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In the Swamp

Once upon a time in the swamps of Mystoesia I pulled out my folding chair and watched a portly broken bottle -- no label, clearly astute -- have an argument with a passing brown hop-toad. They began by skirmishing over right-of-way logistics but five minutes in they were screaming, neck veins bulging, about swamp dialects, country music, the weight of cloud formations, pinochle moves, basic chemistry, you name it. For awhile the air was heated and burnt smelling the way it is when I spend too long in the toaster, but after a bit things cooled off as they turned to discussing water-saving shower-head devices, a topic on which there was much common ground to be shared.  It seemed like they'd both needed the fight, and felt the better for it, but it left me feeling anxious and jaded. I walked slowly down towards the edge of the swamp and sat on a stump of a long-decayed cedar.

"If only I had an accordion," I thought.

Chickens Not Bombs

Once upon a time the Guardian Angel of All Chickens swooped down from the sky at a most opportune instant and began in earnest to lay eggs. In five minutes she had lain 300 eggs! Then she began to blow out the yolks. First, she poked a tiny hole in each end of the egg. Then, into a large bowl, she gently blew out the insides. All 300 eggs took her only about six minutes to empty of yolk! And albumen! The Guardian of Egg-laying, Meat, and Other Chickens then began to beautifully decorate the eggs.  Some she painted as people, others as animals, some with intricate geometric designs.  While she was decorating, she also made the egg insides into a delicious spinach and artichoke heart quiche and fed it to the homeless.  Finally, she hid all the decorated eggshells everywhere she could think to, and flew into the sky to admire her handiwork. The date was January 11th, it was 17 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Guardian Angel of Chickens enjoyed a ham sandwich and hot tea while listening to This American Life.

Alisha and the Carrots

Once upon a time in the most distant point in the universe, the farthest you can get from Earth without getting closer again, lived a girl who looked just like my little sister Alisha, and who wouldn't eat her carrots, just as Alisha won't eat her carrots; she pushes them to the side of her plate and runs off to watch TV. 

Except Alisha doesn't have her brain in her tummy or wires going from her back to her fingers. And carrots are orange on Earth not nuclear yellow and blobby. I don't mind carrots.  I like them with rosemary and honey the way my mom makes them sometimes.  But not when it's raining. Then I turn my eyelids inside out and squirm out of my chair to take out my telescope and spy on the neighbors. I'm told I'm precocious. 

Angel Fish in Devil Town

Once upon a time under water in Devil Town angel fish swam fervently.  Someone, they just heard, had dumpstered a whole tide pool full of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Score.

It's a little known fact that angel fish in Devil Town are resourceful enough to pick the locks on doughnut dumpsters.  Most folks think they are restricted to picking through street trashcans and nibbling leftovers from McDonald's.  Not this school, though. These angel fish get Entenmanns, Krispy Kreme, and sometimes big hauls from Trader Joe's when someone has the foresight to borrow the van from the Hare Krishna's.  They're scavenging fish.  Some days all the stores spray their food with ammonia.  Then the angel fish call the pizza place right before they close and order an extra large with everything. You'd think at first they wouldn't get anchovies.  But they do: they LOVE anchovies.  Fish are kind of sick that way.  The angel fish tell the pizza place they'll be in in 10 minutes to pick up the pie, but of course they don't show.  They're hiding in the seaweed watching intently while the pizza workers are closing up.  The angel fish know state law requires the pizza place to discard everything at the end of the day.  So as soon as the pie goes in the trash - ZIP! The fish retrieve it and eat like kings - kings who really like soggy pizza that was just set in a dumpster on top of some coffee grounds.  It was still in the box, though! 

The angel fish are also adept at scamming Wal-Mart, but that's another story.

Fine and Dandelion

Once upon a time in a flowery part of an abandoned lot, I reclined in a folding chair, conversing with a dandelion. 

"I would like to eat you," I said. "I heard you are nutritious," I added. 

"I'm a weed," said the dandelion sadly.  "Don't look at me.  Also, I'm highly poisonous due to growing in this plot of earth where battery acid spilled sixteen years ago."

I pulled off a section of its leaf and chewed heroically.

"Look," I said. "You're not a monster after all.  I ate you and I'm just fine and dandy!" 

We both had a good laugh at my joke although it was more of a nervous laughter since clearly the joke had not been funny at ALL.  I raised that dandelion's self-esteem manifold but my great-great-great-grandchildren were born with numerous birth defects.  I had to tell my secret to someone, but please don't let the dandelion's descendents know.  It would break their fluffy little hearts.

Puppy Chem

Once upon a time in my puppy's left leg was a cluster of cells.  And in that tiny cluster of cells were some atoms.  And in those atoms there were some protons, neutrons, and electrons.  And the electrons liked to spin and spin around the nucleus of the atoms, and the protons and neutrons would set up folding chairs and just watch them go, like broke old gamblers at the dog tracks. 

"Well, who's it going to be, Herb?"

"I don't know, who do you like, Herbie?"

"I'm shooting for the third valence."

"Get ready, Herbie; they're gonna jump again!"

The puppy never knows a thing.  It thinks only about a few basic things: food, digging holes, how to hump people's legs and anything else when it gets excited.  I haven't named the puppy yet, but I'm leaning towards Stupid Puppy Not Invested in Your Studies Enough to Buckle Down and Learn Some Basic Chemistry. 

Coke and Candles

Once upon a time in Ye Olde Candle Shoppe on Cape Cod a small child called Bill crept in on his hands and knees.  His little dungarees were soiled near the pockets.  It appeared he had a dozen leaking pens which had broken either by accident or not, while he was in possession of them. 

"Please," said Bill to the donkey, "may I have a Coca Cola?"

The donkey scoffed. "Sugar will not fix your trembling, m'boy," it bayed.  The donkey went back to dipping candles slowly up and down in the warm vats of beeswax, the smell of which would haunt Bill for the rest of his life.


Sixteen Very Smart but Murderous Horses

Once upon a time in 1466 in London there were sixteen horses all standing in a cold huddle contemplating the most brutal and thought-out murders in the history of animals. 

Their names were Alfonso, Belinda, Carl, David, Esther, Fiona, Girard, Harrison, Ignacio, Jones, Karl, Linus, Methusala, Nemo, Penelope (rhymes with envelope), and Que Tal.

Alone with their tempers and oddly unBritish names, they were vicious, crazy animals.  Bloodthirsty. 

Mother knows it wasn't causeless.  Their human captors, Robert, Finter, and Mr. L, kept them in disgusting squalor and sat on folding chairs making fun of them.  All day long. 

Robert to Mr. L: Who do you think looks the stupidest?

Mr. L: I don't know; they're all such complete idiots!

Far from the truth. These horsies from foalhood had hit the books hard, sometimes eschewing their oatbags to study, making coffee for each other in order that they might pull all-nighters and become the most knowledgeable horses in London in 1466.


Fertile Crescent Candle

Once upon a time in the cradle of civilization a candle flickered: a votive sent back in time from the Holy Roman Empire, lit for the late grandmother of Willis Boddacando.  She used to have nightmares of the early farmers, tilling the fertile crescent. She didn't know who the leathery-skinned folks in her dreams were, nor of the Super Wal-Mart that would be erected one day in their original fields and roads, but still, she dreamt and woke unrefreshed, her brain having been sobbing all night from the yikes of it all. 

The time machine was not fancy.  It was only big enough for a candle.  Its maker didn't know if it would work, but it did.  The machine managed to transport Grandma Boddacando's candle STILL LIT but then the time machine itself disintegrated upon breaching the space-time continuum. Civilization marched on.

My Bed

Once upon a time, right before breakfast but after dinner from the night before, before the sun rose up out of the mountains but after it set on the ocean, before I opened my eyes for the day but after I'd closed the previous evening following a long tiring work escapade, something began to scratch vehemently underneath my bed.  My bed is a huge wooden structure, built by the finest crafts people I could find to hire, made of white oak with mahogany and rosewood inlay here and there, and it is extremely impressive.  It has seven tiers depending on for when I feel like sleeping at yea height, at such and such height or down below - it even has a tier just beneath the floor and one in the wall. I make friends with spiders.  It also features a small garden, a roving band of miniature cheesemakers who have taken up poker (especially Omaha; they can't get enough), and a machine that flattens pennies and embosses them with a design that says MY BED. On this morning the cheesemakers were wearing wool sweaters and kept scratching their arms and necks. 

"Take off those sweaters," I called sensibly, and the sound soon abated.


Once upon a time a cartoon tiger leapt up from the screen and pounced on Jimmy René's breakfast cereal box as though trained to do so.  In fact it was trained to do so, by a farmer in his mid-thirties disenchanted with the growing enterprise of corporations hell-bent on sweeping agribusiness over the globe until every last particle of life inside every last seed could be owned, sold, parceled off, and profited from. The mid-thirties farmer learned to train cartoon tigers to pounce on anything that fell into this sad and growing category of fabricated food-stuff. Thus the breakfast cereal box.  Poor Jimmy René, who never again forgot the letters G, M, or O when singing the alphabet.  In fact, from then on, he began singing with a stutter emphasis, like this: A B C D E F G G G G G G H I J K L M M M M M N O O O O O O P Q R S T U V W X Y Y Y Y Y Y Z. Don't ask why he got stuck on Y. Jimmy René has no problem eating people.


Hydrogen Cars: Hope or Hoax?

Once upon a time the museum curator from a very famous and elite gallery had an unfortunate run in with some toxic chemicals and turned into a superhero, just like in comics that get turned into movies.  The chemicals were of a nuclear and artsy variety and were being stored at the museum in the premath of an upcoming show about science, technology, cold fusion, and hydrogen engines.  Hydrogen engines seem like a great idea, because their only byproduct is water!  But you still need oil to make all the car parts as well as the hydrogen so what's up with that?

Meanwhile, the museum curator was leading a very busy life what with all the normal duties of curation coupled with the normal duties of superheroing, trebled with the normal duties of maintaining upstanding citizenship within a tight-knit community.  Also the lair needed to be built and decorated.  But there would be henchmen for that.  Actually, sidekicks.  Good guys have sidekicks. Only bad guys have henchmen.

The Truthful Account of Gus and Cranberry

Once upon a time in the mines of Carolina which had stood empty - these particular mines, anyway - for what seemed like ever, creatures stirred. One, a bearded old canary, sang weakly in a cage.  Once it had feigned death to clear out the men around it, for this canary then desired solitude.  It had never been named, but let's call it Gus.  Gus felt happy first, then scared and alone, realizing he lived in a cage with no way of being fed once his meager supply of food and drink finally diminished to nothing.  Soon a bright light appeared from nowhere. It was Cranberry, the Ghost Canary Feeder!  Gus tweeted gaily as Cranberry refilled his feed tray again and again with the tastiest heirloom variety seeds.  The curse was that as Gus grew stronger, Cranberry would disappear. So Gus would have to stop eating for a couple days, remaining in a state near starvation, in order to have a friend (and sustenance).  This went on for thirty thousand years, and is still occurring to this day.


The Left Gets Threatened

Once upon a time a famous brand of sneaker with tie-up laces and a zipper on the heel decided to walk somewhere with no feet inside it.  It was a Left. 

It was independent, that Left.  It didn't need direction or a mate or even a destination. Out it went, wandering first to the part of the neighborhood where the goody-goody kids lived and then down by the Marina. A gorgeous, sunny day.  The Left was in bliss.

"Hey, Left!" came a sudden unwelcome voice. It was Maurice, who never left his gang far behind. "What do ya think you're doing out here all alone," Maurice continued, sounding slimy as usual. The others in the gang circled the Left gangishly, salivating.

Just then Reesa came hopping over, a friend from the Star Trek expos occasionally held downtown.  Her piercing green eyes fried the roving gang; their smoking ashes smelled of rot, dirty rag, and a hint of cinnamon.

"Thanks, Reesa," said the Left, before hopping, embarrassed, into the water, never to be seen again. 

Moon Squatters

Once upon a time on the moon there lived two squatters hoping to have finally outsmarted the police. 

"I can't believe it, we haven't gotten kicked out in over a year," said the first to the other.

"Our oxygen supply isn't looking so great, though," said the other to the first. 

It ran out then, and they died.  After some years they turned back into dust, and floated away into the sky.  They joined up with millennia of such travelers, and were not sad.

One day, they became a brick, and were masoned into a warehouse.  For a little while the warehouse was used for storing sneakers, but when that business was outsourced the building was abandoned.

Two squatters moved in, hoping to have finally outsmarted the police. They stayed for six months, give or take, hung some pirate flags and grew to a colony of twelve or fifteen.  The police knew they were there, but cops in this town have bigger fish to fry.  Fish, I am not kidding, the size of Buicks. 

     [Forever after at]


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