Vagrant busters.

I quietly made my way across the attic towards the light behind the door. Many years ago my father slept in the small bedroom behind that door, but now it seemed that anyone could sleep there now, including vagrants. Just because my dearly departed grandparents’ old house stood vacant and unsold for years didn’t mean anyone could sleep there.

I began pounding on the door. Immediately I heard a yelp from the bedroom, but I was only getting started. I kicked the door open and began switching the light on and off in rapid succession. The fact I was completely invisible to the vagrant amplified the poltergeist effect tenfold, effectively intensifying the terror inflicted on the terrified vagrant. He fled the bedroom and the rest of the attic, hopefully never to return.

One down, who knows how many to go.

Time to check the basement. I made sure the attic windows were locked before going downstairs to the kitchen which had a nearby door leading to the basement below. Already I had a feeling there was going to be several more vagrants to deal with down there.

I was right. There were three of them sleeping in the basement. Angered at this sight, I slowly tiptoed down the stairs and snuck past the sleeping vagrants as I walked to the small closet in the corner that doubled as a workshop. Inside, on a coat rack next to the door, hung my grandfather’s winter jacket and hat, still there, decades after his passing. I stepped into the workshop and closed the door as I put on the jacket and hat.

“Yaaaaaah!” I screamed as I kicked the workshop door open and ran out into the basement towards the terrified vagrants. Of course, I was invisible so only the jacket and hat were seen flying through the air. The vagrants fled the basement and I slammed the door shut behind them and this time made sure it was secured and locked. Hopefully that’s the last time I’ll have to deal with this problem.

Satisfied, I opened my eyes to be greeted by the moon shining through my cabin window. Maybe, just maybe, I can now enjoy my cruise without any further worries.

My ruined Christmas.

I answered the door in response to some rather frenzied knocking. There stood a short man with greenish skin, oh wait, that was from the green light outside my front door. Anyway, this man seemed rather upset.

“Ah, celebrating Christmas, I see,” he said after observing my holiday themed set up. “You may not remember me, but several months ago you cut me off and took my parking spot at the DOLLAR STORE WHERE YOU DID YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!”

Instantly there were audible gasps from the other houses surrounding mine. Great. Now everyone knows where I did my holiday shopping. I know I wasn’t not the only one seeking to save a little money this time of year.

Then my attention returned to the angry man at the door. “Wait a minute,” I said, “This was several months ago?”

“Yes, and I’ve waited this long just so I can ruin your Christmas!”

“And how do you plan on doing that?”

“You see, I am a THORCERER!”

“Don’t you mean sorcerer?”

“NO, I SAID THORCERER!”

Whatever.

Assuming that infamous stork karate pose, he chanted in a voice so deep it sounded like a long belch, “May everything associated with your holiday go BOOM!” With that, he turned around and disappeared into the night.

I was chuckling at what I just witnessed, but after I closed the door and began walking towards my living room I stopped chuckling because there was no longer anything to chuckle at, but if there was something to chuckle at, I would have been chuckling except I wasn’t chuckling, because there really wasn’t anything to chuckle at.

Anyway, my Christmas tree was growing abnormally large and stood 7 feet tall, which was really abnormal considering that the tree was only 1 foot tall when I bought it. Not only was the tree growing larger but also the ornaments appeared to inflate like balloons.

Boom.

Instantly the tree exploded, ornaments and all, leaving nothing behind, not even those pesky pine needles. All that was left were the presents on the floor, except they were now inflating like balloons.

Boom.

The presents exploded, showering the floor with shredded wrapping paper and unidentifiable fragments of plastic and metal. As usual nothing resembling batteries.

Boom.

I heard a loud explosion coming from behind and when I spun around I saw the showering fragments of what used to be the holiday garland strung along the wall. Next to explode were the Christmas cards on my dining room table soon covered with their dust. Finally I heard popping sounds coming from outside the window. Sure enough, I could see my holiday lights popping like firecrackers on a string. Then all was quiet.

I surveyed the remains of my Christmas decorations and realized there was one thing left that the thorcerer can never destroy.

My Christmas spirit.

Christmas trees dry up and die, holiday lights burn out and a majority of gifts fall apart, but the Christmas spirit is what remains intact, year in and year out. Impressed by this sudden insight, I began to feel something well up from deep inside, except it wasn’t my pride. It was my Christmas spirit, growing larger and larger, soon becoming so large that my head began to swell. Seconds later…

Boom.

This thorcerer really got me good.

Ian’s secret legacy, Part 2.

“Nice job, Steve,” Ron sighed. “You just demolished the bedroom and there’s no box in sight. What is this, some kind of joke?”

“I swear, there is a box hidden here somewhere,” Steve countered before he was consumed by a sudden, illuminating thought. After a lengthy pause, he announced, “I think I know where it is.”

“Where?” Ron asked.

Steve pointed at the closet. “In there.”

“Oh great, here we go with more demolition,” Karen complained as Steve opened the closet door in preparation for tearing down the walls inside. Once again the crowbar flew into action, tearing out large chunks of wall before piling them on the already large pile of drywall on the floor. After a few minutes of vicious hammering and ripping, the noise suddenly stopped.

“I found it.”

Steve emerged from the closet holding a small jewelry box held shut by a snap hinge. He handed it to Ron, who eyed it skeptically.

“I’d like you to do the honors,” Steve said, “I think it’s fitting for you, Ian’s parents, to unseal his legacy.”

“Very well.”

Ron gripped the jewelry box and struggled to unsnap the rusty hinge that held it shut. Suddenly the lid flew open as a giant spring loaded snake jumped out, filling Ian’s parents with terror. As they stood in place screaming, Steve fled the room, not out of fear but in satisfaction that he had at last fulfilled Ian’s secret legacy – to prank parents and mess up his old bedroom one last time.

The End

Ian’s secret legacy.

“Why, Steve,” Ron said after greeting him at the door, “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“Sorry for the intrusion,” Steve replied, “but I have some news that may be of interest to you.”

“News?” Ron wondered. “Do come in and tell us about it.”

Ron motioned Steve to the living room where they both sat down on the couch.

“Ron, when your son Ian was alive, he demonstrated a real passion for music.”

Ron chortled. “Yeah, he spent nearly all his time listening to his stereo.”

“Let me rephrase that,” Steve corrected, “he had a passion for composing music.”

“Ian? Composing music? Impossible.”

“No, really. Whenever he came over to my house we both collaborated on our music. And Ian has composed some of the most thrilling music I have ever heard.”

“Let me get this straight,” Ron muttered, “Ian never finished school or worked a day in his life but he could actually compose music?”

“Seems hard to believe, but he had a real talent for it. He and I came up with some cool compositions, but his talent really took off when he came up with not only music for movies, but also his own symphonies and operas. He also wrote some musicals for Broadway, too. I’m telling you, this is music that needs to be heard.”

“So what’s in it for us?” Ian’s mother Karen asked. She overheard the conversation from the kitchen and had joined in.

“This music must be published, and whatever money it brings in, I will see that you get every cent. Nothing for me, of course. Ian personally told me that the money will compensate you for all the misery he caused you during his life.”

“Misery?” Ron shouted. “He said that?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“Assuming what you told us is true,” Karen said, “surely there must be a catch.”

“The only catch is finding the box containing Ian’s music. He hid it behind the wall not long before he passed.”

“Why would he hide it?” Ron asked.

“He wasn’t sure how you’d feel about his musical ambitions.” Steve replied.

“So Ian hid the box behind the wall,” Karen muttered. “This doesn’t sound right.”

“But the time has come to bring the box out of hiding and fulfill your son’s legacy,” Steve insisted.

“Fine,” Ron sighed, “Where would this box be hidden?”

“In his bedroom, of course,” Steve offered.

“But we just finished painting the walls in there,” Karen complained.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to see what this whole thing’s about,” Ron rose to his feet, “I’ll get the crowbar.”

Minutes later Ron returned with the crowbar and handed it to Steve, who led Ron and Karen to Ian’s old bedroom. Steve surveyed the freshly painted walls in the empty room as he prepared to search for the hidden box.

Steve began tearing away at the walls with the crowbar. Ian’s parents cringed at the sight of chunks of drywall piling on the floor as the search progressed and soon the entire room was stripped bare of drywall, revealing the insulation and supports originally hidden behind the walls. But no box was found.

“Where’s the box?” Ron asked. “So far you’ve managed to demolish the room.”

Steve did his best to stifle a chuckle.

Don’t worry Ian, I’m only getting started, Steve thought. The best part is yet to come.

To be continued…

Rack diving in Aisle 13.

“This is what I was talking about,” Jeff said as he pointed at the shelf in question. “It’s a really tight squeeze but there’s a huge pile of boxes back there that need to go back on the shelf if our inventory numbers are to be accurate this year.”

I nodded, silently enthusing at my chance to do some rack diving, the latest phase in helping the store prepare for inventory day. Other members of the inventory prep team were working in other aisles also to retrieve any fallen boxes from the tight space behind the shelves. And now my chance finally came.

I kneeled down on the floor and started clearing the bottom shelf in preparation for the task at hand. It did look like a tight squeeze but I recalled tighter squeezes than this during the years past when I worked this job. It did mean working nights for a month but served as a much-needed change of pace from my day job working as a parking lot attendant.

“Can you fit in there?” Jeff asked.

“Oh yeah,” I replied as I began to slide onto the shelf with ease. “This one’s OK.”

“I’ll be back to check on you in a bit,” Jeff said, “I’m going to check on the others. Just get what you can, okay?”

Just get what I can? Heck, I’ll get all the boxes back there.

I continued my slide towards the back of the shelf and already I could see the large pile of boxes that had fallen to the floor. What a mess, I thought. There was barely room for me to stand up but somehow I managed to get back on my feet and start clearing the space behind the shelf.

Then I heard what sounded like a whisper. I stopped working and listened intently. Nothing but the cheesy music playing on the store’s PA system. Before I resumed my task, I heard it again, this time loud enough for me to make out the words.

“Potato chips.”

It was a hideously raspy voice that sounded like fingers scraping across a chalkboard, maybe worse, and it sounded like it was coming from just a few feet from where I was standing. Only I couldn’t see what it was.

“POTATO CHIPS.”

This time the voice was louder and I could now see the hideously deformed creature emerge from the shadows. Its skin was deathly pale and lumpy with a few strands of hair at the top of its head. It had two small dots for eyes, mere slots for a nose and a large mouth filled with the most grotesquely misaligned teeth I had ever seen…

“POTATO CHIPS!” the creature screamed before beginning its wobbly scramble to where I was standing.

Suddenly a bag of potato chips slid into view from the bottom shelf.

“Hurry,” I could hear Jeff’s voice, “Just get what you can.”

The creature grabbed the bag and wobbled back to its hiding place. As it began devouring the potato chips, bag and all, I hurriedly put away enough boxes to at least clear a larger section of floor but it was still a mess back there.

“Okay, that’s good enough, you can come back out.”

“But there’s still a lot do to back here.”

“Please,” Jeff insisted, “the creature’s almost done eating and I don’t have any more potato chips!”

I glanced at the creature one last time and saw that it was in fact almost done with the bag. The panicky tone in Jeff’s voice suggested a very unpleasant outcome of this particular situation so I stooped down for my return trip across the shelf and back into the aisle where Jeff was standing.

“You okay?” Jeff asked.

“Yes, but what was that back there?”

“No matter,” he sighed, “let’s find you another aisle to work on.”

I walked with Jeff towards the middle of the store to aisle 26, which seemed brighter with all the lights on display. “You can do this one,” he said as he led me to the shelf bearing my next task, “I don’t think there’s anything back there but boxes.”

I hesitantly cleared the bottom shelf and proceeded to slide towards the back of the shelf where once again I saw a mess of small boxes on the floor. I started working, trying to forget about the horrific sight I had seen just moments before.

Then I heard what sounded like a whisper. I stopped working and listened intently. Nothing but the cheesy music playing on the store’s PA system. Before I resumed my task, I heard it again, this time loud enough for me to make out the words.

“Pretzels.”

A train wreck of an excursion.

Everyone aboard knew the old train wasn’t going to make it. It was struggling with all its might but it just couldn’t reach the top of the steep incline that was part of a track designed to take us tourists around the mountain. Suddenly the engine quit and even with the brakes on, the train began slowly sliding backwards. Then came a somber announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to inform you that our train has run out of coal. To add insult to injury, the brakes are failing and will not hold us stopped on this steep incline for much longer. It will only be a matter of time before we start rolling backwards at high speed back into town before our train smashes itself to smithereens. Therefore I ask that we all rise and observe a moment of dignity before our unexpected and unfortunate demises.”

We all rose to our feet as a man holding an acoustic guitar walked to the front of the cabin and began singing the Ozzy Osbourne classic “Crazy Train” as we all stood still, trying our best to ignore the trees streaking past the windows outside as the train rolled backwards into town at high speeds before smashing itself to smithereens.

There the train lay, now nothing but a pile of scrap metal with all of us buried underneath. Then pieces began to move as we all dug our way out of the wreckage, laughing and feeling the satisfaction from what had been an adrenaline rush available to those hungry for a thrill few have had the courage to seek.

“How was that?” the guide had to shout above our cheering. He didn’t need an answer, as our enthusiasm gave him the response he was expecting.

“That’s it for the train ride,” the guide announced. “Gather your belongings and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for your souvenir picture taken just before the crash.”

We all thanked the guide and then raided the gift shop, making sure to purchase the “I Survived A Train Wreck” T-shirt along with our pictures. Meanwhile, the train outside was reassembled and readied for its next terrifying trip down the mountain.

Bonzi Cruises: A nightmare at sea.

I’m sure we all still remember Bonzi Buddy, that cute purple gorilla with the bad spying habits. I couldn’t help wonder what would have happened had Bonzi Software had stayed in business long enough for it to become a global business empire. I can see it launching its own discount cruise ship line but alas, the discounts would have come with steep prices of their own.

Passengers are advised to avoid the onboard shopping show at all costs. Hosted by a faceless animatronic robot with dangling glasses who goes by the name of Professor Wallet (“I am going to save you SOOO much money you won’t believe!”), the lowlight of the show is the firing of three cannons loaded with Cruise Cash coupons that supposedly ensure discounts for onboard purchases. The cannons are so loud that it leaves everyone’s ears ringing for the duration of the cruise. The coupons themselves are incinerated during the cannon fire, leaving behind nothing but ashes all over the auditorium. Attending this show is a total waste of time.

There is free wifi aboard the ship, but it comes with a serious catch. All online activity is monitored and the data used to suggest products and services based on that activity. Bartenders use this data to identify passengers with certain political views for engaging in shouting matches with them later should they decide to visit the bar. Privacy advocates have criticized Bonzi Cruises for spying on their passengers this way but the policies have remained firmly in place.

Not surprisingly, the Bonzi Buddy mascot makes appearances throughout the ship, including unannounced visits to passengers’ cabins while they sleep or take a shower. Terrified screams are common during the night and are hardly reason to ensure a good night’s sleep at all during the cruise.

The onboard entertainment is horrific, in fact none of the live shows are worth checking out. The comic Lenny Laff constantly cracks jokes on disasters that can break out on the ship, such as capsizing, catching fire and breaking in half. The magician Matt the Magic performs illusions of such inferior quality that the audience can easily see how they were done. The band Party Pants claims to perform top hits from decades past when all it does is play the same cheesy rhythm while repeatedly yelling out the song’s title. Little wonder that passengers have either attempted to escape the ship by manning the lifeboats or just jumping overboard altogether.

To keep prices low, the ship does not count its passengers prior to leaving port. It will not wait for those who are late returning to the ship and will leave without them. Afterwards their suitcases are salvaged and their contents sold at the onboard stores.

Don’t let the low fares mislead you. Bonzi Cruises charges for everything, from using the bathroom to accessing the elevators. There are charges for using the swimming pool, the hot tub and even for walking around on deck. This is one cruise line to avoid, in fact it’s cheaper to just stay home for the rest of your lives.

A different kind of excursion.

“Are you crazy?” my wife was surprised. “There’s kayaking, canoeing, hiking…”

“I know,” I sighed.

“…ziplining, bus tours, train rides…”

“I know,” I repeated.

“And you’d rather…?”

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I insisted. “There really aren’t excursions like this anywhere else in the world!”

“No thanks, I’d rather stay in the cabin. Either that or go with you with a paper bag over my head. Go have fun on YOUR excursion.”

With that, my wife plopped down on the bed and refused to say another word. But I still wanted to do this, so I left the ship and went to my excursion on the dock.

“Welcome!” the guide greeted the small group of people who had gathered near the sign marking the site of the excursion. “No doubt you had to put up with snickering and words of disbelief from those in your travel group, but it’s well worth it as this is the only excursion of its kind in the entire world. I know you’re all excited, so let’s get started. Let me show you how to drive a forklift.”

A peculiar turn of events.

I needed a moment to digest what had just happened. There I stood, in the middle of the store where I worked while wearing nothing but my boxer shorts. All around me customers and coworkers snickered at my appearance. Yet just moments ago I was in my cabin of a cruise ship thousands of miles away. What happened?

“Mike! You’re back!” My boss interrupted my thoughts. He had joined the growing crowd of snickering gawkers. “Why aren’t you dressed for work? You know I can’t have you work like that.”

“But I’m on vacation,” I protested.

“Being on vacation doesn’t mean parading into the store in your boxer shorts. Go home and get dressed, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll forget we had this conversation,” my boss retorted. “And besides, your vacation ended last week.”

“But that’s impossible!” I exclaimed. “I’ve only been on vacation for a few days!”

“Go home and get dressed or else I’ll make your vacation permanent.”

I started feeling my pockets for my car keys but alas, my boxer shorts didn’t have pockets. I didn’t have my keys either. They were in my suitcase in my cabin where I was just moments ago.

Then it dawned on me. I knew I shouldn’t have found that hidden elevator on the ship that goes only to the 13th floor.

A burger buffet blowout.

After hearing complaint after complaint of how everyone kept working long hours to fix the never ending onslaught of problems with the network, Kevin decided to treat everyone to a burger buffet at Blue Batman* as a token of appreciation for all their hard work. As Kevin watched his employees help themselves to burger after burger, he noticed with some concern that Charles was sitting alone at the table and not eating.

“Charles!” Kevin approached the table where Charles sat, “Help yourself to a burger. You’ve earned it.”

“No thank you,” Charles replied.

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“I am starving.”

“Then have a burger!”

“No thank you.”

Then the other employees returned to the table with plates piled high with hamburgers and fries before sitting down to begin devouring them. Kevin watched them eat before turning his attention back to Charles, hoping the sight of everyone eating would change his mind.

“Good burgers, Robert?”

“They’re the best,” Robert replied with his mouth full. “Come on Charles, go get a burger.”

“No thank you,” Charles insisted.

“What’s wrong, Charles?” Kevin asked. “I know you’ve been spending long hours at the office, away from home and family just so you can keep our network going. I really appreciate your efforts and this luncheon was way overdue. Come on Charles, let’s get you a burger.”

“No thank you,” Charles was getting annoyed.

“I thought you said you were starving.”

“I am freakin’ starving.”

“Then help yourself to a burger!”

“ALL RIGHT!” Charles pounded his fists on the table with such force that burgers, fries and drinks jumped from the table. “I’LL GET A FREAKIN’ BURGER!”

Charles stormed to the burger bar and returned to the table with a single burger on his plate. Opening his mouth wide, he ate the entire burger in a single bite before washing it down with his iced tea. Everyone at the table could not believe their eyes.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Kevin asked incredulously.

“That’s not the worst of it.” Charles replied calmly.

“What do you mean?”

“Burgers give me really bad gas.”

As if to punctuate his point, Charles let out a deafening belch while letting out a loud, long fart. The entire table trembled from the noise and other diners stared at Charles in disgust. Then the waitress stormed up to the table and yelled at him to leave, but her words could not be heard above his continuous belching and farting that ensued, one right after the other. Finally Robert and another employee had to escort Charles outside to the parking lot where he continued his gaseous outburst that showed no signs of easing. But the damage was done. Everyone in the restaurant were staring at Kevin and his employees as if they were to blame for causing the commotion. Meanwhile they could still hear Charles belching and farting outside from the parking lot. Everyone quickly paid their checks and left, leaving Kevin and his staff still seated at the table and listening to the noise from outside.

Kevin and his staff were banned from ever eating at Blue Batman again.

* A play on Red Robin. Get it?