Coming This September: The Antichrist

Mark your calendar. This September 15th, the Worldwide Christian Family Missions Network presents “Antichrist: The Reality Show.”

Six contestants will compete over six weeks and complete six projects. They’ll use every underhanded, dastardly, sneaky trick in the book (not the Good Book, of course) to succeed.

We all know that the world is going to hell, that the Apocalypse is due with Armageddon right behind it. The Rapture might be complete by this fall and some of us are going to be left behind. We’ll need our TV programs more than ever then.  Good news. The Antichrist will be in the house!

We’ve lined up six Antichrist candidates. It wasn’t hard. They’re all over the place. Google “Antichrist.” Recognize any of the images?

Our contestants aren’t crazy, except like a fox. They’re smooth. Slick. They’ve fallen but they can get up; they just don’t want to.

The winner’s prize: a superchurch built to his or her specs. (Yes, the Antichrist might look like a woman. Except for those cloven hooves!). When we announced this prize, it brought many true devotees of The Horned One out of their holes to audition.

First week: The Flock.  All six candidate Antichrists are sent out to gather their flocks of believers. There should be plenty of babes and hunks in each flock. There should be some rich folks in each flock. Actually, it would be best if everybody in the flocks were rich. Let’s avoid the 99%. They’re you.

Flock members must be demonstrably in their master’s thrall. Yet they shouldn’t be nuts. It’s a fine line.

Every week,  one Antichrist will be voted off the show by a jury of Catholic and Protestant clergy, Evangelical ministers, and members of churches you’ve never heard of. Everyone on the jury will have been accused, at least once, of crimes the Antichrist would be proud of.

Second Week: Money. The six flocks head out to spend the week gathering money. The personal wealth of flock members does not count. We assume that the Antichrist will have already taken control of all such assets on his own, during the enthrallment process. The flocks can steal money, grift it, embezzle it, print it, employ blackmail, pocket-picking, heists, strong-arm extortion, loan sharking and other forms of usury, protection rackets, bookmaking, you name it, just rake in the lucre. Pile up the scratch. Of course, each Antichrist is apt to fall back on his or her special talents and experience here.

Low flock is voted off. The producers will take charge of that pile of loot.

Third Week: Sex. Each Antichrist will spend Week 3 involving his or her flock in a series of bizarre, acrobatic, and crowd-pleasing sexual shenanigans beyond anything you’re likely to dream up in anticipation. Points for activities that Jesus wouldn’t do, crimes against nature, and behavior that causes you to say “Now that’s just going too far!”

Group sensitivity sessions should be interjected, so that flock members can relive what they’ve done, over and over again, to their delight or everlasting shame, depending upon that cup half empty/cup half full thing. Points deducted for police raids, disease, and defections from the flock of those who unaccountably come to their senses.

A third would-be Antichrist and his or her flock are dismissed this week. The producers will snag those among his or her followers who made them the most horny as they previewed the show. Deleted scenes will be sold to a porno company secretly connected to the network.

Fourth Week: Good Works. Hey, Antichrists. What can you do for the show’s producers? Last week’s good ratings, earned by your hour of wall-to-wall sex, aren’t going to count for anything this week. In fact, forget ratings. The time has come to step up and make us happy on a personal level.

What will it take? A cut of the money pie? Yard work and house cleaning for our wives? Or should you Antichrists turn your skills and the skills of your flock to the seduction of us producers ourselves? Whatever it is, it better be good.

Fourth contestant and flock are voted off. If the producers are insufficiently satisfied with this Antichrist’s offering this week – if the producers are plain pissed off by it – he or she will be consigned to the pit where the wolves are kept. To be filmed, of course.

Fifth Week: Politics. With all the fun out of the way, the show takes a serious turn in Week 5. The Antichrists must achieve dominion over the peoples of the world. The two remaining contestants have one week to do that.  How far can they go? How successful can they be? Control over Staten Island? Enslavement of the Teamsters? Dictatorship of the Mexican cartels?  Now is the time for our Evil Ones to really show us what they’ve got.

Sixth Week: The Final Battle. In Week Six, the surviving Antichrist takes on Jesus Christ Himself. Christ is not going to just show up and flash his SAG card. Instead, we’ll put out a casting call and a bunch of nondescript guys will audition. He’ll come like a thief in the night. We’ll pick Him because that’s how religion works.

The final battle will take place in our special iron-cage Pentagon. Both parties will be armed. Only one will walk away, but don’t worry about injuries. These are supernatural entities, or ought to be.

You might figure that Christ is bound to win. It’s in the Bible. However, the Lord moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Jesus might have to wait for the sequel.

Queen of Hearts

This story is inspired by the illustration entry “Remorseful Queen of Hearts,” by Shorra.

I changed high schools my senior year. I wasn’t happy about it but our family moved and I didn’t have a say in the matter. I felt alone in the new school for a time but then began to make new friends.

I hadn’t left a particular girlfriend behind, but I had been dating. At the new school I went out with a few girls, but no one special.

“Maybe the Queen of Hearts will take an interest in you,” said my new buddy Cleon. “You’ll be set then, at least for a while.”

“Who is the Queen of Hearts?”

“She’s this little senior who chooses a guy and the next thing you know, he’s in love with her. It’s spooky. Then they’re a couple for a while, real lovebirds. The fool walks around with a big smile on his face. Ask him why and he tells you he’s in love. When he’s with Annie – her name is Annie – they seem like the perfect couple. She’s not teamed up at the moment, but the next time she is, you’ll see what I mean.”

“They’re a couple and then she drops him?” I said.

“They’re together for a month or so and then it’s over. She puts him down just like she picked him up. It’s magic.”

“So he’s upset? Angry with her?”

“Nope, one day he just doesn’t love her anymore. He’s back to normal.”

“But bitter? Sad? Furious? What?”

“That’s the strange part. He’s fine with it. He says the time he spent with Annie was the happiest of his life. He can’t get over his good luck. He’s a better man for it. She picks guys who are a little slow, socially. You know, not the quarterback. Maybe she’s just doing them a favor. Providing them with some fond memories. Afterwards, the guy can’t say enough about her. She’s… well, she’s the Queen of Hearts. She’s a legend.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “How can you be in love one day and not the next, and not feel rotten?”

“I’m just praying I get the chance to find out,” Cleon said, laughing.

“Never mind you. How do I get her to want me?” I said.

“Nobody’s been able to figure that one out.”

“Point her out to me sometime.”

“What are you taking this semester?” Cleon said.

“Physics, calculus, Latin,…”

“Which year of Latin?”

“Fourth.”

“She’s in your class. She’s tiny, like I said. Black hair, cut short. Quiet. Always sits in the back, unless the teacher assigns the seating. She’s sort of cute.”

“I know her,” I said. “I mean, I’ve seen her in class. You’re right. She sits in the back.”

When I came into the classroom the next day, I stopped inside the door. Annie was sitting in the back row. She didn’t look like the Queen of Hearts. She looked young, and shy.

Seating wasn’t assigned in Latin. I sat down in the desk next to her. She was reading a book, Anthony Adverse, while she waited for the bell to ring at the start of class.

“Where did you find that?” I asked her.

“In the school library. It hadn’t been checked out in fifteen years, according to the card in it. Do you know it?”

“It was the best-selling book in the U.S. before Gone with the Wind came out.”

Now she looked at me with interest.

“How would you ever know that?” she said.

“I was reading the Pulitzer-Prize winners last year. I forget how that led me to Anthony Adverse, but I was at just the right age for it. I loved it.”

“I must be a late bloomer,” Annie said.

And thus began our friendship.

We would chat in Latin class and we began having lunch together. We met for dinner at a Mexican restaurant one Friday night and it became something we did every week. She was so small. The top of her head came up to my chest. Nevertheless, she had a presence. I thought a lot about her. She wasn’t my type at all and it never crossed my mind to think of her as a girlfriend, but she seemed like the perfect friend. I was always asking her advice. I trusted her totally.

“Ye gods and little fishes,” Cleon said. “You did it. You got her to pick you. And you’re not like the others.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re good looking. You’ve got size. You’re smart. You like the girls and the girls like you. Annie has never connected with anybody like you before. Are you in love yet?”

“Whoa,” I said. “It’s not like that at all. It’s not like you described with the others. Annie is great. She’s a friend. She’s a sweet kid. But no way I’m in love with her. I’ve never been in love with anybody. This isn’t a romance.”

“Hmm,” Cleon said. “That’s a first. So forget the romance. Is there any… you know…”

I gave him a look and he dropped the subject. There wasn’t.

I talked to a couple of the guys who had supposedly been chosen by Annie. They all said the same thing. They had started seeing her and fell head over heels in love with her right away. It lasted a while and then, overnight, the feelings disappeared. Now they just liked and respected her. Strange.

Once Annie and I were comfortable hanging out together, I began thinking about bringing up this Queen of Hearts thing. I’d almost do it and then back off. My intuition told me to keep my mouth shut. My intuition must have stayed in bed one Saturday morning. Annie and I went out to hike up Mount San Carlos. It’s an easy climb on a well-kept trail south of town.

Clear blue sky, retaining some of the morning’s glare. Clouds would begin to build as the day progressed, but there was no sign of them yet. They would condense in streamers on the flanks of the mountain, rising to accumulate in a thunderhead, a huge gray anvil rivaling San Carlos itself in its feeling of mass and import, lit from within by lightning that would break free in the late afternoon and strike the mountain, to disappear into its core. We’d be back down by then.

Meadowlarks sang in quick phrases. Yellow grasshoppers sprang away from us as we passed. We hiked through a warm haze of scents, sage and juniper and scrub.

“I wanted to ask you something,” I said to Annie. “They say…”

“I know what they say.”

Instead of shutting me up, her reaction egged me on.

“We’re friends, aren’t we?” I said.

She stopped on the path and turned to me.

“Friends?” she said. She was looking up into my eyes with an intensity that forced me to turn my head away.

“Well… yes,” I said.

I understood that this was a Moment. Moments often come in a parked car on a date, when the going gets physical. Sometimes Moments happen on the front porch at the end of a date, or when the girl discovers that she has competition. This is the time to profess deep feelings of attraction, to comment on the girl’s beauty, perhaps even to use the L word. I never expected to face this with Annie. I associated any demand for my affection with weakness, and whatever Annie was, it wasn’t weak.

“Annie, look…,” I said.

Somehow it had never crossed my mind, even once, that she might have feelings for me. Not feelings like that.

She turned and continued up the path. I followed her.

“You know I like you a lot,” I said.

“Sure,” she said.

After a while, she said, “That was embarrassing.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

We moved faster. We began to sweat. We were both breathing hard. Dust coated our hiking boots. Finally, we started to chat again as we climbed the trail. Halting conversation at first. Up on top, we ate lunch. The sun was still clear but mist shrouded the slopes below us.

On the way down, I opened my big mouth again.

“So can I ask just one thing about what they say?”

“One friend to another?” she said, and I could hear something in her voice, not exactly resignation or sadness or anger, but the sound of a struggle.

I knew I should shut up, but my curiosity overwhelmed my good sense.

“Anybody would ask you this, eventually,” I said, “in my defense.”

“Sure.”

“They say that you can make any boy fall in love with you,” I said. “It lasts a while and then he’s not in love with you anymore, but he feels great anyway.”

“Are you in love with me?” she asked.

“You know I’m not. I mean, I didn’t mean it that way. I respec… I like you a lot.”

“Does that answer your question?”

“I talked to a couple of the fellows you dated.”

Annie glanced at me with an expression that mirrored that unidentifiable tone in her voice.

“Pretend I didn’t say that,” I said. “Any of it.”

“The day is not going as planned,” she said.

After that morning, a tension appeared in our relationship. We were still easy with each other and interested in each other, but Annie would gently check to see if my feelings for her had deepened and I’d know it when she did so, and I’d gently check to see if she felt of me more as a friend, and see the hurt look when she caught me doing it.

On New Year’s Eve, we went to a school party together. We got some knowing looks, which we ignored, and we had a pleasant time. We left the party with friends and went to a smaller celebration that began just before the midnight hour. There was some drinking, and maybe more than that.

“Jeez, do you love her yet?” Cleon said. “Just checking. It’s been weeks. If the answer is still no, how about letting me have a turn?”

“She’s my best friend,” I said, “but you’re a close second.”

Later she and I went back to her place. Her parents were gone for the weekend and we had the house to ourselves. I was a little drunk and we were goofing around in a lighthearted way. I lifted Annie off her feet and held her up so that we were face-to-face. She was as light and soft as a vision.

“I wish, I wish, I wish,” she said, staring into my eyes.

“I’m your best friend, Annie,” I said. “I always will be.”

I kissed her forehead. And then I was in love. It washed over me. I was enveloped in an emotion part longing and part joy.

“My God, Annie,” I said. “I love you.”

She laughed and hugged me as hard as she could, but her eyes were wet and tears ran down her cheeks.

I kissed them away.

“I love you, too,” she said. “You’re the first and only.”

The night was suddenly a miracle, heaven, the best that life could offer. I was delirious, frantic with love. We talked a mile a minute at first and hugged each other as if we wanted to merge into one. We laughed and wept and I didn’t want to sleep, ever. I didn’t want it to end, I didn’t want it to stop, even for a minute.

I did sleep, though, and woke on the couch with Annie in my arms. I looked at her, my friend, my chum, and thought about the night that had just passed. Was I that drunk? Had someone slipped me some Ecstasy? A memory of love lingered, like a mist, as if from a dream. I savored it as it dissipated, evaporated, and was gone.

Annie’s eyes opened.

“Good morning, friend,” I said.

She didn’t reply.

“I think we got a little crazy last night,” I said.

“It’s OK,” she said. “We’ve come to our senses now. Friend.”

Trailers for bad sequels

18 of my trailers for bad sequels.

Plus one that didn’t make it into the contest:

Transformers: The City Wars

Narrator: First, there was Metroplex, the Autobot city. Then, there was Trypticon, Metroplex’s Decepticon enemy, a city of equal size and power.

Scene: Two cities, facing off, with helicopters and jets in the air, subway trains and buses whizzing around, and buildings sprouting up in menacing fashion.

Narrator: Now, Metroplex and Trypticon have been joined by…

Scene: View from 10,000 feet. Two more cities appear, so that two cities are facing off against two other cities.

Narrator: Gothumoplex and LA-ypticon!

Music: Loud, annoying techno.

Scene: Coming closer, we see two NFL football teams crossing over from Metroplex and Gothumoplex to two neutral stadiums, and two more teams heading there from Trypticon and LA-ypticon.

Music: Loud, annoying pro-football orchestration.

Narrator: These cities will struggle… to the death!

Scene: Robots playing football. We see a number of obvious penalty-type plays. Football transforms into a soccer ball, but that’s just a joke in bad taste.

Narrator: Gothumoplex is in a rebuilding period. They had a lousy draft. What are you going to do? LA-ypticon is cheating on the salary cap.

Scene: Half time. Robot coaches give unconvincing pep talks. Players are injecting suspicious oils into their rear modules.

Music: Madonna in the halftime show.

Narrator: If you love your sports fast and loud… If you love it when your favorite player transforms into a carzy, out-of-control bazooka… You must see…. Transformers: The City Wars

Goodbye and Good Riddance

I’ve made a comfortable living as a writer. I sold my first piece forty years ago and I’ve done fine ever since.

I was living in the mountains when I received my first acceptance. Of course, everything was done by mail in those days. Mail and fax. I lived ten miles from the nearest store or telephone, which suited me. They say that one of the major drawbacks to writing is loneliness, but I like being lonely.

Unfortunately, as my reputation increased, I allowed myself to be lured down to the big city. I rented a loft and furnished it, acquired friends, acquired a husband. No more loneliness. What worked best for me in the city was writing in the morning, drinking in the afternoon, and sobering up in the evening.

In the mountains, I never read newspapers or magazines. I never watched TV or went to the movies. The Internet hadn’t been invented yet, thank God. I read books and essays, fiction and nonfiction, but nothing written later than 1950. My own work sold; that was enough for me. Life was good.

In the city, I discovered that readers had opinions about what they read. They were judging my work and I found out about it. They had always been judgin my work. I just never knew it.

I also discovered that the average reader is a knucklehead. Take this personally, please.

Try as I might, I could not avoid the critics, professional and amateur. I didn’t need to read reviews, or my mail. Every visit to my publisher exposed me to comments on my work. Formerly, I sent off a piece and let the editor have his or her way with it, me being none the wiser. As long as the checks kept arriving, I had no problem with that. Now, I couldn’t go to a party and get drunk in peace. Some moron would spoil the evening every time by cawing at me about something I had written.

I don’t criticize your work, or your face; don’t criticize mine.

My husband wasn’t a reader, so at least I didn’t have to contend with his opinions, which were bound to be of the bonehead variety. Along with his paycheck, he would bring home what he was pleased to describe as “feedback” from his friends, and share it with me at dinner. This is one of the reasons we quit eating our meals together. In fact, this might have been the principle reason I divorced him, this along with his swinish habits between the sheets (when I could manage to keep that top sheet in place).

“Where’s the dialog? Not enough dialog,” the critics would say.

“So is this enough dialog for you? Because this is all you’re bloody well going to get.”

Your paragraphs are too long, the critics

would say. Is this short

enough for you, Mr. Expert?

And my competitors! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, my competitors. Their story plots. Pre-Hawthorne, and not in a good way. Treacle. Always, in their stories, the fond family memories, the memories of their youth, always the brother or the dad, memories of the death of some friend or family member. Unutterably mawkish, turgid prose, and always, always the snappy last line. Jame Joyce? Marcel Proust? Sorry. Not enough dialog. Paragraphs too long. Too hard to read. Depressing.

Did I hit a competitor or two? With the knuckles of my fist, I mean. Only the males. Socking a male is OK. If I ever took on another woman, the tussle would have been labeled a cat fight, the subject of derision. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

Why have I decided to return to the mountains? Was it the incident with “Mr. Smith”? Perhaps. Let’s just say that my final problem with Mr. Smith provided the straw that broke my creative back.

If you publish at this site, or just read the work here, you have undoubtedly been gifted with Mr. Smith’s wisdom. I know I was, right from my advent in the big city. In fact, he was critiquing my work before I left the mountains; ignorance is bliss.

Every time I put out a story or other piece, Mr. Smith was there to provide comments, asked for or not. I found Mr. Smith showing up when I was at lunch in public, and when I was trying to think as I walked in the park, and at parties. I could not drink at a bar in peace.

Was he stalking me? Such was my defense at the trial. Did I have a license for my gun? In the mountains, everyone carries a gun. How was I to know that the big city was different? Such was my defense. Did Mr. Smith threaten me physically? Did he touch me? Or was I simply reacting to the accumulation of his various banal, wrongheaded analyses of my work’s content and methods?

And why did I shoot him “down there”?

In retrospect, I should not have chosen to defend myself. I thought that by the time the trial was held, I would have thoroughly purged the Smith toxins from my brain. I had no idea that hearing repeated quotes from his critiques would cause me to leap to my feet, rush the man, and with my iPad used as a club, re-injure those parts of him that I had shot before.

During my incarceration, I came to realize that Mr. Smith actually stood for all of you, you and your opinions. That’s when I decided to hang up my pen.

Reader, I reiterate: take this personally. You wouldn’t know a good story if it hit you between the eyes. You are incapable of appreciating fine, or even decent, or even workmanlike, writing. Who knows what is going on in that little noggin of yours. I don’t, and I don’t want to. I leave you to those hacks who seem to think that they’re actually writing stories; they aren’t.

And that’s it. I’m done being read by you and your kind. Go plague somebody ignorant enough to appreciate your… your “feedback.” Somebody like my ex.

Goodbye and good riddance.

My entries in a scene-writing contest

http://writing.worth1000.com/contests/28485/setting-the-scene-3

 

Buzzy

Where did the giant fly come from? We just don’t know.

What we do know is that reaction to the fly varied among officials, from a strong desire to swat it, to a demand that we nurture and study the insect. A call for manure went out and many small farmers responded.

Government officials googled “housefly experts” and called in the nation’s top extermination professionals. The State Department reached out to a number of sub-Saharan African counties where fly knowledge is both broad and deep.

A complete media circus geared up. Entomologists identified the fly as a “him” (or a “he”). Someone on the Internet named him Buzzy and the name stuck. A line of Buzzy apparel appeared. The Macy’s parade included a Buzzy balloon, which some young children misidentified as the real thing. Intellectual property and copyright struggles broke out.

The celebrity kerfluffle masked a true human, or [I]Musca domestica[/I], or human/[I]Musca[/I] drama. Dr. Lizbeth Pile, placed in charge of the bug, postponed her wedding to get a new lab and dunghill set up.

“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to choose between insects and humans,” said her fiancee, Dr. Lumbert Stuck, an expert on ants.

“You should talk,” said Dr. Pile. “If a giant [I]Eciton burchellii[/I] showed up today, you’d be building an ant farm and our nuptials could go hang.”

“Just the same, I’m warning you,” Dr. Stuck said.

Dr. Pile referred to Buzzy as her “baby.” Military talk of strikes on the bug drove her to distraction. In her view, insects represented the future of the planet. Many of her best friends, now including Buzzy, were bugs.

Buzzy’s special status was challenged by the appearance of two more flies. Both were huge, although only half the size of Buzzy. One of these flies, dubbed Hank, belonged to a farmer in Iowa, who discovered him out standing in his field. The other, Betty, was owned by the city of Tallahatchie, as she lived at the town dump. Quick book, magazine, and TV movies deals were done. However, the Hollywood careers of the pests were cut short when studios discovered that mocap animated versions of the duo were cheaper and easier to use, with regular houseflies wired up for the motion capture process. The regular houseflies did not have annoying managers. Rumors circulated, suggesting that the two new giant flies were actually from south of the border. Of course, neither of them had papers.

There was talk of setting up some sort of cage match between Hank and Betty, or perhaps a reality date. Plans were thrown into confusion by the advent of Grouchy, Arnold, and Iris, three flies almost as large as Buzzy. Jealousies began to develop between regions of the country.

“I warned you,” Dr. Stuck said to his potential bride. “Folks don’t realize it yet, but if something isn’t done, humanity will be wiped out within a year or two.”

Lizbeth stared at him.

“Do you mean what I think you mean?” she said.

“That’s right. There is only one person with enough knowledge of houseflies to develop a poison that can affect these gigantic specimens.”

“Poison the bugs that I love?”

“You have to choose, Lizbeth, between me (and the rest of humanity), and Buzzy. Otherwise, soon, nobody will be able to use the bathroom in peace, ever again.”

Dr. Pile dithered. She procrastinated. Perhaps her fiancee was wrong. Perhaps these humongous bugs were a passing fad, like the Kardashians.

Then, Buzzy died, apparently of old age. The nation was thrown into a state of shock and mourning. Dr. Pile sat out on Buzzy’s dungpile for hours, inconsolable.

Distraction arrived in the form of twenty giant bottle flies. However, interest in these iridescent critters wore off in less than twenty-four hours.

The nation was prepared to move on. The appearance of hundreds of new “big” flies caused talk of a mass-extermination program. Handheld spray cans were useless. Green advocates began a search for giant frogs and lizards – anything to control the giant-fly population. Flypaper companies long moribund stirred and returned to production.

The first giant horsefly diverted folks for a while, but after it bit and killed the beloved racehorse stud Diva Pleaser, a mob tarred and feathered it. They would have lynched it but horseflies don’t have necks.

“This is it,” Dr. Stuck said. “I have a lab up above the snow line. You can work there in peace, Darling. Or we can turn the world over to your precious [I]Muscas[/I]. Fly with me to Vegas tonight. We’ll buzz over and marry, and then zig zag back to the lab. After you wash off that dung, of course.”

Dr. Pile stood with tears running down her face, little baby flies walking to and fro over the exposed areas of her dermis.

“It’s [I]Sophie’s Choice[/I] all over again,” she said. “What kind of a world do we live in, where you have to choose between your beloved man and your beloved houseflies?”

American Metamorphosis

Greg Samson, like Gregor Samsa, woke up one morning as a cockroach. Beyond that initiatory fact, the stories of Greg and Gregor are dissimilar.

Samsa lived with his mother, father, and sister. He worked like a dog to support them. Samson lived with two slacker roommates. He worked at Blockbuster but the store was about to close and he didn’t care. Watching movies cut into his gaming time, which he resented, and he had copied every Blockbuster game he cared anything about long since.

Samsa’s family members were shocked, to say the least, when they saw him after he had changed. (He wasn’t actually a cockroach. He was an [I]Ungeziefer[/I] – you could look it up – whereas Samson was the real deal: 180 pounds of [I]Periplaneta americana[/I].) When Samson’s roommates saw him at ten in the morning, saw a big bug stuck on his back in bed, they were both already tweaked. They took the sight of this cockroach in stride. Both had seen a lot worse before when high.

“Dude, did you see Mimic?” said Josh to Micah. “These things eat human flesh.”

“That movie blew, Dude,” Micah said. “Cockroaches aren’t what you call carnivores. If we’re lucky, this thing will get rid of all our garbage for us.”

“I say we waste him. Go get the bug spray.”

In the Kafka story, Gregor has trouble speaking and ends up just listening throughout the tale. Not Greg. Greg was, like, screw that.

“I’m stuck on my back,” he said. “Roll me over.”

“No way,” Micah said. “You’ve already ate Greg. You aren’t gonna eat us.”

“I am Greg, moron,” Greg said. “Didn’t you ever read the Kafka story?”

“Huh? I played Bug Quest.”

“You totally sucked at Bug Quest,” Josh said. “No wonder you want to waste this thing.”

“Shut up,” Greg said. “Turn me over and then call Blockbuster and tell them I’ve turned into a cockroach, and then bring in the garbage. I’m starving.”

The roommates turned Greg over, so that his legs weren’t waving around in the air. He scuttled across the floor, clacking his mandibles.

“Dude,” said Micah. Josh hurried out to the dumpster and brought back two Hefty bags full of garbage.

Greg poked his proboscis into one of the bags.

“Mmmm. Cockroaches are a hungry bug,” he said, “and a horny bug.”

“You want me to go find a female under the sink in the kitchen?”

“Listen,” said Greg. “Gregor moped around the house and ended up dead at the end of the story. That is bull-twangus. If I’ve got to be a big bug, I’m going to be a damned alpha bug. I’m a playah. I need to find a cockroach babe who runs 150 lbs minimum. You know me. The bigger the better.”

“Where are we going to find somebody, I mean something, like that?”

“First of all, I don’t like light. I’m crawling under the bed until dark. Come get me then. Let me figure this thing out.”

The roommates left the bedroom and closed the door behind them. They wondered if this would all seem funny when the weed wore off but then decided that they didn’t want to find out, and opened a bag of rock they had scored that weekend. They also finished three bottles of Jagermeister they found on a shelf.

When darkness fell, they heard a scrabbling at the bedroom door. They opened the door. Greg scuttled out, feelers waving.

“Open the front door and follow me,” he said.

The roommates opened the front door and staggered out into the night behind their friend, the roach. Out on the street, Greg instructed them to lift the manhole cover (personnel access cover), and slide it aside. It was too heavy, with no place to get a grip. Micah retrieved a tire iron from his car and pried up the cover. They got a grip on it and dragged it off the hole.

“Phew,” Micah said.

“It’s a sewer,” Greg said. “What did you expect? Roses?”

“You going down there?”

“I’m a roach with big appetites,” Greg said. “I’m not sitting around in a bar all night, watching pole dancers. Just pray I don’t meet one of those gators you always hear about. Replace the lid and then come back at dawn and pull it off again.”

Greg disappeared down the hole.

The boys slid the cover back on, returned to the house, and passed out. When they woke up, the sun had been up for an hour.

They took a couple of minutes to splash water in their faces and smoke a joint and then they went back out to the street. There was traffic. Josh bent down by the gutter grate at the curb.

“Greg!” he called. “You down there?”

He heard the raspy sounds of chitin on brick.

“Hey,” Greg said.

“You ok? You ready to come out?”

“No, Dude. Truth to tell, it’s heaven down here. The best thing you can do for me is go use the bathroom and flush twice. [I]Vaya con Dios[/I], Dude.”