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The Man Behind the Mic


by

L.P. Stribling

    The man who stepped onto the podium in the middle of the last quiet moment of humanity wore a suit which suggested he was the true face of patriotism. The small two-cent flag on his black suit’s lapel was tilted slightly, but would pass for centered for the majority of those he met. His eyes flashed hard at the center camera below him, his gaze rocketing into every living room of the nation; in the following seconds, those same eyes would release into every living hollow on the planet that contained a pulse of human life.

    He smiled and began.

    “My fellow World Order people, today we have shown that…”

    From the back corner of her living room, Dena Metrin’s heartbeat brought itself to her attention as she watched the screen, almost panting.

    “Please tell me you’re close, Rick.“ Her eyes darted over to the man hunched over his computer at her left. His fingers ran across his keyboard as if he were epileptic. White text sprayed across a blue screen. The pencil in his mouth had a body lined with bite marks. He had been rolling it around in his mouth clamping his teeth down slightly as he worked. As long as Dena knew him, it was his own peculiar way of dealing with stress. When he bit all the way through it, he would spit it out and pull a fresh pencil from the pack next to his keyboard and begin anew.

    “Err,” he said through his pencil. “Ah depfinilhee feek ahm gehng crossr.” She reached out and threw the pencil out of his mouth to the ground.

    “What?”

    “I said,” he repeated, still looking at the screen, his fingers not slowing, “that I think I’m getting…closer!” The last word erupted from him as the screen began raining white text as a full download of something was coming in.

    “Good,” Dena said, “because I think we’re about to get to the pretty bad part.”

    “…it’s not that often, and we all know this, that we have an opportunity in our history to really change everything that we’ve done – all the mistakes, all the backwardness, all the evil and wrongdoing.” Pause. “Well now, ladies and gentlemen of this beautiful moment. Now is that time, and you should feel a tingle run through you in knowing that you are alive here to witness it, because..”

    “Okay, so now how long? Remember, we only need the microphone. That’s what he’s going to use.”

    “Eah,” Rick said, another pencil in his mouth being gnawed on at breakneck pace. “Uss a fsheew mor sekns.” The keyboard sounded like each key was being hit with hard rain.

    “…and with that I’d like to begin by saying ‘so long’ to our past.” The man motioned off camera with a nod of his hands. The building behind him, almost half a mile away, the backdrop of every presidential speech in the history of the nation shattered as a missile came from the sky and blew it directly from its center outward.

    The sound rocketed the people; the cameras shook, and screams were heard from every angle off camera. The man’s beady eyes focused on his audience without any emotion; he nodded as if this was the reaction he had expected all along.

    “Okay, I’m going to need you to make those magic seconds happen right now because…”

    “…and you can see,” he went on, his voice stern and heavy, “that we are on the precipice of greatness! We are ready for change, for tomorrow, a bright tomorrow. We are ready for…ladies and gentlemen, we’re ready for a makeover.”

    “Got it!” Rick yelled.

    In their room, the only sound came as the pencil dropped from his mouth and clicked a bit as it hit the floor and came to a roll and then stilled. Three hundred miles away, HBC’s main camera shook slightly as the man behind the mic grabbed it from the podium and tore it free to hold it aloft in one victorious hand.

    “Behold!” He yelled. “Our makeover!” He turned the mic upside down and pressed a button on the bottom.

    The nation, the world watched. Nothing.

    He pressed again twice, three times. Nothing.

    “Fucking thing!” He slammed the microphone down and stood back from the podium reaching into his vest under the pin of the nation.

    “Welcome to the new you!” He yelled, drawing the revolver out and aiming at the audience, pulling the trigger faster than the audience could comprehend.

    BAM! BAM! BAM! “Welcome!” He cried with each shot. BAM! BAM! “Welcome!”

    Bullets riddled his body and the man dropped to the stage. All camera screens went black then.

    Dena slid to the floor and loosed a sigh. She and Rick said nothing for a long time. Rick’s box of pencils lay untouched.

    “Well,” she said breaking the silence. “There’s that. Take us home, Rick.”

Seconds passed before the rain started again.

Superhero Dick and the Brave Cat


batmen

Superhero Dick knocked at the door of the unsuspecting nameless civilian with an unfamiliar and uncomfortable rapidity. He stood there in true stoic velvet uniform – all deep red from the cowl down to his painted toes. The golden SD monogrammed insignia was an extra bold glow against the white pine door.

“Sir or Madam!” he said. “Please, it’s urgent that I use your facilities!”

The last time he recalled his voice being so nervous was when he faced off against the Hank the Glimmering Shrew back in August. It wasn’t the most common of scenarios, but what was done that night was what had to be done – the sixty seven windows, the boxes of sugar, the eggs, and leftover butter rolls. All of it had to be done. The civilian population recalls what it recalls – usually the story is twisted and tweaked, but still, what happened was certainly necessary.

Moments after the second rapid knock, sounds of unlocking from the other side of the large wooden door floated though the wood and then, the seal loosened and the door opened several short inches, then stopped. 

Peeking between the gap was a gaunt man. The ladder of wrinkles on his forehead aged him twofold. His eyes squinted behind his spectacles and his voice was both a shriek and a grunt.

“Who in the -“

“Please, kind citizen,” began Superhero Dick, throwing up a palm in the face of the unknowing homeowner. “It is necessary I use  your facilities.”

The wrinkles on his nose flared up at Dick’s response.

“Whaa? Why in the hell for? Get the hell outta here, you goddamn homo vagrant!” the man moved back behind the door and made to close his home.

“Sir, please,” Superhero Dick blocked the closing door. “If you truly value your home, you’ll need to let me use your restroom.” Without waiting for an answer, Dick pushed his way boldly into the man’s abode, gently-but-firmly allowing the man to back up into the depths of his own entryway.

“Now, first I’ll ask you to look here,” said Superman Dick, lowering his hands right in front of his package, making his fingers into parenthetical shapes around his junk. There was a huge bulge there.

“Now! The primary reason there’s such a huge issue here is because, again, I need to use your facilities. Suffice it to say, sir, that it is a matter of National Security. The size of what you see here has nothing to do with my personal sexual preference, sir, but with how I’m about to save you. Your life, your house, your family, husband, girlfriend, and possibly your pets. Everything is currently in danger.” Dick stopped and looked around. “Got any pets?”

The man’s eyes frowned and confused, shook his head first slightly.

Dick eyed him and leaned in.

The man nodded.

“Spot! Here boy!” Dick bellowed through the house.

fatcat1

A slow meow accompanied a fluff which leaned and fell over itself several times. It approached Dick, but several feet away, it fell to the hard wooden floor and collapsed into sleep.

“That’s Spot?” Dick asked.

“I’ve always called him Sylvester,” said the man.

“No matter!” said Superhero Dick. “Tell me you have a porcelain bowl!”

“The man eyed him with one eyebrow cocked high above the eye. “What?”

“Your facilities, sir, your toilet, is it porcelain?” Superhero Dick leaned in more and raised his voice to ensure that he was getting his point across.

“I don’t know what they make ‘em out of nowadays, but this house is old, Red, pretty damned old. I would think that everything from the flusher to the pipes is porcelain. Isn’t that what they’re all made out of?” Realizing he had gotten off track, he shook his head and again focused. “But that doesn’t matter. You are not using my head!”

“Quick! We must away!”

In one swift movement, the superhero snatched the feline from the floor and dashed through the house. The cat slunk from it’s new perch in the crook of the muscleman’s arm as it was whisked away.

Superhero Dick rushed into the bathroom and locked the door. He turned to the sink and dumped the sleeping cat into the shallow water basin.

“Don’t worry, Sylvie; it’s for all of us. All you have to do is stay out of the way.”

Superhero Dick unbuckled the neon yellow Ultra Belt at his waist and dropped the spandex of his lower extremities to the faded yellow tiles of the bathroom floor.

“Hey!” a pounding came from the outside of the door. “You cannot be in there without my consent, you! This is my house and you are a smelly…odd-looking..fellow,” coughed the old man. “You come out of there at once or I’m calling the police. You hear? I’ll report you, dammit. Don’t think I won’t.”

Superhero Dick turned to face the door, his feet shoulder-width apart and his fists neatly rested on either side of his hips. “Have no fear, kind citizen, Superhero Dick is here for the safety of all!” He turned back to the sink and placed the cat softly therein. With his other hand, the superhero snapped the lid from the toilet with a crack and  placed it over the cat.

He exhaled. “Spot, you’ll be remembered for saving your nation. Be brave.”

The cat gave a acquiescent purr of confusion.

While holding the toilet lid on the cat, the superhero looked at his large blue-faced INVICTUS watch and counted down. “Five, four, three, two….”

The ground beneath him began to rumble and the house shook.

“What the hell! You son of a -“

KRREEEEEAAAAAAA~

SLOOOP

The lid fell as the Spot was sucked through the sink and the underground pipes of his once comfortable kitty abode.

Seconds later, the rumbling stopped, and for effect, Superhero Dick flushed the toilet and replaced the lid after washing his hands. Several handfuls of old long unwashed fur dusted the once white water basin.

When he opened the door the old man stood there, his eyebrows hovering over full-blow balls of confusion. “What the hell happened?! Where’s Sylvester?”

Superhero Dick placed a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder and kept his tone low. “Sir, be proud today, for today your pussy has been sucked into legend. He’s a hero, sir, your pussy.” He dipped his head for a moment of silence. “I’ll make sure the name ‘Spot’ is remembered, here, now, and forever.”

With nothing more and leaving the old man looking through his bathroom and the house calling for his cat, Superhero Dick left. Once again, he had saved the day, the nation, and possibly the planet, from total annihilation. And no one save the old man in his wake would know.

Socks in the Washer


Where in the gods have they gone?

I remember putting two socks in, but when it was time to pull them out. Poof! Gone. It’s like the spin cycle is so strong that it creates some sort of a sartorial black hole into which only certain AMAZING socks are somehow chosen to make a sacrificial trip.

What in Hades happens to the socks? Are there things living in my laundry system? Mini sock-gerbils that sneak in through laundry-machine trap doors and come into the middle of a cycle onto to steal my favorite pair of Space Invader dress socks? Uuuahhh! That’s annoying.

Are these them?

Nope. Oh great, wait, not only are these NOT the socks I”m looking for, but they’re two socks from another two pairs of fantastic dress-sock duos that I love. That’s three pairs of mismatched socks!

It’s Friday. I’m just gonna shake this off. Somehow.

Ready Player One – a flash book review


 

Ready Player One Paperback CoverReady Player One, by Ernest Cline, is the best book I’ve read in the last five years. I love the world the he creates – a quasi-post-apocalyptic setting in which all members of reality are wired into the “Oasis” – their preferred alternate reality in which all of their life-like activities take place.

The book is filled with 1980s movies, music, and video-game references and it’s a true treasure hunt. It has all the elements of a fantastic action adventure with bad guys, humor, puzzles and a love story.

If you loved Stephenson’s Snow Crash, you have to read Ready Player One. Period.