Star Wars — Episode IV: No Hope (or: “Paging Dr. Skywalker”)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

…there was a young boy named Luke Skywalker. Like many boys his age, Luke dreamed of becoming a Jedi, just like his father. He would stare up at the sky and dream of adventures among the stars. At first, all signs seemed to indicate that Luke was on the correct path for living his dream. His skills as a pilot were increasing daily, his latest achievement being that he could bulls-eye womp rats in his T-16; and they’re no more than two meters in length. However, things quickly took an unfortunate turn for young Skywalker.

It was as normal a day as any. Luke was raking the sand at his neighbor’s house, a weekly chore assigned to him by his Aunt Beru, when he was approached by an unsavory character whose appearance was not all that dissimilar from a relatively large shanty, or bodega. The overgrown slug-like creature spoke in a language unfamiliar to Luke, but his side-kick, an albino Rastafarian, translated. “Jabba says that you must do a job for him. Or you will suffer the consequences.”

“What’s the job,” asked Luke. “Will this interfere with my plans to become a Jedi Knight like my father?”

The shack sized fellow let out a bellow, and spoke again in his odd language. The Rastaman again translated. “Jabba says that he is your father.”

“No!” exclaimed Luke. “No! That’s impossible.”

“Ah-ha-ha,” laughed the Rastaman. “Stupid kid. Of course it’s impossible. Look at this guy! He’s like a small house. Between you and me, I don’t think he even has a penis. Hell, the only way to kill the son-of-a-bitch is to choke him with the chain of an enslaved bikini girl.”

Just then, the lean-to known as Jabba spoke in perfect English, with perhaps just a bit of a New Jersey accent, “I can understand you, you know.” He turned to look at Luke. “This guy’s my brother-in-law. Favor for the wife. You know. So listen, kid, you wanna make a few thousand credits really fast? I need you to take this box, get in your T-16 over there, and deliver it to a guy I know. Think you can do that? Do it once a week and you’ll have more credits saved up than you’ll know what do with. You’ll be able to finance your own rebellion.”

Being the naive farm boy that he was, Luke accepted the job. And so it began. Every week Luke would make a pick-up at Jabba’s palace, and then make a drop at a certain location. It was pretty simple. And easy money. That is until the day the stormtroopers picked him in his landspeeder doing 77 in a 45 MPH zone.

“May I see your identification?” asked the trooper.

“You don’t need to see my identification,” responded Luke.

“Excuse me?” said the trooper.

“I’m not the anthropoid you’re looking for,” said Luke.

“Outta the car, sir,” said the stormtrooper as he removed his sidearm from its holster.

“Move along,” said Luke.

“That’s it, you’re coming with me,” said the trooper as he set his weapon to stun.

When Luke awoke, he found himself in a holding cell. He could hear the voice of his Uncle Owen bellowing somewhere in the distance, clearly trying to barter for his release. But frankly, Luke didn’t want to be released. His chances of joining the rebellion now were no better than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field: approximately 3,720 to 1. And if he couldn’t pilot a fighter among the glimmering stars that surrounded those two magnificent suns, then life just wasn’t worth living.

But he was released. Not only that, but he was released a second time just three weeks later. After his first arrest, Luke knew he’d never be a Jedi, so instead he started mainlining Essence of Sarlaac — the trendy drug of choice among kids his age. He was back in the local lockup within a month. Things were going downhill for Luke, and they were going downhill fast.

Once he was released for the second time, Luke moved out of his Aunt and Uncle’s hole in the ground and moved into a much cheaper high-rise on the wrong side of the Sand People tracks. Down on his luck, and nearly broke, it didn’t take much for Jabba to convince young Skywalker that his T-16 skills made him the perfect candidate to transport large quantities of controlled substances across the sandy dunes of Tatooine. Jabba’s interplanetary contacts, Indiana Solo and some Wookiee named Huey or Louie, would drop the main shipment at a rendezvous point, Skywalker would pick up the merchandise and bring it to the designated warehouse. It was going to be a walk in the park.

Unfortunately for young Skywalker, it was a very short walk. Unbeknownst to Jabba, Solo, or the Wookiee, Imperial Agents had been wire-tapping Jabba for years. Luke Skywalker got caught in the middle. As you probably know, Tatooine had recently passed a 3-strikes/no-tolerance law. This meant that Luke had to serve no less than ten years in prison. There was no escaping his fate now, his destiny lay in a cell.

It was during this time of incarceration that Luke found an interest in medicine. He began meditating. He put his faith in his knowledge of an unknown force called pilates. It was with this strength of body and mind that Luke was able to transform himself from a youth-gone-astray to a full-fledged educated pre-med student. Within weeks of his release from prison, Luke was able to take his medical board exams. He passed with flying colors.

Luke encountered another setback, however, when he attempted to look for a job. Unfortunately for young Dr. Skywalker, he lived in a time when all medical professionals were actually robots. In fact, there hadn’t been a non-robotic doctor of the non-proctology practice in well over 300-billion parsecs. This left Luke with just one option: become a proctologist.

Oddly, due to many individuals’ fear of being examined rectally by a robot, business was booming for Dr. Skywalker. He became so famous throughout all of Tatooine, that people started referring to him as Dr. Luke. He even had his own self-help television show for a period.

Which brings us to the sad conclusion to our story. On one particular afternoon, Dr. Luke was treating a pair of Siamese twins. It seems that they were suffering from a pretty severe case of hemorrhoids, exacerbated by the fact that they were congenitally joined at the sphincter. These were his last patients of the day, so after treating them for their affliction, Dr. Skywalker suggested that he take them to the local cantina where he might buy them a couple drinks. In this age of disconnected robotic medical treatment, Dr. Luke found that taking the “human” approach was a nice touch that his patients always appreciated.  The twins agreed to accompany Dr. Luke to the cantina, and with their inflatable donut pillows, they set out on the short walk.

Upon entering the cantina, the trio was enveloped by the echo of the familiar music that became sort of the theme to this particular establishment. Luke always liked the tune, personally, but frankly, on karaoke night it got a little old. On this night, however, things weren’t fated to go as usual. Before they could even descend the steps into the main bar, the bartender yelled up at Luke and his companions.

“Hey, we don’t serve their kind here,” said the bartender sternly.

“Huh?” said a confused Dr. Luke.

“Your ‘roids. We don’t want them here. They’ll have to wait outside.”

That was the final straw. Dr. Luke reached beneath his white lab robe, next to his stethoscope, and he pulled out his lighted rectal examination sabre. His intention was to demonstrate to this bartender that his companions did not, in fact, have “‘roids” (as he so callously referred to them), for he had cured them of that affliction.

In a moment of tragic misunderstanding, however, Dr. Luke’s world changed in a heartbeat. First, he heard the bartender scream, “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope!” That was followed by a searing pain in his right shoulder. But when he looked down, he did not see his shoulder. Rather, Luke saw only the floor below; upon which laid his severed arm.  Standing over it was an old man in a brown robe.

Luke screamed out in pain, “My arm! What have you done, you fool?”

“Who’s the more foolish?” said Obi Wan calmly. “The fool? Or the fool who follows him?”

“What? What the hell are you talking about, old man!? You just sliced off my arm! You just sliced off my examining arm! I’m finished! Ruined!”

“Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them,” said Obi Wan.

“My eyes can WHAT!?” screamed Luke. “My arm is laying on the floor, just between your feet there. See it? What’s deceiving about that, you sick bastard?”

Luke moved as if to strike the old man with his remaining arm, but the old man was too quick for a weakening, one-armed doctor of proctology.

“If you strike me down, I will be become more powerful than you can imagine,” said Obi Wan.

“Shut up, psycho!” yelled Luke. “Get me to a doctor! Please! Leia! LEIA!”

Just then the sound of a blaster rang throughout the cantina, and Luke fell to the ground, dead.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid,” said the shooter. “Besides, proctology is for assholes.”

With that, the cantina band began playing again. Obi Wan returned to his bar stool and ordered another Rob Roy. The Siamese twin/former hemmorhoid sufferers quietly backed out of the bar. And as the cocky shooter headed toward the exit the bartender called his name.

“Hey! Dr. Richard Kimball! Who’s gonna clean this up?”

The man just flipped a credit coin in the direction of the bartender.

“Sorry ’bout the mess,” he deadpanned. “But it was the one-armed man’s fault.”


Two Year Anniversary & A Poem to Boot

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say that today marks the two year anniversary of my time here on WordPress. In that time I’ve written a lot of posts, deleted a lot of spam, read a lot of Chuck Norris facts, and even written and deleted a handful of posts having thought better of them.

To celebrate, for no particularly good reason, I’ve written a poem. I wonder who can identify the source of its inspiration. I actually hope to write a song with the same title. The lyrics would be quite different, however.

Sugar, Mr. Poone?
by Michael P. Fertig

She converted personal holdings,
Not corporate holdings,
Personal holdings.
Were there improprieties?
Aren’t there always?
Like a fist punching a picture frame
Hanging from the wall,
Shattered lives tend to result
From murderous plots,
Polygamous tendencies,
And drug pushing cops.
Where are the mattress police
When you really need them?
Where have you gone,
Sally Anne Cavanaugh?
Where have you gone?

For the Love of the Haiku

I’m not going to say that I’m the biggest fan of the haiku, but they are fun to write. I once wrote a really dirty haiku on the wall of the men’s room in Tavern 33 on Lincoln here in Chicago. But I’m not gonna post it here. But if you’re in Tavern 33 anytime soon, feel free to copy it down and post it in a comment.

But what I will share with you are some other haikus I’ve written lately. These are often just left as random messages for friends via email or other random forms of communication. And I’ll write a few fresh ones, as well, simply because I’m in a poetic mood today.

Are haikus supposed to have titles? I’m not sure, so I’m not titling these.

Remember always
In the pants of the hairy
Strangeness lingers thick
(Posted for my friend Deb on her MySpace page)

Words, like bees, can sting.
Fly away, little words, fly.
Now fuck off asshat.
(Posted for my friend Matt on his MySpace page)

I just thought of an idea. Maybe it’s stupid, I’m not sure. I’ve got my iPod on shuffle right now, so I’ll write a new haiku inspired by each random song that comes up. So those will sort of be the titles for each of them. Yeah, this is stupid, but it’s fun for me.

“The Band In Hell” by Electric Six
In the devil’s house
The kitchen reeks of onion
And the grill is broke

“Well Well Well” by John Lennon
Five shots in the back
Don’t want to think about that
Plastic Ono Band

“Everything Counts” by Depeche Mode (from DM 101, Disc 2)
Sanjay’s favorite
It’s a competitive world
Parking lot anthem

“A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” by The Kinks
Is he Ray Davies
Or is he now Ray Davis
He kept changing it before

“Resigned” by Blur
Richard M. Nixon
Nelson A. Rockefeller
Spiro T. Agnew

“Crazy Angel” by Kill Hannah
Psychotic with wings;
Halo and a straight jacket.
Think I dated her.

“Still” by Lionel Richie
What was I thinking?
This song makes me want to puke.
That explains Nicole.

“Sa Prize (Part 2)” by N.W.A.
I’m just a white boy
Who likes some good gansta rap
Makes me feel bad ass

“Radio, Radio” by Elvis Costello
One of the best songs
With “anesthetize” in it.
Uncle Jim digs him.

“Tummy Tum Tum” by The Dollyrots
Dollyrots rock ass
They’ll be at the Note May 6
I’ll be there watching

“Sail On” by Lionel Richie
Oh God, please, no more.
All I wanted was “Hello,”
Now I’m stuck with crap.

A Reader’s Lament

What do we call that feeling we get when we finish a really great book?

I’m talking about the sort of book that completely takes you away from wherever you are. The sort of book that makes your existence in the world disappear. The sort of book that makes you pissed off that you ever started reading it in the first place because now that you’re done with it you’ve got a hollow feeling deep inside you. I’m talking about the kind of book that leaves you with the same feeling that sinks into all us after attending either a christening or a funeral.

What do we call that feeling?

It’s not sadness. It’s not joy.

What is it?

I think perhaps it’s reluctance.

Reluctance to make ourselves reenter the real world. Reluctance to accept that our journey taken through someone else’s eyes has come to an end. Reluctance to move on.

That’s what that feeling is. And it’s a good feeling to have.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday from complications stemming from a fall he endured about a week ago. Clearly, Vonnegut was a revered writer, speaker, and all-around personality. (Who could forget his cameo in Rodney Dangerfield’s classic film, “Back to School?”) I read Slaughterhouse Five many years ago. But I’ll admit that I don’t remember much about it. I’ll have to do what always happens when a good writer dies, and buy his works along with everyone else. Apparently, since reports of his passing broke, Slaughterhouse Five has jumped into the top 10 on Amazon’s list of top sellers.

I wonder if If Cats Could Talk: The Meaning of Meow will make that sort of jump when I die.

Anyway, I sorta thought it would be cool to post some Vonnegut quotes in honor of his life’s work.

~Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.

~I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.

~I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

~If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.

~It is a very mixed blessing to be brought back from the dead.

~Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

~People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.

~The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.

~Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.

~Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

~What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

~Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.


I would like to think that I’m capable of writing in a style similar to that of Kurt Vonnegut. Of course, I’d like to think that I’m capable of all sorts of things. Once the dedication to my craft truly hits me, I’ll have my picture taken in an amusement park airplane, too.

Thanks for the work you’ve left behind, Mr. Vonnegut, and thanks for the work you’ve yet to inspire.

A Beginning. But where to go from here?

As tends to happen from time to time, I’ll be rummaging through some random folders on my computer when I’ll come across something I’d written a long time ago and done nothing with. Naturally, this is exactly what happened to me today. The beginning of a very incomplete story follows below. It was last saved to my hard drive on July 14, 2003. I remember writing it, but I have no recollection of where I was going with it. It’s a pretty good bet that I didn’t know where I was going.

So I’m calling to you, my readers, to help me out here. Between the six of you, I’m sure you can come up with a good suggestion for the direction to take this. Should it include supernatural elements? Is Bartleby really dead? Is it a dream? Are these characters metaphors for something else? What are your thoughts? Perhaps we should turn this into writer’s workshop of sorts. The forum is now open, please contribute.

With every passing second, Bartleby lost more and more money. He sat to the right of the dealer at a Las Vegas casino’s blackjack table. He started out with a bankroll exceeding $10,000. It was his wife’s inheritance. Her parents had recently been killed in a plane crash. Hard to believe that someone who started out with that kind of scratch could find themselves down to their last $200.

In a casino across the country in Atlantic City, Joseph made more money in three hours than he’d made in a month at his job. Joseph had started out with a bankroll of $200 and had so far won well over $10,000. It seemed he couldn’t lose. Joseph worked the graveyard shift at the Digger Steel Corporation. Bartleby worked as a digger at the Steelmount graveyard.

At exactly 7:06 am, both men stood from their tables. Bartleby rose from his chair slowly, looking a bit dazed. As he stretched, he shoved his hands into his pockets out of nervous habit. He was startled to find that he had one chip left. It was a $50.00 chip. For a split second Bartleby pondered how he could turn this $50 back into the $10,000 he had begun with. In a last minute decision, he flipped the chip to the dealer, thanked him for a lovely ass kicking, and walked out the front door.

Joseph stood up with his eyes wide and his smile wider. He raised his arms high above his head as he stretched. He had cashed all his chips for ten $1000 chips. As he reached into his pocket, he found an extra chip. It was worth $5.00. Joseph looked at the chip and mentioned to the dealer how it really was his lucky day, then he put the chip on the table and made another bet. Joseph lost after hitting on fifteen with the dealer showing a two. He glared at the dealer, turned and walked out the front door.

At 7:48 am, Bartleby was crossing a street a few blocks off the Vegas strip when a drunk driver lost control of his Chevy Suburban and slammed into Bartleby. Both the driver and Bartleby were killed instantly.

At the exact same moment, Joseph was crossing a street a few blocks off the Atlantic City Boardwalk when a drunk driver lost control of his Chevy Suburban and slammed into a tree that stood between the Suburban and Joseph. The driver was killed instantly. Joseph didn’t have a scratch on him.

Not dying that day was the worst thing to ever happen to Joseph.

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

I was glancing at some of my old columns for Negative Waves when I came across one that I’d forgotten about. The column had to do with finding inspiration for writing stories and such. But the column itself was bookended with this fictional story I’d thrown in there. Since I have nothing else to really write about today, I thought I’d go ahead and post the story portion of that column.

So the other day, as I’m talking to a girl in a bar, she interrupts me while giving me a strange once over look. She puts her hand on my shoulder, squeezes, then slides it down to my upper arm, and squeezes again. I felt a bit like Russell Crowe in Gladiator when the old gladiator is checking him out. Finally, this girl says to me, “Do you work out?”

“You bet,” I lied with a straight face.

“I can tell,” she smiled while staring me in the eyes.

It isn’t difficult to tell that I had this girl in the bag. It’s amazing what simple human intuitiveness can do for a person.

Our banter continued for several more minutes.

“I’m a dancer,” she told me. I could smell the coconut oil on her, so I didn’t doubt her.

“Is that right?” I said humoring her.

“Hmm, mmm,” she replied while her tongue suddenly slipped from her mouth and moistened her upper lip, leaving just the tiniest sheen.

“Where do you dance?” I asked, trying not to let my voice crack.

“Anywhere you want me to,” she said as she slid her arm around my torso. Her fingers pinched my nipple. I knocked my beer over on the bar.

In a moment of clarity, I looked at her as she looked at the spilt beer which was spreading across the bar. I placed my hand on her chin turning her head to look at me. Our eyes locked in a tractor beam gaze that sucked our faces closer and closer together. Before our lips touched, I pulled back, whispering, “I don’t have anything in my nose, do I?” It kind of felt like I had something in nose.

She took a quick look, then grabbed a beverage napkin from the bar, held it up to my nose and said, “Blow.”

I did.

She wiped underneath my nostrils with the expert hand of a pediatrician, flicked the used napkin over her shoulder, and grabbed my head with both hands as she planted a violent kiss square on my lips.

As the beer that had been spilled on the bar began to trickle to the floor like a leaky faucet, our lips were locked in a kiss so passionate, the mariachi band playing that night was blushing. Her hands still gripped the side of my head as I wrapped my arms around her.

Without warning, she released my head and pulled her lips from mine.

Then she slugged me.

She gave me a right-cross to the chin that put me on the floor. I looked up and saw a hazy shadow I assumed to be the girl that had made me see stars both with her kiss and her fist. I wasn’t sure, but I think I was in love.

I was stunned, to say the least.

As I slowly came around I could see she had begun to cry. I was still laying on the ground. I propped myself up onto one elbow and rubbed my chin. The beer that had been trickling from the bar was now dripping onto my head. I pulled myself to my feet with the help of a couple bar stools. The girl leapt at me. I flinched in panic only to have her wrap her arms and legs around me in a solid embrace. She whispered in my ear, “I only hit the one I love.”

I could understand that. Or could I? I wasn’t sure anymore, what with the sore jaw and all. As I stood at the bar with this beautiful stranger wrapped around me like an odd fur coat, I reached to the bar and picked up my beer. I took a pull and downed half the bottle. It was clear to me that this night was just getting started.

“What’s your name, Doll,” I asked the girl.

“I can’t tell you, if I tell you, you’ll kill me,” she replied.

Hardly the response I was expecting, but I accepted it.

“You don’t have a man’s name, do you? I mean, you’re not a man, or were at any time a man, were you?” I inquired.

“No, darling, nothing like that,” she said. I finished the rest of my beer.

I hadn’t even been at the bar for more than 20 minutes and already I’d kissed a strange woman with more fire than a four-alarm blaze, spilled a beer on my head, been clocked in the face by the same girl I’d kissed, and now I stood with that girl attached to me like a cartoon starfish on the face of Bugs Bunny. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, but apparently the sound of her name would make me want to kill her.

Little did I know how right she was. And little did I know just how young the night was.