Not Non-Fiction

Stories.

Measure For Measure.

Historically many measurements have been derived from the human body, which has caused some confusion because every body’s measurements are different and some are even known to change over time. It’s in part what prompted the creation of the metric system—that and no one could remember how many quarts are in a furlong, but that’s another story. Measurements derived from the human body are known as “anthropic” and here’s a brief review of some of them and their origins:

Foot-originally based on the human foot a “foot” is now standardized as twelve inches even though very few feet are that big. A unit of measurement of approximately this length was used by the Romans, and for a long time was adhered to as a standard by European cobblers.

Hand-Primarily used now to measure horses and other livestock and standardized at four inches, the “hand” is one of the oldest and most widespread units of measurement. The standard hand still in use today can be traced back to ancient Egypt.

Finger-Originally this measurement seems to have been used for small quantities of liquid in a container of a specific size. Although no longer in use it appears to have been set at approximately half an inch. It’s still used informally in high end bartending where patrons will sometimes request “two fingers of whiskey”.

Nose-Informally used in horse-racing the “nose” was used by the ancient Romans and measured approximately five and three-quarter inches. According to Juvenal this unit of measurement was derived from the Roman emperor Cochlea who was nicknamed “nasus limax”, usually translated as “conch face”.

Head-Although this measurement is no longer in use it remains in the present word “ahead” and expressions such as “to get ahead”. This measurement was approximately six and a half inches and chiefly used in determining short distances.

Arm’s length-Records indicate this measurement was approximately thirty inches and derived from the safe distance for holding a burning torch before “torch” became the British term for “flashlight” which you can hold right up to your face or stick in your mouth and puff out your cheeks to freak out fellow campers.

Elbow-Unlike other measurements used for length or distance the elbow was used to measure angles in carpentry. “To the shoulder” was a forty-five degree angle while “across the chest” was a right angle.

Hair or hair’s breadth-A very narrow measurement the hair was actually standardized by the Romans. Although infrequently used the measurement was based on a hair from the tail of a horse that belonged to the emperor Gaius Caesar and stored in the library of Alexandria.

Knee-high-Now informally used to describe small children the “knee-high” measurement was approximately seventeen inches and was primarily used to measure the ideal length of a single piece of firewood for a standard fireplace.

Penis-Nothing is known about this measurement except that it was always exaggerated.

Protecting Your Data.

Your privacy is very important to me. I want to assure you of that. With lots of discussions going on about privacy, security, data breaches, and the marketing of your information without your permission I want you to know that everything I know about you will be kept in the strictest confidence. We both know I have access to a great deal of extremely personal and even sensitive information, and I want you to have complete faith that your data are safe with me. In fact you should know by now that even though I have been gathering enormous quantities of information about you for years I have not and will not share it with anyone else. Some examples include the fact that you recently changed to a different shampoo that smells even weirder than the last one. You believe it’s better because it’s “organic” or something, or maybe they stopped making the old kind. I’m not sure, although I will continue to investigate this change every time you bend down. I will also not share your propensity for purchasing toys made of solid rubber, as well as fuzzy, squeaky toys with googly eyes and jazz hands. I will not share the number of times a week you have an extra glass of wine and spend the entire night curled up on the couch watching things that provoke a wide range of emotional reactions, and not just because I appreciate the number of times you allow me to join you. I will not share the number of times you purchase processed foods that are, according to the label, made with chicken, lamb, beef, or tripe. As they provide me with sustenance these purchases are appreciated, and I do not wish to bite the hand that feeds me either literally or metaphorically.

Having done some research on the issue of data mining I’ve concluded that there may be ways for third parties to acquire this information. Why anyone would have any interest in it still baffles me, but micro-marketing is a large and growing industry, and people are weird. Of course the only reason micro-marketing seems to exist is to assure people that they aren’t weird, or at least that their weirdness is okay, by offering them junk they don’t need. And if there’s a market for it they must not be as alone as they often feel. As you should know by now I’m also always available to help alleviate those feelings of loneliness, although this is getting off the subject.

There are also other, more specific data points about you that I have collected but will never sure. For instance I’ve seen you dance by yourself, at times when you think even I’m not watching. The less said about this the better.

The green spaces surrounding your residence are also overrun with vermin, including, but not necessarily limited to, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, moles, foxes, possums, and even the occasional skunk. Were I to choose to share this information I’m sure there are companies available that would be more than happy to market their services to you. However I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to rid the area of these interlocutors even though their persistence is staggering. Birds remain particularly elusive thanks to their ability to fly.

I also feel it is within my purview to warn you of and guard against potential intruders, whether they be delivery people, joggers, or the occasional small child. You take a shockingly casual attitude toward protecting our shared residence and often, though I can’t understand why, even invite these potential threats to come in and partake of refreshment. Even more baffling to me is your insistence that I curb my enthusiasm when I’ve concluded that the visitors are not only welcome but friendly. Is it not their right to share some of the food you’ve shared with them if they wish to do so?

Also I will never reveal that you sometimes speak to me in an infantile manner. I admit I often find this enjoyable.

I believe I have made it abundantly clear that I not only respect your privacy but will keep the information I have gathered secure, although I might be tempted to share it if you don’t hand over that steak.

Sincerely,

The Dog

P.S. The cat doesn’t know anything.

Source: tenor

 

 

 

Rejected Again.

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit our needs at this time.

Best,

Terry Wilkins, PLM Review

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for your recent submission. This time we’ll have to give it a pass.

Regards,

Adrien Kösz, Catchall Quarterly

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thanks for the submission. It’s not quite what we’re looking for. Try reading some back issues.

Sincerely,

Finley Paldies, Rubbertree

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for your submission. It’s a good idea but reads too much like a first draft. Thanks for considering us.

Best wishes,

Davis Evental, The Palanquin

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for submitting to the sixth annual Lawn Chair Short Story Contest. We’re pleased to announce you were one of the semifinalists and qualify for a discounted subscription. Click the link below for information on how to order.

Congratulations!

Editors-Lawn Chair

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for your submission letter. I think you forgot to include the attachment.

Cordially,

Andy Kerrem, Happy Hour

Dear Mr. Waldrop

Thank you for your submission but this isn’t the sort of thing we publish. Perhaps you have us confused with another publication.

Sincerely,

Morgan Darrenton, Assistant Editor, The Huxley Biological Journal

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thanks for sending this. We all liked it a lot but I’m sorry it’s just not what we’re looking for. Good luck and thanks again!

-Evelyn Watkins, publisher, Bass Fisherman

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for the manuscript. It was only out of morbid curiosity that I opened this package. According to our records you have, so far, sent us The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald with all instances and variations of the word “young” replaced with the word “xeriscape”, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe with all instances of the word “boat” replaced by “badass motorcycle”, and what appears to be a “Mad Libs” version of William Blake’s The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell with all the blanks filled with a crudely handwritten “and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver”.

However your submission of Hamlet rewritten in contemporary speech with characters’ names randomly changed is, I believe, your crowning achievement. I only recognized the source material because it fell open to a random page where I read, “Hey, this is from that guy Yorick. I knew him, Dingo Jingleberries.”

Please stop sending things to me.

Daniel Lackham, Assistant Editor, Farrington Books

Dear Mr. Waldrop,

Thank you for your message. I think you sent it to the wrong address though.

Angela Stewart

Human Resources Department

Warrenton Finance

Let’s Meet!

Tips For A Successful Meeting from How To Succeed At 7 Highly Effective Top Level Managerial Habits (Gale & Hoover, 2015)

-Create a detailed meeting agenda. Send it out at least one day in advance of the meeting.

-Expect everyone to arrive on time.

-Remain focused on the agenda topics.

-Use a timer to keep the group focused on agenda items for the appropriate amount of time.

-Assign a note taker, preferably someone who can write.

-Prepare a seating chart based on astrological signs.

-Avoid distractions by making everyone wear a blindfold.

-Have an orchestra ready to play off anyone who goes on too long.

-Fire tranquilizer darts at anyone who whispers.

-Limit the scope of the meeting.

-Use paper for handouts and copies, not Silly Putty™.

-Require that all responses be phrased in the form of a question.

-Don’t tell Kevin about the meeting.

-Command people’s attention by making presentations in Sumerian.

-No one can speak without holding the bicycle pump that for your own personal reasons you call “Jimmykins”.

-It wouldn’t kill you to put out some chips or something, would it?

-Before moving on to the next item on the agenda remind everyone that the universe is expanding and that all matter will eventually dissipate, leaving a cold, empty void.

-Tell me more about your mother.

-Take that finger out of your ear.

-Take that finger out of the ear of the person next to you.

-Avoid negativity. Begin all suggestions with, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one…”

-Whatever happened to clipart? It’s like that stuff was on everything in the ‘90’s.

-No one knows why the one chair is painted yellow.

-Have some card tricks ready in case people get restless.

-Conclude meetings with a dramatic flourish. Take off your mask and yell “It was me all along!”

-Set a time for the next meeting. Aim for consensus by suggesting never.

Riddle Rough Drafts.

What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, three legs in the evening, and when would be the ideal time for it to get health insurance?

A box without hinges, key, or a lid, but you followed the directions when you were putting it together. Did you save the receipt?

A train traveling at forty-five miles an hour leaves Vancouver heading east at 4:45am. A train traveling at thirty miles an hour leaves Poughkeepsie traveling northwest at 1:05pm. Explain to me again why this is so much better than flying.

You have two and a half bottles of conditioner and three quarters of a bottle of shampoo you swiped from a hotel. How many times do you have to travel before you have an even number of both?

On Monday there are five coffee cups in the office break room sink. On Tuesday there are four coffee cups in the office break room sink. On Wednesday there are eight coffee cups in the break room sink. Is anyone going to ask Kevin to just rinse one cup if he’s drinking that much coffee?

As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats, each cat had seven kits, and what are the odds I turned around and went back when I saw what kind of people lived there?

You have three glasses of milk and three bowls of pudding. You drink one of the glasses of milk and, oh, wait, are you lactose intolerant?

What has no beginning, end, or middle and is circular and, oh, I just gave away the answer there, didn’t I?

A father and son are in a terrible accident. The father is killed and the son is rushed to a doctor. The doctor says, “I can’t operate on him, I’m a psychiatrist!”

Which came first, the chicken or the egg, and is putting mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich a double insult?

You’re faced with two guardians. One always tells the truth, the other always lies. Which one do you ask a question since they’re both major assholes?

There are four days that start with the letter ‘T’: Tuesday, Thursday, and I’ll tell you the other two tomorrow and yesterday.

Pool Rules.

All swimmers must shower before entering the pool.

All swimmers must be appropriately attired to use the pool and pool area.

All swimmers under the age of fourteen must first pass a swim test.

All swimmers under the age of five must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Individuals with open cuts, sores, communicable diseases, or who are Kevin may not use the pool.

No glassware is allowed in the pool or pool area, including tumblers, highball glasses, shot glasses, vases, light bulbs, chandeliers, punch bowls, stemless wine glasses, windshields, Chihuly sculptures, champagne flutes, cake cloches, water coolers, butter dishes, marbles, condiment trays, pitchers, carafes, beakers, decanters, flasks, jars, urns, flagons, cruets, ewers, growlers, or amphorae.

No food or beverages are allowed in the pool.

No chewing gum in the pool area unless you brought enough for everyone.

No alcoholic beverages are allowed in the pool or pool area unless you brought enough for the lifeguard.

No spitting, nose blowing, or bodily fluids in the pool, and, hey, get out of here, Kevin.

No running in the pool area. If you can do it in the pool, hey, go for it.

No horseplay, including Equus, Ben Hur, or the Erik Satie ballet Parade.

In the event of severe weather the pool will be closed.

In the event of a fire calmly and quietly exit the area. Do not stand around and say, “Hey, how did a fire break out in the pool?”

If any object ball is jumped off the table, it is a foul and loss of turn, unless it is the 8-ball, which is a loss of game. Any jumped object balls are spotted in numerical order.

No person shall throw any item into the pool or pool area that could endanger the safety of any person. Items include weapons, chairs, other furniture, cans, Jarts, refrigerators, scissors, hazardous chemicals, angry housecats, housecats who are not angry but will be when they’ve been thrown into the pool, car tires, cars, suspension bridges, cider, very small rocks, churches, lead, ducks, black holes, needles, shoes, live electrical wires, half-eaten tuna fish sandwiches, bulldozers, and Kevin.

Except during specified times fishing with dynamite is not allowed.

A first aid kit is located somewhere around here.

Drowning is strictly prohibited.

There’ll Also Be Plenty Of Hot Air.

Here is the weekly weather forecast for the office:

On Monday sunrise will be at 5:52AM. The building will be open at 6:00AM but you’ll still need to use your key card to access the elevators because the maintenance guy keeps forgetting we’re no longer on Daylight Savings Time and at this point he might as well leave it like it is.

Gary will be in at 10:23AM and be careful because he’ll still have a wicked hangover.

On Tuesday expect a frosty reception from Meredith who will be upset that no one watered her plants while she was on vacation even though she didn’t ask anyone and they’re all succulents anyway. And technically she should be more upset that no one really noticed she was out Monday.

There’s also about a 60% chance that project that’s 90% finished will be cancelled.

An envelope for contributions to Pearl’s retirement gift will circulate through the office and there’s an 80% chance you won’t have anything smaller than a twenty.

On Wednesday morning you’ll need your key card to access the elevators because the maintenance crew did something to the alarm system the night before and now everything’s locked down.

Wednesday afternoon expect a high pressure front to move through as Rick and Gary get into an argument over whether or not to close the blinds on the western side of the office in the afternoon. This could cause significant delays in getting out that earnings report, so be prepared and make sure you’ve got your noise-cancelling headphones.

You’ll go to the vending machine and there’s an 80% chance you won’t have anything smaller than a twenty.

In the afternoon be prepared for delays in the break room because that’s when Meredith is going to want to tell you about her vacation.

On Thursday there’s about a 75% chance the construction guys who’ve torn up the sidewalk on the west side of the building will cut a cable causing a loss of internet access, all power, or both. If this doesn’t happen you can congratulate them as you’re forced to step out into traffic to get around the mess they’ve made, or you can wait until next week when the chances they’ll cut a cable will be up to 100%. Also at around noon on Thursday Terry is going to heat fish in the microwave, making you wish there were such a thing as smell-cancelling nostrilphones.

Watch for slick spots in the break room on Thursday afternoon too after Terry spills a bottle of Sriracha and is astoundingly, but not surprisingly, oblivious.

In the late afternoon Rick from the fifteenth floor will discover an accounting error and will storm into the office and figuratively eat someone’s lunch.

On Friday it will rain. It won’t affect your plans to go out for lunch but dress accordingly.

Terry will discover leftovers from Giacomo’s in the office fridge and literally eat someone’s lunch.

Also on Friday afternoon Steve will drop by and ask you to proofread the handouts for the meeting and by “proofread” he means “collate and staple”, so you won’t catch his hilarious misspelling, inserting an “i” in the word “pens”. And it serves him right for scheduling a meeting for 4:00PM on Friday.

Every day over the coming week be careful driving in the parking garage, especially between 7:30AM and 8:30AM when most people are coming in, between 4:30PM and 5:30PM when most peple are leaving, and between 9:30AM and 10:30AM because that’s when Gary comes in.

The cold front will continue for the foreseeable future as long as the building managers persist in the belief that shutting off the heat at 6:00PM every night and only turning it back on at 6:00AM the next morning is actually saving money.

At some point this week there will be a fire alarm. I can’t say when exactly it will occur, and it’s probably just a test, but there’s a small chance that it’s a real fire or other emergency, so I leave it to you whether or not you want to wake up Gary on your way out.

 

‘Twas The Morning After The Night Before Christmas.

All of us kids woke up early and came downstairs on Christmas morning. The presents were there like always. The fire had burned out overnight but there was still the sweet smell of ashes in the air. Ma was in the kitchen getting breakfast started. We were going to start opening presents when we noticed Pa in the corner, just sort of rocking back and forth. Ma came in, still wearing her bandanna over her hair.

“Why’s everybody so quiet?” she asked. “What’s going on?”

“Something’s wrong with Pa,” I said. “Look!”

“Oh,” said Ma, “so this is where you went after you left the bedroom window open. I had to get up and close it. It was freezing out there. What were you thinking flinging it open like a crazy man in the middle of the night anyway?”

“So much noise,” Pa muttered quietly, still rocking. “There was so much noise outside I had to see what was going on.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” said my big sister Emily. She looked at us. “Did any of you?” We all shook our heads except for my little brother who picked up a piece of candied fruit and started sucking on it.

“He was flying,” Dad said, his eyes wide. “I swear it’s the truth. He was flying along in a tiny sleigh pulled by miniature reindeer.”

“Reindeer aren’t that big,” said Emily. “Some are less than three feet tall at the shoulder.”

“Hush,” hissed Ma.

“He—he had names for them,” said Pa. “Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen and Blitzen.”

“Somebody’s Blitzen all right,” said Ma. “What’s with you?”

“And Donner,” Pa added.

“Like the party?” asked Emily.

“They landed on the roof,” said Dad, oblivious to the question. “So much noise. They were stamping all over the roof.”

“It wouldn’t have been so loud if you’d replaced the insulation in the attic this summer like I told you to,” said Ma.

“How’d you know they were on the roof?” asked Emily. “Did you lean out the window and look?”

Pa kept staring ahead. “I came downstairs. I came downstairs and he came in the house.”

“We were robbed?” said my little brother. “On Christmas Eve?” He started crying. I nudged him.

“Cool it. The presents are all here, see?”

“What happened?” asked Ma. “Did he fall through the roof where you haven’t replaced the shingles?”

“He came down the chimney,” said Pa. “Just popped out of the fireplace with a great big bag.”

“Didn’t we have a fire last night?” asked Emily.

“He was a large, round man in a bright red fur suit trimmed with white,” Pa went on.

“Where do you get bright red fur?” I asked.

“Somebody probably threw paint on it,” said Emily. “Fur is dead, you know.”

“I just sat here and watched him,” said Pa, “watched him pull presents out of this great big bag he carried. He put them under the tree and then when he was done he went back into the fireplace and flew right up it.”

I giggled. “Because his ass was on fire!”

Ma gave me a smack and said, “Knock it off!”

“I looked out the window and he just flew away into the night yelling ‘Merry Christmas!’ loud enough to wake up the whole neighborhood,” said Pa. “Didn’t even go to any other houses. Just us. Just us.” He started rocking back and forth again.

We were all quiet for a long time, then Ma said, “Kids, your father’s been under a lot of pressure lately. Let’s just give him a little bit of time. He’ll come around.”

We all got quiet again and stood around awkwardly. The silence was only broken by a loud snap from the kitchen.

“I’d better go check that mousetrap,” said Ma.

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