Ollop the chef.

While on my lunch break I decided give Porky Troporkal a try. I had driven by it every morning while on the way to work and had since been curious enough to stop and try something on their menu. It seemed like a normal fast food restaurant until I walked inside.

“Can I take your order?” the order clerk whispered.

“Why are you whispering?” I asked.

The order clerk nervously nodded her head to the huge hulking man working behind her. He was facing the stove and cooking rows and rows of pork chops. “You don’t want to make Ollop angry,” she whispered. As if hearing his name, Ollop turned his head to cast me the menacing glare that sent chills down my spine before he returned to his cooking.

“He already seems upset,” I whispered back.

“You don’t understand,” she replied, “whenever Ollop gets angry, anything nearby containing sufficient internal levels of moisture will pop inside out like popcorn.”

“What?” I could not believe my ears.

“That’s his nature,” she sighed. “Now what would you like?”

Before I could place my order, Ollop let out a loud yell as the stove launched a drop of hot grease that landed on his arm.

“HIT THE GROUND!” the order clerk screamed as everyone in the kitchen dropped out of sight. She frantically motioned for me to do the same and I quickly dropped to my knees, my ears fully alert for what was to happen next. That’s when I heard a very loud series of squishy popping sounds that sounded like farting mud bubbles. Then an eerie, tense silence filled the restaurant before I heard the order clerk announce, “All clear! Sir?”

I rose to my feet and, after regaining my composure, placed my order and after waiting a few minutes, had myself an otherwise enjoyable lunch.

Popped pork chops isn’t half bad.

Here we go again.

This morning, as I pulled into the parking lot of the building where I work, I saw the same old sight as I’ve seen in countless days in the past. And there it was, the usual gathering of police cars and ambulances near the main entrance with their siren lights ablaze. Normally this would be a startling sight, but in my case, not only was I unimpressed, I was annoyed.

I parked my car, gathered my lunch bag and began walking past the crowd of gawkers that had gathered in the parking lot. They too seemed to know what was going on. One person even asked me, “Again?”

“Again,” I replied with a sigh before continuing my walk.

Once I entered the building, I saw everyone working at their desks as usual despite the commotion. They too seemed to know what was going on but still carried on with their duties anyway. Phone lines carried loads of conversations with clients, printers whirred and the keyboards clicked to fill spreadsheets and documents with endless lines of data, all while ignoring the paramedics and police officers standing near the break room that bore the source of the morning’s chaos. Only a handful of employees stood nearby, snickering while sipping from their cups of hot, fresh coffee.

“Excuse me, coming through,” I said as I brushed past the police officers and paramedics standing around the break room as I worked to reach my locker and eventually the time clock. After I put my lunch bag away in my locker, I turned around to see who it was this time. And there he was, my coworker Adam, standing cramped inside the vending machine while grinning uncomfortably while the paramedics worked to open the door to free him. I could barely hear him as he tried to mutter some pathetic excuse as to why he had to climb inside the machine in the first place, probably to try freeing that package of mini-donuts he so craved every morning.

Then my boss entered the break room and walked up to a sign with a number written with a dry-erase marker. After one disgusted glance at Adam, he erased the number and wrote in its place a large red zero before making a hasty exit. And there it was for all to see, the sign that read DAYS SINCE ANYONE GOT TRAPPED INSIDE THE VENDING MACHINE with the red zero to reset the count.

The previous record was 3 days.

A tale of two thugs.

Smith ran down the dark street as fast as his legs could carry him. His body pleaded with him to stop and rest but he was too terrified. He briefly looked behind him and saw the source of his fear, the two armed thugs in full pursuit and closing in fast. He had to think of a quick exit out of this situation and possible demise.

Up ahead he saw a dark alley approaching fast. Smith wasted no time making a quick turn down the alley, hoping the thugs didn’t see him while hoping for a detour to safety. To his horror, there was a dead end ahead, leaving no way out but back on the street he had been so desperate to escape from in the first place. He could hear approaching footsteps as the thugs came closer and closer.

Wait a minute, Smith thought. I’m dreaming. I can get out of here easily.

He reached out with his hand and made a pulling motion as if to open some invisible door. Beyond the invisible door was his bedroom in his waking world, the same bedroom where he awoke from sleep every morning. Smiling, Smith walked towards his bedroom and feeling safe at last, collapsed on his bed for a snooze.

The two thugs stood silently in the alley, not believing what they had just seen. Smith had seemingly disappeared into thin air, but the thugs saw something else that further piqued their interest. The invisible door was still open, allowing them to peek into the strange world beyond. Slowly the thugs walked past the door and into the bedroom where Smith was snoozing. There they both stood at the foot of the bed, watching him sleep. Smiling, one thug turned to the other.

“Let’s get him.”

Secrets of his success.

After the applause had faded, the stage lights dimmed as Ian stepped up to the microphone for his monologue.

​”Very often I’m asked to reveal the secrets of my success. It’s quite simple. Never give up on your dreams.”

​The audience responded with applause.

​”Most people don’t pursue their dreams because it may seem overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. Just break it down into smaller steps. Take me, for instance. One day I would practice my guitar and the next, I would reach out to people with experience doing a live radio show. Soon everything fell in place, and here I am on stage, doing The Orlando Program.”

​More applause.

​”Look at it like climbing Mount Everest. It seems overwhelming when you see it as a whole, but not so when you break it down into smaller destinations. With a little persistence, even you can reach the top.”

​Even more applause.

“And now I’d like to bring out our special guest, someone whom you may recognize but at the same time, you’ve never seen him. Here’s Me As A Nobody.”

A dark, shadowy figure drifted out onto the stage. The audience was unsure how to make of this strange arrival and held its applause.

Pointing to the Nobody, Ian continued, “This is what happens when you hold all your dreams in. Along with them you hold yourself back with your talents forever hidden. This is also what happens when you don’t believe in yourself and your potential. Nobody ever gets to see what you’re capable of because you keep holding yourself back. As in the case of Me As A Nobody, nobody else believed in him because he didn’t believe in himself. Soon he lost everything, including contact with his family and all the money in the bank. Just about the only thing he has left is the will to live.”

“That’s right,” the Nobody spoke up with its deep, sinister rasp of a voice. “And as long as I continue to exist, so will your pathetic show.”

“Observe the Nobody’s excessive negative mood,” Ian pointed out.

“Let me finish,” the Nobody continued. “The success you’re enjoying right now, this so-called radio show of yours, is not real. It is only a figment of my mind reminding me of what my life could have been had I made the effort.”

“Um, this show is not a figment,” Ian stammered. “I earned it through years of patience and hard work!”

“You don’t understand,” the Nobody retorted. “None of this is real. Once I disappear from this world, so will your show and your dreams. In fact, you’ll wake up right back where you started, back in your bedroom, back to dreaming but wide awake in your sadness.”

“That’s not true!” Ian began to panic. “I’m living the dream!”

“And sadly, all dreams must end,” the Nobody muttered as it began to rise above the stage. Slowly the stage, the microphone and the audience began to dissolve to blackness, leaving Ian alone and confused in the dark.

Behind him a light began to shine and Ian walked towards it, right back to his bedroom, right back at his parents’ house where he had lived, right back to dreaming of a better life, right back to Square One.

 

Departmental Restructuring.

“Say what?” Robert asked.

“What?” Kevin replied as he looked back at Robert who was seated at his desk.

“The subject of this post. It reads Departmental Restructuring. What’s up with that?”

“Ah, yes,” Kevin beamed, “I have plans to restructure the Information Systems department by expanding our office to make it bigger, better and more responsive to the needs of the hospital.”

“But why? Our department is already ideally sized. Why make it bigger?”

“Because of the feeling of awe a larger building induces when you walk inside. That’s the way of the future! You can’t compete when you work in such a small office! You gotta dream BIG! Take a look at this!”

Kevin produced a large drawing of his rendition of the restructured office. As Robert examined it, his mouth dropped open. What the hell is this?

The drawing depicted a large indoor lake with several desks along the perimeter of the shoreline. In the middle of the lake was a small island with a small desk on it. Robert read the handwritten label scribbled near its location.

​​”Director Island?” Robert mused.

​​”Director Island,” Kevin repeated with a smile. “Even better, when you need to see me, you can use the canoe.”

​”CANOE?!” Robert yelled. “I gotta go canoeing just to see you?”

​​”Well, a powerboat would be too noisy.”

​”I DON’T BELIEVE THIS!” Robert jumped up. “You don’t restructure a department by propping your desk on a small island in the middle of an indoor lake! What about improving the network infrastructure and utilizing cloud computing for increased efficiency? That would be a way more realistic goal for your vision for streamlining our operations without making this office any bigger than it needs to be.”

​Kevin took a deep breath. “Well, I kind of already kind of started. ”

​Robert was confused. “What do you mean, ‘kind of already kind of started’?”

​”Well, I kind of already kind of made kind of arrangements for the kind of demolition.”

​Robert held on to his head as if trying to keep it from falling off. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what about the demolition?”

​”I kind of made the arrangements.”

​”For the DEMOLITION?”

​”Kind of yeah.”

​​”When is that?”

​”Right now.”

​< < K A B L O O I E > >

One instant later, Robert and Kevin were on a cloud, still seated as they had been throughout their meeting. Both looked around and saw clouds everywhere, including some smaller ones shaped like computers hovering near where they sat.

“Oh, look!” Kevin pointed. “Cloud computers! I’d say we’re off to a good start.”

“Whatever,” Robert muttered as he flapped his angel wings and flew off to a different cloud while strumming the strings on his harp.

An alternate ending of Origin.

I just finished reading Origin, a thrilling and thought-provoking novel by Dan Brown. As is typical of stories I find myself enjoying, I started imagining my own humorous twists and turns, such as this possible ending.

At last. The late Edmond Kirsch’s controversial video presentation was set to stream over the Internet, despite countless protests from religious leaders and followers alike from all over the globe. They tried their best to prevent the presentation from airing, which was probably why Kirsch was murdered in the first place. But none of that mattered now. His friend and mentor Robert Langdon had gained access to the presentation itself and, determined to honor his friend’s legacy, began the streaming. Within seconds Kirsch’s face appeared on computer screens all over the world.

“Hello,” Kirsch said, “I’m sure you’re curious about my big discovery that definitively answers the two big questions that we’ve been asking ourselves since the beginning of time, or more specifically, the beginning of our existence on this planet. Those questions are, Where did we come from, and Where are we going?

“Throughout the centuries, countless scientists have tackled these questions and despite their best efforts, failed to even come close to providing some satisfactory answers. But none of these scientists had the technology and resources that I have.

“For you see, through my own research, I have solved the puzzle of our origins as well as where we’re headed. I know exactly how the universe began and how life originated on Earth, and I have the evidence and calculations to prove it. The huge publicity surrounding my discovery has generated tremendous amounts of controversy that has threatened my safety, which is why I am videotaping this presentation ahead of time in the likely event that someone may try to silence me.

“Well, you all have waited long enough. It is time for me to reveal our exact origins, starting with the beginning of the universe and how it began. For you see, it all began like this.”

The camera began closing in on Kirsch’s face as he looked down to the floor, presumably for dramatic effect. Then his eyes met the camera once again as he raised his hands to the sides of his head with thumbs in his ears.

A booga booga booga!” he yelled before turning around and crashing through the wall behind him, leaving behind an opening that saw him running off towards the trees on the horizon.

Robert Langdon shook his head with a trace of a smile while watching the presentation streaming on his phone.

Ever the eccentric, ever the prankster.

Apologies to Dan Brown


Would you rather?

I was sitting at my desk at home paying bills while playing a game of “Would You Rather” with my smart speaker.

“Would you rather predict the future or change the past?” it asked.

“Change the past,” I replied.

“You are unique,” my smart speaker responded. “47% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather have a book written about you or a song written about you?”

“Song written about me.”

“I like the way you think. 53% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather drown in the bathtub or self-combust in the kitchen?”

I looked up at my smart speaker.

What kind of question was that?

“95% of people agree with you,” the smart speaker said without waiting for my response. “Next question. Would you rather be squeezed to death by a boa constrictor or trampled on by a herd of elephants?”

No way I’m answering this.

“Stop,” I said to my smart speaker, hoping to put an end to this typically family-friendly game.

“45% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather gouge out your eyes or cut off your tongue?”

“STOP!”

“76% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather-“

Before I could hear the next question, I unplugged my smart speaker, opened the window and threw it out on the street. Then I gasped at the sight I had just seen.

There were smart speakers flying out the windows of homes all over my neighborhood.