Thursday, December 29, 2016

Story 167: A Midwinter’s Summer Dream

            (At a cafĂ©)
            Customer 1: Medium hot chocolate, please.
            Customer 2: I’d like a gingerbread latte, with extra gingerbread, if that’s possible.
          Dreamer: Yeah, could I have a strawberry vanilla sundae with a small ice tea?  Also a fudgesicle to go, please.
            Cashier: …It’s 8° outside.
            Dreamer: I fail to see your point.
            Cashier: Those items aren’t on the menu this time of year.  Due to the, um, lack of demand.
            Dreamer: OK, I’ll pass on the sundae and `sicle, but I know you have ice and I know you have tea, so I would like a combination of the two, please.
            Cashier: Oh-kay, coming right up.
            Dreamer: (Sees other customers giving weird looks and nods to them) How’s it going?
            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
            (At a mountain resort)
            Manager: Excuse me, but there is no ice fishing permitted at this lake.
            Dreamer: (Wearing a bathing suit) Oh, I’m not here for that – I’m drilling the ice so I can do a few laps.
            Manager: You mean swimming?
            Dreamer: Yes.  In this body of water here.  (Slaps the now-uncovered lake surface)
            Manager: We only have ice skating on the lake this time of year.
           Dreamer: Ah, but as you can see, with a little effort, an entire secondary venue has been opened up!  Observe.  (Dives in and emerges, head only, teeth chattering) C-c-c-care to join me?
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
            (At a closed amusement park, during a gentle snowfall)
            Security: (Speaking through a megaphone) Please come down from the roller coaster now!  It is not safe!
            Dreamer: (Seated in a car at the top of a hill) Don’t worry!  I know the power’s turned off, so I moved the cars up here and kinetic energy will take care of the rest!  Here we go, whee!  (Sets the cars going and descends to the trough, where the cars stop) Whoo!  What a rush!  OK I’m done.
            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
           (On a beach, a jogger all bundled up slows down when approaching Dreamer, who is stretched out on a beach chair wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and shades)
            Dreamer: (Sees Jogger) Mornin’.
            Jogger: Aren’t you cold?
          Dreamer: We’re actually the closest to the sun as we’ll be all year long, so I might as well make the most of it.
            Jogger: Okey-doke.  Happy New Year!  (Jogs off)
          Dreamer: Same to you!  (Settles back on the chair) I refuse to have my actions dictated by arbitrary dates.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Story 166: Snowed-In Party

(Little did they know that this was)

            The hosts greeted their guests to their annual holidays party in their home.  There was a smorgasbord buffet, there was elegant booze, there was untalented singing, and there were naughty games.  The Christmas tree was ablaze in all its ornamental bubble light glory, the Hanukkah menorah had two candles poignantly lit, the Kwanzaa candles were at the ready, and all was well.
            “You know, I heard Winter Storm Leviathan is supposed to hit our area tonight,” one of the guests told one of the hosts over glasses of eggnog.  “I’m surprised you guys didn’t reschedule.”
            “Yeah, well, you can’t reschedule an immovable feast,” Host 1 chuckled.  “Besides, that forecast was a maybe at best.”
            “It’s pretty definite now,” the guest showed Host 1 what was displayed on the oracle/cell phone.
            “Huh.  Well, we have tons of food and drinks, so I think we’ll be pretty OK if the Apocalypse hits,” Host 1 said.
            “Hey everybody!”  Another guest came in from the outside, all bundled up and covered in a layer of white.  “Have you looked out the window lately?  It’s three feet of snow out there already!”
            Almost everyone went to the front windows to see; the ones who did not were too weighted down by food to move from their comfy chairs.
            “Don’t be dramatic,” Host 2 said after looking at the front lawn.  “That’s gotta be only two feet, tops.”
            The chorus of “I think we’d better head out”s began, in spite of the hosts’ protests that the party was just getting started.  The exodus soon ended when everyone realized that the streets had not been plowed and probably would not be for quite some time. 
As they heard ice and wind beginning to hit the windows, Host 1 asked “Anyone up for a game of strip poker?” – there were five takers.  Before they began the game, Host 1 murmured to Host 2 “Turn on the faucets to drip, would you?”
“Already did,” Host 2 said, before unobtrusively turning up the heat.
Six hours later, with the storm raging on, the hosts bowed to the inevitable: air mattresses were broken out and shower schedules were drawn up.


            “Would anyone like some of the baked ziti for breakfast?”  Host 2 asked those who were hungover.
            “I can’t open the front door!”  A guest panicked.  “It’s daytime – why is it still so dark outside?!”
            The hosts checks the exit doors and saw that icy snow had drifted up against the house at all sides and were encroaching up the windows as well.
            “We’re trapped!”  Another guest panicked, effectively spreading it to the rest of the group.
            “We are not trapped; you can easily climb out of the jalousie window in the main bathroom,” Host 1 said.  One of the guests ran to that room and began pounding on the door to do just that, but was rebuffed for an hour by “Out in a minute!”
            The classy booze ran out by 3:30 p.m.; the lights flickered around 5:15 p.m.; the power went out completely by 7:00 p.m.  The second night Hanukkah candles and the first night Kwanzaa candle were lit and immediately snuffed to preserve the wax.  Flashlights illuminated the scared and shivering faces throughout the house.
            Host 2 said in a sing-song voice, “So: who wants to open presents?”
            The snow, wind, and ice raged on.


            Bodies huddled together under piles of blankets and quilts, and showers were reduced to two minutes after the hot water heater gave up.  The gas stove still worked with a candle lighter, until the gas lines also froze and that was that for the coffee people, who took that as a sign that the end was nigh.
            The snow ice tapered off just enough for one guest to sneak out the jalousie window that was not completely covered; her husband threw her thick coat after her for her to quickly put on, and he watched from the bathtub.  She managed to snatch a bird from a high tree branch that was now eye-level to her and she tied a note to its leg that read: “Dear Katie, Know that our thoughts are with you every day; be a good girl as Samantha earns her overtime watching you, and please quickly learn about how to ration your food.  Mommy and Daddy love you – be brave, little one.”  She emotionally released the bird, which then returned to its branch and remained there.
          “You didn’t think that actually was going to work, did you?”  Her husband’s voice asked through the window.  She raised her fists to the heavens as the snow ice gently swirled around her.
            Inside the house, Host 2 had just broken up the seventh increasingly petty squabble when she cornered Host 1: “I’m not sure what’s going to do us in first: the cold, the smell, or the oxygen deprivation.  Do you think we should try tunneling our way out with a broom handle and some fire?”
            “I would say yes, except where would we go?”  Host 1 was showing the signs of despair taking over.  “The roads still aren’t plowed, I doubt the cars would start even if we could un-snow them, and everywhere we could walk to is probably as bad off as we are!  This is it, this is how it all ends, we’ll be crushed by ice and there’s nothing we can do about it!”  She slapped him.  “Thanks, hon.”
            “We can’t fall apart now; we’ll all kill each other before our own home does!”  She shook his shoulders for emphasis.  “I already had to stop people from climbing up the chimney, and I think we’re running out of cheese and crackers!”
            “Hey guys?”  A guest peeked her head around the corner.  “I think the water stopped coming out of the faucet.”
            Host 1 and 2 looked at each other and screamed.


            Host 1 sat up suddenly in bed.  “Do you hear that?”
            Host 2 woke up and listened.  “Sounds like running water.”
           Host 1 jumped up and ran to the window, tearing open the blinds as Host 2 ran up next to him: “It’s rain!”
            They stared out the window, not quite taking in that the previous eight feet of snow and ice had been reduced overnight to a mere foot-and-a-half.
            “Oh rain!”  Host 2 rapturously exclaimed.  “Blessed rain!  I will wake the others!”
            She ran to the living room and kitchen, shaking the malnourished bodies.  “Awake!  And greet the new morn!  All our trials have been washed away!  Oh wondrous day!  Oh – ”
            “Hon!”  Host 1 stood in the hallway, flabbergasted.
            “Got a bit carried away there,” Host 2 said.
            One of the guests checked his phone: “Leviathan was downgraded to Minnow and it’s now 60° out there.  Good thing for us that global warming turned our snow to rain, eh?”
            Cheers rang throughout the house as everyone rushed the front door and danced in the slush, joined by the rest of the neighborhood.  After hugging their hosts and everyone secretly hoping that they would never see each other again, the guests cleared off what was left on their cars in record time and sped away on the wet streets, celebrating the return to their normal settings.
            With the power and water back on, the former hosts began the long clean-up.
            “You know, I kind of wish this whole thing had lasted just a few more days,” Former Host 2 said as she gathered the blankets from the floor to burn them.
            “How can you say that?”  Former Host 1 asked, relighting the candles and the tree.  “We teetered on the edge of annihilation there!”
            “Yeah, but I’m supposed to go back to work tomorrow.”

Friday, December 16, 2016

Story 165: The Art of Standing Around Awkwardly

(Scratchy VHS tape, © l986)
(The host enters from stage right: in 15 years, he will be an action star in blockbuster films; at this time, he is No One)
Host: Hello!  Welcome to the thirteenth installment in the Social Encounters Seminar Series.  This one is titled “The Art of Standing Around Awkwardly.”  (That title appears at the bottom of the screen for emphasis.) I’m your host, Tad Buffman.  (Not his actual name) Now, I’m going to take you through several exercises for those situations where you feel like, well, like you just don’t fit in.  We’ve all been there, haven’t we, and some of us at this very moment, heh, heh, heh.  (He smiles widely; he still has all his original adult teeth)
(Cut to a staged cocktail party: everyone is holding plates of fake food and/or glasses of fake drinks as they nod and speak gibberish to each other)
Host: (Voiceover) Yes, we have all been that person at a party, the one who has been temporarily abandoned by their allies or, unthinkably, came alone, and is now set adrift upon the unforgiving sea of inane chatter and clock watching, conspicuous in your solitude and the target of alternating scorn and pity to all who beheld your exile.  You know, like this guy here.  (The camera suddenly pans to the most awkward-looking person imaginable: he is standing center stage staring intensely at his nearly empty plate) Look at this poor sap: not even a drink in his hand to constantly sip from, and he has just one cracker left to carry him over for the next 10 minutes before he can gracefully return to the cheeseboard.  If only he were more like this guy over here.  (The camera suddenly pans over to a very self-assured man leaning casually in the corner, holding his full plate and a glass in one hand while the other is in his pocket; he casually scans the room regularly as he slowly chews) Look at this specimen of confidence: not only is he well-supplied with food and drink, but he is utilizing them as accessories rather than as the sole and necessary objects of his attention.  Plus, observe how he boldly gazes upon the entire room, challenging anyone to judge his solitude and presenting the appearance that he actually is judging them; constantly chewing adds to the illusion of apathy.  Ooh, look at the result: five people are now joining him for what they assume will be stimulating conversation, and by the time that illusion is shattered it will be TOO LATE.
(Cut to a college classroom.  Most of the fake students are leaving – none of them are carrying books or bags.  The “professor” is packing away her belongings as two students approach from different directions; she greets the one closer to her and they babble to each other.  The other "student" steps back and starts looking around the room)
Host: (Voiceover) Has this ever been you?  Of course it has, or else you wouldn’t be watching this video right now.  Now you naturally don’t want to take away from other people’s time, but can’t they just hurry up?  What are you supposed to do with yourself when you’ve been left hanging, exposed, vulnerable, humiliated, and, worst of all, BORED?  (The Tape jumps as the scene alters slightly to show the fake professor and the fake student still babbling to each other, but the second “student” now is sitting stretched across several desks, napping) The greatest learning and entertainment system can be found in our own minds, and what better way to access those centers by initiating delta waves, aka falling asleep?  Not only are you then constantly stimulated but you also are not beholden to the whims of others – they instead must beg you for your attention.  (The “professor” and “student” part, and the former wakes up the second “student” by dropping a heavy book on the desk next to her head) You can honestly claim that you were storing the day’s lesson in your long-term memory in the most efficient method possible: REM sleep.
(Cut to a long line to purchase tickets; a sign at the box office reads: DAYS TO TICKET SALES FOR BLOCKBUSTER: 2)
Host: (Strolls into view from stage right) Have you ever joined your fellows in a literally days-long line and wished that you had been better prepared for the ordeal? Wait, that’s for another seminar, never mind.
(Static, then cut to the Host back in the opening plain room)
Host: Normally, there should be at least three examples to drive home a lesson, but frankly we have exceeded our time limit and budget for this installment.  There should be more than enough material here for you to figure out how to deal with these situations on your own, and if not, then you are far worse off than any self-help tape can fix.  Once again, I’ve been your host, Chad Marksman (Not his actual name) – please join us next on the fourteenth seminar in this series, “The Art of Inane Conversation."