The Four-Legged Horror Movie

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I had always loved dogs. That is, until I met Peanut, a chihuahua owned by an old girlfriend, Rhonda. His name was the least of his problems. He had bulging, leaking eyes that made him look like he was being perpetually squeezed. He had a bronchial disorder that made even calm breathing sound like he had been chain smoking all his life. He had a mysterious skin condition that covered most of his body, caused almost all of his hair to fall out, and left a sticky substance on the hand of anyone who dared to pet him. Last but certainly not least, he had a protracted rectum. In short, he was repulsive whether he was coming or going. A four-legged horror movie. The cumulative effect of all these conditions caused the trembling common to chihuahua’s to afflict him tenfold, and gave him the appearance of a rodent suffering from hypothermia. 

Rhonda spent a fortune in veterinary bills on Peanut but nothing improved. I just couldn’t see the upside. All the money she had thrown away trying to restore Peanut to awful seemed like a terrible waste to me. I joked with her that the only expenses I would have had if Peanut were mine was a tennis ball and the gasoline required to drive to the Grand Canyon for a game of fetch. 

Rhonda had four other dogs of various breeds. For the sake of avoiding lurid and possibly vomit-inducing imagery, let’s just say Peanut was the “janitor” of the group. Maybe “hazardous material clean-up” is a better description. Whatever your imagination is doing right now, triple it. That’s right. Theirs was what is known in science circles as a symbiotic relationship. The other four dogs received assistance with personal hygiene in their hard-to-reach nether regions, and Peanut received a constant supply of tasty snacks. They were all very happy with this arrangement. The only ones who were not happy with it were any humans (such as myself) who were unfortunate enough to witness the ungodly spectacle. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about Peanut trying to lick my face immediately after one of his many daily haz-mat disposal procedures because, as if to make the monstrosity complete, he had the personality of a shaken-up bag of rattlesnakes. One would think he would have tried to compensate for his appearance (and odor) with a sparkling personality, but no. People who say dogs can’t hate, or that dog spelled backwards is G-O-D, never met Peanut. He was evil incarnate. The stuff of nightmares. The kind of thing that suddenly pokes its head out of a hole in the wall of a labyrinth in the bowels of hell just when you think hell couldn’t get any worse.

Peanut took an immediate dislike to me. I didn’t take it personally because he hated everyone, including Rhonda. It was a mystery to me why she was so devoted to the little pustule. While watching TV or having dinner with her, I would feel his bulging, lopsided eyes watching me, filled with unspeakable evil, probably fantasizing about tearing me limb from limb and devouring my entrails. I would attempt to stare him down, thinking he might suddenly become aware of our vast size disparity, but his glare would only intensify, as if he was saying, “Come at me, bro!” I always ended up looking away. It was terrifying. I once searched the skin under his fur while he was asleep to see if I could find the 666 that Demian’s father found on his scalp in The Omen.

I decided to try to be more mature one day and at least attempt to make friends with Peanut. I slowly sat down next to him, spoke to him in loving tones, gave him a biscuit, waited for him to finish eating, then, smiling broadly, extended my hand to pet him. 

I still have the scar.

Therefore, I was panic-stricken when Rhonda said Peanut would be staying at our apartment for a month. Apparently, he had some other ailment she didn’t want the other four dogs to catch. I suggested a kennel, a doggy B&B, or better yet, a dungeon where he could be fitted with four small manacles for the sake of the public safety (myself being “the public”) but she wouldn’t think of it for her darling Peanut. To make matters worse, I was working at home at the time and she worked elsewhere, so I would be alone with the Evil Seed every day.

The day he arrived, she handed me a list of medicines, special foods, instructions, and his walking schedule. Walking schedule? Now I had to hang out with him? It didn’t help that the apartment we shared was in an affluent neighborhood known for dog lovers. At any time of the day, posh-looking people walked posh-looking dogs, all of them with their noses in the air. Then there was me, walking the canine equivalent of Freddy Kreuger. Our neighbors’ usually warm smiles would gradually contort into grimaces as they saw us coming and beheld the full horror of Peanut up close. Then they would retch violently, depress the button on their spring-loaded leashes, reel in their precious Fifi’s and Lulu’s, quicken their pace, and give us a wide berth as they would one who walks with the plague. 

At first, I was embarrassed by this treatment. I even apologized once as someone fled in horror. But after a week or so, to my amazement, I started to feel – yes, I’ll say it – compassion for Peanut, and contempt for the snobs who shunned him. When they would look at Peanut with repulsion, I would say, “What’s wrong? Never saw a protracted rectum before?” I actually began to enjoy annoying them and disrupting their perfect world and delicate sensibilities.

After that, my feelings toward Peanut began to change. Even I didn’t see it coming. The pivotal moment occurred one day when I was at my desk working and Peanut was sleeping by the fireplace. He was having a harder time breathing than usual. I stopped working, knelt by him, put my hand on his chest and thought maybe he was so mean because he was in pain all the time, or because he was overcompensating for his tiny stature. Plenty of humans behave similarly. How must life be for a dog that weighs only a few pounds? I’m ashamed now that I didn’t feel anything for Peanut before this epiphany. I can only blame it on my youth. 

That day, I resolved to help Peanut overcome his health challenges. I became very studious about his health regimen and spent more time with him. To my amazement, we actually began to have fun together. There was a personality under all that attitude, after all. (His and mine.) Of course, it also helped that he was alone, with no other dogs to perform his haz-mat services on. That would have been a deal-breaker for me. Despite ourselves, old Peanut and I became pretty good buddies. 

This all took place many years ago. Peanut is long gone by now and either guarding the gates of hell single-pawedly, or in command of larger dogs that do. 

Clare Booth Luce wrote, “I don’t have a warm personal enemy left. They’ve all died off. I miss them terribly because they helped define me.” That little monster did help define me, so much so that I’m writing a story about him twenty years later. He helped me find something inside myself I needed to find, something imperative in this world – the ability to love the unlovable. He also taught me that the more love you give, the more you receive, and that sometimes one must try a little harder to love someone, and to access theirs. Maybe there’s something to that God spelled backward thing, after all.

What is it with dogs and mailmen?

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I was working in the garden recently and had left the front gate open for a minute when the mailman came walking up out of my sight. My overly friendly German shepherd mix Charlie charged out to say hello, barking his head off, and I heard what I thought was a little girl screaming.

I went out looking for the child but there was only our fifty-ish year old mailman standing there, a very macho-looking fellow with a goatee and Indiana Jones style sun hat. Charlie had accessed his primal scream.

In a forced and overly deep voice (to compensate for the girlish squeal he had just emitted, which probably shocked even him), he said, “You need to control that dog.” I apologized but he just grunted and walked away angry, embarrassed that my dog had unveiled his inner Wendy.

 

Alien Classroom

 

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Scene: A classroom on a faraway planet almost exactly like earth.

Teacher:

Good morning, class. Today, we are going to talk about the beings who inhabit the planet called Earth, which we have been observing for some time now. The question we will seek to answer today is, have they evolved spiritually over the past several hundred thousand years when they were mysteriously given the ability to think, or are they still primitive, territorial savages? Let’s see, shall we?

(Teacher walks to chalkboard, picks up chalk, and begins to draw.)

Let’s say they have a piece of land, which they would refer to as a continent. It is very large and contains everything necessary to sustain life. What do you think they do with it? Do they all join hands, sing its praises and happily share it, as we do? Anyone? Anyone?

No, for some reason, they break it up into territories they call countries. Countries, it seems, come in all shapes and sizes, depending largely on who has conquered whom. That is, who has taken by force most of the land from the others. It has been demonstrated over the centuries that land is a very difficult thing for the leaders of these countries to have enough of. Although they have everything they could possibly desire and there is plenty of room for their people on the land they already have, they seem unable to resist the urge of going out and taking some more land. Of course, this requires killing everyone already living there.

Okay, so they are all split up into countries. Do you think they stop there? Anyone? Anyone?

(Child raises hand.)

Yes, Schnork?

Schnork:  

Uh . . . no?

Teacher:

That’s right.  They then continue to divide up the countries into smaller territories called states, then the states into counties and the counties into, let me see, oh yes, cities.  Within these cities, there are many smaller areas called neighborhoods in which the various kinds of human beings, or races as they put it, congregate, hoping to isolate themselves from the other kinds of people.  These neighborhoods are comprised of rows called blocks.

I’m sorry. I know this is getting confusing.

The main criteria they use in determining who is their kind is skin color. This attitude is so pervasive that there are actually organizations known as hate groups dedicated to hating other groups.

(Several gasps are heard around the room.)

I know, I know, it sounds unbelievable but research has shown that they seem to feel much happier when they are around people who look and act like themselves. Sometimes, they even violently attack others who don’t look like them. Also, when people of a different color come into their neighborhoods for some reason, they are often viewed suspiciously by the residents of that neighborhood. Frequently, the local residents even hit the visitor on the head or kill them with little projectiles called bullets. They then usually take all of this person’s property and leave them in the street to die. It is most disturbing to observe.

It has been theorized that the robbing and killing occurs because the robber does not want to work. After all, what other reason could there be? Except total lack of morality and spirituality, of course.

The main reason, however, is that human beings just have not learned the true meaning of the word sharing yet. They have made a few noble efforts to impose sharing on people through various political systems but, unfortunately, they used violence to enforce the sharing.

We are still not sure what the beings who attack beings unlike themselves are trying to accomplish. One possibility is that they attack each other because they can’t or won’t change and become like one another.

Something we find particularly ironic is human beings’ tendency to refer to themselves collectively as humanity. Obviously, their actions toward each other often don’t do justice to the word.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes – once they have chosen their neighborhoods, they buy a box called a house to live in. They also buy a portable box called a car which has wheels on it in case they have to venture out into the world of strangers. These cars emit very unpleasant fumes which make the air heavy and hard to breathe yet, for some reason, they continue to use them. Our top scientists are still trying to figure out that one.

By the way, all of these smaller, personal boxes are covered with locks so that they feel protected from one another.

The thing human beings like to do most is engage in sexual intercourse. The reason for this, we assume, is that the accumulated pressure of living within the confines of so many self-imposed boundaries creates an overwhelming urge to strip all of them away – yes, clothing is another one – and enjoy being what I’m afraid they truly are – naked, primitive beasts driven by the most basic of impulses.

The final boundary or box that these creatures hide in is a very elusive thing they call an image which, curiously, is almost always contrary to the way in which their fellow beings actually perceive them.

These findings have been obtained during our visits to the earth over the centuries. Sadly, despite their technological advances, their spiritual and social development is still in a deplorable state. We have attempted to interact with the earthlings on several occasions, such as when we helped the Egyptians with their pyramids, gave Mr. Einstein a personal tour of our planet, and met with that nice Mr. Spielberg.

We have also worked closely with government officials about a program to begin desensitizing the human race to the possibility of our eventual appearance. Many of these officials fear that if the human race learns of our existence, their egocentric, archaic religious notion that they are the only intelligent life form in the universe would be destroyed. The overturning of this delusion, they fear, would lead to anarchy in the streets and the total collapse of their societies. So the leaders who are aware of our presence go to great lengths to keep our existence a secret for the sake of perpetuating the status quo on their planet. This makes little sense to us considering how desperate the need is for a change of the current status quo on earth.

In the years before we made contact with the humans, a few of our fellow beings crashed in a place the earthlings call Roswell. We never heard from them again but can only imagine the terrible fate they must have met. Judging by how they treat the creatures who share the planet with them, creatures they refer to as lower animals, it is too horrible to imagine. Rather than respecting and celebrating the diversity of life on earth, they eat these other animals and wear them for clothing. Sometimes, they even kill them just for fun, or what they refer to as “sport”. Some kinds of animals are spared this fate. However, this is limited to animals they consider to be cute and can be trained not to leave droppings on their carpets.

It is also peculiar to us that they use the term lower animal when referring to non-human creatures since, in all of our studies, we have only seen these lower animals kill each other for survival, never for fun or profit, as human beings routinely do. So many mysteries . . .

One of the most common questions we have heard the earthlings ask is why we always fly over unpopulated areas and not their big cities. Of course, the answer is obvious. With all of their weapons pointing toward the heavens and their inherent propensity to use them, it would be foolish indeed for us to do so. Therefore, in the interest of continuing our studies, we must remain in the quieter, more peaceful areas.

I should add that not all human beings are bad. There are even a few good ones in the big cities where most of the bad things occur. Many human beings even become crusaders, desperately trying to save the human race from destroying itself.  Unfortunately, these people usually lead tormented lives, burdened as they are by such a monumental task.

The purpose of this lecture was not to scare you but to heighten your appreciation of our beautiful world by observing a less fortunate one. Please don’t worry. Human beings have not yet attained the technology necessary to reach our planet.

Class dismissed.

A New Friend for My Lonely Doggy

My dog was lonely and in need of a haircut, so I made a new pal for him out of his trimmings. Problem solved!

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(Just kidding. Don’t worry. I have two dogs and they have lots of fun together. Actually, they were both very excited about this new friend but soon lost interest because he just lays around all the time.)

Writing Greatness (short story, humor)

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Donovan Stone wanted to be a writer more than anyone had since the first hieroglyphs were scratched onto the wall of the first pyramid. He had read just about every book written on the craft, attended every fiction writing class he could, and had even changed his name to something he thought sounded more writer-ish. His actual name was Sidney Weatherwax, which he considered singularly inglorious and not in keeping with the illustrious future he had planned for himself.

In one of his writing books, the author outlined his formula for greatness. “There are three kinds of writers,” he wrote –

1. Those who stink and don’t know they stink. This type of writer’s efforts will only be a big waste of everyone’s time, primarily his own. One lifetime is never enough to overcome pure, unadulterated stinkiness.

2. Those who stink and are determined to become less stinky. This type of writer faces an uphill climb but may someday create something passable, albeit inconsistently, and then only by dumb luck.”

3. Those who are great by divine intervention or some accident of nature and who couldn’t write poorly if they were being suspended over a pool of sharks. Only this kind of writer will ever be truly great, and even he doesn’t know how he does it. If you’re wondering if you’re this kind of writer, you’re not. You wouldn’t have to ask. Quit now.

Donovan wept uncontrollably after reading this, fearing he was a category two writer. When his wrenching sobs subsided, he steeled his resolve to achieve greatness. Still, every effort was met with severe frustration. There was just nothing in there. He loved poetry but every word he wrote, nay, every letter, was a struggle he likened to childbirth.

One of his first poems read:

Her love reminds me of flowers.
I don’t need her tomorrow, but nowers.

He saw nothing wrong with the use of the non-word “nowers” because he once read that Shakespeare created many words when ordinary language failed him.

Donovan’s poem continued:

She’s hot, like a jalapeno squirt.
I would cut off my ear, but it would hurt.

He thought the Van Gogh reference was pure genius, others not so much. In fact, when he shared it with the crowd at The Daily Grind Coffeehouse, a normally gracious group, they laughed unguardedly, assuming his poem was meant to be funny.

With sweat beading on his upper lip, he continued,
“My love is a sponge,
On our love raft, we will plunge.”

The laughter grew louder. Trembling with a mixture of embarrassment and rage, he pressed on,
“Her love is a towel
cooling my weary browel.”

That was it. The room erupted. He could have saved himself some humiliation if he had pretended he meant it to be funny, but he was cut to the quick. He threw his Gauloise cigarette on the floor, spit in a very French manner, and said, “You people wouldn’t know talent if it bit you on your fat, pimply asses!” He then kicked over a table and stormed out the back door into the alley. He kicked over trash cans all the way home, cursing about how most great artists were misunderstood and how that audience of barn animals was just too ignorant to grasp someone as brilliant and tortured as he.

The next week was spent in a bottomless purple funk. He drank excessively, didn’t bathe, and barely ate. If his phone ever rang, he wouldn’t have even answered it.

He felt comforted by the tragic lives many great artists had. Hemingway shot himself. Plath had electroshock therapy in an attempt to cure suicidal tendencies. Dostoyevsky was exiled in Siberia for his political opinions. He felt he was suffering along with them, equally unappreciated. The more he suffered, the more romantic it felt. Unfortunately, he was the only one who felt it.

His father was no help. The last time he had spoken to him, he said, “Son, it’s time to grow up. How much of your life are you planning to waste on this pipe dream? Even the best writers struggle to eke out a living, and frankly, you ain’t one of ‘em. I found a poem in a notebook you left in the back yard and it stunk. Wait here, I’ll get it.”
He walked away and returned with a tattered, coffee-stained notebook, flipped through it and found the page.
“Oh, here it is,” he said. “Explain this one to me, if you even can. He began to read, “Flaming doorknobs tumble down my blasphemous eyebrows. The tragic sand screams oblong operettas to my parched bicycle seat. I am.”

He set the notebook down and asked, “What in hell’s blue blazes is that supposed to mean, Sidney? Why can’t you write a nice, rhyming poem that tells a story like Robert Frost or that Longfellow guy used to do?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” he replied, “and my name is Donovan.”

“That’s another thing. That name might work if, A, it was 1957, and, B, you were a teen idol.”

“Look, daddio,” Donovan replied, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. You know who said that? Einstein! That’s who!”

“Daddio? What is this? 1968? It’s 2014! Wake up and smell the failure, hepcat!”

After a pause, his father softened and said, “Look, son. I just want you to be happy. I hate seeing you running down a dead end like this, because there’s a big, brick wall at the end of it and you’re not gonna see it coming until it’s too late. I mean, of all things to choose to be, you had to pick a writer? Nothing has ever happened to you! I did two tours in Vietnam, was a prisoner of war, and survived cancer that damn Agent Orange gave me! If anyone should be a writer, it’s me!”

“Oh, so that’s it!” Donovan snapped. “You’re jealous because I’m a writer and you’re not!”

“Yeah, I’m real jealous I don’t have flaming door knobs tumbling down my blasphemous eyebrows. Think about it, son. All the great writers lived through some heavy stuff. Tennessee Williams had diphtheria as kid, was tormented by a sadistic father, lived most of his life as a repressed homosexual, and died penniless after a nervous breakdown. But his sister one-upped him by getting a frontal lobotomy! So, again, what have you been through? What gives you the right to call yourself a writer? I would suggest you do some living first, then grace the world with your insights. You’re putting the cart before the horse, boy!”

Donovan couldn’t take anymore. He stormed out. He was good at storming. He hadn’t spoken to his father since, which was difficult because he still lived at home. Though he cursed him, he couldn’t get his words out of his mind. What did give him the right to call himself a writer? Maybe writing was so hard for him because nothing worth writing about had ever happened to him. He was forced to conclude that his father was right. He decided to change that. He would do things, dammit, and starting right now.
He showered, found clothes that smelled the least bad, and walked to a military recruiting office in his local mall. Many great writers had brushes with death, and killed many men in battle. He would, too. That would show his dad.

He tried to enlist in the Army but was rejected because the minimum push-up requirement was forty-two and he was only able to do seven. The reviewer also mentioned a comment he had made in his application about hating America for runaway Capitalism and Imperialist foreign policies.

Dejected but still determined to have something bad happen to him, he put on a white suit and costume jewelry rings, stuffed his wallet with toilet paper until it bulged, and walked through the worst neighborhood he could find on Saturday at midnight. A group of gang-bangers pulled up in a car next to him and yelled very hurtful things. His mania was such that he had no fear for his safety, but instead thought, “This will make a great story!” One of the men got out of the car and started pushing him around, but an elderly woman ran out of a nearby house and yelled, “You get on home and leave that boy alone! He’s obviously not right in the head!”
She drove Donovan home that night, gave him a lecture he thought would never end, and handed him a Bible, saying, “You need a whole lot of Jesus, son.”

Actually, the old lady’s lecture was the worst ordeal he had ever endured, much worse than being beaten and robbed would have been, so he was off to a great start.

As he lay in bed that night, it dawned on him that he was going about things all wrong. Instead of trying to make bad things happen to him, he would do bad things himself! Be pro-active! His father always said he lacked initiative and was hiding in writing as a way to avoid taking real chances in life. This would show him once and for all!

The next morning, he bought a pellet gun at Big 5 and a pair of nylon stockings at 7/11, walked to his local credit union, pulled the stocking over his head, pulled out the gun, walked in and yelled, “This is a stick up!”
None of the customers paid much attention because his voice lacked the requisite amount of bass to properly scare anyone. A teller nearby recognized his voice because he chose to rob a bank he’d had an account at for several years.

“Sidney, what are you doing?” she asked.

“It’s not me,” he said. “Uh, I mean, who’s Sidney?”

“I know your voice, Sidney,” she replied.

He was then tackled by an elderly security guard who had been awakened by the conversation. However, due to his advanced age, he began to clutch his chest. He had a heart attack and was dead in under a minute.

The trial was only a formality. Due to a recent rash of bank robberies, and because he had induced the guard’s death, the judge made an example of him. He received the maximum sentence of thirty years for robbery and involuntary manslaughter.

During his first year in prison, he was subjected to every atrocity imaginable, but his mania to amass colorful experiences to someday write about still overrode even his own retched misery. Finally, he was experiencing something extreme and dramatic, fodder for great literature. Talking to his cellmate one day to pass the time, a psychotic, sexually ambiguous brute nicknamed Crusher, he said, “I’m here voluntarily, I’ll have you know. All this stuff that’s happening to me, including what you did last night, is going to be in a book someday. Remember my name because I’m going to be famous.”
“Cedric Weatherwax?” Crusher replied.

“No! Donovan Stone, man!”

Crusher laughed and said, “Don’t you know federal law prohibits you from profiting from your crime or anything that happens to you in here? You’ll never get that book through the bars!”

After a few months of severe depression, Donovan signed up to read a poem at the prison talent show. Surely, he thought, this menagerie of nincompoops would be impressed with his talent. He walked to the stage, cleared his throat, and said, “Her love reminds me of flowers. I don’t need her tomorrow but nowers.”

The prisoners laughed and laughed, and Donovan stormed back to his cell.

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 21 – The Fungal Bungle

Welcome to episode 21 of Messin’ with Mark!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode – Fungal Bungle!

I was in Brugge, Belgium, in the first month of what would turn out to be a six-month backpacking trip through Europe and the Greek Islands. I got so carried away sightseeing with new friends that I forgot to call my parents. I was staying at a youth hostel but their phone was out of order. This was back in the day before cell phones. (Yeah, I’m getting up there. Don’t give me a hard time about it.) I was feeling very guilty because I had promised my mother I would call her at a certain time every week to let her know I was still alive. An employee of the hostel said, “I have to go home and get something. You’re welcome to use my phone.” I thought this was very generous of him and I gladly accepted, telling him I would reverse the charges.

We had a pleasant conversation on the way there. He pointed me toward the phone and sat in the living room. As I chatted with my parents, I was somewhat repulsed by the sight of my generous host picking bits of flesh from between his toes due to an advanced case of athlete’s foot or some other fungal infection. I retched slightly, turned away so I wouldn’t have to witness this unsavory spectacle any longer, and was able to put the horror of it out of my mind and finish the phone call.

We got back on the road and I was enjoying the scenery so much I forgot about the fungus among-us. He stopped at a market. I went in with him and bought a bag of peanuts and a Coke. We got back into the car and were about halfway back to the hostel when I realized I hadn’t offered him any of my peanuts. How rude of me! He gladly accepted and took a few handfuls as we talked about life in Belgium, my travel plans, my life back in California, etc., when two things suddenly dawned on me –

  1. He didn’t wash his hands after picking at his foot scabs and fresh pustules.
  2. He was using the same hand to eat MY peanuts!

The problem was I had already ingested several handfuls of peanuts before I made this realization. 

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Uh-huh. I had swallowed and was now digesting the foot fungus of a complete stranger. I mean, if you’re going to snack on foot bacteria, you at least would prefer that it belong to a close friend or family member. 

I managed to keep it together and stay very stoic so he wouldn’t catch on that I was worried about his disease-riddled hand, but inside I felt like the sleeping guy in those prank videos that is woken up by all his friends pretending they’re about to crash. 

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As is usually the case, I didn’t realize I was smack-dab-o-rooney in the middle of another episode of Messin’ with Mark until this moment. I looked up and thought to God, “You’re at it again, aren’t ya?” I could almost hear the laughter from above the clouds. 

I remembered hearing that the acid in Coca-Cola could dissolve rust so I guzzled, gargled and rinsed with it, hoping it would do a similar number on the fungus I had just snacked upon. Then I stuck my head out of the window and spit out the peanut fragments that were in my mouth from the last handful. The ones that were in my stomach – well, I figured I would just have to wait to find out if I would be seeing them again. I was repulsed but not quite badly enough to vomit outright. 

When I had shaken off the nausea, I handed him the bag and said he could finish them. He eagerly polished them off, his foot flakes and oils blending with the peanut salt. I sat silently, struggling to keep my stomach right-side-up as the car filled with an aroma that now smelled like a foot covered with peanut sauce. 

I spent the rest of the trip with my head partially out the window like a labrador to escape the retched odor, thinking what I always do at the end of another episode of Messin’ with Mark . . .

“Well played, God. Well played.” 

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Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom! Episode 20 – The Sting

Welcome to episode 20 of Messin’ with Mark! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode – The Sting.

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As you will see, dear reader, that title has a double-meaning. It was a sting operation by God and I also got my butt stung off by bees. Allow me to explain . . .

I got a wild hair one weekend and decided to go rock climbing. I didn’t want to drive far so I went to Griffith Park, which is a few miles from my house. I wouldn’t admit it then, but in retrospect I must admit I was a classic weekend warrior. Minimal rock climbing experience, no proper gear, not really in top shape for such activity, and no research ahead of time on the area where I’d be hiking. If I had known the mountain was called BEE ROCK (!), I probably would have chosen another one. 

Here it is. Looks inviting enough, doesn’t it?

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See that crevice at the bottom right? That’s where I started. I got to the top and was almost doing the splits with a seventy foot drop beneath me when it finally dawned on me that I had written a check my body couldn’t cash. It was also at that moment that I realized I was smack-dab in the middle of another episode of Messin’ with Mark, God’s sitcom!

As if I weren’t in enough trouble, bees started to sting me. Dozens of them. And I couldn’t run or hide. All I could do was stay there clinging to vertical rock faces on either side, hoping the bees would get bored.

They didn’t. They invited friends.

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I realized I needed to get down or move over. There was only one crag within distance – jumping distance. I knew if I stayed there, the collective bee venom would paralyze me and I would fall to my untimely demise. 

I can just imagine the control booth up in heaven at about this time, with Jesus looking at his Dad sideways, wondering if he was going to let up. Seeing He had no intention of cutting me any slack whatsoever, He had to say something.

JESUS: Okay, Dad, you’ve gone too far this time. He’s gonna die.

GOD: So what? I’m God. I’ll just make another one.

JESUS: But this is a comedy. He’s the original actor. Sequels and look-alike’s never capture the original magic. Didn’t we learn anything from Home Alone 3 and 4?

GOD: Maybe you’re right. I’ll put a crag next to him, but far enough away so he has to make a death-defying jump from a splits position to reach it. Should be exciting!

JESUS: Okay, but please just make sure he makes it. Seeing him go splat would definitely be bad for ratings. I mean, humiliating him mercilessly over and over is great entertainment, but killing him outright is just mean. Nobody will tell you you’re a terrible director because you’re God and all, but they’ll be thinking it.

GOD: As if that helps. I know what they’re thinking, too.

JESUS: Dad, don’t get all Old Testament on me.

GOD: Okay, okay! I got the message.

So I jumped, caught it, and managed to crawl far enough up the mountain that the bees finally realized I wasn’t trying to steal their honey or whatever the hell it is bees get all uppity about. 

Bees seem so cute from a distance, flying from flower to flower. The springtime innocence of it warms the very soul. Not so much when there’s 93,000 of them all intent on stinging every square millimeter of your personage. And they look a lot bigger when they’re actually on you, too.

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I spent the next few days looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which I’m sure also fetched big laughs up in heaven.

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As I lay there on the couch, slapping on the calamine lotion, I looked through the window to the big, blue sky and repeated those words I have said so many times before, usually in various states of emotional and/or physical trauma . . .

“Well-played, God. Well-played.”

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