Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweet And Low

By John McDonnell

“What I like about you, Honey, is that you're not fake.”

“Thanks, Sugar.”

“There are so many fake women out there. Fake breasts, fake hair, even fake butts. I hate anything artificial.”

“Yeah, it's better to be real.”

“Like, your breasts are real, aren't they?”

“Of course. They're the way God made 'em.”

“Nothing fake about your body, right?”

“You bet.”

“And you wouldn't fake an emotion, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“You wouldn't fake being in love with me, right?”

“Of course not. Why would I do that?”

“To convince me I'm the only one you’ve ever loved, so that I name you as a beneficiary and you’d get my money when you poison me?”

“Sugar, why would you think that?”

“Because I hired an investigator and he told me you’ve been a suspect in several cases like that.”

“That's a lie!”

“Is it? He gave me some convincing proof. Copies of marriage licenses, court records, newspaper clippings. Everything about you is fake, starting with your name.”

“Oh, Sugar, don’t believe that. I bet he faked all of those documents. He's lying, to get a big fee.”

“Oh? Well, you’ll have a chance to tell the truth soon.”

To read more of this story, and other horror stories by John McDonnell, go to My Smashwords Page.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Himself It Is

By John McDonnell

“Willow is taking a medieval history course at the community college,” Dolores said to Larry one day.

“I don’t understand why anyone would try to teach history to Willow,” Larry said. “She measures Time by her tattoos. If it happened before she got her first tattoo, it doesn’t exist to her.”

“Could you bring that nice Irish monk back from the 7th century?” Dolores said. “Maybe he could help Willow with her history homework.”

“I don’t like the 7th century,” Larry said. “There’s a lot of prejudice against extraterrestrials there.”

“Please?” Dolores said.

Larry sighed, there was a shimmering in the air, and then the monk Fergus was standing in the kitchen, blinking his eyes.

"Faith,” he said. “It's quite the skill you have, to be snatching people away from their breakfast and bunging them 14 centuries into the future. You're sure the Devil plays no part in it?"

"No," Larry said. "It all makes sense on the quantum level. No bogeymen involved at all." He was feeling a lack of confidence today, and so he was changing shape every few seconds from a Steller's Sea Cow to a late 20th century U.S politician, complete with bleached teeth and poufy hair, wearing a mustard yellow suit.

"Oh, I'm glad you're here," Dolores said, clapping her hands. "My daughter is studying the Middle Ages in school, and I asked Larry to bring you back, because I thought you'd be a great source for her, seeing as how you're living in the Middle Ages.”

"Middle Ages you say?" the monk said. "In the middle of what, may I ask?"

Willow walked in wearing black from head to toe, with hair that looked like an explosion in a paint factory, and more piercings than a pincushion.

"Mom, I don't need help with my homework," Willow said. "I can do it myself."

"Why don't you just ask this nice monk if he'll help?" Dolores said. "He actually lives in that time so he'll be able to help you."

“Is it one of the Norsemen you are?” the monk asked. “I couldn’t help noticing the tattoos and nose rings and so forth. In my day the Vikings decorated themselves like that. A rude lot they were, too. Wouldn’t stop for a bite to eat, no, had to get right down to the business of plunder.”

“This is my way of expressing myself,” Willow said, her lip curled in a snarl. “And if you don’t like it, you can--”

“That’s enough, Willow,” Dolores said. “This monk is our guest.”

The monk wrinkled his brow, cogitating for a moment. “What’s a self, if I may ask?”

“You don’t know what a self is?” Larry said. “I thought I was the only one who couldn’t figure out my identity. A self is you. It’s who you are. All your wants and dreams and longings. Your identity.”

“What a wonderful invention!” the monk cried. “Why, in my day we weren’t allowed a self. Did you never wonder why none of the monks ever signed their names to their work? It’s because nobody cared about us. Only kings and queens had a self. The rest of us riffraff were just part of the sea of humanity.”

“I know the feeling,” said Larry, who was morphing into a variety of small animals. “On my planet most of us do not have a self. That’s why I feel out of place on this planet. Here, everybody knows exactly who they are. It’s unsettling.”

“Willow, sit down and have some breakfast,” Dolores said. “You look like a concentration camp survivor, you’re so skinny.”

“Mom, stop telling me how to live my life!” Willow shrieked. “You have no right to do that. I swear, it’s like prison living here. All you want to do is run my life. I can’t stand it! I’m going to post all about this on my blog!” She stomped out of the room like a person who had been sorely put upon.

“What’s a blog?” Fergus asked.

“It’s a place where you publish outrageous personal details for the world to see,” Larry said.

“‘Tis a charming concept,” Fergus said.

“In my day we didn’t have blogs,” Edna said, coming into the kitchen. She was dressed in a long white robe and a turban. “We depended on gossip. Why, when I went skinny dipping with the golf team at our country club, the whole town knew by sunrise the next day. Gossip is still the best information delivery system.”

“Aye to that,” Fergus said. “And you wouldn’t believe how fast it gets around the monastery when a man has a drop too much of the ould poteen.

“But that’s a story for another time.”



Friday, March 11, 2011

Larry And The Irish Question

By John McDonnell

St. Patrick's Day was the one time when Murphy actually made a profit at his bar, because his joint was located half a block from the St. Patrick’s Day parade route, and there were always a number of thirsty souls who would stop in for a cold one after the festivities. Murphy had enlisted his family to help with the crush, including Larry, who had taken the form of a blue-skinned, six-armed Hindu deity so he could handle all the drink orders at the crowded bar.

It was impossible to keep everyone's glass filled, and Larry was ready to keel over from exhaustion.

"We need more help!" he yelled to Murphy.

Murphy was busy adjudicating an argument between two men over whether it’s possible to eat 65 chicken wings in ten minutes, and he said, "You'll have to think of something, Larry."

Larry did what he always did in an emergency -- he disappeared for a few seconds. When he reappeared, he had a 7th century Irish monk named Fergus with him.

The monk blinked once, looked around, and said, "Is it a drinking establishment I find myself in?"

"Yes," Larry said. "I need help tending bar. I'll take you back to the monastery when the rush is over."

The monk clapped his hands. "Praise be to Jesus, I've died and gone to Heaven." He looked at all the bottles on the wall with a blissful smile.

"No," Larry said, mixing drinks, washing out glasses, and wiping down the bar at the same time. "This is not Heaven. It's Murphy's bar. You're in the 21st century, in a roomful of drunks, and I need help."

"Do you know how to mix a Singapore Sling?" Edna said. She was on roller skates, in the costume of a 1950s car hop, complete with a pink scarf and a boxy little red hat. She had painted her nails red, and was chewing gum.

The monk looked at her quizzically. "And who might you be?" he said.

"My name is Edna," she said. "I know I'm a little old for roller skates, but I was a champion skater in my day. I used to sneak out of the house at night and compete in the Roller Derby. Father would have been appalled had he known I was mixing it up with large women of Croatian descent several times a week."

The monk looked at Larry and said, "Begorrah, what language is she speakin’?"

"I'm not sure," Larry said.  

"Are you a monk?" Edna said. "I had a boyfriend once who entered the priesthood after a few dates with me. He had a sudden realization that celibacy was better for his mental health. By the way, thank you for saving Western Civilization. Wasn't it you nice young men who copied out all the Greek and Latin texts and saved us from becoming barbarians?"

"Yes, and ‘tis a thankless business," the monk said. “Alone in a drafty room catchin’ me death of cold, surrounded by stacks of dusty manuscripts. And me with a throat as parched as the Sahara!"

He leaped over the bar in one motion, grabbed a bottle of whiskey, and drained half of it in the blink of an eye. He wiped his mouth with his hand and said, "You call this whiskey? Fourteen centuries of progress, and this is the best you can do? Faith, I think ye’ve gone backward, my lad." Then he went off with the bottle and joined a group watching a ballgame on the TV.

"Maybe I shouldn't thank him after all," Edna said.

"What is the purpose of this holiday?" Larry said in exasperation. "Is it just to drink yourself into a stupor and sing Irish songs at the top of your lungs?"

"Yes!" Murphy yelled. "And thank God for it, or I'd be in the poorhouse by April 15."

"You humans have too many holidays," Larry said. "We only celebrate holidays if they're for the good of civilization."

"Where’s the fun in that?" Edna said.

The monk was leading a cheer for Aristotle, and when that was finished he started one for Plato, but the crowd booed him and he sat down.

"When does it end?" Larry said to Murphy. "How long does the rush last?"

"Till the fight breaks out," Murphy said. "That'll be coming along any time now."

Just then somebody shouted, "Down with the frigging Irish monks! If it weren't for them we'd all be stupid and happy. The hell with civilization!"

The monk stood up and said, "I'll paste any man who doesn't like Plato!"

"I don't like Plato!" a voice said. "Euripides sucks too! To hell with all the Greeks.”

A bottle went flying through the air, and in seconds the whole bar erupted into a brawl. There were fists flying, glasses being smashed, and people slugging each other over the finer points of philosophy. Larry tried to intervene, but somebody took exception to the fact that he was a Hindu deity, and hit him over the head with a bottle of peppermint Schnapps.

The cops arrived in minutes and took half the bar away in paddy wagons. Larry had to wait till the next day to send the monk back to the 7th century, because the friar had spent the night in the clink explaining cursive writing to a couple of drunks.

"I think he was a charming fellow," Edna said, after the monk had gone back to his own time. "And I'm certainly glad you brought him back rather than one of those barbarians. Although they'd have probably fit right in with Murphy's clientele."


Friday, March 4, 2011

A Universe Of Silliness

By John McDonnell

"I wish Murphy made a profit from that so-called business of his,” Dolores said one day, sitting at the kitchen table with a stack of bills in front of her. “We need money."

"Money is a social construct that does not exist in every universe," Larry said. He was eating some buttered toast in the form of the Duke of Esperanza, a conquistador in Pizarro's army. His metal conquistador helmet was on the table next to him.

"What do you mean, 'in every universe'?" Dolores said. "You mean there are other universes?"

"Of course," Larry said. "An infinite number of parallel universes."

"You mean there are other versions of me?" Dolores said.

"Quite so."

"I'd like to meet an alternate version of Victor Mature," Edna said. "He had quite a set of pectorals on display in those old gladiator movies."

"Are there other versions of Murphy?" Dolores asked.

"I’m afraid so," Larry said.

"More successful ones?"

"Well, that depends on your definition of successful," Larry mused. He was peeling an orange with his sword.

"Would it hurt if you switched them for a time?" Dolores inquired.

"I am not authorized to do that," Larry said. "It could be dangerous to the stability of reality."

"Oh, bosh," Edna said. "Reality is such a silly thing. All those rules about not listening to voices in your head. What fun is that, anyway?"

"Well, if you insist," Larry said.

Just then Murphy shuffled into the room wearing only his threadbare pajama bottoms and his usual two-day growth of beard, with hair that looked like it had seen the wrong end of an electric current. There was a shimmering in the air and he disappeared, and in his place was an exact double, only this version of Murphy had perfectly coiffed hair, clear eyes, a toned body, and he was wearing monogrammed red silk pajamas.

"Where am I?" he said.

"A parallel universe," Larry said.

"Oh," the alternate Murphy said. "Is this where I live?" He looked like he was hoping to wake up from a bad dream.

"This is your abode," Larry said.

"I must not be one of the winners in this universe," the alternate Murphy concluded.

"No, you're not," Dolores said. "But that was the old Murphy. You seem like you have a lot on the ball. What would you change about this place?"

"Let me draw up some plans," the alternate Murphy said. For the next week and a half the house was filled with the sound of power tools and the smell of sawdust in the air and Mexican helpers tramping through the place as the alternate Murphy built a new kitchen with a larger stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, and new tile floor. That was just the warmup, though -- the new Murphy also threw out all the junk food in the house, forbade Willow from coming over till her boyfriend Horst got a job, put Dolores on an exercise regimen, cleaned out the kitchen cabinet, refinanced the house and created a budget, drew up plans for converting Murphy’s bar into a Thai/Swiss pastry shop, and fined Larry $100 every time he went backward in Time.

But it was when he insisted that Edna stop wearing a hat indoors and stop referring to soap opera characters as if they were real that he met with resistance. 

“Why that young Dr. Hasselbrook is as real as you are,” Edna said. “He got his degree from Harvard, you know. That’s more real than wherever you came from. Parallel universe, my eye. Of course, I never was much good at science, and I don’t understand all this quantum physics palaver, but really, people should stay in the universe they were born in. I’m not one for changing universes, you know. My father used to say that one universe was good enough for him, and it should be good enough for everyone.”

“If you insist on this kind of irrationality,” the new Murphy said. “I will have to send you someplace where they can deal with your condition.”

Larry, who had taken the shape of a trained seal, and was balancing a beach ball on the end of his nose, spoke up. “I miss old Murph.”

Dolores, who had lost ten pounds in a week and was eyeing the furniture ravenously, said: “You and me both.”

“Why?” the new Murphy said. “He was just a screwup, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, but he was our screwup,” Dolores said.

There was a shimmering in the air and then the old Murphy was standing there in his pajama bottoms, scratching himself thoughtfully. “What the hell happened?” he said.

“You were transported to a parallel universe,” Larry said.

“Parallel?” Murphy said. “It was a hellish experience. Everything looked familiar, but it had more. . . intensity. All the people were skinny and had good muscle tone and dressed well. I didn’t quite fit in.”

“What did I look like?” Dolores said.

Murphy’s face lit up. “Dolores you had the biggest. . . uh, well, want I want to say is. . .”


“You were a pale shadow of yourself, my dear,” Murphy said.

Dolores gave him a hug. “I missed you too, Honey,” she said.

“There are lots more universes out there if you want to try it again,” Larry said.

“The problem with parallel universes is you never know if you’ll run into a version of yourself you wouldn’t want to drink a cup of tea with,” Edna said.