As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year I made the second round the the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest. I expect to find out the results in the next few days. Until then, I thought it might be fun to post my second-round entry.
My prompts were (genre) comedy; (subject) a delivery service; (character) a martial artist.
I will admit that I am stretching a little with the ‘martial artist’ character. Technically, though, one is. I suppose that they were looking for a karate or kung fu master, but they did not ask for one.
I spent a long day (out of four) trying different approaches. In the end, I went back to my roots and wrote a ‘teleplay.’ Perhaps this is reminiscent of “93”, my other short story. Perhaps the programs are even related. I expect that at least one of the judges will object to the style.
Word Count = 1974
A popular news program observes Storks delivering a baby to a very difficult customer.
INT. NEWSROOM — DAY
The camera fades in on John Lockey, anchor for TV 42 News.
Good afternoon. We are interrupting today’s repeat episode of Are You My Baby Daddy? to bring you a breaking story from Channel 42’s own Mia Dante in Dante’s Informals: Gripping News That Really Doesn’t Make a Difference.
Good afternoon, Mia!
The camera cuts to:
EXT. A SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD — CONTINUOUS
Mia Dante is an attractive young woman in her late 20s.
Thank you, John. Welcome back from vacation. The Caribbean sun really agrees with you.
Good afternoon. Welcome to Dante’s Informals: Gripping News That Really Doesn’t Make a Difference. This afternoon, the quiet suburb of Elm Hills was disrupted by gunfire. This neighborhood, usually filled with au pairs and young mothers playing on manicured lawns with little children, exploded today in violence.
The cause? A local man refusing to accept what appears to be a lawful home delivery. Homeowner Pat Arnolds has barricaded himself into his house with his nine children, all of whom appear to be armed. The delivery company? Stork’s Baby Delivery.
Colonel Julius Stork, a former tank division commander and Indian War veteran, is the owner of Stork’s and has agreed to speak with us.
Colonel Julius Stork, a burly former army officer, strides into shot. He wears a leather jacket, riding boots, and aviator sunglasses. He is puffing away on a large cigar.
Good afternoon, Colonel Stork. How are you today?
One of my drivers has been shot in the leg, and there are bullet holes in my van.
You’re paying for the van this time, Pat. My insurance isn’t covering bullet holes any more.
Screw you, Stork! I will not accept delivery!
(To someone off camera)
Sergeant! Prepare third squad for a Franciscan Envelope.
Sir! Yes, Sir!
Alberto Francisca. There was a genius. A pioneer in home delivery. Could drive a tank right into your living room and drop the package on the coffee table without leaving a scratch on it. On the table that is. The living room walls would be knocked down, of course.
Kind of rough on the lawn, as well, isn’t it. Ha, ha.
Our job is delivery, lady, not landscaping. Besides, we are fully bonded.
Stork pulls Mia to the ground just as semi-automatic fire sprays the area.
Someone take out that kid on the second floor bedroom! Sandbag him!
There are several popping sounds, followed by glass shattering and a scream.
Those damn politocrats in D.C. really made things tough on home delivery when they outlawed real bullets and ordinance. Sandbags? Flash grenades? It makes you want to cry. Francisca started out delivering summonses with a crossbow. Back then, of course, we were not hamstrung by customer-centric laws. Other process servers would tape the sucker to a warhead and deliver it via an M9A1. Let me tell you, when a crossbow bolt is pinning your shoulder to the wall, then you know you’ve been served. The man was an artist. I have tried to live up to his example since we studied his career at West Point. An artist at war. A master at home delivery.
(To the sergeant off camera)
Sergeant! Cut off egress from the garage! Enfilade between the minivan and the station wagon!
I’m only bonded within the county. If Arnolds crosses 12th Avenue, we’re shit out of luck, and I’m out the deposit. Might have to lay off some of my guys.
But certainly the market for babies is booming. Population has been on a steady rise for years.
Yes. Recently, though, more and more people have been exploring alternate methods for child acquisition. Natural childbirth? What is this? The Middle Ages? This sort of attitude makes it harder for working men to support their families. Fortunately, in Pat’s case, everything was done on the up and up. We have the paperwork, the receipts, the waivers.
Pat Arnolds might complain, but he had the chance to withdraw the order. Once the order is finished, though, the baby is processed, tailored to their needs and wants. Much more efficient and reliable than manual impregnation.
Without all the mess as well.
Storks of Switzerland has been breeding babies for almost 75 years. They are the world leader in propagation services.
Shots shatter the van’s windows.
(To someone off camera)
Put some suppression fire on on the kid in the gables!
Sir! Yes, sir!
Oh, Shang Zhing Corp. may have streamlined production and can out produce in numbers, but Storks of Switzerland has higher quality and greater variety. Stork babies are not mass-produced. They are tailored to the customer’s demands.
I suspect you may be somewhat partial. You are a Stork, after all.
I had to change my name when I bought the franchise. All franchise owners have to. My name’s Jackson.
Anyway, both my kids are Storks’ kids. They came out just fine.
He grabs her left ear and looks behind it.
You have a Stork stamp on you as well. Beta 32. Entertainment model. Fine workmanship.
Now, I remember when I brought Pat his first delivery. An Alpha 68.
“First Born.” That’s a good model.
Pat and his wife were so happy. They were happy a year later when I brought their second model. Another Alpha, this time a 12.
Slightly more utilitarian, but still a good model.
A good solid workhorse, yes.
After that, he started filing complaints, trying to refuse delivery.
Life doesn’t work that way. You order a baby, you don’t just get to wake up one morning and decide you don’t want it. Sure, it is rare that the order is processed right away, but once the paperwork goes things start moving pretty quickly. Time and money are invested in the final product. Trainers are assigned. Technicians brought in. Resources allocated. If every customer could pull out of the deal at any time, the industry would collapse, at least the higher quality companies like Storks. Our investors would run and hide, and the stocks would plummet. Companies like Shang Zhing and Babies Babies Babies would be able to flood the market with low quality children bred on assembly lines.
At one point, the laws were so customer-centric that customers could refuse delivery of a product. The company would be forced to sell it at a fraction of the price. Sometimes to agents for the original customer. The company’s profit margins were slashed. That still happens, from time to time. Rarely, though.
He’s all right. When his first wife died about fifteen years ago, he took the insurance money and upgraded to a Delta 32.
That must have been some payout.
Her electric toothbrush short-circuited and fried her brains. Tragic.
I remember that case. Very sad. But a Delta 32? Wow! That’s a serious upgrade. What was wife number one?
Don’t remember the series, but she was a Pi model.
Ooh. That’s tough.
You’re telling me. I had a cousin who was a Pi. Very difficult. Most irrational woman I ever met.
Anyway, the new wife has been ordering children regularly ever since. Even worse, they use a joint account, so he cannot refuse to pay or accept delivery. I suspect that she shops drunk. Stupid, but not illegal.
Certainly there is something you can do.
Why should I do anything? Not my responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel for the guy. Nine children, with a tenth in the back of the van. He and his wife have to take personal responsibility. They go online. They go to the checkout. No one is stopping them from browsing. Storks provides fine babies. It does not trick customers. If Pat and his wife can’t control themselves, they don’t have to go to the sites. Relationships are about more than just online shopping together. C’mon, these guys aren’t teenagers!
Whatever their intentions, their problems…. Well, I have a job to do. I’m delivering this baby. It isn’t the baby’s fault her mother can’t control her urges.
I’ve got some of the best-trained deliverymen in the business. Some served with me in the army. Some studied at the College of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It has been accepted for years that the skills that made for a great warrior could be applied to commerce. When the politocrats finally allowed the military to take over the economy, things really took off. Customer satisfaction increased.
Or, at least, complaints decreased.
That’s the same thing.
Bills were paid on time, so debt decreased. Subcontracting out to paramilitary organizations like mine simply made sense.
We will get the job done.
Sometimes I feel like an artist, bringing order to the chaos that is the consumer condition.
Look, they are almost in position. In a few moments, the sonic flares will go off. Third squad will approach the rear while second squad will take the right flank. Then the Urban Assault Vehicle will cross the lawn and enter the kitchen on the left. That’s where the wife is. Once everyone is rounded up, I’ll make delivery. Piece of cake.
Here we go.
Explosions can be heard off camera. Men yell. Shots are fired.
A small tank roars roars into view. The camera follows the tanks as it claws its way across the lawn and crashes through the wall of Pat Arnolds’ house.
Men rush into the house from several sides.
After a few moments, a sergeant steps out of the remains of the front door and waves to Stork.
That’s my cue.
He goes to the van and pulls a basket out.
The camera and Mia follow Stork into the house.
Arnolds and his children have been restrained and are being guarded. Arnolds’ wife, a tired looking woman in her forties, sits at the kitchen table, right next to the barrel of the tank’s gun.
Here you are, Mrs. Arnolds. Congratulations. My lieutenant will have some paperwork for you to fill out.
He turns to Arnolds and hands him a cigar.
Congratulations. It’s a girl.
(Lighting the cigar)
You son of a bitch.
Next time. Next time.
Stork waves a younger officer over to him.
Good work, Willis. Report.
Four WIA. One critical. One KIA.
Who was it?
Shame. Good man. He have a wife?
Well, then. We won’t have all the paperwork.
Home delivery is a tough business, but we got the package in the customer’s hands. That’s what’s important. Home delivery is a lot like war: victory is everything.
Second platoon was a little premature. We’ll work on that over the weekend.
(To the camera)
I’m Colonel Julius Stork, and this is Stork Baby Delivery. We delivery your baby to you—any time, any place—whether you want it or not.
Stork strides off, puffing on his cigar.
Thank you, Colonel Stork.
This has been Dante’s Informals: Gripping News That Really Doesn’t Make a Difference.
INT. NEWSROOM — CONTINUOUS
Thank you, Mia Dante.
In other news: a popular soda has been found to have killed several young children; a local school is involved in white slavery and prostitution; two missiles from Taiwan have slipped through Japan’s defensive net and struck Tokyo, thousands dead.
We now return you to Are You My Baby Daddy? in progress. But first, a word from our sponsor, Bathory’s, the maker of fine, recycled rectal syringes and other enema supplies. Use Bathory’s, when a laxative simply isn’t enough.