Wednesday, July 22, 2015


“Why so glum, Dear? You didn’t look nearly so sad when you left this morning.”

“Well, I’ve had some bad news today, Sweetie.”

“Oh no! You’d better tell me.”

“There’s just no easy way to say this. It seems I’ve been voted out of The Club.”

“Voted out! You’ve been in The Club since 1930! Can they do that? On what grounds?”

“They say I no longer meet the criteria.”

“Criteria? There are criteria for being in The Club?”

“There are now. There didn’t used to be, but they made some up, and they say I don’t fit them.”

“Don’t fit them! How?”

“Well, first of all they say it’s my weight, or they use this fancy term ‘mass.’ Whatever it is they say I don’t have enough of it.”

“Good grief! Just what sort of mass do you have to have?”

“Apparently, it’s not just a question of mass. It’s my route in relation to my mass.”

“That’s nonsense. You’ve traveled that route more or less faithfully for at least five billion years. How can they quibble with that?”

“They want a more regular route - no overlaps with any other Club members.”

“What? Now they’re treating you like you’re a traveling salesman or a milkman. What possible difference could it make?”

“And that’s not the only thing they weren’t happy about. They want me to clear out my own neighbourhood - no extraneous asteroids, or space bits, or ice chunks in my path – they say if I had a big enough mass, my route would be regular and my path would be clear.”

“And all that matters how?”

“I’m not really sure. I’m beginning to suspect there is a bit of a conspiracy to get me out – maybe they want only the eight “classic” members in The Club”

“Oh them – they’re all so full of themselves! Especially Neptune – always crossing your path like that!”

“They say I’m crossing his path! As if! I do whatever I can to stay away from that gas bag!”

“Yeah, him and his friend Jupiter have probably put the others up to this. Jupiter has never been the same since that Shoemaker Levy comet broke up and hit his face. Him and all those stupid moons of his.”

“They say I have a new designation now.”

“ A new one? What is it?”

“It’s kind of embarrassing.”

“Better I hear it from you than from someone else.”

“I guess so. They say Im a ‘Dwarf Planet.’ They announced it and then they waved around a stuffed dog. It was completely humiliating.”

“A stuffed dog? What was that all about?”

“I don’t know – some dog called Pluto. The lady had an umbrella too. It was all very confusing, and some scientists actually laughed. I’m ruined!”

“What exactly is a Dwarf Planet anyway?”

“I don’t know – they’re still drawing up the criteria for that.”

“But what if you don’t fit those?”

“Then I would fall into the lowest class - ‘small solar-system bodies.’ ”

“Oh my God, that would be terrible – in with all the riff raff. What ever are we going to do!”

“Well there is that kit I can send for – convert myself into a comet. That would make them take notice!”

“Oh, but that’s so, so… drastic, and remember what happened to Halley? Now we only ever see him every 75 years, and he’s always too busy to stop. Isn’t there something else we could do?”

“I heard Alpha Centauri is interviewing for new planets. I could apply there.”

“Yeah, that sounds good! Alpha Centauri! And the view is so much better over there.”

“I suppose that’s our only option now, Charon. That or the Intergalactic Court of Appeal.”

“I say we go with Alpha Centauri. After five billion years of freezing to death on the edge of this crappy Solar System I’ve had enough anyway.”

“Okay, I’ll start packing. You start plotting a course.”

“I’ll plot a course all right – right through Planet Earth!”

“Yeah, right through it!”

“They’ll never know what hit them!”

“That’ll show The Club – they’ll be down to seven members then.”

“Serves them right.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Driver Distraction

“License and registration, please.”

“I have them right here in my purse, Officer. I wasn’t speeding was I, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I just was right on the limit. I’m always very careful about that.”

“No, M’am, I didn’t pull you over for speeding. Insurance please.”

“Oh. Good, well, I didn’t think I was speeding – is it a tail light or something?”

“No, your tail lights are just fine M’am. You are aware of the new laws about driving while being distracted? They recently came into effect here in Ontario.”

“Oh, yes, I saw that on the news. But I wasn’t using my cell phone. I never talk on the phone and drive, and I don’t even use the GPS unless I’m parked somewhere.”

“Well M’am, there are a number of items that the government says are too distracting to have in the car. There have been many accidents and several fatalities, so we have to enforce these new laws, and there's a no-tolerance policy regarding this situation.”

“But, Officer, I don’t know what you’re referring to – I wasn’t using the phone, or the GPS – I don’t even have the CD player on!”

“I’m fully authorized to confiscate all such objects that are causing driver distraction. Such objects will be held at the police station until you can prove, in a court of law, that you can operate your vehicle in a safe and non-distracted manner. At that time, should the court rule in your favour, said object will be returned to you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I get that, but I don’t get what object you are saying was causing the distraction. My phone isn’t even out of my purse!”

“I’m sorry but it’s clear to me that you were very distracted when you made several wide turns back there, and then you only came to a rolling stop at the last stop sign. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to hand over that baby. It’s simply too distracting to have with you in a vehicle while you are driving. You can retrieve it in a few months by the process I’ve already outlined. Then I’ll have to ask you to clear this area – you’re obstructing the flow of traffic.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Am I Safe Enough Yet?

“Bye Mom. I’m going tobogganing with Freddie and Billy.”

“Tobogganing? Are you crazy? That’s way too dangerous!”

“But Mom, you used to go all the time when you were a kid. You said so.”

“Well, things were different then. The hills were lower. And back then it snowed all the time, so it wasn’t icy like it is nowadays. And the toboggans were way slower. I believe mine had sandpaper glued on the bottom.”

“But Mom, I need to go out and get some fresh air. And according to the news, us kids aren’t getting enough exercise.”

“I don’t know, Johnny. There are a lot of pollutants in the air. Someone near the hill could be smoking. You could inhale second-hand smoke. If you want exercise, why don’t you go use your dad’s Bowflex?”

“Ah Mom. That’s no fun. All the other guys go tobogganing…”

“Well… I guess it’s alright if all the other kids are doing it. Just be sure to wear your Tobogganing Helmet. You should use the one that’s rated for forty below zero. The other ones aren’t warm enough for this weather.”

“Do I have to? None of the other kids wear fur-lined helmets!”

“Yes, Johnny, you have to, you absolutely have to. What if they were to legislate helmet use for toboggoners while you were away from the house? I don’t want to be paying another big fat fine!”

“Ah Mom! Couldn’t I just wear the helmet I have on now?”

“What? Your House Helmet? That would be just plain silly. That thing is just not rated for total body crashes with trees or telephone poles or vehicles. You only get top of the head protection from a simple House Helmet. In fact, even the TV Watching Helmet wouldn’t be enough.”

“But, Mom! Nobody else’s mother makes them wear a special TV Watching Helmet.”

“I’m aware of that Johnny. But that’s only because they use the Multi-Purpose Video Helmet. Not every family can afford the superior protection of the TV Watching Helmet. You just don’t know how lucky you are.”

“I guess so. But… I kinda forget. Why is it that I have to wear the TV Watching Helmet?”

“As I’ve explained before, it’s for your protection. You never know what could happen unexpectedly. A meteorite could slice through the roof of the house, blast through the living room floor and conk you on the head while you’re watching TV in the basement. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t see something in the newspaper about that very thing happening.”

“I never saw anything like that in the newspaper, Mom.”

“That’s because I cut out all those scary articles and I throw them away. There’s just no sense in you reading stuff like that and getting all upset and afraid.”

“But how can I ever figure out what to do if I don’t even know what’s going on in the world?”

“Oh, Johnny, don’t be silly. You don’t need to know what’s going on in the world. Just wear a helmet and everything will be okay. Now, you put your Multi-Purpose Video Helmet on and go use your X-Box. I’m going to go out to the hill where they’re tobogganing, set up my transit and measure the inclination of that hill. If it’s less than 40 degrees and there are no trees, telephone poles, large dogs, or mean looking kids around, you can go when I get back. Just hand me my helmet with the lead shield in it. There could be a lot of radiation today; the cloud cover looks pretty thin. And can you help me get my Front N’ Back Bear-Proof-Total-Body-Armor on before I go?”

“But Mom – it’s February. Aren’t the bears hibernating right now?”

“You never know Johnny. You never know.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Polly Ester

“I don’t know Doctor, I used to be so, well, just so darned popular. Everyone loved me, especially people who were maybe a bit older. Seniors? They just loved me, and it seemed like they just couldn’t get enough of me – my tops, my bottoms, and most especially my matching tops and bottoms. They used to pinch me and say that they liked how I never showed my wrinkles – it always made me feel so … so youthful, and well, so sexy. I don’t like to use that word with you, Doctor, but that’s kind of how I felt back then.

“Even men, you know? Even they thought I was something, something really special. They just couldn’t get enough of me in a Safari suit. And now, well, Doc, now I just feel lost. Well, maybe not so much lost, as ignored. Being ignored? It’s worse than being rejected, at least in some ways it is.

“Oh sure, I can be a closet queen as well as the next gal, but it’s hard when you remember all the good times – the parties, and the bridge clubs, and the bus trips. I think it was the bus trips I liked the best. Everyone all decked out, and in such high spirits. Not a wrinkle in the crowd, and everything just so darned durable! I shouldn’t brag, but I really was indestructible! I had no worries about my beauty fading, or about getting all stretched out. I knew no matter what, I wouldn’t shrink - you know, I lived in a perfect worry-free sort of world.

“I just don’t understand how I could be so great back then, and how I could be so, oh, I dunno, hated now? Is that the word I want, Doctor? Hated? Could I really be hated because of all my great characteristics? Or maybe the word I want is ‘scorned’. My sister, Gabardeenia, used to tell me, ‘Polly, just ignore it! They’re just jealous, so don’t pay them no mind! Who else but you could go in and out of a suitcase and be none the worse for wear? You just gotta forget what they say! Your time will come back again, you’ll see.’

“Do you think that will happen, Doctor? Do you think my time will come back again? I have to think that’s going to happen, that I’ll be popular again, and be seen in all the stores, and at all the best parties. I can’t see how that won’t happen. I feel pretty sure about it. Anyway, if you could just refill my pills, Doctor, that should get me through this slump. The Prozac seems to be helping, I’m not crying so much these days. It’s a good thing I don’t stain easily, Doctor, it’s a good thing. And at my age, I haven’t got even one single solitary wrinkle, so I think if I just stick with the Prozac, I’ll make it through. And Doctor, just in case, could you put about 20 repeats on that prescription? Just in case, you know, just in case…”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Invention of Snow

“It’s too much, it’s all just too much!”

“What’s that? What’s too much?”

“Green – all that green – everything that isn’t blue is green. I think we could do better, Gabe.”

“Better? I’m not sure that I follow, Boss…”

“We need some kind of contrast – you know – add something else, something that will make the green special instead of just plain tedious.”

“I know – we could add snow!”

“Snow? What’s that?”

“It’s what you get when you freeze water.”

“Isn’t ice what you get when you freeze water?”

“Oh – that’s water on the ground, I’m taking about water in the sky.”

“I don’t remember putting any water in the sky, Gabe. Are you sure about this?”

“Pretty sure Boss – there’s little bits of water all over the sky, especially in those cloud things. I think we can make that water cold, and it will turn into flat particles – we can call them snowflakes.”

“Snowflakes. I like that. They won’t be blue will they?”

“No not green, we just decided we were sick of blue. What about yellow, Boss? We could make them yellow!”

“Nah, too dangerous Gabe. People might confuse it with other stuff. White! I think we should make them white!”

“Sounds nice."

"So we make this white snow stuff up here in the sky, and then what?”

“It falls down to earth. If we turn down the temperature, we can get the snow to pile up in a big thick blanket, and it will just stay there. We can do this during the winter, and then people will be able to tell when it’s winter, and when it’s summer. What do you think, Boss?”

“That’s brilliant Gabe! A winter and a summer – and both of them different – one white and the other green. I like it, I really like it! Will the snow have a nice smell to it?”

“That might be tricky, so I say, we forget about the smell. Maybe we could give it a sound instead.”

“You mean, like music or noise when it’s falling? Wouldn’t that get rather loud?”

“Yeah, you’re right – if each snowflake made a sound it could get out of hand. I know! What if it makes a scrunching sound when you walk on it on the ground? That would be cool!”

“Sort of, but that could get really loud if you had a crowd of people. You know how they are – always congregating in unholy throngs.”

“Okay, well, what about this - it only makes the scrunching sound under your feet if it’s really cold outside. If it’s just a little bit cold, the snow is silent, but when the temperature gets nice and low, the snow starts scrunching underfoot.”

“I like that, Gabe, I really do. It’s cold and it’s cheerful all at the same time. I’m glad I kept you on here. You really are an ‘ideas’ man! Where should we put all this snow?”

“Hmmm – that’s a tough one Boss. Maybe we should put it in Canada. They’ll never catch on that we did it – they’ll think it’s because they’re near the top of the planet. And if they ever do catch on, they’re Canadians – they’ll never say a word!”

“Good idea. You go and get started on that right away. I want lots of snow all over that Canada place – and try to have it there by my son’s birthday. People will think those two things are connected, and my son will love it!”

“Okay, I think I can have it snowing down there by then, but I haven’t finished up that last assignment you gave me yet. Shouldn’t I get that one out of the way first?”

“Well, Gabe, I’m sure you can do it, after all how much effort could it take to make a few tiny viruses? They’re just little specs of DNA!”

“True enough, but if I hurry it too much, I could make a mistake…and there’s no telling what I might get. I want to make sure those anti-war viruses work properly. One little slip here or there and there’s no telling what the viruses might do…”

“Oh never mind tinkering with the damned viruses - just use what you've got now. I’m sure they’re good enough. The snow project sounds like so much more fun. And don’t forget - I’ve given you that December 25th deadline.”

“I won’t forget, Boss. It shall come to pass.”

“Good, Gabe, excellent! Now, have you had any thoughts on how to get that typhoon thing you made back into the jar?”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Land Line

“Johnny! Come and see what I got at the Antique Mall!”

“It sure is funny looking. What is it, Mom?”

“I think it’s a phone, Johnny. They weren’t quite sure at the Mall. But I remember my great-great-grandmother talking about how they used to have these things called ‘phones’ when she was a kid, and I think this might be one of them.”

“A phone? But what does it do?”

“I’m trying to remember. I think you used it to call people”

“Oh – like you program it, and it yells out their name really loud, to get their attention? Is that how it works, Mom?”

“Not exactly. See that cord on it? You plug that into the wall. Every house had one of these things plugged into the wall. You could use your phone to talk to someone on their phone in another house, because there were wires that attached all of these things together.”

“That doesn’t make any sense Mom. How could a thing in my house have a wire that went all the way to Ryan’s house in Tokyo? There would have been so many wires everyone would have gotten all tangled up in them! Why wouldn’t people just use their iComs?”

“There were no iComs back then.”

“No iComs! You mean babies were born without iCom implants in the palm of their hands?”

“Yes, that’s right Johnny. People were strictly organic back then – it wasn’t until after the Internet became sentient that we all had iComs. This came after Microsoft lost World War IX to Apple.”

“Oh, I know all about that. We just studied that at iSchool. Microsoft used to run the whole world until Apple invented nanoPeople Booster Bots – you know, those microscopic DNA computers they injected into people. It started our CompuEvolution, back in 2012”

“You’re exactly right, Johnny. After that people were no longer just bags of random DNA. We became proper iPeople. Once we had iDNA, it was easy to make sure every baby that came out of a test tube had their iCom right there in the palm of their hand.”

“But, Mom, I still don’t get how you use this phone thing. What are those funny buttons for?”

“Ummm…let me think. Oh yeah! See how there is a number on each button? You punched in a series of numbers, and the phone would make a noise in someone else’s house.”

“What kind of noise, Mom?”

“A ringing noise. It was very loud. Back then, people were giant brutes who were three or four feet taller than us. The houses had to be really big, and you had to be able to hear the ring from anywhere in the house.”

“That seems silly. Why didn’t it make music, or send out a pulse of endorphin like our iComs do?”

“Oh, phones were primitive. They were separate from people back then. They couldn’t even make music – not even ring tones – there was just a loud brash ringing sound.”

“What did you do if it made that sound, Mom?”

“As I understand it, you picked it up and said ‘hello’ and then you could talk to the person who was on a phone at his house.”

“Could you play games, or take pictures, or store music, or do surgery like with our iComs?

“Nope. All you could do was talk to the other person – nothing else. You couldn’t even see him.”

“Gosh, Mom, life must have been so horrible back then. I feel so sorry for those poor primates who had nothing but these barbaric ‘phones’.”

“Yes, me too, Johnny, me too. Now put the phone away until tomorrow. It’s time for me to give you your iUpgrade so you’ll be ready for iSchool tomorrow.”

“Okay, but I don’t think I’ll be able to settle down after all this excitement!”

“Well, turn your iCom on and watch a few episodes of iLassie on the inside of your iLids. I’ll get you a bowl of chips to eat while you’re watching.”

“Okay, Mom, but only if they’re new chips. The last ones were a week old and they reverse-evolved my Eye Mechanism – I didn’t have iVision for two days!”

“Sorry about that kiddo. Now go get in your iCase and I’ll bring in the chips.”

“Thanks, Mom! iLove you.”

“iLove you too, Johnny.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why Not?

“But why not, Mummy, I just don’t get why not!”

“I’ve explained this to you over and over and over! You’re just not ready!”

“But I feel ready, Mummy, really I do!”

“Well there’s more to it than that, it’s not only a question of being ready, you have to be prepared to take on responsibility.”

“I do Mummy, I do take on responsibility! I do all that stupid stuff you ask me to do. I even do all the stuff you don’t want to do yourself. It’s just not fair!”

“Son, it’s not about being fair. It’s about it being the right time. It wouldn’t be right for me to give you more than you are able to handle. It’s simply not the right time yet.”

“But why Mummy? Why isn’t it the right time? And how will I even know when it is the right time?”

“You will know when it’s the right time because I will tell you. That’s what mother’s are for. They are there to make those really hard decisions for you, so you don’t make any foolish mistakes.”

“Well I still don’t really get it. I would think you would be tired of it after all these years Mummy. Don’t you ever get tired of it all?”

“Yes, of course, I am weary of the crushing responsibility of it all, but it seems worse to pass it on to you.”

“Oh I wouldn’t mind. Really I wouldn’t. It would make things easier for you – I could do all the big important stuff, and you could just take it easy.”

“No, no! I am pretty certain I won’t need to burden you with any of this for at least another twenty years. You’re better off the way things are right now, my dear.”

“If you say so, Mummy. But I really think that I would like to take a stab at having a job before I retire. Even if it’s just for a week or two while you are on vacation.”

“Silly Charles! How young you still are. Now go round up the Corgis. I’ll let you take them for a walk. You can think of it as your first step towards official office.”