Chapter 938: In Which Our Hero Eludes The French By Covering Himself In Lard, Feathers And Small Bits Of Wool

…later earning himself the nickname “Slippery Jim”.

Our last entry for this theme. Next up: “Well, That’s Different”

The Doclopedia #1,208

Strange Pet Ailments: Avian Regression Disease

There can be little doubt that among the diseases of pets, Avian Regression Disease is the worst and potentially the most deadly. Not deadly for the birds, but for humans and other animals.

ARD is believed to have entered the pet population via a shipment of 2,000 parrots captured in Costa Rica in the 1990s, a few years after the mysterious military firebombing of Isla Nublar, an island which still carries the death penalty for trespassers. The parrots came into the United States, Canada, the UK, Europe and South Africa via the usual route and were passed through quarantine with no problems.

About a year later, some of these parrots began to come down with a disease that caused many of their feathers to fall out, new & much different feathering to grow back and beak and skull deformities to occur. These individuals also began to grow scales on the featherless areas. Veterinarians were stumped as to what was going on. It would be another six months before the truth was even guessed at. During that time, most of the surviving 2,000 birds showed signs of the changes. Around 190 of these birds escaped into the wild in North America, South Africa and Europe. Dozens of aviaries and zoos started reporting that the disease had spread to other psittacine species, ostriches, some raptor species and, worst of all, domestic chickens.

In 1994, Dr. Sheila Soong at the UC Davis Veterinary school suggested that these birds were actually regressing into something similar to dinosaurs. She was roundly criticized for this, until several paleontologists and geneticists backed her up. This was also the same time that several attacks upon humans and other animals made the news. The worst came when 10,000 hens at a Georgia chicken farm escaped and killed 45 people. Only 7,000 of those birds were ever destroyed.

We now accept that ARD is real and does indeed turn several species of birds into therapod dinosaurs. We also know that some, if not most of these neo-dinos produce young that are larger with each successive generation, generally about 10-15% larger than the previous generation. Fourteen species of neo-dino have been identified, including raptors, carnotaurs, pterosaurs, tyrannosaurs and spinosaurs. It has also been discovered that pigeons can be carriers of this disease, but are never affected by it.

Oddly, one of the best friends that the United Nations Dinosaur Eradication Agency has are crows and ravens, who hate the dinos and will fly in large groups above them.

It’s Been 11 Years Since I Ate Coconut Snot

…for an explanation of that, see the May 8, 2004 post in the archives

The Doclopedia #1,207

Strange Pet Ailments: Canine/Feline Anal Combustion

As all pet owners know, the flatulence produced by our animal friends can be overpowering. Well, if your dog or cat comes down with Anal Combustion, it can be downright dangerous.

The origins of AC have been traced to a canned dog & cat food from China that used a flavor additive contaminated with several strange bacteria. The resulting bacterial infections caused hundreds of dogs & cats in North America and other countries to have farts that burst into flame on contact with the air. Many fires were started in homes and a wildfire in Idaho was directly linked to an Australian Cattle Dog “ripping off a doozy” that ignited drought dried brush.

The pet foods were quickly banned and recalled, but by then, the bacteria were loose in the environment. Fortunately, it only seems to affect domesticated dogs & cats and is easily treatable with a series of antibacterial enemas. If your dog or cat should suddenly start “letting flamers”, get them to a vet ASAP.

It should be noted that the company in China changed their name, re-labeled the dog food as “American Style Beef Stew” and the cat food as “Finest Fish Pate” and sold out the several tons it had on hand to Chinese consumers. Sadly, the effect of direct ingestion on humans was much the same as on dogs & cats. The Chinese media has cracked down on reporting of all the factory and residential fires, but NASA has posted pictures of many of these fires online.

Mrs. Wangdoodle Takes A Selfie

…to put on her Facebook page

Hey, look! It’s a new entry for Life On The Magic Bus! Yay!

Life On The Magic Bus

WARNING! WARNING! Temporally Displaced Post! This Post Is From The FUTURE. Read At Your Own Risk!

Doc Clay was racing along on inline hoverskates at about 25 miles an hour. The giant mutant rat behind him was closing the gap at 28 miles per hour.

“SHIT!, he yelled, “Here we come!”

Doc passed under a low hanging branch and, a few seconds later, so did the rat. The difference was that Doc did not encounter the business end of a Urokan Vibronic Pickaxe and the rat did. It’s head exploded in a spray of blood & gore and the body tumbled about 30 feet before it stopped. A moment later, Sasha swung down gracefully from the branch using her Ottopus tentacles. She was covered in that blood & gore and hoisted the pickaxe above her head before shouting “Who’s the killer bitch around here? This gal!”

Doc chuckled at that. It was true enough. He and Sasha had been using this some ploy to kill these goddamn rats for a week now, ever since the Magic Bus had been forced to stop for repairs on this post apocalyptic version of Earth.

Yeah, yeah”, he said, “You’re a badass, Now let’s get you cleaned up before the Mom Unit sees you.”

Back at the bus, he hosed Sasha off until she was mostly clean, then sent her inside to be properly washed up by a SmartBot while he washed his hands under the faucet. Despite this world being devoid of human life, he had to admit that 3,000 years of letting Mother Nature have her way with it had turned out pretty well, giant carnivorous rats aside. It was a very peaceful place to break down.

Well, “break down” wasn’t quite the term for it, but it was easier to say than “Stopped because the bus caught a nasty cold”. A bit easier on the brain, too.

He dried his hands and did some stretching moves. 68 years old was probably not the optimal age for hoverskating hell bent for leather through a forest with a giant mutant rat hot on your ass. It was fun, though, despite what Grace, Avis and his other two dogs said. And it would be a great story to tell the grandkids once he got home.

He paused before going inside, so he could watch a flock of what he called Golden Day Bats pass overhead. They were the size of fruit bats back home, but completely diurnal and insectivorous. Beautiful.

Then he went inside the bus and took a long shower before dinner.

A Big Man Goes Down Hard

…must have been the weight of all that lead

The Doclopedia #1,206

Strange Pet Ailments: Spider-bunny Virus

Because this strange disease allows pet rabbits to walk up walls and on ceilings, it inevitably got the nickname “Spider-bunny virus”. Even vets use it.

The disease usually strikes bunnies between the ages of 6 months and two years old, but can affect older rabbits. Signs that your pet is infected include fur color changing to red or black, increased appetite and very bright green poop.

Infected bunnies can spread the virus to other rabbits, but only in the early stages. Once a rabbit can actually hop up walls, they are no longer infectious. One side effect of the disease is that bunnies become much healthier.

The disease does not hurt the rabbit and the biggest problems are trying to get them off the ceiling and when they urinate or defecate while up there.

Working In A Troll Mine

…going down down down

WOOHOO! The Doclopedia is back! The theme for the next few entries is “Strange Pet Ailments”.

The Doclopedia #1,205

Strange Pet Ailments: Feline Transparency Syndrome

Cat owners everywhere are worried about this new ailment that slowly renders the animal nearly invisible. Since cats are often underfoot and move pretty much silently, it’s easy to see how being invisible might enhance the chances of tripping and injury. There is also the shock that comes when a cay you didn’t see leaps onto your lap or otherwise interacts with you. And, of course, transparent cats are much harder to find if the get loose.

Little is known about Feline Transparency Syndrome, but it is believed to be linked to a double recessive gene. No cure is imminent, so most vets suggest putting a sweater on your transparent cat, since collars don’t seem to be enough to alets you to their presence. Painting the cat is, of course, right out.

Please note that FTS only affects cats over the age of 1 year and under the age of 10.

Eating Cold Cereal And Singing The Blues

…around a mouthful of Cap’n Crunch.

The final (for now) three entries for “Life On The Magic Bus”.

Chapter 6, Part 1: True Tales Of Roadside Strangeness

A return to the Golden State
Grace shows off her melons

Destination Sign: Ravenloft

Captain’s log, 5/8/2009, 8:45 am

After 6 more days in Oregon, during which we visited 3 treehouses, 4 houses decorated heavily with seashells (there are, like, 37 more seashell houses around the United States & Canada), 2 more supposedly “haunted” buildings, a trained sea lion show, a herd of albino deer, a tropical jungle on the Oregon coast (Under a geodesic dome. Pretty cool.) and 3 museums to weird stuff (license plates, womens shoes and beer bottles), we are finally back in California. Arcata, California, to be exact.

SASHA! Stop chewing your sister’s tail!

I’ll try to remember to edit that out later.

Anyway, we spent last night at the Surfside RV park, a nice enough little place that was mostly full of Deadheads on their way down to San Francisco to the final Grateful Dead concert at Winterland. Sad to think that Gerry Garcia probably won’t live to see Halloween, but cancer is like that.

As you might imagine, the smell of weed was everywhere, so we mostly stayed inside the bus last night. Grace & Sasha watched a movie or two, Winker was down below helping Joe do some mechanical stuff and Lucy & I went to check out the warehouse, once we swore to Grace on out lives that we would not mess with anything dangerous looking, not so dangerous looking, or just plain strange looking. Mind you, this is the same woman that once convinced me that we needed to steal a French bomber carrying two nukes.

The warehouse, as stated elsewhere, is big. Stuff is stacked way high and the corridors between the crates are about 15 feet wide to accommodate the helpful SmartBots that keep everything tidy. These, however, are also big SmartBots, four times the size of the ones that take care of the rest of the bus. They have built in forklifts and grabbers and such.

Lucy and I started with some small boxes. Many of them were filled with receipts and stuff, but one was filled with assorted sized eyeballs that could and did all swivel to watch us. We agreed that they rated about a 9 on the Creep Scale, but we made a note to tell Winker about them, in case she thought they could replace her missing eye.

Other boxes included old jewelry (mostly not worth much) and small parts for I don’t know what. Finally, we found a box of old comic books from some alternate reality. They were pretty good reads, seeing as how they were written for a decidedly more adult audience.

After a couple of hours of reading, we decided to go have a snack in the kitchen. I had a salami sandwich and Lucy had some beef stew. After that, I took her for a poop walk. Just getting from the bus to the dog area and back had us both pretty buzzed, so we went to sleep.

This morning, just before breakfast, Grace came in from the greenhouse with a couple of great looking and ripe smelling cantaloupes. We all had some, except Winker, who is allergic to them. Me, I’m allergic to honeydew melons. Back on the farm, Grace was always proud of her annual crop of melons, especially the cantaloupes, canary melons and 6 or 7 types of watermelons. They are always damned tasty.

Our itinerary for today has us going to visit a bigfoot museum, a shop that sells hand carved driftwood and the World Famous House On a Pole. I’m really looking forward to that last one. Grace and Winker, not so much.

Captain’s log out.

Chapter 6, Part 2: True Tales Of Roadside Strangeness

A house on a pole
Sasha gets goosed

Destination Sign: The Baxter Building

Diary entry for Winker Sue Clay, 5/9/2009, 7:30 pm

Dear Diary,

Well, this was an eventful and somewhat scary day for some of us, particularly Sasha.

We started out by going to yet another Bigfoot museum, which had pretty much all of the same questionable footprint casts, fake hair samples (I could smell that these were bear fur) and blurry photographs taken at over 100 yards distance. The guy running the joint is some “famous” Bigfoot hunter, which means that he’s been on that late night bi-coastal weird shit & conspiracy show more than twice. I’d bet cash money that his buddies call him “Bubba” and most of his Bigfoot sightings involve alcohol.

The World Famous House On A Pole was indeed a small house on a tall (as in 100 feet tall) pole. Granted, the pole was ten feet thick, but still, it looked damned skinny. The whole thing swayed just a tiny bit in the stiff wind.

As you have no doubt guessed by now, only Daddy & Lucy wanted to pay the $5.00 to go up into the house and look around. Mom, Sasha and I stayed earthbound to buy bumper stickers & stuff.

You reach the house by taking a freestanding elevator (which was rather cleverly constructed, in my opinion) to the front door. Up went Daddy, Lucy, Mr. Okawa (who owns the house that was built by his brother 15 years ago) and three other no doubt brain damaged people, then into the house.

Daddy reported later that the house was a small one bedroom affair with a decent sized kitchen and a fully functional bathroom. You can spend the night in the house for a couple of hundred bucks, an idea that the Mom Unit shot down hours before we got there. Daddy also reported that the ocean view was incredible.

So, as we are looking up at the house, wondering if Lucy would find a way to jump out a window or something, Joe calls me on my Translator (they work like a short range cell phone, too) and tells me that a big gust of wind is coming. I no sooner tell mom that we need to get back inside the gift shop when the wind hits. We all look at the house and it sways a good foot and a half from side to side. Fortunately, it did not hit the elevator.

From what Lucy told us later, there was much screaming and yelling and cussing and barking as everyone fell on their asses and slid back & forth across the floor. Decorations and things flew around and Lucy said one lady definitely peed herself.

The moment the house started swaying, Mom started breathing again, Sasha said “Man, that was so cool looking!”, I was able to blink again and everybody in the house hauled ass onto the elevator. When they got down to the ground, Daddy & Lucy both said “That was fun!” and Mom said several bad words before ordering them onto the bus. Mom does not like being scared.

The carved driftwood place was interesting because it had very beautiful carvings done by Mr. Fred Mallory & his wife Lana and it wasn’t up on a swaying pole. Fred only has one eye (lost it in Viet Nam), so he and I hit it right off. Their shop and house are on a small farm just across the highway from the beach, which makes getting driftwood pretty easy. They have a dog (Lab mix) named Ellie, but she is my age and a whole lot slower and more prone to sleep. Their cat, Misty, is only about 5 and seems like a nice enough cat.

In fact, it was while Lucy and Sasha were outside exploring the well fenced yard that Misty said to me “I hope your sisters don’t bother the geese” just before I heard Sasha barking and yelling “Hello, geese!”

Now, Lucy and I know what mean and cranky fuckers geese are. We both learned the hard way as pups on the farm. But by the time Sasha was adopted, Mom & Dad had sold off or eaten the geese. I will not confirm or deny that Lucy & I cheered every time a goose went in the oven. Anyway, Sasha knew about ducks and chickens, but she was clueless about geese.

Yelling “Mom! Dad! Geese!” I ran out of the shop and headed toward the sounds of honking geese and yipping Sasha. She was going full tilt around the barnyard with seven geese hot on her tail. One nipped her ear and one nipped her tail. The poor kid was terrified.

I’m an old gal and not very fast or full of endurance, but I did manage to bodyslam a goose, knocking it ass over tea kettle into another. Lucy, who is four years my junior and still in good shape was crashing through the geese, knocking them all over. The problem was that the dumb meanass waterfowl just jumped up and started chasing her. I had to do something, despite feeling like I had just been hit by a train.

Our Multiversal Translators are, by necessity, mind controlled. That means that we can use thoughts to change our voices or increase the volume and such. Quick as, well, a thought, I cranked up both the volume and the bass of my voice and barked as loud as I could.

It had a pretty dramatic effect. Everybody, including Mom, dad and the Mallory’s (who all had just come running from the shop) stopped cold in their tracks. I barked again and the geese all ran into their pond. Sasha and Lucy looked at me, then Lucy said “Holy shit!” and Sasha said “Wow! Winky has a superpower!”

So then we were put on the bus where Mom tended to Sasha’s owies and Dad loaded up the bunches of driftwood carvings he had bought. Later, I got an extra serving of Dog Rice with gravy and Sasha thanked me and said she wanted to grow up to be like me. Lucy just walked up and said “Way to go, Winky”.

Chapter 6, Part 3: True Tales Of Roadside Strangeness

Doc cooks
Grace slides

Destination Sign: Camp Crystal Lake


After three days of driving down the California coast and visiting roadside attractions ranging from an inland oyster farm to a doll village (universally judged “fucking creepy” by our travelers) to an upside down house, the Clay family bus was parked just outside Stinson Beach at a state park. The day had been spent just wandering around the wilderness, enjoying nature. Now, at 4:00 pm, they were all back on the bus and relaxing.

For Doc, relaxing meant cooking up a fine dinner with only minimal help from the SmartBots (all of whom were excellent cooks).

For Grace, relaxing meant putting the Slide Room into water park mode, then having fun sliding around with Lucy & Sasha.

Relaxation for Winker was puttering about the workshop helping Joe sort and store tools and parts.

Let’s see how that all worked out.

Doc was sauteing some onions, bacon and assorted herbs when he realized he had forgotten the red pepper flakes. He walked over to the spice cabinet, but when he opened it, instead of neatly arranged spices & herbs, he found a really big snake thing looking back at him. Snake THING, because it had the general look of a snake, but little knobs protruding from it’s stomach like proto-legs or something, along with a vaguely humanoid looking face and vestigial wings. It did not look happy.

SHIT!”, Doc yelled as the snakething attacked him. He dodged out of the way and the 15 foot long creature went sliding into the dining room. Doc started after it.

Fry, take over for me”, he told the SmartBot. On his way through the kitchen, he grabbed a 10 inch chef’s knife and a bottle of hot sauce. By the time he got to the dining room, the creature was coming back toward him at a rather alarming rate. Those little knobs were pretty effective feet and it had a couple hundred on each side.

As it came flying at him, hissing all the while, Doc waited until it was nearly on him, then squirted it right in the face with hot sauce. The thing went apeshit, presumably with pain, and whacked Doc with about 7 feet of it’s heavy tail end, knocking him back and down. He was back on his feet in a second, noticing that he had gotten hot sauce all over his shirt in the fall.

Damn it, that was my favorite shirt. Janis Joplin gave me that shirt!”

The snakething came at him again and this time, neither of them were fucking around. It had it’s mouth wide open, fangs showing and Doc had the knife in his hand. He stood motionless as it once more threw itself through the air, aiming to bite his left shoulder of neck. Just before it could hit him, Doc dropped to his knees, thrust the knife up and let the weight and momentum of the creature do the work of slitting it open for about 6 feet.

Snakething guts fell onto the floor, along with strange looking purple blood. As the creature writhed in pain, Doc sliced off it’s head and then whacked it’s body into 5 sections. The smell was pretty rank.

As he leaned up against the wall, Doc thought two things: One, he might be getting a bit old for knife fighting monsters. Two, he’s better get all of this cleaned up before Grace & The Girls got back.

Abbott! Costello! Clean this stuff up and I don’t want ANY traces left, especially the smell. Fry, Laurie, I’m going to go clean up. Take over the dinner prep, but leave those duck breasts to me.”

He headed for the laundry room, where he stripped naked and instructed the washer to be extra careful with his shirt. Then he hopped into the shower to clean off. By the time he got back to the kitchen, the spice cabinet was full of spices again and the SmartBots had most of dinner done.

Ah well, maybe next time he’d do most of the work.

In the Slide Room, Grace and Lucy & Sasha were having a swell time sliding along the floor, walls, ceiling and space in between. After a bit though, Grace thought she might see if she still had some of her old surfer moves, so she stood up.

Positioning herself as though she were on a board, she zoomed down a stte section of slide, then crouched down into a corkscrew turn. When she came out of the turn, she jumped over to another section of slide that went up one wall.

Wow!”, Sasha yelled, “Mom has the moves!”

She sure does”, said Daisy, who then decided to stand up and try barepaw surfing herself.

Pretty soon, they were all shooting along at about 40 miles an hour doing handstands and one or two footstands and spins and all sorts of tricks, all to the music of the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and the Ventures.

Not bad for an old mom”, Grace yelled.

Or an old dog!”, said Lucy.

Or a young pup like me!”, Sasha chimed in.

And then Grace had the speed cranked up to 50 miles an hour and they were really shooting the curls.

Down in the workshop, Winker was putting some parts into Storage room 15 when she saw that a door was open down the hall. Most likely Joe had left it open, because he had a habit of not closing doors. As she went toward it, she saw that the door was marked “Central Computer”. This piqued her curiosity, since she had never even known that the bus had a central computer.

The room she walked into was big, maybe the size of a football field, and 15 or so feet high. Most of it was full of some sort of crystalline structures that were full of tiny flashes of light in dozens of colors. In fact, the only non-crystalline thing in the room were a pair of ten foot tall cubes and a slightly taller video screen that connected the two. The screen was maybe 20 feet wide and 12 feet tall. As Winker walked into the room, the screen lit up and the word “HELLOSWEETIE” appeared across the top of it. Below that, a rather low res image of a woman appeared.

Hello, Winker. How may I help you today?”

The computer had a very pleasant voice, Winker thought.

Hello, Computer. Well, for starters, you can tell me about yourself.”

The face on the screen smiled.

That covers a lot of territory. How about if I just start with the basics?”

I’m cool with that.” Winker laid down on the warm floor in a comfy, yet attentive position as the computer started talking.

A couple of hours later, as the family sat down to dinner, Doc asked “So, did you all have good relaxing fun today?”

Yep”, said Winker, “Just puttered around with Joe.”

And we had fun sliding around in the water.”, Sasha said as she winked at Mom & Lucy. “What about you, Daddy?”

Oh, you know me, I just love messing around in the kitchen. Nothing more relaxing than slicing & dicing. Now who wants some duck breast in butter sauce?”

Doc Tempest And The Devil Of The Desert

…from the June, 1958 issue

Yet MORE “Life On The Magic Bus” entries! Only a few more to go!

Chapter 4, Part 3: On The Trail Of Giant Jesus

Winker arms herself
Lucy & Sasha go unarmed


Destination Sign: Central City

When Winker entered the living room wearing her new mechanical arms, the reactions were…

Lucy: “What the hell?”
Sasha: “WOW! Winky is a cyborg!”

Grace: “Where did you get those things?”

Doc: “Uh oh! Dogs got hands. We are screwed now.”

The Magic Bus had been parked at the Seaside Haven RV park for the last day & a half while Doc had written the piece for Roadside Attractions Quarterly and they all took some Grace approved time to enjoy the beach. During that time, Winker had decided to tackle the “no opposable thumbs” problem. She had taken the easy route by finding a set of Zerillian Arm Units down in Joe’s workshop.

The body harness fit ok, if a bit tight around the tummy. The 6 foot long quadruple jointed arms, however, were taking some time to get used to.

“I got them from Joe, Mom.” She said this as one arm slowly reached out to pick up a chew toy. “The people these were made for don’t have actual arms or hands, so they use these.”

She missed grabbing the chew toy on the first two tries, but got it on the third attempt. Damn this only having one eye! Maybe she ought to look into a bionic eye. Maybe a bionic eye with a laser! No, no laser. The Parental Units would not like that.

Having picked up the chew toy with her four fully opposable mechanical fingers, she placed it on the nearest coffee table.

“I’m still getting used to them, but Joe thinks I’ll be handling tools like a pro soon.”

Doc came closer to check out the arms.

“Those are pretty cool, Wink,” he said as he ran his hands along the cool metal surface of one of them. “You look kind of like Doctor Octopus from the comic books.”

Sasha came over for a look. “Yeah,” she said with a giggle, “we’ll call you OctoWinky!”

Without even thinking about it, Winker gave herself a facepalm. This was exactly what she feared. Nicknames stuck like poop on a blanket.

Several hours later, just before dinner, Winker had practiced enough to be pretty skilled at most simple tasks. Dad had been really impressed when she poured him a pint of stout.

“Thank you, sweetie!” He smiled as he accepted the mug.

“Your welcome, Dad. Just don’t get any ideas about Winker the Barmaid.”

Later, she showed Lucy and Sasha how she could throw a ball, pick up & fold a dog blanket and drive a nail into a board using a hammer. They were impressed.

“Can we get arms like that?” Lucy asked. “I could catch some squirrels if I had arms.”

“Yeah,” agreed Sasha, “and I could play video games using a human based controller. And I could use tools & stuff!”

Winker has known this was coming. Fortunately, the answer was simple.

“Sorry, sisters, but there is only one set of these arms on the bus and now they’re imprinted to me.” This was the truth, although she had not mentioned that new sets of arms could be ordered from the W’Grrit & M’Lkuk catalog. Sasha was too young for arms and Lucy was, well, too Lucy.

That night, before going to bed, Winker brushed her sister’s coats before brushing her own. Then she got out of her arms and went to bed, where she dreamed of using wrenches and drills and impact tools.

Chapter 4, Part 4: On The Trail Of Giant Jesus

On the trail of gnomes

Grace shows Giant Jesus the light


Destination Sign: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town

At 9:45 in the morning, the Clay family departed the Magic Bus and went to visit the Gnome Forest near Astoria, Oregon. Doc and Sasha were eager to see the “over 2,000 garden gnomes in fun poses”. Grace was pretty much just along for the ride, Lucy was hot to sniff out “assorted vermin, including those damned squirrels” and Winker was half asleep, having had a long night in the shop rebuilding a toxic vapor accumulator with Joe.

(Narrator: Speaking of squirrels, you might be interested that Uncle Ferdie was able to round up all of his squirrels. They were not physically injured during the riot, but several of them were mentally scarred for weeks. For that matter, so was Uncle Ferdie.)

The Gnome Forest was essentially a two acre plot of woods with garden gnomes placed in interesting and humorous spots. Several of the gnomes had been custom made, like the one who appeared to be taking a leak on a tree. There were also little gnome sized houses and gnome dogs & cats. The trail through the woods had many signs that told about the scenes one was seeing.

The walk took about 55 minutes, during which Doc & Sasha sang songs like “Gnome, Gnome On The Range” and “No Place Like Gnome” and “My Old Kentucky Gnome”. By minute 30, Grace was threatening to shove pine cones in their mouths and Winker was using some naughty words to describe their singing. Lucy was mostly complaining that her harness and leash were seriously impacting her rodent chasing skills.

(Narrator: Contrary to what Lucy might tell you, no squirrels were mocking her, although a few did mock Doc & Sasha’s singing.)

After bidding the Gnome Forest goodbye, they drove down the coast an hour to the World Famous Giant Jesus Of The Rock. This 70 foot tall statue was standing atop a tall rock about 100 feet offshore. Tourists could reach it by using a long steel foot bridge that Winker thought was of dubious engineering quality.

Despite the old hound’s misgivings, the whole family trooped out to the statue along with about a dozen other humans and two other dogs, one of whom Lucy declared to be a “stuck up little asshole of a bichon frise”.

This Giant Jesus had originally been meant to be used as a lighthouse, but then the government built a proper lighthouse just two miles away, so that aspect of it was dropped. Now, the light was only lit for an hour or two on religious holidays.

Jesus of the Rock was, externally, very good looking. The craftsmanship of the stone carving was excellent. Doc noted that the face and hands were some of the best he’d ever seen on a Giant Jesus. Sasha noted that his upraised right arm and hand had seabird poop on them, as did the back of his head.

Inside the structure, everyone climbed the stairs up to the top except Winker, who decided that she was too old for the climb. Grace stayed at the ground floor with her and the two chatted about various family matters.

Then Grace noticed that a power cord was very near to falling out of the outlet that it was plugged into.

“That’s not safe,” she said as she pushed the plug firmly into the socket.

It took Winker just about a second to put two and two together and yell, “NO, Mom! The light!” before everyone up in the head of Jesus began yelling. Grace quickly pulled the plug, but the damage was done.

First down the stairs was Sasha, who had escaped being blinded because she was busy licking her but with her eyes closed when the light came on. Next was an old guy who was blind to begin with, then a steady stream of blinking and temporarily sightless humans and dogs.

One woman was wailing that Jesus had blinded her for her sins, while Lucy said “Fuck that! I’m a dog and I’ve never sinned.” Winker thought that, while true from a strictly theological viewpoint, Lucy was not a beacon of purity.

Doc seemed to be blinded only in one eye, since he had been looking out to sea through the telescope mounted in the right eye of Mr. Christ. He gave Grace a mild stink eye, which made her blush.

After only a few minutes, everyone’s sight began to return and they left. The sinful lady seemed greatly relieved that Jesus had only warned her not to sin again. The old blind guy muttered, “Bunch of goddamned pussies.”

Back on the bus, Doc had Grace drive for a bit and Lucy laid on one of the sofas and griped that the spots she was seeing looked kind of like squirrels.

Chapter 5: Emails From The Road

Doc shuts down some twits
Sasha reports the news


Destination Sign: Gondor

To: spiketronic@zmail.rpg

From: docrocket@zmail.rpg

Glad you and Mary made it home okay. That long layover in Minneapolis must have sucked. On the plus side, not much going on there at 2:15 am on a Tuesday anyway.

Things here are going just swell, if you don’t count my scaring the crap out of a couple of wealthy old twits who were parked next to us at an RV park for two days. They kept saying shit about how “quaint” and “rustic” our bus was, while continuously showing off the half million dollar land yacht they had. Finally, I invited them onto the bus.

You should have seen their faces! Eyes were not meant to open that wide. Jaws were dropped, oh yes.

LOL! By the time we were done with the nickle tour, they were speechless, which was the effect I was aiming for. They left the park a couple of hours later.

Regarding the situation for DogCon in Texas, besides you, Mary, & the twins, we have Avis, Ginie, Peter, Holly, the Mystery family and Sam & Rani staying with us so far. Not 100% sure but we may also have Poppy and her boyfriend du jour with us, too. Should be fun. Joe tells me he can expand the slide room and make it into a waterpark.

Gotta go. Tell all your womenfolk we love them.




Hello, sweetheart!

I hope school is going well for you. I know this last year must be crazy, what with you going for dual doctorates and all. You know, your dad and I really admire you and your brother, since we didn’t go to college for years (in my case) and ever (in your dad’s case). We are very proud of you.

Our trip & our retirement go well so far. This whole idea of traveling around checking out goofy roadside stuff has been pretty fun, so far. There have been a few “Uh Oh!” moments, but mostly things are going great. Having Sasha & Winker on my side when your dad has one of his questionable ideas is a real plus. Of course, he does often have Lucy on his side, but we still outnumber them.

Yesterday, we saw a house made of old cars and went to a driftwood museum. Earlier today, we visited a Santa Claus Town that was in pretty bad shape. Your father said they ought to let it decay a bit more, then reopen it as a Zombie Santa Claus Town. The old couple who run the place were not amused. I thought he had a pretty good idea. The place couldn’t me much more creepy with zombies.

I’m attaching some pictures of the trip so far. One of them shows Winker wearing her robotic arms. She has gotten quite adept with them. Yesterday, she even managed to cook an omelet.

Time for dinner. Write or call when you get a chance.



To: avb900@zmail.rpg

Hi, Auntie Avy!

I’m typing this by talking, since I can’t use robot arms like Winky does. It’s pretty cool.

How are you & Emma & Lydia & Spock? It said on the news that you had snow the other night. We have only seen snow on the distant mountains so far. I thought we ought to go play in the snow, but you know how dad feels about the “awful white stuff”.

We are on our way to see some albino deer. Earlier, we went to a kind of creepy Santa Claus Town that was just full of mice and chipmunks. Mom kept me on a short leash so I couldn’t chase them. That sucked.

Mom said that we will see you next month at a convention in Boston. That will be great! I hope you can bring Spock & the girls. They will love it here on the bus. Wait until they see the shoe room!

Daddy is reading your latest book, the one about the murder on the cruise ship. Every so often, when he gets to a twist in the plot, he says, “Damn it, Avis!” and we all laugh at him.

Ooh, Mom says we are at the deer place. Gotta go. Write to me soon.



To: customerservice/

Dear sentient,

Thank you for your timely replacement of the D-wave smoother that I received recently. The replacement functions perfectly. Your help in explaining where I went wrong in ordering was very much appreciated. I am somewhat new to having manipulative organs.


Winker Sue Clay



Hi, Buster!

I’m glad we could get you on the bus and smarten you up before we left, so you can do email and stuff.

This has been a fun trip! I woofed at a bear and scared a bunch of humans! It was hella funny!

We have gone to lots of weird houses and stuff. Most of them smell funny, like rat poop and old wet stuff.

Me and Lucy and Winker and a bunch of other dogs caused a riot at a squirrel show. No, really, there were like, 100 squirrels there. We didn’t catch any of them and Daddy had to drive the bus out of town fast. Mom said we are scalawags, which I guess is ok, because her and Grandma G call Daddy and Grandpa Bill that all the time.

I gotta go, but you write me an email soon, ok? Tell Smokey and Duke and LeeLee and Toby and everyone else that I said hello.

Your buddy,