Ian’s memorial service.

“Welcome to our memorial service for Ian!” Ron greeted the small group of people who had gathered in the living room. At the front of the room stood a table with Ian’s photo positioned between two candles.

​Steve sneered at Ron from his seat. In a good mood, aren’t we, he thought. The nerve of the way you acted at Ian’s funeral. You wouldn’t let me spend a few minutes with his ashes. And yes, Ian WAS my brother. Our friendship was that close. And how DARE you throw Ian’s ashes away like garbage. Now I know how much he meant to you.

​​Ron continued, “We’re here to celebrate Ian’s life, so if anyone has any pleasant memories to share…”

I beg to differ on your choice of the word “pleasant”, thought Ian’s brother-in-law Harry. Ian treated me like GARBAGE the whole time he knew me. He wouldn’t even be in my wedding! I tried many times to offer him the olive branch but he only burned it with his wrath. He never even told me what I did to get him so upset. I’m glad he’s gone.

​Next to Harry sat his wife Sue, who was also Ian’s younger sister. I think I left the iron plugged in, she thought. I hope it has the automatic shutoff feature.

Next to Sue and Harry sat their 4-year-old daughter Diana, who couldn’t understand what was going on. Why did mommy make me leave my tablet in the car? I wanna play Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Behind them sat Ian’s older brother Jeff who was staring at the photo of Ian resting on the table. No potential, no ambition, no drive, and no purpose. No one’s life should ever be this empty.

“…any funny memories…”

Actually, I do have such a memory, thought Mr. Smith, who was their elderly next door neighbor, that sight of Ian sitting in a wheelbarrow in the side yard while completely wrapped in aluminum foil, but I doubt that even remotely qualifies as funny. I think I better keep quiet.

“…and perhaps any life-affirming lessons he may have taught you…”

I’ll get back to you on that, everyone thought simultaneously.

“…you may share them with us now.”

Steve had enough memories and stories of Ian to fill an entire evening, but he remained silent in protest of the way Ron had so crudely treated his dearly departed friend.

Ron looked around the room. “Anybody?”

Everyone else began looking around the room to see if there was anyone getting ready to speak, but there was nothing but silence.

“Short memorial service!” Ron laughed. “Thanks for coming.”

As everyone rose from their seats to leave, Ron and his wife Karen quickly extinguished the candles, put Ian’s photo away in the closet and dragged the table back to the family room, where they both sat down to watch TV for the rest of the evening.

Outside in the driveway, Steve glanced at his watch and shook his head.

Ian’s memorial service ran for all of three minutes.

Idiots.

Ian’s funeral.

Several months after being thrown out of his parents’ house, Ian was not seen again until his skeleton was found in the woods. His parents had it cremated and gathered at the entrance to the woods along with his best friend Steve.

​”You want to do the honors?” Ian’s father Ron asked as he handed the urn to Steve.

​”Yeah,” Steve whispered.

​Steve faced the woods, closed his eyes and began reciting a silent prayer.

Dearest Ian, I owe you an apology. In the 40 years we’ve been friends, we’ve each had our share of ups and downs, but we always found a way to level the playing field. I really should have helped you when you needed me most. Had I done that, I wouldn’t be…

“What are you waiting for?”

​Steve cringed at Ron’s rude interruption. He cast an angry glare behind him.

​”Fine,” Steve groaned as he removed the lid from the urn. Holding it up high, he paused while searching for the right words.

​”Free at last,” Steve whispered, “Free at last. Thank God almighty you are free at last. Fly free, my brother.”

​Steve was about to scatter the ashes when Ron spoke up.

​”Um, Ian was not your brother.”

​Steve felt a tinge of shock and anger.

Did he just say that?

​Steve promptly put the lid back on the urn, placed it on the ground and abruptly began walking out of the woods, storming past Ian’s parents.

​”Hey, hey, hey!” Ron shouted. “You didn’t scatter the ashes!”

​Steve turned to angrily face Ron when he saw Ron pick up the urn and then pitch it into some nearby bushes. Steve felt an even stronger tinge of shock and anger surge from within.

Did he just do that?

Bruce’s TV Card.

Finally. My new TV was all set up. I plopped down on the couch, put the batteries in the remote and switched the TV on. I was in the midst of going through the setup screens when I heard a knock on the door. Curiously, there was nothing there but a small package resting on my doorstep. I brought the package inside and opened it to find a note.

Congratulations on the purchase of your new TV.

Now how did they know that?

You may be wondering if you’re truly getting the amazing picture quality you’re paying for.

I already am. My TV happens to be one of the top-of-the-line models with the ultimate in picture reproduction technology, thank you very much.

Well, you’re wrong.

Huh?

Hi, I’m Bruce, inventor of the world-famous Bruce’s TV Card.

World famous? Never heard of him.

Today’s your lucky day. You’re about to unleash the true potential of your new TV, and everything you need is enclosed in the package.

Let’s see, a PCIe card and a bunch of colored cables held together by a rubber band. Did I miss anything?

No, that’s it.

What??

Now let’s walk you through the simple steps to get your new card installed. Grab a screwdriver and remove the fifty screws holding the back panel of your TV in place. Going ahead, we’ll wait. LOL😀

Did I just read “LOL😀”?

Yes, you did. How’s the screw removal going?

This is getting creepier by the minute.

10 minutes later, I had all 50 screws removed.

Now let’s take off that back panel. Don’t let the sight of what you are about to see scare you.

Still not believing I was doing this, I located the edges of the rear panel and slowly removed it from the TV. Then I gasped. I found myself staring at a circuit board that had rows and rows of perhaps dozens of expansion slots labeled with some very cryptic-sounding names such as QDJ and WHB++.

What’s this?

A slot labeled “Bruce’s TV Card”?

By now you should have found the slot labeled “Bruce’s TV Card”.

No 💩.

In your package is the card that fits in that slot. We’ll wait.

I slid the card into its slot until I heard a click as the miniature clamps locked it in place.

Now let our technicians do the rest.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door. In marched a team of five technicians armed with toolboxes as they gathered around my TV with their tools at the ready. While I did my part of the job by questioning the timing of their arrival, they took the cables from the package and soldered them to the circuit board through a stunning display of flashing sparks and heavy smoke that filled the living room. By the time the smoke cleared, the technicians were gone and my TV stood reassembled with its rear panel back in place.

We’re all done. Now you get to see what your new TV can really do. Go ahead, grab the remote. I think you’ll like what you’ll see.

I grabbed the remote and switched the TV on.

Wow.

Just wow.

This is amazing.

I’ll let you go right here.

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.