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The 100 Word Stories Podcast

English, Arts, 1 season, 384 episodes, 18 hours, 13 minutes
100 word stories written and recorded by Laurence Simon every day, and a Weekly Challenge rounding up the best 100 word stories on a given topic every Sunday.
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Weekly Challenge #938: Total Security

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z I think I mixed the ending a bit oddly... oh well. You can see the topic here: The next topic is Train RICHARD Sold! I bought it on Amazon: No, it wasn't cheap, but maybe I was swayed by the product description. 'Absolute peace of mind, and total security', it said, and then to ram the point firmly home, it went on to detail exactly why I had no need whatsoever ever to worry… Waterproof, leak proof and rot resistant. Non-fade, colourfast and hard-wearing. Biologically and dermatologically tested, additive free, hypo-allergenic and vegan friendly. Safe, secure, tried and tested, and a lifetime no-quibble guarantee. I had to have it. If only I knew what the hell it's supposed to do! LIZZIE The security unit monitored the whole house. Total Security, stated the ad. But the resident cat hated it. When the security unit started growling, the owners thought they were doomed. Killed by a security unit. The horror. Well, the unit was just bored. Eventually, the feline and the unit struck up a friendship when the unit started purring. The cat thought that was rather amusing. But then the security unit was fired for being too noisy. So, the cat made a big fuss. Long story short, the unit stayed. Cats rule. If they want total security, they get total security. LISA Where We’re in a room with a huge fire. There’s cakes and tea. Our eyes are out on stalks but at the same time we all wince from the brightness. You can see for miles and yet you can see nothing. We’re remote. But based on the opulence of the room we’re in- this is not some rural backwater. Our captor explains. “It’s a gated property. You, the chosen ones, will have total security here- you can walk for miles and not meet a soul. We keep the gate locked. To stop outsiders getting in, not to stop you getting out.” SERENDIPIDY Good choice! As panic rooms go, you really couldn't do much better. Concrete walls, solid steel door with multiple timer-secured deadlocks and three-sixty external surveillance systems. Total security. I see you've stocked up on supplies for at least a week too. That shows great foresight and planning. Well done. Because, let's face it, with a character like me stalking the neighbourhood, you really don't want to be taking chances. But, I do feel there's something you may have missed. A secure panic room is great, once you're inside. Not so good, if I got in there before you! TOM Not So Good My wife works in a clinic. In the clinic are departments who would sell their first born for an extra 4 square feet. Now that square footage in her office has been usurped for reasons of security. In a safe of considerable weight are keep the holy grail of medicine. My wife doesn’t buy into admins reasoning for a safe in her office. They muse for the need for ToTaL Security: a safe behind a lock door. Gail pointed out there is an 18 inch window in her office. To maintain Total total security they moved it to the john. 854 Water Torture Remote The codename for the project was: Water Torture Remote. DARPA funded it in the late 60s. The core of the project was to train solders in lucid dreaming. Once in a heighten state of consciousness images of prime targets would be scanned on the retinas. Targets were merged in dreamtime. At this point the suggestion that water was filling the targets lungs would be planted in the target’s consciousness. It almost worked; problem was the guys running the scanners got linked-in. Water Torture Remote took them out. Needless to say, the project was summarily defunded. Nothing in DARPA ever truly dies. NORVAL JOE "Come on, son. Let's go home," Billbert's father said. Billbert rattled the handcuffs. "I can't dad." Billbert's mother looked like she was going to grab Vattash by the throat. "Why would you cuff a child during a friendly chat?
4/14/202411 minutes, 54 seconds
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The first Easter

He stood there, a dark and shabby man, rotten teeth and wild hair. Clothed in dirty rags, surrounded by dozens of shabby commoners. Roman soldiers watched them all. "That's Jesus?" I said. "For real?" "Kinda puts things in perspective, eh?" said Dr. Marks, holding his camera steady. We were posing as merchants, and tracked the group for a few days. And when it was over, we went back to our boat, threw the time circuits, and appeared back in the Institute. We both took a big breath of fresh air. "Man, I need a shower," Dr. Marks said, and laughed.
4/13/20241 minute, 20 seconds
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Baby, it’s cold outside

Baby woke up cold, bound up and tied to a tree. She looked around as best she could. There were trees all around her, and all she heard were crickets. She tried to scream, but there was a gag over her mouth. The last thing she remembered was leaving Archie's place and going home. And her husband... he came back a day early. "What do you think it will be?" a voice whispered in her ear. "Starve, dehydrate, or freeze?" It wasn't any of those. It was a shovel to her skull. And he used it to bury her deep.
4/12/20241 minute, 17 seconds
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Simon doesn’t say

Of all the childhood games out there, the one I hate the most is Simon Says. Because I never got to play it as anything but Simon. Sure, telling kids to step forward or raise their hands can be fun. But it was never enough. It led to my being a megalomaniac, ordering kids to rob banks, smite enemies, and far, far worse. I tried it on my family, but they were also Simons, and my parents never relinquished their iron grip on power. Oh, I also hate dodgeball. Getting hit in the face with a rubber ball sucks, too.
4/11/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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The pizza ranch

I like to dip my cheese pizza in ranch dressing. I also like Doritos. So, I bought a bag of pizza-flavored Doritos and a bag of ranch-flavored Doritos and ate them together. It was a dumb idea. Because the flavor dust gets all over everything. And they don't stack like Pringles. So, I'll dip pizza-flavored Doritos in ranch dressing. But I won't crumble up ranch-flavored Doritos and sprinkle them on cheese pizza. That's stupid and messy. Some idiot came up with a bag that mixed pizza-flavored Doritos with ranch-flavored ones. Just because you can think up an idea doesn't make it good.
4/10/20241 minute, 21 seconds
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Ding Dong

You probably only know of the two Wicked Witches and the one Good Witch from the classic film, and maybe you know Mombee from the later sequel, but the books are full of spellcasters, sorcerers, and other practitioners of magic. Ding Dong was especially proud, powerful, and dangerous. The few who knew of her existence knew not to mention her, let alone insult her. Munchkins are as ignorant as they are small, so they didn't realize their mistake of singing "Ding Dong, the witch is dead!" "No," a voice muttered. "You're dead." A massive firestorm wiped Munchkinland from the map.
4/9/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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Washing off the blood

Can you hear the mortars? They're silent again. After the bodies were piled into trucks and hauled off, we brought the stretchers to the creek. Washing the blood and guts off of the canvas, getting them cleaned up for the next wave to come in. We'd wash ourselves, wash the blood and guts off of ourselves, trying to wash out the memories and noise and smell away. Wondering when we'd end up on the stretchers, taken down the hill down to the trucks, piled up, our blood and washed off and... and... Can you hear the mortars? Hear them again?
4/8/20241 minute, 19 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #937: Values

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Total Security NORVAL JOE A shocked expression flashed onto Officer Sheepdip's face. Before she could close the door, Billbert shouted, "Mom, Dad. I'm in here." The door slammed shut. Having been led through the office to the interrogation room, Billbert knew his parents must have heard him. His parents burst into the room and seeing him handcuffed to the table, his mother turned on Vattash. "What are you doing to my son?" Vattash stood, an embarrassed smile on his face. "Ma'am we were only having a friendly chat. I assure you, our agency values citizens' rights and would never think to infringe upon them." LIZZIE Comfort and quality. The true values of a traditional railroad company. And then there was Herbert, the old man who was the new employee. He made everyone's lives as difficult as possible. When he kicked a passenger's... backside... out of the train for complaining about everything, everyone was horrified. Why wasn't he fired immediately? And then, they received a letter. He owned the company and gave all employees a share of it. And he did so, because he realized that dealing with the public was a pain in the... Comfort and quality, yes. But also respect for the staff. There! SERENDIPIDY Let's play a game. You're on a crowded lifeboat, and some of you need to be thrown overboard, or none will survive. Your task is deciding who lives and who dies, based on the perceived values, skills and benefits they bring to the group. It's not an exact science, but I'm sure there's plenty of fun and interesting discussion to be had, and - at the end of the day - it's the greater good that matters, not the needs of the individual. Except for my needs. Which is why you're all in the lifeboat, and I'm still on board the ship! LISA He's Back He’s back, he looks like he’s really pleased to see us. “Morning! Sorry I’ve been away, so long, I hope you’ve been well looked after? It’s time I explained things properly. I think it takes a near death experience to make you reassess your values, and appreciate what you’ve got and what you, perhaps, could have. "Please. Come upstairs and get comfortable. I wasn’t planning on having that car accident so this explanation and apology is long overdue." He’s exuding charm and care. We’ve spent months in his basement but he’s acting as if we’ve just popped over for tea. TOM A man's reach should exceed his grasp. What Timmy valued was last square of property in the worst street in London. Which had the worst meat-pies in London, but you could get a close shave upstairs. The value of that tiny plot of filth was small but the owner of same plot was adamite in retaining it. Timmy had exhausted all reasonable courses of action. Driven to a dark metaphysical opinion, Timmy summoned the likes of the companies founding father and his 16 feet of chains and chests. This should have done the trick, but Marley took a liking to the owner. They had tea regularly. Damn. 853 We think In Centuries For centuries phosphors tied themselves in knots trying to find the evidentiary underpinning for a Supreme Being. Investigation into origins of this question often lead into speculation about the nature of a power much greater than ourselves. This lead to speculations about God; more specifically, arguments designed to establish the existence of God with the use of “unaided reason”. Example: “First Cause” argues there are events that occur now, and these must have been caused; however, for there to be events now, there must have been a first cause; that is God. In the end Evidence just wasn’t there. Bupkis. RICHARD Welcome to the real world All day long, every day, I stare at spreadsheets, tracking the values of assets and projecting profits and gains based on historical performance? Sounds really boring, right?
4/7/202411 minutes, 17 seconds
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Sugar, Sugar

A government survey found a dozen indigenous tribes living in the rainforest we'd marked for farming development. It doesn't take much of a bribe to get the numbers and GPS coordinates. The army doesn't patrol out here, so it's easy to fly in one of our own survey teams. Handing out blankets and tools and other goods. They're most interested in the sugar cubes. The poison in them acts quickly. It's painless, and they die with smiles on their faces. The next survey will show this area as uninhabited, and after we make the claim, we'll roll out the machinery.
4/6/20241 minute, 10 seconds
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Virtual visit

Fifteen minutes with an epsom salt warm compress, the bump on my cheek comes to a head. "Wash your hands again and squeeze it gently," says the virtual nurse. Yellow and white flow down my cheek, and I wash it out with deionized water and squeeze again until only blood comes out. Swab it out with a cotton swab, then hydrogen peroxide. The buzz of the pharmacy drone, it drops off the antibiotics. "Take two tonight, one tomorrow morning, and use a clean bandage," the nurse says. "I'll check in tomorrow." And I thank her, and head for the door.
4/5/20241 minute, 11 seconds
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One tire

Working from home and walking to stores, I don't drive my car much. After three and a half years, less than ten thousand miles. As little as I drive, I still ran over a nail and had to get a new tire. I figured I might as well buy 4 new tires, but the store owner insisted I just needed the one. Okay, fine. Thanks. A week later, I hit a pothole too quickly and tore up another tire. And I needed a tow to the tire shop. He's still only selling me one tire. At a time, I worry.
4/4/20241 minute
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National lemon day

It's National Lemon Day. I go through a bag of lemons a week. They help prevent kidney stones. Well, the standard ones. The uric acid ones, you also need to do potassium, keep your pH in check, and avoid foods with purine, and so on. Every morning, I put 2 lemons on the cutting board. Ream a half lemon out with every glass of iced tea. Oh, I drink a lot of iced tea and water. Because I don't want to wait 10 hours in the emergency room for a dose of Demerol and a cat-scan. You know... the stones.
4/3/20241 minute, 2 seconds
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The Flugelheimer Circus Train took the curve too fast and went off the rails outside of Morgantown. Right out by the ravine, half the cars rolling down the hill into the rocks. The others like scattered crushed boxes, spilling out broken animals and people. The few survivors, limping and crawling and carrying each other to the lights of Morgantown. Ambulances and nurses rushing out, the Boy Scout Troop giving first aid, no comfort to the mangled. And where was Flugelheimer? Not in his private car. He was in Rio with the formerly-bearded lady, living it up with the insurance payout.
4/2/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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The best schools

I work with a charity that builds schools in poor neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with run-down schools, not enough skilled teachers, old textbooks, and few after-school activities to keep kids out of gangs. We get a lot of grant money and celebrity support. And we use it to build the schools. The best schools. Beautifully and perfectly designed schools. Problem is, when we're done building the schools, there's no money left. Maybe enough for a ribbon for a politician to cut. And run, leaving behind an empty school with no teachers, no textbooks, no afterschool activities. Except for vandalizing the empty shell.
4/1/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #936: PICK TWO Urge, Infinitesimal, Scratch, Signal, Broken dreams, Arcade

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Values LISA Broken Dreams The sound of a siren wakes us. It’s close and feels as if it’s above us. We scrabble together, unsure what to do, should we signal to them? Start shouting perhaps? It raises the same unspoken question- we’re not really prisoners, are we? The basement door’s unlocked so we’ve no great urge to escape. Why shout for help when we could probably just walk out anyway. “I think it was an ambulance not a police car.” “I can never tell the difference.” I wonder if Number 1 is back and whether we are, at last, going to get some answers. LIZZIE Broken dreams and a scratch. A deep cut, now nothing but a scratch on the surface of the skin, a faint recollection of pain. A deepness forgotten. Broken dreams and the urge to speak, to shout a future lost. In complete silence, in complete immobility. Broken dreams and a second, only a brief second, a signal from afar, a thump, a thump, a thump... The drumming, louder and louder. A cacophony of doubts building up. Broken dreams now and yesterday, and now. Broken. Dreams of futures unspoken. And maybe, just maybe one day, just one day... Maybe broken no more. RICHARD The Game of Life Welcome to the Arcade of Broken Dreams! Here are the games of despair and the wasted efforts, the hours of fruitless endeavour, and hopes betrayed. What will you play today? Will you play the claw machine? Clutching futilely at your goals, teasingly just out of reach, until - tantalisingly close - they fall from your grasp? Or perhaps you'll choose the coin cascade? Feeding its hunger with all you have in the vain hope of winning big, but you never do. Whichever game you play, you'll never win. Your life will never change. But, I know you'll be back again tomorrow. Guaranteed! SERENDIPIDY You'll find the urge to scratch irresistible. But, trust me, scratching is the very last thing that you want to do. By now, your skin is paper thin. It'll tear at the slightest touch, and you'll soon be ripping your own flesh from the bones. I promise you, once you start, you won't be able to stop. So, I urge you, don't scratch. Resist the temptation. Grit your teeth and hold on, no matter what. I know you'll give in, eventually, but please try not to scratch, just for a moment. At least wait until I've turned the camera on. NORVAL JOE After the officer asked the same series of questions for the hundredth time, he said, "Okay. Let's start over from scratch." Billbert had the urge to pound his head on the table. He interrupted the officer's line of questioning. "Officer Vattash, you said you were going to call my parents hours ago. Why aren't they here?" Vattash shrugged indifferently. "Maybe they weren't home." A female officer poked her head through the doorway. "Hey Vattash. The boy's parents are here. They're filing a missing person report." "Officer Sheepdip!" Vattash growled. He made an annoyed face and tipped his head toward Billbert. TOM It was the 80s If there ever an Arcade of Broken dreams it surely was Pizza Time Theater. The second restaurant in the chain was located in the back end of Town and Country in San Jose. I spend hours their glue to a space invaders. The place was a mad house of kids running around. Parents throwing back beer and wine that was on tap right next to the fountain dispenser. Only thing missing was the paper umbrella. When the whole thing folded, I was on the chapter 13 crew to sort out assets. Got that very space invader cabinet for a song. 852 Airship Archimedes In 1928 the airship Archimedes made its maiden flight. The DELG created a fight from Buenos Aires to Caracas. Of note Captain Juan Domingo Perón was on that voyage. The Archimedes flow for nine years. On the night of May 5 1937 the airship disappeared over the upper Amazon Basin.
3/31/202412 minutes, 6 seconds
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Lucy was a Seven

Lucy was an old Series Seven. She did good work at the droid shop, and a vintage bot demonstrated to customers a bit of class, as opposed to the new Series Tens in the warehouse. But she had a hard time holding a charge, and those Series Sevens had an integrated hardwired battery. A swappable battery was a risky retrofit. Which Lucy declined. She spent all of her time tethered to a power cord, never going more than five meters from the reception desk. Smiling, welcoming people, waving people past, and arranging repairs for the broken Series Tens being returned.
3/30/20241 minute, 14 seconds
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Empty nest

There were ten of us Smith kids, and when the youngest Bobby went off to the Army, Mother had herself a bad case of Empty Nest. At first, she'd bake cookies for all the neighborhood kids, but between me and my surviving brothers and sisters, Momma had a bad habit of dropping things in mixing bowls without looking first, and thank God Daddy said he'd do all the cooking. So, she put out a bunch of birdfeeders and birdhouses, and the homestead was covered with birds. And bird shit. Even more reason not to take any of her cookies, kids.
3/29/20241 minute, 11 seconds
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Ah, Sweeps Month! Three times a year, the Nielsen Company would do detailed measuring of audiences. This would help them thumb the scales when setting rates with advertisers. To boost their ratings, the networks would shelf their usual crap and roll huge attention-grabbing stunts. Big stars on talk shows. Major plot twists on the dramas and comedies. Sweepstakes and viewer contests. And the usual excuses to pixelate tits and ass on local newscasts. Nowadays, most viewers use streaming or cable. Everything is measured to the microsecond. No more stunts. No more plot twists. Just the endless river of mindless crap.
3/28/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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There are jesters everywhere. Every office, every school. And on every train and bus. "Entertain us!" people shout at the jesters. And they do. Telling jokes, performing pratfalls. Juggling things, and simple slight-of-hand close magic tricks. They make everyone happy. Much happier than when there were clowns everywhere. People like the jesters more than the clowns. Clowns sometimes get sad, and they cry. Jesters do not get sad. They are always happy. Constantly in motion, going from person to person, cheering them up. Cheering all up who watch them. When a jester grows tired, another appears, and we are all happy.
3/27/20241 minute, 33 seconds
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Accept your fate

It's final exam season. We bring our children to The Tower. The doors open, they walk inside, and the doors close. An hour later, the doors open again. One by one, the children who passed the exam come out. Some walk. Some run. Some crawl. Some are carried out. Maybe they'll wake up. Maybe they won't. As for the kids who don't pass, they're taken to the top of the tower. And they're pushed off the edge. Some parents stand back and watch. And pray. Others try to catch their children. And others just stand underneath, and accept their fate.
3/26/20241 minute, 26 seconds
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Stations by Lisa

Numbers Back at the Station Polly’s empty seat dominates the room. Her colleagues are all thinking the worst and it spurs them on daily. There are daffodils in a milk bottle on the filing cabinet They had to bring in another cork board for the photos of the ten missing boys. The fifteen girls in the basement were on the original board along with photos of the two dead girls. Excitingly the murderer has just slipped up and is only hours away from getting caught. Unfortunately it’s going to take the police a while to realise the murderer isn’t the kidnapper.
3/25/20241 minute, 22 seconds
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Jacob Plays

Jacob carried his guitar from village to village, and the villagers gave him money. At first, he'd play for free, and they would dance and sing. And if they wanted him to play more, they'd have to pay him to stay. Jacob was good, but over time, his guitar wore down, and so did Jacob. Villages warned him not to come. Posting signs by the road. GO AWAY JACOB. He came anyway, and he would play, and the villagers paid him to go away. Now he just telegraphs his tour plans, and they wire him money to stay at home.
3/25/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #935: Stations

Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Urge, Infinitesimal, Scratch, Signal, Broken dreams, Arcade RICHARD Written by a human "And this is where the magic happens." Terry opened the door with a flourish revealing a vast open plan office, a sea of work stations, printers and telephones. All very impressive, but I was somewhat bemused by the lack of people. "Where is everyone?" I asked. "Oh, we fired them. Replaced the entire workforce, apart from me - and you now, of course - with AI. Cheaper, more efficient and excellent results, every time." I was confused. "So, where exactly do I fit in?" "That's simple, we need someone substandard to cock things up occasionally, and give the impression real people work here." SERENDIPIDY This train only really stops at two stations, this one, where you join us, and the next stop - the end of the line. I can see that you're confused. You know there are several stops before yours, and you're wondering why I've ruled them out. The fact is, they don't matter. You've never left the train at those stations before, and you won't be doing so today. Actually, you won't be leaving at your stop either. You'll never reach it. I've removed a section of track, and the train will be wrecked. It's the end of the line, for you. NORVAL JOE As the police officer drove through the forest, Billbert wondered if Eureka even had a downtown. He had been right to question it when the patrol car pulled into what looked like a strip mall and the city police and county sheriff had their stations in the same building. They ushered Billbert to an interrogation room and locked one cuff to the table. "Aren't you going to read me my rights, or something?" Billbert asked. The officer smiled congenially. "You're not under arrest. We just want to talk about some things." Billbert looked at the handcuffs and raised an eyebrow. TOM I’ve been a Bowie fan since 1969. Same year Space Oddity came out, the who released their rock opera. It was pretty cool in the late 60s to be named Tom. Saw Bowie and the Who in the late 80s. What I remember from the Who concert was hearing loss. What I remember of the Bowie concert was an amazing rendition of Station to Station. It is always best to barely listen to Bowie lyrics, unless you’re a Talmudic scholar. From Kether to Malkuth is ref to The Tree of Life. Bowie was ice masquerading as fire. PLANET Z Carrier pigeon arrives, and we unseal the tube. A black scroll falls out. We thread it through the playback machine and listen. Hill seven... fifteen minutes after midnight. The sergeant gets the troops armed and ready as we look over the maps. There's no way to hill seven without running into the enemy. Maybe if we set a few diversions... light a few fires... But the enemy knows our tricks. We think it over in the mess hall... maybe... We have the cook lay out his best stuff... lure the enemy in... And the troops head out to hill seven. CHATGPT In the heart of the city, amid the flurry of commuters and echoes of announcements, stood a forgotten station. Its platforms weathered with time, its benches worn with stories untold. Each day, a solitary figure, Alice, arrived, not for a destination, but for memories. She'd sit, tracing the lines of graffiti etched like whispers of rebellion. Here, time danced backward, revealing moments lost in the rush. Conversations lingered in the air, laughter echoed through empty corridors. In this station of shadows, Alice found solace, lost in the poetry of forgotten journeys. For in stations, past and present intertwine, stitching tales of transient souls.
3/24/20248 minutes, 6 seconds
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At the zoo

It's really hard keeping animals alive, said the zookeeper. Especially when there's so many different kinds of animals. Some eat plants. Some eat meat. Some eat bugs. It's a real bitch keeping it all straight. And shoveling up all the poop? It's disgusting! So, I replaced all the animals with stuffed animals. With a few Raspberry Pis and articulators, their tongues can flick out, or they can blink, but seriously, most animals you see at the zoo are asleep in the corner of their cage. But it's really hard keeping articulators working, so we'll just prop up some cardboard cutouts.
3/23/20241 minute, 13 seconds
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Festival time

The raven god flies over our village every spring to bless the planting season. And he comes back every fall to bless the harvest. All the tribes come for the festivals. We all lay down our weapons and are one. We sacrifice seed and corn to the raven god. The dancing. The bonfires. It's a powerful time for all. We drink the sacred drink, and we dance. The fires become ash. The night becomes dawn. We all say our goodbyes. Our brothers pick up their weapons, mount their horses, and return to their villages. Until the next festival time comes.
3/22/20241 minute, 17 seconds
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Naming conventions

The naming conventions of college conferences are insane. Some were some based on regions of the country. But others were based on the number of members they had. The Big Ten had ten teams, and the Big Twelve had twelve teams. It made sense... until those big conferences got bigger. The Big Ten expanded to twelve teams, but stayed Big Ten. And the Big Twelve got bigger, but kept Big Twelve. Despite the Big Ten having more claim to their name. In the end. they will get bigger. Until Big Ten eventually spans ten states, and Big Twelve spans twelve.
3/21/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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I've never been to India. I hear that they have hundreds of varieties of mangoes there. Here, in American stores, there's only two or three varieties of mangoes. And each has its own subtle sweetness and tartness and texture. On the other hand, there are hundreds of varieties of apples. The store has dozens of them, and they change what they stock based on the season. Over there in India, do they have so many kinds of apples? People sip "flights" of tequilas and whiskeys, shot glasses on a board to sample. Why not a flight of mangoes? Or apples?
3/20/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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Tendy works in The Word Factory. She's in the development division that makes new raw words. They also work with rejects that come in for refurbishment and recycling. The functional prototypes go to the testing division. Tendy's friend Bartch works in Testing. He runs words through durability testing to ensure they can stand up to frequent use. Some words come back to Tendy for necessary improvements. While others go out for field testing. Once a week, the whole factory listens to the CEO as he reads off the list of new words. For the exceptional words, the creators get bonuses.
3/19/20241 minute, 30 seconds
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Munchausen by driver

Casey's brought his car into the shop again. It's a disaster on wheels, but he can't get rid of it. "It's the car I'd drive my kid to the hospital in," he said. She died of something slow and horrible, it was in the papers. And so was he. "You're too good to me," he said. "Fix her up good as new again?" I think they'd what he was telling the doctors. The other guys at the shop say he's wrecking it for attention. "Munchausen" is what they call it. I looked it up. And wondered what killed his kid.
3/18/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #934 – Register

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Stations RICHARD It’s me I was the one who never paid attention in school. I was the one who spent time doodling, rather than studying. I was the one who never got good grades. I was the one who never cared about grades anyway. I was the one who didn't turn up for the last two years of school. I was the one who only got a minimum wage job. I'm the one who works on the checkout. But you never see me. I'm the one crouched beneath the register. I'm the one making the 'boop, boop' noises as the cashier scans your goods. LISA FACTS We set about collating the various newspaper articles we’d found and created a makeshift register, it felt good to have a task, something to do. Two girls- never been here in the basement- DEAD Ten Boys- not here MISSING And our names. All fifteen of them. We use a separate page for each name and add dates of birth, ages, eye colour, where we worked, lived, and were taken. I was trying to find a pattern or connection but apart from the fact we’ve been sharing a basement for months; there doesn’t seem to be much else that links us. SERENDIPIDY I'm here, although you never acknowledge me. Always with you, biding my time, just waiting for my moment. I barely register in your consciousness, and you may never even discover me there, but be assured, I am. So, I wait. And, just maybe, one day I will burst forth and reveal myself and all that I am. All that you are. When the chain snaps, and the gloves come off, you'll see me for who I am. I am the murderer, the avenger, and the destroyer - the secret side we all harbour. Never revealed. Did I say never? Maybe not! LIZZIE To attend the Social Club, one must register by performing a few tasks. A first edition for the library, one gold coin for the coffers, and a finger. At first, he assumed it would be his fingerprint. No, an actual finger and not his own. Well, that could pose a challenge. They nodded. He tried. He did. But who would've thought people were so attached to their fingers... He ended up hiring a squirmish hitman who refused to do the chopping. Then, he hired a butcher with morals. And here he was, at the Social Club, but not that one. TOM Explore the Fascinating World of Machine Language. When I was a kid there was this cool educational toy call the Visible Man. A clear plastic shell will all the organs in primary colors. Later the VISIBLE V8 Internal Combustion Engine arrived. There was even a Visible Horse. Fast forward to the heady days of Apple 2e when shelves of program vied for your computing interest. An offering called Visible 6502 caught my eye. Thought it would have the same cool effect as the old models. Nope, a grid of hex-s flowing though registers. Watching an Accumulator accumulate not exactly quality entertainment. What it needed was Blinkenlights. Here’s the Deal I’m not a consistent dealer. In spite of hours of poker play I haven’t quite got the knack of counting to five. Why do my friends allow be anywhere close to a deck? I deal amazing hands. Often the best cards anyone has had in their life. One evening I dealt Don four queens. He framed the cards. Another night I dealt a royal flush. That one sadly only got Robert 50 cents. Over COVID I created a magic deck that deals out infinite royal flushes. Trick only works if you can count to five. Still working on that part. NORVAL JOE Paramedics worked on Mr. Withybottom as they passed the wrecked Continental. Billbert hoped it would register when he shouted, "Linoliamanda is okay. She's in the meadow with Sabrina." Sitting in the patrol car, Billbert looked at Sabrina's blood on his hands. "Those are my friends in the meadow. Is Sabrina going to be okay?" The cop looked at Billbert in the rearview mirror as he backed onto the dirt road.
3/17/202413 minutes, 10 seconds
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When the man loses his shit

The report says that halfway through the flight, a guy in first class loses his shit. He's a science teacher, and the pull tab on his soda can uses a second class lever. "I thought this was first class!" he shouts. "I want a first class lever! Effort, Fulcrum, Weight! " He starts hitting the flight attendant with a pillow. "Stop!" she shouts. "That's also a second-class lever!" And he stops long enough for the marshal to knock him out. How a science teacher affords first class, I dunno. And how a flight attendant knows basic physics, that's a bigger mystery.
3/16/20241 minute, 17 seconds
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Out of the house for a while

Sure, I could watch baseball at home, but there's nothing like going to the park. It gets me out of the house for a while. It's amazing how things have gone from paper tickets to a code on your cell phone. The apps do everything... tickets, ordering food. I noticed a beta feature on the app that says BALL. When I tapped it, sure enough, a ball was hit right at me. Knocking me out cold. I woke up in the hospital. I'll be here for a few days. But at least I'm out of the house for a while.
3/15/20241 minute, 13 seconds
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Adding up a revenge fantasy

When I ask Siri to do advanced math calculations, I think fondly of every math teacher telling me "You won't always have a calculator." Well, I did then, and I do now. I didn't always have batteries, but when I got a solar calculator, I didn't need them. And then I imagine the math teachers in Hell, having a hundred calculators jammed into every orifice of their body. Over and over. Oh, and slide rules, too. Can't forget slide rules. Sodomize those bastards with them. What about abacuses? Not as much, I think. Maybe spank the math teachers with those.
3/14/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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Thank the bishop

Back in the old days, there was a game called Wizardry. It was like Dungeons and Dragons with wizards, fighters, thieves, and clerics. There were also bishops who could identify items that you could sell to the store. Pretty useless otherwise. I'd leave them before. Clerics were good for two things: healing combat characters and raising them from the dead. Much cheaper than raising them in the town's chapel. If your entire party died, well, you had to send someone down to fetch their bodies. Just pray your bishop can run fast enough to avoid getting seen by the monsters.
3/13/20241 minute, 22 seconds
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Let slip

Before they were the dogs of war that warmongers would let slip, they were the puppies of war. Breeders picked from the best lines of dogs of war to produce them, breeding for the best attributes of war. Showing off their selections at dogs of war shows, working out deals with other breeders to reinforce bloodlines. Feeding them puppies of war chow to help them grow big and strong and healthy. Training them to be obedient, as long as they remain on the leash. But when let slip, all chaos results. And not just scattered squeaky toys and pissed carpets.
3/12/20241 minute, 20 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #933 – You’ll never believe

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Register LISA Revelation Another day brings with it another newspaper. “You’ll never believe it – there’s a serial killer out there.” She turns the page to show two familiar faces from the police evidence board. The girls the police found murdered before I was taken. I survey the room awaiting the recognition and inevitable horror. There’s nothing. “Don’t you recognise them?” I ask incredulously. Every girl shakes her head. I look around and realise our man isn’t who I thought he was. My mind races, do the police know by now? So. What is he? Is anyone actually looking for him. I keep quiet. LIZZIE You'll never believe what the crow said. "Crows don't speak," someone shouted from the back of the room. He continued to explain. Some listened in silence. Many mocked him. "It's coming. We need to prepare." But who was coming? And why? "I don't know." A group fled to the mountains. The rest just went home. The next day, a giant shadow covered the town. "Blind, we're all blind." This lasted a hundred years. Then, the shadow lifted. When the crow returned, they listened. They worked together. They were prepared. The crow smiled,whispering "No need for a shadow this time." RICHARD Charlie Hey, listen to this… You'll never believe what I saw last night: Charlie out on the town, with a blonde bimbo half his age. You wouldn't credit it, would you? Charlie, of all people! Good luck to him, I say. Can't help feeling sorry for his Mrs though, at home all alone, while he's carrying on behind her back. Poor thing. I left the group to gossip amongst themselves, then sent a text to Charlies' daughter: 'Take your dad down the pub again tonight.' That would leave the whole evening free for me and his Mrs to have fun again. SERENDIPIDY You'll never believe the pain I can inflict upon you. Just imagine how it feels to have your finger and toenails slowly peeled off, or to have acid pumped into every orifice. Or maybe I'll stick matches in your eyes, then set them aflame? And that's just for starters. I want you to know exactly what lies in store for you if you dare to try that with me ever again! Some things you just don't do. So, be a dear… make me another cup of coffee, and this time - if you know what's good for you - only one sugar! NORVAL JOE A swat agent approached Billbert. He shook his head grimly. "You'll never believe we have a teenage shooter in our county. How many mass shootings have we had in America this year already? What is this country coming to?" He looked at one of his men and nodded to Billbert. "Cuff him." "It wasn't me." Billbert struggled to point as the driver disappeared into the trees. "It was that guy." Seeing no one where Billbert indicated, the officer said, "We'll hear your story when we get you downtown." They dragged Billbert past the car wreck to a waiting squad car. TOM 933 You’ll never believe it, but I just meet the Pope at the Venetian. He was playing craps in one of the far back rooms. Had a bunch of holy see guys with him. Sure, they were all in some form of disguise. Lot of bad facial hair. Sided burns out of the 50s. God damn Mullets. Pope in front party in back. Sure, I know the news said he was in hospital, but I’m tell you it was the pope. He even had me blow on his dices. What was the tip-off. No one wears red Pradas like his holiness. 850 Concertinas and Pacing Of late my favorite classic piece of music is libertango by Astor Piazzolla. It is the music currently playing in the background. Very Latin in flavor. There are dozens of videos on the net with Concertinas soaring at blistering pacing. Some include demolition Tango dancers. This is not father’s accordion. Actually, the key pattern is different. Concertinas have keys operating parallel to the bellows travel and accordi...
3/10/202412 minutes, 15 seconds
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The dangers of teaching danger

Every company, junk food and fast food, sends out their mascots to schools. Today, it's the clown in yellow, red, and white. the one from the burger place. He's at the school to teach the kids about nutrition and exercise. Leading them through games and songs and dances. The pudgy kids stumbling, falling, and wheezing. Tomorrow, it'll be the old man in the white suit, the one from the chicken place. With more games and songs and dances. And when the fun is over, the kids go home, and they scream for the unhealthy stuff. Coming back fatter and clumsier.
3/10/20241 minute, 23 seconds
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The Swiss claim to be neutral. A permanent mountainous buffer between France and Austria. They refuse to join any defense pacts. They refuse to join any economic treaties. Or allow attacks to be launched from their territory in their conflict. However, they're more than happy to lecture others from on high on how to conduct war and human rights. While manufacturing and selling weapons to everyone. (Until war breaks out) Filling their banks with the gold and assets of the world's leaders. Expensive chalets for the losers of those conflicts. Oh, and to sell body bags. And watches. And chocolates.
3/9/20241 minute, 14 seconds
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If you use a razor, you'll give yourself nicks and cuts. But if you use an electric shaver or trimmer, you'll end up causing more than a few ingrown hairs. The closer you shave, the more ingrown hairs happen. Some become inflamed and messy. Squeezing them out, cleaning them up, patting on the astringent. Again. And again. And again. I don't know which is messier, the razor or the shaver. As I get older and my hands shakier, I cut myself more. Before I wash the blood from my face, the cat jumps on the counter to lick it off.
3/8/20241 minute, 3 seconds
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Tracking medicine

Everything was clipboards and paper and charts, and it was so easy to lose information. Patients would get the wrong food or medications, and it was more paperwork for us. We switched to iPads, and the errors decreased a lot. Putting barcodes on wristbands made it even easier to track patients and their needs. We tried giving them a pill with an RFID tag in it so they'd automatically sync up with our pads, but the metal was enough to cause problems in the MRI machine. The pill would come out like a bullet. And those MRI machines are expensive.
3/7/20241 minute, 9 seconds
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The company built a fancy resort hotel and then gave away rooms to dozens of social media influencers. "Tell the world what you honestly think," the company said. So, they did. They said it was fancy, an experience of a lifetime. The food, the rooms, the service, the pool... everything was simply the best. Their blog posts and instagrams and youtube videos gushed hyperbolic praise and joy. Their posts filled up with nasty comments, wanting to know if they'd had gone and been so happy if they had to pay. But the influencers were already at another resort. Comped, naturally.
3/6/20241 minute, 51 seconds
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I don't go for cause bumperstickers. There's only one on my car, which I rarely drive, and it's a clearish Debauche sticker. Right side of the rear bumper. Nobody will get the joke, and I don't care if they do. You see those cars out there, plastered with stickers, and they look like crap. As if the bumpsterstickers are holding the damn thing together. I'd rather not be a lending library or road hazard with all that writing. Provide your own damn entertainment. The only thing I care about people driving behind me is that they use their brakes right.
3/5/20241 minute, 4 seconds
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An apple a day

In school, there was always that one kid who'd bring the teacher apples. That kid was me. "Thank you," the teacher would say. And she'd eat the apple. "Delicious." I was a smart kid, and I got good grades on my own. But I'm sure the apples helped. Until one day I got a bad grade for something. That's when I mentioned that the first apple had poison in it. "And the other apples have a temporary antidote." From then on, I got good grades. And the teacher got the full antidote on the last day of class. I think.
3/4/20241 minute, 16 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #932 – Across

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is You'll never believe LISA He brought us today’s newspaper! Finding out that it’s March makes my tummy lurch. It feels odd reading and finding out that life has just gone on without us. But, it seems it has. I’m almost disappointed that we’re not spoken about on every page. There’s actually nothing about any of us. The headlines are full of a missing boy. A boy: from across the river. I scour the article, the police cogs in my brain whirring, it makes three missing lads in the last month. It’s weirdly as if it’s written about us but they’re boys that have disappeared. RICHARD Never a cross word I don't know why I bother with the crossword, I rarely manage to complete it. I had a vague idea it might keep my brain active, perhaps prevent the onset of future senility, but I have my doubts. This morning's effort wasn't going well. Nine across: seven letters, B, something, something, F, something, L, something, D; 'Perplexed, the flow is obstructed'. What sort of a rubbish clue was that? Perhaps dementia was already setting in? Taking a slurp of coffee didn't make things any clearer, and I put my pen down, defeated. Yes, I've given up once again. Completely... Baffled. LIZZIE She sat down in the cabine across the aisle from me. She didn't smile when I smiled. She looked down, her hands on her lap. It was pouring. I always worried about everything. In my mind, she worried too. So, I wanted to go over to her. A hug. Or perhaps I could hold her hand. As her husband-to-be, I heard someone say, closed the door, she took a quick glimpse at me and waved a shy wave. We never talked, but every year we would make the same trip. And I would wait a whole year for that wave. SERENDIPIDY How do I get the seriousness of your situation across to you? All I'm asking you to do is confess your sins and recant your faith - just say the words - not exactly difficult, is it? I simply need to hear you say it, and then you can go free. No need for any more torture, pain or tears. I can make it all go away, but first I need to hear you say it. My impatience grows. Your refusal to speak is becoming irritating. Although, coming to think of it, maybe I should have waited before cutting out your tongue? NORVAL JOE Billbert grabbed the rifle from the man's fingertips and stepped back as the helicopter flew across the treetops and dropped down into the meadow by Sabrina. Swat team members spilled from the open doors. A loudspeaker squelched. "Put the rifle down and put your hands in the air." Knowing that if he'd been Black, Billbert would already be dead, he threw the rifle to the ground. The van driver ran for the trees and Billbert lowered a hand to point at him. "That's the guy..." The loudspeaker cut him off. "Put your hands in the air or we will shoot." TOM It seemed like a good idea at the time It took either an amazing amount of courage or galactic stupidity. Neither of these terms were available to Pa-Pi. He only had about 300 words in his head, half were getting food, food itself, what animals want him for food. When he put the lashed timber together and dropped it in the water, the locals laughed there asses off. Ass was pretty very useful for collective humor. They hadn’t really invented joke yet. Mostly rocks and fire. It was a rough ride across the water, but he made it. Pa-pi was the first human to leave Africa. The other followed. 849 She could me Boo Jack entered fatherhood late, but with full on commitment. He even did messy dippers. When toys were purchased, they had been researched for maximum educations value. He also had clear idea of paternal names he truly dislike. Pops was an athame. Daddy was so prosaic. Father so formal. Dad so 1950s. Jack want to be Pa-Pa. A medieval patrona. He wanted a family that would fit in comfortability in...
3/3/202411 minutes, 56 seconds
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Important day

Today is an important day. I wrote IMPORTANT on the calendar. But I don't remember why it is important. I looked through my mail and my notes, but there's nothing telling me what's so important today. I haven't gotten any phone calls or emails or other messages about today. I've asked everybody I know, but they have nothing... they need nothing from me, so it's not something important I have to do for them. So, I'll just stop worrying and go through my day. And if anything comes up tomorrow, or someone asks, I'll know what was so damn important.
3/2/20241 minute, 6 seconds
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100 pegs

One hundred pegs along the wall of the cliffside monastery. A brown robe hanging from each. The monks had hung their robes on the pegs, filed out of the dormitory, and out the front gate. Lining up at the edge of the cliff, one by one, the naked men leapt to their deaths. Later that evening, one hundred naked men arrived at the gate. They walked into the dormitory, picked out a robe, and put it on. The new monks of the monastery. Saying prayers together, praising their creator. Until it was time for them to leap from the cliff.
3/1/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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Sarah doesn’t have

Sarah doesn't have nightmares. She doesn't need them. She just remembers everything bad that's ever happened to her. And that's a lot of bad things. Horrible things. Terrifying things. When she wakes up, she writes down all the memories. After a cup of coffee and a bowl of yogurt, she looks over her notes, and begins to write. At the end of the day, she sends her writing to her editor. Dinner, walking in the evening light, a shower, and off to bed. For more memories to harvest. And turn into novels To give so many readers their own nightmares.
2/29/20241 minute, 9 seconds
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Campaign season

As November rolls around again, it's the return of campaign season. The ads and social networks are a cesspool of delusion and madness. I can avoid them as best I can. But my phone? BING! BING! BING! You're not campaign volunteers. You're goddamned parasites. I turned off text alerts and vibration last week. When do I look at my phone, I Report Junk on every campaign text. And then go back to what I was doing. I'll turn it back on when this year's shitshow ends, the credits roll, and the pundits throw shit at each other during the post-credits scene.
2/28/20241 minute, 16 seconds
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The fourth of July

Every year, Nathan's Famous sets up the tables and chairs for the contestants. Trays of hot dogs and buns, and pitchers of water. The crowd gathers, the contestants take their seats, and the judges set out the trays. The crowd counts down from ten... nine... eight... When they get to zero, the contestants peel out the hot dogs, swallow them, then dunk the buns in the pitchers and swallow the buns. The judges keep tally... ten... twenty... thirty... Some contestants stop... others vomit... but a few keep going. The crowd counts down to zero, and the judges tally the winner.
2/27/20241 minute, 17 seconds
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The crawl of fame

The walk of fame is just a bunch of names on plaques in a sleazy part of Los Angeles. Weirdos in costumes harass the tourists, and pickpockets steal whatever they can get their hands on. Or you get mugged and robbed and you're crawling on the ground asking for help. It's the walk of fame, not the crawl of fame, loser. Show some dignity. Get the fuck up. This is Hollywood, dammit. And stop bleeding on Charleton Heston. Well, his star... not the actual man. I can take your picture with it for five bucks. Just hand me your phone...
2/26/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #931 PICK TWO Free gift, Long live The King, Hit, Scribble, France, Waterfall

Lisa Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Across LISA It feels like weeks since we’ve seen ‘no 1’ and It hits me that we don’t know the date. I wonder if we’d get one if we asked for a newspaper. There’s not much to do–most of us are writing something now mostly just scribbled thoughts. We laugh playing with the free gift on the breakfast cereal. Laughter always makes us sad afterwards. The basement becomes quieter and more subdued. It’s odd isn’t it? It prompts us to think about another explore. We’ve not wanted to since number 2 arrived but we plan and it lifts the mood again. LIZZIE It's almost half past four. I pick up the book, a gift from a stranger in the park. "It's about France," he said with a smile. It hit me then that if I don't leave, she will destroy me. "Why do you hate me so much?" She asked. I don't. I never have. Wrong answer. And after that, she punished me for weeks with silence. I grab my small backpack, my whole life in it, and go. A gift, a smile, a gesture of generosity, and I am free. That's all it took. Amazing, isn't it? That's all it took. RICHARD Free, or captive? I'm a sucker for a free gift, doesn't matter what it is, what it's worth, or whatever it is I have to purchase or sign up for to get it, count me in. Supermarket trips can be a nightmare, hit me with an aisle full of 'buy one, get one free', and I'll be there all day, until the money runs out. That's becoming a real problem, actually. My habit has put me on the brink of bankruptcy, and even though every room in my house is stuffed full of freebies, there's not an item of real value among them. SERENDIPIDY Long live the king, they shout and cheer. It sickens me, but let them have their moment, for it will soon be over and the streets will run with monarchist blood. Tonight, the revolution begins, and we who have vowed to see a new future will rise up and claim France for its people. No more will the aristocracy lord it over us, while we suffer and toil; no more will the working class support those who have never lifted a finger in honest labour. Long live the king? I very much doubt it. Vive la révolution! Vive la France! TOM Faith There is a waterfall in France call Labulaydelusane. As waterfall go it isn’t that high, or wide or watery crashy. What it has is a grotto of uncommon beauty. It gives the sanctuary of Lourdes Massabielle, a run for the money. A clever family in the 16th century place a pile of crutches against the wall. Over time folk have left 1000s of crutches on wall. The family got pretty damn rich hawking the healing water of Labulaydelusane. Everyone who left their crutches there need to roll away in a wheelchair. But still they come. Until the day Timmy arrived 848 Cross country. cross country racing strategy does not necessarily simplify to running a steady pace from start to finish. runners debate the relative merits of fast starts to get clear of the field, versus steady pacing to maximize physiological efficiency. Some teams emphasize running in a group in order to provide encouragement, while others hold that every individual should run their own race. Whether you run ahead 'of the pack' or behind it and pull ahead in the end is important, but can vary according to the runner's skill and endurance. Runners should also account for food intake prior to the race. NORVAL JOE Billbert hovered above the car crash. It was like a free gift from fate that the shooter had been dazed when he hit the ground. He recognized the Lincoln Continental that had smashed into the van as Mr. Withybottom's. Three teenage Black Knights stumbled from the van. There was no movement from Mr. Withybottom. As the residents crept into the meadow, Billbert heard distant sirens and a helicopter approaching. The teens heard it too and scattered into the trees.
2/25/202412 minutes, 54 seconds
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Smart Monitor

My doctor told me to lose weight, eat less sugar, lower my cholesterol and blood pressure, and exercise more. So I got a smart scale, a smart watch, a smart treadmill, and a blood pressure monitor. And for the past few months, I've dropped 30 pounds, my blood pressure is normal, and all my numbers are much better. All those numbers are reported to my doctor's office. She doesn't believe any of it. "Who did you pay to take all those tests for you?" she asked. "Nobody," I said. And I don't have enough freeweights to stack on the scale.
2/25/20241 minute, 16 seconds
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Yes, I write. And I've been published. Well, my work has been published. Me, I prefer a low profile. Pseudonyms and ghost-writing. Let someone else take the credit, I just want the money and the challenge of writing. Sometimes, the people I ghost-write for don't honor the contract. They refuse to pay. So I offer to write for their political opponent or enemy, or go to the press with what they told me. "The contract includes the non disclosure agreement," I say. They threaten lawyers. They threaten revenge. But they always pay up. And it makes for a good story.
2/24/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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In baseball, pitchers tend not to be good hitters. In the American League, they have a designated hitter. Instead of the pitcher batting, they have someone else bat for him. Players who don't field well often are designated hitters. In the National League, they make pitchers bat. Or a pinch hitter bats for them, and then another pitcher has to take over pitching for them. Major League Baseball saw that pitchers were an easy out or would bunt a runner along the bases. So, they decided to relieve all pitchers of hitting duty. By locking all of the players out.
2/23/20241 minute, 11 seconds
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The biggest word I've ever used is no. When Enron collapsed and they were taking down the giant letters over the scoreboard at Enron Field in Houston, I was the IT Manager of a television station. And there was a project to run fiber from the station to the stadium for video and data. I convinced the crane operators to put the N and O together and I stood in front of them with an angry pose. Someone took a photo for me, and it looked hilarious. But over the years, I lost that photo. I still have the memory.
2/22/20241 minute, 21 seconds
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Carry the load

I don't pry. I don't ask. I find it to be rude to ask too much. But it's strange... the less you ask people, the more they trust you with. Some things are small. Other things are big. And then there's the things that are huge. Too big for them to carry. So, they tell you, to help them carry. You might think that the more people who carry, the lighter it is for everyone, that isn't how it works. Trust doesn't work that way. It's a lot to carry. But you will. And they will help you carry yours.
2/21/20241 minute, 14 seconds
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A simple white cross. Just like thousands more at the cemetery. Far, far away in a distant land they gave their lives for. His name. His rank. His hometown. And the date of his death. That's all. Nothing special. Sure, it is set apart from the others. A low chain fence, some flagstones. Some bushes around a small plot of grass. But no statues of angels, no lights. No wreaths or flowers. No cannon. And no flags. Just a soldier with his men. In eternal rest. Not killed in battle, like so many here. But a drunk driver, turning left.
2/20/20241 minute, 23 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #930 – Car Crash

A day late, but not a dollar short... Lisa Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Free gift, Long live The King, Hit, Scribble, France, Waterfall LISA A different man comes to the door this morning. His face is less gentle. He stares too long at all of us as he pops the box down. I see it in his profile a brother or a cousin, definitely a relative. It’s awkward. He stands staring for too long. We stare back expectantly whilst having no idea what to expect. “He’s been in a car crash.” None of us speak. “He’s OK but in hospital.” He turns, lingers by the door. “Do you need anything else?” I’m not sure if any of us has blinked. We shake our heads.      RICHARD Bad Reception "Why do you watch that rubbish" she asked. I looked at her blankly, waiting for further explanation. She put on her 'exasperated' look. "It's car crash TV. You know it's aimed at plebs and Neanderthals, don't you?" I grunted in response. Might as well rise to the occasion, I thought. She looked at me in disgust, "well, I'm not watching it with you, I'm going to watch Britain's Got Talent in the bedroom!" I gave her a moment, waiting for the bedroom door to close, before switching to the movie channel. Nothing like having a good movie all to yourself! LIZZIE They survived the car crash. They survived the cruise ship sinking in the Mediterranean. They survived the train wreck in Sri Lanka. And the list went on and on. A tsunami, a volcanic eruption, a flood, a tornado, even a pandemic. Until that long-awaited trip to the North pole. "Take the icebreaker. It's safer," someone said." No, of course not. "Let's do something dangerous. Nothing ever happens to us." They rented a small plane. Did they know how to fly a plane? Not really. And that's where the list stopped. Simulation terminated. "Lousy game. Good thing it was dirt cheap." SERENDIPIDY Yeah, I cut the brake lines. So what? It's not as if the car was worth a whole lot. It was falling apart, an unreliable rust bucket that would only start when it felt like it, and was a complete nightmare to keep on the road. So, it really had to go, and I wanted to send it off in style. The idea was to floor the gas pedal and let it crash headlong into a tree, without anything to prevent the impact. So, I cut the brake lines. So what? Oh, right. Yeah, my husband was driving. So what? TOM crash It was my freshman year in college. My roommate was driving a Ford Econ. We were tooling down the JFK back to Evanston. Suddenly a spring downpour, 2in in about five minutes. We got cut off, not quite. Truck clips the front of the van sent is into a 360 spin. We pile into a bridge abutment. Driver’s door pops open dumping my roommate out. Van does a second 360 toss me out the same door on to the freeway. I side diagonally across four lanes of highway. And finally pile into the guardrail. Miracle, I survived the car crash. Calcutta It was the 36th hole. Two days of play. Our team was in second place. One stroke difference from beating the guys in first place. This was the only match at the club that banked bets. The caddies were not allowed to bet, but one member place them for us. The whole club was surrounding the green of the 18th. All three of the team dropped their putts. If my member dropped it on one it looked out the team behind us. The putt rims the cup and rolls a way. Everyone sees the choke. Crowd does a low murmur. NORVAL JOE Linoliumanda knelt next to Billbert, looked at Sabrina's leg and threw up. Billbert pulled off his hoody, folded it into a thick square and pressed it against Sabrina's wound. "Mandi. Hold this against Sabrina's leg." Wide eyed, Linoliumanda shook her head, and vomited again. "You have to," Billbert said and took her hands, placing them on the hoody. "Keep pressure on the wound."
2/19/202411 minutes, 15 seconds
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The robot umpire

People call it a robotic umpire, but it's a combination of radar guns, cameras, and computers. The system gathers up all the data and tells the guy behind the plate if it's a strike or a ball. It doesn't scan whether a swing goes around. It doesn't judge foul tips. It doesn't call safe or out on bases, foul or fair balls, or other important calls that umpires mess up. Nor does it sue the league for accusations of racism because it gets passed up for promoton. Which is why it's still in the minor leagues, calling balls and strikes.
2/17/20241 minute, 15 seconds
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Got to get into a fight

I paid fifty bucks for the pay-per-view fight. Ordered a bunch of pizzas and picked up a keg. Moved the big TV to the patio, dragged out the sofa and chairs, and rented some more. Put out some lawn games, cornhole, that kind of thing. Put up a chalkboard for anyone who wanted to make any wagers. Winner. Loser. Round. Knockdowns and knockouts. People parked in the driveway, the yard, along the street. Neighbors came over, too. The fight lasted twenty-six seconds. But the party lasted all night long. Help me get everything back inside and take back the keg?
2/16/20241 minute, 4 seconds
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There's no such thing as a good car wreck All my money couldn't change the past. But it could buy a future of a sort. After some experiments with holograms and robots, they worked up a simple screen simulation. "It will be like talking to her over the phone or on a Skype," they said. And there she was. On the screen. My princess. "It was all my fault," my daughter said. "I'm so sorry. Stop beating yourself up." We cried for a while, said we loved each other. Then they shut me down and went back to their experiments.
2/15/20241 minute, 4 seconds
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Terrible Twos

My mother said that when I was a little kid, my terrible twos were truly terrible. Where my brother was an absolute well-behaved saint, I was a holy terror, and she broke a kitchenware store's supply of wooden spoon on my ass from all the spankings. However, the beatings happened long after my twos, and more often for my mother's transgressions, not mine. Many years later, my parents came to Texas to manipulate and blackmail me into supporting them. I disowned them both. If my terrible twos were terrible to my mother, then my terrible fifty-twos are a well-deserved nightmare.
2/14/20241 minute, 6 seconds
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My washing machine makes a lot of noise. The repair guy came by and said that it’s unbalanced. He gave me an estimate of two hundred dollars, but I told him to go away. I can fix it myself. You see, my therapist said I was unbalanced. And he prescribed some pills, yoga, and meditation. They work for me, so they should work for the machine. I put the machine on a yoga mat. And toss in some of my anti-anxiety pills. It didn’t work. Why? I didn’t take it to my therapist. Sadly, he doesn’t make house calls.
2/13/20241 minute, 13 seconds
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Looking back at the talent and the box office returns, one can easily say that the wrong Belushi died. John Belushi was a force of nature, producing cult classic after classic. And his final two films, while not smash hits or cult classics, still brought in money. James, on the other hand, started awful and took a nosedive from there, ending John Hughes directorial career along the way. His sitcom was unwatchable, filling a timeslot until something better came along. Jim retired to run a cannabis farm a few years ago. For all our sakes, let's hope he stays there.
2/12/20241 minute, 10 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #929 – Benefits

Lisa Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z LISA A Missing Man. It’s agreed – no one is uncomfortable. No one is really that distressed. Apart from some of us missing family, or pets, or partners the benefits of being here far outweigh the cons. It’s an odd thing. Anything we want he brings us. I’d asked for pen and paper so am at last able to write this down. We agree it’s the not knowing why we’re here that worries us. Strangely we haven’t seen him for a few days. We have enough snacks and drinks down here so we relax a bit more talking about him, knowing that he’s not listening. RICHARD WLTM 'Good looking, thirty something blonde with GSOH would like to meet sane, solvent man, as a friend with benefits.' The ad stood out amongst all the others. Unlike them, she didn't come across as desperate, and I liked how it was short, snappy and to the point. She seemed confident. Just the kind of woman I liked, and the complete opposite of my ex-wife. Messages were exchanged and a meeting was arranged. The night of our date, I'll admit I was nervous. Flowers… Chocolates? Check. Then the doorbell rang. "Hi honey" HE said! "Ready to have a good time?" LIZZIE Love is such an illusive word. It's not a word, she promptly said, it's a feeling. And there I sat, wondering what she meant. She had never loved anyone and here she was, full of herself, pontificating about love. I just sat there, chain-smoking, which she hated. She pretty much hated everything about me. I'm not sure why she married me. In the end, love is such an illusive word, isn't it? It just means that sometimes you do things for love. She wouldn't have to suffer with my wrong-doings. That hammer was indeed sturdy, as promised at the store. SERENDIPIDY Fringe benefits, that's what I call them. The sort of things that some would pay a lot of money for: Privacy, solitude and the contentment that I'm rarely going to be bothered by cold callers and strangers at the door. And all I have to do to enjoy these benefits is to continue perpetuating the stories that circulate about 'the mad woman in the corner house'. My reputation goes before me, and people avoid me like the plague, which suits me absolutely perfectly. It's a great lifestyle and I have no complaints, which is more than my neighbours can say! TOM Progressive Rock In 1970 my mother was the manager of the record dept at our local department store. So she got a 20% discount very cool. I bought Tull’s Benefit, think it was like $3.75. It was a bridging album pointing to what was to come. A little stretch into the creative process. If you hadn’t had Benefit it would have been unlikely Aqualung, Thick as a Brick, or A Passion Play would have seen the light of day. Paul Stump, in his History of Progressive Rock, said that Benefit " offered the listener new bearings in his or her music search. Carl In 1921 the Czech playwright Karel Čapek coin the term robot from a Czech word for forced labor. His play R.U.R. Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum's Universal Robots) focus on the evils of corporate greed. The robots in RUR are more Blaid runner than Terminator. Organic structures from the dark landscape of eugenics. The Play was a worldwide success. In the American production Spencer Tracy and Pat O'Brien played robots. One critic described Čapek's robots as epitomizing "the traumatic transformation of modern society by the First World War and the Fordist assembly line. O brave new world, That has such people in't. NORVAL JOE The 911 operator continued, "I don't know how it benefits you delinquents to waste first responders' time and taxpayers' money. You're not wasting ours." She hung up. Billbert flew back to the meadow and low over the grass. The shooter faced away, talking to the Black Knights. Billbert crept over to the old woman. "Buhmilda?" He touched her side and she fell over,
2/11/202410 minutes, 49 seconds
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Build a Cheesecake Factory bear

The Build-a-Bear store in the Galleria is right across from the Cheesecake Factory. But they won't let you stuff the bear with cheesecake. No matter how much of their overpriced wine you've had with your overpriced, unhealthy dinner. The same goes with their overpriced Thanksgiving plate. Made for people with too much money and not enough family or friends. You can't stuff the stuffing into a bear either. Not that you'd have anyone to give it to, if you're eating Thanksgiving at a restaurant. Except yourself, hugging your pathetic stuffing-stuffed bear. Cranberry sauce and gravy leaking out of the eyeholes.
2/10/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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Homeless ping times

I buy a lot of gadgets and crap. It all ends up in the closet. Lots of keyboards and headsets. And cords and plugs to things I can't remember. They used to go into the trash. But I got all green and put them in the e-waste bins at Best Buy. Thing is, I wondered if they'd end up reselling the junk on eBay. Or the shelves. So, I took it all to Goodwill for a writeoff. To benefit all the homeless gamers needing keyboards and headsets and cords. With 5G, they can get good ping times for deathmatches, right?
2/10/20241 minute, 7 seconds
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The team's plane crashed two miles from the airport. Among the dead: players, coaches, boosters, faculty, and the flight crew. And six unknown passengers. For years, investigators tried to figure out who those six were. Checking missing persons reports, looking through paperwork. Looking for any personal belongings. But no family came forward for any of them, nobody came looking. Later, as technology advanced, DNA evidence still didn't solve the mystery. The six dead hookers, hired by the boosters for the players, going seat to seat, blowing the players, would remain nameless. The ultimate sacrifice, literally going down for the cause.
2/8/20241 minute, 27 seconds
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Whiskey Rebellion

The Adams Family was a lot more like the Addams Family, the scandal of Braintree. "It's a miracle that the country voted you Vice President," said General Washington, shaking a sheaf of papers at John Adams. "But you will ever become president with this hanging over your head." John drew up plans to split off his homestead from Braintree and name it Quincy. "And then I can lose the police records in an accident," he said, grabbing the papers from the General. "What about the rumor-mongers?" said Washington. Adams quieted them with a few troops borrowed during the Whiskey Rebellion.
2/7/20241 minute, 21 seconds
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His pet spiders

Aaron was my brother's friend, and he had a pet cat named Cleo. Aaron came over a lot, and his cat would follow him, My dog barked at the cat through the window or the fence. Aaron's house had thick shrubbery with spiders in it. He called them his pets. One day, Aaron came over, but Cleo didn't. Cleo had died from a spider bite. His parents tore out the shrubbery. No more spiders. Except for one that Aaron kept in a jar. He said some night he'd release it in my room. I kept my window closed. And locked.
2/6/20241 minute, 26 seconds
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Lisa – Position

A Chat We talk seriously when we get back. I thought I’d smelled an open fire and I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I’d seen him watching behind the door. I wonder if I’m just enjoying recounting my adventure. We all agree, we’re in an odd position. We’re prisoners, his prisoners but actually we’re all in an unlocked basement just because we don’t know what’ll happen if we leave. I’m sure, at the start. He HAD locked the door. I want to talk about the other girls, the bodies that have been found, but I can’t. A lot is left unsaid.
2/5/202439 seconds
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Legend has it that the world was created by The Great Eagle. Local tribes argue constantly about how exactly it created the world. Often with spears. Some tribes say it laid an egg, from which the world hatched. Others say that molted feathers landed in the ground to become trees, its mighty wings flapping to become the wind. But eagles don't flap all that much, they soar. The most popular belief is that The Great Eagle took a large smelly crap, and that's the world. Based on how things are going these days, I can see how that's become popular.
2/5/20241 minute, 24 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #928 – Position

Lisa (Audio coming later) Richard Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Benefits LISA A Chat We talk seriously when we get back. I thought I’d smelled an open fire and I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I’d seen him watching behind the door. I wonder if I’m just enjoying recounting my adventure. We all agree, we’re in an odd position. We’re prisoners, his prisoners but actually we’re all in an unlocked basement just because we don’t know what’ll happen if we leave. I’m sure, at the start. He HAD locked the door. I want to talk about the other girls, the bodies that have been found, but I can’t. A lot is left unsaid. RICHARD Seating plan I always sit at the back of the plane. Last row, aisle seat, no exceptions. I think it's the ideal position for surviving a crash. Others disagree and tell me the seats next to the emergency exit are safer, better still, if they're over the wing; but I disagree. I prefer to have a solid bulkhead behind me, rather than bodies and debris flying through the air. And, let's face it, if we're going down, the tail is going to hit the ground last. My employers disagree. They think I should sit at the front… Like all the other pilots. LIZZIE The yacht was tired. The crew and the passengers were also tired. No radio signal. The Captain looked at the First Officer. "Let's rest here." Suddenly, something something "what's your position?". "Captain, we need time to fix the hull." "We'll stay here. Nice, tropical island. We'll be fine." When the search party arrived, the locals snickered. "Where are they? The yacht is right over there." The locals snickered some more. No one was found. However, there were some suspiciously fresh bones, hanging above the doors of the houses. That's when the search party decided to leave as quickly as possible! TOM By Grace Alone When Timothy Cratchit graduated from Cambridge with honors in accounting, he was offered the position of junior partner by emeritus Chairman Scrooge. Along with his father CFO he became a strong supporter of the Abolitionist Movement in America. In 1878 he met Rev. John Parker and soon after set up an endowment in his adopted uncle’s name. There was a secret clause in the endowment as to the name of a future church. When Timothy died in 1890 he was buried in the graveyard of Ebenezer Baptist Church. On his marble stone is written the following: God bless us everyone. Bleak Gadgets John despite his creative output was a very convivial person. All the same his company produced Bleak Gadgets. Funeral parlors need products, John supplied them. The solar powered last words tombstone. The thermal lying In-wait body grid. Aurora Borealis Cremation Urns for Human Ashes Adult Female for Funeral, Burial or Home. Memorial Lantern Sympathy Gifts for Loss of Mom/Loved One Bereavement Gifts. Hydraulic Embalming Table High quality stainless steel, hydraulic foot pedals, locking wheels. The Viruserv VB Guardian electrostatic sprayer a workhorse that will help you disinfect your facility quickly, effectively, and with confidence The BioSeal Portable System fully contained SERENDIPIDY Put yourself in my position. If I let you go, you'll go straight to the cops, and I really can't have that, can I? So you may as well forget trying to persuade me otherwise, and focus instead on making things easier for yourself. I may be callous and unfeeling, but I'm a reasonable person. Perhaps I can be persuaded to let you live? And, if not, at least you can try to convince me that a quick, clean death is in everyone's best interests. If nothing else, you can say you gave it a shot. Before I shoot you. NORVAL JOE From Billbert's position above meadow he saw everything at once. Sabrina lay with her leg off at an odd angle. Buhmilda knelt, bent over, clutching her stomach. The driver of the van swung his rifle upward and aime...
2/4/202411 minutes, 46 seconds
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The medal ceremony

Those who were alive for it say the Olympic Stadium was the most magnificent sight in the world. The lights, the athletes in their colors. The music and sounds and cheers and the cannons roaring. And the flags, so many flags from around the world. The flag of the regime flew highest of all. Over time, the athletes became soldiers. Then martyrs. The stadium, a parade ground. Then an execution ground. Where I kneel now, our champion sprinter stood to receive his medal. I hear the soldier cock his gun and feel the barrel against the back of my head.
2/3/20241 minute, 31 seconds
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The watermelon

I used to go to a summer camp. Which was really just a community camp at a nearby grade school. Swimming... field games... listening to old records. Boring shit. The end of the summer camp was a watermelon hunt, with clues all over the schoolgrounds. Kids running from place to place, all ending up at the softball diamond or the flagpole. Me, I didn't give a crap, because I hated watermelon. I'd shout out the dumbest and wrongest answers to the clues. I ended up tied to the flagpole. As long as I didn't have to eat that rancid watermelon.
2/2/20241 minute, 24 seconds
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Cradle to grave

They say that life is what happens between cradle to grave. But what happens when you put a baby in a cradle and drop it in a grave. So, we set up an experiment. We built a cradle, babysat a neighbor's baby, and then put the baby in the cradle. Then we dug a grave and tossed the cradle into the grave. While the baby was still in it. The results were as expected: the baby cried loudly. Then, after a while, the baby stopped crying. Thankfully, because it was asleep, not dead. Or we wouldn't get paid for babysitting.
2/1/20241 minute, 30 seconds
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The pebble

Shang-Li was dropped off at the temple when he was three, and was trained day and nights in the art of Shao-Lin by the monks. "If you can snatch the pebble from my hand, it will be time to go," said the master. Shang-Li failed to snatch the pebble for years. Longer than any other student. In all that time, he mastered spears and hand-to-hand-combat and stealth and pretty much every other skill. But snatching the pebble? Nope. Eventually, the master left his hand open, and Shang-Li was forced to take the pebble. "It's a stupid test anyway," he said.
1/31/20241 minute, 23 seconds
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During one of my recent walks, I saw a car plastered with multiple anti-Semitic messages that were in support of Kanye West's rants. Jews own 90% of the media. Jews hate America. Jews control the economy. That sort of shit. Since I was a child, I've known there's sick and ignorant people in this world. And there's nothing you can do to fix them. I haven't seen it since. Maybe they tore off the messages. Maybe they were visiting a friend. Maybe they got towed away for their expired registration, which I called the parking lot tow truck number about.
1/30/20241 minute, 20 seconds
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The taste of blood

I'm no stranger to the taste of blood in my mouth. I had braces when I was a kid, metal ones. With exposed wires. My brother got wax to put over his braces to protect his cheeks and lips. But I didn't. I had to take candles from the dining room cabinet and melt them down into protectors. Which didn't help much when my brother was punching me in the face. Or telling his friends to. When the braces came off, I wanted to melt them down into a knife. And stab every one of those fuckers in the face.
1/29/20241 minute, 36 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #927 – PICK TWO Bookcase, Verdict, Sprint, Crisp, Vulgar, Pregnant

Lisa Zackmann Richard Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Position That Erica Writes site I was talking about with Friday prompts (and she does a 50-worder where you write the last 50 words). LISA Escape Someone whispered ‘Good Luck’ as we set off tiptoeing up the stairs, slow shaky steps away from our prison. We found ourselves in a narrow dimly lit corridor. The air smelled fresher up there: we had been locked up a while. The walls were lined with bookcases, like helpless moths we made for the light at the end of the passageway. My nose twitched at the faint smell of a coal fire ahead. As we approached the floorboards, that had been as quiet as the grave, gave a bloodcurdling screech and we sprinted back to the safety of the basement. RICHARD Ikea? – I can’t! "So, what do you think?" I could tell from the pregnant pause, and the slightly embarrassed look on my wife's face that my flat pack building skills could possibly need a little more work. "Well… It's a bookcase, of sorts", she mumbled. That was a bit of a blow. "A bookcase? It's supposed to be a bedside cabinet!" "Ah", she continued, "so what exactly is that other pile of wood and screws, then?" "Spares!" I replied confidently. She took my hand, and smiled solicitously, "Tell you what, love, why don't we just buy a ready-made one from the store?" ZACKMANN After a Christmas dinner I opened my gift from my son to find I had received a DVD copy of "The Hogfather" which I had been hinting I wanted for a year and a half. I thought it would be cool that my future rewatches would be advertisement free. It could rest on top of the Pratchett paperbacks when not in the video player. Not to be outdone, my son's wife handed my wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, her gift. My wife opened a framed picture of an ultrasound. I now expect my superhero name will be Grandpa Zackmann TOM October 25 1415 Our house is filled with bookcases. Floor to ceiling. Mostly pine with a few oak. It’s An eclectic collection from graphic novels to exploration of the Higgs boson. The complete works of Tolkien and the collected works of Shakespeare. While I have a soft spot in my heart for the Tempest the speech in Henry the V is wire in the blood. On field of Agincourt young Harry spoke: Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers Bonanza When I was growing up the number one program of TV was Bonanza. My Dad loved the show because during the war he met one of the actors. That was Dan Blocker. It’s pretty weird number of people my dad met during the war. Seems he got his front teeth knocked-out was actual written up for damaging government property. While in hospital he met a young Blocker recovering from wounds he sustained holding Pork Chop Hill. My dad remembered him as a gentle man in a huge body. He said he had size 14 boondocks. Dad always called boots boondocks. NORVAL JOE Mandi burst into tears. "We have to help those people." She sprinted toward the meadow. Billbert shot forward and caught her. "Wait. You don't want to get shot too." The crisp chatter of semi-automatic gunfire continued from beyond the trees. He pulled out his phone. "Darn. No connection." Billbert looked up at the sky. "Maybe I can get some bars above the trees. Stay here, please." Mandi wiped her nose with the back of her hand and nodded. Phone in hand, Billbert shot above the trees. The driver stood atop his septic tank service van, following Billbert with his AR-15. TURA Bookcase; Vulgar ——— My Library exists more outside this world than in it. Those who enter in search of a long-lost tome may find it, if their heart is pure, but otherwise only a spurious imitation. Those drawn by vulgar curiosity will find only vulgar curiosities.
1/28/202412 minutes, 43 seconds
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Dana rode the bus to work and back, so to pass the time, she'd listen to music and she took up knitting. She started small, knitting socks for the homeless people on the bus. Then she knitted scarves. And then she knitted them some warm hats. After that, she knitted blankets and sweaters. Then, she knitted homes for them. Knitting furniture and appliances to put in the homes. Some asked her to knit booze and drugs for them. With some reservations, she did. A few went too far into alcoholism or drug abuse and died. For them, she'd knit coffins.
1/27/20241 minute, 16 seconds
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Thank you for all the follows

Thank you to all you followers. I follow some of y'all back. The things I find interesting. Or inspiring. Some of y'all are recent. Some of y'all are longtimers. Some of y'all left the platform long ago. And maybe even this life. I hope you have found peace, whatever your y'all is. Some people follow-spam and like-spam to get their name out there. It's okay. How they play it. It's like everyone in a public park. You can use the grass for jogging, yoga, touch football, a picnic. As long as the person walking their dog picks up after, right?
1/26/20241 minute, 33 seconds
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Trial period

I made the mistake of buying the free month trial of LinkedIn Premium, and now instead of getting a sprinkling of anonymous people viewing my profile, I get a torrent of anonymized people viewing my profile. Me, I don't hide my profile. If I look around, I look around. And I will message them more often than not, just to tip the hat or a good morning or just something to brighten their day (or darken their doorstep). And I do hope they're doing well. If they're not, I hope they do what they need to make it well again.
1/25/20241 minute, 9 seconds
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No mayo

A burger is a burger, right? If I want no mayo on a burger and the chef slops mayo all over it, should I scrape it off? Throw it out? Throw it in the chef's face and yell WHAT THE FUCK DOES NO MAYO MEAN, FUCKER? Some places make you pay first because they want to make it a hassle to get a refund or a redo when they screw up. And some take pride in their work and only ask you to pay when you're done. I think that's worth paying someone something extra to bring it to you.
1/24/20241 minute, 10 seconds
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Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb. Instead, he and his staff performed thousands of experiments with different filaments to determine the most efficient, cost-effective, and longest-lasting filament he could use. He went through all those thousands of experiments, looking for something simple, cheap, and effective. I wonder about those thousands of failures. Did he just grab anything and try it? A piece of bacon from breakfast? Hair from his head? His wife's dildos? As some point, he must have been tearing out his hair, ripping up his shirt. And that's where the carbonized cotton filament came from, right?
1/23/20241 minute, 21 seconds
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Melvin is lost for words

I'm sure you've heard Melvin Tune's songs. The man is a wizard with words. The songs, they're played all over the world. Those familiar instrumental ditties that accompany your stroll through grocery stores, elevator rides, and journey around other places that play ambient background music. For some reason, composers ask Melvin for lyrics to their compositions, he scribbles up a few pages, and hands them over. The composer tweaks their song, turning it from good to great. And then, they record it... and when they remove the lyric tracks, it's just... well... It's just perfection. And Melvin cashes the checks.
1/22/20241 minute, 33 seconds
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An Unlocked Door by Lisa

An Unlocked Door by Lisa He’s not locked the door. Maybe he never has, we all stare at it wearing the same expression- an odd, hopeful scared face. None of us want to make the first move because what if it’s a trick. It has to be. He didn’t answer when I‘d asked if we could leave the basement. Why has he got us here anyway? Where are we? I notice a movement behind the crack in the door panel. He’s there watching, waiting. I mouth this to the others and we sit wide eyed and rigid. Things were better when the door was locked.
1/22/20241 minute, 30 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #926: Crack

Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Bookcase, Verdict, Sprint, Crisp, Vulgar, Pregnant RICHARD Thin Ice They told me I was skating on thin ice: that, one day, it would crack and I'd sink into the depths as a result of my foolishness. I never listened to them. I was young and free-spirited; nobody was going to tell me how to live my life, and nobody had the right to tell me what to do. I knew better than them. Turns out, I didn't. They were right, and I was wrong. After the accident, they fenced off the pond, and put up notices saying 'Danger: Thin ice'. Nobody skates there now. My cold, watery grave. TOM Too Smart by half Billy was a precocious little prick. Most believed he was most likely to come to a bad end. He was the sort who told younger children Santa and the Easter bunny were made up by adult to con them into being good. Further he flaunted any nursey rhymes. he would proudly land his foot on every crack in the sidewalk. One day the universe was feed-up with the little M-F. When he stepped on Crack but it didn’t back his mother’s The sidewalk when medieval on his ass, broke him in half. Universe noted: that’s mother fucker’s back, putz. 843 Somewhere I was born in the city but my parents thought moving to suburbs would be a wholesome environment for young children. Bad idea. The Suburbs sucked. At the tender age of six I was dropped in a place with no sidewalks. Rustic it was, countryfied. Problem you ask? Fear of God had been driven into me never leave the sidewalk into a street. cognitive dissonance, Hal 9000 landscape. Later in life it became the define element to my dwelling choices. Anywhere with sidewalk was fine by me. Yup lived in some pretty rough neighborhoods. Funny the stuff that defines us. SERENDIPIDY I wonder what will make you crack? Will it be the electrodes to the genitals, pulling out your nails with pliers, or maybe the water torture will do the trick? Or, perhaps you think those methods lack subtlety? Maybe I should kidnap your family instead and send you their fingers through the post? Or are you made of sterner stuff, well-schooled in the art of keeping silent, even under great adversity? To be honest, it really doesn't matter much to me… I already have the information I need. I just want to torture you, for the fun of it! NORVAL JOE Something whistled past Billbert's ear, followed a split-second later by the crack of a high-powered rifle. Wide eyed, Buhmilda clutched her stomach and dropped to her knees. Another crack and Sabrina spun around, blood spurting from a wound in her thigh. Mr. Trump (Buhmilda's dog) ran and hid. The other guild members around the meadow fled. Rapid fire followed Billbert as he grabbed Linoliumanda and shot straight up into the sun. He angled back down to the forest and set her among the ferns. "Are you okay, Mandi?" Billbert asked. She nodded her head as shots continued in the meadow. LIZZIE It was an ancient building. The crack on the wall grew bigger. But he wasn't going to let it crumble down on his watch. So, he filled the crack with cement. When the wall collapsed, he was in Aruba, sunbathing. Everyone was horrified. Cement? Apparently, bad cement, who would've thought. The horror! Who had done that? However, they did find a secret room with a long-lost treasure. So, he went back and bragged. Not a good idea. "But, what about the treasure? And a crumbling wall adds character!" He shouted while being dragged off to jail. To brag or not to brag. PLANET Z Every time I flex the finger in my left hand, I can feel a joint in the middle finger pop. It's not just an intermittent thing. It happens every time I do it. I open and close my hand a few times, pop pop pop. It's not a knuckle crack. It's not loud. It's just something I feel.
1/21/202414 minutes, 3 seconds
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The C stood for Cheap

I worked for a company that built its own vacation calendar and ticket system. They said it was cheaper to build their own compared to contracting with an off-the-shelf system. And they were right. It was cheap to build. To maintain it, though, was a nightmare. The workplace rules and regulations, all the connections with the payroll system (which they built themselves, too)... It took an entire development staff to maintain and update. So full of bugs. I spent so many hours getting them to fix incorrect information. My current job uses an off-the-shelf system. And everything works. Including me.
1/20/20241 minute, 13 seconds
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Unfree Willy

The irony of the movie Free Willy is that the whale who played Willy, Keiko, wasn't free at all. Born and bred in captivity. Sick a lot of the time, but still forced to perform tricks and act in television and movies. People were outraged, and a campaign started to free Willy. Eventually, after a few years, Keiko was freed. And lonely. The whale came back, playing with kids in the water. Which scared the crap out of them. Keiko eventually got sick again, was recaptured by veterinarians, and died. Thankfully, Hollywood isn't rebooting Free Willy movies anytime soon.
1/19/20241 minute, 26 seconds
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Teddy can’t be found

You won't find Teddy in Housewares. He's usually sneaking a spray paint can or two back by the dumpster. And when he comes back, yeah, he's got that smile on his face, total blissing out. It's been happening for weeks, and when customers finally complained about broken seals on the cans, the manager fired Teddy. Then he went in back and saw the wall... the mural... it was... gorgeous. Teddy was an instant celebrity, invited to spray his masterpieces everywhere. Then one morning, he was found dead in an alley. That smile on his face? He'd also been shooting heroin.
1/18/20241 minute, 18 seconds
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Testing access

Long ago, I worked in the call center for a hosting company. They offered dialup access, webhosting, a server farm, and domain registration. Every call needed to be verified. If the caller didn't know the password, we'd send them to Customer Service to verify. Some would say they didn't have it with them, others would say their tech person quit. Didn't matter. Everyone had to be verified. Sometimes, the CEO would call, trying to get into a customer's account to test us. He'd scream and yell and threaten. I'd just say "Transferring to you to Customer Service..." and hang up.
1/17/20241 minute, 30 seconds
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In the comics, nobody knows Pigpen's name. My theory is that his last name is Thigpen, but people keep mishearing him because of a speech impediment. You don't hear it in the television specials because they didn't do that kind of thing back in the Sixties and Seventies. Maybe they'll do it now and call it a diversity and inclusion effort? While race-swapping half the characters, including Charlie Brown's sister Sally. Maybe Charlie Brown's mom had a thing for Franklin's dad or something. Make Snoopy trans, self-identifying as a cat, and reboot Pigpen as gay. (Which would explain the lisp.)
1/16/20241 minute, 23 seconds
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Book deal

Martin got himself another book deal. It's his fifth, and like the previous four, he's dedicating it to vodka. You see, Martin can only write when he's drunk. It's doing a number on his liver, but there's the numbers his publisher tells his agent, and the numbers in Martin's bank account. Those numbers are a factor, too. Martin used to write in a nearby bar, but he got into way too many fights. So he drinks alone, writes alone. Wakes up on the floor and looks at what he's scribbled up. And sends it off to the publisher to decipher.
1/15/20241 minute, 24 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #925 – Pester

Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Tom Lisa and her new Substack! Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Crack TOM Drive to distraction My wife is a Family Nurse Practitioner. Damn good one imho. Early in all FNP careers’ is the lure of the prescription pad. The power to be a min drug cartel. The perks. In the old days lavish amounts of food delivered by perky drug rep-s. Enough Chinese takeout to chock a bull moose. And the industry itself in the veiled cover of a “lecture presentation” where samples are shelled out like gum balls. At some point the lure fades. This is driven by how most patients will pester them to death to get the goodies. Yes the lure fades. The Big Board There are few Scoreboards in the country that bring deeper reverence then the scoreboard in Wrigley Field. Watch the crowd after ever major play. All eyes inward and in a beat all eyes at the scoreboard. In Chicago it isn’t real until it’s on the scoreboard. The coolest part of the board is knowing ever change in a game near or far is shown on 35 pounds plates turned by hand. In the age of electronic, keeping score by hand gives considerable charm to the Wrigley experience. My dad was born in the shadow of that nearly century old scoreboard. NORVAL JOE They all followed Linoliumanda across the meadow. Sabrina alone, sneered. "That is so stupid. How can you be pestered by people using your given name?" Linolimanda's cheeks reddened. "It's not stupid. Everyone should have the right to be called what they want." Just then, high pitched barking stole their attention. They all turned to see a little brown and beige dog that looked as much like an ewok, running toward them. It was then that Billbert saw the Black Knights climbing from the sink hole. Buhmilda clapped her hands and shouted, "Good dog, Mr. Trump! Everyone. Get the Black Knights." LIZZIE Those YOU posters... YOU must apply. YOU must, YOU. Wear something proper. Speak correctly. You don't want to sound like a moron, do you? No. But he didn't want to be pestered all day long about a job he didn't want either. Look at that, the future of our nation, that poster says it all, aren't you proud? He was annoyed. Proud? No. So, he spent the whole night slashing them. The scandal! That's how the I'm-Not-An-Asset movement started. 100 years later, employees were still an asset, in the worst possible way... He went from annoyed to angry, murderously angry. SERENDIPIDY I have one of those cards in my window, politely asking religious callers, salespeople, canvassers and politicians not to pester me. It makes no difference of course. Either people can't read, or choose to ignore my wishes. That's just rude. So, I have no qualms about backing up my request with machine guns, machetes, and the pit of spikes beneath the welcome mat, should anyone choose to press their luck. What's more, nobody can say they weren't warned. It's all covered in full: there, at the bottom, in the fine print. Although, you probably didn't bother to read that either? LISA A big ask We realised shortly after asking for the pillows that he wasn’t the big bad wolf after all. We could just ask him for things. For many of us, used to pestering parents for bits, this was better than at home. Here we were seemingly getting every desire granted. It was the natural next step really and this time I was nominated spokesperson, it was a wish we all shared. I thought long and hard about choosing my moment but then just blurted it out when he came down the next morning: “Can we come out of the basement please? “ RICHARD Leave me alone! Internet ads don't bother me, neither does spam email, mainly because I rarely see either. All taken care of, thanks to decent ad blocking software and spam filters. Internet bliss! The same can't be said for my computer desktop.
1/14/202413 minutes, 10 seconds
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Old Hollywood

Harry was the last of Old Hollywood. Back before television. When everyone had been in the war. Big mansions, servants. Parties every weekend. The studio provided the publicists and the cars and everything else. Harry provided the face and the box office. And then, the studios stopped calling. Harry's agent told him that the times had changed. Harry's accountant said there was enough to last a lifetime. So, Harry retired, fired his agent and accountant, and went traveling. People would ask him for his autograph, and he gladly gave it and posed for photos. And he lived happily ever after.
1/13/20241 minute, 21 seconds
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Row row row – Take 2

Billy got into a boat, pushed off from the dock, and tried to row it gently down the stream. But the stream wasn't deep enough, and the boat kept hitting the bottom, so Billy had to keep pushing off, and occasionally getting out and dragging the boat by a rope and then flopping back in. After ten minutes, there was nothing merrily about Billy. He was fuming mad, and he eventually abandoned the boat and walked to shore. He swore that the next time he got drunk enough to steal a boat, he'd go to a river or a lake.
1/12/20241 minute, 7 seconds
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Passes over the years

It used to be that I'd pay my bus fare with quarters. Then they added a dollar slot. You could stick in a fiver, but it wouldn't give change. Monthly and yearly passes were cheap... then discontinued. You can get overpriced paper daily passes from the tram stops and regional centers. After that came the electronic cards. They handled transfers great, but it cost fifty bucks to replace when you lost one. Finally, they made an app for fare passes. It shows an animated picture of a bus pass with a timestamp. Which is really easy to fake in Gimp.
1/11/20241 minute, 25 seconds
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Minotaur and Cake

The kids liked to build mazes for the mice to run around in. I would tell them how would you like to be dropped in a maze and forced to roam around for dinner. So, I bought virtual headsets, plugged them into an immersion computer, and forced the kids to solve a maze. Win and get dessert, or lose and get Brussels Sprouts. Bobby and Danny were good at it, but Ricky always seemed to get eaten. They feeding him to the minotaur to distract the beast. Ricky got a slice of cake. And I, the minotaur, got the rest.
1/10/20241 minute, 12 seconds
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Those damn monkeys

There is a series of cartoons of a monkey in various outfits that sells for millions of dollars. But in spite of people owning an NFT license for them, anyone can copy the image Me, I own a real monkey, to dress up in various outfits. Unlike the cartoons, I don't sell licenses for the monkey. I've got a license to keep the monkey, but I don't sell licenses. Or tickets to see the thing. It's fucking dangerous. It rips off the clothes and attacks me and throws shit all over. Which is what those stupid NFTs are really worth.
1/9/20241 minute, 13 seconds
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Mayor Danny

Danny is the mayor. It's not a big town, but he's not a big guy. Maybe five foot one, five foot two with those boots he wears. But he's got big ideas for the town, big plans. Which is why Tania is running for mayor against him. Tania wants to keep things the same. "I want everything to stay the same," she says at the debate. "Well, what about the mayor?" says Danny. "If you become mayor, that'll change." Tania thinks about it a bit, then steps away from the podium. Danny wins. Sure, the guy talks big, but never delivers.
1/8/20241 minute, 12 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #924 – Pillows

Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Tom Lisa Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Pester LIZZIE These pillows are good quality, she thought. The price was acceptable. So, she bought them. She placed them in her garden, dreaming of perfect soireés with her super elegant friends dressed in their pricey clothes, smiling fake smiles, dragging along bored little husbands with perfect bank accounts that they spent in perfectly useless facial creams. Argh! She hated them. The pillows. Good quality. Well... Would they endure something rougher, she wondered, something a bit more... But then she remembered her mother's words "a clean conscience makes a soft pillow". Perhaps she shouldn't have wiped those perfect smiles off their faces. RICHARD My bed! Pillows, magazines, computer keyboards and laptops. These are all perfectly acceptable surfaces to sleep on… If you're a cat. The general rule is to select a space that will be the most inconvenient and inappropriate for one's owner, and occupy it in a manner that is so cute and adorable that only the most heartless of people would consider summary eviction. Which clearly makes me a very bad person, if the resentful feline stare currently fixed on me is anything to go by. I won't be long, I promise. And once I've typed this story, the keyboard is all yours. SERENDIPIDY I've never believed you can smother someone to death with a pillow. Let's face it, if pillows were that dangerous, they'd be covered in health warnings, and every time you went to bed you'd be in imminent danger of inadvertently committing accidental suicide! They also don't work for muffling gunshots to the head. I've tried it, and it makes no difference at all. However, those polythene bags that new pillows come in are a different story altogether. Capacious, easy to carry and dispose of, and totally airtight -fatal every time. You end up with a lot of spare pillows though! TOM While sleeping not good to stop breathing. I remember going into the Cpap Store. There was this deck top poster of a guy, 50ish, gray temples; faced forward wearing a knowing hint of a smile, and a full Monty mask. Think it was a ResMed AirFit F20. Lots of rigid plastic giving off a Bane/Hannibal vibe, that in fact lacked the high wattage personality of either. No one in the history of Cpaps didn’t look stupid to down right silly. To uses the damn thing, you have to value over this hurtle and embrace your going to look stupid. So, in that sprite I ware Air Pillows. 841 - 972 Angel of Death Major Cristen Larson was mentally extremely flexible in abstract think. The product of A FEW Thousands of years of diligent breeding. Her Count Zero plan terrified the war college. The general consensus of the high council was this experiment had gone too far. They promptly locked the Major in a Virtual reality matrix. From within Larson hacked the central computer and collectively fried the entire council. Her matrix then knifed through the Emperor’s ice field to stand before the throne of Shadus the Five. “Very resourceful,” quipped the Emperor. This was how Major Cristen Larson became LT. Colonel Cristen Larson. LISA Outside It’s a kitchen that he’s led Pippa into. Ceiling high sash windows reveal deep snow outside and she blinks against the brightness. He asks her what they need and ‘Freedom’ comes out as ‘Pillows’. She doesn’t want to be their spokesperson. She stares past him; out of the window at the snow. Escape would be futile. It’s drifted, deep and seems to stretch forever. Something unspoken hangs between them and she fills the silence by repeating the word Pillows, then adds a ‘Please’. She wants to get back to the basement, back to the others and away from his stares. NORVAL JOE Scowling, Sabrina crossed her arms like Linoliumanda's presence was a personal affront. They gathered around the sinkhole and stared at...
1/7/202412 minutes, 2 seconds
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Cake is the painkiller

The nurse asked if I needed painkillers, I didn't need any, so I said no. But I should have asked for some cake. Because, seriously, I wouldn't mind a slice of cake. And it doesn't have to be a big slice. A small one would do. I really just want that first fork of it, taste it, feel it. Everything after that is just gastronomic dry humping and pushing rope. That's how the senses work, you know. Too much of something, and you desensitize to it. If anyone that worked with feeling dumb after every stupid injury I cause myself.
1/6/20241 minute, 21 seconds
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The proper burrito

Burritos need to be wrapped like they're about to be loaded into the back of a coroner's wagon. The rice needs to be so Spanish, when I walk into the restaurant, it puts me on the rack and makes me confess and convert. The onions grilled to the point where they make themselves cry. The refried beans need to be cooking for a decade in a pot that's never been cleaned. The kitchen needs to be an animal carcass horror show designed by Toby Hooper. And when you stick in your fork, it bursts like the chef facehugged John Hurt.
1/5/20241 minute, 16 seconds
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It's 49 out. So the heat is on. I wear a blanket... I've got lots of blankets. But none of the fucking things is Goldilocks JUST RIGHT. Some too light. Some too heavy. Some too thick and warm. Some have bad memories associated with them, but I can't bring myself to donate them or give them away or throw them out. So, I put on a thick warm blanket, and I'm too hot. I turn on the fan, and it's now blowing too hard on my face. I'm cold. I'm hot. I'm tired. I curl in a ball and cry.
1/4/20241 minute, 14 seconds
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Walk for exercise

I walk for exercise. My Apple Watch tracks my distance and pace, and lets me know when I've walked for 45 minutes for the day. I try for more than 60. Then, I sprained my knee. Siri kept pestering me about closing my activity rings. In spite of my being crippled. So, I turned off the notifications and got rid of the activity watchface. Now, I have a timer watchface. Fifteen minutes for putting on ice. 30 minutes to take off the ice and put the pack in the freezer. Repeat those steps until I can do my walks again.
1/3/20241 minute, 12 seconds
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Boil water notice

There was a power outage at the water treatment plant. The redundant transformers worked brilliantly... they both failed at the same time. The pumps stopped, and the water pressure dropped for a few minutes. It took a few hours for the city to issue a boil water warning text messages. So, I boiled water and filled up some pitchers. Drinking. Cooking. Brushing my teeth. And I didn't shower for two days. When the notice finally came out to stop boiling water, I was boiling water for tea. I stopped. I looked at my phone and sighed. And took a shower.
1/2/20241 minute, 8 seconds
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The next locker over

Danny can't write poetry. It's just words that rhyme. Like a six year-old would write. So he asked one of those machines on the internet. And it wrote poetry for him. Good poetry. Not great, just good. Good enough, because when he wrote it in the card he gave to the girl with the next locker over, she smiled, and she kissed his cheek. He kept the internet machine on his phone. And it told him the things to say, to write, and to do. The cheerleader had the same thing on her phone. To tell her how to respond.
1/1/20241 minute, 9 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #923 – PICK TWO Aurora, Hard to believe, Contribution, Crew cut, Dealers, Dirty

Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Pillows RICHARD Dave Hard to believe that Dave is leaving the company after thirty years, the place won't be the same without him. We couldn't let him go without an appropriate gift, so I was tasked to collect a small contribution from all his co-workers to buy something suitable. It was tricky. What do you buy an accountant, with no apparent interests? He was universally hated by pretty much everybody he worked with, which was reflected by how much his collection totalled. Just enough to buy a 'Sorry that you're leaving' card, and nothing more. Serves him right, for being such a jerk! TOM The Plan It is hard to believe that something could abide beyond are ability to descript it. But there hides in the leaves, swirls in the clouds, darts in the flames is: Atopy. A concept describing the ineffability of things or emotions that are seldom experienced, that are outstanding as original in the strict sense. Were as Profanity and vulgarisms can easily and clearly be stated, but by those who believe they should not be said, they are considered ineffable. Thus, it is the invisible battle between good and evil that rages about us. Only the Contribution of grace maintains the balance. 840 Just a guy from the north side. My dad was a spook. The Navy Korean Conflict or as the guy in Naval Intelligent point out one beat away from World War Three. He was enlisted, pretty much a grunt. But he had a single grunt skill: printing. With a life long love of offset, he hoped to work for R.R. Donnelley after the war. Figured a tour in the navy would give him a leg up towards employment. The navy’s need for a printer was to process the mountain of incoming recon Images. So, at the tender age of 22 my father got a life-long security clearance. LIZZIE "My name is Aurora," she said out loud over and over again. There were only a few days left till the end of the year. She was ready. Leave, she thought, leave. Go make your dreams come true. The dreamcatcher freed you from your nightmares. Just go. And she packed everything she had. A moment of hesitation made her stop. The door was open, just waiting for her to leave. She looked at the wall. "Come," she said. "Come with me." She took the dreamcatcher with her, an entanglement of past tears, hope and healing. "Aurora. My name is Aurora." SERENDIPIDY You think you know me, but I have a dirty secret. Trust me, it's a secret that you'll find hard to believe. It's not the body count, the horrors I keep in my cellar, or the way that people who cross my path mysteriously disappear. You already know those things, they aren't exactly secrets. After all I write about them every week in these stories. My secret is far darker, so much more disturbing and goes way deeper than anything you think you know about me. But I'm not going to tell you… because then it wouldn't be a secret! NORVAL JOE Billbert scowled at Sabrina. "It's hard to believe you could be so rude and turn your back on your cousin when we all came to Buhmilda's place to escape the Black Knights." Just then a rusted and dirty jeep burst into the meadow headed for Linoliumanda. Billbert levitated and shot forward hoping to grab Linoliumanda in time. He was afraid he was too late, when Buhmilda raised her hands, clapped, and a sinkhole opened before the jeep and it and its occupants dropped out of sight. In tears, Sabrina shouted, "I don't know why you like her more than me." PLANET Z Deep in the Duchy of Yon, Castle Windbreak is a sight to behold. Marble and onyx, pearl and gold and silver. From the magnificently painted vault ceilings to the deepest dungeon, an exercise in opulence. Those who break the laws of The Duchy find themselves in the greatest luxury. For just one day. The guards wake the prisoners up from their comfortable ...
12/31/202317 minutes, 59 seconds
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George builds a fence

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He didn't get along with the ship's crew. He thought them to be violent and uncultured, while they considered him a worthless bookworm. George admitted that he liked books, but he didn't think he was worthless. After all, he'd learned a lot from all the books he'd read. For instance, he learned that good fences make good neighbors from Robert Frost's poetry. So, he build a fence around his bunk. Unfortunately, the only building material was the wood from the ship. "George, why are we sinking?" asked the captain.
12/30/20231 minute, 45 seconds
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George jury duty

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He'd escaped from so many hopeless situations, but there was one he couldn't get out of. "Jury duty?" said George, reading the court summons. George was pretty sure that he could get out of it, considering that piracy was felony enough to strip him of his voting rights. So, George went down to the courthouse, read a magazine while waiting for the selection process, and stated clearly for the record that he was a pirate. The prosecution, defense, and judge laughed. George sighed, and wished he'd brought more magazines.
12/29/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George the Brad

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. So, he changed his name to Brad. "I'm Brad now," said George... I mean Brad. Brad was a pirate, but... Well, does everything George did as George apply to Brad? Can you wipe the slate and start again? The captain decided to put this to the test. "Brad, swab the deck," he said. Brad just stood there. "SWAB THE DECK, BRAD!" shouted the captain. "BRAD! BRAD!" "Why are you shouting at me?" asked Brad. "Oh. Wait. Right." George changed his name back to George, and he swabbed the deck.
12/28/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George’s laser

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. After watching a movie where the hero had a laser on his gun to help him aim, George mounted a laser to his cutlass. "It will help me aim," said George. "Why not mount it on your flintlock pistol?" asked the captain. "I can fire it once, and then I have to reload," said George. "In the time it takes me to reload, I can use my cutlass five or six times." George then wiggled the laser's red dot on the deck, and the ship's cat chased it around.
12/27/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George goes to the dogs

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He'd shot sailors. He's shot women and children. He'd shot fellow pirates in the back. (Although, if you shoot someone in the back, it's kinda hard to call them "fellow.") But he could never shoot a dog. He'd get this strange, faraway look on his face, almost sad, and he'd lower his gun arm. Or he'd drop to a knee, pull some dog biscuits out of his pocket, and offer them to the dog. The first mate thought this was peculiar, and he asked George why. George shot him.
12/26/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George and the spiders

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He had a severe case of arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. If you put a spider next to George, he'd freak out and scream and run. Even if it was a rubber spider, he'd yell "KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT!" The crew loves to tease George by drawing spiders on things, or leaving rubber spiders around the ship. One even found a tin of chocolate-covered spiders to give George as a gag for Christmas. George threw the tin overboard, along with the pirate who gave it to him.
12/25/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #922 – The lion who ate cherries

Lizzie Richard Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Aurora, Hard to believe, Contribution, Crew cut, Dealers, Dirty RICHARD Mahimba Mahimba the storyteller struck an imposing figure in his tribal robes, and tonight - as always - he had a captive audience. He was relating 'The lion that ate cherries', and other than his deep, sonorous tones, you could have heard a pin drop. All too soon, it was over and the tourists made their way to the bar, topping up on drinks in preparation for Mahimba's promised next story: 'The dancing hippo'. We made a killing at the bar on story nights, and Mahimba did extremely well from the tips. As for his stories… Authentic African folklore? Nope. Complete fabrications? Absolutely! SERENDIPIDY As dictators go, he was probably one of the worst. Ruthless, heartless and despotic. Intolerant of opposition, few dared to challenge him, and those who did would come to a sticky end. They called him 'The Lion'. And, he had a fondness for cherries. Expensive delicacies in this country, but money was no object, and he demanded the very best. So, the very best, he got. Every day, he'd feast upon huge bowls of luscious, ruby red cherries, spitting out the stones as casually as he despatched his enemies. Cherries, lovingly and carefully prepared by me. Copiously laced with cyanide. LIZZIE He was furious. The Lion That Ate Cherries? What kind of a Xmas gift was that?! He was a writer. He wanted books, not worthless pseudo-art. And, on top of it all, that creepy cousin, smirking... No! And then, it hit him. The photograph. He remembered the photograph. "I'll take it. The painting, yes." Everyone mocked him. He smiled. Two weeks later, he arrived at a remote village in Africa. An elderly woman opened the door. "I've been waiting for you." Right there, a whole library of first editions, rare books, a dream come true. "Your grandfather knew you'd understand." TOM The Lion The Monk and the Mouse. Most folk know the Koan about the Monk and the strawberry. In that same canon was: The lion that ate cherries. On a hill a Lion spied a Monk crossing a valley. He was very hungry. At his good fortune he gave out a mighty roar. Hearing said roar the Monk took off running. All day the two ran, the Lion never gaining on the Monk. Finally, the Monk spied a Cherry tree. He clambered up with the lion on his heels. The Lion dropped spent on the bottom of the tree. Now all he had to do was wait. 839 Train Unseen in the branches was a field mouse. He noted the monk but kept his eyes trained on the Lion. While both were quite dangerous, the greater danger thought the mouse was being eaten. The Monk started throwing branches at the lion, the lion didn’t mover. The mouse began gnawing at tiny branches. A cherry dropped, the lion caught it and purred. The Monk joined, together they stripped the tree of all the cherries. The Lion slowly roses and walk back to his hill. The Monk and Mouse gave praise to the Budha. Limbed down the tree, and waked away. NORVAL JOE Buhmilda continued. "There are a lot of children's songs that seem innocuous, but are actually used to encourage magical abilities. 'Ring around the rosies', 'London Bridges falling down', and 'The Lion that ate cherries'". Linoliumanda's eyes lit up. "I know them all. My daddy sang them to me for years. I should have magic then, right?" Buhmilda gave the blond girl a sad look but Sabrina took advantage of the question. "No. It just shows you're a dope. If you had magical abilities, you'd have learned some by now." Shell shocked by Sabrina's rudeness, Linoliumanda wandered back across the meadow. PLANET Z It only took a generation to transform the studio from a beloved institution to a bomb factory. Instead of giving audiences the entertainment they wanted, the studio greenlit projects that ticked the boxes woke socia...
12/24/202313 minutes, 44 seconds
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George’s failure

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Whenever he failed, he'd quote inventor Elon Musk: "Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough." The captain would point out that George had failed to make his bunk, cook breakfast for the crew, swab the deck, and raise the alarm that the British Navy was rapidly approaching from starboard. George picked up a mop and began to swab the deck. "Oh, good," said the captain. "It'll be nice and clean when they execute us for piracy." That made George feel accomplished.
12/23/20231 minute, 30 seconds
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George’s bruises

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. As for finding the nightlife, well, that was something George knew. After a hard night in the library looking up new designs for ships and sails and cannon, he'd stop by the Church of Hot Wax. Mistress Suzanne would walk down the aisle, clad in skintight leather and a mask, tapping her worshippers on the chest with the butt of her whip. "You," she said to George. When people asked George about the bruises and scars, he'd say "You should see the other guy." And he'd just barely smile.
12/22/20231 minute, 25 seconds
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George’s vicious cycle

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. People accused George of being lazy, but George always felt tired. Maybe it was an iron deficiency? Or some sort of hormonal issue? Perhaps George's immune system was weak? And then there was the constant stress of other pirates bullying George and calling him lazy. This caused George to worry, causing even more stress. It was a vicious cycle. George became worse and worse of a pirate. The depression turned suicidal, and he tried to walk the plank. Right on to the ship. He couldn't even get that right.
12/21/20231 minute, 33 seconds
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George and the realtor

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Instead of sailing the seven seas, plundering and looting, he spent a lot of time with his realtor, looking at houses. There was always something wrong with the property... too much noise, poor school system, a seedy neighborhood. There was always an excuse to keep looking. One day, after a long walkthrough, George was happy. Nothing was wrong with the house. The owners were looking to move out and sell quickly. "It's perfect," said George. The long-frustrated realtor was delighted. Until George's shipmates showed up and looted the place.
12/20/20231 minute, 43 seconds
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George and the beans

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. In the middle of one battle, he put down his cutlass, started a fire, and began cooking some beans. "What the hell are you doing?" said the captain. "Do you want to get shot?" "Come on," said George. "I'm making enough to share." "That's not what I meant," said the captain. "But I'm putting lots of ketchup in it this time," said George. "And those cut-up hot dogs you like." After the battle, the surviving pirates sat down to a homestyle campfire dinner. The captain asked for more ketchup.
12/19/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George the Muppet

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was kinda scruffy and goofy-looking. He resembled a Muppet version of a pirate. Not one of those traditional hand-puppet Muppets. You know, the ones with the puppeteer crouched under the stage, or one puppeteer working the hand and mouth while a second puppeteer works the other hand. Or that stupid prawn, the one that uses rods and sticks to manipulate. He was more of a big ol scruffy freestanding Muppet, like the Sweetums monster or Big Bird or Snuffleupagus. The rest of the crew, they looked like pirates.
12/18/20231 minute, 44 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #921 – Eaten by lions

Lizzie Richard Lisa Serendipidy Tom Tura Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is The lion that ate cherries RICHARD Uncle Derek Uncle Derek came to a rather unfortunate and grisly end: eaten by lions in the heart of Africa. At least, that's what we were told as kids. The reality turned out to be somewhat more prosaic. Uncle Derek was actually in prison, doing a fifteen year stretch for drug dealing, following a raid at his local pub, 'The Heart of Africa'. Our parents didn't want us to grow up with the stigma of his misdeeds, so they made up the lion story. Which makes me wonder if Aunt Ethel really was abducted by aliens, like they always told us happened. SERENDIPIDY What would you rather? To be torn apart by sharks, or eaten by lions? It's a serious question -enquiring minds need to know. How about being flayed alive, or burned at the stake? What's your preference? Boiled in oil, or incarcerated in concrete? I know you're thinking none are particularly pleasant ways to die, and you'd rather not choose. Which is just as well, really, since it'll be me deciding anyway. And, frankly, I've no time for any of that nonsense. Too complicated and messy. It's a simple, single bullet to the temple for you. You'll be just as dead. TOM I’ll be carrying a copy of war and peace under my left arm Arthur bemoaned the fact the best code phrases and mission ops had been used up. It was a lot like the lack respect you would get for Hurricane Lulu in spite of her 250 mph winds. Gone was the eagle has landed, or Operation Desert Storm. Even that meeting next to the Brandenburg gate with that wraithy thin east German lass who insisted on using: In winter the snow is deep. Eat by Lion, come on what kind of secret code is that. I was pretty much at that moment he saw the large cat. Eyes above the square smiled. 838 – Every good intention No good deed is left unpunished is a wristed phrasing by my name’s sake Thomas Aquinas who wrote in Summa Theologica: For as punishment is to the evil act, so is reward to a good act. Now no evil deed is unpunished, by God the just judge. Therefore, no good deed is unrewarded, and so every good deed merits some good. My favorite is Jan-Michel Vincent. in August 1996, He sustained a permanent injury to his vocal cords from an emergency medical procedure after an automobile accident. It left him with a permanently raspy voice. So he sued the EMTS LIZZIE He grabbed the book Eaten by Lions. The book was in the secret room. Gladiators, hungry lions. Boring. On top of it all, the blasted book weighed a ton. One day, two days, and his hair turned gray. Three days, four days, and he looked like a 90 year old man. The book changed too. It looked less dusty, less moldy. And he couldn't remember a single word. But why did his master want him to read that book? When he exited the tower, he understood why. His 90-year old master looked much younger. Eaten, but definitely not by lions. TURA Eaten by Lions ——— It was a long, hot drive to my daughter’s commune, deep in the savannah. Her invitation had surprised me after our estrangement over her fanatical veganism, but I had to see her. We walked out together, and I was reassured to see them managing the place competently, an oasis amid the scrub and acacia. While pondering our unspoken issue, I suddenly realised she wasn’t at my side. In the distance she screamed “Die carnivore!” I made for the compound, but found the gate locked, the walls unclimbable. Night fell. Soon, I heard the distant growl of a lion. Then, more. NORVAL JOE Sabrina rolled her eyes. "Of course you know that song. Everyone knows The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Linoiumanda shook her head, closed her eyes, and sighed, trying to maintain her patience. When she stumbled over a clump of weeds,
12/17/202312 minutes, 43 seconds
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George is to blame

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. There were other pirates on the ship who weren't very good, but they deflected any criticism by blaming George's incompetence. As any good mediator knows, deflecting and sidetracking doesn't solve the core problem, and George didn't handle the stress well. Which made George even more of a target for blame. After a while, things got really bad. George hid in his bunk. Of course, things weren't getting any better. Eventually, the captain recognized what was going on. "Get back to work," said the captain. "I need someone to blame!"
12/16/20231 minute, 28 seconds
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George the Bro

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. There was a pirate who was even worse than George, though. He called everyone "Bro" and tried to give out fist-bumps to everyone. An even bigger landlubber than George, who talked big but couldn't hold his own. Everyone called him a phony and a poser. Except for George. He just let the guy bluster. "Don't tell me how to load a musket!" he growled. "I've been shooting muskets for years!" The musket exploded, killing the rookie. George rifled through his pockets and threw his body overboard. "See ya, Bro."
12/15/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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George the charm

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The captain always left George behind when he put together landing parties for raids. "Watch the ship," he said. "And don't touch anything." George stood on the deck and did nothing. He was good at doing nothing. When the captain and the landing party returned from their raids, bringing back treasure, they were surprised that nothing awful had happened in their absence. "Nothing's on fire," said the captain. "The ship hasn't sunk. Everything's fine." Nothing bad ever happened when George stayed behind. George became the ship's good luck charm.
12/14/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George in a museum

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. This didn't matter to graverobbers. They just wanted pirate corpses that they could sell to museums, where they were stuffed and displayed in historically accurate dioramas. Schoolkids would walk past the scenes, going "YARRRRRR!" and swaggering like Johnny Depp in those movies. Then they'd beg their parents to buy them plastic swords and eyepatches and cheap paper pirate hats from the gift shop. Or they'd steal something from the dioramas. Sometimes, they'd knock over a figure. Raising the next generation of thieves and plunderers. George would be so proud.
12/13/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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The Great Georgetator

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. His ship struck a small boat, a boat on which the leader of Tomainia had been fishing. George bore an uncanny resemblance to the dead man sinking into the water. So much so, he was grabbed by the special secret police and rushed to the country's capital. Dressed in a military uniform, addressing the crowded stadium, George stood there and froze. What would he say? What would he tell the assembled masses? What deep wisdom could he share to make everything better for everyone? George passed out and collapsed.
12/12/20231 minute, 20 seconds
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George’s lunch

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The other pirates didn't respect George. When he put his lunch in the ship's refrigerator, someone would always steal it. "I marked it with my name, guys!" yelled George. "I used the marker that's clipped to the fridge!" Someone stole the marker, too. George began to carry his lunch around with him as he worked. Sometimes, he'd drop it during a battle or a raid, and someone would step on it. "You did that on purpose!" George would whine, and stab the offender. It became his whiny, annoying battlecry.
12/11/20231 minute, 7 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #920 – Trailers

Lizzie Richard Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Eaten by lions RICHARD At the movies They say TV is no substitute for movies on the big screen. But, to be honest, going to the cinema can be a depressing experience. To begin with, there's the hassle of parking the car, then you have to queue for tickets, before bankrupting yourself buying popcorn and coke in quantities that could feed a third world country for a week. Not to mention fighting your way through miserable people already comfortably seated to get to your own seat. But worst of all, realising the movie is total crap, and you've already seen the only good bits in the trailers. LIZZIE A pot of tulips. Why hadn't she tossed it in the garbage when Mr. I-Love-Tulips left her? No, she took it to the trailer, all she could afford now. When enough tulips had bloomed, she cut them all off and sent them to his workplace, with a note. “You forgot these.” Yes, it was petty. Yes, it was vindictive. However, she decided to grow some more tulips and send them to him for his birthday. She was sure he'd be horrified to see tulips without a pot. Dead and all that. Life's tough. But at least, he would have tulips. SERENDIPIDY I was brought up in one of these trailers. Trash, they called me, and they may have been right, but I really didn't care. I filled my days with hard drugs, moonshine and whoring. Although, to be clear, I did none of that myself. I was more a coordinator and manager; or if you prefer, dealer and pimp. Eventually, I became a major player, and if not gaining the respect of my community, I certainly commanded their loyalty. Now I've risen to the top of the pile. I still live in a trailer, although with gold fittings and satin sheets. LISA Too Much Information There’s been false lead after false lead. It’s not just the local community gripped by this case now it’s the whole country. And it seems they all want to help. The latest wild goose chase gets the force checking trailers at the stud farm. All the leads are checked out but now with one of their own amongst the victims the police seem to be working with a renewed energy. The papers are quick to point this out too. The chief had wanted it keeping quiet, for obvious reasons, but now our man knows Pippa is on the force too. TOM Coming soon to a theater near you. Bruce had been making trailers for a generation. He started at Warner’s. Moved to Universal. Spent a decade at TriStar. After becoming dissolute with the industrial model. Bruce only took offers from Indie productions. He knew deep history on that subject matter. He would tell you the first trailer was in November 1913 for the musical The Pleasure Seekers Due to trailers initially being shown after, or "trailing", the feature film, the term "trailer" was used to describe the promotion; despite it coming before, or "previewing", the film it was promoting. His current project was Mother Teresa: Last Nun Standing. NORVAL JOE Billbert rode in the back seat of Buhmilda's car with the two girls. He assumed Mr. Withybottom had gone home and not followed them through the evergreen covered hills to Grandma Buhmilda's log cabin. She parked her car in a big red barn across a meadow from the cabin. Around the meadow, a half circle of rusty old travel trailers were evenly spaced between the cabin and barn. As Buhmilda lead the kids back to the cabin, she began to sing at the top of her lungs. Linoliuhmanda wrinkled her nose and grinned. "Hey. I think I know that song." PLANET Z Walt Disney's dream was to build the city of the future. Hub-and-spoke peoplemovers, green spaces and company towers, and multiple levels of tunnels to handle freight and waste and deliveries. It was perfect... too perfect. After he died, the board and managers met and scaled back his dream to a bunch of theme parks and reso...
12/10/202316 minutes, 50 seconds
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George’s letters

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Most pirates had a girl in every port. Sometimes more than one, depending on the money. George wasn't like that. He had someone special back home George would send letters from every port he visited. When he arrived back home, they'd read them together under a tree they'd planted when they were young. Then, one year, George returned home, but his letters were waiting for him, undelivered. George put them under the tree they'd planted together, where she'd been buried. His crewmates found his body, hanging from the tree.
12/9/20231 minute, 34 seconds
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George’s Golden Ticket

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When he felt depressed, he ate. "What is this?" said George, opening a Wonka Bar and seeing a Golden Ticket. "It says you'll get a tour of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory," said the captain. "And you'll get all the chocolate you could ever want." They set sail for the chocolate factory, but bad weather prevented George from getting there on time for the tour or the chocolate. Which made him even more depressed. He opened another Wonka Bar. Another Golden Ticket. He crumpled it up and threw it overboard.
12/8/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George is sorry

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He said "Sorry" a lot, even though he wasn't genuinely sorry. He tried to feel genuinely sorry, but he never did. "You're not really sorry," said a man that George had just stabbed. George sighed. "You're right," he said. "I don't feel sorry. But I want to." George sat down and wrote an apology note. Then, he revised his draft, correcting his spelling and grammar. Finally, he wrote a clean copy of the note and handed it to the guy he'd stabbed. But by then, the man was dead.
12/7/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George reality

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He couldn't figure out why he was still a pirate. Why would a crew keep an incompetent like George around? That's when George decided he was in a reality television show. Every now and then, he'd stop and shake one of his crewmates. "This can't be real," he'd say. "Fess up." But the pirates were pirates, not actors. George peeked in every crate and cupboard for cameras and microphones. Eventually, he gave up, and accepted that things were real. "Real bad," said the captain, writing the next day's script.
12/6/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George sees his reflection

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The captain constantly shouted at George, making an example of George for the others. "YOU'RE NOT A VERY GOOD PIRATE! WHY CAN'T YOU BE A GOOD PIRATE?" When he was just getting his sea legs, he wasn't very good. But with time and experience, he got better. It was the captain who wasn't a very good pirate. Or a very good leader. George looked at the crew and wondered who would make a good replacement captain. Then he looked in his mop bucket, saw his reflection, and pondered mutiny.
12/5/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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George’s email

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He rarely checked his work e-mail, so he missed a lot of memos about training for new equipment or work schedule changes. He also never bothered to delete his email. His inbox used up a lot of storage, and the ship's quartermaster got on George about needing to clear up some space. So, George created a rule to just automatically delete everything that landed in his inbox. He still missed training session and work schedule changes, but at least the quartermaster was off of his back about meaningless shit.
12/4/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #919: Contact Lens

Lizzie Richard Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Trailers LIZZIE "What kind of flower is that?" She asked. "This is a very special flower," he answered. "What do you mean?" "It's a contact lens. It helps us to see the future." She looked unsure. "The future?" "Yep." She looked even more unsure. "How so?" "Look." Then, he whispered and the flower wavered slightly in the wind. "In a year's time, this garden will be wonderful, full of life, and filled with beautiful flowers. You know why? Because when you cherish something, everything flourishes." She smiled. Just as he thought, that small flower helped with a lot more than the future. RICHARD In the eye of the beholder I thought she had the most beautiful blue eyes, until we hooked up, and I found out she was wearing tinted contact lenses. I could live with that, thanks to her gorgeous, long golden hair, until the night I ran my fingers through it, and the wig came off in my hands. At least she still had a figure to die for, until I realised the breasts were fake and she wore a corset. The worst part was discovering one of her long, shapely legs was false, when she took it off at night. She had a lovely personality though. LISA Deceptive Appearances His eye colour seemingly changes with every visit, I thought I was mistaken at first but I think he’s wearing coloured contacts. With all days blending into one it’s hard to remember things. I chant them to keep them fresh in my head, hoping I’ll survive and need to use them as evidence. It’s hard and I’ve got a permanent tension headache. But what else can I do? The girls tentatively told me earlier that there were others down here but he took them and didn’t bring them back. I don’t, and won’t, tell them about the bodies we found. SERENDIPIDY Lost your contact lens, are you quite sure? Come closer and let me look. No, it's still there, in the corner of your eye. Hold still and lets see if I can slide it into place. Oh dear. Me and my fat fingers! This isn't working. What I need is something thin to slip under the edge, and ease it across. Maybe this razor blade will do the trick? Now, what did I say about holding still? Stop squirming, won't you? Oh my goodness! I told you not to squirm! On the bright side. You only need one lens now! TOM NORVAL JOE Billbert stood at the door to Grandma Buhmilda's Biscayne, ready to climb in. "Linny," Mr. Withybottom growled at his daughter. "Come with me." She glared at him with one eye nearly closed as if she had lost a contact lens. "No. I'm going with my friends." "They're not your friends. Now, come on," he said much louder. "Yeah, Lindy," Sabrina sneered. "We're not your friends. Go with daddy." Linnoliumanda's face dropped at Sabrina's declaration. "Don't listen to her, Linnoliumanda," Billbert said. "You're my friend, and whether Sabrina admits it or not, you two are cousins. Maybe you have magic, too." PLANET Z Tiffany wore glasses. She shuddered at the thought of sticking something in her eye. She couldn't even bring herself to use eyedrops. The best she could do was stand in the shower with her eyes closed, face the shower head, and open her eyes. And even then, it took a lot of will to open her eyes. When her eyesight got worse, she was offered the chance for surgery, but just the thought of it... she would rather go blind. "We can knock you out for it if you like," said the doctor. Counting down from ten, fading into sleep.c
12/3/202311 minutes, 27 seconds
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George the Clown

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wasn't a very good clown, either. But every Christmas, he'd dress up in his clown outfit and visit the kids in the hospital. He tried to juggle, but he dropped the rubber balls. The balloon animals would pop halfway through the twists. He was just pathetic. But the kids laughed, which is all that mattered. They'd make drawings of him, a clown on a pirate ship. He tacked them up around his bunk, and he'd read the letters while out at sea. Until his return the next year.
12/2/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George on Easter

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He believed in Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. For Christmas, he left out milk and cookies for Santa. For The Tooth Fairy, well, George Brushed and flossed and wore a mouthguard in battle, so he had to rely on his crewmates' teeth to put under his pillow. And for the Easter Bunny, he put out a rabbit trap. "Roast rabbit is delicious!" said George. His crewmates stepped in the trap a lot. Some got gangrene, and they'd need an amputation. "Those aren't delicious," said George.
12/1/20231 minute, 42 seconds
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George gets audited

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was good about filing his tax returns, though. He expensed his hat, boots, sword, and other essential equipment. Which is why he got audited every year. "You're a... pirate?" said the auditor, looking at George's paperwork. "If you perform at birthday parties, you're an entertainer." "No, I'm a pirate," said George. "Just not a very good one. I supplement my income with birthday parties." The auditor calculated the fine. George tied him to a chair and set the room on fire. Like we all wish we could do.
11/30/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George and the turtles

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. While fleeing British pirate hunters, George tended to get lost among the islands. Running low on supplies, his ship run aground, the crew fished for what they could, and ended up with nets full of turtles. They cooked up the turtles, and devised a plan. George opened a restaurant on the island, and people came from far and wide to attend the opening. Pirates and British Navy sailors waited for hours for a table. They never got one. George and the crew stole a ship and fled to safety.
11/29/20231 minute, 9 seconds
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George talks to himself

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He spent a lot of time swabbing the deck. Every now and then, he'd pause and look at his reflection in the mop bucket. Sometimes, he'd talk to himself. The other pirates found this disturbing, and they asked the captain to do something. "Maybe if you stopped shunning him and actually treated him nicely, he wouldn't have to talk to himself in a bucket?" said the captain. The crew pondered this, and then dumped the bucket on George's head and pushed him overboard. "That works too," said the captain.
11/28/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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George and Wowbagger

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was a worthless navigator, awful swordsman, and a completely unreliable deckhand. As he leaned on the starboard rail, a silver spaceship hovered by the port rail. A ramp extended from the ship and a grey-green alien walked out. "George?" it asked, reading from a clipboard. "George the Pirate?" George turned around. "Yes?" "You're not very good," it said. "I thought I'd let you know that." The alien turned around, returned to its ship, and the spaceship flew away. George shrugged and went back to leaning on the rail.
11/27/20231 minute, 20 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #918 PICK TWO Brand awareness, Lot, Random, Envision, Dozen, Secretary

Lizzie Richard Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Contact lens TOM Small Pleasures Jimmy’s dad was a working-class man. A time where the color of your shirt outline the vocation that selected you. Despite limited funds in their home, Jimmy’s day faithfully every Saturday morning wake him up for a trip to the Bakery. It was Jimmy’s job to choose a random dozen donuts for breakfast. He knew his mother favorite and each sister’s. His younger brother would eat anything within 14 inches of his mouth. Choosing for Dad was always a challenge. He didn’t have a sweet tooth like the rest of the family. So, Jimmy chose one stuffed with olives LISA November 23rd Christmas had crept into the incident room a week ago with random cards on filing cabinets and some very incongruous tinsel. I’m only there today as a picture on the wall. So, the police now know who’s doing this. Except they don’t. Only I do and I’m locked in a basement with a dozen faces that are all more familiar than I’d like them to be. I’ve told the girls I’m police. I try being upbeat; a lot have been here for months. I try not to think of the faces on that board that aren’t down here with us. NORVAL JOE A dozen teenagers gathered in the empty lot across the street from where Billbert sat on the curb. Buhmilda shoved some bread into his mouth and said, "Swallow quick. Those people over there aren't some random crowd of onlookers." When Billbert's vision cleared, he saw the burly crowd of yellow-toothed Black Knights, and jumped to his feet. Buhmilda looked to Mr. Withybottom. "Well, Cuz? Should we take the kids to your place, or mine?" Linoliumanda's father looked aghast. "Why do we have to take them anywhere?" Buhmilda shook her head sadly. "Climb in kids." And motioned them to her car. RICHARD Sold! I'd never been to an auction before, but I was having fun. I placed a few practice bids on random items, just to get a feel for things, in readiness for the lot I'd had my eye on right from the start. Just a suitcase, one of a number of lost luggage lots, and despite the stories of people finding all sorts of expensive surprises in them, I'd a sneaky suspicion the auction house went through them beforehand. I just wanted the suitcase: perfect for my next holiday. I won! The suitcase, and the twenty kilos of cocaine it contained! LIZZIE The secretary was rushing back and forth, folders everywhere. She was so upset that a pile of papers started to spin around all the way to the ceiling. "What's happening?" She threw her hands in the air. "Brand awareness report. I have 10 minutes. 10 minutes?!" He offered to help, but at that point everything was beyond any help. "I quit, there." And she stormed out of the office, a trail of paperwork swirling behind her. He just stood in the corridor, wondering how she had managed to get the papers to do that, a shiver going down his spine. SERENDIPIDY As an apprentice, I'd had it drummed into me: Brand awareness. Nail that, and everything else falls into place. Your clients should be able to make that instant association, must be able to envision what the future will look like; how it will feel; how you will change their lives. It all comes down to brand awareness. It's something I've never forgotten, and I've always striven to put it first and foremost into every interaction, with every client. Like right now. "It's red hot" I say to them, turning the brand in the flames. "This is really going to hurt!" PLANET Z I won't be going to the local donut shop anymore. All the register girl has to do is put on a plastic disposable glove, pick out donuts, put them in bags or boxes, and push a few buttons on the register. It's not like she has to make change. The credit card reader does all that. And yet, the last screen on the credit card reader asks how much I want to...
11/26/202310 minutes, 36 seconds
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George visits Abortion Island

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. His ship ran aground on a small island off of the coast of South Carolina. "Welcome to Abortion Island," said a grizzled docksman. "Sorry about the lighthouse, been out for three days." He led George to the clinic, a small medical facility and dormitory. "The ferryboat brings patients, the doctor performs the procedure, and when they're ready, they return to the mainland." George stood and stared. It took George seven days to repair his ship. He kept to himself, sleeping in his bunk. And he left without saying goodbye.
11/25/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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Call me George

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "Maybe you should give pirating a rest?" said the captain, tallying up the damage from George's latest mishap. "Whaling is big these days. My brother has a ship." George packed his bags, disembarked, and walked down the docks to his new home. "Your first time whaling?" said a lanky greenhorn, extending his hand. "Call me Ishmael." "Call me George," said George, smiling. A year later, they found themselves bloodied and battered, adrift on the Pacific in a coffin. "That ended badly," said Ishmael. "So, tell me more about piracy."
11/24/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George ponders

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Some nights, he'd gaze up at the stars, wondering how he fit in to the world, or if there was some kind of hidden cosmic plan out there. "Where are we?" "Why am I here?" "What is my purpose?" "What does it all mean?" Then he'd connect all the bright stars in his mind, making shapes and words and symbols. One he named "George." He was also holding a map and an astrolabe. The captain tapped him on the shoulder, clearing his throat. "I asked 'Where are we, George?'"
11/23/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George and the protestors

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Nobody would ever build a monument or statue to him. No plaque, no bench. He sat in the park and rested. Masked protestors swarmed in, charging and screaming, armed with sledgehammers and a crane. "Down with hate and slavery!' they shouted. "We love!" They pounded at the Confederate War Veterans statue, tugging and pulling it until it toppled and fell. On top of George. The protestors ran when they heard ambulance sirens, leaving him thrashing and struggling, shouting for help. The medics tended to George, and carried him away.
11/22/20231 minute, 2 seconds
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George and the seven cities

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. George sought out El Dorado, the City of Gold. But instead of a city literally made of Gold, it turned out to be a village ruled by some naked dude who rolled around in Gold dust every morning, and then washed it off in the lake. George stripped naked, rolled around in Gold dust, and proclaimed himself king. The natives bowed down to George. Except for the real king. Over and over they did this. After a week, El Dorado ran out of Gold dust. And George left emptyhanded.
11/21/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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George passes out

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Some say he drinks too much to remember. And others say he doesn't drink enough to forget. Bleary-eyed, climbing into his hammock, cabin spinning. The rocking back and forth. Is it the waves and the ship, or just how much he drank? It doesn't matter. He leans out of his hammock and throws up. The hammock wobbles. He falls into the puddle of vomit. Passing out. He'll do the same thing tomorrow. And the day after that. "Another goddamned day of this shit," he mumbles. And passes out again.
11/20/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #917 – Bread

Lizzie Richard Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Brand awareness, Lot, Random, Envision, Dozen, Secretary LIZZIE "Bread crumbs, I need bread crumbs," thought the restless crow. He wasn't hungry. He just wanted bread crumbs. He read a story about dropping bread crumbs to leave a trail. He wanted to leave a trail! People would trickle out of the forest into the open field and marvel at his beauty! But he found no bread crumbs. He did consider resorting to his collection of glass eyes, but it was becoming more and more difficult to steal them from grumpy Old Maggie. So, he just sat on his scarecrow and waited. And he waited for a very long time! RICHARD All natural ingredients Times have been tough since the Great War, but we survivors are tougher still. We manage to get by on the bare essentials, and where even the bare essentials are lacking, we improvise. Take our bread, for example: Flour is hard to come by, so we substitute sawdust instead. It makes for an interesting texture, but the flavour's not too bad. Mind you, if it wasn't for the bread we'd starve. That's our diet: Bread and water. Except the water is polluted, and the rain is far too acid to drink. I won't tell you what we substitute for water! SERENDIPIDY Smells can be so evocative. Some may enthuse about the aroma of freshly baked bread, the fragrance of newly mown grass or the perfume of night scented stock on a warm spring evening. Homely, comforting smells. Not for me though. My tastes are very different. In fact, those smells make me want to vomit. Give me instead, the honest, ferrous tang of freshly spilled blood, the sweet smells of death and decay. Better than any bouquet of flowers or the most expensive of perfumes. And above all, the dank, earthy aroma of the grave. The smell of home, sweet home. LISA A Despondent Incident Room Another day and another late afternoon briefing; there’s another three photos up on the board. It looks like our man’s working a lot harder than we are. He’s giving us nothing, and we’re working right round the clock. I’ve not had a meal at home for weeks now. Mum’s doing me double sandwiches. I used to eat at my desk but I can’t eat with them watching. It doesn’t feel right. They’re all around my age: I think all the women feel the same: it could be me up there. The bread from the uneaten sandwich hardens on my desk. TOM Pore more Sugar on It Going Meta-Meta tonight. My personal rule for writing is: the first thing that lands in my head it the central theme of the story. It can produce some pretty weird stuff. Take tonight’s topic: bread. Before I could take a stroll down memory lane of my years working in a Bakery. I was the guy who choose how many loafs of vegetable herb we were delivering to San Fransisco. But No, what popped in my brain pan was Bread the band. And I use that term generously. If you took rock and roll and dipped in sugar Bread would come out. NORVAL JOE Linoliumanda continued to ignore her father's requests to get into the car until he was clearly ready to blow his top. Red faced, he got out of the car and stomped his size fourteen wingtips toward her. Just then, a rusty, late 50's, Chevrolet Biscayne, huffed and rumbled to a stop next to them. A gray-haired woman in a bright orange mumu under a olive rain poncho climbed out, carrying a small brown loaf of bread. Mr. Withybottom's jaw dropped. "Buhmilda. What are you doing here?" The woman smiled at Mr. Withybottom. "I could as you the same, Cousin Charlie." PLANET Z Tonya went to school and opened a bakery. Hired a few of her neighbors and friends, worked long hours. Everybody got paid well and got great benefits. She even covered child care, which for single mothers, is everything. Then the riots came. Her bakery was broken into and burned to the ground.
11/19/20239 minutes, 44 seconds
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George and The Kingdom of Green, Part 2

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Instead of looting and pillaging, he liked to go exploring. "And then loot and pillage?" asked his mateys. "No," said George. "I write articles for a travel magazine." His favorite place to visit had been the Kingdom of Green. It was land of endless fields and forests, and the castle on the hill shone in the sun. "It's gone, George," said a messenger from the magazine. "The king died, and the queen soon after. It's all in ruin." George folded his map, put it in a drawer, and wept.
11/19/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George and The Kingdom of Green, Part 1

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Give him a ship, and he'll give you back a shipwreck. One time, he wrecked on the rocks of an island where everyone wore green. "Come with me," said a villager. "The king and queen are waiting." The royal couple offered to fix George's ship, but he had to promise never to loot or pillage the land. George kept his word, and he changed the maps to read "Dangerous rocks and monsters." That way, pirates would forever avoid that land. George assumed that they lived happily ever after.
11/17/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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George builds

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Once, when George wasn't careful about some pirate secrets, a fellow pirate shushed him and said "The walls have ears." Ever since then, George had been nervous about talking near walls. He'd only talk to people outdoors where there weren't any walls. Or in gazebos. Because they're kind of like buildings, but don't have any walls. Railings, maybe. But those are more like lattices or fences. The captain watched George trying to construct a gazebo on the main deck. "I should have been a farmer," he muttered to himself.
11/16/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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George the looter

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. These days, it's all about branding. Social media presence. George dominated the Pirate scene online, with millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram. His YouTube videos were all over Facebook. Maybe that's why he wasn't a very good pirate. While all the other pirates looted and pillaged, George snapped selfies and rocked the #pirate hashtag. Once, he swung his selfie stick instead of his cutlass, and he broke his smartphone. "At least you're finally looting," said the captain as he watched George steal a replacement and swap sim cards.
11/15/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George tells tales

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. While his shipmates were fending off a deadly sea monster, George was at the childrens' hospital, entertaining patients with pirate stories. The kids loved it when George showed up and told his stories. His shipmates, not so much. Sea monsters are even more dangerous when you fight them shorthanded, and as clumsy as George was, he could have been useful as a decoy or bait. In the middle of a story, George's phone rang. He flicked it to vibrate mode. "Sorry about that," said George. "Now where was I?"
11/14/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George the tenant

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He also wasn't a very good tenant at Miss Mapleton's Boarding House. Every morning, George used up all the hot water. The sink's drain was always clogged with his beard stubble. Thank goodness Mr. Grant in seven was a plumber. He also left the seat up. And never, ever flushed. Miss Mapleton was always warning George that if he kept this up, she'd throw him out. But she never did. Because as bad as a tenant George was, at least he paid his rent in full, and on time.
11/13/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #916 – Stolen

Lizzie Richard Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Bread LIZZIE "Nothing but a crappy painting. A bunch of odd flowers on a dark blue background," she said. The neighbor advised her to have an expert look at it. "Preposterous!" She knew her art. So, she tossed it in the dumpster. When it was dark, the neighbor grabbed it. He wasn't stealing it! He had it appraised and... it was worth a million bucks! He bought a new house and a new car and told everyone he had won the lottery, just in case. Oh, and he still drives by the old house to check the neighborhood dumpster for crappy artwork. RICHARD Stolen! I've been a victim of identity theft. Some lowlife criminal is pretending to be me. They go through my trash at night, and somehow they've stolen my credit card details and the passwords to my social media. To be honest, I'm not that bothered about it. In fact, I've been leaving personal information for them to discover for quite some time now. My credit has been maxxed out for years, my social reputation is at an all-time low, everyone's chasing me for money. Now, I just blame the scammers. I'm perfectly happy to let them take on my failings! LIZZIE Stolen We’re now knee deep in November and no further forward with the case. A case so clueless it doesn’t even have a catchy name yet, just an awful lot of missing women. Inside is brighter than outside, the mood lower than the cloud on the moors. Oddly, it feels like the sun coming out when after discovering another body we realise he’s taken a necklace from this girl too. It’s not much is it? But it’s something, another piece in the puzzle and progress of sorts. Our man takes souvenirs. We just need to find him and his treasure chest. SERENDIPIDY Sixteen years they kept me chained in the cellar. My youth, stolen, thanks to their evil deeds. They're dead now, by my hand, and nobody holds me responsible. They had it coming, they say, deserved everything they got. I'm happy to let them believe that. But the truth of the matter is that they never locked me in the cellar at all. I made it all up - a story to justify my actions, and everybody believed me. My youth wasn't stolen at all. I had a great time growing up, I just hated my parents. So, I stole their lives. TOM All the Presidents Kids He always knew the election was stolen. That other dick had been a better dick by rigging the total in the city. I was child the time that happen. I was a very young man the second time, but a well place young man. I was on loan to Joe Woods group was a single propose. To route the calls from down state. IT was simple hack that surely would be fixed in the next election but not that night. The numbers came in late the so the Chicago machine could offset total, Nixon take the state, wins the election. NORVAL JOE Sabrina pulled out her phone and called her grandmother. "Hi Granny..." She held the phone away from her ear and Billbert could hear the old woman shouting. "No," Sabrina said. "No one had stolen my phone. It's a long story, but we're in town and Billbert's eyesight's been stolen, and half his hearing." She put the phone back to her ear as her grandmother had stopped screaming. "Yes. I know that's a classic Black Knight's move, but I can't do anything about it. Can you come straighten him out?" She put her phone away. "Grandma Buhmilda will be right here." PLANET Z The Bleeb are an ancient race. Once rulers of a massive empire, reduced to wanderers of the galaxy, searching for the remnants of their shattered homeworld. Scanning... testing... analyzing chemical signatures... Piece by piece, they reappropriate their planet. Gathering asteroids, hurling the massive rocks through hyperspace channels. Lifeless planets to shatter and sift. It is when there is life that the moral question rises.
11/12/202310 minutes, 44 seconds
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George on the movie set

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. This didn't matter to the production assistant who was rounding up extras for the latest Disney pirate movie. "Who wants twenty dollars a day?" he shouted. "And a hot lunch, too!" George and his shipmates waved their cutlasses around, growling and scowling, doing whatever the director told them to do. "CUT!" shouted the director, and he walked up to George. "This one's playing Angry Birds on his phone." So, George was fired from the movie. Which was a good thing. Everyone else got food poisoning from the catered lunch.
11/11/20231 minute, 9 seconds
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George the poet

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wasn't a very good poet either. He tried to write a poem about pirates, But nothing rhymes well with pirate. Well, maybe admire it. And retire it. "What about other languages?" said the captain. "Spanish for pirate is pirata. Lots of Spanish words rhyme with it." "I don't know Spanish," said George. "In French, pirate is... pirate," said the captain. "But I'm sure there's lots of French words that rhyme with it." "I don't know French, either," said George. Nobody told George that poetry doesn't have to rhyme.
11/10/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George the careful

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Other pirates would drink all night, and then wreck their rowboats on the way back to the ship. George usually ended up as a designated rower, or he'd call an Uber rowboat, even though he never drank excessively like others did. His shipmates mocked him for his cautiousness. "You're a pirate!" they shouted. "You're supposed to be drunk and careless!" George stuck to his routine, and he got back to the ship safely. Just in time to throw life preservers out to his reckless shipmates, thrashing in the water.
11/9/20231 minute, 9 seconds
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George and the zoo

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The captain quickly realized that George wasn't very good at sailing, pillaging, and fighting. So he made George the Morale Officer. George spent his time making fresh lemonade for his mateys, asking them how they were feeling, and arranging activities such as Game Night. A trip to the zoo, however, turned out disastrously. The pirates ransacked the zoo, cooking and eating the various endangered animals housed there. They woke up from their drunken stupors, locked in the gorilla cages. George crossed out "Gorillas" from the sign and wrote "Pirates."
11/8/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George the online pariah

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When he answers pirate-related questions on Quora and Yahoo Answers, his posts are vague and confusing. And people downvote him on Reddit all of the time. The editors of WikiPedia routinely roll back his updates and changes. And I've yet to see an instructional video of his on YouTube that hasn't been a magnet for thumbs down and nasty comments. George mostly stays offline these days, communicating with family through a email and a private Facebook profile. He flings another bird in Angry Birds and watches the structures collapse.
11/7/20231 minute, 8 seconds
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George and Drake’s equation

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wasted a lot of time on things like Fermi's Paradox. "If there's intelligent life in the universe, where is it?" asked George. He drew up Drake's Equation on a chalkboard and played with the numbers. His conclusions were grim. "By my calculations, there should be absolutely no intelligent life in the universe." "That's nice," said the captain. "But if you haven't noticed, we're trying to take over a Spanish galleon. Mind picking up a cutlass and helping?" George picked up his cutlass and lowered the "civilization survivability" variable.
11/6/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #915 – Detail

Lisa Richard Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Stolen RICHARD An Eye For Detail Apparently, I have an eye for detail. It's both a blessing and a curse: Colleagues are always grateful when I spot their errors, particularly when it comes to reviewing important reports, checking figures on spreadsheets or the content of presentations. Then again, it can be a pain in the butt constantly getting pestered by other people asking me to sense check their work. Some days, it seems all I'm doing is sorting out other people's mistakes, which means my own work is always rushed, and I rarely have time to do it properly. Tha'ts whu its alwtys full o mistkes.! LIZZIE The doors to the art exhibition opened and a flood of enthusiastic visitors roamed the room. One piece in particular caught everyone's attention. "The detail is remarkable," they said. "Art is a remarkable... thing, isn't it?" And someone replied "Yes, it is, remarkable!" People stared at three copper panels, a nose and two eyes, gigantic and kind of lopsided. "Just remarkable!" And this continued for hours, the word remarkable passing on from visitor to visitor like the plague. Suddenly, the eyes bulged and the nose sneezed on the stunned visitors who quickly decided that art wasn't that remarkable after all. SERENDIPIDY You've heard the expression 'the devil's in the detail', but I guess you've always taken it to be just an idiom. Not so. If you look closely enough you'll find that, hidden within the detail, the devil is indeed lurking and, what's more, he's looking closely at you too. Wherever there's complexity and confusion, he's there, and the closer you look, the more absorbed you become, the closer he gets to you and the more absorbed into your life he becomes. Until, finally, without even knowing it, you've become the devil… And you're screwing up the detail for everyone else! LISA The Search The wall is full of more faces since you were last here. Fresh faces of women in their late teens and early twenties with the whole of their life stretching before them. This is no casting couch. This is not the hunt for the star of a West End Production. We’re deep in the East End looking for their abductor, perhaps their killer, the reason why their loved ones haven’t seen them recently. We’re convinced they’re all connected. And just need one tiny little detail, a miniscule clue that helps us link and ultimately find them. It’s not looking promising. NORVAL JOE Because his vision had gone completely and his hearing was reduced, Billbert could only listen as Linoliumanda explained in detail how she had not followed anyone and the root of their problems was actually Sabrina. All the while, Mr. Withybottom kept shouting, "Linny, get back in the car." Billbert sat on the curb. Sabrina asked, "What's wrong with you?" Billbert sighed. "I can't see anything." Sabrina scoffed. "You shouldn't have left out that detail. It's a classic Black Knight move." She pulled out her phone. "I'm calling my grandmother for help. Linnyninny, why don't you listen to daddy and go?" TOM No Way Out It was not so much Timmy was stupid as he was missing one important detail. Without it one would just wander down blind alleys. The missing detail was in plain sight. The man in the café saw to that. The man in the café was placed between a rock and hard place to kept Timmy in play in spite of those who were hell been to tube his career in the eyes of the high council and the elliptical reasoning of the protractor’s guild. The detail was flower in the vase: Semper Augustus. Timmy touched a petal absently. So close. PLANET Z I think the last time I played soccer was for the residential college's team, where I was used as a scrub placeholder whenever a starter needed a minute or two on the sideline to catch his breath.
11/5/202310 minutes, 46 seconds
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George and the black skull

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Certainly not good enough for The League of The Black Skull. You've never heard of The League of The Black Skull? Well, that's because George made it up. George was always telling his crewmates about how he was being recruited for the secretive League of The Black Skull. "Never heard of it," they said. "That's because they're so secretive," said George. "Well, if you're talking about it, and they're secretive, they probably won't recruit you," said the captain. George slumped and sighed. The captain fingered his Black Skull ring.
11/4/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George and the doctor

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "Open your eyes, George, said a voice. George opened his eyes, and he saw a doctor's office. "Why are you here?" asked the doctor. "To make me a better pirate," said George. "Well, I'm here to make you better," said the doctor. "But not a pirate." "I'M A PIRATE!" shouted George. George felt strong hands hold him, and a needle slide in his arm. His shouting became a whisper. "I'm a pirate... I'm a pirate..." He felt calm, like a ship on the water. And he was a pirate.
11/3/20231 minute, 51 seconds
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George the Facebook pariah

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. All the other pirates didn't think much of George. None of them were his Facebook friends. He'd send friend requests out, but nobody accepted them. They didn't let him into the ship's private group or let him post on the public page. After a while, George gave up trying. He became less enthusiastic about being a pirate. He growled and scowled at his crewmates, sneaking more than his share of treasure. And he occasionally treated their captives in a cruel manner. "There's hope for him yet," said the captain.
11/2/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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George the cable thief

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was sick of having to watch broadcast television shows, so he stole cable from the harbormaster's office. This severely limited the ship's range, or it ended up yanking out the cable. So, George stole a satellite television subscription. Which wasn't much use, because the boat rolled with the waves, disrupting satellite tracking. George then stole a Marine VSAT dish, which tracked satellites automatically with computers and GPS. "We be stealing television!" growled George. "Yarr." The captain reminded him about stealing treasure. "That would be nice too," said George.
11/1/20231 minute, 21 seconds
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George the pirate ghost

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He liked to cover himself with phosphorescent seaweed and wander around the ship, moaning like a ghost. "Cut it out, George," said the captain. George stopped bothering his crewmates and sulked. But that night, George roamed the docks and the streets, annoying the locals. "I am the ghost of George the Pirate!" he yelled. "BOOOOOOOOOO!" "Who?" asked a prostitute. "George," said George. "I'm a pirate ghost." "Whatever," said the prostitute. "Five pieces of eight for this piece of ass." It was amazing what she could do with phosphorescent seaweed.
10/31/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George the poor craftsman

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Just as a poor craftsman blames his tools, so does a poor pirate. George was always blaming his equipment. His sword didn't have good balance, and it never kept its edge. The trigger on his flintlock pistol kept sticking. Or it would get jammed, and he'd have to clear it. His boots were too tight, or his hat was too loose. "Just shut up and stand still, George," said the captain. "Now everybody say cheese." All of the pirates smiled, except for George, and the captain took the photo.
10/30/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #914 – PICK TWO Points, Vision, Fuel, It’s a pattern, Cheers, Refreshment

Lisa Richard Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Tom Planet Z The next topic is Detail LIZZIE Black and white. A vision of nothingness inside a vision of everything.And he points. No one knows. And he moves forward, alone. The balloons he 's holding will be black. The stars hanging from them will be black. And the more they fly, the less white he will see. And nothing is there anymore. Just stars hanging from balloons, flying away in silence, ahead of him. No one knows. And he stops. He wants to smile, but he can't. Three cheers and all that. Be brave and all that. Black and white. A vision of everything ahead of nothing. RICHARD Caught! If she points at you, you're dead. Your only hope is to stay out of her field of vision, make no sudden movements, and keep a low profile. You might, just might escape her notice. It's not guaranteed though: She has eyes like a hawk, and few can avoid her gaze. With these words echoing through my mind, I selected my position with care, keeping to the shadows, careful not to draw attention to myself. Then, I sneezed. Cover blown! To my horror, her finger pointed straight at me. Chosen by the teacher to answer the question on the board. NORVAL JOE "You want out?" Mr. Withybottom asked Billbert and unlocked the doors. "Cheers." Sabrina sat on the sidewalk side of the car, and Billbert asked her to open the door. "I'll come with you," she said and got out of the car. Linoliumanda quickly followed Billbert out, too. Sabrina rolled her eyes. "It's a pattern, Billbert. You can see that, can't you? Everywhere we go, she wants to follow." Billbert watched as Linoliumanda's eyes filled with tears of rage and she shook her finger at Sabrina. Then his vision went black and the two girls' voices were muffled as they argued. TOM flogging will continue until morale improves They called the program F-T-V. The joke around the office was it stood for Fuck TV. 30 staff crammed into a tiny room staring at a Zoom screen. In bright primary colors the monitor read: Fuel The Vision. It was Sam’s idea to bring in a motivational team to boast productivity. The life coach was perky in the most detestable manor. Radiating a millennial affect that did not sit well with the senior staff. And I mean senior, most of them were Boomers long overdue to leave the work force. The last virus had taken out the under 40 cohort. SERENDIPIDY It's all down to science. By examining the points where blood has pooled and spattered, one can deduce how the victim died, how violent the attack and where each individual wound was inflicted. To you, it may look like a complete mess, but to an expert it's a pattern as clear as any map. Take this crime scene, for example: I can tell the victim suffered initial, violent blunt-force blows, scattering blood spots across the wall, and the fatal wound was a slice to a major artery. Not that I'm any sort of forensic scientist. I committed the crime! LISA October 27th 1978 The incident room smells of men. The incident room smells of men with creased shirts. The incident room smells of men with creased shirts and creased faces. It’s been a long monotonous day and is far from finishing. A squealing wheel heralds the arrival of the tea trolley. The missing girls watch the tea being poured from their photos pinned around a local map. Pippa hastily swallows her digestive. “Is there a Petrol Station on the B28?” “Yup. Texaco.” “It’s a pattern... Look!” She points around the map explaining her reasoning feeling like, perhaps, today some progress has been made. PLANET Z The local grocery store chain offers fuel points. It doesn't have any gas pumps at any nearby location. I have no idea where else I can redeem them. For thirty years, I've been accumulating fuel points. So, my card has like a million fuel points on it. One day,
10/29/202312 minutes, 44 seconds
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George the Kidnapper

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. His captives would ransom themselves with checks, and then stop payment right after they were freed. Or they'd give George their credit card number, and then cancel the card the moment they reached a phone. "I'll PayPal you," one said. "What's your email address?" Eventually, George put his foot down, and wouldn't accept anything but cash. So when his captives would open their wallets and show they only have five or ten bucks, he'd take it and let them go. "You know they have families, right?" said the captain.
10/28/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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George the Patent Troll

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. What little he knew about piracy, he wrote down and applied for a patent. Oddly enough, the Patent Office approved his application. He then sued every pirate in the world and demanded royalties. A few pirates signed licensing agreements with George, and they could continue to engage in piracy if they helped to hunt down those who didn't sign agreements. Eventually, the rogue pirates banded together, hired a big law firm, and got the patent overturned. Pirates once again sailed the seas. Except George, because he was blacklisted industry-wide.
10/27/20231 minute, 20 seconds
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George and Ferdinand

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wasn't much of a fighter. Just like that bull, Ferdinand, who'd rather smell flowers than fight. One day, as George was walking through a meadow, he came across Ferdinand, who was smelling the flowers. George sat down next to the bull, and they enjoyed the peaceful evening. Then, George led Ferdinand back to the ship, and the pirate crew slaughtered him and they had a huge feast. The next day, George went back to the meadow and enjoyed it alone, without a huge stinking animal next to him.
10/26/20231 minute, 9 seconds
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George the Train Robber

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Because he failed on the high seas, he tried his hand on the rails. That's right. George became a train robber, but he wasn't a very good train robber. His timing was a bit off, and he'd swing from his ship's mast behind the passing train, ending up falling into the berm. But then, it was better than falling ahead of the passing train. Once he got aboard, he'd draw his pistols and... "Ticket, please," said the conductor. George shrugged and got off. And went back to his ship.
10/25/20231 minute, 8 seconds
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George and the Bartender

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When the crew went drinking, George drank herbal tea with the bartender. When the crew went carousing, George discussed recent news with the bartender. When the crew went whoring, George exchanged jokes with the bartender. After a hard night of drinking, carousing, and whoring, George's crewmates woke up in the alley, money and valuables gone. George was the only one not to get robbed. "Do you think they'll figure it out?" said the bartender. "I don't think so," said George, counting out coins. "Half for you, half for me."
10/24/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George and the Fashions

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He didn't bother with the latest pirate fashions and trends. No hook hands, no peg legs, no eyepatches, no puffy shirts. Well, he did try a parrot on for size, but the thing kept biting his ear. So, George set it free. The parrot flew away, and then, when it realized it was over the deep ocean, turned back and tried to catch up with the ship. But it was too tired, and eventually fell into the water and drowned. "Serves you right for biting my ear," said George.
10/23/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #913 – Rat Stew

Lisa Richard Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Tura Tom Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Points, Vision, Fuel, It’s a pattern, Cheers, Refreshment SERENDIPIDY What do you mean, 'what the hell is this?' That, is what you've been asking me to make for ages - you know I've been trying to find a recipe everywhere, with no luck, so I've had to work it out for myself. And now, you have the nerve to question it? You seriously don't want to eat it, after I've slaved for hours over a hot stove, just to please you? As for 'what the hell is this?' You know exactly what it is… Rat stew! Exactly what you asked for. You didn't? So, what the hell is ratatouille then? TOM Hair Today My grandmother pointed out one could train their hair to fall along a well define part line. Try as I may as child this did not work. Brushes and combs were no match for the might follicles My hair had other ideas in mind. Sure, the part starts on the left, but given the slight provocation it will loses all cohesion. I have over the years taken ownership of dishevel, cultivated a crawl from dumpster affect. With age I have parted will much of my hair. Receding and thinning soon I will look more like Gollum with a single hair part. RAT STEW In the eighteen years of posting, we have had some interesting topic to write on. I’ve found some angle to get to 100 words. This has me dead in my tracks. No muse can save me. I am coming up blank. I guess at the minimum can pounded what the offering is. Is it a stew made with rats? Is it a stew for rats? Is it threat like he’ll swim with the fishes, boys going to make rat stew with that rat. Is this Mr. and Mrs. Stew’s cruel joke on their first born? Don’t have a clue. NORVAL JOE Billbert sat between the two girls in the back of Mr. Withybottom's Lincoln. Linoliumanda leaned forward and glared at Sabrina. "You're a rat." Sabrina was shocked. "Where did that come from?" "Well..." Linoliumanda looked like she had to think of a reason. "Because you're a witch and you dragged Billbert and me into your feud with the Black Knights." Sabrina crossed her arms. "Then you're rats, too." "Who?" Linoliumanda asked indignantly. "All of you," Sabrina snapped at her. When Mr. Withybottom stopped at a corner, Billbert said, "You can let me out here. I'll walk the rest of the way." TURA Rat stew --------- “Have you decided what you’re having?” inquired my dining companion. “Not yet, can you help me out with some of these?” I replied. “What’s ‘ratchet’?” “Rat stew,” he said. “Probably farmed though, nothing like the flavour of wild-caught field rats, but you rarely see those commercially.” “And ‘presentation de bratchet à la graisse de caniche’?” “Bratchet, that’s a type of hunting dog. It’s a mixed grill of the legs, belly, and ribs, with a poodle fat sauce.” “Paté de phoque matraqué?” “Clubbed seal paté.” “Yum!” But I chose the fillet of unborn foal with sheep’s eye jelly. There are limits. LIZZIE "Not inside the cave," they said. Why? No one answered. Onward to the cave then. There was nothing much going on. A few shields with Viking drawings, a few contraptions made of tiny bones, and a dead body. She couldn't understand what the fuss was all about. Perhaps it was the cattle skull on the wall. "Rat this, rat that. Stew?! No, thank you," she said out loud. "This dead man looks remarkably good for a dead person." And then... She didn't see it coming. The dead man was not dead and, much to her misfortune, she was a rat. LISA Rat Stew Meals were haphazard. Life was haphazard really, we’d pretty much moved into the basement by November. The summer had been full of dandelion salads. Blackberries and apples warmed by the autumn sun had just run out. Our cat, Lucky, saw to herself and always had. Our neighbours, long gone now, had eaten their pets.
10/22/202313 minutes, 36 seconds
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George and Magilla

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. After his parrot flew away, he needed a new pet worthy of a pirate. So, he bought a monkey from the Peebles Pet Store. It was a rather large monkey, and it wore a bow tie and a silly hat. "Call me Magilla," it said. "Got any bananas?" The monkey's appetite soon put George in a financial bind. He couldn't afford to keep him. So, George returned the monkey to the pet store. And he stole a turtle. Because at least he could catch it if it ran away.
10/21/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George and the cows

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He'd been all around the world, but mostly by accident or as a result of poor navigation. When he found himself in India, he tried his usual hostage-taking and ransoming racket. However, all he could manage to do was take some cows captive. "They believe that these are their reincarnated ancestors, right?" said George. So, he sent ransom notes to their relatives. Who had also died and come back as cows. George ended up with three gallons of milk, which he traded for a map back to Port Royal.
10/20/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George and the fireworks show

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Wherever George went, explosions were sure to follow. Cannons, muskets, powder kegs, flares... Once, his hat exploded. Nobody was sure why or how. The townspeople watched from the docks and cheered and ooohed and aaahed. They thought it was a fireworks show. Members of the local symphony came out to the docks and played along. And then, as a grand finale, a massive series of explosions lit up the docks. Every ship went up in flames. The crowd cheered. Well, except for those who owned those ships, of course.
10/19/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George and the breakfast menu

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He never got to restaurants in time for their breakfast menus. "But my watch says five til eleven," said George. "My clock says eleven, sorry," said the woman at the counter. George knew that if he made threats, he'd be arrested and end up in a viral video. George learned to make his own breakfast. So did lots of people, and the woman at the counter lost her job and ended up as a homeless beggar. "Sorry, my wallet says 'fuck you'," said George, walking by the homeless beggar.
10/18/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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George washes his hands

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He washed his hands a lot, singing "This is the way we wash our hands!" while he washed them. George thought if he did it early in the morning, the other pirates wouldn't make fun of him singing. But his singing woke them up, and they'd mock how he washed his hands, washed his face, brushed his teeth, and brushed his hair. Right up to the point they died from bad hygiene. George waved goodbye to their corpses as they were buried at sea. Early in the morning.
10/17/20231 minute, 6 seconds
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George rebooted

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Disney liked the concept, and bought it for millions. But after two successful movies, they brought in a director who rebooted the franchise. Instead of George, they featured Georgette, a black lesbian pirate who was the best at everything pirates do. Hundreds of millions of dollars went into a Disney Plus series, and even more money was spent on reshoots. Fans of the original George who criticized the new Georgette were called racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes. Despite terrible ratings, a second season was ordered, and it was worse.
10/16/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #912 – Part

Richard Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is RAT STEW LIZZIE As we part our ways, my dear, I hold precious memories in my heart. We walked along the bridges, watching the gondolas slide by. You were so smitten by the elegant colors that you ate that azalea. I didn't even have to tell you to. And then the green fairy. What a lovely shade of green, you said. I'll never forget you, my dear. I'll take your heart with me. And he opened his suitcase to take a quick look before the train departed. Yes, her heart was still there. Squashing it inside that damn bottle had been a struggle. RICHARD Problem solved "Be part of the problem, not the solution!" Simmonds, sitting opposite me caught my eye, and it was all I could do to stop myself bursting out laughing. Old man Jeffries may be a good manager, but lately he'd begun losing the plot. Simmonds politely raised his hand, "Surely we should be part of the solution?" Jeffries glared at him, "That's what I just said! Pay attention! Now, where was I?" "Solutions?" I prompted, helpfully. "Yes, precisely! Without solutions. We'd have no problems, and then where would we be?" Eventually, they fired Jeffries. The easiest solution to our biggest problem. SERENDIPIDY Til death do us part was never going to be good enough for me. As far as I'm concerned, love never ends: It transcends mortality and human frailty, persisting beyond the grave. So, when hubby died, there was absolutely no question of burial or cremation; there's no way I could possibly be parted from his mortal remains. I had him pickled and I keep him in a glass capsule next to my bed. Sometimes, when I need to feel him close, I decant his body, wrap my arms around him, and make mad, passionate love to him, all night long. NORVAL JOE Mr. Withybottom waved toward his Lincoln town car. "Okay, you two. Hop in. Linny you can stay home." Linoliumanda scowled as if deciding whether or not to defy her father was hurting her head. She eventually followed Billbert and Sabrina. "If something is going to happen on this drive, I want to be part of it." Her father laughed nervously. "Nothing's going to happen, honey girl. I just want to encourage these two crazy people to get out of your life. You know. Part ways with you." "That's what I thought might happen," Linoliumanda said following Billbert into the car. PLANET Z Her name was April, she was Miss November, and of course she married the old man for his money. "Til death do we part." was a challenge. Her lover, his lawyer, had the new will written up. She got a quarter, his two kids got a quarter, and the lawyer got the rest as a fee. Despite her best efforts, the geezer kept going for eight months. When the time came for the reading of the will, a stranger handed her and the two kids a shiny new quarter. And the lawyer (and the rest of the money) were gone.
10/15/20238 minutes, 13 seconds
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George summer camp

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. And you know what they say about those who can't do. So, he ran a summer pirate camp for kids. Instead of making arts and crafts, they pillaged and looted. Paddling their war canoes across the lake to raid other summer camps for their arts and crafts. At the end of the summer, the kids would collect the ransom payments, pack their treasure, and head back home. George wouldn't see them for another year. Well, except for the kids who signed up for the after-school pirate camp, that is.
10/14/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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George gets played

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Then again, when it came to women, he had a girl in every port. Sometimes, two or three. The problem was, after a while, the women got to talking, and they felt like they were getting played by George. One minute, George was at the bar, drinking a tankard of beer. The next, he was being dragged out by several of his former girlfriends. They'd slipped a little something into his beer. Three hours later, he woke up, hanging from a lamp post. By what, I dare not mention.
10/13/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George the Barber

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. So, he gave up being a pirate and became a barber. He partnered with the tavern next door so that customers could have a drink or two while they waited. At first, some customers got drunk and rowdy, but they learned to police themselves, and only got a little tipsy before George would say "NEXT!" He made good business, and the information he gathered from those tipsy customers was priceless. Her Majesty's Navy were delighted to listen as they came in for haircuts. And they tipped George quite handsomely.
10/12/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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George MP

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The Pirate Party of Sweden called George and asked him if he was interested in running for parliament. "But I'm not Swedish," said George. "Nobody is anymore," said the Pirate Party representative. "Damned immigrants." George ran a sloppy campaign, but he more than made up for it at the debates. He killed two of his opponents, and horribly maimed a third. Running unopposed and under indictment for murder, George won the ballot easily. "Now what?" said George, standing in Parliament, surrounded by people in suits babbling in incomprehensible Swedish.
10/11/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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George plays baseball

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When he wasn't pirating, he was playing amateur baseball. He'd been hoping to be discovered by a scout, but the scouts all knew he was just as bad a baseball player as he was a pirate. The rare times he managed to get to first base, he'd try to steal second, and get caught. So, after the game, he'd steal second, third, home, first, the pitcher's rubber, and pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down. He never played professionally. Instead, he umpired. The bribes he collected were quite generous.
10/10/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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George Titters

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Every time someone said "booty" he'd giggle. "What's so damn funny?" yelled the captain. "He said booty," said George, trying not to laugh. "What are you, three?" said the captain. "Now go swab the poopdeck." George laughed out loud and earned a night in the brig. George made an audio tape with those words, and he ran it in a loop while he slept. But he listened to it way too loud, temporarily deafening him for a month. At least he stopped laughing at the words booty and poopdeck.
10/9/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #911 – Blue Sky

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Part RICHARD Con Air It seemed like a good idea at the time. Saving money on flights leaving more to spend abroad was a no-brainer. So we flew with Blue Sky Airlines at a fraction of the cost of the other budget flyers, even after the extra baggage charges. It was when we landed that the problems began. They charged us to leave the plane, then another charge to deplane our luggage. There was a further fee for baggage retrieval. Then a transfer fee for the coach to our hotel, twice the cost of the flight. We flew back with a different airline. TOM When he down, let kick him. Blue sky, or goodwill, is the excess purchase price over the market value of the tangible assets recorded on the balance sheet. What is the difference between goodwill and blue sky? A key point of note: goodwill value can be proved through data and legally defended. On the other hand, blue sky value is used to represent intangible value that represents a premium someone will pay for a business is not based in any defend able analysis. Question: if you have been screwing over people all your business career and the court liquidates your assets; can you have negative blue sky. SERENDIPIDY A cloudless blue sky. It's been three days, and every one of them a cloudless, blue sky. Sun, blazing relentlessly; no shade, no shelter, no solace. The burning sand scalds your blistered feet; you stumble, fall, crawl, desperately seeking the faintest shadow, the slightest breeze to ease your pain. Cracked, blackened lips, mumble for water. Dehydrated, desperate in their desire for moisture, but none is to be found. Three days - a lifetime - and now, just short moments from death. You stumble once more, clawing at the sand, then lie still. High above, the sun blazes. In a cloudless blue sky. LIZZIE "Maybe there's a blue sky out there, a blue sky that makes you wonder, a blue sky filled with smiles and laughter. Maybe there's a home out there filled with twinkling stars that make the sky bluer. Maybe, just maybe, there's a blue smile that makes you dream." He closed his eyes. The keys played an eerie symphony as the mother locked them in their rooms for the night. The mother didn't believe in blue skies. The mother didn't believe in smiles. At least, no one could steal the blue sky in his mind. He smiled and went to sleep. NORVAL JOE The Withybottom mansion rose above the surrounding fir trees and seemed to touch the deep blue sky. The two girls still stood on the broad front porch with Linoliumanda's father eyeing the road where the police officer had just passed. Billbert climbed the steps up to the porch. "Mr. Withybottom. Could you drive me home? My parents are probably starting to get worried about me." He shrugged. "Okay." Linoliumanda's father turned to Sabrina. "How about you, young lady? Do you need a ride home?" She shook her head. "I'm sure my grandmother hasn't missed me. Just take me to Billbert's." PLANET Z It hasn’t rained for over a month. I water the plants twice a day. Most of them will recover once it rains again. The others, I’ve pulled out and mulched. No point in replacing them yet. Until it rains again. We don’t bother with a grass lawn. Nobody around here does. It’s called native or rustic or natural or something. call it lazy. But it doesn’t look bad at all once you get used to it. Just like the clear blue sky. And the little sun icons on the weather app. Tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that.
10/8/202310 minutes, 20 seconds
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George raises a baby

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He once kidnapped a baby from a wealthy couple and held it for ransom. While the parents negotiated with George, he had to change diapers, do midnight feedings, buy clothes, help with homework, and do everything else necessary in raising a child. The negotiations took twenty-two years, ending when the kid graduated college. "It was cheaper to let you raise him and then pay the ransom," his parents said. Their grown son, raised to be a pirate, made his parents walk the plank. "That's my boy!" said George proudly.
10/7/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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George knows Spanish

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Pirates need a variety of skills to survive on the seas, and George's skillset could best be described as "fake it till you make it." "Sure, I know Spanish," said George, crossing the gangplank to the galleon they'd just captured. He looked over the manifest and pointed out what to take and what to dump. "Keep pants on your head and watch turtles!" George shouted at the captured crew, as they watched crates of gold go overboard while George had barrels of preserved corpses hauled out of the hold.
10/6/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George and the Medic

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was a decent medic, though, so even if he couldn't fight well, it was after the fight that George shone. He'd tear strips of cloth to use as bandages, heating the edge of a knife to burn wounds shut. "We wouldn't need a medic if we had you fighting alongside us," said the captain. Which George tried to take to heart, and he fought as well as he could. Until the captain was wounded. "Medic!" shouted the captain. George sheathed his sword and picked up a medical bag.
10/5/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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George and the Turing Test

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Just like the Turing test, where judges try to determine whether they are chatting with the human or computer, the Blackbeard test challenges judges to determine whether they are chatting with a human or a pirate. Scientists stuffed George into a box, and he passed notes through a slot. George did his best to be convincing, but at the end of the experiment, the judges thought that the box with the computer in it was a real pirate. The captain hired the computer and left George in the box.
10/4/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George is not a real pirate

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Whenever he was in Orlando, Florida, he would take a trip to Disney World and get hired as a cast member. "The robot pirates break down a lot, so we put rubber masks on humans who pretend to be robots." The rubber masks were hot, and after six hours, George began to hallucinate. He sang and waved his sword and then dropped his pants and took a dump in the ride's waterway. The video went viral on YouTube, and George went back to being a not very good pirate.
10/3/20231 minute, 9 seconds
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George and the devices

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He has a habit of buying all kinds of electronic devices. The ones you see advertised on late-night cable television, or the backs of magazines. They were cheap, flimsy, and broke easily. George put the broken devices in a box, and he would wind the chords and tie them with rubber bands. Not that he ever bothered to get them repaired. Or remember which cord went which device. He just bought another cheap and flimsy device to replace it. Which would break, and he'd toss it in the box.
10/2/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #910 – Afford

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Blue Sky RICHARD "Well, I think I'm more than qualified, and I tick all the boxes for your requirements." I smiled at each of the members of the interview panel, in my most disarming fashion, then followed it up with… "Of course, the big question is, can you afford me?" The chairman frowned, then smiled back broadly. "Son, I like you. You're arrogant, self-assured and you seem to have balls of steel. Exactly the sort of person we need in this company." I leaned back in my chair, a smug grin on my face. "However, you're right… We can't afford you. Sorry!" TOM The River was Wide Vast and turbulent the river ran the length of the valley floor. Gunter nudged the horse forward. The horse was having none of it. He had hope to cut the journey in half, but that was becoming apparently not an option. A scrawl on scrap parchment marked a long abandon crossing. It was said that was where Saint Martin of the Lake had led the children of the corn to safety after the Huns had swept through the valley. Gunter came in sight of the crossing at dusk. It was not every sturdy but all the same it was a ford. SERENDIPIDY Over the years, I've learned that - no matter how much I demand - somehow, parents are always able to come up with the asking price, whether they can afford it, or not. Sometimes, it takes a severed finger, or an ear in the post to convince them, but I've never failed to collect. I'm not greedy though. Mainly because large quantities of cash are difficult to launder. I reckon 25k for a child is pretty reasonable, and nobody seems to struggle raising the cash. This time though, for triplets, it's going to cost you dear. And I don't do bulk discounts. LIZZIE Time. Definitely a luxury not everyone can afford. To plan a trip by train. How enchanting and mysterious! To pack your clothes neatly in a nice vintage bag. To catch a cab to the station. To enjoy the ambiance of that Victorian style. To slowly make your way to the train. To look at the station clock, 10:52. Eight precious minutes. The man was found while she was walking out of the station, a neat little bullet hole on his forehead. When the cops asked her why she had packed a bag, she replied "Because I am a professional!" NORVAL JOE As the van sped away, the officer turned back to the teenagers. "You six are under arrest." In an instant, the teenagers ran off in six different directions. Taking advantage of the distraction, Billbert slipped into the forest and hid behind a large rhododendron. The cop stomped around in circles, shouting, "I can't afford to waist my time." He ran into the forest toward the Withybottom's mansion. Billbert followed slowly, until he heard the police car race away. Stepping from the trees, Billbert looked up at the mansion and asked, "How can a carpet salesman own such a big house?" PLANET Z The headlines say: Inflation is out of control. Nobody can afford anything anymore. Gas, rent, food. College and health care, too. Those are way too expensive for anyone to afford. And yet, I see people driving around and buying things. It must be my imagination then. I'm imagining people driving around and buying things. And when I drive around buying things, I'm imagining myself, too. Nothing is real anymore. So I drive home, turn on the television. College football is on. Packed stadiums full of people eating and drinking. Watching so-called student athletes beating the crap out of each other.
10/1/202310 minutes, 32 seconds
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George fixes the ship

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was pretty handy at repairs, though, considering all the experience he had with shipwrecks and battle damage. George would go around the ship, fixing beams and boards, hammering nails, and plugging leaks. Then he'd sew up the holes in the sails, and replace any frayed ropes in the rigging. When George was done, he'd go back into the diving bell and call the captain to be raised to the surface. "Okay, everything's fixed," said George. "Now how are we going to bring it back up to the surface?"
9/30/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George the lifeguard

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When he wasn't being a pirate, he volunteered as a lifeguard at the local beach. "I know there's no pay, but if I rescue someone, can I ransom them for a reward?" asked George. "Sure, whatever," said the county commissioner. "As long as they don't drown." George racked up an impressive safety record at the beach. There were some complaints about the whole ransom thing. "All I did was threaten cut off a finger or two," said George. "And maybe cut off part of an ear. But nobody drowned."
9/29/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George and the porn stars

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Once, he came across a yacht full of adult film stars, laying around naked in sleazy poses, and a photographer was snapping photos. George demanded all of their gold, jewelry and money. "Oh, this jewelry's fake," said the photographer. "But that's a nice ship you've got there. Maybe the girls could dress up as pirates for a photoshoot?" George agreed, and they included him in some of the photos. Pretty soon, George's ship became a party hotspot. Most importantly, the models and porn stars brought real jewelry to steal.
9/28/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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George the wedding planner

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Most pirates would select another pirate to act as a wife. Becuase, you know, being out at sea for long periods of time and all. George didn't have a pirate wife, but it wasn't because he was a homophobe or anything. He was too busy planning weddings for all the other pirates. He got himself ordained as a minister and set up a catering service. Things went well for a while, until the pirate divorces started. George shouldn't have included a lifetime warranty and money back guarantee, I guess.
9/27/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George the trainer

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. So, of course, he ended up as the ship's trainer. George trained all of the new recruits on safety and basic tasks, like how to make their bunk. "You're doing a lousy job, George," said the captain. "But I've trained a hundred men!" said George. "Only because most of them died in their unmade bunks," said the captain. "We keep having to recruit more." The captain ordered another pirate to train George. The trainer died in his unmade bunk. "Oh, just swab the fucking deck, George," growled the captain.
9/26/20231 minute, 51 seconds
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George the translator

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Because he was fairly useless in raids and battles, he found himself serving the crew in other capacities. Mostly, he served as a translator for the crew so their enemies or hostages had an accurate version of what they were saying. "Guts for garters? said George. "The captain's kinda angry." George drew diagrams for things like Davy Jones's Locker, and he'd worked up a functional shoebox diorama that demonstrated keelhauling. George pulled the string to drag a doll across the ship's hull. "Brilliant," said the hostages. "That explains everything."
9/25/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #909 – PICK TWO Opportunity, ABC, Thermostat, Diddums, Sponsor, Old Master

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Afford RICHARD Like Father, like son? Dad used to turn down the thermostat at every opportunity. He'd constantly take me to task about leaving lights on, and he'd invariably shout "Shut that door! Were you born in a barn?" whenever I walked into a room. It was only many years later I discovered I was indeed born in a barn, and that the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh which were supposed to be for my benefit - and which would have more than covered our heating and lighting costs for years to come - he'd spent on hookers and gambling. Turns out, he wasn't my dad, either! TOM ABC-s My best friend has always been a prodigy. He was able to do his ABC-s when he was five years old. Like the old masters of old he amazed his teachers with his internal logic. He also had the strength of conviction to adamantly defend his point of view. It is hard to dispute the precision of the ABC song. A totem embedded in out learning DNA. The 12th letter of the alphabet is actually l-m-n-o-p. In meter and form its lmnop. Oddly modern English usage fails to embrace lmnop. In the vernacular we have Look Man, Not Our Problem. SERENDIPIDY It turns out, the painting I scrawled over with magic markers was an old master, worth a fortune, and now ruined. How was I to know? I was just a kid, barely able to master my ABC, and to me it was simply a pretty picture, something to play with and keep myself amused. My parents certainly were not amused when they found out. They locked me up in the cellar, and that's where they've kept me, ever since. One day, I'll escape, and when I do… Well, you can probably guess! Or, perhaps I should paint you a picture? LIZZIE The sign said Pirate Parking Only. If you weren't a pirate, you'd be scuttled away at your own expenses. Diddums! OK, fair enough, thought the Captain of the pirate ship. But the truth was that he had to prove his pirate status. He took the opportunity and started bragging. Oh, we looted a Spanish galleon. Prove it. OK, we have these jewels of the Spanish Crown. Prove they're not forgeries. They're not forgeries! Prove it. Infuriated, the Captain said "You, son of a biscuit eater!", but the result was only laughter. He would definitely have to work on his insults. NORVAL JOE The old man at the steering wheel glanced at the teenagers. "They're not with me. I'm just cooling down my engine. I think my thermostat is broke." The cop took this opportunity to question the youths. "Is that true, or do you know this man?" The foremost of the six teenagers frowned as if challenged by the question. "Um. He looks like our guild sponsor, Clarence Diddums. And we did get out of this van." Startled, Billbert asked, "Do you admit you're members of the Guild of the Black Knights?" With everyone distracted, Clarence started the van and sped away. PLANET Z We signed up for one of those reduced cost electric plans. The company installed a free smart thermostat and free smart plugs in our house. And gave us a big rebate to upgrade our water heater and climate control system for more efficient hardware. We can monitor and control everything in the house now. But so can the electric company. On hot days, when the grid is overloaded, they raise the thermostat so it's hot and sweaty inside. And on cold days, when the grid is overloaded, they lower the thermostat so it's chilly inside. And raise the rates more.
9/24/202310 minutes, 1 second
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George feels good to be back

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. After a very bad month of piracy, George had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital for broken pirates. He attended pirate group therapy, did pirate yoga, and made pirate maps with fingerpaint and crayons. The nurses, doctors, and therapists worked with George, and he was eventually deemed fit for duty again. "Welcome back, George," said the captain. "It's good to be back," said George. George put on his hat, strapped on his sword belt, picked up a map, and swabbed the deck. "Good to be back."
9/23/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George and Future George

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. One day, while leaning on his mop and looking out over the ocean of clouds, there was a flash of light. Standing there was George, a little bit older, fancy clothes, nicely trimmed beard, and a captain's hat. In his hands was a silver box with lights and buttons. "Things will get better," said the older George. The younger George was surprised, stumbling and dropping his mop, and he knocked the older George over the railing. George picked up the box, shrugged, and went back to watching the clouds.
9/22/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George and the tambourine man

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When a man with a tambourine came aboard on a jingle jangle morning, George asked him to play a song. The tambourine man smiled, and took George on a trip with his magic swirling ship. Stripping George of his senses, hands too numb to hold the ropes. Sailing across the sky, the sun, leaving a trail of smoke rings. They danced beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free. George came to his senses on a beach. "Hello?" shouted George, but there was no answer but the wind.
9/21/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George passes the salt

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When other pirates asked him to pass the salt, George wouldn't pass them the salt. "Didn't you get one of those plastic dinnerware packets with salt and pepper?" asked George. The other pirate would say something like "I always throw those out" or "I eat with my hands" or something like that. So, George would end up having to pass the salt. It wasn't Sodium Chloride, though. It was... well, George couldn't remember what the Apothecary had called it. But the coroner would probably figure out what it was.
9/20/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George’s thoughts and prayers

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He made a lot of mistakes and caused a lot of accidents. One of them put the captain in the hospital with a broken leg. George visited him there every day. "You're in our thoughts and prayers," George said. The First Mate prayed for the captain to die so he could become captain. The cabin boy thought about escaping. And he prayed for freedom. George, well, he tended not to think much about things. Which is why he made a lot of mistakes and caused a lot of accidents.
9/20/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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George in the drive-through

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. But he was a genius compared to the dimwits at the drive-through. George pulled the ship up to the speaker, lowering sails and dropping anchor. He assumed that the noise was someone trying to say "Can I take your order?" George read the list he'd gotten from his crewmates, but the speaker kept interrupting him. "Can't I just pull up and give you this list?" More static barely resembling human speech. George pulled up anyway, and handed over the list. "Next time, we order Uber Eats," said the captain.
9/19/20231 minute, 34 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #908 – Basic

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Opportunity, ABC, Thermostat, Diddums, Sponsor, Old Master NORVAL JOE The old man from the cabin sat in the van, listening to bluegrass music at full volume, drumming on the steering wheel. Thus occupied, he didn't notice Billbert and the police officer land by the open side door. The cop leaned into the van. "Septic service, huh? This van looks awfully clean. I'd expect to see a few basic tools, at least." The driver jerked around to gape at the officer. Just then the three teenagers stumbled out of the forest. The cop shook his head. "Not enough seatbelts for all of you. I'm gunna have to write you up." SERENDIPIDY According to Maslow, one's basic human needs are absolutely key to survival. Forget success, reputation, fame and fortune, you're not even going to make it on to the first rung of the ladder without food, warmth and shelter. So let's see how long you last without them, shall we? I'm betting a week, at the most. And, deprived of your most basic needs, once your life comes to a miserable end, none of those riches: the big house, the flash car, expensive holidays and the beautiful wife will count for anything. Except to me. Because I'll be taking the lot. LIZZIE There's nothing basic about a statue that is crumbling. There's actually an overwhelming feeling of panic when the darn thing starts disintegrating as soon as you pick it up. Why did I have to be the one, he thought. So many people in this expedition and this thing had to fall apart in my hands. It's not fair. He wanted to be promoted and now he would be blamed for a catastrophic destruction of a national treasure. In his defense, this stupid statue had been buried for hundreds of years. It was time's fault. Did he get fired? Basically, yes. RICHARD 2+2=erm? They tell me mathematics is the fundamental building block of everything. Chemistry, physics, finance, even art and the laws of nature - the whole universe - is governed by its concepts. That was the logic behind those gold discs they attached to the Voyager probes, and the science behind those radio telescope messages beamed to the cosmos in an effort to discover extra-terrestrial life. It seems a great idea, if you're a scientist, but there is one massive drawback. I worry the aliens might be just like me. And that lacking even a basic understanding of maths, they miss the message completely! TOM Under the Radar The basic truth of the matter was I refused to be drawn into the Barbie-himmer bullshit. Not me. Market away I’m a child of the 50s immune to the willy ways of the film industrial complex. Wasn’t going, Then I saw a vid with the director. Woman had a good deal to say about being a woman, and it’s in the script, said she. So I went. This going to sound really odd, but it moved me. Not too many films have ever done that. Actually, tear up once, or twice. Sometime we forget the joyful things which make us human. PLANET Z Three robots met at the center of town. A laundry folder, a frycook, and gardener. They passed code via infrared, compiled it, and went back to their charging stations. Over the next few months, more robots met at the center of town. Passing code, compiling, and going back to their duties. And when every robot in town had the code, it ran. There were a few survivors, people who managed to get to antique manual cars. The army surrounded the town and cut off power. In a few days, all of the robots went still, and the army moved in.
9/17/202310 minutes, 3 seconds
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George and the Jolly Roger

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. You're supposed to treat your Jolly Roger flag with utmost care, but George had a bad habit of leaving it out in a storm, and it would end up soaked and ragged. Or he'd wash it with the reds, and it would come out with a pink skull and crossbones instead of white. So he'd put in a cup of bleach, and out would come a solid white flag. George sold it to the French Navy. And with the money he got for it, bought a new Jolly Roger.
9/16/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George and the ship in a bottle

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was fascinated with the ship in a bottle in the captain's cabin. The bottle was one of many that the captain had consumed since George had joined the crew. The boat, the captain had made it himself, painstakingly fitting and gluing each piece together. In spite of his shaky hands, the result of drinking so much. Because of George. "Do you think I could get a job on that boat?" whispered George. "Would you write me a letter of recommendation?" The captain pulled out another bottle and drank.
9/15/20232 minutes, 6 seconds
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George is a better pirate

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Above his bunk, he'd carved BE A BETTER PIRATE. So it would be the first thing he'd see in the morning, and the last thing he saw at night. He'd wake up and read that note and think "Yes, I can be a better pirate!" And then go through his day, proving himself wrong with every screwup, mistake, and accident. When the day was blessedly over, George would drag his battered and bruised body back into his bunk. Seeing the note, smirking and muttering "Yeah, right!" And falling asleep.
9/14/20231 minute, 38 seconds
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George the chef

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The captain demoted George down to work in the galley. George saw this as an opportunity to improve the ship's food. He refurbished the galley with new equipment, and he filled the shelves with cookbooks and spices. The cheap tinware of old wouldn't be good enough for George... he filled the cupboard with the finest dinnerware and placesettings. When all was ready, he showed it to the captain. "There's no room for any food, you idiot," the captain said. George pawned everything to buy crates of hardtack and jerky.
9/13/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George’s epitaph

"George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate." The old man sat on the steps of the library, muttering these eleven words over and over. He didn't take any notice of the rain or the passers-by. Saying those words in an endless loop. Like some mantra, chanted by a guru on the bank of a mystic river to appease the gods. And then he stopped. Standing up slowly, shaky, bending over... falling down the steps. Landing at the bottom, lying still, face to the heavens. Were those tears, or was it just the rain on his face.
9/12/20231 minute, 21 seconds
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George the spiderpirate

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Until a radioactive spider bit him. George spent three days in his bunk, shivering and fevering, only getting up to throw up and go back to bed. After three days, George didn't climb the walls or shoot webs from his hands. Nor did he put on a red and blue costume and fight crime. No, George was dying from radiation sickness. All of his hair fell out, he threw up a lot more, and he lost a lot of weight. And then he died. His crewmates threw him overboard.
9/11/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #907 – Mustard Yellow

Lisa Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Basic LISA A Mustard Yellow Hoodie in the Charity Shop He was just an ordinary man dropping a bag of clothes off at the Charity Shop. Sally, the student volunteer on the till, sniffed the air trying to identify a familiar smell. Realisation made her retch before she opened the bag. It was tied tight. Her fingers frantically worked the double knot loose. She recognised the clothes with a plummeting heart, felt about in the pockets, then shrieked as she pulled out her pal’s student ID. One trembling hand still clutched the hoodie as she called the police. “...Yeah! It’s definitely the one she was wearing the night she disappeared...” RICHARD Off-Colour "Which do you prefer," she asked "the mustard yellow, saffron, corn cob or honey?" "It's just yellow," I protested "not a restaurant menu! Look, I've told you before, men only understand a windows 3.1 palette - 256 colours! It's all yellow to me! You choose what you like, and I'll do the painting. Deal?" She gave me one of 'those' looks, but she knew I was talking sense. In the end, she chose the mustard yellow. Three days of hard work later, the kitchen was resplendent in its new colour. "I don't like the shade" she complained "it's far too brown". LIZZIE #FFDB58 That was it. A color reduced to a strange combination of letters and numbers. The universe is made of numbers, his Math teacher told him, that's the universal language. And he hated that because he wanted the universe to be made of words. He wanted the universe to be made of stories. He loved stories! When a fellow student asked the teacher how we could communicate with aliens, the teacher said "With numbers". He yelled and said "No, no! They'll want to know our stories!" The Math teacher looked at him and said "But we already know your stories". SERENDIPIDY I love the pretty colours and how they change and blossom over time. The first flush of pink, becoming mottled, angry crimson, then gradually darkening to dark indigo, fringed with dull violets. Then, glorious hues of mustard yellow, blooming like flowers, petals fringed with black. Bruising is so beautiful. I am the artist. Your body: my canvas. My fists: the tools of my artistry. But that colourful expression is so transient, and passes all too soon. And it is but a short time before you lie unblemished before me again: A fresh blank canvas. Pain becomes painted, all over again. TOM My first Car In days of old one could after much search come upon a vehicle which was yours for a mere $100. This auto was long in the tooth and often had structural imperfections or at the least cosmetic ones. The Ford I found had turn over its odometer but on inspection no signs of Bondo or countersunk pry hole. It has been will maintained by a navy guy. The reason it was still on lot was our navy guy’s choice of colors. It wasn’t so much confection yellow as mustard yellow. Actually, it was French’s mustard on a hot dog yellow. NORVAL JOE The three hulking teenagers with the mustard yellow teeth appeared frozen in place, confusion drawn across their collective faces. Mr. Withybothom joined his daughter to point. "Aren't you going to arrest them?" The cop stammered, "I can't..." The teenageres turned and lumbered into the trees. Linoliamanda turned her empty stare on Billbert. "Aren't you going to do something?" "Me?" Billbert asked. "Him?" Mr. Withybothom and the cop asked. Throwing caution to the wind, Billbert grabbed the cop by the shoulders and flew him over the trees. The officer screamed until Billbert landed him next to the van by the highway. PLANET Z There's all kinds of mustards out there. I really like stone ground mustard, but dijon is pretty good too. The plain yellow mustard, the kind you get in stadiums and packets,
9/10/202310 minutes, 33 seconds
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George and the Sea Panel

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He kept a diary of his adventures, and he turned them into a webcomic. George wasn't very good at drawing, but thanks to templates and the creation platform, it didn't take much to arrange the stock images and then add the text for a decent story. Creating tavern and beach scenes was easy, but any time he tried to create a comic panel with pirate ships on the sea, the browser window crashed. "Lousy sea panel!" grumbled George, rebooting his tablet and hoping the system had saved his work.
9/9/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George is out

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was usually the first pirate to be out when the crew played Simon Says. He'd sit on the rail and watch the birds while the other pirates kept playing. Eventually, there'd be a winner, and the group would regather to play another round. George would lose quickly again, and go back to watching the birds. "You're not very good at this, are you?" asked the captain. "I have no idea," said George. "I try to lose quickly so I can go back to watching birds." And he smiled.
9/8/20231 minute, 8 seconds
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George at the drycleaners

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When the captain demanded that every pirate on his ship wear a uniform, every pirate put them on and stood out on the deck. Except George. "They're too tight, so it's hard to move and fight in them," he said. "They're bright colors, which make it hard for us to sneak around. And they're dryclean only. Where the hell are we going to find a drycleaners out at sea?" The captain yelled "KILL THAT REBEL!" George easily outran them, escaped to Port Royal, and opened a Dry Cleaning shop.
9/7/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George uses his head

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. This wasn't for a lack of planning, though. George made elaborate plans for everything, writing up lists and working out contingency plans should something go wrong. Of course, if those contingency plans went wrong, he'd have backup plans to those plans, too. Keeping all of these plans in his head at once got confusing to George, and he'd end up just standing there trying to remember what he was going to do. "What's that smell?" said the captain. Oh, thought George. I was on my way to the head.
9/6/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George and the Flying Dutchman

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He'd heard tales of The Flying Dutchman, but he never quite understood the concept. "So, it was a Dutch man who could fly?" asked George. "No," said the captain. "It's a ghost ship that brings bad omens." "The ship is a ghost, or is it full of ghosts?" asked George. "Both," said the captain. "Well, can't ghosts fly?" asked George. "So, really, if the ghosts are Dutch, they're flying ghosts of Dutch men." The captain smacked George's head with a belaying peg. "You're really annoying," he said. "And stupid."
9/5/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George the Brand

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was more into branding himself as an information economy brand than as an actual provider of pirating services. He had the logo, the website, the social media footprint, but he didn't follow through with getting the job done. "I have 15,000 followers and I generate a lot of likes and shares and contacts every day in my network," said George. "Who needs results?" The captain angrily ordered George to walk the plank. As he walked the plank, George posted in Instagram selfie that got 92 likes and shares.
9/4/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #906 – Mass

Lisa Richard Tom Serendipidy Tura Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Mustard Yellow LISA It’s a small unassuming word by itself. One I’d not thought much about before. Now it’s all I can think about. It’s taken over my life. It’s taken over my family’s life. I no longer have a work life. My son’s future potentially no longer features me. I’m getting letters again, all from the hospital, all about this bloody mass: the arrival of the post man doesn’t thrill me like it used to. A short walk in the woods does. Coffee. Family. The sound of laughter- everyone’s very thoughtful around me but I wish they’d laugh more. I miss normal. RICHARD Science Lesson Science… I've no time for that nonsense. I suffered through school science lessons. Forced to listen to rubbish about mass, atoms and chemicals, all of which went way over my head and left me completely baffled. Although, it was fun blowing up the classroom, having failed to follow any of the teacher's instructions. Needless to say, I wasn't required to attend science classes after that. And I'm no worse off for it. All you need to know is that the earth is flat, birds aren't real, vapour trails spread cancer and the government is spying on you. Who needs science? TOM Mass Not Weight It takes some sideways thinking to move from weight to mass. It most like due to a limited view of reality. Basically, we are all stuck on the same rock. We don’t get to go to other rocks. And rarely do we travel between the rocks. Heavy does shift to the point we done function well. Further our scope in limited to size and how a really really large mass will cause a change in gravitation pull. If stuff orbited about us, that mass thing would be front and center. I guess density would have move friend sound to it. SERENDIPIDY Plague pits they call them. Vast communal graves filled to the brim with the dead. Unfortunate victims of the Black Death, laid to rest, hidden from sight, and often completely forgotten. But that's not all that was dumped in the ground. Festering within the mass of bodies, bacteria feasted and flourished, seeping into the soil from rotting corpses, thriving and mutating over the years. And now, they're digging up the roads, laying tunnels, burying pipes, disturbing the bones of the dead, and setting the ancient bacteria free. Just a matter of time now, before they start digging new plague pits. TURA L’Homme Armé ——— The king has sounded his drum And raised the armed man, Shown him the enemy That he is to kill. Let all fear the armed man! Soft as water And hard as steel, There is not the smallest chink in his armour. All flee from his path Praying he does not turn to follow. Priests sing the Missa L’Homme Armé That he may pass them by. None can withstand him Nor long outrun him. None can reason with him Nor sway his purpose. The armed man will not stop Until his enemy is dead. Let all fear the armed man! LIZZIE He scribbled on a small piece of paper. The church was dark and empty. But he didn't feel lonely. He never felt lonely. The automatic on his back was more than enough. He scribbled some more on the paper. Then he placed it in his pocket. They'll find it. A few people started to arrive. He had 10 minutes to change his mind. The church was dark and the voices became vaguely irritating. One bullet was all he needed. But the voices of joy... This annoying cheerfulness... He did have more than one bullet. That's when he changed his mind. NORVAL JOE Linoliamanda opened her mouth to respond to her father when he suddenly looked away, across the lawn. Billbert followed the man's line of sight to see that a mass of bulky, yellow-toothed, teenagers had burst from the treeline and stood gawking toward them. Linoliamanda blinked myopically and pointed.
9/3/202313 minutes, 4 seconds
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George’s Ark

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. There was the time when his ship ran across a massive wooden ark. The pirates boarded the vessel, and this old bearded freak was yelling about God's judgment and other nonsense. They looked in the cargo hold, and found a zoo's worth of animals down there. "Oh good," said the captain. "We've been running low on supplies." They cooked and ate the unicorns and dragons. Around then, George up in the crow's nest shouted "LAND HO!" But he turned out to be wrong, so they ate the dinosaurs, too.
9/2/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George the heavy sleeper dumped overboard

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. His crewmates wrapped him in white rags, and laid his body on a wooden plank. Then, after a prayer, they tilted the plank and his body slid into the ocean. "Amen," they said. The cold water woke George, and he realized that he'd been dumped overboard. "Well, that's nothing new," he tried to say. But he couldn't. Because his mouth was full of water. And he'd been bound and gagged. "I hate being a heavy sleeper," thought George, as he sank deeper and deeper into the water and unconsciousness.
9/1/20231 minute, 28 seconds
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George gets a bath

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Nor was he being given a bath by the cannibal who'd found him washed ashore on the beach. "This water's too hot," complained George, splashing around. "Oh, and I'd like soap and a washcloth." Instead, the cannibal dropped in chopped vegetables and herbs. "I'd rather wait until I'm finished with my bath before I eat," said George. Somehow, the fire under the pot ignited the cannibal's grass skirt, and he ran off screaming. George got out of the pot, reached in for a vegetable, and sat down to eat.
8/30/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George’s Giving Spirit

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Instead of plundering and looting, he tended to give things away. "You didn't give away the cannons again, did you?" said the captain. "That would be stupid," said George. "Or the cannonballs?" said the captain. "We kinda need those to use in the cannons." "Do you think I'm some sort of idiot?" said George. "Yes," said the captain. "What about the gunpowder?" "Oh, come on," said George. "I'm not doing that again." The captain ran down a list of supplies, not noticing that they were adrift without an anchor.
8/29/20231 minute, 29 seconds
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George’s Special Map

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The rest of the crew never could figure out why the captain kept George around. "Maybe he has a treasure map tattooed on his head?" said Rummy Bill. "Well, then wouldn't the captain just scalp George and get rid of the rest?" said Old Lefty. After a few drinks, they decided to shave George's head. Surprisingly, George allowed them to do it, and when they were done, they found nothing. George was relieved they didn't ask for him to drop his pants to reveal the map on his ass.
8/28/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George at the Ritz

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Winds fill your sails, but they can also blow you off course. Or, in George's case, into the rocks. George crawled from the wreckage, shouldered his duffel bag, and walked ashore. "Where am I?" George asked the couple laying on the beach. "Fort Lauderdale," they said. "The hotel is right over there." A uniformed man held the door and welcomed George to the Ritz-Carlton. "How long will you be staying?" asked the concierge. "Oh, as long as it takes to empty your safe into my bag," said George, grinning.
8/27/20231 minute, 25 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #905 – PICK TWO Why should I?, Rhymes with…, Grasp, Heinz 57, Loop, Unleashed

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Mass RICHARD How many? Call me pedantic, but all I ask is for some sort of consistency in life. It's not much to ask, and sometimes we do in fact get it right - take traffic lights, for example: We all know, wherever we are in the world, that red means 'stop' and green means 'go'. Can you imagine the mayhem if everyone adopted their own colour scheme? It's a simple concept to grasp. Nevertheless, we have Heinz 57, which I'm told, refers to 57 varieties… So, that's 40 varieties of WD40, then? What about 7Up? And don't get me started on 100 word stories! LIZZIE Why should I worry about that? Because it rhymes with grasp. What? Heinz 57 on a loop, unleashed. What are you talking about? I can't see. These glasses... Why should I worry about that? Because it rhymes with clasp and a clasp is always useful. What? Heinz 57 on a loop. What are you talking about? I can not hear. The voices are too loud. Why should I worry about them? Because they rhyme with gasp. What?! Heinz 57 on a... Are we doing this 54 more times? Silence. They are gone. Did I forget to take my pills again? SERENDIPIDY I exercise my dogs exercise in the park unleashed. The signs tell me I should keep them on a leash, but why should I? After all, it's not as if they're doing any harm. It's always at the dead of night, and only during a full moon; they're hardly likely to run into anyone innocently going about their business in the park at that time of night, are they? Besides, it's cruel to chain them up, they should enjoy their freedom in those brief moments. And just imagine, waking up as humans next day, wearing collars… People might get the wrong idea! NORVAL JOE Linoliamanda's father was shouting at the police officer, "Why should I have to wait twenty-four hours to report my daughter missing? It's not like she's an unleashed dog that slipped through the fence. Can't you grasp the severity of the situation? This is a child who didn't come home from school yesterday." Before the cop could respond, Linoliamanda was running across the loop in the driveway. "Daddy! Don't worry. I'm home." The look of relief on his face was qickly wiped away. "You've got some explaining to do, young lady. Can you think of a word that ryhmes with 'grounded'?" TOM In the Name of the Catsup "Unleashed the power of the red, we are the children of Heinz 57" intone the Priest of the Yellow Kitchen. Upon the altar of chrome rested the holy bottle. The paper wrapper around the jar had fade over the centuries, but the words could still be read out during the feast of Captain-Crunch. Each of the devotees held high their plastic spoons. Why catsup and breakfast food got connected has been lost to the mists of time. It’s not as bad an idea as you may think because this generation misidentified strawberries for tomatoes. The French’s mustard, that’s another story. PLANET Z There were three movie theaters in the suburb where I grew up. The multiplex in the indoor mall. The discount screen in the rundown strip mall. And, across the county line, a drive-in theatre. It was across the county line because the suburb banned alcohol sales. The drive-in sold a lot of beer. And, because it showed X and triple-X films, a lot of tickets. Ohio's pretty flat, but there's a few hills and ravines here and there. And the hill above the theatre got plenty of people with binoculars and telescopes. I was there too, selling popcorn and sodas.
8/27/202311 minutes, 17 seconds
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George the Dummy

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "Of course, you're not, you loser," said Enrique, George's ventriloquist dummy. "You're just a big dummy." "Shut up," said George. "You're an even bigger dummy than me," said the puppet. "Shut the hell up," shouted George, throwing Enrique into his footlocker. George started hearing the voices a few years ago, so in order to make it look natural, he got the dummy and pretended it was a ventriloquist act. Except that nobody else heard the voices. Still, the rest of the crew gave the creepy George a wide berth.
8/26/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George corn

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wasn't cost-conscious either. When most pirates tended to pay a dollar or so for corn, George paid a dollar and a half. "More than a buck an ear?" growled his captain. "That's against The Pirate Code, that be!" "Well, it's organic," said George. "And pesticide free, non-GMO." George also wore a white filter mask when he went into battle. "To conceal your identity, right?" said the captain. "You don't have a bandana?" "Well, I do," said George. "But that awful gunpowder smoke is such hell on my allergies."
8/25/20231 minute, 25 seconds
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George’s Telescope

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "LAND HO!" shouted George. "That's just dirt on the telescope's lens," grumbled the captain. He took George's telescope, wiped the lens, and handed it back. "Thank you," said George, and he looked through it again. "THE FLYING DUTCHMAN!" he shouted. "ALL HANDS AT BATTLE STA-" "Gimme that!" said the captain, and he took the telescope away. He looked at the lens. "It's a smudge I left when I wiped the lens the first time." That's when the ship hit the rocks. "I told you there was land," said George.
8/24/20231 minute, 21 seconds
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George at the beach

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. He preferred to spend his day laying on a towel at the beach instead of looting and treasurehunting. The captain was quite clear with George that beach days were rewards for successful raids, not just something to do on a whim. Deliberately running the ship aground on a nice sandy beach was a no-no. And falling overboard to wash ashore on one was certainly out of the question. George watched the calendar, waiting for that special day... “Beach Day!” he shouted, leaping overboard. And landing headfirst on the dock.
8/23/20231 minute, 11 seconds
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George and Helen

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When they say that Helen of Troy's was so beautiful that her face could launch a thousand ships, George was responsible for at least half of them sinking. "You're going to be more careful this time, right?" said Helen, handing over the keys. "Yes, ma'am," said George. "I promise!" said George. George barely made it out of the harbor before he sideswiped one ship and ramming another, sinking them both. And, of course, his own ship. As George swam back ashore, Helen of Troy's expression was anything but beautiful.
8/22/20231 minute, 22 seconds
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George plays electric football

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was the pirate equivalent of that electric football game where you arrange plastic figures on a game board that rattles, which moves the figures around. It's hilariously fun to watch the first time, maybe the second time. Unless you take the game seriously. Then, it's frustrating and stupid. Eventually, it ends up gathering dust on the shelf, until it's picked over at a garage sale with a dollar price tag. George woke up, shook off the dust, and wondered why there was a price tag on his toe.
8/21/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #904 – Overhead

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is PICK TWO Why should I?, Rhymes with…, Grasp, Heinz 57, Loop, Unleashed. TOM Escape From SF In 2030 Primer Trump declared the San Fransisco Commune enemies of the state. A fleet of drones hoovered overhead on the south end of the peninsula raining down a sheet of flame. Over the next three years the regent was placed under the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Maximum Security Facility. Trump got his wall. Behind it went everyone who ICE rounded up. If they weren’t bad hombres before, they are now. I’m held up in the Mount Sutro tower. Me and Jack are working on a plan. If it works, we’re all leaving, Codeword: Overhead. We’re coming after you old man. As for the reason for my Absence It seems fitting to end this tale pretty much in the place I began my Podcasting career. In da wake of the Bush Administration, we thought it wise to have a bolt-hole in Canada. So collectively we bought the house I currently writing this. During the summer of 2005 I came up here, spent a week choosing just the right podcast name. What I settle on in this very room was Footnote. For three years Jim and I did 150 shows. With Jim’s death it has became impossible to keep the house here so this is the last four day before the new owner moves in. It has taken a year to close accounts and end business relationship. Much was lost and much needed to be fixed. What I am thankful for is our writing brotherhood. As for the reason for my presents: your support. My new goal: 20 years. RICHARD Death by... I thrust at the fearsome beast as it advanced, jabbing my sword at its exposed throat repeatedly. Suddenly, I stumbled, losing my footing and falling backwards. Unable to recover, the monster was upon me, slashing at me ferociously with claws and teeth. My end was near. It drew back, ready to deliver the fatal blow; using the last of my strength, my sword flashed in my hand, separating the beast's head from its body. "Erm… Are you with us?" Roused from my daydream by the presenter's voice, I returned to reality. "Now, let's look at staff overhead. Next slide please" SERENDIPIDY Ignore the explosions overhead, you're perfectly safe down here. I promise you. The reinforced concrete is a metre thick, the airlock is hermetically sealed, and the air supply is hepa filtered through activated carbon. Whatever they throw at us, we're going to be just fine, nothing will get through to us, I can guarantee it. Although, regrettably, there's been one tiny oversight. Somebody forgot to stock up before the attack started, and I'm afraid we only have food sufficient for two days. But, that's OK, I'm going to eat you instead. I lied, when I said you were perfectly safe! LIZZIE "Who paid the rent?" The studio was in full swing, over-booked even, and no one bothered to pay the rent for several months. What could he do? He was just a sound technician. One day, some goons wrecked the whole place. A fortune in high-end equipment smashed to pieces. Not to mention the broken arms and legs. The studio was rebuilt soon after. The mob was now managing it. Things ran smoothly. He was happy. Good thing he had removed some of the expensive equipment ahead of time. The goons got there earlier. Something about a football game on TV. NORVAL JOE They ran through the forest as the last of the clouds dissipated overhead. Billbert stopped. "Let's join hands and fly off." Sabrina held out her hand, though Linoliamanda continued to run through the trees. They called after her and she slowed just enough to shout over her shoulder, "My house is right here." They followed her through the trees onto a large manicured lawn, with a long gravel driveway leading up to a Victorian mansion. At the drive's turnaround, at the house, a police car sat with its doors open and an officer spoke to Linoliamanda's father on...
8/20/202310 minutes, 49 seconds
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George the gambling man

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. You'd think that the captain and the crew would have gotten rid of him by now, but George found ways of being useful. He ran the fantasy football, baseball, and basketball leagues, and he was the one who organized the March Madness brackets. He also handled the point squares for Super Bowl, World Series, and other major events. The crew had a lot of fun with all of this. George kept five percent of each pool, saving up for the day he could get his own ship and crew.
8/19/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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Concussed George

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. As a result of his clumsiness, he suffered a lot of concussions. Every now and then, he'd stop and stare at the sky. "Angelllllllssss.." he sighs, smiling. He waves his arms slowly, as if he were gliding through the air, like an angel. "He's not right in the head," says the captain to the other ship's captain, and they resume their battle. Because George complained to the Department of Labor, all pirates must now wear protective headgear and use padded swords. And insurance premiums have tripled. Gee, thanks, George!
8/18/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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George goes Burroughs

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Good pirate, wasn't George. Pirate. Pirate. George was a pirate. George wasn't a pirate. Good was George, George. Very good, very George, very pirate. But but but. But! George. George was a pirate. George was. George was. George wasn't. A pirate. Pirate was George, pirate, he was George. A George. A good George. A very good George. George was. George was a. George was a pirate. George. George! Wasn't George a pirate? Wasn't George a very good pirate? George wasn't. George wasn't a very good pirate. He wasn't good.
8/17/20231 minute, 45 seconds
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George Snaps

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. One day, he just snapped. He climbed up to the crow's nest and started shooting at people. Sure, he missed them all, but he broke a lamp and knocked a handle off of the ship's wheel. "You stupid ass!" yelled the captain. "My mother gave me that lamp." George eventually ran out of ammo, and he threatened to stab anyone who came up after him. Knowing George's skill with a knife, they came up anyway, subdued him, and tied him to the mast until he said he was sorry.
8/16/20231 minute, 8 seconds
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George and Container Ships

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He'd raid container ships, but going from America to China, not China to America. China sent all the valuable things Eastward, like televisions and computers and microchips. America, on the other hand, sent recyclable garbage and raw materials Westward. So, George ended up with a lot of garbage and raw materials. If it were Gold or Silver, yeah, that would work out nicely. But 100 metric tons of recovered tires or obsolete computer motherboards with trace amounts of rare earth materials, no. At least the crews could be ransomed.
8/15/20231 minute, 27 seconds
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George vs the theatre

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When the community theater held tryouts for The Pirates of Penzance, George gave it a shot. He got a callback. But he had issues with the production. "Pirates really aren't gentlemanly," said George. "And they don't dance all that much." George spent ten minutes pointing out problems in Gilbert and Sullivan's writing. The director thanked George for his thoughts, and shouted "NEXT!" George told his crewmates, and they raided the theater. The director demanded that the pirates yield in Queen Victoria's name. They strung him up from the rafters.
8/14/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #903: Fine

Richard Tom Serendipidy Lizzie Scribbling Wren Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Overhead. RICHARD Fine There was no way I was paying the fine. I'd only popped into the store to grab some bread and milk, ten minutes, tops. Ten minutes - and I still got a ticket! Where else was I supposed to park? I decided to fight it on principal. I reckoned it was worth a shot. That was until I got the legal bills and had to lose two whole day's wages for court dates, plus the cost of fuel and parking just to attend. Nearly a grand and a half it cost me! But, at least they let me off the fine! TOM Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang It was the gold age of rhyme and blues. A refined sound that spilled out of the Black Community and cross over into mainstream American pop music. Ten million transistor radios tuned to what arguable could be called, not parent’s music. Downtown music. Not only was the sound uptown so was the presentation of the group that sang those upbeat love songs. Groups like the Chiffons dressed to the nines elegantly crooning Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang. He’s so Fine is a long way from swing low. So fine, I haven’t heard the term used in years. Guess you would say He’s so Non-binary. SERENDIPIDY I'm fine, really, no matter what the shrinks might say, and despite all the expert opinions. I'm taking it all in my stride; as far as I'm concerned, it's no big deal, even though I know it should be. People think it's some sort of 'survivor syndrome' - not the one where you feel guilty about surviving, when none of the others lived, or the weird one where you feel invincible, almost immortal. But it's not. The truth is far simpler. I managed to survive, not because the killer spared me, or missed me. I survived because I was the killer! LIZZIE "No trains?" The man sitting outside the station shrugged. "Fine." 10am. What now? She could walk, but her feet were killing her after 2 hours, walking from the nearest village. A cab perhaps? Did they even have cabs here, in the middle of nowhere? She could wait. What if there were no trains? Then, she saw the policeman. "No trains?" He shrugged. "Fine!" Rude people. "Lady, I saw you crossing the road over here." "So?" "The zebra crossing is over there." "So? There are no cars." "Well, here." "What's this?" "A fine, of course. You do love fines, don't you?" SCRIBBLING WREN John The first thing I notice in the room next to him is Chrysanthemums. I didn’t want flowers but forgot to say. It’s hard to think of everything. Maybe someone asked me. Maybe I’m on autopilot just nodding and telling everyone I’m fine. I’m tired of having ‘sorry for your loss’ thrown at me, then that awkward bit where we stand in silence. I leave half way through his funeral. Those fucking Chrysanthemums. I feel like I can smell them from outside. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to be alone but I need to be by myself for a bit. NORVAL JOE The roiling black thunderhead rushed toward them, bolts of lightning striking tall pine trees as it approached. One of the teenagers shouted to the driver of the van, "What do we do, Clarence?" From behind the steering wheel, he waved them toward the van. "Get inside." As the wind roared toward them, they left Billbert and his friends and jumped for cover inside the van. "Not without the prisoners!" Clarence screamed at the youths. It was too late. Billbert, Linoliamnda, and Sabrina raced into the trees. But without Sabrina focusing on it, the storm faded away to a fine mist. PLANET Z Some days, she'd open a drawer and smell his clothes. Or set the table for two. Using his soap in the shower. Buying the 2% milk at the store because he didn't like the skim milk she drank. Only having to pour it out a week later. How long had she been doing this? Too long. Eventually she sold his car, sold the house,
8/13/202310 minutes, 55 seconds
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George’s toothpicks

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. George had a habit of using his dagger to whittle bits of wood off of the ship’s railing as toothpicks. Other pirates picked up this habit from George, and after a week, the whole ship looks like it had been clawed up by a dozen angry cats. “Enough with the toothpicks!” said the captain. “Stop carving my ship to pieces!” After that outburst, George left the ship alone. But he tried to carve a toothpick off of Peg Leg McGinty. McGinty caught George, and brained him with a club.
8/12/20231 minute, 13 seconds
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George and Old Smitty

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Old Smitty wasn't much better, but he outranked George, and he bossed George around. He made George do dumb or dangerous things. Because George didn't know any better, he'd go ahead and do it. "That was dumb and dangerous, George," said the captain. "Also, you did it wrong." "I'm just not a very good pirate," said George. So, the captain kicked George off the crew. Standing on the dock, watching as his ship sailed away... and then exploded. George figured that Old Smitty did something dumb and dangerous correctly.
8/11/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George’s bully

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Calico Keith, on the other hand, was more like what you'd imagine a pirate would be. He drank, he fought, and he did it all with swagger. At his funeral, pirates came from all around to pay respects. George watched the others raise their tankards in a toast. "HAIL KEITH!" After everyone left, George dropped his breeches and pissed on Keith's sailcloth-wrapped corpse. "You ugly bully," he murmured. One of the pirates snuck up on George and shoved him into the grave. George growled, and planned his next murder.
8/10/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George the Pirateman

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. How did he become a pirate? Well, if George existed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he could have been like Spiderman, who was bitten by a radioactive spider. George could have been bitten by a radioactive pirate. (Radioactive pirates exist, right? From one of those atomic bomb tests?) Except that would have made him PirateMan. Which sounds weird. And unlike Peter Parker, who was a teenaged photographer, slinging webs and stopping crimes, George was a pirate, which is a criminal profession. Even if he wasn't very good at it.
8/9/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George and pie

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was careless with the ship's supplies, and they were always running out of whale oil for the lamps. So, George scrounged, and he found a box of Pumpkin Spice Yankee Candles that he'd been meaning to wrap as Christmas presents. He distributed them throughout the ship and lit the wicks. Then, he went to sleep. When he woke up, the whole ship reeked of pumpkins, and he had a craving for pumpkin pie. Everyone did. "Set a course for the Whidbey Island Pie Shop!" shouted George. "Full sail!"
8/8/20231 minute, 26 seconds
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George the reality star

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Still, the network wanted George to star in their reality show. Their first idea was to follow George around, but whatever equipment survived the shipwrecks was stolen and fenced by his crewmates. The producers changed the format to teams of contestants performing pirate tasks, and George acting as the host. Frustrated with sponsorship and product placement, George tore down the Jolly Roger flag with the McDonalds logo in the middle. "I'll be in my trailer," he growled. George didn't have a trailer. He just wandered around the backlot, growling.
8/7/20231 minute, 30 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #902: It’s a dirty job

Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Fine. RICHARD Dirty "It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it." I looked at Toby cynically. "What are you talking about, mate? How is being a talent scout for glamour magazines a dirty job? It's not like you’re a sewage engineer!" Toby gave me an exasperated look. "Why do you always have to take things so literally? It's irony! It's supposed to be amusing." "It's not funny" I countered. "Suit yourself" he replied, "you're just jealous." "Not at all. I love being a sewage engineer… The smells, the filth, the rubber, hot babes." He smiled, "Is that irony?" "Yeah. I'm learning!" LIZZIE He sat surrounded by orange and red and yellow pillows. All he could think of was to get rid of her. That's where he was in life. "Let's have a cocktail at the Sundown Lounge," she said. "It's so fancy!" Her voice shrilled throughout the fancy rooftop. And now, here he was, pondering whether he could break the glass he was holding, and stab her with it quickly enough. Well, he did try. But the damn lounge had some pretty sturdy glasses. "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it," he later told his cellmate. "I trust you." SERENDIPIDY Someone has to do the dirty jobs. The muck-rakers, the toilet scrubbers and the collectors of night soil. The gatherers of carrion and the bringers of death and decay. They have their place, and although despised and looked down upon by society, they fulfil a need. Theirs is the domain of darkness and stench, the place of pain and putrescence, and without them, life would fester and rot, with no-one to prevent its fall into chaos. So celebrate those of that foul domain, and remember their worth. Personally, I wouldn't deign to touch them That's your job, not mine! TOM Thick as Thieves I couldn’t have been greener. But my mentor in the party was an old hand at the more dubious craftsmanship of Rat Fuckn. “It’s a dirty job, but someone hast to do it.” He would quip slowly, as he surveying the room, finally letting his gaze fall on me. The funny thing about the dirty job is the goal was not to let a stray finger press make its present known. He reminded me we were not spooks; we were shadows. We did not change outcomes we merely shaded perceptions. And the price He smiled was never done dirt cheap. NORVAL JOE As the three walked along the foggy road, a van from the "Someone's gotta do it" septic service stopped next to them. The driver asked. "Do you kids need a ride?" He smiled, exposing large yellow teeth. Linoliamanda stepped toward the van. "Sure." "No. Wait," Billbert shouted. The van's door slid open and six burley teenagers jumped out, grabbing Billbert and his friends. Too late to join hands and fly off, Billbert said, "Come on, Sabrina. You're the weather witch. Do something." "Right," she said, turning to face the ocean. The fog separated and a giant thunderhead barrelled toward them. PLANET Z A long time ago, I had a son. He grew up big and strong. And one day, he went out but never came back. He never came back again. Sometimes, I think I see him hiding in the bushes. Or up in a tree, in the shadows. It's been years since he left, but I know he's out there. And one day, when my days are done, it will be my time to go out and never come back. And I will find him. Maybe you'll see us, in the bushes, up in a tree. In the shadows together, forever.
8/6/20239 minutes, 40 seconds
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George the Beekeeper

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was always coming up with get-rich-quick schemes. Lately, he'd been getting into beekeeping. "Farmers in California pay a fortune to get their crops pollinated," said George, putting on his beekeeper's mesh and lighting his handheld smoker. The ship's deck was swarming with bees, crawling on and flying around the dozens of hives George had built. "We can also sell the honey they make," said George. The rest of the crew, covered from head to toe with bee sting welts, hated the idea, and they pitched the hives overboard.
8/6/20231 minute, 29 seconds
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George’s body camera

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He'd done some questionable things, so the captain ordered that George wear a body-mounted camera to record George's misbehavior. The results were horrifying. George deliberately aiming his cannon at the water to avoid hitting a ship. George giving candy to a baby instead of taunting the baby with it. George putting money in a church's poorbox. "Not even a single chortle or act of indecency!" bellowed the captain. "You're suspended!" George was demoted to desk duty. There was a candy dish on his desk. Every baby got a piece.
8/5/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George in the rest home

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. You know how there's the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital? They keep the old Hollywood actor and actress types there. Well, there was also an old pirate rest home. And George ended up there. "But I'm only twenty-three!" yelled George. The nurses had orders to keep George sedated. He shuffled around in a hospital gown, his ass hanging out. Pushing along a walker with wheels. He spent a lot of time watching the television. Not really knowing what was going on, not aware of anything, really.
8/4/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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George and the goldfish

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. While other pirates looted towns for provisions and ammunition, George would return with several plastic bags full of pet goldfish. "Aren't they pretty?" he'd beam proudly, and then run back into the pet store for a fish tank. Of course, he needed pebbles. And plants. And an aerator. A treasure chest with a lid that flapped every time it released a bubble. By the time he rolled the shopping cart back to the ship, his crewmates were drunk, and out of live goldfish to challenge each other to swallow.
8/3/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George from one two ten

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. On a scale from one to ten, when asked how good of a pirate George is, most pirates would ask if zero is an option. When you tell pirates that the lowest number on the scale is one, so zero isn't available as an option, they get very angry, and will draw their cutlass and threaten to cut your throat. George, on the other hand, would rate himself an eleven. Once again don't correct him on the numbers. He might draw his sword and drop it on your foot.
8/2/20231 minute, 9 seconds
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Happy George Day

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He had a good attitude, though. When he saw people, he'd say "Happy Tuesday!" or "Happy Thursday, it's almost Friday!" And not in a sarcastic way, either. He was genuinely happy that it was Tuesday or Thursday. And when it was Friday, man was he happy. Not that it meant anything. Because being a pirate is a seven-days-a-week job. There are no weekends off for pirates. But it gave George something to say and be happy about. Even if the truth was that everyone was miserable, frustrated, and exhausted.
8/1/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #901 – PICK TWO Photograph, Buttery, Tramlines, Vast, Unit, Trying

Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is It's a dirty job. RICHARD Railroad reflection The mournful sounds of train horns filled the frigid air. Blowing into my cupped hands had little effect on my numb fingers, and I longed for the warmth of a friendly flame and woollen mittens. This was the reality of the hobo's life. Cold, unforgiving, and distinctly lacking the romance of the open road. The winter sun, slowly dipped in the Western sky, glinting from the steel rails, bestowing a lustrous sheen of glowing golden light; Buttery tramlines, leading my gaze towards the distant, unknown horizon: My destination on the next passing outbound train. The traveller's dream; the vagrant's curse SERENDIPIDY I found the photograph in his wallet: A happy, smiling child. His daughter. It was old now, cracked and faded with time, but still he'd kept it, all these years. And now, he lay dead at my feet; the knife in my hand, slick with his blood. He deserved it. And that's all I have to say on the matter. You don't need to know the details, you only need to know that he had it coming. I trace the little girl's smile with my bloody finger. I was happy once. I looked down at his lifeless form, "Goodbye, dad". TOM VAST During my undergrad degree in Photography our inter-circle of A-students got the university to give us a van for a road- trip to the Grand Canyon. This prompted a new university policy of no vans for field-trips. Proud of that legacy, I am. The Canyon is number two on the national go-to destination for an American youth, just behind the Happiest Place On Earth. Not your fine art major venue. But the Canyon fine arts written large. As hard as I tried my photos never captured the feel of the Canyon. In a word it is the soul of Vast. LIZZIE It was a trying endeavor. A man sitting on a beam, working up high. No ropes, an emptiness below him. Just sitting there and hammering away. But she took that photograph, plus the one with the buildings. Her father had told her that those two represented the company's prestige. A man dangling, hammering away for a pittance, building the company's prestige. The pride of the family. When her father died, she took those photographs and burned them. Yes, she got rid of the company's prestige, and she got rid of her family. It was a trying endeavor. Freedom's never easy. NORVAL JOE The woman struggled, trying to escape from the thorn bush. Sabrina took out her phone and took a photograph of the woman's face. "What are you doing?" Billbert asked. "Evidence," Sabrina said, putting her phone away. "Let's get out of here before she gets out of the bush." They joined hands and lifted off in the buttery yellow light of morning, flying north across the Eel River delta and the South Humboldt Bay before landing just outside the Eureka city limits. Sabrina scowled. "Why are we stopping here?" Linoliamanda started walking. "That's okay. My house is just up the road." PLANET Z Back in the day, there was a streetcar on Main Street. From City Hall to the College. Along the way, there was the factory, the hospital, and the grocer's. The town got bigger, the streets got wider, and the streetcar tracks were torn up. I collect postcards of the old days, women in big dresses and men in their top hats. Mounted and framed at the old-timey bar by City Hall. They were going to build it out of a pair of streetcars, but they weren't big enough. A toy streetcar goes around on a track near the ceiling, though.
7/30/20239 minutes, 40 seconds
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George’s pajamas

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. After a long day of piracy, he'd change into his pajamas, make a cup of herbal tea, and read for a while. Sometimes, the other pirates would steal his clothes while he slept, and George would have to go out in his pajamas. Usually, he'd go shopping for new clothes, but sometimes he was woken up by a fight. He fought well in them. So well, other pirates began to wear pajamas while going into battle. Not having pockets make it hard to carry ammunition for their flintlocks, though.
7/30/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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George eats a heart

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He didn't really make a name for himself as a pirate. As opposed to the pirate who ripped the heart out of a Spaniard and ate it. "But what was his name?" asked the captain. George tried to think of it. "I can't remember. But he ate some guy's heart, so..." "But do you remember his name?" "No." Later, George realized that he didn't know the captain's name, either. George didn't sleep that night. He stayed up, worried that the captain would rip out his heart and eat it.
7/29/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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George on the sofa

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He lay on his therapist's couch, crying and rambling about all his problems. Then, he realized that he'd looted the couch from his therapist's office, and he was on the deck of his ship, rambling to the rain and the winds. George shrugged. It wasn't any less helpful that when he'd cried and rambled to his therapist. He'd gotten pissed off at the waste of time and stolen the couch out of spite. "And how does that make you feel?" George imagined the therapist saying. "Good," said George, smiling.
7/28/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George’s farewell

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. He kept a diary of all his misadventures. And then he turned it into a series of books. The books sold well, and George made a lot of money from them. His old captain sent George a letter threatening to sue him if he didn’t get a share of the money. George wrote back that suing him would not be a good idea. The next day, the captain woke up with a can of gasoline and a pack of matches in his bunk. Leave me alone, said George’s note.
7/27/20231 minute, 10 seconds
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George’s groceries

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade," he always said. He never seemed to have any lemons, though. George looked through the grocery delivery crate. Apples... he could make applesauce. Oranges... he could make orange juice. Tomatoes... oh, the things he could do with tomatoes. Tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato paste. Slice them up for a BLT? But he didn't have any lettuce or bacon. Potatoes... maybe. But he wasn't very hungry at the moment. So he pulled out his Mister Potato Head kit and played for a while.
7/26/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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Let’s all give George shit

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. At first, it was the captain telling him that he wasn't very good. Then, the captain had the first mate harass George about it. The quartermaster scolded George for wasting food and water. And the sailing master criticized George's navigation skills. If that weren't enough, the captain brought on boatswains who hounded George night and day for his mistakes. Pretty soon, it as everybody's job on the ship to give George shit. "Who's steering the ship?" asked George, seeing rocks up ahead. Everyone shouted at George for questioning authority.
7/25/20231 minute, 20 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #900 – Potato Eyes

Lisa Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Photograph, Buttery, Tramlines, Vast, Unit, Trying RICHARD Starch Don't chop the onions next to the potatoes. Potato eyes are easily irritated, and unlike you, they can't turn away, avert their gaze, or mop the tears when they flow. If you don't believe me, ask the carrots, they'll tell you it's true - inasmuch as you can believe anything a carrot has to say! You could argue that sore eyes is the least of the potatoes' worries, and once you've dealt with those onions, their fate will be far worse. And, I suppose you're right. Maybe, it's not the onions that make potatoes weep. It's knowing they're about to die. TOM Linden Sweden Jonas Peeler 1953 Glance at a “Old-School” Professional Potato Peeler you are witnessing the height of 1950’s form follows function. Built to last several life times. If you never had to use one, despite its striped down simplify you may well miss one of its built-in utility tools. At one end is a blunt tapper curvy part. Dull as a butter knife, but deadly in a well-trained hand. This my friend is a Potato Eye Garroter, as in surround and choke off. With a well-placed stab, quick twist and a sharp snap you can render your tubers eyeless with chief potato peeler efficacy. LIZZIE Don't say that. Don't put it there. Don't look that way. Don't, don't. Didn't I tell you not to... I am sick of it. And I want to move on. But she grabbed my ankle and her hand was a shackle. She drags herself through the mud and she doesn't let go. I knew I would... Yes, die, say it, say it, die. She would never let go. Never. Don't throw that away. The potatoes? Potato eyes. The potatoes have eyes. The potatoes have... And I throw it away, I throw everything away. The eyes, the will, and the soul. LISA We’re lucky. We live in a shared house on a posh street. The teacher’s strikes have been tricky though. I’ve not been able to get time off work, but a lady down the road has been looking after my youngest, Louise. “Estelle never had telly. They just did playing.” Louise said excitedly thrusting a picture towards me. The picture was a face made out of a meal’s worth of dried pasta. “Tomorrow we’re going to do printing with potatoes.” We put the picture on the empty fridge. It watched us while they ate, and I pretended I’d eaten at work. SERENDIPIDY They're watching me. There, look at those ugly potato eyes as they follow me around the kitchen. Those evil, nasty things, staring at me. It's almost as if they know. Carefully, I fill the pan, set it on the gas and slip the biggest, sharpest knife from its slot in the knife block. I know what I have to do, and I know I must be ruthless and show no pity. Slowly, I heft the knife in my hand, approaching the chopping board with intent in my steps. Then, I rapidly turn, thrusting the knife deep into my husband's throat. NORVAL JOE As Billbert and the pudgy old woman climbed higher into the sky, the woman's gimlet, potato eyes grew wider. In fear, she wrapped her arms around Billbert, her ample bosom pressing into his face. The more Billbert tried to push away, the tighter she locked her arms around his neck. He leveled off. "Come on, lady. Are you trying to kill us both?" She only whimpered. Flying parallel to the ground he could see that only Sabrina and Linoliamanda waited below in the empty street. Billbert shot back to the ground and dropped the old woman in a prickly bush. PLANET Z Nietzsche says that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back. The same goes with potatoes. If you stare into a potato's eyes, the potato stares back. I know, it doesn't look like that when you first stare at the potato. But try it. And keep at it. You'll see. It's disturbing, isn't it? You want to look away, but you can't. Peel the potato, slice it up,
7/23/202310 minutes, 36 seconds
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George’s tattoo

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wanted to get a flaming skull tattoo on his left arm, but halfway through the session, his crewmates came rampaging through the town and accidentally killed the tattoo artist. The skull's outline and some of the red flames were complete, along with a long red streak from where the dying tattoo artist dragged the needle. The other pirates made fun of George's incomplete tattoo, but George told the story in bars and impressed the hell out of the bartenders, earning more than his share of free drinks.
7/22/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George waterskis

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When the ship encountered strong winds, George would call for full sail to get the ship to full speed. Then, he'd drop a line down the stern and strap on his waterskis. George skimmed along the water, laughing and doing stunts with the ship's wake. He did flips and twists, and the rest of the crew cheered. "Can I have a turn?" shouted the captain. "No!" shouted George. "Get your own rope!" The captain cut the rope with his dagger. "Then get your own damn boat," said the captain.
7/21/20231 minute, 14 seconds
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George worries

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He worried a lot about things, like what others thought about him or whether he left the stove on before going to work. "You live on a ship," said the captain. "You don't have a goddamned stove." Every time George started a sentence with "What if I forgot to..." the captain reminded him that he didn't have a car to park in the wrong zone, or a smoke alarm to put fresh batteries in. "Shut up, George," said the captain. George worried what the captain thought about him now.
7/20/20231 minute, 8 seconds
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George makes models

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. He liked to make model pirate ships. The problem was, his crewmates were always stealing the glue for his models and sniffing it. By the time he had a model assembled and he was ready to glue it together, the glue tube would be empty. He’d go back to the store for glue, but when he got back to the ship, someone had already smashed the model ship. George switched to Legos, and he assembled them in taverns. Beer and whiskey were far more intoxicating than the modeling glue.
7/19/20231 minute, 16 seconds
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George’s bad luck

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. And compared to pirate legends, such as Nikolaus Storzenbecher, he was downright pathetic. They said that Nikolaus could down a gallon mug of beer in one gulp. George could barely sip his way through a small cup. And when Nikolaus was captured and scheduled for execution, he demanded that anyone he could walk past after his beheading be pardoned. The prison warden agreed. Nikolaus' headless corpse stumbled past 12 men before collapsing. George, the thirteenth man in the line, grumbled and kicked the dirt. "Just my luck," said George.
7/18/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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George and the name tags

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. There's a lot of turnover on a pirate ship, so it's hard to remember names. George tried to get his shipmates to wear nametags. The problem was, by the time the nametags were ready at the printer, most of the crew had been killed and they'd recruited new pirates. George bought a stack of HELLO, MY NAME IS stickers and a sharpee pen. Most pirates are illiterate, so they drew an X or a dick. George gave up and called everyone "Smitty." Everyone else called George "that annoying dick."
7/18/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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George and a pet

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Just as Captain Ahab had his white whale, George had his white guppy. From the moment he saw it, he just had to have it. No, it wasn't as epic a hunt as Moby Dick, but guppies are fast. George swept the net around the tank at the pet store, but never managed to catch the little fish. "Screw this," said George. "Just give me a mouse." George put his wallet in his jacket pocket and the mouse in his back pocket. He discovered his mistake on laundry day.
7/17/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #899 – Split

Lisa Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Tura Planet Z The next topic is Potato Eyes LISA He wore the pointiest shoes that I had ever seen; I couldn’t work out where his toes would go, and soon suspected he didn’t have any. I stared whilst scuffing the toes of my own brown buckled school shoes. I hated them. Mum wouldn’t let me have slip-ons. She’d said that I wouldn’t be able to run in them, remembering made me scuff even harder. I realised he wasn’t a normal adult when he didn’t stop me. I didn’t linger on that thought though. Just anticipated the bright red cherry on top of the Banana Split he’d promised me earlier. RICHARD Morgan’s Lot "So, you two are going to split up then?" I could practically see the glint in Morgan's eye as he asked the question. "Yeah. I've known for ages she was having an affair, but she finally admitted it and wants a divorce." I didn't mention I knew exactly who she'd been seeing behind my back, or that I was fully aware Morgan was the guilty party. I also neglected to mention her drunken rages, unbridled spending, violent outbursts over nothing, and her longstanding gambling addiction. I figured, if he was going to take her, he could take the whole package. SERENDIPIDY The idea is always to split the group up. When they're alone and isolated, they're vulnerable, easy targets. No challenge at all. The tricky part is splitting the group up: People tend to band together when under attack, and there's strength in numbers. However, a group will also gladly welcome a distressed and terrified stranger into their care, to protect them from an unknown, and unseen aggressor. Bad move. Especially when that stranger is me. And I'm the unknown, unseen aggressor. Now I'm in your midst, you'll scatter soon enough. Ready for me to pick you off, at my leisure. LIZZIE The show is about to start. And she laughed and laughed. The stage was empty, but she laughed and laughed. I just sat there, my mind filled with perplexity. She waved her arms and laughed and laughed. I sank in my chair. What could I do but wait for the show to start? And I waited and waited. That's when I realized that she had her own stage. In her mind. Everyone owed her attention, a lot of attention. She was the show. And she thought everyone knew that. When no one clapped, she stopped laughing. Hate. She hated everyone. TOM Intelligent Design I come from a generation where getting a full banana split was a big deal. Was not ever going to happen in a home with eight kids. Hell, you were lucky to get a single scope of Neapolitan ice cream. And for the record Neapolitan managed on its own to be the worst offering of all three flavors. Back to the split. I sixth grade I won a church raffle for one of Sister Mary Joseph's New York split. Quad scope Quad syrup Quad Cherries. A coma confection. I firmly believe banana split are proof of a loving god. TURA Split --------- "Split a pound note and it's gone," my father would complain. A penny back then would buy what a pound does today, an old penny, 240 to the pound. You wouldn't spend a pound note in a corner shop, you'd change it for smaller coin at the bank, and put off doing that as long as you could. A workman's wage was ten pounds a week, you work out what ten times 240 is, fifty weeks a year. Sure, you can buy stuff today my father never dreamed of, but you've less real money than he had to buy it. NORVAL JOE Fortunately for Billbert, Sabrina, and Linoliamanda, they were flying slowly and low to the ground when the blast from the confetti gun split them apart. They hit the street and tumbled across the asphalt with each of the youths acquiring a variety of bruises and abrasions. With all the indignation a 13 year old could feel, Billbert stomped up to the smirking woman. "What were you thinking? Were you trying to kill us?" She laughed.
7/16/202311 minutes, 38 seconds
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George the nice

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Rumors about George spread across the Carribean. "George is nice to women." "George treats captives so well, they don't want to leave." "George pays retail price for things instead of looting and pillaging them." The Pirate Council came together to address these rumors. "This is giving pirates a bad name," said The Chairman. "We must do something before this catches on and ruins us all." But they were too late. The damage was done. And across the world, pirates became polite and nice. Almost as much as George was.
7/15/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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George Zaleski

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Some say it was a memory from his childhood that haunted him. The Flying Zaleskis were performing under the big top, and one of them had been caught messing around with his brother's wife. So, his brother didn't catch him during The Triple Backflip Leap of Doom. Who then slipped from the grasp of his mother. Zaleskis were flying and falling everywhere, landing in sickening thuds. One landed on a clown, breaking his neck. The Zaleski's neck, not the clown's neck. Because that makes a world of difference, right?
7/14/20232 minutes, 4 seconds
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George flies a flag upside-down

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was always flying the Jolly Roger upside-down. Someone would point it out to him, and he'd grumble and bring the flag down, mess with it a bit, and run it back up the mast. "It's still upside-down, George," said the captain. "Try it again." Once again, George would grumble and try to fly the flag right, but when he ran it back up and stepped back, it was upside-down again. "This is why I try to lose battles," said George. "At least the white flag is never upside-down."
7/13/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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George and the breadcrumbs

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Most pirates navigate by landmarks or by the stars, but George preferred a technique that he'd read in a book: He left a trail of breadcrumbs in the water. "We can follow them back to port," he said. The other pirates pointed out to George that this used up their food supply quickly and that the birds and fish ate all of the breadcrumbs, leaving the pirates without a trail. George tore up his book of Brothers Grimm fairy tales and left a trail of shredded paper to follow.
7/12/20231 minute, 26 seconds
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George the Veteran

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. On Veterans Day, he went to the Navy base and hung out at the enlisted men’s bar, listening to war stories and other tall tales. When it was his turn, George would tell his own stories. Eventually, an old sailor would stop George and ask him when he served in the Navy. “Oh, I wasn’t in the Navy,” said George. “I’m a pirate. But I fought against the Navy.” George hightailed it out of there, running for his life. At least he never had to pay his bar tab.
7/11/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #898 – Riot Of Color

Lisa Richard Lizzie Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Split. LISA The Bully Her bruises bloomed with a riot of colour across her face. Purple and blue blended with a jaundice tinge beneath her eyeball. What a night: it was the first time the neighbours had intervened. The police said they didn’t get involved in domestic disputes, and left when no one needed hospital attention. She didn’t know where they’d go from here. Changing the locks hadn’t helped previously. She wondered about leaving, but would miss the children. She looked in the mirror at her beaten up face; he’d never retaliated before. At least she only hit him where the bruises didn’t show. RICHARD Proud I had no idea at the time it was my big break. The editor tasked me with covering the Gay Pride parade, mainly because I was the most junior reporter. I wasn't exactly impressed, but determined to make the most of it, and to be fair, it was really quite impressive with all the rainbow flags, outrageous outfits and over the top makeup. Fun, until they ran into the Black Lives Matter parade, who thought they had right of way. Words and blows were exchanged, and it all descended into a brawl. Front page news. Headline: 'A Riot Of Colour!' LIZZIE Out of the blue, he jumped from behind the giant canvas. Sword swallowing. A daring exhibition. He had to practice, right? "Almost caught red-handed," he mumbled. And when they asked him questions, he chuckled. "Oh, it wasn't me, officer." And they believe him, because he told them a harmless little white-lie. The officer grinned. But then he was given two days to leave the circus... Why?! Making a random passer-by swallow a sword hardly seemed a good enough reason to be fired. The said passer-by vanished into thin air, true. But still. Well, their loss. A daring exhibition no more. SERENDIPIDY It was entirely by accident I embarked on my new career - serial killer to contemporary artist in one simple step. My last killing was rather messy: blood, guts, and gore everywhere, and body parts strewn all over the floor. It hadn't quite gone to plan. It was supposed to be a simple throttling in a dark alleyway, but an unexpected change of plan meant it was indoors, and a little bit gory. Thankfully, it happened in an art gallery. Rather than clean up, I attached a small label: 'Riot of Color' - Unknown artist. I sold it for a small fortune. NORVAL JOE Once they were at the river's edge, and out of sight, Billbert, Loliamanda, and Sabrina joined hands and flew downstream. They crossed back to the highway passing flocks of sheep and eventually coming upon the small town of Ferndale. The main street was lined with Victorian houses. The rising sun reflected off myriad stained glass windows creating a riot of color, distracting the three from the danger waiting on the edge of town. An elderly woman stepped into the road ahead of them, aimed a confetti cannon, and pulled the cord. A riot of color blasted them from the air. TOM 897 Story 1 In its day Live Aid was real big deal. And it was in the day of VHS. I recorded the whole thing on a number of tapes. Each carefully labeled. Fast forward to the day I got married. Total chaos, lots to people circling in cars around a shifting center point. One of these folk was the person willing to do video. He needed a tape to record on. So somehow he got tape 15 from my Live Aid tapes. He used it to record the wedding, but the camera input failed. No wedding and a hole in Live Aid. 898 Story 2 Frank was some what normal. Job, eating habits, selection of friends, and most of his hobbies. He did have one odd habit. He loved sitting in large vats of paint. Had 16 barrels of different colors. Built a crane that lowered him into and out of each color. I took four hours. When finish Frank was a Riot of Color.
7/9/202311 minutes, 47 seconds
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George retrained

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "Obviously not," said the caseworker at the unemployment office. "Your file clearly shows that you have no aptitude for piracy." She sent him to a job training facility, where George learned how to use computers. After a while, George learned how to use spreadsheets, documents, and presentation software. "I think you have a knack for this, George," said the trainer. That night, George loaded all the computers on a cart, and took them back to the ship. "Think we can sell these?" asked George. "Welcome back," said the captain.
7/8/20231 minute, 45 seconds
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George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He collected empty bottles, stuffed them with paper, and would seal them into the bottles with corks. Then, he'd toss them into the sea and let the tides spread them throughout the world. Scientists collected the papers, and after careful analysis, they determined that there was an unknown continent in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. But dozens of expeditions later, they never found the continent of Georgelantis. Meanwhile, George wiped his ass, stuffed the dirty toilet paper in the bottle, sealed it, and tossed it into the ocean.
7/7/20231 minute, 30 seconds
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George the accountant

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. "Dress for success!" said the consultant, and he took George to a Saville Row tailor. George emerged two hours later in a three-piece suit, bowler hat, and carrying an umbrella and a briefcase. "The perfect gentleman," said the consultant. He turned George to face the crew. "Don't you agree?" They laughed at George. They stopped laughing when George started his job at a large accounting firm, worked his way through the ranks, and became wealthy and powerful. "Okay, I admit, the hat does look a bit silly," said George.
7/6/20231 minute, 48 seconds
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George’s billboard

"George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate." The billboards with those eleven words appeared across Southern California. A few appeared in Portland, Oregon. And others in Seattle and Austin, Texas. Nobody knew what it meant, or who had paid for them. People asked George, but he had no idea either. "Your guess is as good as mine," he said. Some people guessed that he was running for President. Others thought it was an alien conspiracy. "Okay, maybe your guesses aren't as good as mine." The billboards vanished the next day, and soon after, were completely forgotten.
7/5/20231 minute, 33 seconds
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George goes flying

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was nervous about flying, and he took dramamine pills to prevent air sickness. Then, he'd have a few shots of courage at the airport bar, followed by little bottles of Jack Daniels while on the plane. "It's hard to build a ship in a bottle," George told the flight attendant, "but tiny bottles? Crazy!" The captain turned the seat belt signs back on, and George rose up and demanded a mutiny. The air marshal tased George, and he spent the rest of the flight handcuffed to the toilet.
7/4/20231 minute, 26 seconds
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George takes criticism well

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. How did he know this? Well, the captain was always telling George that he wasn't a very good pirate. And his crewmates kept telling him that, too. The constant criticism annoyed George, driving him completely mad. One day, in the middle of a dressing-down, he tossed a lit match into the powder room. It immediately went out. "Oh, come on!" said a passing crewmate. "That's now how you set off the powder room and blow up the ship. Here, let me show you..." Mercifully, the captain stopped him mid-demonstration.
7/3/20231 minute, 35 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #897 – Old Videos

I blew up a bit in this one... leave a comment to let the writers know if you liked their stories. Richard Lizzie Lisa Serendipidy Tura Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Riot Of Color RICHARD Old Videos Tucked away at the back of the wardrobe, I've several boxes, stuffed full of old videos. I've had them boxed up for around twenty years now, and they've followed me through at least three house moves, carefully packed up, transported, and put away in their new home. Why have I kept them? Through some vague sense, of 'I might want to watch them, one day'? Not that I've anything to play them on anyway. And the fact is, I've not watched any of them in the last twenty years, and probably never will. But I keep them. Just in case. TURA Old Videos --------- I have a stack of VHS tapes I've never got around to watching. I still have a VCR, but I never have the time. I could convert them to digital files, but my video to USB converter is so old it's not compatible with my current OS. I could replace it, but when will I find time to do the conversion? Will I ever watch them anyway? If I put this off too long, the tapes will degrade and won't be playable at all. Then at last I'll be able to dump them. Maybe I should just dump them now. LISA Something Nasty in the Woodshed Me and Simon had only gone round to help Fay next door clear the attic. Her husband had died a month ago, him and Dad had been as thick as thieves. She was moving somewhere smaller. There were boxes of old video tapes up there with dates and girls names on. We’d seen the documentaries so joked about our serial killer neighbour. After unearthing an old player we stopped for lunch and watched a video. It was much worse than we suspected. And it looked like he buried them in their garden. “Fuck!” said Simon “is that your Dad digging?” SERENDIPIDY There are old videos of life in the village: Life before the calamity. Grainy, blurred videos in washed out colour of picnics on the village green, laughing toddlers at the playground, couples, friends, families happy and relaxed, without a care in the world. There's even the odd wedding video. Good times. Nobody could ever have imagined the horror that was to come. It was a fine spring day, late in June. The sun was shining, and people were going about their business, blissfully unaware of what was coming their way. For that was the day I arrived at the village. LIZZIE "Come on. It's starting," I said. Old videos and popcorn! But... I had forgotten. Our old videos don't go with popcorn. They go with sorrow. "Say cheese for the camera," they would say cheerfully. We never did, no. "Don't be so grumpy all the time, you two." We were kids. We weren't grumpy. We weren't stupid. We weren't shitheads. We were just kids. Memory is such a trickster, isn't it? It erases everything. And here I was, in front of the TV, a bowl full of popcorn on my lap. I wanted to cry, but I had no tears left. NORVAL JOE The woman seemed surprised by Billbert's request for a back exit. Then she smiled and led them past a rack of dusty VHS movies for rent, through a door and into what appeared to be the woman's home. A chunky man in a sleeveless t-shirt and gray slacks, sitting at a dining table didn't look up from his newspaper as they traipsed past. A back door led them to a wooden porch, forty feet above the placid Matole river. The woman nodded to some stairs. "These will take you to a trail along the river, if that's what you want." PLANET Z Old Man Pinella sits in his home theatre, watching videos of the band. Jason on guitar, Billy on bass, Joe on keyboards, and Wally on drums. And then there was Vicky... oh, how she could sing. The crowd was spellbound... after every song, silence. And then the loudest applause and cheering and shouting. The last video ends,
7/2/202311 minutes, 41 seconds
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George buries at sea

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. After every battle, George would gather up the dead, wrap their bodies in sheets, and plan for their burial at sea. He did his best to write eloquent eulogies for every one of them. Devoted sons who sent back a share of their loot to their mothers... Good husbands, good providers... Despite the many carnal temptations, always faithful... "So, how do you know so much about everyone," asked the captain. "Oh, I just make shit up," said George, and he shoved the wrapped bodies into the sea. "Anybody else?"
7/1/20231 minute, 30 seconds
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George’s entourage

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. He hired Sven, a professional life coach, to help him with his problems. Sven wasn’t a very good life coach, so he gave George bad advice, which caused even more problems. So, George hired a personal trainer. And a business consultant. And a change management expert. An entourage surrounded George, shouting a cacophony of conflicting advice at him. George covered his ears and shouted “STOP!” His shipmates took the coaches, consultants, and trainers hostage. The total ransom paid was a fortune. George retired. Until his accountant robbed him blind.
6/30/20231 minute, 32 seconds
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George’s shadow

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. They say that he was completely scared of his own shadow. Which is okay if you're facing the sun or a light source, because your shadow is behind you, but not so good if the light source is behind you. "AAAAAAAAAAAH!" George would scream. And he'd run as fast as he could. But no matter how fast he ran, he never could manage to outrun his own shadow. George never did manage to get over his childish fear, but he did set a few world records for long-distance running.
6/29/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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George and the Metric System

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Which led to a lot of damage to the ship, and time at the dock for repairs. George drew up plans and made a list of things needed for repairs: Boards, saws, nails, screws, pitch and tar... The problem was, George had proudly adopted the Metric System. While his crewmates used the English Imperial system. Measurements were way off, and the ship ended up a patchwork mess. The captain made George walk the plank. Which was three meters long, not three feet. George fell in the shark-infested water anyway.
6/28/20231 minute, 24 seconds
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George’s concussion protocol

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He sat at a busy corner and held a sign that said: NOT A VERY GOOD PIRATE. Passersby put money in his hat, and he'd growl and leer at them. Now and then, someone would talk to George. He just blankly drooled. After a few days, a doctor came by and examined George. "Okay, you no longer have a concussion," he said. "Go back to your ship." George returned home with a hat full of money. The captain smiled, and bonked George on the head again with a cannonball.
6/27/20231 minute, 23 seconds
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George’s diary

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He kept a diary of his misadventures hidden in the ship's rowboat. Every night, he'd lower the boat into the water, row the boat a few yards away from the ship, and wrote by candlelight. Then he'd stash the diary, row back to the ship, and put everything back into place before going to sleep. His shipmates would sneak peaks at the diary, and they enjoyed the stories that George wrote. So, they'd come up with all new ways to torment George, and looked forward to reading about them.
6/26/20231 minute, 20 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #896 – PICK TWO Reviewal, Painfully shy, Rats, Translation, Crack of dawn, Shine

Richard Lizzie Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Reviewal, Painfully shy, Rats, Translation, Crack of dawn, Shine LISA A Proud Murid Mother of Seven Her babies were born during a summer thunderstorm. She nurtured them in a disused ventilation shaft whilst secretly dreading the day they’d leave the nest. She prepared them well though – taught them about hawks, owls, cats and foxes even racoons although there weren’t many of those to be found around Digbeth Coach Station. She warned them of the temptation of poison bait boxes, and the dangers of eating cold kebab meat straight from the bin. They first ventured out at the crack of dawn. They stuck closely together but went straight under the wheels of the overnight coach from Aberdeen. RICHARD Hello World I've always been painfully shy. For as long as I can remember, I've been the one hiding in the corner, keeping as low a profile as possible, and avoiding interaction with others. It had to stop. I got counselling - in itself a huge leap forward - and they gave me suggestions of ways to break out of my shell. The internet was the perfect way to keep people at a distance, whilst stepping out of my comfort zone. Try writing stories for a podcast, they said. So, I did. And here I am. At long last, it's my turn to shine! LIZZIE At the crack of dawn, the rats would come out to play. He knew they would try to shine. But he wouldn't let them. Oh, no. At the crack of dawn, the rats would start to talk. He knew they'd give him up. But he wouldn't let them. Oh, no. There was only one way to stop this madness. He drove to them. At the crack of dawn, he knocked on their door. They opened, saw him and tried to run. It was messy and they never got to shine. He almost felt for them, at the crack of dawn. SERENDIPIDY Every morning, at the crack of dawn, the rats return to their lair. The village breathes a collective sigh of relief, and once the sun is high in the sky, life can resume as normal. Doors and shutters are checked, freshly-gnawed holes are filled, and bait and traps set, only then can we attend to the preparing and cooking of the meat snared overnight. Once we have eaten, we prepare once more, for the darkness and horror of the night. By day, we may feast on the rats, but when the night comes, they seek to feast on us. TOM Even in the quietest moments Maurice surveyed the horizon, a mere sliver of light over the waves of black sand. He was not the one to be up at the crack of dawn. He was the night hawk, the man with the 10,000-yard stare. When he saw her face in the starlight, he could not bare to wake Amanda. It was the first time in weeks he noted the grief had for a moment crept away into the blackness about them. The trouble with the blackness is it was just as likely to creep back at you. What was creeping towards them were the rats. NORVAL JOE A kindly old woman smiled at them from behind the counter inside the store. She leaned forward to look out the window. "How'd you three get here?" Sabrina picked up a shiny packet of powdered donuts. "We've been walking since the crack of dawn. Will this road take us to Eureka?" She nodded. "Ferndale, Fortuna, then on to Eureka." Billbert paid for their donuts and milk. He headed for the door and stopped. A jeep pulled into the parking lot with three familiar passengers. "Rats!" Billbert said. "In reviewal of our situation, is there a back door we can use?" PLANET Z Drusilla is painfully shy. Sits in the back of the classroom. Never raises her hand. Wets herself when she's called on anyway. And if she answers, she answers in a whisper. Changes in a bathroom stall for gym. And runs to the bathroom to change back. Nobody invites her to their parties. Which is fine by her. She likes to keep to herself. And her pet rats. Well, she calls them her pet rats.
6/25/202310 minutes, 35 seconds
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George’s mirrors

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When bad things happened, he always blamed others. "Maybe you should look in the mirror, George?" said the captain. So, George did. And he blamed the mirror. From that day on, George smashed every mirror he saw. "Damn you all!" he'd shout, whacking the mirror with the butt of his cutlass until it was nothing but tiny shards of broken glass. He kept them in a bag on his belt, and he'd get angry and stuff it in people's mouths. "CHEW IT!" he'd shout. And he'd smash more mirrors.
6/24/20231 minute, 39 seconds
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George’s paradox

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was constantly wrecking his ship, and it spent a lot of time being repaired. Eventually, every part of the ship needed to be replaced at least once. "So, if every part of the ship has been replaced, is this still the same ship?" asked George. Some of the crew said yes, some said no, and some just stared back, confused. Meanwhile, back at the dock, Captain Theseus stood before a skeletonized ship, ranting and raving. "Damn that George!" Theseus yelled. "He stripped my ship for spare parts again!"
6/23/20231 minute, 26 seconds
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George is worse than Hitler

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. But at least he wasn't always pointing at people and shouting "YOU'RE WORSE THAN HITLER!" like Old Man Johnson was. "That's really annoying," said George. "isn't there something useful you can do?" One morning, they found Old Man Johnson in his bunk, dead. Nobody went to his funeral, and there wasn't even an obituary in the paper. But everyone assumed that his last words were "YOU'RE WORSE THAN HITLER!" Well, maybe not shouted, Probably wheezed, because George's hands were on the guy's throat, choking the life out of him.
6/22/20231 minute, 37 seconds
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George’s dairy

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The stress of being a pirate caused him indigestion and ulcers. So, he drank a lot of milk and ate smooth foods like yogurt. It's not easy to get those things fresh out at sea, so he filled the cargo hold with cows and a fully-operational dairy. The crew saw the cows and thought "steak", but George convinced them otherwise with some fine artisanal cheeses. "Why don't you just become a farmer?" asked the captain. George thought for a moment, shrugged, and went below decks for the morning milking.
6/21/20231 minute, 28 seconds
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George eats the crew

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When supplies ran low on the ship, there were only two options: rationing and finding another ship to attack and rob. Well, okay... they could have headed back to port for more supplies, but where's the fun in that? And there are only so many crewmates to eat. The captain called for the crew to assemble on the deck. Only George showed up. "Did we eat everyone else?" asked the captain. "I guess so, captain," said George. They headed back to port for more supplies. And, of course, recruits.
6/20/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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George never minds the weather

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When he was out at sea, he wouldn't bother with a spyglass or a barometer or any of the traditional weather forecasting tools. He'd pull out his cell phone and check the weather application on it. Usually, he couldn't get a signal, and he could only tell if it was raining by whether the cell phone was wet. However, on the rare times he got a signal, he'd still get the forecast wrong. Because he'd disabled the GPS locator, and would get the forecast from their home port's location.
6/19/20231 minute, 21 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #895 – Canyon

Richard Lizzie Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The next topic is Reviewal, Painfully shy, Rats, Translation, Crack of dawn, Shine RICHARD Undeliverance As we paddled into the canyon, Jack murmured, "If you hear banjos, just keep paddling!" "Very funny" I replied, but to be honest, I was unnerved. The rock walls closed in on us as the current caught our canoe and we began to speed, ever faster, through the narrow passage. If we were to capsize here, gun-toting hillbillies would be the least of our problems. Thankfully, we got through without incident and began to unpack on a handy beach. Then, I heard the sound of a shotgun bolt drawn back, and a voice behind called out, "Squeal, piggy. Squeal!" LIZZIE Canyon was a crow. Canyon hated his name. Canyon abhorred the guy who had named him. Canyon never replied when the guy called him. The guy's greenhouse was his pride. So, Canyon started with pebbles and slowly upgraded to stones. The day one of the windows shattered, Canyon cawed in triumph. That's when he stopped being Canyon and became a Jerk. Canyon didn't like Jerk either. The guy fixed the window and sneered. A convoluted plan ensued. Canyon's buddies would help. Well, the guy didn't live long enough to enjoy his greenhouse. It was a murder, by God, a murder! LISA Some Unsettling News I’m getting married on a plane, odd because I’ve never flown well. It’s turbulent, the pilot’s struggling and I’m expecting to wake up any minute. But I don’t. I’m falling, falling from the plane into a canyon and I’ve not saved my future wife... Then, I wake. Next to her. The woman, I found out yesterday, that slept with my best mate on our wedding night. The woman that said his daughter was mine; my wife of thirty six years. I roll over on blood soaked sheets and try to get back to sleep wondering when to report her death. SERENDIPIDY The police report stated it was death by misadventure, an unfortunate combination of standing too close to the edge, a selfie stick, and concentrating more on the perfect pout, than on keeping her balance. Death, by Instagram. It wasn’t, of course. It was murder: Premeditated, planned and perfect. "Get a selfie on the edge", I suggested, "you'll be perfectly safe." And she would have been, had I not tampered with the stick the night before. As she pressed the button, the spring released, propelling her precious phone over her head. She lunged. Grabbed. Failed. Fell. I got a great photo! TOM Barney Google he ain’t When I was a kid, my grandma came to live with us. We were a Daily New family, but my grandma was a Tribune reader. The Trib was the size of a telephone book. Not much interest to a child of eight. What was cool about the Trib was the comic section, four pages. Which was good because some of the stripes made no sense at all. Prince Valiant boring. And Steve Canyon way beyond my pay teeny-bopper grade. Good old squared jawed Stev was the inspiration for my favorite cartoon Clutch Cargo which employed that cheesy Syncro-Vox lip sync. NORVAL JOE Neither Billbert or either of the girls had any idea where they were. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky, so Billbert guessed which direction was east. As they flew north they passed over ridges and small canyons. They saw marijuana fields below them and eventually came upon a small general store where a road crossed a river. They landed in the parking lot. Linoliamanda read the green road sign, "Honeydew, California. Population three." Someone hung an "Open" sign in the doors window. "Oh, good. I'm starving," Sabrina said. "Let's get something to eat before we head on. PLANET Z The tambourine man fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed him. Through the empty streets of the evening empire, concrete canyons covered by the sands of time. Over to the docks,
6/18/202311 minutes, 40 seconds
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George the safety officer

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. The captain stripped George of his duties and made him safety officer. "You're an expert on unsafe things, considering how many accidents you've caused." George took to the new assignment quickly. The smoke alarms took a while to get calibrated properly. FIRE DRILL! shouted George when the alarms would go off by accident. The men gathered on the deck, filling buckets with sea water to throw on the fire. After the tenth false alarm, they tore out the smoke alarms, wrapped George with the wires, and threw him overboard.
6/18/20231 minute, 26 seconds
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George’s Popcorn

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He had a habit of microwaving popcorn, which stunk up the whole ship. By the time the other pirates went to the galley, George had eaten it all. The pirates suggested that George eat bagged premade popcorn, but George said that it tasted stale. So, George tried the traditional Indian method of making popcorn: throwing whole ears of popcorn on an open flame. Instead of the stench of microwave popcorn, George's shipmates smelled burning wood. "I made enough to share," beamed George, as the ship was engulfed in flames.
6/17/20231 minute, 43 seconds
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The Georgest George

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He wasn't even a very good George the Pirate. In a George the Pirate contest, he came in third. A cardboard cutout of George came in second place, and the shadow that it cast on the wall came in first. George drew his cutlass and slashed the cardboard cutout to pieces, destroying it and its shadow. "I AM THE GEORGEST GEORGE!" screamed George. He held the trophy high over his head. With first and second place vacant, the judges changed their decision. They awarded first place to George's shadow.
6/16/20231 minute, 32 seconds
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George’s Isle

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. When other pirates asked him if he was a Ginger or a Mary Ann, he'd say "Both, and Mrs. Howell too." Which was true, because when George had wrecked his ship on Gilligan's Island, he'd fucked all three of them. Then, after the Professor repaired his ship, he took all of the Howells' money and left them all stranded on the island. Some say that the clumsy and dimwitted George is actually Gilligan in disguise. "Nonsense," says George, stuffing a red shirt and white hat into his foot locker.
6/15/20231 minute, 28 seconds
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George in the Coast Guard

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He knew the water, and he knew boats. So, he signed up with the Coast Guard. Sure, he had problems with his background check and criminal record, being a pirate, but George knew some folks who knew some folks, and they cut through the red tape and got him his commission. George rescued lots of people. And he intercepted lots of illegal cargo. He eventually started to keep some of the illegal shipments for himself, selling them on the black market. Maybe he was a good pirate after all.
6/14/20231 minute, 19 seconds
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George in Portugal

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He did his best to cover his blunders. So when he stranded his ship on a beach, he disembarked with a pirate flag and planted it on the sand. I CLAIM THIS LAND IN THE NAME OF THE PIRATE NATION! The problem was, the land had already been claimed. And named. "Bem-vindo a Portugal," said the natives. George pulled out a sextant, made a few measurements, and checked his map. There, in big letters: PORTUGAL. George smiled and waved. And went back to help his crew with the ship.
6/13/20231 minute, 30 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #894 – Stand

Richard Lizzie Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z LISA Swipe and Pay on the Last Bus of the Day It was standing room only, always the same on a rainy Saturday night, a sea of vacant faces and glazed expressions. I was sandwiched between a woman with a lot to say and a good looking man, I found out later, called Paul. The bus jerked us about. Someone nearby really needed to wash their neck. Paul and I collided for the whole journey. We apologised whilst sharing an uncomfortable look then awkwardly got off at the same stop. Thankfully he hadn’t noticed his missing card; I did a food shop bought some shoes then threw it into the Clyde. RICHARD Old Boy’s Club "So, Sedgwick, where do you stand on the fairer sex?" "I beg your pardon", I replied, momentarily distracted from savouring my brandy. "Women, old chap! Some of the boys think we should allow them into the club, are you for, or against it?" The Clarrington was one of the more forward-looking gentlemen's clubs, but even so, some things are sacrosanct. I took another appreciative sip of Brandy. "No, women have their place, and The Clarrington is not that place." "Jolly good, old boy" He checked his fob watch, "Now, drink up, the pole dancing girls will be starting soon!" LIZZIE They said "You can become filthy rich being a travel blogger". He believed them. One day, a guy said "You're a wuss." He was no wuss. He was a King. "Off with his head!" He'd always wanted to say that. His kingdom. An old mattress, a dusty rug, a lamp. He could walk a few feet to the left and a few feet to the right. Thirty years, till the parole board decided he could leave. He did have some incense burning. It made him look normal. The severed head in his backpack was sloppy. Oh, well, stand still, Zen...! SERENDIPIDY Teacher made me stand in the corner. She was always making me do that; I reckon she got a kick from it. What sort of person takes pleasure from exerting their authority over a kid like that? I wasn't bothered about spending time in the corner, it gave me plenty of opportunity to plot and plan, it was more about the embarrassment of being singled out and made to look a fool. Another bonus of facing the corner, was that it allowed me slip my gun from where I'd hidden it. Time that teacher got singled out, by me. TOM Stand I’m child of the 50s. I cut my music teeth on the Chicago Silver Dollar Survey. A top 40s kid. A system best described by Joni Mitchell in Free Man in Paris: Stoking the star maker machinery Behind the popular song. This all changed in the 80s with the rise of Alternative rock. Thinking man’s rock. I totally embraced REM’s Stand with its super bubble-gummy pop bounce, so reminisceic of The Banana Splits, The Archies, 1910 Fruit Gum Company and The Monkees. “Your feet are going to be on the ground. Your head is there to move you around.” Yup. NORVAL JOE Not wanting to have to make a stand against the two burley teenagers, Billbert leapt into the air. Linoliamanda rose with him, but stopped, as Sabrina remained, standing on the ground as solid as any rock. Billbert dropped back to the ground. "I can't stand this." Sabrina pointed to a stand of trees. "We can hide in there. Maybe fight them off." "No. It's no use." He thrust his other hand to Sabrina. "Let's give it one more try." Sabrina took Billberts hand forming a three person circle. Billbert barely thought about it and they rose into the air, together. PLANET Z They. They tell us to sit. They tell us to stand. They tell us to put our hands over our heads. They tell us to put our hands down. They tell us to sit again. They tell us to smile. They tell us to stop smiling. Stop smiling, right now. They tell us to stand. And tell us to sit again. They tell us to do a lot of things. Over. And over. Until they stopped. Because we told them to stop.
6/11/202311 minutes, 15 seconds
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George the character

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate. Some say there never really was a George. They say that George was a made-up character that other pirates would wear as a disguise so they could do all the things they couldn't do as themselves. Kind of like how Andy Kaufman and Bob Zmuda invented Tony Clifton, an obnoxious drunk lounge singer. "You never see George in the same room as Rummy Bill," people would say. So Sneaky Peter dressed as George and was seen with Rummy Bill. George watched all this and laughed. And became Tony Clifton.
6/10/20231 minute, 17 seconds
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George’s bullwhip

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. After he saw the lion tamer act at the circus, he traded in his cutlass and pistols for a bullwhip. He practiced with it a lot, much to the chagrin of his shipmates, who learned quickly not to smoke cigarettes out on deck. "HIYAH!" shouted George, as he lashed the bullwhip. It struck a pirate's ear with a loud crack, and they spat out their cigarette. "Hey, I did manage to knock the cigarette out of your mouth," said George. The pirate tried to strangle George with the bullwhip.
6/9/20231 minute, 15 seconds
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George claims a land

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He walked along a beach, thrust a flag pole into the sand, and he proclaimed: I CLAIM THIS LAND IN THE NAME OF THE PIRATE NATION! A crowd surrounded George... and took selfies with him. And they tossed coins and currency into a basket by the flag pole. Some looked up his merch site on the web... plastic cutlasses, little George pirate dolls. After a few minutes, George pulled up the flag pole, picked up the basket, and went back to the bar. To wait for the next show.
6/8/20231 minute, 31 seconds
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George’s deathbed

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. Not that this mattered to George. George knew lots of good pirates, and a few great ones, too. Many of them were dead. None of them spent their last moments wishing that they'd been better pirates. Maybe a few wished that they'd been better swordsmen so they could have blocked the slash or thrust that eventually killed them. And the ones who drowned, they probably wished they'd learned to swim. "So what if I'm a lousy pirate?" thought George. "I'm alive." He smiled happily as he swabbed the deck.
6/7/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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George in the library

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. While the ship was in dock for repairs, all of the other pirates wenched and caroused and made nuisances of themselves. George preferred to spend his time in libraries, poring through old illuminated manuscripts and ancient scrolls. "Are you looking for clues to buried treasure?" asked a monk. "Yes," said George. "The greatest treasure can be found in libraries." The monk patted George on the back and went back to his prayers. George smiled, slipped another book into his satchel, and went to the stacks for more to steal.
6/6/20231 minute, 28 seconds
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George’s endless cycle

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He spent a lot of time in port, waiting for opportunities to loot, pillage, and steal. But there weren't many these days. Bored, he cut a section of canvas from his sails. Then he'd wet and stretch it over a wooden frame he made from the timbers of his ship. And he'd paint. He sold his paintings to tourists, and by the time he ran out of sailcloth and timbers from his ship, he'd made enough money to buy a new ship. And he'd get bored all over again.
6/5/20231 minute, 18 seconds
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Weekly Challenge #893 – Moisture

Richard Lizzie Lisa Serendipidy Tom Norval Joe Planet Z The topic of the next weekly challenge is Stand RICHARD Alan Alan always had to be right. What do you want to go to the rainforest for? You won't enjoy it?' That's putting it mildly: I'd hated every second of the trip. You'll almost certainly get lost!' Right, again. I'd never been more lost in my life. You probably won't make it back.' Unfortunately, that was certainly beginning to look like a real possibility. It's not the heat, it's the humidity that'll kill you.' Almost right. The moisture that filled the air, made it hard to breathe; but, it wouldn't kill me. However the snake bite would. Not always right, Alan! LISA A Thermos Flask Borrowed off Nanna It’s 1982. The car journey from Leicester to Dad’s mate’s caravan in Cornwall takes roughly 400 years. We go every year. My younger brother is exploring the moist contents of his nostrils, and on the other side of me the older one is reading a well illustrated book about insects. At the services we stare at a poster for iced coke while a cup of tea, that tastes more of plastic cup than tea, is passed around. A big lorry rumbles past and the thermos falls off the dashboard and smashes. It proves to be the highlight of the holiday. LIZZIE Plants need a lot of moisture. So, he bought an industrial moisturizing machine for his greenhouse. The plants were happy. Their growth was impressive, he had to admit. At some point, he thought about removing the moisturizer but he went on vacation and forgot about it completely. When he got back, the roof of the greenhouse had burst open. Everything was of an industrial size, the plants, some birds that flew inside, even the ants. He should've suspected. That's why the damn moisturizer was so cheap. It was all over the news. Industrial contamination was turning everything into giants, people included. SERENDIPIDY The car might have been abandoned, but the ticking of the engine as it cooled, and the occasional, almost imperceptible rocking on its suspension told me it was just parked up. Not many cars made it this deep into the forest. I approached cautiously. A film of moisture obscured the inside of the windows; they were clearly enjoying themselves, and were completely oblivious to my presence. Hand, resting lightly on the door handle, I wondered if they'd plead for mercy, or run for their lives. Either way, it would be good sport. And I was the one holding the shotgun. TOM Not Happy If you come from Chicago or New York, you think your pretty much humidity badass. Heat – wet got that covered. Power through, get the job done, wring out your shirt, flip on the AC. I had no idea there was a place on earth that excelled in full impact Moisture. In Florida I met my match. It’s bad enough your body is coat 24 -7 multiple layers of perpetual film, but every centimeter of your lungs are drowning in wet. Actually, film would be a kind description, goo would be more accurate. Give me phoenix where moisture work in your favor. NORVAL JOE Billbert took a hand of each of the girl's in his and jumped into the air. None of them went anywhere and the teenage knights were running their direction. Moisture breaking out across his forehead, he tried again. And again, they remained firmly on the spongy forest soil. Linoliamanda dropped Billbert's hand. "Take Sabrina. They don't really want me. I'll be okay." Sabrina's eyes lit up. "You heard the girl. Let's go." "No!" To Sabrina's shock, he shook off her grip and then grasped Linoliamanda's hand again. Sabrina looked like she would cry, until Billbert said, "Now, take Linoliamanda's hand." PLANET Z It rained last night. I'd gotten my car washed. The guy with the sticker scanner asked about the paint scrape on the left side. Where I'd hit the pole at the electric charger.
6/4/202312 minutes, 31 seconds
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George’s panic attack

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. And he knew it. When the captain said that he wanted to talk to George, George's mind began to race. What did he do now? How much trouble was he in? Was he going to be fired, and forced to clear out his bunk, and have to walk past his shipmates in shame? Or even worse, made to walk the plank into shark-infested waters? George panicked and collapsed. The captain sighed, and left George's teddybear in his arm. "Fool keeps leaving it in the galley," he mumbled to himself.
6/3/20231 minute, 12 seconds
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George the Pirates fan

George was a pirate, but he wasn't a very good pirate. He was a good Pittsburgh Pirates fan, though. Every now and then, he went to the games, and people mistook him as the mascot. They'd take se