Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not With A Whimper

Well, this didn't work out nearly as well as I had hoped. I haven't had anyone tell me a story for three weeks, and while I meant to write about some of my own, it's not very interesting to tell my own stories. My old man has some AMAZING Vietnam stories, but he hasn't sent me any, either. Hell, I could just write a biography of his life, and it would be worth reading, and maybe I'll revisit that idea if he comes out to see me this summer.

For now, though, I'm not planning on trying to keep up with Drake's Tales. It just isn't working out the way I had planned, and I'm too busy to throw time into it simply as a vanity project. I really thought I would have had more people sending me stories, but it just hasn't happened.

But I'm not really upset. It was an experiment, and it was fun while it lasted, but I think the guy was right when he noted that people who can't write in the first place are not likely to take the time to tell an entire story in an email. I still get to write to my heart's content, because Drake's Flames is doing just fine, and I'll keep this live just in case I ever get a bug up my ass and decide to try it again. Hell, if I suddenly get more stories, I'll write 'em up, because it's fun as hell.

And if I never write anything here again, it can fade quietly into the dark recesses of the Internet, never to be seen except by people who make typos in Google searches. I guess I have to disagree with Def Leppard - I would rather fade away than burn out.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The No-Handed Fireman

Before I start this weeks Tale, I have two things.

First, I want to remind everyone that while I can tell my own stories all day long, I started this thing to relate other people's stuff. And I've managed to drum up new stories every week for a while now, but it sure would be great to get more. So check out The Big Idea (the first post at this site), and tell me a story. Don't worry if you don't think you're a good writer - that part is up to me. Just tell me what happened. It doesn't have to be funny, either. It can be sad, exciting, or inspirational. Everyone has a story. Let me hear yours.

Second, this story contains a little bit of profanity. I considered editing it out, but once you read it, I think you'll agree that a clean version just wouldn't be the same. If you're sensitive to strong language, you may want to take a pass this week.

So without further ado, I present The No-Handed Fireman.


As anyone watches Lost must surely know by now, disabled people can do all sorts of things, like hunt wild boar or turn into clouds of smoke. But in real life, it can be difficult sometimes to persuade people that you're capable when you're at a disadvantage.

Take John, for instance. He worked in the Queensland Emergency Services, and he was born with no hands. His arms just sort of tapered down to nubs. For you or me, this might seem like the kind of thing that precludes you from a wide variety of employment opportunities, but John not only got by, he was a successful firefighter and emergency responder. If your house was on fire, you might think it would be nice if the guy who showed up with the fireaxe had hands, but John was just as good at saving you as any fireman with a full complement of body parts.

One night after a training exercise, John was on his way home with his buddy Bill. Bill was driving his pickup truck, but it was specially modified just for him. Years before, Bill had lost his right arm in a motorcycle accident, and so his truck was tricked out to let a one-armed man run the gear shift. Neither John nor Bill really gave much thought to the fact that both were technically disabled. They were fit, well-trained and competent, and they had saved lives where lesser men would have been hard-pressed to keep from urinating in their Dockers.

As they drove home, the car in front of them swerved to avoid a dog in the road, and slammed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. The smaller car spun, hood crumpled, glass flying, and came to a stop against the curb.

Bill showed once again that he could manage just fine with one arm. He threw the truck into a lower gear, slammed on the brakes, and before most of us could have finished checking to see if we were still alive, John and Bill had jumped out of the pickup and were running to help.

The driver of the smaller car was dazed and bloody, his door smashed permanently closed, chunks of safety glass clinging to his clothes and hair. He was struggling in vain to push the door open, and by the time John and Bill got up to him, he was attempting to crawl through the shattered window.

"Hey," called John,"Can we help?"

The man, still panting from shock and exertion, stopped to stare at the two rescue workers. He looked slowly at Bill's empty sleeve, then at John's nubs, and finally raised his gaze to look John dead in the face and say:

"What exactly could you two fucking do?"

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Clown Surgeon

If you think about it, few people get to see more of the bizarre, unruly and twisted than police officers. They stop people who have drugs in their pants, guns in the glove box and heads in the back seat. If you've ever been pulled over and wondered why the cop seemed so unsympathetic, it's probably because they've seen far too many disturbing things to be impressed with your situation.

Being out of the academy just six months, John was one of those patrol cops who gets to sit on a side road with a radar gun and earn money for his local government in the form of traffic fines. Still, six months is enough to see a good share of the odd and unpleasant. So when he spotted the Miata doing fifty in a thirty-five, he halfway expected some kind of lame excuse and possibly inexplicable oddity.

As soon as the speeding driver saw the flashing lights, he pulled right over, and John pulled up behind him. He frowned a little - with the top up, he could not see the driver at all. For all he knew, the driver might be loading a shotgun and snorting a speedball in the front seat. So he did as he always did, and approached with caution.

As John walked up to the door, he noticed a few things that started to set off alarms. Now that he could see the driver, he could also see that the man was wearing hospital scrubs - and they were covered in blood. John unsnapped his holster and put his hand on his gun, and as he came close enough to see the man, he also noticed the gory knife thrown casually onto the passenger seat. And yet the driver had his hands firmly on the wheel, obviously not carrying a weapon or posing a threat. He was, however, wearing a brilliant, rainbow-colored wig.

One problem with pulling over a Miata is that the car is extraordinarily low to the ground. John couldn't see the man's face at all, just the enormous, garish hairpiece. The knife and the obvious blood on the driver's clothing was enough to raise an internal alarm, but the wig was just plain bizarre. So he bent down, one hand still on the butt of his gun, to get a look at the man's face.

He was wearing a red clown nose.

The man still hadn't moved his hands, so John didn't feel an immediate need to draw his gun, but he did want an explanation, and he wanted it in a hurry.

"Sir, what in God's name have you been doing?"

John had seen that deer-in-the-headlights look a hundred times if he had seen it once, but he still didn't exactly expect it from a man covered in blood and wearing a clown wig.

"I'm sorry, officer, I was changing the radio station and didn't realize how fast I was going."

John shook his head. "I'm a little more concerned about the blood and the knife!"

John could see realization of his appearance dawn on the man's face. It was as if, right up until this second, the man had no idea he was covered in blood and dressed like a clown.

"Oh! Oh no! No! It's not real! It's - I mean, it's fake! It's just ketchup!"

John's eyes narrowed. "And why would you have ketchup all over yourself, and a butcher knife on the seat?"

"My costume! I'm an insane clown surgeon!"

It was John's turn to realize what he had missed - today was Halloween. With no kids in his house, and no real reason to keep the date in mind, John had completely forgotten. Suddenly the man didn't seem nearly as threatening. He took his hand away from his gun.

"So where are you heading in such a hurry, sir?"

The man looked sheepish. "I work for a medical supply company. We decided to dress up for Halloween. I just didn't realize how fast I was going until I saw you."

John shook his head again, half amazed at the bizarre costume and half surprised that he had so thoroughly forgotten the date. "Wait here," he said, and headed back to his cruiser.

John looked up the license, found a squeaky clean record, and chuckled to himself as he wrote out a warning. He walked back to the Miata and handed the driver the slip of paper.

"I'm giving you a warning because you're wearing the first costume I've seen today, and I had completely forgotten it was Halloween. You pay a little more attention and drive safe, now."

The man's nervous face broke into a grin. "Will do, officer. Absolutely."

John stopped several more costumed speeders that day, and by the end of his shift, he knew that he would never forget Halloween again.