Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A strange customer

Had me a weird customer in this mornin. We was havin a special wherein we was blowin out all the 2008 donuts to make room for the 2009s. I realize that it just means we're selling donuts made today, but Douggy said it'd be a good marketing tool. He also said that we should start releasin our model years in the summer, because that works so well for car makers. Well, I was arrangin the donuts to spell out 2008, most of which is easy in donuts, what with most of them numbers bein round and all, though the 2's kinda hard to make and I was thinkin of cuttin a donut in half and then usin a long john for the stem, but then Alistair just bent a long john funny and, viola, there was a 2. I tried to do it, but I got fillin all over myself. That was ok, though, cause I got Albert, and he helps me clean food stains off my clothes while I'm still wearin 'em. The only problem with this system is that Albert, bein a hound dog, leaves my clothes flooded with dog spit for about a half hour or so. Normally, that ain't a problem, but now I gotta worry about the health inspector and appearance in front of the customer and all that nonsense. So, I usually keep a spare set of clothes with me in the shop, but in the back so no one can come in and accidently see me in my skivvies, which I wouldn't wish on anyone, least of all someone who was out lookin for food. That could not only ruin their entire day, but it would likely lessen their craving for donuts for awhile.

So, I'm in the back, changin into a new pair of overalls when I hear the beep from the front door. We wired up one of them things that beeps when the front door is open, so if I'm in the back or droppin a load off or somethin, I can know that someone's come in the shop and we can get it staffed quick enough the people won't help themselves to a free donut, except, that is, off the plate with the sign that says 'free donuts, help yourself'.

So, I finish changin quickly, which is pretty easy in overalls since there's just a coupla buttons and, it bein winter around here, I'm wearin boots that slip on and off, and then I go out to the front. There's this guy standin there, just lookin at me. I figure he must be one of them goth or emo types that I read about on the internets or somethin akin to that because he was dressed up all in black and had this funny kinda voice. You know, since I'm on the topic, I always wondered why them emo kids, if they was tryin to act all sad and lonely and whatnot, would name themselves after a little red guy on Sesame Street. I remember when that Emo guy was popular, because I always had to buy Emo stuff for my nephew for Christmas and his birthday and all. As I recall, that Emo was one happy little guy, right upbeat, if'n you know what I mean. Now, I ain't watched children's programming in neigh on 15 years now, but what is this world coming to if a little red children's character has become the name for a group of depressives who, in my opinion, just need some hard work under their belts? I guess it's just been too long since I been young.

Anyway, I come out buttonin up my last button when I see this guy standin in my shop like a shadow with no person attached to it. This is not the first time I saw that event though. When I was a lad, me and Douggy was playin shadow tag with this boy Hammish from down the block. He and his family had just moved from the old country and he was kind of a sickly lad, pale and skinny and he had them red rings around his eyes that look like he's got a giant lamprey at home that sleeps on his face, which is a great cure for oversleepin. We was playin shadow tag, wherein one guy has to stomp on the shadow of another guy to make him "it". It gets more challenging to not be "it" as the sun starts goin down and shadows, especially in this part of the country, can stretch for four miles or more, sometimes obstructing the view of traffic passing in another city. Well, we was havin a good ol' time, stompin each other's shadows when some combination of a hard stomp and Hammish's natural sickliness caused his shadow to rip right off. We got all panicky and told Hammish to stay where he was, so he didn't lose the shadow. He kept scrabblin at the ground, tryin to roll up his shadow before a truck on the interstate carried it off for good. We got it in a little roll which Hammish clung onto like he was drownin and that shadow was the only log in the lake. Then Douggy ran back to his daddy's garage and got the duct tape. We didn't know if that'd work or not, but duct tape seems to work pretty well for most things, except for taping ducts. Well, he ran right back and we duct taped Hammish's shadow right back on his feet and he went home good as new. Course, for the rest of his life, he had to wander around with duct tape around his heels and he had to be super careful when taking a shower so his shadow didn't slide down the drain. Eventually, he just stopped taking showers and opened a landfill. He ran that until '78 when he was eaten by a bear on a unicycle, but that's a different story. Incidentally, that bear went on to become the mayor of the next town over, but that is a different story altogether.

So there's this shadow standin in my shop, and I say to it, "Y'all want a donut? Maybe a bear claw?" We got this goth kid in town named Jared. He's the only goth kid I ever seen, and he's a good enough kid. But he loves him some bear claws. He didn't useta like bear claws very much, but that's all he orders when he comes in. I don't know if it's cause he's older and his taste has matured or if it's a goth thing, but this seemed like my chance to find out.

"Pat O'Neil?" ask the shadow in a voice like he's speakin to me through a tin cup telephone.

"Well, you are in Pat O'Neil's Body Shop, Refurbished Car Emporium and Donut Eatery," I says to him, "and I'm the only one here, so that must make me Pat O'Neil. What can I do ya for, friend?"

He looks around slowly and squeakily. It sounds like he's got an old weather vane in his pocket or somethin of the kind. Then, he looks right at me and says, "I must fight you."

I can tell ya, I was quite taken aback at this. Not at the fightin, I was in a number of tussles in my youth. I was surprised at the 'must', like it was his job or something. So I shot back at him, "You must, must you? And why is that?"

"Because that is my nature," he calmly explains.

"It's your nature to fight me?"


"And how long has this been your nature?"

"Since I began."

"So," I asked with logic and reason on my side, "what have you been doin since you began and now, if it wasn't fightin me?"

"I don't understand." He was beginning to twitch.

I decided it was best to begin at the beginning again. "You said it's in your nature to fight me, right?"


"And it's been that way your whole life, right?"


"But if it's your nature to fight me, and you haven't been fighting me, what have you been doing?"

"Walking," he admitted.

"Walking where?"

"Walking here, to fight you," he explained.

"And have you fought me yet?" I asked.

"No, but I must fight you! It is my nature to fight you!" He began yelling and flailing wildly and smoke started to come out of his ears.

"So, you been walkin all this time and you haven't fought me at all. Sounds to me like it's more your nature to walk than to fight me. You been doin it for so long and you haven't fought me once. Just by the percentages, it seems it's not in your nature to fight me, you follow?"

Then his head exploded. I ain't never seen nothin like it. I seen a lot of wild stuff in my time, I seen a bear become mayor, I seen Amelia Earhart become a giant, I even once saw a man eat a bowling ball for $50, but I ain't never seen no explodin head before. His head shot all over my shop and a shower of spark erupted from his neck, lookin like Vesuvius or somethin. His body stiffened up and fell over backwards like a 2x4 stood up on end. Then some sorta green liquid started leakin out of the neck and all over the tile.

Right then, Alistair and a couple other squimonk come runnin in, ready for action. They looked at the headless body in the middle of the shop, leakin goth goo on my floor, then they looked at me and Alistair asked, "What the heck happened here?"

I wasn't too sure myself, so I just decided to stick with the facts. "Head exploded," I explained.

"Could you be more specific?" He was still pretty geared up, but I didn't know what to say to get him to calm down.

"Well," I scratched the back of my head, tryin to sort it all out, "one minute he had a head, and the next he didn't. That's on account of it exploding."

"Ok, back up and start from the beginning," he asked. So I did, but he stopped me, "I know about me showing you how to shape the donut into a 2, I was there."

I tried explaining that was the beginning, but he had me skip ahead a little bit. While I was explainin what happened, some squimonk were lookin over the body and moppin up the floor. One of 'em, I think it was Victoria, shouted over to Alistair, "We can stand down, have a look at this."

We wandered over to the body and looked where Victoria was pointing. There, on the neck just below the ragged hole where the head used to be, were two letters, C and L.

"C.L?" I asked, "The only person I know with a C and an L is Charles Lindbergh. But why's he sendin somethin to fight me?" I was mighty confused.

Then a voice came out of the headless man's chest, makin me feel like that Ichabod Crane feller. "Because I think it's time to train you to fight ninjas," said Charles' voice.

I leaned down and spoke into the chest. "How's sendin an explodin goth into my shop gonna train me to fight ninjas?"

"It's not an exploding goth, it's a robotic ninja," came the voice, "I must have set the fighting level too low."

He went on to explain that, after my injury at the end of the NAMSU competition, he got worried that Clan Platypus might come and attempt to do me bodily harm. So, in the past couple of days, he devised a plan to send a series of robotic ninjas for me to fight so's I could learn how to defend myself. So, he's gonnna be sending robotic ninjas to fight with me at random intervals and he's gonna make them a little harder every time, so I can get better.

"I'll try and do something about the logic circuit, too," he told me from the dead robotic ninja's chest, "I think you shorted it out and that's what made the head explode."

So, it looks like I'm gonna be learnin to fight ninjas for awhile here. Douggy and Alistair both said they'd give me tips and help me out, so that's nice.

Well, Happy New Year, readers and y'all be safe with your partyin and carryin on and whatnot. Thanks for makin 2008 a good year to write a lame blog.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Final Round and Subsequent Follow Up

Hey there, people. I hope y'all had yerselves a nice Christmas. Me, I ate some ham, lounged around, watched my nephew open some boxes and stuff and then brood because he got a game where you kill people one way when he really wanted that other game where you kill people another way. I told him if he wanted to learn how to kill people different ways, he should join the CIA or somethin instead of wasting his time sittin in front of the TV. He just rolled his eyes and scoffed at that, then put his headphones back on and slunk away. I mostly just stayed on the couch and watched the lights twinkle. That'll make more sense here in a little bit. Also, Charles sent me a nice summer sausage and cheese log set, so, I been eatin a lot of sausage and cheese. Now, I'm sure y'all didn't pop in dyin to know that I was eatin sausage, but because I promised to tell you how the final round of the Makin Stuff Up Championship went. I'm gonna warn ya, it's gonna be bad there for a couple of minutes, but your ol' pal Pat got through it just fine, I can assure you. If not, I wouldn't be sittin here writin this now.

So, there I was, gettin Squimassaged by Alistair, who was encouragin me to get back out there and do my best. We was also brewin a pot of coffee, into which Douggy added this 'Red Bull' stuff that he says he likes. I'll tell ya, that was the horriblest coffee I've ever tasted. It was as if you come into the office bright and early Monday mornin to discover that Edna has left the coffee pot on all weekend and that coffee has hardened to a solid powder at the bottom of the pot and, instead of rinsin out the pot and havin it explode on ya nearly costin you your eye, for which Edna later apologized pretty profusely and then offered to buy you dinner in recompense, which you accepted on a friendly only basis because Edna's married to a friend of your from elementary school named Marky who owns the biker bar in town and has always been a pretty tough cookie, but who is nice enough if you're on his good side, and so, when you go out with Edna, she starts touchin your hand and playin with your feet under the table and you can't figure out what to do so you get up to go to the salad bar and you spend 15 minutes starin at the beats before you notice Marky is sittin at another table in the restaurant and so you gotta try to slip out somehow but you can't go through the bathroom because Marky's table is on the way to the bathroom and you can't go through the front door because Edna's over that way and so you have to go through the kitchen and you get back there and can't find your way around and then the manage comes and yells at you and you think it's because you're not supposed to be in the kitchen but it's really because he thinks you work there and are just slackin off and so he keeps yellin until you spend the rest of the night washin dishes and then things are really awkward with Edna at work after that, instead of that, you just pick up a spoon and eat the coffee. It's just like that, only with a week old orange in it. 'Course, after drinkin that muck, I felt ready for anything because my mind was workin again.

"You know what I just realized?" I said aloud, hopin someone would ask me, 'What?'

"What?" someone asked me, and that someone was Douggy.

"Every time it's Earhart's turn to tell a story, she takes a swig from that water bottle and then her breath smells like she's been drinkin seawater," I explain.

"Why didn't you say anything before?!" yelled Alistair. "That bottle's not water, that's orphan tears! She's gaining strength before each round!"

I didn't think that was very good for me, so I said, "Well, that ain't good for me."

"Unless..." prodded Alistair.

"Unless..." thought Douggy.

"Unless we can find a way to get that bottle away from her!" I blurted out triumphantly.

"That's how you're going to beat her, Pat," explained Alistair, "You just keep talkin your stream of nonsense like you do and we'll work out a way to get the bottle away from her. Be prepared to run, though, you don't want to be up there on the stage faced with an angry Ice Giantess."

So, armed with a belly full of burnt-awkward-semi-date-and-week-old-orange coffee, a group of squimonk ready to steal a bottle of orphan tears and a penchant for telling long winded, pointless stories, I returned to the final round of the competition.

I had to pick up the story where it left off, which had Captain Duck and his men of the SS Shoe wrapped in grey blankets searching for a magic potion to lift the curse of the were-polar bears, which had been shaved in areas to give them spots. I came out heavy with the men falling through the ice and being rescued by the arctic mermen, who would have like to soothe the travellers with their stunning viola skills, but couldn't because the strings on their violas kept freezing and snapping and the wood kept warping, what with it being underwater and all. So the mermen offered to help Capt. Duck and his crew if they would bring something to keep their violas warm and dry. After that, and some lingering on the way that arctic mermen would have gained any sort of skill in the viola with the enormous obstacles that stood in their way and then some pontificatin on whether mermen would play stuff more like "Oh, Susanna" or "Danny Boy" or even "The Rite of Spring," it was Amelia's turn to go. She took a big swig of orphan's tears and shot back with the problem of size. The container for the viola needed to be warm and dry, yes, but it also had to be big enough and pliable enough to play the viola in. The only thing that met this qualification, and which generated its own heat was the bladder of the Giant Arctic Chimera, which one could only see when snow blinded. That bein the case, the men had to take a volunteer to stare at the snow for hours and then lead them to the Chimera. As she was speakin and gesticulatin and whatnot, I saw a squimonk being lowered from the ceiling on a bunch of rubber bands that had been tied together, carrying a water bottle in his, or her (it's really hard to tell unless you pick them up and they get really offended when you do) paws. It looked like someone was remaking mission impossible with genetic mutants and a budget of four dollars and eighty two cents, a dollar of which was spent of catering. Before Earhart could get to the Chimera tracks, bingo bango switcheroo, the bottles had been swapped and the squimonk was away into the ceiling again.

I got up for what was to be my final story, telling myself not to get nervous. I was a little woozy and I'm not entirely sure what I said, but there was something in there about the Giant Arctic Chimera being a fan of things wrapped in bacon and a search for the only bacon in the Arctic circle, which I said was available at the only gas station near the North Pole, which charges exorbitant prices. Well, after spinning this out for awhile, I took my seat and tried to scoot as far away from the center of the stage as I possibly could.

Amelia grabbed her bottle, took a big swig, wrinkled her nose up, smelled the bottle, took a smaller swig, then looked around suspiciously.

She was taking her sweet time with the water, so the judge said, "Miss Earhart, it is your turn."

Well, she started lookin under her seat and pokin around the table where her water was, then she went into the audience to look under their seats.

Finally, the judge said, "Miss Earhart, if you do not begin your tale in 30 seconds, you will be disqualified."

This didn't phase her one bit. She kept wanderin around and lookin around and stuff until, with 5 seconds left on the clock, she returned to the mic and said, "I will have my revenge!" Then, she tore off her face! I kid you not, she reached up, grabbed her own face and pulled it off. I thought I was gonna see that coffee again. But then, it turned out that her face was actually a mask. It came off and revealed a hideous head. It was shaggy and bearded, with white skin and pink eyes, like a baby rat. The whole face was flat and broad, like she'd been hit repeatedly with a shovel, and she had two long fangs poking up from her swollen bottom lip. When the mask came off, she started to roar like that tornado that ripped through town when I was a kid. Then, she just started swingin. She pulverized everything in her path.

I turned to run and heard Douggy yell, "Pat! Duck!" just as she hit me in the back. It felt like I'd been playing dodgeball and someone filled up one of the red balls with concrete. The wind got knocked out of me and everything went dark.

When I woke up, we were back on the zeppelin, on our way back to Iowa. Alistair told me that Douggy had carried me out of the building as the squimonk swarmed over the Giantess, distracting her long enough for me to reach the Zeppelin. A couple of them were hurt, but those little ones recover pretty fast. As for me, that strike in the back cracked a couple of my ribs and knocked by back outta place again. So for the past week, I been sittin on the couch watchin the twinkling lights and takin this pain medication, which makes the lights sparkle even more and has got me in a serious Christmasy mood. Also, NAMSU called and told me I'd been officially declared the 2008 Makin Stuff Up champion and they'd get me a trophy as soon as the funerals were over and a new president was found and all.

It also turns out that we gout ourselves a nice write-up in the local paper:

As I was layin there on the couch, thinkin about that trophy, I asked Alistair what set Amelia off so much. I mean, I knew she'd be weakened by the lack or orphan tears and everything, but I didn't think she'd go off like a badger with a burr in his butt over gettin water.

"Actually," Alistair told me, "That wasn't water, we peed in the bottle."

So, that was the championship. I'm gonna recover for a few days, see what happens, but I'm sure I'll be back out on the road for Lindbergh in the next couple of days.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some comptetition

Well, it was a pretty wild weekend. We got to Tallahassee on Friday night. I was asleep by the time we got there, so I didn't get a chance to see much. Saturday mornin, though, I got up pretty early and got to walk around, do a little sightseein, you know. From that walk, there's two things I have to say about that city. First, it's warm. I never been to a place so warm in December. With it this warm in the winter, though, summer's gotta be murder. Summers in Iowa is bad, what with the Mississippi right there throwin off 110% humidity and that sun beatin down. Last August, it got so humid one day that Douggy swam to my house through the air. He was up there doin loop-de-loops and whatnot, just havin a good ol' time. I thought I'd had a touch too much of the moonshine, but then he grabbed a coupla catfish right outta the air. We fried them up and it was the lightest, tastiest catfish I ever had. There was some sorta extra flavor they got by swimmin around in the air. It's hard to describe, but there was a certain kind of birdiness to it. So, that's the first thing about Tallahassee. The second thing about Tallahassee is that it's dark. I said I got up early and wandered about. Early for me is about 4 am, and the sun had yet to peek it's head over the horizon, tip its hat, give us a wink and bring the new day in its suitcase to try and sell. That bein so, it was dark and, since that's the only time I got out of the hotel all weekend, I will just assume that Talahassee is dark until I am proven otherwise.

After I walked around a bit, I had to get back to the hotel for registration. The Makin Stuff Up championship didn't actually start until 9 am, but once you were registered, you had access to all the free food and shirts they were givin away and things. I was pretty hungry, so I wanted to register right away and then take a crack at the pancakes they had sittin out. There was also a tray of donuts there, but the squimonk have really spoiled me when it comes to donuts. They turn out about a thousand donuts each day, but we only sell a coupla dozen. The rest, we all eat or we give away to charity. Douggy and I take the donuts down to the soup kitchen and drop them off every mornin. Since we been doin that, though, those people down there have been gettin a little bigger. Maybe I'll talk to them squimonk about addin more fruit or somethin to those donuts. But right then, I was focused on sinkin my teeth into some of them pancakes, and then defeating the Queen of the Ice Giants. Man's gotta have his priorities, after all.

After I got myself registered, I was standin there at the food table, tryin to choose between bacon and ham with my pancakes when a woman walks up next to me and grabs an apple. She was a long woman; long nose, long face, skinny and tall. She looked a bit like she'd been trapped in a room with the walls closin in and she'd escaped just in time. At first, I thought I recognized her from somewhere. I was lookin closer when she started talkin to me.

"You hear for the competition?" she inquired, genially.

"I sure am," I shot out, not really thinkin about it, "and yerself?"

"Yeah, and I'm gonna win," she stated confidently.

"Huh," I grunted, still distracted. Right about then, I noticed she was wearin one of them leather caps that come down over the ears and a pair of goggles on her head. To top it all off, she was wearin this long white scarf and a leather jacket. I don't know why I didn't notice it before, 'cept for the fact that the decision between bacon and ham with pancakes can affect your whole day. If you make the wrong choice, you may get picked up by a giant eagle and carried to Minnesota, where you gotta hitchhike your way back home by bribing a guy carrying a truckload of chickens with a twelve pack of red bull and a giant foam finger that says "We're #1" on it, because the guy has to stay awake and he wants everyone to know that he and some others are #1 at all times. And then, by the time you get back, your bacon has been sitting out for hours and has gotten all congealed in the fat and it smells kinda funny, but you go ahead and eat it anyway and you end up in the hospital overnight and they ask you why you ate bacon that'd been sittin around that long and you tell them the whole long story and they don't believe you and you gotta go see a shrink for six months and he ends up quittin the business because he's writing a book, but don't worry, he won't use your name. What I'm sayin, though, is that you gotta think carefully about the bacon or ham question. The smallest distraction can have consequences beyond your imagination, even if you've got a pretty active imagination. Sometimes, sausage is thrown in there, as well, but that opens up the whole "link or patty" debate, which I didn't have time to deal with because I had to be fresh for the competition.

Well, after I'd had my pancakes and ham, which I decided on after testing the consistency of the syrup, I went back to the room to prepare for my first round. While I was there, I let Alistair know that I'd spotted Earhart at the breakfast table.

"I know," he retorted. "We've been tracking her since we arrived. Just stay out of her way until the final round, we don't want problems."

So, I tried to do just that. I went back down to the conference room, where the competition was bein held, and listened to the opening ceremony. There was a bunch of hullabaloo in there about past winners and some things about presidents and rulers of banks and whatnot, but I wasn't really payin attention that much. Then came the part about the rules. Now, one thing about the makin stuff up championship is that the previous year's winner gets to make up the rules for the current year's competition. The winner ain't allowed to write anything down or prepare in any way beforehand. The winner, in this case Stuart Shepardson of Casper, Wyoming, just hasta step up to the mic and list some rules off the top of his or her, in this case his, head.

Stuart announced, "This year, the rules are as follows; first, each round will have three competitors, the first competitor will be given a topic to tell a story on, the second competitor must give an alternate explanation of the story and the third competitor must claim to have been an eyewitness to the story and explain the real situation; second, one competitor from each round will be chosen to move on to the next round by a panel of 4 judges and a stuffed hippopotamus; third the final round will not be judged, the three competitors will continue telling the same story until they can no longer think of things to say or add, the last one standing wins the championship; finally, every story must contain a a shoe...for some reason..a.a.and it has to be part of the story, it can't be just layin around somewhere."

Well, that didn't sound too difficult to me. My only worry was that I'd never told a story to a stuffed hippo before and I didn't know the kind of stories they liked. Other than that, it all seemed pretty straightforward.

I ain't gonna tell you about all the rounds, 'cause there were, by my closest estimate, twenty to thirty thousand. It was a long coupla days, I tell ya. I just wanna tell you about the first, because it was my first time competing in this sorta thing, and then I'll skip ahead some.

In my first round, I was with this little nerdy guy who was a literature professor at some community college or something and this mousy woman who ran some sorta business on the internets. I don't remember exactly what it was, but something containing the words "erotic" and "macaroni". 'Course, she coulda been making the whole thing up. We sat on the stage and Professor McLiterati got pulled to go first. He was told to talk about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He told some dark detective story about a plot to overthrow the world and how John Wilkes Boothe was some sorta visionary magician thing that was really savin humanity. I dunno, it all sounded like a bunch of hooey to me. When he was done, though, he was disqualified for not having a duck in a shoe in his story. He looked pretty crestfallen at that and slunk away. Fortunately, I pulled second position.

"That wasn't the way that happened at all," I explained, leanin back in my chair some, "you see, he wasn't so far off in the plot to take over the world, but it wasn't Lincoln that was doin it, it was actually a race of space ducks from Andromeda. They'd destroyed their water-like world through over fishing and had to come somewhere where they'd have a chance to breed and thrive. Sadly, their space technology wasn't really up to intergalactic standards and so they just took an old shoe and wrapped it in plastic wrap. They gave the astroduck a couple of tanks of air and a tuna sandwich and sent him on his way. When he landed in Booth's backyard, he used his crazy spaceduck mind ray on Booth, who he mistook for a leader because Booth, being an actor, was practicing a monologue from Henry V and the space duck thought that Booth had an invisible army that he was leading into battle. However, when the duck learned the truth, he used his mind ray to get Booth to kill the president because the duck thought that whoever killed the leader became the next leader, which is what happens on Andromeda. Well, fortunately, Lincoln's spy network had detected the presence of space ducks on the planet and had taken precautions. They made a steam powered robot that was basically a bag of oranges and some 2x4s to impersonate Lincoln for a period of 2 months. Lucky they did, because Booth showed up at the theater and everything that night. After the shooting, the secret service caught the space duck, caught Booth, had a glass of fresh orange juice and got Lincoln out of hiding and he ran the country in secret for the next two years. At least, that's what I read in the encyclopedia."

The audience sat in silence for a little while, and I thought I'd lost the competition right then. But then the room burst at the seams and there was applause all around. It felt good knowin that I'd just impressed a bunch of story tellers with my story, I won't lie. After the applause died down, Mousy woman wasn't really able to say anything, so she forfeited. After the round, I went and had a snack with Douggy. I told him that, if I'd known how easy this thing was, I woulda entered years ago.

After that, the rounds went pretty smoothly until the final round on Sunday evening, just before which Alistair told me that they didn't know what was gonna happen when Earhart lost this thing, so the squimonk were gonna be hiding in the ceiling and Douggy was gonna be in the audience to whisk me away if anything bad happened. Well, that made me a little nervous going into the round. I had a little time to settle my nerves, I thought, since I'd drawn number three in the round. It would allow me to get into the swing of the competition. The guy who'd drawn first was an older gentleman from New York, apparently he was some sorta aspiring writer, but had just never made it. Instead, he ran store that sold Cardigans, pipes and used books. It was apparently very popular with the intellectual crowd there. We were all anxious to hear the topic for the round, so we could begin makin our stuff up. I kept glancin over at Amelia, seein if I could see any sorta Ice Giantiness about her, but she just looked like a normal woman to me. Finally, we were given the topic; spotting polar bears in the Arctic.

Sweater guy told a long and fairly interesting adventure story about the SS Shoe getting caught in the ice and how the men, led by Captain Duck (which I thought was a nice touch, I'd heard so much about ducks and shoes that I hoped I'd never see a duck in a shoe again), had to keep the ice away from the boat for the entire winter, working in shifts with picks and shovels to keep the boat clear of the deadly, crushing ice. All the while, though, a man had to stand in the crow's nest looking out for bears, who would appear out of nowhere and devour the men. It was full of adventure and heroism and, I'll admit, I got a little teary when Sam died.

When he'd finished, it was Amelia's turn. She pulled a water bottle out of her jacket and took a swig. Then, she took a deep breath and began on her version. She left the SS Shoe and Captain Duck, but, this time, it wasn't the ice that was most worrisome, it was the fact that they were fighting were-polar bears. And, she said, when a polar bear attacked a human, that human became a werebear as well. Then she said the only was to kill a were-polar bear is with a bullet made out of mercury, which is impossible to do in anywhere but the coldest climates, because mercury has a very low freezing temperature. So, the men forged mercury bullets to wage war on the were-bears.

Well, I was just stunned. I wasn't sure what to do, when inspiration suddenly hit me. I remembered watching on some nature show that polar bears actually have black skin, it's just their fur that was white. So, I started sayin that Captain Duck, worried about the invisibility of the were-polar bears asked for volunteers to sneak up to the bears and shave small circles in their hair, thereby spotting the polar bears, which would make them completely visible on the ice and would give them men the time they needed to prepare the mercury bullets.

Well, after a couple of rounds like this, which involved visiting the king of the were-polar bears to ask for a truce and a witch of some sort, Sweater And Pipe had no more to say and so dropped out of the competition. I was now just me and Earhart. We went back and forth for awhile, her jabbing with a magical curse that had to be lifted and me countering with pirate treasure containing a map to the secret ingredient needed in the potion to lift the curse. She'd shoot forward with a ghost army protecting the treasure and I'd come back with the fact that ghosts are color blind and so the men wrapped themselves in grey blankets to get past them. We went back and forth many times, and I could feel my brain getting tired. Fortunately, 4 hours into the competition, a dinner break was called.

I stumbled into the room and flopped down on the bed. "I don't know how long I can hold out," I mumbled into the pillow.

"I felt Alistair running up and down on my back, giving me a massage. "You can do it, Pat," he encouraged, "We all believe in you."

"She's just too strong," I said, feeling hope slipping away.

I'm gonna leave it there for now. There's more in the final round. I want you to know, though, with Christmas coming up and everything, I may not get back to this story right away. I'll do my best, though, to deliver the ending some time this week.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thus I have Heard

Right now, we're zeppelinin our way down to Tallahassee, Florida for the 2008 annual NAMSU (that's National Association of Makin' Stuff Up, for short) Makin Stuff Up Championship, wherein I am to defeat Emelia Earhart in a makin' stuff up challenge. Well, right after Charles told me that, I had to ask him why I needed to defeat Amelia Earhart, who is a national treasure as far as some people are concerned. He explained some mighty strange and terrible things about that Earhart and why I needed to defeat her, and I mean to relay those things to you. I know I've got a reputation for expandin the truth a mite now and then, and maybe you're not gonna believe all that I'm about to tell you, but I'm gonna make an effort to stick as close as possible to Charles Lindbergh's story. If it seems like I'm gettin into some weird territory, don't blame me. So, here goes.

Lindbergh had himself a young son, Charles Jr. You may or may not know some of this, stick with me a bit, and I'll probably wander into some stuff you don't know. It'll be a little like when you go campin and you start out in your driveway, which is stuff you know pretty well, then you drive onto some dirt roads for awhile, eatin some beef jerky and singin along to Freebird or Dust in the Wind or somethin, which is stuff that you still kinda know, but you know less and less as you go on, then you drive into a black hole for some reason, which happened to me once, but that's a different story, and in that black hole, you and light and time get all spun around and you get all stretched out in body and mind and you get super heavy even though you haven't eaten nothin since last night because your sister Frank called you up early in the mornin, before you'd had time to have a decent breakfast, all in a tizzy fit because it's her son's 3rd birthday party that day and she bought white cake and her stupid husband Earl, who you don't think is all that stupid because he always beats you when you're playin cards with him and his buddies from the ammunition plant, bought white frosting and any fool knows that you can't put white frosting on white cake, and your sister Frank has to call you at 5:30 in the mornin to fix it and tells you that you got to go to Wal Mart and buy some strawberry frostin knowin full well that you ain't allowed into the Wal Mart in town anymore because of that thing with the rabies, and then you tell Frank where she can get her frostin, if you catch my drift, and she yells at you and makes you feel bad about some stupid thing you did when you was kids and then you feel guilty so you got to go all the way over to the next town to get to the Wal Mart there but you want to be back in time for the game so you take a shortcut your friend Douggy (who later turned out to be half ninja) told you about, but he didn't warn you that if you turned left instead of right on CR 114, you'd drive yourself into a black hole and so you're spinnin around thinkin about all of this and you don't know what's what anymore but then you're somehow magically spit out of the black hole and somehow you got a tub of strawberry frosting while you was in there. That's like the stuff later that you don't know nothin about, so just pay attention and we'll get there.

So, anyway, like I was sayin, Charles had a son names Charles Jr. Sadly, Charles Jr. disappeared one night. It was all the thing in the news for a long time there. There were all sortsa reports on the Lindbergh baby and the search for the kidnappers and whatnot, but nothin was ever found out. A little later, a coupla people came out and said they was the Lindbergh baby, but that was probably just to inherit the Lindbergh fortune Charles left behind as a decoy after he faked his death. As I said, though, no kidnapper or anything was ever found. Nothin was ever found publicly, that is. Charles used his massive fortune, which was enough to buy, at my nearest estimate, one hundred thousand gold toilets, to buy only a single gold toilet and then make inquiries about the real people responsible for the loss of his son. Charles soon learned that his son was kidnapped by a group of drug selling ninjas, which later turned out to be Clan Platypus, in order to harness the navigational power of his mind. They knew that they could never twist an adult Charles' mind, so they did the next best thing and kidnapped his son, who they planned to raise as one of their own. Upon further investigation, Charles learned that his flying rival, Amelia Earhart, had used her connection to him to break into his house and actually take his son. She was not a ninja, though, just working with them for reasons that will become clear soon. When Charles learned of this, he had her plane "disappeared" as she traveled around the world. That flight was itself a cover for the delivery of a new drug formula that would have been more addictive and potent than any known substance. As he told me, meth is a pale replica of that drug they produced. Fortunately, they were sending the formula to their factories in Siam in the cargo hold of Earhart's plane and so they lost it in the ocean. If that hadn't happened, we could all have been zombies right now.

But then, why was Earhart working with the ninjas, you may ask. I know I sure did but, then again, I am a naturally curious person. I'm not the kind to be deterred by a sign that says "Danger, Black Hole Ahead". If you are not that kind of person either, you may be interested to know. This is a tale that goes back a long ways; a real long ways.

When the Earth was young, and I'm talkin days old here, just after it congealed out of the space dust of the big bang, it was just a small ball of rock hurtlin through the cosmos at billions of miles an hour. It had yet to be caught in the gravity of our sun because our sun had yet to form. So, there's this little ball of rock, no air, no trees, no nothin, shootin through space faster'n you can shake a stick at. You with me? That little rock, which was to become our Earth, was covered in ice and was ruled by the Ice Giants. No one knows where the Ice Giants came from, this bein only days after the Big Bang, but the fact is that they were there, wanderin on this little rock of ice. Now, these giants had themselves a king named Ymir. Ymir was a good ruler, he always made sure his giants had enough ice and rock, which is what Ice Giants love best, and found ways to entertain them during the long, cold nights of the early universe. Interestingly, he invented the games of Cribbage and Risk during those times, because the giants needed games that would fill up their time, and those two games can really do the trick.

The giants lived in relative peace, that is, just the occasional scuffle when someone cheated at a game, and happiness for a couple of million years as the stars and suns formed around them. In time, though, the rock they were on got trapped in the gravity of a giant red star and their ice began to melt. Now, it's durned near impossible to have ice without ice giants, but they managed to scrap along. Soon, though, their rock began to heat, and the ice started to disappear. At first, they had enough to go around if they rationed it. In a matter of months, though, even rationing couldn't help them. Soon, real fights broke out among the giants, and they weren't even playing games any more. The fights got more and more brutal until, one day, the unthinkable happened. The giant Vafthruthnir picked up a rock and threw it at Surt, but Surt ducked and the rock hit Ymir in the head, killing him. This is the origin of the phrase "stone dead", which I was surprised to learn. When they saw their leader dead, all the giants armed themselves for war; real war, not Risk war. They also began looking for chemicals and formulas to strengthen themselves. Ymir's wife, Imla, stayed out of the fighting proper, but encouraged the giants to kill each other with a horrendous array of weapons. She found, that when a giant was killed, their children would automatically run to her, she being the only giantess, and they would cry. When this first happened, one of their tears crossed her lips, and she felt the strength that came from it. She bided her time, manipulating the giants and becoming strong off the tears of orphans.

When the battle was finally over, only two adult giants remained, Vafthruthnir and Imla. Vafthruthnir took it into his head to have Imla as a bride, not knowing that she was stronger than he. When he grabbed her to carry her into a cave, as was giant courtesy, she tore off him arm, beat him with it and then ripped him in half. Then she ripped the halves in half. Then, she did that again. She kept doing that until Vafthruthnir was nothing but mush, which she then mixed into the porridge of Vafthruthnir's children. After they ate the porridge, she told them what she had done. They cried and wailed, and she drank their sweet, sweet tears.

As the giant children grew, so did Imla's cruelty. She would promise the children puppies, which all children love, even children who were around before puppies. Then she would deliver a box, wrapped up nice as you please. The children would get excited and tear into the box finding not puppies inside, but razor blades. Sometimes there would actually be a puppy in the razor blades, which was even worse.

I'm gonna interrupt myself here for a second. I know this sounds like some sorta wild tall tale that Pat's just makin up, which is somewhat likely given that, on an average day, I spin enough yarns to make sweaters for all the penguins in Antarctica. I just want to assure y'all that ain't the case, though. This is all from the mouth of Charles Lindbergh, I swear on my aunt Rita's remaining leg.

Imla survived through the history of the world. As the Earth grew older, she found more ways to gain power and strength, but she always preferred orphan's tears. When the dinosaurs were around, she called down a comet in order to orphan millions of children. She took used an army that she had enslaved to gather the tears and store them in a cave. She gorged off those tears, growing fat as the life on Earth recovered. She was responsible for the Fall of Rome, for Attila the Hun and for the fall of the Qin dynasty. Through it all, she harvested and drank the tears of the little children. In the 13th century, she had an entire crusade full of children kidnapped and their parents killed. She hung the children by their ankles and let the tears drip on her as she rolled and laughed for over 10 years.

During this time, Imla began to hear of Clan Platypus and their desire to make zombies out of drug addicts. She met with their leaders and they formed an alliance. She would help them turn more and more people into zombies as long as they let her harvest the orphan's tears. They couldn't say no to the queen of the Ice Giants. Even ninjas know that killin one of them things is tougher than gettin rid of a hornet's nest usin a stinky sock on a long pole. So, they made themselves an alliance, she transformed herself into an aviator and changed her name from Imla to Amelia. The rest, I guess, is history.

Course, now all I gotta do is make up stuff better than a woman who's older than the sun and has prolly seen more than a fly in a house of mirrors. But I'm pretty sure I can do it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pat's Mission

I got up pretty early yesterday mornin. Round about 4:30, I got me some terrible heartburn. It felt like I'd swallowed me a cup of lava with some chopped habanero peppers in it, then threw in some fire demons from the 4th circle of hell down in there to stir it up with some light sabers. In short, I needed me some antacids right quick. I'm a wanderin' this way and that in Lindbergh's mansion, lookin for a medicine cabinet or whatnot. I don't ever find one, but I find this weird lab thingy that's got all these heads and arms and gears and stuff in it. I was a little scared at first, you know, thinkin this was just a plot to steal the head of Pat O'Neil and put it on display or whatnot. But then I figure, first, why would anyone want to display my mug anywheres that wasn't Halloween related or otherwise meant to scare kids away from something or another, second, who's gonna be visiting a display of heads in a secret underground bunker in the middle of no where. It's not like Lindbergh encourages visitors here, what with the razor wire and Siberian tiger and giant ball that chases people around. That last one, he said he got a good deal on it when The Prisoner wrapped production. The funny thing is, he says, is that the ball was actually a people eating ball. They just pretended that it wasn't because people would be horrified to learn that such a thing existed. In fact, so Charles tells me, the entire tv series was originally aired as a documentary, but people were so offended at what their country was doing that there were riots at the focus groups. Fortunately, members of MI5 were there to ship the troublemakers off to the island. Later, when they simply repackaged the show as fiction, people loved it. Why, you may wonder, did they show it in the first place? Well, this was in the '60s and even world governments were experimenting with openness. Plus, England was a little strapped for cash after their secret war with the moon spiders and thought a TV show could help them recover in time to have a beneficial trade alliance with the mole people, who were asking for a down payment of 5%. With all that, I felt confident that this was not all some wacky secret plot to steal my, or anyone else's head. So, I looked a little closer and saw that the heads were all filled with machinery and whatnot. It seems that Lindbergh has some sorta robot lab or something in his basement. There was one robot that looked kinda complete layin next to the door. It was slumped against a wall with its hair over its face, so I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, or a manwoman, like I saw at the circus that once. It was droopin like Dali's mustache after a shower and I could see a little switch in the back of its neck. Now, I'm like anyone in that, if there's a switch around, I just gotta flip it. I mean, what if it were an antacid delivery robot or somethin like that? Then I would be missin out on two things, seein a robot and gettin an antacid. So there I was, reachin out to touch the switch. I could feel its cold metal switchiness under my ring finger. As I started to apply pressure to the switch, I heard voices.

"Are you sure he's ready?" That was Lindbergh, I could tell because he sounded human, and he didn't sound like Douggy.

"I'm positive." That was Alistair. I could tell because he sounded just like you think a creature that was a combination of squirrel, monkey, some donkey, a little spider and a dash of giraffe thrown in there for good measure, what designed and built his own voice box would sound like, if you were the type to imagine those kinds of things. "He's been ready for this before we recruited him."

"I'm still not sure," Lindbergh said, "I want to..."

Their voices faded away in the distance. When I thought it was safe, I left the robot lab and followed the direction they went. I figured one of them would know where I could get somethin to fix the molten metal that was exploding in my chest. You know, now that I think of it, I bet that sandwich had something to do with this. I knew I shouldn'ta finished it all in one day. Honestly, I didn't really want to, but it was just too good not to eat. Plus, you know how it is when you have somethin deep fried. It's just not the same when you reheat it. The taste is there, but the crunch is all gone. Anyway, I followed the sound of voices until I reached the kitchen. There, I saw Alistair standing up on his hind legs on the counter while Charles was makin himself a sea monkey tortilla, I suppose for one on his burritos. Charles was in the middle of sayin somethin low and conspiratory when I caught his eye.

"Oh, hey, Pat!" he said. He's usually very nice, but he's got a weird way of speakin. Sometimes, he's real quiet, so it's hard to hear, and other times he's just a little too loud and friendly. It's like he doesn't know what a normal tone or level of voice is. That's OK with me, because my grandpa was sorta the same way. He lost his hearing because of a bomb in the first world war. The bomb itself didn't really damage him, but there was a German runnin right at him at the time. The bomb actually hit the German and his pointy helmet flew off his head, bounced off two ot three trees, flew up in the air and knocked out another piece of artillery that was headed right for the hospital tent, careened off another group of Germans who was about to rush my grandpa's position, knockin all of 'em flat, and makin the helmet shoot offa one of their heads. Then, the helmets flew two separate directions, each caught in the barbed wire that was surroundin pappy, and flew back at him at the exact same time with just enough force to pop both his eardrums. He was rushed to the hospital tent right away, which is where he met my grandma, and they saved as much of his hearing as they could. Later, he was one of the first people to get a hearing aid. He got one of the early, gas powered models that had to be wheeled around in a wagon. I was never sure if it worked because it made his hearing better or if it just made everyone yell louder to be heard over the gas engine. But, because pappy was always luggin this hearin aid around, and he could never really hear right anyway, he would shout when he was talkin to other people or mumble when he was talkin to himself. Charles is a bit the same way, only minus the gas engine, the wagon and the trumpet lookin things attached to his head with leather straps, at least so far as I've seen.

"Mornin' Charles. Mornin' Alistair," I said, "What are you two gents doin up so early?" 'Cause of the heartburn, I was squinchin and squeezin my face up a little.

I think Charles noticed that somethin was wrong, 'cause he asked, "Is something wrong? You're squinching and squeezing your face up a little. It looks like you've got some discomfort."

"Yeah," I told him, "I got some horrible heartburn here. I was just up lookin for an antacid or somethin."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle, which he tossed to me. "That one works pretty quick for me."

"Thanks," I told him, chewin a coupla tablets. It was like someone dumped ice water down my throat and I was instantly better. "Wow," I said, surprised, "That worked fast."

"Yeah," he said, almost silently, "It's a recipe I invented myself. Eating these burritos thrice a day is murder on my digestion. Sometimes, I wonder if it's worth it. But then, I think about the sheer horror of ninjas selling meth, and I realize that it is. Speaking of which, would you like a burrito? It's made with sea monkeys."

"No thanks," I tell him, "When I was a kid, my uncle Charlie bought me a Sea Monkey set from the back of a catalog. We was gonna raise them together for a sea monkey circus. The day the sea monkeys came, though, a civet cat got caught in the mail box, quite unbeknownst to Uncle Charlie. He was so excited to get the sea monkeys that he reached into the mail box without lookin, which was contrary to his usual habit after he got bit by that cottonmouth that once and the poison went right to his heart and he had to have it replaced with a baboon heart, which wasn't really that bad 'cept he always got a little worked up when people smiled at him because he thought they was challenging him to a fight and he beat up those teenagers that once when they mooned him and he went to jail for a month where he met aunt Sally who was in there for throwin feces at a guy at the supermarket because she had a baboon heart too and he was flirtin with her. They used to always say they were two people with one babboon heart, which was kinda sweet. Oh yeah, they lived in a tree, too. So, anyways, uncle Charlie reached in for the sea monkeys without looking and the civet cat took his arm right off, all the way to the shoulder. He was runnin around, hootin and hollerin and shakin his shoulder when the civet cat, poisoned by the baboonieness of Charlie's blood, died right there on his arm. He went right straight to the doctor, who told him that they coudn't remove the civet cat because it had latched onto his artery and if the cat was removed, uncle Charlie would die. So, instead, Charlie went to this guy Tom he knew who was a great taxidermist. Tom preserved that civet cat while it was still attached to uncle Charlie. So, for the rest of his life, Uncle Charlie walked around with a preserved civet cat stuck to his arm. I tried to raise my sea monkeys and train them in circuslike things, but it just wasn't the same without uncle Charlie helping me."

Charles looked a me for a second, then shook his head quickly. He asked me, "Pat, is any of that true?"

Well, I was a little chagrined, "Nah, not a word of it. It just came spillin out, really." I was afraid he was gonna be mad at me or something.

But instead, he turned to Alistair and said, "Amazing!"

Alistair responded, "I told you. He will never be more ready!"

"Ready for what?" I inquired.

"Pat," Charles began, "We have a very special mission for you. One that you are uniquely qualified to perform."

"Oh yeah? What's that?" I was getting intrigued.

"It has come to our attention that Clan Platypus is attempting to open up new markets. The rural areas are already saturated with meth, and so their distribution is progressing slowly there. They are attempting to market their product to writers now. They have formed a diabolical plan to start with the lower level writers, get them hooked on meth, and then work their way up the literary ladder until they can capture the minds of tenured literature professors at major universities. They can then use the influence of these professors to encourage meth use in the students, capturing a whole new generation of college educated adults who will then spread their meth use through new economic and social areas, destroying society as we know it."

"That sounds awful," I say, knowing how the liberal elite have done the same sorta thing, which is why no one college educated have ever voted for anyone but a liberal, because, we all know, tenured university literature professors are the most influential of all people anyone can ever meet in their lives, "What can I do to help?"

Charles and Alistair explained to me that the National Association of Makin Stuff Up (NAMSU for short) is holdin their annual Makin Stuff Up contest in Florida next week. Clan Platypus has put up some pretty tough competition who, on winning the championship, will credit her success in makin stuff up to meth. Their hope is that some people will start doin meth to get leg up on next year's competition and the snowball will start rollin. Even if there's someone better, the ninjas will assassinate them before the final round and Clan Platypus' ringer will win.

"This is very dangerous, Pat," Alistair explained to me, "and you don't have to do it if you don't want. However, there will be thirty squimonk in the ceiling and Douggy will be disguised in the audience in case something goes wrong. We will make your safety our only priority. All you will need to worry about is beating their ringer."

"I'll do it," I said, fully committed, "I trust you and Douggy with my life, and I want to do what I can to help defeat the evils of meth ninjas. Just one question, though. Who's their ringer?"

Charles looked at me and shouted, "The most evil woman in the history of time! Amelia Earhart!"

I was just as confused as you are now, but I gotta go practice my makin stuff up, so I'll fill you in on those details tomorrow or the next day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mystery of the Flaming Couch, Solved

I just had the most succulent, delicious, crazy go nuts fantastic meal I've ever experienced. It was a whole buffalo stuffed with a cow which was itself stuffed with a pig stuffed with a turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a quail stuffed with an apple. The whole thing was wrapped in bacon and sausage, battered, then deep fried. Then it was boxed in a giant box of waffles, wrapped in chocolate, re-battered and deep fried a second time. Then, it was sliced thin and piled up on a 40 foot long piece of rye bread, slathered in thousand island, sauerkraut and 15 kinds of cheese. Then, that sandwich was itself wrapped in bacon and deep fried, covered in powdered sugar and served with a side of nacho cheese for dipping. And that was just the appetizer! The main course had all sortsa weird ingredients like gecko sweat and snails' eggs. I wouldn't have eaten it, but I wasn't told about all that stuff until afterward. Boy howdy am I stuffed. I just wanted to put that out right up front so that y'all know that I'm OK after the flaming couch attack. I don't want you to worry yourselves needlessly. I also wanted you to know right up front that that Charles Lindbergh is one stand up guy. Now, I suppose, though, that I should tell you about the couch attack.

When we got hit yesterday, I wondered to myself why someone would be firin flaming couches at us and how anyone saw us to shoot flaming couches in the first place. But I couldn't ask no one because there was all this bleeping and whooping and this flashing red light that just kept spinnin around, makin me think about that time my redheaded cousin Chester got stuck on the tilt-a-whirl when the operator guy started havin some kinda crazy seizure and shakin around like a knock kneed, hypoglycemic, communist spy in Central Park on the Fourth of July whose eaten nothin but cotton candy and sweet tarts all day and has just spotted George Washington pumping iron and polishing a gun at the same time. And iron pumping George Washington knows. That's right, he knows what you're up to. Well, this guy's all shimmying and shaking like that and he's got his hand on the lever that makes the tilt-a-whirl tilt and whirl, so it's speedin up and slowin down like a first time driver whose water just broke, but who still don't know how to work a clutch. Chester's head is just swingin this way and that and he starts gettin really scared. It gets even worse when the guy's arm flies out an his hand gets bit off by one of the sitty places on the tilt-a-whirl. Well, after five minutes and about eight thousand gallons of vomit, the guy drops to the ground and Chester is free. Funny story, that guy ended up movin into tow and he and Skeeze had themselves a one hand band for awhile. But, with the slow, relentless passage of time, big band music fell out of vogue and they was forced to find other jobs. Currently, I think he's teachin the third grade down at Edward R. Murrow elementary. That red light was spinnin around just like that. (I don't know if you noticed, and I don't wanna toot my own horn or nothin, but that was a double metaphor I did right there. Don't be tempted to go out and try that right now, though. It takes years of practice in bein folksy to pull that off. If you try it too soon, your nose may try to eat itself. I swear, I seen it happen once.)

Well, with all the lights and sirens and whatnot, I don't have no time to ask anyone what's happenin. I catch some small snippets of conversation;

"...stealth damaged!"

"...thirty meters and closing..."

"...tanks still at full..."

"twenty five meters and closing!"

"Drop ballast! Drop Ballast!"

"twenty meters!"

"We're not going to make it!"

"Hide Pat! Hide Pat!"

"10 meters!"

"Brace for impact"

"In the thing! Under that thing! No, not that thing, the other thing! Yeah!"

"Impact in 2 seconds!"

Then, everything went dark as I was shoved into some kind of secret compartment thing in the floor. I didn't know what was happenin, but I could hear it. First, there was this big thump and the ship rocked a little. Then, there was a whole messload of footsteps, like goin to a centipede ball, 'cept these footsteps were pretty quiet and centipedes usually get themselves fancied up for a ball, wearin ties and heels and tap shoes and whatnot. You may not believe me, but them centipedes are excellent tap dancers. They learned everything they know from watching Gene Kelly movies and copying his moves thousands of times. So, I guess it wasn't quite like a centipede ball, but maybe more like a centipede sock hop, which are currently out of fashion in the centipede world. Then, it sounded like a bunch of men with hernias were slappin a boys' choir with steaks. It was all wet smacks and grunting and high pitched screaming. Along with that, there was a lot of bangin on the floor, like goin to an NBA game when someone's replaced all the balls with bowling balls. After that, there was silence.

After a couple minutes of this silence, the door to the secret chamber was opened and they let me out. I looked around and saw a bunch of guys with mullets and Lynard Skynard t-shirts layin on the floor everywhere. They was thin as rails and ghost white. Most of 'em was missin their teeth, too. They looked like a bunch of anorexic vampires what stopped by the dentist on the way to a monster truck rally or somethin. Over by one of the windows, there was a couple of gents all in black PJs with their shirts wrapped around their faces lyin very still.

"What's all this, then?" I ask.

"This," said Alistair, "is a platoon of meth zombies led by their ninja handlers."

"Well, didn't you say this was a stealth zeppelin?" I asked, surprised at the apparently dreadful state of squimonk stealth technology. "For all the good it did ya, you might as well have painted 'We're not here!' on the thing."

Alistair glared at me. "The cloaking device worked just fine until the flaming couch damaged it."

"Well, like I said, how'd they see us to shoot a flaming couch at us in the first place?"

"They didn't," he explained, "it was just a coincidence." He went on to explain that the meth ninjas had, for a brief time, experimented with large cannons as a way to deliver their products speedily and accurately. They gave up on the idea, though, after discovering that the math necessary to shoot a 200 pound package across two states and have it land safely within a 5 yard radius was just too much work. Plus, everything they put in it caught fire for some reason. So, they retired the cannon and went on to other things. The problem, though, is that they never took the cannons apart and sometimes the meth zombies, when they were tweakin pretty hard, snuck a couch into the gun and shot it off at random. Where they got the couches from, though, was a mystery. No one could ever trace where the couch had come from because, when a flaming couch shoots through a home, the last place you really look is two states away. So, since it didn't do their clan any harm, the meth ninjas let the zombies have their fun every once in awhile.

"Is that what happened to my Mable Lou?" I asked.

"Yes, it is," replied Alistair, and yet another mystery was solved for me. Now if I could just figure out how that one armed guy played the clarinet so pretty, I may be able to die happy. Alistair went on to explain that we just happened to be in the path of the couch gun when it went off. When it hit our zeppelin, it knocked out our cloaking device and, since we were in meth ninja air space, they boarded their bi-planes and attacked us.

"Don't worry, though," he finished, "we've got the situation well in hand. All we need to do is clean up some and we'll be right back on track."

Well, we ended up having to fly around for awhile more while the squimonk cleaned out the meth zombies and ninjas, dislodged the now smoldering couch from the zeppelin's hull and repaired the cloaking device so that Clan Platypus couldn't discover the whereabouts of Charles Lindbergh's secret base. After all that was done, we finally navigated our way to what appeared to be a stretch of desolate wasteland in the middle of Montana, set the zeppelin down and stepped out.

I looked around at the scrub brush and dust and told Alistair, "Y'know, 'cept for not havin any corn or soybeans, this looks a lot like Iowa."

He looked about to say somethin back when there was a rumbling from under the ground, like the earth had just eaten a mess o' bad oysters and a whole house lifted up from below. When I say house, though, it's like callin Notre Dame a church or Gettysburg a tiff. This house sprawled out like a 400 pound housecat in the last patch of sunlight. It stretched wide as the Montana sky. When it had finished rising up out of the ground, Charles Lindbergh himself came out and shook my hand.

He said, "Sing, oh muse, of the donuts of Pat O'Neil, son of Leonard, sweets that brought to the Iowans countless cavities, and hurled down into the bags pockets of cream and frosting, left to the children and pets to lick off and the desire of their parents for sweetened breads and coffee sated. Sing from when they first encountered one another, Alistair of the squimonk and noble Pat O'Neil."

To which I replied, "Whozawatsitnow?"

Alistair leaned over and whispered to me, "The Iliad. He likes to meet everyone with a quote from classic literature. I didn't feel like bringing it up. I was going to mention it just before we landed, but, you know, meth zombie slash ninja attack and all."

"Oh, that's quite all right," I told him, feeling lost in this strange new world.

"You must be tired!" announced Charles.

"Actually, sir," I responded, "I am feeling a might peckish. You mind if I get a sandwich or somethin?"

Then, he had that great meal made and sent me off to rest before he tells me any more. It's been a mighty exciting couple of weeks and I'm kinda excited to see what's next.