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The Recycled Suit

This one time in high school, the planets aligned, and I was asked to the girls-choice Valentines dance by secret crush, Lilly. Lilly was something else. She sewed her own clothes, she dyed her own hair, and I’m pretty sure she subsisted entirely on a diet of seaweed and soy milk. She spent her afternoons picking up litter and caring for stray dogs. One time, during class, the teacher stopped his lecture because he noticed that Lillie was turning blue. Lilly explained that she was trying to reduce carbon emissions by breathing less.

I really wanted to impress her, so I went shopping for suits. I found this great deal on a wool one, but then I remembered that, according to Lilly, wool was made by animal exploitation. All of the other suits had polyester in them, and according to Lilly, polyester is poisoning the oceans. Soon it was the day of the dance, and I had no idea what I was going to wear. So I made my own suit.

I thought it would impress if my suit was made entirely out of recycled materials, so I raided a newspaper bin and started paper-mache-ing some pants. I knew Lilly had this thing against refined starches, so instead of flour, I held it all together with mud. It’s more earthy that way. For the coat, I made a chain mail out of soda can tabs, which I also reinforced with mud and topped off with a layer of moss … you know, for style. For my hair, I used the most eco-friendly stiffening agent … mud … and topped it off with a hat made out of an abandoned bird’s nest. I’d never felt closer to mother nature.

When Lilly arrived on my doorstep, I opened the door slowly, so as not to give her a heart attack. Thus you could imagine my confusion at the look of horror on her face. I explained that she was looking at a genuine, one-hundred percent recycled suit, but I could change it she wanted. She said, “No, that’s okay.” But I could tell she was feeling awkward. This was probably because, despite her principles, she had chosen to wear a polyester dress. I guess nobody’s perfect.

Anyway, I took a seat in her dad’s Porsche, which was kind of hard to do without breaking my pants and leaving dirty everywhere. I just pretended nothing had happened. Then Lilly drove us to a restaurant. But after parking, we still had to walk a ways, which proved to be a formidable challenge within my stiff enclosure. I moved so slowly, I must have looked like a tree, which would explain why a dog urinated on my leg. I just pretended nothing had happened.

In the restaurant – one of the most expensive places in town – Lilly and I both ordered salads with vegan dressing. I was enraptured by the sound of her voice as she talked about her efforts to save the monkeys in Asia. But it was hard to focus, because I had the uncomfortable feeling that little things were crawling on my body. That was when I realized that I had an ant infestation. Ants started crawling up my neck and out of my sleeves. I would have ignored them, had not Lilly screamed.

“What?” I asked. “Oh my goodness! What kind of establishment is this?” When the waiter came, I complained about the ants, and they got us a new table. Of course, that didn’t stop the ants from coming, though I was able to cover them up with some conveniently-placed dinner napkins.

The dance was at the county courthouse. Again we parked and we were walking to our destination, when I noticed that three or four dogs were following me, sniffing with curiosity. I tried to kick them away, but they wouldn’t leave. So, not wanting to call unnecessary attention to myself, I just continued to walk as they took turns marking me as their territory.

The highlight of the evening was when, at last, Lilly and I were slow dancing to Nat King Cole. As we gazed into each other’s eyes, a squirrel crawled out of my jacket and leapt onto Lilly’s head. It happened so fast, she didn’t even see the squirrel, though she screamed as she felt it clawing around her body. I promptly beat the squirrel off of her, then tried to cover up what was happening by pretending I was getting fresh with her, which must have succeeded, because she slapped me in the face and walked off. Given the circumstances, this was probably the best possible outcome.

Around this time, someone must have thought it was a good idea to open a window, which, in reality, was a terrible idea, because it allowed a pelican to fly in and nest on my head. I tried to cover up the pelican by rearranging my hair, but I don’t think the illusion was working very well, because I was getting a lot of stairs. Needless to say, the night wasn’t turning out too well.

I went outside to get some air. That was when I was accosted by a mob of ten or twenty dogs. Not only were they interested in my scent, they seemed to have a certain fascination with a cat that had somehow managed to get stuck to my back. I hadn’t noticed that before.

Anyway, the dogs were really violent, so I ran back into the courthouse, where Lilly was waiting for me. Apparently she was ready to give me a second chance, which was nice. I must have accidentally left the door open, because soon I was accosted by the mob of barking dogs. In a panic, I pulled the cat off of me and threw it. Fortunately, this succeeded in dissuading the dogs from my body. Unfortunately, the cat landed on Lilly.

So if ever you have a date, and you’re dreading the goodnight kiss, just wear a one-hundred percent recycled suit, and I can guarantee you won’t get one.

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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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I Fight an Old Lady for Pop Tarts

We were out of milk, and it was my turn to go shopping. This was a time in our marriage when money was tight. And I don’t know where my wife got the crazy idea that I’m some sort of reckless spender, but for whatever reason, she made me promise to only get what I was able to carry out of the store.

So I went to the grocery store, grabbed a gallon of milk, and walked straight to checkout aisle. Yes, I was tempted by the Pop Tarts, but come on, I had will power. The cashier asked if I wanted 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 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 Cap’n Crunch and M&M’s and 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. I was still only getting what I was able to carry out of the store. My conscience was clear.

Then it occurred to me that our dishes were dirty, which would make eating the Cap’n Crunch exceedingly difficult. True, I could wash the dishes, but if time is money, I would be saving money be eliminating the need to do the dishes in the first place. 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 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 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 turning a blind eyes to the wasting of 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. I probably looked kind of stupid. However, all I had to do was thread my arms and legs through the holes in the bagels, and then I didn’t look stupid anymore. It’s a little-known fact that that’s why bagels have holes, stemming from medieval times, when they were used as both food and armor.

Then I had a disturbing realization. Bagels are completely useless without cream cheese. 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.

However, as my net weight was increasing, I found it more and more difficult to walk as a bagel-man. Luckily, the grocery store provided these electric shopping carts – you know, the ones reserved for cripples and old ladies – and as long as I carried the groceries on my lap, I was still following the rules.

So I hopped on the vehicle and took a spin around the store, looking for more deals. And it must have been my lucky day, because Pop Tart boxes were ten for the price of nine! The only problem was, the crippled, old lady in the other electric cart also had her eye on the pop tarts, and there was a limited supply. In a mad dash, we raced each other to load up our carts.

I claimed my tenth box fair and square, so you can imagine my shock when the old lady snatched it right out of my hands and drove off. Believe me when I say I had every intention of respecting the elderly, but if I didn’t buy ten, I wouldn’t get the deal! So I chased her. Cruising at 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 left, 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.

It was okay. I would pay for it all on credit, which wasn’t real money anyway. Besides, considering how much money I was saving, it was like the store was paying me! Meanwhile, the old lady was driving toward the checkout stand. At five miles per hour, I knew I’d never be able to catch up with her. so I did what I had to. I grabbed a two liter bottle of Coca Cola, unscrewed the lid, and loaded it with Pop Rocks, Alka Seltzers, and an entire package of Mentos. With my left hand on the accelerator, I held my makeshift jet engine beneath my right arm as my craft lurched into motion, accelerated, and rose above the floor. I looked down as the checkout stand passed beneath me. Then I looked forward as I crashed the front doors, soared over the parking lot, and landed in a dumpster. On the bright side, was had been true to my promise. I only got what was I able to care out of the store. Except for the gallon of milk, which kind of burst upon impact. But then, 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.

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I’m Carried Away by a Hawk

When I was six, I had to present a report on a species of birds. I chose hawks, because they’re vicious predators who rise above the competition and swoop down to take what they want … like me. Furthermore, we lived by a mountain, and now and then we could see a hawk circling around the sky, a perfect opportunity for observational science.

According to my research, hawks loved to eat birds, lizards, mice, and other small animals. In fact, they’ve even been known to carry away dogs. This got me thinking. Our dog, was so heavy, I couldn’t even pick him up. And I lifted weights. So if a hawk could carry away a big, heavy thing like her, then why not me?

As soon as I had this exciting realization, I ran outside and waved my arms. I even saw the hawk, but she wasn’t interested. I happened to know that hawks especially love to eat rabbits, so I put on some bunny ears and hopped up and down. That caught her attention, which got me thinking. Hawks are also known for carrying their prey way up high, then dropping them to their deaths. This made me slightly nervous, so I did the logical thing and played dead.

Moments later, the hawk dived down, clutched me in her talons, and whisked me into the sky. It was neat. And I must have been a pretty good actor, because she didn’t drop me to my death. Instead, she carried me up the mountainside to a great big nest at the top of a fifty foot cliff.

I still tried to play dead, but then my rabbit ears fell off, and the jig was up. The hawk screeched her consternation at being duped, and I, being well-educated in hawkology, screeched back. To translate, I said, “I’m sorry to have deceived you, but I felt it necessary in order to conduct a proper interview. I’m doing a report on hawks, you see, and I’d like to ask you some questions.”

The hawk was flattered. She said that she always wanted to be interviewed. She showed me her eggs and her rabbit skulls. I asked her if it’s true that hawks push their babies out of nests to teach them how to fly.

“It is,” replied the hawk. “Would you like to me do it to you so you can learn to fly?”

“I don’t think that would work,” I said, “because I don’t have wings.”

“Oh, it’s not wings that make you fly,” said the hawk, “it’s the hawk diet. Here, just have a few bites of this rabbit carcass and you’ll be able to fly.”

“I’m pretty sure you need wings to fly,” I said.

“What do you know about flying? I’m a hawk!”

I decided that the hawk had a point, so I ate some of the rabbit carcass. It was awful. Then I stood at the edge of the nest, and the hawk pushed me off. It was really scary. I flapped my arms, I tried to think happy thoughts, but I just couldn’t fly. Luckily, there were some springy trees to pad my fall, though not without some scrapes and bruises.

The hawk met me at the bottom. “That was some excellent flying,” she said.

“I just fell,” I said.

“Oh no, you were definitely flying.”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t fly.”

“What do you now about flying? I’m a hawk!”

I decided that hawks aren’t very smart. Though in her defense, when she saw my bruise, she felt really bad and offered me a rabbit skull as a get-well gift. I politely declined. “Can you take me home now?” I asked.

And so she took me home. “Maybe next time we can play at your house,” she said.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.