The “No Wizards” Rule

“Let me guess,” Greg said, looking at the petite blonde girl who had just walked into his shop, “a butterfly on your lower back. Am I right?” He was tall, in his early thirties, slightly paunchy but with some muscle left over from his college football days. Like most tattoo shop owners, he was heavily illustrated. From the neck down, he was covered in intricate black and gray artwork, much of it drawn by his own hand.

“I told her you were a nice guy,” Ricky said. “Don’t make me a liar.” Ricky was Greg’s apprentice, and about ten years his junior. Greg’s tattoos were subdued and elegant, like poetry, but Ricky’s work was flamboyant and garish, like poetry shouted through a bullhorn. Ricky’s hair was just as showy, dyed neon colors and moussed into spikes, like electrocuted cotton candy.

Rachel let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “No butterflies,” she said. “And no dolphins or roses or other girly shit like that. I want a tree down my left side… I brought a photo… It was outside my window while I was growing up. Whenever my parents grounded me, which was a lot, I would just climb down the branches and go wherever I wanted. That tree was my freedom, you know?”

“Oh, you’re the tree girl!” Greg said, slapping his forehead. “I remember now. Yeah, Ricky emailed me your photo. I’ve been looking forward to doing this one. I worked up a design I think you’ll like.”

Rachel followed him across the shop to his large, black chair. Chewing her lip, she looked at the tray of needles and inks as if they could jump up and bite her. Gary put his hand on her shoulder and gently guided her into the chair. “It’s a, um, nice place you’ve got here,” she said.

“Thanks! We just redid the floors. Twice.” He stepped over to a metal shelf on the wall and produced a large piece of paper. It was a black illustration of a maple tree with long, thick limbs that twisted like snakes. “It might be hard to imagine from the stencil, but I’ll fill in the leaves with reds and oranges. When I’m done, it will look like fireworks. …If you aren’t sure about this, I can airbrush a temporary tattoo, and you can try it out for a few days.”

“No, no, I’m sure. That sounds wonderful. …Thank you.”

He cleaned her side with rubbing alcohol. As he poured the inks into a tray, she glanced at the artwork covering the walls. In between sample tattoos and photos of happy customers, there was a large, metal sign in a black frame.

SHOP RULES:

  • No drunks.
  • No racists.
  • No barbed wire armbands or tribal anything.
  • No boyfriend/girlfriend names.
  • No face or hand tattoos.
  • NO WIZARDS!

The last rule had been added with marker in a large, angry scrawl. “I’m almost afraid to ask,” Rachel said. “Do you get a lot of fantasy geeks in here or something? Get sick of drawing Gandalf and Dumbledore?”

Greg shook his head and picked up the tattoo gun. “No, I’ll do a fantasy tattoo, if you want one. I just had to ban wizards…”


Last week, I had Ricky sand and stain the floors. Most people didn’t want to deal with the fresh stain smell, so business was a bit slow. I didn’t need his help with the shop, so I sent him outside to wash some rust stains off the parking lot.

I was wiping the dust off the counters when this old man walked in. He looked a bit like Charles Darwin – bald on top, with a fringe of gray hair, and a scraggly, white beard. He was wearing a long, black cloak, like something out of the middle ages, and a necklace with a huge, blue crystal wrapped in silver claws. Totally not the type we usually see around here.

I was just about to ask Darwin what he wanted when another customer pushed past him, practically knocking him over. Tall guy, three-piece suit, blonde hair slicked back like a TV preacher or used car salesman. Blonde guy shoved a wad of cash at me and said, “I was here first.”

I said to Darwin, “Have a seat and I’ll be right with you.” I hated being rude to the old man, but I had rent to pay, you know? He looked pretty angry, but he didn’t complain. He just sat down and rubbed the crystal on his necklace, muttering something under his breath.

I took the blonde guy back to my chair and introduced myself. He said his name was Wallace. When I asked what he wanted, he gave me a piece of paper with some foreign writing on it. “Another person trying to be different by getting a tattoo in a foreign language,” I thought. “Looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. Probably his girlfriend’s name in dwarf or something.”

I had to go back up front for more stencil transfer paper. Darwin was still mumbling into his necklace. As he rubbed the crystal, it seemed to shine with an inner glow. Probably a trick of the light. I said, “I’ll be with you in a few minutes,” but he just kept mumbling.

I went back to my chair and showed Wallace the transfer. He said, “Yes, that’s perfect. It has to go on my chest, right across the center of my heart.”

“Are you sure everything is correct?” I asked. “I heard this story about a girl who got these Chinese characters tattooed on her back. She thought they said ‘prayer’, ‘purity’, and ‘water’, but they actually said ‘please clean the restroom’…”

Wallace sneered and unbuttoned his shirt. “Yes, it’s exactly like the book.”

“I knew it!” I thought. His chest was already shaved, so the only prep work I had to do was cleaning the area and applying the transfer. I was about halfway through the letters when he started griping about the pain and asking for a break.

I walked back up front. Darwin was still rubbing his necklace, but now he was staring out the window. There were dark clouds on the horizon. A storm was rolling in. “Only a little while longer now,” he said to himself. “Only a little while longer.” Something about his voice made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I decided to get back to work before he saw me standing there. Wallace’s break had been long enough.

I finished the last letter on his tat and wiped away the blood. Before I could bandage it up, something odd happened. The letters were glowing. A sickly, yellow light shone from under his skin.

“Must be something wrong with your ink,” he said.

“Ink can’t do that,” I said. “But I think I know who did.” Now, I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe in anything. But what other explanation could there have been? I ran up front and found the old man still sitting, still muttering into his necklace.

“What the hell did you do?” I snapped.

Darwin jumped out of his chair. “Me? All I’ve been doing is sitting here! I’ve been waiting for you to come back so I could ask you for directions! I was looking for the fair grounds. I wanted to go to the Renaissance fair, but now it looks like it’ll start storming soon. Just a little while longer.” Looking over my shoulder, his eyes grew wide. “But we’ve got a bigger problem than a storm.”

Before I could turn, something like a cinder block slammed into my back. I crashed to the floor, the wind knocked out of me. When I managed to roll over, I saw my attacker. Somehow, Wallace’s skin had turned as gray as a granite statue. He had also grown to be about eight feet tall. The strange glow had spread across his whole body, but was brightest at the marks on his bare chest.

“My god,” the old man gasped. “He’s a golem!”

“A what?”

“A golem… They’re supposed to be stone or clay figures brought to life with magic, but he’s done the reverse! How is this possible?”

Wallace smiled darkly. “He was foolish enough to mark me with runes he didn’t understand,” he said. “And now, to keep my spell a secret, he must die!” Leaping forward, he threw a punch at my head. I barely managed to roll out of the way. His fist slammed into the floor like a brick into a windshield.

Just then, Ricky burst through the door. “What’s going on? What the hell is that thing?”

“Go to my truck!” I yelled. “Get something to remove engraving!” But Ricky just stood there, his head bouncing back and forth from the stone man to the hole in the floor. “Now!” Finally, he ran back outside.

Darwin grabbed a chair and hurled it at Wallace’s head. It clattered to the floor harmlessly, but it was still enough to make him mad. He climbed off of me and launched himself at the old man. I struggled to my feet and stumbled over to the counter. Fortunately, Ricky never bothers to put away my tools. The belt sander was still sitting behind the counter.

I grabbed the sander, but kept my arm behind my back. “Why don’t you come get the cash register, statue man?” I called out. “Your old clothes won’t really fit anymore, so you’ll need money for new pants. And a rock polisher. Maybe an umbrella to keep the bird shit off of you.” But he ignored my taunts. He raised his fists over his head, ready to crush the old man.

I switched on the belt sander and ran at him. I leaped at his waist in a football tackle. He was too heavy to knock to the ground, but I managed to push him away from Darwin. I held the sander on his chest. He didn’t make a sound. Whatever had turned him to stone had also made him immune to pain.

He yanked the sander from my hands and swatted me away like a fly. With a laugh, he crushed the sander into a ball. Grabbing the power cord, he swung the ball of metal over his head like a mace, sending it crashing down into Darwin’s skull. The old man collapsed in a heap.

“No!” It was Ricky. He ran into the room, a plastic bucket in his arms. He heaved the bucket at Wallace, showering him in hydrochloric acid. “Melt, you fucker!”

But nothing happened. That concentration wouldn’t dissolve stone, which is why I had given it to him to clean up the rust stains in the parking lot. “Oh Ricky, you idiot!” Wallace grabbed the couch and flung it across the room, slamming Ricky into the wall. I bolted to my chair, and the stone man chased after me.

I reached for the tattoo gun, which was still loaded with black ink. Laughing, Wallace spread his arms wide. “Is that your plan?” he said. “Really? You’re going to try to tattoo stone? Go right ahead!”

I shook my head. “No, I just wanted to get you close enough for me to do this.” With my other hand, I reached for the air brush, and covered his chest in black. It was only paint, but it was enough to blot out his tattoo.

Wallace stumbled back, clutching his heart. He tried to rub away the black, but it was too late. The glow faded, and the color returned to his skin. He shrunk to his former size, and his skin returned to flesh. Flesh that could be burned by acid.

He howled in agony, driven mad with pain. Using my chair like a battering ram, I knocked him to the ground. His head slammed against the floor. He was out cold.

Grabbing some work gloves, I pulled him to the sink and did my best to wash off the acid and paint, and then called the cops. While I waited for them to arrive, I did my fastest cover-up job ever. Instead of runes, his chest was now covered in the logo of the local police union. The cops would be pissed when they found out he wasn’t one of them, and if he thought about getting a new magic tattoo in prison, he would be too scared to bare his chest.

When the cops finally showed up, the old man’s body was gone. There wasn’t a drop of his blood, not a sign he had ever been there. He had just simply disappeared.


Greg put the finishing touches on Rachel’s maple tree, and gently bandaged her side. “Hey Ricky,” she called, “Greg says you almost got killed by a wizard!” She laughed in spite of the pain. “It was a great story. You should have heard it.”

Ricky walked back to the chair. “Yeah, he’s good at telling crazy stories.”

“He really is. I hardly even noticed the needle!”

Ricky walked Rachel back up front and took her payment, then saw her to the door. A moment later, the phone rang. “Greg, it’s Bigfoot. He wants you to touch up his back piece.”

“Oh, hell no. I’m not shaving that hairy bastard again.”

The First Chain Mail

Thou hast been sent the Accursed Chain Mail! Thou must wear this armor in one battle, and one battle only, after which thou must forward this chain mail to other valiant warriors!

If thou art wondering if the curse is true, I say yea verily!

  • A Persian refused to forward the chain mail, and had his head removed with a battle axe.
  • A Roman who did not forward the chain mail had it ripped from him by the claws of a dragon.
  • A Norman was also foolhardy enough to ignore my warnings, and was cursed with the “French disease”. His masculine parts hence rotted like a barrel of oranges after a long ocean voyage.

To forward this chain mail, thou must have the local blacksmith make five copies, which then thou must give to a page or errand boy to carry to five villages beyond the horizon. If thou dost not complete this task, thou shalt be cursed with the pox! A pox upon thee, I say!

So someone took a book from me…

So someone took a book from me. This wasn’t like the time I fell asleep on the bus and someone swiped my copy of “Hitchhiker’s Guide”, oh no. This was much, much worse.

Every once in a while, I Google the titles of my stories, just to see if anyone is talking about my work. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t.) I was doing this the other day, and I decided to search for the name of a creepy poem I wrote, “Holding Back The Dark”. I found out someone had plagiarized it.

Now, people have plagiarized my work before. I’ve even had students in writing classes ask me if they submit my stories for their homework assignments. (No, you can’t.) If the plagiarist is posting to a site they don’t own, like a Tumblr, it’s usually pretty easy to get my work removed. But this guy went a bit farther than just signing his name to something I wrote. He took a whole stack of my stories, put them together in a novel-length book, and started selling it.

This book was on Amazon. It was on Smashwords. Like herpes at Burning Man, it was all over the place. I started sending out emails asking for it to be taken down, with links to the original on my site. I don’t date the posts on my website, mostly because that would make it obvious how lazy I am about posting updates, but there are comments on “Holding Back The Dark” and other stories with dates more than a year earlier than the stolen book was published.

Smashwords responded the quickest. They took the book down, but only “notified the account owner that further violations will result in account closure”. I guess stealing a year’s work from me isn’t enough to get him banned.

Amazon responded a couple days later. They took down the Kindle version of the book. As of this writing, the paperback version is still there, but listed as “out of print”. The “author” hasn’t been removed from the website. He even has another book listed. Fortunately, not one I wrote.

As I was searching for places online where the book might be available, I found the most shocking thing of all. Not only did he steal all those stories from me, he tried to get Wikipedia to list him as the real author of my work! Thankfully, neither I nor my imitators are famous enough to have our own Wikipedia pages. (I’m so unknown, even some of my best friends don’t know my name.) The article was quickly deleted. Looks like I won’t be getting a copyright infringement notice from him.

So, any other authors reading this, keep an eye on your work. Google your story titles, and unique phrases in your stories. This can happen to you, too. If you don’t catch the plagiarists quickly, people might decide that you’re the thief.

If you do happen to find unauthorized copies of your work posted online, you can send an official DMCA takedown notice to the owner of the website, but I didn’t need to go that far. All I did was send simple, polite emails explaining the situation, with links to proof that I was the real author.

Ask for any copy of your work to be taken down, even if the plagiarist is just some kid with a blog. If they get caught stealing your words now, they might not steal someone else’s livelihood later.

“A Few Of My Favorite Tweets” illustrates one of my jokes

The Tumblr “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Tweets” illustrated one of my jokes! Neat!

My Google search history

“How to get away with murder”

“I mean the TV show. I don’t actually want to kill anybody.”

“Except maybe my boss jk”

“Please don’t arrest me”

“Oh god oh god oh god”

“How to make a prison shank”

Sudo Shutdown Everything

“So, what did you do this weekend?” Frank asked, unwrapping a blueberry muffin.

“I destroyed the universe,” Johnathan said. He pulled off his leather jacket and tossed it over the back of the chair.

Frank checked the coffee shop window – the parking lot, trees, and sky were all there as usual. “Well, I’m sorry to say, but you seem to have done a mighty poor job of it. If I was a super villain and hired someone to destroy the universe, and this was the quality of work they did, I would demand my money back.”

Johnathan sighed. “I should probably start at the beginning.” He tore open half a dozen sugar packets and dumped them all into his espresso, his third that morning.

“Sure, let’s hear it.” Read more…

Searching The Internet For Writing Jobs

I want to be a writer! I’m going to search this job board for “writing”.

Search Results:

  • Insurance office needs someone with 10 years experience writing sales reports
  • Web developer needed – Must have experience writing HTML, PHP, CSS, BBQ
  • Office intern needed – Must enjoy writing lunch orders!

Well, crap. Maybe I’ll search for “writing articles”?

Search Results:

  • Make upwards of $2.00 a day writing articles for Sweatshop Magazine!
  • Help our SEO team with writing articles about popular search terms! Huge income potential because we share our ad revenue with you! If your article gets eleven billion hits, you get $2.00!
  • Earn big money writing articles! Conjunctions! Prepositions! You’ll use all the parts of speech working at our insurance office writing sales reports!

Crap! That doesn’t work, either. Maybe I’ll search for “creative writing”.

Search Results:

  • Like creative writing? Then you’ll LOVE working at our insurance office writing sales reports!

Craaaaap.

Color All Your Days

T

he UFO extruded a long, mechanical arm and yanked a confused cow from the field below. On board the spaceship, a green-skinned man in an apron lit a charcoal grill, his antennas waving excitedly.

Sighing, Greg turned his sketchpad around so his customer could see the drawing. “Something like this?”

The man laughed. “That’s great, bro! But make my apron say something funny.”

“Fine, whatever.” Greg wrote “Something Funny” on the apron and handed the man the caricature. “That’ll be twenty dollars. And if you’re interested, I also have some actual art for sale.” He gestured to a large, wooden screen covered with watercolor portraits and nature scenes.

“Nah, bro.” The man folded the caricature in quarters and shoved it in his jacket pocket.

“Somehow, I didn’t think so.” As the man walked away, Greg stood up, stretched his legs, and wiped the dust off his paintings. “I might not be selling any art, but on the plus side, I haven’t had to buy paint for over a year.”

The beach had been chilly and windy all morning. The boardwalk was mostly empty, but he had managed to make just enough money to cover gas and lunch. On warmer days, the area attracted hundreds of beach goers and tourists, but even then, they weren’t exactly in the market for fine art.

His section of boardwalk was between a retired couple who made turquoise jewelry and a homeless surfer who sold seashells. Of course, the beach was covered in thousands of seashells, but these were special. They had plastic googly eyes glued to them. On the other side of the boardwalk, about twenty feet away, stood a long row of candy machines, soda machines, souvenir penny makers, and other mechanical money-wasters.

Two women walked quickly up the boardwalk, high heels clacking on the wooden planks. The first looked to be in her early forties. She was wearing a waitress’s uniform and a dingy sweater missing most of its buttons. Her friend was ten or fifteen years her junior. She had on tights under her dress and a scarf around her shoulders, but was still shivering in the cold.

“What’s that?” the waitress asked, pointing at a glass booth. It looked something like a cross between a ticket counter and a vending machine. Inside the booth stood a mannequin dressed like a gypsy woman in an old horror movie. The mannequin was staring down at a large crystal ball surrounded by tarot carts. Its lips were parted slightly, as if it were just about to speak. Read more…

Good sex is like good BBQ…

  • Don’t rush it. The longer you spend preparing, the better it will be.
  • It’s better with some big, hot buns.
  • Keep some paper towels handy, in case it gets all over your face.
  • Rub your meat with olive oil. And cayenne pepper.
  • Try it with corn on the cob!

Butch

T

here is a strange light outside, hovering over the woods behind the back fence. Through the gap in the boards, I watch as it darts back and forth like a huge humming bird. I want to alert Food Giver, but barking is not permitted. Thankfully, he steps outside. I must be quiet, but now I can show him!

“Butch, walkies!” Food Giver says. I love walkies! He attaches the leash to my collar and opens the gate. I stop and point up at the light over the woods. “No dawdling,” Food Giver says, smacking my paw. “We can practice shaking later. It’s walkies now.” I try to point again, but Food Giver tugs on the leash, and I must follow. Read more…