I'm a simple guy who likes primary colors and writing.
I find the funny in things and kill it.
Some call me the Exterminator of Humor, but I prefer the Assassin of Comedy.
Or Cole. I'll also respond to that.
At 11:37 this morning, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and, since tragedy could strike at anytime, debated not answering the call. Then I thought, “Gravy! It might be Publisher’s Clearing House!” so I answered.
It was not Publisher’s Clearing House.
Let me repeat that for those of you planning to ask me for a loan. It was *NOT* Publisher’s Clearing House.
It was, in fact, Sheila.
“Good afternoon, this is Sheila with Cancer Research of America, how are you today?” a rather chipper voice asked. It was the type of voice that would shortly be asking me for a donation.
“I’d be better if you knew it was morning here, Sheila,” I politely replied to the chipper east coast elitist.
“Yes, of course, good morning,” she said, stumbling over her canned speech.
“Well, what can I do for you today?” I asked, opening a Wikipedia article about puffins on my laptop.
Sheila took a breath, launching her pitch. “Cancer Research of America is a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for cancer—“
My ears perked up.
“What’s this? A cure for cancer? I’ve seen quite a bit posted on Facebook about cancer, Sheila. Many of my acquaintances share posts in support of those fighting cancer. Tell me more about cancer,” I said, honestly intrigued.
“You haven’t heard of cancer?” Sheila asked, seeming a bit befuddled. East coast elites always seem to think people have nothing better to do than keep up with the news.
“No, please, tell me more about cancer and this cure you’re funding. Will we be sending troops in to destroy them or is this more of drone operation?” I asked, pulling out a pen and pad of paper. I felt the information Sheila was about to offer would be invaluable to my friends. I wanted to get every detail right.
“Troops? Drone operations? I’m not sure I understand,” Sheila said, sounding more confused than when she started. Perhaps she wasn’t the tactician I needed to answer my questions.
“The cure for cancer. Given the voracity with which so many people want to fight it, I assume it’s a terrorist organization. Foreign? Religious oriented? Hiding their operatives in refugee camps in order to take down our way of life? I’m certain my city is a prime target. In fact, I don’t like to talk ill about anyone, but I have this neighbor—“
“Let me stop you there,” Sheila said, the chipperness draining from her voice. She obviously felt quite strongly about the evils of cancer. Perhaps she had a relative fighting them. “Cancer is a disease which kills over half a million people a year in the US alone. More than one-and-a-half million people in the US will be diagnosed with cancer this year. As a whole, cancer is a significant health crisis—“
“A disease?” I said, setting down my pen. I had just been to see my doctor and was the picture of perfect health. In fact, she had taken four or five pictures of my perfect health.
“Yes. And we were wondering if you would donate to help us find a cure for this disease so no other people have to suffer.”
“But Sheila, what about heart disease? Asthma? Ingrown toenails? There are a lot of diseases and ailments out there. Your organization is spending God knows how much money to research and stop only one of them? That seems rather shortsighted.”
“Shortsighted? Cancer destroys the health and lives of so many people—“
“All health matters, Sheila, not just the health of those fighting cancer,” I replied.
The other end of the line was quiet. Then Sheila said, “I’ll take you off our list.”
“Thank you, Sheila. I’d appreciate that,” I said. “Of course, if your organization ever decides to expand their focus and admit #AllHealthMatters, I’d be happy donate.”
I’m not sure Sheila heard me. The line went dead before I finished speaking. I considered calling her back and letting her know I’d be happy to help with the all health matters movement but Wikipedia articles on puffins don’t read themselves.
After lunch, the dog and I went for a short walk through the turgid summer heat native New Orleanians call ‘a bit cool for the season.’ Our efforts earned one of us a sheen of sweat and the other a drooling pant. I won’t say which one won which.
Our next door neighbor, lovingly referred to as “Crazy Shawn” since he is both crazy and Shawn, was outside working on his lawn. Or, for those familiar with Shawn’s house, his lack of a lawn. Shawn spent many years spraying Round-Up on his front yard until every blade of grass was sent to the great green fields in the sky.
Optimists who visit say beautiful things like, “He must be preparing a rock garden.”
He must. Without the rock or the garden.
Rain has eroded half-a-foot of soil from his front yard, weakening the foundation of his house, Crazy Shawn laid down tar paper to protect what was left.
Guests plagued by positivity say to us, “A tar paper garden. Doesn’t Gwenyth Paltrow highly recommend those?”
If she does, I applaud her critics’ collective restraint in their descriptions of dear Gwen.
So this afternoon, Shawn is working on his tar paper lawn, weeding away grass which has launched an attack from our yard on the quarter inch of dirt between his fence and the tar paper.
Shawn is muttering to himself.
As those who know Shawn are aware, Shawn’s mutterings are the flapping wings of a butterfly which eventually cause a tsunami halfway across the world. Only, in this case, it isn’t a tsunami we need fear. Shawn’s mutterings grow into 911 calls, stalking charges, and physical violence.
Reminds one of Wilson from Home Improvement, n’est pas? And just like Wilson, there are important fence related conflicts I don’t have time to delve into today.
As anyone on the street will tell you, it’s best to pass Shawn by when he’s muttering. They’ll tell you that then ignore their own advice — but that doesn’t make the advice any less valuable.
Do as they say, not as they do.
So I pass, ignoring the muttering mischief-maker, when one word catches my attention.
I am a renter, could this muttering be about me? My natural sense of victimhood said, “Of course, why would he talk about anyone but you?”
And seeing as many of the neighbors have restraining orders against Shawn, there aren’t many people for him to talk about let alone to.
Then he paused. He nodded his head. He said, “Really? I can’t believe it,” while yanking up a tuft of grass and tossing it aside.
Silly me. It was an honest mistake. He was wearing a bluetooth device and talking to a friend.
A silly mistake that.
The dog and I passed through our front gate and she flopped down on the lawn. While she rolled around, I listened to Shawn go on about property values.
“And with such an expensive property!” he said, picking up unrooted clumps of grass and tossing them in a garbage can.
“Exactly. How do you handle it?” he asked, after a pause.
His friend must have some really awful renters. People destroying their property. Ruining the neighborhood. It’s unthinkable and, given this alternative, it makes me momentarily thankful to have Crazy Shawn as my neighbor instead of these reticent neer-do-wells.
Loaded up with grass, Shawn turns to drag the garbage can out to the street, giving me a clear view of his other ear.
The ear I assumed the bluetooth device was hung since is other ear was naked.
There was no bluetooth device.
No phone on speaker as he answers and asks questions about those… these… horrendous neighbors.
“Come out, come out, whereeeeever you are!” the Deuce sang, shooting plasma orbs at the Carlson Carbonite Building. A fiery cloud of glass and concrete exploded over Clayton Street; Ableman slid under an abandoned armored truck to avoid the rain of cinders and ash.
“Betsy, I need backup,” Ableman whispered into his communicator.
“No problem, Abe,” Betsy, sitting at her computer back at headquarters, replied. She pulled up the Backup Support Module to find which heroes were available and near downtown Beaver Creek.
“Login and Password?” the module asked.
Betsy furrowed her brow. She had logged on as soon as the emergency call came in and it shouldn’t have kicked her out already. She’d have to log a bug report with IT.
“Betsy?” Ableman’s voice crackled in the earpiece.
“Hang on. It logged me out,” Betsy said, entering her username and password.
The system flashed an “Unrecognized User” message.
“What the hell?” Betsy muttered.
“Talk to me, Bets,” Ableman whispered.
The scream of steel twisting against itself exploded in Betsy’s ear.
“Abe!” Betsy shouted.
“I’m okay,” Ableman said, running down an alleyway holding his left arm. The armored truck lay twisted and burning in Dimpleman’s Department Store’s holiday display. “I could really use that backup.”
Betsy pounded her keyboard. The system was again telling her, for the third time, her username wasn’t recognized. “Let me see if Henry can make the request,” Betsy said, jumping up from her chair. She turned and found the exit to her cubicle blocked by Mike, the Middle Manager.
“Hey there, Betsy. Mind joining me in the conference room for a minute?” Mike asked, giving her a two thumb salute.
“Just a minute, Mike, I really need Henry to—“
“You can give Henry the office gossip a little later, right now—“
“Betsy! What’s going on over there?” Ableman shouted. Something, sounding very much like Beaver Creek’s First National Bank, exploded in the background.
“Mike says he needs to talk to me in the conference room and won’t let me—“
“They’re doing that now?” Ableman shouted.
“Doing what now? What are you doing now?” Betsy asked Mike, her eyes growing big.
“This doesn’t need to be painful, Betsy. It’s just business,” Mike said. “If you’ll come with me.”
“Tell Mike it’s a Code Purple! I’ll give him the go ahead later,” Ableman shouted. “But I need backup now!”
“You knew about this?” Betsy muttered.
“I… Code Purple, Betsy. I order you to—“
Betsy snorted. She picked up her coat and purse. “Okay, Mike. Let’s get this over with,” she said, following him into the maze of cubicles.
Security alarms blared in Betsy’s ear as Ableman dashed through the bank’s wreckage. He begged her to send backup. “I can fix this, I swear,” he shouted over the plasma orbs exploding around him.
Ableman scaled a fire escape, climbing into a small apartment smelling of face powder and Persian cats. “Betsy, we’ve had good times,” he whispered, peering out the window.
The Deuce walked past the building, using his plasma cannon to knock parked cars through storefront windows.
In the conference room, The Axe was already sitting at the table with the blue layoff folder in front of her.
The Axe — a small, white-haired woman — always wore grey tweed and pearls. As the only ‘normal’ to reach an executive level, she had been given “The Axe” as her secret identity. Everyone joked the tweed and pearls were her company approved super costume.
“Betsy, hello. Please sit down,” The Axe said before turning to Mike and asking, “Will Ableman be joining us?”
“He hasn’t been at his desk all morning,” Mike replied, taking a seat next to The Axe.
“Typical,” she muttered, opening the blue folder. “For all their heroics, every one of them runs and hides when real work needs to be done.”
“Betsy, please!” Ableman shouted. “I’m sorry. I’ll give you a glowing recommendation. My brother works at Google—“
Betsy smiled. In one ear the Axe explained her severance package, how long Betsy’s insurance coverage would last, and the process for filing unemployment.
In the other ear, concrete exploded and a building groaned before crashing to the street.
“Betsy! I thought we were friends,” Ableman groaned, as he limped across Tripoli Boulevard and into a grocery store.
Betsy’s smile faltered as the store’s muzak piped through the earpiece. The normal sound was unnerving amid her current, surreal circumstances.
“I’m sure you’ll find work in no time. This isn’t due to performance and we will make sure anyone calling for a recommendations knows that,” The Axe said.
“Thank you,” Betsy replied, picking up the blue folder.
“Do you have any questions?” The Axe asked, as the muzak suddenly stopped and a corrugated roof collapsed into aisle 7.
“Oh! I almost forgot,” Betsy said, digging the earpiece out, and setting it on the table. “I don’t suppose I’ll be needing this any longer.”
“No, I suppose not. On a personal note, I’d like to thank you for your maturity during all of this. You have no idea how many people scream, plead, and threaten when it comes time for a transition,” The Axe said, standing to shake Betsy’s hand.
“These things happen,” Betsy said.
The Axe nodded and smiled. “Mike will walk you out. It’s policy.”
Marla Tipley stood on tiptoes, feeling around the top shelf for a jar of firenewt spines. “I know it was up here, just yesterday, I — Ah ha!” she said, pulling a green clay jar off the shelf.
“Drat!” Marla slammed the jar on the counter. “Any chance maggot tongues would work?”
Vork, cloaked in his heavy hooded cloak, despite the summer heat, shook his head.
“Doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?” Marla said, climbing on a stool to search the shelf.
Vork despised coming to Marla’s Magik Makings for his potion supplies. Not only did Marla overcharge for commonplace magical items, the shop was a disorganized mess. He preferred Petra’s Potion Emporium two towns over, but the corpse laying in his cavern wouldn’t keep in the summer heat, while he traveled there and back.
“Ah! Here we go, spine of firenewt! Somehow it ended up behind the bottle of swamprat urine,” Marla said, pulling a blue clay jar from the shelf and setting it next to the green one already on the counter.
“So let’s see. That’s one jar of firenewt spines and jar of maggot tongues,” Marla said, totaling the amounts on a pad of paper.
“Only the firenewt spines,” Vork said, pushing the maggot tongues away.
“I could have sworn you said—“
“Only the firenewt spines,” he repeated, placing a skinless hand on the blue jar.
Marla flinched seeing the hand. “Yes, of course. Just the jar of firenewt spines,” she mumbled, crossing maggot tongues off the bill of sale. “One silver.”
Vork dropped his last silver on the counter, stowed the blue jar in a pocket of his cloak, and left the shop.
“Creep,” Marla muttered, biting down on the silver coin.
Vork drifted through town, relishing the aversion people showed as he passed. Normally he would drift past the church, giving the pastor cause to pray, and by the schoolhouse, just to hear the children weep, but Vork was in a hurry.
Despite his urgency, Vork made sure to pass the Muller farm, where he stopped and whispered a short incantation. The cows lowed; inside the barn Leslie shouted, “Dammit, Vork, stop spoiling the milk!”
He whispered another incantation. The cows lowed a second time.
“Thank you, you skinless gimp!” Leslie shouted.
Vork would have smiled if he had lips and continued on. He’d visit with Leslie after resurrecting the corpse and returning it to the capital.
Up the road, he entered the woods. While walking the mile to his Cavern of Doom, he took time to enjoy the terrified silence of the birds. Simple pleasures were difficult to come by these days.
Vork’s troubles began when his Castle of Doom collapsed, several months earlier. While the townspeople whispered hell had swallowed the castle, but spit Vork back to earth, the truth was foundational water damage had caused a sinkhole to form. One evening while Vork was gathering bandit spleens by moonlight, the castle, most of his magical items, and his entire fortune had sunk into the earth.
Leslie Muller had been kind enough to let Vork stay in her home until he found the cavern in the woods.
But replacing everything he lost was costly and work had been hard to come by.
Bitter townsfolk requested minor hexes, giving Vork enough work to keep tea in the pot and bread on the table, but not enough to conduct his hellish endeavors and buy a nice cottage where he could invite Leslie Muller to dinner.
So Vork sent notices out to town boards throughout the Realm, offering competitive rates for malevolent magic and nefarious necromancy.
Vork heard somewhere alliteration sells.
He didn’t receive replies to his posts until a lucrative offer appeared on his doorstep three days earlier, followed by the corpse delivery last night.
Vork entered his cave and found the muddy potion in his cauldron had slowed to a simmer.
Vork added lilac wood to the fire and, after a few puffs from the magic bellows he had stolen from the Volcano of Shoo, the cauldron bubbled back to life.
Then Vork checked the corpse.
The corpse was overripe when it had arrived last night. Vork should have performed the spell immediately, but it was only after the corpse’s arrival Vork realized he was out of firenewt spines.
The morning’s heat had sped the body’s decay. Originally bloated and fishbelly grey, the corpse’s palor had risen to that of a sickly flan. Vork pressed a bony finger against the corpse’s stomach and found its consistency matched its color.
Vork calculated he had less than an hour before resurrection was no longer viable.
Vork wiped his flan-flesh coated finger on his robe and returned to the bubbling cauldron.
He took the clay jar of firenewt spines out of his pocket and pulled out the cork topper.
Vork dropped five firenewt spines in the cauldron. Their addition released a puff of green smoke, turning the brown brew red.
Vork began the first incantation. The lilac flames blazed up and over the cauldron and disappeared. An icy chill entered the cavern; frost formed on the walls.
Vork dipped a vial in the cauldron, filling it with the bubbling red resurrection potion.
He moved the ceremony to the corpse, chanting the second incantation, and poured the vial’s contents in the corpse’s mouth.
Then… Nothing happened.
He poked the corpse – his finger sunk to the knuckle in its flan-like side.
Possibly the firenewt spines were past their expiration date. Perhaps the corpse was no longer viable.
Or perhaps the spell needed time to work. The corpse was fairly dead.
So Vork made himself a pot of cucumber-lemongrass tea and waited to see if the resurrection would occur.
* * *
“Habeas Corpus!” the corpse shouted, jolting up from the floor. He then fell to the left and flopped aimlessly around on the floor like a fish in a dry barrel.
Vork picked up his green ceramic tea set, rinsed to pot and cup, and put them away.
Then he got his bag of traveling powder, whispered the incantation, and tossed a pinch of dust in the air between the corpse and himself.
The dust swirled and grew.
“Cloud!” the corpse shouted, as the traveling spell enveloped them both.
“Yes, cloud,” Vork muttered, as they disappeared from the cavern.
“What is the meaning of this?” Senator Wallpot shouted at the two men who suddenly appeared in the center of her office. One could have been the grim reaper while the other flopped helplessly on the floor.
“Justice Briff!” Senator Wallpot said, recognizing the flopping guest.
“Stare decisis!” the judge shouted, before rolling over and vomiting a pile of maggots out on the carpet.
“He… doesn’t look like himself,” the Senator said, looking down at the bloated, flan-like justice, who was currently picking through the pile of maggots.
“His coloring will improve with time. As for the rest of it…” Vork shrugged.
“I need to get him in his seat before the Queen nominates a replacement. Otherwise Justice Briff can no longer hold his seat on the high court,” the Senator said.
“Resurrection is dicey. You get, what you get,” Vork replied.
“Argle bargle!” Justice Briff screamed.
“Yes… well I suppose he’s already sounding more like himself,” the Senator chuckled. “And political beggars can’t be choosers. As promised, here is your payment,” Senator Wallpot pulled a sack of silver from her desk drawer and handed it to the wizard.
In exchange, Vork gave the Senator a scroll of instructions on dealing with the resurrected.
The Senator reviewed the scroll.
“He eats brains now?” she asked.
“Brains!” Justice Briff shouted, grabbing the hem of Vork’s cloak and putting it in his mouth.
“Legal minds will keep him current,” Vork replied, pulling his cloak from the justice’s mouth.
“I suppose there are enough lawyers in the Capital to keep him fed for a lifetime. Thank you for your service to the Realm and the Congressional party,” Senator Wallpot said, stowing the scroll in her desk drawer.
“Think nothing of it,” Vork replied, pulling the bag of traveling powder from his robe, and disappearing from the room.
The Senator helped the high court justice to his feet.
“Brains?” the justice asked, pulling at the Senator’s hair.
“Bradford!” the Senator yelled.
“Yes?” her assistant asked, hurrying into her office. A look of revolted surprised crossed his face, but he quickly covered and said, “Justice Briff, nice to see you again, sir.”
“Yarg,” the justice responded.
“Bradford, you attended law school, didn’t you?” the Senator asked.
But while researching (aka procrastinating) I discovered a conspiracy so deep, I had to turn to Wikiepedia for insight.
The Shitsticle That is Queen Elizabeth’s Dog Collection
For those not in the know, as I was until about three minutes ago when I checked Wikipedia, She-Of-Many-Hats has three breeds of dogs: corgis, cocker spaniels, and dorgis.
I, like you — unless you’re British and care for such things — thought the Queen only owned corgis. I also, like you, thought dorgis were a family of house elves in the Harry Potter series.
“So, she owns three types of dogs. There’s no conspiracy in that, Cole.”
Well, no freaking duh, Aunt Regina! It’s what further research of these dogs uncovered.
Stick with me and hold onto your bloomers.
HRH’s Corgi Collection
According to Wikipedia, at last count, the Queen owned five corgis. This “last count” caveat is important, since the last count was as of 2007. Nearly a decade has passed and no one has any clue how many corgis the Queen has, except maybe HRH herself.
And she’s keeping that shit off Wikipedia.
Oh, there’s a reason…
And his name is Monty.
The Queen’s five corgis are named, innocently enough: Monty, Emma, Linnet, Willow, and Holly.
Now aside from naming her dog Linnet, nothing seems particularly askew here.
Until Wikipedia, bastion of all temporal knowledge, goes on to explain the following:
“Monty, Willow and Holly appeared in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony when James Bond (portrayed by Daniel Craig) arrived at Buckingham Palace to escort the Queen to the event. Monty had previously belonged to the Queen Mother, and died soon after in September 2002.”
Did you catch that? No?
That’s because the Queen’s guards fucked around with the order of information so the timeline isn’t clear. Let me untangle this little fuckery for you.
2002 – Monty dies, soon after the Queen Mum passes. 2007 – Monty is one of Queen EII’s five corgis. 2012 – Monty appears next to Daniel ‘slab of carved beef’ Craig in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.
If you’re like me, I don’t have to tell you what this means.
Which is why I’ll tell you, because you aren’t like me, you poor, silly, naïve bastard.
Queen Elizabeth is dead!
“Wait, Cole, how do you figure that?”
Thought experiment time!
You’re one of the Queen’s handmaidens. One morning you come in and find her facedown in a bowl of Fruit Loops. What is your first thought?
Wait, you didn’t figure it out?
Fine, I’ll spoonfeed it to you.
“Oh, shit! She of the lesser hat game is gonna be Queen.”
As handmaiden to the Queen, you call all of England’s top scientists together and explain what’s at stake. Then you say, “You have two hours before the Duke of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall show up for breakfast. Fix this!”
So the scientist go all Newtown’s Law and build a time grabber.
“Cole, what’s a time grabber?”
Seriously? Take a high school science class.
A time grabber is like this:
Except it reaches through time to pluck back the thing, or person, you want.
So the scientists build the world’s first time grabber, reach back, and pluck a living Queen Elizabeth off the potty and bring her back thirty seconds before Charles and Camilla walk through the door.
Only the Queen happened to be holding Monty, the aforementioned dead corgi, on her lap while toileting.
Why would she do that?
She’s royal. Don’t ask stupid questions.
I know what you’re thinking…
“But, Cole, this seems highly likely. The cost of maintaining a quantum grabbed person, let alone person and dog combo, in the present day would be astronomical!”
I appreciate your economical savvy set-up for my transition to…
The Cocker Spaniels
You’re absolutely right, of course. Without the funds to support a quantum grabbed Queen, HRH would be sucked back to October 2002 where she came from.
Which is why Buckingham Palace is now home to five cocker spaniels.
Some people think cocker spaniels ground the quantumly kidnapped in the present day. Those people have no understanding of the basics of science caninery.
If you want a dog breed to ground the quantumly kidnapped in the present, you use finnish spitzes. But that’s a rare dog breed, even for a Queen, so instead you need a lot of money to pay the electric bill needed to maintain the temporal shell surrounding the Madam of Monarchy.
“But, Cole! She has a lot of cash, she’s the Queen!”
Yes, but remember, she doesn’t want Charles or Camilla knowing about this. So a secret stash of quantum maintanence cash is necessary.
So what do you do?
Get five cocker spaniels and sell their naming rights to large corporations.
“Cole, that’s ridiculous. You can’t prove it.”
Well, the Queen’s c-spans are named: Bisto, Oxo, Flash, Spick, and Span.
I know, now you think I’m fucking with you.
But I swear to Almighty Schrodinger, this shit is real.
Bisto – a British food company Oxo – another British food company Flash – a Marvel superhero… or DC hero… or a WB coming of age character Spick ’n Span – a cleaning product from Prestige Brands
Now I’ve only done some back of the napkin math on this, but those four brands over five dogs is more than enough to fund a quantum shell maintainment unit.
And if prices go up, she can just add a sixth cocker spaniel named, Beepee.
Now onto the dorgis… the unintended consequences of a quantum grab.
According to Wikipedia, a dorgi is not a house elf, but a corgi-dachschund hybrid.
Yeah, like we’re going to believe there enough people are standing around saying, “I want my corgi to have shorter legs and a longer spine, dachschundize-it!” to require a brand new breed of dog.
Here’s a picture of a dorgi:
I’ll admit, it looks like a dog, but there’s not an ounce of dachshund to be seen.
If anything, this is a corgi-Russell Tovey hybrid.
A bunch of furries just melted.
Dorgis are neither of the aforementioned hybrids, but a parallel universe version of the corgi.
“Wait, Cole, you lost us!”
Seriously, what were you doing during high school science?
In science, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Sigh… Fine, I’ll spoonfeed this to you.
Action: Pull Monty from historical timeline and hold him in the present.
Reaction: Alternate universe corgis come into the present to prevent an imbalance in the Force.
“Wait, Cole, that makes absolutely no—“
Ssshhh… Thinking too much hurts the brain.
But that leaves a looming question. If pulling Monty into the present pulled four alternate universe dorgis into the present, what was pulled through to balance out the presence of the Queen?
Zoe lifted her sunglasses so Barnaby could see she was watching and said, “Go ahead, baby!”
Barnaby, who wasn’t yet 3, crouched, wiggled his butt, and jumped into the pool where Bill caught him before he went under.
“Good job!” Zoe said, clapping.
Bill smiled and waved. Zoe waved back. Then he turned and crossed the resort’s pool giving Zoe a few minutes to relax in the sun.
The vacation was Bill’s idea. He planned everything, even booking first class tickets for both of them.
“I can fly down there and save us—“
“No way! I want you next to Barnaby and me the whole time. We like your company,” Bill said, kissing her on the forehead.
Zoe liked hearing that. She work had eaten up a lot of their time together.
All Zoe needed to do was request time off work and enjoy her vacation.
“Another daiquari, ma’am?” the waiter asked.
“Please,” Zoe said, settling back in the lounge chair and closing her eyes.
Nearby someone whispered, “Look at that!”
Zoe heard gasps and murmuring; then the familiar click of high-heeled boots. ‘How were those even useful footwear for a superhero?’ Zoe often wondered.
“Thermo?” Flying Girl asked.
Zoe sighed and opened her eyes. “Use my real name when I’m not in costume.”
“It’s a Code Burgundy,” Flying Girl said, ignoring the reprimand. She tossed her hair so it gently bobbed in the breeze.
Zoe considered Flying Girl a sanctimonious tool.
But with a Code Burgundy, Zoe couldn’t ignore her, even on vacation.
She spotted Bill swimming towards them, with Barnaby on his back. A knowing and disappointed look on his face.
Before Zoe offered her usual apologetic look, Bill shrugged and gave a half-smile of understanding which said, “If it weren’t for the health insurance…”
Zoe crooked her lip in response: “Damn benefits.”
Bill blew her a kiss, turned, and swam Barnaby off to the other side of the pool so he wouldn’t see mom leave. Hopefully she would be back before Barnaby woke up from his nap.
“Thermo, there’s no time to waste,” Flying Girl said, placing her fists on her hips.
“You’re single, aren’t you, Jennifer?” Thermo said, standing up. Before Flying Girl responded, Thermo flashed into the sky, leaving a pair of burnt footprints on the cement deck.
Flying Girl glanced around, seeing if anyone heard Thermo’s revealation of her secret identity. She would file a grievance as soon as she got back to the office.
Twenty minutes later, Thermo, in full costume, strode into the conference room.
“Thermo, glad you made it.” said the Purple Decree, who sat in his usual spot at the head of the table. Mike, the Middle Manager, sat to his right. “I trust you’ve been briefed on the situation?”
“No, I was poolside at the resort when Flying Girl notified me. There wasn’t time for an update,” Thermo said, hoping she accented the words ‘poolside’ and ‘resort’ without coming across as passive-aggressive.
“Then let’s jump in,” the Purple Decree said. “Mike, bring us up to speed.”
By ‘us,’ he meant ‘her.’
“Happily,” Mike said, connecting his laptop to the projector and dimming the lights.
Thermo maintained a corporately passive look, despite finding her vacation cut short to view one of Mike’s powerpoint presentations.
“Approximately ten hours ago, Buffalo, was wiped off the map,” Mike said. A picture of Buffalo’s former downtown flashed on the screen.
“What happened?” Thermo asked, concerned since Buffalo was a major city in her portfolio.
“That’s what we’d like to know,” the Purple Decree replied. “Mike, please continue.”
“We don’t know what destroyed it? Do we have anyone on the ground?” Thermo asked.
“Of course we know how it was destroyed. We’re here to figure out what happened,” the Purple Decree replied.
Thermo felt her temperature rise, but kept her questions to herself.
The screen changed. Security camera footage showed beasts rampaging through Buffalo.
“Approximately 16 hours ago, space yeti attacked and ultimately destroyed the city,” Mike said.
The screen changed again to read: “Thank You! Compiled by Mike Glaston, Middle Manager.”
The lights came back on.
“What happened when they attacked?” Thermo asked.
“We’ll let Mary Preston explain. Dial her in, Mike,” the Purple Decree said.
Mary Preston, Assistant City Manager of Buffalo, and Thermo’s primary contact on the account picked up on the second ring.
“Hello? Ms. Preston? This is the Purple Decree at Heroes Inc. I’m sitting with Mike, the Middle Manager, and Thermo to figure out exactly what went wrong.”
“I’ll tell you what went wrong. No one did their jobs! I must have called three dozen times and sent no less than fifteen urgent emails, but Thermo did not respond! Now everyone is dead and I’m out of a job!” Preston shouted.
“Mary, I’m so sorry. I’m not sure what happened—“ Thermo began, but got cut off.
“Like always, you were unresponsive!” Preston snapped.
“I’m not sure when you feel I’ve been unresponsive before, but this time I was on vacation. The Warlord Warrior was covering all of my accounts. Perhaps if we could—“
“How am I supposed to know the Waylaid Warfarer is covering your accounts? All I know is I called and emailed and got no response!”
Thermo took a deep breath, avoiding eye contact with Mike and the Purple Decree.
“When we spoke on our call last week, I mentioned I’d be out of the office. My voicemail and the out of office message on my email—“
“Buffalo was destroyed and you’re referring me to an out-of-office email! Are you saying this is MY fault?” Preston shouted.
“No one is saying anything of the sort,” the Purple Decree said, stepping in. “I heartily agree, Ms. Preston, now is not the time to get mired in details. We should be figuring out who is accountable for this disaster.”
Thermo felt her temperature rise.
“It’s good someone at your organization is willing to take responsibility! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to dig through the rubble that was once my house,” Mary Preston said before hanging up.
“It sounds as if Ms. Preston attempted to contact us,” the Purple Decree said.
‘Me,’ Thermo wanted to say. ‘She attempted to contact me,’ but instead said, “I can bring up the emails and voicemails.”
“No need,” the Purple Decree said. “As long as you’re sure you set your out-of-office messages?”
“I am,” Thermo said, failing to keep the annoyance from her voice.
“I’ll trust your word on that,” the Purple Decree replied. “Did you follow protocol of having all emails forwarded to your backup?”
“Of course. The Warlord Warrior and I tested it last week before I left. Perhaps if he joined us we could—“
“Oh, he’s dead. He was killed in an assault by Cheethor two days ago,” Mike, the Middle Manager, said.
“Ah, yes. I remember the email,” the Purple Decree said.
Thermo lifted her mask, staring at the two buffoons across the table. “Warlord is dead?” she asked, enunciating each word. She steam hissed through her ear canals.
“Yes, didn’t you read my email?” Mike asked.
“Nevermind that. I’m concerned about what happened in Buffalo,” the Purple Decree said. “Tell me, Thermo, how do you think we can do better for our clients?”
There was the ‘we’ again.
“The Warlord Warrior was dead and I was on vacation. Who was supposed to cover an attack on Buffalo, or any of my clients for that matter?” Thermo asked, a puff of black smoke escaping her left nostril.
“Thermo… Zoe, this sounds like a problem instead of a solution,” the Purple Decree said, folding his hands on the table.
“I’m just pointing out a possible procedural breakdown, if we don’t have a failsafe for a vacationing, or dead, superhero this could happen again,” Thermo replied, clenching her teeth.
“We have a plan. When a superhero leaves the company, their Middle Manager assigns their workload,” Purple Decree replied.
“So Mike was supposed to delegate the workload?” Thermo asked.
Convincing Barnaby to eat his peas or Bill she needed to work late was easier than this conversation.
“We’re not looking to point fingers, Thermo,” Purple Decree replied.
“And I’ve been swamped compiling expense reports. There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” Mike replied. “It’s why I depend on my colleagues to be independent.”
“Independent?” Thermo repeated, as the back of her chair began melting.
“See, Thermo? If we don’t support each other cities, lives, and accounts will be lost. We need independent, outside-the-box thinkers who can work beyond protocol. Buffalo is a sad reminder of what happens if we don’t. So I would like you and Mike to come up with a workable solution for future breakdowns of this sort—“
“Purple Decree, I have a suggestion,” Mike, the Middle Manager, said.
“Oh good! Thank you, Mike, for bringing forth a solution for Thermo’s oversight. What are you thinking?” the Purple Decree asked, swiveling in his chair so his back was to Thermo.
“Perhaps if Thermo, or any superhero really, is out of the office, they should be expected to check their email and voicemail on a regular basis. This way they’ll always be up to speed on what’s going on and can plan accordingly. If Thermo had been aware the Warlord Warrior was dead, she could have made alternate accommodations for her clients,” Mike replied.
“Wonderful idea, Mike! And thank you for offering us a solution. How often would you recommend heroes check-in?” the Purple Decree asked.
“I don’t think more than once an hour is necessary,” Mike replied.
“Once an hour!” Thermo exploded, quite literally in a blinding flash of heat and light. Fortunately the conference room at Heroes Inc. is outfitted against such internal disasters, as it’s often used by HR for layoffs.
Shielded from Thermo’s explosion, the Purple Decree and Mike gave her a moment to pull herself together.
“I’m sure you understand what a privilege it is to work here,” the Purple Decree said.
“Of course, and I’m sorry for my outburst,” Thermo said, sounding as apologetic as a volcano. “Now, Mike, who will be backing up my other clients for the rest of my vacation?”
“As the Warlord Warrior’s backup, I’m sure you understand we’ll need you in the office. I’ve gotten word a giant algae mass has been spotted off the coast of Portland, and—”
“But my vacation—“
Purple Decree lifted a finger. “I’m sure you understand how, after the incident with Buffalo, vacation time should not be your first priority.”
Welcome, welcome, welcome to Carnivale Cole’s Mardi Gras Pitching Contest! Step right up and show off your strength and accuracy! Prove your skills to that lovely lady or gentleman in your life. Win them beads! A stuffed animal! Or any number of wonderous prizes.
Who will be the first to show us what sort of king cake they’re made of?
You, sir! Thank you very much. Step right up.
Let’s all give him a round of applause!
Now sir, let me start you off with 5 3-lb bags of beads. We’ll put you on this parade float and get you traveling down the street.
Up ahead, you’ll see people standing on platforms and ladders. Knock down at least 3 people and win this amazing stuffed elephant for your lady friend!
Okay ladies and gentlemen, hee went for the college girl on the foot-width platform. Good choice, she had nowhere to dive!
Oh! A near hit! Unfortunately the bag exploded on a ladder showering everyone with beads.
Bonus points for hitting someone already standing on the ground! They crumpled like a wet paper bag!
He must be getting desperate! He went for the baby carriage! Too bad it’s empty! A ruse de guerre!
Last chance, who will he go for?
The gentleman on the ladder who, it seems, was not quite as drunk as our contestant assumed! The man on the ladder caught the bag! No points awarded.
Thank you, sir for playing! Better luck next time!
Inside the sacred tent, Sev the Barbarian knelt before the tribe’s high priest. The sacred fire of Galeth burned behind him and illuminated the priest’s face.
“Sev, Seventh Child of the Seventh Leader of the Seventh Tribe, do you accept your fate as the one foretold?”
Sev, born into prophecy, without any say in the matter, knew only one answer. He was, and always would be, the Seventh Child of the Seventh Leader of the Seventh Tribe.”
“I accept,” Sev answered, bowing his head to his knee.
“Bring forth the Spear of Galeth!” the high priest shouted.
Four of the Seventh Tribe’s strongest warriors carried the Ark of the Spear into the sacred tent and placed the stone case behind the high priest. The priest placed his hand on the Ark, reciting the incantation of Fenault. The Ark’s lid glowed pink and opened.
“Sev, the Seventh child, retrieve your destiny!”
Sev took Galeth’s spear from the Ark. The tribe cheered.
Sev held the spear for all to see, speaking the ceremonial words ingrained upon him since birth.
“Today we ride across the unclaimed desert to the Cavern of Moore! And with the swiftness of Galeth, we will stop Boh’s awakening!”
During the reign of King Bluthmarn III, the city of Narr was the pinnacle of culture, society, and architecture. Glass spires rose high above the marble walls surrounding the city. Poets, musicians, and fashion designers of any historical note resided inside its walls. Famed merchant houses for textiles, jewelry, and spices headquartered in Narr.
Anyone who was anyone came to Narr to walk its flagstone streets and soak up its culture.
And protecting the Realm’s richest city was a red and white guardhouse just outside the city’s main gate.
And inside the guardhouse, reading today’s newspaper, sat Daris the guard.
“Good morning, Daris!”
Daris looked up from the paper and found Alice Preston learning through the gatehouse window.
“Ms. Preston! Good morning! Lovely day!” Daris said, quickly folding up the paper, and brushing off his epaulettes.
“It is, isn’t it? Are you going to see the Harlequins’ show tonight?” Alice asked, referring to famed traveling circus.
Darius puffed out his chest. “I’ll be guarding the city.”
“Oh, poop. I hoped you’d join me. Perhaps another night,” Alice said, pouting her lips.
“I… would like that,” Daris said, allowing a brief, unprofessional smile to touch his lips.
“Wonderful! Well, I should get to work,” Alice said, turning to the road out of Narr. “Have a wonderful…”
Alice paused, squinting at the horizon. “What do you suppose that is?” she asked, pointing.
Daris leaned out the guardhouse window and caught a whiff of Alice’s mulberry perfume. He followed her gaze. In the distance, a cloud of dust tumbled towards the city.
“Better get inside the gate, Ms. Preston. This could be trouble.”
“Be careful, Daris,” Alice said, touching his arm before hurrying back to the safety of the city’s walls.
Daris ordered the gate closed.
Crowds gathered inside the gate and on the city walls. People whispered about the cloud. They asked Daris what he thought it was, but he simply picked up his paper and continued reading.
“He’s so brave. He’s not worried,” Alice said to those around her.
“We have nothing to fear with Daris at the gate!” someone else shouted.
Three cheers rose for Daris, then everyone waited to see what trouble the dust cloud would bring.
Hoofbeats rumbled across the plain. The cloudy shadows took shape. The people of Narr leaned forward, shouting descriptions, and wondering why barbarians approached.
Daris continued reading his newspaper.
The Seventh Tribe stopped a hundred yards from the gate. A single barbarian detached himself from the horde and rode to the red and white guardhouse.
Sev held the Spear of Galeth aloft and shouted, “I am—“
“State your business,” Daris muttered, folding his paper.
“Excuse me?” Sev asked, turning to look at the squat man in a box.
“State. Your. Business.” Daris repeated, enunciating each word.
“To… uh… I’m sorry, this is throwing me off a bit. I have a whole speech I’m supposed to give and—“
“Business! State it,” Daris said, slapping the paper down.
“Yes, sorry. To prevent the awakening of the demigod, Boh,” Sev replied.
Daris pulled out a clipboard and began flipping pages. “Boh… Boh… I’m sorry, I’m not seeing anything. Do you have any paperwork?”
“Paperwork?” Sev asked, glancing back at the high priest who, very unhelpfully, shrugged.
“Yes. Travel papers, state of work, seal of someone or another perhaps?” Daris asked, counting the options off on his fingers.
“I have the Spear of Galeth. Would that work?” Sev asked, holding out the spear.
“A weapon? Are you threatening me?”
The Narrian crowds booed.
“No. Absolutely not. I’ve taken a vow to save your city and the world. I would never…” Sev said, quickly putting the spear behind his back.
“I believe I can help, my Noble Sagewent,” a voice squawked from inside the horde.
Sev turned atop his horse and watched the horde part, letting through a tiny, old woman, loaded down by several leather satchels.
“Who are you?” Sev asked, having never seen this member of his tribe before.
“Madal, the bureaucrat, oh Noble Sagewent,” Madal said, approaching the guardhouse, while rifling through one of her seven satchels.
“Bureaucrat?” Sev repeated.
“I file forms, licenses, camping permits, and the like so no one else has to. All the stuff that takes away from the splendor of barbaring,” Magal said, before poking her head into one of the sacks.
“All hail, the bureaucrat!” Sev shouted.
“All hail!” the horde shouted in response.
“Oh! Haha, very funny,” Magal said, pulling a small leather purse from the third satchel. She walked to the guardhouse, stepping between Sev and Daris.
“Now then, I think you’ll find everything in order. Here is our invitation from the mayor and the King of the Realm to stop Boh’s awakening. Our license to fight beings up to, and including, demigod status. A permit to bring supernatural weapons into the city. And camping permits for outside the walls. Should we just set up camp over there?” Magal asked, pointing to a smattering of tents east of the city.
Daris grunted, shuffling through the paperwork. Unfortunately, everything was in order. Magal even had triplicate copies of the supernatural weapons permit for filing with the guardhouse, the armory, and cathedral.
With the entire city watching, Daris had no choice but to allow a horde of barbarians inside.
“I’m sorry. No,” Daris said, handing the paperwork back.
“No?” Magal said, glancing through the paperwork. “But I don’t understand.”
“My job is to protect the city. I do not believe barbarians have a place here,” Daris said, loudly so the citizens of Narr could hear.
“But we have the proper paperwork. I went through the proper channels and—“
“I have the Spear of Galeth!” Sev shouted, raising the spear over his head.
“That’s fine, dear, but right now we need to get this cleared up,” Magal said, patting the Sagewent’s leg. “Now then, what can we do to make this happen?”
“I’m sorry, but I do this for Narr!” Daris said, raising his chin with pride.
“We have followed all laws and completed all paperwork,” Magal said, holding out the paperwork for Daris to take.
Daris struggled. Magal was correct, they had followed the law and had the correct paperwork… But they did not have his blessing.
“There… are… laws… greater than those of men,” Daris said, bowing his head and performing the sign of the circle.
“Greater than… Excuse me?” Magal asked.
“Daris! Daris what are you doing? Let them in!”
Daris leaned out the guardhouse window, pushing past Magal, and saw Narr’s mayor standing behind the gate.
“Mayor Trutt! Hello! Never fear, I’ll keep these heathens out of the city!” Daris shouted, saluting the mayor.
“Let them in you buffoon! The prophesy says Boh will rise any moment. His awakening will destroy the city!” Trutt yelled. “And will someone open this damned gate!”
Daris looked at the citizens watching him from the walls and the crowd behind the gate.
He looked at Alice.
In her eyes, in all their eyes, he saw the same thing.
“Belay that order!” Daris shouted. “Only the guard of the gate may order the gate opened! I’m sorry, Mayor, but my duty must come first!”
The citizens of Narr cheered.
The mayor, surprised at the reaction, took a moment to realign himself with his constituency as there was an election fast approaching.
“Perhaps if you came back tomorrow? We appreciate your urgency, but we need time to discuss the pros and cons,” Mayor Trutt shouted to the barbarians.
“The pros and cons? But your city will be destroyed!” Sev shouted.
“Yes, yes. You’ve been very clear about that. I’m just not sure we believe you,” Daris said. “Honestly, in all the years I’ve lived in Narr, we’ve never had a demigod awaken.”
“Yes, but the Cavern of Moore—“
Magal returned the paperwork to her third satchel.
“Have a nice day and thank you for visiting Narr,” Daris said.
“Yeah, sure,” Sev said, turning to ride off.
“One moment,” Magal said, digging through her sixth satchel and pulling out a scroll. “I’ll need each of you to sign the refusal of services contract. Basically releasing the Seventh Tribe from any damage, disaster, or death resulting from not fulfilling the prophecy. If you could sign here, here, and… well, next to each X, we’ll be on our way.”
Daris snatched the scroll and signed his name next to each X, feeling the paperwork undermined his impressive display of heroism for Narr.
“I’ll need a copy of this for our files,” Daris said, handing back the scroll.
“Of course,” Magal said, handing the scroll to Sev.
Sev signed on the lines marked, “Prophesy Filler,” and handed the scroll back to Magal.
Magal whispered an incantation older than the one used for opening the Ark of Spear. The scroll glowed green and a second version of the signed scroll appeared next to the first.
“Here’s your copy. Make sure to file it with your Hall of Records and—“
“I know the procedure for filing forms with the city,” Daris snapped, taking the scroll.
“Of course you do. Now, I suppose we should be on our way, my Noble Sagewent?” Magal said, turning to Sev.
“I suppose we should,” Sev said, shouldering the Spear of Galeth.
“Don’t forget to come by tomorrow after we have this all sorted!” Mayor Trutt shouted.
But the barbarian horde had turned and was already riding back across the Narrian plains.
Daris stepped out of the guardhouse, watching the retreating horde’s dust. Then he turned to the people of Narr.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of Narr! Today is an important day. A day we have saved our children from—“
The ground shook. Daris stumbled, grabbing the guardhouse for support. Several people screamed for the gate to be opened.
“It’s only a small tremor. Now where was I? … Ah yes! Today I have protected you from the scourge of—“
The ground shook again. The cathedral’s glass spire cracked.
“Just an aftershock! You see—“
But no one saw, mostly because they were tumbling down into the Cavern of Moore as Boh stood and wiped the sleep from his eyes.
That’s right! The Basis of Belief machine, or B.o.B., fronts as a Georgian rapper. And Neil deGrasse Tyson responds in B.o.B.’s preferred programming language.
Shit just went Asimov, bitches!
Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Cole, B.o.B. is a crackpot conspiracy theorist not a sentient robot!”
“A crackpot, you say? How do you know?” I ask.
“Because… Um… The world is round, not flat?” you say.
“How do you know?” I reply.
“Because my third grade teacher told me so!”
“She also told you weed was evil and sex kills.”
“Shit! You have a point, Cole!”
I always do.
So put on your tinfoil hat — seriously, I don’t want you distracting me with your sexy thoughts — and let’s get this conspiracy show on the road!
I, like you, found myself wondering, “What if B.o.B. is right? What if Neil deGrasse Tyson, as minister of the Science Industrial Complex, is lying to us? And why was Washington Irving a shithead?”
These are a lot of difficult questions.
Since I know you’re busy with the kids, I went ahead and found the answers for you.
I put on my Dunce (Italian for ‘thinking cap’) and took to the internet to learn how the Earth became round.
“Gah, Cole, are you really going to give a history lecture like Mr. Saam did everyday of Sophomore year?”
Gah, you’re a difficult audience.
Fine, I’ll bump up the entertainment value and give you a little lesson I like to call, “Science History!”
So put on your Breakfast Club Soundtrack and follow along with the all new:
Abridged History of the Theory of the Round Earth: 80s Style High School Movie
Pythagoras – The Stoner
2,600 years ago Pythagoras and his surfing bros were hanging out on the beach, smoking weed, and watching a flock of swans fly overhead.
“Oh shit! Guys, the Earth is round,” Pythagoras said, jumping to his feet.
In reality, he stumbled and wobbled to his feet, but it felt much faster in his head.
“Dude? Really?” Eschlamidides said, swaying his head to-and-fro.
“I can feel it!” Homeopathy shouted, swaying his hips and trying to catch his balance.
“Cool tan, bro!” Davaros the Feathered Haired added.
And it was a cool tan, bro. So cool it enchanted all the cool kids into believing Pythagoras’s theory.
Then everyone went to the mall, bleached their hair, and talked about how cool it was to live on a round world unlike their parents’ stodgy flat world.
Then a Spartan land developer threatened to tear down the mall, Pythagoras entered a geometry competition, invented his famed theorem, and won enough money to save the Athenacrest Shopping Plaza and Temple.
Aristotle – the Lost Soul
Two centuries later, at a Northeastern boarding school, Aristotle was left grieving the loss of his father. His mother, having recently married Aristotle’s uncle, sent him off to boarding school to ‘get over it, your daddy’s dead,’ and possibly hide the fact his uncle killed his father by pouring poison in his ear.
It’s Greek. It’s dramatic. It’s awesome.
And mostly unrelated to the rounding of the Earth.
Sad, depressed, morose Aristotle, looking for a father figure, finds himself in “Things We All Know But Don’t Have Proof of Yet” taught by Mork-turned-serious-thespian, Plato.
And Plato is a pain in the administration’s side, as all good teachers are. So the administration is looking for a reason to get rid of his hippy, non-traditional ass.
“He plays the lute in every class,” the dean moans in every third scene.
Interesting sidenote: Dean is Greek for “Whines about fun.”
So during the course of the semester, Plato teaches his students about Pythagoras’s philosophy that the Earth is round.
Plato also encourages one of his students, Oedipus, to go after the hot girl he ran into at the Crossroads Bar.
And if you don’t know how that turned out, you should probably stop relying on the American education system for your schooling.
The dean went to Plato’s class, grabbed the teacher by the arm, and escorted him from the room. Just as they reached the door, Aristotle climbed on his desk and recited the following poem:
“Oh Captain, My Captain!
As we move south,
The stars don’t grow in the sky
Because we stand on the orb
They rise northward and high.
Oh Captain, My Captain!
When the Earth’s lonely shadow
Creates an eclipse,
We see a round shape
On Artemis’s lips!”
The poem was shitty, but Aristotle’s sentiment was moving. Also, it offered the first logical proof the Earth was round.
Despite this sad moment, the movie ended happily for everyone except Oedipus.
The dean got rid of Plato.
Plato got a job at Harvard.
Aristotle got vengeance on his uncle and then went on to the illustrious position as tutor to Alexander the Great.
Also, there was a kegger in a cave.
Eratosthenes – the Productive Slacker
“Eratosthenes? … Eratosthenes? … Eratosthenes?” Ben Steinocles repeated ad nauseam.
Eratosthenes was not in school. He was playing hooky because his friend, Camocrates, needed to chill out and learn to become his own man.
Camocrates was pretty tightly wound on account of his father’s super high expectations.
So the boys stole Camocrates’s father’s mule cart and headed off to downtown Aswan for the day. There they caught Aristophanes’s Lysistrata and were transformed by its pro-sexual, anti-male empowerment message.
So Eratosthenes leaves the theater, jumps on a float, and sings Walk Like an Egyptian, because that’s what inspired people do when hanging out in downtown Aswan for the day.
While this is going on, there are two side stories about how his sister and the pedophile principle are trying to prove Eratosthenes is playing hooky. All this is terribly boring in comparison to Eratosthenes’s cool and insightful nature.
While dancing like an Egyptian on the float, Eratosthenes realizes his shadow has a different angle in Aswan than it does at home.
“How can he notice this while singing and dancing on a parade float?” most people wonder.
Because he’s cooler than any person who ever lived or ever will live, thank you very much.
Also, carpe fucking diem.
So Eratosthenes and Camocrates take some measurements in Aswan. Then they head home and take measurements there. Eratosthenes runs some calculations, Camocrates destroys the family mule cart, and the story is almost over.
Eratosthenes calculates the circumference of the planet, which he couldn’t do if it were flat like a pancake, and wins the science fair.
When his sister and principal finally catch up with him, Eratosthenes says, “I couldn’t have won the science fair if I was playing hooky, could I?”
The principle is foiled.
His sister learns a valuable lesson about life and science.
Camocrates stands up to his father.
And Eratosthenes hangs out by the pool with his girlfriend.
Revenge of The Protestants
Two centuries later, the Protestants have gotten pretty fed up with being bullied by the Catholics.
“St. Francis of Assisi gave me a swirly yesterday!” Dave complained, puffing on his inhaler.
“St. Augustine of Hippo invited me to the dance and then poured pig’s blood on me,” Jennifer whined, adjusting her glasses.
“Pope Gregory VII burned my girlfriend at the stake because she wouldn’t go out with him,” Chuck cried, popping a zit in the bathroom mirror.
“We’re Seniors! We can’t take this lying down. Do we want to be losers for the rest of our lives? It’s time we showed those Catholics they can’t get away with this!” Trevor said, adjusting his pocket protector, because no 80s nerd likes ink stains on their shirt.
So the Protestants put their heads together and develop a plan.
In an amazing montage, with background music sung by Huey Lewis and the News, the Protestants run around whispering to people in the hallways; having discussions in the bathroom overheard by people in the stalls; and getting new clothes at a trendy boutique.
The next day, or perhaps the next week, it’s always difficult to tell with a montage, the Catholics enter school, high off a big win against the Muslims in the big Crusades game.
“Winners! Winners!” the Catholics cheer.
“Losers! Losers!” the rest of the student body yells.
The Catholics stop, look around, and notice everyone is pointing and snickering at them.
“What gives?” Heather the Catholic asks.
“You guys think the world is flat. You’re so stupid! This is the Age of Enlightenment, Gawd!” someone named Napoleon replied.
“No we don’t, butthead!” replied Biff.
“Well you did. You forced everyone to believe the Earth was flat for thousands of years. Remember the Dark Ages?” Pedro, who would soon be class president, replied.
As with any school, the Dark Ages referred to Sophomore year.
The thing was, the Catholics never said that. During Sophomore year, the Catholics pretty much beat the snot out of anyone who suggested the Earth was flat. Granted, they thought they were the center of the Universe, but they still promoted the belief the Earth is round.
But being terribly hated for burning so many preppies at the stake and handing out purple nerples like they were jelly bracelets, everyone accepted the Protestants’ rumor about the meathead Catholics.
A grand old comeuppance story if ever there was one.
Washington Irving – the Ugly Duckling
Washington Irving, a misunderstood loner, walked the halls of Bayside High. He was invisible to the jocks, brains, basket cases, princesses, and criminals. Even Principal Vernon ignored the dreamer in the trench coat.
This was in the days before trench coats were used to smuggle high assault rifles onto campus.
So Washington wandered around campus with a notebook writing poems and short stories, dreaming of a life where horsemen chopped off the cool kids’ heads and where he could fall asleep until the future made everything better.
Then one day during lunch, Washington is writing a fictional account of Christopher Columbus’s travels.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” the Spanish advisor yelled. “The world is not round! It is flat!”
“You don’t know me. You don’t understand me! You don’t know anything!” Columbus shouted back.
One of the jocks grabbed Washington’s notebook and tossed it to the captain of the football team.
“Hey!” Washington yelled.
“Hey, you,” the captain said. “This is really good!”
You see, the captain of the football team is a sensitive jock who writes poetry. He not only redeems Washington’s faith in humanity, but also our own.
“Thanks!” Washington said, blushing. He’s never gotten noticed by anyone in school, let alone the star quarterback.
“Everyone! You have to read Washington’s factual account of Columbus. You won’t believe the stupid shit the Spanish tried to pull!” the star quarterback said, flashing his beautiful green eyes at Washington.
“Uh… I… Yeah!” Washington said, afraid he would lose the star quarterback forever if he admitted the truth — the story was an allegory for his troubled relationship with his father.
Everyone loved the story. They called Washington a genius. The administration asked Washington to read his story at an assembly for Columbus Day.
On the day of the assembly, Washington walked to the center of the stage. He looked out at the crowd and made eye contact with the star quarterback. Then he looked to his father, who Washington had reconciled with when his dad took the day off work to attend the assembly.
“Everyone, I have something to say before I read this…” Washington said, clearing his throat.
“I”m really glad you all like my well-researched and factual explanation of Columbus’s life and voyages!”
As Washington begins to read, a voiceover explains sometimes in high school it’s difficult to do the right thing. Washington and the star quarterback went on to have a wonderful summer, then they went off to separate schools and never spoke again.
“I’ve always regretted not telling the truth that day, but I learned a lot from it,” Washington says warming our hearts.
Because if he learned something, we can all agree he’s not a shithead, right?
Back to the Present Day
Now we get back to the present day where our underdog B.o.B. is taking on the administr… err… establishment.
B.o.B. has offered several strong arguments, not the least of which is this:
It was another bright and cheerful day at Heroes Incorporated until disaster struck.
Little did she know it, but today would be the day Shrink Girl finally made her mark at Heroes Inc.
“Code Rose!” Mike, the Middle Manager, yelled, running through the cubicle farm. The world’s most famous superheroes popped their heads over the cubicle walls like a herd of masked prairie dogs. Mike turned down one row, up a column, down another row, rounded a corner, and started retracing his steps, all the while shouting, “Code Rose!”
Beet red and breathless, Mike stopped and leaned against a cubicle wall.
“Anything I can do to help, Mike?” asked the Human Megaphone.
The Human Megaphone never missed an opportunity to help middle management, unless there was a chance to help upper or executive management.
“Need… to find… Shrink Girl!” Mike wheezed. He bent at the waist, forcing blood back to his head.
“SHRINK GIRL! REPORT TO SECTION B, ROW 7, CUBE 27A! I REPEAT… RRRREEEKEEKEKKEBBERRR!”
Everyone covered their ears to block out The Human Megaphone’s feedback.
“Who is using a transistor radio?” The Human Megaphone glared at the heroes around him. “I’ve asked you not to use transistor radios as they interfere with my abilities! … Mike, I’m so sorry. I’ve told them…”
A row over, Scarlet Mime switched off her nonexistent radio. There was, in her opinion, no need to shout in an office.
“Hello? Did someone call me?” Shrink Girl asked, rounding a cubicle corner. She bit her lip in an unsuperhero-like manner and assumed she was in trouble.
“Where have you been?” Mike demanded.
“On The Public Relations Importance of Catchphrases When Dealing with Collateral Damage webinar. I had my headphones in,” Shrink Girl said, lowering her eyes.
“This is exactly why headphones are forbidden in the office. Right, Mike?” The Human Megaphone said, at a volume 4, so everyone heard.
“That’s right! I know you’re new here, Shrink, but we have rules for a reason.” Mike launched into a lecture on the dangers of headphones in an office, which is easily summed up by saying, “And that’s why radioactive marine life now run Topeka.”
Mike, as Middle Manager, was obligated to give the longer explanation.
Shrink Girl had only worked with Heroes Inc. for three months, replacing the former shrinkable hero who left to pursue a career in accounting.
Since starting, Shrink had only been allowed to attend seminars, conferences, and webinars on all topics superhero and legal. She had also taken forty-seven tests on the Super Employee Handbook and Crime Fighter’s Manual and passed each one.
And all of this experience led Shrink Girl to one, undeniable conclusion. She was underutilized.
So she began sending out her résumé.
“And just after Google installed a fiber network. Such a waste,” Mike said, finishing his lecture.
“I’ll never wear headphones again. I promise,” Shrink Girl said, wondering how the Dastardly Debutante would enjoy listening to tomorrow’s webinar: ‘To Rescue Or Not To Rescue – The Likelihood of Lawsuits.’
“Good. That will be all,” Mike said.
Shrink Girl turned to go.
“Mike, what about the Code Rose?” The Human Megaphone whispered.
“Of course!” Mike shouted, grabbing Shrink Girl’s hand and dragging her off through the cubicle farm.
“Good luck, Mike! Your work is appreciated!” The Human Megaphone called after them.
“The Human Megaphone’s a good guy. Keeps up morale, which is very important. You could learn a lot from him,” Mike said pulling Shrink Girl towards the stealth hanger.
A Code Rose? Thoughts swirled in Shrink Girl’s head.
A Code anything was important.
Someone had taken notice of her test scores and hard work!
Soon she would be in the stealth plane getting debriefed on the Code Rose situation!
Now, if only she could remember what a Code Rose meant.
Red indicated a major continent was being attacked.
Orange meant a minor continent was under attack.
Blue was for asteroids, space junk, or other inanimate objects hurtling towards Earth.
Shrink Girl blanked. She pictured the page in the manual, but couldn’t find Rose.
Not that she would admit this to Mike, the Middle Manager.
They were ten feet from the hangar doors when Mike made a sudden left. Shrink Girl, lost in hashtags descriptions for her first mission, missed the turn.
She lost her footing and fell into the doorway of the 4th floor supply room.
Red-faced, Shrink Girl stood up. Three heroes, plus Mike, stood there staring at her.
“She’s here. If anyone can find the paper jam, I’m certain Shrink Girl can!” Mike announced to the group.
“Just use the 3rd floor machine,” Mister Stretch said for the third time today.
“That’s for support staff,” Mike replied, clearly appalled at being lumped in with them.
Mister Stretch rolled his eyes.
“Shrink Girl, this is important. A rash of yogurt thefts are bringing down morale. We need fifteen signs reminding people to only eat their own food. But the copier is broken,” Mike said. “If we don’t have morale, what do we have?”
“Paychecks?” Lady Mystery suggested.
“People don’t work for paychecks, Mystery. At Heroes Inc., we work for the love of our job. This is our passion and a yogurt thief will not undo our commitment!” Mike replied, banging on the Rose-McKellan copy machine.
Lady Mystery’s smile was difficult to read.
“Here’s the background, Shrink. I got Stretch, but he couldn’t reach the jam, and Kongliath wasn’t able to shake the paper out. Now you’re up. Make me proud!” Mike said, stepping aside.
“What about Lady Mystery?” Shrink Girl asked, hoping to finally figure out the Lady’s powers.
“I just came for a pen, but stayed for the excitement,” Lady Mystery replied, leaning back against the laser printer, as if to say, ‘Why not just print more pages from this?’
“So get in there and show us what you’ve got, Shrink Girl!” Mike said, popping open a compartment door.
“Okay!” Shrink Girl said, hoping enthusiasm hid her disappointment. Only Mike seemed fooled, but Shrink Girl figured this was fine, since Mike was the only one who cared.
She dove into the open compartment door, shrinking to the size of a pea, and landed on tab B. Shrink Girl climbed over a roller and entered the heart of the Rose-McKellan.
Back in the supply room, Mike’s head snapped towards the door. “Did I hear Paper Mate out there? Isn’t he still on vacation?”
“Today’s his first day back,” Kongliath replied, picking a nit from his forearm.
“Why didn’t anyone say so?” Mike asked, hurrying off to find Paper Mate.
“I’m starving. What are you two doing for lunch?” Lady Mystery asked.
“I brought mine,” Kongliath sighed. “Dan has me on a diet. I couldn’t fit into that monkey suit for his 40th birthday, so now I’m stuck eating chicken feed and lettuce.”
“I’m going to Jimmy Subs. You’re welcome to join,” Mister Stretch replied.
Lady Mystery shrugged. She’d already eaten Jimmy Subs twice this week and was getting tired of them. But she was also one punch away from getting a free sub. “Let me get back to you,” she said, as Mike pulled Paper Mate into the supply room.
“G’day, mates. Whad’ve we ‘ave ‘ere?” Paper Mate asked.
Originally from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the corporation rebranded Paper Mate to appeal to their Oceanian clientele.
As part of the rebranding, Paper Mate spent Tuesday and Thursday afternoons working with an Australian linguistic coach. So far he had managed to alienate most of New Zealand and the better part of Queensland.
He looked at the Rose-McKellan’s display panel.
“We’s pulled the machine apart, but it still won’t run,” Mister Stretch explained. “There’s a scrap in there somewhere.”
“Nah. Yoo joost ‘ave to turn it off then on a’gin,” Paper Mate said, slipping into a terrible Canadian accent.
He flipped the power switch.
“No!” everyone yelled, except Mike, the Middle Manager, who muttered, “Yes, of course! Turn it off and on again.”
The machine buzzed to life, spitting out signs reading, “Remember: Gogurt Your Own Yogurt!”
“Something must be wrong with the ink saturation,” Mike muttered, throwing the top five pages into the recycling bin. “Oh nevermind. No more red streaks. We’re all good.”