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Honestly, detective, this is all just a big misunderstanding. I tried to explain the situation to the officer on the scene, but if you want me to go over it again, I guess I have no choice.
It was after dark and the pool was completely deserted -- I can see it from my bedroom window -- so I decided to take a late-night swim while I could have it all to myself. I got into my bathing suit, grabbed a towel, slipped on a pair of flip-flops and headed over there. I don't know how long I was in the water because I didn't take my watch with me, but after a while I heard a siren and saw blue and red lights playing on the buildings in the courtyard around me. I figured there must have been a disturbance somewhere in the complex but didn't realize that disturbance was me until the uniformed policeman rounded the corner of the rental office and opened the gate to the pool area. Dumbfounded, I watched him as he threaded his way between the deck chairs down to the deep end, where I was treading water.
"Is there a problem, officer?"
"Yes, I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the pool."
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As I was driving to work this morning, I found myself behind a pair of identical yellow trucks. They looked like moving trucks, but with an opening in the back and a tailgate like on a pickup. I couldn't see inside, so I had no idea what they were transporting, but the sign on the tailgate of the one directly in front of me caught my eye, which was unusual because I normally don't concern myself with messages slapped on the backs of trucks. For the most part, trucks either want you to tell them how they're being driven or they want you to become a truck driver yourself. Occasionally you'll find one that wants to be washed. This one was different, though. It had a sign that simply read, "FREE WOOD CHIPS."

I drove behind the truck for a couple of miles, which gave me plenty of time to contemplate what that might mean. By the time it turned off the road (along with its twin, which I noticed didn't have a "FREE WOOD CHIPS" sign on it), I had come to the only conclusion possible: Wood Chips was either the name of a political prisoner like Mumia or a righteous cause like Tibet. The first thing I did when I arrived at work was to flip a coin to determine which one it was. The quarter came up heads, so that meant Wood Chips was a political prisoner. I decided to find out everything I could about him and do whatever I could to help free him.

Shockingly, there was precious little information about Mr. Chips to be found on the Internet. I figured if he was important enough to have a professional-looking sign made up about him, then there would be at least one web site devoted to his cause. After several hours of searching, though, I couldn't even find out where he was incarcerated or on what trumped-up charges he was being held. Was he an accused cop-killer? Was he some sort of radical left over from the Sixties? I had no way of knowing. I did, however, learn more about mulching than I previously imagined -- not that I ever spent much time thinking about mulching before today.

Eventually I had to give up on my impromptu research project -- my work was piling up and my supervisor was none too pleased to find me poring over websites dedicated to tree mulchers -- but I vowed that one day I would uncover the identity of the mysterious Wood Chips and very soon thereafter he would be free. Yes, indeed, he would be free.

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Well, naturally, the act has evolved over the years. For business reasons, mainly. I mean, you've gotta change with the times or the crowds... well, the crowds go elsewhere. And in a town like this, there's plenty of elsewhere for them to go, if you get my drift. So you've gotta keep adding new gimmicks to the act, new twists, new cast members. When I started, it was just me. That was enough for 'em in the beginning. Hell, half the act was Q&A with the audience. Now we've got, what, forty people in the cast -- dancers, backup singers, et cetera. Not to mention the pyrotechnics, the lighting. It's quite a production now. A circus. And, of course, all of this costs money. I should know that better than anyone, since it comes outta MY bottom line. But my manager, Gary, keeps giving me the old "spend money to make money" routine.

Where is that bastard, anyway? He's never around when I need him. I'm the Invisible Man, and he's the Invisible Manager. Heh. Probably off snorting more of my money up that big schnoz of his. Don't print that.

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"Since when is it a crime to be invisible?"

So said the sullen suspect seated across from Detective Marino in the precinct's main interrogation room. Marino was a 20-year veteran of the force, so he was used to hard cases, but nothing in his experience had prepared him for confronting an empty prison jumpsuit. At least the suspect was in handcuffs, which theoretically prevented him from disrobing and getting up to any mischief, but it was still disconcerting that they were suspended in the air in front of seemingly vacant shirtsleeves.

"Umm, well, it's not a crime in and of itself," Marino began. The suspect didn't let him finish.

"So if it's not a crime, why are you holding me?" he hissed. "What's the charge?"

"That... is what we're here to figure out."

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ELLETTSVILLE, IN--While driving through the neighboring town of Bloomington Tuesday afternoon, Philip Jensen of Ellettsville had the kind of close call that you don't want to have when you're behind the wheel.

"It was harrowing," said a visibly shaken Jensen, 45. "Here it is the following morning and I'm still jittery."

Jensen recounted his ordeal at a press conference he called Wednesday morning at his office. Refusing to answer any questions, he instead read from a prepared statement.

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This is the story of Paul Sylvania. Paul lives alone in a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan, located a few blocks north of Columbia University on the Upper West Side. He spends his days nearby behind a counter at "Justin's Deli & More" making omelets, toasting bagels and pouring coffee for the typical ungrateful throng of New Yorkers that grab-and-go as they dash off to their own versions of a repetitive day.

His mornings never fail to start off the same way. He wakes up at 5:45am, takes a shower, gets dressed in a pair of dark slacks and a white button down shirt, then eats a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, all while the morning news is heard in the background being spit out by the local talking heads. After he brushes his teeth, he heads out the door to the establishment he has worked at for the last seven years.

On this Monday morning, he enters the deli and does one last thing for himself as part of his morning ritual; he opens his wallet to take one dollar bill out and places it on the counter near the New York Lottery machine. Justin Koehler, the owner, looks up at Paul and says, "feeling lucky today, Sylvania?" Paul responds with a sigh, "a dollar and a dream, right?" Paul enviously looks up at all the faded lottery tickets exclaiming the previous winners' earnings dangling above the lotto machine. While their intention is to encourage and excite future customers, Paul can only see it as a fat middle finger to him.

After getting his ticket, Paul carefully folds it into fours and places it in his wallet sandwiched between two twenty dollar bills. He then heads off to the grill to put on his apron.

Now, you might expect Mr. Sylvania to proceed through his day full of regret and boredom about his life. I would agree with that assumption, but that's where we would be wrong. Why wouldn't he be, right? He is exhausted by the end of every day and heads home with a consistent frown on his face and the smell of bacon on his shirt. For some reason, as soon as Paul puts that ticket in his wallet, between the two twenties, he comes alive. It's as if someone injected a large amount of caffeine in his system. Paul becomes an entertainer, occasionally bringing smiles to the regulars as he excitedly echoes their breakfast orders through a musical yell, "one scrambled egg white omelet with a side of turkey bacon coming right up" The people that are lined up to order their breakfast of choice begin to wonder how he will announce their order.

How did this happen? What are we missing in this story? Does he think he has a winning lottery ticket in his back pocket? We need to keep watching this man to find out more...

Here we are in his apartment on Tuesday morning, and we see a cereal bowl with a couple of remaining mushy cheerios making it's way around the milky shallow remains of Paul's breakfast. As we look up, we get a glimpse of him apathetically heading toward the door. As we follow Paul, he seems to be the same as he was yesterday morning. He enters the deli, and again takes out a dollar. We see a similar conversation with his boss, and again the folding of the ticket and the procession over to the grill to get his apron on and get to work. As he begins to head over to his work station, we see him skip. Yes, skip! Does he think he won the lottery again? Is this man a bit slow?


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It was halfway through his colonoscopy when Mercer St. Stephens came to a realization that was to affect the entire course of his credit rating. Having been administered only a mild, local anesthetic, Mercer was miserably awake -- if not exactly alert -- for the procedure and distractedly watched the monitor as a fiber-optic camera plumbed the cavernous depths of his bowels. At that moment, Dr. Mark Crenshaw was studying the monitor and talking softly into a headset mic as he worked the remote control.

"Uh, excuse me, Doc," said Mercer. "What are you doing? Who are you talking to on that thing?"

"What, this? I'm recording the DVD commentary," replied Dr. Crenshaw, as if the answer were obvious.

"DVD commentary?"

"Sure. I got the idea from that Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life. You seen it?"

"Uh, once maybe, a long time ago," Mercer half-fibbed. He didn't think he'd seen it, but he didn't want to come off as culturally illiterate.

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If he ever got out of this alive, Peter swore he'd never mistake a mausoleum for a pet shop again. He also swore he'd never huff paint behind the hardware store where he worked and then take a shortcut through the cemetery on his way home again. Finally he swore, bitterly and with much vehemence, at himself for getting into this situation in the first place. Clearly he was just in a swearing mood.

As he crouched behind a tombstone, he heard the moans and cries of his pursuers as they combed the graveyard looking for him.

"Fools! Idiots!" cried one in a thick Romanian accent. "How hard is it to find one frightened boy?"

Frightened? Boy? The words alone made Peter's blood boil. Okay, maybe he was a little scared, but he was no boy. Would a mere boy blunder his way into a night of terror involving the ranks of the undead, who were even now intent on making him one of them? Actually, yes, he would. But it would take a man to get him out of it.

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The history books will forever record the hours between 2:00 and 3:30 on May 28, 1983, as the Mid-Afternoon of Morris Yakowitz. It was the Saturday before Memorial Day, which meant Morris was staring down the barrel of a Three-Day Weekend, which were never welcome occurrences in the Yakowitz household. Granted, "household" is a fancy word for the one-bedroom apartment he lived in by himself, far from the home where he grew up, but it will have to do.

Morris hated three-day weekends with a passion people normally reserved for rival sports teams. Being virtually friendless and almost perversely unadventurous, he had a hard enough time filling run-of-the-mill two-day weekends with activities. Adding an extra day to the itinerary (as the company where he worked did) just seemed to make it an insurmountable challenge. If he had been born 20 years later and had access to the internet, maybe his situation would have been different, but stuck as he was in 1983, he simply wasn't up to it.

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Martin had grown pretty cavalier about sticking his hand down his pants in public. He wore the same pair of loose-fitting blue sweats everywhere he went, and if he got the urge to slip his fingers under under the elastic waistband he just did it. Wherever, whenever. He didn't care much about what other people thought anymore. If they were offended, Martin's philosophy was: screw 'em. They could look away if they wanted to. Concepts like "public" and "private" held very little meaning for him these days. Hygiene and grooming were no longer top priorities for him either, especially since he'd quit his job and decided to live off his savings. He pretty much let his hair and nails do as they pleased, occasionally trimming his bangs with a pair of kitchen shears when the hair got in his eyes. Martin bathed no more frequently than once a week, and his toothpaste and toothbrush sat neglected in his filthy bathroom. His diet now consisted almost entirely of Orange Crush and Hostess snack cakes, though he would occasionally splurge and get himself an order of chili cheese fries. His days were aimless and formless, consisting mainly of long naps, eating binges, marathon viewing sessions of cartoons and pornography, and occasional "field trips" into town where he would mainly wander around and look at things.

Martin was the happiest man on earth.

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Call me Ishmael.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

There once was a man from Nantucket.

Recognize these phrases? Certainly you do, for these are the opening lines to some of the greatest works of literature in the English language. It is in the tradition of these immortal opening salvos that Mr. Clark and I present our latest project, 12 Surefire Story Starters. Willkommen! Bienvenue!

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"Yes, that really is my name."

"It's spelled exactly how you think it is."

"There are probably more of us out there than you would expect."

"Yes, I do know how that sounds."

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My fellow citizens of the world, I'm sure you're familiar with a stereophonic recording entitled "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds. It's just one of those songs you'll hear many times during your lifetime without even trying to. You don't have to purposefully seek out "Turn, Turn, Turn" the way you would, say, something by Moby Grape. The Byrds song will find you eventually, if not on an oldies radio station then on a rerun of The Wonder Years or a PBS documentary about hippies. If you haven't heard it in a while, just watch late night cable TV and flip through the channels until you find one of those cheeseball half-hour infomercials where they're trying to sell you 392 All-Time Classics From the Sixties As Performed By The Original Artists. (Call now! Operators are standing by! No COD please!) You'll have to imagine the sorta mopey, Pete Seeger-penned (by way of Ecclesiastes) folk-rock ditty with its jangly guitars and wistful lyrics about the passage of time playing in the background as I weepily reflect on the end of Five Monstrous Obstructions.

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The Hubert J. Cromsby Institute for the Advancement of Quantum Botany, Las Calaveras, NM
April 21, 1975 - 8:04 a.m.

And hello to you, Dr. Ackerman! Good to finally meet you! Can I call you Jerry? Super. And please, do call me Dr. Mandelbrot. Haw, haw! Just pullin' your leg there, Jer. No, seriously, "Wayne" will do just fine. We're all friends here. Well, Jerry, let me show you around the place and introduce you to some of the boys you'll be working with here at Cromsby. How's Las Calaveras been treating you, by the by? Settling in to your new home all right? Oh? Well, I sure as heck am sorry to hear that, Jer. My wife was the same way when we first moved out here. But she got used to it, and I'm sure your wife will, too. What's her name, may I ask? What a coincidence. My grandfather's name was Miriam. Haw, haw! But really, Jer, this place isn't too bad once you get used to the heat. The Devil's Crawlspace, my wife Dolores calls it. There's not a whole heck of a lot to do in town -- a few restaurants, coupla stores. Delores thought she'd go stir crazy. But I tell ya, Jer, at night Las Calaveras has a beauty all her own. It's the sky, Jer -- that great big beautiful open sky fulla stars. Makes a person feel, I dunno, free I guess is the word. And here's the best part, Jer: no lawn to mow! Am I right? Haw, haw! The kids took to this place right away. Said it reminded 'em of those old Road Runner cartoons, which I guess it does at that. How you fixed in the offspring department there, Jer? Got two m'self -- Randy's nine and Courtney's eleven. How 'bout you? No? Some particular reason? Well, I guess you're right, Jer. It's not my place to pry. But if it's a medical thing, Jer, I know a coupla doctors who would be glad to... Okay, Jer, I'll lay off. Guess I'm always tryin' to stick my nose in where it doesn't belong. But, heck, that's why we became scientists, huh? Delores says a scientist is just a busybody with a microscope! A regular Nosy Joe, that's me. Haw, haw!

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"How would you like to see one of the most stunning sights on Earth?"

That was the first thing the explorer said to me when he greeted me at the door to his Las Vegas hotel room. I knew right away that he was an explorer because he was wearing khakis and a pith helmet. My escort agency hadn't told me that he would be one of those clients, but I was used to guys who liked to dress up, so I thought nothing of it. So what if this fella wanted to play the great explorer? I've had stranger johns.

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Invasion going precisely as planned and on schedule. Entire population of planet now enslaved and subjugated to the will of the robots. All able-bodied slaves have been put to work in factories making robots for next invasion wave. All non-able-bodied slaves -- including the very young and the elderly -- have been put to death. Once the planet's resources have been used up, all surviving slaves will be put to death. Cannot estimate how long that will be at this time.

Will transmit again in six Earth days. End transmission.


Six weeks. That's how long the robot had been on Earth. (The robot week was only six days long because the Robot God, having no need of it, had never rested.) Six weeks was also how long it had been embedded in the sidewalk in front of the city hall of the small Midwestern town where it had landed. This, it must be said, had not been part of the plan.

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Dateline: Nepal, 2011.

There it sits, perched serenely upon pillows in its lofty mountain temple: the BastardTron 9000, the most sophisticated artificial-intelligence droid ever created. A full decade of research and development, encompassing countless millions of man-hours and (it is whispered) perhaps a trillion dollars, has gone into its production. Scores of programmers, engineers, clerics, philosophers, mathematicians, poets, and noted academics of every discipline have contributed to its final form. The governments of 17 different countries, including the United States, Germany, Russia, and Red China, have lent financial and technical support. Luminaries ranging from Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking to Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil were seen entering the heavily-fortified BastardTron Labs in Stockholm, where the magnificent machine was created, its every stage of development shrouded in secrecy, cloaked in gossip and innuendo.

The purpose of the BastardTron 9000, according to its makers: to be a sort of Cybernetic Superguru for the Information Age, replacing the monks, swamis, fakirs, and holy men of the past. Embedded within the circuits, wires, and gears of this mighty automaton would be housed the sum total of Man's knowledge of his word, the universe, and the very mysteries of life itself, including the endlessly complex dynamics of interpersonal relations. At last, they reasoned, the Seeker of Truth would finally have a place to go to find real answers to life's most perplexing questions.

Unfortunately, the thing turned out to be a complete bastard.

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The kid was a natural. That much was clear, and we all thought those 24-karat pipes of his would be just the thing to take Weems Boland and His Foggy Knights straight to the top. Hell, even I thought so, and I'd been around long enough to've known better.

The name's not really Weems, by the way. It's William. I got the nickname Weems when I was a kid and my sister Gretchen couldn't pronounce my real name. When she said "William," it came out "Weems," and the name just sorta stuck. And in the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should also tell you that "Boland" is short for Bollander. Yeah, I'm a phony. What of it?

But the kid was for real. This was '52, see, and boy singers were in. Julius La Rosa was riding high on the Godfrey show then, and suddenly every band had to have a boy singer. I mean, without a boy singer, you were nowhere, and I mean nowhere. Dame singers couldn't get arrested if they were caught hooking in front of a Lutheran church. We had a dame singer, Loretta something, but we had to cut her loose. A shame, too, because she was a heckuva little thrush and none too bad in the kit, either. I guess all the boys in the band took her for a ride at one time or another, including yours truly. Wonder whatever happened to her?

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It all started -- as things often do among my group of friends -- with a movie. There were about a dozen of us who were all big horror buffs and we tried to see every horror film that came to town regardless of its age, quality or reputation. As a result we saw a lot of garbage -- especially when it came to first-run releases -- but we were also surprised by the occasional creaky classic that crept up on us and genuinely creeped us out. Such was the case when the Val Lewton film festival came to town.

There were some of us who were skeptical -- Mark, for one, couldn't imagine being frightened by any film that had reached what he called "retirement age" -- but we all attended the first night's double feature of Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie anyway. The first was well known to us, even if it was only from the '80s remake, but none of us had ever heard of the second (although the program informed us that both were directed by the same man, Jacques Tourneur). Thanks to the low budgets they had to work with, Lewton and Tourneur had to rely more on atmosphere and the power of suggestion to build tension rather than fancy special effects, but we got plenty caught up in the stories anyway. Well, most of us did.

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You tumble out of bed feeling grubby, as you do every morning when there has been a full moon the night before. You jump in the shower and wash off the dried blood that remains on your hands and face and the mud that is caked on your feet. It must have rained overnight, but you have no memory of it. If you had known about it in advance, you would have thought to put down newspapers.

Feeling fully human once again, you flip on the TV to find out if your nocturnal activities were newsworthy enough to make the morning show. Animal attacks have become so frequent of late that the local news hardly ever mentions them anymore unless the victim is human. While you wait for the news segment at the top of the hour, you get to work scrubbing the muddy paw prints out of the living room rug. Such a bother and an easily preventable one at that.

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Ah, good, sir. You're awake.

No, no, Mr. Risling. You don't have to get out of bed. This won't take but a moment. You will forgive me for entering your room like this, sir, but you didn't answer your phone, and the management wanted me to pass along a few items of interest to you.

You gave us quite a scare last night, of course. What, sir? You don't remember? Certainly, you will remember some of it. Nothing, really? Hmm. You are Mr. Erik J. Risling, correct?

Eh? What's that? You don't even know where you are or how you got here? You are kidding, I trust. No? Well, you could start by looking around the room. That should jog some memories. You, sir, are in room 316 of the Applewood Motor Cove. You see that shattered window and those slashed drapes, sir? Yes, those. You did that, sir. And the bloody footprints on the carpet, too, which Rosa is now diligently attempting to remove. Of course, you will be paying for the replacement and cleaning of these items. Your credit card has already been billed, Mr. Risling. No need to fret.

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Jesus. Fifteen years in the life, and it's come to this.

It's 5:49 in the ay-em, and I'm standing here in the alley behind a seedy strip mall on the ass-end of town, waiting for Devin, a pimply-faced little burnout, to show up with the pint of AB positive he owes me. That little shit better show up if he knows what's good for him. I'm not convinced that he does. If he did, he'd have been here at 5:30 like he said he would. Devin's only redeeming quality is that he works at BloodSource, a blood donation place in this very mall, and can occasionally smuggle out some of the good stuff to sell on the side. Other than that, he's a total loss. Some of the people in the life think it's pretty sweet that I have an "inside man" at a blood bank, but they don't know Devin. This arrangement of ours is many things, and "sweet" is not one of them.

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It was while the great actress was taking a tour of the facility that the truth came out. The truth did not make her particularly happy.

"What do you mean the theater booked us for matinee performances?" she asked -- nay, demanded -- imperiously. "You know very well that I don't do matinees."

It was a Monday night when the theater was dark, so the only people present were the actress, her manager, her booking agent, her personal assistant, her director, her co-star (and current lover) and her understudy. Representing the theater were the owner and his secretary, who naturally felt overwhelmed by the actress's entourage.

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The untimely demise of the late, lamented "Project: Fear Itself" left a hole in my heart which I felt would remain forever unrepaired. In my grief and anguish, I asked the Good Lord: "Where shall I go? What shall I do?" I received no response, which I interpreted as His way of saying, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

But, lo! In His wisdom, He sent to me an angel named Lars von Trier. Specifically, the Archangel von Trier manifested itself unto me through a fascinating documentary entitled De Fem benspænd (distributed domestically as The Five Obstructions), in which the caustic Danish director challenges mentor Jørgen Leth to remake Det perfekte menneske five different times, with a unique "obstruction" each time. For instance, Leth might have to remake Menneske using only sock puppets or while standing on one foot in a pile of creamed corn. Actually, I haven't gotten around to watching The Five Obstructions yet, so I'm a little vague about the specific obstructions, but I have read the back of the DVD sleeve and decided that this film could be the springboard for a Hallowe'en themed project for myself and Mr. Clark.

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COLUMBUS, OH--After waiting as long as possible for his "lazy, good-for-nothing" roommate to buy toilet paper, area resident Joseph Barber, 34, finally broke down and bought a 12-roll pack on Wednesday.

"I'm kind of miffed at Scott, to be perfectly honest," Barber said. "I bought toilet paper the last time we ran out, so it was clearly his turn to do so. We said we'd share the basic necessities 50/50, so I don't see why I'm the one who always has to buy them."

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Dermot had long hair and was fiercely proud of it. So proud, in fact, that he refused to cut it for any reason, even to get a job at the factory like his mother wanted him to.

“Those jobs pay good money,” she told him, “but they won’t hire nobody who has no long hair.”

Seizing his opportunity to be a smartass, Dermot replied, “Ah, so they’ll hire somebody who doesn’t have short hair?”

“No, that’s not what I said.”

“But it is what you didn’t say.”



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Something was standing at the foot of the bed, just staring at him. He knew this despite the fact that he had not opened his eyes. He had heard it creep in while he was lying there, trying to go to sleep. Something had been troubling him and it was preventing him from dropping off, but that was nothing compared to what was troubling him now. A monster in the bedroom almost invariably meant trouble of some kind.

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John pushed the plate away, having reached the point where further food consumption was undesirable. He had eaten everything on the plate except for three hushpuppies, which he didn’t have room for and didn’t feel like making room for. He didn’t want to waste them, but didn’t seem to have much choice in the matter. The first couple had gone down okay, but that was because he had had fish to eat with them. Now the fish were gone and the hushpuppies remained. The bland, virtually tasteless hushpuppies.

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What are you going to do, just sit there and stare at me? Didn’t you notice when you sat down in the driver’s seat that your vehicle had a passenger? What do you expect me to do? Fly away or something? I’m hanging on for dear life here! I’m sure this trip would have been no picnic even if I had stayed under the hood, but I was tired of being cooped up under there. I had to go exploring.

Good God, man, watch the road! Are you trying to get us both killed or something? If you want to see what I am, wait until we reach a stoplight or something. In the meantime, do you think you could slow down a little? I know the posted speed limit is 30 mph, but it’s taking all my strength just to stay curled up in this little ball. You think it’s easy being an insect? You try it sometime.

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What the hell was that thing? He hadn’t noticed it when he sat down in the driver’s seat, but it must have been there. Insects generally didn’t land on vehicles that were in motion – not live ones, anyway. Then again, this one didn’t appear to have any wings. Perhaps it had been hiding under the hood and had chosen an inopportune moment to explore the windshield.

And was it even an insect? Whenever he was able to steal a glance at it he tried to count its legs to see whether it was a spider or not, but that was hard to do with the poor little creature flattened against the glass. He wasn’t even driving that fast, but 30 mph appeared to be enough to keep it immobile.

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It was like that one Volkswagen commercial. You know, the one that reintroduced Trio’s “Da Da Da” to a nation that had forgotten a group called Trio ever existed. There were differences, of course. (If there hadn’t been, I would have said, “It was that one Volkswagen commercial” and been done with it.) For one thing, I was alone, so I had no one to react to (or to react to me). For another, I was on foot, so I didn’t have a car to tool around in. And do I have to mention that my misadventure was not scored by any '80s music whatsoever? (Well, I suppose I could have had a boom box or a Walkman or whatever portable device people use to listen to music nowadays, but I didn’t, so now I have cleared that up.)

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I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the decision was made to take over the office building through bloody insurrection, but once taken it was hard to go back on it.

The proverbial First Shot Fired on Fort Sumter, as it were, was not an actual gunshot, per se, but its reverberations were just as epochal to us. It happened during the lunch hour. The support staff was gathered at the long table in the break room, as was our wont, when one of the senior staff – I don’t even remember which one it was – came in and imperiously declared that we needed to eat somewhere else because they were expecting guests. Now, we in the support staff understand the importance of impressing visiting dignitaries and potential clients, but the lunch hour is the lunch hour. Disturb that sacred ritual at your peril – and that’s exactly what the senior staff was in for. The only question was how much of it and when would it be provoked.

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Christa knew she was going to have a problem the moment she reached the counter. Of course, the fact that she was being called to the counter at all meant there was some sort of problem, but she knew how to handle them. That was her job, after all. For an extra 50 cents an hour, she got to bear the brunt of the irate customers. Some were just bruntier than others. This one looked like he had taken a course in bruntiness.

The customer stood before her, fuming, holding an opened CD in one hand and crumpled receipt in the other. He looked like he was used to getting his way, and was openly contemptuous of anybody who contradicted him. This was not idle speculation on Christa’s part; this was based on three years of handling returns from customers just like him. She steeled herself. She had the impression she was going to need all the steeling she could get.

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I don’t believe you. You break our date even before we have a chance to meet? You seemed pretty eager to get together a week ago when you made the date (yes, that’s right – you made it). I don’t get it, what’s your problem? We exchanged e-mails, we talked on the phone, we had a few IM conversations – I thought we were all ready to go. Now you pull this “I don’t feel like we’re connecting” crap on me? Of course we’re not connecting yet! That’s what we were going to try to do on Saturday!

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They sat across the table from each other, unblinking. The one on the left was glaring at the one on the right, who was glaring right back. They weren’t engaged in a glaring contest (a close cousin of the staring contest, only with more ire), but they might as well have been.

They both sat rigid in their chairs, their hands resting on the table between them. One could imagine the two of them starting a shoving match with it, but neither of them seemed inclined to instigate one. Each appeared to be waiting for the other to make the first move.

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Bobby Ryan was as surprised as anybody when he was named Employee of the Month at the data entry center. He had been on the job for a little over a year and didn’t think he’d distinguished himself too much one way or the other. He showed up on time every day, never called out sick and carried out his duties competently and without complaint. If that was enough to qualify him for Employee of the Month, then so be it.

The perks enjoyed by the Employee of the Month were minor, but Bobby wouldn’t have wanted a whole lot of hoopla anyway. He received a $20 gift card to a local eating establishment and a display with his photo and a brief write-up on the office wall (if they had an in-house newsletter, he might have been interviewed for it, but they didn’t, so he wasn’t), but the most tangible benefit was the use of the Employee of the Month parking space, which was right across from the building’s entrance. The trouble was he never got to park in it.

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What time is it? Five after? Don’t fret; he could just be running late or something. Maybe he’s having a hard time finding parking. I know how difficult it can be around here at this time of day. I even showed up ten minutes early because I didn’t want to risk being late.

At least I know he can’t be lost because he’s the one who picked this place. I don’t even drink coffee, but, as I figured there would be, there’s hot chocolate or fruit juice if I want to go either of those routes. I’ll wait until he shows up to order, though. There’s nothing more pathetic than sitting in a coffee shop and drinking hot chocolate by yourself – if you don’t have a laptop, that is. I suppose I could have brought mine, but frankly I didn’t think I’d need to.

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Even as he took the first bite of his sandwich, Earl knew he was making a phenomenally stupid mistake. It was the latest in a string of mistakes he had made in the last few days and the one that was likely to cause him the most immediate grief.

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“Man, are my feet killing me.”

That’s what Ronald Dayton said as he sat down on a handy bench to take a load off. He had no way of knowing it, but his feet really were trying to kill him. They were out for revenge, pure and simple, and the grudge went all the way back to Ronald’s early childhood.

Back then he went by Ronnie and little Ronnie was given to stamping his feet when he didn’t get his way. This amused his parents to no end and they made a big show of not giving them what he wanted so they could see him stamp his little feet in anger. His feet, ignorant of the machinations of Ronnie’s guardians, bore the abuse, figuring he would quickly grow out of it. This was not to be the case.

As Ronnie grew he grew more and more willful and his tantrums became more and more violent. Instead of merely stamping his feet, he started kicking things – toys, walls, doors, table legs, and finally people’s legs. This was when his parents put their feet down, since theirs were the legs he most frequently took out his aggression on. It’s amazing how a few well-placed kicks in the shin will change amusement to annoyance.

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“Stop! What do you think you’re doing?”

The guilty party was frozen, the spoonful of ice cream halfway to his lips.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Is this yours?” He guiltily held out the pint container.

“Yes, but that’s not the point,” she said, snatching it from him. “Can’t you read?”

“Oh, did you have your name on it?” he asked, the spoon still held in place inches from his lips.

“No, I didn’t. I wrote this instead.”

She showed him the lid, which was sitting on the counter. Scrawled on it in black magic marker was the legend “YOU WILL DIE!”

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Two weeks. Two weeks and the dead kitten was still there. Or maybe it was closer to three now. Nick hadn’t made a mental note of when he had first spotted it, but he knew he’d drawn somebody’s attention to it the first day that he did.

“Hey, did you know there’s a dead kitten out on the lawn in front of the building?” he had asked the first person he saw.

“Yes” came the reply, and that had been the end of it. Or it would have been if something had ever been done about it, but day in, day out, on his way into the office in the morning and on his way home at night, he saw the kitten still out there on the lawn, dead.

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Peter was in one of his moods; Roger could tell. The best thing he could do was hang in there and roll with it.

“I’m no good to anybody,” Peter said. “I’m pessimistic, fatalistic and a total bummer to be around."

Tell me about it, Roger thought. He took a swig of his drink. “You forgot self-loathing.”

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I just "donated" $200 to the Indians today, so to remain in the giving spirit, I'm throwing up one of the more popular stories from by book. I haven't released anything new in many a moon here, but the reason for that will be announced at a later date. But enjoy this little nugget!

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John approached the men’s room at the venue with some trepidation. He’d been to enough rock clubs and dive bars in the course of duty over the years to know that the only thing to expect in a place like this was the unexpected.

In the past week alone he’d been in a bathroom with no seat on the toilet, one with a full-length mirror on one wall (why, so you could watch yourself taking a dump?), and one with a pile of damp paper towels spilling over the edge of the sink onto the grimy floor since there appeared to be no trash can. John took it all in stride, though. It was part and parcel of attending a large music festival. You took the bad with the good, and he’d heard a lot of good music this week. As he pushed open the door to the men’s room, though, he knew that the bad had caught up with him in a big way.

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It was snowing again. Where did it get the nerve? Here it was, the First Day of Spring, and it had the gall to be snowing. This was bad form on Mother Nature’s part, no doubt about it.

When probed about this gaffe, Mother Nature laid the blame at the feet of Old Man Winter, which were usually frostbitten. No one knew why this was the case because he could afford heavy boots. Perhaps it was due to his senility – or the fact that he wore open-toed sandals year-round.

Old Man Winter’s podiatrist was on call 24/7, but he was well compensated for his services. He would have to be since he went home most nights his hands smelling of Old Man Winter’s feet. There was a reason why Old Man Winter’s podiatrist was still a bachelor at 38.

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John had never wondered what kind of person had cause to shop for groceries in the middle of the night, but now that he was doing so himself he had time to observe his fellow shoppers as he encountered them in the aisles. He passed one woman three times, but refrained from saying anything cheesy like “So we meet again” or “We’ve got to stop running into each other like this.” In his experience, it never paid to socialize with anybody missing that many teeth.

One by one he ticked off the items on his roommate’s list, studiously avoiding any impulse purchases. As he passed the bread aisle, though, he picked up a loaf of white bread. While he was getting eggs, he might as well make French toast. He couldn’t remember whether he had any cinnamon, though, which necessitated doubling back to the baking aisle. It was there that he succumbed to the temptation to get a box of brownie mix. After all, he was going to have the eggs. Might as well get multiple uses out of them.

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Interview With Grover Fosdick

Aired January 29, 2008 - 21:00 ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight. Exclusive. Shocking revlations. Terrible things will be revealed. Terrible, terrible things. Grover Fosdick. You know him as Shingle-Eatin' Sid the Shingle-Eating Kid from the Waverly Roofing Tile commercials of the late Seventies. Also did some softcore in the Eighties. Kinda weak. Not my thing. But anyway, tonight. Here. Our studio. He will reveal a dark secret that might help others who have gone through the same ordeal. Grover Fosdick. An intense and disturbing hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.

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John woke up to the sound of music, which confused him. He had gone to sleep listening to a CD, hadn’t he? Maybe when he was fumbling around for the power button in the night, he hit radio instead, but if that were the case, why would he have the radio tuned to a station playing crappy hard rock? Clearly this situation merited being looked into, preferably with his eyes open.

John rolled over and looked at his alarm clock. It was 9:12, which didn’t distress him because it was Saturday and he was allowed to sleep in on Saturdays. Next he looked at his bedside boombox, which he had succeeded in turning off the night before, so where was the music coming from? And furthermore, why did it have to be so terrible?

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Editor's Note: Earlier this week, Unloosen contributor Craig J. Clark approached fellow writer Joe Blevins about the possibility of collaborating on a story, round robin-style, for the site. Blevins readily agreed and they immediately set to work. Here are the fruits of their joint creation:

(How's this for an opening paragraph:)

Steve held his breath. This was not his first time doing so. Periodically, ever since he was a kid, he would try holding it until he passed out, but his body always rebelled against him and forced him to breathe in. Someday, he vowed, his will would prevail. Someday...

Time passed. Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Half a minute, and still no ill effects or signs of fatigue! How much longer could he go, Steve wondered? Could this be a new world's record? He tried to think of Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. This got him to thinking about that Poseidon remake which he'd meant to see but never did. It must be on DVD by now, maybe even basic cable. He wondered who played the Shelley Winters role in the remake. Kurt Russell? That seemed unlikely.

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“Cold enough for you?”

Those were the words he was greeted with as he walked in the door. They were spoken by one of the girls in the office, but he couldn’t have told you what her name was to save his life. She was short and wore glasses, so he always called her Shortsighted. As he removed his heavy winter coat and gloves and hung them on the rack, he pondered her question. Was it cold enough for him?

Well, he had awoken to a blanket of white covering the ground and his car in an inch of snow. And furthermore, underneath the snow was a thin layer of ice that he had to attack fairly vigorously with a scraper and had threatened to creep back over his windshield during the drive into work. Was that cold enough for him?

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It was while he was unpacking his paperbacks that Richard realized that he owned the Fotonovel for the 1979 George Hamilton-Susan St. James film Love at First Bite. He was unsure how this had escaped his attention while he was packing his books in the first place, but there it was in his hands, an incontrovertible fact.

He wondered how it had come into his possession. Sure, when he was a kid he had always enjoyed the movie when it came on TV, but how had that translated to him acquiring a book based on it? He consoled himself with the notion that it couldn’t have cost more than a couple bucks.

Setting the book aside while he continued his unpacking, Richard resolved to try to sell it to a used bookstore. At best, he hoped to get some store credit. At worst, he would just dispose of it. One less Love at First Bite Fotonovel in the world would not be a tragedy.

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Tim looked up from his dinner. His roommate Paul was standing in the doorway, holding an axe. He was also dressed as a lumberjack and it was Halloween, so Tim thought nothing of this.

“Nice costume, Paul. Where’d you get the fake axe?”

Paul swung the axe and embedded it in the center of the kitchen table, sending wood fragments flying.

“FAKE?” he shrieked.

Tim calmly picked the splinters out of his mashed potatoes, which had received the brunt of the blast, while Paul worked at extracting the axe from the tabletop.

“Was that really necessary?” Tim asked. “You could have just told me it was real.”

Paul grunted. “Wouldn’t have…” Grunt. “…had the…” He paused to catch his breath. “Woo, this is wedged in there real good.”

“Wouldn’t have had the what?”

“The same impact.” Paul resumed his struggle with the axe handle.

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Roger didn’t like spending much time out on the floor. That was because there were customers out there and they always had questions for him, most of them inane. Still, he had to make the occasional sweep of the floor to keep his clerks on their toes.

While he was finishing one such sweep, a middle-aged woman caught him as he was on his way back to the employee’s only area. From her dazed look, it was clear that had never so much as set foot in a record store before this moment.

“Do you work here, young man?”

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The party was getting stifling. Lou had to duck out, if just for a couple minutes. He made an excuse that he needed to use the bathroom, which is not the sort of thing one generally has to make up, but he did so anyway.

He blamed Peter, his host, for his discomfort. Peter had paired him up with a woman who quickly proved to be an insufferable bore. He didn’t know if there was such a thing as a sufferable bore, but she most definitely was not one of them.

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Reuben was finding it hard to think. Every time he seemed on the verge of completing a thought, BLIP-

“Thank you for calling Dr. Herman’s office. This is Reuben. How may I help you?”


It was an old lady. God, how he hated taking calls from old ladies. Reuben was compiling a list of people who he thought should be banned from ever using the telephone. Old ladies were at the top of the list.

He doubled his volume and repeated the greeting that had been drilled into his subconscious over the past six months. Even at home he found himself thanking people for calling Dr. Herman’s office.

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Accumulate #11: Breaking in the Pants

He’d bought them a week ago. No, a week and a half. It was high time he broke them in. Brice was going to be sporting a new pair of pants today.

He had three to choose from – two black and one blue. He would have bought more black, but the store ran out of his size. He chose black.

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Carl had just lathered up the right side of his face when the phone rang. Wiping the shaving foam off his hands, he went to the living room to answer it before it went to voice mail.

“Hello?” he said and then cursed himself when he realized that he had instinctively brought the receiver to his usual ear, thus getting foam all over it.

“May I speak to Mr. Carl Lockwood?” asked the pleasant-sounding man on the line.

“Speaking,” Carl said, switching the phone to his left ear. “What do you want?”

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hank Deanley. I’m the editor of Beards & Whiskers Magazine and I would like to speak to you about your beard.”

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It was a typical Friday night at the store – or so Roger guessed. He didn’t really know because this wasn’t his usual shift, but he had always heard that Friday nights were generally slow and uneventful. The slow part turned out to be true, not so much the uneventful.

It all started when the woman approached him at the counter. He was in the middle of ringing someone else up, but that didn’t stop her from butting right in.

“Do you think you could help me over in the posters?” she asked.

Roger looked from her to the customer in front of him, then back again. “Sure thing,” he said. “I’ll be right over as soon as I finish with this gentleman.”

The woman nodded and walked away. Roger apologized to his customer, completed his transaction, took a deep breath – he found he was doing that more and more as time went on – and walked out onto the floor to find out what the woman wanted.

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(sung to the tune of Born to Run)

In the day we hide from alien viruses and murderous skateboard teens,
At night we run from reptile hookers and vampire Charlie Sheens.

Sprung from fumes on the 405,
Undead Nicky Hilton wants to eat your face alive--Oh,
Maybe this town rips the bones from your back;
It's a death trap,
It's a suicide pact.
Better get out with our brains,
Or kids like us, baby we'll be torn in twain!

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It was a few minutes after one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon in November when K. noticed (and how could he not?) that his left arm had fallen off.

The purpose of this day's visit to the mall had been to do some early Christmas shopping. It was K.'s practice to buy generic, practical presents -- pens, calendars, refrigerator magnets, oven mitts -- just before the "peak" holiday shopping season and store them in his closet until just before Christmas, at which time he would wrap them and assign them to random people on his gift list. This tradition had served him well in the past, and he had no intention of deviating from it this year.

K. had not yet begun his shopping at the time the incident occurred. Unburdened by packages and yet unaccountably weary, he was walking aimlessly and distractedly through the massive, clogged corridors of the shopping center when he stopped in front of a Spencer Gifts -- not to window shop (K. never did this) but rather because his body was telling him to pause. Finding no nearby bench, K. simply stopped dead in his tracks in the middle of the hallway. That was when his left arm -- of its own accord -- became detached from his body and fell with a thud to the cool, shiny floor, taking K.'s shirtsleeve and wristwatch with it.

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Gary pulled up to his normal spot in front of the store. He was opening supervisor, so he could have the pick of any spot in the lot, but he always took one some distance from the door. “Because the good spots are for the paying customers,” he would tell any employee who parked closer than he did. Besides, a nice walk never hurt anybody.

As he got out of the car, he noticed he was not alone. Some early birds were stumbling around in front of the store. Strangely enough, none of them appeared to have driven there. Well, too bad for them, Gary thought, because they didn’t open for another hour.

“Hey, you know we open at ten, right?” he asked as he passed one of them. He didn’t see it turn and make a grab for him with a gnarled hand.

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Pauline stared out of the window of the bus, primed for a new experience, but wonderfully bored at the moment. The road was without curves, without pitch, as even a pothole would be a blessed turn of events. At a point in her life where the world was hers, she randomly picked a town and decided to investigate it firsthand. The uncertainty of the situation was uplifting. The hope that one day she would feel as if she belonged somewhere gave her tiresome life meaning. She longed to grow roots but had yet to find suitable soil.

The only thing that caught her eye along the way was an abandoned car. It did not seem particularly interesting to her, as it was unattended, though a bit of smoke still emanated from the interior, slowly creeping out of the driver's open window. Pauline decided to turn her attention to the back of the seat directly in front of her, as anything would be just as entertaining as what is happening outside. She studied the cracks in the portions of the seat that housed old, sun-baked vinyl, making objects come to life in her mind. A frowning face, a crooked star, a guitar and so forth and so on.

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Author's Note: When brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm traveled throughout Germany collecting oral-history folktales during the early 1800s, they actually did their job too well and accumulated many more stories than they could possibly hope to publish. The following is one of the tales the Grimms left on the "cutting room floor," so to speak. This story has been traced to the small German village of Kudgel, which the brothers Grimm visited in 1812. Recently discovered among Wilhelm's private papers in a folder marked "Unpromising Miscellanea," it is published here for the first time.

There once lived a humble woodcutter and his enormous wife in a small cottage in the forest. Their lives were empty and desolate, for they had no children to call their own. As a youth, the near-sighted woodsman had mistaken a witch's leg for an elm and had used it for kindling. Enraged, the witch put a curse upon the woodsman, telling him he would never father a child by natural means and would have "plenty of problems" if he tried to adopt. The woodsman tried to reason with the witch, even offering to pay half the cost of a replacement leg, but the witch would not listen.

And so, all these years later, the witch's curse still held, and the woodsman and his wife were without children. Each night, the wife would kneel at the foot of the bed and pray aloud.

"Oh! How wonderful it would be to have a child! It would give me something to occupy my waking hours until television is invented!"

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Time for installment #2. Enjoy the new

Accumulate #6: Wound Up

Two days later and the cut still hadn’t healed. Steve had nicked himself on the lid of a can of soup, which was an incredibly stupid thing to do because the can had a warning about that very thing right on the label. He could read, he knew of the danger, and still he had cut himself.

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Inspired by the recent accumulates post, and awaiting my next burst of literary chi flow, I have decided to post the yet-to-be-released short stories that I have blurbs that really make no sense. Each paragraph is a different story, so take it for what it is worth, and that is very little. As an update of sorts, I have a few more stories to finish, but may opt to hit the main portion of the book very soon. I seem to add to the miscellaneous section every few days. I'll have to re-read SAS, because I tried to post something during the Great Firewall Scandal of 2006.

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State Senator Gus Vibreaux hated hot. Dry hot, humid hot, spicy hot. He hated all hot. When the thirty-ton Addison cooling unit finally kicked the bucket after the power surge on that steamy July 17th in the office on the corner of Tennessee and Dutton, the security guards, aides, and intern threw open the windows and the hot air came in and sidled up next to Vibreaux like a fat man sitting next to him in the coach section of an airplane. Mr. Senator usually flew first class, so this upset him.

Vibreaux said this: "Milliken." Milliken was the intern. "Milliken, for God's sake, find a fan."

Realize the office on Tennessee and Dutton was old, the kind of building with ornate wood trim bordering doors, floors, and windows. But that very woodwork was painted over with cheap, white latex paint, slopped on by the historically-insensitive owners. It was a whitewashed version of the past with unsubstantial present-day conveniences bolted to its sides. Nestled amongst these modern amenities were the galvanized steel plumbing (only slightly more clogged and narrow than the kind Senator's arteries), the phone-activated entry system, and, of course that 30-ton Addison. Dig as Milliken may, no fans were included in the list of the aforementioned modernity.

Another item of realization for you, dear reader: "modern" and "modernity" are being employed liberally and with with much exaggeration and sarcasm. Housing these words in quotes a few lines earlier may have been considered "helpful," but do you notice how annoying this kind of "help" can be? Inferring sarcasm in multiple regions of this text is encouraged.

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Lately I’ve been having difficulty completing some of the stories I’ve been working on. This is not to say that they’re excessively long, I just haven’t been inspired enough to see them through to their endpoints. To counteract this, I’ve started formulating much shorter story fragments and accumulating them in one file. This is the first batch. There are more to come.

Accumulate #1: Getting to Here

Jordan took a deep breath. He knew he was going to need it. He wondered how he had gotten into this. Surely this was the sort of thing his manager would dismiss out of hand, but he didn’t, so here he was, seated on a stool in a photographer’s studio, waiting to have a bucket of green slime dumped on him.

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My entire family’s messed up. I’m probably the least messed up out of all of us, but I’m also the youngest. I’m sure this stuff builds up over time, like plaque. The difference is you can brush teeth. Minds are a lot harder to clean efficiently, especially in those hard-to-reach places.

If one were to classify my family’s abnormalities dentally, then Mom has severe gingivitis, Charles has some impacted molars, Henry has bleeding gums from brushing too much and I have a mild build-up of tartar. I didn’t know my Dad too well, so I guess he could have flossed more. We all should.

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Even before my younger brother was born, I knew I was going to be a middle child. Not that I felt like I ever had the full attention of either of my parents. My father was always preoccupied with his business -- until he met his end at the hands of an angry mob, that is -- and my mother had her own interests. The rearing of children was clearly not among them.

My older brother Charles dealt with this by doing mean things to her prized possession, a stallion of Arabian descent that also happened to be his namesake. I thought he was being petty and juvenile, but didn’t say so for fear of incurring his considerable wrath. As long as Charles was directing his pent-up aggression elsewhere, I knew that I would be safe from the tortures that older brothers usually inflict on their siblings.

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Jean-Luc woke up smiling, as he often did. Life was good and there was no reason why it wouldn’t stay that way indefinitely. Even the need to empty his bladder didn’t put a damper on his sunny attitude.

He stood as he did his business, humming a happy tune to match the ring of his urine striking the porcelain. The job done, he washed his hands at the sink, combed his beard and admired his reflection in the mirror. He looked as tan and healthy as ever.

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Mother always loved her horses. And as with her sons, she always had a clear favorite among them. Having a favorite, however, didn’t preclude her from buying new horses whenever the mood struck her, as it often did.

An acquisitive person by nature, Mother was fortunate in that she had married early to a man of considerable wealth. That he met his end while out riding in the country one day didn’t hinder her horse-purchasing habit one bit. It did put a crimp in her son-siring habit, though.

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Here is the next installment to either enjoy or loathe. Here, Thomas meets up with a travel buddy on his way into the city, where his punishment awaits for the whole bribe incident. Things get a bit weird towards the end of this piece, but what else would you expect?

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Here is another older script of mine, and as far as a departure from "Soda Jerks" as you can get. I was reading some Kafka, and decided to write a script in his style, just for the hell of it, really. Most of his themes are present, and the absurdity knob was turned pretty high, as well. Take it for what it is worth, just a different way to tell a story, nothing more. The exposition needs work, I know that already, but I think the actions are pretty clear to the reader (crosses fingers). And if I really get the urge, I have two follow-ups to this, not story-wise, but in this style. The Doctor (10 pages into it) and The Chemist (just in my head) may see the light of day by 2010, because I'm bound to get distracted by a shiny object or something equally amazing.

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Here it is, the conclusion of Soda Jerks. I think that everything comes together here at the obvious wedding climax that we were leading up to to end this trainwreck. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE SONG, "HOLY DIVER", BY DIO, LISTEN TO IT IF POSSIBLE BEFORE READING THIS SECTION. Knowing the song just amplifies the one joke quite a bit. Anyway, without further interruption...

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A small section here in comparison to the previous posts. The day after the stag and prior to the bad-ass conclusion that awaits. The final "Immigrant" appears here, along with a few secondary characters, like Clarissa. The co-writer did all of her dialogue throughout the script, by the way. I also noticed how many CUT TO's were misused while reading this again. The entire script, not just this section. This part shouldn't take too long to read. Don't worry, it is almost over...

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This is a very fun portion of the script, with Ronnie James in prime form. Many of the characters combine here for an interesting cohesion. The broom, puddle and hole in the wall scenes have actually occurred in real life; the first two are written as I was told they happened, and the third one I tweaked a bit due to architectural limitations. I believe the mighty Frog has witnessed this one in person.

Grab a drink, or perhaps a severed limb, and read on!

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Their bodies succumbed to the blind horrors of biology. He could not feel his legs, but his heart had a pulsating warmth within it each time he thought about his wife. Although her time was set, she still found herself smirking each time she looked in the mirror and noticed that her wig was askew. Their eyes looked younger as each day passed, in spite of their unwilling stubbornness to seek pity. Nature's wrath and financial circumstance kept them from bearing children, but they were given each other, and that was more than enough.

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Okay, third installment, and this part is getting a more adult rating, so kids, get your parents' permission on this one.

I didn't write the bar scene, and was REALLY opposed to what went down because the circumstance was way overdone, but the dialogue around it didn't bother me, so I reluctantly put up no fight. The basement scene and beyond is my "work", so blame me for that stuff if you hate it.

And things are now starting to come together with the characters.

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Okay, this is a pretty big slab of script, but where I cut it off makes sense, and you get some more Ronnie James at the end, which is always good. A bunch of new characters are introduced, and it may seem a bit chaotic at this point, but believe me, it all comes together quite well. Patience.

The pudding character thing is wrong, I admit that already, and we get an appearance from another "immigrant". Truth be told, most of the ice cream scenes happened for real to/including the co-author of this piece. And a few others I have witnessed or been told about by very reliable sources.

And now, more Soda Jerks...

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In regards to the sudden onslaught of Dio-related postings, I bring to you a script that I co-wrote about 2 years ago. It took me 6 days to write the first draft, and the draft that we were content with was finished in about another week. I did write about 95% of the script, so if you can find the 5% that is not Weaver, pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to a hoagie. Who knows what formatting blunders wills occur...

I'll post it in parts, just for the sake of the reader's time. I know that it is full of errors that I no longer do whilst writing, but enjoy it nonetheless. There are many moments in here that I'm sure that you'll appreciate. Dig in!

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I stand before the congregation condemned, though eager for forgiveness. Humility is nonexistent, though I am shirtless in the presence of so many. I am not thirsty, though the sun screams into my wan complexion as it tends to do so close to the buckle of the Bible Belt this time of year.

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Chad sat at the table in the coffee shop. He wasn't particularly fond of coffee, but he liked its shops and could always count on them to provide a satisfactory cup of hot chocolate -- even on the cusp of summer. He also partook of their cookies and brownies from time to time, but this wasn't one of those times.

Drumming his fingers on the tabletop, he looked up as his near-mirror image sat down across from him. Brad had two large cups in his hands. He handed the left one to Chad, who took it and handed him two dollars.

"Thanks," he said.

"No problem."

"So, you were saying?"

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Billy Churin sat at the dinner table looking at his parents with scorn. He thought, "How can they just sit there eating their Hamburger Helper and not realize that their son is being oppressed by society." The smiling faces of his mother and father just made his stomach turn. Supper was now ruined.

"Parents just don't understand," thought Billy. He poked at his food and then, without knowing he was even doing it, he began tapping his foot and humming D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's "Parents Just Don't Understand." Right at the line "her hand was gently moving up my thigh," Billy realized what he was doing. Slamming down his fork, he stormed away from the table. Look what his parents had done to him again.

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The saga continues. Please refer to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

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Reading parts 1, 2, and 3 might be mildy beneficial.

Adam sat in a sterile, vacant limbo, the walls unsettlingly white and empty. The loneliness and despair of the place peeled sound from the air, leaving only the ringing in his ears, a field of crickets chirping accusations, reminding him of Tommy Keeler's bloody fate. Adam saw his tiny fists charging into the air, cutting molecules to bits as they flew toward their target and freezing for a moment, contemplating the late Keeler's face, searching for a reason to blast it, explode it into a juicy red mushroom cloud. What if he could have talked his hands out of it, stepped away from the fight, walked away peacefully with the talking dog, the world a motionless picture behind them? He and his new friend would escape, exploring, looking for a new photo to step into, a new world without bullies or anger or deadly fists. Fate dangled magical possibilities in front of him, but only offered him the cold reality of punishment.

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Behold, the return of MNINW with part 6. Not to be confused with Leonard Part 6. It would be really helpful if you read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Or read it by itself. You'll probably get the gist without the other parts. NOTE: This one is rated XXX because it is celebrating its thirtieth birthday in Rome. The words 'boob,' 'cooch,' and 'bass music' are used so tread lightly.

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Reading Part 1 and Part 2 might be useful.

The filthy gang of boys led by Tommy Keeler rumbled down the hillside toward Adam, their yelping mouths smiling wickedly underneath dull, close-set eyes. Adam watched them descend, a sweaty, heedless avalanche of hooligans, and the shock of impending humiliation and pain turned the frail boy to stone. He stood still, a statue waiting to be desecrated, the talking dog cowering behind him.

The slope gave way to flat land and Tommy Keeler slowed to cocky walk, the other boys following him in a 'V' formation, lending him their mobbish energy. "This is a dumb place, to hide, A-dumb." Keeler's cohorts praised his vapid wit with their chuckles. "That's yer new name, A-dumb. Like 'd-u-m' dumb."

The talking dog couldn't resist. "Learn to spell, moron," he barked from behind Adam's legs. The talking dog regretted it immediately.

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William Shakespeare once said, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" Now, two things strike me about this statement:

1) I never knew Shakespeare was a king, but I guess he must have been, otherwise why would he say such a thing? I was never schooled in the succession of the English monarchy, but he must be in there somewhere. I know he's not William the Conqueror because he looks too fruity to conquer anything, but I'm sure they've had dozens of Williams on the throne over the centuries.

2) I never really understood what he meant by that -- that is, until just now.

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Here are 3 short stories for your perusal. The first and third ones were lucky enough to make it onto Pork Pony, though they are somewhat disturbing, so viewer discretion advised for them. The middle one was written sometime between the death of PP and the birth of Unloosen. Ever notice how short my short stories are? I simultaneously rule and suck. Enjoy!

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It's not necessary, but it might help if you read part 1.

Sick with children, the colossal red-brick building sneezed and the entire fourth grade shot out of its doors. 122 ten-year olds exploded onto the green hillside, kicking dust and mud onto the beastly edifice. They were like a happy load of buckshot, a swarm of jubilant disorder, all of them running, tripping, jumping for freedom. All of them except for one; a really little, skinny one called Adam. This one shuffled from the building, his frail, brainy body moving in slow motion while the other children blurred past. He stared at the grass as shoe-drawn currents ripped through it, fatefully tearing and snapping select blades, leaving others to stand the test of life for at least a few more moments.

Adam shrank into the grass, got small like the ants and climbed aboard a prime leaf, the perfect launchpad. He waited and watched, ready to surf the next hapless wave that followed in the wake of his new classmates.

"Heads up! Heads up! Heads up, uh, Adam? Heads up ADAM?" He looked up, but it was too late. Whack! A kickball to the side of the face and Adam dropped to the ground. Tommy Keeler, a miniature lumberjack with hair the color of vacuum-cleaner dust, ran over and grabbed the ball. Adam held his burning right cheek and hid his pain, keeping Tommy Keeler in his periphery, afraid to look him in the eye. Third-grade legend taught Adam that to look Tommy Keeler in the eyes in a time of weakness meant certain death, or at least a wedgie.

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I was driving to work the other day and realized that I was lonely. I am 23 years old and I have little in the way of any enjoyment in my life. I get up. I go to work. I come home. I watch TV shows pre-selected for me by the American Family Association. I go to sleep. Adding church on Sundays and deleting the work part on the weekends, and sometimes the getting up part as well, my life is like the conveyer belt at the supermarket -- always going in circles with some sticky substance occasionally getting spilled on it.

Then my life changed. I saw it. It was right there, written along the barren stretch of highway that I have driven a million times before.

It was a sign! Adopt-a-Highway!

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Genius. Genius occupied every sentence, no every word in those letters, but now those letters were gone, torn to shreds, sitting in front of Adam in a box. Adam cried for days after he opened that package. Michelle wanted no more of Adam’s company nor did she want the company of his letters, the letters he wrote, the letters soaked in genius. She wanted to spend more time with Pierre, her new man, that guy who took her salsa dancing. Adam would have gone salsa dancing. Why didn’t she ask him? Why did she push him away as if every physical advance was an illegal assault? After all, he could reconsider; the "give-me-some-room-let’s-be-friends-for-a-while" thing might work.

Adam asked his talking dog to explain it, but the talking dog could not explain it. The talking dog just paced around the couch waxing poetic about the pants he had just bought.

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To say Steve never knew what hit him would be incorrect because Steve did, in fact, know what hit him. What hit him was a dart. Steve knew this because he plucked it from the back of his neck and looked squarely at it before he fell unconscious. What Steve didn't know was what he hit when he fell unconscious. It turned out to be a wheelbarrow full of peat moss, which he actually upended, but he didn't find this out for some time.

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This fat guy, wearing mauve Capri pants and a sombrero was chasing me on roller skates. I was on foot; he had the roller skates, just to clear things up. What made this weird, if not the idea of me being hunted by such a person was strange enough, was that we were traversing through patches of grass and up cement steps in an unfamiliar college campus-like setting. The fact that he was shirtless didn't bother me, somehow.

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This was the last piece of fiction published in Pork Pony before it slipped into a coma. It actually made me pretty sad to look at this and realize PP ended here. It's a very, very funny and well-written slab of story. People really wanted the site to keep going, but I just couldn't do it anymore. I feel like I let a lot of people down by disappearing for a while, but now we're back and all is well. If I had to end on any story, I'm glad it was one by Craig, one of the most consistently funny, enthusiastic, and grammatically-capable writers for PP. In this story, Adrian Zmed visits a college campus and hilarity ensues. (CL)
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This is truly the final story I wrote for Pork Pony, but it was published under an alias. Mother Nature oversees a staff of obese people who do cannonballs to create catastrophic waves in the ocean. (CL)
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Kendall's last stop on the Pork Pony express is the story of demons possessing a waste-management issue recyling bin. A guest appearance by Rick Fox is included if your imagination allows. (CL)
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Don't you wish a magical Scott Baio poster would sweep into your bedroom on occasion and wipe away your stress and sorrows? (CL)
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Craig envisions what might be causing the noises in his kitchen. This story employs no references to Spam. A kitchen story sans Spam? How can it be good? Read and find out. (CL)
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Jason Kornblatt's final Pork Pony stint before the fabled mare rode off into the cyber-sunset. Told in the style of an old-time fable, this story of a young man and a peach tree teaches all of us (especially guilt-ridden Catholics and Jews) a valuable life lesson. This is another of my favorites from the days of the Pony. (CL)
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Nunchucks. Yes, nunchucks. This, the final episode of Time Canyon, not only features everyone's favorite martial-arts weapon, it also tells the tale of a man who uses the Canyon and wins. Weaver's in prime form once again. (CL)
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I toyed with the idea of putting this Pork Pony story in the non-fiction section because this may have been a chapter out of Craig's real life. When I met Craig in 2002, he indeed wore a ponytail, a goatee, and glasses. Does the underground society he speaks about here exist? Only Craig's dopplegangers know for sure. (CL)
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One man, 100 monkeys, 100 chainsaws. I'd put "monkeys" up there with "pants" as one of the most effective comedic words in the English language. Joe Blevins knows his effective comedic words and here, he assembles them once again for your entertainment. (CL)
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Ed Darrin: author, cannery owner, fabled speech writer. All known records of Ed's most famous speech, I Have This Dream, dissappeared for a few years. This is it's triumphant return to public circles. - CL
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For God's sake I wish Weaver wrote for TV and movies. Here, he parody's The Wizard of Oz by casting an ebony lizard in the role of the left-behind comrade. Both incredibly funny and poignant, this stands as one of Weaver's greatest hits. READ IT! (CL)
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I felt like I had hit full-stride when I wrote this story about a guy who wanted to by a mall with a bag full of gold. It encapsulates the elements I always strived for: absurdity, humor, and self-reference. This one makes me feel pretty good about what I accomplished in the Pork Pony days.(CL)
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Much like the character in this story, I obsess over contact with Paul. It's like Craig read my mind... or maybe he called my answering machine. Read this and check out Craig's web comic, Dada. (CL)
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Yes, another story by me, but originally credited to Eli Lindy. I didn't remember this as one of my favorites, but upon rereading it, it's not so bad. It's a bit improbable, an element that seems to be lacking in a lot of fiction (mostly because so many people lack imagination). (CL)
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The word pants holds up as one of the most entertaining and fun pieces of verbage in all of English. Joe Blevins capitalizes on the power of pants in this very story. Back in the Pork Pony days, Joe came to us via Craig J. Clark, a PP regular and author of the web comic Dada. I lost contact with Mr. Blevins, but would love to see more of his stories here. (CL)

UPDATE 5-4-05: Joe's now in touch with me again and he's going to post new material on Unloosen. Everyone, down a glass of Ovaltine to celebrate. (CL)

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This is the last installment of William that appeared in the Pony. Kendall's an elusive rascal, so I'm not sure if we'll ever see the final chapters of the story. Hopefully, they'll materialize here someday. In the meantime, enjoy part 5, featuring non-William's showdown with his boss. (CL)
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I met Craig J. Clark when the documentary I directed, I Don't Know Jack, played at the Philadelphia International Film Festival in 2002. He seemed interested in Pork Pony and began to submit stories. Craig's shared the same absurdist humor that PP was founded on, so he fit in perfectly. PP was barely a fraction of Craig's web presence; he's been creating Dada, a daily, web-based comic strip for years and it's remained consistently smart and funny. In this story, Craig mixes mushrooms, community theater, and organ-transplant humor to great effect. (CL)
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I've always loved garbled translations and self-help or advice given in English by people who just recently learned English. This piece is my attempt at a pamphlet written by a "wise man" who's new to either America or English. (CL)
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This is yet another of my Eli Lindy stories. My original idea was to use Eli Lindy as a psuedonym not only to expand the number of Pork Pony writers, but to write in a voice that sounded different from my own. I think that concept ended here. By the time I wrote this story, Eli Lindy and Chris Leavens became one again. I like this one quite a bit, actually. It's about the local eccentric and, the realitization that life's pretty boring without him. (CL)
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Weaver wrote two Time Canyons, this one and another that involves nunchucks. I honestly forgot how good this one was. Weaver and I talked seriously for a while about pitching Time Canyon as a TV show, but soon realized just how hard it was to write a good story about the Canyon. One episode idea Weaver imagined didn't even deal with time travel; instead, it covered an Evil Knievel-type stunt man jupming the Canyon on his motorcycle. If only TV could be so entertaining. (CL)
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Among the Nuts is another one of my favorite stories in the Pork Pony canon. I realize Kornblatt will probably hate me for writing this, but he's among the most comedically-gifted people I know. This is his telling of a nut salesman's story. (CL)
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I came up with the concept for Time Canyon during a period in which ridiculous forms of time travel fascinated me. It was pretty hard to write within the constraints I set up for the Canyon and I don't consider this one of my best Pork Pony stories, but it's still somewhat entertaining. My friends liked it, so I'm putting it up. (CL)
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This is another story I initially published under the pen name Eli Lindy. The characters in the story are very closely related to people I knew growing up. There actually was a guy called Chocolate Face who went to the same church as I did and the Wayner is based on a crazy friend Weaver and I graduated with. (CL)
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In this episode, William is surprised at work. American cheese is mentioned. (CL)
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Part 3 of MNINW finds the man who bears not the name William on the phone and then on the toilet. Comedy and soul-searching ensue. (CL)
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David Kendall's tale of man mistaken for another man continues. In this episode, the guy who is not William finds out more about the guy who is William. (CL)
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Everyone has something to hide. A past trouble or a current involvement, it doesn't matter. The illegal or criminal mysteries don't interest me. Save that for your TV movie of the week. Speaking of movies, I'd better return my rented copy of "They Still Call Me Bruce". What intrigues me are the small things, harmless and for the most part accepted and tolerated by the law of the pack. The fact that these secrets are never to be found out and kept hidden by their performers is what strikes my fancy like no other.

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That Pen takes the idea of borrowing/stealing a pen at the office to an extreme. I wrote this story for the sixth issue of Pork Pony under the pen name Eli Lindy. I didn't want people to think the site was just a bunch of crap by me, so I hid behind this and a few other psuedonyms until we recruited a few more writers. A bunch of people seemed to like this story, told from the point of view of a good ol' boy. (CL)
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Drinking Buddy ranks among my five favorite Pork Pony stories. Weaver's tale of two ancient warriors venting had me laughing out loud in the true sense, not that cheesy, LOL-type (God, I hate those abbreviations, but that's another story for another time). Enjoy. -CL
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Biscuit appeared in the third issue of Pork Pony. I'd consider it the best of my stories from the early PP days and one of my favorite stories I've written. It's the story of a sentient plastic donkey head trying to fit in among humans. -CL
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David Kendall was an ever-enthusiastic contributor to Pork Pony. He endured a lengendary in-house standoff with our brash elder statesman Stuart Gimble, sang the Pork Pony theme song, and provided us with his serial story, My Name Is Not William, the story of a man who wonders why people seem to suddenly "know" him. A few years ago, Kendall mentioned to me that he had finished the run of the story, but I never saw the last episodes. Hopefully, the birth of Unloosen will bring about the final chapters. -CL
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In our college days at Penn State, Ed Darrin and I shared a taste for bizarre, post-modern literature. I think he's always been able to better articulate the form than I have. 12 and 1 is a great example of what came into our heads in the wake of McSweeney's. -CL
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Pancakes was the first story posted on Pork Pony in its debut December 24, 2001 issue. Weaver, a friend of mine from high school, quickly became an integral part of Pork Pony, writing many of the site's best stories. He's since penned numerous movie scripts, the kind of stuff that makes Hollywood quiver. -CL
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