something funny


   And just as man doesn’t live by bread alone, or wine alone, or cheeses or meats alone, so too do writer’s need variety in their diets. I’ve been penning novels and some short stories over the course of my – by some accounts – sixty-year career but of late I found that I wanted to taste something different. It is for this reason that I embarked upon a “blog” wherein I could write a fantastical little story everyday. I did however want to keep it at a distance from my other writings – as the stories were rough and unedited – therefore I’ve been writing under an assumed name with each and every story for the past six months.

   Today I felt it was time to reveal the truth.

   I hope you enjoy today’s short-short burst of fiction.



Forevermore at Most



    The father with a prosthetic arm is taking his five-year-old son out to the large green park five minutes from their doorstep. Their Siberian Husky, Bobo – named after the father’s favorite jazz pianist, Bobo Stensen, is on a leash and the boy holds onto the strap which is looped around his father’s hand. In this touch, the son feels like he’s responsible for taking the dog out for a walk but by the time they reach the park the son is tugging at the strap, hoping to take full possession of the dog. But they’re at the park and the son might as well be trying to leash the wind or sun because their dog knows that now’s his time to run up and down the green field. Bobo tugs at the leash and the man is pulled forward. Bobo, he says firmly and the dog’s ears move back but he still smiles. I want to hold him, the five-year-old boy cries and stamps his foot on the green grass but it’s too late because Bobo is running with his tongue hanging out of his mouth the way his head would be hanging out of a car window. The boy sniffles and shouts, bad dog but Bobo is already at a distance. The father notes this new insistence in the boy who’s just started school. Perhaps, he’s trying to regain control over a world that’s changing. The father is a psychologist and tinkers all day with people and theories about their actions. The father tells the boy not to cry but this only serves as a challenge and the boy cries louder. Bobo wags his tail in the distance and then starts to run back. He looks up waiting for the familiar orange of the plastic ball. The father throws the ball with his right arm which is his flesh and blood arm. Do you want to go home, he asks his son who then starts to wail like a siren. Other people in the once quiet park look over to the pair. Bobo is already back with the ball in his mouth. His tail wags like a metronome on its fastest setting. At the sight of Bobo, the boy cries all the harder, reaching his own loudest setting. The father can’t explain this dramatic display of grief in his son. Bobo drops the ball between the boy and his father. Do you want to throw the ball, the father asks but the boy doesn’t want to release anything, he wants to hold something in his hands but how can the father know this? After all he’s not a child psychologist. Distracted, the father puts the ball into his left arm which, when he goes to throw the ball, flies out into the air with the ball. The dog is impressed with the variety of choice and brings back the prosthetic forearm. The boy wipes his tears, takes the arm from the dog and gives it to his father. Here’s a simple solution to all their worries. All three are happy once again.


   Yes and I’ve been having no small measure of bullshit problems recently. I keep getting blocked from the Internet!! Can you believe that? Me! That’s why I haven’t been posting stories with any regularity over the past two weeks. Somebody’s out to get me and I suspect it’s that Berners-Lee. Yes, the dude who started the WWW back in 1989. Okay, I know this shop-talk bitch fest is a little insular. It’s like watching nerds throw their glasses at each other. All I’m saying is that I want to have access to the web like everyone else.

   Before the troubles began I was writing a short-short story everyday on this blog. Everyday I pretended to be somebody different as an experimental new FaceBook application. I’m working on code that will generate a story to your specifications. You can send a short-short story to a friend as a gift. Just put in the name you want the main character to have, some kind of object that will be the main character’s demise and finally a setting. But for some reason – which I won’t get into here – Berners-Lee claimed to have come up with the code for this and then I suddenly keep getting blocked from the web. Can you believe that? Me? Mr. Facebook himself!! (I have 31,356,549 friends)

   Anyway here’s a ridiculous story for the day…



The Difference is Spreading



    He opens his hand and reveals another hand which opens in turn to reveal another and so on and so forth until there is a tiny hand that opens up to nothing. This is the trick the twenty-armed man likes to play for his siblings. His arms are like tree branches that sprout at the top of his shoulders and then slide down to make room for more. On their way down his side they get larger and larger. Right now – at the age of 13 – his lowest arms come out from the sides of his knees.

     His 4 brothers and sisters – normal except for the youngest who’s cross-eyed – applaud their brother’s game of suspense. Sometimes there’s a candy or a uniquely patterned pebble at the end and sometimes – like a sad ending to a European movie – there’s nothing but emptiness but it’s worth the price of admission. It’s thrilling to see so many hands consecutively open up. So many identical palms revealed one after another. The children are poor and know no other form of entertainment. In the past they used to climb their brother’s arms like a tree but since he reached 13 he’s complained about aches and pains in his bones and he doesn’t want the little ones scrambling up his limbs. Soon, he tells them, soon.

    They are a happy family who live on a farm in the middle of Saskatchewan but their father is an alcoholic. He’s a happy alcoholic who smiles widest when he drinks deeply from his homemade moonshine. He wipes the remnants of liquor off his lips and sings some kind of song in a language no one in the family comprehends. In fact, in French he sings about the wonders of having a 20-armed son. He stole normality, my heavily armed son, is what one line translates to. He loves to spit when he’s in the mood.

    The matriarch of all this moves quickly from room to room to house to barn and back again and it’s almost impossible to keep up with her long enough to get any detail straight. She’s fast and productive and proud of her deformed son, proud that he’s productive. He does more in the kitchen in five minutest than ten women could do in an hour. He’s a time-saver but she still has many things to do. She needs to keep the children out of the living room when her husband is labouring under a hangover.  She needs to keep the taxman at bay with baked goods. She needs to collect the dappled eggs. She needs to do so much but she’s so disorganized that she runs around doing very little. But she’s happy. Proud.

     I’m the dog that sits by the fence in front of the house. I wait for a car to stop so that I can jump in and wag my tail while I stick my face out the window. That’s my basic dream. In other dreams we’re driving after cats in fast cars. We drive just as fast and when we hit the horn the car barks. The car in front of us is packed with hundreds of cats that sometimes fall out the windows. I reach out the window and grab them and throw them into our car. When I wake up from my dreams I look into my paws and I realize that I can’t grasp a thing.

   And this blog is the result of a plea bargain of sorts with the powers that be in the afterlife. You see I couldn’t stand it another minute in the beatific glow and hum of the Great Beyond. There were more spirits swirling around than you could shake a stick at. Believe me I tried. I tried to chase off the angelic revelers to find some solitude to contemplate just a little inner gloom but it was to no avail. Heaven knows how I made it to heaven but apparently they’re letting almost everyone in these days. It’s like Woodstock but instead of mud there are angel feathers littering up the joint and everyone takes the rainbow acid which you get by opening your mouth in the presence of God himself and it never produces a bad trip. La-de-duh.

  I hated it.

  So I found an escape route. Through a complicated corporate web which I can’t get into here there are deals that link heaven with certain corporate bodies on earth. (Yes, accountants have supplanted writers as the creative forces of the 21st century.)  Within this network of tax-sheltering schemes, there is a link between the Pearly Gates and Penguin Books. Basically, I get a couple hours of solitude everyday to write whatever I want. I can attempt to dig into the depths of the rock bottom of my soul and break shovel-blade after shovel-blade, day after day. For my part I also have to produce something everyday on this blog. Penguin gets exclusive rights to everything that I produce and this blog is intended to promote that first book which is coming out next spring. The book, a collection of fragments of stories that fail miserably, is entitled, “Burn this Book.”  Some of the stories on this blog are featured on it.

   It’s one way to make an afterlife living.




Setting the Record Straight: a Correspondence between an Uncle and a Nephew on the Topic of a Kafka Submission for Mcsweeney’s Internet Tendency


Email #1:  Rejection 


From: Web Submissions <>

Date: June 5, 2008 4:16:06 AM PDT (CA)

To: Kevin SPENST <>

Subject: Re: If Kafka Wrote Stock Market Reports


Hi, Kevin –


While I think this is how Kafka would indeed write stock reports, I’m going to pass. We ran a Kafka-themed piece a short while ago and are not ready to return to him just yet.







 Email #2: Uncle to Nephew 




  They are so coy in their rejection letters.


Uncle Kevin



Begin forwarded message:

From: Web Submissions <>

Date: June 5, 2008 4:16:06 AM PDT (CA)

To: Kevin SPENST <>

Subject: Re: If Kafka Wrote Stock Market Reports


Hi, Kevin –


While I think this is how Kafka would indeed write stock reports, I’m going to pass. We ran a Kafka-themed piece a short while ago and are not ready to return to him just yet.





Email #3: Nephew to Uncle



Well he does have a point.  It’s not called “McKafka’s”.





Email #3: Uncle to Nephew


kakfa suffered his entire 41 years of life on this miserable earth and mcsweeny’s can’t celebrate that by having two kafka pieces in one season?


Email #4: Nephew to Uncle


Kafka was a crybaby…


Email #5: Uncle to Nephew

correction, Kafka is a thinking man’s crybaby

   I have one of the best jobs in the world. I step into a Flight Centre, sit down across from a smiling sales representative and ask how much it is to Tokyo, Korea or Brussels, France. Sometimes they think I’m joking and they laugh but I hold onto an earnest expression until they realize that I only have a grade one knowledge of geography. I ask a hundred other ridiculous questions, to test their patience with customers, and then I sometimes go over to the big map on the wall and ask how much that would cost. I’m a pain in the ass sure but through my dedication to my profession some of the weaker employees have been culled from the Flight Centre. 

    Each story that I’ve written on this blog is something that I’ve included in one of my tours of duty in a Flight Centre. After asking how much a Eurail pass is I’ll go into a rant about my idiot neighbour. Essentially, this blog is where I practice my ridiculous stories that I use in the line of duty.

   I’ve introduced myself as somebody different everyday in order to throw anyone off my trail. I didn’t want to reveal the tricks of my trade. Starting today, however, I’m training other secret shoppers and I’m using this blog as an educational tool. 

   Enjoy today’s story…



Snakes, Flowers, Gorillas and Mariachi Bands on Planes 


   I’d like our flight to take off in the evening, just at the tiniest hint of twilight if possible. I want to fly up as the sun is going down so that we can see the sun go back up again. It’ll be as if the sun is doing a double take on how romantic our evening is. Yes, it’s going to be a romantic vacation for us and I’d like to start it off right, you know, flowers, a mariachi band and a gorilla with flowers. It’s all in this poem which I’ve written for the occasion. Do you know who I’d call to get the green light for all that? I realize there’s not a lot of space on a plane but do you realize that Janice and I are both cancer survivors? Do you realize how important a ten-year anniversary is to one cancer survivor? Can you imagine two? Yes, it’s precious and there’s always room for compromise. Will it upset the other passengers? Well then I have a suggestion for the airline. No Snakes on Planes. I can’t believe they played that movie on the last flight I took to Europe. If the airlines want to reduce air-rage well why not show something a little more relaxing. They can stop their persecution of mariachi bands who want to make an honest living by playing for a cancer couple’s ten-year anniversary. What’s wrong with this country? Won’t all this simply add to everyone’s experience. The sun going down and up and music playing ay-ya-yayayyay. I’ll be getting into my gorilla costume – that’s how Janice and I met – and when I come out with the balloons the pilot will read out my poem. Do you know who our pilot will be? I’d like to ask him about reading this poem. If possible I’d like a pilot who’s survived cancer. Somebody that can relate. When was the last time you survived cancer? Well it’s important. 

    Time to come clear. I’m not George Stroumboulopoulos, or a precocious 9-year-old or even the grandson of James Joyce. In fact none of the people I’ve claimed to be over the past five months on this blog are really me.  Truth is I’m just a guy trying to get some good old-fashioned laughs. I do stuff here and there  (yes that’s quoted from an actual resume I wrote once) and when I’m not busy with all that I like to pretend I’m somebody else and write a story under their name. It’s an internet hobby that a lot of people are taking part in these days. 

  So here’s today’s story…


The World Throws a Surprise Party for the Secretary General of the United Nations


   Mrs. Ban: It was so nice of the world to throw my husband that party. And the organization really impressed us. All those people. All the people of the world! The entire world yelling “surprise” at once. It was remarkable. Very loud. I’m sorry I reached for my mace but I was startled. After I was over the shock, I was delighted. I giggled. It’s been a long time since I made that sound. The cake incident was unfortunate but Ban and I don’t like to dwell on mistakes. Or the other things that happened. But in the end it was very nice of the world to make Ban’s birthday so memorable. That’s what’s important.


Crane Operator: Well when I got the call, I thought it was a prank but when those suits from the UN showed up at my doorstep with all that money I knew they meant business. And then there was that invitation to the surprise party for Ban Ki-Moon in the mail the next day so I was like Yeah this is for real and sure it was kind of thrilling to think that I’d been chosen to lower the giant cake on top of the Bans. I mean from being a snot-nosed kid in the Bronx to being in the middle of a crowd of billions, kind of gives you a rush. A cake made up of giant children holding hands. It was touching. And delicious. I swear I had no idea the chains couldn’t hold it. I thought everything was sound. And yeah it fell on Mr. Ban. But he ate his way out. The photo taken of him eating his way out was unfortunate. That shouldn’t have been taken but everyone was pretty good about it. Yeah, and then that other incident.


Photographer: Well how could I not take that picture? I mean it was slightly salacious but come on everyone’s got a sense of humor. I mean you have to nowadays. The UN’s top banana with his head popping out from the crotch of that cake-kid and I went berserk. I must have taken about a hundred photos of that moment. Memorable is right. I mean it was nicely organized but you don’t want a day like that to go too perfectly. Then it’s boring. Now we really have an image that’ll help us remember the time the world set aside their differences for a while and did something together for a change. But oh man with his head sticking out from the crotch of that cake-boy. Funny stuff. And then when he pulled Oprah and Obama and Putin – I think it was Putin –  into the cake and there was a giant cake fight. You know I can’t even pinpoint the exact moment people started shooting each other.



Organizer #264: Well we knew there would be some logistic problems. That’s what the supercomputers kept telling us but we kept plugging away at inputting data and things ended up pretty damn organized. There were the shootings near the end. Yes. The riot broke out in sector 456, that was an area we hadn’t anticipated as being so problematic. It spread all the way to the epicenter of the event in a matter of minutes. We told everyone to leave their guns at home. But there weren’t any more deaths than there are on average. Globally. That’s an important fact the papers keep leaving out.



Pizza Guy: Sold a hell of a lot of pizza but that doesn’t mean there was a conspiracy. I mean I knew the organizers and so I got the contract. What’s wrong with that? It was a surprise party and if they’d advertised the position, Ban might’ve caught wind of the event. I mean come on, people. I sell good pizza and so when that hooligan punk made disparaging remarks about me and my nepotistic pizza, I gave him the what for. And then somebody pulled a gun. Really shitty. I mean one day. Can’t we have one day for a guy’s birthday. I mean I don’t know him but he’s never done me no harm. Throw the guy a surprise party. Yeah, it’s a lot of work but they’ve got computers doing most of the hard stuff.

    Yes, I’m George Stroumboulopoulos and I’m here to prove that I’m more than just a funny name. I’m also a writer. The stories that have been penned over the past five months on this site are none other than creations of yours truly. Yeah, I love hanging with guests at the Hour but in the evenings when I’m home alone, I sit down and write up a little something within the gathering silence of my soul.

   Yes, I’ve been fibbing for the past five months about my real identity but I wanted this site to make it on its own. I’ve had a lot of fun pretending to be others. I even got a comment recently from someone thinking that I was Yann Martel.  As this blog has almost reached five thousand visits I think it stands on its own and I can tell you who I really am.

   I hope you enjoy…



The Writer, the Thief, the Cop and the Father of Something


   A block from home, John got off the #4 to stroll along his favorite route. It was a cold, rainy Monday in June but he felt refreshed, brimming with optimism and the light rain felt full of memories. At a leisurely pace, his shoes slapping the small puddles on the sidewalk, he took greater notice of the world around him. A middle aged woman who’d also just gotten off the bus fumbled through a mess of unknowns to get to the keys in her black purse. John watched her carefully as she opened the front door of her apartment. “Dig through every moment for clusters of detail,” John thought to himself but she was already out of his view. Turning the corner at Pandora, he scanned the odds and ends of lifestyles cluttered on the patios of a three-story apartment building. He noticed how easy it would be to step up from the brick border below to one particular balcony on the second floor. What kind of story could be propped up on that brick? A teenager sneaking home late at night? A neighbor in need of one more chair for a barbeque? A ex-husband sneaking back to collect some things that are rightfully his?

    “I can’t leave you in the car alone.” John looked over to the street and made eye contact with a man standing over the back door of his Honda. The man’s gaze glared with resentment that he was having to share this awkward moment with a total stranger. John glanced back at the stories of apartments. The windows were now streaked with raindrops that were getting larger.

    Meters away from his own apartment building entrance, John heard the woop-woop of a lazy police siren. A patrol car crunched onto the gravel in front of him and a stocky police officer swaggered out from behind the car. The rain started to fall heavily and John reached for an umbrella holstered at the side of his backpack.

    “Hold it right there,” the officer shouted and pulled out his gun. He spun for cover on the other side of his patrol car. “Do not make any sudden movements and put your hands where I can see them.”

     Fear and confusion cascaded down John’s body but he raised his shaking arms against this weight.

     “I was just going to get my umbrella,” he said quickly. “I’m just on my way home.” He turned slowly to show the umbrella at his side.

     The officer slowly walked out from behind the cover of his car. “There’ve been a string of break-ins in the neighborhood and the suspect’s profile fits yours. You’re not hiding an Australian accent are you?” 


     As John reassured the officer of his innocence and Canadianness, the man he’d seen earlier by the car walked by with a labradoodle in a pink sweater. Under an umbrella the man was reading aloud from Watership Down with none of the grimness of the expression before. The dog seemed to be listening as he walked at the man’s side. 

    The officer apologized but reassured John that his caution was for his own good.

     “6 places broken into. An Australian apparently. We can’t take that lightly,” the officer said and stretched his chin out. 

     As the officer left, John fumbled for his keys and imagined a list of reachable things people have mistakenly been shot for: umbrellas, slices of bacon degreasing in a book, a collector’s bus pass from 1972, a labradoodle collar, early success.

  Yesterday, after coming home from work I came across this article about unusual bookmarks.  I’ve also found a slice of bacon as well as a nail-polished fingernail clipping, a photo of a nude dwarf cheating at poker and a garter belt with a telephone number on it. The slice of bacon that I found was on page 45 of Michael Ondaatje’s the English Patient. I remember that page as being a particularly tough hurdle and I guess the person reading the book gave up then and there (while eating breakfast). There were grease streaks throughout the earlier pages and I tried to read the book again but I kept imagining Hana feeding the English Patient bacon. It ruined the poetry of the reading experience.

  There isn’t much else to say about myself. My name is Jack and I’m the one behind the past five months of different stories on this site. It’s just something I decided to do a while back. I haven’t really thought too much about it and today seemed like as good a day as any to come out with my real identity.

  And here’s a story for today…


Halo Power


On an overcast afternoon in September, John saddled his paint-flecked body over the deck railing of his newly purchased house to get at a window. He placed his foot out on the outer border of the terrace that held no greenery and after a weighty fall and thump he was lifting his broken neck up from the grass below, his head inches from the brick border of the empty garden. He crawled to his old house across the cul-de-sac and called his daughter-in-law. When she arrived her two children raced out ahead of her shouts for them to wait, wait, wait and once up the familiar stairs of their grandparent’s place the granddaughter screamed at the sight of her Grandda holding up his head. Three months later, with a halo holding vertebras C3 and C4 in place, John was looking out the window of the old house, thinking of what needed to be done with the new. At the weekend arrival of his son-in-law he walked a lively jig into the kitchen. The top frame of his halo bumped the edge of the open fridge twice as he tried to get at two beers deep in the back. “Today, we’ll celebrate the luck of the Irish, so we will,” he said and his daughter asked her niece about the state that they found Grandda in. The five-year old did a Disney version of Munch’s scream with her head at an angle and her eyes askew. Everyone laughed and John smiled but deep down he was thinking of what paints he’d mix together for the trim around the windows.


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