Adventures in Writing

Take a word chosen at random and write something about it. Simple? Maybe not.

EVIDENCE

The evidence was obvious and overwhelming, at least to me.

Poor John “Buddy” Boddy’s braincase had been cracked wide open by a baseball bat wielded by none other than Jonathan “Jack” Mustard, legendary gridiron great turned sportscaster The murder took place in the observatory of Buddy’s Hollywood Hills party home as he peered through his 150mm Maksutov-Cassegrain during the wee morning hours. The dumbbell never saw it coming.

I was sure that I had more than enough evidence to take Mustard off the air for the rest of his life; but Buddy’s body was missing, and the other five overnight guests hadn’t a clue. I knew that I had no choice but to roll the dice and play the game if I was to come out a winner.

Who am I? My name is Victor Plum. I’m a billionaire software designer, and I’ve got “game.”

Let’s start with the party guest/suspect list. In addition to myself and Mustard, we’ve got Kasandra Scarlet, leading lady and consummate casting couch cover; Jacob Green, a man of murky occupation who, a couple of hundred years ago, would have been a highly successful snake oil salesman; Diane White, a child film star whose grip on the present is tenuous, at best; and Eleanor Peacock, a woman so filthy rich she can only marginally relate to lifeforms beneath her caste.

cluecharacters

We had all received the party invitation, which had included an intriguing addition. Buddy had scribbled a note to each of us that he feared for his life and hoped that his true friends could help.

“True friends” was a stretch. To me, Buddy was, at best, a frequent associate; but who could resist a note like that?

We all arrived fashionably late and were met with enthusiastic greetings by our host. Dinner and drinks filled the night. We all asked Buddy about his strange note. He had no real evidence to support his fears, only a sense of being watched and a vague feeling of dread.

As the party wound down, we all bid Buddy good night and retired to our rooms. By morning, he was gone.

While the others buzzed about the shocking but not unexpected development, I quickly gathered my evidence. I knew that Buddy was dead, but I wanted to make sure I had what I needed to implicate the killer.

I had been around the board enough times to know that jumping into a room and announcing the perpetrator right up front would not work, so I bowed to tradition and let Scarlet take the lead.

She quickly sashayed to the spa and declared that Green had done the deed in that very room with a wrench. She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Buddy was about as handy as a thumbless Tim Taylor. He had wrenched his back several years ago attempting to do a cartwheel after six margaritas, but any wrench Buddy had owned was left behind when he moved from his old mansion to his new home in 2008.

Green was livid at the accusation. Buddy was his best bud, he said — an unquestionable quid pro quo kind of guy. He wasted no time in naming the real culprit. Without a doubt, he said, White had offed Buddy by whacking him over the head with a lead pipe in the library.

I stand corrected. Scarlet could have been more wrong. Not only was Buddy’s home too new to incorporate lead plumbing, the library had been remodeled into a theater not long after video had replaced print as the world’s primary source of entertainment.

White, although she said that she was flattered by being cast in such a central role in the intrigue, could not claim credit. She nominated Peacock for the honor, adding that she believed Peacock clubbed Buddy to death with a baseball bat whist he was spying on the neighbors from his observatory.

Whaaat? Right location, right weapon, wrong perpetrator. Had she actually seen something?

Peacock frostily replied that she would not dignify the accusation with a response.

It was Mustard’s trip to the plate. The man sputtered something about Buddy having no enemies and expressed complete amazement that any foul play could befall the man.

Mentally, I rubbed my hands together in glee. Everyone had taken a shot, so my turn had come.

I dismissed the clueless Scarlet and Green in short order — no wrench, no lead pipe, no library, no supporting evidence. White was another story.

I questioned her and was able to determine she had only seen a shadowy figure in the observatory with Buddy when she looked out her bedroom window during a bout with insomnia. The baseball bat was pure conjecture because she had seen one in the hallway umbrella stand when she arrived for the party but it was no longer there. “Evidence” like that would not hold up in court.

I pounced.

I produced the bat, decorated with Buddy’s blood and Mustard’s fingerprints. Solid evidence establishing the bat as the murder weapon and Mustard as the culprit. Then, I led them to a large trunk in a storage room just off the observatory, opened the lid and produced another essential piece of evidence in the case — Buddy’s body.

Mustard was still proclaiming his innocence as the cops cuffed him and took him away. I knew he would. Despite all the evidence against him, Mustard did not kill Buddy. I did.

Back in my office, I removed the incredibly lifelike mask I had worn to the party and resumed my true identity — Professor Plum. Yes, I had killed Buddy for the sole reason of framing Mustard and taking him out.

I knew that Mustard, as an ex-jock, could not resist the urge to swing that bat sitting in the hallway when he arrived for the party, leaving a nice set of fingerprints. The rest was easy.

Victor Plum had been my first victim. I had primed Buddy’s paranoia by following him for weeks.

Next on my list is White. She came a little too close to derailing things this time. I’m not going to give her a second chance.

Nothing is going to get in the way of my master plan. In the end, nobody in my game will have a first name.

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The Bad War

This is a special, unedited “guest blog” written and typed by my 7-year-old grandson, Matthew. His devotion to Doctor Who exceeds my own and has outlasted his previous fixation with Thomas the Tank Engine.


matthewandtardis5Chapter 1
Once upon a time there was a fire. They almost died but then someone came for them. He said “SUPERBOY WHAT EVER MY NAME IS TO THE DAY!” He said he doesn’t remember what he usually calls himself. The Mysterious Hero saved the people from that fire. The Mysterious Hero can fly, Run 100 miles per hour, and can even have laser vision! Then… what we all been waiting for. The Doctor & Clara lands the TARDIS (Time Relative Dimensional In Space) at London 2020 Time is 3:30 Clara was so amazed she couldn’t say a thing. “Impressing.” Says The Doctor. “What time is this?” asks Clara. “London 2020.” Says The Doctor.

Chapter 2
The Doctor sees a DALEK chasing a CYBERMEN. The Doctor whispers to himself “That can’t be good… That cant be good at all.” “What?” Clara asks The Doctor. “There’s going to be incoming trouble later.” Says The Doctor. The Mysterious Hero sees The Doctor “Hello. What brings you here? And why are you standing by a blue box??!” asks The Mysterious Hero. “Well. This isn’t just a plain old blue box. This is a time machine. I call it The TARDIS. T A R D I S stands for Time Relative Dimensional In Space.” Says The Doctor. “No Way! Your so silly it can’t be a time machine. Its not possible to have a box that is bigger in the inside.” Says The Mysterious Hero. “Your Wrong. It is possible. Take a look.” Says The Doctor. The Mysterious Hero opens the door & then he could not believe his eyes. “B-B-But.. Hhow?!” says The Mysterious Hero.

Chapter 3
Magic.” Says Clara. “Magic.” Says The Doctor. “Oh and one thing. What’s your name??” asks The Mysterious Hero. “My name… is The Doctor.” “Doctor what?” asks Mysterious Hero “Just The Doctor” Says The Doctor “But Doctor who?” asks The Mysterious Hero “I told you The Doctor” says The Doctor.

Chapter 4
Mysterious had to stop asking and had to see that if he is actually a timelord. So he made tests “Hmm.. Speak a different language.” Says The Mysterious Hero “őíň ıįåç Ţ ŹŲćă ŢŦ” says The Doctor. “Now. Prove me that it’s a time machine. Take me to the same place just in the date that is 100,20,33” says The Mysterious Hero. “Ooooh I cant do that. Earth doesn’t live forever. Neither will you.” Says The Doctor. “What about.. 1995 but same place.” “Sorry I cant. If I do then I will see myself from the past. I have different faces.” Says The Doctor. “Fine.” Says The Mysterious Hero “Doctor. Your forgetting about me again.” Says Clara in a stressed way. “Yeah sorry about that Clara. Everyone stay here, its safe nothing can get in. There’s some enemies I need find.”

Chapter 5
Said The Doctor. The Doctor leaves The TARDIS and locks the door. “Lets see where are you little monsters.” Says The Doctor when The Doctor gets far away from something comes to come steal it and destroy it. “THE TARDIS IS DETECTED! YOU. TELL THE BOSS THAT WE DETECTED THE TARDIS!!!” Says DALEK “YES SIR.” Says CYBERMEN (That got Dementedetated. (Pretending it’s the daleks upgrade) ).

WE WILL WIN! WE WILL WIN THIS TIME DOCTOR! THIS TIME!! THIS TIME!!!!! THIS TIIIIIMMMME!!!!!!!!” Says DALEK (5 Minutes Later In The TARDIS) “AGHH!! WHY IS THE TARDIS MOVING SO MUCH!? DOES IT ALWAYS DO THIS!!!??” Asks The Mysterious Hero. “NO IT DOESN’T AGH!!” says Clara.

Chapter 6
The Doctor heads back to The TARDIS. He sees that The TARDIS is gone. “Oh no you don’t.” says The Doctor as he pulls out his sonic screwdriver and turns it to Land Here mode. (Meanwhile in The TARDIS) “Well that’s good we landed and stopped shaking” said Mysterious Hero & Clara. The Doctor unlocks the doors and opens doors then he asks “Are you two alright?” “Yeah were fine.” Says Clara and again The Doctor save the day.

The End

Tornado Adds Real Twist to Car Market

Sales of the Great Big Motors Corporation’s Tornado have skyrocketed since the world’s first production monster truck began rolling off the GBMC Beijing assembly line in early January.

“The popularity of the Tornado has exceeded our wildest expectations,” announced a beaming Gus Guzzler, GBMC founder and CEO. “We can’t make them fast enough to keep our dealers in stock.”

The car industry had scoffed when GBMC was founded less than a year ago, but it’s paying attention now. When falling gas prices sparked a renewed interest in larger vehicles, established car manufacturers had cautiously responded with an incremental increase in the average size of its models.

Guzzler, who had made billions in the lucrative nightcrawler rental market, saw an opportunity and pounced on it like a deranged banker on a real estate derivative. GBMC and its “Bigger is Better” battle cry were born.

GBMC_Tornado

Like its namesake, the Tornado is an environmental disaster. Its fuel efficiency is measured in gallons per mile. GBMC touts the official EPA rate at 1.5 gpm, although it cautions that “your gallonage may vary.” Proud Tornado owner Facebook posts put the current, unsubstantiated record at 3 gpm “with only a little engine revving.”

GBMC balances its fleet to meet federal fuel efficiency requirements with its GoCart model. That diminutive, single-seat vehicle, powered by a .3-liter engine, has a smaller footprint than a Tornado spare tire.

Every Tornado comes with a complimentary GC strapped to its bed. The GC is not sold separately.

In-your-face, anti-environmental Tornado standard equipment includes an acceleration-triggered smoke injector built into the tailpipe. The thick, oily black plumes belched by the Tornado when the injector kicks in adds all the dramatic flair of a Reavers raider in hot pursuit of a Series 3 Firefly at atmospheric altitudes..

“Owners are extremely pleased with this feature,” Guzzler reported.

Among Tornado exterior options are light bars, chrome running boards and flare launchers. Vertically challenged buyers might want to consider an available escalator as an aid to reaching the driver’s seat. If the standard Royal Blue finish is not appealing, the Tornado can be special-ordered in camo.

Guzzler noted that owners have shown amazing creativity in customizing their Tornadoes. He added that GBMC has proven it can match virtually any request made.

“We’ve been more than ready to add things, including legally questionable ones, to make our customers happy,” Guzzler declared.

The Tornado interior is plushly appointed. Heated leather seats are derived from the soft skins of baby animals, including several endangered species. An eight-speaker Bose sound system comes complete with a country-western and heavy metal mp3 library.

Cigarette lighters and ashtrays are installed on driver and passenger doors. The entire cockpit is trimmed in rare Brazilwood.

Giddy with the success of the Tornado, GBMC has big plans for even bigger models.

“By the second quarter of next year, we will launch our new top-of-the-line Hurricane,” Guzzler promised. “Watch for additional announcements. The Hurricane is going to blow you away.”

Taming the Second Amendment

Amending the U.S. Constitution is an intentionally difficult process. The probability of repealing the Second Amendment, especially in the current political climate, is on a par with a Trump supporter having a double-digit IQ.

Does that mean that frequent mass shootings are a permanent part of American culture? Maybe not. Let’s look at another possibility.

The year is 2020, a year intent on earning its name through cultural acuity. A hypothetical case of illegal gun possession, call it Joe Derringer vs. The State of New Jersey, winds its way from the lower courts and appeals its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Joe maintains that his Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” has been violated.

Joe went to court after police found 357 handguns and rifles in his Hoboken efficiency apartment, along with 23 cats, which were the original reason the cops came to his door. Joe had no required permit to carry or firearms purchaser identification card for any of the firearms he had amassed.

Joe is a proactive kind of guy. He does have a card certifying that he is a bona fide member of the Manly Men Militia. To Joe’s way of thinking, that membership underwrites his right to own his firearms collection and supersedes all New Jersey laws to the contrary.

militiaman

 

The problem for Joe is that the SCOTUS which gets this case is not the court of Citizens United. The majority of justices now on the bench are no longer the lapdogs of business. They are neither fond of, nor intimidated by, either the gun industry or the National Rifle Association.

These justices have a keen interest in (gasp) justice. They hear the cries for gun control, not as coming from a vocal minority, but from a rapidly growing number of people whose loved ones have been murdered by individuals who should never have been allowed to touch, let alone, own a firearm.

The court decides to take yet another look at the Second Amendment and determine just what the writers were thinking when they penned this nebulously worded paragraph. Could conditions possibly have changed since 1791?

At the time the Bill of Rights was drafted, Colonists-turned-Americans were understandably skittish. Government and oppression were all too often synonymous. The distinction between citizen soldiers and regular army was blurred.

Granting the people the right to keep guns in their households seemed like a good idea. They could defend themselves and their fledgling nation from outsides threats. They could also, should this new democracy take a turn for the worse, defend themselves from their own government.

Things have a way of changing in more than two centuries. So, SCOTUS takes another hard, long, debate-filled look at the Second Amendment, and guess what? Sanity, at long last, prevails.

In a more than 200-page decision, the court determines that a “well-regulated militia” is as extinct as the Dodo, and that the right to keep a loaded musket by the bedside does not equal the right to amass a personal arsenal. The court further rules that gun ownership must be strictly regulated.

Details are left to the states. However, all laws enacted, the court’s decision mandates, must include certain provisions.

An applicant must show a clear need for gun ownership, as well as undergo a criminal background check, psychological assessment and professional training before being granted a permit. Those who become gun owners will have absolute responsibility for ensuring the security of their weapons, subject to periodic, unannounced inspection.

Failing to comply with any of these stipulations must carry severe fines and mandatory jail sentences. Any gun owner whose weapon is used in a criminal act must be subject to the same charges as the person actually committing the crime.

Noting that many current gun owners might be unable or unwilling to meet the new qualification requirements, the court rules that they may retain their gun collections but only on the condition that all firearms are rendered permanently inoperable. Gun owners will thus remain free to display their disabled weapons and compare whose is bigger as often as they like.

The high court decision further stipulates that gun retailers must, if requested, buy  back their customers’ ammunition supplies. The court wryly notes that owners will also the option of turning their bullets into “fashionable jewelry.”

A year after the ruling, mass shootings in America are so rare they actually become news again. Who saw that coming?

They Shall Not Pass

Canada will not passively wait to be invaded by a horde of American refugees seeking to escape a Donald Trump Presidency.

After Google inquiries about moving from the United States to Canada spiked to nearly 1,500 percent above average at midnight on Super Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for an immediate emergency joint address of Parliament.

The address ran a mere 15 minutes before all senators and members had reached unanimous agreement. Work would begin immediately on a colossal wall protecting Canada from illegal U.S. immigrants.

The wall will go up simultaneously along the nearly 4,000 miles of main Canadian-U.S. border and the more than 1,500 additional miles of border with Alaska. Plans call for the wall to be constructed entirely of solid Canadian ice and tower 700 feet above the rustic Canadian landscape.

southofthewall
The new wall between Canada and the United States will look very Game of Thronesish

 

The wall will replace the half-dozen “Keep Out” signs the United States had strategically placed along the border, signs which had held law-abiding Canadian would-be emigrants at bay for more than two centuries. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police Nights Watch Division will be created to patrol the wall.

Trudeau said that the plan is not impossible, noting that the Great Wall of China stretches for nearly the same number of miles. That building  process took almost 300 years, but Trudeau set a 30-day deadline for completion of the Canada Wall.

“Summer is coming,” the Prime Minister warned.

Trudeau assured Canadians concerned about the cost of the project that Canada will not pay a dime.

“We did not create this problem,” he said. “We will make Trump pay for the wall.”

Earth to Echo: Not the Movie

My wife presented me with an Amazon Echo for Christmas. The Echo is a black cylinder equipped with microphone, speakers, lights and a cloud-based persona, “Alexa” (only available alternate moniker, the slightly less personable “Amazon”). She is perpetually waiting to hear her name.

It would be an understatement to say we are still getting acquainted.

Alexa lights up at the sound of her name. If you’re fast enough, you can ask her a question or instruct her to perform a task. She quickly reverts to standby mode once she has responded. To continue the conversation, I must again “awaken” her by saying her name.

Alexa is so eager to serve, in fact, that she responds when she is being talked about as well as being directly addressed. Late one night, I was watching Second Chance when the Echo inexplicably started playing music. I solved that mystery when I realized a character on the television show named Alexa had been mentioned, and whatever had been said next sounded like a tune request.

echo_alexa

Alexa has proven most useful, thus far, in assembling my weekly grocery shopping list, which automatically appears on my smartphone. Items can be checked or deleted as I put them in my cart. Handy.

Alexa has also been flawless in providing information on demand, like the current score of a football game, the latest news or the weather forecast. The Echo can act as timer within a 24-hour period. The variety of alarm sound options include several guaranteed to wake anyone from the soundest sleep.

Alexa can add a host of new talents by enabling “skills” in a companion smartphone app. She can now provide movie offerings and times, play Rock, Paper, Scissors, Spock, access music and tell jokes. She can also laugh and fart on demand. Yes, Alexa can be quite entertaining.

The height of Alexa’s entertainment value, however, comes in what she “thinks” she hears. The words are so random, they seem fraught with some type of deep, unfathomable meaning. Strung together, these misinterpretations of what I am certain were my perfectly enunciated requests seem almost poetic.

Hence, I present:

Ode to Alexa

Who is to the ocean hello?

What is due?

Get everything you do with you

Yeah, did you seconds?

Are you gonna call Volvo?

Kocher be mad at you?

Do you one?

Tell me five seconds

Next ball back to school

Tell me e-mail about what I wanted to do it my hours

Hello, damn

Seen inside of me

On plug you please

Yes the bones of the show

Don’t let me let me with do you have to pick up

Play a Doctor Wu song

Give me a boy you laugh

Do you know I’m talking midnight not even plugged in?

Then pause you have the notes from sailing

Knock, knock, knock. I want dancing

Add got pumpkin pie do you nine forty-two a.m. to my to do list

The cool down and you said that thing jackets