Monthly Archives: November 2012

Remember Twinkies?

The archaeologists were done for the day.  It was getting dark and Happy Hour at the Drunken Pick Axe lasted just until 7:00 p.m., after which time the drinks were served only in plastic cups, a prospect most of the dig team found unrefined.  The young graduate student, formally named Byron Russelbeard III, but who had somehow earned the nickname Spacecake, was putting away the tools when he noticed a little yellow object protruding from the inner wall of the large hole in the ground.

He stuck his head up out of the hole and waved for the others to come over, but they responded with pantomimed drinking motions, and kept walking away.

Spacecake turned back to the object.  Proper procedure would have been to note its size, color, and position in the log book and then cover it up with a paper towel.  But his laptop had already started downloading the latest version of iTunes, and paper had been extinct for many years.

And Spacecake was curious.  The yellow object was wrapped in a clear plastic shell that was malleable to the touch, and Spacecake was induced with a sudden desire to eat it.

“That’s crazy,” he said to himself, but still the object called to him.  Inside of a minute Spacecake had dug out the object and placed it in his pocket and was walking away with a nonchalant whistle he had seen someone do in a movie.

Spacecake returned to his room and took the object out of his pocket and examined it with his penlight.  He turned on his pocket recorder.

“Oblong object,” he spoke into the recorder, “about six inches long, a continuous height of two inches, and a continuous width of slightly less than two inches.  Appears to be made of a yellow cake-like substance and wrapped in thin transparent plastic…late 20th or early 21st Century.”  He examined the object’s underside.  “Ventral surface shows three white dots, regularly spaced lengthwise.”  He looked closer.  “The white substance is creamy.  I want to eat it.”

He snapped off the recorder.  What was the last thing he had said?  That he wanted to eat it?  He replayed the recording.  Yes, he had said he wanted to eat the object.

“But that’s crazy,” he said.  “I mean, it’s an artifact, buried under earth for many—”

There was a noise outside.  Kind of like a scratching, like someone—or something—was trying to find a way inside.  Spacecake dropped the recorder on his bed and covered up the object.  He opened the door and looked outside.

“Hello?” he said into the darkness.  “Who’s there?”  He could hear his heart pounding and he was sweating.  He shut the door slowly.

“Probably just the wind,” Spacecake said aloud, and laughed nervously.  He ran his hand through his hair and exhaled.

He uncovered the object.  The yellow cake—he was convinced now that it was cake—glowed under the small light and Spacecake was again filled with a desire to eat it.  That would be a serious breach of archaeological ethics.  For years he had studied and worked to get this chance to be on the most elite team of Apatosaurus diggers in the world.  Taking the object out of the hole was bad enough.  To unwrap it would throw all that hard work away.

Spacecake unwrapped the object, peeled back the plastic, and took a bite.  Oh ecstasy!  He had never tasted anything like it.  It was pure sweetness with no nutritional value.  It was the most wonderful thing he had ever tasted.  His mind was so overwhelmed by the explosion of taste that he did not hear the door open and the footsteps coming up behind him and the blunt object hitting him over the head.  As all went black, Spacecake was still moving the yellow cake and white cream around his mouth and savoring the taste.

 *          *          *

“Whatever it was, it was quick and painless,” the detective said, staring at Spacecake’s lifeless body lying on the floor.  “Look at that smile on his face.”

“But the configuration of his hand…it looks like he had been holding something when…when it happened,” the program director said.

“Maybe that was what his killer was after.”

“But what could it be?”

“I guess we’ll never know,” the detective said.

The program director nodded, took one last look at what had once been his most promising graduate student, and walked towards the door.  The detective held the door open, and then shut it gently behind them, leaving the body completely alone…save for the small, unnoticed, pocket-sized recorder laying on the bed.

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Remember Election Night?

I’m watching a flat screen television, and on the flat screen television is another flat screen television that shows an image of all the states.  Some states are blue, some states are red, but all states are peppered with little dots that denote locations of Denny’s.  Next to the flat screen—the one on TV, not the one in my living room—stands a news reporter.

He touches one of the states, and the screen zooms in so that the state fills the screen and now all that state’s counties can be seen, some colored blue, and some colored red.  He touches one of the counties and the screen zooms in yet again so that houses can be seen, some blue and some red.  He touches one of the houses and now the rooms of the house fill the screen, some blue and some red.

He touches one of the rooms, and the room grows large so that now two people in the room can be seen.  One person is blue, the other red.  Then he touches one of the people, and now we can see inside the person’s brain.  Some of the brain cells are blue, and some of them are red.  Most of them are green.

A second news reporter comes over and tries to touch the screen.  The first reporter slaps the hand away.

“Only I can touch the magic screen!” the first reporter says, and the awkward moment  that follows is mercifully interrupted by an exciting ritual.  There are loud noises and fireworks, dancers and clowns, fire-eaters on stilts and acrobats, and above them all a graphic that reads “Projection!”  It is announced that one of the states is projected to be painted in a certain color even though only 2% of the votes have been counted.

The channel goes back to the reporters.  The first reporter toggles the screen between this election and the election of 1840, when there were fewer states and more log cabins.  The second reporter has a black eye but tells us that we are now going to hear from a correspondent in one of the voting precincts.

The image shifts to a large cat with a poofy face.  It has green eyes and white whiskers that radiate in perfect symmetry.  Behind the cat are people trying to clear a paper jam from the vote-card reader.

The second reporter speaks to the cat.  “Tell us, what are you seeing in terms of voter turnout?”

The cat licks one of its paws, and then rubs the paw over its face a few times in a circular motion.  Then it looks back at the screen and blinks.

“Yes, that seems to be the story we’re hearing all over the nation tonight.”

My TV goes back to the first reporter with the magic screen.  He is showing what the electoral situation might look like if Florida was rotated 90 degrees towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Then the image on my TV shifts to the headquarters of one of the candidates.  From the sequence of percentages that flash at the bottom of the screen, I can tell, using a slide rule, that this candidate is about to have a lot of free time.  But the people at the campaign headquarters still wave their arms and go “Whoooo” when they see themselves on the big screen.

I eat another piece of leftover Halloween candy.  There is a small mound of wrappers next to the bowl.

We’re back to the first reporter with the magic screen again.  The screen is frozen at the election of 2612, with water covering most of the coastal states, and their votes tallied by counting the bubbles that rise to the surface.  The second reporter is trying to help by sticking a pen into the restart button at base of the magic screen, a terrifying treatment for the first reporter, who apparently forgot to save his work.

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Remember Life Before Catastrophic Hurricanes?

It was Sunday morning and I was looking forward to drinking coffee from my “We Are Happy to Serve You” cup.  The design is the same as the paper cups that are seen all over the City of New York, and someone had the brilliant idea of putting the design onto a ceramic cup.  I only use this cup on the weekends because I want the weekends to feel different from the weekdays, when I drink coffee from brown or beige mugs that do not bear writing in an Attic font.

I was about to take a sip when my wife asked me if our flashlights worked.

“Flashlights?”  I hadn’t used a flashlight since we were dating, when I would woo her with shadow puppets.  I remembered that we had received a flashlight as a wedding present, from the Martha Stewart collection to match our sugar bowl and serving plate.  But it had been some time since I’d seen it and I would have to google its whereabouts.

The flashlight did not work.  I would not have expected anything less.  I unscrewed the top and shook out the D-cell batteries.  One of the batteries fell to the floor and just narrowly missed shattering my toe.  Heavy things, those D-cells.

“I found the flashlight,” I announced to my wife, and, my work done, returned to my Grecian mug.

“Does it work?”

“Work?  Of course not.  The batteries are dead.”

“Well don’t you think you should get more batteries?”

“Does this need to be done today?  There are a few odes I’m planning on reading after I drink my coffee.”

“Really?  Are you not aware that there is a massive hurricane that’s supposed to be hitting us tomorrow?  It’s supposed to be a once a century kind of storm.”

“Oh, like that storm they were waiting for in Point Break?”

“I think I’m reaching my point break.”

I placed my weekend jeans over my weekend pyjama pants and drove to the supermarket.  Let’s get this battery thing over with, I thought, and then I can get back to enjoying my life.  I found the wall of battery-packs.  And looked.  And looked.  There were double As, and triple As, and those rectangular-shaped 9 volts that no one uses.  There were microscopic batteries for hearing aids and batteries that looked like a triple A cut in half.  But no D-cells.  The metal hanging racks with little D-cell signs above them were gaping holes like its teeth were knocked out.

And then I realized.  My greedy neighbors had selfishly cleaned out the D-cell batteries.  I looked some more, hoping against hope.  There were C-cell batteries that looked like D-cells during their adolescence.

I went to another supermarket, to convenience stores, to electronics stores, to the mall, to hot dog stands.  Batteries, batteries everywhere, but not one D-cell in the land.  I was in a waking nightmare.  I could not go home and face my wife without a D-cell.  I had been asked to slay the dragon and the dragon was still out there terrorizing the village.

I sat down on the curb by the hot dog stand, and looked up at the sky, praying for deliverance.  I noticed a man walking, carrying a plastic bag.  The bag had a bulge at the bottom, and from the shape and orientation of the bulge I just knew it contained D-cell batteries.  I approached the man.

“Please, sir.  Can you help me?”

“I already gave at the office.”

“No, no.  I don’t want money.  I need batteries.”

His face turned to even greater disgust.  He started walking.

“Please, sir,” I said, “I’ll do anything.  I’ll give you any amount of money.  I just can’t go home without D-cell batteries.”

“You married?”

“Yes.”

“And let me guess, you waited all weekend, with a hurricane coming, to buy batteries for your flashlight that you probably never test, and now all the stores are out of D-cells, and you’re going to be in trouble with your wife if you come home without any D-cell batteries for the flashlights.  Is that about the long and the short of it?”

“You got it,” I said.

He smiled.  A heartwarming smile, as if my tale of woe had brought back a cherished memory, perhaps a memory of his own first years of marriage, when he was young and poor and never tested flashlights until the storm clouds were getting off the exit.  I could see I was working a change in him.  My prayers had been answered.  He was going to let me have the batteries.  There was goodness left in humanity!  I wondered if he was going to mark them up or would sell them to me at face value.  I hoped he had change for a twenty.

“Awfully sorry,” he said.  “Hope it works out for you.”  And he walked away.

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