What is a Zobelgraham??

Zobelgrahams: [zoe-bull-gram] (noun) short random bits of prose produced by a brother/sister team of would-be writers. Zobelgrahams are most commonly produced on the backs of receipts, scraps of toilet paper, or dashboards of moving vehicles; (verb) to zobelgraham, to spend time writing for one's own amusement when one should be doing other things

Monday, September 3, 2012

The REAL Zombie Apocalypse (by Graham)

Somewhere deep in the UNDERWORLD:

President:      Are we on schedule? Everything going according to plan?

Field Marshall:         Yes, Sir. It won't be long now. In fact, the volunteer forces appear to be larger than anticipated. Our numbers far exceed the Resistance. There can be no doubt that we will prevail. The conflict will likely not last more than one Season.

President:   The volunteers are eager then? They have no hesitation about undergoing the, er, Transformation?

Field Marshall:    None whatsoever. They are delivering themselves up in droves. They don't even require restraints. They simply connect to the Device and passively receive the Programming.

President:     And the Programming? It is doing the job? It's effecting the Transformation?

Field Marshall:      Again, I'm pleased to report the results exceed the predictions we made based on the Focus Group. The Transformation began almost immediately and progresses more rapidly than expected, particularly on the under-thirty demographic. We believe this is due to the fact that they spend approximately  8-10 hours a day in front of the Device undergoing the Programming.

President:     Have you seen the Volunteers for yourself? How do they look?

Field Marshall:     Like the sketches you've seen. Bulging eyes, pale skin, atrophied muscles, hanging flesh, gaping mouths.

President:     Excellent! Then the time really is near ... The Zombie Apocalypse is at hand!!

Meanwhile, back on EARTH:

Buck (adjusting the volume on the remote and reaching for another chip):        Hey, Joe, you ever wonder where all the Zombies are gonna come from? For the Apocalypse, I mean.

Joe (popping open another can of Dew): Who cares? Shuddup and watch the show!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Nightmares (by Graham)

I tossed and turned, sweating in agony as one after another the terrifying nightmares paraded through my subconscious, which was held helplessly captive by sleep.

In the first dream, my children were all lined up on a platform. A panel of judges looked them up and down with jaded eyes and pointed out each of their flaws. While this was happening, I was tied to a chair, gagged but not blindfolded. I had to watch in silence as my children were verbally attacked, one after the other. The traits the judges hated were often the ones I loved the most – the ones that made them precious to me, special, original, distinct. Even their names came under fire. Then suddenly the judges got out of their chairs. With exaggerated smiles stretched across their faces, they moved toward my children, arms outstretched, chanting, "Let us help you. We will fix you. Just a few little changes here and there…"

I groaned and thrashed in my bed, desperately trying to wake myself, but it was no use. The second dream began.

In this dream, a flock of strangers came into my house. At first I thought they were realtors, but then I wasn't so sure. They walked through my house, room by room, chattering criticisms. The paint was wrong. The curtains had to go. The furniture should be replaced, but at the very least it positively must be rearranged. The appliances could stay, for the time being. Suddenly they all put down their clipboards and started to grab for things. They pulled pictures off the walls, moved couches and chairs, turned my living room into my dining room and put my bathroom in my kitchen. "Please, stop!" I cried, "I liked everything the way it was!" But they could not hear me over the sound of their own chatter.

The third and final dream was not like the others. It was quiet and dark.  I was standing in the corner of a large banquet hall, chained to a ring on the floor so I could not move. In the center of the great hall was a relatively small dining table, set with six chairs. In the chairs sat the same six judges from my first dream – the same realtors who weren't realtors from my second. But in this dream, there was no bustle or chatter. They simply sat silently at their places, eyes fixed on a silver dome covering the main course which rested in the center of the table. Then the man at the head of the table rose from his chair. He picked up a carving knife and fork. Simultaneously, the other diners picked up their knives and forks and held them ready. The man grasped the handle on the silver dome and slowly lifted it. The diners' mouths began to water. I could see the drool running down their chins. I strained to see what scrumptious dish had just been uncovered, but the room was too dark. I could not see. The man with the carving knife raised it high, then plunged it downward.

I finally woke myself with my screams. An imagined-yet-real pain took my breath away. It was a pain deep in my chest where the carving knife had cut into my soul.

I rubbed my eyes and turned shakily to look at my alarm clock. It was 7 a.m. Time to get up. I couldn't be late for my college writing class. We were in the process of peer-editing each other's work; and today it was my turn.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Wish (by Graham)

I must have muttered The Wish a thousand times.

I wished it as a child, when waiting for Christmas presents was too torturous to endure.

I wished it as a teenager while sitting alone in my room as my parents discussed my punishment for some infraction or other.

I wished it as a young mother, when I heard my children whispering to each other in their beds at night.

I wished it again when my oldest son took his date to the prom.

I wished it whenever I heard a second-hand story about a particularly poignant moment of laughter. I wished it whenever I discovered an enemy had been humiliated or a friend honored. I wished it whenever I read something in the news – something shocking, scandalous, or mysterious.  I wished it whenever I waited in suspense to find out the results of an exam or the winner of a contest.

But now that I actually was a fly on a wall, I wasn't sure exactly what to do with myself.

As I fought the urge to buzz aimlessly and look for something sticky to land on, it occurred to me that a great deal of freedom and power is wasted on the fly.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Gods and The Gift (by Graham)

It was a stormy day on Mount Olympus. Zeus was obviously peeved.

"It is unforgivable how these humans have abused The Gift," Zeus roared. "The Gift was intended to be a path to enlightenment, a portal to possibilities. It was meant to take them to great heights and set them far above all the other vermin on this sorry little planet. Instead, well, just look at how they have squandered The Gift!"

"It is true," Poseidon chimed in, picking his toes with his trident. "As the 21st century turned, we expected them to make great strides with The Gift. Instead, well, we've all seen what it has been reduced to among them. It is too shameful even to speak of it."

"Here, here," bellowed Apollo. "It is high time we took back The Gift. Turn back the dial and remind them of the old ways. Perhaps then they will learn to moderate their flagrant excesses."

Hermes was inclined to be lenient. "Come now," he pleaded. "Can it really be all that serious?"

"You surprise me, Hermes!" Zeus replied. "After all, this abuse of The Gift infringes mostly on your territory! Tell me, have you had as much work lately in your fetching and carrying capacity?"

"No, I haven't. You are right in that," Hermes admitted. "Come to think of it, I am rarely called upon by the mortals anymore."

Hera had been listening in silence. Finally she spoke up. "I probably should have told you this sooner, Zeus," she stammered. "But I received a text message from a mortal last week, and it was, well, I am afraid it was not altogether -- respectful."

"Mortals texting the gods?" Zeus thundered. "It has gone too far. My vote is cast. All in agreement?"

The deities responded with a hearty "Aye! We are in agreement."

"Then the thing is done!"


Thousands of miles below, all across the blue-green globe, the members of the human race suddenly and inexplicably found themselves without opposable thumbs.

Mirrors (The First In a Series of Reflections) by Zobel

                Even Mr. Carlyle’s face looked like the face of a wealthy man.  It would seem that a face shouldn’t be able to reflect the wealth of its owner, like all faces should be made of pretty similar stuff across the board.  But something about his face made it look like it was made of a more expensive material than mine.  Age had wrinkled it a little, but it was still vibrant.  Maybe that was because the innovative business man was always thinking, always moving, always trying.  Plus, he was tanned.  Not a cheap tan, like one belonging to someone who just got back from a whirlwind vacation they really couldn’t afford, but a weathered, ivy-league kind of tan belonging to a man who loves to sail and has spent many happy summers on a beautifully restored sailboat.  It was a natural tan, slowly accumulated over years of slipping across shimmering seas to new horizons, both metaphorical and literal.
                And now he looked at me, a slight smile fluttering at the corners of his mouth.  His hands were folded across a shirt that fit him well and crisply, unlike mine that screamed the word “generic” and clung to me awkwardly like a lonely person I’d just met. 
                “You want a drink?” Mr. Carlyle asked. 
                Stunned, I told him that I was on the clock, instantly feeling stupid that I had since he was my boss.
                “I appreciate that,” he said.  “But I think we’ll make an allowance this time.” 
He rose to his feet and walked over to a small decanter that sat on a side table.  He walked like he owned the place which, in fact, he did. 
                I admired his office while his back was to me, boyishly drinking in the model tall ships on the shelves that decorated his walls, the giant captain’s wheel that was mounted to the front of his hardwood desk, and the paintings of mariners in terrible plights that silently screamed to me from inside spiraling colors of sea-foam.  Pictures of his family, leather chairs with deep buttons sitting in the corner, an old map, a…
                “Here we are,” Mr. Carlyle said, handing me a short glass of something amber colored.
                “Thank you,” I said awkwardly.  Suddenly I wished I knew how to drink this properly.  I felt clueless, like there was some protocol that I didn’t know to follow, some unspoken rule that people of class lived by.  Mr. Carlyle held his glass effortlessly.  I tried to, but I just felt like a little boy trying on his dad’s ties. 
                “I guess you’re wondering why you’re here.”
                I nodded, and sipped my drink a little.  It was good.  Very good.
                “I will cut to the chase because I know you are a busy man.”  Mr. Carlyle leaned forward a little in his chair.  “When I see you I feel like I am looking in a mirror.”
                My mind couldn’t comprehend these words, so I just blinked and continued to stare.  I tried to take another sip but my lips couldn’t find the glass.
                “Not now, of course,” he continued.  “I’m getting older and you’re still young.  What I mean is, I sense your ambition.  You may clean the floors, but what I see is someone who makes sure there is not a speck left behind them.  Those floors are polished, beautiful.”
                “They’re just floors,” I mumbled, trying to sound humble.
                “But that’s just it!  They are just floors, but they stand for something more.  They are a resume to me.  They say, ‘I am a young man who takes his job seriously, works hard, and takes pride in what I do.’  I hire all these young bucks right out of the big name schools, and you know what their work tells me?”
                I shook my head.
                “Their work says, ‘Hi, I’m one of a graduating class of world-class snots.  I have been coddled, taken care, and privileged to death since I was born and gently placed in a golden cradle.’  That might be an exaggeration, but you get my point.”
                I wasn’t sure if I did.  What I did manage to do was spill on my pants.
                “Take this.”  Mr. Carlyle pulled a monogrammed handkerchief out of his pocket and tossed it to me.   
                I took it and dabbed gingerly at my pant leg.  At that point I didn’t know what to do with it so I hung onto it with my fingertips and tried to make it seem like I still needed it.
                “I just get so tired of working with these elite kids.  I want someone who has some blue-collar spirit and knows the value of a buck.”
                The spot still on my leg felt like a pinpoint of cold.  I looked at it and it silently reminded me of everything that was wrong with me. 
                “That’s why I wanted to talk to you,” Mr. Carlyle said.  “What do you make an hour now?  Ten, eleven bucks?”
                I nodded and shrugged.  He was close enough.
                “How about starting at sixty-five thousand a year?  I’ll give you an office next to mine and begin showing you the ropes.  You’d be my protégé, so to speak.”
                “Sixty… five… thousand?  Me?” I asked.  My head began to swim with the implications of this.  I could own a house, buy a car, pay off what I owed for last year’s Christmas presents…  An office?
                “Just to start.  I’d give you some stock options too, and an allowance for a car and some clothes.  Let’s face it, you look as good as you can, but you need to kick it up a notch to swim in the circles that you will be in.”
                “I don’t know what to say.”  Vomiting was a very real possibility.
                “Just shake my hand,” Mr. Carlyle said.  “I’ll consider you hired and post a notice that we need a new maintenance man.”
                His browned hand extended toward me.  As I rose and reached out towards it I could see his face: crooked smile, small grey eyes, thin-rimmed glasses, the knot of his tie.  He…
                “Hey!  How much longer ‘til this opens up again, buddy?” 
I turned away from the mirror in the men’s bathroom, my mop dangling in my hands.  The voice belonged to a young man who looked at me intently over the wet-floor sign that I had used to prop open the door.  He was just a handful of years younger than I.
                “Mr. Carlyle wants me up in his office in five minutes.  You can finish up after I use it,” he continued as he shouldered his way in.  “Hey,” he added with a grin, suddenly pointing somewhere at the floor.  “Missed a spot.” 
He was one of those who had graduated from a class of world-class snots.  He had been coddled, taken care of, and privileged to death since the day he was born and gently placed in a golden cradle.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Nose, The Final Chapter (by Graham)

She drove straight home from the library and parked extra straight in her driveway. She let herself in with her key and put some water on to boil. She unwrapped her tea bag feeling humiliated. She couldn't believe that she hadn't heard the librarian coming up behind her. She also couldn't believe that this self-same librarian had recognized her without so much as a blink -- in spite of the perfectly placed mole.

Well, she'd learned her lesson good and well this time. It was quite clear that unless one was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect their dual identity – like Spiderman or Batman or Indiana Jones – a double life was simply not feasible.

Far from being undone by this discovery, in the four minutes that it took for her to steep the perfect cup of green tea, she fully came to terms with herself – meaning her real, true, actual Self. Before being seized with the madness of The Nose, she had been content, hadn't she? Now that the madness had spent itself, she was content again. What a relief to have the thing settled.

It was in this state of relief that she went to bed early Friday night and woke up early Saturday morning with a sudden urge to grocery shop. She got up and threw on some clothes without bothering to shower or do her makeup. She wanted to beat the crowds to Shop 'N Save. She almost ventured forth without a list or coupons, but she stopped herself. Such rash acts belonged to the Nose or the Mole – not to her. She made her list, sorted her coupons, and headed out the door.

She enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the grocery store. It was just 7 a.m. and the place was nearly deserted, yet she still kept her cart to the right of each aisle just because it was the right thing to do.

When she finished her shopping, she got in a checkout line behind just one other person. As she waited her turn, she double checked the expiration dates on all her coupons. She glanced up and noticed that the cashier was an acquaintance of hers. How nice. They were not exactly friends, but they both had children in the same grade at school and had chatted dozens of times.

She unloaded the cart onto the conveyor belt, careful to sort fresh, frozen, cold, and canned items for proper bagging. Then she looked up to greet the cashier with a smile and a warm "Hello!"

"Paper or plastic?" was the terse reply.

"Actually, I have cloth bags," she answered, confused by her friend's formal tone.

"Fine," the cashier replied.

"How are you, Janet?" she asked hesitantly, peering uncertainly at the cashier.

At the sound of her name, the cashier looked startled. She looked at her customer more closely, squinting and tilting her head. "Do I know you?" she asked, clearly confused.

"Yes, I'm Janey's mom."

The cashier hesitated a moment more before breaking out in a smile. "Oh, of course! My goodness. I didn't recognize you at all. You look so different without your makeup!" she commented, then laughed good- naturedly.

She loaded her groceries into the back of the minivan and drove home in absolute silence. She didn't even play the radio. She had to think. No, she had to do more than think. She had to process. What could it mean that the only way to render herself totally unrecognizable was simply to appear as her unvarnished Self? What on earth could that possibly mean?

She had absolutely no idea.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Nose, the Sequel (by Graham)

The nose had been a mistake. She could see that now. After all, one nose is very much like another. How could she have thought that changing her nose would render her unrecognizable? It was simply unrealistic.

Lacking a proper disguise, she decided she would just have to face life as a respectable middle-aged woman and shed her wild fantasies of borderline criminal activity. She'd held it together this long. What was another forty years? She could survive, baking with whole wheat flour, drinking decaf, and putting skim milk in her coffee. No one had died of respectability yet ... Had they???

Days passed. She rose each morning, took her vitamin, went to work, did her job, and came straight home. She read Prevention magazine and went to bed early. She was fine. Really.

Then one morning she woke up screaming, "I'm an espresso woman in a green tea world!"

Her inner maniac was oozing out at her seams. It could not be contained. It was time to try again.

A false nose hadn't worked, but she knew what would. It had come to her in the night, whispered itself in her dreams. What she needed was:  A mole.

A mole's power cannot be overstated. Take Marilyn Monroe, for example. When her mole moved from her cheek to her temple, she was quite a different woman! Yes, a mole was just the thing.

The next morning when her alarm went off she hit snooze four times instead of the usual three. When she finally got up, she showered extra fast and threw on her clothes. Then she stood before the mirror and contemplated.

She contemplated long and hard because the placement of a mole -- especially with a permanent marker -- was not to be taken lightly. After much deliberation, she settled upon the left cheekbone, just an inch below the eye. This spot was perfect in its conspicuousness. She opened and closed her eyes several times, making sure that the "mole" was the first thing she saw each time she looked at her reflection. It was.

With a spring in her step, she headed out the door to meet the day. Her first act as a new woman would be to break a rule she had never yet broken in all her forty years of life. Like cigarettes form a seemingly harmless gateway to other drugs, this act of defiance would open the floodgates to all sorts of lawless activity. She was sure of it.

She pulled into the library parking lot at a reckless speed and parked crookedly in the spot nearest the door. She scooped up her DVDs from the front seat and stepped out of the minivan. She walked boldly to the large metal "Book Return Drop" receptacle and pulled on its handle. It opened like a gaping mouth, the metal door hanging from its hinges like a jaw dropped in astonishment. She paused to re-read the same red sticker she'd read a thousand times before:

"Do not place videos in book return drop."

Then, with a flourish, she tossed the videos down the metal throat and slammed the trap door shut. She'd done it! She was right! The mole was powerful, and she was free!

Or WAS she???

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The False Nose (by Graham)

There were times that she thought she'd crack under the pressure.

Her roles of wife, mother, school teacher, and church member all seemed to fit her like hats that were just a few sizes too small. The pressure to be respectable -- to say the right things, to set a good example, to wear matching clothes -- could get absolutely stiffling. Every once in awhile she just wanted to cut loose and go crazy -- run around and scream or yodel from the top of a parking garage. But what if, in the midst of some mad display, she were to turn around and BAM! run smack dab into someone who expected her to be respectable. She would simply die!

 Then one morning, as she lay in her bed mustering up the strength to rise and face another day, she had an idea. It was so perfect. So poetically simple. Why had she not thought of it before? She could live a double life -- a parallel existence of madness and sanity. All she needed was a false nose...

 She formulated her arguments during breakfast. She countered the opposition while brushing her teeth. She anhialated the re-cross while getting dressed. By the time she was putting the finishing touches on her makeup, her plan was complete. She could have her respectable cake and eat it too -- all slathered in delectable fudgey frosting! And fortunately she had a false nose in her cosmetic case already. It was positively providential!

 She drove to school in her usual nose, and behaved herself admirably all day long. After school, feeling frazzled from a long day of silly questions and inattentive students, she decided to put her alter ego to the test.

She donned the false nose and recklessly pulled into the grocery store parking lot. She parked her minivan so close to the neighboring vehicle that unless the driver was ninety pounds or less, they'd have to climb in through the passenger side door to enter their car. As she got out of her van she laughed. Maniacally.

Next she selected a cart with a wheel that squeaked with a fingers-on-a-chalkboard quality and pushed it randomly throughout the store. She made sure to travel down the center of the aisles at a meandering pace, clogging up the traffic flow. She occasionally stopped, blocking access to more popular items while pretending to read their labels. And finally, the coup de grace: She pulled brazenly into the express lane for twenty items or fewer -- even though there were clearly twenty five items in her cart.

 As she stood in line with a devil-may-care look in her eyes as they peered over her anonymous nose, she was startled by a voice calling her name.

"Is that YOU?"

 She turned around and was highly dismayed to see her next door neighbor in the line behind her.

"I thought that was you. What happened to your nose? Did a bee sting you?"

She sighed deeply as she left the store. Her five extra items no longer carried the thrill they had just minutes before. As she peeled off the false nose and threw it in her ashtray, she felt defeated and small. The nose hadn't worked. there was no other way. She was clearly doomed to this life of respectability, every day, 24/7, forever. Unless....

Buckskin Briefs-A Series of Frontier Shorts (By Zobel)

                “You Harry Pete?” I asked.  My words were short, terse, and came out just the way I’d hoped  they would.
                “What do you think?” replied Harry Pete. 
He was the biggest man I’d ever seen, a quarter-ton of mean and ugly.  His head was wrapped in fur with just his thick brown nose poking out the front, making his face look like a gopher’s rear end when it’s taking a dump.  A trapper’s hat hung flatly on the back of his head.  I could count four guns hanging off his torso, plus a few belts of ammunition that ran up, down, and across his stomach like railroad tracks laid over a mountain. 
                “I think you is,” I replied. 
                “What makes you say that?” he asked. 
                “Cuz you’re ugly as sin and look as stupid as a jackass’ idiot brother.”
                “You’re gonna die,” Harry Pete said.
                “Someday,” I said.  “But I don’t reckon it’ll be today.”
                “How you figure?”
                “I don’t aim to die; I aim to kill.”
Harry Pete looked at me, obviously confused. 
                “Let me ask you something, Harry Pete,” I said.
                “What’s that, you pucker-faced son of a jackelope?”
                “Two trains leave Boston, travelling at forty-mive miles an hour.  They both take the Western Line, leave at the same time, but one lands in Colorado Territory two hours before the other.  How’d that happen, you rattler anus?”
Harry Pete’s eyes shot back and forth as his pea-size brain fumbled for an answer like a card shark trying to find an ace where there just ain’t one. 
                “What’s their load?” he asked.
                “Lead!” I cried. 
I drawed on him faster than butter runs across a skillet in hell.  He drew too, pulling his pea shooter of his crotch holster.  For just a moment I saw fear flash across his marble-sized eyes. 
Next thing I did was to shoot him in the face.  I hoped to see his whole head fold in like a circus tent that got its center pole snapped, but the mirror just exploded all around me as the bullet hit it instead... just like always.
                 “Die!  You son of a pucker-brush brained son of a horny toad!” I cried through the shower of glass.