Shave the World

The Story MachineTM was working overtime last night.

This one was about a billionaire genius philanthropist utopianist who was also a bit of a goofball. Let’s call him George because in the dream he was played by George Clooney. Okay, it was a dream.

George invented things, cellphone-sized 3D TV (JCoaPS! this is real now!) for instance. He made a lot of money. He gave himself superpowers. He built a utopian city and he ran his companies like a benevolent dictator.

This was all very visual, colorful and intense and told from the viewpoint of the sister of a young boy who was also a genius inventor and idolized George. Call the boy Tony and the young woman Bree.

Tony invents something that attracts George’s attention and George showers the kid with money and gifts and even power, giving him his own company to run. George even hires other children and has a whole company devoted to employing disabled children because Tony said something about his best friend, who’s in a wheelchair, having even better ideas.

George also seems to fall in love with Bree and she with him. Bree thinks he’s funny, handsome, charming and way too much of a control freak. He scares her and her feelings for him scare her even more.

In one scene, she complains that her sweater has picked up lint while walking through one of his offices and why does anyone need to wear a sweater when the office is so warm. George has everyone in the office take off their sweaters. They all do, making joke complaints about it but humoring the boss.

One of them observes that George is so PC that he never mentions anyone’s gender and that he’s so smart he can do this without sounding stilted or phony. But when he’s talking about Bree, his speech is filled with she and her. The office workers and some of the disabled children laugh about George’s foibles and go back to whatever they do in their high-tech individualized cubicles that would never be called cubicles by George.

George and Bree have a fight about his micromanagement and controlling attitude and Bree takes Tony away on a visit to their parents.

George gets drunk. He decides that he doesn’t have enough empathy to understand women. In the last scene in the dream before I woke up, he’s disguised himself as a woman and is using his superpowers to sweep and clean up the set of a movie one of his companies is making. He moves in superspeed blurs from one little job to another.

“Bree thinksh I’m crazy,” he says to himself. “She thinks I’m trying to shave the world. It can’t be done, it’s just too damn hairy.” He stops and glares at the dirty floor where someone drove a muddy vehicle across the set. “How do women put up with high heelsh and shmiling all the time? I don’t know what hurtsh more, my feet or my mouth.”

Then he stares off into the distance, genius inspiration has obviously struck. “Shay, you know, you probably could shave the world if your razor had enough blades.”

This is why I wake up laughing so often.

The Ugly Truth

I had a dream last night and I remember much of it this morning. Like a lot of my dreams, it had a title and seemed to have been constructed by the Writing MachineTM I keep in my head. This one was called, The Ugly Truth.

It was both a movie and a card game, a la Steve Jackson’s Munchkin; dreams can be like that. And like Munchkin, there were several different versions. The Ugly Truth about Life, The Ugly Truth about Marriage, The Ugly Truth about High School, The Ugly Truth about Cats and Dogs, The Ugly Truth about Politics and The Super Ugly Truth which was an expansion set that could be added to one of the others.

So this dream was The Super Ugly Truth about High School. We all know that one.

It was a game and a story at the same time. In the story, a group of friends and acquaintances in high school battle with the usual zits, proms, swots and finks while also dealing with super powers and the occasional monster. And also in the story, the kids were playing the card game. Very meta.

The deck is shuffled in a hand of The Ugly Truth and each player is dealt a number of cards, five or six, I think. There are personality cards in the deck and there’s a list of precedence for them, whoever has got the highest precedent personality card in their hand goes first, playing the card and becoming that personality for the hand until replaced. That player draws a replacement card and play begins.

On your turn, if you have any Ugly cards in your hand, you play those first and they take effect. For instance the Massive Zit on your Forehead card prevents you from scoring until it is replaced. You have to have a Beauty or Brawn card to replace an Ugly one, Brains cards can’t do it but Brains cards let you play Ugly cards in front of someone else. Details of how this worked were not clear in the dream.

The Super Ugly Truth added superpowers to this. One Super Ugly card was Bulk Out – you go on a super-eating binge and devour the snack bar, lose two turns.

Oh, the art on the cards was by Brad Guigar of Evil, Inc.

I wonder if this is an actual commercial idea. I know there would probably be a novelty market for the Super Ugly Truth about Politics every four years, what with cards for RepUglycans and DeMonstercrats, but could it ever become a perennial like Munchkin?

Probably not because the Ugly Truth about the game is that nobody wins.

John Cash

Sentient toilets had a vogue for a while in the capital city of the Bergenalter Empire. Actually, they were a sessile flupe of the warrior caste of the dominant species from Emkaron 6.

Cameron Nguyen Fishbeck hated the things. It creeped him out to think of sitting and doing his business on what amounted to the oral orifice of an alien organism. And the sound it made as an equivalent of flushing was just gross.

But what really annoyed him was payday. His job as the bookkeeper for the Municipal Nujjball Arena meant he had personal contact with the flupes since their religion forbade them taking checks. They had to be paid in cash.

“What do they do with it?” he wondered not for the first time as he made his rounds dropping Impervine-wrapped bundles of coins and the specially notched antique pool cue handles used as money in the Bergenalter capital. “They’re stuck to the floor, they’ll live out the rest of their lives sitting there, eating, well, I don’t like to think about what they usually eat. But every payday they get bundles of money. Is it like an after-dinner mint?”

He didn’t know and didn’t care to find out that the flupes were essentially their race’s incubators and the money they got paid would ensure that no Emkaronian warrior was born without a coin in its pustules and a pool cue on its carapace.

Cameron made his way through all the toilet facilities of the complex, dropping his little bundles and cringing at the lip-smacking sounds the flupes made. He did his job quickly and tried not to think about it at all. “It’s exactly like throwing money down the toilet,” he complained silently.

Since nujjball is played with seven to twenty-three teams, each with as many as 1942 members, the city found it more profitable to charge the players and hire the spectators whose jobs consisted of rooting, jeering and doing the wave at the appropriate times. Usually there were more people on the field than in the bleachers and accordingly the toilet facilities in the stands were smaller and generally cleaner and better maintained. In fact, only one of the Emkaronians was employed as living porcelain in the rooting section.

Not that this made much difference to Cameron Fishbeck who just wanted to get the unpleasant task over. Finishing up quickly he hurried back to his office just before the belching started. Luckily, there were no games on so the arena had a minimum of workmen’s compensation claims to pay since the only one injured was the flupe who merely had a bad case of indigestion. If some of the cheering employees had been there, well, it’s always nasty when the excrement hits the enthusiast.

But when the near disaster was over, and blue hockey-puck-size antacids had been given to the gassy flupe the real source of the problem was discovered. Too much wood for the Emkaronian diet. Fishbeck had figured the paycheck wrong and delivered more than twice the correct number of pool cue handles to the lonely flupe.

His boss called him into the main office and told him the bad news. “Cam, you paid the fans’ loo wrong.” *

‘poH

I had a weird dream about working on a series of kid’s books. They were illustrated and I wish I could draw like that. Some of it looked a lot like Brad Guigar’s art on Evil, Inc.

One of the books was about a young owl discovering things. It was called, “Nobody Really Likes Liver.”

The back cover had an illustration of the owl holding one wing over his stomach and making a face. Along the end of the branch are two other owls doing the same thing. It was like a poster and the title of the book was the caption.

Another part of the book was about the negative emotions adults never tell you about. The little owl says, “They always want you to understand and believe about things like Love and Hope and Faith. But, they don’t talk about the negative emotions like ‘poH which is that feeling you get when you realize that not only is Mom serving liver again tonight, she’s going to go on doing that every Thursday and nothing you can say or do will stop her.

“You’re going to have to eat liver for dinner on Thursdays for the rest of your life. That’s ‘poH. It’s Hope spelled backwards but with an apostrophe because you don’t pronounce the e.”

Part of the book was about superheroes. One of them wore a costume that was sort a cross between Fighting American and Nova. It had FG on the chest plate in sort of squishy letters. He was called “Fightin’ Guy” by the other heroes but he should have been called “Whingeing Guy”.

All he did was complain. He complained that he had to keep fighting the same villains over and over. “What’s the matter with the court system? Can’t they keep these guys locked up for more than two issues? Are there no prisons, no concentration camps built inside of hollow mountains? Why can’t we send these guys to the Negative Phantom Zone? Nobody ever escapes from there.”

He complained about his costume. “I used to have a costume, it had little shorts over the leggings. It was really comfortable, man. This new costume is tights all the way up and I’m a T-14 hero so when they say tights, they mean really tight, man.” He makes a face and tries to pull his pants out of the crack of his ass. “Some of those guys in the Max and Piranha titles, they’re rated M and they get to wear some cool stuff. And some of the girls don’t hardly wear no costumes at all!”

He complained about the superhero games and how he could never seem to get ahead. “I thought I had enough points to upgrade my punch so I could knock Cockroach Man over a building instead of just through a wall, that would be cool. But it’s just like Green Stamps, you always need another 1000 points.

“I’ve got 40,021 points and an upgrade from Atomic Punch to Thermo-Nookyular Punch costs 50,000!”

And this girl dressed like Miss Match from Evil Inc says, “That’s almost 10,000 points, not 1000 points.”

“It’s the principle of the thing I’m talking about,” says FG. “Not the math.”

“Well, let’s look in the catalog and see what you can get for 40,000 points. Hey,” she says, “You could get flight, you can’t fly now, you could get a level of flight and then you could fly twice as fast as you can run. Wouldn’t that be cool?”

And FG holds his stomach with the same expression as the owls who don’t like liver and says, “No thanks, I get airsick.”

He looks over her shoulder. “How much does it cost to upgrade to Cosmic Punch?”

“150,000 points.”

“That would be cool, I could knock Cockroach Man into orbit if I had Cosmic Punch. And you know what I’d say to him before I hit him?”

“What?”

“I’d say, ‘To the moon, Alex! To the moon!'” He thumps one fist into the other glove. “To the moon, Alex!”

“Is his real name Alex?”

FG shakes his head. “No, it’s Manfred. He always ruins my best lines.”

She turns a page. “But that’s not Cosmic Punch, that’s Satellite Punch. Cosmic Punch is the one where you knock the guy into next Thursday.”

“I wouldn’t want to do that to him!” says Fightin’ Guy. “The have liver for dinner on Thursday in prison.” He makes the same expression as the owls. “Nobody Likes Liver.”

Then the scene shifted to a sewer and this guy in a black and brown set of tights with padded shoulders and epaulettes is pushing two kids in front of him. The boy looks about 12 and the girl looks about 8, little blonde thing with pigtails. Both kids have their wrists tied together in front of them with red and blue bandannas and the girl is wearing another one like a gag.

The evil guy has a cockroach in a white circle for an emblem on his chest and he’s carrying his helmet with the big antennas on it under his arm. “Where is that Guy? He’s always late,” he says.

“W-what guy?” asks the boy.

“Fightin’ Guy. Who were we talking about? He’s supposed to come rescue you but he’s always late to these things. We used to be on the same bowling team and sometimes we had to forfeit the first game ’cause he’d be late. It’s hard to win the league trophy if you can’t win two out of three games ’cause you always have to forfeit the first one.”

“D-do you think he’s coming? To rescue us?”

Cockroach Man laughs his evil laugh which sounds sort of like a fat dog choking on a biscuit bone it tried to eat all at once. “No, he’s not going to come. Why should he rescue you guys? He doesn’t even know you exist!”

“But you said…” starts the boy.

“I expect you’re feeling a lot of ‘poH right now,” sneers CM. “I’m going to feed you to the alligators in the sewer, you know.” He looks at his watch. “Where the heck is he?”

The little girl pulls down her gag and says, “He’ll come. Fightin’ Guy is a hero, he’s not late. He always arrives just in time!”

“Tell that to the other two guys on the bowling team,” snorts Cockroach Man. “You kids are going to be Alligator Brunch in less than two minutes!”

FG is suddenly there. “Those alligators are just going to have to eat liver, like everyone else on Thursday,” he says.

The kids scream for the hero and CM recoils and says, “Fightin’ Guy!”

FG poses and says, “Cockroach Man!”

“Wait, wait,” says Cockroach man as he tries to put on his helmet. “Last time you punched me through a wall I got a neck injury. The prison chiropractor said it was the worst case of neck torsion he’d ever seen in someone who could still wiggle his toes!”

FG waits while sewer workers take the kids up through a manhole cover.

“You still bowl?” FG asks CM.

“Nah, those cocksuckers in the prison league are all cheaters,” says CM.

“This is a T-14 comic book!” says FG. “You can’t say cocksuckers!”

CM has the helmet on but it’s sitting crooked. “Can you–?” he says. “I can never reach that last dog on the right side.”

FG snaps the last fastening which straightens CM’s helmet. “You need to upgrade your costume to an autofit helmet.”

“That costs like, 20,000 points. You know how many liquor stores and ice cream parlors I’d have to knockover to get 20,000 points just for a helmet that I don’t need anyone else to help me put it on?”

“How come you never rob banks? Aren’t they worth a lot more points?”

“They’re never going to let me into a bank wearing this costume!” He waves at himself. “I look like a cockroach! Did you get that upgrade to Thermonuclear Punch?”

FG shakes his head as they get into position. “Nah, didn’t have enough points. And you’re only worth 500 points this week. I’d have to catch you like 100 times for that upgrade, Cocksucker Man.”

CM points at his chest. “Cockroach Man.”

“What did I say?”

CM shakes his head. “I think this issue is going to be rated M for Mature.”

They pose. “Let’s get it on, Cockroach Manfred,” says FG. He punches one fist into the other hand. “You’ve got a date with the prison cafeteria. They’re serving creamed liver tonight just in your honor.”

CM makes the same face as the owl. Which is hard to see since his helmet covers most of his face. “Even supervillains don’t like liver.”

“You should have thought of that before you took up a life of crime,” says FG. “I’m going to make the world safe for ice cream parlors and convenience stores run by guys named Pavel by knocking you through that wall!”

“This wall?”

“That wall.”

“Oh, man. That’s going to hurt. This wall is three feet of steel-reinforced concrete and we’re under the East River here. I could drown, you know.”

“Don’t kid me, CM,” says FG. “I know your helmet has an oxygen supply built-in.”

“Okay, okay. Look, I already let the kids go, can’t I just give up and let you take me in?” He holds out his wrists like they’re tied together.

“Are you trying to get us canceled? You’re my arch-nemesis, the leader of my Rogues’ Gallery. You can’t just surrender without a fight.”

“I guess I just don’t feel like fighting. I’m feeling a lot of ‘poH here and now, Alex.”

“Aw, Manfred. Don’t be like that. Look, I’ll just punch you down the hallway like fifty feet instead of through the wall. And you can threaten me with a death ray.”

CM looks around. “I don’t have a death ray. I’m just a guy wearing a suit of cockroach-themed armor.”

“I can lend you a death ray. I took it off of Liver-Eatin’ Lady.” He rummages in his utility backpack while reaching behind himself and making a funny face.

“Horrible,” says CM. “Does she really eat liver? Like right in front of you?”

FG hands the death ray gun over. “Nah,” he says. “She uses this here death ray. Nobody Really Likes Liver.”

An Irish Tale

There once were two tall Irish brothers, each so tall that he was taller than the other. Sean, the older, taller brother, said one day, “We’ve a fine crop wool this year and lambs to sell as well. We’ll get a better price for them if we go to London and find a buyer ourselves.”

“Aye,” said Seamus, the younger, taller brother. “Besides, it’s a very good excuse.”

They’d neither of them been to London before so they visited with their old Da to get his advice before venturing into the big foreign city.

“Ye’ll do fine in London,” said their Da, who was looking up, not being tall himself. In fact, he were a short man, shorter than two other short men put together. “But there’s one thing to remember if you’re going to the City. If you want a good beer, find yourselves a Bass house.”

“We’ll do, Da,” promised the boys and they set out.

On reaching London, they had soon concluded their business and got a very good price for their wool and lambs as it had been a warm, mild winter in Scotland and the sheep there had not obliged by growing thick wooly coats at all. In fact, many a Scottish farmer had been forced to shear his pigs to get what wool he could, which is why, to this day, there are so many bald pigs in Scotland.

Feeling good about the price they had gotten for their fine Irish wool and lambs, the boys decided to celebrate with a beer and remembering their Da’s advice they set out to find a Bass house.

The first pub they ducked into denied them. “‘Tis Newcastle, boys,” said the publican.

And in the second inn they found, the innkeeper told them, “We’re pulling Watney’s here.”

But in the third tavern when Seamus asked politely, “Is this a Bass house?” the tapster merely nodded.

“Grand,” said Sean as the two tall brothers seated themselves. “Two Guinness, please.”

Cat and Dog

The Cat woke up in her tree and took a long stretch before looking around. The sun rose over there and that was right. Birds, delicious birds, flew over there, and that was right. The Dog was sniffing under her tree, and that was wrong.

She sat on her branch and cleaned first her paws and then used her paws to clean her face. She looked again. Yes, he was still there, snuffling and whuffling like a dog-shaped vacuum cleaner. She shuddered to think of it. And so she washed some more.

Finally, the Dog did not seem to be going away so she jumped down to a lower branch and inquired politely, “What are you doing?” She didn’t expect any sort of sensible cat-type answer but some kind of doggy nonsense.

The Dog looked around to see who had spoken but didn’t see anyone so went back to his snuffles and whuffles.

The Cat snickered on her perch. One of the most delicious things about dogs was most of them never learned to look up. “Up here,” she said, smiling with a purr. “I’m talking to you.”

The Dog sat down and looked up. “A cat!” he said. “You’re a cat!”

“Yes,” said the Cat. “And I was asking–”

“A cat!” exclaimed the dog. He stood up. “You’re a cat!”

“Yes, said the Cat. “I–”

“A cat!” shouted the dog. “You’re a cat up inna tree!” He ran in circles, excited by this discovery apparently.

“Yes,” said the Cat. She twitched her tail and reminded herself to be patient.

After a while, the Dog calmed down and said, “Hello, cat-up-inna-tree.” He smiled with a wag.

“Yes, said the Cat. Contrary animals, dogs are, she thought. “What are you doing so industriously whuffling and snuffling under my tree?”

“Your tree?” said the dog. “Did you mark it as yours? I didn’t smell any marks with your name on it.”

“Um,” admitted the Cat. “I’ll take care of that later, after you leave but yes this is my tree.”

“Okay,” said the Dog, “but you really ought to mark things that are yours so that, you know, other people can tell.”

“Yes,” said the Cat.

The Dog stood up, wagging his tail like a small dog-shaped reciprocating fan. “I can show you how to do it and we can go around the neighborhood and mark things as ours!”

“Uh, no,” said the Cat. “I just want to know what you’re doing sniffing around my tree so busily this morning.”

“Oh,” said the Dog, sitting down again so he could more easily look up. “It’s a long story.”

The Cat yawned. “Well, in that case–”

“I could tell you all about it,” said the Dog.

“Don’t bother,” said the Cat, tail twitching. “I’m curious but not that curious.”

“Last night,” said the Dog, “we had a party at our place.”

“Mm,” said the Cat, not hiding a yawn. The Dog lived in the house on the front end of the Cat’s property where a fence marked off the Dog’s territory and kept little people from falling into the swimming pool.

“A barbeque party, out by the pool, with a fire and meat burning and all kinds of wonderful things to eat,” said the Dog.

“Uh, huh,” said the Cat. She had attended a few such parties. Not too bad as long as you didn’t get your tail stepped on. “I was invited but I didn’t go.”

The Dog looked up, wagging his tail. “Next time, I’ll be sure not to invite you so I’ll know that you’ll be there.”

“Huh?” said the Cat. Was the Dog making a joke? Dogs are always funny, the Cat knew, but they don’t know how to tell a joke.

“Anyway,” said the Dog. “My master lost a contact lens at the party last night. I’m hunting it for him.” He got back to the business of sniffing every inch of the ground under the tree.

The Cat knew the Dog’s master, he was one of her slaves and sometimes left exceedingly tasty morsels for her on a shelf high enough that the Dog could not reach it. She looked at the house, at least three leaps, a bound and a scuttle away beyond the rosebush.

“Where did he lose this contact lens? Up by the house, near the pool?” asked the Cat.

“Yes,” said the Dog. “That wasn’t that long of a story after all, was it?” He wagged his tail like a dog-shaped Buddha if Buddha had a tail.

“Not nearly long enough,” said the Cat. “If your master lost his lens up there by the house, why are you hunting for it under my tree?”

The Dog sat down so he could look up again without straining his neck. “It’s clear that you’ve never tried to hunt for anything.”

The Cat twitched her tail. “I hunt birds. I’ve even made your master a present of a few I’ve caught.”

“Birds,” sniffed the Dog. “You wait till someone shoots one and then you go get it.”

“That’s not how I do it,” said the Cat.

“Well, I’m hunting a contact lens and no one is going to shoot one of them for me,” said the Dog.

The Cat paused to clean herself and so she would not spit angrily at the Dog. Finally, she asked. “So, if your master lost something down by the pool, why are you hunting for it up here under my tree?”

“Cats,” sniffed the Dog. “I’m hunting up here because you can’t smell anything next to a swimming pool except chlorine!”

Did I mention that the Dog was shaggy?

Duck, Duck, Goose

Two cowboys rode into town after weeks out on the range. One cowboy said to the other, “Slim, first thing I’m gonna do is get myself a drink.”

The second cowboy said, “That sounds good, Tex, but the first thing I’m gonna do is go to Miss Carlyle’s and get myself some loving.”

“That do sound better,” agreed Tex. So they rode over toward Miss Carlyle’s. Before going into the swanky cathouse they decided that they ought to clean up a bit and they stopped at a horse trough, washed their faces and their boots and put on clean kerchiefs. Then they stood there for a moment staring at the entrance to the bordello, feeling suddenly shy.

“You know,” said Slim. “Maybe getting a drink first is the best idea.”

“Yup,” said Tex so they walked over toward the town saloon.

In through the swinging doors they went and both of them stopped and stared because behind the bar, polishing things up with a damp rag stuck to his wing stood a large duck. “What’ll it be, gents?” asked the duck.

“B-b-but…” said Tex. Then he took off his hat and hit himself in the face with it several times.

“You’re a duck!” said Slim, pointing, as if there might be some doubt as to which duck or which bartender he meant.

The duck sighed. “I get this a lot. Do you want something to drink, fellas?”

“Uh, uh, uh,” said Tex, coming over with a coughing fit.

“I’m sorry for us being so dumfuzzled but we’ve neither of us ever seen a duck tending bar before,” said Slim, pounding on his partner’s back to help him start breathing again.

The duck snorted. “I’ve never seen two cowboys without shit on their boots before either but I’m not going to get all choked up about it.”


Two old-fashioned nuns walked into the wrong church by mistake.

“I’ve never seen the inside of a Protestant church before,” said Sister Mary Theodora. “It’s different but kind of the same, too.”

“Is that a duck behind the podium?” asked Sister Mary Thomasina.

“They have pews and hymnals and stained glass windows, just like our home church,” said Sister Mary the first.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a duck giving a sermon before,” said Sister Mary the other.

Just then the duck noticed them at the back and asked his congregation to turn around and greet the visitors. The worshippers seemed very friendly and the nuns were persuaded to sit down and enjoy the rest of the service. Afterwards, they joined the line of people leaving the church to greet the pastor and shake his wing.

“I’ve never seen a duck in church before,” confessed Sister Marty Theodora. “It seems a bit unusual.”

“Well,” said the duck, “that’s because you’re Catholic. Most ducks are Baptists, of course.”


The Pope walked into a cowboy bar with a duck on his head.

“I’m -uh- sorry, Your Holiness,” said the cowboy at the door, “there’s a cover charge tonight.” As it happened the cowboys were having a social that evening to raise money for Planned Parenthood, just like the song says.[*]

It looked like a very awkward situation developing but the Pope just shrugged and turned to leave until the duck spoke up and asked, “How much is the cover charge?”

“T-ten dollars,” said the cowboy, surprised to be addressed by a duck. “It’s for charity.”

“All mein Geld ist in meinem anderen Hosen,” said the Pope.

“Tell you what,” said the duck. “I’m the Billionaire Bird, cousin of the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. I’d like to make a large donation to your cause.”

“You would?” said the cowboy, very surprised.

“Yah,” said the duck. “But first you have to get the Pope off my ass.”