Tag Archives: short story

River Dippers in the Iowa River


When I was eleven, I was invited to a birthday party for one of the farm kids who lived just south of the little farm town of Rowan, Iowa.  It was tradition.  In our little town, with only ten kids in our fifth grade class, everybody had a birthday party once in our elementary years where all the kids in our class were invited.  I had mine at age eight, in second grade.  Rusty Dettbarn was about the last one to throw this traditional classmate bash. He was a bit different than the rest of us.  He was a wood rat.  His family farmhouse was down in the woodsy hollow along one of the creeks that fed into the Iowa River.   He didn’t come into town often, and really only hung out with the gang for 4-H softball games, meetings, and Fun Night.  He preferred to ride his motor scooter, hunt with his pellet gun, or go trapping along the Iowa River.  Mickey Smith was his closest friend, another wood rat who lived in the country and rarely associated with town kids like me and my best friend David Murphy.  Well, he got around to this party finally, but it turned out it was going to be done his way.

When my mother dropped me off with my gift all wrapped and wearing good school clothes that I was under orders not to get dirty, I noticed right away that something was uncomfortably wrong.  The girls were all in the yard by the picnic table with the party decorations.  They talked to each other like conspirators, looked at me, looking me up and down, and giggled.  My ears began to burn, and I had no idea why.  I did notice that no other boy, including the birthday boy, was in sight.  I took my gift in the house to the gift table.  Rusty’s mother was there with a big grin on her face.

“Rusty and the boys are down at the creek swimming,” she said helpfully.  “You are supposed to go on down there.”

“But I didn’t bring a swim suit.  I didn’t know…”

“Oh, but you don’t need one.  Go along.  You’ll see.”

Boy, did I see.  It was the way Rusty and his pals always swam.  Buck naked.  I got down to the creek and they were happily splashing away, about six of them, naked as the day that they were born.  I stood on the muddy bank in my good school clothes and just stared.  Two of my friends, David and Bobby Zeffer were there.  Neither of them had yet worked up the courage to join the swimming.  I was relieved not to be the only one.

“Jeez, Mike,” said David, “Are you gonna swim too?”

“Err…  I think I might be catching a cold.”  It was a warm June afternoon with bright sun shining.  “Are you gonna swim?”

“It looks like fun,” said David, eyes like a basset hound.

“Yeah,” said Bobby.  “I think I’m gonna try it.”

river dipper

I could see what was about to happen.  My two partners in shyness were going to give in.  I would be the last one still dressed and standing on the bank like a stiff.  What was I gonna do?  I would have to get naked too.

“It can’t be too cold, can it?” asked Bobby, pulling off his shirt.

“What about leeches?” asked David.  “Are there leeches?”

Mickey Smith overheard.  “Aw, you just put salt on them and they drop right off!  I got one yesterday on my butt, but I ain’t seen any today.”  He was floating on a tire inner tube, relaxing in the sun and looking like the Sultan of the Swim.  David shuddered.

Bobby was down to his undershorts before I started to haltingly pull my shirt out from being tucked into my pants.  David had his shirt off.

“Come on,” urged Rusty.  “You guys aren’t chicken are you?  I triple dare you to jump right in!”

Triple dares were a dare too much for Bobby.  Jaybird naked he leaped into a deep bend in the creek.  He popped up like a fishing bobber. “Eeuw, that’s c…c…cold!”

David had his shoes and socks off when I was lucky enough to look up to the top of the hill.  The girls were lined up, six heads looking over the top of the hill at us.  All were smiling.  Alicia, the girl whose good opinion of me mattered most in all the world was there among them.  I tapped David’s shoulder and pointed.  He grinned broadly as he scrambled back into his shirt.  “It’s too cold today, isn’t it!” he said, relieved.

Later that year when school started up again and we were the big sixth graders on campus, one of the girls came up to me and said, “Alicia was really disappointed this summer when she didn’t get to see you swim.”

“Aw, gee!  That’s too bad,” I said, grinning and blushing simultaneously.


Filed under autobiography, humor, Paffooney

Them Bones

Harker Dawes asleep was certainly no prettier or better looking asleep than he was when he was awake.  You know how people will say about a demonically possessed child that causes chaos and havoc and dread in the lives of the people who gave life to him, “He looks like such an angel when he’s sleeping”?  Well, no one ever said that about Harker.  Even when he was a child, he looked more like a deformed potato with its eyes shut when he was sleeping.  His balding head had an odd dent in the crown that had been there since birth.  His kinky-curly red-brown hair was only a fringe around his ears and the back of his head that could accurately be described (and usually was by local Iowans) as Bozo-the-Clown-hair.  His eyes were somewhat bugged out of their sockets, giving him a look of being permanently surprised by life… or more accurately… permanently stupefied.  Mercifully those goofy-looking eyes were closed in slumber.Dem Bones

It was a benefit to Harker himself that his eyes were closed and he was sleeping.  And this was because he had accidentally fallen asleep on Poppy’s grave in the Norwall cemetery.  And also because he was currently surrounded by skeletons, members of the local un-quiet dead, standing in a semi-circle and ogling Harker with their eye-less eye sockets.

“Do we have to eat him?” asked the tall male skeleton with the seed-corn company baseball cap on his head.  “I mean, if it’s all the same, I’d really rather not.”

“I think you only have to eat his brain,” said the little boy skeleton.  “I don’t know for sure because that Night of the Living Dead movie didn’t become popular around here until years after I died and video tapes became popular.”

“How do you know about that then?” asked the church lady skeleton.  It was obvious that she was the remains of a church lady because she still had quite a bit of long white hair on her skull, along with a pillbox hat, and she was dressed in a tattered church-lady-type dress of green rayon with a printed pattern of red roses turned brownish gray by years under the mud.

“When I wandered into town one Halloween night in the 80’s, I looked in the living room window of the Martin family, and the two boys were watching that movie on what they call a VCR.”

“Was the movie any good?” asked the skeleton in the cap.  “I heard of it in life, but never watched it.  It would’ve been too scary for my daughter, the Princess.”

“The zombies were all fake.  And when they ate human flesh, you could tell it was all special effects.  They should’ve asked me.  I could have shown them how it really looks.”

“Heavens!” said the church lady, “They don’t actually kill people when they make a movie, do they?”

“I don’t think so,” said the boy.  “That may have changed since I passed away in the 60’s.”

“I still don’t think I really want to eat him,” said the skeleton in the cap, “even if it’s just the brain.”

“We can’t start the Zombie Apocalypse without eating brains and making new walking dead,” said the boy.

The other two skeletons turned and looked at the little boy skeleton.  Both of them let their bottom jaws drop open, but without flesh, it was impossible to tell if that was an expression of surprise, disgust, or… hunger.

“Do we really need to end the world with a Zombie Apocalypse?” asked the church lady.  “I’m not sure eating living people’s brains is a very Christian thing to do.”

“Aren’t there supposed to be bad consequences for falling asleep in a graveyard?” asked the skeleton in the cap.

It was then that they noticed a fourth skeleton had joined the group.

“Why, Bill Styvessant,” greeted the church lady, “I haven’t seen you in half a century!”

“True.  You were but a girl in the late 40’s when I passed on from a broken heart.”

“You remember me in life?” asked the church lady.

“Of course I do.  You are Ona White.  I sat with you the night you died, under the street light on Pesch Street.  You were mauled by those two dogs that shouldn’t have been loose.  I tried to comfort you as you passed away from shock and blood loss.”

“I thought you were an angel, Bill.”

“I was.  Angels take many forms.  An angel is merely a message from God.”

“Wait a minute!  How can a skeleton know who another skeleton was in life?” asked the skeleton in the cap.  “Especially if you died many years before she did?”

“It’s in the nature of angels, Kyle.  I know you too.  I watched over your family several times when evil lurked near… for a couple years after your suicide.  You are ready to take over that job now.”

“Kyle Clarke?” asked the church lady.  “You’re Kyle Clarke?  What’s this about a suicide?”

“You died before me,” said Kyle, “so you wouldn’t have heard.  I lost a third of the family farm to the bank in the early 80’s.  The shame and despair was so overwhelming that I shot myself to death in the barn.  It was the stupidest act of my entire life.”

“Well, I should think so,” said Ona White.

“Is that why we walk the Earth?” the child skeleton asked Bill.  “We all had a tragic death and were doomed to walk for all eternity?  How did you die, Bill?”

“Of a broken heart,” the old skeleton said.  “My wife died while mourning our son Christian who died in Germany during World War Two.  I lived alone for a short while and then simply expired from the weight of my sadness.”

“You didn’t join your loved ones?” asked Ona.

“Of course I did.  The same way you joined your father and mother, Ona.  Also the way little Bobby Zeffer here was joined by his father a couple of years ago.”

“You are Bobby Zeffer?” asked Ona, surprised.  “The little boy who died of Hemophilia?”

“Of course.  Who’d ya think I was?”

“But I don’t understand,” moaned Ona, “how did we get to be walking dead when we already have one foot in Heaven?”

“People die, Ona, but the memory of them lives on, and they continue to impact people’s lives in many ways.  We walk not as ghosts, but as metaphorical spirits of the past.  No man could live in the present if there had not been those who walked the Earth before him.  A life doesn’t end with death.  And the word angel has many meanings.”

“So we don’t have to eat this man who is sleeping on the grave of his father?” asked Kyle.

“Of course not.  I think that might have a very negative effect on the poor man’s dreams.”

“I don’t think he would taste good anyway,” said Bobby.  “He looks like a deformed potato, and I hate potatoes.”

“You can all go back to your rest,” said Bill.  “I’ll watch over this one and protect him.”

The skeletons all faded gratefully from view.

Harker Dawes woke up, stretched his arms and yawned.  He looked around at the graveyard and the dark of the night.  He smiled to himself.  He only ever seemed to remember the good dreams.

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Dippy Dogs Must Die! (a Talking-Animal Short Story)

Pepe n Skaggs

My name is Skaggs.  I am a cat.  It is as simple as that.  I have to tell you, life is not very fair to cats.  In my last life I was an alley cat.  I lived on rats that bred and thrived under the water tower in the alley behind the small-town post office.    I was basically happy.  You have heard the old expression, “happy as a cat”, right?  I could kill and eat any rat I wanted at any time, no matter how big of a Mickey he thought he was.  I was good at ripping out rat guts and breaking mouse spines.  I was the baddest cat in the whole damn town.

But I had to share my alley with a dog.  That Barky Bill was an insane killer canine that the owner of the local restaurant and bar kept chained behind his Main Street building to keep the rats away from the restaurant garbage.   I hated that dog with a hate as great as a vampire has for the sun.   (What’s that you say?  You didn’t know that cats knew about vampires?  Silly human, how little you know about the things that should truly scare you in the world.  Cats, vampires, and Barky Bill are far more complicated issues in the world than you realize.)  Anyway, needless to say, I teased that dog on a heavy chain leash for the better part of three years when one day, to my utter horror, I discovered he was loose at the same time that I was totally focused on catching and eating a beautiful gold-colored squirrel.  I was so sure that the squirrel would be the finest thing that any cat had ever eaten, that I didn’t even notice, mainly because I had that squirrel right between my paws, toying with it before devouring it, that the dog was pouncing.  Barky Bill bit clean through my neck.  It was so shocking that even as I was being transported to life number seven, my severed head watched in confusion and fright as that ugly, smelly dog ate my finely tuned rat-catching body.

So, having been a bad, bad Leroy Brown sort of cat, I was sentenced to a next life with a crazy cat lady.   Miss Velma Proddy owned at least fifty cats.  I was reborn in an underwear drawer in her back bedroom, the one she kept for the company that she never had.   My mother was the cat called Pinkie, even though she was a milk-white cat.    My father was Proddy’s favorite, a tomcat called Tom Selleck.    He would’ve killed and eaten me soon after I was born because my mother was not a very dominant fighter and alpha cats like Tom could always sense when a cat filled with pure evil is born.   But Proddy was having none of that.  She rounded up all the kittens and raised them in a blanket box in the corner of the kitchen near the stove.  I owe that woman everything, which is why I don’t understand why she had to go and buy Pepe.

Pepe is more of a malnourished rat than a dog.   Like a lot of Chihuahuas he trembles a lot, and he blinks at you with those big round eyes of his.   Proddy thinks that everything he does is so cute.  She carries him around like a prize possession or a human baby or something.  In my past life I was a white cat like my mother.  (Everyone knows that when a cowboy wears a white hat, it means he’s a good guy, but when a cat has white fur, it means that it is evil.)  In this, my seventh incarnation, owing to the fact that my father was a gray tiger cat, I was a sort of white cat with gray tiger stripes.  It meant I thought like a tiger.  Pepe looked like a rat to me.  Pepe was prey.  Pepe was meat.  I was going to eat him.

“You tell this story so scary, Señor Skaggs,” says Pepe, “you make me so afraid!”

“Shut up, stupid dog.  I’m telling this.  And you are not afraid.  Remember what happened that time I tried  to drown you in the toilet?”

“Si.  I remember well.  That time with the super-fancy drinking bowl.”

“I saw you trying to hold on to the plastic toilet seat and dip your tiny little tongue into the water that was too far below you to reach.  Only your hind legs and stupid little tail were even visible.”

“Si!  And you jumped up to smack me on my cute little behind and push me in.  I remember.”

“But I was surprised that such a little dog could react so fast and leap so far.”

“Si, Señor.  I jumped right on that handle and flushed it.”

“Just as I fell into the water.  That would’ve been the start of number eight if Proddy hadn’t come along right then.”.

“Oh, you make me laugh so hard, Señor.  And she was so mad at you for playing with the toilet!”

“And you remember the time I almost got you with that pot of boiling water and hard-boiled eggs?”

“Si, Señor.  You got up on the kitchen counter right next to the stove.  I was sitting on the floor in front of the stove sniffing up all the smell of the bacon.  You tried to push the pot off the stove.”

“I still haven’t figured out how you planned it.  The bald spots I have all around my front paws are still there from my fur catching on fire.  You must’ve been sitting in the precise spot on the floor where I couldn’t knock the pot down on you without passing my paws through the flames.”

“You owe that one to Señora Proddy too.  She had that fire extinguisher next to the stove.  That saved you from being cooked cat-burgers.  And you looked so funny when she almost drowned you in that white foamy stuff.  Oh, you make me laugh so hard Señor.”

Well, I am guessing that I made my point by now.  This little underfed rat of a dog is more evil than I am!  The harder I try to kill and eat him, the more I suffer for it.  And I still don’t know how he does it!  He makes my life miserable.  He needs to die.

“Oh, you make me laugh so hard, Señor!”


Filed under humor, Paffooney, short story

A Busy Day Off… World (A short short Paffooney)



Commander Biznap was the most over-worked Telleron aboard Xiar’s mother ship.   Given the fact that he was the most competent spacer on board, in fact the ONLY competent spacer on board, it was easy to understand why.

Corebait was gone.  The foolish Fmoogian foul-up had gone and disintegrated himself while on Earth using a skortch pistol and an Earther mirror.  That meant no one on board was competent enough to do the astrogation calculations it was necessary to complete for the Tellerons to travel from the ancient Mars Base back to Barnard’s Star where their orbital living complex was located.  It was very possible the entire crew would have to learn to live on the space cruiser in orbit around some other fool planet in this solar system. 

“If you don’t want to live on Earth, dearest,” said Harmony Castille, Biznap’s new Earther “wife”, “then maybe we should just live on Mars.  There’s a perfectly good planetary base there.”

“You must forgive me, honey, but I don’t want to live anywhere even remotely near your people.”  Biznap’s frown told it all.  He had learned to love this woman of another species.  Now that he had used the de-evolutionizer to make the old Sunday School teacher young again, she was ravishingly beautiful… so much so that Bizzy had decided to take up the same strange Earth custom that had so appealed to Captain Xiar and his new Telleron wife Shalar, and married her, binding her to him for the remainder of their lives together, however many centuries that would be.  But Earth people were strange primates with such weird customs.  They didn’t eat their own young, but they ate meat, even (shudder) frog legs.  They used machines on a regular basis, but they also relied on muscles and physical labor far more than any Telleron could stomach.  And since they didn’t absorb moisture through their skin like a Telleron, they preferred dry rooms and refused to run about the spaceship naked the way Tellerons preferred to.  Harmony insisted that Biznap wore clothes at all times, except when they actually had time to be intimate.  She was a bit of a prude.

“Well, what will we do, then, if we don’t find a way to get back to your Bernie’s Star?”

“Barnard’s Star,” corrected Biznap.  “You people named it, after all.”

“Okay, okay.  But it will just be living on a space station, won’t it?”

“Um… yeah…  The artificial swamp in the interior is very realistic, though.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to live with real ground under our feet?  I mean, I think I’m going to miss the birds singing in the early morning, and the lovely fall colors of maple trees.”

“I really don’t think so.  I mean, I don’t even know what those things are.”  Being a Telleron who had lived his entire life aboard some form of space vehicle, and her being a planet-raised monkey-person instead of a proper amphibianoid, might just not have been ideal for getting “married”.  Bizzy loved her bare legs and the wonderful Earther invention known as “breasts”, but did that really make up for having to live your love-life with an alien monkey-person?

“Look here, Bizzy.  You forgot to carry the one in this equation.”

Biznap looked down at the tablet computer.  “I think I know a little more about Sleer Mechanics and Advanced Sylvanian Geometry, thank you.  …Oh, look at that.  I, um, forgot to carry the one.”

“Does that help our problem?” she said sweetly.  “I mean, the same mistake is right here in Corebait’s old equations?”

“Yes… yes, I think our problem is solved!  The numbers match and flow properly for a change.  Thank you, dearest one.  Now we must try it.”

Biznap went to the primary jump control board and began inputting the numbers just as Harmony had corrected them.  The machine purred and glowed with its inherent bioluminescence.  It was a happy machine for the first time since Biznap could remember.  It chugged and farted, and then they were physically lifted through space and time and light-years of travel.  Suddenly a planet appeared on the view screen.

“Oh, no!” gasped Biznap.

“What’s the matter?” asked his lady love, gaping at the blue, green, and brown ball of dirt slowly rotating in space before them.

“This is Galtorr Prime!  The one planet in the area of the Telleron Empire that’s more dangerous than Earth!”

“It’s that bad?” asked the clueless Sunday School teacher.

“They are reptile-men!  With big teeth!  And they’re more aggressive than humans.  If they ever learn space travel, we’re DOOMED!”

“Yep,” she said.  “Maybe we don’t want to live here either.”

Biznap smiled a crazy smile.  A thought had occurred to him.  Living on Galtorr Prime couldn’t be any more difficult than being married…



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Ugly Flowers (a short short science fiction story)

Mai Ling was swiftly learning the ninja skills that Master Aero taught the students in his dojo.  Unlike the majority of the Mutant Ninja Space Babies, Mai was completely in tune with the skills of movement, attack, and defense she was learning at the dojo because her psionic mutant power was telekinesis, the ability to remotely move things with the mind.  Her mental ability complemented her ninja attack skills in that she could alter the course of projectiles in flight.  If she threw a ten-pointed shuriken at someone, it would not miss.  The picture in her inner eye, the secret of psionic control, was always the flower-like shuriken rotating through the air at the target, even if it needed to make a ninety degree turn to hit the precise spot she aimed at.

Shu Kwai, Master Aero’s lead student, had worked with her hundreds of times, helping her to see the power to control movement of objects as part of a wondrous dance.  He was also a telekinetic and could also do the dance.  It was a dance that could protect others from harm, or if the need arose, destroy them.

At twelve years old, Mai was already developing into a shapely young lady. 

“You can’t be ashamed of your body when you are doing the dance,” reminded Shu.  “We wear hardly any clothes not because we are immodest, but because we do not wish to impede the dance in any way.”

Mai frowned at him.  Shu could be such a prig at times.  He stood there wearing only a white loincloth.  Except for that, his light orange-yellow body was functionally nude.  Boys could get away with that, especially scrawny teenage boys with practically nothing to show off anyway.  Shu and Mai were both natives to the planet Gaijin where Master Aero’s dojo was located.  That meant that they were descended half from the Japanese humans of Earth, and half from the nearly human Sylvani of deep space.  Mai herself had bare feet, bare legs, and a bare midriff.  She was not about to leave breasts exposed, or even her arms.  She wore a computerized ring-sleeve on her left arm, which helped give gauss-magnetic acceleration to objects she threw.  And the magnetic arm bands on her right arm gave her a magnetic shield she could shape and manipulate with telekinesis.

“I am not going out into the jungle without any clothes on,” she stated firmly to Shu.  “You don’t know if these strange aliens will attack.  Besides, I fight better with clothes on.  I’m not a pervert like you.”

At fourteen, Shu was definitely vulnerable to insults like “pervert”.  He cast his eyes downward to scan the ground and blushed furiously.  It was entirely possible, Mai thought, that Shu had a secret crush on her.  With the red flower in her hair, she was definitely beautiful, at least, in her opinion.

“Okay, but you better obey orders while we are on this weird planet.”  Shu sniffed imperiously for added emphasis.  That was okay.  Mai accepted the fact that he outranked her.

Cornucopia was probably the strangest planet Mai had ever visited.  Master Aero had discovered and named the planet.  Little Gyro the Nebulon inventor and one of Master Aero’s favorite students had discovered that all the intelligent creatures were plants and had a special scent language unlike anything in the known galaxy.  The first alien they had been able to communicate with was a strange, onion-like creature that Gyro’s computer translator named, “Luigi the Onion-Guy.”  Why the plant-man had an Italian first name was a complete mystery, but there was a clue in the fact that Gyro’s computer also dubbed the language of the Cornucopians “Stink-Talk.”  Nebulons were known for weird senses of humor.

“Are you sure we can’t take any weapons?” Mai asked.  Luigi the Onion-Guy had pleaded with Master Aero to come to Cornucopia to help battle evil fascist creatures that he called “Throckpods.”  Actually it was Gyro’s translator that called them that, but that was quibbling with the facts.

“Master Aero doesn’t want us to anger or frighten any of the flower-people of this planet.”

“Flower people?  They look like walking thistles and weeds to me.”

“Still, Master Aero only wants us to locate a Throckpod and convince him to come back with us so our group can study it.”

“So it’s a spy mission.”

“Intelligence gathering.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s very different.”

The jungle was different than any other jungle Mai had ever been in.  Instead of trees and vines and shrubs, it was made up of salt pillars, living crystals, and mold.  Mai’s ring sleeve indicated that large parts of it were toxic and deadly.  The two young ninjas proceeded cautiously.

Each time they encountered a carrot-guy or a potato-guy or a corn-stalk-guy, they were told to take a different trail through the toxic jungle.   Fortunately, Mai’s ring sleeve was programmed not only to interpret the plant people’s Stink-Talk, but could make a map of their progress as well.  Otherwise, Mai and Shu would be hopelessly lost.

Finally, a radish-guy with a puffy red and purple face pointed to a large stand of weeds.

“In that spot you will pinpoint a Throckpod.”  The ring sleeve translated the smells and spoke the message aloud in a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse.  Darn that Gyro!

Shu looked at Mai and nodded.  They walked over to the stand of weeds.

“One of you is a Throckpod?” asked Shu.  The translator device made the word “Throckpod” smell suspiciously skunk-like.

“Who is asking?” said one of the flower-headed weeds.  “You appear to be skoog monkeys.”

Skoog monkey was an insult on most planets, at least, when used to describe a humanoid.  They were vicious little primates from the planet Misko Skoogalia.  Human beings were much more like the little poop-throwers than any human was comfortable admitting.

“We are students of Master Ged Aero,” said Shu.  “We think you may have heard of him, because other Cornucopians came to our world to seek him out.”

“We have heard of your head monkey, yes.  But we do not recognize his authority.”

“All we want is for a Throckpod to come and meet with him.  We wish to learn more about your planet.”

Everything went silent and smell free.  Mai wondered if they knew that the translator device in her ring sleeve would pick up and translate any smells they used to talk about the situation.  Maybe, however, they used telepathy or something.  Mai wished Sarah the telepath was with her at that moment.

One exceptionally large weed came over to Mai and bent down over her head.  Mai realized that it was examining her red flower with little seed-like eyes.

“You have killed a seedling!” said the possible Throckpod.  “You must be killed in return.”

Mai’s heart leaped.  Shu was obviously surprised too.  They had no weapons, but both of them could pick up and throw rocks, pebbles, and crystal shards with only a thought.  Mai could propel one like a bullet with her ring sleeve.

The rest of the weeds gathered around them too.

“It’s a flower from my own world,” said Mai, lamely.  How could she make these plant people understand that, not only was the flower not intelligent like them, it was an artificial hair decoration and made from silk?

“A flower is a flower,” said the Throckpod, “and a monkey is a monkey.”

“Pick up a score of pebbles and rocks, Mai,” said Shu.  “It’s time we gave them the old lawnmower treatment!”

“Lawnmower?” asked the Throckpod.

“A machine for cutting grass,” said Shu.  “It cuts plants down close to the roots.”

If a weed could turn pale, then these Throckpods were suddenly gray.  They knew about human technology apparently, and were completely unsure of what Mai and Shu were capable of.  It was at that very moment that Mai had a bright idea.

“Why do you assume the flower is dead?” asked Mai, looking into the seed-eyes of the weed standing over her.

“Because it doesn’t move.”

Mai smiled.  She used her telekinetic ability to make the petals of the silk flower move.  In fact, she made the delicate little thing do a spinning dance just above her brow.  “This flower is alive and it is my good friend and companion.”

“Have it say so,” the Throckpod replied menacingly.

“It is a tiny flower,” said Mai, thinking quickly, “and tiny flowers on my planet have not learned to speak.  Can you not see that it is alive?”

“Accept her word, brother,” said one of the other weeds.  “We don’t want to risk this lawnmowing thing.”

The plant-man relented.  “Very well.  I will go with you to see this master monkey of yours.  You will remember that Throckpods are the natural rulers of this planet, and we are to be treated as king-things.”

“King-things?” asked Mai.

“Royalty,” suggested Shu.

“Oh,” said Mai.  It was Gyro’s crazy translator program again. 

So, finally, Mai’s Cornucopia adventure was ending as she trudged back to the Mutant Ninja Space Baby camp.  She had found and mastered a walking weed known as a Throckpod, and she left with the melancholy realization that it would be nice to have a talking flower to put in her hair, but that wish could never come true.Image

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