Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, January 25, 2010

Say What?

What do you do if you can’t decide between two story ideas for a writing workshop? Well, if you’re me, you write both of them, and then, after hours of deliberation (and a half-dozen commas in one sentence), pick which one to use. I opted for the story that I felt had more "literary merit." What does that mean? Well, dear readers, it means that I shall now regale you with the sillier, and possibly more entertaining, of the two. Enjoy.

“So, what’s the assignment?”

“Write a scene completely in dialogue.”

“That’s easy.”

“Without using speech tags.”

“What, you mean that he said, she said bullshit?”


“Piece of cake.”

“What do you mean, ‘piece of cake?’ It’s harder than you think.”

“No it’s not. Just have two characters talk back and forth. It’s so simple. I bet you won’t even have to give ‘em names.”

“I’m not gonna do that. I’m trying to challenge myself. It should have at least three characters.”

“Alright, put Melvin in. That’ll make three.”

“I’m not putting Melvin in my story.”

“Wait, why am I gonna be in his story?”

“Because, Melvin, he needs three characters. And you’re the most interesting character we know.”

“I’m not putting Melvin in my story.”

“Why not? Who’s better? You could have him spout some of his geekiest lines, while we make fun of his greasy hair. Or his orthopedic shoes.”

“What makes you think I’d ever write about us in the first place?”

“Can I be a warlock?”

“Because we’re awesome. Well, at least, I am. And with Melvin in there, you’ll seem pretty cool by comparison.”

“I think I’d make a really kick-ass warlock. I could have a goatee and carry a huge battle axe and control all the peasant women with my dark magicks.”

“I’m not writing about us. There should be an intriguing situation with compelling characters, which is definitely not us.”

“Well, it’s not you.”

“And I have to figure out how I’m going to insert little details about the setting and characters into the dialogue, to help set the scene. And also—hold on. Melvin, did you say ‘battle axe?’ Warlocks don’t carry battle axes.”

“But I’d be a really, really strong warlock. My mother was a witch, my father a troll.”

“Actually, I’ve met Melvin’s parents. That makes sense. But about the detail thing, that’s easy. I can, for instance, apologize for knocking your stupid girly drink to the floor...”


“...and then ask you to grab me another beer while you’re in the kitchen getting a roll of paper towels from behind that large pile of unwashed dishes.”

“That statement’s a little awkward.”

“Yeah, but it’d get the job done.”

“And that better not stain the carpet, that’s all I’m saying. The landlord will have a fit, and I’ll lose half my security deposit.”

“Aw, you poor baby. Then you’d better hurry back quickly; the red is spreading. And hey, are you sure you want to be a writer, if you can’t figure any of this stuff out on your own?”

“Maybe it’d be a magic battle axe, forged in the depths of Al Jamuhn by Gaarlok the Malevolent.”

“Are you still on that? He’s not putting you in his story. And for God’s sake, shut off that damn movie already. You’re barely watching it.”

“What, My Dinner with Andre? It’s a great movie. It’s got Wallace Shawn.”

“It sucks. All they’re doing is talking. They’re not doing anything.”

“Damn it, the stain’s not coming out.”

“I mean, one of them should pull a gun or something. Then we’d have some action.”

“See? You’ve just contradicted yourself. And you’re gonna owe me for this carpet.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t get the red out.”

“Not the damn carpet. The contradiction. When did I contradict myself?”

“Just now. Any story about us would be nothing but us sitting around talking, which you’ve just said is boring. Clearly, I have no choice but to choose another topic entirely.”

“What are you talking about? First off, no story can be boring if I’m in it. Secondly, there’s a difference between a story where nothing happens and a story about nothing. Seinfeld was about nothing, and it was the most popular show on TV for nine seasons.”

“Stop arguing for this. I’m not going to write a story where we do nothing but talk for two and a half pages.”

“But it’d be so easy. You wouldn’t even have to make anything up. Hell, you could even use this conversation.”

“This one? No way.”

“C’mon, it’d be fun.”

“Especially if I’m a warlock. With a battle axe.”

“Look, it’s not happening. That’s that. If you think it’s such a great idea, you do it.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For the First Time Ever

Five months ago today I plummeted into a ravine, prompting me to start this blog. Though I had been working on a novel for over two years by that point, for the first time ever I began to share my writing.1 The novel has since gone through long periods of neglect,2 but I enjoy the feedback I get from the blog. I like knowing that my words are entertaining (and/or completely nonplussing) people.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to take it one step further. With helpful prodding from my friend Jen — the same Jen, I might add, who got me started on my novel in the first place — I joined a writing class. It’s held online, with one assignment per week, and everyone in the class provides feedback on each others’ stories. It, too, keeps me from my novel, but for the first time ever, my writing is finally getting constructive criticism. I thought my work might garner harsher critiques, but so far it’s all been pretty helpful, both in terms of the writing and the ego boost.

The first assignment wasn’t too difficult, but this past week’s was mighty challenging: to write a scene between two people in love, without dialogue, that demonstrated their love through action rather than telling. I had all these great ideas for wicked little tales, but couldn’t manage to both “show, not tell” and go without dialogue. I would have figured out how eventually, but before I did, I came up with a way to challenge myself even further. And that is how I simultaneously, with one exercise:
  • wrote a serious story, without any humor or a twist ending, for the first time ever;
  • adapted part of someone else’s life for use in a story, for the first time ever;
  • wrote a story in the present tense, for the first time ever; and
  • amazed even myself with my descriptive imagery. For the first time ever.
I know I still have a long way to go. In general, my physical descriptions are weak, I use adverbs and the passive voice too often, and I certainly tell more than I show. This class will hopefully change that. Little by little, I’ll chip away the flaws in my writing until I’m left holding a literary masterpiece.

That, or a giant pile of flaws.

1 Okay, that’s just an outright lie on my part. I had a web site between 1997-2001, and at least 103 people visited. How do I know this? I know this because that’s how many people commented in my guestbook. Remember back when sites still had guestbooks? Or when they received awards from other random sites? Mine got 22 awards in its first year of existence, including the “Cow Patrol Top 10” and “The Fishing Pier Award of Excellence.” I even had one of those lame counters at the bottom of the home page, which… wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah... For the second time ever, I began to share my writing.
2 The current drought stands at 34 days. (And counting...)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Don't Give a Prop

Proposition 8 is back in the news this week. It seems some people in California think it’s “unconstitutional” to deny rights to a segment of the population based solely on their sexual orientation. I know, I know... crazy, right? Now, I usually don’t write about politics on the Wheel, but this isn’t a political issue. It’s a human rights issue.1 Therefore, I’m going to state my piece. I’m doing it now, in part because this blog wasn’t up and running when Prop 8 came around the first time, and in part because it’s fun to yell at idiots.2

A ruling concerning human rights should never have been decided by popular vote. Then again, similar issues throughout history — slavery, women’s suffrage, segregation, interracial marriage — typically needed a court decision or presidential decree to set things right, and those rulings only started gaining acceptance among the nay-sayers when they could no longer say nay. I hope that happens here, that Prop 8 gets struck down as unconstitutional and other states will be forced to follow.

I was reading an article about the trial today, and happened to glance over some of the thousands of comments that followed. Over and over, the opponents of same-sex marriage primarily fall back on the same three lines of reasoning to argue their cause. Here they are, each followed by a short rebuttal:

  1. Homosexuality is wrong. It says so in the Bible.
    The Bible says a lot of things. Most people pick and choose the passages that suit them. Do you allow women to talk in church? Do you talk with people who aren’t Christian? Have you ever worked on the sabbath? Yeah? Then shut up about your fuckin’ Bible!
  2. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman.
    In most early societies (and some current ones), women were owned first by their fathers, then by their husbands. They were often married, as teenagers, to men more than twice their age. They had no rights of their own. Times change. So do laws. Do you want your hands cut off for illegally downloading music? Do you want to be killed for ogling your neighbor’s wife? No? Then shut up about fuckin’ history!
  3. Marriage should remain between a man and a woman because of biology; homosexual couples can’t have babies.
    Many couples can’t have children. Do you believe an impotent man or infertile woman should be barred from marriage? That a woman who is past child-bearing age should be forced to divorce her husband so he can form another fruitful union? Didn’t think so. So shut up about procreation, and go fuck yourself!

There, now I feel a little better.

1 I usually don’t write about human rights issues, either, come to think of it. I usually write about more inane things, like Jewish pirates or birds wearing aprons. But let’s keep reading; I want to see where I’m going with this...
2 Well, not to their faces. What would be the point of that? Idiots don’t listen. It’s much easier to yell to like-minded individuals about idiots. That’s what I’ll do here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

And on the Thirteenth Day, He Rested

This afternoon a co-worker who had spent three years in Sweden remarked that today was the Swedish holiday of Trettondedag Jul, or “The Thirteenth Day of Christmas.” Well, too bad. The song only goes to twelve. I’m not getting any more gifts.

Denise promised.

The past two weeks have been very tiring. The holidays are exhausting on their own, but perhaps I was a little over-diligent in documenting my Christmas experience, since today I feel completely drained. During my vacation, which spanned nineteen days, I’d planned to spend much of my time working on my novel and getting photos up onto Flickr. I did neither. I’d planned to watch a slew of movies. I watched two.

Now that Christmas is (finally) over, it’s time for me to relax and get to all those things I’ve been neglecting for weeks. This may mean I won’t be updating The Wheel every day.1 But, with time, I think you’ll get used to it.

I know I will.

1 I’m kidding, of course. It will mean I won’t be updating every day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day Twelve

Ever since the first day of Christmas, Denise has been telling me how great the twelfth gift was going to be. How it would make up for everything. I didn’t doubt her for a second. After that initial second, however, I doubted her many, many times. There was no way one gift could make up for all that I’d been through over the preceding eleven days. Still, she insisted, so I agreed to take a half-day and be back home for when the gift arrived at one o’clock.

On the way to work I dropped off the last two hens, minus their outfits, at a local egg farm. We had run out of money to feed the other twenty-two people in our house, so Denise and I both believed this was the only way we could protect them from an untimely (yet tasty) demise. The morning at work was uneventful, though my stomach was in knots as I envisioned what horrors might await me back at the house. I signed off shortly after noon and drove home.

When the doorbell rang, I was upstairs. Denise blindfolded me, then guided me to the living room, careful to maneuver around all the new pipes that had sprouted up overnight. Then she whipped off the blindfold, and there, standing before me, were twelve blue men. Not smurfs, not a dozen Paul Giamatti impersonators, but actual Blue Men. Denise had hired four Blue Man Group trios to come to our home for a special performance. Pleasantly surprised, I eagerly took my seat as they carried in the last of their props.

A few years ago I went into New York to see a Blue Man show, and let me tell you, compared to this that was utter rubbish. The twelve performers drummed rhythmically on the massive tangle of pipes with such precision, with such finesse, it was as if the pipers had constructed the plumbing specifically for such an occasion.1 The Blue Men’s comic timing was impeccable, and the entire show came together so wonderfully that I never would have guessed the groups had never performed with each other before. In such an intimate setting, every beat on every pipe and every drum resonated in our very bones, and it was such a captivating experience that we hardly noticed that two windows had shattered, or that every surface in the house was being spattered mercilessly with fluorescent paint as they banged on their drums. ‘Twas the most spectacular show Denise or I had ever seen.

Pa rum pa pum pum.

Of course, not everyone was as enthralled as we. Shortly after the pipers’ dramatic exit, the paint started flying, and the dancers fled the scene to shield their Victorian attire. Also, when one of the Blue Men began using the turtle shells as bongos, both doves struggled their way out of the shells and flew off — albeit with difficulty, as their wings had atrophied — through one of the shattered windows.

The performance lasted two hours, and by the end we were exhausted but euphoric. We thanked the Blue Men profusely, and waved as they raced off to return to their home cities for that night’s shows. Four maids, having finally finished their drinks, also chose this time to take their leave.

Upon re-entering the house, we were accosted by Lord Vader, who pronounced that he had been visited in the night by the holographs of three jedis, and wished to change his wicked ways. Wanting to make up for his disgraceful behavior thus far, he asked if he might cook us dinner, then before we could stop him, he summoned his minions to get him “the biggest goose in the village.” They returned from the basement a minute later with one of the bricklaying geese, now deceased. Vader set about cooking it, as well as some side dishes made from what little food we had left in the cupboards, then carved the bird with a light saber. We were joined at dinner by Michael Flatley and the one remaining maid, who somehow still had a few drops of beer left in her glass from four days prior. The goose was succulent, the entire meal exquisite. Take my word for it: if you ever get the chance to taste goose prepared by light saber, I highly recommend it.

As dinner ended, a group of guys wearing uniforms from Jim’s Plumbing charged into the house unannounced and darted into the basement. They re-emerged carrying the three parrots, who were all squawking their heads off. One flashed an FBI badge and explained that Don Pappagallo and his two accomplices were being apprehended on the charge of racketeering. The mafia don yelled, “Ya set me up, Flatley! Yer dead!” as he was escorted out the door. The agent thanked us and left.

After dessert,2 Michael Flatley offered to take the last three geese (two bricklayers, one tile-layer) off our hands and give them a good home at a pond by his house. He promised not to eat them, so we said okay. I figure they’ll either learn to blend in with the other geese there, or build a bridge. He said he’d write and tell us which it was.

Then we bid him, Lord Vader, and the final maid (whose last drop of beer had just evaporated) adieu. Denise and I watched them go, and I knew we were both thinking the same exact thing:

Best. Christmas. Ever.


We went back inside to survey the damage. There were pipes and paint everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Shattered windows, cracks in the foundation, a plethora of goose poop, the place was a disaster area. It was as if the set of Double Dare had exploded in our house. Down in the basement, the hatch was completely bricked in, and the entire floor was haphazardly covered in dingy 70s-era tile.

Out back, the swans were nowhere to be seen. They had probably been scared off by all the drumming in that afternoon’s show, and were now flying south in search of warmer weather.3 There was also a large mound in the back corner of the yard where three lords had been buried in a pauper’s grave.

It was pretty clear what we had to do. In fact, there was only one thing to do: burn the place to the ground and start over with the insurance money.

We also agreed on one other thing... In the future, our Christmases will last only one day. We’ll celebrate it together, without pipers or lords or any sort of poultry. It’ll just be me, Denise, the dog and cat, and Danny Bonaduce. In a pear tree.

1 The pipers had not constructed the plumbing for just such an occasion. Two minutes into the performance, all eleven of the surly Scots stormed out in a huff, screaming about “such a careless disregard for quality craftsmanship,” and how we could “expect to hear from the Pipers’ Union about this.” Whatever.
2 One Saltine each, all we had left.
3 Or the nearest YMCA with a pool.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day Eleven

The moment I woke up this morning, I could sense that something was wrong. The house was too still, too quiet. I ran downstairs, and indeed—there were only eleven people there.

Late last night, the lords had begun to tire from all of the jumping. One lord collapsed onto the couch before Lord Vader decreed it was time for a break. Vader admonished him for his insolence as the poor sap tried to catch his breath,1 then made sure he never caught another one. Again, Vader’s henchman carried the body off.

When I first arrived downstairs this morning, I assumed Vader must have killed off everyone else the same way, but one of the maids set me straight: Overnight, there had been a mass exodus. Vader had stopped to argue with a dancer who had gotten in his way, and the few remaining lords had seen their chance. All but one fled the scene, taking with them five dancers and three maids.2 The one lord who stayed behind has been matching Lord Vader leap for leap ever since. He prefers we call him Michael Flatley, rather than by his formal title, Lord of the Dance. I prefer that he put on a shirt.

The house didn’t remain quiet (or relatively empty) for long. Just before we left for work, eleven men in kilts arrived at our door. We let them in, and, not wanting to be around for what happened next, promptly ran for our cars.

Denise did stop home during her lunch break, and she called to fill me in on the morning’s events. It seems that when the plumber showed up mid-morning, the Scots sent him packing, cursing at him unintelligibly until he fled. Then they piled up their bagpipes by the door and went down into the basement.3 They repaired the leaks and started pumping out the water, but then they also began to completely rework all of the plumbing. Plus, they insulted Denise (from what she could decipher), made unkindly remarks to the four remaining dancers, and ceaselessly harangued the pipe-laying geese for not belonging to the Pipers’ Union. Before she headed back to work, Denise also spied a few of them conversing with the mafioso parrot in hushed tones while eyeing the geese, and did not feel good about what might happen. I told her I’d get home as soon as I could.

I begged out of an afternoon meeting and headed home. Though I searched every room in the house, there was no sign of the two pipe-laying geese, and no one would admit to seeing anything. Also, three quarters of the basement now look like one of those old Windows screen savers from the ‘90s.

Bill Gates is at the bottom of this, I just know it.

I thought about asking someone from Jim’s Plumbing – that’s the new van parked across the street – if they’d be willing to strip all this piping out in a couple days, but then I remembered that my last credit card had been shredded earlier in the afternoon, and that my last two checks had bounced. Instead, I decided to drink. Heavily.

And here I always thought Christmas was supposed to be a time of joy, full of holiday cheer and whatnot.4 Well, it’s not a time of joy. It’s a time of pain and death and way too many birds.

Only one more day. One more lousy, stinkin' day. It can’t get here soon enough.

1 “I find your lack of leap disturbing.”
2 I asked the rest of the maids why they stuck around. They said they would’ve left, but hadn’t yet finished their drinks.
3 Sonya, on the other hand, stayed upstairs and spent most of her day attacking the bagpipes.
4 Especially the whatnot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day Ten

When all those ladies arrived on our doorstep yesterday, I should have known their counterparts wouldn’t be far behind. This morning I opened the front door, and ten lords paraded past me into the house. How can I be sure they’re lords? Well, because each one formally announced himself as such upon entering: Lord Jim, Lord Byron, a shorter one named Fauntleroy, and so on and so forth. Most of them are prim and proper, as you’d expect, but two don’t fit the stereotype: One is wearing a sparkly jacket and pants but no shirt, whereas the other is dressed all in black, including a cape and a bizarre-looking helmet. That last one calls himself Vader.

At first, the lords were just jumping around willy-nilly,1 but then Lord Vader proclaimed that they should all jump in unison. This naturally caused quite a stir — lords don’t like being told what to do — but Vader calmly lifted a gloved hand, and suddenly his most vocal opponent (Lord So On) began to choke. Within seconds the guy had fallen to the floor and was no longer breathing. Vader beckoned for his two servants, whom I hadn’t even noticed come in, to cart the body away and bury it in the back yard.

Jump with me. It is your destiny.

I assumed the whole thing was an act, but the other lords were sufficiently spooked that they immediately took to following Vader’s lead. Most of them caught on pretty quickly, though the least coordinated of the bunch (Lord So Forth) stumbled into Vader a couple times, and did not live to learn from his mistakes. Fortunately, after those two deaths, everything went a little more smoothly. For the lords, that is...

Do you remember how the Banks’s home shook in Mary Poppins every time the cannon fired from their roof? Well, with all the lords jumping together, it’s kind of like that, except the house quakes every three seconds instead of every hour, and we have far fewer valuables remaining intact.2

With so many people in the house at once, and everyone constantly getting in each other’s way, emotions have been running high. Everywhere the dancers turn, they collide with something.3 The dancers have been yelling at the maids, the maids at the lords, the lords at the dancers, and I at the maids, lords, dancers, and parrots.4

Needing a break from the insanity, I made my second trip of the day to our local grocery store to pick up enough food for dinner for twenty-seven people. Two of my credit cards were rejected, but fortunately the last one went through. I then returned home to the wonderful aroma of chicken roasting in the oven.

The problem was, I knew for a fact that we’d already gone through all the meat in our freezer. It was as I feared: when I looked on the porch, I found only two of the original three hens. In the basement, I also found that all the jumping had caused two of the newly laid pipes to burst. The pipe-laying geese were going at it beak-to-beak as the basement flooded. The rest of the birds had lined up two by two and were climbing into a large Rubbermaid storage container.

I knew Denise had the name of a good plumber, but she was busy berating the maids for the mess they had made in the kitchen, and I knew better than to interrupt. I stepped outside, remembering that a van from Joe’s Plumbing had been parked across the street for the past two days. Surely, they’d welcome some extra business.

As soon as I neared the van, however, it pulled its satellite dishes back inside and tore off down the road, leaving the smell of burning rubber in its wake. Guess we’ll be waiting for Denise’s guy, after all. Hope he doesn’t take too long. The water level’s currently at ten inches.

1 That’s one of the other lords: Lord Willy-Nilly.
2 Also, at no time has one of the maids tried sliding up the banister.
3 Walls, lords, maids, birds, furniture, large hadrons...
4 Oh yeah, and the pole dancer got into fisticuffs with one of the swans. (She lost.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day Nine

It takes two to tango. And indeed, there are currently a pair of ladies tangoing across my living room. Another two are waltzing their way through the kitchen. There are nine dancers in total, all wearing dresses of the Victorian style, with the five I haven’t mentioned focusing on ballet-, belly-, break-, tap-, and pole-dancing, respectively.1 What I find most impressive, though, is that they’re all doing this to the same exact music. Currently, we’re listening to Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

My favorites are the two pairs of ladies cycling through the traditional ballroom and swing dances. Every once in a while, they’ll even let me cut in to see if I remember what I learned in a ballroom dance class eight years ago.2 The breakdancer spends the majority of her time on the floor, so she’s Sonya’s favorite, and has been tackled by the dog three times (and counting). The rest aren’t all that exciting, though I will say that belly-dancing looks especially weird when set to non-belly-dancing music and done wearing a frilly turquoise ball gown.

Yeah, I don’t know what she’s doing, either.

Nevertheless, with nine women spinning and swinging through the house, we had to roll up all the tarps, push all the furniture to the walls, and shift anything even slightly valuable to one of the upstairs rooms. And when I say we, I mean: me and Denise. The eight maids — and the three hens dressed as maids — did nothing but sit back and watch us clean everything up.

The maids, though they’re a complete waste of space and keep getting in the way of the dancers, aren’t costing me much as expected, since each one is still nursing the same drink she had yesterday. Everyone else, however, is slowly milking me of my savings. I now have to feed nineteen birds (including those uppity, brie-eating hens) and nineteen people (including the uppity, brie-eating ballet dancer), to say nothing of the dog (and the cat). I have to pay an exorbitant noise ordinance fine, and what I’m sure will be exorbitant cell phone and electric bills. And of course I’ll have to hire a plumber and a couple other specialists to undo everything the geese are doing in the basement.

I’ve been looking for ways to offset some of these costs. I haven’t yet heard back from Michael Phelps’ people about the swan race, but the Verizon people did leave me a message about the parrot. So far, they’re low-balling me with their offer, but I’ll wait them out. I’m also in talks with HGTV to get the geese their own home “improvement” show.

Ooh, sorry, I have to go: the upstairs bathroom is free. It’s not that I actually have to go, but with eighteen women in the house, it could be six hours before I get another chance, and—uh oh, the tap dancer’s coming up the stairs... gotta run!

1 That last one even brought her own pole.
2 Nope.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day Eight

When I looked out at the pool this morning, I only saw five swans. Since I was about to let Sonya out, I stepped outside to make sure the other two swans weren’t wandering around the yard where she could get at them. They weren’t. I found them at the bottom of the pool, sleeping with the fishes.1

It was clearly meant to be a warning. I ran to the garage and transferred the parrot mafioso to a warmer, quieter spot in the basement. I brought the other two parrots down there as well, though that was more for our sake than the parrots’. As of now, the garage is the only quiet spot in the house.

When I got back upstairs, Sonya was barking frantically out the front window. Dreading the worst,2 I opened the door to find eight maids standing on our doorstep. I sighed in relief: Maids were exactly what we needed.

Birds are not clean creatures. Well, the doves haven’t been too bad, but that’s only because they’ve kept everything inside their shells. All the others drop feathers and excrement everywhere they go. We’ve had to lay down tarps in every room to protect the carpet and the furniture. But it seemed our problems were solved: finally, we had professional help.

I stepped aside to let the maids into the house. Without delay, they made a beeline for the kitchen, where I heard them opening cupboards and filling up containers with water. The next thing I knew, they were all standing around drinking. Some had mugs of coffee, others had tea, and a couple grabbed some beers from the fridge. Not one held a cleaning implement of any kind.

I was somewhat perplexed, but didn’t know how long they’d been on the road without anything to drink. I figured I’d go buy some groceries to feed our unexpected guests, and by the time I got back they’d be underway. Alas, no. I returned an hour later to find the maids in pretty much the same spots as before. When I asked about this, they said that they were on a break; they’d get to work once they’d finished their drinks.

This irked me, but I was soon distracted by two investigators who came by asking about David Cassidy's final days. I told them the whole story about the pear tree and the hunger strike and all the birds, and then they had me show them around the house. And can you believe it? When they were in the basement, all three parrots shut up. Didn’t say a word. I asked — nay, begged — the investigators to stay, but they made up some story about going to watch an outdoor hockey game and drove off.

After they left, I found the maids still lazing about, and again asked when they were going to start cleaning. Again, they told me it would be after they finished their drinks.

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I don’t think they’re ever going to get to work. They’ve been milking those things for hours.

1 That’s right: along with offing the two swans, someone had also added fish to the swimming pool, presumably just to make that figure of speech accurate.
2 An octet of angry ostriches.