Not Non-Fiction

Stories.

Let’s Get Together.

Hello. You may have heard quite a bit about me in the news but I’d like to take this opportunity to speak to you directly. It’s been a difficult time, I know. Some mistakes have been made. That’s why I’m asking for your support and the support of all those you know to help make things better going forward. Together I know we can do it. I know we can get back to normal, to the way things used to be.

I know a lot of people are tired of social distancing. They’re tired of not being able to see family and friends. They’re tired of not being able to gather in large groups or go to restaurants or bars. They’re tired of going to restaurants or bars and having the spaces where they can sit be extremely limited, with many areas off-limits. They’re tired of being told which way to walk down the aisles of stores, even though it’s, at worst, a minor inconvenience.

I know many people are tired of wearing masks too, and I understand. They can be irritating. Wearing masks can make it hard to eat. Some even claim masks make it hard for them to breathe.

Many people, I know, want to go back to work. Or they want to be able to go back to their offices because they’re pretty sure they left an apple in their desk, and it would be really nice to have a meeting with actual people and not have to face a screen of coworkers that looks like the opening credits of The Brady Bunch.

I know people are tired of being scared, too. This is perhaps most true for parents who are facing the new school year. They’re wondering what they’re going to do with their children. For some virtual learning simply isn’t an option. They don’t have access to the technology or the internet in their area is too spotty to be usable. And many people just want to get their damn kids out of the house.

I know parents are worried about what can happen to their children. Even if statistically the chances of children getting sick or becoming carriers of infection are low no parent wants their child to be a statistic. And we don’t really know what the numbers are for children. No parent wants their child to be a guinea pig either. And speaking of guinea pigs what about Mr. Crunkles, the class guinea pig, who’s actually a girl, which we learned when she unexpectedly gave birth two days after she was brought to school from the pet store? Young Benjamin still has nightmares from finding her still bloody with a mass of pink suckling babies underneath her, or maybe the nightmares are from the time a bunch of sixth graders caught him in the bathroom and gave him what’s known as a “swirly”.

I’m getting off the subject here.

Many people, I know, simply ignore the rules, or openly speak out against them, deliberately gathering in large groups. I know they’re tired of being called out for this behavior.

Well, I sympathize. I’m tired of it too. I say it’s time to stop the social distancing, stop wearing masks, and just stop worrying. All of us, I believe, need to come together and simply go back to doing things the way they were before. Trust me on this. It will be so much better, especially for me.

I’m COVID-19 and I approve this message.

The Last Girl.

The unicorn heard the tent canvas rustle and raised its head from the filthy straw. A girl was sneaking under the edge. So many of them sneaked into the tent after the shows, and so many more wanted to but didn’t. The girl wore dark denim overalls and a polka dot shirt.

“Hello,” said the girl.

The unicorn nodded and moved its head forward so the girl could pet its nose. It knew she would like that. When she touched it the unicorn smelled the copper in her blood.

“I’ve never seen a real unicorn before,” said the girl, “only pictures.”

The unicorn lowered its head so the girl could touch its horn. She did, gently, feeling the grooves, then reached up to pet the unicorn’s forelock.

“My aunt has a horse,” said the girl. “I’ve ridden her. You’re smaller, and softer. I bring my aunt’s horse carrots. I’m sorry I didn’t bring you anything.”

The girl touched the unicorn’s nose again. Her sincerity smelled like dried thyme. 

The unicorn considered her, and how much like all the others she was, and thought it could tell her all things. It thought it could tell her it came out of the sea and sky when they first parted. It had seen mountains grow and seen trees climb the mountains until they reached the peak and turned to birds. It had walked across the world when all the sea was frozen, and again when there was only one land. It had seen fish swim onto land and green tendrils that followed and stretched up to strangle dragons in their sleep, and it had seen angry seven-eyed things creep up in the darkness and dissolve in the light.

It remembered the first girl it found, a naked mewling thing, lost, and the unicorn stood watch, protecting the girl from wolves and hawks, until other people came and took the girl away. The unicorn slept a long time after that while the sun went gray and the moon reddened with ash. The unicorn walked through the woods and found a girl with a satchel and told her secrets it had heard from mushrooms that glowed underground. The girl took these secrets with her. More time passed. Another girl was drawn to the unicorn. This one burned hot as a furnace and was wild. She wanted to keep the unicorn and it had to run from her.

The unicorn ran for many years and found another girl smeared with blood that was not her own, and she smelled of the iron she wore, and that she carried as a sharp stick.

It was a long time between that girl and the one before it now. The unicorn had come to live among people, to walk between dancers and clowns. It would swallow fire and strike stars from its hooves and send them spinning to the roof of the tent. 

The unicorn saw that this girl would have a daughter, and the daughter would have a daughter too. One day the girl and the daughter’s daughter would sit at a table and the girl would add sugar to the daughter’s daughter’s tea, and stir clouds of milk into a storm. 

“I saw a unicorn once,” the girl would say, “at the circus,” and they would talk about a time when there were circuses in the world.

The unicorn turned away from the girl, to say to her it was time to go.

 

There’s A Word For It.

Source: From Old Books

Schadenfreude (German)-Taking pleasure in the misery of others.

Pochemuchka (Russian)-A highly inquisitive person

Tsundoku (Japanese)-The practice of purchasing books you will probably never read, allowing them to pile up

Desvelado (Spanish)-Being deprived of sleep

Çrregullt (Albanian)-The guilt that comes when someone asks you what seems like a stupid question but when you try to answer it you realize it’s really pretty complicated

Hendelseshorisont (Norwegian)-When you become old enough to realize that most of the original Star Trek episodes were really terrible

Tàirneanaich (Scottish)-When you’ve been inside all day and you finally get a break and step out for some fresh air and it immediately starts raining

Oorworm (Dutch)-The frustration that comes from having a song stuck in your head but you can’t really remember the words

Jageugje (Korean)-Annoyance with yourself when you’ve been handling spicy food with your fingers and then you rub your eyes

Vad är det här (Swedish)-When you’re looking through your desk drawer for something and you find a bag of leftover pieces of furniture you put together

Yangın işareti (Turkish)-The motions you go through when someone asks to see your passport which you’re sure you had just a minute ago

Orologio da abbuffata (Italian)-The certainty when you’ve been binge watching a TV show that you must have skipped something because there’s no way you’re already halfway through season five

Mehukas juoru (Finnish)-The realization when you’re halfway through sharing some gossip that it’s about the person you’re talking to

Qese Çaji (Albanian)-When you’re on your way somewhere and you have to turn around and go home because you’re certain you left something on the stove

Jen vtip (Czech)-The desire to punch someone who insists on dropping foreign phrases into conversation

Urmărindofurtună (Romanian)-Surprise when watching a weather report on the news that there’s a town with a funny name you’ve never heard of before that’s actually pretty near where you live, and you start thinking, “Maybe I should visit Bugtussle.”

Ințepătură de Cornet (Romanian)-Small town in the region of Transylvania whose name roughly translates as “Bugtussle”

Know What You Need To Know.

Before your next doctor’s visit we would like you to take the following steps or be prepared for some new measures:

Please have a mask and wear it when you come to the doctor’s office.

If you have prescriptions please call ahead to make sure they’re refilled before your visit.

We have hand sanitizer available and ask that you please use it regularly, including

when you enter and exit the building.

Please use the automatic doors when entering and exiting the building.

Wear gloves or use your elbow when pressing elevator buttons.

Your temperature will be taken upon entering the building with a no touch thermometer.

Maintain a safe social distance of at least six feet or, in Montana, two shovelnose sturgeon.

If your doctor’s office is in Montana shovelnose sturgeon will be provided.

Please let staff know or consider rescheduling if you have experienced any of the following recently: coughing, fever, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of taste or smell,  an irrational fear of cotton balls.

Arrows have been placed on the floor to show walking directions. Please follow the arrows as they are there to help maintain social distance.

The shovelnose sturgeon are stuffed and lacquered. Please do not try to eat them.

Your privacy is very important to us. When it’s time for your appointment please don’t make the receptionist yell your first and last name more than twice.

You will have exactly one hour to solve all the puzzles and escape from The Mystery Mansion Vault. You can ask your guide, Jeff, for up to three free clues. Additional clues, however, will cost your team time and your chance at a free t-shirt.

If you feel feverish in the hallway between rooms C3 and C5 it may not be a fever. It may be the 6000 degree lava pit in the middle of the hallway.

Please follow the arrows around the lava pit. This will help you maintain proper social distance.

Personal items thrown into the lava pit cannot be retrieved by staff.

Tenemos que mover estos refrigeradores, tenemos que mover estos televisores a color.

Watch out for that bald guy wandering around with his mask on top of his head like a weird toupee. This isn’t an item of concern but, really, what is his deal?

We don’t need to tell you to maintain proper social distance from the guy wearing his mask on top of his head. You can figure that one out for yourself.

We are aware there are teeth marks on the shovelnose sturgeon.

If your doctor attempts to shake hands with you run away.

Telemedicine options are available.

Please Continue To Hold.

Rotary cell phone. Source: http://justine-haupt.com/

Thank you for using our new faster, more efficient automated pharmacy system. We have recently updated our system to make it faster and more efficient for all clients. We hope you enjoy this faster, more efficient version as we are always looking for ways to improve the ways we serve our clients and the services we provide. Please listen to the entire menu before making your selection as the options will probably change during this message.

If you are a doctor, a doctor’s representative, or are calling from a doctor’s office to authorize a new prescription press 1.

If you are a doctor, a doctor’s representative, or are calling from a doctor’s office and are calling to check on the status of a new prescription press 2.

If you are a doctor, a doctor’s representative, or are calling from a doctor’s office to authorize a prescription refill press 3.

If you are a patient and are calling to check on the status of a new prescription press 3.

If you are a patient and are calling to check on the status of the status of a new prescription press 4.

If you are a patient and are calling to clarify what we mean by “the status of the status of a new prescription” means press 5.

If you are a patient and are calling to request a refill of a prescription that has expired please hang up and call your doctor’s office now because you’re going to have to make at least two phone calls before you can finally get an appointment to see your doctor to authorize your prescription refill.

If you wish to speak to a pharmacy representative press 6 during office hours.

If you wish to know what the office hours are press 7 during office hours.

If you know your party’s extension press it after you have pressed the pound key. We probably should say “press the pound key” first and we’ll consider making that change in a future update to our automated pharmacy system.

If your phone does not have a pound key press the hashtag button.

If you know what the star button on your phone does press it, but we won’t be responsible for what happens next.

If you are a doctor, a doctor’s representative, are calling from a doctor’s office, are a patient, or called this number for some other reason and are feeling stressed press 2256.

If you are allergic to shellfish do not press 2265.

If you are calling from a rotary phone please hang up and call back from this century.

If you are a patient and are calling to request a prescription refill press 8. We probably should have made this option 1. We’ll consider making that change in a future update to our automated pharmacy system.

If you would like to hear these options again please hang up and press whatever the redial thingy is on your phone.

If this is an emergency press 9. This will cause your phone to hang up so you can call the appropriate emergency responders.

If you would like a list of appropriate emergency responders you should probably call somebody about that.

Book ‘Em.

Lesser Known Literary Sequels

Brideshead Revisited Again

A Connecticut Yankee In Small Claims Court

The I Couldn’t Possibly Eat Another Bite Games

Where Was Waldo

Fahrenheit 452

A Tale Of Twin Cities

Catch-23

The Tell-Tale Pancreas

The Sun Also Sweats

And Some More Prejudice

Something Wicked Just Left

A Midsummer Night Shift

The Turn Of The Screwdriver

A Streetcar Named Rice-A-Roni

Vegetable Farm

Paradise Tossed

The Catcher In The Dugout

The Pretty Good Carraway

Shel Silvestein’s The Burning Tree

Lord Of The Fries

Gulliver’s Travel Agency

Green Eggs And Salmonella

Charlie And The Trade Regulations

Man, What Are You Doing Here?

With apologies to Billy Joel…   

It’s nine A.M. and it’s Monday again,

The start of a new week it would seem.

Get the laptop and open it up,

Now it’s time to check in with the team.

Coworkers send their messages,

They’re asking if everyone’s okay.

People want to touch base when they can’t see your face

When you’re working from home all day.

 

La la la, di da da

La la, di da da da dum

 

Let us Zoom in to the meeting, boss,

Let us Zoom in right now,

We’ve got quotas to fill and hours to kill,

And we’ll get it done somehow.

 

Now John in HR is first to sign in,

He hasn’t had that much to do.

But he’s a whiz with Excel and knows Powerpoint well,

If we ever hire somebody new.

He says, “I had a big file I was working on,

But at the end of the day forgot to hit save.

I guess I’ll have to start over again,

And it’s now been a week since I shaved.”

 

Oh, la la la, di da da

La la, di da da da dum

 

Now Karen does the accounts.

She always has something to say,

Then there’s Canute, who’s still stuck on mute,

And probably will be all day.

And Accounts Receivable’s ready to go,

While people in Payable are stuck in a jam.

For once I’m not looking forward to lunch,

‘Cause I’m sick from leftover ham.

 

Let us Zoom in to the meeting, boss,

Let us Zoom in right now,

We’ve got quotas to fill and hours to kill,

And we’ll get it done somehow.

 

 

The mood is upbeat for a Monday,

And everyone’s background is nicely composed,

No need to commute or put on a suit

As long as the office is closed.

And we’re putting in forty hours or so,

And starting to lose track of the days,

And putting on weight and staying up late,

And writing off the chance of a raise.

 

Oh, la la la, di da da

La la, di da da da dum

 

Let us Zoom in to the meeting, boss,

Let us Zoom in right now,

We’ve got quotas to fill and hours to kill,

And we’ll get it done somehow.

 

The Masque Of The Social Isolation.

Source: Wikipedia

The COVID-19 had long devastated the country. People desirous of flattening the curve had retreated to their homes for ten years. Oh, wait, it had only been a little more than three weeks.

Prince Prospero had seen his offices depopulated and alone retired to the safety of his apartment. Happy, dauntless, and sagacious, he had appointed his rooms with all he could need for the Social Isolation. What he did not have could be summoned by delivery, for now, anyway.

His bathroom, where he still bathed at least every other day, was festooned with towels of powder blue. He’d meant to return them because he distinctly ordered the sapphire, but this seemed of no importance now.

Likewise he had lost interest in replacing the purple couch bequeathed to him by a former roommate some twenty-five years hence. Oh, wait, it was January. The couch was where Prince Prospero now whiled away many hours watching Netflix, when he grew weary of the daily notices which, from their beginning, had made a mockery of the deadly COVID-19.

So too the Prince had converted the former roommate’s bedroom into a workspace and bedecked a wall with an emerald screen. On this the Prince could project all manner of scenes, from Parisian streets to abstract arabesques, to the delight of his courtiers with whom he communicated by means of The Zoom.

On his kitchen counter a pumpkin pie sat thawing. He had purchased it three years hence for a feast of Thanksgiving, then forgotten it in the back of the freezer. Though it had long since passed its date of expiration the Prince figured he should go ahead and eat it, and that prepared tuna casserole that he couldn’t remember buying. That was probably a remnant of the former roommate as well.

Next to the counter stood the Prince’s prodigious supply of toilet paper, stacked like rolls of snow. He had been en route to procure this when a faithful servant had sent the missive, “Avoid Costco. The cops are there breaking up a fight.” So the Prince ventured further to The Shoppe Of Aldi’s, which was always deserted anyway, and secured a great bounty.

On the kitchen window stood the potted violets the Prince had brought home from the office, in vain, it seemed, for they had perished in a drought of neglect.

The Prince now lay abed in sheets of deepest black. These had seemed like a good idea at the time, something to do with the light and a better sleep, but now they made him all too cognizant of the growing pallor of his skin.

He had been restless through the night, but now he shuddered as the alarm began to strike seven of the clock, the hour of rising to work. The Prince pressed the Snooze again and again, then bellowed, “I just can’t today!” Overcome with distress the Prince yanked the plug from its plastic foundation. The blood red numbers of the clock faded to black, and the Social Isolation held illimitable dominion over all.

A Life In The Day.

Source: Fromoldbooks.org

Working From Home Diary, Day 27

5:15AM-Wake up. Remember that you’re working from home and that the alarm isn’t going to go off for another forty-five minutes. Go back to sleep.

5:20AM-Wake up again. You woke the dog up five minutes ago and now he’s really excited about getting up and starting the day. You had an extra glass of wine last night, or a couple, or more than a couple–you really can’t remember–so you’re really not ready to get up just yet.

5:33AM-Accept that the dog isn’t going to let you go back to sleep. Get up. Take the dog out, feed him.

6:03AM-Shower, shave, brush teeth.

6:25AM-Coffee. Decide you’ll splurge a little and have one of those microwavable sausage biscuits you found in the back of the freezer the other night when you were making beef macaroni lima bean waffle casserole.

6:30AM-Brush teeth again.

6:35AM-Watch the morning news.

6:35AM-Brush teeth again.

6:40AM-Check Facebook, Twitter, email.

6:45AM-Brush teeth again.

6:50AM-Have another cup of coffee.

7:02AM-Turn on work computer, log in. Send “Good morning!” chat message to coworkers.

7:04AM-Work.

7:23AM-Remember that push-up challenge you read about. Decide to see how many push-ups you can do.

7:24AM-Work.

8:15AM-Get up and walk around to work the cramps out of your legs.

8:20AM-Work.

9:03AM-Get up and walk around. Go to the mailbox.

9:10AM-No mail. Have another cup of coffee.

9:15AM-Work.

10:21AM-Decide you’ll splurge a little and nibble on some dry granola while you work.

10:53AM-Check the pantry. Add “granola” to the grocery list.

10:55AM-Work.

11:12AM-Discover an email from a week ago that you put aside at the time because it was from Kevin and at the time you just couldn’t. Respond professionally without acknowledging the delay.

11:21AM-Brush teeth again.

11:23AM-Work.

11:33AM-Go the mailbox.

11:40AM-No mail. Go back to work.

11:59AM-Break for lunch.

12:03PM-Watch an episode of Breaking Bad.

12:48PM-Brush teeth again.

12:51PM-Go to mailbox. Catalogs! Whoo hoo!

1:03PM-Log back in to work computer. Work.

1:59PM-Log in to 2PM daily check in with coworkers via video. Congratulate yourself on being the first one there.

2:10PM-Wonder why no one else is showing up. Experiment with cool virtual backgrounds for the video app.

2:15PM-Wonder why no one else has shown up yet. Get the dog to come and sit in your lap.

2:18PM-Set status to “Away”, take the dog out.

2:25PM-Check on meeting. No one’s shown up yet.

2:26PM-Go to the bathroom.

2:28PM-Return to work computer. Realize you forgot to mute yourself. Wonder how many coworkers heard the flush.

2:31PM-Browse the internet for green screens. One of those would make your virtual background even better.

2:41PM-Send “Hope everyone’s okay” message to coworkers.

2:42PM-Work.

3:01PM-Go to mailbox. Remember you got the mail earlier.

3:15PM-Work.

3:45PM-Go to mailbox just because.

3:54PM-Work.

4:03PM-Get chat message from boss that says, “Hey, just checking something and saw you were logged in??” Check calendar. Realize you’ve completely lost track and that it’s Saturday.

4:45PM-Add “more wine” to the grocery list.

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