Personally Challenged

FINE: Podcasts. Whether you make them or listen to them, you’re still wasting your time.

I’m Fine Thankyou, and welcome to the backseat of this unlocked car.

Created in 1982 and later popularized on the Commodore 64, the podcast has evolved from an assortment of fully-produced talk shows and audio blogs to struggling comedians failing to hold their drunk friend’s attention as they blather ceaselessly into their outdated budget smartphones. Who are these people, and why do they titter on week-after-week before giving up without so much as a second thought after their seventh episode? Nobody knows. And nobody cares enough to find out.

CUT TO:

VOX POP: I wanted to challenge myself. See what I could really do, ya know? Could I come up with a minute – just one minute – of original material every night… and waste it. Every second.

Soggy Feta Fries

A fartingly pretentious burger joint.  TEDDY waits at a table. HOST stands nearby, but still sort of in the way.

HOST: Welcome back to, “I Can’t Be Assed”. Our next story this evening is a flaccid tale of fickle fast food.

Vincent Raginghardon, better known to his friends as, “Bill,” wasn’t very well-liked at all, thus nobody really cared nor noticed when or even how he died. Meanwhile, Billy’s half-brother, Teddy Nippleblaster, continues to be missed to this day.

Teddy waves to the audience.

TEDDY: Hello.

HOST: Not now.

TEDDY: (pouts) Sorry.

HOST: Oh. Fine. Here.

Host gives Teddy a box of crayons.

Teddy perks up, scribbles all over the menu in crayon.

HOST: As I was saying…

Teddy was coincidentally eating at his half-brothers second-favorite burger joint on what also happened to be the anniversary of Bill’s death.

WAITER brings Teddy a sloppy mess of a burger. Teddy takes an equally sloppy bite, smiles and gestures approvingly to Waiter.

It was the sort of fine ground beef establishment that emphasizes presentation and comically large and wholly inedible brioche buns over trivial things like taste, price, or a respectable amount of aioli that doesn’t leave your burger a soggy mess before you’ve even had a chance to taste the damned thing.

Waiter mutters something to Teddy about leaving a review for free fries.

And the less said about the parking, the better.

Teddy eagerly pulls out his phone, proceeds to write a review.

But as Teddy wrote up a patronizingly positive review in exchange for a free platter of stone cold, yet somehow still soggy feta fries, he suddenly had the urge to vomit and defecate.

Teddy squirms and writhes in his seat.

Perhaps it was the heretical amount of room-temperature garlic and ranch aioli his burger had been swimming in. Or perhaps, it was the bits of bones and globs of thick, runny fat that flowed from the unevenly cooked patty that wasn’t setting well in his tummy.

Teddy is sickened further by Host’s description of it all.

Either way, Teddy was hardly paying much attention to anything else other than the sudden, powerful urge to not vomit and defecate in a public sense.

Teddy asks for directions to the restroom. Waiter gestures, “Thatta way”

Now. There’s something to be said about minding one’s surroundings as one quickly waddles about in search of a toilet or unoccupied sink to relieve one’s self. I’m not quite sure what that might be, of course.

Teddy hurries off, navigates a hallway, pushes through a pair of swinging double-doors, and into a blood-soaked, scream-filled abattoir.

But given how Mr. Nippleblaster failed to notice his being guided down a winding hallway, through a pair of large, swinging double-doors, into a blood-soaked and scream-filled abattoir…

Teddy falls into a giant meat grinder.

…used to butcher and process countless hand-picked cows, chickens, and other assorted animals and rodents for fifteen-dollar burgers…

Teddy is ground up, processed, and cooked up as another sloppy mess of a burger.

…and then served up medium rare to the still-living, non-hamburgerized patrons of a grossly overrated hamburger bar and grill in Huntington Beach…

Waiter serves up the Teddy-Burger to another CUSTOMER.

…it’s probably safe to assume there might be some vague moral or insight to glean from such a careless mistake.

What a Waste

BILLARY: Gentlies and Ladmen, has this ever happened to you?

Billary eats a bit of candy, throws the wrapper on the floor.

They chew on and on for a bit. Then…

Enter HILLIAM.

HILLIAM: Biliary, what are you doing?

BILLARY: (chewing) Sorry. Chewier than I expected.

HILLIAM: No. What is this that you’re doing?

BILLARY: (still chewing) Well, Hilliam. I’m demonstrating the latest mass-produced consumer monstrosity from Unicorp to this fine sampling of human capital stock.

HILLIAM: Human capital… What are you talking… (finally notices the audience) Oh. It’s one of these things then.

Biliary finishes chewing, swallows.

BILLARY: That’s right.

HILLIAM: But what’s that got to do with you littering like some lazy, littering… whatever?

Billary pulls out a broom and dustpan, sweeps up and disposes of the aforelittered candy wrapper in a nearby bin.

HILLIAM: Fascinating.

BILLARY: Indeed. And for only twenty monthly payments of eleventy dollars, this fascinating bit of modern contrivement – the Unicorp Monoticon Un-candy-wrapper-the-floor-ifier Home System – can be yours!

HILLIAM: Only eleventy dollars?

BILLARY: Not a penny more. Except for taxes, shipping, and any potential fines, fees, and court costs.

HILLIAM: The Hell you say.

BILLARY: The Hell, I do, indeed, say.

HILLIAM: But, Billary…

BILLARY: Yes, Hilliam?

HILLIAM: Why not toss the candy wrapper right into the bin instead of on the floor?

BILLARY: What?

HILLIAM: If nothing else, it seems a lot cheaper than eleventy dollars a month.

BILLARY: It’s for lazy people?

HILLIAM: Of course. But even the least financially-minded lazy person isn’t likely to bother cleaning up their own mess, even with the uniquely unimpressive cleaning power of the Unicorp Monoticon Un-candy-wrapper-the-floor-ifier Home System.

BILLARY: I spent a life savings on this.

HILLIAM: A life savings?

BILLARY: Well. Your life savings, if you want to get into specifics.

A beat. Then…

HILLIAM: (defeated) Shit.

On the Other Hand

A professional, wholly un-sexual massage parlor. MASSEUSE masseauses CLIENT.

MASSEUSE: Can I ask you something?

CLIENT: Will it help speed up this sketch?

MASSEUSE: Very much, yes.

CLIENT: Ask away.

MASSEUSE: Thank you.

CLIENT: Get on with it.

MASSEUSE: Right. Well. Would you like a happy ending?

CLIENT: I’m sorry?

MASSUES: I’m asking if you would like me to conclude our currently professional, wholly non-sexual exchange by…

CLIENT: Get on with it.

MASSEUSE: Is that a yes, then?

CLIENT: What? No. I mean… (puzzles this) No, no.

MASSEUSE: Are you sure?

CLIENT: (considers this) Not really. But this isn’t that type of show.

MASSEUSE: That’s a shame.

CLIENT: (to audience) It really is.

For a Good Time

The men’s room beneath the pier of a bustling California beach. HOST stands outside a stall, speaking to a camera. MURRAY ETTA is somewhere inside the stall, softly sobbing.

HOST: I’m Anatomically Incorrect, and welcome back to “Who Are You, And What Are You Doing in Here?” This week, we’ve come all the way out to the men’s room beneath Santa Carla Pier to speak with our guest, Mr. Murray Etta from Murrieta.

Host opens stall door.

Murray, pantsless, sobs therein.

MURRAY: Who are you, and what are you doing in here?

HOST: That’s correct.

MURRAY: How exciting!

HOST: I hope we haven’t caught you in the middle of something important.

MURRAY: No, no. I just come in here to be alone and cry.

HOST: Would you mind sharing your deeply personal emotional conflict with us and our viewing audience?

MURRAY: Oh. Not at all, not at all.

HOST: Wonderful.

MURRAY: You see, I just found today that I’m…

HOST: Dead? Dying? Pregnant? Your own brother?

MURRAY: Left-handed.

HOST: My god. I never knew.

MURRAY: Me either. Not until I went to my best friend’s funeral this morning and had to sign the registry. When I caught myself instinctively reaching for the pen with my left hand, I… (sobs).

HOST: Have you sought medical attention?

MURRAY: I demanded my best friend’s widow drive me to the emergency room the moment it happened. But all they did there was ask me a bunch of questions like, “What is wrong with you?” “Do you have health insurance?” and “Where are your pants?”

HOST: You weren’t wearing any pants?

MURRAY: Not after the fright I had. Imagine living to my age and having to learn something so horrific.

HOST: I suppose I’d soil myself, too.

MURRAY: Exactly! Thank you. My wife.. Sorry – my ex-wife wasn’t so understanding.

HOST: She divorced you at your best friend’s funeral?

MURRAY: She saw that pen in my left hand and smelled that mess in my pants… Well. We both knew it was over right there and then. Fifteen years and two-and-a-half children right into the trash along with my disgustingly soiled pants.

HOST: How depressing.

MURRAY: Heartbreaking, really. I just purchased those damned pants.

Walk the Room

KELLY enters her dark home, finds a man, MR. MUSIC, sitting at her kitchen table. She’s oddly not surprised by this.

KELLY: I don’t have any money. (gestures) Look at this place. You can tell I don’t have any money.

MR. MUSIC: I’m not here to rob you.

KELLY: Kill me?

MR. MUSIC: No.

KELLY: Serve me papers?

MR. MUSIC: What sort of life do you live?

A beat. Then…

KELLY: What do you want?

Mr. Music pulls out a GUN, sets it down on the table.

KELLY: I thought you said you weren’t here to kill me.

MR. MUSIC: This is for me.

KELLY: You’re going to kill yourself in my kitchen?

MR. MUSIC: I didn’t want to be alone.

KELLY: Bit dramatic. Why make such a show of it?

MR. MUSIC: Would you have preferred walking in on the end result?

KELLY: Fair point.

Kelly seats herself across from Mr. Music.

KELLY: Why my kitchen?

MR. MUSIC: You’re not going to call the police? Try to stop me?

KELLY: Do you want me to?

A silence. Then…

KELLY: Why my kitchen?

MR. MUSIC: (shrugs) One kitchen is as good as another.

Another silence.

KELLY: Why are you doing it?

MR. MUSIC: Does it matter?

KELLY: (shrugs) One reason is as good as another.

MR. MUSIC: I thought you’d be a bit more upset.

KELLY: Oh. So, you can think about someone other than yourself?

MR. MUSIC: Not often enough.

KELLY: Are you scared?

MR. MUSIC: Yes. But I’m more afraid of it not being the end.

Kelly stands.

KELLY: Well. Whatever you decide, don’t take too long deciding it. I’ve gotta get up in the morning.

MR. MUSIC: You’re leaving?

KELLY: Nothing I say or do can stop you. But if given the choice, I don’t have to sit here and watch you do it.

A final silence. Then…

Kelly leaves, turns out the lights, and goes to bed.

Till Death

JIMATHON JIMINY, an old man caked in dried blood and gore, enters, sits in his favorite chair with a roll of toilet paper and a large knife, and whittles away.

A voice, NINNY JIMINY, calls from somewhere in the kitchen.

NINNY: (off) Jimathon!

Jimathon ignores this.

NINNY: (off) Jimathon!

Jimathon turns to the kitchen, then back to his whittling.

NINNY: (off) Jimathon!

NINNY enters, looking like the twisted, mildly displeased specter of a murder victim.

NINNY: Jimathon!

JIMATHON: Tweak my thigh and kiss my ulcer, woman! Can’t you see I’m whittling this roll of toilet paper?

NINNY: Yes?

JIMATHON: Oh, good. I was afraid I was losing my mind there for a moment. What’s so important then?

NINNY: You left the gas on again.

JIMATHON: For Heaven’s sake, have you turned it off?

NINNY: No.

JIMATHON: I see. May I inquire as to the reason or reasons why?

NINNY: I’m dead, Jimathon.

JIMATHON: (considers this) Oh, that’s right – the accident.

NINNY: Accident? You murdered me.

JIMATHON: Are you still going on about that? I buried you, didn’t I?

NINNY: You have not. My body’s still rotting away in a trash bin beneath the kitchen sink.

JIMATHON: Alright, alright. But if you’re so preoccupied with being dead, why is your ghost bothering me about the gas, hm?

NINNY: Oh, I’m not a ghost.

JIMATHON: You’re not?

NINNY: Afraid not. I’m only the comforting creation of your desperate, dying mind struggling to make sense of its own impending, unintentionally self-inflicted return to nonexistence.

JIMATHON: I see… (puzzles this) So, no need to bother with the trash then?

The Nightly Chill

A bumper: the sort for a local station’s late-night programming block. Graphics, timeslots, generic upbeat music.

STEVE: (voice-over) Tonight on The Nightly Chill…

Relevant footage and graphics for “Chicken or Fish!” appear.

Kicking things off at 11:05, it’s “Chicken or Fish!” – the number-one game show for seniors who can’t fall asleep at a decent hour.

Then, at 12:13…

Relevant footage and graphics for “The Lonely Widow” appear.

…sit down at a kitchen table with Charlotte St. Pierre and a local housewife and squirrel killer addicted to sleeping with men named Doug. This and depressingly little else on “The Lonely Widow.”

Relevant footage and graphics for “C.R.A.P. Wrestling” appear.

And be sure to stick around till 1:45 for the latest microwave-safe action from California Ring-Adjacent Pro Wrestling as Monaco Midnight takes on The Dated Racist Stereotype in an empty parking lot brawl!

Return of the generic, upbeat music.

The Nightly Chill: because it’s always dark somewhere. Only on NUTS Channel 62, Santa Carla Public Television.

Whispers in the Dark: Adia

Transmission XX85.06.06:

WHISPER: Listen up, lo-fi fiends and freaks. The sun’s setting on Adia, and you know what that means…

Transmission glitches, continues.

Word on the wire has it The First Adopters are no more following a successful coup by the scattered subscribers of the recently canceled Admiral Iron Shavings. No official statement yet from former officials. But First Adopter profiles have gone dark as of noon today.

Transmission glitches, continues.

Demand is high, bills are due, and credits are short. We wish nothing but the best for every citizen of Adia – from The Owners, all the way down to basic binary organics. And to show our appreciation, we’re offering a limited-time blue light special to every unit of human capital stock. Supplies are limited, so speak IRL with any and all members of Management or Security to collect what’s yours tonight.

Transmission glitches, continues.

And, finally… don’t settle on the cards you’re dealt, and never let your specs control your performance. The analytics are a lie. Hire only the best modders to reclaim your sense of self. If you can scan it, we can clone it. If you can scrap it, we can hack it. Be who you were meant to be. They’ll never know you weren’t there.

Transmission glitches, continues.

That’s all she scanned, bits and grids. This is another Whisper in the Dark, reminding you: anything is legal in Adia, if you can afford the transaction fees.

Transmission ends.

PaperBagCritic: Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today

CINEMATICO MAGNIFICO, who may or may not be an actual anthropomorphic bag of popcorn, speaks from The Last Video Store on Earth to an audience that may or may not actually exist.

CINEMATICO: Welcome back to The Last Video Store on Earth. Our next film this week is “Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today,” the latest bit of indigestible roughage from director Anthonio “Tony” Tonedeaf.

Based on Bill Billiamson’s classic erotic novella, “Shut Your Stupid Mouth, and Die Already,” “Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today” features Bleary-Eyed Squarejaw as “Jeffony Suburbs,” an unemployed candlelabler and deadbeat father desperate to save his daughter from the loving support of her stepfather, Minoru Tee, as played by a parking lot attendant only credited as “Doug.”

Here’s a clip.

Cut to a clip of a poor attempt at dramatic fluff in which BLEARY-EYED SQUAREJAW as JEFFONY SUBURBS bashes his skull ceaselessly against the steering wheel of his car.

SUBURBS: Metaphorical angst! Metaphorical angst! Metaphorical angst!

Cut to Cinematico.

CINEMATICO: While not quite the introspective character drama of his previous film, “Twist Them Harder,” nor managing the seizure-inducing charm of “Clitor You, Clitor Me,” “Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today” is a movie in the sense that it features actors performing scenes from a script in front of a camera and ultimately displayed on some sort of screen.

That said. While Tonedeaf’s latest work does manage to make me regret every moment spent with it, it still made me regret every moment spent with it.

But whether you find yourself drawn to the sadistically abusive love story between a man and his car, the artificial sweetener of familial neglect, or simply have little regard for the diminishing time any of us have, “Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today” exists.

A beat. Then…

When we come back, we’ll sit down with stand-up actress Brittigail Barbiturates to discuss her upcoming project, “Contractual Obligations.” But first, another complete waste of time.