Monday, August 31, 2015

Reader Participation

I'll be coming up on my 100th story on this blog in a few weeks; my 100th posting already passed, but some of the stories were multi-parts so the 100th story was delayed.  For a bit of fun to celebrate, post a story suggestion in Story 97's Comments section (my most-recent post), or addressed to me on Facebook or on Twitter (@JenPergola), and if I use it as the basis of the 100th story, I'll name you in the post as the one who inspired it!  Ideally, the suggestion should be based on a real event that I then will warp, but it can be anything you'd like to read as a funny story.  Thanks!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Story 97: Change Is Needed

            “Sigh.  I need a change.”
            “I only have twenties right now.”
            “Not change, a change.  In my life situation.”
            “This again?”
            “Yes, this again – this forever!  I feel… stale.  Static.  I’ve gotten boring!”
            “Then get a hobby.”
            “I have lots of hobbies!  They’re so regimentally scheduled that all the fun and spontaneity have been sucked clean right out of them.”
            “Well then, what else is to be done?”
            “I don’t know.  I just feel like I do the same things over and over and over and I can’t stand it.  I wake up early, work all day, watch other people living their lives, and I’m stuck standing still as life hurtles past me at the speed of light.”
            “We did get to go on that world cruise last year, if you care to remember.”
            “Yes, that was a lark, but I was so focused on making sure that we made it properly from destination to destination that I think I forgot to have a good time.”
            “You’re hopeless.  What about all the good things you do for the community?”
            “Half of them hate me, and the other half likely will join them after I make that announcement tomorrow.”
            “Then I don’t know what else to say.  You have a loving family, you have good health, you have a splendid home, and you’re the leader of a constitutional monarchy in a relatively prosperous nation during peacetime.  What more could you ask for?”
            “I suppose I should be asking for less, then.”

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Story 96: Intra-Body Trial

            Bailiff: (Addresses a full courtroom) All rise for the Honorable Judge Brain.  (All rise)
            Brain: Be seated.  (All sit) Now, plaintiff, state your case.
          Stomach: (Stands) Thank you, Your Honor.  As representative of the organs of Body, I am filing a grievance against Tongue.  (Points at Tongue, who is seated at the next table)
            Brain: Proceed.
           Stomach: (Takes a stroll around the courtroom as she speaks) Your Honor, for years, we organs have worked tirelessly, day and night, to keep Body running at optimum capacity.  It is no secret that we are all in this together: if one of us falters, we all suffer.  Yet time and again, we are constantly undermined by the same individual, who barely does any work yet reaps the same benefits afforded the rest of us.
            Tongue: Objection!  I start the digestion process.
            Brain: Sustained – for now.
            Stomach: I’m glad you brought that up, Tongue. You may start digestion, but you certainly do nothing to assist it afterwards.  We in the gastrointestinal tract do all the heavy lifting, and for what?
            Brain: Get to the point, Stomach.
            Stomach: Oh, I am, Brain.  The point is, we have to extract every ounce of nutrition we can find for everyone here to function properly, which is next to impossible with the junk Tongue literally forces down our Throat.  (Stomach gestures at a table loaded with items labeled Exhibits A through Z).  A quick glance at this so-called “food” that has been retrieved as evidence clearly demonstrates that we have been running on literal garbage for far too long, all due to Tongue’s unceasing desire for stuff that tastes good on his buds.
            Tongue: Objection!  Most of taste comes through smell!
            Stomach: Nose has been named as co-defendant.  (At the table next to Tongue, Nose slumps in shame)
            Brain: Overruled.  Stomach, where is the evidence of damage?
       Stomach:  Where is the evidence?  Where to begin?  I mention my ulcers purely for informational purposes: I will not dwell there.  Intestines Large and Small are riddled with abscesses from all the wear and tear that has been inflicted on them by the unending assembly line of junk; Kidneys Right and Left are strained to the breaking point and one or both of them may not make it; Colon – (Stomach looks at Colon and shudders) not pretty; the list goes on and on.  And in one example of collateral damage, Immune System has been steadily weakening to the point where just about any passerby is being allowed in – I fear that any and every bug out there will completely overwhelm us in the very near future.
            Tongue: Objection!  The only one I ever hear complaining about any of this is you, Stomach!
            Brain: Sustained.
            Stomach: I’m almost always the only one who can ever be heard!  With all due respect, Brain, I’m the only one who anyone above the neck really listens to – aside from Lungs, but they have issues unrelated to this matter.
            Left Lung: (Wheezing) Yeah, I don’t think we can get Tongue on the bronchitis, Stomach.
           Stomach: Noted.  To continue: I’m the voice for everyone else here because I’m the first one who can let you know when something’s been ingested that has no business being in us!  The only other ones who have a real chance are all of Bowels, but they’re usually ignored once they’ve made their point! 
Brain: Wrap it up, Stomach.
Stomach: We’re falling apart here, Brain!  I think Esophagus may actually disintegrate if she takes on one more round of soda!   And Heart!  Don’t get me started on Heart!  Gallons of fat, salt, and sugar have been forced through his chambers for decades, now look at him!
            Heart: (A withered prune hunched over a cane) I don’t even know if I beat anymore.
            Brain: That’s enough, Stomach!  Tongue, what do you have to say for yourself?
            Tongue: (Stands slowly) Only this: if I go down, I’m taking you with me, Brain.
            (Gasps all around the courtroom)
            Brain: (Shifts nervously in his chair) You’re bordering on contempt, Tongue: explain yourself.
            Tongue: Oh, gladly.  (He addresses the courtroom) My fellow organs: like you, I have no free will in all of this.  All I do is for the good of Body (Stomach scoffs), but we all know who’s really in charge here.
            Brain: Nose is your only co-defendant, Tongue.
            Tongue: Nose is a patsy, just as I am.  We both are victims – victims, I say – of your twisted whims, Brain!  How do I know that chocolate tastes so good?  I don’t decide that on my own – Brain tells me so.  Who decides to have a third serving of pork chops with a side order of cracklings?  Brain.  Who says “More, please” to French fries, and “No, thank you” to Brussels sprouts?  Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain!
            Heart: I could have used some Brussels sprouts.
          Tongue: (Comforts Heart while simultaneously gagging) We all could have used some Brussels sprouts, my friend.  We all were betrayed by the very entity who should have been protecting us.
            Stomach: I can’t believe that I didn’t realize this sooner!
            (The organs begin to close in on Brain)
            Brain: (Flinches back from the mob) I couldn’t help myself!  All that delicious food!
            Stomach: All taste; no substance!  No value!
            Immune System: Negative value, actually!
            Heart: (Waves cane) Let’s get him!
            Brain: Wait!  (Processes some actions) There, that should solve everything.  Case dismissed!  (He bangs the gavel and runs out of the courtroom)
            Stomach: What just happened?  (The courtroom begins trembling) Oh no –
            (The plaintiffs and defendants alike are washed away)
            Body: I sure hope this cleanse works – I feel disgusting.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Story 95: Undercover Tourist

            The assignment: infiltrate the tourist crowd at the local shore town of ---- --- (name redacted to protect the oblivious).  This is a reconnaissance mission only – I am to observe and report, not undermine and destroy (that may be a separate mission).
            My tasks begin before my actual arrival at ---- ---, in that I must arrange for lodgings, prepare my wardrobe, and lose enough of my tan so that I blend in with the other pale creatures who emerge from their concrete work prisons once a year, to return all the more depressed after their brief taste of freedom.  These preparations take several months, especially since my first choice of motel, or “inn”, fit the company budget until I was notified that that time of year required my stay to be no shorter than two weeks, defeating the savings I would have had at first glance.  After an arduous search, I settle on a quaint bed and breakfast set atop a drive-in diner (I am exchanging peace for discounted fares, as all do).
            The clothes also take some time, since I must appear to be one of the non-locals.  I bring with me a collection of decaled T-shirts, long shorts, flip-flops, and huge sunglasses to wear every day, even if there is rain.  A cap for my head and a water bottle holder for my side complete the ensemble – my cell phone and wallet must make do with residing in my pants pockets.
            I arrive on a lovely July morning, the seagulls laughing as they soar below the prop planes streaming ad banners and above me, sitting in the miles-long car queue and inching my way into the town’s lone way in (or out).  The residents of the houses alongside the main road are nowhere in sight, with many of the windows boarded up and signs on the lawns reading “Back After Labor Day” – curious.
            After getting lost thrice, I find the correct street for the bed and breakfast and I squeeze my car into the converted house’s driveway that had been built for a one-person buggy.  I check-in at the front desk as small children frolic around me, and I am notified that I will need to find a spot to park my car on the impossibly two-way street because the driveway is needed for the daily delivery trucks.  I decide to ditch my car at the local supermarket parking lot for the nonce – this clearly is a walking town anyway.
            Since it is late, I decide to go out for dinner (not at the downstairs diner – the prices are too city) and I find a locally owned restaurant on the town’s main drag.  The fish is excellent, the ocean-themed drinks are sublime, and the ice cream is frosty.  The waitstaff clearly are high school students, so I debate whether to tip higher to reward their initiative, or lower for ignoring me in favor of the customers at the bar.  I split the difference and leave the mean – it’s too late for them to spit in my food, and if they already did, then this is what they get for that kind of behavior.
            The following day, my zinc oxide sunscreen is sorely tested as I rise early to spend the entire morning, afternoon, and early evening on The Beach.  As per behavior I have observed in this setting, I first lie under my umbrella for several hours, then I stand in the surf staring at the waves for several more.  I then go back to my umbrella, which the wind has relocated and I must dig a hole to the other side of the planet to keep it in place; the top is now so close to the ground that I hit my head on it a number of times and almost dislodge it again.  Several pods of dolphins swim close to the shore and the humans on The Beach cheer, but by then I have had enough and I yell “Shark!” to clear out the rabble.  Only the lifeguards really know there are no sharks nearby (that we can see), but since their backs were to me during the incident, they cannot locate the perpetrator.  I decamp during the panic to a spot at the end of The Beach that is next to the wildlife preserve, where I spend several hundred minutes watching the birds cavort as the sun sets behind me.  I turn in early, as all those waves and the non-shark sighting really wore me out.
            I decide to rent a bicycle the next day to see what all the fuss is about.  I had nearly run over two families and a wannabe stuntman on those things during my initial trek into town, so this has to be something special if people are willing to risk their lives to do it.  Plus, there are plenty of bike lanes – not that everyone sticks to them, as I found out – so I should be all right.  After paying the exorbitant rental fee, I mount a lovely beach cruiser and attempt to have it live up to its name as I ride on the paved path alongside the ocean.  I soon discover that I am extremely out of shape and the exercise becomes torturous rather than serene.  I wait a seemly few hours before I walk the bike back to the rental place, making sure to ride it for the last few feet (I notice that others join me in the same deception).
            For the last day of my mission, I know I must do a tour of The Boardwalk.  Millions flock here from far and wide to walk on said boards, eat fried food, drink gallons of syrup, play rigged games, buy over-priced tchotchkes and flimsy clothes, and stand on an hour-long line for a minute-and-a-half thrill ride that is duplicated for (almost) free on their everyday commute.  I do it all, and I even get my face painted just to see what it would feel like (it feels pretty creepy).  The crowds only grow as day turns into night, and there are spectacular fireworks on The Beach to make it seem as if you are receiving something for free after the $20 parking charge.  The biggest challenge by far, though, is in foiling the pickpockets: I manage to ward off three, but at one point I notice that the brand patch on my shirt sleeve has been expertly snipped off without my knowledge.  Nice work.
            Since check-out time at the bed and breakfast will be at sunrise tomorrow morning, I turn in early once more, wiped out by my adventures and by all that salt air.  Speaking of which, I must include in my final report that salt air seems to do absolute wonders on hydrangeas.