Drew Carey’s in Cleveland

A pickin’ and a grinnin’ lyric
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
With a big mug of beer.
He’s on t.v.
Coming in clear.

With a smile on his face
At the Drew Carey place
Drew’s telling his jokes
For all kind of folks.
He’s getting his yucks
With his oh aw shucks.
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
Drinking his beer.

Mimi’s on the prowl
With her clownish scowl
At Winfred-Lauder.
Drew takes a powder
Away from his cube
To avoid their feud.
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
Drinking his beer.

With Oswald and Lewis
And Kate, they’re the truest
Of friends in a bar
Where the keg is a star
And guzzling it down
Is the Talk of the Town.
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
Drinking his beer.

Then Mimi bursts in
To the bar with a grin
And throws a big pie
Letting it fly
To splatter Drew’s face
In his drinking place.
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
Drinking his beer.

Now Kate really pissed.
She puts up her fists.
“You’re ’bout to go down,
You sad little clown,”
Kate says with a frown.
Beats Mimi to the ground.
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
Drinking his beer.

Now Mimi got wise
After that night’s demise.
She left Drew alone
Till Kate went and gone.
Then Mimi is back
Gives Drew such a whack.
Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
Drinking his beer.

Drew Carey’s in Cleveland
With a big mug of beer.
He’s on t.v.
Coming in clear.

Short Story Wednesday: The Kingdom of Masques

Short Story Prompt: “The Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka

Once the folk of the Kingdom of Borodomo were in pursuit of the better. Then the apathy came. It was a disease that spread through the kingdom like a yawning wind from the north. So contagious it was that it left not one in the land free from the plague of indifference. It stayed so long the citizens came to believe it had always been a resident. As the generations passed, people forgot the time before the wind yawned its way into the kingdom. They wore their apathy like a boy scout wears his merit badges.

The King of the South came visiting his cousin, the King of Borodomo. The South King, we’ll call him Irving. Irving saw the apathy. The King of Borodomo’s people looked, and acted, so unlike themselves. Where some once began their day with a “hey, turn that frown upside” kind of face, now they wore a full-scale, indifferent face. There were no more frowns in the kingdom, and the smilies all wore were fake, as fake as a three dollar bill. The people just were not themselves. Something had to be done, and the King of the South knew just what.

The two kings were feasting one night. I believe it was a Thursday. Irving leaned over and spoke plainly to his kingly buddy, “Your people are oh-so oh so. You know they’ve built a cage, and they’re afraid to leave it, even though the door has been thrown open. It wasn’t always so. Now everybody is everybody else.”

“‘Tis true, ’tis true,” Chuck, the King of the Borodomonese, said to his kingly friend. “What to do? What to do?” Then he yawned one of the greatest yawns in the history of the kingdom.

“Once upon a time ago,” Irving said, “my kingdom was thusly thus. Then a miracle came. It came in the form of a maker of masks. Since then, my citizens have worn masks. Each day I proclaim that some will wear sad faces. Some ugly faces. Some happy faces. Some lustful faces. Some endearing faces. Some smile. Some sunny. Each puts on their mask and walks about acting as the mask directs.”

“I would dearly love to acquire a mask maker such as the one you have.”

“Can be done,” Irving disclosed. “Matty, the mask maker, has a brother. I shall send him to you a fortnight from this night.”

Chuck yawned his agreement to the proposal.

Some days later, Irving returned to his kingdom in the south. A few days after that, the mask maker’s younger brother, Watty, knocked on the Gates of Borodomo. As he marched his way up to Chuck’s Palace on the Hill, the people watched. If it had been possible, they would have shown their rejoicing. For indeed they were glad. Truly glad. They hated their apathy as much as any people have ever hated a thing. But the folk could only yawn their approval, and nothing more.

Soon Watty set up shop and started turning out mask after mask. As commanded, the Borodomonese lined up at his door and waited to retrieve their bag. Each was given a bag of masks: a smilie, a frown, a thoughtful, a distressed, a happy, a moody, a joyful, a curious, a hopeful, a generosity, a fearful, an indulgent, a love, a sympathy, an amusement, a relief, an embarassment, an eny and a sad.

Each morning the Borodomonese were ordered to put on a new mask for the day to come. If they wore a lustful mask for the day, their behavior turned to lust for that day. If they wore a hopeful one, one could not find a hopefuller fellow than the wearer. At the end of twenty days, they were to return to Watty’s shop and exchange their bag for a new one.

There was only one condition. When they took the old mask off and replaced it with the new, they were not to view themselves in a mirror. If they did, they were told that the magic of the mask disappeared.

However…haven’t you noticed there is always a however in these kinds of tales. However there was one among the folk who refused to wear a mask. He suspected that something was rotten in Denmark, even though he lived in Borodomo. His name was Jack and he was a kitchen knave in the Palace on the Hill. Since he did kitchen knave kinds of things deep in the palace, no one saw him.

From time to time, he sneaked upstairs and peered out through the palace windows to the valley below. He usually did this early in the morning because he wanted to catch the sunlight. There was little sunlight in the depths where he worked.

One fine morning he was early. The sun was not up yet. Jack happened to catch King Chuck in his jammies as he hurried to his Changing Closet. Curious, Jack followed the king. He peeked into the Changing Closet. Chuck removed his mask for the day, one that was a smilie.

The knave caught a glimpse of the king’s face. As Chuck took off the mask, all the smiles the king’s face contained were sucked away by the mask. The king would never know a smile again. What was left was a complete blank of a face. The new mask was a sad one.

Jack tried to hold back the gasp. But the king heard it. He turned to see Jack. Jack had committed treason. But the king was confused about what to do. So he called his guards. They hurried to the king.

“Arrest the knave,” the king said sadly.

Two guards, who wore happily masks, happily arrested Jack.

A trial was held. The judge in his reluctance mask reluctantly sentenced Jack to death. It was the thing to do, so the judge did it.

Jack held his tongue about what he had seen. Being a good guy, he did not want to embarrass his liege lord. But he knew something must be done. In his cell, he debated with himself all the night long the night before his execution. What was he to do?

The next morning was a fine morning. The kind of morning just right for an execution. The flowers were budding and blooming. The birds chirped up a storm. Like Goldilocks said of the porridge, the day was just right.

Jack was led to the scaffold by two guards. Everyone in the kingdom was in the Palace Square to bid the kitchen knave farewell. They all had on their fine morning masks. Sitting beside the king was Watty. Since he had never seen an execution, he was curious.

Jack stood on the scaffold and turned toward the king. “Your Majesty,” he said. “I have done that which was forbidden to do. I have seen his majesty’s face maskless. For that, I go to my death, holding no ill-favor toward my liege lord. Before I lose my head, I belief it is in accord with custom that I be granted one request. Once that is done, I shall gladly retire to my death.”

King Chuck, being a just king, said, “I grant your request if it be in my power to do so.”

Jack smiled. Somehow he had been immune to the apathy his fellow citizens had caught. Though he was maskless, there was nary an apathetic bone in his body. He bowed his thanks. Then he asked, “Your Majesty, my request is this. Before I take my leave, I would request that I be able to see all maskless, except for Your Majesty. Can you grant me this one request and I will gladly go to the ax happy.”

“I gladly grant your request,” King Chuck said. “All in this Square will remove your masks.”

Watty protested, “Your Majesty, that cannot be. If the people remove their masks, the masks will lose their power.”

King Chuck thought about this. It was the day he wore his thoughtful mask. So thinking was appropriate. Finally he made a decision. “Watty, your protest has been noted. I cannot refuse a last request. Though he is but a kitchen knave, he is a loyal citizen. So I command everyone’s mask be removed. I want see the true faces of my people. Since I would not request an act from my people that I would not do, I too shall remove my mask.”

The king counted to three, then off came his mask. All in the Square did the same. The king’s mask sucked all of the sadness out of King Chuck. The people’s masks sucked all the fine mornings out of them.

The king was the first to notice the evil the masks were doing. Suddenly he was not apathetic anymore. His blood was boiling. He was angry. All the people saw what the king saw. And they too were angry. Though some had worn their angry masks, the unmasking of the deception was such that their anger returned. The king shouted, “Release Jack and arrest that deceiver, Watty. We will have an execution. It will be his.”

Watty slipped off the stage and out through a side door. The guards cut Jack loose. And Jack was off after the deceiver. Just as Watty reached the Kingdom Gates, Jack blocked his exit and faced him down.

“Get out of my way,” Watty said, pulling out his sword.

“Stop before I run you through with that sword,” Jack commanded.

Watty slashed his sword at Jack. Jack ducked and threw the mask maker off his balance. He grabbed the sword away from the deceiver and whacked him hard against the bottom. Soon Watty stood on the scaffold, pleading for his life.

“Tell us,” King Chuck commanded, “and tell us true. How did you come about this evil? I will spare your life if you reveal this thing.”

“It be my brother Matty’s plan. He raised the wind with its apathetic disease and sent it your way. Then he sent me with the masks. When all in this kingdom had lost  their emotions, they would not be up for a fight. Then King Irving could conquer your kingdom and enslave your people.”

Within days, King Chuck called on his allies. Together they raised a mighty army, then marched to the South. So the South was defeated and left barren in days long ago.

Do Animals Have Souls?

What a question! Of course, they have souls. Just look into your horse’s, you cat’s and your dog’s eyes.

I know when I look into my cats’ eyes I see souls looking back at me. Sometimes those souls are saying, “I love you. I love you a lot.” Sometimes they are saying, “What the hell do you want?” And other times they are saying, “Man, that was a good rat. Yum.” Or sometimes they are saying, “What a great day. Enjoy, just enjoy.” Then they go off and run or jump into the bird bath just for a drink of water and they enjoy their complete catness.

I am sure that if you looked into a horse’s eyes you might see those eyes saying, “Gee, I love to run. There is nothing quite like it.” Or “Man, you need to lose some weight. Everytime you ride me, my back hurts for a week.”

Or a dog’s soul saying to his master, “You may be an s.o.b., but you’re my s.o.b.” They love us unconditionally, never holding back. I remember seeing a movie called “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”. Hachi’s master had died, yet Hachi waited for years for his master to return on the evening train. They were friends, and the dog loved his friend more than anything.

So you can’t tell me that if there’s a life after death that there won’t be animals there. I am not going to believe that. Because a life after death without my cats ain’t any kind of life at all. So there. That answers that question. So on to the next one. Do people have souls?

Maybe. Then again maybe not. At least for some.

Short Story Wednesday: The Train Station

Short Story Prompt: “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

The American stepped off the train and into the warm afternoon sun. One of the Guardia Civilia stood at attention beside the door of the station. The Spanish policeman eyed each of the passengers, measuring them for trouble. The American had other business on his mind than any trouble he might make for Franco and his Fascists. He stepped onto the wooden platform. The station looked run down, paint peeling off its walls. Walking into the bar, he ordered Anis del Toro. When it came, he threw back his head and downed the liqueur with one try. The cold, licorice taste went down fast and filled him with a momentary contentment. It was time to get on with what he had come to do, he reminded himself.

Grabbing a taxi nearby, he asked the driver to take him to the inn where he was lodging. Once settled in and after a good meal, he walked back to the station, and then on into the arid landscape behind the building. The afternoon was now evening and shadows were everywhere, then it was night. The night soon shrouded him with its darkness. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and prodded the hills in the distance, hills that did indeed appear to be elephants. It was too late to know if they were white or some other color. He dropped his knapsack and sat down on a large boulder.

The hills drew his eyes toward them. He found himself peering further and further into the past. It had been one long stretch of time, thirty years of it since the girl. It had been thirty years since the girl spent that afternoon with him in the train station. Thirty years since she had said those hills in the distance reminded her of white elephants. Thirty years since he had convinced her to have an abortion and she died of an infection from the abortion, her head on his lap in a compartment on a train to Paris. It had been thirty years of regret. Each day since that afternoon, he had relived every moment of that afternoon, detail by detail, one moment after another whittling away at any kind of life he tried to live since.

They met in the Prado. She was a nineteen-year-old English student, sketching Velázquez’s painting, “Las Meninas”, and he, a twenty-five-year-old architect from Chicago, come to Spain to study the architecture. The previous six weeks he studied and sketched the Alhambra, the heart and soul of Moorish Spain. On his way back to Paris, he stopped in Madrid for a few days to get to know that part of Spain better.

While strolling through the galleries, he came up behind her, her long black hair falling from her beret to her waist. She was deep in her work with pencil and sketchbook. He sat down on a wooden bench, unable to take his eyes off that girl. Hours must have passed, but they seemed like only minutes. He took out his own sketchbook and drew the lines of her image, though he knew that there was no way he could put what he felt onto paper.

The girl stood up, straightened her skirt, then turned toward the American. Her smile filled an open face.

“You like Velazquez’?” she asked from across the room.

He walked over to her. “I do. Very much.”

Her eyes looked back at the painting. “How can anyone deny that is perfection? Every artist before and since should bow in his presence.”

“Even Rembrandt?”

“Even Rembrandt,” she said.

He suffered a momentary loss for words. Then she put out her hand. “My name is Lina. I come from Bristol.”

“Do you believe in love at first sight?” He had never believed in it until that afternoon.

“Well, yes. And no,” she answered.

He got up his courage and asked, “Would you like to get a drink?”

“I am thirsty. And hungry too.”

“Good,” he said. “I found a place around the corner that serves a good paella.”

For the next six weeks, they began each day and ended each night together. The days she spent in the Prado, sketching the painting she loved so much, losing herself in the scene before her. Some days he wandered the city, taking in the sights and the sounds. Others he strolled through the halls and sketched the contours of the museum. Mostly he sat and watched the girl, never tiring of this girl he had fallen in love with.

Then one night over drinks and cocido madrileño, she said, “I’m pregnant.” They were hesitant words, and they were words that dropped like a bomb into his lap.

He choked down his food, then drank some water.

“I haven’t had my period.” she said nervously, afraid of his next words.

“It’s okay. I love you, and no matter what, we’ll work this thing out.”

Later he suggested an abortion. It came with the moment of doubt that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a father, that doubt he later regretted. It seemed the only way to get back to the way it had been those first days in Madrid.

Before they left Madrid, they decided to stop at a little town in the Valley of the Ebro. She wanted to see the hills and the dry valley, measure its colors and its light with her eyes. It was summer and she was working on a painting. “It has good light,” she said of the valley.

A friend told him of the fishing there and the catfish and the wild carp. While she was painting, it would give himself some time to be alone so that he could figure things out. There was no better way to be alone than going fishing.

On the train to the valley, they did not talk. In the valley, they talked and their talk was filled with dread. Back on the train, they did not talk again. They knew what they had to do. In Barcelona, they found an abortionist.

In the room, not the cleanest of rooms, he almost backed out of what was about to occur. But he didn’t. As she lay helpless on the bed, he held her hand. He poured all the love he could summon into that small hand of hers. After thirty years, he still felt the grip of her strong fingers grasping his hand. He still heard the screams as the abortionist pulled the baby out of her. When it was done, she looked up at him. Her face was radiant, her eyes shining her love on him.

He knew he had made a mistake. He should have insisted that she have the baby. On the train to Paris, her head became hot. She trembled from the chills running through her small body. Then she was dead, her spirit lifted out of that fragile body he had loved so much.

He came back to the present and turned his eyes from the hills. He reached into the knapsack he had with him and pulled out a revolver. Sitting on the rock, he thought about what he had to do. It was the only way for him to find any peace. It would be such a relief. He reached into the knapsack again and pulled out a box of shells. He took out six and popped one into each of the chambers on the cylinder. Then he tested the gun, aiming and firing one shot at the hills. He placed the warm muzzle against his head, then he stuck it into his mouth. Yes, that was the right way to do this. He pulled the hammer back, cocked the gun and waited. What he was waiting for, he was not sure. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour, and still he waited.

From the hills in the distance he heard a “Don’t”.

“Why not?” he said to the hills.

“Please don’t, Matthew,” the hills said.

He thought about the words for several minutes, mulling them over in his mind. He pulled the barrel out of his mouth. “I can’t go on like this,” he said to the hills.

“But you have to. You just have to.”

“Oh, my God.” He slid off the rock and onto the dirt. He cried for a good long time. He took the gun once again and pushed the barrel into his mouth, then cocked it.

Another “Please” came from the hills,. Then they went silent.

It was the final plea that did it. He dropped the revolver in the dirt, then dejectedly headed back to the town.

The next afternoon he caught the train to Madrid. From his compartment, he watched the hills like white elephants recede into the distance. It was on to the Prado and “Las Meninas”. After that, he didn’t know. He just didn’t know.

Short Story Wednesday: A Day in the Life Of Martha 270

Short Story Prompt: “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, April 7, 2025.
6:00 a.m. The alarm went off inside his head. “Mr. Patterson, it’s time to wake up,” the Voice said. He rolled over on his side and said forcefully to the chip inside his head, “Leave me alone, Martha.”

6:02 a.m. “Sir, it’s time to wake up,” the Voice went off again like an alarm clock with a sharp beep that he could not put on snooze. “Okay, okay,” he climbed out of bed. He went into the bathroom and quickly relieved himself.

6:05 a.m. Patterson stumbled down to the kitchen. He poured water from the tap into the coffeemaker. “Sir, you have to use distilled water. You never know what poisons they put in the water these days.” “Yes, ma’am,” he responded. He went to the pantry and pulled out a gallon bottle of water, then poured the water into the coffeemaker. “Happy now?” he said to the Voice. The Voice came back, “Sir, please do not be smart with me. I am only doing my job.”

6:30 a.m. The Voice reminded Patterson that it was time to shower. He showered and dressed.

7:00 a.m. Patterson headed for the front door. “Sir, are we not eating breakfast this morning?” He answered, “I’m just going to stop at Krispy Kreme for a couple of donuts.” “Sir,” Voice said firmly, “donuts are bad for you. Loaded with sugar. How many times am I going to have to remind you. Now fix yourself a healthy breakfast.” He said begrudginly, “Okay, okay.” While Martha played some morning motivational music, he prepared an omelet. Once his breakfast was on the table, he opened his tablet and read the Wall Street Journal.

7:30 a.m. Bing! a soft reminder went off in his head, letting him know it was time to leave for work. He placed his dishes in the sink, did a quick brushing of his teeth, straightened his tie and went out to his BMW. He said to Voice, “Lock the house please, Martha.” The Voice obeyed.

7:35 a.m. Patterson’s BMW headed up the interstate on-ramp and followed the flow of the traffic. The robotic driver corrected the car’s speed to the flow of the other cars. The traffic eased along at a steady pace, each car driven by its own robotic driver. Thanks to technology, there were no more traffic jams or pile-ups. “Martha, could I have the market report?” he requested. The radio came on with an update of the financial news.

8:30 a.m. The BMW pulled into his parking spot at The Company. He checked his digital for the time. It was good to be early this Monday morning. He had a meet-and-greet with a major investor that afternoon. The extra time would give him a head start on his preparation.

8:35 a.m. Patterson entered the door of the office of the Vice President for Financial Affairs, his office. He said hello to his administrative assistant. “Helen, can you cancel any appointments I might have today.” It was not a question; it was a request. “I have a big meet at 3:00, and I need the time to prepare.”

Helen looked up from her work. “Yes, sir. All but one. You are to report to HR102 at 9:00.”

He said, “Cancel it.”

“No, sir. It’s an order from upstairs.”

He argued, “I’ve got to prepare for this meeting.”

Martha interjected, “Sir, you are to report.”

Shaking his head, he said, “Since it seems I have no choice, I’ll go. But there will be hell to pay if this meet-and-greet don’t go well this afternoon.”

“Sir,” the inside of the head said, “you will still have plenty of time. I can help as well.”

“Okay, I’m going.”

8:50 a.m. Patterson got on the elevator and pushed the button for the 13th floor, the Human Resources Floor.

8:52 a.m. Patterson stepped out of the elevator on the 13th floor. The receptionist showed him Room 102, better known throughout The Company as the Interrogation Room.

8:53 a.m. Patterson entered Room 102. A man and a woman, both wearing dark glasses, sat behind a table, facing the door. “Have a seat, Gregor,” the woman said. “We can call you Gregor, can we not?”

“Yes.” Patterson took his seat. “I have an important meet with a client today. Can’t this wait?”

“Not really,” the woman said, “but this won’t take long. Less than thirty minutes.” Then the man, his hands folded on the table, asked,” Are you happy with your work here at The Company?”

“I am,” Patterson said. “Quite happy.” His palms sweated.

8:55 a.m. The woman asked, “Gregor, you are happy with your office? With Helen, your administrative assistant? With the perks of your title, such as the BMW? With the support you are getting from The Company? You do like it here, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Patterson said, wondering why the third degree.

“Then what seems to be the problem, Gregor?” the man asked. There was a smirk in his voice.

8:56 a.m. Patterson looked confused. “There’s no problem.”

“Gregor, we have been receiving reports from the Martha 760 that you are not happy. She says you have been not giving her your full cooperation. You’ve been arguing with her. Is this true?”

8:57 a.m. Patterson answered, “Ah, c’mon guys. I have been following Martha’s instructions to the letter.”

“Yes, but you are not getting into the spirit of the program,” the man said.

“I am. I can assure you absolutely that I am,” Patterson said.

“We hired you,” the woman said, “right out of college to be our youngest vice president ever. We are paying you a very lucrative salary with very good benefits. I hope you appreciate that.”

8:58 a.m. “I do,” Patterson responded, “I do.”

The woman continued, “There was only one condition on which you were hired. That we implant the Martha 270 chip in your head. And that you follow her instructions to the letter and in the spirit of the program. You did agree to this, did you not?”

8:59 a.m. Patterson was starting to get scared.

“Would you like a glass of water, Gregor?” the man asked.

“No, no, no,” Gregor answered. “Yes, I agreed to that.”

“Then why are you resisting?” the woman asked.

“I didn’t think it would be so hard,” Patterson said.

“But it isn’t,” the man said. “It’s very easy. All you have to do is listen to the Martha 270 and respond positively.”

“You know,” the woman said. “You have been upsetting Martha 270. You don’t want to do that, do you?”

9:00 a.m. “I didn’t know,” Patterson said.

“She doesn’t deal well with conflict, Gregor.” The woman smiled

“You don’t mind apologizing, do you?” The man was not asking a question. He was making a demand.

“Of course not, and I promise I will do better,” Patterson said.

“Then all will be well,” the man said.

“You play your cards right,” the woman added, “you could very well be the youngest CEO of The Company. You would like that, wouldn’t you? You haven’t changed your mind?”

9:01 a.m. “No,” Patterson said, “I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Then it is settled,” the man emphasized. “You will comply with the Martha 270’s instructions. After all, Martha is looking out for your best interest. You think you can do that? Of course you can?”

The man and woman stood up. Both walked around the table. Patterson stood up. They offered him their hands and he shook hands with both. As the man was leading Patterson out to the door, he said, “Or else.”

9:02 a.m. The woman turned Patterson toward her and straightened his tie. “One last thing,” she said. “Don’t forget the party tonight. We’ve got a woman for you to meet. She’s going to make a perfect wife for a future CEO.”

The man added, “And don’t forget to apologize to Martha.”