Saturday, August 15, 2009

A break for lunch

Maybe it's just me, but waking up on an alien beach and then findin a white suit wearin Charles Lindbergh monitorin a tikki hut leads to one unavoidable question. Is it safe to breathe? After answerin that question with empirical evidence (that I am breathing and haven't, to the best of my knowledge, passed out), another question is likely to occur. Am I dead? You know, you always see in the movies how someone is dead or dyin and there's a guy with a white suit that shows up. Sometimes, of course, there's that black robed fellow that looks, from the back, like a judge that's tryin to keep his head warm and, from the front, like a guy who needs a sandwich somethin fierce. You know the guy I'm talkin about, he's all thin and gaunt lookin. He carries that big staff and everything. Oh, what is that guy's name? Oh, right, Palpatine; Emperor Palpatine. When I thought of him, I got pretty scared, cause I know he can shoot the lightnin outta his hands and, even worse, he's a politician. I didn't see him nowhere, though, so I relaxed some and worked on the whole "am I dead" thing.

It's a funny thing about death; you may be dead and not even know you're dead. I tried to come up with some experiments to test whether I was still alive or not. First thing, I took a deep breath. That was successful, cept I think some smoke from one of the tikki torches in front of the bar got into my mouth and I started coughin somethin awful. It was one of them coughs where you expect to blow somethin out at any minute and think that you're prolly gonna have to reswallow at least one lung when it's all over. Course, that didn't happen, which is good. I mean, maybe I'd try breathin my lung in and it'd go down the wrong pipe and then what would I do? I couldn't cough, because my lung wouldn't really be workin, and I couldn't finish swallowin in because then my lung would be in my stomach and both would probably be wrecked. The worst thing would be if I really were dead and I had to walk around the underworld with all my organs in the wrong place because I stood a little too close to the torch. I spose I get a bit morbid when I think about death. I blame too many action films, myself. That and all those stories Uncle Rudy told me about the time he spent as an organ courier when he was tryin to get work as a juggler. That sorta stuff stick with you when you're six.

That first experiment leadin to no conclusion, I decided to just throw it all on the table. Ask the man in the white suit. That usually works in the movies and books, doesn't it. Well, except that "Heart of Darkness" book. In that, Kurtz prolly shouldn't be trusted, and I'm pretty sure he's wearin a white suit.

It was Lindbergh that broke my spell. "What can I get you to drink?"

"Am I dead?" I blurted.

"Let me see," he said slowly, "I don't know how to make that one. Is it a rum drink? Something like a zombie, but with a little extra?" He walked towards the bar.

"Wait, wait," I grabbed his shoulder. It felt real enough. "That was a question, not a request. Have I passed on? Am I crossed over? If I was a dog, would some parents right now be tellin their kid that I'd gone to live on a farm where I could play and be happy?"

He waved the question away like it was a fly trying to get into his drink, "Nah, nah, it's nothing like like. Have a seat."

So I did. He brought me a plate of smoke pork, which he said was cooked in the sand, and a beer, which he said I would need.

"Eat up," he told me, "we'll talk better on a full stomach."

I ate it all up. I hadn't had nothin to eat since my morning donut just before I went to help Dale move that box, and that seemed like an eternity ago. I must have eaten an entire pig myself. I devoured everything but the oink, and I was plannin on makin a sandwich out of that the next day. There really ain't nothin like a good fried oink sandwich with some brown mustard and swiss cheese. If you want it at its best, you gotta get a fresh oink and double batter it. That's a little somethin I learned from Uncle Rudy.

After I was stuff to the gills, Lindbergh asked me, "Are you ready for a chat?"

"I ain't movin outta this here chair, if that's what you mean," I told him, leanin back and unbucklin my overalls.

"That's close enough to what I mean," he leaned back, too. "First of all, Pat, I want to apologize to you. We didn't tell you everything that was going on, and that wasn't really fair. You see, what we told you about Clan Platypus was only partly true."

I was skeptical, "You mean they ain't a bunch of ninjas tryin to take over the Earth usin meth?"

"Oh, no, they're most certainly that," he confirmed. "But they're much more than that as well."
He leaned in and told me the most incredible things. I don't remember his exact words, so I'll just kind of sum up for you.

It seems that we live in a pretty big universe. It's sorta like this. Take the Mississippi river and count all the grains of sand along its banks, then, make each one of them grains its own Mississippi river and say that each of those grains of sand is as far as we could possibly see with the most powerful telescope (Lindbergh called this our 'light cone'), the result is about a billionth the size of the known universe, apparently. He told me that the universe itself is actually infinite, but the known universe is all we're concerned with. I nodded as if I understood this, much as you may be doin right now. If you're not a physicist or whatever, I'd say don't worry too much about this here technical stuff, just know that we're talkin big like my Aunt Sally's beach ball booty.

Lindbergh told me he'd discovered this about 1953, just after he got the formula for the sea monkey and sweet potato burritos he's gotta eat. He worked out that there were a staggering number of planets that could hold life within that big of a universe and he started workin on how to get there. It took him two years, but he did it. By this time, the pork had made me all sleepy, so I didn't exactly catch how he did it, but it was a combination of machines and drawin lines with chalk on the floor. He showed me a couple diagrams and everything, but I ain't got a head for them things and it all ends up feeling like lookin at other people's vacation photos. You wanna act interested, but you equally just wanna go home and watch whatever game's on until you fall asleep in your recliner.

Problem was, he told me, that everywhere he went, Clan Platypus had already been there and messed the whole place up. The Clan had been working for near on a century to not only subjugate Earth, but to take over the whole universe with their crazy drug schemes. Well, Charles wasn't havin that. He'd been workin for the last 50 years to push them back on every planet he could reach. He learned how to fight ninjas, how to cure meth addiction, and how to get out of tight spots. He also said he recruited people to help him in his fight. There was about a hundred currently working.

Then he went on to tell me McClawenstein was not actually my neighbor Dale. He'd actually gotten Dale hooked on meth and sent him off to the Clan Platypus labor camps to dig up rocks and clean tile and other stuff that needed doin. I sure felt bad for Dale. He was a pretty nice guy. I gotta admit that I felt some relief, though. I'd been feelin guilty all this time that I'd never noticed my neighbor was a half man, half lobster thing. I felt less bad about that, but more bad about Dale himself. Win a little, lose a little, I guess. McClawenstein was really a distributor for Clan Platypus, that much was true, but he wasn't just a middle manager. McClawenstein had worked his way up to be worldwide distributor for the entire Earth. When I heard that, I realized I'd been in quite a deal of danger in that living room, and not just from bad coffee.

"Thank goodness the danger's past, huh?" I asked Charles.

"About that," he was tryin to measure his words carefully, "you're still in danger. You see, in my research I have found that McClawenstein has gained the ability to send people to different Earths with his flatulence. Every time he went to the kitchen during your discussion, he took another ingredient he needed to send you off. But, the squimonk and I have been working on a way to interrupt the journey and we tried it for the first time on you. The system isn't perfected yet, though, and we can only hold you here temporarily before you go to where he was trying to send you in the first place."

"I'm guessin that's nowhere nice," I sighed.

"Too true," he nodded.

"So, what do I do when I get wherever it is I'm bein sent?"

"Take this," he slid a button across the table. I picked it up and saw it had a picture of a big furry crab on it.

"What is it?" I asked.

"This is the official button of Clan Coconut Crab, Douggie's clan. They also are trying to stop Clan Platypus' universal domination. Wherever you go, you can seek them out. It also has an FTL transmitter in it so we can find out where you are, but it may take awhile."


"Faster Than Light," he explained, "it's the only way to communicated across the vast distances."

"Oh," I sighed. "One more question."


"Why is everything gettin all see through all of a sudden?" It was like the whole world was a fresh water color that'd been dropped in the tub. It was all bleedin out.

"You're moving on," he told me. "Good luck, Pat. Be safe."

And with that, everything went black again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Exciting Layout Changes!

Hey all. I've taken suggestions from some of the readers and added some things to the blog. First of all, there's a "recent comment" field on the left, as you may notice. Also, since someone noted that they're putting this on a Kindle or Sony Reader or something, and I recently acquired one of them myself, I've put a gadget at the bottom that will convert a url to PDF. If you want to copy and share this stuff, I'll allow it as long as you're not trying to make any money off it, but please point people to the blog itself. Next, I have, following a suggestion that I really wish I'd thought of, created a Pat O'Neil forum at Feel free to visit, comment, whatever. Just don't start any flame wars or I'll have to ban you and then there will be feelings hurt and you'll spend your adult life sitting in a run-down hotel room somewhere sharpening knives and dreaming of the day that fictional characters become real so you can attack Pat, but satisfying yourself with the next best thing which is printing out posts and repeatedly stabbing those until, one day while perusing the internet, you stumble upon the recycle movement and can't even do that so you sink into wallowing depression that can only be cured through massive amounts of jello and potato chips. None of us want that.
Finally, I have discovered that this blog is the number one result when searching for "Pat O'Neil" on google. I don't know why anyone would be searching for that, but it feels like a triumph to me.
I'll try to post the next story tomorrow. For now, go join the forum.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Out of the living room and into the fire

After I finished relatin how I was raised by harbor seals and how pa managed to be around even though he fell through a pier, Dale just sat and looked at me for a time. I figured he was just thinkin about why he'd never learned about the great robot war in school, much like I did when pa told me the whole story. Like pa told me, the hobos asked for the whole story to be stricken from the official record. Then I asked him why no one who was around during the time and had their family or friends killed, maimed or minorly injured by giant steam-powered brass robots never thought to mention it to anyone, he told me, "I dunno, I guess it wasn't that big of deal to them." Me, bein just a kid, not to mention fresh out of an orphanage and still not comfortable with human language, just sort of accepted it. I was ready to tell all this to Dale, should he choose to question. I gotta say, I dunno how long we sat there, but it was long enough for my coffee to get cold, but I'd really had enough by then, so I wasn't complainin.

For a while there, I thought he was gonna speak any second. His mouth was flappin up and down like a bass that's just been landed. Then that stopped and he took that quick inhale that people do when they're just about to say something. Then he slowly exhaled while he was shakin his head. I leaned in to hear him better.

"What..." he started. Then blinked slowly and shook his head. Then we sat there for awhile more. Just about dusk, he asked be, "What in Neptune's great green sea are you talking about?! Robot wars and hobos living under the earth? What has that got to do with anything?! Is this all you do, sit around and think up crazy stories to tell people?!"

"I also sell donuts," I informed him, "though not as many as I like. I think it's probably because the dam on the donut river west of town just broke, but I think, given time, people will come back to me to have their donut needs fulfilled..."

"Donut dam?!" he shouted. "I don't want to hear another word, Pat, unless that word involves a short, succinct summary of everything you've told me this afternoon."

"Well, shoot, Dale," I told him, "if that's what you wanted, you shouldna kept givin me all that coffee. Really, all I was tryin to tell ya is I understand what it's like to live between the land and the sea. I just wanted to tell you, you know, it's tough not belonging to either world, so, I know how you feel."

His claw slammed into the serving tray, sending coffee and shards of cup flying in all directions. "You know nothing!" he bellowed.


"You...know...nothing," he repeated slowly through clenched teeth. " strut around, flaunting your humanity while those like me must live in the shadows like cockroaches. You know nothing of what it's like to be a freak! The stares of children, the comments of drunks, the hesitation on the face of women as they dare one another to touch your shell. You may have been raised by harbor seals, but you're still human! You're one of them!"

He started to get a wild look in his eye. "Calm down, Dale, we can talk about it."

"The time for talking is done, Pat!" He raised both claws and clacked them together loudly. "The time for action is now!" With that, he released the mightiest burst of flatulence I have ever witnessed. The cups exploded. The doors were thrown off their hinges. The whole world flexed outwards once, like it was all painted on the inside of a balloon that was tryin to pop. Then, everything went black.

Did you ever read Alice in Wonderland? She had her one crazy fall in there, right after she went down that there rabbit hole. She passed clocks and ducks and, I think, the wicked witch of the east, though I may be wrong about the ducks. The darkness I was in was sorta like that, except I didn't see anyting. You know, cause it was dark. But I could still feel stuff whiskin by me. And I wasn't exactly fallin. I ain't sure what it was but it felt like I was strapped to the roof of a bullet train in a tub full of jello while some vile temptress whipped me with caterpillars, only less pleasant.

And then, there was a beach. I was wearin the same clothes and still shieldin my face, but I weren't in Dale's living room any more, and I was wearin flip-flops. "Well," I told myself, "it's a good thing I'm wearin my lucky overalls."

I stood there lookin up and down the beach for awhile, waitin for ninjas or lobster men or dinosaurs or somethin to come rushin down on me, but that didn't happen. It seemed like a perfectly normal beach to me. Sure the surf was a little higher than most of the beaches I've been to, and the sky was pink with purple stripes, and, sure, instead of a moon in the sky, you could see a giant planet with rings around it and, yeah, I suppose the fish jumping out of the water may have had the faces of lions and they were eating small, furry birds, but, other than those small details, it was a normal beach.

I didn't know what the heck I was supposed to be doin there, so I just started walking. I figured, when you're stranded on an unfamiliar beach, one way's as good as another as long as you're parallel to the water. If you're perpendicular to the water, it's probably best you walk with your back to the waves, unless, of course, you've got gills or a scuba tank or some other way to not die when you're under water, and you're sure there's nothin in there that's gonna kill you (like a box jellyfish that's been studyin kung fu and has a gun). Since I didn't have any of those things, I thought I'd just go ahead and stroll along the beach until somethin else happened.

Despite being somewhere totally unfamiliar and pretty confused about what had just happened, there was a spring in my step I'd not had since I was a youth and I wore shoes with rocket powered springs on the bottom to win a race against my running rival Springy McGee, whose legs were made of coiled bed springs after a horrible accident at his father's bed factory. The upside was that springy could run faster than anyone else in the tri-county area. The downside was that he couldn't walk through thick brush and he would occasionally tangle his legs together and fall, eliciting the laughter of even his parents, who were often drunk. Springy eventually went to law school and, last I heard, was spending all the profits from his law practice on a personal crusade against the makers of the Slinky, calling it an affront to all spring-legs everywhere.

Regardless, I was just as bouncy walking down the beach as I was in that infamous race. I must have been clearing 20 feet with every step. I was makin good time, though I didn't know where to yet.

Just as the first sun was setting and the second was rising, I spotted a little building in the distance. As I got closer, I saw that it was a tikki bar, complete with bamboo walls, palm fronds on the roof and a pig roast in progress, though there was only one guest. He was right easy to spot because he was wearin a white suit that shone under them twin suns like chrome wheels covered in phosphorus.

I landed right behind him and asked, "Excuse me, sir, but would you happen to know where I am? You see, I woke up here after this whole thing with a lobster man, and..."

"You needn't explain, Pat," he said, turning around, "I already know everything."

I was right confused and even more so when he finished turning enough so I could see his face. "Mr. Lindbergh?" I asked, stunned.

"That's right," he confirmed. "Come on in, we've got some talking to do."