Smashing Pumpkins

Caroline stared blankly at the creased and grubby sheet of paper Jeffrey was pressing into her hand.  A thick strand of brown hair that seemed to have just begun to streak with silver, dropped free of her loosely coiled bun and landed limply against her cheek.  Her hand, still well fleshed but running rampant with small lines closed reflexively on the cold page.  Even without her glasses she had spotted it from the kitchen window while watching for her grandson to get home from school.  He had leapt from the bus like it was any other day but the paper, this paper, was bow-tied tightly in his fist as he raced for the house, smiling over the last words he had exchanged with his friends.  Now she could feel his eyes glued to her face.  Without looking she knew his expression was becoming alarmed, his brown eyes widening and his small, full lipped mouth beginning to sag and tremble.  She needed to pull herself together.  She needed to paste a look on her face that would ease his sudden worry.  Feeling like her skin was made of silicone she pushed her mouth into a smile and, dropping the paper on the counter reached to ruffle his shaggy, slightly sweaty, brown hair with hands that could have been carved from plastic.

“How was school baby?”

“Gramma?  Are you sick?”  With his red hoodie zipped all the way up and the hood barely pushed back Jeffrey’s face looked pale and anxious, framed by tufts of his messed hair.  For just a moment Caroline had the impression that his damp locks formed a pair of horns on his young head and her heart thumped painfully inside her chest.  Immediately she shoved the absurd idea out her mind.  Jeffrey was a normal five year old.  He was a good boy.  There was nothing to worry about.  Reaching out again she smoothed his hair down.

“I’m fine sweetheart.  How was your day?”  Pulling out one of the brown, low backed wooden chairs from the counter she leaned down to lift him, the weight making her back tighten harshly.  Lift with your legs, she thought.  Either he was growing fast or she was losing her strength.  Both thoughts brought sadness into her chest, a feeling that never seemed far away these days.  As he settled into the chair and tried to help her undo his jacket his former concern for her slipped from his mind and he began to prattle about all the things that had happened at school.  Making appropriate sounds of encouragement she hung his jacket on the wooden coat tree by the entrance to the great room, nearly stubbing her toe on the heavy, brown, resin cow she used to fortify the wobbly base and moved into the kitchen to get his sandwich and juice from the refrigerator.  Sliding the plate and drink container across the smooth, well scrubbed counter her eyes drifted toward the paper.  Jeffrey grabbed the sandwich and took a  large bite, never ceasing his now excited chatter.  When the word jack-o-lantern passed his lips followed by a coarsely chewed chunk of tuna fish sandwich Caroline felt her blood drain down her body and pool in her feet.  She pressed both hands flat on the counter to steady herself, and a very bad word wriggled free of her mouth.  Jeffrey froze in mid chew, tuna and bread openly exposed inside his jaws as his eyes locked onto her face, a regretful parody of the look his mother had given her countless times as she had grown up.  Heartbreak punched her in the stomach as she tried to wave away his worry along with the family resemblance.

“I’m sorry Jeffrey.  I shouldn’t say those words.”

“Are you sick gramma?”  Worry spread over his face again as he set down the rest of his sandwich and slumped in his chair.  “Did I do something?”  Caroline took a deep breath and tried to rally herself again.

“Oh no, baby.  You are just fine.”  With a slow exhale she picked up the paper and began to smooth it against the counter, noting the small, nearly perfect fingerprint of dirt Jeffrey had left near the top, right after the formal greeting: Dear Parent or Legal Guardian.  She might as well face the facts, her grandson was going to have a jack-o-lantern in the contest this year whether she read the paper or not.  Trying to pretend otherwise was just going to worry them both.  “I guess we need to go shopping for a pumpkin, huh kiddo?”  Tears prickled behind her eyes as happiness spread across his face.  Caroline lowered her face to stare at the print on the page, hiding her eyes from her grandson.  This paper was actually the second notice, the first one having arrived in the mailbox just after the new year began.  That one had been official, neatly arranged in a full sized envelope a quarter inch thick with all the rules and addendums for this years contest.  She had felt just as sick then, reading through each page while Jeffrey slept unknowing in his room.  To him it would just be a contest, something fun.  The reality of it wouldn’t shake his stability for a few years yet.  This paper today was the catalyst, the blatant reminder that the annual countdown was nearly over and that she had participated simply by having custody of Jeffrey.  She had forty-five days and then her life might change forever, again.

Victory and shame battled in her chest as she felt an alarming amount of gratitude for the fact that her daughter was not able to experience this moment.  Were she alive they would be hugging each other fiercely right now, trying to support each other and vowing they would make it through the next eight years together.  Jeffrey was a good boy.  He would be fine.  Caroline had raised her daughter to responsible adulthood, she would do the same with her grandson.  The jack-o-lanterns were not going to change that.  Her family would thrive.

“Katie says her grandpa has a pumpkin patch in his backyard.  She says he grows all their pumpkins every year.”  Jeffrey’s voice rose with hope.  “Gramma, can we grow pumpkins next year?  Can we grow a patch just for us?”  Pressing her eyes tightly closed Caroline tried to stem the horror that blossomed in her stomach.  He just doesn’t understand yet, she told herself.  Feeling hateful she wondered if Katie’s grandfather poured over the legalese of the Jack-o-lantern document looking for loopholes while he weeded his pumpkin patch?  Maybe he used it for mulch.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jeffrey.”  Forcing her voice to stay steady she raised her head and gave him a smile.  “Pumpkins take up a lot of room.  Our yard is too small for them.”  Too small to grow them to the required size, she thought bitterly.  And what would we do with the extra ones?  Eat them?  Her stomach rebelled at the idea and she turned instinctively toward the sink, pressing a hand to her mouth to quell the queasiness.  Pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin bread.  Pumpkin roll.  Pumpkin cookies and cupcakes.  A litany of foods ran through her mind and nausea pushed upward.  Caroline held onto the edge of the sink with both hands as her stomach heaved and her hair bun gave up the battle, her heavy, brown tresses falling with a thump of finality into the stainless steel basin.  The only words she had read on the paper were the last ones: Failure to comply with any of the above requirements will result in immediate forfeiture of the contest and your child will be surrendered for disposal.  Behind her Jeffrey sniffled.

The Gathering – Delivery

Staying alongside the van was effortless, Hugh just kept a hand on the side view mirror and let his intent carry him along at thirty-five miles an hour while he kept a visual of the cemetery gates going in his mind.  The zombie behind the wheel seemed wholly agreeable.  Two bags of Double Chicken Parlays with bacon sat steaming in the console between the front seats.  The passenger zombies seemed to be frozen in their seats, their eyes staring blankly down at the floor as random stomach rumbles gave away their semi-carnivorous responses.  Hugh would have snorted in amusement had he been able.  Death definitely had its drawbacks.

Century Cemetery began as a single spot on the driver’s horizon then panned majestically across the scene as the van closed in on the gate.  Holding his position Hugh visualized passing through the gate and rolling to a stop in the crossroad near his grave marker.  The driver barely slowed to make the turn.  Hugh saw several of his death mates turn to look as the van sailed into the graveyard and all four tires locked up.  It halted right in the center of the crossroad.  Jeremiah strode calmly toward the  vehicle as the driver shoved open the door.  Hugh didn’t spare a glance for the big guy.  Holding patiently to his mental image he lead the zombie along the path.

“This is the place,” the driver declared.  “Who’s got a cellphone that takes decent pictures?”  The side doors of the van opened and several zombies climbed out, patting at their pockets.  Holding the sandwich bags in both hands the driver turned to face his compadres.  “C’mon!  Somebody’s got to have a phone?”  Finally one of them shuffled forward holding an outdated flip phone in his rotting his hand.  The driver looked blankly at it for a few seconds.  “Really?”  The zombie shrugged uncomfortably and lowered his hand.  “Nobody has a smartphone?  All we need is a decent photo of this so we can caption it.”  Looking exasperated he reached for the flip phone.  “Fine, I’ll work with what we’ve got.”  With long, un-zombie-like strides he headed for the nearest headstone.  Feeling victory within his grasp Hugh chuckled softly.  Beside his grave, perched casually on top of her head stone, Brianna spread her bony hands apart as if to clap then stopped, her chin lifting just slightly with curiosity.  The zombie paced to the back of Hugh’s headstone and studied the ground.

“We need to use the back of the stone so I can fake some words into the photo later.”  The other zombies made noises of agreement and began to spread out, skulking through the stones as if they were each looking for the right one.  Hugh stared at them in surprise.  No.  They needed to drop a single sandwich at the front of his head stone.  That was the rule.  Nothing else was acceptable.  Brianna lowered her hands as Jeremiah took a seat on a poured concrete stump, painted to look semi-realistic and crossed his arms.  Having passed its zenith the moon was already dropping again which meant time was no longer on his side.  Clicking his teeth together in determination Hugh scanned the cemetery for options.  Moonlight filtered through the tree branches, highlighting patches of earth and decorations.  Everything looked stationary.  Not a single flower pot or bucket was in sight.  Evidently All Hallow’s Eve was a night for caution among mortals.

Stepping close to the head stone the head zombie tipped the contents of both bags onto the ground.  Twenty-one Double Chicken Parlays with bacon rolled out onto the ground.  Hugh watched them settle as he cast about for a single crow.  All he needed was one.  The zombie pawed the pile of sandwiches, unwrapping a few and settling them carefully askew.  The other zombies shifted closer and offered a few suggestions like, sticking them to the headstone itself or smashing the meat to a pulp on the blank face of the marker.  Destructive, Hugh thought and felt a moment of thanks that he had not been raised as a mortal who hated things.  He risked moving a little away from the costumed men to search farther out for a crow.  Brianna’s skull rotated slowly as she followed his progress.  He tried to ignore her.  After a final adjustment the zombie stepped back to assess his work.

“I think that will do,” he said and reached for the phone he had shoved into his back pocket.  Hugh turned back toward him and felt a moment of real panic.  He didn’t want to do this again next year.  Three years was enough.  He wanted to move on.  The zombie held out the phone and snapped a picture.  “There.  Good enough.”  He handed the phone back to its owner and headed toward the van.  Two of the lesser zombies stared at the sandwiches left on the ground.

“You’re just going to leave them there?” the owner of the phone asked.  “That’s littering. And it’s rude.  Somebody is buried there.”

“If you’re that worried about it then pick them up,” the driver growled.  “I don’t care what you do with them.”  The two zombies began scooping up the sandwiches and stuffing them back into the discarded bags.  The phone’s owner held onto a single sandwich as he walked toward the van, looking down at it as though it wanted nothing more than to take huge bite of it.  Hugh stepped toward him and focused his thoughts as tightly as he could.  With a giant push of energy he did the one thing he could do in the graveyard that he couldn’t do anywhere else.  He materialized.

“Hey, over here,” Hugh whispered.  The zombie turned his head.  “Boo!” Hugh said. Eyes bulging in their sockets a scream ripped out of the zombie’s throat.  The other zombies whirled in surprise and saw Hugh spread his arms as if to hug the man.  Panic ensued as the men, yelling and screaming in all octaves, scrambled into the van and slammed the doors, leaving the lone zombie to his fate.  The mortal used the only weapon he had, he hurled the bag of sandwiches at Hugh followed by the one sandwich he had been studying.  The bag sailed through Hugh’s chest as he let himself return to mist and struck the front of his headstone with a satisfying whack!  The van roared to life and skidded backward toward the gate spraying gravel as it went.  The zombie raced after it.

Jumping like a jack rabbit Hugh bounced around his grave in elation.  Brianna clapped slowly as Jeremiah walked over to extend his congratulations.

“A bit dramatic,” the big skeleton commented.  “But effective.”  Hugh wiggled all his bones with such fierce pleasure that his spinal column threatened to collapse.  The moon was barely visible on the horizon as it set.  The sun was on its way.

With sunrise so close the others began returning.  All around Hugh skeletons settled onto their graves and talked quietly among themselves as they waited for sleep to come.  Several extended their congratulations to Hugh on his victory as the story spread about his materialization.  One of the last to return was Kameron, skull drooping in defeat.  She muttered congratulations to Hugh and walked slowly to her grave where she threw herself down so harshly that her bones flew apart.

“Next year for sure, Kameron!”  Hugh tried to sound encouraging.  Bones rattled as Kameron pulled a single hand back together and extended her middle phalange as the sun began to rise.  Hugh chuckled as he sank into the ground.

(Part one is here, Part Two is here.  Happy Halloween everyone!)

The Gathering – Aquiring

“Out of my way burger boy!”  Hugh was jostled at the gate by a slender skeleton stomping by.  Surprised he halted to watch her pass.  Getting a Double Chicken Parlay wouldn’t be nearly as much trouble as what she was after.

“Get that key ring, Kameron!”  Kameron’s skull pivoted on it’s synovial joint and she stared at Hugh as he displayed the letter K in American Sign Language with his right hand.   He wanted to smile for her then, a huge, face splitting grin, perfectly gauged to extract the maximum anger response.  Kameron’s lower mandible dropped open then closed multiple times as grass clippings and leaves rose to swirl angrily around her knobby feet.

“Hey, hey, Hugh Parlay.  How many crows will you kill today?”  The sing-song chant hit his mind like a devilish lullaby and he promptly changed his K to a rude sign formed with only his middle phalange.  Kameron laughed and turned away, the small hurricane of ground litter tumbling behind.  Well aware that Jeremiah didn’t give impossible assignments Hugh knew that Kameron would eventually find the key ring with her name on it.  Determination filled his spirit and he kicked into a jog.  Swinging left out of the gate he headed along the sidewalk toward the city lights.

One place in town offered a Double Chicken Parlay with bacon and it was crawling with business.  Cars lined up at the drive-thru with costumed drivers shouting their orders into the kiosk while others flooded inside.  Goggling at all the people Hugh slipped between the vehicles and took careful position behind the kiosk, close enough to make an impression but not too close that people would feel his icy presence.  Why so busy this year, he wondered?

“Your order comes to twenty-one sixty-eight at the second window, please.”

“Thank you.”  The black cloaked witch behind the wheel shifted her SUV into drive and inched forward off the weight plate.  A large mouse riding shotgun peered intently into the witch’s face.

“Do you feel anything?”  The witch shook her head.

“No but right at the end I thought I saw a little mist around the back of the kiosk.”  She fiddled with her sideview mirror.  “Do you see any mist?”  The mouse turned around in her seat and stared directly at Hugh who froze in surprise.

“Nah, I don’t see anything at all.”

Aw crap.  After finally getting himself pulled together time had been short at the last Gathering and out of desperation Hugh had tried to force a man to say the words Double Chicken Parlay.  In a panic the guy and gunned his accelerator, striking the rear bumper of the truck in front of him.  Evidently he had told his story to a few people.  Self-consciously Hugh sidled behind the outdoor order menu.  On the bright side, he thought, he had a lot of material to work with this year.

Four vehicles back from the witch and her mouse rocked a gray van filled with fully costumed zombies.  From his new vantage point Hugh watched the zombies with interest, the driver in particular seeming impatient to get to the kiosk.  The van rode as close to the back of the car ahead of it as it could without actually touching it.  The car’s driver, a plain joe in a dark suit looked like he just wanted to get out of line but the van was too close and cutting off a third of the opposite lane.  He couldn’t turn outward without causing a commotion among the rest of the people behind him.  Hugh chuckled and thought, face it pal, it’s going to be chicken for dinner whether you want it or not.  Would the suit guy be a good candidate, he wondered?  Probably not.  The car was a small, practical model with no sign of a baby seat or a wife.  Most likely he would eat from his coffee table with his porch light turned firmly off.

The van became much more interesting as it inched up the line.  The driver draped himself out the window and began grumbling at the other cars.

“Killers!  All of you.  What is wrong with people?  Did it ever occur to any of you to just eat a salad?”  Spirit soaring with hope Hugh stepped out from behind the sign and edged toward the van.  Could it really be a group of activists crashing the chicken joint on Halloween?  Dark suit pulled up to the kiosk and ordered a bucket with two sides and biscuits in a voice dripping with discomfort.  His back tires hadn’t even cleared the weight plate before the zombie forced his van onto it and began shouting into the kiosk.

“Gimme twenty-one Double Chicken Parlays with bacon!  Let’s kill as many animals as possible for one sandwich eh!”  Hugh counted the occupants of the van as he wondered if the driver realized there was cheese on the Parlay?  Technically that brought the animal abuse count to three but, only two were actually dead.  Counting the driver the long van held fourteen people.  At least seven of them thought they were going to eat two full Parlays all by themselves?  With that many sandwiches going out the window he thought he would be able to claim just one without too much hassle.

“Chicken is murder!” the driver hollered and beat his hand against the outside of his door.  “Murder!”  The guy had just ordered twenty-one Double Chicken Parlays.  Who was murdering who?  Suppressing the urge to laugh Hugh laid his hand carefully over the driver’s hand pressed against the outside of his door and thought firmly about the gate of Century Cemetery, drawing a clear picture of the large wooden sign with its deeply beveled wording.  Had he possessed lungs he would have held his breath.  The driver stared into space for a few seconds, his sunken zombie eyes looking vacant, then a smile spread over his face.  “I know what to do,” he stated and inched forward.

(If you missed it, Part One is here.)

The Gathering – Rising

“Welcome to the annual All Hallows Eve Scavenger Hunt!  I see a few of you are still working on getting yourselves pulled together.  Take your time, we have all night… or at least until the sun comes up.  First things first, for those who are having their first Gathering don’t panic, your parts will all reach you eventually.  If you find you are truly missing a piece or two have a look in the trees, sometimes the crows will carry off a bone for their nests.  Just focus on the piece you can’t find and eventually you will be able to sense its location.  Should you find that something is completely gone you can still rise, you just have to envision the missing bone being in its proper place.  For some of you this may take more effort than our one night will allow.  If you are unable to participate this time there is always next year.  Take things slowly and you will have a better experience in the long run.”  The skeleton speaking loomed above the rest, a large, heavy boned, titan of information.  If he noticed the multiple postures of alarm in the apparently captivated audience he gave no sign, simply continuing his lecture in a smooth, deep voice that carried clearly through the soughing tree limbs and rustling deadfall of the cemetery.

“Our list this year includes some unique items so pay attention.  I will say your name followed by the item you are assigned to.  If you can not get the item before the sun comes up you are disqualified for this Gathering.  Those who were successful in obtaining your item at the last Gathering you will be moving on to the next step in crossing over.  I’ll get to that after I am finished announcing the Scavenger Hunt list.”

Hugh lounged against his headstone and rotated first his left foot at the ankle, then his right in small, tight, concentric circles, focusing on his own bones rather than the sound of Jeremiah’s voice.  It was the same speech every year so it wasn’t like he really needed to pay attention.  Beside him, sitting cross-legged upon the dirt she rose from, Brianna leaned her spinal cord against her own headstone and crossed her arms over her chest.  Hugh stared hard at her, willing her to look at him as a light breeze pushed grass clippings over her femurs.  Around them the cemetery boiled with activity as the dead crawled, clawed and complained their way out of their graves.

“Save your strength for getting that Double Chicken Parlay with bacon,” Brianna stated, continuing to stare at Jeremiah while he talked.  Hugh looked away self-consciously.  This was his third year trying to get his item.  At this rate he would turn to dust before he was able to finish crossing over.  He looked back at his right foot, watching his phalanges move jerkily through the air.  Was his great toe looking grayer than last year?  A clump of sod splashed through his rib cage, the grassy roots catching on his sternum.  He glanced up in surprise.

“What the hell?”

“I said, do you have a plan for this year?”  Brianna’s skull gleamed in the moonlight, her

parietal bone shimmering like steel while she clawed the ground, readying a second handful of dirt.  Hugh wished his eyes were physical so he could fully appreciate the colors of the night that surrounded her.  Late fall was was filled with browns, yellows and greens that just couldn’t be seen at any other time of year.  Regret was a harsh emotion for the dead.

“Yeah, I have a plan,” he said trying to play it cool.  “I’m going to park myself next to the drive-thru menu and do my best to force someone to order one and drop it on the ground.”  He let his lower mandible drop open like a comedian at the punch line.  All he lacked were lips to smile with and a tongue to stick out.  Brianna aped him like a delayed reflection then played the air drums in hugely exaggerated motions.  Ba dum dum dum.

“Genius.  And once it’s on the ground?”  Hugh would swear under oath that she was raising her eyebrows at him.  He wanted to scowl and had to settle for digging his toe phalanges into the earth.  “Is a dog going to carry it to your grave for you?”  That thought had actually crossed his mind.  “Without eating it?”  That had crossed his mind also.  His toes dug trenches in the dirt beneath his foot while he brooded over the unlikeliness of his ideas.  Brianna had risen, assembled herself and acquired her item before the sun rose at last year’s Gathering.  Envy wasn’t even the right word but it was all Hugh could decipher about how that made him feel.  He had barely managed to put himself together when he had his first rising.  Jeremiah’s voice continued to boom across the cemetery.

“Remember, just because we can see each other doesn’t change the fact that we look like mist or fog to the living.  You are not physically visible or audible.  Getting your items will take some real thought and careful execution.  The item needs to be brought all the way to your grave and laid in front of the headstone.  Nothing else is acceptable”.  Hugh raised one hand like he was directing an orchestra, holding the pause, then brought it down sharply as Jeremiah continued.  “Happy hunting everyone.  Let’s have a great Gathering this year.”  His voice faded away and skeletons began to move toward the main gate.  Hugh pushed away from his headstone wishing he had lungs to sigh with.

“I guess it’s time to get going.”  He looked cautiously at Brianna who was still seated.  “Since you got your item already what will you be doing this year?”  In response she dropped her lower mandible open again, a sarcastic parody of his previous movement.

“Clapping for the underachievers, what else?”

Welcome To The Night Terrors

Hello and welcome to the Night Terrors.  My name is Tink and I’ll be your Training Elder.  I’ll be going over the basics tonight and your job is to watch, learn and take notes.  You have been through orientation so you have all the information on our job and its traditions?  Good.  Let me just say, I have been with the company for well over one hundred years so you can ask me anything and I will have an answer.  Okay then, shall we get started?  What?  My name?  No it’s the same name I have carried for the duration of my employment with the Night Terrors.  You will get your own name after you complete your training and progress into the next phase.  No, Recruits never have names, it’s against company policy.  A name tag?  No, we don’t have those.  It would be counterproductive to what we do.  I don’t believe there is a suggestion box anywhere.  These types of questions should really wait for when we’re done here and back at the office.  Right now we need to focus on the job itself.  I know I said that but I really meant any questions about what we are doing right now, not all this other stuff.  Those are questions better asked of NTR.  I’m sorry you feel that way but I’m a Scare-along Trainer, not part of the Night Terror Resources Department.    Let’s put this argument aside for now and just get through the task at hand, shall we?  I think we can agree on that much at least.  Yes?  Good.

First things first, you need to pull your hair over your face.  A little more.  Yes, it’s company policy that all Night Terror’s have their hair appropriately draped in their eyes.  It’s a big part of what makes us so terrifying.  It may seem petty to you but it’s part of the job and when you punch out in the morning you can push it right back.  Hair is a job standard as well as an expectation.  That’s much better, thank you.  Now, could you pull your shadow out a bit?  A little more.  Long and lean is the way the to go.  Don’t worry, it takes a while to get your shadow to cooperate and become truly ominous but over time it will develop.  You’ll have to work at it.  My shadow?  Mine is very flexible and stretches out quite a ways but I have been working with my shadow for over a century.  Peter who?  Oh, yeah, he was one of the leaders in shadow work.  We really don’t talk about him.  He took the business in a different direction from where we are now.  I really can’t advise removing your shadow completely like that.  Seldom can you regain full control of your shadow once you have detached it from yourself.  Our goal here is to have ultimate control of it.  Watch me.  Oops, sorry about that.  Shhhhh, don’t cry like that.  It was just a demonstration of what you can achieve with a little work and determination.  Really, you need to get that crying under control.  That’s better.  Uh, okay, yeah, your sleeve is fine.  You’ll need to be sure to drop your cloak off at Wardrobe to be cleaned.  Better now?  Good.  Let’s get to work.

See that light swtich over there?  Yeah, I know it’s hard to see because of the door slats but it’s right there, next to the blue lamp that looks like Dr. Seuss threw up on it.  See it?  No, to the left.  Farther left.  Oh for Night’s sake!  Do I have to walk over there and touch it so you can find it?  Light switches haven’t changed so drastically in fifty years that you can’t spot one at ten feet.  It’s right there!  Um… what are you doing?  Smartphones aren’t allowed on the job.  You need to put that away right now.  I’m certain your orientation materials included the sheet of Do’s and Don’ts and your Smartphone was listed under Don’t, right before the part about taking Selfies while on the job.  Oh, it’ll only take a second?  My bad!  I’ll just sit over here under this granny square of a top and wait for you to finish playing.  It’s only our job we’re talking about.  I guess being exposed to the light due to the incriminating glow of your Smartphone won’t be so bad.  After all, it’s just vaporization we’re talking about.  How much pain could that possibly cause?  You’re right, I am totally over-reacting here.

Are you finished?  One more?  No, I’m not going to get in the shot with you!  Stop that!  I will not make duck lips with you for MonsterBook.  Get that phone out of my face!  We have a job to do here!  I need you to stop playing and focus on our Mark.  The Dark Hour is almost here and we have things to go over yet.  We’re running out of time.  For Night’s sake!  Put your damn phone away and pay attention!

What are you doing now?  You can’t make calls while you’re on the job.  Did you even go to orientation?  Give me that phone!  Oh hell no!  You did not just swat me!  That’s enough!  Put that phone away right now and pay attention or I’m going straight back to NTR and writing you up for insubordination.  What?  Get that phone away from me, I’m not telling you again.  Who wants to talk to me?  WHAT?  Oh for Night’s sake!  Give me that.

Hello?  Yes ma’am, we’re on the job together.  It’s not going well ma’am, the Recruit is too busy taking selfies and playing on her phone to pay attention.  She isn’t listening to m…. Huh?  What do you mean?  With all due respect ma’am we’re sitting in the closet right now.  The Dark Hour is almost here and we haven’t even gotten past the light switch.  What!  How is this a reflection on me?  I see.  Well ma’am, my training methods are the exact same ones that we have all been using for the last one hundred and thirty-eight years.  I believe them to be highly effective.  Uh huh… well, if you want the method’s changed then you need to update the training manual so all the Elders will be doing the same thing.  Ma’am?  I see… tolerance.  Uh huh.  And sensitivity training?  I told her the thing with my shadow was an accident.  I was just demonstrating what can be accomplished with a little practice.  Of course, ma’am, I will not do it again.  Okay then.  Oh, one more thing before you go?  Yes.  Since the Dark Hour is in thirty seconds I just want to say that it has been a pleasure working for your company all these years and that I will certainly miss my job.  What do I mean?  Well, the glow from this smartphone and our continued conversation has attracted the attention of the Mark and she is walking toward her closet door right now.  Yes ma’am.  Thank you.  I’m sure vaporization due to exposure to light will be excruciating also.  Yes ma’am.  Oh, and check on MonsterBook, the Recruit’s last, elevated, duck lip, selfie will be there.  You may want to show it to her family when they come to collect her things.  Yes ma’am, that’s me, always thinking.  Goodbye now.