Monday, December 31, 2012

Coming in 2013

Over the past few months, I've had quite a bit of time to devote to writing, so a number of projects are in the works.  Here's a list of what I hope to have see the light of day in 2013:

Twisted Tales for Twisted Minds: a motley collection of short stories that should disturb even the most stable of readers.  The writing and cover are finished; all that remains is conversion to e-formats.  This one should hopefully be commercially available in the first few months of the year.

Zombie Gras: a prequel to Flesh Eaters set during the first days of the zombie plague.  Zombie Gras takes place in New Orleans and serves as a metaphor for the strife caused by Hurricane Katrina.  This novelette is complete, and I hope to have cover art for it squared away in the next few weeks.  With any luck, Zombie Gras will be available in time for the 2013 Mardi Gras season.

Unseen Residents: a tale of the struggles of marginalized magical household creatures.  Approximately 25% complete.

Death: the Travelogues: the travel diaries of a serial possessor.  Approximately 15% complete.

Sanguine Dream: coming to terms with vampirism.  10% complete.

Subliminal Debris (working title): the collective unconsciousness has begun to unravel, and reality is coming loose at its seams.  There is one man who may be able to preserve the consciousness of mankind, but it is likely to cost him his life... This story is something I've been working on, a little at at time, off and on, for a decade.  It has had about a dozen titles so far.  35% complete.  

Festering: a mutation of the zombie infection creates a hybrid zombie.  Alive but already rotting, with diminished motor skills and brain function, these outcasts are the victims of severe social stigma.  However, they may be the key to ending the zombie plague.  I have this story in mind as my concluding zombie novella.  It is still in the planning stages.

Demented Tales for Demented Minds: my next collection of depraved short stories and flash fiction.  Also still in the planning stages.

These are the projects with which I will occupy myself in the new year -- with any luck, I'll continue to successfully distract myself from the dismal state of my life.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More Cheerful Holiday Fare: Consuming the Baby ( a short story)

           Consuming the Baby

           A fertility ritual?  A rite of passage?  A closely guarded familial secret?  It was all of the above.  And it was what was for dinner.
            Samantha hated that she had never fit in at school, had never been able to bring friends home, was not allowed to speak on the phone, and going out with kids her age or attending school functions were all curtailed. 
            At sixteen, she was an attractive enough girl -- her skin was fairly clear and her bosom fairly developed.  She had pretty green eyes, long blonde hair, and symmetric, pleasing features.  But her strange, hand-stitched clothes and bumbling social awkwardness were too great a barrier for her to bridge.  She rarely exchanged more than a few words with peers and her shyness when addressing adults such as her teachers bordered upon unbridled fear.  When a teacher asked her a question, she frequently looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
            Most of her teachers believed that Samantha probably came from a family involved in some sort of religious cult or that perhaps they were Amish.  That would explain her awkward, handmade clothes and the homegrown food that comprised her lunches. 
            If any of her teachers had given it much thought, they might have considered Samantha's demeanor and palpable isolation to be cause for concern; it wasn't that far a stretch to imagine that the poor girl might potentially be a victim of physical or sexual abuse.  
            In actuality, such forms of abuse were mundane and commonplace compared to the reality in which Samantha was immersed.  The nature of her family's pervasive sickness was far less ordinary. 
            Children inherently are captives, imprisoned within the environments into which they are born.  Samantha lived in isolation,  soaking up her environment, accepting its truths because she knew no others, staying because she had no other world to which to go.
            In the external world of school, she mimicked others as best she could, wondering why normalcy inexplicably eluded her while it seemed to come so naturally and effortlessly to her classmates.
            Samantha had learned early on that there was no point in trying to explain herself because other people could not understand her. 
            The reactions of the uninitiated are always the same in circumstances such as these, when someone lives in a bubble of deranged isolation --"But I don't understand."
            "Why doesn't she just leave him?  Why doesn't he just fix things?  Why don't they just buy their food from the grocery store?"
            What people typically failed to grasp was that the minds of those within one of these bubbles functioned according to a different set of rules.  There can be no reasoning with them because you're using a different rulebook.  It does not apply.
            Samantha sat alone at a table in the corner of the cafeteria.  She did not look up as others passed, talking.  She knew nobody was going to address her.  Instead, she concentrated upon eating her humble packed lunch.
             Every year, Samantha's family held a feast.  Afterwards, they cured the meat for use throughout the year.  Samantha's lunches were a product of this feast -- sandwiches made of thick slabs of salted meat lain between rough slices of dark, homemade bread.
            As a child, Samantha had been stricken with terror when she was first forced to attend the feast's festivities.  Her parents had dragged her into the middle of the celebration, and she screamed at the top of her little lungs at the sight of the bodies turning on spits and the laughing faces of her aunts and uncles, which looked ghastly and ghoulish in the light of the bonfire.  At six, this annual event had given her nightmares. 
            But now, Samantha is older, and she has begun to understand the need to prepare  -- and to appreciate the importance of tradition. 
            The irony of her childhood fear of the feast was that being brought to the feast at the age of six signified that the danger for her had passed.  Depending on the volume of the harvest and the number of strangers that have passed through the outskirts of town over the course of the year, often the food supply must be bolstered with the addition of one or two young children -- sometimes more.  But participation in the feast is a familial rite of passage, signifying permanent residence in the family.  Although Samantha still sometimes regrets that two of her younger sisters were not able to attain a place in the family with her, she understands the necessity.  And, as she eats her sandwich, she remembers her sisters and appreciates their sacrifice. 
            Samantha is nearing physical maturity; soon she will be of child-bearing age and able to contribute to the family herself.  She wistfully hopes that some of her spawn will reach the age of six, and thus earn the chance to mature to adulthood.  Some probably will not, but that is simply an unfortunate fact of life.  She will marry the cousin to whom her parents have betrothed her and will carry on the family's traditions.  She knows no other lifestyle, so her only path can be the one of transition between victim and perpetrator.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Brotherly Love (a short story)

Brotherly Love

            My friends and I had really only stopped at the monastery on a lark.  We figured that we'd see how cheese was made and perhaps secretly snicker at men who had willingly chosen a life of celibacy.
            The three of us were driving cross-country, heading toward what potentially might prove to be a fun and nostalgic weekend get-together with old college friends in California.  But while passing through pastoral surroundings, we saw the monastery from the road and, having seen the billboard for "artesian monastic cheese" twenty minutes or so before, we decided to make a pit stop.
            We were greeted at the front gate by a small group of men in robes that looked like they were made out of brown burlap potato sacks.  We snuck each other amused looks, delighted that our stop seemed likely to produce funny and colorful stories with which to regale our old friends when we reached our destination.
            We made the small required donation, and then Brother Leonard, one of the less somber looking monks, led us on a tour of the grounds. 
            He took us through each step of the process the brothers used to make their cheese -- from milking, heat treatment, culture and coagulation, separating the curds from the whey, cooking, draining, and finally pressing.  I concluded the tour knowing far more about cheese than I had ever wanted to.
            At each stage of the cheese-making process, gloomy monks in itchy-looking robes worked cheerlessly.  They didn't even look up from their tasks when Brother Leonard led us through their work areas.
            After observing how they made the cheese, Brother Leonard brought us out into an open courtyard and asked us to seat ourselves at a long wooden bench.  Here, we would taste their fabled cheese. 
            Luke whispered to me, "Hey, Marc, I bet it tastes like unwashed feet."
            "Shhh!" I responded under my breath.
            "I've got five dollars on dirty dishwater." John chimed in.
            I rolled my eyes at them both.  They never knew when to quit.  However, I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much of the cheese either.  If I'd been a betting man, my money would have been on a sharp flavor of rotten milk.
            A hunched over monk with a grey complexion entered the courtyard with a tray and proceeded to serve each of us a plate of the cheese with unleavened crackers.
            The crackers were tasteless, but the cheese turned out to be wonderfully creamy and flavorful.  It was  surprisingly good -- remarkably good. 
            As we enthusiastically finished eating, Luke asked Brother Leonard how long he had been with the order. 
            "Unlike most of my brothers, I have only been with the order for a few years." he replied.
            Then the brother told us his personal story of how he had come to join the order.
            " I joined the brotherhood after my dear wife died tragically in a car accident.  We had been married for only a little over a year, and were so deeply in love." he lamented, still clearly overcome with grief when he thought of her. 
            "She was pregnant with our child.  We were overjoyed.  But our family was not to be.  She lost control of her car while on the highway not far from here.  Her lower body was horribly mangled in the crash.  She was already dead when the brothers found her."
            "The brothers found the accident?" Luke asked.
            "Yes.  They were so kind as to contact me themselves.  I was utterly bereft."  Brother Leonard paused, choking back emotion.
            "When I arrived to collect her, they saw the state that I was in -- I was beside myself with despair.  I loved her so completely; without her, my world had suddenly come to an end."    "I  was not been a religious man, but the brothers still took me in. The order embraced me, caring for me in my time of need, and patiently taught me the tenets of their faith."
            Brother Leonard painted a far more compassionate picture of his fellow monks than I would have imagined of them.  To me, they seemed lifeless, joyless, and positively cardboard-like.
            "They even offered to inter Myra's body here on the grounds." Brother Leonard added.
            "She's buried here at the monastery?" John inquired.
            "Yes.  Here in this very courtyard."
            Brother Leonard gestured to the cement slab upon which sat the bench at which we were seated.
            Startled, all three of us squirmed a bit upon receiving this information.
            Looking down, I could see that the name "Myra Callaway" was inscribed on a small, simple stone plaque that rested within the cement near my feet.  However, I noticed something else as well.
            Brother Leonard resumed his scripted tour speech, telling us the history of the monastery.  I didn't listen.  I was preoccupied.  My eyes were drawn to the cement slab beneath us.  I couldn't help noticing that the cement was uneven and badly cracked.  There was a large break in the concrete where the cement had shifted, and beneath it lay a deep crevice.  Within that fissure, exposed bones were visible.  It was the skeletal remains of his wife. 
            I said nothing.  Should I say something?  It was appalling.  The brothers hadn't even given her a coffin.  They had buried her unceremoniously under a slab of concrete, and then they hadn't even seen fit to maintain that concrete.
            Reaching the conclusion of the tour, we were funneled into the gift shop.  It primarily contained wheels of cheese of all sizes and postcards of the monastery.  While my buddies snickered over cheese-shaped key chains, my thoughts remained elsewhere.
            I couldn't stop thinking of the woman's corpse or of the man to whom she had been dear, unaware that she lay exposed.
            Brother Leonard passed outside the one of the windows as my friends were making their purchases.  I briskly asked them to wait and slipped out to speak with him.


            "Thank you for your concern," he said with a gentle smile, "but I'm sure that you are mistaken.  The brothers have cared for my beloved's remains with great compassion, as if she were one of their order."
            "I'm sorry, Brother, but I'm sure that I saw her remains."
            He remained disbelieving.
            "Please, let me show you what I saw."
            He capitulated, no doubt in order to put my ridiculous claim to rest, and we walked back to the courtyard together.
            "I'm sure your faith has brought you solace, but this can't be sanitary." I said as we approached his wife's make-shift grave.  "We're all breathing particles of your beloved.  She's sitting exposed to the open air."
            I gestured to the gap in which her bones lay.  Brother Leonard went quiet; he was clearly shocked by what he saw.
            As I looked down, I noticed that her skull was caved in while her leg bones appeared intact.  That didn't line up with how he had said that she died.  It was strange and suspicious, but I didn't point it out.  I didn't want to rub salt in the wound.  He was taking her being exposed to the elements pretty hard already.
            Shaking slightly, Brother Leonard stood in silence for several minutes.
            When he spoke, his voice quivered.
            "Thank you for informing me of this.  I think I need some time away from the order.  I have very little; perhaps a suitcase worth of material possessions to my name.  Would you allow me to ride with you?"
            His eyes were moist.
            "Of course." I said quietly.
            "Give me just a few minutes.  I will meet you at the gift shop in ten minutes."
            I nodded, and he excused himself. 
            But as I made my way back to my friends in the gift shop, I was approached by a very tall, grim-looking monk.  He placed a hand the size of a ham heavily on my shoulder, and commanded me to stop and speak with him.
            "You do not understand the importance of cheese." he said cryptically.
            As he towered over me, I nodded as if this made some sort of sense.
            "Brother Leonard is instrumental to our order." he continued.  "He is a master cheese-maker.  Acquiring his expertise has been the brotherhood's salvation."
            I nodded vaguely.
            "Get in your car and go.  Now.  While you can."  
            His grip on my shoulder tightened until it was crippling, and then he released me.
            Rejoining my friends, we left the monastery immediately, more soberly resuming our road trip.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Eye for an Eye (a short story)

Please note: this story contains graphic and disturbing explicit content.

An Eye for an Eye

            Ducking down into the shadows, she watched intently as her quarry moved clumsily from the door of the bar to his car.
            Tonight was the night.
            She had stalked him for weeks now, each day donning a black turtleneck and slacks and slipping through the shadows like a modern-day ninja. 
            She had come to feel agile, lithe, and potent.  It was almost a shame that this fantasy life that she had adopted, an approximation of that of some acrobatic cat burglar or sexy super heroine, had to finally come to an end.

            Although she was sure that he was too drunk to notice her, she remained cautious, following a safe distance behind his weaving car.
            When she pulled up at his house, a location she had survielled for hours on end over the past few weeks, he was still fumbling with his keys.
            Without hesitation, she pulled up to the curb, cut off the engine, and emerged from her car.
            She approached with a swagger of confidence.
            He didn't recognize her.  That was hardly surprising. 
            She batted her eyelashes at him.  It was that easy.  The door swung open, and he eagerly invited her in, happily bewildered, baffled by his own good luck and what he could only assume was his personal charm.


            His intoxication had ensured that she had the upper hand.  But, now that she had him tied up, she would wait for him to regain his sobriety.  She wanted him to have the full experience, and to remember every second of it.
            Seven years ago, when they were both in college, they had gone out on a single date together, and he had raped her.  Seven years.  The time necessary for the human body to replace every one of its cells.  She was an entirely new person now.  Every cell had regenerated stronger -- like the bionic version of who she had been.  She was made of steel now, impervious.  She was the aggressor.
            Her prey had been successfully captured; he was hopelessly ensnared, struggling futilely, impotently.
            She smirked at him openly as he contorted helplessly against his bonds. 
            She was going to enjoy their second date.


            She cut his pants and boxers off of him with kitchen shears, exposing the pale, vulnerable flesh of his lower body. 
            He was confused.  Was this a home invasion?  Or was this just some hardcore S&M scenario? 
            He wracked his clouded brain for a clue.  How had they met again?  Had a safe word passed between them?  Had he given her some indication that he wanted to be tied up?
            Her hands were cold.  Her fingers roughly clasped his spongy member, stretching it out as far as it would go; when she released, it instinctively shrunk from her, trying to hide from the stimulation.
            "That hurts." he tried to say through the rag stuffed in his mouth.
            "What's that?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.  "Are you trying to tell me that you don't like that?"
            He nodded his head emphatically.  He was feeling extremely uncomfortable and wanted this situation to end as soon as possible.
            "Good." she said, flicking his balls.
            "Mmmphh." he complained.
            "It hurt a lot more than that when you raped me." she said.
            His eyes grew wide.
            "I was torn up down there for a long time.  It was agony every time I had to urinate."
            Terror was creeping into his face with the slow realization that, although the victim here, he was actually the guilty party.  His memories of college were mostly a blur of frat parties, but he remembered a couple of times that he had let things get a bit out of hand.  There had been a few times he had gotten laid when the girl wasn't entirely willing.  In retrospect, he wasn't proud of those incidents, but he had dismissed them.  But now one of those indiscretions was apparently coming back to haunt him.
            "Call me a vigilante." she said.  "I'm here to deliver retribution.  Don't worry, it shouldn't hurt for more than a week or so."
            She clasped his penis in her hand and squeezed as tightly as she could, smiling as he squirmed, areas of his member bulging unnaturally, like silly putty, out from her clenched fist.
            Then she released him and lifted her skirt, exposing her genitals to him.  She was not wearing undergarments.
            He arched an eyebrow in confusion.  Was she really planning to rebuke him with sex?  That didn't seem like much of a punishment to him.  He wanted to laugh in spite of his physical discomfort.

            She had planned the revenge rape in her mind for years now.  She knew first-hand that he was guilty, and now she would render her verdict against him.  She intended to brutalize him just as he had brutalized her.  It was justice, an eye for an eye.  How was it any different from sentencing a murderer to death?  She was his electric chair, his lethal injection.
            Flinging over the chair to which she had tied him, it fell to the floor heavily, his head bouncing against the living room floor as it hit.
            He let out a muffled cry of alarm and pain.
            "Oh, stop your whimpering." she said.  Then she withdrew a handgun from her purse.
            Tears were involuntarily beginning to stream from his eyes.
            She placed the gun to his head and told him "I'm going to remove your gag.  If you scream or even speak, I'll kill you.  Do you understand?"
            Pitifully, he nodded.
            She pulled the rag from his mouth and tossed it aside. 
            The gun still pressed to his temple, she said "I want you to eat me.  Eat me, and eat me good.  You'd better make me cum."
            Then she climbed over him, straddling his face.  With one hand, she shoved his face into her pussy while she held the gun to his head with the other hand.
            This was the sex that he deserved -- sex as humiliation.  She listened to him choke and splutter as he licked, sucked, and penetrated her with his tongue.
            It had nothing to do with desire.  It was about power.  Control.  Revenge.  She felt her vagina shudder as she came, the orgasm setting off a series of involuntary contractions that ran through her nether regions. 
            She pushed his face further into her, willing him to drink her juices, the abundance of wetness produced by her orgasm.  A cold snicker caught in her throat as she listened to him gag, suffocating on her, unable to breathe.
            She loosened her grip, pushing his face back.  He inhaled deeply, audibly sucking in air.
            She lifted herself off of his face and then moved to his genitals, raking her nails coarsely over the soft flesh of his thighs, then digging a fingernail directly into his urethra.
            He gasped, cutting short a scream as he remembered the gun she still held upon him.
            "Somehow, I just don't think you're going to get hard for me." she said, pulling at his flaccid member.  "That's okay.  These things happen."  
            "So I guess I'll just give you a little hand job and call it a day."
            She withdrew a square of sandpaper from her purse and proceeded to use it as an abrasive masturbatory tube.   He stifled his screams as best he could as all of the skin was scraped from his genitals.
             After he passed out, she untied him and left.  She was not worried that he would find her.  She was sure that he didn't even remember her name. 


            Her life had been building to this crescendo for a long time.  But now that she had finally accomplished her goal, she felt strangely empty and deflated.  It was over, and she no longer had a goal toward which to work.  Moreover, she no longer felt sure that justice had been done. 
            She had convinced herself that brutality could be justified in retaliation.  But it hadn't made it any less ugly.  Now that it was done and could not be taken back, a terrible flickering of realization was growing in her mind -- that she had not actually empowered herself, but only revealed herself as tragically, irrevocably damaged.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cloaked (a short story)

            There were many names for what he was, though none of them fully captured his essence. 
            It was true that he was a poseur, a fake, a fraud, a facsimile, a faux person living under the guise of a concocted identity.  He lived cloaked in flesh, his true self hidden, perpetuating a mimicry of human life, like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
            But his impersonation of a human being wasn't really anything so ominous or sinister; it was merely a fact of his life, an unavoidable state of being for him.
            He was not what he seemed, but then, in his experience, neither were most human beings.
            He was a lurker. 
            And soon he would need to organize a feeding.

                        His skin rippled, reminiscent of the surface of a waterbed, a thin layer stretched tightly over a watery interior.  The skin had begun to swim, floating on the surface, slippery to the touch.  The layer of fluid that sat between his external shell and his internal being was growing too thick.  This liquid did not self-regulate -- like a beaver's teeth, the body just kept producing it even after it had reached its ideal volume.  The pressure was building as the fluid's volume increased.  It needed to be drained through a feeding -- a release, an unspeakable relief, that would ease the pressure and release something akin to endorphins when the feeders bit into the skin and began to drain away the excess fluid. 
            It was difficult to ease his natural cycle of suffering -- difficult, and dangerous.  He had had to post ads on Craig's List to find feeders.  This left him extremely vulnerable, forced to rely upon others in order to ensure his own  continued existence -- moreover, those he was forced to rely upon were complete strangers willing to respond to an unorthodox ad, whether due to personal fetish, perversion, or just wild curiosity.


            The pressure had become almost unbearable by the time the day of feeding came.
            A volunteer at the door acted as a screener, greeting each potential feeder as he arrived and ushering him into the apartment after briefly explaining expectations and the feeder's role in this event.
            "You've heard of a gang-bang?  This is like that, in a way.  Some people are satisfied with one person feeding on them.  Some need a lot of people to do it in order to be satiated."
            Some of the participants had been to the feedings of lurkers before.  They knew the ropes and embraced the "lifestyle."
            For others, it was an entirely new experience, and they fell along a wide spectrum, ranging from curious, to anxious, to aroused. 
            John had answered the ad on a lark; he wanted the experience of observing this bizarre event.
            As he entered the living room, he was almost shocked by what he saw.  It was like an orgy of feeding -- a dozen people latched onto corners of the host's skin, sucking.  The host lay sprawled naked across a long coffee table.  The feeders, all clothed, lay writhing upon the floor, each one attached by the mouth to the host, like wiggling human leeches.
            They bit in and drew back, the tented skin rising up with their mouths.  The sound of gentle moans was audible.  The feeders were sucking greedily, gulping down the oily lubricating liquid that separated the cloak of skin from the interior organism.
            "Be careful." the usher warned him.  "Don't fill your stomach with it.  It can make you sick.  It's like Olestra -- insoluble.  You won't digest it.  Too much, and you'll wind up on the toilet."
            John resisted at first.  It was a horrible, repulsive scene spread out before him.  But he didn't want to draw attention to himself.  Where there was a small opening, he slowly kneeled down before the host.  Bending his head down to the man's abdomen, he hesitantly took a small measure of his skin gently between his teeth. 
            "Bite down." the host breathed, somehow aware of him in the midst of the dozen other feeders.  His eyes remaining blissfully closed. 
            Horrified by what he was doing, John gingerly bit into the skin.  When he tasted the liquid beneath, it was so sickly sweet that it initially almost made him gag.  But there was something deeply satisfying about the substance.  He began to gulp it with increasing fervor, quaking with relief as the liquid slid down his throat.
            The liquid, smooth and rich, coated his mouth and throat.  He shuddered with ecstasy as he swallowed mouthful after mouthful.  No longer aware of himself, he dropped to the floor with the others, unconsciously writhing as he sucked, latched on like a baby at its mother's teat.


            The feeders were his glorious saviors.  The lurker twisted his body, contorting with pleasure and unspeakable relief, momentarily freeing his mind from its constant awareness of the danger inherent to his existence.  He would live his life constantly expecting to be questioned, perpetually on the verge of being found out, always unsure if which one of his saviors would inevitably expose him.   But, until he was exposed, punished, and destroyed, there would continue to be these occasional moments of blissful respite.   These moments made the life-long masquerade worthwhile.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Zombie Gras is Done!

Zombie Gras, my new novelette, is finished!  It is a prequel to Flesh Eaters and a Hurricane Katrina parable.  I hope to make it available in early 2013.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gnomish Noel - a Twisted Christmas Tale

Bumblebert, an unassuming classroom micro-gnome, lived inside a computer tower in room 124, Mrs. Porrenplop’s classroom.  In fact, he had quite a nice little home there.   Bumblebert didn’t mind a little dust, and he had a natural flair for making things from what was at hand.  He had ingeniously fashioned a makeshift rocking chair out of wadded up notebook paper and rubber bands.  He had laboriously smoothed out discarded tissues to create a soft, comfortable bed over which he spread copious candy and gum wrappers as sheets.  He shelved his extensive collection of gnomish micro-books, alphabetized, in the grooves of the motherboard.  He had even built a little fireplace, which vented its smoke out of the back of the tower, so that he could curl up next to a fire in his rocker and read.  The use of the fireplace prompted Mrs. Porrenplop to make many a frantic call to the tech department, but fortunately, nothing ever came of that.
Surely, Bumblebert had everything a micro-gnome could ever want, and yet he wasn’t quite satisfied.  Something still seemed to be missing.   
During the day, the sounds of the classroom were a constant din within Bumblebert’s little computer home.  He had gleaned that the students in the classroom weren’t making as much progress as he would have hoped.  More to the point, from the conversations he heard from inside his tower, he could tell that they possessed negative and defiant attitudes toward learning.   Nothing was more important to a micro-gnome than knowledge – especially if he or she was a classroom micro-gnome!
Bumblebert was nearly three thousand years old (he was originally a papyrus micro-gnome), and as middle age began to set in, he was starting to have just a little bit of an existential crisis.  He stroked his beard and thought.
There were only a few weeks left until Christmas vacation.  To alleviate his own malaise, Bumblebert made a conscious decision: he was going to give Mrs. Porrenplop and her students a gift for Christmas this year! 
That night, Bumblebert flitted about the classroom, working his gnomish magic.
When Mrs. Porrenplop came into the classroom the next morning, she found a sealed manila envelope with her name written on it.  When she opened it, what she found inside almost made her swoon.
And that wasn’t all.  On each student desk, there was a sealed note, with the name of the girl or boy who sat there written in tiny, spindly script.  Mrs.  Porrenplop tried to open a few, but they were magically sealed so that only the intended recipient could open his or her own note. 
While getting ready for the day, Mrs. Porenplop began to notice other changes in her classroom.  There was a vibrantly colored poster prominently displayed at the front of the classroom – it was for charting student behavior and, after five infractions, a student would receive a “punishment,” which was indicated with a large skull and crossbones symbol.  Another poster hung above the classroom computers.  It was for tracking computer usage; any student transgression on a computer, including visiting non-educational sites, was tallied here.  Her eyes also alighted upon similar “Tardiness” and “Homework” posters.  None of these had been here when she left yesterday… 
“What a strange janitor we must have at this school!” she thought.   (The janitor would be very surprised when Mrs. Porrenplop gave him a lavishly expensive Christmas gift this year.)

As students began to filter in that morning, they saw the posters and started to fidget with new self-awareness of their own behavior.
Other surprises began to occur once class began.
As the students opened their notes, their generally mischievous faces began to darken.   Bumblebert was conducting a bit of holiday blackmail, gently reminding each student of his or her most horrible guarded secret.  Each student’s secret was carefully chosen to be the one that would be most mortifying if it were ever revealed publically to his or her peers.  The secrets varied widely.  Some were minor but embarrassing, such as that a student stuffed her bra or still wet his bed.  Others were terrible, dark, soul-crushing secrets. 
As student’s settled into their normal daily behaviors, the posters magically began to fill themselves in each time a student misbehaved, moving these naughty children closer to reaching the consequence labeled “humiliation” when their secrets would be revealed.
As for Mrs. Porrenplop, she was trying very hard to be a more effective teacher.  Her envelope had indicated that, unless her teaching and behavioral management skills improved, her secrets would be exposed in the teacher’s lounge—and would include pictures.
She was able to conduct a full lesson today without having any major disruptions– how lovely to teach with no outbursts or things being thrown!
  Then it was time to rotate students onto the computers for research.  Previously, Mrs. Porrenplop had only intermittently conducted such rotations; they seemed chaotic and made her nervous.  Today, she decided to give it a try and see what would happen. 
Since Mrs. Porrenplop had not had control of her classroom all year, it had seemed pointless for her to stress procedures and routines that her students would merely flagrantly flout.  So, when it was time to move, students began to wander around, talk loudly, and generally see what they could get away with.  But then a funny thing happened -- a path seemed to naturally form with a one-way flow of traffic.  It was if the students’ legs stung with pain if they went any other way.  Bumblebert had turned all the old bubblegum ground into the floor of the classroom into plastique.  With his help, it was if the students had known how to conduct themselves all along.
When students went to the computers, they started to go to other Internet sites, but then they stopped.  Bumblebert had rigged each computer so that it would send out a tiny, imperceptible electric shock through the mouse whenever a student tried to access Internet sites or games.  The students didn’t notice the shock – they just suddenly realized they only wanted to use instructional software. 
Despite how much better the class was today, by lunch time, the first student had reached five infractions for disruptive behavior.  Bumblebert’s magical watchdog poster system promptly made an example out of this young man.  In large, glowing letters on the chalkboard, the words appeared “Johnny’s left testicle is tiny and misshapen.”  His shameful secret revealed, Johnny sat in the corner crying and sucking his thumb for the rest of the day, which was rather unbecoming for a fourteen year old boy.
After this milestone had been reached, a new category appeared on the posters.  For five infractions, the punishment had been humiliation.  Now, for seven infractions, the posters now listed “annihilation” as the consequence.  This prompted a vocabulary mini-lesson that left her students looking alarmed.  Mrs. Porrenplop truly hoped that it would not come to this; she was not sure how she would ever explain to parents that their child had disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Fortunately, Johnny’s misery provided enough impetus for the rest of her students to behave for the rest of the day.  Word travelled quickly, so it was the same with every class.  By the end of the day, Mrs. Porenplop had to admit that it had been a remarkably good day overall.  And, thanks to the ever-present threat posed by Bumblebert’s posters, there were many, many more good days that followed.
Sitting in his rocking chair, Bumblebert smiled to himself.  “Merry Christmas.” he whispered.
               Mrs. Porrenplop and her students, save perhaps for Johnny, who inexplicably changed schools in January, did indeed have a merry Christmas that year, as well as a good and prosperous New Year.
               And so room 124, held hostage by a gnome with a bit of magic and blackmail, came to be a functional classroom for the rest of the school year.  The students did not dare misbehave, and actually began to learn a few things in the more orderly resulting environment.  It turned out to be a wonderful, if unexpected, present to Mrs. Porenplopp, and brought great peace to Bumblebert, who had always been blessed with very sensitive hearing.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Turkey's Thanksgiving

This is just a little holiday story I wrote to use with fluency strategies at a teacher's workshop in 2010, but since it's that time of year, I thought I'd share it...  

A Turkey’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was fast approaching.  This was the time of year when all of the turkeys in the farmyard began to get nervous.  Who would Farmer Bob invite to Thanksgiving dinner this year?
Archibald, the socially inept turkey, was supposed to meet with his brother today.  Archibald’s brother, Wilbur, the mildly demented turkey, was late, as usual.  Archibald paced around in a circle, stumbling over the same pebbles again and again.
Archibald and Wilbur had been mere chicks when their mother had been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the farmhouse last year.  She had never come back.  Perhaps that was why Archibald had grown up to be socially inept and Wilbur had grown up to be mildly demented.


By the time Wilbur finally made his way over to Archibald’s corner of the yard, Archibald was already dizzy from his circular pacing.  His head wobbled as he spoke.
“Gobble, gobble,” Archibald said.
Wilbur nodded in agreement, with a gleam in his eye.
Turkey-Speak is a language with many subtle nuances.  Archibald had, in two seemingly simple gobbles, conveyed to his brother his fear of the upcoming holiday, his uncertainty about what atrocities might be being committed at the big farmhouse, and his desperate desire to run away.  He had also hinted that he might need to go to the bathroom soon.
Wilbur’s nod indicated agreement, but Wilbur secretly had other plans.


The unspoken fear around the farmyard was that – horror of horrors – the turkey Farmer Bob took to dinner on Thanksgiving was probably eaten by him and his family.  Wilbur shuddered.  Even Wilbur was shaken by such an idea.
Wilbur had spotted the axe a few months ago.  Farmer Bob kept it in a storage box, but he often left the lid open.  Wilbur had been trying to work out how to wield it in his beak for some time now.  At first, he had planned to kill Farmer Bob with it.  However, although mildly demented, Wilbur did not lack common sense.  He eventually realized that, since he was limited by his height, he would only be able to chop Farmer Bob in the shins.  This would probably not kill Farmer Bob.  It would probably just make him angry.  If Farmer Bob was angry at Wilbur, Wilbur would surely be the turkey that was plucked from the yard this year.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.  “Survival of the fittest turkey!” Wilbur assured himself.  And so, Wilbur had hatched another scheme. Farmer Bob had never struck Wilbur as a wasteful man.   If a turkey was already dead when Farmer Bob came out on Thanksgiving morning, surely he wouldn’t take a live one into the house. 


Archibald, the socially inept turkey, did not have any friends.  They all thought he was awkward,  goofy, or just plain weird.  He had no turkey to turn to but his brother, and now he was so relieved that his brother was going to run away with him!
Wilbur had told him to meet him in back of the coop at first light on Thanksgiving Day.  Archibald was so excited the night before that he could hardly sleep.
“Gobble!” Archibald said happily to himself.
The other turkeys in the coop groaned.  They hated when Archibald talked to himself.


Archibald met Wilbur behind the coop, by the big storage locker, at first light. 
“Gobble!  Gobble, gobble!” said Archibald.
Wilbur nodded, but pointed to the storage locker with his beak.
“We’ll need that fence cutting tool there to get through the fence.  Can you get it for me?” Wilbur said.
Wilbur spoke English, as all turkeys that weren’t socially inept did when people weren’t around.
“Gobble?” Archibald said uncertainly.
“Just under the axe there.”
Once Archibald had gotten into the locker and burrowed his head down under the axe to look for the fence cutter, Wilbur jumped on the axe with all his might.  It was messy and took several jumps, but he eventually severed Archibald’s neck.
“What’s this?!” cried Farmer Bob when he went out to the yard and found a headless turkey in front of the coop. 
His wife came running out.
“Oh, no!  It’s horrible!” she cried.
“I was just coming out to see if any of the turkeys needed their annual veterinary care, and someone has gone and butchered one of them!” said Farmer Bob.
Farmer Bob, who was never wasteful, then turned to his wife and asked “What do you think we should do with this poor dead turkey?”
“Well…” his wife said, trying to calm herself.  “I guess it’s almost a shame we’re vegetarians.  Perhaps we should give it to the neighbors for Thanksgiving?”