Category Archives: Light

The Smartening of the Home

The inspiration for this story came from when I was recently reading in 1 Kings where Solomon was building the temple. He named two of the pillars Boaz and Jachin, and I realized that we name parts of our house too, the smart parts.

smart home

It was on the fourth day of March in the Year of Our Lord 2020 when Dan created his smart home. Devices he bought from Best Buy and Amazon and assembled in his living room. Twelve days of unpacking followed, with great tearing of tape and unwrapping of plastic wrap. The unpacking produced 3 talents[i] of Styrofoam and the user manuals stood two cubits[ii] high when stacked.

First Dan set up the living room. On a table near the router, he established the first of his Echoes. This Echo he named Mr. Cranberry, for he thought the name was funny, but he kept the wake word as Alexa. And when he called to Alexa, she did answer in a calming manner.

On the north wall of the living room, he set up the smart TV. The TV was five cubits[iii] diagonally from upper left corner to lower right corner. He proceeded to set up the Wi-Fi and when all was set, Dan spake and said, “Alexa, turn on TV.” And the TV turned on and thus did he watch Netflix.

Next, Dan set four smart bulbs in the lamps of the living room. These bulbs he named Michelangelo, Donatello, Rafael, and Leonardo. He connected these bulbs to Alexa and named the group Ninja Turtles, for he had always been a fan. Then spake Dan, “Alexa, turn on Ninja Turtles,” and the lamps turned on.

After this, Dan set a smaller Echo in the upper floor and connected it to the network. He named this Echo Porky, for he found this name funny as well.

Dan spent many more days after that setting up other rooms of the house, from the second TV in the den to the Echo Show with the screen that he set in the kitchen.

Lastly, Dan set up a camera outside the gate to see anyone who might approach the house. He connected this to his Echo Show, and spake, saying, “Alexa, who is outside the front door?” But Alexa did not understand. Then Dan spake again, saying, “Alexa, show me the front door,” and Alexa understood and showed the front door.

It came to pass that a week after Dan had smartened his home, the winds rose and the rain fell and a great storm came upon the house. In the middle of the night, the power flickered and then died, leaving the house in blackness.

Then Dan awoke and went to the living room. “Alexa, turn on Ninja Turtles,” he said, but Alexa did not hear and no Ninja Turtles came on. It was then that the power came on with the beeping and chirping of many devices.

“Alexa, what time is it?” spake Dan, but Alexa answered not. Instead a red light spun on top of the Echo.

Then Dan did powercycle the router and Alexa at last turned blue. “Alexa, turn on Ninja Turtles,” but no Ninja Turtles came on. Dan consulted the app upon his phone, saying, “Crap, the bulbs are all offline.” No matter how he called to them and tried to reinitialize the bulbs, no Ninja Turtle answered, for they were offline.

Then Dan in his anger deleted all the bulbs from the smart house and added them again, renaming each in its turn. Then Dan with a deep breath called out to Alexa saying, “Alexa, turn on Ninja Turtles.” And the lamps came on and again, Dan was happy.

 

 

[i] 225 pounds (102 kg)
[ii] 3 feet (91 cm)
[iii] 90 inches (229 cm)


A Cindr-ella Story

couple

I sat nervously in the restaurant, alternately checking the time on my phone and surreptitiously checking my breath. This is so cliché, I thought. Waiting for a blind date in a restaurant. Why didn’t I ask her to meet in the park across the road? That way, if she didn’t show up I was just some dude sitting in a tuxedo in the middle of a playground, not here in the restaurant like a weirdo.

I met her on Cindr, the app for the bottom of the dating barrel. Their slogan was, “Feeling burned out by the dating scene? Sounds like you’re a Cindr!” You got matched up but could only swipe right on everyone. All the personality questions when I was setting up my profile only had the option to choose Yes. Apparently, I was really into ballroom dancing and crocheting tiny hats for abandoned kittens.

Then I saw her enter the restaurant, tall and slim with long hair cascading down around her shoulders. She walked sensuously towards me and my heart started to pitter. She smiled and it pattered a little as well. She walked past me to a table with a handsome young man sitting alone and my heart cracked a little. Just a hairline fracture on the right ventricle, nothing serious.

Luckily, I kept watching because the handsome young man looked confused and they had a hurried conversation that consisted mostly of questions. Then the woman stood up. She scanned the room and with a look of melting expectations, her eyes rested on me.

“Terry?” she asked, the question punctuated with a cringe mark.

“You must be Aspen,” I said. We shook hands. Her hand was warm, which made me think that my hand must feel cold and clammy.

“You’re wearing a tuxedo,” she said. The four words contained a whole encyclopedia of subtext in a language I couldn’t read.

“You’re wearing jeans,” I replied.

“This is a diner,” she said. I didn’t know if this was a real conversation or if we were just swapping declarative sentences.

“I wanted to look nice,” I said. “I got this free at work. My clients are very generous, not to mention the strong silent types.” I chuckled, if only to encourage her to laugh.

A look of horror gripped her face like an octopus. “Please tell me you don’t work in a morgue.”

“No,” I said, laughing in a sweaty way. “That’s crazy. A morgue. It’s actually, uh, a crematorium.”

She tried to stand up way too fast, and her epic legs hit the underside of the table, knocking her back into her chair. I seized the opportunity, as well as the sides of the table.

“I’m an environmentalist,” I blurted out. She blinked. “I believe in recycling,” I continued. “I have my own charity where I take the clothing from bodies about to be cremated and donate them to young people who can’t afford formal wear.” I rewound the conversation in my head, just to see how I had gotten to the point of describing stripping corpses of their last earthly possessions before we’d even ordered dinner.

“But you’re wearing it,” she said. She wasn’t trying to run away; we were making progress.

“I guess I’m a charity case too, eh? Hey, I’m on Cindr.” I stopped just short of winking.

“Yes,” she said and frowned in a very attractive way. It suddenly hit me that she was gorgeous and yet she had found me on Cindr. Since I have the social tact of a rabid hyena, I asked her.

“So, why are you on Cindr?” I asked. “I mean, what’s your crippling defect?”

She picked up the menu and studied it a moment. “I’m a kleptomaniac,” she said quietly.

“Well, you’ve already stolen my heart,” I said as gallantly as I could muster.

“And a pyromaniac,” she added.

“And you’ve already set me . . . set me on fire,” I said. I was getting a bit lost in the metaphors, but forged ahead anyway.

“Don’t worry, I only set fire to the things I steal,” she said quickly. “I’m not a monster.”

“You got any other manias?” I asked, feeling suddenly hopefully.

“No.”

“Oh. Just checking.”

After we had ordered, I went to the bathroom and came back to find my wallet smoldering under the table. Honestly, I was just impressed she had been able to take it without my noticing. Plus, this meant she was definitely paying for the meal.

We sat there eating and talking for hours. Every so often Aspen would steal a napkin from another table and light it in her French fry basket. The owner was lurking behind a standing fern with a fire extinguisher but as long as we kept ordering, he didn’t seem inclined to blast us.

“I don’t want to steal anymore,” Aspen slurred into her fifth root beer float. “I can’t help it and it’s exciting and all, but I don’t want to get arrested. I live every day in fear of prison. It’s so hard to set things on fire in there.”

“My charity is a failure,” I said. I was getting maudlin too. “Sure, I get the stuff, but no kid wants to go to the prom smelling like embalming fluid.”

“That stuff burns pretty good though,” Aspen said. Our eyes met, and I thought I hear cherubs singing above us at our mutual epiphany. It turned out to be the smoke detector.

That was four months ago. I still have my charity going but I don’t actually donate any of it. Aspen just steals all my dead people clothes and sets them on fire in the abandoned parking lot behind the self-storage place I use. Sometimes I join her and we snuggle up in each other’s arms in front of a pile of smoldering formal wear. We’re not always the perfect couple, but hey, we met on Cindr.


Act Hacked

FF x Dale Rogerson

copyright Dale Rogerson

If you’re going to connect your robotic theater to the Internet, make the password more creative than shakespeare123. It took me ten minutes to hack it.

My mother told me not to cause trouble. She also told me to create art. You can see my dilemma.

It started small, like making Hamlet declare “To pee or not to pee,” then changing every instance of “cat” to “pig” in a certain musical. To be fair, Pigs was sold out for six months.

They caught me eventually, after I added a techno remix to Phantom. The good news I’m on salary now.

 

 


Hot Pepper Vacation

FF217 Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

“I’ll have the ghost pepper pie,” I said.

The waitress’s expression was that of a cop approaching a rooftop jumper. The words Are you sure? crouched unsaid on her lips.

I glanced out at the bleak Alberta winterscape. The meteorologists were rejoicing at the mid-February heatwave as the mercury rocketed up to -20.

“I just need a little heat in my life,” I whispered.

Twenty minutes later, my mouth was ablaze and sweat poured off me like a monsoon. I closed my eyes and imagined Cancun.

The manager noticed. The next week, they were advertising Mexican vacations, $4.99 a slice.


Hey, You Never Know

Happy New Year, even if we are almost a month into it already. In the world of international admissions, this is a very busy time of the year, with students coming in for the spring semester. It’s my job to keep track of them and get them registered and set up with everything they need, while still processing applications that are coming in for next fall. But everyone who is coming for this semester is here, so hopefully things will quiet down a little. I hope to be back as much as I can.

FF216 Na'ama Yehuda

copyright Na’ama Yehuda

Hey, You Never Know

I wrote my number on the napkin and reached forward to drop it on the tray of the cutie in 12B. She didn’t look back.

Then I got a text. Who’s this?

13C. Winking emoji.

A minute later: Can I have your Haagen-Dazs? The flight attendant had just gone through, distributing the little cartons of heaven.

I hesitated, then slid the frozen treasure onto her tray.

So, what do I get? I audaciously added a kissing emoji.

My husband might kiss you. He’s in 12A.

I sighed and called the attendant. “Another napkin,” I said sadly. “Plain white.”

12B snickered.

flirty-napkins-1

I was actually on a flight that had these napkins. Luckily no one gave me their number.


Chad

FF215 CEayr

copyright CEAyr

“So, who else should be in the club?”

“What about Chad?” I suggested.

Marcus choked.

“Chad?” he shouted. “Chad Shermanburger? Investigated-by-the-FBI Chad? Started-a-forest-fire-testing-his-homemade-rocket-fuel Chad? Brought-a-baby-cougar-to-school Chad? Sold-his-own-version-of-the-Nobel-Prize-online-sparking-outcry Chad? You want Chad freaking Shermanburgar, who somehow sneaked aboard Air Force Two and met the vice president to join the Adventurers’ Club?”

I gulped. “Not at all. I meant Chad . . . Parsons.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Looking back, I should have stuck to my guns. Chad Parsons was boring.


Bear Meets Absorbed Nurse

bear hall

Credit to Gomerblog for the unauthorized use of this Photoshopped picture

 

The doors of the hospital slid apart with a cheery ding as the bear walked in, a small cub lying unconscious on its back. The emergency room waiting room went quiet as only the sudden appearance of a bear can cause. A quick-thinking woman with a head injury tried to call 911 but instead called 822. A teenager with a broken arm tried to turn on the video camera on his phone. The clatter of the phone falling to the linoleum tiles and a strangled scream of pain were the only sounds besides the bear’s heavy tread as it approached the reception desk.

The nurse on duty was as harried as the new patient was hairy. Two of her co-workers had called in sick and another one had gone on a five-minute smoke break twenty minutes ago. She sensed the approach of someone at the window as she worked away frantically at the computer.

“Here, fill this out,” she said, pushing a clipboard of papers at the bear.

The bear searched its memory, but the closest thing in its experience to a clipboard were the flat rocks under which ants and beetles and other delicious insects lived. It nosed the clipboard up a few inches experimentally, but the underside was clean.

“Do you have insurance?” the nurse asked as she kept typing, sensing that the presence at the window had not moved. “I’ll need to see your insurance card. Do you have a copay?”

The bear gave a tentative growl.

“Good. We’ll need payment up front.”

It was probably just as well that the bear was unaware of how much it did not know about the healthcare system. All it knew was that its cub had eaten some bad berries and was very sick. It had seen one of the humans eat those same berries the year before and after a while a vehicle with a colorful cross on the side had come and gotten him. So the bear had put the cub on its back and started walking until it saw a building with that same cross on it. For all it knew, this was the Go-When-You-Eat-Bad-Berries place.

The nurse kept typing, trying to get through the backlog of notes on the last dozen patients. They just kept pouring in. She gritted her teeth as she saw out of the corner of her eye that whoever was at the window still had not taken the clipboard. The last thing she needed was a high maintenance patient she’d have to handhold through the ten-page intake form.

It was at that moment that Dr. Elizabeth Gauss walked into the emergency room. She took in the scene in a glance: the frozen expressions of the waiting room patients, the bear standing patiently at the reception desk window, the cub lying motionless on its back, the nurse typing madly at the computer.

This was new, but Dr. Gauss worked the night shift in an emergency room, so it was not the most surprising thing she had ever seen. She walked over to the bear, who turned expectantly. Seeing the cub’s half-open eyes and the color of its protruding tongue, she guessed what had happened. She motioned for the bear to follow her and it did, with the innocence of a toddler trying to make a withdrawal from Fort Knox.

Dr. Gauss got the bears settled in the extra-large examination room and came back to the reception desk. “Jane,” she said. She repeated it three times before the nurse looked up.

“What did you think of that last person who came in?” Dr. Gauss asked.

Jane looked at the blank forms on the clipboard and gave a noise of disgust. “He didn’t fill out the paperwork. Probably wasn’t more than a sore throat anyway. He sounded like he had a growl.”

“Just put him down as John Doe,” Dr. Gauss said. “Actually, no, not that. Say John Ursine.” She looked kindly at Jane, noticing how tired her eyes looked and just how frazzled she was. “Why don’t you go take a break for half an hour.” She handed the nurse a twenty-dollar bill. “Get a snack and coffee, on me. Don’t worry,” she added at Jane’s protests, “you need a break. I’ll get someone to cover.”

“And Jane,” she said as the nurse gratefully accepted the money and started to walk away. “Don’t go into Examination Room 3.”


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