Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: December, 2014

Picture it and Write: The Right Way

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

The Right Way

I don’t know about all of these newfangled ideas going around. Back in my day we did things the right way. Science wasn’t done in some shiny new institute, by massive teams of eggheads, it was done in a castle, in the arsehole of nowhere by two, count ’em, just two people, the master, and his assistant.

Masters, well, they don’t make them like they used to. They didn’t have funding agencies back then and all of that equipment is very pricey so you had to have money, lots of it, and you could not be spending all of your time earning that money, so we were talking old money, multiple generations of it. They were usually inbred as hell those aristos, it showed, they were all a little touched, prone to cackling, hair like an unpruned hedge, but undoubtedly driven.

Then there were the assistants, like me, devoted servants to our masters. I think I would first like to take the time to sort out some preconceptions people have. We do not all have slurred speech, that one time I was interviewed we had been experimenting with high voltage current and I had just been hit with a blast of lighting, some minor facial paralysis was only to be expected, as for the hump, it is a congenital defect that runs in the family, and, in truth, I find it more of hindrance than a help and I have known many assistants with perfect postures. The very fact that my master kept me in his service with my affliction shows their loyalty to their employees and general good demeanor.

It was different times back then, we felt that the world was our oyster. True enough we did not know as much as we do now but that meant we did not know what couldn’t be done. Our work could extend in every direction, there was no such thing as the conventions or ethical considerations that so straitjacket people today. We were free, able to go in whatever direction our imaginations willed. Some days we would experiment with new formulations for protecting wood from rot, others we would try and pass light beams around corners, and others still we would try to create life. We were very active in those days. True renaissance men.

Of course like today, we did not live in a bubble. Most of the locals were quite supportive in fact. My master would consult on agricultural practices for free and I believe some of his ideas are still used to this day. But you can’t please everybody and when some young rabble rouser preacher came calling, he set his sights on us.

Let me first say that I find everything that man said to be pure offensive. I mean, how can you call things unnatural if they work? We obeyed the rules of nature in everything we did, it is just that the rules were a little more broad then people thought they were in the first place. Try and tell that to scared, simple people.

It was the escape that set everything off. I mean it can’t have eaten more than one or two sheep. Master was more than willing to pay more than the going rate in compensation, as well as a handsome reward for those willing to help bring it back. But for the preacher this was the fuse he could light and before long there was an angry mob at our door.

Big castles, though they have strong doors and stout walls always have a few secret exits in case of dire need and I took one of those at the express order of the Master. As for him, he stayed, it is a testament of the man that he still thought he could reason with the mob, placate their fears with logical explanations. He was so wrong.

Even with my disability I was able to make good time and was already miles away when the first flames could be seen coming out of the roof. I only glanced at it once, it was too much to bear.

I never went back, I have been told that the bones of the castle still stand to this day, fire blackened and uncleared. There are a number of legends about the place, reports of things seen at night, things that survived the fire. I could well believe those, we were good.

I have worked many jobs since those day, but none as a scientific assistant. I still have the skills, there are many who would still hire me. But it is the questions I can’t stand. “What would you have done different?” they ask me, as if they don’t get it.

You see, I have gone through those days for many years and it always comes back the same.

We did everything the right way.

It was the world that was wrong.

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Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle Christmas Edition

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle, Ho Ho Ho!*

Today, considering the season and how many of you, my dear readers will be in need of solid advice I have decided to answer not one, not two, not five, but four, yes four of your festive themed questions. I hope you find the answers as informative as always.

Doctor Joe

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Dear Doctor Joe,

Our Christmas party is coming up and I have to say that I am very nervous. There is a guy from abroad who has been working with us these past few months. I really like him and I think he likes me but we have both been too shy to do anything about it. The problem is that he is due to go home in the new year and this party will be my last chance. What will I do?

Single Susan,

Dear Single Susan,

Ah yes! The Christmas party, where drinks flow, inhibitions are lowered and affections spread like STDs, which funnily enough also get spread quite effectively. That night, capturing the attention of your man will be like shooting inebriated fish in a barrel. All you need to do, and I can’t stress this enough, is slut up. I’m talking slutty Mrs Clause here, the fish nets and all. With a few drinks on him, one look at you and he will be on you like a fat man on fried chicken. Well, if not him then that married philanderer from accounts. Either way you win.

Good luck Susan and Happy hunting,

Doctor Joe

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Dear Doctor Joe,

I am at my wit’s end. My partner is set to go for his workplace Christmas party this Friday. While I trust him when he out normally, some of his workmates are real party animals and I am afraid they would be a bad influence. I know that last year they ended up in a strip club and that some of them used the party as an excuse to sleep around.

My partner said that he had nothing to do with it but I’m terrified that something like that could happen again and he wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation. I can’t go because they have a strict, “no baggage” rule for the night but he is looking forward to it so much that even though I am so worried about it I can’t ask him not to go.

Can you please help me?

Worried Wanda

Dear Worried Wanda,

Let me get this straight. Your partner is planning on going to a party where there will be strippers and drunken debauchery abound and you think this is a bad thing?…. I honestly don’t get it. But still, I suppose you may have a teeny-weeny, titchy, entirely overreacting,  sense of objection to it and want to keep an eye on your man. There are a few ways you can set about doing this.

Firstly; you could just go. I know they said you couldn’t but I have had girlfriends who never quite grasped the concept of “Stay away from me”. You may think that your partner will be miffed at this intrusion but I have memories from those relationships that will stay with me always, and scars that will never heal.

Secondly; you could spy on him covertly. This could be from a distance, shadowing his every move from pub to pub or it could very well be up close, especially if you disguise yourself appropriately. You may think that he will spot you but I very much doubt that he will notice anything, I mean, who ever looks at the face of a stripper? If there still are reservations remember if your partner is occupied stuffing fifties down your knickers, he won’t be getting up to any mischief, will he?

Thirdly; If you have neither the confidence or acting ability to get away spying on him yourself then I would suggest you hire in outside help. Considering the time of year, little people in elf costumes would be your best bet, almost certain to be taken in by your partner’s friends and given a front row seat on any misadventures. You can hire professional little people from any number of reputable Rent-A-Midget or child actor agencies but if money is an issue then any spare kid you have lying around could be roped in for this purpose. A word to the wise however, I would recommend that you properly indemnify yourself against any injuries your agent may suffer over the course of the night. I did not do so, there was an elf-tossing incident, and lets just say, it cost me.

Whatever you decide Wanda, the very best of luck.

Doctor Joe

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Dear Doctor Joe,

Christmas is coming and so is the ultimate family row. We have two children, both boys and the two of them have asked Santa for very expensive presents. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money to buy them both. I love the idea of Santa and it would kill me if they are disappointed. I don’t know what to do. Please help.

Panicked Parent

Dear Panicked Parent,

I didn’t think I’d have to lay this down for you but the answer is staring right in front of you. If you are only able to afford the present for one of your kids then just get the one, for your favourite. “But we don’t have a favourite” You tell me “We love each of our kids equally.” Bullshit. Every parent has a favourite, even yours. If it seemed to you that your parents did not have a favourite that is because you were the favourite and you were held above all your siblings. You might as well face reality and lets your sprogs figure out that there are winners and losers in life.

Still; if you are going to delude yourself over playing favourites well there are ways to get presents which are practically what they want. All you need to do is go down to the local Asian black market and there you will be able to get the very latest Sonee Playstop, Y-Box two, or Transshaper toy at a mere fraction of the cost of the “legitimate” brands. You’d be a fool not to.

If neither of those appeal to you and you still want to promote a sense of wonder in Santa. Why not call on another fictional visitor, a scary house burglar. This Christmas Eve, instead of laying down presents, why not break open your door, take everything of value and leave a great big shit on the living room rug. Santa visited sure enough, but the bad men took away all the presents. Problem solved.

The very best of luck Panicked and Merry Christmas.

Doctor Joe

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Dear Doctor Joe,

My wife and I are dreading Christmas this year because of the bad influences our children get exposed to. I know family is meant to be important but my father in law has started drinking heavily since my wife’s mother died and it is really started to affect him. Last year he was an absolute mess and sat in the corner smelling of drink, using foul language and making inappropriate suggestions at my poor mother. I shudder to think what my young children are learning from this. I know they have gotten at least few choice words out of this. I know it is a terrible option but I am seriously considering not inviting him here this year, even my wife is agreeing with me.

What should I do?

Despairing Dad

Dear Despairing Dad,

Ah! What would Christmas be without the obligatory drunken relative, sipping heavy spirits and pissing himself before the Bond movie starts. These are hallowed traditions that should not be cast aside so readily but I can understand that this can cause problems especially when there are kids involved. But while it is traditional to have family present in your home, there is nothing in the fine print saying that they have to be conscious. Here’s what you should do; get onto google and look up Doctor Joe’s Patented brain cell killer, easily the strongest cocktail known to man (I suggest you give yourself a couple of weeks since Tibetan yak oil can take a while to ship). You whip up one of these before your old man shows up and he will be out like a light and silent in five minutes flat, not to wake until . A note on dosage, please make sure that he only drinks one glass. Any more and he’ll be gone for good, though so well-preserved you’ll save on embalming costs.

I hope that helps Despairing, The best of luck,

Doctor Joe

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*Editors Note: While he’s writing that he’s wearing a Santa hat, nothing but a Santa hat….

To read more from Doctor Joe or to ask a question yourself you need only click on the link here.

Picture it and Write: Petals on the Bench

Hi there. This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, it was on tumblr, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Petals on the Bench

There once was a young woman I knew. Allison, Ali, was her name. She was quirky, dreadlocks and thrift store clothes, an eclectic mismatched individual if there ever was one, a real one of a kind.

My friends used to think we were seeing each other but the truth was, she wasn’t my type nor I hers. But it was her want to drag me to various places, according to whatever whim or hidden knowledge she possessed and if I had nothing of importance to do I would go more or less willingly. Truth be told thanks to Ali I found things about the city that had been completely hidden from me. There was one time that really stood out for me.

We were hurrying across the park heading for the central station to see a pop-up art gallery that Ali had heard about. For all our rushing however, Ali suddenly stopped at the sight of an old man walking with a ragged cloth bag in his hand. “This is wonderful” Ali told me, “Watch”

The old man, he must have been in his late seventies, shuffled across the open square of the park ignoring the bustle of life moving around him. He made it to an empty bench but instead of sitting down on the bench. Instead stuck his hand inside the bag, pulled out a handful of red petals, and proceeded to sprinkle them on the bench. I watched mystified while he stood there for a minute and then shuffled away in the direction he had come. “Come see” Ali said and bade me follow her.

The petals were still scattered over the wooden planks of the bench when we got to it but I could make out the dedication on the back of the seat.

To Marian, who loved to sit here and smell the roses in bloom. From Daniel, who loved to sit beside her.

“So that man was Daniel, Marian’s husband?” I asked.

“No!” Ali replied, “I asked around. His name is Luke and he is a life long bachelor. It did turn out that he did come close to settling down it Marian here.” She pointed at the bench. “Problem was he was called into service for a couple of years and when he came back Marian was with Daniel. As soon as he knew he was back out of town not to be seen for decades.”

I looked at the bench, there were no dates I could determine “What, he was gone until she died?”

Ali nodded, “The very day of the funeral he showed up. He must have figured that if he couldn’t be there for her in life he would be there for her in death.”

“Wouldn’t Daniel have minded? He was her husband.”

“Daniel aged badly and died not long after Marian but yeah, Luke kept his distance out of respect. But he still visited the grave often enough and this bench, leaving flower petals, roses, her favorite, as a gift for her. Since Daniel died he now does it every day.”

I stood for a minute taking all this in, thinking of more questions I wanted to ask but Ali suddenly grabbed my arm and remonstrated that we were late for the gallery so we took off in a quick walk.

I often pass that park and no matter how busy I am I still look around that bench for rose petals. Often enough I see them and that pleases me. Because I know that Luke is still out there, making his thankless vigil, ensuring that the woman he cared for, the woman he can never have, still can smell the roses she loved so dearly.

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Picture it and Write: All that remains

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write by Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine it is by Daimblond, I am only using it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

The sheriff sat sullenly in his office, staring at the wall, as if pondering something deeply depressing. He had been there all night and was close to exhaustion. He was ready to pack it in and go home when there was a knock on the door.

“Come in!”

It was Fitzgerald, his deputy. “Sheriff. Billy Wilder is at the desk. He says he found something interesting.”

The sheriff sighed. Billy was one of those crackpots who was always calling in about one conspiracy or another. He didn’t have the patience to deal with him now. “Jesus Lucy! Could you send him away until tomorrow?”

“I tried to fob him off Sheriff but he insists. Says it is for your eyes only. Sorry.”

“Fine! Tell him he only has a few minutes. I’m late for dinner.”

Fitzgerald went out and a couple of seconds later in came Billy, he was skinny and unkempt with a wild beard and head of hair that the sheriff distinctly remembered having pulled backwards through a hedge on several occasions. He had the wild eyes and excited manner of the zealot. Something had tripped his fancy and it would be a simple manner to calmly and succinctly identify whatever piece of “evidence” he came with and send him on way.

“OK” the sheriff said, with was much distain as he could manage, “what do you have this time.”

Billy removed a cloth bag from his coat and stuck his hand within it. “I was out ‘coon hunting went there was a meteor shower out over the swamp. You must have been able to see it from here. It was a little over two hours ago. It was spectacular.”

The sheriff nodded, he remembered.

“Well, with all the lights in the sky, something came all the way down and crashed into the creek. I ran over, about thirty feet to where it hit and I could see some bubbling in the water.”

“So it was a meteorite?” the sheriff asked. They could be valuable, Billy might have been requesting for him to lock it up until he could contact a buyer.

“I thought so first. But when I went into the water to see what it was, it didn’t look like any space rock I’ve seen before. It was square.”

“Square?” Asked the sheriff, suddenly interested.

“Yeah Sheriff! Square! It must have been at least four feet on each side. It had gotten pretty busted up in the fall, there was a hole on one side. I stuck my hand in and found these.” He pulled something out of the bag. The sheriff stood to get a better look. They were three ceramic rings, each about an inch and a half in diameter. There were gold flecks in the purplish color of the material. The Sheriff glazed one with his finger.

“It feels cold. Doesn’t it?” Billy asked. When the sheriff nodded he continued “It feels like metal but it looked like plastic. I have never seen anything like this before. I think it may have come down of some government satellite, or maybe the Russians or even the Chinese. Whoever sent it. I think the papers are going to want to know about it.”

The sheriff put up his arms to stop Billy. “Listen Billy, before we tell anybody anything we are going to need more information. The first thing you are going to have to do is take me out to where this thing came down. Are you sure you can find it again?”

Billy nodded “Sure Sheriff. I know that place like the back of my hand. I could find it with my eyes closed.”

“Good! You go to Lucy and get yourself a cup of coffee. I need to check something before we go.”

With Billy out of the room the sheriff took the three rings in his hands and stared at them intently. He then put them down carefully on his desk and walked to the wall. He shifted his hands with practiced ease and found the hidden latch opened the compartment hidden behind an innocuous picture. He looked in and surveyed the contents. Inside were a couple of books, some strange looking equipment and five similar rings.

The sheriff took the three rings and placed them carefully with the others. Closing the compartment he thought of the feeling of despair he felt as he saw the lights in the sky. That was now gone, Billy’s find could change everything. After years of waiting things were finally ready to fall into place.

For the sheriff knew for a fact that those rings came from far further than Russia or China, that inside each of those rings was an individual, not even remotely human, but close enough to pass unheeded on these primitive streets, and that right now in the swamp thousands of his brothers and sisters were waiting to be revived.     

As the sheriff put on his jacket he took his gun from its holster and checked it over. Billy and Fitzgerald may cause problems but they could easily be dealt with. All that mattered now was getting to the rings.

Stage two was about to begin.

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One Last Hope

Everyone cried when the world ended, when the heat went out from Sun, when millions left their homes in the rapidly freezing Mid-Latitudes for a stab at surviving on the hopefully still livable equator. Not me. I was one of the intransigent few, the die-hards to were convinced that this was just another false alarm, that nature would soon right itself and that leaving would simply open up our hard earned possessions to the looters.

We weren’t wrong. With the police and army all gone South to protect the refugees the first few weeks were a near constant assault of opportunists seeking to strip the bones of our former society. While many simply went elsewhere when they found our hamlet occupied, a deranged few thought themselves lords of their new world and that we should pay homage. We showed them a thing or two.

But the cost was high. Almost half of our little band were lost in those hectic weeks. But, in time, the snows fell ever heavier and not even the most determined looters could make it through. As soon as the roads finally closed, we found that the enemy was no longer without, but within.

With ever colder temperatures, we found that some of the homes we stayed to defend were no longer livable. We were forced to huddle together, conserving our resources to pull through. Needless to say, this did not live well with the mindset that had lead us to stay in the first place. It only took a day for tempers to start flaring up, only two weeks for temper to turn to tragedy.

For each murder, the loss was double because of not only the dead but since as a group we also banished the perpetrator, sending them off into the snow with a backpack of precious supplies. Many of them went willingly, some fought to the end and had to be dealt with.

In the end; only a dozen of the most stable of us were left and a period of calm descended. Every day we ate meagerly, tended the fires that sustained us, and prayed that God would bring Spring back to us. If he ever listened to us, we never found out. The long winter continued, month after month, year after year.

As conditions gradually worsened we lost more by attrition. In knife-edge conditions even simple mistakes can be a disaster. A cut in your heavy coat can let enough cold in to bring frostbite, which without antibiotics, leads to infection and your end. Our food was plentiful but bland, we had even located a stash of vitamins in the drugstore  to supplement the nutrition but the cold kept us ever hungry. Every empty larder, ever scavenging expedition that came back empty, told us our plight. Some couldn’t take the strain, we would hear the door open in the middle of the night and all that would remain would be a neatly folded set of clothes and a note asking to remember his or her sacrifice.

In the end, only I remain. I do not know how long it has been, I spend so long indoors that the change of day rarely effects me. I have enough food for maybe a month, if I am lucky. The body of my last friend was left in the outer room, preserved by the chill. I was considering the unthinkable, but I don’t think it will be necessary. The fuel will run out long before the food. Perhaps I will burn her, it would be fitting, warming me once again, like when we used to huddle together in life.

Perhaps not yet, there is still one last thing I want to try, one last hope to cling to. Today looks like it is going to be a clear day. I think I will go down to the river, It is as safe to walk on as, concrete now. I found something in my son’s things, a smoke bomb, bright red. On a day like this it should be seen for miles. Maybe, just maybe, someone will see it, someone who can help.

It is my last hope. After this, I have nothing. 

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Image from Anton Ginzburg’s Hyperborea series.
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Written for The Grammar Ghoul Press Writing Challenge number 10.

Fruit of Labour

“Here you are sir.” said the woman in the business suit, “It is all yours.”

Jake took the keys and opened the half-rotten wooden gate. There before him, at the end of a rutted track in the middle of field was the house, no, strike that, shack that he had just bought. He walked up the path and stepped up onto the porch. There were missing planks on the floor, glass was missing from the windows and he could hear wind passing through holes in the roof. This was a prime example of what the agent called “A fixer upper”.

It took Jake the better part of a year to turn this decaying corpse of a house into a home he would be proud to call his own. He had to gut most of the decorative elements, re-tile the roof, redo the electrics and plumb in a heating system. Choosing the right decor was something of a chore but in the end he felt that going with his gut was the best decision. If he didn’t feel right with anything he would pull it all out and start again. In the end these, unscheduled delays must have added over a month to the project. Jake did not care, he intended to live there for the rest of his life.

After everything was finished according to his exacting standards, Jake was a barrel of nerves as he waited at the freshly painted gate. Any minute, Susan was going to drive up so Jake could show her what he had been doing with all his time that last year.

He was going to show her this house that he had built for them both. A house that he had never said a word about because as his father said “Deeds speak louder than words.”

If he knew Susan like he thought he did, words would not be needed, she would understand what he meant by all this. If she didn’t…… Well… the ring in his pocket would have been a waste of money.

He could hear an engine in the distance, she was almost there.

Time to see if his labour was going to bear fruit.

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Written for The Light and Shade Challenge for Monday 1st of December 2014.

Camels

“Hey watch out!” Screamed Jake as he rode through the centre of the camp. He was on his latest toy, a camel, decked out in the coloured blankets and ribbons of the desert tribes who had set up camp a half mile down the valley from the university expedition.

“That’s It!” shouted Marcus, the expedition leader, “If anyone else brings back anything from the neighbours without my express permission. They will have to spoon the spoil back into the trench single-handedly.” He did a quick check over the precious equipment that was carefully laid out amongst the tents then went back to glare at the young research assistant who had the temerity to grin back at him.

“Ah! Don’t be like that.” Jake implored, “He won’t be any trouble.” he paused a second, bending over to look between the camel’s legs, “She won’t be any trouble.”

Marcus looked up to heaven, as if asking the gods of academia just why he had to put up with this. Not getting an adequate response, he sighed exasperatedly and looked back at Jake and the camel. “Fine! But you have to look after it and if it causes one problem, it and you are out of here.”

“Thanks boss!” Jake cheered, taking out a carrot he likely snatched from the kitchen and giving it to the slobbering beast, “You won’t regret this.”

Leaving the camel and the general hurl burly of the camp site behind him, Marcus walked a few score of meters to the twenty meter trench that his team had dug into the desert soil. They had spent weeks mapping the site with ground penetrating radar since the Egyptian park officials were accounting for every square meter that they were digging. So they were confident that this was the place were something interesting would show up.

So far however; nothing of interest had shown up, save for some shaped stones and tools. They were running out of money and time and Marcus was getting antsy. He wasn’t sure what he could do.

Suddenly there was a loud bellow from behind him followed by Jake shouting “Come on! Get back here!” Marcus looked back to find that the camel had run out of the camp site with Jake in hot pursuit. “Please stop!” Jake shouted brandishing a bushel of carrots in his hand. Marcus fought back the urge to laugh at Jake and instead shouted out “If it doesn’t want to stay you can’t force it! Come back here and do some work.”

Jake began to show down but then so did the camel, when stopped be started to paw at the ground with its hooves. Jake went over to grab it and looked down at what the camel was digging up. “Boss get over here!”

Marcus rushed over and looked at the depression that the camel had made, there was a figurine in it, almost intact, a very rare find, the making of the whole expedition. After all the thousands, spent on the latest technology it was the camel that did it.

Jake patted the camel’s side “Good girl” he whispered to it, “See boss! Not so useless after all!”

Marcus patted the camel too. “Jake.” He said “Those tribesmen over there. How many more camels do they have?”

This was meant to be for the Grammar Ghoul Press Challenge number 9 but I was late. Oh well!