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.