Thursday, April 23, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 141: Picture Perfect

          "It's picture time!" Mom announced in that annoying fake-enthusiasm voice moms master to try to talk their kids into doing something they don't like. The Midway siblings were pretty unanimous in agreement that it didn't work.
          It failed to rouse any eagerness this time, either. Radar wrinkled his nose. "Again? Can't we just use the pictures from last year?"
          "Of course not!" Mom informed him indignantly. "Everyone we send the Christmas cards to will want to see how you've grown!"
          "He hasn't grown," Nemesis pointed out.
          "At least, no one will be able to see the difference," Radar added parenthetically. "No one looks at those cards anyway."
          Mom ignored them. "Go get your picture clothes on. Look, the girls are already ready to go!"
          Radar cocked his eyebrow at Quill and Squirrel. "Yeah, but it took them an hour to get ready."
          "Then let's make it a race," Mom suggested, taking them on their competitive side. "What's your best--"
          Radar and Nemesis hurled themselves down the stairs headlong before Mom could finish. "--time? Oh, never mind; at least they're--"
          Multiple thuds and crashes cut her off yet again as Radar and Nemesis fought their way back up the stairs to come sprawling into the entryway. "DONE!" Radar yelled, a little out of breath and rubbing a red mark on his forehead where he'd clearly collided with something rather unyielding. Possibly Nemesis's head.
          Mom gave them a disbelieving look. "You cannot possibly think that you're presentable."
          Nemesis and Radar exchanged a wary look. "Why not? These are the clothes you picked out," Nemesis protested.
          "Please tell me she didn't change her mind again," Radar muttered under his breath.
          "Your hair is a mess!" Mom exclaimed.
          Radar reflexively and futilely glanced up. "It's always a mess."
          "And dirty," Nemesis snickered.
          "You should talk," Radar shot back, laughing as well.
          Quill sighed. "Guys, come on. You're making this last longer than it should."
          "Joy to the world!" Squirrel warbled.
          "Go comb your hair," Mom ordered.
          Radar and Nemesis tore up the second flight of stairs to the upstairs bathroom (the downstairs bathroom, which was theirs, did not possess much in the way of combs). About five seconds later, they came flying down the stairs, almost taking out Quill and Squirrel. "Done!"
          Mom sighed. "Back upstairs. I'll do it."
          The boys groaned and raced each other back up the stairs. "It's a waste of time!" Radar yelled over his shoulder.
          It took Mom about five minutes to get their hair wrestled into a state of partial submission, at which point she threw in the towel and declared it to be good enough. The family recongregated back in the entryway. Dad joined them as well.
          "Are we going to take the picture on the stairs again?" Squirrel asked.
          Quill grinned. "Oh! I know! In front of the fireplace!"
          "We're going to take the picture on the bench in front of the campfire," Mom announced.
          Silence for a second. Then Radar spoke up. "Uh, outside?"
          "You do realize that we live in one of the coldest states in the US?" Radar inquired.
          "And it's November," Squirrel added helpfully.
          Nemesis joined in. "And it's, like, zero out."
          "Our coats don't match!" Quill protested.
          Her siblings stared at her incredulously. "Really? That's your concern? Not the fact that our kiesters are going to freeze off?" Radar demanded.
          "Well, maybe that means you'll behave," Mom suggested, a little smugly. "You're not going to be wearing coats, just your nice sweaters."
          There was a chorus of groans. Mom turned to her husband. "Dear, talk to them!"
          "Kids, do what your mother says," Dad ordered absently, trying to figure out which coat he would be wearing (since Mom and Dad never joined us for the pictures, they could afford to bundle up for the Arctic-chilly weather they were facing).
          "This makes me feel like singing!" Squirrel threatened.
          "NO!" her brothers yelled and made a dash for the door.
          Everyone assembled at the bench with a rapidity made possible by a -20 degree wind chill. Radar couldn't help laughing as his hair quickly succumbed to the elements. "Told you it was a waste of time!"
          Squirrel plopped down on the bench. "This is COLD!"
          Quill danced in place. "Let's hurry! Where do you want us?"
          "Well, let's see--uh, dear, my camera isn't turning on." Mom beckoned Dad over.
          Radar flipped the hood of his good sweatshirt up and turned to Nemesis. "Join me, and together we will rule the galaxy!" he intoned in his best Darth Vader voice.
          Nemesis flipped his hood up and stuck his hands in his sleeves, monk-like. "I'm joining a monastery. They don't make you freeze outside for pictures!"
          Radar stuck his hands in his armpits in an attempt to stave of frostbite. His hood fell off. "Fair point. I might join you. Quill, what are you doing?"
          "Trying to stay warm!" Quill replied, in the middle of a rather complicated and convoluted jigging session.
          "JOY TO THE WORLD!" Squirrel warbled, throwing her arms out for dramatic effect.
          This was, of course, the exact moment Mom's camera decided to work. She snapped a picture to test it and convulsed with laughter at the ensuing image.
          The kids stopped their dancing, impressions, and singing to crowd around the tiny screen on Mom's camera. One by one, they doubled over laughing.
          "We should use that!" Radar gasped out.
          Dad chuckled. "It definitely conveys how we normally are."
          Quill dissented. No, I think we should take a normal picture."
          "Better get lined up then," Dad suggested.
          With a maximum of confusion and a minimum of time (and frostbite), they managed to get the Christmas picture taken. However, the first picture remained their favorite, and ended up on the front cover of a book Radar wrote and presented to his mother the following Christmas.
          Joy to the world, indeed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 140: Brief Barn Battles

          "Hey, Dad wants us outside!"
          I looked up from the cork gun that I was busily modifying, much to Mom's regret. It was just a simple pop gun; a quick tug on the barrel would send the cork flying to the end of its attached string. Unfortunately for Mom, it didn't take a genius to figure out that removing the string would allow the cork to fly considerably further. It might have taken at least a little mechanical aptitude to figure out the internal seal was rather crappy, which is where my attention was currently focused. At least, it was until Nemesis came to get me.
          "What's up?" I asked, beginning to reassemble the barrel with its new piston head installed.
          Nemesis shrugged. "I think he wants us to help him unload hay."
          I wrinkled my nose. "How are we gonna help? They're a bit big for us, aren't they?" Admittedly, Nemesis and I were rather strong--as Nemesis found out moments later, as I shot him with an energetic motion of my arm--but at 9 and 13 years old, respectively, we were nowhere near strong enough to deal with the massive rolls of hay that had, to date, been only interacted with in the form of jumping. On top. Or falling off, I suppose.
          "OW!" Nemesis yelled. "Stoppit!"
          I loaded another cork and cocked the gun, grinning. "You are not a Jedi yet!"
          "One moment," Nemesis requested before bolting off in the direction of our room. He returned a moment later with one of his rubber band guns, promptly shooting me in the face with it.
          "OW!" I yelled and fired back.
          "BOYS!" Dad hollered at us, about ten minutes later. "GET UP HERE!"
          "Oh, right, he wanted us outside," Nemesis remembered.
          I shot him again as he quit his bunker (I wisely elected to remain in mine). "You forgot?"
          "OW! So did you!" Nemesis screeched. "Should we put the couch cushions back?"
          "BOYS!" Dad yelled again, tonal pattern sliding rapidly from "annoyed" to "angry."
          "Nope," I decided, slinging my gun across my back and snatching my corks up on the way to the stairs. "COMING!"
          We raced up the stairs, sprawling at the feet of Dad as we both wiped out on the last step. He glared down at us. "You were supposed to come outside ten minutes ago!"
          "He shot me!" Nemesis and I chorused, immediately throwing each other under the proverbial bus.
          Dad rolled his eyes. "Get your boots on and come on," he ordered. "We're going to unload hay bales."
          "Aren't they too big for us?" I asked before brightening suddenly. "Unless you're letting me drive the ATV!"
          "The four-wheeler stays where it is," Dad informed me. "These are square bales. You can handle it."
          "Oh," Nemesis'c face fell at the prospect of actual manual labor looming in front of him. I decided to make the best of it by privately deciding to shoot the old, cranky rooster with my cork gun, as long as I was going down to the barn anyway.
          The bales were almost as big as Nemesis was; however, true to Dad's prediction, both Nemesis and I could lift and carry them with a minimum of awkwardness and a maximum of argument.
          "Take this!"
          "No, I'm taking this one!"
          "That one's smaller!"
          "No it's not!"
          "Cheater! It's my turn for the small bales!"
          "You're older! You take the big ones!"
          "You're younger! You need the practice!"
          "Why? Are you a wuss?"
          "No, you are!"
          "Am not!"
          "Are too!"
          "You're Johnny Cash!" (Growing up, it was common to insult each other with singers we didn't like.)
          "You're Elvis!"
          "You're the Beatles!"
          I dropped my bale and dove for my cork gun. "Shut up!"
          "Hey, we don't talk like that!" Dad informed me sternly. "Put that away and help stack these!"
          "He called me the Beatles!" I protested.
          The corner of his mouth twitched, but he managed to keep himself from laughing. "Nemesis, don't insult your brother."
          "He started it!" Nemesis complained.
          "No, you did!" I snapped back, heaving a bale towards Dad.
          Dad ignored our squabbling, having heard some version of this argument about four thousand times a day. He took the bale and stacked it expertly with the others. My eyes followed the bale...
          It was a good thing we didn't live in a cartoon world, because a light bulb would have flashed into existence above my head...and since my parents weren't even remotely close to ignorant, that probably would have been grounds for an immediate house arrest (the Noodle Incident and the Cannon Incident coming promptly to mind). Unfortunately, I also had a terrible poker face; fortunately, Dad wasn't paying attention to me at the time.
          "Hey Nemesis, want to help me collect eggs?" I asked casually (or what I imagined casually to be like).
          "No," Nemesis shot back grumpily.
          "Please?" I begged. "We can mug the rooster!"
          "Mugging" the rooster involved placing a seven-gallon bucket over the enraged bird and sitting on it while collecting eggs. I have no idea why we called it mugging; probably because we thought it sounded funny. It was certainly funny listening to the rooster peck the inside of the bucket--on the other hand, if the stupid bird hadn't made it a habit to try to claw us up every time we stepped foot in the coop, we probably wouldn't have come up with the concept or necessity of mugging him in the first place.
          That won the day. Nemesis snickered. "Sure!"
          We fell to work with a will. Before too long, we'd handed the last bale to Dad, who stacked it and thanked us for our help. I immediately volunteered to collect the eggs; Dad promptly accepted, as he wasn't a huge fan of the rooster either and fending the bird off with a shovel one-handed while trying to juggle eggs and dodge pecking hens in the other was mildly annoying. He quickly left the barn before I could change my mind.
          Being the expert, it fell to me to grab the bucket and perform the honors. Actually, since I had invented the idea, I would have chosen to face the bird regardless. The rooster was quickly mugged, and Nemesis sat on the bucket, both of us roaring with laughter as the bucket bucked and pranced, enraged clucking emerging from underneath.
          "Get the eggs!" Nemesis finally exclaimed when he caught his breath.
          I'd invented a sort of chicken headlock that prevented the nesting birds from pecking innocent hands; however, it required a certain dexterity and quickness of fingers that none of my siblings possessed. I quickly and efficiently headlocked each roosting chicken, removed the eggs, and retreated almost before the chicken realized it had been had. They contented themselves with a beady-eyed glare before settling back down comfortably to smooth slightly ruffled feathers.
          I deposited the eggs outside the coop and joined Nemesis on the bucket. "Ready?"
          I braced myself. "Go!"
          Nemesis tore out the door. I snatched the bucket and ran after him. He slammed the screen door as I screeched through; there was a comical-sounding boing as the rooster--in hot pursuit--neglected to realize that the door of opportunity was now closed to him and bounced off. Nemesis latched the door before joined me on the ground rolling with laughter. The rooster gave us the evil eye before deciding that he hadn't really wanted to catch us anyway and strolling casually off.
          "Okay, let's build a fort now," I suggested when we had recovered.
          Nemesis gave me a look. "How? The thicket's gone and it hasn't snowed yet."
          I gestured triumphantly. "Hay bales!"
          "Ohh, no," Nemesis backed up quickly. "Dad wanted those stacked!"
          "They'll still be stacked," I pointed out. "They'll just be stacked in a different formation!"
          My logic was unassailable (growing up, Mom often remarked that I would have made an excellent lawyer). Nemesis caved. We quickly disassembled the pile and built a fort, complete with a lean-to on the west wall and a keep in the northeast corner. The hay bales stacked nicely, the brick-like shape adding to the illusion of a castle. A brief battle was had that proved the ramparts held up against missiles and full-on assault from corks and rubber bands. Content, we provisioned it with wooden swords and ammunition for our respective guns and vowed to keep this our secret.
          "Suppose I'll have to get up earlier for chores," I sighed. "Otherwise Dad might beat me down here and see this."
          "What should we call it?" Nemesis asked.
          "Fort Homework," I told him.
          Nemesis frowned. "Homework?"
          "Yeah. That way, when we want to sneak off, we can tell Mom we're going to do Homework and she won't think we're sneaking off to work on the fort," I explained. "See? Then we're not lying."
          Nemesis's frown cleared. "Ohh. Hey, that's a great name."
          "Thanks," I smirked, and shot him.
          "OW!" Nemesis yelled and smacked me.
          I was about to tackle him when I heard the bell at the house ringing; Mom, probably, summoning us to dinner. "Come on, let's go!" I called as I leapt over the wall and raced him to the house.
          Surprisingly, it took Dad almost five days to discover the demolishing of his haystack. When he did, though, he quickly ordered us to strip it down and restack everything. Naturally, Nemesis and I stacked it in the shape of a Sherman tank (I was going through a World War II phase at the time), complete with turret, gunner and driver viewports, straw treads, and a spacious interior. It took Dad two days to check up on his haystack; unfortunately, he did not admire the artistry and ordered us to do it again, and do it right this time. (He was obviously struggling not to laugh, however.) Nemesis and I obeyed this time.
          Well, sort of. We left cracks and a small cave that we used for meetings and a base for our games of Adventurers versus Aliens for the rest of the winter, eventually desisting when Dad used up enough of the hay to render the cave useless. We made a smaller one, which was used exactly twice and then ceded to a pregnant cat, who promptly had kittens.
          Gotta love farm life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 139: Back to the Battlefield

          Editor's note: We at the Committee for Excellence in Writing are being forced to once again audit one of Radar's posts for accuracy and content. Some of our superiors felt that there may have been outside influences on our unbiased observation of our last audit; like, for instance, trace amounts of hallucinogens. Given that we have no idea WHAT was in his kitchen, we were forced to admit that another round of reviewing might be for the best. As long as cooking isn't involved, anyway...
          Under normal circumstances, thirty bucks would buy me enough meatballs to last me about a month. Unfortunately, this time money wasn't going to cut it.
          "Whaddaya mean you didn't make any meatballs?" I protested.
          Squirrel shrugged. "You didn't give me enough notice."
          "I did too! I called Mom and she said she'd tell you!" I sputtered. "I even remembered to bring money this time!"
          My younger sister snickered. "The one time you remember...sorry, Mom didn't tell me until yesterday. I was busy with school anyway."
          I groaned. "Now how am I gonna survive?"
          "You could always make your own," Mom suggested with the air of someone who no longer had to risk her own kitchen.
          I glared at her. "You remember what happened last time I tried to make anything from scratch?"
          "Nope!" Mom replied cheerfully and whisked away with Squirrel to make Easter cookies. I rubbed my eyes, took a step forward, and promptly tripped over Mom's little rat-dog--er, "toy dog." Fortunately, our real dog Max generously broke my fall.
          After Easter, I returned to my apartment still, sadly, meatball-less. This depressing state of affairs lasted for a whole two weeks, until I finally threw in the towel and threw on my blast gear to return to the kitchen.

          Editor's note: GOOD LORD, NO!!!

          There then followed a two-day delay where I kept forgetting to put out the meat to thaw, but one fine day I finally remembered. Armed with the cookbook Mom had given me, I headed back into the battle zone confidently and promptly blew up an egg, giving me a weird feeling of deja vu.
          "What are we feeding our chickens? Dynamite?" I demanded of the world at large. The sink sneezed at me. I sighed and toweled egg and water off my face, snapping the oven on.
          I began mixing my ingredients...eggs, spices, broth, and--oh, hey, the smoke alarm was still in the roof. I preemptively yanked it out of the ceiling; despite its aid in helping me find misplaced items that I left on the stove, I decided to rely on smoke signals as opposed to earsplitting shrieks. And then decided to go read a quick comic strip. It seemed appropriate.

          Editor's note: We wish he'd reprogram his smoke alarm and STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN.

          I put "reprogram the smoke alarm" on my list of things to do later and returned to the kitchen. Unwrapping the hamburger, I chucked it into the mixing bowl and returned to my sink to wash myself off. The sink restrained itself to a polite cough this time. I thanked it, took a half-step sideways to switch on the mixer, slipped in a puddle of water, and wiped out. I landed half-in, half-out of the dishwasher. I took a moment to nurse my bruised ribs, reflecting that if God had wanted me to take a shower that badly, he should have just emailed me.
          A moment later, I was ducking for cover as projectiles hurtled through the air. A brief inspection showed the cause; apparently, I'd hit the mixer's "On" lever and flipped it to maximum during my fall. Meat ricocheted around the kitchen in some kind of a bizarre tornado. I sighed, snatched my nunchucks of the wall, and charged the mixer, attempting to deflect the larger pieces of meat.

          Editor's note: The air tests free of hallucinogens. We are forced to conclude that he was cursed at birth by a wicked fairy to destroy every kitchen he stepped into after he turned sixteen. We doubt Disney will make a movie about this, though. 

          I managed to whack the mixer's lever back to "Off" with a skilled (read: lucky) strike. Taking a look around, I decided to thaw another package of hamburger meat while I scraped the first batch off the walls. Cleanup only took a half an hour, not counting the time it took to air out the apartment from the flaming hamburger on the stove. It appeared that, once again, I'd managed to mix up the controls for the stovetop and oven.
          Editor's note: Where are the Avengers? Aren't they supposed to stop global catastrophes? Radar is the definition of global catastrophe! 

          I put the next batch of hamburger into the mixing bowl before realizing that I had no idea how much spice and egg had been hurled from the bowl by the mixer. Deciding that, under the circumstances, winging it was appropriate, I started throwing random amounts of ingredients into the bowl. A through blending later, and I was ready to start scooping it into balls.
          To the cupboard!--no, wait, the drawer--no, wait, the refrigerator...oh, wait, I forgot to buy a scoop, didn't I? Nothing daunted, I began rolling the mixture into balls by hand, which turned out looking like pyramids for some reason.

          Editor's note: Can someone explain that? We checked physics books, which are all unanimous in saying that those formations are impossible to make with a rolling motion. 
          I chucked the pan on the stove and set the timer, returning after a few minutes when I remembered that I had turned the stove off and the oven on. I made the appropriate switch and settled down with an ale to reflect upon the limitations of robotics in daily life.
          And the meatballs turned out great.

          Editor's note: We quit.