Thanks for checking back now and again for sweet new posts about badgers, dumpster diving, and whatever else the heck it is you come here for.
Predictably, you probably have found, well… nothing.
Because I have not written anything. Not since Uruguay, in what was that, January? And now I find myself sitting in the capital of one of the world’s youngest nations, browsing mindlessly through the internet in a smoky internet-turned-PC-gaming cafe.
So what gives?
I hate to give that lame excuse of “life has been busy,” so instead I will instead voice I haven’t been in my home base of Utah for more than 10 days in the last six months, and things have fallen behind. Not just the blog. Life, friendships neglected, important weddings missed, relationships (ha ha, jokes… but no, I never texted that girl back), various financial-y responsibilities, trying to pay off my life debt to various fictitious woodland animals…you get the idea.
I have found that in my absence, life doesn’t wait. Things change. Stuff happens. Memories fade. And people move on. Including you.
If you never read this post, I wouldn’t really blame you. There’s a lot of other things you could and probably should be doing with your time, like eating pickled vegetables, or raising brine shrimp. And I would understand if you felt like I had abandoned this blog, which I only update like twice a year anyways. Rather like my life plans, the general aims and future trajectory of this blog remain—as of now—undefined, undetermined. But since you have come by, I will tell you this much:
Right now I am in full-time story gathering mode. Stories virtually indifferent from the paskillion other stories online! Crappy recipes! Travels to the same places as everyone else! Platitudes about life and travel! Blurry pictures of a fish!
Giant otters and piranhas encountered in Paraguay. Christmas dinner with drug dealers in Argentina. Foods scavenged from dumpsters. Pummelings by grape-sized hail in the highlands of Bolivia. Discovering flash floods are real. Consequently yelling. A lot. Greyhound bus trips across America. Paralyzing indecision. Cross-country road trips. Breakaway post-Soviet nations visited. Getting caught in storms in the Accursed Mountains of Montenegro. Food scavenged from trash cans. Bad decisions, missed connections, the kindness of strangers, and sometimes… sometimes just trying at trying again.
I hope to start rolling out these stories on a semi-regular basis—that is, more semi-regularly than now—starting sometime in July.
In the meantime, take care of yo’self, eat a dandelion or two and don’t forget to wash your socks.
I haven’t been able to write as often as I would like these days. Writing consistently has been a struggle for me, particularly since I have been traveling in South America since early last December. Currently I am in Termas del Dayman in Uruguay, somewhat close to the Argentinian border. It is past midnight, and I am getting swarmed with mosquitoes… and bad singing from a dude in a nearby campground shower singing garbled words. I don’t know how long I can last. This is… this is worse than eating glue berries. Tomorrow’s going to be a long haul. We are trying to hitchhike to Paraguay–yes, the other Guay–and I need to get some sleep.
I did, however, want to to take the time to welcome any new readers to the site. There will be tales aplenty of–dear gracious, Shower Man is now singing the nonsense words “Mongoli, mongoli, mongoli” in every conceivable off-tune intonation, this has been happening for a good eight minutes–
Where was I? There will be tales of nights spent sleeping in gas stations, countries crossed by dusty bus, and Christmas meals shared with gang members to come, so I hope you will stop by the site again in the future. In the meantime, check out my digital digs and–if you haven’t already–this great Daily Universe article I somehow wound up in (thanks for the interview, JW).
P.S. If you are ever tiredly sitting on some stairs near a bathroom of questionable construction and you think it smells like you are perched near an open sewer thing… look around you. You probably are.
P.P.S. Total duration of Shower Man’s “Mongoli” incanting phenomenon: 17 minutes, at least.
I started working as a substitute teacher about six weeks ago. It’s been interesting, challenging, but especially hilarious. Here are some real-life conversations and humorous situations that have occurred.
Kindergarten The end of the day is approaching. I am very tired. 5 Year Old: I like to eat pizza sometimes.
Me (in a tired monotone): Fascinating. 5 YO:(suddenly enraged): No! NOT FASCINATING!!!! Me: Whoa, whoa, sorry! No, not interesting in the least!
Kindergarten teachers often supervise students during recess. I walked inside to check on a student supposedly getting a drink. She has fetched a gallon-size carton of rainbow goldfish crackers down from a cupboard and is eating them by the handful. Me: What are you doing with those crackers? Kindergartner: Our teacher lets us eat these when she’s not here! Me: I doubt that, portly child. I doubt that a lot.
Some elementary schools get a healthy snack for lower-income kids in the afternoon. Kindergartners: What are these? Me: They’re pomegranate seeds. Try them! They’re really good. See, Aisha likes them. Aisha: Yeah. I’ve had these before.
**Kids pick cautiously at pomegranate seeds for a minute or two. One kid decides they have had enough.** Incite A Riot Child: Bleggggh! These are GROSS! Every Other Child (besides Aisha): Eww! Gross! Disgusting! Bleggggh! Pbbththth!
**throw away virtually untouched pomegranate seeds into trash can while screaming**
Middle School 7th Grade Resource 7th Grader: I don’t want to do homework. I just want to go home and sleep. Me: So do I, kid, so do I. 7th Grader: What? Me: What? Me (muttering under breath): One day you’ll understand.
Elementary Me: Today we are learning about Neil Armstrong. He was an astronaut. Who here wants to be an astronaut? 1st Graders (raising hands): Me! Me! Mee! Me: I also wanted to be an astronaut when I was little. Now I am a substitute teacher. Observing Student Teacher: **facepalms**
The following conversation is all in Spanish. 1st grader: You speak Spanish? Me: No. I don’t speak understand any Spanish. 1st Grader: Oh. Wait—you’re speaking in Spanish right now. Me: What? No, I’m not. How could I speak Spanish? I’m just a sub. 1st Grader: See?!? How did you learn that? Me: I’m terribly sorry, I don’t understand a single thing you just said.
Worksheets won’t lay flat and sort of bend in half down the middle hot-dog ways because they were stored in a bag 5th grader: Hey, this paper won’t flatten out? What happened? Me: You see, we were teaching the papers to do backflips before school and some of them forgot how to untuck, so now they’re stuck like that, folded all weird.Cool, right? 5th grader: Oh, okay.
**2 minutes pass** 5th grader (with a perplexed expression): Uh, teacher? Me: Yes? 5th grader: Oh… um… never mind.
High School Me: Hey, can you put your phone away please? 11th grader: Our teacher lets us have our phones out. Me: Does. He. Really. 11th grader, sadly: No, not really.
**puts away phone**
10th grader: So, are you gonna be a sub your whole life? Me: O_O
11th Grade Girl: So, are you married?
Me: Guys, pay attention. This is the good part of the documentary, where people eat termites. Apparently they taste like a mixture of peanut butter and bone marrow, but who’s to say otherwise? 9th Grader: It’s true! I ate some in northern Ethiopia! Me: Oohhkay then. I’m not jealous. Not at all.
At my old high school 12th graders: Our teacher told us to ask you about your six pack! Me: She did not. 12th graders: She did. Me, to trustworthy teen: Did she? Trustworthy Teen: Yes, she did. 12th graders: Show us your abs! Me: Ab-solutely not.
In the spirit of decorum I would like to clarify my six-pack was indeed public knowledge (due to swim team, a satirical “man pageant” and a shirtless poster of me placed at one point in a hallway… It’s a long story). But hey, I did have sweet abs.
Stats Break, because TMI
Days worked as a sub: 12 Days that have felt like the first day at a new job: 12 Most likely to ask for a Band-Aid for any real or perceived malady: 1st Grade Most likely to cry after they’ve pushed someone else over: Kindergarten Number of children I’ve accidentally driven to tears: 3-4 Number of children I’ve made cry simply by walking in the classroom:1 Best at zoning out: High School Most likely to livestream class: High School Best philosophical conversations: Theory of Knowledge class in High School Most likely to actually listen and participate: 4th Grade
Kindergarten lunch recess. I am conversing with a fellow twenty-something student aide. Me: These kids are so crazy when they run out here from lunch. Dhanya: Really. It’s like they’ve escapped from prison. **2 minutes pass. A commotion is heard. A little girl has wrestled a boy to his stomach on the ground and has placed locking toy handcuffs around his wrists, a la Hawaii 5.0** Dhanya, freeing hapless child: Sophie, we do not bring toys from home!
A few minutes after third coloring assignment of the day has been passed out. Kindergartner: I can’t take all this coloring any more!
**slumps face-first onto desk** Me: That’s the spirit.
I am shifting kids up and down on a chart that quantifies their behavior. Kids are reacting. A lot. Me: It’s crazy that you kids are motivated by this completely arbitrary chart. I move it up, you get excited. I move it down, you cry. It’s like you’ll do anything for peer validation.
**goes home and logs on Facebook**
Thanks for reading! Do you know a teacher? please give them a hug, some chocolate, and probably $50 because school supplies don’t buy themselves. Especially in Utah.
When I reached back into my past to text a girl out of the blue, I had little idea of the scathingly hilarious reply that would return: custom-made memes and a burn to level the most inflated ego.
Last summer, I was invited to attend a crawfish boil at Strawberry Reservoir by my friend M from Tacky Galoshes.
While I was there, I met a cute girl who I’ll simply refer to as K.
“Hey,” I asked, “Could you take a picture and send it to me?”
“Sure,” she replied, and sent me the following picture.
Later that evening…
K: Hey, I hope you got the pictures. It was nice to meet you!
I am pretty sure I never responded to that text, or saved her number, for nine months later I received a series of text messages from her trying to figure out who I was. The crawfish boil long forgotten, neither of us had any idea how we’d ever met.
K:I was going through my contacts and this number is in it with the name “Neil. Is this Neil? If so, who are you? Haha sorry I’m not sure I know you at all.
N: Yes, this Neil. .I don’t know how I know you, either, and I don’t have your number saved. Some ways we might know each other, though… well, I like hiking a lot, and I love foraging for berries in the wilderness and stuff (thinking she might have read this blog or something)…
K: Huh. I don’t know where I got to know you to have your number. If I got it from lame-o things like Tinder I would have saved it as “Neil Tinder.” Not that I’m judging if I did because I was on it too. Oh the tales I have from that! I got rid of that a while ago so I’m a bit perplexed. My name is K and I’m a member of the fitness cult known as Crossfit. Hiking is amazingly fun but I don’t recall running into any Neil and swapping numbers on a trail full of berries.
I’ve lost most of the text messages I sent around here, because I have an old phone. Needless to say, we concluded we didn’t know each other, just had each other’s numbers somehow. I said something like this:
N: Well, we really don’t know each other, but perhaps we can get to know each other more.
K:Of course we can meet each other more.
I probably texted her once after that, and promptly forgot about the whole thing.
Cleaning out the text messages from my decrepit phone’s inbox, I discover the crawfish picture and make the connection. I text K.
N: Neil here. Remember how we couldn’t figure out how we had ever met? We met at a crawfish boil at Strawberry Reservoir a year ago.
K: Ah yes!..that’s where the mysterious Neil came from. Haha 🙂
N: I found a picture you’d sent of me, not sure why I didn’t connect it sooner.
We texted back and forth a little, and I left her last text unfinished.
The next morning, she had sent me a message.
K: If you’re easily offended, I apologize in advance for what’s about to happen. You only met me that one time so you might not understand my jokester nature. Nevertheless, I can’t resist a goldmine when it’s put so nicely in my lap for me.
I could not help but be reminded of a scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where the giant spider Aragog informs Harry and Ron they will not be allowed to leave the Forbidden Forest where they are visiting him.
“Go? I think not. My sons and daughters do not harm Hagrid, on my command. But I cannot deny them fresh meat, when it wanders so willingly into our midst. Good-bye, friend of Hagrid.”
Feeling trapped—but curious, I opened the messages. This is what she sent me:
Of course, my phone could only open a few of these because it is old. I asked her to email them to me, and she assented. When she did so, she sent a couple more:
Well played, K. Well played. Yours was a burn forged in the fires of Mount Doom.
I, uh… I still haven’t replied.
Did you enjoy this post? If so, you’ll probably enjoy Weaseling to Succeed, in which I send Pokemon Dark Knight Rises fanfiction I wrote to a library to avoid paying a measly fee.
If you don’t get all the berry references, check out Urban Forager, a series in which I attempt to live on my college campus for a week subsisting solely off whatever plants I can find.
When some friends in my apartment complex discovered two pots immovably stuck together, I ventured the only logical explanation: Soviet KGB agents and a malevolent power more oppressive than the stench of your Uncle Larry’s socks.
A variety of solutions were posited on a Facebook thread, but as the night wore on and the pots remained unmoved, it was clear I had to do something. Borrowing every bad fantasy trope, I posted this comment as my reply to the debacle. A couple details that will help this make sense: my apartment complex is very close to the BYU football stadium, things always seem to be breaking, we have consistently spotty wifi and this all suspiciously took place on February 20-21, the fifty-first and fifty second days of the year.
What none of the brave volunteers dared disclose that night—for fear of ridicule—was the true plan by which they intended to separate the maidens’ be-welded cauldrons.
For who would have suspected they’d each discovered the hidden passageway in the clubhouse, or followed it to the vast cavern lying in wait below the whole of the apartment complex above since time immemorial? Who could have felt their silent awe as they stepped gingerly down the same rough-hewn steps of limestone into the crumbling vault waiting at the chamber’s terminus, or found the dusty, aged tome of arcane arts upon the cracked pedestal of midnight obsidian? Though it had been months—years, even— since any of the men had seen it, who could have known they’d recall its yellowed contents as if they still held its worn, leathery pages between thumb and forefinger?
Had someone asked them, not a one would have replied ‘magic,” though that was precisely what it was. But this was not the magic of faeries and toadstools, nor the flimsy charms sold at apothecaries to restore hair or curry favor with a lad or lass at the nearby University. No, these were the magicks which had shaped nations, rent armies, and torn mountains asunder. Long ago the magic had done these things, now it clamored to do them again. At the boundaries of the mens’ slumber it prodded, at the edges of dreaming it begged, crying to claw free.
For powerful and vast though it may have been, it could no more shape itself than a silvery vial of mercury decide to freeze on a summer’s day. It needed someone to mold it, forge it, channel it, release its raw power from the formlessness which bound it in the dark cavern which was its prison. It needed human initiative to free it—a Spell of Unbinding, specifically. But who to do it? Knowledge of the arcane arts had faded to mere stories and tales told around the embers of dying fires, no more than watered-down fables. More troubling, the cave had been sealed by an enchanter’s earthquake for some time, and as humans had forgotten the art of Stonewalking the likelihood of a visitor entering through a wall was… slim. Having no other recourse, the power decided to wait.
It needed human initiative to free it—a Spell of Unbinding, specifically. But who to do it?
For untold eons the cavern sat undisturbed. The power occasionally felt above for information, but the land was utterly devoid of human habitation. Without tools, it waited. Again it felt above, and again it waited. The power fell dormant, silent beneath the stones.
Nearly two centuries later, a number of men entered the valley above. The year was 1979, and the Cold War was in full swing. Even as the USSR invaded Afghanistan, they kept their mission a secret to all but themselves and the Kremlin. These KGB agents sought to establish a Soviet presence in the unlikeliest of places—even Utah Valley. To speak openly of their ideologies would have been a mistake among the area’s leaders, but perhaps the young, poor and idealistic students—the proletariat—could be convinced to live in a communal way, learning the messages of Marx and Lenin through experience. An unassuming piece of farmland was acquired for practically free from a farmer who complained no crop would grow. “There’s nothing but bedrock underfoot,” the man complained, “so y’all are doin’ me a big favor. Perfect for construction, though.” The Soviet men smiled coldly and wrote him a check.
Construction proceeded without incident. Communal kitchens and bathrooms were to be the standard in the buildings (the better to help the residents understand that privacy was the enemy of unity), the squat blocky construction and low ceilings reminiscent of the Stalingrad aesthetic. Finally complete, the apartments gleamed and beckoned to be used. “We’ll call it Soviet Terrace,” said its architect proudly. “Subtlety, Vlad, subtlety,” chided their leader gently. “Stadium Terrace, then,” quipped Vlad, eyeing the gargantuan construction underway to the south. He winced as he watched their careless foreman prematurely trigger a massive set of explosive charges meant to deepen its foundation. The explosion was followed by another blast, then another.
The ground shook beneath them, and the darkness below began to stir.
The next years were full of misfortune for the new apartments. Pipes and appliances would inexplicably break, apartments spontaneously became infested with bedbugs. The Soviet gentlemen scratched their heads in puzzlement and simply got to work, determined to keep it afloat. Despite their heroic repair efforts and enticing plans for a new pool (for the betterment of the Party, of course), no tenant would remain longer than a semester or two, complaining of ‘an oppressive air about the place’. Still the men worked for a better future, but their hopes crumbled with the Berlin Wall. Heartbroken and penniless, the men sold the apartments for a pittance and left behind them the dried husks of convalescent dreams?
“Subtlety, Vlad, subtlety,” chided their leader gently.
Stadium Terrace changed hands numerous times over the coming years, bringing ill to all who owned it. The arrival of the internet did little good for the place, for the WiFi above was consistently warped and blocked by the darkness below. The attempted construction of a hot tub ended disastrously when the cavern was rediscovered. Hastily poured concrete concealed the entrance, but could not close it again. Humans could once again enter, and enter they did. Surely enough, they found the spellbook, and with it the Spell of Unbinding which—performed correctly—would set the power free. The only thing that remained was to pick an occasion—a day that was a multiple of thirteen, perhaps, or a full moon. Midnight of the fifty-second day of the year would have both.
The fifty-first day dawned much as any other. Unseasonably warm, the men took advantage of the sunshine and strolled about. Who could guess that their casual finds in the melting snow—the talon of a snowy owl, the antler of a stag, the fossil of a trilobite, a self-titled vintage Christian death metal vinyl album by Donald Trump—were the precise ingredients necessary for the Spell of Unbinding? How might [the owners of the pots] have suspected their pots’ sudden welding was anything out of the ordinary? When the men secretly decided a Spell of Unbinding was the only thing that would separate the be-deviled land dishes, who would have guessed they’d try it at the stroke of midnight on the fifty-second day beneath the full moon, when its strength was enough to release both the pots and the malevolent evil far underfoot? When the dispute appeared unresolved on the ward Facebook page in perpetuity, who could blame the man who would perform the spell for not updating it? Ambiguity would be the least of his worries now—the cavern below soon empty and the dark power gone elsewhere… for the time being. Who might have known eating a sixth consecutive plate of celebratory cookies would not in the best interest of this mystery man’s pancreas, Roberto? Who might have known? Who indeed…
Fortunately for all involved, the whole debacle was solved by an unsung hero on the fifty-third day through the Power of Science, preventing the evil beneath the complex from escaping for the time being.
I did a summer internship with the Sundance Institute this last summer. There’s many things I could say about the many interesting and talented people I met, but for now i’ll just leave you with a handful of true one-sentence stories, Jaden Smith style.
Ants in Your Pants: A Legitimate Concern
Saturdays Are Great Until You Get Mugged By A Trampoline In the Forest
If You’re Not On The Dark Side You’re On The Light Side
The Turkey Mafia Called And They Said Gobble Gobble
If You Eat Food All Day Apparently You Get Fat
The Ghosts Of Cat Pee Like To Haunt Your Basement
How to Domesticate a Wild Rabbit: Not Indian Food
If Tony Plana Wishes You Happy Birthday It’s Probably Past Midnight
The Difference Between Squirrels And Moose Is Subtle But It Won’t Save Your Life
Why Is Everything I Am Writing About Animals
I’m Sorry, But The Deer In Your Woodshed Is Actually A Shirtless Man
This is probably my best story, though:
Would you like more one-sentence stories bereft of all context and meaning?
Too bad. But if samurai-killing pandas are your thing, I got that right here.
Sometimes the best way to avoid late fees at the library is to write Dark Knight Rises/ Pokemon crossover fanfiction. You might say it’s super-effective.
I recently missed a flight with Southwest Airlines due to my own negligence and stupidity when forgot I was supposed to go somewhere until two days after the flight had departed. Full of sads, I sent them an email explaining the situation (Neil in Utah + flight = Neil still in Utah) and basically just asked if they would give me a refund. You know, for being stupid. Some days later, I was pretty dang excited when they granted my request. They thanked me for the “humorous” email and said they’d found a way to get me some dinero.
Now, I’ve sent emails like this before. I’ve emailed total strangers things like “I too dream of an idyllic world, one where all ones dreams of delicious food come true, especially the part about unlimited Creamies in every fridge; but alas, the cold knives of reality stab at the Moonrise Kingdom.” I’ve concocted stories about groundhogs, hilbillies and Dragonball Z to sell housing contracts. My favorite weasel-out-of-fines story, though, took place last August.
Bla bla boring backstory scroll down for killer pandas
I’d checked out an amazing book—Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson—andthen gone out of town for a few weeks on a trip. While I was gone, the book was unexpectedly recalled and I was informed by my college library I would be assessed a late fee if I didn’t get it back reaaal quick. I was over eight hundred miles away in Seattle, so I emailed them and asked for some extra time. They consented, but in the end I still didn’t turn the book in was justifiably assessed a late fee of ten dollars. Miserly to a fault, I decided to appeal to their better nature. The following set of emails is the result.
to: library holds
Dear Top Secret Library Holds Agents,
(Too Long; Didn’t Read at the bottom)
My name is Neil Reed and my student number is [such and such]. I have checked out, among other books, Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance. Since it’s in high demand, my due date was moved from August 22 to August 13 (today) at 11:59 PM. Normally, returning a book to the library is simple, but for the last two weeks I have been out of town in southern Utah, Oregon and Washington and have therefore been physically unable to return WoR.
I won’t be able to return it before the due date, but I will be able to bring it in before 5 PM on Friday since both I and the book will be back then.
When I called Circulation and tearfully explained to them my hopeless plight, they informed me with due gravity of the automatic $10.00 late fee that should soon appear on my account and warned me I’d basically get to buy the book a week from today if I still didn’t return it. Since it’s a phenomenal book, I don’t think this is as grave a threat as they suppose, but hey, I get the message.
They did, however, tell me that on occasion you at library holds give people a couple of days’ extension on the recall date in order to get books in on time. I therefore humbly request two days’ clemency—through the end of Friday—so I may return the Words to you as soon as I am able. But should you not accept my peasant’s plea, I shall accept my grim fate with solemnity and shed a single tear all the colors of the rainbow. (It will turn into a jelly bean.)
Can I get a couple extra days on my recall date? I’ll bring the book in Friday. But if not, that’s OK too.
As you are out of town, will only be a few days late, and provided this hilarious email, we will forgive your recallfine if you return the book, Words of Radiance, by Friday, 8/15/2014. If you do not return the book by Friday, you will be billed the recall fine. A note has been placed on your account to forgive the fine, but your account is blocked and a bill will appear until you return the book. Thank you for contacting us. Sorry for any inconveniences we may have caused.
Holds and Faculty Delivery
At this point I am unable to turn in the book because of weird library hours. I decide drastic action is necessary.
to Library, August 16
The doors to the grimy hall were flung open. A man dressed in a green tunic and leather cap was dragged in, his body limp.
“What’s this?” asked a sallow, thin man seated at a makeshift judge’s podium crowning a massive heap of crushed furniture.
“Last night’s trash,” responded the bailiff, a swarthy, smelly man with a lip plug he’d fashioned himself out of what might have once been a gerbil.
“Why’s he out? Did you club him?” asked the thin man, more out of boredom than curiosity.
“Maybe once or twice.”
Just then, the man began to stir. As he regained consciousness, he fixed his bleary eyes on the judge. “Scarecrow?”
Scarecrow ignored the man’s question as he began to speak.”Neil Reed, you know why I have been brought here today to this court of law,” gesturing grandly to the rubbish piling the sides of the room. “You promised to have the Words back.”
Neil began to protest. “But…”
“You agreed in writing. Friday night at 11:59 PM, wasn’t it?”
“Yet you withheld your valuable item from the rest of us and so we were left wasting, wandering, as we were without the Words.”
Neil furrowed his brow at Scarecrow’s impressive use of alliteration. “But…I tried to return the Words…the building was locked completely at 6:00 PM. I pounded on the door… there was no reply!”
Scarecrow leaned over his pulpit, his eyes alight with a sneer that pierced his thick glasses and greasy bangs. “Is it the court’s fault that you didn’t check the hours of the building?”
“No, no I didn’t say that, but–” blurted Neil, an edge of panic in his voice.
“I did return the Words, though! First thing, Saturday morning as soon as I could.”
Scarecrow began to stroke a thick tome on his pulpit. “So you did… so you did.”
Neil gave a surprised yelp as he noticed.
Scarecrow sneered. “Too late, though. That was your last chance. Now you will be judged for your crimes–”
“the court has found you–”
Neil sobbed and sank into his rickety chair.
With faux gravitas, Scarecrow pronounced the verdict.
“Your sentence is a choice: Death…or exile.”
Neil had seen the exiled prisoners. Their lives had lasted just slightly, horribly longer than the ice on which they stood.
“Well?” Scarecrow demanded.
A glint of something desperate, still clinging to hope flashed in the battered peasant’s eyes.
“I choose…”Neil began…”Death…by EXILED PANDA!”
The bailiff roared and grabbed at the rough fabric of Neil’s tunic, but the ragged peasant danced out of reach, his feet suddenly nimble.
“I CHOOSE YOU, EXILED PANDAMON!” He whipped a Pokeball from a fold of his clothing and tossed it before the judge. The red and white ball burst asunder with a blinding flash and a guttural roar shook the hall. An enormous, scarred panda lumbered out of the brightness, the light in its eyes glowing dangerously. It’s fur was ragged and torn where old wounds had not quite healed right. The panda also sported a gargantuan bunch of facial hair.
The ragged peasant danced out of reach, his feet suddenly nimble.
“He’s the last of his kind,” said Neil. “He grew a beard as soon as he could to cover the scars on his face, and always urged his men on.”
Scarecrow, horrified at the beastly apparition, could not help but notice the overall effect meant the monochrome bear kinda looked just like Shan Yu, mixed with Zach Galifianakis.
“Let me go, and you might survive.” declared Neil.
Scarecrow remained impassive as Exiled Pandamon growled.
Neil went on. “He only obeys me, so if you don’t—”
His words cut off abruptly as he felt a sharp pain between his shoulder blades.
The gerbil plug-toting bailiff triumphantly pulled out the knife he’d planted in the peasant’s back with a schick! and Neil collapsed to the ground, wheezing. He looked up at Scarecrow,his eyes wild.
“You sly dog… you got me monologuing,” he gasped. As the blood spread down Neil’s back, he felt death near.
Scarecrow laughed. “Some panda.”
Neil’s eyes began to cloud over. “I will pay for my crimes…as you will for yours.” His eyes brimmed with moisture, and a single tear all the colors of the rainbow rolled down his cheek. As it dripped onto the floor, it turned into a jelly bean pulsing with brilliant light.
Mustering his wits in a final burst of lucidity, Neil picked up the radiant bean between his thumb and forefinger.
Scarecrow laughed. “Some panda.”
The grizzled bear turned to his dying master.
Neil flicked the jelly bean to the ursine behemoth who deftly caught and swallowed the bean. Its eyes began to glow furiously.
Scarecrow raised a wary eyebrow.
The bear reared onto it’s hind legs and gave an almighty roar. Its eyes flared to life and it began to blast lasers wily-nily through the hall.
As the moldering mounds of furniture and desks ignited under the panda’s withering gaze, the bailiff ran for the door—but alas, the bear proved too quick. As the air sizzled, the beefy man’s ashes fell to the ground in a pile. At the top of the heap of cinders, his emancipated gerbil lip plug smiled almost imperceptibly. Balance restored, it mused.
Truly, the attack was super effective.
Neil laboriously turned his head towards the podium to witness the corrupt judge’s subsequent downfall, only to see Scarecrow had fled.
“Pandamon…you know what to do. Goodbye, old friend.” With a very unromantic, spluttering but still terribly manly cough, Neil fell still at last.
The bear whined, licked him goodbye sadly, and lumbered out into the grimy city streets.
It was time for Gotham’s reckoning.
I tried to to turn in the book Friday evening at 7:00 but forgot the library closed at 6:00, at which time I was busy eating my seventh sugar cookie at my roommate’s graduation. I regret nothing. Nor do I ask for more clemency, having grimly (but theatrically) accepted my fate as previously promised. This email is a tribute to you guys and a note of gratitude for being so kind the first time around. Have a nice day. Steer clear of Gotham for a while. That bear’s got a temper hot enough to blow an ice monkey’s cool.
P.S. If you are unfamiliar with the Flight of the Conchords’ Albi the Racist Dragon, or Dispatch’s The General, I highly recommend them.
Thank you for providing that comedic story to make Monday morning BEARable. As you informed us of the mishap and because of the obscure library hours on Friday, we have forgiven your recall fine. Please feel free to email us anytime if you have any questions or concerns. Have a wonderful day!
Holds and Faculty Delivery
(Some months later)
Dear Moste Favourite Library Holds people,
It’s finals, which reminds me you never got to hear the final portion of the preceding story.
Scarecrow trudged heavily up the ridge in the afternoon light. Each step of his mailed boots maimed the bluegrass and fescue beneath his feet, and a slight breath of wind carried the sweet aroma to his nostrils. He inhaled slowly, savoring the verdant scent. He closed his eyes, and for a moment he felt as if he were back in the Gotham of hischildhood. Of course, Gotham in any form was a time and place far removed.
As surely as he’d risen to the top of Gotham’s refuse, he’d risen to the challenge in these new surroundings.
He had hardly believed his luck when he found the time rift in his frenzied flight to escape Exiled Pandamon. After his escape from the kangaroo court, the ravening kaleidoscopic killing machine had somehow tracked him through Gotham’s labyrinthine slums to a dead-end alleyway close to the river. He remembered his sheer desperation as he’d reached its terminus to find his escape blocked by a large, wooden fence. The furious roars of the Bearded Beast growing louder as it approached, Scarecrow had scrabbled frantically at a loose portion of soil at its base and wriggled through the ensuing hole to the other side… only to find a solid brick wall. Exhausted and not sure what to do, he slumped against the wall—
—and fell between, somehow,into a place of suffocating, cold nothingness. Ending as rapidly as it began, the moment ended and he emerged into reality again, slamming face-down into freshly tilled dirt.He came to slowly, the sun-warmed soil coaxing his body into wakefulness. When he finally dared to look up, he found neither Gotham nor bear but a place of verdant fields and greenery—astonishingly, Feudal Japan.
To say those first couple of years had been difficult and disorienting was an understatement, but as surely as he’d risen to the top of Gotham’s refuse, he’d risen to the challenge in these new surroundings. Just this week, his ferocity in battle and political savvy had earned him a position as the local daimyo’s most trusted samurai and advisor. He did miss Gotham on occasion, but life wasn’t too bad here. Also, sushi. The sushi was fantastic.
Scarecrow neared the crest of the hill. Just then, he thought he heard some sound, some noise, some thing off in the distance—but he shrugged it off. It was impossible, after all. That was so long ago, an alternate reality.
Then he heard it again. A roar, unmistakable this time. It couldn’t be. He halted just shy a field of wildflowers carpeting the alpine peak.
The ground trembling beneath the footfalls of a nightmare, Scarecrow stood motionless as the shaggy specter lumbered over the top of the hill. As Scarecrow turned to flee, he paused. Ten years ago, he would have run, but in that moment he was surprised to discover he was no longer that man. Slowly, deliberately, the samurai turned and drew his gleaming katana.
“Exiled Pandamon-san. We are well met.”
The bear’s chuffed in response.
Holding his sword aloft and closing his eyes,Scarecrow let loose the full-throated yell of a warrior. As the prismatic beam pierced him, the guilt and frustration of ten years on the run melted away to nothing.
Unfortunately, so did his body.
What shenanigans have you been willing to stage in order to avoid late fees?
Want to make sure Exiled Pandamon doesn’t cross time and space to hunt you down? Like and share!
I once lived on BYU campus for a week, eating only nuts and berries I’d gathered myself. If you’d like to read about that, click ye olde words.