Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Idiot Bird Thinks Twigs Will Make A Safe House

Idiot Bird Thinks Twigs Will Make A Safe House
by Rob Cottignies

            Just look at that moron above. First of all, it's a "blue" bird. The minimal amount of blue on this otherwise quite-brown creature is embarrassing. It's pretty established that males are generally the prettier birds but this femalian attempt is weak at best. She's like your girlfriend trading pajama pants for sweatpants because you're going out.
            Secondly, what is she going to do with those twigs? (Or are they blades of dry grass? Whatever.) She's probably gonna go start a fire, right? Maybe warm up a nice meal for Birdo after a long day of standing on telephone wires? Wrong and wrong. She's going to build a house. She honestly thinks fashioning a nest out of twigs is the best way to build a place to live. The fact that she's not a horrible useless idiot goose should boost her intelligence to a decent level. But what is she thinking? She's clearly not, even though birds have been doing this successfully for millions of years.
            And can you guess where will she put this fortress? Out on a feeble tree branch! I mean, has she not read the story about the trio of swine who have some unfavorable encounters with Canis lupus??? And that was an entire house made of sticks!!! A nest could so easily be destroyed by a creature with up to half the intelligence of a vindictive wolf.
            To prove this point: A few years ago, two birds named Roy and Pamela built an unmighty nest on my window air conditioning unit. They were mourning doves and I found this out when they started singing at all sorts of ungodly hours many days in a row. So what did this big bad wolf do? I went outside, grabbed their home, and threw (gently placed) it into a nearby tree. It was so easy.
            Alright, let's say Birdie will actually finish this castle. What will she then put in it? Oh, only her children. The eggs will just lay there- exposed- and once hatched, the kids will have no protection from rain, snow, or wind unless Mom builds a roof out of leaves. I mean, leaves? This fool probably has no idea what a roof even is. It should be noted that she would only do that, of course, if she was not too busy whistling loudly at 5:30 in the god-damned morning or vomiting so her kids can have some leftovers. Nice parenting.
            Point is, this bird has no business doing construction. Yes, wood can be a good building material, but it needs to be sawn, sanded, and properly installed by a professional. Her method involves danger, carelessness, treachery, and general mayhem.

            Somebody call Avian DYFS!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

All About That Blog

All About That Blog
by Rob Cottignies

            I was listening to the radio recently (FM radio, not your satellite nonsense) when I heard a new song. It was repetitive, infectious, and horrible, so I knew it must've already been a huge hit. I was correct. It was everywhere, there was a video, all of that. The song was really bad but I enjoyed its message about loving heavy techno music…
            Then it was brought to my attention that the song isn't about techno at all. It's about having pride in being a large(r) female. That's fine with me. Pride is great, but it doesn't make a song such. It's so bad that it makes the insane illegal things Carrie Underwood did seem perfectly rational.
            So, after a bit more ado, I will speak for Sir Mix-A-Lot if I may. And I may because this is my blog.
            The song in question is "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor. Nice name. Not.
            If you're unfamiliar, I'm going to ruin your day by making you watch the video.


            Welcome back.
            Horrible, right?
            In case you couldn't hear the lyrics because you tried suffocating yourself between two pillows, here they are for your viewing displeasure. See you on the other side…

"All About That Bass"
by Meghan Trainor

Because you know I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass... bass... bass... bass

Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it, like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazine workin' that Photoshop
We know that shit ain't real, come on now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah, my mama she told me "don't worry about your size"
(Shoo wop wop, sha-ooh wop wop)
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night"
(That booty, uh, that booty booty)
You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that what you're into, then go 'head and move along

Because you know I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass... Hey!

I'm bringing booty back
Go 'head and tell them skinny bitches that
No, I'm just playing, I know you think you're fat
But I'm here to tell you...
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me, "don't worry about your size"
(Shoo wop wop, sha-ooh wop wop)
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night"
(That booty booty, uh, that booty booty)
You know I won't be no stick figure, silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into, then go 'head and move along

            Then she says "All about that bass" about four-thousand more times.
            What I'll do now is dissect these lyrics in a mildly-comical way for no real reason other than that's what I do and I am yet to find a useful outlet for my creativity:

            Dear Ms. Trainor,
            I recently heard your song 'All About That Bass' and I have some helpful critique for you.
            First, thank you for informing me immediately that proper grammar would not be a highlighted feature of your song. The first word is a preposition, which is widely accepted but incorrect. I do this in my writing but at least I know it's incorrect; I just make it sound awesome.
            You assumed I would've been aware, but I had no idea you were all about that bass. How would I? How would anyone without hearing the song first? You've created a Twilight Zone-esque paradox of sorts. My guess is this was inadvertent.
            What's so bad about treble? Having only bass just sounds uncomfortable. I mean, I don't like hops but they are necessary for beer to taste right.
            I'm a guy- I have no idea what a size 2 looks like. I know it exists but I'll need you to convert it to inches. Do you do this later in the song?
            I enjoy the echoing of "shake it" but how and why are you "supposed to"?
            So the boys chase your boom boom. Is this at all like somebody's milkshake that brings boys to the yard? Are these the same boys?
            Your mom did well by saying not to worry about your size. Other than for health reasons, you shouldn't care what others think so long as you're happy with how you look. That said, it's a little odd to me that Mom also noted that boys like to hold "a little more booty" at night. Is this is a common mother-daughter discussion? I never really had "the talk" with my father so I don't know if he was supposed to tell me to look for a lady with a little more booty. I prefer to hold a pillow at night. It wiggles less.
            And speaking of booty, my main problem with your song is that it made me wonder where booty went and for how long. I hadn't noticed a lack of booty with all the twerking and bootylicious business going on. Before you were born, we had a severe drought from sexy. It just went away. However, our society was blessed enough to have Justin Timberlake bring it back to us with style, sophistication, and a damn fun song. I think booty was always around but you just pretended it wasn't so you could make this song. My basis for this theory is simple- I sat through your entire excruciating video and did not notice one scintilla of your booty. I mean, how can you bring booty back without bringing your own? There were other dancers with other booties but it seems somewhat hypocritical of you to exploit them for your own personal gain.
            I think the only solution to this mess is for you to reshoot the video with the addition of your booty bouncing around. Also, make the song better. Like, a lot better. But keep your message of self-pride.
            You are woman and I have heard you roar. I just wish I hadn't. Bonus points for the fat guy's dancing skills, though.
            Best wishes,

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wake & Shake

Wake & Shake
by Rob Cottignies

First weekend in my new apartment. The move was gradual but is now a full reality.
It's Saturday night but I'm not going out. I'd rather get things in order. And I'm tired. I'm always tired.
Early sleep welcomes me. I overcome the bass drum from downstairs and drift away.
Was that my doorbell? I haven't even heard it yet. Did I actually hear a bell? Dreams wake me like this all the time.
Puzzled, I continue to lay.
That was no dream. It sounded intense. There is some talking in the hallway. No one I know would do that.
A bit scared, I continue to lay.
Something is going on. How did I not notice those red flashing lights from outside?
Perhaps assuming anything at 4:30 in the morning is foolish.
I open the door. Four firemen, dressed like... firemen.
There was carbon monoxide in the lounge downstairs. People went to the hospital. It may have risen to my apartment.
I let in a tall fireman with an axe and another with some electronic device. This is bizarre. This may still be a dream.
From the hallway I hear, "I feel bad waking him up but at least he did wake up."
That struck me.
This could have been the end. What a sad way to go. Done in while asleep because of a furnace leak or something.
The fireman's device says I am not in danger. I trust the stranger relaying information from a machine.
He says he likes my Pantera shirt before they leave for the other apartments.
Oddly, I feel safe.
I go back to bed. Internally freaking out, I continue to lay.
An hour, maybe two, and the truck leaves. The lights are gone.
All is well. I'm glad they told me I'd be fine. I'm furious they woke me up.
I hope my detectors are working...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Solo Beer Roadtrip Thing

Solo Beer Roadtrip Thing
by Rob Cottignies

            Sixteen breweries in seven days. Some would call this a problem; others would call it a nice problem to have. Regardless, that's what I did on a recent solo road trip into New York and Vermont, two states with great beer scenes. Below, I recall each spot I visited and my experiences there. My original brewery number was thirteen. I skipped a few of those and ended up adding others I'd never heard of, some of which turned out to be the best ones. I hope you enjoy this writing and use it to help you plan a similar trip of your own. Enjoy!

Trout Town @ The Roscoe Beer Company
145 Rockland Road, Roscoe, NY
Founded: 2013

            Beers I tried: Amber, Mild Wild (sour), Tail Ale (blonde)
            Experience: My first stop was a random one. I had Trout Town Amber at a bar recently so it only made sense to stop at the brewery when I passed it. It's a very sharp-looking building- lots of wood. The inside is large with plenty of seating (including couches and stools made from kegs) and a self-serve beer station, a fairly-knew idea that I don't like because it's robotic and technology is evil. The bartenders were very knowledgeable, friendly, welcoming. The beers were solid. I'd definitely return.
            Favorite beer: Mild Wild
            Food: No food served.

Cooperstown Brewing Company
110 River Street, Milford, NY
Founded: 1995

            Beers I tried: Old Slugger (pale ale), Nine Man Ale (golden), Benchwarmer Porter, Bambino Amber, Induction Ale (witbier)
            Experience: As you can see above, this brewery is not in Cooperstown. It was supposed to be but the town gave the founder a hard time so he moved one town over but kept the name. Nice. Obviously, the beers have baseball-themed names. The Bambino Amber was made in collaboration with Babe Ruth's descendants so there's a neat little tidbit. It's located in a stand-alone warehouse with a really nice rustic feeling inside. They are very proud to brew their English-style ales on a Peter Austin system, which is known internationally for quality and tradition (and is awesome to look at). The brews were nice and the bartender I talked to was really friendly and cheerful, possibly because I was the only one in the place. I wouldn't go out of my way to return but it would be a definite if I'm in Cooperstown again.
            Favorite beer: Induction Ale
            Food: No food served.

Brewery Ommegang
656 Highway 33, Cooperstown, NY
Founded: 1997

            Beers I tried: Rare Vos (amber), Cuvée Brut (lambic)
            Experience: The facility is impressive on 125+ acres of land. Some is used for growing hops and there are three main buildings- production, storage, and serving/shop. This was the only brewery where I took a proper tour, which was pretty basic despite their grand scale. Their grain silo is cow-colored so that's a fun photo op. The serving room has a ton of seating where families and beer snobs gather for sampling. The only beer they had on tap that you can't find in stores was the Cuvée Brut, which was a nice treat. I would return but probably just for an event or with someone who's never been.
            Favorite beer: Cuvée Brut
            Food: Full food menu. I had a veggie burger which was very good.

Council Rock Brewery
4861 State Highway 28, Cooperstown, NY
Founded: 2012

            Beers I tried: Maude Flanders Brown (Flemish sour)
            Experience: I went at night so I couldn't tell much of the outside but it's in a barn-shaped building. Nice inside, clean, small front area leading to another room in the back. The bar was a bit cramped when full. The bartender was exceptionally courteous. The beer selection was pretty good. I only had one beer because it was in a 22-ounce bottle which I didn’t realize even though the chalkboard *blatantly* said so. It was nice though not as good as it was hyped up to be by the employees. I would return just to try some more beers.
            Favorite beer: Well…
            Food: It's a brewpub so full food menu. Many things looked great. I went with French onion soup and the Taste Of Tunisia chicken salad. The soup was mediocre but the salad was very good. I guess I'd return to try another dish too.

Otter Creek Brewing / The Shed Brewery / Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales
793 Exchange Street, Middlebury, VT
Founded: 1991, 1995, 1997

            Beers I tried: Otter Creek- Over Easy (session IPA), Couch Surfer (oatmeal stout), Fresh Slice (white IPA); The Shed- Mountain Ale (English strong), Profanity Ale (brown); Wolaver's- Organic Pumpkin Ale
            Experience: Three breweries in one building is certainly not a bad thing. The stand-alone building is surrounded by fermenting tanks. The inside is quite nice with windows allowing visitors to see the brewhaus and the brewing process. Because of the multiple breweries, there are many beers to pick from. I went with a flight that mixed all three well. I found The Shed's Mountain Ale to be the best of the bunch. I'd pop in for another visit.
            Favorite beer: Mountain Ale
            Food: Menu consists of appetizers and sandwiches. I went with a local goat cheese something or other plate with crackers which was quite enjoyable.

Drop-In Brewing Company
610 Route 7 South, Middlebury, VT
Founded: 2012

            Beers I tried: Red Dwarf (amber), Parklife (ESB), Heart Of Lothian (Scotch Ale)
            Experience: The first thing I noticed after… wait for it… dropping in was the wall filled with bottles of all sorts of beer from all sorts of places. The serving room/shop is a good size. They can't sell pints so I just went with some samples. The bartender was really nice and knowledgeable. I would… wait once more… drop in again for sure.
            Favorite beer: Parklife
            Food: No food served but there's a café next door, which I did not visit.

Vermont Pub & Brewery
144 College Street, Burlington, VT
Founded: 1988

            Beers I tried: VT Heritage Saison
            Experience: The location right in the middle of Burlington is awesome but I only saw this brewpub get a moderate crowd. There is outdoor seating and plenty of room inside, including stools on both sides of the large bar. You can read up on the founder, Greg Noonan, and see some pictures and drawings of him. He was among the earliest craft brewers so his reputation is impressive. There is a lot of history to this place. They brew many styles so everyone will find something to enjoy. This was my second time there and I'd certainly go back for a third.
            Favorite beer: The only one I had this time. I had to enter it on Untappd, which showed me that they rotate pretty regularly.
            Food: Full-service brewpub menu. I snacked on jalapeño poppers and a spinach salad. Both were tasty, especially the sweet and sour sauce with the poppers.

Lost Nation Brewing
87b Old Creamery Street, Morristown, VT
Founded: 2009

            Beers I tried: Gose
            Experience: I first drove past this brewery because the road to get to it is about ¼ mile before. This minor error was quickly forgotten upon arrival. Pull up and all you'll smell is smoke from their large outdoor grills. There is a proper bar inside along with seating but the covered outside was the place to be. Picnic tables led up to the secondary bar, where you can get any of their beers and order some delicious barbecue. Well-run, well-presented, an excellent place. I wish I had more time to spend there.
            Favorite beer: Their gose is one of the best I've had so I didn't try anything else.
            Food: The brisket tacos were so good though the tortillas were covered in grease. I ate it like a salad.

Hill Farmstead Brewery
403 Hill Road, Greensboro, VT
Founded: 2010

            Beers I tried: Song Of Joy (IPL), Mary (Pilsner), What Is Enlightenment? (pale ale), Sankt Hans (saison by Grassroots Brewing)
            Experience: I was very excited for this brewery and its beers but left disappointed. First, it's in the middle of nowhere. A succession of bumpy dirt roads leads to the farmstead. The property itself is quite large and nice. I quickly found out there is a rule- only two beers or one flight and a beer per customer. After waiting thirty minutes on a not-very-long line, I had my flight of mostly uninteresting beers. There were five on tap so I saved the one that appealed to me most (George, the brown) for my actual glassful. The outside porch was nice and that's where I sampled. I returned the glasses and was told I'd have to wait on the line (which was longer now) again to get George, if it hadn't just kicked with no sign of another replacing it. So I got my license back (yes, they kept my license so I didn't run off with a glass) and went to the gift shop. A friend had given me a growler, which I was told I'd have to wait 2.5 hours to get filled. They're busy and I get it but that's just ridiculous. And had I decided to wait, what would I have done? Gotten my one more permitted beer then stood around for two hours? The property is gorgeous and I really wanted the experience to be as well but it fell very flat. I think their reputation has gotten to their heads and those of their customers.
            So it's not all bad, a nice note: While looking at their website before my trip, I saw they have two beers named Flora and Florence. These were my grandmothers' names so I certainly wanted to try the beers. I e-mailed and was told by a Phil they wouldn't be available when I visited so I asked him to hold any spare empty bottles that may have been around. He said he would look. To my surprise, I actually left with an empty bottle of Florence. This was a nice treat after what was otherwise a sub-par experience.
            I would hesitate to go back but I'm certain that anyone I'd be traveling with would insist on it. Hopefully that time will be better.
            Favorite beer: Sankt Hans. Tip- having a guest tap is great but you should probably make sure it's not more interesting than your offerings.
            Food: There was a ramen noodle stand on-site but I didn't get anything.

Rock Art Brewery
632 Laporte Road, Morrisville, VT
Founded: 2010

            Beers I tried: Bohemian Pilsner, Saison Black Currant, Ridge Runner (barleywine), Vermonster (Ridge Runner's big brother), barrel-aged Vermonster
            Experience: I knew Rock Art was in Vermont but didn't know where until I passed it after Hill Farmstead. It's very close to Lost Nation in a nice building with a large sampling room/shop. The brewery viewing area was good and the bartender was great, though she didn't work in the actual brewing part. She offered me a flight (no pint sales) and answered my questions about the beer styles. Overall, a good experience and I would like to spend more time there in the future.
            Favorite beer: barrel-aged Vermonster
            Food: No food served.

Zero Gravity Brewery
716 Pine Street, Burlington, VT (brewery)
115 St. Paul Street, Burlington, VT (brewpub @ American Flatbread)
Founded: 2004

            Beers I tried: Altstadt (amber), Mungo Berry (fruit/Summer), Bob White (witbier)
            Experience: I first went to American Flatbread, which was great and busy even in the early afternoon. There were a bunch of ZG's beers on tap, the bartender was great, and the food was really good. About a mile away is the brewery itself with its own taproom. It was airy, welcoming, and it offered beers not on tap at the brewpub. Everything but the witbier was hoppy so I didn't stay very long.
            Favorite beer: Mungo Berry
            Food: American Flatbread has a menu of salads, snacks, and of course flatbread pizzas. I had the Medicine Wheel flatbread which was very tasty and fresh. No food served at the brewery.

Queen City Brewery
703 Pine Street, Burlington, VT
Founded: 2013

            Beers I tried: Munich Dunkel, Rauchbier, Landlady Ale (ESB), Gregarious (Scotch ale), Hefeweizen
            Experience: While at Zero Gravity, I noticed a Queen City Brewery sign across the street. Since I was already on a brewery tour, my arm was twisted. It's awesome, certainly one of my favorite stops of the trip. Their German-style beers are all excellent, as shown by it being very busy. Three quarters of the big rectangular bar have stools. In the background is the brewing section and the beers are presented and explained well. I stopped in the next day when they opened and chatted with the owner's son, who was bartending, and to fill a growler. This place was great and I wish I'd known about it during my planning so I could have spent more time.
            Favorite beer: Rauchbier
            Food: No food served.

Switchback Brewing Company
160 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, VT
Founded: 2002

            Beers I tried: Switchback Ale (pale ale), Marzen, Switchbock (maibock), Export Stout
            Experience: Just a block down from Zero Gravity and Queen City is Switchback, a nice little brewery with a great taproom and outdoor area. I would call the brews fairly standard but my time there was enjoyable. Not much else to say for some reason. I would go back, especially with its close proximity to those other two.
            Favorite beer: Switchback Ale
            Food: No food served.

Long Trail Brewing Company
5520 US Route 4, Bridgewater Corners, VT
Founded: 1989

            Beers I tried: Long Trail Ale (amber), Summer Ale, BIG Stout, Double Bag (altbier)
            Experience: One of the major players in the Vermont beer scene, Long Trail has expanded to a rather large plot of land. You can indulge at a table or barstool inside, a table outside, or just sit out back along the Ottauquechee River. I was there on a busy Labor Day but the staff was very attentive. The beers were good and in addition to the widely-available releases, they had two pilot brews- Imperial Pumpkin and BIG Stout. I was told the stout was in its second wave of production with the third and final one coming out soon. Climbing the stairs and viewing the production part is definitely worth a look. I'll go back to Long Trail for sure. It's a great place to grab a beer or lunch or even spend half a day just hanging out.
            Favorite beer: Double Bag
            Food: Full menu. I went with the chili which is cooked using Double Bag. Quite tasty.

Harpoon Brewery
336 Ruth Carney Drive, Windsor, VT
Founded: 1986

            Beers I tried: UFO White (witbier), Octoberfest, Saison Forte Rouge
            Experience: Comparable to Long Trail in quality and presentation, Harpoon has a beer garden feel to it. The brewing equipment is in view from the restaurant area but tours are reserved for weekends. The bartenders were friendly and the selection of beers was great- everything you've heard of and a few small batches. A great place for lunch.
            Favorite beer: UFO White
            Food: Full menu. I had the Rachel sandwich, which is a Reuben with turkey instead of weird corned beef. Very nice.

Hermit Thrush Brewery
29 High Street, Brattleboro, VT
Founded: 2014

            Beers I tried: All of them.
            Experience: Brattleboro was on my way to Massachusetts. I'd never heard of the town so I looked to see if there was anything interesting to do there. Of course there was a brewery. And they specialize in Belgian-style sours. So I stopped in for probably my favorite beers of the trip. The facility is small but big enough for their needs. Everything inside is wooden, including a stove in the back which distills and recycles brewing water, possibly unique in the industry. The employees were all laid-back and really cool but I could tell they're very serious about their beer. They offered two distinct flights and three one-off samples. They were all very good. I've been recommending Hermit Thrush since I visited and would absolutely go back. I hope they continue to do well and expand without compromising their excellent style.
            Favorite beer: Party Guy Session Sour
            Food: No food served.

            So that's that! I hope this wasn't unbearable to read. Hopefully you learned something and have added a few breweries to your wish list. My only gripe with the trip was so much driving. When I next do something similar I'll bring a friend or two for sure so the stops can be enjoyed more. Other than that, just keep exploring the beer world and be safe doing so.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Brother's Keeper

Brother's Keeper
by Rob Cottignies

            …I wearily arrive at Logan Autism Center early, as usual, because I want to get the ride over with quickly, as usual. Jeffrey is waiting behind the door, as usual.
            “How was your day?” I ask.
            “Okay,” he says, every day, to every question.
            I wrestle a pen away from Marc and put my name on the sign-in sheet. Marc is monstrous yet speaks like a young girl and has the same mental capacity.
            One of the teachers comes over to me. I don’t know her name, nor most of the other teachers at the center. Oh wait, they’re called growth assistants. I call this one Buckeye, due to her buck teeth and slightly lazy eye.
            “Can I talk to you before you drive the guys home?”
            Her sister wants to join the conversation as well. She wears tight shirts so I remember her name.
            Buckeye tells me that Eric’s mother would like me to follow him into the backyard when I drop him off to make sure he gets into the house. She forgot to put the key in the empty coffee pot yesterday morning and Eric stood out in the rain for two hours before she got home.
            “Why didn’t he call her with his cell phone?”
            She gives me a look. She hates when I make fun of the patients. Sorry, learners. I do this mostly to get a rise out of Mickey, whom I believe is faking his Autism. He’s built like a football player and has that thousand-yard stare I’ve only heard about in movies. He comes up and looks me in the face for a few moments, as if I’m onto him, then looks at Buckeye and stutters, “Chaaa-cooo,” which apparently translates to, 'May I please have a chocolate chip cookie?' She says yes and Mickey goes to the kitchen.
            I go back to the door, by Jeffrey. “What do you want to listen to on the way home?”
            My favorite.
            Eventually, we all line up behind Marc and head to the van. Mickey gently helps Jeffrey into the vehicle, then SLAMS the door shut and gets into the passenger seat. “Humma-hee-hee-mummy?” he sort-of asks.
            I tell him we’re going to the circus and to fasten his seat belt. He quiets and obliges. Does he even know what a circus is? I start the car and The Beatles are on the radio. Eric knows more lyrics than I do. I’m mildly impressed. He may know the words but certainly not that happiness truly is a warm gun. I snicker and make a right out of the parking lot.
            Eric’s house is only two miles away and about halfway there I get an idea. A wonderful, awful idea.
            I park in the driveway and let him out of the back seat. I follow him into the backyard and join him going inside instead of watching him from the gate.
            The house is small and cluttered, just how I'd pictured. I snoop around then walk into the kitchen to see Eric shoveling potato chips into his mouth. He looks at me, slightly confused but eating non-stop. I return to the back room to grab the hammer I saw laying on the floor. I lunge toward Eric with it but he doesn’t flinch. I wonder if he would take his hand off of a burning stove… Nah, I'd better not. I don’t want there to be marks on him, so I just smash a picture hanging on the wall, put the hammer in the bowl of chips, and walk out.
            Jeffrey and Mickey are sitting quietly in the van, as expected.
            I drive to Mickey’s house with little occurrence. I pull up and, before unlocking the doors, tell Jeffrey to smack Mickey in the back of the head. He’s puzzled for a bit, then punches Mickey in the ear. Mickey seems to be more confused about his door not opening. Jeffrey gives it another shot and now Mickey’s ear is bright red. Maybe a few more days of that will get him to stop faking it. I unlock the door and Mickey hops out, then continues to hop to the house. His father waves to me as I drive away.
            Turning right onto Cotton Road, I notice the red car in the driveway. “Mom’s home,” I say. Jeffrey says nothing.
            We walk into the house and she’s crying on the couch, again.
            “What’s wrong?” I ask, again.
            She shows us a picture of our father, again.
            “Mom, it’s been twelve years.”
            “I know, but it’s still so hard. Why did he have to leave us like that?”
            “To quote his note, ‘I can no longer deal with the moron.’”
            “Jeffrey’s not a moron!!! Isn’t that right, dear?”
            She’s weeping. “Well, at least he has his big brother to guide him.”
            He sure does…

            Between Mom’s sobbing, Jeffrey’s raspy breathing, and my wondering if Eric or Mickey somehow told on me, I barely sleep. I wait to hear Mom take Jeffrey to Logan before I get up.
            After a long day of nothing and a trip to the paintball store, I anxiously arrive at the center. Buckeye runs to me before the door closes.
            “I need to speak with you.”
            Here we go. There's no way Mickey gave it up so quickly. I must have underestimated Eric. I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.
            “Did Eric seem alright yesterday when you dropped him off?”
            “Of course he did. Why?” I ask, suddenly confident that I am safe.
            “Well, his mother said he broke a picture with a hammer and flipped the kitchen table upside-down.”
            That second part is a pleasant surprise.
            “Oh my,” I feign. “Is he alright? Did he say anything?”
            “He was physically fine and only stood there when his mom asked what had happened. Keep an extra-special eye on him today, would you?”

            My extra-special eye is glued to Eric on the way to his house. I ask him several times in many different ways about yesterday and none of his answers makes the slightest bit of sense. What a relief.
            As I return to the van from Eric’s backyard, I see Mickey looking very uncomfortable. Jeffrey had been smacking him in the head since I got out a few minutes ago. Interesting. And hilarious. His ear looks fine when we get to his house and he skips to the front door as I drive away.
            “Jeffrey, I’m going to teach you paintball when we get home, okay?”
            “Okay.” Of course.
            The red car is not in the driveway, which means I have to prepare a snack for Jeffrey. What’s nice is he never argues about what I give him. I won't soon forget the image of him trying to force down a horseradish and sour candy sandwich. To his credit, he ate it all.
            We go to the backyard where I show Jeffrey my makeshift target range. I hand him the new gun I bought and tell him to aim at the purple target. He stares at the gun, then at the fence. I know he’s not faking like Mickey but sometimes I give my brother too much credit. I grab the gun from him, say, “Shoot the purple,” and blast the purple target with paint. I repeat the process until I give him the gun and he copies correctly.
            "Shoot the blue." "Shoot the red." "Shoot the purple again."
            He’s getting it…

            A week of practice later, it’s time for the true test. I don’t know what, if anything, will be proven, but at the very least it’ll be fun.
            I eagerly arrive at Logan Autism Center just in time to witness one of Marc’s infamous temper tantrums. On his back, he’s pounding the floor, rattling everything in the room. The growth assistants are in a semi-circle around him, some shouting, most silent. How do you control a 350-pound infant? By screaming louder and stomping the ground harder- that’s how.
            Sometimes violence is the answer.
            After Buckeye and the girls shower me with thanks, I lead the boys downstairs and outside. Getting into the van, the three of them are quite chatty in their own ways. Eric sings along with some song I’ve never heard. Mickey lets out a “Cho-ca hummee-hum DAH-MAH.” Today, I tell him we’re going to a pretzel factory. He looks confused but eventually shuts up. I ask Jeffrey how his day was.
            My day is about to get a vicious shove to remarkable.
            I can’t get the singing Eric and prancing Mickey home fast enough. A little too fast, if you ask Officer Johnson. Thankfully, the van has a ‘PERMANENT HANDICAPPED’ tag so my sympathy card works perfectly.
            On a natural high from the Marc incident and getting pulled over, I’m already fifteen minutes ahead of schedule when I leave Mickey’s house. Halfway down Fleet Street, I pull over. I tell Jeffrey to get into the passenger seat, where I hand him my loaded 9mm pistol and open his window. He stares at the gun while we continue our ride.
            It’s getting dark and the van is black, so I'm not worried.
            “Aim the gun out the window.”
            He looks at me for a moment, then points the pistol out his window. Making sure he holds it steadily, I continue to drive. In the distance, I see a jogger wearing a green sweat suit. ‘Who better?’ I think to myself. I cut my speed by half and approach the jogger. His back is facing us. Some would call this cowardice. Others would probably have stronger words for it.
            About a thousand feet away, I ask Jeffrey if he sees the jogger in green. He makes a motion that works as a nod for me.
            Closer and closer and closer- here we go.
            “Shoot the green!” I scream.
            The jogger falls down and does not move as I watch in the rearview mirror.
            It worked! His aim is great!! And we’re getting away!!!
            I had never shot that gun with the silencer on. I wanted every aspect of this to be a surprise. It went quite well.
            Drunk off of fantasy-turned-reality, I swerve into the next lane and almost hit a school bus. I compose myself. Jeffrey is still composed. It’s amazing how little he understands of what just happened. Of what he made happen. He looks mildly confused and starts to make his clicking noise, so I give him a candy bar from the glove compartment. He shows the most amount of joy he can. My brother, the murderer.

            We need another. Jeffrey has no idea what’s going on so I’ll have to be enthusiastic for the both of us. After a few random turns, I find us driving on Wilkes Boulevard- a long, windy road that overlooks the river. There’s even a small lane on the right side for pedestrians. The problem is that the Wilkes Trail attracts groups. I’m not going to have my brother shoot five or six people at once. I’m not a lunatic.
            One full trip down the stretch and there are no solitary people. After the U-turn, I spot an old guy wearing brown pants and a multi-colored jacket.
            “Shoot the checkered one!”
            Nothing happens. I guess I should’ve painted a plaid target in the backyard.
            Grandpa gets off easy and we get off Wilkes Boulevard. Oh well.

            Not fully satisfied but heading home anyway, I turn left onto Main Street. I guess they call it Main Street for a reason; it's packed with people and I am packed with Jeffrey's trigger finger. This could be fun.
            I guess some hot new movie comes out today because there's a huge line in front of the theater. Line, shooting gallery, whatever. Some people would not shoot teenagers. I am some people but today Jeffrey is not.
            "Shoot the blue." "Shoot the orange." "Shoot the green and black."
            I think the girl in purple is Buckeye's sister. "Shoot the purple." Jeffrey obeys, but hits another girl in purple. The casualties of war. Another purple order, another purple casualty, another one that missed my mark. Third time's a charm? It sure is. So long, Tiffany.
            At this point, I'm not even looking at specific people; just shouting out colors. They're dropping so quickly it's poetic. And with the silencer still on, people are really confused. Alright, screaming in horror, but still confused. I'd better drive away.
            We can't make a clean getaway because there is construction on the road. A guy in a reflective orange jumpsuit holds a stop sign. I begin to mutter, "Shoot---", but stop when I notice a guy at the top of a utility pole wearing bright yellow. How obnoxious. What's funny is wearing that color is supposed to prevent him from getting killed. Unlucky sap. I bet he's got a family too.
            I watch his body fall right onto a police car. (How did I not notice that there???) Unsurprisingly, many pairs of eyes and pointing fingers are focused on my van. That idiot in orange had just flipped around his little sign so I speed off.
            As the number of flashing lights behind me increases, I weave onto the highway, off the highway, down back roads, down main streets, down Main Street. This is so exciting. I wonder if Officer Johnson is in the chase. I also have a half-tank of gas and absolutely no plan so this will only get better.
            And what would happen if we get stopped? I wiped my fingerprints off the gun. It's not in my name. I didn't kill anyone! Would they shoot someone with Autism? I could get out peacefully and say Jeffrey kidnapped me, that he's been faking it all along. Or maybe I'd tell him to wait for me to leave the van then start shooting the flashing lights. My father would be so proud.
            I'll go as far as the van will take me and figure it out then. But first…
            Apparently there was a shooting in front of the movie theater. An EMT is trying to revive one of the victims. An EMT wearing a red windbreaker.
            "Shoot the red!!!"

            Oh shit, I'm wearing my lucky red shirt today.