#330 – You are Going to Appear on a Talk Show…

…The producer comes backstage to elicit a funny story that the host should focus on.  Write the story like a monologue you’re giving on national TV.

You’re probably sitting there right now, in the audience and at home, staring at me thinking to yourself, “Who the hell is this guy?”  Believe me, I know what you’re thinking because those exact thoughts are going through my head even as we speak.So you can probably imagine the shock that went through me when I got the phone call last Thursday.  *Ring and simulate answering phone with my hand* “Hello?””We want you on the show?””Okay.”Next Monday, be there.””Alright.””Wear something nice.””Sure.””Lot B, you’ll be on the list.””Gotcha.””Any questions?””Yeah, just one.  Did you dial the right number?”I’m just some guy who did some things.  I have no idea why I’m here or what they expect from me, but here I am.  Standing in front of a live studio audience and millions of people watching at home and suddenly fighting the urge to give my new pants a good rinsing…So thanks for this experience and thanks for not pelting me with rotten vegetables.  I don’t think my poor ego could handle that at this point.

Behind the Random: Never really written a monologue before but as I looked up how to do one, I realized that a monologue isn’t that much different that a editorial piece or rant, except that it’s oral.  After that, it was just coming up with an idea.  No problem.

#302 – Write a Letter from a Coach to a Parent of a Player…

…explaining why the player quit the team.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Panty-Waist,

I’m writing you a letter to inform you, with no small amount of disgust, on your son, Asher, and his recent decision to give up on the football team.  He has turned his back on his teammates, on myself, and on the time honored traditions of this fine school.

Asher claims  that he wants to spend more time on his studies but we all know that boy is dumber than a stack of bricks.  Any chance he has of getting into a good school and moving ahead in life is by getting the scholarship.  By throwing away that opportunity, he has officially made himself the dumbass of the year at this school.  I didn’t think Asher do anything stupider and this is the same kid that thought that he could jump onto a speeding car and run along the top of it.

Now if you don’t want to see your precious little boy end up as an overnight gas station attendant, you might want to smack some sense into his dull head and remind him that his future is on the line.  This is the part of the letter that I actually say something nice, so hold on to your butts because this is only going to happen once.  Your boy is a bloody Picasso on the field and I would hate to lose such a star player over such idiotic ideology.

Now you might get a little butthurt by some of the things that I’ve said.  I can understand that.  I’m sure, right now, you’re already thinking up your complaint you’re gonna make as soon as you’re done this letter.  Hell, you’ve probably stopped reading at this point.  I just want to point out, before you do anything dumb, is that I have been doing the job for 20 years.  I have dealt with whiny rockbrained nitwits for most of my career.  This is not the first harsh letter I have sent and it won’t be my last.

I have 17 consecutive Championship games on my belt and 10 victories.  I have produced some of the finest college football players this country has ever seen.  Even had a few go pro, before they blew it all on drugs, hookers, and dog fights.  I’m an institution at this school.

So do us all a favor and get your boy back in uniform and on the field for practice tomorrow.  That is unless you’re alright with having a second-rate never-was as a son.  If that’s true, I can see where he gets it from.

Have a great day,

Coach Emerson.

Behind the Random: As I was trying to come up with something to write, all I could think about was a crochety old jock turned coach who berated everybody and thought he was the greatest thing since Gatorade.  A departure from those feel-good Hollywood coaches who give the inspirational speech that bring the wayward player back to the huddle and on to win the game.  It was fun to write because, as I’ve said before, sometimes being a total dick is a guilty pleasure.

#115 – You Bring Someone Back From the Dead. Who is it?

He opened his eyes groggily, as if he’d been asleep for decades.  I suppose he had in a strange sort of way.  As his senses returned to him, he realized that he wasn’t in the last place he remembered and he was tied to a chair.  “Wast ist los?” He demanded as he struggled against his bonds, “Wo bin ich?”

I take that as my cue to emerge from the shadows.  I always loved a good dramatic entrance.  “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” I tell him, “In fact, you’re as far away from home as you can get right now.”

He stares at me for a moment, confusion masking his face, then he begins yelling at me.  His face goes beet red and spittle flies from his mouth as he lets out a long line of what I figure are threats and profanities.

I stand back and let him go on and on.  He continues to rant for several minutes before he finally collapses in the chair, exhausted and out of breath from the exertion.  “You done?” I ask rhetorically.  He doesn’t say anything, he only sucks in his next breath and stares at me with hate in his eyes.  “I hate to tell you this, but I never took German.  So I have no idea what you just said.”

“ich werde dich töten.” He mutters darkly, his eyes never leaving mine.

I weigh the words for a moment and begin walking around him.  “Alright, I think I picked up the meaning behind that one.  Unfortunately though, you’re there and I am here.  So whatever you just said, well, I don’t think you’re in much position to accomplish.”

Perhaps realizing that talking with me was pointless with the language barrier between us, he remained silent.  It’s kind of funny.  Every portrayal I’d seen of the man showed him fluent in English, but I guess that was just another convenient Hollywood lie.

“You’re probably wondering why I brought you back.” I said in my best conversational tone, “Why, out of everybody that ever lived and died, were you the one to escape death.  And believe me, it’s got nothing to do with what you believe in.  In a weird twisted way, it’s not that dissimilar though.”

“You are the most universally despised person in the 1900’s, did you know that?” I ask him, lowering myself so that we’re looking eye to eye.  I see anger and hatred in those eyes, but also fear.  He might not understand what I’m saying but I beginning to think he knows why he’s here.  “Billions of people who have lived on the planet and you rank in the Top 10 of most hated people of all time.  I can imagine there’s a whole army of people who would love a chance to kill you right now.”

“Do you have any idea how many people would love to go back in time to kill you?  That’s practically number one on the To-Do list.  Personally, I think it’s a terrible idea.  That would completely change history.  Because that’s what you did.  You made it.  Without you, the world would look like a very different place.  Isn’t that three shades of messed up?  So no, going back in time isn’t an option, obviously.”

“Ah, but if we could bring you back, then you could pay for your crimes.  I’m sure there’s some kind of moral thing about how those were acts committed in a previous life and that you shouldn’t be held for what you did, but that’s really just malarky at this point, isn’t it?”

I let slip a wry chuckle, “That’s not why you’re here though.  This isn’t about you finally facing judgement for what you did.  I mean, you took the coward’s way out, didn’t you?  Offing yourself as your whole master race plan fell apart around you.”  I straighten myself up and walk away from him, my hand slipping into my pocket.  “No, this isn’t about justice or revenge at all.”

“I just want to achieve what any body who’s played a video game thought about at some point in time.”  I pull the Walther PP out of my pocket and aim it at his head.  There’s a moment of surprise on his face before I fire, then his head snaps back.  As if he’s in slow motion, his body slumps in the chair.  I stand there, in the dark, staring at his body.  A rueful smile crosses my lips.  “I just killed Zombie Hitler.”

Behind the Random: This one was a strange one to do since I believe that death is death.  One shouldn’t come back.  So following that line of thought, I came to the conclusion that anyone I brought back would just have to be shuffled off this mortal coil once again.  Sure, it’s cliche to kill Hitler but it’s also so much fun.  He’s more reviled and recognizable than Stalin or Mengele.  I also got to learn a little bit more about Hitler.  Not sure how that’s a good thing, but there you have it.

#642 – Write Your Obituary

“August 29th, Fool left this world suddenly.  He will be missed by many for various reasons, in particular by those he owed money to.  He leaves behind a wife and two step-children and is survived by his father, brother, two grandfathers and a grandmother.  Also, several cats.  In death, he joins his mother and grandmother, as well as even more cats and a few dogs.  Fool can be described as a man with a heart of stone, with a smaller fleshier heart inside.  A quiet man who enjoyed his company far more than one probably should, he will be remembered for his cynical nature and sarcastic wit.  There was no situation that he couldn’t find a way to make light of, just as there was no hope or optimism he couldn’t crush with his worst case scenarios.  If he was a genie, he would certainly be the type to make every wish go wrong, if only for the LOLs.  A friend of most animals, except for sharks and their filthy foul-smelling fishy cousins, Fool often held them in higher regard than most people he met.  Now that he’s gone on to walk with Murphy, I’m sure he’s happier away from everybody.  And laughing at us all.”

Behind the Random: When I die, I don’t want a somber event.  I don’t want the serious obit.  If anything is printed at all about my death, I want it to be bizarre and humorous and light.  I think that’s part of the problem we have with death is that we make it a grave event in life (see what I did there?).  The only deaths that I feel are truly sad are those taken far too early or suffer greatly before the end.  But then I’m strange, clearly, and have odd ideas about things.

#13 – Pick a Small Object…

…to be given one day to your great-grandchild.  Write a letter to that child explaining why you have chosen this object.

Dear spawn of my spawns spawn,

I hope this letter finds you in good health on this day, your 16th birthday.  If not, I might be seeing you sooner than I thought.

I digress though.  You’re probably wondering why I’ve given you a pocket notebook.  Hell, for all I know, you don’t even know what a notebook is at this point.  Damn kids and your blinking technology.  Try picking up a pen sometime.  No really, pick up a pen…if you still have those…and give the notebook a try.

Because this is my challenge to you.  Write every day.  Write every thought you have.  Expand your mind and your vocabulary (and for the love of god, I hope OMG and LOL are dead by now).  Even if you never do anything with it, it provides a window into your life, your past, and yourself. It’s a lesson I learned late in life and I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.

so why you and not anyone else?  I’ll be honest, I pulled your generation out of a hat.  Good luck.

Your late great gramps.

Behind the Random: Probably the best advice I can give someone (that I don’t follow myself because that’s always the best kind of advice) is to keep a journal.  For all the reasons I stated above.

#493 – Through a Freak Illness, You Lose One of Your Senses…

…Which sense is it, what happens to you, and how do you deal with it?

For years, I suspected something was wrong with me.  I was too afraid to go to the doctors to find out what, but eventually I had no other choice.  So I sat in that waiting room, watching the time tick by second by second.  Finally, I was moved into the tiny cramped office with the weird bed with paper cover on it and left to wait some more.

At last, the doctor came and saw me.  I answered his questions and he poked and prodded me with various instruments.  I gave him some blood, wondering idly if it was going to be used for testing or sold on the black market to vampires.  When it was all said and done, he told me that I could expect results in a week or so.  I thanked him and promptly walked into the closed door.

“It’s a pull door.  Not push.” The doctor helpfully pointed out to me.  Embarassed, I nodded in thanks and parted ways.

The week passed by frustratingly slow.  Every time the phone buzzed, I would dive for it.  Scared the hell out of the cat every time, sending him skittering down the hall with his cooned tail down.  Alas, it was usually just my wife calling about something or other.  I wasn’t really listening.

At last, the day came and the doctor contacted me.  I answered breathlessly, apologizing to the cat for the umpteenth time, and impatiently waited for the results of the test.

“I have some… news, sir.” The doctor said hesitantly.  I felt my heart drop and land somewhere around my shoes.  It was going to be bad.  Real bad.  Worst case scenarios were flying through my head like a hurricane unleashed.  “According to the results, you’ve been diagnosed with Oblivia Psychotica.”

I paused for dramatic effect, my mind collecting itself from the mental storm it just went through.  Finally, the words seeped through.  “Come again?” I asked, unsure if I heard him right.

“Oblivia Psychotica.” The doctor repeated firmly, “It’s a mental infliction that strips the patient of all common sense.”

“Oh.” I replied, “Is that very serious?”

I could hear the doctor weigh his words before replying, “It’s not dangerous in itself.  However, mixed with certain situations, it certainly could be.  You just have to try and be mindful of your surroundings a little more.”  The doctor cleared his throat and he took a more optimistic tone with me, “In fact, many people who suffer from this go on to lead decent and fulfilled lives.  Currently, it’s estimated that roughly 75% of the human population is inflicted with this condition.”

Surprised and satisfied to hear the news, I thank the doctor and hang up the phone.  I walk up to the patio window and look out at the street, the sun shining through and on my face.  I feel better now, knowing what’s going on inside my head.

Feeling uncharacteristically friendly, I smile and wave at my neighbor as he’s walking to his car.  He sees me and waves back, but gives me an odd look.  That’s when I realize that I haven’t put on any pants yet, but that’s okay.  I have a doctor’s note.

Behind the Random: Sometimes I wonder if I ever had any common sense at all, then I’ll look around at some of the people around me and realize that I’m no worse off than most of them.  I’ve done some pretty silly mindless things in the past, such as jumping into the shower with a lit cigarette, putting down keys and promptly losing them, giving a cabbie a $50 instead of a $20 to pay for a $17 dollar ride and telling them to keep the change.  Y’know, things that make you wonder how you lived as long as you have without peeing on an electric fence.

#262 – You are Living in Atlanta in 1864…

…Atlanta is burning.  What do you do?

It was brother versus brother in a vicious battle to control a city that crumbled and burned around them.  It was civil war, as two contrasting ideologies pushed against one another in an attempt to gain a foothold and Atlanta was trapped in the middle.

I can only watch as blood runs through the streets and bodies litter the ground.  The air is thick with smoke and the smell of death as the ground and buildings shudder with every artillery shells striking the city.  I can hear the cries of men, some of them no older than boys, dying in the darkness.

The grip on my rifle tightens as I resist the urge to sneeze.  The smoke has been tickling my nose and throat for hours, but I can’t get used to it.  I take a slow deliberate breath, trying to relax my lungs as I wait.  Finally, I see a group of men come around the corner.

The color of their uniform marks them as Confederate soldiers.  They could be Mongols or little pink bunnies for all I care.  As far as I’m concerned, they are invading my city and destroying my home.

I lift the rifle to my shoulder and sight the lead soldier.  He’s completely unaware of me being there.  He looks to be a handful years younger than me, but already has a deep scar running down the side of his face.  A gift for his services to his country so far.

I see the uncertainty in his eyes as he looks about him, slowly leading his men further down the street.  He reminds me of me, a person trying to survive in world that seems to be tearing itself apart.  I don’t know if he even believes in what his leaders are spouting to him.  It’s unimportant though.

My mind goes blank and I pull the trigger.  The rifle slams into my shoulder as the muzzle explodes violently.  The boy’s head disappears in a crimson splash and he falls over.  The other men following him lift their rifles and cast about, but it’s already too late as others like me open fire from other shadowy spots, cued by my action.

In the span of two seconds it’s over and the patrol is dead.  More men, little more than boys, killed on the street as it burns around them.  Victims of a country set upon itself.

Behind the Random: I’m not really a fan of war.  I’m something of a pacifist and believe that if people actually tried, they could set aside their differences.  However, there are many reasons why that doesn’t work out so well.  War brings terror and allows people of power to control others.  It’s big business, creating jobs and funneling millions of dollars into someone’s pockets.  War is also how history is created; more people know the date of Pearl Harbor than when the Wright Brothers took to the air for the first time.

War shapes the world, whether I care for it or not.