Ghosts of the Barbershop

Ghosts of the Barbershop

“Your wife?

“Yup.”

“And you’re a barber?”

“You know it.”

“Sometimes I wonder. Your wife, and you’re a barber…”

“I cut men’s hair, not… okay, I’m not good with men’s long hair either.”

“So when she saw it, what happened?”

“She divorced me. After six months, no less.”

“It is less, man. If it were, maybe two years…”

“Well I don’t really blame her. She looked like an Asian pop star when I got done with her locks. The nutty kind, not the classy kind.”

“They’re all nutty in Asia, man.”

“Well…” Alex paused.

“What, man?”

“She’s the reason I haven’t passed on yet. I just want to cut a woman’s hair right, once. I know I could do it.”

Kurt levitated a pair of scissors. “Like I don’t know that? I want to cut anyone’s hair using only scissors, but I’m a freakin’ razor guy. It ain’t gonna happen. No one’s been down here since they carted away our bodies in ’11.”

The barbershop was underground, but the only sign of damage to the place was the large block of ceiling that crushed the pair of barbers. Kurt lamented not tipping the contractor.

“We’ve been cutting hair since the mid-2000’s, right?”

“Yeah, man.”

“Who cut the long-haired customers’ hair?”

“Uh… Tony.”

“Oh yeah, good ol’ Tony. He was out with mumps that day.”

“Lucky sunnuva…”

Rattling came from the outside. Someone was tampering with the locks.

“KURT.”

“ALEX.”

A high-pitched voice echoed in the stairwell. “Okay, we’re in the Barbershop of the Damned. Remember, breaking and entering into abandoned places is illegal, but fun.”

This was it. A woman for Alex to practice on. Or for Kurt to use scissors on.

“And here’s where Alex Monty and Kurt Segar died. Remember, if you post it on your YouTube show, it’s not illegal.”

“It is, though.”

The woman spun around. Nothing. “Who said that? Get out here!”

The barbers materialized in front of the YouTuber. “Hello,” said Alex. “Can we cut your hair?”

“What, are you trying to scare me? I’ve seen ghosts before.”

“Man–er, ma’am, we need to move on. Can we cut your hair?”

“Are you… Alex Monty and Kurt Segar?”

Alex chuckled. “Guilty as charged. Look, sorry to bother you, uh…”

“Liz.”

“Miss Liz. Can you take off the hat and sit in the chair? One of us would like to practice on you.”

Liz turned her phone off. “I don’t think…”

“No need to think,” said Kurt. “Just choose who’s hotter,” he pointed at himself, “and let them play with your hair.”

Liz hesitated as she took off her hat to reveal…

“You’re bald.”

“Yeah, no, I have cancer and chemo. Sorry to disappoint you.”

“No,” said Alex. “We’re sorry to have imposed on you.”

“What about a wig?” asked Kurt.

“I think they’re itchy and represent a patriarchal concept of women needing to be beautiful. Mostly itchy.”

“No, ma’am. I mean would you be willing to wear a wig and we cut that? We don’t have a wig head, so we couldn’t cut them right, but we do have wigs in the back room.”

Liz rolled her tongue. “Fine. But I want the cute one to do it first. Alex.”

Alex pumped his fist, or the spectral version of it. He picked up a brunette wig that went down to Liz’s shoulders. He picked up the scissors and went to work. After a half-hour, Alex was finished with his masterpiece.

“Is this me?” asked Liz.

“Yeah.”

“It looks great.”

Alex faded away with a big smile on his face.

Kurt stroked his astral beard. “Looks like he’s a real barber.”

“Next. Your turn, scissors guy.”

“No thanks. I actually don’t care that I suck with scissors.”

“Then you must have another reason for still being here…”

Kurt thought. “Oh yeah. The Nintendo Wii U came out after I died. Was it a success?”

Liz forced back a laugh. “N-no. Not even a little.”

“Good.” And then he vanished.

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Niles Pantsstealer of Mississippi

Niles Pantsstealer of Mississippi

“Indeed, I shall swipe the next pair of pants to make its way near me,” said Niles Pantsstealer to his dog Rolf. “Yes, I shall remove pants from the next person I meet. I just stated that, hadn’t I?”

A woman with a rotund bottom and a thin waist waddled past Niles.

“Rather! I wouldn’t steal the pants off a lady!”

“But you said you would,” instigated Rolf, at least, that’s what Niles thought Rolf said in his head.

“B-b-b-but how uncharming it is of a Mississippi man in this manner…”

“Excuse me! Do you know how to get to Sherman’s drugstore?” the woman asked.

“Most assuredly,” Niles answered. “It’s two block south off of–”

He swiftly knocked her to the ground and took off her pants.

“HELP! PERVERT!”

“Madam, do not make the pant-stealing unbearable for me. It’s hard enough to steal your pants when you’re accusing me of such unsavory things.”

“Nice bottom,” Rolf was heard to say, maybe.

Niles Pantsstealer took the pants from the young woman and ran off to the state line.

“It’s illegal to arrest a gentleman at the state line of Mississippi,” muttered Niles to Rolf.

“Sure it is, pal. You gonna eat those pants?”

“I simply steal pants, liberating them from bounders like that woman. Eh?” He dislodged a wallet from the pocket. “I stole her wallet too! Women seldom keep wallets in their pants! I’m a common criminal!”

Rolf said nothing.

“Don’t start agreeing with me now, chum! This is partially your fault, you and your goading over women’s trousers!”

Rolf sniffed himself. “It’s pants, not trousers. Remember the game,” Rolf angrily reminded. At least, Niles believed he angrily reminded him.

“Let’s return to our domicile, pal,” Niles squeaked. “We’ll figure out this wallet later.”

Two days later, the woman received her wallet in the mail with no return address. She took out her cards and money and threw the wallet out in case he did something.

Back into the wild traversed Niles Pantsstealer and Rolf. He spotted two men fishing and tanning their legs with their pants off.

“Too easy for my taste,” muttered Niles. “Like taking babies from a… no, I believe I started that wrong.”

“Do it,” Rolf might have told him. “No pants are too beneath you to steal.”

“Very well, Rolf.”

He simply ran behind the gentlemen and took their pants, running straight to the state line. “We made it, bud. We’re at the state line once more.”

A hot red automobile pulled up to the state line.

The two men who were fishing came out with clubs and began wailing on Niles, with Rolf sticking his tongue out and panting.

“Rolf, attack the bounders!”

“Bow!”

“Speak to the cretins, Rolf! Speak!”

Rolf licked himself.

“So you’re the one who’s been stealing all the pants in town, is that it?”

“No! No, I’m just Niles Pantsstealer, pants aficionado! I collect pants, not steal them! I’m a cobbler, see?” He pulled out his card. “Niles Pantsstealer, Cobbler!”

“Well, I’m Judge Wily and this is Officer Gates! Be in jail today and court tomorrow, cobbler!”

“Charming,” muttered Niles as they dragged him away. “What about my dog?”

The pair talked among themselves. “That’s the Johnson dog, and she’s been missing for weeks. You stole a kid’s dog, creep?”

“But, but Rolf has been feeding me advice to steal pants! Dear boy, tell them you’re the mastermind behind these pants attacks! Tell them, old boy!”

“That’s the guy,” Rolf didn’t say. “Book ‘im.”

“You, you bounder and cad! No, it’s all a big misunderstanding! You simply must believe me, officer! Judge!”

“We’d be simple to believe you. Let’s go.”

The next day, Niles Pantsstealer was in chains and before the mercy of the court.

“Jury, the evidence has been placed before you. Have you reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor. In the case of Niles Pantsstealer v. People wearing pants, we find the defendant… guilty.”

The court gasped and murmured.

“In the case of Niles Pantsstealer v. Patricia Johnson the dog’s owners, we find the defendant… guilty.”

The court gasped and murmured.

The judge banged his gavel. “Enough gasping, enough murmuring! Niles Pantsstealer, I sentence you to two years in prison! Next case!” BANG!

The judge and jury stood up, tearing their pants off.

“Ah, super glue. I still have accomplices out there, stealing the pants off of unsuspecting fools. It’s only a matter of time until they take everyone in Mississippi’s pants away!”

“But you didn’t steal the pants, you just destroyed them,” said a juror.

“True, but I did steal them away from you all. Now, I must figure out how to steal the pants off of inmates. And while I’m incarcerated, my accomplices shall swipe–”

“Hey, I’m Jeff Trouserswipe. I’m turning myself in to the police.”

“JEFF! Well, there goes my only accomplice.”

Niles Pantsstealer spent two years getting beaten up for stealing pants from inmates, and when he was freed, he tried to open a rental pants store in an attempt to get clean, but no bank would give him a loan. He died at 97, stealing pants until the day he died.

Watermelon Dog

Watermelon Dog

It was the last day of summer, and Joni was getting ready to start hosting the big friends and family barbeque. She bought the plates, forks, knives, corn, meat, meat, napkins, meat, sauce, buns, condiments, and meat.

“It’s going to be a hella barbeque, huh boy?”

Her dog Ernie barked in agreement. He started to pant.

“What’s wrong, boy? You need water?”

A spark went off in her head.

“Water… MELON! Ernie, we forgot the watermelon, and they’re going to be here any minute!”

Ernie began to tip-paw away. She’d done this to him before.

“Ernie, here’s a twenty. Get a big fat watermelon, okay? And bring me the change!”

He knew it. Joni was always making him run errands for her. Nevertheless, if he didn’t go, he’d never get a scrap of meat all day from her. Maybe from a clumsy kid, but they were learning to be careful around him.

Joni tucked the bill into his collar and sent him on his way.

On the way to the store, he passed a homeless man.

“Spare some change? Oh wait, dogs don’t have money. But that crisp twenty on your collar must be itching you…”

Ernie barked loudly at the homeless man.

“Okay, can’t blame a bum for trying to bum from a dog!”

Ernie continued on his way when the man jumped on him.

“I’m not eating gravel pie again! I can’t live like this!”

Ernie bit him and left a mark on his skin. The man failed to steal the twenty, but chased him all the way to the store.

Ernie turned the corner to enter the store and made it past the manager who waved to him. The crumb bum was stopped by the manager.

“Sir, do you have any money?”

“Er… that dog stole my twenty!”

“Nice try, sir, but Mr. Ernie has been coming to Stop & Shop for two years on behalf of his mistress. Please come back with money.”

“Stupid Muslim whore,” he grumbled.

She called security.

In the store, Ernie scoured the aisles for a watermelon. Finally, he found a rather large one for the right price and took it down with his fore-paws. He urged it along with his snout and got it to a very long checkout line. Some people were confused by the dog with a watermelon, while others were used to it by now.

He listened to the many annoying sounds of the store. An older couple arguing about the lack of instant noodles, the screaming of the shabby homeless man from outside, the slicing of his watermelon… HEY!

“Just making it easier to bring home, Mr. Ernie,” explained the manager. “I’ll wrap these in plastic for you and you can carry one in your mouth and the rest of the pieces around your neck.”

He barked in gratitude.

Finally, it was his turn. He placed his watermelon slices on the belt and…

“We’re closed.”

Ernie played dead in frustration. He grabbed his things and ran to the self-checkout line, where he was the first one there.

A man with spiky black hair impatiently tapped his foot. “Why do I get stuck behind this dog every time?” he growled.

Ernie barked viciously at the man.

“Okay, okay! You have only the one thing, I have many. It’s only fair.”

Finally, he got the machine to scan his watermelon slices and ran out of the store, but not before licking the manager’s hand.

Then the homeless man showed up.

“Give me your change, doggie!”

Ernie bit him again and ran for his life, but the man was faster.

“If you don’t give me change, I’ll take your watermelon,” he said, sitting on top of the dog.

That’s when Ernie had a brainstorm.

He chewed the man’s pant leg and nudged him in his direction.

“What? Are you trying to take me to jail? At least they eat.”

The smell of grilled meats flared in his nostrils.

“Is that… a barbeque?”

Joni waved to her dog and everyone else at the party followed suit.

“Ernie, you brought the watermelon and… uh…”

“Ted’s the name, homelessness is my life. Your dog brought me and–”

“Hold on, I’ll give you some coins so you can leave.”

“Actually, I thought maybe your dog was inviting me to the festivities–”

“Yeah,” said Joni, “but he’s a dog and this is my party. Here, seventy-five cents. Bye, Ned.”

Ted took the coins (she dropped them into his hand) and he left, grumbling.

“Ernie, you have to be more careful. Did you bite him? What if he had AIDS? Anyway, have a burger.”

Ernie ate the whole burger, but as usual, his mistress’s lack of good will let him down. The burger tasted not of victory, but ashes.

The Very Hungry Butterfly Only Has Two Weeks Left

The Very Hungry Butterfly Only Has Two Weeks Left

One morning, the very contented butterfly who was once a very hungry caterpillar became aware of his own mortality rate.

Numbers flashed in his head and he understood how the moon and sun’s rotation around the earth counted as a “day” and how “days” became “weeks.” The very aware butterfly realized he only had two weeks left on this world.

This depressed the very miserable butterfly, and he spent a large amount of time on his lonesome, not that he knew any other butterflies.

On Sunday, he spent one hour moping. But he was still depressed.

On Monday, he spent two hours crying. But he was still depressed.

On Tuesday, he spent three hours in the fetal position. But he was still depressed.

On Wednesday, he spent four hours trying to eat. But he was still depressed.

On Thursday, he spent five hours empty and hollow. But he was still depressed.

On Friday, he spent six hours thinking. But he was still depressed.

On Saturday, he realized the last week of his life should be meaningful and decided to find a field of flowers to pass away in. He felt much better.

Now the butterfly wasn’t a big and healthy butterfly anymore. He was small and shriveled.

Still, the very sickly butterfly fluttered for six days to find a field of flowers.

On the seventh day, the butterfly found a luscious field filled to the brim with many flowers to peacefully spend his last moments in.

Another butterfly emerged from a cocoon at that moment.

The very tired butterfly asked the young butterfly why he looked so happy.

“Because,” the young butterfly said, “I can go where I want and do whatever I want! Being a caterpillar held me back, but no more!”

The old butterfly asked what if he knew he only had two weeks to live.

“Then I would live it up, of course! Assuming I was healthy enough to, that is.”

The young butterfly flitted away onto his own destiny.

The very quiet butterfly understood what the young one meant. It may have been a late lesson to learn, but it was a good one.

Then the butterfly passed on, contented once more.

In his next life, the butterfly was born as a writer for children’s books.

Mrs. & Mrs. Gronk-Uggg

Mrs. & Mrs. Gronk-Uggg

Mrs. and Mrs. Gronk-Uggg were married in a lush field on November 3rd, 2018 B.C. in front of a slightly disapproving crowd. Of course, being the first of anything was always going to face backlash, but being the first married lesbians in history really ruffled some raptor feathers.

Garna Gronk, a vivacious blonde who kept the girls away with a club, met Clunnk Uggg (she claims her upbringing was from a very traditional family) back in 2023 B.C. They adopted a baby triceratops, Corey, to practice for real babies.

“Ugggh,” teased Garna about Clunnk’s uni-brow.

“Gaahh!” Clunnk slapped her away.

The cave fell silent for a while.

“Geeh.” Garna was always asking about having real children, even back when they were dating.

Clunnk grunted nothing.

“GEEH.” Garna was insistent this time.

“Rarak. Ganna rarra rarak.” Clunnk brushed her off as usual.

“Geeh…” Her mate pouted.

Clunnk held up two furs to her chest. “Haa… og harrak?”

“…Harrak. Gonur.” Garna loved her mate, but she couldn’t pull off winter colors.

“Hagga.” The big party was tonight, and Clunnk didn’t want to look fat.

Corey growled at nothing in particular.

At the party over at Greg and Lalanda Smook’s cave, Garna was glaring at a woman wearing the same fur as her.

“Konak?” Clunnk didn’t see the big deal.

“Giva…” she said, lamenting the woman wore it better.

Greg tapped his wine urn. “Hello, fellow neanderthals. I’m Greg Smook, but you already know that. Welcome to our party! Oh, and I see two children who should be on the hay by now! Good night, Zanndak and Orla!”

Lalanda translated for her upright blabbermouth.

Zanndak gave Garna a big grin (while catching a peek at her cleavage) and rushed off to bed. Orla hugged her parents and followed suit.

Garna frowned. Clunnk slapped her forehead. This wasn’t at all what Garna needed.

Greg and Lalanda approached Mrs. and Mrs. Gronk-Uggg. Lalanda looked about ready to kick him.

“Hey, ladies! How’s the marriage going? Any trouble in paradise? Ha ha! Just kidding.”

Mrs. Gronk and Mrs. Uggg looked at him with tilted heads. Why did he have to evolve so… annoyingly? All those big words and none of them necessary.

Lalanda kicked him.

“Rura?” Lalanda asked Clunnk about her rock business.

“Enomi dotur.” Economic downturn, answered Mrs. Uggg.

“So Garna, thinking about having kids of your own? With your body, I’d advise against it! Ha ha! Just kidding.”

She didn’t follow any of that, but she understood “kids” in any language.

“Ug. Ugh. Uug.”

“Okay, don’t get your saber-tooth panties in a bunch. I was just asking. You know, there’s a great adoption clinic across from my work cave. Maybe you and,” he pointed at Clunnk “can check it out.”

“Sluya.”

“A sperm donor? I wasn’t really kidding about your body. It, it’s great. Don’t ruin it with kids. After what happened with Lalanda, I don’t want you to go flabby.”

She caught his drift and punched him in the nose.

The guest clamored around Greg to see if he died. He hadn’t, but some wish he had. Lalanda helped him up.

“Unga bunga!” Clunnk excused herself and Mrs. Gronk.

After an argument late into the night back at their cave, the couple came to a conclusion: Garna would have a baby on her own via sperm donor and Cluunk Uggg would be completely hands off.

However, after nine months, there were complications. Garna Gronk passed away during childbirth, giving birth to a healthy son. Ms. Uggg named the boy Dedek, meaning death in her tongue.

Cluunk, Corey and Dedek lived normally for cavepeople, despite Cluunk living in complete silence around her late wife’s son. Eventually, Corey grew up and moved out of the cave, leaving six-year-old Dedek to talk to himself.

Nothing Cluunk observed Dedek do impressed her. He had so many similarities to the deceased Garna Gronk, who Dedek couldn’t even miss, not having known her.

Ms. Uggg pulled out some old cave paintings she put away when her wife died. When she rediscovered her old wedding painting, she wept.

“Ongo?” asked Dedek about Garna in the painting.

Cluunk said nothing, as usual.

“Epp!” Dedek noted their eyes and hair looked the same.

Finally, Cluunk turned to Dedek and opened up.

“Shala wum ropik.” She explained that this person was his mother, her wife whom she loved very much. When Dedek was born, it felt like her whole world was ripped away from her, but part of Garna Gronk lived on in Dedek Gronk-Uggg. She couldn’t truly abandon the boy knowing where and who he came from, and chose to be silent around him out of anger and sadness.

“Slimuok.” But no longer, she decided. They would become a real mother and son, and live for the memory of Garna, not remain frigid due to her loss.

Dedek hugged his mother and wept. He felt home, which was odd, because he was always home. Even if he only had one mother, he wouldn’t give her up to the wolves of the world, the dinosaurs of demise, the homo sapiens of horror. Their embrace lasted until fifteen minutes, when Cluunk realized she had a raptor over the fire burning.

The Out Door That Wanted To Be In

The Out Door That Wanted To Be In

Once upon a modern time, there existed a Stop & Shop. This Stop & Shop had hundreds of people visiting it per day. In and out the people came; in one door and out the other.

Now this store had a troublesome automatic exit door that had a dream: To let people inside. It thought that if people came through it, more people would enter than leave.

So one morning when the store opened, the in door opened for a customer and.. the out door did the same.

“Well, I can’t enter through the exit door,” thought the customer, and entered the entrance.

The out door was puzzled. Why didn’t the fat lady want to enter?

Later that evening, a man with spiky black hair tried going through the exit door.

“Finally,” thought the door. “Someone will enter through me.”

The manager stopped the man. “I’m sorry, sir. Our exit door is malfunctioning right now. Please enter the entrance.”

“Blasted Stop & Shop. They stop you before you can shop!”

“Yes, ha ha, sir. Very clever.”

The man grunted and went through the entrance.

The manager, who was a Muslim woman, but that isn’t really relevant, spoke to the door as though it were alive.

“Troublesome door. Why won’t you let people exit at the right time? And why do you open at the wrong time?”

The next day, someone came to look at the exit door.

“It’s gone full-on feelings.”

“Feelings?” asked the manager, who was irrelevantly a Muslim woman.

“It wants to be an entrance. It identifies as an entrance. You can’t reprogram it at this point.”

“The heck I can’t!” She began to yell at the door in Arabic.

“That won’t work, Ms. Othman. It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.”

“We don’t have that kind of money right now,” Ms. Othman muttered. “Well, we can just leave it alone for now.”

Soon, a new store opened up, bigger and faster than Stop & Shop. The great big Stop & Shop lost a lot of business. Even the man with spiky black hair stopped coming to buy groceries.

“And it’s all your fault, exit door! People think we’re incompetent and won’t enter our store anymore!”

The Muslim lady manager was just angry at the new rival store and blowing off steam, but the door didn’t know that. It was sad.

But the door didn’t want to give up opening for entering customers either. What was a door to do?

“I have the solution!” said Ms. Othman.

She hired a painter to write something on the inside of the door and a second person to scrape off “OUT” on the door. The new paint inside read:

“ENTERING OUTSIDE”

The exit door was so happy. It opened the door to many exiting people who wanted to enter the outside. Even the man with spiky black hair came back, claiming he couldn’t find the yogurt his wife liked at the new store.

Ms. Othman was very happy. She tried to replicate the success with repainting the words on the bathroom doors, but it was just… just a mess.

The She-Bandit

The She-Bandit

“Once more, from the beginning,” the she-bandit demanded. Her mask muffled her words, but her intentions came out clearly.

Tetris (not the game, the merchant) slowed down her words. “My precious jewel was stolen. A man on a camel stole my cross-hatch gem. It’s a gem made of many other jewels. Please, find it for me, or…”

The she-bandit sighed, muffled. “A man on a camel? Like every man travelling in the desert? How can I identify this man?”

“Well…” Tetris gulped. “That’s the problem. He… or she, maybe… was in disguise, so it could be anyone.”

“Tough break, kid. I can’t waste my time looking for a super-expensive jewel that you can’t even sell without it getting stolen. I suggest you try fishing in sand pits. You’d have more luck.”

As the she-bandit rose, a blinding sparkling object dropped from her boot.

“THE CROSS-HATCH GEM!” Tetris shrieked.

“Oops.” The she-bandit considered her words carefully. “Okay. To be fair, I didn’t steal it. A merchant sold it to me for a fortune, so I’m…”

“And that blood on your knife, I’m led to believe is from a flying cow?”

The she-bandit looked at her weapon.

“Can’t blame me for trying. But I just stabbed him in the arm for it. A murderer I’m not.”

Banging came from the closet.

“Father! You tried to steal from your own daughter?”

A fat man in Arabian garb with a knife wound on his shoulder was tied up in the closet.

“She was trying to steal it from us while you were relieving yourself! She did this to me!”

The she-bandit laughed. “Oh, please. What about the person on the camel?”

Tetris examined the gem. “This is a clever forgery! So you stole the real one from my father and replaced it with a fake, stole the false one back on camel-back while in disguise to shift the blame and…”

“I’m confused,” said the she-bandit. “And this was supposed to be my scheme. Why don’t I just take both and call it a day?” She pulled out a knife. “Unless you don’t like keeping both of your ears.”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Tetris. She pulled out a new kind of weapon. “It’s called a gun. It may look like a horn, but it packs a punch.”

“What could that possibly–”

BANG!

“MY ARM!”

“We’ll be taking our things back, Miss She-Bandit. Rot in Hell, please.”

After they left the she-bandit’s den, she began extracting the bullet.

“Damn coward. Guns. It’ll never catch on.”

“Excuse me?”

A young man with sandy blonde hair approached the bleeding woman.

“Not now, kid. I’m kind of bleeding out here.”

“Can I–”

“NO!” she jerked back. “Look, what is it you want?”

“I have a gem, and I assure you, it’s not worth wounding me over.”

She scratched her head. “So you heard all that. What, what, out with it!”

He opened a gold painted box with a teensy-weensy jewel. It seemed to be a ruby.

“You’re right. It’s not worth the effort. So what’s up?”

“The much-larger part of the jewel was stolen by bandits. As a bandit yourself, I tracked you down–”

“Found one of my advertisements, you mean.”

“Okay, yes. Please help me find the bandits. I think they go by the Graham Bandits.”

“How much are you willing to pay for me to betray my former gang?” she muffled.

“Oh… I had hoped you would have done it out of good will…”

She laughed and laughed and laughed.

“…But I do have 37 thousand kolens. And the use of my flying cow, if you’d like.”

She stopped laughing.

“Is the gem really that valuable?”

“No, but it was my late wife’s favorite.”

The she-bandit shook his hand and took a map to their new hideout. It had been seventeen years since she left the Graham Bandits, and for the better. On the whole, she could swipe gems and get a reward for them better than those chuckleheads could simply steal from others.

She rode the cow as far as a mile before the hideout. No sense in dropping off right in front. She could figure out the traps easily. A flying arrow? No problem. A hole in the sand? She could go around it easy-peasy. She was never particularly perfect at spike traps, which is why she recommended not bothering to put any in her own den. The gang also lacked spike traps at her request, still keeping to it seventeen years later.

When she got to the entrance, she jumped onto a rock. Perfect. The whole gang was there with crossbows aimed right at her.

The young man with sandy blonde hair emerged from the shadows.

“So, the former Graham leader is caught by the new turd,” the she-bandit said. “How did you get here before me?”

“Flying jaguar, of course.”

She smiled under her face mask. “Of course. So what now?”

“Now you admit I’m the better Graham leader and we’ll kill you with crossbows,” he mumbled.

“And if I don’t?”

“Well then, we’ll defile you and then kill you with crossbows.”

“You don’t want to defile me.”

“Oh, but I do. Ever since I saw your portrait on the wall of former leaders, I knew you were the one.”

“Guys,” she groaned, “You don’t want this. You knew me as a little girl.”

“Of course not, She-Bandit. But he’s the leader, and we have to shoot you.” A ruffian with a thick beard turned away from her piercing glare.

“And defile me?”

“I think he means to do it himself. Like the royal we.”

“SILENCE!” The gang leader clapped his palms together. “Now, remove your mask.”

“You’re the better leader, guy. Definitely outstanding. My, my leadership was like, nothing compared to yours.”

“Mask. Off.”

The other Graham Bandits turned away.

“Fine.”

As she lowered her black mask, the Graham leader’s mouth turned downwards.

She had a multitude of zits and pimples scattered across her face and a notable mustache forming above her lip. Her lips themselves were cracked and pale, while the corners of her mouth had white gunk forming.

“Like I wear a mask to disguise myself? No no. At this point, my eyes are gorgeous and recognizable. Still want your way with me?”

The leader yanked a crossbow from a female gang member’s hands. “I’ll end you right now, monster!”

The other members shot the man with sandy blonde hair. He breathed out, “This was supposed to…” and died.

“Nice loyalty, Graham gang.” She hopped off the rock. “But as the most recent living leader, I suggest you disband. If that’s your pick of leader, you really need to reevaluate your lives.” She affixed her mask once more.

“Sorry about…”

“It’s fine. Hey, is there any good gems around here, like a large ruby?”

“No. That tiny ruby is the best we could do under his leadership. He was obsessed with you to the point of ignoring his duties.”

“No gold, any kind of compensation?”

“Uh…”

“How about the flying cow and jaguar?”

“Those are on loan, actually.”

“Ah. I shan’t deprive you of that, Borshnick.”

“Thanks, Gulda.”

“She-Bandit. I’m the She-Bandit. And I’m having a really lousy day.”

Last Costume Party

Last Costume Party

I only dressed as Don Quixote because I love Man of La Mancha. I could care less about the book. Yes, I could care less, because if the book didn’t exist, the musical wouldn’t either.

Sigh. I really wish I could have seen the musical before the world was destroyed. I miss theater. Oh, we have electricity left in some places, but it’s choppy. But enough about the present nightmare. This is my life as a boy, when my sister and her boyfriend had the idea for one last costume party.

Oh, and she’s not my sister, Amy. She’s my babysitter from childhood. But she’s like… dead. She was. “She’s” as in “she was.” Sorry if “she’s” doesn’t mean “she was.” I didn’t want to spoil the ending. I can’t keep up the charade any longer. This is her final costume party. She died, Michael. She’s dead.

Right, Amy, my “sister” who “was.” We were in the house we’d been bumming in and she suggested something to liven the mood. I’m sorry, I’m not much of a narrator these days. I think the loneliness has driven me mad. I never had someone to die with like Amy did, so I haven’t killed myself yet.

What’s with the madness in Don Quixote? He gets to go on an adventure while my madness leads me to ramble in a memoir. If anyone finds this, I was a very pleasant child. Right, back to my tale.

Amy found a half-dilapidated costume shop and dressed in a frog costume. She helped me find a Don Quixote costume and I adored it. Josh, the stupid boyfriend, dressed as purple grapes. They had green grapes for babies, but Josh wouldn’t put it on.

Our costume party was great. Let me break it down by the woods the woods he didn’t stop red red red

Sorry. I’m the only one left. It’s been 47 years since that day. I’m half-dilapidated in the brain, myself. Let me break it down by paragraph red.

Food: Cans and cans of food! We had peas, tuna, corn, something green, and a bird I killed! A pigeon, I think. Even Josh enjoyed it. Amy hugged me for finding such fresh meat.

Music: Man of La Mancha, and it wasn’t even my birthday! The power was out that day, so we used batteries and a boom box. Thank God for Duracell and this hellhole I live in every single day. I HATE YOU AND WILL FIGHT YOU TO THE END LORD.

Costume Contest: Amy won the costume contest. She seemed a little sad that day, so Josh and I separately voted for her, although she voted for me. I miss her more than I miss Duracell batteries.

When we were going to start telling scary stories, Amy ran out of the house and into the woods woods wooden areas. She took the Swiss army knife, Josh noticed. We ran after her and discovered her in the darkest part of the woods.

“Don’t come any closer!” Amy warbled. “I’m going to end myself!”

“Then it doesn’t matter if we come closer.” Josh always was too logical for his own good. Was.

Amy stabbed herself. I cried and screamed, running towards her.

“I couldn’t… another… day like this… sad.”

She was right. It was no way to live, even with a costume party.

“Josh… please, come with me. I love… you…” And she died.

Josh started to run. I asked where he was going, and noted she needed a proper burial.

“No way am I willing to die for a woman! This is goodbye, brat.”

He didn’t stop. I ran after him and tripped on a rock. I held the knife out and fell into Josh.

Red.

RED.

MMy hands were ccccovered in blood. I killed Josh. He died with Amy, like she wanted.

I buried them both, even though Josh didn’t deserve to die with her, the sour grapes. Amy looked so peaceful in death, my happy frog princess. Josh was wearing a grape costume. Serves him right.

I promised myself to die like Amy, but I haven’t seen another person in 47 years. If anyone finds this memoir, please bury it in the darkest part of the woods. That is where I wish to be buried with it as well.

The Star-Nosed Mole and the Pegasus

The Star-Nosed Mole and the Pegasus

From the heavens flew down the mighty Pegasus. On his back rode no manner of creature, as the last rider jumped off in fright and died. For now, it was a lone steed.

“Whew,” neighed the creature. “I need to lighten the weight on my legs! I need to sit down. The creature landed in a forest with a nature trail and a park bench.

“Perfect place to lighten the weight on my legs!” Winged horses have a tendency to repeat themselves, so enjoy that throughout our tale. The Pegasus sat on the bench and

–CRACK!–

it broke.

The Pegasus used nails from its hooves to shoddily repair the bench.

“Perfect, if I do say so. But where will I lighten the weight on my legs now?”

A star-nosed mole waddled by and spoke to the bench.

“Eh, what’s this? You’re all broken up! Who did this?”

The Pegasus confessed its crime against woodwork.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to sit somewhere and lighten the weight on my legs.”

“I smelled something was broken about it. And I smelled you.”

The Pegasus admired the star-nose.

“You have a dazzling snout,” said the winged horse.

“DON’T TOUCH IT!” And the Pegasus lowered its hoof. “I may not be able to see well, but I can smell you coming at me like that,” he snapped his claw-fingers.

The Pegasus thought the star-nosed mole was kind of a jerk. “Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m just curious.”

“Look, don’t touch is my motto. And anyway, why’d you break the bench?”

“I was looking for a seat to lighten the weight on my legs.”

“A likely story, I’m sure. Wait here, weight-boy.”

After about a half-hour, the mole returned with nails, hammers, and industrial-strength glue.

“We’ll fix it together, okay?”

The Pegasus smiled, although the mole couldn’t tell or care.

It took two hours and forty-five minutes, but they fully repaired the bench.

“We did it!” cheered the cheerily cheerful Pegasus.

“Well, I did it mostly,” said the star-nosed mole, “but you weren’t half-bad. As a reward for a job well done, you can sit in my house to lighten the weight on your legs.”

“Wonderful, wonderful!”

When they finished burrowing into the ground, the star-nosed mole offered the Pegasus a seat.

“Ah, finally, I can lighten the weight on my legs!”

“Far as I can tell,” mused the mole, “All your weight is high above your legs. You should be lower to the ground.”

The Pegasus froze. “What are you talking about?”

“See, I’d like to make a switch. You can have my legs and I’ll take on the burden of that weight on your legs.”

“Nope. No, I have to… go.”

“Look, how often do you get to meet a mole with a body-swap potion? I can make you–”

“NO!” The winged horse began to kick and flail wildly and accidentally hit the mole in the skull, killing him.

“I… took a life. I killed this overbearing mole. I don’t deserve to be a winged horse.”

He took a swig of the potion and poured the rest down the star-nosed mole’s throat. After a few minutes of blurriness, the horse passed out and woke up as…

A Pegasus. Was this even a body-swap potion?

He examined his body. Nothing had changed but… His rump. It had become furry and brown, like…

The mole had a glorious white rear and tail. The Pegasus slapped himself in the face.

“The dead fool! This is a booty-swap potion! Well, I did kill him. It’s my cross to bear now.”

With a smaller rear-end, the Pegasus could sit on the benches without trouble. And the star-nosed mole woke up ten thousand years later and was the envy of every new cross-breed in the future.

The moral is, of course, to always check the label and not to kill moles, although doing both of those things benefited both parties, so who knows? The moral is morals aren’t to be trusted at face value.

A Very Important Business Meeting But Pikachu Is There

A Very Important Business Meeting But Pikachu Is There

10:15. Fifteen more minutes until my big presentation begins. I eye the people coming into the conference room. Woman, woman, hunky Dirk, woman, the boss, the woman who keeps taking my pen. That’s it? That’s all the seats available. I start to close the door.

“Pika!” a high-pitched wail stops me in my tracks. Pikachu, from the Pokemon series? He’s dressed in a cute little suit, blue glasses and carrying a briefcase with a Pokeball logo on it. Is he for real? Is any of this real? I pinch myself. OW! It’s real.

“Mr. Pikachu, says Mr. Henderson. “We’re out of chairs. Will you take the table?” He nods, but you could see the disdain in Pikachu’s eyes.

Dirk whispers in my ear. “Knock ’em dead, kiddo,” he says with a trace of spearmint on his breath. I giggle like a nervous school girl. I wonder if he’s dating anyone. He’s going to be the most distracting one at this meeting.

“PIKA-CHUUUUU!” screams Pikachu, having just spilled coffee all over himself. Dirk rushes out to get him paper towels. Okay, maybe Dirk’s the second most distracting.

After wiping himself down, I’m almost ready to begin. Good thing most of the staff is female. I actually employ that old “see the crowd in their underwear” trick. I shudder when I see Mr. Henderson and blush at Dirk. Then I look at Mr. Pikachu. He’s still damp from the coffee. I wonder if he’s wearing underwear. Why would Pikachu wear a suit and nothing underneath?

Wait… why would he even wear underwear? Why do any of us wear underwear? It just makes us itchy and sweaty. I remember I’m wearing a skirt and decide not to argue with time-tested clothing choices.

Oh God… I’m almost about to start and I’m rambling in my head about underwear. PIKACHU! This is your fault!

“Ms. Yeatman, whenever you’re ready,” says Mr. Henderson. Dirk winks.

“Right. Okay, so this fiscal year has shown us…” I go on for about ten minutes without a problem. Then Pikachu raises his paw.

“Yes, um, Mr. Pikachu?”

Pikachu clears his throat. “Pikachu.”

Mr. Henderson makes a noise that I don’t quite get. It’s like, “Hrrm-rmm?”

“Ex-excuse me, I didn’t quite get that.”

Pikachu holds his hands out and gestures. “Pi. Ka. Chu.” Okay, clearly he’s doing it like I’m an idiot or something. Does anyone else follow?

The woman who steals my pens chimes in. “Interesting point, Mr. Pikachu. Is the company sustainable enough to follow Ms. Yeatman’s plan?”

Dirk rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, and I have to agree with Mr. Pikachu’s assessment of the structural integrity of the project. No offense.”

OH, NONE TAKEN, DIRK. Just the guy I crush on thinks I’m an idiot too! I take a deep breath. When did Pikachu even join the company? I would have heard about a fictional character joining the ranks!

And how is it I’m the only one who hears that “Pika chu chu pi ka chu” chatter? Deep breaths.

“I am confident in my proposal. In six years we’ll have built up a user base to support our needs.”

“Pik–a-a-a-ACHU!” He sneezed on me! What a jerk! I always preferred Digimon anyway.

Dirk hands him a tissue. Jeez, Dirk and Pikachu much?

“Pikachu, pika.” I feel like he’s insulting me, but he wouldn’t have the audacity to do that in front of everyone.

“Please, Mr. Pikachu! She’s one of my best employees!” I blush happily at the boss’s comments. “Don’t call her that name, of you’ll get another lawsuit!”

I play smart. “Uh, yeah! I feel violated over what you just said!”

The woman to my left tugged at my sleeve. “Don’t play this game. We’ve all sued him and lost. It’ll just end badly.”

“All of you?”

“Yes. He called me a snatch. But what can I do? He’s the CEO.”

Ah. Now it kind of made sense, at least the accommodating part.

Pikachu folded his arms. “Pi?”

“I promise not to sue if you just hear me out.” I assume he was ready to leave at that point, anyway.

“Pika…”

I explain my proposal like I’m talking to a human, not a small rodent monster.

“And that’s my presentation, Mr. Pikachu. What do you think?”

“I like it. I misjudged you, Ms. Yeatman. Okay. We’ll carry out this plan starting tomorrow. Oh, and Ms. Yeatman?”

I clean out my ears. “Yes sir?”

“Expect a raise in your future. I like your moxie.”

He leaves and I collapse in a chair. All my female coworkers applaud me, and Dirk bows at the waist. Glad he doesn’t think I’m stupid.

“What was his deal? Is he a Pokemon? And was he speaking English at the end?”

“No,” Dirk says. “Yes, actually. Look, he’s totally human, but he identifies as a Pikachu. He texts us what he’s saying in Pikachu talk. He got surgery to look like that Pokemon. Must have been painful, but he was already a little person.”

I ignore the weird CEO stuff. “Hey, want to have dinner with me tonight?”

“Sure! Your treat with that big new raise, I assume?”

I give him a look.

“Only kidding! Only kidding.”