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.”