Ways I Have Referred to Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”

  • Wet Kleenex
  • Vat of middle-school girl tears
  • Beef jerky soggifier
  • Testosterone nullifier
  • That thing we should engrave onto a golden disk and shoot into space to serve as a warning to any aliens who find the naked pictures on the “Voyager” spacecraft

HOW RELIGIOUS FANTASY ROMANCE NOVELS WOULD PLAY OUT IN REAL LIFE

STOIC, RUGGED AMISH FARMER: I need a goodly wife to mend my breeches, cook my meals, and sometimes help me raise barns.

CAREER WOMAN WHO HAS LOST SIGHT OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE: I am sorry, Strangely Compelling Amish Dude, but I want different things out of life and romance and your buggy doesn’t have a USB port for my iPhone.

*THEY WISH EACH OTHER WELL AND GO THEIR SEPARATE WAYS*

<FIN>

Toothache Chronicles Part 1

The painkillers have inspired me to keep a medical log. First entry: “Becalmed for the seventh day. Crew becoming restless, starting to build makeshift whales for them to harpoon out of the sailcloth. First Mate has taken to clinging to the figurehead. He calls her ‘Lucy van Pelt’ and keeps trying to feed her hardtack. Many sailors stricken with the scurvy. May God help us through this trial.”

“It is time to accept that we are lost in this godforsaken jungle. The Temple of Orel-Hersch, and its precious map-stone, stays tantalizingly out of reach. Dangerously low on supplies, we have been forced to eat Timmy, the spunky little boy who stowed away in my steamer trunk, longing for adventure. The guides have all wandered off, either to be eaten by the tigers, or to eat them in turn. It’s hard to figure out which from the screams in the night. Should any kind soul find this, tell my wife she may never remarry, and tell my uncle that he was wrong, there are no bears for his circus here. Only clowns.”

“medical log, final entry. Doc says our hyperthrusters are destroyed, and we all have Space-Flesh Eating Bacteria. Soon we will be pools of protoplasm on the floor of a wrecked spaceship on a desolate moon no one cares about. I am typing this with my feet, as my hands fell off. Abd my dose. The one thing that brings me solace is the fact that I set my Tivo to record all the episodes of Space All My Children While I was gone. I can now dissolve a happy man. Glub.”

National Novel Writing Month

Sorry for the lack of updates, dear readers. I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo as my friends badgered me into participation. I’ll get you some new material as I am able; in the meantime, here’s a bit of the novel I’m working on. You can cheer me on here.

 

“Errant”

Ralph’s eyes narrowed, and he raised his hand. Vesprin nickered. The party came to a stop.

Nita started to ask what was going on but was quickly silenced by Ralph. “Bandits.” he whispered, pointing to a nearby hill covered with brush. “You can see the sunlight glinting off their weapons. I’d say six or so. Vesprin and I might be able to handle them, but it’ll be ugly. If we backtrack, they’ll– HEY!”

Nita urged Thunderdoom into a gallop directly at the hill. She released the reins and held her arms over her head while chanting. A ball of black lightning formed in her hands, and just as the bandits stood to charge, she hurled it sizzling into their midst, where it detonated with a loud CRACK. The brush was scorched away, and six bandits lay twitching on the ground, the occasional spark of black lightning arcing from their crude armor.

Nita rode back to Ralph and Vesprin, beaming. “There we go. They’ll be out for a few hours, no blood shed.” Her smile faded as she noticed Ralph glowering. “What?”

“You didn’t kill them.”

“Of course I didn’t kill them. I don’t kill unless I am left with no other choice.”

Vesprin puttered. Ralph spoke. “Nita, Vesprin and I are Knights-errant. We took oaths. Bandits are a mortal threat to the lives of all around them. If we leave them alive, they’ll just attack someone else who cannot defend themselves, or join up with a bigger gang and sack a town. The sentence for banditry is death, and for good reason.” He drew his sword.

“But- but they’re defenseless!”

“Hence my disappointment. I am relieved to not be facing harm, but I take no pleasure in what I am about to do. Still, it is more merciful than what they had planned, I am certain.” Ralph started Vesprin forward.

“Wait.”

“What is it? We’re wasting daylight.”

Nita started digging in her pack. “You don’t have to kill them! I have an idea.”

“What are you going to do? Spank them?”

“No,” Nita emerged from her pack holding a few small bottles. “I’m going to curse them.”

“Are you mad?”

“Hear me out. There’s a simple but powerful curse called a ‘geas.’ It compels its victim to perform, or not perform, a specified action.”

“So you’re going to compel them to become farmhands or something?”

“I thought about that, but they could still be bandits. No, I’m going to give them a psychotic aversion to violence.”

“A what?”

“Just watch.”

Nita walked over to the crumpled bandits as she mixed the contents of the bottles. She stooped and smeared some of the mixture on each bandit’s forehead. She then sat down in the midst of them and began to chant while performing finger sigils. She cried out “PHOBOS” as her chants came to a climax. There was a bright flash of light, and the bandits began to stir and groan. One looked toward Nita, and called out to his fellows as they took to their feet.

“Nita!” Ralph and Vesprin charged toward the hill. Nita didn’t stir. The bandits circled her and one reached out toward her. Then his hand began to shake, and he collapsed, sobbing. One by one, the other bandits started trembling and sobbing, collapsing and rolling around the hill. One started crawling away, and stared up at Ralph as he rode up, sword at the ready. Then the bandit vomited.

“Gods, Nita, what did you do to them?” Ralph watched Nita carefully step between the bandits and their leavings, headed toward Thunderdoom.

“Oh dear, I think I linked them somehow. When one goes, they all go!”

“They ‘went’ all over the hill!”

“Well, you have to admit they won’t be bothering anyone anymore.”

Coping with Fall

(This was originally published in 2002)

Well, it’s fall again.

Yes, you can tell that Mother Nature’s Great Carnival Ride of Seasons is, though its incessant, nauseating spinning, coming around to autumn once again. Leaves are starting to litter the ground, kids are once more sent off to school, Supermarkets are starting to stock last fall’s apples, and paramilitary groups are breaking out the brown fatigues. It truly is a wondrous time of year. This is in no way meant to imply that the other seasons are somehow inadequate. All seasons are, of course, completely equal. I once wrote a column extolling the virtues of summer, and received threatening letters from such organizations as The American Autumn Council and Canadians For Extending Winter By One Month And Making It Year-Round. I really don’t want to go down that road again.

There are many clues to tell you it’s autumn, such as:

– Retail stores are clearing out the Halloween candy to make room for the Thanksgiving stuff.

– Leaves are falling from trees, genius.

– I mean, come on. Why do think it’s called “Fall?” A noticeably higher rate of ladder accidents?

– Sheesh.

Well, after you make the brilliant deduction that it is, in fact, fall, and notify the press, you may find yourself wondering, “Is there something about Scooby Doo that I just don’t get?” Assuming you can pass a drug test, the answer is yes, there is. But you may also find yourself wondering how to make the most of this fine season. Here are a few handy tips:

1. Jump into a pile of leaves. Yes, images of leaf diving abound in our culture, so it is a Good And Wholesome Thing. So, go and jump into a large pile of moldy, decaying vegetable matter. The spiders and slugs love company.

2. Taunt School Children. This one is a longtime favorite of mine. Go stand in front of an elementary school classroom’s window, and make faces at the children. Make a big deal about how you’re free to do anything you want, and reinforce the idea that being an adult means total freedom and no responsibilities. Be prepared to flee on foot when the janitor comes out waving a broom.

3. Watch TV. Fall is when the major networks launch new shows and show new episodes of old ones. So cancel all your social plans and vegetate in front of the TV. Whimper at Scott Baio’s latest comeback attempt. Enjoy the heart-pounding excitement and drama that permeates every moment of a forensic pathologists’ life. Giggle when you think of the ludicrous overabundance of forensic pathologists that will flood the workplace in about five years. Think naughty thoughts about the “Friends” actor of your choice, except for Lisa Kudrow. She’s mine.

4. Sit in the dark and think about your pathetic, meaningless life while the world seems to wilt and die around you. Then go out for tacos. Marvel at how our society can offer Mexican-like food in Canada. Wonder if Mexicans eat Canadian bacon. Do research by going to a friend’s house and calling random people in Mexico. Leave before phone bill arrives.

There you have it. Now you’re as prepared for fall as I can make you. Enjoy this beautiful season of death and dormancy with your loved one or object of your psychotic fixation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, “Friends” is coming on.

Barbarian Interlude

Grakthor, son of Bokthaz, tightened his grip on his mighty, broad-bladed axe as the Orkthug charged.  His large muscles rippled as he swung the greataxe, cleaving the head off the fiend’s tentacled mount with one massive blow. The Orkthug staggered as it dismounted the the beast’s oozing corpse, but quickly regained its footing, drawing its own curved, hooked doomitar and trying to cleave Grakthor’s head with a powerful blow.

The fiend’s blade was stopped by the barbarian’s axe, and the two found themselves grappling, grunting, thrusting, trying to overcome the other’s defenses.  Grakthor’s gritted teeth parted as he howled in defiance, and shoved the Orkthug back a step. The creature tried to recover, but the mighty barbarian was quick to press his advantage,  driving the Orkthug back with swing after fearsome swing of his axe that the foul cur was only barely able to parry. Finally it stumbled over a stone, landing on its reeking hindquarters.

The sniveling simpleton held up its doomitar in a futile effort at defense. “Mercy, MERCY!” it hissed through that passed for its lips.

Grakthor’s eyes bulged. “Mercy? You DARE ask ME for MERCY? Did the gibbering hyenamen of the wastes show my family mercy when they slaughtered then and cooked them in a vile stew??”

“Well, I- wait, what?”

“Did I show MERCY when I came across the foul jackals raping my horse??”

“I don’t even-”

“MERCY IS FOR NUNS!” Grakthor was beginning to foam at the mouth.

“Um, look, do you maybe need someone to talk t-” The sniveling beast’s cries were cut short as Grakthor’s mighty axe smashed its skull, spraying black blood and brain matter all over the parched dirt.

“JUSTICE! TRIUMPH!” Grakthor parted his mighty loincloth and let flow a manly stream of urine onto his vanquished foe. “URRRRRARGH!”

 

Column Writing

(originally published in 2003)

I can’t tell you the amount of times that people have asked me, “What makes a good column?” I usually mutter something about Dave Barry and go hide behind the buffet table. This can cause problems in restaurants.

But what does make a good column? Insightful comments? Well-considered arguments? Horrible puns? No one really knows. Columns are one of the great mysteries of the universe, like where babies come from and what actually happens when you mix equal parts of Coke and Pepsi. (My theory for both is “a nuclear explosion.”) Let’s take a look at the structure of an average column.

First, we have the “Hook,” an opening line designed to get the reader’s attention. Examples of hooks are, “Recently, I was immersing cute puppies into a vat of sulfuric acid,” or “Everyone said I was a fool to take up nude chainsaw juggling.” But one must be careful, as a poorly executed hook will turn the reader off and send him looking for porn on the Internet. “The world of Backhoe Repair is a fast-paced and exciting one” is a completely uninteresting and poorly executed hook, especially if your column is on the zany antics in college dorms.

Immediately after the hook is the “follow up,” a second comment made to support the hook. Good follow-ups are, “Boy those puppies sure looked cute in their little Hazmat suits.” and “But I’ve never seen clothes for a chainsaw! Wakka wakka wakka!” As with the hook, the writer must choose his words carefully, as a bad follow-up will leave the reader confused and with a headache, as if he has spent an evening watching reality television. A good example of a bad follow-up is “But not as fast-paced and exciting as this in-depth thesis on the gross national product of Belize I’m gonna lay on ya!”

After that comes the part we columnists like to call “winging it.” You’ve stated your thesis, now you back it up. “Why sulfuric acid?” “How exactly would you get pants on a chainsaw?” “Is Belize like a country or something?” These are all questions your reader will want answered. And it’s up to you to answer them, since you were dumb enough to bring it up. Sentences like “Obviously, the Puppy Method is a surefire way to take over the world.” and “To my horror, I realized that the audience wanted me to turn the chainsaw on!” will keep them confused enough to where you can avoid answering.

Finally comes the “Zinger.” This a sentence used to wrap everything up and shoot the point of the column home with the reader. “And so, I learned a valuable lesson about puppies and dangerous chemicals,” and “It turns out it’s a good idea to learn to juggle before putting on a show for a room full of soulful-eyed orphans” are good examples. Sentences like “Well, me done now,” while having the air of finality, doesn’t really have the conclusiveness necessary for a good column, and should be used only as a last resort.

Well, me am done now.