Monday, June 20, 2016

International Velvet

Working as an anachronistic roboticist was amusing, but it was never quite what Candy wanted. Not that she didn't know what she wanted. She did; she wanted to go back to the sporting career that had always been her true calling. To competitive waterskiing, just like her mother.

Marianna "Mama" Brain was no stranger to Candace, or even a sister... she knew Mama as just Auntie Mom. (Except for the last few years, when she didn't know her at all, and the last few minutes, when she knew her as a voice talking through a robotic pool assistant that, undisturbingly for Candy, shouldn't be invented yet.) But the public in the year 1,000,002,015 knew her as the greatest robot-assisted waterskier of all time.

Candy had landed on Mama's doorstep as a strung-out phlurmer, but by the day she left and, well, got back on the road to becoming a strung-out phlurmer again, it was Candy, not Mama, who stood on the robot waterskiing throne. She was bigger than baseball, bigger than competitive Pac-Man, bigger than cricket. And her skis were almost as famous. "Arizona Pie! Arizona Pie!" the crowds cheered worldwide as she swished by in the holograms, almost forgetting the rider for the skis. Twisted by fame, she fell jealous of her skis and sought a scandal to push her up by pulling her down.

But they only pulled her down... backwards in life... backwards in - time? Those two.

Pennybags and Pennywise.

Intermezzo: Deadlines

Since the great danger of immortality is the insanity of boredom, it's only natural to work a job or ten. Or thousands over time. Oh, you can spend years unemployed and unfed. No danger in it at all, you're wet, roofless... and you live. That happens. (Then certain especially gifted and responsible werewolves take care of you to ensure you don't stand out among humans... but that's another story.)

Harper, fishmonger, account executive, scribe, slave, traveling merchant... Jens had tried a few. He didn't remember everything he'd learned - werewolves have no more room in their heads than you or I - but he still had a good few skills.

You can fail and live as a werewolf and then succeed again, if you know how. Jens had learned how, and it helped him stay sane... by his measures. Usually. His experiment in being evil - not the adjective but the noun - at the camps had shaken him, but he was trying to move on.

It was the twentieth century, and it was still an easy time to forge an identity, to become an unagingly middle-aged bearded professor from somewhere else that no-one asked too much about. Had Jens already become a mountain hermit, or not yet? He wasn't sure... his self-hate had left his timeline with an upset stomach, machine-gun fire rumbling against cabinet files.

He was addicted to dying as most are to living, but in the meantime he had to pretend to live. Literary criticism was a good pastime, a good present to his sanity. And it had deadlines, life-bringing deadlines with their adrenaline.

"Mr. Piper’s notes," he scribbled - eschewing his useful but still-unfamiliar typewriter - "are therefore an indivisible complex. In them we do not differentiate between literary texts and 'non-literary' documents; the theme might be enforced either here, or it might be there. It might spring up in correspondence or in reading notes - and it can be evinced more clearly in a draft than in a finished work.

For we do not differentiate the biographical author and the subject of the work, but rather we understand the authorial person as the originator of writing act, a hand stretched out towards the theme.

In the early phases of creation, the author, a human personality bewitched by individual shimmering images in which the theme is illustrated, gives his strongest consideration to these images, and not to the reader or the mediation models that are connected with the mechanisms of publication.
Approached this way, the authorial subject corresponds with the manuscript record—not the text."

It was only the rough draft of the first half, but his head was nodding - he had bored himself to sleep, that innocuous little death. And he still had tomorrow morning before the deadline.

He dreamed about writing a plotline, about writing himself out of his story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orb of Flan

     Raymond Eawest had something nagging at him as he steamed soymilk for a large no foam latte, but he couldn't pin it down.  He could swear he didn't belong here, though he'd been working at Joe's Seaside Espresso Café for almost two decades and the owners Mr. Jazny and his wife Lemtata had always treated him like family.
   "NO!" a voice within him screamed, "This is NOT your LIFE."
    Rays left arm jerked, causing milk and foam to spray all over the espresso machine and his hand. Luckily the milk wasn't that hot yet.  He shook his head and focused.  The morning rush was just starting and he had no time for this.  He pushed the nagging question out of his mind and started the two tall Americanos.

    Inside the FLAN orb, the real Raymond Eawest twitched, his pulse quickening.  The lab assistant with the parka and the clipboard glanced at the readout and monitors briefly.  It was nothing, just a brief excitement in Eawests dream sequence.  Dr. Rhea did not need to be alerted.  He will need to be informed when the subject is ready for the memory extraction program. He looked up at the FLAN and marveled.  It was a giant orb of actual flan, about sixteen feet in diameter, with a series of wires, cables, and vents coming in and out of it. Small fans inside and other things produced a strange humming pulse that emanated from it as it hung suspended above the lab floor from heavy steel and acrylic cables.  Inside, in a state of induced hypnosis crossed with coma, Eawest remained, naked and in a fetal position, tubes and I.V.s going in him, covered in electrodes and monitoring equipment.  Directly touching all this was the inner wall of flan which also housed an umbilical liquid.
    The lab assistant, whose name was Ralph, shook his head.  Old Doc Rhea was a loon.

In his office, George Rhea watched all on his security monitor.  Soon the ultimate test of his memory extraction program would be done.  After all these years it has come down to this. He closed his eyes and tried to make his thoughts stop. 
   George had first thought of the FLAN while on tour with Kraftpark way back in 1974.  It had taken him years to perfect it and he was testing it out now on one of his arch-nemeses.  He only wished he'd had it ready earlier.  He only had a little time to find out what he needed from Eawests memories.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Black Forest

Black Forest

The day of Mr. PCP's last appearance - in a Wild West saloon oh so many pages before - Jens had been there. Watching. Taking notes. For little did the cowboys present that day know that Mr. PCP was actually neither a giant celestial manatee-bird hybrid thing, nor a 50-year-old Mexican woman who cheated like a bastard at cards, but exactly what he was seeing now. A demon.

Vampires weren't real, zombies weren't real, angels weren't real, William Howard Taft wasn't real (it's a long story), Buddha wasn't real, and basically most of the supernatural wasn't real. But werewolves, of course, were real, and so were demons.

Demons were pretty much what you'd expect: they traveled the world and general screwed things up for humans and tripped them up on their ways. For reasons of efficiency, most of them specialized in a single vice, fault, or form of suffering, such as Mr. PCP's specialization, psychosis. They were as immortal as werewolves, but their harm was limited by their narrow-mindedness and lack of a significant interest in cooperating with humans, or even each other, to achieve their goals.

Most demons had a minor supernatural power or two in addition to near-immortality. Mr. PCP, for example, could shapeshift.

"Why me, Mr. PCP? I'm already psychotic enough. I'd be a waste of effort for you."

"I think you want to tell the world about me. I want to stop you."

"Awfully long-term plan for a demon."

Mr. PCP's cheeks grew red. Redder. "Well, it's mine," he huffed.

"Look, I don't... care... about you."

"I saw you at the saloon all those many pages ago."

Jens' cheeks grew slightly less white. "Yeahhhhh... I thought you were stalking me. So I wanted to know my enemy."

"Look, I didn't care about you. And you knew it! You're lying!"

"Am not."

"Are too!"

"Am not."

"Are too, and I'm going to stop you from harming me forever, and make you permanently psychotic! It'll be glorious!" he cackled. "For I shall fold you so that you are doubled-over and stuff you into the trunk of my 1986 Škoda 130 while you are unable to resist due to your weakened physical condition, then drive you hundreds of kilometers away into the Black Forest, where I will lock you in an impenetrably secure room deep in a hillside where you will remain, lost in psychosis, until the END OF TIME!"

"But wouldn't it be more convenient to just build a room right here in the Alps, since I'm already here, and have been here a while, and have been here in the past, and we're deep in the mountains where it'll be a real pain for my allies to find me?"

Mr. PCP sighed. "I know, I know. But it's SO hard to find contractors who will ride out here to Bumfuckville Austria for the work. And anywhere, I'd have to spend more time communicating with them. Disgusting humans." He spat.

At this, Mr. PCP folded Jens so that he was doubled-over and... well, you get the idea. Jens' weakened physical condition kept him helpless to escape the Škodá's musty trunk all the way up to Rudach, on to Dornbirn, to Bregenz, and on around Lake Constance. Mr. PCP played an aging tape of The Best of the Carpenters in one boom-box on the front passenger seat and an aging tape of Switched-on Bach in a second boom-box on the front passenger seat the entire time.

By the time he was free from his bonds, he figured he might as well wait to confront his opponent until they reached their destination.

While he was tanking up in Todtnau, Mr. PCP declared really loudly, to make sure that Jens could hear him in the trunk, "Since you are powerless to resist me, I will reveal your final resting place. We shall be quite close to Feldberg, yet far enough from all ski resorts that you shall have no hope of being discovered and rescued by a lost skier! HAHAHA!" The gas station attendant glared at him, but calmed down after Mr. PCP handed him a 100 EUR note and told him to keep the change.

This was quite welcome news for Jens, for his hours of contemplation in the trunk had led him to a forehead-smacking realization: he had forgotten all about his suicide-by-wormhole plan! "And the secret wormhole," he gloated quietly, "is right here in the Black Forest."

N'est-ce pas?

Intermezzo: But Not Really

Once upon a time there was a boy named Joe the horny
He had miles and miles of files
He listened to Miles Smiles while trimming his piles and visiting the Rials
until one day, he died.
Poor Georgina, his widow...
...was a whale.
In that, she was blubbbery.
Not as in a disparaging denotation for an obese person
No, she really was a whale.
She had large quantities of blubber and was quite proud of it
Joe the Horny liked folds of skin
so it was okay with him.

He could spend all day molding Georgina in his hands, and it was soothing for her.
Suddenly John Scot burst in with a fishing rifle!
Which, is code, of course, for...
THis is better though
"Haven't heard this in ages" thought Georgina as the song blasted from loudspeaker s on the shore
Let them eat cake, but give me buttered toast!
Declared Carolyn the Pig, John's former mistress, as she waddled onto the shore.
Carolyn the Pig wasn't actually a pig, that was just her title.
She took off her wet pink cat hair sweater and let her hard goose bumpy skin shimmer in the sun. Then she snorted and ate some cupcakes mixed with truffles.
it may seem odd for a Chinese Crested to wear a cat hair shirt, but that was just how Carolyn rolled.
It took a long time to remove.
For Joe, that is. Carolyn couldnt remove I at all.

Carolyn wanted to get wet, so she rolled over the edge of the pool into the water and vomited marshmallow mixed with cupcake/truffle mixture all over Joe the Horny, who of course got kinky wit it
As Joe's last name was Kurtz, the pool attendant watched and turned to the hot dog stand cashier to ask: "Mr. Kurtz? Isn't he dead?" 

"The Horror." out of the steamy dark jungle the voice came
"The Horror."
Joe smirked.
"Yeah, he's dead"
said Joe, "but he'll keep for a few days. Anyway, the whale likes it."

"But he's - but you're -" stammered the pool attendant, and her brain promptly short-circuited.

For she was but a robot, as all other beings were around Joe. He was trapped in the Piers Anthony book Race Against Time.
But nobody had read it, so all the robots died.
Mainly the pool attendant robot.
The drugs took effect, and Carolyn rolled up out of the pool like a film in reverse. Joe blinked, and his blink started skipppppppint
He finally stopped blinking, and blinked.
"It must be the Negativeland," he said, "i'll turn it up."
Now let's turn it on and see if the record changer is working there.
"There, that oughtta fix it."
Georgina had a music request.
Carolyn did too.

screamed Georgina
who had a crush on the whale from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
and still thought Fugazi were the punkest thing ever
"Speaking of HGTTG," interrupted Bob,
"I'm going to write another chapter of JOE wherein the number 43 is discussed with Lemmy and Cat"
Then he grinned like a character in a David Lynch experimental film
Which is to say, a tad scary and very unnervingly.
Your turn

Candace wandered past the pool admission counter, neglecting to pay. "I demand my Bechdel Rights!" she shouted - but good-naturedly.
She stretched lazily, like a character fresh out of the freezer.
A nearby scuba diving mask named Jeremy turned violet and hollered.
Joe looked askance at it and continued with his task at hand.
Candance was from another story, but not.
Candace sauntered up to the pool attendant, who was not sitting in a pool chair to recover from the ongoing onslaught of surrealism. And who hopefully still existed. "You got a name?" asked Candy.
was sitting*
The pool attendant, being a short-circuited robot, did not reply, but Mama Brain did, through a combination of elemental sorcery and Radio Shack electronics,
and the help of Jose, who had finally stopped playing Trans Pac when he had to shit.

"My name is Coco," spoke Mama through the robot pool attendant. She wasn't quite willing to reveal her true name yet to a random stranger that she was just messing with.
"I come from Acapoco," she continued,
Candy stopped. She'd heard this before.
John Scot was waking up, having passed out when he snagged his fishing rifle on his bootlace and shot his pinky toe off.
"Good day, sirs and madams," he began. Candy shot a nasty glance at him and turned back to the robot.
"You like to waterski, Coco?" asked Candy.
"Not really, I get really nervous. I'm not very waterproof," answered Mama-Coco.
"No way! You're a gyndroid? That's SO AWESSOME!!"
"Y--yyeah. I don't like to talk about it much though."
"Well it just so happens that I'm a roboticist, and you're about to get the waterproofing of your life!"
"Yes Rocks!" said Mama-Coco, "Make with the proofifying!"

Candy didn't have any tools or materials on hand, so she had to raid the pool's maintenance supplies and water filtration systems. "Sorry," she muttered in the general direction of the remaining pool staff, who were unable to respond because nobody would write about them.

Plus they were mainly robots and the recent short circuit had knocked out most of their mother boards. Joe was humping the humpback and not paying any attention.
"Hey, wanna put on some tunes?" said Mama-Coco. Mama was getting a pretty good hang of Coco's actual personality, which was relieving for her, because she HATED being fake.
"Sure, yeah!" said Candy distractedly.
Mama-Coco had been looking for Candace for a few weeks. After she was rescued from Pennybagswise and his ballooney corpse floated down and was dragged off and shoved in a dumpster, there was much partying and celebrating and frankly, the night became a bit of a blur.
The next thing she knew, it was the next day, and Mama Brain had woken up in bed next to a Mexican biker with a bad tattoo of a parrot on his chest.
She really needed to unwind and have some girl time.
And this was it.
But now here she was, talking to her beloved Candy through a dead robot.

"For she had just remembered that Candy was not a complete stranger, but beloved," said Anal Man, doffing his "John Scot" disguise.
It was quite a hangover.

"I'm not keeping up with all these videos!" raged a discarded pack of Camels next to the trash can.

"And man, that ain't no joke," said the piece of lichen, "You could disappear in smoke."
"The first thing I want to point out to you is the need to connect to your customers in a new way," chatted Candy as she and Coco prepared to strap on their waterskis.
"Oh, sorry, that was just an ad. I'm sponsored nowadays."
"Try to separate yourself from the pack, make YOUR brand stick out by cross market-- oops sorry there I go again..."
The boat took off. Holographically, of course.
"Are you sure YOU'RE not a robot?" said Mama-Coco quizzically.
Candy first rejected the idea out of hand, then grew unsure. Stupid newfound friend overturning her unspoken certainties!
They got accustomed to the bouncy clips of the waves and their legs grew used to the stress, and wallah they were waterskiing!
Candy blushed. "Uh... no homo... but they did a REALLY good job on... you know."
Mama-Coco blushed too. "Uhh... thanks."
It was a gorgeous day and their eyes soon turned to the skies and the spray. Rainbows formed among the splashes of slightly vomit-polluted water.
It smelled faintly of marshmallow and Arthur Fonzarelli brand cologne.
It may have been a dream, thought Candy.
A Cessna flew by to skywrite a big-ass "LOL".
Jose, thought Mama-Coco.
"Candy," she said.
"I actually... know you."
"What do you mean? I've never seen you before."
"Yeah, I'm actually not in control of me... I just robot died a while back. Sorry for fooling you."

"WHo are you, then?" incredulously inquired Candace. She imagined some 44 year old perv just wanting to go skiing with--
using a robot to-- the thought disgusted her.
'Luke, she's your sister?" screamed the boat.
A pair of gadgety arm extended from the boat and it donned a top hat and burst into song.
"I am a rowboat and I'll sing this song
I, rowboat, will sing, and you'll sing along!
I'm your doctor" -
"OW! Stop hitting me!" the boat cried, as every character in the vicinity began attacking it to make it stop singing.
"Anyway, yeahhhh, this is Sis."
"But you really-- Where are you really!? I woke up all the way over in Hoboken with a gandydancer and a midget guitar luthier.
And you were gone!"
They went over a little waterskiing ramp and over a couple sharks in the water and landed on another little ramp and back down into the water. The boat muttered to itself, its feelings hurt.
Bob yawned in the Co-Creator realm, sorry that he had to go to bed soon.

Erik, sitting bare-chested and cross-legged on his bead, swabbed sweat from his right armpit, then sniffed it. "Why the fuck do I always do that?" he wondered for the millionth time.
Mike Myers stuck his head in as the Austin Powers character and said in a bad British accent "But we all love our own brand, don't we?" and farted.
Mama Brain went into the tale of the rest of the night that she could remember and got to the most important detail, where she was currently.

"When did Mama and Candy last see each other?" whistled the pool filter.
The piece of lichen twitched.
"I think in the department store, they were reunited after they beat Pennybagswise, then they all went out partying" improvised the lichen,
"But I thought we were a billion years in the past, in 2013?" mumbled a homeless man who had wandered in now that nobody was staffing the pool entrance.
I mean, the original 2013?
"Wait, WHAT year is it again?" mumbled the lichen. "I'm so high."
"Wanna get high? Again?" asked a nearby towel hopefully.
"Oh you betcha!" chimed in the pool filter.
"She was talking to ME!" snapped the lichen.

"Oh, we can all get high," chirped the towel. He and the lichen plopped down next to the pool filter since it was, yknow, immobile.

A variety of herb was dumped out of trash bags, on the tiles next to the pool. Some got wet. They set about cutting it all up with scissors.
The wet weed smelled pretty dank.

Then the pool boy, one of the only robots still functioning brought out a set of giant Cheech and Chong brand papers the size of a double bed sheet. "I hate sheets, cuz they make me mad!" screamed the lichen.
The four of them broke into a barbershop quartet, singing "I Hate Sheets" by BobbenAirick.
"Available on cassette and 8-track!" shouted Candy.
Joe showed up, covered in Whale spoo.
"IT'S SO GREAT TO BE UNDEAD!" he whispered.
"What year is it?" asked the pool filter.
"Are you high?" taunted the lichen. "Anyway, it's 2013, except there's robots and shit."
It paused, lost in thought, for two minutes.
"Uh... Wanna get high?"
"Yeah, we gettin' high," said the towel. It was almost done with the blunt.
"Me first first!" shouted the lichen, and lit up. It burned up immediately, because it was a piece of lichen.
Bob fell asleep, and then his computers battery died.
He couldn't find the plug.
"Hey, we should plug this into the blog!" said a piece of ash that used to be lichen.
"Good work, team!" said the boat.

A paper moon and paper stars on strings fell down from the sky and bounced in mid-air.

G'night! 🌙

Friday, June 10, 2016

Seclusionary Tactische

     Jens sat on the frozen ground, body limp, surveying a herd of lazy goats that were chewing what little cud they could scrounge up on the side of this godforsaken rock in the middle of the Carpathian peaks. The sky was a sullen grey and a vicious wind blew hard and fast.  A goat glanced at Jens as it walked close to him, but Jens didn't move a muscle to catch it, to feed upon it, to nourish his starving body.  He was trying to die, a feeble attempt to thwart this curse. 
     He had been on his way back to the cave where he had made a home for so long, before Glenn had come and took him for that whirlwind of a world tour with the band.  Jens had found a bit of enjoyment in the spectacle, and his role as a roadie afforded him sex and drugs whenever he liked, which turned out to be more seldom than not.  After the first few hundred thousand blowjobs it became boring, and after the first few thousand would-be-overdose-sized servings of pure grade heroin, drugs were just as boring.  Not even a bloodfeast (the Misfits song of that name started running thru his brain) was exciting to him any longer.
    Jens thought of Wolf Mozza and his lucky run in with that falling piano.  How he wished something or someone would come along and put him out of his misery.

   "Wish? Did someone say wish?" asked a voice somewhere above and behind him.  Jens was only slightly startled.  He had intended to return to his seclusion, but had been struck down by the worst depressive episode ever. Only a hundred meters to his hidden cave home, and he'd just dropped his pack, sat down and gave up.  He had slowed his breathing and removed heavy fur coat and other outer wear in the vain hope that he would freeze to death.  No such luck. 
He craned his neck behind him to see the approaching figure.  It looked like Merle Haggard.  This did not make sense, and he gawked again. It still looked like Merle.  Little did Merle know that Jens could tell that it was a disguise, that Merle was actually MR. PcP!
    "You wanna talk about it, hoss?" the demon said, and laughed maniacally, spittle flying and horror echoing through the surrounding hills.
     "How d-did you esc-c-cape?" managed Jens feebly through icy lips.

Intermezzo: Health Class

"Hopefully Mr. Smitty won't see us... knock on formica..." Erik whispered nervously. A fly buzzed by on the hot May day. Bob swatted it. Everyone sweated. Mr. Smitty droned boredly on about the human endocrine system.

"Mm," Bob answered, and scrawled a new sentence in red pen on the half-crumpled piece of paper that held the latest page of the latest Joe story. Erik had been carrying it in his bookbag, which was disorganized as always, so it was a miracle it was only crumpled.

Bob passed the paper back to Erik... who saw red. What do you mean, "Cheryl chewed on a doughtnut?!" HOW DARE BOB NOT EXPLORE MY AWESOME NEW IDEA! (Also, what the word-I'm-not-allowd-to-think-of is a "doughtnut?") He angrily scribbled his follow-up sentence: "BUT NO! JOE DIDN'T DO THAT AT ALL!" Which was, of course, two sentences. Fortunately, this was one of the few things the two of them were never completely anal about in Joe stories.

Bemused, Bob continued the Epic of Joe thusly: "Suddenly the universe filled with rage!"

Little did he know that, in a story to be written decades later, that was actually the secret code phrase that Mr. PCP was waiting for to go into action.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Revelations 9:6

Merle picked up the revolver, turning it over and over in his hands, and thought of Hemingway.

     "A Smith and Wesson snub nosed .32 revolver.  A simple yet effective classic," he chimed, "but in chrome.  Hmph.  I woulda taken you for a black finish type.  Get it?"  Merle tossed it back onto the bed and reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his smokes.  Camels.

     "Everybody thinks I gave these damn things up five years ago.  You want one?" He held out the pack to Cash, who shook his head, staring at the floor.
Merle shrugged and lit one up.
     "You want to talk about it, hoss?" he asked.

Johnny Cash sat for a moment and then looked at his friend.

     "They thought it was Parkinson's.  Turns out it's some shit called Shy-Drager syndrome.  The doc gave me 18 months.  Eighteen MONTHS!!!" Johnny screamed this last part and, in a brief nod to his wilder days in the late 1950's, overturned the bedside table.  The lamp shattered, the drawer flew open, sending the Gideon's bible to land open on the beige shag carpet.  Merle was unfazed as he walked over to pick it up.  He looked at the passage and chuckled.

     "Well, John, I think you have your answer right here," and he began to read.
"Revelations 9:6-- And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them."  He smirked and closed the book and gingerly sat it on the other bedside table.
     "John, we both lived way longer than we ever thought we would, back in our youth.  You in particular should have died several times over in 1958, 1959, 1960 and a few other times.  Remember how close to hell you used to come, and try to be thankful that you made it this far.  I know this isn't easy to hear, but you have to be strong right now.  How is it going to look if the Man in Black offs himself?  Weak, that's how.  You have a responsibility to your fans, to your family, but most of all, to yourself, John.  You still have work to do...hey, you got an ashtray anywhere?  Damn non-smoking hotels."

Johnny Cash smiled for the first time all day.
     "Nah, I already checked earlier when I was going to toke up.  Just ash in that empty cup on the table over there. In response to what you said," Johnny turned around to face Merle, "God doesn't--"

Merle was gone.

     "Merle?"  He walked into the bathroom, the only other place Merle could be.

But Merle was no longer in 1997.

Kangaroo Pocket Calculator

Cathy and Lemmy went up to her second-story room in the Cat House so she could make love to him in return for a payment of one million air molecules, but they ended up talking for hours instead. The sky-day become a sky-evening. They calmed and grew drowsy, but still were in no hurry.

Lemmy stood up and gazed out the dimly lit window - out of Brothel Cloud #79 - towards the bar cloud he'd just abandoned, wondering idly. He had all the time in the universe. It was relaxing, being dead. He could get used to this.

"I hate to disturb your peace," said Cathy, standing behind him. She sounded strange. Lemmy turned around.

"Oh. You're a kangaroo."

"Yeahhh," answered Cathy. She didn't sound too alarmed. Lemmy immediately figured this was just something that happened to her sometimes. "Look, can you call the operator on my pocket calculator? She'll know what to do."

Lemmy was a bit miffed. "Can't you call your own damn operator?"

"Can't. Hands," answered Cathy, looking down.

Lemmy conceded. "And your pocket calculator... is?"

If a kangaroo can glare superciliously, then that is what Cathy did.

"Right. In your pocket." Lemmy reached into Cathy's pocket, turned his back, and, having no better idea of what to do, pressed the calculator's most special-looking key. It played a little melody, and then the operator answered. She sounded like a human trying to sound like a computer.


Lemmy coughed. "'Scuse me?" Annoyed, he began mashing the 2 key rhythmically, producing a piano's middle-octave D# each time. It was squishy, like a Moog stuck in a whoopie cushion.


"You know, Mrs. Operator, I once knew some folks from an infowar unit what was really into the number eleven. But I don't know anything about forty-seven. Also, my ex is a kangaroo. And she's right here. And she's still hot. And I'm not a zoophile."

Lemmy thought he heard an "ahem" from behind.


"Right. So what do I need to do, to make her not a kangaroo?"

"FORTY-NINE AND NINETY-FOUR. NINETY-FOUR AND FORTY-NINE. IT'S... MAGIC." Somebody who must have been standing in the room behind the operator mumbled audibly: "Forty-seven."

Desperate for an answer, Lemmy listened to this bullcrap for several minutes. People continuously wandered up behind the operator during her spiel to say "Forty-seven" in English or foreign languages. Just when Lemmy had just about enough, it stopped. He turned around to chew Cathy out for having made him put up with this crap.

Now she was 49 again, but with the voice of a 94-year-old woman.
She stammered sheepishly and blushed. "Thanks! It always turns me back when the Operator does that. Isn't it a coincidence?"