Category Archives: Prose

The Ghost of Jack-in-the-Box “Tom” Joad

I’ve read a few comedy skits via National Sketch Writing Month and Susan Sassi, and it’s a lonely Friday night. What is a boy to do? If he’s in the fields, it usually involves drinking cheap beer and acting like an ass. Not the Corvidae, mind you. Oh no. The night is young and I’ve got the tequila out. Reposado, of course, because I’m a classy bird.

Comedy, in general, has always been a pet project for me. It was the way I coped through 18 years of Hell, and who knew razor-tongued kids would shape such a cynical wiseass?

I’ve never intended to do stand up. I have ungodly stage fright. My acting is worse than Vin Diesel’s, but deep down, there’s the funnyman underneath all of that. While examining the Manager’s Specials at my local grocery store, I thought, “why not write a sketch”? What’s the harm in one little, teeny, tiny write up? I feel fine, because I know I’m a hack.



The scene is tense. There are several employees on strike for a living wage. News teams are on the scene to get their story. REPORTER begins his wind up. PROTESTER waits in the background, impatient to tell his story.


Here we have a line of fast food workers protesting for better pay. Some of these folks can claim a heritage in fast food all the way back to Dick and Mack McDonald themselves. Today, they ask more from the companies they’ve made (dare I say it?) a career of. Excuse me, sir? What’s your story?


I come from a long line of fry cooks. Pops was a fry cook. My grandad was a fry cook, and my great-grandad used to peel potatoes in the army. I think that’s close enough. You could say that screwing off in school, making poor financial choices, and lacking motivation runs in our blood. Why would someone want to ruin that tradition? We need to be paid a fair wage to sustain this level of mediocrity!


Your spirit is commendable, sir. I wish you the best of… wait… what’s that?!

From behind the news crew comes a beat up 1926 Hudson Super Six piled high with worn, worldly possessions and 20 fry guys. It sputters, coughs, and wheezes as it comes to a concerning stop. Out steps two people JACK-IN-THE-BOX “TOM” JOAD and GASTROBOY, a four-foot 300 pound, rosacea-laden sidekick.


Whenever a drive-thru operator can’t say “would you like fries with that,” I’ll be there! Whenever there’s a time we can’t super size. I’ll be there! Whenever…


Excuse me? Who are you?!


Me? Oh, yes. Me. I am “Tom” Joad, crusader of fast food workers everywhere! And this… this is Gastroboy! Defender of every American’s right to an extremely unhealthy diet.

GASTROBOY (with food stains on his onesie)



Say, aren’t you Jack from Jack in the Box? You’ve got the pointy nose and everything.


Err… No! I am “Tom” Joad, crusader…


Seriously, man. You’re Jack. I… I’ve got your head on my car antenna.

“TOM” JOAD (fighting a lot of pain)

Mmm… OK! I’M JACK! I’M JACK! ALL RIGHT?! *sobbing*


So, what made you start fighting for a fair wage?


It all happened five years ago. We were in heavy competition with Carl’s Jr. over a new secret sauce. Being arrogant and careless, I added too much horseradish to the batch. I should have listened to Wendy. It exploded, taking out most of the facility and leaving my skin severely irritated.


How does that tie into fair wages?

JACK (pausing)

You know, I may not have thought the whole vigilante story through all the way.

Before Jack could continue, DUCAT GOLDENBANKS shows up on the scene. He is garishly decorated with a golden three-piece suit and money bursting from every pocket.


(Hissing) Your plan will never work, people! I have enough money to buy your family trees. All this does is interrupt my Skype session to order more gold-plated toilets. AHAHAHAAA! What? Who’s this clown? I don’t have any Jack in the Box franchises!


The name’s “Tom.”  Would you like to try a couple quarter pounders?

A bizarre, oafish, comical fist fight breaks out between the two characters. It’s slightly reminiscent of Batman the TV series starring Adam West. JACK blinds DUCAT GOLDENBANKS with cinnamon twists and pins him down with GASTROBOY.


Oh my God! I can’t breath! And when I can, it smells like cheese.


It’s funny you should mention that. GASTROBOY here is lactose intolerant, and I just fed him a shamrock shake. He’s about ready to reenact the battle of the Somme.  That is unless, of course, you give these protesters the money they need to perpetuate their meaningless existence.


OK! OK! You win this time JACK! or “TOM”! Or whoever you are! But you’ll pay dearly for this! DEARLY!

The protesters cheer wildly and start planning on how to spend their new income which include lottery tickets, liquor, and trips to the dollar store.


Did you hear that GASTROBOY? Our job is done here. It’s lunchtime!

GASTROBOY (curls up his pudgy face into a smile)


And so the two heroes ride off into the distance in their ’26 Hudson with 20 fry guys. The scene cuts back to the REPORTER and PROTESTER  trying to take in all that just happened.


Do you think we’ll ever see him again?


Maybe, if customs doesn’t arrest him at the border.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Crime and Punishment?

October 17th, 2017

…or at least I think it’s the 17th. Maybe it is the 18th and I’ve miscounted? Oh, I’ve tried my very best to keep track of how long I’ve been in here. There are calendars available in the dining room, but there are so many different years scattered upon the table. I don’t have much of a reference point; I don’t know when this all started.

The house seemed to be permanently snow bound. I found that I could shimmy out the kitchen window with a little bit of effort. It’s not much of a victory though. I can’t go out much more than a half a mile without losing my sight of the structure. It’s simply a barren wasteland! There are no trees, no houses, nor anything else that would identify civilization within sight. I’m seemingly alone here.

For as remote as the location is, oddly enough I still get amenities. There’s running water, power, and climate control. That’s a nice creature comfort, as the cold burns me instantly the moment I venture out of the house. My refrigerator is always stocked, too. I can only assume it’s by some kind of human intervention, but no matter how hard I look, I don’t find anyone. I’ve scoured this house, too. There has been enough time for me to view the contents of this house in detail. It’s almost as if I were left here to die, but not by conventional methods. It often hurts to think about that. So, I turn my attention to this diary and the books from a bookcase in the living room.

October 30th, 2017

I found a HAM radio in the garage. How I missed it, I’ll never know. I don’t know how to operate one, but what is the harm in trying now? Maybe I could find someone on a frequency that could help me get out of here? My lips trembled at the thought of finding someone. To talk in earnest, to express gratitude, to share in conversation, to delight in the warmth only physical contact could provide all swirled in my head with speed. I couldn’t think straight! Maybe… maybe it would even be someone special? It could even be some dramatic romance I could relive with tears in my old age. The odds were against me, but it made my mind wander.

“Stop it! Stop daydreaming and work!” I told myself. I flicked on the terminal, and grabbed the receiver with force. “Hello? Is anyone there? Can anyone here me? I’m trapped in a house far from anywhere. All I can see is snow. There are no trees and no roads. I don’t know my coordinates. Please! Someone hear me!”

My response was the hiss of static. “Maybe I should try a different band?” I muttered. I moved to another frequency and repeated my distress signal again. There was little improvement. I’m not entirely sure how long I sat there in front of that radio, but it was enough to see the sun set and rise. After the last band was tried for the hundredth time, I gave up. It was all a cruel joke.

July 30th, 2018

It’s funny and sad to see snow in July. I can remember a talking head on television cracking a joke about global warming whenever there was snow in non-winter months. I can’t remember the face anymore, but can certainly remember hearing them. It’s crystal clear. It was a typical morning show with perky hosts you’d like to tag with a rock. Vacant and happy.

Speaking of voices, I thought I heard something the other day while reading a new book. New books spontaneously show up in the bookcase periodically. For the longest time, I thought the shelves were full and that I had read every last volume. On closer inspections, there never ceases to be a time when I would find one or two books I didn’t see there before. If this is from someone else stacking the shelves, I’d certainly love them to slip up and show themselves. They deserve to be punched in the face for what they’re doing.

I had out a copy of The House of the Seven Gables, and was slowing sipping some English breakfast tea when I heard it. It sounded like a whisper at first, and then became more audible as I paid attention. I heard a faint “he’s creepy,” and in reply “yeah, he’s pretty creepy.” Bolting upright, I grabbed the first thing I could lay my hands on. In this case, it was a decorative urn at the base of the bookcase. Slowly, I crept around every corner, every nook and cranny needed to be searched for the source. The living room, kitchen, dining room, garage, bathroom, and bedroom were thoroughly inspected for any sign of life other than my own. I found nothing.

In a fury, I flung the bedroom window open and screamed, “Show yourselves! You cowards! Why are you doing this to me? Why have you left me here?!” I finally collapsed to the bottom of the window in despair. The sill was cold but felt good on my hot forehead. I’m not sure how long I can go on like this. I didn’t want to die, but is there a purpose in living like this?”

Scared out of my wits at not only the audio hallucinations but the contents of such, I cautiously took my seat in the living room and picked the book back up. I was too shaken to read any further though.

December 29th, 2019

The concept of howling wind never hit home until recently. Snow whizzed at lightning speed past the windows, as it was yet another snow storm. They usually come in every two weeks or so. After sitting in front of the living room window for the longest time, the sound came to me. Most of my life it sounded like someone blowing air into my ear. That’s way too high pitched to be a howl. This time it was different and distressed me something awful. It reminded me of the family greyhound. It would howl at 5:00 each morning for its food. I can remember pulling my pillow over my ears to muffle the piercing sound of that dog. It never worked, though. I always got up and fed the loudmouth.

For the here and now, it was an appropriate memory. This place was hungry. It was hungry for me. It was waiting for me to die to share in the spoils of my death. It played with me like a cat does to a spider, and laughs at the anguish it causes. A tear rolled down my cheek at the thought of being the subject of such torment and ridicule.

May ?, 2020

Dammit! I fell asleep while the power went out. I have no idea how long I slept, as I’ve been known to stay in bed for days on end. All of my counting, now useless!

September ?, 2020

A new method of torture was introduced this morning. I awoke to the sight of a black tube pointing straight at my head. I was so startled at the sight of it; I fell out bed with a loud thump. Collecting myself, I moved in for a closer look. It was a turret camera. The noiseless half sphere stared at me with a blinking “rec” light on the side. My face went pale. “How many other cameras are there?!” I said, and without much delay, went running through the house. Sure enough, there was a camera in each room, including the bathroom, all with blinking red lights.

“You’ve got to be joking!” I yelled. “This has gone too far! Show yourselves! Now! Someone’s here, or can hear me! Stop this! You can’t do this! This is horrible! You’re horrible people!” Throwing myself on the bed I rolled up in the sheets. There’s a philosophy that tells people to live in the moment. The moment is now, but am I really living?

August ?, 20??

I could hear a tone in my sleep. It’s the high-pitched sound of silence. There’s no rest and no relief with it present. I think it’s coming from the camera. They all stare back at me expectantly, as if I need to put on a show for them. Entertain them, for chrissake! So, I put on a pair of briefs and hobbled into the garage. It has to be here, somewhere. Aha!

“You like to watch? Well, watch this!” I drew back and smacked the lens in the bathroom. The camera crumbed under the force of my framing hammer.  This energized me, and I ran into the other rooms for a repeat performance. They all had to be destroyed. The vultures! If they didn’t want anything to do with me, why were they doing this? This is torture! This is painful! If that’s all they had within their hearts, then they should genuinely leave me alone.

My satisfaction and vengeance wasn’t to last, as I woke up the next morning to brand new cameras in the same place they were before. It was all for nothing.

?, ?, 20??

Hot tears welled in my eyes. It had come to this? It wasn’t going to change for the next ten, twenty, thirty years. Not that I could tell, at least. I would end up right back here again, only with a different noose. The noose of age and ailment. Humans are such a pitiful, wretched, inexcusable species. Smart enough to see a cell under a microscope, but not smart enough to see the cell they’ve made for the likes of me. With such contempt and broken will I shouted at the rafters. “This is unjustifiable! This is the worst punishment Mankind has ever design to inflict upon humanity. It had no trial. No conviction. Yet it was carried out like a sentence! No contact. No help. No compassion. No clemency from some governor. Simply locks and bars and silence. I curse you all to your own design! I hope you wake up one day trapped in this house! I hope you all find yourself as isolated as you’ve left me! YOU ALL DESERVE NOTHING BETTER!”

Shortly before this all happened, I took the hammer and knock the drywall loose in the ceiling of the bedroom. There I flipped the rope over the exposed beam, and slowly lowered the loop on the other side. It felt so comfortable between my forefinger and thumb that I rubbed it for a few minutes. After the noose was around my neck, I put one foot on the bed and proceed to stand on the table. The air was still. The howling wind had stopped, and for one moment, everything felt peaceful. With the power of my front feet, the rocking motion sent the nightstand backward.


A smooth, hot pink, Hello Kitty laptop was pried open on an economy-sized bed. The sisters of the Beta Delta Beta were gearing up for a Friday night out. Before the night’s festivities, one sister was eager to show her friend an obscure website she found on the Internet.

“This is some kind of art project. I think.” She explained. “From what I’ve seen it’s one guy, and he doesn’t seem to interact with anyone. At least, I never see anyone else in the rooms with him. It has been going on for years. Look!” A woman with the highlighted hair ran her finder down the video index off to the right. “Let’s see what he’s up to tonight.” A few muffled clicks of the laptop brought up the camera service.

Cam 1: Living room


Cam 2: Kitchen


Cam 3: Dining room


“That’s weird.” The woman with the highlights spoke as she was starting to look bad in front of her friend. “This has never happened before. They’ve never been down like this.”

“Maybe he finished the project?” Spoke a brunette.

“Maybe. There are three other cams. It won’t take long to check them out. He must be having technical difficulties today.”

Cam 4: Garage


Cam 5: Bathroom


“That’s a little creepy. Having a cam in the bathroom? You watch him in there?” Switching moods, the brunette became the critic. She was now bored with the whole idea and wanted to go out to a club. Maybe some kind of shaming technique would speed up the process.

“There’s one more cam. Just wait a minute! I want to see what’s going on.”

Cam 6: Bedroom

The video buffered and then snapped into dark hues. “It’s working! See? You need to stop being so impat… *GASP*!” Both women pulled away from the laptop as if the image would pull them in. The battered lamp on the floor still provided some light to the room. The bed had been a sufficient anchor to suspend a darkened figure in the air. As if to sense their presence the shadow slowly turned to the camera. The light was just enough to catch contours of a face and accusing hazel eyes staring directly at the lens.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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A Letter

To Whom I Miss Most Dearly,

I don’t believe we’ve met, but I am your love. Whether by fate or chance, we do not recognize each other in this sea of people. We may have said “hello” in passing, but our minds were cloudy. We may be leagues apart, but carry nagging feelings our presence. We may be chronologically out of place, but know that death will help us in the end.

I wonder if you’re happy. Had you given up on me? By the time you read this, it may very well be so. I could never hold resentment against you. After all, love is disarming, and harming you would be the furthest from my mind. However, know this: I haven’t stopped believing in you. To cease in dreaming would be a tragic loss to both of us.

I imagine you on a beach. Your hair is left to the breeze’s mercy and you’re feeling the change in the sand between waves. The birds strike fondness in your mind and awe dwells in your very being. Your eyes brighten as I approach. You want to tell me of your discoveries of life and location. You know I will always cherish what you say to me, because I know it’s always important.

How would you imagine me? Would I be what you thought? Do you think I’m even real? It does pain me to think of our predicament. If I could bribe an official, take up a goose chase, or gamble with gods, I would do so in a heartbeat just to find you.

For now, take care, be well, and most of all be happy. Do not worry, as someday we will find each other in one form or another. I won’t stop thinking of you and the possibilities that may come.

Most of all, I love you… now and forever.

Yours Always,


© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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