Archive for the ‘stories’ Category

Ode To The Stinkiest Palindrome

July 16, 2010

Story 1

A rope hangs over a pulley. On one side is a monkey. On the other is a bunch of bananas. The monkey and the bananas weigh exactly the same, the rope is massless and unstretchable, and the pulley turns frictionlessly. Does the monkey get the bananas?

Yes. The monkey pulls up on the rope, then poops, becoming lighter. The bananas sink and the monkey climbs up on top the pulley and then hauls the bananas up.

Story 2

Answer: Just before you die, you see a light at the end of a long tunnel. Coming out of the light is the silhouette of a distinguished older gentleman in formal attire. He’s a man who appears to know everything. “It’s your final moment here on Earth,” he tells you. “This is the last thing you’ll do here.”

“What is poop?” you reply.

“That’s right for eight hundred dollars,” says Trebek. “So long kiddo. See you in Double Jeopardy.”

Story 3

You go to the zoo and are standing at the chimpanzee cage. A wizened old matriarch looks right at you and she seems almost human. Suddenly you get pegged from the side by an object coming out of nowhere. The damn chimps threw it at you! What is it? You look down. It’s a rotten banana.

Gross! You go to the bathroom to wash up. You wash and wash, mesmerized by the soap bubbles and flakes of skin twirling down the sink drain. Just as you’re leaving, you feel something squish under the heel of your brand new shoes. What is it? You look down. It’s souvenir baby seal some kid dropped.

You pick it up and take it outside. You look everywhere, but you don’t see a kid who looks like they need a seal. You do see a beautiful woman, so you smile and give her the seal. She thanks you and asks if you want to grab a giraffe coffee at the safari cafe, which is a normal cafe except that everything you buy has an animal name and costs three times as much. You order a safari dead cow burger. One of the toppings looks funny. It’s like a light brownish smear. What is it? You sniff it, then cautiously take a lick. It’s tahini.

The beautiful woman really like you. She takes you back to her place and puts on some Coltrane. She grabs you to dance and swirls and swirls until you topple together, falling eternally until everything is red silk and dizzying kisses. You reach down and feel something soft and warm. What is it? You look down to investigate. It’s her puppy, crawling under the sheets.

You impregnated then married the beautiful woman. You’re standing in the waiting room, pacing. A doctor in a white gown comes out and says your last name, preceded by “mister”. You’re not used to being called that.
“What happened?” you ask.
The doctor looks tired, but happy after the grueling 174-hour delivery. “Your wife is fine,” he says.
“And the baby?”
He gives you a wan smile. “Congratulations,” he says. “It’s a healthy little poop.”
“Sorry, Freudian slip. It’s a healthy little girl.”


A Wish

June 25, 2010

The next time I fly, the guy who sits next to me will have just gotten a tattoo. It’s a secret tattoo, though. He’s flying to run away from his old life, and the tattoo will be his only reminder.

But since he’s got this secret, he feels a dire need to tell someone. It’s been four days already, and he hasn’t told a soul. If he has to tell someone, it might as well be a stranger. He leans over to me and says, “Hey man, I just got a tattoo of some clouds.”

“Oh, uh, okay.” I look back at my book.

Twenty minutes later, his fidgeting starts to get more and more noticeable. Finally he leans over one more time. “It’s on my butt. The clouds are on my butt.” I pretend to be asleep.

After the flight, we go our separate ways. He begins his new life and never tells anyone about the secret tattoo.

Twenty years later, I see him walking on the street with his friends. He looks happy now. At first I’m not even sure it’s him, but there’s something about the eyes.

I walk up. “Hey man,” I say. “There’s a big red spot on Jupiter.”

“What? Do I know you?”

I don’t answer, but I have one more thing to say. “Oh, and there are clouds on Uranus.”

New Tricks?

January 3, 2010

Do dogs have a “this is my name” slot in their memory, or do they respond to a name in essentially the same way they respond to several hundred other sounds they encounter regularly?

I’m at my parents’ house, and the only sound right now is an old dog snoring. Mom and Dad took off for a ten-day cruise, leaving me to watch over the domicile. What I want to know is whether this is enough time to teach a 14-year old dog that I’m changing its name to Mr. Splashy Pants. Or Poincaré (my dad hates speaking French). Or Shiteater. Or Quetzalcoatl.

I’m thinking this may not even involve teaching the dog anything new. No one uses her name (which is “Zypher”, and pronounced the same as “Zephyr”) anyway. In fact, when you call her name these days she runs away, because the only time anyone tries to call her name is when she’s gotten out and needs to be brought back in, or is going to the vet. If we’re doing something nice, like feeding her, she figures it out on her own. All I really have to do is change the tags. Of course, the defeats the point of the prank.

When Zypher was a puppy, I did experiments to figure out how well she knew her own name. She eventually learned to respond to “Zeph”, but would she respond to any two-syllable word I said as long as I directed it at her? Anything with a “z” sound? The result was that it was surprisingly difficult to trick her. “Heifer” (which rhymes) never got her attention. Neither did “Zealot”. At things like “Zephin” and “Slither” (if you said it right), she would look up and pay attention, but wouldn’t come directly.

I tried these again just now, years later. At “Zephin” and “Slither” she kept snoring, but when I said “Zypher” she woke up immediately, lifted her head, and looked straight at me. (She has arthritis in her hips and is much less likely to jump up and run over than she used to be.) So dogs apparently have the same sort of name-response conditioning that people do. She must subconsciously process everything I say to her while she sleeps, but consciously respond only to “Zypher”. This seems, to me, to be evidence for a “name slot”.

But since dogs don’t use speech, why would she have this ability? Why would they need to be able to have a name, since they don’t use one in the wild? I’d expect her to be able to respond to a specific sort of dog-sound, or the specific types of sounds dogs would encounter in the woods (which is always where I imagine wild dogs living, never on plains or steppe or marshes), but aren’t these sounds less complicated than a multisyllable name from a human language? Maybe not, and maybe paying attention when her name is called is not very different from paying attention at the sound of dog food being poured in her dish.

Can a dog have two names? If I teach her her new name is “Danita” (which is already my mom’s name, and I doubt she’d like sharing), will she (the dog) respond to that and her old one both? If dogs have a specific “this is my name” slot, maybe learning a new name will make her forget the old one. I hope so, but I don’t know about this, either, because although people definitely have a “this is my name” slot in their brains, many people learn to respond to several different names.

Why I Don’t Drink Soda

September 10, 2009

When I was a boy my grandfather took me out fishing on Soda Lake. It was a lake made out of soda. When he spilled our Mentos overboard in an attempt to emulate Crocodile Dundee’s TNT fishing technique, the blast blew him out of the boat and into the bubbling lake.

I watched him go under. I could only grip the gunnel with tiny white knuckles, wishing I knew how to save him. At last I threw him a life saver, but it was the candy kind and it just did the same thing as the Mentos. Besides, he wasn’t hungry. At least he didn’t say he was. All he said was, “Help, mmmph cough he- cough mma burble”.

After his hand disappeared from the surface for the last time, I stayed leaning over the edge, waiting, hoping he’d resurface. His body was never found, but if it were we would finally see exactly how bad soda is for your teeth. Grandpa still had three left at that time.

For years afterward, I would wake up in the middle of the night in a sticky, sweet sweat, trying to shake the images of grandpa flailing about under the soda, his eyes burning with carbon dioxide as he plunged to the most cruelly thirst-quenching death in history. I see myself in those dreams, so insignificant on a tiny wooden boat floating mildly in a writhing carbonated ocean of yellow-number-5-colored water, staring out at the ripples where he had just been, unsure whether the bubbles bursting to the surface were his last breaths or whether they were just more of the same old outgassing (grandpa did a lot of outgassing). My memories of him now are all so bittersweet.

The whole things was so pointless. That’s the true idiocy of it. It was only when I got back home that I learned that fish can’t even live in a soda lake. They get diabetes in no time. If you threw a fish in that lake it would just die.

Moral of the story: my grandfather was probably a fish.

Free Boxes

September 9, 2009

I was walking down the street today when I passed a pile of sturdy cardboard boxes. There was a magic-marker sign taped to one saying “free boxes!”

The goddamn hippies in this town, I thought. Not content to free the test bunny rabbits and smash the petri dishes to liberate e. coli, now they want to free the boxes, too. I wasn’t going to stand for it, so I snatched a box to take back to my rectangular-prism room to keep under lock and key for the rest of its pusillanimous and pulpy existence.

I didn’t do it so that one box would suffer; my action was aimed at his comrades. In that troupe of boxes’ brief days of frivolity and joy to come, all their carefree boxy games, every breezy twist and turn of their caprice, will be colored with a hint of doleful remembrance, like a single drop of blood in a field of new fallen snow.

I carried my box back to my building and got in the elevator with a guy with long blond hair to his shoulders, dirty scruffly beard, and t-shirt advertising some band that was popular the decade before his birth. “I just got back from Oakland,” he said. “Went all the way down to Oakland today.”

“On the board?” I asked, eyeing the skateboard under his right arm.

“Yeah, man, yeah.”

Well, I thought, that’s nothing. Let me tell you about this box. But then the door opened and he got off.