Author: Aaron Blaylock

Idiom Proof

Woodruff and Bob sat on stools behind two large easels, which supported their own white canvas rectangles.  Green rolling hills stretched out for miles to the distant horizon beyond a wide open field.  A string of horses grazed quietly beneath the setting sun.

“This evening could not be any prettier, don’t you think?”

“Do you have a penny?”

Bob reached into the front pocket of his overalls and pulled out an old copper coin.  He tossed it to Woodruff, who caught it and slipped it into his pocket without looking.

“No, I do not think this evening could get any prettier.”

“How are you coming along with your painting?”

“Really good,” Woodruff said.  “It’s easy.”

Woodruff rotated the canvas toward Bob.  At the center was a triangular slice of chocolate cake on a silver platter.

“Nice cake,” Bob nodded his approval.  “Hand me the bucket of magenta.”

“I can’t,” Woodruff said as he pulled on the bucket in between them.  “It’s caught.”

“Don’t worry about it.  I’ve got some purple and pink I can mix together.”

“What are you drawing?”

“Words,” Bob said.  He turned his canvas around and presented it to Woodruff.  It was filled from top to bottom and side to side with words, painted in multiple colors.

“That’s a lot of words.”

“Yup, a thousand of ‘em.”

“How did you pick which words to paint?”

“I just painted a word for the stuff I can see.  You know, trees, the sky, Elvis, the yard of each neighbor…”

“The whole neighborhood?”

“Yep, every yard.  All nine of them.”

“That wind is chilly,” Woodruff said.  He ducked down beneath his easel.  “Oh, it’s a bit warmer down here.”

Bob reached down and waved his hand around.

“Yeah, I feel it,” Bob said.  “Should we head back and get out of this weather?”

“The last ferry boat for the day just pushed away from the dock,” Woodruff said.  “How are we going to get ‘cross the Tuit?”

“We can cross on that bridge over there.”

The two painter left their canvas’, easels, stools, and brushes and headed back to an old rusty pickup.  A tall, ornate, trailer was hitched to the truck with the word BAND painted on the side in yellow letters.  Bob jumped up on the back of the trailer and the wagon shook side to side.

“Don’t jump on that,” Woodruff said.

“What?  Why?” Bob asked.  “Everybody does it.”

“Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right.”

“Okay, mom.”

“Beating!  Come here, boy.”

A brown and white shaggy dog came running through the field toward them.

“Here, boy!  Good boy, Beating, good boy!”

The dog charged right through a waist-high prickly bush.

“No, Beating!” Woodruff yelled.  “Around!  Go around!”

Four grey squirrels shot out of the bush in different directions.  Beating dashed and darted at the little forest rodents, as they danced around him.  The old dog chased one of the squirrels in circles at the base of a nearby tree.  When Beating was overcome by dizziness, the wily squirrel escaped up the tree and jumped to the canopy of an adjoining grove.  Beating recovered and began to bark frantically at the vacant treetop.

“You silly dog,” Bob said.  “That’s the wrong tree.”

“Why do you suppose your Uncle Billy named him Beating?”

“My guess is that it rhymes with bleating.”

“Bleating?”

“Yeah, you know, like the sound a goat makes.  Uncle Billy always wanted a goat.”

“Why wouldn’t he just name it Bleating then?”

“Uncle Billy has trouble with his L’s.”

“But his name is Billy.”

“Yeah, he was just fine until the hot potato incident.”

“This I’ve got to hear.”

“Well, one night at supper, Billy told Elvis to toss him a potato.  Elvis grabbed a potato out of the pot and it was so hot that he chucked it in the air, as a reflex.  Billy thought he was throwing it to him so he jumped over the table and caught it in his mouth.  The tater was so big that he couldn’t chew it and it burned his tongue.  Ever since then we all called him Unco Biwee.”

“So he named the dog Beating because he couldn’t say bleating?”

“That’s my guess,” Bob said.  “You got a better one.”

“No,” Woodruff said.  “That was for all practical purpose comparable to mine.”

Bleating turned his attention to the horses in the field and began to bray like a donkey.

“Whoa!”

“I know.”

“Has he always done that?”

“Ever since he was a puppy,” Bob said.  “Last summer, we worked with him on a whiney, but we couldn’t teach him.”

“Because he’s old?”

“Because he’s a dog.”

Bob raised an eyebrow and looked sideways at Woodruff with a slight shake of his head.  Woodruff craned his neck to mirror Bob, and bent his knees to match his eye level.  Neither wanted to concede the impromptu staring contest.  They drew closer and closer to each other until Woodruff blinked.

“Ha!  Winner.”

“Fine, you win,” Woodruff said.  “But only because I got a grain in my eye.”

“A grain of what?”

“Salt.”

Woodruff rubbed at his eyes with the palm of his hand.

“Salt from your tears?” Bob mockingly rubbed at his eyes.

“Why don’t you just get the dog so we can go.”

“Fine.”

He pantomimed rubbing his eyes again and threw Woodruff and taunting pouty face.  Bob walked around the truck, reached through the open window of the passenger seat, and pulled out a floppy hat.  He held it high in the air and whistled.  Beating stopped braying and snapped his furry head toward the hat.  Bob let the hat go and it fell to the ground.  He had no sooner done so when the dog made a beeline for the dropped hat.

“Works every time,” Bob smiled.

A stray cat wandered out from underneath the truck and surveyed the floppy hat.

“Uh, Bob…”

The cat poked at the hat with its paw and jumped back cautiously.  Beating kept charging toward his floppy prize.  Focused solely on the hat, the cat crept forward as if it was stalking its prey.

“Bob?”

“I see it.”

Woodruff and Bob stood paralyzed by the anticipated collision as the cat slipped its head under the hat just before Beating claimed the object of his desire with a ferocious chomp.  He shook the hat back and forth before trotting to the back of the trailer.

“He kill the cat!”

“Curiosity.”

“Curiosity killed the cat?”

“No, the cat’s name is Curiosity.”

Beating jumped up onto the trailer and placed the floppy hat on the floor of the wagon.  A disheveled and disoriented cat stumbled out from under the hat and waddled away.  Woodruff breathed a sigh of relief and pulled open the passenger side door.  The shaggy dog lay down on top of the floppy hat and closed his eyes.

“Ready to go?” Bob asked.

“Yep.”

They both hopped into the pickup and slammed the rusty metal doors shut in unison.  Bob turned the key in the ignition and the engine chugged, sputtered and died.  He tried again with the same result.

“Pop the hood.”

Woodruff got out of the truck and Bob pulled the lever to release the hood.  A small plume of smoke raised up into the air.  One of the horses in the field whinnied loudly in their direction.

“I doubt that the problem is hay related, Horace.”

Horace snorted and stopped his hoof into the ground.

“Fine, I’ll check.”

Woodruff pulled the lid off the air filter and looked inside.

“Well I’ll be,” Woodruff remarked.

“What is it?”

“Horace was right.  The filter is filled with hay.”

The horses whinnied and pranced in a circle.  When Bob looked out at the prancing ponies, he saw a burly man in a purple and orange tie dyed shirt, sitting on a depilated section of the wood fencing.  The man smiled at Bob from behind an unkempt beard.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” the man in the tie dyed shirt asked.

“Not really,” Woodruff replied as he continued to pull hay from the filter.  He stepped back from the engine and rubbed his greasy hands together.  “Try it again, Bob.”

The engine sputtered and chugged but did not turn over.  The man in the tie dyed t-shirt grinned and scratched at his beard.

“Ya gotta hit it,” he shouted.

“The hay?”

“The filter.”

“Hit it?”

“Yep.”

Woodruff stepped up to the engine and pounded on the side of the air filter.  Bob tried, unsuccessfully, to start the engine again.  They looked back to the man in the tie dyed t-shirt, who sat blissfully on the fence.

“Are you going to come and help?” Bob hollered.

“Haven’t decided,” the man said, rocking back and forth.  “The name’s Dave.”

“Hey Dave, I’m Bob.”

“And I’m Woodruff.  If you know anything about cars, we could use a hand.”

Dave hopped down off the fence and sauntered over to Woodruff at the front of the truck.  He reached down into the filter and dug around in the basin.  A moment later he pulled out a single straw of hay and displayed it proudly.

“Last one,” Dave said.  He returned the filter and fastened the lid.  “Try it now.”

Bob turned the key and the engine roared to life.  “Yawhoo!”

“Thank you, Dave,” Woodruff said.

“No worries,” Dave said.  He wiped his greasy hands on his tie dyed t-shirt.  “Happy to help.”

“So, what are you doing all the way out here?” Bob asked over the humming engine.

“Well, it’s a long story,” Dave scratched the side of his hairy face.  “I came up this way to visit a friend of mine, but I happened upon a young fella on the side of the road who was crying.  I asked him what was wrong and he said he lost his momma’s basket.  He was supposed to collect the eggs from the hens and bring them back to the house.  Turns out he placed them all in one basket and left them by the henhouse and they disappeared.”

“That doesn’t seem like a wise practice.”

“That’s what I told him,” Dave continued.  “But there’s no use getting all upset about something that is already done.”

“I was just telling Bob that this morning when he was crying about the milk I spilled.”

“Again, I wasn’t crying,” Bob said.  “You dumped the whole craft on my face.  I had milk in my eyes.”

“Anywho,” Dave went on.  “We went looking for his basket and found his neighbor had absconded with his eggs.  Crazy old coot was just sitting there in his rocking chair eating raw eggs.”

“That’s not healthy.”

“Right.  So we just watched from the bushes and waited for Mother Nature to do her thing,” Dave said.  “After a little while he jumped off his rocker and ran inside.  We ran up to the porch and grabbed the basket.  I spotted a comic next to the rocker, so I snatched it.”

Dave pulled out brightly colored comic book with Thor written above a muscle-bound figure, with long blond hair flowing from under a silver helmet.  He wore a red cape, and a held a giant hammer.

“You stole his thunder!” Bob exclaimed.

“I don’t know about that,” Dave said.  “Didn’t read it.  The picture on the front just looked kind of cool.  I took it to give that egg thief a taste of his own medicine.  Plus, I forgot to bring a gift for my friend.”

“Two birds,” Woodruff said.

“Where?” Bob asked.

“Over there, on that stone.”

“Nice.”

“So the kids went home and I cut outta there real quick like,” Dave said.  “Then I saw a cloud over your pickup and thought I’d check it out.”

“We’re glad you did,” Woodruff said.  “If there’s any way we could repay you, let us know.”

“I could use a ride.”

“Sure thing,” Bob said.  “Where are you headed?”

“My friend Elvis has a place up the road a ways.”

“That’s where we’re headed,” Bob said.  “Elvis is my cousin.”

“How about that,” Dave said.  “Who knew there’d be a blessing under that cloud of smoke?”

“We can take you up to his place, but Elvis left,” Woodruff said.

“The building?”

“The farm.”

“We saw him back up that way on the other side of the bridge,” Bob said.  “He should be back soon.  Hop in and we’ll run you up there.”

Dave pulled open the door and slid in the middle, between Woodruff and Bob.

“You know you got a dog sleeping in the bandwagon,” Dave said.

“Just let him lie.”

Bob drove up the road in the rattling old pickup.  Dave pulled a handful of cards out of his pocket.

“You wanna play cards?”

“Is that all you’ve got?”

“Yep.”

“You’re not playing with a full deck?”

“Nope.  I bought it off a hobo for an old prostetic arm and a chicken leg.”

“Okay.”

Dave dealt out the cards as they came to the Tuit and crossed the bridge to the other side of the river.

Gloves Off

The noonday sun reflected off the shiny hood of the cherry-red Karmann Ghia, as it rolled up to the guard shack.  Woodruff removed his aviator sunglasses with a snap of his head toward the overweight security guard.

“W and B to see Michela.”

“I’m gonna need to see some ID,” the security guard said, as he scratched at the stubble on his round face.

“We have a 10am photoshoot,” Bob replied from the passenger seat.

“It’s 12:15.”

“In fashion, you are expected to be fashionably late,” Woodruff said.

“We’re models.”

“Uh huh,” the guard raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“Seriously, we’re hand models.”

“Okay, I’m still gonna need to see some ID.”

“You may recognize these babies from the Helping Hands billboards,” Woodruff proudly held his hands out the window in front of the guard.  He waved them majestically in a wave-like pattern.  The guard simply leaned back in his chair, popped a FunYun in his mouth and chewed slowly.

“Or these bad boys from the Hands Across Holland campaign,” Bob said as he removed a pair of sequenced white gloves and hung his hands over top of Woodruff’s.  The guard yawned and rubbed at his belly.

“Look, if you’re not gonna to show me some ID then I’m going to have to ask you to back this jalopy out of here.”

“Jalopy?” Woodruff exclaimed.  “I’ll have you know this is the pinnacle of German engineering and Brazilian manufacturing.  This is as 1961 classic, with finned out front grilles and rounded rear taillights.  They don’t make them like this anymore.”

“I can see why.”

“How dare you, sir?  How dare you?”

“No ID, no entry.”

Woodruff reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.  He flashed his driver’s license to the guard, who scanned it thoroughly.

“Uh huh,” the guard said.  “How ‘bout you, buddy?”

Bob produced a brown paper bag from under the seat and rooted around in it.  He discarded a peach pit, a silver chain with a smoking sphere on the end, two index cards, a grey-tailed squirrel and a playbill from Wicked, before he found his license.

“I bet Heidi Klum doesn’t have to deal with this,” Bob grumbled.

The guard smirked as he was presented with the mustard stained ID.

“Your middle name is Carroll?”

“It’s a unisex name!”

Bob frowned as he snatched back his ID and dropped it in the brown paper bag.  The guard smiled broadly as he raised the gate and waved them onto the lot.  Woodruff bent right, along a grassy roundabout, and pulled into a parking spot mark with a V.I.P. sign.

“The nerve of that guy.”

“Seriously,” Bob said as he slipped his sequenced gloves on like a surgeon.  “I’m almost too upset to work.”

Woodruff gingerly pressed down on the door handle with his elbow and pushed the door open with his leg.  Bob wiggled out through the open window with his glove covered his hands held toward the sky.  He rolled onto the pavement headfirst and sprang to his feet without using his hands.  The sound of ringing bells drew Bob’s attention toward a mobile ice cream cart on the back of a tricycle.

“All set?” Woodruff asked.

“You go on in,” Bob said.  “I’ll be right behind you.”

As Bob skipped toward the ice cream cart, Woodruff approached the glass-lined office building.  With his hands held out in front of him, Woodruff tapped on the front door with his foot.  A short slender receptionist hurried around her desk and pushed open the door for him.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the receptionist said.  “Who are you here to see?”

“We have a session with Michela.”

“Of course, he’s been waiting for you,” the receptionist said, as she stepped to the side and invited Woodruff in.  “This way.”

She led the way down a white hallway, covered with varied photographs of babies, beautiful women, well-groomed men, athletes, flowers, gorgeous landscape, and asparagus.  The slender receptionist propped open a black door and Woodruff stepped inside a well-lit room.

“Finally!” a middle-aged man, with wild black hair, exclaimed.  “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting?”

“Not really, what time did you get here?”

“9:30,” Michela said.  “We are paying for this studio time.”

“Two hours and fifty-one minutes.”

“What?”

“That’s how long you’ve been waiting, if you arrived at 9:30.”

“Ay dios mio,” Michela grumbled.  “Can we get started?  Where’s di other one?”

“Higgle Biggle, my snaggle waggle,” Bob said as he strode into the room past the slender receptionist, who was still holding open the door.

“What is dis thing he is saying?”

“It’s just the lingo for the bingo, papi ringo,” Bob said, and tried unsuccessfully to snap with his gloves on.

“It’s really not,” Woodruff said.

“Please, enough with dis nonsense,” Michela said.  “Let’s just get di shot.”

“Get the shot?” Bob said.  “What are we, archers?  We don’t just get the shot.  We make magic.”

Bob raised his hands and wiggled his fingers, inside the sparkly gloves.  Woodruff crossed his arms, held his open hands over his shoulders and posed next to Bob.  Michela shook his head and ran his hands through his frizzy mane.  He picked up his camera and headed over to a platform, which was covered by a large green cloth with a towering green backdrop.

“What is this?” Woodruff questioned toward the green backdrop.

“It’s a green screen,” Michela replied.  “We’ll drop in di product and di background in post-production.”

“CGI?” Bob asked, incredulously.  “Oh no, we don’t do CGI.  Practical effects only.  It’s in our contract.”

“Practical effects won’t work for di advertiser’s vision.”

“Vision?” Woodruff said and held his hands in the air again.  “These hands are the vision.”

“We can’t have our fans thinking these babies are digitally enhanced,” Bob added, as he stripped his sequenced gloves off.  “These are all natural.”

“It’s an ad for Orbits gum,” Michela argued.  “Set in space!”

“Well then, call Elon Musk and book us three seats on a jet plane.”

“Dat’s ridiculous.  We’re not doing dat.  We just need a picture of hands reaching for a piece of gum, dat’s orbiting di earth.”

“Ridiculous?” Bob said.  “That picture is ridiculous.  Everybody knows that in the absence of atmospheric pressure the water in your body vaporizes and your skin tissue swells up.  So if you think of pair of bloated hands frozen in space is going to sell some spearmint refreshment, then by all means go with that ludicrous ad.”

“And enjoy the hellacious sun burn you’ll get from unfiltered cosmic radiation,” Woodruff added.

“You two are insane!”

“Insane is letting the man corrupt your creative soul and compromise your artist integrity, Michela.”

The photographer buried his head in his hands and growled.  Woodruff and Bob watched as he took a dozen heaving breaths, before he shook his wild and wooly hair and set a squinty eyed glare on them.

“Do you have a better idea?” Michela asked, in a surly tone.

Bob looked over and Woodruff with a great big smile and nodded.

“Actually, we do,” Woodruff said.  “Picture with me an evening sky just before dark, a few elect stars have already made their presence known.  Two pairs of hands, linked together thumb to index finger, surround of single piece of gum floating at their center.”

“The hands are orbiting the gum?”

“Exactly!” Bob replied.

“I love it!”

“Of course you do.”

“Let’s set up to shoot it this evening.”

“Sure thing,” Bob said.  “Um, I just need a change of pants before then.”

“Did you stick an ice cream cone in your pocket again?” Woodruff asked.

“This time it was sealed with a thick chocolate shell.”

“Bob, what did I tell you about that?”

“I put it in my back pocket to give it plenty of oxygen.”

Bob turned around to reveal the mushy remains of an ice cream cone dripping down the back of his leg.

“Oxygen is not the problem!”

“Well where am I supposed to store my frozen dairy treats until I’m ready for them?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Woodruff said, raising his voice.  “A cooler?”

“I’m not using my delicate digits to carry around a cooler like a couple of common meat hooks.”

“Then you have to wait!”

“But Biggle-ill wants his chill thrill.”

“First off, stop talking like that,” Woodruff said, pointing his finger at Bob.  “And, for the sixth time, you can’t stick a frozen dessert in your pants pocket and expect it to stay frozen.  Your pockets aren’t insulated.”

“But what if they were?”

“Isolated pants pockets?”

“Yes!” Bob exclaimed.  “Pockets made for the ice cream lover on the go.”

“We could call it the ice cream attaché.”

“Better yet, we could sell the naming rights.  Häagen-Drawers!”

“I don’t throw this word around lightly,” Woodruff said.  “But that is genius.”

“Let’s go work up a marketing plan.”

Bob kicked off his shoes and removed his pants to reveal a pair of leopard print underwear.  He handed his ice cream stained britches to Michela and marched toward the exit.  Woodruff held the door open for his pant-less friend and followed him down the hall as the studio door swung closed.  The photographer stood alone in the silent studio holding a pair of chocolate soiled pants.

“Idiotas.”

Oh, The Places They’ll Go

“How long is this flight anyway?” Bob asked.

“Mr. Geisel’s secretary said it was thirteen hours,” Woodruff replied.

“Ah!  This is going to be the longest flight ever!” Bob said.  “I’m so bored.”

“Here’s a remedy,” Woodruff handed Bob a small booklet.  “Do a crossword puzzle.”

“Does it have a maze?”

Hopefully, Bob flipped through the pages of the booklet.

“There’s no maze, it’s a crossword book.”

“I hate crosswords,” Bob whined and flailed his arms in the air.  “Reading is hard.”

“Yeah, literacy is the worst,” Woodruff said as he rolled his eyes and shook his head.  “Why don’t you take a nap or knit yourself a glove or something.”

“There’s not ample space for my napping style and you know they confiscated my knitting needle at security.”

“Just look out the window then?”

“I don’t like the fog.”

“You mean clouds?”

“Plus, the transparent plastic windows remind me that I’m one crack away from being sucked into the empty vacuum of space.”

“We’re at thirty thousand feet, that’s hardly outer space.”

“And what instrument are you using to measure that?  Because you know I have a finally tuned sense of altitude and the trajectory of our vertical ascent puts us at, at least, sixty thousand feet.”

“Right, your elite internal altimeter.  Well, considering that it’s an FAA requirement that commercial airlines maintain a flight plan with a cruising altitude between twenty-eight thousand and forty-five thousand feet, I really doubt we’ve reached sixty thousand feet.”

“Woodruff, we’re flying into a storm!”

Bob shouted and pointed out the tiny window.  The passengers in the row behind them leaned toward their window and a low murmur rolled throughout the cabin.  Woodruff held his finger to his lips and scowled at his friend.

“Would you put a cap on your crazy, it’s spilling onto the other passengers.”

“What if we run out of gas?”

“We’re not going to run out of gas.”

“Remember that video at the air and space museum?  Planes crash all the time.”

“Trust the pilot, Bob.”

“Trust him?  I don’t even know him.”

A lanky flight attendant, so tall that his hair brushed along the top of the cabin, made his way quickly down the aisle and stopped next to Woodruff.

“Is there a problem?” the lanky flight attendant whispered.  He had to crouch down to look Bob in the eye.

“There’s no problem, Teddy,” Woodruff said as he read the flight attendants name tag.

“There most certainly is a problem, Theodor,” Bob said.  “How is it that you have the freedom to move about wherever you like but we are shackled to these seats by a tiny light, just waiting for a bell to release us like a bunch of lab rats at a medical clinic?”

“Sir, the turning off of the fasten seatbelt sign will coincide with the aircraft reaching its cruising altitude.”

“Yes I know, between twenty-eight thousand and forty-five thousand feet,” Bob said.  “That’s quite a cushion you give yourself there.”

“If there is anything I can do to make your flight more comfortable please let me know.”

“I’d like another bag of peanuts.”

“Sir, you’ve already had twelve bags.”

“How dare you?  How can you justify a limit on life sustaining sustenance while I decay before your eyes, as we hurtle through space in this death trap?”

Woodruff closed his eyes and buried his head in his hands.

“Every guest gets two bags of peanuts.  You’ve enjoyed six times that.”

“I am a loyalty plus platinum rewards member, I’ll eat a lion if I want to.”

“Sir, we don’t serve lion,” Teddy said.  “You selected the chicken and potatoes.  If you like, I can change that to either the beef and broccoli or the kosher vegan option.”

“Kosher vegan?” Bob said and contorted his face.  “Do I look like the kind of guy who would eat a human organ?”

“That’s not what that means, Bob,” Woodruff spoke into his hands.

“Anyways, I can’t eat beef and broccoli ‘cause it makes my burps smell like sulphur.”

“Sir, the chicken and potato is an excellent choice.  The chickens were free range and the spuds are premium Idaho potatoes.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.  In addition to being a master chef, I am the founder of the International Council on Spuds and Tots.”

“Co-founder.”

“Co-founder,” Bob corrected.  “And as such I cannot suppress my professional opinion.”

“Of that I have no doubt.”

“On a similar note, what kind of flatware do you use?”

“Flatware?”

“Flatware, you know?  Forks, spoons, knifes.  Not plastic.  Please do not tell me it’s not plastic.”

“I’m afraid it’s plastic.”

“Be serious.”

“I am serious.”

“Stop joking.”

“I’m not joking.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not trying to be funny.”

“This is an absolute nightmare,” Bob said and pushed Woodruff on the shoulder.  “Did you hear that?  Plastic flatware with premium potatoes.  That’s just perfect.  It’ll blend beautiful with this tacky air bus motif.”

Woodruff looked up with his mouth open and shook his head at Bob.

“Excuse my friend, Teddy.  He must have lost his mind.”

“On opposite day.  ‘cause I’ve found my soul.”

“Soul is not the opposite of mind.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Teddy, you can go back up front,” Woodruff said.  “I’ll take care of this.”

With a forced smile, the lanky flight attendant turned and walked back toward the front of the plane.

“Yeah, go on back up to the elite in the front of the plane with their golden flatware, endless peanuts, and hand spun custard with a fudge ribbon,” Bob shouted.

“What is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know, I’m all messed up.  My horoscope said it’s not a great day for up.”

“Bob, it’s just a horoscope.”

“Just a horoscope!  Remember last week when my horoscope said a stranger will soon enter your life with blessings to share?”

“No.”

“Well it did, and five days later that lady on the bus gave me a donut.”

“It was a bagel.”

“It was a blessing!”

“Horoscopes are designed to be vague and general, to apply to the widest audience with the most possible variables.  They need you to find or create your own meaning, it’s called the Barnum effect.”

“It’s called science.  Not two months ago my horoscope said you will witness a special event, on the same day we attended that Navajo wedding in Arizona.”

“We were only their because you took a wrong turn at Albuquerque!”

“My horoscope made me take a wrong turn in Albuquerque!”

“I’m not going to talk to you anymore.”

The plane suddenly dropped several hundred feet and bounced the occupants around in their seats.  Bob gripped tightly to Woodruff’s arm and screamed.

“Ah!”

“Let go of my arm.  It’s just turbulence.”

“It’s not a great day for up.”

“Would you stop that.”

Woodruff shook his arm free and pushed Bob back into his seat.

“This is it,” Bob said with his eyes closed tight.  “I never even got to get set in my ways, eat supper at two, or try dentures.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The end.  And I missed it.  You’re only old once!”

“Would you quit it.”

“Quit what?  We’re going to crash in the ocean and I totally forgot what grumpy old Theodor said about my floatation device.  I wish that I had duck feet.”

“Oh, the places you’ll let your mind go.”

The ding of a bell sounded through the cabin and a voice spoke through a crackly speaker overhead.

“Sorry about that hop and pop, folks,” the pilot said.  “There’s been a little more turbulence than normal.  My horoscope said it would be a wacky Wednesday.  We’ve reached our cruising altitude of thirty thousand feet, so I’m going to turn off the fasten seatbelt light to give you the freedom to move around the cabin.  And we’ve asked the crew to bring you another round of peanuts, on us.  In just a moment, our very own Teddy G will be out to delight and entertain you with his rendition of Oh, The Thinks You Can Think from Seussical the Musical.  We know you have a choice when you fly and we’re grateful you chose to fly with us.”

Teddy appeared at the front of the aisle, wearing a tall red and white striped hat.  He walked slowly by each row, handing out little bags of peanuts.  After presenting a bag to Woodruff, he tossed one over his shoulder in Bob’s direction.  Bob caught it and looked down with a pout.

“Um, excuse me,” Bob said.  “Do you have honey roasted?”

The flight attendance turned around and pulled a golden bag out of his shirt pocket.  He handed it to Bob, who happily ripped it open and began eating.

“Thank you,” Bob said with a mouth full of peanuts.

“Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?” Woodruff asked.

“What?”

Peanut shards flew from Bob’s mouth and landed on Woodruff’s shirt sleeve.

“This is going to be the longest flight ever.”

The Naturals

“Woodruff and Bob, you’re up,” Master Chef Heirnon said.

“Hehe,” Bob giggled.  “He said Woodruff and Bob Europe.”

“No, he said you’re up, you are up,” Woodruff said.  “As in, it’s our turn.”

“I know, but we’re in Europe and he said you’re up.”

“Focus Bob.”

“Right.”

Bob adjusted his toque blanche and stepped to the counter.  Woodruff stood up tall and pulled at his double-breasted white jacket.

“We’ve prepared a world’s fair presentation with spicy cumin lamb shanks, eggplant cannelloni, and a black bean garbure as an appetizer,” Woodruff said to the dignified panel of chef’s sitting on high stools behind the counter.

“We chose black beans to bring a more Latin flare to this French dish,” Bob explained.

“Very good, let’s see you plate your creations.”

“Yes sir, Master Chef.”

“Woodruff, he used plate as a verb again.”

“Hush.”

Woodruff pulled a shiny white bowl from under the counter and Bob retrieve two matching plates and laid them in a row on the wood-planked counter.  Woodruff ladled a thick steamy stew into the bowl and Bob sprinkled bay leaves on top with a dramatic flick of the wrist.

“We’ve added a pinch of cayenne to start the fiesta in your mouth,” Bob said as Woodruff pushed the bowl gently across the counter.

With pomp and circumstance the three men picked up spoons and tasted their offering.  The short chef with the double chin hummed pleasantly as he ate, while the tall skinny chef in the middle nodded his bald head enthusiastically as he swallowed.  Master Chef Heirnon smile proudly and gave them an approving wink as he set his spoon back on the counter.

“Next we have our eggplant cannelloni…”

“Which we call our eggplanet cannelloni, because it’s out of this world.”

Bob grinned and paused for laughter that did not come.  The judges sat back in their stools and folded their arms.

“Out of this world,” Bob repeated.  “You know, eggplanet, like a different planet.  An eggplanet, like a planet of eggs, not our planet…”

Master Chef Heirnon drew in a deep breath through his nose and shook his head.

“I told you they wouldn’t find that funny,” Woodruff whispered.

“Fine, you were right.  Happy?”

“We’ve stuffed these cannelloni with minced beef, garlic, rosemary, shallots, and of course eggplant,” Woodruff said, ignoring his partner’s failed comedic interlude.

“They are also infused with fresh oregano, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper,” Bob said.  “And a secret ingredient that rhymes with shak’n.”

Bob raised his arms in the air and gyrated his hips from side to side as he bit gently on his lower lip.  Again, the judges stared back, unimpressed, and Master Chef Heirnon buried his head in his hands.

“It’s bacon,” Bob added sheepishly.  “Like, what’s shak’n bacon.”

Woodruff cleared his throat and continued to place the tubes of pasta on the shiny white plate.

“You see we’ve got some nice brown edges on the cannelloni, so we’re going to top it with a béchamel sauce.”

“Just a little nappe to cover the crepe and pull out the flavors inside.”

“Then we take this blow torch and melt the shredded parmesan cheese on top, until matches the brown edges of the cannelloni.”

“I call this cautting the cheese,” Bob quipped into the void at the opposite end of the counter.  “Cautting the cheese.  Like cauterizing…cautting.  Nothing?  Come on, this is gold.”

“Pardon my associate,” Woodruff said through grit teeth.  “He must be a little under the weather.”

“If by under the weather you mean at the top of my game, then yes, I’m under the weather,” Bob said.  “These guys don’t even deserve this material.  Like they don’t deserve the enhanced tomato sauce and olive oil glaze I whipped up.”

Bob haphazardly sprayed lines of red sauce over the plate of cannelloni as Woodruff forced a smile and offered their dish to the judges.  It was once again met with smiles, nods and hums of approval and Woodruff breathed a sigh of relief while Bob sulked at the end of the counter.

“For our entrée we’ve cubed and braised lamb shank with a spicy cumin dry rub.”

“Dry like your sense of humor.”

“Give it a rest, Bob.”

With a grunt, Bob folded his arms and pouted.

“The rub is a mixture of granulated garlic, cumin, and chili flakes.”

“Chilly like your funny bone,” Bob interrupted.  “Cold and frozen.”

“After marinating the shanks in the spices overnight we skewered them and grilled them over hot coals.”

“Like I skewered and grilled a bunch of stuffy chefs who clearly have forgotten how to laugh.  Hey-o!”

“Monsieur Bob, please,” Master Chef Heirnon pleaded.

“Apologies, Master Chef,” Bob said.  “I’m done, I promise.  We set the whole thing off with a tangy sweet sauce with sesame oil, gochujang, apricot jam, soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, white rice vinegar, and fresh ginger root.”

Meticulously, Bob waved the bottle over the skewers and poured lines of sauce back and forth across the plate.  Woodruff slid the plate across the counter and the chef’s each took up a skewer and began to enjoy, in their customary way.  When they were finished the chefs nodded to each other.  Master Chef Heirnon produced two white aprons from under the counter and walked around to stand between Woodruff and Bob.

“It is with great pride and pleasure that I introduce Monsieur Woodruff and Monsieur Bob as the newest graduates of Le Cordon Bleu Academy and welcome you to the rank of Master Chef.”

Woodruff bowed as he ceremoniously raised the apron strings over his head and around his neck.  Bob knelt to the ground and Master Chef Heirnon gently hung the apron around his neck.  He stood up and took hold of Woodruff and Master Chef Heirnon’s hands and raised them over their heads.

“We did it!”

“Congratulations, I’m proud of you both.  You are the finest students I have ever had and the most naturally gifted flavor curators I have ever known.”

“Thank you Master Chef,” Woodruff said.  “But you haven’t even tried our dessert.”

“There’s more?” the short chubby chef asked with excitement.

“Oh there’s more,” Bob said.  “This is our pièce de résistance.”

“Please may we try it?” the tall bald chef asked.

“May you?” Bob said.  “Mais oui.”

All three judges burst out laughing.  The tall bald chef doubled over and lost his hat, while Master Chef Heirnon and the short chubby one slapped one another on the back as tears streamed down their faces.  Bob nodded proudly.

“I knew I’d get ‘em, eventually.”

Woodruff pulled a silver dome from under the counter and the judges all fell silent.  He placed the dome-covered platter at the center of the counter.  With eager expressions the chefs eyed the silver shield that veiled the mystery of the promised masterpiece.

“This is why we are here.”

“This is what we came here to do.”

Together, Woodruff and Bob uncovered the platter to reveal two ordinary pieces of white bread stacked on top of one another.

“What is this?” Master Chef Heirnon questioned.

“A sandwich?” the short chubby chef said indignantly.

“Not just any sandwich,” Woodruff said.

“The perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Bob said.

“I don’t understand.”

“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the most versatile food of all time,” Woodruff explained.

“You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” Bob added.  “And now we’re bringing it to dessert.”

“We call it PB&J All Day.”

“You can eat it whenever you want to satisfy any appetite or craving.”

The judges eyed the sandwich skeptically.

“We’ve hand-ground unsalted peanuts, added honey, palm oil, hazelnuts, and Himalayan salt,” Woodruff said.

“The hand-ground peanuts give it both a crunchy feel in a creamy delivery,” Bob said.  “The strawberry jelly was imported from a family owned strawberry patch in Wisconsin and is naturally in fused with cheddar cheese fumes from the nearby dairy farm.”

Master Chef Heirnon picked up the PB&J and hesitantly took a bite.  A smile exploded across his face and he quickly offered the sandwich to his colleagues.  In a matter of seconds the chefs had consumed the peanut butter and jelly goodness, down to the last crumb.

“That was amazing!”

“Stupendous!”

“Transcendent!”

“We know,” Bob said.

“Thank you,” Woodruff added.

“How did you make this bread?”

“Oh that,” Bob said.  “It’s just Wonder Bread we got at the groceries store.”

“You can’t improve on that,” Woodruff said.

“No you cannot.”

“Well, we’ll see you all later.”

“Wait,” Master Chef Heirnon said.  “Where are you going?”

“Home, I guess.”

“But you are master chefs now.”

“Yeah, and that’ way cool, but after you make the perfect PB&J there’s really nothing left to do.”

“See ya when we see ya,” Bob said.  “Thanks for the aprons.”

“Jusqu’à ce qu’on se revoie,” Woodruff said.

The chefs sat in stunned silence as Woodruff and Bob exited the kitchen.  Master Chef Heirnon removed his toque blanche and hung his head.

“There goes the greatest chefs the world will never know.”

Woodruff folded his apron in half and draped it over his shoulder as they stepped out onto the Parisian cobblestone streets.  Bob flung his apron over his shoulder like a cape.

“Those guys were nice.”

“Terrible sense of humors, though.”

“You know what I’m craving right now?”

“The perfect PB&J?”

Bob produced two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the fold of his white double-breasted jacket.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Woodruff.”

“I was talking to the sandwich.”

“Oh, uh, me too.”

“You named your sandwich Woodruff?”

“I name all my food Woodruff.”

“That’s disturbing.”

“Not as disturbing as finding a guy singing to his pan flute on a gondola in Venice.”

“You said we’d never speak of that again.”

“So then I guess we have seven things we’ll never speak of again.  Deal?”

“Deal.”

Not My Jam

“I’m so excited!”

“Me too!”

“Do you think we’ll get to see Bigfoot?”

“The guy who sold me the tickets guaranteed it.”

“Woodruff, this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened.”

“Totally.  And I can cross ‘Meet a legendary creature’ off my bucket list.”

“I thought we did that when we went parasailing with The Rock.”

“I’ve told you fifty times, that wasn’t The Rock, that guy’s name was Dwayne.”

“He looked EXACTLY like him though,” Bob said.  “And he smiled just like him when you told him he should get a job as a stunt double for The Rock.”

“Yeah, but then he made that unsolicited hotel recommendation,” Woodruff replied.

“We never did find the Smackdown Hotel.”

“I don’t think it exists.”

A rusty pickup truck, with no muffler, rattled by them and billowed exhaust fumes all over sidewalk.  Woodruff and Bob coughed and choked on the toxic black cloud.  Bob placed his hand protectively over the basket he was carrying.

“Ew, that stinks.”

“I hope he’s not going anywhere near the jam.”

“So what’s a monster jam like, anyway?” Bob asked.  “Is it like a party or a convention?  Or are the monsters just really enthusiastic about jam?”

“I’m not sure,” Woodruff said.  “The tickets just say Monster Jam presented by Talking Stick Resort.  The poster I saw mentioned Bigfoot, Monster Mutt, Zombie, and Grave Digger.”

“Do you think Grave Digger is a monster or does he excavate monsters?”

“Good question.  I’ve never heard of him.  Maybe he’s a monster sidekick.”

Woodruff and Bob crossed the street, toward the arena with a colorful digital billboard flashing Monster Jam.  They joined the back of a line that led through the ticketing gate.  The group of men in front of them wore greasy old ball caps with black and white checkered bills.  Several people in line were carrying old flags with different monster names.  The man closest to them turned around with his nostrils flaring, above his bushy mustache, and sniffed at Bob.

“What is that smell?”

“Oh, those are my mullets,” Bob responded.  He lifted the lid on the basket he was carrying to reveal a small tank of water inside, with dozens of silver and orange fish swimming frantically from side to side.

“Why did you bring fish to the Monster Jam?” the man asked as he plugged his nose.

“The dude who sold Woodruff the tickets said we’d better get mullets.”

“We Googled it and couldn’t decide if he meant the fish or the haircut,” Woodruff explained.  “So Bob brought the fish and I got the haircut.”

Woodruff removed his furry brown hat, with googly eyes, to show his new hairdo.

“We’re not sure if the monsters are going to eat the fish or if they just like them” Bob said.  “Or if they find this hairstyle appealing.  We just want to make them happy, whatever the case.”

“That ain’t no mullet,” the man said, and spit a wad of chew on the ground.

“The interwebs said it is a hair style that is short on the sides,” Woodruff replied.

“Well yeah, but that ain’t it,” the man said.  He turned to his friends and cupped his hands over his mouth.  “Hey Hank, take off your lid!”

A tall skinny young man removed his greasy ball cap and spun around.  Long luscious locks blew behind him in the breeze and flowed up to a tight crew cut.

“That’s a mullet, business in the front, party in the back,” the man said.  “What ya got there is a Mohawk.”

“Do you think Bigfoot will be offended?” Bob asked.

“I don’t know ‘bout that,” the man said.  “But ya can’t bring pets or food into the arena.”

The man glanced down toward Bob’s basket of fish.  Bob closed the lid and held the basket behind his back as they approached the security gate.  The group in front of them, which included the man with the bushy mustache and the tall, skinny, mulleted young man, passed through the metal detectors.

“What do we do?” Bob whispered back to Woodruff.

“Uh, dunno,” Woodruff replied.  “Ditch the fish in the bushes and we’ll get them on the way out.”

“And go in mulletless?” Bob asked.  “Are you crazy?”

“We have no choice,” Woodruff said.  “Be cool.”

Bob quickly stashed the basket in the large potted bush next to the security gate and passed through with his hands in the air.  Woodruff removed his belt and placed it on the table, as he followed Bob through the metal detector.  The hulking security guard eyed them suspiciously but did not stop them.  With forced smiles, Woodruff and Bob shuffled away from the security gate into the arena.

“That was close.”

“Tell me about it.”

“I just did.”

Sounds of revved up engines echoed through the halls of the pavilion as Woodruff and Bob approached the center of the arena.

“Are the monsters going to be driving cars?”

“Uh, I think the monsters are the cars.”

Woodruff pointed down at a black and green truck with Grave Digger written in red and white.  Grave Digger jumped off a dirt ramp and drove over a row of smashed up cars.  The crowd cheered and yelled as the truck’s massive tires peeled through the dirt and mud on the course.

“Look, there’s Bigfoot,” Woodruff said, pointing to a giant blue truck with big black tires and Bigfoot written on the side.

“Well that’s disappointing.”

“You’re telling me, I shaved my head for this.”

“What are we gonna do with all those fish?”

“We could open an aquarium.”

“In this economy?”

“Good point.”

Woodruff and Bob stood in the tunnel that led into the arena and watched oversized truck after oversized truck jump and smash their way through the muddy course.

“This is worse than that time we thought we met The Rock.”

“I still say that was The Rock.”

Bob sighed deeply and Woodruff’s head slumped forward.

“You ready to go?”

“Yeah, let’s bounce.”

“Bounce what?”

“It’s an expression.”

“Meaning what?”

“To leave, depart, or exit.”

“Then why didn’t you just say that?”

“Why would I say that?”

“No, not that,” Woodruff said.  “Say let’s leave.”

“I thought I did.”

A voice on the loud speakers said, “Boys and Girls, brace yourself for Robosaurus!”

“That sounds promising,” Bob said.

A forty-foot tall dinosaur-shaped metal beast rolled out onto the dirt track, spewing flames from its nose.  It picked up a car with two hands and crushed it in its massive jaws.

“Okay, that was amazing.”

“Now we’re talking.”

“We’ve been talking.”

“It’s an expression.”

“I don’t get you.”

“Do you want to go down and meet the dino-flamy thing or not.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.”

“Um, what?”

“It’s an expression,” Woodruff said.

Bob shrugged his shoulders and they merrily pranced down the stairs toward the giant flame throwing monster.

“Do you think it likes mullets?”

The Greatest Snowman

“A nervous hush has fallen over this crowd as we wait for two revolutionaries to take the ice.”

“Two revolutionaries and a snowman.”

“Right you are, Barbara, don’t discount that snowman.”

“Chuck, I haven’t been this excited since I found out Mylie Cyrus wears spanx.”

“The tension in the air is palpable, just one skate standing between an unlikely duo and history.”

“They’ve already made history, Chuck, they literally invented the sport.  And here they are representing their country on the world stage.”

“It gives you goosebumps.”

A rolling wave of voices rose from the grandstands and swelled into shouts and cheers.

“Speaking of goosebumps, here they come!”

“Can you feel that crowd!  This is what they came to see!”

“Barbara, you know I don’t like hyperbole, but this moment right here has got to be the greatest in Olympic history.”

“No question, Chuck.  Woodruff and Bob have lit this stadium on fire.”

“Ooh, watch out, the ice might start to melt.”

“I meant figuratively, Chuck, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”

“I certainly would not,” the announcer chuckled.

“Let’s just watch quietly as these two visionaries glide majestically to the center of the rink.”

“I’m trying to, if you would shut your yapper for a minute.”

Barbara cackled uncontrollably before composing herself after a violent snort.

“But seriously, the gravity of this moment is not lost on anyone.  We are witnessing the coronation of the first ever Snowling Olympic Champions.”

“Should we explain Snowling, for the uninitiated in our audience?”

“You mean those living under a rock?”

“Oh behave,” Barbara said.  “Snowling is a test of snowmanning with a hybrid twist of speed skating, ice dancing, and curling.  It is the ultimate winter Olympic sport and we owe it all to these men circling the rink right now.”

“Woodruff and Bob pitched the idea to the IOC just a few months ago and it was unanimously voted into the games.”

“And throughout the prelims it has been the highest rated program on television.”

“Capturing the hearts and imaginations of the world.”

A muffled voice sounded in the distance, on the public announcement system in the arena, which was nearly inaudible except for the last three words, Woodruff and Bob.  The crowd swelled with a fresh round a cheers and then feel completely silent.

“Here we go, the long anticipated moment,” Chuck said.  “Woodruff and Bob set up in their usual positions at opposite ends of the snow pile.”

“They told me yesterday that it helps them mentally focus their energy on the snow.”

The blow of a horn through the speakers echoed in the arena.

“And they’re off, look at that speed and precision.”

“This is the patented Newtofski Method, or stack and pack.  Woodruff stacks the snow and Bob packs it into a sphere.”

“It’s like getting to see Michelangelo carve David out of a marble slab.”

“Only with fifty million people watching.”

“Exactly!  They’ve already formed the base with just over thirty second elapsed.”

“They’re well ahead of their own world record pace.”

“It feels like they set a new record every time out.”

“Because they do!”

“The torso is complete and Woodruff has started the stack for the head.”

“And Bob is packing!”

“They brought coal with them from Virginia and Pennsylvania, which they mined themselves specifically for these games.”

“And unlike the Russia’s, who were disqualified for using enlarged coal, Woodruff and Bob bring out the personality of the snowman with placement, not size.”

“The carrots are locally grown giving it that international relations touch that they are known for.”

“You couldn’t ask for better ambassadors of goodwill than Woodruff and Bob.”

“The face is set and Woodruff is applying the arms.”

“Bob just produced a red, white, and blue scarf from his pocket!”

“He’s swaddle the neck of the snowman!”

“Incredible!”

“No rules against that.”

“Nor should there be.”

“Guiding their masterpiece by the limbs they flow effortlessly into the free skate.”

“They have two huge techniques before they show us that world class speed.”

“The first comes right here, triple snowcow into a double toe loop, right into a camel spin!”

“Whoah!”

“Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!”

“And the snowman never left the ground.”

“Which is critical if it’s going hold together until the slide.”

“No question.”

“Here comes the quadruple lutz into an upright spin.”

“They bring the snowman with them on this adventure.”

“Beautiful.”

“Gorgeous.”

“They absolutely nailed it!”

“This crowd doesn’t know whether to cheer or cry.”

“I’m doing both.”

“Now they really bring the heat.”

“Two full laps around the arena with their snowman in tow.”

“Woodruff and Bob use the fireman carry, hoisting their snowman off the ice and cradling it between them.  Bob said sometimes it feels like the snowman it carrying them.”

“Woodruff told me that what speed they lose to wind resistance they make up for with the lack of friction.”

“There’s no arguing with the results.  Coming around the final turn they are WAY ahead of their record pace!”

“Watch how effortlessly they set up for the slide.”

“They rest the snowman back on the ice like it never left.  Bob eyeballs the target and glides the snowman in the right direction while Woodruff adjusts the speed with the brush.”

“They are like the Simon and Garfunkel of Snowling.”

“It’s heading straight for the house!”

“This is it!”

“They’ve done it!”

“Perfection!”

“This is what Snowling is all about.”

“A picture perfect finish for a picture perfect snowman.”

“The Greatest Snowman!”

“A new Olympic record, a new world record and the first ever Snowling gold medal!”

“It’s only fitting that it goes to the fathers of Snowling.”

“You’ve got that right, Barbara!  Listen to this crowd!”

Chants of Woodruff and Bob and U-S-A reverberate throughout the arena.

“This is a night none of us will ever forget.”

“Let’s go down to Melissa who is rink side with the new champions.”

“Thanks Chuck, tell me Bob, how does Olympic gold medalist sound?”

“Oh wow, Melissa, I just can’t even put it in words.  I mean we never thought we’d be here.  And now…it’s amazing.”

“Woodruff, can you talk about all the build up to this moment?”

“Well, we’ve trained so hard to get here.  We knew we’d be facing the greatest snowlers in the world and we’d need to bring our A game.  I’m so grateful for this guy right here.  I couldn’t have done it without him.  And I wouldn’t have wanted to.”

“You give each snowman a name, tell me, what did you name your gold medal snowman.”

“Herbert.  We named him after Woodruff’s Uncle Herb.  He’s watching from the hospital right now after his third appendectomy.”

“They just keep growing back, but he’s a fighter.  He’s gonna beat this.  Love you, Uncle Herb.”

“Well, on behalf of Uncle Herb, the United States, and the world, thank you for blessing us with a performance we’ll never forget.”

“Thank you Melissa, and THANK YOU AMERICA!”

“Go USA!”

Lost Dog

“Do you hear that?”

“What?”

“A phone,” Bob said.  “A phone is ringing.”

“A phone?” Woodruff asked.  “A phone from where?”

“A phone, a phone is ringing.”

“You just said that sentence double.”

“I just said that sentence double?”

“You just said that sentence double, right there.”

“Ooh!” Bob exclaimed.  “It’s a baby dog, stuck in a log.”

“You mean a puppy?”

“Stuck in a log.”

“This is serious!”

“We have to help him.”

“Let’s save the puppy.”

“Let’s save the doggy.”

“We’ll save the puppy.”

Woodruff and Bob jogged over to the log and rolled the dog over on its hind legs.  The little black and brown tail wagged back and forth in the air.

“I’m Woodruff.”

“I’m Bob.”

“And who are you?”

“You’re a wonderful pet.”

“And we’ll help you.”

Woodruff knelt down and scratched the dog’s backside while Bob stood back and scratched at his own head thoughtfully.

“What’s gonna work?”

Woodruff took hold of the log and presented the tail end of the dog to Bob.

“Teamwork!”

Bob gently grabbed the dog by the haunches and they pulled in opposite directions.  The black and brown brindled dog slipped free from the log and the three of them fell to the ground.  Bob held fast to the puppy, who licked his face vigorously.

“Well this is a friendly little guy,” Bob chuckled.

“Very licky,” Woodruff replied.

“Whoah!” Bob yelled and pointed in the air.  “Look at that!”

“Look at what?” Woodruff said, as he turned around to see a giant oak tree.

“I just saw a Frisbee with a sail and blue wheels fly in from the sky!  It looked like a tiny flying boat.”

“A flyboat?”

“No, a flying boat.”

“Is this like the time you swore you saw a UFO?”

“First of all, a Nerf football and a UFO look remarkably similar at dusk, and second, this is nothing like that.”

Woodruff shook his head and walked over to scratch the puppy behind the ears.  After he was licked thoroughly by its little pink tongue, Woodruff wiped his hands on his pants.

“He’s got no tags, and no collar.”

“Can we keep him?”

“He probably has a family that misses him.”

“Woodruff!  Look at that!”

Bob pointed back by the tree and Woodruff spun around to see a turtle, a guinea pig, and a duck walking out from behind the trunk.

“Are they wearing hats?”

“Uh huh, and capes too.”

“Good eye, Bob.”

“Now do you believe me?”

“Wait, are you saying that a guinea pig, a turtle, and a duck flew here on a Frisbee?”

“Uh, they’re wearing capes and the duck has a pilot’s helmet, who else would be flying a Frisbee with wheels.”

The caped critters made their way over to Woodruff, Bob, and the rescued puppy.  They squeaked and quacked at the black and brown fuzzball, who cocked his head sideways and looked at the curious newcomers.

“You think they’re here to help.”

“To help the baby doggy, and save the day?”

“You mean the puppy.”

There was a loud bark from the other side of the grassy hill beside them.  The puppy yelped back and a black dog with pointy ears came trotting over the hill.

“I think it’s his mommy,” Woodruff said.

The young dog leapt out of Bob’s arms and hurried to reunite with the black dog with pointy ears.  They sniffed and licked each other before prancing back to Woodruff and Bob.

“We saved the puppy!”

“We saved the puppy.”

“We saved the puppy,” Bob grinned as he pet the pooches.

After a few licks of gratitude the dogs turned their attention to the caped critters at their feet.  The puppy sniffed at the guinea pig as his mother sniffed at the turtle.  All at once the puppy scooped up the guinea pig in his mouth and shook it side to side.  His mother chomped down on the turtle’s shell and similarly shook it around.  As the two dogs trotted away with their new friends in their jaws, the duck quickly waddled back behind the tree.

Woodruff stood up and brushed his hands together and Bob wiped at the dog hairs on his shorts, as they watched the dogs dance merrily over the hill.

“You know, they’re not too big.”

“And they’re not too tough.”

“Going from hero to chew toy has got to be rough.”

“Where do you think that duck went?”

“To the flyboat?”

A red Frisbee with a pinstriped sail and blue wheels flew up into the sky.

“To the flyboat.”

“Sorry I doubted you.”

“No worries, I kinda thought I was seeing things too.”

“What do you suppose powers that little ship?”

“And how did they learn to fly?”

“Well, it is a duck.”

“Good point.”

Woodruff and Bob strolled up the hill in the direction the dogs disappeared.  A tiny blue cape floated between them on the breeze.

“You think we should save the guinea pig?” Woodruff asked.

“Save the guinea pig?”

“Save the guinea pig.”

“Nah, I’m sure they’re just playing with it.”

“You’re probably right.”

They stepped over a tiny red cape, lying in the grass and caught sight of the mom and her brindled baby in the distance.

“I just had a great idea for a band name,” Bob said.

“What’s that?” Woodruff asked.

“Lost Dog,” Bob replied.  “That way you get free advertising when people put up lost dog fliers.”

“Genius!” Woodruff said.  “Ooh, or Help Wanted.”

“Perfect!” Bob said.  “Or We Buy Houses, Ca$h.”

“Or Free Debt Counseling.”

“Or Yard Sale.”

“Garage Sale would work too.”

“Totally, how is there not already a garage band name Garage Sale.”

“I don’t know!”

“These are million dollar ideas!”

“I know!”

“We should celebrate!”

“This calls for some celery!”

“What?” Bob said with a scrunched up expression.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Woodruff said.

The sound of dogs barking in the distance floated on the breeze as Woodruff and Bob turned and headed toward the pond.  They walked in silence for several minutes as the barking slowly trailed off.

“Was that turtle wearing aqua socks?”

“I think he was.”

“Bizarre.”

“Totally.”

This Mean This

Woodruff crouched next to Bob in a muddy wash, the roots of a mighty tree jutted out of the ground between them.  They fought, in vain, against their panting breaths as quietly as they could.  Woodruff’s hair was matted to his head in a sweaty mess, while Bob’s face and neck was covered with mud and grass.

“Just leave me, Bob, I’m not going to make it.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It just all went wrong.”

“I know.”

“It’s my fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

Bob slowly peeked over the berm behind them, out at the deathly still field that stretched out to a distance tree line.  He slumped back down and closed his eyes.

“Did you see anything?”

“Nothing.”

“We’re in trouble.”

“Yeah.”

The acknowledgement of the cold hard truth hung in the air.

“Bob?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m scared.”

“How’s your leg?” Bob asked, unable to speak his own fear.

“I’ll live, I think.”

Woodruff lifted his bloody leg out of the sludge, his pant leg torn right down the middle to reveal the painful gash.

“Can you run?”

“I’m not sure.”

Bob grimaced and turned himself around to face the protective wall of grass and black clay.  He stretched his neck up and peered out over the field.  There was no sound and nothing moved outside of the blades of grass shaking slightly on the breeze.

“I don’t see them anywhere.”

“They’re out there.”

“Maybe they left.”

“Why would they do that?” Woodruff demanded, with his attention on his wound.

“I don’t know,” Bob replied.  “It’s 4:30, maybe they went home to watch People’s Court.”

“Yeah, Bob, I’m sure that killing machines, bred for stealth and destruction, paused from their ongoing mission to annihilate mankind to watch People’s Court.”

“It’s riveting television, that’s all I’m saying.”

“We need to focus, or neither of us is going to make it out of this alive.”

“You’re right, we need a plan.”

“Maybe we could wait them out,” Woodruff suggested.  “It will be dark soon, we could try to sneak out under the cover of night.”

“No good,” Bob said.  “If we move they’ll be able to sense the tremors of our footsteps on the ground.”

“What if we lure them out?”

“Are you crazy?  That’s like challenging Mike Tyson to a game of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.”

“Is Mike Tyson good at Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots?”

“I assume.”

Woodruff shrugged and nodded along.  Bob drew in a deep breath through his nose and sighed.

“We’ve only got one choice.”

“Surrender.”

“No!” Bob exclaimed.  “An all-out frontal assault, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style.”

“Don’t they die?” Woodruff asked.

“The freeze frame finale is unclear.”

“Which one of us is Butch Cassidy and which one is the Sundance Kid?”

“I’m clearly Butch Cassidy.”

“Even though I called dibs on young Paul Newman if my life story is ever made into a movie.”

“How would that even be possible?” Bob asked.  “He died, like ten years ago.”

“CGI,” Woodruff replied.  “They did it with Peter Cushing, with Jeff Bridges, they’ve been doing it with Rob Lowe for years.”

“Fine, you can be Butch Cassidy.”

“Alright then, it’s settled.  Kill or be killed.”

“If I’m going to bite the dust, I’m glad it’s with you.”

“Me too,” Woodruff said.  “It’s been an absolute pleasure, like our super bowl party.”

“Those bowls were super.”

“And soup-er.”

“My favorite was the stainless steel punch bowl.”

“Don’t forget about the finger bowls.”

“Or the spice bowls.”

“Never forget the spice bowls.”

“Woodruff, it’s been an honor.”

He shined a smile on Bob, as tears pooled in the corners of his eyes.

“On 3,” Woodruff said, clearing a tickle in his throat.  “1, 2…”

“Wait, is it go on 3 or 1, 2, 3, go?”

“Doesn’t matter, pick one.”

“Fine, let’s go on 3.”

“All right, 1, 2…”

“I changed my mind, 3 and then go.”

“Okay,” Woodruff drew in a deep breath and scowled at Bob.  “1, 2…”

“What if we count down from 10?”

“Bob, you’re stalling.”

“I’m not stalling, I’m…uh, I’m styling?  Stoking?  Staging?”

“What are you two do’n in the ditch?” a raspy voice called from above them.

Woodruff and Bob looked up at a scrawny old man in a straw hat and a pair of bib overalls.

“Get down, Farmer Brown,” Woodruff said.

“Hey, that rhymed,” Bob’s voice chimed.

“What happened to your leg?” Farmer Brown asked, as he climbed down into the ditch.

“Stepped in one of their holes as we were escaping,” Woodruff explained.

“Escaping?” the farmer asked.  “Escaping what?”

“Them,” Bob said and pointed toward the open field.

Farmer Brown lifted his straw hat and scratched at his thin gray hair as he looked out over the field.  He pursed his lips and shook his head, as he turned back to Woodruff and Bob.

“I hired you boys ‘cause ya said you could git rid of my problem.”

“They proved more ferocious than anticipated,” Woodruff replied.

“They’re gophers,” the farmer sighed.

“Ferocious gophers,” Bob added.

“We tried playing music, because gophers don’t like loud noises,” Woodruff said.

“Who told ya that?”

“Wikihow,” Bob replied.  “But they must not be Fleetwood Mac fans because it just made them angry.”

“It ain’t that hard, ya goobers,” Farmer Brown said, as he shook a burlap sack in the air.  “Ya just get some dog droppings and put them ‘round their holes.  They’ll bugger off if they think there’s a predator about.”

“Dog droppings?”

“But we don’t have a dog?”

“Well, most any critter would do,” Farmer Brown said.

“You know, they may not be leaving because they think there’s a predator,” Woodruff said.  “Maybe they’re leaving because you put poo on their doorstep.”

“That’s why Uncle Charles left us.”

“I thought you said your Uncle Charles died?”

“He did,” Bob said.  “He slipped on a frozen turd on the doormat.”

“I can’t believe ya’ll wasted a whole morning on foolishness.”

“That’s nothing,” Woodruff replied.  “We once wasted a weekend on malarkey and hogwash.”

“Haha, yeah,” Bob said.  “Who knew lemmings were such followers?”

“That’s it,” Farmer Brown said.  He took off his straw hat and hurled it down into the mud.  “I’ll take care of these varmints myself.”

With the burlap sack in one hand, the old farmer took hold of the tree roots on climbed up out of the ditch.

“Be careful,” Woodruff said.  “They’re really riled up.”

“Shoulda known when they asked to be paid with pie,” the old farmer muttered.

He shook his head and disappeared over the grassy berm.  Woodruff and Bob waited anxiously for sounds of conflict.  After several minutes of silence, they heard the pounding footsteps of the old farmer and the chatter of an army of ground dwelling rodents in the distance.  Farmer Brown came tumbling back into the ditch with his overalls covered in dog droppings.  Bob plugged his nose and Woodruff held his breath.

“This means war,” Farmer Brown said.

“No it doesn’t,” Bob said.  “This means this.”

“What are you blabbering about?” the old farmer demanded.

“This doesn’t mean war,” Bob replied.  “War is a state of open armed conflict between two hostile groups.”

“He’s right,” Woodruff said.  “This is used to identify a specify thing or a situation just mentioned.  This cannot mean war, this means this.”

The old farmer’s mouth fell open and he looked above Woodruff and Bob with terror in his eyes.  They turned around to see a gopher standing atop the berm with a menacing expression on his furry face and a turd in his little paw.

“They’re hostile and they’ve armed themselves!” Woodruff yelled.

“Run for you lives!” Bob shouted, as they turned and scurried out of the ditch.

Nothing But Nest

“Is that the last McGriddle?” Woodruff asked.

Bob dug through the wadded up napkins in the greasy bag, until he found the bottom.  He looked at the breakfast sandwich, wrapped in yellow paper, and then back at Woodruff.  With a solemn nod of his head, Bob confirmed the awful truth.

“I’ll play you for it,” Woodruff said as he waved his putter at Bob.

“Oh, now you want to play golf,” Bob said.  “Two minutes ago you were all ‘You can’t play golf in Central Park, Bob.’  And now…”

“No, I said there’s not golf course in Central Park, Bob.”

“Ba!” Bob scoffed.  “That doesn’t matter.”

“Uh, I think it does.”

“Look at all this grass,”

“And people.”

“And trees.”

“And people.

“It even has water hazards.”

“And people!”

“No problem, before you hit the ball just give one of these,” Bob said as he turned and cupped his hands around his mouth.  “Fore!”

Several pedestrians ducked and look frantically in Bob’s direction.

“Would you knock it off,” Woodruff said.  “You’re going to give somebody a heart attack.”

“You can’t give somebody a heart attack,” Bob said.  “You can cause a heart attack.  I’ve done that.  Six times.”

“You’ve caused six heart attacks?”

“That depends, are we talking strictly about people or are you including raccoons?”

“Let’s include all living things with hearts that can be attacked.”

“Oh, then I’ve cause eight heart attacks.”

Woodruff shook his head at his friend, who sat next to him on the park bench.  Two blonde women jogged by in matching pink outfits and smiled at Woodruff and Bob.  Woodruff waved at the joggers as Bob began to unwrap the McGriddle.

“Hey!” Woodruff protested.

“What?”

“We haven’t decided who gets to eat that.”

“You were serious?”

“Yeah, I’ll play you for it.”

“You know the old adage,” Bob said.  “Never mess with a lumberjack when pancakes and sausage are on the line.”

“But you’re not a lumberjack,” Woodruff replied.

“Ancestry DNA says I’m 0.000017 percent lumberjack.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Your funeral.”

“How is losing a breakfast sandwich my funeral?”

“Have you ever been to a funeral?” Bob said.  “There are zero breakfast sandwiches.”

“True.”

A brisk breeze blew an empty coffee cup down the cobblestone walkway until it lodged between the curb and the bench across from Woodruff and Bob.

“Okay, we’ll go shot for shot until somebody misses,” Bob said.  “I’m going across the cobblestone and into that cup.”

“Deal.”

Bob squinted one eye nearly closed and lined up his put.  He drew in a shallow breath and struck the ball.  It danced across the old stones in the sidewalk and slid right into the cup.

“Boom!  That’s how it’s done!”

“Calm down,” Woodruff said.  “Watch this.”

Woodruff produced a florescent orange golf ball and placed it at his feet.  He surveyed the cup for a moment and checked for passersby before he looked back up at Bob.  With a grin and a wink, Woodruff smacked the orange golf ball, while keeping his eyes on Bob.  The orange blur went shooting across the cobblestone and careened into the Styrofoam cup on top of Bob’s ball.

“Daaaaang, Woodruff!”

“That greasy McGriddle is as good as mine.”

“All right,” Bob said with a bow.  “After you then.”

They let a second pair of joggers pass by and retrieved their golf balls from the cup.  Woodruff hurried up the walkway with Bob on his heels.  They stopped at a fork in the path.  One fork led out to a large pond and the other bent back toward a grassy knoll.  A mischievous smile spread across Woodruff’s face.

“Time to take this game up a notch.”

“I’m ready.”

“Okay, down this path, off that turtle shell, and up into the trash can.”

“No way.”

“Watch.”

Woodruff dropped his ball and hit it before it came to a rest.  The ball raced down the path, straight for the turtle that was resting on the bank of the pond.  There was a loud crack as the ball bounced off the shell and looped back into the trash can.

“Whoa!”

The startled turtle began to retreat into the pond.

“Yeah, the turtle’s leaving!” Bob cried.

“You’d better hurry then.”

“That’s not fair.”

“All’s fair in love and pancakes.”

Bob quickly squatted down and placed his ball on the ground.  He plucked a blade of grass and dropped it gently in front of him to gage the wind.  The turtle had just reached the edge of the water when Bob stood up and whacked the ball down the path.  It slowed in the mud only slightly before striking the turtle shell and popping up and in the trash can.

“Booya!  Beat that!”

“That was impressive.”

“Impressive?  I hit a turtle fleeing into the water.  That’s nearly impossible.”

“Nah, I once shot into a kangaroo’s pouch at a hundred yards, and she was hopping away from a dingo.”

“Why would you shoot a golf ball at a kangaroo hopping away from a dingo?”

“Everyone knows an adult dingo cannot swallow a full sized golf ball,” Woodruff explained.  “She used it as a choking hazard and got away.”

“Clever girl.”

“Your turn.”

After retrieving their golf balls, Bob followed the path that led around the grassy knoll.  He picked a spot just clear of a grouping of large maple trees and held up his fingers to form a square.  Bob peered through his finger square and panned from one end of a long walking bridge to the other.

“Over the bridge, off the park bench, nothing but nest.”

“Let’s see it.”

Bob settled over the tiny white ball and swung his hips from side to side.

“Be the ball,” Bob whispered.

With a deep breath, he closed his eyes and drew back his club.  A swing and a clack sent the golf ball flying into the air over the gothic bridge.  The sound of a ping echoed back under the bridge as the white sphere hit the iron park bench and flew high up into the old maple tree.  It landed softly in an abandon nest of twigs and leaves.

“Nice shot!” Woodruff said.

“Thank you,” Bob replied with a deep bow.

“That’s going to be tough.”

“Tougher than hitting a hopping kangaroo at a hundred yards?”

“No,” Woodruff smiled and dropped his ball in front of him.

“Hey!” a deep voice shouted as Woodruff drew back his club.  Woodruff looked up at the shouting man, who wore a suit that matched his jet black hair.  His swing sent the ball flying toward the man in the suit.  The man ducked and the ball hit the lamp post behind him and flew over the bridge and up into the nest.  “What are you doing?”

“Uh, playing for the last McGriddle,” Bob said.

“And you totally yelled in my back swing.”

“Yeah, uncool.”

“You can’t play golf in Central Park,” the man in the suit protested.  “Your gonna hurt someone.”

“You really should have yelled fore, Woodruff.”

“My bad.”

“You guys are nuts!” the man in the suit waved his arms in disgust and walked back under the bridge.

Woodruff and Bob shrugged their shoulders and wandered into the grass.

“Okay, my shot.”

“Nuh uh, you lost.”

“Did not,” Woodruff argued and pointed up at the old maple tree.  “Nothing but nest.”

“Over the bridge, off the park bench, nothing but nest.  Not over the yelling guy, off the lamp post, over the bridge, nothing but nest.  Doesn’t count.”

“Well last round you hit the mud before you hit the turtle.”

“So we’re both disqualified then.”

“Fine, so who gets that delicious breakfast sandwich?”

Bob looked over at a row of park benches.  An old man, with holes in his shoes, was sleeping under a newspaper.  Bob looked back to Woodruff, who gave an affirming nod.  Gently, Bob nudged the sleeping man with holes in his shoes.  The old man stirred and sat up.  He looked down at the yellow wrapper in Bob’s hand.

“Excuse me, sir,” Bob said.  “Would you hold this for me while I race my friend down to the pond and back?”

Woodruff turned and bolted up the path.

“Winner gets the McGriddle!” Woodruff shouted.

“Cheater!” Bob cried.

The man with holes in his shoes watched as they raced away from him.  When they were out of sight he unwrapped the greasy sandwich and took a bite while he perused his paper.

Raiders of the Last Gardyloo

A white mist covered the top of the waters as the skiff sailed forward.  Even without the fog, their visibility would have been limited by the thick leaves crowding the narrow waterway.  Woodruff leaned over the bow and peered through the haze.

“You ever wonder what they do with the sleeves from sleeveless shirts?” Bob asked, leaning comfortable on the boat’s dormant motor.

“What?”

“The shirt sleeves, what do they do with them?”

“On a sleeveless shirt?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t think they were ever there.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“How come?”

“Because shirts have sleeves.”

“Not sleeveless ones.”

“Sleeveless what?”

“Shirts.”

“Exactly.”

“What are you talking about?”

“What’s the difference between pants and shirts?”

“You where pants to cover your legs and shirts to cover…”

“Your arms, right?”

“And your torso.”

“But your pants could cover your arms and torso.”

“No, there’s no hole for your head, no collar, and the legs aren’t cut to fit your arms.”

“But your shirt could cover your legs?”

“I guess, as long as it had sleeves.”

“Exactly, so a shirt has to have sleeves.”

“I’m not following you, Bob.”

“All’s I’m saying is that if it didn’t have sleeves, ever, it shouldn’t be called a shirt,” Bob replied.  “It should be called a torso covering with arm holes.”

“I’m not going to argue with you,” Woodruff said.

“Because I’m right.”

“Because you’re crazy.”

“You’ve never wondered what happens to the sleeves from a sleeveless shirt?”

“No!”

Bob slumped his shoulders and pouted.  Woodruff shook his head and turned back to the bow.  The gentle sloshing of the water and the distant chirping of insects was the only thing cutting through the silence, which loomed as thick and heavy as the fog.

“We should open a sleeve shelter,” Bob finally said.  “Where we find loving homes for unwanted sleeves.”

Woodruff turned around and opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him.

“We could call it Forsaken Sleeve,” Bob continued.

Woodruff just stared blankly at his friend.

“Our slogan could be Tanks for your chari-Tee.”

Before Woodruff could respond, the skiff crashed into something and flung Woodruff overboard.  The off balanced vessel also tossed Bob into the murky water.

Bob quickly rescued his brown fedora from the drink and swam to Woodruff.  He held his head up out of the water and paddled back to the boat, with Woodruff in tow.  They both grabbed hold of the side of their watercraft and looked to see what had struck it.  Rising out of the mist was an ancient stone wall with green moss growing through the cracks.

“We’re here,” Woodruff said.

“So cool.”

With Woodruff pulling from the bow and Bob pushing from the stern, they followed the stone wall to a grassy bank and climbed ashore.  Woodruff squeegeed his wet pants while Bob shook water to all sides like a dog.  The mist dissipated as they climbed the stone steps that led up the hill, next to the towering wall.

“How do you know it’s here?” Bob asked, as he flopped a sopping wet fedora on his head.

“In the tenth century the Queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem to seek the wisdom of King Solomon,” Woodruff began.  “Her son Menelik is said to be the fruit of that meeting.  The legend says when Menelik left Jerusalem, to return to the country of his mother, he and his party took the ark with them.  It is said to have rested here ever since, guarded by celibate monks who vow to protect the ark for as long as they live.”

“Wow,” Bob said.  “Where did you learn about all that?”

“Wikipedia.”

They were met with a rod iron gate at the top of the hill, where the mist parted and the sun shone down on the structure like a heavenly spotlight.  Beyond the gate was a beautiful garden, surrounding a circular structure made of wood and stone.  A lone figure in a dark robe approached them.

“I am Father Haile Silas,” the man in the dark robe said.  “How may I help you?”

“Hi, I’m Woodruff and this is Bob.”

“We’ve come to see the ark.”

Woodruff shot a reproving look at his over anxious friend.  Bob raised his arms and, with his mouth opened slightly, shook his head back at Woodruff.  The monk stood silently and did not address Bob’s declaration.

“Yeah, um, we…” Woodruff struggled to recover in the face of the hooded gatekeeper.

“You know, the one that was on Indiana Jones,” Bob continued.

Woodruff again turned back to Bob with an earnest non-verbal petition for his silence.

“Do you get movies out here?” Bob asked the monk.  “You know, Doctor Jones.  Adventure archeologist.  The whip, the fedora.  Nazis.  Nothing?”

The monk gently removed his hood and peered at the two visitors.

“I am the guardian of the ark you speak of,” Father Silas said.  “Only those who have been anointed and taken an everlasting oath to protect it are permitted to see the ark.”

“Cool, I’m down.”

“Bob, he’s serious.”

“So am I.  This isn’t our first everlasting oath.  We signed that non-disclosure with Crayola and they don’t mess around when it comes to protecting their color palette.”

“The anointed have been brought up and prepared for the express purpose of bearing this glorious burden, passed down for thousands of years.”

“So that’s a no?”

The monk simply stared back at Bob with a resolute expression on his face.

“Bob, we should go.  Sorry to have disturbed you.”

“You’re giving up, just like that?”

“You heard him, we are not permitted to see it.”

Woodruff turned back to the monk and bowed.

“Again, we are sorry to have disturbed you.”

“Yes, totally.  Sorry to disturb, but could we use your bathroom before we go,” Bob said.  “That wat I had for breakfast is not agreeing with me.  Ya know, curry does a number the old bowels.”

The monk raised an eyebrow and examined Bob carefully.  Woodruff grinned uncomfortably as the trio stood in silence.

“You know, the little explorer’s room?” Bob explained.  “The restroom.  The outhouse.  The water closet.  The powder room.  The John.  The toilet?  The loo?”

After another long pause Father Silas produced an old skeleton key from beneath his robe and unlocked the gate.  He pulled it open and gestured for Woodruff and Bob to enter.  Once inside, the old monk closed and locked the gate and led the way down a small footpath, away from the circular stone church.

“What are you up to?” Woodruff whispered.

“I’ve got a plan,” Bob spoke through grit teeth as he smiled at the monk, who momentarily turned to observe them.  “I’ll distract him and you run over to the church and get a look at the ark.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“Fine,” Bob whispered.  “You distract him and I’ll go.”

“Bob…”

The monk stopped in front of a small wooden structure and gestured into the dark opening.  Bob bowed as he passed by Woodruff and entered the outhouse.  Inside, he discovered a long rectangular window at the back of the facilities.  Bob tossed his fedora through the window and quickly squeezed himself through the opening and let himself down the back side of the outhouse.  There he found the old monk waiting for him, with Woodruff standing off in the distance with his arms folded.

“Oh, uh, yeah, funny story,” Bob stammered, as he scooped up his fedora.  “I was, uh, just…”

“We have guarded the ark for over three thousand years,” Father Silas said.  “You think you’re the first one to try the old bathroom ploy?”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Bob grinned sheepishly and fidgeted with his hat.

Father Silas escorted Woodruff and Bob back to the iron gate and out of the sanctuary.

“Again, so sorry for all this,” Woodruff said.

“Do you have like a gift shop where we can buy a survivor or something,” Bob said.  “You know, just to prove we’ve been here.”

The solemn monk turned, without a word, and began to walk back toward the old church.

“It could be anything really,” Bob said loudly.  “A brochure, a commemorative coin.  The latch of your saddle, the sleeve of your shirt.”

Father Silas turned back and smiled.

“Under these robes we do not wear shirts,” the old monk replied.  “We wear a torso coverings with arm holes.”

“See?” Bob said.  “These monks get it.”