Friday, February 18, 2011

Down With Einstein!

By John McDonnell

Larry was eating breakfast in the kitchen one day when Horst, Willow's very large, hairy, tattooed boyfriend burst in the back door with tears running down his face.

"She's gone!" he said, plopping into the chair next to Larry and covering his bearded face with his hands.

Larry was in the form of a First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, complete with a white uniform with gold trim and brass buttons, and a fancy hat with feathers on it.

"Tut, tut,” he said. “Ships sail all the time. There'll be another one before long."

"I'm not talking about a ship!" Horst said. "I mean Willow. She's gone."

"What?" Dolores said, coming into the kitchen. "Willow's gone? Where is my daughter?”

"It's that crazy cult she joined," Horst said, sobbing. "She's off on a protest march for it."

"Blasted cults," Larry said. "Just when you think you have life all figured out, here comes a cult to bally well upset everything. They ought to keelhaul every one of them."

"What is she protesting?" Dolores said.

"Einstein," Horst said.

"I knew a Freddie Einstein as a young girl," Edna said, waltzing into the kitchen in a gauzy white nightgown. "He was quite the dancer. Father didn't like him because he drove a Stutz Bearcat and always wanted to get me into the rumble seat."

"No, no," Horst said. "It's Albert Einstein. The relativity guy. Willow's cult thinks that Einstein was an agent of Satan. All this stuff about Time being relative, they say it's evil. People spend too much time thinking about time travel and black holes, they say."

"What ho!" Larry said. "On my ship we have a rule: ‘Beware of southern winds and black holes!’”

"But you’re always time traveling," Dolores said. "You must use Einstein's theories to do that."

"Rummy thing, Time," Larry said. "Always making you feel late for something. Had my way, I'd rather do without it."

"Promptness is such a tedious thing," Edna said. "What’s the point of always being on time? I’ve never understood why everyone gets so upset about it."

"Don't you understand?" Horst wailed. "She's gone. She's left me. I want her back!" He collapsed in tears, his heavy body shaking with every sob. He was crying on Larry's shoulder. It was not a pretty sight, and it put you mind of a large sea animal struggling to digest a meal.

"Buck up, man," Larry said, pushing him away. "You're wrinkling my uniform. Oh, bother, I'll go see if I can do something.” There was a shimmering in the air, and Larry vanished.

"Do you think that ever makes him dizzy?" Edna asked. Nobody answered her.

In seconds Larry was back, holding Willow over his shoulder. He dumped her on the floor and she came up screeching.

"How dare you!" she spluttered. She was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue, and she had a sign saying, ‘Down with Relativity!’. “Take me back this instant!"

"I can't," Larry said. "That instant is gone."

"Take me back NOW!"

"‘Now’ is such a relative term," Larry said. "It’s hard to fathom isn’t it? I bally well can’t figure it out."

"It's like trying to nail Jello to a wall," Edna said. "Not something you want to try on your mother’s Louis 14th wallpaper, let me tell you."

"Baby, come back to me," Horst said, his large arms outstretched to Willow.

"Down with Einstein!" Willow said.

"It's okay," Horst said, coming over and putting his arms around her. "I can live with that. He doesn't have to mean anything in our lives, babe. He's nothing to me. Albert who? See, I forgot him already!"

"Well, maybe you're right," Willow said. "It was cold on the picket line. I was freezing!" She snuggled closer to Horst. "Let's go in the other room and turn on the artificial fireplace."

"Well, that was interesting," Edna said, watching them leave. "I think protest is a good thing, generally speaking. My mother used to protest everything. Of course, she thought calculus was immoral, you know. She used an abacus.”

"I'm going back to bed," Dolores said, shaking her head. "My brain is tired already, and it's only 10:00 in the morning."

"Rummy thing, Time," Larry said. "If it weren't that you need it to figure out when your tea is ready, I'd as soon the blasted thing wasn't invented."



Friday, February 11, 2011

Tiger Valentine

 By John McDonnell

“Do they have a Valentine’s Day on your planet?” Murphy said. He was mopping up some spilled beer on the bar, and he shuddered as if the phrase, “Valentine’s Day” was hard to get out.

Larry was curled up in a corner in the form of a full grown male Bengal tiger, all 500 pounds of him, and he was idly toying with a tennis ball, rolling it with one enormous paw and stopping it with the other.

"No Valentine's Day," Larry said. "We don't have flowers on our planet, and we're allergic to displays of affection, so it doesn't work for us."

"It doesn't work for me either," Murphy said. "Once a year I have to act romantic with Dolores, spend money on some gift that she won't like, make myself presentable, and listen to her talk about all the romantic things we did when we were younger. It gets me depressed when I realize the whole conversation is in past tense. It's all about how much promise I had. I hate the word 'promise'. Anything promising about a 22 year old man should never be held against him."

"Did you know that male Bengal tigers are some of the most solitary creatures on earth?" Larry said. "They only get together with females to impregnate them."

"Sounds like my father," Murphy said.

"My father didn't believe in Valentine's Day," Edna said. She had come by to join the weekly game of dominoes at the bar, and was taking a break from beating all comers. She was wearing a riding outfit, complete with tan jodhpurs, black knee boots, and a black riding helmet. "He was a captain of industry, don't you know, and was too busy for that kind of lunacy, as he liked to call it. On Valentine's Day he'd have his secretary send Mother a box of chocolates, although Mother never ate them, because of her figure. I used to sneak a few myself, but of course chocolate makes me talk too much, and--"

"Remind me to lock up the chocolate at our house," Murphy said. "Now, as I was saying: What am I going to do? Dolores expects a present for Valentine's Day, and I'm terrible at guessing what she wants."

"How about a nuclear magnetic resonance machine?" Larry said. "She could get a look into her heart with that. I mean, the holiday is all about cardiac issues, right?"

"Father was one of the first to get a heart transplant," Edna said. "Of course, he always thought they gave him a chimpanzee's heart by mistake, because after the operation he grew very fond of peanuts, and he couldn't stop scratching himself."

"Have you ever been in love, Larry?" Murphy said.

Larry blinked once, snuffled, and then roared. "Yes! There was this android girl named Unit 53K90. We were in space colonization school together. She really filled out an artificial skin, if you know what I mean. We always said we'd go invade a planet together and take it over. It was not to be, however. She was sent to invade a planet with a civilization that was so evolved they hadn’t had a bruised ego in 500 years. Me? I failed my final exams, because I couldn't land a spaceship without burning out the anti-gravity gears, so I was exiled to this backwater planet."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Murphy said. "I remember this little black haired vixen in school." He whistled softly. “Now she had the nicest--"

"Delivery for Mr. Murphy," a voice said, and in the doorway was a blonde Amazon, a girl who looked like she could power slam the Green Bay Packers defensive line with one hand, dressed in a brown UPS uniform. Her legs were like tree trunks sticking out of her brown shorts.

"Over here," Murphy said.

She brought over a large bouquet of roses and handed them to Murphy. "Sign here," she said, whipping out a clipboard and a pen. Murphy signed and she started to leave, but stopped when she saw Larry. "What a beautiful animal," she said.

"Thanks," Larry said. "Usually people are too afraid to say that to me."

"I'm not afraid," she said. "I used to be a lion tamer in a circus."

"Really?" Larry said. "No kidding? Well, I bet you were a good one. If I may say so, I've never seen a more imposing physical specimen than you, Miss. . ."

"Hortense. Just call me Hortense."

"Yes, Hortense. If this isn’t too personal, did you ever train tigers?”

"All the time,” she said. “Although never one like you. You would be a pleasure to train, if I may say so."

"Oh, I don't know,” Larry said. “My listening skills are not that good, and I don’t focus well, and--”

"Stand up NOW!" she bellowed, and Larry sprang to his feet, standing on his hind legs, all 9 feet of him in a vertical position with his paws on her shoulders. "Now, sit!" she said, and Larry sat down heavily.

"That was amazing!" he said. "You had such command, such power, such presence!"

"Thank you," she said sweetly. "I'm a little hoarse today. Throat cold."

"No, no, you were amazing," Larry said. "I'd follow you anywhere."

"Well, then come on," she said. "I have several more deliveries to make, but you can wait in the truck for me." She turned on her heel and walked out.

“Rawwr,” said Larry, and padded after her.

"You know, if William Blake hadn’t already written a poem about tigers,” Edna said. “I might write one myself. However, there’s a domino game calling me.” She went off to the back room intoning, “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/In the forests of the night. . . “

Murphy didn't comment, because he was busy reading the note Dolores sent with the flowers. It read, "To the love of my life. Our many years of happiness will only be surpassed by our bright and glorious future."

"What do you know," Murphy said, a tear in his eye. "The old girl loves me after all."


Friday, February 4, 2011

Larry Goes To The Future

By John McDonnell

Word gets out when you have an alien living with you who can time travel, and Dolores started getting phone calls from a man named Mr. Smith, who said he represented petroleum interests and wanted to talk to Larry about where the next drilling accidents would occur, so his Big Oil clients could plan their blame-everybody-but-us PR campaigns early.

Mr. Smith offered Dolores a lot of money just to get an introduction to Larry, so Dolores took him to the bar one Saturday afternoon. She brought Edna, who had cooked up a pot of clam chowder and wanted Murphy to sample it, in the hopes that he would put it on the bar's menu.

"This is our time traveling friend," Dolores said, introducing Larry to Mr. Smith. "By the way, Larry, why don't you ever travel to the future?"

"I don't like the future," Larry said. "It upsets my stomach." He was in the persona of  Matteo Ricci, a bearded Jesuit missionary from the 16th century.

"The future is overrated," Murphy said, taking a spoonful of the clam chowder. "In my experience, it only brings trouble and the taste of ashes in the mouth."

"I much prefer the past myself," said Edna. She was dressed as a Busby Berkeley chorus girl from the 1930s, with gold lame tap pants, a tuxedo jacket, a sailor hat, and tap shoes. "By the way, how do you like my clam chowder?"

"It's not bad," Murphy said. "I'm not fan of clams, though."

"I like clams," said Larry. "Although it's interesting that there are no clams in the future."

"No clams in the future?" Dolores said. "Why not?"

"They die out in about a hundred years," Larry said. "Some ecological reason, I forget why." He stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"Aren't they important in the food chain?" Murphy said. "Seems to me I heard walruses eat them."

"My deceased husband looked something like a walrus," Edna said. "People often said so. He had the same bristly mustache, the same mottled skin, and he was a dead weight on the dance floor. And, come to think of it, he was partial to clams."

"The simple clam," Larry said, a quaver in his voice. "Nobody appreciates the simple clam." He had a tear in his eye, and he began to recite a verse from "The Walrus and the Carpenter".

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

And then the air shimmered, there was a smell of seaweed and salt water, and Larry was in the form of a bull walrus, who lunged for the pot of clam chowder, knocking it to the floor. Larry licked up the chowder and then galumphed off in that peculiar undulating movement walruses have.

"I didn’t know he was so sentimental about clams," Edna said.

Mr. Smith turned to Dolores and said. "Now, about that million dollars I was going to pay you. . ."

"I was quite the dancer in my day," Edna said, striking a pose. "Would you like to see my rendition of the Lindy Hop?"

Larry undulated back and said, in a gravelly walrus voice: "Million dollars? You'd pay us a million dollars? For what?"

"If you could tell us the location and circumstances of the offshore oil spills for the next 20 years."

"I'd have to go to the future," Larry said. "It gives me too much anxiety."

"Well, no million dollars, then."

"Okay." The air shimmered. Larry disappeared, then came back with a three foot tall, hairless human named Qwex, who communicated by telepathy. He immediately gave everyone a splitting headache because he was using thought waves to shout directly into their brains. "Where are the clams?" he blared. "You told me there were clams here!"

"I ate them," Larry said. "Sorry."

“I think you misunderstood me,” Mr. Smith said. “He’s from too far in the future. I only meant the next 20 years.”

"Oh, you don’t like where I’m from?” Qwex said. “The hell with you. I'm not talking about your silly oil spills, then. I came here to eat clams, but if you don't have any, I'm gone." And he disappeared.

"I hate the future," Larry said.

"Yes, the past is much better," Edna said, breaking into a tap dance routine. “It has better musicals, for one thing.”