It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Friday, December 01, 2006

DOUI Mailbag!!!

Yes, we do get mail!

Bethany in Minneapolis writes regarding my recently completed novel:

"Congratulations from a new reader - I loved it! J It kept me checking your site several times a day, and I’m really sad that it’s finished now. I will always picture you and your cohorts they way you described them in the novel.

God bless!"

God bless you too, Bethany! Even though the novel is finished, be sure to check in for our regular posting, or as the critics like to call it, "their regular posting crap."

Just think, the next time Bethany encounters someone in traditional Nepalese dress, her first temptation will be to call them "Nuffy."

I only hope for Bethany's sake that "Nuffy" doesn't mean something really foul in Nepalese.

Surely, F. Johnny Lee would have looked into that in-between memos asking me to avoid making Oprah a villian in the novel (How could Oprah be a villian...plus, her legal team is dynamite).

Much thanks to Bethany and all of you who faithfully read through my novelling ordeal (including Stew, who offered excellent feedback, such as "Make Stew taller" and "Stew should know kung fu")

Also, please remember to vote for The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas for Best Humor Blog in the 2006 Weblog Awards (provided the amazingly perceptive and physically beautiful judges there nominate us, of course...as if they wouldn't).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

ZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!

Next year? Are you mad???

Next year I'll still be trying to sell this year's novel.

Excuse me now as I must snooze.

Congratulations!!!!

Congratulations go out to Earl, a true winner in all regards. You stuck your nose to the grindstone, and besides a bit of a scratch, you came out with a complete novel. It was riveting writing and hey, I was in it. International intrigue, famous people, famous disembodied heads, and guns always combine to make for a thrilling time.

Once again, congrats, and I know we all can't wait until next year's novel. But I know Earl can.

I may already be a winner!!!

Well, as you may have noticed, I am a proud winner of NaNoWriMo, or as we winners call it, the bloody ******* National Novel Writing Month contest. (Only kidding, every sleepless night was a privilege...I just had a few asterisks left over from Nixon's dialogue).

Anyway, I got a lovely virtual certificate in which I can pen my own name, and some graphics, of which are below (if Blogger will allow me to upload the bleeding things) and will appear in a prominent place by my name on the site.

Now I'm off to sleep a few days, in betwixt my real employment. (Surely you didn't believe we get paid for this. Fiction!)

Stew, you'll have to pick up the slack as Nuffy is unavoidably detained.

Cheers all!

Your friend,

Earl Fando

Co-Editor, Contributor, and Novelist
The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas

P.S. Hopefully this is a sign of prizes to come (Hint, Hint!!)




Earl's Novel - Epilogue

(Editor's note: With this post Earl Fando has finished his novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest (Thank God for it!) Soon, Earl will be able to resume posting on the usual junk, lobbying even more steadily for a 2006 Weblog Award, and enjoying a two day coma of sleep. Thanks to all who've tuned in to read it.)

Epilogue

I did actually finish the novel, with only a day to spare. I went back to the story of the intrepid detective and his busty client and wrote a sizzling sex scene involving a pool table, a pitcher of beer, a bowl of pretzels, and a manual typewriter. Afterwards though, I felt both guilty and cynical about it and scrapped the whole thing.

The thing I learnt about writing a really long story is that most authors really don’t know where the hell they’re going when they start, and most of the time I think they are led there by forces beyond their control. I’ve always contended that I write humour because, like many a filmmaker or songwriter, I can’t help myself. It’s as natural as waking up in the morning, eating a plate of bangers and mash, or swearing and throwing about receipts at tax time.

Still, there’s something to be said for taking what’s around you and making it into something that other people might half care to read. It would be quite easy now to grandly proclaim that my newfound experiences have taught me that stories are unpredictable, just like life, and that we live in the same way that we write, by our wits and experience. However, Stew will read this when I post it on the blog eventually, and I don’t want him snorting up his frappucinos after coming across this “profundity.”

Well, writing is like life in one simple sense. You take one blinking step at a time. That’s how I eventually finished the book. I set out a fairly ambitious schedule with the remaining two and a half weeks. I slept very little, which I must say does little for the quality of writing, grammar, and my driving the next day. Still, little by little, it came out. It was all quite natural in the end, which I must admit surprised me.

I thought at some point I’d need to sit down and write out plot points, take extensive notes, or review my prose that it may be further polished and refined to suit the fine art of novel –gazing… I mean writing. Instead, it all came out of me the way beer does after about an hour or two, only in a much more pleasant room of the house.

I suppose I shall go back and edit, touch up, polish, change a few names and details, and add a hell of a lot more gags (because, let’s face it – I get bored otherwise). Now though, it seems a rather beautiful thing to sit and look at. The effort, the odyssey, was remarkable, and here is this strange and large collection of words to account for it, and they are all mine.

So, I suppose I’m in the club, the one with Dickens and Cervantes and Woolf and Hemingway, though I hope that the depression and madness are not automatic membership “benefits.” I suspect that much of it has to do with lack of sleep, which I shall spend the next week or two catching up on. In the meantime, I hope that everyone who reads the work will get some pleasure out of it.

You’re probably wondering what I eventually decided to write about, but it’s no great mystery. You’ve just read it.

Don’t tell George and Yo!

Earl's Novel - Chapter XIII

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest. As of this post, he has passed the magic 50,000 word mark, and is awaiting whatever crappy and insufficient prize he will get for all of this stress, especially since he still has to wrap everything up.)

Chapter 13
Stranger than Fiction but Not Comedy


As I stood there in the room, torn between making a quick grab at a gun and blowing my now ex-literary agents’ brains all over the wood paneling in the room and trying to figure out why the normally stoic Mr. Dong was suddenly smiling and winking like George Clooney at the People’s Choice Awards, all hell broke loose.

Stew and Nuffy made a simultaneous dive for the guns on the floor, each of them grabbing an M16 and rolling over in the direction of Heath and Portia, who each of us was obviously intent on denying the pleasure of blowing our brains out. As the two of them dove, Heath and Portia’s eyes grew wide and they turned and ran for another door at the back of the room. At the same time, the windows in the main room were shattered by men, also armed with machine guns, in this case a variety of weapons I was not familiar with, though I expected Nuffy to give me a run down later, should we survive. As this was happening, a man standing just outside the front door shouted at the top of his lungs, as lights poured into the room.

“Freeze!! Federal agents!! Nobody move!!!”

Mr. Dong continued to smile, even as he lowered his weapon. Mr. Wang also broke into a quiet smile. Nuffy and Stew lay motionless on the floor, each with their hands on an M16, but they had not picked them up yet. Heathcliff and Portia managed to get out of the back door, immediately pursued by two heavily armed and armoured men, who unfortunately were briefly stymied as the two fugitives managed to lock the door on their way out.

“Two headed out the back!” one of them shouted. This was followed by a flurry of steps outside.

In the centre of the room, Ex-President Richard Milhous Nixon sputtered in shock, then screamed as loud a primal scream as a man in his nineties could manage, which he followed up with a slew of curse words that would have made Lenny Bruce blush.

Outside, we could hear a lot of shouting, and then the sound of a car revving its engine, the rough screech of tires peeling out on dirt, and then a sickening thud.

This was followed by relative silence, except for one pathetic cry of anguish.

The agents milled about for a moment, removing the guns from the floor and Stew and Nuffy’s hands, and helping them both to their feet. Strangely though, they did not disarm Mr. Wang or Mr. Dong. Instead, the following brief conversation occurred:

“Good job, guys! You both deserve big bonuses after this one.”

“Thanks… it’s been a long, long effort. It looks to have paid off.”

This second voice was Mr. Dong. It was a most decidedly un-Chinese voice. In fact, he rather sounded like Stew. Mr. Wang was too busy accepting friendly pats on the back from some of the other agents to immediately speak himself.

I stared at both of them for a long time, as did Stew and Nuffy. The only difference was that Nuffy was smiling at them as though he had just gotten a very complicated but funny joke.

“Let me guess,” I finally managed to stammer out, “…CIA?”

“Right in one,” replied Mr. Wang. He scratched his head. He seemed to be slightly embarrassed. “Listen, I’m sorry for all the deception but there was no way for us to know whether you were working for him or not.”

“You dirty *****!” Nixon growled from behind us. “It was a trap all along! You pig-*****!”

“Sorry Mr. President,” Mr. Wang replied.

Nixon suddenly pulled out a small white tablet.

“Well, I won’t give you the satisfaction of taking me alive!” He announced, shoving the tablet into his mouth and biting hard. Several agents rushed towards him and tried to force open his surprisingly resilient jaws, but after a moment, Nixon spit pieces of the tablet out.

“A ****ing Tic-Tac! I told that ******* moron to get my cyanide capsules and he gives me peppermint tic-tacs!! ****!!!!”

He continued this tirade as they wheeled him out. To my surprise, I found myself laughing, like at the end of a cheesy situation comedy. Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong joined in briefly, but Mr. Wang broke off.

“A shame,” he commented, “he really is a brilliant fellow, but the paranoia has completely crushed him, even more so that when he was in office. He is a sick man.” He shook his head, then looked back up at us and smiled. “You all deserve an explanation, and you will have one.”

“Yeah, we owe you that much,” added Mr. Dong.

“Well, I must say I’m glad for it, Mr. Dong,” I replied.

“Actually, my name’s not Dong. It’s Davison, Yo Davison. ‘Dong’ is just part of the cover.” He smiled a large, friendly smile. “My granddad’s English, but that doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a Chinese agent.”

“And I suppose your name is Wilson?” I said, turning back to Mr. Wang, “…some joke, Wang and Dong.”

To my pleasant surprise, he laughed long and loud. “No, my name is Wang… George Wang! My Mother was from Taiwan and came over as an immigrant. She named me after George Washington.” He added this last bit I think to make me feel a bit better for thinking that Wang was a joke, when it is in fact a very respectable name to have. Though he did suggest later that he got a lot of laughs out of it back at CIA headquarters in Langley.

“How long have you guys been working on this?” Nuffy asked.

“Too long, but thankfully it’s over,” the suddenly affable Mr. Davison replied, offering sticks of gum to each of us. Stew took one and clapped Mr. Davison on the back.

“Man, am I glad we didn’t shoot you,” he said with a sigh of relief.

“Me too!” Yo replied.

We stepped outside to the sight of at least forty well-armed and equipped agents putting up equipment into cars and vans that seemingly popped out of nowhere. A moment later, two grim-looking agents escorted Heath down the hill to a waiting van. He looked in anguish and at one point fell to his knees and sobbed, crying out “Catherine!!”

“Who’s Catherine? I asked aloud, to no one in particular. A passing agent, also with a serious look on his face, gave a quick answer.

“Apparently, it’s the name of his wife. The fool ran over her and killed her as he was trying to get away. She didn’t quite get in the car before he backed out at full speed. Pretty gruesome.”

We all stood there for a moment, in mild shock. She was one of the most unpleasant women I’d ever met, and even though we’d all wanted to shoot her a few moments ago, as it turns out later, George and Yo also, this was foul news.

After a moment, Stew slapped the side of his forehead.

“Catherine was her middle name! He told me once.”

“Heathcliff… Catherine… death…we should have seen that coming,” I muttered.

“George! Yo! The head of Phoenix wants to congratulate you!” shouted an agent from down the hill. Our two new CIA friends gathered themselves, each managing to smile again.

“Come with us. You should meet the man,” Yo said.

“He’ll give you the full story,” George added.

“Who is it?” Stew whispered.

“I don’t know, “I replied. “I never got to meet the President of Phoenix. He was always under tight security.”

We walked down the hill through the thick fallen leaves of autumn to a large black Lincoln Town Car. There were several agents around the vehicle, some coming by with quick reports for the figures in the back seats, others obviously providing security. As we approached, an important looking agent turned to the back seats, obviously informing the occupants of our presence. He stepped back and out stepped a tallish man who appeared to be in his mid-to-late fifties. As he turned to us, Mr. Wang introduced us.

“Gentlemen, meet the President of the Phoenix Corporation.”

All three of us stared in astonishment, and then each of us, starting with Stew, then Nuffy, and finally myself, began laughing in spite of ourselves.

The President of the Phoenix Corporation was Andy Kaufman.

“All right, all right… enough of the funny stuff,” Kaufman barked. “You people have no idea how old it gets. Just once, I’d like to see someone recognize me and say, ‘Andy! Thank God you’re alive!’”

“Sorry,” I said, feeling personally responsible for some decorum, having been unknowingly employed by Mr. Kaufman at one point.

“Don’t sweat it kid,” he replied. “I’m only half serious at any time.” He turned to George and Yo. “Wang, Davison… excellent work. I intend to recommend you for commendations and if I can swing it with my contacts at the GAO, a nice little bonus.” He winked at each of them and shook their hands. The way George and Yo smiled and laughed, it was obvious that the part about bonuses was some sort of inside joke.

“We couldn’t have completed the operation if not for the civic mindedness and bravery of these three gentlemen.” George graciously replied.

“Yes, I agree completely.” Kaufman turned to us. “You see gentlemen; President Nixon has been growing steadily more paranoid for the last several years. I don’t mean the average run of the mill paranoia, like during the Watergate years. No, that wouldn’t be a threat to national security. In fact, it’s come in handy a few times. No, the President had gotten to the point where he was so fearful of our own government that he was willing to put himself in the tender hands of the Chinese Communists and reveal a number of secrets about U.S. work in China.”

“So, it wasn’t all about Phoenix, then?” I interjected.

“No, no, the Chinese could care less about that in general, but they would be interested in certain plans and activities we have conducted that would affect their government. President Nixon was still well connected enough to give away a great deal, and he was no longer well enough to be cognizant of the great harm that it would do. I want you to understand that in his right mind, he would have never considered such a thing. Anyway, we knew that anything could set off his pathological fear and trigger an unfortunate collaboration with the Chinese.”

“So, you set things in motion with your own people,” Nuffy observed.

“That’s right, even to the point of pretending to shut down Phoenix.” Kaufman continued. “Well be reestablishing the whole enterprise back in the same location starting tomorrow morning.” He studied Nuffy for a second. “You’re Noe, with the NSA, right?”

If it were physically possible, Stew’s and my jaws would have slapped the top of our shoes. Nuffy an agent with the National Security Agency? Nuffy was quite surprised also.

“Umm… yes sir. I’m a bit surprised that you’ve heard of me though. I certainly didn’t know about you!” He looked around at us sheepishly.

“George and Yo forwarded a surveillance photo earlier today and we ran a check on you,” Kaufman continued. “You might want to talk to your bosses about your cover story though. Ombudsman Monthly? Man, that has ‘NSA’ written all over it.”

Nuffy scratched his head.

“Well, I am fairly new to the job,” he confessed.

“Still, well done,” Kaufman said appreciatively and shook all of our hands vigourously.

“One more person would like to congratulate you,” he added. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, as we’re going to be entrusting you with enough secrets, but the Shadow Secretary of the United Nations is traveling with me on business and as Nixon’s defection to the Chinese would have caused several potential international incidents, he’s quite grateful.”

Another figure stepped forward from the car, shorter, with slicked back hair and impressive sunglasses. He shook each of our hands and thanked us for our efforts. After he finished, I among us all, including George and Yo, managed to physically speak.

“Erm… thanks very much Secretary Bono.”

“Just call me Bono, lads,” he said with a smile, and then stepped back into the Town Car.

“George and Yo, please assist in the debriefing of these gentlemen,” Kaufman said, also climbing back into the car. He looked over at the important looking agent and added, “…And see about getting them some U2 tickets. The Shadow Secretary’s staff can arrange for it. It’s the least we can do, seeing as they’re going to have to be affiliates of the agency now.” He turned back to us and smiled. “Keep up the good work, boys!”

Right before the door closed, Stew suddenly spoke up.

“Mr. Kaufman!” he blurted out.

“Yes, son?” Kaufman responded, leaning out the door.

“If it’s not too much to ask… would you mind very much doing Elvis before you leave?”

Kaufman suddenly looked deadly serious and slowly cocked his head to one side, a slight sneer forming on the top of his lip.

“Thank you…thankyouverrramuch!” he said in as perfect an Elvis voice as you’ll ever hear. They he broke into a grin.

“No one’s asked me to do that one for years!” Then he slid back into the car and they drove away into the darkness.

George and Yo explained to us how they had hoped to simply make contact with me and obtain the DVD, then work out the rest on their own. They hadn’t counted on Nixon’s peculiar sense of Morse coding or Nuffy figuring the message out, but most of all they hadn’t counted on me not giving them the bloody thing in the first place. They said they knew we weren’t involved when I started stalling.

“If you were in on it, you would have just given us the DVD,” Yo surmised.

They also revealed that the scariest part for them was when we had them caught in the hangar.

“What you didn’t know was that we have automatic pistols in our belt buckles,” George pointed out. “I was deathly afraid we might have wound up in a shootout. Fortunately, you three were kind enough and cool headed enough to do the right thing.”

“Yes,” said Stew, “but what would you have done in our shoes, facing down two Chinese spies?”

“Well, we might have shot them,” Yo said, “but we’re allowed.”

We followed them back into town, after signing written statements and legal documents obligating us to keep the whole thing secret forever.

“Or what?” I asked.

“Or, we make you Nixon’s personal assistant again,” George replied, half-serious.

“That’s enough for me,” I declared, signing the document in big, John Hancock-sized letters.

We would also be required to check in with Phoenix every once in awhile to let them know how we were doing and for routine psychological evaluations. We all agreed that this was a good idea, after the events of the day.

As we got close to town, we called our wives by mobile phone and explained to them that we were safe and that there was a whole misunderstanding and that the Chinese men we were with were actually American spies and could they please not tell the children or any other living soul if we wanted to continue living normal lives outside of secret federal prisons. We then had them meet us at the best BBQ place in town, where George and Yo kindly paid for the entire massive tab off of a Phoenix expense account. The both of them had changed into off-duty garb and looked very strange in golf shirts and jeans.

As we were finishing up dinner, I suddenly remembered something vitally important.

“The bleeding novel!”

“You’re writing a novel?” Yo asked, as he demonstrated the little tabletop toothpick game where you try to get down to one, for my wife and daughter.

“Well, sort of. It’s for National Novel Writing Month. You’re supposed to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.”

“I thought about doing that,” George said, finishing a plate of baby-back ribs, “but I haven’t got the time.”

“I know the feeling,” I moaned.

“It’s a shame,” George added.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, after all that’s happened to you this week, you’d have a pretty interesting book. Too bad you can’t tell anyone.” He sat down the last of the now clean ribs and stretched back in his seat to accommodate a pleasantly full stomach. Stew and Nuffy were talking to Yo and our wives about how tricky the toothpick game was, while my daughter started in on another one herself.

“Yes… too bad.” I replied, and nibbled thoughtfully on what was left of my beef sandwich.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Awards Shilling!!!

I've noticed that my top ten reasons for awarding us the "Best Humor Blog" haven't exactly drummed up a lot of support at the Forums for the 2006 Weblog Awards. In fact, one participant had the unmitigated nerve to say that they wouldn't be voting for us (scroll down) as they needed to vote for themselves.

This is plainly unacceptable. Although I will be casting my vote for DOUI, it will be simply on the merits of the issue and not a desperate plea for publicity, as I've been using the forums for that.

So, that strategy being inefficient, I've decided to go for the next level of the standard awards programme lobbying playbook (the top level, bribery, being unaffordable... and yes, yes, unethical too) :

Celebrity Endorsements!

Unfortunately (hence the name of the blog, again), my last minute e-mails to Bono, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brangelina, Steve Martin, Halle Berry, Governor Schwarzenegger, Thierry Henry, and Keira Knightley have all gone unanswered...mainly because I don't have their addresses, excepting the last case, which involves a restraining order.

Therefore, I have but one choice - Make them all up. The following are what I think the responses of the indicated celebrity would be to our blog, were they ever to read it, chance upon it by happenstance, or it were to get through the filter. After reading these, how could any reasonable voter say no? For legal purposes, the use of quotes in the remainder of this post shall signify fake quotes (thanks for the reminder F. Johnny Lee- and the sharp nudge to the ribs).

**********

"The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas is a lot like rock and roll. It's crap, but it's good crap!" - Bono

"DOUI makes my day, especially the remarkably thrilling parts where I next blog away to Let's Ponta!" - Julia Roberts

"I vill work vith de legislature to pass und law that deals vith this problem to society permanently...by terminating it! Oh, DOUI? I thought you said DUI! (slaps forehead)" - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

"I don't have the time for such nonsense when there are so many problems in the world that need our attention. Oh, all right, Nuffy Noe does make me titter from time to time." - George Clooney

"Please leave us the hell alone!!! We want some privacy, you parasites!! ...Oh, DOUI? So-so, though the kids like the pictures." - Brangelina

"Please take the link to my website off of your page. It's drving the hit counts down." - Steve Martin

"Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire (sits on piano keyboard)" - Jerry Lee Lewis

"Da Kleben! Hey Laaaaaady!!!" - Jerry Lewis

"Really appalling, I mean, the kind of foul, pustulent, miserable, crapulent filth that only the truly demented are capable of. Really, really, really awful, and I mean that as a compliment." - John Cleese

"On the first day, we started in Cairo where we were accosted by radical fans of The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas. This would set back our journey by a fortnight." - Michael Palin (from the anticipated BBC miniseries "I've No Idea Where I'm Going This Time, but the BBC Is Footing the Bill"

"We utterly condemn The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas as an affront to our way of life!" - President Bush and Speaker of the House Pelosi in a joint statement

"Poop!" - Cakey the Jacked Up Clown

Earl's Novel - Chapter XII (Part III)

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest. As of this post, he has passed the 49,500 word mark, and is literally typing in a crawl with his fingernails, in-between desperate attempts to get the attention of the physically beautiful and intellectually superior judges from The 2006 Weblog Awards.)

Stew, Nuffy, and I looked at one another sheepishly as Mr. Dong removed the remaining gun from my belt (no jokes please). We were caught and well done, too. This was followed by a thought that utterly confused me at first and then angered me.

“You’re turning to the Chinese?” I said, turning to Nixon. You’re turning to the communists that you’ve fought against all your life? No offense, mate, “I quickly added, turning to Mr. Wang.

“None taken,” he politely replied.

“Listen Merle, you ***** ninny! The feds turned on me, just as they’ve always done! I’ve got to think of me now!”

“Oh, like that’s never happened,” Stew muttered.

“They’ve used me and controlled me, and now those ****-******, *****, ****** bastards would do me in!!!”

Even Portia was appalled by the language in this last tirade, although I’m fairly certain she didn’t understand the meaning of at least two of the expletives Nixon used, because I didn’t myself.

“The President is simply acting pragmatically, my friend,” Mr. Wang chimed in.

“And only Nixon could go to China,” Heath blurted out, seeming to hope that a phrase so common that it appeared in a Star Trek film would be viewed as the height of wit. Nixon responded to this by throwing a pen at him, which remarkably hit him square between the eyes.

“At least you have your conscience Mr. Fando,” Mr. Wang continued. “You led him to us, but you did not do so intentionally.”

“It all beautifully fell into place,” Nixon said, an almost rhapsodic quality permeating the ageing, gravelly voice. “Clavin here has long been my personal assistant at home. I accepted him after the CIA dumped him because I figured that if he washed out of there, he couldn’t be very well connected to anyone who was a threat, the dumb ****. I initially used him to make contact with Mr. Wang a few years ago, while Mr. Wang was here on a reconnaissance mission, as it turns out trying to discover the secret behind Phoenix.”

“Which I owe all to you, Mr. President,” Mr. Wang replied graciously.

Nixon half laughed, half coughed. “Yes, well you’ve proved yourself quite resourceful as well. I only managed to funnel some basic information through Clavin to Wang, but it was enough for him to realize who I was and the importance of any potential relationship between his superiors and me. After that was done, I had Clavin make contact with you, so he could keep an eye on you. I knew that if things came down fast, I wouldn’t be able to use him to set up an exit strategy. As I couldn’t trust anyone else at Phoenix - they stuck me with a by-the-book FBI agent for your replacement – I needed you to handle the critical communications. Knowing that you might be uncooperative, I made sure that you’d have all the information you needed to find me and to realize that I wanted you to inform the Chinese of my whereabouts… Yangtze!” he shouted, laughing/coughing again.

“Oh, well that part worked perfectly,” I said sarcastically. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Mr. Wang smile slightly.

“After the word came down that Phoenix was going under, I had Clavin remove me from under the nose of security, which was almost more than he could manage,” Nixon continued.

“You mean he drove you here instead of Phoenix one day?” I asked, rolling my eyes at Clavin…I mean Heath.

“I had to convince the regular driver that I needed to handle the job that day. It took some convincing acting on my part,” Heath boasted.

“You hit him on the head with a crescent wrench you ****** fabulist!” Nixon interjected. “Best driver I ever had and he left him with a concussion and maybe brain damage. However, we didn’t come here right away. We laid low at some motels south of here until we were convinced that Phoenix and the feds had ruled this place out and also until we were sure you had the first clue. The most miserable week of my life with this **** and his **** wife…it took you ******* long enough.”

“What about the fire at the security guard’s house?”

“That was Phoenix. That guy’s job was to keep an eye on you and any of the security guards who weren’t spooks, to make sure you weren’t spreading stories around. The family, the house, everything else was a front. Once Phoenix pulled out, they staged the arson to clear him and also to eliminate any physical evidence.”

“And how you would you know that?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Because I’m the one who gave them the ******* idea.” he replied, as though it should be obvious.

The deathly silence in the room told us that the explanation was over. Heath had never really been our agent. My departure from Phoenix had never really freed me from the madhouse. My one decent friend from work had been a spy. The biggest lunatic in the place had seen to all of it.

“I guess I won’t get around to selling that book of yours, ass****,” Heath sneered, breaking the silence. Portia sneered as well.

Stew smacked Heath across the face with the back of his hand, knocking him down again. Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong declined to intervene.

“Now what, Mr. President?” I asked.

“I’ll be flying on a one way ticket to Shanghai, right on the Yangtze, and then perhaps to Beijing,” the President replied. “Oh, these two will come along as well, get a free ride at the expense of the Chinese government working for me,” he added, nodding at Heath and Portia, who was mopping blood from Heath’s cheek. “They might even stay alive if they keep their noses clean.”

“And us?” I added.

“Well, I thought about having you liquidated, but in some ways that strikes me as unfair, given you are responsible for the success of this operation, and given that I’ve kept this bumbler around long enough, despite the fact that he’s nowhere near as efficient as you were. No, I’d really like to offer you a job; your friends here also, if they’re of any use. You’d at least be good for a few laughs and some decent coffee.”

“If we decline?”

“That’s a tough one. I could let you go. I know you can’t say anything about me for fear of Phoenix coming after you. Still, they could ask questions, and you could answer those. So, I’m afraid you work for me or Clavin gets to shoot you in the head out back.”

There was a long pause, except for the sound of Heath quietly laughing.

“If we work for you, can we shoot Clavin?” Nuffy asked.

“I like your style, kid,” Nixon responded, which made Nuffy visibly queasy, “but no, I promised him I’d protect him, and as much as I regret that, I’m going to stick with the little ****.”

Stew, Nuffy, and I looked at each other. It seemed we were all thinking the same thing. The guns were still on the floor as Heath had never bothered to pick them up. Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong had slightly lowered their weapons as Nixon talked. There still might be a chance to grab the guns and make a fight of it, though I wasn’t enthralled with the possibility of having to shoot Mr. Wang, or even Mr. Dong, or for that matter, even Nixon. At that moment though, I would have cut Heath and Portia into tiny pieces with a Swiss Army knife and fed them to the birds.

I looked around. Heath was still laughing in quiet little fits, no doubt at the prospect of assassinating his two clients and their partner. Portia looked at us with plain contempt. Nixon sat, stone faced, apparently waiting for an answer. Stew was edging his foot in such a way that made me realise he was preparing to dive for one of the guns. Nuffy was making nearly imperceptible movements of a similar nature. Mr. Wang had a rather sad look on his face, a kind of regretful smile.

The strangest thing of all in the room though was Mr. Dong. He had slightly adjusted his shades so that I could actually see his eyes, which were startlingly blue, and then he smiled and gave me a quick wink.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Earl's Novel - Chapter XII (Part II)

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest. As of this post, he has passed the 48,000 word mark, and can see the proverbial finish line through the haze of sweat and Weblog Awards Nomination e-mails.)

Stew hit him in the face with the butt of his rifle, knocking him to the ground, and charged in the door.

“Oh, so that’s your agent,” Nuffy divined, as he casually walked in the door behind Stew. I followed him in, flipped a light switch and found them both standing frozen in amazement.

“Well, Mudge...you finally made it,” croaked Richard M. Nixon. He was sitting in a wheelchair with a quilt over his legs. He looked even frailer and more decrepit than when I last saw him.

I remembered the last thing he said to me the day I left Phoenix. I remember the exact tense of the f-word with which he said it. Although I suspected there was just a touch of fondness meant by it, it was something I’d never been told to do before by anyone, and I suspect was physically impossible. I distinctly remembered him wiping his eye as I walked out of the room. Remembering that and seeing him now so vulnerable, he seemed somehow touchingly sympathetic.

“Who are these two ****ing ******?” he added, irritably.

So much for my sympathy…the oaf.

“These are my associates, Stew and Nuffy. Stew, Nuffy… Mr… erm… Guthrie.”

Stew and Nuffy continued to stare at the ex-President. Finally, Nuffy coughed and held up a weak “V for victory” sign in both hands. Stew gave a silent but half-hearted salute.

“You told them, didn’t you, you stupid ****. Ah, you were always too soft and easy Merle.”

It did nothing for my self-esteem that he tossed off this comment while I had a loaded gun in my hand.

“Hey,” Nuffy offered, suddenly able to speak again, “it’s not like we didn’t recognize you. That unique profile, the infamous tone in your voice…”

“’Famous’… I think he meant ‘famous.’”

“Shut up, Merle. No I like ‘infamous.’ It has a ring of desperation and dangerousness to it, doesn’t it Heath?”

“Sure, Mr. President,” Heath responded, rubbing a welt on his cheek.

“I think that it’s garbage,” sneered a reedy, female voice from a shadowed corner of the cabin. I was surprised that I had not seen her when we came in. It was Portia, Heath’s insufferable wife. As Nixon laughed, obviously amused by her natural maliciousness, she stepped forward out of the shadows. She was a fairly attractive woman, of medium build and height, with long, blonde dyed hair that failed to match her dark eyebrows. She was wearing her usual outfit, consisting of a pair of jeans that seemed at least two sizes too small for her, and a rumpled sweater, with a V-neck that plunged unnecessarily low. She had a look on her face that would make any reasonable person think that she’d just stuck her nose up a skunk’s bum.

“I don’t know why you felt the need to call on him for help,” she continued, directing her skunked nose at me as if it were a rapier. “Heath’s more than man enough to handle this job.”

Stew laughed out loud, despite himself.

“Sorry, Heath,” he apologised with a glance in our agent’s direction. Heath gave an unpleasant smirk and got to his feet.

“What do you need this glorified gopher for, when you’ve got an ex-CIA man working for you?” Portia continued.

“Heath may have spent three years at Langley as a low-level analyst,” Nixon snarled, “but he’s just barely competent to have gotten me this far. Plus, my contacts won’t want to deal directly with anyone with Langley connections, even a wash-out like him.”

Stew, Nuffy, and I looked at each other with baffled expressions.

“Do they do legacies at the CIA, because I can’t believe he got in on his own?” Stew whispered to Nuffy and me.

“I’ll have you know, I was a Harvard graduate summa cum laude with an honors degree in International Trade and Political Science. The CIA recruited guys like me as quickly as they could get them,” Heath boasted.

He had an almost wild look in his eye, one that was quickly deflated by Nixon’s stinging retort.

“Summa cum laude my wrinkled ass; you barely graduated from Harvard after going on probation, and your old man got you the CIA gig.”

“Score!” whispered Nuffy to Stew.

As I said before, the old geezer was brilliant. Heath didn’t care much for it but he took it. Also, the sight of us all holding weapons was something our “agent” didn’t seem to expect.

“Where’d you get the guns?” he asked.

“They got them from the airport hangar,” Nixon chimed in, “where you left them, you stupid ass****.”

“Oh, right,” Heath replied.

“I had him leave you some weapons, just in case you needed a little firepower,” Nixon continued. “Of course, Heath’s been keeping an eye on you for me ever since you left Phoenix. I had a feeling this time might come, and I was right to prepare for it. I knew your loyalty and independence from the government would come in handy.”

“What’s it all about, Mr. President?” I asked with some trepidation, as I had the sinking feeling that it was Phoenix all over again, only without the colourful, relatively sane other famous folk. I’d had dreams about that place since departing. I’d walk into the blog office and instead of Stew sitting at the opposite desk, Nixon would be there, calling me a stupid ***** and claiming to be writing a bit on how Tom Cruise was really the head of the Chinese Communists. I was also distinctly uncomfortable at the word “loyalty” being used to describe me by a man who regularly chucked pointed paperweights at my head.

“They’ve shut down Phoenix, Merle. They’ve shut it down completely. They’re farming out everyone to remote locations, keeping them in isolation. Walt’s been reassigned to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for G-d’s sake!”

Stew and Nuffy were baffled by this a bit, especially the realisation that my “Floating Head of Walt Disney” story was probably true. I however, was not completely surprised. There were always rumours that Phoenix was simply too unwieldy and expensive to run, and the “zombies” were always wanting to move on to some semblance of a normal life, except for the Kennedys, who wanted to check out Spring Break in Panama City, Florida.

“Why should that matter, Mr. President?” I inquired. “Won’t they just move you to a secure location somewhere where you can continue to advise the government?”

He looked at me with his bloodshot, beady eyes.

“They want to put old Dick Nixon down, Merle!” he half whimpered, half growled. “The info I’m getting is that the feds in power want to quietly liquidate me, so I don’t become an ‘embarrassment.’”

This seemed quite out of character with the Phoenix Corporation, who always went out of their way to lock down the people in their care, so that no one would know they still existed, much less what they were doing. The cooperation of the employees was a key factor in this. If Nixon was an “embarrassment” then something had changed drastically.

“So, Merle… you got part of my message. That’s clear. Did you figure out the rest, though? Did you bring my contacts?”

“Excuse me?” I said, unhelpfully.

“That figures,” Portia scoffed. “The ****ing comedy buffoon can’t even figure out a simple message on a videotape. They’re not here!”

I was untroubled by this invective, partially because I knew Portia to have a two-digit IQ intellect, the kind of person who struggled with reading stop signs, and partially because she was to stupid to know the difference between a DVD and a videotape. It was the “they” part that I found disturbing.

I found it even more disturbing when I suddenly felt the muzzle of an M16 rifle gently nestle in the small of my back. It was so disturbing I instinctively dropped my gun and raised my hands over my head.

“You did contact them, Mudge!” Nixon said with glee.

“Erm, I can’t actually take the credit for that,” I responded, not daring to turn around as Stew and Nuffy dropped their guns and raised their hands as well.

“Even if he were responsible, his modesty would not allow him to, I suspect,” came a smooth, familiar, slightly Chinese voice, “but he is correct in that he did not bring us.”

“Mr. Wang,” I said in as pleasant a voice as one can manage with a semi-automatic rifle resting against their lumbar vertebrae, “how clever of you to be here.” I turned around slowly to face a smiling Mr. Wang (no jokes, please).

“I’m most sorry about the shooting at the airport,” Mr. Wang replied. “We were trying to take out the tires, but I’m afraid I’m more acquainted with the AK-47.”

“Naturally, naturally,” I said. “Erm, how did you get here?”

“Mr. Dong is a proficient hot-wirer of cars. He learned it watching American police programmes.”

Mr. Dong gave a slight bow.

“And you got into the car… how?” Nuffy asked.

“Shot up the door, I bet,” Stew ventured.

“That’s unlike you, Mr. Wang,” I frowned. “What will the rental agent say?”

“Actually, I left the window rolled down on the driver’s side,” said Mr. Wang, smiling with slight embarrassment – for us, I think. “We followed you down quite easily.”

Monday, November 27, 2006

Earl's Novel - Chapter XII (Part I)

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest. As of this post, he has passed the 46,000 word mark, and is whistling like one of the Seven Dwarves...presumably Dopey.)

Chapter 12
This Is Where We Got On, Isn’t It?


Nuffy’s response to the realisation that Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong had M16 rifles and were running behind us as fast as they could was to slam the accelerator of his mid-sized Japanese car into the floorboard the way most people stamp on a Black Widow spider. This had the desired result of opening up a rapidly growing gap between us and the two, now heavily-armed agents.

We ducked as lowly as we could upon hearing several pings emanating from the outside of the vehicle, followed by the distant reports of the rifles.

“Crap! They’re shooting at us!” Stew loudly roared, trying to jam his lanky frame underneath the top of the seat.

“Well, if it’s any consolation,” I observed, “they seem to be aiming for the tires and not actually trying to kill us.”

“Remind me to thank them, the next time I see them… right before I empty a magazine into their heads,” Stew retorted.

“Actually, the gun sight of the M16 has a well-known parabolic problem that forces the user to aim slightly high at close targets. If they’re not very familiar with the rifle, they may not realize that this levels out at longer ranges, which would explain the low shots,” Nuffy calmly explained.

He swerved the car expertly to avoid any bullets, but the gunfire died away quickly. My best guess was that they quickly realised the futility of stopping the car at this distance, or worried that we might actually be injured or killed by the gunfire. This latter explanation seemed rather dubious given the fact that they had just shot at us. Still, it was better to hope this, whilst not stopping to ask, in the view that we might at least be on decent terms should they turn up again. If they were trying to kill us, ignoring that in a future conversation, even to the point of playing dumb, might actually come in handy.

“Remind me to send the editors of Wikipedia a thank you note if we survive this,” said Stew.

“Well, I could be mistaken,” Nuffy confessed. “Wikipedia is well known for inaccuracies and politicization of content.”

“Well, at least you didn’t have to defuse any bombs today,” Stew replied.

“All right,” Nuffy said, “where to, Earl?”

“Camp David,” I replied, “or at least what Nixon said reminded him of it.”

I directed Nuffy to drive back to the expressway and then south. It took about forty-five minutes of driving on the four-lane road to get to the exit we need to take. That would provide a little bit of time to prepare them for yet another security gauntlet and the very real possibility that we might be greeted at our destination by a very paranoid and testy former President of the United States.

The first question though was about the strangely missing Mercedes.

“What do you suppose the deal was with that Mercedes?” Stew asked, opening that portion of the conversation.

“No idea,” replied Nuffy and I in unison, which more or less closed that portion of the conversation. Oh, we briefly discussed some possibilities, such as it being someone who worked for Phoenix, or some other government agency. Ultimately though, we were simply guessing. The very best we could come up with was that there was either another player in this dangerous little game we had become involved in, or someone was headed towards the exit we got off of, and were sitting somewhere at that moment wondering what was going on with that car that got off the motorway and then back on again.

I took up the next subject, by asking about the secret passage in the shed. Apparently, they had done a quick search for additional magazines, once I had alerted them to Mr. Wang’s and Mr. Dong’s presence. Stew moved a rather dusty looking box off of a shelf and the filing cabinet slid over automatically, revealing the exit.

This was followed by my description of the secluded and heavily secure cabin area. We all agreed though that this time, it was likely to be as deserted as the other locations. Somehow, this was strangely comforting, although I suppose just about anything might be less than an hour after someone has fired off a semi-automatic rifle in your general direction.

The last discussion was completely incongruous and was started when Nuffy asked the following question:

“What if this whole thing is some sort of alien plot to return aged world figures to power and control the world through them?”

“Nuffy, I worked at Phoenix for two years, and the most alien thing I saw there was the detached head of the creator of Mickey Mouse.”

“Still, that’s pretty alien sounding, isn’t it?”

“Actually, he said that most of the technology was derived from animatronics used in the old Hall of Presidents attraction at Disneyland. You might be surprised to know that for four years, Lincoln was capable of firing a particle beam from underneath his stove-pipe hat.”

“That could be pretty entertaining, given the right circumstances,” Nuffy mused.

“Yes, but I’d have to agree with Earl,” Stew chimed in, “and say that it couldn’t be of alien design then. Aliens don’t go in for slapstick.”

Strangely enough, this had a pleasant sort of certainty about it, although upon reflection one might have brought up Chuck McCann and Bob Denver in Far Out Space Nuts or Ruth Buzzi and Jim Nabors in The Lost Saucer, but as these were not the work of actual aliens and we had more pressing issues, Stew’s remark left us all in thoughtful silence.

We arrived at the exit and I directed Nuffy up the old two-land scenic motorway that led to the cabins. We left this road in short order, proceeding on to the dirt roads that winded their way up to the “camp.”

“Drive very slowly, Nuffy… just in case,” I recommended, but Nuffy was already slowing down and his eyes were wide open and scanning in every direction. Stew and I did the same as we drove up an uneven road that sliced through the deep woods that covered the surrounding hills. We headed up one such hill, towards where I thought the cabin that Nixon had visited before was at.

“Keep an eye out for any suspicious squirrels,” I advised. Nuffy and Stew glanced at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and added squirrels to the list of anything they should be suspicious of, which grew the list to “everything in sight.”

We passed a number of old houses and trailers, all of which I knew were guardhouses and owned by Phoenix. I was also fairly certain that the reason the road was so bumpy and worn was in order to prevent any vehicles from moving quickly up it. There were no perimeter fences out here, to allow wildlife to venture in and also to allay the suspicion of any locals. Between the trees, the rough road, and the massive numbers of agents and cameras, any assault was doomed to end in failure. Thinking about this put a very large lump in my throat, which I managed to swallow after about 30 seconds of quiet gagging.

It was getting later as well, and as the sun started to go down the gradual dimness only made me more nervous. I sensed this was having the same effect on Stew and Nuffy, although Nuffy was doing a rather good job of disguising it, as he was quietly humming “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music.

Finally, the cabins came into view. There had been no sight of anyone the whole way, though we did spot a number of cameras, including one weakly disguised as an owl, with the lenses mounted where the eyes should be. It looked like it was wearing very large eyeglasses with black rims, like Harry Potter.

“Stop here,” I quietly instructed, and Nuffy brought the car to an abrupt halt. He switched off the engine and I got out, with Stew and Nuffy right behind.

“It could be any one of these,” I told them.

“I don’t think we should split up,” Stew suggested. “It’s getting dark and we could easily get lost out here.”

“Bloody hell, what must our wives be thinking right about now,” I blurted out. I had neglected to call my wife, who surely had arrived home by now. I pulled out my mobile phone, which also served as my watch, as I didn’t wear one.

“It’s four-thirty seven… I’ve got no service on this phone.” The bars were as flat as Kate Moss’s posterior. Stew and Nuffy were getting similar results from their phones.

“We’re on the wrong side of the hill,” I complained, to no one in particular since I suspected my partners felt the same way. The darkness was more pronounced here. In truth, these were mountains as much as any are and we were well along the side of them facing east.

“I think the only thing for it is to try the cabins one at a time,” I announced.

Nuffy pulled out the two M16s and handed one to Stew.

“Just in case,” he said.

I still had two guns stuffed uncomfortably into my belt. I pulled both out and took the safeties off. I briefly thought to myself that if my wife could see me at that moment that she would gently remark as to how much I failed to look like Chow Yun-Fat.

We decided to take the cabins in some kind of sequential order, which was difficult to determine, as after we parked we realised we were surrounded by them. We then scrapped this idea as being impractical, mainly because Nuffy had pulled out a calculator and was working out a mathematical formula for casing the cabins one by one.

Finally, we decided that I should call upon my prodigious memory, the same one that continually confuses the words “ardor” and “arbor” and to embarrassing effect on Valentine’s Day (and Arbor Day), and try to remember just which cabin Nixon was in the last time we were here, approximately 4 years ago.

The only thing I could immediately remember was that I couldn’t remember what I had for dinner the night before, much less which cabin, so I guessed and we proceeded up the hill towards a nearby one.

We approached the door with as much stealth as 3 fairly tall and thirty-something men could manage. The fact that I was 41 was not helping. We kept our guns pointed up for safety, mainly because my hands were shaking like Jennifer Lopez after a pot of espresso.

“All right,” I volunteered, stuffing one of the guns in my belt again, “I’ll knock and you lot cover each side of the door.”

This seemed a fair enough compromise to my partners, who seemed agreeable to the prospect of not standing in front of the door.

They positioned themselves on either side of the door, guns at the ready, and I raised a hand to knock on the door, a semi-automatic slowly vibrating in my other hand. After some prompting from Stew, I managed to remember to actually knock.

Not a sound could be heard from inside.

“Open the door,” Nuffy suggested.

“Do you think?” I replied. I was quite hoping that Nuffy and Stew might change their minds, but my reasoning proved insufficient and they both nodded their heads fervently.

I opened the door and then jumped around to the side to get in the way of any machine gun fire or flamethrowers. Nixon occasionally wished he had a flamethrower during my stay at Phoenix, usually after I’d mixed up a file, forgot the sugar in his coffee – which was understandable as he always asked for it black, or after Jack Kennedy pulled a practical joke on him. I had a strong suspicion at that moment that this might have all been a huge scheme to get me within roasting distance.

Fortunately, there was no burst of flame from inside the cabin, as it was completely empty. There wasn’t so much as a throw rug or folding chair in it.

“Next one,” Stew whispered.

We moved to the next cabin, just to the north, and did the same routine, only this time with me stepping on Stew’s foot as I tried to move clear of the door. As before, this cabin was completely empty as well.

This went on for about four more cabins, although I managed to stay off of my friends’ feet, the only collision being an accidental elbow to Nuffy’s sternum. The next cabin was different however. The porch in front had noticeable footprints in the dust and dirt, and there was a small gum wrapper just outside the door.

“Yahtzee,” Stew whispered.

I raised my hand to knock on the door.

“Do you really think we’ll meet Nixon?” Nuffy whispered. I tapped him in the head with the butt of my pistol.

“Shhh!”

I raised my hand to knock on the door once more. I paused a moment to give Nuffy the opportunity for a retort but he was too busy rubbing his head in pain. I prepared to knock.

And then the door opened.

“Well, it’s about time you figured it out.”

This was a most unexpected voice. Stew and I looked at each other in shock. Nuffy stopped rubbing his skull to offer a sympathetic look of surprise, though he had no clue as to who it was.

It was Heath.

Yes, that Heath, our so-called literary agent Heath, Heath who couldn’t find his way out a paper bag if there was a big red arrow saying “tear here.”

“Hello, Earl. Hello, Stew. Surprised to see me?”

Top 10 Reasons We Should Win Funniest Blog

The 2006 Weblog Awards, the world's largest blog competition, with over a million votes cast, are upon us (I hope that was "deferential" enough to keep the judges from hitting the "Back" button. Did I mention that all the judges and voters for the competition are finalists for People Magazine's Most Beautiful issue? I suspect it's not on the Awards website because they're so modest).

Anyway, as all such contests contain their fair share of lobbying, I'd like to do my bit. As I never got around to sending off my request for video clips endorsing the site from Bono, Steve Martin, Cher, John McCain, and Captain Beany, this will have to do as the next best thing.

The Top 10 Reasons The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas Should Win "Best Humor Blog" in the 2006 Weblog Awards

by Earl Fando

10. We have the funniest name for a blog - With the possible exception of "The Carbolic Smoke Ball," we feel we clearly have the most amusing name for a humour blog, and we went to great lengths to decide on it (see here for the evidence). "Scrappleface"? It's a lovely blog, but just what the hell does "Scrappleface" mean? "Jesus' General"? Attitude does not equal wit, as David Letterman points out...and we should know, having tried both. Bonus: The word "Dictionary" lends itself to a number of phallic puns!

9. Our names are funny, too - Nuffy Noe, Stew Miller, Earl Fando, Linus Coconut, Zimpter Fiforg...who else identifies themselves in such an odd fashion. Oh, all right, "Miller"'s not a particularly outlandish name, but "Stew?" It reeks of zany cannabilistic irony!

8. Tom Cruise hates us - Oh, he's never publicly said so, and he's probably never even read the blog. We just know his people do though, and what venom they must spew when they mention us. If we weren't funny, they wouldn't pay any attention at all every time we point out what a screwball that escapee from a nuthatch is. (If any of the Weblog Awards judges are Scientologists, please note that the above remarks are in actuality a sophisticatedly coded apology to Tom, Katie, and L. Ron Hubbard, whatever planet he resides on.)

7. We are equal opportunity offenders - While we each have particular political views of our own (I happen to know for a fact that Zimpter is a notorious moderate) we strive for non-partisanship on the blog, because quite frankly, all politicians deserve to be mocked within an inch of their lives. The same goes for all races, colours, and creeds, except those with especially zealous legal teams.

6. Our florid prose - How many of those other comedy blogs can even spell (Despite the Blogger spell-check) "florid" or for that matter big words like "transsubstantiation," "milquetoast," "kumquat," "zenith," or "antidisestablishmentarianism," much less use them all in a sentence as I've just done? Nobody but us, Jack!

5. We're publishing a novel! - I should clarify that I am publishing a novel and my colleagues are staying the hell out of the way, as any intelligent person would. If I weren't so dizzy from lack of sleep and trying to remember how to spell "kumquat" I'd tell them a thing or three. Where was I? Ah, yes... how many humour sites would dare serialise an actual, in-progress, first draft of a novel? I mean one as turgid as mine? Certainly not TheHuffington Post!

4. The interviews - King Kong, J.K. Rowling and Peter Jackson in one swoop, The Real Billy Jack, Elvis, Tom Cruise...Who cares if they're partly fictional (in the sense that everything beyond the names is fictional)...certainly not the Weekly World News or CBS! The questioning is both pertinent and relatively free from grammatical error. The result? Hilarity AND functional diction wrapped up in one delightful package.

3. Great links - We've got them, and not the helter skelter, catch as catch can (I've never in my life truly understood the phrase, but it sounds smashing) lists of any and every blog and web site. No, we've actually been to the sites we list in our blogroll... at least once! ...Not counting the visit to snag the URL, because any git can manage that.

2. Fabulous advice for celebrities and common folk alike - What other website gives you receipes for colostomic cocktails - anticipating a major craze that never really caught on? Who else is willing to go the extra mile for the celebrity parent to be with a helpful list of dazzlingly unique and weird baby names? Who else can claim to have presented the original Five Times Better (c) system for personal penta-betterment? No one but us, though as the disclaimer indicates, we are not legally responsible for anyone mad enough to actually try them.

1. We're hipper than Shakira's silhouette- The DaVinci Code, The Live Oscar Blog (scroll down, oh wise and attractive Weblog judges), World Cup Soccer (Football for those in the know), astronomical revolutions, Castro's Franco impersonations, and noticed how I worked the word "silhouette" in as well (see reason #6).

So, there you have the voluminous evidence ("voluminous"! Top that IMAO!) for why we feel we deserve the award. The rest is up to you oh, mighty ones!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Earl's Novel - Chapter XI (Part II)

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest. As of this post, he has passed the 44,000 word mark, and has his nose to the grindstone, mostly because he's too tired to lift his head.)

“Mr. Wang!” I announced loudly. “Funny, I thought you had decided to give me a little time to think things over.” As I spoke, I listened behind me, where Nuffy and Stew were still in the shed. It was unnervingly silent, except for the peculiarly soft sound of what seemed to be metal scraping against metal.

“It seems that you have decided to take some initiative, Mr. Fando. So, naturally, I must act in kind to keep from falling behind.”

“Of course, of course; eminently reasonable, Mr. Wang.”

“Are you mocking me, Mr. Fando,” he replied, with an almost hurt sounding voice.

“Erm… actually, no. I’m not in the business of course, but it is what I would have done.”

“Yes, my apologies. It’s just that, there is a tendency for people to mock one another in this business, and, I must admit, I tend to take these things too personally. Forgive my misunderstanding. It’s just that you are in the humour business, you see.”

I had to admit, that Mr. Wang, despite his annoyingly perfect soft, menacing laugh, was someone I could see myself having a cup of tea with. He really was quite charming at times, for a dangerous and well-armed agent.

“Well, if I do mock at any time, it would be out of professional habit. Please don’t take it personally.”

“I should add, out of fairness to you, and in appreciation for your honesty, that should I have to use this,” he said, slightly gesturing with the gun, “that the same applies. I have enjoyed our brief conversations otherwise.”

“Ah, of course,” I replied, trying simultaneously not to lose control of my bowels or to make any sudden movements. Also, in the back of my mind, a part of me was contemplating adding Mr. Wang to our Christmas card list.

Mr. Dong stood silently beside his partner. He appeared to be chewing gum in an almost disinterested fashion. I suspected that this was because there were no pretty waitresses about.

“How long have you been here, Mr. Wang?” I asked, to cover for the fact that I was really wondering what in blazes Stew and Nuffy were doing in a shed full of automatic rifles, whilst I stood out here chatting with a gun pointed at my sternum.

“I have only just arrived. I had deduced you might try to come here, but was unavoidably delayed.”

“Oh, well…ah, sorry about that,” I replied. Mr. Wang looked genuinely confused by my answer. He shook this off though and continued.

“Well, hopefully, you can now shed some light on the contents of the DVD, given that your action in coming here was almost surely precipitated by them.”

I stood there for a moment, nervously trying to decide whether to answer Mr. Wang’s question or to stall. Bluffing was a distinct possibility. I could have simply said that the tape had some sort of map and that we thought that this was the location but that it might also have been a large military bunker somewhere in Okinawa and would you mind very much giving that a shot? Another possibility which came to mind very briefly was suggesting that the DVD was blank and so we were just investigating some possibilities and started here, because I really like airports.

Just as I was becoming completely convinced of the unworthiness of this possible answer, I saw one of the most shocking things I have ever seen in my life at the entrance of the hangar. It was Stew’s head, quickly glancing inside. Fortunately, I did not physically react to this which meant that Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong were unaware of his presence.

A few seconds later Nuffy stuck his head around the corner as well. This time I had to briefly look up at the ceiling to conceal my shock at the realisation that my two colleagues and friends who were moments ago in the shed behind me had somehow managed to appear outside as if by magic. I was also hoping that the M16s had magically appeared with them.

“Just a tic,” I suddenly blurted out. “How did you smash the gate outside without us hearing you?”

“We simply waited for a plane to take off and used the engine noise to mask our forced entry,” Mr. Wang modestly replied.

“Like the roar in the background, now. I can see that would do the trick. Very clever, indeed.”

Mr. Dong shrugged his shoulders slightly as if to say, “No big whup.” This was a nice breakthrough for him, though it lacked the deft genteelness of his refined companion.

Nuffy and Stew were now tiptoeing into the hangar behind us, each of them with an M16 in hand, their steps masked by the jet engine outside. They made their way towards Nuffy’s car.

I felt this rather gave me the advantage, which relaxed me enough to casually glance over my shoulder at the shed. When neither of them responded, I glanced again at the shed with a touch more obviousness.

“Perhaps we should take a look inside the shed, Mr. Fando,” Mr. Wang finally said.

“The shed? Whatever for,” I responded, as Stew and Nuffy drew closer, almost dancing on their toes.

“Mr. Fando, please do not play such games. They are beneath you.”

“Oh, all right,” I said, with Stew and Nuffy neatly positioned behind Nuffy’s car, only about 15 yards from the two Chinese agents, and pointing the barrels of the rifles right at their backs. “Let’s look at the shed… OR, perhaps you’d like to drop the gun and put your hands up?”

Mr. Wang was just about to laugh the soft menacing laugh of his, but stopped suddenly. He slowly and carefully glanced over his shoulder towards Stew, who was now kneeling behind the car with the M16 pointed right at Mr. Wang. Mr. Dong’s head followed Mr. Wang’s with the same slow deliberateness and wound up on Nuffy, who had taken up a similar position to Stew behind the car, his rifle barrel focused on Mr. Dong.

“**** me,” replied Mr. Wang.

He lowered the gun and dropped it to the ground.

“Hands in the air, please,” Nuffy commanded, with a surprising amount of authority.

Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong complied immediately.

“Please turn around and face us, gentlemen, and, keeping your hands in the air, kneel down,” Nuffy continued.

This too was met with complete compliance.

“Earl, would you frisk these two gentlemen for other weapons?” Nuffy asked.

“Must I,” I replied, quickly looking at Mr. Wang and adding, “No offense!”

“None taken,” Mr. Wang replied. “It is unpleasant work.”

I kicked Mr. Wang’s gun away from him and quickly patted down the two gentlemen as effectively as I could whilst avoiding any possible confusion between weapons and personal property, if you know what I mean. Mr. Dong had a gun in a shoulder holster, which I removed and slid over by Mr. Wang’s gun.

“Check for ankle holsters!” Nuffy barked.

“Wikipedia again?” I asked.

Nuffy smiled. Sure enough, both gentlemen carried what I gathered were .38 caliber revolvers in ankle holsters. I removed them and gathered up the guns as Stew and Nuffy came out from around the car. Not knowing what to do with them all, I stuffed them in my belt, after first making sure, with some help from Nuffy, that the safeties were on.

“Please have a seat,” Stew suggested to the agents. They sat down on the concrete facing us.

“What now?” Stew asked, with a touch of trepidation in his voice. Nuffy looked very serious as well.

“Well, I don’t think we can just turn them over to the regular authorities,” I replied. “They wouldn’t know what to do with them except call the federal government, which would lead to all sorts of difficult questions.”

“We’re not going to…” Stew broke off. He looked at the rifle in his hand and the two gentlemen sitting on the floor. It was a distinctly queasy look.

“Good Lord, no!” I shot back, which elicited the slightest sigh of relief from both Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong.

“No,” I continued, “to be honest, I’m not sure what we can do. If I know how to contact someone at Phoenix, wherever the hell they all are, then I’d do that, and they could deal with this as diplomatically as necessary.”

I thought a moment. Stew and Nuffy were deep in thought as well. What could we do with these two? Killing them was beyond us and an appalling thought, first because no one would view it as justified upon finding the bodies, and second because, Mr. Dong’s aloofness aside, they had been so obviously fair and patient with us. If they had just tried to blow out brains out then I might just have happily shot them “by accident” whilst picking up the guns. Any other violence was out of the question.

“We could bind them, but then they could be stuck here for days, especially if we can’t tell any authorities,” Stew suggested.

“They’d starve, eventually,” I reasoned. “No, I think the only thing for it is to simply leave them here.”

“Leave them here?” Nuffy asked. “What if they come after us?”

“Well, we’ll simply have to take their car keys then. First thing though,” I continued, turning to Mr. Wang, “it’s your turn. Why do you want to know about the DVD?”

“I’m afraid you have us at a disadvantage, Mr. Fando,” he replied. “However, like yourself, I feel I need time to contemplate my answer.”

I could quickly see this would go nowhere, as we were so obviously not up to shooting them or beating them about the head or anything that we would prefer they not do to us in a similar situation.

“The keys then, please”

“Slowly,” Nuffy added.

“Of course,” Mr. Wang replied, carefully producing the car keys.

“Him too,” I added pointing to Mr. Dong. “I distinctly felt keys when I searched him.”

Mr. Wang looked at Mr. Dong, and as if by telepathy, he too carefully extracted a set of car keys and handed them to me.

“That should do it then. Let’s go.”

“You know where we’re going?” Stew asked me, looking more than a bit surprised.

“Yes, I’ll tell you in the car.”

“Why don’t we just take their car?” Nuffy suggested.

“Because then they can call in a stolen vehicle, which might make things difficult for us,” I replied. This bit of reasoning seemed to satisfy Nuffy and Stew and we climbed into the car. As I was getting into the back, Mr. Wang waved a hand at me.

“Thank you for not killing us,” he said, with a polite smile.

“Our pleasure,” I replied, returning the smile, and then hopped into the car. Nuffy started the ignition, gunned the engine, and quickly drove out of the hangar. I pulled out one of the sets of keys the two agents had given me.

“Just in case they can hotwire the car, this’ll slow them down.” and I clicked the lock button on the remote as we drove out of the hangar.

The lights on Mr. Wang’s and Mr. Dong’s teal Chrysler PT Cruiser flashed. That’s right, their teal PT Cruiser, not their dark Mercedes. I very briefly recalled the trip I made for family funeral once, where the rental agent asked what kind of car I wanted and surprisingly suggested the very same model. It was the one bright spot in the whole funeral for my mum, who had always wanted one herself. Despite the brief temptation to chalk this up to a very determined Chrysler fan at the local airport rental service, I couldn’t imagine one so dedicated as to have just caught them as they were driving by.

Nuffy was so surprised to see the teal hatchback that he slammed on the brakes, which sent at least two of the handguns onto the floorboard.

“Erm…perhaps we were seeing things?” I offered. “By the way,” I added, with more than a little curiosity, “just how the hell did you get out of the shed?”

“I found a secret door leading outside,” Stew said, with a small bit of justifiable pride. “That must be why they had it against the wall, as an emergency outlet.”

“Have you been reading Wikipedia a bit too these days?”

I didn’t want to wait any longer.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Where are we going?” Nuffy asked, as he started to drive again, carefully maneuvering around the smashed gate.

“Camp David,” I said with a smile. They both looked at me quizzically. “Well, not the actual Camp David, but a reasonable facsimile that’s nearby. By the way,” I added, glancing back at the open building, “what did you two do with the other guns in the shed?”

“Oops!” Nuffy replied, just as Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong came running out of the hangar with M16s of their own.