Writing Samples

GREETERS IN HELL

 

 

   I never thought I was that bad. Yeah, I had been a dick sometimes although my ex-wife said I was something a little more to the rear. In my own mind, I really wasn't that bad. That was what I thought, and it was the last thing I thought as my old pick-up truck veered off the road spilling my beer all over me. I glanced down to save it and didn't see the tree before we joined together to create a marvelous impact.

I awoke standing next to the truck, staring in at myself. Kinda freaked me out. My head had pushed through the windshield. I never liked those belts. They were too tight and I had a fear of not being able to get out of the truck if I hit something. Well, here I was, outside the truck but I was also inside the truck. I tried to wrap my mind around that one when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a strange looking, big headed guy with kinda googly eyes staring at me. He motioned for me to follow. At that point in time, I had nothing else to do.

I must have slept during the trip to wherever it was I went. I awoke sitting in an uncomfortable folding chair in a stale, cramped office as an overweight man in a wrinkled suit spoke to me. His shirt appeared to be a size or two too small as it crimped the folds of fat around his neck, pushing a roll above the collar. His tie was tighter than tight and his face was as red as a stop light. The shirt constricted his blood flow. I got the feeling his head would explode at any moment and I didn't want to be around when all that pent up blood came out. He spoke but I was still staring at the blisters and scabs along the shirt collar.

   “Mr. Brady, please pay attention. Mr. Brady!” I looked up at this face as he continued to speak. “I have your records here in front of me. You really haven't been that bad.”

   I smiled and nodded my head in agreement.

   “People like you make my job a little more difficult. I need to find you a place of employment. We all need to work down here. Each of us has a job and my job is to match you with something that fits exactly who you are. We want everyone to have job satisfaction. That's why I'm here and that is why you are here. We want your stay to be fruitful,” the man said as his face grew redder.

   “That is nice,” I responded. I never had a job I liked so this would be a pleasant change.

   “I have your references here. These are from those who attended your funeral. A guy named Bucky said you were an asshole but never did anything bad to him. We consider that a plus point for you. Your ex-wife's comment about you being a scum-sucking dog that ruined her life does count on the negative side. There weren't many really bad comments and there was little on the plus side,” he said as he glanced over his cheap, plastic reading glasses.

   “What did my son have to say?” I asked.

   “He didn't make it to the funeral. Something about a dart tournament on ESPN that he needed to watch. Oh well, kids nowadays,” the man said with a half smile that displayed his yellowed teeth with bits of lunch hanging between them. “I have very little to go on but if I read you right, and trust me, I am in my position as HR Director because I have a gift of reading people right, we have the perfect job for you right here at our new store.”

   “I'm sorry but I am a little confused. Where am I?” I asked.

   “My bad,” he said with a laugh. “I should have started with the corporate speech giving all the highlights and bullet points about your new location. First of all, as you can see, that old myth about a Lake of Fire has been eradicated. Good air conditioning has taken care of those out-dated stories. Some people have said it is hell around here but our new HR policies have changed all that, as well. Today we prefer the warm and welcoming term, Hades. You, my friend, are in your eternal dwelling. Welcome to Hades: where everyone works.”

I was staring at him. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind once I retired. I had figured on an old trailer near the river so I could go fishing everyday. Instead, I have to work but for the first time in my life but the company is promising a satisfying job match. I glanced up and asked, “I guess I should ask about the pay rate, vacation days, sick leave and that sorta shit?”

   The fat man smiled again before speaking, “As I said before, we take great care to match you up with the ideal job opportunity. We don't feel you'll have any need for extras.”

   “Do we have a union?” I asked. By then I was beginning to have a little trepidation about my new career.

   “Union leaders do not come to our store. There is a very special place where they reside. So, no there is no union. Let me get your vest and send you out to the floor for training. I believe you will love your new job,” the man pushed his rotund frame away from the desk and waddled over to the closet.

   As he pulled the door open and fumbled with the vest, I asked another question. “Where is it, exactly, that I am working?”

   “My bad, again.” he said with a sheepish, half grin. “I cannot tell you how excited we were when our fearless leader was able to negotiate the first ever store here in Hades. In the past, our leader catered primarily to politicians and lawyers. It wasn't until recently that we were able to negotiate, build and open this new store.” He continued to fumble with the vests inside the closet. He yanked one free from the hanger. “I believe this one will fit.” He handed me the blue vest. I read the slogan emblazened on the back.

   “How May I Help You? Hey, isn't this a Walmart vest?” I questioned with surprise.

   “Yes, it is. Welcome to the first Walmart in Hades and welcome to your new career as a Greeter at the Hades Walmart.” He extended his hand to shake mine. I took his hardy handshake and smiled a grim smile of resignation. He walked me to the door and I stepped into a massive open area of shelves, products and people. A sea of Walmart customers. A sea of screaming children, large women in tank tops, and me in my blue vest, a Greeter at Hellmart.

BE A SUPER GRANDPARENT

 

 

   I thought I was a good parent. I even wrote a book about being a good dad. Parenting was never easy and now I am finding out that grandparenting isn't any easier—but it is a heckuva lot more fun. I have four grandkids. Two in Pittsburgh and two in Iowa. Being a super grandparent to all four in different circumstances meant I needed to be creative and have a plan.

CHOOSE YOUR MOMENTS

   There are surprise moments and there are calendar moments. Calendar moments have always been around holidays. The surprise moments are never forgotten and the surprise holiday moment creates a tradition.

Several years ago, when the two oldest boys were young and crazy about Indiana Jones I decided to surprise them with a summer adventure at our camp. I rummaged through the Halloween decorations for props and dropped by the local dollar store for more props and ideas. I then drew a map the two boys had to follow around the camp to find the secret treasure at the end. They had ropes to swing on, crocodile rivers to cross and mysterious villains hiding in the bushes (OK, it was Gramma but she was the best villain ever!). This one little event started a whole chain of “Inventures,” as the youngest would call them. No trip or holiday was complete without an “Inventure.”

IT IS ABOUT THE KIDS AND THEIR INTERESTS

    My four grandchildren are all different. Some like sports. Some like comic books. The grandson far away, loved his comic heroes. Fortunately for him, so did Papa. Keep in mind, I am a writer and not a technical genius but I knew how to create a quick movie on the computer. For his birthday, I printed out color copies of his favorite heroes and another of him in his super hero pajamas. Like the paper dolls of old, I cut out the shapes and taped them to pencils. I now had a group of superheroes and super villains and my grandson. I made the video of the battle with SuperJude winning and saving the world. I uploaded it to YouTube and my grandson had a video to watch and rewatch. He also had a memory and the feeling that Grampa was interested in him and what he liked.

YOUR TIME IS MORE VALUABLE THAN ANY GIFT

   Gifts are important and sometimes it doesn't matter what they are. A gift can heighten the expectation of a visit or a gift can create the ideal one on one moment. In a recent trip to Iowa, I took along a stack of canvases and art papers with a box of paints. Everything was wrapped up as gifts. He had fun opening them but the real surprise behind it was a day of painting. We threw paint. We poured paint. We swirled paint and we brushed paint. He created picture after picture. The experience culminated in an outdoor gallery show on Gramma's deck. I loved that smile on his face as buyers (Mom, Dad, Gramma and Grampa) snatched up the creations of this new and exciting artist. It was a later visit that revealed more about that experience. It was something he wanted to do again. Remember, if they like it, do it again.

YOUR KIDS, THEIR PARENTS, NEED TO BE TREATED LIKE KIDS, TOO.

   A few years back, Christmas was coming and I knew it was time for a big surprise for everyone. It wasn't more stuff anyone needed. It was more fun. Every year some “horrible villain” would steal all the boy's presents and they were left with a search throughout the house led by bad rhyming clues. That year we had to turn it up a notch. We actually hid the gifts right under their noses. They had been sitting next to them and never knew it but the big switch up was hiding the gifts of the adult children.

I was genuinely shocked at the childlike enthusiasm exuding from the adult children. They followed the same stupid rhyming clues as they recaptured the joy of their childhood Christmases. Sometimes there are unexpected lessons to be learned by grandparents. I now realize that although, our kids have spent many years trying to prove they are adults and have cut the apron strings, there are moments when they need us to treat them like a kid.

PAY ATTENTION 

   There are a few failures in my creative plans to be a super grandparent. They all yield forth from one thing—my inability to listen. I miss things and sometimes I miss the most important things. Children change as they grow up. The little inside joke you had when they were five years old is just plain irritating at eight. A good example was during a visit to Iowa. I knew my grandson thought he was too old to hold my hand when we crossed the street so I reversed it and said that I was frightened to cross a street without holding hands. It worked when he was five but boy, it irritated the snot out of him when he was eight.

   The oldest grandson had asked for one thing from his grandmother. He wanted to visit the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She promised they would go and as a grandparent, if you make a promise then you keep it. They have to trust that you are a person of your word. While in DC one evening as we recovered from the many miles of walking, Cam turned on a baseball game. I offered to let him watch something on my tablet but the kid absolutely wanted to watch baseball. It suddenly hit me that the two souveneirs he bought were baseballs. The kid was a baseball freak and I hadn't noticed. At times, we miss their changes, but if we keep our eyes open and our ears perked up then we discover their interests and that tells our grandchildren that we care.

   Our grandchildren are more interested in you being a part of their world. We can never be too old to play princess or to have a tea party. I have been more super villains than a television character actor. I also know when to throw the game because winning is not as important as watching your grandchild smile. Those precious hugs and kisses go away over time but everything you teach them makes them better parents, and grandparents when their day comes.

“Profit and Loss”

   When I was growing up, the biggest question around Easter was, “What did you give up?” All of us knew we were referring to our Lenten duty of giving something up as an act of sacrifice. I always had a smart-alack answer. I said, “I’m giving up fish on Friday.” It earned me a giggle from the girls, a smack on the back from guys and a smack upside the head from the nuns. It doesn’t take kids long to figure out that they need to give up something that sounds like a sacrifice but they wouldn’t miss no matter what. My one grandson may have outdone me with his Lenten sacrifice. I asked him and he said he gave up board games. Here is kid that carries a DS in his school bag, has Wii on a big screen TV at home, computer full of old video games and a Kindle Fire in his backpack. It sounds like he gave up something substantial except we only played board games at camp and we had sold the camp. I gave him an A+ for being able to give-up something that sounded like it would be painful but really wasn’t. I love how one kid described lent. He said, “That’s when we have to eat only cheese pizza on Fridays.”

   Church attendees fall into two schools of thought generally. One is the “I have to give up something” and the other is “That is a stupid man-made rule and I am not doing it.” Growing up Catholic I had a tough time giving things up. We didn’t have a whole lot to begin with. After I became a Christian (that born again thing and trust me it’s true) I threw off the yoke of Lent and giving something up. I had evolved. I knew better. I can read the Bible and there is no Lent in the Bible. It has taken years for me to come back to the traditions of the ancient churches and look at them once again.

   So, lets you and I take a completely fresh look at the topic of giving things up for Lent. Everything we know about it we have put into the little trash can on the screen in our heads. Why give stuff up? The Scripture says nothing about it so we have to go to Church Tradition. Oops, not much there either. We could look at Facebook or Google search comments but if that doesn’t confuse us then I don’t know what will. Here is what we know. It was a man-made “rule” or “suggestion” that church members give up something at Lent to signify Christ’s 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness when he was offered all the earth if He just bowed down to Satan.

   The other reason was to help us identify with the sacrifice of Christ. I often wonder how giving up candy, meat or pizza will help me identify with the anguish, torment and crucifixion of Christ. There is no comparison BUT it is a useful tool. Let me explain. If you have kids or grandkids then you pick something that you can give up and use as a sacrifice to God. Maybe you decided on playing Wii on Friday nights. Yep, put that bowling league on hold for a few weeks. When it comes to that regular Wii gaming time, the whole family gathers together to read a portion of the Bible. Keep it short because they will tune it out. Make it fun. Turn the portion into a reader’s play. Have one of the kids act it out as you read it. By doing this you can accomplish the true intent behind giving something up. It is done as a sacrifice, it is done so we realize the torments of the cross and it is done to bring us closer to God. Making Lent a time for your family to remember is more valuable than giving up board games, chocolate or pepperoni pizza.

   A good passage to begin with because it has contemporary news that goes along with it is Matthew 16:24-28. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There are some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” After you read this, and I again suggest a contemporary version like The Message, ask these questions of your family. 1. The news tells us that 1% of Americans have most of the money. What do you think Jesus meant when He said that gaining all the games, cars, clothes and friends in the whole world was not good if you did not end up in Heaven? 2. Are these 1% of Americans unable to go to Heaven? 3. Do you think that the wealthy people give to charities? 4. Jesus said, “If any man, woman, girl, boy would deny themselves and take up my cross then they are following me.” Do you think us giving up something for Lent is “denying ourselves” in some small way? 5. Do you feel better about your Christian life since we started our Lenten Sacrifice? Lent is all about sacrifice so we can identify with the suffering of Christ. As the Apostle said in Colossians 1:24: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:” Our small sacrifices during Lent are all part of filling up the sufferings of Christ. So, a bunch of guys in pointed hats came up with the idea of Lent and giving things up but they also came up with a wonderful tool to teach our families and us about being a part of and identifying with the sufferings of Christ. Pray for the ability to see more ways to teach your family about the good things that come from small sufferings.

LARRY FERLINGHETTI'S USED CARS

 

 

 

   Snow laid it's quilt batting on low mileage, highway driven automobiles at Larry Ferlinghetti's Quality Used Cars. The morning's warm breath exhaled turning the roadway's pristinw, white virginity into a dirty chocolate milkshake oozing down the gutters out into the intersection.

Larry's hand guided his bulbous Cadillac through the ooze. His mind had checked out before he hit second and long before third. Used cars fed families, clothed their kids, gave gifts to charities but used cars gave Larry an unsatisfying emptiness. He was still just Larry Ferlinghetti, that “used car guy on TV.” Inside the mundane Larry had words. Words strung together in thoughts like Christmas lights wrapped around the tree standing inside the big windowed showroom.

   He slid his old worn key into the lock tumbler and heard it click. Larry said, “Get right in or be left out.” He could never remember the banalities of his life. Keys, locks, cars, even Larry was insignificant when the words, forming in his own mind, twinkled like those Christmas lights. They were strung together and gave birth to art in labor's pain inside his leashed mind. But outside, he never said anything about them. Not to his wife, his kids, the pariah of sweaty men working for him. Used car guys on TV don't string beautiful words, they sell cars, cheat old ladies and turn back speedometers. Blind, filled with deception, deceived by their own pitch, yes. But used car guys don't juxtapose phrases and spin them out like poetry to the commoness of life.

   Used cars are what he did but Larry still had words inside. Whenever a mark slipped behind the wheel of a Ferlinghetti car, Larry's lips rattled off the poetry of the pitch. When it happened, like showroom magic, the other salesmen pressed their shrinking cheap, slick suits and hot Binaca breath around him to hear those words. “It's like poorls,,” they said. And Larry cast them before the swine like no other man. Random, offbeat, rhythmic, and exciting.

   He was Davinci with the sales pitch. It was divine to watch a master ply the trade of golden words on the pre-owned shopper. They sat enraptured. They stood captured.

 

“Have you ever stopped to consider

leather seats in the abstract?

When you really dig into it

some shocking problems rise.

Leather seats are something

we wish for, long for inside.

Everyone wants

some kind of leather seats.

Even Indians

want leather seats.

Even Cubans

want leather seats.

The Pope wants leather seats I hope.”

 

   Larry spun out the words. He was regal with each phrase. The salesmen smiled and thrust their hips, their chests. “Master at work,” they thought. They watched Larry like a star on the bastketball court. He spun out words and slam dunked the close.

That day ended. The next ended, the next one and the next one. Every day ended with Larry clicking the tumbler. There were lots of words, lots but like the pastrami sandwich from his dinner, words constipated him. Nothing came out.

   “They're just words. They couldn't really whisper anything to anybody interested in the words of a pre-owned pied piper,” he mumbled as he loosened his greased stained tie behind the wheel of his idling Cadillac.

   That night was like others. He clicked the TV on and dropped with a whoosing thump into his faux leather, flaky armed La Z Boy. The news rolled its bleakness. One neighborhood horror to another sad story.

A two year old--shot!

Gang bullets broke the night

the window

her bones

her parent's heart.

Woman is raped, beaten and robbed.

She was ninety

The rapist

fresh from jail

distributed to her a taste,

a touch

the impact

the deprivation of hell.

 

   Larry heard this. He grunted. Larry had words somewhere pulsing through his heart and carried through his veins. Larry had words for every news story, for every pain and for every tearful victim of humanity's eroding, crumbling core.

   But who cares about the words of a used car salesman named Larry Ferlinghetti. He turned his face from the tortures of the TV news, peeled his aging body out of the aging chair..He wondered if La Z Boy wasn't his name as well. Larry scuffed to the kitchen in his heel-worn wingtip shoes. House lights were out but Larry knew the sticks of furniture and where it all sat for years. No changes. His wife, she wanted no changes. There were none. Everything the same.

   Pulling open the frig, he scanned the frosted shelf over the mustard, ketchup, green bread and a lone can of beer. He needed to get food. His wife didn't do that. Larry even had words for food. No time to buy it but he had words.

 

The world of words brought fear to Larry.

A poet

Constantly risking absurdity

above the heads

of his audience

A poet like an acrobat

climbs on rhyme

to a high-wire of his own making

 

After all these gray years,

a used car salesman

can't remove the words locked

deeply inside

deeper than life.

To say more, to let out more

would risk...absurdity.

 

So Larry sat in his La Z Boy, watching TV, thinking about used cars and swallowing his words.

“A poet? That's absurdity!

It's just words,

Larry's words.”

 

The Fartitect

   Some people said it was a gift. Others saw it as a talent. But the girls just said it was gross. Lamonte Semler had something special that brewed inside him. He was the world's only Fartitect. Architects design buildings. They draw the pictures then watch as the beautiful structures climb high into the sky. It was their design for all the world to see. For Lamonte it was different but very much the same. He designed farts. Which was for any normal kid an impossibility. He designed their sound, the length of the fart and of course their smell. It was truly a gift. That was what Lamonte told himself. He was a gifted gas projector, a fantastic farter and a Top of the chart Tooter. His motto was “When I cut the cheese you get more than a breeze.”

   To Lamonte no fart was ever the same. After years of perfecting his farts at the dinner table, in his room, in the backseat of the car (to his family's joy), he was finally ready to uncork his talent at the school science fair. Old Central would never be the same once the quivering cheeks of Lamonte Semler stepped upon the stage with a microphone in hand and began his melodic tooting.

   “Are you really going to fart in front of the whole school?” asked Gary, Lamont's oldest and best friend.

   “I don't think of them as farts but artistic explosive expressions. Everytime I squeeze my cheeks together I design a new creation. I want to break records when I break wind. I'm not just a farter. I am a Fartitect,” Lamont answered as he opened his lunch box to find a tub of chili filled with rich, ripe pinto and chili beans. “My mom is fully supportive of my science project and of my chosen career path.”

“I don't think you can call farting a career path,” Gary said as he bit into his peanut butter and banana sandwich. “Me, I plan to be a furniture salesman at a big department store when I grow up. That is a career worth seeking and working for. Farting is not a career. In your case it is a talent, a gift and a way to win the science fair prize. But you will have to beat that bozo, Sean. He has won every year and he doesn't like to lose. He will come after you with everything he's got. You better watch out for him.”

   Lamonte shifted his body to one cheek and let go of a series of blasts that intentionally sounded like the words—Gary is a dweeb. It was a masterful display of his superior farting capacity. “Obviously that is how I feel about Gary. Now, let's think of what I can do at the Science Fair that will wow the entire faculty that will be judging the science projects.”

   The two were about to make plans when Sean appeared and slouched on the seat across from them at the lunch table. Lamont and Gary could smell the old bologna on his breath when he spoke to them. “I heard you entered the Science Fair, Dumbmonte. Are you going to do one of your stupid fart tricks? That will impress the school board and teachers. Look over here, they'll say, here is a boy that knows how to fart. Then they will laugh and throw your stinky butt out of the school.”

   “My skills are beyond your understanding or your ability to recognize greatness. I will beat you this year at the Science Fair,” Lamonte boasted.

   “Wanna put your money where your mouth is? I bet you a month of lunch monies that I will beat you, Jerkmonte,” Sean challenged.

   “You're on. I can beat you any day of the week with one cheek tied behind my back,” Lamonte told him. With that Sean stood up and left after blasting out a foul and nasty stink torpedo of his own.

   Gary looked at his friend and said, “You better be good. You only have a week to perfect your presentation. I hope you have a good one.”

Lamonte farted out—I do, but in reality, he had no idea what he could or would do.

 

.............................

 

   As the days passed, Lamonte spent hours in his room mixing the right foods and right positions. Nothing was coming to him. He had no ideas, no good plans and now the tension was mounting. There were only two days left until the Science Fair with absolutely no good plans on the horizon.

Lamonte was shocked out of his Science Fair depression when the doorbell rang. He opened it to find his friend Gary standing before him with a sad and depressed look. “Why the long face, Gary. You're not the one that has to beat Sean at the Science Fair,” Lamonte said as he invited his friend inside.

   “I was walking by Sean's house and noticed that he and some friends were in the garage. I sneaked up to the window to see if I could get an idea of what his science project was going to be. You are not going to believe this but he has designed an anti-fart gun. He is calling himself the Fartinator and plans to blow every barking spider you cut out of the air. He even has the black leather coat and sunglasses just like the Terminator guy in the movies,” Gary told him as his face grew sadder and sadder.

   “How does this gun work? Did you see him use it?”

   “Yeah, that Tony kid would cut the cheese and the Fartinator's gun would cancel the sound and suck in the fart,” Gary described.

   “Did he suck it in like a vacuum?” Lamonte asked.

   “Yeah, just like a vacuum. You are doomed, my friend. You will be giving him your lunch money for a month but even worse, the whole school will watch you be defeated by the Fartinator. I can't bare to see my best friend get humiliated by that dweeb,” Gary added.

   “I want to thank you, Gary. I am now motivated to go even further and better and louder and smellier that ever before. The Fartitect will not be defeated. I have a few toots up my sleeve or rather pant leg that not even the Fartinator could stop. You go on home while I work on my project,” Lamonte told Gary as he shoved him towards the door. Lamonte had no great ideas but he did have a blue ribbon fart that just might melt the Fartinator's anti-fart gun.

   Lamonte walked into the family room where his sister, Anastasia, was studying for her history test. “What's up, sis?”

   “I have to memorize the Gettysburg Address,” she answered.

   “The house number, street and city? Are they making you memorize the zip code, too?” he joked.

   “Not that kind of address. I have memorize that speech Abraham Lincoln gave after the Civil War battle at Gettysburg. It is a great speech and a great moment in history. I try to imagine him giving it with a wonderful display of fireworks all around him. I can almost hear the soldier drummer boys playing their rat-a-tat-tat on their drums. I wish I could have been there,” Anastasia rattled.

   “Let me see that speech, sis,” Lamonte asked. She passed him a copy. “So, this speech by Lincoln was a really big thing? I wonder if my teachers know about it?”

   “Every teacher knows about it. Just about everyone knows about it except for the dummies you hang around with,” Anastasia said as she yanked her copy from his hands. “Go look it up on the internet and read the thing. You might learn something.”

Lamonte left the room and headed for his own room to look up this speech. It could be just exactly what he needed to win the Science Fair.

 

.................

 

 

   The following day, the school yard was filled with kids talking about the great battle between Lamonte and the Fartinator. Sean had worn his Terminator outfit and all the girls were swooning around him. He was bragging how he would destroy Lamonte-the Heinous Anus.

Lamonte watched from behind a tree. He didn't want to reveal any of his tricks but he thought that a butt tremor could certainly break up Sean's fun little party. Sticking his butt cheeks around the tree trunk, Lamonte concentrated then sent a boxer burner towards the crowd of schoolmates. A moment later the tree behind Sean began to shake. Two squirrels fell and landed on Sean and his friend Jodi. It only took a second for the crowd to scream and run from the stunned and crazed squirrels.

   “Who let the beans out?” Gary said from behind Lamonte.

   “I couldn't resist,” answered Lamonte. “He was bragging about how he was going to completely beat me at the Science Fair. I just had to send him a one-gun salute that could shake a tree.”

   “That it did, my friend. So, what is your plan for the Science Fair. I don't think shaking the walls will win the Blue Ribbon,” asked Gary.

“Anastasia gave me an idea last night. I do believe I will be known as the King of Cheese Cutting after tomorrow. It will be like an uncorked symphony.”

   “I hope so because the Fartinator is out to win the Science Fair at all costs,” Gary cautioned.

   “He will get the surprise of his life tomorrow when the Amazing Fartitect unleashes the Trouser Trombone,” Lamonte boasted before he walked towards the school as the bell rang.

 

....................

 

   At lunch Lamonte sat with this bowl of bean soup alone at the lunch table. He needed to think about his presentation. His quiet meditation was interrupted when The Fartinator pushed his head from behind down into the soup.

   “That was uncool and stupid what you did this morning. I will destroy you at the Science Fair. But to show you what a good guy and winner that I am. I brought you one of my mom's homebaked chocolate chip cookies. She puts “special” chocolate chunks in them.

   “Thanks Sean. I will have it as my dessert after I finish my bean soup.” Lamonte was wise to the trick the Fartinator was playing on him. He knew it because last summer he baked cookies with Ex-Lax in them for the Family Reunion. The entire clan started tooting and then made hasty retreats to the woods. Lamonte and his cousin, Adam, laughed for hours as they attempted to keep it in. He folded his cookie up in a napkin and waited for the right moment.

   Sean's best friend, Richie, walked up to Lamonte and said, “The Fartinator is going to beat you tomorrow.”

   “Probably so, but I want us to still be friends. Here, have my dessert as a sign of my desire for us to be friends,” Lamonte told Richie as he extended the Ex-Lax cookie towards Richie.

   “Wow, I love chocolate chip cookies,” Richie said as shoved the whole thing in his mouth. Lamonte just smiled and hoped they didn't have any classes together for the rest of the day.

 

.................................

 

   The next day the entire school buzzed with the excitement of the long awaited Science Fair. The gymnasium was filled with school dignitaries, school board members, teachers and the parents of several students. The folks were staring at the variety of projects that lined the tables. There were volcanoes that spit up fake lava, huge papier mache bodily organs that pumped red liquid through plastic tubes and lighted color globes representing planets. Principal Green and the science teacher, Ms. McKinnis, were directing traffic for the incoming projects. Everyone was excited but they were also anticipating the arrival of the Science Fair blue ribbon winner from the last three years. Everyone wanted to see what Sean was bringing to the event this year.

   Suddenly the gymnasium door banged open and there stood Sean. He was dressed like the movie character from the Terminator movie. He wore black wrap around sunglasses, a black leather motorcycle jacket, black leather pants and heavy black leather boots. In his hand was a large contraption shaped more like a vacuum than a gun.

   “Dignitaries, school board members, Principal Green, Ms. McKinnis and my schoolmates, I am the Fartinator. I have come to eliminate the gaseous, naseous being known as the Fartitect. My science project is the Anti-Fart gun. It will stop whatever the Heinous Anus will try to reveal as his science project and by the way it is the best vacuum ever made. I've already made a deal with Boscov's to sell them. Where is Lamonte Semler, the Fartitect?” the Fartinator yelled.

   The crowd clapped and yelled for Sean. They knew his science project would be the absolute best and everyone was excited to see the Anti-Fart gun at work. All eyes searched the room for Lamonte. Most could not wait for Sean to put an end to Lamonte's bum bombs.

Lamonte stood behind one of the other projects holding his lunch bag filled with different concoctions designed to help create sounds and smells like never before. He stepped forward into the crowd's view and spoke. “I am here Fartinator and I am ready to do battle.”

The Fartinator took five steps towards Lamonte. He said, “Are you prepared to go down and lose this Science Fair in front of all these people? Are you prepared to be beaten by the Fartinator?”

   “Let the Fair begin. I won't go down in shame but will be a boy of fame. Your Anti-Fart gun cannot defeat me. I will have my day on the stage at this Science Fair and for the first time in years someone else will win the Blue Ribbon. Prepare to lose to the Fartitect,” Lamonte answered.

The project owners moved to their tables to await the judging. Ms. McKinnis moved to the microphone on the stage and spoke, “Ladies and gentlemen, members of the school board, Principal Green and parents of these wonderful children, welcome to our Annual Science Fair. Our judging will now begin. Our last two project displays will be the Fartitect and the Fartinator.”

   For the next hour the judges poked and prodded each project and asked questions of the students. Every kid believed they could take the second or third place ribbons. None believed they could ever create something that would beat Sean's ideas. When all the others were judged it came time to see what the last two science projects had to offer.

   Ms. McKinnis announced that Lamonte Semler would be next. Lamonte climbed up the stairs to the stage. His friend, Gary, moved to the back of the crowd. He was ready to run in case the crowd got wild after the Fartinator completely embarrassed his friend.

Lamonte began his presentation while the Fartinator watched from the front row. He was waiting for his generous gift of the Ex-Lax cookie to begin working as Lamonte stood in front of the whole school. That would be a wonderful way for him to beat the dweeb, he thought. Messy but wonderful.

“I am not really good at talking in public,” Lamonte began, “But I am really good at farting in public. Some of you may think that is gross but it is something that every does. In fact, everyone of us breaks wind at least four times a day and others cut the cheese a whole lot more. Even famous men like Ben Franklin were reported to have said, 'Fart proudly.' There are jokes in ancient books as far back as 2000 years ago about farting. Now, today, I hope I will be able to raise the art of barking spiders beyond being just a joke. Today, I, Lamonte Semler, known as the Fartitect have designed a series of farts that will honor one of our greatest Presidents and a key moment in our nation's history.”

   Lamonte stepped away from the microphone and turned his back to the crowd. He pulled a small bottle from his lunch bag and took a small swallow. Then he began farting out the first few words of the Gettysburg Address. “Four score and...”

Sean, the Fartinator, stepped forward and raised his Anti-Fart science project and pointed it at Lamonte. He turned it on and began sucking the sounds and farts out of the air. All eyes were turned towards him and the crowd began to cheer. Sean had done what he claimed his machine would do. He silenced the Fartitect.

   Lamonte stood in front of everyone. The audience thought he was done but instead he reached into his lunch once again and pulled out a large bottle that had a bubbling green slime in it. He took a drink and began tooting his trouser trumpet. “Four score and seven years ago...”

The Fartinator laughed and turned his machine on again. The moment he did the green slime inside of Lamonte took control and out came a barn burner power blast of such a magnitude that the nets on the basketball hoops in the gymnasium fluttered and rippled. Sean aimed his machine and flipped a switch to suck in the Fartitect's butt bazooka blast. As it drew in the sound and smells from the bum blast, the machine faltered then amazingly began to melt in the Fartinator's hands. First the end drooped then stretched like melting plastic until it kissed the floor. Then the last of the machine became like dripping wax that splashed to the floor.

   The entire room stood with their mouths wide open. They had never witnessed a rump ripper that powerful ever before. The Fartinator fell to the floor next to his melted Anti-Fart gun and cried like a little girl.

   Everyone's eyes moved to the Fartitect as he resumed his presentation of the Gettysburg Address. Mixed in with the words were sounds of cannon balls exploding in the air and soft rat-a-tat-tat of soldier drummer boys. Soon everyone was applauding the boy who would forever be known as the Fartitect.

   When Lamonte finished his science project presentation, the room burst into cheers yelling “the Fartitect, the Fartitect.” A moment later, Ms. Mckinnis rose to the stage and pinned the Blue Ribbon award for first place on Lamonte's t-shirt. He politely tooted out, “Thank you.”