This Old Dump

Hello! And welcome to “This Old Dump”. I’m your host, master carpenter Bob Ourman. This week, we’re restoring a charming 1920s ranch home to its original design and upgrading it with a second and third story, a finished basement, a wraparound porch, four corner turrets, an elaborate fountain installation, and my signature addition of a life-sized, hand-carved oak recreation of the Battle of Waterloo. So let’s get started!

Now as you can see, this home has a lot of curb appeal. It certainly curbs mine, so let’s skip the front and head on in.

As we step inside, there’s a lot to admire right away. We’ve added a beautiful 300-year-old Persian rug. And here’s an original Louis XIV bench and you can see the ivory and tortoise shell marquetry. If you look up there’s a breathtaking crystal chandelier. And as you came in you saw the intricate, one of a kind Faberge doorknobs. This is easily in the top ten mudrooms we’ve done this season. Oh, say, Harry? The nails go in pointy side first. There ya go.

Now, as we come through the hallway and into the family room, take a look at the windows. They’re entirely stained glass. Ooh, yeah. That’ll never come out. We’ve got the 273-inch reclining sofa with the optional inter-cushion vacuum system that filters out the crumbs and leaves the change. And up here is the 195-inch TV that moves from side to side so you don’t strain your neck watching tennis.

Say, Harry? The rug goes UNDER the furniture. Right. Good.

We’re down in the kitchen and it’s fairly consistent for the modern exurban style. We’ve put in lead-lined cabinets so the china and canned goods aren’t visible to any passing superheroes and we’ve updated the appliances to the new gas-electric hybrid style. In this new type of oven, you set the food inside, select the desired temperature, turn on the gas, and when you flip the switch, the oven explodes with the precise heat and velocity required to cook the food as directed.

We’ve also added an island, specifically one of the smaller ones from the Bahamas, so the homeowners will have a steady supply of onions, okra, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, cucumbers, sugar cane, lemons, limes, and sweet potatoes. If you’d like to learn more about the Bahamas, consult your local office of the Bahamian Tourism Board.

Oh, hey, Harry. Whatcha got there? Ooh. No, no. The water gets hooked up to the sink. The gas goes to the oven. Got it? Alright.

And before we leave the kitchen, we’re actually not allowed to broadcast a show about houses without installing a deep farmhouse sink, a new tiled backsplash, and granite countertops. This sink is a little special as we’ve replaced with faucet with a cherub-shaped fountain that spits the water onto whatever you’re rinsing. Aw, his little buns are showing. That’s adorable. Let’s go upstairs.

In here is the master bedroom. It’s got the classic 50s television twin bed setup complete with twins. Hi, Jeremy. Hi, Albert. These twin brothers were specially genetically designed to thrive in this exact house. They’ll require home schooling, a diet consisting solely of food grown within two miles of the house, and jobs that don’t require them to leave the home. So I hope the homeowners will like them. Otherwise it will quite an unpleasant life for everyone. Anyway, let’s come through to the master bathroom.

We’ve made a few upgrades here with a marble floor, the gilded toilet seat, and this beautiful antique tub. It’s an old claw foot tub, which has a lot of character. Unfortunately, it was small and stupid looking. So we cut it into fourths and added an acrylic bathtub liner material to in the middle of each side to make it four feet wider and eight feet longer. It’s a plain white, too, to try and class up the faded cream color of the original.

And if you look here on the quintuple sink you’ll see we’ve repurposed a stainless steel cocktail shaker to now be used as a toothbrush holder. We’ve also got a miniature brass cuspidor or spittoon to collect finger- and toenail clippings. There’s a small ornate Grecian-style altar on which to burn the hair they pull from their hairbrush and a beautiful series of snowglobes prefilled with water and tiny models of peaceful alpine villages in them that they can put the dead skin they file off their calluses into so they can be a part of these lovely wintry scenes.

Oh, Harry. The mirror goes with the reflective side away from the wall. See? That’s better.

Let’s go up to the attic.

Something that’s really popular these days is finding your family history. Whether it’s taking a DNA test to see where your ancestors came from or filling out an online family tree, white people LOVE that stuff. So we decided to make that the theme of the attic: family history. Unfortunately, the owners of this home have a dreary, boring family, so we’ve brought in another family’s memories to make it a little more interesting.

Here’s a foot locker that someone’s grandfather used in the Korean War. And here’s an old wedding gown we found at the Goodwill that can be their mother’s. Hmm, well, let’s say aunt’s.

“Attica! Attica!”

Harry, go back in the bedroom.

“Okay. Bedrooma! Bedrooma!”

This is a special item that we’re really excited about. It’s going to be their great-great-grandfather’s locket with a portrait of their great-great-grandmother in it that he took to France in World War I. It’s amazing the kind of stuff you can find at garage sales. For two bucks this family got a family story filled with tragedy or romance or however they want to fill in those blanks. Let’s go to the basement.

We’re trying something new with this house and putting the basement on the roof. It’s a real time saver because with this special space-time polymer duct work that we’ve you can now go downstairs and end up in the attic or go upstairs to get to the basement. Heck, you can even dive into the pool and land on the couch. And This Old Dump branded wormhole ducts are available at all fine hardware stores.

Which brings us out to the backyard. We’ve taken out the dreary old hedge maze and put in a 300-meter swimming pool in the shape of Albuquerque, with eleven smaller pools on its perimeter as the homeowner’s favorite number is 36, which is too many pools to add so we made it eleven.

And if you look over here, we’ve put in a large gazebo with a smaller gazebo inside of it. That way if you find yourself under the gazebo and not feeling like life has been heightened to its fullest potential, you can go under the smaller gazebo and–

[SFX: giant crash with some glass shattering]

Oh my gosh, we forget the walls!

Tinker Tailor Ourman Spy

My name is Ourman. James Ourman. I’m a secret agent for British Foreign Intelligence. I have a license to kill and I’ve personally stopped dozens of brutal dictatorships and anti-democratic movements around the world. But you mustn’t tell anyone. It must remain between you and I.

“Whatever you say, sir. Here’s your change. Next please. Welcome to Taco Hut. Will this be dine-in or carry-out?”

I ate my tacos with relish as they were out of hot sauce. After dabbing the napkin on my chin, I checked the stains for secret codes. Let’s see… Dry cleaning ready for pick-up… Call parents about Fluffy’s surgery… Russian counteragents infiltrating Foreign Intelligence… My god! What a disaster! That dry cleaning took two weeks. Why, I’m inclined to not even– GREAT CLOISTERING CARBUNCLES!

Russian counteragents? Infiltrating? Intelligence? Foreign? This is terrible. I’ll have to be much more cautious with how I handle information.

“That sounds like a good idea, sir. Here’s your dry cleaning.”

Ah, thank you. I must head for the secret location of the secret office in the back of the men’s corsetry shop at the corner of 12th and Avery so I can– Why are you all suddenly writing in little notepads? I guess this dry cleaner only takes checks. Ah well. Onward! To Secure Facility Echo Bravo 5!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I arrived at MI-OK-O-D-XS-Y-I-8-CVHA-IDK-I-L-B-6 and went straight to the chief, the man known only as R.

“Arrrrrgh!”

“Everything alright, chief?”

“Oh, it’s you. Just caught my hand in the drawer. Come in, Double-O H. Ooh!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just banged my knee on the desk. Now, about these Russian counter-operatives. We don’t know who they are or how many have infiltrated MI-OK-O-D-XS–”

“That’s alright, chief, I did that on the way in.”

“Ah, excellent. Good man. Your mission, Double-O Negative, is to root out these moles and find out what they know, what they’ve told the Russian government, and who keeps using the men’s room stalls for tinkling rather than yucky doo-doos. We have plenty of urinals and I’m tired of sitting on a wet seat! My government-issued tuxedo pants can’t take the strain, I tell you!”

“Yessir. I’ll get started right away. You dirty traitor! Admit it, chief, you’re a mole! Confess!”

“Alright, I confess! Stop beating me with my office supplies! Good work, Double-O 43 Billion. Now go find the rest of us!”

“Yessir, chief.”

“Oh, and you’ll have a partner for this mission. I’d like you to meet Vladimir Ourman, agent Double-Nohl Shayst. Ourman, this is Ourman, James Ourman, agent Double-Oh Dear.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Vladimir. Say, chief, can I speak to you privately?”

“Yes, go ahead. He doesn’t know any English. Isn’t that right, Vlad?”

“Da, that is correct.”

“Excellent. Well, what I’m wondering is, can this man be trusted?”

“Of course he can. I trust him more than my own mother.”

“Didn’t your mother make you sleep on railroad tracks?”

“You see?”

“Alright, I’ll work with him. But I’m going to keep my eye on him.”

“Ew! Get your eye off me! Put it back in your socket! Disgusting.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We left R’s office and went down to see P for new gadgets.

“Ah, Double-O’Grady. Come right in. And I see you’ve brought our new recruit from Russia. Good, good. Now, what you see here looks like an ordinary briefcase. But for god’s sake, don’t open it! It’s filled with deadly snakes with enough venom to kill ten men. And in case the snakes aren’t deadly enough, there’s also a toxic gas that will kill whoever opens it.”

“Ingenious!”

“Thank you. Now for this watch. If you pull this lever, it emits a powerful laser out of the 12. And if you turn this knob, it fires a poisoned dart that will knock out your enemy. And if you turn the dial around like so, it activates the explosive inside, powerful enough to blow a 4-foot hole in a brick wall. And if you take it off, put it back on upside-down, and slap it eight times on the strap here, it summons an air squadron that will bomb the building you’re in.”

“That’s fantastic, P!”

“Thanks. I’ve been drinking more water to try and flush out my kidneys.”

“And the watch is much smaller than previous models.”

“Yes, we’ve got it down to 13 pounds. The rest is standard issue field gear. Pistol with a silencer, shoe with a dot matrix printer, and a car without a single trace of GPS or network software.”

“I don’t know how you do it, P. Now, about this silencer. Where do I screw it on?”

“Oh, it doesn’t attach. What you do is take the silencer, attach the rubber band here, and slingshot the bullet at the enemy silently. There have been budget cuts, I’m afraid.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We started our investigation by talking to Special Agent Ima Surfacedweller. We went into the sub-basement and rang the bell on her desk. She emerged from a burrow in the ground, shook the dirt off her jacket, adjusted the glasses over her tiny eyes with her alarmingly large hands, and spoke.

“Ah, Agents Ourman and Ourman. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“There’s a nasty wasty rumor going round that there’s a mole in the organization.”

She turned her head from side to side and seemed to get quite fidgety.

“A mole, you say? Surely not.” She wiped a hand across her mouth to remove what seemed to be earthworm crumbs.

“I’m af–”

“Yes?”

“No. I’m afr–”

“Yes?”

“No. I am afraid so. Saying ‘a mole’, I mean. This is of the utmost priority. We’ve got to figure out who the mole is.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t me,” Ima said through her elongated, snout-like mouth. “I’m no mole. I’m a surface dweller. It’s right there in the name!”

“Right, we understand that,” Vladimir chimed in after at least two minutes of being introduced and only two lines to show for it. “This is why we have come to you. We know we can trust an agent such as yourself, so we should like your help in identifying the mole which is definitely not you.”

“Well, since you put it that way, I might know of someone who could help you.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ima told us where to find an informant that seemed to know all the ins and outs of the intelligence community. His name was Ronaldo McDonaldo, but he was better known as the Man with the Golden Pun. Vladimir and I parachuted into McDonaldo’s private island in the South Pacific. We would have parachuted onto the island, but our ripcords were defective.

After we climbed out of the us-shaped holes and dusted ourselves off, we set out to find the Man with the Golden Pun. We’d only taken one step when we heard a voice announce, “Stay right there. Of course, you can stay left there if you prefer, ha!”

It was terrifying. Never before had I heard such an awful excuse for humor.

“Why are you here? And say it fast!”

Vladimir started to speak, but I held up a hand and stopped him. I rolled my eyes, sighed, and replied, “It fast.”

“Ooooh! You know that one! No fair!”

A well-dressed, fussy man with a bushy orange mustache stepped out of the shadows and approached us.

“Alright, spoilsports, what do you want? I’m busy. I’ve got to roast Dane Cook tonight and I’ve got a lot of carrots to chop. Ha HAAA! Bang-o!”

“Please, no more jokes. We’re from MI-OK-O-D-XS-Y-I-8-C–”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it. Woof, that’s even too bad for me!”

“Anyway, we’ve recently learned that Russian moles have infiltrated British Intelligence. I have it on good authority that you would be able to give us some names.”

“You want names? Sure. You’re Frank and you’re Gil. Ha!”

“Ugh. Please, stop.” Vladimir was looking green.

“Gills are on fish. Fish are in water. Water you gonna do to the moles?”

Vladimir fell to his knees. “The jokes! They’re the worst I’ve ever heard!”

“Skip the gags, McDonaldo. Just tell us who the moles are.”

“A crappy AAA team out of Lexington! Ha!”

Vladimir’s eyes welled up. “Please, James. Make him stop!”

“But seriously, what do you want with a mole? They’re short, they’re ugly, and they get in a nasty fight with anything that comes near them. Oh wait! I’m thinking of my ex! HA!”

I choked down vomit. Vladimir fell unconscious. I had to do something or we could end up dead. I unlocked my briefcase and threw it at McDonaldo. It fell open next to him and one of the snakes fell out of the side of it and lay limp on the ground.

“What’s this?” McDonaldo asked. He lifted the lid and examined the contents inside. “Did you poison these snakes? They’re all dead.”

I slapped my forehead. “The gas wasn’t in a canister or anything? I’m gonna kill that idiot.”

“You poisoned eleven of the deadliest snakes in the southern hemisphere. Wow. Um. How about I write a list of names right now and you leave the island without hurting me? Deal?”

“Deal.” My voice cracked, but I think I played it off as a hiccup.

Vladimir and I took the list of names back to the chief. His name was on it and he confirmed again that he was a double agent. He also confirmed eighteen of the other names. I bought an old joke book at an antique store for 75 cents and we worked them over McDonaldo style. Mother-in-law jokes. Ethnic jokes. Lawyer jokes. Even knock-knock jokes. In one day our list grew from dozens of names to hundreds.

As our investigation continued, the hundreds of local moles became thousands of moles in the field. And then I made a stark realization. I immediately called an unprecedented all-hands meeting for the entire global intelligence community.

After everyone gathered in Wembley Stadium and enjoyed the Pride of the Intelligence Community Marching Band’s performance of this season’s show, “Born in the NSA”, Vladimir and I took the stage and announced that we knew who all the moles were. Immediately, everyone pulled out their guns and shot everyone else. Within seconds, the entire world was devoid of spies except Vladimir and I.

We were shocked, then depressed, then confused, then strangely joyous, then hungry, and finally back to shocked. All of our colleagues. Our friends. Our co-workers. Also our enemies. Our rivals. People who tried to kill us. All gone. No one else like us remained.

So we got married. It was the only reasonable solution to us being the last two people in the espionage industry with all of the psychological damage that comes with it. No one else would be able to deal with us. Two months later we become James Ourman-Ourman and Vladimir Ourman-Ourman. Neither of us wanted to take the other’s name, so we hyphenated.

That was 35 years ago, and what a ride it’s been. We traveled the world, built a beautiful life in the Andes, and started a foundation for international relations so that some day work like ours would no longer be necessary.

And then it happened. Vladimir admitted one night that he had been cheating on me with a startup spy agency. Some young, hot organization who reminded him of the thrills of his youth. He’d become another mole.

Imagine his surprise when he came in for his final interview and saw me as the recruiter. We were both moles! Oh, how we laughed and laughed. And then we shot, stabbed, and poisoned each other. Bleh! [thud]

The End!

The Genie

My name is Dr. Buckminster Ourman, Ph.D., MA, BFA, MS, JD, LLC, TP, WC, MGM, WTO, IDIOT, pronounced “Ourman”. I’m the Anders Flanders-Sanders Professor of Comparative Correlation at Flotsam University. I was relaxing one Sunday morning with my coffee and a copy of the Big City Tribune Gazette Times Post News Sun Journal. Having read the Violence, Corruption, and Sports sections, I moved on to the classified ads. Let’s see.

“For sale: Slightly used coffin in good condition. All stains and odor removed professionally. Glad Uncle Dave is well, but need to recoup costs of remodeling his home into a combination strip club, casino, and wing joint. Interested parties respond to this ad. Uninterested parties come to Terry’s and get saucy!” Hmm, every part of that sounds risky. What else?

“Missed connection. You: attractive woman, 30s, blond. Me: roguish man, hirsute, fun-loving. I saw you on the subway and tried to say hi. You had headphones in, so you must not have heard me. I waved, but your book was blocking your face. I tried signalling my intentions with crude hand gestures, but you happened to turn to face the window. I tried yelling what I’d like to do to you and thought I saw you react with a flinch, but you must have just had a chill because you made no response. Reply to What’s Personal Space? c/o this newspaper.” Gross. What’s this?

“For sale: Dirty old pair of men’s underwear. Could have been owned by famous celebrity or powerful business tycoon. Found in a puddle near the airport, so anything is possible. $1200 OBO.” Intriguing! I might come back to that one. Ah, this looks interesting.

“For sale: Various genuine cursed objects. Come on down to Honest Sal’s Emporium of Darkest Mystery. Palms read, fortunes foretold, animals disemboweled and guts used for augury.” Now this sounds like a good way to spend my Sunday!

I came on down to Honest Sal’s. I got out of the car, looked down, got back in the car, went home, and put on pants. I came back on down to Honest Sal’s and went inside, confident in my attire’s perfect attendance.

The shelves and cases were filled with spooky totems, cracked idols, and mysterious papers. I was looking over some maps of uncharted lands and books written in forgotten languages when Sal came out from the back room.

“Hello, my friend!” he said. “Interested in something dark and powerful, are we? Might I interest you in the favorite eyeball of Nostradamus? Or maybe the lost raiment of King Hadz-na-Kloom is more your style? Or — and I don’t offer this to just any customer, but you look like a serious fan of the occult — maybe the mystic toenail clippings of Aleister Crowley?”

“Oh, I dunno. I’m just browsing.”

“Tell me, what sort of item are you looking for? Something to increase your luck? Or maybe you’re looking for a way to have more vigor?”

“Really? No! No, no. I guess I was just hoping there’d be something here that would really make me question reality and everything I thought I knew. Do you have anything like that?”

“Ah. A connoisseur. Take a look over here.”

He led me to a back corner and moved a pile of boxes out of the way, revealing a door with several locks on it. He unlocked them one by one and mumbled something in a strange, guttural language unspoken by humans. Then, as he gripped the knob, said, “This is one of our best sellers.”

He opened the door and I found myself staring into a psychedelic wormhole in an otherwise black void. An eye opened in the middle of it and a booming voice asked, “Who dares disturb my slumber?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Sal closed the door and locked it. “Well, it doesn’t look like it’s my day. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

I thanked him for his time and left the shop. I then went into the store next door, Spooks & Things. There, next to a basket of discounted monkey’s paws with only one or two wishes left, was a rusty old oil lamp with a sign that read, “Inside! Real Live Genie! Fool Your Friends!” I paid the clerk my fifteen cents and took the lamp home.

I rubbed my hands with excitement. Nothing happened. I read the instructions again and realized my problem. I rubbed the lamp with excitement and this time it began spewing mysterious smoke mysteriously! The smoke condensed into the form of a giant man in a turban. The genie!

“You’re a real genie! Wow!”

“Well, I should hope so,” he said. “Otherwise I’d be in trouble with the FTC for false advertising. What can I do for you, my master? You have three wishes.”

“I wish for infinite wishes!”

The genie paused and put a finger to his chin. “Hmm. You know, in my thousands of years in the Genie Corps, no one has ever thought of that. Consider it done. You now have infinite wishes.”

“Fantastic! Well, let’s get the big ones out of the way. I’d like a billion dollars, a fully furnished enormous mansion, and world peace.”

“Done, done, done. Come on, give me a challenge.”

“Wait. You didn’t grant them through some trickery, did you? You didn’t bring about hyperinflation and make a billion dollars the price of a loaf of bread or something or end war by killing everyone on Earth?”

“Nope, nothing like that. Your billion is worth just as much as it would have yesterday and no one died. The mansion isn’t on a sacred burial ground or haunted or anything like that. You’re all good.”

“Wonderful! I suppose I should think long and hard about how to use my other wishes. Mr. Genie — um, do you have a name?”

“Yes, Fred.”

“Okay. Fred, take a break. Relax. Help yourself to whatever you put in the kitchen.”

Weeks passed. I wished for an end to disease, no more poverty, and for all the answers regarding morality and religion to be known and available to everybody. The world was a utopia. No more suffering. No more quarrels over beliefs. Enough food and money for everybody to be comfortable. Everything seemed perfect.

One day, I felt so pleased with my world that I decided to leave the mansion and take a stroll downtown to witness everybody’s non-stop joy firsthand.

“Oh, Fred!”

“Yes, master?”

“I’m going to take a stroll downtown to witness everybody’s non-stop joy firsthand. Do you want to come?”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea, master.”

“Why not? I think it will be delightful.”

“Oh, no. It’s such a bother. Wouldn’t you rather stay here and just watch videos of happy people on the news?”

“I’ve done enough of that. I want to experience the sights, the sounds, the smells of a happy populace! Be back later!”

I got into the car, but it wouldn’t start. I tried the other 38 cars, all three planes, and the jet pack, but none of them would work. I ran to the gate, but it wouldn’t open. I began to suspect something was amiss.

I climbed over the gate and headed downtown. When I found a busy neighborhood, the people didn’t look any different than before. I found someone waiting for a bus and asked, “Isn’t it nice to be free of poverty, war, and all those other problems?”

“I wouldn’t know, bub,” he said. “Everything’s pretty screwed up as far as I can tell.”

That didn’t sound right. I investigated further. I checked a newspaper. War, disease, theft, violence. Nothing was solved at all!

I returned to my mansion and demanded an explanation.

“Well, it’s like this, master,” Fred began. “Solving all those problems without it causing some unforeseen bigger problem is, like, really hard. But changing all the information in here to say it’s been fixed is really easy! You’re rich and happy, so mission accomplished.”

It made a lot of sense, aside from being completely wrong and bad.

“You foolish twerp of a genie! I demand that you grant my wishes as I ask them from now on! Now, what do I want for my next wish? Ah, I know! Seeing as ending violence and fighting is too much for you, I wish to be more powerful than any army.”

“Sure thing, bro.”

Fred snapped his fingers and I immediately felt…well, exactly the same, really. “Did you do the thing? Am I powerful?”

“Yeah, of course! I made you a writer!”

“What!?!? Do you not understand me? Maybe English is your second or third language.”

“It’s my eighteenth, but I understood perfectly. Haven’t you ever heard that the pen is mightier than the sword?”

I blinked a few times. “I guess so, but that’s just a saying. It’s not literally true.”

“Sure it is! Here, I’ll prove it.”

Fred snapped his fingers again and a fearsome knight stood before me. He raised his sword and cut me in half.

Fred looked up from the dictionary. “Ohhhhhh, that’s what ‘literally’ means. My bad.”

With me dead, Fred was masterless and free to do whatever he wanted. He used his powers to take over the world and reigned over centuries of peace and prosperity that formed the foundation of humanity’s expansion throughout the universe. It was the dawn of a truly utopian era with no end in sight. So he can do all that but doesn’t know what “literally” means and he can’t make me survive one fight. Some genie.

William Shakespeare’s “Richard II”, Brought to You by Chevrolet

Act 2, Scene 1

JOHN OF GAUNT, nearing death, speaks with the DUKE OF YORK.

JOHN OF GAUNT
Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
And thus expiring do foretell of him:
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
But if the burn of athlete’s foot persists,
Relieve the itch with tough actin’ Tinactin.
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
You should have taken the antacid used
By all the noble gentry: Prilosec.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
Is brought to you by Subway. Eat ye fresh!
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm
By local Long & Foster realtors.
Find a realtor in your town today!
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
But harsh detergents ruin these fragile cloths.
Egad, there’s got to be a better way!
If only we had Clorox in our time.
Their bleach is color-safe and gentle, too!
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
That’s why my doctor recommended Zoloft.
My crippling patriotic angst is gone,
And now I live my life with pride and ease.
Zoloft’s for adults 18 and up.
You may experience nausea or fatigue.
Consult your doctor if you shake or cramp
Or if depression symptoms still persist.
See our ad in Fitness magazine.

Dangeons & Dragrubbs

The skeletons were a problem, but their slow shuffling meant there were more pressing things to worry about. The goblins, however, were relentless. Several squat, hideous archers were circling the battle on dire wolves and taking shot after shot. At least any goblin who got close enough to swing a sword at our heroes was slowed down as they stepped over their fallen allies’ bodies.

K’thargg, the half-orc barbarian, cleaved a goblin in twain with his enormous axe, spun around, and caught another under the chin, almost taking its head off. Somewhere in his walnut-sized brain he made a mental note to come back for it as a trophy.

“You’re welcome,” the dwarf bard Bothurl called to K’thargg. His pride that his inspiration helped K’thargg’s second attack land was palpable as he fired another crossbow bolt, knocking a goblin off his dire wolf.

The elf cleric Lumiel raised her holy sword towards the hordes of skeletons and mumbled something unintelligible. Half of them crumbled into dust. While it was nice to be rid of them, their sudden absence made it much easier for the ogres to charge into the battle.

The monk Jadu, the sole human in the party, was a blur as he ran to the nearest ogre and channeled his chi into his fist. The punch landed and the ogre was stunned for several seconds, giving the gnome rogue Tibbit ample opportunity to grab its purse before slashing its Achilles’ heels with her dagger.

Filomel, the half-elf wizard, stepped boldly towards the oncoming ogres and raised her hands in the air as she shouted, “I cast Earthquake!”

“You can’t cast that,” Amy said. “It’s not on your spell sheet.” She indicated the list on Chris’ character sheet as the other four players rolled their eyes.

“Okay, then I’ll add it to my spell sheet,” Chris replied.

“No, it’s not on your sheet because Filomel hasn’t learned it. Plus it would be really out of character for her since it’s an Evocation spell and Filomel is in the Divination class.”

“What’s that?”

“The spell class, like what kind of magic it is. Evocation is nature stuff like earthquakes and storms and Divination is like reading omens or locating something far away or telepathy.”

“Okay, so can I use Telepathic Bond on them and make them THINK there’s an earthquake?”

“I don’t think so. It’s not–”

“Yeah! Natural 20! Oh no! There’s an earthquake, you guys! Winnnnk.”

Amy sighed. “I can’t believe Erica is letting you play her character. Okay, with your crit roll, you use Telepathy to apparently convince the 31 remaining goblins, 16 skeletons, and 3 ogres that there’s an earthquake. I guess that would distract them from taking their turns, so it is back to K’thargg. Ooh, a natural one. Not good. Let’s see….”

As K’thargg swung his comically over-sized ax at a dazed ogre, he slipped in some goblin blood and did a front flip, landing square on his back. The air was knocked out of him and the ax that slipped out of his grasp came down on his head. Luckily, it was the blunt side that hit him so he only got a mild concussion which nobody noticed for three days.

Bothurl ran towards the same ogre, shouting vicious mockeries about the ogre’s smallness and rude things about his mother. The ogre slowly parsed the grammar of the insults and felt his heart sink just as Bothurl leapt into the air and drove a dagger down into his chest, literally making his heart sink.

Lumiel charged at the remaining skeletons, shouted something in tongues, and drove her sword into the ground. After a wave of divine energy tore through the skeletons, nothing remained but their swords and rusted armor.

Jadu stoically took–

“Contact Other Plane!”

“It’s not your turn, Chris. It’s Jacob’s turn,” Amy said.

“Can I use a spell that makes me skip ahead?”

“There isn’t one and no.” Amy took a breath and gathered her thoughts.

Jadu stoically took in what monsters remained on the battlefield. As he scanned the area, he turned to find the only ogre still on its feet roaring in his face. Fortunately, he had trained his mind to resist such distractions and simply pummeled the ogre’s chest with a flurry of punches until it fell down dead.

The last living ogre writhed on the ground, immobilized and confused. Tibbit slashed its throat and dashed off to loot some nearby bodies before the others got a chance.

“Okay, Chris. It’s your turn.”

“I cast Contact Other Plane.”

“You’re out of slots for that level.”

“What? Aw, man. I knew I shouldn’t have used Animate Objects to make the chicken bones dance around.”

“Hey, Bothurl uses a free action to shout out cutting words to Filomel. Roll some dice, ya dingus!”

“Fine. Okay, let’s try this.”

Filomel’s fingers drew an arcane symbol in the air. The sky darkened and a faint buzzing grew louder until it drowned out all other sound. A cloud of flying insects blocked out the sun as it swarmed over the battlefield.

“Okay, and?”

“And what?”

“What happens? What do the bugs do?”

“I dunno. I mean, they’re really gross and creepy, right? Yuck!”

“So…they’re gross. And that’s your turn.”

“Okay. Good job, idiot. K’thargg goes full frenzy and mops up the rest of the goblins. With a… 19, plus 5, plus 2. And that’s stacked with my–”

“Yyyyup. You got it. Everything’s dead. Anyone want to do anything before we move on?”

All of the players except for Chris cried out in unison: “Loot the bodieeees!”

20-sided dice rained down on the table and Amy tallied their rolls, mentally dividing them into various ranges of Difficulty Class each attained. “Okay, Jacob, Jadu found a rusty dagger — great for giving someone tetanus — and 30 GP. Darius, K’thargg finds 60 GP, an emerald, and a small cursed idol. Carl, Bothurl found 110 GP. Hannah, Lumiel found didn’t find anything. Ashleigh, Tibbit found 345 GP, a ring with a curious symbol on it, and a scroll. Chris, Filomel finds a very strange charm on a necklace.”

“Okay, put it all in a pile and I’ll cast Detect Magic on it.”

“Well, before you have a chance to do that, you hear the rumble of deep, steady thuds. It’s getting closer.”

“14 plus 3! Do I see anything?”

“You don’t see the source of the noise, but you do notice some branches parting as if something were passing through them.”

“It’s invisible! Anyone have any Sight spells or feats?”

“Nope.”

“Nothing here.”

“Mine isn’t prepared.”

Amy raised her eyebrows at Chris. “Does Filomel have anything?”

“Uhhhhhh, nnnnno. Nada.”

“Are you sure? Check everywhere.”

“I’m checking spells…items…background…I’m not seeing anything.”

Amy punctuated every word. “Check. Erica’s. Notes. On. The right. Anything about eyes or sight?”

“I, ah…hmm….”

“See Invisibility! You have See Invisibility!”

Chris was still looking through Erica’s notes. “I do? Oh, cool!”

“Okay. So there’s a big invisible thing approaching quickly and only you can see it. What do you do?”

“Punch it!”

Amy rubbed her eyes. “Chris. I know you’re still new and Erica was very nice to let you play her wizard tonight. But I need you to try and get in the character a little. It’s role playing, not just punching.”

“Okay. Role playing. Okay. So I see the invisible thing coming and I, um, hmm. Oh! I got it! I point at him and shout, ‘Brother?'”

“What?!?!”

Filomel’s jaw dropped as she took another step towards the creature that she and she alone could see.

“Brother, it’s been so long. Can it really be you? We were separated at birth! I’ve spent so many years searching…searching for you! Oh, brother! This is the happiest day of my life!”

“The monster isn’t your–”

“No, I haven’t spoken to Father. He went off to fight in the Great Battles across the sea and never returned!”

Amy tried to interrupt. “Okay, the giant invisible monster is about 30 feet in front of the party now and you see a giant fireball appear around where you think its mouth would be.”

“Brother! There’s no need for this! It is I, Falafel–”

“Filomel!”

“Falamal, and I wish you no harm!”

“And it’s breathing fire on you.”

“Yes! Yes, let us embrace as the long-lost twins that we are! No. No, I don’t know any of these people. Ha! Yes! They do seem like a bunch of dummies!”

“This isn’t how you–”

“Sure, I’d love to see your place! Let’s go. Bye, jerks! I’m gonna go party down with my invisible twin brother. He says y’all suck. Later, goobers!”

Chris moved Filomel’s miniature die-cast figurine off the board and started doodling a picture of Filomel hanging out with her giant, invisible, fire-breathing twin.

The other players looked at each other for a moment, then Carl rolled his die.

“That’s a 17 plus 3 plus 1, 21. I get my crossbow and shoot Filomel in the head. Hannah, you’ll resurrect her next week?”

“You got it.”

“Cool.”

“Okay, so Filomel falls down dead and the invisible beast lumbers away. Does anybody need a meal or a potion or anything?”

Another Press Conference from Senator Bigfoot (R-Ore.)

Good evening. As you may be aware, I have been the subject of some false, illegitimate, and divisive rumors lately. I wish to put an end to these rumors here and now. First of all, I at no time sold any of my children to anyone for any reason. The failing news media has doctored a lot of photos — cherished family photos — to add a third child. I have never seen this child and I resent the implication that he is somehow related to me and that I sold him to a Congolese guerrilla army as a child soldier. Look, it’s a horrific tragedy that these groups are doing this, but I’ve seen the photos and just because there’s a kid there with shaggy fur-like hair all over their body and a loping, simian stride and an American accent and a blazer from Saint Matthew of the Solvency it doesn’t mean he’s mine, and it’s offensive that such gossip persists.

There have also been rumors — unFOUND rumors — of some illicit video of myself and certain foreign nationals involving lemon meringue, a ball python, a team of Chinese acrobats, a series of flags, and an electric chair. I can now state unequivically that I at no time took part in any such activity, that even if I did, I didn’t know it was being filmed, and that until a copy surfaced I didn’t realize they even had a tennis trophy.

Finally, the fake left-wing media and the lying 63% of the country and the unstable, shrieking intelligence community have invented a (hah) bizarre conspiracy theory that I made a deal with Isis in which they returned all copies of this supposed tape in exchange for weaponized uranium. Not only is such a charge outrageous and frankly unpatriotic to make, it is also an insult to my business acumen to think I would accept such a deal. After some impressive negotiations I was able to get them to throw in $11.58 into the alleged deal that doesn’t exist and never happened. Look, uranium goes missing all the time. It’s a notoriously slippery element. Why do you think we make bombs out of it? I mean, come on. Ask a scientist.

Excuse me? Yes, I understand. I’m just going to go with these gentlemen of my own volition (ow, that hurts!) and have a friendly chat about nothing serious. [struggling] Sports or microbrewing or something. [being dragged away] God bless America!

The History of the Ancient World According to God, Science, and Dan Grubb

13.8 billion years ago (at the time this goes to print), the universe exploded into existence in an event called the Big Bang.*

*If it has been significantly longer than that, let me say to our robot overlords,
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As the matter spread out, slowed down, and cooled, it formed galaxies, stars, and, eventually, planets. 4.5 billion years ago, a small rocky planet formed near a small yellow star. After it cooled and solidified, life sprang forth. Single-celled organisms evolved into complex life. Extinction level events came and went, wiping out most life on earth each time, but each time enough survived for life to continue to evolve. Insects, fish, lizards, mammals, and eventually, the human race. Four million years after the first cavemen, on October 23, 4004 BCE, God created the world, which was quite a surprise to the people in the nearby Ubaid village of Nod. This is the story of one of them.

Chet was walking through the grasslands one beautiful autumn day, checking on his flock as usual. No one else brought their flocks to that area, so it was terrific grazing land. He just had to be careful to keep them away from the nothing.

The nothing wasn’t like anything else Chet or the other Nodians had ever seen. It had always been there. Or, had always not been there. Verbs got difficult when it came to the nothing. It wasn’t like the sky at night or the space between things. The sky had stars and clouds and if wind blew you could feel it move between things, so something was there. But the nothing was just…nothing.

As Chet and his flock got closer to the nothing, he saw that something was different. Where there was normally nothing, now there was…well, still nothing. But a different kind of nothing. A nothing with wind and distance and perspective. You could see it. Chet’s brain hurt thinking about it, so he tried something more concrete. He threw some dirt.

Throwing stuff into the nothing was a pastime for as long as his people could remember. Anyone brave enough to come near the nothing would pick up a rock or some grass or whatever they had and didn’t mind losing and throw it into the void. Whatever they threw in would disappear, as if it never existed. Eventually, there weren’t any more rocks near the nothing, but there was still dirt.

When Chet threw the dirt into the nothing, he gasped as he watched it fall down, down, down into the immense hole in the Earth. He threw some more and watched with awe as it defied all known logic by continuing to exist. He started to move his hand towards the nothing, but thought better of it and took off his shoe instead. He slowly edged his shoe near it. When the toe of the shoe went over the edge of the ground and didn’t disappear, Chet knew he had discovered something exciting. He couldn’t wait to tell everyone back in town.

The next day, Chet left the flock at home with his wife and he the village elders left early and headed straight for the nothing. “We’re almost there,” he called. “Hurry!”

They picked up speed and dashed the last little stretch. When they got there, Chet was even more stunned than he was the day before.

“Water!” Chet exclaimed. “How did all this water get here? It was the nothing for all time. Then yesterday it was air. And now it’s a lake!”

The assembled elders puzzled over this new development. Chet demonstrated the lake’s existence by throwing some grass into it. The grass floated and one of the elders fainted. One of the braver old men knelt down, scooped some water in his hand, and took a sip. He spat it out. “It’s salty! This is seawater.”

They looked at each other, lost for words. “Maybe thousands of people made a bucket chain from the sea to here and filled it up overnight,” one elder said.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” another said. “Obviously a giant came by here and wept all night and this salty lake is made of his tears.”

“You don’t suppose one of the gods did this, do you?” asked Chet.

The elders whirled around to face him. The oldest — er, eldest — drew up close and pointed a finger at Chet. “Who are you to make up stories of the gods? Leave religion to the elders, young Chetediah.”

Chet shrank back, ashamed. “Sorry, sir. We’re all just trying to figure this out.”

“Look,” said yet another elder, “it’s getting late. It must be eleven in the morning. Let’s head back and discuss this over an early bird dinner. There must be some rational explanation, whether it’s a crying giant or a god’s prank.”

Chet and the elders returned to the area formerly known as the nothing every day. On the third day most of the lake had been replaced by land. On the fourth day the land was covered with plants. On the fifth day they ran up, excited to see what was new, and immediately turned around and ran away at the sight of lions and gorillas and polar bears and wombats and penguins and aardvarks and elephants and roadrunners and bison and three-toed sloths and goliath birdeater tarantulas and dodo birds and platypuses and giant pandas and star nosed moles and angora rabbits and naked neck chickens and mata mata turtles and long-wattled umbrellabirds and orchid mantises and Venezuelan poodle moths and Chinese water deer and pink fairy armadillos and superb birds of Paradise and Cantor’s giant soft shelled turtles and pleasing fungus beetles and raspberry crazy ants and satanic leaf-tailed geckoes.

After they were a safe distance away, the men sat down to catch their breath. Chet asked the assembled wise old elders, “Was that a satanic leaf-tailed gecko back there?”

“Yes,” one said.

“Who’s that?” Chet asked.

The elders stroked their beards and scratched their heads and rubbed their bellies and shaved their armpits and blew their noses and put their best feet forward. (This was a customary Nodic display of mental prowess. If one could perform all of these at once, then one was considered a real big brain like guy.)

After several hours of thinking, several of elders were asleep. Seven had wandered off for lunch, two died of eld age, and one left to star in a commercial for hormone pills.

After several more hours of thinking mixed with sleeping, breathing, farting, and inventing writing, the Nodanian brain trust awoke and decided to take another look at the bizarre new land. After all, it was a new day and maybe this time the new addition was steel cages and tranquilizer guns.

They returned to the strange, nonsensical land and were greeted by a couple of nudists. After they stopped giggling, it was about time for dinner. The nudists introduced themselves as Adam and Eve and invited the Nodese men over for a free-range, organic, certified unpesticided fig pie supper with a side of anything you want except knowledgefruit. The Nodarians were understandably nervous, what with the hordes of wild animals running around and all, but Adam and Eve said they were perfectly harmless. Just a bunch of cuddly sweethearts, except when they were eating each other.

They all went to Adam and Eve’s house, aka clearing under a tree, and feasted on fig pie. After the revolting lip-smacking was over, Chet gestured to the general area and asked the nudists, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?”

Adam and Eve laughed. “Oh, that,” Adam said. “Yes, God works quickly, doesn’t He?”

“Which god is that?” Chet asked.

“God. You know, God. The one and only.”

The Nodmen glanced around and tried to stifle their chuckles.

“Just one, huh?” an elder said. “And his name is God? Not very creative, are you?”

At this point, Eve chimed in. “There is only one. He talks to us and gave us the entire world, called Eden. He said we can do anything we like and we’ll live forever and everything will be nice as long as we don’t eat the knowledgefruit.”

“Knowledgefruit?” Chet asked. “What’s that?”

“The ones from that tree over there,” Eve said. She turned her head to point to the tree and the dirty old men took the opportunity to leer quite rudely. Typical.

Chet, being a nice boy, followed her finger to a tree in the near distance surrounded by yellow caution tape that read, “DO NOT CROSS – SIN”. “Oh, those aren’t knowledgefruit. Those are apples.”

One of the elders shook his head. “No, no. Those are pomegranates.”

“No, they’re definitely apples.”

“Pomegranates.”

“Apples!”

“Never an apple. You can tell because it doesn’t get skinny at the bottom. That’s a pomegranate if I ever saw one.”

“I tell you, it’s an apple. Many varieties of apple are more circular like that.”

At this point Adam stood up and held his arms out between the two Nodders. “Hey, hey. The new miracle Fruit of Knowledge is an apple AND a pomegranate!”

It was a grapefruit.

Adam encouraged everyone to settle down and calm their tempers. Chet said, “By the way, yesterday we noticed some satanic leaf-tailed geckoes around here. Any idea who this Satan fellow might be?”

Adam and Eve glanced at each other and laughed knowingly. “Oh, him,” Eve said. “He’s a talking snake that comes by sometimes and tells us to eat the knowledgefruit.”

“Wait a minute,” Chet said. “Is this an actual talking snake or more of an artistic depiction, a personification of a vague human trait? We have lots of those. Some of our gods have six arms or lion heads or blue skin or all kinds of wacky characteristics.”

“Oh, no,” Eve laughed. “Those sound ridiculous. No, he’s just a talking snake. He says that if we eat the knowledgefruit, we’ll get really smart and understand all the important things about life and the world. But then God says we can’t eat it because that would be breaking a rule and would get us evicted.”

“What does this ‘God’ look like?”

“He’s an old man with a big white beard in a robe,” Adam said, “but sometimes he’s just a voice in a cloud.”

“And he made all this?” asked one of the elders who hadn’t had any lines for a while.

“That’s right,” said Eve. “He made it all with a sort of invisible touch**. And, incidentally, please capitalize ‘He’ when you say it.”

**Genesis, album XIII, track i.

“Wait,” said Chet. “So He turned this area from the nothing into a bountiful land with all the food you could ever eat and lots of animals that don’t hurt you, and then intentionally added something to tease you with? That’s strange.”

“He just wants us to demonstrate our obedience,” Adam said.

“We do that all the time,” said one of the elders. “We sacrifice sheep and burn spices and have festivals. It’s all very obedient. The only things our gods outright ban are things like killing each other, stealing, things like that. Stuff we’d rather not have people doing anyway. It seems strange for Him to give you something just so you won’t use it.”

“Yes, He works in mysterious ways, but He’s wonderful and we adore Him,” Eve said.

“Sounds like my kids,” said an elder. This received polite, obligatory laughter.

“Well, thank you for a lovely dinner,” said Chet. “We’d better head back to Nod. Hey, before we go. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life or anything, but if I were you, I’d go ahead and eat some knowledgefruit. I love a good apple.”

“Pomegranate!”

“And besides, what harm could come from a little wisdom? I mean, if a snake can learn to talk, that’s pretty impressive. Who knows what you could learn? We’ll have to invite you over next time. But, um, you might want to make some clothes. We’re open-minded and all, but you know how folks are. Oh. Hm. I guess you don’t. Come on, guys.”

It took some effort to get a couple of them to leave what they saw as a catered peep show, but Chet and the elders eventually headed back for home. They discussed their new neighbors’ strange customs on the way and decided not to mention their nudism to their wives.

The next day, Chet returned to Eden to see if it now had centaurs or giants or advanced robotics. He was surprised to find nothing had changed. He asked Adam and Eve if anything was new.

“Nope. God decided to take the day off,” Adam said.

“Now that’s my kind of diety,” said Chet. “Well, if nothing unimaginably reality-bending has happened, I’ll leave you two alone. Do guys want to come over for dinner tonight?”

“We can’t. It’s sabbath,” said Eve.

“What’s that?”

“It’s the holy day. Every seventh day we rest and think about how great God is,” said Adam.

“Wow,” said Chet. “Do you guys have any literature I could peruse? This is sounding better and better. Just the money I’d save on groceries and dry cleaning would be worth it.”

“We’ll work on it,” said Eve.

“Great!” said Chet. “Well, come on by whenever you want. We haven’t invented doors yet, so they’re open. Let us know if anything else materializes out of thin air.”

A few uneventful days went by. Chet went back to herding his sheep and was just getting used to things not being completely insane when he heard someone wailing in the distance. He turned and saw Adam and Eve running towards him, covered in leaves.

“Hey, guys! What’s up?” he asked.

Adam gasped his words between sobs. “It’s God. He kicked…us out! We ate…the fruit…of knowledge. Oh! We’re so wicked!”

Eve had been inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth to calm herself. This was originally recorded in Chapter 3 of Genesis to show that women are better at controlling their emotions than men, but some immature and thin-skinned men in the mid-13th Century BCE edited it out. Such fragile male egos, right, ladies?

She told Chet that they ate some knowledgefruit, which was too bitter to be either an apple or a pomegranate. (Told ya. Grapefruit.) They suddenly became ashamed of their nudity and felt pain when they stepped on sticks or were scratched by thorns or sat in the same position for too long or sometimes when they peed? Is that something they should get checked out?

“Oh, wow,” Chet said. “I didn’t expect any of that. But maybe it’s not all bad. Are you any wiser?”

“Sure,” Eve said. “The square of the hypotenuse of a right triange is equal to the sums of the squares of the other two sides. But when will that ever come in handy? We’re too busy worrying about our future and our identity and if any of our meager achievements ever matter in the long run. I mean, what’s the point? Why are we here? Just to inflate God’s ego? He made a glorifed automaton and programmed it with obedience. Bravo!”

“Woah, woah, woah,” said Chet. “You just blew through like three semesters of Intro to Philosophy. Let’s get you inside somewhere and I’ll get you some real clothes. What are these, fig leaves?”

“Yeah,” said Adam. “Figs taste good, so we figured they’d make good clothes.”

“Okay,” Chet said. “Wiser, but not smarter. Got it. Come on, let’s get some coffee. That’s good for pondering life’s mysteries.”

Adam and Eve stayed in Nod for a few months, but never really fit in. They tried raising sheep, but because they didn’t tend to them every seventh day, most of them wandered off or got eaten. They tried farming, but digging holes and plowing fields was too strenuous for them. They tried opening a little cafe, but Nod just wasn’t ready for a haute gastro experience with 65 ways of serving figs.

They decided to move away and start a commune. Eve was pregnant, so they’d eventually have a kid or seven to help out. Chet and some of the elders came by to see them off.

“I’m sorry for suggesting you eat the knowledgefruit,” Chet said. “I guess it was a pretty bad idea. But you guys are decent folks, so I’m sure it won’t be considered a permanent stain on your record or anything. It certainly won’t doom your descendents and all of humanity to millennia of misery.”

“What a strange thing to say,” said Eve. “But we appreciate the sentiment.”

One of the elders stepped forward. “We’re sorry to see you go, but we understand. If you ever want to come back, you’re more than welcome.”

“Thanks, Cain,” said Adam. “If the baby’s a boy, we’ll name him after you.”

“That’s sweet,” said Cain. “If he ever needs a place to crash, he’ll always have a home in Nod.”

So Adam and Eve wandered off into the wilderness like the idiots they were, and Nod and the other Ubaid cities continued developing civilization. It wasn’t always easy. There was the great flood, a series of increasingly bizarre plagues, and, of course, the terrorist bombings of the Gomorrah Casino and the Sodom Club. But overall things improved.

Then the internet was invented and within sixty years everyone killed themselves and the Earth returned to nature.

Just as God intended.