Category Archives: humor

MapWriter 7.0, Error Log: You Chose to End the Unresponsive Program

Instead of a job in publishing, as her Life Map suggested she would have, Claire Chevalier took a boyfriend at Stark & Sons Publishing Group and a night position at Anita’s Diner. A smart woman with a degree in marketing had too much dignity to turn up homeless at the mercy of one Sebastian Cortez, otherwise known as Acquisitions Editor at Stark’s, as well as the Man Who Never Left the coffee counter.

Ostensibly, Sebastian lingered over ever-whitening coffee because he was in love with Claire. This should have flattered her, but it didn’t. She cleaned away his stack of empty cream cups, and then he, having nothing to play with, stared at her while she filled salt and pepper shakers.

“Your map just told me you need to go home and sleep,” she said, unable to temper the ragged tone in her voice.

“Your map told me you shouldn’t turn down love when it’s offered to you,” he said.

“I want my map back,” she grumbled. “And in return, you can have yours.”

“No deal.”

“Fine, I’ll take yours back to the Cartographia and tell them they made a mistake. They’ll deprogram the one you have and give me a new one. And then no map for you. You won’t have your future or mine.”

“Our futures belong to each other. The maps said so.” He hung his head over the counter with his hangdog way and finally pulled a few bills from his wallet and tucked them squarely under the brown mug.

Claire watched him disappear into the early morning, his pointy vaquero boots leading him to his actual apartment, away from his default coffee-bar bedroom.

“No seas cruel, chiquita! No seas cruel con mi corazón,” sang the cook.

When did she turn into a cruel woman? The late nights did it, the lack of sleep combined with Sebastian’s overt caricature of himself as he hovered over her every night. Before Sebastian, she had wanted love. Since Sebastian, she wanted love with a different sort of man, the kind not wrapped up in his own special identity. No, scratch that. She wanted the true Sebastian to emerge from his beautiful soul. Deep inside, Sebastian was sweet and refined, and the sweetness shone from his warm brown eyes.

Outwardly, he put on rugged airs. He was a Mexican! He was a cowboy! He was a manly editor who earned three times what she made as a waitress, only to procure historical romances about cowboys! who were often Mexican! and when they were square-jawed Anglos! they purchased mail-order, spitfire Mexican brides! And everybody participated in shootouts happily ever after. He thought so highly of his literary taste, too.

After her shift, she crumpled her apron in her bag, which didn’t contain Sebastian’s map. She didn’t care to study the life steps detailed on it these days because they always led him back to her. It had seemed so cute at first, when the map store, the Cartographia, had accidentally sold her his map, and vice versa. Their map steps led them to each other, and so they kept the wrong maps with the understanding that their chosen Life Paths would intertwine until death did them part. As interactive and scientific as the maps were, the magic of fate enticed them.

Your map is telling me to buy you roses. Your map is telling me to kiss you. It wasn’t cute any longer. Claire wanted out, wanted a new map that would advise her to find a different job and, possibly, a different man who lacked Sebastian’s dewy, romantic eyes. Scratch that. She didn’t want a different man, just a new map.

At home, she attempted sleep, Sebastian’s hangdog image caught in her head. Sleeping in the day was impossible. She ate a peanut butter sandwich because she was poor, and braved the rainy spring day outdoors, if only to walk to the downtown Cartographia store.

She plunked Sebastian’s map and her receipt on the counter. “I want a new map. You sold me the wrong one.”

The salesman studied the receipt. “You should have brought this back three months ago.”

“So? It’s your fault for selling me somebody else’s map, and you should fix it.” Yes, lack of sleep made Claire snappish.

“I can give you a discount on a new map, but the problem is your warranty ran out last week.”

“I can’t afford a new one. Don’t you understand? You sold me a man’s map. It’s your fault.” She unfolded Sebastian’s map and pointed to all the information that didn’t pertain to her.

The last step on the map lit up at the renewed activity. Go to the downtown Cartographia on your lunch hour, it said. The salesman made a funny coughing noise, and the door censor buzzed. Claire felt Sebastian’s fateful presence, and she turned to face him.

Sebastian didn’t smile. “I decided to bring your map back,” he said.

“It’s too late. The warranty’s expired. Did my map tell me to come here?”

“No,” he protested, but then gave her a sheepish look. “Yes, actually it did.”

She grabbed his map off the counter and shoved it at him. “I thought so. It’s time to make the trade.”

He didn’t argue. The sadness in his eyes was terrible, though. He shuffled back out the door with his own map in hand.

“Fine,” she said, and followed him out.

The tile outside was slick with rain, and her heels slipped on it. She might have fallen, but Sebastian caught her. Her map, however, fell in a puddle and immediately blanked–her life a big, black nothing.

She seethed. She hated Sebastian. This was his fault, and to make matters worse, he lowered her to the wet sidewalk rather than helping her up.

She looked up at his face, at the warm eyes peering down at her and blinking away what might have been tears. She pointed to her map.

“That’s all right,” he said. “At least we still have mine. Maybe it will tell us what to do.”

He unfolded it. Recommend your fiance to the marketing department.

She felt betrayed. Maybe she was always supposed to have a job at Stark’s. “You’ve been tricking me into a relationship, haven’t you? Just admit it.”

He shook his head and pointed to the word fiance. “I can only recommend you if we’re engaged,” he said, and offered her his hand.

Against her better judgment, and not knowing what her map would say, she took it.

For the first part of this story see MapWriter 7.0 Error Log, Case One.

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Dr. Gillilander & the Double Blind Reviewers

It’s no secret that Dr. Gerald Gillilander DPPM PB [Doctor of Psychiatric Pet Medicine, Physio-Biotamist] has recently defended himself against charges of unethical practices regarding his experimental subjects, as well as the way in which his studies are reviewed–or, shall we say, the way Dr. Gillilander treats his reviewers at his extensive grounds right here in the city of Austin.

This reporter braved the rumors on the wind and drove to the dreaded research facilities to investigate the accusations for herself. Upon entering the drive, I stumbled on an unknown aspect of Dr. Gillilander’s shame: the man on his knees, clutching at a woman’s left leg while she attempted to climb into a Toyota sedan. The distraction of an unknown vehicle gave the woman the impetus to strike Dr. Gillilander with her sensible heel, slam her car door closed as he reeled from the attack, and then peel off down the drive.

Quickly, I leaped from my own vehicle, snapping at my cameraman to follow. I knelt beside the weeping scientist, who wore a white lab coat with a yellow polka-dotted bow tie.

“Alma,” he wailed. “Alma come back.”

The bells dinged in my head. Alma was the name of his wife. I took his hand. “Did your wife leave you, Dr. Gillilander?”

“She’s suing for custody of Caroline.”

“Is that your daughter?” I patted his hand.

“Our terrier. Our baby. The one we raised together. Who are you, anyway? And why is that camera in my face?”

“My name is Julie Swisher. I’m a reporter for the Austin Chronicle, and I’d like to get your side of the story.”

He shook his head, and his shaggy hair trembled. He pushed his glasses up his nose. “I don’t allow reporters here.”

“You’ve had an awful lot of bad press lately, Dr. Gillilander. Don’t you think it’s time to tell your side of the story?”

“No. You’re a woman, and I’m afraid I can’t listen to your questions. I’ve heard all the female command frequencies my pituitary gland can take in one day.”

“What if my cameraman and I switch places?” I asked him.

Reluctantly, Dr. Gillilander agreed, and he stood to his feet while Antwerp, my videographer, showed me which button to push for go and which to push for stop. Then I explained to Antwerp that a good journalistic interview resembled a natural conversation, only with poignant, leading questions.

Antwerp rubbed his hands eagerly. “So show me the chimera creatures,” he said to Dr. Gillilander. “I wanna see the ones that are three-fifth human. Do you think they should get the right to vote? Some people argue they should.”

“I treat all of my subjects ethically,” Dr. Gillilander shouted. “We use the democratic process right here at the ranch.”

“Don’t get bent out of shape,” Antwerp said.

“I’ll show you, if you don’t believe me. But this video only gets released at my say so. Understand?”

Both Antwerp and I nodded eagerly, and I made a mental note to edit out the camera jags caused by my natural journalistic enthusiasm. We followed Dr. Gillilander to a cluster of prefab metal buildings that hummed from the use of enormous fans on their roofs.

Dr. Gillilander unlocked one set of rolling garage doors and pushed them up. Unwittingly, I gasped at the sight of the disfigured creatures, who cowered at the sudden burst of sunlight. But as my eyes focused on them, I realized what Dr. Gillilander meant by ethical. Each pen resembled a cozy living room and bedroom space, complete with computers and televisions. One pen, belonging to a creature that appeared as a dolphin with legs, contained a library, mainly composed of Shakespeare. The creature–a he?–wore the same style of glasses as the good doctor, and he held Macbeth in his flipper hands.

“Good afternoon, Dr. G,” said a creature who resembled either a sasquatch or a humanzee.

“You see?” said Dr. G. “They’re perfectly happy. They vote on meal choices, and I’ve even allowed them to organize.”

“Organize?” asked Antwerp.

“Yes, they belong to the Chimera Creature Union.”

I could tell Antwerp was impressed with that. Antwerp was an outspoken union sympathizer. He seemed to have forgotten about the leading poignant questions, however.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Dr. Gillilander, if you’ll allow me just one question.”

The doctor stuck his fingers in his ears. “I can’t hear you,” he said.

I kicked Antwerp’s anklebone, and he yelped.

“Um.” Antwerp gazed around, then stared up at the giant fans that washed the strong animal smell away.

“What about the reviewers?” I asked.

“What about them?” Dr. G shouted, and the humanzee-sasquatch growled at me.

“What about the accusations of kidnapping and bodily harm of prominent Russian scientists?”

“I’ve only done what was necessary for the proper journals to accept my work.”

“Yes?” I prodded, directing the camera intently at his face.

“I change their cage liners twice a day. I give them fresh food and water.”

“Show us,” I said.

He walked us over to the next building and paused, his hand at the padlocked door.

“The video is only shown at my discretion,” he reminded me.

“Of course.”

After unlocking a series of chains, padlocks, and fingerprint-encoded sealing devices, he threw open doors, gates, until finally we entered the inner sanctum, where famous–and missing–scientists writhed on tables, punching words into keyboards with the help of electric shock collars. One looked up at us, startled by our footsteps, if I could even safely use the word look. He was missing both eyes, as were all the white-coated lab dummies. They were double-blinded.

Nary a poignant question occurred to me. I swept the mess of mangled reviewers, my camera hand shaking.

“I’ll have to confiscate that,” Dr. Gillilander said. “Released at my discretion, remember?”

“Never!”

I turned on my heels and booked it, Antwerp close behind. We raced from the lab of horror back to my car. Breathless, I handed Antwerp his camera and slid in the hot car interior.

“We’ll make history,” I panted. “I might win an award for journalistic achievement. I might even become the next great documentary videographer.”

“Um,” Antwerp said.

“Do you think you could speak in words?”

“Um, you forgot to push the go button,” he said. “But don’t worry, I’ll back you up on this.”

For more Dr. Gillilander, click here: The Gillilander Pituitary Scale of the Male out of Eden Complex

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Are You Serious?

I’ve been accused of being too serious many times in my life, and multiple times in the last several weeks alone. This is disturbing to me because I find the world to be an absurd place. I’m always laughing at something. Sigh. Oops, I meant snigger. Why don’t people understand this?

In the tagged archive section on my old blog, humor rests at number three. With 37 posts, 18th C comes in first. Next is poetry, at 32. Third is humor, with 22 posts. Humor falls in line before accordions and even James Boswell (who, admittedly, probably landed in some of my humorous posts). I feel sort of like the autistic boy in the book I’m reading, who hands over his “Hi I have a disability” card when the world misunderstands him.

In keeping with my frantic tone right now, which inspires me to edit and write like a madwoman, I’ve decided to re-post at least one of my so-called jokes from my blog. You never know, it might come in handy to you. I know it’s worked for me. Begin Joke.**

The Rube Goldberg Method of Novel Writing:

The contraption starts with the harried author, who bangs her head against the wall, thereby knocking off the framed-inspirational-calligraphic scripture, which falls on a foot pedal, which kicks off a series of amplified notes that rattles weighted hanging objects, carefully placed to eventually fall onto the computer keyboard when the notes have hit their highest pitch. These weighted, swinging objects have been mathematically determined to fall at a certain rate and order, eventually spelling out this sentence: Justin is dead. However, because writers tend to be terrible at mathematical equations, the sentence is just as likely to come out this way: Ass did jute in.

Patent pending and all rights reserved. Now back to novel writing, unexpected endings, notwithstanding.

**End joke. I’m handing over my disability card now.

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The Gillilander Pituitary Scale of the Male Out-Of-Eden Complex

Prominent pet psychiatrist Gerald Gillilander stumbled across a startling find near his home/dog asylum in Austin, Texas. Namely, he stumbled across the dead carcass of his longtime companion, a German Shepherd he called Ralphie. But nobody calls Ralphie any longer because, as Gillilander concluded, Ralphie was called to death–literally–by a female Shepherd responding to the name of Nadine*, whom the asylum had admitted for aggression two months prior to Ralphie’s demise. 

Nadine’s aggression took the form of barking, rather than biting, and that was the rub for Ralphie. Ralphie was a male dog who lacked the ability to move in any direction when confronted with a female dog’s commands. After spending two months riveted to the spot by Nadine’s incessant noise, Ralphie rolled over and died. 

Later that same day, as Professor Gillilander took a long drive through the city streets to mourn his friend, something in his brain clicked at the sound of the female voice on his GPS. He found himself ignoring her commands. In fact, he wasn’t headed in any one direction, but had randomly told the GPS he meant to arrive at Pet Smart in order to buy a leash with which to hang himself. As he missed each-left hand turn and the subsequent instructions, “Make a u-turn on Broadway five feet ahead. You passed it, you dummy. Make a u-turn on Market. Now repositioning. Repositioning again,” he felt calmer and more confident than he had in years. 

With one hand  still holding the wheel, he fumbled open the black bag he used for house calls and checked his blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. His blood pressure was 115 over 80, his heart rate normal, his body temperature an average 98.6. He hadn’t seen these healthy numbers for many months, not since he’d hired his latest secretary, Alma Hartford, a woman whose sole purpose in life was to be obeyed, even by her employer.

He drove around town for some time, ignoring the GPS commands, while continuing to monitor his numbers. After precisely forty-two minutes, his blood pressure rose to its usual 160 over 97. His temperature rose to 101, he felt a strong pulsing at the side of his neck, and he clenched the steering wheel with so much ferocity that the skin on his knuckles turned a peculiar hue of yellow. Sensing his impending death, he reprogrammed the GPS to guide him home. When the female voice instructed him to take a right at the next intersection, he obeyed. Ironically, at the first sign of compliance, his body relaxed and his blood pressure dropped back to a healthy level.

Back at home in his study, he massaged his head, and he thought deeply about the day’s adventures. When he hadn’t obeyed the voice, he’d relaxed. But the calmness produced by this pattern of behavior hadn’t lasted. What could it mean?

The next day, he set about collecting and testing the pituitary glands of male and female human subjects and subjecting them to various vocal frequencies. In order to accomplish this, he created a contraption using simulated model ears attached to the pituitary glands by tubes ending in reeds able to vibrate at a wide range of frequencies. This  was placed in a simulated brain atmosphere, so as not to damage the glands before reattaching them to their respective hypothalami. 

A pattern soon began to emerge. Male pituitary function was positively or negatively stimulated by the frequency range of 165 to 255 Hz, the standard range of the human female voice, while female pituitary function didn’t respond in any substantial way to a frequency below 180 and above 85 Hz, or the frequency range of the male voice.

But just as his responses to the female voice of his GPS didn’t show stable results, so the stimulation of the male pituitary didn’t net a stable set of hormone secretion. And once again, he slunk to his office,but this time to pore over his data. Then, he saw it. In order for the male pituitary to secrete regulated doses of hormones, it had to follow a formula of roughly 70% silence to 30% female command frequency. Yet silence is a shaky term to define. He had succeeded in simulating silence merely by ignoring the GPS voice for approximately seventy minutes out of a hundred. The following thirty out of a hundred had restabilized his hormone secretions. 

Gillilander dubbed his discovery the “Out of Eden Complex”. Numerous male human studies later, he’s opened his psychiatric practice and asylum to his male friends, as long as they’re willing to share a room–or car–with a canine. His research caused numerous relationship problems, unfortunately, and the “time away” his patients suddenly needed from their female partners became a necessity not originally foreseen by the advice he gave them to “simply ignore their female significant others 70% of the time, and you’ll reach optimal health”. The ratio counters he provided them at a cut-rate cost of $99.99, plus money-back guarantee, were returned to him smashed. Now, he advises his male patients to use the GPS for their 70% silent time.

“Balance,” Dr. Gillilander concluded, “is the key to life. Your GPS won’t yell at you. Take your own route with her, ignore her commands, and you’ll come up roses. That’s a great idea, actually. Give her the address to the dry-cleaner’s and, instead, drive to the flower shop.”

How have these startling discoveries affected the doctor’s life? Sadly, his secretary, Alma Hartford, quit her job. But she’s since become his wife, and the two are the proud parents of a female terrier whose yip is bigger than her bite.

*Name changed in order to protect patient-doctor confidentiality 

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Look, My Animus is Wearing a Suit!

He transformed into a natty fellow last night. I don’t how it happened. One night, he’s a sixties throwback with a ponytail, who bullies me; the next, he’s wearing a ratty flannel and acting complacent. And then he transforms himself into this perfectly dressed, charming, magnanimous guy with a great haircut. Not only that, but he speaks multiple languages, including all the Romance idioms, and he plays several instruments. He’s kind, rather than argumentative, and never, never complacent. Did I mention how charming he is? Let me tell you something–this guy can’t be my animus. It would be like forcing Simon Pegg into a snazzy suit and shoving a cocktail in his hand.

Don’t get me wrong. As much as I’d like to tap into the charming inner place of my soul, I’m more likely to trip on my tap shoes and fall off the stage. Years later, I’ll argue with you over whether or not your interpretation of my fall is the correct one. I might even find an expert to back me up. Nix that–I am the expert (on tripping over myself, anyway). So why do I need to wear a suit, again?

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