October 2012

The small town of Ebenezer (population 4223) had been named after Ebenezer Allen, the Revolutionary War hero from Vermont whose maternal grandnephew had been among the town’s founders. It wasn’t until five years later, in 1843, that the name became inexorably linked with Charles Dickens’ miser.

At first, the residents of Ebenezer–then a thriving logging community–paid the similarity little mind. A piece appeared in the Ebenezer Watch-Gazette around 1850 remarking on Dickens’ book and its anti-hero; the minutes of a council meeting from 1887 record the then-mayor raging against “that limey book” that had supplanted the patriot Ebenezer Allen in the public perception of his namesake burg.

Naturally, that was before the bottom fell out of the timber market in the early 1900s and Ebenezer began rusting as its local industries pulled up stakes. Before long, the lure of Dickens (conveniently in the public domain) was too great to resist. Beginning in 1977, the town organized an annual Ebenezer Scrooge Festival.

Highlights included a parade of Scrooges in scarves and top hats, coal-throwing contests, a haunted house, and of course a turkey cookoff. From modest attendance of 200 or so at the first event, by the 21st century the festival was regularly attracting thousands. The town even took the unprecedented step of establishing a “Scrooge in residence,” an actor who starred in continuous revivals of the stage version of A Christmas Carol and appeared in character on request.

The fact that Ebenezer was on the Gulf coast, and hadn’t seen a snowflake since a freak blizzard in 1902, didn’t dampen the town’s enthusiasm in the slightest.

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The black-billed gull bobbed its head nervously. “I see your children attempting to sneak up on me,” it squawked. “You know that the ancient and unwritten law both our kinds follow demands that a messenger not be accosted.”

A slight twitching of the matriarch’s ears and the younger cats withdrew into the bushes. “Speak, then, that we may satisfy the old ways and have our repast of you.”

“I come on behalf of the wrens,” the gull said. “They bade me speak to Tibbles, which I can only assume is you.”

“That is a name bestowed upon me unbidden,” the matriarch hissed. “You will not use it.”

“What am I to call you, then?”

“My true name is of our secret tongue and not for your ears,” the cat said. “You need not address me by name to deliver what paltry tidings you bring.”

“Very well.” The gull spread its wings. “My brothers, the wrens, have lived on this isle of Takapourewa from time immemorial. The rats chased their forefathers from Aotearoa after the arrival of man, and this is the last outpost of their kind. They are simple, trusting, and guileless, with no defense against those such as yourself as they cannot fly. They believe and practice total nonviolence against all but the insects they eat.”

“You tell me nothing I do not already know,” the matriarch cat said.

“The flightless wrens of Takapourewa have, in council, decided that their commitment to nonviolence overrides all, up to and including their lives and those of their children. They will not take steps to secure themselves against your predations.”

Purring the matriarch cat nodded in approval. “Then you bring us glad tidings! Thank you, messenger. You may depart this once with your life.”

“That is not the extent of my tidings, o cat,” the gull said. “The elder of the wrens bade me come, as one of a tribe who has known their kind for aeons and for whom flight offers a modicum of protection. They ask that you and your children cease your slaughter of their kind and allow them to live in peace.”

“Does our elder brother the lion live in peace with the gazelle? Does the wolf live in peace with the cat? That is not the way of our kind nor of any other kind.” The matriarch bent to casually lick her paw. “Your friends ask the impossible and we have no power to grant their request.”

The gull bobbed its head. “The wrens feared as much. They bade me tell you that, if your numbers continue to explode with the slaughter of wrens, when their kind is gone, your children will starve.”

“The weak ones, perhaps, but the strong and worthy will find other prey.”

“They foresaw that answer as well. The wrens bade me say one thing more. They have noticed that the humans have become interestied in them, in their rarity as the last of their kind. Even now they collect wrens as curiosities for display, and humans the world over ask for wrens of their own that they might study them.” The gull cocked its head. “If you exterminate them, the humans will be angry. You more than anyone must know what that anger can mean.”

Its last statement gave the matriarch pause. Her ears flattened for a moment before resuming their erect posture. “It is a risk we will assume,” she said at length.

“I am saddened to hear so, but I will bear your reply to the wrens,” the gull said. It launched itself into the air before the hidden cats nearby could pounce.

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This post is part of the October 2012 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “otherworldly”.

“Look if you’re going to zombify me you’ve got to ask if I’m worth it. I’m all skin and bones and weak knees and pasty freckles and no good at all to any invincible army of the undead. Also I’m all gristle if you try to eat me and as I’m sure you noticed even with all my zomcom nerddom and meeting or exceeding the zombgeist of my generation I can’t hit the broad side of an undead barn.”

“Shhh.” Fext pressed a bony, decaying hand to Dessie’s lips.

She mumbled in reply, unwillingly swallowing her words.

“Do you think,” Fext hissed, “that this was all some sort of an accident, that you keep slipping into this world simply because of all those ridiculous movies you watch?”

“Either that or the fact that I’m also mentally ill and hallucinating at a postgraduate skill level, which has been put forth by more than one acquaintance and trained psychologist not just now but even before the episodes began.” Even the iron grip of an undead master zombie wasn’t enough to keep Dessie from babbling, it seemed.

“Listen. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. My thralls and lieutenants sought you out because you are the nexus point between your wretched world and this glorious paradise of undeath.”

Dessie’s eyes widened. “You mean-”

This time, Fext slapped his entire hand over her mouth; the rubbery texture and stench (to say nothing of the taste of spoiled olives) were almost enough to make Dessie barf. “There are innumerable worlds, Dessie, and the only connection they have is through the human mind. All of your zombie authors, actors, comic book writers…they have shared a deep and primal connection to this world or one much like it.”

“So you want to keep me from warning anyone, to silence my voice-”

Fext’s necrotic brows knitted as he added a second hand over Dessie’s irrepressible word-hole. “More than anything, yes. You see, Dessie, as a nexus between this world and yours, you are a conduit between them. This existence is used up; through you, we can break into an entirely new reality to conquer. And, regrettably, you must be alive–not undead–for the process to begin.”

“That’s it?” Dessie said, easily breaking through Fext’s latest attempt to muzzle her. “That’s why you’ve been chasing me mercilessly? I mean it’s kind of cool and all to be a nexus between a freakin’ zombieworld and my normal boring mundane ‘shut-up-and-eat-your-peas’ world, but it’s not the most original evil plan.”

“I got the idea from a cartoon,” Fext said offhandedly. “But if anyone asks–and they won’t, not after I’ve zombified your world and captured its nexuses to still other worlds–I came up with it myself.”

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines
dolores haze
Linda Adams
Damina Rucci
Lady Cat

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It was late and I was hungry after a 14-hour flight back to flyover country from the west coast. It was close to 2am, though, so all the restaurants were closed and the only option was a cold sandwich or rotisserie horror from one of the gas stations. I wouldn’t have bothered, but it was a further 90-minute drive from the airport to home. The joys of working at a relatively rural magnet school, I suppose: you can afford to go to conferences but pay a price in fatigue.

I pulled into the least seedy-looking station, one of the Gas n’ Guzzle chain. The clerk didn’t acknowledge me, being behind bulletproof glass and with a bleeping iPhone besides. The cold sandwiches all looked like they had been manufactured during the Truman administration, but there were some appetizing-looking hot pockets and pizza slices under the klieg lights. I grabbed a hot pocket that was in an easy-eat cardboard sleeve (figuring that the calories would mostly be burned off by the stress of late-night driving) and a bag of chips; I still had half a Diet Coke in the car, so there was no need for a drink (the Coke had been purchased at the extortionate airport price of $4, so I was determined to see it to the last drop.

The clerk, looking bored, rang up the purchases on my debit card without a word. I signed the receipt she thrust at me and was about to leave when she thumped down a big paper fountain drink cup.

“What’s that?” I said.

“For your drink.” All this time, the clerk hadn’t looked up from her iPhone, doing everything else by rote.

“I didn’t order a drink.”

“It’s part of the combo meal, ma’am.” Still not looking up, the clerk tapped a sign.

I looked at the receipt and did a little quick mental arithmetic–I am a math/science teacher after all. The combo meal was a good deal if you got a loaded hot dog or pizza slice, but for the hot pocket–half the price–and potato chips–50 cent offbranders–the extra cost same to nearly five dollars. “I didn’t order a combo meal,” I said, feeling the sting of another sugarwater ripoff.

“Yes you did.”

“No, I didn’t!” I cried. “How could I have ordered the combo meal? You and I didn’t say a single word until a second ago!”

“You asked for the combo meal and I gave it to you.” Eyes still riveted on the iPhone.

“No I didn’t. I have a drink in the car and I don’t need another.” I thrust my debit card at the clerk. “Take it off.”

Those iPhone-engrossed eyes, still downward cast. “Sorry, ma’am. I can’t do refunds without a manager.”

“Get a manager, then. I’ll wait.”

“No manager here after 2am. They don’t come in until 7.”

I could feel a vein in my forehead beginning to throb. “Just give me the difference in cash from the register,” I said.

“Can’t open the register unless you make a purchase, and if I take money out the total will be wrong and I’ll get written up.”

I squeezed my potato chips so hard that the bag popped and hissed out all the air. “What am I supposed to do then?”

The clerk–who had not made eye contact with me and appeared dead-set on never doing so–tapped the paper cup she’d set out. “Get a fountain drink.”

That was it. I hate to be the customer from hell, but sometimes one has no other option. I snatched the cup, filled it with Coke, and dug in my purse. There was no need for a lid or straw.

I returned to the counter, with the clerk iPhoning safe and smug behind the glass, with only a small depression just big enough for a paper cup underneath for unwanted combo drinks and the exchange of money. Crinkling the cup into a rough pitcher, I poured the contents into that trough.

“Hey…!” The clerk was trying to make eye contact with me now, wasn’t she? But I wasn’t done. I produced the mints that I always keep in my purse–half a roll of Mentos–and tossed them into the newly-formed soda moat. I left before the sputtering soda pop explosion had fully engulfed the counter in a sticky mess.

And that, children, is why science and math teachers are not to be trifled with.

This piece was contributed by Ms. Matsumura-Tamaribuchi as a rebuttal to “Black Bill” Cubbins’ article which appeared last week. We neither endorse nor condemn the views expressed therein, which remain solely those of the author. A noted pro-ninja activist, Ms. Matsumura-Tamaribuchi has written extensively on the topic and participated in several demonstrations, including the controversial Takeshima Freedom Flotilla intended to break the pirate “blockade of the pirate-occupied territories.” The wife of the late Sensei Takeharu Matsumura-Tamaribuchi of the Black Shadow Clan, Ms. Matsumura-Tamaribuchi was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska.

-The Editors

It’s indicative of the pro-pirate media bias that exists in the West, with its pirate-owned and pirate-operated news and entertainment media outlets, that “Black Bill” Cubbins’ recent article has gone unchallenged for over a week at this point. I would like to specifically rebut his claims by framing them within the context of the larger ninja freedom struggle, in which I am a long-term participant.

Cubbins’ note that “ninja” is an appropriate Halloween costume cuts to the crux of the long ninja freedom struggle, in which the so-called pirates have long sought to minimize ninjas, deny our existence as a distinct group, and legitimize their occupation as “free ports” of many traditional ninja lands. If children are allowed to dress as ninjas but discouraged by pro-pirate activists from dressing as pirates, the inequity that is so often expressed in the media is ossified and ninjas find themselves further marginalized, disenfranchised, and demonized by the racist pirate policies.

In a larger sense, the issue is directly tied to the continuing, illegal, racist, fascist, and tooth-decay-promoting pirate occupation of the Takeshima, Okinotori, and Senkaku islands. You will note that I refuse as a matter of principle to use the so-called pirate names for the occupied territories (Plunder Harbor, Jolly Roger Cove, and Dead Man’s Cay). What does it matter what the children dress as for Halloween when the entire existence of the holiday indicates a monstrous indifference toward the plight of ninjas living in pirate-occupied lands? Even a child dressed as a pumpkin should be appalled that they are receiving food and clothing when so many ninjas oppressed by prates lack even basic niceties such as honed katanas and richly embroidered gis?

This Halloween, readers, discourage your children from dressing as a ninja. Discourage them from dressing as anything at all, or receiving any candy. Turn off your heat, your water, your air, your gravity. For only in lacking those most basic amenities can you (and they) understand what ninjas in pirate-occupied lands suffer every nanosecond of every day and be moved to radical political action to remedy the situation. Black Bill Cubbins used the right words, but he could have been speaking them into a mirror, for every one applies to his deceitful, wealthy, and irredeemable piratekind.

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“I warned you about that super-concentrated chocolate ice cream. You’ve got to build up to it.”

I…can taste…everything!

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The downtown unemployment office was the one most often frequented by white-collar workers freshly laid off by the latest terrible economic news that politicians hastened to blame on their opponents or predecessors. The fact that most of the employees passed it on the way to work before their Hummers were repossessed, and the fact that it was in a very gentrified part of town without visible street crime helped too.

Next door was one of the few businesses that are often recession-proof: a bar.

“So,” a man in a rumpled and creased $2,000 dollar suit said to his neighbor barside. “What are you in here for? Saw you in the office next door.”

“I worked for the city newspaper,” the man, wearing a pressed and ironed but stained shirt said. “Copy editor. We’re always the first ones to go. ‘Spellcheck is good enough,’ they say. Damn owners think a homonym is two dudes in love. What about you?”

The first man shrugged. “I wrote copy for the novelty company across the plaza. Bumper stickers, greeting cards, that kind of thing. I debuted a bumper sticker that cost the company $250,000 after they had to recall and destroy them all.”

“Ouch. What happened?”

Expensive suit man shrugged. “You know those ‘I heart NY’ bumper stickers? I had the idea that we could do one of those for dog lovers, you know, because people who are nutty about their dogs are always buying novelty stuff for them. So I changed it to ‘I heart my dog’ but that wasn’t quite doggy enough. So I replaced the heart with a cartoon dogbone. The company loved the idea and made three million of them in anticipation of demand.”

“That sounds nice enough,” stained shirt man said. “Why’d they recall and destroy them?”

His drinking companion sighed. “Turns out that people don’t want a bumper sticker that says ‘I bone my dog.'”

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