Here are two short stories for you.
The sky explodes with thunder. I open my eyes. I’m drowning in sweat. Maybe the sudden incontinent burst of rain will finally slice open the belly of the fire-breathing tick that’s been sucking the life out of me for the past two months, replacing the air with a hint of autumnal cool, and everyone can start actually being cool, walking around wearing shades like Yves Montand and speaking fluent French, quoting Camus and Sartre and Baudrillard. Unable to go back to sleep, I pick up a book on atheism and consider sharing a page with my students. It’s a risky move. A few of them are religious and might complain behind my back. My wife appears, praying obsequiously, and tells me to read the Bible. I tell her I will, keeping a straight face. She says this kind of storm has never happened at this time of year in Korea before. I tell her it’s due to global warming. Nay, she neighs: it’s payback time for the Savior. The human race is toast. And don’t even think about adding butter or marmalade. The bread done be burnt to a crisp. I roll my eyes across the floor into a pair of socks. Beginner’s luck.
Breakfast with Frankenstein
“Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!”
“Hey, Frankie,” said Mom. “Sleep all right?”
Doing his best Tom Cruise imitation, the boy cocked his head to one side, closed one eye, and pointed at his mother, saying, “All right, and all night!”
“Very funny, son,” said his father, Dr. Normal. “Or at least it was the first time you said it, before the other twelve billion times.”
“Mom? Dad? Was I adopted?”
The boy’s mother’s hand flew up to her mouth. Horror filled her eyes.
“Frankie!” she cried. “Why would you say such a thing?”
Frankie shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe because I have bolts in the side of my neck, green skin, and a scar that runs all the way around my flat-topped head.”
“That’s just a halo, Frankie,” said his mother, smoothing his hair down for school. “Jesus had one too.”
“I hope I don’t end up like that poor son of a bitch.”
Without warning, Frankie’s father swatted him with a rolled-up newspaper.
“Hey! Why’d you do that?” Frankie rubbed his temple.
“Sorry, son. I thought you had a fly on your forehead.”
“Just for that you’re grounded,” Frankie’s mother said to his father.
“Aw, honey,” he said. “And I was planning on going to the red light district tonight.”
Rod Serling, the narrator, entered the kitchen and said, addressing the television-viewing audience, “Excuse me.” Then he turned and asked Mrs. Frankenstein-Normal, “I’m sorry to interrupt, Ma’am.”
“And I’m sorry to tell you that there is no smoking in this house.”
“My bad,” said Serling, putting out the cigarette in Frankie’s hair.
“Ouch!” said Frankie. “I’m a monster, and I deserve to be treated with respect.”
“Pardon me, Frankie,” said Serling with a politely simian grin. “I thought this was the Three Stooges.”
“What are you doing here, anyway?” Dr. Normal asked, glaring over the lenses of his bifocals.
“Allow me to explain,” Serling continued. “There’s a writer’s strike going on at the network, and I was just wondering if I wouldn’t be imposing if I hit you up for some bacon and eggs.”
“Damn right you’d be imposing, you goddamned communist! Why don’t you go find your own bourgeois kitchen and obedient Stepford Wife to cook your breakfast for you?”
“Very well, sir. But I should warn you that your wife’s planning to hit you over the head with a frozen pork chop when your back is turned, then feed it to the police.”
“Mommy, may I go to school now?”
“Yes, Frankie. Don’t forget to bring your Bible.” She turned to her husband, “Actually, I was planning to use a lamb chop, but I guess I’ll have to go back to the old drawing board now.”
“What for?” Dr. Normal asked with tears in his eyes.
His wife smiled enigmatically, a twinkle in her eye worthy of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha in Bewitched.
“She wanted to get even for your crack about going to the red light district.”
“It was a (bleep) joke, honey!”
Serling asked, “May I?” and poured himself a bowl of Frankenberries.
“Ha ha,” said Dr. Normal. “I saw that old episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents too. And I read the Roald Dahl story it was based on.”
“Remind me to fine you for reading in TV Land,” said Serling. Addressing Mrs. Frankenstein-Normal, he added, “And do me a favor and stop reading the Bible. It’s bad for your eyes. Besides, our sponsors can’t afford to have sitcom characters quoting Scripture to one another. It’s not so much funny as droll, and it lowers the ratings.”
“Get the hell out of my house!” cried Dr. Normal. “Or I’ll summon the Rottweiler.”
“That won’t be necessary,” said Serling. Inhaling deeply, he shrank himself so that he was no taller than a toothpick. Then he withdrew a cigarette from the pack he stood beside on the table, which was the size of a bank of phone booths. He lay the rolling death-stick on its side and mounted it like a surfboard.
Closing his eyes and tilting his head towards the ceiling, he prayed, “Dear Jeannie, please invest me with the power of flight so that I may soar into your arms once again.”
Faster than a subliminal message flashed during a commercial aired in a smear campaign against a rival candidate by a Republican presidential hopeful, Serling surfed away on his cigarette, swooping past the heads of his suburban assailants, who tried and failed to snatch him in their hands.
As the I Dream of Jeannie soundtrack emanated around them, the doctor asked his wife, “Hey, where’s that music coming from?”
Mrs. Frankenstein-Normal said, “I don’t hear any music.”
Her husband shrugged, took a sip of black freeze-dried coffee, and said, “Oh well, must be losing my mind again.”
A laugh track ensued, letting everyone who was watching them at home know that everything was going to be all right )as long as they honored the one commandment of broadcasting: Don’t touch that dial).
“And that’s the name of that tune.” Robert “Baretta and acquitted wife-murderer” Blake