Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How I Became a Mad Scientist - Episode 11




Bob Eaton stood outside the office, eating a corn dog and talking on his phone. Bob was one of the photographers. I knew him because he’d coached my soccer team a few years ago. He was a nice guy, but kind of nosy. 

“Hey, George,” he said.  “Whatcha got in the wagon?”

“Um, picnic stuff.” I said as I frantically rearranged the blanket. “We’re meeting some people down at Sunset Park for a picnic.  It’s a family thing.”  

“That’s funny,” he said.  “Your mom was in here about an hour ago and didn’t say anything about it.  Do you think she’d mind if I came?”

“Mom’s not going to be there,” I said quickly. Bob had an uncanny knack for showing up wherever my mom was. It was creepy. We’d lost Dad nine months ago. It would be at least five or six years before any weirdos should even contemplate talking to Mom. 

“Why are you having a family picnic without your mom?” Bob asked.  His hand reached out towards the blanket. “George, you’re not getting into trouble, are you?” 

“Nope!” I said. “Still the same good kid I’ve always been. And Frank’s a good kid too. We’re just kind of busy.” I started to pull the wagon away.  The blanket tangled in the wheels and slid to the ground. Bob stared dumbfounded at Bessie, revealed in all of her Kraken-Cow glory.

“What on Earth is that?” Bob asked. His phone went into his pocket. His corn dog went into the trash. His hands moved toward the camera he always wore around his neck. I could feel my face getting red. Frank looked like a stuttering tomato. We were in deep trouble.

 “It’s a raft,” I said quickly.  “We took two different water toys and put them together. We call it a Kraken-Cow!”  

Bob grinned. ‘Oh, like the legend of Knotty Pine Lake,” he said. “I remember that from my scouting days!”  He snapped a picture. “Pretty clever. Don’t scare any boaters.” Bessie hummed in her sleep and wiggled her tentacles.  

“Huh, looks like the wind’s kicking up,” I said. “Better get it down to the river before the water gets too choppy!”

“Be careful,” Bob said. “And wear life vests. Your family’s had enough heartache this year, George. Don’t do anything that would make your mom cry.” 

I swallowed. “Of course not, Bob. Frank and I are always really careful. We’ll see you around.” Unfortunately, since he obviously had a crush on my mom or something.  We walked quickly down the street. I looked over my shoulder.  Bob had already ducked back inside, so he didn’t see Bessie waving her tentacles at him. 

“Calm down, girl,” I said. “We’re taking you somewhere wonderful.” Bessie opened her eyes and blinked in the bright sunshine.  I felt her tentacles. They were drying out. “We have to hurry up,” I told Frank. “She’s waking up, and the sun is drying her out.”  We jogged the rest of the way to the park.  

There was a crowd of people at the picnic pavilion and a bunch of kids on the swings, but no one on the boat ramp.  We pulled the wagon down the ramp and into the water.  I untied Bessie’s tentacles and they sprawled everywhere.  Slowly, Frank and I tipped the wagon into the river and she slithered into the cool, muddy water.  “I hope she’s going to be all right,” I told Frank. “What if she gets sick from all the pollution? What if she gets hit by a barge and dies?”

“She’ll be fine,” Frank said.  I felt a tentacle wrap around my leg and hold fast.  Bessie was slowly moving out to deeper water.  

“Let me go, girl,” I said, playfully batting at the tentacle. “I’m not coming with you.”   Bessie grabbed me tighter and mooed.  My feet started to slip on the rocks and I grabbed the wagon to stay up right. Frank stared at me, slack jawed. “Frank,” I whispered, trying not to spook Bessie, “Help me.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

How I Became a Mad Scientist - Episode 10




It took both of us to lift Bessie into my old wagon. I hoped it could bear her weight without breaking.  It was like she’d turned a corner. Suddenly, she seemed to be getting bigger by the minute.  Her tentacles flopped this way and that.  “This is no good,” I told Frank. “They’re going to get caught under the wheels. Then we’ll have an injured Kraken-Cow on our hands.”

“Can’t we sedate her or something?” Frank asked as he tried to peel Bessie’s tentacles off his legs.  “We won’t be able to pass her off as normal if she’s grabbing at everything in sight.” 

“What could we give her that would sedate her?” I asked. “Look, I’ll just feed her a bunch right now so that she goes to sleep. Then we just have to get her down to the river before she wakes up. Frank had run to the IGA before he came to my house. We had a flat of 24 cans of salmon. I hoped it would be enough. 

“You’re going to pay me back for those, right?” Frank glared at me as I opened the first can and dumped the contents into Bessie’s mouth.  

“Of course I will,” I said. “I’ll mow lawns and make the money in no time.” I opened and dumped 8 cans before my hand started aching. I passed the can opener to Frank and had him do a couple while I stretched my fingers.  Then I got back to work.  

At can 22, Bessie belched loudly. She only ate half of can 23 before she yawned, stretched out her tentacles, and closed her eyes.  She whuffled and snored as she slept, her warm breath surrounded her in a cloud of fishy air.  “Great,” I said. “She should nap for at least an hour.” 

“You owe me for the unopened can too,” Frank grumbled.  Carefully, I picked up Bessie’s tentacles and curled them on top of her back.  I wrapped elastic bandages around them to keep them in place. Then I covered her with a blanket so only her face was showing. 

“Just keep sleeping,” I whispered in her ear.  “We’ll be down to the river in no time.”

The wagon groaned as we pulled it out my back door, down the wheelchair ramp next to the deck (Mom had bought the house from an old couple who’d added the ramp), and out onto the sidewalk. As I tried to turn, the axles squealed.  I winced. “Please let it hold together until we get to the river,” I prayed.  Frank was walking too fast. “Slow down,” I hissed. “It will be easier if we stay together.”  

He fell into step next to me as we rounded the corner and passed the salon. I moved so that the people inside wouldn’t be able to see Bessie. The family who owned the place had a kid in my class. Kara hung out at the salon all summer long. If she saw me pulling a cow through the streets of Tell City in a wagon, she’d come out and ask us all sorts of unpleasant questions.   

I smiled and waved at the people inside. That way, they wouldn’t suspect anything.  Frank and I were just two totally normal guys, out for a stroll with our wagon.

The blanket started slipping as we passed the mayor’s office.  Frank held it in place while I walked in front of the wagon to keep it from speeding up as it went down the hill.  Bessie’s sleeping face smushed against my back. I could feel her drool soaking through my shirt. I was going to stink by the time we got to the river. I’d have to come up with a way to explain the salmon-laundry to my mom.

The streets were pretty empty. It was lunchtime on a hot day. People weren’t out shopping or walking. Some of the stores were closed until 1. It looked like we might be able to make it to the river without any problems.  We probably could have made it, if we had cut across the railroad tracks early and walked along the flood wall. Unfortunately, I was on auto-pilot, and we happened to walk by the newspaper office.

Next Episode.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fit Only For Kindling





I’m a little irritated at Amazon.com right now. Our Kindle Fire literally caught on fire this morning. It was shooting out sparks and lit up the charging cable like a candle. (other devices connected to the same outlet were fine, so it’s clearly a Kindle problem, not a cable/outlet problem.)

Basically, the only reason no one got hurt was because I was the one using it instead of the kids. If the 3 year old had been watching Dora at the time, we’d have had a major crisis.

Anyway, Amazon says that since it’s over a year old, they won’t replace it or repair it. They just offer a discount on the purchase of a new Kindle.

When I googled, I couldn’t find anyone else who had this happen, so I’m blogging the even so other people realize:

Apparently the original Kindle Fire HD fails CATASTROPHICALLY when it goes. So, be aware. Amazon does not yet recognize this as a real problem, but if it happens to you, you’re not the first.

Also, needless to say, we will not be purchasing Kindles in the future, since they don't seem to take catastrophic failure seriously.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How I Became a Mad Scientist -Episode 9




It took about 36 hours for Bessie to make it to the other side of her growth spurt. By the end of it, we were both sleep-deprived and exhausted. I collapsed into bed after letting my mom know that I was feeling better, but really needed to sleep unbothered for a day or so. Luckily, my mom believes that sleep is the best cure for illness, so I could trust her to leave me alone.

I woke up because something floppy and slimy was resting on my face. I sat straight up. Bessie had gotten out of her tub, and she’d grown.  Her cow-body was about the size of a German Shepherd, and her tentacles sprawled everywhere.  At least she didn’t seem to be hungry.  I grabbed my phone and called Frank. 

 I looked for my shoes while I waited for him to answer. They weren’t next to the bed. I must have kicked them underneath the other day.  I hung over the edge to look for them and felt a little sick to my stomach.  My shoes weren’t under my bed. Nothing was under my bed.  I grabbed Bessie’s face and smelled her breath.  It smelled like paper, gym shoes, and old candy wrappers mixed together with dirty laundry.  

 "Bessie!” I yelled. “Bad girl!” 

Frank answered in time to hear my shouts.  “What’s going on? What did Bessie do?”

“She grew!” Bessie tried to twine her tentacles around my legs as I talked. “And she ate everything on my floor. Including my shoes!”

“Well,” Frank said, “Your mom told you to keep them on the shoe rack.  At least she’ll be happy that your room is clean, right?”

“This isn’t funny, Frank. She’s a menace!  I can’t keep her here anymore. We have to do something.”
Frank was silent.  “Don’t you dare say that you warned me, Frank. What are we going to do?”
 
“Well,” Frank said slowly,”Cows and Krakens both get pretty big.”

Bessie slithered over to my window and started plucking at the blinds. If she decided they were good to eat, my mom would kill me.

“Yes, Frank. I’m aware that cows are big. And there’s one slithering around my room eating everything in sight.”

“You liked her,” Frank pointed out as Bessie licked the baseboards. “You said she was cute and you were going to keep her.”

“I was wrong, OK,” I said. “This has gotten out of hand. What are we going to do?”

“You have to find her a new home,” Frank said. “Somewhere where she can find food.”

“What, like the zoo? Or the circus?” How on earth did you even find a circus? They just randomly popped up and disappeared once a year.

“NO!” Frank shouted so loudly that Bessie heard him and lowed nervously. “They’d trace it back to us, and I’d get arrested for violating my probation.  We need to find somewhere to let her go. Somewhere with water, and fish, and grass.”

“Like the river?” I asked.  “Wouldn’t she throw off the local ecosystem or something?”

“Naah,” Frank said. “The Ohio would work. They already have problems with pollution and invasive species, so they’d assume she was a natural mutant. And there’s only one of her, so it’s not like she’d start breeding and bothering boaters.”

I knew Frank was right. The Ohio was our best bet, especially since we could walk down to the boat ramp and avoid uncomfortable questions from our moms.  But how would we hide her on the walk down?  If we carried a Kraken-Cow down the street, someone was bound to see us and call our parents. Small towns are like that. If only we could pass her off as a dog, or a horse… or even…a cow?  I bounced my idea of Frank. He agreed that it was so bizarre, it just might work.

Next Episode.