Tag Archives: funny

Death of a Reader

I heard the scream at almost the same time I heard the crash. Joan, my next-door neighbor was unusually clumsy but I wasn’t surprised to hear my phone ring a moment later. I answered it, reluctantly.

“Get over here.” Joan’s voice was full of pain and panic. “There’s been a terrible accident.”

A moment later, I was in her apartment and we were both looking down at the recently deceased lying prone on the floor. Joan was sobbing.

“She had a good life,” I said. I bent and picked up the Kindle, which Joan had named Bethany. Its screen was cracked and a jagged circle like a bullet hole was bleeding out high-tech ink into the rest of the screen.

Joan buried her face in my shoulder and shook with a pathos that rivaled the ending of Old Yeller.

“You can get another one,” I said, patting her awkwardly on the shoulder.

“But it takes . . . two days to ship with . . . Amazon Prime,” she gasped between sobs.

Joan was a reader in the same way the sun was a tad warm. She told me once she usually read over 400 books a year. Looking around her living room, I saw only one bookshelf, mostly covered in knickknacks. Her whole library had been transferred years ago to the flatlining piece of tech in my hands.

“Maybe you can read on your phone until then.”

She wiped her eyes and looked at me morosely. “The screen’s too small. It hurts my eyes.”

“You could read on the computer,” I said. She wrinkled her nose with a look of such revulsion you would think that I had suggested pooping on the welcome mat.

I helped her order a new Kindle and offered to drive her to the library. Then I remembered that it was Sunday and it was closed. I didn’t really read myself and I didn’t think that inviting her up to play Fortnite would help much. I left her clutching a dictionary and rocking back and forth slowly.

Joan and I weren’t much more than acquaintances, but I felt I should check on her after supper, just to make sure she was okay. She didn’t answer her phone, so I went next door and knocked. There was no answer, but I saw that the lights were on. Finally, I tried the door. Thirty seconds later, I called 911.

“She was just lying on her couch, staring at the ceiling,” I told the doctor at the hospital. “Maybe I panicked.”

“No, it’s good you brought her in,” the doctor said, shining a light into her eyes. “Did she have any trauma or shocks recently?”

“She broke her Kindle today,” I said.

The doctor looked pensive and puckered his lips in a way I found disconcerting. “Let me run some tests,” he said.

He left me in the waiting room wishing, ironically, that I had something to read, but he was back in twenty minutes.

“It’s a rare condition called a bibliophilic comatose state,” he said. “It’s caused by a sudden lack of reading material. We’ll try to draw her out of it. We’ve got a medical grade e-reader set up, but we need to know what she usually reads.”

“History, I think?” I usually tuned Joan out if she started talking about what she was reading. “She likes British history. I think.” She had said something about British history, I remembered.

“Okay, we’ll start her out on a regimen of historical fiction. I’ll try twenty pages of Philippa Gregory and see how it goes.”

The doctor assumed that I wanted to see Joan, so he led the way back into the newly constructed Injuries of the Arts wing to her room. I looked through the window at her lying in bed, monitors strapped to her arms. Her eyes were open and an e-reader was set up in front of her. A little robotic finger flicked at the screen every ten seconds to flip the page, making a beeping noise as it did.

I woke up in a chair in the hallway of the hospital with a nurse leaning over me.

“I thought you’d want to know about your friend’s progress,” she said. “We’ve switched to Alison Weir. If that has no effect, we’ll have to try something harder, maybe even David Starkey.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I left my number and went home to sleep. The next day as I was returning from work, I saw that Joan’s new Kindle had been delivered and was sitting outside her door with the usual lack of security that delivery companies reserved for expensive high-tech devices. I took it to the hospital to see if she was awake.

Joan seemed responsive when I got to her room. I knocked on the window and she looked my way. I pointed at the package and her face lit up with relief. I went into the room and gave it to her.

“Thanks,” she said, “and thank God it came so fast. I’ve been reading nothing but British history for the last day. I don’t know what idiot thought I liked that stuff.”

 


What the Donkey Saw

FF 208 J Hardy Carroll

copyright J Hardy Carroll

What the Donkey Saw

The blindfolded child tottered towards the two-dimensional donkey, another victim of her uncle’s over-enthusiastic spinning.

The point of the pin swayed. Then, with a deft thrust, she skewered the animal’s eye.

In a bunker near Pyongyang, technicians watched the screen turn to static.

“Sir, camera destroyed.”

“Clearly,” the captain said. “Well, Operation Birthday Party was yielding less intelligence than anticipated.”

“Sir, I was wondering—”

“For the last time, no bouncy castle!” the captain shouted. Twelve faces drooped. “Well, maybe for the Dear Leader’s birthday. Now, switch to Operation Chucky Cheese. That mouse has some dark secrets. I guarantee it.”


Starring in the Very Special Olympics

I will admit, I was in kind of a weird mood when I wrote this. But it makes me laugh, so I make no apologies.

It was like a nightmare, standing before crowds of drunken fans, naked, but for a Speedo. How had he gotten here?

The gun fired. Six people dived, followed by six wet slaps.

The water was Jello.

The crowd whooped. They’d known.

He pulled himself along, wallowing like an epileptic badger. Some got in his mouth: Tropical Fusion flavor, damn them.

He woke with a start in the locker room. It was a dream.

“Harrison, there you are!” the coach said from the door. “You got your 10-meter maple syrup dive in five minutes. Come on!”

He pinched himself.

No luck.

 

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Moaning the Lonely Ghost Blues

FF206 Jean L Hays

Copyright Jean L. Hays

The late Johnny White sulked. He barely had enough spirit to make the temperature dip.

“Hey, Boo!” Jessica said, sliding through the wall. “How’s the haunting?” She looked around the empty ruined house. “Oh.”

“You’re lucky,” Johnny said. “Your house gets lots of visitors. Nobody even knows I died.”

“My husband did brutally murder me,” she said sympathetically. “Look, if I ever manage to write in blood, I’ll say ‘Go down the road three miles. It’s super scary.’”

“You don’t think we could . . . co-haunt?”

Jessica looked skeptical. “That’s sweet, but I’ve only known you a few centuries. Maybe next millennium.”

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The Lost Tribe of Levy

appalachian mountains

Benjamin Levy eased the Model T onto the berm next to the sign for First Mountain Baptist Church. He tried to remember whose idea it had been to spend their honeymoon exploring the hinterlands of Appalachia. He blamed his wife—privately, of course. They had spent the last few hours jolting along on dusty mountain roads and now it was mid-afternoon, and they were low on gas and thoroughly lost.

“You sure this is a good idea?” Miriam asked, peering out at the picnic.

“We have to ask someone.” He could feel his heart beat faster. Looking around, the people seemed normal. No white hoods, not even any guns in sight.

A rotund man in a brown suit had spotted them and was ambling over. Ben rolled down the window.

“What town is this?” Ben asked when the man was close enough.

“This here’s Vicco. Where y’all headed?”

“We don’t know exactly. We’re just exploring. Is there a town near here with gas and a hotel?”

“Sure, sure. There’s a couple. Hey, ya hungry? We got lots of food here.”

“No, that’s fine—”

“Oh, come on,” the man said, opening the car door. “You must be famished.” He stuck out his hand. “Name’s Bobby Lindon.”

“Benjamin Levy,” Ben said, climbing out and shaking the man’s hand.

Bobby nodded, pumping Ben’s hand in unison with his head. Then his eyes widened. “Hey, are y’all Jews?”

Here it comes. “Uh, yeah.” Ben’s eyes swiveled, looking for pitchforks.

“That’s great! Come on and meet everyone. There’s no Jews in these parts, but the pastor talks about them nearly every Sunday. Hey Pastor, come meet the Jews!”

A moment later, Ben and Miriam were surrounded by a crowd of eager faces, looking at them like a pair of recently arrived angels. They were seated at a table and plates of food were heaped up in front of them. They looked at each other and started eating. Ben tactfully avoided the pork ribs, even though they been piled extra high on half his plate.

“So, have you been to the Holy Land?” Pastor Gorton said as he sat down across from them, apparently starting a second meal to keep them company. “I’ve studied Palestine for years but it’s a long way away.”

“I’ve never been there,” Ben said. “I’m from New Jersey.”

“Do you know Hebrew?” The pastor’s eyes lit up. He jumped up and returned a minute later with a battered commentary. As Ben ate, Pastor Gorton peppered him with questions about the translations of various words in the Old Testament and Ben wracked his brain to remember Hebrew lessons from a decade before.

Meanwhile a group of young people were trying to get Miriam to sing and dance with a tambourine like the Miriam in the Bible. One went and got a tambourine and set it on the table near her just in case she changed her mind. They seemed disappointed, too, that neither she nor Ben knew how to play a shofar, but they were fascinated with her descriptions of Hanukkah. A few of the boys pulled out jackknives and started whittling dreidels as if they were going to play then and there.

Pastor Gorton brought Ben in to see a Star of David he had on the wall of his office. He came back out to find Miriam surrounded by a group of children, all making choking sounds as if they had fishbones stuck in their throats.

“They wanted to learn some Hebrew words,” she said. “They’re fascinated with that one sound.”

She stood up and grabbed his lapel, pulling him closer. “They want us to stay here tonight,” she said in a fierce whisper. “They’re talking about having a seder supper and making a replica of the Tent of Meeting.” He saw the panic in her eyes. “We gotta get out of here,” she said. “I don’t think I can take much more of this pro-Semitism.”


Torahman

FF 205 Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

“I want something like Bibleman, but cooler. And for Jews.”

Jeff wasn’t sure how the rabbi had heard of Bibleman. “So, you want me to create . . . Torahman?”

“No, that’s too stereotypical. I want something original. And tougher. How about The Maccabee?”

“Okay.” Jeff didn’t know how to draw a Maccabee. “Does he throw stars of David?”

“Sure.”

“And his sidekick could be Dreidl Boy.”

The rabbi frowned. “That seems stereotypical.”

“Does he kill people?”

“No! He just teaches kids about Judaism.”

“He teaches? So he’s basically. . . Torahman then.”

The rabbi looked deflated. “Fine, Torahman. And stick Dreidl Boy in there too.”

 

 

When I finished writing this, I did a Google search and apparently there is a Torahman already, although his sidekick is called Mitzvah Boy. It seems you can’t make this stuff up.

 

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Rare Steaks

I got this idea for last week’s Friday Fictioneers, but couldn’t fit it satisfactorily into 100 words, so I am posting it as a stand-alone with a different picture.

Rare Steaks

The driver backed the truck inexpertly up to the loading dock of the meat market. The manager was waiting when he got out. “I got a shipment for you,” the driver said.

The manager nodded. “You’re not the regular guy. Where’s Todd these days?”

“This is a special load. I thought I’d come by and see if you were interested in it.” The driver fumbled with the latch and opened up the back.

“Hey, it’s all fresh. Is this locally sourced?”

“Yep, it’s from the area.”

The manager picked up a package and inspected it. The meat was cut into irregular pieces. Whoever processed it must have been new on the job. “You know, we usually cut it up here. What is this, veal?”

“Uh, yeah. Veal.”

“Sure, I’ll take it. I can sell it at a discount. Lemme get some guys to unload it. Just hold on.” The manager called for a few employees to start unloading the truck, then sat down and picked up a newspaper. The driver stood by uncertainly.

“What do you think about that boy scout troop that disappeared a few days ago?” the manager asked conversationally. “Crazy, eh? You think they’ll find them soon?”

“I’m sure they’re fine. They’ll turn up,” the driver said.

The manager pointed to the picture of the missing troop in the paper. “You know, you kind of look like their troop leader.”

“My . . . twin brother. We’re all shook up about it.”

“Well, thoughts and prayers and all that.” The manager looked up and pointed. “Geez, what’s that?”

A strip of dark green cloth lay on the floor of the truck, uncovered as the men unloaded the truck. The driver stepped over and snatched it up. The manager caught a glimpse of merit badges sewed in rows on it as the driver pushed it into a plastic bag.

“My nephew’s,” the driver explained. “He was going to a scout meeting when I was loading the truck. Must have left it.”

“Well, he’s going to miss his sash,” the manager said. “You’d better wash that good before you give it back. It looks pretty fouled with blood and juice.”

“So, how can I get paid?” the driver asked tentatively.

“We’ll send it to you by next week,” the manager said, going back to his paper.

“Could I get it now, in cash?”

The manager looked up, frowning. “In cash? No, that’s not how we work.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, they’ve got the truck unloaded. I’ll just go now.”

“See ya.” The manager flipped a page. What a weirdo, he thought.

 

Breaking News! The local TV station’s chyron screamed the next day. Carnage at Santa’s Village!

“Police uncovered a grisly scene this morning at the local Santa’s Village which is closed for the season,” the reporter said. “The entire herd of reindeer that is housed on the grounds was found slaughtered. The culprits were soon found in the area, the missing scout troop 3245. Their leader has been arrested for child endangerment, theft, and illegally trying to sell the meat to a local market. He insists it was all for a fundraiser so the boys could attend the national jamboree.

“Scout officials confirm that the boys have been reprimanded, but will also receive their merit badge in poaching.”


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