"Nothing more than an inconsequential red herring," Mrs. Porter snipped. "And besides, if it weren't for that, we'd all have drowned."

If you checked out CNN today, you might have seen that one trillion seconds is about 32,000 years! They were talking about the trillions of dollars everyone owes and needs right now. If I'd saved 1 dollar every second of my life for 24 years, I'd have 756,864,000 dollars. I'd have to make it 1,321 dollars a second to have reached one trillion by now.

I found an estimate that 106,456,367,669 people have ever been born (one-hundred six billion). As of February 2009, there are 6,757,540,531 (6.7 billion) people in the world which means that roughly 5% of the people who were ever born are alive today. Which, for the entire history of mankind, is a ridiculously high number. Stop having babies, please. It's actually very easy. Here, I'll show you:

See? And yeah, that's the California state seal in the background. I imagine they'd be the first state to figure this out. Now, Will's pushing it cause he's got three kids. In case you didn't know, "Willard Christopher "Trey" Smith III: Born in 1992. His mother is Sheree Zampino."

But enough about the Pinkett-Smiths. Let's talk about you. Write me a short story using the quote line from the title of this blog. The best one wins me saying so. Leave it as a comment or post it elsewhere and leave me a link to it. Ready? GO!


  1. "Nothing more than an inconsequential red herring," snipped Mrs. Porter. "And besides, if it weren't for that, we'd all have drowned."
    "Exactly right, Mrs. Porter," you say. It's best just to agree with her. You just bring her her lunch, and while she eats it in her armchair by the window, you change her bedsheets, dump her bedpan, and remind her to take her medication before going to Mr. Fensen's room to do pretty much the same thing. It's a routine as stale as a Saltine, but even so, Mrs. Porter never has any idea who you are, not that it matters. She just natters on and on, whether there's someone in the room or not.
    "You just remember that, dearie," Mrs. Porter continues. "Next time there's a sale on bologna."
    "Yeah, I'll do that," you say, stripping the sheets off the bed and piling them into your laundry cart.
    "You can get two for one, you know. Psychic Zara told me to. Every day I wash three times and wait for it to get a little greener." Mrs. Porter slowly raises a spoonful of applesauce to her lips. "Like garbanzos."
    "Garbanzos are white, Mrs. Porter," you say. You unfold the freshly laundered fitted sheet. "I think so, anyway."
    "No, green," she says complacently. "And I won't forget it!"
    This time you don't say anything. What is there to say? Mrs. Porter's crazy. You unfold the top sheet and throw it over the bed.
    You're smoothing the edges out when it occurs to you that Mrs. Porter has been quiet for awhile. You turn to look at her and find her staring at you, a little smile on her face.
    "Uh...Mrs. Porter?" you say. You're not sure she'll realize that she's been staring, or if she's even seeing you at all. But she keeps smiling.
    "It's a poor day for you, isn't it, dear?" she says. "I know about your father."
    You can't believe your ears. "What are you talking about?" you demand.
    "Your father. It's a poor day for you, isn't it, dear?"
    "Stop saying that. How did you hear about my father?"
    Mrs. Porter slowly lifts another spoonful of applesauce to her lips. "Just another day in the neighborhood."
    You turn away from Mrs. Porter in frustration. How can you get a straight answer from anyone around here? You lay her quilt on the bed, maybe a little messier than you normally would, but you're in a hurry to leave.
    "No need to rush, dear," she says. "He won't be there when you get back."
    This time you can barely contain yourself. You rush to Mrs. Porter, feeling like you could hit her in the face. Stopping short of her chair, you bend down and get right in her face. "What. Are. You. TALKING ABOUT, MRS. PORTER?!" you scream. "WHERE ARE YOU HEARING THIS?"
    Mrs. Porter isn't scared at all. She winks. "I know your father. He's a traveling man. Remember?"
    You don't know what she's talking about. Your father's never been out of the city, not since your mom died. "You're crazy, Mrs. Porter," you say.
    "Babies are always excuses," she gripes. "Nothing more than an inconsequential red herring."
    "How can a baby be a red herring?" you say.
    "I've never heard of a bigger change of subject!" she exclaims.
    You can't help but laugh at that. You're starting to feel better. It was just a coincidence that Mrs. Porter said anything about your father; she's nuts. How could you have been so silly as to take her seriously? She can't push your buttons like that again; you can't yell at people like that.
    "I like you, dearie," she continues. "Even if your father is guilty."
    You practically spill her bedpan all over the floor.
    "I dislike the opera, myself," she declares. "Nonsense. I had a friend who ate a tomato that was black."
    You take a deep breath. "The tomato was black, or your friend was?" you say, emptying the bedpan into the toilet.
    She nods solemnly. "Exactly. She never recovered."
    You replace the bedpan, then take the little Dixie cup with Mrs. Porter's medication in it over to her. "Here you go, Mrs. Porter, take these before I leave."
    She holds them in her hand, but doesn't take them; she just gazes up at you. "Do you have to go?" she says, in a tiny little voice. "It's too far away for me all by myself."
    "I'm sorry, Mrs. Porter, I can't," you say. "I have to go clean Mr. Fensen's room now."
    "Look! It's a washrag!" she says, gesturing to her empty tray. "I'll tell you about the train tracks!"
    You can't help yourself. You sit on the edge of her bed and lean forward. "Mrs. Porter, why were you saying that stuff about my father?"
    She leans forward, too. "He saved all six beans in the garden, garbanzos," she whispers. "He wore something yellow and something else that was blue. Ribbons can be blue, but it wasn't a ribbon. He was greedy then, too."
    You can't figure out what she's talking about. "But how do you know my father?"
    "There was a time when I was outside this room," she says. "I had long hair and people smiled at me. He smiled at me."
    You kind of feel like crying now. "What a thing to say, Mrs. Porter!" you say. "People smile at you now, see?" And you smile at her.
    She just looks at you. "Just an inconsequential red herring," she says.
    "You're in a mood today, Mrs. Porter," you say. "What's all this about red herrings?"
    "I see them everywhere now. I couldn't see them before but now they're everywhere. I could suffocate."
    You stand up. "You won't suffocate, Mrs. Porter," you say. "We're taking care of you."
    She grabs your hand. "If it weren't for that, we'd all have drowned by now," she says.
    You sit back down and take her hand. This can happen, they told you. Sometimes they just feel...unsafe. "Everything's fine, Mrs. Porter. You can't drown here."
    She lets go of your hand and downs her medication without water. "That's what they WANT you to think."

  2. Great way to contextualize what a trillion actually is. Another comparison (for the religious types) is 'If you had one trillion dollars on the day Jesus Christ was born, and you spent a million each day, you'd still have money right now.'

    ----------The Story Thing--------

    One afternoon, in a sunny foreign country where the rain fell in torrents every day at 3pm, an old man tapped my shoulder.

    Old men were not uncommon in this place -- I see them now, the withered, hook-nosed Indigeno farmers, huddling under doorways, watching the streets fill with mud and trash, the pale bruised blue smoke wafting from their cigarettes to gather like prayers above them -- the war raped the young women, drove the old women to churches, and sent young men to the grave. What was left, then, was a tiny country, smaller than a postage stamp on your average globe, filled with old men, foreigners and babies.

    I was currently a foreigner. I had been an infant in my time and in moments of uncharacteristic optimism considered that one day I could grow old.

    But not like this man. When I turned to greet him I'd already registered the smell of chrysanthemums and urine, a weird thing, both sharp and soft and ripe and rotting and acrid all at once, cutting through the store's fragrance of burning onions, grilling meat and avocado.

    His face, a map of wrinkles, shifted as his jaw moved, and it looked like a flag rippling on inconstant wind. He spoke in clear, slightly accented Spanish. His finger remained where it had been when he tapped me. It trembled slightly, whether from age or accusation.

    "I know what you're doing here," said the man.

    "Good," I said, "then you know these are the best tortillas in town."

    I tend to use humor with natives. It's either that or break down. God, there's orphans everywhere. What can you do? And it IS the best in town, run by the one woman who doesn't hide in church worrying away at a rosary. There's this other old man always hanging around. He looks like -- I guess if you saw a picture of us, all the regulars, you'd describe us by our features: The gringa, the Harelip, the Gypsy, the Asian, the street rat, the lawyer. The old guy at the counter? You'd call him 'The One In The Hat.' That's what I called him.

    The guy who smelled of flowers and urine grunted, one of those back-in-throat sounds. "We have much to discuss," he said, "and very, very little time."

    "Ok..." I began.

    "--shut up. Ten minutes from now an Indigeno is going to walk in here selling carpets, trinkets, and precious stones. You're going to buy something."

    "I never buy from vendors."

    "Joanna," he said to me, this time in English, "you must trust me."

    "Look, Senor," I gestured to the counter, "I'm next in line. It won't take ten minutes."

    It hit me then.

    "How do you know my --"

    The guy you'd call The One In The Hat stood up. "Conseula," he said.

    The woman at the counter turned. She said his name, which as it turns out was Diego.

    Standing there, in front of me, the flower-smelling old man, and the other regulars, Diego proposed.

    Conseula accepted. We cheered and the Lawyer left to find a bottle of rum. It took about ten minutes. I stood there, bewildered. Conseula asked me for my order.

    An Indigeno burst in, covered in blood.

    "Please, buy something," he said, and collapsed, his wares spilling across the floor. "For the love of God please, please."

    I knelt down beside him, checked his wounds. "He needs a doctor," I said, "he's been shot."

    "Please..." he said, and grabbed my hand. The coins I'd plan to spend on the tortillas fell to the ground. He clutched one.

    He died. The man with the extraordinary smell said "Hurry."

    "I didn't buy anything! He's dead! Oh god, call the police. Conseula! Senora!"

    "He took your coin. That is his part of the transaction. You need only take something."

    "What is wrong with you? Who the fuck do you think you are?"

    "Please," he said.

    In shock, I reached for the thing closest to me, a weathered, leatherbound book. But my hands shook and I dropped it. The book fell open to an entry dated April 14th, 1898. This was written on it:

    "Nothing more than an inconsequential red herring," Mrs. Porter snipped. "And besides, if it weren't for that, we'd all have drowned."

    "Oh Lord," said the curious old man, crossing himself.

    "What," I said, but it was too late. By then, the police and everyone else was coming after us.

    That's how this all began.

  3. Mr. Porter hadn't worked since the dot-com bubble burst. Mrs. Porter had managed to keep enough meager meals on the Porter table by taking in sewing for neighbors who had once been wealthy enough to replace worn and torn clothing, darn them - in which she was overwork and underpaid, but she never complained because after all the value of work is whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

    True, Baby Porter was looking very wan lately and now that the state was going bankrupt and reducing the Porter's health care and food stamp allocations things were beginning to look a little dicey. Mr. Porter spent every morning looking for work, and every afternoon looking for food. Still, Mrs. Porter refused to complain. She always looked on the bright side, even when that side was a long stretch.

    Then Baby Porter caught a cold. The sewing money went to doctor's visits and medicine for the wee coughing tyke, and Mrs. P somehow managed to take in some more seams - but it meant she had to work around the clock. Mr. P. found himself finally reduced to begging, and one day he went down to the docks to see if he might score some fish heads or leftover bait.

    He spied a fabulously wealthy looking man standing on the deck of a faboulous yacht tied to a pier. The man was dumping leftovers into the bay, and Mr. P asked if he might spare some of those.

    "Well," the man said, "I could do that. But I have a better idea - they say that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but teach him to fish and he will never go hungry."

    "I know how to fish," Mr. porter replied, "but it's tough to catch a meal with no boat, no line, and no bait."

    "Easily solved," the man told him. "See that dinghy hauled up on the shore over there? I don't need it any more - it has some minor leaks, but they should be easy to plug and there is some fishing line and a hook in the boat. Dig up some worms and you are ready to go."

    Well, it didn't sound so hot to Mr. Porter, but when he went home and told his wife about it she naturally was quite optimistic. She and the baby would come down to the bay with him (she'd have to bring her sewing, of course) and they would all have a day on a boat and with any luck catch dinner besides.

    So that's what they did. Mr. Porter was not exactly a skilled ship builder, and his patches weren't the most secure. He stuffed some reeds in the largest hole and baby gleefully scooped water out of the boat and dumped it over the side. And so they were off, Mr. P rowing toward deeper water as baby bailed and Mrs. P sewed.

    It all happened very quickly. Mr. Porter managed to hook a large herring and fought it valiantly into the boat. It flopped about in the bottom, splishing and splashing the baby who stood up, took a step back, and put his foot right through the reeds that were keeping the rest of the bay outside of the boat. Mr. Porter cursed and dropped the fishing line so he could haul the baby to safety and the herring made for the reed-free hole post haste. But it was a largish fish and got stuck in the hole - fortuitous in that the water outside of the boat was slowed once again from coming in. Baby was put back to work with his cup while Mr. Porter rowed as fast as he ever could back to shore. Mrs. Porter, unruffled, continued her tailoring.

    Just as the prow of the boat reached the shore once more, the fish gave one last tremendous swish of its tail and managed to clear the hole and return to the deeps, leaving Mr. Porter looking hungrily at the surface of the bay.

    "What more could go wrong?" he cried. "No matter what we do, it seems we are doomed to starve!"

    But his wife would have none of it. Things could certainly be a lot worse, and besides, she had just about finished repairing the shirt she'd been working on. Pulling the thread tight and knotting it so she could cut it off at the seam, she ventured her opinion:

    "Nothing more than an inconsequential red herring."

    Mrs. Porter snipped. "And besides, if it weren't for that, we'd all have drowned."