Friday, February 29, 2008

And on the cold wet dirt I cry

How long have I been limping around? Three months? Has it been that long already? Really? Then why do I still have people who come up to me and say, "What did you do?"

It's been three fucking months people. You see me several times a week. The next person to ask what I did is going to get a swift kick in the nuts.

Well, assuming that I can actually pull off a swift kick without falling into a crumpled heap of patheticness.

And assuming that the offending party is male and actually has nuts for me to kick swiftly.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

We can't live on science alone

I spent several hours yesterday grading exams. When we grade exams, everyone who is associated with the class picks a question, then we all sit in a room and grade until everything is done. We try to make the best of it, usually by making fun of students' answers. Sometimes we make fun of students for how wrong they are. Other times, we just make fun of the wording they use.

For example, the question I graded asked the students to list several influences that Darwin had on contemporary thought. One student wrote, "Another thing Darwin put out there for us all is . . ."

It was awkward wording, so I read it aloud because I wanted to see how it sounded. As I did so, somebody interrupted me.

"Darwin put out. What a ho!"

Somebody else added, "Hey, there was nothing else to do on the HMS Beagle."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

If you think that a kiss is on the lips come on you've got it all wrong man

Last night I went to a basketball game. On the way over, my friend and I saw another friend of ours who was also going to the game. While we were sitting in the student section, our other friend had box seats. He mentioned that the girl who had hooked him up with the tickets had some really attractive friends that might also be in attendance.

Near the end of the first half, I received a text message from the guy with box seats. The following text message conversation ensued:

Him: Reminds me of when we used to play basketball :(

Me: Any hot chicks up there in the booth with you?

Him: Mostly sausage

Me: Eat up

Him: Mmmmmmm. . .

Me: Make sure to close your eyelids before getting shot in the face so as to avoid eye irritation

Him: Thanks! You know from experience?

Me: From you alright. I learned from watching you!

Him: Nice! I love that commercial! My dad was too busy watching tv to teach me to smoke pot.

Me: Parents who suck cock have kids who suck cock

Him: I don't know what to say to that.

Me: Well, what can you say when your mouth's full of cock?

Him: Ok. You win!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stick-shifts and safety belts and bucket seats have all got to go

I got a phone call from a high school friend a little while back. He wanted me to tell a girl the story about how he and I killed Ramone. I told her the story. Now I'll tell you.

Ramone was an old Datsun pick-up that my friend and his foster brother drove. The name Ramone came from the noise the truck would make when the driver shifted gears. Ramone's horn was too weak to be blown steadily - if honked, the sound would cycle from loud to barely audible and back. Ramone's headlights pointed in different directions. Ramone was very, very rusty. There was a hole in the floor on Ramone's driver's side that would allow water to splash on the driver's foot if Ramone was driven through a puddle or on slushy roads. The remedy for that problem was to place a rubber mat on the floor (of course). One time I hopped over the side of the truck and into the bed only to have my foot continue on through the bed and wind up back on the pavement. Nobody was allowed to jump into the bed after that. Ramone's original color was orange (I think - it may have just been rust), but my friend and his foster brother had painted various designs in white all over Ramone's body. They also wrote Ramone's name across the hood. We loved Ramone. So, you can imagine the sadness we felt on the day he died, especially given that we were at fault.

Ramone's death can indirectly be blamed on another friend of ours who gave me a guilty conscience. I had been asked to a ladies' choice dance by a girl that I didn't think was very cute, so I declined, offering up the excuse that I had a debate meet the next day. This was only kind of a lie. There was a debate meet the next day, but I had told the debate coach that I wasn't going to go. Until the day after she'd asked me out, at which point I told him I'd changed my mind and was going. This didn't sit well with one of my friends, and he told me what a jerk I was for doing that. I decided he was right, so in order to make people happy I decided I'd ask the girl to go on a date with me on another night (since I couldn't reverse course and go to the dance with her or she'd know I wasn't telling the truth about the debate meet - although, you can bet that if I'd been interested in her I would have found a way to make it work).

In those days, nobody in our town actually called people and asked them out over the phone. Instead you had to do something a lot more involved. If it was someone you were really interested in, you had to coordinate with their parents so that you could go decorate their bedroom while they weren't home, or send them on a treasure hunt, or something quite complicated. If it was someone you only kind of liked, you could get away with decorating their locker, or car. For this girl, I decided just to leave a flower with a note at her house. This was all decided with coaching from my friend who drove Ramone, so it only seemed right that he drive me out to her house to drop the rose/note off. She lived on the edge of town, near the cemetery and a cement plant. Her dad (the high school wood shop teacher) answered the door, said that she wasn't home right then, but that he'd make sure she got it. I left, relieved that I hadn't been forced to talk to her, got back in Ramone, and we headed back down the road.

A few blocks down the road, my friend started joking about how I should put the moves on her. As he joked about that he looked at me and said, "This is how you get a girl to come over and sit on your lap." He then yanked the steering wheel hard to the right so as to make me lean over toward him. Unfortunately, he started fish-tailing and lost control of the vehicle. We crashed into the corner of a concrete barrier that was along the side of a culvert. That slowed down the front of Ramone, but not the back, so Ramone's back end slid around and we slammed into the edge of another concrete barrier. The point of impact was just behind the driver's door. The result was twofold. First, Ramone was bent into an unnatural shape. Second, since I wasn't wearing my seatbelt (dumb move, I know), I flew across the cab and slammed into my friend, pinning him up against the door.

Here's a diagram of how it all went down. First impact:



Second impact:



Other than being misplaced, and having a rapidly beating heart for several minutes, I was unscathed. My friend only had the wind knocked out of him from when I flew into him, but he was ok too. We were both able to get out of the truck on our own. We were lucky.

A guy who was working at the cement plant saw the whole thing. He ran over to see if we were ok. I told him I was. My friend, who still couldn't breathe, gave him a thumbs up. He said he was going to go call for help, and that he'd be back. He left, my friend caught his breath, and the first words he said were, "See? It worked!"

Unfortunately, it cost Ramone his life.



Oddly enough, I never felt the need to try that move on a girl. Although, I suppose there's still time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gotta make it man, I ain't got a choice

It sucks how easily one long drive can wipe out any progress that's been made in healing an ailing back. I guess it's time to get back on the percocet until I can schedule another steroid injection.

It's been a rough week.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A bad day again

My best friend's mom passed away yesterday. I don't think it was a big surprise to anyone because she'd been in the hospital for a few weeks, and it certainly wasn't looking good. I was more shocked when I got the initial call from him a couple weeks ago. He called me from the Las Vegas airport, and I was hoping that meant he was calling me to come get him and take him somewhere he needed to be. Unfortunately, where he needed to be was San Francisco. He told me that his mother was in the hospital and that he'd been told he needed to drop everything and get out there as soon as possible if he wanted to be able to talk to her again before she died. He was on a layover, but there wasn't enough time for me to see him, so I just talked to him a little about the situation. Luckily, she held on for a while, and he was able to spend some time with her before she passed. Hopefully that will help him in coping with her loss.

I haven't seen her in many years, but she always asked my friend how I was doing, and wanted to talk to me if I happened to be at his house when she called. She always treated me as if I were part of her family. She was a good woman. Since I haven't seen her in quite some time, most of my memories of her come from when I was in high school, and spent time in her house almost every day.

Here are a few things I remember:

- She bought my friend a motorcycle, and didn't get too upset when we got caught riding it without a license (that was the first time a law enforcement officer ever had to talk to my parents about me, and oddly enough, they didn't get too upset either).
- She fed us with innumberable burritos and personal pizzas from her freezer, never complaining about the additional cost of feeding 2-3 extra teenage boys.
- She never got too mad at us when we'd scare her "jungle cat" and make it run into the bedroom.
- She trusted her son to go with me whenever and wherever we chose.
- She allowed us to commandeer the television for hours on end while we watched The Kids In The Hall, Mystery Science Theater 3000, or played Tecmo Super Bowl.
- She was one of the few people who didn't act disappointed when I got my girlfriend pregnant. Instead, she just made fun of me.
- She helped me get a custodial job during the first winter I was married that helped pay for gas and groceries while no other jobs were available.


I could go on, but I won't. Just know that she was a remarkable woman and the world is worse off without her. Just because her death was expected after that initial phone call doesn't mean that I'm not crying as I write this.

Rest in peace, Lynne. You will be missed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sit here wasted while you're laughing with the lepers and questioning the price of common sense

Me: You just made me laugh and clap my hands together - I'm sure [Girl Across the Hall]'s wondering what could be so funny.

Friend: Did you clap your hands like a retard who got a free cupcake at a birthday party?

Me: Yup. Just like that.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We don't need no education

I awoke this morning to the sound of the bedroom door opening. In walked Mr. M.

Me: Good morning kiddo.
Mr. M.: Good morning Dad.
Me: Is Togers awake?
Mr. M.: No.
Me: Is Tortellini awake?
Mr. M.: No.
Me: Is Grandma up? Or Grandpa?
Mr. M.: No.
Me: How do you know?
Mr. M.: I know all that stuff.
Me: You do?
Mr. M.: Yeah. I know a lot of stuff.
Me: Ok then, what's the square root of pi?
Mr. M. (in a condescending tone): Pie is round, and you put stuff in it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

'Til you come home again

I'm leaving town for the weekend with just a general idea of what I'm going to do. Since I don't know how much internet access I'll have, I figured I'd give you something long enough to tide you over until I get back. This is simply the best story ever (but I didn't write it, I copied it from a friend who copied if from someone else I don't know who may or may not have been the original author, although I'm guessing probably not). Enjoy!

------------------Begin Story------------------


So, there's a man crawling through the desert.

He'd decided to try his SUV in a little bit of cross-country travel, had
great fun zooming over the badlands and through the sand, got lost, hit a
big rock, and then he couldn't get it started again. There were no cell
phone towers anywhere near, so his cell phone was useless. He had no family,
his parents had died a few years before in an auto accident, and his few
friends had no idea he was out here.

He stayed with the car for a day or so, but his one bottle of water ran out
and he was getting thirsty. He thought maybe he knew the direction back, now
that he'd paid attention to the sun and thought he'd figured out which way
was north, so he decided to start walking. He figured he only had to go
about 30 miles or so and he'd be back to the small town he'd gotten gas in
last.

He thinks about walking at night to avoid the heat and sun, but based upon
how dark it actually was the night before, and given that he has no
flashlight, he's afraid that he'll break a leg or step on a rattlesnake. So,
he puts on some sun block, puts the rest in his pocket for reapplication
later, brings an umbrella he'd had in the back of the SUV with him to give
him a little shade, pours the windshield wiper fluid into his water bottle
in case he gets that desperate, brings his pocket knife in case he finds a
cactus that looks like it might have water in it, and heads out in the
direction he thinks is right.

He walks for the entire day. By the end of the day he's really thirsty. He's
been sweating all day, and his lips are starting to crack. He's reapplied
the sunblock twice, and tried to stay under the umbrella, but he still feels
sunburned. The windshield wiper fluid sloshing in the bottle in his pocket
is really getting tempting now. He knows that it's mainly water and some
ethanol and coloring, but he also knows that they add some kind of poison to
it to keep people from drinking it. He wonders what the poison is, and
whether the poison would be worse than dying of thirst.

He pushes on, trying to get to that small town before dark.

By the end of the day he starts getting worried. He figures he's been
walking at least 3 miles an hour, according to his watch for over 10 hours.
That means that if his estimate was right that he should be close to the
town. But he doesn't recognize any of this. He had to cross a dry creek bed
a mile or two back, and he doesn't remember coming through it in the SUV. He
figures that maybe he got his direction off just a little and that the dry
creek bed was just off to one side of his path. He tells himself that he's
close, and that after dark he'll start seeing the town lights over one of
these hills, and that'll be all he needs.

As it gets dim enough that he starts stumbling over small rocks and things,
he finds a spot and sits down to wait for full dark and the town lights.

Full dark comes before he knows it. He must have dozed off. He stands back
up and turns all the way around. He sees nothing but stars.

He wakes up the next morning feeling absolutely lousy. His eyes are gummy
and his mouth and nose feel like they're full of sand. He so thirsty that he
can't even swallow. He barely got any sleep because it was so cold. He'd
forgotten how cold it got at night in the desert and hadn't noticed it the
night before because he'd been in his car.

He knows the Rule of Threes - three minutes without air, three days without
water, three weeks without food - then you die. Some people can make it a
little longer, in the best situations. But the desert heat and having to
walk and sweat isn't the best situation to be without water. He figures,
unless he finds water, this is his last day.

He rinses his mouth out with a little of the windshield wiper fluid. He
waits a while after spitting that little bit out, to see if his mouth goes
numb, or he feels dizzy or something. Has his mouth gone numb? Is it just in
his mind? He's not sure. He'll go a little farther, and if he still doesn't
find water, he'll try drinking some of the fluid.

Then he has to face his next, harder question - which way does he go from
here? Does he keep walking the same way he was yesterday (assuming that he
still knows which way that is), or does he try a new direction? He has no
idea what to do.

Looking at the hills and dunes around him, he thinks he knows the direction
he was heading before. Just going by a feeling, he points himself somewhat
to the left of that, and starts walking.

As he walks, the day starts heating up. The desert, too cold just a couple
of hours before, soon becomes an oven again. He sweats a little at first,
and then stops. He starts getting worried at that - when you stop sweating
he knows that means you're in trouble - usually right before heat stroke.

He decides that it's time to try the windshield wiper fluid. He can't wait
any longer - if he passes out, he's dead. He stops in the shade of a large
rock, takes the bottle out, opens it, and takes a mouthful. He slowly
swallows it, making it last as long as he can. It feels so good in his dry
and cracked throat that he doesn't even care about the nasty taste. He takes
another mouthful, and makes it last too. Slowly, he drinks half the bottle.
He figures that since he's drinking it, he might as well drink enough to
make some difference and keep himself from passing out.

He's quit worrying about the denaturing of the wiper fluid. If it kills him,
it kills him - if he didn't drink it, he'd die anyway. Besides, he's pretty
sure that whatever substance they denature the fluid with is just designed
to make you sick - their way of keeping winos from buying cheap wiper fluid
for the ethanol content. He can handle throwing up, if it comes to that.

He walks. He walks in the hot, dry, windless desert. Sand, rocks, hills,
dunes, the occasional scrawny cactus or dried bush. No sign of water.
Sometimes he'll see a little movement to one side or the other, but whatever
moved is usually gone before he can focus his eyes on it. Probably birds,
lizards, or mice. Maybe snakes, though they usually move more at night. He's
careful to stay away from the movements.

After a while, he begins to stagger. He's not sure if it's fatigue, heat
stroke finally catching him, or maybe he was wrong and the denaturing of the
wiper fluid was worse than he thought. He tries to steady himself, and keep
going.

After more walking, he comes to a large stretch of sand. This is good! He
knows he passed over a stretch of sand in the SUV - he remembers doing
donuts in it. Or at least he thinks he remembers it - he's getting woozy
enough and tired enough that he's not sure what he remembers any more or if
he's hallucinating. But he thinks he remembers it. So he heads off into it,
trying to get to the other side, hoping that it gets him closer to the town.

He was heading for a town, wasn't he? He thinks he was. He isn't sure any
more. He's not even sure how long he's been walking any more. Is it still
morning? Or has it moved into afternoon and the sun is going down again? It
must be afternoon - it seems like it's been too long since he started out.

He walks through the sand.

After a while, he comes to a big dune in the sand. This is bad. He doesn't
remember any dunes when driving over the sand in his SUV. Or at least he
doesn't think he remembers any. This is bad.

But, he has no other direction to go. Too late to turn back now. He figures
that he'll get to the top of the dune and see if he can see anything from
there that helps him find the town. He keeps going up the dune.

Halfway up, he slips in the bad footing of the sand for the second or third
time, and falls to his knees. He doesn't feel like getting back up - he'll
just fall down again. So, he keeps going up the dune on his hand and knees.

While crawling, if his throat weren't so dry, he'd laugh. He's finally
gotten to the hackneyed image of a man lost in the desert - crawling through
the sand on his hands and knees. If would be the perfect image, he imagines,
if only his clothes were more ragged. The people crawling through the desert
in the cartoons always had ragged clothes. But his have lasted without any
rips so far. Somebody will probably find his dessicated corpse half buried
in the sand years from now, and his clothes will still be in fine shape -
shake the sand out, and a good wash, and they'd be wearable again. He wishes
his throat were wet enough to laugh. He coughs a little instead, and it
hurts.

He finally makes it to the top of the sand dune. Now that he's at the top,
he struggles a little, but manages to stand up and look around. All he sees
is sand. Sand, and more sand. Behind him, about a mile away, he thinks he
sees the rocky ground he left to head into this sand. Ahead of him, more
dunes, more sand. This isn't where he drove his SUV. This is Hell. Or close
enough.

Again, he doesn't know what to do. He decides to drink the rest of the wiper
fluid while figuring it out. He takes out the bottle, and is removing the
cap, when he glances to the side and sees something. Something in the sand.
At the bottom of the dune, off to the side, he sees something strange. It's
a flat area, in the sand. He stops taking the cap of the bottle off, and
tries to look closer. The area seems to be circular. And it's dark - darker
than the sand. And, there seems to be something in the middle of it, but he
can't tell what it is. He looks as hard as he can, and still can tell from
here. He's going to have to go down there and look.

He puts the bottle back in his pocket, and starts to stumble down the dune.
After a few steps, he realizes that he's in trouble - he's not going to be
able to keep his balance. After a couple of more sliding, tottering steps,
he falls and starts to roll down the dune. The sand it so hot when his body
hits it that for a minute he thinks he's caught fire on the way down - like
a movie car wreck flashing into flames as it goes over the cliff, before it
ever even hits the ground. He closes his eyes and mouth, covers his face
with his hands, and waits to stop rolling.

He stops, at the bottom of the dune. After a minute or two, he finds enough
energy to try to sit up and get the sand out of his face and clothes. When
he clears his eyes enough, he looks around to make sure that the dark spot
in the sand it still there and he hadn't just imagined it.

So, seeing the large, flat, dark spot on the sand is still there, he begins
to crawl towards it. He'd get up and walk towards it, but he doesn't seem to
have the energy to get up and walk right now. He must be in the final stages
of dehydration he figures, as he crawls. If this place in the sand doesn't
have water, he'll likely never make it anywhere else. This is his last
chance.

He gets closer and closer, but still can't see what's in the middle of the
dark area. His eyes won't quite focus any more for some reason. And lifting
his head up to look takes so much effort that he gives up trying. He just
keeps crawling.

Finally, he reaches the area he'd seen from the dune. It takes him a minute
of crawling on it before he realizes that he's no longer on sand - he's now
crawling on some kind of dark stone. Stone with some kind of marking on it -
a pattern cut into the stone. He's too tired to stand up and try to see what
the pattern is - so he just keeps crawling. He crawls towards the center,
where his blurry eyes still see something in the middle of the dark stone
area.

His mind, detached in a strange way, notes that either his hands and knees
are so burnt by the sand that they no longer feel pain, or that this dark
stone, in the middle of a burning desert with a pounding, punishing sun
overhead, doesn't seem to be hot. It almost feels cool. He considers lying
down on the nice cool surface.

Cool, dark stone. Not a good sign. He must be hallucinating this. He's
probably in the middle of a patch of sand, already lying face down and
dying, and just imagining this whole thing. A desert mirage. Soon the
beautiful women carrying pitchers of water will come up and start giving him
a drink. Then he'll know he's gone.

He decides against laying down on the cool stone. If he's going to die here
in the middle of this hallucination, he at least wants to see what's in the
center before he goes. He keeps crawling.

It's the third time that he hears the voice before he realizes what he's
hearing. He would swear that someone just said, "Greetings, traveler. You do
not look well. Do you hear me?"

He stops crawling. He tries to look up from where he is on his hands and
knees, but it's too much effort to lift his head. So he tries something
different - he leans back and tries to sit up on the stone. After a few
seconds, he catches his balance, avoids falling on his face, sits up, and
tries to focus his eyes. Blurry. He rubs his eyes with the back of his hands
and tries again. Better this time.

Yep. He can see. He's sitting in the middle of a large, flat, dark expanse
of stone. Directly next to him, about three feet away, is a white post or
pole about two inches in diameter and sticking up about four or five feet
out of the stone, at an angle.

And wrapped around this white rod, tail with rattle on it hovering and
seeming to be ready to start rattling, is what must be a fifteen foot long
desert diamondback rattlesnake, looking directly at him.

He stares at the snake in shock. He doesn't have the energy to get up and
run away. He doesn't even have the energy to crawl away. This is it, his
final resting place. No matter what happens, he's not going to be able to
move from this spot.

Well, at least dying of a bite from this monster should be quicker than
dying of thirst. He'll face his end like a man. He struggles to sit up a
little straighter. The snake keeps watching him. He lifts one hand and waves
it in the snake's direction, feebly. The snake watches the hand for a
moment, then goes back to watching the man, looking into his eyes.

Hmmm. Maybe the snake had no interest in biting him? It hadn't rattled yet -
that was a good sign. Maybe he wasn't going to die of snake bite after all.

He then remembers that he'd looked up when he'd reached the center here
because he thought he'd heard a voice. He was still very woozy - he was
likely to pass out soon, the sun still beat down on him even though he was
now on cool stone. He still didn't have anything to drink. But maybe he had
actually heard a voice. This stone didn't look natural. Nor did that white
post sticking up out of the stone. Someone had to have built this. Maybe
they were still nearby. Maybe that was who talked to him. Maybe this snake
was even their pet, and that's why it wasn't biting.

He tries to clear his throat to say, "Hello," but his throat is too dry. All
that comes out is a coughing or wheezing sound. There is no way he's going
to be able to talk without something to drink. He feels his pocket, and the
bottle with the wiper fluid is still there. He shakily pulls the bottle out,
almost losing his balance and falling on his back in the process. This isn't
good. He doesn't have much time left, by his reckoning, before he passes
out.

He gets the lid off of the bottle, manages to get the bottle to his lips,
and pours some of the fluid into his mouth. He sloshes it around, and then
swallows it. He coughs a little. His throat feels better. Maybe he can talk
now.

He tries again. Ignoring the snake, he turns to look around him, hoping to
spot the owner of this place, and croaks out, "Hello? Is there anyone here?"

He hears, from his side, "Greetings. What is it that you want?"

He turns his head, back towards the snake. That's where the sound had seemed
to come from. The only thing he can think of is that there must be a
speaker, hidden under the snake, or maybe built into that post. He decides
to try asking for help.

"Please," he croaks again, suddenly feeling dizzy, "I'd love to not be
thirsty any more. I've been a long time without water. Can you help me?"

Looking in the direction of the snake, hoping to see where the voice was
coming from this time, he is shocked to see the snake rear back, open its
mouth, and speak. He hears it say, as the dizziness overtakes him and he
falls forward, face first on the stone, "Very well. Coming up."

A piercing pain shoots through his shoulder. Suddenly he is awake. He sits
up and grabs his shoulder, wincing at the throbbing pain. He's momentarily
disoriented as he looks around, and then he remembers - the crawl across the
sand, the dark area of stone, the snake. He sees the snake, still wrapped
around the tilted white post, still looking at him.

He reaches up and feels his shoulder, where it hurts. It feels slightly wet.
He pulls his fingers away and looks at them - blood. He feels his shoulder
again - his shirt has what feels like two holes in it - two puncture holes -
they match up with the two aching spots of pain on his shoulder. He had been
bitten. By the snake.

"It'll feel better in a minute." He looks up - it's the snake talking. He
hadn't dreamed it. Suddenly he notices - he's not dizzy any more. And more
importantly, he's not thirsty any more - at all!

"Have I died? Is this the afterlife? Why are you biting me in the
afterlife?"

"Sorry about that, but I had to bite you," says the snake. "That's the way I
work. It all comes through the bite. Think of it as natural medicine."

"You bit me to help me? Why aren't I thirsty any more? Did you give me a
drink before you bit me? How did I drink enough while unconscious to not be
thirsty any more? I haven't had a drink for over two days. Well, except for
the windshield wiper fluid... hold it, how in the world does a snake talk?
Are you real? Are you some sort of Disney animation?"

"No," says the snake, "I'm real. As real as you or anyone is, anyway. I
didn't give you a drink. I bit you. That's how it works - it's what I do. I
bite. I don't have hands to give you a drink, even if I had water just
sitting around here."

The man sat stunned for a minute. Here he was, sitting in the middle of the
desert on some strange stone that should be hot but wasn't, talking to a
snake that could talk back and had just bitten him. And he felt better. Not
great - he was still starving and exhausted, but much better - he was no
longer thirsty. He had started to sweat again, but only slightly. He felt
hot, in this sun, but it was starting to get lower in the sky, and the cool
stone beneath him was a relief he could notice now that he was no longer
dying of thirst.

"I might suggest that we take care of that methanol you now have in your
system with the next request," continued the snake. "I can guess why you
drank it, but I'm not sure how much you drank, or how much methanol was left
in the wiper fluid. That stuff is nasty. It'll make you go blind in a day or
two, if you drank enough of it."

"Ummm, n-next request?" said the man. He put his hand back on his hurting
shoulder and backed away from the snake a little.

"That's the way it works. If you like, that is," explained the snake. "You
get three requests. Call them wishes, if you wish." The snake grinned at his
own joke, and the man drew back a little further from the show of fangs.

"But there are rules," the snake continued. "The first request is free. The
second requires an agreement of secrecy. The third requires the binding of
responsibility." The snake looks at the man seriously.

"By the way," the snake says suddenly, "my name is Nathan. Old Nathan,
Samuel used to call me. He gave me the name. Before that, most of the Bound
used to just call me 'Snake'. But that got old, and Samuel wouldn't stand
for it. He said that anything that could talk needed a name. He was big into
names. You can call me Nate, if you wish." Again, the snake grinned. "Sorry
if I don't offer to shake, but I think you can understand - my shake sounds
somewhat threatening." The snake give his rattle a little shake.

"Umm, my name is Jack," said the man, trying to absorb all of this. "Jack
Samson.

"Can I ask you a question?" Jack says suddenly. "What happened to the
poison...umm, in your bite. Why aren't I dying now? How did you do that?
What do you mean by that's how you work?"

"That's more than one question," grins Nate. "But I'll still try to answer
all of them. First, yes, you can ask me a question." The snake's grin gets
wider. "Second, the poison is in you. It changed you. You now no longer need
to drink. That's what you asked for. Or, well, technically, you asked to not
be thirsty any more - but 'any more' is such a vague term. I decided to make
it permanent - now, as long as you live, you shouldn't need to drink much at
all. Your body will conserve water very efficiently. You should be able to
get enough just from the food you eat - much like a creature of the desert.
You've been changed.

"For the third question," Nate continues, "you are still dying. Besides the
effects of that methanol in your system, you're a man - and men are mortal.
In your current state, I give you no more than about another 50 years.
Assuming you get out of this desert, alive, that is." Nate seemed vastly
amused at his own humor, and continued his wide grin.

"As for the fourth question," Nate said, looking more serious as far as Jack
could tell, as Jack was just now working on his ability to read
talking-snake emotions from snake facial features, "first you have to agree
to make a second request and become bound by the secrecy, or I can't tell
you."

"Wait," joked Jack, "isn't this where you say you could tell me, but you'd
have to kill me?"

"I thought that was implied." Nate continued to look serious.

"Ummm...yeah." Jack leaned back a little as he remembered again that he was
talking to a fifteen foot poisonous reptile with a reputation for having a
nasty temper. "So, what is this 'Bound by Secrecy' stuff, and can you really
stop the effects of the methanol?" Jack thought for a second. "And, what do
you mean methanol, anyway? I thought these days they use ethanol in wiper
fluid, and just denature it?"

"They may, I don't really know," said Nate. "I haven't gotten out in a
while. Maybe they do. All I know is that I smell methanol on your breath and
on that bottle in your pocket. And the blue color of the liquid when you
pulled it out to drink some let me guess that it was wiper fluid. I assume
that they still color wiper fluid blue?"

"Yeah, they do," said Jack.

"I figured," replied Nate. "As for being bound by secrecy - with the
fulfillment of your next request, you will be bound to say nothing about me,
this place, or any of the information I will tell you after that, when you
decide to go back out to your kind. You won't be allowed to talk about me,
write about me, use sign language, charades, or even act in a way that will
lead someone to guess correctly about me. You'll be bound to secrecy. Of
course, I'll also ask you to promise not to give me away, and as I'm
guessing that you're a man of your word, you'll never test the binding
anyway, so you won't notice." Nate said the last part with utter confidence.

Jack, who had always prided himself on being a man of his word, felt a
little nervous at this. "Ummm, hey, Nate, who are you? How did you know
that? Are you, umm, omniscient, or something?"

Well, Jack," said Nate sadly, "I can't tell you that, unless you make the
second request." Nate looked away for a minute, then looked back.

"Umm, well, ok," said Jack, "what is this about a second request? What can I
ask for? Are you allowed to tell me that?"

"Sure!" said Nate, brightening. "You're allowed to ask for changes. Changes
to yourself. They're like wishes, but they can only affect you. Oh, and
before you ask, I can't give you immortality. Or omniscience. Or
omnipresence, for that matter. Though I might be able to make you gaseous
and yet remain alive, and then you could spread through the atmosphere and
sort of be omnipresent. But what good would that be - you still wouldn't be
omniscient and thus still could only focus on one thing at a time. Not very
useful, at least in my opinion." Nate stopped when he realized that Jack was
staring at him.

"Well, anyway," continued Nate, "I'd probably suggest giving you permanent
good health. It would negate the methanol now in your system, you'd be
immune to most poisons and diseases, and you'd tend to live a very long
time, barring accident, of course. And you'll even have a tendency to
recover from accidents well. It always seemed like a good choice for a
request to me."

"Cure the methanol poisoning, huh?" said Jack. "And keep me healthy for a
long time? Hmmm. It doesn't sound bad at that. And it has to be a request
about a change to me? I can't ask to be rich, right? Because that's not
really a change to me?"

"Right," nodded Nate.

"Could I ask to be a genius and permanently healthy?" Jack asked, hopefully.

"That takes two requests, Jack."

"Yeah, I figured so," said Jack. "But I could ask to be a genius? I could
become the smartest scientist in the world? Or the best athlete?"

"Well, I could make you very smart," admitted Nate, "but that wouldn't
necessarily make you the best scientist in the world. Or, I could make you
very athletic, but it wouldn't necessarily make you the best athlete either.
You've heard the saying that 99% of genius is hard work? Well, there's some
truth to that. I can give you the talent, but I can't make you work hard. It
all depends on what you decide to do with it."

"Hmmm," said Jack. "Ok, I think I understand. And I get a third request,
after this one?"

"Maybe," said Nate, "it depends on what you decide then. There are more
rules for the third request that I can only tell you about after the second
request. You know how it goes." Nate looked like he'd shrug, if he had
shoulders.

"Ok, well, since I'd rather not be blind in a day or two, and permanent
health doesn't sound bad, then consider that my second request. Officially.
Do I need to sign in blood or something?"

"No," said Nate. "Just hold out your hand. Or heel." Nate grinned. "Or
whatever part you want me to bite. I have to bite you again. Like I said,
that's how it works - the poison, you know," Nate said apologetically.

Jack winced a little and felt his shoulder, where the last bite was. Hey, it
didn't hurt any more. Just like Nate had said. That made Jack feel better
about the biting business. But still, standing still while a fifteen foot
snake sunk it's fangs into you. Jack stood up. Ignoring how good it felt to
be able to stand again, and the hunger starting to gnaw at his stomach, Jack
tried to decide where he wanted to get bitten. Despite knowing that it
wouldn't hurt for long, Jack knew that this wasn't going to be easy.

"Hey, Jack," Nate suddenly said, looking past Jack towards the dunes behind
him, "is that someone else coming up over there?"

Jack spun around and looked. Who else could be out here in the middle of
nowhere? And did they bring food?

Wait a minute, there was nobody over there. What was Nate...

Jack let out a bellow as he felt two fangs sink into his rear end, through
his jeans...

Jack sat down carefully, favoring his more tender buttock. "I would have
decided, eventually, Nate. I was just thinking about it. You didn't have to
hoodwink me like that."

"I've been doing this a long time, Jack," said Nate, confidently. "You
humans have a hard time sitting still and letting a snake bite you -
especially one my size. And besides, admit it - it's only been a couple of
minutes and it already doesn't hurt any more, does it? That's because of the
health benefit with this one. I told you that you'd heal quickly now."

"Yeah, well, still," said Jack, "it's the principle of the thing. And nobody
likes being bitten in the butt! Couldn't you have gotten my calf or
something instead?"

"More meat in the typical human butt," replied Nate. "And less chance you
accidentally kick me or move at the last second."

"Yeah, right. So, tell me all of these wonderful secrets that I now qualify
to hear," answered Jack.

"Ok," said Nate. "Do you want to ask questions first, or do you want me to
just start talking?"

"Just talk," said Jack. "I'll sit here and try to not think about food."

"We could go try to rustle up some food for you first, if you like,"
answered Nate.

"Hey! You didn't tell me you had food around here, Nate!" Jack jumped up.
"What do we have? Am I in walking distance to town? Or can you magically
whip up food along with your other powers?" Jack was almost shouting with
excitement. His stomach had been growling for hours.

"I was thinking more like I could flush something out of its hole and bite
it for you, and you could skin it and eat it. Assuming you have a knife,
that is," replied Nate, with the grin that Jack was starting to get used to.

"Ugh," said Jack, sitting back down. "I think I'll pass. I can last a little
longer before I get desperate enough to eat desert rat, or whatever else it
is you find out here. And there's nothing to burn - I'd have to eat it raw.
No thanks. Just talk."

"Ok," replied Nate, still grinning. "But I'd better hurry, before you start
looking at me as food.

Nate reared back a little, looked around for a second, and then continued.
"You, Jack, are sitting in the middle of the Garden of Eden."

Jack looked around at the sand and dunes and then looked back at Nate
sceptically.

"Well, that's the best I can figure it, anyway, Jack," said Nate. "Stand up
and look at the symbol on the rock here." Nate gestured around the dark
stone they were both sitting on with his nose.

Jack stood up and looked. Carved into the stone in a bas-relief was a
representation of a large tree. The angled-pole that Nate was wrapped around
was coming out of the trunk of the tree, right below where the main branches
left the truck to reach out across the stone. It was very well done - it
looked more like a tree had been reduced to almost two dimensions and
embedded in the stone than it did like a carving.

Jack walked around and looked at the details in the fading light of the
setting sun. He wished he'd looked at it while the sun was higher in the
sky.

Wait! The sun was setting! That meant he was going to have to spend another
night out here! Arrrgh!

Jack looked out across the desert for a little bit, and then came back and
stood next to Nate. "In all the excitement, I almost forgot, Nate," said
Jack. "Which way is it back to town? And how far? I'm eventually going to
have to head back - I'm not sure I'll be able to survive by eating raw
desert critters for long. And even if I can, I'm not sure I'll want to."

"It's about 30 miles that way." Nate pointed, with the rattle on his tail
this time. As far as Jack could tell, it was a direction at right angles to
the way he'd been going when he was crawling here. "But that's 30 miles by
the way the crow flies. It's about 40 by the way a man walks. You should be
able to do it in about half a day with your improved endurance, if you head
out early tomorrow, Jack."

Jack looked out the way the snake had pointed for a few seconds more, and
then sat back down. It was getting dark. Not much he could do about heading
out right now. And besides, Nate was just about to get to the interesting
stuff. "Garden of Eden? As best as you can figure it?"

"Well, yeah, as best as I and Samuel could figure it anyway," said Nate. "He
figured that the story just got a little mixed up. You know, snake, in a
'tree', offering 'temptations', making bargains. That kind stuff. But he
could never quite figure out how the Hebrews found out about this spot from
across the ocean. He worried about that for a while."

"Garden of Eden, hunh?" said Jack. "How long have you been here, Nate?"

"No idea, really," replied Nate. "A long time. It never occurred to me to
count years, until recently, and by then, of course, it was too late. But I
do remember when this whole place was green, so I figure it's been thousands
of years, at least."

"So, are you the snake that tempted Eve?" said Jack.

"Beats me," said Nate. "Maybe. I can't remember if the first one of your
kind that I talked to was female or not, and I never got a name, but it
could have been. And I suppose she could have considered my offer to grant
requests a 'temptation', though I've rarely had refusals."

"Well, umm, how did you get here then? And why is that white pole stuck out
of the stone there?" asked Jack.

"Dad left me here. Or, I assume it was my dad. It was another snake - much
bigger than I was back then. I remember talking to him, but I don't remember
if it was in a language, or just kind of understanding what he wanted. But
one day, he brought me to this stone, told me about it, and asked me to do
something for him. I talked it over with him for a while, then agreed. I've
been here ever since.

"What is this place?" said Jack. "And what did he ask you to do?"

"Well, you see this pole here, sticking out of the stone?" Nate loosened his
coils around the tilted white pole and showed Jack where it descended into
the stone. The pole was tilted at about a 45 degree angle and seemed to
enter the stone in an eighteen inch slot cut into the stone. Jack leaned
over and looked. The slot was dark and the pole went down into it as far as
Jack could see in the dim light. Jack reached out to touch the pole, but
Nate was suddenly there in the way.

"You can't touch that yet, Jack," said Nate.

"Why not?" asked Jack.

"I haven't explained it to you yet," replied Nate.

"Well, it kinda looks like a lever or something," said Jack. "You'd push it
that way, and it would move in the slot."

"Yep, that's what it is," replied Nate.

"What does it do?" asked Jack. "End the world?"

"Oh, no," said Nate. "Nothing that drastic. It just ends humanity. I call it
'The Lever of Doom'." For the last few words Nate had used a deeper, ringing
voice. He tried to look serious for a few seconds, and then gave up and
grinned.

Jack was initially startled by Nate's pronouncement, but when Nate grinned
Jack laughed. "Ha! You almost had me fooled for a second there. What does it
really do?"

"Oh, it really ends humanity, like I said," smirked Nate. "I just thought
the voice I used was funny, didn't you?"

Nate continued to grin.

"A lever to end humanity?" asked Jack. "What in the world is that for? Why
would anyone need to end humanity?"

"Well," replied Nate, "I get the idea that maybe humanity was an experiment.
Or maybe the Big Guy just thought, that if humanity started going really
bad, there should be a way to end it. I'm not really sure. All I know are
the rules, and the guesses that Samuel and I had about why it's here. I
didn't think to ask back when I started here."

"Rules? What rules?" asked Jack.

"The rules are that I can't tell anybody about it or let them touch it
unless they agree to be bound to secrecy by a bite. And that only one human
can be bound in that way at a time. That's it." explained Nate.

Jack looked somewhat shocked. "You mean that I could pull the lever now?
You'd let me end humanity?"

"Yep," replied Nate, "if you want to." Nate looked at Jack carefully. "Do
you want to, Jack?"

"Umm, no." said Jack, stepping a little further back from the lever. "Why in
the world would anyone want to end humanity? It'd take a psychotic to want
that! Or worse, a suicidal psychotic, because it would kill him too,
wouldn't it?"

"Yep," replied Nate, "being as he'd be human too."

"Has anyone ever seriously considered it?" asked Nate. "Any of those bound
to secrecy, that is?"

"Well, of course, I think they've all seriously considered it at one time or
another. Being given that kind of responsibility makes you sit down and
think, or so I'm told. Samuel considered it several times. He'd often get
disgusted with humanity, come out here, and just hold the lever for a while.
But he never pulled it. Or you wouldn't be here." Nate grinned some more.

Jack sat down, well back from the lever. He looked thoughtful and puzzled at
the same time. After a bit, he said, "So this makes me the Judge of
humanity? I get to decide whether they keep going or just end? Me?"

"That seems to be it," agreed Nate.

"What kind of criteria do I use to decide?" said Jack. "How do I make this
decision? Am I supposed to decide if they're good? Or too many of them are
bad? Or that they're going the wrong way? Is there a set of rules for that?"

"Nope," replied Nate. "You pretty much just have to decide on your own. It's
up to you, however you want to decide it. I guess that you're just supposed
to know."

"But what if I get mad at someone? Or some girl dumps me and I feel
horrible? Couldn't I make a mistake? How do I know that I won't screw up?"
protested Jack.

Nate gave his kind of snake-like shrug again. "You don't. You just have to
try your best, Jack."

Jack sat there for a while, staring off into the desert that was rapidly
getting dark, chewing on a fingernail.

Suddenly, Jack turned around and looked at the snake. "Nate, was Samuel the
one bound to this before me?"

"Yep," replied Nate. "He was a good guy. Talked to me a lot. Taught me to
read and brought me books. I think I still have a good pile of them buried
in the sand around here somewhere. I still miss him. He died a few months
ago."

"Sounds like a good guy," agreed Jack. "How did he handle this, when you
first told him. What did he do?"

"Well," said Nate, "he sat down for a while, thought about it for a bit, and
then asked me some questions, much like you're doing."

"What did he ask you, if you're allowed to tell me?" asked Jack.

"He asked me about the third request," replied Nate.

"Aha!" It was Jack's turn to grin. "And what did you tell him?"

"I told him the rules for the third request. That to get the third request
you have to agree to this whole thing. That if it ever comes to the point
that you really think that humanity should be ended, that you'll come here
and end it. You won't avoid it, and you won't wimp out." Nate looked serious
again. "And you'll be bound to do it too, Jack."

"Hmmm." Jack looked back out into the darkness for a while.

Nate watched him, waiting.

"Nate," continued Jack, quietly, eventually. "What did Samuel ask for with
his third request?"

Nate sounded like he was grinning again as he replied, also quietly,
"Wisdom, Jack. He asked for wisdom. As much as I could give him."

"Ok," said Jack, suddenly, standing up and facing away from Nate, "give it
to me.

Nate looked at Jack's backside. "Give you what, Jack?"

"Give me that wisdom. The same stuff that Samuel asked for. If it helped
him, maybe it'll help me too." Jack turned his head to look back over his
shoulder at Nate. "It did help him, right?"

"He said it did," replied Nate. "But he seemed a little quieter afterward.
Like he had a lot to think about."

"Well, yeah, I can see that," said Jack. "So, give it to me." Jack turned to
face away from Nate again, bent over slightly and tensed up.

Nate watched Jack tense up with a little exasperation. If he bit Jack now,
Jack would likely jump out of his skin and maybe hurt them both.

"You remember that you'll be bound to destroy humanity if it ever looks like
it needs it, right Jack?" asked Nate, shifting position.

"Yeah, yeah, I got that," replied Jack, eyes squeezed tightly shut and body
tense, not noticing the change in direction of Nate's voice.

"And," continued Nate, from his new position, "do you remember that you'll
turn bright purple, and grow big horns and extra eyes?"

"Yeah, yeah...Hey, wait a minute!" said Jack, opening his eyes,
straightening up and turning around. "Purple?!" He didn't see Nate there.
With the moonlight Jack could see that the lever extended up from its slot
in the rock without the snake wrapped around it.

Jack heard, from behind him, Nate's "Just Kidding!" right before he felt the
now familiar piercing pain, this time in the other buttock.

Jack sat on the edge of the dark stone in the rapidly cooling air, his feet
extending out into the sand. He stared out into the darkness, listening to
the wind stir the sand, occasionally rubbing his butt where he'd been
recently bitten.

Nate had left for a little while, had come back with a desert-rodent-shaped
bulge somewhere in his middle, and was now wrapped back around the lever,
his tongue flicking out into the desert night's air the only sign that he
was still awake.

Occasionally Jack, with his toes absentmindedly digging in the sand while he
thought, would ask Nate a question without turning around.

"Nate, do accidents count?"

Nate lifted his head a little bit. "What do you mean, Jack?"

Jack tilted his head back like he was looking at the stars. "You know,
accidents. If I accidentally fall on the lever, without meaning to, does
that still wipe out humanity?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure it does, Jack. I'd suggest you be careful about that
if you start feeling wobbly," said Nate with some amusement.

A little later - "Does it have to be me that pulls the lever?" asked Jack.

"That's the rule, Jack. Nobody else can pull it," answered Nate.

"No," Jack shook his head, "I meant does it have to be my hand? Could I pull
the lever with a rope tied around it? Or push it with a stick? Or throw a
rock?"

"Yes, those should work," replied Nate. "Though I'm not sure how complicated
you could get. Samuel thought about trying to build some kind of remote
control for it once, but gave it up. Everything he'd build would be gone by
the next sunrise, if it was touching the stone, or over it. I told him that
in the past others that had been bound had tried to bury the lever so they
wouldn't be tempted to pull it, but every time the stones or sand or
whatever had disappeared."

"Wow," said Jack, "Cool." Jack leaned back until only his elbows kept him
off of the stone and looked up into the sky.

"Nate, how long did Samuel live? One of his wishes was for health too,
right?" asked Jack.

"Yes," replied Nate, "it was. He lived 167 years, Jack."

"Wow, 167 years. That's almost 140 more years I'll live if I live as long.
Do you know what he died of, Nate?"

"He died of getting tired of living, Jack," Nate said, sounding somewhat
sad.

Jack turned his head to look at Nate in the starlight.

Nate looked back. "Samuel knew he wasn't going to be able to stay in
society. He figured that they'd eventually see him still alive and start
questioning it, so he decided that he'd have to disappear after a while. He
faked his death once, but changed his mind - he decided it was too early and
he could stay for a little longer. He wasn't very fond of mankind, but he
liked the attention. Most of the time, anyway.

"His daughter and then his wife dying almost did him in though. He didn't
stay in society much longer after that. He eventually came out here to spend
time talking to me and thinking about pulling the lever. A few months ago he
told me he'd had enough. It was his time."

"And then he just died?" asked Jack.

Nate shook his head a little. "He made his forth request, Jack. There's only
one thing you can ask for the fourth request. The last bite.

After a bit Nate continued, "He told me that he was tired, that it was his
time. He reassured me that someone new would show up soon, like they always
had.

After another pause, Nate finished, "Samuel's body disappeared off the stone
with the sunrise."

Jack lay back down and looked at the sky, leaving Nate alone with his
memories. It was a long time until Jack's breathing evened out into sleep.

Jack woke with the sunrise the next morning. He was a little chilled with
the morning desert air, but overall was feeling pretty good. Well, except
that his stomach was grumbling and he wasn't willing to eat raw desert rat.

So, after getting directions to town from Nate, making sure he knew how to
get back, and reassuring Nate that he'd be back soon, Jack started the long
walk back to town. With his new health and Nate's good directions, he made
it back easily.

Jack caught a bus back to the city, and showed up for work the next day,
little worse for the wear and with a story about getting lost in the desert
and walking back out. Within a couple of days Jack had talked a friend with
a tow truck into going back out into the desert with him to fetch the SUV.
They found it after a couple of hours of searching and towed it back without
incident. Jack was careful not to even look in the direction of Nate's
lever, though their path back didn't come within sight of it.

Before the next weekend, Jack had gone to a couple of stores, including a
book store, and had gotten his SUV back from the mechanic, with a warning to
avoid any more joyriding in the desert. On Saturday, Jack headed back to see
Nate.

Jack parked a little way out of the small town near Nate, loaded up his new
backpack with camping gear and the things he was bringing for Nate, and then
started walking. He figured that walking would leave the least trail, and he
knew that while not many people camped in the desert, it wasn't unheard of,
and shouldn't really raise suspicions.

Jack had brought more books for Nate - recent books, magazines, newspapers.
Some things that would catch Nate up with what was happening in the world,
others that were just good books to read. He spent the weekend with Nate,
and then headed out again, telling Nate that he'd be back again soon, but
that he had things to do first.

Over four months later Jack was back to see Nate again. This time he brought
a laptop with him - a specially modified laptop. It had a solar recharger,
special filters and seals to keep out the sand, a satellite link-up, and a
special keyboard and joystick that Jack hoped that a fifteen-foot
rattlesnake would be able to use. And, it had been hacked to not give out
its location to the satellite.

After that Jack could e-mail Nate to keep in touch, but still visited him
fairly regularly - at least once or twice a year.

After the first year, Jack quit his job. For some reason, with the wisdom he
'd been given, and the knowledge that he could live for over 150 years,
working in a nine to five job for someone else didn't seem that worthwhile
any more. Jack went back to school.

Eventually, Jack started writing. Perhaps because of the wisdom, or perhaps
because of his new perspective, he wrote well. People liked what he wrote,
and he became well known for it. After a time, Jack bought an RV and started
traveling around the country for book signings and readings.

But, he still remembered to drop by and visit Nate occasionally.

On one of the visits Nate seemed quieter than usual. Not that Nate had been
a fountain of joy lately. Jack's best guess was that Nate was still missing
Samuel, and though Jack had tried, he still hadn't been able to replace
Samuel in Nate's eyes. Nate had been getting quieter each visit. But on this
visit Nate didn't even speak when Jack walked up to the lever. He nodded at
Jack, and then went back to staring into the desert. Jack, respecting Nate's
silence, sat down and waited.

After a few minutes, Nate spoke. "Jack, I have someone to introduce you to."

Jack looked surprised. "Someone to introduce me to?" Jack looked around, and
then looked carefully back at Nate. "This something to do with the Big Guy?

"No, no," replied Nate. "This is more personal. I want you to meet my son."
Nate looked over at the nearest sand dune. "Sammy!"

Jack watched as a four foot long desert rattlesnake crawled from behind the
dune and up to the stone base of the lever.

"Yo, Jack," said the new, much smaller snake.

"Yo, Sammy" replied Jack. Jack looked at Nate. "Named after Samuel, I
assume?"

Nate nodded. "Jack, I've got a favor to ask you. Could you show Sammy around
for me?" Nate unwrapped himself from the lever and slithered over to the
edge of the stone and looked across the sands. "When Samuel first told me
about the world, and brought me books and pictures, I wished that I could go
see it. I wanted to see the great forests, the canyons, the cities, even the
other deserts, to see if they felt and smelled the same. I want my son to
have that chance - to see the world. Before he becomes bound here like I
have been.

"He's seen it in pictures, over the computer that you brought me. But I hear
that it's not the same. That being there is different. I want him to have
that. Think you can do that for me, Jack?"

Jack nodded. This was obviously very important to Nate, so Jack didn't even
joke about taking a talking rattlesnake out to see the world. "Yeah, I can
do that for you, Nate. Is that all you need?" Jack could sense that was
something more.

Nate looked at Sammy. Sammy looked back at Nate for a second and then said,
"Oh, yeah. Ummm, I've gotta go pack. Back in a little bit Jack. Nice to meet
ya!" Sammy slithered back over the dune and out of sight.

Nate watched Sammy disappear and then looked back at Jack. "Jack, this is my
first son. My first offspring through all the years. You don't even want to
know what it took for me to find a mate." Nate grinned to himself. "But
anyway, I had a son for a reason. I'm tired. I'm ready for it to be over. I
needed a replacement."

Jack considered this for a minute. "So, you're ready to come see the world,
and you wanted him to watch the lever while you were gone?"

Nate shook his head. "No, Jack - you're a better guesser than that. You've
already figured out - I'm bound here - there's only one way for me to leave
here. And I'm ready. It's my time to die."

Jack looked more closely at Nate. He could tell Nate had thought about
this - probably for quite a while. Jack had trouble imagining what it would
be like to be as old as Nate, but Jack could already tell that in another
hundred or two hundred years, he might be getting tired of life himself.
Jack could understand Samuel's decision, and now Nate's. So, all Jack said
was, "What do you want me to do?"

Nate nodded. "Thanks, Jack. I only want two things. One - show Sammy around
the world - let him get his fill of it, until he's ready to come back here
and take over. Two - give me the fourth request.

"I can't just decide to die, not any more than you can. I won't even die of
old age like you eventually will, even though it'll be a long time from now.
I need to be killed. Once Sammy is back here, ready to take over, I'll be
able to die. And I need you to kill me.

"I've even thought about how. Poisons and other drugs won't work on me. And
I've seen pictures of snakes that were shot - some of them live for days, so
that's out too. So, I want you to bring back a sword.

Nate turned away to look back to the dune that Sammy had gone behind. "I'd
say an axe, but that's somewhat undignified - putting my head on the ground
or a chopping block like that. No, I like a sword. A time-honored way of
going out. A dignified way to die. And, most importantly, it should work,
even on me.

"You willing to do that for me, Jack?" Nate turned back to look at Jack.

"Yeah, Nate," replied Jack solemnly, "I think I can handle that."

Nate nodded. "Good!" He turned back toward the dune and shouted, "Sammy!
Jack's about ready to leave!" Then quietly, "Thanks, Jack."

Jack didn't have anything to say to that, so he waited for Sammy to make it
back to the lever, nodded to him, nodded a final time to Nate, and then
headed into the desert with Sammy following.
Over the next several years Sammy and Jack kept in touch with Nate through
e-mail as they went about their adventures. They made a goal of visiting
every country in the world, and did a respectable job of it. Sammy had a
natural gift for languages, as Jack expected he would, and even ended up
acting as a translator for Jack in a few of the countries. Jack managed to
keep the talking rattlesnake hidden, even so, and by the time they were
nearing the end of their tour of countries, Sammy had only been spotted a
few times. While there were several people that had seen enough to startle
them greatly, nobody had enough evidence to prove anything, and while a few
wild rumors and storied followed Jack and Sammy around, nothing ever hit the
newspapers or the public in general.

When they finished the tour of countries, Jack suggested that they try some
undersea diving. They did. And spelunking. They did that too. Sammy finally
drew the line at visiting Antarctica. He'd come to realize that Jack was
stalling. After talking to his Dad about it over e-mail, he figured out that
Jack probably didn't want to have to kill Nate. Nate told Sammy that humans
could be squeamish about killing friends and acquaintances.

So, Sammy eventually put his tail down (as he didn't have a foot) and told
Jack that it was time - he was ready to go back and take up his duties from
his dad. Jack, delayed it a little more by insisting that they go back to
Japan and buy an appropriate sword. He even stretched it a little more by
getting lessons in how to use the sword. But, eventually, he'd learned as
much as he was likely to without dedicating his life to it, and was
definitely competent enough to take the head off of a snake. It was time to
head back and see Nate.

When they got back to the US, Jack got the old RV out of storage where he
and Sammy had left it after their tour of the fifty states, he loaded up
Sammy and the sword, and they headed for the desert.

When they got to the small town that Jack had been trying to find those
years ago when he'd met Nate, Jack was in a funk. He didn't really feel like
walking all of the way out there. Not only that, but he'd forgotten to
figure the travel time correctly, and it was late afternoon. They'd either
have to spend the night in town and walk out tomorrow, or walk in the dark.

As Jack was afraid that if he waited one more night he might lose his
resolve, he decided that he'd go ahead and drive the RV out there. It was
only going to be this once, and Jack would go back and cover the tracks
afterward. They ought to be able to make it out there by nightfall if they
drove, and then they could get it over tonight.

Jack told Sammy to e-mail Nate that they were coming as he drove out of
sight of the town on the road. They then pulled off the road and headed out
into the desert.

Everything went well, until they got to the sand dunes. Jack had been
nursing the RV along the whole time, over the rocks, through the creek beds,
revving the engine the few times they almost got stuck. When they came to
the dunes, Jack didn't really think about it, he just downshifted and headed
up the first one. By the third dune, Jack started to regret that he'd
decided to try driving on the sand. The RV was fishtailling and losing
traction. Jack was having to work it up each dune slowly and was trying to
keep from losing control each time they came over the top and slid down the
other side. Sammy had come up to sit in the passenger seat, coiled up and
laughing at Jack's driving.

As they came over the top of the fourth dune, the biggest one yet, Jack saw
that this was the final dune - the stone, the lever, and somewhere Nate,
waited below. Jack put on the brakes, but he'd gone a little too far. The RV
started slipping down the other side.

Jack tried turning the wheel, but he didn't have enough traction. He pumped
the brakes - no response. They started sliding down the hill, faster and
faster.

Jack felt a shock go through him as he suddenly realized that they were
heading for the lever. He looked down - the RV was directly on course for
it. If Jack didn't do something, the RV would hit it. He was about to end
humanity.

Jack steered more frantically, trying to get traction. It still wasn't
working. The dune was too steep, and the sand too loose. In a split second,
Jack realized that his only chance would be once he hit the stone around the
lever - he should have traction on the stone for just a second before he hit
the lever - he wouldn't have time to stop, but he should be able to steer
away.

Jack took a better grip on the steering wheel and tried to turn the RV a
little bit - every little bit would help. He'd have to time his turn just
right.

The RV got to the bottom of the dune, sliding at an amazing speed in the
sand. Just before they reached the stone Jack looked across it to check that
they were still heading for the lever. They were. But Jack noticed something
else that he hadn't seen from the top of the dune. Nate wasn't wrapped
around the lever. He was off to the side of the lever, but still on the
stone, waiting for them. The problem was, he was waiting on the same side of
the lever that Jack had picked to steer towards to avoid the lever. The RV
was already starting to drift that way a little in its mad rush across the
sand and there was no way that Jack was going to be able to go around the
lever to the other side.

Jack had an instant of realization. He was either going to have to hit the
lever, or run over Nate. He glanced over at Sammy and saw that Sammy
realized the same thing.

Jack took a firmer grip on the steering wheel as the RV ran up on the stone.
Shouting to Sammy as he pulled the steering wheel, "BETTER NATE THAN LEVER!", he ran over the snake.

THE END.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

No one sees the two sides of Monsieur Valentine

When I was teaching my labs this morning I said, "This organism is a sexually transmitted parasite. And what better way to say 'Happy Valentine's Day' than talking about STDs?"

Later, my friend IM'ed me and said, "Your lab has Valentine's STDs and mine are cutting up hearts. What a perfect commentary on the holiday."

Agreed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Somebody save me, I don't care how you do it

Sometimes it's best to think before opening your mouth so as not to seem like a jerk.

For example, it can be funny to say, "Again?" if somebody tells you they ate all the cookies. It can be funny to say, "Again?" if somebody tells you they think they're pregnant. However, it's not very funny to say "Again?" if that person has recently had a miscarriage.

Also, it can be funny to say, "Your Mom" when somebody asks who you were just talking with on the phone, or asks who that was with the basketball team, or even what you did last night. However, that response is completely inappropriate if the person you're saying it to lost both parents when they were young.

Learn from my mistakes people.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is this what Deaner was talking about?

I normally have pretty good hearing. In fact, there have been times when I have amazed people by my abilities. For example, a few summers ago a friend and I were on a collecting trip and one night as we sat up talking I told him to be quiet and to go check his mist net because I was pretty sure he'd just caught a bat. We were sitting about 30 meters from the net. He got up, checked the net, and came back with a bat. He asked me how on earth I knew and I told him that I'd heard it fly into the net. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this stuff, a bat flying into a mist net is as quiet as it sounds.

Unfortunately, my ability to hear is limited in some cases. My poor hearing manifests itself most when I'm trying to listen to certain people speak. As this semester began I asked one of my students for her name because it wasn't on my roster.

Her: *muttering something unintelligible*
Me: I'm sorry. I didn't catch that.
Her: *muttering something unintelligible (again!)*
Me (trying not to ask again because I don't want to look like a dumb ass): Ok, I'm not going to be able to spell that, so could I have you write it down for me?

She wrote it down, and then the unintelligible muttering made sense, but not until then.

This inability to hear seems to be a recurring theme for me. For some reason, I have difficulty deciphering words spoken with various accents. The reason for that is probably the fact that I didn't grow up in the world's most culturally diverse place and didn't experience too many accents. Either that, or I'm subconsciously racist. I'm pretty sure it's the former.

For another example, flash back to the same collecting trip mentioned earlier: My friend and I had been out for about a week, and were in desperate need of a shower. We had finished netting bats, and were on the way to my collecting sites to go after fish. We decided it would be a good time to get a motel room since we were just driving and didn't have to be anywhere specific that night. We drove to a motel in a small town. My friend told me to run in and ask how much a room would cost, so I did. There was an older Indian man behind the counter.

Me: How much for a room? There are two of us.
Man: Porty-Pai-o.
Me: I'm sorry?
Man: Porty-Pai-o.
Me: *shaking head* I still didn't get that.
Man: I write it.

He then wrote $45 on a piece of paper.

Enlightened, I returned to the truck.

Friend: How much did he say?
Me: Porty-pai-o
Friend: Huh?
Me: Porty-pai-o
Friend: I don't know what that means.
Me: Apparently it means forty-five.

We decided Porty-pai-o was a fair price.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm not tryin' to to to make a scene for you you you

After we went shoe shopping the other day, my friend and I went to a basketball game (I was able to convince her to go with the promise that if she did I'd help her clean her house for an hour after the game). Our team won. It was a blowout.

We sat by a little Asian boy (2-3 years old) and his father. The little boy was so cute. He sat still throughout the game. He watched the players. He watched the crowd. He'd clap when the rest of the crowd clapped. At one point he turned to my friend and said, "I have gum."

After a while I turned to my friend and said, "I want a young Asian boy."

She looked at me.

I quickly followed that up with, "Wait! That didn't come out right!"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rockin' your eff me pumps

I went shopping for new shoes today. I made a friend of mine go with me. Once I found a pair to buy, she wanted to go to a different store so she could try to find some new shoes too. As we pulled up to the second store, she said,
"So. . .
and . . .
but . . .
nevermind."

The entire train of thought lasted less then five seconds, and this is how it really sounded in her head: "So, you have to tell me which shoes you'd fuck me in. And you can't say all of them. But you will. Nevermind."

Friday, February 08, 2008

For reasons unknown

Mr. M.: I helped Mom quit smoking.

Me: You did? What a good boy!

Mr. M.: [Step-Dad]'s going to try to quit too.

Me: Are you going to help him?

Mr. M.: No. I think Mom's going to help him.

Me: Well, you could help him too.

Mr. M.: *long pause* I think Mom can help him better.


------------------UPDATE------------------

I know I said that I was going to start referring to my youngest son as Bill on here, as per his request to start being called that, but it just doesn't work for me, so I've changed it to Mr. M. instead. The other two will still be Tortellini and Togers though.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

When you're fallin' behind in this big blue world

Last night, a little after 9:00, my phone rang.

Me: Hello?

Girl: Hi. Are you busy right now?

Me: That depends. If by busy you mean lying on the couch, checking myspace and eating Swedish fish, then yeah, I'm totally swamped.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I just want to be your firecracker, maybe be your baby tonight

The last step on my list of 'how to upgrade your bedroom' said to create an application form for ladies who want to help break in the new bed to fill out. Well, from here on out I shall refer to these ladies as the 'Classy Ladies' (It's an old inside joke I have with one of my friends that I don't care to explain right now - just go with it).

Here's the application I came up with, in case any of you are inclined to apply.


CLASSY LADY APPLICATION

Name:

Age:

Sex*:

Height:

Weight:

Are you employed?
If yes, what is your position?
What is your salary?
Does any part of your job require the removal of your clothing?

Have you ever been diagnosed with, or do any of your family and friends think you might have, bipolar disorder?
How about any other psychological disorder?

Do you have hair?
If yes, how long?
What color?
Is it dyed?

Is your belly button an innie or an outie?
Is it pierced?
Do you have any other piercings?
If yes, please describe:


Do you have any tattoos?
If yes, how many?
What are they of?
Where are they located?
Will you show them to me?

Do you have teeth?
All of them?
If no, where are the missing teeth located?
Do you have fake teeth to fill the gap?

What color are your eyes?
Are one or more of your eyes made of glass?

Do you have a wooden leg?
If no, would you like one?

Do you have breasts?
If yes, are they lopsided?
What size?
Are they real?
Are they motorboatable?

Underwear preference (circle one):
Thong
Granny Panty
Victoria's Secret seamless
Commando

Do you have any facial hair, such as a mustache or unibrow?
If yes, please describe:


Do you have kids?
If yes, how many?
If more than one, how many dads?

Do you have any super-powers?
If so, are they used for good or evil?

Are you proficient in yoga or gymnastics?

Do you cook?
If yes, are you adept at handling poisons?

Are you allergic to latex?

Do you like brie?

Have you ever severed a penis and hurled it out the window of a moving vehicle?
Have you ever severed a penis and not hurled it out the window of a moving vehicle?





*Obviously the wrong answer to some of these questions can automatically exclude someone from consideration.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

But you cannot stop the television

Now that the Super Bowl is over, I have to admit I'm a little sad. Regular TV doesn't have live announcers stating things like the following:

"He has the speed and agility to get to the backside hole"
"There's so much front side penetration that he has to go deeper on the backside"
"He just took a load from the sideline coach"
"When he gets the balls in his hands"

On the bright side, at least there's still the NBA:

"He's got dribble penetration"
"There he goes with the back door pass"
"He goes back door and takes it to the hole"
"All these guys getting facials are going to end up posterized."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

In the third quarter of a tied game rivalry

Since I did nothing today other than shop and watch the Super Bowl, I've really got nothing to say. However, I'm not going to let that stop me. I thought I'd do a running diary of Super Bowl XLII. Read on if you wish, but I can't say I blame you if you decide not to. On with the diary:

3:20 Jordan Sparks sings the national anthem. American Idol still sucks, but I have to admit, the girl's got a good set of pipes. Her voice ain't bad either.

3:25 The team captains take the field for the coin toss. It looks like a street fight could break out. Either that, or a new rendition of Michael Jackson's Bad.

3:27 The New York Giants win the coin toss and will receive.

3:28 I've already seen more ads for House than I care to. It could be a long night.

3:31 Bill Belichick is wearing a red sweatshirt instead of his normal gray one with the sleeves cut off. He must have wanted to dress up for the Super Bowl. It's very becoming.

3:41 The Giants are marching down the field, but all I can think about is what those green dots on the back of the players' helmets are for. I've wondered this all season, but have been too lazy to actually look it up.

3:45 The Giants are the first ones on the board with a field goal. NY 3, NE 0

3:53 There's a myspace page with all the Super Bowl commercials on it. I think we just reached an all new low as a society.

3:56 One of the announcers (I can never tell if it's Jason Buck or Troy Aikman that's talking unless the camera's right on them) talks about Tom Brady's ankle and says that even though he's not experiencing pain, when he goes to plant it, it "might affect the deep throw." My friend calls out from the kitchen, "It might affect the deep throat?" See? It's not just me that's a perv.

3:59 I just noticed that the Patriots form their huddle at a 90 degree angle to the way we formed ours in high school. It never crossed my mind before that different teams might huddle up differently. I'll have to look and see how other NFL teams do this.

4:01 Just because you're able to do things using CGI doesn't mean you should. I'm talking to you, creators of the fox robot.

4:03 Lawrence Maroney just scored a touchdown to put the Patriots in the lead. He's good. NE 7, NY 3

4:07 The first commercial to make me laugh deals with giant carrier pigeons that are wreaking havoc on the streets. Maybe I'll have to visit that myspace page after all.

4:10 Eli Manning completes one of the luckiest passes I've seen in a while: 38 yards to Amani Toomer (It's not a tumor).

4:14 As if to balance out the luck, Eli Manning just threw his first interception of the post season. It couldn't have come at a more inopportune time as the Giants were threatening to score. This could be a huge momentum shift.

4:17 My friend just tells me a story about the time she met a midget dominatrix. Then she tells me it didn't really happen. I've never been so disappointed.

4:19 The second noteworthy commercial airs, and I just have to say, a family of ferocious sleeping badgers is a great premise for a commercial.

4:34 I have to say, the Giants are controlling the ball much better than I (or anybody else) thought they would.

4:40 A new T-Mobile commercial with Dwyane Wade and Charles Barkley. Chuck cracks me up.

4:55 The first half ends with a hail Mary pass that falls incomplete. This game has been exciting so far.

4:57 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are performing the half time show. Since there's no chance of a nipple slip (or if there is, I don't really need to see it) I suppose I'll into the kitchen to eat some chicken that's so good it "has trouble making it onto the plate" according to my friend.

5:05 Wow that chicken was good. She wasn't lying. The gravy was good too. My friend said we had the "perfect storm of gravy" and all I could think of was a giant brown wave getting ready to crash over a fishing boat. Now that's something we should get the CGI guys working on.

5:09 I'm amazed at how young Tom Petty still looks.

5:19 I must be getting fat because I just realized that my balls get pinched in my pants more often than they used to.

5:19 Is there any more gravy?

5:52 A trailer for the movie Jumper starring Darth Vader comes on. I state that the movie looks like it sucks. My friend states that teleportation is the one super power she'd want over all others. That's just because she's inherently lazy.

5:56 Yes, there's still a game on. Tom Brady just narrowly avoided being sacked for a safety. I'm impressed with the Giants' defense.

5:59 Wes Welker comes up with a huge catch. I can't help but wonder how well the Eagles would do if they would ever get some half decent receivers.

6:01 Tom Brady is starting to look a little shaken up. That's not something I'm used to seeing.

6:02 End of the third quarter. If you'd have offered a bet that the score would be that low after three, I'd have taken it and laughed at you. I may have even kicked you in the balls for good measure. Good thing you didn't offer me that bet.

6:11 I just remembered to look at the Giants' huddle. What do you know? It's the same as the way we did ours in high school. I guess different teams do huddle up differently.

6:11 Touchdown Giants. NY 10, NE 7

6:22 An e-trade commercial with a talking baby makes me laugh. The baby is talking about how he made eight times the average trader and says "thought about what to do with all the extra coin. I rented a clown. But, you know, I really underestimated the creepiness."

That reminds me of a joke I once heard: There was a clown who went to a kid's birthday party, and while he was going around entertaining all the kids, he felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked down and there was a little boy who asked him to do a magic trick. He says, "Look kid, I'm a clown. I don't do magic. Here, have a balloon animal instead." He then goes on about his business. A short while later he feels another tug on his sleeve. He looks down, and it's the same kid, asking him to do a magic trick. "Look kid, I already told you once, I'm a clown, I don't do magic. Now beat it." The kid goes away, but not for long. The clown feels another tug on his sleeve, and the kid asks him again to do a magic trick. Frustrated, the clown says, "Ok fine. You want to see a magic trick? Go around to the other side of the house and I'll come show you a magic trick." The kid gets all excited and goes. Once they're around back the clown says, "Alright, now turn around and pull down your pants." The kid obeys. The clown says, "There, do you feel my thumb up your ass?" The kid nods. The clown sticks both hands out with his thumbs in the air and yells, "TA DA."

Think about it.

6:33 New England's offense is finally starting to click.

6:39 Tom Brady to Randy Moss. Touchdown. (see, I told you it was starting to click) NE 14, NY 10

6:45 I want to meet the girl from the Victoria's Secret commercial. (And by "meet" I mean "make out with.")

6:52 Excellent play by the Giants. Great catch by David Tyree. New York has the ball at New England's 24 with 59 seconds left. This game is close!

6:56 Eli Manning lobs it to Plaxico Burress for a touchdown. New York regains the lead. NY 17, NE 14

I suppose now would be an appropriate time for me to thank Plaxico for carrying my fantasy football team for so long, even though he couldn't practice and played injured all year long. Who knows? I probably would have won the whole thing if he'd been healthy. (Ok, that's probably taking it a bit too far, but whatever.)

7:04 The crowd storms the field with 0:01 left on the clock. The officials have to clear off the field so that the Giants can take a knee and run out the clock. New York wins. Un-freaking-believable. So much for New England's perfect season. Wow! Just, wow! I never thought I'd see the day that Eli Manning won a Super Bowl, let alone be named MVP.

7:12 I always feel bad for the players on the losing team. I don't know why I care. They wouldn't feel bad for me. Oh well. I suppose the Patriots had a good run with a historical season and all that, but wow. I guess we don't have to worry anymore about whether their perfect season would be tainted by "Spygate" anymore.

This was a close game. I'm glad I'm not a Pats fan. This one's going to be hard for them to recover from.

As a whole, the commercials were disappointing this year. Is it really so much to ask for more than just a few commercials that are funny? Or for more than a few with gorgeous women? Seriously people. I'm trying to be entertained here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I want to love you in my room

How to upgrade your bedroom in 31 easy steps. (Yes, I'm shamelessly ripping this idea off from Dan over at [Redacted]. So what?)

1. Buy a new set of bedroom furniture from somebody on Craig's List who has had a run of bad luck.

2. Assemble the new "Big Boy" bed in your room.

3. Come to the realization that the new bed is about the only thing that you're going to be able to fit in your room.

4. Store the dressers along the side of the garage for use later in life.

5. Set about getting new blankets, sheets, etc. for the new bed that fills up your entire bedroom. (This is a must if you've just upgraded from a twin to a queen sized bed.)

6. Start off with only a vague idea of what you're looking for.

7. Go to stores that carry such things as sheets and comforters.

8. When sales people approach you to see if they can help you find something, tell them that you'll know it when you see it.

9. Go to eight different stores and not find anything you like.

10. Resort to shopping online.

11. Go to several more stores' web sites.

12. Realize that the people who design comforters do not design them with men in mind. (Presumably because most men could care less about such things, but still, why does everything in the store have to look like it was designed for an eighty year old woman?)

13. Find a bed set that isn't quite what you pictured, but is on sale, and doesn't look too bad, thus making it the best option you've seen so far.

14. Look to see if it's in stock at a store near you.

15. Once you find out that it is in stock, close your web browser and drive to the store.

16. Locate the bed set you saw online.

17. Feel it to make sure it's not made of sandpaper.

18. Look around at all the other options at the store, realize again that all comforters are made for little old ladies, then settle on the one that you initially found online.

19. Make several girls you know look at it (either in a bag in the trunk of your car, or just at the picture online) so you can be sure that it won't make it look like you're gay when someone else sees it on your bed.

20. Once the girls have assured you that it doesn't look gay, wash everything and put it on the bed.

21. Go back to the store where you made the purchase so that you can get the oversized European sham stuffers that you held off on buying initially because you weren't 100% sold on the bed set you bought.

22. Tell yourself that even though you're going to buy oversized European sham stuffers, that doesn't necessarily make you gay.

23. Grab two oversized European sham stuffers off the shelf.

24. On your way to the front of the store notice a bed set out of the corner of your eye.

25. Turn and look at the bed set and realize that it's almost exactly what you had in mind when you started looking for this stuff in the first place.

26. Realize that you can't exchange the one you bought two days ago because you've already washed it and slept in it.

27. Sulk.

28. Understand that there's nothing you can do about it other than spend $150 on a bed set you don't need and proceed to the checkout line to purchase your oversized European sham stuffers.

29. Again, tell yourself that doesn't make you gay.

30. Stuff the oversized European shams.

31. Once all the shams, pillows and throws are arranged on your "Big Boy" bed, commence writing an application form for ladies that want to help you break in your new bed to fill out.