Danger Returns

Since she was on campus, Lisa thought she’d ask the asshole in person. He’d been missing for a few days, and she might like to see her worst enemy in person again. She knocked on his door, and he didn’t answer, like he hadn’t answered the past few days she’d been checking on him to make sure he wasn’t in the process of killing himself. She knocked again, and again he didn’t answer. She thought nothing of pulling out the key his mother gave her and opening the door, like she did whenever he didn’t answer. She would never forgive herself if he was successful, but she couldn’t sit with him every hour of the day, especially with his sleep schedule. Maybe when he got back, her boyfriend could take a couple of shifts.  

The door swung open, and when she saw the asshole, he was scrambling, and he straightened out with his hands behind his back. He wasn’t wearing his ratty-ass cardigan, and he liked baggy clothes, so the sight of him in a yummy black T-shirt (did she just think of the asshole as yummy? Ew!) looked so good you could forget he was a walking skeleton. 

“Oh, hi, Lisa! Why are you breaking into my dorm room? I know you have a key, but you can’t—” 

“Sean,” she snapped, “I’ve been worried sick about you. I promised your mother that I would protect you, and she meant from yourself.”  

“I’m sorry,” he replied, “I’m fine. I stayed in a hotel for a couple of days.” 

“Why is your hand behind your back, Sean?” 

“It’s like that military thing,” the asshole said. “You know, at ease?” 

“Let me see your hands, Sean.” 

He raised his left hand to shoulder level. “See?” 

She breathed in and out and growled. “I want to see your other hand too.” 

He started to return his left hand to its at-ease position when Lisa pounced. She grabbed his left arm and twisted it behind his back while slamming him against the wall. He coughed. “Now use your words.”  

She peeled him off the wall and slammed him again. 

“Safe word!” he groaned. 

Now that she had him where she wanted him, she could focus on what he was holding. Was it a bottle of pills? A sharp knife again? A fucking gun? She emptied his hand, and it was not any of those things. It was a thick, round disk about the size of her palm. The disc was split down the middle on the narrow side. In the center was a wound-up slip of string. “Is this?” she demanded. “A fucking yo-yo?” 

He sat down on his bed and hung his head. “I didn’t want anybody to see me like this.” 

“How long do you think you could hide this from us?” 

“Why do you think I disappeared to a hotel this past few days?” he said. “I just wanted to try it out.” 

She sat next to him and put a hand on his knee. “Look, Sean,” she said with a sign. “Just because you’re curious about yo-yos doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone experiments with yo-yos at some point in their life.” 

“Really?” he sniffed, finally looking up. “I thought it was just me. 

“I know how you feel. I used a yo-yo when I was younger. But I’m okay now,” she told him. “You will be too.” With the hand that wasn’t on his knee, she held his. “We’re going to get through this together.” 

He put his head on her shoulder.  

She held the accursed thing directly in front of his eyes. “Now tell me, where did you get this? Who taught you how to use this thing?” 

“It’s going to be okay, Sean,” she cooed soothingly. “Do you trust me?” 

“YouTube tutorials, mostly,” he replied. “As for how I got it, I was walking by a toy store, and in a fit of whimsy, I went inside. Toward the back was where the forgotten toys of yesteryear dwell—the wooden bock, the hula hoop, the ball on a string with the cup on the top, you know what I’m talking about. There was this employee using a yo-yo, and I didn’t know what to do. I just kept watching. He seemed so happy. There was no sign of the misery and pain yo-yos cause. I knew that yo-yos came with a price, and I knew I shouldn’t pay it, and I know a bunch of tricks now. Would I do it again? I don’t have the answers. I know I can’t keep living like this.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course not,” he replied. “You’re a succubus.” 

She smiled weakly. “Then it’s not going to be okay.” 

He smiled back.  

They turned to each other again, and once again, she was alarmed at how close they were. Lisa couldn’t figure out where this was coming from. Why was her heart rate increasing exponentially? Why was her mouth so dry? Why were her palms sweating? Did she get covid? 

The asshole quickly looked away and sprang to his feet.  

Her heart immediately began to slow down. She had no idea what was causing this. “You said you picked up some tricks.” 

“Why do you think I spent three days in yo-yo boot camp?” 

“Show me.” 

He dropped the yo-yo until it reached the end of its string, and it hung there, until it returned to his hand with a snap of the wrist. “Sleeper.” 

“That’s just yo-yoing in slow motion. I want to see more advanced tricks.”  

“Check it out. Walk the dog. Elevator. Cradle. Those are basic tricks. One I could never get ahold of is the loopty-loop.” 

“Try it,” she demanded. 

He tossed the yo-yo, pulled it back, and didn’t catch it when it wound back up the second time the asshole screamed, “It’s coming back!” and dove to the floor. He forgot that it was attached to him, and Lisa laughed her ass off. 

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Three Stories in One

In 2005 I set out to do a daunting task, and I got fully daunted by it. I wanted to make “Three Stories in One” an illustrated book. “Three Stories in One” is an iredeemibly bonkers short story I wrote in high school, sort-of* cowritten by Boone Siebersma, featuring the public personas of some people we knew, such as myself (the cranky passive narrator), Boone (the unique and aloof one), Luke (sex-starved and well-groomed), Wendy (the badass racecar driver), and Amber (the perky cheerleader). I got through about sixty pages when I put it aside temporarily and never got back to it.

Which is a shame, because the work I did for it was really quite brilliant. Here’s some highlights.

* Sort-of in the sense his inspiration and encouragement were crucial to the process, and he wrote the sequel on his own, but the words on this one are mine.

Who Does He Think He Is?

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I’m Jeremiah. I’m a middle-aged white man in America, so that means I’m over-represented in the media and in the workforce. I’m also a pretty good writer. You can find out a lot about me in this journal, going all the way back to 2005.

For example, my day-to-day life is normal but interesting. What I consider my best slices of life are here, though sometimes things happen that are beyond insane. Speaking of insane, I’m bipolar and have ADD, and these things are so deep a part of me that I have to spend a lot of time making sense of it. I sometimes find myself thinking about the past, and I get a little nostalgic, sometimes sad, but I think about my friends and things are (usually) okay. I’m deeply steeped in pop culture, and I have some pretty serious opinions, though you’d never know that by talking to me. As I said, I write, and I reflect on my unusual process as well as my successes and failures at it quite a bit.

Basically, I like to write little essays that aren’t, with one or two exceptions, too long, and these are hundreds of them. Stop on by, take a look around, tell me what you think.

A Very Bad Joke

One fine morning, Patricia Black set out for work. By the time she arrived at The People’s National Bank, she was ready for anything.  

Well, almost everything.  

At about ten o’clock, she was surprised by the appearance of a frog, who hopped right up to her desk and said, “Ribbit!” 

Not one to turn away a customer, she asked, “What can I help you with today?” 

The frog said, “Ribbit.” 

She didn’t know what ribbit meant, so she would have to make some guesses. “Would you like a loan?” 

“Ribbit!”  

There was something affirmative in that ribbit, so she replied, “You’ve come to the right place! The first thing I need to know is if you have some collateral.” 

The frog spit up something on the desktop.  

Delicately she picked it up and studied it. It was some sort of clay statue of a unicorn, about the size of a cell phone. But what was it? Knowing she wasn’t going to get a straight answer out of the frog, she turned to the man at the desk next to her, Joel Bey. “Joel, can you tell me what this is?” 

Joel frowned thoughtfully, but he shrugged. “No idea.” 

If there was anyone who would know, it was her boss, the bank manager, Walter O’Connor. She excused herself to the frog and headed to his office immediately.  

He waved her in as if he were glad to see her. He was always glad to see everybody. He was just that kind of boss. “What can I help you with, Patricia?” he asked. 

She explained her new client and held up the unicorn. “And this is what he would like to use as collateral, but I have no idea what it is.” 

Walter studied it, muttering, “I haven’t seen one of these in a long time.” 

“What is it?” 

“Why it’s a knick-knack, Patty Black, give the frog a loan!” 

I … I’ll see myself out. 

The Aristotle Code

I’ve decided that, when I finish the novel I’m working on, I want the next one to be a conspiracy thriller. I’ve done some thinking on it, and this is the plot: 

The hero is a middle-aged, square-jawed professor in the philosophical anthropology department of Yale named John Hawke. He has eight PhDs and speaks twelve languages, none of which will ever come up in this book. All of his straight male students want to be him, and his straight female students want him, but not in a creepy way. One day, during office hours, when he’s teaching a student a fresh, exciting way to see philosophical anthropology, a beautiful, alluring, stunning, mysterious woman appears.  

The woman, Vanessa Riviera, came to John because he’s the World’s foremost expert on Aristotle, and with his dying words, Aristotle revealed the location of The Holy Grail, but in code. Together, with a mysterious organization that doesn’t want The Holy Grail found dogging their trail, they travel the globe and find the location of The Holy Grail, only to discover that it had been moved. They do more globetrotting, and they are pursued again, until it is finally revealed to them: 

The Holy Grail is actually a wine goblet a suburban mom in Wisconsin named Karen picked up at a garage sale because she thought it would look so cute next to her Hummel figurines on her mantel, but the cat kept knocking it down so now it’s in a box in the storage shed that her husband, Harold, has been promising that he’ll clean, but he never does, instead he watches football and History Channel documentaries about World War 2. 

The climax of the book is fifty pages of Dr. Hawke, Vanessa, and representatives of the mysterious organization standing around Karen’s backyard as she goes through her boxes and talks about everything she pulls out. (“This is the bowling trophy Harold won in ’08 for bowling his first 200. He never got a 300, but he was always proud of this little thing. Here’s an ash tray little Mackenzie made me in school. We don’t smoke, but it was a sweet thought, and we had it on our coffee table for years. Here’s the monogrammed coasters we picked up in the Black Hills in South Dakota. Hunter was conceived there. Well, there’s no Holy Grail in this box. Maybe it got put in with the Halloween decorations.”) 

Eventually the mysterious organization gets bored and leaves, and Dr. Hawke gets The Grail. This turns out not to matter to the world in any way whatsoever.  

The Hell with It

Today, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. is our work Holiday Party. Those of you who have read Jeremiah’s Inferno will know that this is the Seventh Circle of Hell, below Standing in Line and one above Stuck in Traffic. 

For those not in the know, the Circles of Hell are as follows:  

1. Four-Year-Old Explaining the Plot of their Favorite Anime;  

2. First Dates;  

3. Holding in a Fart for a Long Elevator Ride;  

4. Pickles and Mushrooms;  

5. Exercising;  

6. Standing in Line;  

7. Work Holiday Parties;  

8. Stuck in Traffic;  

9. Discussing Politics with my Former Best Friend from High School. 

Hack the Planet

The reason they won’t let me write suspenseful thrillers in Hollywood or TV Land is because all of my stories would end like this: 

*Our scene opens in the VILLAINS lair. The VILLAIN has been defeated, but he has left one dastardly trap for the heroes—a biological weapon that is primed to subject all of Los Angeles to an agonizing death. In a desperate attempt to stop it, the HERO and HEROINE confront the VILLAINS laptop.* 

HERO: The only way to stop it is to enter the password! 

HEROINE: We’ve only got two minutes left! Start guessing! 

HERO: There’s a catch! If you enter the wrong password three times, it automatically triggers the device! I know an algorithm that can bypass the security node and access the device! *HERO types furiously, but the screen flashes red, and he pounds the table* Dammit! There’s a firewall eating my code! I can’t get through! 

HEROINE: Two guesses left! 

HERO: There was only one thing that he loved in this life! One thing that made him human! His daughter! *HERO types the VILLAINS daughters name, but gets another red flash* Dammit! 

HEROINE: One guess left! 

HERO: There’s only one thing we can do, and it’s a long shot! Before the Villain murdered him and his family, my brother entrusted me with a worm he coded! If it works, it’s like an electronic skeleton key that can— 

HEROINE: *Slides the laptop over to herself and types P-A-S-S-W-O-R-D. With a dull hum, the device powers down* 

HERO. Goddammit.