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.