A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Four

29 12 2010

Read Part One

Read Part Two

Read Part Three

Zachariah stirred. His eyes slowly opened, greeted to a blue-hued television screen. “The movie’s over? Shame,” Scrooge yawned as he shifted into a sitting position, palms rubbing over his eyes, attempting to massage the blurriness away. As he rubbed, he felt a cold breeze move in front of him. His heart pounded steadily as he realized that this was it; the final Spirit. Slowly, slowly, he removed his hands from his eyes to confront his last visitor of the night.

The spirit that stood before him was unlike the other two who had made their presence known throughout the night. An aura of dread clung to this figure. His outfit was plain: a simple pair of black pants; a long-sleeve white shirt with red horizontal stripes going across the entire fabric; a pair of black suspenders; and finally a simple black beret that was held atop a head with a face painted all in white. This spirit greeted Scrooge not with kindness, but with a silent stare, as if he was seeing straight into Scrooge’s soul.

Zachariah sat in awe of this spirit. Cautiously, he moved to his feet, his hands pressing together, moving toward his chest, as if he was about to go into prayer. “I know you to be the last Spirit. The Spirit of Comedy Yet to Come.”

The silent spectre did not respond. He continued his dead-eye stare, body not moving. Scrooge threw his hands down in surrender. He opened his mouth to yell, but the eerie visage of the Spirit rendered him meek.

“Please, Spirit, if you be a kind one, show me what you must.”

The black-panted figure moved toward Scrooge. His limbs contorted as he walked, as if he was attempting to walk into an oncoming windstorm. Zachariah found this odd, until he began to feel a strong wind whipping against his back. He turned around, his eyes instantly becoming filled with tears as the icy gale dug into skin. Scrooge shut his eyes on instinct, in an act of preservation.

The wind ceased the second his eyes shut. Scrooge opened his left eye apprehensively, then his right. Like the previous spirits, this Spirit had whisked him to a familiar location. He found himself standing in the middle of the office he shared with Grant. He looked around, confused.

“Spirit?” Zachariah said, “Why have you brought me to the office?”

The beret-wearing Spirit raised his left hand, his fingers curling down until his bony index digit pointed behind the miser. Scrooge turned around, following the Spirit’s guidance. He came face to face with his work area. It was not the work area he had left a mere four hours before. No, this work area was cleared completely, the only item on the desk a fine covering of dust. Scrooge spun back around to face the Spirit. “What is this?” He demanded. “Are you informing me that if I don’t shape up, my office will be burgled? Is that what this entire night of eerie visitors and traveling through space and time has brought me to?”

The Spirit replied only by turning his hand toward the entrance. Once again Scrooge followed the direction, and saw Grant entering the office, with Stacey following shortly after, her arms filled with a bundle of blue blankets. Scrooge could hear the soft yawn of a newborn coming from the swaddle. His eyes widened in surprise.

“Spirit, they…they had a son?” He turned to face his guide. “Is it healthy? What is his name?” The Spirit gazed at Scrooge with a look lacking in judgment. Growing angry, Scrooge raised his voice. “Damn it, Spirit, answer me!”

“Ready to say goodbye?”

Stacey’s voice brought Zachariah attention away from his mute guide. She was standing next to Aaron, who had moved over to his work area. Aaron smiled at her, sliding an arm around her waist, pulling her close.

“I am. It wouldn’t feel right to stay here. Not after…” Aaron trailed off, his eyes moving to Scrooge. Zachariah stood in the spot, frozen. Could Grant see him? Was he somehow able to transcend the restrictions placed by the previous two spirits? Scrooge’s heart leapt as Aaron approached him. Never in his life had he been so happy to be seen!

This apex of joy was brought crashing to its nadir as Aaron moved past Scrooge himself, instead moving to Scrooge’s desk. He placed a hand gently against the surface, dispersing some of the dust. Stacey moved behind him, an empathetic gaze toward him.

“Yeah, I miss him too,” She said softly.

Scrooge turned to face his guide. “What does she mean, Spirit?”

Aaron laughed gently, shaking his head in a combination of sympathy and disappointment. “In attempting to bring comedy to people, he never allowed a joyful moment for himself.”

Zachariah’s body began to shake with emotion, things becoming clear. “No, Spirit, no…”

“I think he would’ve liked our kid, Stacey.”

“Oh, totally. How can you not like the little man?”

“Spirit, tell me this is not actuality!”

“All right, let’s get out of here.” Aaron removed his hand from Scrooge’s desk, walking toward the door with Stacey. Zachariah pursued them, even though he knew it was useless.

“Come back! Please, get back here, Grant! I promise I’ll change. I’ll find the joy in myself which will in turn bring joy to others! Grant!”

Scrooge’s pleas were met by the shutting of the office door for the final time. He turned around, rushing toward the Spirit.

“Spirit, tell me this is not actuality! I realize that if I continue on my current path, this is the consequence I’ll deserve but I don’t WANT to deserve it, Spirit! Tell me that it’s not too late for me to change! Tell me!”

“…Tell me!”

“……..TELL ME!”

Scrooge shot up out of bed. His sheets drenched with sweat, his brow glistening. He ran out into the living room, throwing back his curtains. The morning sun was just creeping over the horizon.

“Morning! A brand new morning!” He shouted earnestly to no one in particular. His eyes went even wider as he turned away, seeing his cell phone sitting on the kitchen counter. With a bounce in his step that defied his size, he bounded across the room in two steps, hurriedly dialing Grant’s number.

“Hello?” Grant answered sleepily.

“Aaron! Zachariah! What day is it?”

“…What?”

“What day is it?!”

“December 29th.”

Scrooge moved the phone away from his ear in shock. “December 29th?” He yelled into the receiver.

“Dude, not so loud, Stacey’s sleeping. Yeah. I figured that you came to your senses, decided to take a vacation.”

Zachariah couldn’t help but laugh. “You are correct, my friend. I have come to my senses, but it wasn’t a vacation, so much as a journey.”

“Well hey man, that’s great!” Aaron said brightly.

“Indeed! Listen, what are you doing for breakfast?” Scrooge moved into his bedroom, hastily picking out clothes for the day.

“Breakfast? Don’t know, cereal I guess.”

“Nonsense!” Zachariah exclaimed. “I’m taking you and Stacey out to breakfast! How about Bob Evans? Or maybe Cracker Barrel? Any place you want!”

“…Okay, how about Bob Evans, around 8?”

“8 it is!”

“Okay, great!” Aaron shook his head in amazement.

“Fantastic!” Zachariah concurred excitedly. He reached into his closet to pull out a pair of jeans, sneezing when some dust from the shelf fell onto his face.

“Gesundheit, man.” Aaron said.

Zachariah laughed as he walked toward the shower.

“Gesundheit, everyone!”





A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Three

22 12 2010

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

 

Zachariah Scrooge’s eyes sprang open, immediately focusing on the clock on the mantle. The time read 1 a.m.. Not moving his body, his eyes darted around the room. No sign of the second Spirit. Scrooge settled back into his bed, turning his head to face the ceiling.  “Hello?” He called out with uncertainty.  No response came.  “Hello!” He called out again, louder.  Still no response.  Scrooge pressed the back of his head against the pillow, drawing the sheets under his chin.  “Just another horrible dream.” He muttered.

The TV in the living room sprang to life.  Loud music spilled from the speakers.  Scrooge sat up, wasting no time in springing out of bed.  He slowed down as he approached the living room.  Moving at a snail’s pace, Scrooge peeked into the room.

The movie “The Blues Brothers” was playing on the television.  Curious, Scrooge moved further into the room, eyes staying on the screen.  “Yes, I remember this movie.  It’s quite good, quite good!” His lips moved into a genuine smile as he watched Jon Belushi cartwheel down the aisle of the church presided over by none other than James Brown.

“Like that movie, eh?” A booming voice spoke from the couch.  “It’s a good one.  And just like Jake and Elwood, I’m on a mission from God, myself.”

Scrooge spun around and came face to face with a mountain of a man.  At a height of six-foot-two, broad-shouldered, with dark blond hair.  Scrooge stepped back slightly and shook his head in disbelief. “You…you’re John…”

The Spirit raised a large hand to stop Scrooge.  “I was, but not anymore.” The Spirit stood up, smoothing out his trench-coat as he moved into the kitchen.  “Now, who wants an orange whip?”

Scrooge couldn’t do anything but collapse back onto his couch. He leaned forward, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. “All right, Spirit. I will take an orange whip.  And while we’re at it, perhaps you can verify for me that you are indeed the Spirit of Comedy Present.”

“Right-a-mundo, Scroogey.” The Spirit said, walking back into the living room and handing the citrus beverage to Scrooge. “You wanna drink that here, or take it for the ride?”

Scrooge sighed and stood up, holding the drink in his right hand.  ” I suppose take it with me.”

The Spirit clapped his hands together, grinning.  “Great!  Let’s go!”  Scrooge watched as the Spirit snapped his fingers.  Instantaneously, they were transported into a kitchen.  It became obvious that whoever was the owner of this kitchen was absolutely infatuated with Christmastime.  Numerous versions of Santa figurines lined the windowsill above the sink.  Gingerbread men sat cooling on a rack next to the oven.  The voice of Nat King Cole filled the air.  “Man,” The Spirit said, looking around, “These guys love Christmas, huh?”

Scrooge looked around, eyes dancing furtively across the linoleum floor.  “I feel like I know this place.”  As soon as he spoke, Scrooge’s suspicion became fact, as he and the Spirit watched Aaron Grant enter the kitchen.

“Be back in a second, babe.” He called out.  Scrooge watched as Aaron went to the cooling rack, expertly moving the gingerbread men down onto a plain white plate.

“Oh, hey, look at that! This is where Aaron lives,” the Spirit said, taking a drink of his own orange whip.  Scrooge looked back at the Spirit, a look of slight shock on his face.

“What do you mean, ‘look at that!’?  You’re the Spirit, you should know where we are going!”

The Spirit shrugged and smiled.  “I’m just doing a job.  Let’s follow him, shall we?” He nodded toward Aaron, who was leaving the kitchen, plate of cookies in hand.  Before Scrooge could offer an objection, he found himself being pushed forward by the Spirit, moving silently behind Aaron.  Scrooge and the Spirit watched as he placed the plate of cookies down on the coffee table and resumed his seat next to a red-haired young woman, colorful tattoos adorning her arms.

The Spirit let out a long, low whistle.  “Well now, who’s that fine piece of work?” Scrooge looked up at the Spirit and couldn’t help but laugh.

“That, Spirit, is Stacey, Aaron’s love.  So no, she’s not single.”

“Ah.” The Spirit shrugged again. “Bummer.  But I digress.  Let’s listen in on their conversation.”

Scrooge turned his attention back to Aaron and Stacey.  Aaron was already working on a gingerbread man, nibbling at the head, while Stacey knitted a blanket.  The pearls of the thread were determined, showing off the handiwork of someone adept at crafting goods just out of thread.

“What I don’t understand, Aaron,” Stacey started, keeping her eyes on the knitting. “Is what happened to Zachariah.  He used to have a joy about him.”

Aaron shrugged, a shrug born more out of disappointment than indifference.  “I wish I knew.  It’s never been this bad, really.  I mean, yeah, he’s had some rough spots, but we all have.  I just wish he would open up a little, you know, talk to me about it.”

Stacey laughed softly.  “You know he’s not going to do that, babe.  The man does not like to talk about himself.”

Aaron nodded and sighed.  “Yeah, I know.  You know I invited him out here tonight, and just flat-out refused.  And…” He crushed the remainder of his cookie into his palm, “He expects me to come into work tomorrow to work on some material.”

Stacey tossed down the knitting and glared at Aaron.  “You’re not going anywhere tomorrow, mister!” She smiled and gave him a quick, playful punch in the arm, laughing softly.

Aaron grinned.  “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere tomorrow.” He leaned forward, he and Stacey sharing a small embrace.  He leaned back, picking up the TV remote.  “And hey, if he decides that maybe it’s time to end the partnership because I refuse to show up for work on Christmas Day, then maybe it’ll be for the best.”  With a quick hit of the On button, Aaron and Stacey became awash in the glow of Netflix.

Zachariah stepped back in slight shock.  “End the partnership?  No, I never wanted anything like that.  I just need to work, to find that one thing that I’ve been missing for God knows how long!”

The Spirit laid a massive hand onto Scrooge’s shoulder, squeezing gently.  “But it seems that your drive has alienated those you once called friends.  In short, you’ve become a jerk.”

Scrooge moved the Spirit’s hand off his shoulder with a quick shake.  “I never meant to be like that.  I just…There’s no excuse, Spirit.  In my drive for comedic perfection, I’ve lost sight of the more important things in life.  Things like friends; like a favorite song playing on the radio; like an..orange whip.” He sniffed and laughed, holding up his now-empty cup.

The Spirit nodded, knowingly.  “Come on, Zachariah, time to get home.”

Immediately, Scrooge was back in his bedroom.  He looked around the barren room.  Save for his bed and a dresser, there was nothing that would make someone feel welcome.  No pictures.  No music.  Even the pillows weren’t decent.  “I can’t sleep in here,” Scrooge said aloud.  He grabbed a blanket and moved into the living room.  Turning on the TV, his eyes lit up when the image of Jake and Elwood filled the screen.  They were singing, dancing, entertaining five-thousand of their closest friends.  Zachariah’s eyes grew heavy as he heard this last bit of dialogue before falling asleep.

“Who wants an orange whip?  Orange whip?  Orange whip?  Three orange whips.”

To Be Concluded…





A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part One

1 12 2010

Zachariah Scrooge sat alone in the office, before his writing desk, his worn overcoat wrapped around his large body.  His hazel eyes narrowed at the laptop screen in front of him, the flashing vertical line taunting him, daring him to type words.  Fingers tapped along the keyboard, only to be followed by an angry mashing of the Backspace button.  Staring at the faint glow of his laptop’s monitor, he finally slammed it shut, his hands raising up in frustration.

“Bah, humbug!” He cried, standing and moving over to the minifridge adjacent the glass panel windows. Pulling the door open, he bent down, peering long and hard before finally grabbing a Diet Dr. Pepper. The sound of carbonation filled the air as he popped the tab and took a sip, staring out onto the nigh-deserted street known as West Broad.

“Are you all right, Zach?” Came a voice from the hallway.  Scrooge turned to see Aaron Grant, his comedy partner, emerging from the shadows, arms filled with wrapped boxes.  “I heard you all the way from the mailroom.”

Grant was, by all accounts, a good looking man.  Tall, toned body, a perfect smile that was roofed by a perfect head of brown hair. His winter beard was supple.

Scrooge peered into his reflection of the window.  He was short, rotund, a fair smile, with his  dark blond hair receding into a widow’s peak.  His winter beard was but a patch on his chin and sideburns that grew unruly far too fast.

“I’m fine, Grant,” Scrooge muttered, his eyes remaining forward.  “Just another mental block, is all.”

“Oh, all right then, nothing too terrible, then.” Grant said, unloading the packages onto an empty desk. “I was wondering if you wanted to come by my place tonight. Stacey and I are doing a little gift exchange.”

“Gift exchange?” Scrooge turned to face Grant.  “What for? Her birthday’s already past, and yours is in June.”

“July, actually.”

“Whatever.”

Grant laughed, shaking his head.  “No, for Christmas.  It’s Christmas Eve.”

Scrooge rolled his eyes, putting the cold can to his lips.  “Christmas Eve. Harumph, just another day where I sit, attempting to think of clever things to say to the peons.” He waved his can toward West Broad, his eyes narrowing as he watched a man and woman walk, fingers intertwined with each others’.  Turning away from the window, his eyes focused on the pile of gifts.  “For a little gift exchange, that’s quite a few presents.”

“Well,” Grant said, smiling. “There are only a couple in here for Stacey.  I have a few for my parents, and a couple for my son.”

“That’s right, I forgot.” Scrooge muttered again, his eyes scanning the packages. “You and Stacey are having a child soon.”

Grant nodded, grinning wider. “April.  I know it’s a little early, but I just couldn’t help it.” He laughed, shrugging his broad shoulders.  Scrooge peered at him, then smiled.  It wasn’t a kind smile, however.  Far from it.

“Well then, if you are exchanging presents tonight, you should have no problem with coming in tomorrow morning.” Zachariah moved back to his desk, sitting down and reopening the laptop.  Grant stepped back slightly in surprise.

“But tomorrow’s Christmas Day!  That means food!  More gifts!  Sleeping in!” He moved his arms outward, palms toward Scrooge, attempting to appeal to the generous spirit of the large man in front of him.  Scrooge looked up briefly, then moved his attention back to the computer.

“That’s not possible.  There is work to be done.  Humor to be published.  You will be here at 8 a.m., or I replace you with a joke book sponsored by Garfield.” Scrooge’s fingers began clacking against the keyboard. “Be glad I’m letting you go home early tonight.”

Grant moved his arms down, shaking his head slightly as he scooped up the gifts.  “I really hope you understand what you’re asking is a very mean-spirited thing.  Christmas is supposed to be spent with family, not with a sly wit and a cynical point of view.”  He moved over to the door exiting out onto West Broad, pausing and turning back once more. “At least promise me you’ll go home tonight, and not spend the night here like you did last Christmas.”

Scrooge’s eyes never wavered from the screen. “I make no promise I have no intention of keeping. Now go.”

Grant’s eyes filled with pity as he turned away, leaving Zachariah Scrooge alone in the office.

One hour passed.  Then another.  Then another.  West Broad progressed from a steady stream of people crossing the window to a trickle, until finally it was barren.  Zachariah Scrooge leaned back in his chair, taking one more look his blog post.  He glanced down at his watch.  11 p.m..  Surely the roads would be clear.  With a stifled yawn and a shrug, Scrooge saved the post and stood up.  “I’ll finish it tomorrow.” He grumbled, ambling to the exit.  Placing his wool cap on his head, he stepped out into the cold.  “Harumph, blasted weather.” Scrooge said to himself as he slid into the driver’s seat of his Camry.

The engine came to life, and Scrooge’s face twisted into a mask of pain as he heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” come blaring through his car’s speakers.  “Blasted Christmas music!” He yelled, twisting the volume knob to the left so violently, it threatened to snap off.  Scrooge took a moment to enjoy the silence and solitude, and let out a long exhalation before pulling out onto the empty street.

As he drove, his thoughts drifted to Grant.  He could just see Aaron and Stacey, sitting together in their living room, exchanging gifts and looks of love between each other, both eager for the future.  “Children, hmph.” Is all Scrooge could say as he shook his head to clear out the vision.

Finally arriving to his home, Scrooge shrugged off his overcoat.  Locking the front door, he moved over to his couch, sitting down and picking up the TV remote.  “Christmas.” He growled as he clicked through the channels, his heart growing darker with each commercial or sitcom that espoused a holiday cheer which he did not feel. “Blasted holidays!”

Scrooge turned the TV off, tossing the remote down onto the couch and standing up. “Best get to bed and get the day over with.”

He moved to the bedroom, getting into his nightgown and sliding into bed.  His eyelids grew heavy, and he was just about to fall asleep when he heard a voice.

“Zachariah…” It was ghostly, faint.  Scrooge sat up in bed, his body tensing with fear.

“What, who’s there?!” He whispered.

“Zachariah…” The voice said again.  From the living room, Scrooge could see the glow of the TV.  His body relaxed, laughing at himself.

“Fool I am, I must have left the TV on.  I’m more tired than I thought.” He padded back into the living room, grabbing the remote and pressing the Off button.  But the screen stayed on, playing a cliche-filled commercial with holiday sentiment.  Scrooge slapped the remote against his hand, pressing the Off button again.  “Damn batteries.”

Suddenly, the channel changed! No longer was it a commercial or a sitcom, but rather a man dressed in a black bowling shirt with white down the front, cargo pants, and a Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap turned backward.  Scrooge peered closer, his eyes narrowing.

“…Thomas?  Thomas George?”

The man in the TV nodded.  “Yes, Zachariah, it is me, your old improv partner.”

Scrooge sat on the couch, slack-jawed.  “But, it’s not possible…you’re dead!”

Thomas nodded again.  “I am dead, Zachariah, and now I must roam the airwaves, amidst all the pop culture that I exploited within my improv scenes.  Reality shows, game shows, terrible sitcoms…They are my residence.”

Zachariah leaned forward. “But why are you here now, Thomas? It’s been ages since we performed together.”

Thomas raised an accusatory finger.  His dark eyes blazed with passion. “You have grown complacent, Zachariah!  Your humor once brought joy to hundreds, but now you have allowed your cynical views of life to overpower that humor!  I come with a warning: You shall be visited by three spirits tonight…the Spirit of Comedy Past; the Spirit of Comedy Present; and the Spirit of Comedy Yet to Come.  Heed their lessons well, Zachariah!  And also check out ‘Modern Family’, Wednesday nights on ABC!”

The television screen blinked off.  Scrooge sat on his couch for a long moment, keeping his eyes focused on the screen.  It blinked on again, Thomas filling the viewspace.

“Seriously, you need to get to bed so the spirits can come.” The screen turned off for the final time.

Scrooge stood up quickly. “Hmph, spirits.” He spat out as he moved back to his bedroom, crawling under the covers.  “Spirits…” he grumbled one more time before his eyes closed, drifting off into sleep.

To Be Continued…





Improv. Why?

9 05 2010

That question is one I’ve found myself asking a lot the past couple of days.

Before we go any further, just so you know: I’m not retiring from improv.  I’m not even close to thinking about quitting this art that I’ve loved for the past 11 years of my life.  So if you’re hoping that this is going to be a big Lou Gehrig moment, I suggest you stop reading and do something else, like building a birdhouse.  Seriously, I don’t see enough of those small architectural wonders.

Back to the question at hand; Why in the world, for the past decade, have I spent my time studying, watching, performing, and loving this art form?

This question formed after reading Molly Buckley’s blog entry on her improv experience (Found here, on her brilliant website).  She posits that to her, the stage is her church, improv her religion.  Some may call it an extreme statement, but after seeing her perform for the past couple of years, I’d say it’s right on the money.  Molly rocks it out every time she performs.  So does everyone who’s a part of Made of BEES.

But why?  Why do I feel the compulsion to get up on the stage, perform for the masses, and bring smiles to faces?  Why am I not content to sit back, relax, and let the thousands of other performers through this great world do the entertaining for me?

Life would be so much simpler if I just threw in the towel, proclaimed “I’m done.”, and never worried about setting foot on the stage again.  There would be time to do normal things, like watch TV and go to bars and debate the merits of my favorite NFL team’s draft picks.  I could even try to breach the dating scene.  It’d be jarring at first to keep my focus on the beautiful girl in front of me than the dozens of potential characters that always frequent the restaurants, bars and bowling alleys.  But eventually that temptation would fade, and I’d be a simpler person.  A normal person.  A saner person.

So the question remains.  Why?  Why have I devoted 11 years of my life to studying, seeing, and performing improv?  After some soul-searching, I think I’ve found some answers:

  • Improv accepts.
  • It encourages.
  • It emboldens.
  • It always says “Yes”.
  • Improv never calls in the middle of the week, telling me that things just aren’t working out.
  • It never sends me an email, saying that I’m not qualified enough to be a part of it.
  • Improv shows me where I shine brightest.
  • It shows me my weaknesses, and then strengthens them.
  • Improv doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make.  All it cares about is you perform to the best of your ability.
  • It teaches me how to trust.
  • It proves it’s all right to be vulnerable.
  • Improv brings people together.
  • Improv helps me become the person I want to be.

There are more answers.  I just haven’t found them yet.

To Molly, improv is her church.  To me, it’s a mentor.  It develops me.  It pulls me out of my shell, telling me it’s all right to be who I am.  I can succeed, or I can fail.  Whatever happens, improv will be there for me the next day, and the day after that.  It doesn’t discard me.  It needs me as much as I need it.

There’s no telling how long this mutual need will last.  Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find myself lacking the desire to get on stage.  Maybe the time will come when I have a career and a wife and a mortgage and I’ll have to put it aside.  Maybe I’ll finally take the advice of some of my more practical friends, and “grow up”.

But until then, I’m here.  In the present.  And presently, I’m about improv, and all the hope and joy and love that comes with it.

Yes and.

-ZA





Confessions of a Frustrated Blogger

17 04 2010

Such a sad, strange, man.

Disassociated Press, 4/16/10

Zach Arnold takes a long drag off his Marlboro Light before tapping the ash down to the concrete.  He’s a short man, rotund.  Comparable to the Penguin, one of Batman’s several nemeses.  Or perhaps that Travelocity gnome, which proclaims affordable deals for all travelers.  Tonight, however, as we sit on the patio of a TGI Friday’s, he most resembles what several of his generation have become…a frustrated blogger.

“You see people…” He takes another drag off his cigarette.  “…When most people go online, they aren’t looking to expand their worldview.  Nah, they wanted to do that, they’d read a book or…or a newspaper.  Nah, when people get online, they’re looking for escapist entertainment.  I mean, how else can you explain LOLcats and keyboard cats and dramatic animals…”

I nod.  Not in agreement, but to avert Arnold’s eyes as I close out my Twitter page on my iPhone.  Our drinks arrive.  The waiter sets my cranberry juice in front of me, and a Yuengling with a tiny umbrella inserted into the mouth is placed in front of Zach.  “That makes it classy,” He chuckles, pulling the umbrella out, nearly stabbing himself as he sucks out what little beer was absorbed into the wood of the toothpick.  He then asks me where he was.  I slide my notes over to him, which he pores over with intent eyes.

“LOLcats…dramatic animals…right, yeah.” He shoves my notepad back over toward me before leaning back in his chair, the tempered steel of the seat groaning under the massive pressure his grotesque body exerts upon it.  “Now, you see, I started blogging a while back.  Probably 2002, 2003, something like that.  And at first I was having fun with it.  LiveJournal.  Just putting random thoughts down, entertaining the few friends that read it.  Then I got to thinking that hey, I could use my writing prowess for something productive.  Get some debate going.  I was having people write some decent comments out, so why not fan the flames a little?  The first entry was supposed to foster a discussion on if our President at the time, George W. Bush, was using appropriate measures in his fight against terrorism.  I put that blog up and guess what?  Not one single comment.  Only 2 hits.  I know one of them was mine because I logged in at the library, see if anyone had posted anything.  That night, I put up a post debating the merits between eating ice cream in the hot seasons, and eating ice cream in the cold seasons.  Know how many hits that one got me?  65.  The writing was on the wall, baby.”

I had no idea why Mr. Arnold had addressed me as “baby”, but decided to push that aside.  This man was obviously getting drunk off one beer, or had been drinking before arriving at Friday’s.  I glanced at my watch.  Where the hell were my fried green beans?  A loud belch from across the table snapped my attention back toward my portly interviewee.  Swallowing the small amount of bile that had crept into my throat, I asked him to continue.

“Let’s see…ah, yeah, after that LiveJournal thing, I stumbled onto blogspot, and spent maybe a year or so using that thing.  My heart wasn’t really into it, though, and I stopped posting maybe 8 months in.  But!” He exclaimed, snickering as he leaned forward, resting his short arms against the table.  “I got asked to join this spectacular improv group, called Made of Bees.  And whaddya know, we get a website going on WordPress.”

I nodded again, this time in agreement.  Yes, Made of Bees was an improv group nothing short of phenomenal.  Over the past two years, they had entertained hundreds of people, leaving a residue of hilarity with every crowd they encountered.  Truly, greatness personified.

My eyes return to Mr. Arnold, who while I pontificated on the magnificence that is MoB, had fallen asleep.  A quick shake arose him from his slumber, followed by five minutes of assuring him that yes, only five minutes had passed.

“Sorry about that.  Anyway, I decide that hey, I’m in this group, I need to start contributing in some way, other than sheer sexiness.” He leers at me, a sloppy grin across his face before continuing.  “So I start writing on there.  And I figure that since we’re a comedy group, I need to write some funny stuff.  So I had blogs about me and my cousin wrestling in the backyard, how I named my sideburns, all that crap.”  Arnold accosts our server just as she places my appetizer down, requesting another Yuengling with umbrella, punctuating his drink order with a “darlin'”.  After watching our server leave, he continues.  “So I get a few posts into it, and once again, I got people putting comments up!  Telling me how they’re enjoying the hilarity and cleverness and that they’re looking forward to my next tale.  Once again I had ’em in the palm of my hand.”

Arnold looks off into space, a mix of nostalgia and drunkenness clouding his eyes.  “I had power.  That felt good.  It felt…right.  But I wanted to use this power for good.  To bring some light into this world.  So I started writing some satirical stuff, like about how Obama was getting in trouble because he wanted to address all the schoolkids.  People reacted well to that.  And once I got that reaction, it was like a drug.”

His euphoria wouldn’t last long, however.  Arnold’s eyes grow dark as he begins the next part of his saga.  “And then…Aaron had to come and screw it all up.”

Aaron Grant, another member of the spectacular Made of Bees, was also a regular contributor.  He had written three pieces.  One decrying the former Ukrop’s market chain for utilizing senior citizens as cart pushers, and two which detailed his adventures in the gym.  The first entry discussed a woman with a horrible tattoo on her lower back, while the other discussed the inability of old men in gym locker rooms to be clothed.

“And what do you know?” Arnold slurs, his eyes closing and opening slowly.  “When I come back on to check the blog, the views on Grant’s entries sky-freaking-rocketed.  I looked at the search terms, the words people used to get to the site.  I was…shocked when I saw that 20 people had come to the site using the search term ‘elderly nudes’.  I mean, ‘elderly nudes’? What kind of sick freak looks up ‘elderly nudes’?”

A plethora of them, apparently.  Grant’s blog entries quickly became the crown jewel of MoB’s site.  In fact, his first volume on the disturbing things he’s seen in his gym has garnered over 3,500 views alone.  That’s almost half of the total page views for the Bees’ site itself.

I look back at Arnold, who is now weeping openly.  There, at this TGI Friday’s, sits a broken man.

“I’m done, baby…” Again with the baby.  I brush it off.  “…From now on, no more suave political commentary.  No satirical stuff.  Just straight, flat-out funny stories about my life.  I mean, everyone loves to hear stories about fat guys getting stuck on things, right?”

I assure him he’s correct.  He smiles a sad smile, leaning back in his chair, of which the legs are now bowing out.  “I’m proud of Grant, I am.  That boy knows what the people want.”

I nod in silent concurrence, glancing back at my iPhone, enjoying a silent triumph as I become the new mayor of Friday’s in 4square.  My victory is only slightly marred by my now-cold fried green beans.

Fin

-ZA





The Night Before MoB’s Christmas.

24 12 2009

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and through the Bees’ house,

They were enjoying the night, and no, they weren’t soused.

Their spirits were filled with holiday cheer,

Knowing that Santa would soon be here.

Aaron stayed up to catch the big man,

While Zach checked the Bees’ page, wanting more fans.

And Molly wore her Snuggie. Stacey had one too,

They ate Christmas cookies; the frosting was blue.

When from the front door, there came such a knocking.

They all went quiet, their watches tick-tocking.

The door burst open, and who should appear

But Ryan, who moved to the west this year!

They leapt from their places, each from their seating,

To give Mr. Hansinger a holiday greeting.

He looked around, curious, a query on his mind,

“Where is Jenni?” he wondered, “She wasn’t far behind.”

At that moment, Jenni came into the scene,

Followed by Santa, who wasn’t looking so keen.

“Guys!” hollered Jenni, “Something’s wrong with Saint Nick!”

Aaron agreed, “He does look a little sick.”

“Santa, what’s wrong?” Molly inquired,

“Your breathing is shallow, your skin is perspired.”

“Oh, child!” Santa bellowed, shaking his head,

“It’s food poisoning, and I must get to bed.

“But there are  toys left to give,  smiles to be had;

I can’t go on, though, I feel so bad!”

Stacey stood up, threw her Snuggie to the ground.

“No Christmas for children?  Not while I’m around!”

The Bees looked at each other, they knew what had to be done.

It was now up to them to ensure holiday fun.

Laying up Santa onto the couch,

They rallyed together, not one a slouch.

 Ryan and Aaron were the men in the back,

Organizing the presents in Santa’s sack.

Zach and Molly kept the reindeer at bay,

Assuring them Santa would be okay.

Stacey and Jenni got in the front, both took the reins,

While Aaron hollered out, “Stacey driving? Are you insane?!”

But there was no time to argue, for in a quick minute,

Santa’s sleigh was airborne, with the Bees in it.

Around the world they flew, gifts handed out.

The kids were so happy, they all danced about.

Soon, the night was done, the Bees were a-twitter,

And when they returned to their house, their hearts went a-flitter.

For standing in the living room, in the early morn,

Was none other than last name Michaels, first name Lorne.

“Santa told me what you did,” Lorne droned in his voice;

“Very impressive, and I’ve made a choice:

“I want you all to be part of Saturday Night Live.”

The Bees’ mouths dropped open; Molly yelled, “High Five!”

They celebrated that day, with rolls and nog made from eggs,

While Ryan danced, using many Stanky Legs.

The moral of the story, friends, is to keep close sight,

One day you may find us yelling, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

-ZA





Welcome to Atlanta. Bienvenido a Atlanta.

21 09 2009

The BEES (well, 3/4 of them) got in Aaron’s Blazer, no not the jacket, and drove a gazillion hours, or 7, to Atlanta, Georgia for the 6th Annual Black Box Improv Festival.

Here is a short 3-4 minute video recapping adventures.

Enjoy.

-MB.