Friday, September 23

Chapter 29:

"A Time to Die"

It was hot for June in Illinois. Too hot for April's liking, but that didn't matter... or, at least, it wouldn't matter to her for long. She inched slowly along the 4 foot high concrete wall dividing the roadway from a fall into the river. She was scooting along the foot-wide piece of metal exposed to the drop below slowly making her way to the middle of the bridge. She didn't want to land on the ricks, but in the water: falling and being rendered unconscious by her plunge, she would drift downstream as she drown herself.

"Excuse me miss," a voice from the center of the bridge said to her, "this is my spot." She looked up and saw a man also standing on the edge.

"Look, I won't take long," April told him matter-of-factly.

"Neither will I." He replied.

She then relly looked at the man: he wore a pressed gray suit and black tie, and was holding a black suitcase in his left hand. He was in his late forties to early fifties, she guessed, as his full head of black hair was streaked with white. He adusted the glasses on his aqualine nose with hir right index finger and asked, "what's your story?"

"Tale as old as time:" she began, "girl falls for jerk." She told him briefly of how she had been seeing an older man she met at a bar once a week, and how it had gotten more serious. She soon fell in love with him, and he asked her to go with him on a business trip to California. They were both on the plane when an aquaintance of the man's came up and asked how his wife was.
"Tom was married;" she continued, "how stupid could I be. So I got on the return flight, cried for a couple weeks, and here I am."

He gave her a wry smile.

"What?" She asked him a bit offended, "you have a better reason?"

He nodded and began his tale. "I owned Leroy's Paint and Tile," he said "A deceptive name, as we have branched the franchise into at least twelve major cities in each of six different states, and were heading towards seven. Big corporation." He told her briefly how his business boomed in the last four years, and how he was making money hand-over-fist. He had bought a large house, had servants, and two really nice cars and a truck even though he lived alone. Then he told her of his accountant who had been changing the books without his knowing, and had ruined him and driven his corporation into bankrupcy, small claims court, and finally into a large trial for embezzlement, fraud, etc. next week being the culminating trial -- and himself as the fall guy. "Next week I stand trial for things I didn't do. My name is ruined, my business in ruins. But I'm not about to take that fall."

She smiled and let out a small laugh. He looked hurt so she quickly said, "so instead you chose to take the plunge?" He smiled. "Listen," she continued, edging herself a bit closer to him on the small ledge, "I'm still a bit skiddish about doing this alone."

"Me too," he said, moving closer to her and offering her his hand. "What say we do it together?"

She took his hand. "Okay. Count of three?" He nodded.

"One," he said slowly.

"What's your name?" She asked quickly.

"Leroy," he said. "And you?"

"April." She said. "Hi."


"Two." She said next.

"Are you two going to jump or what?" Another voice said from justbehind them, "because if you are just going to stand there counting and holding hands, let someone else go first, or get off the bridge." His head leered over the concrete divider at them, and was followed by the rest of the young man's body. He was in his late teens and wore a "get out of my face" expression that matched his black "F-you" t-shirt.

"What's your story?" Leroy asked.

"Life is pointless," he said running a hand through his dyed black hair, "my family is stupid, and nobody cares about what happens to me, and I hate myself." And with that, he stepped off the bridge.

His body didn't hit the water, but struck the rocks below with a sickening thud -- like a watermellon being dropped: a sickening, almost rubbery thud. April and Leroy stared at him lying there below without any of them moving a muscle. April was frozen with fear and horror, Leroy with sickness, dropping his briefcase into the icy waters below. Then the boy groaned. The boy was still alive. Somehow he was not dead. The others quickly climbed over the wall, and ran: April to see if she could help the kid, and Leroy to find help.

"Hang on!" She said to the kid. His eyes lolled about his skull a bit, then tried to focus on her.

"I..." he began, "I... didn't want... to..." he gasped for breath, "die like... this..."

"We're going to get you to a hospital, and you will be fine," she said lying more to herself than to him. "Leroy went for help."

Leroy stood in the middle of the road as the yellow car approached. He waved his arms frantically until the car slowed and stopped in front of him. He ran to the driver's side of the Taxi, and told the driver "there's a boy down there and he's hurt. We need to get him to a hospital!"

The driver stepped out of the cab, and ignoring the loud complaints of the lone female passenger, followed Leroy down the embankment to April and the boy. The men grabbed his head and shoulders, and April took the boy's legs, and very carefully carried him up to the cab where the passenger was out with the door opened for them. Her face went white as April climbed in and they put the boy's head on her lap, and Leroy supporting the rest of the boy -- both in the back seat. The lady passenger took shotgun, and the driver sped them towards county general.

"What happened?" The lady in the front seat asked, obviously shaken. She was dressed in a khaki power suit and tie; her face was slightly wrinkled -- more of life than her forty-five years should have experienced. Her hair was tied into a bun was pure white, and at the moment, her complexion matched.

"He jumped from the bridge," April said quickly while stroking the boy's forehead, "family issues."

The lady seemed to choke for a moment before saying, "with that concrete wall, I am supreised you saw him at all." April and Leroy exchanged a guilty look, but said nothing.

"Ah." The lady said. "I see."

"We had our reasons," Leroy said trying to justify himself.

"I am sure you did," she said. She paused for a moment then continued, "as did I."

"What's that supposed to..." Leroy began asking, but was shot a look from April that told him all: the lady was to be the fourth jumper that day. All were silent for quite a while, except the boy who occasionally uttered faint groans.

The boy was rushed into the emergency room while Leroy and April went to the waiting room. The lady paid the cabbie, and then entered the emergency-room herself going, not to where the two were seated, but to the counter. Minutes passed while the lady conversed with the receptionist, thenshe rejoined the others. On sitting down, she broke into a fit of uncontrolled weeping. April tried tocomfort her while Leroy just began pacing the floor.

"I... I suppose you think me foolish," the lady said at last, finally calming herself down enough to speak. "I am a fool." She then began telling them her story: an attorney, she had been assigned a case by the courts to defend a man of multiple homicide in the first degree: the man was her husband. As the facts of the case came out, she discovered he had had six affairs in the last three years, and in all but the last case, the girl had been brutally murdered and left in the California Redwoods. The sixth woman had fled once they reached California, and had not been heard from since. "It consumed me, " she said, "and I ended up neglecting everything important to me. Neglecting my son. My only son. And now..." she looked up at the emergency room, "there he is, andit's myu fault."

"Holy mother of..." Leroy began, but was interrupted by a doctor.

"Mrs. Green?" The doctor began, "I am sorry. There was nothing we could do for him."

Mrs. Green took the news rather well, and sat there in silence as Leroy and April looked at her in a mixture of horror and pity. Then April gasped and asked a question: "Mrs. Tom Green?"

"How do you know my accountant?" Leroy asked, then stopped, horrified at his realization.

"Your accountant?" April almost yelled in horror.

"How do you know my husband?" Mrs. Green asked April blindly.

"I was..." April began then stopped. "I was the sixth. The one who got away." April and Leroy sat down on either side of Mrs. Green, and they began to share their stories, then they all wept for a very long time.

Thursday, September 15

Chapter 28

"Satan Walks Into a Bar"

He was quite inconspicuous in the long black trench-coat and hat as he approached the neon entry sign to Dave’s Bar. He thought to himself, "oh, what the Hell," and snapped his fingers: immediately his coat began to roll tightly into a rope that hung from his waist with a barb at the end, and his hat to roll into two horns that jutted from his temples. Then his skin turned quickly from jet black to a dark red, then quickly again to a flaming red color from horns to tail. His legs became hairy and cloven hoofs appeared at the bottom. And appearing in his hand was a golden pitch-fork.

"Get me a pint of your strongest ale." He called on entering the building, and making his way to the counter he seated himself on one of the stools with the red tops. "And some peanuts."

"Long day?" The barman asked, turning and filling a pint mug with the rich brown ale. He hadn’t batted an eye at this stranger dressed as a red-devil.

"Just bored." Said the man in red.

"How was the game?" The tapster asked handing him the pint. "Hockey? Basketball?"

"No." The stranger said, taking a long drought of the ale. "I’m Satan."

"Sure." The barman said laughing. Satan smiled. There weren’t too many people who truly believed in him anymore. He wasn’t surprised. He had planned this all out eons before so that it would happen. Without people believing he existed, he could do more harm than ever. That was why he chose this form to enter the bar. People accepted it. People praised it in art. People worshiped it as a team mascot. People recognized it as a symbol of himself. He chuckled thinking of the "Devils" mascot: a man in red tights and shirt with a black cape, horns, pitch-fork, and polka-dotted boxers. This was what he wanted, wasn’t it? People making fun of him? Honoring him by thinking of him?

"So," the bartender said as he wiped out the inside of a mug clean mug, "You are the Devil. Pure Evil? Beelzebub? Prince of Darkness?" Satan lifted his mug in acquiescence. He took the last swig and passed it back across to the bartender for his second round, which, when once refilled, he greedily took and sipped the ale lustily. "That’s me." He sunk his head onto a propped up hand and gestured with his mug around the room. "It’s all me. The First Fallen One. I was the greatest thing God had ever created. Prince among angels. Then God had to go and make man in his own image. He made one better. You. Mankind. The whole filthy stinking lot of you. Stupid waste if you ask me." He downed half his mug in one gulp. "But I took my revenge. Took all of you down a notch, didn’t I!" He laughed at the bartender who just shook his head. "You all went down. I could have kept you too if it weren’t for that... that... Easter Thing." He rolled his eyes and took another drink. "But I didn’t do too shabby a job over the years. But sometimes..." his smile faded, "sometimes I wonder if I didn’t do too good of a job laying down plans and carrying them out." The barman put the mugs he was drying in their racks.

"You preaching? I’ll say this for you: it is creative. Very creative. Dressing up like a devil and coming in here as if you’r all high and mighty Satan"

"Low and mighty thank you."

"Quite a gimmick." The barman said. "Quite a gimmick. But you’re preaching to the choir; I used to go to church when I was younger, but I turned away from all that years ago."

"Duh," Satan said, "why do you think I chose this place? It’s safe. I don’t have to do much dammage in here... damage is already done." His face drooped a bit, "damage is done most everywhere these days. I don’t have to do anything to get any of you away from... from... Him. You have already chosen your paths."

"As I said," the bartender said, "creative. Not going to work on me though."

"I know," Satan said with a grin as he passed the empty mug back for a third pint.

"So then, Satan," the man behind the counter said, "what brings you here tonight?"

"Drinking." Satan said, grabbing the pint away from the hands of the bartender. "You see that guy over there?" He pointed to the man banging on the juke box. "Good friend of mine. I tell him to do something like beat his dog, kid, or wife, and ‘Wham,’ he does it." Satan waved his mug at the man who saluted him back. "You still don’t get it, do you," he said turning his full attention to the barman, "I have done my job so well that, even if I were to disappear for good, people would still sin. Take the first murderer: Cain..." he smiled thinking back, "I didn’t have to lift a finger on that one. The boy did it all by himself. That, my friend, is human nature for you. Humanism has it backwards." He downed a bit more of his pint, "what with violence in video games, false reporting on the news, internet pornography, the prevalence of cussing..." he set the mug down with a somber look on his face, "it’s all too easy. It’s too far out of my hands." He drained a bit more and slammed the mug down hard. "And you know what that means for Him? ‘The field is ripe unto harvest’ and all that." He shuddered a bit and finished off the last of his fourth pint of ale. "It’s not about power... nah. Don’t buy that jazz. It’s about controll." He clinched his fists, then loosened them. "That’s all I want: absolute controll."

"So," the bartender asked skeptically, "now you’re bored?"

"Coming into these places always refreshes me... so many familiar faces." Satan held out his empty hand before the bartender. "For your troubles," he said. In the empty hand appeared seven gold coins: all twenty-four carats, and each weighing 16 ounces each. Satan dumped these on the table, and got up from his stool. The bartender was picking the gold pieces up one at a time and looking at them in the dim lights of the bar, not noticing that others were watching as well.

Satan’s wicked smile went un-noticed as he left the bar, while all eyes were glued to the man with the gold.

Friday, September 2

Chapter 27

The History of the Spork
In Three Acts

ACT 1:
1642 – a small prison in the south of France. One Englishman in a cell, and one empty cell next to him is filled by a guards bringing in a second Englishman.

Bertram: I say, this is a rummy lot.
Dick: Yes, ‘tis, rather. I beg pardon old chap, but what brings you down here?
Bertram: What, what? Oh, are you a subject of his majesty King Henry the Seventh of Britain as well?
Dick: Rather.
Bertram: Smashing! The name is Bertram, third Earl of Havertshire. Friends call me Berty.
Dick: Pleasure Berty. Mine is Richard Montberry, of the Montberries in Wessex, West of the Thames. Ever heard of us? No. Not surprised. You can call me Dick.
Bertram: Right ho.
Dick: So, odd, us being both of His Majesty’s and stuck here in this Frog Hole, eh what?
Bertram: I should say. How’d they plug you old bean?
Dick: I was a bit off and asked if the 8:20 went to Shropshire by way of Essex or Wessex.
Bertram: Oh, I say, that is a rummy lot, what?
Dick: But what of you Berty old boy?
Bertram: Odd thing that. I was in a café on the corner talking fluently in their gibberish and I asked for a fork for their soup, because of the large pieces of fish. Blimey if it didn’t need one too. Thing was thick as butter... with lumps.
Dick: Rum stop, that. I say, was that enough to do you up here then?
Bertram: Oh my, yes. But you know these European chaps and their sensibilities about their food, eh? Say you ask for salt, and it’s down to ths stocks for you. "Too much pepper" you say, and it’s ‘madame le guillotine’ for you.
Dick: Oh, I say, rather not.
Bertram: True as the Scots and Picts.
Dick: And was the soup that thick then?
Bertram: I all but asked for a plate and knife, but for one of these waiter chaps would have done me in from stem to stern with it, as it were.
Dick: Ah, but what I wouldn’t give for a simple Lancaster Hot pot about now, eh? Or even a good mash, what?
[Guard enters with two covered trays of food]
Guard: Leunsh ees ser-ved.
Bertram: What is it?
[Dick lifts the lid on his tray]
Dick: Snails again?
Bertram: Rummy day.
Dick: Well, at least it’s not those blasted fish eggs again today.
Guard: Bon Appetite.
1756 – Somewhere near Yorkshire, England, in a small peasant’s hut. Wife is seated in a chair at an old table with a steaming hot pot of stew. Many pots are hanging all over the cottage with price tags on them. A man enters and sits down.

Harry: Wha’s fuh suppe’, eh? Oi cou’ ea’ an an ‘orse!
Gerty: Patience ‘arry. We’s got to woit a tick for it to cool off.
Harry: Bu’ Gerty, Oi’m ‘ungry!
Gerty: Ow, stuffin nonsense. Oi’ve been slaivin’ oll daiy over this ‘ere staove jus’ to feed you ‘arry. Yeou can wait a tick.
Harry: Bu’ Oi’ve been wurkin’ maoi fingern to ve baone! Oi jus’ wan’ wha’s roits.
Gerty: Patience ‘arry. [she lifts the lid] Theh you ah.
Harry: Stew. M‘favorite! Give us some ‘ere luv. [Gerty dishes him stew with only broth] Oy! Wheh’s me stew?
Gerty: We couldna’ford no meat nor taters fis week. Jus’ a soup bone.
Harry: Blinkin’ haec! Ah you tewin’ me we ain’ got no food bu’ wha’s Oi’ve goh’a drinks it?
Gerty: Use your fork dea’.
Harry: Wha? No spoons?
Gerty: Couldna’ford em after buyin’ these ‘ere forks. We disgusd this las’ week. We coud ownly affo’d one piece of si’ve’weah each, an you ‘ad me boiy vese last teeoosdee.
[Harry throws his fork down]
Harry: Weow, va’s jus’ grand, eh? Ve ome toim we needs a spoon, as we don’ ‘ave none, bu’ we’ve gor us two forks. Woi didna’ we buy one uv each?
Gert: Ow, ‘arry. Wha’ a load you tauks... you now we’d foit over’oo ge’s ve spoon firs’.
Harry: Vere’s on’y one fing to be downe then.
Gert: Wha’s vat luv?
Harry: Oi’s go’a werk me bum off makin’ vese pots until eve’e’one knows me name an Oi ken buy us some spoons.
Gert: Oh ‘arry.
Harry: An Oil do it, or my name in’ Harry Potter.

1862 – Somewhere on the battle fields of America’s "battle between the states" in the trenches.

Hardy: I say Captain, we can’t go and spend all our money on things like plates and napkins and disposable cups as if this were a fancy dinner party, we are at war.
Laurel: Sorry Ollie. I mean, Corporal Hardy.
Hardy: We’ve got to find a way to cut costs around here; we’re running out of bullets.
Laurel: I’ve an idea Ollie.
Hardy: What is it Stanley?
Laurel: We could melt down some of the silverware to make some bullets.
Hardy: An excellent idea Captain Laurel. But which ones?
Laurel: What about the knives?
Hardy: No, we need those for hand-to-hand combat in case we are attacked while eating. No, we must keep the knives.
Laurel: What about the spoons?
Hardy: All right, we’ll melt down all the... no. That would never work; how would our men eat their pudding? You can’t eat it with a knife, and it slips right through the tines in the forks.
Laurel: All right, we’ll keep the spoons. What about the forks?
[Hardy hits him with his hat]
Hardy: Of all the lame brained schemes... How would we eat our steaks, with a spoon? You can’t pick up a steak with a spoon, and there’s no way to hold it down while cutting it. We need a new type of utensil. Something that can hold things down and pick things up. Something like a cross between a fork and a spoon... something like...
Laurel: Like Chop Sticks.
Hardy: Wonderful Idea Stanley. That’s another fine mess you have gotten us out of!
[A Private runs up and salutes. They return the salute]
Private: Sir, one of your Colonels has invented something. [holds up a spork] He calls it the "spork" sir.
Hardy: It will never catch on. Go and tell this Colonel... what was his name?
Private: Colonel Sanders, sir.
Hardy: Yes, tell him it will never work. Laurel and Hardy said so.
The End