Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Story 58: Giving Thanks

            (The table is set for Thanksgiving dinner.  There are 10 relatives seated, with the Matriarch and the Patriarch at the opposite ends.  The Patriarch carves the turkey and distributes the plates around the table; each person takes portions of sides and begins eating)
            Matriarch: The mashed potatoes are lumpy.
            Son: (Chewing) They’re not bad.
            Matriarch: I say they’re lumpy!  And don’t speak with your mouth full.  (She eats some of the turkey) Dry.  Where’s the gravy?  (The boat is passed to her and she pours the gravy before taking another bite) Burnt.  Where’s the stuffing?
            Patriarch: There wasn’t any put in.
            Matriarch: Tsk.  Could somebody pass the cranberry sauce?  (It is passed to her and she ladles some on her plate to eat) Too sweet – it’s drowning in sugar.  I need more wine.
            Daughter: (Pours it into her mother’s glass) Here you go, Ma.
            Matriarch: (After sipping) This is best-tasting thing I’ve had all night.  The string beans look weak, the lettuce look wilted, and the corn looks like it died.
            Patriarch: It all tastes fine –
            Matriarch: No!  It’s all ruined!  I declare this Thanksgiving dinner to be a disaster!  (Daughter-in-law begins weeping softly) Oh hush, dear, your wine is about the only thing I can stomach right now.  I’m re-cooking everything!  (She starts gathering the dishes while the younger children watch with their mouths open.  The Daughter and the Son stop her)
            Daughter: Ma, don’t re-cook Thanksgiving, everything you made tastes delicious!
            Matriarch: Don’t lie to me!  That bird is practically a mummy!
            Son: (Still chewing) You’re the only one who thinks so.  Besides, Thanksgiving is about showing your appreciation for all the good things you have in your life; the meal’s secondary.
            Patriarch: Tertiary, son: football is secondary.
            Son: (Almost chokes) The game!  I forgot to check the score!
            (Most of the relatives dash out of the room)
            Daughter: Good – all the more for us.  (She sits and starts eating again)
            Matriarch: (Takes a bite of a candied yam) I suppose it’s salvageable.  I’m never making this meal again, though.
            Daughter: I’ll ask the same thing I did last year when this happened: would you like one of us to do Thanksgiving, then?
            Matriarch: Absolutely not!  You’d ruin it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Story 57: Hit Song

            Ever since I was a wee tot, I’ve wanted to be the writer, singer, and producer of a hit song.  I wanted to be the one whose words people would sing to themselves until their friends were sick of them; the one they wanted to be as they sang my song in the shower.  I wanted to be the mastermind – nay, the genius – behind a song that was catchy yet clever, silly yet soulful, simple yet complicated, short yet long.  In brief, I wanted a moneymaker with heart.
            At long last, I struck gold.  After some tweaking by my team and intense, intense promotion, my song “Life Makes Me Want to Die” hit the number 1 spot on all the major music charts on its first week of release, and my album went platinum in two days.  I made history and no one, including myself, will ever be able to top this achievement.  I now am constantly showered with money, things, and adoration.  I am the voice of the age, I am the music of the heart – all love me and cannot get enough of my presence.
            As with an old-time record, there is a flip side: I am doomed.  Doomed, I say, to the hell that is having to perform the same song over and over and over and over and over and over and over and…. Till death do us part.
            The award shows are nothing; the song can only have one lifetime nomination for each organization, and I only had to perform at a few events.  The concerts, however, are a completely different animal.  The training for going on tour is similar to that employed by marathoners, and my whole body hurts until the numbness kicks in.  And sure, I usually have to do the same routine, but often I can switch out some songs, dust off some older stuff, and test out some newer stuff cleverly disguised as older stuff for my inevitable next album.  But I can never, ever leave out the hit song.  And I always have to end the show with it, at the point when I’m most exhausted.  I have to sing the song with all the vocal nuances I had used in the original recording on the 217th take, and all the movements and facial expressions from the music video that were perfected after five days of filming.  If I don’t do the song in exactly the same way each time, the fan e-mails and online comments notify me and the world, and my success would end faster than immediately.  So I give it my all, every day, and sometimes several times a day for the fans who pay extra for special treatment.
            I’m sure many of you are thinking: “Oh, boo-hoo, the star who makes millions of dollars for seemingly little work is complaining about her success.”  And you’d be right – I’m extremely lucky and blessed to be paid so much to do what I love.  But I have this to say back: Take what you love doing most in the world and imagine doing it over and over (etc., etc.) with no end in sight.  Under those conditions, all love turns to tedium.
            So I keep raking in the money and performing the same song ad infinitum.  Maybe I can retire soon and hire someone to cover it, leaving me to face the accusations that I sold out.  Wait a minute, why don’t I do that?  I’m already a billionaire, why should I have to do something I now hate?!  Why am I enduring this torture when I have enough money that I could fly to an island paradise and live there forever?!  I’m calling my agent: cancel the tours, cancel the social media accounts, cancel the talk show appearances – oh, breach of contract, lawsuits, have to give back money.  Never mind: I like singing the same song over and over and over and over and….

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Story 56: Change Is Good

            She finished ringing her order on the supermarket’s self-checkout machine, fed her money into it, and waited for her change.  The bills came out all right, but the coins did not dispense.  She distinctly heard them fall before not appearing, so she knew she was not making this up.
            “Excuse me?”  She asked the lone employee overseeing the customers who were taking his co-workers’ jobs.  “Could you help me with this machine?  The change is stuck.”
            “I’ve had problems with that thing all day,” he said, coming over with a sledgehammer.  “A few hits usually do the trick.”
            When the machine still did not release the coins: “Let me call my manager.”
            When the manager arrived, the three of them stared at the machine.  “Did you already use the hammer?”
            “I did.”
            “Did you try shutting it off and turning it back on again?”
            “I did not.”
            They turned it off and back on again – the change remained trapped.
            “What about that button?”  The customer pointed to an unmarked button.
            “Never tried that before,” the manager said.  She toggled it once, plunging the supermarket into darkness.  She hit the button again and the lights came back on.  “Hm.”
            “Number 1 is open,” a customer said to the man waiting in front of her in the line for that area.
            “That’s OK,” he said.  “I’m waiting for that one.”  He nodded towards the machine being worked on where a small crowd had now gathered.  A repairman for the store had arrived and removed the front of the machine.  A cool breeze could be felt coming from the inside.
            “Here’s your change,” he said, removing the quarter from the slot where it had jammed.
            “Would you look at that,” the manager peered with the self-checkout employee and the customer into the darkness inside the machine.
            “I’ve never seen anything like it,” the customer said.
            “Does this come standard with these machines?” the employee asked.
            “No it does not,” the repairman answered, now also gazing in wonder into the machine.
            Once adjusted to the dim light, they could see that a whole other world lay within the interior of the self-checkout machine.  Rolling meadows, clear waterfalls, frolicking animals, and music awaited.  It certainly was unexpected.
            “Well, as a manager, I should be familiar with everything that goes on in this store.”  She gripped the sides of the opening and climbed in.  She soon made her way to the center of the new world and seemed happy.
            “I’ll be your backup,” the employee said, and followed her.
            “I’ll help!”  The customer followed them, leaving her groceries behind.
            “Machine’s fixed, so I’m done,” the repairman secured the cover back onto the machine, placed the quarter on the adjacent shelf, and left.  The music could no longer be heard.
            The customer who was waiting for the machine to be free gently pushed through the remaining crowd of gawkers and proceeded to ring up his order.  The total was $30.25, so he took the quarter from the shelf and deposited it into the machine along with the bills.  The receipt that printed for him read at the bottom:
            “Thanks for the change!”