Tuesday, February 16, 2016

10. "serious business"

by horace p sternwall

editorial consultant and executive producer: Prof. Dan Leo

illustrations by danny delacroix

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

“wow, this is really something,” brock exclaimed as the naked ladies continued to parade across the big screen.

“yes, but you have had enough for now.” nurse sherman had returned, and she pointed another of her little cigarette lighter things - of which she had an inexhaustible supply, or maybe there was just one that did all the different things? - at the wall and it went blank.

brock turned around. two figures had followed nurse sherman and were standing behind her. obviously the two “conspirators” she had been telling brock about.

nurse sherman made the introductions. “angel, walter, this is brock. brock, angel and walter.”

angel and walter sat down on the couch across from brock, with their backs to the now blank wall. walter nodded politely, and angel with the hint of a sneer.

walter looked like a billion little men who worked in offices and sold things.

angel was short, and at first glance looked like a teenager with a ducktail haircut but when brock saw him in the light he realized he was much older.

“pleased to meet you,” brock said politely. he had no idea what to expect from either of them.

nurse sherman sat down beside brock. she pushed the pot of coffee and the plate of cookies on the table toward walter and angel.

angel picked up a chocolate chip cookie and carefully inspected it.

walter carefully inspected brock. “so this - i take it this is the fellow you told us about before - who has been unconscious for thirty years or so at doctor fenway’s office. i assume that is who he is - your message didn’t make it completely clear.”

“how clear did you want me to be on an open wave?” nurse sherman asked.

“no, no, i wasn’t criticizing,” walter said hastily. “just making an observation.”

“no problem. yes, that is indeed who brock here is. i thought, before we went any further. we might give brock a rundown on everything that has happened in the last thirty-two tears, just to give him some perspective.”

“everything?” walter raised his eyebrows.

“you know what i mean. enough so that when we talk to him we won’t have to be stopping every ten seconds to explain things he doesn’t know about.”

walter looked over at angel, who had decided to eat his cookie and was eating it.

“sounds all right to me,” angel said when he finished chewing.

“i thought either of you could jump in if you thought i was missing something,” nurse sherman continued.

“just start and we will see how it goes,” walter said. he turned to brock. “if it is all right with you.”

“everything,” said angel. “that covers a lot of ground - the miracle over tokyo, the end of the war, the crucifixion of hitler, the overlords, the coming of jack…”

“and then space travel ,” added walter, “the religious upheavals, and on and on.” he looked at nurse sherman, who was pouring herself another cup of coffee. “are you going to read something, or do you have it all memorized?’

“read something! are you kidding? no, i have a presentation i made, for the screen.”

“let’s just get it over with.” said brock. “so i can watch some more naked ladies.”

angel laughed. “you like the naked ladies, do you?” he took another bite of his cookie.

“yeah,” brock agreed. “i don’t know what else you all came up with in thirty years, but that has to be the best.”

“a lot of people think the same.” angel agreed.

walter shook his head. “it’s kind of sad. i remember when the first naked lady screens became available after the overlords came in 1949, i thought they would last two or three years and everybody would get sick of them. here we are almost thirty years later…”

“let’s get down to serious business ,” nurse sherman interrupted. she picked up one her little cigarette lighters and pointed it at the wall.

the wall lit up with a grainy picture, of a plane talking off from a runway in a driving rain.

a yellow subtitle read “1945”…

(to be continued)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

1945: home fire burning

by horace p sternwall

editorial consultant and executive producer: Dan Leo

illustrations by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

dave always took his time hanging up his coat and loosening his tie. helen had just finished putting the salt and pepper shakers and the butter on the table when he finally came into the kitchen.

the ketchup! she almost always forgot the ketchup when they were having burgers. she hurried over to the tiny pantry to get it.

"you're looking well tonight, my love. and you too, sunshine." dave always addressed jane as "my love" and helen as "sunshine" when he arrived home - almost never at any other time.

he sat down at the table. helen put the bottle of ketchup on the table.

"so did you have a good day, dave?" jane asked. she kept her attention on the hamburgers in the frying pan.

"great. nothing happened." dave was the chief of police in midville.

"just the way you like it, right?"

"exactly." dave took the newspaper he had brought in with him and opened it up and spread it on the table right over his plate and silverware - a practice helen thought somewhat unhygienic but of course never commented on.

"i don't know why i read this thing - i could write it myself." it was the local paper, not one of the detroit or cleveland papers.

jane flipped the burgers in the pan. "helen and i were just discussing the end of the war."

"great. i'm sure you got it all settled."

"so what do you think?" jane continued. "do you think the war is really over, or is it going to start up again with russia or somebody?"

"huh?" dave looked up from the paper. "what are you talking about?"

"helen says al wilson says there is going to be war with russia."

"al wilson! that idiot! if he says something will happen you know it won't."

"that's exactly what i said." jane laughed. "so we actually agree on something for once."

dave and jane both laughed. helen was a bit annoyed. she liked mr wilson, her supervisor at the plant. she found him a kindly soul, though a little full of himself, and one of the few people who would ever listen to her or take her seriously.

"what about you, sunshine?" dave addressed helen. "you think there is going to be war with russia?"

"i don't know anything about it," helen replied evenly. "i was just saying that was what mister wilson and some of the other people at the plant were saying."

"don't get me wrong, " dave told her. "the war can last forever as far as i'm concerned. like i've said many times - "

yes, thought helen, you have said it many times.

" - the streets have never been so clear of bums and riff raff. you just wait until they let all these guys out of the army and navy at once, there'll be hell to pay. "

"yeah, you'll have to start earning your pay," jane told him. she turned the gas off under the burgers.

"find a good reason to keep them in, everybody will be happy, " dave went on. "especially me."

"you know," said helen. "i don't think i agree. i think when the men and boys get back from the front" - she slightly emphasized "from the front" but dave gave no indication that this penetrated his consciousness or bothered him - "i think they will be so glad to be home and so tired from fighting the japanese and the germans that they will be no trouble at all."

dave laughed again. he laughed at everything helen ever said. (and never got mad at anything she said.) "that's quite a speech, sunshine. you should run for city council." he turned a page of the paper. "you might be easier to deal with than some of the characters on it now."

"you want to pick that paper up?" jane asked him. "if you want some food on your plate."

"yeah, i guess i'll take some food on my plate."

"well, whether these guys coming back are bums or not, like i was telling helen, they'll be taking all the jobs, so the girls like her better start thinking about getting married." jane's job was as a nurse - usually the front desk nurse - at the local hospital, so she was not worried about a man replacing her.

"mm. but there'll be more guys coming back for her to marry, too." dave pushed himself and his chair out of jane's way as she started putting the burgers on the plates.

"you raring to go to marry one of these heroes and keep him out of trouble?" dave asked helen. she had her back to him. she had turned the gas off under the potatoes and green beans and was getting a spoon out of a drawer to serve then with.

helen was a little flustered by the question. she always had a hard time answering dave if she had not had time to think of a reply because he had asked the same thing before. his whole way of thinking was barely comprehensible to her - and jane was almost as bad sometimes.

"i don't know, " she replied. she tried to smile. "i don't know that i ever thought of marriage as keeping someone out of trouble."

dave and jane both had a good laugh at this.

"really?" dave asked. "not even bill brock?" and he laughed even harder. jane just smiled, and raised her eyebrows, almost sympathetically.

i am not going to get red, helen thought, as she looked at dave's foolish face and tried to find an answer. i am not going to get red.

she turned as red as a fire truck.

all right, she thought, i may blush but i am not going to burst into tears.

she had the saucepan full of green beans in her hand and she concentrated on not spilling it.

bill brock! she wondered for the ten thousandth time what had happened to him and where he was.

10. "serious business"

Monday, July 22, 2013

1945: a whole new world

by horace p sternwall

editorial consultant and executive producer: Dan Leo

illustrations by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

"good heavens, helen, what are you doing sitting here in the dark?"

helen jumped up and switched on the lamp on the table beside the couch. "i am sorry, i did not realize how late it was."

"but you must have noticed that it was dark." aunt jane took her coat off and hung it carefully in the closet.

"i was not reading anything. there was really no reason to turn the light on."

"sitting in the dark is morbid. especially for a healthy young woman like yourself."

"i actually feel a little - not unwell exactly, but a bit peaked."

"but you went to work today?"

"oh, yes, yes. i got through the day all right." helen wished she had not brought the subject up.

"hmm." aunt jane looked sharply at helen. "i don't suppose mister burkheimer said anything about layoffs at the plant?"

with the war over, it was expected that there would be at least a partial shutdown at the local factory, which had manufactured cartridge belts for machine guns since before the war started, and throughout its duration.

"nobody has said anything, " helen replied.

"yet. but they will."

helen hesitated. "mister wilson thinks there may be war with russia. then the plant would stay open, maybe even be hiring."

"al wilson is a fool." aunt jane headed into the kitchen and switched the light on in there. "if he says something will happen, you can bet your best woolen mittens that the opposite will happen."

"he is not the only one saying it," helen answered. she got up from the couch. "do you need any help?"

"you peeled the potatoes, i hope?"

"yes, i did."

"you can open the can of green beans. and set the table."

"for three?"

"may as well. if dave isn't here, we won't wait for him."

"all right." helen turned the lamp off, leaving the front room with only the light from the kitchen spilling into it, and went onto the kitchen.

she took the can opener out of a drawer and began opening the can of green beans with infinite care, aiming to cut the top off cleanly without leaving any jagged edges.

"do you want one burger or two?" aunt jane asked helen this every time they had burgers for dinner, which was two or three times a week. helen was sick of them but it could have been worse. uncle dave would have liked burgers - or steaks, if he could get them - every night.

"just one, thank you, " helen made her usual reply.

"i don't suppose you are going to the dance tonight?" aunt jane asked, as she quickly molded three burgers - two for herself, one for helen.

"oh no, i don't feel nearly well enough." and with dave perhaps not coming home for a while, she might have a relatively peaceful evening, not having to listen to him. of course she did not say this - she didn't have to.

"pooh. always some excuse." jane took the potatoes helen had peeled, quickly chopped them into two or three pieces each and dumped them into a saucepan on the stove filled with water. she lit the burner beneath it with a wooden match. then she used the same match to light a cigarette she had had ready behind her ear. she took a deep drag of the cigarette and blew the smoke into the saucepan with the potatoes in it.

"when the men and boys start coming back, there won't be nearly as many jobs, you know. you should think about grabbing a half decent man while you have a chance."

helen smiled and nodded and concentrated on finishing her perfect can opening. they had had this conversation before. she already knew jane's definition of a "half-decent man" - one that didn't beat her and brought in at least some money.

"if you don't want to go to the dance, you could at least get out and go to a movie. you might meet a guy at the candy counter."

"but tonight they will all be at the dance, right? anyway, the movie is with errol flynn and i don't like errol flynn."

jane laughed. "always an excuse." helen handed her the can with the top cut off perfectly - not a hint of a jagged edge. jane dumped the green beans into another saucepan without looking at the can. she put the saucepan on a back burner without lighting it and tossed the can into a wastebasket.

helen went over to the cupboard and took three large plates out of it. "you know," she said hesitantly. "there might be all sorts of new jobs. that's what - what some people at the plant are saying. they say there might be a whole new world now that the war is over."

"who say? al wilson? don't tell me he's thinking of running for mayor again."

"oh no. mister wilson thinks there is going to be another war."

"who then? anybody who knows what they are talking about?" jane took a salt shaker from beside the stove and shook some salt into the water starting to boil around the potatoes.

"different people."

"name one."

"well, there is rita." helen put the three plates on three sides of the kitchen table.


"rita ryzinski. she's new - she just started a couple of weeks ago."

"and she already knows everything, huh? she sounds like a real drip."

"oh, no! she's pretty! she's - she's the prettiest girl i've ever seen."

"do tell." jane lit the burner under the green beans. "and is pretty rita going to the dance tonight?" she took a black skillet out of the oven and put it on a front burner. the skillet looked like it had been carved out of a lump of coal.

helen reddened slightly. "she might be. i think she is."

"there you go." jane laughed. "you missed your big chance. you go to the dance with rita the prettiest girl in the world. she gets clark gable and you get clark's best friend. " she dropped a spoonful of grease into the skillet and lit the burner beneath it. "it's nature's way. it's been that way ever since adam and eve."

"really? did eve have a friend that she always took to the dance with her?"

"ha, ha! good one!" jane poked helen in the ribs. "you know you can be kind of sharp sometimes. in your way."

they heard the front door open.

then a voice - "it's meeeeeee." helen's heart sank.

"it's him," said jane. "what a relief."

helen took some knives and forks out of a drawer and put them beside the three plates. she wished she had not mentioned rita to jane. now jane would never stop teasing her. and rita was not really her best friend. helen just wished that she was.

1945: home fire burning

Monday, June 24, 2013

9. "a real 70's person"

by horace p sternwall

editorial consultant and executive producer: dan leo

illustrations by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

the story so far: sergeant brock of the u s army rangers is storming hitler's fortress in 1945 when suddenly everything goes black.

he wakes up thirty-two years later in a doctor's office in kansas to a different world. intergalactic travel is an everyday occurrence.
the majority of the human race live in domed cities.
automobiles, airplanes and spacecraft operate themselves.
tobacco, alcohol, burgers and steaks (and carnivorousness in general) are almost extinct.
war is just a memory.
the united states and other countries no longer exist, as there is a world government in place, ruled (or is it?) by the new flower universe party and the mysterious "a g" and his shadowy factotum, 'bill".
but all these changes are nothing compared to the biggest one:

that the individual consciousnesses of every human on the planet
are being subsumed into one universal master brain!

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

1945: a whole new world