WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

The managerial staff for this contest would like to apologize for the severe delay in posting.

So no more suspense. The winner is Bruce Goodman.

In dire need

by Bruce Goodman

Wendy wanted to make some dough
So she could go to the show
If she didn’t make it to the show you know
It would be the second year in a row.

Wendy stood at her front gate
With a notice, written on slate,
“I need to make dough!
I need to make dough!”

Wendy realized that it was a waste of time.
She might as well have gone to war and been on the front line.
Then a kind man came up, rather haughty
And said making dough was his forte.

“I’ll show you how to make dough,” he said.
Wendy though he was light in the head.
She said “I know how to make dough, but at the very least
I can’t make dough without yeast.”

The man said “What the hell!
I realize now you can’t spell.”
You don’t need dough,
You knead dough before taking it to the Bakers’ Show.

When that was sorted
Everyone danced and cavorted
They sang “Dough is what she kneads!
Dough is what she kneads!
Fa la la la la! Dough is what she kneads!”

Wendy’s chances increased
of winning the bread-making feast
once she got some yeast.

Congratulations, Bruce! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

Bruce is no stranger to this contest, nor to winning it. It may be that he’s cracked the system on how to terribly poet and might consider writing stories with morbid endings instead…

As to the reasons for my picking: I read through the poems several times. Most made me laugh, almost all hurt to read, and almost all were cleverly penned. I appreciated the puns and subtle references. Bruce’s contribution won by a hair; incorporating confusion, mis-meter, a few too many rhymes, and a blundering sort of story in process.

I nearly chose several of these, and they are more than worth the read:

Take a Bow, Entropy

by Peregrine Arc

Hey here, look at me
The name is Entropy
I’m the flibber-gee-wibbit, the whoosit, the what’s it
That wears, corrodes, splinters, breaks, splits and frays all the things you own, from your patience to your very home.

I’m the thing that makes your pipes leak right before company is due.
I’m the squeaky wheel during a bike ride that echoes in the light of the moon.
I’m the rust that erodes at your swing
I’m the darling who ruins and breaks everything.
Even a no risk home owners insurance policy.

But for a fee? Never I.
But it’s my living just the same.
I collect your bad tempers, harsh words and examine your scowls
And then I make merry while the whole deck of cards comes tumbling down.

I’m havoc, I’m free, I’m powerful, I’m me.
I’m Entropy and I keep the flow of the economy, hee hee.
Free trade, capitalism, the green buck, oh oui
I’m kept in the front pocket of every crook who wants to make money. 💰

—–

Untitled piece

by Deb Whittam

He wasn’t profiteering,
Nor being a freak,
He’d learnt that those things
Often didn’t come cheap.
Not cheap like a chicken,
Eggs were so blasé,
Nor like green eggs and ham,
He wasn’t hungry today.
Ideas once come,
Have their way,
Of being beneficial to those,
Who seized the day,
And it beat walking the streets,
Being a cop sure didn’t pay today,
Or being a lawyer, politician, teacher, tax collector, prostitute, drug dealer, c’mon you get my drift by now …
Those were all so au feu
No he got the idea,
From one of those reality shows
And it sure had paid,
Today he was a millionaire,
Selling ear wax from corpse was having its day.

—–

Blood Money

by Joanne the Geek

When I yet again start running out of money
To the blood bank I go to sell off my red honey
It’s a rare type so they’re always in need of some
If only I could produce more I wouldn’t have to be a bum

I even offered to sell my mucus dripping out of my nose
Or the copious earwax or what I find between my toes
Or any other of my bodily secretions I would quite happily sell
But they weren’t so interested in those as far as I could tell

—–

Untitled piece

by Nitin

I had fun today
It’s the month of May
I slept on a cot
I ate a lot
I listened to Sir Lancelot
I broke a pot
I’m in love
I have a glove
I like my rat
I play cricket with a bat
I have a ball
I am small
I like you
You like me too
I am good
I like food
I ate sweets
And meats
I drank wine
The sun shine
Oh yeah oh yeah
Oh yeah oh yeah

—–

Untitled piece

by Trent McDonald

Knee deep in the marsh
Still as a stump
Hear the trill of a Warbler
Imagine it is plump
Got the special quill
At the ready
Ready to aim
Hands held steady
Several in the bush
Most likely two
I get one in hand
Sure that it will do
Paint brush held tight
Microscope-like specs
Without a quiver
I write the tiny text
I let the little birdy go
It will fly away soon
And act like nothing’s wrong
Whistling it’s tune
But some birder will see
Written on it’s belly
An ad for the store
Where they sell raspberry jelly
And other delights
You can’t live without
All are guaranteed
To put a smile on your snout
You see I make my living
By writing words
Tiny advertisements
On the bellies of birds

—–

Breech

by Violet Lentz

Hiram slipped his elbow
then his forearm
then his wrist
from the swollen vulva
of the poor heifer
whose calf he’d had to twist
to get it to emerge all aglow-
first the legs, and then the torso.

“Delivering poorly
presented calves
can be some tedious work.”
Hiram stated
as he brought the calf
with one final tug n’ jerk,
“It’s a stress on the calf- and brother-
a right pain in the ars for the mother.”

“T’isn’t exactly painless
for a poor farmer
either, now don’t ya see
I’ll have to sell
off this wee little calf
if I’m ta cover yer fee.”
Farmer Ed countered, and so it began-
the necessary haggle-an…

—–

A Truly Terrible Rhyme 😉

by Tales from the Mind of Kristian

I’m told I often come across orgulous

Like a diamond-encrusted nautilus,

But I can’t bring myself to mix

With the great unwashed in the stix

So, in order to make some money

I do something jolly and funny.

I volunteer to look after cats,

And then keep tabs of everyone’s stats,

What type of shops they like to use,

All their secrets and their news,

Then sell the data for the highest price,

It all makes me feel rather nice.

Then I stride on down the street

In my golden tracksuit, rather neat.

By this simple data extraction

I live a life so full of action,

with a simple process activation

I’ve risen way above my station.

—–

Napkins for the Elderly

by jasonscottbrendel

I like to take napkins
and sell them to the elderly
don’t laugh, it’s not funny
and I think I’m lovely
so don’t tell me otherwise
positive vibes only
have I mentioned my heartbreak
it smells like torn, blackened, rusty, threadbare, shabby, tattered, grey with a hint of dark brown and hue of purple,
steak
so yeah
I deserve better
and that’s why I sell napkins
to the elderly
so they know
no matter how low they go
or how slow they row
at least they’ll know
I took the time
to sell them something fine.

—–

To Sell One’s Soul

by Padre’s Ramblings

Selling a soul is a thing to see,

It’s not done in a lab-rat-ry,

But in online Vlogs and Reality TV,

For few brief moments of cash and “fame,”

You embarrass yourself,

And bring your family shame;

You bathe in slime, or sing out of key,

Do crazy stunts, or publicly pee,

All for endorsements – their granters fickle,

And your dreams of wealth are oft

Just a trickle.

—–

Untitled piece

by Bereaved Single Dad

Rupert likes to make shed loads of money.
Not bad for a lad who comes from a land which is so sunny
A man who set up his own news corporation
Who still had time to build a TV station
Making so much dosh he thinks he owns your nation
So how does our Rupert make his cash
Promoting fake stories with panache
Filling his TV channels with balderdash
Getting you to watch TV shows filled with advert trash
Rupert also likes to control the news
He wants you to sign up to this perverted views
Making sure his political buddies get friendly interviews
His opponents suffer as fake news spews

—–

Acosta=RumputiN=Epstein

by reality

Our king-kong sized terrible two has realized
an even more devious way to line the Trump
organized crime family’s pockets, he’s having
NASA do a trip to Mars in preparation for a
manned landing by some white guy who’ll also
be tasked to play golf on the moons too.
RumputiN will throw in a little histoire to
make the photos more appealing to his multi-
millionaire foreign dictator pals: “They’re
named after the Greek mythological twin
characters Phobos (panic/fear) and Deimos
(terror/dread) (The Donald’s domestic and
foreign policy, respectively), who went with
their father Ares into battle. Ares, god of
war, was known to the Romans as Mars. This
will up the price he can charge them for
renting out the Lincoln bedroom, cafknching,
being the united suck of assassins new motto.

His current fav tool of stealing tax dollas is
still doing genocide, classwar style against
Latinos. He ripped apart 7000 families to
gift overtime, doubletime, more hires, multi-
million dolla private detention center
contracts to republican manned anti-immigrant
Gov’t agencies + his lifelong criminal cronies.
These kids are caged, allowed little soap,
showers, running water, food, etc.. Similar
conditions to 40’s US internment camps. This
should be one of the articles of impeachment
against him. Dinos, like Nancy ‘Chamberlain’
Pelosi, can be scolded if impeachment doesn’t
go only forward, for if it’s not completed
in the House before the 2020 elections,
RumputiN/vlad-the-impaler may be re-installed
into the Blackhouse by the same conspiracy
that did it in 2016. Viva la evolucion.

—–

Money Grows on Trees

by Ruth Scribbles

Money does NOT grow on trees
It comes out of a wall,
Everyone agrees
So why should I work?

I’ll climb a tree
To jump the wall
Until I’m tall
Enough to teach the slot
Where the money comes out
Green, like snot

—–

Thank you for sharing your terrible talents! Thanks for returning to play and for those who visited for the first time this contest. Come on back tomorrow, all y’all, and try next week’s prompt as well.

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Bruce: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, #33.

Our contest is about crafting the sort of poems only amateurs love. It’s about the cringe of the professionals. Sometimes it’s even a work of the most deplorably flowery adjectives coupled with way too many rhymes.

Read my brief how-to for more information, then follow the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic: Unusual ways to make money.
    (No, prostitution is not that unusual. Thanks, Certain-Regulars-Who-Know-Who-You-Are, for wondering.)
  2. Keep the Length as short or long as your muse needs, with an upper limit of 250 words.
  3. If you want to Rhyme, go ahead. If not, I won’t stop you either. As always, playing with rhymes is a great way to screw up a potentially lovely poem.
  4. Most of all, make it terrible! Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and even the POTUS himself need to take a full five seconds of their precious time to stop, look at you, and shake their head in disbelief.
  5. Rating? PG or nicer, as usual.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (July 12) to submit a poem.

Use the form below if you want to be anonymous for a week.

If not, and for a more social experience, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Have fun!

 

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Photo credit:
Sam Truong Dan

If You Could Be Any Mythical Creature, What Would You Be?

Once upon a time, I had a boss who thought each employee on his team might benefit from sitting in on an interview. At the time I was working as a Quality Assurance Engineer for coded litigation documents. That fancy title meant I wore the most comfortable clothes possible without their being pajamas, worked in a cubicle corner that looked more and more like a cave every day, and frequently talked to my coworkers so that we didn’t start gnawing the upholstered walls out of boredom.

Quality control is mind-numbingly dull.

I was thus attired and thus mindsetted when said boss (we’ll call him Jim) alerted me to the interview and his expectation that I be there. I had no training in what to say but certainly knew I ought to have put on something fancier than jeans and a sweatshirt. At least I had shoes.

And so I went, attending my suit-clad supervisor. We met an expectant young man in the conference room. His name was(n’t) Mike. He also wore a suit. We shook hands all around and sat and organized papers and I pretended to know what I was doing.

“I see from your résumé that you worked at X…” Jim began. Fortunately, the questions and responses ran just like I’d seen in movies. I nodded at appropriate points, looked stern and interested at others, and added a (hopefully) relevant query when requested.

We were nearly finished, when Jim asked, “If you could be any mythical creature, what would you choose?”

Mike thought for a few seconds, then responded, “A ninja tiger.”

Besides the usual gamut of “Where do you see yourself in five years?,” “What experience do you feel you bring to X Company?,” and “Have you ever been in a stressful situation and how did you handle it?;” I knew some quirky interviewers pulled out a random question for fun (or, to my paranoid mind) for psychological assessment. When Mike, by all appearances a QA nerd, answered the way he did, I was surprised.

But Mike was/is a bit of an odd duck. I knew that because we hired him and I worked with him for at least a year. He enjoyed sitting at home and introvertedly watching hours of television, yet also bowled. And was quite good. He was quiet and reserved but walked the halls in a sort of sliding fashion. Yes, like a ninja. I believe he told me he had a black belt in karate despite having the physique of a toothpick.

Yes, this could very well be a post about judging people. Bad, bad Chelsea. Don’t judge.

I’m more interested in answering the same question posed to Mike: If you could be any mythical creature, what would you choose? I’m interested because of how that classifies us. People are complex beings. Sure, we relate to certain groups and often lump ourselves together with similar personalities and interests. Through a simple question about preferences, however, we can reveal a deeper aspect.

We can reveal a ninja tiger.

I’m not that cool. Most days I behave like a Grick, a “darkly colored worm or snake-like creature” that lays around caves and waits to grab things with its tentacles. Since I get to name my own preference, though, I’d love to be a phoenix or an imp or a dragon.

Flying, right? No-brainer.

How about you? What mythical creature would you choose? For bonus interview points, what do you think that might say about your personality?

Draconika

—————-

In the real world, here’s what I wrote last week:
Wednesday, May 15: Wrote “Just Another Day in the Life,” and learned that I need to stop dusting.

Thursday, May 16: “Suddenly Spring,” a poem about …well, suddenly spring.

Friday, May 17: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Deb Whittam!

Saturday, May 18: Announced the 26th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is engineering failures, real or imagined. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, May 19: “Tree Search Exclusive Tours, Ltd.,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, May 20: An inspirational quote by Timothy Leary.

Tuesday, May 21:”Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Four.”

Wednesday, May 22: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself,” “Special Projects Take a Lot of Time and Mess,” and “A Poem, I Think.”

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Just Another Perk of Working

Waaaaay back when I worked a full-time job, I had a bit of a power struggle with one of our building’s renters. Our company leased the entire second floor of a two floor building and a few businesses leased the spaces beneath. One of those was an insurance agent.

As far as we could tell, the insurance agent did nothing. He was part of a huge umbrella company, like Allstate. He had no clients and took long lunches.

Yes, most of my team were people-watchers.

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The conflict was over parking spaces. He raised a stink with the building manager, saying that he needed x number of spaces for his clients (who were nonexistent). Our rather large body of employees quickly exceeded the bounds of the lot. A few passive-aggressive maneuvers transpired until our manager asked us to respect the whiner’s parking spaces.

One day that was also the first day of my monthly cycle, I came to work feeling terrible. I parked in a no-no spot because, frankly, I did not care. I also parked there because I was certain I’d be asking my boss for the rest of the day off based on how I felt.

Cue a message from the insurance guy, who literally had nothing better to do than spy on his spaces.

Cue my boss sending me a message about how Allstate Junior wanted me to move my car.

Cue my response: Screw the insurance guy.

I got up, moved my car, took pain medications, and worked the rest of the day. Incident forgotten -or so I thought.

Months -YES, MONTHS!- later, our boss quit. A woman named Jadis* took over, since she’d been in no position that should have been promoted but we later learned the whole team was being phased out so the head people at our company really didn’t care.

Jadis decided that she should meet with each of us. She said it was a way to get to know everyone; she probably added some tripe about team unity or whatnot. I didn’t know her very well and entered the meeting in good faith.

How little I knew.

That meeting was the worst I’ve ever had -and I’ve been fired whilst pregnant (another story, another time). Jadis proceeded to tell me that I had a terrible attitude as an employee and that I wasted time. She showed me the message I had sent to our team lead all those months ago. She explained that I would be logging every half hour each day to show I wasn’t wasting company time. She made it clear that I was on thin ice and had better shape up.

I was shocked. Yes, what I had typed about the insurance guy was immature and inappropriate. No one said anything at the time, so I thought it done and over with. Just to be sure, I tracked down our former boss and asked him. I apologized to him. No, he told me, he hadn’t been offended. Yes, he’d completely forgotten it.

Jadis, meanwhile, made my work life hell. No one had any work to do, yet I (alone) had to log my productivity. I made up things like, “verified accuracy of past files,” or “organized workspace.” I even wrote when I used the bathroom or ate lunch.

It was a double slap to the face, considering that one of the other employees had not been clocking out for lunch, had been reported by everyone, and had yet to be reprimanded or fired.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with today’s post, it is here: I think everyone has had a horrible boss or supervisor. I think you all have stories. You may have to give us the truncated version, here, but who was it? What did he or she do? Does the story have a happy ending?

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My story does, in a way, but I’ll leave that for another lengthy post. In the meantime, share your dirt. Go on: I promise I won’t make you tell me when you used the bathroom.

 

*Name changed

—————-

After the catharsis of ratting on your terrible employer, read what I did last week:
Wednesday, March 27: A bit of a mind trip in disassociation with “Where IS My Mind?

Thursday, March 28: “The Cure for Depression: Help Someone Else,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, March 29: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Joanne the Geek!

Saturday, March 30: Announced the 20th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is Springtime Haiku. PLEASE ENTER!

Also posted my answers and nominations for The Mystery Blogger Award.

Sunday, March 31: “Glad Tidings of Nymble” for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, April 1: My answers and nominations for The Liebster Award.

Tuesday, April 2:  An inspirational quote from a piece by Violet Lentz.

Finally posted “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Eight.”

Wednesday, April 3: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Don’t Give In, and Stay Sane Doing So,” “The Good Old Days,” and “The Polls are In (a poem).”

 

Photo Credit:
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash
Image by 942987 from Pixabay

Skinwalkers, XL

Nathan turned to his right and left in the lift, taking advantage of the short ride to examine the bits of skin that showed around his suit. He pushed at the slit below his jaw just as the mirrored doors pulled open. Only their notifying chime betrayed the rapid movement, and he walked out into a plant-lined lobby.

This landing was different than the one he’d stepped onto last time, though only one with as trained a critical eye as his could have recognized the differences. If pressed to explain, he would have said that particular fern was a couple millimeters to the left and that panel glowed more brightly than its fellows. But the overwhelming evidence was not visual cues so much as how his body felt. He always knew whether he was higher or lower; basement or upper levels. He was higher than before; but, to what extent, he knew not.

He pulled at his suit and adjusted his wristwatch. Striding past a podium, he pushed open the opaque doors to find Pul expecting him. Pul’s suit was different than last time as well; cleaner, neater, more black. The tall executive’s greeting was also not the same, as he extended his right hand and smiled warmly.

Nathan accepted the handshake; he refrained from the smile.

Pul seemed unperturbed. He stepped back and raised his left arm to that nearly-touching gesture of guidance he’d employed at their departure two suncycles ago. Accordingly, Nathan moved forward. Pul acted as guide, pushing doors, lifting an arm, or noting direction with a, “through this opening,” “to the left a bit,” and “just here.”

Although Pul and Nathan traveled down passages on a level Nathan had never visited, the scenery remained the same as the rest of Carapace’s main areas: expensive carpeting, tiled side-floor, living plants, and natural daylight emanating from the walls themselves. Carapace may have been politically blocked from front page listing, but it clearly had not suffered as much as its executives might feel.

Their journey took them to a sealed door set in a completely solid wall. Nathan fought a rising anxiety as he told his internal panic that he was really not that far from the outside. The rented skin added a level of confinement he hadn’t noticed until faced with possibility of an enclosed space. There’s an exit; there’s always an exit, he repeated to himself.

Meanwhile, the oblivious Pul took out his comm and scanned it. The door panel displayed a single line of green light. Pul then pressed his palm solidly against the wall just to the panel’s right. A second, blue line appeared beneath the green. “Pul Nguyen,” Pul enunciated, and a third strip of yellow appeared below the green and blue. The three were Carapace’s company colors, and the three activated the silent opening.

A dark space gaped before them, glowing with a dim redness. The only sound Nathan could hear was a slight scratching or shuffling. He saw no exit besides the one they were to enter through.

Pul looked back at Nathan; extended that guiding arm again. “Shall we?” he invited.

Nodding, Nathan walked briskly into the red-lit hole. Pul stepped behind him and the door closed, cutting off any outside light.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XXXIX.
Keep reading to Skinwalkers, XLI.

 

Feeling lost? Go back to the very beginning with Skinwalkers, I.

The Worth of a Paycheck

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Last year I was asked if I wanted a job writing content for a “crafting” website. It was really a black hole into ads, affiliates, and pop-ups. And. I. made. it. You know, with SEO terms and such.

They were darned good, too.

I’d say it paid the bills, but it didn’t pay much of anything once one accounted for stress, time away from my other duties, and the housekeeper I enlisted to supposedly help with the second problem in this series of issues.

After the company in charge kept increasing demands far too many times, we mutually split ways. I was so relieved.

Lately, however, I’ve come to miss having money. As such, my tired mom brain theorized, Surely, there are other jobs out there like that one. In fact, people kept telling me I was way underpaid. I’ll bet I can get a better writing job for more money!

Oh ye that scoff, you are, perhaps, correct to do so.

have found some better-paying listings. Problem is, those ones want full time -often in an office. I like not putting pants on when I write.

Others, well… WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!

This is the exact job listing I found for a deluded company online that uses Unsplash images for their company webpage. Yep. FREE images for their official webpage:

We are looking for content writers that can write 600-750 word articles that are applicable to a wide range of categories (technology, business, health, family, etc..) Our writers work when and where they want. This is a very flexible position that allows writers to write as many articles as they want. Writers need to be able to write at least 15 articles (600-750 words) per week in order to be accepted for this position.Writers will receive a keyword used for SEO purposes as well as category and it will be the role of the writer to create a well written article that matches the category and naturally uses the keyword throughout the article. As mentioned before, there is a lot of flexibility with this position and all that is required is good quality work.

Writers will be compensated $10 for every article written with bonuses available for reaching specified milestones.

Qualifications:

  • Knowledge of grammar and spelling
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Fluent in the English language
  • Copywriting
  • Ability to navigate Google Sheets and Google Docs
  • Honesty and self-discipline

They also want you to sign over the deed to your car and house, donate plasma in the guise of a “company party,” and sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the Welcome to the Family packet.

I may have made up that last paragraph.

For the record, I was paid twice this shystery company’s proposed amount, for five articles of 500 words, that could be typed and submitted whilst in my pajamas. I did not have to be fluent and excellent and grammatical, though I naturally am. I was simply told to write “with voice.”

Unfortunately, the job market underpayment plot thickens…

My searching brought me to a few online freelance writing sites like Indeed and Freelancer. On there, one hiring entity offered $1 per 500 words! The joy! And the (mostly Indian, by their profiles) writers were lining up like thirsty desert nomads.

If you are a writer, don’t agree to jobs like this. My four-year-old deserves more than $10 for 600-750 words and at least 15 articles per week. Everyone deserves more than $1 for the same. And so do you.

 

Glenn Carstens-Peters

Skinwalkers, XVII

Nathan stumbled slightly, as he found his own hand automatically lifting toward the scanner. He recovered quickly enough to avoid suspicion, refusing to meet Choms’ mistrustful glare or Shin’s questioning brow lift.

He and Shin shuffled out together, tightening their tool satchels and ensuring their comms were safely pocketed.

Once beyond the exit and out on the street, Nathan set a rapid pace. Just a moment before, he’d been ready to interrogate Shin regarding his friend’s oddly sad expression. Now, he sought to avoid just such an inquisition from Shin. Unfortunately, Shin kept his constitution in good health and shape. He had no trouble keeping up with Nathan, though he recognized Nathan’s obvious attempts to avoid conversation.

*Liners to love; liners that don’t leave you lacking* Bragged an auto-ad as they passed.

It was interrupted by *Sirius Sustenance Supply is serious about more than sustenance…*, which was cut off by,

*Need a skin on the cheap? Look no further than Fantastique!*

Nathan’s unusually fast speed made the ad sensors flash on and off more quickly than they were designed to activate. He and his work partner walked through oddly overlapping projections all down the main stretch of the city.

After nearly a tick of rushing, Nathan finally realized what a funny spectacle he and Shin made. He laughed aloud, startling Shin. “Two Grunts, speedwalking at aftermeal,” he explained, slowing a bit. Shin smiled a half-smile of supportive humor.

They stopped at a trafficsection, their slipshods activating the embedded pedestrian sensors. Shin turned to Nathan carefully. “Nathaniel?” he asked.

“Hmm?” Nathan answered, feigning aloofness.

“Why are we speedwalking?” The signal flashed and chirped, so they moved forward and crossed. “What’s itching you?”

Nathan pretended concentration on the citypath beneath their feet. He slowed their pace further, realizing Shin was too astute a companion to be fooled by his childish efforts of avoidance.

Still, he couldn’t let Shin know about his job interview. He looked skyward; shrugged. “I just heard something about Carapace during my Advancement Studies. I felt a little surprised that they’d hire us.”

Mollified, Shin nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed aloud. Now was his turn to laugh, albeit less jovially. “Maybe they can’t get their own workers to dirty their gloves.”

Lost in thought, Nathan heard Shin’s jibe a bit late. He covered with his own chuckle a jiff after. “Probably true,” he said. Still, he couldn’t shake a paranoid thought that kept surfacing.

What if they know? He wondered. Then what would he do?

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XVI.
Read to Skinwalkers, XVIII.

Skinwalkers, XVI

Solicitous queries were nearly forming on Nathan’s lips when Choms -the devil supervisor, himself- entered the room. Shin would have to wait. Nathan found analyzing their boss imperative to job security and workplace safety.

Luckily, Choms’ entrance had been a fairly average one for him: sudden, but on time; no bellowing; nothing being slammed or dropped; and the people nearest the door had not been pushed out of the way. Choms stood smugly, looking like the world had better not even touch him. Those still left under his jurisdiction were only too happy to comply. In fact, Nathan was sure that most of humanity was happy to comply.

He strapped his tool satchel around his body. Shin stood, blocking Choms’ view so that Nathan could check his contents without reprimand.

“All right, ladies!” Choms began. His staff was purely male, and he knew it. He also knew the social repercussions of specifically naming and insulting a certain sex; Nathan doubted the man could ever by induced to care. “We’ve got a busy shift today!” Choms continued. Drawing his tablet importantly up to rest against his obvious gut, the bellowing beast of a man tried to scroll down its display with flair.

Nathan heard Shin sigh; anything louder might be grounds for dismissal in these depressed times. Nathan took the opportunity to examine his least-accessible pocket and found it lacking an autodrill.

“Right!” Choms yelled, jabbing a fat finger on the screen dramatically. “We’ve got ten customers to get to. Grab a partner” -here, he simpered sarcastically over the term, “and get out of here before I have to look at you.”

The ugly man cannot find love, even in himself, Nathan found himself musing, then stopped as his own face briefly reflected in his locker’s somewhat-mirrored door. Hastily, he withdrew his autodrill from the floor of it, grabbed a few rags and an extra container of compressed air, and shut his image away.

He and Shin, by unspoken agreement, turned and shuffled forward as “partners.” They waited near the front of a queue of equally enthusiastic workers.

Choms was systematically running down his list. “Fanta!” He barked, and two men silently scanned their comms beneath the tablet. They moved tiredly out the exit door behind Choms. Meanwhile, the barking boss had already moved on to, “Fantastique!”

Nathan noted a slight hesitancy in the wavering lift of the next workers’ comms. He recognized Tod and Lizard, from working past details together. He knew they probably would not have raised their comms at all, if not for the automatic instruction their brains had already given to be ready. -Not like they could refuse; but perhaps the friends could have “accidentally” pushed another pair ahead in line if they’d had time to think.

An unusual murmur of commiseration passed down the line. No one liked performing jobs at the notorious Fantastique: a hodgepodge business of mostly illegal dealings, located in one of the worst areas of the metropolis. The most lethal weapon Nathan and his coworkers carried was acid cleaner, meant to simply dilute acidic compounds on infected hardware.

“Shut it!” Their loving and understanding supervisor snapped. Tod and Lizard hunched out the door to their fate. Two more sullen workers moved forward; they were assigned, “Diaplex.”

Now, Shin stood just before Choms. He could have kissed the edge of Choms’ tablet if necessary. Nathan could smell Choms’ cheap stall-wash mixed with genetically-overpowering body odor.

Choms squinted next to his finger, and announced their assignment, “Carapace!”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XV.
Read to Skinwalkers, XVII.

Skinwalkers, XV

Nathan exchanged the wristwatch and his original comm for the one resting secretly in the nightstand. “‘Bye, Grandpa,” he said, just before closing the drawer with a secure *click*. He retrieved his slipshods from the floor and rushed out into the bathroom.

This time, he yanked open the topmost drawer to locate his toothwash. Whilst he swished and swirled it inside his mouth for the recommended moment, he studied the reflection of a very human face in a very splotchy mirror. His cheeks bulged slightly with wash, but he thought that abnormality actually helped his plain and pockmarked visage.

After spitting out the solution, he made a hurried check for unexpected stubble. He wasn’t due to burn again for another week, but the odd case of a hair or two somehow avoiding purge did come up.

With or without extra facial hair, it was time to go. Nathan returned the toothwash to its spot, grabbed his new comm and slipshods, and headed out the door. He paused just long enough to slap the doorscan to lockdown the apartment, and to dress his feet.

The traffic sounds reaching him now were steadier, though an occasional large vehicle-bellow interrupted the vehicular white noise. He skipped quickly up the cracked cement stairs and began jogging down the block.

Many a strung-out street dweller turned his head at Nathan’s rapidly flying form. Those too far gone to know up from down or side from side merely dreamt a vision more real than life, of a skinny laborer sprinting past their cardboard home.

Puffing, panting, and pausing to collect his breathing brought Nathan within reach of his employer’s station. He continued jogging, albeit more slowly. He came to a large, black doorway at the building’s sunside. A green light flitted briefly across the panel he scanned. The door pulled to the side and he entered.

When he’d first been accepted to this job, he’d worked nights. Each time the door had opened then, he’d felt he was walking into an unknown cave. Surely something was lurking; waiting to grab him. Maybe his nightmares lay around, wanting to jump out and yell, “Boo!” They’d have a contest to see who was scariest, invariably ending in a draw.

Aftermeal sunshine, however, often shone at the lucky time he began this new shift. It lit up just enough of the space to lead him in a glowing path to the beginning of where autolights finally took over illumination.

Nathan walked forward quickly. He stopped outside a door reading Check In. Scanning his comm, he entered as soon as the door moved to allow him. A few, lingering coworkers were just finishing gear-up. The rest milled noisily about. As he moved to his own locker, he saw his friend, Shin, sitting on a bench.

“Sup, Shin?” He asked pleasantly, opening his assigned locker with his comm.

Shin looked up, and Nathan could see that Shin also appeared smaller and sadder than usual. Despite that, the older man smiled wryly.

“Hey, Nathaniel,” Shin answered. “Long time no see.”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XIV.
Read to Skinwalkers, XVI.