Okay, technically this post isn’t about zombie unicorns or why I hate them. It’s about a short story I wrote called Why I Hate Zombie Unicorns, which you can read over at Shimmer. This is the first short story I’ve ever sold, and I’m pretty excited about it.
The crowd at Mudville Field was full of hope that autumn day.
They’d come out by the thousands just to see their home team play.
Three billion of us watched remotely from our homes and bars
And just about a million from the colony on Mars.
Earth’s major league team managers had come up with a scheme
To trade their strongest players to create one perfect team.
When Mudville won that lottery they also won the chore
Of crushing Earth’s most bitter rivals from Tau Ceti Four.
Tau Ceti’s long-term strategy was not above reproach.
A team’s star player might be summoned by Tau Ceti’s coach,
Then suddenly announce that his career had run its course,
Retiring on an income from an unnamed foreign source.
Those who refused to quit would face some unexplained bad luck.
A broken arm, a broken leg, run over by a truck.
No one had ever proved that these misfortunes were foul play,
But after five or six most people thought it looked that way.
Earth hadn’t won a Series since the one in ‘thirty-two,
But this time it seemed possible the team might just pull through.
No one had thought they had a chance to make it past game five,
And here it was game seven, and the team was still alive.
A few Tau Ceti fans sat in the bleachers by third base
Out past the left field dolphin tank (a lush aquatic space).
The Earth team’s land-based fans were the majority, of course.
The humans and uplifted apes had all come out in force.
The snackbots tossed bananas, peanuts, cotton candy too.
Their throws were always graceful and their aim was always true.
The beer drones fluttered overhead, all chrome and gleaming brass.
They shot fluorescent liquids into every waiting glass.
By inning nine, Tau Ceti was ahead with five to three.
The Earth fans were about as tense as anyone could be.
Their only hope was Casey; of this one thing they were sure
His swing was strong and certain and they said his heart was pure.
But Casey couldn’t bat until four others had their turn.
Joe Flynn was first and you could almost see his stomach churn.
It might have been the pressure, or it might have been the stench
Emitted by the players perched upon Tau Ceti’s bench.
The pitcher’s eyestalks locked in place and focused one by one.
Her scales glowed green and purple in the bright midmorning sun.
Her tail spikes flicked from left to right, so sharp and black and straight.
Her talons grazed the ball as she propelled it towards the plate.
Poor Flynn just stared at her, the way a mouse looks at a cat.
He crouched inside the batter’s box and choked up on his bat.
He focused on the ball and swung; he gave it his best try.
Tau Ceti’s second baseman made quick work of his pop fly.
Up next was Thayer, who had never stood out from the rest.
He looked so grim and earnest as he faced his greatest test.
He passed with flying colors — hit it right out of the park.
The score was five to four and now the mood was much less dark.
Then Sato’s turn came up. It didn’t last for very long.
“Strike one, strike two, strike three” was Mister Sato’s sad swan song.
Hernandez feared she’d strike out, end the game, and fall from grace.
Instead she hit a triple and stood firmly at third base.
When Casey made his entrance, he was such a welcome sight.
The humans cheered; the dolphins jumped for joy and sheer delight.
The snackbots threw confetti, and the beer drones poured free booze.
With Casey batting for us, there was no way we could lose.
The first pitch came, the first pitch went, and Casey let it go.
The umpire called “strike one” and Casey shrugged and said “I know”.
The second pitch was like the first; the umpire called “strike two”
And Casey’s fans grew quiet as they willed him to pull through.
Now, Casey hadn’t worried once, not since the game began.
If you looked closely you might think he had a secret plan.
He paused for one brief moment and stood still and calm and tall.
And then he stepped up to the plate and waited for the ball.
Then Casey swung as strong and sure as only Casey could,
A swing that caused the game to end the way he knew it would.
And Casey smiled and Casey laughed as he threw down the bat
And left the field, defiant, with a flourish of his hat.
The fans sat in the stands, just staring with their mouths agape.
And though they all still try there is one fact they can’t escape.
The umpire called “strike three.” The call was good, without a doubt.
There is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has sold out.
This probably reminds you of Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer.
1. On which website would you be most likely to find an ad for used kitty litter?
- The Onion
2. Take a moment to examine Figure 1. What’s wrong with this picture?
- In description on the left, the apostrophe is missing from the word “World’s”.
- The standard list price for cat litter is, apparently, $96.85 for a 7-pound bag or $109.47 for a 14-pound bag.
- Used kitty litter costs more than new kitty litter.
- Used kitty litter is being offered for sale.
3. Every two weeks, Alice’s cats convert 25 pounds of new cat litter into used cat litter. If Alice pays $9.99 for each 25-pound tub of new cat litter and sells her used cat litter at market rates, how much profit will she make in a year?
4. Alice wants to quit her job and live off her cat litter profits. She currently has two cats; how many more will she need to adopt?
5. What should Alice call her online store?
- The Cat Waste Place
- Alice’s Organic Free-Range Artisinal Feline Extrusion Emporium
- I Haz Had Cheezburger
Alice’s store turns out not to be as profitable as she’d hoped. She looks for ways to earn some extra income and decides to respond to this craigslist ad:
I have a terrible problem. My litter box is dirty and smells horrible and I don’t want to clean it. I am amazing at making pancakes however. I will trade my pancake skills for a clean litter box. Serious inquires only.
- Location: bathroom corner
- Compensation: pancakes. All you can eat!!!
- This is an internship job
6. Essay question: describe the expected career path of the person who successfully completes this internship.
7. What’s unusual about this ad?
- It promises all-you-can-eat pancakes but doesn’t mention syrup.
- It doesn’t specify whether the pancakes must be consumed when the litter box is being scooped or whether the intern can show up at the employer’s home at any time and demand pancakes.
- It’s on craigslist, but it doesn’t say anything about the intern having to perform his or her duties naked.
8. What’s the probability that the person who placed the ad has at least one cat?
Roses are red
Violets are blue
My library books
Are all overdue.
Roses are red
Violets are too
Are what I see through.
Roses are red
Goulash is stew
Have a nice meal
And don’t get the flu.
Roses are red
Some cheese is bleu
But not the kind
That’s good in fondue.
Roses are red
Kittens say “mew”
My cats are cuter
Than your kangaroo.
If you have any doubt that cats are better than dogs, please take a few minutes to do the following:
1. Sit in a comfy chair in a warm room with a cup of your favorite hot beverage.
2. Read the classic Jack London short story To Build a Fire, a harrowing account of a man and a dog struggling to survive in extreme cold weather.
I rest my case.
A few months ago, blogger and all-around nice person Hippie Cahier had a great idea: she wanted to create a video in honor of fellow blogger Omawarison, who’d recently retired from his day job. Her plan was ambitious: gather a couple dozen bloggers in one place and create a video in a single weekend. I was up for the challenge. I just had one concern: I’ve seen enough movies to know that if a group this size gathers in one place for a weekend, one of two things will happen: they’ll either pull off an intricately-plotted heist or be murdered one by one. I mentioned this to Hippie and told her I strongly preferred the heist scenario. She agreed.
I generally travel pretty light, so I packed only a carry-on for this trip. My bag was a little heavier than usual, but I didn’t think much of it until I got to the airport and the bag started meowing. I called Hippie and asked her to pick up some supplies for a last-minute addition to the cast: my cat, Thunder.
During the flight, I read the plans for the heist. Hippie had emailed them the previous night. I was impressed. She’d planned out every detail, including exactly what each person would say at each point throughout the operation. That seemed like overkill, really, and I was a little worried she’d turn out to be a micromanager, but the plan itself seemed sound.
Hippie was a very gracious hostess. Her house is bigger than I’d expected; each blogger got a private room. My room (which was next to one painted plaid, for some reason) had all kinds of personal touches. She’d set up the cat food dishes and litter box that I’d asked for, installed a new cat tree for Thunder, and left the traditional five pounds of dark chocolate on my pillow. Most of the rest of the gang had already arrived, so I dropped off my bag, left Thunder to get acclimated, and headed down to the living room to join them.
Hippie introduced me to everyone, but I’m really bad at names, so I was never quite sure who was who. I poured myself a glass of wine (other available beverages included coffee, tea, gin, and lemonade) and bumped into a woman with bright yellow hair who was helping herself to a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I started to apologize.
“Sorry, I’m — oh, hey, did you paint that?” On the end of the table, there was a watercolor of two dogs frolicking with wild abandon.
“No. I’m not sure who did.”
We both looked around for a minute. The artist failed to materialize. The dogs, however, had been there all along: a collie who looked just like Lassie, and a little black and white dog that I thought was adorable until it began savagely attacking a stuffed sheep, callously ignoring its squeaky cries of distress. I was glad I’d left my cat upstairs.
“Okay,” Hippie said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I think that’s all of us. Did everyone get a chance to look at the script?”
Everyone nodded except me. “No, sorry — I didn’t get the script. When did you send it?”
“Last night, around 8-ish, I think.”
“Oh, that’s weird. I got some mail from you then, but it just had the plans for the actual heist, not the script for the movie.”
There was a long, awkward pause. I heard a few nervous giggles. Finally, Hippie spoke.
“Um, that was the script. There is no actual heist.”
“What? Are you trying to get us all killed?”
“She’s right,” said a pregnant woman, gesturing with a half-eaten Pop-Tart, “movies teach us that in this situation, if we’re not involved in a heist, we’ll be attacked by a serial killer or some kind of supernatural entity.”
People began to take sides. One guy rattled off ten reasons why we should just make the movie. Another walked around with a clipboard taking a poll about whether we should do the heist: the four possible answers were “yes”, “no”, “other”, and something about brains. In the end, we decided to [Note: one blogger who was present for the events described here is also a lawyer. At her request, I've redacted some text that was in the original version of this post.]
[redacted text] and a goat. So of course [redacted text]
[redacted text] just a bridal shower. But [redacted text]
[redacted text] hostage situation. They said they used to have a guy who was really good at that sort of thing, but he retired last year. So then we [redacted text]
[redacted text] which is how we wound up spending the night in jail. We got out on bail with just enough time to go back to Hippie’s place, pack our things, and catch our flights home. And we still hadn’t shot any footage.
The story has a happy ending, though. Hippie filed a FOIA request and eventually got copies of all our mug shots, which she stitched together into an amazing video. As the old saying goes: when life gives you lemons, make a patchwork quilt. I think she’s done an excellent job.
New York, New York
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the gullibility of a gullible age. They believe anything they see on YouTube. Seriously, Virginia, these friends of yours? You could do better. Did you know that Stevie wets his bed at least once a week? And Johnny picks his nose and eats the boogers when he thinks no one is looking? Do you have any idea what Sally and Jane have been saying about you behind your back? But you didn’t ask about your so-called friends; you asked about apple cores, and you deserve an answer.
Yes, Virginia, there are apple cores. They exist as surely as the Farberware Classic Apple Corer exists, or the OXO Good Grips Apple Corer and Divider, and you know these gadgets are real because of the joy they bring on those rare and wondrous occasions when someone uses one to make a pie. Imagine how dreary the world would be without apple cores. There would be no Norpro 5103 Stainless Steel Apple Corer with Plunger, no Amco Dial-A-Slice Adjustable Apple Corer and Slicer, no R & M Industries 5920 Apple Peeler / Corer / Slicer. There would be no Apple Core Removal Technology industry at all. Do you have any idea, Virginia, how many factory workers and engineers would be out of work if there were no apple cores? Or, for that matter, if people stopped believing in apple cores? Is that something you want on your conscience?
Not believe in apple cores! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus. You might slice an apple crosswise and see no evidence of a core, but what would that prove? Have you ever seen the Tooth Fairy? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. How else would you explain the fact that every time you leave a baby tooth under your pillow at night, it’s gone the next morning, replaced by a shiny new coin? This could only be the work of the Tooth Fairy. Or possibly the Tooth Alchemist, who transformed the tooth into a coin and then just left it there, possibly in an attempt to free the Tooth Fairy from her crippling addiction to human teeth. We’ll probably never know the details, Virginia, but the point is that even though no one has ever seen either of these entities, we can be confident in the knowledge that they exist and that they skulk around your room at night, searching for body parts.
Apple cores exist, Virginia, and they always will. Rejoice in the knowledge that you were right and your friends were wrong. You should celebrate! Eat an apple! But watch out for the core — you wouldn’t want to chip a tooth.
How much do you know about Santa Claus? Most people are unaware of these six basic facts.
1. Santa initially used birds to deliver presents. He ended this practice after receiving many complaints: the owls, hungry after a hard night’s work, would sometimes carry off a family pet, and the swallows were just too slow (an unladen swallow travels about 24 miles per hour, and they’re even slower when carrying gifts). He tried using bats next, but those were considered “too creepy”. Dogs and cats were perceived as friendlier but were often mistaken for gifts themselves. Eventually, Santa decided to deliver all the presents personally. He started with a human-powered sleigh and soon switched to the now-familiar reindeer-powered model.
2. Since its inception in 1790, the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office has issued 437 patents to Santa Claus, including “Method for Rapid Delivery of Items Utilizing Airborne Woodland Creatures”, “System and Method for Calculating Metrics of Naughtiness/Niceness Based On Observed Behavior”, “Aqueous Solution to Facilitate Rapid Movement Through Chimneys or Other Narrow, High-Friction Passageways“, 27 patents related to surveillance technology, and several hundred patents related to toy design and manufacturing.
3. The International Federation of Competitive Eating banned Santa from all eating competitions after the 1997 Extreme Cookies and Milk Challenge. Santa ate all his cookies in record time, grabbed and ate some of his competitors’ cookies, and then got into a brawl with another celebrity contestant over a packet of Oreos held by an audience member. That other contestant, a popular children’s entertainer, later attempted to rehabilitate his image by appearing in a public service announcement.
4. Santa’s patent attorneys have filed over a dozen FOIA requests in an attempt to determine whether the NSA has been using any patented Naughty-or-Nice™ surveillance technology without paying licensing fees. None of those requests has been answered.
5. He performs annual feasibility studies to evaluate the practicality of replacing his Rudolph-based navigation system with GPS. The conclusion is the same every time: while modern commercial GPS devices can store thousands of waypoints, none have the capacity to handle the 447,304,311 destinations that Santa needs to visit. And even if one did, it would take his fastest elf at least 14 years to enter all those addresses into the system.
6. He once shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated on Christmas, check out Company For Christmas, where a bunch of bloggers will be hanging out throughout the day. I’ll be there from 10pm-12pm PDT on Christmas Eve (in other words, for two hours starting at this time).
1. I’ve been busy at work. I know everyone always says that, but my job is really challenging. Performing brain surgery while rescuing kittens from burning buildings is harder than it sounds.
2. I was abducted by aliens. Really boring aliens. I kept waiting for them to do something interesting enough for me to write about, but they just kept droning on and on about glorfball, which apparently is a very popular sport on their planet.
3. I sold a short story to a magazine and got hit with a case of rebound writer’s block.
4. My intern quit and it took me two months to figure out how to work the keyboard.
5. The intern who quit had secretly outsourced his job to a group of monkeys living in my basement and banging randomly on typewriter keys. It took me a while to find new homes for them.
6. When I first went down to the basement to check on the monkeys, I slipped on a banana peel. I managed to catch myself before I fell, but then I realized we were almost out of bananas, so I went to the local banana emporium. On my way home, I was in a car accident. It was just a fender-bender, but the bananas were crushed, so I had to bake some emergency banana bread. While reaching to get my banana bread cookbook from the top shelf, I lost my balance and fell. I landed on my head and got the kind of amnesia where you remember everything else but forget that you have a blog.
7. With the intern and monkeys gone, I decided to try Blog-O-Matic Content Generator 2.0. Big mistake. It kept crashing my system and would only generate shopping lists.
8. I called the Blog-O-Matic customer support line six weeks ago. I’m still on hold. After the first hour, I started counting how many times their on-hold music repeated itself. When I got to 50,000, I hung up and reinstalled my operating system.
Oh, and if you think hanging up means I’m no longer on hold, you’ve probably never listened to the same on-hold music loop 50,000 times in a row. It changes you. I’ll be on hold, hearing that music in my head and half-expecting a Blog-O-Matic customer support representative to appear at any moment, for the rest of my life.
9. When I reinstalled my operating system, I lost all my saved passwords.
10. My dog ate it.
To celebrate my return to blogging, I’m holding a contest. The first three thousand people to comment on this post will each receive a free pre-owned typewriter! Each one comes with its own unique collection of stains and odors.
Wait! That’s not helium! — Last words of Henrietta Gale, June 26, 1937.
Dorothy’s parents took her to the dog pound on her sixth birthday. She walked slowly past the cages of beagles and corgis and stopped to look at a cairn terrier puppy. It was love at first sight. She named him Toto.
Dorothy’s mother baked a birthday cake while her daughter and puppy played outside. When the cake was done, she set it aside to cool, lit a cigarette, and walked out to the garage, where her husband was inflating balloons for their daughter’s party.
She saw his mistake immediately. “Wait! That’s not helium!” she cried, but it was too late.
“Look what your dog did to my flower bed,” said Mr. Glitch, who did not in any way resemble famous character actress Margaret Hamilton or any trademarked Warner Brothers character.
“Toto would never do anything like that,” said Dorothy, just as Toto began to relieve himself on the ruined flowers.
Mr. Glitch took a step towards the dog, then stumbled, lurching forward. Toto interpreted this as an attack and bit him on the ankle. Mr. Glitch smiled the coldest smile Dorothy had ever seen.
The doorbell rang while Dorothy was setting the table for lunch. It was Mr. Glitch, with a court order authorizing him to seize Toto and have him euthanized immediately. Her uncle read the document carefully and said there was nothing they could do. He told Dorothy to get Toto and hand him over to Mr. Glitch.
Dorothy went outside to find Toto. She paused for a moment and made her decision. She wasn’t going to let them kill him. She was going to run away with him, as far away as possible. She picked Toto up and started down the road.
They didn’t get far. A storm forced them to return to the farmhouse. Moments after they went inside, a piece of flying debris hit her in the head and knocked her unconscious. She had a vivid dream. When she woke up, the storm had passed, and Dorothy had decided not to run away after all.
Mr. Glitch returned shortly after Dorothy woke up. Toto was euthanized later that afternoon.
Mr. Glitch took a step towards Toto, then stumbled, lurching forward. Toto interpreted this as an attack. He jumped up and bit Mr. Glitch on the thigh, severing his femoral artery. Dorothy ran for help, but by the time the doctor arrived, it was too late. Toto was euthanized later that afternoon.
Mr. Glitch took a step towards Toto, then stumbled, lurching forward. Toto interpreted this as an attack. He jumped up and bit Mr. Glitch on the thigh, severing his femoral artery. Dorothy cleaned the blood off Toto’s face and quietly returned home. The coroner determined that Mr. Glitch had been attacked by some kind of wild animal, possibly a wolf. Toto lived a long and happy life with Dorothy and her aunt and uncle.
Dorothy’s parents took her to the dog pound on her sixth birthday. She walked slowly past the cages of beagles and corgis. Her mother steered her past the cairn terrier puppy, who was licking himself in a manner that she thought was inappropriate. Dorothy stopped to look at a six-month-old female collie. It was love at first sight. Dorothy named her Lassie.
Dorothy’s mother baked a birthday cake while her daughter and puppy played outside. Dorothy’s father went into the garage to inflate helium balloons for his daughter’s party. As he prepared to fill the first balloon, Lassie burst into the garage, knocked him down, and started barking loudly.
“What’s that, Lassie? This isn’t the helium tank? This is a propane tank? The helium tank is over there?”
Lassie, Dorothy, and her parents lived happily ever after.
Another young family arrived at the dog pound moments after Dorothy and her parents left. The boy walked slowly past the cages of beagles and corgis and stopped to look at a cairn terrier puppy. It was love at first sight. He named the dog Toto.
Timmy and Toto were inseparable. One day, Timmy fell down a well. Toto could hear Timmy’s cries. He stayed by the well and whimpered in distress for a while, but then he was distracted by a squirrel. Timmy’s body was never recovered.