All the Required Paperwork

“Aaaaaaaaaaa?” the hard faced, white-haired lady said. “It says ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa.’”

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

“Your name is ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa?’”

“It’s pronounced ‘Bill.’”

“Bill?” She stared at him in outrage. “How do you get ‘Bill’ out of eleven A’s?”

“It’s a foreign spelling.”

“Well, that’s just ridiculous!”

“It’s on my birth certificate.” He proffered his wrinkled document.

“I’m not issuing a driver’s license to ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa.’”

“Bill,” he corrected.

“I don’t care how you pronounce it!” Her eyes scanned further down the paperwork. “And what’s this? Your last name is ‘Puffiboomboom?’”

“Yes…”

“Puffy … boom boom?”

“Well, it’s, um—”

“What, do you pronounce it, ‘Smith?’”

“Actually, it’s pronounced, ‘Ledbetter.’”

“Ledbetter?” Her wrinkles flushed crimson. “How do you get ‘Ledbetter’ from ‘Puffiboomboom?’” She held up her wiry hand. “Don’t tell me. Foreign spelling.”

“Yes.”

“How stupid do you think I am?” she said. “This has to be a prank!”

“No, ma’am.”

“I’m not buying this, not at all!”

“I have all the paperwork filled out—”

“Aaaaaaaaaaa Puffiboomboom is not getting a driver’s license. Not from me.”

“Ma’am, I didn’t choose this name. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life.”

“Well, it’s time to choose something else!”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? If your name is ‘Bill Ledbetter’ then why don’t you just spell it that way?”

“Can we do that?”

“Well,” she said, “let’s see.” She typed angrily at her keyboard for long minutes, and then a machine whirred. She grabbed a stamp, smacked it down on his paperwork like a judge banging a gavel, and then slid the whole pile at him. “There, Aaaaaaaaaaa Puffiboomboom, it’s done.”

He stared at his brand new driver’s license. The picture was typically horrible, but the name was spelled “Bill Ledbetter.”

“Thank you,” he said to her.

She huffed, then looking past him at the long line, shouted, “Next!”

Bill gathered the papers and his new license and walked quickly outside to where his friends waited. He showed them the license, pointing at the birth date. Magically, he was now over 21 years old.

“Dude!” yelled one of his ecstatic friends. “Let’s go buy beer!”

Heather’s Claws

“Meow,” said the beautiful dark haired girl.

“Meow?” I asked, then gave the orderly a strange look.

The young balding man shrugged. “That’s Heather Clarke, the actress.”

“Meow,” said Heather Clarke. She licked her hand and used it to smooth out her hair.

“What happened?” I asked.

“She snapped last week. Been playing the part of Jemima in Cats for seven years, and now she can’t get out of character.”

“Hmmm,” I said, then turned and did the only thing I could think of: I barked.

Immediately her head dropped, her shoulders raised, and she spat and hissed at me. The hackles at the back of my neck rose, and I growled.

Quick as light, she unsheathed her claws and slashed. I stumbled backwards in pain, blood streaming down my face. I gave her one long canine gaze, then turned and left. I knew her smell. I could find her again. Anytime.

During the next full moon, I’d get my revenge.

He Likes Bacon

“I want bacon flavored bacon on my bacon. I want so much bacon flavor that it obtains critical mass. I want it to collapse into a bacon singularity were no flavor can escape.”

She pushed her glasses down her nose so that she could look over the wire-rimmed frames at him. “That’s crazy,” she told him, “that would leave you trapped inside the bacon event horizon.”

“That’s where I want to be,” he said.

“All alone? Forever?”

“With bacon you’re never alone.”

“You’re insane.” She crossed her arms and shook her head. “But if that’s what you really want, I can’t stop you.”

“This is goodbye, then,” he said. “I’m gonna have me some bacon.”

“Goodbye, moron.”

He smiled and waved, then stepped into the giant Bacon Accelerator. There was a loud hum, a flash, then he was gone.

Something Truly Great

Debbie looked at herself in the mirror for a good long while before balling up her fist and punching herself in the right upper cheek. She didn’t hold back, either. As if in slow motion she heard the meaty, squishy sound of the impact, and saw the ripples it caused across the surface of her flesh. Her head snapped back, and she reeled to maintain balance.

“Take that,” she said.

Her reflection stared back, eyes wide, shuddering in pain. “You stupid bitch,” it exclaimed. “Why did you do that?”

“Because you’re constantly standing in my way.”

“I’m protecting you, you idiot!” her reflection raged. “I’m constantly saving your ass!”

“You’ve been holding me back my entire life.”

“But you’re not smart enough to—” Smack! Debbie cut herself off by a sudden and horrific uppercut to her own chin, cracking her mouth shut and slamming her teeth together. She coughed, and suddenly drooled a stream of very red blood. A sharp pain warned of a mangled tongue. Tears leaked from her eyes.

The pain made her knees weak.

“I’m as smart as anyone,” she said to herself, “except when you tell me I’m not. So from now on, you shut the hell up.”

“But no one is going to want to look at your ugly face when you—”

Debbie slapped herself, hard, but it didn’t seem hard enough so she slapped herself again. And again.

“Stop it!” she screamed at herself. “Stop! You can’t do this! No one will take you seriously. No one really likes you!”

Balling up her fist again, she punched herself square in the center of her stomach. It caused her to double over and smack her forehead against the edge of the bathroom sink. She was full on crying now, like a child.

“I like me,” she told herself. She straightened up, facing herself in the mirror. “I like myself, and I trust myself. That’s all that matters.”

“But you’re such a screw up!” her reflection said. “You can’t do anything right!” It cowered then, ready for another strike.

Debbie simply shook her head. “To hell with you,” she told her reflection. “I’m not listening to you anymore. You stay the fuck out of my way.”

Bloody and discolored, looking like she needed to go to the emergency room of a hospital, her reflection wavered on the point of collapse.

Debbie, in the meantime, turned away from the mirror, not a scratch on her, and strode purposefully toward the future.

She intended to accomplish something truly great.

The Melvin Plink Incident

Melvin Plink sat with face frozen in an attentive, respectful posture while the company’s CEO droned on and on, blah blah blah, talking about having to save and reuse paper clips and do away with free coffee or the entire corporation would collapse on itself.

Inside his mind, there was a Salvador Dali painting of an arid, brown and red landscape, and numerous wooden sticks were used to prop up Melvin’s false expression from the inside, and every single piece of wood was trembling with the pressure of maintaining its burden.

Melvin had seen the payroll files. He knew the bloated, over-inflated figure that described this man’s paycheck, nearly as much per month as Melvin himself made in an entire year.

Paperclips, the man was saying … save the paperclips.

To Melvin’s horror, one of the Dali prop sticks holding his facial expression snapped under the pressure. Snapped like a twig, and each of the others thrummed with a vibration of imminent doom. Another broke, and then another.

Some stray signal was sent from a corner of his brain, pulsing down his spinal column and causing his legs to straighten. It was as much a surprise to him as it was to anyone else that he suddenly stood, rudely interrupting the CEO. His hands, working of their own accord, pulled his ugly red and blue striped tie from around his neck.

As the CEO stood looking at him with a quizzical expression, Melvin snapped his tie like he would a towel, smacking the CEO right in the face and knocking off his glasses.

Like in a dream, seen from outside himself, he watched as he recharged his tie for another strike, but horrified co-workers grabbed his arms, man-handling him out of the room, delivered to the uniformed security men as they came trotting up. He heard yelling from the board room, and people shouting at him, but the words had lost meaning … it all sounded like animal noise … and his only desire was to get outside, into fresh air and sunshine.

The uniformed men didn’t speak during the long ride down the elevator. Another joined them in the lobby, holding a cardboard box full of familiar items. Pens, a clock, small stereo … a box of paper clips. Melvin moved willingly with them out the revolving door, and didn’t even mind when they shoved him to the ground. The blue of the sky was so beautiful.

The sunshine, so warm.

Goodbye Galapagos

Darwin sat wearily on the back deck of the steamer, gazing out at the islands and bidding them farewell.

A large lizard swam behind the boat, calling to him. “Darwin! Darwin, please… Don’t leave me!”

“I’m sorry,” he said to the lizard. “It would have never worked.”

“I’ll change for you,” the lizard called out. “I swear I will!”

He shook his head, knowing she could never change. Her children perhaps, but not her.

Giant Flaming Fowl

Gargantuan white ducks waddled down the road, their orange webbed feet large as small cars, and each impact released a thunderous tremor that could be felt miles away. We hid in terror at their passing, huddled behind broken signboards. “Quack!” said one. “Quack!” We covered our ears and trembled, sure each moment would be our last.

Jane, crazed by booze and her innate hatred for the lab-created monsters, broke free from her hiding place and raced out to the middle of the cracked pavement. She stood behind the last one, pointing a flare gun. I wanted to scream “No!” but didn’t dare. She risked her life, but I couldn’t risk everyone else’s.

The muzzle spit flame and sparks, and the projectile shot out, wobbling, and embedded itself into the massive tail feathers. It took a moment for it to register through the massive body, but when it did the giant duck gave a shudder and it opened its beak. A noise like none other raked the very air around us, and flames quickly spread along the oiled feathers.

Jane did a dance of vengeful joy, and then scrambled to load another flare.

It was the last time we saw her alive.