I’m Your Hoochie-Coochie Man

“Excuse me…” Osbert began.  He felt more than a little uncertain about what to say next.
“Yes?” Replied the clerk in a bored voice.
“I’d.. Uhhh… I’d like to apply for a permit…”
“What sort of permit?” The clerk’s tone carried just enough mockery to suggest an insult, but not enough to justify a complaint.
“A permit to…  to… Commit Crimes of the Heart.”  Osbert heard only the stammer in his own voice; it seemed to drown out the words themselves.
Crimes of the heart?”  Now the mockery was open, as if the clerk no longer cared whether Osbert complained.
“Uhhh… Yes… Is this the right window to go for… that kind of permit?”
“This is the right window, but…”  The clerk’s tone lost some of its mockery.  “Do you meet the qualifications?  There’s a list, you know, and you’ll have to fill it all out.”
“Qualifications?  I… I didn’t know there were any.”  Osbert could feel the last tattered bits of his self confidence fade away.
“Of course there are!  Look  —  you could apply for a permit to jump over the moon, but would it be worth your time, or mine, and would it be worth the filing fee that you’d have to pay?  It’s the same kind of thing.”
“Oh.  Uhhh…  Sorry to bother you.”  Osbert didn’t know what else to say.
As he turned away from the window, he could feel himself shrinking down into something very small, inept, and desperately in need of a safe place to hide, like a juvenile earwig with an inadequate set of pincers.

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Hey, Baby, They’re Playing Our Song!

“Oh, drat! I can’t think at all right now,”  declared Osbertine, “and I don’t know why my name is Osbertine, but I must say that I strongly object to that as well!
“Well, obviously, the only thing to do is to ask everyone in the world to stand in line so that I can punch them in the face, one by one!
“And so I shall!” she declared, picking up her super-extra-sparkly magical tooth-fairy wand, “Let the punching begin!”
Three weeks later, when she was barely halfway through the task, the knuckles of her right hand began to feel unacceptably sore, and she paused, considering what to do next.
“Well, I’m no good with my left, so I’m afraid that I shall have to turn the next five hundred million people into mush-faces in order to give my poor right-hand knuckles a bit of a rest.”
The mush-faced people, she soon found, made quite a satisfactory splat when she punched them, and their faces caved in in a very entertaining manner, so she turned the entire human race not just into mush-faces, but into mush-people, through and through, and she went around gleefully punching them in all sorts of awkward parts of their mush-anatomies.
“Has anyone in the world ever felt such joy as I?”  she asked herself,  “I doubt it, and I can guarantee that nobody in this world, at least, ever will!”
Saying that, she released the safety on her wand, set it to “Planetary Annihilation,” and waved it with a grand gesture.
As she flew away from the rapidly disintegrating planet, she looked back to admire the brilliantly multicolored and very energetic explosion.
“I started out the morning with sore knuckles,” she reflected, “but this day has turned out to be very delightful indeed!  Perhaps I will destroy the entire universe  —  now that would be a lark!”

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Songs for Swingin’ Lovers

“Well,” Walter told himself, “if I’m going to be a monster of lust and a seducer of beautiful women, I suppose I must start somewhere.”

He looked around; the situation, he had to admit, did not appear to be promising. The cave was not well-lit, but he could see that it extended for a considerable distance, and the water in which he was swimming appeared to go on forever without the hint of a shore.

He waved his tail fin from side to side thoughtfully and considered the situation.

“Metamorphosis. That definitely has to be the first order of business. Shrink the fins, grow legs, lose the gills, and crawl onto land. As if I could find any.

“Then what? Evolve? I don’t think there’s really any way around it. Not that I have any clue about where to start, but I’m quite sure that I need to stand upright and grow a slightly larger brain, although probably not by much.

“And…” he continued after a moment’s hesitation, “What is lust, anyway, and for that matter, what are women, beautiful or otherwise?

“Oh, well, he went on,” doing his best to shrug his fins. “I suppose I’ll find out in good time.”

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Just Like Romeo and Juliet

“Vile worms!” Waldemar shrieked, “I will squash you like the vermin that you are!”

The head earthworm sneered contemptuously and spat greenish, venomous saliva onto Waldemar’s shoes.

“You ain’t steppin’ on nothin’ with those feet,” it hissed, “I can tell you that right now! Fact of the matter is, you just plain ain’t goin’ nowhere at all for a long, long time!”

Suddenly, whiplike worm-bodies wrapped themselves around Waldemar’s ankles, tightening like steel cables. He struggled to get away, but it was all he could do to keep from falling down. As he tried to regain his balance, he looked down just in time to see the worm-leader’s tail whip out and slash his left calf with its scorpion-like sting.

“No!” he shrieked in an even shriekier voice, “I am of the master race, and I will not be defeated by such filth!”

But the worm-sting had already numbed his lower body, and he could feel himself drifting off into oblivion…

* * *

“Aaaughhhh!” Waldemar screamed, thrashing wildly on the mat, “I will reach down your gullet and pull out your seminal vesicles with my bare hands!”

“Quick!” snapped Miss Bunnyfluff, the kindergarten teacher, “restrain him before we have another incident!”

Two of the classroom guards had been sitting on the lid of the toybox; they stood up clumsily, slid their automatic weapons around to their backs, and lurched toward the mat where Waldemar lay screaming and moaning. A third guard lazily  got up from the remains of a child-size wooden chair and ambled over. The first two guards held down Waldemar’s arms, while the third absent-mindedly sat on his legs.

“That’s better!” snarled Miss Bunnyfluff through clenched,  razor-sharp, triangular-pointed teeth. “Now you,” she gestured toward Billy and Cindy Lou, the two kapos, “pour ice-water on his head until he wakes up.”

She glanced over at the classroom windows. Still nothing but a writhing mass of tentacles slithering frantically across the glass, completely obscuring the view. It had been that way for three days.

And what am I supposed to do if they get in? she wondered, Attack them with my ovipositor? It’s empty at the moment, and besides, all it’s good for is laying eggs inside the children’s brains. The guards’ weapons wouldn’t do much aganist those things. Maybe we can make a superweapon out of play-dough, finger-paint, and Lego blocks. Or maybe I’m going insane. That’s probably it. In fact, I’m sure it is.

She tried to laugh, and she found herself vainly hoping that she could make it sound ironic, but all that came out was a metallic, reptilian hiss.

* * *

Outside, above the writhing sea of tentacles, a blotchy orange sun sent out huge flares as if it were frantically reaching for a way to heal itself form the disorder that was consuming it.

Beyond the sun, the universe exploded with unimaginable violence and unutterable boredom, as if it were a trick that it performed every day to jaded and cynical street-corner crowds, which would reward it with no more than a few casually tossed pennies for its efforts.

And in the crowd, a small child picked his nose and tried to eat the remains of his half-melted ice-cream bar without losing too much of what was left.

“Stupid earthworms!” he muttered, “It’s all their fault!”

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I Know What Boys Like

“I can feel my tentacles growing,”  Hogarth announced to the waitress, “and they’re getting very large.”
“Well,” she replied in a pleasantly conversational voice, “if you don’t keep your tentacles to yourself, you’ll be talking to the sidewalk.”
She picked up the plate with the half-congealed remains of his scrambled eggs, placed the bill face-down on the table, turned and walked away so smoothly and so swiftly that it seemed to Hogarth to be a single motion.
“But…”  He trailed off.
Oh, how can I explain it, anyway?  If I tell her that I can feel them extending into everybody’s soul, she’ll just think I’m crazy, anyway.  Or else she’ll want to snip them off and sell them as sashimi.  And I can’t allow that, can I?
Just then, he felt something slither up to the base of his spine and slide beneath his skin.  Before he could move, an electrical tingle was already rising up his spinal chord toward the base of his brain.
He turned his head slowly, feeling the growing numbness in his neck and skull.
Ah.  The waitress.  No surprise there.  
He glanced down and caught a glimpse of the tentacle-tip extending from beneath her skirt toward his back.
“You can’t expect a good tip from me if you’re going to do that,” he managed to say before the paralysis took over completely.
“Oh, that’s OK,” she said, still smiling agreeably, “I’ll just go through your pockets later and get it.”
As his vision faded, he could feel the delicate suckers on her tentacle-tip open the file-cabinet drawers inside his mind and riffle through the three-by-five cards of his soul.

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The Frothing Antelope

“I sit at the center of the universe,” Bertram said to the paper towel holder.
The paper towel holder looked back at him with its two rows of sky-blue eyes.  It didn’t say anything.
“No, really,” Bertram continued,  “wherever I am is the center of the universe.  It has to be.”
The paper towel holder raised the stalks of its upper row of eyes slightly.
“OK.  I know you don’t believe me, but consider this.  I am conscious.  You will grant me that, won’t you?”
The top row of eyes nodded.
“OK, then.  And consciousness is as fundamental to existence as matter or energy.  You do agree to that?”
Raised eye-stalks again.
“Look, the latest Bell inequality experiments don’t leave any room for doubt.  Seriously.”
The eye-stalks lowered slightly.
“And if consciousness is fundamental, then there really can be only one consciousness.  So if I’m conscious, I must have that one, universal consciousness.”
The paper towel dispenser continued to look at him, its eye-stalks unmoving.
“Aannnd… If it’s that fundamental, it must also be central.  So my consciousness is central to the universe.  Therefore I am central to the universe.”
The paper towel dispenser extended a bright green tentacle from beneath the brightly-printed roll of paper towels on its spindle and waved it at Bertram in a gesture that appeared to him to be almost sad.
He looked down and saw his body start to fade away, almost as if it were being erased.
He smiled wryly at the paper towel dispenser.
“Well,” he had time to say before he faded away entirely, “at least people will know where to go if they want to get a first-rate paper towel, won’t they?”

Written using MacWrite 4.5, Macintosh OS 6.0.8,
MiniVMac,
04/19/2013  4:15 AM  PST

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Dream a Little Dream For Me…

“I would so like to do wicked things,” said Ellwood pettishly, “I really, really would!”
The giant lobster that he was riding turned and looked at him.
“That is the most asinine thing that you’ve said in…  Well, the last five minutes, at least.”
“It is not asinine!  In fact, it’s a very sophisticated thing to say!”
“Ellwood,”  The lobster replied, waving one antenna as if in exasperation, “if you were any less sophisticated, you would be drooling and speaking in baby talk!”
“If you continue to speak to me like that, I shall pout, I really shall!  And you know what happens when I pout!”
“Yes, I know.”  The lobster said wearily, “There are floods, fires, plagues of particularly nasty locusts, and all sorts of hideous pestilences.  You do that at the drop of a hat, you know, and it must be very tiring for your subjects  —  at least the ones who manage to survive.”
The lobster stopped, allowing the tips of its legs to sink down slightly into the plain of whipped cream and pineapple chunks.
“Are you ever,” it asked, “going to allow even one of your subjects into this… Heaven of yours?  Maybe a few of them could get a decent meal, if the whipped cream hasn’t gone bad.  It would be the least you could do, after the beastly way that you’ve treated them!”
“They deserve everything that I’ve done!  After all, they have consistently disobeyed me!”
“Disobeyed you?  How could they disobey you?  You haven’t told them to do anything!”
“Well, they should have known without me telling them!  But we’re getting off the subject.  The point is that I want to do wicked things, and you won’t let me!”
“Well, what sort of wicked things do you want to do?”
“I want,” Ellwod whispered conspiratorially, “to go to a nightclub and be seen in the company of women of uncertain reputation!”
“If you do that,” the lobster replied, “then I fear that you will ruin their uncertain reputations, and no-one will be able to take them seriously again.  Wouldn’t you rather spend some time in the company of a nice kindergarten teacher who will let you have extra chocolate-chip cookies after you take your nap?”
“But would that be wicked?”  Ellwood sounded uncertain.
“I assure you that it would be very wicked indeed, at least if you ate enough cookies.”
“Very well, then!  I shall be the most wicked cookie-eater that ever was!  Onward to kindergarten!”
As the lobster freed its leg-tips from the half-congealed whipped cream and continued across the gooey, glistening white-and-yellow plain, Ellwood joyously sent great thunderbolts and deadly pestilences toward the world of his cowering subjects in celebration of his impending descent into wickedness.

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Knock Three Times…

“I have failed to steal anyone’s soul!”  Wilbert proclaimed dramatically, pressing the back of his hand against his forehead for effect.  He had to fight the urge to wiggle his fingers.
“Is there any reason why you should have succeeded?”
Wilbert opened his eyes.  An earwig was perched on a peeling piece of yellow-and-green wallpaper, three inches from his face.
“Yes, of course!  I’m a romantically satanic and very tragic rebel against the oppression of existence itself.  And I’m goth.  And very dark, too.  So I have to steal souls!”
“What would you do with a soul if you did steal it?”
“I don’t know  —  maybe put it in a box somewhere.  Whatever you’re supposed to do with souls after you steal them.”
“That’s it?”  The earwig waved its pincers.  “Just put it in an old shoebox with a pair of stinky, worn out Chuck Taylors?”
“That is not what romantically satanic rebels do!  You don’t understand what I’m trying to do at all!  Besides, it doesn’t matter, because I can’t even steal anybody’s soul!”
“By the way,” asked the earwig, “where’s your soul?  I don’t think I see it on you, unless it’s one of those charm-bracelet trinkets stuck through your earlobe.”
Wilbert sighed.
“I don’t know.  I think I lost it in …  Maybe seventh grade.  A girl took it, I think.  A girl who to this day means so much to me that I cannot say her name!”
“It’s probably one of those really annoying names like ‘Brandy’ spelled with three ‘y’s and two ‘e’s, anyway.” replied the earwig. “And seventh grade sounds about right.  You do know that she probably stuck it in a box with her smelly old track shoes, then threw it away at the end of the school year, don’t you?”
“Yes,” replied Wilbert, with as much offended dignity as he could muster, “I am aware of that!”
“And you think you’re competent to steal anybody else’s used bubble gum, let alone their souls?” asked the earwig. “How about if you get down on your hands and knees in the nearest gutter and lick it clean, from one end of the block to the other?  That should be enough to give you a soul.”
“How about,” Wilbert snarled in reply, “if I swat the crap out of you, then I go out and strike a pose in the gutter as if I have just stood up from having licked it clean?  That should be enough to give me the appearance of having just earned a soul  —  which is the same thing as having actually done it, after all!”
His fist hit the wall less than half a second after the earwig disappeared in a puff of green smoke, and just a millisecond before he he was painfully reminded that there was a steel pipe behind the crumbling plaster in that exact spot.
Her stinky shoes!”  he whispered to himself in agony and reverence, “Her sweet, beautiful stinky track shoes!

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Profond Tresor Enigmatique

“I own the inside of your head, you know.” Walter said to Cindy, “I bought it the other day.”
“You bought it?” Cindy asked, “Just where did you buy it?”
“There’s a store,” Walter replied, “where you can buy anything.  And no, I’m not going to tell you where it is.  But I bought the inside of your head there.  It was cheap.”
“I don’t know what you really bought, and I don’t care where you really bought it, but whatever you bought, it wasn’t the inside of my head.  You don’t even know what the inside of your own head looks like, although I can tell you what it smells like, and it’s not good.”
“You’re just jealous, because you don’t own the inside of anybody’s head  —  and I own the inside of yours!”
Cindy looked at him.
I won’t say anything.  I won’t say anything at all.  He doesn’t know about the thing I found, or what I’ve done with it, or what I think it is, or who I think it originally belonged to.  It’s none of his business, and anyway, he wouldn’t understand.  None of them would.
Because I don’t even understand.  But that doesn’t stop me.
“Well,” she laughed, “I’m sure you bought something that looked like…  A moldy cantaloupe rind, or whatever.  And I’m sure you’ll enjoy eating it, or drooling all over it, or whatever nasty, smelly little thrill you’ve got planned, but don’t drag me into it, OK?”
And no, I’m not like you with your stupid rotten cantaloupe rind.  I just found something, and I don’t know what to do with it, not really.  That’s all.  I just found something.
And if I could close my eyes and make you go away, I really, really would.

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Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

“Why are we here?” asked Wallace, looking around the near-empty petting zoo.  “I thought you wanted to go somewhere and have sex.  ‘Like barnyard animals,’ you said.”
“No, you silly!”  Nadine laughed and rolled her eyes comically.  “I didn’t say ‘have sex like barnyard animals’  —  I said ‘have sex with barnyard animals’!
“And look!  There’s a billy goat  —  just what I wanted!  See you later!” she called back to him cheerfully, as she ran toward the goat pen, “I think the chickens are back that way  —  have fun!”
I suppose I could take this as a rejection, thought Wallace, but maybe it’s just some kind of foreplay.
After a moment, he turned around and went looking for the chicken yard.

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