I stood too close to a microwave once.
2018. Summer. A heat wave captivated the city. Garbage men were on strike because their job had become too smelly. Like, more than normal. The use of birdbaths went up 150% according to some local town statistics. But it wasn’t just the birds, oh no. Squirrels, and sometimes even raccoons, were using the baths. Many in small, suburban areas, but also the one at the mall.
My friend Tall Tony and I learned to cook bacon and eggs on the sidewalk in front of my house. You probably guessed that we called him “Tall” Tony because he was the shortest kid that you would ever see. It’s an ironic nickname. If we called him “Short” Tony, that would be a form of bullying, plus it isn’t even alliteration. That’s cruel on many fronts.
This summer was hot. Global warming has done wonders. But that’s a story for another day.
One day at the end of July, we were cooking a slab of bacon when a group of ants, no, a gaggle (a pride?) of ants, climbed up on the food to stay cool and get away from the fiery hot pavement (I guess that’s how they got the name Fire Ants). This freaked Tall Tony out and he went screaming all the way back to his own house, taking the bacon with him. Perhaps this was just a clever ruse to keep the dead pig pieces for himself because it’s something that I never would have expected him to do. It’s not like we called him Thievin’ Tony, if you know what I mean (what I mean is that the kid was not known to steal things, keeping on with the ironic nicknames).
So anyways, Tall Tony got out of there pretty fast, leaving with my lunch and forcing me into a little bit of a dilemma.
I went inside and found my mother bent over inside of the oven, tools scattered around her.
“It’s broken,” she told me.
I understood that from the visual element of the situation but I found out at an early age that my parents think I’m dumb. It’s actually been quite a fortuitous advantage, but again, a story for another day.
I waved back at her and went to the cupboard, searching for an ant-free lunch.
“You can’t use the oven, it’s broken. Go fry some stuff on the sidewalk.”
“You have no idea,” I replied back, “how much that comment hurts my feelings right now.”
“Microwave something up then. Dinner won’t be for a while.”
The cupboards were pretty bare so I moseyed on over to the freezer. The only thing in there that I’d ever consider eating was a tube of cookie dough and one loose pizza pop.
I stared back at my mother, still fixing the oven.
I grabbed the pizza pop and brought it to the microwave. It’s not even in plastic. It’s just a freezer burnt pizza pop. Looking back, that was a rough decision to make, but I was hungry and there were little bits of bacon in it.
I opened up the microwave, placed the pizza pop on the circular plate-dish thing in the middle and closed the door. Then I heard the most ominous words that perhaps I would ever hear:
“Remember not to stand too close to the microwave.”
I probably responded with something like “whatever dude” or “chill out Mom”, but I can’t remember at this point, because I stood too close to that microwave, watching the pizza pop doing slow circles in the rectangular heat box. Round and round it went, and as hungry as I was, I didn’t notice the dangerous amount of radiation flowing through my body.
The seconds ticked off the microwave timer and I just stood there, transfixed.
Tall Tony showed back up. He must have felt guilty about the whole bacon ordeal. Again, not a cool thing to do and I didn’t want to remind him, but his actions were fairly detrimental to my whole, you know, afternoon.
He took one step into the kitchen and dropped the nicely washed bacon right back on the floor.
“A…uh…Are you feeling alright?” He asked me, all nonchalantly. Looking back, maybe he was probably trying not to freak me out, and for that I should be grateful.
I don’t remember anything that happened after that. It probably wasn’t very appetizing, which would be disappointing, because any time a pizza pop is in the same room as you, it should be a delicious experience. I can only imagine that my skin started melting, drooping off my bones like some sort of play-doh, eventually falling at my feet into a hot liquid.
Did I drip and droop until all my skin was lying on the cold floor? Oh right, it was summer time. The floor would have been warm. Just a skeleton standing there with a dumb look on my face. Naturally, if my experience with the sciences is any indication, the bones would have collapsed and soaked up into weird skin goop, melting into it and combining it into a slightly denser goop.
The story doesn’t end there though.
Also, this was the point I’d like to imagine my mother finally noticed the situation at hand.
In my imagination, the goop started to move. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but there I went. First, I (is it really me at this point though) scurried on over to the fresh bacon on the ground and gobbled that up. Some ants too, most likely. Then, the goop turned around and headed to the microwave, where it travelled up the cupboards, opened up the microwave (yes, hit that button and opened the thing up), and engulfed the solo pizza pop.
The story doesn’t end there though.
Soon, Tall Tony was a victim of the goop, as was my mother and the oven, then eventually the entire house, street, village, town, city, country and the world.
The goop ate everything up.
Now the goop sat in an empty void. All by itself. Except it wasn’t goop anymore.
It was this book.
The story doesn’t end there though.
But it will at the end of this book.
See what I did there?
You wanted a book about a hero taking some sort of journey, triumphantly defeating the evil towards the end, winning the girl, or perhaps a cute pet, and living happily ever after, and instead it starts off like this.
Not looking good, is it?
At least there can be a lesson learned here:
Please don’t stand too close to a microwave, or you might just end up as a book, too. Illiterately speaking.
⦁ His father was a giraffe. His mother was a crocodile. You do the math.
This mix between a long-necked giraffe and the sluggish water reptile that is a crocodile was first discovered in the year 2016 by a farmer in the sub-Sarahan region of Africa. As you could imagine, this species is a terrible sight to come across in the wild. It looks like a giraffe is mucking around in the African swamp, but when you look a little closer, you realize that it’s a freakin’ crocodile body underneath. Sure, it moves slow, but that neck reach is terrifying.
A middle-aged woman dressed in black steps onto the stage in a room full of people. Many have tissue in their hands, sniffling from the kind words said by the last person in front of the microphone in this small church hall.
An open casket covered in flowers sits against the far wall on the stage.
The crowd holds their breath as they wait for the woman to speak. She clears her throat.
“Thank you for coming today. I know he would be overjoyed with the love and support his family have received over this difficult time. Walter was a great man. He’d hate that I am calling him Walter, but that is who he was to a lot of people. Walter. It sounds weird coming out of my mouth. Walter. Dad.
Walter made a lot of friends over his 35 years in the peanut butter business, and many of them are here today. In the great war between peanut butter and jam, my father was the first person to demand unity and bring these two juggernauts together. The world was a better place because of it and that accomplishment will not be forgotten, even in death.
I have a lot of great memories of my father. When others might be teaching their children how to ride a bike or the secrets to catch a big fish, Walter was teaching me how to complete my taxes and the difference between an RSP and an RRSP. Growing up, some say that would be the biggest reason that I would not find someone to marry, but I point to my terrible sense of humour and pale complexion as to why nobody would want to touch me. But don’t fret, I showed them eventually.”
She paused for laughter, but none came.
“Instead of camping trips in the summer, Walter would take my brother and I up to the big city, where we would stay in the biggest skyscrapers. Ten, eleven stories up, he would leave us there while he attended various food spread conferences where he would routinely host a panel debating the differences between chunky and smooth. We were a chunky family. In more ways than one.
My brother, who couldn’t make it here today, never really got along with my father. Perhaps it was the way he pushed our mother out of our lives after finding out her deepest and darkest secret. She was slightly allergic to peanuts, and she would swell up briefly if she was ever in the same room with it. Of course, my father never touched the stuff either. It wasn’t like he was in the factory all day smashing peanuts and butter together. He was a boardroom guy. Walter made the tough peanut butter decisions, so I don’t blame my brother for hating Walter. But I never could.
Perhaps I saw a softer side to him. He had a crunchy outer shell, but I knew there was a creamy inside to him, although he had a tough time showing that outside our walls. I’ll never forget when he showed up to my University graduation, unannounced, and made a fuss in front of the whole graduating class and school faculty, because he didn’t have a ticket and they wouldn’t let him in. I was quite embarrassed for a long time, but I knew he just wanted to show me how much he cared for me. Maybe that was because I was the only child of his that didn’t completely hate his guts. Maybe he saw the potential in me that nobody else did.
“When I graduated, I moved away. I hadn’t eaten peanut butter, or jam for that matter, in years and I feel like Walter could sense that. In his yearly Christmas cards, featuring himself and his new wife, he would always reference peanut butter in some way, mostly in just obscure facts. ‘Did you know the United States consumes $800 million worth of peanut butter per year?’ or ‘They called it monkey butter in World War 2’. Thanks, but no thanks Dad.
Look, Walter wasn’t perfect. He had his flaws. He was selfish. He drove his family away because of his love for something other than us, but in the later years, he tried. It was too late for their relationship, but he tried with me and we learned to be father and daughter again after he retired. I helped him write a book. ‘Peanut Butter and WHAM! George Michael Inspired Food Spread Recipes’, which was a modest success. We spent a lot of time talking and doing things we should have done when we were both much younger, but it was better than nothing.
The fondest memory of my father is also one of the last ones. At my wedding, yes, finally, to my lovely Glenda, my father not only walked me down the aisle, but he took my hand for our father-daughter dance. He was 78 at the time, but he moved and grooved like he was years younger. It meant a lot to me that he accepted my life choices and although he never came out and said it, I knew he was proud of me.
Which makes his ending even more sad.
He told us every day how much he loved peanuts and peanut related delicacies. With a new peanut related fact with every Christmas card, he described in detail the tastes and smells that came with it. We even wrote a cook book about legumes for God’s sake.
But the coroner was very clear.
Walter had a secret.
Walter died of a peanut allergy.
He breathed his last breath because of it.
He must have known, surely.
How could he lie to us for that long?
It doesn’t matter.
Let us remember him for who he was.
A man who could unite people from all over the world, with different backgrounds and ideologies.
Thank you all for coming, and have a safe trip home.”
She turns around and looks at her father in the open casket.
His eyes were calm, his throat was closed.
Walking into that tiny shop
Smell of fresh baked bread
Just try to stop
Me from ordering a sub
And loading it up
Like I’m a newborn cub
Feasting for the first time.
Subway, yeah! Subway, yeah!
Yo sandwich artist, give me the goods
Ham and cheese and peppers and beef
Lettuce and olives and tomatoes, chief
Load up all the different kinds of foods
So I can leave feeling complete
All the food groups in my intestines
Mixing together after I dine
Placed in a sweet, toasted sub.
Subway, yeah! Subway, yeah!
Sitting with my best pal Jared Fogle
Look at all the weight he lost
And he did it the right way
We high-five our subs together
And slam them back
Like they’re a finely aged wine
Satisfied and healthier!
Subway, yeah! Subway, yeah!
I call that one: “Failed Subway Jingle”
The year is 2072.
You arrive at the grocery store through those large, automatic double doors. Heading first to Aisle 1, you pick out a box of Froot Loops. The bigger size is the cheapest for some reason, but there is no way you’ll finish the whole thing before it goes stale. Doesn’t matter. Then it’s off to the dairy section. Two litres of milk and a tub of strawberry-rhubarb yogurt, the pile you’ve accumulated makes you wish you grabbed a basket. A mistake you’ve made before and you’ll make again.
It’s a long line up, of course, but you stand there and browse the gossip magazines. Elvis is still alive, working at a Trader Joes somewhere in the Midwest. The colony on Mars ran out of food and are starting to eat each other. Flying cars are only a few years away.
Finally, you reach the cashier. Her name is Destiny and you wait an uncomfortable amount of time until she greets you, because stubbornness is all you have left in this life. There is small talk, and then you pay by putting your Chinese-made phone up against a machine. No wait, you have cash. You use cash this time.
When you leave the building, you stop and smell the fresh air. Except it isn’t fresh air. The world is a ball of fire and lava. As you know, alien dragons came to this world sometime in the winter of 2021. It started innocently at first. The leader of their people met with the leaders of Earth. There were photos taken. Then some things were said on social media that got lost in translation and we found out that the alien dragons actually wanted to take over and destroy the world the whole time, so they ended up making quick work of the humans in power, but left most of them alone to live their lives. Others were sent to the alien dragon planet to serve as slaves to their species. Some say they’re the lucky ones.
So, you leave the grocery store to this world of red and get in your car. It’s a late model Toyota, probably a 2058, right around where switched back from six tires to four. You drive like it’s not the end of the world and you could be picked to leave this planet and sling rocks and hit things with hammers somewhere in space.
You come home to your dog and cat, because in the year 2072, dogs and cats finally are able to cohabitate and live as friends. They don’t speak English, but that’s probably closer to a reality than flying cars at this point. You take a seat on your luxury couch and turn on the TV. Except it’s not a physical TV, it is projected on to a giant white wall.
A Big Bang Theory re-run is on.
You sit back, the box of Froot Loops at your side and the tub of yogurt tucked between your legs. You take out a Loop, dip it in the yogurt and put it in your mouth. You smile.
This is the future. It’s not so bad here.
⦁ New detective comes to a small seaside town
⦁ Her name? Angela Beckinbauer
⦁ She shows up for her first day and settles in
⦁ Something seems a little off
⦁ But then there’s a murder!
⦁ She goes down to the park to see the body with veteran detective Chuck Palarmo
⦁ Everybody calls him “Cheese” for some reason
⦁ The body is of an old man
⦁ Cheese thinks it’s an open and shut case, but something doesn’t feel right to Angela
⦁ Maybe it’s the giant bullet hole in his back
⦁ A creepy old lady wanders in
⦁ People call her the “Headmaster”.
⦁ The Headmaster gives Angela an ominous warning: “It’s always the first person you suspect!”
⦁ Back at the station, Angela hears that they’re closing the case
⦁ She goes to the sergeant, a man by the name of Jimmy Plop
⦁ Angela tries to convince him otherwise, but Plop wants nothing to do with it
⦁ “If you can’t be a team player here Beckinbauer, maybe you need to go back to where you came from.”
⦁ Hurt, Angela goes back to her desk to dwell on the situation, but she is convinced something bigger is happening and maybe there is a conspiracy happening in this small-town police force.
⦁ Angela decided to come back after hours to look at the report, but when she gets into the station, she sees the entire force, as well as Cheese and Jimmy Plop, having a meeting without her.
⦁ Using some stealth techniques that she picked up in the academy, she ends up grabbing the report without anybody noticing.
⦁ When she gets back to her motel room, she spreads out the report on the table
⦁ She grabs one single paper, holds it up, and looks at it in horror
End of pilot.