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The Skwib — Mark A. Rayner’s irregular and explosive weblog, a daily sputtering of satire, comedy, and odd, odd fiction. Now with goofy pictures!

Career Day for Jim

figurehead -- wooden mermaid

School was lame. Adults were lame. Life, itself, was a series of lame events. None more so than Career Day.

These were the thoughts of Jim as he walked into the gymnasium for the Beaverbrook High career day. At least he didn’t have to sit through the tedium and ennui of Mr. Leekie’s calculus class, or the thinly-veiled bipolar disorder of Ms. Bentz, his English Composition teacher.

Jim suppressed the memories of Ms. Bentz’s painfully lame, manic, dark poetry, and checked out this year’s Cavalcade of Losers. These were the employers, the good corporate “citizens” of his home town with suggestions on how its young adults could plan for an exciting life serving hamburgers.

At least he wasn’t in class.

He had to admit, the selection was good this year, if pointless. There were some lawyers, some engineers from the city, and a large crowd of kids was milling around the booth hosted by a company in town that made web games. As if, Jim thought.

He sighed. This was his last year in high school and he still didn’t know what he wanted to do. His marks were good enough for university, but he knew his family couldn’t afford it — and the thought of taking all that debt was just too much. His family was on the verge of losing their house. He wasn’t supposed to know that, but he did. It was hyper-lame.

Then he heard a voice behind him: “Arrr Jim, have ye’ considered a life at sea?”

Feeling the ennui? Pirate a smile with this funny fiction.

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Alltop be fond of Talk Like a Pirate Day. Have a good one, ye’ bilge rats.Figurehead by Scottnj. Originally appeared in Pirate Therapy and Other Cures, 2012.

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How I Spent the Ice Age

 

Mountains, snow, and glacier -- Chile

[transmission begins]

Hey bud!

The new arms weren’t as much fun as I hoped they’d be, but they were sure useful during the crisis.

As you know I’m not really into the bodmod community, but I’d always thought it would be cool to be able to swing from tree to tree, the way we saw the Reclaimed Gibbons do in the preserve, when we were in high school. Yeah, the one down in Souwesto, near the ruins of Toronto, remember? That was a great trip.

Check these out: I got new arms a few weeks before it started. They weren’t actual Gibbon arms, of course, but a beautiful bit of work by a friend of mine, who dabbles in bio-enhancement. She mostly works with nano, but I keep telling her she has a real flare for the genetic arts too, so she did a combination. The plan was to spend my vacation swinging with my simian friends in Souwesto. Tree swinging that is.

Of course I got the hair on them; I’m not totally fake!

My musculature had just finished healing — even with the latest developments, flesh bodies adapt slowly to nano — but I don’t need to tell you that do I? Duh. I sometimes forget that we’re all real time now, even you guys on Big Red.

Anyway, the worst happened while we were at the peak of seeding the atmosphere with sulphur to counteract the Great Warming. Multiple eruptions all around the world. Temps dropped. The snow started falling. Piling up. And bam. Ice age.

In miniature, anyway. Of course, it couldn’t last, but the damage. Wiped out my Gibbon buddies in Souwesto. And froze all of us out of Nunavut.

But these babies were awesome. You know how much easier it is to ski and snowshoe if your arms can provide half the power? The hair was useful too — an extra layer for warmth. And I’ve been told big arms are awesome in zero-G, so I think I’ll keep them until after I visit you.

Though I’m sure it still won’t be as weird as your green skin, man. That I have to see with my own eyes.

Feeling the chill? Warm yourself up with some funny fiction.

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Alltop swings with the yuks. Photo by Stuck in Customs.

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Henry’s long ride with death

twistedvintage-deathride2

Henry rode with Death his entire life, but it never really cramped his style.

For the most part, other people couldn’t see Death, hanging on his coat-tails wherever he went, and whatever he did. It was usually the very old and the terminally ill, and Henry learned not to frequent hospitals and old folk’s homes after a (bad) decision to entertain his grandmother and all her friends in the Gentle Repose Rest Home. (There was nothing gentle or restful about the walker-enabled slow stampede away from the Henry’s constant companion.) In the early 70s, Henry had an intense relationship with a sensual hippy who was into transcendental meditation and tantric sex. The latter, especially, seemed to help her pierce the veil, and during an hour-long climax she spotted Death, hanging around in their bedroom.

“He looks bored,” Jenny had said.

“Yes. I think Death is bored much of the time. You’d think there would be a more efficient way to do it.”

“To do what?” she’d asked, and then adjusted her position a bit. “There. That’ll keep it going.”

“Well, everyone has their own Death. I can see them all.”

“Oh, me too?”

“Everyone. Your’s looks more bored than mine.”

“Hmm. Let’s ignore them, then.”

But for the most part, human beings were unable to see Death, hovering around them at all times. For Henry, it made the world seem a bit crowded. For every person, there was a dark doppelganger. A cloaked figure with that signature scythe.

It always seemed a bit cliché to him, that Death would represent itself in such a hackneyed way, and one day, Henry asked his Death about it. This would have been years before the incident.

“So, what’s with the scythe. Why do you all have them?”

Death was speechless. It had never realized that Henry could see it. “You’re aware of me? Like, my physical presence?”

“Sure,” Henry said. “I can see all you guys. Or whatever. It’s hard to tell with those cloaks and masks.”

“It’s not a mask! It’s my face, man.”

“Oh. Sorry. Well, what is the deal? Why the outfits.”

“We thought it would be helpful branding. You know, so when you’re supposed to see us, you know what’s about to happen. That way we get fewer ghosts. Most people become ghosts because they don’t see us coming, or the just don’t believe it’s us.”

“So what happens after?” Henry, like all humans, always wondered.

“I can’t tell you that! Who says anything happens?” Death said.

“Fair enough. You’ve got to keep the mystery alive. All part of the brand, right?”

“I suppose so. You have no idea what happens to me if I tell you anything about what happens after.”

“Bad?”

“It makes me seem like a pussycat. Now, let’s go back to me pretending you don’t see me, okay?”

“So you did know?”

“Of course. I was there when you were doing your tantric thing with Jenny, you know.”

“Right. I wonder whatever happened to Jenny?”

“Died of a heroin overdose in 1977.”

“Bummer,” Henry said. “She was one of the good ones.”

Death was non-committal.

After that conversation, Henry got back to the job of living his life. After Jenny he’d met and married Diane, and they’d had two kids. He worked in a large corporation, building a career that eventually led to upper management. He was the kind of boss that everyone liked, even the shareholders. He had a joy in living, in engaging with people, helping them when he could, that was infectious. He lived every moment as fully as he could

Then one day Death spoke to him again. He was at the carnival with his kids — it was a spur of the moment kind of thing. He’d taken the afternoon off from work, and pulled his son and daughter out of school, and they’d spent hours riding the rides, playing the games. The rollercoaster looked too scary for the children, so Henry said he’d ride it first, to show them it was okay. That’s when Death said:

“I’m really not suppose to do this, but I have to warn you not to get onto that rollercoaster.”

“Oh?” Henry said.

“Yes. Because, you know, there are many times when you could die and this is most assuredly one of them. Definitely one of them.”

“So you’re saying I’ll die if I get on the rollercoaster?”

“Well, all the probabilities say that. I don’t make the final decision,” Death said, and then added. “Shit, I’m really not supposed to tell you that.”

“But you have an impact.”

“Of course. I have some impact. In fact, I’m the guy who pulls the trigger, so to speak.”

“So it is up to you?”

“Ultimately. But I have to have really good reasons to not . . . follow orders.”

“Understood,” Henry said. “Now, let’s go show my kids there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

The FatnessThe End

Enjoy some of my longer fiction now. Get The Fatness, a satire about concentration camps for fat people and bureaucracy gone mad, in all the usual online places:

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Alltop laughs at death. Photograph via Twisted Vintage.

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Remembering The Beard Wars

bearded gentleman with an extremely long, matted beard

by Mark A. Rayner

“Captain Chiggerson, can you hear me? Captain?”

“I can hear you! I’m blind, not deaf.”

“Sorry Captain, but you didn’t seem to be responding,” the historian asked. He was a young man, and was frankly shocked by the Captain’s long beard, his lifeless eyes. He’d met many veterans of the Beard Wars, but he’d never gotten used to their dead stares, their broken minds, their creepy long beards.

“Well, I was thinking,” Captain Chiggerson explained.

“About the war?”

“Of course I was thinking about the war. What the hell is wrong with you, are you simple? You just asked me about what role I played in the war, ye whippersnapper!”

“Of course, Captain. I didn’t want to interrupt your train of thought, but these Flannigan pornograph recording cylinders are expensive, and they’re only good for a half-hour of recording time.”

“Well, it’s not a thing a man wants to think about. All the lives lost. The horrors”

“Naturally, but it’s important that future generations understand what happened during the Beard Wars. You know, so it never happens again,” the historian said. He sported an impressive set of friendly mutton chops, which left his chin bare, but otherwise covered his face with hair. It was an old-fashioned facial hair style, but he found it made his interview subjects more comfortable, and likely to answer his questions, because their hero, General Hiram I. R. Sute, made the style so famous.

Of course, his current subject couldn’t see, so it wasn’t helping. “So, you were going to tell me about the start of the wars. What did you do before the wars began?” the historian prompted.

“I was a barber.”

The FatnessThe End

Buy my latest novel, which is the hairy tale of a concentration camps for fat people & bureaucracy gone mad. (A love story.) Available in all formats in all the usual places online:

 

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Alltop is always in need of a trim. bearded gentleman, a photo by Foxtongue on Flickr. Originally published June, 2012.

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