Ignoring the Bigger Picture

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.


Silly Me

Silly me. It was an honest mistake.

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 headphones.

No phone on speaker as he answers and asks questions about those… these… horrendous neighbors.

Silly me. It was an honest mistake.


“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.

If you’ve seen one unrecognized user message, haven’t you seen them all?

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!”

Everyone else always knows first

“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.

Betsy smirked.

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, during her scarf phase. Face redacted to protect her identity.

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.

“Please, Betsy,” Ableman whispered. “My arm’s broken and—“

“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.”



Check Out These Other Hero Inc. Stories

The Accountability of We

Shrink Girl Makes Her Mark 

The Temp and the Ice


Resurrecting Justice for the Realm

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.

A fire newt prior to de-spining

“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 Castle of Doom – the potential for water damage is apparent in this picture

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 bloated corpse on Vork’s cavern floor

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.

Vork waited.

He poked the corpse – his finger sunk to the knuckle in its flan-like side.

Vork grumbled.

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 received this tea set as a graduation present from his mother

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.

“Yes, ma’am. Top of my class.”

“Wonderful! Please come in and shut the door.”

The Queen’s Corgi Conspiracy

Holy Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics! There’s actually a 0th Law of Thermodynamics because science gives zero math fucks!

I sat down this morning to write a titillating piece on science’s sciency discovery of gravitational waves and how freaking lame everyone is for getting excited about this.

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.”

Camilla Parker Bowles wearing a Texas Steakhouse centerpiece as a hat

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:

A grabber

Except it reaches through time to pluck back the thing, or person, you want.

QEII toileting with Monty AND frozen in carbonite

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.”

Oh yeah?

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:

The dorgi, suspiciously nothing like J.K. Rowling’s house elves.

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.

Russell Tovey

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?

The house elf version of the Queen, of course:

For the old people out there, this is One Direction. They broke up to pursue their Royal House Elf ambitions.

The City of Narr

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 during his brief modeling career at the Tom Fjord agency.

“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!”



Downtown Narr, built directly on top of the Cavern of Moore

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.

A portrait honoring Daris Aubergarde for his heroic saving of Narr.

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.

The Spear of Galeth, currently stored in the Hogarth Museum of Supernatural Weaponry, is rather unimpressive looking.

“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.

Magal’s paperwork was legendary and is considered, even today, the gold standard which all bureaucrats should strive to emulate.

“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.

Many cheered.

“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!”

The last known election poster of Mayor Trutt.

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—“

“Please go.”



Sev sighed.

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.

The Seventh Tribe’s copy of Narr’s Refusal of Services contract.

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.

The people of Gesthalt re-enacting the Narrian people’s excitement when Daris turned the Seventh Tribe away.

“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.

The Greatest Inventors Ever Known

Yesterday afternoon my gift giving friend IM’d me.

“Can you believe this shit?” she wrote and then pasted a link.

I opened the link, which turned out to be a recipe for tapas.

“Tapas isn’t an actual dish. It’s a style of dish,” I pointed out.

“Huh? Dammit! Wrong link!” my friend said, in slightly more salted language.

Another link popped up.

“Sweet Mother of God,” I wrote.

“Sweet Mother of Humanity,” my friend corrected.

Before I share this mind-blowing link with you, I’d like to take you back.

Way back.

6,000 years back to when God dipped hands in the mud of what would one day be Flint, Michigan’s water system, and created man.

What Adam would have looked like after God told him to put on a fig leaf if the Paleo Diet had been invented.

“Jesus,” God muttered, seeing his creation. “It’s rather floppy in parts. Let me invent unleaded mud and then create another creature.”


There were some bunsen burners and beakers, sugars and spices, and a bit of Chemical X, and lo and behold, there stood Eve.

Now imagine, you’re Adam or Eve. You’ve just been invented. What is the first thing you do?

No, you don’t get Five Guys.

No! You don’t go to Disney World.

You invent walking.

That’s right. Adam and Eve fucking invented walking!

I mean, who did you think it was? Copernicus?

You think everyone dragged their sorry asses around for thousands of years and Copernicus suddenly said, “Hey, why not balance all our weight on two feet and not fall down! Also the Earth goes around the sun!”

Anyways, enough of your misconceptions about history! We return to Adam and Eve perambulating around the garden when God happens to stop by.

“Holy Shit! What are you doing?” God asks.

“We call it walking,” Adam said, taking credit for what was mostly Eve’s idea.

“That is the shiznit!” God said, having spent all of eternity, up until this point, riding around on a cloud. “Not only do I like your invention. I like the name! How about you go around and name all these creatures running around? And while you’re at it, give yourself a little something.”

That’s right, before this moment, Adam and Eve were nameless.

So they go off, as instructed, and name all the animals.

Which went something like this:

The first platypus invented the hat. This confused Adam and Eve, so they named the hatted platypus ‘Perry.’

Adam: What should we call this thing?


Eve: How about a duck-billed platypus?

Adam: What’s a duck?

Eve: What do you mean, ‘what’s a duck?’

Adam: Well you used ‘duck’ as an adjective to ‘billed,’ so I wondered what a ‘duck’ is.

Eve: What’s an adjective?

Adam: We don’t have time to invent grammar, Eve! We have to name all these animals. So what’s a duck?

Eve: How about that thing over there?

Adam: Good enough for me.

And so it went…

After two years of work, Adam and Eve named all the animals and had nothing else to do. So they invented Netflix and Chill, deciding their progeny could later invent a netflix.

“What’s this?” God asked.

“Netflix and chill,” Eve said.

“Nice! Well, since you haven’t shown any interest in this tree over here, I’d like to point it out and tell you not to touch it. Okay?” God said.

“Okay,” Adam and Eve said.

But being the first parent of two-year olds in the history of… well, history… God knew telling them not to touch something wouldn’t be enough.

So God two-year-old proofed the shit out of the Tree of Knowledge.

Little known fact: Gabriel was the first Captain Kirk.

No expense was spared. Electric fencing, photon torpedoes, and those lion hunter pits covered with sticks to ensnare anyone walking over.


So what did Adam and Eve do? They concocted a caper so brilliant George Clooney turned it into Ocean’s Eleven.

“But Adam, there are only the two of us, and neither of us is Bernie Mac,” Eve pointed out.

So they revised their plan into a Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper vehicle called The Silver Linings Playbook, so named because of God and their scheming.

So let’s recap. So far Adam and Eve have created:

  • Walking
  • Adjectives
  • Names for every animal
  • Madcapped capers
  • An Oscar Nominated Adapted Screenplay

They are smart, but not as smart as God. God left one final thermal detonator next to the Tree of Life to stop Adam and Eve from getting in trouble.

That thermal detonator was named Snake.

Who wasn’t very good at his job.

Now I know what you’re going to say. “Cole, you’ve mixed your allusions! Photon torpedoes are from Star Trek; thermal detonators are from Star Wars!”

To which I respond: “This is religion, Jim! Not sci-fi!”

Moving on…

Which is exactly what Adam and Eve did.

Like every other exhausted and frazzled parent in history, God said, “Look, I don’t have time for your shenanigans. I’m busy creating ultraviolet light. So you’re going to need to take a time out.”

Only God called this “Original Sin,” which is why God is a better parent than you. You call it a time out, how weak is that?

Does this time out deter Adam and Eve’s inventing spree? No. Those goddamned geniuses (quite literally at this point, I’m afraid) invent “the move.”

Housed in the London Museum, this is believed to be Adam and Eve’s kitchen supplies box.

Boxes, tape, packing material, trucks too big to park comfortably on a residential street – the whole kit and caboodle.


Yeah, I know, you thought Copernicus invented that shit. You give him too much credit.

They move, then go on to invent the human race. Now they wipe their hands and retire. Right?


Holy Edison’s Patent Attorney are you wrong.

Which is where we come back to the present day.

Scientists have recently determined some of our most popular fairy tales are nearly 6,000 years old.

Which means someone wrote these stories right around the time God created the Earth.

And who else was around to write these stories other than Adam and Eve? Bernie Mac?

While Bernie Mac would have kicked the bejeezus out of the three act story structure, Eve already informed us he is not there.

Always the troublemaker, Cain asked, “Mommy, what’s a spindle?”

That’s right, Adam and Eve created the bedtime story. They filled Cain, Able, and Seth’s heads with the likes of Snow White, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Herbie the Love Bug.


Don’t believe me? Check out CNN’s recap here – everything I said is 100% factual(ish).

Which leaves me wondering, are Disney Princesses the real Original Sin?

Is our atonement, as a race, to attend princess party after princess party, cleansing our soul with each rendition of ‘Let It Go?’

Is Michael Eisner an archangel?

Someone call Neil Degrasse Tyson and get us a clear answer!

Where My Dog and I Escape the Minion of Hell

Mardi 01-11-2016
The hound versus the forces of Hell.

It’s a lovely afternoon in New Orleans… a lovely afternoon for EVIL.

After what we’ve experienced, Mardi’s keeping a close watch on the front gate. Every two minutes she turns to me and gives the all clear. Mostly this sounds like “ruff,” but I know what she means. Even though we don’t speak the same language, when you’ve been through the trenches with another creature a connection is wrought. We can ruff without ruffing.

Our excursion began innocently enough. An after-lunch walk through neighborhood to aid in digestion; which is society’s polite way of saying it helps us poop.

People used to walk in the evenings after dinner. Now they watch television. The loss of the evening walk is, most scientists agree, the reason so many people are full of shit.

Pardon me, I’ve veered from my tale of horror into the realm of fact. Facts, I’m afraid, are life preservers for the coward’s sanity. And I, my dear friend, am a coward.

These are not the birds I couldn’t hear.

We perambulated down one street and up another. The sun shone, but the birds did not sing. Perhaps they knew of the darkness in the light. Perhaps they were singing racist Disney songs.

Perhaps I once knew the reason but that knowledge was scared out of me.

I chatted to my four-legged companion. “Will you be voting for Beagle Sanders or Pug Cruz in the upcoming Pawsidential election?” I asked. “Or perhaps Basset Trump?”

Mardi gave me the same look you have now.

Two houses ahead I spotted an elderly lady making her way down her front steps.

She bore the marks of Cain – a light blue dress and wild white hair. I know these marks well. I went to Catholic school.

Was it morning or afternoon? I asked myself, preparing a proper greeting, so as not to draw her ire.

This is me, terrified. This is not the old woman.

She glanced up. Evil was in her eye.

Most people mistake evil for cataracts.

Those people did not go to Catholic school.

“Good—“ I began, in way of a greeting, but was unceremoniously spun around, before I had a chance to finish.

The dog was flat on the sidewalk, muscles taut, attempting to army crawl backwards down the block.

“Knock it off,” I hissed, pulling on the leash.

Perhaps if the old woman did not know the I knew what she knew to be true, she would let us continue on our way.

But the pull launched my companion into action. She bolted to the side, across a lawn, and dragged me into the street. She continued moving backwards, keeping her eyes on the old woman.

“I think your dog is hurt,” the old woman said.

The Gates of Hell, very similar to the old lady’s front gate.

An obvious ploy with which to invite us into her house of horror, which was accented with a lovely azalea bush.

“Yes, she must have — Oof!” I stumbled, the leash slackened, Mardi bolted. My imbalance afforded her the opportunity she needed to get us to the other side of the street.

I kept myself from being thrown to the ground by locking my knees and pinwheeling my legs. Safely on the other side of the street, Mardi pulled forward, away from the woman.

“I think she’s hurt,” the old lady called out again, relentless in her pursuit to draw us into the devil’s pit itself!

“Yes, perhaps she is — Oof!” the dog yanked me back a few steps.

Frustrated, I knelt down and took her face in my hands. Making eye contact I firmly said, “Calm down. It’s fine.”

I wanted to explain the dangers of letting evil know you know it’s evil, but before I could, she nudge me aside.

I was blocking her view of the old woman.

“Ruff!” she said, with just enough softness to suggest maybe she hoped the old woman wouldn’t hear her. She turned, lowered herself to the ground and began crawling down the street, dragging me behind her.

Every five steps she turned, looked back at the woman, and let out another, barely audible “ruff.”

“Have a good morning!” I called, waving to the woman.

Damn, it was the afternoon.

Would my lapse show her how terrified I was?

The woman rolled her eyes, bent down, and began weeding her garden in the cruel, soulless way evil has of landscaping.

Mardi dragged me three blocks back home, all hopes of a properly digested lunch gone.

This is the path from hell to salvation.

The dog knocked against the gate until I opened it.

She knocked against the front door, until I opened it.

Then she bolted to the front window, where she stands now, waiting for the woman to appear.

“Ruff,” the dog says, her hackles rising. She tucks her tail between her legs. Someone is knocking on the front door.

The Game

Ma and Pa Adler are visiting New Orleans for the first time on their bi-annual inheritance tour.

Here’s a family photo. Not my family. Legally they want to avoid any public acknowledgement of our connection. I’m not the second from the left.

What is an inheritance tour you ask? Why a tour to identify the child most deserving of the inheritance. The middle brother has been the running winner for over a decade, but I’m hoping to eek out a win this year.

Here are a few of the things I’ve already done to secure the top spot during this tour:

  • I picked Ma and Pa up at the airport.
  • I helped carry one of their bags!
  • I made Ma a cup of tea.
  • I let them buy me lunch! (Parents love spending money on their kids, especially the moochy, adult ones.)

Pretty good, huh?

And to help secure my spot, last night I pulled out Cards Against Humanity. Ask yourself, what else would two, god-fearing, Midwestern parents want to play?

Scrabble? Pfft.

Pictionary? Please.

Winning an inheritance is about one thing – Know. Your. Audience.

Some people would argue those are three things. These people don’t understand dramatic pauses.

Don’t be one of those people.

No one likes them. (I’m looking at you, Yolanda!)

In Round 7, yours truly was the Card Czar and I was magnificent at it. The skill, the charisma… Apparently, Card Czaring is what I was born to do. Thankfully, I was born in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes I feel bad for people who weren’t born at the right time or in the right place. Then I enjoy a Kit Kat, because empathy is a downer.

I read the card… “And the Academy Award for <blank> goes to <blank>.”

And here is the winning response:

Cards Against Humanity – The Successful Pornographer’s Idea Generator

Yep. “The Academy Award for the Art of Seduction goes to Daniel Radcliffe’s delicious asshole.”

Played by none other than Ma Adler herself.

Tears streamed down her eyes, her complexion turned ruddy.

“Ma!” Pa said, shocked.

“I don’t even know who Daniel Radcliffe is,” Ma said, choking on laughter and falling from her chair.

“It’s Harry Potter!” I said, clutching my proverbial pearls.

“Oh. Oh! Well that’s not appropriate at all,” Ma Adler said, becoming quiet, before melting into a fit of laughter.

Now I’m just a small-town inheritance scientist, but this seems like a really good sign. I think I may take down the reigning champ of the tour… the middle brother.

They still have a visit with the youngest brother, so anything can happen.

But regardless of the outcome, I suppose I’ve already won the inheritance tour, since we now know where I got my sense of humor.


Now sentiment aside, I still want the real inheritance – Grandpappy’s old Folger’s can of nuts and bolts.

This is the inheritance. Most people wonder why I want it so bad. My answer? Because if I don’t get it, one of my brothers would.

The Temp and The Ice

Due to security reasons, photos of Professor Icicle were unavailable. Here is a photo of his sister.
“Professor Icicle, sir! Professor Icicle! Excuse me, have you seen Professor Icicle?” A high-pitched, anxious voice asked a few cubicle rows over.

Professor Icicle hung his head and took a deep, calming breath.

“Who’s that?” Lady Mystery asked.

“My temp,” Professor Icicle said, rolling his eyes.

“What happened to Marcus? Did he find another job?”

“In a manner of speaking. He died during last month’s attack on the lobby.”

The lobby was still under renovation after Doctor Fuzzle and his slime minions attacked the Starbuck’s stand, attempting to negatively impact productivity at Heroes Incorporated!

Several line graphs suggest he succeeded.

Rumored to be a classified account of HI!’s lack of caffeine productivity losses.
Flying Girl had been demoted to ‘acting elevator’ for those unable to fly.

“I’m sorry to hear about Marcus,” Lady Mystery replied. “He seemed like a good guy. I remember one time—“

“Oh! Professor Icicle! There you are, sir!” Alan, the temp, called from three cubicles away. “Oh goodness! It took me ever so long to find you… The mayor of Reno is on the phone! I can transfer her over to… uh… uh…” He looked at Lady Mystery and obviously did not know her name.

“Lady Mystery, a pleasure to meet you, Alan. Welcome aboard,” Mystery said, standing and shaking Alan’s hand. Professor Icicle caught the smirk she threw in his direction. He always had the worst luck with temps.

“Yes, Lady Mystery, nice to meet you. I can transfer the mayor to Lady Mystery’s line for you, Professor Icicle, sir!” Alan said, beginning to salute, thinking better of it, and instead put his hands behind his back.

“That won’t be necessary, Alan,” Professor Icicle replied, adjusting the lapels of his tweed jacket. “I really should get back to my desk anyways.”

“And I should finish this expense report before you-know-who gets up in arms over it,” Lady Mystery said, nodding towards Mike, the Middle Manager.

“Good luck with that,” Professor Icicle replied, turning and following Alan back through the cubicle farm.

“I asked the Mayor to hold and came to find you immediately. She offered to leave a voicemail, but… well she is a Mayor so I figured she deserves priority service,” Alan said.

This is the Bolivian flag. Proof this story is educational on many levels.
“You put the President of Bolivia into voicemail while his home was being attacked by killer robots,” Professor Icicle pointed out.

“Yes, but this is an American mayor,” Alan said, emphasizing all of the wrong words in that statement.

Professor Icicle grimaced. “All of our clients are important, Alan.”

Had he gotten the Bolivian call when it came in, Professor Icicle would currently be enjoying a celebratory glass of champagne with the President and his wife.

Instead, someone with a higher paygrade was franctically working to keep the former Bolivian Vice President from cancelling the contract.

“What does the Mayor of Reno want?” Icicle asked.

“Serious problems with the Winter Festival,” Alan said, lowering his voice, “the snow machine has broken!”

Alan’s hands fluttered in what Professor Icicle concluded was Alan’s attempt to show excitement at what he considered a wonderful opportunity.

“Super,” Professor Icicle replied icily.

Mayor Margaret was his most troublesome client.

Not troublesome like the Mayor of Toulouse who, as the former President of the Planet Frinx, suffered from regular assassination attempts by the Galactic Waste Collection Union.

Nor was she troublesome like Mexico City, which sat atop a 15,000 year old Titan named, Brock, who kept breaking his chains of imprisonment and clawing his way to the surface.

An artist’s rendition of Brock attacking Mexico City.
No, Mayor Margaret was the type of trouble that called when an ice machine was broken. Or the city hall’s HVAC system was on the fritz. Or her lemonade was tepid.

“Okay, transfer her over,” Professor Icicle said, standing at his desk.

“Done!” Alan said, rushing over to listen in on the call.

Professor Icicle watched the phone, waiting for the transfer light to blink.

“Alan, she’s not here,” Professor Icicle said.

“She must be,” Alan said, leaning over the cubicle wall and grabbing at Professor Icicle’s phone. “Huh… I’m sure I transferred her. Let’s see…” Alan dug in his pockets and pulled out a slip of paper. “Hit hold. Transfer. Hold. Hashtag. Star. Park. And Hang-up.”

“And you entered my extension?” Professor Icicle asked.

Alan looked confused. “Of course, I did. Right after… No before… I mean…” Alan blushed. “I’ll get her on the phone right away.”

“Thank you, Alan, that would be great,” Professor Icicle said, settling down in his seat.

“Oh! And there were a few messages while you were away from your desk,” Alan said, holding out a ball of crumpled pieces of paper.

“Why didn’t you come and get me sooner?” Professor Icicle asked.

“They were foreigners,” Alan whispered, before hurrying back to his desk to get Mayor Margaret on the phone.

Professor Icicle pulled the crumpled pieces of paper apart and smoothed them out.

‘Vatican under attack by Lord Conductor.’

‘Alien spaceship hovering over Sydney playing Bananarama on repeat.’

This is the motivational poster discovered on Alan’s desk later that day.
‘Canada has disappeared.’

Professor Icicle took a deep and cleansing breath.

“Hey there, Ice. How’s it going today?” Mike, the Middle Manager, asked, popping his head around the cubicle wall.

“Fine, Mike, and you?” Icicle asked.

“Not so great if I’m honest. I’ve been getting a lot of 411s from your clients and, golly, if they aren’t angry. Why don’t you swing by my cube when you have a chance so we can pow-wow the sitch, alrighty?” Mike said, giving Professor Icicle a thumbs up.

“Fine,” the Professor said. “Just fine.”

“Okay, she should be there now!” Alan said, running up to the cube and bumping into Mike as he turned to walked away.

Professor Icicle glanced over at his phone and waited for the light to blink.

It didn’t.