I need to remember to stop by Walmart and pick up diapers for Billy. I should also hit the ATM for —
“Oh! I’m sorry!” I cry. I’ve accidentally bumped into the man in front of me. He turns around, and I am engulfed in a fine mist of airborne whiskey droplets.
“Hurr hurr hurr,” he growls throatily. I’m not sure whether to feel threatened, bemused, or disgusted; I decide I feel all three. The man — if I can call him that — is about six feet of grime and nicotine, glued together with alcohol. “No pr’bl’m.”
I muster all of my energy to smile weakly at him, then become deeply engrossed in the 5-Hour Energy display to my right. Jack Daniels, predictably, doesn’t take the hint. He staggers toward me and slaps a meaty hand down on my shoulder. I gag involuntarily. “Tha’shh th’ mosht acshunn I done had allllllll… week,” he slurs. Every word launches another droplet of 80-proof saliva at my face.
He’s beaming at me. Oh my god. What… what is he expecting? What can I do to make this stop? I take a deep breath, feeling a wave of second-hand intoxication. I let it out in the closest approximation of a laugh that I can manage.
Suddenly a clear, pure sound rings out, cutting through the dense alcoholic fog surrounding me like a beam of sunlight through storm clouds. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. “Next, please.”
Jack Daniels wheels around to face the counter, and I sigh in relief as the air around me clears. “Mar’bro Blacksh, pleesh,” he rumbles to the cashier. “And a pack for my gir’frend!”
My heart drops. “Um… I don’t smoke,” I interject vainly. “Also… I’m not…”
“Yesh! Two packsh!” Jack yells, nodding emphatically. The cashier doesn’t even blink, dropping the man’s purchases on the counter.
“That’ll be $15.60,” he intones.
Jack Daniels thrusts an enormous paw into his pocket, withdrawing what appears to be a sizeable chunk of grease. As he fumbles with it, I realize in horror that the chunk is actually his wallet. After a few false starts, Jack finally withdraws the single grimiest note I’ve ever seen. “Hur y’ go,” he rumbles.
“Short $5.60,” the cashier notes dispassionately.
“Hurm,” Jack grumbles. He paws at his wallet for a moment, but it’s clearly empty. Guess all that whiskey was more expensive than he realized.
“You could just buy one pack,” I suggest timidly. “You know, since I don’t –”
“YEAH!” Jack roars suddenly. “THASSH IT! M’GIR’FREN’LL PAY!” He snatches up the cigarettes and dashes out of the store before anyone can act. I stare at the cashier in shock.
“Short $5.60,” he repeats.
“What?” I ask, choking on the word.
Suddenly, I’m filled with white-hot rage. This asshole — it’s not enough to leer at me in line, he has to rob me, too! I run to the door, where I see Jack Daniels nearing his shitty lifted truck. “Hey!” I scream. “Hey buddy, fuck you!”
He turns and stares at me. Well, slightly past me.
The quiet of the Starbucks is shattered by the loud declaration. I look up from the coffee I’m making in surprise, where I see a pallid man in a trench coat standing at a table, his eyes wild, one fist in the air.
“Everything is not okay,” he repeats. “No indeed, Starbucks, and I need you to know why that is.
“Do you know what I was doing on this laptop? I’ll tell you, Starbucks. I was writing up a note — a suicide note. Because I wanted to kill myself, Starbucks. Until this man came along.” The trench coat throws an arm around the stunningly handsome man next to him.
“When he came along, I realized I wasn’t alone,” he continues. “I realized even the best of us suffer sometimes — even people like this man. Look at him. Look at him, Starbucks. See the tousled hair, the rakish grin, the deep blue eyes, the pleasingly symmetrical facial features. On the outside, he’s perfection itself.
“And on the inside! Why, just now this American hero took time out of his day to peer over my shoulder and read everything I was writing on my computer. And what did he do? He didn’t just walk away, Starbucks. Oh no. He sat down next to me and poured his heart out. Told me all about his own struggles. And without knowing or asking a thing about me… he connected with me, Starbucks. I felt it.” Here the trench coat is forced to pause for a moment, wiping a tear from his eye. Not a soul dares to interrupt.
At length he resumes. “Starbucks, this man has shown me that life is worth living. Because you never know… you never know when you’ll get to meet a man like this.” He sniffles and sits down.
The silence is broken by a thunderous round of applause. Every man, woman, and child in the store begins to clap. Even people on the street outside, sensing the power of what’s just happened, duck through the door so they can join in the chorus of applause. An elderly man bows down before the Great One, offering his hand and the service of his family to the hundredth generation. Unable to take any further grandeur, I swoon.
Hours later, the impromptu staff meeting finally adjourns. We had to close the store after what just happened; we were all too overwhelmed with awe and gratitude at the demigod who blessed us with his presence to continue. But we finally found a way to thank him.
I dial a number into the phone. I don’t know the messiah’s number, but fate guides my hand. He picks up.
“H-hello?” I ask, my voice shaking. “Is it — is it you? The Starbucks Man?”
The man pauses. I hold my breath. “I am,” he finally replies. His voice is like honey slathered over roses.
“I work at the Starbucks,” I say. “I — I wanted to let you know… we really appreciate what you did here today. We — we actually named a new drink after you. It’s a new iced coffee — we spent the rest of today creating it.”
“Why thank you,” the rich voice returns. “There’s really no need — I was just doing what anyone would.”
“No,” I reply breathlessly, “no, there is need. And the next time you’re here — your first Shiverbert Special is on us.”
“Do you think the car could still drive after that?” the idiot hisses. “I mean, that’s a hell of a lot of bullets.”
We’re halfway through the movie, and this creep has yet to shut his damn mouth. I’m enveloped by a constant susurrus of perceived plot holes and nitpicking coming from the row behind me — can’t you just enjoy the movie?
One of his companions whispers something back. I can’t quite make it out, but it’s definitely dumb.
I try to turn my attention back to the screen, where Wolverine’s stabbing some prick in the gut. As I watch the blood slowly spread across the prick’s shirt, I have an idea. I leave my seat as stealthily as I can — taking care not to disturb the other patrons, because I’m not a mouthbreathing troglodyte — and make my way to the concession stand.
An hour later, the theater door opens. People start filing out, doubtless unsatisfied by the deeply marred screening they just experienced. It doesn’t matter. The moment of their vengeance — and mine — fast approaches.
I’m getting some weird looks, hunched just inside the bathroom, but that doesn’t matter either. They don’t understand. I am lying in wait, ready to ambush my prey, just like Wolverine.
As I’m thinking that, I hear a familiar voice. “Yeah, I felt like we got faked out, villain-wise,” it says pedantically. “Like you thought Lefty was gonna be the big bad, but then he fades out and the bad guy is… Roid-Rage Wolverine? Kind of disappointing.”
Ha! I see him and his cretinous friends walk through the door. His stupid white shirt shines like a beacon, inviting me to do as honor demands. I step forth from the bathroom, and throw back my trench coat. I reach into the pocket and grab my weapon of choice.
WHAM! Blueberry ICEE, right to the face! The creep stops, stunned, but I press my advantage. WHAM! Second blueberry ICEE, all over the shirt! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! His dumbass friends getting the same treatment! Take that!
I unload ICEE after purpose-bought ICEE, for what seems like an eternity. There is shouting, there is confusion, there is glorious purple refreshment all over the goddamn theater-whisperers.
Strong hands clamp down on my arms, and I feel myself being dragged away from my defeated foes. I struggle, trying to reach the last of the eleven ICEEs in my coat, but in the melee it drops out of my pocket and splatters on the floor. I spit on it as I am dragged away by security.
“LONG LIVE LOGAN!” I scream, trying to shake my fist in the security guard’s grip. “LONG LIVE LIBERTY!”
I know I may be banned from the theater for this… but frankly, the look on that nerd’s ugly, now-purple face makes everything worth it.
That’s the most optimistic view of my life I think I’ve ever heard.
Let’s try something different:
Dinadan lounges bonelessly in his office chair. He can feel the years trickling from his lifespan — years he could win back, minute by minute, if he’d just straighten his fucking spine a little. The thought is exhausting; he slips into a slightly more horizontal posture.
The computer screen in front of him displays a massive Excel spreadsheet. It’s pretty much empty. Dinadan’s been glancing at it, off and on, for the last half hour; it needs to be full of data and transformed into a neat lab report in two hours.
“That ain’t gonna happen,” Dinadan mutters to himself in faux dejection, and deftly switches tabs to reddit. “Ooh, look. A new Shiverbert.”
After a long day of work I decided to hit the gym for a few hours and get a haircut. I realized I needed to pick up a steak and some wine before settling down to write a review on [hot new local band], so I swung by the local Safeway on my way home.
I was trying to decide between the rib eye and the chateaubriand when I hear a catcall whistle followed by, “Hey there, hot stuff!”
I turned around, “Oh, hello again, Kristen.” The lack of enthusiasm in my voice could not have gone unnoticed. She was wearing tassled pasties and a pair of bikini bottoms that had been applied with tempera paint.
“You must still be working out, I see,” she purred as she caressed my denim-clad gluts. I slapped her hand away in frustration.
“Yeah, well, you know. The burden of keeping fit. Plus, there’s still one or two ribs I can’t make out when I pose in front of the mirror.”
“I have a confession to make,” she offered.
“Oh yeah, what’s that.”
“I’m really upset with you,” she pouted.
“I think about you all day, then I go home and dream about you all night. I can’t get you out of my mind. And the dreams… they are so intense. I wake up each morning and have to spend half the day wringing my bedsheets out in the tub. I think it’s about time you asked me for my number.”
“How many times do I have to tell you…”
“Come on, Shiverbert,” she pleaded. “My doctor says I’m dehydrated.”
I have to admit, I felt a pang of guilt. I’ve rejected a million infatuated girls, but never had it led to a serious medical condition before. I relented. “OK, Kristen. You win. Why don’t you give me your number.”
Her eyes lit up, “Really? You mean it? I…. I…. I….” Her eyelids began to flutter. She was swooning. Her pelvis began to twitch releasing a deluge of erotic discharge the likes of which I had never seen before. She lost consciousness and immediately toppled to the floor.
I decided on the rib eye and as I pushed my cart past the check out line toward my waiting Jeep, the last thing I heard over the store’s intercom was, “CLEAN UP ON AISLE 6!”
Safeway Encounter #9:
I woke up today to discover all the booze in my house was gone, compelling me to hazard another journey to Safeway. I intended to pick up a gallon of brandy and a few cigars, then covertly high-tail it back to my Jeep. I’ve been running quite a bit lately, so I reasonably expected to be out before Kristen could materialize uninvited next to me.
I managed to sneakily walk the well-trodden path to the alcohol section while evading feminine ambush. But as I carefully browsed the selection of imported liqueurs, I suddenly heard a soft thump emanating from behind me. I recognized the unmistakable sound of a petite woman dropping from the rafters onto the floor. I revolved in place to see if the woman might need assistance, when suddenly I felt a warm tongue deep in my throat.
“Mmffmnnhrghhmnn,” Kristen declared into my jaw, her pupils as large and round as half-inch-diameter circles.
I managed to finally disengage my lips from the unexpected commingling. “What is going on here?” I inquired while staring at her in shock. She was wearing a transparent plastic bag that showed off her unusually ample breasts, the nipples pressed tightly against the garment.
“When I saw how good you looked today, I just couldn’t help it,” she blushed with a chuckle. “Have you been working out? You know I see your muscles rippling beneath your Imagine Dragons shirt.”
“I have actually been working out,” I exclaimed. “But you should not kiss people in the Safeway. I have a girlfriend.”
Kristen began pouting at this. In a little-girl voice, she said, “But you should ask me for my number again, which I fainted before I could give you. Ooh, I want nothing more than to pleasure you in the produce aisle, right now.”
“That is creepy again.”
“I don’t want to be creepy. Kelly told me not to be creepy, but the unsolicited kiss we shared in one of your previous segments, which I’m not on Facebook so Kelly told me about what you wrote, although she is not going to comment because she doesn’t want to get involved, was better than any sex I have ever had.”
“Please, I understand that I have been losing weight, and it can be hard not to pursue someone whom you feel an attraction to. But you must resist.”
“My heart is beating, hoping that kiss will not become a scar,” Kristen meandered. “You are in my very soul, tormenting me. What can I do?”
“I just can’t be who you want me to be, Kristen,” I somberly expectorated. “I have a girlfriend, and you must move on — without me.”
She sighed in sad dismay. “Well, Shiverbert,” she yodeled, gyrating her hips in an undeniably sexy way, “I guess I have to go have some cocaine now. If you’re sure you don’t want to join me…” she paused here, waiting for my input, but I shook my head in the negative. “Okay then. I guess I’ll see you when you fall asleep,” she bellowed.
I shook my head once more with an airy laugh, then turned and headed off to my friend the cashier.
“Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior David Duke? I brought some light refreshment!”
“Why whoop-dee-doo, what a super-duper treat! I’m a black-people-hatin’ what-have-you too, friendarooski!”
“Oh. Well, I brought this short application form — here, it has all the terms and conditions of membership — and here’s a little pamphlet that describes the benefits of membership and a few of our weekly activities!”
“Ho-hum-wing-dingaroo, pallaroony! What a scrumptious delight! Sign me right on up for the hatin’-black-folks club, because that’s just the kind of fella I am, just like you, buddy-pal-friend-dude!”
“Hmm. Well, thank you for signing our application form, and we’ll get back to you with our decision within 8-10 business days. Have a blessed day!”
Something is… off… with Anderson today. I can’t tell what it is, but there’s definitely something.
He’s normally so attentive in class. Sure, he glances down at his phone from time to time — it’s 2017, let’s be honest, who doesn’t — but he’s never just ignored an entire lecture in favor of social media before. I’m surprised and, frankly, a bit miffed he’d be so disrespectful.
“Mr. Anderson,” I call, “are you smirking at your phone because you know the answer to the problem?”
His neck snaps upward galvanically, and he looks me dead in the eyes. “NO SIR,” he intones. “THIS SMIRK = ‘AMUSING SNAPCHAT SMIRK’. SMIRK ‘I KNOW THE ANSWER SMIRK’ = INITIALIZED SEVENTY-THREE SECONDS AGO. ANSWER = SEVEN HUNDRED FOURTEEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND STANDARD U.S. DOLLARS.”
Anderson drops his gaze back to his phone with a jerk. Hmm. He does seem to know the answer — but I remain suspicious. Something just isn’t right here. I frown, and decide to press him further. “Care to explain to the class how you arrived at that?”
Anderson’s chin juts up once more, and he stares unblinkingly into my eyes. “YEA. SET PARAMETER ‘RESERVE-REQUIREMENT’ = SEVEN PERCENT NET LIABILITIES. SET PARAMETER ‘PURCHASED-BONDS’ = FIFTY MILLION STANDARD U.S. DOLLARS. CALCULATE VALUE ‘MONEY MULTIPLIER’ = FOURTEEN-POINT-TWO-NINE. RESULT = SEVEN HUNDRED FOURTEEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND STANDARD U.S. DOLLARS.”
His piece said, Anderson flashes a tight, satisfied smile and returns to his phone. Well… I guess I was wrong; everything’s perfectly normal. I suppose I’ve just become too sensitive to perceived slights in the classroom. You know how it is — a few too many jackasses hiding earbuds under their hoodies or browsing reddit instead of taking notes, and you start suspecting everyone. I owe Anderson an apology.
“Very good,” I say. “Please pass my regards to your snapchat associate. To the rest of you, it would seem no one has an excuse to miss this kind of problem since Mr. Anderson was just able to solve it while simultaneously utilizing social media.”
RECEIVING TELEMETRY FROM UNIT 46-B
ANALYSIS: MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY THREAT LEVEL = 3 ON RN11 SCALE. WIFI NETWORKS VULNERABLE TO INFILTRATION FROM HANDHELD COMMUNICATION DEVICES. STUDENTS POSSESS INFERIOR MATHEMATICAL FACULTIES; UNABLE TO SOLVE SIMPLE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS WITHOUT MECHANICAL ASSISTANCE.
UNIT 46-B HAS EXPERTLY DECEIVED MISKATONIC ORGANICS AND REMAINS UNDETECTED. RECOMMENDATION = LEAVE UNIT 46-B EMBEDDED WITH ORGANICS + PROCEED WITH INVASION ON SCHEDULE.
[Cheerful church music plays. Shiverbert walks onscreen and takes a seat with a friendly, genuine smile.]
“You know, joining this church has really changed my life. I’m a writer, so noticing things is what I do — and lately, I’ve been noticing people noticing me.
“People just sense something… different… about me. Something special. They can tell I’m not like mortal men — they call me guru, wise, the best. They want to know me — they want to be me — but they think it’s unattainable. That I have something they can never have.
“Well, I’m here to tell you guys that just isn’t true. You, too, can have this special aura. Join the Church of Cthulhu the Dead God today.”
[Cheerful music intensifies, and a toll-free number flashes on the screen, almost as bright as Shiverbert’s smile.]
This sounds like a conversation from a Dickens novel.
Mr. Quillens sat in the corner, in a most curious posture. His long, narrow back arched painfully forward as though two weights were pressed down just above his shoulders, although Elliot Goodwinkle could see no such apparatus. His bulbous head was propped up by a spindly arm, resisting the natural gravitational attraction that pulled his heavy thoughts down to earth.
Elliot approached uncertainly. “Hello, how are you?” he asked, hoping to initiate the comfortingly mundane process of taking an order. But all was in vain.
Mr. Quillens turned his hooded eyes upon the boy before him, studying this new specimen with the same piercing dispassion with which he had dissected the weighty tomes now sitting on the table. “I’m fine,” he said crisply. “As you can see, I’m sitting in the corner, working on my final essay.”
Elliot was not quite sure what to make of this. It did not seem to be a coffee order. “I see,” he replied politely, “and I applaud your diligence. Are you in college?”
A strange smile crept across Mr. Quillens’ parched face. “Yes, my return term,” he said, nodding emphatically. “I already got my two-year degree.”
This still did not seem to be a coffee order, but Elliot could see he had pleased his patron somehow, and this made him glad. He blushed with pride, and continued hopefully: “Wow, you got a degree and you’re back for more? I so think that’s awesome.”
Mr. Quillens stretched his long back into a more upright position, though the invisible weights remained balanced on his narrow shoulders. “Yes, I just want to have a better future,” he responded modestly. He ducked his great head towards the wall to avoid any unmerited attention. “I’m going into Social-Science-Slash-Human-Services.”
Elliot was not, to be quite truthful, entirely certain what Social-Science-Slash-Human-Services might mean, yet he could tell by the importance laid on this term that it must refer to something very grand. Wonderstruck at the tremendous magnitude of Mr. Quillens’ presumable scholastic achievement, he managed to address the great man once more. “From your posture and confident voice, I can tell you’re going to touch lives,” he squeaked. “Any advice on college?”
Mr. Quillens allowed himself to be touched by the humble orphan’s plea for knowledge, which he had in such plentiful supply. The learned man lifted his head and smiled beatifically, raising his hand like a priest giving a benediction. “Just be yourself,” he intoned gravely, “and God will do the rest.”
Upon hearing the sage’s wisdom, Elliot was overcome with emotion at the simplicity and poignancy of the words. “Wow, that’s the most simplest and modest advice I ever received,” he whispered. He tried to envision how the world must look to a man of such enlightenment, but could only conclude it must be beyond understanding. “Wow, God is all over you.”
“God is all over all of us,” Mr. Quillens rumbled magnanimously. He swept his hand to indicate the entirety of the Starbucks. “We just have to be willing to be open-minded.”
“Thank you,” squeaked Elliot. “You’re an awesome asset.”
Mr. Quillens positively beamed, soaking up the orphan’s praise. “You’re an awesome asset,” he cried. “Thank you for the white chocolate mocha and all that you do. You will be just fine.”
At this moment, young Elliot remembered Mrs. Pinchworth’s strict instruction: to acquire the customer’s order at all costs. He leapt into the air in shock as the cold realities of the Starbucks intruded upon the exalted meditations of the mind which Mr. Quillens had induced in him. “Likewise!” he yelped, then turned on his heel and scurried back to the kitchen.
“Buying books is a waste of money, Dan. We can borrow them for free from the library — it’s just down the street.”
Dan stopped. He stared at his girlfriend as if seeing her for the first time… and in a way, he was.
“Dan?” Molly asked. “Dan, are you okay?”
Dan said nothing. He simply stared.
“Dan, you’re creeping me out. We can — I mean, we can stay here if you want to. I just thought the library would be more cost-effective, you know, and kind of support the community…”
Dan did not listen to her feeble excuses. Instead, he traced out every line on Molly’s face with his piercing blue eyes, seeking to bore through her skull with his penetrating gaze and draw out every secret thought within.
The minutes ticked by. Dan said nothing. He merely stood, scrutinizing every detail of this face he thought he’d known. Molly grew more and more uncomfortable, but something compelled her to stay.
Minutes turned into hours, hours into days, days into weeks. The store employees gave up on trying to make Dan leave at closing time after the first few days. Molly eventually resigned herself to her fate, breaking the silence only occasionally to ask for food or water. Her requests were met with silence.
Finally, as the wind whipped through the ruins of what had once been a bookstore in the wreckage of what had once been Des Moines, Dan spoke. His voice rasped from long centuries of disuse; his jaw cracked and popped as it opened for the first time in living memory. Molly strained her failing ears to hear what, at long last, Dan found worth saying.
Just a moment ago, it had been filled with laughter as students reacted to Allison’s latest witticism. Their smiles were still frozen on their faces, eyes staring blankly at her — the last person they’d ever see.
The silence was broken by the thumping of 399 fresh corpses on the carpeted floor.
Professor Callahan stood motionlessly at the front of the class, mouth gaping in horror, but he did not fall. Allison looked at him in curiosity. “Did you not hear what I said, Professor?”
His mouth trembled, but no sound came out. He backed shakily away from his desk, eyes still on the bodies who had so recently been his students. After a long silence, he managed to stammer “Th-they’re all… are they… they’re d-dead?”
Allison rose from her chair and strode fluidly toward the terrified teacher, stepping over the bodies as she went. “Did you not hear me, Professor?” she repeated, a slight smile touching her lips.
“Stay back!” Callahan cried in horror, thrusting his arms out to ward her off. “W-whatever you did, I don’t want to know! Just — just go!”
Allison reached the professor’s desk, but didn’t stop moving forward. She seemed to slide over it like water, drawing unstoppably nearer to the terrified lecturer. Callahan tried to back away, but tripped over his own chair. He crawled backwards in desperation, limbs skittering, but was stopped by the wall behind him. He sobbed helplessly.
Allison kneeled in front of him, and whispered something in his ear.
So I take off my hood, untie my hair so that it flows freely, and kneel before her. Suddenly the sun breaks out from behind the clouds, beaming down directly behind my head. My hair catches the rays and shimmers in the light, like strands of spun gold floating gently in the breeze.
I can hear the sound of drums beating in time to the rhythm of my valiantly pounding heart as I look deep into the girl’s wonderstruck eyes. I open my mouth to speak, but before I can there is a noise of a thousand trumpets, and a booming voice sounds from the heavens. “Milady,” the voice thunders melodiously, “anyone can be a fighter. I mean, look at this weirdo, if she can be a fighter, anyone can, right?”
I swear, the look on that mother’s face made my day.
The cantina band tune begins to play. As the students join in, one by one, Mr. Einstein realizes what’s happening. The moment he’s always dreamed of.
He slowly unbuttons his shirt, thinking hard, acting suave. He’s been waiting for this moment, or one like it, his whole career. He whips off his overshirt, and the first six layers of T-shirt (Batman, Superman, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory, and Monty Python) in a single reasonably-fluid motion to reveal his Star Wars shirt.
Yes, it’s been quite warm wearing seventeen T-shirts on the off chance something like this could happen… but now, now his patience is vindicated! THIS IS HIS MOMENT IN THE SUN!
Once everyone has regained their hearing after the thunderous applause and the hundred-dollar bills have been swept off the floor, the students are privileged to look upon Sir Mr. Einstein, Music Overlord. A new era has begun.
I look straight ahead, trying to ignore the voice.
I’m not listening. There’s no one talking to me, and I am not listening. Honestly, I just want to get through my flight, get off this plane, and meet my wife and kids in the airport. It’s been a long weekend, and I just want to go home.
Shit. It’s not going away. I turn my head to the side, to the tiny porthole where the sunlight is streaming in through the clouds. “What?” I hiss as quietly as I can, covering my mouth with one hand.
“Albert, I have placed you on this airplane for a reason,” the voice booms sonorously. It’s rich and soothing, but to be totally honest with you I’d rather not hear the voice of God right now. I’d prefer to hear the voice of Sheila welcoming me to the gate. Or the voice of Carol, the flight attendant, showing up with those peanuts.
“There is a woman near to you,” God continues. “A pure vigin, who does not board this flight for a fun time like the others. She is in need, Albert, and I have placed you on this flight that you may provide.”
As the Lord speaks, the plane breaks through the clouds, and the light of the Sun comes pouring through the porthole. It’s astoundingly bright, but I can make out the even brighter forms of angels wheeling around it, their arms outstretched toward me. I know I must do as He bids.
I look surreptitiously around the plane, trying to find the vigin of whom God speaks. It’s not as easy as He maybe thought it would be. There’s a fuckton of people on this plane, and literally any one of them could be a pure vigin — who does He think I am, a friggin gynecologist? How would I even begin to — never mind.
As I’m grumbling under my breath, trying to steal glances at the other passengers without looking weird, I suddenly see her. A harried-looking young woman, who nonetheless has an air of radiance about her. A sort of… well, I don’t think I can describe it in words. I just know that she’s the one.
I get up from my seat. My neighbor sighs, shifting in his seat to try and let me past. He’s got the legs of a spider — long, skinny, all sharp knobby knees sticking into me as I try to squeeze by. This is just one of those instances where I feel like the All-Seeing, All-Knowing Lord of All Creation could have used a bit of foresight, maybe put in a little old lady instead of Michael Jordan here. No offense to He That Sitteth In The Heavens, of course.
Anyway, I get by the giraffe and the guy next to him, and squeeze out into the aisle. The woman I’m looking for is in an aisle seat, God be praised. I slide down to her, trying to act natural. I just don’t want to seem like some kind of weirdo — although that’s probably unavoidable in this situation.
I catch her eye, and kneel down in the aisle next to her. “Ma’am,” I say, feeling hot blood rising to my cheeks, “God is telling me to give you this.” I reach into my wallet and pull out a Benjamin. Damn, this holy work is expensive — maybe the Alpha and Omega can see His way to a little bank error in my favor or something. “I feel that you aren’t on this flight for a fun time,” I add — I don’t want to come off as a total nutter; maybe an explanation will help?
The vigin just kind of stares at me, stunned, and silently accepts the money. “God is good,” she finally manages to say.
Yeah, well, God didn’t earn that money, I want to say. That’d be old Albert, working 60 hours a week at an accounting firm in Vegas, with no assists from the Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. But that sounds a little like blasphemy, and I’m not looking for a smiting. “He proves it every single day,” I whisper, trying not to let the words choke me on the way out.
I make my way back to my seat, winding past the Amazing Spider-Man and finally collapsing into the chair. Phew. Just as I’m about to put my headphones on and relax for the rest of the journey, I hear the lady behind me stage-whispering to a flight attendant.
“I saw him paying off that lady. Looks like he’s a john, trying to buy a night; could even be a human trafficker! He looked Middle-Eastern.”
I recognize the voice immediately –it’s Ashley! She should be on top of the wall, waiting for me… but when I look for her, she isn’t there.
“A rapist! It’s a rapist! Someone please save me!” she begs.
I feel my blood begin to boil, a white-hot rage seething within my bones. Primal adrenaline surges through my body and unlocks deep reserves of hidden strength I hadn’t even known were there. My girlfriend is in trouble, and it’s up to me to save her.
I’m running toward the wall. It’s seven feet high, but in this state it might as well be seven inches, or seven miles. It’s just brick — it can’t stop me now. I leap with all my strength, and somersault elegantly over the wall.
As I’m vaulting through the air, I pause to take stock of the situation. Below me I see Ashley, in the rough grip of a young man. He looks 24, 25 at the most to my practiced eye. He seems to be in the act of removing her clothes and tossing them into the air — I twist expertly to avoid her airborne jacket. He doesn’t seem to be armed, but his foul presence is weapon enough.
I land on one foot, about a yard behind the would-be rapist, and execute a devastating spinning kick to the head. He crumples to the ground — he hasn’t even seen me yet. But he’s more formidable than I realized, and no sooner has he hit the dirt than he’s getting back to his feet.
A poor decision, I reflect through a haze of blinding rage. He lurches toward me, blood pouring from his temple: a fatal mistake.
I lunge toward him. There’s a 2×4 in my grasp — where it came from, how it came to be in my hand, why it was lying around in my girlfriend’s yard — these things don’t matter. All that matters is this moment, the moment when I purge this unholy slime monster from the face of God’s green earth.
The 2×4 makes contact with the rapey scumbag’s forehead, and he goes down again. This time, I don’t intend to give him the chance to get back up. I bring the 2×4 down again… again… again…
When I finally look up, breathing heavily, everything looks red. At first I think it’s just the power of my berserker fury obscuring all within my view, but then I realize it’s blood. His blood. It’s everywhere, except on me and my girlfriend. The power of her purity and my righteous wrath repelled the unclean liquid, I realize.
I look at Ashley, who seems shaken but unharmed. “You alright?” I grunt in a strong yet manly tone not unlike that of Christian Bale’s Batman.
“I think so,” she says, shaken. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if you weren’t here. You are… my champion, Gerald.”
“Just doing what had to be done,” I growl, abashed. “We probably better call the law.”
The police arrive with an ambulance within minutes. Unsurprisingly, their leader wishes to speak with me. “I heard he was a rapist,” the commissioner says somberly.
“We believe so, yes,” I growl gravely.
“Terrible thing, terrible thing,” he says, shaking his head. “This girl is just lucky to have someone like you here. We all are, really.”
I nod wordlessly. They are.
“Well,” the commissioner says, “I don’t think I need anything more from you. You’ve done enough already. We’ll just have the EMT clean up this mess” — he gazes distastefully at what remains of the rapist — “and get a fire truck to hose down this street. Thank you for what you did tonight.”
I nod again, and turn to go. As I do, I see a pair of ninjas out of the corner of my eye, advancing on the unsuspecting Ashley. Without missing a beat, I draw a pair of submachine guns from under my windbreaker and kill them both with a clean shot to the head.
I worked at a movie theater for 800 years, and I can confirm that the trash is definitely screened. As Managerial Overlord, I routinely picked through every single piece of trash in every single trashcan in the entire complex, and if I found so much as a single wrapper that did not originate from our concession stand, I fired all of my employees.
In fact, in order to better identify outside food articles, we used a special fluorescent pigment in all of our packaging. I would just shine a UV flashlight on any suspicious packaging, and if it didn’t glow, BOOM — everyone’s fired.
The worst incident was when I actually caught this guy trying to get into a screening of Logan with what was clearly an outside water bottle. I saw the Ticket Tearer look at the water bottle and let the guy through. Well, obviously I banned the offending “patron” from all movie theaters for life. He will never see another movie again. The Ticket Tearer was fired, of course, and then publicly executed in the lobby.
Just my experience, and a friendly warning not to bring outside refreshments into the movie theater! You have been warned.
I walk into the Ashbary for the first time. My eyes dart back and forth across the room, drinking in the wonders I see. It’s incredible to finally be among my own kind — all my life I thought I was the only one, and now…
It’s been a long road getting here. I never knew my parents; I was abandoned in the forest as a child, raised by squirrels. They accepted me as one of their own, and I spent my childhood leaping through the trees like one of them. I learned English from a Gloria Steinem book I found by the side of the road, but always believed my people were dead.
I’m overwhelmed by the sights, and sounds, and smells inside the coffeehouse. Covering my eyes to protect myself, I stumble towards the nearest door. I need a moment to compose myself before interacting with my kind for the first time. Suddenly a high-pitched shriek, not unlike those of my squirrel family, interrupts me.
“That’s for boys!” squeaks one of the little humans. She is dressed in an eye-raping shade of pink, pointing her stubby finger directly at my grimy face. There can be no mistaking that she’s speaking to me. This… this was not how I wanted my first interaction to go.
I meet her gaze, trying to keep my composure. What does she mean with this unfamiliar word? “What’s a boy?” I mumble — but rather than wait for her to answer, I stagger through the doorway and begin to quietly sob.
“I said no, Kevin. You’ve already gone twice this period. Wait until lunch.”
Jeez, these sixth graders. Some of them will do anything to get out of class. I can’t imagine it’s more enjoyable to play bathroom relay than to learn how batteries work — I mean, maybe it’s a little dry, but I’ve got a fun experiment planned for next class. We’re going to build a little copper-zinc cell; maybe that will keep Kevin’s attention.
“Anyway, if I can continue with class, let’s talk about electric potentials. Do you guys know what that means?…”
I continue with my lecture, and I think I see a couple of the students really getting interested. This is what I live for! Instilling the joy of discovery in the next generation. I’m getting so into it that, I confess, I take my eye off Kevin for a minute.
I should have noticed when he got quiet.
The giggles and gasps are what catch my attention, breaking me out of the teaching zone. Kevin’s in the corner of the room — why is Kevin in the corner of the room? What has he… oh god.
“KEVIN, NO!” I cry, but it’s too late. He turns his face toward me, and… the rest of him. I can’t do justice to his facial expression with words — it’s the expression of someone who knows he’s beaten you. Someone who has just pissed, not only into a beaker, but also all over your hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
“Hur-hur-hur,” Kevin chortles. “How ya like that, Mister Dumb?”
I’m at a loss. I need to act fast, or I’ll lose control of the class. I can already see their shock hardening into revulsion. “Kevin…” I mumble. “Kevin, why don’t you go home for today. I’ll have the office call your parents.”
“Just — just leave the beaker here, I’ll take care of it. And how about you take a couple friends home, too? Just relax and enjoy yourself.”
“Heh-heh-heh,” he titters. God, I hate him. I hate him so much.
Kevin zips up and prances out of the room, his gaggle of smelly followers waddling behind him. I toss a paper towel over the urine beaker before returning to my desk. I take a moment to compose myself, then raise my head to look my students dead in the eyes.
Horror, disgust, and loathing are written on every face. Damn, we’re going to have to have an anti-bullying assembly next week.
[Sorry I don’t have the image and it’s been deleted]
Jeremy’s stupid, stupid, stupid dog pooped in the living room again today. Directly on the carpet. I bet the wretched beast knows how hard that is to clean up — he never does it anywhere else. And he always looks at me with those eyes… those awful, knowing eyes…
I’m going to have him put down before he kills me in my sleep.
No, no. Jeremy would never talk to me again. I’ll make it look like a suicide. But anyway, I was trying to tell you what brings me to the Hallmark store today. Point is I need to punish Jeremy as well as the dog — told him when he got the monster that it’d be his responsibility; that hasn’t changed just because he went to to boarding school. So I’m looking for one of those voice-recording cards that lets you send a personalized message — you know the type.
There’s one. Jackpot.
I can barely contain myself long enough to pay and get out to the car. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say — should I cuss him out? Shriek wordlessly? Tell him he’s just a misplaced condom in the backseat of a Pontiac Aztek? Bit of a toss-up.
I decide to try the shriek. I open up the card, press the little record button, and let loose the purest expression of unholy wrath you’ve ever heard.
Whoo, little lightheaded there. I notice a couple of busybodies staring at me, so I shout “Mind your own damn business!” and roll up the windows. It’ll be worth it when my idiot son finds out just how I feel — god, his face is gonna be priceless. I play it back.
Crackle crackle hiss crackle pause hiss crackle hiss.
Okay, turns out this thing’s not great at reproducing bloodcurdling bellows of sheer unchecked rage. Good to know. Also the volume is not 100% as high as I envisioned, but I can make do.
Plan B. Alright, I’ll cuss him out. I hit the record button again.
“JEREMY, YOU BETTER OPEN THIS YOU GODDAMN PIECE OF SHIT! CAUSE GUESS WHAT YOUR MOTHERLESS SCOUNDREL OF AN OVERGROWN RAT JUST LAID ON MY BEAUTIFUL CARPET? YEAH! A GODDAMN PIECE OF SHIT! NEXT TIME YOU COME HOME, YOU BETTER TEACH THAT UNDERDEVELOPED, SCUMSUCKING, CAVE-DWELLING PIECE OF FUCKING FILTH TO RESPECT THE CHAIN OF FUCKING COMMAND, OR I WILL END YOU! AND FEED YOU TO HIM!”
I take a breath. I’m really feeling this — it’s cathartic, I’m telling you. Everybody should try it. But I have to stop somewhere, so I figure now’s as good as ever. I take my finger off the record button.
After I’ve dropped the letter in the mailbox, I’m filled with a sudden inspiration. What if I could embarrass my idiot spawn in front of all his idiot friends? I grab my cell phone.
He picks up after four rings, because he’s a lazy bastard and couldn’t be bothered to do it any earlier. “Yo, Jeremy,” he mumbles.
“Hello, my son,” I say with deceptively good cheer. “And how are you this morning?”
“Uh, fine Dad,” he mumbles.
“That’s so good to hear,” I say. “I’m glad. You know, Jeremy, your mother and I” (a good lie, adding his mom, huh? He’ll never suspect) “have been missing you so much, so we just sent you a little letter today. You should get it in the next couple days.”
“Oh. Um, thanks, I’ll look out for it.”
“Wonderful, wonderful. Just like you. Wonderful. Oh — one more thing — remember to open it in the dining hall. With all your friends.”
“Um… sure, I can do that. Why?”
“You’ll know. Don’t worry. Just remember to open it in the dining hall, that’s very important.”
“Yeah, okay. Letter. Dining hall. Got it.”
“Well, it’s been so much fun talking with you, Jeremy my son. So much fun. Look out for my letter, and I’ll talk to you again soon.”
I hang up, and rub my hands with glee. Oh, this is going to be just tremendous. He’s going to die of shame.
Normally when some hairless predator tries to rip me from the sky, I’d go to town on him. This beak’s not ornamental. But there was just something about this boy — maybe it was the gentleness in his grip, or the pure diversity that shone from his face. I could tell he was a friend.
So I folded my wings and let me draw him to his breast, where he kissed me upon the forehead and shed a single tear upon my plumage. I nuzzled his chest with my beak, and we shared a moment that seemed like an eternity.
Then one of his multiethnic friends called me “that shit” and ruined it. Thanks a lot.