Thursday, December 28, 2017

Story 218: The Last Solstice

            Friend 1: Did you see what’s trending lately?
            Friend 2: The latest Astro Conflicts movie?
            Friend 1: No, the thing about the Winter Solstice.
           Friend 2: No.  Wasn’t that last week?  We’re not even in the new year yet and I can’t wait until we get back those hours of sunlight, just in time for it to swing back all over again.
          Friend 1: Well, you’re going to have to keep on waiting: look what’s happening.  (Holds up laptop to show story)
            Friend 2: (Reads from screen) “Disturbingly, the Earth is continuing to tilt away from the Sun instead of doing its usual reversal of course this time of year.  Scientists around the world can find no explanation for this behavior and are finally resorting to the ‘Wages of Sin’ theory that they have held out so long against.  In the meantime, residents of the Northern Hemisphere should expect to go on losing a minute of sunlight each day and vice versa for the Southern Hemisphere until the Earth eventually turns upside-down from its original position, reversing the magnetic poles, crashing the tectonic plates into each other, disrupting the magnetic field, and imploding the planet’s core (that last one remains to be verified).  In all events, for at least the next six months expect your Internet and phone service to be spotty at best.”  Is this for real?
            Friend 1: Darn tootin’ it’s for real.  I knew something was wrong the moment I didn’t feel the Earth shudder as it reversed its tilt this time.
            Friend 2: Nobody ever feels that; you’re a liar.
            Friend 1: But see!  We are still tilting backwards!
           Friend 2: Says who, this bot that spits out random non-news so you’ll click on the ads?  Why hasn’t any source that is actually legitimate reported on this yet if it’s true?
           Friend 1: Are you serious?  Do you know the global panic that would ensue if this story was broadcast on platforms that people actually paid attention to?!
            Friend 2: I doubt that would happen – no one’s felt the effects they’re predicting yet, so it’ll just be business as usual `til the lights go out.
           Friend 1: Exactly!  Everything will be topsy-turvy for reals!  Not only will our half of the Earth be in perpetual darkness and the other half in perpetual light until we eventually switch, but you just know all our electronic stuff’s gonna get all kinds of messed up!  Along with the devices that are, you know, literally keeping people alive.
            Friend 2: Maybe.
            Friend 1: Maybe?!  And what about our orbit, hm?  How are we supposed to be travelling our nice ellipsis around the Sun in an orderly fashion if our tilts and spins suddenly turn into wibbilies and wobbilies?!
            Friend 2: Well –
            Friend 1: And the Moon!  The poor thing won’t know which side to face or where go or what to do that it might finally crash into us once and for all!
            Friend 2: Well –
           Friend 1:  Oh no!  (Holds arms out to keep still) I feel it!  I feel the tilting back too far!  It’s not stopping!  Our gravitational field is failing at last, help!
            Friend 2: Are you done?
            Friend 1: (Drops arms) Never.
          Friend 2: If everything you mentioned actually does happen, then there’s nothing we can do about it: we don’t have the technology to evacuate the planet and we’d all be doomed, so no point in worrying about something you can’t change.  At most, get extra door locks, supplies, and a weapon or two to ward off the inevitable looting, and once that blows over enjoy the free time by coming to peace with your life until the end arrives.
            Friend 1: You’re taking a potential global catastrophe rather calmly.
          Friend 2: It’s the same plan I have for all world-ending events: Y2K, zombie uprising, world-wide flooding, the descent into apathy.  Best just to ride these things out.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Story 217: A Good Reason to Go to a Party With Strangers

            Spouse 1: Hey hon, we got invited to my office holiday party again this year – I can make up some excuse for you if you don’t want to go.
            Spouse 2: Why would you do something like that?  Of course I want to go!
            Spouse 1: …Really?
            Spouse 2: Sure!  I had a great time last year!  Why do you think I wouldn’t want to go again?
            Spouse 1: Well, `cause it’s a work party where we all talk shop with our inside jokes, and last year you complained the whole time before we went that you wouldn’t know anybody there, and then you complained the whole time afterward that I abandoned you to go sing karaoke all night, which – full disclosure – I intend to do again.  What changed since then?
            Spouse 2: Oh, the complaining afterwards was a matter of principle – you did abandon me in the midst of a bunch of drunken office drones, which is a recipe for disaster.  But I had a blast!  I can’t wait to go this year!
            Spouse 1: …Why?
            Spouse 2: You’ll see.
            Guest 1: Hi guys!  Glad you could make it!
           Spouse 2: Are you kidding?!  We wouldn’t miss this for anything barring a death in the family!
            Spouse 1: Heh-heh – you serving any drinks?
            Guest 1: Only the light stuff this year; last time got a bit out of hand, if you remember.
            Spouse 1: I sadly don’t.
            Spouse 2: I do, and I’m not surprised.
            Guest 1: Ooh, the “Guess the number of candy canes” table is finally set up – gotta go!
            Spouse 2: Ooh, I’ve gotta go, too.
            Spouse 1: Go where?  We just got here!
           Spouse 2: That lady by the snack table: can’t for the life of me remember her name, but she’s one of the reasons I came back to this social awkwardness.
            Spouse 1: Her?  That’s my supervisor –
            Spouse 2: Hi!  How’ve you been?
            Guest 2: Oh hey!  Nice to see you again!
            Spouse 2: Same here!  So, how was your year?
          Guest 2: Don’t get me started!  Your other half knows this past quarter was all drama, but before that – I don’t know if you remember me telling you last time about the research trip I took to study coral reefs?
            Spouse 2: I sure do.
           Guest 2: Well, I went on it again this summer, and wouldn’t you know it, while we’re out there we got held hostage by pirates?!  Actual pirates!  H.R. didn’t believe me.
           Spouse 2: No way!  What’d you guys do?
          Guest 2: What could we do, except tell those guys we were scientists and not tourists so we had no real money on us, and it took forever to get them to let us go `cause they had to check with their boss…
            Guest 2: So I am never bungee jumping off that cliff again, let me tell you.  Ah, I think they’re serving dinner now.
            Spouse 2: Aw shucks, OK.  See you around!
            Spouse 1: What was that all about?
           Spouse 2: Weren’t you listening?  She was installing a water filtration system in that village and nearly busted her head open on the side of that mountain!  Crazy, man.
           Spouse 1: I’ve worked with her for three years and never heard any of this – you two have never met outside of these events and she’s told you her life story!
            Spouse 2: Exactly.  Ooh, we have to sit next to that guy at dinner.
            Spouse 1: He works in I.T.; I don’t remember his name.
            Spouse 2: Hey man, good to see you again!
            Guest 3: Oh hi, good to see you again, too!
            Spouse 2: So how’s life been treating you?
            Guest 3: Not too bad – got to go to the Oscars as a seat-filler again this year.
            Spouse 2: No way!  Sit next to anyone famous?
           Guest 3: No, but I was only two rows away from them at any given moment.  That surprisingly was topped by my trip to the dentist the following week.
            Spouse 2: No way!
            Guest 3: The takeaway from all that happened while I was there, though, is that I really just need to have my hair cut more often.
            Spouse 2: Ahahahaha!  Wait, is dessert over already?
            Guest 3: Looks like it.  I’m gonna go take a nap before phase 2 of these shenanigans.  Nice talking to you!
            Spouse 2: Same here! – Oh, there you are.  Off doing karaoke, were we?
           Spouse 1: Yes.  I was feeling a bit abandoned myself this year, and you didn’t seem to notice if I stayed or went.
Spouse 2: Yeah, I’m having the best time, I wish it could last all night, these people are amazing!
Spouse 1: I can’t believe you get along better with my co-workers than I do!
           Spouse 2: Maybe because I actually listen to them.  Ooh, there’s that gal with the 10 kids and the three PhDs; I simply have to know if she ever did get to do that lecture series from the space station!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Story 216: The Counterpoint to a Classic

            (At a cafĂ© table, surrounded by garlands, snow families, gingerbread houses, and menorahs)
            Friend 1: (While blowing on a hot drink) I feel like I can’t really relax and enjoy the ambience of the moment when my attention keeps getting drawn to those struggling baristas and their mile-long line.
            Customer: (On line next to the table) I used to be one of those – you tend to get in a zone until the shift’s over.  Just try to tip, though, `cause that really helps out.
            Friend 1: Heh-heh, oh boy.  (Runs with wallet to the tip jar and runs back to the table) What was I saying?
           Friend 2: (Having finished three cookies and working on a fourth) How you can’t relax in crowds.
            Friend 1: Yeah.  I want to fully experience the holiday season this year but since everybody else is too, it’s kind of distracting.  (Sips drink and burns tongue) And that’s now ruined.  What I should do is go home, curl up with a blanket, and read A Jolly Olde Solstice Song like I do every year.  I just love that story – it truly gets the spirit of the season and what it’s all about, know what I mean?
            Friend 2: I’m surprised you like to read that one.
            Friend 1: Why, you think it’s too sappy for me?  It is, but somehow it works.  You know, the heartfelt reunions, the plight of the poor, the importance of family and friends, the reminder to tithe – this story literally has it all!  --- ---- was a genius, I say, an absolute genius, and I never use that word on anyone!
            Friend 2: Can’t argue with that, but I’m surprised social-justice you enjoy it knowing what he did.
            Friend 1: Why, what’d he do?
            Friend 2: You don’t know?
            Friend 1: No, and get that smug look off your face – it drives everyone bonkers when you do it.
            Friend 2: Oh.  (Frowns)  I never realized I had a smug look.
            Friend 1: Then I’m the first to tell you.  So, what’d he do?  I’m irrationally anxious about this now.
            Friend 2: Well, for one thing, he was a polygamist.
            Friend 1: He was a what-now?
            Friend 2: He was married to four women and a plant – that last one wasn’t official, but in his mind it was.
            Friend 1: Ew!  Did any of the four women know about each other?
            Friend 2: Two did, but what were they going to do about it?  It was Victorian England – they’d consider themselves lucky they weren’t being beaten every night.
            Friend 1: I guess, but four wives?  Why would he even want to go past one?
           Friend 2: Basically so he could get their families’ money and produce a bajillion heirs he didn’t have to raise.  Didn’t you read his 10th son’s tell-all?
          Friend 1: What, Father Mine, Where Art Thine Love?  I thought that was just revisionist fiction.
            Friend 2: No, it was pretty accurate non-fiction.  Family prime’s lawyer backed up most of it after having to sort through the avalanche of ----‘s tawdry papers when he died.
            Friend 1: Mm.  Well, I suppose everyone has a few skeletons in their closets, right?  It’s not as if he had any literal ones, right?
            Friend 2: Weeellll….
           Friend 1: (Slams paper cup onto the table) No.  Smug look off and tell me it’s a slanderous rumor with no basis in fact.
            Friend 2: No and no – it could never be proven, but right before A Jolly Olde Solstice Song was published there was this one guy who disappeared after a big fight at ----‘s main house, and everybody thinks the London police covered it up because the scandal would have destroyed the British Empire.
            Friend 1: And who is this “everybody”?
            Friend 2: You know, everybody.
            Friend 1: Well that’s certainly definitive.  Did anybody ever think that maybe the guy just left town?
            Friend 2: That’s the unpopular version; but there was this other time –
            Friend 1: I don’t want to hear it.
          Friend 2: Too bad: there was this other time where ---- said he was sent to debtors’ prison when he was an infant, when in fact he only had been pushed in his carriage past one.  He actually grew up pretty well off and publicly stated that he wished beggars on the street would just shove off already.
            Friend 1: But – but – the plight of the poor!
            Friend 2: He also said that he regretted that they’d always be with us, asking for money.
           Friend 1: (Stares at cold drink) I don’t understand.  How could something so wonderful have been written by someone who embodied the exact opposite of the values he was writing about?!  Why is everything like this always ruined by their douchey creators?!
            Friend 2: Who knows?  Maybe that work was his mitzvah.
            Friend 1: I don’t think he was Jewish.
            Friend 2: You don’t have to be Jewish to do a mitzvah, it’s just a good deed.  Maybe A Jolly Olde Solstice Song was his atonement for a lifetime of being a scumbag.  A balance to offset his moral pollution, if you will.
            Friend 1: I guess.  I certainly will never read it in the same way again.  I don’t even know if I can ever read it again.
           Friend 2: I wouldn’t let his sordid past bother you too much – you’d never read anything again if you knew half of what their authors were really like.