Monday, November 29, 2010

Icicles (Daily Photo 11.29.10)

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I had to buy almost all new sets of Christmas lights for the front porch. For some reason they didn't survive from last year. It's not a problem -- I like fresh new sets of lights.


For not much reason at all, here's a picture of Stanley hogging the couch. I was trying to work there this morning. I stood up to pour another cup of coffee and he took advantage of me.

Isabella in a box (Daily Photo 11.28.10)

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Had to say goodbye for the holidays to my niece and nephew, and to my sister and brother-in-law.

Before they left, I took some video of my niece, who I found playing with a box of diapers. She was taking all the diapers out and spreading them all over the floor. So I taught her to stack them and put them back in the box. So we did that for a while, putting them in and taking them out again. Then, when they were all out, she got in the empty box and started putting the diapers in there also. I thought what anybody normally would when confronted with a toddler in pink feety-jammies and a bunny-rabbit hat: time for a physics lesson!

video

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Green lights (Daily Photo 11.27.10)

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Strung some Christmas lights on the bannister inside. I'm hoping to get the rest of the Christmas decorations up this week.


Also, for no reason at all, here's cute baby Colin wearing my hat.

Four legs (Daily Photo 11.26.10)

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Took Stanley for a walk late at night. Actually, not very late at all, maybe 6 p.m. But it felt late.

Thanksgiving 2010 (Daily Photo 11.25.10)

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It was Thanksgiving, obviously -- so my sister, brother-in-law, and their two kids came up from Philadelphia to celebrate the holiday with us.


Colin tried to eat the tablecloth.


Later, he tried to eat my camera.


Isabella tried to eat a plastic frog on this "jumperoo" thing.


Nik tried to eat -- and succeeded at eating -- this piece of chouriço.


I tried to eat a turkey wing, some dark meat, stuffing, chouriço, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes squash, gravy, broccoli casserole, and pumpkin pie -- and I did.

The horrifyingly vacant shark-eyed smiling face of Paula Deen (Daily Photo 11.24.10)

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Nik's Gramma went to the hospital with a variety of ailments. She'll be all right. I stopped by her apartment and picked up some things for her while she convalesces: her glasses and a couple of magazines, one of them an issue of Cooking With Paula Deen. I'd never read it before, so therefore wasn't aware that nearly all the articles are written as if Paula Deen wrote them herself, which let's face it is doubtful. She's probably too busy fattening up Americans for the eventual carnivorous alien harvest for that. The prose on even minor articles is larded with Paulaisms, like at least one "y'all!" exclamation point included per sentence. "Gotta" and "wanna" are apparently OK by the copy desk's style guide, and references to her two grown sons and grandson Jack are shoehorned liberally into most paragraphs. There was a recipe inside for roasted nuts made with bacon and caramelized brown sugar. It's quite frightening.

Some other food looks OK, though.

Mushroom cloud (Daily Photo 11.23.10)

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Or something.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Home (Daily Photo 11.22.10)

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After race weekend in Philadelphia, Nik and I drove back home. My parents dog-sat for us while we were away. The dogs like my folks, but it's not the same.

Marathon day (Daily Photo 11.21.10)

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Started the day quite early so we could get Nik squared away for her marathon. By now, marathons are no big deal -- this is her seventh overall and her third time running Philly. But you still like to get there in decent time.


The race starts out in front of the art museum. I'll write more about it on the 4 Feet Running blog very soon, including a little race report. For now, content yourself with this panorama, which you can enlarge by hovering your mouse cursor on it and clicking away delightedly.


During the (spoiler alert) 4 hours and 10 minutes it took for Nik to run her race, I wandered around the city and looked at the architecture.


Wandering around for hours looking up might bore some people, but not me. I love skyscrapers.


Nik made it through the race just fine, by the way.

Nik and Colin (Daily Photo 11.20.10)

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I ran my 8K race in downtown Philly. I did very well -- if you want specifics check out the 4 Feet Running blog (Nik and I will post our race reports soon).

After the run we had the whole rest of the day -- hell, it took me less than an hour -- so we spent some time with my family. I haven't seen my nephew Colin since he started left the sit-around-sleeping-shitting-yourself-and-staring-into-space phase and entered the interesting-baby phase. He's pretty great.

Philadelphia windows (Daily Photo 11.19.10)

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Nik & I drove south to Philadelphia for marathon weekend. She was going to run the marathon and I had the 8K on my schedule as a test of how my training has been over the summer. 

We stayed at a hotel downtown. This was outside the window. I'm not sure what's across the street, but it was color-coded for convenience.


My sister and brother-in-law live and work in Philadelphia. We visited my sister's office, way up in the clouds of a skyscraper downtown.


Her workplace is like something out of the movies. She took us to the office of her firm's senior partner. We're talking three computer monitors, a massive leather chair and wooden desk, plush carpeting, and a spectacular view of the city. It's nothing like my place.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Full moon (Daily Photo 11.18.10)

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Arrooo.

Sorry, I was going to get our takeout at the time and didn't feel like going back in the house for the tripod. So I handheld it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Clearly people prefer cheap gas (Daily Photo 11.17.10)

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Know how I can tell?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cat's eye (Daily Photo 11.16.10)

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Yep.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chili and marshmallows (Daily Photo 11.15.10)

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I didn't have them at the same time.


The marshmallows were for afterward with my cocoa.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chili base (Daily Photo 11.14.10)

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In a big pot, saute two diced onions, a bunch of chopped carrots, and 2 or 3 ribs of chopped celery in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add 2 or 3 seeded and chopped jalepeño peppers and a chopped bell pepper or two, 1/4 cup of tomato paste, tablespoon of chili powder, teaspoon of cumin, some cilantro, maybe some thyme, and stir and cook it until the whole thing, your chili base, carmelizes, about 10 minutes. Add a can of crushed tomatoes, a can or 2 of beans, half a beer, and the remaining meat from a leftover turkey you made earlier in the week and got tired of. Simmer and stir occasionally for an hour. Then let it rest for a few minutes, add some cheese if you like, and eat the hell out of it.

Red, blue, and a 360 (Daily Photo 11.13.10)

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The Japanese red maple out in my front yard is starting to turn. 

Ever since I got my new camera, I've been thwarted in my ability to take panoramas. My camera has the ability to take the individual shots needed to stitch it together, but it doesn't come with any software to do that. It's not as simple as joining the shots end-to-end in Photoshop because of a little thing called parallax. So I went online and found panorama-stitching software called Hugin and gave that a try. I went out for a 4-mile run to the cemetery near my house to take some shots and, long story short, ended up with this 360-degree panorama. Click it to enlarge it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Smile (Daily Photo 11.12.10)

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End of a very long week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Clementine (Daily Photo 11.11.10)

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Delicious.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Raking at night (Daily Photo 11.10.10)

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Except it wasn't really at night. It was just after 5 p.m. Last week, I would've been raking leaves in sunshine.

Hello Kitty (Daily Photo 11.9.10)

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On a run with Nik and the dogs, spotted this hanging out all by itself in a bush, looking abandoned and almost dare I say a little molested.

First snow (Daily Photo 11.8.10)

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It didn't last long. Still, it's a start.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Overheard Assholes: "Overkill"

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Mom: (smiling) "It was funny, but when someone laughs at one of your jokes you take it and move on — don't just keep going."
Kid: "But—"
Mom: "It's called overkill and you have it."
Kid: "But there was another part—"
Mom: (sternly) "Xavier, I told you NO!"

— mother and kid,
maybe 6, in Stop and Shop

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Standard time (Daily Photo 11.7.10)

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Went out for a few errands, and before I knew it this happened.

Small couch (Daily Photo 11.6.10)

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We all manage to fit, though.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The answers to all your questions, Part 3

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* Incidentally, it's come to my attention that a writer named Chuck Wendig at TerribleMinds.com does a very similar kind of thing, except he calls it "search term bingo." It's a very fun and interesting blog, and his take on this is pretty hilarious. Please go there and check out his posts.

Let's hear it for old traditions making a comeback! Back in 2007 and 2008, I wrote some pieces for this blog examining the strange search terms people use to find this blog.* There are a lot of depraved son-of-a-bitches curious people out there with access to Teh Google and questions -- vital questions that need answering. Their searches lead them here, but who knows if they leave with the answers they so desperately seek?  The Internet can be a labyrinth of misinformation. I'd like to shave off a turn or two of that labyrinth by digging up some of these Google searches and trying to help these people if I can. By the way, Labyrinth -- am I right? Hah? Muppets?

Without further ado:

• Antwerp, Belgium, "gramma fonzie": A lot of people come here looking for information on Fonzie. So we're clear, I don't know Henry Winkler or anyone involved in the production of Happy Days. I've never been to Milwaukee.  I don't wear a leather jacket -- not because of any moral allergy to leather, but because I frankly have neither the physique nor haircut to pull it off fashion-wise.

But I do know that Fonzie had a grandmother: Grandma Nussbaum. She appears in a few episodes. Which means that Fonzie is possibly part-Jewish, which increases the likelihood that the penis Fonzie stuck into so many willing, silent, bobby-socks'd Milwaukee girl-puddles was a circumcised penis. Now that you've learned that, you can't unlearn it. Happy days, indeed.

Wikipedia fact, Antwerp: "Grandma Nussbaum (and she alone) calls Fonzie 'Skippy.'"

Case: CLOSED


--

Folly Beach, South Carolina, "fonzie saying aaah": Fonzie's famous catchphrase was not "aaah."  It was "aaay."  In fact, that's not even a catchphrase because it's more a groan of self-satisfied contentment than an actual word.

Fonzie only said "aaah" when he visited the dentist. And not even then, because we all remember that episode where Fonzie had a bad toothache but was too cool to go to the dentist, however of course as the plot cleverly unfolded it became clear that his heroic tolerance of what was apparent to everyone quite severe maxillofacial pain and standoffishness toward dentistry was simply a cover for Fonzie's abject terror thereof -- another in a long line of examples in Happy Days where we (the audience) peer behind the leather veil so to speak, see that beneath Fonzie's overcompensating ultramasculinity lurks a scared and emotionally wounded boy using machismo as a shield against further psychological damage, that very shield itself being a damaging influence in that it keeps Fonzie from feeling genuine closeness toward others unless a kind of bullying paternalism where Fonzie seeks ever-greater amounts of control over others' behavior, i.e. his constant finger-snapping commands to women and demands that confidantes enter "his office," that being sadly a public bathroom in a cruel irony, that paternalism only increasing his emotional distance from friends and, again, in cyclical fashion, reinforcing the machismo shield that is both his defense against psychological pain and its enabler. That was in '81, the Ted McGinley years.

Case: CLOSED

--

Dallas, Texas, "upscale smores": This search brought a Dallas reader to this post, a taste test I wrote in 2008 about s'mores flavored nacho chips. It didn't go well.

You know who makes upscale s'mores? Cosi. It's like this fancy-ass coffee shop. You can make your own s'mores over a sterno can, like a pu-pu platter. I did that once in Philadelphia and it was awesome. Costs a lot for crackers and chocolate, but that's the "upscale" part.

There isn't a Cosi in Dallas. I suggest you move. Yes, just for the s'mores. Look how fucking delicious that looks.

Case: CLOSED

--

• Nyiregyhaza, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, "mister hemör": To be honest, I included this one as a typing challenge for myself. I don't know what you're looking for or what kind of fucked-up gutter language that purports to be. I mean Jesus Christ. From the look of it, it sounds like a Klingon screaming underwater. If I had to write and speak shit like that all day I'd reconsider living wherever the hell this is.

Case: OPEN

--

Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France, "big black clito": I assume that's a typo and you're looking for pictures of a big black ladypart. If you're trying to find a picture of that anywhere on the Internet, you've come to the wrong place. You'll find that on any woman it's still sort of pinkish.

Case: CLOSED

--

Birmingham, Alabama, "'not a wall--he hadn't hit a wall. It was something. An animal'": Curiously enough, Birmingham searched for this in quotes. These phrases are found verbatim in a short story I wrote maybe 10 years ago or more, sold to a literary magazine, and then republished here, called "Frank Xing."  It's a strange little story about a drowsy guy who's driving on a dark, deserted stretch of highway and accidentally hits Frank Sinatra.  I'm willing to believe I'm not the only person who's written those words in that order, but I'm probably the only person who's written that story.

What's curiouser is that someone in Birmingham searched for this exact phrase four times. I checked. Do you want to use that clump of phrases? Is that why you're obsessed with it? Go ahead -- it's pretty damn expository. Not exactly got an authorial stamp on it like fucking what light through yonder window breaks. You can't have the story but you can take that clump of phrases. Knock yourself out.

What's even curiouser: trying to search it myself, I see Google turns up no results. Maybe even I don't own that clump of phrases. Yet I see it in the story. It's there. But if it's not on Google it doesn't exist, does it? Do I even exist? Do you? Does Birmingham? I've never been there. It may be a myth for all I know. Frank Sinatra no longer exists, so that's one of us fucked.

Case: ???

--


Colombo, Sri Lanka, "buttocks massage video": I'm not sure how this query led to this blog. I've never posted a video involving buttocks massage. I've never recorded a video of buttocks massage, either -- not even privately. I've never felt the need.

I find, however, that generally when one massages buttocks it's best to start from the cleft and work one's way down the natural slope of the buttock, rather than fight gravity by beginning underneath and attempting to circle back over and up the buttock. It only makes sense. It's also advisable to avoid the cavity lurking between the buttocks unless both parties have first enjoyed a meal and at least 30 minutes of pleasant conversation and have a mutually agreed-upon safeword.

There are plenty of videos out there involving buttocks being massaged. I won't link to them because they're easily enough found, and also poo comes out of there.

Case: CLOSED

--

Dayton, Ohio, "youtube brother and sister compare feet videos": With an S. Meaning there's more than one.

I tried searching YouTube for this and came up short. I can tell you this: I did find a video described as being a man sucking his sister's toes. I did not watch it. I don't watch things like that. I turned off the computer entirely and ran away from it until I felt better about the world.

Moving right along, I would postulate that since brothers and sisters share a significant amount of genetic code, any comparison between their feet would reveal striking similarities.  It's likely the sister's feet would be a shade smaller, perhaps with painted toenails. Unless the brother is into that kind of thing and also has painted toenails.  Maybe they even match. You know what? I don't like where this is headed. I've made myself extremely uncomfortable now.

Case: CLOSED

--

Lexington, Massachusetts, "manscaping groin area recommendation": Don't.

Case: CLOSED

Play (Daily Photo 11.5.10)

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I don't know.

Leah (Daily Photo 11.4.10)

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In addition to the two dogs you see in my pictures quite often, I also have two cats. I don't photograph them more often because the damn things usually don't hold still long enough.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

First frost (Daily Photo 11.3.10)

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The first time this fall that I can remember.

If you must smoke please dispose of materials properly (Daily Photo 11.2.10)

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 I can imagine it's tempting.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Steve

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Here's a short story called "Steve."  I include it here as a tribute to National Novel Writing Month.  I wrote this earlier in 2010 as an exercise and doubt I could find a home for it if I tried. I don't know. Anyway, enjoy.



It was June and I was still residing on Steve’s couch. I was paying him rent for it, approximately. I was self-employed and ran a small sticker-design business from the right end of the couch and the end-table adjacent where I kept my markers, but since I’d run out of sticker-backed-paper in November and Staples wasn’t carrying it anymore, I’d suspended operations indefinitely. Steve was a bagger at Star Market, thinking about going back for his Ph.D., and had figured out how to steal cable from the landlord, so there was always something to talk about between the crazy customers and what was on TV. Sometimes we talked philosophy. We didn’t have girlfriends anymore. Things were great.

We sat in silence for a while, watching the history of sitcom entertainment evolve through the decades from black-and-white to color on TV Land. Eventually the sun started to sink over the high-rises near the river. Steve sniffed.

“Remember when we were kids, man?” I said, pointing at the TV. “Like Jetsons.”

Steve said, “Right.” We were watching Rhoda. I was still thinking a few shows back.

“Not like this is,” I said. “I mean like I know what this is, what we’re watching.” I meshed my fingers together. “The ladies sort of remind me of each other, Rhoda and the Jetsons mom, so my mind made the leap. What I’m saying is, when we were kids we were told the future was supposed to be so technologically advanced with all kinds of Space-Age shit—like, we’d be living in the sky and whizzing around on jet-packs?” I made a slight waggling hand gesture that I hoped would express the joy of creation and the sorrow of a species not meeting its genetic and spiritual potential in the universe yet conscious of its own self-limiting march to mediocrity, sated on unhealthy entertainment and sick food and an apathetic attitude toward community and one’s place in the scope of human achievement. I talked about things like this a lot with Steve. “But we don’t have fucking jet-packs. We don't.  What happened to the jet-packs?”

“Actually, we do,” Steve said. From behind his end of the couch he hoisted a gleaming chrome device fitted with buckles and leather straps and, along the bottom, a cluster of vents.

“Is that a jet-pack?” I said.

“Yeah.” Steve stood up for the first time in hours. His knees cracked. He shrugged the jet-pack onto his shoulders. He indicated the left shoulder strap with his chin. “Can you, uh—tighten this for me a little?”

I stood and tightened the strap. Steve wriggled his shoulders into the jet-pack to test the fit and fluid sloshed inside. I saw my reflection in the bullet-shaped chrome spire that rose to just above his head.

“Wow,” I said. “Where’d you get it?”

“The future,” Steve said. He hiked his chin at the breakfast nook, where we’d left our unwashed cereal bowls from lunch, and there was a golden spray-painted football helmet embedded with three dials along the right side. I didn’t recall seeing it there before. “That’s a time machine. I built it. And this,” he said, cocking a thumb at the nosecone of his jet-pack.

“You built it?”

“Yes. Way in the future, when I developed the technology to make jet-packs possible and feasible. But I came back.”

“OK,” I said.

“I’ve actually been to the future and back several times now.”

I looked over at the helmet. “When?”

“Just now.” Steve nodded to me, chuckling to himself. “It’s difficult to explain, but such is the nature of time travel. For the traveler, time travel is a long journey, one that’s physical and mental and emotional. But for those left behind it’s instantaneous—as if nothing has happened.” I blinked. Steve was now holding the football helmet.

“Right,” I said. I looked at the helmet, then again at Steve. “How come you never let me in on this before?”

Steve fished around on the right side of the jet-pack and produced a small cabled ignition switch, which he clipped to the front of his sweatpants. “Doing that now, right? You see, words like ‘before’ don’t mean anything. Time’s pretty much irrelevant to me now,” Steve said. “It doesn’t make sense from my point of view to describe it to you chronologically, since I now exist outside of linear time. But since I’ve started my travels, I’ve seen the far reaches of the past, and I’ve seen the future. Far, far into the future—farther than you could comfortably comprehend.”

“Give me a—fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“To me, it’s all the present—the past and the future. And with this”—Steve patted the side of the jetpack gently, his watch striking the metal with a hollow ring—“I’m no longer even tethered to the earth.”

I snorted. “So, right. OK. Wait.”

Steve gazed at me patiently, polishing the top of the football helmet with a sleeve. He glanced at his wrist. “I’ve been here before, Nate. In 4.6 seconds, once you’ve finally spit it out, you’re going to ask me if I’m really traveling through time why I still wear a watch.”

I gave it a moment’s thought. “That’s totally true,” I said.

“Because when I get somewhere, I still have to know what time it is.

“Makes sense.”

“See, Nate—I often come and I go, existing among the shadows of my past, experiencing life as the wretched man I was, the man before I went back for my Ph.D. and eventually experienced my moment of transcendence. Which, to be honest, began here, realizing I’d done nothing with my life so far, the lowest point of my life emotionally and listening to you go on and on about something or other every morning and afternoon and night. I realized one day with you occupying half my couch that I had to do something with my life to transcend my miserable state or give up entirely. Today was that day. ”  Steve breathed deeply, looked around the apartment nostalgically.  He glanced at a pile of my laundry on the floor.  I couldn't remember if it was the clean pile or the dirty pile.  “Sometimes I like to come back here and remember the depressing morass I was in, as it's the only frame of reference I have to gauge the scope of the paradise and total freedom I now enjoy traveling through the aeons.” Steve laid a hand on my shoulder, almost fatherly, although he was much shorter than I was. “You can have the apartment and whatever’s in the owl.” The owl was a ceramic figurine given to Steve by his grandmother, where we anted up spare cash for pot, food, and other incidentals.

“Um,” I said.

Steve slipped the football helmet on his head, fitted the chin strap, and spun the dials along the side randomly. As he crossed the room to the window I saw he’d attached tiny glistening solar panels to the back. Steve raised the window and screen, letting in a rush of street noise.

“Steve?” I asked, frozen in place but trying to will myself forward to seize his arm. “You’re not going to—” I thought about the traffic below. We were nine stories up. “Were you gonna—what I mean’s, like … are you going to be back? Should I, like, expect you back later tonight?”

Steve put one knee on the windowsill.

“At some point?” I said.

Steve cast a gaze outside the window. “I’m going where the universe leads me,” he said, “and at this point, I am The Universe.” He threw a switch on the jet-pack and it whirred softly to life, a gentle wind from its vents stirring my papers and rolling pens to the floor. “One thing: about that new job? Don’t take it. You may not believe me now, but just don’t. Trust me.”

He tapped the ignition button and the jet-pack revved briefly, roaring alive in a burst of harmless cool blue flame licking the wood floors.

“Which new job?” I shouted.

“Oh,” Steve said. “You may not have done that yet. What day’s this?”

I looked out the window, then helplessly back at the cereal bowls, then at Steve. “Uh…”

He waved a hand at me dismissively. “You’ll find out!” Steve said.

Bracing the football helmet on his head, Steve leapt out the window into the city below. I tripped against the side of the coffee table and stumbled to the window, and saw outside that Steve had shot himself far into the distance, over the streets and the park, above the river, soaring higher into the air with ease, his arms outstretched like a dancer, becoming a small glowing blue dot against the darkening sky.
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