How to become a rock god

I now have GarageBand. This application allows me to create musical works of staggering accomplishment in mere minutes. I would like to share with you one of my creations, or children, if you will, for just like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and subsequent mental breakdown fame, I consider my songs to be my children.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this seamless blend of driving rock rhythms, apocalyptic choir, and Peking orchestra vocals. It took me less than thirty minutes to make.

At the Peking Opera

How to travel as a vegan in Europe

Vegan traveling in Europe is not easy, but neither is it all that difficult

Vegan travel satire

The big problem is that sharing food is an important custom in every culture, to a greater or lesser extent, and most food that is shared comes from animals. How are you going to get around that? The only way to do it is to be perfectly honest with the people you meet. Some people will understand, others will not. You do not have to get along with everybody you meet when you are traveling. Sometimes, people are jerks. Sometimes, you are a jerk. Do not compromise your principles for the sake of a stranger you will not even like once you get to know them, because if you compromise your principles for them, you will not like them anyway.

The next problem is that many people misunderstand vegans. They believe that vegans are new-age hippies who want to have love-fests and drink disgusting leaf-based green drinks. The easiest way to dispel this myth is by using foul language. If anybody tries to imply that you are this type of vegan, loudly and publicly tell them to go fuck themselves. That should do the trick. If you are one of these hippie vegans, please go fuck yourself. I have nothing against hippies, but they are ruining vegan credibility. I just want to eat a tasty plant-based diet without it being a part of my personality. I’ll take the love-fests, though.

Another issue you will encounter is what to actually eat. Salads are generally okay, but make sure to get the meat and cheese out — for some reason, many meat eaters cannot even eat a fucking salad without sticking some animal carcass in there. Also, check the dressing. Those meat eaters are sly motherfuckers, and they’ll even puree an animal just to get their meaty fix. Seriously, it’s like an addiction. Just go one fucking meal without eating somebody else!

Bread is generally okay as well. Avoid soup, because it is usually made from the leftovers of animals. You can probably find a pasta dish that won’t have meat, but you’ll definitely need to request they take out the cheese. You can usually get a pizza marinara, as long as you make sure they don’t use anchovies. However, since anchovies cost extra and most restaurateurs are tight fuckers, you’re probably safe.

Local delicacies are usually a no-no. Most regions pride themselves on their local cuisine, which is usually an unimaginative variation of the same thing as every other fucking region on the continent: some meat shit (whatever they raise locally, either cow or sheep or goat or pig), usually killed in some horrifying way (because apparently the only way to get the perfect taste is to behave like a fucking serial killer), and drowned in some meat sauce from either the same animal or another animal. Generally no herbs or spices, because the meat flavor is so overpowering that they would be pointless. In fact, in my experience, most meat eaters haven’t got a fucking clue how to use herbs and spices, which is why, when they make something vegetarian or vegan, it is as tasteless as a white male stand-up comic complaining how PC culture has gone too far.

Eating vegan in cities is usually easy. Most European cities have at least one vegan restaurant, and many restaurants either cater to vegan diets or are willing to do so. Not so in the country. What the fuck is a vegan? Why the fuck would anybody choose not to eat meat? How the fuck are you still alive? These are the questions you may face in rural areas. Most people will not ask you these questions aggressively — they are simply befuddled. You could very well be the first vegan they have ever encountered. Certainly, they have no doubt heard of these vegans from television, but in real-life terms, E.T. has just walked into the restaurant, announced the existence of life on other planets . . . and then made some very specific meal requests. In these instances, you are unlikely to get anything that is truly meat- or dairy-free. You will have to make a choice: how hungry are you prepared to get before compromising your principles? Sometimes, it is best to choose the least animaly-looking thing on the menu and not ask any questions. If you find some meat or dairy on your plate, eat around it. Remind yourself that you will not die from accidentally ingesting particles of rotting flesh. Remember the movie Alive. Remember the Donner Party.

Another conundrum you will have to face is how many questions to ask regarding wine. Many wines are made using animal ingredients, but the good news is that your desire to ask principled questions diminishes with every glass you drink.

Finally, you may wonder about clothing, specifically footwear. It is now possible to buy vegan shoes, although you usually have to order them online, or go to somewhere like London to get them. That is not a problem. The problem is the price. They are fucking expensive, and like all modern footwear, fall apart after being looked at too sternly. With footwear, the question is not: how principled are you? but how principled is your bank account? For most of us, traveling with vegan footwear is out of the question. Travel itself can be expensive, and as such, you need some good, reliable shoes. Yes, these shoes were once a cow, probably a baby cow at that (human beings really are sick bastards), but you cannot change the whole system alone. You do what you can, and live with it. It’s time for the rest of humanity to pick up the fucking slack.

To conclude, do not be afraid of traveling around Europe as a vegan. At least, when you get to the really disgusting parts of the continent, where they want to share a bull’s testicle or an octopus’s unborn child with you, you have an excuse to say no.

Introducing GiveAFuck – The App That Cares

give-a-fuck app

It should be clear by now that many governments of the world don’t give a fuck about their own people. If they did, they would provide basic healthcare for everybody, unemployment benefit for those who lose their jobs, and probably some safety measure to stop crazy people from murdering children in their schools. Here in the European Union, we have these things, and they sorta kinda work. How much of a fuck my government gives is certainly debatable, but it is at least half a fuck. And we all know that half a fuck is better than no fuck at all. Just ask anybody who has been fuck-free for more than six months.

But I believe that everybody deserves a full fuck. That’s why I have created the GiveAFuck app, to help all those people who have not been given even a single solitary fuck. How it works is simple: you register, you tell your story, and readers can start giving a fuck. Each fuck a person gives translates into $1, of which nine cents goes directly to the fuckee. Why not more? Because this is a business, not a charity.

As a registered charity, GiveAFuck is exempt from certain expenses, which allows us to be so generous. Who are we? It’s still just me, but it sounds better if I make it seem like there are more of us. By saving money as a charity, we can attract even more investors, thus increasing the reach of GiveAFuck, and thus increasing our profits. That’s illegal, you say? That’s not what my accountant in Panama says.

give-a-fuck appWhat? You think we could be more generous than nine cents on the dollar? Jeez, you people want everything done for youHave you no dignity? Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps, like the great American bootstrap puller Craig T. Nelson. Nobody’s holding you back but yourself and your crippling poverty.

GiveAFuck is saving lives. Just look at the case of John Doe. Last month, he was living on the streets of Detroit, stealing food from supermarkets—then he told his story. The Detroit P.D. read it, gave a fuck, and now he has guaranteed food and shelter for three years at the local penitentiary. Or what about Jane Doe? She had to work as a prostitute until registered app user and employment guru HeadHunter69 gave a fuck, and now she hasn’t logged on to the app for fifteen days. In fact, several at-risk users of GiveAFuck have been helped by HeadHunter69 and then never seen or heard from again.

Another way that GiveAFuck helps the community is by cooperating with law enforcement. The FBI requested access to all information related to HeadHunter69, and we provided it willingly. We tried to sell it to them, but then we realized that it would be good publicity to give it away. The Bureau says that it has helped them greatly in their investigation of the eight headless bodies that have been discovered in the greater Detroit area.

So, to sum up: When you’re in trouble, and you feel all alone, you need somebody to give a fuck. That’s when GiveAFuck is there for you. Also, don’t agree to meet HeadHunter69 in person until the FBI gives us the all clear.

The Good Samaritan


A short comedy about carrying out a murder fantasy. 9 min read.

A note on performance: while I have written one or two characters in specific genders, the only gender that is fixed is that of the victim’s mother. All other genders can be changed depending on the cast available. But please, no crossdressing for humorous effect—it isn’t funny.

The Good Samaritan

A courtroom. The audience is chattering excitedly as the defendant approaches the stand. The judge hammers the gavel, shouting “Order!” until the defendant has reached the stand and a hush descends.

JUDGE: Counsel, you may proceed.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Thank you, your honor. (approaches the defendant) Now, Mr. Moody, we’ve heard a lot from the prosecution in this trial, about what a terrible person you are, about how unremorseful you are, and about how you are a menace to society. (turns to the jury) But that’s only one side of the story. And let’s not kid ourselves: this is a story, and every story has at least two sides. (turns back to the defendant) Now it is time for us to hear your side of this fascinating story.

MOODY: Thank you.

There is a pause, as both sides wait for the other to proceed.

MOODY: So . . . uh . . . what do you want me to say?

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did this whole sorry affair start?

MOODY: Well . . . I think everybody knows already. The prosecution went through it in a lot of detail.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: But that is the prosecution’s side of the story. We want to hear your side. Tell us your side.

MOODY: Well . . . uh . . . it starts in exactly the same place as the prosecution’s, and generally goes in the same direction. So, I decided to go for a walk one day, and this particular day I decided to take my gun–

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Where did you acquire the gun?

MOODY: Internet. Dark net, to be precise. I also bought a kilo of weed and a kilo of coc–

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Coca cola, yes, we know! (to the judge and jury) On the dark net, they sell coca cola in kilo format. So, Mr. Moody, you bought a gun on the Internet. Why?

MOODY: Why not? It was there. And it was cheap. Or maybe, subconsciously, I’d been harboring these thoughts for a long–

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Yes, everything’s cheaper on the Internet these days. It’s amazing. Your honor, do you ever shop online?

JUDGE: Why yes, I do. I do all my grocery shopping online. It’s much more convenient.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Because, being a judge, you’re so busy all the time?


A pause.

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: Objection. Your honor, online shopping, interesting though it is, is hardly a relevant topic.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Online shopping is taking an ever-larger segment of the retail market. Any retailer who ignores the Internet is bound to regret it.

JUDGE: Good point. Overruled.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Now, Mr. Moody, you bought a gun at a fantastic price and you went for a walk. Then what happened?

MOODY: I was walking for about five minutes, when this guy stopped me in the street. He was waving to me like he knew me, and then he said, “Hey, how’s it going today?”

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Did you know him?

MOODY: No. I was confused for a minute, but then I saw his clipboard and I realized he was collecting money for charity. You know how they do it? They’re all friendly with you, like they’re your buddies, and they make you feel really guilty about walking away.

The defending counsel, the judge and the jury nod in agreement.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: So what happened?

MOODY: Well, he was asking me about my day, and I was telling him that it wasn’t going so well, that I’d just lost my job, but I didn’t get the impression that he was really listening. And then I remembered that I had the gun, so I pulled it out and I shot him.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Where did you shoot him?

MOODY: In the chest.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: And then what happened?

MOODY: (chuckling at the memory) So he was lying on the ground, blood gushing out of his chest, and he just looked so surprised, like he really wasn’t expecting it. So I shot him a couple more times.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: And how did the people around you act? Did nobody try to stop you?

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: Objection! Your honor, the defendant has clearly confessed to a murder. I call for the defendant to be found guilty.

JUDGE: Come, now. Murder might be a little harsh. After all, the man was a charity collector. I want to hear him out before I make a ruling. Mr. Moody, please continue.

MOODY: They were all shocked at first, but only for a few seconds, and after he stopped squirming on the ground, people started coming in closer, and then, one by one, they started clapping, until, finally, they were all cheering and calling me a hero. Somebody pointed out another one — charity collector, I mean — but she ran away as soon as I looked at her.

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: Your honor, this is grossly insulting, not least to the poor victim’s family.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Victim, your honor? The man was clearly chugging.


DEFENDING COUNSEL: Charity mugging.

JUDGE: Mugging . . . hmm . . . sounds more like self-defense than murder to me. . . but the prosecutor has a point. How did the charity collector’s family feel about the whole incident?

DEFENDING COUNSEL: You honor, we can ascertain that right now. I call to the stand the mother of the charity collector.

A weeping woman walks up to the witness box, where Moody is still sitting. Moody looks confused, unsure whether or not he is supposed to leave, until she shoos him out and takes his place.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Now you are the deceased’s mother, are you not?

The woman nods, crying, unable to speak.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: (pointing to Moody) Please tell the court, in all honesty, do you blame this man for the death of your son?

She looks at Moody for a long time, crying, before finally shaking her head.

MOTHER: It’s like I told him, over and over again. It’s a dangerous job, collecting money for charity. You aggravate a lot of people. One day, I told him, you’re going to aggravate the wrong person, and then . . .

DEFENDING COUNSEL: But this is the man who killed your son.

MOTHER: If it hadn’t been him, it’d have been somebody else. It was only a matter of time.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: (to the jury) Charity collectors are among the most annoying people on this planet. But do they deserve to die?

The jury confers animatedly, and finally the head juror speaks.

HEAD JUROR: We, the jury, feel that yes, charity collectors deserve to die.

The judge nods in approval.

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: Objection! Your honor, this is outrageous. The defendant is getting away with murder!

JUDGE: There’s that word again, murder. Now Prosecutor, I caution you to control yourself, and mind your language. Clearly, Mr. Moody was not committing an act of murder. In fact, as far as I can see, he was performing a public service. Rather than punish Mr. Moody, I would be inclined to reward him. However, we are not finished. (turns to the woman in the stand) Madam, thank you for your testimony. You may step down. Mr. Moody, please resume your position on the stand. We still have the matter of your other indiscretions to clear up.

Moody returns to the stand.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: So, Mr. Moody, you heroically disposed of a public nuisance. And then what?

MOODY: Well, then I remembered that I had an appointment to go look at a house I was thinking of buying. So I decided to take the subway, and on the way, I was walking down the escalator when there was some idiot standing on the wrong side, so I couldn’t get past.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: It sounds like another public service was necessary.

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: Objection! You can’t kill somebody just for standing on the wrong side of the escalator!

JUDGE: Overruled. That may or may not be, but I’m more interested in what happened with this house. Mr. Moody, were you by any chance on your way to see a real-estate agent?

MOODY: I was.

JUDGE: I understand perfectly. And how did you handle this situation? With gravitas, I presume?

MOODY: I shot him five times, your honor.

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: He’s just confessed to another–

The judge silences the prosecuting counsel with a wave of a hand.

JUDGE: And did he cry in pain? Did he beg for his life?

MOODY: Yes and yes, your honor.

The judge leans back, very satisfied and smiling.

JUDGE: And did you see the light flicker out in his eyes?

MOODY: I did, your honor. It was very satisfying.

JUDGE: I’ll bet it was.

The prosecuting counsel is horrified.

PROSECUTING COUNSEL: Is there nothing this man can confess to that you will condemn him for? He killed a charity collector, a person standing on the wrong side of the escalator, and a real-estate agent. Mr. Moody, who else did you kill on this day?

MOODY: Well . . . being honest . . . there was the woman in my building who was always spouting motivational nonsense. She was one of those glass half-full, every cloud has a silver lining kind of people. You know the ones?

DEFENDING COUNSEL: (mockingly) When one door closes, another opens.

JUDGE: (also mockingly) There are no problems in life, only challenges.

HEAD JUROR: (also mockingly) Be the change that you want to see in your life.

MOODY: Yeah, all of that. So I changed her life.

JUDGE: Did you say anything witty while you were doing it?

MOODY: No, I didn’t say anything.

JUDGE: (deflated) Too bad. I’d have said something.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: What would you have said, your honor?

JUDGE: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe something like “Is this a big enough challenge for you?”

The judge imitates shooting somebody, even making gun noises. The defending counsel and jury are impressed. They applaud. Even the prosecuting counsel grudgingly approves.

JUDGE: Anybody else, Mr. Moody?

MOODY: I killed a lawyer.

The prosecuting counsel shrugs shoulders, the jury nods in approval.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: I wish I had your courage.

MOODY: This man in the cinema who had a really irritating laugh, you know, one of those laughs that says something’s way funnier than it actually is, like he’s laughing just to get attention.

DEFENDING COUNSEL: And you gave him some attention. Good for you.

MOODY: And then I killed a famous football player.

The entire courtroom is shocked. The audience starts to talk, the jury are debating among themselves, and the judge hammers the table and shouts for order.

JUDGE: (once order has been restored) Mr. Moody, which football player?


Oh, I don’t know. He was stylishly dressed, drove a fast car, really arrogant, big ego . . .

DEFENDING COUNSEL: Well, that could be any famous player.

MOODY: I know he played for one of the New York teams.

The courtroom is in uproar. The judge demands order.

JUDGE: Mr. Moody. I’m going to ask you this once, and I need you to think very carefully about your answer. Did he play for the Giants, or the Jets?

MOODY: (thinking hard) I’m pretty sure . . . he played for . . . yes, definitely . . . he played for the Giants.

The judge cries in anguish. The defending counsel falls to their knees, the jury are wailing and the prosecuting counsel is banging their head repeatedly off the table.

MOODY: What’s the big deal? It’s not like he was a scientist or anything.

The cries intensify, slowly subsiding. The judge fixes Moody with a look of hatred.

JUDGE: Mr. Moody, up until this point, I thought I understood you. In fact, in your deeds, I even felt as if I had been the one to act, that I was acting through you, such was the empathy I felt with your actions. I had come to believe that you were a true good Samaritan. But this . . . this cold-blooded murder . . . this butchery . . . this evil slaughter . . .

The judge breaks down and cannot speak anymore. Once composed, the judge continues.

JUDGE: Having weighed the evidence, I find the defendant–

HEAD JUROR: Your honor, you do not have the authority to rule. That is for the jury.

JUDGE: Oh yes, I forgot. Jury, what say you?


JUDGE: (hammering) Guilty!

MOODY: Guilty?

There follows a brief moment of various people shouting guilty, including both counsels, the jury and the judge, as if releasing all the pent-up bloodlust inside of themselves.

JUDGE: Sentencing will take place at a later date, but just to put your mind at ease, Mr. Moody, I will be sentencing you to death. Court dismissed!

As Moody is dragged away, we can hear him say, “But he was just a football player! I don’t see what the big deal is!” The entire court tries not to hear his blasphemous cries.


Copyright © 2017 Bohemian Breakdancer.

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The depth of grief


To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
              — William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III

Stephen works for the city. He has a mundane job. His job is to work with spreadsheets. The city requires that he use his spreadsheets to make the city a more efficient city. Stephen is an average worker. Since Stephen started working with his spreadsheets, the city has become neither more efficient nor less efficient.

Recently, Stephen has become numb. He has become an automaton, almost one with his spreadsheets. He likes working the formulas — they are like little mathematical puzzles that occupy his mind completely. He likes this because when he is working out his little puzzles, he forgets that his family is dead. When he forgets that, he forgets that he too would like to die. As a result, his formulas have become the most complex formulas in the city.

Let us look at Stephen in his home. It is evening, and he is following his routine. The house is meticulous. Stephen and his wife had had occasional arguments about housework, she complaining that he did not do his fair share. Now that she is dead, Stephen overcompensates. Though the house is meticulous, he cleans it still more. He wears rubber gloves. He washes the inside of the dishwasher. Silly, yes, but who are we to judge the actions of a grieving man? He goes upstairs. He leaves the upstairs lights on all evening, every evening, because his daughter used to leave them on and he used to shout at her for wasting electricity. Now he leaves them on to appease her ghost; perhaps the lights will bring her back to life. But she will not come back to life tonight. He switches off the lights, brushes his teeth, changes into his pajamas and goes to bed. He listens to the rain patter against the window.

Stephen goes through the motions. He is a faithful servant of social ordinance. Yet neither his heart nor his mind are committed to the act. Nor are they committed to anything else. They seem to have disappeared. Perhaps they died when his wife and daughter died.

It is the middle of the night. Stephen awakes because he needs to pee. He pees, and then he spends three hours staring at the ceiling. Occasionally he turns from side to side. The first hue of day touches the curtains and he falls asleep. He sleeps on the left side of the bed. One hour later his alarm wakes him.

This is the worst moment of the day. Yesterday’s routine has faded in the night and now he must begin again. In addition, he is very tired. Stephen has a morning routine that is just as pointless as the evening routine, but we do not need to examine it. We should by now have a clear enough picture of the futility of Stephen’s life that we can spare him the indignity of scrutinizing it further. Let us follow him to work.

His commute is about forty-five minutes and an average speed of twenty miles an hour: fifty miles an hour for most of the commute, and five miles an hour for ten minutes as he passes the portal, where much of the traffic turns left, causing a temporary blockage. The government has yet to implement a permanent traffic system for the portal, despite the fact that it has been in existence for almost twenty years. It has something to do with the fact that about half a mile either side of the portal is classified as portal territory, and since the portal crosses both universes, and from each side is technically on the other side, neither side is prepared to accept responsibility for the road maintenance. Or the reason may be something else. In any event, the reason is bureaucratic, which means that nobody fully understands the problem, and therefore nobody is in a position to provide a solution. Not even Stephen’s spreadsheets can help.

Stephen does not listen to the radio or to music. He listens to the sounds of the road. All other sounds distract him. Even the air conditioning, when it is at full, distracts him. When he arrives at the office, he goes straight to the bathroom, then to the kitchen to the coffee machine, then to his desk. He does not like to spend time in the kitchen because his colleagues behave awkwardly around him. They used to try to talk to him, to console him, but after a few weeks of silence, they learned that Stephen wanted neither to be talked to nor consoled. This situation suits Stephen, as he has no way of communicating to them that his heart and mind have disappeared. He is, however, aware that his reluctance to speak to them is difficult for them, painful even to those who consider themselves his friends, and out of respect to their feelings he avoids the kitchen as much as possible, though his respect comes more from habit than from any actual feelings, which Stephen no longer seems to possess. With his coffee, Stephen sits down to work on his spreadsheets.

Today, everything changes for Stephen. He overhears a conversation between two colleagues and an idea comes to him. The conversation goes like this, more or less:

Colleague A: Alison went to the other side the other day.

Colleague B: Oh yeah?

Colleague A: Yeah.

Colleague B: Wow.

Colleague A: Yeah. I know.

Colleague B: Wow. That’s incredible.

Colleague A: Yeah.

Colleague B: So what happened? What did she say?

Colleague A: She met her sister.

Colleague B: On the other side?

Colleague A: On the other side.

Colleague B: Holy shit.

Colleague A: Yeah, I know, right?

Colleague B: What was that like?

Colleague A: She said it was just like meeting her sister in real life. I mean, in this universe. Know what I mean?

Colleague B: Yeah, I know what you mean. But what do you mean? How just like in real life?

Colleague A: Like, totally the same. Same sister. Looked the same, same attitude, same mannerisms, same clothes, even the same job.

Boss: Hey Andy, when you get a moment can you email me that spreadsheet on downtown air pollution? Or was that Stephen’s?

Colleague A: Nah, that one’s mine. Sure, no problem. By the way, air pollution’s up again.

Colleague B: Hey Aaron, did you hear? Alison saw her sister on the other side the other day.

Boss: No shit. Really?

Colleague A: Yeah, she went over to collect the carbon filter.

Boss: Did she see herself?

Colleague A: Nah, they don’t let you do that. She only saw her sister because they have different last names and her sister’s boss didn’t realize they were sisters. They only saw each other for about thirty seconds before they took her sister away.

Colleague B: Still, that must have been really weird.

Boss: Yeah, I’ll bet.

Colleague A: Yeah, she said she was pretty freaked out.

Stephen takes away several things from this conversation. Firstly, he knows he has to go to the other side. Secondly, he knows how he can do it. And finally, he knows what to expect when he gets there. He pulls up the spreadsheet on downtown air pollution and looks at the numbers. If he fiddles with it a little — makes it a little more complex, so that only he can understand it — he’ll have his reason to go to the other side.

Colleague A, Andy, has finished telling his story and returns to his desk. Presumably he is about to email Aaron the spreadsheet. Stephen lifts his coffee cup and walks over to Andy.

Hey Andy.

Uh, hey Stephen. What’s up?

Was that really true, what you said about Alison?

Yup. Pretty bizarro, huh?

Yes. Yes, it is. Quite bizarro.

Stephen does not know how to do it naturally, so he extends the hand holding his coffee cup and tips the contents into Andy’s lap.

Hey! Jesus! What the — ? What the hell did you do that for?

Stephen does not know how to answer, so he stares at Andy.

Andy glares back at him, then shakes his head, gets up and goes to the bathroom.

Stephen looks around to see if anybody is watching him. Several people are, but when he looks at them they turn away. Stephen sits down at Andy’s desk, takes the mouse in his hand and navigates to System Preferences>>Personal>>Change Password.

Enter old password.

Stephen does not know the old password.

Forgot password? Yes.

Do you want to perform a password reset? You will need to obtain a new password from System Admin (takes up to three hours). Yes.

Stephen returns to his own desk and fiddles with the spreadsheet for three hours and then sends it to Aaron: Dear Aaron, I trust this message finds you well. I took another look at Andy’s air pollution data and found something rather disturbing. I am sure you will know what to do as soon as you see for yourself. Please let me know if anything is unclear. Kind regards, Stephen.

In the afternoon, Aaron calls Stephen to his office.

I can’t understand a damn thing in this spreadsheet. Can you explain it to me?

It’s really quite simple, Stephen says. The carbon levels emanating from the portal are dangerously high, much higher than we previously thought.

It’s a good thing they shared the carbon filter technology with us, then, isn’t it?

I’m afraid not, Aaron. The carbon filter they gave us, if I understand correctly, can’t handle these levels of carbon. We need something more powerful. I’m not sure they even have the technology themselves.

I’m not worried, Aaron says. They’re way more advanced than us. They got something that’ll take care of the problem.

Well, I certainly hope so. But just to be sure we get the right thing, I think I’d better go over there myself and talk to them personally.

Aaron stands up from behind his desk and walks to the window. He places his hand on the glass.

Can you make a spreadsheet that’ll predict when this damn rain is going to stop?

Stephen says nothing.

Okay. Write up the report and we’ll schedule you to go over at the end of the week.

Now let us jump to the end of the week. Stephen is at the portal, on the other side. He is sitting in a temporary prefabricated hut that is identical to the prefabricated hut on his side of the portal — a border guard faces him from behind a glass wall — waiting for the liaison from this side to collect him. Stephen’s chair is old and uncomfortable, the hut is draughty and ramshackle; there is a coffee vending machine, broken. The guard is staring out at the portal, his head resting on his hands and his eyelids droopy, watching the cars pass by, fresh out of the battery charging station, bouncing over the speed bump like giant, metallic sheep. Stephen looks at the clock on the wall. The time is 2:22pm. A woman opens the door and enters, shaking drops of water from her umbrella and forming little puddles with every footstep. She sees Stephen and smiles.

I’m Omari, very pleased to meet you. Sorry to keep you waiting. I’d shake your hand, but as you can see, I’m soaking wet. Jeez, this rain! Is it like this over your side? Sorry you had to walk over. As you know, you need a special permit to bring your car through. But then again, with the car you’ve got to get it towed through anyway, so either way it’s inconvenient. But don’t worry. My car’s right over here. You don’t have an umbrella?

No, Stephen says. I don’t feel the rain.

Omari drives Stephen to her office. Although he knows it already, Stephen is surprised by how almost everything in this universe is identical to his own. He half-suspects that the portal is a practical joke and that Omari is driving him back to his office, where Andy and Aaron and Alison will be waiting to laugh at him. However, in his current anti-social state, he knows that nobody would make a joke at his expense, so the portal must be real.

Stephen thinks that this universe does not look any more advanced than the other. He recognizes the same adverts, the same stores, the same models of cars. He even recognizes the same homeless people, who have experienced the same misfortunes in both universes. The car cuts a tunnel into the rain as they coast through the city. The rain has touched everything in sight — even shop entrances that are protected by awnings or set in a few paces from the street leak water as if it is flowing from inside the building rather than outside.

It’s a real pain in the ass, isn’t it, you having to come all the way over here personally just to give us a spreadsheet, when it’d be so much easier to do it all over the internet, Omari says as she drives.

Electricity cannot travel through the portal, Stephen says.

Well yeah, I know. That’s what I’m saying. It’s a real pain in the ass that electricity can’t travel through the portal. It’s like going back in time, right? When everything had to be done by hand. But tell me, what’s it like on your side? Is it way different to here?

No, it’s pretty much the same.

Omari seems disappointed.

At the office, Stephen gives his presentation and shows his spreadsheet. Nobody understands it.

I don’t quite know what all this means in real terms, Omari’s boss says. Let me send it down to R&D and see what they make of it. Why don’t you come back in a week and hopefully we’ll have some answers for you then.

Can I use your bathroom? Stephen says after he has packed up his things.

Once around the corner, out of sight, Stephen uses the emergency stairwell and exits the building. He flags down a taxi and goes to the street where he lives. He asks the driver the time. He has about twenty minutes. He gets out of the taxi a few houses down from his house and looks at his house. It is the same house. He wonders if his front-door key will work. He walks away from his house and around the block, walking for about twenty minutes. He thinks it must be about time, so he walks back toward his house, keeping to the side.

There they are. Her car is pulling into the drive. It stops and the two front doors open and she and her daughter step out. Stephen’s heart pounds and his body flushes and he begins to sweat. He feels suddenly very hot. He wants to rush to them. He almost does. Then they enter the house and it is as if they never were there. Stephen calms down; he turns away and walks to the nearest main road where he flags down another taxi and goes back to the portal.

Omari is waiting for him in the hut. She looks displeased, but she smiles at him. Stephen knows that he has got her into trouble — in the past, he would have been upset at his own behavior, but now he feels nothing, not even guilt. He cares nothing for her or her boss.

Just wanted to make sure you got back okay, Omari says, still smiling. Stephen looks at the security guard. It is a different security guard, watching different cars jump over the speed bump.

Yeah, I got a little lost on the way, but I made it in the end.

Well, that’s great. So I guess I’ll see you next week. Shall we say Friday? Same time?


Let us now skip forward to Friday. We are back at the portal, and Stephen has passed from his side to the other side, and he enters the hut. He looks at the security guard and he cannot remember if it is one that he has already seen or another one. Omari is sitting on the old chair. She has a half-empty cup of coffee in her hand. Another sits on the table. The pools of water around the soles of her shoes are beginning to evaporate and her umbrella is dry. When she sees Stephen she stands up, smiles at him and picks up the coffee from the table.

I thought you might like some coffee, but it’s cold now. I don’t know if you still want it or not. The weather’s colder today than last week, don’t you think?

Stephen shrugs. He does not take the coffee. He places his hands in the pockets of his pants and pulls them up slightly. The weight is pulling them down. Omari opens the door for Stephen to walk out. He walks out. Omari follows. The journey is the same as last week: same route, same billboards, same buildings, same vehicles, same homeless, same rain.

At the office, Omari leads Stephen to the same room he was in the week before.

Orson’ll be here in just a moment. I’ve got some things to do so I’ll be back in a while, okay?

Stephen nods and Omari closes the door behind her. He sits in the same chair he sat in last week and places his hands on the table. A few moments later Orson enters. He smiles at Stephen and sits in a chair opposite and places his hands on the table.

Stephen, it’s good to see you again. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Stephen does not speak. Orson inhales, looks about the room and then puffs out the air from his cheeks.

I’ll get straight to it, shall I? I sent your stuff down to R&D, and they had a real long look at it. They must have spent at least four days on it, analyzing it from all angles, until finally they cracked it.

He pauses and looks at Stephen, as if waiting for a reaction. Stephen blinks.

So, you know what they discovered?

Again he pauses, but Stephen does not react.

It’s bullshit, Stephen.

Excuse me? Stephen says.

Your spreadsheet. Complicated bullshit, I’ll grant you that, but bullshit nonetheless. What are you up to?

I don’t understand. The data is accurate and the analysis is mathematically sound. What part of it is bullshit?

The R&D guys tell me all of it is bullshit. The math is fake, the data is fake. I confirmed it independently. At first we thought that maybe the data was different on your side of the portal, that the carbon output was greater, but we cross-referenced it with an external data collection agency, and it matches our own. Then we thought that, seeing as we’re parallel universes and whatnot, that maybe the math was different in your universe, but that’s not the case either. The math is the same both sides, the data is the same both sides. The only thing that isn’t the same is your spreadsheet.

Show me the spreadsheet.

Orson picks up a remote control and switches on a wall screen. Stephen’s spreadsheet is already displaying, his 3D animated charts running their scenarios in vivid color. Stephen studies them closely.

That’s not my data, he says.

Orson snorts.

That’s what you gave me last week. That’s what I gave to R&D.

That’s not my data, Stephen says again. I can show you.

Stephen reaches into his pocket and removes a data stick. Plug this in, he says.

Orson sighs, shakes his head and takes the stick and plugs it into a slot in the table. A new set of data appears, with new 3D animated charts.

You see? This is what I showed you last week. What you have there — I don’t know where you got it from, but it wasn’t from me.

Orson places his head in his hands and sighs again.

Okay, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll take some screenshots of this now, and then send this new data to R&D, and see what they say. If it comes back as bullshit again, you’re going to be in a lot trouble. You understand?

And if it’s legitimate? Stephen says.

Then I have an espionage problem. But that’s not your concern. Omari will take you back to the portal. I want to make sure you don’t get lost again. Wait here.

Orson gets up and leaves the room. Stephen too stands up and walks to the door on the other side of the room and opens it. A security guard is standing there with his back to Stephen. When the security guard hears the door, he turns around and looks down at Stephen.

If you could please step back inside, sir, the security guard says.

I’m looking for the bathroom, Stephen says.

There’s no bathroom here, sir. If you could please step back inside.

Stephen retreats and lets go of the door and it pivots closed with a soft click. He goes to the other door and gently opens it. Orson and Omari are standing in the corridor talking to each other. Orson has his back to Stephen and when Omari sees him she looks nervous. Orson turns around and smiles.

So, Omari’s going to take you back to the portal now. I trust you don’t need the bathroom, do you?

Stephen shakes his head.

The drive is silent. Omari stares straight ahead. The rain beats down on the windshield and the wipers swish rhythmically back and forth. Stephen gazes at the oncoming traffic and breathes deeply. As a long series of cars pass on the other side of the road, Stephen reaches across the car, grabs the steering wheel and thrusts it to the left, forcing the car into the oncoming traffic. Omari does not have enough time to hit the brakes and the car rams into the side of another. Stephen and Omari are thrown against their seat belts and the air bags puff out faster than Stephen can see. Omari’s head hits the airbag and rebounds to hit the headrest. Stephen looks at her to see if she is all right: her nose is flattened and blood is dripping out of the two nostrils. She looks at Stephen and recoils from him. She fumbles to get out of her seat belt. Stephen unhooks his seat belt and opens his door and gets out. Already people are coming to investigate. Omari jumps out on the other side and screams. She points at Stephen but she is incoherent. A man approaches Stephen and asks him if he is okay and Stephen mumbles and begins to walk away. He walks faster and faster until he rounds a corner and he runs, his heart pounding in his chest, his breath speeding up, panic setting in. Eventually he stops and bends over to catch his breath. He realizes that his hands are shaking — in fact, his whole body is trembling. He sits down on the ground and waits for the trembling to stop. His clothes are soaked from the rain, but he does not feel it. After some time he calms down and is able to control himself again.

Stephen walks down a few streets until he finds a hotel that rents rooms by the hour. He rents a room for one hour and goes immediately to the bathroom. Then he goes back to the receptionist.

There’s no hair dryer in the bathroom, Stephen says.

The receptionist looks confused.

What do you want with a hair dryer?

I want to take a shower and dry my hair.

The receptionist searches below the desk and pulls out an old, dangerous-looking hair dryer.

There’s a twenty-dollar deposit on that, the receptionist says.

Back in the room, Stephen hangs his clothes in the bathroom and tries to dry them with the hair dryer. Fifteen minutes later, before they are dry, he puts them back on and leaves. He flags down a taxi and goes to his office. He asks the driver the time. There is not much time.

The taxi drops him off in the car park and Stephen finds his car in its usual place. He takes out his car key and holds his breath. He wonders if the key will work. He presses the button. Nothing happens. He inserts the key into the door lock and turns. The automatic doors click open. Stephen gets into the back seat, presses the door lock button on the dashboard and the doors lock, and hides himself on the floor. A few minutes later the doors click open again and Stephen opens the driver’s door and gets inside. He is talking on the phone.

Sure, I can get that. I’ll pick it up on the way. It should take me about forty minutes in this rain . . . yeah, I’m starving. Okay, hun, gotta go. Love you too. Bye.

Stephen hangs up the phone and drops it between the driver and front passenger seats. He puts the key in the ignition and starts the car. Then he turns around, places his arm over the back of the passenger headrest, sees Stephen and jumps. Stephen is still crouching on the floor, but he is pointing a gun at him.

Don’t say anything. Just drive.

Stephen looks more shocked than afraid, and he stares for a moment before he nods and reverses out of the parking space.

Where are we going? Stephen asks once they are on a main road.

Not far. Just keep driving.

Eventually they leave the city, and the traffic starts to thin. The light fades and the streetlights flicker on. All the while, the rain drills on the windshield, like a tattoo marching band. Stephen guides him along a series of backroads until there is no more traffic.

There’s a lay-by coming up. Pull in there.

Stephen does as he is told and stops the car in the middle of the lay-by. They both get out of the car and he tells Stephen to walk out of the lay-by and into the trees, and then to get on his knees.

What’s going on?

You don’t appreciate your family.

What? I do. I love my family.

Yeah, you love them, like I loved them, but you can’t appreciate them, really appreciate them, until they’re gone. You can’t know what that’s like.

What are you going to do?

He says nothing, but just stares at Stephen.

No, no, no! Don’t do this.

You’re nothing without your family. Everything that’s good about you — it’s because of them. Without them, you may as well be dead.

No, please, don’t!

You’re pathetic. Look at you, on your knees, begging. You don’t deserve them.

He places the barrel of the gun to Stephen’s head. Stephen screams and he pulls the trigger. Stephen falls backward and spasms. He shoots him again, two more times, and he stops moving. He takes a step closer and examines the body. He feels only contempt. Then he smells feces. Stephen must have released his bowels before dying. This changes the plan. He can no longer stuff the body in the car to dispose of it later. He drags it further into the trees. He tries to cover it with debris, but there is no light by which to see and he has no idea how good a job he is doing. He will need to return with a shovel and a flashlight. He will need to do it tonight, but right now he needs to get home.

He gets back into the car and picks up Stephen’s phone.

I’m sorry, babe, I got sidetracked at work, but I’m on my way now. What was it you wanted me to pick up?

His heart pounds when he hears her voice, and he has to concentrate in order not to lose his own voice. When he hangs up, he races to the store to collect the almond milk. The phone rings and Stephen sees that it is the house phone. He answers it.

Hun, are you okay? she asks him.

Yes, of course. I just got stuck at work, that’s all. Why?

The police are here. They’re looking for you.

No, everything’s fine, Stephen says.

Hang on, one of them wants to talk to you.

Stephen hears the voice of a man.

This is Officer Orlando. We just wanted to make sure that everything is okay with you. Has anything strange happened to you today?

No, Stephen says, nothing. It’s been a typical, boring day. Can I ask what this is about?

We had some strange activity with the portal, is all. If you notice anything unusual, please call us. I’ll put you back on with your wife now.

The police officer gives back the phone.

I’ll be home in five minutes, babe.

Stephen hangs up and he goes home. When he pulls into the drive, his wife’s car is where it always used to be, and the lights are on in all the rooms, wasting electricity.

He switches off the engine and gets out of the car. The front door opens and she is standing there. He stares at her — he feels as if he had forgotten how beautiful she was. He enters the house and she closes the door behind him. The house is exactly the same as his own, down to the smallest detail. He falls into his old rhythm instantly, as if the last few months had never happened.

Where’s Sasha? he says.

At the movies. Remember?

Oh yeah, I forgot.

Hun, do you know what happened that the police wanted you?

Stephen shakes his head. No idea, babe. Come on, I’m starving. Let’s eat.

Okay, give me a sec. It’s risotto, and it’s still in the pot. Why don’t you go get changed? I just need two minutes, okay?

Stephen goes upstairs while she goes to the kitchen. He looks at everything on the way. It is exactly the same yet somehow different. She is exactly the same, yet somehow different too. He cannot put his finger on it. He goes to their bedroom and checks the drawers. Everything is the same, in the same place. He changes out of his still-wet clothes and puts on sweatpants and an old, baggy hoody. They are the same sweatpants and old, baggy hoody that he always wears when he comes home, except that the hoody always itches him in the small of his back, and this time it does not. He goes back downstairs.

Hun, can you come in the kitchen a minute?

Stephen walks to the kitchen to see her ladling risotto into two bowls. The steam rises from the bowls and from the pot and envelops her in a sensuous, obscuring aura. She looks beautiful, sexy, just as he remembers her, and still there is something that he cannot identify, something that he does not recognize. He approaches her and his heart beats faster with every step, until he is standing beside her. He dare not touch her. She sets down the ladle and the pot and turns to face him. She smiles.

What’s up?

You’re so beautiful.

Stephen takes the final step toward her. He wraps his arms around her waist and her hands close around his neck. He pulls her to him and their lips touch. It is at this moment that Stephen realizes how exhausted he is from the day’s activities, and his lips feel slightly numb. She pulls away from him and turns back to the food. She lifts the two bowls and hands them to him.

Will you take these to the dining room?

He takes them from her and turns around and walks to the dining room. Behind him, he hears a drawer slide open and something heavy being moved. As he walks out of the kitchen he hears her rush up behind him. He turns around and sees her racing toward him, a heavy frying pan held high above her head. He tries to raise his hands but they are already busy holding the risotto. The frying pan crashes down on his head and he drops the risotto and falls to the floor. He cannot see. The frying pan comes down again and again until Stephen falls unconscious.

When Stephen awakes, he is firmly tied to a kitchen chair. He recognizes the rope as the piece he bought to practice sailing knots. She is sitting in another kitchen chair, facing him, staring at him.

Where’s Stephen? she says.

I’m Stephen.

My husband, Stephen. Where’s my husband?

I’m your —

You’re not my husband. You think I don’t know my own husband? You’re from the other side, aren’t you? Is that where my husband is? What have you done with him?

Stephen watches her as she stands up. She paces from side to side and is working herself into a frenzy. She is still holding the frying pan, the bottom of which drips black blood onto the tiled floor.

Of course I know my own husband. I knew the second you walked into the house. I knew when you stared at me. I know how my husband looks at me. I knew when you put on his clothes that you weren’t him. I knew when you kissed me. You’re nothing like him.

Stephen is shocked.

But you’re my wife.

I’m not your wife. I’ll never be your wife. Where is my husband?

Stephen cannot speak.

What have you done with him?

Still Stephen cannot speak. She is frantic, swinging the frying pan around his head. But the pan is heavy and soon she tires. Her swinging slows, and then she walks back to the kitchen chair and drops into it. They sit looking at each other for a long time.

You killed him, didn’t you?

Stephen nods.


I wanted us to be together.

How could we be together?

Because I’m him, and he’s —

You’re not him. And he’s not you. And I’m not her and she’s not me.

But we’re the same. We’re the same.

She sets the frying pan on the floor and leans back into the chair. She seems as exhausted as he is.

How did it happen? she says after a while. How did she die?

Car crash. Both of them, together.

In this rain?

Stephen nods.

We’re not used to this kind of rain, she says. Although it’s been going on for long enough. I hate it. It chills me right to my bones.

I don’t feel it, Stephen says.

I understand you, she says. If I lost them, and then if I had a chance to get them back. Maybe. I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out.

You don’t have to. You have me. I’m here. I’ll always be here.

Do you really think that in time you would be okay with me? She leans forward in the chair.

Stephen says, You’re my wife —

Stop saying that. I’m not your wife. I can’t be your wife. I’m somebody else’s wife. I’m his wife. Do you really think that you could live with somebody who looked so much like your wife but wasn’t your wife? She is getting angry again, Stephen can see. But she is right, and the longer he spends with her, the more he realizes that she is not his wife. She can never be his wife.

You murdered my husband, and for what? A fantasy?

But maybe in time —

In time what? I’ll forget what you did? You’ll forget I’m not who you want me to be? You’re insane! You’re a murderer! She is screaming at him now, waving the pan again.

Sasha — he says

Don’t say her name! she screams and lunges at him with the pan. She swings it high and brings it down on him like a sledgehammer. There is a loud crack as his skull splits in two, he slumps to the side and both Stephen and the chair fall over. She lifts the pan high again and brings it down on his head again.

At this point, there is nothing more that Stephen can tell us, and we must leave him, on the floor, blood gushing from his broken skull, the woman who was never his wife, and who could never be his wife, bashing his brains into mush. Outside, in the rain, the sirens are wailing and the lights are flashing, as the police, who have already found Stephen’s body in the woods (for Stephen was better at making complicated spreadsheets than he was at concealing bodies) rush to apprehend the imposter from the other side.

A Letter to Batman from the Gotham City Police Department


Re: Best Practices and Public Awareness/Safety Training

Dear Batman:

We are writing to you because you recently registered to be an auxiliary agent of the Gotham City Police Department.

The Gotham City Code requires all law enforcement agents to undergo training in police best practices and public awareness/safety. Topics of this mandatory training include, but are not limited to:

  1. Minimizing risks to bystanders during potentially lethal confrontations
  2. Mitigating damage to public and private property
  3. Reading a suspect his or her Miranda rights
  4. The safe use, transportation, and storage of firearms
  5. How to avoid racial profiling
  6. Suspect interrogation techniques that comply with the United Nations Human Rights Standards and Practices
  7. Safe driving
  8. Effective coördination and coöperation with other law enforcement agencies
  9. Working with a partner

There will be a short exam at the end of the training session. Please note: You must successfully complete the exam in order to qualify as a Gotham City Police Department agent. Successful candidates will receive a Certificate of Achievement. (Unsuccessful candidates will receive a Certificate of Participation and will have a second opportunity to complete their training in the following calendar year.) Upon successful completion of training, you will be awarded a Gotham City Police Department Agent license, which you will be required to carry with you at all times while on duty. You will also need this license should you wish to register a private vehicle for law enforcement purposes. Furthermore, you will be required to satisfy biennial Continuing Law Enforcement Education requirements.

The upcoming training will be held on the 13th and 14th of November at the Gotham Grand Hotel, Convention Room 4. Lunch is included for both days, and refreshments such as coffee and snacks will be available as well.

While the hotel does not offer free parking, any parking costs will be reimbursed by the HR department upon production of a receipt. We encourage you to consider the environment and travel to the venue using Gotham City’s outstanding monorail service, however. #KeepGothamGreen

Please register no later than two weeks before the training, by visiting

We look forward to seeing you there.

Yours sincerely,

Fran Jansen
Human Resources Manager
Gotham City Police Department

Please share this piece anywhere and everywhere.

This letter was originally published by How Pants Work.

10 Reasons Why Listicles Make You Feel Slightly Disgusted

5 Steps To A Life Of Happiness

We all know them, and most writers experiment with them at one time or another, a bit like how we all experiment with sexuality, or bad hair styles. The format is simple: the listicle is a cross between a list and an article, with an introduction that is so unnecessary that most people tend to skip it, leaving the writer to wonder why he or she spent any time on it in the first place. The introduction is the article part of the list. It meanders through God-knows-what . . . I’ve never read a listicle intro, because I always go straight to the list. Let’s face it, that’s why we’re all here . . . to read some self-help crap spewed out by somebody who is so desperate for attention that they will stoop so low as to write out a full nine-hundred-word list slash article just to disguise the fact that the only thing that matters is the click-bait title. So without further ado . . . the list. (Christ, I hate myself)

  1. A listicle is like the prostitute of words: it is the one thing we resort to when all else has failed. That novel? Half-finished and going nowhere. Your short stories? In the trash at various magazines. Your one-act play that looked like it was going to be put on by the local am-dram group? They went with Arthur Miller, again. Yep, they chose to pay royalties to a dead guy than to use your stuff for free.
  2. A listicle is a complete waste of time. It’s a waste of the reader’s time, because the reader already knows everthing on the list, and the list simply confirms that the reader has made excellent life choices, and it’s a waste of the writer’s time, because rather than spend valuable time learning his or her craft, the writer has chosen to go for the instant gratification of likes/claps/two cents per word.
  3. That’s basically it. I’ve got nothing else. Let’s see . . . a listicle is like the herpes of . . . no, that doesn’t work . . . it’s like the syphilis of . . . what? What STD is a listicle like? On to point four.
  4. Yeah, I’m really struggling here. I feel like everything that needs to be said was said in point one. Maybe the bit about confirming the readers’ opinions of themselves in point two. I still can’t think of a suitable STD to compare it to. How many more points to go? Oh God, another six! Okay, let’s move on. This really is like prostitution: nobody wants anything to do with it, and everybody feels a little dirty afterward.
  5. What has my life come to? Why the hell am I doing this? I hope my mom doesn’t see this.
  6. But maybe, just maybe, it’ll lead to something good. After all, Kevin Costner did a porno before making it in Hollywood. But then again, what about all the other actors and actresses who never made it? And all the writers who spent their whole lives writing and it came to nothing? Is that my fate, too? No, this listicle is going to get me noticed. That’s what listicles do, goddammit! Nobody can resist clicking on them and reading through each of the easily digestible points.
  7. Another three points and I can start daytime drinking. I’ll watch Friends. It’s been ages since I’ve watched season one. They’re so young and cute! And with such funny nineties hairstyles! Ah, the nineties. Remember MC Hammer and his parachute pants? Or Vanilla Ice with his baseline that was totally different to Queen?
  8. There are three things you need in order to do serious daytime drinking: one, your own place where you can close the blinds and sit in your underwear; two, a larder or fridge full of alcohol and snacks; and three, a television, or screen of some sort where you can binge watch TV shows. If you’ve got all those things, you can forget about the rest of the day, and just pretend that tomorrow doesn’t exist.
  9. Nine. We’re up to number nine now. Okay, think, think! Something motivational . . . uplifting . . . nope. I’ve already started drinking. Friends isn’t as funny as I remember it. And they’re all so white, which I hadn’t noticed before. Huh, I guess television really is becoming more diverse, and comedy is getting more sophisticated. Maybe it’s time to switch it off. But what to do instead?
  10. I’m really drunk, and I’ve been stalking my exes online. I even looked up the dude I once messed around with at a party. That was a crazy party! But it allowed me to realize that I wasn’t gay. He was, though, and he seemed quite disappointed with my performance, like I was some kind of amateur. He also made some snarky comment about my hairstyle. Well, I’m a published writer, now, Richard! Self-publishing is a fully recognized form of publishing, and many people move on to the big five after self-publishing. I’m going to be the Kevin Costner of self-publishing, so don’t pity me, Richard . . . because I already pity myself.

I think a listicle is supposed to have some kind of conclusion, but I’ve never read all the way to the end of one before. Let’s see . . . life’s great . . . you can do it . . . don’t give up. Okay, we’re done. Please leave the money on the counter on your way out. And please don’t tell my mom about this.

This article originally appeared on

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The anxiety of pigeons

PigeonsMany of the buildings in the center of Madrid have interior and exterior apartments. An exterior apartment borders the street, while an interior one meets the apartment building on the parallel street. Imagine a solid building with a few shafts bored out of the center. When you open the curtains in the morning, the chances are that, a few feet across from you, you will see your neighbor doing the same. Both of you try to pretend that you do not see the other.

At the back of our apartment on Calle San Ildefonso, the building opposite contained a few very small windows that nobody opened, with small ledges. As a result, the pigeons moved in and made nests out of them. Every year, in spring and in autumn, the pigeons who had taken up residence directly opposite our bedroom window laid two eggs. In autumn, usually the eggs did not hatch, or if they did, the chicks did not survive. When the chicks died, the mother sat with them for a day or two, and then the two pigeons tried to avoid touching the corpses, moving to the far side of the window ledge. In winter, the pigeons spent most of their time huddled together in one corner of the ledge.

One year, in spring, the pigeons laid two eggs and one of them survived. All baby animals are cute: we seem to have a genetic predisposition to find babies of any species cute, I suppose to encourage us to care more about them and nurture them through their dangerous infancy. Baby pigeons are an exception. When they hatch, they are vomit yellow, with scraggly necks and feathers that remind you of the wisps of hair of an old man who has not washed his hair in weeks. It is hard, if not impossible, to look at a baby pigeon and think that it is cute. They make a lot of noise very early in the morning, and they require constant feeding from both parents. I saw the pigeons flying all day to bring food – they took turns staying at home to look after the baby and going out to work. Pigeon parenting is very egalitarian.

After a few days, the pigeon was able to sort of stand and observe things around herself. Unfortunately, in the shaft in which she was born, there was very little to see, except for my wife and I as we walked past the window, and every time we did, the baby pigeon tried to press herself against the back window, to get as far away from us as possible. After a few weeks, however, the baby was bigger, less afraid and more curious, and most importantly, less ugly. She was starting to resemble what we know as a pigeon. By this time, as well, the parents started to leave the baby for longer and longer periods, and eventually they left her for whole days, returning only in the evenings after work.

Eventually, the pigeon started to explore. She walked to the edge of the ledge, looked down, stretched her wings and flapped back. She did this for several days. Then one day I looked out of the window and saw the pigeon standing on our window ledge. Then she flew back to her nest.

The next day, the baby pigeon was gone. I felt sad that she had left. For the entire day, we heard the flapping of pigeon wings, and when we looked out, we saw both the mother and the father flying back and forth through the shaft, looking for their baby. They flew up and down, from side to side, for the entire day. I assumed that the baby had flown away when they were out at work. I wondered if the baby would be all right. How would she find food? Would she be able to find her way back if she needed help? Would she be lost in the city? Was she already lost? Perhaps the parents were thinking the same. I went to bed and worried about the baby pigeon.

When I woke up, the pigeon was not there. I made breakfast, had a shower and got dressed. Then I glanced out the window and the baby pigeon was there, back on our window ledge. Not only the baby, but the father, too, stuck to his child as if by glue, never more than ten centimeters from her. When the child walked from one side of the ledge to the other, the father went there too. When she flew back to the nest, the father flew there too. When she leaped into the air and flew away, so too did the father.

That was the last time we ever saw the baby pigeon. The parents eventually returned and laid more eggs, but none survived. Finally the builders came and renovated the building, destroying the nest in the process. The parents moved on, and we moved away.

Copyright©2017 Bohemian Breakdancer

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Despacito from the other side

Despacito cartoon

The awesome power of this music video is best appreciated with the sound off.

Important note: the events in this sketch are not the fault of any of the characters. Behind every stupid music video is a stupid director.


A young, beautiful, scantily-dressed woman is walking through a small Puerto Rican village, sensuously.

She comes to a wall, and presses her back against it, slowly writhing up and down, side to side. A local villager, an old man pushing a bicycle up the hill, passes her and stops to look. She doesn’t notice him, her eyes are closed, and she becomes more excited as she gyrates against the wall.

She stops abruptly when the man begins to talk.


What are you doing?


I’m gyrating. What does it look like?


It looks like you’re gyrating, but my real question is why? Why are you gyrating up against that wall?


I don’t have to answer to you. I can gyrate against the wall if I want.


Not that wall. It’s my wall. Look, lady, just leave the wall alone. Step away from the wall and go gyrate somewhere else. I live on the other side and I don’t want to have to sit in my living room knowing that there’s some lady gettin’ jiggy on the other side of the wall… with the wall.


Why can’t you just leave me alone?


That wall never did anything to you, so stop doing things to it. Okay?


(stepping away from the wall)

Okay, but let me kiss your forehead before I go.



No, get away from me! Is that your thing too? I saw you kissing that little boy on the forehead earlier. Do you have some obsession with kissing foreheads?


I don’t know… I just thought it would be nice. I like kissing and gyrating.


Fine, whatever.

(pointing to a group of people dancing in the street)

You see that guy in the middle, the one bouncing up and down and pointing at things that aren’t there?


There are two of them. Which one?


The one on the right.


Yeah. What about him?


Well, I saw him earlier, down by the rocks, swaying around in slow motion like an idiot. He looks like he might want kissed on the forehead. Go try him.

The woman walks away, brushing her hand sensuously against another wall.


Stop it! I can see you! Just stop touching the walls, lady!


A club. Luis Fonsi is standing at the bar when the same beautiful woman enters and starts gyrating in the middle of the room. The same old man enters moments later, sees her, rolls his eyes and makes straight for the bar and orders a drink.


Hey, do you know that woman?


Not personally, but we’ve met.


She’s so beautiful! I can’t believe how beautiful she is.


You like her?


Oh yeah! I really wanna rub up against her.


(to himself)

Why don’t people just want to have sex anymore? What’s with all this rubbing?

(to Luis Fonsi)

Listen, I may know something about her that could help you out, if you’re interested.


Oh yeah? You? Tell me.


Not so fast. First I want to know something from you.


Okay, what do you want to know?


What were you doing down at the sea this morning, on the rocks?


What are you talking about? I wasn’t down on the rocks this morning.


Come on, Luis, I saw you, walking around in slow motion, throwing your arms up in the air.


No, you’ve got me confused with somebody else.


Ok, sorry, I really thought it was you. I guess I’ll go find that other guy and tell him how to get with this girl.

The old man begins to walk away.


Okay, okay, it was me. Sometimes I just like to be dramatic. I like it down there, with the waves crashing against the rocks. I can imagine that there’s a helicopter flying around me, and over-the-top music is playing. Is that a crime? All right, I’ve told you, now tell me how to get with this goddess of gyration.


It’s really simple. She’s got a thing for walls.




Yes, walls.


I don’t understand. What do you mean, she’s got a thing for walls?


She can’t keep her hands off them. I caught her outside my house, rubbing up against the wall, touching it all over.


And? So? How does that help me get closer to her?


What I’m trying to say is that you, Luis, don’t have to do anything to get with her. Just stand up against that wall over there, and stand real still. And then she’ll come to you. Try not to do your dramatic arm waving. It doesn’t help your cause.


Are you making fun of me?


Not this time. Seriously, go and do it.


Okay, but if it doesn’t work out, it’s your fault.


Sure, blame the old man because the young man can’t get a girl. Whatever, I’m going home.


But the night’s still young. Stick around, you never know what’s gonna happen.


I’ve seen a thousand nights just like tonight. I know exactly what’s going to happen. You’re all going to run around each other like dogs in heat, and then one or two people are going to get lucky, and everybody else is going to go home drunk and disappointed.


And what are you gonna do at home?


I’m going to go home where there is an actual woman, my wife, and I’m going to have actual sex with her, rather than what you’re going to do, which is suggestively dance around the subject of sex and then finish in your pants.

The old man drains his glass and leaves. Luis Fonsi sidles over to the wall and stands still, or as still as he can, trying hard to control the waving of his arms, pulling them back every time they fly out.

Slowly, slowly, the gyrating woman gyrates over to the wall… and to Luis Fonsi. Finally, she backs up against him, and they are gyrating together. He places his hands on her hips, and she does not resist, so he moves in even closer.


Hey baby, do you like that?

She moans and touches her belly with her hands.


Yeah, that’s nice, isn’t it?

She doesn’t seem to hear him.


Did you hear me? I said that’s nice.

Still she doesn’t seem to notice him.


Can you hear me? Are you ignoring me? I kind of feel like a part of the wall here. I mean, it seems like I could be anybody, or maybe even the wall itself. Are you gyrating with me or with the wall? Cos I’m starting to believe the old man. Do you really have a thing for walls?

The woman stops gyrating and turns around with a satisfied look.


Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there. Have you been here for long?


No, I just got here.


Can I kiss your forehead?

The woman kisses his forehead. Luis Fonsi finishes in his pants.


Copyright©2017 Bohemian Breakdancer

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