Monday, April 25, 2022


The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


THE DREAD LORD HOB; Scourge of the West, Defiler of the East, Plague of the North, Overlord of the South, and King of the Nighttime World was in a bad mood. But then, abject failure and acts of cowardice perpetrated by his dark legions tended to rub him the wrong way in even the best of situations. And this was not the best of situations.

Lord Hob, who had always thought of himself as a fair and even tempered man, brooded silently to himself as he paced alone inside his command tent. The tent was exactly seven paces wide, and each time he turned to the east side of the tent, he’d walk to his mirror.

It was a glorious mirror. It stood eight feet tall and three feet wide, and each time he would come to it, the Dread Lord would pause and gaze deeply at his reflection. It was the only thing, the sight of himself resplendent in his white armor and black cape, that kept his bad mood from graduating into a full on rage.

Being the fair and even tempered man he’s always thought himself to be, it was uncommon for the Dread Lord Hob to progress any further, emotionally speaking, than an allover feeling of intense annoyance. But today he feared that if he didn’t get himself under control, he would go immediately from his tent and commit horrible acts of violence upon his cowardly horde.

Not that he was opposed to violence, just the opposite. Lord Hob was known far and wide for the brutal and creative ways he’d been known to inflict bodily harm upon others. But he preferred to be in charge of his emotional self when violence was on the table. If someone was to die by his hand it would be because it was the logical thing to do, not because he was in a tiff.

He paused once more at the mirror and patted at his perfectly cut and sculpted jet black hair. Not a strand out of place. He smiled and resumed pacing.

The Dread Lord Hob was a man who could keep his emotions in check, something he’d always felt a certain sense of pride in, most especially after rising to the title of Overlord of the South when his predecessor, the Dread Lord Glatchington had mysteriously died a most violent, and don’t forget mysterious, death.

The Dread Lord Glatchington was a man who had known about rage, having spent most of his life deep in the thick of it. Lord Hob, Glatchington’s second in command, had borne witness to many a foam-mouthed murder spree in which anyone in reach could find their life snuffed out for no other reason that passing by when Lord Glatchington had dropped a spoon or found his soup too hot.

It was from Glatchington that Lord Hob had learned how not to behave. And so he resisted the urge to give himself over to the rage that skittered within reach. But still, punishments would need to be handed out. Lord Hob would just have to wait until he calmed himself before deciding on what was fair and just.

His pacing brought him once more to his mirror and as before, he paused. He ran a hand over his strong, squared chin. He needed a shave. Yet, the stubble made him look somewhat… roguish? Sure. Rough and tumble? Most assuredly. Sexy? No doubt about it.

Then a stench hit him that would have knocked most men flat on their backsides. But the Dread Lord Hob was not most men. Besides, Lord Hob knew what the stink signified.

Only an ogre could produce such a foul odor.

There came a tentative scratching at the tent flaps and the Dread Lord Hob sighed. The sheer meekness of the act was just the fuel needed for a kill crazy rampage, but Lord Hob kept his head.

“Come,” he said. His voice clear and commanding as he stepped to his chair.

The chair, a throne really, had been ornately carved from a massive block of white marble and needed more than ten men, or four ogres, to carry it about with them from place to place.

As the Dread Lord Hob sat upon his vast throne, the tent flaps parted and an eight foot tall ogre entered on cautious feet. It had skin like craved granite and wore a simple loincloth made from the hide of some unlucky woodland creature. Accompanying the colossus was the nearly overwhelming stink of the thing, which wafted into the tent on swift winds and brought tears to Lord Hob’s eyes.

The amount of ground between the tent opening and the space before Lord Hob’s throne was about six paces for a man of average height. The ogre crossed it in two.

The thing went down on one knee and bowed its head.

Lord Hob tried his best to look down on the ogre in disgust, but truth be told, even kneeling the thing towered over him in his throne.

“Dread Lord,” it began in a voice like a small avalanche. “Captain Branch has arrived.”

The Dread Lord Hob and all of his lofty titles attempted a reply but could only choke on the putrid smell that rose from the creature in great waves.

Ogres make great bodyguards and soldiers for a variety of reasons. First off, at an average height of seven-and-a-half feet and an average weight of four hundred and fifty pounds, the ogre is built like a tower of iron and muscle. You stand a half dozen side to side and you’ve got yourself a fairly impenetrable wall.

Beyond their impressive physical attributes, the ogre is a fiercely loyal creature. They aren’t afraid to die, and the art of killing is so ingrained in their society that it is taught in what would be the ogre equivalent of elementary school. There’s a casual savagery about them that Lord Hob found both chilling and exciting at the same time. They know hundreds of ways to kill, and will at times use combat as a way to compete with each other over which one can find the most creative way to end an enemy’s life.

The problem with ogres, the extent of which cannot be stressed enough, is that they stink. Like nobody’s business.

Ogres don’t believe in soap. Or water. Or adding soap to water, heating it to near intolerable temperatures, immersing their tough, leathery bodies into it, then wasting away the evening with a favorite book and a good, long soak. Ogres have no word for bath, nor tub; not to mention wash, scrub, rinse, or even loofah. It is said that nothing precedes an army of ogres like the stench, the likes of which can often be enough to drive an occupied force out from behind the walls in which they have become entrenched.

But Lord Hob could stomach a great many things, and he often prided himself on his preternatural ability to enclose himself in a small room with three or four ogres and resist the urge to vomit. He was, in fact, known for it. So, he choked back his desire to send this particular ogre off to dunk itself in the nearest body of water, and found the strength to respond.

“Send him in, soldier.”

The Dread Lord Hob didn’t know the ogre’s name, nor did he particularly want to. It was bad enough having to put up with their stink, so remembering the names of each of his personal guards seemed to him to be a little much. He had more important matters to occupy his brain.

Captain Branch entered the tent with more than a little trepidation. The Captain was not an ogre. While Lord Hob could fully depend on the ogres to keep him safe or to depopulate a village, they didn’t quite have the intelligence for leading others, and Lord Hob believed in putting the right people in right positions.

Branch, the Captain of the Dread Lord Hob’s armies was one of his lizard men, created by magic in the jungles of the South, and bred for war. He wore mail over leather, but no boots. The feet of the lizard men had such thick soles that footwear was not required. Besides, their razor-like toe claws kept poking through whatever they tried to put on their feet.

Captain Branch had a small sword belted at his waist and he moved it aside with one clawed hand has he knelt.

“I come as bidden, Dread Lord,” the Captain said, his eyes on the floor.

“Rise, Captain,” Lord Hob said. “And tell me how fares the battle.” He knew quite well how the battle had gone. “I hear not the clash of sword nor the screams of the dying. Has the fighting stopped?”

“It has, Dread Lord.” The Captain rose, but his gaze remained on the floor.

“Why, Captain? Have we won?”

“No, Dread Lord. We are in retreat.”

“Yes, Captain Branch, I know that we are in retreat. That was a test. I thank you, however, for telling me the truth. As a reward, you will continue to remain among the living.”

“Thank you, Dread Lord,” Captain Branch said, sounding as if he had just taken his first breath since entering the tent.

“Think nothing of it, good Captain. Now I bid you to tell me why my army has retreated.”

“We were winning,” Branch said.

“Yes, we were. And quite gloriously.”

“But then something happened.”

“Something happened?” Lord Hob said. “Something?”

“Something unexpected.”

“Something,” Lord Hob repeated. “Unexpected.”

“Some one, actually.”

“Pray tell, Captain. Just who was this unexpected someone that caused my army, the grandest army in all of Gund, to flee before their terrible might?”

Captain Branch did not answer right away. Instead he kicked at rocks that did not exist, shrugged his shoulders a time or two, and even threw out the occasional “um” before stammering out his unintelligible response.

“I’m sorry,” Lord Hob said. “You’re going to have to speak up, old boy. I didn’t quite catch that.”

The Captain cleared his throat. “It was The One, Dread Lord.”

Now it was Lord Hob’s turn to try his hand at speechlessness.

The silence hung in the air between them like a two ton mime. Lord Hob stared at Captain Branch as the Captain continued his intense scrutiny of the carpet fibers.

“The One?” Lord Hob said at last.

“Yes, Dread Lord.”

“That’s impossible.”

“He bore the Sword of Power, Dread Lord.”

“He?” Lord Hob said. “A human?”

“Yes, Dread Lord. He is said to have appeared suddenly in the midst of battle. He wore strange clothing but wielded the Sword. He called down lightening and our army ran.”

“Then Commander Jund’s mission to the Ancient World failed,” Lord Hob said.

“It appears so, Dread Lord.”

The Dread Lord Hob; Scourge of the West, Defiler of the East, Plague of the North, Overlord of the South, and King of the Nighttime World stepped down from his throne and resumed his pacing, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Well then,” Lord Hob said as the Captain tore his eyes from the floor to watch his master pace. “It appears that I have no choice but to take matters into my own hands.”


“If The One has been reborn, and if he brings with him the full might of the Sword of Power, then I am the only one powerful enough to face him in combat.” He turned to the tent flap. “Guard,” he called.

The ogre entered, bowing.

“Yes, Dread Lord,” it said.

“Fetch me my sword.”

“Souleater?” the ogre said with a gasp.

“The same,” Lord Hob said.

“At once, Dread Lord.” The ogre bowed and rushed out on its task.

“Captain, prepare the army, we strike at dawn.”

“Yes, Dread Lord. At once.”

The Captain made to leave.

“Oh, and Captain,” Lord Hob said, stopping Captain Branch at the flap.

“Yes, Dread Lord?”

“Ready my dragon.”

To be continued...


Monday, April 18, 2022


The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


AFTER EVERYTHING DOMINICK HAD been made to go through today; the adventure, the excitement, and not to mention the hair curling terror, now he simply waited. Not that he minded. If there was one thing in life he was truly exceptional at, it was waiting. Most people today don’t have the patience for it, and frankly, can be downright rude if what they want isn’t placed in front of them at all possible speed. But not Dominick. No, Dominick understood that even in this fast-paced world, there were going to be times where you would still need to wait, and that if you didn’t condition yourself for such an eventuality, then you were going to be nothing if not miserable.

So, while Dominick was an old pro when it came to the waiting game, today’s opportunity to once again test his mettle on the field of battle was a bit different than what he was used to. Today he waited in a big chair in a small room.

The room was made entirely of stone—walls, floor, and ceiling—with no decoration other than the blue carpet beneath the high backed chair he occupied. A small window was set in the wall just above the chair, which let in plenty of light and fresh air, but was so high that Dominick wasn’t able to look out on the town.

The chair, as previously stated, and not to point too fine a point on it, was very very big. It was, in fact, the biggest chair Dominick had ever seen outside of a Jack and the Beanstalk movie. The chair, while not quite giant-sized, could have slept three in complete comfort with room to spare for Rover, the family dog.

Dominick, while trying to occupy such a vast expanse of plush, blue cushion, felt more than a little insignificant, like the chair was trying to tell him where his place was in the grand scheme of things. It was as if he were a mouse sitting among a great herd of elephants. A drop of water in the middle of a vast desert. A Barry Manilow fan in the mosh pit of a Metallica concert.

Frankly, the chair made Dominick feel more alone than he’d ever felt in his entire, ordinary, small little life. And yet, he surely had to admit to himself that he’d never before sat in such comfort.

After about an hour—he couldn’t be sure of the time as his watch had stopped working the moment he’d stepped through the portal and into this world—a man in a blue doublet and hose poked his head into the room.

The man’s face, preceded by the kind of nose one might want to peel, slice, and then serve over a bowl of cornflakes in milk, was a shade of red that would turn most beets green with envy.

“They are ready for you now, sir” the man said.

“Thank you, Herbert,” Dominick said, rising.

Herbert had been in and out of the small room four times since Dominick had been asked to wait. The first had been to take Dominick off to an even smaller room that contained nothing but a brass tub full of steaming water and a small table that held a plump towel, a rough-looking bar of soap, and what appeared to be a change of clothes.

Herbert had left him alone to bathe and Dominick had first gone to the clothes, which thankfully did not include hose. He was given a fresh woolen shirt: white, with long sleeves, and a pair of dark brown leather pants. Dominick had never worn leather pants before and he’d looked them over with a deep sense of trepidation. Along with the pants and shirt was a long surcoat of blue with the image of a trident over the right breast. There was no footwear so he’d assumed that whoever wanted him cleaned up approved of his boots.

The bath looked inviting so he’d stripped, soaked, scrubbed, and rinsed. He toweled off and tried on his new clothes. The pants, he was happy to find, were loose fitting and comfortable, as was the shirt. He pulled the surcoat over his head and belted the sword to his back, the hilt riding high just over his right shoulder. After his little trip out on the battlefield, Dominick had quickly realized that the sword was just too long to wear on his waist.

His old clothes he’d left atop the table, not at all sorry to see them go. They smelled of grease and he’d secretly hoped that whomever they sent to collect these remnants of a past best forgotten would burn them. As he’d thrown his old pants onto the table, some change had fallen out of the pockets and had scattered across the floor. He’d cursed, sighed, cursed again, and then bent to retrieve the loose coins which, all in all, had come out to seventy-three cents. He’d placed the small fortune next to the pants along with the other treasures he’d been carrying around all day: One packet of spearmint gum, his keys, and a cracked salt shaker. It was this last item he’d looked at curiously for a moment before he recalled how it had gotten there. It was the same shaker he’d contemplated dunking in the fryers back at the Happy Hamburger what seemed like weeks ago, but was only this morning. That must have been what he’d rolled over back on the battlefield, hence the crack in the plastic.

He was stuffing the contents, even the salt shaker, into the deep front pockets of his new pants just as Herbert had come to fetch him. Then it was back to the small room with the big chair, as escorted by the aforementioned Herbert.

The second time Herbert had come into the room it was to bring Dominick food. He bore a tray with a great wheel of cheese, a loaf of crusty bread, and a meaty gravy in a wooden bowl. Dominick, having grown up on processed and fast foods, had never tasted anything like the simple meal of meat, cheese, and bread, and he had to admit that the food made the waiting that much easier. At the same time, once he’d cleaned his plate, he’d found himself more than a little sad once the food was gone.

He’d been pushing the few remaining bread crumbs around on the tray when Herbert stopped in for the third time, bringing with him a shirt of chain mail. Dominick found wearing it more than a little awkward, but he figured that if he would be going to go into battle—he felt uneasy with how at ease he was with the thought—he would take the discomfort over the chance of being chopped in two.

Now, pop in number four, and it was time. Time for what exactly, Dominick did not know.

“Sir?” Herbert said.

It was only then that Dominick realized that he’d been standing as still as a statue, lost in his own thoughts.

“I’m sorry?” Dominick said.

“It’s time.”

“Ah, okay… Thanks, Herbert.” Dominick strapped on his sword. “And what is it time for, exactly?”

“To meet the Triumvirate.”

“Okay, yeah, right.” Dominick put a hand to his chin. “And who are they?”

“The Triumvirate?”


“You don’t know who the Triumvirate are?” The man’s face lost all color.

“No?” Dominick said. “I’m sorry. Should I?”

“You are The One, are you not?”

“That’s what they tell me.”

Herbert only looked at him, his mouth hanging open as the color crept back into his face.

“Look,” Dominick said, going to Herbert and placing a hand on his shoulder. “I don’t know what they told you about me, but I’m new here. I don’t know much about this place.”

“New? To the palace?”

“No, to your realm,” Dominick said. “I come from Earth.”

“Earth?” Herbert said, his expression changing to one of amused distrust. “What’s that?”

Dominick held up his left hand and showed Herbert the symbol of the microchip and the tree.

“Ah,” Herbert said. “You are from the Ancient World. We get visitors from the Ancient World now and again, though you are the first I have met personally.”

Dominick tried to respond, but Herbert continued.

“The Triumvirate are the five men and women who rule the lands of Gund. One from each nation. Each nation but one.”

“And Gund is the world we are in now?”

“That’s correct, sir.” Herbert pointed at the floor. “This world.”

“And Haven is what, the city we’re in?” Dominick said.

“Spot on. Haven is the seat of power for the Triumvirate. Each member of the Triumvirate rules their own nation. They come together in Haven once a year for the Conclave.”


“Where the Triumvirate discuss how each nation fares and to deal with legal matters.”

“So, your entire world is controlled by five people?”

“That is correct. Five nations, five races, coming together for the betterment of all.”

“Tell me about these races,” Dominick said.

“There are six races on Gund,” Herbert said. “There are humans, of course,” he placed a hand on his chest. “Our seat of power is in the east, the City of Riat. Though you can find us in most every nation.”

“Okay, I’m with you so far,” Dominick said.

“The elves,” Herbert said. “They tend to stick to the central plains. They live a nomadic life following the great herds.”

“Herds of what?”

“Cattle,” Herbert said. “The dwarves live in the mountains to the north. Inside the mountains, actually. They’ve have spent the last few centuries carving a kingdom out of the very earth. In the forests of the north and west live the trolls. They prefer the company of trees.”

“Trolls?” Dominick said, throwing his best concerned look at Herbert. “Are they friendly?”

“As friendly as the next guy, I suppose,” Herbert said.

“What does a troll look like?”

“Taller than a human, covered in fur.”

“Ah, okay,” Dominick said. “Bigfoot. I saw them out on the battlefield.”

“Yes, they do have rather large feet,” Herbert said, smiling.

“Okay, so that’s four,” Dominick said.

“Yes, there are also the Fae.”


“Fairy folk,” Herbert said. “Pixies, Brownies, Dryads and the like. They have no one nation or seat of power. They make their homes in the wild places.”

“You said six races, but only five are represented in the Triumvirate?”

“Yes, the sixth race on Gund are the ogres. They are vile and evil and dwell in the deserts of the west. They have sided with Lord Hob.”

“Ogres? Super big, not a lot of clothes, packed with muscles, and smell like death?”

“That’s them.”

“What about the lizard men?” Dominick asked.

“The lizard men are an unholy aberration of nature,” Herbert spit, actually spit. “Lord Hob will have much to answer for on that one when the time comes.”

“So, wait a minute,” Dominick said. “The Triumvirate? I’m not the most educated of men, but I believe that means three. You said it was five?”

“Well, yes,” Herbert said. “Originally the Triumvirate was made up of only three nations; human, elf, and dwarf. Then, a hundred years or so ago, the trolls and the Fae decided that they were being misrepresented. There was a war and everything.”


“Oh yes. Trolls can get quite huffy when they feel they’re being insulted, and the fairies? Well, a pixie can be downright scary.”

“Wow.” Dominick didn’t know what else to say.

The two stood there together in the room in an uncomfortable silence. Each one waiting for the other to speak. Neither did, so the silence stretched out between them like an ever expanding gulf.

Dominick coughed into his hand.

Herbert cleared his throat.

Dominick scrutinized the stonework on the ceiling.

Herbert stared at his boots and then began to whistle.

Dominick took that as a queue to get things moving. And he knew just the right way to do it.

“So…” Dominick said.

“Yes, the Triumvirate,” Herbert said, snapping to attention. “This way please.”

Herbert shuffled him from the room and the two made their way down a long, stone hallway. Torches crackled in brackets along the wall, spaced a few steps between each, lighting their way in a flickering, bobbing way that made their shadows dance along the stonework around them. Dominick quickly got lost as the two turned this way and that, each hallway looking just like the last apart from the occasional tapestry or statue.

“You will be made to stand before the Triumvirate,” Herbert said as they walked.

“Okay,” Dominick said, hurrying to keep up. “What else can I expect?”

It’s not that Herbert was walking fast, but Dominick had never been in a real castle before and he found himself stopping to inspect the odd statue or work of art.

“There may be a reading of the Prophecy,” Herbert said. “Other than that I will expect you will be asked to pledge your life in the protection of Gund for as long as you draw breath.”

“Wait,” Dominick stopped. “What?”

Herbert had gone half a dozen steps before he’d realized that Dominick was no longer following. He turned back.

“Why have you stopped?” Herbert asked. “We will be late, we must go.”

Dominick did not move. He looked at Herbert, his mouth hanging open.

“What?” Herbert said.

“No one said anything to me about this being a lifetime gig.”

“Well…” Herbert said, spreading his hands.

“I mean, I agreed to get rid of this Hob guy, but beyond that…”

“Beyond that is between you and the Triumvirate, I am only a simple clerk and I do what I am told, and what I’ve been told is to make you presentable and then take you before the Triumvirate. Once that is done I can go back to my small desk. Until then, you need to come with me.”

“Well,” Dominick said, his head thrown back in defiance. “I don’t know that I want to go with you now.”

Herbert crossed his arms and tapped his foot.

Dominick put a hand on the hilt of his sword.

Herbert did not look impressed.

Dominick threw the clerk his most stern of looks.

Herbert continued with his unapologetic arm crossing and foot tapping.

Dominick practically wilted.

“Done?” Herbert said. “Can we go now?”

“But, I’m The One. Shouldn’t you, like, be afraid of crossing me or something?”

Herbert cocked an eyebrow.

Dominick sighed.

“Yeah, okay,” Dominick said. “I’m coming.”

After more twists and turns—along with the odd staircase or three—the two stopped before a pair of arched, wooden, steel banded doors.

“Wait here, please,” Herbert said. “When the doors open, go on in.”

Then the red-faced man with the banana nose walked away down a side hall, leaving Dominick alone with his thoughts.

Naturally, the first thought that leaped immediately into Dominick’s rattled brain was the total and complete change his life had come to in such a short amount of time.

Just this morning the most pressing challenge Dominick had had to face was which gas station to use to top off his tank on the way home from work. There were two choices, both of them with their own separate issues.

First choice was the Gas Guzzler, which was normally three cents a gallon cheaper than everyone else in town. But it was on the left as he was heading home, meaning that Dominick would have to cross traffic, both ways, to get in and out, a thought that struck fear into his heart. Dominick always tried to avoid left turns if he could, especially if it meant crossing traffic.

Second choice was the Shop-n-Gas, which was on his right, so he’d have an easier time getting in and out, but they only had two pump islands, and all the pumps were normally in use.

Combine that with no real parking to wait for a vacant pump and they weren’t the best alternative.

Dominick had been wrestling with that particular dilemma all morning. Had he not been running late, he could have stopped at the Gas Guzzler on the way to work, all right turns. Now it didn’t really matter.

The thought of gas and his nearly empty tank meandered into that of the car itself. It was still sitting in the Happy Hamburger parking lot. What would happen to it? Would Raymond, the pixie who’d been standing in for him, take it back to his apartment? Could Raymond even drive?

And what about his apartment? Rent was due tomorrow. Who was going to pay his rent? Raymond?

Dominick was suddenly finding it difficult to breathe when the doors opened to a fanfare of trumpets.

To be continued...


Monday, April 11, 2022


The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


DOMINICK STEPPED INTO THE pixie’s world and found himself slammed headlong into a wall of sound. All around him figures in armor clashed with sword and ax. There were bodies everywhere, and as he stepped through the rip, Dominick slipped on something unspeakable and fell to the grass.

He wasn’t alone there on the ground. Surrounding him were others, but they were all a little too still for his comfort. He tried to scream but found the sound lodged in the back of his throat as he attempted to come to grips with this hack and slash world he suddenly found himself in.

Dominick rose but was immediately thrown back to the ground when a lizard man in leather armor fell atop him. Up until this very moment, he thought he had fully understood just exactly what fear was. In fact, he was pretty sure he’d learned that lesson not but twenty minutes ago in the Happy Hamburger basement.

But as he lay there underneath that heavy, stinking, unmoving creature, the only thing that kept him a hair’s breadth away from a full grown panic attack was a deep seeded depression once he'd realized that cooking french fries for a living wasn’t all that terrible of a career path. Sure, he didn’t make much money, but he didn’t need much, really. Just enough to pay the bills, eat, and pay for his comic book habit. What more was there?


Did he really need to be respected?

He needed to live, that was for sure. He’d throw respect out the door just to continue breathing.

Doing his best to ignore the din of battle that waged around him, Dominick thought of the Happy Hamburger. The worst he’d ever had to encounter on the job was the threat of Mr. Finkleton and his never ending sweat glands. When you combine that with the man’s predilection for ignoring one’s personal space, what you had yourself there was a hostile working environment. Yet, in light of recent circumstances, the idea of dealing with Mr. Finkleton’s sweat in such close proximity was like a little slice of heaven pie that he suddenly missed with every inch of his heart.

And then there were the perks for working for a company like the Happy Hamburger. For example, he had access to food all day long, and at a discounted price. As an employee of the Happy Hamburger, Dominick was privileged enough to enjoy ten percent off of any purchase, whether he was on the clock or not. You can’t beat a perk like that.

And he had given it all up. Just walked away.

He had a life of ease and comfort in the palm of his hand and he scraped it into the grease trap like a vat of day old cooking oil.

And for what? To die under the carcass of some mutant lizard thing that smelled like old feet?

No. He deserved better than that. He was no hero. He needed to get out of this place and go back home where everything made sense. He had given this Gund place a shot and it threw a corpse at him.

Dominick pushed against the body atop him but it wouldn’t budge. So he tried again, straining to the point of nearly passing out. But again, nothing. He tried to slide out from under the thing but wasn’t able to find a grip on the dirt and grass around him.

So, doing what anyone might do when finding themselves in a similar situation, Dominick had himself a good cry.

He was not embarrassed by it. No, he embraced it. He sobbed and he wept, he bawled and he howled, he sniveled and he whimpered and he squalled and he mewled. He even bleated for a time. Eventually however, after it was all out of his system, he felt prepared to work at the task at hand.

How would he get himself out from under a dead lizard that weighed more than he did?

It seemed an impossible task, but he would not give up. Instead, Dominick rocked from side to side. It was small, at first, just slight movements to the left and to the right, but soon the body was moving along with him.

Then, with a scream of effort, as Dominick rocked to the right, he was able to push at the dead weight so that it rolled off of him. Dominick laughed and pulled himself to his feet.

He did his best to ignore the tumult all around and tried to clear his mind of any thoughts but those of home. He glanced down at the ring on his left hand and smiled as the symbols spun around the band, the one for his world coming to rest within the gem. It was the same tree as this world, but set before it was a microchip.

He turned the ring inward and was about the place it over his heart when something hammered into him and he was on the ground once again.

Dominick looked up to find something standing over him that was even more monstrous that one of the lizard men, if that was even possible. It was dark, hairless, and covered in muscles. It wore no armor, only a tiny fur loincloth that covered its midsection. Its brow protruded over its small, dark eyes and two yellowed tusks jutted up from its lower lip.

Then there was the smell.

The stench that rolled off the thing brought back memories of the day he’d been trapped on the back of a charter bus full of his fellow high school band-mates, trekking through the Midwest, heading north to a band festival in Canada. The toilet on the bus, better yet the compartment in which the toilet emptied into, had been filled to capacity after a short stop in Nebraska where most everyone on the bus bought, and consumed, enchiladas sold from off the back of a truck. It was hours before they were able to transfer the waste into a proper disposal unit, but those few hours had been the most malodorous of his entire life.

Until now.

The creature held an ax so large that a family of yak could have slept comfortably on the blade. Yet the monster held the weapon, almost casually, in one hand. The thing smiled as it raised the ax above its head, showing yellowed, blunt teeth.

The smile alone was enough to make Dominick yearn for his time spent trapped beneath the dead lizard man, and the fear inspired him to scramble backwards as the blade fell.

The ax split the earth between Dominick’s legs as he crab walked away as fast and as far and his four limbs would take him. In the end they took him only a few steps before he backed into another lifeless form. The creature smiled again and raised the ax for a second time.

As the ax fell, Dominick rolled to his right, screaming like a scared child as the blade sliced through the back of his shirt. The stark raving terror the ax had inspired from deep within Dominick drove him to keep moving, and as he did he rolled over something the size of a shot glass in his left pocket.

His mind was momentarily distracted by the pain of said object pressing forcefully into the tender meat of his upper thigh. He couldn’t imagine what it was that he had in that pocket, but the small part of his brain that tried to work its way through the mystery was summarily beat down by a much larger part of his brain that was designed to pull the smaller part away from trivial nonsense when the rest of the brain is doing what it could to keep the body out of mortal danger.

He then amazed himself by turning the roll into a somersault, which then ended with Dominick standing in a slight crouch before the towering, ax-wielding, obsessed-with-seeing-him-die, mass of muscle. Now that he was standing, he could see that the creature was at least eight feet tall.

Dominick threw his hands out before him.

“Whoa now, big boy,” Dominick said. “Let’s think about this, okay? I just got here and I have no idea what the crap is going on.”

“I kill you, little squirrel,” the thing said, its speech somewhat impeded by the tusks protruding from its lower jaw.

It was then—as his blood froze, his heart raced, and his bowels threatened to relax and release—that Dominick remembered the sword. He stuck a hand in his right pocket as the creature swung the massive ax once again. It came at him this time from the side and Dominick jumped backward over a fallen soldier and avoided being split in half by a hair.

He pulled the tiny sword from his pocket.

“Can’t we talk about this?” Dominick said, clutching the miniature sword before him in his sweaty fist.

“Can talk after dead, squirrel.”

The creature raised the ax and made ready to bring it down upon Dominick’s head. But then it paused, its eyes narrowing as it took in the sight of Dominick and his tiny sword. It began to laugh, the sound rising above the roar of the battle.

Dominick looked down at the sword in his hand and was soon laughing along with the creature who was about to end his life. It all seemed so silly to die in such a fashion. To know that after years of a life spent in perpetual blandness that he had to travel to another world entirely just to die in what had to be one of the most exciting ways possible: split down the middle by a giant, poop-inducing, ax. And all he had to defend himself was a sword made for a toy soldier.

Soon, the laughter died away and the two were left with nothing more than the space between them and the one moment they had shared in insane amusement. The moment broken only when the creature, shrugging its shoulders, brought the ax down.

At the same time, Dominick, knowing full well the futility of the act, pulled the tiny sword from the tiny scabbard. The moment the blade cleared, the sword and scabbard both popped to normal size and for a moment hope tweaked him on his cheek. Followed—rather dramatically—by a clap of thunder in the sky above them.

The blade of the sword was black, and nearly four feet long. The grip was made for two hands, but Dominick held on to it with just the one as if the blade weighed nothing at all.

Dominick gaped. And as he held the naked blade before him, the ax fell. Dominick raised the sword, putting the blade between him and the ax, knowing that he wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold back the force of the blow. But then, as ax and sword met, a sound pulsated forward from the impact of the two blades: The sonorous tone of a massive bell that echoed out around them as the blade of the ax shattered into thousands of tiny pieces.

Dominick and the creature stared at each other, the lingering sound of the bell hanging in the air between them. Dominick still gaped; the creature looked shocked as he held tightly to the shaft of his broken ax.

“Sword of Power,” the creature said, its voice a whisper.

That was the moment Dominick realized that the fighting around him had stopped. The combatants had all turned to look in his direction and he felt uncomfortable under such voluminous scrutiny.

“Sword of Power,” the creature said again, and then the shaft of the broken ax fell from its fingers.

“Look, um,” Dominick said, his eyes darting from the creature to the crowd around him. He’d never been good in front of an audience.

“The One,” the creature said, pointing a trembling finger at him.

“What?” Dominick said.

“The One,” the creature repeated, and then, with very little in the way of ceremony, fled.

A large portion of the crowd around Dominick followed the creature’s lead and ran away in terror. Lizard men, more of the dark skinned creatures, and other humans. They ran from the field as if a giant, mutated goat had entered the field, devouring all within its path.

What warriors remained had gathered around Dominick, their collective faces beaming with a weary joy. He could see mostly human faces throughout the gathering. Others were elven based on the long, pointed ears and large, almond-shaped eyes. He could also identify what had to be dwarves. Mixed in among them were creatures that Dominick could only categorize as Bigfoot. They were tall, about seven feet, and covered in coarse fur of varying shades.

The humans, elves, and dwarves wore leather and chain mail, the Bigfoot creatures wore loose fitting dark pants with a green surcoat belted at the waist. All had an insignia bearing a regal bird of prey on their right breast.

Pixies floated among them all, fluttering here and there like large bees.

Then, as one, the warriors dropped to one knee and bowed their heads.

“The One,” a thousand voices said together.

“Uh,” Dominick said.

The warriors, again as one, rose to their feet. All faces looked to Dominick with expectation.

“Uh,” Dominick repeated. “Hi, guys.” He smiled, waved, and prayed that they wouldn’t notice his trembling hands, his knocking knees, and the way in which his stomach was attempting to crawl out of his throat.

The warriors did not move, nor did they speak. Though he did see one a few rows back return his wave.

“So, yeah,” Dominick said in a squeak. He cleared his throat. “I’m uh… I guess I’m this One person and stuff.”

He continued to smile.

The warriors continued to stare.

“And uh, this would be, um, Arkonus?” Dominick said.

He raised the sword, blade pointing to the heavens. Thunder boomed and a bolt of lightning struck the blade, connecting the steel momentarily to the sky.

The crowd stepped back, a collective “Ah!” rolling from them as if to say: “Oh, wow. We are all really quite impressed by what has just happed but can’t articulate it in a way that such a display truly deserves.”

“Um,” was the only response Dominick could come up with considering the circumstances.

“Dominick Hanrahan,” someone spoke behind him. “We knew you would come.”

He turned to find Vivian hovering at eye level. She’d replaced her tri-corner hat with a round metal helmet.

“Oh, yeah,” Dominick said. “Hey, Vivian.”

“You’re arrival is fortuitous. We were near to losing the day.”

“You didn’t tell me you were in the middle of a pitched battle,” Dominick said.

“We were not when we had traveled to your realm, Dominick Hanrahan. It has been three days since we left you.”

“Three days? But, it was only a few minutes ago.”

“As I said before we left you, Dominick Hanrahan, time moves faster in our realm.”

He scratched his head.

“So, I guess I saved you and stuff, right?” He said.

“You certainly arrived at the right time. Lord Hob’s vile army is in retreat.”

“Well,” Dominick said, looking at the sword in his hand. “I guess I’m done then. That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

“Done?” Vivian cocked her head.

“Yeah, you said I’d save your world, right? That I was destined to do it and stuff? And I did drive away those bad guys, right? Not sure how I did it, frankly. I mean, it was cool and all, I almost had an accident in my pants, but I guess it was pretty dope.”

“No, I’m sorry, Dominick Hanrahan, but your job is not yet complete. Yes, today’s battle is won, but there is still the war. Lord Hob and his minions will return, and when they do, you must be prepared to face him in furious combat.”

“Oh,” Dominick said. He slid the sword into its scabbard and then belted it around his waist.

He couldn’t quite place his finger on it, but there was something comfortable about standing there on the field of battle with a weary army all around him, the Sword of Power on his hip. It felt right somehow. Natural. As if it was just something he did because he was just that kind of guy.

“Okay,” he said, doing his best to look Vivian in the eyes, not an easy task with eyes that small. “I’m here, I guess I’ll fight. What’s next?”

“We must go to the palace and prepare.”

“Lead the way,” he said.

Vivian floated away and as Dominick made to follow the long scabbard became tangled between his legs and he fell on his face in front of the very people he’d come to save.

To be continued...


Monday, April 4, 2022


The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


THE PROBLEM WITH TALKING in public to a pair of pop superstars, two of the most recognizable people on the planet, was almost as obvious as talking openly to a pair of bandicoots. You run the risk of being mobbed by thousands of screaming fans, all vying to touch one of your companions, maybe even take a piece of them home: scrap of shirt, lock of hair, whatever.

Then there was the threat of paparazzi. The less said about them the better, and that’s probably saying too much as it is.

“We should really take this someplace a little more private,” Dominick said, ushering the two celebrity doppelgangers back into the dumpster pen.

Once safe from prying eyes inside the wooden privacy fence, he continued.

“Now, how about you both drop the disguises. You’re horrible at it anyway.”

Vivian and Harold shared a look.

“I can’t say that I quite agree with the use of the word ‘horrible’, but I suppose you’re probably right,” Vivian said, and soon the two pixie’s were glowing once again.

As before, the glow intensified to the point that Dominick had to shield his eyes. When he could see again, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift were gone.

At first Dominick though that the two pixies had disappeared as nothing took the places of the two teen sensations.

“Vivian?” Dominick said, looking this way and that. “Harold?”

“Down here,” said a high, piping voice.

Dominick looked down and found two tiny people, the size toys. He crouched to get a better view.

The two pixies, a male and a female, dressed in simple tunics colored in earthen tones of brown and green belted at the waist over pants of the same shade and hue. Small, tri-corner hats adorned their heads and thigh high boots rounded out the ensemble. Each had a tiny sword at their hip and thin gossamer wings, like those of a dragonfly, on their backs.

“Please Dominick Hanrahan,” Harold said, and his wings buzzed as they lifted him gently from the ground to float inches from Dominick’s face. “If you would but permit me. I would like for you take a peek into our world before you make your decision. Just a look. See our people and our homes. See how we live. If then, you still choose to stay, Vivian and I will respect your decision and leave you be.”

Dominick had to admit to himself that seeing into another world, even a peek, had his curiosity centers running on overdrive.

“Okay, sure,” Dominick said. “I’ll give the place a look. How, uh… how do I do that?

But Harold ignored him as he descended, and the using a piece of chalk the size of pencil lead, drew a circle on the side of the dumpster. Vivian joined him and the two made a few intricate hand gestures and chanted softly in unison.

He wasn’t sure how long he stood there waiting because soon he was lost in the rhythm of their voices. His eyes were drawn to the circle on the dumpster as it began to glow. The rusted green metal inside the circle faded and was replaced by the blue of a clear sky.

Dominick drew closer.

The bright blue shifted and Dominick found himself looking down upon a walled city with cobblestone streets. The buildings were packed together in a grid that defied the drab uniformity of such a formation and exuded comfort. He wasn’t sure why, but Dominick knew the people who dwelled within that walled city were happy.

The city grew closer and he could see the people walking the stone streets. His time playing role playing games helped him to identify the various races: Humans, elves, pixies flying here and there, dwarves, and tall creatures covered in fur that made him think of Bigfoot. He could see the smiles on their faces, the purpose in the way they walked. Something inside him wanted to be a part of it, regardless of the colored hose he could see most of the men wearing under their tunics. He wouldn’t have to wear hose, would he?

Suddenly, a shadow fell over the scene. Dominick backed away from the dumpster and looked up into the sky. But the shadow was not there with him and the pixies, the shadow had covered the city in the magic circle. Dread crept into Dominick’s heart and he found sweat forming on his brow.

The scene shifted like a jump cut in a movie, and now the city was on fire. Great plumes of greasy smoke rose into the sky. He could almost hear the screams as the people ran about in chaos. Few were organized, running buckets up and down lines of concerned citizens as they attempted to quench the blaze. But it was useless. More managed to escape from the walls out into the plains of grass beyond, only to be met by hordes of lizard men and large, hairless, dark-skinned creatures with protruding brows and small, black eyes.

But the people of the burning city were not alone on the plains of grass, there they joined the ranks of the army that was already engaged in furious battle with the invading mass. The army of the burning city held their own and threw the invaders back.

Then the scene shifted once again and Dominick found the invaders in full retreat. A surge of hope stabbed into Dominick’s heart. The city was saved. He almost cheered.

That was, until the dragon arrived.

The dragon was white, its wingspan like that of a jumbo jet. It flew over the two armies, and the people of the burning city broke, fleeing in terror as the dragon engulfed them in flames from its unholy maw.

“No!” Dominick found himself shouting. He backed away from the dumpster as the people fell to the flames.

The images in the chalk circle went black and soon there was nothing more than the dumpster.

“What was that?” Dominick said, breathing heavily. “Why would you show me that?”

“That was the city of Haven,” Harold said.

“More specifically,” Vivian said. “That is what will happen to Haven and our people without your help.”

“Why?” Dominick backed away another step, his hands gripping the hair on the top of his head like he was clinging to the side of a cliff. “Why me? I’m just a cook at a crappy fast food place,” Dominick said.

“You are the One,” Vivian said.

“It has been foretold,” Harold said.

“‘And so the hammer shall mark him as the One,’” Vivian said, sounding as if she were reading from a book. “‘And in our hour of most desperate need, when shadow and flame feed upon the land, when fire rains from the sky, the One will come from the old and into the new. With hammer and blade, with thunder and lightning, the One will bring light to the shadow and quench the fires of doom.’”

“So our prophecies speak,” Harold said.

Dominick looked down at the pale birthmark on his hand.

“Look,” Dominick said. “I’m sorry, but I have a life here, pathetic as it may be, it’s still a life, and I can’t just leave it.”

Harold and Vivian only smiled.

“We understand, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian said.

“Yes, we will go and trouble you no further,” Harold said.

“When you change your mind, you will need this.” Vivian produced something tiny from a pouch at her side. She held it up for Dominick to see.

He had to squint. It was a ring. A ring made for pixie fingers.

“I don’t understand,” Dominick said.

“The ring will allow you to step between the two realms. To move between your home and ours,” Vivian said.

“Okay,” said Dominick, unsure how he was to use something so small. “But I won’t change my mind.”

Regardless of how he felt, however, something made him hold out his hand.

Vivian, ignoring his rejection, dropped the ring into his open palm. As the ring connected with his skin, it grew to what, for Dominick, would be normal size with an almost audible pop, and he nearly let it fall from his hand in surprise.

He studied the ring for a moment. It reminded him of the class ring his parents were unwilling to buy him when he’d been in high school, except the gem in the center of the ring was dark, almost black. Engraved on either side of the ring were a pair of symbols. He peered intently at each of them, but couldn’t quite make out what either one was supposed to be. It was almost as if the engraver had blurred them in some fashion.

“Place the ring on the middle finger of your right hand,” Vivian said.

“I won’t change my mind,” Dominick repeated. “I’m sorry.”

“Yes, of course,” Vivian said, dismissing his statement entirely. “Picture the place you want to travel to in your mind, the exact place. Since you have yet to travel to Gund, think upon the city you have seen in the circle. Turn the ring so that the gem faces inward, then, place the gem to your heart and you will travel.”

“Alright, thanks,” Dominick said, rubbing his head. “I, ah, I’ll think about it, okay? That’s all I can promise.”

“Of course,” Vivian said.

“Of course,” Harold said.

“Look, I’m sorry. But I really have to get back,” Dominick said, pocketing the ring and backing away. “I want to help, but,” he turned to look back at the Happy Hamburger.

“But you will, Dominick Hanrahan,” Harold said. “You will help us.”

“Yes, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian said, gliding into his field of vision. “Our prophecies say you will help us, so you will help us, we have no doubt of that fact. There is no need for either of us to try and continue to convince you.”

“Your heart knows what you must do,” Harold said. “Once your head sees that your heart is right, then you will come.”

“You have the ring, Dominick Hanrahan. You know how to use it. You will come. There is nothing more to say,” Vivian said. “Pleasant day.”

Dominick only frowned and scratched his head.

“Okay then,” he said, breaking the silence. “Um, I guess I’ll see ya or something.”

The pixies did not respond. They hovered before him, smiling.

“Bye,” Dominick said, throwing a wave their way as he turned, left the dumpster pen, and ambled toward the Happy Hamburger.

“Wait!” Vivian called out. “The sword!”

Dominick froze. Not a good idea when walking through the lot of a drive-in. He was nearly run over by a minivan. Once he was safely out of the way, Dominick turned back to the dumpster pen. Harold had asked Vivian earlier if she’d given him, Dominick, the sword. He’d nearly forgotten all about that.

Dominick had always wanted to own a sword, ever since he’d been ten years old and his Uncle Stan had rented a movie called The Beastmaster. A classic. From that day forward, at least until he started to notice girls, Dominick had turned most anything he could get his hands on into a sword to play with.

But, for all his desire, he could never get his parent’s to actually buy him a toy sword, something made out of plastic or wood, so he’d made do with what he could. Sticks, Tinker Toys, cardboard, whatever.

“You’re still going to give me a sword?” he asked as he stepped back into the dumpster pen. “Arkonus?”

“Arakis,” Vivian said.

“What?” Dominick scratched his head.

“Arakis,” said Vivian. “The name of the sword is Arakis.”

“You will need it when you come to our aid,” Harold said.

“Because you will come to our aid,” Vivian said.

“You certainly will,” Harold said. “It is written.”

“Sure,” Dominick said. “I mean, I probably won’t. Sorry.” He looked down and kicked at an imaginary rock.

“Hold out your hand, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian said.

Dominick exhaled slowly, managed to hold in his excitement, and held out his hand. Vivian unbelted the sword at her waist and held it out before her.

“Behold,” she said. “Arakis, the Black Sword of Power.”

She dropped the sword into Dominick’s open hand.

Like with the ring, Dominick nearly dropped the sword as it fell into his hand. He’d expected the sword to grow just as the ring had. The sword, however, had remained pixie size.

“This is the Black Sword of Power?” Dominick asked.

“Well,” Vivian said, looking from him to the sword and back. “Yes.”

“It’s a like a toy,” Dominick said, feeling some slight guilt over the sound of disappointment in his voice. “What am I supposed to do with it, give it to one of my old action figures?”

“Once you have crossed over into our realm you will then be able to access the sword’s power,” Harold said.

“Ah,” said Dominick. “And what sort of power is that?”

“We must return, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian said. “Time moves faster in our realm, we have been away too long already.”

“Wait,” Dominick said. “The power of the sword.”

“No time for explanations,” Vivian said. “We must away.”

“Farewell, Dominick Hanrahan,” said Harold. “We shall await your coming.”

Dominick noticed for the first time that Harold wore a ring like the one that currently sat in the bottom of his pocket. Harold turned the ring so that the gem was facing inward, then touched the ring to his heart. A rip appeared in the air behind him, opening with a sound like torn fabric.

A glow emanated from within the tear, seeping out like too much glue between sheets of paper. The pixies waved one last time and stepped through the rip in reality. Dominick stood slack-jawed as it closed up behind them. He remained that way for several moments. Long enough that no less than four cars had come onto the lot and ordered burgers and fries.

He could hear the customers as they each took turns shouting their orders at the menu board. They always shouted. If they didn’t shout, the customers spoke at such a low level that a rabbit standing with its ears pressed firmly against the speaker's mouth would have to strain to pick up more than one word. But for Dominick, it all seemed to be happening in some far away world as he looked down at the sword that rested in his palm.

First a lizard man. Then a penguin. Then another penguin. Was he going insane? The two penguins had become teen idols. That wasn’t normal. None of this was anywhere in the neighborhood of normal. And him, the One? The One what?

The questions poured through his mind like water through a hose.

Why me? Was, of course, the granddaddy of them all.

Well, Dominick thought, because you’re the One, obviously.

The One? What the crap does that even mean?

It would mean, I expect, that you have been chosen for something greater. Something more than plunging frozen food into boiling fat.

Okay, but I ask again. Why me?

Why not?

Because it’s me, isn’t it? Who am I? Just some friendless loser with a dead end job.

You aren’t a loser.

Of course I’m a loser. Look at me. Look at where I am. Look at what I’ve done with my life.

Well, then here’s a chance to do something about that. Here’s your chance to be more than just a fast food cook.

But why me?

Look, you can ask that question all you want. The fact of the matter is that you’re probably never going to get an answer that will satisfy you in any possible way. You just have to have faith, dude.

Faith? Faith in what?

Faith that you’re meant for more. And if the two pixies are right, then you certainly are. You need to embrace that, dude, not question it.

But they want me to leave this world and go to theirs. I mean, let’s explore that for just a moment. It’s another world we’re talking about here. They aren’t asking me to move to another state or anything. They want me to leave Earth. Earth! You can’t tell me that that’s not all kinds of insane.

Yeah, okay, that is pretty insane. But maybe we need a little insanity in our lives. What else have we got?

But Dominick had no answer to that.

Instead, he pocketed the tiny sword, turned, and strode back into the Happy Hamburger, his heart heavy and sad.

The cook aisle was as he left it, a buzzing hive of activity. Dominick nearly screamed when he saw himself over at the french fry station, scooping fries into a box. But then he, that is the Dominick doppelganger that stood in the cook aisle, turned to him and winked.

Then he understood. It wasn’t him; he wasn’t having an out of body experience. The Dominick working the fryers was Raymond; the pixie that Vivian had explained was taking his place so as not to arouse the suspicions of his coworkers.

Raymond went back to work. Dominick watched as his twin grabbed a fryer basket of onion rings from the fryer and shook it gently to get rid of any excess oil. This guy was good.


It was Mr. Finkleton. He stepped up to Raymond, standing so close that one would think the two were about to dance the Lambada. Mr. Finkleton had never been one to believe in the concept of personal space.

“I need you to stay an extra four hours tonight,” said Mr. Finkleton, looming above Raymond. “Brenda called in sick and I need someone on the fryers until the dinner rush is over.”

“But, I’ve worked two hours late each night this week,” Raymond said, his voice carrying just the right amount of whine. This guy was really good.

“Look,” Mr. Finkleton said, placing a sweaty hand on Raymond’s shoulder. “We all have our responsibilities and priorities in life. You just need to decide where yours lie.”

Dominick watched Raymond shrug and then get back to work as Mr. Finkleton walked away. He thought over what his boss had said as Raymond plunged a basket full of frozen fries into the hot grease. They sizzled and popped. He looked briefly at the hammer on his hand, and then reached into his pocket to pull out the tiny sword and the ring.

He decided that in the end, he didn’t really have to think on it too much. He knew, deep down, what he had to do.

He turned and stepped back outside. There he placed the ring on the middle finger of his right hand and thought about the city that Harold and Vivian had shown him. He looked down at the ring and the symbol to the right of the gem began to glow, then it shifted and moved to appear beneath the gem. The symbol was of a tree with round, stylized leaves. He turned the ring on his finger so that the gem faced inward. Then, taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and placed his right hand over his heart.

He heard the sound of tearing fabric and opened his eyes to find a rip in the air before him, the same glow flowing out as before.

He turned one last time to the Happy Hamburger, took another deep breath, gave a small wave, then turned and stepped through the tear.

He’d expected some sort of change to come over him as he walked through the rip; a magical feeling, a tingling sensation, maybe even a roaring in his head. But in the end it was as pedestrian as stepping through a doorway in his own home. But instead of moving from one room to another, Dominick moved from his world to a world of screams, violence, and chaos.

To be continued...




This strip was originally published on April 4, 2013 over at

Meet Ultra Maximum Man and The Therapist.

I don't have a lot to say about this strip except to say that this particular strip was both written and drawn by Harold, and I find it incredibly funny.

Remember, if you want Harold and I to get the band back together and create more comic strip fun, please say so by leaving a comment below.

Thank you, there is more to come!

Saturday, April 2, 2022



This strip was originally published on April 2, 2013 over at

I really debated how I was going to handle posting this strip today.

First, to clarify, my son is autistic, so this strip was very personal for me.

Second, we no longer Light It up Blue, but before I explain why, let's talk about what Light It Up Blue is:

Light It Up Blue is a campaign dedicated to raising awareness of autism and was launched in 2010 by Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization. This initiative is intended to raise international awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis in support of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States. This text has been taken from

Sounds innocent enough, right?

Well, here's the the thing. Back then, in 2013, my wife and I were trying to learn whatever we could about autism, and the one organization that was out front and center was Autism Speaks, so we got behind them. Right?

Well, we've since learned that they are not to organization to back. I'm honestly not going to get into all of here it, but only because I really don't have the time to go back and do all the research I already did a few years back for myself, and find all the links to back up my research.

Just know that based on what I found a few years back, based on stories in which it was revealed that they spend more of their budget fundraising then they actually spend toward research or actually helping people with autism, I was out.

That being said, I'm still proud of this strip and I'm super proud of my son.

So there it is. 

Remember, if you want Harold and I to get the band back together and create more comic strip fun, please say so by leaving a comment below.

Thank you, there is more to come!