In with the Old

Standard

By ItsLassieTime (Self; from item in my collections) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This short story is from my collection, Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Odditiesavailable for free. Seems appropriate for this time of year!

Happy New Year, all!

In with the Old

“It’s nothing personal,” she said as kindly as she could muster, “it’s just time.”

“But I’m not nearly as used up as they said I would be,” the other one said, “not nearly at all. I’m not wrinkly, or old – I’m kind of in prime time.” She gave herself an once-over, careful not to break her bond with the contraption behind her.

“Unfortunately, we really need the machine.” She sighed and tapped her pen on her clipboard. “We only have a few more hours.”

“We?” said the woman in the machine. “We only have a few more hours? You’re going to install that thing,” she gestured with her head toward the giggling baby making faces at the man in the white coat at the other end of the room, “and go on with your routine. You think don’t have it down by now? Daily dial turnings, just one click. Then you, with that pretend-serious look, yanking that lever. You think I didn’t notice you enjoy those lever pulls? Well I did. And you do.”

“Now come on, Wanda, there’s no need to be this way. You can go out with dignity.” She shot a look across the room to her coworker. He was too enthralled with the baby to get her message for a little help.

“What am I supposed to do now? I was huge, I was everything.”

“You’re sounding like a bad movie.”

“They don’t tell you what you’re supposed to do when it’s over.” She relaxed her grip on the copper handles inside her chamber, her visible gears going slightly slack down her arm toward her shoulder, the teeth just a bit looser. The worker took that as a good sign. She quickly tamped down her encouragement, in case Wanda saw.

“There are always retrospectives,” the woman said. “You know, ‘Best ofs.’ And there’s still plenty to do in the first few months, while people are getting adjusted. You know, rent checks, 18-month calendars, that kind of thing.”

“And then what?” said Wanda. “Then what happens? Where do I go? What do I do?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” the woman said, finally able to return to her script. “You see, we have this lovely facility, all of you go there, you know, when you’re finished. Here,” she slid a glossy folded paper from beneath the clip of her board and held it toward Wanda. “There’s even a brochure.”

The pictures were bright and multicolored, with others sitting and laughing, eating, strolling by the water, the patina of their clockwork innards glinting warmly in the setting sun. It didn’t look too bad. She nearly let go of the handle to take the brochure, to open it, to see what kind of crafts there were, as promised on the cover, when she remembered.

“No,” she said.

“Wanda,” said the woman, her tone sharpening, gaining hardness around the edges, “I’m afraid you haven’t got a choice. It’s time.”

She shook her head as much as the chamber allowed, which wasn’t much. “I’m not going.”

“But what are we supposed to do with him?” She pointed her pen at the baby, who turned, stared at them and burst into a full beam, his tiny gears engaging as he reached his arms toward Wanda. “It’s his turn now. Don’t you want to give him his turn?”

Wanda closed her eyes. It wasn’t fair, she thought. It went by so quickly, her lifetime of usefulness, her purpose, and now she was supposed to retire off with the rest of them, with some anonymous body of water and a dining hall and crafts. Though crafts are nice. But still, this was her machine, it was hers.

The worker had moved away, but she could hear her talking softly, her sentences interspersed with the cluck of her two-way handheld.

“No, no, I’m telling you it didn’t work.” Something unintelligible garbled through from the other side. “No. Clamped on, completely. Like a vice.” Again, soft electronic murmuring. “It’s like Oh-Three all over again.” More garble. “What? She can’t hear me. I’m away from the chamber.” Indistinct chatter. “Fine, fine, Trinity. Like Trinity all over again.” She waited for the response. “That would probably be best.” After a long interlude of murmur, the handheld fell silent.

“Umm, Wanda?” said the worker several minutes later, the ice in her voice retreating. “I’d like you to meet someone.”

“Not interested,” she said, her eyes still closed. She knew the truth, the worker had practically said so herself, with the conversation she thought Wanda couldn’t hear. She was only a number to those people. Oh-Three indeed. “What do you call me when you’re out of the lab?” she said, her eyes still completely shut. “When you’re talking to your buddy over there at lunch or wherever it is you go?”

“Wanda,” the woman said, her discomfort obvious even to Wanda and her closed eyes.

“What do you call me? One-One?”

“Wanda, really, there’s someone here you should meet-”

“Or Eleven? Do you call me Eleven? A number to you, that’s what I am after all this time.”

“I thought she couldn’t hear,” she said to someone, though Wanda wasn’t going to bother to open her eyes to see who it was. “I swear, I wouldn’t have used the technical–”

“Technical?” said another voice, a new voice, a male voice. “Technical? Really? Is that how you’re describing it?”

“Well-”

“Her name is Wanda, you know,” he said, his tone both relaxed and oddly engaging despite the rebuke. Wanda couldn’t help herself, she opened her eyes a crack.

“I’m Oden,” he said with a half-smile. “I’d shake your hand, but I understand your position. Obviously,” he said. His gears were slightly rainbowed with a healthy dose of age. Wanda thought they made him look distinguished.

“Oden,” she said. “So I?”

“Replaced me, yes.” He took a step toward the chamber, careful to keep a distance. “Flip of the switch and it was me in there. And you over there,” he said, and smiled at the baby, a real smile, not a put-on one.

“What did you do?”

“I went,” he said. “It was time. It’s how it works, you know.”

“I know,” she said, looking at her feet, so comfortable in the only spot they’d ever known. She glanced up and met his gaze. “I know,” she said again.

“The place really looks like the brochure,” he said, offering her his hand to help her to step out. She considered it, but didn’t lessen her grip on the handle.

“What about the crafts?”

He took the hand he’d been holding out and dug into his pocket, his gears gliding smoothly along. He pulled out a wallet. “I made this,” he said. “Stitched it myself.” She took in the uneven stitches and frowned. “I’m not a very good crafter,” he added quickly, “but they are fun to try.”

“Hmm,” said Wanda. She glanced at the worker who looked at the clock on the wall and back at Wanda, her face full of cautious hope. Oden set out his hand again.

“The sunsets are every bit as pretty,” he said, “and the best part is there are no more dials, no more levers. No more chamber.”

“But I like the chamber,” she said, scooting back to be further back within it.

“You like the chamber,” he said, “because all you know is the chamber. Take a leap.”

“No, no,” said the worker, “that’s him.” She pointed at the baby.

“You understand you’re not helping the situation?” Oden asked her.

“I do, yes, realize that now.”

“So what do you say, Wanda?”

She gave her chamber and the lab a final look over. She could probably make a better wallet. She could certainly make a better wallet. Maybe they’ll have pottery. Slowly, she released first her right hand and then her left, and placed it in Oden’s outstretched palm. The machine beeped behind her while the worker anxiously watched the clock, the man with the baby leaning, ready to place him.

She stepped out of the machine.

The woman grasped a crank on the side of the box and turned it furiously so that the chamber got smaller and smaller and the arms shorter and shorter. The man, watching the clock rather than her or the baby, placed the baby where she had been moments before but where she would never fit now. The baby giggled.

Without looking back, Wanda took Oden’s arm, and together, they headed toward the door. They reached it and disappeared into the flash of sudden white light.

The worker leaned against the machine, her hands shaking. “Happy New Year, everyone,” she said weakly.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

#AtoZChallenge: Jane Storegoer and the Cone of Evil

Standard

skull icecream colorized yellow pinkNOTE: This series started as an A to Z Blogging Challenge post (V for Villain) last year, and morphed into an entire saga! Catch the rest of the posts here. They start from the bottom.

Couldn’t resist bringing Jane to you for J!

You can’t have a story without conflict. I mean, I guess you could, but I’m not sure how far it would go or how interesting it would be. Let’s try it:

Jane went to the store. Jane dug an ice cream cone out of the deepest corner of the chest freezer, loosening the ice around it to pry it out. Jane paid for the ice cream cone, got in her car, and drove home.

Whew. I don’t know about you, but that had me on the edge of my seat. So how do you get conflict?

Add a villain:

Jane went to the store. Jane dug an ice cream cone out of the deepest corner of the freezer, loosening the ice around it to pry it out.

“How dare you disturb my frozen rest!” the ice cream cone bellowed, shooting a barrage of sprinkles at Jane. She felt herself growing cold. “I curse you, I curse you, Jane Storegoer, and all of your descendants. My expiration date, long since past, earned me eternal freezitude, and you have defrosted it.”

Jane tried to loosen her grip on the cone, but like a tongue on a cold fence pole, her hand stayed put. The shelves around her wavered and dissolved into a crystal white, extending far beyond her sight and high above her. The ice cream cone grew and grew until it towered, glaring down at her with its peanut eyes. Walled in on all sides, ice clumped like boulders along the vertical expanse, she felt a smooth surface beneath her feet. It gave slightly.

“Where are we?” she said. She bent, brushing the fallen ice beneath her shoes. Was that…an Amy’s frozen Breakfast Scramble box? “Is this the freezer? Am I in the freezer?”

“Mwaahhh haaaa haaa,” laughed the ice cream cone evilly.

“But if I’m in the freezer, how can you curse my descendants? I don’t have any, unless you count my parakeet. You wouldn’t count a parakeet, would you? I think there’s something wrong with this plan here.”

“Mwaahhh haaaa haaa,” said the ice cream cone again, mainly for emphasis.

***

So I think we can all agree I’m having a weird morning (Update: Still true. I must have a lot of weird mornings). That aside, without an antagonist, your protagonist has nothing to do. Enter the villain. In this case, an ice cream cone. And here’s the thing about villains: they need to have their own agendas.

Villains need to be as complex as heroes. They need to have a why; that they’re just plain evil is as unsatisfying in fiction as it is in life. Our ice cream cone just wants to rest.

Or does it?

 

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

 

 

 

The Continuing Adventures of Jane Storegoer and the Cone of Evil: Part 8

Standard

freezer

(Jane’s story so far.)

Looking over the right angle of her shoulder, Iris used an asparagus spear to prop open the flap.

“Go go go,” she said, watching as the Grand Fermenter finally glopped enough of himself back together to get back on his bottom tofu square.

She sent Barry skittering, cone first, through the rectangular opening, ice cream scraping off top and bottom.

“Hey! Easy,” said Barry as it disappeared through the flap.

“Now you,” Iris told Jane as the Grand Fermenter and the other Tofurati lurched toward them like tofu zombies, leaving wet crumbs in their wake.

Jane eyed the opening and then Iris, whose pimentos were looking a lot less menacing. “What about you?”

“Don’t worry about me,” she said. “I’ll be fine. You may not be.”

Jane dropped onto her front side, pushing herself through the slot. Halfway through, she stopped. “Thanks,” she said, as the Fermenter closed in on Iris. “Watch out!”

“Don’t mention it,” said Iris, and keeping those pimentos exactly where they were, she slammed a soggy elbow into the area on the Grand Fermenter that is commonly a nose.

Slithering through, and now adding some melted ice cream to her coating of stickiness, Jane pushed herself out of the box and into the light beyond.

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, and when they did, she gasped.

***

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

 

 

The Continuing Adventures of Jane Storegoer and the Cone of Evil: Part 7

Standard

freezer(The story thus far) I know, I know, I am very off schedule right now! It was a strange week. But please enjoy Part 7 of Jane Storegoer. I kind of like her on Friday. What do you think?

***

“Don’t move,” whispered a damp voice just above her ear. It was Iris, the one with the pimento eyes.

“Let go of me,” said Jane, struggling against the bouncy sauciness surrounding her.

“Seriously, don’t move,” Iris said.

“Excellent.” The Grand Fermenter glopped close enough to Jane for her to see the flecks of pepper in his coating. “Now, Iris, take her to the Composter.”

“The Composter?” said Barry, its voice muffled a bit by the upside-down position, “that doesn’t sound good.”

“And take that monstrosity as well,” the Grand Fermenter said, waving in Barry’s general direction. “As it melts, it will really help pack everything down.”

“As it MELTS?!” said Barry. “I’m not OK with that!”

“Stop squirming!” Iris said, gripping Jane by each arm and depositing a glistening, oily layer. “Stay exactly where you are.”

“I don’t know what you think you’re trying to do–” is as far as Jane got before Iris bounded off of the bottom of the box, and horizontal, knocked the Grand Fermenter sideways. She spun, using Jane as the center pole, gliding smoothly over the sauce as her bottom tofu square bonked each of the other Tofurati, sending them sprawling and chunks of tofu flying.

With the last leg of her circular rotation, she bumped Barry right at the tip of its cone, sending Barry twirling upward, head over end, and back down again, perfectly balanced once more.

“Iris!” roared the Grand Fermenter, trying to reclaim his scrambled bits.

“Hurry,” said Iris. We’ve got to get out of here now.” She ushered Jane and Barry toward the back of the box, where a bar of faint light flickered under the flap.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

The Continuing Story of Jane Storegoer and the Cone of Evil: Part 5

Standard

freezer(Parts 1-4; they start from the bottom!)

“Vegania?” Barry said, a hint of moisture gathering along his sprinkles.

“Yes,” said the Grand Fermenter.

“But Vegania is far lower, under the Permafrostbitten Layer of Perpetual Freezerburn.” Barry’s voice quavered with more than the cold.

“Vegania has grown and conquered many lands, including The Space of High Turnover.”

“What the heck is a Vegania?” Trying to get the sauce off of her hands, Jane ran her hand along the cardboard below her. Until, like some kind of organic soy-based superglue, the thinned stickiness stopped her hand dead. She was stuck.

“Ignorance. Such shocking ignorance.” The Grand Fermenter wiggled his spear in Jane’s direction. “But little can be expected from one so reeking of…animal-based products.

Jane tried twisting her hand to loosen it, but it stayed put. She made a mental note to check out the box so she could use the sauce for her next glue-based emergency.

“Look here, Grand Fermenter. There hasn’t been any official notice about your kind encroaching–”

“Silence, dairy-based creature!” He blobbed his way closer. “Surround her! You will be taken to the Cruciferous Florets where you will be sentenced for having the audacity to wear those shoes.”

Jane put a little shoulder and arm into it, but still couldn’t pry her hand from the cardboard. “These are synthetic,” she said.

“I know,” said the Grand Fermenter. “They’re just awful.”

“Gotta agree there,” said Barry.

“Seriously, Barry, what is your problem?” Shifting all of her weight to the side, Jane tried to yank her palm away from the floor.

“That you were trying to eat me, maybe?” The ice cream topper on Barry’s cone cocked itself to the side as it raised a single cookie crumb eyebrow.

“You were going to eat him? EAT him?! A sentient dairy creature?” The Grand Fermenter’s olive eyes folded a fraction, giving the effect of them narrowing. He straightened his stovepipe hat with indignation, leaving it more askew.

“In my defense, I had no idea of that at the time.”

“Advance!” the Grand Fermenter jabbed the spear upward, as upward as possible as his semi-solid fingers tried to control it. The other Tofurati glopped their way to Jane, their spears more or less pointed at her, some more, some less.

“Well, this didn’t turn out the way I expected,” said Barry, making sure it could see the goings on without the danger of being in asparagus’ reach.

As they got near enough for her to smell the hint of chili in their sauce sheen, Jane, with one final, massive pull, heard a slow rip. Her hand was up, yes, but now attached to a jagged blade of cardboard.

She looked at the approaching Tofurati, looked at her hand, and smiled.

In or near Chicago? Check out our sketch comedy revue, Me Inside Me Presents: “Neurotrash.” Saturdays at 10 pm, May 7, 14, 21 & 28 in Donny’s Skybox Theater. Tickets $13; Students $11 SCTC Students: $7  Click here for tickets.

Want to know what happens to Jane Storegoer before everyone else? Sign up for my spamless newsletter, and get new episodes in your inbox on Fridays!

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 

 

 

Part 3 of Jane Storegoer, Her Future and A to Z Wrap-Up

Standard

freezerThe Jane Storegoer announcement and latest installment below, but first a big thanks to everyone who has made this month so amazingly fun! And then huge apologies for being such a bad blogger this weekend, our sketch comedy show opens Saturday night, and I am the prop person. And I am not quite finished with all the props. Yikes.

So I spent my weekend mostly on the floor with curled bits of paper around me, hacking at things with scissors. All in all, a pretty good weekend.

But not a lot of visiting, or even saying hello. So hello! I’ll be commenting up a storm (or a minor cloudburst) as soon as I’ve posted.

I pretty much did my reflections post for W, but, as a whole, I’ve found this A-to-Z Challenge particularly rewarding. Something clicked for me this year, and rather than feeling the pressure of posting, I enjoyed the whirlwind ride of new, fun places and people to see.

So congrats to all of us for making it through! It was a ridiculously fast, crazy month!

And now on to Jane Storegoer.

Jane Storegoer lives on! Possibly, if she makes out of her current jam. Or box, as the case may be. Every Monday, there will be a new episode in Jane’s adventure. And here’s the fun bit: I’ll be sending out the new stories on Fridays in my newsletter, so they will come to you if you sign up!

Part 3 of The Continuing Story of Jane Storegoer and the Cone of Evil. 

(Parts 1 & 2)

How deep is this box? thought Jane, bracing herself for the impact. And then there it was, but before she could prepare for certain smashing, the damp cardboard stretched downward as effortlessly as a trapeze net. She sprang up again, back toward the hole in the box, now filled with the ice cream cone’s face.

“Mwaahhh haaaa haaa,” the ice cream cone said, little bits of ice cream showering down, along with a sprinkle or two.

Jane hit her rebounding peak and went down again, this time more relaxed. She’d always loved a good trampoline.

“I don’t think you’re using that laugh right,” she said, striking a pose as she bounced again. She wondered if she could get a little higher, maybe, if she jumped. All the activity was warming her up, at least.

She connected with the cardboard, this time bending as far as she could, and shot up, fast. The ice cream cone’s peanut eyes widened as she came at it, and it tilted back on its waffle apex just as her head and right shoulder made it through the ragged opening in the box top.

“You better move, Ice Cream Cone!” said Jane, compacting herself for her next recoil. That Trampolinercize was really paying off.

“My name is Barry!” it said, hopping back on its cone tip as this time, she nearly got her elbows through.

“Berry?” she said, her hair the last thing to go through the hole on the way back down.

“No, Barry. BA-rry.”

“Still hearing Berry.” She smiled as she descended. She knew what it said, but she couldn’t resist that growing annoyance. This time should get her back up and out.

Thunk.

“Holy ouch,” she yelled, when she managed to get her breath back. She lay sprawled on the suddenly ungiving bottom of the box, her cheek resting in a puddle of…something. It smelled vinegary and a little spicy. Tall, lumpy white creatures surrounded her, each carrying a long, green weapon resting where their shoulders would be.

“We are the Tofurati,” said one of the creatures. “Explain yourself.”

***

Want to know what happens to Jane Storegoer before everyone else? Sign up for my spamless newsletter, and get new episodes in your inbox on Fridays!

In or near Chicago? Check out our sketch comedy revue, “Me Inside Me Presents: Neurotrash.” Saturdays at 10 pm, May 7, 14, 21 & 28. Click here for tickets.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 

Villainous V

Standard

skull icecream colorized yellow pinkYou can’t have a story without conflict. I mean, I guess you could, but I’m not sure how far it would go or how interesting it would be. Let’s try it:

Jane went to the store. Jane dug an ice cream cone out of the deepest corner of the chest freezer, loosening the ice around it to pry it out. Jane paid for the ice cream cone, got in her car, and drove home.

Whew. I don’t know about you, but that had me on the edge of my seat. So how do you get conflict?

Add a villain:

Jane went to the store. Jane dug an ice cream cone out of the deepest corner of the freezer, loosening the ice around it to pry it out.

“How dare you disturb my frozen rest!” the ice cream cone bellowed, shooting a barrage of sprinkles at Jane. She felt herself growing cold. “I curse you, I curse you, Jane Storegoer, and all of your descendants. My expiration date, long since past, earned me eternal freezitude, and you have defrosted it.”

Jane tried to loosen her grip on the cone, but like a tongue on a cold fence pole, her hand stayed put. The shelves around her wavered and dissolved into a crystal white, extending far beyond her sight above her. The ice cream cone grew and grew until it towered, glaring down at her with its peanut eyes. Walled in on all sides, ice clumped like boulders along the vertical expanse, she felt a smooth surface beneath her feet. It gave slightly.

“Where are we?” she said. She bent, brushing the fallen ice beneath her shoes. Was that…an Amy’s frozen Breakfast Scramble box? “Is this the freezer? Am I in the freezer?”

“Mwaahhh haaaa haaa,” laughed the ice cream cone evilly.

“But if I’m in the freezer, how can you curse my descendants? I don’t have any, unless you count my parakeet. You wouldn’t count a parakeet, would you? I think there’s something wrong with this plan here.”

“Mwaahhh haaaa haaa,” said the ice cream cone again, mainly for emphasis.

***

So I think we can all agree I’m having a weird morning. That aside, without an antagonist, your protagonist has nothing to do. Enter the villain. In this case, an ice cream cone. And here’s the thing about villains: they need to have their own agendas.

Villains need to be as complex as heroes. They need to have a why; that they’re just plain evil is as unsatisfying in fiction as it is in life. Our ice cream cone just wants to rest.

Or does it?

Big news! Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) is $0.99 for a limited time!

In or near Chicago? Check out our sketch comedy revue, “Me Inside Me Presents: Neurotrash.” Saturdays at 10 pm, May 7, 14, 21 & 28. Click here for tickets.

Check out my other full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!