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Katy Perry’s “Cozy Little Christmas” | Covered by the Gashlers (A Capella)

We covered a brand new song by Katy Perry (not our usual cup of tea). Following the advice of a famous Youtuber in our neighborhood, the goal was to create something that people are actually searching for. Brilliant, right? So we did a little research and found something so new, it doesn’t appear that anyone has covered it. There’s not even an official music video yet. At the same time, we’re not exactly trendy people, and we wanted to do something unique, so we tried our hand at a capella. Perhaps we were inspired by the BYU Vocal Point concert we attended a few weeks ago.

After I made the video of Teresa and I in our studio, something seemed lacking. I thought of shooting some B roll, but as I listened to the lyrics, I realized I already had all the footage I needed in our previous music videos. It was a perfect opportunity to resurrect Evil Robot Santa, me falling in the snow, Teresa standing in fire, and a love scene between clowns.

It’s too early to say, but since I released the video last night, it’s performed about 4 times better than our usual videos. Neat. Also, in order to stay in line with our cheesy values, we committed a faux pas and changed the lyrics for one phrase. Can you guess where?

At the end of the video, I thank the Katy Perry corporation. I felt inclined to do this after learning more about how the pop music industry works. Without disrespecting any chart-topping artist (as I do love this song and think Katy Perry is talented), the truth is that it takes large corporations and massive amounts of money to make them what they are. Seldom are they self-made, and seldom do they write their own songs. Knowing this makes me feel better about being an underdog. Instead of being dwarfed by superstars with all the talent, independent artists are really up against a bourgeois of music tycoons. Just a few decades ago, it wasn’t this way, but it seems that the proliferation of music through iPods and the Internet was so threatening that it caused a struggling music industry to turn in the opposite direction, scrapping the democracy of the free market and becoming the sole arbiters of what is hot and what is not. In the process, creativity has been stifled, and what’s popular has only gotten harder, louder, more predictable, and less … musical.

Thus it may appear that I’m selling out by covering popular music. In my defense, I’ve created so many videos with original songs that have gotten virtually no traction, that I see no harm in riding a wave in order to gain some momentum. In other words, if the proletariat is to make any advances against the bourgeois, first they must learn to play their game. If projects like this are successful, my other projects will naturally gain more exposure. At the same time, I’ll continue to create original works whether or not they see the light of day. For the most part, what I create is for me and my family.

For example, with our last video, Jump Up Superstar, I knew that we were a year behind the wave, and, not surprisingly, though we poured and our hearts and souls into the video, it’s gotten few hits. But that’s okay. We primarily created this video to record our family’s parkour, gymnastics, and singing skills that we’ve been working on this year, and we’re proud of it.

I create because I have music and stories bubbling inside of me, and I have to get them out. I create in order help my family up their skills and record priceless memories. And I create because it’s fun.

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Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings 2018 and the Scythe of Sinister Intentions

Oh yeah … I won first place at the Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings contest on Monday, the spookiest event of the year. The prize was this beautiful work of art, “The Scythe of Sinister Intentions,” which has been great to lug around town. Not only is it a good conversation starter, it gave me an instant Halloween costume without even realizing it. I put on a poncho, because I was cold, and soon people were identifying me as the Grim Reaper.


This was the best and fiercest scary storytelling contest I’ve been a part of. Everyone did a bone-chilling job, and I did not envy the predicament of the judges. It was an honor to rub shoulders with so many talented artists, and Mikaela Hansen did a wonderful job in organizing the event.

My story, “Queen of the Flies”, was based on the following premise: what if everything you’ve ever killed were to come back? According to one audience member, as I described a girl’s horrific encounters with bugs, people all over were subconsciously scratching their bodies (the best compliment I could have hoped for). If you’re afraid of spiders or creepy crawlies, then you definitely don’t want to hear my story:

Believe it or not, the story has a strong element of truth. When I was about eight or nine, I was writing in my journal one night when a spider crawled onto it. My older brother happened to be in the room, and he promptly slammed the book shut. Then he wrote around the slimy remains: “Rest in Pieces.” For years (four or five, if I remember correctly), I didn’t want to touch the book. When, as a teenager, I finally confronted my fear, I opened the book, and a spider actually leaped out. I swear it happened. I know what I saw.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may recall that “Queen of the Flies” is a recurring theme of mine. Years ago, I, Teresa, and my brother Eric made this silly movie for my sister Deanna’ birthday (Deanna had a fear of flies, which fear the protagonist confronts):

Teresa also performed a modern twist on the spooky Mexican folk tale, La llrona, the deranged ghost-woman who will drag your children to watery graves. As I’ve said in previous posts, my wife is scary. And beautiful.

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Come Little Children (From the Movie Hocus Pocus)

My wife is scary.

A week and a half ago, Teresa proposed the concept for this project, and I was sold immediately. But there was a problem: how could we possibly add to Jame’s Horner’s brilliant melody or make a better cover than other artists have made, such as Kate Covington? I wanted something unique, dark, even a little scary, and I’m proud of what came together. Kudos to whoever can identify what the witch is chanting.

The children add a lot, Teresa is bewitching, and Heather Peavler did a great job on her makeup. I love including the whole family in projects like this. Though I’ll add one word to the wise: if you value your sanity: don’t work with children 🙂

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Queen of the Flies

Queen of the Flies

You’ve heard of the Law of Karma. What if every death that was on your hands – every death – came back to haunt you?

Helen was writing in her diary about the hopes, joys, and fears of her complicated, eight-year-old life, when she noticed a brown something with eight legs crawling on the paper. She didn’t mean to scream, stand up, and knock over her chair; it just happened. Seconds later, her older brother ran into the room. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Helen could only point. Her brother, rolling his eyes, went straight to the book and slammed it shut. Then, with a grin, he opened the book and admired the slimy remains of the spider. And with Helen’s pen, he wrote a fitting epitaph around it: “Rest in Pieces.”

Helen didn’t finish her journal entry that night, nor did she write anything the next night. Each time before she went to sleep, she would glance at the spine of her diary, which was stowed safely away on a shelf. The spider was dead. She knew her fears were irrational. And yet, perhaps that was because part of her knew that the world didn’t always behave in rational ways. For one, why did certain things have to move on eight legs? No legs at all was bad enough, six was disgusting, but eight?

A few months later, it was a rainy day at Quail Hollow Elementary school. This is a true story, by the way. I was there when … well, you’ll find out soon enough. You see, like all of us children, Helen loved to jump through puddles at recess. And the best part of rainy days – at least according to the boys – was the worms. They were everywhere. Helen, however, didn’t take so kindly to the squishy, little things. Following her older brother’s example, she smashed them beneath her shoe and ground their remains into the gravel. She considered it a favor to humanity to rid the world of as many creepies and crawlies as possible.

A girl approached her. She had unkempt hair, thick glasses, and a wardrobe that never seemed to match. Gloria. Gloria didn’t talk much, and she didn’t seem to have any friends. At recess, she would usually sit in a corner and stare at … well, we never did figure out what she was staring at. So Helen was more than a little surprised when Gloria actually initiated a conversation. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Gloria whispered.

Helen looked up from the flattened worm on the asphalt. “Why not?”

“Haven’t you heard about the Queen of the Flies?”

“The who?”

“Years ago, there was a girl who went to this school who loved worms, bug, spiders, flies … anything that moved. She played with them at recess, and she would get in trouble for bringing them into the classroom. She even let mosquitos drink her blood. If ever anyone tried to hurt a bug, she would attack them. That’s why the children called her the Queen of the Flies. Then one day she picked up a black widow, it bit her, and she died. But her ghost still haunts the school. I know. I’ve seen her.”

“That’s a nice story,” said Helen, “but I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Maybe you should. She doesn’t like it when you kill little things. Remember Anthony Graves, the sixth grader who died of pneumonia?”

“What about him?”

“He loved to step on spiders.”

“That’s very interesting.”

“And remember Diane Fletcher, the girl from our class who disappeared?”

“Her family moved to a different house.”

“That story’s a cover-up. She was also a bug killer, and I heard she was bitten-to-death by centipedes.”

“That’s nice, Gloria.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

After school, Helen stayed for orchestra practice. Then she had a private violin lesson. It was late October, and by the time she was walking home, it was already dark outside, and the street lamps were glowing. She had a long walk back to her house, but with all the puddles to jump in, she didn’t mind one bit. Thinking about Gloria’s silly story, she made a point to step on as many worms as possible. While passing a field, she noticed an ant hill. Without even thinking, she set down her violin case, kicked over the dirt mound, and watched with satisfaction as hundreds of tiny ants scurried in a panic. Pathetic things, she thought. To put them out of their misery, she picked up a large rock and flattened the entire mound. Now not a single ant moved.

There was a lot of fog in the neighborhood. Helen could no longer see the school behind her, and she could barely see two houses in front of her. So it took her off guard when she heard the sound of a singing girl:

Little, helpless, wounded souls,
Poor victims of aggression –
Waiting on the other side
Consumed by an obsession

The voice sounded like Gloria’s. “Gloria!” Helen called into the fog, but there was no response and no one in sight. Still, the voice could have been coming from any one of the houses around her. Helen continued walking.

Through the alley, in the shadows,
Rising from the trash can,
When the moon is high, we’ll send you
Running like a madman.

It had to be Gloria. Had the strange girl been watching and waiting all this time only for the hope of spooking Helen? Well it wasn’t working. “Nice try!” Helen shouted into the fog. But again there was no response.

Tickles on the neck and
Buzzing in the ears
Little crawling monsters
Awakening the fears

Helen walked a little faster, glancing back from time to time. At one point she thought she saw a silhouette in the fog, the small outline of a girl. “I see you, Gloria!” she called, but no sooner did she speak the words than the silhouette seemed to vanish. Perhaps she imagined it.

She was almost to her house, when she felt a tingling on her ankle. She bent down to scratch it, but then the tingling was on her thigh. Speaking of which, do you ever get that feeling that something is crawling … [feel clothes, search for something, contort, and scream at maximum volume. Then reveal a piece of lint.] Sorry about that, it was just a piece of lint. Anyway, like me, Helen realized that she was imagining things, and there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

Soon she was back in the comfort of her home. After a nice, warm dinner, some much-needed TV, and goodnight kisses from her parents, Helen brushed her teeth, retired to her bedroom, and slipped on her flannel pajamas. She was about to turn off the lamp, when, thinking of her strange day, she glanced at her diary. She really should write something. It had been months since the episode of the squashed spider, and it was time to move on. So, slowly, carefully, she pulled the book down from the shelf. Then, slowly, carefully, she opened up the book, and …

A brown spider leaped out and scurried out of sight!

Again an involuntary scream escaped Helen’s throat, but this time it was well past dark, and no one came to check on her. Which was fine. No doubt, some other spider had slipped into the pages. It’s not like a squashed spider somehow rose from the dead after months of decay. That, of course, was impossible. Though Helen couldn’t help but think about the words of the song she heard in the fog, something about little monsters rising in the moonlight. She knew that when the moon was high, the tides would rise as the gravitational force of the moon pulled on the water particles. She’d heard fanciful tales of other things rising in the moonlight, such as zombies and vampires, but that, of course was fiction. The moon could only raise tiny things like water particles … and bugs.

No, not bugs. Needing to get her mind off these silly thoughts, she wrote down the day’s events, providing rational explanations for the singing voice and the spider in the book. That is, she tried to, but something kept distracting her. There was a buzzing in the room, and the overhead light was flickering as something swarmed around it. When the fly landed on her cheek, that was the last straw. Helen shoed the thing away, went to the kitchen, procured a fly swatter, and put the pest to its rightful end. She looked at the fly’s crumpled body on her desk. She really should clean it up, but then she really didn’t want to touch it.

Try as she did to finish her journal entry, she couldn’t complete another sentence. So she turned off her lamp, crawled into bed, and closed her eyes. But sleep didn’t come. The room was still bright with moonlight. Moonlight? She glanced at the window. They gray clouds had parted, revealing a bright, silvery moon.

Helen rolled over and faced the wall. Somewhere in this room, a brown spider was crawling around. Not that she cared. It was just a spider. Still, sleep was nowhere to be found. Perhaps an hour went by in silence. Then another. She was wide awake when a little something landed on her forehead.

In a mad fury, Helen threw off her covers, turned on the lamp, and saw the fly buzzing around the ceiling. She reached for the fly swatter … and paused. The crumpled body of the dead fly was no longer on the desk. Helen looked at the fly on the ceiling, then back at the empty desk. She noticed the brown spider on the wall … staring at her. Something was very wrong.

And there was that voice again, coming from outside:

[quietly] Through the alley, in the shadows,
Rising from the trash can,
When the moon is high, we’ll send you
Running like a madman.

Helen looked out the window. There was someone standing on her front yard, a girl she’d never seen before. “What do you want?” Helen demanded. The girl sang on.

Tickles on the neck and
Buzzing in the ears
Little crawling monsters
Awakening the fears

Helen felt something crawling up her leg. An ant. Had she carried it home with her from the field? She flicked it off. Then she felt something else tickling her ankle. She looked down and, to her horror, saw that the floor was crawling with black ants. She ran to her door, but the nob was covered with brown spiders.

Anywhere you go,
We’ll be there at your side.
No matter where you run,
There’s nowhere you can hide.

Helen ran to her bed. Somehow a slimy earthworm had gotten onto her pillow. With disgust, she picked it up and flung it across the room. Then, with a sense of dread, she threw off her blanket. Her bed was alive with hundreds of wriggling worms.

Sneaking through the window,
Eating all your food.
We hope you’ll take offense;
We’re trying to be rude.

There were ants and spiders all over her. On her legs, on her back, on her arms, on her face, and crawling into her mouth. This time, there was no room for a scream.

The longer it’s been dead,
The more of it we’ll take.
And we’ll be back for more.
Make no mistake.

So next time you feel inclined to harm something smaller than you, beware, what goes around comes around.

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Half-eaten Burger | The Gashlers

I decided it was time to dust off the old camera, so, on Saturday, Teresa and I resurrected an old tradition and made a music video for our date night. This one is from our musical BUMS! By our own design, we’re currently on a tight budget, so for dinner, we were hoping to cash in on a gift card after the shoot, but then we realized that the place was closed. So it turned out that the “half-eaten burger” (a $3.79 veggie burger from Burger King) was our only dinner that night. After the burger was held, squeezed, twirled around, and stuffed into Teresa’s pocket many times, it was quite the goopy mess to share between the two of us, but in the spirit of true bums, we were grateful for it.

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I Fight an Old Lady for Pop Tarts

One day it so happened that we were out of milk, and it was my turn to go shopping. My wife and I were starving students, and we didn’t have a lot of money. And I don’t know where my wife got this crazy idea that I’m some sort of reckless spender, but for whatever reason, she made me promise to only buy what I was able to carry.

So I went to the grocery store, grabbed a gallon of milk, and walked straight to checkout aisle. Yes, I was tempted by the Doritos and Oreos, but come on, I had will power. The cashier asked if I had a smart shopper’s savings card. I did not. She asked if I would like to sign up for a smart shopper’s savings card in order to save twenty percent on my next purchase. I was not interested. She asked if I would like to donate five dollars to help the monkeys in Asia. I did not want to help the monkeys in Asia. She asked if I would like to reduce waste and save the planet by choosing not to have my milk in a bag. Truthfully, I was feeling guilty about the monkeys, so I said yes.

And that was that. Until, on my way out of the grocery store, I noticed that M&M’s and Cap’n Crunch were buy-one-get-one free, and I thought, what good is milk without Cap’n Crunch? And you can’t just have a bowl of Cap’n Crunch without M&M’s. In the long run, these amazing deals would save us money. I’d be stupid not to buy. So with the gallon of milk and two bags of M&M’s in one arm and two boxes of Cap’n Crunch in the other arm, I made my way back to the checkout aisle.

Then it occurred to me that our dishes were dirty, and therefore there was no way to eat the Cap’n Crunch. So I picked up packages of seventy-two Styrofoam bowls and fifty plastic spoons. By now my arms were completely full, which was fine, because I was done spending. I told the cashier that I did not want a smart shoppers savings card, and I did not want to help the monkeys, which still made me feel bad, so again I opted to save the planet by not using bags. I’d already made it this far. Surely I could make it to the car.

And I would have gone to my car had not the manager announced over the P.A. that all baked goods were now fifty percent off. Now I know you, like my wife, are thinking I have some sort of spending problem, but this was about civil duty. If I didn’t buy some bagels, they would go to waste. And how could I, in good conscience, try to save the planet by not using plastic bags while simultaneously squandering precious resources in the form of bagels? So I picked up a few dozen, though I didn’t put them in bags, because I felt really bad about those monkeys.

Now, carrying a gallon of milk, two boxes of Cap’n Crunch, two bags of M&M’s, seventy-two Styrofoam bowls, fifty plastic spoons, and thirty-six bagels proved to be a formidable challenge, especially when it occurred to me that bagels are completely useless without cream cheese, and I had to transport it all to the dairy section. Speaking of which, do you know how much it costs for eight measly ounces of cream cheese? You would be stupid not to buy it in bulk, which is two cents cheaper per ounce. I was going to pick up the ten pound bucket, but it didn’t have a handle, so I had to go with the twenty pound bucket, which I hung around my neck. Now lest you think I was getting reckless with my spending, I remind you that cream cheese was a need, not a want. And after this, I was done. Besides, when you account for all the money I was saving with these amazing half-off deals, it’s like the store was paying me.

Now, the problem with carrying a gallon of milk, two boxes of Cap’n Crunch, two bags of M&M’s, seventy-two Styrofoam bowls, fifty plastic spoons, thirty-six bagels, and twenty pounds of cream cheese is that people start to give you funny looks … as if there’s some social stigma against saving money. I can’t explain it. But to spare the onlookers from visual discomfort, I hid both boxes of Cap’n Crunch beneath my shirt … so I didn’t look stupid. However, this did not achieve the intended outcome of making me not look stupid. In fact, it may have actually had a reverse effect, as it gave the impression that my pectoral muscles were unusually boxy. So, to soften my appearance, I stuffed the gallon of milk beneath the boxes, giving my belly a more gradual rotundness. However, then it occurred to me that because my belly was the only bulbous party of my body, I looked more pregnant than fat. So to further soften my appearance, I threaded my hands and ankles through the bagels and slid them beneath my sleeves and pants. It’s a little-known fact that this is why bagels have holes, stemming from medieval times when they were used as both armor and food. Anyway, with bagels limbs adding to my girth, I finally achieved the appearance of a well-rounded fat person … with slightly boxy pectoral muscles.

Then I had a realization. While only holding seventy-two styrofoam bowls, fifty spoons, and two bags of M&M’s, my hands were relatively free. Thus I could carry more things, such as Doritos and Oreos, and as previously explained, with so much savings, the costs didn’t matter; so I grabbed a few packages of each. However, as my net weight was increasing, I found it more and more difficult to walk. Luckily, the grocery store provided electric shopping carts – you know, the ones reserved for old ladies and the morbidly obese, like myself.

What more, I realized that there was room on my lap for more groceries, and there was no rule against laps. So I drove through the aisles, looking for deals. And it must have been my lucky day, because Pop Tart boxes were ten for the price of nine. It was unbelievable. The only problem was, the morbidly obese old lady in the other electric cart also had her eye on the pop tarts, and she started loading them into her basket before I could even get to them. This made me nervous, because there were only so many boxes left, and if I didn’t purchase ten, I wouldn’t get the deal. So I pulled up beside her and also started loading up. Soon I had five, seven, nine … Finally I grabbed the last box off the shelf, guaranteeing my savings.

I claimed it fair and square, so you can imagine my shock when the old lady snatched the tenth box right out of my hands and drove off. Believe me when I say I had every intention of respecting the elderly, but these were dire circumstances. I was a starving student, and I needed those pop tarts. So I chased her. Cruising at a whopping five miles per hour, the chase went through the junk food aisle, around a corner, past the deli, and into the produce section, which I normally avoided on principle. She threw a can of chili at me, but I veered to the left. As we circled around the apples and oranges, I was closing in on her. With one hand on the accelerator, I leaned forward to snatch the Pop Tarts from her basket. Then, in the last moment, she pulled a hard right, and before I saw it coming, I crashed into the bread aisle.

Normally, a small vehicle traveling at five miles per hour wouldn’t have been sufficient to knock over an entire aisle. But I remind you that energy equals mass times acceleration, and with a gallon of milk, two boxes of Cap’n Crunch, two bags of M&M’s, seventy-two Styrofoam bowls, fifty plastic spoons, thirty-six bagels, twenty pounds of cream cheese, and nine boxes of Pop Tarts … I had mass. The bread aisle crashed onto the baby food aisle. The baby food aisle crashed on the baking aisle. And like dominoes, the carnage went on and on.

When all was said and done, I owed the grocery store a few ten of thousands dollars for damages. But as I explained, when you factor in the savings, it’s all relative. What matters is that you shop with discipline. With the exception of a few thousand broken bottles, I didn’t buy a single thing that I couldn’t carry out of the store with me. I only regret that the milk never made it to the car. I was halfway through the parking lot when it slipped out of my shirt and burst on the asphalt. But then, it made me look pregnant, and who wanted milk anyway?

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I Steal Sylvester Stallone’s Filet Mignon

I was a rotund, little tike. According to my parents, they had to hide the butter or I’d eat it by the cube. One baby picture shows me plopped among dandelions, and believe me when I say plopped. I looked like Jabba the Hut. Perhaps this would explain my lifelong affinity for food. While I no longer eat to excess, I am a fan of the vast world of culinary arts.

Hence, I’ve always hated it when good food goes to waste. Nothing says entitled Americans more than garbage cans full of half-eaten pizza.

And perhaps this would explain how I became a bum … not a full-time bum, but a bum at heart. It began in high school with challenges of manliness, such as who would dare eat the grossest thing off the floor. Then, as a starving college student, dumpster diving became a cherished way of life. And to my wife’s chagrin, old habits die hard.

I mean, why pay a premium price at a restaurant when there’s perfectly good food at the table right next to you? When, on occasion, I stealthily grab an unloved order of sweet potato fries before the busboy chucks it, my wife invariably covers her face with shame. Philosophically, she agrees with the whole not wasting thing. She just can’t get behind the whole doing it in public thing.

One time, for our anniversary, we were having dinner at La Caille, the most expensive restaurant in Utah. To stay under budget, my wife got a salad, and I ordered from the kids’ menu. A lot of famous people come to eat here, so we were only a little surprised when when we realized that the guy sitting two tables away was Sylvester Stallone. I think he was in Salt Lake City for the shooting of a new action film. He ordered the filet mignon, all sixty-eight dollars of it. Then he said to the waitress, “Just put it on the union’s tab.”

It was hard not to stare at my childhood hero, the real-life incarnation of Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. He just leaned back in his chair, showing off those manly guns. When, at last, his steaming entree arrived, he took a single bite of it before answering a buzzing phone.

“Yeah?” he said. “’Ow ya doin’, uh? I’ll be right there.” Then he put on his jacket and walked right out of the restaurant. I could see through the window as he hopped onto a motorcycle and drove off. Meanwhile his forsaken filet mignon steamed on.

You can probably guess where this story is going. So could my wife. “Don’t even think about it,” she whispered.

“But it’s gonna go to waste,” I whispered.

“What if he comes back?”

“He completely left the restaurant. If I don’t grab it, the busboy will.”

“I forbid you to get off your chair.”

On one hand, she was my wife, and this was our anniversary. On the other hand, it was Silver Stallone’s filet mignon! If I didn’t eat it, somewhere in heaven a cow would cry. Even if I had to sleep on the couch that night, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I pulled a fast one and nabbed it before anyone noticed. As my wife hid her face behind a glass of water, I chowed down on that sumptuous goodness. It practically melted in my mouth.

I was halfway through it when Sylvester Stallone reentered the building. “My meeting was cancelled,” he said to the waitress. Then he resumed his seat, looked around, and said, “Who took my food?” I’d seen that frown before … moments before fifty Viet Cong soldiers met their violent deaths.

That was when the first camera flash went off. Then there was another. Sitting throughout the restaurant, disguised as dinner guests, were the paparazzi. All at once they stood up from their chairs and let loose a barrage of flashes. There must have been twenty photographers.

As my wife ran to hide in the bathroom, Stallone stood up and explained to a woman with a microphone, “Someone took my food, and whoever it was, I’m gonna find him.”

Thankfully, the waitress calmed him down, reasoning that the busboy must have taken it away, and she promised to bring him a new entree.

Stallone took his seat, though his eyes continued to scan the room.

I tried to wolf down the rest of the filet mignon as fast as possible, but it wasn’t fast enough. His eye dead set on me, Stallone stood up and walked toward our table.

Desperate to destroy the evidence, I grabbed a bottle of hot sauce and poured it all over the steak, but it was still recognizable. So I reached over to the next table, grabbed a half-drunken bottle of claret de bordeaux, doused the steak, then knocked over our table’s candle.

My plate erupted with flames, and Stallone stepped back. He gave me a good look and asked, “Is that the filet mignon?”

“No,” I said, “this is the flaming mignon.”

He nodded. “I’ve never had the flaming mignon. How is it?”

Trying to look nonchalant, I relaxed my left hand on the table while, with my right hand, I took a bite of the very spicy, flaming steak. It was painful in every regard. “It’s … nice.” I must have been trying a little too hard to look nonchalant, because I hadn’t realized that my left sleeve had caught fire, which was quickly spreading up my arm.

In a panic, I doused myself with the remainder of the claret de bordeaux, only this proved to be less than intelligent, as it caused the rest of me to catch fire. Luckily, Stallone had his wits about him. Like a true action hero, he grabbed a nearby table cloth, rolled it up, and beat the fire off of me … not to mention the tar out of me. In the process, he shattered my chair and several of my bones, but at least it put the fire out.

Meanwhile the cameras were flashing like crazy. Stallone turned to the woman with the microphone and modestly explained that he was just doing his duty. Though he seemed eager to get away from the paparazzi. He was in the process of putting on his jacket when the waitress returned with a new, steaming plate of filet mignon.

“Just throw it away,” he said. “I gotta go.” And like that, he zipped up his jacket and left the building. It almost looked like was trying to hide something. Of course, the paparazzi followed him out.

I was in pain. It took all my strength to grab a new chair from the neighboring table.

My wife, hearing that the noise had died down, returned from the restroom and resumed her seat. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” she said.

“I have,” I said. “Alcohol makes a terrible fire retardant.” I wasn’t interested in pursuing the conversation further, so I buried my sorrows in my twenty dollar macaroni and cheese. At least I tried to. “Hey, I said, who took my food?”

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George Washington and I Blow Up a Hostess Factory

One day my mom bought a statue of George Washington from the home and garden store. She thought it would be a nice addition to our house. The only problem was, the house was a mess, so we had to keep the statue in my room. And it’s not that I hold anything short of reverence for the father of our nation, but there was something unsettling about those stony eyes staring at me … all night long. In my most vulnerable moment, I may or may not have taken a hammer to it.

What was my surprise when the stone crumbled away, revealing the secret within. The reason it looked so life-like was because it was sculpted around the real George Washington, who was staring right back at me!

I asked, “How are you still alive?”

“My constituents wanted to preserve me for a future time when I would be needed again,” he said, “so they dipped me in carbonite.”

“Oh,” I said, “I think that happened to Han Solo too.”

“Tell me, what national crisis calls for my generalship? Have the British returned?”


“Are we at war with France?”


“Surely there must be a dire reason to awake me from centuries of slumber.”

“Sorry, it was an accident. Would you like a Twinkie?”

“What’s it made out of?”

I didn’t know, so I read the ingredients on the box. “Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium acid pyrophosphate …”

George barred his wooden teeth. “Americans eat this garbage?”

“All the time.”

“What have we become, a nation of fatties?”

I didn’t know how to answer that, so we did some research and learned that two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third are obese. Diet-induced maladies, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis are at all-time highs.

“I see why I’ve returned,” said George. “I must lead the war against bad eating habits. Are you with me?”

I was.

The war was really fun. First we went to the music store and bought a portable snare drum and bell. Then we walked through the neighborhood. I played the drum while George rang the bell and shouted, “Eat your vegetables!” We handed out fliers listing the harmful ingredients in junk food, though not many people were interested.

As George became more determined, we picked up some carrots and cucumbers at the grocery store and stuffed them into mailboxes. Some people got mad, so we had to run from house to house. But the most exciting part was when George procured some explosives. (I never asked how he got them. I mean … he’s George Washington!) We waited until midnight, and then we put on some ski masks and blew up the Hostess factory.

That was when things got ugly. A police officer saw us running away from the scene (because neither of us knew how to drive a car), and we were put in jail. Still, George kept his head high. All night long, he told me stories about harder times at Valley Forge and crossing the Delaware. He said he was proud of me for serving my country, and I felt really good.

The next day, we met with a judge. He didn’t know what to do, because I was a minor, and George was … George Washington! So he decided to let us off the hook if George renounced his terrorist allegiances by eating a Twinkie.

“Don’t do it, George!” I cried.

George fought an inner battle, but in the end, he took a bite of the Twinkie, saying, “A Twinkie is a sometimes food.”

After all that adventure, we decided that America wasn’t ready for the return of George Washington, so we went to a carbonite specialist, who preserved the father of our nation for another two-hundred years. But before the great man sank into the lonely, steamy pit, he looked up at me and said, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

“I will,” I promised.

Eventually my mom returned him to the home and garden store. It was hard to say goodbye. There are some who might call our war a failure, but as for this American, before I indulge in high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil, I think of George and listen to my conscience … because I really don’t want to end up with wooden teeth.