Stephen L. Thompson's Weekly Stories for the second half of 2007

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

July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

August 5, 12, 19, 26

September 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

October 7, 14, 21, 28

November 4, 11, 18, 25

December 2, 9, 16, 23

For the week of:

July 1, 2007

My Hawaiian Odyssey

For this week, I tried my hand at doing a photo essay about my recent trip to Oahu. To keep this page from getting all cluttered up, I made a seperate page for it. Click here to read it.

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

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July 8, 2007


A loud noise broke the peace and tranquility of the dim, shadowy world. It seemed a very long time – but which was only seconds – for Allen to realize the noise was his alarm clock. He sat on the edge of his bed, picked up the clock and looked at it. Satisfied the little black box with glowing numbers was the source of the noise, he turned it off.

A minute later Allen still sat on the side of the bed. Two minutes. Three. Finally, he shook his head, stood, and stumbled into the bathroom.

After a quick shower, Allen was a tad more awake and hungry. He checked his email over a bowl of cereal before returning to his room to dress.

While putting on his left sock Allen yawned and a part of his mind asked, I’m still tired. Why did I get up this early? Sitting on the edge of his bed in his underwear and wearing only one sock, Allen asked himself out loud, “Why did I get up this early?” In reply, the image of the day ahead came to him. Fighting through the traffic, the endless meetings, the Sisyphean task of writing reports and reading memos, and fighting through the traffic once more. Like every other wage slave he didn’t like his job, but he hated starvation more. He only put up with it so that every other week he could get a piece of paper saying his work was worth just over a thousand smaller, green pieces of paper.

Allen gave a mirthless chuckle. “That’s why I got up this early. So that at the end of the day I could get a piece of green paper with ‘$100’ written on it.” After another mirthless chuckle he added, “They say everyone has a price. I guess that’s mine.”

Once dressed, Allen left his tranquil bed to go fight through the traffic.

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

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July 15, 2007

Potter ‘07

Shimmering stars swam across a black background to an enchanted tune of flutes and drums before exploding in vibrant colors. After a few seconds they moved down and were replaced by “Release Night Coverage ‘07” written in bright, bold letters. This in turn was replaced by the image of a woman standing next to a wall of monitors, across which exploding stars still swam.

The woman smiled and said, “Hello, I am Susan Brown, and I welcome you to The Release Night Coverage of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“The big question on everybody’s mind tonight is ‘Will Harry live?’ We are only a few short hours away from finding out. But that is not the only question people are asking. Scattered across the Muggle world our correspondents will help us explore some of these questions and prepare us for possible solutions. Here are short previews of what awaits us.”

Susan turned to the monitors and one of them changed to show a man standing before the Statue of Liberty. “Joining us from New York is G. D. Griffen who will explore, ‘Is Snape good, or evil?’”

The man smiled. “Thank you Susan. Severus Tobias Snape, Professor of Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a former,” he air quoted former, “Death Eater. His distrust of the Potter family goes way back, but has he changed his ways? Potter fans have had years to pour through the first six books, and I’ll discuss what they have gleaned from that study.”

“I have to admit,” Susan said, “that Snape is one of my favorite characters. I really hope that he’s good.”

G. D. chuckled. “You’re not alone in that.”

“Changing the subject, what’s your prediction on whether Harry lives or dies?”

Frowning, G. D. answered, “I don’t have any foreshadowing of this in any of the books, but I have a feeling that he is killed off in the first hundred pages.”

After a moments thought, Susan said, “I hope you’re wrong, but I do think J. K. Rowling could pull that off.”

With a quick smile, Susan continued. “We now go to Vancouver where Gary Scotts will try to answer, ‘What – or who – are the Horcruxes.’”

A young man standing before some office buildings appeared on a monitor. He smiled and said, “Thank you, Susan. For those of you who haven’t read the books – and shame on you if you haven’t – Horcruxes are objects Lord Voldemort has hidden fragments of his soul in. He’s done this in a bid for immortality. It is almost certain that the only way Harry can truly defeat Lord Voldemort is to first destroy the remaining Horcruxes.

“Now, the Friends of Fluffy Society has been asking the visitors to their website to give guess at what these remaining Horcruxes are. We’ll go over some of the more interesting answers.”

“I can’t wait to hear them,” Susan said. “What is your take on the big question?”

“Oh, he’ll live,” Gary replied. He then added, “Definitely.”

“Well, I hope you’re right.” Turning from the monitors Susan said, “Our show won’t be all about death and intrigue; there will also be romance. For a quick look at ‘What happens to Ron and Hermione?’ we go to Krystal Balm in Paris.”

On the screen appeared a woman with a slightly too large nose standing before the Eiffel Tower. She smiled and said, “Thank you, Susan. Will Ron and Hermione get together? In a recent poll, 83% of respondents said yes they will. But only 46% said that it won’t last. The biggest reason being the wide held belief that one, or both characters will die in this book. But there are a few surprising possibilities and that is what we will explore.”

“I’m hoping for a ‘happily-ever-after’ ending for them,” Susan explained. She then asked, “What’s your predictions on Harry’s fate?”

Krystal furrowed her brows and stated, “The only way Harry can defeat Voldemort is for him to do something Voldemort would not do. And there are several possibilities from giving up his magical powers, to asking for help, or even forgiving Voldemort.” Shrugging, Krystal added, “Of course, I could be way off base. I can’t wait to find out.”

Smiling Susan confirmed, “Neither can I.”

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

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July 22, 2007

Fliered Up

Author’s note: This story is related to my Tom and Jeremy stories.

As James walked down the sidewalk trying to get over the argument he had with a coworker that morning, a man shoved a flier into his hand and said, “Join us in bringing our troops home.”

It took James a second to realize what had happened, before looking at the flier. It announced there was going to be a Peace Demonstration that weekend in a nearby park to “Let our ‘so-called’ leaders know that we want our troops in Iraq brought home IMMEDIATELY, and we’re not going to be quiet any longer!”

James read through this a couple times then looked up at the man, who had the look of someone conceived at the original Woodstock. “Will you join us?” the man asked.

Tilting his head to one side, James asked, “How?”

This confused the man who asked, “What?”

“How do you plan to bring all the troops home, immediately?”

“Well,” the man drew the word out as though he needed time to think. “The same way they got there. Fly ‘em out.”

“What about the tanks, Humvees, artillery pieces, and all the ammunition we’ve been building up there for four years? Are we just going to leave it all there?”

“No. Not all of it,” the man answered. “Some we’ll give to the Iraqi Army, you know, the people that should be protecting their country.”

“But what about the thousands of tanks and what not? How long do you think it will take to pack all them up and ship them home?”

Shaking his handful of fliers, the man replied, “I don’t see how that matters.”

“I heard recently,” James said, “that the Pentagon reports it would take two years to do a gradual withdraw. They could withdraw in a year, but it would be riskier. Now, I know they’re the military, and so they’re standing by Bush and they’re going to say it will take time. But, just thinking of the logistics, I would say – in my non-expert opinion – that it would take several months at least to bring everybody and everything home. Six months is by no means, ‘immediately,’ which conveys a sense of days, weeks at most.”

“You’re arguing semantics when our troops are dying in a lost cause.”

“It is not semantics. It is using words that convey – to the average person – certain connotations when you know for a fact that those connotations are impossible. That’s scheming on the level of politicians.”

“This is an unjustified war …”

James interrupted with, “Another scheming trick of politicians is to change the topic.” The man, his face red with rage, tried to reply but James held his hand up to silence him. “Listen, you guys are the ones who bitched and moaned that Bush doesn’t have an exit strategy. What’s your exit strategy? An immediate withdraw. How would you do that?” James, using his best simpleton’s voice, answered for the man by saying, “Duh … We’ll, um, withdraw … ah … immediately.”

After a brief pause, James continued, “Listen, I do support you, but you need to know all the facts. After that, know what you want, say it honestly, and have a plan. Otherwise, you just look like a moron.”

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

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July 29, 2007

No Hurry

The old man let the shovel fall from his hand as he sat down in the shade of a solitary tree. For several minutes he just sat, breathing in the hot dusty air and listening to the incessant buzzing of insects. If he had not been so tired, he would have cried.

He dozed off, but a strange sound startled him awake. It took a while for his solemn mind to realize it was music. Looking around for the source, he finally saw a wavering black speck on the horizon. He could not tell what it was, and he did not care.

Wanting to forget everything, the man tried to fall back asleep, but the music only grew louder and louder. Finally, he could no longer ignore it.

Looking up, he saw a long line of people dressed in clothes of bright blues, reds, and greens. They all carried instruments, many of which the old man had never seen before. The sound was deafening as they marched past him; without giving him a glance.

As the sound of the music faded, it was replaced by a low rumbling sound. The old man turned and saw a line of tanks approaching him. The first tank ground to a halt in a cloud of dust before him. A man on top of the tank waved to the old man and shouted, “You’re in luck. We’ve come to save you.”

The old man stared at the man and then looked down the line of tanks disappearing into the horizon. With the help of the shovel he forced himself to stand up. He glared at the man on the tank for a few seconds before turning around.

He stood on the edge of a vast graveyard. The old graves of his parents were lost in the sea of fresh graves – two of which contained the old man’s wife and son. Spreading his arms wide, the old man cried, “Good news everybody. We’re saved!”

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

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August 5, 2007


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

“Sorry I’m late,” Jeremy said to his writing partner Tom as he sat down at the table in the bookstore café. “There was a problem at the dentist.”

“Oh?” Tom stirred from looking out the window to ask, “Is everything okay?”

“It wasn’t me, I was just getting a cleaning. But one of the assistants had to leave early, their kid was in a fight at school, so the dentist was a little short-handed this afternoon.” Jeremy sighed and looked over at the counter.

Tom followed his gaze, then asked, “What is it?”

“Should I be drinking coffee right after having my teeth cleaned?”

“Has it ever stopped you before?”

“No.” Standing up, Jeremy looked down at Tom and said, “Bastard,” before walking over to the counter.

After laughing for a few seconds, Tom said, “That wasn’t nice,” to Jeremy’s back.


When Jeremy returned to the table, Tom was staring out the window once more and tapping his pen on his writing notebook. Sitting down again, Jeremy asked, “So, what are you thinking about?”

Leaning forward and resting his arms on the table, Tom asked, “Do you know what yesterday was?”


Tom frowned. “The date.”

Sipping his coffee Jeremy answered, “August 6th.”

“Yes,” Tom nodded. “Does August 6th mean anything to you?”

Jeremy set his cup down and folded his arms across his chest. After a few seconds, Tom prompted with, “It was an anniversary.”

“The only anniversary I care about,” Jeremy stated, “is April 26th, which is when my divorce was finalized.”

Before Jeremy could start talking about his ex, which Tom knew was always a bad idea, he said, “Well, yesterday was the sixty-second anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.”

“It was?”

“Yeah. And what I’ve been thinking about, is …. Well, I almost forgot it. I used to know all the details, I dated this anti-nuke girl in college and she had all these books about it. But, I went through most of yesterday not even realizing it. I just happened upon one of those, ‘This date in history,’ things, and I wanted to kick myself for forgetting.”

“Is it such an important thing to remember?” Jeremy asked.

“That’s my conundrum. On one hand you have an event where – depending on your sources – 100,000 people were killed,” Tom snapped his fingers, “like that. But sixty years later, probably few people outside of Japan remember it. But on the other hand, there is the fact that massacres, and genocides, and murders galore have happened on every day of the year. If you spend all of your time mourning them, can you move on with your life? At what point is it okay to forget?”

“Well, you said that it’s an event few people outside Japan remember. But if you had asked, ‘What’s important about Hiroshima?’ I would have said it was the first city that was nuked. We nuked it to end World War II. Is it really important to know what day it occurred on?”

“But isn’t ‘glossing over the details’ the first step in forgetting – even erasing – history? It’s like 300.”

Jeremy groaned. “Do we have to go through this again?”

“Everybody knows that 300 Spartans stood up to the vast Persian army at Thermopylae, but what few remember, is that there were a thousand or so other Greeks there as well.”

“But those other ones aren’t as sexy as the Spartans.”

“Exactly. Historical ‘fact’ has been replaced by historical ‘sexiness.’ In a thousand years what will be said of Hiroshima? Or of 9-11? The next day everybody was saying it was an unforgettable tragedy; 3,000 deaths and a couple of buildings destroyed. But if 100,000 deaths and an entire city can be forgotten, why should those 3,000 be remembered?”

For several seconds Jeremy said nothing. Then, after sipping his coffee, he said, “Because this is America, and in American anything bad that happens to us is a tragedy, while anything bad that we do is a necessity.”

Tom shrugged. “Of course, that could probably be said about every nation.”

“True.” After a pause Jeremy said, “But seriously, I think 9-11 is already being forgotten. I mean, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and we go from zero to nuking them in, what, four years? Al-Qaeda attacks us and we go from zero to … whatever state we’re now in six years. I hate to say this, but I think the only way we’ll finish the job of wiping the scourge of al-Qaeda from the face of the Earth is if they nuke DC. That will piss us off again, and it will take out the biggest obstacle. Once politicians found out they could use 9-11 to get people to vote it lost all its meaning. That’s when it starting going downhill.”

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

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August 12, 2007

It Ain’t Pretty

I work in a lab testing rolling and cutting fluids, quench oils, and other things I doubt you care about. Hell, I work there and I don’t really care about them. Anyway, a lot of the equipment and computers I use are old. While this may convey negative connotations to some, it also means we can run a test today and easily compare it to a test run ten years ago on the same machine.

I recently got a new computer (minus the monitor) which was to bring me inline with the other networked computers in the lab. However, there soon came to be three major problems with it. First, I run a test called the spray test which requires me to hook a cable up to the tester and download the data to my computer. Pretty simple, except there was some communication hiccup between the tester and the new computer and it wouldn’t download. The solution was to hook my old computer back up, so I could download to it, save the data to disk and transfer that to the new computer. Which leads to problem two. My new computer (like most nowadays) did not come with a disk drive, so I had to have an external drive hooked up. I would need this anyway because most of the other old equipment I use is controlled by old computers which aren’t being replaced and none of them are hooked up to the network, so the only way to get the data is to transfer it by disk. The problem, the external disk drive does not work. So I have no way to get data to my computer. The third problem, is rather simple: after a couple of days, it stopped letting me login.

So on my desk right now, I have my new computer – with a ten year-old monitor – turned off and shoved in a corner. On what used to be my desk space, I now have my old computer set up with a different monitor. On Wednesday I ran a spray test and I was sitting at my desk with my two computers, the tester, wires seemingly everywhere, and little room for anything else, and I had to laugh. In the corner was the new fancy-schmancy computer that was little more than a paperweight, while I sat using the old, clunky, duct tapped computer. (The cable from the tester is duct tapped to an adaptor in the back of the computer, I’m not kidding.) I was laughing because while it wasn’t pretty, it worked.

Of course, then I started feeling old. These whipper-snappers with their fancy-schmancy networks and thumb drives and Wi-Fi. Why in my day, we carried little, square, plastic disks from computer to computer, dangnabbit!

Here is a recreation of the motivation for this rant.

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

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August 19, 2007

I don’t have anything for this week, sorry. I did come up with an idea and I pretty much had the whole story worked out, but then I decided to check some of my “facts.” It turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. The basic idea is still a good one, but I’ll need to spend some time working out the details, so you may see the story … someday. And I didn’t have the time to write something new.

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August 26, 2007

Happy to be Wrong

Ed looked up from his desk as Bob entered the office and said, “Mornin’.”

Holding his arms wide, Bob replied, “Happy Judgment Day, plus ten.”


Bob closed his eyes and quoted, “‘Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare; the war against the Machines.’”

“What’s that from?” Ed asked. “The Terminator?”

Bob shook his head, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

“So…” Ed drew the word out. “Is this some Californian holiday?”

Sitting down at his own desk Bob chuckled. “No, but it probably should be.”

“Oh please. I like good scifi movies like everyone else, but there are limits. Having a Judgment Day holiday is on the level of dorkdoom as the people who think they’re Jedis.”

“The Jedis are pathetic losers. I mean, how tough can they be if they get wiped out by a bunch of mindless clones?”

Ed thought about that for a few seconds, then shrugged.

“I admit,” Bob said, “that at first I went for the Dork Factor with wishing people a Happy Judgment Day. But after some thought, I realized that this should be a holiday people celebrate.”

Leaning back, Ed laced his fingers behind his head and put his feet up on his desk. “This I have to hear.”

Smiling, Bob mirrored Ed’s actions. “Six years ago,” he began, “some people were upset that we didn’t have bases on the moon from which we could set out to find monoliths. But I remembered one of the key parts in 2010 was the impeding war between the US and the Soviet Union.”

“That would be tough, now.”

“Exactly.” After a brief pause, Bob asked, “If we are depressed when the future doesn’t turn out as glorious as we expected, shouldn’t we also be happy when the future isn’t as bleak as was predicted?”

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

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September 2, 2007

You Will Pee

It was about 10 o’clock when Jon left his desk for the men’s room. As he unzipped walking up to the urinal, his mind replayed the last of the never-ending line of arguments he had with his girlfriend. Just before he began urinating, he looked up and froze.

Before he could even ask himself what it was, his mind had answered that it must be some kit put over the handle of a manual urinal to turn it into an automatic flush. Glancing to his left, he saw that the other urinal had also been so outfitted.

Turning back, Jon leaned closer to study the device. It had a metal casing a little bigger than his fist. There was a small button and a little square window with a green light above it which flashed every few seconds. Now, it was common to walk into the bathroom and find one of the urinals stuck flushing. Jon wondered if the only way to fix urinals these days was to upgrade it to automatic flushing. Do they still make parts for the older ones?


Jerked out of his thoughts, Jon looked over the partition to see that Allen had joined him at the other urinal. Jon blinked a few times and pointed at the device, “Have you seen these?”

Allen looked at the device on his urinal for a few seconds, then turned back to Jon. “Yeah.”

“They’re like … Borg Urinals now,” Jon stated. “I’m waiting for one of them to say,” in his deepest monotone Jon said, “We are urinals.” After a brief pause he went on, “You will pee. Flushing is inevitable.”

Allen gave a snort of a laugh. “Well,” he said, “would you rather come in here and see the bright yellow of six guys not flushing in a row?”

Jon shrugged. “It’s not that. It’s … was karate chopping the handle so difficult?” Jon rested the edge of his hand on the device to demonstrate. “Of course there are places where the agony of turning a knob for water had been replaced by just putting your hand under the faucet. And the shear torture of pressing a large button for the hand dryer has been replaced as well. It’s like, there’s no effort to do anything these days. Everything’s done for us. And they wonder why everybody’s so fat.” Jon closed his eyes for several seconds. Then he said, more to himself than to Allen, “It would help the machines when they decide to take over if we can’t run away.”

Allen zipped up and backed away from the urinal. As it flushed, he told Jon, “You need to get out more.” He then went to the sink and washed his hands.

As Jon urinated, he glared at the little square window. When he finished he zipped up and slowly took a step back. Jon watched while the water ran down the inside of urinal, trying to think of something profound to say. He finally settled on the clichéd, “So it begins.”

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

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An Open Letter to Osama bin Laden

Today (September 7, 2007) I read about your “idea” to end the war in Iraq. Quoting from the Yahoo News article:

I invite you to embrace Islam. It will also achieve your desire to stop the war as a consequence, because as soon as the warmongering owners of the major corporations realize that you have lost confidence in your democratic system and have begun to look for an alternative, and this alternative is Islam, they will run after you to please you and achieve what you want to steer you away from Islam.

From this I can see that you clearly have not studied America, its political system or its people. We lost confidence in our political system decades ago. They just feed us the same old shit over and over again, and we apparently still have a taste for it. So thank you for the idea, but you have to realize it is an unviable option.

Now, I have a counter proposal. Why don’t you and all other religious “Holy Warriors” become atheists? Then you would realize how idiotic it is to kill people in the name of an imaginary guy who lives in the sky. I know your knee-jerk reaction will be to ignore this, but please, give my proposal as much thought as I gave yours.

Your fellow human,
Stephen L. Thompson
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, USA

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September 9, 2007

No Substitute

“Why are you crying?”

Mary turned her head, her new synthetic joints letting her move like she did when she was in her forties, and looked at the young girl standing next to her. She wiped away a tear and smiled, showing the girl her new teeth. “Oh, I was just thinking of my father.”

The girl cocked her head to the side and asked, “What happened to him?”

“He…” Mary stopped. Glancing around at the trees and fountains, she wondered how she could explain such senseless loss to a child. Should she explain it? “He died.” Looking at the ground Mary added, “Long ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

Mary looked back at the girl; trying to act like a grown up, but not knowing how. “I was a little older than you are now when it happened.”

Mary had to bite her lip to stop from laughing as a look of confusion washed over the girl’s face. It was always a shock to learn that old people were once kids.

To change the subject, Mary asked, “What are you doing here on this fine fall day?”

“It’s a boring class trip.”

Not knowing what to say to that, Mary was relieved to see a young man walking towards her and the girl. “Elizabeth, there you are,” he said as he got close. “You know you shouldn’t leave the group.”

“I know,” Elizabeth answered looking at the ground.

The man glanced at Mary, who smiled, then put a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. Leaning over to speak into her ear he pointed at a woman standing a few hundred yards away, who waved. “Do you see Miss Siever?”


“Go to her. Straight,” the man emphasized the word, “to her.”

“Yes Mister Patwardhan.” Elizabeth took a few steps, then stopped and turned back to Mary. “I’m sorry about your dad.”

Mary smiled, and said, “Thank you Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth then began walking towards the rest of her classmates. This walk turned into skipping and finally into running.

Mister Patwardhan watched her go, then turned to Mary. “I’m sorry if she was bothering you.”

“Not at all, Mister…”

With a quick smile, he suggested, “Josef.”

Chuckling Mary said, “Not at all Josef. She reminds me of one of my great-great-grand daughters who I only see in vids since her mother moved up to Tycho Colony.”

Josef looked as if he was going to ask something, but stopped himself. After a few seconds, he asked anyway. “I know this is a faux pas, but how old are you?”

“You’re not married, are you?”

Josef laughed. “Is it that obvious?”

“A married man would know better.” After a quick smile she said, “Two months ago I turned 110.”

Josef’s mouth opened, but before he could say anything Mary added, “The amazing thing is I’m still 65% original parts. Very few of us old broads can say that.”

Doing a poor job to hide his laugher, Josef said, “Yes, that is amazing.” Becoming serious he said, “But what I was going to say was that you were alive when this happened,” he waved at the trees and fountains.

Turning away Mary answered, “Yes.”

After a few heartbeats, Josef asked, “Was your father here?”

For several seconds the only sound was the wind in the leaves and the water in the fountains. Finally Mary said, “I was angry at him. The way only a ten-year-old girl can be at her father who will miss her recital because he has to go on a business trip.” Turning back to Josef she added, “He was flying out that morning.”

“I am sorry.”

“Mister, Patwarden?”

Josef smiled. “Close enough.”

“Practically every person I have met in the past century has told me that.” Turning away, looking back at the memorial built to honor her father and countless others, she said, “It is a poor substitute.”

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

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September 16, 2007


“But first, our top story.” The news anchor was moved to the side of the screen while beside her 3-D letters normally reserved for wars or elections came together to spell, “O. J.’s Death: Day 1476.”

The anchor returned to full screen and began, “It’s just been over four years since O. J. Simpson was stabbed to death in prison, and tonight we have a special report. Correspondent Adam Perkins has managed to track down the last American to be interviewed by a cable news network concerning the death of Mister Simpson.”

The anchor was replaced by the standard montage shots of a small town; a couple of cars driving down Main Street, elderly men sitting outside a store laughing, etc. The voice-over began with, “Larson, Ohio sits off a small tributary of the Ohio River. In its heyday of supplying charcoal to the Pittsburg steel mills it was home to 40,000. Less than half that live there now and many of the residents now admit that the town is slowly dying.

“One of those residents is twenty-eight year old Samantha Judge, a teller at the First National Bank in downtown Larson.” The background montage ended to show a standard bank building. “We caught up to Miss Judge,” the voice-over continued, “one morning as she arrived at work.”

The steady image of the bank was replaced by the shaky image as the cameraman ran after a tall man in a trench coat holding a microphone. They ran toward a rather plan looking young woman.

“Miss Judge,” the trench coated man called, “Miss Judge.”

The woman stopped and looked back and forth between the man who had called her and the camera. “Yes?”

“Miss Judge, I am Adam Perkins of News Channel, and I must say you are a hard woman to track down.”

Still looking between Adam and the camera, Samantha asked, “Why?” drawing the word out.

“You are the last person in America to be interviewed concerning the death of O. J. Simpson.”

Samantha leaned forward slightly as if she had not heard Adam correctly. “What?”

“In the four years since O. J. Simpson was stabbed to death in prison, every American had been interviewed concerning the matter, except for you.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“The records don’t lie. Now, what were your thoughts when you first heard the news?”

With the microphone in her face, Samantha kept glancing between Adam and the camera. “Look, this is either a really stupid joke, or a pathetic news story.”

“This is no joke,” Adam told her. “America want’s to know your thoughts about O. J.”

Samantha took a deep breath and said, “Okay. Fine. When he was arrested for … whatever all those years ago, I just wanted him to fry because I was sick of the 24 hour O. J. News. Now, he’s been dead for – you said four years – I mean shut the,” here there was a bleep and the area around her mouth was pixilated, “up already.” Shaking her head, Samantha turned and walked away.

After following her for a few seconds, the camera turned to Adam who shrugged and said, “I guess that’s an interview.”

The scene on the street changed to a studio shot of Adam with the town inserted behind him. He smiled and stated, “We tried to contact Miss Judge again for an interview, but we were rebuffed with many choice words. But we succeeded in what we set out to do; interviewing the only American not interviewed about the death of O. J. Simpson.”

With a well practiced nod and smile he said, “This is Adam Perkins for News Channel.”

The anchor returned, and with a smile stated, “To discuss this and other recent developments, we have in the studio…”

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

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September 23, 2007

Gay Tehran

Ruhollah sat in a smoky coffee shop. In the corner, an old TV was showing a speech the President had made in America. He was not really listening to the speech, but by necessity he joined in the patriotic cheers when the other men in the shop liked what the President said.

As he lit his second cigarette of the night, Ruhollah heard the President say, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals …” The rest of the comment was washed out in cheers. Ruhollah looked at the TV but it was hidden behind the numerous cups lifted in salute of the lie. He forced himself to smile at the other men, but deep down he wanted to laugh and announce that he was living proof that the President did not speak the truth.

Do you want to die? part of his mind asked him.

What’s the point of living if your life is a lie? another part replied.

Ruhollah shook his head and went back to his tea. He had been down that road often enough to know it led nowhere.

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

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September 30, 2007


October 5, 1957

Jonathon lay on his back in his parent’s backyard, with his mutt Rex using his stomach as a pillow. On a strap around his neck were his father’s binoculars. Mike Finey’s father had a radio that could pick up the beeping, but Jonathon had to content himself with just watching Sputnik fly overhead. He had wanted to look for it last evening, but it had rained. But tonight, as the sun had set there were only a few clouds in the sky and the stars quickly came out. Hopefully, the nearly full moon would not be too bright.

All the adults seemed worried, but Jonathon and his friends were excited. The world of their science fiction magazines was coming true. There were rockets and artificial moons now, and soon there would be bases on the moon and Mars. Someday, Jonathon might even go off to war like his father, although instead of fighting Nazis trying to take over the world he would fight alien monsters wanting to steal Earth’s women. Jonathon laughed at the thought. He most likely would just end up flying up to the moon to work at the rocket factory like his father drove to the car factory every morning.

Instead of being excited, the adults only worried about Commie bombs falling from the sky. Even his father had announced that morning at breakfast that he was going to build a bomb shelter for the family. Jonathon thought they all needed to read his science fiction magazines. If they had been right about rockets, then the energy barriers to protect cities could not be too far off.

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

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October 7, 2007

Fliered Up II

Author’s note: This story is related to my Tom and Jeremy stories.

At almost the same spot that he had run into a peace demonstrator handing out fliers a couple months earlier, James was handed a flier by a young woman whose coat was covered in Anti-Bush buttons. Without reading the flier, James asked, “What’s this for?”

The woman smiled, showing her perfect teeth, and replied, “There will be a demonstration next week demanding the impeachment of Misters Bush and Cheney.”

James snorted.

The smile disappeared from the woman’s face and was replaced by a look of cold fury. “They have committed grave crimes against this country and its people. They’ve…”

James interrupted with, “Do they deserve to be impeached? Probably. Will they be impeached? Almost certainly not.”

Frowning, the woman started saying, “But the people…”

“The people?” James interrupted again. “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but ‘The People’ mean squat in American politics.” After a short pause James continued with, “An example: the immigration fiasco. Does this country – i.e. The People – want, need, and deserve immigration laws that are the best for the nation? Of course we do. Will we ever get them? Most likely not. Why? Because the Democrats will write a bill that is ineffective, possibly worse than what we already have, but they will stand by it because it makes them look like heroes to their” James air quoted, “‘people.’ On the other hand, the Republicans will write a bill that is ineffective, possibly worse than what we already have, but they will stand by it because it makes them look like heroes to their ‘people.’” James again gave air quotes. “The bottom line is that American politics is all about the parties jostling for power. The People don’t matter.”

“While that is a blog worthy rant,” the woman said, “I don’t see what that has to do with impeaching those bastards.”

“Impeaching them would not be in the best interest of either party. The Republicans won’t do anything because the last thing they want to do going into a Presidential Election is show the voters how bad their party can be. And the Democrats won’t do anything because – besides nominating a Clinton – the one thing they could do to insure the Republicans get out and vote Republican is to impeach The Golden Boy.” After a pause James added, “The fight to see who ends up in the White House come January 2009 far outweighs such minor things as truth and justice.”

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

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October 14, 2007

Pull of a Trigger

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

“What dark thoughts are ye contemplating on this night, dear sir?”

Tom raised his eyebrow. “Ye?”

Jeremy sat down and explained, “I went to the Renaissance Faire over the weekend.”

“Ah, how was it?”

Jeremy shrugged and replied, “Medieval.”

Both of them chuckled.

“So, what were you thinking about?”

“The assassination of Bush.”

Jeremy sat silently for a few seconds before quickly glancing around the café. He then picked up the salt shaker and spoke into it, “I, Jeremy Radley, will play no part in your assassination plot Tom.” Setting the shaker down he said, “So, are you for or against.”

“Against, I guess. I was just wondering, has any assassination been beneficial? I mean, of course it’s a tragedy when the good guys are assassinated – Lincoln, JFK, RFK, MLK. But what about the bad guys?”

“Such as?”

“Well,” Tom thought for a second and said, “Caesar. He was assassinated because he was trying to take over everything. But after his death, there was a little civil war and after a few years … what was his name?”

“Octavius? But he changed it to Augustus?”

“Something like that. But he became the first Caesar.”

“So,” Jeremy drew the word out, “did Caesar’s assassination accomplish anything?”

“That’s the question. I don’t know if Archduke Ferdinand was a good guy or not, but his assassination wasn’t good.”

“What about Hitler? What would the world be like if one of the dozen or so attempts on his life had succeeded?”

“Depends. Would somebody more competent have taken over?”

Jeremy shrugged. “Who was that Egyptian guy?”


“That’s right.”

“The problem with him,” Tom stated, “is that I don’t know enough about him to know if he was good or bad, or what happened afterward.”

After a short pause, Jeremy said, “Well, when I think of assassinations I usually think of some Third World dictator who is killed and replaced by an equally bad – or worse – dictator.”

“Exactly.” Tom pounded the table. “I admit, I don’t know the whole history of assassination, but I have the feeling that the results are negative or ineffective at best.”

With a grin, Jeremy said, “It’s fortunate for us then that all wanna-be assassins will rationally look at the matter.”

Using his coffee cup, Tom toasted, “To rational assassins.”

Jeremy returned the toast with his empty hand. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

A couple minutes later, Jeremy returned with his own coffee. “Where were we? Oh, yes.” Lifting his cup he said, “To rational assassins.”

Once Tom had returned the toast, Jeremy asked, “What brought this cheerful topic up?”

“Have you seen Death of a President?”

“I have the book – haven’t read it though. They made a movie of it?”

Tom furrowed his brow. “There was a book?”

“Yeah, by, um, William Manchester I think.”

“Oh, the Kennedy assassination.”

Jeremy nodded. “Right.”

“Oh, no, no, no. This is completely different. It’s a fake documentary about the assassination of Bush.”

“Oh, it came out a couple of years ago, right?”

“Something like that.”

“There was controversy around it, wasn’t there?”

Tom shrugged. “I think if you were a conservative talk show host, you had to find something wrong with it.

“Anyway,” Tom went on, “the reason I was thinking about it was because the date of the assassination was October 19, 2007.”

“That’s Friday.”

“Exactly. I watched it about a year ago, so I’m a bit fuzzy on all the details, but I’m sure there’s a scene where these crowds who were protesting Bush break out in cheers when they’re told he’s dead.”

“Well,” Jeremy straightened up and with a lifted nose and snobby voice said, “everybody knows the only reason the world and Al-Qaeda hate us is because Bush is president. If he was gone, Osama would put away his AK and become a poppy farmer.”

“Naturally.” Tom rolled his eyes. “But, to tie everything together, did you hear about the demonstration on Saturday to get Bush and Cheney impeached.”

“Yeah, I got a flier about that. There’s no way they will be an impeachment trial in an election year.”

“Exactly. And that’s what got me to thinking. There are people out there who so strongly want Bush out of office that when they finally realize he won’t be impeached, they may try another method to be rid of him.”

Jeremy scratched his beard. “What would be the results of a Bush assassination?”

“I don’t know. I’m not so foolish as to think his death would solve every problem America faces – it would probably only make more. Would President Cheney start a war with Iran, for example?”

After a few seconds of thought, Jeremy stated, “Well, I’m glad to see you are not an assassin. You would actually think through your actions and the consequences instead of just wanting immortality at the pull of a trigger.”

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

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October 21, 2007

I don’t have a story for this week. The main reason, I was lazy. I might as well be honest.

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October 28, 2007

Buying Time

John bounced on the balls of his feet as the elderly man before him in line told the clerk his life story. Looking behind the clerk, John saw the sign stating, “You MUST be over 21 to buy time,” and just shook his head.

Finally, the old man finished, and John went up to the counter. “A pack of 24.”

The clerk took a key chain from his pocket and opened a small safe. He reached in and took out a small cardboard box about the size of a dollar coin. Setting it on the counter top he asked, “Do you want a bag?”

John shook his head and handed the clerk his credit card.

As John signed the receipt, the clerk said, “I know it’s none of my business, but you should take it easy. You’re in here everyday, and you’re starting to look like hell.”

John grabbed his purchase and left the store.

* * *

Once the door of his apartment was locked, John took off his shoes and work clothes. In his underwear he sat down at his kitchen table and ripped open the pack of 24. It was the standard medicine pack with five rows of five little plastic bubbles. The center one was empty, but each of the others contained a grain of sand.

Some wannabe Indiana Jones had managed to steal a large quantity of sand from Father Time’s hourglass. Ingesting a single grain gave you an extra hour of time. You were only supposed to take one – or at most two – a day, but John figured those guidelines were for wussies.

The grains were so small that it took John a few minutes to get them all out and in a small pile. Pinching them between his fingers, he lifted them above his head and let them drop into his mouth. There was a moment where it felt as if he had been turned inside out, but it quickly passed.

John sat silently for a few seconds smiling. He now had a day off from work. There was only one thing to do. Taking out his cell phone he quickly ordered a large pepperoni.

By the time it arrived he was half-way through Level 14. Having to pause the game annoyed him more than having to find his pants.

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

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November 4, 2007


As I write this, the 2008 elections have been going on for about a year now, which means we are one year away from the actual elections. (The sad thing is, that’s not a joke.) In the next year, the candidates will be making many trips to the state of Pennsylvania, and many of those will be to the Philadelphia area, which isn’t far from where I live. However, I doubt I will ever get to any Q&A session with them because of the general inconvenience of getting to any of those things, and the fact that I’m not one for crowds. But I do have questions I would like to see them answer, mainly to see if they actually do answer them or if they just turn around, bend over and talk out their ass hoping nobody notices. So I’ve written a few of them down, and if anyone reading this ever has a chance to ask the candidates a question, I would be honored if you used one of mine. The first four deal with – what I believe to be – various failures of our government. The last is just something to see if they can be honest with themselves, and us.

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November 11, 2007

This is my story to mark the first ever Great American God-Out.

Beauty and Wonder

Since the main point of their relationship was sex, Michelle and David’s religious differences rarely mattered. But one Friday night, as they lay in bed, Michelle said, “Something I’ve been thinking these last few days, it must be dreary being an atheist.”

Chuckling, David asked, “What?”

“You know, not believing in anything and always going up against God.”

“Oh,” David said rubbing her back. “You just don’t know the glory and majesty of the godless universe.”

Propping herself up on her elbow, Michelle looked at David and said, “Tell me then.”

David closed his eyes and laid his head back upon the pillow. After a few seconds he said, “On a clear, moonless night, get as far away from the city as you can. Get out into the country and find a field where you can see most of the sky. And look up.”

When David did not continue immediately, Michelle prompted him with, “That’s it?”

“Well, I’m trying to figure out how to explain the experience in words.” After a few seconds he said, “Looking up at thousands … millions of stars and knowing there are billions of galaxies spread over the unimaginable greatness of the universe, it makes you feel small, insignificant, humble. But it also makes you feel unique and precious, because in all the vastness of space, not on any of the trillions of planets or the billions of alien species out there … or even the billions of people here on his planet – there is no one else like you.” Lifting his head slightly, David kissed Michelle on the tip of her nose.

Michelle frowned and asked, “Doesn’t that just show the majesty of God, that He could make something like the universe?”

“That’s what people used to say about lightning, floods, earthquakes, locusts; anything that couldn’t be immediately explained was the work of some god. But after thousands of years of observation and study we humans have managed to explain such things, while the angry river gods who caused floods have faded into dust. Now we’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding of the universe, but with our track record,” David shrugged, “give us a million years or so and we will work wonders.”

Smiling, Michelle replied, “That’s nice and all, but what about things like morality? Where does that come from?”

David sighed. “Morality is an invention of humans. And as such, it changes over time. A few centuries ago it was perfectly and morality acceptable to own slaves, treat women as property, beat your kids and then take them to a public execution. It really wasn’t that long ago – in fact there are a few places today where it could still happen – we would be stoned to death for what we just did. Now, there are those who would use the fact that we will not be stoned as proof that our society is becoming immoral, but I counter it as proof that our species is becoming more civilized, evolving past the barbaric ‘morality’ of ages past.”

After a few seconds, Michelle asked, “So, do you just ignore stuff like the Bible?”

“No, but despite what those wacky fundamentalists want you to think, there is far more in the world than just the Bible, or the Koran, or the Torah, or any of the other thousand or so holy books people have written over the millennia.” David sat up and said, “Before, you said atheists don’t believe in anything. I disagree. I believe in the universe, and the simple truth is that there is far more beauty and wonder out there than can be found within any holy book.”

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

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November 18, 2007

Bland New World

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

As Tom set his cup of coffee on the table in the bookstore café, Jeremy told him, “I have bad news for you.”

Tom paused in taking off his coat to ask a worried, “Oh?”

“You’re going to have to divorce Helen.”

Smiling at the joke he knew was coming, Tom sat down and asked, “Why?”

In response, Jeremy only handed him a sheet of paper.

Tom took it and saw it was copied from a newspaper. There were three or four odd little stories newspapers use to fill out a page, and one of them was circled. Its headline was, “Blondes may make men dumb.” In a few paragraphs it was explained that a study had been done where groups of men were shown different pictures of women. The group of men shown the blonde women later performed lower on tests then the other groups. The researchers theorized that men unconsciously “dumb themselves down” when dealing with the perceived “dumb blondes.”

When Tom finished reading, he looked up to see Jeremy with a wide grin. Setting the paper down on the table Tom tapped it a few times then said, “I think I’ll wait until after Thanksgiving to show her that.”

“Why?” Jeremy asked. “You should spread the joy. ‘Tis the season.”

“Yeah, no,” Tom replied, shaking his head. “Helen’s parents are coming this year and we’ve spent the past week cleaning and moving and scrubbing and more cleaning and…” Tom sighed. “You know,” he said after a few seconds, “I never realized before how much I appreciate my job for getting me out of the house.”

Tapping the paper, Jeremy said, “I just copied that for you because I thought it was funny. If being shown a picture of a blonde makes a man act dumb, what does living with one do? But now I see that maybe you should divorce her.”

Tom rolled his eyes. “And be like you?”

Jeremy swelled his chest. “The many, the pissed off,” he thumped the table and finished, “the perpetually broke.”

Both laughed for several moments.

“That’s it,” Tom finally said, tapping the paper.

“Of course it is,” Jeremy said with a puzzled look. “What is it?”

“This reminded me of something, and I just remembered what. About, a week-and-a-half or two weeks ago, I read that students with names beginning with A’s did better than students with names beginning with C’s or D’s.”

Jeremy raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Apparently, people like their own names, and prefer the letters of their initials to other letters.”

“I don’t think I have a … favorite … letter,” Jeremy stated.

“I don’t think I do either,” Tom replied. “But, apparently kids whose name begins with a C isn’t as bothered getting a C for a grade, and so doesn’t work harder. At least, that’s what I gathered from the article, it was like this,” Tom pointed at the paper, “about four paragraphs. So, Anthony Adams should be a grade A student.”

“And an alcoholic.”

Tom smirked. “Every rose has its thorn.”

Jeremy tugged his beard. “I knew an Anthony in high school. He was as dumb as a box of rocks.”

Tom shrugged. “It doesn’t work all the time, I guess. People probably called him Tony.”

“People with names beginning with T’s are probably terrible.” Jeremy gave a wide, toothy grin.


“See,” Jeremy stated, “it works.”

Tom shook his head and sipped his coffee. “Anyway, where I was going with this, is for my classic book club, which you should join…”

“I have too much to read as it is.”

“…we just read Brave New World.”

Jeremy nodded. “Very good choice.”

“Which is why you should have gone to the meeting.”

Jeremy waved his hand dismissing the argument they had had several times.

“Anyway, part of Brave New World is all the conditioning, the ‘I’m glad I’m not an Alpha, they think too much,’ crap. But I was thinking with that initials study, and now this blonde study, all that crazy conditioning we thought was just science fiction … it’s already here.”

“Well,” Jeremy drew out the word, “one thing we humans are good at is finding patterns, even where none exist.”

Tom furrowed his brow. “Wait, did you just say something that was … optimistic?”


“Yes,” Tom pointed at his friend. “You gave a glimmer of hope that our lives aren’t controlled by such mundane minutiae.”

Jeremy sat for a few seconds before slapping himself. “Stop that.”

“You’re an optimist.”

“No,” Jeremy thumped the table with his fist. “I’m a crotchety old bastard, damn it. Ah ha.” He pointed at Tom. “Our lives may not be controlled by ‘mundane minutiae,’ a nice phrase by the way…”

“Thank you.”

“…but people are stupid. Parents will read that report and get all in a tizzy and in a few years we’ll be flooded with Adams’ and … and Agathas.”


“I couldn’t think of a girl’s A name.”

“Alice,” Tom supplied. “Abigail. Amy. Angel. I went to high school with an Angel.”

“Was she angelic?”

“Actually, she was a bit of a slut.”

“Really? Do you still have her number?”

Tom rolled his eyes. “But you’re right. People will name their kids with an A name hoping that is all it will take for them to succeed. And everyone will have dark hair because it’s only a matter of time before some school is sued because Johnny failed English because there’s a blonde sitting next to him.”

“Ah,” Jeremy sighed. “O bland new world.”

“That has such people in’t!”

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

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November 25, 2007

Lost in MySpace

One night as Joe watched the evening news, he had an idea. What if, he wondered, a significant percentage of the world’s population took to the streets on the same day protesting for better governments? He had images of tens, even hundreds of million people in Washington D.C., Moscow, Beijing, Khartoum, Tehran, Jerusalem, Pyongyang, Caracas, and dozens of other cities asking for more from their so-called leaders. In the United States people could demand the politicians stop using every problem in the country as an opportunity to bash the other party, and to actually work on solving problems. Of course in other countries the people would just be demanding more basic freedoms, like the ability to protest their government without retribution.

Joe thought it was a great idea, but what day would be best for this mass demonstration? He figured it would have to be sometime during the week, just for a greater impact, but also so it would not impinging upon various Sabbaths. It couldn’t be in the summer, or the winter. For awhile, he debated whether it would be better to have it in the spring or fall, but then thought, Why not both? If it actually called attention to the problems the world’s population face, then doing it twice a year would be twice as good. He finally settled on the first Wednesdays of April and September for the World-Wide Protests for Better Government.

Now Joe knew that he was only an idea man, he could come up with the idea, but he had no way of making it happen. So, in hopes of spreading the word, he sent out a bulletin to his hundreds of friends on MySpace, hoping some of them would spread the word and maybe the people who could set something like this up would hear of his idea. Joe didn’t even care if he was given recognition for it; he just wanted to see millions of people marching for a common cause.

What happened?

Person A – has over a thousand MySpace friends and receives hundreds of bulletins each day. They never saw Joe’s.
Person B – never checks the bulletins.
Person C – saw the bulletin, but the subject line didn’t strike them as interesting so they passed over it.
Person D – read the bulletin, thought it was a great idea, but later forgot about it as they searched for more reaction videos to “Two girls one cup.”
Person E – read the bulletin, forwarded it to their friends, and figured that was enough of a contribution.
Person F – read the bulletin, thought it was a great idea, but was already planning a major anti-war protest for the end of March and didn’t think they had the time to plan another protest. They hoped somebody else would do it though.
Person G – etc., etc.


And so, like so many other ideas – both good and bad – Joe’s became lost in the morass of MySpace.

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

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December 2, 2007

The Truth Points to Itself

There were a few flakes of snow in the evening sky as John left the theater. He would start the car and let it warm up before picking up his wife and daughter. As he walked, his favorite parts of the movie replayed in his head and he compared them to what he remembered from the book. He had to agree with his wife’s assessment of, “The book was better.” John almost walked past the small group but he stopped in his tracks when he saw one was holding a sign reading, “The Golden Compass leads only to Hell!”

One of the group, an old man wearing a thick winter coat and scarf, saw John and asked, “Would you care to join us?”

John replied more to the sign than the man. “Why?”

“We’re here to boycott this vile film of Satan and bring the true word of God to the people.”

John shook his head. “No, I mean, why are you doing this?”

Another member of the group, possibly the man’s wife, said, “This film is an insult to Catholics and is part of Satan’s plot to lure children away from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

After a momentary pause, John said, “So, you see a jack-booted organization bent on ruling everything with an iron fist and go,” John snapped his fingers, “that’s the Catholic Church. You’re the ones insulting the church by insisting upon the connection.”

The old man glanced at the others in the group before asking John, “I mean no disrespect, Sir, but are you a Christian?”

John shrugged. “If anything, I’m agnostic.”

“Do you have children?” the wife asked.

“Yes, a daughter. My wife and I just took her to see this movie, just like we took her to see Narnia two years ago.”

The wife almost sneered, “Have you let her read the books?”

“She’s still a little young, but in a few years, yes. In fact, as a parent I’m more concerned with her reading the Narnia books. If I remember correctly, in the last book one of the kids says something along the lines of, ‘What, you mean we’re dead? Jolly good.’ What kind of message does that send to kids?”

“Such concern,” the wife snapped, “from a parent so caviler about their child’s everlasting soul.”

Deep down John believed that people should be allowed to believe as they wish, but this group was starting to make him angry. “Well I, apparently unlike Catholic parents, have no intention of raising my daughter in a bubble. Yes, there are bad things in the world, but she will have to learn to live with them. Maybe, if you didn’t waste so much time trying to control how other people raise their kids, you could spend more time with your own. And they probably need to spend time with you since you fear their faith is so fragile – as if built upon sand – that it will shatter at the tiniest tremble.”

Before any of the group could respond, John held up his hand. “My family is waiting, so I’m going to go spend time with them. You can stay out here and freeze. Happy Holidays.”

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

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December 9, 2007

A Stream of Subtle Spectres

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

With a wide smile, Tom sat down across from his writing partner Jeremy. “I’ll have my usual, if you please.”

Jeremy sighed. “I’m not sure you truly won our little bet.”

Tom shrugged. “That may be true, but you definitely lost; The Golden Compass was not the smashing blockbuster you predicted.”

“Regrettably. But if I lost does that mean you won?”


“But you bet all the controversy would harm the movie. What do you have supporting that conclusion?”

“Well,” Tom thought for a second. “It wasn’t a smash blockbuster.”

“There are other explanations.”

Resting his arms on the table, Tom leaned forward. “Are you going to buy me my coffee, or are you going to weasel your way out of our bet?”

Without hesitation Jeremy replied, “Weasel, of course.” After a short chuckle, he stood and returned a minute later with two coffees and several packs of sugar and creamers.

Once his coffee was to his liking, Tom sat back and with a wave of his hand said, “Weasel away.”

“In the past week,” Jeremy began, “I have read numerous reviews comparing The Golden Compass to The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia franchises. But there is a big difference.”

“Which is?”

“Time. The Lord of the Rings has been around for fifty years and Narnia almost as long. That’s been enough time for people who grew up loving the books to pass them on to their children, grandchildren even. So when the movie comes along, there is a huge existing fan base. His Dark Materials – the whole trilogy – hasn’t even been out for a decade.”

“That may be true,” Tom interrupted, “but how does your argument stand up to Harry Potter?”

Jeremy sipped his coffee. “It only took five minutes for Harry Potter to equal the fan base it took The Lord of the Rings fifty years to build. And it wise of them to start the movies when they did. Strike while the iron’s hot. If they had waited another five, or ten years to make the movies they would still have done well, but maybe not as big.”

“So you think they should have waited another ten or twenty years before making The Golden Compass?”

“Yes.” Then, in after thought, Jeremy thumped the table with his fist.

Tom smiled. “So it wasn’t any controversy, but just that it isn’t as well known that hurt the movie.”

“Exactly. Years ago, before any of the movies came out, if anyone had said,” Jeremy hissed, “‘My precious,’ most people would have known what you were talking about. But if you had mentioned an alethiometer, most people would have gone, ‘Huh?’”

“Most people will do that now, even after the movie is out.”

Jeremy raised an eyebrow. “A little salt for my wound?”

“I’ve been hanging out with you too much.”

Jeremy shook his hand to concede the point. “For movies like this it really helps if a lot of people know of the story. I mean … damn it. I remembered the song this morning but it’s slipped my mind now. But there’s even a classic rock song with the line, ‘T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor.’”

“Oh,” Tom tapped his temple. “I know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, you see The Lord of the Rings is part of the collective consciousness of our society which was a vast leg-up for the movies. Not so with His Dark Materials. So, you’re right; my conclusion – going back to our bet – is that not enough people knowing the story is the real reason it wasn’t the smash blockbuster it should have been.”

“Of course.” Tom smiled. “So, shall we bet on I Am Legend?”

“Smash hit,” Jeremy replied. “But not because people know the story, but because it’s an action movie. Action movies fall into a different category.”

Tom nodded. “Well, I’m going to go out on a limb, and bet that Fred Claus makes a surprise turn-around and hits number 1.”

Some of the coffee that Jeremy had been drinking as Tom said that, ended up coming out his nose. Once he managed to compose himself he said only, “Risky.”

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

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December 16, 2007

I’ll Vote What He’s Voting

As Joe sat at his desk trying to look busy, he heard someone tap on his cubical wall. He turned to see Dave standing behind him. “Have you heard? X endorsed Y for President.”

When Joe heard the words, “Have you heard?” he expected what followed to be the untimely death of some beloved personality or other momentous occasion. It took a second or two for the unimportance of what Dave had said to trickle though. “So?”

Dave frowned. “What do you mean, ‘So?’”

Joe shrugged. “Who cares what X thinks?”

“But don’t you see,” Dave explained, “X’s endorsement gives Y a much better chance in the election.”

“But why? X still only gets one vote come November. Are you saying that millions of people will now vote for Y just because of X’s endorsement? Are Americans such mindless sheep?” Before Dave could respond, Joe held up a hand and said, “Don’t answer that.”

Dave sighed. “People aren’t going to vote for Y because X tells them to, but people do trust X’s judgment. At best, the endorsement will only make people unsure of Y give them another chance.”

After a few moments of thought Joe replied, “So instead of Y just being a better candidate and earning these votes honestly they … what, get better people to do it for them?”

After a few seconds Dave said, “I guess you’re just a political cynic.”

Pounding his fist on the desk answered, “Damn straight. Nothing related to politicians is to be trusted. Look at … look at the annoying signs people put in their yards. Is telling strangers who you’re voting for so important as to clog our landfills? My theory as to why they are out there is, if while driving down the road you see 800,000 signs for ‘Z,’ you’ll go, ‘Wow, a lot of people like this guy. That many people can’t be wrong. I’ll have to give him another chance.’ They’ll use anything to con people into voting for them. It’s the worst aspect of advertising. What I really want is a yard sign reading, ‘Somebody better than the schmucks that are running!’ Where can I get a sign like that?”

Dave, now standing a step or two back, said, “I really hit a nerve, didn’t I?”

Joe took a deep breath. “In November, when I’m in the voting booth, my vote won’t be decided by some newspaper I don’t read or an actor I haven’t seen in a movie for five years. I will vote for the schmuck I hope will screw things up the least. If more people voted that way, maybe there wouldn’t be as much stuff screwed up.”

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

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December 23, 2007

Worth Fighting For?

In a flurry of giggles and bright faces, the children gathered around the old man and cried, “Grandpa, grandpa, tell us again what you did in the war.”

The old man smiled and sat back. “Are you sure? You’ve all heard it before.”

“Yes, yes. Please, please.”

“Alright. When I was about your age, there were these atheists and freethinkers who wanted to destroy Christmas by turning it into a non-holiday. They won the first few battles, but then people like your old grandpa began fighting back. Every time they filed a lawsuit, we filed two or three back at them. If they put up some stupid freethinking tree, we’d plant a forest of God-fearing Christmas Trees. They’d write books explaining their,” the old man sneered the word, “‘beliefs,’ and we wouldn’t read them. We would write our own books, mocking them and calling them names and we’d make millions.”

The old man had nearly risen out of his chair at the end of his tirade, but he sat back and looked at the glowing faces of the children. “In the end, we beat their godless little butts through sheer numbers. And it was all so you kids today can celebrate Christmas the way Jesus intended; by propping up foreign economies by buying tons of cheap, worthless crap.” The children exploded in cheers.

“Now, why don’t you kids waddle into the kitchen and get yourselves a nice handful of Madam Wong’s Special Christmas Cookies, and grab me a cup of MegaMart Brand Eggnog, and I’ll put on the obligatory Christmas album of the same tired old songs just sung by different people, volume 47. Then we can all gather around the MegaMart Brand Christmas Tree, the best Christmas Trees in the land, and you can all open your 877 presents, all of which require no less than six C-sized batteries which you’ll burn through faster than the Christmas Blend Coffee at Gertrude’s passes through me, not that it really matters because you will only play with the thing for five minutes before you get bored and never touch it again. In fact it may even get lost in the ton of wrapping paper we’ll be throwing away today and you’ll cry and cry and cry and we’ll have to buy you a new one at MegaMart, although you’ll loose interest in that one just as fast.”

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

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A Consume-en masse present

Impossible Mission

Mike walked into the theater and was sad to see he was the only one there. He sighed, then stood up straight and went to the middle of the theater. Trying to ignore the annoying preview ads, he settled down in his seat and waited for the movie.

A few minutes later, a woman entered the theater. She and Mike looked at each other and both seemed shocked at the other’s presence. The woman smiled and picked a seat one row ahead and a few seats over from Mike. “Must be a sold-out show,” she said.

Mike chuckled. “Apparently.”

“Are you a huge fan of the books?”

“I just started reading them. You?”

The woman squirmed slightly in her seat. “Oh, huge fan. I’ve read the entire trilogy four times. And this is the fifth time I’ve seen the movie.”

“Wow.” Mike paused almost out of embarrassment, before adding, “This will only be my second.”

For a few seconds it seemed neither could think of anything else to say. But then Mike asked, “Are you hoping your ticket sales will convince the studio to continue with the movies?”

The woman sighed. “If only it were that simple. It’s a wonderful story that a lot of people would enjoy if they only gave it a chance.” Mike could only nod his head at that. “Is that why you’re here?” she asked.

“Well,” Mike said with a shrug, “I guess you could say I’m embarking upon an impossible mission.”


Mike continued, “I’m trying to save those who don’t think they need saved and don’t want my help.”

The woman furrowed her brow. “You’ve lost me.”

“The Catholic League,” Mike explained, “and similar types. They don’t realize that their boycott of a film that ‘offends their religion’ puts them – not on the same page – but in the same book as those nutcases in Sudan who wanted to kill that teacher because she ‘offended their religion’ by naming a teddy bear Mohammed.”

The woman started to nod, but said, “You’ve still lost me.”

Mike leaned forward. “If the studio decides to not make the sequels on purely financial reasons, the Catholic League and others will declare victory and dance in the streets. This will only embolden them. ‘What, this movie shows un-married people having sex? Boycott it! What, this movie shows people smoking? Boycott it! What, this movie doesn’t make the Catholic Church out to be as perfect as we think it is? Boycott it!’”

After a short pause, Mike went on. “I’m watching this movie now in the hope it will help the studio decide to take the risk and continue with the series. Their choices are to either do that or accept being held hostage by religious zealots. My impossible mission – which I have accepted – is to try to deny those zealots a victory in hopes it will save them from fanaticism and their own, bloated, self-importance.”

For several seconds the woman just stared at Mike with a raised eyebrow. Then she smiled and held out her hand. “I’m April.”


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

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