All posts by M Van Vleet

Free User Experience [Upgrade to Cowboy Prime]

A Wild West robot theme park but some robots keep talking to you about candy bars you should try, and about new cars you can lease. The saloon’s piano player says a $50 tip in his hat will keep all conversations “era-appropriate, pardner.”

“SKIP!” I shout in the crusty prospector’s face.

“Now, wait jus’ five more seconds there, son. What you gotta know about investing for retirement is… you gotta avoid unreasonable fees!”

“SKIP!” I scream into my rented cowboy hat.

lost time incident 64 – wife of a clown

lost time incident 64
This week, we’re going to reward your attention with some delightful nonsense. That’s the plan. It’s written on this clipboard with a checkbox next to it, not yet checked. Says right here: REWARD ATTENTION WITH DELIGHTFUL NONSENSE. I have never in my life won an argument with a clipboard and by gum, I’m not going to even attempt reversing that trend today. Not when so much is at stake.

We’ve got a few of the by-now-familiar writing experiments where I browse health and beauty websites and repurpose headlines from their blogs. And then there’s an exclusive something-or-other that I haven’t written yet.

Really, I should write this introduction last, but I like to keep a little mystery for myself as well. Which is why every one of these newsletters ends predictably with the removal of someone’s rubber mask, the shouting of the revealed party’s name, and the repeated revelation that the supernatural does not exist: All evil dwells in the heart’s of  men and women who cloak themselves to disguise their avarice. Also, there’s a dog that talks but no one thinks that’s weird.

Every newsletter.

I don’t know why any of us keep reading this thing. No surprises.

 

five reasons to have a teeny, tiny wedding
1) The only official who is free to preside over your ceremony is a talking cricket.

2) All wedding venues are booked except for one, located inside a young girl’s liver, accessible via shrunken submarine in sterile lab conditions.

3) You fell in love with an electron.

4) The global economy is arranged in such a way that your entire generation has difficulty finding steady employment at a wage where an extravagant wedding is even an option.

5) Tiny things are cute! Little wedding cake! Small cocktails at the reception! Reduced expectations to minimize disappointment! Adorable!

four secrets of women who switched to natural beauty routines
1) Dreams are sweeter when you sleep under the soft, cool mud. Let the webbing between your fingers guide you down.

2) To impress aquatic romantic partners, thread seaweed through your scalp. Beautiful, and small fish can hide from predators in your hair-reef! New friends!

3) Want the perfect butt? Try river stones! We couldn’t say how they’d help, but stones are 100% natural and reader polls say butt shape is important so… put it together. We can’t do everything for you.

4) We hid a body once. That’s just a regular secret. Nothing to do with beauty.

free trial
We were having a nice picnic right up until the Purity Squad showed up, loaded Kevin into the pure-a-pult and launched him into the ocean. “Swim back to your own country” they shouted after him and then they put together some take-home plates of BBQ chicken, covered in foil, which we hadn’t offered them, but whatever. Kevin was born, like, four blocks from here.

I asked Jenny if four blocks away was still this country and she said, “Yeah.” She probably knows. She got good grades in school.

One year later, you could pick any house on the block to live in because everyone else had ended up launched into the ocean. That nice couple who worked in television. The folks at the elderly home. The ex-con. Mrs. Yogurt. That empty field that used to be full of racoons.

The Purity Squad would still drive through, their sedan pulling their pure-a-pult behind them. About the only thing that changed is that one of ’em painted some flames on the side of the catapult, to make it seem like it was going faster, I guess. But since it was being pulled by a regular sedan, it was never going to look faster than a sedan. I would have asked Jenny about it, but she sent me a postcard from the Two Pines Temporary Relocation cat asking if her cat was okay, and her cat wasn’t okay (couldn’t swim), so I haven’t written her back.

Sorry Jenny.

Just this morning, the Purity Squad came through and I was the only person around. Just me and my dog. I was pitching rocks at a street lamp that shines in my window at night. I don’t drive anywhere and it’s only me in the neighborhood, so I figured it wouldn’t matter if I broke this one. Since it bothered me.

“Hey,” the Squad said. “You wanna buy a catapult?”

I just looked at ’em. Looked at my dog. My dog was like: “What?”

“We don’t get much use out of the catapult anymore,” they said. “We’re probably going to move soon. Got our bags packed. This was a pretty exciting phase in our life, but… it’s time to move on. So we’re selling it.”

“How much you want for it?” I asked.

“What do you think it’s worth?” they asked back. I never got used to how they would all speak in unison like that.

[THANK YOU FOR READING! Your trial account story limit has been reached. To unlock LOST TIME INCIDENT: GOLD ACCESS, click here! Join the fastest growing online community for short fiction enthusiasts to get access to exclusive works of fiction, networking opportunities, and a chance every month to win a set of door codes for the Mars Base we’re building to escape this doomed planet! DOUBLE your chances of winning by sharing this on Facebook, TRIPLE your chances by sharing on LinkedIn, and QUADRUPLE your chances by signing legal documents surrendering all of your duplicate organs to the LOST TIME INCIDENT ORGAN BANK now! Seats are limited! Mars isn’t getting any bigger!]

ending theme song
Well now! We have arrived at the end. The music comes up. The credits roll. Everyone rises to leave, with a shrugging on of jackets, a shuffling of feet.

Time to go, time to go.

We’ll probably be back, but for now it’s time to go.

—Michael Van Vleet

 

[This was originally sent out as an emailed newsletter. Would you like to receive the LOST TIME INCIDENT directly in your inbox? You can subscribe here! Or, you know, keep reading ’em here on signalstation.com. You’ve got your own life to live. Make your choices.]

5 Reasons to Have a Teeny, Tiny Wedding

1) The only official who is free to preside over your ceremony is a talking cricket.

2) All wedding venues are booked except for one, located inside a young girl’s liver, accessible via shrunken submarine in sterile lab conditions.

3) You fell in love with an electron.

4) The global economy is arranged in such a way that your entire generation has difficulty finding steady employment at a wage where an extravagant wedding is even an option.

5) Tiny things are cute! Little wedding cake! Small cocktails at the reception! Reduced expectations to minimize disappointment! Adorable!

4 Secrets of Women Who Switched to Natural Beauty Routines

1) Dreams are sweeter when you sleep under the soft, cool mud. Let the webbing between your fingers guide you down.

2) To impress aquatic romantic partners, thread seaweed through your scalp. Beautiful, and small fish can hide from predators in your hair-reef! New friends!

3) Want the perfect butt? Try river stones! We couldn’t say how they’d help, but stones are 100% natural and reader polls say butt shape is important so… put it together. We can’t do everything for you.

4) We hid a body once. That’s just a regular secret. Nothing to do with beauty.

baby tooth

Every spell takes its toll. Many magicks require teeth as a component. Hence, all the toothless magical crones.

Teens journey to The Heart of Magic on a quest to save the world only to find it’s a mountain of teeth, all piled up, clouds brushing the top.

Brushing the teeth.

lost time incident 63 – burned out signs

lost time incident 63
This week, we’ve got a few short pieces of fiction in convenient bite-sized form. They reach their conclusion before you have time to wonder what else you could be doing with your time. Additionally, there’s an actual slice of life, sliced from a week-and-a-half spent hosting my brother, who was visiting from Pennsylvania.

It’s much like every other week. No surprises. (Or is this how we lull you in to a state of complacency?) (It’s not.) (But isn’t that what someone would say if they were LULLING?)

Anyway. On with the show:

 

teenagers, you know
We were pretty typical small town kids. Jean jackets, cheap cigarettes. Bootleg cassettes and boomboxes with D batteries in basements, thin rugs on the concrete floor. Always drawing maps of the neighborhood with little five-pointed stars marking where there were supernatural occurrences.

A star for where there were lights spotted dancing in a half-built house in the new subdevelopment that’s still mostly dirt lots. A star for where Cheryl said she felt an unexpected cold spot on a summer night, as if she had been suddenly standing in front of an opened Amoco gas station’s refrigeration unit, looking for a Fruitopia or something. A star for where Bob “accidentally” ate human meat, which started the whole process where he became a wendigo, which is why we kept him locked in the basement’s bathroom pretty much full time.

For the first few weeks, Bob wasn’t too bad. Sure, he talked all the time about wanting to eat more human meat, but we could laugh it off. After all, he still liked to play SORRY with us on that rickety card table we had, or he’d still debate about the best era of Van Halen. He got a bit more furry than he used to be, but we were all going through some changes at the time. Whose body didn’t have unexpected hair, right?

Anyway, it ended up being a good thing that our pal Apollo, an exchange student, was staying with the Lammenwursts who ran the hardware store because we ended up needing a lot of chain to create a barrier over the basement bathroom door for Bob.

We were also starting to have some success with girls at about that time, and it’s a shame that Bob missed out on most of that. Through the door, during a lucid moment, he asked us if we could talk to Sarah on his behalf.

“You can tell her— I thought of this joke and you can tell her ‘You know what they say about wendigos… They take a while to warm up, but oh boy… when dey go…!’ Go tell her that and if she thinks it’s funny, maybe you guys can take all these chains down and she’ll go to the Autumn Formal with me.”

We didn’t tell Sarah anything.

Sarah hated wordplay.

the business
I had just splashed some rubbing alcohol into a drinking vase when she walked into my office looking like trouble. She was a pistol and her eyes were bullets and I hadn’t taken a gun safety course since the War. “What’s the story?” I said and her safety came off and it came to me that I was drunk and talking to my gun again. Another unsolvable case. My office was the underside of a couch. “I live here now,” I said, detectively.

 

burnt out signs
My younger brother was in town this last week, which means he got up close exposure to fraternal weirdness. For example, my brother, my wife and I were walking to the grocery store. I noticed that the sign above the Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts was partially burnt out, leaving something that looked like JO-A_IN lit up.

So I sang (to the tune of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”) ♫ If you want to do crafts / you should speak with our staff / Jo-ain’s ♫

My wife Amanda immediately hated it, having never developed an appreciation for my sign-based silliness. She’s still never forgiven me for pointing out that a Thai restaurant on Solano Avenue can be sung like a Neil Diamond song: ♫ Sweet Basil Thai (BUM BUM BUM) ♫

Only a few steps further was another partially burned out sign on the side of the grocery store. Its PHARMACY sign was reduced to PH___ACY, prompting a bit of Seal (♫ We’re never gonna survive / unless / we get a little / phacy ♫ )

Amanda raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t go with Gnarls Barkley instead? Or even Patsy Cline?”

My brother frowned a bit in thought, then added “You should go with something Def Leppard-related. Because the sign is missing an ARM.”

We’re related, all right.

Further proof: Hours later, long after we’re back home and settled in, my brother comes back inside from smoking a cigarette and serenades us with ♫ Pour some sugar PHA-CY! ♫

Anyway. He’s on a plane back to the East Coast and I’m sure Amanda’s glad to have this sort of monkeyshines reduced by half. But it was nice to have a week of “it’s not just me” moments.

 

ending theme song
Our header image for this week’s newsletter is from Ian Keltie (http://www.iankeltie.com/). I snatched it off some image-sharing site years ago, but was conscientious enough to save the file with the artist name because I knew that at some point, I’d need to offer a credit. Apparently.

Thanks for reading! Or thanks for deleting this email unread! Whatever you’ve done— and you KNOW what you did— thank you for doing it! You’re the only one who could do it!

Now I’m going to move on with the rest of the day, which I’m hoping is going to include progress on a project I started back in February. (Yeesh.) But if you want to help me procrastinate, just hit me up and say you want some new music and I’ll send you something via Bandcamp. Those are the other browser windows I have open… music to listen to while I work.

Save me from productivity.

See you later, alligators.

—Michael Van Vleet

PROM-BLEMS

a) That time I asked you to prom but you fell through a portal, freed an ancient land from evil & lived out your life there.
b) That time the school cafeteria, where prom was held, sprouted legs and walked away, taking our crepe paper decorations, balloons and DJ with it.
c) That time prom was kidnapped and we paid the ransom, but prom fell in love with its captors and joined a crime syndicate.
d) We asked each other to prom, but people standing behind each of us thought we were talking to them, so we didn’t go together, but with strangers.
e) Prom was cancelled. Frogs.
f) I asked you to prom at the bottom of a list of dumb stories.

the business

I had just splashed some rubbing alcohol into a drinking vase when she walked into my office looking like trouble. She was a pistol and her eyes were bullets and I hadn’t taken a gun safety course since the War. “What’s the story?” I said and her safety came off and it came to me that I was drunk and talking to my gun again. Another unsolvable case. My office was the underside of a couch. “I live here now,” I said, detectively.