Tuesday, February 9, 2016

8 - Ned the Giant

Late one night, while Ned was completing a model of a Ju.87 Stuka and eating a 10-sack of Donkey Burgers, he noticed an odd ache in his knees. He had been sitting at the table for a couple of hours and stretched his legs to make them feel better. The ache did not go away. Ten minutes later his toes began to feel cramped inside his slippers as his nails rubbed against the lining. He kicked them off thinking he would clip his nails later.

Ned had only to adhere a few decals and his Ju.87 Stuka would be complete, ready to dogfight with his P-39 Airacobra that hung from the ceiling. He felt hot, wiped his forehead and pulled his long blonde dreds off of his nape. A labored breath of air escaped from his mouth. 

He placed the last white cross on the back section of the fuselage – done! 

Yes!” Ned said as he pumped his fist and made a face as if he had just confidently and capably defeated a Sumo wrestler. He turned away from the model plane, leaving it to cure until morning. He walked to the bathroom making noises that, to him, resembled the noise of an airplane engine that was straining into a steep climb, needed a gallon of oil and was misfiring one piston. Anyone else would have thought he was just making noise. As he brushed his teeth, the plane engine continued, except now it flew through a rainstorm. 

Ned walked to his bedroom, took off his clothes except his underwear, set his alarm, turned off the lights and slipped under his covers.

“Ugh!” Ned thought as his job began to make its way into his consciousness.

“I don’t want to go to work tomorrow,” he said to his ceiling. He thrashed about in his sheets. He plumped his pillows. He turned from side to side.

“God, I hate my job!” Ned yelled at his nightstand. In the dark, he could see the clock read 12:10 am. A dull ache permeated his bones. He thought about when he was eleven years old and how his bones and knees would hurt when he was in a growth spurt. One summer he grew an inch and a half. While lying in bed, he calculated he had grown one eighth of an inch per week that summer. Ned tossed and turned until 12:30 am before he finally fell asleep.

“…baby, your karma is so large and it’s thick as can be. She’s got large karma, large karma…” blared from the radio. Ned didn’t stir. “..large karma, large karmaaaaaaaaaaah…”

Ned rolled over to swat the radio’s sleep button and fell on the floor.

Startled, he quickly got to his knees and looked at his bed. He rubbed his eyes. His bed had shrunk overnight. He looked around the room and everything seemed to be normal, but smaller. Ned thought he was imagining things, but then he realized that his underwear must have shrunk overnight as well. He stood up and walked to his dresser. He tried on a few more pairs of underwear, but they all were too small. Ned found a pair of athletic shorts with a draw string and tried them on. They would have to do.

Ned ducked under the doorway and walked to the kitchen. He pulled out some Toxic-Puff cereal and ate the entire box. He was still hungry. He downed the carton of milk – still hungry. He ate three slices of leftover pizza, five pieces of toast, and something leftover from days gone-by which he didn’t recognize. He was still hungry, but Ned decided to stop eating before all his food was gone. Heading back to his room he ducked even further than before under the doorway. That’s when he heard it. His shorts split right down the crotch and Ned was flapping in the wind. At the thought of having no clothes that could possibly cover his body, Ned said “Shit.”

He looked around his bedroom for something to cover himself. He could barely get around his room without knocking his head on the ceiling light or banging his knees on furniture. The mattress went flying off his bed as he grabbed the sheets and pulled at them to remove them. In moments, white sheets were wrapped around Ned’s waist like a giant diaper. Now too big to use the mirror, Ned looked down at himself.

“What is happening?!” Ned half yelled to no one.

“Well, I guess I’m not going to work today,” he said thinking that a giant diaper was inappropriate to wear to the office.

Ned contemplated calling a doctor. He reached for the phone. But as he thought about it, he was pretty sure that a doctor wouldn’t be very helpful in this situation. They don’t make “don’t-grow” pills. Maybe he should call his parents. What would they do? No, either he would grow bigger and bigger and explode…or he wouldn’t. What could anyone do to help in this situation?

By noon, Ned’s head was hitting the ceiling. He made his way to the kitchen and realized he could not stay in his apartment much longer or he would never get out of it. Visions of grotesquely overweight dead people being cut out of their homes flooded through his brain. He decided he would have to leave the apartment now, even though he was only wearing a big diaper. Autumn was beginning, and, although the days were warm, the nights were beginning to get chilly. Where could he go? Maybe he could hide in the apartment garage. His car had its own stall. He could push his car out and then hide in there until he could reason things out. He decided that would be his next move.

Ned quickly grabbed his keys which seemed ridiculously small in his hand. He quietly, as quietly as a newly nine-foot tall person could, stumbled down two flights of stairs and out to the garage. Ned froze in his tracks as he heard laughter behind him. He turned to see a crow in a tree chuckling to itself. No one else was watching – good. Ned quickly opened the garage door, and ducked in. He reached in the car window, put the keys in the ignition, shifted the car into neutral and rolled it out the door. As he was walking back into his garage stall he heard a gasp and a slight shriek. A face appeared in a second floor window. It was Mrs. Katie, the apartment building gossip. Ned dove into the garage and pulled down the door with a slam.

After some time, the darkness and the smell of oil and gas were starting to get to Ned. He wondered if he should open the door a bit for fresh air and to look and see what was going on outside. He decided to wait. As he sat there waiting – for something – his body didn’t stop growing. Ned was sitting on the garage floor but felt that his head was running out of room and that soon his legs would be too long to lay flat on the floor. He realized that not only was his apartment too small, his garage would also soon not be big enough. No matter what he wanted, he was going to grow up and up… and up.

Ned didn’t want to be so big and he didn’t want other people to see him big. If they saw him big they would see what a real big loser he was. He estimated that now the mole on his back was probably the size of a manhole cover. He imagined women running away in disgust at the sight of his gigantic penis and hairy scrotum. Ned hadn’t gone to the bathroom yet, but imagined his turds would be enormous, smelly and disgusting – causing others to vomit. His own vomit would be like a river. His stream of urine would create a lake. His body odor would be pungent from five blocks away. People would see how disgusting – how unlovable – he was. Perhaps worst of all, because he was so big, it would become obvious how dumb he was. Everyone thought he was smart because he wore glasses and liked science, but there were many things Ned did not know. He did not know how to talk to girls. He did not know how to move his gangly body without stumbling over something. He didn’t know how to talk to guys who didn’t like science. Actually, he wasn’t sure how to talk to guys who like science. He didn’t know how to build things with his hands. He knew nothing about art or music. He knew nothing about sailing. And he knew nothing about what to do if your body suddenly triples in size.

Three sharp wraps on the garage door startled Ned.

“Anybody in there?” asked an authoritative voice. Ned didn’t make a sound.

Three more wraps on the door. “Is anybody in there?”

Someone tried to pull the garage door up, but it was locked. Ned heard the sound of keys and then the sound of a key being inserted into the lock. He did not move.

The light of the day blinded him as the garage door rose. He heard many voices gasp and a murmur run through a crowd that had gathered.

“Ned, is that you?” asked the familiar voice of the building owner, Gerald.

Ned shielded his eyes from the light with his hand and answered, “Yeah.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, Gerald. I just started growing and I can’t stop,” Ned said with the words catching in his throat. He felt tears come to his eyes.

“Well, you can’t stay in that dark car stall forever. Why don’t you come out and someone else can help you?” said Gerald.

Ned crawled out of the garage and slowly stood up. He stood eighteen feet and three inches tall. A crowd of about forty people had gathered outside the garage. Everyone was still for a moment as they took in a sight they had never seen before. All was quiet. Ned looked around. He could see in the window of his third floor apartment. He could see over the garage to the block of houses behind. He looked down and could only see the tops of people’s heads or their upturned faces. If he wanted, he could reach up and pet the laughing crow in the tree.

Then, Ned’s sheet-diaper fell to the ground. Suddenly, everyone responded. Mrs. Katie began to pray to God for protection. Gerald pulled out his phone to take pictures and calculated out loud how much money he could make selling the photos and turning Ned into a sideshow freak. Ned thought both of them ridiculous. He wasn’t going to hurt anyone and he certainly wasn’t going to become a sideshow freak.

Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey, who were out on their daily constitutional, held hands and began to sing Puff the Magic Dragon. Mr. Wannamaker, who was closest to Ned, peed in his pants. Several people fainted, someone whistled a long note, a few people uttered “think of the children” and a group of people screamed and ran to get away but ended up running into each other and falling down.

Like the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers, when Ned’s diaper fell, everyone began to act out a suggestion that was given to them. Suddenly, everyone woke up and went around acting odd and out of step. He was still Ned, just big – really big. These people were so silly. Ned saw Mrs. Katie look up at him in terror as she rifled through her rosary beads as fast as she could. Ned began to laugh. He laughed hard and everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at him. The people who had fallen to the ground, looked up at him while rubbing their bruised heads. Ned laughed even harder.

With each huge laugh, Ned began to shrink a little bit. The more people stared at him and the more they reacted, the more he laughed and the more he shrank. He eventually reached his normal height. Ned bent down picked up his sheet and wrapped it around his waist. He looked at Mr. Wannamaker, mouth open and wide-eyed, standing in a puddle of his own urine. Ned let out one last loud laugh and walked through the crowd and went into his apartment. 
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Matt Wells 

Monday, February 8, 2016

7 - Bartholomew and the Cabana Fire

Bartholomew felt just horrible about his cat, Oliver, attacking Geraldine during dinner, so he stopped by her house the next day to apologize. It was evening, and the sun was about to set. Geraldine’s father, Gerald, answered the door wearing pants that were two sizes too big and a shirt that was two sizes too small.

“Hello, and how’s your siding doing, Bartholomew?” asked Gerald.

“Oh, its fine, Gerald. I was wondering if Geraldine was home.” 

“Your roof is looking pretty old. You should replace it soon. I’d be glad to come out and give you an estimate,”

“No, that’s okay, Gerald. Is Geraldine here?” Bartholomew asked peering over Gerald’s shoulder. Behind him he saw Gerald’s three sons wrestling with each other and throwing punches. As they disappeared out of sight, he heard the sound of furniture breaking.

“I believe she is out back. I would offer to let you walk through the house,…” Gerald looked Bartholomew up and down, “but perhaps you should walk around the outside. She might be in the garage or by the pool.”

Bartholomew walked to the back yard. He didn’t see Geraldine anywhere. But lying scattered by the pool he noticed a couple of bathing suits, one man’s and one woman’s. He walked to the garage and didn’t find Geraldine there either. He was walking back toward the house and decided to look in the poolside cabana. He opened the door and found Geraldine and a young man in towels standing very close to each other. Bartholomew stood in the doorway and stared.

“Hi, Bartholomew, how are you?” asked Geraldine. Before he could answer she continued, “This is Kyle. He’s my little pool boy. He was just showing me how his equipment works.”

“Ch-yeah,” said Kyle, with a nervous grin.

“Go on, Kyle, you were just going to show me what you do with your hose,” said Geraldine.

Bartholomew glanced at Kyle suspiciously.

“Well, I take this hose and place it firmly into the hole in the box just down here,” Kyle demonstrated as he attached the hose to a hole in a box on the floor of the cabana. “This connects the hose to the filtration system. Then I take the other end of the hose, which is out there,” Kyle pointed toward the pool, “and can suck any debris out of the pool. Eventually, I clean out the filter in the box when it is full, ch-yeah.”

“How come you’re both wearing towels?” asked Bartholomew.

Geraldine and Kyle looked at each other for a moment.

“Oh, Kyle was showing me some of the chemicals he uses and we accidentally got some on our swimsuits. We took them off right away and washed them out and put them out there to dry,” replied Geraldine. Noticing Bartholomew’s disbelieving expression, she quickly added, “We changed one at a time into towels here in the cabana. So, Bartholomew, what are you doing here?”

“I…uh...just came by to apologize about the dinner and my cat,” said Bartholomew. “I feel just horrible.”

“Oh, that’s very sweet of you. But really, I had a nice time. It’s a shame it ended a little early,” she said as she eyed Bartholomew’s crotch. She then turned to Kyle. “Did you say you were done with your hose for today, Kyle?”

“Yes, yes, I’m done working here today. I will be back again on Tuesday to clean. It was nice meeting you Bartholomew,” Kyle said as he offered his hand to him. Bartholomew didn’t shake it and simply stared out the window of the cabana.

Kyle walked out the door, picked up his swimsuit and exited out the back gate.

“Now Bartholomew, I don’t want you getting the wrong ideas about Kyle,” said Geraldine. “Your cat was not very friendly, but you are the sweetest and kindest man I have ever dated. YOU ARE GREAT! I’ve been telling The Nanny about you and she thinks I should hold on to you.”

“You have a nanny?” asked Bartholomew.

“Yeah, she’s an angel,” said Geraldine. “Besides, Kyle’s not my type; you know - all muscle, tan, great hair. Do you think I’m shallow?”

Bartholomew looked at Geraldine. He couldn’t help but notice her turned up nose with her large nostrils. In one of the nostrils he could see a couple of hard dry chunks of mucus attached to some nose hairs. Behind the mucus he could see her nostrils disappear into darkness inside her head. At that moment, Bartholomew was slightly repulsed by Geraldine’s looks and felt that maybe he was a bit shallow.

“No, I don’t think you are shallow. If anyone is shallow, it’s me. I’m sorry Geraldine,” Bartholomew said as he moved closer and gave her a hug.

Geraldine held onto Bartholomew for a long time. Then she pulled back and asked “Did you bring me anything?”

“No,” said Bartholomew, “Should I have?”

“Oh, I just thought maybe, to make up for your cat, you might have brought me something. You are such a thoughtful and kind person that way,” Geraldine sighed as she glanced out the window of the cabana to the gate where Kyle had left.

Bartholomew looked out the window, too. He saw the sun going down. He noticed, inside the cabana, piles of things stored there. He saw tiki torches, broken patio furniture, good patio furniture, pool toys, an arsenal of waterguns, floating devices, pool cleaning equipment, and some things he was unfamiliar with. It looked to Bartholomew as if Geraldine had more stuff in her cabana than there was in his whole house. Bartholomew looked out the open door and saw Geraldine’s large house with its many peaks and windows. He felt a little uncomfortable because it was so much larger and grander than his own humble home. He wondered what it was that Geraldine saw in him.

“Hey,” whispered Geraldine, “It’s almost dark. Do you want to go skinny dipping?”

Now Bartholomew felt very uncomfortable. “What?”

“Skinny-dipping,” restated Geraldine. “You know, swimming without clothes on. When it’s dark, nobody can see us, not even Gerald. C’mon, it’ll be fun!”

Skinny-dipping… it sounded so exciting to Bartholomew. Swimming naked with a girl is something he hadn’t done since he was five. But that was different, VERY different.

“Uh, okay,” Bartholomew said.

“It’s going to be dark soon,” said Geraldine as she looked into Bartholomew’s eyes. “Perhaps we should have some floating candles so we can see each other. That would be so romantic. I think there are some around here someplace.”

Bartholomew agreed. He would have agreed with just about anything right about then. He looked around the cabana for floating candles. He could see them on a shelf in the back behind some tiki torches and old furniture. He pushed aside the furniture, causing the tiki torches to slide along the wall and fall to the floor. Bartholomew reached over some more debris and grabbed a few floating candles.

“Oh, Bartholomew, you are so romantic. I think there are matches over there,” Geraldine said as she pointed at the window ledge.

Bartholomew maneuvered over to the ledge and grabbed the matches. As he backed up he bumped into Geraldine.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Oh, don’t ever be sorry for touching me,” said Geraldine and she put her arms around Bartholomew. Bartholomew held the candles and the matches up in the air and tried to hug her back.

“Well, it’s dark outside now, should we get ready to go?” asked Geraldine.

Bartholomew started to light the floating candles. He struck a match.

“What’s that smell?” Bartholomew asked.

The tiki torches that fell to the floor were now leaking kerosene. Some had flowed near to Geraldine and Bartholomew.

“Let’s go,” said Geraldine as she dropped her towel to the floor. In the low light of the match fire, Bartholomew could barely make out a smile on her darkened face. He could see Geraldine’s flat breasts and small nipples highlighted by the warm glow. His eyes licked like flames down her bony body to her belly button and then to the tattoo on her hip and then to her… Bartholomew dropped the lit match and stared at Geraldine.

The flame quickly grew larger as a puddle of kerosene had pooled just behind Bartholomew. They did not notice. Bartholomew kept staring and moved toward this body in front of him. Geraldine pulled Bartholomew forward to undo his belt.

The flames followed the kerosene to the pile of patio furniture. A blaze began behind Bartholomew. They didn’t hear it begin to crackle. Geraldine worked at his belt while he placed his hands on Geraldine’s breasts and caressed her shoulders. Remembering the incident with Oliver, Bartholomew kept his hands away from Geraldine’s hair. The flames of his passion were burning as never before. But soon his flames of passion were overcome by the flames behind him.

“What is that smell?” Bartholomew said as he turned around. “OH!”

Bartholomew tried to turn to look at the fire but Geraldine jerked him back to face her as she continued to undo his belt.

“Geraldine, there’s a fire!” Bartholomew said as he could start to feel the heat on his back.

“Oh, Bartholomew, I burn for you, too.”

Bartholomew turned his head around to see the size of the fire. Plastic hoses stored in a coil in the corner started to release an acrid yellow plume of smoke.

“Geraldine, we have to get out of here!” Bartholomew yelled as he tried to push her to the door. Geraldine finally had Bartholomew’s belt undone and was working on the top button and the zipper of his pants.

“Geraldine, you have got to stop! We have to get out of here!”

Bartholomew began to panic as the yellow smoke began to fill the cabana. He tried to run to the door, but by then Geraldine had succeeded and had pulled Bartholomew’s pants down around his ankles. He fell to the floor of the cabana and frantically crawled on his hands and knees toward the door.

“Geraldine, stop!!”

Bartholomew reached the door and pushed it open. Immediately, the flames grew twice as big and the plume of foul smoke roiled out the door and into the night sky. Bartholomew crawled out, turned over and lay just outside the cabana on the cement apron surrounding the pool. He wondered what had happened to Geraldine—he could see nothing inside the smoke-filled door of the cabana. Suddenly, big yellow eyes, a mouth full of large crooked teeth and a smoking disheveled nest of hair emerged out of the doorway and landed on Bartholomew.

“Oh, Bartholomew,” Geraldine said in a hushed sexy voice, “Make love to me here, now. I’m on fire for you, my little cabana boy.”

“NO, STOP!” cried Bartholomew as he tried to crawl away.

“GERALDINE?” The voice of Gerald rang through the air. “GERALDINE, ARE YOU OUT HERE?”

Geraldine quickly rolled to the edge of the pool, grabbed her swimsuit and slid into the water.

“Here Daddy, I’m here in the pool,” she said as she slipped on her swimsuit bottoms and then her top.


“Yeah, Daddy, I’m fine. I’m in the water, away from the fire. But I think Bartholomew needs help.”

Gerald walked over towards the cabana and saw Bartholomew lying on the cement with his pants around his ankles, his white underwear glowing in the light of the flames. Gerald picked Bartholomew up off the ground and helped him away from the fire. He then pulled a hose from around the back of the house and started to spray the cabana.

When the fire was starting to die down, mostly because it was running out of fuel, not because of the efforts of Gerald, he asked Bartholomew and Geraldine what had happened.

“Well, Daddy, Bartholomew was in the cabana getting some floating candles so we could swim in the dark.”

“But, how did the fire start?” asked Gerald.

“Oh, Bartholomew was lighting a candle and some of the tiki torches fell on to him and knocked down the candle and spilled kerosene all over.” Geraldine tipped her head at Bartholomew indicating that he should follow her lead.

“That cabana is…was… such a mess, I knew someday something would happen. I’ve been meaning to have a bigger one built,” said Gerald. “But what are your pants doing around your ankles?” he asked, looking at Bartholomew.

“He didn’t have a swim suit so he was going to swim in his underwear and only got that far before the fire happened,” interjected Geraldine before Bartholomew could answer.

“Well, thank goodness I’ve got insurance,” said Gerald as the sound of fire engine sirens sounded in the distance.

“I’m so sorry,” Bartholomew found himself saying. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“Don’t worry,” reassured Gerald. “Since I own the insurance company, my crews can rebuild the cabana for me this weekend. Really, you might have done me a favor. Now I can have a bigger cabana built with a Jacuzzi attached. It will be bigger than what’s-his-name’s next door. This’ll be great.”

Bartholomew pulled up his pants, said goodnight to Geraldine and Gerald and walked out the same gate through which Kyle had exited only forty-five minutes earlier. As he walked home, fire trucks passed by heading to a fire that already was out. He slowly staggered home wondering just what it was that was happening to him. He thought about the incident with Oliver and the smoke alarm. He thought about how scared he was of the fire in the cabana. Two fires! He thought about Geraldine and was glad that she wasn’t injured during either incident. He thought about Geraldine and how she kept tugging at his belt despite obvious threats to their lives. Then he thought, for a brief moment that, perhaps, Geraldine was not his type of girl. Maybe she wasn’t the type of friend who could help him make good decisions. But Geraldine was always telling Bartholomew what she liked about him. She, obviously, was a good person who thought very highly of Bartholomew. He put the thought that Geraldine was not the right woman for him out of his mind - at least for a while longer.
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Tim Jennen

Friday, February 5, 2016

6 - Claire

Claire sat in the coop looking at Henrietta.
I just can’t imagine what I want to be doing in three to five years!” she said as Henrietta scratched at some scratch.

I guess I should have said I wanted to still be working for his company in three to five years.”

Doesn’t matter, cluck,” said Henrietta.

Claire, normally a pleasant person, was in a foul mood. She petted Henrietta. Henrietta stooped her body to flatten her soft feathery back. It felt better that way when someone petted her.

What a jerk. As if I would want to be scoring psychological profiles for the next five years. Myers-Briggs my ass,” said Claire.

She picked up some scratch and let Henrietta eat out of her hand. Claire dug her toes into the straw, dirt, wood shavings and chicken shit that covered the floor of the coop. She kicked it about here and there, drawing shapes unconsciously. Henrietta finished the scratch in Claire’s hand and moved to the corner of the coop to scratch and peck a little more.

Are you moving, (peck) out here (peck) with me?” asked Henrietta.

Henrietta, you have such a nice house. You got a bed, food, a ladder and most important of all, it isn’t my parents’ house.”

Yes, (peck) but I don’t think (peck) that you would want (peck) to go to the bathroom (peck) on your floor (peck). Besides (peck) it is in (scratch) your parent’s (peck) backyard.”

I suppose it does get a little crowded with the six other chickens,” said Claire as the rest of the brood came bounding in the door.

Brrrrrrrrk,” said Henrietta in a soft low voice so the other chickens couldn’t hear her.

Feathers flew everywhere. Wings flapped and bodies hopped as the chickens jockeyed for position. “I want to roost.” “No it’s my turn.” “Is there any food?” the other chickens squawked at each other.

Oh bother,” said Henrietta.

What am I going to do?” asked Claire as she picked some feathers out of her hair.

Doesn’t matter (peck). “Done enough already,” said Henrietta.

This world sucks,” both Henrietta and Claire said at the same time.

Claire leaned her head against the wall of the coop and sighed. And then coughed as some dust or feathers caught in her throat. She reached down to pick up Henrietta and hold her in her lap. She pinned Henrietta’s wings against her body. Henrietta did not like this and kicked until Claire put her back down. Henrietta ran to the other side of the coop.

Fine, be that way! Don’t help me out,” said Claire.

Help you out (peck)? You’ve screwed everything up (peck).”

Claire looked out the small window at her parents’ house. Evening was setting in. She could see the exterior of the house as well as the interior rooms lit up. She saw the dark window of her room -- the room she grew up in. She didn’t need to see it. She knew every wall, every shelf, every doll, every poster, and every piece of clothing in the closet. Except for one year of living on campus during college, she had been staring at the walls of that room for twenty-two years. People say that as you get older the years seem shorter. To Claire they seemed to be getting longer.

If only I could do something right,” she sighed.

Can’t (scratch). Ruined the world,” said Henrietta.

The chickens exploded in a frenzy of screeches and feathers as Claire screamed, stomped her feet and repeatedly bashed the walls with her fists. The coop looked like a chaotic, spastic snowglobe with chickens and feathery snow falling upward, sideways and downward all at once. By the time the last flake fell, Claire was covered with feathers and began to chuckle. The chickens hovered nervously as far from her as possible.

Well, I guess I’ll survive. Everybody does. So what if I can’t get a job in my field. I can make things work. So what if I still live in my parent’s house. I’ll be in my own place someday soon. So what if no guys are interested in me. I’ll….” Claire stopped. She wasn’t sure if she stopped because she knew what she was going to say was a lie or because saying it might make it come true.

You (peck)! Always about you (peck)!”

Fuck this world. They’re all too stupid to know anything,” said Claire

Too stupid. True, true,” said Henrietta.

They’re so stupid they don’t know what’s good for them,” Claire reassured herself.

True, true,” said Henrietta. “Killed the world (cluck).”

They’re so stupid they’ll all probably die from stupidity.”

True, true. They killed themselves (scratch).”

Henrietta came closer to Claire and pecked at her shoelace thinking it was a piece of spaghetti. Henrietta liked spaghetti.

They’re so stupid I’m surprised this world even exists anymore.”

Not much longer (scratch), brrrrrk (cluck).”

Claire got up. Hunched over under the low ceiling of the coop, she made her way to the door while a sea of small feathery bodies parted for her. Her seat was immediately taken by a silver-laced Wyandotte.

Thanks for the chat, Henrietta,” Claire said turning to face the buff colored chicken. “Everything will be fine. I’ll survive and tomorrow will be a new day.” Claire turned and walked out the door.

(peck) Not many more days (peck). Won’t survive, brrrrrrrrk. Killed the world (peck). Doomed us all (scratch).”
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Mark Granlund

Thursday, February 4, 2016

5 - Bartholomew and Geraldine

          Bartholomew and Geraldine had been dating each other for two weeks when Bartholomew asked her to come to his house for dinner and meet Oliver, his cat. Oliver felt he was responsible for Bartholomew since Bartholomew was so young and without his parents. When his parents had died, which was only two years earlier, he inherited the house, including Oliver. He had been just two weeks away from his eighteenth birthday when his parents died. By the time everything got sorted out by Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey, Bartholomew had turned eighteen-- old enough to inherit the house and live on his own if he wanted. If it hadn’t been for Oliver, Bartholomew had no idea how he would have survived the last two years. If it hadn’t been for Bartholomew, Oliver knew exactly how he would have survived. 
          Oliver knew something important was about to happen the way Bartholomew was dashing about, cleaning and cooking. Oliver walked over to Bartholomew and rubbed against his legs.

          “Oh, Oliver!” said a startled Bartholomew. He bent down and rubbed Oliver’s back.

          “Oh, Oliver, why do I feel like something bad is about to happen, like I am going to do something wrong – screw everything up? I wish this feeling would go away.”

          “Maybe it is because you are trying to cook—not one of your more successful skills,” answered Oliver with a purr.

          “I wish I knew better how to cook. Well, I can’t burn beet and bean sprout sandwiches and salad. And I just have to warm up the organic roasted parsnip soup. As long as I watch that closely I should be okay,” said Bartholomew.

           Oliver purred, “Well, it is not the most difficult, or the tastiest, but it should be sufficient.”

           Bartholomew put the soup on the stove over a low flame and set the table. He walked into the living room, grabbed newspapers, magazines and some books that were lying on the furniture. He picked up some socks from the floor and threw everything in the closet. He turned on some Dionne Warwick music. Oliver followed Bartholomew around the house.

           “Oh, Oliver, I haven’t told you, but I have been seeing someone for the last two weeks. Her name is Geraldine. She is a very nice woman who really likes me. She will be here for dinner in about ten minutes.”

           Oliver froze mid-step. Bartholomew sat down on the sofa.

           “Come here, Oliver,” Bartholomew said as he patted the sofa cushion. Oliver jumped up on the back of the sofa and buried his head against Bartholomew’s.

           “How come you didn’t tell me earlier? You know I like to know what is going on with you. You know I am responsible for you – purrrrrrrrr.”

           “I wish my parents were here,” said Bartholomew. He sank further back into the sofa.

           Oliver said nothing and climbed down into Bartholomew’s lap. He let Bartholomew rub his back, which made them both feel better. Oliver was settling in for a long back rub when suddenly all of his senses went on alert. He stood up in Bartholomew’s lap, his back arched. He looked at the door and let out a low growl and a hiss. 
           “Bartholomew, there is something out there! Something dangerous! Something unnatural! We should go hide in the closet.”

           The door bell rang. Bartholomew stood up, dumping Oliver onto the floor.

           “No Bartholomew, don’t answer it!”

           “What’s wrong with you Oliver? Stop your hissing,” said Bartholomew as he walked to the door.

           Oliver hid behind the edge of the sofa where he would be available, if needed, to protect Bartholomew.

           The door opened and there stood what Oliver thought was a true-to-life monster. He bolted towards the door, “NO BARTHOLOMEW! STAND BACK! I WILL SAVE YOU!”

           “OLIVER!” yelled Bartholomew as he closed the door on Geraldine. “Don’t make me put you in the bedroom! Now you behave for Geraldine.” Bartholomew opened the door again.

           “I am so sorry. I don’t know why my cat is acting so strange. Come on in Geraldine.”

           “Thank you, Bartholomew,” Geraldine replied with a smile and a very wet peck on his cheek.

           After Bartholomew closed the door, he turned to show Geraldine to the dining room and found Oliver backed into a corner, his fur on end.

           “Now stop it!” said Bartholomew to Oliver.

           Geraldine smiled at Oliver. “That’s surprising. Most pussies like me,” said Geraldine.

I don’t know what’s got into him,” excused Bartholomew.

Geraldine and Bartholomew moved to the kitchen to make sandwiches and salad. Oliver found it difficult to relax. He decided he needed to be in a safer place, but nearby. He jumped up onto a chair and then to the top of the china hutch. He lay quietly up there, watching, waiting in case he would have to strike.

Bartholomew and Geraldine entered the dining room and put their salad and sandwiches on the table.
So is this like the appetizers or some kind of California thing?” Geraldine asked as she looked doubtfully at the food on her plate.

Bartholomew said nothing but walked over to the hutch, opened a door and pulled out a gift for Geraldine.

Here, Geraldine. Here is a gift for you.”

Geraldine’s yellow eyes grew large and her hands immediately reached for it.

Oh, Sweetypie, you didn’t have to get me anything,” Geraldine said without taking her eyes off the gift. She quickly removed the wrapping.

Ohhhhhh!” Geraldine squealed when she saw a box from a jewelry store.

Oh, Baby, YOU are so sweet,” she said with a great big smile.

She opened up the box. Oliver stuck his head out from the top of the hutch to see what Bartholomew had bought her.

Aaaahhhh!” Geraldine screamed. “Oh, I love them! I love you! How did you know? These are so precious,” Geraldine said as she held the large gold earrings up to her ears and looked at her reflection in the glass door of the hutch.

How did I know?!” Bartholomew asked. “You only talked about them for twenty minutes the other day, but I figured if that’s what my baby wants, that’s what my baby gets.”

Oliver’s hair stood on end and his claws dug into the top of the hutch. He knew Bartholomew shouldn’t be spending that much money on someone as monstrous as Geraldine.

Come here, Baby,” Geraldine said to Bartholomew. “I am going to give you the biggest kiss.” Bartholomew and Geraldine stood with arms wrapped around each other and they kissed. Oliver could not bear to watch. It was a long, loud and sloppy kiss. Not only was Oliver mad, now he was repulsed.

Mmmm, you taste so good,” said Geraldine. “You know what I wanna do with you now, Bart?”

What do you want to do to me, Gerald…deen?” replied Bartholomew

BART! Oliver couldn’t believe his ears. Bartholomew never lets anyone call him Bart. Why was Bartholomew so possessed by her? Why couldn’t he see how bad she was for him? Oliver peered over the side of the hutch to see the two of them still embracing, still kissing. Geraldine reached down and grabbed Bartholomew’s right hand and placed it on her breast. With her right hand she reached down and began to rub Bartholomew’s crotch.

MMMEEEEEOOOOOWWWWW!!!!!” Oliver leapt from the hutch, claws extended. He landed on Geraldine’s head and almost fell off, pulling all of Geraldine’s bushy hair with him.

OLIVER!” shouted Bartholomew.

Oliver tried to swat at Geraldine from on top of her head, but her hair was so full of knots and snags that his claws became entangled. Bartholomew tried to hold onto Geraldine so she wouldn’t fall over while also trying to grab Oliver. Geraldine grabbed onto Bartholomew’s belt and continued rubbing his crotch.

Geraldine,” cried Bartholomew over the loud meows and hisses coming from Oliver, “you have a cat attacking your head!”

Oh Bart, I want you so bad,” Geraldine said, barely audible above the sound of furniture moving and plates and glasses crashing.

Then the smoke alarm went off and Bartholomew and Oliver noticed the smell of burnt soup coming from the kitchen.

Oh no!” said Bartholomew as he tried to rush to the kitchen. But Geraldine had a strong grasp of his belt and her hand was still between his legs, so he fell to the floor.

Geraldine was on him in a second trying to undo his belt with a crazed cat in her hair, alarms going off and smoke starting to fill the room. Bartholomew threw her off, got to his feet, and ran to the kitchen. He grabbed the pot off the stove and threw it in the sink. He turned off the burner. He scrambled onto the counter and was reaching up to turn off the alarm when Geraldine grabbed Bartholomew around the legs - her face at the same level as his crotch. She murmured “Oh, Bart,” and buried her face into him.

Despite all of the chaos, Bartholomew suddenly had clarity. He calmly turned off the alarm. He reached down, grabbed Oliver around the stomach and helped him get his claws unstuck from Geraldine’s mass of hair. Bartholomew threw Oliver into the dining room. Oliver immediately resumed his station on top of the hutch.

Bartholomew looked down at Geraldine, who was licking the zipper on his jeans and making some kind of animal noises. He carefully moved Geraldine out of the way so he could get off the counter. She wrapped her arms around him and started kissing his neck.

Bartholomew pulled her close and whispered into her ear, “Geraldine, did you notice my cat attacking your head?”

Yes, I did,” Geraldine said in a pouty kind of baby voice. “And you were so bwave and stwong to come to my wescue. Let me reward you, Bart.”

Geraldine,” Bartholomew said, peeling her off one arm at a time, “my name is Bartholomew.”

But, but…,” said Geraldine.

Maybe we should have this dinner another time. I need to air out the house and calm down my cat. Then I need to clean up this mess. Let’s try this again later, okay?”

OK,” she said as she rubbed his nipples through his t-shirt. “You’re so smart. Where’s my earrings?”

She found them on the floor, picked them up and walked to the door. She turned and beckoned to Bartholomew with her finger. He walked over to her.

You call me. Maybe you can take me out for steak next time. Maybe see a show.” She gave him a peck on the cheek and walked out the door.

Bartholomew turned to witness a disaster site: dining room table and chairs knocked over, glasses, plates and food on the floor and smoke still hanging against the ceiling. He began to clean up, and then he heard Oliver on top of the hutch.

And you!” Bartholomew said. “You! What got in to you? Your behavior was totally insane. You are an insane cat!” Oliver leapt down and skulked over to the sofa.

After cleaning the dining room, Bartholomew finally sat down with Oliver. Bartholomew reached out his hand and began to pet him.

Purr - didn’t I warn you something dangerous was at the door? Why don’t you listen to me? You shouldn’t be seeing her. She is shallow, just wants you to spend money on her and is obviously in heat all the time.”

Oh, Oliver,” said Bartholomew. “Sometimes I am so confused. I know you don’t like her, but she calls me sweet names and says nice things about me all the time. And I don’t have anybody else. I’m twenty years old, and I am still a virgin. I know that’s not that bad, but I couldn’t even imagine being close to someone the last two years while I was dealing with my parents’ deaths. But now I want someone. I’m tired of being alone.”

Oliver flicked his tail and wrapped it around Bartholomew’s arm.

You have me,” he purred.

I’m so glad I have you Oliver. I don’t know what I would have done these last two years without you. But…you’re—you’re not a person. You’re not a girl.”

Oliver crawled into Bartholomew’s lap wishing to resume the backrub that was so rudely interrupted.

Well, we could have you spayed,” Oliver said cattily.


Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Mary Esch