100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 24 (Ghosts of the Machine)

(Previously, Aleks made at least one dream come true. Today, a bunch of idiots…which pretty much describes most of the world’s 21st Century work force, very happily and proudly put themselves out of work…for whom? Read on to find out.)

Today’s gratuitous photo is a lost sandal frozen in pond ice. It makes me think of sandals I’ve owned.)

Episode 24

“Yep, she’s a beautiful sight indeed,” said Murphy as he gazed lovingly at the machine with all its pulleys and conveyor belts and consoles. He turned to Johnson, grabbed his hand and started shaking it enthusiastically.

Johnson smiled wide enough to rip his face off if he sneezed. He stared teary-eyed at the machine. “It certainly is, sir, it certainly is.”

“And you and your crew made this all possible, Johnson,” said Murphy. “We’ll never forget this, you know.”

“I know, sir,” said Johnson.

“Oh,” said Murphy, “looks like Sinclair is going to say something.” He looked in the direction of a man in a very expensive three-piece gray suit. He clapped his hands three times.

“Everyone!” said Sinclair. “Everyone! May I have your attention.”

A hush fell over the room as seven men in very expensive three piece gray suits and five men in shitty mismatched suits trained their eyes on Sinclair. “We all know that progress is inevitable, that what is to come, will in fact come. We can’t fight it. We can’t stop it. We can only accept that things will change.” He looked around the room into the eyes of each of the twelve men surrounding him. “And change they will. And I like to think…for the better. Things change for the better. And that’s what’s happened here. Things have changed for the better. We…all of us…” He raised his arms in a sweeping motion to include everyone in the room. As he raised his arms and did the sweeping thing, not a wrinkle appeared in the arms of his expensive gray suit jacket. “…have embraced the future. And now the future is here.” He pointed both uncreased arms toward the machine. “The future is here.”

A loud cheer resounded in the room. It bounced off the walls and ceiling and swarmed lovingly over the machine. It was followed by a cascade or energetic applause as everyone in the room turned to face the marvelous machine that had been in the works for almost a year. And here it was…the future.

Moody smiled profusely as the stood by himself, happy with the news he’d received that day. All five of the production people had been given their walking papers. They were no longer needed. The machine would so everything they did faster, more efficiently and, most important, cheaper. Much cheaper. In fact, cheap enough that all eight managers had, that day, received huge bonuses and raises in pay. Moody clapped his hands together hard enough to almost hurt them. Fucking idiots, he thought as he clapped and glanced quickly at Jones and Wallis.

Jones put his hand on Wallis’ shoulder as he stared at the machine. Their suits, of course, were mismatched. Wallis turned his head to look at Jones, who turned his head to look at Wallis. “We did it,” said Wallis.

“We sure did,” said Jones. “And in under a year.”

“Against all odd,” said Wallis.

Jones squeezed Wallis’ shoulders. “So…what next for you? Any prospects?”

“Nothing yet,” said Wallis. “Didn’t realize the job market would be this tight. How about you?”

Jones shrugged his shoulders. “Haven’t really had time to get my resume together…with all the overtime and weekends here to get this working on schedule.”

“Yeah,” said Wallis. “Same here. But we did it, Jones, we did it.”

Manfort shook Smith’s hand firmly, maybe a little too firmly as was his habit. “You people did a wonderful job, Smith. Wonderful job.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Smith, beaming. He loved getting praise from Manfort and the other managers in their expensive three-piece gray suits. It made him think that maybe someday he would be wearing one of those suits and filling someone’s day with joy…just by shaking their hand. “It was a big job, but what can you say with a team like ours. It was all teamwork, sir, all teamwork.”

“That’s the spirit, Smith,” said Manfort. “It’s always the team. Always the team.” He turned his gaze full on to Smith. “So, how long have you been with the company, Smith?”

Smith sensed an opening. He smiled wider. “Eighteen years, sir. Eighteen years last week. And every one of them a wonderful experience, sir.”

“Well, Smith,” said Manfort, “you’ve been a valued employee, and making this machine a reality must serve as a sort of culmination of accomplishments for you, Smith.”

“It certainly does, sir,” said Smith. “It certainly does.”

“Granted it means that you and your team will no longer be needed here, but I’m guessing that you’re all looking forward to new challenges,” said Manfort as he smiled and nodded his head as though agreeing with himself. “And a much deserved break from eighteen years of the same-old same-old, right, Smith?”

“Right, sir,” said Smith a little too loud. “Looking forward to new challenges.”

Fucking idiot, thought Manfort as he turned and walked away from Smith, leaving the ill-suited man wondering what had just happened.

“Look at them,” said Kingsley to Bingham, both wearing expensive three-piece gray suits. “They’re fucking happy. We just got them to build a machine to put them all out of work so that we could make more money and the fucking idiots did it…and now they’re celebrating.”

“Did you get your bonus?” said Bingham.
“I did, yes,” said Kingsley.

“Did you get your raise?” said Bingham.

“I did,” said Kingsley. “And I might say, it was not displeasing.”

“They made us richer,” said Bingham. “They’re working class heroes.”

“But they’re all out of jobs now, Bingham,” said Kingsley. “They replaced themselves with a machine and now they’re all out of work.”

Bingham thought a moment and nodded. “They’re fucking idiot heroes.”

Glowing in their expensive three-piece gray suits, Stansfield and VanHart stood on either side of Davis in his blah brand suit.

“This is going to make us all rich, VanHart,” said Stansfield.

“You mean, richer, Stansfield,” said VanHart. “This machine is going to make us richer than we ever dreamed.”

Davis smiled sheepishly. Here he was, standing between two of the managers. He’d never stood between two managers before. It was like he was part of some kind of informal management meeting…two managers discussing things with Davis in the middle.

“Too bad about the team,” said Stansfield. “All that work and now…”

“Just business,” said VanHart. “We have the machine. We don’t need them anymore.”

For just a split second, Davis let a negative thought run through the train of his glory-moment standing between two managers, as though he were part of this important discussion about the machine. That was enough to abort the thought before it had a chance to turn into anything close to an idea. Besides, he had more pressing things to dwell on…like coming up with some kind of plan to find work and pay the bills.

Fucking idiots, thought Stansfield and VanHart simultaneously.

“Everyone!” said Sinclair. “I think it’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for.” Everyone turned expectant eyes on him as he walked over to one of the control consoles. “I’ve been told that his machine is so easy to use. That even I can use it.”

Subdued chuckles and laughter floated ingratiatingly toward Sinclair, who sat down at the console. “Apparently, all I have to do it press this button.” He smiled and looked around at the return smiles. He put his right index finger on a large blue button labelled START and pressed it.

They all felt it at the same time, expensive three piece gray suits and mismatched suits. For an instant they thought it was the machine, but when the walls flew at them and started shredding their bodies and heat began to melt the threads of their suits, it was the IA in the machine that had the last thought: Fucking idiots.

___

For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.

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100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 23 (Borscht Soaked Potatoes)

(Previously, a sensitive poet saw a thousand sparkles. Today, Aleks makes at least one dream come true.  Read on…

Today’s gratuitous photo is geese. Canada geese. By a lake in Canada.)

Episode 23

Aleks Boback loved borscht. He could eat borscht until it dripped out of his eyes. He especially loved dipping boiled potatoes into his borscht, and the memory of doing that around the family table brought a smile to his face.

“What the fuck are you smiling about?” said Marina Gura, a beautiful woman with the charm of a broken window. Miles off to the right, Aleks heard the dull thud of an explosion followed a few seconds later by a tremor in the ground under him. “You think this is funny? You think we are on vacation here?” Marina’s eyes were large, even larger when she was angry and in a mood to strike out at whoever was unlucky enough to be within fifty feet of her.

Aleks stopped smiling. Not because Marina questioned his smile in her bullying way, but because the bitch had broken his train of thought right before a bomb exploded. Visions of potatoes dipped in borscht evaporated from his mind and he was back in this stinking abandoned house that smelled like piss and fungus. A few stray beams of light shone weakly through the boards nailed to the windows.

“What the fuck is your problem now, Marina? You don’t like smiling?” Aleks wasn’t going to back down from her.

“And you think this shithole is something to smile about, Aleks Boback?” Her voice sharp and venomous.

Aleks tightened his grip on his rifle thinking how satisfying it would be so put a bullet into Marina’s forehead. Marina felt Aleks’s malevolence across the ten feet between them and shifted the position of her rifle just in case.

“Fuck off, both of you,” said Roman Zaleski, their commanding officer, who rarely spoke except to tell Marina and Aleks to fuck off. He sat with his back against a wall with bullet holes the size of eggs drawing a curve over his head. Aleks and Marina snapped their eyes towards him and then back to each other.

They simmered quietly until Aleks said, “Did you feel that?”

“What the fuck are you talking about now?” said Marina.

Roman snored gently against the wall.

Aleks looked around. “I’m not sure. It’s…” Every chink in the wood covering the windows began to glow brightly and Aleks had just enough time to make one of his dreams come true. There was no borsht, so he put a bullet into Marina’s head, and dreamed about borscht soaked potatoes as his body vaporized.

___

For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.

100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 22 (A Thousand Sparkles)

 

(Previously, a self-employed recycling activist faced heavy decisions over a valuable find. Today, a sensitive poet sees a thousand sparkles. Interested? Read on…

Today’s gratuitous photo is ducks on the bank of a river standing on one foot. This is how they stay warm in cold weather.)

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Tommy Kaplan was lying under his bed again with a bottle of wine and a box of cheap facial tissues. He was always sure to call them “facial tissues” but he would never call them “cheap.” They were economical. Unfortunately, it took two or three economical tissues to blow his nose without blowing a hole in the center of them.

He’d just blown a hole through three but what the hell…he was under his bed. Who would know?

“You blew a hole through your tissues again, didn’t you?”

It was a female voice. Tommy turned his head and looked into Sally’s big blue eyes as she peeked under the bed at him.

“You know,” she said, “if you were to pay a few cents extra, you’d only have to use one tissue at a time and you wouldn’t blow snot all over the bottom of our bed.”

Tommy stared at her, not saying a word. His feelings were still hurt. He wasn’t speaking to her until she apologized and he would stay under the bed until she did.

“I’m not going to apologize, Tommy.” She lay the rest of her body down on the floor and set her chin on her hands. Tommy turned his head back to the bed and pushed the wine bottle up across his chin to his lips. He managed to pour about two tablespoons of wine into his mouth before he was pouring it across his cheeks. “And you’re wasting a lot of good wine, Tommy. Just because I was honest about your poem.”

With tremendous effort, Tommy managed to bend his left arm just right so that he could wipe the wine from his cheek.

“You asked me to be honest. You said, ‘I want your honest opinion. Don’t hold back.’ And that’s what I gave you…my honest opinion. The poem sucked.” She sighed loudly. “You’re not a poet, Tommy. You write articles…fact-based, non-fiction articles about technology. And you’re good at it, Tommy…better than most. You should be content with that. Stick to what you do best.”

Tommy snorted. Sally pushed her right hand under the bed and poked him in the shoulder with her index finger. He tried to shrug his shoulder away from her finger.

“C’mon, Tommy,” she said. “You’re just going to get wine all over your shirt and snot all over the bed. And…well…maybe there was one good line in the poem.”

He turned his head toward her and almost said, “Which line?” But he didn’t. He wasn’t speaking to her until she apologized. And he meant it. He had tissues and wine and he was good for the night.

“It was the second last line.” She smiled. “Now, how did that go…?  Right. A thousand sparkles of rain. I kinda like that. A thousand sparkles of rain. It creates a sort of magical picture in my head.”

Tommy couldn’t help smiling. The more he tried not to, the more it spread across his face.

But he still wasn’t talking to her.

“Ah ha! Looks like the ice man under the bed is maybe melting a bit?”

He tried desperately to reign in the smile but was a no go. He’d created a “magical picture.” She liked one line. All he had to do was make the other eighty lines create magical pictures. He could do it. He could be a poet. He’d always wanted to be a poet. He wanted to create magical pictures.

“Maybe if I read it again?”

He stopped smiling. Was she serious? Would she really read it again?

“But you have to say something first.”

He squinted his eyes. Say something? He lifted the bottle to his lips and poured more wine across his cheek. He looked into her eyes imploringly. Was she serious?

“You have to tell me you love me.”

He wanted to yell, “After you hurt my feelings! After you said my poem sucked! The poem I worked over a month on! You want me to tell you I love you?” But he didn’t. She still hadn’t apologized. He turned his head back to the bottom of the bed. His nose was starting to get stuffy again. He reached into the box by his side and pulled out a bunch of tissues.

“You’re going to blow your nose again?” She pushed herself back about a foot. “Gross. You’re going to put more snot on the bed.”

That was the last straw for Tommy. She’d panned his poem. Then got his hopes up about the second last line. Then told him he was gross. Well, gross he would be. He stuffed the wine bottle into his armpit, put the bunch of tissue to his nose with both hands, took a deep breath and got ready to expel snot…just about the time the room began to shake and he felt a weird tingling. He turned his head just in time to see Sally shoot across the floor as though she were being pulled by some invisible creature. The bed flew into the air and against the far wall and Tommy’s last thought was: A thousand sparkles…

___

For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.

100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 21 (Penguins Starving in the Full Moon Light)

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(Previously, a self-employed recycling activist was saved from having to make a tough decisoin. Today, a couple down on the human race goes down with the human race. Read on…

Today’s gratuitous photo is wild grass in the wind by a body of water in the wilderness on a sunny day along the bike trail.)

 

“And here’s to the penguin cubs starving in the full moon light on a continent drifting off into the oceans.”

Their glasses clinked. This was a matter of great importance to Waylon. Wine glasses had to clink. That was how you knew they were expensive crystal glasses. Clunking didn’t cut it. Clunks were for cheap Dollar Store glasses with cheap blunt-tasting wine. Waylon didn’t drink from cheap glasses that said, “Clunk.” And he didn’t drink cheap wine. The glasses they drank from contained expensive French wine and when Waylon’s glass touched Jenny’s glass, they said, “Clink” with an Austrian accent.

“Poor little penguin cubs,” said Jenny. She sipped gracefully from her expensive cut crystal wine glass and savored the smooth fruity wine as it slid over her palette.

Waylon smiled and as he reached his glass towards hers. “Here’s to the human babies being blown to shreds by humans with bombs strapped around their bodies.”

“To the babies!” said Jenny as their glasses said, “Clink.”

They sipped and smiled.

“I think we were a mistake,” said Jenny.

“A miscalculation in the abacus of evolution,” said Waylon.

“A foul package left on the doorstep of an unsuspecting world,” said Jenny.

“But the world took us in,” said Waylon. “Took us in with a trusting heart.”

“And we betrayed her,” said Jenny. “Like an apple filled with razor blades.”

“Like a fortune cookie laced with arsenic,” said Waylon.

“We are ebola to Mother Earth,” said Jenny.

“Here’s to the last tree in the last rain forest,” said Waylon, and their glasses clinked in cut crystal harmony.

“I wonder what they’ll do with the machines when there’s nothing left to cut?” said Jenny.

“They’ll look for new things to kill and build new machines to kill them,” said Waylon. “And they’ll leave the old machines to die from rust in the forests they stripped to the bone.”

“Bastards!” said Jenny.

“Bastards!” said Waylon.

Jenny thrust her glass towards Waylon’s. A few drops of wine slipped over the rim of the glass and landed on the chesterfield. She giggled. Waylon giggled. “To the bones of the forests,” she said, and their glasses clinked expensively. It was almost like a “click” with an undertone of “ink.”

They laughed and sipped and Waylon said, “To the air getting thick enough to swim to the stars.”

Click with an “ink.”

“To the disappearing coastlines and the cities and villages soon to be underwater,” said Jenny.

This clink brought to you all the way from Austria.

“To the primordial viruses newly awakened and ravaging the living of another time,” said Waylon.

“Oh shit!” said Jenny.

“What?” said Waylon. “You didn’t read about the…”

“I’m out of wine.” She held her glass high and almost doubled over giggling. “I’m out of wine.”

Waylon looked into his glass. “Me too.” He laughed as though he’d just told the funniest joke in the world. He bent over and lifted a bottle from a porcelain bucket filled with melting ice and refilled their glasses, spilling wine onto the chesterfield. “Fuck,” said Jenny. “It’s all so…”

“…fucking pointless,” said Waylon.

“We’re so…fucked,” said Jenny, and they both laughed. “By the way, what was I supposed to read about?”

Waylon thought for a moment but nothing came to mind so he thrust his glass towards Jenny’s glass and said, “To all the flying insects that seem to have left the planet and the crops they left behind to die.”

Their glasses clinked hard and more wine soaked into the chesterfield. They bent over with laughter. “Oh…oh…oh,” said Jenny. “I have one.”

“Let’s hear it,” said Waylon.

Jerry sat straight, almost to a sitting attention stance, and lifted her glass solemnly. Waylon followed suit. In a mock serious voice, she said, “And here’s to blowing up in…” just as the nuclear tide tore through the living room and carried their particles off into a world bereft of flying insects.

___

For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.

100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 20 (Squeezing the Garbage)

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(Previously, a man who never has a bad day has a bad day. But that didn’t stop him from smiling. Today, a self-employed recycling activist faces heavy decisions over a valuable find. Read on…

Today’s gratuitous photo is about a kid who decided to grow up. He got out of the car at the intersection and ran off to the circus.)

 

He squeezed the big black garbage bag with both hands, waiting for the feel of something promising, something like CDs or plastic containers. He listened for the delightful sound of glass bottles, maybe beer bottles or fruit bottles. The black bags could be like treasure chests with tubes of toothpaste only half used or jars of jam with enough left inside for four or five slices of toast. He never picked up the white bags with the exception of sometimes in the winter when he was wearing gloves, but he’d rarely ever found anything worthwhile in them so they weren’t really worth the bother.

He loved his work. It was full of surprises. He loved climbing over the top of dumpsters and descending into a cavern of potential. He didn’t mind if people saw him. He wasn’t phased by their looks of disgust or disapproval. Let them try to live off the measly income from the dole, or stand in line at the food bank. They wouldn’t look so disgusted if they had to spend a night in a homeless shelter after meal in the soup kitchen. But he, Charley Horne, wasn’t homeless anymore and he hadn’t eaten in a soup kitchen for over a year.

Charley Horne was a self-employed recycling activist. He worked in dumpsters, routing out the bottles and containers from the garbage of people who refused to recycle. Rather than buy new hygiene products that would lead to further use of plastic and other poisonous components, he finished off what was already bought and already replaced. He liked to think that he slowed the process of destroying the planet with garbage.

He felt something interesting in the bag, something square. He ran his fingers over it, pressing in and tracing the flat surface of a box. A box. Sometimes boxes were full of surprises. He’d opened boxes with brand new hand mixers and coffee grinders inside. His heart beat a little faster as his excitement grew. He tore a hole in the side of the bag and worked the box through the tear. He wasn’t all that fussy about this. After all, everything in the dumpster was going into the dump truck whether it was in bags or not. The bags were just a means to get the garbage into the dumpster. But Charley was an environmental pro. He left as little a footprint as possible.

A rectangular box fell through the tear on onto a stack of bags. Charley’s heart began to race as he stared at the photo of an electric razor. Slowly, almost reverently, he lifted the box with both hands. It was heavy. Good. He opened one end and looked inside. His heart almost skipped a few beats when he saw the plastic wrapping. Plastic wrapping. That was always a good sign. Plastic wrapping and heavy box. Something new and maybe unused. As he pulled out the wrapping he saw the same electric razor as on the box cover. He stripped away the plastic and held what looked like a brand new razor in his hand. Holding the razor and box in one hand, he dug into the box with the other and pulled out accessories still wrapped in plastic twist ties. It was brand new.

He let out a whoop and stuck his head out the top of the dumpster to see if anyone was looking. Empty parking lot, no one peering down from the apartment windows.

He wanted to sing. He wanted to dance. His hands shook. This was his best find in ages. This was something he could take to the pawn shop and get some serious change. He kissed the razor. He kissed the box. He would have cigarettes and beer tonight. He would have a story to tell his friends, all of them recycling activists themselves. They would be in awe. They would be jealous. They would want to know which dumpster had yielded such a treasure.

They would want to know where.

And then they would come to this dumpster of dumpsters looking for treasure. Charley thought about this for a moment. He’d gotten so much out of this dumpster. He thought about the day a woman started calling out to him as she ran across the parking lot. He was just about to jump out of the dumpster and run when she yelled, “Can you do me a favor!” It turned out the she’d accidentally tossed out her wedding ring and it was in one of the white bags. But there he was, standing in her dumpster looking into her teary eyes. It took about ten minutes of feeling white garbage bags, some of which felt like they might have body parts inside. But he felt the ring in one of them, opened the bag, got a whiff of dead food stuff as he rummaged, found the ring and handed it to her. She thanked him and thanked him and was back a few minute later with two six packs of empty beer bottles and a bag of plastic containers.

This was the dumpster that had made him a hero. But they would want to know where and they would press him until they knew. They might even follow him, especially Roy Connors. He was just the kind of sneaky son-of-a-bitch to follow him.

Maybe he should just keep the whole thing a secret. Maybe tell them he found some money on the sidewalk. A twenty dollar bill. Just lying there on the sidewalk and he’d said, “Your loss whoever and my gain,” and he just scooped it up. That kind of thing had happened before.

But then there was the pawn shop. Ernie knew all his friends and they knew Ernie. He would tell them and they would want to know where he’d gotten it. He wouldn’t be able to tell them that he’d found it on the sidewalk. That kind of thing never happened.

He thought about taking it to another pawn shop, but he knew that Ernie always gave him the best deal, at least twenty percent better than anywhere else. He’d be losing money taking it to another pawn shop.

He was stymied. What could he do? He was holding money in his hands, but he had to find a way to keep it secret. But there was no way. They would find out. They would question him. They would follow him. They would pillage his dumpster. They would take everything of value from it and leave him with nothing.

About the same time he was wondering if there was any solution in the world to his problem, the solution arrived in the form of the brightest light that Charley Horne had ever seen. The light was immediately followed by a torrent of energy that drove the dumpster across the parking lot with Charley’s upper body flaming like he was a flaming ghost riding the dumpster into hell.

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For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.

100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 19 (That Lucky Guy)

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(Previously, even magic couldn’t let Judy get the last word over her sister. Today, we meet a man for whom nothing can ever go wrong. Well, except for today. \ Read on…

Today’s gratuitous photo is a park bench in a flood. Damn floods.)

 

It was always a sunny day for Phillip Caine. No matter how bleak the horizon looked, he would coast into that sliver of sunlight in the Yin and Yang of life. He was impervious to the floods of doubt, misfortune and miscalculations that saturated everyday life for the rest of the world. If he’d been on the Titanic, he would have escaped drowning and still have his luggage with him.

People said of him, “That man’s the luckiest human being I’ve ever met.” And it was true. Fortune didn’t just smile on that human being, Fortune drooled on Phillip Caine, massaged his back, pedicured his toes and clipped his nose hairs. And it showed. He was like a beacon of smooth light, unwavering, always smiling, never in disagreement with anything or anyone around him. He stood out in busy crowds as a feather that everything else seemed to flow around without touching. You could feel his calm in the crowd.

But he never pushed his luck, he just let it happen. He never bought lotto tickets or bet on horses. He’d never been to Los Vegas and he’d never been to a Saturday night card game with his friends. At least, what friends he had, which wasn’t many.

You see, most people have, for the most part, shitty luck. They have bills that keep mounting, kids that keep asking for more, jobs that keep demanding more and paying less and dreams that keep moving further and further away from anything that can come true in ten lifetimes. Most people spend much of their time bitching about their shitty luck saying things like, “Why can’t I win the lotto.” or “If I could just catch up on the bills…if I just had a little breathing room.” When these people caught on that Phillip wasn’t bitching, and then learned that he didn’t have anything to bitch about, it was like like social ebola. Who wants to bitch to someone who keeps seeing the bright side of things because he’s never had anything to bitch about?”

“Every payday I fall just a little bit further behind.”

“But you still have a job. A lot of people don’t.”

“Try as much as I can, but I just can’t keep up.”

“But you still have your health.”

See what I mean? Who needs an attitude like that when you’re whining about your whole world falling down around you? Who needs to be reminded that life can be good when you’re in a rut as deep as the Saint Andreas Fault?

Some people hated him. In fact, a lot of people hated Phillip. They watched him come into work each morning smiling all over the place and sit comfortably at his desk as though there were no metaphorical chains holding him there, no steel bars around his desk. They watched as he talked to clients on his phone, smiling enough to fill an entire phone grid with happy thoughts.  It was maddening. It was infuriating. Something had to be done. A price for all this cheer had to be paid. There was need of a reckoning. Misery needed compliance.

So they plotted. A price would be exacted. There would be a reckoning. Misery would rule.

“I hate that bastard,” said Carl Banyon.

“Always smiling. Always in a good mood,” said Joan Cummings.

“Guy could win the lottery, but he never plays,” said Bill Paulson. “He could make us all rich, but he doesn’t play. Bastard.”

“He never looks at my cleavage,” said Jennifer Hayter. “No matter who low I wear my blouses.”

The others looked at her strangely, wondering if she were really into making life miserable for Phillip Caine.

“Not that I really give a damn,” she added quickly. “I hate that man. I hate him.”

The others nodded. Jennifer was in.

“But how do we get him?” said Joan. “We’ll all be out on our asses for harassment with all these new policies. I mean, they’re really taking all this political correctness bullshit seriously.”

“We’ll have to be really discreet,” said Bill.

“You mean sneaky?” said Carl.

“Yeah…sneaky” said Bill.

“I like sneaky,” said Jennifer. “It’s how men usually look at my cleavage.”

The others looked at her strangely. Would she be the weak link in this conspiracy?

“Not that I care,” said Jennifer. “Chauvinist bastards.”

“I have an idea,” said Joan. The others looked at her. “We drive him crazy.” The others kept looking, waiting for an explanation.

After a minute or so, Carl said, “And how do we drive him crazy?”

Joan looked puzzled. She thought a moment. “I don’t know.”

“Then why did you say we should drive him crazy,” said Jennifer.

Anger flared in Joan’s eyes. She snapped at Jennifer. “I was just an idea, Jenn, a basic idea. All we have to do now is work out the details. Do you have a better basic idea?”

And now the fire was in Jennifer’s eyes. “Well, it seems to me that if you’re going to have an idea, then you should have an idea…not just a half idea.”

Joan’s face turned red. Her fiery eyes began to bulge. “I didn’t hear anything coming out of you, Joan. But then, you never have any ideas about anything. You just ride the coat tails of…”

“Hey ladies,” said Bill, maybe a little too loud. “Let’s try working together for once instead of getting into another meaningless squabble.”

“And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?” said Jennifer. “For once? What the fuck to you mean by ‘for once?’”

“I just meant…” Bill tried to say.

“And what’s this about another meaningless squabble, Bill,” said Carl. “Sounded like kind of a nasty generalization.”

“Fuck you, Carl,” said Bill. “Don’t try that bullshit about twisting the meaning of everything I say into something else. You…”

“Yeah,’ said Joan. “Why do you do that? You do it all the time. It really pisses me off.”

“Oh,” said Jennifer, “and, like, you don’t do the same thing, Joan? Like at the prep meeting yesterday…”

Joan’s eyes were bulging now. “Why you little bitch,” said Joan loud enough to draw stares from around the office.

“OK,” said Bill. “That’s enough of this bullshit. We can’t even work together for something as simple as…”

“Bullshit?” said Joan. “You’re bullshit, Carl…with all your sucking up to Munroe and…”

“And your nose has no shit on it?” said Bill, rolling his eyes.

“Fuck you, Bill,” said Joan.

“Fuck both of you,” said Jennifer.

“Morning everybody!” said Phillip Caine as he rounded the corner into the office space. “Everyone having a little pre-work chitchat?”

Being a block away from the center of impact, there was no warning rumble.

All four of the plotters’ eyes were on Phillip on the one day of his life when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Four pairs of eyes melted as they gazed with pure hatred at the smile on his lips.

___

For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.

 

100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up – Episode 18 (The Last Word)

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(Previously, James Bellows escaped an existential crisis by blowing up. Today, two sisters vie for the last word. Want to find out more? Read on…

Today’s gratuitous photo is a pelican sitting on a lamp post just off the coast of Cuba.)

 

Anne-Marie and Judy Svenson were sisters. Anne-Marie was forty-one years old and Judy was thirty-nine. Both were single and neither had ever married. They shared a small apartment in a small building in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of a small town in the middle of nowhere. This was a good place for them to live. In a larger burg, with the less accommodating neighbors you generally find in larger burgs, they would both most certainly have had their heads hacked off long ago by those less accommodating neighbors.

They were friendly enough, and they tipped cab drivers and bartenders generously. They paid their rent on time and they rarely complained about the weather. Anne-Marie baked the best bread anywhere bread was baked. Its fragrance drifted out the windows to the streets and into the nostrils of passersby who drooled and suddenly wanted to eat bread. Judy was the go-to person if you had a stain on your clothing. She could remove blood and red wine from white velvet blouses and was the perfect addition to a wedding party, especially if there would be lots of white velvet and red wine. And maybe the occasional fist fight.

For sisters, they didn’t look at all alike. Anne-Marie was tall and wide with dark stringy hair and course features while Judy was short and skinny with delicate blonde hair and features that seemed chiseled like the images on a coin. Some people questioned their sisterliness. But nobody listened to those nay-sister-sayers. Nobody had a chance to listen to them. Anne-Marie and Judy made listening to anyone other than themselves impossible.

The truth was: they never shut up. If one wasn’t talking, the other was, and when the other shut up, the one would start up. It was rumored that they talked in their sleep. Anne-Marie talked while she cooked bread. Judy talked while she removed wine stains from white velvet blouses. They never watched television: they talked. Imagine a steady stream of words that never stopped flowing, one word after another, one sentence after another…endlessly. Think: river of nouns and verbs and split infinitives crashing into each other in a crazy stampede to the ocean.

It drove people nuts. It was a continuous irritation to their neighbors who, living in a burg in the middle of nowhere and therefore being somewhat accommodating, never hacked the sisters’ heads off no matter how much they wanted to and no matter how many times they happily imagined it. This was a very likely the reason why people never came to visit them and they were never invited anywhere unless there was a way to keep them separate, which generally happened after weddings. Weddings involving red wine or fist fights.

But they couldn’t help themselves. They’d been doing this since they were very young children. They couldn’t remember which one had started it, but one of them had made up her mind that she was going to get the last word in an argument the two had gotten into for some long-forgotten reason. And the other wasn’t going to allow that.

Since then, every conversation they had, every verbal observation or thought and every quip, gripe or comment was an extension of that argument and neither of them was going to let the other have the last word. It went something like this:

“Well, that’s my final thought on that,” said Anne-Marie.

“But what about the coffee on the counter?” said Judy.

“What coffee on the counter?” said Anne-Marie.

“I don’t know,” said Judy. “Shouldn’t there be coffee on the counter?”

“But I wasn’t talking about a counter,” said Anne-Marie, “let alone coffee.”

“So…you’re really not sure if that was your last thought,” said Judy, “having left out the counter. And the coffee.”

“I know what you’re doing, Judy…and it’s not going to work,” said Anne-Marie.

“I’m just making sure that was your last thought,” said Judy. “It was ambiguous.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“Yes it was.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“You’re not getting the last word.”

“Wanna bet?”

“How much?”

Did I mention that it drove people nuts? Did I mention that it was never-ending?

I’m sure I didn’t mention that one of them was planning on murdering the other. Just to get in the last word. Judy (The younger one, of course. Wasn’t it always the younger one?), had had enough. She’d decided to finally get in the last word, even if she had to murder her sister, and murdering her seemed to be the only way.

Once she decided it was time to murder his sister, it was just a matter of deciding how Anne-Marie would meet her untimely end. She thought about blowing her up, but she figured that might be a little too obvious. Shooting, stabbing, hanging and strangulation all seemed a bit dicey. They left too many clues. Electrocution was too technical; drowning, too complicated (River? Lake? Stream? Bathtub? Reservoir?) She thought about pushing her sister off a high cliff, but there were no cliffs in the area let alone high cliffs, and the top of a building posed the threat of witnesses…being outdoors and in a populated area. Bashing her head in with a hammer was too messy. Pushing her into traffic posed the same threat as pushing her off the top of a building: witnesses. Leaving her stranded in the middle of a desert would have been nice…if there were a desert nearby. Poisoning seemed like an interesting possibility but, as she thought about it, something occurred to her.

Whatever method she used to murder Anne-Marie, it had to allow Judy to get in the last word and Anne-Marie had to know that she’d gotten in the last word and not be able to do anything about it. She had to be able to hear, but unable to talk.

It was all about the timing.

Anne-Marie had to die the instant after she heard Judy get in the last word. She thought that maybe she could gag her sister, but she would still be able to get in a gagged last word. They would both know that she had said something and that would count as a last word. After several weeks pondering her sister’s death, Judy turned to the well-spring of all questionable knowledge: the internet. She entered various combinations of stopping someone from speaking, talking, enunciating, getting in the last word, dying with something to say but not being able to say it…stuff like that. It took a few hours but she finally came up with the perfect way to kill Anne-Marie and get in the last word: a magical spell.

It was a secret magical spell, so the details can just be summed up by saying it had something to do with a rooster, a lock of Anne-Marie’s hair, a crossroad and a sock. And terrible dark things that are too terrible and dark to relate here.

But it worked.

There was Anne-Marie, sitting in her arm chair across the room from Judy, staring wide-eyed and unbelieving. Her lips were turning white from being squeezed together. She mumbled garble through her nose and, as far as they were both concerned, that garble counted as words no matter how indistinguishable they were.

Judy smiled a nasty, humorless smile. “I’m going to get in the last word, Anne-Marie.”

Anne-Marie grunted and shook her head NO. And it counted. But it didn’t matter. A magic spell had been set in motion and in just a moment, Judy would say the magic word to complete the spell and her sister would die, unable to get in just one last grunted word.

“Grunt all you want, Anne-Marie,” she said with an evil sneer. “In just a moment, I’m going to throw this sock of yours on the floor and say the magic word and you’re not going to be able to talk, grunt, think, sneeze, burp or anything but die. You’re just going to die and I’m finally going to get in the last word.” Judy’s smile could have tripped an elephant.

Anne-Marie shook her head NO and grunted. Judy smiled wide enough to ensnare a herd of elephants. She lifted Anne-Marie’s yellow sock, one half of her sister’s favorite pair of socks. She held her arm out as Anne-Marie stared saucer-eyed, grunting crazily. Judy opened her hand and the sock fell through the air and crashed noiselessly into the floor and Judy grunt-screamed through the magical spell that bound her lips together. And that muffled scream counted as the walls, pictures, light fixtures, tables, chairs, rugs, doilies, Anne-Marie and Judy evaporated instantly.

Giving Anne-Marie the last word.

___

For more crazy writing by Biff Mitchel, visit Amazon.