|The Story||The Authors|
|Lydia just chortled, "Come on babes lets make chocolate brownies!" and with that she stepped into the pantry and emerged with a box of Betty Cracker's best. Janice was ecstatic. She hadn't had any since the surgery. Vashondra yawned, "Anybody got a nail file?" Lydia emptied the box into the Cuisinart and at that moment Max Bialistuk came into the kitchen. "Hi ya babes!" he exulted, "I'm glad you're all here, I want all of you to hear this. I'm putting together a new show for Broadway and I want all of you in it!" The girls were stunned. It was a dream they all shared and now it was going to come true. Max went on, "I've got a great script by Betty Ford and Marvin Hamlisch is going to do the music and Arthur Murray is going to do the choreography with the help of the Psychic Friends Network." "The John Deer Corporation and Wal Mart are the co-underwriters" The kitchen exploded with laughter and tears of joy. Vanshondra still couldn't find a nail file.|
|Unfortunately the explosion of laughter and tears of joy set off a larger explosion when it reacted with an obscure chemical preservative in the brownie mix. This in turn burst the gas connection into the stove and in seconds the entire house was consumed in fireball with all the occupants burnt alive, their charred corpses burnt beyond recognition except for Vanshondra who was identified by the remnants of Lee Press-on Nails. Meanwhile Mr. Tickles had problems of his own.|
|He had picked up the ladies vibes before and was waiting patiently in a room at the nearby Motel 6. He didn't realize until he heard the explosion that there would be no wild night of lesbian sex with him as the ringmaster. "It sucks to be me" said the horny dwarf. He hadn't had a good lay since Snow White kicked him out of the cottage and was so horny he could screw a squash.|
|No squash being available, the dwarf ferreted about the Hotel 6 bedroom in search of any other maliable substitute for the likes of lesbian Snow White. There was nothing to speak of, and the glimpse of the bible lurking in the bedside table was enough to dampen the urges emanating from his wee loins. Down to the Motel 6 bar for a beer instead - and perhaps a shot of sour-mash whiskey to drown his loneliness.|
In the time it took Mr. Tickles to traverse the brief distance between his room and the bar, 30 dismal, eventless years passed.|
A plague swept across the planet, mercilessly killing everyone with a first name of less than two syllables. The hundreds of millions of corpses of all the Toms, Eves, Truongs, Sues, Earls, Chans, Lees, and so on were carted off to Antarctica and burned on a massive, continent-wide funeral pyre which ultimately melted the southern ice cap and revealed the massive and indecipherable remains of an alien civilization hidden beneath it.
America became a sort of giant ghost-town. Even Madison Avenue was beset by coyotes, tumbleweeds, dust-storms and plagues of grasshoppers.
Down in the "Ponderosa Lounge" of the Motel 6, an old man rubbed his tired eyes and poured himself another stiff, neat Scotch.
As if from out of nowhere, a high little voice announced, "Make me one of those while you're at it."
"Can it," old Mike told his shrapnel.
"Wasn't me," replied the shrapnel.
"Then who in Sam Hill was it?"
"It was me," came again the seemingly sourceless pipsqueak voice.
"Who's me? What in tarnation's going on here? Did Management somehow neglect to inform me that the Motel is hosting a ghost convention this weekend, or have I finally gone completely loco, to be hearing voices where no flesh presents itself to the eye?"
"No, no, no, I'm down here," replied the voice.
Mike put down the highball glass he was wiping the everpresent lint from and peered over the bar.
On the floor stood a tiny man!
"Ho-ho, ha-ha," exclaimed Mike, obviously delighted. "Little man! Funny little man! Ho ha hee! Come let Grand-pa-pa dandle you on his big shoulders!"|
In its tiny studio apartment between Mike's coccyx and duodenum, the shrapnel groaned and rolled its eyes. Why? Why did it have to be lodged in so pathetic and embarrassing a specimen of humanity? Why humilated by this senile ninny, day after day after day? What sort of heinous, Bronze Age, ancestral Bad Karma had the shrapnel been working off for the past 31 years?
Mike was beside himself. "Little man! Tiny funny roly-poly! Oh ha ha hee hee hoo!" He waved his hands and giggled like a baby -- a sixty-five year old man, for sweet jesus' sake!
Mr. Tickles was not amused. He wanted a drink. He wanted his five naked bisexual nymphets all going down on him simultaneously while he greased their spheroid buttocks with homemade almond butter and bade the room service boy "Come hither, thou knave, and shoot thee this uncut Peruvian flake cocaine up mine bushy nostrils with yonder blow-gun!" He did not want to be patronized by this disgusting old coot who had now come around to where the dwarf stood, lifted Mr. Tickles up in his liverspotted arms and sat him on top of the bar, and presented him with a giant, rainbow-colored lollipop with a head of nearly the same diameter as Mr. Tickles' own.
"A-ha! Pret-ty candy for roly-poly tiny funny-bunny! Ha hee ho ha hoo!"
"For fuck's inimitable sake," groaned the dwarf and the shrapnel, inwardly, in perfect simultaneity, "Somebody please put this nauseating gaffer out of our collective misery, before the world is subjected to so lethal a dose of sacharrinity that it will never be the same again! Sweet Jesus, in Your infinite Mercy, save us from this veritable Prince of Morons!"
The shrapnel tried to cross that crucial millimeter to the base of Mike's spine, from whence it could resume its occasional role as the Puppet Master, and was thus too occupied to notice the cloud of smoke and incense which began to manifest in the center of the room.
Mike -- with a cry of "Big Horsey-horse take tiny funny man trot-trot-trot! Ha hee ho!" -- had lifted Mr. Tickles onto his shoulders, where the latter began to box him about the ears before grabbing ahold of a conveniently dangling chandelier and hoisting himself up onto it as if onto a playground swing.
And it was from this lofty vantage of comparative safety that he came face-to-face with the ghastly, disembodied countenance of the previously-invoked Jesus Christ, appearing from out of the cloud of smoke and incense replete with faintly audible seraphic choir and a buzzing host of cherubim the size of houseflies. "Huh?" gasped the dwarf.
"You rang?" replied the Son of God.
"Yeah," said the dwarf. "You took my bitches, you thieving bastard! Where my bitches be at?"
"They reside in My Father's house -- in which, by the way, are many mansions, with a wide variety of mortgage options available. Why rent when you can own?"
"What if I give you the old fart? The old fart and, oh, let's see --" he took out his wallet and counted the bills -- "Three thousand dollars? You gimme back my bitches then?"
"The Lord taketh away, yea, and the Lord giveth. It is a deal."
Suddenly a chill ran through the shrapnel. For years he had dreamed of this day, imagined it down to the smallest detail. He despised and resented Mike so much, he'd neglected to consider one important detail: when Mike went, so did the shrapnel.
|And with that God rose up and with a clap of heavenly thunder called forth a tempest of fire which comsumed this sad collection of riven souls so completely that not even the vapour of an atom remained. And it was good.|
|But the shrapnel was not about to give up so easily. It had made the leap to the spinal cord before, it could make the leap to the colon as well. The shrapnel gathered all the strength it possessed and at the very moment that God yanked old Mike's soul out of his body, causing the body to flop face down on the floor, the shrapnel made the great jump to the left which landed him square in the colon. Upon impact with the floor, Mike's body let out one final blast of gas which sent the shrapnel flying past the king of sphinctors and straight into the belly of the dwarf.|
|".....butter? Vashondra? Vashondra!?" Looking up from the swirling brownie mix Vashondra snapped out of an intoxicating reverie to find everyone looking at her in silence. Lydia repeated her request. "Vashondra hon', you ok? Could you please pass the butter?" Vashondra reached over and handed the waxpaper enclosed cube of saturated hydrocarbons to Lydia. She then returned to her search for a nail file. Perhaps she could use the knife sharpening stone. Like Pavlov's dogs the mere thought of the brownies made her salivary glands begin to water.|
An hour passed. Outside, Lucille, the stonechat, broke horse-chestnuts open on a flat slab of wind-smoothed granite protruding from the earth, and scolded Desdemona, the magpie, whenever she passed, for her scandalous ways of a slut among the nests of the neighborhood. She whistled the old John's Children song as a pre-T.Rex, smooth-cheeked Marc Bolan had sung it -- Des-de-mona...Lift up your skirt and -- scream! |
Inside the brownies were finally cool enough to eat. Vashondra cut meager slices for each of her friends, and with one deft flick of a spatula air-lifted a brownie comprising half the pan onto her own plate.
Her friends sighed, rolled their eyes; that they were used to this sort of behavior did not in any way negate the degree of pity they felt for poor Vashondra. She'd put on sixty-five pounds already this year, and it was only mid-May. It just had to stop.
This was perhaps the most popular topic of conversation among the other four whenever Vashondra was not around.
Other favorite topics included "Men and What Insincere Bastards They Really Are," "Do You Think He Likes Me?" and "I Finally Found My G-Spot."
Now, in V's kitchen, they picked at their midget brownies one rodentlike nibble at a time, while Vashondra devoured hers in vast whale-like inhalations, spraying showers of brown crumbs across the table like crickets.
"Owwwwwwwwwww, damn!" she suddenly exclaimed, drenching her friends in a veritable plague of saliva-sodden brownie particles.
"What, 'Shondra?" they implored her pale, wide-eyed countenance. "What is it? Are you choking? Is it a bone? Should one or more of us attempt to perform the Heimlich manuever, as it was demonstrated to us so many, many years ago, centuries it seems, back when we all lived in the forest and spent our days stringing garlands of flowers and our nights dancing upon toad-stools and sprinkling the smooth brows of sleeping human children with fairy-dust..."
She shook her head, swallowing hard several times in succession, and seeming to root quite dilligently around among the myriad rocky contours of her mouth with that great, fleshy, many-lobed appendage, her tongue, all with an expression of great concentration on her face. Finally, she spoke: "I think I -- I must have swallowed a filling. I'm sure I felt something metal go down my throat..."
The shrapnel, now safely yachting across the tempestuous surface of Vashondra's stomach, smiled as it took in the view.
|Half-digested bits of this morning's ketchup-smothered steak and eggs and hash-browns and toast, mouthfuls of brownie, oily pools of coffee, a random lone peanut M&Ms bobbed on the easy waters of Vashonadra's stomach-acid. Gulls cried and wheedled in the salt-air, and off in the distance the shrapnel could hear the clanging of a ship's bell.|
|The shrapnel lolled sleepily on its back in the light swells and gazed up lazily at the sky. Its tiny metal mind wandered over the course of its existence up to this point and decided that it really rathered needed a vacation. This could be it. It yawned. The gentle ocean current propelled the easy weight of the shrapnel along with it and for hours and hours. The tolling of the bell receded deep into the distance and the shrapnel dozed. A few curious gulls swooped and skimmed the surface of the sea investigating the shrapnel. They seemed to deem it inedible and wheeled of in search of pilchards and young herings. The shrapnel knew that the presence of the birds meant that land of some sort was nearby and presently there appeared a small hump of sand in the middle of the vast and horizonless sea. It was occupied. On either end of the sandy lump sat a small bronzed and hairy little man staring out in opposite directions. They seemed to be purposefully ignoring one another. Strewn about their shelterless island were the remains of a large number of sea tortoises torn apart by bare hands and devoured raw. It was not a pleasant sight but land was land and the shrapnel was tiring of its drifting so it lazily made its way toward the island.|
As the shrapnel surfed into shore, the two figures bookending the tiny cay came gradually into focus.|
The tattered remains of their uniformly black clothing -- boots of Spanish leather, cheap imitation Zorro suits, Transylvanian capes, and floppy black hats like the wings of alcoholic gutter-ravens -- reminded the shrapnel of something he couldn't qquite place.
He hauled himself up onto the beach. "Ahem," he cleared his throat, rising to his full height. "Er, gentlemen, um, forgive me for, er, disturbing your, er, solitude. Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Shrapnel Q. Shrapnel, but you may call me Shrap. Everyone does."
The two figures fixed him in their equally hostile glares, saying nothing.
Shrap looked from one to the other, suppressing the urge to start giggling, they were so silly. Just like those stubborn Tweedles, Dee and Dum.
And then -- like a bolt from the blue of his memory -- it came to him, where he'd seen these two seedy characters before. But of course! The nineteenth century's hallmark villains and confidence-tricksters! From edge to edge of the Republic they'd left their nefarious trail of deceit, tomfoolery, and folderol -- now reduced to squabbling on an island in poor, bloating Vashondra's stomach -- none of there than -- Dastardly Dan and Injun Joe!!