Convict Science: Episode 4,281


Ace Carver sits alone in his cell, cross-legged, in a slender rectangle of indirect sunlight. The window above him is shaped like a coin-slot, tall and thin, cut through the wall eight feet from the concrete floor. Near Ace’s right knee is a drain through which hosed-down material can sluice.

"Coming at you from Varner Supermax penitentiary in lovely Lincoln County, Arkansas, solitary cell #27…You may think all science is the same, but all science is not the same…some science is CONVICT SCIENCE!


Thank you! Thank you.


Please. You're too kind.

Best fans in the world. Right here.

Thank you.

Thank you.


Welcome to the show, I’m Ace Carver, Inmate #76359. Wonderful to be here. Great show for you today. Bitey the Rat's going to stop by, give us some anti-rabies tips for swimsuit season. But first, I got to tell you…my wife came for a visit this week.

I know. Women.

Put the Missus behind a Plexiglas partition under the gaze of armed guards for twenty minutes twice a month and HERE COME THE WATERWORKS…and the divorce papers! Am I right? The fellas know what I’m talking about.

But it got me thinking. Marriage is like a plant. Neglect it, say, by working too much, or serving seven consecutive life sentences, it gets stunted and weak. And eventually, it’ll die.

So, because death is a gift that nourishes the Faithful, today’s Convict Science is about…PHOTOSYNTHESIS!

Don’t touch that dial or I’ll turn your face into a lampshade!”




As The Announcer, Ace Carver affects a deeper voice.

“Today’s show is brought to you by Ace-Carv-Co: a local, family-owned maker of Day-Counting Wall Notches. Can’t see a clock? Girls Gone Tea Party calendar confiscated? Lean on the precision of Ace-Carv-Co Day-Counting Wall Notches.”

“Welcome back to Convict Science, friends, I’m Ace Carver. Today’s topic is particularly dear to me.

Powerful beings are nourished by light...specifically, the light that leaves the eyes of the weak as they die by your hand, igniting the spree of narcotic euphoria that lights The Correct Path.

Plants are also nourished by light through a process called PHOTOSYNTHESIS.

To execute today’s experiment at home, you’ll need 0.5 ft.3 dirt from your exercise yard (thirty-two pockets full), one apple seed squirreled away from lunch, and twenty minutes of indirect sunlight a day. Finally, you must be willing to allocate half your daily water allowance to the study of PHOTOSYNTHESIS, a cornerstone of all the pitiful life on Earth.

Need a few minutes to round up some supplies? Sounds good. We’ll be right back.”

Inmate #76359 motors through a stack of handwritten pages. Finding the correct sheet, he holds it up to his imaginary camera:

PRO-TIP: Anal Storage v. Intestinal - Extracting an item from the stomach usually requires a special tool, like a very thin hook or binder clip descending from a very thin wire or rod. But you can get most things out of your butt with just your hands!




“Welcome back. Today we’re studying PHOTOSYNTHESIS by growing an apple tree, just like the ones lining the sidewalks in my favorite pornographic movies.

We have our materials here. First, scoop the dirt into your cupped hands…spit the seed into the dirt…(ptew)…bury it with your nose…there we go.

Now give it sun, water and sixty uninterrupted years to grow.”

“Singing to your tree helps. Try something pretty, like an excerpt from The Turner Diaries:

‘If the White nations of the world

had not allowed themselves to become

subject to Jews,

this war…





Three sharp knocks on the cell door: “Shaddup, 76359, before I knock yer racist teeth out yer intolerant jaw!”

Three sharp knocks on the cell door: “Shaddup, 76359, before I knock yer racist teeth out yer intolerant jaw!”

“Viewers, it’s friend of the show, Guard Percy “Dicktits” O’Connell! I bet he can help us! Hey Dicktits, can I interpret your threat as an admission you would give anything to touch a submissive, prison-buff male body?”

“Oooo, #76359! Open the door, Smitty, I’m gonna learn this Ruffle-Feathers a lesson!”

Percy is barely inside before Ace claps his dirt-filled hands over the guard’s mouth and nose.

“You see, Science Friends, every time Dicktits here exhales into the soil, he’s feeding our tree vital CO2. And now he’s sweating - which is a nice drink for a thirsty tree – and getting chills at intervals, which is fun to watch. Go to sleep, Dicktits…stretch out on the couch of eternity. That’s right. Goodnight. Goodnight, Dicktits.”

As Ace lowers Percy to the floor, guards stream into the cell like tenants of an upset hive. Ace raises his dirt-filled hands to the sky: “Sorry to Bitey the Rat, who got bumped today. Friends, I’ll see you tomorrow, same Convict time, same Science channel!”

The beating is severe, obviously.




The day Percy O’Connell is killed, the Warden of Varner Supermax, a perpetually exhausted-looking man named Michael Donahue, fast-tracks Ace Carver’s execution. The Warden justifies his subversion of the penal system’s standard bureaucratic machinations on grounds of: “Come on. The guy’s kind of an asshole.”

That night, a priest, a coroner, a convict and a Warden walk into a lethal injection theater. The priest says to the convict, “Have you any final words?” The convict says, “Convict Science is filmed before a live studio audience.”

“What? What is he talking about?” asks the Warden.

“He does a show…of sorts.” says the Priest, “About science?”

“Directed by: Ace ‘Kubrick-Dwarfer’ Carver. Executive Producer: Ace ‘Forger of History’ Carver.”

“This is ridiculous. Ace, your wife is here.” Donahue gestures to the viewing area beyond the glass to a crying woman clutching a handbag.

“Executive Titty-Pincher: Michael ‘When I’m Finally Able to Think, I Have the Wrong Thought’ Donahue.”

“Fine. Who cares. Do the thing.” The coroner flicks the syringe’s tip.

“Sound Design: Ace “Round Mound of Sound” Carver.” In goes the needle.

“Catering by the U.S. Food and ‘What Should We Do With Baloney Containing Unacceptable Levels of Feces?’ Drug Administration.”

“Oh, come on.”

“Xerox Technician: Ace ‘Emulator’ Carver. Wardrobe provided by the Day-Glo Prison Jumpsuit Emporium… a subsidiary…of…Smith…and…Wesson.”

As his voice fails, Ace’s eyes widen at something above and beyond the room. He summons the Priest, who bends low to hear Ace’s final whispers. Then, the EKG sings a steady note.

“Inmate #76359, T.O.D., 8:24 pm.” The coroner writes this down.

“What’d he say, Father?” Donahue asks.

The stricken Priest dabs his brow. “He said, ‘Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.’”


From the Mouths of Babes, Vol. 1

"Can I have a small Playboy Bunny sticker to put below my hipbone before I get in this tanning bed, please?"

THE END...................................................................................................................................?


House of Titans

Written for Mel Favara's wonderful 1000 Words PDX.



Part One.

Former CEO Donald Einhorn had decided there was nothing about his crumbling empire twelve or thirteen scotches couldn't fix. Over the third, he castigated his visionless board of directors. He toasted number five to greasy VP Skip Chestersonberryfield, which good look filling old Donald's Farragamos, kid. He celebrated his tenth by writing a check to himself in the amount of "Golden Parachute", including the phrase "cunning linguist" in the memo line. By the time he took his final swallow, Donald had achieved military-grade intoxication. He lurched through his spinning home, shoulder-checking walls and fumbling with doorknobs, unable to locate any of the estate's reputed fourteen bedrooms. With his last conscious thought, Donald cursed the general practice of architecture and passed out in a hallway.

He woke to the discovery that the seed of a giant redwood tree had taken root between the lobes of his brain and erupted overnight to towering maturity. A truly majestic headache. A survey of further damage included: icepick pain in back and shoulders; a split in his trouser's crotch; and, he realized, unease with his surroundings. On rare visits to a room that wasn't his study, Donald sometimes registered a manner of faint surprise, a "who put this here?" kind of feeling. But the vaulted ceilings, artwork, even paint color in this particular hallway seemed totally unfamiliar. Maybe he was somewhere in the northeast wing. Lined with doors, the hallway seemed to stretch for miles, even to have a perceptible bend along the curvature of the earth.


Part Two.

Donald's money had always been a faithful friend. Always told him how valuable he was, always complimented his skill prognosticating the markets that made other men jump out of high windows. And, despite Donald's portly frame and face that looked like an exit wound, his money had always brought beautiful companions to his side. But it also bought this house, where each door opened into a room with three more doors, or into another interminable hallway. Donald wandered through anonymous bedrooms, libraries, four different kitchens, but couldn't find so much as a throw pillow he recognized. He passed the same Victorian fainting couch three times in an hour, and started leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail behind him of the items in his pockets: cash, keys, coins and cards.

The final nail in the coffin of Donald's composure was his discovery of the trophy room. The son and stepson of two veterans, Donald had never hunted in his life, in fact had always been fearful of nature's ability, with a frightened animal or slight tectonic shift, to swiftly and permanently erase all a man's achievements. Yet here was a room, in his own home, filled with glass-eyed animals frozen in various stages of roaring or flight. Eagles, cheetahs, gorillas, groundhogs. Mounted on the farthest wall was a handsome flintlock rifle with a solid silver butt into which was engraved in swirling, ostentatious typeface: "To Richard- Keep showing 'em who's boss. Love, Charlton Heston."


Part Three.

In being forcibly unburdened of the weight of his (and his shareholder's) expectations, Richard Halifax had found freedom. In the decade since being bounced from the corporate garden, he'd built a comfortable routine of untied bathrobes and lunchtime scotch. On the occasions when he needed to feel strong and useful again, he put on one of his fraying Savile Row suits, propped his feet up on the desk, and dictated letters to the obediently silent animals mounted in his trophy room. Any nagging psychospiritual stuff about loneliness or personal value to society he'd learned to smother or drink away. Or else he filled the hole inside with a white truffle and mayonnaise sandwich, which was the method he'd chosen today. Richard cut it into 16 bite-sized cubelets, arranging them into a smiling face.

He gathered his happy plate and happy glass of Bushmills and tottered off toward the study, singing "Peter and the Wolf" and marching in time, when something small and green registered at the edge of his vision. A crisp ten, right there on the floor. And ten steps later, a dollar. Ten more, an AMEX card. Richard had a wispy memory of a cartoon rabbit being lured into a trap by a trail of carrots. The trail ended at Richard's trophy room where, inside, he found a disheveled man admiring the antique monkey rifle Chuck Heston had given him in Botswana. Richard set his smiling plate on the oak cabinet by the door. The disheveled man turned. "What are you doing in my house?" they asked each other.


Part Four.


Donald and Richard greeted the discovery that they'd lived in the same mansion for thirteen years with trademark bottom-line clarity. They determined the fiscally responsible thing was to keep living together as mansion-mates, and the arrangement pleased them far more than either could have predicted. It wasn't like living with a family to which they felt no real connection; unbridgeable division was replaced by mutual empathy of the struggles of rich white men. The drone of Donald's snores proved a comfort Richard hadn't known he'd needed.

They started a business. Based on the truth that everyone loves puppies but far fewer people like dogs, they conceived a subscription service by which customers could purchase a puppy, return it when it got too old to love, and receive a new one. Donald convinced an overseas vendor to sell bulk-rate puppies for pennies on the dollar. As co-CEOs of PuppyLease, LLC, they became like paternal twins, finishing each other's sentences, sensing when the other was in danger.

Hundreds of billions in revenue later, Richard Halifax developed Alzheimer's. Richard's acumen drained until he became a well-tailored husk of undefinable antiquity. He started believing Donald was his ex-wife, forcing Donald to make the most heart-wrenching power-grab of his life.

"Richard, the board has decided to buy you out."

"But Sally, no, why?"

"They just… I just believe you're no longer mentally capable of the job. I'm sorry."

"Whether my head is good or bad, Sally, only it can save us now."

Richard Halifax leaned in to kiss the old billionaire he believed was his ex-wife, and Donald Einhorn, his friend, couldn't bring himself to pull away.


The Man Responsible for Taco Bell's Advertising Tends His Roses.

The man responsible for Taco Bell's advertising puttered among his rose bushes, carefully pulling back branches to clip the dead heads and scoop them into a plastic bucket. One of those white utility buckets like house painters use. It was light, repetitive work which occupied just enough of his brain to induce a kind of walking meditation. Pull, reach, snip, drop; pull, reach, snip, drop. And the idea that by the end of the day, by his hands, the roses would look virile again added another layer of mental pleasure to the chore.

Pull, reach, snip, drop. He felt like a hunter, the dead buds his prey. The sun was high. He felt fed by the sun, as these roses were fed by it, except to reach his full potential, the man responsible for Taco Bell's advertising did not need these roses at all, but these roses depended upon him to reach their full potential. He fed them as much as the sun did, as much as the rain.

He watched the muscles in his forearm as he clipped. The tension as he squeezed, the kinetic crest of the snip, the tendon's release as the hungry mouth of the blades sprung back open, dropping the dead roses' heads. Beheading the few for the good of the many.

The man responsible for Taco Bell's advertising found a clump of four, five wilted buds near the center of one bush, near its heart, and his breath got shallow and quick as he opened the blades of his clippers to their widest point, slid the steel around all five of the dying roses' necks, perfect domes of sweat rising in the thicket of his forearm's hair, he closed his eyes and initiated the first molecular step of millions that, strung together, built the four-act biological ballet he had directed, danced and watched a hundred times already that afternoon; Act I: Pull, Act II: Reach, Act III: Sni-

Beep beep.

Clippers falling to the hot dirt. Left eye twitching, he looked out over his yard to the street, to his neighbor driving past, waving. The man responsible for Taco Bell's advertising, behind his smile, through gritted teeth: "You are so fucking stupid." And out the rear window of his neighbor's car, his neighbor's small son waved at him too. "Filth. FILTH." He picked up the clippers and wiped the blades on his shirt.


The Boy Who Ate the Internet.

The Boy Who Ate the Internet.

You could see he was sorry. Genuine remorse on a ten-year-old is not hard to see. The boy had been, in fact, hiding under his own bed, genuinely remorseful and ashamed under there, when the CEO turned up on the doorstep asking his mother (the boy's, not the CEO's) just what in the sam heck had happened to all his e-commerce. And the mother called up the stairs and when the boy didn't come down, she went up, found him there, under the bed with his snow boots, hiding. She saw his genuine remorse and shame plain as day, and with 100% pure motherly concern and tenderness asked the boy to please come downstairs and tell the nice CEO what happened to the Internet. She told him no matter what, they would take care of it together.

Wiping his runny nose with the back of his hand and looking down at his shoes, the boy who ate the Internet (who was not an overweight boy by any means, or even prone to snacking) told the CEO that he had seen the Internet cooling on a windowsill and it just smelled so good and looked so fresh and it was past his lunchtime and all these things were just too many things for the boy to resist. The boy explained further he only intended to eat a little of the Internet, just a nibble from the edge, but it had been so rich and warm that before he knew it he was standing under the windowsill holding an empty plate, and became so overwhelmed with genuine remorse he dropped the plate in the bushes and ran straight home to hide under the bed.

The CEO had kids of his own, and with fatherly understanding told the boy it was OK, that he forgave the boy, but the fact the remained that the CEO's big company was sitting there crippled, with no e-commerce or social networking or even simple email. Was there anything, the CEO asked, the boy could think of to get them both out of this little pickle?

The boy, little brow furrowed, thinking hard, considered this. After a moment, the boy told the CEO that he would come to the CEO's company every day after school and fill orders and relay messages until his debt had been fairly repaid. And the CEO bent down and extended a big hand to the boy, and said that it was a deal.

The mother, so proud of her son she was radiant, clapped her hands and led them all to the kitchen, along the way joking the Internet was like Chinese food, you could eat all you want and still be hungry, and fixed her son and the CEO grilled cheese sandwiches. Around a gooey bite, the CEO told the mother of the boy who ate the Internet that such a good and forthright boy could only have come from the world's finest mother, and the compliment warmed her like sunshine. They looked at each other then, shyly smiling.


Lebanon, Kansas


Part One

It took time and careful planning, but this buff South Beach club kid had tanned himself the color of a third-place medal. He pushed his green H2 northwest through a stalemate on I-75, and over his "Greatest of DJ AM" playlist, yelled his half of a dialogue into a Blackberry:

"Dude, I can't believe we'll never go to Skybar again."


"Glass, Tantra, Snatch. All underwater."


"Yeah, dude. Even Gucci."

Tears filled the bronze kid's tastefully mascaraed eyes.

"I know. All those beautiful shirts. Just floating away."


Few are the born worshippers in a noontime Midwest bar. On this day, the regulars were joined by a congregation of coastal refugees: pepper-haired Hamptonites who kept going outside to dust off their classic Aston Martins; a few Bostonians who elected not to sit in Fenway Park screaming "Fuck the Yankees" as the tide took the upper deck; classmates from Vassar who'd abandoned their pursuits of advanced degrees in The History of Loose Leaf Tea.

Together they hunched over glasses of Bud, watching what CNN had titled "Earth on Ice: The Great Crumbling."

Wolf Blitzer paused his narration of hillocks of ice tumbling into the sea to wave his hands at a rug-sized touch screen and summon an infographic.

"CNN's Internet Operatives tell us that since the Great Crumbling began, the most commonly searched term has been "exact geographical center of the United States." The results of which give us..."

Wolf did a wax-on, wax-off thing at the touch screen.

"39°48′38″North, 98°33′22″ West. A town of 303. A town named Lebanon, Kansas."

The richest man in the bar dropped his beer and ran out the door.

Part Two

In the wake of Wolf Blitzer's proclamation, the town of Lebanon, Kansas, whose economy was completely dependent on a roadside gas station, came to represent the promise of gold that ignited this country's last great rush: a scuttling inward of citizens who left their homes to huddle on the last spot the water would swallow.

One of the more pleasant revelations of this movement was an historically unprecedented influx of corporate cash. CEOs in private jets were the first to arrive, and they threw open every coffer they had in exchange for topographically favorable plots of land. Standard issue for Lebanonites were DVR boxes from Comcast, iPhones from AT&T, cost-free sessions with cognitive behavior therapists from Kaiser Permanente, and season tickets to the Lebanon Cowboys, whose stadium Jerry Jones ripped from its foundation in Texas and flew north attached to a fleet of V-22 Ospreys.

Lebanon's formerly stark skyline was now spiky with modular buildings in which boards of directors slept. To accommodate the needs of a more affluent clientele, the longtime owner of the gas station had expanded, surrounding the station with a steadily rising number of double wide trailers filled with rare single malts and sets of Ferrari luggage.

It was this one-story metropolis the kid from South Beach now saw in front of the H2's cowpusher. He thumped into the gas station, popped the collar of his imitation Versace, and hopped out of the truck.

"You know where can I buy some boardshorts and a flat iron?"

The gas station attendant looked up from a page in the Robb Report devoted to luxury submersibles.

"Nice shirt. We got real ones on aisle 9."

Part Three

The H2 rolled through the cattle guard at Lebanon's border spitting smoke and sputtering, a zombie version of the thing that once lived, once roared and chewed highway like something starved. Ka-thunk, ka-thunk over the metal grate. What sprawled in front of the kid from South Beach was the wealth of the world's richest nation squeezed into an area less than a square mile by the fuzziest guess. Hand stitched calfskin loafers painted in mud, lace trains of couture gowns clotted with waste dripping from plastic tubes that poked like snorkels from each shanty's bottom. But no homeless, no cadging. The finest makeup, the worst face.

Everyone was walking toward a squat building at Lebanon's North end. The kid fell in, spent his first tour of this new home with a head like a hyperactive periscope, inventorying the hand painted signs: Little Texas, Little West Virginia, Little New Mexico. Stepping carefully over the chalk lines that jig-sawed the town. A different smell from each, a different set of colors flown. And yes, finally, here it was, Little Miami. The kid absently touched the H2's key in his pocket. There was Dwayne Wade, a dance club. Everything smelled like Cuervo. Everything smelled like home.

And at the North end, the Lebanon town hall. A little building with thin, high windows and stucco veneer. People pushing inside, then a gavel.

"Alright, everybody, let's just calm the fuck down. The Lebanon City Council doesn't condone folks speaking out of turn."

Part Four

The chairman of the Lebanon City Council waved an agenda.

"We need to figure out how to slice this pie so everyone gets a piece. If you got ideas, you'll get a turn to talk. Ok, let's see who's up first."

"Excuse me." A voice like cream being poured into a glass. "My name is Oprah Winfrey." The stacked mounds of her body wrapped like a gift in tailored Chanel, her shirt printed with an Escherish pattern of tiny orange owls.

"This place. Given the opportunity to build a new nation, you made the same one again, dirtier, smaller and meaner. I know it's easy to cling to the familiar when you're in a crisis. But I can bring you peace. Look under your chairs."

Under each was a square-topped metal key.

"That key starts a jetski, one for each of you. And tomorrow, we will break ground on a factory I've designed to convert waste into non-perishable astronaut food. How's that sound, Mr. Chairman?" Oprah turned to the dais, palms up.

"Shit, I think I might faint."


The kid from South Beach looked out Oprah's bedroom window at the town gridded by new roads, at the laughing kids shooting down tall slides into the sea.

"Come over here."

The gills she'd grown made Oprah's words sound like she was speaking from behind the door of an empty room. Changed, unrecognizable, yet calling, always calling for her chosen bronze-colored boy.

"Get back in this bed. And bring me some astronaut ice cream."

The tide rose four inches that day.