Tag: Aaron Blaylock

ShameWow

“How many times do I have to explain this to you?” Woodruff asked.

“Just one more time, I swear,” Bob said.  “I’ll get it this time.”

“A jackal is more of a scavenger, and a hyena is more of a predator.”

“Yeah, but which one is funnier?”

“What?”

“There are laughing hyenas, are there joking jackals?”

“Are you serious?”

“I just want to know which one I’d rather be stuck on the African plains with, that’s all.”

Woodruff grimaced and folded his arms.  Bob turned his attention back to his magazine and thumbed through pictures of wildlife.  A low hum from the copy machine, behind the receptionist, filled the silence in the tiny front lobby.  Woodruff drummed his fingers thoughtfully on the cardboard box in his lap.

“Say you were on a desert island and you could only pick one animal to be with you,” Bob said.  “What animal would you pick?”

“I don’t know, a dog I guess,” Woodruff said.

“Why a dog?”

“Because dogs are loyal and could keep me company.”

“But then you’d have to feed yourself and the dog,” Bob argued.  “Dogs are notoriously lazy when it comes to feeding themselves.  A cat would be a better choice because they’re more self-sufficient.”

“Fine,” Woodruff conceded.  “A cat then.  And we could share a bird or a mouse for dinner.”

“Uh uh,” Bob shook his head.  “Cats are notoriously stingy.  Kitty doesn’t share.  You’ll have to find your own food.”

“Okay, no cat then,” Woodruff said.  “Uh, I’ll pick a cow.  That way I can get milk and eat it if I have to.”

“You’d pick an edible companion for the island?”

“Yeah, what would you pick?”

“I’d pick a dolphin so he could swim me off the island.”

Woodruff opened his mouth to speak but words failed him.

“Mr. Chucklesworth will see you now,” the dark haired receptionist spoke up from behind the desk.

“Mr. Chucklesworth?” Bob asked with a childish smirk.

“Thank you,” Woodruff replied to the receptionist, ignoring Bob.  He collected his box and walked over to the large glass door.  Bob took hold of the handle and pulled it open.

On the other side of the hall, behind a glass wall, was a distinguished looking gentleman, in a white suit. He was sitting at one end of a long boardroom table.  Woodruff and Bob stepped into the boardroom as the silver-haired man in the white suit stood up to greet them.

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Woodruff said, as he put down the box and shook his hand.  “Thank you for seeing us.”

“Chucklesworth, I presume,” Bob said with a grin.  “Will Ms. Gigglesgood be joining us, or perhaps Sir Chortlemerit?”

“Um, I’m not sure I know who they are,” Mr. Chucklesworth said with a crinkled up forehead.

“Ignore him,” Woodruff said as he shot Bob a scowl.

Bob grinned back at Woodruff and bounced his eyebrows up and down.

“Please, have a seat,” Mr. Chucklesworth said.  “I understand you have a revolutionary idea to share with me.”

“Oh it’s more than an idea, Mr. Chucklesworth,” Woodruff said.  “What’s the biggest fear for modern man?”

“Losing the remote in the couch cushions,” Bob interjected.  “A rogue swan at your dinner party.  Accidentally buying soy milk.  A puppy with the hiccups!”

“Close,” Woodruff said with a point.  “But no.  The worst fear of the modern man is getting a stain on your dress shirt and/or tie.”

“Really?” Mr. Chucklesworth said.

“Imagine you are between meetings and run across the street to get a sandwich from the deli,” Woodruff continued.  “I mean, you’re not going to not get deli mustard.  But what about the danger to your white shirt?  Is it worth the risk?  With our product you never have to eat a mustardless sandwich again.”

Woodruff pulled a blue sheet of shiny plastic looking material out of the box and held it out in front of Mr. Chucklesworth.

“Ta da!” Bob said.  Woodruff swung the narrow end of the tapered sheet around his neck and began to weave it around itself.  “Let’s say you are late for church but haven’t eaten breakfast yet.  Do you go hungry, or risk the dreaded grape jelly stain from your Monte Cristo?  With this bad boy you won’t even give that a second thought.”

Bob patted the shiny blue tie hanging from Woodruff’s neck.

“It’s part bib, part tie,” Woodruff said.

“For the busy clergyman or the bustling career man,” Bob added and poured a bottle of syrup down the front of Woodruff’s shiny covering.  Woodruff pulled a damp rag out of the box without breaking eye contact with Mr. Chucklesworth and wiped the syrup off the bib tie.

“This patented material wipes clean with warm water,” Woodruff said.

“It’s wrinkle free and machine washable,” Bob added as he made a grand sweeping gesture from top to bottom.

“Let’s say you have a business dinner at a BBQ joint,” Woodruff said.

“Or want to enjoy a nice Sunday lobster with your parishioners, but are petrified by Sister Mary Catherine’s nefarious drawn butter,” Bob said, as he pulled a tiny cord dangling from the back of Woodruff’s shirt collar.  The sides of the blue shiny bib tie flared out to twice its original width and covered Woodruff’s entire torso.  “Voila!”

“We’ve got you covered,” Woodruff said as he dumped butter and BBQ sauce on his bib tie while Bob smeared it around.  Then Woodruff removed a pitcher of water from the box and poured it down his front, washing the sauce and butter onto the floor.

“Hey!” Mr. Chucklesworth objected.  “Look what you did.”

“I know, impressive,” Bob said.

“We call it ShameWow,” Woodruff said.

“Or Bob Bibs,” Bob said with a jazz hands.

“No,” Woodruff said.  “We agreed on ShameWow.”

“Fine,” Bob moped.

“That’s awfully close to Shamwow,” Mr. Chucklesworth said.

“Never heard of it,” Bob replied.

“Our product transforms a shame into a wow!” Woodruff continued as Bob flung a handful of noodles and sauce at Woodruff’s chest.  “Spaghetti?”

“We’ve got you covered.”

“Watermelon.”

“We’ve got you covered.”

“Wings.”

“We’ve got you covered.”

“Meat balls.”

“We’ve got you covered.”

“Powdered doughnuts.”

“We’ve got you covered.”

“Ice cream on a hot summer day.”

“We’ve. Got. You. Cover.” Bob said as he hit the bib with a scoop of ice cream with each word.  “And if you act now we’ll throw in these ShameMitts absolutely free.”

Woodruff pulled out a long pair of clear plastic gloves from the box and slipped them on.  Mr. Chucklesworth looked at the floor of the conference room with wide-eyed horror as Woodruff and Bob stood side by side with their arms raised triumphantly over their heads.

“You destroyed my office!” Mr. Chucklesworth shouted.

“But his shirt is still good as new,” Bob said as he lifted up the adult bib.

“How many can we put you down for?” Woodruff asked.

“Get out!” a red-faced Mr. Chucklesworth yelled.

Woodruff and Bob gathered their promotional tools and slipped and slid back into the reception area.

“That was disappointing,” Woodruff said.

“Yeah, he didn’t chuckle at all,” Bob replied.

“Maybe he’s having a bad day.”

“Like the other boss men who threw us out today.”

“And one boss woman.”

“She was so mad.”

“Maybe we should rethink out sales pitch.”

“We just need to find the right fit.”

“I really thought we’d close that sale.”

“I know,” Bob moped.  “Shame.”

“Wow,” Woodruff sighed.

Box of Chicks

“This is not what I had in mind when you asked if I wanted to play XBOX,” Bob said.

“What did you think I was talking about?” Woodruff asked as he placed a tattered cardboard box on the coffee table.

“I thought we were going to play Halo or FIFA World Cup.”

“Oh, you mean XBOX.”

“Yeah, XBOX.”

“I asked if you wanted to play ex-box.”

“That’s what I said, XBOX.”

“No, no, ex-box.”

“XBOX.”

“Ex,” Woodruff paused.  “Box.”

“We’re saying the same thing,” Bob argued.

“No, you’re talking about video games.”

“And you are talking about a ratty old box of scarves.”

“There’s more in here than just scarves,” Woodruff said.  “There’s photos and used wrapping paper, there’s brushes and coyote urine…”

“Why do you have coyote urine?” Bob demanded.

“I dated a javelina wrangler once,” Woodruff said.  “It wards off Gila Monsters.”

“But why is it in a box of scarves and pictures?”

“It’s my ex-box.”

“Don’t say XBOX again.”

“Bob, this is a box of things from my ex-girlfriends,” Woodruff explain.  “It’s my ex-box.”

“Well why didn’t you say so?” Bob said.  “How do you play ex-box, then?”

Woodruff walked over to the fireplace and began to remove the cases of Mello Yello, stacked from top to bottom behind the fireplace screen.  He placed the cases of soda gently on the carpet just beyond the red brick hearth.

“It’s easy,” Woodruff said.  “You just put on Taylor Swift, take out the items of your exes one by one, say something about the relationship and burn the item in the fire.  Then you can move on.”

“Why don’t you just burn the whole box all at once,” Bob said as he stooped down and helped move the last cases of soda from the fireplace.  “It’d be way quicker.”

“That’s not how you play,” Woodruff said.  “You need closure.  You’ve got to give them the proper send off.  Plus, it take two or three T-Swift jams before you find your rhythm.”

“Can you even burn coyote urine?” Bob asked.

“Do you want to play or not?”

“Fine.”

Woodruff loaded split wood and kindling into the fireplace and struck a match.  Bob opened the flue while Woodruff held the match beneath the kindling.  In minutes the flames spread across the kindling and danced merrily on top the stack of wood.

“I’ll go first,” Woodruff said and removed a small vile attached to a necklace.  “Since we’ve covered coyote urine, I’ll start with Maleficent.”

“You dated a girl name Maleficent?” Bob laughed.

“The first rule of ex-box is, no judgement,” Woodruff said.

“Sorry,” Bob said as he covered the grin on his face with his hand.

“You were a wise and cunning hunter, M-Salad,” Woodruff spoke to the vile as he held it over the flames.  “May you find the happiness you deserve.”

He tossed the vile into the fire and it quickly sank out of sight beneath the flames.

“That was beautiful, man,” Bob said, he pulled out a purple and blue scarf from Woodruff’s box and wrapped it around his neck.  Then he dug around and pulled out a picture of Woodruff and a blond girl with dreadlocks smiling on the beach with the ocean behind them.  “Do this one next.”

“Ah, Mary J,” Woodruff smiled.  “We’d probably still be together if that dolphin hadn’t bit off your toe.”

“Did he do it on porpoise?” Bob asked.

“Too soon, Bob,” Woodruff said.

“My bad,” Bob said.  “It felt too soon.”

“Farewell, my little seahorse,” Woodruff said as he cast the picture into the flames.

“So how do you win this game?”

“You empty the box and liberate yourself from the weight of the past.”

“What if you like the weight of the past?”

“Weight is a burden, it slows you down and holds you back.”

“It also anchors you and keeps papers from flying off your desk.”

“Are you saying you don’t want to play?”

“I’m just wondering if it’s wrong to get rid of mementos and memories of those you’ve loved and lost,” Bob said.  “Maybe it’s good to hold on to things that remind you of good times and people you’ve shared them with.  It’s part of the rich tapestry of your life and should be honored, not simply tossed into the flames of farewell with a speech and a goodbye.”

“You want to keep the scarf, don’t you?”

“It’s super comfy on my neck and makes me feel like an old timey fighter pilot.”

“Give me the scarf,” Woodruff demand.

“Fine,” Bob pouted.  “But if I catch a neck cold from the draft in this room it’s all your fault.”

“This scarf belonged to Sam,” Woodruff said as he held it ceremoniously over the fire.  “Her vibrance and beauty is without equal.  She is a shining beacon of kindness and truth.  May her path take her to a place of tranquility and love.”

“Hopefully she won’t need a scarf when she arrives at tranquility and love,” Bob murmured as the scarf went into the flames.

“Okay, it’s your turn,” Woodruff said.

“I don’t know, Woodruff,” Bob grimaced.

“Come on, there’s got to be something you’re hanging on to that’s not good for you,” Woodruff said.  “Some burden you’d like to shake free.”

“There is one thing.”

“Good, go get it.”

Bob stood up, walked down the hallway and disappeared into his room.  Woodruff turned his attention to the fire and watched as the purple and blue scarf burned into ash.  Bob returned with a clay pot in the shape of a swan.  He walked up next to Woodruff and held it out toward the fire.

“Helen, I’m sorry about the wooden horse thing,” Bob said.  “I hope you can forgive me.”

Bob kissed the clay swan and tossed it into the fire.

“Wait a minute,” Woodruff said.  “Helen?  Wooden horse?  The Helen?”

“You know her?”

“The face that launched a thousand ships.”

“She isn’t in the navy, she’s a professional apologizer,” Bob said.  “Her face has stopped a thousand arguments though.”

“A professional apologizer?”

“Yep, she advises couples and corporations how to say they are sorry.  She was impossible to fight with.  It was annoying.”

“And the wooden horse?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

Woodruff and Bob both stared into the fire as the remains of their past relationships were consumed by flame.  Woodruff’s nose crinkled up involuntarily when it encountered an unpleasant aroma.

“Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to burn that vile,” Woodruff said.

“Nah, that’s the clay swan,” Bob said.

“How do you know?”

“Because that’s where I kept her ground asparagus.”

“Ground asparagus?”

“She uses it on her finger gap funk.”

“What?”

“You know, the stink from the gaps between your fingers.”

“That’s not a thing.”

“It is for her.”

“Well those asparagus grounds smell terrible.”

“Not nearly as bad as her finger gaps.”

“Is that why you broke up?”

“Nah, it wasn’t meant to be,” Bob said.  “I’m a Fanilow and she’s a pumpkinomaniac.”

“Pumpkinomanica?” Woodruff asked.

“She compulsively eats pumpkins, even in the spring,” Bob said.  “It’s disturbing.”

“What does that have to do with you being a fan of Barry Manilow?”

“Has Barry ever wrote a song about a pumpkin?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“See?” Bob said.  “Incompatible.”

“Can’t argue with that,” Woodruff replied.

The fire began to die down and Woodruff looked into his empty box.

“What now?” Bob asked.

“I guess we meet someone new and hope their stuff doesn’t end up in the box,” Woodruff said.

“Well alright,” Bob said.  “I’m hungry.  You wanna go get something to eat?”

“Sounds good,” Woodruff said.  “What do you want to eat?”

“Anything but pumpkin.”

“How about a burger?”

“Perfect,” Bob said.  “Hey Woodruff?”

“Yeah Bob,” Woodruff replied.

“You think some of our stuff is in a box somewhere waiting to be burned?”

“That would explain why I have so many unmatched socks.”

Bob nodded his head and Woodruff pulled open the door to the bungalow.

“Bet that’s what happened to my beeswax collection too,” Bob said.

“She can’t burn that, none of it is hers,” Woodruff protested.

World’s Best, Amigo

“Well?” Bob asked.

“Oh my goodness,” Woodruff mumbled with a mouthful of food.

“Yeah?”

“Oh yeah.”

Woodruff picked up a napkin and wiped his mouth.

“Do we need to keep looking?” Bob asked

“Nope, these are them.”

“The best?”

“No doubt.”

Bob did a little dance in his chair and Woodruff pulled a crumpled piece of paper, and a Maximum Red crayon, from his pocket.  He crossed off the next item on the list that read Eat the World’s Best Taco.

“I told you I’d find them for you.”

“How did you find this place?”

“Remember how I told you my uncle lived down in Belize?” Bob began.  “And my mom used to bring me down here in the summers to visit?”

“Yeah,” Woodruff said as he leaned forward eagerly.

“Well, when we were in Des Moines, last week, I saw a flyer in the window of a Mexican restaurant that said Best Tacos in Iowa,” Bob continued.

“Yeah,” Woodruff repeated with a raised eyebrow.

“Well, it was written in Spanish.”

“Yeah?” Woodruff wore a puzzled look on his face.

“And Spanish in the second most common language in Belize,” Bob said.  “And I thought that if a place in Des Moines could have the best tacos in Iowa, then a mostly Spanish speaking country had a way better chance of having the best tacos in the world.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“We flew all the way to Belize because you saw a flyer in Des Moines?”

“A flyer in Spanish.”

Bob nodded and Woodruff shook his head.  Two masked men burst through the front door of the spacious restaurant and fired their guns toward the ceiling.

“Get dung on di ground!” the large man in the black ski mask shouted.

Woodruff and Bob fell from their chairs, like a couple of bowling pins, and joined the other patrons on the floor.

“Oh no,” Bob said.  “It’s a hold up.”

“A hold up?” Woodruff asked.  “At a taco shop?”

“In Belize, tacos are a form of currency.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Have I ever joked about tacos?”

“Yu two, shut it!” the second man in the red ski mask ordered and waved his gun at them.

“You should be careful where you point that,” Woodruff said.  “Statistics show that thirty-six percent of gun fatalities are accidental.”

“If ya don’t shut your mouth, it won’t be an accident, ya overstand?” Red Ski Mask said.

“My friend is just trying to keep you from a lifetime of being haunted,” Bob said.

“You mean haunted by regret, right?” Woodruff asked.

“No,” Bob said.  “If he shoots me, I’m going to haunt him.”

“That’s your go-to move,” Woodruff said.  “Just haunt anyone semi-responsible for your death.”

“Is there another move at that point?”

“You could Christmas Carol him.”

“Sing to him?”

“No, get three spirits to scare him into changing his ways before it’s too late.”

“Oh, you mean Scrooge him.”

“Tor-till-a tor-tee-ya.”

“But where would I find a crippled boy with a heart of gold.”

“My cousin walks with a limp.”

“Dat’s it,” Black Ski Mask interrupted.  “One more word an’ mi ago shoot yu in da face.”

“That’s kind of harsh,” Woodruff said.  “I mean a shot in the leg or the foot would send the proper message.  The face seems a little overkill.  Pardon the pun.”

“Stop uno noise na man!”

The man in the red ski mask jerked Woodruff to his feet and stuck the gun to his forehead.

“I don’t think he pardoned your pun, Woodruff,” Bob said.

“Should have used pun control,” Woodruff grinned down at Bob, with the barrel of the gun still pointed at his head.  “Get it.”

“Good one,” Bob said.  “Very punny.”

“Mi ago kill yu,” Black Ski Mask said, as he pulled Bob to his feet and shoved the gun in his face.

“Puns don’t kill people,” Woodruff said.  “People kill people.”

“You’re on fire,” Bob said.

“The smoking pun,” Woodruff quipped.

“Enough,” Black Ski Mask said.  “Yu two idiots are go’n fi get dead.”

“Woah, pun violence,” Bob said.

“Are yu loco?” Red Ski Mask asked.

Woodruff and Bob giggled.

“Sorry,” Woodruff said.  “We’re just having a little pun.”

“Okay Woodruff,” Bob said.  “I think they’ve had enough.  Put the puns down.”

“All right, we’ll be quiet,” Woodruff said.  “As you were.  Rob the money, or tacos, or taco money.”

“How ‘bout wi tek your money,” Black Ski Mask said.

“Sure thing amigo, the name’s Bob.  And this here is Woodruff.”

The men in the ski masks looked at each other and back at their hostages.

“And you are?” Bob asked.

“Yu don’t need fi know who wi are,” Black Ski Mask said.

“Well I’m not going to give a friend money if I don’t even know his name,” Bob said.

“We’re not friend,” Black Ski Mask said.

“Then I’m not giving you any money,” Bob said as he folded his arms.

A short man with a bushy black mustache walked out of the back room with a plate full of tacos and nervously placed it on the counter near the men in the ski masks.

“Jose, do you know these guys?” Woodruff asked.

“No,” Jose replied and looked down at the ground, as he stepped away from the taco plate.

“Then why are you just giving them your delicious tacos?” Bob asked.

“Shut your face!” Red Ski Mask shouted.

“That’s physically impossible,” Woodruff said.  “He could shut his mouth, or his eyes.  If he used his fingers he could even shut his nose, but not his whole face.  Who’s the idiot now?”

“Just let them take the tacos and they’ll go,” Jose said.

“When they didn’t even say please?” Bob said.  “No way, Jose.”

The man in the black ski mask reached for the taco plate and Bob slapped his hand away.

“Uh uh,” Bob warned.  “Somebody needs to teach you some manners.”

“An’ who’s go’n fi teach us, yu two?”

“If we must,” Woodruff said.

The men in the ski masks lowered their guns and began to laugh.

“An’ how’re yu go’n fi do dat?” Red Ski Mask asked.  “Your unarmed.”

“We could take you down with our bare hands,” Bob said.

The robbers looked at each other and back to Woodruff and Bob.  The man in the red ski mask tossed his gun on the table, followed by the man in the black ski mask.

“Teach me, now,” Black Ski Mask said.

“You asked for it,” Woodruff replied and winked at Bob.

“Hands!” Bob shouted toward the open front door.

A massive brown bear sidled into the restaurant on all fours and unleashed a titanic roar.  The men in the ski masks fell down on the floor and raised their hands over their heads in surrender.

“Meet our bear, Hands,” Woodruff said.

Hands stood up tall on his hind legs and roared again.  The men in the ski masks scurried around the counter and fled out the back of the restaurant.

“I love it when a pun comes together,” Bob said.

“Free tacos for everyone!” Jose cheered.

“Yay,” Woodruff said.  “Come on, Hands, let’s eat.”

Hands meandered up to the table and buried his snout in the plate.  Woodruff and Bob gathered around their furry friend and grabbed tacos that slid to either side of the giant bear.

“Taco ‘bout a party,” Bob said with a grin.

“Puntastic,” Woodruff said.

“You can Jose that again,” Bob added.

Hands lifted his face from the plate with a disappointed grunt.

“Estoy de acuerdo, Oso,” Jose agreed.  “You’re just trying too hard, amigo.”

Ghost Pig

Long shadows waved slowly back and forth across the dark grounds.  Woodruff and Bob lay on their backs in the damp grass and peered up into the starry sky.  A howling breeze whistled through the creaky trees.

“Woodruff, this isn’t a good idea.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t like this.”

“Which part?”

“The part where we lay in a spooky cemetery all night.”

“Stop being a baby.”

“I’m not being a baby!” Bob whisper-yelled.  “A baby doesn’t know enough to be scared of ghouls, ghosts, and zombies!  A baby would just lay here in the dark merrily sucking on its toes and laughing at the moon.”

“Have you ever even met a baby?”

“I was born a baby!”

“Calm down, it’s going to be fine.”

“That’s what people say right before the black guy gets murdered by a crazed elephant trainer or the ditzy blonde gets sucked into a vortex to a demonic department store.”

“What kind of movies have you been watching?”

“I only get the Hallmark channel after eleven o’clock, but that’s not the point.  This is spooky and I don’t like it.”

Woodruff sat up and looked at the pale face of his friend.  Bob pulled the flannel fleece blanket up to his chin and peered out warily at the shadows all around them.

“What happened to wanting to experience everything?”

“Everything except being dragged into the underworld by an undead creature of the night, or being dismembered by a possessed narcoleptic gargoyle.”

“Narcoleptic?”

“They’ve got to have a weakness, otherwise we don’t stand a chance.”

“Don’t stand a chance against a figment of your imagination?”

“Don’t get me started on the dangers of figments.”

“Bob, there are no such things as ghosts, ghouls, zombies, gargoyles or vengeful headless horsemen.”

“Who said anything about headless horsemen?”

“Bob…”

“And what are they vengeful about?”

“Bob…”

“It’s the raccoons isn’t it?” Bob asked.  “They’re in league with horsemen in an unholy alliance.”

“There are no raccoons, Bob” Woodruff began.

“No raccoons!” Bob shouted.  “Now I know you’re lying.  You know, good and well, we fought our way clear of a raccoon ambush in Ottawa just last week.”

“I think those were badgers.”

“Badger is just Canadian for raccoon.”

Woodruff shook his head and rose to his feet.

“I’ll make you a deal,” Woodruff said.  “If you can stick it out until midnight we’ll pack it up and head out.”

“If we live that long,” Bob replied as he sat up and cast furtive looks to all sides.

Soft gray clouds passed in front of the moon and the graveyard was cast in a thick blackness.

“At least we’re safe from werewolves now,” Woodruff quipped.

“Don’t even joke about that,” Bob pleaded.

“Hey, if we’re not going to sleep out here tonight, let’s at least have a look around.”

“You want to walk around a graveyard, at night, on Halloween?  Do you have a cross?  Or a wooden stake or holy water?  Do you even have a banana?”

“A banana?”

“Bananas are terrifying,” Bob said.  “Those potassium packed kamikazes, why do they spoil so quickly?  Reminds you of your own mortality.  Plus they like microwaves putty and taste like the bottom of your foot.  If I were gonna haunt you I wouldn’t go near a banana.”

“Why would you haunt me?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you drug me to a cemetery on Halloween and I died!”

Woodruff turned and started up a sleepy path while Bob quickly gathered up his blanket and followed close behind him.  They passed beneath a tunnel of overlaid oak tree canopies.  Bob hurried to align himself lockstep with Woodruff and flung his flannel blanket over his head to ward off the invisible fiery demons that most certainly made their homes in the old oak trees.  A dark figure emerged from behind a large trunk and shined a light on them.

“Witch!” Bob yelped.

“I ain’t no witch,” a gravelly voice replied.

“Zeke, you scared the dickens out of us,” Woodruff said.

“He scared the Edgar Allen Poe out of me,” Bob said.

“Actually, it’s a common misconception that the expression refers to Charles Dickens,” Zeke stated.  “Dickens is a euphemism for the devil.”

“That’s supposed to make me feel better?” Bob asked.

“Ya’ll shouldn’t be wandering around here on all hallows eve,” Zeke said.  He held up the light so they could see his pot-marked cheeks and scraggily gray beard.

“Thank you, Zeke,” Bob said.  “I’ve been trying to tell him.”

“You’re not spooked by all this Halloween stuff, are you Zeke?” Woodruff asked.  “You’re out here every day.”

“So I knows best what ya’ll should be a fear’n,” Zeke replied.

“And what’s that?” Bob asked with wide eyes.

“They say, hundreds of years ago, this area was overrun by wild boar, thick as the trees,” Zeke began.  “One particularly cold Halloween the settlers of a nearby town raided this here pasture and slaughtered the whole passel.”

“That’s awful,” Woodruff said.

“Awful ain’t the half of it,” Zeke said.  “They rounded up the pigs and skinned them alive to save their blades.”

“Barbaric Bacon, Batman” Bob gasped.

“Indeed,” Zeke replied.  “The dirt is still stained red with their blood, and on dark and lonesome nights you can hear their squeals on the wind.”

“Good Hog,” Woodruff exclaimed.

“You boys keep a sharp eye out tonight,” Zeke warned.  “On the anniversary of their slaughter, the pigs of purgatory are look’n to take revenge on mankind.”

Zeke switch off his flashlight, turned around, and walked into the night.  Woodruff and Bob huddled together trembling beneath the ominous oak trees.

“Woodruff, can w-w-we g-g-g-g-go now,” Bob asked.

“L-l-let’s g-g-get out of here,” Woodruff replied.

They started for the creaky iron gate in front of the cemetery.  There was a rush of wind and a low growl that stopped them dead in their tracks.

“Did you hear that?” Bob asked.

“Hear what?” Woodruff said as he gripped Bob’s arm tightly.  “A terrifying growl on the wind?  No, no I did not.”

“Me neither,” Bob said.  “Let’s run for it anyway.”

“Deal.”

They ran full-tilt toward the front gate and just before they reached the stone archway above it, a phantom shadow of a beast appeared by the wall and snorted.

“Ghost pig!” Woodruff and Bob shouted together as Bob leapt into Woodruff’s arms.  Woodruff ran blindly through the gate with Bob flailing about his shoulders as they passed the porky apparition.  Each of them shouted and squealed like frightened infants in the hysteria and flight.

“Let’s never speak of this,” Bob cried.

“Never,” Woodruff agreed.

“I’m hungry,” Bob said, still cradled in Woodruff’s arms.

“Me too,” Woodruff said, trying to see around Bob as he ran away from the graveyard.  “Are you craving what I’m craving?”

“Bacon?”

“Bacon.”

They hurried off into the night fleeing the perilous peccary in search of precious pork.

Time To Make The Violets

“Bob,” Woodruff said.

With focus and determination, Bob kept his eyes down on an array of colors that passed from right to left.  The hum of motors and mechanisms churned all around them.

“Bob.”

Bob’s hands moved rapidly back and forth with tiny machine-like motions.

“Bob!”

A loud whistle blew and the assembly line stopped moving.

“Break time!” a burly man with a five-o’clock shadow shouted from a small glass office.

Bob immediately halted and joined a line of workers heading for the break room.  Woodruff grabbed him by the arm and pulled Bob out of line.

“Did you not hear me?” Woodruff asked.  “I was calling your name.”

“Sorry, Woodruff,” Bob said.  “I was really in the zone back there.”

“No kidding,” Woodruff said.  “You’ve been going nonstop all shift.”

“Those crayons aren’t going to wrap themselves,” Bob said.

“About that…,” Woodruff began.  “How long are we going to do this?”

“You said you wanted to learn how to make crayons.”

“I said I wondered how crayons were made.”

“Tomato, Clamato.”

“What?”

“Tomato, Clamato,” Bob replied.  “It’s an expression.”

“It’s really not,” Woodruff said.

“Look,” Bob said.  “Want or wonder, you now know how crayons are made.  Hashtag winning.”

Bob tapped his index and middle fingers against his other index and middle fingers.  He filed in the back of the line of workers and walked into the break room.  Woodruff strode beside him rubbing his forehead.

“Okay, but it’s been a week,” Woodruff said.

“Yeah, I know,” Bob said gleefully.  “It’s pay day!”

Bob drilled his index fingers into Woodruff’s ribs and playfully poked him in rapid succession.  Woodruff swatted Bob’s hands away.

“Stop it, Nitwit,” Woodruff objected.

“Why are you so upset?” Bob asked.  “This is the best job.”

“There!” Woodruff shouted.  “That’s why.  I asked an offhand question and now I’m a Quality Control Specialist at a crayon factory.”

“With hard work, and a little luck, you could be a Quality Control Supervisor in a couple years.”

“I’m not going to be a Quality Control Supervisor.”

“Well not with that attitude.”

Woodruff folded his arms and imagined rolling Bob up in a giant brown crayon wrapper.  His fantasy ended in tragedy as Crayon Bob melted all over the passenger seat of his Karmann Ghia.

“I should have cracked a window,” Woodruff sighed.

“What?” Bob asked.

“Nothing,” Woodruff said.  “Can we just go before it gets too hot?”

“But it’s Fred’s birthday and Janet has organized a surprise party after work,” Bob protested.

“Really?” Fred asked excitedly.  The bearded assembly line worker sat at a round table in the break room next to a skinny man in a hairnet and a scowling brunette lady who looked like Miss Gulch.

“Sorry Janet,” Bob apologized sheepishly to the scowling lady.

“Bob, is this how you want to spend your life?” Woodruff asked.

“Crayons are life,” Bob said and pointed to a colorful poster on the breakroom wall with the white inscription.

“That’s Crayola propaganda,” Woodruff said.

“Bob has a gift,” Fred said.

“A gift for ruining surprises,” Janet muttered.

“Get over it already, Janet,” Bob said.  “It’s ancient history.”

“I’ve never seen anybody work as fast and flawless as Bob,” Fred said.  “And I’ve been on the line for 37 years.”

“How old are you?” Woodruff gasped.

“Get a load of this,” Fred said.  He walked over to the kitchenette at the far end of the breakroom and picked up a stack of color swatches from the counter.  Fred held the swatches behind his back and moved to stand directly in front of Bob, like two gunfighters at the OK Corral.  Bob crouched down slightly and squinted his eyes.

“Ready?” Fred asked.

“I was born in a suitable state for an activity, action, or situation,” Bob replied.

One by one Fred began to flash swatch after swatch in front of Bob and quickly discard it on the breakroom floor.

“Blue-violet, Violet, Medium Violet, Royal Purple, Wisteria, Lavender, Vivid Purple, Maximum Purple, Purple Mountain’s Majesty, Fuchsia, Pink Flamingo, Brilliant Rose, Orchid, Plum, Medium Rose, Thistle, Mulberry, Red-Violet, Middle Purple, Magenta, Maximum Red Purple, Wild Strawberry, Cotton Candy, Pink Carnation, Violet-Red!” Bob breathlessly shouted as the last swatch fell to the floor.

The tiny breakroom erupted in applause as Bob doubled over from exhaustion.  Fred turned to Woodruff and threw both hands in the air.  “That’s the entire purple spectrum.”

“Okay, that was scary impressive,” Woodruff said.

“He can’t leave,” Fred said.  “He was born for this.”

Woodruff hung his head.  Bob was still panting for breath, with his hands on his knees.  Woodruff looked around the room at the crayon cult and grimaced.

“I can see that,” Woodruff said.

Bob stood up straight and looked at Woodruff with a big grin.

“I won’t stand in your way,” Woodruff said.  “But I can’t stay.”

“Did you mean to rhyme?” Bob asked.  “And is this because they wouldn’t let you play Silvia on the assembly floor?”

“No,” Woodruff said.  “And you leave Silvia out of this.”

“Don’t go,” Bob said.

“I have to,” Woodruff replied.  “They don’t have a Penny-farthing and you can’t get a decent pineapple falafel for miles.  I’ll never complete my list here.”

“I can’t change your mind?” Bob asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Woodruff said.

“So this is it,” Bob said glumly.

“I guess so,” Woodruff added with a frown.

“It was a heck of a run,” Bob said.

“It sure was,” Woodruff agreed.  He stuck his hand out toward Bob, who batted it to the side and embraced him in a big bear hug.  Woodruff reached up and put an arm around Bob while patting him on the back of his head with his free hand.  Janet grabbed a napkin from the center of the table and dabbed at the tears in her eyes.  Fred sniffled and wiped at his nose.  When the embrace was over, the two friends stepped back away from each other.  Woodruff forced a smile.

“Okay,” Woodruff said.

“Okay,” Bob replied.

Without another word, Woodruff turned and exited the breakroom.  The whistle blew and the factory burst to life as the machines began to chug and churn again.  Woodruff wiped a tear from his eye as he pushed open the heavy metal door under the exit sign.

As he walked across the factory parking lot, a parade of images danced through his mind.  He saw Bob flying through the air over a great white shark on a pair of water skis, then they were dancing with a herd of sloths to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, followed by the time they accidently broke Da Vinci’s prototype time machine in Milan.  Woodruff chuckled when he remembered the look on Da Vinci’s face when the inventor realized he was trapped in the 21st century.

“Priceless,” Woodruff grinned.

Woodruff pulled open the door to his cherry-red Karmann Ghia and slid into the driver’s seat.  When he turned on the car the voice of Celine Dion blared through the radio signing “All By Myself”.  Woodruff put his head on the steering wheel and sighed deeply.

Just then the passenger side door opened and Bob hopped in the car.

“Where to now?” Bob asked.

“What are you doing here?” a startled Woodruff asked.

“We just quit the crayon game.”

“I thought you were staying.”

“You said I couldn’t change your mind.”

“Well what was all that ‘heck of a run’ stuff?”

“A heck of a run at the crayon factory.”

“Then why did you hug me?”

“It felt like a hugging moment.”

“But you were born for the crayon business,” Woodruff said.  “You’re just going to give it up?”

“We’ve got your list to finish,” Bob said.  “Besides, I don’t want to stay in the crayon game too long and end up like Fred.  That guy can’t tell Goldenrod from Dandelion.  It’s embarrassing.”

“And Janet’s surprise birthday cake?”

“I’m pretty sure it was sodium-free.”

“Sodium-free?”

“Sodium’s the new gluten.”

“And pay day?”

“Bazinga,” Bob said as he flashed two envelopes.  “And Dennis said I was welcome back any time.”

“At least we have that as a fall back,” Woodruff said.

“Uh, Dennis said I was welcome back any time,” Bob clarified.

“Ouch,” Woodruff said as he put the car in gear and backed out of the parking spot.

“Maybe if you had taken that Hot Wax Safety Seminar more seriously…” Bob said.

“If finding rainbow colored burns amusing is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right,” Woodruff said.

“So what’s next?” Bob said.

“Well, we’re a half days’ drive from the Canadian border,” Woodruff said.  “You still have that bear bell?”

Bob produced a large brass bell from the backseat and rang it back and forth.  Woodruff grinned as he shifted into drive and burned rubbed out of the parking lot.

A Pocket Full of Danger

“Two noble adventures strode deep into the heart of darkest Africa.  Why would they brave this treacherous continent?  How might their mettle be tested?  What treasure lies in their path?  When will they reach their breaking point?  Who will rescue them from the brink of insanity?  Where in the hedge are they?”

“Are you going to narrate our entire trip?” Woodruff asked.

“It’s likely,” Bob replied.

“A bird flew over Woodruff’s head and nearly pooped on him.  Bob was not worried because of his wicked-sweet Panama hat that Woodruff foolishly mocked.”

“It doesn’t make sense to wear a Panama hat in Africa.  You wear a Panama hat in South America,” Woodruff said.  “And stop talking about yourself in the third person.  And stop using the narratory voice.”

“Bob ignores his foolish friend and presses forward boldly through the dense jungle vegetation.”

“There’s no way of stopping this, is there?” Woodruff said.

“Nope,” Bob replied.

“The dangers of the rain forest are real and ever-present but these elect explorers eat danger for breakfast.”

“You had six waffles and a half can of sardines for breakfast,” Woodruff said.

“Fueled by desire…”

“And sardines,” Woodruff interrupted.

“…these heroes trekked where no one else dared.”

“We literally passed a bus load of tourist from Florida like an hour ago,” Woodruff said.

“Discovery was their byword and Adventure their middle name.”

“Your middle name is Carroll,” Woodruff scoffed.

“That’s a unisex name and everybody knows it, whispered the gallant gentleman explorer.  Undaunted by the naysayers, this valiant voyager led them onward to destiny and to glory.”

“And mosquitoes,” Woodruff said as he swatted at the tiny insects in his face.

“I told you, you should have bribed that mosquito king in Kananga like I did,” Bob replied.  “Haven’t had a bite since.”

“My integrity is worth more than a couple dozen bug bites,” Woodruff said, scratching at his arm vigorously.

“Suit yourself,” Bob said.  “Usiniache mimi peke yake, mdudu!”

The swarm of mosquitoes parted and flew around Bob.  As soon as he passed the swarm surrounded Woodruff.

“You don’t even know what you’re saying,” Woodruff said and swatted at the attacking mosquitoes.

“Like my granddad always said, if it ain’t bit don’t scratch it,” Bob replied.

Woodruff unleashed a torrent of bug spray on the swarm and the mosquitoes fled the humid confines of their dense jungle surroundings.

“He did not say that.”

“Did too.”

“No one has ever said that.”

“Well, Mr. Smarterella, I just did, so there.”

Bob pushed aside a group of thick leaves to reveal a teeny tiny man carrying a bundle of sticks on his head.  At the sight of Woodruff and Bob the little man dropped the bundle and ran back into the jungle.

“An African leprechaun!” Bob shouted.

“It’s a pygmy,” Woodruff correct.

“That’s offensive, Woodruff.”

“A pygmy is a term for an adult who is less than a meter and a half.”

“A meter, a barely know her.”

Woodruff stopped and shook his head.  Several dark little men emerged through the bush, carrying spears.  The tribesman surrounded Woodruff and Bob with the threatening spears pointed up at their torsos.

“Holy Websters!” Bob exclaimed.  He put his hands in the air and Woodruff did the same as they moved to stand back to back.

“Easy there,” Woodruff said.  “Friends.  We’re friends.”

“Of course we’re friends,” Bob said.

“I was talking to them.”

“Oh, right.”

“Unataka nini,” the diminutive leader spoke.  He wore a colorful band on his head and arms.

“What did he say?” Bob asked.

“No idea,” Woodruff replied.  “Try that thing you said to the mosquitoes.”

“Usiniache mimi peke yake, mdudu,” Bob said.

The pygmy warriors began shouting and thrusting their spears at Woodruff and Bob.  Their little faces were contorted in anger as they yelled and spit.

“Take it back,” Woodruff said.  “Say you’re sorry.”

“You’re sorry,” Bob replied.

“Not the time,” Woodruff said.  They dodged the tips of the spears and kept their hands raised in surrender.

“What do we do?” Bob asked.

“Dunno,” Woodruff replied.

“Show ‘em your magic trick,” Bob said.

“What?  Why?” Woodruff replied.

“You got a better idea?” Bob asked.

“Fine,” Woodruff said.  “Does anyone have a quarter?”

The tiny warriors stopped growling and looked at one another.

“Tough crowd.”

“I’ve got a stale Vanilla Wafer from last week.”

“You told me there were no more Vanilla Wafers.”

“Do you want the cookie or not.”

“Fine, give me the wafer.”

Bob reached into the side pocket of his cargo pants and produced a small round cookie.  Woodruff took the cookie and waved it around in the air in a showman like fashion.  He and Bob turned in a synchronized circle so that all the little men could get a look.

“Watch carefully,” Woodruff instructed.

Woodruff brought his free hand over the cookie and quickly separated them to show the warriors his empty hands.  A murmur rolled through the crowd.  Woodruff reached over to the man in the colorful headband and placed his hand behind their leader’s ear.  When he produced the cookie once more and displayed it for all to see, a shout rose up from the shocked audience.

“Tada!” Bob exclaimed.

Woodruff popped the cookie in his mouth and began to chew.

“It’s not stale at all,” Woodruff accused.

“Fine, I always keep cookies in my pockets,” Bob admitted.

“I knew it!” Woodruff said.  “That explains why there’s always crumbs on your shirt.”

“I told you, that’s a dermatological issue.”

“More like a dessertatological issue.”

“Ignoring you!”

The tiny men, who had grouped together and lowered their spears, were watching Woodruff and Bob suspiciously.

“What do we do now?” Woodruff asked out of the corner of his mouth as he gazed down on the half-point hostage-takers.

Bob thought for a moment.  “How about this?”

He pulled a piece of bubble gum from his cookie pocket and popped it in his mouth.  After several seconds of chewing, Bob blew a big pink bubble the size of his fist.  With a dramatic flick he pulled the bubble from his mouth and displayed it for the awestruck onlookers.  Their leader, with the colorful headband, bowed himself to the ground and all his companions followed.  They began chanting something neither Woodruff or Bob could understand.

“What’s happening?” Bob asked.

“I think they’re worshiping us,” Woodruff replied.

“Cool.”

“Maybe.”

“What do you mean, maybe?”

“Well, this could go one of two ways…”

“Go on…”

“Well, either they are worshipping us, like I said,” Woodruff began.  “And we’re going to be taken back to their village, fanned with palm fronds, feast on their bounty and riches, and live out our days as gods.  Or…”

“Or…?” Bob questioned.

“Or they’re praying to a pagan deity who requires human sacrifice,” Woodruff continued.  “And they’re going to take us back to their village, rub us down with wildebeest lard, cook us, and eat us.”

“Oh no.”

“I know.”

“I’m allergic to wildebeest lard.”

“We’ve got to get out of here.”

“I don’t want to be rude,” Bob said.

“Are you kidding me?” Woodruff asked.

“What if we wait to see what lard they’re going to rub us down with first?”

“Bob!”

“Fine.”

“We need a distraction,” Woodruff said as the men rose up from their prostrated position.  The pink bubble gum bubble in Bob’s hand popped and collapsed against his fingers.  Bob hurled it over the sea of tiny heads into the bush.

“Run!” Bob shouted as the men turned to watch the pink blob fly through the air.

Woodruff and Bob turned around and plunged through the thick jungle vegetation.  Woodruff turned around and saw Bob was also looking behind them.

“Are they coming?” Woodruff asked.

“No,” Bob replied.  “And I think their little chief is eating my gum.”

They continued to run for several minutes until they were sure they had traveled to a safe distance.  Woodruff raised his arms up, put his hands on his head and tried to draw in deep breaths.  Bob doubled over and placed his hands on his knees while he panted at the ground.  After their racing hearts calmed, they both turned and looked back the way they had come.

“Our heroic adventures barely escaped with their lives from the menacing jungle horde.  Humbled, wiser but no better looking, because, seriously, how are you gonna improve on this action.”

Woodruff rolled his eyes.  Bob reached into the side pocket of his cargo shorts, pulled out a Vanilla Wafer, popped it in his mouth and began to chew.

“Can I have a cookie?” Woodruff asked.

Bob’s eyes grew big as he sheepishly swallowed the masticated wafer.  “That was my last one.  Scout’s honor.”

He crossed his heart and covered the opening to his cookie pocket with his other hand.

You Can’t Spell Healthy Without Y

“Is heart burn one word or two?” Bob asked.

“Use it in a sentence,” Woodruff replied.

“Three easy ways to tell whether it’s heart burn or heart attack,” Bob read.

“One word,” Woodruff said.  “Is that your article this week?”

“Yep,” Bob said.  “What are you working on?”

“A follow up piece on the squatty potty,” Woodruff said.

“That was riveting stuff,” Bob said.  “Drove a lot of traffic to the site.”

“Everybody poops,” Woodruff said.

“You can say that again.”

“That again.”

Woodruff and Bob busily typed on their laptops at opposite ends of a tiny round table in the nearly empty store.  The walls were lined with thick books with red and black spines.  Behind the counter, a short stocky woman with a wispy mustache flipped through one of the books from off the shelf.

“Carmela, if you felt chest pain that radiated from your chest to your jaw would you think heartburn or heart attack?” Bob asked.

“Heart attack,” Carmela answered.

“See, right there,” Bob said.  “I’m saving lives.”

“Are those symptoms of a heart attack?” Woodruff asked.

“No, it’s probably heartburn.”

“Then, how are you saving lives?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Bob said as he threw his hands in the air.  “We can’t all write about cutting edge toilet innovation.”

“Don’t bring the squatty potty into this,” Woodruff said.

There was a tiny squeak from the white and gray seagull in the corner of the store.

“See?” Bob said.  “Ruth knows what I’m saying.  Salubrious Women dot com is about Women’s Health.  Anybody can use the squatty potty.”

“It was your idea to focus on Women’s Health,” Woodruff said.

“You hear that, Carmela?” Bob said.  “Woodruff doesn’t care about women’s health.”

“I didn’t say that,” Woodruff argued.

“This guy hates women,” Bob shouted to the ceiling as he pointed wildly at Woodruff.

“Who are you shouting to?” Woodruff asked.

“I’m shouting to the world, Woodruff.  I’m shouting to the world,” Bob said with wild-eyes.  “I only did this because you said you wanted to be a world famous writer.”

“I did, I do,” Woodruff said.

“Well congratulations,” Bob said.  “Salubrious Women is the No. 3 nationally syndicated online women’s health blog, among women ages of 65-88 with biweekly posts, on the entire World Wide Web.  World.  Famous.  Writer.”

“But they think my name is Coleen Spencer,” Woodruff said.

“It’s a pseudonym, Woodruff,” Bob said.  “I told you, women want to get health advise from other women.”

“But we’re not women.”

“What’s the difference between men and women?”

“A lot,” Woodruff said.  “Hair, makeup, the propensity to purchase large quantities of shoes, the capacity to bear children, upper body strength, the level of anger over ceilings made of glass, the ability to distinguish between lime-green and chartreuse…”

“Chromosomes,” Bob interrupted.  “The difference between men and women is chromosomes.  Women have two X chromosomes and men have an X and a Y chromosome.  Between us we have two X chromosomes, so together we’re basically a woman.”

“That makes sense.”

“That’s science.”

“Girl power!”

Woodruff and Bob jumped up and high-fived each other while Carmela shook her head.

“Hey ladies,” Carmela said.  “Are you gonna buy something or what?”

“Do you have anything other than encyclopedias?” Bob asked.

“No,” Carmela replied.

“Not to question your business model, but is it a good idea to offer free WiFi at an encyclopedia store?” Woodruff asked.

“That’s it,” Carmela said.  “Out!”

“All right, Carmela,” Bob said.  “Don’t get upset, we’re going.”

Woodruff and Bob grabbed their laptops and headed out the front door.

“What got into her?” Woodruff asked.

“You should read my last post, Cycle or Psycho: Understanding your Menstrual Calendar,” Bob replied.

“Sounds educational,” Woodruff said as they walked down the street.

“I thought so, but Sheila Cruella got a lot of angry comments on that one,” Bob said.  “One of them even called me a charlatan.  I’ve never even been to North Carolina.”

“You should go,” Woodruff said.  “They have the best BBQ.”

“Better than Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Mongolia?” Bob demanded.  “I doubt that.”

“Now I’m hungry,” Woodruff said.

“Me too,” Bob replied.  “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“That Coleen Spencer and Sheila Cruella should tour the world ranking BBQ joints, turning Salubrious Women into Scrumptious Women and providing our readers with our top 100 BBQ recommendations?” Woodruff said.

“Actually, I was thinking we could eat lunch at that Waffle House across the street,” Bob said as he pointed to the black and yellow sign.  “But let’s do your thing instead.”

“When I say it out loud it sounds like a lot of work,” Woodruff said.  “Waffle House is way easier.”

“Totally,” Bob said.  “We should do your thing later though.”

“Then we could follow it up with a book about taking off those BBQ LBS through napping,” Woodruff said.  “We’ll call it Meat, Weigh, Doze.”

“Brilliant,” Bob said.  “I smell a best seller.”

“I think that’s T-bone steak and hash browns,” Woodruff said, with his head tilted and his sniffer pointed at the Waffle House.

“Yep, I think you’re right,” Bob said, sniffing at the air.  “Either way, we should totally write that book.”

“Then I can check another thing off my list,” Woodruff said.

“Writing a book?” Bob asked.

“No,” Woodruff said.  “Being interviewed by Oprah.”

“That will be so amazing!” Bob said as they crossed the street toward the Waffle House.  “I bet she smells like turnips.”

“And apricots,” Woodruff and Bob said in unison.

“That just feels right, doesn’t it?”

“Do you think we’ll get to meet Gayle?”

“Absolutely,” Woodruff said.  “Oprah and Gayle are like the Woodruff and Bob of television.”

“Aw, I wanted to be the Oprah though” Bob said.

“We’ve been over this,” Woodruff said.  “Bob and Woodruff sounds like a vacuum sales team.”

“Well, can they be Gayle and Oprah then?” Bob asked.

“That’s insane,” Woodruff said, as he pulled open the door to the Waffle House.  “Do you put the cheesesteak at the bottom of the Cheesesteak Melt Hash Brown Bowl?”

“No,” Bob moped as he stepped into the greasy dining area.

“Plus, they’d have to change their logo,” Woodruff said.

“You’re right,” Bob conceded.

A large red-faced man chewed on a mouth full of hash browns, smothered with gravy, grilled onions, and cheese.  As Woodruff and Bob passed his booth the man clutched his chest and fell onto the floor.  The manager leapt over the counter and ran to the fallen patron.

“Not again,” the manager said as he bent down and put his ear to the man’s chest.  “Fourth time this week.”

“Should we call 9-1-1?” Woodruff asked.

“It’s probably just heartburn,” Bob said.

Brauts Away

“Walruses really don’t like tomatoes,” Bob said.

“I tried to tell you,” Woodruff replied.

“That was one grumpy walrus.”

“Who knew they could throw so far?”

Woodruff and Bob walked along the icy coast.  Bob pulled up the fury hood of his parka, to cover his bald head from the chilling winds.  Several brightly colored houses dotted the distant hilltop.

“I thought Greenland would be greener,” Bob said.

“Me too,” Woodruff agreed.  “Makes you wonder, if Iceland is even icy?”

“Yeah, or is the wholly land even wholly?”

“Exactly.”

“I’m freezing.”

“Why did you wear shorts?”

“You know I don’t own pants.”

“But you have a parka?”

“I traded a Sherpa twelve yaks for it.”

“Where did you get twelve yaks?”

“It’s a long story,” Bob said.  “But I started with just a paper clip and a half eaten baguette.”

“Epic,” Woodruff nodded.  A strong wind blew in their faces and whipped Bob’s hood off.  “This fresh air is invigorating.”

“It’s invigorating my nose hairs,” Bob said.  “Let’s fine some place out of the cold.”

“How about in there?” Woodruff said.  He pointed to a metal hatch, sticking up out of the sea at the end of a rickety old pier.

“Works for me.”

They jogged down the shoreline and skipped across the wooden planks of the old pier.  Woodruff stepped down off the pier onto the steel hatch and Bob hopped down beside him.

“Should we knock?” Woodruff asked.

“It’s good manners,” Bob said.

Woodruff banged on the lid to the hatch with a plastic penguin foot.

“Ahoy down there,” Woodruff called.

The only sound to be heard was the howling winds and the waves lapping up against the steel hull.

“Maybe no one’s home,” Bob said.

Woodruff shrugged and turned the round wheel on top the lid.  There was a whooshing noise, as air released from the hatch and Woodruff and Bob pulled the lid open.

“Whoah,” Woodruff’s voice echoed as he peered down the shaft.  There was a metal ladder that led down into the darkness.

“Cool!” Bob shouted so his voice would echo.

“Caca!” Woodruff yelled as they both chuckled from the echoes.

“Whooty Who!” Bob called.

“Wer is da?” a voice shouted up from the hole.

“Ich bin Woodruff un das ist Bob,” Woodruff replied.

“What did he say?” Bob asked.

“He asked who we are.”

“And what did you say?”

“I told him who were are.”

“Was willst du?” the voice asked.

“Nach aus der Kälte kommen,” Woodruff replied.

“Kommen runter,” the voice replied.

“He says we can come down,” Woodruff told Bob.

“Good deal,” Bob said as he hopped over the side and slid down the metal ladder.

Woodruff climbed down into the hatch and secured the lid to block the freezing winds.  They found themselves standing in a cramped passage with an old bald man with a crooked nose and a thick wool jacket.

“Guten morgen,” Woodruff greeted the old man.

“Guten morgen,” the old man replied.  “Ich bin Friedrich.”

“Ich freue mich, sie kennen zu lernen,” Woodruff said.

“Does he speak English, ‘cause this is all German to me,” Bob said.

“Yes, I speak English,” Friedrich said.

“Awesome,” Bob said.  “This is a cool underwater fort.”

“Das ist ein u-boot,” Friedrich said.

“A submarine?” Woodruff replied.  “So cool.  Could we have a ride?”

“Ja,” Friedrich said.

Woodruff and Bob followed Friedrich deeper into the hull.

“Have you ever had to fight a giant squid?  What’s tougher, a great white shark or a killer whale?  Do you know where Godzilla sleeps?  Is Jacque Cousteau nice?  Have you ever met James Cameron?” Bob barraged Friedrich with questions.

“Ist dein freund verrückt?” Friedrich asked Woodruff.

“Wahrscheinlich,” Woodruff replied.

“What did he say?” Bob asked.

“He said Jacque Cousteau is a total prima donna,” Woodruff lied.

“I knew it,” Bob said.

On the bridge, Friedrich pressed several buttons and the hum of the engines reverberated through the ship.  He pulled some levers and cranked some knobs while Woodruff and Bob gawked at all of the little blinking lights.  They grabbed on to the sides as the submarine lurched forward and cruised through the water.

Friedrich busied himself reading instruments and adjusting levers while Woodruff lowered the periscope.  Bob helped himself to some bread from a heaping plate full of meat on top of a small stool.

“What do you think this does?” Woodruff asked.  He looked down from the periscope and pointed to a round red button.

“I don’t know,” Bob said.  “Push it and find out.”

“Should we?” Woodruff asked.

Bob reached up and pushed the button.  There was a whooshing noise as the air pressure was released from somewhere deeper in the hull.

“Nein!” Friedrich shouted.

Woodruff and Bob pointed fingers at each other.

“Was hast du getan?” Friedrich asked.

“Du solltest keinen Knopf haben, den du nicht gedrückt hast.,” Woodruff said.

“What did you say?” Bob asked.

“I said he shouldn’t have a button he doesn’t want pushed,” Woodruff answered.

“What did the button do?” Bob asked.

“It launched a torpedo,” Friedrich grumbled.

There was the sound of a distance crash and crumbling outside the ship.  Bob’s eyes widened.

“That’s amazing,” Bob said to Woodruff.  “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“We should launch these bratwursts out the torpedo bay,” Woodruff said.

“Yes!” Woodruff and Bob shouted together.

“Verrücktes,” Friedrich said.

Bob grabbed the plate of meat and led Woodruff to the torpedo bay with Friedrich limping along behind them.  Woodruff and Bob were disappointed to find that the shaft was much larger than the individual tubes of meat.

“This won’t work,” Bob complained.

“Friedrich,” Woodruff said.  “Hast du ein großes Rettungsfloß?”

“Ja,” Friedrich said and he hobbled off through a tiny metal doorway.

Woodruff and Bob searched through the submarine and gathered up all the food they could find.  They met Friedrich back in the torpedo bay and rolled all the food into the deflated life raft.  Before they could load it all the way into the port and close the door, there was a grinding sound above and beneath them.  The three of them were thrown to the floor as the ship came to an abrupt halt.  Welds and seams began to burst as something squeezed the ship from the outside.

“Was ist das?” Friedrich asked.

“Giant squid,” Woodruff and Bob whisper together as they looked at the ceiling above them.

“You think it talked with the walrus?” Woodruff asked.

“If it did, we’re in trouble,” Bob replied.

“Ich werde mit diesen Verrückten sterben,” Friedrich said.

“Yeah,” Bob replied, still eyeballing the crunching hull.  “What he said.”

“Quick, let’s fire this meat and appease the beast,” Woodruff said.

“Great idea!” Bob said.  They pushed the meat raft into the port and Woodruff pulled the cord to inflate as Bob closed the bay door and tightened the crank.

“Come on Friedrich,” Woodruff said.  “Push the button.  Schnell!”

Friedrich ran over to the red round button and slammed his fist down on it.  There was a whoosh and a pop, followed by a shriek beyond the metal tube.  The hull creaked and grinded as the pressure released and the submarine scuttled through the water once more.

“We did it!” Bob shouted.

Woodruff hugged Friedrich, who did not look happy about it and Bob danced around in a circle.

“That was close,” Woodruff said.

“That was the fourth time brautwurst has saved my life,” Bob said.

They ducked through the metal doorway and gathered back on the bridge.

“So where are we headed from here, Friedrich?” Woodruff asked.

“Das Mutterland,” Friedrich replied.

“Do you think Mutterland is even Mutter?” Bob asked.

Jell-o Ono

“There’s good, and then there’s perfect,” Woodruff said.

“That was perfect,” Bob said.

“Better than perfect.”

“Perfect plus.”

“Perfect to the max.”

“Perfectsaurus Rex.”

“Booya!” Woodruff said as he held his hand high in the air.  Bob jumped up and chest bumped Woodruff, knocking him backwards into a tambourine stand.

“How’d that sound in there, Jethro?” Bob asked the man with the long scraggily beard in the glass booth.

Jethro leaned forward into the microphone, wiped his greasy hand on his flannel shirt and pressed a button.

“I’ve, honestly, never heard anybody sound like that,” Jethro’s raspy voice answered through the speaker in the wall.

“There ya go,” Woodruff said.  “We’ve got a unique sound.”

“I knew it,” Bob said.  “I knew we had something special.”

“Can I make one suggestion?” Jethro asked.

“Anything, Maestro,” Bob said.

“You might want to ditch the seagull.”

“What?” Woodruff asked.  “We can’t get rid of Ruth.”

“Yeah,” Bob said.  “Mo’ Mormons Mo’ Harmony needs a seagull and Ruth is the best in the business.”

“Look man, you booked the studio, so it’s your time and your money,” Jethro said.  “I’m just saying that it’s distracting when the bird squeaks in the middle of the chorus.”

“That’s our edge,” Woodruff explained.  “Ruth is like our Sebastian.”

“Sebastian?” Jethro asked.

“The crab from Little Mermaid,” Bob said.

“Look J-dawg, we’re out to revolutionize the music industry,” Woodruff said.  “You said it yourself, you’ve never heard anything like us.”

“Yeah, about that,” Jethro said.  “I don’t think a pan flute really fits with a hip hop song.”

Woodruff gasped and covered his mouth.  Bob put an arm around him and patted him on the back.

“You leave Sylvia out of this,” Bob said.

“Whatever, bro,” Jethro said.  “You’ve got a bird, a pan flute, and two dudes jumping around like Bell Biv Devoe.  It’s wild.”

“I’m starting to think you don’t even get what we’re doing here,” Woodruff said.

“I don’t,” Jethro said.  “I mean, green jell-o and carrots?  What’s that about?”

“That’s gonna be the title track for our debut album,” Bob said.

“Actually, I think we should just call it Green Jell-o,” Woodruff said.  “You know, keep it classy.”

“What are you talking about?” Bob said.  “The song is about green jell-o and carrots.  Anybody can sing about green jell-o.  We’re Mo’ Mormons Mo’ Harmony.”

“I get it, but is the audience going to connect with it?” Woodruff said.

“The audience is going to connect with the music,” Bob said.  “I don’t want to be all mainstream, singing about green jell-o.  We’re not Justin Timberlake, we’re Mo’Mo Mo’Ha.”

“I wrote the song, Bob,” Woodruff said.  “I am the music.”

Woodruff walked over to the pedestal and snatched the sheet music on top.

“Bounced into the cultural hall, we ready to have a ball,” Woodruff began to read aloud.  “What’s that on the table, my heart seems unstable.  Green jell-o and carrots, my mouth couldn’t bear it.  Them ‘freshments have merit, I ain’t gonna share it.  Green jell-o and carrot.”

“See, those lyrics are sick,” Bob said.  “So why not showcase them in the title?”

“Because you gotta let them find it in the music,” Woodruff said.  “You don’t just throw it at them.  It’s a delightful surprise, like the carrots in the jell-o.  Tell him Jethro.”

The bearded sound engineer looked up from his iPhone.  He adjusted his trucker hat and leaned into the microphone.

“Uh, sorry,” Jethro said.  “Wasn’t listening.”

“Which sounds better, green jell-o or green jell-o and carrots?” Bob asked.

“Honestly, I’m more of a pudding guy,” Jethro said.

“Chocolate or banana?” Woodruff asked.

“Chocolate,” Jethro replied.

“Correct answer,” Bob declared.

“Listen, I’ve got a mariachi band coming in here in like two minutes,” Jethro said.  “So can you guys, like, take this outside?”

“No problem, J-dawg,” Woodruff said.

“Please don’t call me that,” Jethro asked, before he released the microphone button and turned his attention back to his iPhone.

“Come on, Ruth,” Bob said.  “It’s time to go.”

The seagull pecked twice at the microphone and flew through the open door.  Woodruff and Bob stepped into the hallway, where five men in black bedazzled jackets and matching sombreros waited with their instruments.

“Hola amigos,” Woodruff said with a bow and a sweeping gesture to the recording studio.  “El estudio es toda tuya.”

“You speak Spanish?” Bob asked.

“I’m fractionally fluent,” Woodruff said.

“Fractionally fluent?” Bob asked.

“I can speak at least 3/3000th of over twenty-seven different languages.”

“Impressive.”

“Jugar buena muchachos,” Woodruff said as the mariachi’s filed into the studio.

“Yeah, hugo bueno my nachos,” Bob said.

The door closed and Ruth let out a tiny squeak.

“I know,” Woodruff said.  “Now I want nachos too.”

“The nachos are going to have to wait,” Bob said.  “We’re in the middle of a full blown crisis.”

“The song title?”

“Yes.”

“It’s really not that important to me, name it what you like.”

“Not important to you?” Bob shouted.  “Then what are we doing here?  Not important?  This better get important to you.”

“Fine,” Woodruff said.  “It’s important.  I think it should be Green Jell-o.”

“Unacceptable!” Bob yelled.  He stormed off down the hall and loosened his tie.  “It’s Green Jell-o and Carrots, or nothing!”

Ruth flapped her wings and flutter down the hall in the opposite direction.

“Bob, wait,” Woodruff said, dogging Ruth’s flight.  He jogged down the hall after Bob.  “We can name it Green Jell-o and Carrots.”

Bob stopped in front of the big metal door, beneath the red EXIT sign.  He turned back to Woodruff and put his hand on his hip.

“You’re giving in?”

“Yes, I don’t want to argue about this.”

“Well I could never work with a musician who isn’t as passionate as I am,” Bob said as he pulled off his tie, pushed open the door, and exited the building.

Woodruff followed him outside as Ruth returned and swooped in to perch on his shoulder.

“Musician?” Woodruff questioned.  “You’re my backup dancer and you play the air guitar.”

“Like a boss,” Bob said.  “Without me you’d just be out there by yourself with a step-bounce-spin and no shimmy-shake-twirl-jiggy-jiggy.  You’d look like an idiot.”

“An idiot who can, and I quote, sing like a young Al Yankovic,” Woodruff said.

“Enjoying singing without this action,” Bob said as he shuffled side to side and flapped his arms in a wavy motion.  Then he spun around, removed his black name tag from his pocket and flung it into the street with his tie.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying it’s over.  Mo’Mo Mo’Ha is dead.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

They walked up the street in silence for several blocks.  Ruth squeaked and fluttered her wings as they crossed the road, to get to the other side.  Woodruff looked over and noticed Bob smiling.

“Why are you smiling?”

“Well, you  had Start a Boy-Band on your bucket list,” Bob began.

“Yeah,” Woodruff eyed his friend skeptically.

“And I’ve always wanted to break up a boy band,” Bob said.  “So this was a win-win.”

“You did this on purpose?”

“Yep.”

“Genius!”

“You’re not mad?”

“Nope,” Woodruff said.  “In ten years we can have a reunion tour.  We’ll make millions!”

“Yes!” Bob said.  “Then we can release the never before released lost single, Green Jell-o and Carrots.”

Green Jell-o,” Woodruff corrected.

Bob looked over at Woodruff with a furrowed brow and squinted his eyes.

And Carrots.”

“Here we go again,” Ruth squawked.

You Can’t Get Mad From A Turnip

“It really is a versatile vegetable,” Bob said.

“You can say that again,” Woodruff mumbled with a mouth full of salad.

“But I didn’t say that,” Bob replied, as he shoved another fork full into his mouth.

Woodruff eyed his friend and shook his head.

“You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it,” Bob continued as a half-eaten turnip rolled around in his pie hole.  “Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried, flayed, cabbaged. There’s turnip-kabobs, turnip gumbo, turnip tacos, pineapple turnips, lemon turnips, coconut turnips, bacon turnips, turnip soup, turnip stew, turnip salad, turnip and potatoes, turnip burger, turnip sandwich, turnip pie…”

Bob swallowed his thoroughly chewed turnip remains and raised an eyebrow as he searched the deepest recesses of his turnip culinary database.

“That’s about it,” he concluded.

“Plus, it’s fun to say,” Woodruff added.

“Totally,” Bob agreed.  “Turnip, Turn up, Turniiiip.”

“Tuuuuuurnip,” Woodruff chimed in.  “TurNIP, turnip-turnip-turnip.”

They laughed hysterically and Bob wiped at a piece of turnip shrapnel that escaped from Woodruff’s mouth and landed on his cheek.  A short stocky bald man, with a scowl on his face, emerged from the kitchen wearing an apron and carrying a tray.  The man tossed two plates of turnip tacos in front of them and began to pick up the tower of plates collecting at the center of the table.

“No, wait,” Bob said.  “We’re stacking those so we can see how many platefuls we’ve eaten.”

The man grunted and set the stack back down on the table.  He turned and stomped back toward the swinging kitchen door.

“Thank you, my good man,” Woodruff called to the back of the man’s head.  “I think we’ll try the bacon wrapped turnips next.”

There was a crash on the other side of the swinging door as the man in the apron kicked it open and marched into the kitchen.

“I think he’s mad,” Bob said.  They paused and admired their tower of empty plates that nearly reached the ceiling.

“Hey, don’t hang up a sign if you don’t mean it,” Woodruff said, and pointed to the All-You-Can-Eat Turnips sign in the front window.

“What’s my credo, Woodruff?”

“Omne omnes vos-potest manducare signum est provocatione te dignum est.”

“That’s right,” Bob said.  “Every all-you-can-eat sign is a challenge to meet it.”

“Credo’s also fun to say.”

“You gotta have a credo.”

“That’s actually my credo.”

“Great credo.”

“Mm,” Woodruff said.  “These turnip tacos are amazing.”

“You said it.”

“No I didn’t.”

Woodruff and Bob furrowed their brows and surveyed one another for a moment.  When Bob consumed the last turnip taco Woodruff turned around and looked back toward the kitchen door.

“How long do you think it takes to wrap a turnip with bacon?”

“Dunno,” Bob said, after he swallowed his last bite.  “Hey Woodruff?”

“Yeah Bob?”

“I’m toying with the idea of going by Robbie.”

“But then we’d have to change our logo.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

The scowling man in the apron returned from the kitchen and laid a pair of bacon wrapped skewers on the table.  The bacon was still sizzling when Bob scooped up the skewer nearest him and popped it in his mouth.

“Oh!” Bob yelped.  “Hot!”

“That’s it,” the man said with a frown.

“What’s it?” Woodruff asked.

“The turnips,” the man said.  “They’re finished.”

“Geez,” Bob moaned.  “I t’ink I burn’d my to’gue.”

“They seem nice and finished,” Woodruff said.  “Might we get some turnip ice cream for my friend’s tongue.”

“We’re out!” shouted the man.  “It’s done, gone, caput, no more turnips!”

“No more turnips?” Woodruff asked.

“What’s the matter with you two?” the man demanded.  “Nobody eats that many turnips.  It’s a gimmick.  It’s supposed to bring people in.  They think, ‘Oh, All-You-Can-Eat’ so they come in and pay seven fifty and then remember after the first plate that they don’t like turnips.  That sign has worked for twenty-eight years, until you two came along!”

He stormed off to the kitchen and briefly got his apron caught in the swinging door.  Bob gulped down the glass of chocolate goat milk next to his plate.

“What’s his deal?” Woodruff asked.

“Dunno,” Bob said.  “So, was that a no on the turnip ice cream?”

“I think so.”

“Well then, this goat’s milk is a life saver.”

“It’s a good thing we brought old Delilah.”

“And Mr. Scowling Face threw such a fit when we milked her,” Bob said and patted the black and white goat on the head.

“I bet he feels foolish now.”

“He should,” Bob said.  “No turnip ice cream when you’re serving scolding hot bacon.  That’s irresponsible.

“So, why Robbie?” Woodruff asked.

“It makes me sound younger,” Bob replied.

“But you are young.”

“Yeah, but if I sounded younger I could get into the movies at the kid’s rate.”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“Sure it does,” Bob said.  “Hello, sir, welcome to the cinema.  Then I say, ‘The name’s Robbie.’ and then he says, ‘Oh, pardon me, I thought you were older.  That’ll be a dollar twenty-five.’  Boom, kid’s rate.”

“I don’t know, Bob,” Woodruff said as he shook his head.  “What movie are you going to see?”

“The youth are all about period piece docudramas,” Bob said.  “Maybe something with Steve Buscemi or Elizabeth McGovern.  You know, on fleece.”

“Fleek,” Woodruff corrected.

“Like spitting?” Bob asked.  He stood up and pushed his chair back under the table.

“No, that’s gleek.”

“I thought that was a Glee fan.”

“Oh right,” Woodruff said.  He pushed his chair in and took hold of Delilah’s leash.  “What were we talking about?”

“No idea.”

“We should leave a nice tip.”

“Good idea,” Bob said.  He took a marker from his pocket and wrote on a napkin.  “Keep bananas fresher by wrapping the stems in plastic wrap.”

“That’s a good tip,” Woodruff said.

The man in the apron stepped out from behind the swinging door with a Polaroid camera.  He walked up to Woodruff and Bob, who were standing next to the leaning tower of plates while Delilah chewed on the tablecloth.  The man growled as he raised the camera and a blindly light flashed in their eyes.  A card printed out the bottom and the man angrily shook it as he moved behind the counter.  With a thumbtack, he pinned the picture next to a red sign above the cash register that said ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’.

“Sweet!” Woodruff and Bob cheered in unison.

“We got our picture on the wall,” Bob said.

“We’re gonna be famous,” Woodruff replied.

Bob pulled open the front door and they stepped out onto the sidewalk with Delilah trailing behind them.

“You wanna see a movie or something?” Woodruff said.

“Can I be Robbie?”

“Robbie doesn’t make you sound younger, it makes you sound unemployable.”

“Jeff Weiner once called me unemployable at a charity auction for A Cappella without Borders.”

“What movie should we see?”

“Sun Valley 10 is playing She’s Having a Baby for Totally 80’s Thursdays,” Bob said.

“Done and done.”

“Meh eheheh eh,” Delilah bleated.