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And the Oscar Goes to Jail by Yaron Kaver

July 31, 2015 Humor, Literary 5 Comments
And the Oscar Goes to Jail by Yaron Kaver

And the Oscar Goes to Jail
by Yaron Kaver

The lineup at the 109th was my first real gig. I could tell right away it was going to be different from anything I’d done before. For starters, the auditions were held at a police station and not at some university or playhouse or community center. The setting had excellent art design, really got you in the mood. The script only had one line (“Gimme your phone, bitch!”), superbly written and easy to remember. And the audience was concealed behind a two-way mirror, which was great for me, since I’d always felt that having an audience compromised the quality of my craft.

I was discovered three hours earlier on a sidewalk outside the Flushing Jewish Community Council soup kitchen in Queens. Mr. Ed Weston, talent scout for the 109th, spotted me by the bulletin boards, where I stood scanning the postings for audition calls. Like most boards, this one was a bust, nothing but notices for food donations. Not that I wasn’t hungry—I was a starving young artist, after all—but my real hankering wasn’t for canned beans. I craved a meaty role I could sink my acting chops into. Luckily, I lingered long enough to catch Weston’s eye. He looked me over and said those five magic words: “Yeah, you look the part.”

They called five of us in at once, far more efficient than any other audition I’d ever been to. We sat on stools, wore Yankees caps and delivered the line. They had the guy next to me repeat it several times. If he’d asked me for pointers, I would’ve gladly helped him out, but it was probably for the best that I didn’t, because when I got out of the room, Ed grinned and told me that I was picked out of the five.

I think back to that moment whenever I’m feeling down. There’s nothing quite like being the audience favorite—it’s better than sex, better than bacon, better than that dream where you’re flying over green hills and telephone poles. And that was before I learned what the other guys already knew: this wasn’t an audition at all.

It was a real show. I was getting paid to act. *** Read on! ***

Too Smart by Michael Haynes

September 29, 2014 Humor, Romance 3 Comments
Too Smart by Michael Haynes

Too Smart
by Michael Haynes

I hit the send button, but instead of a little animation showing my text message being sent, my phone chirped. The digital assistant’s voice asked, “Are you sure you want to send this message?”

“Yes,” I replied, frowning.

“Very well, but I don’t think she’ll like it much.” The animation started up.

“What do you mean?”

The progress meter paused halfway.

“It’s just that…” The assistant stopped, as if hesitating. Then it continued. “Cheryl has said before that she doesn’t like Thai food. Suggesting Bangkok Palace for dinner might not be the best choice. Perhaps El Acapulco instead?”

This was definitely not typical behavior for my phone. I remembered being asked to accept a software upgrade last night, but even so…

“Just send the text!”

The meter filled up and my message was on its way. Three minutes later, I heard back from Cheryl. I knew u didn’t pay attention to what I liked. Enjoy your pad prik king, Jason. I’ll see u around. Maybe. *** Read on! ***

A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

February 9, 2014 Humor, Mainstream 5 Comments
A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

A Lift Back to Luscious
by Susannah Carlson

“Le chien est retourné à son propre vomissement, et la truie lavée au bourbier.” (Henry V, Act V, Sc. 3)

“I want pizza,” my stepson says from the backseat.

It is eight-thirty in the morning.

“Maybe after your test,” I say, knowing the test will last at least until dinnertime.

“I want pizza now,” he says, his tone an emotionless command.

“Well, Michael, we can’t do that. We have to be at Seaside in ten minutes.”

“I’m hungry.” He kicks the back of my seat.

“I gave you breakfast, Honey.”

“I hate pancakes.”

“You like them when your father makes them,” I say, sweetly as I can.

“I hate your pancakes.”

And I hate you, I think. “I don’t know what to do about that, Michael.”

“I’m going to tell my dad you didn’t give me a good breakfast before my test.”

In the rearview mirror, I see he’s holding his cell phone. My throat clenches. I swallow. “I gave you breakfast, Michael.”

“Nothing good,” he says, giving my seat another kick.

I tighten my hands on the steering wheel as if it were His Majesty’s spoiled little neck.

In my past life, I delivered lunches to Silicon Valley tech companies, lugging stacks of insulated carriers full of scrumptious numnums for engineers and executives and their peons. I made so little back then I often couldn’t afford lunch myself. Now, on a full stomach, in new clothes, my nails ground down to the quick and replaced with long, blunt, white-tipped acrylic, I steer my husband’s silver Volvo into a space in front of Seaside Taekwondo. I glance in the rearview at The Dauphin, who glowers in the backseat in his starchy white gi and danbo belt. He hates taekwondo almost as much as he hates me. It’s mutual. *** Read on! ***

Hassenlopf’s Stroke by Gary Cuba

May 23, 2013 Humor, Mainstream 3 Comments
Hassenlopf’s Stroke by Gary Cuba

Hassenlopf’s Stroke
By Gary Cuba

In the early afternoon of his first day of work at Reliant Data Services Corporation, Henry Hassenlopf suffers a massive cerebral stroke. It happens as he sits in his newly assigned cubicle, in front of his PC workstation. No one in the cubes surrounding Henry’s notices what has happened to him.

Henry’s initial panic slowly gives way to a cooler internal assessment. That there is still something of a mind left to self-referentially consider his own plight, he takes as a positive starting point. Under the negative column, he notes that he is completely paralyzed–no, not quite so, he realizes. As he takes sequential stock of his body, bottom to top, Henry realizes that he can still twitch the big toe on his right foot, flex his right thigh muscle, and move the first two fingers on his right hand slightly. His eyes and facial muscles still function. But he cannot utter a sound, not even a grunt. And he can’t twist his neck; his head remains fixed in position, staring at his computer monitor. Its screen clock reads 2:09 P.M.

What a pisser, Henry thinks. Sixty-four years old. After having searched so desperately for decent work in my field for the last three years. And I blow it on my very first day!

Henry sits and waits. He figures someone will eventually notice his problem and get help. Surely they will notice, he thinks. Eventually, they will. *** Read on! ***

Baby Bird by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

September 3, 2012 Humor, Science Fiction 13 Comments
Baby Bird by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

Baby Bird
by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

I keep thinking we should have left it to die, you know, rather than do what we did. Seal it back up, let it go wherever it was going, let someone else find it, not us. What wouldn’t I give for it not to have been us. But there we were, limping back from a SNAFU’d mission that had almost bankrupted the government, when up pops ET in a leaky can that needs fixing. From global embarrassments to galactic heroes in one go; we could see the ticker tape and the medals, the books, the films of the books… oh yes, we thought there was a God that day—and that was before we’d even gotten the damn thing out!

Jack and me, we suited up and shimmied over on lines. I remember glancing back to check that Shaz had us covered in case it leapt out and tried to blast us with something. God knows what; the pod was little bigger than a coffin and we hadn’t detected any weaponry but then, what did we know? This thing could have been crammed with homicidal aliens the size of gnats, all tooled up with deadly devices. We chuckled about wrapping the whole thing up in a bin bag and squirting insecticide in there and Shaz mimed thrashing around with a fly swat—Whup! Wallop! Thwack!

But it wasn’t gnats. I got to the pod first, clipped on, braced for Jack’s impact. When he hit, I slid sideways and grabbed at a couple of small protrusions; instinct, you know? Well, it’s a good thing I was tethered, I can tell you, because I let go again pretty damn fast. Right up close to my visor was a viewing plate, and right up close to that was a face. Who knows what it was supposed to look like but it didn’t look good. Its mouth was open and twitching ever so slightly, there were skinny-looking fingers plucking at its throat, and its eyes kept flickering—three eyelids; top, bottom, and one inside the corners, like a cat. I couldn’t see teeth. It looked like it maybe ought to be kinda pink, but it was actually more kinda grey.

I yelled at Jack ‘Get over here!’

‘Oh Sweet Jeez!’ he said. *** Read on! ***

Flat Pack by Patrick Whittaker

Flat Pack by Patrick Whittaker

Flat Pack
by Patrick Whittaker

On the morning of April 30th, Mr. Dwight T. Cooper of 19 Acacia Avenue unexpectedly received a large package. Why he signed for it without asking what it was or where it had come from is anyone’s guess. The most likely reason is that he had just gotten out of bed and wasn’t thinking straight.

The package was taller than Mr. Cooper and as wide as it was tall. Clearly it wasn’t going to fit through the front door, so he asked the deliverymen to put it in the garage. They both refused on the grounds that once a consignment had been signed for it was no longer their responsibility. Rather than demean himself by resorting to pleas and threats, Mr. Cooper offered them a bribe, which was accepted with ill grace.

It took two minutes, a lot of grunting and a stream of obscenities for the men to manhandle the box into the garage. As they drove off in their van, they left Mr. Cooper with the words ‘capitalist exploiter of the masses’ ringing in his ears.

Mr. Cooper did not take umbrage. Being manager of the local supermarket, he felt there might be some truth in the charge.

Dressed in slippers, blue pyjamas and a dressing gown that had found its way into his suitcase during a stay at the Manchester Hilton, Mr. Cooper stared in bemusement at the package. There was nothing written on it other than the words ‘FLAT PACK. HANDLE WITH CARE.’

At length, he opened the envelope the deliverymen had given him. Inside were three instruction sheets. One was in Japanese. The second was in German. Discarding these, he scanned the third, which was written in something vaguely resembling English.

To give a flavour of what Mr. Cooper was up against, here’s the fourth paragraph in full: The person of the place develops “A” on the smooth surface to prevent gratuitous vibration (you can use the box to which it has visited). Whole woman the union agrees on the glue as shown in fig. 2. The lowering shifts “D” in the position, flattening how in fig. 2A/2B with the openings which are in the structure of the person afterwards. Stick the union rabbit like in fig. 3A. Agree on the union and on the group of the side.

Mr. Cooper opened the box. Inside was a mish-mash of plywood panels, aluminium whatnots, screws, nuts, bolts, plastic thingamajigs, copper washers, electronic gizmos, some silvery gewgaws that had accidentally fallen in during packing and an alum key.

Despite not having ordered the package, despite not knowing what the end-result would be, despite not having the foggiest idea what he was doing, Mr. Cooper set about assembling the parts. He figured that by skipping breakfast he could have the job done within an hour, which would allow time for a quick shower before dashing off to work.

It took him nearly an hour and a half to get all the items out of the box and sorted into neat piles. Another half hour and he’d connected his first gizmo to a thingamajig using one of the gewgaws that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. By now he was sweating and slightly manic. *** Read on! ***

Waiting to Be Thin by Seenat Thongdee

December 20, 2011 Humor, Mainstream 10 Comments
Waiting to Be Thin by Seenat Thongdee

Waiting to Be Thin

By Seenat Thongdee

In my closet, there are three stacks of jeans. One stack for the “fit now” jeans. One for the “will fit if I lose ten pounds” jeans. And the last category—which, when I lay eyes upon it, sets my head into many fantastical journeys—is the “may someday fit after being stranded on an island for six months with only half a carrot and water each day” jeans.

I have struggled with my weight all my life. My mother breast fed me until I was four. Even as I drank my mother’s milk, I still liked to eat the powdered milk by the spoonful. By five years old, my relatives were already calling me “Baby Pig.” But at that age, it was endearing. They would squeeze my chubby cheeks and exclaim, “How precious!”, and afterward put little treats in my greedy palms. Childhood was the happiest period of my life. I was surrounded by the warmth of my family and relatives, and the goodness of sweets.

Then when I turned seven, my mother gave birth to my sister. Nothing really changed. I still had all the sweets I wanted, maybe even more than before. I ate while my parents tended to my sister. For many months, I thought she was the ugliest little thing—all red and wrinkly. But then she got better looking as she got bigger. I liked playing with her. I would tie her soft hair in little rubber bands of different colors and wrap her up in my mother’s colorful scarves. One day I gave her a piece of candy and she began choking. My parents said I shouldn’t give her sweets and told me to stay away from her from that day on. I was not to be alone in a room with her.

I am thirty-three now, and I never did lose that baby fat that my mother said I would lose. Instead, I’ve gained adult fat on top of my baby fat. And my sister’s wedding is in three months. There is still enough time left. I have my goals all written out week by week. Total weight loss desired is 30 pounds, which isn’t so bad. I’ve read somewhere that the first 5 to 10 pounds are water weight anyway. That leaves only 20 actual pounds that I need to lose. And then there’s SPANX, which gives the appearance of being 5 to 10 pounds slimmer. So the absolute number of pounds required to shed is 10. *** Read on! ***

A Goal For Goals by Joseph Auslander Jr

January 17, 2011 Humor, Mainstream 1 Comment
A Goal For Goals by Joseph Auslander Jr

A Goal for Goals
By Joseph Auslander Jr.

I find it’s nice to have goals. I have tons. I collect them. I used to have a rookie goal to be an Imagineer for Disney, but I traded that in 1999 for an overly-pretentious goal to be a filmmaker. Then, in college, I accidentally burned my filmmaker goal with a match I was using to light a joint. I was a bit disappointed about that, but not so much that it kept me from my favorite hobby of goal making. Even though I had lost a few big ones, I still had plenty of other goals to keep me on track. Admittedly, most were ones that I only paid attention to in my greatest hours of boredom. Some of these were my Razor-Tipped Martial Arts goal and my dust-and-coffee-stained Drawing goal. Then there was my Glittery Porn Star goal, of which I still devote many hours of daily study to, but otherwise keep locked up in a shoebox underneath my bed.

I’m like a dirty child of the swamp with frogs in my pockets; I compulsively need to find big and small goals to take with me. They fill me up, give me purpose and often get me to where I’m going. Conversely, they also add a great weight of expectation to my life. As much as I may need a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes there are too many directions to choose from and it’s too bright to see.

A few years ago, in Boston, I decided to lighten my goal-obsessed load a bit. I had made myself slippery with drink to throw off my monkeys for the evening. It wasn’t long before I was quickly reminded of an old familiar goal that adhered solely to alcohol. This was the soggy Let’s Play a Few Games of Pool and Get Muddled at an Irish Bar goal. Seeing as I was in Boston, this was both a short-term and an achievable goal, so I didn’t try too hard to shake it. You have to give yourself a few freebies from time to time. ** Read on! **

Snapped by Bob Shar

November 28, 2010 Humor, Mainstream 3 Comments
Snapped by Bob Shar

Snapped
By Bob Shar

“Tell us a story, Uncle Dingus,” seven-year-old Reginald suggested. “Make it scary.”

“Nooooo,” whined four-year-old Wilford. “You’ll give us a nightmare.”

“Wuss,” scoffed the girl, Tilapia, age six. “Make it bloody, Uncle Dingus. I aint scared.”

“Nooooo,” blubbered Wilford.

* * *

William “Dingus” McClintock was no childcare specialist. He was a thirty-nine-year-old plumber. He didn’t trust children, could barely tolerate his own nieces and nephews, didn’t own a TV, computer, guest bedroom or futon. This didn’t stop his identical twin brother—District Attorney Frederick McClintock—and sister-in-law Michelle from entrusting their three snotdribblers to Dingus’ care this dreary Saturday evening.

“Thanks for doing this, William,” Michelle said, jerking the hem of her skirt free from the clutches of Wilford, who was not enthusiastic about the sleepover.

“Yeah, Ding. You’re a lifesaver,” said Fred.

It was the couple’s tenth anniversary, and the D.A. had failed to line up a legitimate sitter for the evening. He’d had to offer his brother five times the going rate to take the kids on at the last minute.

“They eat dinner at five-thirty,” Michelle informed him, and Dingus glanced at the clock over the stove: three forty-five. “The boys eat peanut butter and jelly. Tilapia likes hot dogs. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to feed them vegetables. Bedtime’s seven-thirty for Wilford, eight-thirty for the big kids. They’ve had baths already and their jammies are under their play clothes. Just peel off the top layers and pop ’em into bed…”

“Nothing to it,” Fred interjected. “Don’t serve them alcohol, try not to stuff more than one kid in the oven at a time, discourage them from killing each other, and you’ll be golden. If you have any questions, ask Reggie. That boy’s smart like his daddy.”

“If you have any problems, William,” corrected Michelle, gripping her brother-in-law’s wrist and glaring at Fred, “call me. I’m keeping my cell phone on.”

“They’ll be fine, Meesh,” said the DA. “Have faith in the Dinger. You know,” he expounded, puffing his chest out with pride, “my brother’s not as stupid as he looks. And he’s no child molester.” He winked. “No matter what Mom’s been telling the Grand Jury.”

With Dingus scrambling for a rejoinder, the couple stepped out of the apartment, the door closed behind them, and the evening began in earnest. ** Read on! **

Strike by Andy Bailey

August 15, 2010 Humor 4 Comments
Strike by Andy Bailey

Strike

By Andy Bailey

“We’ll give you twenty-four hours to think about it,” Mom said as she handed me the sheet of demands. Her skin was dark, having absorbed three weeks worth of thick July sunlight, and she looked five years younger. She walked back across the yard and began fiddling with the awning of the pup tent. Dad lay on the overgrown grass, tongue running across his mustache as he dragged a paintbrush over a new sign. He saw me looking, gave a cocky smirk, and held it up: PARENTS LOCAL #0001 ON STRIKE!

It was their third week on strike and life in the house had gotten rough. Dirty clothes piled up in the hallways and an obnoxious smell emanated from the dishwasher. The eighty dollars a week Aunt Lynn gave Emmie and me for food limited our grocery shopping to the 7-11, and the consistent meals of chiquitos, taquitos, and burritos left us bloated and half-nauseous. Mom and Dad had taken the keys to the car, leaving us to bike or walk our way across town on the few nights we wanted to hang out with friends; we couldn’t invite anyone over, not after the two-person human chain they had formed to block the front door had sufficiently weirded out my friend Chuck enough to keep him from coming back. They had even managed to scare away Grandma, yelling “Scab! Scab!” when she tried to walk up the front path with a few plates of fried chicken.

The mood inside the house almost matched the smell. I blamed Emmie for pushing Mom too far with the constant whining about the mushy avocados in her homemade Cobb salads or the complaints when Mom bought honeysuckle-scented shampoo instead of summer peach. She accused me, correctly, of not helping matters when I allowed the grass to grow to an untamable length after Dad’s repeated requests to cut it. This all came after the Orlando vacation we had to end early after my verbal harassment of Mickey and Goofy got us kicked out of Disney World. In retrospect, the morning we awoke to find them marching across the lawn, brandishing signs that read UNGRATEFUL CHILDREN = HATEFUL CHILDREN and NO RESPECT, NO PARENTS/KNOW RESPECT, KNOW PARENTS was much more surprising than it should have been. It took us until that night to realize it wasn’t a joke.

I read their demands, scribbled on the back of a Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope and signed by both of them. Two car uses per day with a maximum of ten per week. Set allowance at one dollar per year of age per week with an optional good behavior clause at ten percent a year. Chore negligence resulting in an immediate twenty-five percent allowance reduction. Zero tolerance whining policy. I crumpled up the envelope and tossed it into the overflowing trash basket.

That night, after Emmie returned from the Goodwill store, we discussed it. “That means I’d only get thirteen dollars a week!” she said, digging into her bare arm with her fingernails. “That’s not even enough to go to a movie.”

“Yeah, and I’d only get seventeen.” Couldn’t fill a car up with gas, if I’d had one. “Listen, though. They have to start teaching again in early August. No way they can stay outside then. They can’t work without showers or computers or a comfortable bed.”

She threw me a desperate look. Her lime green eyes peeked out from behind her puffy cheeks. “Two more weeks?” she asked, biting the inside of her lip.

I nodded as I looked onto the lawn. A solitary light shone in their tent, casting an orange halo onto the driveway within which their blurry silhouettes danced. I could hear their laughter from inside. Two more weeks, I thought. Two more weeks.

# # #

Andy Bailey is an English teacher in Los Angeles and has had work published in Pindeldyboz, Raleigh Quarterly, and Buffalo Carp, among others.

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