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Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Four Horsemen… (story #95)

Howdy, folks.  The internet has been running slowly, no doubt due to people searching for reasons why the world didn’t, in fact, end this weekend, posing questions on chat boards like, “I sold all my earthly possessions and then the world didn’t end.  What are my cats and I supposed to do now?”

Anyway, in honor of the lack of apocalyptic happenings this weekend, we present the story  of four lesser know harbingers of doom.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE ACROPOLIS

Once upon a time in jolly old Greece, there lived four friends who liked to ride everywhere together.  Their names were Konk West, Via Lenz, Faam Innes, and Deth (no last name).  They rode around on multi-colored horses and tried to tell people what to do.  Nobody listened, though.  I mean, who wants to take orders from a guy on a pink horse?

Yep, that’s right; Konk rode around on a pink horse.  No one knew exactly how the horse had become pink, although rampant speculation was that he had bought a white horse and dyed it pink so he could look cooler than everyone with their normal colored horses.  Why he thought the color pink would make him cool is beyond me.  His friend had similar problems, tough.  Via’s horse was kind of orange-ish, although he told everyone it was supposed to be blond.  Faam’s horse was green, but it was obvious he had just painted in that way, as the paint was peeling in places.  Deth’s horse was both black and white, but that’s just because he was riding a zebra.

So anyway, these four dudes rode around Athens all day (if you’re gonna be in Greece, you may as well be in Athens, right?), and say things like, “Ho, there!”  And people would inevitably respond with something like, “Huh?”

“Why for you say ‘huh’ to the four horsemen of the Acropolis?” Konk might ask at that point, to which the noble Athenian in question might respond, “the what?”

“I told you we should put up posters,” Faam would often chime in at this point.

The conversation would usually end with Deth saying something like, “I’ll kill you all.  I’ll find a way.”  He didn’t talk much, the reality of which made the others exceedingly glad.

So, on a very atypical Thursday afternoon, the four horsemen rode up to a random Athenian and said, “ho, there!”  But this citizen did not say “huh.”

This citizen said, “great balls of fire, it’s the four horsemen of the Acropolis!”

The four friends were surprised and gratified.  “You’ve heard of us?” said Konk, leaning down from atop his pink steed to look the citizen in the eye.

“Of course,” said the citizen.  “You can’t ride around on a pink horse all day and think no one’s gonna notice.”

“That’s the thing,” said Konk, leaning over farther still, “we want people to notice.  Actually I was staring to wonder why this blasted pink horse wasn’t garnering more attention.”

“Don’t be silly,” said the citizen.  “Everyone recognizes that silly horse.”

“But we’ve been having such a hard time getting people to know who we are!” wailed Via.

“Maybe you should put up posters,” said the citizen.

“See?” said Faam.

“I’ll kill you all–” Deth began.

“Oh, shut up, Deth,” Konk said.  “Okay, so everybody apparently knows who we are.  So, why do they act like total dooftopodes when we cry ‘ho, there’ to them?”

“No one likes being called a ho,” said the citizen.

“Huh?” said Via.

“Who sounds like a dooftopode now?” asked Faam, smirking a little.

“Oh, shut up and paint your horse again,” Via said.

“I’ll find a way,” Deth said under his breath.

“We never actually meant to call anyone a ho,” Konk protested, “it’s just a standard greeting.”

“Not in Greece, it isn’t,” said the citizen.

“Yeah, like ‘great balls of fire’ is authentic Greek,” said Faam.

Konk, now leaning over so far he hung practically perpendicular to his horse, rubbed his chin.  “Well,” he said finally, “what is a standard greeting in Greece?”

“There’s quite a few,” the citizen said.  “My favorites are ‘hi, Sandy,’ and ‘woo woo woo, it’s Danny.’  Of course, a very popular one is ‘tell me about it, stud.'”

“Look at me,” said Via.  “I’m Sandra Dee!”

“Greece is the word,” said Faam.

“Man,” said Konk, who was now literally hanging upside down under his pink horse’s belly, “Grecians are weird.”

“Tell me about it, stud,” said the citizen.

“Want a cigarette?” said Deth.

THE END

I’m sure there are many places I could have gone with that story, but having fallen asleep without writing last night and needing to get this written before heading to church today, I’ve pretty much hit my time limit.  Hope you enjoyed it!

See you soon,

the SotWC

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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Itsy Bitsy (story #94)

Well, all God’s children, here it is Tuesday again and I’m writing what should have been last Tuesday’s story.  You could say I’m just perpetually a week behind, except that I fully intend to get back on track here, soon, if only for the sake of my artists, who (in a perfect world) are expecting the stories they are scheduled to create art for to happen in a certain week.  Anyway, you don’t all need to know my problems with staying on schedule; what you need to know is that I’m writing a story now, and I intend to write another before the week is out.

So, you may recall when I went off on a little “what if?” and wrote what I thought it might sound like if Shakespeare wrote Disney novelizations (story #75, “Much Ado About Stitch”).  Well, tonight I am wondering what it might sound like if Stephen King were to tackle popular nursery rhymes.

And you know what happens when I start wondering about stuff.

ITSY-BITSY

It was not quite full afternoon yet, nor was it morning anymore.  Certainly, it was after the hour of noon by the clock, but the day had not yet swollen into the yellow-orange, often hot and growling thing so many creatures agree to be “afternoon.”  The spider didn’t really know the difference, in a technical sense, nor did he care.  What he knew was that soon it was going to be hotter than it was now (“soon” and “now” being abstracts in his limited spider-point-of-view).  Shade was in order, and that right quick.

The spider was small.  He remembered a time when his size had not mattered, when his brothers and sisters had all been small and no one had thought he stood out.  There had been hundreds of his brothers and sisters upon their bursting forth from the egg sac that their mother had carried on her back for weeks, hundreds upon hundreds, all tiny and transparent at birth.  No one noticed him.  They crawled over each other in a heaping mass, waiting to leave the safety of the mother’s back when they had grown.  But the spider didn’t grow like his brothers and sisters.  No, the spider was small.  And now the spider was alone.

His siblings had all moved on to goodness knows where, flying away on kites of their own silk.  Arachnologists call it “ballooning,” but the spider had no way of knowing that.  All he knew was that he had been afraid, being so small, and he had stayed behind.  It was not so bad being alone.  He was rarely teased because he was rarely noticed.  When he was noticed, it was not by anything with the same eight derisive eyes of his family.  A bird, a bug.  These things didn’t care if he was small.  The birds left him alone, and the bugs were a meal when he could catch one.  The spider had found that no bug cared how big or small you were when you were sucking out their liquefied insides while they twitched in the silk coffin you’d spun around them.

But now was not the time for eating.  The sun was high in the sky and, although there were clouds gathering in post-morning but not yet afternoon (proper) sky, the spider thought it was time to sleep.  That meant shade.  That meant the metal on the side of the house.

There was a large white (white, at least, where the paint had not yet peeled back to reveal the cheap, dull metal beneath) pipe that ran the length of the house at the top and down one side.  The spider often went there to rest in the shade, sometimes spinning a web in the opening at the base, sometime climbing all the way to the top and spinning a web up high there, closer to the sky, farther from the world.  The sun could get into the pipe up there at the top and he had to be careful, and the spider thought he’d better stay at the bottom today, out of the sun.  It just seemed smarter.

He reached the base of the pipe and looked up at the sky.  The clouds were drawing in fast, like curtains at the end of a vaudeville show.  The day was getting dark, and make no mistake child, it was not taking its time.  Perhaps, he thought, it would be a fine day to climb all the way to the top and spin a web there.  The dark of the clouds would protect him.  Besides, it was more fun up there.  It seemed like a good idea.  At the time.

Entering the spout, he heard a huge and fantastic noise.  He didn’t know the word “thunder,” but he knew there was something fearful in the air whenever he heard that noise.  He’d better hurry up to the top of the pipe and see what was happening.

There were dead leaves and old webs of his own making in the pipe.  They slowed him down, but he picked his way carefully over them as best he could.  Looking up, he could barely make out the opening far above him, so dark was the sky now.  There were also leaves and old, wispy webs choking the top of the pipe, and this made it even harder to see out.  But the spider kept going.  He felt confident that, when he got to the top, he would be able to climb through whatever barrier was there.  After all, he was very small.

The noise from outside changed.  What had been only wind was suddenly more solid.  More real.  He didn’t know what it was a first, and then the first drop cascaded past him in the dark of the metal tube.  He stopped.  A drop was a drop, but there would surely be more.  This stuff was slick.  This stuff was slippery.

The thousands of tiny hairs on a spiders legs are called scopulae.  They are what allows any spider (even very small ones) to climb up a vertical surface.  A water spout, for instance.  They act like barbs or hooks, and give the spider traction on just about any surface.  But the slicker the surface, the weaker the hold, said the fisherman using butter for bait.  The spider didn’t know about scopulae, didn’t know the word, had never stopped to wonder why he could walk anywhere he pleased.  What he did know was that a wet surface was much harder to cling to than a dry one.  He stopped, staring up at the clogged opening, and waited.

The rain came.

Before long, water was running in rivulets down the sides of the metal tube.  The spider dug in, crouched into a tight ball, and hung on.  Water ran past him, over the ends of his legs, threatening to loosen his hold, but he hung on.  The odd, fat drop slipped through the leaves and webbing at the top of the pipe and soared past him, but he hung on.

A leaf came loose and fell past him.

Another.

The pipe above his head creaked and groaned, and suddenly the spider was aware that the full fury of what was happening outside had only been hinted at here in his dark metal enclosure.  With sudden, screaming clarity, the spider remembered the whole of what he knew about this tube.  The pipe stretched all the way across the house.  And it led to one place and one place only.  It all led here.  Right here.  It wasn’t just the water falling down that he had to worry about.  It was all of the water along the length of the house.  All the water that was being held up by the clog at the top of this very section of piping.  A clog that had begun to drop leaves on him.  If enough of them fell . . .

As if to prove him right, in a cosmic joke whose punchline meant almost certain death, something gave way up above.  A death-wad of wet, dirty leaves fell past the spider and the water came after.  A great wall of it, hurtling down, sweeping everything away in its path.  The spider tried to hang on, but his resolve lasted only a moment.  Then he was in the grip of it, turning over and over, lost in a hurtling, liquid prison going down, down, straight down.

He had time to think of his brothers and sisters, ballooning away one bright morning where no rain was there to take them, time to think of his mother, and how she’d left when he’d stayed, time to think of days when this spout had not betrayed him, but sheltered him.  He had time to think of all of these things, and time to ruminate on his own sure demise.  Would it never end?  Turning and turning, going down and down.

And then he felt himself released into a wider world.  There was solid ground beneath him and, although water continued to cascade over him for what seemed an eternity, he was no longer its prisoner.  Gravity, and not scopulae, held him firmly in place.  Leaves fell all around him, water washed his back, and yet he remained.  It really wasn’t so very long before it was all over.

The spider stood just outside the pipe in the shallow cement basin that diverted the water into the adjacent lawn.  He looked up at the sky, where the dark clouds were scurrying away as quickly as they had come.  Amazed at the fury and the beauty of nature, amazed at his own resiliency, amazed at feeling the sun when so very recently he had sought to escape it, he basked in the afternoon light as it returned.

It was full afternoon, now.  The spider could feel it, though he had never looked at a clock with any sort of comprehension.  It was afternoon, and the newly returned sun was quickly turning puddles into land.  All around him, the spider could hear the steady drip of a world shedding a wet skin for a dry one.  It was full afternoon and the spider thought he had been given a gift.  He thought he had learned a great lesson about survival and had a great revelation about the nature of his own decisions.  He thought he might put his new-found knowledge to good use.  He thought he might finally embark on a great adventure, much like his family had done before him.

But first, he thought he might like to try climbing up the water spout again.

THE END

With apologies to Mr. King.  🙂

See you soon,

the SotWC

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Mangrove Trees and Ernest Hemingway (story #93)

Well, howdy, friends and neighbors.  Since it is already Tuesday of this week and I still haven’t written a story for Tuesday of LAST week, in an effort to not fall too far behind my own schedule (and completely throw off the artists’ schedule – note the use of “s-apostrophe” instead of “apostrophe-s,” which would have made that word sound like “artistsez” which is just silly), I am about to do something I’ve never done before.

I’m going to cheat.

But just a little.  I am going to publish something as the entry for story #93 that I wrote previously (GASP!).  BUT what is important is that, at the time it was written several years ago, it was written in one sitting without preconceived notions, just like the stories here.  It was subsequently only read by a few people, and I would love it to have a wider audience, since I think I am funny.

Here’s the set-up; a good friend of mine was vacationing in the Florida Keys and mentioned to me during a phone call the huge interest in both Mangrove trees and Ernest Hemingway down there.  She told me my “homework assignment” was to find out what the deal was with all that (or something possibly more eloquently stated.  It’s back-story, don’t get too hung up on it).  So, after a little bit of actual research, I grew weary of facts and instead wrote the following essay in a single sitting.  I was fairly proud of myself (remember how I think I’m funny?), and am actually quite pleased that you all can have a chance to read this little bit of “educational material.”  Hope you enjoy it!  🙂

[editor’s note: this essay was originally “published” with pictures to illustrate its various educational points, but since we didn’t want to deprive this week’s artist, the cartilage-less wonder-girl Maria Gullickson, of an opportunity to create . . . and also have no idea where I stole the original images from and don’t know the legality of re-posting them on these here interwebs.]

MANGROVE TREES & ERNEST HEMINGWAY:
What the Florida Keys are All About
An incredibly well-researched essay by Josh Burns
(story #93)

The mangrove tree: how little we know of this woody, enigmatic creature of the swamp. Is it a simple tree? Or an alien being sent to watch over us until it’s leafy brethren descend from uncaring space and take us all hostage in an interstellar takeover the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Giza, Egypt? No one can be sure. But perhaps Ernest Hemingway said it best in his famous treatise, “Mangrove, Mangrove, Wherefore Art Thou Mangrove?” when he wrote, “A mangrove tree is most certainly not a mango tree. Don’t be silly.”

One little known fact about the mysterious mangrove tree is that the entire Overseas Highway was originally to be built out of nothing mangrove trees. Plans were drawn and construction was begun on a balmy Thursday morning. A single mangrove “pylon” was sunk and then, in an historic turn of events, the foreman’s younger brother Mikey said, “are you gonna build a whole highway out of those things? That’s just retarded.” Everyone agreed and the plan was scrapped in favor of the now popular concrete version.

"Mangroves are also quite vain..." Art by Maria Gullickson

Mangroves are also quite vain, often staring at themselves in the water for hours at a time. In days of yore, before mangroves were added to the endangered species list (by a clerical oversight that has yet to be rectified), this was how many a hunter would catch a poor mangrove unawares.

Mangrove trees, like most species, have had their dark times throughout history.  Until the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, dark-leafed mangroves were discriminated against, and couldn’t grow in the same water as light-leafed varieties.  Having interviewed several mangroves exhaustively about this, I can say with absolute impunity that mangroves don’t actually speak.  Ever.

Adding to the mystery of the mangrove tree is the fact that Ernest Hemingway was not, in fact, a tree of any kind.  There is little, therefore, to explain why he penned the now immortal haiku, “I Am a Mangrove.”

I am a mangrove
Watch me grow in still waters
Hey, where are my pants?

All that is known about the writing of this verse is that Hemingway was hanging out at his own “Sloppy Joe’s Bar” when he wrote it, and that he had been drinking tequila shots for three straight days.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that mangrove trees and Ernest Hemingway are the cornerstone on which the foundation of the Florida Keys was laid.  That, and maybe piracy.  It is hard to say for sure, but let me once again defer to the brilliant Mr. Hemingway, who once said, “I am not a pirate, but if I was one, my name would most assuredly be Long John Mangrove.  Now, somebody buy me a shot, will you?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

THE END

See you soon,

the SotWC

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in History

 

Not sick, but fighting it…

…and it’s already very late, so I’m going to bed.  Will write a story in the next day or two.  Pinky swear!

smooches,

the SotWC

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Announcements