Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: November, 2013

Piranhas

Bill kept piranhas in a giant tank in his shed.

He spent so much time working on it that his wife cheated on him.

Bill found out.

The piranhas ate well that night.

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Written for trifecta’s trifextra week ninety-six

 

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Hendrick the Red

The gods are a malicious, decadent bunch. It is not out of their purview to pluck some unsuspecting mortal out of obscurity and turn them into a hero. You may think that this would be a good thing but in reality it has to be the most cruel thing the gods can do to anybody.

Take for example the case of Hendrick the Red. He was born of lowly peasant farmers and lived a simple humble life until the gods, on a whim, sent a great storm to the valley where he and his family lived. Many died in the resulting flood but Hendrick was able to lead both his family and many from his village to high ground and shelter.

The gods were very impressed.

After that; the gods took an interest in Hendrick. They made the leaders of a neighbouring empire decide to invade Hendrick’s home. Still shook from the flood, Hendrick and his family took what few possessions they had and fled to the high-keep in the mountains. Hendrick was press-ganged into service of the king’s armies and in the resulting bloody fight he displayed such martial skill and bravery that he was appointed the head of the defending forces. He was proclaimed a hero.

Hendrick’s luck went from bad to worse. The poor man couldn’t get a day’s rest without some natural disaster or barbarian horde that he was forced to deal with. He couldn’t talk to a woman without a monster stealing her away leading him to cross an ocean to get her back. He was famous, people came from around the world to meet him, bards sang songs about him. But Hendrick didn’t want that, he just wanted a rest.

Like most people, Hendrick grew old. Faster than most really; he was awfully busy and when he finally died, the gods decided that he shouldn’t just pass away and instead invited him to join them as a new god.

The god’s, well…. They soon regretted that decision.

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Written for trifecta week one hundred and five.

Rose-Tinted Spectacles

“Hi Bill!”

“Hi! Isn’t the world great…. I mean, beautiful. Even this room… Beautiful!”

“You must be in love again!”

“How do you know?”

“Only rose-tinted spectacles would make this room seem… Beautiful.”

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Written for Trifecta’s Trifextra week ninety-five

 

Uncle Bob’s Will

My Uncle Bob was rich, really rich, the kind of money that even if it couldn’t buy happiness, could certainly rent it. He lived in a mansion on his own but was never alone. His money brought a particular type of friend, though a better word would be companion. They were always there, eating, helping themselves to the bar, trying out the distractions Uncle Bob’s had to offer. My Uncle never bothered with them, saying they “Keep me company”.

Uncle Bob was alone. He had no family other than myself and we were never that close. He never had a relationship that lasted more than a few days. He spent his first decades amassing his fortune. With no one close to spend it with his ‘friends’ were as good as ever.

As Bob grew older. His friends made a show of how often they visited. They insisted on helping around the house. Their amateurish attempts at housework were more of a hindrance than a help. Uncle Bob often laughed at the ensuing hijinks during my occasional visits.

Uncle Bob got sick quickly and passed without much pain. I attended the funeral with my family, we were seated amongst all of my uncle’s friends, each trying to cry louder than the next.

At the reading of the will, I could barely fit in with all of the friends waiting expectantly.

It was a video will. It was odd to see Uncle Bob on the screen talking. He left some family keep-sakes to me and I was happy enough with that.

Then the money. You could feel the crowd leaning forward. His assets; totalling an estimated twelve million were left… To the dog’s home.

You could hear a pin drop. Uncle Bob started talking.

“My friends. You spent so much time with me, that you devoted to me. But I know you never did it for anything else other than the good of your hearts. Thank you!”

I never saw any of them again.

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Written for Trifecta Week one hundred and Four

Picture it and Write: Sacrifice

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again; the picture is not mine, it is by Kyle Thompson, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway; Enjoy!

Sacrifice

On the second moon after the Spring winds have ebbed three maidens from all the villages of the valley would be selected. They had to be beautiful, and they had to be pure. Only the best would do for the sacrifice.

They were brought to a shallow depression in front of two pillars of rock. There they would dance, a dance they were meticulously prepared for. A dance they had to get right.

Each of their steps had to be in unison, their movements in time with the bowels of the earth and their own fluttering hearts.  As the soft footfalls of the three maidens pressed against the ground, the low rumble from below started to get louder, faster. The girls’ dancing get faster, more frantic. They simply had to keep up with the  demands of the rhythm at their feet. They almost struggled to keep up as it got faster and faster until.

Between the two pillars, from a small vent, there was a rush of air followed by a warm creamy brown liquid, gallons of it. The maidens would be covered. Light mud covering their skin that was not submerged. And there they would sit until the elders had read the signs and knew that it was safe to collect them.

This was the way it had always been. The legend was that a great giant had wandered the earth causing great destruction before he had fallen asleep on the ground to form the mountains that surround the valley. With their dance, and the relief it brings, the maidens sate the giant and keep him asleep for woe betide the world if he awakes.

But there is also risk. For the legend says that one day a maiden will bring forth a child of the giant., and the world will not be the same again.

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First Landing

Every planet in Human-occupied space has a First Landing, the place where the first settlers landed. Geographic considerations often mean that it is no longer the political or economic centre of the world but First Landings always have a place in the cultural and spiritual life of a planet.

In some of the older worlds,  the exact spot has been lost in the mists of time and rival cities and towns argue conflicting claims, however in a surprisingly large percentage of worlds First Landing has been preserved by the unique and often odd traditions the inhabitants use to remember their long lost founders.

By far, the strangest tradition has to be that of Lemilla.

It begins at exactly 3.15PM on the anniversary of First Landing. Thousands of people converge in the large park around the landing site and on a podium in front of the ancient bones of the colony-ship the Curator, the hereditary ruler of the planet, begins to read, verbatim,  from the recordings of that historic landing.

“We’ve landed!” He or she says, their voice echoing through the speakers and via broadcasts across the world.

“Thank Fuck!” The crowd responds “That was not a moment too soon!”

“Where are we?” The Curator calls again

“Haven’t a fucking clue” The crowd murmers “But the place is habitable”

“Only just!” The Curator adds in solemn tones  “It’s a real shit-hole!”

“Nonsense, breathe in that air!!” The crowd chants followed by, “Oh God! It smells like Granny’s feet.”

There’s ritualised coughing followed by the crowd saying “Can we go somewhere else?”

“Sorry folks!” The Curator replies “The engines are screwed. We’re not going anywhere.”

“Well that’s just fucking great!” Echoes from a thousand voices, “We’re stuck here.”

“We are, I’m afraid.” The Curator says ending with “We have to make the most of it.”

Then each member of the crowd raises a glass of home-made vodka and repeats, “Make the most of it” as a toast before drinking.

And that’s it until next year.

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Written for trifecta week one hundred and three.

 

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle 21

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle, Cured or your money back*.

Dear Doctor Joe,

I have a feeling that my employer’s going to fire me. Not that I blame them, as I’m having a tough time. I write articles for an online marketing company. It’s in the forex niche, which is something I know almost nothing. So I’ve been working for them (freelance home-based basis) for a week, I then received a notification about them going through some development in their department. I was told not to send in any more articles through their site. It’s been 4-5 days. I emailed how long is it going to take but to no avail. I recently found out that they’re going to hire another writer. Am I being paranoid? I’ve been paid by them before, but right now the situation seems suspicious. Should i confront them?

An Amateur

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Dear Amateur,

Writing online about subjects which you have absolutely no expertise? That sounds awfully familiar. In fact I suspect that you are in the exact same field that I am in, namely the online bullshit peddling field. As you are well aware this is a tough game we are in, it can be hard to keep on making crap smell enough like roses to make them buy it. But I know a few tricks which I am going to tell you here.

Firstly; get yourself a title. Obviously ‘Doctor’ is the best one to get for sure but there a number of impressive sounding qualifications that can be acquired for a tiny amount of work and a modest fee. Your rantings will look better and command a higher fee if it is presented by A Amateur MA, B Eng, DSc, ABC, EIEIO and so on and so forth.

Secondly, learn one topic very well. You’d think to be an expert on everything you’d have to learn everything but this is far from the truth. You can in fact appear to be an expert just by directing the comments towards whatever you know. You see it with pundits and talking heads even yours truly. You can be amazed how far in-depth knowledge of the sexual practices of bottle-nosed dolphins can take you in a panel discussion of east Asian trade talks.

Thirdly, nobble the competition. You say there may be another writer starting soon. Well this is your gravy-train sunshine and you will have to defend it. The first step would be to subtly change your style to sound a little like the new guy if possible even do the same topics but different enough to avoid plagiarism charges. If you can write both like yourself and this interloper then when they are looking to cut costs they are more likely to cut loose your monotonous rival and keep you with your wide range of styles.

Fourthly, and most importantly, get something on the editors, either the company or better yet an individual high up in the decision making. It can be legal, personal, both preferably just as long as it is something that they would want hidden. You don’t then go and confront them.. no! That’s blackmail, and sloppy. What you do is hint at it in your correspondence like for completely random example inserting the words “much like a love-child with a Filipino maid” (Shut up Joe! Ed) into your cover letter. When the offending party reads it they’ll know that you know and that should smooth over acceptance and maybe even add a couple of bucks to your cheque.

I hope that is some help Amateur. If you follow the steps, and there is a little luck on your side you may even be like me and continue to hock the same old crap for years**.

The very best of luck,
Doctor Joe

*Editor’s note: Joe uses the widest and vaguest possible definition of ‘Cured’.

** But word to the wise, if you go into the Agony Uncle Business, I may have to kill you.

To read more Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle or to ask a question yourself click on the link here.    

Salesmanship

Philip knew he was onto a winner when the young man came in looking for a left-handed hammer. “Hmmm! Left-handed you say. Let me see here.  I have them in the back I think.” He rummaged behind the counter and took up a 20 Euro hammer from a box. “You’re in luck! We just got a shipment in! Of course; since they have to re-align the machinery to make them left-handed these are somewhat rare and there is an added premium to the cost.”

The young man nodded in agreement and handed over a fifty. There was a big smile on his face as he left and an even bigger one on Philip when he closed the door behind him. Philip wasn’t particularly known for craft but in the case of the young man he was willing to make an exception.

It wasn’t that the fellow didn’t ask for the hammer. He was asking for something and well, as far as he was concerned he got it. That wasn’t wrong, that was salesmanship.

It wasn’t the last time that Philip saw the young man either. He came in a couple of days later asking for a pipe stretcher, a jar of elbow grease after that and finally a left-handed screwdriver.

Each time Philip was able to supply these unusual needs at a modest mark-up and the young man left happy.

And customers leaving happy is what they have always said should be the ultimate goal of the salesman…

Honestly it is!

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Written for Trifecta Week on hundred and one.

Picture it and write: Behind The Coloured Doors

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again; the picture is not mine, this one is from the archive of John Thompson, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway; Enjoy!

Behind The Coloured Doors:

When you see the grand streets of Dublin, the multicoloured doors of the Georgian quarter the only thoughts to pass through your head is that of opulent luxury. They were built for that but the majority of these houses hold a dark secret. For much of their history these houses where the scene of tremendous poverty and destitution. Slums of the highest order.

It was a question of economic change. The houses had been built as homes for the rich to be close to the Irish parliament and other centers of power. However parliament was abolished with the act of union and the wealth followed the politicians to London. That left hundreds of houses crying for alternative use.

The majority became tenement slums. Every room housing at least one family. It was cramped conditions, the bare floors invariably filthy, disease was rampant and life was for the most part a misery.

All kinds lived there. These homes were not just residences. Some commerce was also conducted. This could sometimes be the oldest profession out of some of the less grubby rooms in the upper floors or simple stall holders selling their wares on the streets outside.

This was for the most part informal and largely ignored as was most of the poverty by those in charge. It only began to change in the recent past.

After independence, with over one hundred years of grinding squalor, most of old Dublin was in a terrible state. The houses were crumbling and so were the people. The State, in one of it’s reforming moods decided to clear out the slums. New flat complexes and vast housing estates were built on the edges of the city to house all the dispossessed. These new homes had their problems but they were considerably better than the old slums had been.

As for the old buildings themselves. To many they were a stain on the city that had to be removed. Not only were they crumbling and decrepit, but their original purpose, to house the upper classes, smacked of elitism and a colonial past that many wished to be rid of. 

Indeed a lot was lost. Some fell on their own accord, others were torn down for the latest modern architectural monstrosity.

But others were retained, lovingly restored and held as a jewel in the city’s crown. Today they rightly stand as a source of pride for many Dubliners. But it does right to remember that for all their, beauty behind the coloured doors lies a past of unspeakable poverty and destitution and that must not be forgotten.

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Warning

“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”*

We looked at the old crone. Some people giggled. Everyone was disturbed.

“That’s nonsense!” Shouted Jim McHamish as he went to his car.

They found it two days later; in the ravine.

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Written for Trifecta’s Trifextra week ninety-two

*Quotation from Maggie Stiefvater