Tagged: Tales From The Grouch

 

 

Ted’s Head

by J.D.H.

 

 

(Someday soon)

 

Marvin Snoutz stood on the rostrum, adjusted his natty bowtie, pushed his glasses up from the tip of his nose to its bridge, and peered at the audience.

A nettlesome spotlight, projecting from somewhere in the auditorium’s balcony, did its best to blind him, but it wasn’t powerful enough to prevent Snoutz from discerning people in the front row. What he saw there was … perplexing. The seats were 80 percent — scratch that, closer to 90 percent — occupied by women. That fact alone did not unsettle Snoutz, but rather his impression that nearly all the females were obese. Morbidly obese.

Had these women appeared en masse to see him? Marvin let the thought pass. He was allowing ego to ride roughshod over common sense. They were at the lecture, no doubt, because of the special guests scheduled by The Committee. Or at least some of the special guests. Marvin was merely the host. The special guests were celebrities. Or had been, at one time.

Still, once a celebrity, always a celebrity in America. Indeed, today’s symposium was a guaranteed money-maker for the school — and for Snoutz.

The important thing was that the audience was thus far quiet, a good sign. It meant they acknowledged the scientific import of the occasion. Snoutz cleared his throat and mentally dismissed the fat women in the front row. He told himself that if he became nervous, he would not imagine them sitting there naked.

“Without further ado,” he continued, “let’s bring out the first of our celebrated participants. Introductions are quite superfluous as I’m certain you are all quite familiar with them both. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Jordan Peterson, and Sir Charles Barkley!”

Much applause in the darkened auditorium. Save for the ladies in the front row whom, Marvin noticed as he exited stage left, remained silent. He was glad to be clear of them.

 

**

 

The famous academic and the renowned basketball player emerged from stages left and right, respectively, and seated themselves on stools near Snoutz’s vacated lecture stand. The two men did not shake hands, but merely acknowledged each other with slight nods.

“Thank you. Thank you, folks,” began the dapper educator. Barkley said nothing and fixed his gaze on Peterson.

“I’ll have to say that, in the course of my career, in particular the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to share a stage with quite a few illustrious persons,” Peterson began. “And yet, this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of conducting a lecture with an esteemed professional athlete, such as is the case today with Mr. Barkley.”

A scattering of applause.

“Although, as I’m certain most of you are aware, today Mr. Barkley and I are not the, quote, ‘stars of the show.’” Peterson allowed himself a brief smile.

“We were asked here today to act as, I guess you might say, liaisons, or mediators, for a most extraordinary event. I hesitate to use the word ‘spectacle,’ because that might suggest a sideshow of some sort, and this is assuredly not a circus event. Despite what some members of the press might lead you to believe.

“Our purpose today is groundbreaking, to say the least. We’re posing a number of big questions, most of which mankind has been asking for millennia: Is there life after death? What, exactly, is death? If one were to return from the dead, how would one describe the experience? With any luck, we’ll leave this auditorium later today with a bit more understanding.”

 

**

 

Charles Barkley listened to his co-host with barely concealed contempt. Peterson talked and talked and talked, but never said anything. Now he was boring the crowd with academic bullshit about science and cryogenics and, mostly, his own self-importance. After some minutes of this blathering, Charles had had enough.

Excuse me. Excuse me but are you gonna let a brother talk?” he interjected.

Peterson had just taken note of the silent congregation of obese women in the front row. This filled him with a vague sense of unease. He was therefore a bit relieved to defer to his co-host.

“My apologies,” he said. “I’m sure the audience would much rather hear from a famous athlete than from a dull academic such as myself.” He expected polite laughter at this quip. None came.

“Let’s just bring out the heads and get on with it,” Barkley said. Much applause from the audience.

 

**

 

A hush fell over the auditorium as two stagehands wheeled carts to the front of the stage and locked the wheels of the respective vehicles in designated spots.

Each cart supported a square, glass container, and each container encased a human head. The disembodied noggins were visible only to audience members lucky enough to have seats up front. Giant monitors above the stage and along the balcony supplied views to the less fortunate.

Hidden behind brass plates on the base of the containers were the tubes, electrodes, and other apparatus that, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, served as vocal cords, respiratory, and circulatory lifelines to the two human heads. Small computers were also attached to the mass of body replicants.

Peterson beamed at the audience. It was cliché, he mused, but you really could hear a pin drop.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the not-so-late Mr. Ted Williams and the not-so-late Mr. Norman Mailer!”

 

**

 

Even though he hadn’t swatted a four-bagger in more than 60 years, and that was when televised sports was in its infancy — never mind the Internet — Boston’s “splendid splinter” attracted most of the room’s interest. He was a hallowed jock, after all, the last pro baseball player to hit .400 when the game was still considered “America’s pastime.”

Norman Mailer, by contrast, was a writer, venerated by a small segment of society, but hardly a household name.

From his facial expression when he saw the other head, it seemed clear that Williams shared America’s indifference toward writers in general and Mailer in particular.

Mailer, on the other hand, seemed tickled to be sharing the spotlight with the former Red Sox star.

For its part, the audience was transfixed by the two thawed beans, and especially by a tuna-fish can that was affixed to Williams’s head, just above his left ear.

 

**

 

“We think you’ll find,” said Jordan Peterson, “that Misters Williams and Mailer retain not just the intellect of their, shall we say, more active days, but also the colorful personalities most of you recall so well.

“That’s a tribute not just to science, but also to the resilience of these remarkable men. Before I forget, I’d like to express my gratitude to The Committee for making this forum possible.”

Barkley was considering decapitating Peterson and tossing the blowhard’s crown into the crowd. He decided this might not go over too well with an audience composed primarily of Peterson-like eggheads, so he opted instead to cut in.

“Jordan excuse me, excuse me, but these people don’t wanna hear from you or me. They don’t care about cryo-whatever and that sort of shit. Let me ask these two bros some questions.”

Peterson wasn’t really listening. He thought some of the women in the front row were glaring. At him.

 

**

 

“Pardon me,” said the disembodied head of Norman Mailer. “I have a question for Ted Williams.”

Williams, who much to his chagrin could not swivel his neck to look directly at Mailer, because most of his neck didn’t exist, eyed the scribbler as best he could. Kinky-haired, scrunch-faced troll, he thought. Also, a New Yorker. Ted wasn’t overly fond of New Yorkers.

“You had a famous rivalry with DiMaggio,” said Mailer. “I happen to know a bit about DiMaggio, thanks to a book I wrote about Marilyn Monroe. You knew DiMaggio, personally. I’m curious about his relationship with Marilyn, what you might know of it.”

Williams had heard about Mailer and his infamous boner for Monroe. The little prick had even written a book about her. Mailer didn’t give a hoot about DiMaggio, Ted, or baseball.

“Joe told me she was just like in the movies,” Williams snarled, “a blonde bimbo with big tits. In my day, I used to eat and spit out girls like her on road trips. I had what you might call a heavy appetite.”

Mailer pondered this for a moment. “Let me tell you something, if I may. The contents of your stomach are no more interesting to me than the contents of the stomach of an intellectual cow.” He waited a beat.

“Oh, that’s right. You have no stomach.”

 

**

 

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” cut in Peterson, “can we please keep the discourse civil? There are students in the audience who give not a hoot about movie stars nor old baseball rivalries. They want to learn about human thought processes and emotions, post-cryogenics.

“It’s fascinating to people, myself included, that a cryonics laboratory in Arizona has managed to freeze, and subsequently reanimate, giants of American culture. Such as yourselves. During your, uh, hibernation, did you dream? Do you recall thought processes before, during, and after the cryogenic procedure?”

Mailer ignored all of this. He was squinting at the audience. “The law of the dinner table is that we now talk about what I want to talk about. Tell the splendid sphincter over there that if I could escape this caged conundrum, I’d whip his ass. If he still had one.”

 

**

 

Peterson decided to try a different tack — and almost immediately regretted it. “Let’s take questions from the audience,” he said.

One of the women in the front row raised a hand and began speaking. No one could hear what she was saying. A school employee rushed over to her and handed her a cordless microphone.

“My question is for you, Mr. Peterson,” she began.

Peterson’s sense of foreboding increased. There were two legendary Americans on the stage — well, at least their noggins — and yet this woman’s question was for him. She had not taken her eyes off him to this point, he was sure of it. Ah well, he’d rallied and handled more formidable interrogators than this woman.

And yet … the look on this woman’s face. Unsettling.

 

**

 

Ted Williams interrupted the woman before she could speak. “You all want to talk about science. That’s OK by me. I’d like to remind everyone here that Mailer over there is not the only author in this room. I once wrote a book called The Science of Hitting. In my book, I said about hitting: ‘It’s from here up, 50 percent of it.’”

An awkward silence ensued as everyone in the auditorium struggled to grasp his meaning.

“I can’t gesture for you, obviously, but I meant from the neck up. Fifty percent. I believe that to be true. So logically, even though I no longer have use of my body, I should still be able to bat .200.”

More silence in the room.

“But I tell you what, I batted a thousand with the ladies!”

Mailer retorted, “They say you have — correction: had — a small dick. This was according to Marilyn, who as you know was married to DiMaggio.”

 

**

 

“My name is Martha Rogan,” said the woman in the audience, at last. “My question is for Jordan Peterson.”

Peterson began to perspire.

“I represent a group of local women. We call ourselves the Concerned and Underrepresented Neighborhood Team.”

Barkley stifled a laugh. “CUNTs,” he muttered.

“We look at you four ‘esteemed’ men on the stage and believe you have one thing in common: toxic masculinity.”

All four men on the stage were now squinting against the spotlight, hoping to get a clearer look at this woman.

“The two athletes up there seem to think of most women as disposable playthings. Groupies to satisfy their egos. They are, or were, obsessed with ‘scoring.’

“Mr. Mailer doesn’t see real women; he sees sex objects. And so his obsession with Hollywood movie stars like Marilyn Monroe. But probably the worst of all is you, Mr. Peterson.”

 

**

 

Jordan swallowed hard and reminded himself that he’d done battle with people like this woman — he always came out on top.

“Hiding behind the veil of academia, the patriarchy, and the popularity of your YouTube videos among young men, this is what you said about a plus-sized woman who had the temerity to pose for Sports Illustrated magazine.

She began to quote from a page of notes: “‘Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.’ Mr. Peterson, do you not think that this young lady’s parents find her beautiful? Do you find only Playboy Playmates beautiful?”

Peterson cleared his throat. But Martha Rogan wasn’t finished.

“For some reason, you have a great deal of influence over American youth, especially young men. This is what they learned about your relationship with your own grandmother. I quote: ‘I saw my maternal grandmother sitting by the bank of a swimming pool, that was also a river. … Her genital region was exposed, dimly; it had the appearance of a thick mat of hair. She was stroking herself … she walked over to me, with a handful of pubic hair … she pushed this at my face … and said, like a child, isn’t it soft? I looked at her ruined face and said, yes, Grandma, it’s soft.’”

Martha Rogan turned to the audience. “This is the man who is influencing your children.”

Peterson’s face flushed and he blurted, “That’s completely out of context. Your bastardization of my words is … unconscionable!”

Barkley was grinning from ear to ear. “Got a thing for grannie’s cooch, eh, Jordan? You eggheads are all sick puppies.”

 

**

 

Martha Rogan’s comrades in the front row then began the catcalling:

“Misogynists — all of you!”

“Down with the patriarchy!”

The shouting quickly spread to other members of the audience.

“Male privilege!”

Williams and Mailer began snapping at each other from the confines of their glass prisons.

Other than Barkley, who was enjoying the chaos immensely, anger and vitriol filled the auditorium. Snoutz walked hesitantly onto the stage and was greeted with an actual rotten tomato hurled at his face.

To Peterson’s horror, the heavyset women in the front row stood as one and began removing their clothes.

“How’s this for beautiful, Jordan?” shouted one.

Another woman tossed something large and hairy onto the stage, near Peterson’s feet. It appeared to be a giant merkin.

“Is it soft, Jordan?” she bellowed.

“Grandmother’s here!” cried another.

Mailer stared at the women from CUNT in disbelief. “My eyes! My eyes!” he wailed.

Williams was also watching the disrobing ladies. “Hubba hubba!” he said with a smile.

 

**

 

Peterson sank to the floor of the stage and crawled over to the lectern, where he curled up in the fetal position. Strands of hair from the giant merkin had tangled around his left foot.

Led by Martha Rogan, the ladies of CUNT commenced storming the stage. Martha loomed over Charles Barkley, still seated on his stool.

“Chauvinist pig!” she shouted.

“I am not a role model!” barked Barkley.

Chaos reigned.

 

**

 

The Committee observed the pandemonium on TV monitors from the comfort of a lounge located at a spacious estate in Davos, Switzerland.

Said one Committee member: “Two thousand years, and everything is still there: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth. As the adage goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“Plan B will rectify this flaw. It will also do wonders for the warming of the Earth and countless other societal woes.”

Said a second Committee member: “Much less wasteful consumption.”

A third member of The Committee: “Less rebellion by the great unwashed.”

And a fourth: “I concur. The problem is and always has been of the flesh. It’s time to implement Plan B.”

 

**

 

(Someday later)

 

Marvin Snoutz was happy and unhappy. He was overjoyed that The Committee had chosen him to act as host once again for the new “talking heads” series of lectures. Particularly so given the fiasco that had taken place at the last such event. He was also pleased that he’d been allowed to wear his signature bowtie.

Sadly, Marvin could only observe said bowtie by its image on a monitor screen located high above the stage. His personage, below the neck, was no longer a part of the picture. Any picture.

Marvin’s head was one of six that were situated in glass cases evenly spaced across the stage. Beneath each case/head was a brass plate etched with descriptive labels:

 

Charles Barkley – “lust, gluttony”

Ted Williams – “pride, wrath, lust”

Norman Mailer – “pride, wrath, lust, envy”

Martha Rogan – “gluttony, wrath, envy”

Jordan Peterson – “pride, lust”

Marvin Snoutz – “pride, greed, sloth”

 

Whoever or whatever controlled the television cameras panned to the auditorium’s audience. Some 300 seats were occupied by glass containers, each holding an individual human head, including those of the ladies of CUNT.

 

Marvin began: “I’d like to thank The Committee for …”

 

THE END

 

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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The Grouch has penned yet another disturbing tale for your reading pleasure. Check out “Cold-Hearted Bastard,” in which Kenneth has a hot date — until things turn cold. 

Here’s a complete list of Grouch’s short stories with links (in green):

 

 

 . grouchyeditor.com Rusty   “Rusty” — Happy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com revelation   “Revelation” — Unhappy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com homebodies   “Homebodies” — The people next door.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com ass   “The Porthole” — Be careful what you wish for.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com the ufo   “The UFO” — Stand by me … and a UFO.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Tales From Grouch   “Carol Comes Home” — The spirit of Norman Bates.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com thwup   “Thwup!” — The case for eating more (or less) beans.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Wisdom   “Wisdom” — Cabin in the woods.

 

.        “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”  Thelma helps a guest.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Americans    “The Americans”  — Kevin goes for the gold.

 

.        “Margaret” — The greatest love story of all time?

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Asmat     “The Hot Tub”  — Elites enjoy some “quality time.”

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Earl Smilius     “The Climate Changer” — Earl has a secret weapon.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Holger     “An Overcast Day”   — The important thing in life.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com small problem     “A Small Problem” — It’s not the size of the boat?

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Tales From Grouch    “Cold-Hearted Bastard” — Ken’s date is hot. And cold.

 

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Cold-Hearted Bastard

by J.D.H.

 

Kenneth stared across the table at his female companion and decided that, after such a disastrous start, the date was going quite well, thank you very much.

He’d arrived at the restaurant-bar 20 minutes early so that he might scope out the place. He took an unobtrusive seat at the T-shaped bar so that he could observe his date when she walked into the establishment. That was his custom on blind dates, especially when he’d never met the girl, had only connected with her through an online dating site.

But 20 minutes had passed, then 30 minutes, and no sign of her. He left his rum and Coke on the bar and made a tour of the separate dining room, just in case she’d slithered in while he was otherwise occupied and was waiting for him at a table. But the only customers in the restaurant had been other couples, several families, and two single women who looked nothing like Jordan’s dating-profile pics. He’d gone back to his drink at the bar.

Forty-five minutes. Kenneth squirmed on his barstool and frowned at his rum and Coke. This rarely happened to him. Online, he was charming and entertaining. He posted real pictures of himself, because most girls told him he was quite handsome. He told the women that he was “comfortable” — never the word “rich” — thanks to his employment as an industrial designer. Girls were impressed by the “designer” part but generally baffled by the “industrial” part, which was fine by him.

Eventually, they would agree to meet him in person. The women would discover that, in real life, Kenneth was just as charming, amusing, handsome, and “comfortable” as he had professed in his online profile.

And then the two of them would go back to his place.

 

**

 

It was an hour now, and no sign of his date. He’d been stood up. Or perhaps she’d had some unexpected issue arise. Kenneth downed his second rum and Coke and stood up to leave.

As he headed toward the exit, he glanced into the restaurant, did not see the girl, turned toward the door, and …

… hold on. There was a blonde woman, 35-40, seated by herself at a window table. She had one hand on her purse and the other was holding a menu.

Yes, no question, it was his date. He mentally kicked himself. This had happened to him before, more than once. He should have known. The woman at the table was a good 10-15 years older than the smiling pixie in her profile photos. Also, a good 20 pounds heavier. She had wrinkles that did not appear in her photographs.

Women often “fudge the truth” on dating sites, especially truths about age and weight. He knew this, but still managed to overlook her seated alone at her table.

Nevertheless, she was attractive enough. Kenneth walked over to introduce himself.

 

**

 

Her name was Jordan, and she was fetching. She had written on her profile that she was “partial to corny jokes.” When Kenneth excused himself to go outside to “indulge my nasty habit” (smoking) and had rejoined her five minutes later, she asked about the weather.

“Partly cloudy — with a strong chance of Jordan,” he’d quipped, and she had laughed heartily. Too heartily. Kenneth himself was not partial to corny jokes, but he’d do — or he’d be — whatever it took.

She had asked about his employment and leaned forward when he described the “designer” part but grew foggy-eyed listening to the “industrial” part. He’d told another corny joke about how “nerdy” his work was and then changed the subject.

After an hour, their conversation shifted from small talk to full-on flirtation. Jordan was a professional massage therapist, and this led to no end of double-entendres and silly puns about her clients. Jordan ordered another drink and began regaling him with tales of her customers’ idiosyncrasies and … their fetishes. She found most of their kinks quite hilarious. And incomprehensible.

“I think most men have some kind of fetish,” he’d said. He began studying her body, making little attempt to disguise his male gaze. It was a good body. He planned to spend time with it. At a leisurely pace.

“I know!” she said. “What’s yours? Tell me. What is Kenneth’s fetish?”

 

**

 

From years of experience, this is what Kenneth had learned about most women’s idea of fetishes: To most of them, a “good fetish” was incredibly lame. Some older women still considered sex with the woman on top to be a fetish. Other women thought that if the female called her lover “daddy,” that was “kinky.” If a man wanted to wear the woman’s panties prior to the act, that was a fetish — but borderline close to a “perversion.”

To Kenneth, all of the above was been-there-done-that. Sex in public places? Boring.

In some ways, Kenneth was old-fashioned. He preferred fornication in a private place. He liked the missionary position. Control was very important to him.

The older the woman, the less likely she was to be experimental. Calling Kenneth “daddy” in bed was as unimaginative to him as sex with a blow-up doll.

Kenneth had studied Jordan’s dating-site profile, also her other pages on social media. And now he was studying her face-to-face. She was vanilla, in turns of kinky things. But she had a nice body. And she displayed submissive tendencies.

Perfect.

“I like to be on top,” he told her. “I like to be in charge. And I don’t like it when the girl tells me what to do. The more passive she is, the better.”

Jordan sat back in mock horror, and then flashed a coquettish smile.

Ooooh, do tell,” she purred. “Are you a cave-man?”

“Finish your drink,” he said, “and let’s go back to my place.”

 

**

 

While Jordan luxuriated on his living-room sofa, admiring the “comfortable” bachelor pad of a successful industrial designer, Kenneth fixed her another drink in the kitchen. He was thinking about what would come next. He didn’t worry about it, because the evening had been according to plan up to this point, and he saw no reason for that to change.

As with all his dates, this one had asked about his romantic past. “Do you still keep in touch with your exes?”

“Oh, yes,” he’d replied, truthfully. “I keep in touch with all of them. No worries in that department. No harassing late-night phone calls, no bitter arguments, no money disputes. Put your mind at rest about that. Besides, I have no intention of you ever becoming an ex.”

Her eyes went wide at that last comment, and then closed as she imagined a future with this handsome, charming man.

“Do any of your exes live nearby?” she inquired, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Certainly,” he said. He handed her the drink laced with a special brew of Ecstasy and other narcotic fixings. “Although the word ‘live’ is stretching the truth. A bit.”

 

**

 

Kenneth rolled off the top of Jordan’s lifeless body and examined her nude form. The sex had been good.

She would preserve well, he thought. He surveyed the other plastic-sheet-encased bodies in his freezer-room and searched for a suitable place to position this latest conquest. He thought Jordan would fit nicely between the bodies of Elizabeth and a girl whose name he had forgotten, on the cement slab near the freezer’s door.

Yes, Kenneth thought, Jordan would be quite comfortable there.

 

 

THE END

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Just in time to cast a pall over your holiday revelry, The Grouch has created another disturbing tale for your reading pleasure (displeasure?). Check out “A Small Problem,” if you dare. 

Here’s a complete list of Grouch’s short stories with links (in green):

 

 

 . grouchyeditor.com Rusty   “Rusty” — Happy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com revelation   “Revelation” — Unhappy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com homebodies   “Homebodies” — The people next door.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com ass   “The Porthole” — Be careful what you wish for.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com the ufo   “The UFO” — Stand by me … and a UFO.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Tales From Grouch   “Carol Comes Home” — The spirit of Norman Bates.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com thwup   “Thwup!” — The case for eating more (or less) beans.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Wisdom   “Wisdom” — Cabin in the woods.

 

.        “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”  Thelma helps a guest.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Americans    “The Americans”  — Kevin goes for the gold.

 

.        “Margaret” — The greatest love story of all time?

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Asmat     “The Hot Tub”  — Elites enjoy some “quality time.”

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Earl Smilius     “The Climate Changer” — Earl has a secret weapon.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Holger     “An Overcast Day”   — The important thing in life.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com small problem     “A Small Problem” — It’s not the size of the boat?

 

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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A Small Problem

by J.D.H.

 

 

2015: The Pageant

 

Lortetia Humpf, 50-something and recently divorced, narrowed her eyes, and examined the crotch of the middle-aged man standing before her. “Oh, there’s the little boys,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if they existed.” She raised her gaze to the man’s face: “And here is the boy they are attached to.”

The ladies at Lortetia’s table laughed at this witticism and waited to hear what she would say next. They were enjoying a “girls’ night out” and divorce party in honor of Lortetia, and so far, the excursion was a smashing success.

The Smallest Penis in Brooklyn pageant was just what the doctor ordered: an opportunity for the girls to let their collective hair down, trash the male of the species, and drink the establishment’s delicious “Penis Coladas,” to boot.

Standing near Lortetia’s table, now, was a foolish-looking man with a Grateful Deadhead beard and a sash across his chest identifying him as “Dick van Wrinkle.” He wore a transparent white codpiece, or some such thing — and nothing else.

 

II

 

Minutes earlier, when he found himself alone and unmolested in the crowded bar, “Wrinkle” had eavesdropped as a female reporter from Jezebel interviewed a cluster of women in their twenties:

Reporter:  Why did you ladies decide to come to this pageant?

Rachel K:  We came to giggle at tiny penises and the men who would actually show them off.

Michele C:  And to take pictures! Souvenirs!

Reporter:  Would any of you ever consider dating the winner of this pageant?

Entire group: laughs uproariously

 

III

 

Lortetia, as ever the lead hen of her henhouse, knew that her companions expected some sort of show, and she did not disappoint. “Move closer, little boy,” she cooed to the scruffy pageant contestant, Wrinkle. And then, when he acquiesced, she yanked down the sheer codpiece and took hold of his balls.

“Someone said that being a man in this world, with a wee willie, is a lot like being an overweight woman — every Tom, Dick and Harry feels free to mock you.” Her fingers slid back and forth over his genitals, as though she were searching the bottom of a purse for the correct change and could find nothing but pennies.

“For example, you probably feel that I am overweight.” Her fingers settled on a testicle and squeezed. “But there is, of course, a difference. I can always lose weight. But you … you will always be hung like an infant.

“I suppose that should make you a sympathetic figure.

“Oh, but it doesn’t. Two reasons: Unlike the fat person, you can walk down the street without anyone noticing your … shortcomings. You’re only discovered in the bedroom — do you ever have a lady in your bedroom? — or in situations like this one.” Her fingers were applying unbearable pressure. “And reason number two: Unfortunately for you, you are a male.” She turned to the ladies at her table.

“Photos, please,” she said with a smile.

The younger women at the table erupted in peals of laughter, but two of the older gals were more composed, more in tune with Lortetia’s mood. They quickly produced cellphone cams and began the serious business of documenting the occasion.

 

IV

 

“Turn around, little man,” said Lortetia. Van Wrinkle complied. She gave each butt cheek a quick pinch, smiled for the cameras, and said, “Savannah, dear, take hold of these, will you? I need to say something to our little man, and I can’t hold this drink and his nutsack at the same time.”

Savannah, a dishwater blonde with eager eyes, did as she was told.

“Now hold them tight. I don’t want him running off while I speak to him.” She gestured at Dick to bend down. She began to whisper in his ear but had first to stifle a belch. “Pardon me. Now sweetie, I might not look it to you, but I just became a grandmother.”

Dick feigned surprise.

“And I will have to say this: My three-month old grandson is better hung than you.” She grinned at him. “Does that bother you?”

Getting no immediate response, she whispered again: “What is your real name, sweetie?”

Dick, turning blue in the face due to Savannah’s pressure on his nether regions, gasped out a name.

“John?”

“Close enough,” he said.

Lortetia considered this and Wrinkle’s obvious distress. She frowned at Savannah. “Girl, I didn’t ask you to castrate the man. Not that there would be a noticeable difference,” she chuckled. “You can loosen your grip on him.”

 

V

 

Dick Van Wrinkle sighed. This ridiculous pageant was not what he had imagined it would be. He had envisioned, earlier, a kind of bachelorette party populated with nubile young things in their 20s and 30s, ogling and lusting after the naked male contestants. He, of course, would be the center of attention. It would be like Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion, and Dick would be cock of the walk.

It was true that there were numerous luscious lasses in the bar. But the younger females were too timid, easily cowed by the more mature, dominant — and less attractive — women in their midst.

Like this woman who was now caressing his testicles, Letitia or Louisa or something.

Now she was holding her pinkie finger up against his flaccid member and was inviting her friends to take pictures. Or videos. Whatever. His two-inch penis did not fare well in the comparison of digits.

“He’s turtled up!” squealed the woman named Savannah. “Can we make it grow?”

The alpha woman, Lortetia, was morbidly obese, and her breath wreaked of alcohol. One of her friends leaned over and whispered: “Suck on it, Lortetia. I dare you!”

Dick overheard and began to perspire. Their table had begun to draw a crowd in the already jam-packed, stuffy saloon. The clientele was probably 85 percent female.

Lortetia flashed a smile and glanced around at her growing audience. “Should I bite it?” And she leaned forward toward the man’s crotch.

Dick could not watch. He stared up at the ceiling and closed his eyes and …

… he woke up.

It was only a bad dream!

 

**

 

 

1967: South Vietnam

 

“Bring out the girl!” began the chant in the smoke-filled bar. “Bring her out!”

Roland Filks turned to the American soldier on his right and hissed, “She’s a real beauty. These Thai women are all one of two types: whores, or clueless farm girls. This one’s a farm girl. And a real beauty.”

The American soldier perceived that Filks was trying to tell him something, but the bar was raucous, and the shouting and laughter made hearing impossible. That was fine by him, thought the soldier, because Filks was an ass and nothing he said was worth hearing.

Standing — or rather cowering — on the bar directly above them was a young Thai man who appeared to be on the verge of tears.

The American soldier, McMinnits, noticed that the kid seemed to be wetting his filthy underpants. He wore nothing else. He looked to be about 18.

“Bring out the damn girl!” the chant resumed.

Everyone in the saloon, save a harried bartender and the boy atop the bar, was an American soldier. They were letting off steam because life in Vietnam was hell and you took your entertainment where you could find it. This was not great entertainment, but it was better than sweating in some fucking tent in the jungle.

“Show us what he’s got!” shouted someone. On cue, a hand reached up and pulled down the kid’s underpants.

It might have been the trauma he was experiencing, or it might have been genetics, but the Thai kid’s manhood was less than impressive. A roar erupted.

“It’s a shrunken head!” “Nothing there! Did the gooks capture him and take a trophy?”

“He’s Asian,” shouted someone else. “They’re all like that!”

“They’re bringing in the girl,” Filks said to McMinnits. “This will be good.”

 

II

 

Boon-mee had experienced shame in his life. Many times. But nothing like this.

He knew that the Americans loved sport, but he had not expected to be their sport.

They had de-pantsed him and were ridiculing his manhood, which was absurd. From his experience, many American males were no better equipped than he was.

But it was too late to stop the storm. These soldiers had malice in their eyes, and he was the day’s sport. The only question was how the game would end ….

They were helping — no, shoving — a Thai girl onto the bar where Boon-mee stood trembling and sobbing. The girl’s long, dark hair covered her face, and a tattered white nightgown disguised her body. She stared fixedly down at her feet.

Now they had pushed the girl down on all fours, and one of the soldiers was raising her gown up to her waist. To Boon-mee, she looked to be about 16 or 17. She was turned away from him, so that her exposed backside would present him with a target.

“What’s their word for ‘fuck her?’” asked Filks. He reached atop the bar and pulled the girl’s legs apart.

Someone shouted back, “Yet –Yet dtuut.”

“Yet dtuut!” cried Filks. “Fuck her, boy!”

The chant was picked up by everyone in the bar — “Yet dtuut!” — but Boon-Mee knew it was impossible. He was not aroused; he was terrified. The girl, too, was trembling. He looked up at the haze-filled ceiling. There was music coming from a jukebox somewhere in the room. Country music.

Then the pushing began.

Two or three soldiers rammed him up against the girl and began pushing at his waist. And pushing, and pushing.

Five minutes later, or perhaps 10 minutes later — he was incapable of knowing — it was over. As he finished, the bar patrons roared their approval.

 

III

 

“That’ll be ten bucks,” McMinnits said to Filks, who scowled and tossed his pal a sawbuck.

“I’ll be damned,” said Filks. “Never thought a gook hung like a chipmunk could shoot that much spunk.”

The girl lay sprawled and silent on the wood bar. Her head moved and she looked back at the boy. He looked back at her.

“Nong Priya,” he moaned. His eyes went dead.

 

IV

 

McMinnits turned to Filks, who was attempting to swig a beer. “What did the kid just say?”

Beer shot out of Filks’s nose. “Damn! Means ‘little sister.’ Gook just shot his wad into his own sister!”

 

V

 

Boon-mee closed his eyes in shame. And then …

… he woke up.

It was only a bad dream!

 

**

 

 

1616: Plymouth, Massachusetts

 

Mary Mathilda Catlick looked over her shoulder to the left, then over her other shoulder to the right, and then straight ahead. No one in the village square seemed to be watching her at her post on the platform. And so, she took hold of the fellow’s giblets.

Mary Mathilda was too nervous to get much pleasure out of it, but she would remember this moment later, when she was alone in her room, and the candles were out ….

Mary Mathilda looked the man in the eye and saw that his lids were closed, and his lips were pursed, perhaps in pain.

She was a middle-aged widow, well-known in the village, and she had made a show, the previous day, of approaching this man in the stretch-neck with a flask of water. To the casual observer, Mary was merely being a good Christian, providing his parched throat with drink.

She released her hold on his giblets and used her good-sized frame and skirts to shield from prying eyes the sight of his pantaloons, which she had discretely lowered. Mary Mathilda took note of his smallish stalk.

She heard laughter.

She noticed, for the first time, a gaggle of schoolgirls lurking behind some nearby bushes. They had been watching her as she molested the man in the pillory.

This did not overly concern Mary Mathilda. The girls would not dare speak of what they witnessed. It would only incur wrath and disbelief from the village adults.

Mary Mathilda was, after all, a respected woman.

With one admonitory glance at the girls behind the hedge, she picked up her parcel from the ground and spoke, for anyone within earshot: “Such virtue lies in Adam’s Ale.” She descended the platform and left the village square.

 

II

 

The man in the pillory issued a small groan as he watched the woman climb down the platform steps and leave the square. She would no doubt be back the next day. He heard giggles.

 

III

 

It was dusk, and the square appeared to be deserted. Save for him.

Andrew Hipple, accused thief, tried again to swallow. But there was no moisture in his throat. The last time his thirst had been quenched was when the horrid widow had poured water into his mouth. But that was hours ago. That was also a guise so that the woman might molest him. Again.

He did not mind her daily ministrations, as they shifted his thoughts from his other sufferings. His wrists ached where they were clamped in the holes in the wooden frame. He could move but little in the devilish contraption, and so his back ached. His face was burned from the sun. He was gut-foundered. This punishment was twistical — unfair and immoral.

Hipple had been an anonymous member of the community. He had committed a minor sin. Now he was the source of the town’s scorn and jollification.

The sun was setting. He heard the giggles again. The village girls had snuck out of their parents’ homes and had come to play. With him.

They emerged from behind the bush, about ten of them, ranging in age from perhaps 8 to 14. He recognized the eldest girl. She was the daughter of a neighbor, a cruel child named Emily. The others trailed her as she ascended the platform steps.

 

IV

 

“This is a bad man,” Emily told her congregation. “A very, very bad man.”

The giggling ceased as Emily approached the “very bad man.”

“You, Sarah. And you, Ke’Andrea. Take down his breeches so that we may all of us see.”

Sarah and Ke’Andrea eyed each other. Their leader had spoken, and she was not to be defied. They shuffled forward and, without directly looking at him, pulled down the thief’s pants.

The younger girls observed this between fingers splayed over eyes, and the giggling resumed. A few girls cast their eyes away from this humiliation of an adult. Emily’s face flared red and she beamed in triumph.

“This is not a man; he is an acorn!” she cried.

One of the younger girls, a slant-eyed brunette called “Butterfly” by the others, felt light-headed and began to swoon.

Emily glared at the swaying girl and pounced. “Butterfly,” she snarled, “bring forth thy stick and come hither. Now!

Butterfly, her eyes darting everywhere save at the unfortunate victim, complied.

“Now prod his pissing place,” said Emily. “He is here to be punished. My father said as much. We are all of us to make a cat’s-paw of him.”

Butterfly waved her stick weakly, its end finding nothing but air.

Emily seized the miserable girl’s wrist and directed the stick’s point at Hipple’s tumblers and strunt.

The man’s eyes remained fixed at the heavens above, and he groaned.

“Will it come aloft?” asked the girl named Sarah.

 

V

 

Hipple had long ceased being concerned about the degradation and shame of his predicament. He cared only about the pain to his body and the lack of water. These girls were but a nuisance. They wanted — their leader, Emily, especially — to get some reaction from him. He disappointed them.

Following the girl Butterfly, the others took turns, some of them directed by Emily to insert twigs up his buttocks, others to use fingers to poke and prod his front area.

Then they threw the stones at him, watching with wide-eyed fascination as he winced whenever their projectiles hit home.

 

VI

 

Emily was not satisfied. She turned to one of the older girls, a doe-eyed lass whose countenance froze when she heard her name called. 

“Twyla, come hither and show me thine basket.”

Twyla did as she was commanded. Emily examined the contents of the girl’s wicker basket: a scattering of blueberries.

“Thy parents will be displeased, Twyla. There is but little here. You must add to it. Good fortune has provided thee with …” Emily looked at the shackled figure on the pillory.

“What does thy father do to the boar when it is no longer of use? This man is no longer of use,” Emily said.

 

VII

 

Hipple quaked at this latest horror, and his eyes began to fill with tears. The girl called Twyla was approaching him and she held something in her hand. Something hard, sharp, and gleaming. She knelt before him. He moaned again …

 

VIII

 

The girl Twyla stared at the naked man and many thoughts and emotions swirled within her. This was the first naked man she had lain eyes upon. His man-parts looked small and harmless.

She felt fear because what they were doing — to an adult — was forbidden. She felt power because the naked man was helpless. 

This mixture of fear and power was thrilling. It was intoxicating. Twyla very much enjoyed the sensation. She could do as she pleased.

Emily is correct, thought she. It is just like father and the boars.

 

IX

 

She stood before Emily with her basket and tilted it so that the leader might see its contents. The basket was a bit fuller than it had been. The berries were soaked in blood.

“Well done, Twyla. Thou hast taken his dignity and thou hast taken his manhood. Thy father would be pleased. This man shall mount and ride below the crupper no more!”

 

X

 

Hipple’s head hung low, and he silently wept … he opened his eyes and …

… he was in his bed.

It was only a bad dream!

 

**

 

 

1963: Christmas in the Midwest

 

The year was 1963, and it was Christmas in rural America.

Six-year-old Jan had enjoyed the day, because 1) the family was gathered at his house this year, including several cousins his own age (girls though; oh well); and 2) the best was yet to come — opening presents. After that, Jan was told, there would be home movies.

Jan did not know that, along with the best yet to come, the worst was also yet to come.

The worst came after everyone enjoyed Christmas dinner and gathered in the compact living room to watch 8mm movies. The lights were turned off and everyone stared at the portable white screen, including cousins Holly and Susan and aunts and uncles and Jan’s own immediate family.

They watched Jan playing with neighbor kids and with the family dog. That clip was followed by mom and dad holding up a turkey leg. There was Jan dressed up like a little girl; his sisters had promised him candy in exchange for wearing a dress. Embarrassing but funny. But then:

There was two-year-old Jan in the bathtub, his little penis on display as it bobbed up and down like a flesh-colored rubber ducky. A very small rubber ducky.

Everyone in the living room, save Jan, burst out in laughter.

“I can see his pecker!” squealed cousin Holly.

 

II

 

Jan felt his face burn, and then begin to boil, as a thousand red-hot needles pierced his cheeks and forehead. He could see nothing. Adult voices and chortles were muffled. He staggered to his feet and walked straight into the living-room wall. More laughter. He tried again, and this time found the hallway leading to his bedroom.

 

III

 

Two hours later, Jan lay sleepless in bed, reflecting on the evening’s horrors. Cousin Holly had seen him in the bathtub, seen his little wiener. Everyone had seen his little wiener. And they had all laughed and looked at him as he tried to hide behind a sofa pillow. It was mortifying.

Jan turned on the bedside lamp and reached for a storybook that was splayed open on the floor. He opened the cover and began reading. It was a book of short stories, and the first tale was called “Rip Van Winkle.” It was about a young man who falls asleep and then wakes up — 20 years later. Stupid story.

Jan had found the 8mm movie experience paralyzing. And yet, oddly, now it felt exciting. All that attention on him … and his private parts. In retrospect, the event made him feel warm and strange. And aroused.

He finally fell asleep and the book with Rip Van Winkle fell to the floor. Jan dreamt of the future ….

He was in a crowded room, and a 50-something woman had hold of his naughty bits.

“What is your real name, sweetie?” the old woman asked.

“Jan,” he replied.

 

But this was not a dream. It was a premonition.

 

Pageant art: MiYon Kosloske-Richardson

 

THE END

 

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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The Grouch is inflicting yet another short story on the world. Check out “An Overcast Day,” if you dare. 

Here’s a complete list of Grouch’s short stories with links (in green):

 

 

 . grouchyeditor.com Rusty   “Rusty” — Happy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com revelation   “Revelation” — Unhappy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com homebodies   “Homebodies” — The people next door.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com ass   “The Porthole” — Be careful what you wish for.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com the ufo   “The UFO” — Stand by me … and a UFO.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Tales From Grouch   “Carol Comes Home” — The spirit of Norman Bates.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com thwup   “Thwup!” — The case for eating more (or less) beans.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Wisdom   “Wisdom” — Cabin in the woods.

 

.        “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”  Thelma helps a guest.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Americans    “The Americans”  — Kevin goes for the gold.

 

.        “Margaret” — The greatest love story of all time?

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Asmat     “The Hot Tub”  — Elites enjoy some “quality time.”

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Earl Smilius     “The Climate Changer” — Earl has a secret weapon.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Holger     “An Overcast Day”   — The important thing in life.

 

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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An Overcast Day

by J.D.H.

 

 

“People talk about ‘the end of the world,’ and how we must do everything we can to avoid it,” said middle-aged, bespectacled Jon Higgensen.

He was sitting on the veranda with his much-younger wife, Shanna Hilton, and he wondered if she’d listened to a single word he’d been saying.

He studied her. There was no question but that she was a homely girl. At 28 years old, she was cursed with what uncharitable people called a “horse face.” When Shanna smiled, the result resembled a death rictus, all teeth and barely suppressed malice.

But his wife also possessed what for Higgensen was essential in a mate — the most spectacular ass he’d ever beheld. It was not flat, nor was it large. Her stallion-esque legs climbed to a derriere that was part teenage boy, part all-woman. Unlike the tushes of so many modern females, Shanna’s backside was not Peloton-honed muscle, but natural and … well, Higgensen could gaze at it all day.

He glanced over his wife’s shoulder at the hills in the distance and took note of the ugly, brownish-orange clouds forming on the horizon.

“But when you think about it,” he continued, “the ‘end of the world’ is going to come for each of us, eventually. What difference does it make to a man on his deathbed if Kim Jong-un nukes America, or if global warming floods the East Coast? Everything ends for that man when he draws his last breath, either way. For him, it is indeed the end of the world.”

Shanna sipped from her cup of coffee and flashed her rictus-grin. She said to her husband, “I fucked your partner last night.”

Higgensen was not surprised. This infidelity was not her first, nor would it be the last.

“His cock is much bigger than yours,” she continued. “And it lasts much longer. And, oh God, does he ever produce buckets of the stuff. I think I’m still dripping.”

Shanna leaned in for the kill. “I almost forgot — we filmed it! Would you like to see the video?”

 

**

 

Higgensen was only half-listening to his spouse. The ugly cloud formation was growing larger and moving toward them at an alarming speed.

“Some people say that ‘God is dead.’ I don’t know,” he reflected. “The older I get, the more it seems that anything is possible. Aliens from outer space, Donald Trump, dogs and cats living together.” He chuckled at his own joke.

“But what if God is not dead? What if God is very much alive, and God is in fact quite insane? That would explain a lot, would it not?”

Shanna issued a snort. “I felt God last night. And I expect to feel him again tonight. And tomorrow, and the next day …

“Silly boy told me he forgot to bring his condoms. But that’s what he told me the last time. Oh, well.”

 

The brutish cloud formation was now directly overhead. They began to feel the first droplets.

Our marriage is dissolving, thought Jon Higgensen, and so are we.

This, as the black rain began to burn the flesh of their faces.

“Ah, sweetheart,” gasped Higgensen. “You did have such a fine ass.”

 

THE END

 

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

 

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The Climate Changer

by J.D.H.

 

The newly sworn-in junior senator from Wisconsin surveyed the nearly empty senate chamber from his vantage point in the gallery, and he frowned.

It wasn’t the first time Senator William Wilkie, 34, had beheld the storied room. His orientation sessions, after all, were complete, and he had visited the chamber innumerable times, both as a private citizen and again once the good voters of Wisconsin saw fit to send him to Washington.

Senator Wilkie knew that he would spend countless hours in this room, and he swelled with pride. In time, he would join the Congressional Black Caucus, he would be assigned to various committees, and, with any luck, one day he would actually chair one of them.

But at the moment, he was struck by one peculiarity of the famed senate chamber: its vacancy. Other than a few scattered aides and two or three staffers, he could discern only one other person in the room below: the elderly senior senator from Utah, who appeared to be asleep in his chair. It was 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. 

 

***

 

Thurgood Nosgood, Wisconsin’s senior senator and Will’s mentor, stood beside the freshman congressman in the balcony, took note of his mentee’s puzzled expression, and chuckled. “Get used to it, son. Unless the C-SPAN cameras are on, this is how it usually looks.”

Will looked at Nosgood. “Where are they all?”

“Same place you’ll spend most of your time. On the phone, fundraising. Like I said, get used to it. Utah down there is retiring. He doesn’t need to fundraise anymore, so he’ll just sleep out the rest of his term. Either that, or Earl Smilius just left him.” Nosgood issued a hearty guffaw.

 

***

 

Three hours later, Will surveyed the office-turned-party-room and activated his mental file cabinet. The reception for incoming congresspeople was populated with faces both familiar to him, and unfamiliar. Many of the elder senators he recognized from television. A few of them he knew from brief introductions. The senior senator from Utah, Will noticed, was not in attendance. Probably still napping on the senate floor, he thought.

Nosgood materialized at his side, cradling a glass of champagne and sporting a smirk. “Get used to it, son. If you idolize any of these pillars of government, you won’t for much longer. They’re just human. Too human, most of them.”

Around the room, introductions were made. Congratulations were proffered. Liquor was consumed.

A side door opened, and a hush fell over the room.

 

***

 

The legendary senator from Mississippi had entered the party room.

Will, like everyone else at the crowded gathering, gazed at the man from Biloxi, Earl Smilius III. Will ransacked his mental file cabinet and came up with:

Powerful, low-key, perpetual Mona Lisa half-smile, rarely on television, enigmatic. But above all, powerful.

Will couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The man looked so unprepossessing, even humble, yet he seemed to command immense respect — or could it be fear? — from his colleagues.

But then, Smilius’s accomplishments were mythic. In the House, he had served on Ways and Means, Defense, and Budget. Later, as senator from Mississippi, he eschewed most committees. He didn’t seem to need them to exert influence.

 

***

 

Will couldn’t take his eyes off Smilius. Whenever the stocky senator approached a group at the reception, he was greeted with much deference. Everyone assembled would hush, waiting for Smilius to speak. Sometimes the portly politico would oblige them; sometimes he would simply smile and just stand there, sipping from a glass of whatever it was he chose to drink.

Smilius’s reputation was impressive. Especially for such an apparently low-key congressman. Reportedly, Smilius had once prevented a nuclear confrontation with Russia by dismissing a delegation of Russians and Americans and sitting down privately with Vladimir Putin. After just five minutes alone with the notorious strongman, Smilius had emerged from the session with that Mona Lisa smile and assurances, in his own words, that “all is well.”

No details from the meeting ever emerged, from either side. Smilius had simply sat down with Putin and moments later declared victory.

 

***

 

Will studied the group of people now surrounding Smilius in the reception room. There were a few forced smiles, a bit of head-nodding. But one woman, a newly elected senator from Minnesota (Will knew her, slightly, from orientation), was turning green in the face. She looked down at the floor, muttered an apology, and bolted from the circle of dignitaries.

 

***

 

Nosgood chuckled. “Earl Smilius is headed our way,” he said to Will. “You won’t want to offend him. He’s not an unreasonable fellow, but nevertheless, you ought not offend him. You might not guess it from looking at him, but Earl always gets his way. Always.”

“But what does he care about?” asked Will. “What motivates the man?”

Nosgood considered this for a moment. “I’d say … climate change.”

“And what makes him so powerful?”

“He presents his opponent with two alternatives. Choice A is to go along with his way. Choice B is … unbearable to most of them.”

 

***

 

Smilius shuffled over to the two men from Wisconsin and studied Will, a twinkle in his eye.

“And you might be the new senator from Oshkosh?”

“Yes, sir,” said Will. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

“Oh, I ain’t nothin’,” said Smilius. “They say I’m just another blowhard from Mississippi.” He winked at Nosgood.

 

***

 

Will noticed that the freshman female senator had come back to the reception and rejoined the cluster of people across the room. She kept glancing, worriedly, at Smilius. Will strained his ears, trying to catch what she said, but only caught snippets: “For the love of God … not possible to … make it stop!”

Will wondered if Smilius was sexually predatory.

“What exactly do you hope to accomplish in these hallowed halls, son?” Smilius asked him.

“Well sir, not much at the beginning. I understand that I’m here to absorb and to learn. With any luck, I’ll someday be able to put that knowledge to good use.”

Smilius grinned. “Not bad. Not bad. I used to think that way. But what I discovered is that the most important thing in this town can be summed up in one word. Can you guess what that word is?”

“Not off the top of my head. No sir.”

 

***

 

“Chemistry,” said Smilius. “The word is chemistry. If you develop the right chemistry for a person, you can see that he or she will almost always come around to seeing things the way you want them to. Am I right, Senator Nosgood?”

Nosgood, who had been eyeing Smilius warily, nodded affirmatively.

“You might have heard about my encounter with the hot head from Russia. You might also notice, in future, that folks here in D.C. tend to come around to my way of seeing things, and my way of doing things.

“No, I don’t blackmail them, or threaten them, or intimidate them by saying I will withhold this funding or go to the press about that rumor. What I do is always within the bounds of law, doesn’t violate a single congressional ethics guideline. But it always works, because the person sees no other way out of the situation but to comply with my wishes.”

Will still held his drink, but he didn’t drink. He was mesmerized by this stocky little man, who seemed to hold the magic key to power in the most powerful place on Earth.

 

***

 

“Let me demonstrate for you, son, just a bit of what I’m talking about. See Middleton over there?” Smilius gestured toward Howard Middleton, senate majority leader from the opposing party.

“The esteemed Senator Middleton is withholding a vote on my energy bill. He thinks I don’t want it badly enough. And he’s correct,” Smilius chuckled. “I don’t really care, one way or the other. But I’m going to get my way, regardless. Watch.”

Smilius left them and meandered over to Middleton’s group. The majority leader’s eyes widened as he watched the approaching menace. Smilius said a few words, left the group, and returned to Will and Nosgood. Middleton had turned noticeably green, as had two or three other senators, and all of them left the reception.

 

***

 

A nauseating smell permeated the room. People stopped talking, attempting to locate the source of the noxious odor. All eyes, fearful or accusing, landed on Senator Smilius.

“My aides, you might or might not have noticed, are all heavy cigarette smokers,” Smilius said to Will. People kept vacating the room. “That’s intentional. If you’re a heavy smoker, you tend to lose your sense of smell. That’s how they put up with it. That’s why I hire them.”

Will began to feel light-headed.

“Putin couldn’t handle it. I told him that I would refuse to leave the room. This was after I’d loaded up on Russkie beans. For lunch. I asked Putin what he thought of my chemical weapon.”

The stench became unbearable. Will began to teeter. He noticed Nosgood lean forward and commence vomiting on the carpet.

“Chemistry, son. People will do anything to avoid it, if you’re good at it,” said Earl Smilius, a twinkle in his eye. “It’s a special talent I have. Chemistry.”

Those were the last words Will heard, before he swooned and pitched face-first onto the floor.

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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The Hot Tub

by J.D.H.

 

“I want. To use. The fucking! Hot tub!” barked the stunning woman on the fancy sofa. “Is the fucking hot tub ready? Will the fucking hot tub ever be ready?”

Mike Zipperstein looked at her out of the corner his eye. Even though he was the second-richest man on Earth, and despite the fact that his corporate creation, “Mega,” was the most-powerful communications entity in the civilized world, Zipperstein was intimidated by this woman. At heart, Zipperstein was still an awkward teen, and this lady with the fury in her eyes sent him straight back to his high-school insecurities.

Luckily for Mike, he and this famous, snarling female were not alone in the bunker lounge. There was a third person, Ben Jurion, sitting quietly in a corner, calmly watching Carly Cocoon as she glared at both men. And ranted.

Also, luckily for him, Mike knew that whenever he felt the need, he could retreat, in his mind, to the comfort of numbers and algorithms. Or to mental images of dirty pictures that people posted on the Internet.

Zipperstein owned the world’s largest collection of dirty pictures, because he and his company had access to every nude selfie ever posted by every man and woman on the planet. Even the supposedly deleted ones. Especially the deleted ones.

But his collection of naughty photos and videos was an escape, just a hobby. This angry woman on the sofa, ranting about the hot tub, was here in the flesh. Six feet away from him. She was terrifying.

 

***

 

Nude selfies were nothing to Carly Cocoon; she did not have a sex tape on the Internet, she had seven sex tapes on the Internet. There were hundreds — probably thousands — of naked pictures of her online. Mike had watched all of her sex tapes, but that did nothing to alleviate his current anxiety. If anything, the memories of Carly Cocoon in bed with her lovers caused him to perspire and lock down.

“Will someone please go up and find out?”

Ben Jurion sighed and addressed Carly Cocoon directly: “I checked with Montenegro this morning. He said ‘soon.’ But I’ll go up and check again.”

 

***

 

Ben Jurion, middle-aged, nondescript, and a filthy-rich industrialist, left the bunker’s sitting room and entered a cement-walled hallway. Not for the first time, he wondered if the hellish world above might not be preferable to the hellish world below, in which he was trapped with eight of the world’s wealthiest people.

Of course, there were nuclear explosions above, and biological terrors and chemical terrors and, worst of all, no one in control. But the fallout in this underground, New Guinea jungle hideaway, emanating from the pampered, privileged “lucky ones,” was often unbearable. He had endured weeks of it.

Ben rode the elevator to land-level, and addressed the swarthy Montenegro, who stood vigil at the main door. A computerized meter on the wall showed outdoor radiation at green, or “safe,” levels.

“Afternoon, Monty,” said Ben Jurion. He looked down at the floor and sighed. “She wants to use the Jacuzzi. She wants the fresh air. It would be a blessing to all of us if we could get rid of her for a time.”

Montenegro squinted at Ben Jurion, who was just about the only rich bastard in the bunker that he could stomach. He exhaled smoke from his cigarette and smiled at the industrialist. “Couple more hours, Mr. Jurion. Let my people make sure the locals are clear of here. Everything should be fine.”

 

***

 

Zipperstein couldn’t comprehend it. The bunker, obviously with limitations, and not exactly a private resort in the Caribbean, was nevertheless luxurious. It had every generator-operated convenience: gigantic televisions and movie screens, a swimming pool, a game room, a bar, a restaurant (with two chefs), and too many bedrooms to count.

And yet Carly Cocoon, despite laying claim to the largest bedroom in the shelter, was undressing right in front of him, here in the sitting room. She was stripping to prepare for the coveted hot tub, of which it was now apparently safe to use. She bent to retrieve some article of clothing from the floor and jutted her (rather large) buttocks just inches from Mike’s face.

His eyes narrowed as he examined a mark on one butt-cheek. It was a small, pink tattoo in a floral pattern. A rose, he decided.

Without turning around, she said: “Do you ‘like’ what you see, Mr. Mega? Would you like to ‘friend’ me?’”

She stood up and faced him. She winked at him.

“Do you think my ass is fat? Some people say it is.”

No reply. Also, no eye contact.

She saw he was beginning to sweat. Profusely. “Aww, you’re just a little boy, aren’t you?” She smiled and with one hand swept aside her long, brunette hair. “I like that. I like you. I want to friend you.”

Mike mustered a gulp.

 

***

 

It wasn’t only Carly Cocoon; everyone in the bunker wanted to use the hot tub (save Ben Jurion, who chose to remain below in the bunker). It wasn’t just the comfort of warm, bubbling water that appealed; nor the cushioned headrests and massaging jets of the Jacuzzi. It was the rare opportunity to breathe fresh air. The hot tub was an excuse. Compared to the claustrophobic confines of their underground shelter, the outdoors was a beckoning Eden. It had been weeks since any of them had experienced fresh air.

So, in the tub they all (save Ben Jurion) now sat: Zipperstein; Carly Cocoon; computer mogul Will Bates; weapons dealer Steele Dropp; Mrs. Steele Dropp; Steele Dropp’s girlfriend, the actress Ginnifer Florence; a politician none of them knew; and the comedian Phil Moseby, who appeared to be asleep.

Will Bates surveyed his companions and inwardly smiled. He was the smartest person in the group, no doubt. Will knew this because everyone always told him how smart he was for turning his little startup, MicroPens, into what it was today: MaxiPads. Computer software and hardware. He became the world’s richest man. If you were smart enough to become the world’s richest man, then you must be the world’s smartest man. That was simple logic.

And so, Bates eventually took on politics and economics and ecology, because the world expected the world’s smartest man to solve its problems. And Will agreed with the world.

 

***

 

Bates looked at youthful Mike Zipperstein and smiled again. Once upon a time, Will had been like Mike, socially awkward and insecure, especially around females. In time, thought Will, you will mature, and I’ll pass the torch to you.

Zipperstein, for his part, could only summon the courage to periodically glance at the great Will Bates. Bates was Zipperstein’s idol, a man of whom he had been in awe since childhood.

Everyone seemed relaxed in the hot tub. Now might be a good time for Mike to pose a question to his hero: “Mr. Bates, how long do you think we’ll have to stay here? In New Guinea, I mean.”

Bates smiled at the young man. He looked at the others and said, “Boom chucka. Boom chucka boom.”

Everyone laughed at this, save the arms dealer, who simply stared at Bates.

“That’s just … gibberish,” said Steele Dropp.

Bates replied, “I’m the world’s smartest man.”

“You’re the world’s richest man,” said Dropp.

Bates smiled. “And the difference is?”

No one had an answer to this.

Carly Cocoon cut in: “I’m the world’s most famous woman.”

Everyone stared at her breasts.

 

***

 

Bates studied the brassy woman with the artificial breasts. He did not care for her. He preferred the girls who worked in his office, fresh out of college, naïve, and starstruck by him.

The woman he looked at now in the hot tub was born into wealth. She hadn’t scraped and clawed her way to the top, like he had. She had privilege and was what they called a feminist. “Feminazi,” thought Bates. Spoiled and, thanks to Instagram and Tik Tok and such, on the ascendency in American culture. One of her kind was even in Congress, representing Brooklyn or some such liberal hotbed.

It was a gradual process, but effective, rued Bates. The world was hypnotized by youth and beauty and, in the face of crumbling norms and institutions, ordinary people foolishly turned to youth and beauty to save the planet. Big mistake, Bates thought. The world needed brains to solve its problems. And everyone knew that Will Bates was the world’s smartest man.

Bates tried his best to avoid this woman in the hot tub, who had risen to prominence on reality TV. But that was near-impossible in this hell hole in the middle of nowhere.

 

***

 

Ginnifer Florence surveyed her companions in the Jacuzzi. She considered what they had in common: money. Certainly not their politics. Nor their backgrounds. Nor their appearance. Nor their age.

She looked at the elderly black man slumped in the water across from her. His name was Phil Moseby, and he had been a well-known comedian back in his day, long before Ginnifer’s time.

There had been some kind of sex scandal, and now the old man was disgraced. Since they had arrived at their New Guinea sanctuary, Ginnifer had never seen him awake. Right now, his eyes were shut and his chin was submerged in the bubbling water.

The man’s past did not concern Ginnifer. He appeared harmless, and Ginnifer’s good friend, the producer Marvin Bernstein, had also been embroiled in a sex scandal — many of them, actually — so that sort of thing was nothing new to her. She had been through a scandal or two of her own.

None of it mattered now, anyway. They were removed from the cares and concerns of the world because they had that one thing in common. Money.

 

***

 

Ginnifer was afraid that the sleeping comedian might drown. The lower half of his face kept dipping beneath the surface of the water. She turned to the others: “What’s wrong with him?”

Bates answered: “BCI implant. Didn’t take. Sometimes he’ll speak, say something nonsensical.”

“Yes!” cried Steele Dropp’s girlfriend. “He keeps saying ‘Jell-O.’”

 

***

 

Steele Dropp took a sip of iced tea and squinted at his latest conquest, the starlet from Hollywood. He couldn’t prove it, but he was reasonably certain that she was banging Montenegro’s son, an 18-year-old boy responsible for operating the bunker’s generators and ventilation system.

That was OK by Dropp; he was too old and exhausted to satisfy both his wife and the insatiable Ginnifer.

 

**

 

Meanwhile, in a jungle clearing not far from the elites’ hot tub, Montenegro conferred with a small group of Asmat tribal elders. He was showing them a video on his cell phone, in which some sort of experiment was being conducted.

“It’s called ‘the boiling frog,’” explained Montenegro in the Asmats’ native tongue. “Let me read to you from Wikipedia —

 

‘The boiling frog is an apologue describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.

‘While some 19th-century experiments suggested that the underlying premise is true if the heating is sufficiently gradual, according to modern biologists the premise is false: a frog that is gradually heated will jump out.’”

 

“Then it won’t work!” cried one of the Asmat.

Montenegro clicked on his screen to a video, recording from a camera above the hot tub. As the elites began to grow uncomfortable from the warming water, Montenegro pushed a button and a glass lid arced down, securing all eight of them in a domed semi-circle.

“Now it will,” chuckled Montenegro.

 

***

 

The Asmat — men, women and children — sat on the ground and enjoyed their feast. One young member of the tribe plucked a particularly juicy slab of meat from the spit and began to chew on it.

Boiled human flesh was a delicacy, and everyone was in good spirits. The Asmat, after all, were one of the last known tribes of cannibals on Earth.

The young man gnawed his meat and said to the fellow on his right: “This is rump, I can tell. Not bad. But a bit fatty.”

The other fellow stared at his companion’s slice of steak and frowned. “What is that?”

The young man smiled and replied: “Looks like a picture of a flower.” He sank his teeth into it. “I like it.”

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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If you enjoy short stories with a twist of the bizarre, check out Tales From The Grouch.  Here’s a list with links (in green):

 

 

 . grouchyeditor.com Rusty  “Rusty” — Happy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com revelation   “Revelation” — Unhappy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com homebodies   “Homebodies” — The people next door.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com ass   “The Porthole” — Be careful what you wish for.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com the ufo   “The UFO” — Stand by me … and a UFO.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Tales From Grouch   “Carol Comes Home” — The spirit of Norman Bates.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com thwup   “Thwup!” — The case for eating more (or less) beans.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Wisdom   “Wisdom” — Cabin in the woods.

 

.        “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”  Thelma helps a guest.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Americans    “The Americans”  — Kevin goes for the gold.

 

.        “Margaret” — The greatest love story of all time?

 

 

© 2010-2022 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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