Sam's Humor

These essays were written in 1995 and are still funny to this day. Enjoy them! Don't steal them!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Police Line - DO NOT CROSS

by Sam Palahnuk

A few years back Shannon and I were living in a rented house in West Los Angeles. The ad for the place actually said it was in “Brentwood” but we were easily miles from the prestigious Brentwood area. I felt I could relate to this little neighborhood aspiring to be the better neighborhood it clearly was not, just as I aspire to have the body of a body builder, which I clearly do not.

The ‘hood was a bit on the busy side, but there were dozens of excellent restaurants near us, and we were within shooting distance UCLA. I mention this because one day, Shannon and I returned from work to find our neighborhood had been cordoned off. For those of you who are lucky enough never to have had your house cordoned off, let me tell you what it’s like so you’ll know what to expect when it happens in your neighborhood.

First of all, there are lots of police cars and yellow “POLICE LINE - DO NOT CROSS” tape stretched taught between trees, fence-posts, homeless people, curb-side trash heaps and other regular fixtures of life in West Los Angeles. When you try to get to your house, a police officer dressed in a black leather outfit with dark sunglasses stops you. The LA police department takes seriously their duty “to protect and to serve” so he made sure to thoroughly answer our questions, assure us that the entire situation was under control, and to soothe our frazzled nerves:

Us: “Can we go to our house?”
Cop: “No.”
Us: “Why?”
Cop: -silence-
Us: “When can we go to our house?”
Cop: “Come back later.”
Us: “When?”
Cop: -silence-

This, my friend, is what cordoning is all about.

Well, we NEEDED to get home, our dogs were starving, and had to be walked. The poop timer was running, and it was either be on time, or be cleaning up. Somehow I knew that the friendly police officer who wouldn’t let me get to my own house wasn’t planning on cleaning up the poop that was sure to be waiting for me in my living room.

Our enlightening conversation with the officer took place at 5:30. We decided that we should pass the time by going out for dinner. At dinner our perky waitress told us that she heard some gunshots and that the special was meatloaf.

This made me very nervous about our dogs. I know people generally don’t rob dogs, but I was still worried about them. What if Albion, our brave sheltie had tried to wrestle the gun from the villains grasp and was shot in the struggle? What if Honey, our irresponsible and destructive husky, had decided to sniff the crotch of the villain and shot in the struggle?

Our waitress must have seen the worry on our faces, and we told her about our “children” still being in the house. OK, I know some of you are thinking “Oh great, this Sam guy is one of those lonely and pathetic people who spoils his dogs rotten because he can’t handle the real task of raising HUMAN children”. Well, I’ve though long and hard for many years now on this subject, and I’ve formulated a thoughtful and logical response to you -- “Bite Me!”

After dinner we tried to go home again. We were again met by our new police officer friend, who hadn’t moved an inch in the hour we had been away.

Us: “Can we go to our house?”
Cop: “No.”
Us: “When can we go to our house?”
Cop: “Come back later.”
Us: “When?”
Cop: -silence-

We went to a payphone and started calling our friends to see if we could invite ourselves over to someones house. We tried just staring at each other in the car and it got boring after a few hours.

We visited a friend and finally went home at 11:30. The yellow tape was gone. The only evidence of the police presence were flare ashes and little plastic flare caps all over the street -- littering if you ask me.

Needless to say, the dogs had trashed the house and left deposits all over. They were so happy to see us we could hardly be angry at them. They both vigorously denied trashing the house.

It turns out that a UCLA student who was renting an apartment next door flipped his lid and used a rifle to shoot at innocent pedestrians as they walked by from his third story balcony. He shot a woman carrying groceries dead. This was on the sidewalk that Shannon and I walked our dogs on twice a day.

I can say, being a former UCLA student, that college life is horrible indeed, and a monumental waste of time, but most of us only THINK about shooting people, rarely do we actually do it. When I was a UCLA student I ate a lot of ice-cream instead of shooting people -- making me a peaceful person of robust girth.

The next day life was no different than the day before. The city bus rumbled down our tiny residential street, shaking the windows like an earthquake. We walked the dogs. We said “Hi” to people and they ignored us. It was as if nothing had happened at all. Only the blood on the sidewalk hinted at the events of yesterday.

I’m told that in small towns minor events such as someone buying a new truck, or someone getting married is cause for gossip in beauty shops and hardware stores the town over. It seems sad that in our relatively small neighborhood, which only wished it was Brentwood, an event as profound as a university student killing people would at least be enough to cause neighbors to chat -- but strangely it didn’t.

Shannon and I were shaken up by the killings and only a few weeks later our house was robbed. We then left Brentwood, I mean West LA, for the wilds of Burbank to be closer to work. Burbank is only 17 miles from our old neighborhood. Now when we say “Hi” to someone on the street they actually respond. We have neighborhood parties, exchange Xmas cards, etc. We’ve even attended city council meetings. Life here is indeed better, and much safer.

Maybe, when a neighborhood claims to be Brentwood when it’s not, it’s actually an attempt to deny the reality of the situation. Burbank only claims to be Burbank, and maybe I should be content with my current pear-like shape.

Word Count: 1113

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.

But Mom said!

by Sam Palahnuk

Every family has a black sheep. In my family the black sheep is my brother Danny (I’ve changed his name to protect him even though he’s clearly not innocent.)

Danny was the typical bad apple sibling: he dropped out of school, he started driving before he had a license, he got parking tickets and didn’t pay them, he was having sex with beautiful promiscuous teenage babes -- in other words he did all the things the rest of us only wished we could do.

Like many juvenile delinquents, when Danny grew up he chose a career in sales. He became a successful ad salesman for a local newspaper. He soon got into expensive cars, cheap women, and also, sadly, street drugs. It appears he was snorting the money faster than he could earn it, and he was eventually forced to “disappear.”

I lost touch with Danny. The last I’d heard he had blown town under an assumed name. Honesty, I didn’t miss him much. Yes, he exposed me to many temptations, but inside I knew that my wholesome, honest, and mind-numbingly boring life was somehow “better” than his perverse, luxurious, sex-filled, fun life.

Many years passed. I became involved in a wolf sanctuary in the Seattle area called Wolf Haven. I begin flying up and volunteering my time. I still fly up a few times each year and help out feeding and caring for the magnificent wolves housed there. I had flown up, and I had just checked into my hotel when the phone rang. Yes, you guessed it, it was my brother Danny.

I had vague memories of having heard that my brother was in the Seattle area -- I think I heard it mentioned on “America’s Most Wanted”, but I’m not sure. I certainly wasn’t planning on contacting him, it had been after-all ten years since I’d heard from him. He asked if he could drive down to visit me. I welcomed the visit.

About two hours later he arrives.

Danny: “Hey, this is a lot further than you lead me to believe!”
Sam thinks: “What, no hello? No hug? Besides, I never told you how far it was. Wasn’t this trip your idea?
Danny: “This is a lot further than you said and I don’t have enough gas money to get home. I need $5 for gas to get home.”
Sam thinks: “What the hell, he’s my brother, I haven’t seen him in 10 years...”
Sam: -- hands over the $5 --

He spread a book and a binder out on the table. He showed me the book, it was one of those popular self help books. He opened the binder and it had dozens of hand written pages, the pages looked like they were straight out of Madonna’s literary masterpiece “Sex.” He explained that he had done all of the exercises in the book and now he had turned his life around.

He proceeded to tell me that he, for the first time, had a purpose in life. His new purpose was to revolutionize pubic education. “Our children are our future” he proclaimed, “and they are worth any investment necessary of our time and money.” When I heard the word “money” I instinctively clutched my wallet.

Danny: “So I’ve decided to revolutionalize public education.”
Sam: “Great. Good luck, that’s a big job.”
Danny: “And all I need to do it is $10,000.”
Sam: “Boy, that’s a lot of money. Good luck finding it”
Danny: “Just $10,000 -- for the children.”
Sam: “Yup.”
Danny: silence
Sam: silence
Danny: “Would you give me $10,000?”
Sam: “No.”
Danny: “But don’t you care about children? Our future?”
Sam: “Look. I don’t have $10,000. I don’t have enough credit to borrow $10,000. If I did have $10,000 I certainly wouldn’t give it to you! Have you ever heard of the “school board” or the “PTA?” There are all sort of organizations in place to accommodate change -- if you want to change the schools that’s how you should approach it!”
Danny: “Does this mean I don’t get the $10,000?”
Sam: “Right.”
Danny: “But Mom says you make a lot of money!”
Sam: “I do make a lot of money, and I spend a lot of money. There’s none left at the end of the month -- none for me and certainly not $10,000 for you to throw away on ‘changing the schools.’”

He then walked out the door. No hug. No “good-bye.” I haven’t seen him since.

Sometimes I look back and think optimistically that he really wanted to effect some sort of positive change. Sadly, though, its pretty clear to me that he just wanted $10,000 for himself. I’ve heard that when people get hooked on drugs they’ll do anything to get the money -- perhaps even trying to leverage an almost non-existent relationship with a brother.

Now, years later, I understand why my wholesome, honest, and mind-numbingly boring life is better than his.

Word Count: 847

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.

Horror Hike

by Sam Palahnuk

Near our house in the Verdugo mountains, is a wonderful natural park . We periodically take the dogs up into the hills to hike, commune with nature and bring home horrific parasitic monsters that suck our blood.

Albion, our brave sheltie, always sticks around my wife Shannon. He thinks that at any moment evil might descent on Shannon and he has to be ready to defend her. I’m not sure if Albion is expecting angry bears, thieving highwaymen, or an I.R.S. auditor, but he’s always at the ready to fend off any evil that might come his way.

Whenever Shannon is around, Albion is always within a few feet. He only defends me when Shannon isn’t around. I suppose he protects me just to keep in practice for Shannon.

Honey, the wild and woolly husky, is an escape artist that would make Houdini jealous. She needs to be watched, leashed, and weighted down with sacks of cement to keep her from escaping. If given half the chance, she’d run off at unmeasurable speeds to join the coyotes and other wild creatures in the woods.

I’m sure she wouldn’t be content just joining a pack of wild coyotes -- she’d organize them into an efficient society with her, of course, at the helm. You see, there are lots of valuable skills that Honey could teach the coyotes. She’s a certified expert at finding bizarre things to eat in the trash she extracts from waste bins, she’s a pro at sneaking cookies off the counter when no one is looking, and she’s unmatched in her abilities at escaping mere cinder block fences and steel cable leashes. These skills would be a boom to the coyote population, and as their new leader, she’d teach them all.

The first thing Honey did on our peaceful outing was to wage war on the native vole population, or at least one unfortunate vole family (Voles are mouse-like rodents with a silly name). She spotted a vole hole, and she started digging -- frantically. She dug through he soft dry soil so furiously that a cloud of dirt and dust filled the sky. She had a vole on the run and nothing was going to stop her from nibbling on their cute little fur-free feet.

Amidst the cloud of dirt and spray of flying soil we saw the two voles escape out of their emergency exit (installed, no doubt, for just such a husky attack) and scrabble up a nearby husky-proof tree. This, however, was not noticed by the husky, and her digging continued. Finally, when we hauled her away, he entire face was black with dirt and she had a stupid grin on her face. Sadly, thanks to Honey, the voles joined the ranks of the homeless.

We continued up the hillside and looked down at the mighty San Fernando valley. We could only see about a mile or two due to smog, but it was an awe inspiring sight none the less. We bravely survived an encounter with two feral wiener-dogs and a run in with a giant beetle. We snapped pictures of the dirt-encrusted husky and Albion looked down his lengthy nose at her disapprovingly. He was no doubt thinking “You are a silly dirty wild dog, not a sophisticated fuzzy human like me.”

A couple of days later Honey was still blissed-out from her wildlife adventure. I was scratching her tummy when I noticed what at first seemed to me to be a fleshy tab of skin growing out of her fur. Her fur is so thick that I had trouble pushing it aside, but doing so I noticed it wasn’t a tab of skin, it was a tick! Yuck! I’ve never seen a tick before and I just about had a fit! How dare this “thing” attach itself to my dog! This is the LA area, aren’t hideous insect parasites illegal? How disgusting that it was sucking my dogs blood! How creepy that I TOUCHED it!!!!

To alert Shannon to the situation I did the manly thing and started screaming and running around the house. Honey, oblivious to the blood sucking monster she was “host” to, thought I was playing a game and started chasing me.

Shannon, being much more level-headed than I, suggested I stop panicking. Instead she emerged from her home office with a book. Answers to all of life’s questions, Shannon believes, lie hidden somewhere inside of books. She read from the emergency tick removing book:

1. Put alcohol or oil on the tick.
2. Wait 30 seconds.
3. Pull it out with tweezers using a twisting motion.
4. Do not play with the tick once removed.

Eeeeewwww! What ever happened to burning them with a cigarette or whatever cowboys used to do? I mustered my nerve and I soaked that beast with alcohol, I grabbed it with tweezers. I pulled and it didn’t budge. Finally it came away with a audible ‘pop’ leaving a hideous hole in Honey’s skin. Shannon was convinced that I had somehow extracted the tick incorrectly, and $45 dollars and a vet visit later, I learned from the experts that there is no good way to remove a tick.

So there I stood, with a amoral tick in my hands. What now? Step four of the book told me that I shouldn’t play with the tick. I wondered what they meant by that. Are most people driven to place the tick into little toy cars and race them around a track? Are folks inexplicably compelled to place their freshly-removed ticks on toy flatware and serve them up as dinner to a horrified Barbie in her very own “dream home?” I was not very happy with this unwanted parasite and I took pleasure grinding it into oblivion with the garbage disposal. I laughed maniacally as I flipped the switch.

As I write this Honey is snoozing upside-down on the living room couch. She’s dreaming -- her feet are twitching and she’s making little woofing sounds. My guess is that she dreaming about her adventure with the voles. Tonight I expect I’ll be swatting at imaginary ticks in my sleep. I’m sure Honey will notice my twitching and just assume I’m just chasing voles in my dreams.

Word Count: 1066

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not use without written persmission from the author.
Premission granted to D.W.Miles II (Dreamscape Publications) North American, UK, and Norway One-Time Rights.

Did you take the trash out?

by Sam Palahnuk

It’s Tuesday night here in Beautiful Downtown Burbank, and that means trash-night. This is the night dreaded by all residents, when we shamelessly parade out to the street, many of us wearing robes, night-shirts, and bunny-slippers awkwardly maneuvering our gigantic plastic “robot-friendly” trash cans into the street -- being sure not to put closer than 2 feet apart -- otherwise the automated trash truck can’t get the giant claw around the cans forcing some sort of computer overload which results in the truck to run amok -- using it’s robotic arm to pick up innocent pedestrians, lifting them 15 feet up, and then shaking them violently above the truck, then putting them back down again.

Well, trash-night means going around the house to our 45 separate tiny waste-baskets and collecting all of their trash. I was emptying the bathroom waste-basket when I noticed that the drain pipe was leaking, leaving a unwelcome puddle inside the cabinet under the sink. I set the big trash bag and the tiny bathroom waste basket down and made my way to the garage to get my toolbox. The leak had to be fixed, and it was my manly duty to fix it.

I grabbed the tool box and noticed that my pipe-wrench was suspiciously missing. Hmmm. I needed that wrench to fix the drain. I remembered loaning the wrench to my across the street neighbor Randal. I put down the box outside the bathroom so I’d remember it, and darted across the street being sure to avoid being run over by the old-man-who-rides-his-bicycle-so-slow-i- should-fall-over-but-it-doesn’t.

I called out Randal’s name, Randal, and he answered me even though he was not visible. It was something out of the Ten Commandments. His god-like voice started laughing “I’m up here Sam!” Sure enough, Randal was on the roof installing his remarkably cool 18” satellite dish. It was my sworn duty, as Randal’s across the street neighbor to help him out, as installing an 18” satellite dish is obviously a two man job. Randal and I struggled with wires, compasses and other such manly satellite installation stuff for quite a while until we realized we could get no further until we had a certain bracket that was suspiciously missing. No problem, on Tuesday nights the hardware store, “Hell Base”, was open until 9:00.

We jumped into Randal’s black convertible “Mid-life Crisis-mobile” and we were off -- rock and roll playin’ as we went. Hell Base is the second home to any home-owner. I’ve spent more money in this friggn’ place than I care to think about, and I hate it, as any home-owner with the brain of a chicken would, but here I was -- again. Randal was saying something to me, but I could hear him over all of the loud and unintelligible announcements. I just followed him from isle to isle, nodding my head pretending I could understand him, leaping over spilled boxes of merchandise as I went.

The clamp lie before us, alone on the shelf like the holy grail itself. A single yet powerful ray of light fell on it from the ceiling to guide us there. Randal snapped up the clamp and we where off.

After several hours in line, and actually waiting in line to exit the parking lot, we were finally out of there. We both swore never to go there ever again -- as we always did.

Suddenly I noticed that the music has developed an unusual beat. The smell of rubber told me that it wasn’t the Stones, it was the Wheels -- a flat tire. Randal and I waited for the tow truck to arrive. I called my wife Shannon to tell her of my escapades and that I would be home late.

Finally, I got home to find all of the lights off, and Shannon tucked in bed sound asleep. I quietly slipped under the sheets and nodded off. The dogs where so tired they didn’t even get up to greet me.

My deep slumber was interrupted by the terrifying sound a the pre-dawn robot trash truck. Ak! I had not taken the gigantic plastic “robot-friendly” trash cans out yet! I threw on a robe and ran out. I was quite a sight for the entire neighborhood to see -- my hair was standing up as if I had just been electrocuted and my eyes were red like those of a vampire, and I was wearing a tattered purple robe with holes in it. I got to the can and rushed it onto the street just in time for the robot claw to close, thus saving the lives of dozens of innocent pedestrians (see above.)

As the arm raised I felt a sense of satisfaction knowing that I had made it in time even though cars were now slowing down as they passed me, kids asking their parents “Mommy, Is that man standing there in a robe and bunny slippers an electrocuted vampire?”

The robot arm began the violent shaking as it dumped the contents of the gigantic plastic “robot-friendly” trash can, only NOT to dump the contents of the gigantic plastic “robot-friendly” trash can. Yikes! I had never finished collecting the trash, so I had just put out an empty gigantic plastic “robot-friendly” trash can. How embarassing!

Hanging my head low in complete defeat I slipped back inside. “Did you miss the truck again, sweetie?” my wife mumbled, half asleep. “Yes, I did -- as usual” I said as I walked down the hall toward the bathroom. “Don’t trip on the toolbox” she said just as I crashed my toes into the steel box.

Word Count: 964

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.

So, how’s this spot?

by Sam Palahnuk

We had just decided to paint the interior of the house ourselves. “We’ll save some money,” we thought to ourselves. Homeowners know that the phrase “save some money” usually translates into “spend a lot of our precious time.”

At the time we were renting a beautiful house in West Los Angeles. Please note that I said “house” not “home,” a house is a structure that you can rent, paint and rebuild after an earthquake. A “home” is what a house turns into when you furnish it and a bunch of people live there. When I see an ad for “spectacular hillside home” I wonder what kind of furniture and family is included. Anyway, this HOUSE had been a rental for many years, and had suffered the usual rental unit type problems - stained carpets, broken plaster, evil spirits of prior tenants, etc. Even though we weren’t being compensated for it, we decided to paint the interior ourselves.

Since I was going to be covered with paint by the end of the day, I didn’t bother shaving or combing out my hair. I put on my most grungy pants and “holy T-shirt.” I didn’t own overalls or anything of that nature, so I just put on old clothes that I didn’t mind getting paint on. As I put on my ancient bell-bottomed jeans I marveled that at one time I thought I looked “cool” in these bizarre clothes. Who invented bell-bottom jeans anyway? What inspired the exaggeration of the cuffs? Did the designer have really fat ankles and huge Popeye like feet? (Please note that Popeye, obviously a fashion template, has been wearing bell-bottom pants since the 20’s!)

Is this exaggeration of one garment feature the trick to fashion design? If exaggerating the cuffs was such a hit, what would happen if we exaggerated the groin? Imagine jeans where you could easily store a watermelon behind the zipper. What about the back-pockets? Imagine huge pockets in back where you could easily stuff a LA phone directory. What about a really high waist-line. Imagine jeans where they kind-of double as a shirt. You tie the belt just below your arms. “Ridiculous!” you might think -- but no more ridiculous, I assure you, than the pants I was wearing at that moment.

I also dawned an archaic “tie-dyed” T-shirt. I remember that in elementary school we actually had a project where we made our own tie-dye shirts. In fact, this might have indeed BEEN that shirt I made in elementary school. Moths fluttered about as I pulled the rusted hanger out of the very back of the closet.

The fact that we tie-died shirts in school was remarkable for two reasons: Firstly, the fact that the LA school system did anything of an extra-curricular activity was as rare as walking to school without being rolled for your lunch money, and secondly, why tie-dying? If I had the extra cash for some sort of activity, I think I would have taken the class to the zoo, or to a museum -- but, no -- there we stood dipping shirts into toxic colored chemical baths on the playground. Why we did this was then, and is now a complete mystery to me.

The school was to provide the toxic chemical baths and the buckets to contain said chemicals. Each student was to bring in a “white T-shirt” and the ability to tie knots. Now, you have to keep in mind that my family never bought anything new. Honest. The only shirt I was going to get, that is IF I was going to get a shirt at all, was some bizarre hand-me-down. This was to be done despite the fact that I was the oldest of five kids! What I ended up taking to school was a yellow XXXL T-shirt (yellow is “close” to white, my mother reasoned) with an “Ametron” logo on it. This was a shirt my dad had gotten free for buying some number of vacuum tubes at the local electronics supply store.

Needless to say, I was humiliated. I was the only kid with a non-white T-shirt. I was the only kid with a T-shirt large enough to double for a car-cover. The only consolation I had was that there was one other kid who’s shirt had a logo on it. Whew! His shirt had the words “Keep on Truckin’” printed on them with a cartoon of a guy with big feet “stepping” towards the viewer. At least I wasn’t the ONLY kid with cheap parents.

The teacher, Mrs. Hitler, took one look at me and rolled her eyes.

Mrs. Hitler: “I said bring in a WHITE T-shirt!”
Sam: - Immobilized by shame, unable to speak -
Mrs. Hitler: “Weren’t you paying attention?”
Sam: - speechless and about to pass out -
Mrs. Hitler: “O.K. Go ahead and dye your “yellow” shirt, but I’m sure it won’t work out right.”
Sam: - glad to be away from the teacher, shuffled, head bowed, toward the first chemical bucket -

Days later I remember turning in a “current affairs” report complete with newspaper clippings taped down with shiny silver duct-tape. We simply had no transparent tape at home, and I risked life and limb sneaking into my father’s tool box to steal the duct-tape as it was! The teacher was less than pleased and gave me an “F” on the report. I think she should have given my parents an “F” on providing their kid with supplies, if you ask me.

Shannon (my wife) and I painted away at our soon-to-be-beautiful house. The only problem we had was a mysterious shadow of an old woman in a wheel chair that no amount of paint would cover -- very strange. After hours of work we decided to get some cold drinks at the local supermarket. We grabbed the dogs, who at this point had paint all over them as well, and walked over.

As was our tradition, I sat down on the floor outside the market with the dogs while Shannon went in to buy the groceries. I enjoyed the people watching, and the dogs enjoyed having me at their level for some canine “quality time.”

While Shannon shopped, I watched the world go by. There was the usual parade of people who would walk and comment on the dogs. The comments I got on Honey the husky fell into two basic categories: “What beautiful blue eyes!” and “Is that a wolf?” The comments on Albion the sheltie were usually “Oooh, look, its Lassie!” or “Is that a miniature collie?” Albion usually responded to this ignorance with a low growl.

One time, a nine-year-old asked if the husky was a wolf. I said no, and he looked at me like I was lying. So, I told him that she was indeed a wolf. I told him that I had been camping in the mountains and a wolf had snuck into our camp during the night and stolen my dog. I then tracked the wolf, climbed into it’s den, and stole one of it’s cubs in revenge. Honey was that cub, now grown up. The kid believed this story completely. Looking back I probably should have told him that I was lying. Oh well.

As I sat outside the supermarket petting the dogs a grubby looking guy walked up to me. His hair was unkempt, his jeans stained, his shirt shabby.

Grubby guy: “So, how’s this spot?”
Sam: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Grubby guy: “You know, do you get much business here?”
Sam: “Oh, I don’t work here.”
Grubby guy: “Come on, you know what I mean, PANHANDLING -- is it a good spot for panhandling?”
Sam: - mind racing, looking down at my clothes -
“Oh, I’m not panhandling! I’m waiting for my wife, she’s inside!”
Grubby guy: “Yeah. Sure thing.”
Sam: “Honest! I’ve been painting my house.”
Grubby guy: - walks away with a look of disbeleif on his face -

I sat there in a complete and utter state of shock. Did he believe that I was actually a panhandler? Did he think that I was a panhandler that was in a state of total denial -- pretending I had a wife? Did he think I was lying to him to protect a really good panhandling spot to keep it for myself? Did he believe that I was actually who I said I was? Was he planning on “working” this spot himself later? And most disturbing of all, did I look that messy that EVERYONE who walked passed me thought I was a panhandler? My mind reeled.

As Shannon and I walked home I asked her:

Sam: “Do I look like a bum?”
Shannon: “No. Why do you ask?”
Sam: “A guy thought I was panhandling. He must have made that assumption based on what I was wearing.”
Shannon: “What was he wearing?”

Then I realized, he too was wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt. Then I remembered the shirt bore the words “Keep on Truckin’.”

Word Count: 1528

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.

Getting Malled

Getting Malled
by Sam Palahnuk

It was the ideal day, the ideal hour. My databank indicated that few humans infest the target aquisition zone. The window of opportunity was brief. I had carefully studied the target aquisition zone, and I’d collected enough data to create a holographic map in my memory. I knew the target, I knew the location. I synchonized my internal chronograph -- this mission would take exactly 15 minutes and 0.0 seconds. There would be no margin for error.

I drove my vehicle to the target aquisition zone - humans might know this place as a “mall.” I didn’t enter at just any parking structure entrance, no -- I entered the perfect entrance -- my entrance -- because I knew no one else will be there, and I could get the to the perfect parking spot the fastest. No humans where there to block the path of my vehicle (I’d pitty them if they had!) I parked in the closest spot to the the target.

I entered. My legs where pumping furiously, as if they were powerful hydrolic pistons - neuclear fuel surging through my neoprene veins. I barely had time to notice that I was walking much faster than the pathetic humans around me. I sped past them -- my holographic memory told me that my target -- a pair of Levis 501 jeans, was one floor above me, 50 feet north by north east of my current coordinates. All conditions were GREEN, the mission is going off without a hitch.

I began my rapid assent up the escalator. A flashing RED ALERT appeared in my vision system, the entire scene turned crimson. A human female with her spawn were blocking my path -- I saw their bodies silhouetted in a red flashing target lock. Within a nanosecond I reviewed my options:

0. Pull the shotgun out of my leather jacket and kill them both
1. Fling them over the edge of the escalator causing them to plumit to their death
2. Walk right over them, crushing them with my massive robotic weight
3. Burn them with my eye lasers

I instantly chose option 3 (although option 1 was most appealing) and started burning them with my eye lasers - I chose a low setting, 500 miliwatts at first. They must have felt the unbearable infra-red beams because the human female moved her spawn and I was able to pass them easily. This pleased me as killing them might have caused unexpected delays.

I calculated the most efficient route to the target and I followed it without error. The target was on the rack before me. I rotated the rack with one quick and accurate motion of my cybernetic arm. My computerized vision locked in on the target, in my size. I snatched it, paid for it quickly and in moments I returned to base.

I tore the tags off the jeans, folded them and put them in my closet. There was no need for me to try them on, because my calculations indicated they would fit perfectly. I glanced at my watch -- 0:15:00.0 minutes had elapsed. Mission accomplished. Now I could sit down to my well deserved episode of Bay Watch.

Shopping Terminators are fast, efficient, and accurate -- and that’s how we like it. However, shopping is not quite as logical when I go with my wife. In the spirit of scientific discovery, I decided to go shopping with her one Saturday afternoon. Observing her might expose me to potentially new and interesting ideas that I might be able to adapt into my own shopping programming.

Firstly, we didn’t leave for the mall until three hours after our plan. I knew inside that the mall would be more crowded because of our tartyness, but I didn’t say a word.

I expected the mall would be busy, but I wasn’t prepared for this swarming mob of “average Americans” that undulated before my terrified eyes. The crowd was thickest toward the center of the mall, and there was the problem -- a certain muscular, long-haired male “celebrity” whose name my laywer tells me I cannot mention, was making an appearance, and thousands of women and a hand-full of gay men where flocking around him. For the sake of this article I’ll call him Arnold Favolone.

My wife, to her credit, thinks Arnold Favolone is a talent-free, muscle-bound “horse faced” slab of meat with a silly voice. This meant that we could fight our way through the throng without my having to endure the emasculating humiliation of holding my wife's purse while she waited in like to get his autograph.

After we pushed through the mob, we entered Victoria’s Secret. This place manages to be completely offensive to men despite the fact that sell skimpy lingerie. This is partially because the place stinks of dried flowers, perfume and other foul odors. It’s also obscenely ornate and the lighting is soft and subdued -- there wasn’t a flourescent tube anywhere to be seen! In other words its enemy territory to a guy.

Not to get off the subject, but when I was a kid we had a Blood Hound named Doobie. He was huge, ungainly, and couldn’t see because of he had enough skin for two dogs, and it folded and flopped over his eyes. When we took Doobie to the vet, he’d brace his legs on the door frame at the entrance. No amount of pulling would budge him. If you tried to push his legs off the door frame he’d put them back by the time you could get to his collar to pull him again. We had to hog-tie Doobie and drag him on his back to get him into the vet’s office. My parents were always ticked-off when this happened, but I remember thinking it was really funny when I was a kid.

My wife became a bit ticked-off at me when I braced my legs and arms against the door frame at the entrance to Victoria’s Secret. I found myself unconsciously using all of Doobie’s tricks. No matter how much she pulled on my leash, I wasn’t budging. She finally lured me into entering the store by offering to let me into the changing rooms with her so I could see her try on skimpy lingerie. I discovered that day that my sex drive was indeed stronger than my sense of smell.

I followed her around like a puppy as she flitted from one rack to another. She grabbed hand-fulls of bras, panties, camisoles, and other items that I couldn’t even name. I noticed that many of the items she held where frilly and lacey, where as I would have chosen simple and skimpy. I kept my mouth shut as we wandered around the store. She asked me questions:

Her: Which color do you like better? (showing me two panties, both very similar pink colors that I could barely tell apart)
Me: Transparent would be better
Her: Humph. You’re so silly.

She started chatting with a woman in the underwire bra department. I have never spoken to anyone while shopping, and I would never think to just chat with someone in such an embarassing location. Even though they where perfect strangers they laughed as if they were old friends. I stood still, afraid to move.

Finally we entered the dressing room. I felt guilty as I slipped in with my wife. I feared at any moment the mall police would arrive and haul me away. Fortunately they didn’t, despite the sign telling us we were under “constant surveylance.” I wondered who’s job it was to stare at a closed-circuit TV screen watching women strip down naked 12 hours a day. I wondered if there were currently any openings for that job. My wife tried on all 150 items she had picked out, and selected a single bra, leaving the rejected items in a sad mound on the dressing room floor.

I was delighted to leave that smelly place. Then we went to another clothing store. We were now on the hunt for sweaters, even though she already has at least one sweater in every color known to man. My wife waved one sweater at me, pointing out the $150 price tag. She told me that she had seen the same sweater in another shop for only $75. All I could think about was the fact that I had once made a sweater in school for $3 worth of yarn.

Although she tried on several sweaters, she did not buy any. We then browsed several more shops, and she started complaining about being tired and hungry. We ate at the “food court” within the mall. I wonder if they call it that because eating there is equivalent to begin handed a life sentence. We ate next to a woman who was completely ignoring her three screaming children. She sat there, chowing down on her hot-dog-on-a-stick and sucking lemonade out of a styrofoam cup -- oblivious to the 250 decibel howling eminating from her kids. I was both furious at her for ruining everyone’s meal with her three “air-raid sirens on legs” and in a strange way I envied her ability to completely ignore them as I wish I could. I wondered if she was deaf.

We finally left after a ‘quick stop’ at The Bombay Company. We had been in the mall over three hours and my wife had purchased exactly one bra. We were both tired, sore, and our ears were still ringing from the “we’re-louder-than-a-jumbo-jet brothers.”

I asked my wife, as she sat there moaning over her soreness if she had enjoyed our shopping trip. She assured me that she had had a wonderful time and wondered if I hadn’t enjoyed it too. I asked how she could have enjoyed it if she was now so tired and sore. She told me that it was a “happy” sort of tired and sore.

Now I have seen both ways to shop, and currently I’m thinking of taking up shopping by phone.

Word Count: 1689

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.

Drip... Drip...

Drip... Drip...
by Sam Palahnuk

Every year I brace myself for my tax-time “buy a house” lecture. Every time I see my tax man the conversation is the same.

Me: Hello Gary.
Gary: Hello Sam. Did you buy a house?
Me: No.
Gary: Please buy a house.

After 15 years of this, I finally took his advice and bought a house. I am now living the American Dream: owing hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and feeling good about it!

There are profound differences in being a renter and being a home-owner. It was down right inconvenient when the roof leaked at our rental -- we’d have to sacrifice our Big Pot to catch the falling trickle of strangely brown water, therefore ruling out pasta for dinner until the roof was fixed. Then I had the further inconvenience of calling the landlord, and demanding that he get the leak fixed this very second as now that I’m thinking about pasta I really crave some for dinner.

Eventually, a shaggy looking “roofing guy” would show up in his dented and rusting pick-up truck. My wife and I would shake our head with disappointment as the ragged “roofing guy” would work. We, after all, were expecting a gleaming late model roofing van with a handsome color logo silk-screened on the side and high-tech antennas on top so the driver could get up to the minute leak updates from the trained experts at Leak Alert Central. We expected a handsome but rugged hunk of a man to stride out of that gleaming truck, wearing a tidy and stylish uniform and a “Ghost Busters” style device attached to his back. His voice would be like that of Superman, “How may I be of service, fellow American?” he’d say.

Instead this guy who was currently banging about on our rented roof looked like he had taken up roofing under court order as an alternative to doing hard time -- a cruel and unusual form of “community service.” After a few hours of what to us sounded like Summo wrestlers playing roof-top leap-frog, the roofer guy said to me “I did some stuff up there and maybe it won’t leak anymore so let me know if it does.” He drove off in a puff of blue exhaust smoke.

We were left with a dread sense of anticipation. On one hand, we wanted it to rain so we could find out if the patching worked. On the other hand, we didn’t want it to rain because we feared it would leak and we didn’t want to put the Big Pot into service. I found myself considering doing crazy things like climbing on the roof with a hose to simulate rain.

Anyway, now we are home-owners. We’ve been proud home-owners for exactly 60 days. It rained the other day and guess what -- our roof leaks. Our first instinct was to call our land-lord. I remember the terrifying moment when I realized I am the landlord. Hey, wait a minute! I don’t have what it takes to be a landlord! I’m friendly and I actually return phone calls.

So we looked into hiring a roofer using the home-owners most important tool -- the yellow pages. We found that gleaming vans with handsome but rugged experts cost a lot of money. We argued the advantages of buying more Big Pots and just living with it -- after all, we both need more exercise and this pot lifting is certainly cheaper than a health-club. Lift-Carry-Pour, Lift-Carry-Pour, it didn’t sound so bad.

We opened the “household account” checkbook -- a little moth fluttered out. We checked the minuscule balance. After carefully weighing all of the alternatives (should we hire a roofer or should we hire a roofer?) we grudgingly hired our old friend the “roofer guy” as we could afford him, and we were able to contact him easily as he had been sure to hand us his tar-stained card during our last visit.

Well, thankfully the roof no longer leaks. My only complaint was how disappointed I was in the landlord for taking his sweet time and to top it off he hired someone so unimpressive.

Word Count: 712

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.