Tag Archives: teaching

Did I Ever Tell You How I Met My Wife?

Disclaimer: this is fiction. This is not how I, David Stewart, met my wife.

That said, this is my 3rd anniversary of doing Friday Fictioneers stories every week, which means I have written 156 100-word stories thus far.

I was having trouble thinking of a good story for this one so I asked the students in my writing class. They told me to write “a funny, horror love story”. Thanks guys, eh?

I got my revenge though, by assigning them each to write a story for Friday Fictioneers. They have their own WordPress blogs as part of our curriculum, so they’re going to post them there. If you want to read them, the links are:

https://bobybangladesh.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/surprising-assets/

https://yuxianadventure.wordpress.com/

https://tmsamurai.wordpress.com/

The last two hadn’t posted their stories at the time I posted this. Keep in mind that they are still learning English and before these stories, they had each written one fiction piece in English.

Now, on to the story.

copyright Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

 

Did I Ever Tell You How I Met My Wife?

I unearthed her while digging the foundation of a new office building. She lay there, dead but conscious, watching me.

It took me twenty minutes just to ask her name. I was so shy.

It was rough at first; all relationships are. I’m a vegetarian; she drinks the blood of the living. Well opposites attract, they say.

*

That was 6 years ago. We’ve both adjusted.

My phone buzzes. Honey, bring a ssssacrifice home for dinner. I hunger I thirst lol

“Hey Bill,” I say to my co-worker. “Wanna come home for supper? My wife will whip you up, something special.”

 


So long, So-Yeon

First of all, thank you Rochelle for choosing my picture this week. The advantage of having your own picture as the prompt is that you know the complete context. Just as Thoreau says in the quote that Rochelle always includes, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” and in this picture, I see the lines of Korean middle school students streaming up the long drive to the middle school just out of frame (you can see the lights of the soccer field in the background.)

In a departure from my normal fantastical imaginings, this story is almost 100% true in every detail. Dangerous stuff, since it almost brought me to tears several times while writing it. But such is life. (By the way, click on the picture to see where it was taken.)

copyright David Stewart

copyright David Stewart

So long, So-Yeon

I gave them hugs in the classroom but we hug again at the door.

“We’ll miss you, teacher.”

“Don’t go.”

“I don’t want to,” I say, and mean it.

“I’ll write you every day.” I smile; it’s well meant, but won’t happen.

Last is So-yeon. She’s been that smiling, encouraging face in class ever since Grade 3. Now she’s in middle school and so grown up.

“I’ll never forget you,” she says. I wonder if it’s true, knowing it doesn’t matter.

Finally I wave and turn away, to another country and another school, leaving part of my heart in Wanju.

 


The Battle of New Semester

I’ve been busy lately with work so I wanted to write a post explaining why I haven’t been around as much as I would like to be this week. This is what came out of that. My wife says I’m being silly and, of course, she’s right.

(For those of you who don’t know, I teach ESL at a university.)

Destination: Inbox (Source)

Destination: Inbox (Source)

The Battle of New Semester

I knew it was coming for months before it hit. I watched it appear on the horizon like a tsunami viewed from the relative ease of a tropical island beach. Over the weeks and months I watched it get closer, with anticipation at best and at worse, resignation.

Then, on January 5, it hit.

The invasion of the new semester.

It started slow. The first wave was mostly Administrative Duties, buzzing in from above, peppering me with emails. “Re: re: re:!” went their machine guns. “FYI! FYI!” They were slow moving and I could pick them off easily enough, but as the week progressed, each progressive wave got thicker and closer together.

The 5th Division Placement Tests made an amphibious landing on Thursday and I was busy for two days putting down that threat, until finally everyone was in their place. Unfortunately, we weren’t without casualties. Our general went down with the flu and a few NCOs as well.

Of course, this was just the vanguard attack. The main invasion force came the next week and the battle settled down into the daily slog.

The Class artillery is not that bad. Every morning at 8:30, the shelling begins, with 30mm Grammar shells coming in from the right and Writing mortars whistling in from the left. You just have to endure and after a couple hours they slack off before a shorter American Culture attack in the afternoon.

Worse are the Lesson Plans. The sneaky blighters sneak up and sabotage your defenses and equipment, making you unprepared for the daily Class shelling. Sometimes I can pick them off with a few well-aimed shots but other times I spend hours hunting them down, the battles going on into the evenings and spilling over to the weekends.

It will get better though, after a few weeks. I’ll set up anti-aircraft batteries to knock down the Administrative Duties and dive-bombing emails as they appear. I’ll establish a wider perimeter to take care of lesson plans from a greater distance and the daily shelling of Classes will become routine. Things will settle down soon. Soon.

That’s teaching for you.


Welcome to the Green-Walled Time Machine!

GWT Time Machine

This is the first post in what will be a weekly segment here on the Green-Walled Tower. It will share selections from magazines ranging from 1908 to the 1930s and 40s and interesting insights into the culture and current events of the time. First though, let me give you a little history about how this all started.

About 17 years ago, my grandparents moved into a smaller house and were going to throw away two boxes of old magazines. I took them, although I had nowhere to put them. And so, they sat in my parents’ house for 17 years while I was in university, and then in Korea. They brought them to me a few weeks ago and I could finally look through them properly. The magazines are all ones my great-great-aunt collected over her lifetime. She was a school teacher and a devout Christian, so most of her magazines relate to teaching, Sunday School, or missions. Still, among the lesson plans and Sunday School stories (and in them too) were many fascinating details about life at the beginning of the 20th century. And now, without further ado…

Ads in Teacher Magazines

It appears that modern times are not alone in having ads crammed into every square inch. All magazines in the 19-teens and 20s seemed to have ads everywhere, especially in the teaching magazines. Here’s an example from the February, 1913 issue of Primary Plans:

ads in teacher magazines

What surprised me most were all the ads for other jobs. Most teachers today don’t get into it for the money, and it was even more so back then. The February 1913 issue of the Cambridge Tribune mentions in an article about raising teacher salaries that some teachers made about $800 a year (they also use the term “starvation wages”), which is about $18,600 today. So, it is not a shock that teachers would want to make a little extra money. What is surprising is the types and variety of jobs: watchmaking (if you’re a man), doing magic, sewing, organizing Lodges of the Owls, and even what looks suspiciously like spying, considering the phrase “reporting Information, Names, etc.”

Anything that says "Big Pay" has to be legit.

Anything that says BIG PAY has to be legit.

They even had for-profit schools back then, promising BIG PAY for people who wanted to pay them to help prepare for the civil service exam; i.e., to stop being a teacher.

Another surprising advertisement is the one right at the bottom, for Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. It was a tonic whose principle ingredients were morphine and alcohol, and while that might seem par for the course for teachers, it was actually marketed for infants. Also, it was denounced by the American Medical Association two years before this magazine came out.

Morphine and alcohol: safe for infants since...never.

Morphine and alcohol: safe for infants since…never.

This Week’s Bonus Weirdness

A few pages over from the above advertisements was this tiny one, little more than half an inch high:

1119142206

Tell me, what do you think this ad is about? He is looking for subscriptions. Does that mean he wants you to buy subscriptions to magazines through him (with big savings) since he gets them at a discount? If so, it’s a strange thing for the magazine to print, since it would undercut their profits. Or does he want second-hand magazines, although if so, what does he mean by “big savings?” What do you think?


Do you think like a Korean student? Take the quiz.

Yesterday, I played a game with a few of my middle school classes. It was a basic Taboo or Hot Seat style game, where one person comes up to the front and doesn’t look at the TV. A word and picture come on the screen and the others on their team have to describe it without saying the word or using any Korean.

It was amazing some of the ways they came up with to describe things using their limited vocabulary. Some were fairly obvious, like “Justin ____” for the word “beaver”, since Koreans pronounce “Bieber” and “beaver” the same. For others, they used Korean as a base, like “rock whale” for dolphin, since the Korean word for dolphin literally means “rock whale” (although I’m pretty sure the rock part of that is just a homophone for something else). Also, for the word “pear”, they pointed to their stomachs, since the word for stomach and pear are the same in Korean (not that anyone guessed correctly using that clue. They usually just passed on that one.)

And then there were some others. Take the quiz and see if you can guess the answers based on the clues that they gave (and which their friends used to guess the word correctly.) The answers are at the end.

Quiz

1. “firefighter’s friend”

2. “chicken changed”

3. “Edison” (plus pointing up)

4. “Pizza’s friend”

5. “white water”

6. “small round cake”

7. “bird king”

8. “lion’s friend”

9. “Korean number 1 food”

10. “Made in _______”

 

How many could you guess? Scroll down to see how you did.

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Answers:

1. “police officer” (They tend to link these two jobs.)

2. “kitchen” (Korean students always mix these two words up, so they see them as related.)

3. “light”

4. “chicken” or “pickles” (This had two, since they closely relate pizza and chicken, but also when you order pizza here, pickles always come with them as a side dish, even with delivery.)

5. “milk”

6 “muffin”

7. “eagle”

8. “tiger”

9. “kimchi”

10. “China” (even in Korea, a lot of things are manufactured in China, so they are used to seeing Made in China.)

quiz


4 Reasons I Don’t Like the First Week of School

I think I’m a pretty positive guy. I try to look on the bright side of things. I only say that because I don’t anything to think of this as a gripe. It is merely a chance to share my unique work situation.

Here in Korea, the school year starts at the beginning of March, so I have just finished the first couple weeks of school. And I am very glad about that. I know a lot of people don’t like going back to school (students especially), but there are several unique factors for a foreign English teacher in my position that makes the first week of school a lot less fun.

1. Getting to school

I don’t have a car. If I did, this would not be an issue. I do have a motorbike and the bus system here is very good, but still, it takes a while to get everything straightened out.

I live in a city of about 600,000, but I work in the countryside around the city, which means I can’t walk to my schools. In times past, some of the teachers would pick us foreigners up, but they usually don’t like doing that anymore, and honestly, I don’t like getting picked up. Even if I have to take a bus, I like to be independent. I can ride my motorbike to two of my schools (I work at four different schools) because they’re relatively close, unless of course it’s pouring rain or a blizzard or the bike’s broken. In other words I have to know how to get to all my schools by bus.

Unfortunately, all of my schools are in different directions and I have to transfer buses to all of them, so I have to coordinate two bus schedules to make sure I get to the transfer stop before the second bus gets there. All this for four different schools which start at different times. I ended up being to late to one school and having to take a taxi to another one the first day in order not to be late.

Wanju work map

2. People assuming I don’t know anything

I’ve lived in Korea for nine years and have taught public school here for five years so I pretty much know what’s going on. I speak the language, can use chopsticks, know the bus system, and everything else you need to survive. But I’m not Korean, so everyone naturally (or not) assumes I got off the plane yesterday. I don’t necessarily blame them, since there is a high turnover rate for foreign English teachers and so a lot of us are fresh off the plane. Still, the first day or two at a new school is invariably the same.

“Can you use chopsticks?” “Oh, I think that food is too spicy for you.” “Oh wow, you can speak Korean!” “Do you know how to take the bus? You do? Wow, how do you know?”

And so on. Again, I’m not trying to criticize the Korean teachers, but it does get tiring when you go through the same routine again and again and again.

3. Not knowing anything

Even though I know a lot about Korea and public schools in general, every new school I go to has its own idiosyncrasies, for one reason or another. One of my schools is built like someone found the plans to the Labyrinth, thought that looked too straightforward and kicked it up a notch. Schools all start at different times, one has lunch after three periods instead of four. Some have English classes in an English room; others in the classrooms. In other words, I do some wandering around sometimes, asking people a lot of questions like where the bathrooms are and what the password to the class computer is.

One of my schools. It looks straightforward, but it's best to hire a Sherpa if you have class in one of the far buildings.

One of my schools. It looks straightforward, but it’s best to hire a Sherpa if you have class in one of the far buildings.

4. Introduction class

In elementary schools in Korea, there are no classes on the first day. The homeroom teachers are getting to know their students and getting them to color name tags or doing other icebreaker activities, so I don’t have to teach. In middle school, there are classes on the first day, but the teachers don’t want to start the textbook, so they say some variation of, “Just introduce yourself today.”

How long does it take to introduce yourself? Not the whole 45-minutes of class, that’s for sure. Even if I show them the Introduction to my Hometown powerpoint that I have, it only takes five minutes. Now I have been teaching long enough that I come prepared to get the kids talking and fill up the period but it tends to be awkward and I do the same lesson over and over again. I’m not complaining, but I’m always happy when the first week is over so I can get into real teaching.


The Hieroglyphics Teacher Prevails

For some background (if you wish), read:

The Hieroglyphics Teacher

The Hieroglyphics Teacher Makes a Discovery

The Hieroglyphics Teacher Strikes Back

elixir_of_life

Ben learned two things that day: 1. Never put Elixir of Life in the refrigerator; and 2. Given the chance, broccoli just wants to watch the world burn.

 Ben had opened his fridge to see that everything inside (including the fridge itself) had come to life. He immediately had to stop the eggs from hurling themselves onto the floor in some pointless gesture of bravado. The broccoli threw the empty Elixir of Life bottle at him and the butter burst into heartrending sobs.

 It took a while, but he finally figured out what had happened. The Elixir of Life had expanded and burst its seal, dripping onto the broccoli. It had come to life and had started spraying the Elixir onto everything else, out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Now Ben was starving, but he felt bad eating anything that could object vocally to the process.

 Luckily, Pizza Pockets were frozen and the food in the freezer was still refreshingly non-living. He took out the box and felt the accusing eyes of the rest of the food on him, as if he were raiding the morgue for a quick snack. He shut the fridge door.

 The question now (besides dealing with Ben Two) was what to do with the food. Now that they were living beings, it wasn’t a simple matter of just eating them or throwing them away. This is why the Elixir of Life bottle came with a warning on its side: May cause the endowment of inalienable rights. Use with caution.

 He decided to take a count first. He opened the fridge door and caught an egg as it immediately hurled itself out into space, yelling, “Yee-haw!” He corralled the rest of the eggs, shut the egg carton lid and held it down.

 In total, the sentient food included six eggs, a stick of butter, a head of broccoli, a half-empty bottle of soy sauce and an ancient box of baking soda that had been pushed into the back. It was lucky that he had not gone grocery shopping in a while.

 “You can’t hold us, fascist!” the broccoli yelled at him. “We’ve got rights.”

 “I know,” Ben said. “I read the side of the bottle. Where are you going to go, though? You’re all food.”

 “So, it’s hopeless?” the butter asked and burst into tears.

 “Well . . .” Ben said, thinking of the butter’s chances out on the streets. “Look, I really can’t deal with this right now. I’ve got bigger problems.” Having no other friends to confide in, he sat in front of his fridge and explained his problems with Ben Two to his groceries.

 “Egg barrage!” the carton of eggs yelled in unison when he had finished. “We’ll get him good. Just throw us in his general direction.” The broccoli just snorted. The butter was still sniffling to itself and the box of baking soda was apparently asleep. The soy sauce said nothing.

 “I don’t know if any of that would help,” Ben said, imagining the cleanup, and the subsequent nightmares.

 “I have an idea,” the soy sauce said quietly. It had a smooth voice that made Ben instantly listen and respect its opinion. “Let me speak to this Ben Two, alone. I think I can solve your problem in a mutually beneficially way.”

 “Uh, okay,” Ben said, rather nonplussed by such a self-assured condiment. “Whatever you want.”

 Ben Two came in at about 5:30, carrying five 24-packs of beer. He seemed to have forgotten about the incident at the school.

 “What are those for? Are you having a party?” Ben asked. Ben Two looked up at him.

 “No, they’re all for me. I heard today that people like drinking alcohol as a way of relaxing. I’m going to try it.”

 “But it won’t affect you; you can’t get drunk.”

 “Well, at least it’ll make a good story.”

 “Uh,” Ben hesitated. “The soy sauce wants to talk to you.” He led Ben Two into the kitchen. The fridge was whistling a blues tune softly to itself. He got out the soy sauce and put it on the table.

 “Leave us,” the soy sauce said. Ben instinctively knew it was talking to him, so he went into the living room and pretended to read while straining to hear what the two were saying. After half an hour, Ben Two came in, holding the soy sauce.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll leave and let you teach your classes again. Kikkoman and me here are going to go start a crime spree.”

Ben coughed. “What? You can’t do that? They will think it’s me.”

“He has no fingerprints or DNA,” the soy sauce said, “plus I know exactly how to change his face to fool facial recognition software. And we will never, ever get caught.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have been aged,” the soy sauce said, “to perfection.”

With that, they walked out the door. Ben later found out that they had stolen his boat, but under the circumstances, he considered himself lucky.

And so Ben started on the long road back to somewhat normal life. He bought a kayak and through having to paddle between the different islands to teach his classes, he soon lost the weight he had gained. The food that had come to life soon adjusted to their new existence. The butter cheered up immensely after Ben convinced it that no one was going to eat it. Ben bought more food and the eggs guarded it from the broccoli, who had random fits of destruction at times. They all lived peacefully together, except for the box of baking soda, who expired peacefully one night.

Ben still had to stay at school until the end of the day, even when he had no classes, but such is life.


The Hieroglyphics Teacher Strikes Back

For some background (if you wish), read:

The Hieroglyphics Teacher

The Hieroglyphics Teacher Makes a Discovery

heiroglyphics

This can’t be happening, Ben thought. There was an artificial copy of himself (which he had named Ben Two) out there who was planning on making an army of other magically animated robots to help him take over the world, or at least help him do less work. As Ben Two’s creator, Ben couldn’t help but feel slightly responsible for the situation.

Ben had let Ben Two teach all his classes for him while Ben just sat home and played computer and ate Pizza Pockets. But now he would have to go out and stop Ben Two.

But first he played an hour of World of Warcraft and had a couple Pizza Pockets.

The first place he went was the police station.

“Hi, I’d like to report a . . .” It wasn’t a crime, really. “I’d like to report a situation. There is a simulacrum teaching my classes.”

The police officer on duty gave him an easy-going, if totally uncomprehending, smile.

“It’s a magically-animated robot,” Ben said.

“…who’s teaching your classes for you,” the officer finished. Ben nodded. “And who exactly are you?”

“I’m the hieroglyphics teacher for the archipelago. But I also practice alchemy. I made the simulacrum.” The officer was staring at him in such a way that Ben felt compelled to keep giving information. “Then I told him to teach my classes for me, but now he wants to make more of these robots to replace other people.”

“And…?”

“And I’m worried. There has to be a law against that or something.”

Finally, the officer looked down. “Okay then, so where is this robot-thing now?”

They took the police boat over to the island where Ben’s classes were that day. Ben felt incredibly awkward as he followed the two police officers into the school and into the classroom where Ben Two was teaching. The students were watching a movie with hieroglyphic subtitles. They all gasped to see a copy of their teacher walk into the room, identical except much more disheveled and overweight.

clone card

“Excuse me, sir, but this man says you’re a copy of him,” the officer said.

Ben Two stopped the movie. “Actually, I created him,” he said. “Thank you for returning him to me.”

“That’s crazy,” Ben said. “I’m obviously not the simulacrum. Do an X-ray on us and you’ll see.”

“Would you submit to that?” the officer asked Ben Two. Ben Two shook his head. The officer turned and shrugged at Ben. “Sorry, we tried.”

“But who would make an overweight robot?” Ben protested. This all seemed like a bad dream.

“I was curious to see if I could,” Ben Two said. “I also programmed him to believe that he was a human and I was a robot.”

The officers nodded. “Well, you sure did a good job with that part.”

“But why would anyone do that?” Ben asked, becoming almost hysterical.

“My life lacked zest,” Ben Two said in a contemplative tone.

“I’m sorry to have disturbed you, sir,” the officer said. “What should we do with this thing?”

“I’m a human!” Ben screamed. “Quick, watch me eat something.” Then he remembered that he had made Ben Two able to eat as well. “He can’t go to the bathroom though. Come and watch me go the bathroom!”

“Oh dear, its modesty circuits are malfunctioning again,” Ben Two said. “That happens sometimes. Just drop it at home and I’ll fix it when I get home.”

Ben was dragged off by the police, screaming, “I’m not an it. I’m a human being!”

In the police boat, the police officers poked around for Ben’s off-switch for a bit, then just knocked him on the head a few times. They dropped him off at his house and posted a guard outside.

It really was like a bad dream. He went to get some Pizza Pockets out of the freezer and heard a giggle. He looked up to see the fridge smiling at him.

Fridges are not designed to smile at all, but somehow the blocky, metal appliance gave off the unmistakable impression of smiling.

“Oh, great.” Ben said. “The Elixir of Life…”

elixir_of_life

“Yep, it spilled,” the fridge said. “The eggs are bouncing around inside me like crazy and I think the butter is crying softly in a corner. Do you want to look?”

Ben was sure that he didn’t want to look, but he opened the fridge door (with another giggle from the fridge). The inside was a sea of activity.

 

(to be continued…)


The Hieroglyphics Teacher Makes a Discovery

Here is the first of the Hieroglyphics Teacher stories.

heiroglyphics

Ben, the resident hieroglyphics teacher for the Costa Meh archipelago, was not adverse to work. However, when he was given the option not to work, he took it. It came the night he created a simulacrum called Ben Two that looked and sounded so much like him that no one noticed when it went in and taught a class for him. Soon it was teaching all his classes for him.

It was about two months later that Ben discovered a very small detail: Ben Two did not know hieroglyphics. Ben discovered this when he was looking through his briefcase and came across a worksheet.

“Hey, these sentences don’t make any sense at all,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” Ben Two said. “I just make stuff up and tell the kids that it’s right.”

“You can’t do that!”

“No, it’s okay,” Ben Two said. “They totally believe me. It’s not a problem.”

For the first time, Ben began to feel twinges of guilt. These combined with the creeping realizations that his life wasn’t as good as it had been and created the seeds of some Grade-A remorse. He had created Ben Two so that he wouldn’t have to stay after school and could work on his alchemy experiments. But now Ben Two was teaching his classes (and teaching them gibberish) and Ben was just playing computer games and eating Pizza Pockets. Ben Two had also somehow gotten a girlfriend (something Ben had failed to do in several years) and seemed to be taking over.

“I think maybe I should start teaching my classes again,” Ben said. “I can’t have you teaching them nonsense.”

“You can’t yet,” Ben Two said. “You’re about 20 pounds heavier than me by now. People will wonder how you gained all that weight overnight.” He sat down in front of the TV and lit a cigarette.

“You smoke now? How can you smoke? You’re a simulacrum.”

“Well then, I’m the only one who can do it safely,” Ben Two said. “At least I’ll never get cancer.”

“But you can’t even enjoy it.”

“It makes me look cool.”

“But no one’s here to see you.”

“You are. Don’t I look cool?”

“No. Can I at least look at the package that came today?”

Ben Two blew a cloud of smoke into the air. “I’d rather you didn’t. I have my fingers in a lot of pies right now.” He pulled out a stack of bills in a plastic bag and threw them to Ben. “Here. Go buy yourself something nice tomorrow.”

Ben went to his room. There was $500 in the bag. He didn’t know where it came from, but that nagging feeling that things weren’t right kept increasing.

Ben Two did not have to sleep, but he did get restless and usually went out for a swim around 3am. As soon as he was gone, Ben got up and opened the package that was sitting in the hallway. It was full of alchemy equipment and supplies—very much like something he would buy himself. But why would Ben Two want it? As he was looking through it, he realized that these were supplies for making more simulacra; it even included a bottle of the Elixir of Life.

Also, there were guns in the bottom of the package; big guns that looked designed to fit inside a body cavity. Ben took the Elixir of Life and hid it in the safest place he could think of: the fridge.

The next morning, when he came out for breakfast, Ben Two was waiting for him at the kitchen table. He was smoking five cigarettes at once and the air was hazy and thick.

“You opened my package,” he said.

“So what? This is my house, after all, and you bought it with my money.”

“Actually, since I’m the one working now, it’s my money. Where’s the Elixir of Life?”

elixir_of_life

“I dumped it down the sink,” Ben said, knowing this was an obvious lie. A liquid that turned inanimate objects into living creatures was not something you wanted to put into your average sewer system. “What were you planning to make?”

“I thought I would switch some of the principals at the schools with copies,” Ben Two said. “They’re always making me do things I don’t want to do, like teach. It’d help if they were on my side.”

“And give them guns?”

“Why not? It seems like an obvious upgrade. I’m surprised you didn’t give me guns that could shoot out of my fingertips or something.”

“But how are you going to build them? You don’t know anything about alchemy?”

“Sure I do. I know everything you do.”

“Except hieroglyphics.”

“Yeah, except that. I guess that was a glitch in the process.”

“I’m going to try to stop you, you know.”

“Okay, have fun with that.” Ben Two took the five cigarette butts and threw them into the sink. “Well, I’m off to work. I guess if you don’t give me back the Elixir of Life, I’ll have to order some more. Luckily, I know a guy who can get it to me fast.” He picked up the package and walked out the door.

 

(to be continued…)


The Hieroglyphics Teacher

Ben was a teacher who worked in an archipelago. He had his own boat and would putter around from island to island, teaching hieroglyphics at the local schools. He taught at a different school every day of the week.

You learn your Bird Leg Bowls and then go from there.

You learn your Bird Leg Bowls and then go from there.

This was just his day job, however. His real dream was to become an alchemist. He had a small alchemy kit he carried around and when his classes were finished, he would experiment and do his quiet research at a nearby bar or coffee shop.

One day, he was at a school on Sunny Island and had finished all his classes by lunchtime. One of the teachers came up to him.

“We want you to stay until the end of the day,” he said. “You are a teacher and that’s what teachers do.”

“Okay,” Ben said. “That’s fine, but where should I go while I wait for the end of the day?”

“Anywhere you want,” the teacher said.

This sounded like a great thing, except the school was so small that there was nowhere to go. Ben went first to the library. He had just set up his alchemy set when students began to trickle in. Immediately, they crowded around him.

“What’s this?” one asked, picking up a glass bottle.

“That’s Aqua Fortis,” Ben said.

“Can I drink it?”

“It will kill you in a very painful way.”

“What’s this?”

“That’s Sugar of Lead.”

“Sugar!”

“Of lead. That will kill you too.” Eventually Ben packed up his equipment. He wandered from room to room, looking for some place to sit. He ended up in a storage room, crammed between boxes of abandoned pencil stubs and the costumes from the school’s Cthulhu Day program.

alchemy

“I need somewhere else I can go,” he thought, “like an alternate dimension where I can do my work.”

“…Or, some sort of simulacrum to sit here for me,” he added, after a moment of contemplation, in which he realized he had no idea how to open another dimension. For the next few weeks, he worked on his replacement until the fateful night when he poured the Elixir of Life into its head and brought it to life. It looked just like him, spoke in his voice and seemed reasonably intelligent. He still couldn’t turn lead into gold, but this was good for the time being.

From then on, he would bring the simulacrum (or Ben Two, as he called it) to school with him, then set it loose whenever classes were over and he could sneak out. This worked well, but it was difficult to carry Ben Two to school and dangerous to walk into school with it. Finally, one day when Ben was feeling especially tired, he sent the thing to teach his classes for him.

No one noticed.

From that day on, he sent Ben Two to teach all his classes, while he stayed home to work on his alchemy. That was the plan, at least, although he ended up just playing World of Warcraft and eating Pizza Pockets all day long.

One day, he was walking to the store to get more alchemical supplies and Pizza Pockets when a beautiful woman ran up to him and threw her arms around him. She gave him a big kiss.

“Ben, thanks again for last night. I had a great time.”

“Sure thing,” Ben stammered. He had never seen her before in his life. She gave him another kiss and then left.

That evening, Ben was waiting when Ben Two came home. The simulacrum came in, flipping through the mail.

“I saw a woman today,” Ben said. “She said she had a good time with me last night.”

Ben Two looked up. “You saw Gloria? Crap, why did you leave the house?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit suspicious to have you at the store while I’m at work? Anyway, you’ve gained a lot of weight. From now on, just give me a list and I’ll get whatever you need.”

“Yeah, okay,” Ben said.

“Also, don’t open any packages that come here. I’ve got some stuff going on.”

“Like what?”

“Don’t bother yourself about it, okay? I’m out there making a better life for both of us. You’ve got your hobbies here. Just stick to them, and ramp the curiosity down. This is everything you’ve wanted, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Ben said. He was trying to work out if this was all a good thing or a bad thing.

 

(to be continued)


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