The Iron Writer Challenge
The 2017 Dani J Caile Invitational
600 Words, 14 Days, 70 Elements
One element for each of the 2016 Challenges, in order
Dani J Caile, B Y Rogers, Michael Cottle, Richard Russell, Vance Rowe,
and Nerisha Kemraj, the Wonder Writer
The Old Family Recipe
Dani J. Caile
“Where am I to find a new born baby tonight?” asked Eva the witch.
“By the Mason bees on the top shelf, next to the love cactus,” replied her ghoulfriend, Maria. “Mind that poison dart frog, though, he’s frisky today.”
Eva reached up but her big red nose hit the demonically possessed jar of nutella and a skirmish ensued. The Airedale Terrier ran off and pissed on the possessed car parked in the corner. It got angry and a star shaped opening appeared and the dog was sucked into hell.
“He should’ve worn a parachute.”
“We have a large patio umbrella… how’s this?” She wore a paper crown. Maria’s frown said it all. “Stop it, you’ll give me anxiety.”
The foul mouthed parrot named Percy squawked some expletives and farted, the odor smelling of Asafoetida, his personal wrath.
“Eva! How could you?”
“Mistaken identity.” Eva whistled to Percy. “Sing me a song tonight.” Percy farted again.
“Are we making this or what?”
“Sorry. What’s next on the list?” Eva ran around the cavern picking up ingredients as Maria read them out.
“Picante sauce, a smelly sweat sock – size 43, bacon – essential, pancake batter…”
“Spider!” Eva flicked it off its web and it scurried across the floor. Eva waved her wand and it turned into a twenty foot dragon. She made it disappear.
“That was almost as bad as your spell when those kids played Ding Dong Ditch. Can we get back to the list?”
“Seeds from an empty bird feeder, wombats – two…”
“What? Hang on! How can the bird feeder be empty if there are seeds in it?”
“Just get on with it, that’s your task!”
“You’re like a nagging spouse! Or a child doing a handstand. Irritating.”
“We haven’t got all night! Now… a bag full of owl feathers…”
“Do you remember Egypt, the Pyramids, the dance party… I got the best Christmas present, a fairy tied to the end of a ball of yarn…” Eva slapped her forehead. “Oops, I think I’ve made a terrible mistake. Yesterday I sent a friend request on Facebook to a leprechaun.”
“I told you not to wear those X-ray glasses, they make you go crazy.”
“What’s the point of living if you can’t…”
They both sighed and Maria continued on.
“Leaves from the plant Dendrocnide Moroides.”
“We’re out. I lost that bet, the one with the crossbow and the original Matisse painting?”
“That was due to drunkenness.”
“That was due to being in a basement. And my handwriting was awful.”
“Not mention your aim!”
“I know.” Eva showed the old scar under her leg warmers. “They were pirates, every one of them. They’d sell their mother if she was pregnant.”
“Ooo, that guy, the one with the peanut butter stuck in his mouth? He had asthma, too.”
“The 400lb man whose t-shirt didn’t cover his belly?”
“A mouse – white, fish – trout but cod’s okay, and two hot dogs – from St. Andrew’s golf course, fossilized remains of a three-legged fruitbat…”
“A five-legged insect…”
“What are we making, rabbit stew? Bombay Duck?” Eva wiped the sweat from her brow. “I’m dying for a coffee.”
“Concentrate! You’re not Sonja Henie. When you multi-task, you’re like a man shoveling water. Remember the burnt toast?”
“You’ll inscribe that on my gravestone, won’t you?”
“After I bury you with a shoebox of your childhood memorabilia and take the gold teeth from your dead body.”
“You were born in a barn, weren’t you?” scowled Eva. They heard the sound of drums in the distance. “Quick! Get that rusted lock oiled, our lives may be in danger tonight!”
“Well, bang goes the old family recipe. I told you we couldn’t do this on Halloween night.”
The Angry Mastodon
B Y Rogers
The hairless bull mastodon stood next to a Mason beehive near the Pyramid. A pukwudige involved in a nocturnal pick pocket contest drifted overhead, an annoying habit of the young Puks.
Mutiny or no, it was time the love triangle ended. He put his snout in the dust, sniffing until the stone arrowhead was in his snout. He pointed it at the sundial and launched it. Easy. Knocking the priest’s paper crown off would end his anxiety. He retrieved the arrowhead.
The peculiar looking priest was sleeping in the village. He knew the house from the odor from a specific spice. One of the seven deadly sins was about to be committed. If he was caught, he would plead it was a case of mistaken Identity. His boulevard of broken dreams would end tonight, of that he was clear.
The bull wondered if the priest was having a death bed vision at that very moment. Perhaps be fried like so much bacon or grilled like so much pancake batter. He didn’t care. His contract was signed, and no dragon from of Gone could change his mind.
His lesson had been learned. The evidence of murder might be found in the junkyard by some Dudley Do Right, along with a bag full of owl feathers.
“Ask yourself this question, priest,” the bull shouted. “I wonder in what ways I will die this month, again. I have a million suggestions. Run over by Santa’s sleigh! Abducted by those aliens that you are anxiously waiting for. I got your a “magic” pill, right here in my snout!”
He crushed a rattlesnake beneath his foot. He decided he needed a roll of paper towels to clean himself afterwords.
He wondered if he could find some odd coinage in the priest hovel, hidden in the priest’s skinny jeans, pilfered from a sucker’s bet. Perhaps there might be enough to escape far away, to London, for lunch at the Crypt. But he thought better of it. Mamus, his crazy witch aunt, loved London. So that was a big no.
He found the priest’s home. A light was on in the basement. He didn’t like basements. Spiders hid there. The old scar in his left nostril reminded him of spiders. As a youngling, he had sniffed at some poisoned toilet paper. Two things happened. The poisoned made him hairless and the spider inside the paper left an itching scar. The foul social engineering of his peers still tormented his mind.
Through the opening in the wall, he studied the room as best he could. The breadcrumbs posed a problem. Too much noise. One misstep and it would sound like a roller derby. Besides, he would sneeze from the asthma attack. That would wake the 400 pound priest whose teeshirt does not cover his belly while he slept.
There might be a mouse, or maybe a field mice inside. He’d yelp and the priest would wake up and start trash talking him to death. He’d rather die by a 9-iron or a three legged fruit bat, or another insect bite.
He sighed and remembered his numbers.
Drink from the fountain of youth in Pharaoh’s palace?
Dragon? He looked up, spotting his backup high above.
Emotions in check?
He envisioned the priest’s inscribed gravestone for strength.
Must remember the gold teeth. That meant escape and bowl of rabbit stew in the trade.
He sniffed the lock on the door. Rusted. It wondered who put the lock there. His life was in danger. He looked up. The traitor dragon was gone. He would be the main ingredient in an old family recipe tonight.
It was, after all, the first Halloween in history.
The judge slammed down his gavel after looking at the speedsters with much disgust. He sighed deep before he began his angry speech.
“You guys are dumb as a bunch of Monopoly tokens. I love a cactus clown, but you three stooges singing happy birthday with your red noses stuck in demon possessed jar of Nutella is just about all I can stand. Everyone knows there is a sequence in life- a pace. Even Fibonacci knew it that time he got sent back to teach the cavemen to start fires because they had too much rum to sum some.
You got to stop driving so dang fast. I would suggest you all get a time clock and set it for a happy ending in a paper crown. Don’t let anxiety rip into you like some foul-mouthed parrot named Percy. You guys have a responsibility to find a path to salvation and stop it with the selfies. Stay a little bit longer, but don’t think of it as some prison café.
Now, I once had a death bed vision of Kermit drinking tea. He was mixing pancake batter, killing spiders and karate chopping fruit like a ninja. He read Ms. Piggy’s thoughts and boy was that a lesson to be learned! There were Wombats and sick pets everywhere. I don’t think you guys are following me here. This world is about more than a child doing a handstand. When Indians captured prisoners, they let the women do the killing. Why? Because the pyramids are fricking huge! That’s why you numbskulls.
I’m telling you suzy little snowflakes that you need to tighten up or you’re not going to like your Christmas present. One time all I got was a dadgum ball of yarn, and it wasn’t by some terrible mistake. I just sat there in the backyard listening to ACDC with big roll of paper towels wiping my forehead.
You little sea monkeys these days want some sort of a prenuptial agreement with a body pillow and a magical giraffe. Get off your drunken carcasses, drink some energy drinks and work on your damn handwriting for Pete’s sake. Stop acting like a bride left at the alter without any leg warmers and nothing but a get out of jail free card from Uncle Pennybags.
There will be breadcrumbs and peanut butter that sticks in your mouth, but the Surgeon General has done told you, that you can’t find a tee-shirt to cover a four-hundred-pound man’s belly. Know where one is? No, you don’t. That’s cause there ain’t one.
Do you need me to keep explaining this to you, you pansies? Damn right you do. Someone has to tell you to put your goggles on, eat your hot dogs, keep you out of old phone booths and get back around the campfire. Life is not just a Penny Farthing race, you numb-skulled tokens. If you found the Fountain of Youth, would you drink? I have my doubts about you clowns, but I would. You better believe I would.
So, you fear my judgement? Speaking of judgement, Ms. Rothelisburger, where the heck is my stapler? And get me some ice cream too, will you?
Anyway, you tokens stop burning your toast like a herd of buffalo in a global wide cascading failure extravaganza! Don’t try to get gold teeth from the dead because the numbers are giving you frustration like a rusty lock in a thunder shower. I say when a life is in danger, grab an electric fence and run through it like metal doors in the summer time on a school building.
Do you tokens understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? Just pay the speeding fine dammit. Where’s my ice cream Ms. Rothelisburger? Court dismissed.”
The Judge’s gavel echoed throughout the Bastille, frightening the carrier pigeons outside. Startled, I looked up with my inherited red eyes, put down my hand cymbals and noticed the judge was frowning. He reminded me, “You were explaining the event horizon.” I continued, “Your honor, a love triangle and a star-shaped opening are not the same thing. My forgetting to buy ice cream was taken as an unfortunate insult. I still bare the survivor’s guilt; not to mention the anxiety, I felt that night in the moss-draped cemetery…” The judge finished my sentence, “… burdened with the responsibility to share the plan to salvation.” I pleaded, “But it was a case of mistaken identity! I was waiting on a friend from the prison cafeteria to bring some bacon and a cigar so we could test the first bullet-proof vest off the assembly line. I mean, we had a contract with the princess, but I knew what she was thinking. Her evidence of the murder in the junkyard turned out to be puke from someone’s sick pet; it was that hillbilly who liked to make up words, but it looked like a bag full of owl feathers.” The judge squinted, “And that’s when you discovered you could see five minutes into the future?” “Yes,” I added, “I saw we would end up at a dance party, holding a Christmas present, and eagerly waiting for the aliens to come pick us up.” The judge squinted, “Aliens?” I nodded, “Well, that was all a terrible mistake. Turned out we were in a ghost town and the four horsemen of the apocalypse were sitting in this room signing a prenuptial requiring the dance hall to provide body pillows resembling your most despised relative, a witch, or a warlord.” The judge shifted, ”But with all the drunkenness, it was just an April fool’s joke.” I corrected him, “No, it was all energy drinks; no alcohol.”
“What about the scribbled handwriting?”
I averted my eyes and mumbled, “That was caused by an old scar left after using some poisoned toilet paper we found in an abandoned apothecary.” The judge looked up, “And that resembled evidence of a pregnancy?” I quipped, “Does peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth? You can’t blame me! There was no warning from the Surgeon General. Getting over that little faux pas was something tedious; involved a mouse, eye goggles, and lots of trash talk. I puttered around that campfire for hours going over the same interior dialog and all the numbers asking myself, ‘If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink from it?’ But I was afraid of the judgment; you know, like Sonja Henie and her association with that Nazi dragon; tossed aside like burnt toast in a flaming spittoon.” The bailiff interrupted, “Ahem! Moving along, your honor. Exhibit ‘A’; The shoe-box of childhood memorabilia containing gold teeth taken from a dead person and …. a … clown; not just the teeth … the whole clown.” Pausing to stare silently into the box, the bailiff mused, “ … or what’s left of it.”
A chorus of disgust arose from the courtroom as the sound of drums echoing off in the distance.
I had reached my limit. I screamed, jumped up, ran out of the courtroom and flung myself onto the electric fence around the peach orchard next door.
In the courtroom all was quiet except for the sizzle and crackle from across the street.
And the … drums … they were still beating … off in the distance … as the bailiff poured the remnants of the clown onto the judge’s desk.
Boxes of Memories
The newlywed couple are packing her stuff from her parent’s house, to move into their new home. While deciding what to keep and what to throw away, she came across an old magazine. On the cover is a mean looking woman holding a newborn baby.
“Honey, do you remember this? The South African dictator Nerisha Kemraj when she had a baby?
“Isn’t she the one who had that Mormon missionary Brian Rogers beheaded? She belongs locked up in the Bastille.”
The Bastille? Why not have her killed and put in the Pyramids?”
“They could. She should die from being bitten by a poison dart frog, in any event,” he replied with a smile.
“Meh, she’s so mean, it would probably only give her a red nose.”
“Yeah, maybe a knight without armor should take care of her,” he said as he started singing the theme song from Paladin.
“She has the personality of a rabid Airedale anyway,” she replied as she tossed the magazine in the trash.
She picked up a part of a container she kept and asked, “Do you remember this?”
He looked at it and said, Stone Arrowhead Ice Cream. Wasn’t that the first ice cream I bought you?”
“It was,” she replied with a smile.
Next she pulled out an unsolved Rubic’s cube.
“Never could do this stupid thing,” she said, as she tossed the puzzle into the trash.
Looking through a different box, he pulled out a paper crown and said, “For you my queen.”
She laughed and remembered that she made that when she was a little girl. Into the save box.
He then picked up a book and a picture fell out. It was from the Old West. It’s a Civil War picture of a moss draped cemetery. He stuck it back in the book and packed it away.
“What’s that smell?”
“That particular spice is cinnamon. Mom must be making apple pies.”
“Good. Hope she makes enough for the rest of you.”
“Honey, Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.”
“So? I will go to confession this Sunday.”
She just laughed in reply as she pulled out a deck of tarot cards and a 45 record of the Rolling Stones’ song ‘Waiting on a Friend.”
“Great song. I wonder what friend he was waiting on?”
“Probably his heroin dealer.”
She laughed and replied, “You’re awful.”
Out of the next box came a small replica of the Eiffel Tower and a red rain boot.
“Hmmm…I wonder where the other one is?” she asked herself silently.
“Those pies smell good. Not as good as breakfast though. Never had bacon dipped in pancake batter before. They were delicious.”
“ACK! A SPIDER! KILL IT!”
He laughed and said, Hun, it’s a spider, not a dragon.”
“Ugh, do not mention dragons. My ex, Mathew, or Sir Mathew, as he preferred to be called, pretended he was always slaying dragons. God, what an idiot he was.”
As they continued to go through the boxes, she asked, “Hun, remember when we played Ding Dong Ditch?”
“Sure do. Remember tripping over that empty bird cage?”
“Yes,” she replied with a chuckle. Then she went to move the box she packed and asked, “Honey, can you help me move this heavy box?”
“Will I be your hero then?”
“Honey, you will always be my hero…in a Dudley-Do-Right sort of way.
“Good, you will always be my Nell then.”
They laughed and she gave him a kiss.
Back to packing, she pulled out a picture of a child doing a handstand in front of a statue of an angel holding a child.
“This pic is my stupid cousin Mamie Pound. She’s dead now,” she said, now feeling a little bad about it.
“Should she be buried in the Pyramids with Nerisha Kemraj?” he asked.
“Honey, are you delusional?” she asked as she pulled an old Christmas present from the box.
She opened it excitedly and pulled out a ball of yarn.
“A joke present from stupid Mamie,” she said, as the excitement quickly disappeared from her face, and she tossed it into the trash.
He then pulled out a picture of her with her old boyfriend.
“A terrible mistake. That’s my old boyfriend Mathew Weaver. What an ass he was. Always thought he was a knight, when in reality, he was just a fool.”
“Isn’t this picture still on Facebook?”
“Nope, I deleted the hell out of that.”
“He kind of looks like a leprechaun.”
“Really? I was thinking Sea Monkey,” she replied with disgust.
“Look at him in those skinny jeans. Where was this taken? A dance hall?”
“Just throw it away with that old body pillow of his, will you?”
“Hey, why is Mamie such a despised relative to you?”
“Because she was a mean old witch.”
“Okay, is there anything in the basement?”
“Just my old jumpoline.”
“Jumpoline? What is that?”
“Something I used to jump on. When Mamie jumped on it, I had to change the name to trampoline.”
“Oh,” he replied with a chuckle and said, “Man, you really hated her.”
She pointed to an old scar on her arm and said, she did this when I caught her trying to steal my leg warmers. I always hoped she would be kidnapped and ravaged by pirates and suffer an unwanted pregnancy.”
He then saw a pic of his wife in roller skates and asked her why she never did roller derby.
“Asthma,” was her simple reply.
He was getting tired and said, “Man, this packing sure is tedious.”
“Do you need me?” she asked.
“Always,” he replied with a smile.
“What are these eye goggles from?” he asked as he pulled them from a box.
“Oh, I wore them one time while riding in a balloon at a hot air balloon festival.”
“That must have been very cool.”
“Yeah, it was fun,” she replied, and then pulled a photograph from a box. It was a picture of people sitting around a campfire.
“Do you remember this camping trip, Honey?”
“I believe I do. Isn’t this the one where we saw that big insect–looking thing in that old barn?
“Exactly. This was a couple of years ago. I can’t believe I don’t have any of these pictures in a photo album.”
The newlywed husband pulled another picture from the box he is going through and said, “Remember this fountain?”
She took the picture from him and replied, “Oh my Lord, yes. This was last year. Remember how we pretended it was the fountain of youth?”
“I do. So, would you drink from the fountain of youth if you found it?”
“Hmmm…I don’t know. Maybe if I was old, like in my forties, I might.”
They both chuckled and went back to looking through her old boxes.
Her mother called to them and said, “Come on, Lovebirds. Pie and coffee are ready.”
“A break. Finally,” he quipped as he got up off of the floor.
She looked at the little red stapler she pulled from a box and tossed it in the trash pile.
They walked to the kitchen and sat down at the table. Her mother asked if they wanted ice cream on their pie and the both of them acknowledged that they did.
Looking at the pie, he noticed the crust on the end looked like burnt toast. He didn’t really care though because he doesn’t usually eat that part of the pie anyway. Looking around the kitchen, while waiting to be served, he noticed a nicely framed picture on the wall. It was an image of a herd of buffalo running across the prairie.
As the three of them sat at the table and enjoyed the deliciously sweet apple pie, her mother said, “Honey, don’t forget the shoebox.”
“Oh yes, I would have forgotten about it. I will just take that with us and go through it another day.”
“Shoebox?” he inquired, with a mouthful of pie.
“Yes, dear. I have a shoebox with childhood memorabilia in it.
“That must be very cool. I mean most of the boxes we have gone through had very cool stuff in them,” he said with a smile.
“Very cool, indeed. I have my dead grandma’s gold teeth in there.”
“You’re dead grandma?”
“Yes, her name was Jennifer Worrell. She was a mean old biddy but her gold teeth were gorgeous.”
“She sounds like a clown.”
“A clown would be a nice thing to say about her,” his wife said and stuck a spoonful of ice cream in her mouth.
As they continued to eat, the sound of drums could be heard in the distance.
“What is that?” he asked.
That is the neighbors. The Zwisslers. They got their son a drum set for his birthday. He’s really obnoxious with it. I hope their daughter doesn’t turn out like her mother.”
The couple finished their pie and as they walked back to her bedroom, there was a knock at the front door.
She opened the door and he was shocked to see a beautiful woman with fiery red hair standing there. It had a hint of cadmium red in it, he thought.
“The mailman delivered your mail to us by mistake again.”
“Thank you, Danielle,” she replied with a fake smile.
“Who is that?” he asked after she closed the door.
“That’s the neighbor Danielle. The one with the drum set.
“Meh, she’s a soulless ginger,” she replied and walked into her bedroom.
As they continued going through her boxes, the drumming next door was getting incessant.
“Ugh, now I have to call them and tell them to keep it down. There’s a limit to how much one can take.”
“Relax, honey. Let’s just finish these up and we can go,” he replied in an attempt to calm her down.
Going through the final box, the young wife pulled out a piece of paper that had an old family recipe written on it for apple pie.
“Honey, we have to go to the apple orchard tomorrow so I can make apple pies like my mother.”
“Okay, but don’t make the crust look like burnt toast,” he replied with a smile.
“No, I know to put aluminum foil around the crust edges while it is first cooking,” she said with a smile.
They finally finished up and she said, “We can come back and get the boxes tomorrow after the orchard. Let’s go home.”
“Sounds good to me, Darlin’.”
A Second Chance of Life
“What is that?” Jaime listened as he retrieved his earphones from the ground. Barely audible, it sounded like a crying cat. There it was again, unmistakable even over the nuisance bees that were buzzing around the garbage. Locating the source of the faint cry, he opened the black bag revealing a new born baby. Dashing indoors, his first thought was to draw a hot bath to normalize the temperature of the baby.
“Laura!!! Call 911!” He knocked the bath salts over in his rush to ready the water. She was beside him instantly, responding to the urgency in his voice, phone in hand, after turning down the radio from which the “Three Stooges Happy Birthday Song” was blaring. Gasping at the sight of the little girl, Laura knelt beside him while Jamie continued the call. Colour was returning to her, evident from her little red nose as she warmed up. By the time the medics arrived the Theme Song to “Paladin” was soothing her to sleep. One would swear they used the Fibonacci sequence or some mathematical ratio to find their way here. Thankfully, she calmed down enough after Laura and Jamie followed the instructions they were given.
Days later, Jaime and Laura sat looking out from their front porch. A cracked, china water pitcher acted as a vase to a beautiful bouquet of flowers, received from five-year-old Amy Webster, their neighbour. She sat with them now, the ice-cream was soothing, coupled with the shade from the large patio umbrella, they managed the sweltering heat. Staring at the paper crown on Amy’s head, Laura realised how anxious she was. They tasked the peculiar looking priest, Father John, with the responsibility of baptising their new daughter, Laine. Bringing her on the path to salvation by adoption.
Five years later, it was unbelievable how life had changed. Jaime watched as they took a selfie. Back then, he knew that she had to stay and Laura did too. Laine’s red rain boot connected with the football that zipped past his ear, bringing him to the present. Laura’s frantic scream followed. Covered in pancake batter, she stood over the remains of a spider or bumblebee – hard to tell which. Then the doorbell rang, but there was nobody there – clearly a case of Ding dong ditch. Jaime was all for teaching Amy’s four-year-old brother, Billy, a lesson but the situation proved to be ‘A Rashomon Effect’ so he dismissed the idea because Laura wouldn’t stop nagging.
Another year, another Christmas and a bad start to the day. Jaime paper-cut his lip, as he moved a box aside to hang up the angel-carrying-a-child statue onto the tree, beside the pyramid-like ornament. The evening’s dance party, included an exchange of Christmas gifts. Struggling with a ball of yarn, he glimpsed Billy watching television, engrossed in some documentary about rattlesnakes. Grabbing the paper towels and coins from the countertop, he stowed them away while Laura ironed her skinny jeans, oblivious to him as she sang “Away in a manger…”.
The party was in full swing, then it was time for presents. Jaime received the crossbow he hinted about, while Laine was happy with her miniature camera – her new hobby being a photographer. Laura was thrilled with her necklace.
Glasses full with energy drinks, Laura and Jaime watched Amy and Laine jumping on the trampoline. A broken ceramic bowl lay in the corner of the porch – party aftermath. Laine and friend were dressed in hats and leg warmers of ridiculous colours, playing pirates while her parents cleaned the breadcrumbs. Laura stuck a bit of peanut butter in her mouth, but Jaime stayed clear, as the nuts worsened his asthma. Like a mouse finding cheese, cleaning up was tedious. Here they were, field mice, trying to locate food.
The evening was set aside for the hot air balloon festival, and family photographs. Followed by campfires to sit around, preserved insects to see, clowns and swords. Jaime awaited the sight of Damocles sword while enjoying hot coffee. Lost in thought he dropped the stapler into the bowl of ice-cream that Laura held out for him, sending it crashing onto the floor. His face contorted, twisting, because of the stapler landing on his barefoot. The clatter startled Laine who was watching, “The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition” in the other room.
The festival was more than Laine imagined. Welcomed by a whistling, juggling clown, with the sound of drums in the distance, they past a kid playing a banjo to some animals, amongst them the cutest dog she ever saw. The night was full of wonder, and she was grateful. She sat staring, in awe of her parents as they enjoyed Christmas pie, almost as good as the old family recipe, with apples picked from the town orchard. Life was good.