Category Archives: Short Shorts

The Toilet Paper Universe

tpuniverseBy Jon Ricson

She said, “It doesn’t matter how the freaking roll goes on the dispenser, Jon. Just replace it!” I could practically see her seething on the other side of the door.

I said, “Okay, but it does matter…”

She said, “Who cares if the toilet paper comes over or under the roll?”

I said, “You’re kidding right? It HAS to be over!”

She said, “Like it makes any difference in the universe.”

I sat there (on the toilet, as she had knocked on the door while I was using it) and I pondered the roll. I pondered the universe. I pondered if I was done yet.

I imagined a universe inside the toilet roll dispenser. A universe that had no Milky Way above it at night, but an unending roll of white. The citizens of this universe lived generations, nay millennia according to whether the Great White Sheet blessed their prosperous, life-filled galaxy.

If the Great White Sheet came over the Great Roll, the populated galaxies enjoyed an age of great prosperity and long life. Each spin of the Great Roll above brought both relief and awe, as well as sometimes a strange but accepted odor.

But if the Great White Sheet came under the roll, millions perhaps billions would die. The universe would suffer greatly until the Great Roll changed, and brought a reprieve.

I heard the shouts and the cries of that doomed universe. I felt their anguish and grunted.

I tried to explain all this to her, in great detail. She remained silent on the other side of the door. Perhaps she was imagining the toilet paper universe as well. Perhaps she too could comprehend their deep despair and suffering if the roll was put on the wrong way. Perhaps she was finally getting it!

After a very heavy sigh she said, “Just wash your hands when you’re done.” Then she walked away from the door.

I replaced the toilet paper carefully making sure the paper came OVER the roll.

As I washed my hands, I smiled. I had a deep satisfaction knowing that, at least for this roll, all was right with the universe.

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This Precious Present

16506480_sI sat on the bench watching the students run back and forth. Oh how I envied them.

I had been one of them but that was literally ages ago. Even my teaching years were enjoyable; growing and shaping young minds. Now my profession kept me busy, when I was here.

As I sat in my reverie of times gone by, a young lady who I had once taught approached and smiled.

“Excuse me, but aren’t you Professor Wells?” she said, seemingly embarrassed to ask.

I smiled at the pretty young thing. Best not to tell Jane about this chance encounter. Nary a chance she’d believe it so random.

“Yes, I am,” I answered, noticing for the first time the man sitting reading a newspaper on a nearby bench. She and I chatted for the next five minutes, and her body language told me we were heading towards areas other than former student and teacher. In my eyes these were harmless affairs, but I knew in other eyes they were crimes I had been committing for years. I felt both ashamed for my lewd behavior, and yet titillated at the new possibility.

Finally she heard a class bell and winked her goodbye.

I watched her walk away and shook my head. “Herbert, you damn fool,” I muttered to myself.

Then the gentleman, who looked quite out of place on the bench, stood up and slowly walked towards me. He sat down quietly and shared my view of the campus.

“Professor Wells, huh?” he said. It didn’t take long to realize he was from the future. As was I.

I sighed. I had wondered when they would find me.

“Took a little longer this time,” I said.

“You can’t keep coming here,” he said. “It’s not allowed, you know that.”

But I had come here, repeatedly through the years. Life as I lived here in the latter part of the 18th century would never be allowed where I am from. The women, the study, the writing, the vitality. In my true time, there’s no such thing as promiscuousness, higher learning, art, war, or anything that brings life its grand experience. Just the peaceful, advanced yet sadly backward and boring people of the future. The real Eloi…

“So I guess we have to go back right now,” I said, sighing. I looked around at the trees, the people, even the sorry weather of England. It was true, this was my favorite time and place to live, at least that we could get to. The next few centuries were not just off limits, they were technically impossible for some reason.

He looked around, taking an admiring last look. It was intoxicating to people from our time.

“Not easy to leave is it?” I smiled.

He sighed, and nodded. “I can truly see why you like to come here.” He stood up. “But we’ll both be in trouble if I don’t bring you back. We don’t even know what the impact of your repeated visits as this ‘H.G Wells’ will do to the timeline.”

As far as I was concerned, H.G. Wells was who I was, and if this world had never known him, it would be sadder for it.

I stood as well, straightened my tie, and followed him to a secluded thatch of trees. In a moment, he had activated the small device and the world I loved began to fade.

But unlike the Time Traveler of my stories, I indeed would return. For my only crime was to write, love, and live in this precious present.

Fe Fi Fo Fum and Your Little Dog Too!

14836419_sAnd so it was in the Land of Upz that the three decided to rescue Dot (and her little dog too) from the wicked giant, who had imprisoned her in the great Emerald Fortress.

“I think I have a plan”, said Manny Quinn. He was a plastic sort who had until recently served as a scarecrow in a field, and thought himself quite the genius, although he was kind of a poser.

“Good,” said GoldenBoy, a robotic forest guide who wished for a new compass, but whose real talents lie in his gold excrement. “We’ve got to save Dot!”

The cowardly Cheetah waffled as usual, but wanted to help Dot. Not quite king of the forest this one, and although he was very fast, he was mostly a scaredy-cat.

They watched the giant’s guards march in and out of the fortress. Manny snapped his fingers. “All we have to do is knock a giant out cold, then get on each other’s shoulders and wear his clothes. We can walk right in!”

GoldenBoy’s metal frame shivered loudly and a golden brick dropped at the Cheetah’s paws.

“Really?” said the Cheetah.

GoldenBoy grimaced. “Sorry.”

#

Meanwhile deep in the Emerald Fortress, Dot sat bound in a chair. Poor Rosanna was leashed to the chair next to her and muzzled.

Dot had almost loosened her bonds when then the giant walked in.

“Fe Fi Fo – ooh, a pie,” and he gorged himself on a gigantic chocolate dessert.

No wonder they grow this big, Dot thought.

“So”, the giant started, still licking his fingers. “I told you I’d get you and your little dog too. But I’m so full now I don’t need to eat you.”

Dot rolled her eyes. “Lucky me.” She looked around at the room, green everywhere. “You need a new decorator. Just because it’s the Emerald Fortress doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a splash of blue or red for goodness sake.”

The giant looked around and shrugged. Rosanna offered a muffled bark. He frowned and put his foot directly over the little Schnauzer.

At that very moment, the doors burst open, and in ran the strangest giant Dot had seen yet. His uniform didn’t at all fit, and in the face he looked just like…”

Manny screamed. “Dot! We’ve come to rescue you, and your little…”

“I got it,” Dot said. The giant’s guards poured in behind them. GoldenBoy, who had been on the bottom, tripped and they all three came crashing down near Dot.

They scrambled to their feet as the evil giant and his guards crowded around them.

“Hey,” the evil giant said to his guards, “There’s that little robot that poops gold! I was looking for him!”

The giant reached down and picked up GoldenBoy, which immediately produced more gold on the floor. Rosanna sniffed it through her muzzle.

“Leave him alone!” screamed Dot, and she threw a brick at the giant’s head. It struck perfectly and he toppled like tall timber.

“What a world,” he slurred as he fell. “Killed with a poop brick.”

Actually the guards were quite thrilled at this. They would eventually build a statue that commemorated Dot, which would stand long after the fortress was in ruins.

She was a little miffed later though when the good fairy told her she could have left anytime simply by saying, “There’s no place like home.”

“Really? And you’re telling me this now?” Dot said, not happy.

And so Dot returned home where, unfortunately, she’d have to deal with pretty much the same idiots.

#

Sure enough, she woke up in bed. Uncle El (short for Elvis) gave her some warm tea and she smiled. “This is delicious! All they had in my dream was green tea.”

“Uh, thank you, thank you very much.” He propped her pillow up. “You gave us quite a scare you know.”

Dot nodded. “It was quite a trip, and quite frightening at times. She looked at Tony, who looked just like the Cheetah. “But I don’t have to tell YOU that.” Tony smiled, but cowered more into the corner.

Then she smiled at Danny, who stood in a thoughtful pose. “But thanks to some quick thinking, I was rescued.”

Next to him, Roy wore a pained expression. “I’ll be right back!” he said, and rushed off in the direction of the bathroom.

“Yep,” Dot said petting Rosanna, who was gnawing on a giant bone. “There’s no place like home!”

The Fool, Montresor

(The Flip Side of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado)

25120604_s“Amontillado!” I said. The fool, he thought I believed him. The headpiece I wore in celebration of the festival jangled its small bells and I shook my head.

“I have my doubts,” said Montresor. Of course he did. He should!

“Amontillado!” I said once again, or more than once. I scarce remember exact events as my wits were lessened due to the festival proclivities.

Then the fool Montresor began rambling on about Luchesi! What madness! Luchesi was an oaf.

“Come let us go,” said I.

“Whither?” said he.

“To your vaults.” I laughed to myself as I said it. This would be great sport.

He tried to persuade me otherwise, but I would have none of it. And soon we were at his miserable hovel (he suggested his servants were out, but I doubted he even had them in employ.)

I was still feeling the effects of the festival spirits, yet kept up with him down into the abyss of his vaults. Would we never get to this supposed Amontillado? I was having my doubts he had any at all. It was perhaps some old cache of Merlot, or worse, Cabernet.

He kept babbling about my health, but I would not hear of it. He would not deter me from showing him my superiority as usual in all matters wine.

Along the way he stopped to have a mediocre bit of Medoc, and babble about his family arms. A human foot on a snake indeed. He would be under my foot as usual, as my talents would show soon enough.

After a last swig of Medoc, I gestured as one of the brotherhood. Of course, he did not comprehend my actions.

“You are not of the Masons?” I suggested. Then he produced a simple trowel and said that it showed he was a mason. What a buffoon!

We proceeded on.

Finally among the bones of his pitiable ancestors he directed me to small enclave in which the Amontillado was stored. He mentioned Luchesi again and I would have no more. I entered the room.

When I came to the end of the room, of which there was of course no pipe of Amontillado, I stood mystified. What was this fool doing now? What point was this?

Perhaps the inebriation masked my reactions, but before I knew it the fool Montresor has clasped chains around my waist and padlocked me there. Why? For what reason?

“The Amontillado!” I shouted. Where was it? And why must I be chained to taste it? Did he not trust me to try it, even though he must know I would laugh in his face?

He began to use his trowel to seal the small room with brick and mortar. What madness! I laughed heartily. Perhaps this was his attempt at humor. I would play along.

“A very good joke indeed – an excellent joke! We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo!”

It was a lie, he probably knew I would not share wine with him especially after this event.

It became apparent as he began sealing up the room that my initial suspicions of him were too soft. He was indeed mad! He was quite insane! The poor wretch had lost control of his faculties and truly meant to do me ill.

“For the love of God, Montresor!” I shouted.

“Yes,” he said in a tone most chilling. “For the love of God.”

As the darkness of the room increased, all save one small rock to be inserted by the “mason”, the fool Montresor, I dipped my head in thought. The bells of the headpiece jingled.

He called my name. I did not respond. He tossed in his sconce. It went out quickly. He called again.

The fool placed the last stone and I began to formulate my revenge. I sniffed and coughed internally. The nitre in the enclave was quite strong. No matter. I would escape from this child’s trap.

I coughed again, and felt my head getting lighter. Yes. The fool Montresor would…regret his…actions…

…he…would regret…his actions…the fool.

Hell to Pay

Spender looked over at Parkhill and their mutual expression was, Oh shit.

The senator was on a tour of the NASA facility and the Mars Rover Curiosity was the main event right now. Unfortunately when the senator walked through, they were live. LIVE!

“So we’re live eh?” the senator asked, impressed. “Ooh, what’s that shiny thing over there? Looks like a silver mirror in the dirt.”

Spender swore under his breath. There would be hell to pay, and he hoped he’d have a job in 24 hours.

#

Marge had had one margarita too many, again, and tequila made her a mean drunk.

She looked up at one of the many TV monitors in the sports bar, including the strange broadcast on some science channel showing footage the Mars Curiosity Rover.

“Puh-leeze,” she started again. She had already made a scene over her onion ring mountain appetizer about how the whole space program had been a giant hoax and men were just jumping around on a stage somewhere in the Sixties. “Why that just looks like the desert not 25 miles from here. We camp there all the time Harold.” She took a big swig and wiped her mouth with her hand, then burped, loudly.

Harold had never been a conspiracy theorist, and it had led to heated arguments for 19 years with Marge. He didn’t play along tonight, she was out of control enough.

“See Harold, see?!” Marge bellowed, and more people began giving them that strange sighing and quick look that let you know you were disturbing them. “It even that looks like that place we hiked to last time until those men made us leave, said we were trespassing. Phht!”

Harold unfortunately remembered. It was on that very trip he had lost one of his most prize possessions. His great-great grandfather had brought the unique mirrored pocket watch all the way from Switzerland when their family first came to America in 1926. It didn’t open easily, and didn’t really look like a watch at all being the only strange piece like it ever made. Marge had warned him to be careful with it. Now thanks to his carelessness, the one of a kind pure silver heirloom was lost forever in the desert.

Marge continued her tirade after sucking the last of her third Margarita through the small straw. “I told you not to take the watch, but you had to take it everywhere…”

“Okay dear,” he stood, he’d had enough. He put his hand out to help her up, and she began grabbing her things.

As she got up, Harold looked at the screen behind her and saw the Rover had found something. Then they showed a closeup picture of the object.

Harold froze. It was his great-great grandfather’s watch. HIS watch. They hadn’t opened it yet, and because of it’s strange shape and unique design, they didn’t know what they had found.

Harold moved quickly between Marge and the nearest monitor, blocking her view. He was sure he was turning red.

She was right. Dammit all to hell, she was right and he would never hear the end of it. That “Mars” Rover was 20 something miles from Pete’s Sports Bar.

He spun her towards the door, and she bristled. “What are you doing? What’s the rush?” But by that time she was past the TVs and into the doorway.

Harold spent the drive home hoping to God she never found out, but knew she would…and there would be hell to pay when she did. And not just for Harold…

Writer’s Night

“Hi, I’m Jon. And I’m a writer…”

“Hi, Jon,” the crowd says in Borg-like unison. Another confessing author telling his awful stories of why he became a writer.

“I’m new to this group, but just want to say I really feel the love in the room. I write mostly science fiction, humorous detective, but also dabble in sports blogging….”

The group breaks to get bad coffee, and danishes on paper plates. Half of the so-called writers are here hoping for a hook up. They strike up meaningless conversations with folks they think they might match up with.

The attractive redhead approaches the middle aged man. He looks the part. Glasses, small hands, ill-fitting suit. He could be the one.

“Hi, I’m Marley,” she smiles, hoping there still isn’t danish residue on her hands.

“I’m Tim,” the man replies. “Do you come here often?”

Really, she thinks. He’s an author and that’s the best line he can come up with? This guy is not who she thought he was.

Now that guy over there, HE may be a publisher. She makes her move.

“So, you’re new to the group Jon,” she starts. “I’ll just come out and say it. Do you have publishing, or do you publish?”

Jon smiles. “Sure. Smashwords. It’s awesome. Find me at Smashwords.com/profile/view/jonricson

Marley frowns and storms out of the room. “Jerk!”

Jon shrugs and eats another danish. “Tough room.”