Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

All week, Libby and I have been planning and scheming for our office Halloween party. Well, today it finally happened. I went as the princess and the pea--I dressed as a princess and carried a pan of peas! What, you don't think that's clever? I'll have you know I won two votes in the costume contest in a staff of 10! The scariest part of my costume was how....normal I felt in it.

I made Rice Krispy treats and helped Libby hang streamers, cobwebs, balloons and hung plastic skeletons from black streamers. We had a costume contest, a pin-the-face-on-the-mummy-game and generally ate a lot of sugar. It was the most fun I've ever had at work!

What happened to the animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed story I promised you? Don't worry....stay tuned for tomorrow. In the meantime, look at some pictures. That should tide you over!

Beverely, me and Libby posing in the "Lair". Well, at least I call it a lair.

You should have seen those spiders...they were huge!

Yes, that man is dressed up like a giant tissue box that says "Blow Me."

Ugly Betty done handcuffed herself to a convict!
All and all--I'd say we were pretty successful.
Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jetta Love

The final days of hunting season were fading to a close, and the cows couldn't be happier. For weeks, they'd had to put up with guns firing into the evening, tripping on dead birds and listening to hunters babble on and on. For their good behavior, they had been promised a Sunday feast by the farmer. The cows were very excited about their feast. They waited and waited until the bright orange sun began to sink into the sky.

"I'm hungry," one cow griped.

"Me too," another whined. They nibbled on grass as they waited. Suddenly, their ears perked up. A grey car approached and parked. Two men got out and took their hunting gear out of the back of the trunk, walking to the middle of the field. The cows watched thoughtfully.

"Did they bring food?" one cow asked.

"No, they're just hunters," another sighed.

"Are they?" one brown cow asked, stretching as long as her thick neck would allow. She sniffed the air thoughtfully. "I smell food."

"Food?" another cow perked up.

"Really?" one cow asked. The brown cow cautiously approached the car, sniffing carefully. The other cows followed lazily along.

"Can't you smell it?" she asked. "It smells like food." The other cows began to sniff at the grey car.

"It does!" one cried happily. "It smells like food!"

"Food?" a black cow perked up. "I like food."

"It is our feast!" the brown cow cried. "The farmer has brought us the feast!"

"That's not the farmer," another cow pointed out, pointing at the two men shooting. "Unless he has split in two."

"Farmers can do that," another cow decided.

"Where is our food?" the black cow asked. "How do we get it out?"

The cows were stumped. They stared hungrily at the hunters. They were starving.

One cow swished her tail angrily at a male who kept making romantic advances. "For the last time, Mack, I don't like you!" she cried angrily. "You smell and have a snotty nose!"

"Come on Charlene, you know I'm cute," the bull pleaded, chasing her around the car. The brown cow's shoulder began to twitch, and he began to itch his back on the car.

"Don't do that!" one of the smaller cows cried. "That's our food!"

"The car's not our food," a older cow admonished him. "The food is in there."

"Really?" a cow asked. He began to nibble on the car and lick the side enthusiastically.

"Bleah!" he spat, shaking his head. "It doesn't taste like food." Nonetheless, he continued to chew and lick on the car. Occasionally, he'd itch his shoulder as well, then continue licking the smooth grey paint. Maybe he could pretend it was food.

One cow began to sniff the trunk as Charlene and Mack continued to run around the car.

"I think the food is in here!" he bellowed. Excited, all the cows descended upon the car, licking their lips and twitching their tails in anticipation. All of the sudden, the two men came running up to them waving their arms and yelling.

"Are they food?" one cow asked hungrily.

"No!" another cow yelled fearfully. "Retreat!" The cows moved approximately five feet as the men inspected the car. The taller man placed his hand in the saliva and made a disgusted noise as it trailed off the car.

"We shall wait here for them to bring the food," the brown cow said haughtily. After all, it was their Sunday feast. They shouldn't have to serve themselves. The cows waited and waited as the sun dipped lower in the sky. The men loaded up the car and climbed inside, shutting the doors. The cows watched in horror as they drove away, not bothering to unload their Sunday feast.

"Food?" the brown cow whispered mournfully.

"We should have eaten the car," another one grumbled.

Suddenly, they saw headlights approaching.

"Food," they all sighed happily in unison.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Halloween Wombat

Two butterflies were hovering around some flowers outside a shopping center. They watched as a small little girl skipped out with her mother, carrying a shopping bag and waving a plastic wand.

"I'm going to be the best ballerina ever, Mommy!" she crowed. Her mother smiled and said, "Yes dear, you will!"

A little boy came out of the store, wearing a Spiderman mask and halfway out of his clothes. He was clutching a ball of red and blue fabric in his hand.

"Not here, Micheal!" his mother gasped, looking as if she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Wait until we get to the car to change!" She drug him along by one arm as he left a trail of clothes behind him.

"What are you going to be?" one butterfly asked the other.

"Be?" the second butterfly cocked an antennae at him.

"For Halloween," the first butterfly landed delicately on a flower.

"I didn't know butterflies could be anything but butterflies," the second butterfly said, utterly confused.

"Sure you can," the first butterfly hopped to another flower. "I always dress up. So what are you going to be?"

"I think I'll be a turnip," the second butterfly said thoughtfully. "What are you going to be?"

"A turnip?" the first butterfly snorted. "You can't be a turnip! That's boring. And weird. You need a better costume than that."

"Well what are you going to be?" the second butterfly challenged. "What's your costume?"

"I'm going to be a wombat," the first butterfly beamed.

"A wombat?" the second butterfly exclaimed. "There's no such thing as a wombat!"

"Sure there is," the first butterfly said. "I would make a great wombat."

"A butterfly can't be a wombat!" the second butterfly spat. He was very clearly disturbed by this idea. "That's an imaginary animal."

"Is not," the first butterfly said. "At least I'm not a turnip."

"It was all I could think of," the second butterfly said defensively. "At least a turnip is real."

"You could be a wombat," the first butterfly offered. "We could be twinkies!"

"I love twinkies," the second butterfly said dreamily. "Especially after they've been sitting in the sun for warm and creamy..."

"That's not what I meant..." the first butterfly gave up when he saw the second butterfly was still staring dreamily at the sky. "Whatever."

They sat on the flowers, letting the sun warm their wings. Another child skipped by with his mother in tow.

"Hey Mom!" he yelled. "I want a to be a wombat for Halloween!"

The first butterfly looked at the second butterfly triumphantly.

"See?" he said.

The second butterfly shook his head. "Whoever heard of a wombat for Halloween?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ode to Libby, and how I love thee

Everyone knows I adore Libby, my partner-in-crime and buddy o'pal. So when Libby came up with a very Libby-esque story idea, I told her I'd write it for her since she "doesn't do" writing. So don't worry Invisible Friends, I haven't gone dark. Tales of butterflies and the animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed are coming soon. But for today, the Pond is all about Libby.

Ode to Libby

Most little girls have many friends. They have friends in ballet class, friends at school and girls in the neighborhood to chase fireflies and whisper secrets too on summer nights. However, one little girl didn't have any friends at all. She was not a mean child--in fact, she was quite sweet and kind. She just never seemed to be able to interest another girl into talking to her. She was also a very sickly child, the color of white china with pale blond hair and watery blue eyes. She was always in and out of the nurse's office, and her mother had given up working to care for her. No one knew what was wrong, and the doctors said it wasn't serious. She was simply a sickly child.

While other girls spent their recesses braiding hair and swinging to the clouds, she sat quietly at the table with the teacher and watched.

When she would get home from school everyday, her mother would eagerly ask how her day was and check her for a fever. The little girl would always say fine, and tell her some tidbit she had decided upon on her trip home. Her mother was worried about her daughter, but said nothing. She would only smile and kiss her daughter on the head, and her daughter would smile back, relieved her mother was happy again.

One day, the little girl was sitting quietly at the table during recess when another girl with dark brown hair approached her.

"Hello," the dark-haired girl smiled and held out her hand. "My name is Elizabeth. Everyone calls me Lizzie. What's your name?"

"Joy," the little girl said quietly. "How do you do?"

Lizzie turned to the teacher. "Why is she sitting over here with you? Is she in trouble?"

"Why don't you ask her?" the teacher replied, trying not to smile. Lizzie repeated her question to Joy and waited expectantly.

"I don't have any friends," Joy replied honestly. "I'm sick. I like to sit here. I like to watch the caterpillars and butterflies."

"Why don't you have any friends?" Lizzies asked bluntly. She addressed the same question to the teacher, who again directed the answer to Joy.

"I'm not quite sure," Joy said slowly. "All the girls are very kind to me. They just don't want to be friends with a sick girl."

"But you're not mean and hateful?" Lizzie pursed her lips and inspected Joy up and down. Joy felt strange, like a toy in a shop display.

"No," Joy answered. "Well, at least I don't think so." Lizzie frowned and thought for a moment. Then she beamed and took Joy's hand. "Come on then," she said. "I'm your friend now. Let's go swing."

Joy shrunk back, looking at the teacher fearfully. "Can I?" she asked timidly. "I mean, may I swing? Will it make me ill?"

The teacher smiled and shook her head. "A bit of fresh air will be good for you. Just take it easy," she smiled. "That's very kind of you, Lizzie."

"I'm not doing it to be kind," Lizzie huffed. "I'm doing it because I want to swing."

From that day on, the two girls were inseparable. They swung together every day, played together after school and spent weekend nights eating popcorn and watching movies at sleepovers. The color sprung to Joy's pale face, and her hair began to thicken and deepen into a rich gold. Her eyes sparkled, and she now chattered happily to her mother when she got on the bus from school. Her mother began to pick up part-time work, amazed her daughter hadn't been ill in three whole months.

And then, the most amazing thing happened. The most popular girl in school, Matilda, decided to be Joy's friend. Joy beamed with delight, and their duo turned into a trio.

Another little girl wanted to be Joy's friend. Then another. And then two more. With every friend, Joy's smile grew brighter and brighter and her color grew deeper and deeper. She was excelling in school and hit a growth spurt. Her doctors and family were delighted. Her parents discussed taking a vacation, now that they could risk travel without infecting her.

The school year ended, and summer began. Just like in most schools, the children scattered. Some went to camp, some went to their grandparent's, some went to daycare. Lizzie was to spend the summer with her father.

"Don't worry, Joy," she told her friend earnestly. "You'll be all right. It's only a few months, after all. I'll be back before you know it."

"Ok,"Joy agreed, smiling bravely. Her friend wasn't gone yet, and she already missed her.

As more and more of Joy's new friends went on vacation, the color began to fade from her cheeks and the sparkle from her eyes. She developed a stuffy nose, then a fever. Her family had to cancel their vacation for fear she was developing pneumonia. Once again, Joy reverted back to the sickly child she had been. Her mother quit her job to care for her. As soon as she was back in town, Lizzie flew to Joy's house. She burst through her bedroom to see her lying on the bed.

"What is the matter with you?" Lizzie demanded.

"I'm so glad you're back!" Joy exclaimed brightly, her eyes looking like two watery skies. "I've missed you terribly!"

"I know why you're sick!" Lizzie proclaimed, sitting down on the bed.

"Don't get too close," Joy cautioned. "I don't want you to get sick."

"Oh, shut up," Lizzie said dismissively. "You made yourself sick."

Joy stared at her. "I what?"

"You heard me," Lizzie said, smacking her with a pillow. "You made yourself sick."

"How?" Joy asked.

"Did you talk to any of our friends at all?"

"No," Joy admitted.

"Did you go meet any new people?"

"No," Joy admitted.

"Did you do anything but wallow in self pity?"

Joy thought for a moment. "No," she admitted.

"Well get up," Lizzie demanded. "We're going to make you well again." Joy just grinned. After re-connecting with all her old friends, Joy's health shot up back to normal. She continued to blast through a growth spurt, growing a foot and a half. After a few weeks of being back with her friends, she noticed her color was starting to fade slightly.

"I wonder what it would be like to join the Art Club," she thought to herself. So she joined the after-school program, making even more friends. Her cheeks became a permanent shade of rose, and she couldn't walk down the hall without people remarking how beautiful she looked.

From that day on, Joy made a new friend every day. She spent her days talking to people, laughing with people, helping with people and just being a friend. The more friends she made, the stronger she got.

"I was right," Lizzie said out of the blue one day as they swung on the swings.

"About what?" Joy asked, sticking her tongue between her teeth. She was trying to kick the clouds.

"That's the key," Lizzie said. Joy looked at her questioningly. "As long as you keep making new friends, you'll be fine," Lizzie said. "I told you so."

Joy just grinned and jumped off the swing. She had spotted a new girl on the edge of the playground. With Lizzie by her side, they skipped up to the girl. The girl was sitting under a tree, holding a Kleenex to her nose. Her eyes were watery, and her nose was red with irritation.

"Hi," Joy said, holding out her hand. "My name is Joy. Would you like to be my friend?"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My opinion is of course, the only one that matters

Here's another editorial I wrote for work. Let me know what you think, dear Invisible Friends!

Want to think about something scarier than seeing your neighbor squeeze themselves into last year’s nurse Halloween costume? Think about public schools offering birth control to middle school students.

In Portland, Maine, a school committee voted to allow pre-teens to obtain birth control without their parent’s consent. The waiver only prevents the students from using the health center if their parents don’t approve. Picture it: hormonal, over-emotional, pre-pubescents strolling up to the nurse’s office and requesting birth control at the tender age of 13, with only a pesky little parent waiver to stop them from using the health center. Just the health center, mind you, not the birth control within the health center.

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified by the thought. Luckily for us, only Baltimore, MD, and Portland are allowing this right now. Since Texas is a conservative state, it may be awhile before folks around here start demanding public schools are allowed to hand out birth control.
Unfortunately, there is the chance that San Antonians could be making this decision sooner than we would like. With Governor’s Perry latest push for pre-teen girls to be required to be vaccinated with Gardasil, a anti-cancer vaccine to protect girls from strains human papillomavirus (HPV), the topic of sex-ed and prevention in middle schools has been a hot one locally as well as nationally.

Whether you believe children should engage in pre-marital sex or not is not the issue. The fact that the state has started playing moral leader to impressionable children developing their own sense of morality without parental consent is also not the main issue (though a very valid concern).

The problem is that state education officials are taking it upon themselves to manage student’s health issues without parent consent. The state education system is not a hospital. It is not a church; it is not a morality center. The state education system’s job, whether the state is New Mexico or New Hampshire, is to educate students to survive in the world and become productive members of society.

While it is admirable that the state is taking responsibility to educate students about their health, that’s all they should do. They should educate and inform. It’s not their job to start handing out birth control like candy at a holiday party. Birth control is not like the condoms some high schools offer. Condoms protect wearers from HIV and STDs. Birth control doesn’t. Condoms also don’t mess with your hormones. Birth control does. Young girls have only been developing for a few years and are still in the throes of puberty. Handing out a prescription that’s guaranteed to effect their developing hormones is beyond ridiculous. Only a doctor and the child’s guardian should make those decisions. A 13-year-old girl is in no position to pick out her clothes logically, much less make critical decisions about her sexual health. The state education system should not be involved in the illegal act of minors pursuing or engaging in sexual activities. Ever.

Ok, so kids are having sex early. Ok, some parents don’t talk to their kids about sex and think it’s the school’s job to raise their kids. I get that. However, there are plenty of other organizations happy to talk to kids about sex and hand out birth control without parental consent, like Planned Parenthood. That’s their job. It is the parent’s job to educate their children about sex, and the parent’s job to determine whether a young minor should take birth control or not. State education has no right to act as a child’s parent or doctor, no matter how poor parenting has become lately.

Until state education agencies suddenly morph into all-inclusive baby raising organizations where they feed, clothe, educate and raise a child (like a parent), they have no right to be making medical decisions for minors without their parents’ consent. The majority of 12-year-olds should not be trusted to direct their own health care, and it’s not any state’s place to determine whether they are capable of doing so. We have hospitals to dispense medication. We have schools to teach children. And we have parents to teach them how to make the right decisions in life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Room

She didn't like being alone in the press room at night. The shadows lurched across the floor menacingly every time she moved her flashlight, and the old building creaked and ached with each fall breeze.

"Stupid boss," the woman muttered, drawing her sweater around her as she scurried through the old factory. "Can't get her stuff done, so others suffer."

She twisted and turned through old barrels, searching for the boxes of old copies.

"Just because she needs to look up an old ad," the woman grumbled, shifting through piles of magazines. "If I had it, I'd give her the money for the ad so I didn't need to be up here. I had dinner ready, and she calls me out to come get her stupid ad."

She emptied one box and went onto another.

"Stupid job," she complained, throwing the magazines onto the floor. "I should quit. I'll start looking tomorrow."

A loud metallic slam caused her to look up. She paused and stood slowly, flashing her light around on the barrels of ink and paper.

"Hello?" she called. "Who's there?"

The only sound was the wind howling at the windowsills. The barrels stood, imposing in the low light. Shivering, she drew her thin sweater closer to her and turned back to the boxes.

"She's going to give me time off for this," the woman muttered, shivering again as she saw her breath. "Dang, the door must have blown open! It's freezing in here now!"

Her fingers began to cramp as she went through stacks and stacks for magazines. Her joints cracked as she forced them to move box after box, flip page after page. After fifteen minutes, her flashlight had began to flicker and her fingernails were turning blue.

"Screw this," she thought. "It ain't worth it." She dropped the box she was holding and knocked the flashlight out of her pocket.

"Crap," she groaned. She leaned down creakily, fumbling for the light. Her fingers brushed against something cold that felt like leather.

"What"-- She grabbed her flashlight and picked it up, shining it in front of her. She saw a pair of boots. A pair of clear, leather boots.

"Oh"-- As she slowly stood, her hand trembling, the dancing light showed a faint outline of the uniform. The bile rose in her throat as she got to where the head should be. Squinting her eyes, she sighed in relief. A hat shaded the apparition's face.

"Who are you?" she whispered, stepping back. "What do you want?"

The ghost pointed to one of the boxes.

"I don't understand."

He pointed again. She shook her head, clutching her trembling arms to her side. "I still don't understand."

The box fell over with a thump, and she muffled a scream. A magazine slid out. Shaking, she carefully kneeled and forced her wooden fingers to flip through the pages. The ad she had been searching for stared up at her. She slowly stood to her feet, trying to see the man's face.

"Thank you very much. I appreciate it."

The ghost nodded stiffly, and disappeared. The woman stood for a moment, staring at where his outline had been. Then, screaming, she turned and ran.

The next Monday, the woman returned to work. As soon as she sat down at her desk, her boss approached her.

"I need you to write a press release," she greeted her, dropping a folder on her desk.

"About what?" the woman asked, trying not to glare at her. She flipped open the folder and cried open in shock.

"Didn't you hear?" the boss popped her gum. "Joe died in the press room on Friday. Got his necklace caught in the press and choked to death."

The woman stared at the folder, where Joe's picture lay looking up at her.

"God, what's your problem?" the woman asked snidely. "You act like you've seen a ghost."

Friday, October 19, 2007

A tounge-lashing

Happy and spent, I walked back to my car from the gym. As soon as I put my hand on the handle, a cricket landed on my window.

"Excuse me!" the cricket bellowed. "We need to talk to you!"

"We?" I raised an eyebrow. A loud buzzing noise rang in my ears, and I watched in horror as a dozen crickets landed on my car.

"This is so gross," I muttered, blanching.

"We are not gross," the first cricket gasped. "You are the one that is gross!"

I looked down at my gym clothes and rolled my eyes. "Well, I know I'm sweaty and may smell a little, but I wouldn't say I'm gross."

"We have a problem with you!" a second cricket chimed in, rubbing his back feet together rapidly.

"Yea!" all the crickets chorused.

"What's your problem?" I asked.

"You squish crickets," the first cricket stated dramatically, narrowing his beady eyes at me.

"No I don't!"I protested. All the crickets nodded vigorously.

"Do too," the second cricket said accusingly.

"When?" I snapped.

"When it's about to rain and we all want to go to the gym and the mean gym people won't let us inside so we wait patiently in the parking lot thinking they'll let us in but they never let us in because they're mean," the second cricket explained.

"I only squish you because I can't even walk to the door!" I pointed out. "It's like a carpet of crickets! I can't take a step without stepping one of you."

"Did you ever think of asking us to move?" the first cricket asked primly. The other crickets nodded.

"Perhaps if you had better manners you would think to ask us to move," the second cricket scolded me.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "So what am I supposed to do if you don't move?"

"Go another way," the first cricket suggested.

"There's only one way to the door," I pointed out. "I'm not going to walk all over the parking lot just because you crickets won't move."

"She's got a point," the second cricket whispered to the first cricket. He glared at the second cricket then shook his antennae at me.

"Do you promise to at least ask us before squishing our comrades?" the first cricket squeaked.

"I promise," I sighed wearily. "Can I go now? Do you still have a problem with me?"

"Hey, don't put this all on us," the second cricket said defensively. "You're the one that started talking to us, remember? You initiated these conversations."

Defensive little twits, aren't they? I thought. Instead, I simply smiled and thanked the crickets. They happily flew away, and I climbed in my car in relief.

Just for spite, I ran over a cockroach. I don't talk to them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A perturbed pumpkin

Dear Invisible Friends,

In honor of Halloween, there will be at least 4 Halloween posts within the next two weeks. The Pond has been decorated, pumpkins have been purchased and the spiders have been freed. (Fuzzy the Spider wants you to know he's already claimed the patio table.) And yes, one of the posts will be about the animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed. Enjoy!


The Blond Duck

A Perturbed Pumpkin
"Look at them," he huffed, watching doting parents and their excited children skip around the pumpkin lot. "Like feral cats, they are."
He watched as toddlers climbed haystacks and knocked over carefully arranged displays of stuffed scarecrows and gourds.
"Those are for photos!" he bellowed. "For parents to appreciate the experience! This is not a playground!"
The parents ignored him, letting their children run wild. Shrieks cut through the warm fall air. He watched carefully, keeping a mental note in his head of which pumpkins were chosen. One couple came to the table, holding two large pumpkins.
"The large ones are $5," he said as the man handed the money to his assistant. "Thank you. Have a nice day." Letting the sun warm his face, he sighed. He loved Halloween. He just didn't like kids and Halloween.
"You know, this really is quite unfair," he said to his assistant, who was beginning to doze.
"Pumpkins spend all year growing slowly, being watered and nurtured into nice fat, ascetically-pleasing vegetables. Then they are plucked from their vines and thrown into boxes, where they are driven to grocery stores or markets. From there, they're either plucked out of a box, thrown on the floor by a clumsy child or wind up in a grocery cart to be taken home. Once they arrive, they're not safe at all! They're either mutilated into poor carvings and gutted or made into a pie!"
He eyed some children running and yelled for them to stop.
"Why not tomatoes?" he pondered. "Or bananas? They don't have any feelings. Why pumpkins?" Another family came to the register, and he dictated to his assistant that they owed $15.
"You know, pumpkins are only appreciated two months out of the year," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe three. Do you see anything wrong with that? We have much better nutrition than an apple. And people go nuts for those all year long."
"He's so beautiful!" a woman gasped, coming up to the counter. "You must be so proud!"
"We are," the man beamed. "He's our big star."
"It's not hard in this group," he sighed dramatically. "Seriously, it's not."
The sun went down, and the excited shrieks of children faded. The man packed up the zippered coin purse and picked up his clipboard.
"See you tomorrow," the man smiled. "Guard the place for me."
Relishing in the quiet, the pumpkin stared warily from his table, guarding his pumpkin patch domain. At least he was appreciated.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Bar Stools in Apartment 302

The bar stools never moved during the day. Only at night, when the shadows served as the only relief in the dark apartment.

Danielle was quite annoyed with her bar stools. She set them the same every night, facing a 90 degree angle and propping their backs against the bar. They never moved while she was awake, watching T.V. and doing her homework. The heavy footsteps from next door and vibrations from below couldn't budge them. Bouncing around the apartment did nothing.

But at night, they chose to spin.

The first night it happened, Danielle was convinced there was someone in her apartment. She woke up, a creaking noise freezing her heart in fear.

"Who is it?" she called irritably. "What's going on?"

Grabbing a bat, she warily slipped out of the bed and crept from her room. Hoisting the bat over her shoulder, she flipped on a light and stood ready in her living room. The stools were swinging back and forth, back and forth. She looked behind the curtains. No one. She looked behind the television. No one. She looked in all the doors, on the porch and even in the cabinets. No one.

The bar stools had stopped swinging and now sat quietly. She firmly repositioned the bar stools and flipped off the light, climbing back into bed. She didn't hear the faint giggle. An hour later, the bar stools began to squeak again. When she stumbled out the next morning, they were facing the opposite side of the bar, as if an invisible person was engrossed in a television show. They had also been pulled out approximately two inches.

At first, Danielle chalked it up to the constant vibrations of partying college students slamming doors, running up stairs and blaring stereos. But night after night, the squeaking intruded her dreams and interrupted her sleep. She would rush out in the living room, bat in hand, only to see the bar stools swinging slowly, side to side. Back and forth, back and forth they would swing. It was almost as if they were squeaking, "What's your problem?" Running her hand through her hair, she would always return to her bed frustrated and a little afraid.

The next day, she went to her sister's house for dinner. She began to complain about the squeaking bar stools to her brother-in-law.

"Maybe you have mice," Ben shrugged. "Or cockroaches."

"Bleah," Danielle blanched. "I already have ants. Isn't that enough?"

"Perhaps your bar stools have loose bolts," Ben suggested. "Or maybe you didn't tighten them enough."

"I checked," Danielle sighed dejectedly. "They're as tight as they can get."

"Well, set up a video camera and record them," Ben suggested practically. "Then you can see if it's a fluke or a rodent."

That night, Danielle set up her parent's video camera to film the chairs. When the squeaking began a few hours later, she smiled grimly. By morning, she'd have the answer.

As soon as her eyes flew open, she rushed to the video camera and plugged it into the television. Fast-forwarding, her eyes widened as something flew across the screen.

"What the hell?" she quickly re-winded the tape and pushed play. The chairs were still, and moonlight was pouring through the curtains. A small furry creature scurried across the floor, giggling and swinging what looked to be a furry tail. Several other creatures followed. They pulled the chairs out approximately two inches. Two creatures crawled up and sat in chairs, and began to spin. The chairs spun around, then began to swing from side to side as their momentum waned. The squeaking began. Danielle heard the shrill giggles and saw the shrewed grins. She felt something touch her ankle and she screamed. She looked down to see one of the horrible little critters grinning up at her.

"Excuse me?" he leered. "We like the chairs. It's fun to ride them." With that, he scurried off, his light fur blending into the carpet. Although Danielle looked, she could not find him at all. Even though she recorded the chairs for a few more nights, she never saw the critters again.

Though, if you wait quietly during the night, scarcely breathing above a whisper, you can hear a faint giggle and then a familiar aching squeak. For the chairs don't move during the day. Only at night.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Need for Speed

As I was driving home from the gym, I heard a loud thump. I looked up to see a large grasshopper crouched down on my sunroof.

"Wicked awesome!" he yelled, his antennae blowing around his head. "Go faster! Faster faster faster!"

Increasing my speed slightly, I glanced up at him quickly before looking back at the road.

"How are you staying up there?" I asked incredulously. "I can't believe you haven't blown off! We're going 40 miles an hour!"

"No talking, just driving!" he bellowed. "Faster, faster, faster!"

I increased my speed slightly, glancing up every so often. I could see his tiny feet gripping the sunroof, his antennae blowing back behind his head. His smooth green stomach was moving in and out with each breath he took.

"Faster!" he cried. "Faster, faster, faster!"

"I can't go any faster!" I cried. "I'm going the speed limit and there's cops all over the place. I'm not going to get a speeding ticket."

"SPEEED!!!" the cricket howled, his antennae twitching in the breeze. "I need speeed!"

Looking up, I saw the light had turned red and slowed to a stop.

"No no no no no no," the cricket howled. "Don't stop! Don't stop! This is boring!"

"It's a red light," I replied in exasperation. "I can't just barrel through a red light."

The grasshopper groaned and began to nervously chew on the ends of his antennae.

"Drive drive drive drive drive drive drive drive..." he muttered as his back leg twitched.

"So where are you going?" I asked conversationally.

"I wanted to go fast," he scowled at me.

"No, where are you going to?" I repeated.

"Anywhere," the grasshopper muttered as the light turned green. "Green!" he shouted. "Drive! Step on it!" I obligingly stepped on the gas and continued down the road.

"Whhoooooooooo!" the cricket yelled, obviously delighted with the wind blowing his antennae back flat against his head. "This is wicked man! Faster!"

"I can't," I sighed, slowing to 20 miles an hour.

"What the hell are you doing?" the grasshopper howled, pounding the sunroof. "This is slow! I don't like slow. I could have flown this fast."

"It's a school zone," I said, rolling my eyes. "You have to stop during a school zone."

"I don't!" the grasshopper howled. "Go!" After we passed the speed limit sign, I sped back up. the grasshopper was clinging to the sunroof, his cheeks gently flared out from the rushing air. I could see his tiny feet were holding on with all their might. We slowed again as we reached a stoplight.

"Why are we slowing down again!" the grasshopper yelled in irritation. "This is the worst ride ever"-- he suddenly fell silent.

"Why are you quiet?" I asked, looking at him. "What's wrong with you?" He didn't say anything, staring at me fearfully. His eyes were enormous and full of terror. Suddenly, I looked behind him and saw several birds sitting on the electrical wire.

"Scared they'll find you?" I asked, and his eyes widened. He motioned with his antennae for me to be quiet. His stomach even quit ballooning in and out.

"They won't see you," I continued to the terrified grasshopper. "They're looking at the"--

"GO!" the grasshopper bellowed as the light turned green. "Go, go now! Hurray!"

I stepped on the gas drove down the road, the grasshopper cleaning to the sunroof. I looked up to see two brown dots on the sunroof by the grasshopper's legs.

"Did you"-- I began. The grasshopper just twitched his antennae and continued to whoop happily in the wind. As we entered the neighborhood, the grasshopper repeated his mantra.

"Faster, faster, faster!" he chanted repeatedly. "Faster, faster faster!" I slowed for a school zone, and he groaned and collapsed dramatically against the window.

"Not another school zone," his bulging mouth shouted against the plastic. "What's with all the schools? I just want to go fast!"

"I can't go fast," I muttered.

"You know, you're not a very good driver," the grasshopper scolded. "Actually"-- A gust of wind knocked him off the sunroof, and I saw his tiny form and wings struggling behind me.

"Aww, man," he groaned. "This isn't fast at all. Darn it." I giggled, knowing he would just land on a car behind me. They were a lot faster than I was.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An Ocean of Concrete

Gently, the cardboard stingray floated across the vast ocean of concrete. The wind rippled the grains of sand across the ground in waves of dust. Pebbles skipped from crack to crack, settling in among plant seeds and cigarette butts.

Ignoring the cars that lined the grassy shores, the cardboard stingray rippled along the rough surface, enjoying the sun warming his back. Torn tentacles of duct tape gently explored the ground below him, searching quietly.

As the breeze blew gently, the sting ray floated closer to where I was standing. Tentacles twitching, he gently made his way over to me, bumping into my foot.

"Excuse me?" the cardboard stingray asked. "Have you seen the Octopus?"

Looking at the blacktop below me, I tried not to smile.

"No," I answered. "I'm afraid I have not seen the Octopus."

"Oh," the stingray answered, obviously disappointed. "Thank you."

"Why are you looking for an Octopus?" I asked.

"We're to explore the Green Sea together," the stingray replied.

"Green Sea?" I asked. The stingray's silver crumpled tentacle gestured to the field bordering the asphalt.

"Ahh," I understood and nodded. "I'll tell him if I see him."

The stingray's tentacles twitched and thanks, and he continued on, drifting by my feet to the shady part of the parking lot.

As I continued walking, I saw a crumpled mass of cardboard. Twisted chunks of cardboard and rope shot out from around the mangled mass in the center. Two black marker marks marked the center of the circular bundle of cardboard, making it look as though the mangled mass was looking at me. Squinting at it, I finally realized what it was. The mass gently crawled along the ground, moving much slower than the elegant stingray.

"Are you the Octopus?" I asked. As the wind blew, the cardboard swayed back and forth.

"The sting ray is looking for you," I repeated my message. The cardboard head dipped down slightly, and the black eyes almost looked like they were smiling in the shadows. As I walked away, I heard a gravely dragging noise as the Octopus moved across the sea of blackness.

When I returned a few hours later, both the Octopus and stingray were residing in the grass, lounging in the sunlight. After crossing an ocean of concrete, they had made it to the Green Sea.
When I passed, I saw the stingray's tentacle wave gently in the breeze and Octopus's head dip. And I smiled as I floated away into the sunlight.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fuzzy the Spider meets some new friends

Fuzzy the Spider was not happy. Someone was sitting in his living room, and it wasn't a bug.

He crept out of his favorite potted plant to peer over the Terra cotta edge.

A woman and man were sitting on the porch chairs, each smoking a cigarette. Fuzzy's eyebrows twitched in irritation.

"Excuse me!" he called. "Excuse me! I decorated those chairs with my web for Halloween! Please don't sit on them."

The people didn't move. They continued to smoke and chat in the warm afternoon sun.

Grumbling to himself, Fuzzy climbed out of the pot and began to scuttle across the wall. The woman shrieked, and Fuzzy stopped in his tracks.

"Frank!" she shouted. "Frank! Look at that spider!"

"That's a big one," the man agreed, taking off his shoe. "I'll take care of it."

Terrified, Fuzzy began to run up the wall as fast as his eight legs would carry him. The man's shoe was coming closer and closer. Just a few more feet....his tiny legs moved furiously over the wooden sideboards.

"Stop!" a familiar voice commanded. It was Ben, the Man who operated the Grill. "Dad, that's Fuzzy. You can't kill Fuzzy!"

"You have a pet spider?" the man seemed doubtful.

The man shrugged and sat down again, and Fuzzy scuttled into the rafters. Later, he crept across the porch beam to see the man and woman back on the porch.

"It's Fuzzy!" the woman pointed. "Look honey, it's Fuzzy!"

"Fuzzy!" the man cheered.

Fuzzy raised an eyebrow. "Why are these people talking to me?" he wondered to himself. "Why are they shouting?"

Ben came out on the porch, and the woman pointed again. "Look, Ben, it's Fuzzy!"

"Yes, we've established that I'm outside," Fuzzy thought to himself. "I live here." He continued along his business, turning his head occasionally to catch them all watching his every movement.

"I wonder if this is what Britney Spears feels like," Fuzzy thought. "Being followed all the time."

He crawled down the wall and back to his pot to return to his prime bug-catching post. As he hopped from leaf to leaf, the man jumped up in excitement.

"Look!" he cried. "A bug! I'll kill the bug for Fuzzy!"

"A bug?" Fuzzy twitched in excitement. "I adore bugs!" The man squished a bug and threw it in the pot. Fuzzy scuttled down the leaf and gobbled it up.

"He ate it!" the man cheered. "Let's kill another bug!"

"Another bug?" Fuzzy thought in astonishment. "For me? Hooray!" For the next day, the man and Ben killed several bugs, and he ate them all. He had never had that many bugs in one day before. Fuzzy decided he liked the porch people. He liked them so much that he scuttled out to their car and attached a sack of his children to the car.

"Be safe, little ones," he whispered. "I know you'll have good luck with these people! They like spiders. They'll take good care of you." Blowing them a kiss, he scuttled back to the porch. As he hopped up the wall and began to crawl across, the woman cheered again.

"Hey, it's Fuzzy!" she cried happily.

"Here's another bug!" the man said, squishing a bug in his pot. Fuzzy scurried over the the pot and grinned to himself as he ate a fly.

"Very well indeed," he whispered.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


They sat side by side. The dark-haired girl was concentrating, her tongue sticking out between her teeth. Carefully, she drew slowly on the white paper with the thick black marker.

Meanwhile, the girl with blond ringlets was scribbling on a piece of paper. With a flourish, she signed her name.

"There!" she cried. "It's the best story I've ever written!" She shoved it under the nose of the dark-haired girl, interrupting her drawing. The dark haired girl patiently put her drawling aside and read the words the other girl had dashed onto the page.

"I like it," she said, smiling and nodding. She handed the paper back to the girl. The girl continued to stand there, her eyes wide and insecure.

"Did you like the part about the cat?"

"Yes," the dark haired girl said calmly as she continued to sketch.

"What about the dog? Wasn't that funny?"

"I thought it was wonderful," the dark-haired girl smiled at her.

Anxiously, the girl twisted the beloved story in her hands. "I put pictures in the margins. To give it a little something extra. Do you think it gives it something extra?"

"It's very colorful." The dark haired girl's tongue stuck out as she drew ears on a circle.

"Do you think Teacher will like it?" Her voice rose to a high-pitched whine. The dark haired girl looked up to see the girl threading her marker stained fingers through the thin white wisps circling her face.

"I'm sure she will," she reassured her jittery friend. Nodding, because the blond girl believed whatever her friend told her, she toddled off and shoved her picture in the Teacher's face.

"This is my masterpiece!" she announced.

"Thank you," the Teacher smiled and placed it on her desk. The blond girl stood waiting. The Teacher returned to her work.

"Well?" the blond girl asked impatiently.

"Well, what?" the Teacher asked, confused.

"What do you think of it?" the blond girl with wispy ringlets was nearly beside herself.

The Teacher smiled dutifully and picked up the paper.

"I think it's charming," she smiled.

"Is it the most brilliant work you've ever read?" the blond girl was anxiously gripping the Teacher's desk, her terrified blue eyes peering over the edge.

"I love it," the Teacher replied soothingly.

"I put pictures on there to give it something extra," the blond girl's stained finger pointed to the hastily scratched drawings.

"Thank you." The Teacher smiled and carefully put the story back onto the pile.

"Is it going to go on the wall?" the blond girl's eyes were going to pop out of her head.

"We'll see," the Teacher winked at her. Thrilled with a wink, the girl skipped off and plopped back next to her friend.

"She loved it!" she cheered happily, flinging her arms around her friend. The dark hair girl beamed and patted her.

"I told you," she said calmly, making the final strokes of her drawing.

"She winked," the small blond girl babbled, bouncing up and down in her seat. "She winked at me!"

The dark haired girl just smiled, her dimples showing. She drew the final stroke and held up her cartoon of an elegant and sassy cat.

"Thanks for being such a good friend!" the blond girl ecstatically clutched her dark-haired friends arm. "I like your picture," she added awkwardly. She didn't want to be self-absorbed.

The dark-haired girl just beamed. She didn't know what pleased her more: being a good friend or having a good picture.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The coyotes howl back

I wrote this in response to some coyote problems in the Pond as a joke at work, and I thought my Invisible Friends might get a kick out of it. Coyotes have been hurting dogs and eating cats across the city. While I personally don't like coyotes, I wondered what they may say about the situation. As the gentle and fair moderator of the Pond, I present their side of the story.

Dear Pond residents,

As a young coyote in your area, it has come to my attention that a few of my friends have been irritating you lately. According to the news, we have been accused of killing cats and mauling dogs. While I do apologize for any trauma and heartache we have caused you, I wanted to clear the air about our position as members of the community and demand equal rights. That’s right—we coyotes have rights too. Not just your dumb deer.

We, the Coyotes of the Pond, simply wish to co-exist with you peacefully. We don’t intend to terrify and terrorize you with our piercing howls into the night or inconsiderate food choices for the evening. Can I help it that choir practice is on Wednesday and your backyard just happens to be in the territory? And is it really my fault if your favorite cat happens to walk by? That’s like sending your child into the ghetto with money taped to their body and wondering why they get mugged.

As far as our descriptions as vicious killers, come now. Coyotes get a bum rap. Everyone thinks we’re a sneaky scavenging animal that will eat any helpless animal around. I don’t see people getting mad at wolves. I’m sure wolves eat plenty of cats and attack dogs. Have you seen those fangs? Ouch! And how about the alligators in Florida? Alligators eat people and people still want to save them. Hell, alligators are endangered. At least we haven’t eaten little kids or a bunch of poodles (Ok, fine, maybe one or two.)

Lastly, I’d like to point out the injustices of looking as ugly as we do. If deer looked ugly, you wouldn’t care about them at all. You wouldn’t be feeding them and trying to adopt them as pets. All of you Pond people just loveee deer because of their big eyes and cute wobbly legs. Is it my fault that I'm scruffy and smell bad? I can't help being born ugly, just like deer can't help being cute. If coyotes were as cute as deer, you wouldn’t mind if we ate a pet or two. In fact, you’d probably lay out steaks for us. The deer get salt licks and corn—where are our steaks? You even plant special plants for the deer to munch on. I don't see you scattering special treats for me to munch on. This is cute discrimination, and I take offense to that.

I hope we can continue to exist as species. I’d like my steak rare, please. And tell the deer to back off from my corn.


An Annoyed Coyote in the Pond