Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Springfield Halloween- When You Give a Dinosaur Sugar

In retrospect, the sundae had been a bad idea.
A very bad idea.
Timothy was normally a ball of energy, and on a good day, Seth could keep up with him without much trouble. But with sugar thrown into the mix, along with the natural high of a celebration, the second grader was practically bursting at the seams with hyper, hey look a shiny thing can we go over there please please please oh wait another one that way let's go that way come on Seth energy. The teen found himself practically running from one booth to the other, holding onto Timothy's candy with the hand that wasn't being dragged across the square. Luckily, the boy hadn't had any of that yet; that had been the deal for the sundae. He could only have the dessert if he promised not to eat any candy, at all, until tomorrow, when with any luck he'd be too tired to care.
Seth knew that was a little much to hope for. But in any case, the deal had been struck, and now Timothy was an inch away from literally bouncing off walls. He wondered, not for the first time, how the second grader seemed to have a sense for picking the food item off of any menu with the highest sugar content. It was like a superpower or something, and considering Timothy was the town's youngest superhero, it very well might have been.
“Hey Seth, facepainting! Come on come on come on!” Seth almost lost his purple wizards hat as Timothy switched directions, this time headed for the pet shop.
“Slow down!” Seth tried to reign in his charge, with little luck. “It's not going anywhere.”
“Come on!” It was like trying to stop a freight train one handed. Timothy dragged his babysitter across the street to the pet shop's multicolored windows, which this month featured a family of black cats on a series of successively smaller pumpkins, with the message “Happy Halloween” scrawled across the scene in big, jagged letters. A scarecrow with a crooked hat sat outside the door in a folding chair, holding a sign labeled “Free Face Painting” in a similar font. Timothy pulled to a stop in front of him, and glanced around. “Where's Mr. Chase?”
The scarecrow shook with silent laughter, and Seth smiled. “I see him.”
“Where?” Timothy looked around again, dragging his supervisor around in a circle as he inspected the scene. “I don't see him.”
“Miles, stop that.” Allie Chase, the town's veterinarian and co-owner of the pet shop, stood in the doorway, trying not to smile as she looked down on her husband. She was dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, with her hair pulled back in two brown pigtails on either side of her head and a blue dress that came down to just below her knees.
The scarecrow turned his head upwards to face his wife with a grin. “He would've figured it out!”
“Oh!” Timothy looked startled. “Hi, Mr Chase!”
“Hey!” Miles looked back down at Timothy, dropping the pretense of lifelessness with a smile. “Want some facepainting?”
“Yeah!” Timothy jumped up and down at the offer. “I want a dinosaur!”
“Aren't you already a dinosaur?” asked Allie, leaving a trail of red glitter from her shoes as she stepped down onto the sidewalk.
“Yeah, but dinosaurs are cool!”
Miles picked up a three ring binder full of pictures and flipped to a few. “How about that one?” he said, pointing to a yellow Stegosaurus.
“That one's better!” insisted Timothy, pointing to the T-Rex next to it. “Cause it's a T-Rex, and they were meat eaters, and the king of the dinosaurs, and they had all sorts of teeth and walked around like this!” Timothy proceeded to do his best T-Rex imitation, high stepping in a circle around Seth with his arms pulled in tight to his chest, roaring as the tail of his dinosaur suit dragged along behind him. “I'm a T-Rex!” he roared. “I'll eat you, Rar!”
“I see that!” Miles laughed. “Alright then, T-Rex it is.” He motioned to the folding chair that sat opposite him. “Have a seat!”
Timothy did as he was told, bouncing up and down until Seth put a hand on his head. “You've gotta hold still, or it'll be a zig-zag Rex.”
“That'd be cool too!”
Allie watched in amusement. “Just out of curiosity,” she remarked to Seth, “How much sugar has that one had?”
“...An entire ice cream sundae,” admitted Seth sheepishly.
Allie looked at him like he was insane. “You let him have the whole thing?”
“We made a deal,” Seth explained. “If I let him have the sundae, he won't eat any of his candy tonight.”
“Oh.” Allie watched as Timothy started bouncing again under Seth's hand. “Right.”
“Oh, that reminds me!” Miles put down the green face paint and reached under his chair. “I have candy I need to get rid of. Want some?” He pulled out an orange plastic pumpkin filled to the brim with the neon colors of candy wrappers. “I have Smores-n-more, Smackers, these really good peanut butter things...”
“Miles,” Allie scolded, taking the pumpkin out of his hand. “I'm giving out healthy food this year, you know!”
“Yeah, I know.” Miles grinned. “But I'm not!”
“Oh good grief, you silly owl...” She rustled through the pumpkin, examining the contents. “Jawbreakers, licorice bites, candy-covered-chocolate-covered-peanut-brittle-covered lollipops? Miles, can you actually eat those things?”
“They're not half bad, really.” Miles mused as he took advantage of Timothy's awestruck fixation with the pumpkin to finish painting the dinosaur's tail. “I think you'd like the peanut brittle things.”
Allie glared at her husband for a moment before taking advantage of his distraction to stuff three in her dress pocket. “Might as well call them bricks of sugar,” she muttered. “Oh good grief, this one is actually called brick-o-sugar!”
“Now those are good!”
Allie sighed. “Ok, fine.” She turned to Seth. “Here. One for you, one for Timothy.” She held out the pumpkin with a victimized air. Seth took the candies, almost feeling guilty about it, then Allie grabbed her own wicker basket off the doorstep. “And healthy food,” she said, shooting a look at her grinning husband, “for the both of you.” Seth dropped two boxes of raisins into their baskets.
Miles finally finished the dinosaur, and handed Timothy a mirror. “There you go. Pretty good dinosaur, eh?”
“Awesome!” Timothy examined the dinosaur on his cheek with a grin. “Can you make it breathe fire?”
“Um, ok!” Miles grabbed the orange facepaint and did a few quick strokes. “There. A fire breathing T-Rex.”
“Great!” Timothy hopped up from the chair, then grabbed Seth's hand again. “Thanks, Mr. Chase!”
“You're welcome!”
Miles and Allie waved at the pair as Seth was once again dragged unceremoniously across the square, headed this time for a plastic duck pond. Then Allie turned to Miles with mock severity. “So you bought candy, eh?”
“Um, yes.” Miles smiled, trying not to look guilty, but failed. “Am I in trouble?”
“Well, maybe.” Allie browsed through the pumpkin again. “That depends entirely on how much of this you're willing to share.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Springfield Halloween-Frankenstien's Dunk Tank

This is the first of a series of shorts that will hopefully eventually connect together into a longer story. The prompt for this one: “In retrospect, something like an astronaut might have been more impressive.” Enjoy!

Dr Jeremy Tabition, to say the least, was not amused.
Nobody ever enjoyed the dunk tank, he knew. It was only through some cruel whim of the school board that it happened every year, and despite the fact that it was one of the best fund raisers the school had, for once in his life he would like to be able to enjoy himself on Halloween as a normal, dry human being. With a special emphasis on dry.
But of course, as a teacher, he had to make sacrifices, and these included, among others, sacrificing his enjoyment of the relatively warm, but a little windy fall day in favor of sitting above a tank of water, dreading the moment one of the ragged baseballs finally hit the target hard enough to dunk him.
He fidgeted atop the plank, trying to keep up a smile as he watched another student hand over their two dollars for the three tries at dunking Dr. Tabs. Smiling was difficult at this point, as he was already soaked, and it was only through the miracles of waterproof makeup that he still resembled Frankenstein's monster rather than a melted bucket of paint.
In retrospect, something like an astronaut may have been more impressive. And smarter, too; a suit that could survive the vacuum of space might have made the water that he'd made Gabe swear he hadn't iced slightly more survivable. Maybe not more enjoyable, but Jeremy would take what he could get.
This whole situation might not have been so bad if it had actually been his turn, he mused as a ball narrowly whizzed by the target, hitting the plastic backdrop with a bang that made him flinch. It was supposed to be the turn of Brian Branch, the math teacher. Brian had always tried to get out of the dunk tank altogether, but thanks to Gabe's rigorous daily disinfecting of his classroom for the three weeks prior, along with Jeremy's insistence that he get vaccinated for everything from tuberculosis to malaria this year, Brian would not be calling in sick with pneumonia this year. Or the flu. Or a sudden allergy to water. Not that they'd bought that one the first time, but still. Brian Branch, this year, at least, had no excuse.
Except this year, they simply couldn't find the man.
He wasn't answering his cell phone, or his house phone. Nobody had seen him, not even Trudy, though Jeremy suspected she was covering for him. Gabe's hurried search had turned up nothing, and it had come down to a game of rock paper scissors as to who would take the math teacher's spot until he could be found.
And he should've known that Arnold would pick paper. He always picked paper. It was like the English teacher was obsessed with it or something.
So despite having already served one of his two slots as target, Dr Jeremy Tabition was stuck here, smiling in the way of a man that wants to murder something and dreading the approach of the sadistic gym teacher Dave Clemmence to the front of the line. If there's one thing Tabs could say in his favor, possibly the only one, it was that the man could throw a ball.
“Get me out of here,” he whispered to Gabe as the janitor, dressed as a cowboy complete with lasso, came by to collect the balls. “I can't take it anymore.”
“You've got ten minutes left before it's Arnold's turn,” Gabe whispered back, with a sympathetic look. “And if we find Brian, we'll make him take your other turn.”
“Right.” Jeremy snorted. “Sorry, but he's probably at the soda fountain, you know.”
“I told you, I looked there.” Gabe turned back to the next person in line. “Oh, hey, Mr. Meeps! Nice Watson costume.”
“I'm Winston Churchhill, actually.” The older man looked vaguely resigned, as if he'd already corrected half the town on this point, which he had. He handed over his two dollars, and received the three battered baseballs in return. “I don't suppose you could tell me when I could come back to dunk Brian,” he remarked as he wound up for the pitch.
“That would be whenever we find him.” Gabe watched as the ball slammed into the backing, two inches above the target.
“He's missing?” Oliver Meeps shook out his arm and took the second ball in hand.
“He's hiding,” responded Dr. Tabs, his voice echoing from inside the dunk tank. “I don't suppose you've seen him.”
“He's down at the soda fountain.” Oliver let loose another fast pitch, this one slightly to the left. “Tch, out of practice...”
“I told you!” Jeremy crowed. “Trudy's covering for him!”
“I looked there!” Gabe looked chagrined as he handed Oliver the last ball. Oliver went through a few warmup swings, and Gabe took another step back. “Is he in disguise or something?”
“Who isn't?” asked Dr Tabs, keeping a wary eye on the substitute as he wound up for the third time. “He's probably... Agh!” The ball found its mark, and the chemistry teacher plummeted into the water. The clear plastic tank gave a clear view of the shocked expression on the green-painted face, and by the time Jeremy surfaced, Oliver was laughing hysterically. “Good grief, man, where'd you learn to throw?” Gabe reset the tank's seat and helped Jeremy pull himself back up, trying to stifle a smile.
“Hah!” Oliver looked triumphant at his victory. “Still got it.”
“Ok, fine, good shot.” Tabs wrung the water out of the sleeve of his tattered Frankenstein shirt. “Hey, would you mind dragging Brian over here? This was supposed to be his timeslot, and he's got another one in an hour.”
“You sure? I mean, it'd be a waste of waterproof makeup...” Gabe said, laughing, before the teacher cut him off.
“I'm sure!”
“Alright, I'll get him.” Oliver picked up his cane again, still laughing. “Try to stay dry!”
“Gee, thanks.” Jeremy sulked on the plastic seat as the next person stepped up to dunk Frankenstein.
He should've been an astronaut.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Auntie Martha

“Aunt Martha?”
“Yes?” The old lady's voice crackled through her ancient phone. “A call from my favorite nephew? What have I done to deserve such an honor?”
“I'm your only nephew, Auntie. I need a bit of advice.”
“Advice? Is it something to do with a girl?”
“No! Well, um, yes, actually. I was wondering...”
“Oh, you have to tell me all about her, Jack! Is she nice- Oh, where did you two meet- have you been seeing each other for long? What's her name, Jack, oh you have to tell me. Oh, I simply have to tell everyone at sewing circle- Susan just had her third grandchild get married, did you know- and they're all asking about you, Jack! But don't let me interrupt, do go on with your question.”
“Hypothetically!” Jack stressed the word. “If I hypothetically liked this girl, who is entirely hypothetical and does not exist, and she hypothetically liked ballet, and had by some circumstance indicated that she wanted to take lessons as a child but never did, would it hypothetically be acceptable to rig a contest for which the prize was a month worth of ballet lessons, and maybe kinda fix it so she won?” He paused for breath. "And if so, how long would I have to wait if the conversation happened, say, today, to point her to this hypothetical contest, in order to divert all suspicion of rigging it from myself? Keep in mind that this is totally hypothetical."
“Oh, a dancer!” crowed Aunt Martha with pleasure, before she caught herself and giggled. “A hypothetical dancer, of course. But why not just buy her lessons, Jack? It could be terribly romantic. And maybe a nice pair of shoes, if you want.”
“Shoes! I hadn't considered shoes!” Aunt Martha giggled again as the sound of Jack's frantic scribbling reached her. After a moments pause, his voice came again. “...Hypothetically, what's the best way to ask her her shoe size?”
“Oh, that's easy! Just the next time she takes off her shoes, take a peek at the number on the sole. Don't actually ask her, though.”
“What if she doesn't take off her shoes, though?”
“Improvise, honey! Maybe go shopping with her, or spill something that sticks to shoes but not to feet. You're a clever boy.”
“Um, alright. But the first question? Would that work?” He noticed Crash waving at him frantically through the office window, and nodded cordially.
“Well, it might work, Jack, but I really don't see why you'd go through all that trouble. Just giving her the lessons would be much more romantic.”
“Thanks for your help, Auntie. I've gotta go.”
“Good luck with your hypothetical lady friend.” She stifled a giggle again, and he sighed. “Bye bye now.”
“Bye.” He hung up the phone, sighing. Crash burst into the office all at once. “Yes?”
“Jack, Fixit's on fire.”

One year ago, I posted the first story about Jack, as well as drawing him for the first time. So therefore, I have declared today to be his birthday. So happy birthday, Jack. May you eventually learn how people work. But not too soon; we enjoy laughing at you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meeting the Kilsinger Brothers

“I didn't know you were a student here.” A familiar voice sounded behind her, and Karen whirled, eyes wide. The voice had come from behind the neighboring bookshelf, and she glared at it menacingly.
“Blind, what are you doing here?” She hissed softly.
“I could ask you the same.” The smirk in his voice was infuriating.
“Go away.” She paused as she realized. “Wait, how did you...”
“Mostly your boots. They make a very distinct sound. Really, you shouldn't wear those around. Someone will notice.”
“Go away, Blind.”
“I have every right to be here. You go away.”
“I have a paper!”
“And I'm meeting someone.”
She glared at his voice for a moment, then very deliberately turned back to the book she was holding, a rather dry account of first century politics.
“Come on, guess!” He sounded teasing. “Fine, then I'll guess about you. Your paper is on... History? You're in the section for it, anyway.”
She didn't respond, turning to another page of long dead idiots trying to kill each other.
“I'm pretty sure you're either a junior or a senior, so either this is an upper level class, or you're not a history major, so you've been putting your history requirement off. Given that it took you fifteen minutes to find this section, I'm guessing the second.” He paused for a moment. “So that means you're something else, then. Hm, chemistry? You do occasionally smell like laboratory.”
Karen ignored him, putting the book back where she'd found it and picking it's neighbor up, leafing through to a section on the Gaelic Wars.
“I would eliminate music, just for the fact that you don't quite seem the type, and probably English, as closely related as that class is to history. Am I getting any closer?”
“Go away, Blind.”
“I'd rather not, thank you. So, I think something with science. Your glider, for example, is a fair bit of physics that not many people would try without some calculations.” He mused for a moment, mumbling something about what majors had to take that level of physics before the senior year, when she noticed someone in a wheelchair slowly coming up the aisle.
“Oh, Good morning, Professor K.”
“Hello, ah... Karen!” He pointed at her with a smile. “I had you for Calculus One. You sat in the upper left corner, am I right?”
“Yessir!” She smiled, ignoring the now-silent man behind the bookshelf as she inwardly cursed him for learning her name.
“Hah! So Karen, what brings you to the library? Last I checked Professor Holt didn't assign too many papers for Inorganic Chemistry.”
“History, unfortunately.” She showed him the book. “What brings you here? Assigning papers to unsuspecting math classes?”
“Looking for my brother, actually.” He glanced around. “He said he'd meet me around here, but he might have gotten mixed up.”
“Your brother... Oh! You showed us pictures of him once.” She recalled the class now. The problem in question had something to do with projectile motion. “The problem with the mashed potatoes.”
“You're teaching that now?” Blind's voice came through the bookshelf in disbelief. “Oh, come on! Do you have to gloat forever?”
“Hah, knew you were around here somewhere!” Professor K pointed triumphantly at the bookshelf. “You're in the wrong aisle, Jay. Again.”
“What? Aisle 14.”
Karen glanced up at the sign above them. “This is aisle 14.”
“I counted. The sign is wrong.” Blind, or Jay, fumed as his voice moved around the end of the bookshelf.
“You forgot that aisle one is short. You never remember to count that.” Professor K laughed. “In any case, sorry I'm late.”
“Tch.” A familiar figure rounded the corner, tall and dark, with black hair that spilled like water over his face. But there were differences. Rather than the blue blindfold she knew so well, a pair of dark glasses covered his eyes, and the neat blue uniform was replaced by a dark jacket, unzipped over a white t-shirt and jeans. The calm smugness was replaced by a slightly less calm expression of disgust. But the long white cane still swept the ground in front of him, and she wondered, for half a second, what this particular one did.
“You really are blind!” She exclaimed.
“Am I?” He moved a hand to his face and waved it about. “Oh, I hadn't noticed.”
“Only way to explain that outfit,” muttered Professor K with a smile.
“What?” His hand moved to his clothing. “What's wrong? Did I...” He trailed off and glared at the other man. “Monty, you are not funny.”
“At least I don't look like a clown.”
“I do not look like a clown!” He turned to Karen. “Do I look like a clown?”
Professor K nodded enthusiastically in her direction. She barely kept from laughing. “Yep.”
“You're lying. Unless someone messed with my closet, I know exactly what I am...” He trailed off. “Monty, you messed with my closet! What am I wearing?”
“Purple jacket, orange shirt, striped pants.”
“I don't own striped pants, you liar.”
“You do now!”
“I would have noticed if you had...”
“Well, you didn't!” Professor K was laughing now. “Karen, am I right?”
“He isn't.” Jay turned to her. “He's not right. I know what I'm wearing.”
“Oh,” the paraplegic finally got control of his laughter. “Have you two met?”
“No, why don't you introduce us?” Jay smiled, and she shot him a glare over his brother's head.
If Professor K noticed, he didn't mention it. “Oh, well, Karen, this is my brother, Jay Southend Bus Stop Kilsinger.”
Jay made an exasperated noise. “My name is not bus stop.”
“Jay, this is Karen, uh, Same, one of my students. She's a...”
“Chemistry major.” He faced her with a familiar smirk.
“Not even asking how you knew that.” His brother shook his head. “Is he right?”
“No.” For once it was her turn to look smug. “Physics.”
“With a minor in chemistry,” he said without missing a beat
“...Yes.” She pouted.
“Hah.” Jay looked triumphant. “I win.”
“Second guess doesn't count, little brother.” Professor K shook his head, grinning like his brother. “Sorry about him, he ran into a wall as a little kid, and...”
“And Monty,” interrupted Jay, “thought it would be a good idea to send his wheelchair off a ramp at the bottom of a staircase, and...”
“And he,” interrupted Monty pointedly, “tried to keep a squirrel in his sock drawer, and when Mom found out...”
“And he,” Jay raised his voice a little, “wanted to send a lunch box to the moon, so he built...”
“When he was little,” Monty very subtley rolled over his brother's foot, “Mom always had to watch him, because if she took her eyes off him for one second, he'd run outside without any...”
“But Monty,” remarked Jay casually as he whacked Monty sharply with his cane in a seemingly accidental motion, “thought that the tooth fairy was real until his sophomore year of college, and tried to...”
“Regardless!” Monty shoved his brother away as forcefully as he could. “Don't mind Jay. He's a bit odd sometimes.”
“Pot, meet kettle,” muttered his brother.