“Cyclops” – a short story by: mOUNTbRENDON

There is a variety of people gathered, sitting around a somewhat long, maybe medium-sized wooden table. The room is your average room; one with pasty white walls and a few paintings hanging, well spaced seemingly at random. Everyone sitting around the table is nicely dressed. Some of the men in suits, some in just well ironed slacks and a nicely patterned tie. All of them have very fancy hair styles and only two are wearing glasses, one rather business like, the other with very wide frames that are striped with brown and black. Are you bored yet?

The women are all very good looking, depending on your definition of good or not and if you are in to making that sort of distinction. The point is, all of the women are wearing their cute business-like skirts and their best jewelry. Because that is what makes a woman good looking. Just kidding, they are all attractive in their very own unique way; a way that is making me think how this story would be better told from a woman’s point of view, but you are stuck with me as your narrator. A man.

Don is the name of one of the men. He is in his mid to late twenties and is the one with the large framed glasses. Wait, no. He is the one sitting next to the guy with the long framed glasses. But that guy is not important for now. For now, it is Don who is of the importance. Don is listening to the guy at the end of the table, the only one standing. At least that is what everyone else thinks, and anyone who would be discretely watching who has nothing to do with narrating this story. I know better, because I am your narrator and I have the specially unfortunate privilege of peering into Don’s head, which is currently thinking about how badly he needs to fart. And I know what you’re thinking, reader. “Awh, this is going to just be a stupid story about farts. That’s why he (the narrator, aka me) made it such a big deal about him being of the male sex.” Well, reader, I am happy to inform you that this story is not at all about farts, though it contains one small, fart-based instance.

Don sits, paying attention with only his face to the bald, standing boss man, but in his mind, Don is thinking about his stomach and how it is pushing some sort of natural methane based gassy substance through his bowls and to the gates of his butt crack. It is beginning to send a physical pain to Don’s stomach, so he leans forward, as if he is suddenly experiencing a sharp spike in interest to what his boss is saying. He has absolutely no idea what his boss is saying, and his change in posture only worsens the gassy pain.

A loud, rubbery noise begins to whisper through the room. No one acknowledges it, but most certainly everyone hears it. The noise, however, then grows and is no longer rubbery and no longer a whisper. It is now a shout resounding that of a yelling goat, and everyone sitting around the table, even the guy with wide brimmed glasses is now looking directly at Don, who suddenly feels a thick liquid leak into his underwear. He can feel the red in his face and looks around the table at everyone, stopping to make eye contact with his boss. Completely and utterly ashamed.

“May I please be excused,” Don growls politely, possibly the only time in history someone has successfully achieved such a polite growl.

BUT, Don never actually farted. That part was all a part of his own imagination. He was able to contain his need to fart and then, realizing the absurdity of the situation his mind has just taken him, he lets slip a slight grin that no one seems to notice except for Shayla, who is sitting directly across the table from Don.

Shayla quickly looks back to the head of the table, frustrated that, yet again, she has accidentally made eye contact with Don, who she only knows to refer to as Don because of his name tag that says, “HELLO, MY NAME IS don.” It’s not like she has been staring at Don this entire time, which she is sure he thinks by now, it’s just a matter of sitting directly across from Don. He could be anyone and this same thing would probably happen, thanks to the simple matter of chance. She is not looking into Don’s eyes, she is repeatedly looking ahead of her at nothing in particular only to eventually realize that her eyes are aimed in the direction of Don’s own eyes. And now he’s going to want to come up and talk to Shayla after this meeting, which she has already missed the point of and has given up attempting to piece together.

She looks over at Don and his smirk is no longer there. He is looking ahead at the boss, who she can’t remember the name of. Don is now giving the occasional nod. But, she knows that the nodding is only an act. She looks at him, quickly examining him, his style, his face, his hair and realizes that if she were the kind of girl to intentionally flirt during a business meeting, she would find Don a very welcoming target. And so she imitates Don for the rest of the meeting, occasionally fake head nodding as if to really be getting some good information out of the rest of the meeting. Once, it finally ends, which she knows only due to her boss’ back now being turned and various people scooting their chairs back to stand up, she makes it a point to intentionally make some clearly-not-an-accident eye contact with Don, who is now fully standing up and stretching his hands above his head as if just waking up from a nap. Shayla finds this act very cute. He puts his hands back down and looks around the room, as if wondering what to do next. Boom. He makes eye contact with Shayla and she holds it, making sure not to be the first to look away, or even say something.

“Exciting meeting, huh,” Don says with a sudden sense of confidence. She knows that she and her not-so-subtle-but-still-slightly-subtle eye contact is the source of said confidence.

“I learned absolutely nothing,” she says softly and smiles. “It was about world poverty, right?” she jokes.

“If by poverty you mean boredom, then yes,” he says. He’s not terribly witty, she thinks, but she can tell he has a good heart. It’s his mannerisms and the tone of his voice. His joke was still enough to get a soft chuckle out of her, and the way he holds the door open for her as they continue their conversation to-go means that he is considerate. She’s been with plenty inconsiderate men. A change is needed.

They walk down the street and he eventually walks her all the way home.

“Well, this is me,” she says and motions up the steps.

“Oh, right,” he says caught off guard, but then he quickly regathers his composure. “I didn’t even realize I was walking you home,” he jokes.  “I had no intentions to walk over to this neighborhood, but I’m sure glad I did. It was really great talking to you.”

She smiles, more brightly than she has since she was a little girl blowing dandelions.

BUT none of this actually happened outside of Shayla’s own head. Don has remained motionless and has hardly even noticed the numerous accidental eye contacts between him and Shayla. She lets out a quiet sigh and turns back to the bald, standing boss at the head of the table.

The bald, standing boss is talking about the corporation that Shayla and Don have just recently been hired on to. The company is not important, but it’s a large corporation so feel free to boo out loud. Go ahead, it’ll start an interesting, not at all hostile conversation with your neighbor. Are you on a subway? A bus? A park bench? A library? Any of those should be a great place for such a conversation.

The bald, standing boss finishes his talk, knowing that only two, maybe three but probably more along the lines of two and a half people listened to any of the words that have been coming out of his mouth for the last half hour. In fact, he didn’t even get to the conclusion that he had written out before hand, because it was completely unnecessary. He probably could have just turned around and walked  out of the room mid sentence and no one would have known any difference. This is completely true and did not just happen in his head (in the contents of the story anyway. So it is just as true as his existence as a fictional character in a fictional story. That clear things up? You’re welcome.) The bald, now walking boss man makes his way to his office where he sits down and stares at the picture of his wife and two little girls on the shelf beside him. They depend on the success of this branch. In many ways, they depend on the success of the meeting he just had, which he knows was a complete failure. He leans back in his chair and thinks about the bottle of scotch he has hidden in the trunk of his car.

Let me just interrupt this story here. I didn’t want this to be a politically charged story about corporate America, but it’s really turning out that way thanks to the damn unnamed bald, now sitting, boss. I would really rather not write a depressing story. Not this time. So let us just either end the story here and save you, the reader, the time it will take to get to the predictable tragic ending, or we can interrupt the story entirely and I will narrate a hypothetical situation in which a fictional character, much different from Don, Shayla, wide brimmed glasses guy, and bald, standing boss, has a strange run in with an actual cyclops, only the cyclops turns out only to be a very tall man who lost his eye at a young age when he fell on a rusty nail.

“Woah,” Jerry thinks as he rounds the corner of the nature trail located in the heart of Seattle, Washington. There is a tall man walking towards him who is wearing a brown shirt that is slightly frayed at the shoulders. The man, as he grows closer is not a man at all, but rather a cyclops.

“Hello,” the cyclops says in a deep, friendly growl – okay, that’s enough paradoxical growls for one narrator. And no one, I’m sure wants to read this story, so I will just end it here. Good night.

The Milk Situation– A short story by: Charles Westerman

Here’s another short story I wrote for my fiction class.  It’s loosely (or not so loosely) based on a real-life saga I’ve experienced this year. Although most of the real action and events in the story are from my imagination.  Enjoy, and I’d love to hear your comments, both good and bad.

The Milk Situation 

            Linus Tinsbee had always been a curious character.  One time his mother, hearing what she said sounded like “a drunk mechanic” coming from the bathroom, opened the door to find Linus staring in wonder down at the ugly side of the family diet.

“Linus!” She squealed.  “Where the hell is the toilet?”

Without looking away, he pointed casually to the shower.  Ms. Tinsbee snapped open the curtain to find the porcelain thrown set neatly upright in the center of the tub.

She stared at the back of his unmoving head and thought she could balance a china plate on it without ever seeing it break.  Her own head she shook repeatedly and rubbed her forehead therapeutically with her thumb and index finger.  Then not so therapeutically, she knocked two fingertips methodically against it.  “Why, Linus???” She said with the same fluctuation and tone she always asked the trademark question.  It was a half whisper of amazement, and a half scream of incredulity.

He looked up at her like only a youngest child can, with big dumb puppy eyes, disguising the genius in them perfectly, “I just always wanted to know where it went.”  He explained with an innocent half shrug of the shoulders. Then he stepped back and looked at the hole again crossing his arms.  “I mean, you’ve got to admit, it’s pretty cool.”

Ms. Tinsbee unsuccessfully tried to keep her anger.  “Oh Linus…” she sighed with little chuckle at the end.

Though Linus had a few stories in his file like this one, more often than not his curiosity was of the more beneficial sort. His classmates never had to know the definitions of their vocabulary words because Linus’ curiosity, combined with his passion for language, meant he had read the entire dictionary three times by the time he was thirteen.  His mother never had to come in at three in the morning to check for monsters in his closet, because Linus investigated the situation himself, the kitchen cleaver duck taped to the end of his hockey stick just in case the situation got sticky.

But no situation got stickier for Linus than the milk situation.  Yes, Linus had a milk situation.  Actually, his neighbors had a milk situation, but that made it Linus’ situation too.  See as Linus grew up, and entered his junior year at state school, he was faced with the excitement and challenge of living off campus.  He had moved into one of the many complexes that made up, as the students had come to dub it; “Apartmentland.”  Life in Apartmentland was good.  He had a washer/dryer in his unit, two functional roommates, and even a deck where he could explore one of his finest curiosities: grilled meat.

Actually Linus couldn’t bring himself to call it a deck.  It was more like a walkway that was just big enough to host a grill without being in anyone’s way.  His neighbors often walked to and fro past a grilling Linus, deep in curious focus.  He loved studying the art of the marinade, trying to gage the mystery of what the meat looked like on the inside, then cutting it open to see that perfect soft pink glow in the center.

At least Linus loved grilling before the milk situation came about.  His neighbors, well his neighbors had a way of pricking Linus’ curiosity in a subtly disagreeable way no one ever had.  He couldn’t really figure out why the milk situation got his nose sniffing so much, but it did.  The situation was this: his neighbors, members of the university swim team, were always leaving nearly full gallons of milk out on their deck/hallway, which Linus had to see every time he left his house, went out to smoke a cigarette, or fired up the grill.   The first time it happened, the gallon was nine tenths empty and Linus didn’t think he minded the new mystery even after it had been there a week.  But slowly, steadily, daily it started to annoy him.

After the situation hit the two-week mark, during which they had set out another gallon—this time two-thirds empty– Linus was beside himself.  He and his neighbors had never made it much further in their conversation past ‘hello,’ so he didn’t really know how to approach them on the subject.  Nevertheless, he found himself doing so the next time one of them—the pretty one– walked past as he was having his sunrise cigarette.

“Morning!” Linus said in his curious friendly way. “Nice day isn’t it?”  It wasn’t, particularly.

“Yeah I guess.”  She said with a sour expression, an expression that Linus had come to know as ‘the usual.’  Then Linus tried with great effort to stop the next words out of his mouth, but his curiosity could be contained no longer.

“Are you guys doing some kind of experiment?”

The pretty swimmer looked like she was trying to crap a lemon.  “An experiment?”

“With your little milk situation over there.”

“Milk situation?”

“Yeah.  That leftover gallon of milk you guys have sitting out.”

“Oh… no.”

“Well are you ever gonna throw it away???” Linus said, trying his best to remain casual.

“I don’t know… does it bug you?”

“No!” Linus lied. “I was just… curious.”

“You seem pretty worked up about it.”

“Well I just don’t understand it.  I mean, you walk right by the milk everyday.  Then you walk right by the dumpster on the way to class. Why not just throw the milk away?”

“I don’t know.  We just, don’t.  Couldn’t you just throw it away if it bothers you that much?”

“It doesn’t bother me! I just don’t understand it.”  He couldn’t tell if she was playing some kind of weird joke on him he didn’t understand, or if she honestly was so lazy and indifferent that she simply didn’t realize that real adults throw their trash away. Linus had considered throwing it away himself, but could never bring himself to do it in the name of his belief in personal responsibility.  A few days later, the gallons were gone, and Linus figured his little confrontation had been successful.

Then, fours days later as he came up the steps with a six-pack and the smell of a long day, it was back.  This time, the gallon was almost completely full.  It was like they poured one glass and then just decided to waste the rest.  “What are you seven years old?”  He said to the vacant deck, then he shook his head, and went inside trying to tell himself he wasn’t going to let it bug him anymore.  “Whatever! It’s their deck.  This is America.  It’s none of my business.”  But he didn’t believe that.   It was his business.  He had to look at it and live with it.  And so the episode turned into a series.  The gallons would sit out anywhere from 1-3 weeks.  One time it was a full month.

Linus began talking about it so much that his friends even became acquainted with the saga.  “How’s the milk situation coming Linus?”  Pete asked one day when Linus happened to be particularly irked about it.  “About the same.  I’m about ready to craigslist a dairy cow, park it on their deck and tie a string from its tail to the door so when they open it they’ll get kicked in the face.”

“Or… you could just pour the milk out on there deck.”  Pete said deviously. Linus had had this fantasy many times before.  Imagining the chunks come down on the wood planks like little spoiled gavels of justice.  But he had never indulged his milk-lust because his beliefs about personal responsibility.  However, with everyday the dairy spoiled his mood, this belief lost a little of its power.  He tried to tell himself he was a bigger and better person than his neighbors, and that his restraint proved that.

But one fateful night, after Linus had thrown back a couple gin n’ tonics, and his beautiful neighbor walked past him again with that ever present expression of curdled incredulity, he decided to avenge his curiosity.  He walked casually over to the milk, plucked a knife out of his back pocket, and stabbed the bottom of the gallon with the force of a semester of resentment. It gushed out onto the deck, accompanied by a scent that reminded Linus of the time he removed the toilet in his bathroom to see what was below.

The neighbors never even tried to clean it up. But Linus smiled a bit that next week every time he watched one of them come outside and crinkle their nose in irritation.  The next week, Linus left a bottle of red wine where the gallon of milk usually sat.  And the milk situation, became a situation no longer.

Barry Fitzsimmons– A short story by Charles Westerman

In my creative writing fiction class we did an exercise where we picked one of a variety of prompts to start a short story.  I picked the prompt that said to write a story about a man at a lousy parent’s deathbed.  Below is what I came up with.  Hope you enjoy it.  

It had been ten years since Barry Fitzsimmons had last seen his mother—two since he’d learned she’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  He’d been checking in with his half-sister Karen once a month, wanting to know the answer to a single question, “does she still remember me?”

“Yes Barry.  She always asks why you never visit, but–”

“I’ll check back with you next month.” Click. 

            Yes, Barry Fitzsimmons might be the only person in the history of the world that was glad to hear his mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Of course, only Barry and his five half-sisters knew what it was like to have Maggie Fitzsimmons-Newton-Nugent-Young-Williams-Rukeyser for a mother – although she usually just went by Maggie Fitzsimmons for short—much to Barry’s chagrin.

It wasn’t that he planned on never going to see her—he just wanted to wait until she couldn’t remember who he was—because then, and only then, could he have any chance of forgetting who she had been.  And Maggie Fitzsimmons had been a lot of things; awful things.  Sure she hugged Barry.  She hugged him right after one of her six ex-husband’s knocked on his face like a policeman with a warrant knocks on a door.  And sure she spent time with him.  She took the time to weep in his arms when those same ex-husbands went to jail, went to bed with another woman, to a rehab facility, or even one-time, left a note saying he had joined the circus.

“Ma, what do you expect when you fall for a guy you ran into on the street riding a unicycle juggling mangoes?”

“I’ve fallen for so many jerks, I just thought a nice guy like Quincy would last.”

“Ma!  Marrying a complete idiot is no better than marrying a complete jerk… In fact, it’s almost worse.  Nugent may have been an abusive alcoholic, but at least he was a functional alcoholic who brought home a fat paycheck.”

And so, Maggie went back to marrying jerks.  It wasn’t the way Barry intended his advice to be taken.  By the time Maggie told him she was going to marry Adolph Rukeyser, he’d had enough.  At first he begged her not to do it.  “I love you too much to see you get hurt again, Ma.”  But she hardly heard him, just continued reading her Cosmopolitan magazine.  That one time they came out with that issue about “how to blow his mind in bed.” So finally, he gave her an ultimatum; “if this guy ends up leaving you, I’ll be right on his heels out the door… Ma? Ma! Did you hear me?”

“Good Lord Barry!  What?”

“If this guy leaves you I’m leaving with him.  So if you’re going to tie the knot again, you’d better make sure this time it’s not around your throat.”

The wedding bells a month later sounded more to Barry like a funeral march, or Darth Vader’s theme song.  “Adolph Rukeyser…” he said to himself splashing cold water on his face as he looked at himself in the mirror of a foolish cathedral bathroom before the ceremony began.  “The guy sounds like an SS Officer.”

It turns out, Hans Rukeyser, Adolph’s grandfather, had in fact, been one of Hitler’s cronies.  Pretty high up in the ranks actually.  Adolph himself was not a Nazi.  But his genetic heritage still made him one mean son-of-a-bitch.  His relationship with Maggie ended when he drove his Volkswagen Jetta through their house in a drunken rage because he didn’t like the new carpet she had installed in the living room as a special surprise for him when he got back from one of his business trips.

And so Barry left.  Over the next 30 years he made it on his own with the talent of survival he could have only inherited from his mother.  She may have had issues, but Maggie Fitzsimmons had always shown him how to do that.  He’d survived and found a wife that was nothing like her.  He would be survived by four happy kids that grew up nothing like him.  And he’d survived community college and state school to make a successful career for himself as a marital counselor; he found out he’d had a lot of practice growing up.  In a way, he owed almost all his happiness to the mother of all his pain.

Then the day Barry had been waiting for finally came.  He was playing catch with his second child– a son he named Nugent—when his phone shook like an earthquake in his pocket, and Karen’s name flashed on the screen.

“Bear… she’s had a stroke. It’s accelerated the Alzheimer’s so bad she doesn’t even cry anymore when she sees a Jetta drive by her window. I’m sorry brother.  I tried to tell you to come see her when she’d still remember you—but I’m afraid it’s too late.  They’re giving her 3-6 months.”

“I’m leaving right now.” Barry said with a smile and hung up the phone.

The nurse led him solemnly to room 6X.  “Brace yourself.  She’s pretty bad.  Are you sure you want to do this?  She might not even recognize you.”

Barry smiled and hugged the nurse like he’d hugged his mother after the circus fiasco.  “Thank you.  I’ll be fine.”

Maggie was sleeping quietly on her back.  He kissed her creased forehead and gently nudged her.  Her eyes opened tenderly and she smiled like grace.

“Hello. I’m Barry.”

“I’m Maggie.” She said offering her hand up like a peace treaty—he took it.

Then he said two things to her man ever had. “Hi Maggie.  You’re very beautiful.  Would you mind if I took you to the movies sometime?”

A Story Concerning an Imagination of Reincarnation

By: mOUNTbRENDON

Reincarnation: A Story

     In a place that can only be considered a place because of lack for a better term, outside of time, and outside of fear and love and hatred and joy, there is a long line of spirits continually growing, but continually shrinking at the same time. There is a repetitive dinging sound, similar to the sound people would relate to that of a bicycle bell. Toward the middle of a line, a conversation begins between two peculiar spirits.

“I hope this is the human line,” one spirit says, leaning in to the other, we’ll just call this spirit It for now.

“You’re telling me,” the other spirit says, we’ll call this spirit That. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through this line and ended up as a stupid mouse.”

“Oh yeah,” It says. “I’ve been down that road and let me tell you, once was enough.”

“This last time I was a pet mouse,” That says. “Surprisingly enough, it was much worse than a wild mouse.”

“You don’t say,” It says.

“Oh, I do say. My owner even stuck me in one of those hamster balls or whatever you call them. You know, the ball that they stick you in with no way out, so even when you get to roam free, you’re still trapped. The idiot could not get it through his head that I wasn’t a damn hamster. I hated that ball.”

“You hated the ball?” It says. “I would have loved one when I was mouse.”

“Oh, no you wouldn’t have,” says That. “It’s so constricting and everything around is all red. Not to mention the claustrophobia I developed, no thanks to it.”

“I’ve been a bee who was born without a wing before,” It says.

“What? A bee without a wing?”

“Oh yeah, it was horrible. Granted, I didn’t last long which gave me another shot at this here lottery. I don’t think I would have liked being a bee anyway.”

“Is that what you think this is?” That says.

“Is that what I think what is?”

“This. Here. You think we’re just in the midst of some random lottery?”

“You don’t?” It responds.

“Not a chance! Certainly, your previous life on Earth affects the results in some way. Sure, there might be slight randomization. But when I say slight, I mean very little.”

“No way. Take my life as a mosquito for instance. I did all the right things. I buzzed around people’s ears as much as possible, sucked their blood making sure to leave as much of an itch as possible, and then I was eaten by a frog, which helped supply life for another being. And you know what my next life was? A tree. I was a fucking tree next. A redwood even. I lasted for hundreds of years not able to do anything aside from just be. I had no say about what was done to me or the trees around me, no form of communication whatsoever. I just had to sit there and wait for someone to come cut me down and let me pass on to the next life. I get that bullshit from my life as a mosquito, a damn good mosquito. I even gave someone west nile. I served my purpose so that I could go be bored out of my trunk for three hundred years. No, there is no way this thing is anything but random.”

“Well, how do you explain me ending up as a mouse for the last twenty-six cycles? It has to be because I’ve been doing something wrong. I just wish I could figure out what exactly it is.”

“Well, I sure hope for my sake you aren’t in line for your twenty-seventh cycle. I have no desire to be a mouse again.”

“You’re telling me,” That says. “Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“Have you ever been a cow?”

“A cow?”

“Yeah, a cow. Have you ever been one of those?”

“No, what’s so great about being a cow?.”

“It’s the best. You just sit around and eat all day. No other responsibilities. You’re not even micromanaged like if you were some kind of pet.”

“Sounds boring,” It says. “Humans are where it’s at. Then you really get to do whatever the hell you want.” There is a pause as both It and That focus their attention on creeping line. “I’ll tell you what,” It says. “That dinging is getting annoying.”

“Yeah it isAt least we’re getting closer to the front though.”

“Ever been a human?” It asks. “I hope that’s what’s next.”

“Yeah…well, kind of. It was the cycle right before I got stuck on the mouse. It didn’t last long though. I keep hearing how awesome it is to be a human, but I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Then again, I was killed by some thing called abortion before I even left the womb.”

“Well, there you go. You didn’t really get the whole human experience. I was a human a few cycles before mosquito. I’ll tell you what, it was the best.”

“You must have been a pretty shitty human.”

“No way! What makes you say that.”

“Because you ended up being a mosquito a few cycles later. Only a shitty human goes back to the level of the mosquito, no matter how many cycles later.”

“Well, that’s if you believe in earning your next cycle. I was a great human, just like I was a great mosquito. I’m telling you, this whole thing is random. It’s not even all that surprising that you’ve been a mouse so many times. You know how quickly mice reproduce? I’m not exactly educated, but I’d guess it goes faster than just about any other species. Twenty-six in a row may be statistically improbable, but it certainly isn’t impossible by any means.”

“I think you were just a shitty human, just like you were a shitty mosquito and you’re just blaming chance because you don’t want to hone up to being a shitty spirit.”

“Who are you to say that, Mr. stuck in mouse?” It yells. The other spirits in line focus their attention on It and That before another ding turns their attention away again.

“I’m sorry,” That says. “You don’t seem like a bad spirit. I was out of line.”

“Thank you,” It says.

“You know what sucks most about being a pet mouse?” That says.

“What’s that?”

“You don’t even get to have sex. Not even once. I mean, what’s the point in being a mouse if you don’t even get to have sex? It’s just ridiculous. And then they give you cheese as if they’re making up for it in some way. You know why mice like cheese so much, don’t you?”

“Sure,” It says.

“When all you get is sewage, trash, or mouse pellets, cheese is like breast milk all over again.” The conversation ceases as It and That reach the front of the line.

     “Well,” That says once he’s at the front of the line, with only seconds to spare before his next cycle begins.  “Let’s hope we’re not mice. I swear, I will step into a mousetrap as soon as I can if that’s the case. So long.”

     That then disappears, soon after followed by It.

Several cycles later, they meet in the same line once again.

“Hello there,” That says.

“Hi,” It replies.

“Remember me? I was stuck on mouse for twenty-six cycles? We talked in line a few cycles ago?”

“Ohhhh yeah! How have you been?”

“Oh, you know, just trying to work my way to human.”

“Still convinced that you earn your next cycle, huh?”

“Oh yeah. I was a pet dog last. It was mostly awesome just cause I got to see how awesome humans are firsthand. Hey, how was being a caterpillar.”

“The caterpillar sucked. The butterfly was pretty cool though. How about you?”

“Didn’t get a chance to be a butterfly. I got eaten just as I was getting ready to make my cocoon. Typical really. What do you think this is a line for?”

“I don’t know,” It says. “I don’t really care any more to be honest. It’s not worth getting my hopes up guessing.”

“Oh, I see,” That says. “They still got that annoying dinging, huh?”

“Yep. Still annoying as ever.”

“Well, I’m up, see another few cycles from now,” That says and then disappears.

A few days later on Earth, two mice run into each other in a damp basement of some rental apartments. There are a few traps scattered throughout the basement and one mouse heads right for one. The other, as best as a mouse can, tries to warn the other mouse by moving its whiskers and letting out some squeaking noises. Seconds later, the mouse heading for the trap is now clamped in the jaws, dead. The other mouse feels a brief moment of sadness, at least as much as a mouse can feel sadness. Suddenly though, a strange, unidentifiable memory pops into its mind. It scurries over to another trap and before it can grab any cheese, the large metal jaws come clamping down, ending its life.

“Hey,” That says to It, as they once again find themselves next to each other in line. “You weren’t just a mouse, were you?”

“Sure was. You were right about being a pet mouse. It was awful. I had to escape. Luckily, I forgot what a mouse trap was and ran into one.”

“Yeah, I saw that” That says. “You reminded me what it was. Thank you.”

The War On Vanilla

By: mOUNTbRENDON

The following parody was inspired by the recent presidential debates I have been watching. I quickly noticed how casually the word “war” was being tossed around by the candidates and it made me realize how much that same word has been tossed around the news media…

“That’s it,” John Blackburn says through his gritted teeth. “This is war.” Sylvester takes a step back in awe.

“Wait, what?” he says radiating with confusion. “All I said was that I respectfully disagree with your position on vanilla standing as a clear front runner for best flavor of ice cream.”

“Exactly,” John says. “It’s not oven an argument. It’s obvious that vanilla is the best ever flavor of ice cream. Ever. I mean, just look at it in relation to all of the other ice cream flavors. Not only is it the base for every other flavor, but it is by far the most common. Just look at all the different ice cream-based products out there; milkshakes, root beer floats, sorbet, gelato, you name it. Every single one of those started with the flavor of what? The answer is and forever will be vanilla. It all starts with vanilla. It’s how it’s been since the beginning.”

Sylvester looks around the ice cream stand to see if anyone else is listening. The lady standing in line behind them has an impatient but slightly interested look on her face. The end of a leash is in her right hand and the other end is attached to a corgi who is breathing heavily with its tongue hanging out and looking back and forth between the ice cream counter and the lady. The man at the counter looks at John.

“Sir,” he says.

“Just hold on a second,” John snaps back. Sylvester looks back at John.

“Just order some vanilla,” he says. “I could care less.”

“Seriously?” John readily responds. “You seriously don’t see what I’m arguing?”

“I just want to order some ice cream.”

“Why?” John says, his voice beginning to slightly raise. The woman’s show of interesting is quickly deteriorating and the look of frustration begins to take its place.

“Why what?”

“Why don’t you think vanilla is the best flavor of ice cream?”

“Because I don’t think that vanilla is all that great. Now either order or I’m going to take your place in line.”

“You can’t stand there and blatantly offend me like that without giving me a reason why. Why do you think vanilla is not the best flavor?”

“Fine, vanilla is the best flavor,” Sylvester says.

“Oh, come on,” John says through a laugh of frustration.

“Sir,” the kid on the other side of the counter says. “What can I help – ”

“Don’t sir me,” John says. “I’ll order when I’m good and ready.” He turns back to Sylvester. “It takes more than one to start a war and it takes more than one to end it.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Sylvester says. The dog barks and looks over at the ice cream stand. The woman pulls on the leash and leads the dog away muttering under her breath.

“Sir, you just – ” the man at the counter begins.

“You can wait,” John says.

“If I tell you why vanilla isn’t very good, will that get you to let it go?” Sylvester asks.

“Depends.”

“Depends on what”

“Depends on what your reason is.”

“Okay, vanilla is boring. If I’m going to pay money for ice cream, I want it to be as rich and as messy, filled with as much candy and caramel as possible. Eating vanilla is like drinking water when there is a can of Mountain Dew right in front of you.”

“You son of a bitch,” John yells. “Vanilla is so much better than water! Did you know that it was originally extracted from the orchid and derives from the Spanish for ‘vainilla?’ It has so much rich history and so many different uses, the finest and most favorable of these many uses comes in the form of ice cream It is the default flavor of ice cream.” By this time, the man behind the counter has disappeared and no one else is standing in line. Sylvester and John are the only ones left within a fifty yard radius of that the ice cream stand.

“I’ll tell you what,” Sylvester says. “I’ll admit that vanilla is the greatest flavor of ice cream ever if you go behind that counter and scoop me a cup of it yourself.”

“I’m about this close to throwing the back of my knuckles right into your ugly, disrespectful face.”

Sylvester face forms a sly smile. “Rocky road, cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, rainbow, cookie dough…” He says slowly.

“What are you doing?” John asks.

“Naming all of the flavors better than vanilla. Chocolate, strawberry…”

– – –

“I’ll tell you what,” John says across the dinner table to his girlfriend Cindy. “I met the worst guy today. He had the nerve to chime in and tell me that vanilla ice cream is not the best flavor of ice cream ever created.”

“So what?” Cindy says casually.

“So what?” John says.

“Yeah, so what? I don’t think vanilla is the best. I prefer chocolate.”

“Cindy,” John says through his teeth. “You just started yourself a war.”

– – –

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, Mike Salow was killed in action while fighting for his country. In an actual war.