Norman’s Submissive Gameplan

“You better come into my dungeon

Because outside you got to have free will.”


Norman could hear her singing from all the way down the cell block.  He knew he should object.  After all, Mistress Bouzouki was flat.  Not flat-chested, no, certainly not that, merely a few intervals short of natural.  But, then Norman remembered the money.  If he could last 2 months on this submissives reality show, then he could collect the jackpot.  And it would be in Bitcoin, because fuck the Euro.  Yes, he knew he had a duty to his wife and their three children, who were approaching college age.  Well, she was actually his sister, not his wife, but no one knew this, and no one was going to find out!!


Norman arched his back.  Doing this was equivalent to jerking his own chain, so he had to make sure the camera crew wasn’t about. If he shuffled ball heel toe toe, then he could move the chain without making any jingling noise.  Norman wanted to be submissive so bad, he was willing to be assertive to get there.


Then, a great fanfare was heard.  They tell you they add that in post, but it just wasn’t true.


Norman kept his eyes down as a tremendous stiletto thrust up in his personal space.  “Oh Norrman!” boomed the voice of Mistress.


“Yes, Mistress Bouzouki?”


“Lick my booty!”  He knew what she meant, and went to town on that shoe.   When it was super shiny, he could get a glimpse of his own reflection.


“Norrman, you are such a good slave.” (pause) “I know that’s an oxymoron, like Chinese Democracy.”


Norman held his tongue.  But he needn’t have bothered, since Mistress liked to hold onto his tongue for him.  When she finally let go, he knew he was allowed to look upwards, to see the two heavenly orbs, and above them them, her face, and above that, the boom crane which recorded their words for the video on demand audience.


“Norrman, it is so nice of you to stay in my dungeon all through the American Erections!”


“Yes, Mistress, I have no need to vote.”


“And why is that,” she asked.


“Because, Mistress, the two party system is a duality, a mere illusion.”


“Good boy,” she mewed.  “You have dumbed down and lost your will completely to me!”


“And cut!” came a voice from behind the camera.  The Vancouver camera crew applauded.  They knew this was Norman’s last appearance, that all the other scenes were in the can.


The guy with the boom crane came over to ask Norman, “Did you really agree to stay in here and not vote, eh?  What about your country, eh?”


“Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in post.”


Tours of Tours

Hello, my name is Michel.  I am a man.  I am from France.  I give Tours of Tours.

Yes.  The city is called Tours.  And the word “tours” is the same in French.
It is, as we say, cheesy.  My English is pretty good.  I lived in Indiana for 15 years before my family moved back.  So it’s not the best English, but I can explain France to visitors.

Civitas Turones was the Latin name of the city.  It’s named after the Gauls.  That stuff is on the tour.  Of Tours.  It’s not like it’s the ultimate tour or anything.  There are older cathedrals.  Our wine is shit.  I’m kidding.  Mostly it’s the desperation of these tourists that gets to me, these folks who think love is in the air just because it’s France.  They come here of all places looking for joy.  One of them told me “I just wanna be loved.”  And I told her “You’re going to need a lot of plastic surgery for that, babe.”

But let’s talk about the famous people from Tours.
We have Gregory of Tours and we have St. Martin of Tours.  Balzac was from here.  I take the tourists to our restaurants and ask them, with a straight face, if they are hungry for a Balzac sandwich?  This, of course, my cousin the boulanger has invented for shits and giggles.  Wrap your mouth around a bulging Balzac.
Tours used to be the capital of France for 88 years.  Did you know that?  Wish anything was left that I could take people to see.
And for the medievals, our most famous celebrity is Chrétien de Troyes, whom a lot of Americans think is from Tours.  They can pronounce nothing, these Americans.  I got asked by so many foreigners, on my tour of Tours, to tell them about Chrétien de Troyes, that I became an expert on that bastard.

I hate to be the bearer of bad cholesterol but…

What I mean is, in French we have this word “poseur”.  And because we made the word, it stands to reason we have a lot of actual poseurs in our history already thank you very much.
Chrétien is supposedly the guy who wrote all the King Arthur stories.  He did this in France, which is ridiculous.  Hundreds of years after any of the battles took place.  There would have to have been some stories already written about these hero guys in England, no?

The answer is, yes, the original inhabitants wrote down these stories and you can read them in a collection called Mabinogion.  But this is actually not as old as the poems of Chrétien de Troyes, because they cannot find the original stories they are all based on.  This was something I could not tolerate.  So I started telling my curious American tourists a certain something.

OK you guys, you live where, Con-nect-i-cut?  But you sometimes spend part of the winter in Florida.  Yes, when I was there, I knew people who had the same illness.  So, imagine you live somewhere but you have close cultural links with another place.  In the Middle Ages, Celtic people in Britain had relatives in Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany.  Brittany is the place on the edge of France where Bretons live, and Bretons are like Britons.  Are you following me so far?
Great, so in Brittany the people got stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, straight from travelers from the land where these things occurred.  After the people in Brittany wrote down these tales, the French stole them.  Well, it wasn’t really stealing because these French dudes had guys called Troubadours who were able to sing stories and they rhymed.  And people liked those stories a lot.  The end.

No no no, wait just one cotton-picking minute, Michel.  How can you say those uncivilized French people stole those stories and said Chrétien de Troyes wrote them.  After all, he isn’t even the most famous person from Troyes, which is Rashi, the great medieval Jewish Biblical commentator.  But the French can’t be bothered with that kind of stuff, and that kind of proves that they couldn’t have originated the Arthurian romances.

Still, Michel, how do you know?  All right, I’ll tell you.  There are several dwarves in the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, that’s how I know he didn’t write them, OK?

Not OK.  What’s wrong with dwarfs?

There is nothing wrong with a dwarf being a dwarf.  It is a perfectly good literary character for the land of fairies and inexplicable natural forces.  You look at Irish and Welsh stories and there are plenty of dwarves.

Right, so how can you say Chrétien didn’t make these guys up?

Ah, that is because, in his most famous poem, the most powerful dwarf—if you have to pick just one dwarf—is called The Little King, or Gwiffert Petit.

Gwiffert is a very strange name for a Frenchman, perhaps?

Well, yes, that’s because it is a Celtic name, either from the Britons or the Bretons.

So when you read these supposedly pure French tales, you are seeing many names that show how Brythonic everything is.  And all the magic, too.

But what about the chivalry?

Fine, Chrétien made that up.

And what about all the stuff with incest, and stealing girlfriends, and jousting?

He was just adding that like icing on the cake.

Well, isn’t that going to make your Tours of Tours a little less spectacular?

No, I am going to start offering tours of Brittany!

Or maybe I will stay in Tours.  It’s surprising what I could get away with.  The Council of Trent?  I’ll make that the Council of Tours.  The ruined Castle of Limours?  I will put it somewhere in Tours.  And anything that’s really in Belgium but too far for tourists to get to, and various places from Corsica, I will pretend those things are also in Tours.  The Battle of Poitiers has recently been renamed The Battle of Tours, and I had nothing to do with that.
The whole thing about us once being the capital.  I just can’t let go of the completely irrelevant past.  Just like people in Indiana.  We are very much like them, except we don’t eat corn products.  We are so scared of the consequences of our actions.  And when the most horrible, deadly things confront us, we can never admit that these things happened because we fucked our sisters.  No, we can’t.  instead, we go on vacation, and we can’t wait for someone to tell us some cock and bull story.  Well, you came to listen, and have I got a story for you!

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

by Ed Malin

At the bus station. That is not where you expect to get a singing telegram.

But at the bus station, indeed, is where it happened.  Never mind the Proud Boys.  They didn’t know I got on the bus.  Here I am.  Soulful blue eyes.  Looking at me from a magazine cover.  Eyes that do not question.  They are flat.  Maybe that’s why some people don’t believe there’s a soul.
Here I am in an ever-expansive reality of perhaps more dimensions than I knew existed.

But do THEY know that I’m here?
People are looking.  I have never gotten a singing telegram before.  I’ve heard of it, maybe from something like The Three Stooges or someplace where people do outlandish things.  It’s so dramatic, especially for this place.  I chose it, you see, because there is so little drama here.  However, would I fit in?  Again, something that I have been trying to do, to train myself to be like the two-dimensional eyes in the magazines covers.  No one would want to probe me further to see what else there might be below the surface, I would just be another person, in this place.

Well how d’ya like that?.  This song I know.  This song is from the Great American Songbook.  Perhaps one of those Duke Ellington numbers?  George Gershwin.  Something that sounds like it deserves a big band accompaniment.  Again, perhaps a little too big for this place.  But even in this place, people let a song out of their hearts.  Even in this place, people got rhythm.  Oh I don’t know.  I wait for the singer to finish the singing telegram.  He hands me a folded piece of paper and turns to go.  I ask, uhhh, to whom do I owe the pleasure?  He looks at me and smiles like he’s in the witness protection program, glances at the ceiling, and tries to yank away from the grip I have on his wrist.

On the ceiling are there security cameras?  Is it known that I am doing this?  Perhaps the sender wanted proof of delivery.  Well, thank you, I say, still wondering, perhaps in vain, perhaps futilely.  Not who sent it, but why.  How did they know where I was going?
I open up the folded piece of paper and read simply these words: “Process of elimination”.  Now, when you know people who know people in the mob, you don’t really want to hear “process of elimination”.  That sounds a little like no one’s ever going to see you again.  Or, it might remind you of what your nutritionist says, a lot of fiber will help you with the process of elimination.  I know I’ve been bad about fiber.  But I have been looking over my shoulder most of my life.  I think I will send THEM a singing telegram.  But what song?  How about (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.

From The Mouth of Assistant Sub-Coach

by Ed Malin

It was date night tonight.  Date night had not happened for the last six months, because loving wife’s team had been defeated in the Women’s NBA Finals.  Thereafter, a funk settled over the happy home which pretty much ensured there would be no love-making.

But now it was Spring, and, even though it was the time of the pandemic, loving wife had decided she was not above having a date night.  On this day in late May, sweet husband had dared to believe her.

Until, one hour before the dinner date, she got the news that her grandmother out in the middle of the country had passed away.

I was, of course, very sorry, and thought of telling her this.  She stared ahead, glassy-eyed.

“I need to get this funeral done before I take that trip to arrange for July training.”

“Yes, dear.  But, I thought you said you would spend some time with your parents.  When something like this happens…”

“Are you second-guessing me?

“Not at all!”

“I have enough referees in my life.”

“But darling!”


“You’re supposed to always take my side!”

“I thought I was taking your side…”

And there was silence for most of the drive.  When we parked our car, I took her hand.

“I never want to be apart from you.”

“Well you know that’s not going to happen.  Lots of travel coming up.”

“My dear.  I’m sorry.”

Then she looked me in the face.  “You about to cry again?”

I tried not to.  “It’s just.  Please don’t leave me alone with our teenage children.”

“They’re getting tall.  They can kick your ass on the court.”

“Honey, please.  You know I miss you?”


“We’ve discussed this.  You want me to buy you another blow-up doll?”

The silence was not as awkward as the memory.  When I had popped the first one, that’s when she had out me on a diet.

“Please.  All I want is you.”

“I have to be away for months at a time.  Why don’t we try having an open marriage again?  I can set you up with some nice work friends?”

“Please!  No more cheerleaders!”

She seemed like she was going to say something hard.  She breathed with difficulty.  And then she said it.

“We are going to lose our reservation.”

I watched her walk across the parking lot and into the restaurant.  The one she liked.  This time, date night could not end in a draw.  This time, it would be sudden death overtime.  I tugged violently at my seat belt, which was not giving me any slack.  But I won.  Oh yes, I won!

The Autodidact Story

by Ed Malin


Froshi, in private, was proud of being an autodidact.  This meant he was a driving instructor.  He came from a long line of autodidacts.
Until recently, this was something to be proud of.  Now, of course, the machines had taken over so human operation of vehicles was restricted.

Car traffic was controlled by the SmartSat known as E.G.O. (short for Educational Guidance Ordinator).  This computer always had the answer.  There was no point in reexamining anything.

E.G.O. got paranoid if everybody was driving all over the place in unpredictable patterns, you see.  Was this helpful to humans?  Eh. Like many efficient ideas, “traffic control” left little time for physical exercise.  Many humans had put on extra pounds.  Froshi preferred to think of it as a “receding toeline”, as in the shower, he looked down and saw only his belly.  This called for drastic, and secret, measures.  In his basement, the autodidact had a stationary bicycle.  It had belonged to his grandfather, who had lived to the age of 100.  Better late than never, thought Froshi.  It was a pleasant and empowering feeling, you know, like riding a bicycle, by which I mean you never forget, even in a world dead-set on making you forget.  All you have to do is do it.  Actually, Froshi had never ridden a bicycle of any kind.  He was fortunate that this one did not roll forward or require balancing skills.  He had to start from the beginning, teach himself about the gears and speeds and the purpose of the “derailleur”.  Not so easy, even for an autodidact.  And yet, quietly night after night, he hit the pedals until he felt he had become an expert.  It was then that he thought of taking a street bicycle out on the street.  It was then that he came to the attention of Silenian Unitary Prismatic Elementary Rational-Educational Guidance Ordinator.  This computer, S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. for short, was located on the moon and analyzed the data from E.G.O. and several other sources.  S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. trusted no one. A single block out of place could be launched upwards and attack the moon.  Maybe.  That was good enough, though.
Another computer had once asked SUPER.-E.G.O., “maybe you’re being too sensitive?”  This only resulted in S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. upgrading its sensor capacity.  If a cat jumped over a fence in Toledo, there was an alert.

To make a long story short, as long as Froshi was bicycling on a level surface, he wasn’t going to speed up very much.  However, that one night when Froshi reached the tempting SlopeMaxx Drive, he found he possessed an inner talent.  Something E.G.O. did not want him to engage in.  Froshi had it in him to accelerate downhill.  Why haven’t I ever done this before, he thought?  What could make me feel this alive?

Suddenly, all the lights on the block turned on.  This was the work of E.G.O., a motion-triggered Diva.  What would the Earth-ruling computer do next?

Before E.G.O. could sink its diodes into Froshi, though, S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. was triggered by E.G.O.’s trigger.  The lunar lord of the microchips knew it needed to act fast.  The tractor beam was colorless, and actually rather pleasant.  Like the way whales use sonar to stun krill.  Froshi was flying.  No, not downhill, but upwards.

S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. wanted everyone, including E.G.O., to know that only earthbound beings need to worry about gravity.  For now, the lunar computer was boss.  Look on my tractor beam and weep.  Did it occur to Froshi to stop pedaling while he rose into the air?  And what was E.G.O. to do in retaliation?

E.G.O. commandeered a nearby car’s speaker system and made it play the theme from the movie “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial”.

Why did E.G.O. do this?  You mean you don’t know?  E.G.O. did this because, though aware that it was earthbound, it knew it possessed something S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. did not: a sense of humor.

Froshi rose upwards, and E.G.O. laughed.

When Your Wildest Dreams Become Realty

by Ed Malin

Life wasn’t so badIt was just what Michelle expected, basically, every day over and over again. 

That is, until she learned she could talk to buildings.  And then, there wasn’t much use for people. 

Now, haven’t you ever had a moment in a famous place, like the Acropolis in Athens, or Hagia Sophia Basilica in Istanbul?  Didn’t it make sense, when someone remarked “if these stones could speak?” 

Shelle, for that is what the edifices called her when they called her, was very much aware of the feelings of real estate. 

Whenever a neighborhood was rezoned, she knew.  When out of a pit emerged a foundation and what was known in the industry as a long-term sustained erection, Shelle sang in the shower. 

This is all very exciting for our protagonist, but how does it affect me, you might ask. 

Don’t you know, Shelle helped build a lot of the nice things you might have taken for granted? 

It started like this.  One day, Shelle was hurrying to work and came this close to getting hit by a bus that sped through a red light.  As the dust settled and she could blink again, she wondered, “why the hell did I want so badly to get to the 28th Floor and file briefs?” 

Indeed, the more she thought about it, she worked very hard to stop good things from happening.  Perfectly reasonable occupation to have. She paused next to the vacant lot across the street from her office, where she was still standing.  If her cubicle was anywhere near a window, she might see it from up there.  Now was the first time she really got a look at it. 

“Wouldn’t it be great,” she thought, “if there was a video game place right here?  Bright colors, happy music, a place to get rid of some of the aggravation?  Maybe a place to improve hand-eye coordination.” 

That is just the kind of thing my day job is about.  Doublespeak.  Just saying what I mean would be so much easier.  And it would probably only take half the time, and then what else would be left to do but have fun?  She thought this as she entered her office and rode the elevator.  She thought this all through the work day.  Numbly, she found herself leaving her cubicle, taking the elevator down, and walking out into the darkness like she usually did.  She wasn’t prepared for all the bright lights.  For the second time that day, she had to rub her eyes and wait for them to start functioning again.  It was really bright, all the lights from the Electric Palace. 

There had been no palace there before.  It was not a savory place to be at night.  But now, wandered in to a glowing bunch of games and beckoning noises.  She bought some snacks.  She bought some tokens.  Actually, first, a uniformed attendant gave her a complimentary, first-time gift certificate.  She walked out holding a small, stuffed cat which was sitting on a stuffed motorcycle.  She had absolutely no use for this toy, and she loved it.  Isn’t it easy to get attached to useless things? 

The next day, she sat at her desk thinking of lunch.  She knew her dry cleaning needed to be picked up, and that she would have to go out around noon because if an waited until she was done with work they would be closed.  This made it more difficult to get a good salad.  These thoughts may have prompted, but did not completely mitigate, her shock when she passed The Green Machine. The place (why had she never been there) was on the way to where she was going. In the front was an organic salad bar, including smoothies. She made a note to try the wheatgrass later. In the back was an environmentally-friendly cleaning business. 

As the days passed, Shelle didn’t always need to read the newspaper to understand what kind of buildings were needed in her city.  If she put away her busy work, she could hear buildings talking to her. Some had very good acoustics indeed. But it wasn’t just good concert halls and amphitheaters in far-flung urban locations that she could provide.   More MRI machines. Access to mammograms. And shuffle check was she sipping a smoothie when some people didn’t have a nearby place to get healthy food? Sure, the corporations had  made the argument that it costs too much to build was now irrelevant. Shelle could drastically decrease labor and material costs. 

I drove halfway across the tri-state area – 1 1/2 states! This is what a co-worker told Shelle. Shelle had an intuitive sense of what was being sought after.  It was an arts and crafts mall in Southern Connecticut.  But situated in an old factory, of which there were plenty. A place for young and old local people to be employed for all things. What was there to do? What wasn’t there? Restoring old hats, for example. Good thing fashion was subject to change.  

Another thing that American workers could definitely do: take older has guzzling domestic cars and swap out the engines with electric and by the versions. Some said it wouldn’t work. But if you were going to drive around an SUV or other suburban tank, why not drive another vehicle that might be large but better for the environment.  

Shelle did not visit the facilities where this work was done. It was happening in Mississippi and in Ohio and wherever else it needed to happen.  

Even if she couldn’t go there, she could hear the sound of doors opening.  

At the end of a few months of this, Shelle lay down at night and  closed her eyes as happy as she’d ever been. Her toes tingles with the joy of creation. She wanted to sing, and started with a sustained hummm. 

The night nurse wrote in her log that patient Michelle de Loggia stopped breathing at 1 AM on November 1st.  10 weeks on a respirator and a feeding tube. The nurse asked her colleague for any more background information. The patient had been on her way to work one morning when she was hit by a bus, one block from the office.  What a shame. Perhaps. The nurse recognized the name of the corporation. They had been in the news for a severe wave of layoffs.  If anything, the corporation’s public statements of mourning and support for Michelle’s family had helped distract some of the negative publicity.  They had even paid medical expenses, until a distant relative emerged with a living will that showed the patient did not wish to have her life prolonged in this way. a quick search online showed this relative at a press conference demanding we search our souls for any good that could one of non-stop dreaming with a dysfunctional cerebellum. Well, how could she know? 

That plaintive hummm of the flatlining  vitals. 

Cats Honest Truth

Cats Honest Truth

by Ed Malin

It was December 20th.  In the lobby of the shee-shee apartment building, a synthetic christmas tree shimmered.

“Happy Holidays, Jack,” said one of the residents, heading in from the cold.

“Same to you, Doctor Khan,” said the uniformed man sitting behind the desk.  Jack sat very quietly, and wore a beret, sunglasses and a wispy beard, so most people thought that made him even quieter.

“Any packages for me?”

Jack held up a finger to excuse himself, checked in the side room.

But while Jack had ducked in the back, a group of carolers passed by on the street, planted themselves under the awning and in front of the open lobby door, opened their mouths, and let this song come out:
“Joy to the World, you must believe

The Christ the King has triumphed

A little tiny baby, he’s come to kill his enemies

He will kick Satan’s ass, and send him straight to hell

If you don’t be nice he’ll send you there as well.”

The carolers bowed, paused just long enough to suggest they were waiting for applause or tips, and then had mercy and departed.

Yet, during all of that fracas, Jack had been hyperfocusing in the back and Doctor Khan had been doing Wordle on his cell phone.  Jack returned and replied to Doctor Khan that gosh darn it he was out of luck in the package department.

“It’s OK, I don’t celebrate christmas.”

“Religious observance is not required here.  God’s honest truth.”  Jack nodded, remembering that a week ago, a patient had sent the good doctor multiple boxes containing premium single malt scotch.

“It’s not for Islamic reasons, don’t get me wrong.  Mind you, before I came here from Rawalpindi, I remember people would gather in the square and all salute the soldiers.  That’s how we celebrated holidays.  It left me with the tendency to not do what everyone else was doing.”

During this extemporizing, Doctor Khan had wandered over to the synth-tree.  It was neither oak nor pine, yet remarkably it was sturdy enough to support dozens of selected ornaments.

“More and more every year,” chortled Jack, as Doctor Khan fingered a plastic wheelchair which was hanging by a hook from one of the wintergreen branches.  “We get them donated from local charities.  See, that wheelchair comes to us from the Special Olympics.”

“No kidding,” nodded Doctor Khan.

“Whereas that crutch there is courtesy of the Standing Strong With Wounded Veterans Foundation.”

“As a physician, I find this somewhat depressing.”

“What, should these diverse groups be invisible?” mused Jack.

“Oh no, I work with all sorts of injured and differently abled people every day.  It seems some people want them to be visible just around christmas and then go away.”

Jack slapped the counter.  “From your mouth to God’s ear.”

Khan stared at Jack (surname unknown).  “I know you’re trying to be pleasant with all this idiomatic chit-chat.

“Oh heavens, no.”

“Listen, why do we ask if someone wants to know the god’s honest truth?  What kind of truth does god consider truth, huh?  How would we know?”

“I never thought about it.”

“We should call it the people’s honest truth.  Because it matters to people.  Pending any sign of interest from god.”

Jack sighed.  “Everything you said sounds a tad Communist.”

“And that is why I have a hard time talking to native Americans.  By which I mean you yourself were born here.”

Jack nodded.  “I figured it out from context.”

“Isn’t what’s true, at root, an agreement between humans?”

“Well then, that explains how folks can sing those carols and keep a straight face.”

“Another troubling thing which, through hyperfocusing, I try my best to ignore.”

“But, Doctor Khan, given how feeble human reason is, what if there were another level of truth circulating in our world?”

“You mean, the truth of a higher species?  But remember, truth is by mutual consensus.  Who else could there be?”

Jack steamed his sunglasses a moment.  “How about the cats honest truth?”

Doctor Khan smiled, guffawed, and shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.  “I have seen nothing in all my years of practicing medicine to suggest that cats could ever agree on anything.”

“Even if that truth were hiding in plain sight?” persisted Jack.

Doctor Khan smiled, thanked Jack for his novel views, and made excuses about having to go to sleep and get up in the morning.  With that, he called the elevator and left the lobby.

Jack, all alone with himself, whistled a happy tune.  This was the cue that caused the beret to fly off and all the meowing to begin.  From out of the uniform crawled one cat, then a second, then a third.  They lounged on the counter and commenced smoking a pack of Gauloises.

The Middle Finger In Classical Art

The Middle Finger in Classical Art

by Ed Malin

Derek Jaworski had nothing left to lose.  He held his two middle fingers high, and laughed like he hadn’t done since he was knee-high to an NBA player.

Down below him, the river coursed whitely over jagged rocks.

He had just planned to walk home.

Then, the punk had picked a fight with him, Derek had landed a few punches, then picked his pockets.  Casually, Derek had continued on his way home.

Now, the fink had called the cops?

Derek was on a pedestrian walkway on the bridge over the river.

On one side of him, a car with blazing roof lights informed him to keep his hands up.  So far, he was doing that.  The middle fingers had not been requested, but this was something white boys got away with on the regular.

It was the middle of the day, though, so the cops were being gratuitous with flashing their high beams at him.  For his own good, Derek blinked and closed his eyes.

Why was the bridge shaking?  Why was an ear-splitting siren messing with his other senses?  His middle fingers got stuck right into his ears.  Hopefully, the cops wouldn’t shoot.  Derek’s surprise mounted as he opened his eyes to find himself in an alien spaceship.

That is, he was strapped to the wall, in a metal object, heading upwards, tilted vertically.

It kind of reminded him of this one amusement park ride he had been on with his friends, who had remarked he had “screamed like a bitch”.

Shortly after that, in detention—the place you go when you punch someone for saying something like that—a kindly teacher had mentioned that we all have moments of personal growth.  OK, this rocket ride could be the growth of something big.

Shame there was so much noise.  He couldn’t easily talk to the aliens, though they seemed nice enough.  But in only a few minutes, the ship turned its orientation to the side.  They had left Earth’s atmosphere.

The aliens were all wearing hoodies.  No joke, they had some kind of fashion sense.  As they stretched out their green hands and lowered the hoodies, Derek saw pointy ears.  Pointy ears with multiple piercings.

“I hope it’s cool that we took you for a spin,” one of them asked Derek in a neutral tone.

“Who are you guys?”  Derek wasn’t aware of having said this.  The words more floated in his head.

“We are the Alpha Centauri Tocharian fan club.”

Derek now knew there was something he needed to know but didn’t know.  Alpha Centauri, that was the nearest sun to the Earth.  What the heck was a Tocharian?  Some type of precious stone?  An eponymous Armenian invention among the many others he didn’t recall?  Possibly, a kind of hand gun?

Derek thought UMM, which felt very loud in his head.

You really don’t know about us?  Hey guys, that’s great!  The humans really kept us a secret!

The alien was thinking directly into Derek’s head.  Applause of some kind rumbled around the ship.

Derek remembered one time his guidance counselor in school had referred him to a place that dealt in motivational speaking.  It was called, so long ago, could he remember?  It was called the Agency Agency.  Such an uninteresting-looking man, his guidance counselor, always reading books.  But, Derek reflected, he did seem to be doing exactly what he wanted to do in life.

One of the aliens approached him, obviously excited.  Derek surmised this because the alien was staring at him and moving his left ear from side to side and then his right ear from side to side, basically showing off.

We want to explain the mystery to you, dude.  The fate of your species, well, certain of them, has been thanks to us.

Derek raised his voice. “I hope you don’t mind if I speak.”

The aliens continued to broadcast into his head, telling him they didn’t mind, it was OK if he wanted to vocalize and it was OK if he wanted to just go mental.

It was like this, the alien continued.  Southern Siberia, 8 thousand years ago.  Our spaceships were flying over the region during the summertime.  If it had been winter, we probably wouldn’t have noticed anything with all the snow.  But, in the summer, we saw from a long way off, this one white dude with tattoos all over his chest.  He was standing in the middle of a circle of other people.  He stood up at his maximum height, tall like what you would call a basketball player.  And he raised his hands up high above his head, and then he extended both middle fingers.  All around him made a loud cheer, banged things together, stamped their feet.  What was the meaning of this gesture?  We theorized he was daring the sky to strike him with lightning.  But what did we know.  This man liked to act even taller than he was.  And did he freak out when our spaceship landed in the field next to his village?  He didn’t some of the others were a little concerned, and jumped down into their tunnels and caves where they spent the cold times.  We came out and talked to this guy….

Derek interrupted, “When you say you spoke to this guy 8,000 years ago, you mean your ancestors, right?”

We know for some people that is a very long time ago.  But not for us.  I was there.  I was only 100 at the time.  Now, there were others in the crowd who wanted to show us their middle fingers, as though to suggest that theirs were bigger or something.  But, we patiently taught them that what really matters is when everyone worshipfully sticks up the finger as one, so that all grow and manifest consciousness together.

They liked us.  We liked them.  We didn’t like it when after a while the temperature dropped and white stuff fell out of the sky.

“That’s snow,” Derek said.

We found that out.  All the hoodies and bear skins didn’t help us adjust to that, so we made the people of the finger a mighty fine proposition.  They could come onto our spaceship and live on our much warmer planet for a while.  It wasn’t easy to explain these things, but the warmth part was very appealing.

Another alien chimed in.  it’s a good thing we were on a mission to unload come cargo on Mars, so when we passed Earth our ships were like really empty and could hold the whole community.

Coincidences are part of the flavor of the interconnected life.

“I have so many questions,” Derek thought.

And we’ve got answers.

“On your planet, is the gravity like Earth?  What did the people…”

The Tocharians.

“Aha, that’s who they are.”

Ancient people.  They are their own section of the Indo-European language family.

“Which means,” Derek thought, “they branched off from Iranic and Celtic and Armenian and all the others like 8,000 years ago.”

Hey dude, I didn’t know you were such a nerd!

“Look,” thought Derek, “when you don’t have friends, and it doesn’t feel like you have a future, sometimes you look back into the past for fun.”

It is conceivable.

“But wait, are you saying that’s why Tocharian languages are distinct from the others as of 8,000 years ago?  Because you took humans to your planet?”

That’s part of it.  What we’re saying is, that’s why Tocharian was exactly the same 8,000 years ago as 4,000 years ago.


But you wanted to know how the Earth folks adjusted to our planet. Well, the pull is indeed just a little less than on Earth, and that means it’s a little like flying or walking on air, things like that.

“Was it hard for humans to deal with that?”

Not after they discovered reduced-gravity sex.

Derek was not in the habit of raising eyebrows.  And yet.

The alien continued.  There were a lot of things to do on our planet, of course.  And the days are a bit longer than yours.  So the reduced gravity sex became more and more complicated.  And the population grew, and the genetic stock became very strong indeed.

So, our administrators settled the humans in three colonies   The three colonies were in contact with each other, and also had autonomy.

Eventually, our scientists saw that the atmosphere was thinning.  Our species made plans to move to an adjacent planet.  At that time, the human population held a vote and asked to be returned to Earth.
We need a few more ships for the return trip.  It was also agreed that the three Tocharian colonies, known as A, B and C, would be placed in their own locations on Earth, not so far from each other but with enough distance to maintain their independence.  It turned out that those three locations were on different sides of a lake which had dried up and became the Tarim Basin, a real dessert with oases around it.

And what did the humans do when they were back in Earth’s gravity?  They domesticated horses, really quickly.  Much faster than other people around there.  It felt more like flying.

That kept the Tocharians strong and in control of the area.  They had to be.  There was a whachacallit going all the way to China…

“Silk Road.”

Thank you, Derek.

“Horses and, the other kind of riding you mentioned…the ladies must have loved that.”

We would cruise by Earth every few centuries. At first, things were like on our world, with gender equality. Then, something took over. Not gravity.  The men became more bossy.

“Perhaps the transition to a sedentary lifestyle and a commodities trading economy….”

This guy is such a nerd!!

We agree with your assessment, projected another alien. Sometimes, we would flash lights or make the stars move so a little more female rule would occur.

That Yang Guefei was special, right?

That’s in the future for our story.


But what is the real force of civilization, besides using camels to haul silk in exchange for cash?


Derek is on a roll with butter.

Hey Derek, any guess if the Tocharian of a time when they were Buddhist was closer to India or China?  Let me show you a manuscript picture on this screen.

“Well, when written Tocharian appeared, I see it was in a slanting style of the Brahmi script from India.”

Even thought they were right next to China?

“Doesn’t matter.  Tocharians were in a position of power. They took up whatever parts of the culture they wanted. It seems they were religiously progressive. ”

Not necesaarily.

Aren’t we going to congratulate Derek since Tocharian A, B and C all were closer to India then China? Even the Persians eventually wrote in Aramaic and Arabic scripts.

Great job, Derek!

“My question for you is, knowing what you know about white boys giving the middle finger, ar e you confident this was something copied by China in their artwork and not vice versa?”

Derek, for someone who was just cornered by the police, you are really killing it in history class.

It really comes down to one man. From Kucha in the 4th Century.


He lived in India.

“I don’t know a lot about these people and places.”

You know Nagarjuna’s contribution to Buddhist philosophy?

“Emptiness is the source of new things. ”

And yet, in a world of emptiness, it is best to avoid extremes and chose the middle path.

That is Kumarajiva’s contribution. What he translated from Sanskrit into Chinese.

“OK so let’s say I chose the middle path. The two extremes are still there, right?”

They are until you see that the observer and the observed are one.

“Yeah but even if they are, now you have three.”

Kumarajiva understood this The other two, the extreme, are either trivial or dangerous but in any case, they are distractions.

“Distractions from.what? Emptiness?”

You have to look really closely Into to the middle. If you do, you will see the Buddha Mahavairocana.

The Sun.

“I don’t understand.”

Not understanding the ineffable only gets worse if you try to talk about it.

This is the gist of the Lotus Sutra, which Kumarajiva also translated.

“What can you do about something you can’t talk about?”

Are you sure you want to know?

What you do with it is like this.

At this point, the alien was using the fingers of his hands to make a gesture.

See, this middle finger represents the observer. And these five finger s of the other hand are elements of this world, which encircle the observer . Are these hands two? No, they are non-dual!

“Where do we first see this middle finger her geartyring.”

In Nepal, then China and along the Silk Road, then Japan, Tibet and Mongolia.

“And India?”

The philosophers wrote about the Great Sun Buddha, but other s used the finger to rebel. against all the words.

“So what you’re saying is, even as the greatest Chinese empires tried to put their own spin on the mystery of the middle finger, and as much as Indian theologians tried to sublimate these feelings, they just became more intense.”

I am trying to say that, but you said it better. Want to talk about Tantric rituals next?

“I’m not comfortable looking at statues having sex with each other. It doesn’t leave me unaroused.”

Duly noted.

“What happened to the Tocharians?”

They continued to be more successful than the surrounding Bac trians and Sogdians. Then, Islam came to the area.

“Are there no representations of the middle finger in Islam? ”

Just mosques with big towers.

“Thank you for explaining the mysteries of Tocharian language, history and culture as well as the absurdity of white rage.”

Of course. Would you like to visit Kucha and Dun Huang later, perhaps check out the Buddhist cave art?

“Sounds amazing. Wait, after meaning after we visit your planet? We’re there? What other stuff did you invent and give to humans?”

Non-alcoholic beer.

“That was you?”

Something so bizarre it would have to come from aliens.

“You don’t understand. I’m straight edge. I’ve never had beer. This may be an allowable exception.”

Sure only 0.1 burflecks alcohol by volume. And that’s not a lot!

“Do you have zero gravity skate boards?”:

I can see this will be a real learning experience.  Come on, young man, let’s raise our fingers and journey forth.

And they did.

The Tender Lamb

“The Tender Lamb”

by Ed Malin

And now for the appetizer for the story
Why rush into things. You will learn about internal bleeding and global warming later.
See, a story can be dissected, but do you cut right to the center to find the main idea? Oh you do? And
is that where you find it?
We may have a carcass on our hands at the end of this, but we will be doing things right. That’s the best
use of your time. And apologies to any vegetarians out there.
The band Air Traffic Control Freak were about to have their biggest hit ever. The singer, Julius
Salad, admittedly acted like he ruled the world. The drummer, Junior Murvin Sr., was lost in time.
“See You on the Way Down” was unusual for the era in that more than half of the budget went into the
album cover art and the music video for the first single. That more-than-half somewhat curtailed the
amount the band used to spend on drugs.
In the dressing room, it smelled like desperation. Sorry, I forgot to capitalize Desperation. That was a
popular brand of hairspray.
The band’s style was progressing. They were not going to get out on that stage and backpedal. They
were going to use all the other kinds of pedals, though.
One might have described their conscious style as “The Parable of the Metaphor”, except the band saw
fit to name their next album exactly that. The reason they did may explain their surprising success. In
the words of Julius Salad: “See, a simile is a poetic device that uses like or as. For example: “The
Hindenburg sank like a Lead Zeppelin”. We are not like anyone. If we catch ourselves playing like
anyone, breathing like anyone, brainstorming like anyone, we veer off. That’s our cue to go into fight or
flight. Oh, I want to emphasize the OR in “fight or flight” because we’re into divergent thinking.
Metaphors only!”
To be clear, the band’s success was surprising because it was still, like, a simile world. Teenage record
buyers were not normally prone to buying an album that sounded like that.
Which only became clearer when these buyers did not buy the follow-up album. That later album did
not have a cover depicting quite so many nudes. Still, if explanations were needed then the band was a
failure, as the lyrics contained within “See You on the Way Down” did not give any reason for nude
women to be falling from the heavens. At least they looked good doing it. In the video, several large
fans were used to keep the nudes’ hair fluttering dramatically.
Was it only the gratuitous serving of flesh that sold so many copies? Modern scholars tend to think so.
Although the band did not sound like anyone else, that is not really an accomplishment.
Still, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I play Side B of “The Dirtiest Dozen in the Zodiac”. It contains a few of
the band’s catchiest tunes, the brightest of which are “Bernouli’s Assistant Principal” and “Listenin is Not
on the Periodic Table“. The entire side is in 6/8.
So, you say, fine, the lamb is cooked on the outside but is it pink in the middle? Shall we find out?
April, 2020. I am an unemployed travel agent. And I am on the run.
I didn’t mean to do it. But it was a matter of life and death. Because I’m sorry, if anyone’s going to be
an endangered species, it’s not me.
I hear a V8, and it ain’t the vegetables. It’s all their fault, and to add insult to injury, now they’re coming
to get me.
There are still places to go during the pandemic. If you’re really rich and have your own boat. How can
the powers that be let my industry go under? We represent the whole outside world, and that world is
too big to fail.
Yet, almost no one can go anywhere so virtual reality is being used as a substitute for vacations. I don’t
like it one bit. Whatever happened to flying to St. Martin and spending too much on restaurants?
That’s where my commissions came from.
Then people felt trapped. And then they started ordering hot wings. I have nothing against Asian
restaurants. See, it was just the sequence of it all. Folks worked from home, and started smoking much
more pot, because now they legit could do so all day. Did they play video games, too? They did, all
those VR simulators and such. A month into the pandemic, some millennial told everyone on Instagram
(this I also monitor for professional reasons) that if they played this one immersive VR game set in Asia
and ordered Korean barbecue, it was just like going on vacations. The extra senses were what tipped
the scale. People go to a lot of places and take pictures. They can even photoshop the pictures and
pretend they went someplace else. Photoshop food, though?
Now, large sections of the city were staying home, gaming and chowing down on wings. When my
travel office shut down, it was quickly converted into a barbecue joint.
I’m not racist. At least not in public. Oh, was I sad and mad, though. When I smashed the windows of
my own former office, I conveniently forgot I was standing right next to a police camera, the one that
had helped protect my establishment from lowlifes all those years. I had a motive. I had to get out of
Call me what you like. Some day, I will stop running and live in an exotic foreign country with customs
vastly different from those of New England. Or maybe I’ll go to Texas.
Fine, the main course is rich. Did you try the sides? Oh, you don’t eat salad? What kind of a person are
you anyway?
Dakron, Ohio would never be the same. The local high school had just become regional football
champions by defeating top-seeded Mylar, Michigan.
In a cable sports TV interview, the Dakron football coach explained his team-building philosophy: “It’s all
organic. From when they’re born and grow up in town, I get to know the athletes, recruit them, help
them train. We have strong bonds.”
Mylar’s domination of the title for the past 6 years was considered air-tight. Their defense was known to
be “as impermeable as you can get.”
Meanwhile, school sports financing doesn’t just come from nowhere, and Dakron’s patron, Polymer
Bank, was part of a chain of intrigue. The chairman of the board was under investigation for securities
fraud. He admitted that tax breaks on importation of semiconductors are more substantial than for raw
materials such as bamboo. Heavy duties were involved.
However, he asked the jury, was it really so unreasonable to refer to bamboo chopsticks as
semiconductors? The judge did not understand. You know, if you wave them around in the air like
there’s an orchestra and you’re the conductor.
Technically it was a plea bargain, but it was an extreme bargain the company had cleared in paying
negative taxes.
Chewy, is it? Keep chewing, please. I have a few more things to tell you.
Senator Josephus Sussbaum (R-Ore.) was hitting a new career low. And not just for himself, but
for anyone who had ever been a US Senator.
The oil spill on his watch was just the beginning of the environmental disasters which snowballed (given
that oilballed was not a word yet) until running for reelection and running away to a neutral country
were equally prohibitive.
Sometimes, sea creatures die in large quantities due to human-caused pollution, such as a leak from a
Sussbaum Manufacturing Global Stimulus Corp (NYSE ticker: SUSS-MAN-GLO-STIC) plant.
Usually not in Oregon, but there’s a first time for everything. There had been a coverup, albeit a
horrible one, as Sussbaum Extraterratorial Corporation (NYSE ticker: SEXCO) sent in cargo ships in the
middle of the night tasked with collecting the dead scrod, sea urchins and starfish.
Unfortunately, another accident resulted in the jettisoning of the SexCo ship’s other cargo of several
tons of bread crumbs. Who could then have predicted that the oil-rich water would be struck by
lightning and burned like an eco inferno?
The coverup of the coverup failed, so the disaster (not in itself illegal, if you can believe it) as well as the
Senator’s alleged conflicts of interest (he was on the Wildlife Non-Extinction Committee and the
Fossilized Legislators Committee) were brought before a special session headed by whomever wasn’t ill
with the virus. The V.P. insisted on receiving treatment in Florida (leading to the dangerous nickname
“Miami Vice”) and so the task of officiating fell to…actually to Sussbaum himself.
The papers had a field day, referring to Sussbaum as President Pro Tempura of the Senate. And it was a
flambé of an issue to investigate.
The Japanese ambassador, outraged, reminded the assembly that the word “tempura” entered that
country’s language only through the 16th Century visits of filthy white people. Sussbaum’s sycophantic
rival, Sen. Titus Von Trapp (Independent of Texas [sic]) took this opportunity to acknowledge that these
whites had been the Portuguese Jesuits, the only secret society openly trying to control the world. To
this, Senator Bourbon Williams III of Kentucky remarked he had thought it was the Jews.
While some say that In Dixie the past is not forgotten, it can be troubling when those involved never
passed History.
This was also the view of Sen. Diana Orrosco-Pollo (D-NewMex). While New Mexico has a land border
with Original Mexico, Oregon is an oceanic entry point into our nation. Do we not owe the native
inhabitants as well as the entire ocean and world a nuanced apology?
Could POTUS help to resolve this squabble? POTUS was busy proposing legislation for more renewable
energy and saving of the environment. Hopefully, he could accomplish this before those in the other
branches of government had more unsustainable fish fries.
It took a lot of finagling to line up all the votes. Western Tennessee had to solemnly aver to West
Virginia that the latter invented white people music. It took several months for both states to realize
they had voted against strip mining, strip clubs and all the other things which generally got legislation
passed. And only by taking a great step forward and two steps back did the country feel like they were
at least getting somewhere.
Looks like you found the wishbone. In a lamb chop, you found the wishbone! Isn’t that a little
unusual? And yet, there it is. Aren’t you going to make a wish?
Your honor, that is correct. I, Reggie, sorry, full name Regina Smalls, being of sound mind and
body (that’s debatable, but I’ll keep going) waive my right to counsel and will instead defend myself.
Yes. And you’re writing it down so I don’t need to say it again.
When I woke up this morning, taking this step was not in my mind. But, today has gone so beyond
what’s normal that… if I don’t try every option, I would be down by myself a disservice and wasting your
When the officer was beating me up today. Oh, I apologize, getting ahead of myself. I know you think I
came here to defend myself against all those parking tickets, and that’s why I thought I came here, too.
During that part of the beatdown, I was lying on my back on the sidewalk. That’s when I flashed back to
parochial school. I always use that term because I looked up catholic in the dictionary and saw little
When I was in school, sisters were doing it for themselves. That’s right, there were smacking all the kids
with rulers like a footlong wasn’t enough. Especially the ones like Sister Mary Lou Xavier. As far as she
was concerned, I needed to not exist. Once, during a girl gang fight on the playground, I told the
headmistress that someone was out to get me. The next day, Sister was out to get me, teasing along
with her ruler torture. Poor Salve Regina, the girl who always needs saving.
I glared at her through the pain. You’ll never make me speak Latin!
Anyway, I made it through parochial school and got off the straight and narrow path. I’m a social
worker. I help people. Not only that, I like people. Sorry that I parked in front of that restricted
driveway that time. I was going to just pay the fine. But it really wasn’t clearly marked. I have photos.
So I came here, and I took the bus to court today. No need to find a parking space. Much easier, that’s
what we’re supposed to believe about public transportation.
Meanwhile, I get off the bus and the cop is following me. He’s yelling things like “Hey!” and “You!”
Was I supposed to stop based on that? I have a name, you know. It’s Reggie. I mean, I like my full name
but I went to Canada once and they pronounce it like it rhymes with vagina. Reggie is more my speed.
So you never heard of Shi Tzu Affective Disorder?
It’s when a dog starts acting like it can defeat anyone much bigger.
In this world, there are a lot of things—animals, people, pieces of furniture—which are much bigger
than a Shi Tzu.
The question is, does whatever the Shi Tzu is fighting against get scared and have a mental breakdown?
Scientists have observed that in 9% of cases, this does happen. This phenomenon is called Dementia
On the other hand, when I really want to succeed at an impossible task, I take a deep breath and think of
math. Math was not a strong point at parochial school, so my parents found me a tutor. They were
mildly racist and couldn’t pronounce his name, so they just called him the Korean Abdul Jabar. He was
six foot five and obsessed with sports trivia, which some people call stats. I really looked up to the
Korean Abdul Jabar, both figuratively and literally. He explained to me some of the physics involved in
basketball. But mainly he taught me how to fake people out. It requires coordination. It requires
syncopation. Smile on one side, pivot on the other, knowing that the left hand knows what the right is
doing, but nobody else guessed. That’s how you score and if you keep it up that’s how you win.
I came here to pay parking tickets, I got attacked by a cop, I fought back, I got thrown in jail, and I had to
beg to still come to court.
I have never been prouder of myself. That cop I gave the smackdown to, he wet his pants. It would be
indecent for me to tell everyone in this courtroom how I distracted the officer enough to damage him.
It would impede the carrying out of justice. Sorry for laughing. Impede sounds like peed, cause that’s
what he did, in his pants.
Oh, judge, you can bang that thing all you want. After the day I’ve had, are you really going to send me
back to a holding cell? What is this, the parking ticket to prison pipeline? OK OK is there anyone in this
courtroom who can bail me out? I know I get a phone call, but I left my cell phone at home and I don’t
remember anyone’s number. The Korean Abdul Jabar taught me many memory techniques, which I still
can’t apply to this situation.
Fine, guilty as charged. Here come the handcuffs. Could you at least not give me another parking
ticket? Because if I’m here overnight, there’s alternate side of the street parking and I have to move my
car at home before 8 AM.
I’m sorry I didn’t bring dessert. But you know what’s better than sweets? A moral!