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WHAT NO ONE tells you about walking on the Sun is that it’s loud as hell. By stepping very carefully, as I have conditioned myself to do, I can avoid the worst of the heat and other radiations, gravity and plasma. I have to walk very slowly and pay constant attention, or the show’s over. And this vicious wind, this screaming maelstrom of magnetism and particles, they just have it in for me. I have to lean into them every second, never letting up, never pausing to take in the view, never unclenching a muscle. My teeth are on edge!
I ANCHORED MY foot between two rigid plasma coils, took a few moments to relax, shake it out, and clear my mind. I stretched my senses as far as they’d reach, and felt the solar wind streak my face and tousle my hair. I was a cool sunspot. I was the whipcrack release of plume and flare; but gentle now, like a creek finding its way to sea over stones and mossy logs. I eased my foot loose, and was gently lifted and settled with the tide. The Sun was silent but for my exhalation, and a distant, lapping plash.
LET’S POSIT THAT eleven years ago my wife and I inherited from our respective grandparents a combined six hundred thousand dollars. Six or seven, say.
OK. Let’s further establish that we were both in good health, depression notwithstanding, and both educated. Let’s say we bought into a house and cars, and comfortably dabbled at hobbies while raising two boys.
OK. Take that depression, and add the Bush recession. Knead. Add a special-needs diagnosis and HUGE amounts of dissociation and resentment. Boil off passion and purpose. Caramelize the depression admixture. Broil for a decade.
That goddamned money. Good riddance.
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AMERICA! YOU BUNCH of people!
You there, with your houses and other buildings. Your roads. All those trees and vehicles.
You think this is the weather? You think this is what sits on the Earth? Crust? Lava? I've got news for you, friend: no.
I say no to America. When in a time like this — look around is all — you have the holidays coming up? And like that? And there's a boat on the water? More than one? Then it's time I say no. I, for one, say no.
Too many times it’s about the fish. Not today.
YOUR CLOUDS ARE no better. I see them up there. They brighten, right? The tops only! I see the sides. I do. What spills from the bottom? That’s light too, or can be. You don’t encourage that. You never do.
What I mean to say today is what you refuse to acknowledge about yourselves. You have this here, this place-fulness. You celebrate it. You sing to it. Ticker tape, right? But you do not know it.
That’s my job. I’ll do it. I won’t shirk. You’ve never known me to pass over a good opportunity. This one’s the best.
Go back! Warning! Signal! Back up!
One! Two! Three! A number! Ten hands! Ten!
OK. Ten! Twenty! Thirty! Forty! Fifty! Sixty! Seventy! Eighty! Ninety! One hundred!
OK, one hundred... Second word...
Talk! Chatty! A duck! One hundred ducks! Argue! Argument! Boring! Talkative!
Mouth! Talk! Hungry! Argument! Talkative!
Writing! Pen! Paper! Writing a letter! Dictation! Directions! A shopping list! Mailing a letter!
Giving! Saying hello! Nice to meet you! Throwing up!
A fever! You have a hundred degree fever!
A pen ... writing ... Words ...
Hundreds of words!
BATTLED THE Boston Marauder today. Happened to have 22 News on at Foxtown, where I was eating an egg sandwich, and they cut in to show the Marauder stomping Faneuil Hall. Now, I know my way to Boston, and I know the lay of the land: the bridges, the Turnpike, the River and Bay. I know the North End from Boston Common, know what I’m saying? But with seconds ticking, I’m always relieved when there’s already a plume of smoke rising, or Army helos on the scene, to guide me to the fight.
“Help us! Help us!”
Jeez. Which way?
DOCTOR SPRINGFIELD wants to send me to 1795 to investigate what he says is a plot taking shape to undo the foundation of Franklin County. The Doc says “evil forces” may be targeting the opening of the South Hadley Canal, which apparently allowed boats to bypass the South Hadley falls and reach Greenfield via the Connecticut River. If someone were to scuttle that, he says, they could undo Greenfield as a trade center.
I’d be following the Greenfield Guardians, who disappeared. The only clue they were out of time are the bones of Route Two Tangler, just discovered in the Andes.
RECEIVED A TIP via FB that the Colrain Clown Posse may be gunning for me. This came from Doug M., a civilian. I appreciate his concern, and I’m glad folks are paying attention to current events and public safety, but what does Doug M. expect me to do with this information? The Colrain Clown Posse are hired help, and none too bright.
I just checked: Colrainiac is still in prison, and his assets are still frozen. Colrainiac ain’t hiring nobody.
I’m much more interested, Doug, in what might have befallen the Greenfield Guardians back in time, and saving Franklin County.
THE SHELBURNE BUCCANEER is missing. He was supposed to testify against Brewser Bob in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday, and never showed. Doctor Springfield says he isn’t picking up the Buccaneer’s aura “on this ethereal plane,” and suspects the disappearance is related to Franklin County’s “dastardly undoing” in 1795.
I don’t understand time travel, or paradoxes per se. If this plot succeeded centuries ago, why is the County on the map in 2012? Whatever plot was planned has flopped, by dint of the fact that we’re all here.
Well, except for the Greenfield Guardians and the Shelburne Buccaneer.
OK, I’ll go.
I eat oats. We ate oats. They should have eaten oats but didn’t.
Why didn’t they eat oats?
I don’t know. All I know is that oats are made of oats.
“Are you cold?” Daddy asked.
“I don’t know,” said Anthony. “But there could be something (in this story) about turkey sandwiches.”
Daddy thought this was funny, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he wrote down what Anthony said about the sandwiches. When Anthony saw this happening, he got an idea.
“Am I going to be famous?” he asked.
Again, Daddy was silent. He just sat and wrote. Finally, he stopped.
“How is your ear?” Daddy asked.
Anthony had taken a tumble that evening while playing with Bennett, and nicked his ear on the corner of a footrest.
Anthony didn’t answer. Instead, he asked a question of his own:
“How did you spell my name wrong?”
(He had seen Daddy misspell it.)
“I was typing too quickly, and my finger slipped. But I fixed it, see?” Daddy explained.
“Oh,” said Anthony.
“So is this gonna be one of your pages?” Anthony asked.
Daddy didn’t answer. He just typed.
“You never answer!”
Again, Daddy just typed.
And Anthony nestled against him warmly.
I am a snowflake. I am snowing down from the cloud to the tree. The tree seems to be getting closer! There is already a lot of snow on it. I think all the other snowflakes and I will be friends.
Ah. I have landed on the tree. And yes, I have so many new friends!
At least I am not going to be eaten, or turned into a snowball.
This is a good winter so far.
My name is Anthony. I am 10 years old, and I am in Ms. Goodman’s class.
I think the best part about school is art.
HAD IT BEEN different, had it been the way I wanted, we would of logical consequence not have had the children we had. My guys, her guy. They simply wouldn’t have been conceived. A world without X., Y., or Z.? No. I wouldn’t want them not to be. My squirrelly, beautiful sons, with such eyes as challenge the world, and challenge me. Her son, whose personality she paints for me each time a darker wash, a richer layer: a dynamo and gorgeous puzzle.
And our child? Children? A strange nullity. An undefined absence. But no matter.
Maybe they’ll play together.
NICKNAMES NOBODY’S EVER CALLED ME, BUT WHICH I MIGHT LIKE TO BE CALLED
London B. (vs. T-Bone)
The Italian Stallion
The Semicolon Kid
Odysseus (or ‘Dyss)
Our Dread Lord
Caps for Sale
I HAVE WRITTEN and discarded four hundred words tonight. Four entries. This is what they were about:
1. Things I spent money on today.
2. Would an anonymous character press a button that gave him his heart’s desire if it also meant killing one kind of every animal on Earth?
3. An imagined nighttime trip to the supermarket, describing sad and alienated characters one might encounter.
4. A discussion of the relationship I have with the woman I’m assisting in a community project, such that she’s a Type A personality and wants a lot of technical things handled, but I’m providing, essentially, therapy.
THE OBJECT OF the game is to be the first player to land at least 17 of his pawns in the Home Square.
Each player starts from his own Home Circle.
Gameplay proceeds by drawn straws, shortest straw moves first, thence clockwise. Use the straws provided, or supply your own.
Draw a card from the Gambit Deck, which should be dealer-shuffled, face down, before the start of gameplay. If the face of the card shows an odd number or a primary color, roll one die; if the card shows an even number or a tertiary color, roll two dice.
When all players have had a chance to roll, then beginning with the first player’s second move, he shall advance one of his pawns from his Home Square in a clockwise fashion around the Game Board by a total of one half the number of his choice of any of the other players’ previous die or dice rolls. In the event of an odd number chosen, the player must round his choice up to the next whole number, and then divide by two.
When all players have landed one pawn on the Game Board, dealer reshuffles all the Gambit cards.
Gameplay continues for three rounds, with players advancing five new pawns from his Home Circle each round by the number thrown by two consecutive rolls of two dice.
NOTE: No more than five pawns of any one color may occupy the same game square. In cases where a new batch of five pawns may land on a space already occupied by five like-colored pawns, the player's new contingent (group) of pawns must instead land one space behind those more senior, if there is room on that new game square. However, pawns of diverse colors may mingle on game squares.
Now dealer deals seven Gambit cards to each of the other players, face-down, and draws and reveals one card from the deck. This is the Asset card. Players compare their Gambit cards to the Asset card, and if any match at least three of the ten Premiums given on the Asset card (color, number, household object, verb, flag, silhouette, foodstuff, picture of other Gambit card, facial feature or vacation item) they discard those and advance as many pawns as discards along the same number of Board squares. Dealer advances one of his pawns by the sum of Gambit discards.
If no player’s Gambit cards match at least three Premiums given on the Asset card, the dealer deals one new Gambit card to each player, face-down. When all players have received their card, they compare it to the Asset card, and activity proceeds in this fashion until the first player to properly match a Gambit card to the Asset card cries, “Discard!” (or substitute, subject to dealer’s home rules) and discards. Both that player and dealer may advance one of their pawns one square. All other players must choose one of their pawns to strike from the Game board.
Beginning the next round, each player examines the pawns remaining in his Home Circle, and advances one of these directly to the Home Square. If the total number of pawns in the Home Square is an even number (alternatively you may count the number of players, including the dealer), each player may advance as many pawns from his Home Circle as are given in the sum of the digits given on the Action card. (E.g., if the Action card shows a 10, figure 1+0=1; if the number is 15, figure 1+5=6, etc.)
If the number of pawns in the Home Square is odd, each player rolls two dice three times, and advances that many pawns that many spaces.
Now Dealer rolls one die for each player, producing that player’s Story Number. Each player (dealer excepted) has five minutes (use minute glass provided, or supply your own) to come up with as many original (new to your Dealer) plots for short stories as is given by his Story Number, each of which incorporates at least seven Premiums, either from one of that player’s Gambit cards or a combination of cards in his hand.
Players write these story plots down on yellow legal pads (provided, or supply your own).
At the end of five minutes, each player presents his story plots to the Dealer, and then advances as many of his pawns toward the Home Circle as triple his Story Number. Dealer advances as many of his pawns as the total of all pawns, from all players, as may be found along the Gotcha Track of his side of the Game Board. If no pawns are traversing his Gotcha Track, he instead chooses one of his own pawns to strike from the Game Board.
Dealer then evaluates all of the story plots provided, and elevates a single one for each player to develop as a story, either during gameplay or after. Dealer returns all plots to their respective authors. The player whose plot was favored is entitled to advance five of his pawns seven spaces apiece; the other players must choose one of their pawns to strike from the Game Board.
Dealer now reverts to a regular player, and any pawns sharing a space with more than two other pawns of any color on the Game Board shall be struck from the Game Board.
Each player in turn rolls the dice and advances two of his surviving pawns two spaces.
The first player to land at least 17 of his pawns in the Home Square is considered to have earned 100 points.
Remaining players “duke it out” and attempt to be the next to collect 17 pawns in the Home Square. The second player to do so is considered to have won 50 points.
Remaining players, if any, continue until a third and final player enters 17 of his pawns into the Game Square. This player is considered to have won 25 points.
BY SNAPPITY FROLICS, A STOKES-WHITEHEAD COMPANY, PART OF THE SNIBBS GROUP, A DIVISION OF ELDERWASH SOLUTIONS, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE BUFORD D. AND MIRIAM T. HITLER FOUNDATION, OPERATING UNDER SPECIAL LICENSING FROM THE HAMMERBELLY HIGH FRUCTOSE AND AMALGAMATED PLASMID DISTILLATES CABAL, AS PROVIDED FOR IN THE ESTATE OF FIFFORD “PHIFF” PHIFFERMAN IV, LATE CHAIRMAN EMERITUS OF PHIFFERMAN STARCH SOUPS, “SAY, THIS AIN’T SO BAD!,” INC., OF GRUDGE, DELAWARE:
— Insatiable Rhinoceroses
— Counting Parrots
— Counting Pirates
— Counting Panzers, Africa, 1944
— Die, Dial, Pawns and Board
— Condom Trouble (Adults Only)
— Soupbone! Jr.
— Ms. Soupbone! Jr.
— Candy Grab
THINGS I AM NOT PREPARING FOR
— Glut of amorous weasels
— Out-of-control circus elephants
— Extinction-level asteroid
— My boys’ college expenses
— Jackknifed jackknives jitney
— Winning the lottery
— Meeting Lou Ferrigno
— Meeting Barack Obama
— Meeting Meat Loaf
style ironic twist ending
— A sale on landlines
— Subspace anomaly
— Christmas in November
— Assuming the glamorous, deadly life of a spy
— Adventure on the high seas
— Freeing pickle wedged in jar
— Developing an addiction to pickle juice
— Fighting Bugs Bunny
— Comet striking Jupiter
— Triumphant return to Broadway
— Asking Ann Romney if I might have this dance
— Great Scott! It's the Libyans!
WHY I’M HOPEFUL
— I’m fit as a fiddle
— Got the old razzmatazz
— Hijacked satellite accepted firmware
— Stolen ruby fits laser perfectly
— Solid crew of henchmen
— Serious buyer interest in Festiva
— Bullion shipment on schedule
— Robots show green across the board
— Got a great deal on “bridge out” signs
— Threats to mayor taken seriously
— Lair took a nice sprucing up
— Saw a rainbow over the weekend (double!)
— Memorized coronation speech
— Found $40 in pocket of radiation suit
— Those meddling reporters have front row seats
— Mustache perfectly twirly
— I really am due for a success here. I mean, come on, right?
JOHN SNYDER, LAST RESPONDER
— Over here! Over here! I got two on a bench! You guys all set? OK.
— Ma’am, do you need help with those groceries? No?
— Blood donation! Anyone need blood? You’re set? How about you?
— Let’s get those tents rolled up! Come on, now. Up! Up! You got enough room in the truck? OK, nice job.
— You look a little flushed. Let me feel your forehead.
— I’m gonna want a broom for this litter! You! You’re deputized! Go! Go!
— Where’s the guy with the free soup? Wasn’t there free soup?
— A parking ticket? What the hell, man!
The Tip Jar