Category Archives: History

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.]

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.


See you soon,

the SotWC

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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in History


Bork the Nasty (story #87)

So, I think I’ve found a couple minutes to write a story.  Hooray.  But the internet is running slow in my house, and my butt hurts from sitting at a computer all day.  Boo.  That being said, I wanna give a shout out to my friend, Kevin, and his Magical Space Pony web comic.  Mainly because I am going to steal a line from his comics to use somewhere in the story tonight.  I don’t know how or why it will come up, we’ll have to find out together.  You will surely know when we get there, however.  Because of the Magical Space Pony reference, I would think.


Once, many years ago, when history was still the future and stories were told, not written, there was a viking tribe called the Fungschway.  They weren’t really sure if “tribe” was the right word to describe a group of vikings, but they also didn’t really care.  The Fungschway tribe were mostly known for their predisposition towards planting pretty, pretty flowers.  Well, that and merciless torture.  It was kind of a toss-up.

Our story concerns one of the Fungschway whose name was Bork.  Bork was often given to wild flights of fancy, and more often than not at extremely inappropriate times.  Once when his father, Meep, was threatening a helpless crowd of villagers with hideous torture and window boxes full of begonias, Bork began to give a puppet show for all the children.  Pretty soon everyone was laughing and no one was taking Meep’s threats seriously anymore.  Poor old Meep was forced to plant a couple of window boxes right then and there just to prove he was serious.

After they left the town, Meep said to Bork, “listen, son.  You know I love your imagination, but you gotta learn time and place, kid.  You made me plant way too early back there, and those begonias are way out of season.  They won’t survive the winter.”

"Look! Up in the sky! It's a magical space pony on a jet-propelled rocket duck!" Art by Maria Gullickson

“Yes, daddy,” Bork said.

“All right, have we learned a lesson, here?” Meep asked.

“Look!  Up in the Sky!  It’s a Magical Space Pony on a jet-propelled rocket duck!” said Bork.

“That would be a ‘no.'” Meep said, sighing.

Another day found Bork weaving an elaborate tapestry of tales to all of the prisoners the Fungschway were keeping in the dungeons (you know those dungeons that vikings have).  Meep came upon him just finishing some outlandish story about a Kingdom full of trolls and giant cats and beautiful girls, and the boy from another world who had to deliver them all.  Ridiculous, right?  Meep was the opposite of pleased.  Which you could take to mean he was desaelp, if you were feeling very silly.  Which is obviously okay around here.

“What are you doing?!?” Meep cried.

“Why, father, I’m just entertaining the prisoners,” Bork replied.

Meep was crestfallen.  “Are they not entertained enough by my beautiful rose bushes?” he asked.  He was quite proud of how well he had managed to get the roses into full bloom even being planted underground and in a stone floor.  He had one heck of a green thumb, did Meep.

“I’m sure they are most entertained by your hearty roses,” said Bork.  “I just wanted to tell them a story to keep them even more entertained.  They looked sad after all the torture, you know.”

“Well, that’s what the rose bushes are for, son,” said Meep.  “Remember, our tribe is known for flowers and torture.  Not for stories.”

“Yes, daddy,” said Bork, frowning.

One of the prisoners, whose name was Mana-mana,  looked at the sad little boy and then at the great, jagged cat o’ nine tails that Meep held in his fist.  He whimpered a little and Bork looked up at him.  Mana-mana winked slyly and then began to cry.

“Oh, great and terrible Meep of the Fungschway!” he wailed.  Meep looked up at him.  “Your roses,” Mana-mana continued, “are a great comfort to us.  But your boys’ stories…  Oh, the stories!  They are like torture!  They hurt our very souls to hear!  A greater torture one could not devise than to be forced to hear such tales!”

“Really?” said Meep.

“Oh yes, your viking-ness,” said Mana-mana.  “We all dread his visits here.  We call him Bork the Nasty, for he is so evil in torturing us with tales!”

Meep thought for a moment.  “You really call him Bork the Nasty?” he asked finally, a gratified smile curling his lips.

“Totally,” said Mana-mana.  As Meep lowered his head in thought, Mana-mana once again winked at Bork.  Bork grinned and winked back.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Meep said finally.  “I’m gonna have Bork the Nasty come down here and tell you guys a story every week.  How’s that for torture, suckers?”  The prisoners all groaned and pretended to be extremely desaelp, but it was not easy to contain their true joy.  Of course, they all loved Bork’s stories and looked forward to them.  Now knowing he would be able, even committed, to telling them a story every week, they were quite happy.

So, Bork started telling the prisoners a story every single Thursday, and everyone was happy.  Bork had a cool viking name, Meep had a son who could “torture” people, and the prisoners got a break once a week.  It was a swell arrangement for everybody.

Until Bork stopped telling his stories on the right day.  Some weeks he wouldn’t even tell a story at all.  He always had excuses like “I’m sick” or “I’m busy” or “my butt hurts.”

Geez.  What kind of jerky storyteller acts like that, huh?


Okay, time to stop this story before “self-referential” becomes “self-pitying.”  Ha ha!  What a great Magical Space Pony reference though, huh?

See you soon,

the SotWC


Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Fantasy, History


The Groovy 1970s Story of Grooviness (story #70)

All right!  So, here we are, writing the story totally on time now that we’ve changed the rules and made story day Thursday instead of Thursday (you old school club members will know what that means, everyone else will have to sit in the corner and cry hey ho.  Okay, well, at least I can translate, I suppose; for those of you who haven’t figured it out, story day is not “Monday” anymore, it is “Tuesday.”  Which, in the SotWC vernacular means “Thursday.”  Whenever we get around to archiving old stories, you’ll get it once you read “Rotten Apple-Core Day (story #2)”.  Until then, go ahead and make with the “hey ho”-ing.).

In case you are wondering, yes, I am extremely proud of the fact that the last paragraph almost entirely parenthetical.

I’m feeling nostalgic tonight.  Let’s see how that works out.


Once upon a time, everyone wore bell-bottoms and said things like “keep on truckin'” and probably did lots of pot (I wouldn’t know) and thought paisleys were “like, wow, man,” and Nehru was good to make clothes out of and super-straight hair parted in the middle was attractive and vests with turtlenecks weren’t gay (they probably still were) and dances were named things like “the hustle” and folk music was popular and everybody had a peaceful easy feeling and they knew you wouldn’t let them down.  It was all very groovy.

Unto this came Conan, destined wear the crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow.

“Hey, groovy hair,” said a rat-faced little high school kid wearing orange pants with a green turtleneck as Conan stepped out of a space-time vortex left over from an old episode of “Star Trek.”

“What the crap does ‘groovy’ mean?” asked Conan, who sounded nothing like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was really quite articulate.

“Whoa, man,” said the rat-faced boy, “what’s with all the hostility?  Mellow out, jive turkey.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Conan, “and I am in no mood for jesting.  I was just in a hut in the deserts of Cimmeria and the witch who promised to give me the Scepter of Shazzarra waved her hands, cursing me with the ability to see the future.”

“Far out,” said Rat-face.  “That is weird-city, man.”

“Where have I been sent?” Conan asked, looking about at the strange buildings and cars and stuff.

“This is Detroit,” Rat-face said.  “Detroit Rock City, man!”

“You speak in riddles,” said Conan.

“What, you’re not hip to KISS, man?  What are you, some kind of weiner?”

Thinking the boy was propositioning him, Conan punched Rat-face in the nose and knocked him unconscious.  A very pretty blonde girl with feathered hair and a tiny gold headband just happened to be walking by and saw Conan punch the boy.  “Like, wow, man,” she said, “that was way un-groovy of you!  Catch my drift?”

“He wanted to kiss me,” said Conan.

“No fake?” said the girl, whose name was Britney.  “Well, that’s totally different.  What a spaz; he totally deserved it.”

“Can you tell me where I am?” said Conan.

“Yeah, brother, this is Detroit, Michigan, and we’re on Maple Avenue.  They have those in every state, you know.”

“What is a state?” asked Conan.

“Oh, like, wow, you are totally out of it, aren’t you?” said Britney.

“I think I need to sit down,” said Conan.

“They got a bench over by the 7-11,” Britney said.  “I was just on my way over there anyway.  They got superhero cups for the Slurpees right now and I wanna pick up a Wonder Woman.”

“Sure,” said Conan, “maybe I will find some answers to this mystery at this seven and eleven.”

“Right on,” said Britney and took him by the hand.  Two blocks later, they were outside of 7-11 and Britney was on the verge of tears.  “The Riddler?” she wailed.  “All they got is the Riddler?  Who cares about the stupid Riddler?  He’s not even a superhero, he’s a bad guy!”

“I understand none of this,” said Conan.

Just then another girl with feathered hair walked by.  Her name was Kris and she was wearing really tight jeans with a striped long-sleeved shirt.  Her hair was so dark it was almost black, and it had blue highlights like in a comic book.  “Aw, gee, Britney,” she said playfully, “were you hoping to get Wonder Woman?  I totally got the last one.”  And with that she brought the plastic Slurpee cup to her mouth, put the blue straw between her lips and drank her Coca-Cola Slurpee coyly, with a hint of mischief in her eyes.

“Outta sight!” said Britney.  “Can I have it when you’re done with the Slurpee?”

“No way, Jose!” said Kris.  “I’m keeping this cup for ever and ever and ever.”

“Sit on it!” screamed Britney.  “You knew I wanted that cup; you got it just to spite me!  You don’t even like Wonder Woman!”

“Maybe I do and maybe I don’t,” said Kris, “but that’s for me to know and you to find out!”

“Up your nose with a rubber hose!” Britney yelled, turning to Conan and burying her face against his bare chest, weeping openly like a little baby.

Kris laughed and said, “well, I gotta boogie.  Check ya later, Britney.”  With that she turned and walked away, making sure to swing her hips a lot.

“What is this madness?”  Conan asked.

“Hey, is that a sword?” Britney asked, looking at the humongous blade at Conan’s side.

“I go nowhere without my blade,” Conan responded.

“Dyn-o-mite!” said Britney.  “Look, could you do me a solid?  If you go flash that thing and tell Kris to give me that Slurpee cup, she’d totally give it up.”

Conan thought a moment and finally said, “perhaps this is the quest I was sent here to fulfill.  I go.  Then perhaps you can help me get back to my own place and time.”

“Yeah, right on,” said Britney, not having any idea what he was talking about.

So, Conan followed where Kris had gone and caught up with her a few blocks away.  Drawing his sword, he shouted, “unhand the magical Wonder Cup of Slur-pee, foul witch!”

Kris turned around and looked at him with wide eyes.  After a moment, she stepped closer to Conan.  “Why would I do that, Cimmerian?” she said, her hair blowing in a sudden breeze, “when I have traveled so far just to find you and bring you back home?”

"The Wonder Woman Slurpee cup began to glow" Art by Maria Gullickson

Conan was dumbfounded.  Britney, who was standing not too far away was even more dumbfounded.  In Kris’s hands, the Slurpee cup began to glow.  Wisps of smoke emanated from it and formed a small tornado around Conan and Kris, who was, of course, a sorceress from the Hyborian age in disguise.

“Hey!” Britney yelled, ” what about my Wonder Woman cup?”

“Sorry, young whiny girl,” Conan shouted over the growing wind.  “It is my only way home!”

Britney stamped her foot.  “You nerd!” she screamed as the smoke grew thick and the wind grew deafening and the barbarian and the sorceress disappeared from view.

As the world faded away around them, Conan looked at the sorceress and asked, “what do we do when we get back?”

The sorceress looked up at him with mischief in her eyes.  “Well,” she said coyly, “I’m totally hip to kiss.”

“Groovy,” said Conan.


Hee hee hee.  That was fun.  For those of you who remember the 70s, I hope it brought back some memories for you.  For those of you who weren’t even born in the 70s, that’s exactly what it was like.  Honest.

See you in seven,

the SotWC


Posted by on September 28, 2010 in Fantasy, History


The Story of Marcus and Epsilon (story #65)

Hello and welcome, friends and neighbors.  It’s that time again, that time where I write a tory.  Well that, of course was supposed to read “story,” not “tory.” But, as I’ve observed numerous times, some typos are too entertaining to delete.  And, since I will draw inspiration from just about anywhere, I’ve just decided that this week’s story will take place during the American Revolution and (obviously) contain at least one character who is loyal to the British Monarchy.  Hence I will be, in fact, writing a Tory.  If you don’t get it, look it up, you uneducated heathens.


The year was 1781.  The American Civil war was still a full century away, but the revolution against British tyranny was raging strong in the small town of Fictionalville, Virginia.  On a cloudy Thursday evening, seventeen year old Marcus Wishbottom stepped courageously from his small house, a musket in hand.  He turned only once to look back at his mother and father, still sitting at the kitchen table hand-in-hand, watching him leave.

“So, I’m going, then,” he said.

“Quiet, boy!” his father snapped.  “Can’t you see yer mother and me holding hands?  We’re having a moment, here.  As soon as you go off to war, we can get to smooching!”

“Okay, then,” Marcus said, and off he went.

Before long, he arrived at the town square.  In front of the town hall, there was a table where Captain Melville Gibson was signing up new recruits to fight the evil British oppressors.  “Come on, now!” he shouted.  “September 3, 1783 is still a long way away!”

“What’s September 3, 1783?” Marcus asked.

“Uh, nothing,” said General Gibson (I’m not hung up on details like what rank I said he was before.  Don’t be such sticklers.), “I’m not from the future, predicting things out of old history books.  I swear.”

“How could you be from the future?” asked Marcus.

“Well, I’m NOT!” shouted Lance Corporal Gibson.  “So why don’t you get up off my back about it?”

“Sure thing,” said Marcus.  “Now gimme that quill pen, you total nutjob.”

“I didn’t used to be a nutjob,” Commander Gibson mumbled.  “I used to be awesome.”

“Hang on a  minute,” said Marcus, “are we reenacting the plot of The Patriot, or discussing your whole career?”

“Well, not my career,” said Private Gibson, “I was never in a time travel movie.”

“What about Forever Young?” asked Marcus.

“Well, that’s not strictly a–  Hey, how did this story become about me, anyway?” replied Grand High Vizier Gibson.  “I was supposed to be a one-sentence joke that most people wouldn’t even pay attention to, and now I’m all we’re talking about.”

“Well,” said Marcus, “that’s stream-of-consciousness writing and fourth-wall whimsy for you.”

"Just then, a cat walked by carrying a watermelon." Art by Maria Gullickson

Just then a cat walked by carrying a watermelon.

Marcus then proceeded to sign up for the colonial militia and march off to war.  Before he actually made it to any battles, though, he was captured by monkeys.  It was really weird.

“Ook!  Eek!” said the monkey king.

“Well, I suppose that’s better than gleep,” Marcus said.

“Gleep,” said the monkey king, just to be difficult.

Just then, someone came bounding through the trees, musket raised, eyes ablaze with battle madness.  It was a young man in a tattered British soldier’s uniform with blood smeared on his shirt.

“Death to the monkey king!” he screamed and fired his gun.  Since he was all worked up, though, he totally missed and it takes a long time to reload one of those things.  The monkeys all scattered as soon as that first shot was fired, so the soldier didn’t even bother with the reload.  That’s how the monkey king and all of his followers got away and moved to New Jersey where they gave speech lessons to bi-dimensional aliens.

Once he had calmed down, the soldier looked at Marcus and said, “are you all right?”

“Yes,” replied Marcus, ” but I’m WAY freaked out.”

“I know, right?” said the soldier.  “Being captured by monkeys will do that to you.”

“Actually, I’m a little freaked out by you,” Marcus replied, “being British and covered in blood and all.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, your accent is cute and winning and makes me kind of want to give you a hug, but still.”

“Oh yeah, that,” replied the soldier.  “Don’t worry about the blood, it’s not mine.  I totally shot a bunch of rotten, stupid colonists earlier and–  Hey, wait a minute, you’re not a colonist, are you?”

Marcus, who was still tied up and completely helpless, looked the soldier in the eye and said, “no way, man.  I’m a big, fat Tory.”

“Oh, cool,” said the soldier and began to untie Marcus.  “Well, my name is Epsilon.  I’m fifth generation military and it’s pretty much my life.  I came over here to fight these separatist bastards a year or so ago, and boy have I been having fun killing people.   The only problem is that I’m just too good at what I do.  I haven’t lost a battle yet.  See, I’m a fighting man and it has long been a dream of mine to die for king and country.  How about you, kid?  What’s your story?”

“My name is Marcus,” came the reply as Marcus’s hands were freed to reach for his own musket, which was still loaded.  “I’m kind of a liar.  And I love to make people’s dreams come true.”


Don’t ask me what that was all about.

See you in seven,

the SotWC


Posted by on August 16, 2010 in History