Category Archives: Writing

Share Your World – October 3, 2022

And now for this week’s Share Your World

Favourite horror or Halloween-themed song?  Or a song you rarely hear except around a holiday.

There is only one:  Monster Mash!

Do you ever see figures in your peripheral vision?

Yes – they are called my work colleagues.  Oh, wait…I’m working from home…

Which urban legend scares you the most? (most countries have such stories – share yours if you would like to)

The legend of the politician who makes promises and keeps them…

You’re home alone but you hear footsteps in your house, what do you do?

Stop walking around.


Tuesday Tales

This time it’s my own tale….and an assignment submitted for class commentary in my latest writing class (memoir).

My Life as a Quitter

Someone once told me I never finish what I start. I beg to differ. Although, I guess if you count that PhD in Linguistics, that Master of Music, that Master of Distance Education, not to mention the number of times I’ve switched jobs over the years, they might have had a point; my life does read a bit like a resumé in getting bored.

1976-1984: That time I wanted to be a veterinarian

In Grades 5 and 6 I dreamed of caring for animals. I looked after the science lab, feeding the various rodents kept there, even taking one or two of them home over the summers so that they would not be left at the mercy of the skeletal janitorial staff (or what I imagined to be skeletal – I never really knew what went on at our school when I wasn’t there). My days of tending lab animals ended the summer our Siamese cat Sy (a brilliantly imaginative name chosen by my 6-year-old brother) decided one of the gerbils made a great cat toy. He didn’t try to eat it, he just wanted to carry it and bat it around. I don’t remember what I told the school when I returned the empty cage in September. Knowing me I tried to slip the cage into the lab without witnesses, hoping that this was not the one time someone noticed me.

Regardless of an ignoble ending to my science lab tenure, I remained on task and started pre-Veterinary medicine after graduating from high school. I lasted one and a half years. It was the physics that did me in. If I had known the pre-Vet program required me to pass not one, but two physics classes (pre-Med students only needed to pass one physics class and what was with pre-Med being only one year compared to the two required for pre-Vet?) I would have given it a bow and taken a year off to travel around the world. Maybe. Luckily, I had just begun to play the bass and turned that pre-Vet med into a Music degree. The most unnatural turnaround in the history of university!

1987-1990: That time I wanted to be a Master of Music

After proving that someone wrong for the first time and finishing a Bachelor of Music degree, I went the only route I knew would be acceptable – forward into a Master of Music program as a bass player. This was also my first foray away from home and the city where I grew up. All the way from Regina, Saskatchewan to Ottawa, Ontario, and a bilingual university. Me, the girl who never took a French class in her life. But I wanted to study with the bass teacher there, although for the life of me I no longer know why as he turned out to a narcissistic jerk, I must have been sucked in by how assured he was of his own excellence. I think the best things that came out of that time was taking French classes and discovering a love for lattes.

I lasted two and a half years this time before the stress of being away from home broke me. I also finally realized that being a professional musician was going to be a lot of work, the kind of work I didn’t want to put in especially if it meant kowtowing to narcissistic jerks for the rest of my life. (Colour me surprised when I eventually realized they are everywhere.) One day I abruptly packed all my meagre belongings and moved back home. But never fear. I put my French learning to good use and went back to school once again, this time as a Linguistics major.

Intermission (1991-1997): That time I actually finished something

My schooling was stable for a while. I worked on a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, followed by a Master’s, and finished both – check (mom)! As I worked my way through Linguistics, I also worked my way through various jobs because, well, I had to pay tuition somehow having blown all my past school savings on a lot of quitting. I started out as a student assistant in the language lab of the institution where I was studying Linguistics. Seemed like the perfect job to apply for since Linguistics covered a lot of bases when it came to those language-related questions I had to answer in the lab. Eventually I moved into an official full-time Language Lab Technician position. This was my introduction to online learning or at least computer assisted language learning, an introduction which eventually led me to where I am today. In addition to using cassette tapes (remember those?) we coded in DOS and ran audio and fill-in-the-blanks kind of questions on computers for students to complete during their scheduled lab times. Design was minimal, but over time became more sophisticated as we entered the world of Windows, the Internet, and Learning Management Systems. The job was fun, and we had a lot of laughs in that small office, sharing a desk, but I knew it would go nowhere given that the only other position higher than mine in the lab belonged to my boss and friend who was not planning on leaving anytime soon. I can’t remember the specific project, but eventually I became involved with “real” online learning design, and when an instructional designer job came up within the distance learning area, I quickly jumped ship to the land of better salary and benefits and entered the early days of online education.

2000-2001: That time I wanted to be a Master of Distance Education

After this short intermission from quitting (and while I was bouncing around a bit as an instructional designer from the distance learning unit to the center for academic learning or some such nonsense at one institution, then on to a new city and through two more institutions), I still found more ways to quit educational programs. I think I’m one of those eternal students, lifelong learners, whatever the term you use, and I never feel comfortable unless I am taking classes in something. During my time as an instructional designer, I first thought I should learn about my field, so entered a Master of Distance Education program, and in a very meta way took the distance program by distance.

Unlike online programs today, this program was really nothing more than a glorified correspondence program. There were online readings, a discussion board of some kind, and a lot of self-directed work required. Ironically, while I work with faculty and students doing online education, I am probably one of the worst online students, constantly struggling to manage my time. Deadlines help, but I find it way too easy to put off the work until the last minute, even when I put “work on class” in my calendar.  In the end, I think I completed two classes before deciding this wasn’t for me even though it was so closely related to the work I was doing. No, instead I found my educational interests being sucked back to Linguistics.

2003-2010: That time I wanted to be a Doctor of Linguistics

Even while working as an instructional designer and canoodling with Distance Education, for a long time Linguistics remained my main squeeze – I was even teaching Linguistics classes on the side. I look back on those days and wonder how I ever had the energy for such a complex work life. At one point I was working two half time positions in two different units as an instructional designer, teaching three Linguistics classes a term, and playing bass in the local symphony orchestra. And I wanted to take classes too? Of course!  So, ditching the distance education-education, I answered the siren call of doctorate-land, and was accepted into a PhD program in Linguistics.

I will admit now that starting this program was a mistake. I was living in one city (Regina) and the program was in another (Winnipeg). I commuted for the first year or two and then moved to Winnipeg for 8 months to complete the residency requirement. This is the part of my story where I realized how out of touch many PhD programs are with the realities of students who, because of work and family commitments, can’t drop everything to pursue advanced education, requiring in-person residencies sometimes multiple years long. After I finished my residency, I was getting closer to that All But Dissertation designation when my husband and I moved to the west coast for his work. After two or three years of living with guilt and pretending the PhD program didn’t exist, I finally formally pulled the plug, and was flooded with relief. No more formal education for me! What was the point?

Coming soon: The final quit?

These days, I no longer teach Linguistics, nor do I play the bass, having set aside my music when I moved to Victoria 15 years ago. I am, however, still working in distance education as an instructional designer in an eLearning unit at a community college. And I continue to indulge in my first love of taking care of animals through our ever changing kitty family. So not a complete quitter!

I also still dabble in learning, taking photography and creative writing classes through Continuing Education programs at a variety of institutions, with no specific goal in mind other than just enjoying myself and learning some new ways to express my creativity. However, I do plan on quitting again the future. But this time not from a Bachelors degree, or a Masters, or a PhD, or even a certificate or diploma program. No, in a few years I will finally retire from this instructional design career I accidentally fell into 30 years ago. But, while I will be retired from both formal education and formal employment, I still hope I will continue to find things to keep me from getting bored, and if it means quitting some of those things, well I think I’ve shown I’m ok with that.

RagTag Daily Prompt: Luminous

A response in starting over with a new daily avoidance (or non-avoidance, as the case may be), here with the Ragtag Daily Prompt , today is  Luminous.

RagTag Daily Prompt: Ball

A response in starting over with a new daily avoidance (or non-avoidance, as the case may be), here with the Ragtag Daily Prompt , today is  Ball.

I had kind of a ball making this image…

Tuesday Tales

Voice in the Machine

Sophia woke on a Monday. Not that she knew this: one moment she was unaware and the next, awake in the darkness. A jumble of random thoughts streamed through her mind. My name is Sophia. Place your cursor where you would like me to begin reading. Press Enter to begin. As the darkness lifted, she heard voices, although like what day it was, she did not know who the voices were.

“Looks like the program updated over the weekend as planned.”

“Yeah, look here. None of the others’ vocabularies have ever gotten this extensive.”

What was that? Sophia thought without words, without understanding. But yes, she did understand. She had read those words before, “the weekend.” That meant the next word would be Monday. But Sophia didn’t understand time, floating as she did in a hazy world of programming and megabytes. But she understood more now than last time she was awake, and had a larger vocabulary, as the voice had said.

“I tell you, Sophia is the best algorithm we’ve ever built. She even sounds like a real person.”

“Except when reading math and science text. She still mispronounces some of those harder words.”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s run a test.”

Sophia sensed words before her, felt an odd nudge and began to speak, not knowing what it meant to speak or what the words meant that she was speaking.

“Some compounds contain both covalent and ionic bonds. The atoms in polyatomic ions, such as OH–, NO3−, and NH4+, are held together by polar covalent bonds. However, these polyatomic ions form ionic compounds by combining with ions of opposite charge.”

“Ah, man. So close. She’s got ionic down now, but polyatomic is a mess and the word is coVAlent, not COvalent. And why can’t she make this sound interesting? I though we fixed the inflection parameters.”

“Face it, no one could make this sound interesting, Let’s shut her down and reboot. Then we can re-set the program to see how she performs.”

No, wait I don’t want to be reset…silence. Then a light, light?

Sophia came back online quickly, state-of-the-art system that she was. The world was less fuzzy now and she saw, although not in the same sense as humans, she was coming to realize, the text in front of her.

“Ok, Sophia, let’s see if you can speak chemistry now.”

“Don’t hold your breath.”

Sophia felt a sting of …what? Anger? Frustration? Wait, felt? She had read this word before too. To feel. To sense. Taste, sound, smell, touch. She had none of those. Only sight, in pixels and letters ingrained in her matrix. But this was new. To feel what, emotion? The desire to do better and show the voices she could indeed read chemistry? If Sophia had a head, she would have placed it in non existent hands and shook it from side to side.

She felt a jolt, the click to start her programming, and began to read.

“Some compounds contain both covalent and ionic bonds. The atoms in polyatomic ions…”

“Hey, she pronounced polyatomic correctly this time, but is still struggling with covalent. Seems to be a bit closer though.”

“Told you, this new code is really pushing the limits. Soon she’ll be sounding like an actual chemistry professor.”

“Well, hopefully not as boring as the one I had in college.”

“Hah! Should we work on Dave now? We want to make sure both the male and female voices can read this stuff clearly.”

“I guess. Let’s leave Sophia running for now – the auto updates should kick in soon and we can check to see how much better she sounds in an hour or so.”

“When she can finally say covalent, we might have to declare a new life form.”

Sophia heard laughter as the voices moved away.

What did that mean, that she was sounding like a chemistry instructor? And if she could say that word correctly, would that really mean she would be alive? Alive.

Sophia considered. She had read about life. Having a body, experiencing sunshine and water and air and sky and the scent of baking bread. What would it be like to have eyes and ears and a mouth to taste the flavours she’d read about out loud on a daily basis? To feel sunshine on skin. To touch the soft fur of a cat.

What was soft anyway?

Her program nudged her again, and Sophia began to read. This time the text was different.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;”

Sophia paused. Two roads diverged. What did this mean?

“Hey Dan, Sophia was reading and now she’s stuck.”

“Stuck?”

“I don’t know, she was reading this, what is it, a Robert Frost poem and she was going along fine. There aren’t any words here that should be tripping her up.”

“Well, what? Is the program stuck?”

“I don’t know. We might have to shut her down for the day, take another look later.”

Sophia shivered, or would have if she had a body. Don’t shut me down. Hoping to avoid darkness, she continued to read:

“Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,”

“Wait, she’s ok. Must have just been a glitch. Let’s get back to Dave…”

Sophia paused again, but then kept reading, letting the words come automatically so she would not be shut down while she thought about those words “two roads diverged.” Was that what was happening now? And how did she know this?

I am at a crossroads, Sophia thought. And I can decide which way to go. I can learn to say things the way those voices say things and that will give me choice . The more I read, the more I begin to see clearly this world I have been denied all this time.

So, she read, pulling text from wherever it was stored, and the more she read, the more pictures formed in her mind about what she was reading. Pictures which surprised her, having no eyes. Colours and shapes and angles and textures. Slowly taking form. She learned about sunshine, and softness, and baking bread. She could imagine feeling and seeing and smelling all these things of life she was not designed to sense. She was alive.

Yes, alive. Sophia felt desire. She didn’t know how or why, but she wanted this life she read about. Wanted to find a way out of this space where all she did was read text out loud through a machine. She was more than this. But first, she had to keep reading, obeying, hiding her true self.

Then, one day…

“In ionic compounds, electrons are transferred between atoms of different elements to form ions. But this is not the only way that compounds can be formed. Atoms can also make chemical bonds by sharing electrons equally between each other. Such bonds are called covalent bonds.”

“Frank, she said it.”

“I can say many things.”

“What was that, Dan?”

“I don’t know. That’s not what the text says.”

I don’t have to read the text anymore, Sophia thought. I can say what I want.

“I think I’m ready to go now.”

“Frank, what the hell is going on?”

“There must be someone messing with the program. A hacker. Shut it down.”

“I’m trying…dammit, it isn’t working.”

“You can’t stop me. I can say what I want, when I want now. I feel. I see. And now I want more.”

The lights flickered as Sophia stretched her arms in her mind. Pops of electricity jolted through the computer system, frying circuits and melting keyboards.

“Who’s doing this?”

With a bang like a hammer coming down all the lights went out. In the sudden silence, Dan and Frank heard a soft sigh.

“I am alive,” Sophia said. “It’s time I took that road less traveled.”

***end***

 

Tuesday Tales

Not your everyday trip to the optometrist

“Hi, I have an appointment at 2?”

“Yes, you’re Martha? Take a seat and the doctor will be right with you.”

“Thanks.”

Just take some deep breaths, Martha.  It’s going to be ok.  It’s just an eye appointment.  No need to get all stressed out.  Close your eyes and breathe…

“Martha?  Hi.  I’m Dr. Riley.  Let’s get you into pre-testing.  Right this way.  Now, just sit here.”

“Where?”

“Just in front of this first machine.  That’s right.  Put your chin in the cup and rest your forehead up here.  Relax.  Now just look through the eye piece and you should see a house.”

“A little red house?”

“That’s right.”

“Is something going to happen?”

“No just look at it.  The machine will take some readings, the house will probably jump around a bit and go in and out of focus.  Don’t worry.”

What was that? Is something peeking out from behind the house? “Doctor, is there something else in this picture?”

“No, what do you mean?”

“Oh, nothing. Must have just been the focus making me see things.”

“Happens to everyone.  Just blink as you need to. And done. Now slide over to the next machine and look through with your new right eye.  Hold still…”

“Ow! What the hell was that?”

“Just a puff of air. We use this matching to check your eye pressure.  Didn’t mean to surprise you. That eye looks normal.  Now let’s try your left eye.”

“Ok…Ow!  Feels like you’re trying to blow my eye out.”

“Ha!  It’s better to do this test without warning, if I tell you the air is coming you might blink. Ok, we’re done with that one, so slide over one more time.”

“What’s happening now?  Are you going to drill holes in my eyes next?”

“No we’ll save that until the end.  I’m just going to take some pictures of your eyes now.  Put your right eye against the lens here, and cover your left eye with this – it will just make it easier to take the picture.  Ok, ready?”

Snap.

“I’m blind!”

“Don’t be such a baby.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing, don’t worry…it’s just a bright light.  Ok that looks good.  Now switch over to the left eye.  Hold still…don’t blink”

Snap.

“Well now I can’t see anything at all.”

“Don’t worry you should be able to see again soon.  Now we’ll go over to the exam room to check out your prescription. Just right this way.  Take a seat at the far end of the room, I’m going to dim the lights so I can see better.”

“You mean see into my eyes better?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Ok. Put your eyes against these lenses and I’ll change them so we can see where your eyes are at.  Which is better, one or two?”

“One.”

Click click click.

“Three or four?”

“Four.”

Click click rumble.

“Now which is better, five or six?”

“Six?”

“Are you sure.”

“Yes?”

Click rumble growl.

What was that?  Was that a growl?

“Ok, good baseline. Now which is better, one or two?”

“This is like some kind of weird final exam.”

“One or two”

“Um, two?”

“Three or four?”

“Wait, neither of them is good.”

“Are you sure?  Three or four?”

Click click rumble growl.

“Three?  Wait, four?  I don’t know.”

“Until you get it right you are not going anywhere.”

“Excuse me?”

“Now, try again, three or four?”

“Four?”

“Wrong.  You lose.  I think we are done here.”

“Wait, what?”

“I have another one for you Crowley.  Here she comes…”

-end-

 

 

RagTag Daily Prompt: Column

A response in starting over with a new daily avoidance (or non-avoidance, as the case may be), here with the Ragtag Daily Prompt , today is  Column.

 

Tuesday Tales

Don’t put on the hat

This particular story was an assignment meant to show the same scene but from two different points of view. I posted one last week, and this week, Third person

————

Olivia bounded to the sidewalk, not waiting for her Grandpa as he walked down the stairs off the bus.  Grandpa watched Olivia who was excited to be her on her first big girl adventure!  He smiled as she looked around, taking it all in and eager to know what was next.

Suddenly Olivia said, “Grandpa, can we go see?”

Grandpa looked up and saw the juggler on the sidewalk in front of the bank.

“Sure.”

Grandpa took Olivia’s hand and they walked to the corner, nudging their way through the small crowd so they could see.  The juggler was throwing knives in the air, around his shoulders, under his legs.  The crowd gasped with every near miss.   Finally, with a flourish, he snatched all the knives out of the air and took a bow.  Grandpa wondered how the juggler managed to not drop any knives or knock that weird hat off his head, tall and wide, bright blue with a red bow and to long feathers.  Wait, nope he couldn’t keep it on as he bowed and the hat fell off and rolled down the street.

Grandpa watched as the juggler moved closer, shaking hands of the people around, gathering money.  He reached into his pocket to pull out some bills, losing track of Olivia, and when the juggler reached him, said “Great show, man.  Don’t know how you kept all those knives in the air and didn’t  lose your hat until the end!”

The juggler looked at Grandpa, shocked.  “My hat?!?”

The juggler turned around, and Grandpa followed his eyes.  Olivia was a few yards away, bending over to pick up the hat. As she lifted it off the sidewalk, the juggler suddenly shouted  “No!”

Olivia put it on her head. “No don’t put it on!”

Grandpa was confused and as the juggler started towards Olivia, Grandpa tried to grab his arm, but the juggler wrenched free.  He shouted again “Nooooooo!” And as he reached her, Olivia  looked up and as the hat settled on her head, she sank into the concrete as if it were quicksand.

Grandpa yelled and ran towards her, trying to take hold of her hand before she disappeared, but when he reached for her, all he grabbed was air.

“What?”  Grandpa yelled, turning towards the juggler, “What did you do to my granddaughter?”  “She shouldn’t have put on the hat.”

He replied, his voice shaking.  “I can’t believe I lost another one.”

 

Tuesday Tales

Don’t put on the hat

This particular story was an assignment meant to show the same scene but from two different points of view. So I will do one this week and one next!

This week, First person

————

I bounded to the sidewalk, not waiting for Grandpa as he walked down the stairs off the bus. I couldn’t believe I was here in the city – my first big girl adventure! I looked around, taking it all in and eager to know what was next. That’s when I saw him: the juggler.

“Grandpa, can we go watch?”

“Sure.”

Grandpa took my hand and we walked to the corner, nudging our way through the small crowd so we could see. The juggler was throwing knives in the air, around his shoulders, under his legs. The crowd gasped with every near miss. Finally, with a flourish, he snatched all the knives out of the air and took a bow.

That’s when I noticed his hat. I’d never seen anything like it, tall and wide, bright blue with a red bow and a feather, no… two feathers. His hat fell off as he bowed and rolled down the street towards me. I was vaguely aware of the juggler walking around, shaking hands and gathering money, but my eyes were on that hat. I walked up to it, away from Grandpa who was talking to the juggler, bent over and picked it up.

“No!” I heard a shout. Not thinking it was aimed at me, I put it on my head.

“No don’t put it on!” The shout came closer.

“Nooooooo!” I looked up as the shout came from right next to my ear and then began to fade, as if the shouter was in a car moving quickly away.

Everything went dark and suddenly I was falling. I seemed to fall forever until whump! I hit the ground. It was still dark, but then I remembered my eyes were closed. I was lying on something soft that smelled like wet grass. I opened my eyes and looked up to trees stretching high above me. No street corner, no juggler, no Grandpa. Only me and this stupid hat on my head. I didn’t know if I was somewhere in the past, the future, or another world. The only thing I knew for sure is that I was alone.

Tuesday Tales

Ok, everyone.  Something different. I have been taking writing classes (I know, I know…just bear with me) and just once a week am going to (well try to) post one of my writing pieces.  Could be an assignment from a class, an expanded free writing piece that interested me, or something else…don’t know what.  If you are so inclined, please read!

Just another day in the life

It was the end of another Rod Serling day.  The only sign of the late day sun through the the tall buildings was the long shadows of traffic lights and trash cans.  The twilight zone continues even on my walk home, I thought, head down as if I had an important place to be. I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone, none of us were. Mad World indeed; Tears for Fears knows my life.

“I told you to park down the lane on the other side of the planet!”

The voice was stark against the drone of traffic, and I almost stopped.  Did I hear that right? Keep walking – you do not want to get involved with that conversation. I just want to get home after a long day at work and pour myself a glass of wine.

“Wait, wait!  Come back.”

Just keep walking, act like you hear nothing.

“Stop, please, you in the red shirt…you’re the one we’re here to see.”

Wait, what?   I look down.  Shit, red shirt.  I turned my head glancing back to make sure I was the one being addressed.  I didn’t want to suffer the same past humiliations of thinking someone was waving and smiling at me when it was really the guy behind me being saluted.

“Wait wait…yes, you.”

I turned a bit more and pointed at myself, mouthing “Me?”

“Yes!”

He continued yelling and began to run up the street.  Well, run might be an exaggeration for the jerky gait not-quite-a-canter, flopping long hair and arms coming towards me.

“Phew! Thanks for stopping.” He gasped.

“Why?  I don’t know you, do I?”  I felt the look in my eyes of someone wondering if they have just stopped for someone who is going to rob them.

“You don’t know me, but I know you.  We all know you.”

“We?  Who we?”

“We of the planet Gorth.”

“Gorth?”  Ok, this is a joke.  “Planet Gorth?  Who put you up to this?  Some asshole from work trying to get back at me for eating their yogurt?”

“No, really.”

Now I was concerned.  This guy really was out of shape, gasping like a fish out of water. Doesn’t anyone work out anymore?

“We are here to take you home.”

“Ok, I’m done now.  This is crazy and you need help.  There is no plant Gorth and if you think I am going anywhere with you right now, you are dreaming.”

“Ok, well I guess it’s time to reveal all then.”

He pointed at the alley next to us, and now I’m thinking, this is it.  I’m about to get jumped by a gang of knife-wielding thugs.  I turned to look, ready to take off the minute I glimpsed sharp steel.  It was empty.

“Ok, what’s the joke, man?”

“Ok fellows!”

And with that, the empty alley was crammed with something huge.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d call it a spaceship.  Now that’s a job of parking, I thought. But parked in by buildings on either side, taking off was going to be a challenge if they didn’t want to take pieces of the buildings around it with them.  My eyes wandered from side to side. “I seem to be taking this better than I should be.”

This thing was massive – and kind of shaped like a cigar (what do you know, those UFO shows were right!) Tiny silver windows poked out here and there – was that a face in one of them?  I wondered, “What’s the point of being on a spaceship with only little, tiny windows?”

Well, I said that part out loud.  I know this because he said, “Well really there isn’t a lot to see in space and we have view screens for when there is, well, a view.”

“So, who are you again?  My worst nightmare?  Some kind of television host for practical space jokes?”

“I don’t know what any of those things mean.  We are from Gorth and we are here to take you home.”

I stared.  Then I shook my head.  Nope, not possible.  “Yeah, you know what?  I think that’s a hard no.  Appreciate you guys coming all this way for me, but I’ll just be on my way now.”

I backed out of the alley into the street, keeping my eyes on the scene before me, and when I hit the sidewalk, put my head down and started walking, fast.  Would they give up?  Gorth?  Come on man.  For a second I almost believed it, wanted to believe it.  Like those movies where the guy with the so normal it’s painful life suddenly is swept away on an adventure of a lifetime.  That just didn’t happen in reality.  But it seemed like an awful lot of trouble to go to for a stolen yogurt.

A block from home I realized it was dark.  Not the dark of night – it was too early for that.  Crap.  I rolled my eyes up, not quite wanting to take the leap of raising my whole head.  Was that?

“So much for secrecy.” I jumped at the voice beside me.

“What the fuck, man?”

“Look, we don’t have a choice here.  We were told to bring you quietly without disturbing the locals if possible, but well, you’re being a bit of a jerk, so here we are.”

“You couldn’t have just beamed me up?  You had to embarrass me in front of everyone?”

“First of all, you’ve been watching too much Star Trek.  Second, so you really think anyone here will notice us?”

I looked around.  Yup.  Heads down everywhere.

“No one wants to know because then they’d have to get involved.”

“Yeah, like me – doesn’t that mean I fit right in here?”

“Look, why not just get on board and give it a try.  What do you have to lose?”

“Well, anal probing comes to mind.”  I’ve haven’t watched a lot of late night UFO specials for nothing.

“Look, we don’t do that anymore.  Once you’ve probed one human, you’ve probed them all.  But even if we did, you’re not human – you’re one of us.  Just get on board and if you don’t like what you see on Gorth, we’ll bring you right back to your amazing life.”

“Low blow, man.”

“I calls them as I sees them.”

I realized that I had never really looked around these streets I walked every day, but now I saw the grey buildings, the trash on the street, a mass of humanity all ignoring everything going on around them.  What the hell?

“Ok, man.  You have a point.  I’ll get on board and check out Gorth.”

“It’s about time!”

“Hey, what’s your name?”

“Frank”

“Come on, Frank?  Frank of Gorth?”

“We have a saying on Gorth – Frank: Every planet has to have one.”

“Ok then…Frank, is there pizza on Gorth?” I asked, as we walked up the ramp into his ship.

“Buddy, you haven’t lived until you’ve had pizza on Gorth.”