantly agreed that the unfortunate answer is probably yes, because people just wander around in the obliviousness of life until something bad happens. Only then do they wake up. Like the Venezuelan students who woke up and could no longer watch TV.”

“Yes, but how do you keep things from getting so bad there’s no possibility of them getting better?”

Jeremy shrugged. “You do know we just make this stuff up as we go along? Humanity didn’t come with an owner’s manual letting us know that when we go in for our 100,000 year tune up we should, I don’t know, have our minds flushed of superstitious and bigoted beliefs.”

Tom could only sigh at that.

Tapping the table, Jeremy said, “If you want my advice, you’ll just go on doing what you’ve been doing, and forget about O’Reilly. Even if you did manage to somehow topple him, another one would just rise in his place. Why spend your time trying to silence one voice holding back humanity, when you could spend it urging thousands of people onward? Is it not better to light a candle than to curse the darkness?”

“Yes, but how many people could be helped if that one dark voice was,” Tom paused for emphasis before continuing, “discredited? Silenced sounds too KGBish.”

“Just wait. It’s only a matter of time before O’Reilly faces his own Nappy-Headed Hos.”

After a short pause, Tom said, “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

Raising his coffee in salute Jeremy replied, “We can hope.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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June 10, 2007

We’re Doomed

“Hey, Jill…” Bob stopped just inside her cubical as he saw Jill quickly close her internet screen. A smile spread across his face as he sweetly asked, “What were you doing?”

“You sound a lot like David,” she replied; David being their boss. “I was just checking the latest news.”

“Oh, were you on the FreeParis site?”

“Um, no,” Jill answered. “I don’t care about her.”

Bob staggered back a step. “How can you not care about Paris?”

“Ah…” Jill was unsure how to answer that.

“Well,” Bob asked, “what news were you checking?”

Straightening up Jill waved at her computer – now showing a half finished report – and said, “There’s a computer failure aboard the space station. If it can’t be fixed, they may have to abandon it.”

Bob only had a blank stare.

“You know,” Jill prodded, “The International Space Station? The space shuttle launched to it last week?”

“I hadn’t heard.”

Jill sighed. “Why am I not surprised.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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June 17, 2007

And so it Begins

It was watching his four-year old son sleeping that made up Jerome Reed’s mind. Quietly slipping from the darkened bedroom, he made his way to his den where he logged into his blog. With only a few sidetracks to check facts, he wrote:

My high school guidance counselor never mentioned anything about being a revolutionary, but I’ve realized that is what I’m becoming. Why? Because our “leaders” have failed us. I know, I know, you’re saying, “Thanks, Captain Obvious,” but hear me out.

It’s only a few months to the six year anniversary of 9-11, and while we went to war in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and capture or kill Osama bin Laden, both are still hanging around. Neither has the power they once had, but neither are completely gone. They’re just waiting for us to leave so they can reclaim what we took from them. The same could be said of Iraq, which daily seems to inch closer and closer to full-fledged civil war. Now some of you will immediately go off on the tangent of how it is all Bush’s fault and yada-yada-yada. That’s not my point. We were attacked and many of the people responsible are still at large. Why? Wait, let me ask that again. Why? I think most people know that 9-11 was terrible and the people responsible need to be held accountable. That’s a simple, straight-forward, plain-speaking truth. But, given our political system which puts the survival of THE PARTY above that of the nation, it means nothing will be done about it. That’s my real beef.

Putting aside the War on Terror, look at the track record of our government. There is an immigration problem. Will it be fixed? No! There is a health care problem. Will it be fixed? No! There is a Social Security problem. Will it be fixed? No! There is the government wasting our tax dollars problem. Will it be fixed? No! There is a campaign financing problem. Will it be fixed? No! There is a climate change problem. Will it be fixed? No! There is an education problem. Will it be fixed? No! It’s not like these problems came out of nowhere, some have been building for DECADES. Yet why have our “leaders” not fixed them?

I believe our Constitution is a great thing, I just wish our government and leaders were more indicative off its spirit. An example, look at Tom Vilsack. He was running for President but dropped out. Why? Was it because he had bad ideas, or couldn’t connect with the voters, or what? No. It was because he couldn’t raise the money. Yes, the Almighty Dollar, the real mover and shaker of American politics. The next time the news talks about the “Big Guns” now running, notice that one of the factoids they list is the money in the candidate’s War Chest. Did I miss that day in civics class where they explained that the greatest indicator of a person’s ability to govern is how much money they can raise? Yes, our country began with only white, land owning, males in politics. But back then they were the only ones with the money, and back then only those with money were educated enough to govern. That is no longer true, just think Paris.

Our government is a corrupt failure and it needs to be drastically fixed or even replaced, but I don’t know how or with what. Will minor, ineffective improvements do it? Or do we need to start a third party in the hope that in fifty years our candidate will be ALLOWED in the debates? Or do we always vote against the incumbents to drive the status quo from power? What options do we really have? Now, if you are from Homeland Security or the FBI, I am NOT advocating violence against the United States government. At least not yet.

Glancing back over this, I feel I need to apologize. I usually rant AGAINST rambling, ranting bloggers, but I feel like I’m about to explode. There is just so much going wrong in this country, that it would take me days to type it all out. If this is too confusing, I’ll probably clean it up over the next few days and explain things better. Anyway, what brought all of this on was I was just watching my four-year old son sleeping, and I was thinking of how I will break my back working so he has the money to go to a good college so he can get a good education and end up being over qualified to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” since all the good jobs will be in India. And I was just getting pissed off.

I feel there is a revolution stirring in this country; things have been going wrong for so long that people are starting to wake up. The revolution could be stillborn, or it could be aborted. It could succeed, or it could fail. But it’s here. Only time will tell what becomes of it. I want to leave the world a better place for my son, and I think the best way to do that is to start the revolution now while we still have a few options, instead of leaving it for him to deal with. Because when there are no more options, there is only violence. I want to spare him that, if I can.

Viva la Revolution!

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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June 24, 2007

The Poor Deluded Fool

My friend’s girlfriend just moved in with him, although why she would move from Hawaii to Pennsylvania for that schmuck, I’ll never know. Anyway, most of his bachelor dishes were chipped, and a few had broken over the years, so a couple of weeks before she flew in he bought a new set. The next time he called her, he told her all about them. She was not thrilled.

Him: “They’re dishes. They hold food. What more do you want from them?”
Her: “I’m sure they’re nice, but will they match the kitchen?”
Him: “They’re brown, the kitchen’s brownish. I did put some thought into this. The first set I grabbed were square, plastic, neon green, but I didn’t think you’d be too keen on them.”
Her: Slight pause. “Are we having our first fight?”

I chuckled throughout his story, then he said something that almost knocked me out of my chair: “We’re keeping the dishes, so if that was our first fight I won.”

See what I wrote about this story on my Published Works page.

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My best story of the first half of 2007.

I set up a way for my readers to vote on what they thought my best story had been in these six months. As of January 2009, here were the results:

VOTES TITLE 2 Politically Cynical 1 Polireligionatics 1 I Don’t Like Spam! 0 All the rest

Not exactly stuffed ballots, but still interesting.

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