lost time incident 17
The evenings this week were dedicated to board games, for the most part. Monday and Tuesday, the wife and I split duties, each taking responsibility for half of a four-man ghost-busting squad in a game— you guessed it— based on the Ghostbusters franchise. Wednesday I introduced work colleagues to Pandemic, and we almost saved the world, but nope, diseases for everyone, sorry. Thursday a friend dropped by to help us bust even MORE ghosts, which feels as good as they say it does. Then we ended the week struggling with some electronic woes as several of our plug-and-wire gizmos started having problems with staying powered on.
Say what you will about board games, but they power up every time.
In other news, crows and cats in the neighborhood aren’t getting along.
In the recent past, I spent a few months trying to get the attention of neighborhood crows. I’d whistle, then throw peanuts their way, hoping to make fast friends across species lines. (For the record, this is more concerted effort than I ever made to get to know my human neighbors.**) While I got crows to swoop down and take peanuts a number of times, I think they just thought I was a chump who didn’t know how to maintain proper nut control. They still don’t seem particularly happy to see me out and about, nor have any of them shown any interest in riding on my shoulder and whispering secrets into my ear as a dark familiar.
Earlier today, one of the neighborhood crows started making a non-stop racket right outside our living room window. Was this a concerted and loud peanut lobbying attempt? It was not. We looked outside and the ruckus was due to the presence of a black cat, poking around in the tree, pushing its luck.
I tossed some peanuts at the cat to convince it to find a different tree. Didn’t work. Bounced the peanuts off the tree. The cat wasn’t much interested in these bouncing peanuts. So now they’ll probably be found by the nocturnal raccoons who like to scream when fighting over who gets right of way, walking along the tops of fences.
No matter what, animals are going to make noise and everyone’s getting peanuts to eat around here.
**We have a next-door neighbor named Lisa who, upon moving in, assumed we’d be fascinated by her life’s story, eager to do favors for her, and has never in conversation tried to get to know a thing about us. She does ask after our cats, though. We have a downstairs neighbor named … I can never remember. Shares a name with a dish I don’t care for. Pasta-based. What is it. Linguinardo. No. Steve-ghetti. No. ALFREDO. Nice guy. Has a family. Don’t know their names at all. There’s another unit that could be full of aliens or serial killers. Don’t even know how many people are in there. And beyond this building, the neighborhood might as well be shrouded in mist and full of shivering creatures like in Silent Hill, for all the familiarity I have with the people who live around here.
Anyway. Who’s up for some fiction?
the atom age
We had to shut down the super collider. Up to that point, it had been a good week. We had bounced atoms off each other with spectacular success. Busted ’em up real good. We were internationally recognized for our work in atom collision. At the end of the shift, you could get bits of atoms off the floor, take ’em home for the kids. Supervisor didn’t care. You were saving the janitorial team on the night shift some trouble, actually, because otherwise they’re spending all their time sweeping up atoms.
But now the whole facility was at half power. People were leaning on machines that were usually too hot to touch, just killing time, checking their phones.
What’s the problem, I asked.
Computer’s got a virus, Wulf said. He pointed. Sure enough, there’s a virus sitting right on top of the computer they keep hooked up to the big red COLLIDE THE ATOMS button. Virus just looked over at us like: What. Daring us to do something. It would have lunged at us to make us jump if it could, so it could laugh if we flinched. You could see it in the eyes wobbling in its protein coat. Good thing it couldn’t lunge. Viruses don’t have the right kind of structure.
Gross, I said.
Hey, said some guy behind us. He had a clipboard. I got a whole truck load of atoms out back, someone going to sign for these? I gotta get ’em offloaded. Got to take a shipment of rain back to Colorado right after. And there’s trucks all backed up behind mine. Line’s going down the block. We gotta move. Who’s gonna sign for this?
Later, in the cafeteria, Wulf and I ate cold egg and bacon sandwiches. The virus sat at the next table sipping tea. The delivery guy ate at the table after that, but he wasn’t eating food. He was pointedly looking at print-outs of delivery schedules, then ripping them up and putting them in his mouth while trying to stare us down. Everything is our fault, sure buddy.
What are you going to do for the super collider talent show, I asked Wulf.
Magic show, he said.
You know magic?
You know hypnotism?
I made you forget that I know magic.
What, I exclaimed, and my top hat fell off, didn’t even know I was wearing one, bunnies spraying out of the hat in arcs as the hat bounced along the ground, a solid spray of rabbits, bouncing off the walls, colliding with each other, pellets shaking out of them like tiny atomic bits.
Oh yeah, now I remember, I told Wulf.
What are you going to do, Wulf asked me.
Probably some carpentry. Get my cousin’s tae kwon do class to come in, kick some boards in half, make a chair out of it.
Sounds like a great act, said Wulf.
Everybody likes chairs, I said.
The next morning, the super collider was up and running again. Noting the hints of aggression coming from the virus, someone on the night shift put up flyers around the compound advertising a ‘fight club’ in the basement, with tear-away coupon strips on the bottom for a free first punch, redeemable upon one’s first visit.
The virus was caught in a net trap as soon as it entered the basement rec room, torn off coupon still gripped in its tail fibers.
The night shift woke up the atom delivery guy, who had been sleeping in his truck, and all night long upright hand trucks were rolling their tiny wheels down the compound’s corridors, bundles of atoms offloaded and stacked in storage rooms or dropped down delivery chutes.
By the time we came in, everything was ready, so we strapped on our goggles and thought about how much better atoms are when they’re hurtling around. Looks like break time is over, Wulf, I said.
Atom-smashing time, he said.
And he hit the big red button.
golden age of tv
[SFX: rock music]
[stock footage: helicopter over a city landscape, a busy police office, a purse-snatcher running down the street, an empty church, a gravestone with handcuffs resting on top]
[TITLE: TBD ]
[footage: Following a beat cop as he walks a city street.]
NARRATOR: In the big city… crime doesn’t pay. The police force responds to hundreds of crime reports a day and if the criminal is found… they’re going down.
[footage: Beat cop goes up steps of burned out building.]
NARRATOR: And if the criminal has escaped, passing beyond the veil of this world, dying before they can be brought to justice–
[footage: A ghost cop falls into step with the beat cop, climbing stairs and going deeper into the building.]
NARRATOR: That’s where the ghost cops come in.
BEAT COP: Okay, partner. The arsonist’s spirit is in this next room. You ready to bring him in?
[GHOST COP turns, mouth open in a rictus, unable to talk… its hands pass through the door knob. Its eyes roll back. Nearby glass shakes in telekinetic frustration.]
BEAT COP: This was a terrible idea.
[GHOST COP wavers, its face in agony, fingers curled… then disappears.]
BEAT COP: … Great.
listening to: Berlin Community Radio
reading: The True Believer: Thoughts on Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer. An interesting look at the driving factors behind and the members of society most susceptible to the allure of joining a mass movement of any variety: political, religious, etc.
watching: Sicario. Whoah. Super intense. Probably gives fits to anyone working in Mexico’s tourism industry.
ending theme song
That’s going to do it for us for this week. It’s about that time of the weekend when final errands must be run, meaning it’s time to go pick up some fruits, veggies and barley tea from the local Asian market. Then maybe read some comics. Listen to more music streaming from Berlin.
Happy birthday wishes go out to Team Pan this weekend. Thanks again to my wife Amanda for the original illustration.
Also, a guy I went to high school put up a photo that a 15-year-old me appears in. Good looking kid, though I remember he didn’t think so. Too bad I can’t pass him a note. Too bad it’s creepy to tell young people “You’re probably never going to look better than you do now! Be more confident!”
No wonder nobody told us.
As ever, thanks for reading.
— Michael Van Vleet
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