Deal 1021: Staged

The crowd has been well-behaved as dusk settles over the amphitheatre. The early warm up acts were fun for passing time until the main event, but may not be memorable. Except that one guy that… but I digress. Night arrives swiftly at this place, so it almost seems as if someone has simply thrown a switch and turned off the sky. Then, as our eyes adjust, we realize that he also turned on the stars.

Everyone quickly settles back into their seats as the amphitheatre plunges from navigable to one giant tripping hazard. We all quiet with anticipation.

The stage lights come up to reveal a contraption of some sort on an empty stage.

It fires bundles into the front three rows that turn out to be ponchos. Nervous laughter ensues, but the front three rows also don the ponchos.

The device spins around. As it turns, spotlights reflect off it and scan the crowd. It stops, with a pin spot reflected onto a single seat, near an aisle. The other spotlight operators turn their lights around and join in, The seat is empty. Which seems a little strange in an otherwise sold-out house. The lights go off for a moment, then on, as all the spot operators blink their shutters in unison. Now the seat is occupied.

The occupant is dressed a little more formally than the rest of the audience. After a moment, he stands, and the crowd begins to realize that this was his entrance. He makes his way to the stage.

From that beginning, the show got weird.

At one point, he was juggling kids borrowed from the audience.

He set up a series of gramophones, and attempted to identify which was producing live sound and not a recording with the help of a small dog.

He did a knife catching act with dull knives.

It was strange and wondrous. All the professional performers who saw him were green with envy at his management of the crowd’s attention.

He did things that every critic had panned with their typical poisoned pens. But it probably didn’t help that his final bit was designed to annoy critics. He even said so from the stage, pointing out that by and large most critics would have already filed their reviews of his show by that point, so it was perfectly safe to mock them.

When the house lights came up, the audience response was immense.


Deal 1014: A Modern Modest Proposal

We all agree, I am sure, that there are too many cars driven by idiots and maniacs between us and our destinations. They clog the roads, pollute the skies, cause accidents, and are generally annoying. Worse, many lack the proper training to operate their cars, and many lack the proper endorsement of the authorities. These latter properties become a problem as incidents happen that are other than a pure accident. An improperly trained driver, lacking a license to drive, also typically lacks the means to pay damages they cause.

Further, our roads are perpetually in disarray, with unpatched potholes a frequent complaint.

Raising the alarm has not, thus far, been successful.

Unqualified buffoons continue to clog the roads, and the authorities seem powerless to resolve the problem.

I offer a solution, after the authority of the notable Swift. A modest proposal, if you will.

Fill the potholes in the roads with materials made from the bodies of the unlicensed drivers.

Cremation provides an average of a tenth part of a talent1 of material. It can be used as sand along with suitable crushed rock in an asphaltum hole-filling medium. Patching and filling compounds can benefit from a few percent of dust or sand mixed with the larger aggregate in the cold mix process, so one fool’s cremated remains can be extended to perhaps a quarter ton2 of aggregate, which at three stone3 per pothole will patch about a dozen typical holes. These figures are based entirely on half a millifortnight4 of looking things up on the internet, and should be assumed to be absolutely true on that basis.

To satisfy concerns of family of those used for road patches, suitable recordings can be made of the specific holes filled by each individual’s remains.

In this way, the debt to society imposed by the willful disregard for public safety can be used to repair a public nuisance.

  1. One talent weighs between 50 and 70 pounds depending on region. 
  2. A lot, or 2000 pounds. 
  3. 3 stone is 42 pounds. 
  4. a millifortnight is bit more than 20 minutes. 

Deal 973: Not dying

I’m generally pretty cheerful for someone who’s been to hell and back.

I don’t bite, and I try hard to avoid unreasonable fears.

So when they tried to poison me, I did my best to not be annoyed. But you don’t need to wake up to poisoned cereal very often before it begins to leave the impression that you aren’t wanted.

Still, I put it aside and continued on my assigned task.

Then the accidents began to happen.

The spiked shoes were, I’m certain, just an accident.

The large saw that got loose and nearly decapitated me was at least partly due to my own clumsiness.

The tree the fell the wrong way and landed on my tent had to be a freak wind gust at the critical moment when the tree was felled but hadn’t yet realized.

Then I examined the stump, and there were signs that it might have been dressed after the tree fell to adjust perception.

And that saw, well it had never done that before I arrived (or since, but I couldn’t know that then).

The message began to become clear to me. I can be pretty stubborn, but you only have to drop one tree on me to get my attention. Unfortunately you apparently do have to drop a tree before you get my attention.

Now that you have my attention, be very sure that you wanted it. Because I am stubborn this way too.

Now that I think about it, I must be the only one taking home poisoned breakfast cereal or there’s be a run on the doctor’s tent. Ditto for mechanical mishaps. That loose saw had scared many people around the camp, but had also made a clear run through camp without leveling a single tent or even coming close to injuring anyone. It might have got me if I hadn’t been shaving and seen the motion in the mirror.

I fear not for myself, but for the others.

One of these attempts is going to succeed, and I will regret the collateral damage that results. Or maybe the nearly unthinkable will happen and I will be killed. I’ve never been assured that I am immortal, after all. In point of fact, I’ve never been told anything. I’m just very hard to kill.


Deal 949: Spots

The lights went down, and the audience held their breath for a moment. When the single pin spot appeared picking out a man standing alone on the dark stage, they applauded.

He was dressed conservatively in greys, with a splash of bright color at one lapel. He wore a bowler in dove grey with a narrow brim, and a single bright feather tucked in the band, which he removed with a flourish. Reaching into the hat, he became very puzzled, and reached further. This continued until his entire right arm was inside the hat. Then he found what he was reaching for, and withdrew the arm to reveal a bouquet of flowers.

A second pin spot appeared, illuminating a side table holding a vase. He walked over and placed the flowers inside, leaving the center spot empty. The flowers in the vase were a completely different color and variety, which didn’t seem to be noticed.

He stepped back into the center spot and tossed his hat off to the side. A third spot lit up on a hat stand just before the hat landed neatly on its top peg.

There was a loud squawk from the hat when it landed.

He ran over to the hat stand, reached under the hat and produced a large green parrot, which looked to be larger than the hat. He moved the hat to a lower peg and set the parrot down on the peg vacated by the hat. Now there was a noise from the vase.

He ran across to the vase, and found that the flowers were missing and in their place stood a very large bullfrog, croaking.

Hypnotizing the frog, he picked up a large cloth from the table, and draped it over the whole table, frog and all.

The parrot squawked. The lights flashed. The frog croaked again.

The draped table began to move, unfolding and lifting, until the drape was just barely off the floor.

The parrot squawked.

The drape dropped. In the place of the table, frog, and flowers stood a beautiful girl holding a single bloom.

As she took a bow, the audience realized that there was nothing else on the stage, and only a single pin spot lit the darkness.

The spot went out.