I said these were coming every couple months, not every week, right? I’ve been busy working on rewriting Norman Normalson & The Normals. I’m also getting some info ready to post here about Norman and his friends The Normals. That should be up very soon, much quicker than it takes me to write a vignette. I’ve also been spending a lot of time not writing, which is horrible and counterproductive. To make up for the delay in posting, this is a really long vignette, especially compared to the others.
L Squad Vignettes: Episode Four: Camp L Squad
“It’ll be like camping,” Abby said.
“Camping?” asked Charlie.
“Yeah, camping’s the best,” said Hitch. “Back on Nasga, we went camping all the time.”
“Do they have camping on Earth?” asked George.
“Yes,” said Charlie. “It’s called being homeless.”
Abby tapped on her wripter. “Yes. It’s even quite popular.”
“It’s just sleeping outside,” said Kip.
“Exactly,” said Charlie. “I’m royalty. We do not sleep outside on the ground.”
“It’ll be fun,” said Kip.
“Yeah, we’ll make a game of it,” said Hitch.
“Brilliant!” said Charlie. “We’ll play homeless. We’ll be adults playing homeless.”
“It’s not a game,” said Captain Grek. “This is a serious training exercise.”
Charlie continued as if Captain Grek hadn’t said a word, “Nobody wants to be homeless, but people sure like to play homeless. Then, there are the more upscale gamers who bring their trailers. They’re playing trailer park.”
As Charlie spoke, a rumble of flagitation erupted from Captain Grek’s nether regions.
“What is that, your stand-up act?” Kip asked.
“Perhaps,” Charlie said. “One never knows when a moment of levity could come in handy.”
“It will come in handy in your search for a vocation upon your dismissal from R.A.D.,” Captain Grek growled.
“Why are we the only squad that has to do this?” Charlie asked.
“Every other squad has already completed their training,” said Captain Grek. “You’re the only squad that needs more training.”
Charlie moaned, “Aww, but why?”
“Because you’re the only squad that consistently flubs every mission,” said Captain Grek. “You’re currently on track to be the L Squad.”
“But the L Squad is the lowest ranked squad,” said Hitch.
“Exactly,” said Captain Grek. “Any more questions?”
“Nope,” said Abby. “We’re off to survive in the wilderness. We’ll see you in a week.”
“There are showers out there, right?” Hitch asked.
Abby rushed over to Hitch and hustled him out the door. The others followed.
“No shower for a week? I guess this won’t be all bad,” Charlie said, on her way out.
Half an hour later, the squad was dropped off deep in the Canadian wilderness. The only gear they were allowed was a communicator, which was for use only in the event of an emergency.
“The first thing we need to do is find a shower,” said Hitch.
“I think the first thing we should do is find a place to camp,” said Abby.
“Yeah,” said Hitch. “A place with a shower.”
Kip’s unique scouting abilities found the squad a cave in the side of a hill. It was bordered on one side by a little trickle of a waterfall.
“Good find, Kip,” said Hitch.
“Thanks, Cap,” said Kip.
“It’s not very private, but it should work,” said Hitch.
“We’re way out in the wilderness,” said Charlie. “How much more privacy could you want?”
Hitch stuck his hand in the steaming water. “Holey cheese balls! That water is absolutely freezing.”
“It’s not freezing, much less absolutely freezing,” said Abby. “If it were freezing, it would be ice, not water.”
A period of mocking Abby and her incessant need to be literal ensued. There was nothing unusual about that. By now, Abby had learned they were teasing her, not agreeing with her. It didn’t change her reaction much. Genius does not necessarily beget wit. It often subdues it.
It wasn’t long before stomachs started rumbling. Kip didn’t have an issue. Kip was solar powered and absorbed all necessary nutrients from the sun. Finding food for Abby wasn’t as easy as Kip, but she was an herbivore. There was plant life everywhere. All she had to do was figure out which Earth plants were edible. A simple scan would…
“Dang it!” Abby said. “How are we supposed to find food without our equipment? If we eat the wrong thing, we could get sick or die.”
“It’s too bad Monshtah’s not here,” said Kip. “She knows about all plants. She’s been studying since we’ve been here.”
“Ah-ha!” said Charlie. “See, Captain Campadelic? I told you camping wasn’t going to be fun.”
“Camping is usually fun,” said Hitch.
“Yeah, but we usually bring supplies,” said Abby.
“And if we forget something, we can just fly back to get it,” said George.
“And there are usually showers that aren’t ice,” said Hitch, working in a little tease for Abby into his gripe.
“The sun’s setting,” said Kip. “We have about half an hour until it’s completely dark out here.”
“All right, let’s get into the cave,” said Hitch. “Who brought the camp heater?”
“No supplies, remember, Cap?” said George.
“Ohklay Buré!” Hitch swore. “Now what?”
“We have to make a fire,” said Abby.
“Who knows how to make a fire?” asked Hitch.
“We can rub sticks together,” said Abby. Her suggestion reflected off silent stares. “The friction leads to heat and sparks, which combine with oxygen and fodder to make fire.”
After a beat or two, George said, “Blaster?”
“Blaster, yeah,” said Hitch. “We can use a blaster to make heat to light something on fire.”
“Uh… We don’t have any blasters,” said George.
“Then, why’d you suggest blasters?” asked Hitch.
“It was a hypothetical,” said George.
“We don’t need hypothetical,” said Hitch. “We’re going to get hypothermia.”
“Probably not,” said Kip. “You’re all furry, and I have my shell.”
“I’m not furry,” said George.
“I was counting Herman,” said Kip. “We should be all right for tonight.”
They were. Kip’s the medical officer. Kip knows Kip’s stuff. The squad slept curled up together using their body heat to keep them all warm. George slept in the middle. Herman, his mustache, was thick and lush but not quite enough to keep him warm.
The next morning, Kip was the first one up. Kip sat on the cusp of their cave watching the animals. Kip took note of everything they ate. By the time the others started dispersing from the hairball they had made, Kip had a collection of nuts and berries ready for breakfast.
“Yay for Kip. Kip, Kip, hooray!” Kip heard in Kip’s head.
Kip was actually greeted by a series of grunts, moans, and an occasional, “Ugh… Thanks.”
“Where’s the beef?” Charlie asked as if she were in a commercial from the 1980s. She was literally inquiring about meat. Charlie was oblivious to the advertisement. She was not alive in the ’80s, nor was she one to waste her time watching old commercials on YouTube. She definitely didn’t waste her time watching other people play video games on YouTube. What is that? Why is that a thing? Humans are the strangest sentient beings in the universe if one can classify a species that watches videos of other people playing video games as sentient.
As soon as he had some food, Hitch took charge. “All right, good job on the food, Kip. George, you go with Kip to find more food. Abby and Charlie, you figure out how to start a fire.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Abby.
“I’m going to take a shower,” said Hitch.
“In the ice water?” asked Charlie.
“I can take it,” said Hitch, in his best macho voice. “Go!”
Following a brisk hike through the woods, Kip and George approached a beehive.
“I spent some time this morning watching these little creatures,” said Kip. “They’re making some kind of food in here.”
“How do you know what they’re doing in there?” asked George.
“I’ve been watching,” said Kip.
“But they’re inside,” said George. “How do you know what’s going on inside?”
“I looked into the hole through which they’re entering and exiting,” said Kip.
“What hole?” asked George.
“Look up there,” Kip pointed. “See where they’re going in and out?”
“Oh, I see it,” said George. “I can hardly see the hole from here, and you can see into it from over on the mountain?”
“Yeah,” said Kip. “I’m a Yortian, remember?”
“Yeah, but… Glaurf!” said George. After his astonishment subsided, he continued. “How do we get it out of there?”
“Inside, there are walls composed of hexagons that hold the food,” said Kip. “Just reach into the hole with your tail and grab one and pull it out.”
“You want me to steal their food?” asked George, shocked at Kip’s callousness.
“There’s a bunch in there,” said Kip. “They can spare a little.”
“Won’t they be angry?” asked George.
“They’re tiny,” said Kip. “What can they do?”
“All right,” said George.
George reached up to the hive with his tail. He slowly sneaked it into the hole. The bees started buzzing around his tail. He grabbed a honeycomb.
“Ew, it’s sticky,” said George. “Ow! It stings.”
Elsewhere, Abby and Charlie were looking for sticks.
“So, you think rubbing sticks together will make a fire?” asked Charlie.
“It works,” said Abby.
“How do you know?” asked Charlie. “Have you ever done it?”
“No, but it’s been done,” said Abby. “Do you have a better idea?”
“That is such a cliché question that always leads to shenanigans,” Charlie said, smugly.
“I’m going to take that as a ‘no,’” said Abby.
“Hey, look,” said Charlie, pointing to a small black and white quadruped with a big fluffy tail.
“Speaking of cliché,” said Abby, “that’s a clichéd distraction technique for which I am not falling.”
“That creature kind of looks like me. Hi. I’m Charlie. What’s your name? You smell interesting. What is that perfume you’re wearing?” The creature waddled away from Charlie. “Rude.” Charlie pursued. “I was merely inquiring about the aroma…” Charlie was interrupted mid-sentence when the creature lifted its tail and sprayed a large quantity of its “perfume” in Charlie’s face. “Gee whillikers on a Wednesday!” Charlie swore… maybe. “I think it farted on me.”
Meanwhile, at the camp, Hitch was preparing to shower. He made the mistake of checking the temperature of the waterfall before going in. It was colder than it was the previous day.
Hitch put his hand in and pulled his hand out. He put his foot in and pulled his foot out. He tried the opposite hand and foot with the same result. He finally decided to just go for it. He stood roughly three meters away, took a series of deep breaths, and ran into the waterfall. He didn’t stop there. He ran all the way through and out the other side.
“Holey socks! That is cold.”
While Hitch was setting a personal record for the coldest, shortest, and all around worst shower of his life, George and Kip were under attack. Kip’s decision to judge the bees by their size turned out to be a faux pas, an oopsie if you will. The angry bees’ retaliation for the stolen honeycomb didn’t stop at George’s tail. They were mad at all of George. Their anger spread to Kip for merely being another living being in the proximity of their hive.
Kip’s first instinct was to ball. George’s was to run. Half the bees swarmed Kip’s ball. The other half pursued George. They continued to pursue George when he came back to where he left Kip. In the brief time he was gone, George had acquired an additional pursuer.
The ruckus caused by George’s return was enough to make Kip open Kip’s shell. It was only a slight crack, so Kip could see what was making all the noise. Kip wasted no time in resealing the carapace.
“Run! It’s a monster,” George yelled, as he ran past Kip.
Behind George, following closely and getting closer, was the largest grizzly bear either of them had ever seen. She was also the only grizzly bear they had ever seen, which is why George referred to her as a monster instead of a bear.
As the bear ran past Kip, the bees dispersed. Even they didn’t want anything to do with the bear bearing down on George. See what I did there? Words are fun. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!
Kip unballed (Is that a word? No? It will be someday. I will make sure of it.) and ran the opposite direction of George and his new acquaintance. George was trying to run the opposite direction of his new acquaintance, but the bear wasn’t cooperating.
As the bear grew closer, George kept both eyes turned back toward her and forgot to watch what was coming in front of him. George tripped on a root forcing its way out of the ground. On his way down, he crashed into a low-hanging branch. He flipped over it and landed on a pile of sticks. They would have been precisely what Abby and Charlie were looking for at that moment. Of course, they wouldn’t be worth dueling with a bear. The sticks broke. The whole thing was very slapstick, literally.
The bear stopped, towering over George. She bared her teeth and flashed her claws. George tried to get up but slipped on the sticks. The more he attempted to move the more he got tangled. The bear raised her paw and swung it down on George. Her claws made a whistling sound as they tore through the air.
George dropped the honeycomb and wrapped his tail around the same branch over which he tumbled. He pulled himself out of the way. The bear’s paw and claws crashed into the pile of broken sticks. As it passed George, the tip of one claw tore a slit in George’s uniform.
The bear turned angrily toward George.
“This might be it, Herman,” George said, to his mustache.
“It’s been a good run, George,” Herman said.
Before the bear could take another swing at George, and before George could think of another slick escape, a rock hit the bear in the back of the head. Renewed anger swelled up inside the bear as she turned and started after Kip, the source of the projectile. Kip emitted a little yelp. We’ll call it the Patented Yortian Yelp since there is no yelp like it in the universe. No, it is not an app used for rating intergalactic space restaurants. You are ridiculous.
Kip widened as wide as Kip could widen before turning to run as fast as Kip could run. The bear followed. George also followed but not at the same speed or with the same vigor as the bear. George was not about to abandon the friend who just saved his life, but he didn’t want to get the bear’s attention unless it was necessary to save Kip’s life. The bees were no help at all. They returned to their hive and resumed working.
The trio didn’t run far, which was a good thing for Kip as the bear was gaining on Kip much faster than she had been gaining on George. In mid-run, Kip dropped to the ground, balled, and rolled under a pair of trees that were tied together. The bear tripped over the trees and slammed into the ground.
Kip circled back around to George. The duo put as much distance between themselves and the bear as they could. The bear was not interested in further pursuit.
“What is that thing?” asked Kip.
“A human?” George said, tentatively.
“I don’t think humans are that hairy,” said Kip.
“I’ve seen some that hairy,” said George.
“All right, but they’re not that mean,” said Kip.
“They kept us locked up in quarantine for a year,” said George. “Some think we should still be there.”
“That’s true,” said Kip. “What about the teeth and claws?”
“Those are good points,” said George.
“Aaah, where’s Charlie for that one?” asked Kip.
“She does love puns, doesn’t she?” said George.
“So, what did you do to make that hairy set of teeth and claws so angry?” asked Kip.
“I ran into it,” said George. “I was running from the little flying creatures and ran into the big hairy one.”
“Oh,” said Kip. “You’re lucky it didn’t just grab you.”
“I hit it from behind,” said George. “I think I crashed into its butt.”
“Even when you’re not flying, you still find a way to crash,” said Kip.
“I am the best pilot you know,” said George.
“You are,” Kip conceded. “You’re also the worst.”
“I’ll accept that,” said George. “Anyway, we’re lucky that was the only one after us. There were two other miniature monsters with it.”
“Those were probably its offspring,” said Kip. “I’d guess it was protecting its babies from the crazy creature who attacked its butt.”
“You stink,” said Abby, moments earlier in a different part of the forest.
“I kind of like it,” said Charlie. “It’s musky.”
“You’re weird,” said Abby.
“Um, this is my planet,” said Charlie. “Here, you’re the weird one.”
“You didn’t like it a few minutes ago when you were rolling around screaming, ‘Get it off me! Get it off me!’” said Abby.
“I’ve grown accustomed to it,” said Charlie.
“I haven’t,” said Abby, pinching her nose. “It’s almost as bad as the captain’s flagitation.”
A yelp rang out through the forest.
“What was that?” asked Charlie. “A bad review for a restaurant?”
“It’s Kip,” said Abby. “That’s a Yortian yelp. What’s a bad review for a restaurant?”
“A joke,” said Charlie.
“It’s always jokes with you,” said Abby.
“Not always,” said Charlie. “Sometimes it’s a joke, other times it could be a jape or even a jest.”
“Come on,” said Abby. “We have to find Kip.”
“It came from over here,” said Charlie, as she took off in the direction of Kip’s yelp. Abby followed. Both of them dropped everything, except the skunk smell that was now Charlie’s constant companion.
Abby and Charlie burst through the bushes and arrived on the scene just in time to be no help.
Kip balled. George put two hands over Herman, squeezed the remaining two into fists, swung his tail around, and prepared to fight.
“Kip, George, what happened?” asked Abby.
George relaxed when he realized who their assailants were.
“It’s all right. It’s Abby and Charlie,” George said to Kip.
Kip peeked out of the ball. Once George’s assurance was confirmed, Kip completely retracted the carapace.
“What was that yelp?” asked Abby.
“Did you get some bad oysters?” Charlie asked.
“Huh?” asked George.
“What now?” asked Kip.
“Did you leave a bad review due to receiving oysters of low quality?” Charlie retried.
“No one gets that joke,” said Abby, “or jape or jest.”
“Or it’s not funny,” said Kip.
“Dang it!” said Charlie. “Sometimes, the audience is completely at fault when a joke falls flat.”
“Or it’s just not funny,” said George.
“What happened?” Abby asked, again.
“George found a huge, hairy monster with sharp teeth and claws,” said Kip.
“Was it Captain Grek?” asked Charlie.
“No, it was way scarier,” said Kip.
“It’s fine, though,” said George, caressing Herman in a gesture that was meant to convey confidence. “We took care of it.”
“How? What happened?” Abby asked.
“How would you rate your experience with the monster?” Charlie asked, still trying to get a laugh out of her yelp/Yelp pun.
“We’ll tell you about it around the campfire,” said Kip.
“Campfire?” said Charlie.
“Oh no!” said Abby. “We dropped all the sticks we collected when we heard Kip yelp.”
“I hope you guys found food that doesn’t need to be cooked,” said Charlie.
“Food?” said George.
“Snortle vomit!” said Kip.
The group got back to the camp as the sun was dipping below the trees. Actually, the rotation of Earth was bringing the trees up in front of the sun, but that’s just science and reality instead of poetic piffle, like sunrise and sunset.
“It’s about time. I’m starving,” Hitch said. “How did everybody do? What’s that smell?”
The rest of the squad hung their heads and pointed at Charlie. Charlie raised a paw.
“I came up with a joke about Kip and restaurant reviews,” said Charlie. “Would you like to hear it? Here it goes…” Abby wrapped her hand around Charlie’s mouth.
“We found some sweet sticky stuff,” said George. He lifted his tail to under Hitch’s nose. “Here, smell.”
“Mmm. That smells good,” said Hitch. “Where is it?”
“Um…” said Kip. “We dropped it.”
“How do you drop sticky stuff?” asked Hitch.
“There was this monster…” George started.
“Fire fodder?” Hitch asked, cutting off George’s explanation.
“We found a lot of sticks to rub together,” said Charlie.
“Sticks to rub together?” asked Hitch, skeptically.
“It works,” said Abby.
“I’ll take your word for it, Abbs,” said Hitch. “Well, I guess you can show us.”
“We dropped them,” said Abby.
“You dropped them?” Hitch asked.
“Yes, when Kip left a bad review for the monster,” said Charlie, determined to find some way to make that joke work with aliens who had no idea what Yelp was in a time when World President Amazon.com’s app NumB had long since killed Yelp. The app gave users the option of rating a restaurant or experience as “Num Num” for good or “Numb” for bad. The simplicity of the choices and negation of the need to put any time, energy, or thought into an actual review made the app a big hit.
Yes, Amazon.com, a website, was elected president of the United States and eventually the world. That’s just humans being humans. The sad part is, it was a lot better than many rulers throughout the planet’s history. It actually delivered on its promises, usually in just two days.
Hitch looked around confused. “You guys are getting a ‘Numb’ for this mission. I accomplished my mission.”
“What was your mission?” asked Abby.
“I took a shower,” said Hitch.
“That was your mission for the day?” asked Abby.
“Yep, and I was very efficient about it,” said Hitch.