Thursday, 31 May 2012

I can do THIS with my thumb

This is the text (more or less) of a speech I gave last night at Toastmasters. 

It was an ordinary day.  I woke up late with a massive hangover, dashed to work, ducked into the ladies to tidy my hair and found my comb was missing.

Now, there are two things about that morning - one strange and one annoying.

The strange thing was that I had a hangover.  True, I had been at a works party the previous night – old Professor Farnsworth’s leaving do - but I was sure I'd only drunk lemon and lime all night.  My memories were strangely hazy though.

The annoying thing was that my comb was missing.  I was annoyed about that because I hate losing things generally and it had been a gift from an old friend.

Anyway, it couldn’t be helped, so I smoothed my hair as best I could, and got on with my day.

This was my first job.  I was a lab assistant at the prestigious Wissenschaftler Institute for Genetic Research, not far from here.

Then a few days later, my supervisor told me to take Professor Wissenshaftler his afternoon tea.  This was exciting and scary as I hadn’t met him before.
I knocked politely, entered and set down the tray.  As I did so, I noticed something sticking out from a pile of papers on his desk.

My Comb!

He’d.  Got.  My.  Comb.

I wanted to ask him about it, but I was very young, very nervous and he was a very intimating figure –a sort of dyspeptic Albert Einstein with the kind of hairstyle you get by sticking your fingers in a plug socket.

So I didn’t dare.

I decided to wait until everyone had gone home and then get it back. 
Eventually the time came. I peeped out and sure enough all was deserted, dark and silent.  I crept to the professor’s office.  Luckily, it wasn’t locked and I was soon once more in possession of my precious comb.

I turned and hurried back out.

It could have been the dark, it could have been my unfamiliarity with the place or even my giddy euphoria at getting the comb back, but I must have gone through the wrong door from the office because I now found myself in a different lab entirely.

I turned round to retrace my steps, but the door had clicked shut  behind me and for some reason didn’t open from this side.

In the dimness, I could just make out a door and window at the other end of the room.  I hurried over.  In case it was a dead end I risked a quick peep through the window to see what lay beyond.

And nearly fell over backwards when a pale face suddenly appeared on the other side of the glass.

I gasped in shock!

It wasn’t just a face it, was MY face!

Then I laughed.  The “window” was obviously a mirror, of course.  It’s your own reflection, idiot! I told myself.  Phew!

When my “reflection” started banging on the glass and shouting Get me out of here, I almost fainted.  I rushed to the door and unbolted it. 

My double emerged.

She really was just like me.  If you’re born a twin you’re probably used to seeing your double, but suddenly to become a twin is eerie to say the least.

She really was my double - even wearing the same green scrubs that we were obliged to wear in the lab. 

We had just a few moments to ponder this before all of sudden the lights came on.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” came an angry voice from the doorway behind me.  It was professor W, and he had a gun pointed at us.

“I got lost,“ I said lamely.

 “Well now you have to die!”

“What?” I cried, “I was just getting my comb back.  Can’t you just give me a written warning or something?”

“No, you have discovered my illegal secret human cloning experiment”.  He readied the gun.

“Wish I’d not bothered about that blasted comb now.” I said.

“What?” he said.

“The comb I bet you stole from me to get my DNA – I saw it on your desk and was just trying to get it back.”

“You imbecile!”  he laughed.  “I didn’t take your comb, you dropped it at Farnsworth’s leaving do, I kept meaning to give it back to you.”


“Besides, I needed more than a few stupid hairs.  I drugged your drinks at the leaving party, took the samples I needed then popped you back into bed at your house, none the wiser.  Now stick out your right thumbs!”

“Why?” we cried in unison.

“Because I only need the original one of you to continue the experiment and I can spot the clone by the extra thumb joint I gave it.”

“But you must know which is which,” I said, “I’m the original, the one that’s been living out in the world, she’s the clone, surely!”

“Not necessarily,” said the prof.  “I had a few drinkies at that party myself and can’t remember which of you I kept and which I took back home.  The clone has an extra thumb joint.  Now stick em out!”

We extended our trembling thumbs and he looked at them for a moment before raising the gun.

I snatched up a nearby Bunsen burner and hurled it at his head as he fired.
The shot went wild and smashed into a bunch of chemical jars which promptly exploded.  There was a blinding flash and a thunderous roar.  I felt myself flung across the room and everything went black.

I woke up in hospital with concussion and no major injuries other than a crushed right hand.  A concret beam had fallen on it apparently.  The surgeons fixed it up almost perfectly – apart from the thumb.

They said the explosion at the lab was a gas leak and even though the ruins were carefully searched, no trace of the professor or my twin was ever found.

So, am I the original me – with a broken thumb?

Or am I a clone – complete with the professor’s modification?

Even I’m not sure now.

All I can say is:

I can do THIS with my thumb.

(reveal strangely bendy thumb)


This is my actual thumb and it does bend back in an odd way.  It does this because as a child I used to make a kind of bridge with my hand on the table and lean my head on it when reading.  Over the years of pressing down, the joint acquired a larger range of movement.   

That's not as interesting though. 

What all this does demonstrate I think, is that you can make a story out of just about anything.

Monday, 21 May 2012

A Little Optimism

Not to try and be too diabetes-inducingly sweet or anything, but it strikes me that cats are a lot happier than people most of the time. 

Jus' sayin'.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


This came out of nowhere this morning.


The thought of leaving here,
Leaving you,
Leaving this life,
Rolls around my head.

Like a brand-new gob-stopper.
It holds the promise of long sweetness.
It has not yet lost its bright colour.
But it’s still too big to swallow.

Maybe I’ll just suck on it for a while.
Feel it click against my teeth,
And when it’s small enough.
It’ll go down easy.

Not sure what our American friends call gob-stoppers.  They're a big ball of hard candy you suck on, they change colour as you suck.  They have a kind of aniseed-y flavour, usually.