Easy Money

Rain ran down the window like water in a car wash. I was sitting at my desk in the gloom, working my way through a deck of Luckies when my brother walked in.

He gave me the phony grin.

“I’ve got a job for you,” he said.

“In a pig’s eye.”

My brother is family. He’s blood of my blood. He’s a good-looking guy with a cesspool for a brain. I promised our mother I’d look after him. I promised her I’d straighten him out. I lied.

“Beat it,” I said.

I sucked on my cigarette, drawing the burning tip down to my fingers with a hiss. The smoke torched my throat on its way into my lungs.

“You need a payday,” my brother said. “I’ve got one for you.”

“Whatever you’ve got, I’d rather not catch. Scram.”

“There’s a rich guy over in Greencrest thinks his wife is cheating. He’ll pay good for proof. Trail her around, take some pictures. Collect your money.”

He dropped a scrap of paper on my desk.

“The guy’s mansion,” he said. “Stake it out. You can’t miss the wife. She’s the real thing.”

“I’ll let you know,” I said. “Now get lost.”

He knew I’d do it, because of my promise to Ma. And because I was dead broke.

I sat and waited for the hate to die down. Then I got tired of waiting. I pulled on my trench coat, slapped on my hat, and left the office.

I staked out the mansion and followed the dame into the city. She met a guy in the lobby of the Stratford and they rode together up to the twenty-fifth floor. She had a body that was built to keep a guy busy long after she was ready to take a shower. She had the face of an angel, probably fallen.

Five hundred to the house dick got me their door unlocked. I stepped in and took snaps of the action. They weren’t missionaries, that’s for sure.

I called my brother and told him I was ready to present my bill. He told me to wait an hour, which I spent drinking.

An evil-looking yellow moon hung behind ragged clouds in the east. The temperature had dropped and my cigarette was the only warm thing in the car. At the cuckold’s gate, I spoke into the squawk box.

“I’m here about the missus,” I said.

The gate swung open.

I drove up to the mansion through thick pines. The front door stood ajar.

I stepped inside. A light was on in a room to the right. I went in, doffing my hat. An old bird with white hair stood behind a large mahogany desk at the far end of the room.

“You’re here about my wife?” he said. His voice quavered.

“That’s right,” I said.

“You expect money?”

“You said it.”

He produced a gun and pointed it in my general direction. Looked like a .25.

“What’s that for?” I said.

“To kill you with,” the geezer said, coming around the desk. “You think I’ll just pay you to go away?”

“Hold on, partner,” I said. He was going to kill me if he could hold the gun still.

Reluctantly, I pulled my .38 and shot him through his wrinkled old heart. No fee for me. I put my gun away.

The blond slid into the room. She glanced at me and then crossed to the corpse and picked up the .25. She stepped over the body and centered the gun on my face.

She read my expression.

“I needed my husband dead,” she said. “Thanks.”

I wouldn’t be shooting this babe in that big chest of hers.

My brother joined us, grinning.

“Nice, huh?” he said. “She inherits and you get the blame for the shootout with Pops here. He thought you were the lover coming over for a payoff. You shoot each other.”

“The guy in the hotel room?”

“Some yegg we hired.” His grin became a smirk.

“You think she’ll let you live?” I said.

The smirk held.

“She loves me,” he said.

I smiled, imaging the look on his face when he arrived in Hell right behind me.

The Mathematics of Future Paradox

“Can we watch Michelangelo work today?” my wife said, at the breakfast table.

“I have to go into the future today,” I said.

“The future? You said that you would never go into the future. You said going into the future is like a man opening his girlfriend’s mail. Ignorance is bliss, you said.”

“I’m only going ten minutes forward, max. To test and prove my theories.”

“Your equipment works,” my wife said. “Isn’t that proof enough?”

“We now know that we can observe the past. We can’t interact with it. We can’t change it. We can only watch it, like a movie. My calculations tell me that the same is true for the future, but I haven’t tested that yet.”

“The universe does not permit paradox, you always say.”

“My calculations prove this. Yet I must test the theory.”

“Will it be dangerous?”

“I don’t think so, but…”

“I want to be there.”

“This won’t be like our travels into the past. Nothing exciting will happen.”

“Nevertheless, I want to be there.”

I nodded.

“OK,” I said.

After breakfast, we cleaned up and dressed. Angela followed my out to my lab behind the house. The day was clear and warm.

In the lab, we sat down side-by-side, facing the counter that held my setup. I ran through my startup procedures and calibrated the central nexus. We put on our helmets.

I switched on the apparatus.

“I don’t see any change,” Angela said.

I moved the mouse and as we sat, we seemed to float backwards, so that we were watching ourselves from behind.

“I’m fast-forwarding,” I said. “Ten minutes into the future should take us only two.”

We sat quietly for two minutes. In front of us, we sat quietly for ten minutes.

I watched the timer and clicked the apparatus off after one hundred and twenty seconds.

“Now what?” Angela said.

“You saw us. For the next eight minutes, we sit here.”

“So?”

“Neither of us stands up during that time. We can test this. Do you understand?”

“Not exactly,” Angela said.

“If we can see into the future and then act to change it, we can create a paradox, just as we could if we could change the past. We know we can’t change the past. We can only observe it, observe the universe’s stored hologram of spacetime. Now, however, we’ve observed future events in that same hologram. Suppose I stand up?”

“I don’t think you should,” Angela said. “I don’t think you will. We neither of us did. We just sat there.”

I stood up. I stepped away from the chair and looked back. I was still sitting there.

“What the…,” I said, or thought I said. No sound came out.

“Perhaps you’re right,” said the me sitting in the chair, to Angela.

“No!” I said, soundlessly.

I stepped back to the chair and reached out. I couldn’t see my arm. I looked down. I couldn’t see myself. My hand passed through the me in the chair.

“My math is clear,” said the me in the chair. “The universe does not permit paradox.”

Bad Dreams

Todd Smith woke to find a raccoon biting his chin.

“I was at camp, dreaming that my mom wanted me to shave. Christ, I’ve only got about four hairs.”

Aaron Goldberg woke to discover that all his teeth had fallen out.

“I’ve had the same dream a hundred times. Out come the teeth. My therapist told me I was worried about losing my job, or maybe I was keeping a secret from someone. Turns out, she didn’t know bubkes about gum disease.”

Arvis Portlander was taken into custody at Microphonics, Inc., his place of work, nude in his cubicle.

“It was a lot more fun in my dream,” he said.

Matty Logan, seventh grader, came down to breakfast on a Wednesday-morning school day.

“My mom was in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She told me she had had a dream. In the dream I grew up and moved to the West Coast. I didn’t call. I didn’t write. I ate fast food and got thin. Not fat. Thin. I married a girl who was all wrong for me. The grandchildren were born and never knew my mom existed. At least she could have helped out at the time of their births, but no, my wife’s mother was a complete tyrant. She forbade my mom from flying out when the deliveries occurred. What did I do when this mother-in-law behaved like a Hitler? Nothing. I was under her thumb. At that point my mother contracted cancer but did I come home and visit her in the hospital? I came home, yes, but only to collect my childhood toys, which she had kept for me, dusted, all those long years. I wanted the toys for my children. Me, Matty Logan, monster. I tore out her heart, but still I should eat my oatmeal because the school bus was not going to hang around waiting for me to show up five minutes late.”

Bradford Simmons opened his eyes in the morning and thanked God that it had only been a dream.

“You know when you’re in a situation  where you’re totally screwed, but then you wake up and it’s only a dream? That just happened to me, in spades. I was back with my ex, only this time she understood me.  You know what I mean? Understood where I was really coming from, and she was going to make me pay for it.”

Fredrico Pascareli lives in Chicago.

“I’m a Cubs fan. I don’t have bad dreams. I don’t need them.”

The President left the White House suddenly on Friday afternoon. Reporters followed him to a psychic’s  home on U Street NW in Le Droit Park. He went into the residence and stayed for an hour, with Secret Service agents circling the building and pacing on the porch. When the President emerged, he held an impromptu press conference next to his limo.

“I had a dream last night so intense that I shared it with my Cabinet this morning. The members present were unable to shed light on the meaning of the dream. I convened the NSC and then the Joint Chiefs. No help from either, although members of both used the occasion to push their agendas in a transparent fashion that I found rather pathetic.

“I deemed the matter of sufficient importance to obtain an appointment with Madame Rose… Yes, she provided me with the answers that I required… No, I cannot share those answers… No, I cannot share the dream. It has been classified… No, I cannot share the actions that I will now take, but I can assure you that they will be significant… There are those who will be held responsible for their actions in my dream. There are those who will suffer consequences most grievous… It was just a dream but Jesus it seemed so real!”

Sheriff: Victim’s Head Still Missing

(CNN)

We found a foot first. I think it was a right foot. I remember we found the foot and then found another right foot later and the coroner insisted that the second foot did not belong to the same body as the first foot. I remember I asked him if some individuals might not have two right feet or two left feet and he told me that no, they wouldn’t. I didn’t want to let it go even when he pointed out that the second right foot was from a female, whereas the first one was from a male. Don’t they say guys all have a little female in them, which explains why when you’re in the shower, you can’t help checking out another guy’s equipment?

Then we found a left foot that the corner said, due to its DNA, matched up with the first right foot. He also told me when I asked, that an individual with two male feet and one female foot would defy the laws of nature and would be ungodly. As a good Christian, I let the extra foot go at that point. We filed it away as Unidentified Body #2, Part #1.

Next we found the male individual’s coccyx. It wasn’t what it sounds like. At this point the coroner told me that this individual had experienced a grievous injury of some sort. You can lose both feet in a variety of ways. A train can run over them and chop them off. But then you go get some artificial feet and some crutches and life goes on. But if you lose your coccyx, it’s not like getting your boxer’s tail docked. You will be in a world of hurt. Hemorrhoids don’t compare.

This is the point at which we put that running checklist into the evening paper. This is the point at which Betty’s Doughnuts started offering $5 worth of crullers for each new body part found. And when the head became the only part left missing and unchecked in the list, Betty upped her award to $10 worth of glazed and House of Bamboo threw in an end table.

Lester Branchette the first-grade teacher contributed an artist’s sketch of the missing head – as seen from a rear view, hair color and curl based upon the found torso’s back hair.

Everyone in the community seems to agree that this thing – this search for the body parts and so on – has brought us all a little bit closer together and taught us all a little something about what the coroner likes to call “anatomy.”

 

 

Man forced to have enemas gets $1.6M

[CNN headline]

I got the $1.6 million, so I guess I can say a word or two on the subject.

What is the main point here? What have we learned?

Have you ever received an award of  $1.6 million? No? Then shut your pizza-hole!

What we have learned here is, and forget the taxes, that’s a whole different conversation, what we have learned here is, what can you get for $1.6 million?

I know what you can get for  $1.6 million. Not much. In Silicon Valley, you can’t buy a  doghouse for $1.6 million. $1.6 million isn’t squat. You spend it and it’s gone and you’re no happier than you were before the enemas.

What I mean is, an enema, you’re outraged, you’re uncomfortable, they tell you to hold it, hold it, hold it, until you’re like, really? More? What are we waiting for here? What is this, a contest? Book of world records? Just let me sit on the pot for chrissakes! I’m a grown man!

Then you get your $1.6 million and go out and look at the big houses. The mansions in town. It’s expected. You’re holding  $1.6 million, what are you going to do? Open a savings account at .002% interest? No, you’re supposed to buy a damn mansion.

But around here with the young techies, you can whistle for a mansion,  all the chance you’re going to get one. Go find six bedrooms with separate baths, a nice pool, servant quarters. For your piddling  $1.6 million, maybe you get the quarters.What I mean is, an enema, you’re outraged, you’re uncomfortable, they tell you to hold it, hold it, hold it, until you’re like, really? More? What are we waiting for here? What is this, a contest? Book of world records? Just let me sit on the pot for chrissakes! I’m a grown man!

Then you get your $1.6 million and go out and look at the big houses. The mansions in town. It’s expected. You’re holding  $1.6 million, what are you going to do? Open a savings account at .002% interest? No, you’re supposed to buy a damn mansion.

But around here with the young techies, you can whistle for a mansion,  all the chance you’re going to get one. Go find six bedrooms with separate baths, a nice pool, servant quarters. For your piddling  $1.6 million, maybe you get the quarters.

Now I’m back in, going for another $1.6 million. I’m getting better at holding it.

 

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Fifty-word stories.