Sunday, February 28, 2010

Story Suggestions

Suggestions for this week's story are now open. Put your story suggestions in the comments section below.

Cheers guys!

Friday, February 26, 2010

When the world gives you lemons

It’s hard to be inconspicuous when you’re dressed in a rainbow poncho and matching sombrero, especially in a busy airport. Santo fidgeted as he walked past travellers decked out in business suits and holiday clothes, their judgemental gazes seemingly burning holes in him. He adjusted his large backpack and kept moving through the crowd, head down, gaze averted, short legs pumping away at the tiled floor. It was always like this when he travelled – the stares, the pointing fingers, the rude comments – but he was getting used to it, at least to a degree. It wasn’t as if he really had a choice though. For years he had been representing Mexico at the different Pokemon championships around the world, and the body which organised the events insisted that every entrant wear his or her nation’s traditional costume wherever they went. They said it was to foster a ‘greater understanding of diverse cultural backgrounds’, but Santo suspected that they were just arseholes having a good laugh at his expense. A small boy called out as Santo trudged through the terminal. ‘Look, Grandpa! It’s Speedy Gonzales!’
Santo flipped out. He could deal with snide comments and staring businessmen, but he couldn’t deal with slurs from children, which is why he turned towards the kid and kicked him in the face, sending him sprawling across the floor. As the grandfather reached out to grab his grandson Santo disappeared into the crowd, insofar as a rainbow-poncho-wearing Mexican can ‘disappear’ in a crowd of Japanese businessmen. There were no heavy footfalls behind him, nor was there any shouting from security guards, so he kept moving at a constant pace towards the security checkpoint.

Pokemon Master! Who would’ve thought such a thing even existed? As far as most of the world was concerned, Pokemon just existed on television or in computer games designed for children with ADD. Santo and his competitors knew differently, they knew that Pokemon had a purpose in the world, which is why he was walking through Tokyo International Airport with a backpack crammed full of the little bastards. Santo maintained a love/hate relationship with his Pokemon charges – on the one hand he loved travelling the world and participating in the championships, on the other hand he hated being abused for his pastime and his nationality. As in the past, Japan was the worst place to visit – once people stopped laughing at the idea of a world Pokemon Championship, they laughed at the idea of a Mexican Pokemon Master. Santo was a nerd at heart, despite his violent temper, and he knew that he couldn’t fight a whole country, so every time he visited Japan he kept his head down and took the insults on the chin, except the ones aimed at him by six-year-olds. He hated kids. As he passed a bank of money exchange booths he glanced up to get his bearings, and froze solid. The security checkpoint was ahead, and he started to sweat. It was the hardest part of any trip for him because he was completely at the mercy of the guards on duty. If they insulted him, he had to ignore it, if a six-year-old insulted him he had to control the urge to punch the kid in the neck, if a bag search was required he had to open it and stand there, completely humiliated. Santo ducked into a bathroom on his left, washed his face and straightened his ridiculous poncho. ‘Respectability,’ he said to himself. ‘Others will not respect you if you do not respect yourself.’ He didn’t believe it one bit, and but adjusted his sombrero anyway. He straightened his pack as he left the bathroom and walked with purpose towards the checkpoint where a line of people waited to be processed. He started to sweat again, but hoped that he could explain it away by saying he’d just washed his face – security guards LOVE bullying sweaty passengers. To an airport guard ‘sweaty passenger’ means ‘terrorist’, and ‘sweaty Mexican passenger’ means ‘terrorist drug dealer’, so Santa couldn’t afford to take any chances. He put his bag down on the conveyor belt and walked through the metal detector. The guard took one look at him and pulled him aside. ‘English?’ he asked.
‘Si. I mean, “yes”.’
‘Good. Is there something wrong, sir? Your face is red and you’re sweating. Is anything the bother?’
Santo relaxed – he could do this.
‘No, thank you. I’m fine. I just washed my face in the bathroom.’
The guard looked stared at Santo for a few seconds and said, ‘There was a problem with your backpack. Come this way please.’
Santo’s heart skipped a beat – he wasn’t worried in the way a bearded Muslim would be worried in this situation, he was worried in the way a nerd gets worried when a pretty girl finds his collection of action figures. The guard, carrying Santo’s backpack, led the way to a room with no windows, motioned Santo inside, and shut the door.
‘Would you please open your backpack, sir?’
‘I don’t understand. What’s going on?’
‘Open your pack.’
Santo sighed and his shoulders sagged. Here we go, he thought.
He unzipped his bag and flopped the top open, whereupon the guard burst out laughing. ‘What are these, sir? Your bag is full of dolls!’
‘They’re my Pokemon.’
‘You mean like the children’s toy?’
‘Yes. I’m here for the World Pokemon Championships. I’m representing Mexico.’
The guard was crying with laughter, tears streaming down his face. ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! A Mexican po…po… Pokemon master! Hahahaha.’
Santo stood stock-still, his eyes downcast. ‘What’s wrong with that?’
The guard kept on laughing. ‘Wait… wait here. Ah. Haha. Let me show my colleague.’
The guard opened the door and called out to someone. A few seconds later another guard entered the room, and after a brief exchange in rapid Japanese burst out laughing. He had to hold the table to stop himself from falling over. ‘Ridiculous!’ he managed, before doubling up with laughter again.
‘Can I go now?’ asked Santo.
‘Why? Are you… are you SLEEPY?’ the guard burst out laughing again.
It took all of Santo’s willpower to control the urge to scream at the guard. He instead opted for a ‘That’s not very nice,’ before zipping up his backpack. ‘Just because I’m Mexican doesn’t mean I can’t be a Pokemon Master!’
The guards were lying on the floor in hysterical fits of laughter when Santo walked out. Tears were blooming in his eyes as he exited the terminal; how dare they! He hailed the first cab he saw and climbed into the back seat and gave the driver the address of a warehouse on the outskirts of Tokyo. The driver, thankfully, didn’t bother him as they drove through the congested traffic, so Santo sat in quiet contemplation.

An hour later they arrived at a dilapidated warehouse which a surprising number of cars had parked outside. Santo paid the driver and entered the building through a side door, making sure no one saw him. Inside were lines and lines of trestle tables, behind which a number of men stood, each dressed in their national costumes. There was a German in lederhosen, a Russian in a tall fluffy hat, an Englishman in a top hat and tails, and many other people from many other countries. Santo walked up to the Japanese table and, without a word, opened his pack and lined up his Pokemon in front of him. The ‘Samurai’ curtly nodded. They stared at each other like seasoned combatants for a moment, stiffly shook hands, then burst out laughing.
‘Your costume looks ridiculous! It’s even better than last time! Rainbow? Really? Unbelievable!’
‘Yours isn’t much better. Who ever heard of a Samurai who stands five feet tall?’
The Samurai chuckled. ‘We all have our little fantasies. Did you have any trouble at the airport?’
Santo smiled. ‘Some, but the guards were too busy laughing at my poncho and my Pokemon to do a proper search.’
‘Good, good. It sounds like it went just as planned. Do you have our product?’
‘I do.’
Santo reached down and picked up a yellow Pokemon that he didn’t know the name of; what did he care what the stupid thing was called? It was just a doll. He tipped it over and stuck his hand up the bottom of it, rummaging around before pulling out a neatly-bundled package of white powder which he handed to the Samurai.
‘Outstanding. You really have a knack for this business, Santo. We’ll transfer the money into your account immediately.’
Santo lifted the brim of his hat slightly and smiled. ‘Thank you, you are most kind.’
As they rummaged around inside the rest of the dolls the small Japanese man turned to Santo and said, ‘I was disappointed to lose the last shipment, but I’m glad you adapted after such a negative development.’
Santo just shrugged. ‘It’s like they say back in Mexico: “When life gives you lemons, sell the lemons, buy some cocaine, and smuggle it to Japan inside the anus of a small animal.’ He paused. ‘Or something like that anyway.’

Monday, February 22, 2010

Topics needed for this week's story

Last week's story worked quite well, so I'd like to make it a regular thing. If you have ideas for me to write a story about, put them in the comments section of this post.

Same as last week, any topic goes, 5 topics per person so there's some variety of input, and we'll see how it goes. I'll choose which one to write about on Wednesday night.

Get suggesting!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Knut, the German Snow Dog

Dear Professor House,

My name is Cornelius Littleton and I work at the Plateau Seven weather station in the Artic Circle. It’s the oldest meteorological station that your department runs and, quite frankly, I get the feeling that people back in the Big Smoke forget about us sometimes.

I’m writing to you because I’m afraid we will not last the next two months if Knut stays on the station. He’s ‘the real snow dog’ your department sent a month ago; you remember, yes? He’s the German Shepherd that was sent instead of the requested Husky or Malamoot. As if that wasn’t inconvenient enough, it seems that Knut will only answer to ‘Knut, the German Snow Dog’ these days, which is part of the reason for my correspondence. Realistically he should answer to ‘Knut’ – it’s much too hard to manage the sled dog teams if we have to call out ‘Knut, the German Snow Dog’ every time we want an order followed. It really is too much and to be perfectly honest with you we will not tolerate it any longer.

I’m writing you a letter because our wireless is STILL broken, despite our every effort to repair it (and your department’s insistence that we didn’t NEED a wireless in the first place), and our only contact with the outside world is the fortnightly supply/mail boat. Might I add that we would have solved this problem ourselves had the captain of said boat not flatly refused to take Knut on board? His exact words were, ‘Under no circumstances will Knut board this vessel – not after what he did to the cook on the trip over. Animals like that have no place on a ship’. I am contacting you directly because everyone else has ignored my previous letters, despite the fact that I have been following the established protocols. I get the feeling that I am being punished for some transgression of which I am unaware. If this is the case, please inform me so I may rectify the situation as soon as possible.

This isn’t about the thing with your daughter, is it?

Our problems started the moment Knut landed on our dock – he had been thrown there by the captain of the supply boat, in addition to some very choice words. We were polite and non-confrontational but Knut just growled at us and lumbered off to the huts. Not an ideal start, but this sort of work takes all kinds, doesn’t it? Davis, my research partner, asked the captain why Knut had been delivered so unceremoniously to our small piece of civilisation, to which the captain replied, ‘Anyone who attacks one of MY crew with such wanton sexual abandon does not deserve the slightest bit of courtesy.’ It must’ve been quite a crime because the captain didn’t linger, as is his usual custom, – he simply dropped off the supplies and exchanged mailbags before casting off and sailing away. Somewhat perturbed, we followed Knut’s footsteps back to the huts and eventually traced him to a corner of the kitchen where he had curled up next to the stove and fallen asleep. Unusual behaviour, certainly, but it takes a certain strength of character to work in this place, so we didn’t think that much of it – we simply put it down to a tired old dog resting his weary bones – so we left him be until morning, or at least what passes for a morning up here. The constant darkness gets to you after a while, maybe even makes you a bit mad. You don’t have to have an idiotic coffee mug to work here, but it helps!

Are you sure this isn’t about your daughter? I thought we’d put that behind us.

The next morning Davis took Knut out to the sled teams to get him settled in. If he was to be our team leader he needed to get acquainted with our existing dogs. Everyone except the lead dog, Basil, took a liking to Knut immediately, so the previous day’s misgivings were somewhat assuaged right up until the point where Knut viciously bit Basil on the back of the neck. Now, I understand that this is standard dog behaviour, but we didn’t expect anything of this nature from Knut, especially not after reading the glowing references which you sent us. At any rate, Davis separated Knut and Basil with the aid of his whip and managed to diffuse the situation. We relocated Basil to the infirmary where we patched up his wounds, and decided to set Knut up near the other dogs for the time-being, assuming it was for the best. It wasn’t. We were disturbed at 3pm by frenzied barking coming from the direction of the kennels. We investigated the noise and were horrified to see Knut attempting to mate with one of the bitches (am I allowed to say ‘bitches’? I know it’s entirely accurate, but it just doesn’t seem right). We gave him a whipping and decided to put him in a room which was removed from the dogs, purely to instil a semblance of discipline in his head. Twenty minutes later we investigated more barking and found him ‘rutting’ with another bitch (are you sure? Because I’m really having a problem with this). How he got out, I don’t know, but the point is that he did it, and caused us immense grief by doing so. This was his SECOND day at the station. The SECOND day of a THREE-MONTH-LONG STAY, professor. We whipped him again and confined him to his hut. It was at this point that he refused to respond to ‘Knut’. It was Davis’ idea that we refer to him as ‘Knut the German Snow Dog’, and I hope he freezes to death because of it as Knut refuses to respond to anything else.

I’m beginning to have some serious misgivings about why you sent him to my station.

Thankfully, Knut settled into his hut with minimal fuss after that. We would keep him away from the sled dogs until it was time to take the day’s weather readings from the station’s outlying instruments. A change would come over Knut during these periods and he would happily run ahead or alongside the sleds, setting the pace. My guess is that sled dogs fear ‘romantic advances’ more than anything else – what other reason could there be for their sudden speed increase? We would take the readings from the instruments and hot-foot it back to the warmth of our huts. Knut would join us inside at these times, although what interest a German Shepherd has in weather forecasts I do not know. When he got bored he would stare out the window or ruthlessly hump furniture – an activity we tolerated because it was better he fornicate with a desk than the research team’s legs. During the second week he started viciously grinding against the research team’s legs despite their fervent protests and violent whippings. I almost think that the whippings spurred him on, strange old dog that he is. When we locked him in ‘his’ hut one night he turned aggressive and violent. He tore the room to pieces. Everything was completely destroyed – the power outlets, the telephone, any exposed wires, the bed, the bookshelves – anything he could get his teeth into. When Davis released him the next day for our daily sled run Knut lunged at him, knocking him to the ground. As Davis fell, Knut ran off into the darkness, and was gone. Some of the team searched for him, albeit half-heartedly, but there was nothing much we could do until what little light the Artic Sunrise offered returned the next day. Davis wasn’t hurt, but you can understand our alarm. Knut had been here for two weeks and we already wanted to see the back of him. It was almost as if he was a sadistic gift given to the station leader as punishment for transgressions against his boss’s daughter, allegedly committed years previously.

The next day Knut was lying in his bed, sound asleep. How he managed to find his way back I do not know – perhaps it can be put down to the famous German Shepherd’s sense of smell? Regardless, we begged the ships captain to take him back the next day, but he flatly refused, mean-spirited bastard that he is. I resolved to try again the next time he docked.

Professor, the last two weeks have been pure agony. Knut has destroyed nearly everything of value here and he’s either mated with or chased off our sled dogs. Our wireless is still broken (as your department has been so kind to notice…) and we don’t have many options left. I’m giving this letter to the captain to deliver to you personally, along with a list of supplies we need to repair our equipment and survive out here. The infamous Artic Winter is approaching and we’ll need all the support we can get if we’re to continue our work through the following months as it will be impossible for any ship to reach us. I’m betting that the captain won’t be taking Knut on board at this meeting either, so we can only hope that our German Snow Dog loses himself in a blizzard or jumps into the icy water. SERIOUSLY, professor, what made you think that a crazier-than-a-shithouse-rat German Shepherd would be of any use out here? There aren’t any sheep for crying out loud and he can’t even speak English! At what point did you think that such a man would be of ANY use to me or my team? His mood swings are as changing as the tides, and his refusal to communicate like a human being, his refusal to even respond to his damn NAME, is making me wonder whether you didn’t just find him in a mental hospital and send him out here to terrorise me because of what happened with your daughter all those years ago.

Oh you bastard. That’s exactly what you did, isn’t it?

Fine. I’m SORRY, but we were both FIFTEEN YEARS OLD, professor and I didn’t HAVE any chewing gum on me. If I did, I would have given her some, but I didn’t, so I couldn’t.

There’s probably no point in me sending this, but I will anyway in the hope that it makes a difference.

‘PLEASE send us the supplies we need, PLEASE send us a new sled dog team, PLEASE send us the wireless we need, and PLEASE send a security team to take out Knut, because if you don’t, I will. I swear I’d do it, like, you know even KNOW.’

Yours sceptically,

Doctor Cornelius Littleton

PS. I’m going to die out here, aren’t I?

Friday, February 12, 2010

'Help!' cried Postman Pat, 'My cat is trying to fellate me!'

I need your help.

It's quite simple - I have emerged from the depressive fugue and find myself teeming with brain sparks again. Alas, I have nothing to write about.

This is where you come in. What I want you to do is give me a story topic to start with. Make your suggestion in the comments section of this post and I'll choose the 'best' one to use. I'll have a story knocked up within the week, whereupon the whole process starts again.
Suggestions for this round close on Wednesday the 17th of Feb.

Max of 5 topics per person (purely for logistical reasons). That's the only rule.

I'm hoping the can of worms I just opened is delicious.