Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Quote Seems Apt

John's favorite quotes

"This is very important -- to take leisure time. Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you're gonna lose everything...just to do nothing at all, very, very important. And how many people do this in modern society? Very few. That's why they're all totally mad, frustrated, angry and hateful."— Charles Bukowski

Friday, December 17, 2010

Larry At The Mall

By John McDonnell

“In my day Christmas was a time for taking sleigh rides,” Edna said. “We’d bundle up in big fur coats and father would hitch up the sleigh and take us for a ride through the countryside. We’d visit the neighbors and they’d have steaming mugs of hot chocolate waiting for us, with peppermint sticks in them.”

“Mom, you never did that,” Dolores said. She had driven Edna and Larry to the mall for some Christmas shopping, and she was already regretting it. “You grew up in an apartment in the city, remember? You never went to the country.”

“Nonsense,” Edna said. “How did I get this memory if it never happened?”

“It be a false memory,” Larry said, from the back seat. For some reason unknown to Dolores he was in the form of a pirate, complete with a straggly black beard, earrings made out of gold doubloons, an eyepatch, and a gold front tooth. “False memories these days are as thick as barnacles on a sperm whale’s belly.”

It was going to be a long afternoon, Dolores thought, pulling into a parking space.

In the mall Larry went straight to the Santa Claus village and eyed the setup. “By my stars, here’s a freebooter if ever I saw one,” he said, looking at the mall Santa. “Why, look at all the swag this matey has got in his duffle,” he said pointing to the big bag of trinkets that Santa had beside him, for distributing its contents to the children who sat on his lap.

“He looks like my uncle Frederick,” Edna said. “All round and red and jolly. I remember when uncle Frederick would dress up as Santa and come to our house and give us pennies. ‘A penny for your thoughts,’ he’d say. Of course, when I told him my thoughts he’d get a strange look on his face and tell me to run and get him an aspirin. I never did get my penny.”

“Why don’t we go shopping now?” Dolores said hopefully.

“Belay that,” Larry said. “I like this setup better. You just sit on his lap, and he gives you a bit of swag. Why, it’s better than hijacking a fat galleon filled with Spanish gold!”

“Why are you talking like that?” Dolores hissed, conscious that children were giggling at Larry and their parents had pulled out their cell phones and were dialing Mall Security. “Let’s get out of here before--”

But it was too late. Larry had pushed a host of small children out of the way, and he flopped down on Santa’s lap with such force that it momentarily took the poor fellow’s breath away.

“Avast, ye old sea dog!” Larry said.

“What?” Santa said, his glasses askew on his face from the force of the impact.

“Enough of this palaver,” Larry said. “Now, tell me, matey, what do I have to do to get some of that loot?”

“Ho, ho, you know the drill,” Santa said, recovering his composure. “You tell me if you’ve been a good boy, and then you recite your Christmas list.”

“Aye,” Larry said. “I be the roughest, toughest sea rat on the Spanish Main. If any man cross a friend of mine, I’ll cut his throat and feed him to the sharks for their supper, I will.”

Several children had started to cry, and Larry flashed his gold tooth in a smile, which unfortunately only made them cry louder. Santa looked alarmed, and his helper, a girl in a red and green elf costume, pushed a button under Santa’s chair, which caused several men in blue uniforms with “Security” on their backs to come running from all directions. They were talking into headsets and wearing sunglasses.

“My goodness,” Edna said. “Is the President here? I’ve never seen so many Secret Service agents. Maybe I can get his autograph. I have autographs of every President going back to Grover Cleveland. Did I ever tell you--”

“Not now!” Dolores hissed. She was trying to figure the odds on getting Larry and Edna out of the mall without collateral damage occurring. They were not favorable.

“Okay, me red-faced matey,” Larry said, reaching for Santa’s bag. “My part of the bargain is over. I’ll just be taking yer duffle now.” He reached over and grabbed the bag, then leaped off Santa’s lap and made his way through the throng of children, whose pitch raised considerably when they saw the gift bag retreating from view.

“Put the bag down and move away from it, sir!” a voice boomed, and Dolores saw to her horror that the cadre of mall cops had surrounded Larry, and all of them had guns trained on him.

Larry sized up the situation, muttered, “Arrrr,” and then the air shimmered and he had turned into a two-ton bull elephant seal that moved with surprising speed through the line of stunned security guards, down the mall corridor to the escalator, where he rode the escalator to the first floor and then proceeded out of the mall in the direction of the parking lot, with shoppers running in terror from him.

When Dolores and Edna caught up to him, he had turned back into the pirate, and was muttering, “Arrr, it’s a bad business stealing swag in this quarter. Best to trim the mainsail and make for a snug harbor.”

“Forget about the Christmas shopping,” Dolores said. “Let’s just go home before they throw us all in jail.”

“Father would make a Christmas goose with all the trimmings,” Edna said. “And then we’d sit around and sing ribald carols. Do you know any good ribald carols? My uncle Frederick knew quite a few of them. I remember one about Santa and the reindeer that--”

“That’s enough, mom!” Dolores said, pulling out of the parking lot with a squeal of tires.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Larry Goes To Therapy

By John McDonnell

The police arrested Larry after the bikini contest uproar. He was charged with  unauthorized transporting of Neanderthal women across Time boundaries. The judge took pity on him because it was his first offense, and sentenced him to get therapy for his addiction to shape-shifting and shooting Time’s arrow in the wrong direction.

“My mother didn’t know me,” Larry said, in his first visit to the psychiatrist. He was in the form of a Belgian Silver rabbit, and he sat nervously on the couch twitching his nose.

“I see,” said the psychiatrist, whose name was Dr. Fritz. “You felt that she didn’t know the inner Larry, yes?”

“No,” Larry said. “She didn’t know the outer one. I had ten thousand siblings, so she didn’t really know any of us.”

“My mother was active in the protest movement,” Edna said. She had insisted on coming with Larry to his appointment with the psychiatrist, and although she had promised to sit quietly in a corner and do her knitting, it took all of two minutes for her to break her promise. “She was always off protesting something -- the mistreatment of circus animals, overcrowded prisons, the weather. . .”

Dr. Fritz was trying to ignore her, but he had to ask: “The weather? Why the weather?”

“Well, it’s disgraceful how you can plan down to the last detail for a picnic or a tea party and then have a rainstorm just ruin the whole day. You can’t tell me the government doesn’t have a hand in this. It’s a conspiracy, that’s what it is.”

Dr. Fritz stared at her open-mouthed for a moment, then cleared his throat and said: “Well. Getting back to you, Larry. What did your father do?”

“He was busy enslaving inferior civilizations. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps. He was very concerned with my career, until I flunked out of enslavement school because I kept randomly changing into alien life forms.”

“How did your father take it?”

Larry hopped to the floor and started nibbling on the wires leading to the psychiatrist’s computer, as a way of calming his nerves. “He was not happy, of course. We are a passive aggressive civilization, though, so he couldn’t express it openly. He’d say things like, ‘That’s okay, Larry. It’s not everyone who’s cut out for enslaving civilizations. You’ll make a good clerk, I’m sure.”

“You don’t find many good clerks these days,” Edna said. “Why, do you know that the young man at the driver’s license office refused to renew my license because I couldn’t see that silly chart on the wall? I complained to his superior, but he was just as incompetent. Telling me I could cause an accident. Why, it’s been five years since then and I haven’t had a single major accident.”

Dr. Fritz’s eyes widened and he said, “You’ve been driving for five years without a license?”

“Of course,” Edna said. “What’s the point of having a chart on the wall that people can’t see?

Dr. Fritz coughed and said, “Ahem. Getting back to Larry. How did it make you feel to let your father down?”

Larry’s nose began to twitch, and tremors ran through his whole body. “It was horrible. I was an outcast among my friends. Of course, nobody teased me in an overt way. It was all, “I envy you, Larry. Going against a family tradition of military leadership that goes back half a million years. Way to break out of the mold!”

“How did you deal with that?” Dr. Fritz said.

“Larry bounded over to a small refrigerator in the corner. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to have any carrots, would you?”

“Larry, I think you’re trying to change the subject,” the psychiatrist said. “Just when we’re starting to make some progress at getting to the root of your problem.”

“Problem?” Larry said, hopping over to a brass lamp and taking a nibble out of the wire leading to it. “I have no problem. In my culture, the only way to deal with a passive aggressive insult is to smile and say, ‘Thank you’, and then repress your desire to slaughter the person’s entire family, burn his house to the ground, and enslave his kinsmen for ten generations.”

“Amazing,” Dr. Fritz said. “A whole civilization with that level of repressed rage. It’s incredible.”

“It’s why we’ve conquered half the known universe,” Larry said. “In a passive aggressive way, of course. We use backhanded compliments, veiled insults, a bit of sarcasm, a raised eyebrow here and there. Most civilizations have no defense against it. I’ve seen whole armies reduced to quivering blobs of jelly after a few of my father’s choicest compliments. Are you sure you don’t have any carrots?” He was eyeing the psychiatrist’s bookshelves, which were filled with handsome, leatherbound volumes.

* * *

In the car on the way home, Edna said. “It’s terrible how people overreact to things. I mean, really, the way that doctor flew into a rage just because you nibbled a piece out of that signed first edition of Sigmund Freud’s “Studies On Hysteria”. You’d have thought you killed someone.”

“I was hungry,” Larry said, from the seat next to Edna. His nose was twitching nervously as he watched how close Edna came to dismembering an innocent pedestrian when she made a wide left turn.

“Well, people shouldn’t say such nasty things,” Edna said. “The world would be a much nicer place if people would hold happy thoughts in their mind.”


Friday, December 3, 2010

Larry And The Bikini Contest

By John McDonnell

Larry had “blue” days every once in awhile (although he came from a clinically depressed civilization that recognized 47 different shades of melancholy, so it was complicated). On these days he’d stay in his room and either sob hysterically or turn into a howler monkey and commence a terrible screeching, interspersed with philosophical musings on the Meaning of Life.

During one of these bouts Dolores couldn’t stand it anymore and she told Murphy he had to find something for Larry to do so he’d forget about his spiritual crisis.

“Like what?” Murphy said. “He’s not good at anything.”

“Why don’t you have a contest at your bar? Then he could be a judge.”

“Contest? What kind of contest?”

“A bikini contest, like they have at Hooter’s.”

“Are you kidding? My clientele wouldn’t survive a bikini contest. They’d go into cardiac arrest, and I’d be passing out defibrillators like candy.”

“Oh, come on, everybody likes a bikini contest. It will bring in more business.”

“From who? A bunch of underage guys with raging hormones. Testosterone is a distant memory for my customers, and they like it that way.”

“You never think big, Murphy. It will bring more business to the bar. I’ll organize it. I’ll put an ad in the newspaper, and we’ll get tons of customers. We’ll sell tickets. It will be a big success. Plus, you can make Larry a judge, and it will get him out of the house.”

Murphy knew he was courting disaster by agreeing to this plan, but he also knew better than to argue with Dolores when she got one of her ideas for improving his business. It was better to be like one of the musicians on the Titanic, playing merrily while the ship goes down, than to disagree with her.

He went along with the plan, and Dolores went to work organizing it. As the weeks went by he had to admit that it was at least bringing Larry out of his funk. Larry liked the concept, and he decided to write a 1000 page thesis on changing ideals of female beauty, taking short jaunts back to the Stone Age to make notes. Dolores was not happy when he brought back a Neanderthal princess who tried to kill a deer in their backyard with her bare hands and used the dining room table to build a fire. “Look at those deltoids,” Larry said, watching her tear the legs off the table. “That was a sign of great beauty in her day. And she has an amazing brow ridge--”

At this point Dolores used words like blunt objects to make her point that she didn’t care how beautiful the creature was by Neanderthal standards, she wanted her out of the house immediately.

The day of the contest found Larry dressed in the long black robes and ceremonial wig of a Victorian jurist, and he sat near a runway that had been put in Murphy’s bar expressly for the event. The bar was filled with a collection of hooting half-drunk males in muscle shirts, and there was a suitably oily MC in a tux who announced the contestants.

The girls were of varying shapes and sizes, and as they paraded down the runway in their bikinis and heels the guys in the audience yelled out comments that would have brought a blush to the cheeks of a Viking raiding party. Larry took his job seriously, and was scribbling copious notes on his score sheet, but he didn’t give anyone more than a 5 rating on a scale of 10. When Dolores, who was sitting next to him, saw this, she said, “Larry, you’re being too picky. You’ll just embarrass us if you can’t choose a winner.”

“There’s something missing,” Larry said.

“Well, what are you gonna do? You can’t bring back that cavewoman. . . Larry? No, forget I said that. Larry!”

But it was too late. At the end of the runway stood the stocky, beetle-browed form of the Neanderthal princess, her face contorted in thought as she tried to size up what she saw. The scene looked to her like some strange group mating ceremony, although she was puzzled that no one had thought to slaughter a woolly mammoth for the occasion. She already had her eye on a male in a tight white t-shirt who was staring open-mouthed at her, and she particularly liked the collection of shiny jewelry he had draped around his neck.

She bolted toward him, declaring her love in a series of guttural growls, when the entire bar headed for the exit at the same time. There was general mayhem as the muscle-shirted guys shoved the bikini clad girls out of the way to get to the exit, and Murphy pleaded with them to stay and have another drink, while Dolores screamed at Larry to do something. Larry simply stared in admiration at the raw power of the Neanderthal princess as she flung people and furniture out of the way to get at her true love, who had locked himself in the Men’s Room and was sobbing hysterically.

In seconds she had torn down the door and grabbed the young man, but then the air shimmered and they disappeared.

“Thanks, Larry,” Dolores said, with a sigh of relief. “Although, what happened to the guy that was with her?”

“He’ll be fine,” Larry said. “He’s not dressed for the Ice Age, but he won’t notice how cold he is while he’s running from all those predators.”


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Larry The Football Fixer

By John McDonnell

Blinky and Mushy were two of the patrons at Murphy’s bar. You may wonder why they had those nicknames. Well, Blinky was a man who tended to blink a lot whenever he got excited, and Mushy got his name because he could get misty-eyed at anything, including the sound of a clock ticking or the taste of buttered toast.

One day when Larry came to work in the form of Michelangelo, and he was up on a scaffold painting a replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Murphy’s bar, Blinky and Mushy came to him with an idea.

“You’re an expert at time-traveling, right?” Blinky said.

“Si,” Larry said, putting the finishing touches on a cherub.

“The man’s a genius!” Mushy said. He was starting to tear up.

“Well, we were thinking,” Blinky said, “that it would be a small thing for you to influence the outcome of the Wagstaff State game this week. You could ah, travel forward in time and maybe do something that would allow our team to win.”

“Change the future?”

“That’s it,” Mushy said, tears brimming in his eyes. “Gosh, Larry, it would be the most beautiful thing. Wagstaff hasn’t beaten Crusher Tech in 30 years.”

“I dunno,” Larry said. “It’s not really permitted. It’s against the rules, like eating store bought pasta.”

“Aw, Larry, just this once,” Blinky said, blinking furiously. “One time, that’s all. You’d be making so many people happy, especially if you could arrange for Wagstaff to win by three.”

“Okay, maybe just once,” Larry said.

“I knew you’d do it!” Mushy said, sobbing with joy.

Larry got down from the scaffold, wiped off his paint spattered hands, and closed his eyes. The air shimmered and he disappeared. In a matter of seconds he was back.”

“The deed, she is done,” he said. “Now, I have to finish this ceiling. The Pope wants me to paint his bathroom next.”

The Saturday of the big game Murphy’s bar was packed. The word had gotten out, and there was a rumor that a lot of Murphy’s patrons had taken a financial interest in the outcome. As the game progressed the mood quickened, because Wagstaff State was actually holding its own. It seemed that Crusher Tech’s best players were coming down with a stomach virus that required them to spend a lot of time in the locker room, and the second stringers who replaced them were not doing as well. Larry intimated that he had placed a small colony of viruses in the team’s Gatorade.

By the fourth quarter the game was close, and the excitement was palpable. Mushy had had several crying jags by now, and Blinky was blinking so much he could hardly see the TV set. The game came down to one big play, with Wagstaff State lining up to kick a field goal that would win the game for them.

“This is a historic day,” Blinky said, blinking three times in succession.

“I can’t believe I’m here to witness it,” Mushy said, choking back tears.

You could hear a pin drop in the room when the players lined up. The ball was snapped, the kicker strode forward, swung his foot, and --

the ball disappeared.

There was a gasp from the crowd and then a shout, as a football appeared on the bar and the crowd realized it was the same ball that the kicker and his teammates were searching frantically for on the field.

“Larry!” Blinky said, jumping up and down, waving his arms, his eyelids moving like hummingbird wings. “What’s going on? Is that the game ball?”

“This is terrible,” Mushy said, tears streaming down his face. “Oh, this is horrible!”

There was pandemonium in the bar, with people yelling directions to the kicker, others cursing, Mushy crying, and Larry turning into an 8 foot ostrich and running about madly in search of a hole to stick his head in.

Then the ball disappeared from the bar and reappeared on the field 25 yards from the kicker. He ran after it as it bounced crazily down the field, followed by the other 21 players.

Then it reappeared on the bar, and the crowd screamed, groaned, cursed.

Then it disappeared and reappeared on the field, this time in the lap of a Mr. Charles H. Hungadunga, who was sitting at the 50 yard line, and the teams charged into the stands after it.

Then it was back on the bar.

Then it was back on the field.

“Folks, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” the TV announcer was saying. “In all my years of doing the Big Game, I’ve never seen a disappearing football.”

Finally it ended up on the bar again, and the gun sounded that ended the game. Crusher Tech fans rushed the field, the Wagstaff State fans sat in shock, and the mood in the bar was funereal. Mushy was sobbing, Blinky was staring into space (his eyelids seemed paralyzed) and Murphy watched in horror as his patrons lost their thirst and started filing out of the bar.

“You know, the first official football game was between Rutgers University and Princeton, in 1869,” Larry said, from the ice bucket where he’d stuck his head. “It was played under soccer style rules. Rutgers won, by a score of 6 runs to 4.”

“Interesting,” Murphy said, pouring himself a beer. “Do you think they had a  disappearing ball in that one?” 


Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey And Organza -- A Larry Thanksgiving

By John McDonnell

“I love Thanksgiving,” Edna said. “It’s important to be grateful for what we have. I mean, what would we do without game shows, talk radio, organza ball gowns and White Elephant sales?”

There was no answer to that, of course, so the rest of the people around Dolores’ dinner table went on with their Thanksgiving dinner.

“Horst says this is a stupid holiday,” Willow said, holding up her fork for emphasis. “He says the Indians were stupid to give the Pilgrims their food, because the Pilgrims were only here to take their land. It was a setup.”

Horst nodded his head while attempting to stuff a whole turkey leg in his mouth.

“I had a rooster as a pet when I was a girl,” Edna said. “Father bought it for me. I called him Herbert. Father let me keep him in my bedroom, although he caused a tremendous racket every morning with his crowing.”

Dolores was going to ask Murphy to comment on Willow’s statement but it was obvious from the way Murphy was gulping his food that he wanted to get the dinner finished so he could go watch a football game on TV.

“Larry,” she said instead, “what do you think of Thanksgiving?” Larry was in the form of a Ming Dynasty Chinese guardian lion, and he smiled toothily and said, “Actually, Thanksgiving as we know it was the invention of a 19th century writer named Sarah Hale, who did a lot of embroidery of the facts to make up the whole Pilgrims and Indians myth. We don’t know much about the first Thanksgiving.”

“Huh,” Horst said, through a mouthful of food. “Myth or no myth, the Indians got the wrong end of that deal. They should have wasted those dudes, instead of giving them corn.”

“Well, we could verify that,” Larry said. The air shimmered and all of a sudden there was a Native American chief sitting next to Larry at the table. He was naked from the waist up, and wearing a bead necklace, feathers in his hair, and white paint on his face.

He blinked, looked around at the table, and said, “I knew I shouldn’t have taken that last round of the pipe. That was a definite mistake.”

“Not to worry,” Larry said. “We’re all friends here. We just wanted your opinion of the American custom known as Thanksgiving. Is it true you started this custom when you offered the starving Pilgrims some corn and other food?”

The chief laughed. “I get it, this is a dream. Okay, I’ll play along. Thanksgiving? You mean that dinner we gave to that pitiable lot of Englishmen who tried to make it through a New England winter without basic skills in woodcraft, animal husbandry, and agriculture?”


He laughed again. “They were so inept, we felt sorry for them. I still feel sorry for them.”

“Dude, you’re so wrong,” Horst said. “Those losers took your land, slaughtered your families, and herded you all onto reservations. Seems you don’t have much to be thankful for.”

The chief smiled. “Two words -- Black Friday. Oh, and how about shopper rewards cards? Or those stacks of catalogs that come in the mail? The return line at Macy’s? December layoffs? Mince pie?”

“I think he’s made his point,” Larry said.

“But I like mince pie,” Edna said. “My mother made the most delicious mince pie. Do you know the secret is to soak it in brandy and then keep it in a tin for a year? It will make your hair curl when you eat it.”

The whole table looked at her in silence.

“I’d like to wake up now,” the chief said.

“Certainly,” Larry said. The air shimmered and the chief disappeared.

“Well, I for one am thankful for organdy,” Edna said. “Such a lovely texture it has! I’m also thankful for olives, champagne, handsome doctors, and, oh, all of you lovely people, even if I don’t know all your names. I’m glad the Indians gave the Pilgrims corn, because, my goodness, if they hadn’t -- well, I don’t know where we’d be.”

“Amen to that,” Dolores said.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Larry And The Wombat

By John McDonnell

Things slowly settled into a pattern at the Murphy house. Larry watched a lot of TV with Edna, Murphy spent most of his time at the bar, and Willow explored the higher levels of body piercing and tattooing with her boyfriend Horst.

Dolores was the only one who didn’t seem happy with her life. She felt a restlessness, a discontent. The fizz had gone out of her days.

“You need a craft,” Edna said. “That’s what’s always kept me going. Learn how to make something pointless and tacky, and you’ll feel better.”

“But I don’t like crafts,” Dolores said.

“Neither do I, dear,” Edna said. “But they keep us from listening to the voices in our head.”

Dolores thought maybe she was right. Maybe a busy mind would keep her from thinking about how dissatisfied she was with, oh, the entire last 20 years of her life.

“What type of crafting should I take up?” she asked Larry one night.

“How about a miniature proton beam collider?” Larry said. “You could make one that would fit on a keychain. You never know when you’re going to need to smash a few protons together. I think people would love it.”

There was a prolonged silence while Dolores stared at him.

“What?” Larry said. “You don’t like that one? Okay, then how about a subatomic--”


“Okay, let’s see,” Larry said, scratching his head. Which, by the way, was hairy. He had come down for breakfast this morning in the form of a chimpanzee, and he was scratching himself a lot today and pooching out his lips.

“How about stuffed animals?” Larry said, wrinkling up his face and scratching hard. “Everybody loves them. You could make them cute and cuddly, and give them names like ‘Smoochy’ and ‘Cutiepie’ and ‘Huggums’.

“That might work,” Dolores said. She went to work immediately, and in no time the house was filled with a collection of cute, cuddly animals stuffed almost to bursting, and all of them complete with full biographies of their lives, written by Edna. The biographies were very long and went on tangents to discuss 1950s TV trivia and recipes for stuffed olives and mince pie, and although Dolores didn’t know how that would appeal to 8 year old girls, she didn’t have the heart to tell Edna to edit them.

Dolores set up a Web site to sell the animals and it was a big success. Before long Dolores had a staff of illegal alien workers in her basement sewing stuffing into the animals, and the money was pouring in. The most popular stuffed animal was a wombat named Huggsie, and the kids just loved it.

Then one day there was a knock at the door. Dolores opened it to find an official looking man in a black suit, wearing sunglasses, who said, “Is this the headquarters of the Huggsie operation?”

“Who wants to know?” Dolores said, eyeing him suspiciously.

“My name is Edwin Kibosh, and I represent the Walt Frisby company,” the man said. “Your Huggsie the Wombat doll is a copy of our Cuddles the Sloth product, and this is a cease and desist order. You must stop production at once,” he said, handing a sheaf of papers to Dolores, “or we will be forced to burn your house to the ground and destroy your family down to the tenth generation.”

“This is outrageous,” Dolores spluttered.

“Quite true,” Larry said, coming downstairs in a tweed jacket, bifocals, and a pipe, looking very much the professor. “Wombats are completely unlike Sloths. For one thing, wombats are marsupials, crepuscular and nocturnal, found in southeast Australia and Tasmania, while Sloths are arboreal mammals who live in South America. They both have extraordinarily slow metabolisms, however.  Did you know that it takes a wombat 14 days to digest its food? They also have distinctive cubic droppings. Now the sloth’s droppings--”

“That’s enough Larry!” Dolores said.

“Sorry,” Larry said.

“I repeat,” the Walt Frisby lawyer said. “You must stop making the wombats at once, or my company will be forced to --”

There was a shimmering in the air, and he disappeared.

Dolores turned to Larry, who was studying the weave pattern in a nearby set of drapes.

“Larry,” she said. “Would you by any chance know what happened to that man?”

“Me?” Larry said. “Just because I’ve had a passing familiarity with discontinuities in the space-time continuum, that’s no reason--”

“Bring him back, Larry.”

There was another shimmering, and Mr. Kibosh reappeared, his tie askew and his sunglasses sitting at a jaunty angle on his head. His hair was standing straight up, and he had the look of a man who had seen a charging mastodon head on.

“We’ll stop making the wombats, Mr. Kibosh,” Dolores said.

“That won’t be necessary,” Mr. Kibosh said, trying to stop the tremor in his voice. “N-not necessary, n-not nohow.”

He left abruptly, and Dolores turned to Larry.

“Larry coughed and tugged at his beard . “What?” he said. “I’ll be in my room solving Waring’s Prime Number Conjecture. I’ll be down for dinner.”

Dolores just smiled. 

Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Edna Saves The World From An Alien Takeover

By John McDonnell

The pill that Horst gave Larry had the effect of sending his metabolism on a roller coaster ride, and Larry crashed on the down cycle. He fell asleep on the sofa with his head in Edna’s lap, snoring loudly. Edna didn’t seem to mind that she had a large pink rabbit snoring in her lap while she watched her favorite TV shows.

Dolores peeked in at them, and since everything seemed quiet, she tiptoed off to bed.

About 3 AM the TV set started glowing bright green. At the same time it began emitting a series of high frequency beeps, and then a pattern of pulsating multicolored circles. Edna thought it was grand how these new TV shows had so many delightful special effects.

Then there was a high, tinny voice coming from the TV set. “Transmission for Agent Z9 Double Six Click (followed by a few glottal stops). Give us your coordinates.”

“Why, I’m right here,” Edna said. “Although I’ve never been called that name. You may be confusing me with my friend Blanche. She had the most ridiculous last name, with a whole string of x’s and z’s in it. You couldn’t pronounce it at all. It came with that horrid little man she married, and I always thought she should have divorced him because of it. I like a good short name, like ‘Smith’.”

“Agent Z9,” the voice went on. “Please give a report on the last 100,000 years of human history, and your recommendations.”

“Poor Blanche died years ago,” Edna said. “Do you know, I remember when you could buy a ticket to the movies for 25 cents? I think Roosevelt was president then, although I don’t remember if it was Teddy or Franklin. I was quite the dancer in those days -- I don’t suppose you remember the Black Bottom? My mother said it was too risque, but I was a wild girl and I used to hike my skirts up and -- well, now you’ve got me telling naughty stories,” she said, giggling.

“Is this planet worth colonizing, Agent Z9?” the tinny voice said.

“Do you know, I’ve often wondered why my acquaintances on the TV don’t stop in for a visit,” Edna said. “I’ve invited them many times, but they haven’t taken my offer yet. There’s a nice young doctor named Brad, or Brent, or something like that, he has the most stunning blue eyes, and I’m sure he could cure this ringing I have in my ears, but so far he’s been too busy chatting up blonde secretaries and I haven’t been able to get his attention.”

“We won’t be visiting this quadrant of the universe for another hundred million years,” the voice said. “Do you have anything to add to your report?”

“I do try to watch my diet, of course,” Edna said. “I used to like sweets, but now it’s nothing but sugar-free this and low-fat that for me. My daughter means well, but she has no appreciation for a couple of slices of chocolate cake, or a pudding with whipped cream on top.”

“Very well,” the voice said. “We will take this planet off our list of places to colonize. This will be our last transmission for another million years. Goodbye, Agent Z9.”

“Oh my, so soon?” Edna said. “Well, it was nice chatting with you. Call again sometime.”

The TV screen flickered, the green light disappeared, and the screen resolved itself into a game show, which Edna happily began watching.

In a few minutes Larry stirred, then sat up.

“I had the strangest dream,” he said. “It was as if my home planet was trying to contact me. You didn’t hear a transmission where they were calling, ‘Agent Z9 Double Six Click (followed by a few glottal stops)’, did you? That’s my official title.”

“What’s that, dear?” Edna said. She was trying to remember the name of that nice host on “Family Feud” years ago, the one who was so friendly with all the contestants, especially the young female ones.

“I said--”

“Richard Dawson!” Edna said.

“What?” Larry said.

“Richard Dawson was the host on ‘Family Feud’. Now, what was it you wanted to know?”

“Never mind,” Larry said. “It was probably just a dream.”

“I always say there’s nothing wrong with dreaming,” Edna remarked. “It takes the edge off reality.”



Friday, October 29, 2010

What Do You Say To A Pink Bunny?

By John McDonnell

Eventually life returned to normal for Dolores, or as normal as it can be when you have an alien for a houseguest, a mother who seems to be living in a different dimension, and a daughter who makes rebellion into an art form.

Speaking of which, Willow showed up one evening with Horst, her hairy, tattooed boyfriend and announced that they were getting married and moving to a trailer park. “We’d like to invite you to the wedding,” Willow said, “but Horst thinks you don’t like him.”

“Why would he think that?” Dolores said, trying to suppress her gag reflex at the presence of Horst sitting at her kitchen table, all 300 pounds of him smelling like a combination of crankcase oil, pepperoni, beer, and various illegal plant essences.

Horst smiled back at her, belched, and took another swig of his beer.

Willow said, “Because you never lend him any money when he asks. It hurts his feelings.”

Dolores wished she had someone, anyone to talk to besides Willow. Murphy was at the bar, and Larry was in the family room discussing soap opera plotting with Edna, who couldn’t understand why the nice young doctor on one of her shows was not available for house calls.

“Mom, are you listening?” Willow said. “It would make Horst feel better if you’d just give us money for the wedding.”

Just then Larry appeared. “Appeared” is perhaps not the best word. He was feeling a bit dicey, and he was fading in and out like a TV picture in a thunderstorm. He was trying for a Marine drill sergeant look, but couldn’t pull off anything more brassy than a bank teller with a nervous tic.

“Larry,” Dolores said. “What’s your opinion of a daughter who asks her mother to approve a marriage that she doesn’t agree with? Should she just throw in the towel and give her blessing?”

“I don’t think I have the mental capacity to answer that now,” Larry said. “I’ve just come from a conversation with Edna. What do you recommend for someone whose head feels like it’s going to explode?”

“Happens to me all the time, dude,” Horst said. “Here, take one of these.” He reached in his pants pocket, pulled out a prescription bottle, and flipped it to Larry, who promptly opened it and downed the whole bottle.

“Dude, I didn’t mean the whole thing,” Horst said.

“What was in that bottle?” Dolores said.

“This isn’t going to be pretty,” Willow groaned.

“I feel. . . strange,” Larry said. “Sort of like my molecules are boiling.” The air shimmered, and he turned into a large pink rabbit in a double breasted black pinstriped suit with wide lapels and a wide-brimmed hat. His big pink ears stuck out the sides of the hat.

“You’re all out to get me, see?” he said. “But I’m wise to ya. You won’t take me alive, dirty coppers. Take that!” He bounded over the kitchen table and pummeled Horst about the head and upper body, mixing in a few sharp kicks, till Horst was a slobbering, sobbing heap on the floor, Willow was screaming, and Dolores looked on, open-mouthed.

Just then Edna walked in the kitchen, and said, “Oh, we have a visitor! How do you do?” she said to the pink rabbit. “You look vaguely familiar. Have we met?”

Larry said, “No, I believe we haven’t--”

“My friend Harriet had a rabbit,” Edna said. “It had purple spots, if I recall. It was the most disagreeable thing, always hopping around interrupting people’s conversations. You look like you have much better manners than that.”

“Yes,” Larry said.

“Would you like to come in the family room and watch TV with me?” Edna said. “I have the most delightful extraterrestrial friend you’d ever want to meet. He stepped out for a moment, but he’ll be back.”

“Okay,” Larry said. He gave Horst one more swift kick, then bounded off behind Edna.

“Speak to me Baby!” Willow screeched, bending over Horst’s prone body. “Are you alive?”

Horst got up with a wild look in his eyes. “There’s no way I’m marrying into this family,” he said. “You people are crazy!” He bolted out the back door, with Willow following him.

Dolores looked at the shambles of her kitchen and decided she would go give Larry a big kiss.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Larry On Life

By John McDonnell

It took Larry weeks before he had the confidence to shape-shift into something besides a six foot Eastern grey kangaroo, and for awhile he wouldn’t attempt anything more sociable than a Thomson’s gazelle, prone to stampeding anytime humans approached him. 

Murphy didn’t have time to wonder where Larry was hiding; he was busy trying to remove all traces from his bar of the upscale establishment Dolores had turned it into so that he could coax his regular patrons back.

He took down the disco ball and tore out the stage and dance floor. He removed every mirror in the joint, because there was nothing worse for his patrons than to see a reflection of themselves when they were drinking. These were men who were on good terms with anonymity.

“Third place finishers,” Dolores called them. “They have no interest in winning the race; all they want to do is finish.”

“And what’s wrong with that?” Murphy asked. “We can’t all be first. My customers know that, and they’re comfortable with it.”

Dolores looked mystified, but Murphy knew his clientele. Gradually they filtered in once Murphy put back the ancient TV with the duct tape holding it together, cut back on the beer and liquor selection, and coaxed Larry back to the kitchen to make his signature greasy meatball sandwiches.

Larry came back because he felt comfortable in the bar, just like Murphy’s regulars. It was a place where he didn’t have to accomplish anything meaningful. He knew that all the men drinking there and watching sports on TV had no fetish for excellence, and that suited him fine. Larry was someone who could get performance anxiety about crossing the street.

He was content making greasy food and tending bar and answering trivia questions. He was very popular with the clientele because he knew the most obscure facts, and even if he was stumped for a moment, he could always travel back in time and find out exactly why the dinosaurs went extinct, for instance, or who had the idea to invent beer. In fact, Larry added some spice to the exercise when he started sending a few of the patrons on little trips back in time, but he had to stop when Patrick Corgan came back missing a few teeth after an altercation with Attila the Hun.

Murphy’s mother-in-law Edna came on slow nights and played checkers with Larry, and although she had no strategy and did not understand the rules she had an uncanny ability to win. It was almost as if she was at a different level of understanding of game theory than anyone in human history, Larry thought, although Edna’s ability to mix up reality with her soap opera plots gave him pause. Then again, she had half the men in the bar placing bets on which aging actress was going to get the young hunk in the next day’s episode.

Murphy would often get pensive in the wee small hours after he closed the bar, and he’d sit nursing his beer and ask questions like, “So, Larry, what’s the meaning of life?”

Larry was usually in the shape of Clancy O’Toole, a 300 pound mustachioed bartender from the Gilded Age, and he’d get a puzzled look and say, “Never thought about it. Why?”

“Because you’re from a superior race of beings, and you fellows have all the answers.”

“Me, superior?” Larry said. “I can’t even get my boss to return my calls. I try to transmit a message to my home planet, but all I get is a recording that says, “Your call will be answered in 400 million years.”

“Do you ever think about God?”

“No. On my planet we’re trained not to think about God. It induces a catatonic stupor, and it’s bad for the economy.”

“But what about all the unexplained mysteries of the universe?”

“Like where socks disappear to after you put them in the dryer? There are some things better left unexamined.”

“Just my luck,” Murphy said. “I finally meet a super-intelligent, shape-shifting visitor from an advanced civilization, and he doesn’t want to talk about God.”

“Well, I’d like to know why Edna beats me at checkers every day, but you don’t see me crying in my beer about it.”

“When you’re right, you’re right,” Murphy said.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Larry Runs Away

 By John McDonnell

In the aftermath of the Limburger Cheese Incident Larry went into hiding. He took a job as a doormat at a high traffic office building in town, because he was so ashamed he decided that it would be appropriate to have hundreds of people step on him every day.

He still had a slight aroma of cheese about him, which made it easy for Myra to find him, with the help of one of her best tracking rats.

She stood near the tasteful maroon doormat with “Welcome” written on it in gold letters, and began. “Larry, I know it’s you. Please come back. I’m sorry for doubting your affection.” She was holding the rat in her pocket to prevent it from scaring the people walking on top of Larry.

“I’m a failure,” Larry said. “I screw up everything I touch.”

“No you don’t,” Myra said, her glasses misting up. “You’re the kindest, sweetest, most sensitive alien I know.”

“You know other aliens?” Larry said. “You mean I’m not alone here?”

“Well, no,” Myra said. “It was a figure of speech.”

“Oh.” Larry sighed. “I should have known. I’ll be stuck in this backwater forever. I’m not important enough for a posting to anyplace with a real civilization.”

“Why are you talking to that doormat?” It was a five year old boy who had just gotten out of a taxi with his mother.

“I’m talking to my friend the alien,” Myra said.

“Well, if it works for you,” the boy said, shrugging. “Personally, I don’t do the Imaginary Friend thing anymore.”

“Now, Jeremy, let’s move along,” his mother said. “We don’t have time to talk to aliens today.”

“I’ll believe it if he turns himself into a dinosaur,” the boy said to Myra.

“Of course,” Larry said. “Turn myself into a creature that died out millions of years ago. It’s right down my alley. An evolutionary dead-end, that’s me.”

“You see?” his mother said. “The alien doesn’t want to cooperate. Now let’s get going. We’re late for your dentist appointment.”

The little boy froze. “Dentist? You told me we were going to a toy store.”

“So I lied a little. It’s almost a toy store. He has stuffed animals to play with in his office.”

“No!” the boy shouted. “I’m not going to the dentist!”

He turned and bolted in the opposite direction, which happened to be directly into the street. There was a large city bus coming straight at him. His mother screamed, Myra said, “Oh, no!” and Larry -- well, Larry somehow sprang into action. He slowed down Time to the point where everyone appeared to be moving in a vat of maple syrup. He then turned himself into a large grey kangaroo and hopped out into the street, picked up the little boy, stuffed him in his pouch, and bounded back to the sidewalk. There was a shimmering, and then everything was moving at the normal speed again, and the little boy was standing next to Larry blinking up at him.

“Thank you!” the boy’s mother cried.

“What happened?” the boy said, shaking his head and looking at Larry.

“This nice kangaroo saved you from being run over by a bus,” the mother said.

“It was nothing, mate,” Larry said, in an Australian accent. “I just readjusted Time and Space on the atomic level so that I could get over there and grab yer little ankle biter before the bus came. It involves quarks, leptons, and muons -- happens in the bush all the time.”

“Yes,” the mother said. “Well, I just want to say that my cousin is the mayor, and I’m going to tell him that you deserve a medal for this, and maybe a parade.”

“Please,” Larry said, his jaws working as he chewed a cud. “Bit of a shy bloke, don’t much like being the center of attention. Not my bowl of rice, if yer get my drift.”

“I insist,” the mother said. “We have parades for everything in this city. It’s about time we had one for an alien.”

Myra, who knew her boyfriend better than anyone, said, “Thank you, ma’am, but we’ll be going now. Larry has an appointment to get a hero’s welcome at my apartment. Come on, Larry,” she said, pulling his paw. “We’re going. And don’t even think about slowing down Time again till we get home.”


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ladies And Gentlemen. . . Larry The Alien

By John McDonnell

Dolores lost no time when she discovered that Larry had a set of pipes like an extraterrestrial Tony Bennett. She bullied a local banker into giving her a home equity loan, and used the money to pay for a complete overhaul of Murphy’s gin joint. She added mahogany woodwork, a bar with a mirrored backdrop, shelves of liquor with names Murphy couldn’t pronounce, and a staff of cosmetically enhanced waitresses and barmen.

She also put in a dance floor (Murphy thought it was sacrilegious to put such a thing in his establishment) and a stage for Larry and his band.

Murphy took to drinking alone in the back room, watching sports on the big old Zenith that you had to whack a few times to get the picture right.

Larry practiced every day with his band, although Dolores had to monitor him to keep him from turning into a walrus or a team of Clydesdale horses in the middle of a song.

The night of the Grand Opening, Larry went to see Murphy in the back room.

“I can’t go on tonight,” Larry said. “I have stage fright.”

“Tell Dolores,” Murphy said.

“I can’t say no to her.”

“I understand. She tends to swear a lot when people use that word to her.”

“You don’t understand. We don’t use the word ‘no’ on my planet. We prefer to make up elaborate stories to avoid saying no. Our whole civilization is built on saying yes and then avoiding the consequences.”

“You’ll never rule the universe if you can’t say no once in awhile,” Murphy opined.

Just then Dolores peeked in the door. She was dressed like someone who had decided she needed more drama in her life, and her eyes were sparkling so much they could have lit up a small city. 

“This is exciting!” she said. “The place is packed. Everybody is here, including the mayor and all of the licensing people we paid off. Oh, and Larry, mother wants to wish you luck.”

Edna walked in and went up to Larry and planted a big kiss on his cheek. “Break a testicle, dear,” she said. “Or, whatever it is that you show business types say to each other.” She opened her enormous black pocketbook and took out an envelope. “This is from that sweet girl who works with rats. Myra, I think her name is. She asked me to give it to you.” She kissed Larry one more time and walked out with Dolores.

Larry opened the envelope, took out a note, and started reading. His face turned ashen, and he moaned. “Myra is breaking up with me. She says I’ve gone Hollywood. ‘You have no time anymore for a simple girl who loves rats,’ she wrote.” His lip started twitching dangerously.

“Larry, calm down,” Murphy said, but it was too late. Larry was on a crying jag, and in minutes he was weeping and gnashing his teeth, a sound that reminded Murphy of a wood chipper in a tornado.

Somehow Murphy got Larry calmed down and into his satin tux, and when the MC announced, “The brother from another galaxy, Larry the Alien!” Larry went out and launched into his first number.

About midway through, however, he noticed Myra sitting rigidly at a table up front, her thick glasses steamed over, her black pageboy hair severe in its reproach of him, and his facial tic came back. The band kept playing, but Larry was fading in and out like a TV set that’s losing reception. The crowd was getting restless, and the band looked at each other quizzically. Larry yanked his tie and jacket off, did a split, launched into “When You’ve Got A Heartache (There Ain’t Nothing You Can Do)” and at the climactic moment there was a shimmer in space-time and Larry changed into a large platter of three-month old Limberger cheese.

There was a silence as the band stopped playing, and into that silence came the sound of thousands of tiny feet scurrying across the floor.

“Rats!” someone shouted. “Look at all the rats!”

Rats were coming from every corner of the building, all converging on the stage. Myra jumped on stage with tears in her eyes, and said, “Larry, forgive me for doubting your love!” but she was drowned out by the sound of hundreds of people scrambling to find the exit. Tables were overturned, bottles crashed to the floor, and the general mood was one of abject terror.

Dolores was holding her own in the decibel department, having already broken several wine glasses with her bravura high C, her pitch climbing just shy of the upper limits of dog hearing.

Murphy could have screamed at how hard it was going to be to pay back that home equity loan now, but he thought he’d better go calm Dolores down before she damaged her vocal cords.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Gotta Be Me

By John McDonnell

“How’s your new girlfriend, Larry?” Murphy said one evening when Larry the alien was tending bar at his joint. “The exterminator?”

“She doesn’t like that term,” Larry said. He was feeling out of sorts, and his shape was shifting between a musclebound Nordic bodybuilder and a six foot gray blob.


“She prefers ‘rat whisperer’. She has a real empathy with rats. She can talk to them.”

Murphy shuddered. “I guess it takes all types.” He poured another shot of whiskey from the bottle on the bar, and downed it in one gulp.

“Is something bothering you?” Larry said. “You seem upset.”

“How can you tell?” Murphy asked.

“I was trained to feel humans’ pain. Maybe that’s why I get so unhinged.” Larry twitched, and he turned into a little man with a facial tic and hair that looked like it had seen the wrong end of 50 thousand volts of electricity.

“Yes, well you’ve probably figured out that I’m having problems at home. Dolores wants me to ‘upgrade’ this joint: hire a chef, start serving fancy meals, decorate the place and book entertainment. Entertainment! Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

“Not until now.”

“Singers, dancers, God knows what else,” Murphy said. “I don’t want any of that in here, and if I change the place my regular crowd will stop coming.”

“The females of your species think too much.”

“You can say that again. Too much thinking. It’s the cause of most of the problems in the world.”

“A brain can be a terrible thing in the wrong hands.”

“So what do I do?” Murphy said. “I have everything I want here: a nice, friendly bar where guys can come to drink and watch sports on TV. I don’t want to mess it up by serving little sandwiches and putting tablecloths everywhere.”

“So you’d rather have a dozen unshaven men eating pretzels and drinking beer while they watch a boys’ game on that ancient TV than have 30 tables filled with couples eating filet mignon and drinking expensive bottles of wine?”

“My point exactly,” Murphy said. “Who would want that?”

“Interesting question,” Larry said.

“Do you have any suggestions?” Murphy said.

Larry’s shape shimmered, and then he was standing there in a gold lamé tuxedo, a Vegas updo, and enough jewelry to bankrupt a hip hop record company. He snapped his fingers, then struck a few poses and launched into “I Gotta Be Me”.

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I've gotta be me

Somehow there was an 11 piece band backing him up, all in gold tuxedos, with a choreographed horn section and a drummer hitting rim shots. A spinning disco ball appeared in the ceiling and a thousand points of light reflected off Larry’s spangled tux. Murphy wasn’t too fazed by it, because things like this happened to Larry all the time. In fact, he was counting up how many beers he’d be able to sell to the band after Larry finished this number.

Just then Dolores walked in and when she saw Larry and the band she got a look like someone who’s just received word that a forgotten relative with the net worth of a small Caribbean nation has died and left his entire estate to her. Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands.

“Oh, Murphy, I didn’t think you were listening, but this is EXACTLY what I wanted for the bar. Where did you get them? They’re terrific! And who’s that singer? Is that. . . Larry?”

“He’s just having one of his fits,” Murphy said. “It’ll be over in a minute.”

“What a voice!” Dolores said. “He’s terrific. Murphy, you have to hire him. You’d be the hottest nightclub in town with these guys playing.”

“Dolores, please,” Murphy said. “I know this place is just a hole in the wall, but it’s my hole in the wall. I just want to keep things nice and quiet.”

“It’s too late for that,” Dolores said.

The band launched into “I Feel Good,” and Larry started doing splits like James Brown. The doors opened and in minutes the place was filled with couples dancing, clapping, and looking for someone to mix them martinis.

There was an MC, and he was yelling, “Outta this world!” every time Larry did a split. The noise was deafening, and Murphy took his whiskey bottle and retreated to the back room, where he cast aside his shot glass and took a slug directly from the bottle.

Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Amateur Night

By John McDonnell

“Halloween is my favorite holiday,” Cole said, looking through the Trick or Treat bag that the little boy dropped when he ran away screaming after Cole jumped out of the bushes in his clown costume. “I get to scare all these stupid little kids and take their candy.”

“It’s so easy,” his buddy Ted said, tearing open a bag of M&Ms and pouring its contents down his throat. “Little kids are all afraid of clowns.”

Cole had an orange fright wig on, and a clown costume with baggy pants and big shoes. He had painted his face white and put big red lips and a red bulbous false nose on. He was 17, and it was the third Halloween in a row that he had pulled this stunt. Ted was dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants. He just went along to help carry the candy they stole from the kids. This year they had tried a new neighborhood, because there was talk that parents would be out watching for them in their usual haunts.

“We still don’t have anything crunchy,” Ted said. “That’s my favorite. I don’t really like chocolate that much.” He had chocolate dripping from his mouth when he said this.

“Yeah, let’s keep going,” Cole said. “This next street over has some big old houses. I bet they give out a lot of candy.”

Sure enough, the street was teeming with children in their Halloween costumes. Every one of them had a parent, however, and Cole was afraid to scare the little kids when their parents were nearby.

“Damn,” he said. “Nothing happening here.”

“Yeah, but look at that house,” Ted said, pointing to a big Victorian style house with turrets and gables and a wrought iron fence around it. “It’s all lit up, and there are tons of kids coming out of it. They must give a lot of candy at that place, otherwise the kids wouldn’t be there. Let’s go and just pretend we’re trick or treating. Maybe we’ll get some crunchy candy.”

“Sure,” Cole said. “I’d rather scare some kids, but what the hell.”

By the time they walked up the long paved walkway most of the children had left. There was one small girl dressed as an angel walking down the steps from the porch, and she seemed to be alone. Cole didn’t see a parent around, so when the girl walked past him he pushed her down and took her bag.

“Hey,” the little girl said. “That’s my Trick or Treat bag!”

“Get out of here, kid,” Cole said, making a scary clown face at her. “Beat it, before I do something nasty to you.”

The little girl ran away crying.

Cole and Ted heard something behind them, and they turned to see a very small man on the porch who was looking at them. He was a midget, dressed in a clown outfit, with baggy polka dot pants, a black bowler hat, and a brown coat that was too big for him, with a large yellow flower in the lapel. He was grinning at them.

“That’s the spirit of Halloween,” he said. “Come up here, boys, and let me take a look at you.”

Cole and Ted went up the steps and the little man ushered them through the big oak door to the foyer of the house. There were circus posters hanging on the walls, newspaper clippings, and the smell of chocolate in the air.

“Let me shake your hand,” the little man said. “I always love to meet a fellow clown.”

Cole held out his hand and the little man clasped it firmly in his. There was a smell of electricity, a buzzing sound, and Cole jumped a foot in the air, then fell on the floor with a dazed look on his face. The little man laughed heartily at this.

“The old handshake buzzer,” he said. “Gets ‘em every time.”

Cole slowly got to his feet, but his eyes had a vacant look.

The little man turned to Ted, held out his lapel, and said, “Doesn’t this flower smell wonderful?”

Ted bent over to smell and got a squirt of something in his eyes. Within seconds his eyes were on fire, and he howled in pain.

The little man laughed again, and ushered the dazed boys into the living room, directly over a trap door that opened when they stepped on it, sending them tumbling down to the basement below.

Immediately there was a very loud growl, and then the sound of screaming and people running for their lives.

The little man adjusted his flower, smoothed his long coat and called into the kitchen. “You don’t have to worry about feeding the Beast, dear. I’ve found two amateurs who will provide him with an excellent supper.”

“Why thank you, dear,” came the voice from the kitchen. “And if there’s anything left over, I’ll use it for the next batch of chocolate. It’s always nice to add a little crunchiness, don’t you think?”

Copyright John McDonnell 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Big Hearted Fella

By John McDonnell
“It’s not goodbye, Sue, not at all.” He took another forkful of the fish and put it in his mouth. “This is delicious fish, by the way. Never had anything like it.”
“Don’t change the subject,” she said. “You’re saying goodbye.”
“No, I hate goodbyes. I hate endings.”
“But you cheated on me. I found the pictures on your computer terminal.”
“Now, Honey, I told you, I’m a man who can’t be tied down to one woman. My heart is too big. I see a beautiful woman and my heart turns flips. I’m a lover of beauty, a sentimentalist, a softie. That’s all it is.”
“We had vows.”
“I didn’t mean to break our vows. I had good intentions when I made them. I just, I just can’t help myself. You forgive me, don’t you Honey? Please say you do.”
“How can I forgive you? You cheated on me. Do you want some more fish?”
“Yes, I do. It’s delicious. I know what the problem is. It was hard for you to open up to me, wasn’t it? You don’t open up to many people. I think this will be good for you, it will open you up to new possibilities. We’ll all be friends. It’s a beginning, a new beginning for us, don’t you think?” He was getting very flushed, and there were beads of sweat on his forehead.
She watched him closely. “A new beginning?”
“Sure, that’s it. It’s a new chapter in our relationship. I’ll still see you, along with Dakota and Mandy, and maybe one or two other girls, but we’ll have such good times. Don’t you think that’s better, Honey? A beginning instead of an ending? Gee, it’s awfully hot in here. And I’m having trouble breathing. Honey, why are you looking at me like that?”
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Suddenly he slumped over and fell to the floor. He looked up at her with wild eyes, questioning.
“Can’t move?” she said. “That’s the poison working. The fish you liked so much, it was blowfish. A delicacy in Japan, although it’s also very toxic. You have maybe an hour of consciousness, and you won’t be able to move during that time, but you’ll feel everything I do to you.”
She went over the drawer where she kept her utensils, opened it and pulled out a large carving knife. She ran her finger delicately along its razor sharp edge.
“It will be interesting to see how big your heart really is,” she said.
Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chuck Berry, Flash Fiction Master

John Lennon called Chuck Berry "one of the all-time great poets" but I think he's a flash fiction master. If you printed out the lyrics to his two-minute masterpieces like "Almost Grown" or "Too Much Monkey Business" you'd have a flash fiction story -- tight, vernacular, witty. They're little stories, with a dramatic arc, all told from a teenager's point of view. Chuck had a feel for the rhythm and rhyme of words that was unmatched. He can tell a whole story in just two lines, like these from "Too Much Monkey Business":
Pay phone - something wrong - dime gone - will mail
Ought to sue the operator for telling me a tale - ahh!
Plus, he played a mean guitar, and he had Johnnie Johnson playing those piano licks behind him. Here's a link to "Almost Grown":


Friday, July 23, 2010


A #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

The Mr. Sweety ice cream truck was as much a part of summer on the island as bikinis and sunburn, and when the kids heard its tinkling music they’d run from the beach with their money and line up to get their frozen treats.

The truck was owned by a man named Banana Joe, who wore a big floppy hat and pretended he liked kids, although the kids knew his smile was fake and his cheery manner disappeared when there were no parents around. Besides, he had one long fingernail, his pinky nail, and the kids thought that was weird.

Banana Joe had a specialty, miniature bananas dipped in chocolate sauce and frozen. He called them, “Banana Joe bars”. The kids loved them.

He had a brother named Willy who was not too smart, and he helped out on the truck, but Banana Joe was mean to him. He called him “Stupid,” and “Dummy”, and ordered him around.

One time Willy felt sorry for a little girl who didn’t have any money with her, and he gave her an ice cream bar for free. When Banana Joe found out about it he got angry at Willy and called him really bad names until Willy got tears in his eyes and looked embarrassed in front of the kids.

“You do that again and I’ll put you back in the home,” Banana Joe said.

“No,” Willy said. “Please, don’t do that, Joe.”

“I swear I will,” Banana Joe said. “I oughtta do it anyway. You’re more trouble than you’re worth, you moron. I oughtta put you back there where you belong.”

Willy’s lip was quivering, and he was wringing his hands.

The next day, when the kids heard the music from the truck and they ran to get their ice cream, Banana Joe wasn’t there. “He got sick,” Willy said. “I’m gonna sell the ice cream now.”

The kids all cheered, because they loved Willy. They lined up and fired their orders at him, and Willy tried his best, but he got all mixed up about what everybody wanted and how much everything cost. He took forever, and the kids were getting impatient. One teenaged girl tried to butt ahead of everybody.

“I’m tired of waiting,” she said. “I want a Banana Joe bar.”

“I’ll get to it,” Willy said. “Just give me a chance.”

“I want it now,” she said. “My Dad knows the mayor. He can get you kicked off this beach. Now!”

Willy wiped his brow, and said okay. He reached in the freezer and brought out a Banana Joe bar. The girl paid him and tore the wrapper off the bar. She bit into it, said, “Ow!” and cursed. “Why is this so hard?”

She looked closely at the place where she’d taken a bite. Her face changed, and her eyes got very, very big.

“Oh my God,” she said. She dropped the Banana Joe bar on the pavement and ran screaming down the beach.

In the noonday sun, you could see a fingernail protruding from the chocolate.

Copyright 2010 John McDonnell. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Blog Wins An Award!

I received this award from Danielle La Paglia, who writes terrific flash fiction and has a better-looking blog than mine. I'm supposed to pass this award on to 15 other blogs whose fiction I enjoy. I am really slow with tasks like this, so I'm going to modify it to seven blogs (otherwise it'll take me till 2012 to get this done). There are tons of fiction blogs out there that I like, so it's hard to limit this list to 15. However, here is my attempt:
FutureNostalgic. A great series: pixies vs. fairies.
. Mazzz in Leeds. Funny, dark.
. Eric J. Krause.  Sci fi podcasts, among other things.
. Laura Eno. A funny series about Chronos and Death.
. John Wiswell. "The Bathroom Monologues". Amazing what he comes up with.
. Icy Pop. Really short stories with a punch to them.
. Tony Noland. Writes in different styles and genres. I look forward to his #fridayflash posts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Thing In The Basement

A #Fridayflash Story

By John McDonnell

“Watch out for the thing in the basement,” Billy’s Uncle Hank used to say. He thought it was funny, and he’d smile when he told Billy about it. “Been down there a long time, since before I bought this house,” he’d say. “People told me about it, told me not to buy the house, but I didn’t listen. I know it’s there, though -- I can feel its presence. Like a cold, clammy feeling; it makes your skin crawl. You know something’s watching you, just waiting to pounce.”

Billy didn’t like his uncle. He was strange, had too many rules, and every rule had a punishment. The worst punishment was the basement. If you ever did something really bad, Uncle said, you would have to go downstairs where the thing lived.

The basement was called a “Michigan basement”. It was unfinished, with a bare earth floor and walls. There was a workbench, with tools scattered all around, and clutter everywhere. Old, broken furniture. Ancient toys. Old magazines moldering in stacks. A bare lightbulb in the ceiling. It smelled damp and musty, and there were strange noises that came from the shadows. His uncle came down here to do his woodworking, and he had an assortment of saws, lathes, and chisels. There was even a big industrial table saw that could cut thick planks of wood.

When Billy’s mother told him she was going away on vacation with his father and that he’d have to stay with his uncle for a week, he pleaded not to go.

“Now, Billy,” his mother said. “You’re being unreasonable. We can’t afford to hire a babysitter for you for the week, and we have no other close relatives living nearby. We’re not really friendly with any of our neighbors (you know I don’t believe in getting chummy with neighbors), so Uncle Hank is the only option we have. I don’t know why you keep saying you don’t like your Uncle Hank. Why, he’s my brother -- we’re so close, we could almost be twins.”

The first day, Billy broke a rule. His uncle had a strict rule about not wasting anything, and Billy accidentally tipped a liter bottle of soda over on the kitchen table, and all the soda poured out.

His uncle got red in the face, smiled, and said, “Well, Billy, I think for that infraction you need to spend some time in the basement.”

Billy begged him not to go, but his uncle didn’t listen. He grabbed Billy by the collar and marched him down the old wooden steps, then marched back up himself, closed the big wooden door and bolted it shut.

And then he turned out the light.

It was a good thing the house was set back from the road, and there were no neighbors close by, or they would have heard Billy’s screams. Billy’s uncle seemed not to notice the screams, or the pounding on the door, or any of the other noises that came from the basement. The next morning he came down to breakfast whistling a cheery tune. When he was finished eating his cereal, he said, “Well, Billy, I think you’ve had enough punishment for one night. Let’s see how you’re doing.”

When Billy’s mother got back from her trip and came to pick him up, she rang the doorbell over and over, but nobody answered. She tried the front door handle and found that the door was unlocked. She made her way through the house calling, “Billy, Hank, where are you?” In the kitchen she saw a cereal box on the sideboard, and a bowl and spoon in the sink.

The door to the basement was open.

She went downstairs slowly, calling, “Billy, Hank? Are you there?”

It was dark in the basement, and it took several moments before her eyes adjusted.

There was something at the far end of the room, by the table saw.

The thing in the basement moved toward her.

“Mama,” it said.



Friday, July 9, 2010

Prime Cut, a #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

“This is a wicked good steak,” Joey said. “Where’d ya get this meat, Angie?”

“You like it?”

“I love it. I never tasted nothing like it.”

“I got it from the supermarket. They have a new butcher in the meat department. He’s such a cute guy, blonde wavy hair, ice blue eyes. And so helpful. The kind of guy who really listens to a girl, and tries to help her out. Anyway, he has the best meat.”

“Yeah, well, that’s good, Angie. I’m glad you found a new friend. Now, listen, I’m gonna tell you something, but I don’t want you to cry. I hate it when you cry.”

“What’s that, Joey?

“I got a new girlfriend. Her name’s Honey, and she has a body on her like a damn Mack truck. I mean, she has curves on top of her curves. She has skin like, you could bounce a quarter off it.”

“You used to say that about me, Joey.”

“I can’t help it, Angie, I’m in love with her. You’re not crying are you?”

“I’m not crying, Joey.”

“That’s a switch. You always cry when I tell you about a new girlfriend.”

“I’m over that, Joey. I mean, after the 200th time, a girl gets used to it. Well, maybe not used to it, so much. You want another piece of steak?”

“Yeah, sure. This is the best meat I ever had. So what was it you were saying?”

“Nothing, just that I decided crying don’t do no good. I mean, what good did it ever do me to cry about you cheating on me on our wedding night? Or the time when I was in the hospital after my car accident, and you couldn’t come to see me right away because you had a date?”

“Angie, I told you, I promised that girl I’d take her out. I didn’t want to break a promise.”

“I know, I know. Here’s your steak. Good, isn’t it?”

“Better than the first one. I better finish this fast, though. I gotta date with Honey tonight. Funny thing, she hasn’t answered her cell phone all day.”

“I’m sure she’ll turn up eventually, Joey.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Now, here’s a nice little salad I made you.”

“Angie, you know I don’t like salad.”

“Joey, it’s good for you. You don’t eat enough salad. Besides, I fixed this one special.”

“Yeah, looks like you put some crazy new vegetables in it. What are these things, anyway. They look like little pink carrots, except -- what the? Is this a finger? What is this, a joke? It’s a joke, right? And wait, is this a ring? Oh my god, that’s the ring I just gave Honey!”

“Remember that nice butcher I told you about? Well, it turns out he’s a whiz with a knife. Oh, I’m sorry, Joey. Was there something wrong with the meat? You look like you have an upset stomach, sweetie. You’re turning all green.”


Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Larry's New Girlfriend

By John McDonnell

It was Dolores who came up with the idea that Murphy should give Larry a job in his bar.

“It’s no good having an alien in the house all day,” she said. “I never know what he’s going to turn into. Yesterday he was a walrus. Now my living room sofa stinks of clams. And my mother thinks she can fix him up with her favorite soap opera actresses. Her hold on reality is getting shakier since he’s been around.”

So Murphy reluctantly hired Larry as a bartender. Larry was a quick study, and in no time he was a master mixologist, sometimes turning himself into a four-armed Hindu deity in order to keep up with drink orders on busy nights. He was a good listener, and could converse on any subject except chaos theory and modern Art, so he was popular with Murphy’s clientele.

Larry was adept at handling misunderstandings among the patrons, too. Once, when two inebriated men started arguing, Larry changed into a large, red-bearded Viking warrior, and when he split their table in half with his battle axe they suddenly decided to make up.

Larry’s only drawback was that he tended to mix himself pink fruity drinks while on the job, and after a few of these he had less control over the physical details of his existence. You never knew if he was going to change into a life form that was charming, curious, or toxic, and anything could set him off.

Murphy found a way to deal with that by hiding the little paper umbrellas that Larry put in his drinks, since Larry thought the umbrellas were essential and wouldn’t take a snootful without them.

Business improved, because people liked Larry. Murphy even came up with theme nights, where Larry would turn into famous people from the past and answer questions while he tended bar. Babe Ruth was a popular one, as was Sigmund Freud, although Murphy had to tell him no more Marilyn Monroe after he nearly caused a riot in the bar.

Larry met several women at the bar and even went out on a date or two, but nothing came of it. Dating was awkward for Larry; he was prone to creating mini black holes in restaurants if his meal was undercooked, or turning himself into an ostrich when he didn’t know what to say.

Murphy began to think that Larry would never find a girlfriend, until one day when he had to call a pest control company after he found a rat in the kitchen. When the exterminator showed up it was a woman named Myra who had pasty white skin, a lumpy body, and Coke bottle glasses. She wore a dark green uniform and was a little too interested in rodents.

“Rats are highly intelligent,” she said. “They form communities just like humans, and they are highly efficient breeders. One male and female rat can have over a million descendants in less than two years.”

Murphy shuddered at the thought of a million rats running around his bar, but Larry, who was currently in the form of a toothless, gray-bearded prospector from the Old West, perked up.

“Yes ma’am,” he cackled, “and don’t you know that rats regulate their body temperature through their tails. And, by cracky, they can stay afloat for three days. Not only that. . .”

“You have an interest in rats?” Myra said. Her glasses were steaming up.

“Why yes,” Larry said, changing into a myopic professor in a cable knit sweater. “I happen to think they are an extremely well-adapted life form.”

“Agreed,” Myra said. “They are fascinating animals. Much more so than humans.”

“I concur,” said Larry. “Highly evolved.”

Myra coughed. “I, uh, never met anyone like you,” she said. “Would you, er, would you want to go out to lunch?”

“I suppose that would be a highly useful thing to do, since we could discuss rats.”

“Yes,” she said. “Highly useful.”

“I’m a vegan,” Larry said.

“Oh, me too!” Myra said. “I know a great place down the street. They make the best burgers out of broccoli and kale.”

They walked out the door and left Murphy wondering at the strangeness of love.



Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Rights Of Octopi, a #fridayflash story

 By John McDonnell

“Mom, your alien made Horst disappear!” Willow shrieked. “Get him to bring Horst back now!”

Dolores thought that Horst was probably fitting in very well with all the other hominids from 8 million years ago, and she was not thrilled with the idea of bringing him back, but Willow looked a bit flushed under her corpse-like Goth makeup, so Dolores said, “Larry, can you please bring Horst back from whatever epoch you sent him to?”

“Certainly,” Larry said, and in a flash Horst was back in the kitchen, breathing heavily, with scratches on his face and an assortment of twigs, leaves, and small animals in his hair.

“Whoo,” Horst said. “I didn’t know hippos could climb trees.” He had the look of someone who had seen entirely too much for one day.

“Come on, Baby,” Willow said, pushing him out the back door. “We know when we’re not wanted.” She came back long enough to grab two beer bottles out of the refrigerator and then slam the door behind her.

After they left, Dolores sat down across the kitchen table from Larry. “That’s my daughter,” she said. “She has terrible taste in men, her hair is purple, and she hasn’t said ‘Thank you’ to anyone in ten years.”

Larry looked pensive. “On my planet it is not uncommon for mothers to eat their young.”

“That alone tells me you’re an advanced civilization,” Dolores said.

“I miss my home,” Larry said, his eyes moistening.

Dolores didn’t want him to start crying again, because it took forever to get him calmed down.

“Say, why don’t we go out to dinner?” she said. “I haven’t had seafood in ages. What do you think?”

Larry thought it was a good idea, as did Murphy and Edna. Although Dolores had to tell Edna that her full length pink ballgown, white gloves, and feather boa was not appropriate attire for the seafood restaurant, and Murphy got Larry to promise he wouldn’t turn himself into anything more edgy than a Republican congressman for the duration of the evening.

Things did not go well at the seafood restaurant, however. While they were waiting for a table Larry noticed a large fish tank and went over to look at it. He pressed his face to the glass and seemed to be communing with a pinkish gray octopus for a few minutes. Suddenly he turned to Murphy and said, “My little friend here tells me this place has octopus on the menu. How barbaric!”

Murphy shrugged and said, “It’s a seafood restaurant. That’s what they serve.”

“This is an outrage,” Larry said. “I protest! This must stop!”

“What’s the matter?” Dolores said.

“Larry doesn’t like that there’s octopus on the menu,” Murphy said.

“Abomination!” Larry shouted. “What kind of people are you?” He had morphed into a cross between a Sumo wrestler and an 11th century Viking, and was going around the restaurant overturning tables, breaking glass, and causing the patrons to flee for their lives.

“Isn’t this darling?” Edna said. “I love it when someone takes a principled stand. What are we fighting for, dear?”

“The rights of octopi,” Dolores said, with a murderous look at Murphy.

“You’d better leave now,” Murphy said. “I’ll get him calmed down, I promise.”

“I really wanted seafood,” Dolores muttered, as she led Edna out of the restaurant just before a water glass whizzed by her ear and crashed into the cash register, shattering in a thousand pieces.

Later, after a spirited police chase through the mountains, Murphy stopped at a quaint little town and treated everyone to ice cream cones, and they sat on a bench by a pier and watched the sun set over the ocean.

“I’m sorry,” Larry said. He looked vaguely like a librarian now, and had a beard and wore a threadbare blue cardigan. “I get carried away sometimes.”

“It’s okay, dear,” Edna said. She looked out at the darkening sky. “Do you ever look at the stars at night and wonder if there’s anyone else out there?”

Murphy blinked twice rapidly, and said, “Larry is from out there, Edna.”

“Nonsense,” Edna said. “Larry is one of us. Aren’t you dear?” she said, patting Larry on the knee. “Why, all Larry needs is a girlfriend, and he’ll be all right.”

“A girlfriend,” Larry said. “There would be a certain strange logic in that.”

“Wonderful,” Murphy said. “Would this girlfriend be a vertebrate or an invertebrate?”

“Mother is right,” Dolores said. “Larry needs a relationship.”

“A bit of advice, Larry,” Murphy said. “Settle on one species, at least. Women like a little stability in that area.”



Friday, June 4, 2010

Larry Goes Ape -- a #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

Even though Larry turned her living room into a rain forest and had an annoying habit of changing into naked starlets and sea animals without warning, Dolores slowly grew to like him. For one thing, he was good company for her mother Edna. The two of them became fast friends, and Dolores would often find Larry talking to Edna about black holes, subatomic physics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle while she nodded her head in agreement and then chimed in with, “Things are just bad all over these days.” They watched Jeopardy together, with Edna giving Larry the Pop Culture answers.

“I think it’s wonderful that you brought this nice young man to live with us,” Edna said to Dolores one day.

“He’s not a nice young man,” Dolores said. “He’s an alien.”

“Oh, that’s marvelous,” Edna said, clapping her hands. “That insufferable Florence Canavan down the street had an alien once, and she loved to lord it over me. ‘My alien does mind probes,’ she’d say, as if that was such a big deal. Well, I’m sure Larry can do mind probes.”

Actually, Larry had already tried to do a mind probe of Edna, but it gave him a severe headache and he’d had to stop.

Every afternoon at 5:00 Edna liked to have a finger or two of single malt whiskey, and Larry asked Dolores to mix him a pink fruity drink. In return for Dolores’ hospitality, Larry made himself useful. For one thing, he was a whiz at opening jars that were stuck. He simply transformed his arm into an octopus limb, gripped the jar with his suction cups, gave it a twist, and voila! the deed was done.

He was an interesting conversationalist, as long as you didn’t bring up anything about his home planet. If that subject came up he’d get agitated and start bawling that he was a failure, they’d all forgotten about him, he would never get promoted, etc. He would fall to pieces at times like this, literally ending up in a pile on the floor.

“Pull yourself together, Larry,” Dolores said after one of these episodes. “You’re not a failure. Actually, you’re a roaring success compared to most people I know.”

“Really?” Larry said.

“You’re a piker compared to Murphy,” she said. “He wrote the book on failure.”

“I don’t think I have that book in my database,” Larry said. “I had to memorize every human book ever written before I came here.”

“Murphy hasn’t gotten around to publishing it,” Dolores said. “Probably afraid it would be a success and bring in some money.”

“Is that the rhetorical device known as sarcasm?” Larry said. “I have trouble recognizing that.”

It was at this point that Dolores and Murphy’s only child, their daughter Willow, arrived with her current boyfriend Horst, a hulking, tattooed motorcyclist who spoke in the language of grunts. Willow was living in sin with him, and arrived periodically to raid the refrigerator whenever money ran low, which was several times a week.

“Hey, Mom, who’s the freak?” Willow said, opening the refrigerator and poking her purple mane of hair in it. Horst sat at the kitchen table next to Larry and popped open a beer that he produced from his denim jacket.

Larry had made himself presentable, appearing as a mild-mannered accountant in a gray suit.

“He’s not a freak, he’s an alien,” Dolores said. “Can you please at least say hi? And get your slacker boyfriend to shake his hand?”

“Mom, he’s not a slacker. Horst is a tattoo artiste, specializing in tramp stamps, and he’s having a show of his work next week at Benny’s Pool Room.”

Horst grunted and belched.

“And, Mom, I wish you would stop trying to run my life,” Willow said. “You’re so negative, like all parents.”

“Negative?” Dolores said. “Is it negative to want your daughter to have decent manners, and to have a boyfriend who trims his hair and knows how to shake hands? God, he looks like he should be swinging from the trees in some rain forest 10 million years ago. . .”

There was a shimmering in the air, and all of a sudden Horst was gone.

“What just happened?” Willow said.

Dolores looked at Larry.

Larry shrugged his shoulders. “He is hairy enough to fit in the with the apes of the Miocene period, but he will have to learn proper tree climbing technique.”

COPYRIGHT John McDonnell 2010. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dolores Meets Pierce Brosnan (Er, Larry). A #fridayflash story.

By John McDonnell

Dolores stopped in her tracks at the sight of Pierce Brosnan in a tuxedo in her kitchen. He was leaning against the refrigerator, calmly smoking a cigarette.

Although Dolores appeared to be trying to form words, no sound came out.

“Pleased to meet you,” Pierce Brosnan said, taking her hand and kissing it.

Dolores’s eyes flickered, as if her grasp on consciousness was just a wee bit loose, so Murphy quickly maneuvered a kitchen chair in the right position to catch her if she fell backwards.

“Dolores?” Murphy said, but she was transfixed by the flashing white teeth and green eyes of Pierce Brosnan. Nothing short of a burst of small arms fire could have gotten her attention.

“Dolores!” Murphy shouted. “It’s not Pierce Brosnan. He’s an alien, remember? His name is Larry.”

There was no response, so Murphy did the only thing he could think of -- he pinched Dolores in the gluteal region of her anatomy.

“Ouch!” Dolores said, and turned to face Murphy.

“Hold on, dear,” Murphy said, shielding his face from her wrath. “I was just trying to get your attention. That’s not Pierce Brosnan, it’s an alien.”

Dolores’s face struggled with this information. “A what?” She seemed to be in a fog.

“Watch this,” Murphy said. “Larry, please stop being Pierce Brosnan.”

“Certainly,” Larry said, and transformed himself into a large black seal that bobbed its head back and forth and made a throaty “Oerk, oerk, oerk,” sound as it waddled past Dolores and through the swinging door, leaving Dolores staring intently at Murphy, the rosy bloom in her cheeks the only indication that her blood pressure was rising.

“Murphy,” she said.

“I know, dear,” Murphy said. “I know, I shouldn’t have brought him home. It’s just that I think he’s having a nervous breakdown, and he doesn’t seem to have a place to stay.”

“Perfect,” Dolores said. “An alien with a nervous breakdown. Just what I need.” She sat down at the kitchen table and absently pushed a stray hair out of her eyes. “He sure looked like Pierce Brosnan, though.” She narrowed her eyes. “He’s not going to pull any funny stuff, like abducting my mother, is he?”

Not a bad idea, Murphy thought, but he recovered and said, “Why no, dear. I don’t think he’s high up enough in the chain of command.”

“Okay, he can stay,” Dolores said. “I must be crazy, agreeing to this. Another drain on our finances.”

“Actually, I might have a bit more cash because of Larry,” Murphy said. “He zapped Boom Boom Putzinato, that gangster who was extorting money from me, into the Cretaceous Period.”

“That’s a useful skill,” Dolores said. “Except I don’t know anyone else who’s dumb enough to buy a bar in the worst neighborhood in the city, where they’re sure to have the local Mafia strongarming them.” She sighed. “What does he eat?”

Just then the swinging door opened, and Dolores’s mother Edna tottered in. “Do we have any halibut? That nice young man out there would like some fish.”

“I’ll handle it,” Murphy said. He went out into the living room and found Larry perched on the sofa watching a show on TV about bass fishing.

Murphy sat down in his leather easy chair, silently thankful that Larry wasn’t sitting in it, and said, “Larry, we need to talk. You can stay here for awhile, but you have to try to pull yourself together. This constantly changing shapes is not working. You have to choose one and stick to it.”

Larry let out a sob. “I can’t! I just can’t do it. I don’t know what’s the matter. I get these anxiety attacks, and I can’t seem to settle on one shape. I’m a failure. Do you know what else? I don’t understand metaphor. Not even a little bit. How can I infiltrate your civilization if I don’t understand metaphor? I have a literal mind, which is no good on this planet.” Now he was crying, making a hoarse, throaty sound that was so loud it was rattling the windows.

“Saints preserve us,” Murphy said, putting his hands over his ears. “Just quiet down, will you?”

Larry made a snuffling noise, and batted his long seal eyelashes, each one of them with a teardrop on the end of it. “Okay,” he said.

“Now, listen,” Murphy said. “Everything is going to be fine. You just need to rest, that’s all. And you need to do something to get on Dolores’s good side. She’s the boss here, and you’re not getting off to a very good start with her.”

“Can I give her a gift? Humans like gifts.”

“A gift? Yes, maybe that would work.”

“What does she like?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Flowers, I guess. She used to like it when I would bring her a bunch of flowers for no reason.”

“Good. Flowers it is. Go into the kitchen and bring Dolores out here.”

Murphy did as he was told.

When he brought Dolores back, however, he found that the entire living room had been transformed into a tropical rain forest, with flowers everywhere, but also snakes, huge insects, a family of howler monkeys engaged in heated debate, and macaws flying high up in the canopy.

“Oh, it’s lovely, Dolores,” Edna said. “Who does your decorating?” She pulled a mango off a tree and bit into it.

“Murphy!” Dolores said. “What happened to my house?”

“This is going to be harder than I thought,” Murphy said, under his breath.

Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.