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.


The future of road rage.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and quickly realized I was in trouble. The blue car was right behind me, tailgating so close that I could see the furious faces of the two people inside. I was sorely tempted to slam on my brakes but was wise enough to realize this would only worsen the situation. I silently castigated myself for being careless enough to cut off the blue car earlier while changing lanes, but perhaps the driver of the other car was at fault for overreacting and distorting this situation way out of proportion.

Suddenly the blue car pulled up beside me, and there we were traveling side by side on the interstate. I tried to ignore it but out of the corner of my eye I could see the car’s passenger pointing something at me. Quickly I turned my head to see what it was and saw that he was holding a megaphone.

OH NO…

“Alexa, turn off the engine!” the passenger shouted.

“Okay,” replied the synthesized voice coming from the speakers inside my car. The engine shut off, the transmission became disengaged and the steering wheel locked in place as my car slid off the road despite my frenzied efforts to restart the car, but my voice sounded too distressed for the onboard voice recognition system to comprehend. As my car concluded its skid onto the embankment along the side of the road, I could see the blue car drive off, with two raised middle fingers sticking out from both the driver and passenger windows.

That’s the last time I’ll ever by an Echo Smart Car.

 

Dryekoff.

I glanced at the clock and groaned.

9:30.

Time for bed.

I don’t want to go to bed.

The usual arguing with my inner self.

I slowly strolled to my bedroom, continuing this silent arguing as I turned off the lights in the hallway before entering my bedroom. To get to my bed I had to squeeze past the large speakers, the amplifiers, drum kit and four guys that stood in my way near the middle of the bedroom.

Yes, there was a rock band in my bedroom.

“Going to sleep, dude?” asked the drummer.

“Yes,” I replied, “and I would very much appreciate a quiet night for once so I can sleep.”

“But we gotta practice!” complained the guitarist.

“Look, you guys had all day to practice!” I shot back. “Why do it now when I have to sleep? I gotta be up early!”

The four guys stood silently as if my words finally got to them. Then slowly, one by one, the four guys left my bedroom, grumbling.

Finally.

I turned off the lights and rested my head on the pillow. Just when I felt myself drift away to sleep, the four guys dashed back into my bedroom, turned on the amps and let loose with a deafening jam that shook me awake.

“Waugh!” I screamed as I sat up. Abruptly the band stopped playing and stared at me with mischievous grins.

“So, what do you think?” asked the bassist.

“I think it’s too late!” I yelled. “Can’t you guys wait until morning when I’m not here?”

“But we’re busy in the morning!” the singer yelled back.

“DOING WHAT?”

“SLEEPING!” the four guys yelled.

“GET OUT!” I screamed. “ALL OF YOU!”

“But-”

“NO BUTS! OUT!” I screamed. Abruptly the band quickly left my bedroom and I closed the door behind them. For good measure I locked it, too.

Finally.

I collapsed on my bed and a few minutes later felt myself beginning to drift away to sleep. Suddenly the door was kicked open as the band rushed back into my bedroom and began jamming with the volume on full blast. Once again I sat up and screamed at them to stop and they did, only to resume playing when I was nearly asleep.

And this went on all night.

Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep, no thanks to these guys who call themselves Dryekoff.

The band name is a play on the words “dry cough”, the most annoying part of getting sick. Long after the other symptoms have cleared, the dry cough lingers, staying quiet during the day but getting worse at night, especially when you’re trying to sleep.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Green mulch.

I was working outside in the garden department when I saw a spaceship land in the parking lot. A small green man stepped out and walked up to me, his hand held up in greeting.

“Greetings,” he said. “I am Aaga from the planet Qylxzy. Do you have any green mulch here?”

“I’m sorry?” I asked. “Did you say, green mulch?”

“Correct.”

“Sorry, we do not carry green mulch. We do carry mulch in red, brown and black, and we do have cypress mulch, but we do not carry any green mulch.”

“You make this difficult,” Aaga snarled as he pulled out a tiny phaser gun. “Prepare to be annihilated.”

“With that tiny thing?” I laughed.

Aaga fired his phaser at a shelf of merchandise along the wall, which promptly disappeared. “Something funny?” he asked as he pointed the phaser at my chest.

Now I knew Aaga meant business. After some quick brainstorming, I came up with an idea. “I’ll be right back,” I said.

I grabbed a bag of cypress mulch and took it inside to the paint department where I took a can of green spray paint. Then I went outside behind the store and spread the mulch out on the pavement before painting it green. After a few minutes, I put the mulch back in its original bag and carried it back to the garden department where Aaga was waiting.

“Here you are,” I grinned as I handed over the green mulch.

“Oh, this is great!” Aaga beamed as he examined the bag. “I’d like 99 more, please.”

I gulped in shock. Recovering my composure, I said, “I’m sorry, but this is all we have.”

Aaga once again aimed his phaser at my chest and repeated, “I said, I’d like 99 more, PLEASE.”

Now I really had to think fast. Grabbing a floor jack, I towed a pallet of cypress mulch outside behind the store before heading back to the paint department to grab cans and cans of green paint. Then I went to the rental department and borrowed their portable cement mixer. Once back outside, I poured the paint inside the mixer before adding the mulch. Slowly I filled the bags with green mulch and several long hours later, finally finished the task. Sweating and panting, I pulled the pallet of green mulch back to the garden department where Aaga was still waiting. When he saw the green mulch, he beamed and said, “Excellent! I’ll take it.”

After paying for the green mulch and loading it in his spaceship, Aaga took off, waving at me as he disappeared into the sky. I stood silently, sweating and panting with spots of green paint all over my clothes, but I felt good for going above and beyond to provide the excellent customer service even aliens from other planets deserve.

A few hours later, five small spaceships landed in the parking lot. Aaga had returned, accompanied by four small green men. He led them up to me, where they all stood before me while smiling.

“These are my neighbors,” Aaga explained, “They like my green mulch so much that they want some too!”

I fainted.