Why is it?

Posted: June 7, 2018 in General Topics of Interest

Why is it when the sign says “2 Left Lanes Closed Ahead” it always comes as a surprise to some people when they reach the barricades?

Why is it called social media when many of the people you meet there are not social?

Why is it people use jogging strollers? I see those people running around and I think, “That kid’s not getting any exercise at all.”

Why is it women use so much toilet paper?

Why is it the last little bit of soap lasts longer than the three-quarters of the bar that came before it?

Why is it “10 items or less” is so confusing?

Why is it people who are not reading always want to talk to the person who is reading?

Why is it some people continue their cell phone conversation while using the restroom? (Do they think the person on the other end of the line can’t hear their farts?)

Why is it people know more about Kim Kardashian than the Constitution?

Why is it twenty-five cents is a quarter, but ten cents is not a tenth?

Why is it people who build homes on the sides of volcanoes seem so shocked when lava wipes them out?

Why is it people complain about politicians but keep voting for the same ones?

Why is it people who scream the loudest about their open-mindedness have the least tolerance for divergent opinions?

Why is the US government spends $42-billion on foreign aid, yet can’t get you a passport in under four to six weeks?

Why is people have so many questions, but so few answers?

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What’s under a buck? Deer balls. Oh, and Working Stiffs.

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Excerpt:

The line at the clinic stretched along the sidewalk for half a block. Located on Wentworth, on the opposite side of the street from Chang’s store, the clinic occupied a building that retained traces of the original Chinatown architecture. Faded, ratty signs written with complex Chinese characters decorated nearly every storefront. We joined the line in front of what was once a US Post Office, closed like the rest of them. Somebody had spray painted the words, Sorry, the rent check was in the mail. Under that, another tagger added, All postal employee termination notices sent by email. Thank you, USPS.

A faded-out For Lease sign hung in the window, taped inside the glass. It had been there for all six years I’d lived in the neighborhood.

“What time did you say your appointment was?” I asked Chelle.

“Ten.”

I reflexively glanced at my wrist before I remembered my IT service had disavowed all knowledge of me after the sixth disconnect notice. I asked a chubby guy ahead of me for the time.

“Nine forty,” he said from behind his surgical mask. I nodded my thanks.

“Damn, Chelle, we’ll never make it on time.”

“I told you to hurry up and get ready.”

My part of getting ready had taken all of ten minutes, thus screwing up the atomic clock by which Chelle ran her life.

At least we had nice weather for standing in line. Late April in Chicago was hard to beat, mid-sixties, blue sky, a few fluffy clouds . . . What more could you ask for? In February we’d be standing out here turning to popsicles. The homeless and unemployed were out in force, droves of them meandering, begging, pilfering and picking through the trash lining the gutters. In other words, doing whatever it took to get through another great day in the Windy City.

Speaking of popsicles . . . My stomach grumbled, reminding me two pickles for breakfast was a rotten trick to play on it. I eyed Chang’s front door and considered creative credit terms: zero down payment, two pocket spending limit, and a forever repayment term. Penalties may apply.

I didn’t see the dead woman until she was almost on us. A Revivant, shuffling along the line of patients, handing out paper flyers. Female, about twenty or so when she died, dark-skinned and slender. Pretty once, I supposed, with a good figure, full lips, and dark, almond-shaped eyes. The owners had dressed her in a sexy maid’s outfit with high heels and a higher skirt; the light breeze brushed it above her panty line every few minutes. The nanos running through her were having a hard time managing the heels, and she scuffed forward in wobble-steps in a parody of a sexy sway.

My empty stomach bubbled with acid.

“I hate those things,” the guy with the mask mumbled.

“Yeah, me too.” I accepted the flyer the Revvie handed me without looking at her. “They creep me out.”

The man’s mask crinkled when he grimaced. “What I want to know, how do they make them look so alive?”

The line had grown behind us. A couple of dropouts from the School of Morons had joined the tail a few minutes ago and entertained everyone with a steady stream of obscenities laced with curse words. Hey, I’m no saint when it comes to foul language, but still, there are limits, right? The taller of the two mental giants shouted out, “Woo-hoo, lookit dis fine bitch!”

“I hear dead pussy’s mighty cold,” his running buddy claimed.

Both of them were racially ambiguous teens (their parental gametocytes swam in a diversity stream) decked out in trendy grunge clothes and wearing the flat-brim, Amish-style hats favored by the discerning hoodlum. Without squinting, I could count another score of hoodlums exactly like them within a two-block radius, poised like IEDs, waiting for the unwary so they could explode with uncontained violence.

The taller one, in a Bear’s T-shirt, cupped the crotch of his basketball shorts and shook it. “Hey, Dead Mamma, izzat true? Lemme see how cold yo pussy is.”

His buddy, in a green T-shirt and plaid boxers, reached out and clamped a hand on the dead woman’s breast. “Oooh, Sanjay, you should be fillin’ dis. It fills goooood,” he crooned.

The Revivant woman stumbled and would have fallen hadn’t the one called Sanjay grabbed her around the waist. Her dull expression never changed. She wobbled in place the way a drunk might, if you squinched your eyes and pretended she wasn’t dead and reanimated with a gazillion tiny machines running along her arteries.

“Fly-er, sir?” she dead-panned.

The morons laughed and pawed at the woman’s chest, clawing at her top.

I ground my teeth and looked away. Don’t get involved in fights you can’t win. That was my creed, and I planned to stick to it. My new friend with the mask caught my eye and grimaced. His expression said: Look at what the world’s coming to when dead people can’t even walk the streets. Tragic.

The line crept forward a few feet, and I tugged at Chelle’s hand. She didn’t budge.

“Look at those two,” she hissed. Staring at the twins from Stupidville, her jaw set in a hard line, Chelle sounded mad enough to chew nails and shit steel wire.

“Yeah, I see ’em. Let’s go.” I tugged her hand again, but she refused to budge.

“That’s disgusting!”

The twins had the Revivant woman’s outfit yanked down to her waist and were commenting—loudly—on the size, quality, and firmness of her breasts.

“C’mon, Chelle. It’s none of our business.” I pulled a little harder. It was like trying to move a fencepost. “Chelle . . .” I used my stern voice. “Don’t start—”

“Hey, fucktards!” Chelle barked. “Leave that woman alone!”

“—any trouble.”

The fucktards in question snapped to attention and pinned Chelle with twin feral stares. Werewolves, scenting new prey.

Sanjay shoved the Revivant. She fell in the street, landing awkwardly on her butt, hard enough to make me wince even though I knew she felt no pain. Her breasts bounced, and the flyers she carried scattered across the pavement.

“Who you callin’ a fucktard?” Sanjay demanded. “You wan’ me come up dere and split you open?”

Chelle glared at me with an Are you just gonna stand there? challenge. Her eyes narrowed when I failed to immediately leap into my Superman unitard and smack some ganstah ass. She snarled at Sanjay instead and pointed at his crotch. “You’d have to get it up first.”

That did it.

Sanjay and his buddy stalked forward past a line of suddenly disinterested, blind, deaf, and mute people. I was not ordinarily a violent person. The reason I avoid fights: I learned at an early age everyone in an eighteen-square-mile radius—including grandmas and small children—could beat the dog snot out of me without breaking a sweat.

I gave Chelle a nice knowing you smile and prepared to die.

“Hey, Sanjay, look . . .” I started forward, hands spread in supplication. “You know they can’t treat it here, right? This clinic doesn’t do that kind of medicine.”

“Da hell?” Sanjay’s eyebrows twisted together in a knot. He and his pal were close enough, I could smell the stupid rolling off them in waves, like the smell of unwiped ass.

“They can’t fix burst testicles,” I said and kicked him with maximum applied force in the nutsack. When you don’t fight well, you learn to fight dirty.

Sanjay folded like a cheap lawn chair. Which left Fucktard #2 to take the lead in beating the shit out of Mean Joe Warren. Within half a second, I ate three punches in a row, all of them hard enough to rattle my brain and loosen a few teeth. The world spun—Look! Pretty colors!—and tilted under my feet. Legs wobbling worse than the Revvie on high heels, I bumbled around in a dizzy circle for a lost moment in time, then whap!-thud!-smack! Three more punches knocked me to the ground.

Pretty ground. Concrete. Old chewing gum. I like it down here. I think I’ll stay.

Some other Joe Warren living nearby reported that Chelle had taken a piece of the action and was going all Loud Bitch Kung Fu on the green-shirted gangster, shrieking and clawing and kicking and spitting. Probably biting too.

I hoped she had her tetanus booster.

This all happened from far away, in a distant galaxy, with swirling stars and muted sounds. The other Joe told me the female Revivant had gotten to her feet and was wandering away. Her maid’s outfit hung from her waist, leaving her topless. She didn’t seem bothered. (“Fly-er, sir?”)

“Bye-bye,” I muttered, my breath blowing dust and candy wrappers away from my face.

A shadow eclipsed the sun and a pair of black boots stopped in front of my nose. The soles were really, really thick.

Whap!

The dull, meat-like thud of hard object meeting soft skull sounds like nothing else. Once you’ve heard it, you never forget it. The gangster fell on the other side of the black boots. His right eye appeared to bulge from its socket and there was a crease on that side of his head.

I forced my blurry vision to track upward to the source of that sound. A couple of years later, I found the top. Black boots, as noted already. Black pants bloused into the boot tops. Belt with a hardware store and armory attached. Black shirt with bright blue patch on the sleeve. Badge. Riot helmet.

Homeland Security, to the rescue.

Yay.

Night-night, Mr. Police Officer.

 

 

I have republished several of my short stories that appeared in various publications at various times. Mitchellsville is my first story ever accepted for publication, from way back in 2011. Next up is Mr. Scampers’ War which is a fun little tale of a house cat protecting the home from a soul-stealing demon. (No seriously, it’s really fun. And safe for work.)

As we move forward in time, you’ll find the tales of Dave’s Aliens and Government Waste to be a little more…dark, shall we say. (But still fun, IMHO.)

Thanks!

 

 

My Anxiety Closet was getting over-full, so instead of renting space at the Anxiety Self-Storage, I decided to clean it out. I was able to throw out a bunch of dusty, old anxieties that were taking up too much space. In the junk pile went…

  • FORGETTING TO REWIND VHS TAPES
  • NOT FOLDING A MAP CORRECTLY
  • NOT REMEMBERING THE NUMBER FOR TIME AND TEMPERATURE
  • ACCIDENTALLY FILLING MY TANK WITH LEADED GAS.
  • CARRYING FILM THROUGH AIRPORT XRAYS
  • HAVING ROOM IN THE CAR FOR ALL MY 8-TRACKS
  • NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND A PAY PHONE
  • ZITS
  • SURVIVING A NUCLEAR WAR BY HIDING UNDER MY DESK
  • WHAT TO WEAR ON A FIRST DATE

Wow, I feel so much better, and I have so much more room now for new anxieties. Retirement, arthritis, and being first in line at Furr’s for the Friday All-You-Can-Eat buffet–I have room for all those and MORE!

 

Flash fiction piece. For the fun of it.

The Men’s Club, by Scott Bell

Javier Lazano arrived earlier than expected, but later than he planned. The door hissed open and he stepped inside.

Men packed the waiting room. Wall-to-wall males, configured in every shape, color, and size, all stuffed into a place the size of a breadbox with the décor of a post office and the charm of a skin rash. The air smelled stale, and a little rank.

Javier squeezed himself into a seat between a silver-haired, square-jawed gent in a three-piece suit and a roughneck sweating in the same stained overalls he’d worn to work that day. The former poked at his phone with a frown, muttering about service, while the latter shaved grunge from under his nails with a clasp knife.

He marveled at the variety of guys filling the room, from the richest to the poorest, handsome, average, and bone-deep ugly. Small clusters of interviewees chatted like they were in a sports bar. Others held their phones up as Do Not Disturb signs. A few stared into space. One man cried.

The interior door opened. Even at seventy-two, a spark of appreciation flickered through Javier when a woman of Amazonian build stepped through and surveyed the room over a pair of black-framed glasses. Tall, brunette, green-eyed, with classically beautiful features, the young lady wore a skirt that terminated just short of heart-stopping, and the deep V-cut of her blouse plummeted into midnight fantasies. Every eye in the room was drawn to her—even those of the men Javier suspected were gay.

The lady consulted a clipboard. “Charles Gamble?”

A man in a bright-colored Spandex bicycling outfit cleared his throat and stood. “Here.” Tucking his broken plastic helmet under one arm, the man entered the far room at the woman’s gesture. She followed, closing the door behind her.

The roughneck stirred. “Damn, if all the help looks like her, this might not be so bad. Better than the book promised, anyway.”

A man in Arab garb smirked.

One by one men disappeared into the interview room. Occasionally the outer door opened and new arrivals filtered in. Many seemed very surprised. At one point three soldiers in matching fatigues marched in. They looked very young to Javier.

When his turn came, Javier was surprised by the tremor in his legs and the egg lodged in his throat. The doorkeeper flickered a professional smile and waved him into a bare-walled room with two metal folding chairs and a card table. Not so much as a picture or water stain adorned the bare, bland, off-white walls.

The doorkeeper scraped up a seat, gestured to the other chair. “Thank you for coming.”

Javier smiled. What was the line? All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

“I just have a few questions,” the green-eyed beauty said. She consulted her clipboard, which Javier realized was really a tablet of the kind his grandkids used for their games and internet things. “Most of your life data we have already compiled,” the woman continued, “and your admission looks favorable. We do like to have these one-on-one chats though. To assess a client in a more personal setting.”

“Ah—of course.”

“To verify, your name is Javier No-Middle-Name Lazano. Most recent occupation, janitor. High school graduate, no college. Total income after fifty-seven years’ employment: six-hundred and forty-thousand dollars.” Green eyes fixed him in place. “Not much, huh? Tell me, Javier Lazano, what have you accomplished in your life?”

Javier blinked. His mind went blank. “Um…nothing really.”

“Did you save anyone’s life?”

“No.”

“Did you build anything of significance?”

“No.”

“Fight in a war?”

“No.”

“Start your own business? Win accolades in sports at the professional or college level?”

“No.”

And on it went. With every question, Javier sank a little lower in his chair, each no forcing its way past his lips with greater effort. It was dismal really, how small and insignificant his life had been.

“All right,” said the woman said with a sigh. “How long were you married?”

“Forty-two years.”

“Cheat on your wife?”

“No!”

“How many children?”

“Three.”

“Grandkids?”

“Four.”

“And did you raise them right?”

“I…Did I…?” Javier blinked rapidly. “What?”

“It says here,” the woman read from her screen, “Javier Lazano worked at various jobs, sometimes several at once. His children had food, love, discipline, and his unfailing attention. Though not perfect, Lazano showed deep commitment to his wife, his children, and his community. Is that it?”

The woman’s green eyes knifed into Javier’s heart, stealing his breath and killing the words in his head. He had never been good at speaking, and now, with everything on the line, he found he had nothing to say in his defense. For it was true. He had never accomplished anything of note. Never done anything that would make a difference. Never got on TV, or made a speech, or rallied people to a great cause.

He managed to say at last, “Yes, it is true. That is all I ever been. I have worked hard to be true to my wife. Struggled to put food on the table and shoes on my children’s feet. Just a man, nothing more.”

“You have shouldered the burden of a decent man. Ungifted. Unrecognized. Rewarded only with love.” The woman’s full, red lips curled in a warm smile. “And that’s all we ever asked of you, Javier. Congratulations, you have the highest rating today.” She gestured to a door in the back wall that Javier had not noticed before.

A golden door, glowing with the light of love.

“Please go through,” said the woman. “And be welcome.”

With a body that no longer ached, Javier stood and shuffled past the woman, who encouraged him with another smile. His steps growing stronger and his back straighter, Javier Lazano went through the door. And was rewarded.

 

Red Adept Publishing is releasing Working Stiffs with a new cover and an introductory price of $2.99. Today, December 12th, is release day, so click and buy, buy, buy.

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American Book Fest 2017 Science Fiction Finalist

Joe Warren, an unemployed electrical engineer, has a terminally ill girlfriend and a bank account bumping rock bottom. Jobs are scarce in 2050, since nanotechnology has created the ability to animate the recently deceased, who are put to work performing menial labor at low wages. These Revivants have glutted the job market, leaving their living counterparts out in the cold.

Joe goes looking for a helping hand and mistakenly gets arrested with a group of freedom fighters. The only cause Joe wants to fight for is Joe, but federal agents coerce him into spying on the Children of Liberty.

When Joe reluctantly infiltrates the protest group, he finds something he never expected or wanted. Friends. And he discovers that maybe there are things in life worth fighting—and dying—for.

The news in brief, in case you’re confused…

The new anthology released November 8th, is available for sale in e-book and print. Called MAGA 2020 & Beyond, the anthology focuses on a brighter future and pokes some fun at our brothers and sisters from the other side of the aisle. My 51YSFkvzVVL__SS140_SH35_short story, The Last Hippie is the third one in, but don’t just stop there. Have fun with some cool stories by Brad Torgeson and Monalisa Foster, to name two of my favorites.

 

Second, Working Stiffs will be released by a new publisher, with a new cover, on 51nd3C30GeL__SS140_SH35_December 12th. The e-book will be release day priced at $2.99, so if you’ve been holding off because $5.99 was too much, now’s your chance to grab it. Working Stiffs was honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest: Best of 2017 in the Science Fiction category.

 

And finally, April’s Fool will be refreshed with a new cover in preparation for the release of May Day (Date TBD). Here’s a look:

AprilsFool-10

Joe from Sales: Hey, thanks for considering Momentous Occasions for your business needs. Your transaction with MO will be so expensive, you’ll need to lay off the costs to a third party, but no need to worry, we’ll handle all your billing and you’ll never have to deal with any of that. We have great food prepared by culinary artists, free WiFi, cable television, and every amenity to insure your happiness.

Customer: Okay, sign me up!

Cindy from Customer Intake: Read all the documents, sign here, sign here, initial here, here, and here. I will now label you with your wristband that will hang loosely and catch on everything. That way we can make sure you’re not mixed up with another customer and screw up your order so badly you lose and arm and a leg doing business with us.

Customer: Okay! What next?

Cindy: Wait over there until we call you.

Jeff from Operations: Hi, customer (reads name from clipboard), come with me. Please change into our special torture clothing that you can’t tie because we ingeniously put all the strings in back where you can’t reach them. Wait here.

(Clock ticks. Nothing happens for a long time.)

Maria from Operations: Hello, customer (reads name from chart). I’ll be jabbing you with this thing to make it easy for us to administer your account. We’ll be taping it to the back of your hand, where it will stay for duration of your transaction with us.

Gus from Operations: Ditto name thing. I’ll be blowing stuff up your nose to keep you completely ignorant of everything we do for the next two hours. Trust me, this will be a good thing.

Mal Cutter, Chief of Operations: What are we doing today? A full business review? No, just removing a slice of your internal organization. Good. I’ll be back when I’m ready and we’ll get started.

(Post transaction)

Mrs. Ratchett from Customer Care: Now that your transaction is complete, my staff will check in at oddly-spaced intervals and wake you at the point you’re about to go to sleep. We’ll poke you, stick you, squeeze your bicep to the point of pain, make you get up and walk the halls in your ridiculous gown and colorful socks, and bring you the dried chicken and cold peas prepared by our culinary artists.

Customer: Sounds great. I can’t wait to come back for more!

Okay, I’m done fooling around. There’s been a definite hiatus in output lately, I admit. I’ve been hacking away at a novel that JUST AIN’T WORKING…so I finally threw in the towel. Fuggedabowddit. Tank it. Trash it. Give it up, already. Ignore the MONTHS spent trying to make a diamond out of a pig’s ear.

It’s back to all Yeager, all the time, until #3 in the that series is done. Happy to report, progress is being made on Yeager’s Getaway, where Abel and Charlie go on a much delayed honeymoon to an island paradise that turns…well, nasty. There is no easy day in Yeager’s world.

Sample from Chapter One:

An epic hangover cracked Abel Yeager’s morning egg of contentment. The yolk of good cheer dribbled out, leaving nothing but an empty shell of misery. His head squatted atop his shoulders like a bowling ball, heavy and hard, while chimpanzees trampolined off his stomach lining. The pocket-sized cruise ship, Fair Breezes, bobbed more than a cork on a fishing line, and the only thing keeping his insides from erupting in a volcanic expulsion of stale beer and pretzels was the uncertainty of making it to the head without falling over from dizziness. The bed of their stateroom embraced him in sweat-damp sheets, and there he planned to stay until the paramedics came to carry him away.

He groaned and covered his eyes in the crook of an elbow.

“Serves you right.” An e-reader braced on her belly, Charlie reclined near the balcony doorway, sunlight streaming through her coppery hair and a breeze ruffling the collar of the cotten cover up she wore over her one-piece swimsuit. Her long legs were propped on the corner of the bed, crossed at the ankles, treating Yeager to a view of the soles of her feet. “How late did you stay up drinking with your new best friends?”

“I don’t know,” Yeager mumbled. “One o’clock, I think.”

“No, you came in at three a.m.”

If you knew, why’d you ask? He kept his mouth shut.

“Reeking of beer, I might add.”

You just did. This, too, he kept to himself. The warning flags were out: Charlie was a tiny bit PO’d and didn’t need any nitroglycerin added to the tank to get her going. Normally, Charlotte Buchanan Yeager was a joy to live with. Smart. Funny. A naturally happy person. Like Victor. On the rare occasions when she did lose it, Yeager found it best to lock up the breakables and hunker down for a storm. His bleary-eyed reading of today’s weather indicated a squall approaching, and it could either blow over, or brew up to hurricane force.

“Just my luck,” Charlie spoke without looking up from her reader. “I finally ditch the kids and go on a much delayed honeymoon cruise with my husband, the Marine. And guess what? The ship is packed with Marines.”

“Three is hardly packed,” Yeager said. “And those guys were salty. Vietnam vets. Telling stories of the Rockpile, Ca Lu, Hill 881. Hue City. Khe Sanh.”

“And while you’re out swapping war stories with the Leatherneck Legends, your wife is waiting up for you in her brand new nightie. See-through, like you like it.” Charlie stabbed her reader with a finger and “flipped” a page. Yeager could almost hear the page snap. He lifted his pounding head with ponderous effort.

“I’m sorry I missed that.” And he meant it, too. Charlie could make his heart race wearing a spacesuit and face cream; Charlie in sexy lingerie made him lose his mind. He groaned again and flopped back. “I really, really am.”

She must have taken pity on him, because she got up and brought him a bottle of water from the mini-fridge. “Here. Rehydrate, caveman. You’re going to need it today.”

“Why’s that—? Wait.” A memory clawed its way up through the corpses of dead brain cells. “Oh, hell no.”

“Oh hell yes, Staff Sergeant Yeager.” Charlie stood by the bed with her hands on her hips and a smug expression painting her face. “We hike the nature reserve today. Three hours of exercise should sweat all the beer right out of you.”

“God hates me,” Yeager groaned.

 

 

Hear ye, hear ye, or expressed in Texan: Listen up, y’all.

I have a short story due out November 8th, in the anthology titled “MAGA 2020 & Beyond,” titled The Last Hippie.

Here’s an excerpt:

Broken glass covered the street like gravel. It crunched under Mackay’s boot.

If there was an intact window left in the city, Mackay had yet to see it. Or an intact car, or functioning light, or working toilet, for that matter. What a waste. A proud and rich people, descended to savagery, living in a garbage pit of their own making. The smart ones had left early, jumping the border walls in droves, an influx of illegal immigration that took decades for the US to settle out.

“It looks like a sheet of diamonds,” said the rookie, Ponte. He flicked a glance at Mackay. “You know, the way the light shines on all the glass.”

“Shut up, Pontoon. Watch the corners and fa’God’s sake, look up. There’s tall billins on either side of ya. Called skyscrappers, ya pintz.” Mackay deliberately spoke like a goon to Ponte, got words wrong, mixed up his syntax. It drove the OCD, double-major-graduate, four-plus-GPA, walking Wikipedia rookie right into an electric tizzy, given that he knew better than to try and correct his squad leader.

“Yes, Sergeant.” Ponte kept his face blank as an android. In Mackay’s experience, the stiffer Ponte became, the more torqued he was on the inside.

Mackay stifled a grin. He checked the three men behind him, verified spacing and vigilance. It was easy to get complacent, here in this almost—stress almost—deserted city. Fitzke, Blake, and Ortega were solid though, two sweeping up and to the sides while one swiveled backward, checking their six. SkyEye should alert them to any movement, but Mackay trusted drones about as much as he trusted teenage boys with his daughter.

Eternal vigilance was the price of virginity and long life. Oo-yah.

 

Pre-order your copy today!