scoop loses his way

Scoop had lost all passion for reporting the kind of news that his employer, the venerable Jonestown Gazette, saw fit to print. Over time, his supervisor, an aging aardvark named Burt, had grown increasingly vexed at the nature of the stories he was turning in. Take this one, for example:

______________________________________

Plastic Milk Crate Castle Still Stands

(Jonestown, USA) – Since January, an overgrown empty lot in blighted South Jonestown has been the site of a castle constructed from plastic milk crates. Someone took great pains to build this castle, but to what end. As a shelter, it is inadequate. As an art object, it is of marginal appeal. Attempts by this reporter to find the architect of this mysterious structure by canvassing the neighborhood have failed. Many residents were in fact unaware of the castle’s existence. Others refused to even open their doors to answer a few simple questions. Why, the nerve of those [REDACTED]

_______________________________________

Burt appeared at Scoop’s desk gripping a printout of the story in his hoof-like claw, disgust plastered across his long, drooping face. He took a deep breath.

“Scoop, you know I can’t print this. I don’t even know what to call it, ah, but it’s certainly not news.”

Scoop shrugged. He no longer cared what was considered “news” and what wasn’t. The classification seemed largely arbitrary to him.

“Well, do you have anything to say?” Burt asked.

Scoop was a solitudinarian (an actual word), which sometimes made it difficult to understand what people wanted from him. As a last resort, he kept a splendid array of exit strategies honed and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

“Burt, you’ve figured me out. I can’t do this anymore. I quit.”

Burt stared at the slumped shadow that used to be his all-star newshound.

“What are you going to do, Scoop? You’re a total mess.”

“Thanks for the ego boost, boss. I guess I’ll figure things out once I walk out that door.”

As Scoop cleaned out his desk, he mulled over his loss of interest in investigative reporting.  At one time, he had routinely worked three or more stories concurrently, chasing leads all day and sleeping only a few hours each night. But then one day, it all disappeared. His curiosity withered to dust with no advance warning. All that remained was a ring of distance between himself and everyone and everything around him.

Scoop picked up his small box of belongings and walked toward the door. The next day anything could happen or nothing could happen. He could spend the day lying on his side, staring out the window as the winter wind whistled its secrets to those willing to listen. Or he could look for a new job. Neither option held much appeal.

Burt waved at him as he passed by the old newsman’s office. Scoop nodded back. Burt was not a bad guy, he thought. Just not the type to understand the sort of crisis Scoop felt burning within him.

The door shut behind him for the last time as he exited onto the street, where people moved from place to place like chess pieces, slow and deliberate, braced against the early winter’s cold. This particular section of town reflected the burgeoning trend of an immediate post-Halloween retail transition to the commercial smorgasbord known as Christmas.

“Whatever happened to Thanksgiving,” Scoop muttered. He had to admit, though, that the twinkling lights in every window held a certain appeal. Yes, indeed, an extra few weeks of festive lighting might just help smooth off the sharpest edges of his seasonal depression.

He tossed his box of stuff into the bed of his truck and climbed in the cab. Cranking the heat up, he tuned in the old-time bluegrass station on the radio and sat for a few minutes, staring out the windshield at the chess pieces moving about the board.

I never liked chess, he thought.

Sample questions for discussion

  1. What will happen to Scoop?
  2. Will he find another job?
  3. Will he change his name?
  4. Will he ever learn to love chess?
  5. Is he going to disappear just like the ghost did?
  6. Does anyone care? [I’m on the fence myself-ed.]
  7. Why is an aardvark working at a newspaper?
  8. Do aardvarks live in burrows or what?
  9. Why does this story end so abruptly?
  10. Does this question serve only to make an even 10?

mr. skeleton’s summer holiday

Mr. Skeleton plucked out a doleful jangle of notes on the ribs of his thoracic cage. The weather was no longer cold. It had not been cold for so long that he no longer recalled winter’s throbbing ache in his bones. Instead his bones were now bleached bright from long hours spent baking in the sun. People averted their eyes when they saw him clackity-clack-clacking toward them. This didn’t bother him. He called it his summer glow.

Mr. Skeleton’s vagabond thoughts wandered to the skull, where it was, whether she was taking good care of it. Ah, the skull, the skull, he mumbled into his clavicle. He wondered if he’d ever see it again. Well, certainly not on this beach in Majorca, he thought, chortling to himself. He took another sip of his mojito and watched the fluid dribble down his cervical vertebrae onto his sternum. Not feeling at all drunk, he wondered idly if that squirrelly bartender had stiffed him on rum once again.

He gazed out at the calm sea, absently tapping his phalanges against his right femur. The percussive nature of his jaunty body pleased him. A woman walked by, nodding her head to the quiet beat. He smiled at her, but it was as if he were invisible. Skins never see bones, he mused. Again the skull flashed across his mental plain, carrying with it an image of the one who took it away, the one whose strong arms he hoped still cradled it. Yes, she saw me, he thought. Maybe it had been her bones peering through skin to my bones beyond. He tried to imagine her, bared of all skin, his bones consorting with hers. Yet was that really what he wanted…he could not say for sure. And so he offered up his bones to the sun instead, taking its heat inside, hoping to fill his hollowness with light.

(with musical accompaniment by XTC, spun by none other than DJ SlimAlien.)

christmas eve

It’s snowing here. Imagine cold white puffs falling slanty, clinging to many a surface. I’m taking a picture with my mind and sending it to you through the Aether. Note the female cardinal in the boughs of the cherry tree, a little south of center. She blends in well so you really need to squint. There is also a blanketing of sound that I’m afraid the picture cannot convey. But if you stop listening you may hear it.

I feel a sense of peace today. I hope it’s catching.

the one and the other discuss monday holidays

Today is Monday but it’s also a holiday, said the one.

Indeed, said the other.

How do you feel about that, asked the one.

Eh, I’m noncommittal, replied the one. Sunday becomes Saturday, Monday becomes Sunday, it never ends.

But…are we supposed to hate Monday holidays? pleaded the one.

The other frowned. I don’t think so.

It’s also September now, noted the one.

Yes, replied the other.

The blobs have returned to their indoctrination centers, reported the one.

Ah, yes. I see them in the mornings now, replied the other.

Other, whispered the one.

Yes?

Are you afraid of dying?

No, stated the other.

Why not? cried the one.

Because I like sleeping, replied the one.

The one frowned. But you don’t wake up from death!

That’s fine, said the other. It’s like…ultimate sleep, you know? Sleep deluxe.

I guess, said the one. Do you mean…every time we go to sleep, it’s like a little visit from death?

Exactly, replied the other.

Oh, good. I was afraid death would be more like Sundays, said the one.

How so? asked the other.

Well, you know what Sundays are like, said the one. I even wrote a bad poem about it once! No one wanted to publish it.

Morrissey wrote a song about that, said the other.

Everyday is like Sunday! screamed the one.

Everyday is silent and grey! shouted the other.

The one frowned. But it’s not Sunday.

I know, replied the other. But remember how today is a holiday so actually today is Sunday, for all intents and purposes.

O, right! said the one.

Here, have some chocolate chips, said the other. Chocolate improves mood.

CHOCOLATE! screamed the one, inhaling chips like a vacuum.

Okay, I think you’ve had enough, said the other.

In your face, Sundays AND Mondays! shouted the one with glee.

Gimme those chips back, you fiend! yelled the other.

Not ’til Tuesday! yelled the one.

Fair enough, said the other. But I’ll be expecting cookies later…

More of The One and the Other.

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