Thursday, January 30, 2014

Story 19: To the Talent Show

[Disclaimer: The following is not a true story, nor inspired by one]

              (In the corner of the cubicle warren, the upper manager confronts an office drone)
            Manager: Not only was your report on time instead of early, it was barely edited and the graphics were poor.  No wonder you shlump in here day after day, wishing someone would put you out of your misery – I feel the same way about you…. You’re going to cry, aren’t you; that just makes you weak and vulnerable.  Oh, now you are crying.  If you tattle to H.R., I’ll destroy you.  (Cell phone rings; he looks at the caller I.D.) I have to take this.  Disappear.
            (The drone sobs off; the manager answers the phone while entering an inner office)
            Manager: How did you get this number?!
         Voice: I’m your mother – I will always find you.  You may have turned your back on this family, Jeremiah, but this family will never leave you alone.
            Jeremiah: It’s “Jeremy” – I’m hanging up now.
          Mother: Fine, hang up, walk away again!  Claire is performing in the school talent show and just wants her only uncle to be there for her.
            Jeremiah: What?  Why?
            Mother: Jeremiah, you promised!
            Jeremiah: When?
          Mother: When she was born!  You said at the hospital, if she somehow managed to ever get into a talent show, then you’d be there in the front row.
            Jeremiah: That’s a lie!  `Sides, the commute’s too far.
            Mother: Nonsense, you’re only an hour and a half away and the show doesn’t start until 7.
            Jeremiah: I’m busy.
            Mother: I’m busy!  Everyone’s busy!  But we’re all still going, and you should, too.
            Jeremiah: I don’t want to!
            Mother: Jeremiah Benjamin Smith – you will go to your niece’s talent show.
         Jeremiah: We’ll see about that.  (Disconnects.  He looks up and sees that he is in one of the conference rooms while a meeting is in progress)
            Chairman: Do you need some PTO, Jeremy?
            Jeremiah: No, sir, thank you.  (Runs out)
            (At 7:30 p.m., the family is seated in the front row of the auditorium and the show has gone through several acts)
            Mother: Ach, look who made it.
          Jeremiah: (In his suit and on his phone, he climbs over fold-out chairs and people to reach the front row, even though there is plenty of room in the aisles) Sell!  I said “Sell”, not “Hell”!
            Audience Members: Sshhhh!!!
            Jeremiah: (Sits and disconnects) So how long do I have to stay for this thing?
            Family and Audience Members: Ssshhh!!!!! (Programs are thrown at him)
            Jeremiah: (Grabs a program) She’s on last?!!!!!! (Mother stuffs a program into his mouth)
          (The show proceeds with the usual singers, dancers, ventriloquists, and fire breathers.  Claire’s act consists of her playing the guitar and singing, but not at the same time.  She bows to the confused applause)
           Jeremiah: (Slow clap) That’s it?  I could’ve been at the bar!  (He tosses a carnation with a “Love you” to his niece on the stage and climbs over people and chairs to leave)
            Mother: Jeremiah!  You are not my son!
            Jeremiah: I certainly hope not!
Audience Member: This has been the least boring talent show I’ve ever been to, I must say.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Story 18: Those in Peril on the Trail

            The best temperature to go on a walk in the park is 30°F.  It’s not so cold that you shiver and shake as you shimmy and shuffle, and it’s not so hot that you sweat out your bodily fluids and collapse.  Head’s up: don’t forget to bring tissues, even if you have no pockets.
            This particular mid-winter day was perfect – no pesky leaves on the trees to block the view; hard ground that discouraged ankle-twisting; no recent rain or snow to leave behind muddy footprints; and the occasional between-hibernation squirrel to keep up the appearance that wildlife still lived there.
           The hiker prepared supplies for her journey: sneakers, cell phone for emergencies, hat, trail map (snicker), water bottle, gloves.  She set out on her trek with a spring in her step and a song in her heart, confident that she would conquer the most difficult trail in the park: the Grandiose Circuit.  If she did nothing else in her life, she was determined to die knowing that she could walk 5 km (3.1 miles) of rocky pre-cleared terrain.
            The parking lot was a bit crowded, so she knew it wouldn’t be as peaceful a stroll as she had hoped.  No matter: as long as the walkers behind her kept up their speed and passed her, and those coming from the opposite direction kept on going, that would do.  She could offer up a smile and a “Morning”, then escape back to her internal world of pondering.
            On the first leg, there were the ominous sounds of voices and whistles shooting back and forth to each other across the woods.  They seemed as if they were coming from all directions, and she began to feel hunted.  She slowly turned in a circle as the trees spun around her, the sweat broke out on her forehead, and the noises approached closer and closer.  Then, the swarm hit: six bicycle riders crested the hill behind her and swooped past her crouching form with “Sorry” “Sorry” “Sorry” “Sorry” “Sorry” “Sorry”.  Etiquette dictated that she should have scurried off the trail in advance, but panic freezes us all.
            Recovering, she soldiered on through the branches that partially covered the trail, regretting that she had left behind her machete.  Onward, upward, downward, sideward: the map was not exaggerating in marking this path “Difficult”.  It even disappeared at one point, only to turn up again at the top of a steep hill; that called for another water sip and re-tying of shoelaces.
            Through some trees to her right, she thought she could see a house.  Some roads cut into the park grounds, and it matched that point in her map.  She parted branches to reveal HOWARD’S RESORT AND CASINO: the pool party was in full swing and people on the balconies were shooting confetti into the air.  She gently put the branches back, patting them in place before returning to her life from a minute earlier.  The woods resumed their silence.
            As she entered the home stretch, some leashless dogs accosted her with love taps and licks to the face.  The owner caught up and abashedly re-attached the leashes, running for his life.  She continued, grateful they were friendly and not feisty. 
            The last section of the trail was uneventful and unceremoniously dumped her into the parking lot, shaking the dust of her off its feet.  Feeling a bit of “That’s it?”, she got into her car and drove back home.  Nonetheless, the faux sense of accomplishment was akin to having reached the summit of Mount Everest, with a fraction of the danger and none of the expense.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Story 17: Trapped at the Reception

            Of course it was beautiful: no one spends that much money so people later would say it was an ugly wedding.  Everything was perfect, from the flower arrangements to the flower girl.  The priest put no one to sleep, the vows the couple had written did not make anyone cringe, the limos were on time, and the photographer/videographer discreetly worked from the rafters.  The marriage ceremony was a success, and all was well.
            Then came the reception.
         Survivors later reported bleeding ears, exhaustion, and being afraid for their lives.  Most do not remember how they got home, and that was even after the liquor had worn off.
            The cocktail hour had started out well, up until the guests realized it was an actual hour of standing around waiting for the wedding party to finish their individual photo sessions.  There are only so many pigs-in-a-blanket and actual roast pig one can scarf down while still maintaining your dignity and catching up with relatives whose names you can never remember.  When the primary couple arrived, the champagne already was almost gone and more was added to the bill.  The party finally moved upstairs and was allowed into the main room so everyone could sit for hours while staring at the china.
            The D.J. made the usual introductions of bridesmaids, ushers, parents, various relatives, and anyone else who had lined up in the waiting area, before finally bringing out the bride and groom and forcing them to slow dance with everyone.  This took 45 minutes, with the antipasto platters only just being distributed at the end of it.
            The couple had to make the circuit of the room to say “Hi” to everyone and collect their entrance fees, so while that went on the D.J. invited children up to the dance floor and set them loose to torment the rest of the guests.  The appropriate parents corralled them and many used them as an excuse to leave before the pasta: “The baby’s tired” is an escape clause that will never fail you.
            Hour 3 – the salad course – had a scavenger hunt commence before the D.J. took a break to smoke and stop his hands from shaking.  Hour 4.5 – the main course – turned into Hour 6.5 as meals were swapped and it was revealed that not enough fish had been made in spite of everyone supposedly filling out the response card and later repeating what they had earlier written.  There was a bit of a delay while the kitchen staff talked the chef down from the second-floor balcony.
            Hour 8 – sherbet – featured line dancing.  Everyone booed, then did all the steps by heart.  After the D.J. released them, one of the bridesmaids made a break for it only to find that the doors were to be locked until after the remnants of the last course had been collected.  She spent the rest of the night holding onto the doorknob and sobbing.
            Dessert began with the wedding cake being smushed into the couple’s faces and ended with the bride chucking her bouquet and garter at unfortunates who took the items as tokens of doom.  Then, the Viennese Hour (aka Hour 10) began – guests looked at the tables groaning with pastries and inwardly wept for humanity before forcing themselves up there out of obligation.  A cousin nobody speaks to asked for a doggy bag.
            The D.J., running out of new songs and slipping in some repeats, discreetly indicated that the party was ending by dragging the bride and groom up to his sound system and forcing them to slow dance again on their bleeding feet.  He then killed the music, asked the staff to turn on the house lights, and requested his payment before allowing the couple to leave the floor.
            The doors finally were opened and everyone ran to the couple to say what a great time they had while planning what they would later complain to all their friends before dashing out to their cars and driving into the rising sun.  The catering hall staff faced the carnage left behind – their work would continue until the end of days.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Story 16: Dust to Dust

            The armory was opened in preparation for the battle: gloves lined up, static cling cloths prepped, polish and rags at the ready, vacuum cleaners on stand-by.
            This was not spring-cleaning.  This was war, a war that no human being can ever win, for dust is ever-triumphant.
            In spite of this truth, the battle is waged regularly.  The fortunate armies feature child dust soldiers who take on the bulk of the fight; intense supervision to ensure thoroughness is the trade-off.  Others must enlist the four-legged comfort-givers living in their homes by strapping cloths to each of their paws and sending them off on their day.  This is an act of desperation, but those leeches really should earn their keep.
           Other generals must be hands-on and do all the work themselves: spraying, wiping, swishing, banging, blowing, shaking, reaching, falling, crawling, lifting, dropping, sweating.  The hair, lint, and skin gradually, inexorably are corralled into bags of all shapes and sizes, and victory seems inevitable.
            Then, when all appears to be vanquished, it’s spotted: a cobweb in the corner.
            A hair on the wall.
            Dirt on top of the door?!
           Dust knows no boundaries: it lives on the walls; it lives on the ceiling; it defies gravity; it defies the laws of nature.
            The sun sets on the battlefield as the infantry surrenders yet again, regrouping to fight another day.
            The dust bunnies under the bed sleep on.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Story 15: The Realization

            There comes a time in everyone’s life when this happens: you're having a conversation with someone about a topic that you're interested in, and minutes into it you suddenly are aware that everything coming out of your mouth is completely and utterly INANE.
            Usually, the realization is triggered by the person you are speaking with – or, rather, to.  You have been going on and on expounding on a topic you are enthusiastic about, and the other person interjects with: “Really?”  Or: “Interesting.”  Or, the killer: “I hear you.”  All of which is code for: “Please stop talking, and set me free.”
            People trapped in those conversations mostly are too polite to tell you to shut up or to turn their back on you and walk away.  So, they suffer in silence and fill any gaps in your monologue with a variant of the sayings above.  Life for them has come to a grinding halt as they uncomfortably search for escape, praying that someone rescues them or that the floor would open up and swallow them whole – it does not matter where that hole may lead.  Once you release them and life resumes, they feel drained, spiritless, and want to go home.
            For you, the captor, the ignorance of the torture you are inflicting only amplifies your humiliation when the epiphany hits.  You had believed you were discoursing knowledgeably and entertainingly when, without warning, the metaphorical rug is pulled out from under your feet and your heart literally stops beating.  Everything you had said before actually was stupid and boring, and now there is no way to gracefully backtrack without embarrassing yourself more than you already have.  Should you abruptly change the subject?  Mumble something incoherently as you gulp the drink you hopefully are holding?  Pretend your phone is ringing, silently thanking modern technology for its ability to interrupt everything?  Ask the other person’s opinion, dragging out the experience even longer?
            The best course probably is to cover up the strangled look on your face with a violent coughing fit, both effectively ending the conversation and going out with the listener’s sympathy rather than the resentment they were steadily brewing.