Flying Hamburger Away!

Swooping down to save the day

If your bicycle is taken

He will save with cheese and bacon

Bad guys throw their guns and flee

When they see buns of sesame

No one ever questions why

This big hamburger can fly

And no one dare call it tatty

This amazing floating patty

Flying Hamburger must go

But it will come back, this I know


Oona Phlegming did not look down. Her super spy training at Hush Hush Intelligence Academy for Ladies had taught her how to defuse a time bomb with Snozzberry Smoke eyeliner, how to negotiate ductwork in a bridesmaid uniform and never to ever, ever look down when hanging from a great height.

While tailing Fred Herring’s flying cell phone kiosk over enemy waters, she had been fired upon and forced to eject from her flying pint container of New York style potato salad. Now she was tangled at the top of a tree in the jungles of Parmistan, open to any manner of attackers. Snipers. Vipers. Navy Seals. Navy Blazers. Green Berets. Raspberry Berets. Assassins, muggers, white collar criminals, pirates, Vikings, killer sharks, killer bees, killer Boris Karloffs, paparazzi, vampires, mosquitoes, really tall men with pointy, pointy sticks and the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Suddenly, a twig snapped. A bird chirped. A gorilla nodded knowingly. A frog pretended she was a lawyer. And a stargazer lily continued to smell good. Oona Phlegming, throwing caution to the wind like a dandelion being thrown to the quickly moving air, did something that ran counter to all of her training and all of her instincts. She looked down.

It turned out she was hanging barely three feet from the ground. And, crouching behind a nearby zebra was Fred Herring, grasping the elusive and dangerous Emoti-swoom bomb. The bomb itself was designed to release the mysterious and devastatingly depressing Serum Sincerum, said to saddlepate the brainpan of anyone unluckily exposed to it. The Serum Sincerum’s origins were unknown. Scientists had carbon-dated the satchel it had been found in to fifteen kazillion years into the future. The satchel had been snatchelled from its hidey hole in the Library of Kong-Rest, on Skull Island. Fred Herring had been photographed at the scene, and Oona Phlegming dispatched sparingly to retrieve the Serum.

The Serum Sincerum’s powers were not to be trifled, or truffled, but terrifyled. It was purported to be made of the milk of belittled goats, the juice of neglected grapes, the sap from emotionally scarred birch trees and the tears of unhappy musicians from Ireland and Omaha, Nebraska. One minor spill could cause an entire continent to curl up into a ball and weep uncontrollably for a century. But the Emoti-swoom bomb would release toxic levels of the Serum, bumming out the entire galaxy at once, like a simultaneous visit to Aunt Francine’s. Oona Phlegming could not let this happen. She reached for her turkey baster, which was a laser machine gun in disguise. But as she was about to unsheathe it from her ankle, it slipped from her fingers, hit the ground and fired, dislodging Oona from the branches.

Untangling herself from her parachute, Oona Phlegming could hear the nasal cackle of Fred Herring. “Hoist by your own potato salad,” he said. “It is to cackle.”

“Stuff your cackles, Herring, and hand over the Emoti-swoom bomb, by order of the Sylvanian Prime Meringuery!” Oona shouted, as she finally freed herself from herself. But Fred Herring was gone. The only thing remaining behind the zebra, besides the fine Parmistanian jungle, was the Emoti-swoom bomb. Too late, Oona Phlegming realized the bomb was counting down milliseconds until-




Way out past the sun, and the moon and the Earth,

Several blocks down from the Milky Way

Was a planet with very unique occupants

Who decided to visit one day.

Now these weren’t your little green men from Mars,

Or twelve-tentacled Saturn dwellers.

They had a much more familiar physique

Especially to frankfurter sellers.

Yes these beings were shaped like hot dogs

Long tubes of meat surrounded in buns.

But they had one beady eye and a mouth filled with teeth

And four arms armed with ray guns.

They traveled to Earth to dumb down the planet

Their rays caused our brains some regressin’

But nobody noticed or batted an eye

When they invaded Saul’s Delicatessen.

“Put up your hands, Earthling, or taste of my wrath,”

Said the leader to one deli patron.

“I ordered you with mustard relish and onion,”

Said Charlie, thus sealing his fatron.

The flash of the laser was tiny and subtle,

But it pierced right through Charlie’s brain.

And it dropped his IQ to sub-mental levels

Which for Charlie was about the same.

“Citizens of Earth!” the lead hot dog announced,

“We’re here to take over your world!”

And he ordered his men to raise up their flag

Which two space wieners then unfurled.

Their flag was a picture of the planet Earth

With a humanoid hot dog atop it.

It certainly seemed these frank’s plan was fool-proof.

There was only one man who could stop it.

They called him Fat Hank, due to excessive girth,

Not your average villain defeater.

But for this task Fat Hank was especially right,

As he was a World Champion Eater.

Yes, he’d devoured pizzas in mere milliseconds,

Scarfed down pulled pork pulled straight from the hog.

But his real claim to fame and his legendary skill

Was his rapid consumption of hot dogs.

“You messed with the wrong guy,” Fat Hank growled

As he hoist himself up from the back stool.

“I’ve fried bigger fish than the likes of you folk.

You ain’t gonna win this duel.”

“You dare challenge your new leader, earthling of mass,”

The lead hot dog said, aiming his gun for.

“One more word from your overly active maw,

And believe me, sir, you will be done for.”

Fat Hank snorted, which the lead hot dog took as a threat

Approaching him as the others followed.

“You dare question my pow-wha?!” he started

His threat undercut by the fact he was swallowed.

The others, alarmed that their fearless leader

Had been so easily beaten

Were no match for Fat Hank and try as they might

Within seconds all of them were eaten.

The enemy thwarted, the delicatessen erupted

As everyone cheered.

Which Fat Hank waved off. “I don’t need your praise,

But I could go for a cold root beer.”


Eugene Spratt had been warned. Several times, in fact. But while Eugene was a model student (if a little boastful), a dutiful son and an exemplary superhero, when it came to food he lost control of his senses. Eugene had an insatiable appetite and could not help himself from consuming any and all food set in front of him, or anywhere near him. It was, in fact, how he gained his squash super powers. But while that yielded positive results, this situation was pure evil.
It had begun innocently enough. A new bakery had opened in the only slightly conspicuous location of the middle of the woods a block from the Spratt home. No one knew where it came from; no one recalled builders or movers. It just appeared out of nowhere. Eugene was first to discover it, early one summer morning. He had been dreaming about vanquishing foes and smooching girls, when the most delicious aroma crept in his bedroom window. It was pie. Cherry pie- no, raspberry pie. Or was it strawberry rhubarb pie? Eugene’s Super Squash Sniffer was stymied. What kind of pie did he smell and whence had it come? He dressed, brushed teeth and polished his silver spectacles, and followed his nose.
The bakery was a small brick storefront, between two poplar trees. Light gray paving stones led the way to the dark wood door. Bake Shoppe was stenciled on the front glass window, which was still shaded, even though the little black sign hanging from it declared OPEN in bold red letters. There was only one window letting in light, and it was at the edge of the storefront. Eugene entered, finding three pies cooling on the front counter, next to a glass display holding a variety of cookies, bars and cupcakes. “So, that’s it,” Eugene said. “It was cherry, raspberry and strawberry rhubarb. No wonder my Squash Super Sniffer was so stymied.”
“Ah! A customer!” a voice from the back room said, in a thick accent that reminded Eugene of the old Dracula movies. An elderly woman entered, all dressed in black. Black robes wrapped around her short, ample frame and a black babushka was tied around her perfectly round head. Her nose was craggy and populated by stubbly black hairs. One eye was foggy and perpetually gazing to her left, while the other appeared all black and pierced you to your soul. She was such an upsetting sight, it was almost enough to put Eugene off his appetite. Almost.
“Good eeevening!” she said, baring her yellow teeth.
“It’s six AM,” Eugene said.
“Ah, yes, forgiving me, I am new to your country and the, how you say, time zone is still a little confused of me.” She cackled, sounding like she was passing a small woodland creature through her esophagus. “But I am digressing. Welcome! You, little boy, have the honor of being first customer. This is very prestidigous, and earns of you all of which you can eat except. So, please! Be in with the diggings!”
Eugene jumped for joy. “You mean I can really eat all I want?”
“All you can eat except, little boy. And bottomless coffee besides.”
“All you can eat except? Except what?”
“Ah, the old woman said, scratching the prominent wart on her chin. “You may eat anything in the store, excepting of that cake.” She pointed a bony finger over Eugene’s shoulder. He turned. On a marble pedestal, under glass, was a triple tier white cake. It was frosted with little red laces along the bottom of each tier. Apart from the fact that it was set aside from all the other baked goods, in the shadows, there didn’t appear to be anything special about the cake.
Eugene desperately wanted to eat it.
The old woman cleared her throat, apparently attempting to dislodge the woodland creature. “Now, little boy, I must be making of the goodies, yes? You eat all you want EXCEPT the cake, yes?” Eugene nodded, hypnotized by the illicit cake. “YES?” the woman repeated, more forcefully. Eugene started.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Thank you, Miss… what was your name again?” He turned to ask, but she had disappeared. Eugene decided to dig in, grabbing a plate and fork and slicing himself a piece of raspberry pie. It was a pretty poor raspberry pie. Though it appeared fresh baked, the crust was tough and stale and the raspberries tasted off. He tried a chocolate chip cookie. It was worse! Burnt on the bottom, underdone on the top. How could one even do that? He spat the cookie out into a napkin and tossed the rest.
He was on his way out the door, afraid to try anything else, when a voice asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to try me?” Eugene jumped. A cursory glance around the shop showed no one else there. He thought perhaps the old woman had returned, as the voice sounded similar to hers, but deeper. Definitely a masculine voice.
“I must be hearing things,” he said and continued to the door.
“You are not hearing things, my boy. Except my voice, that is,” the voice said. Eugene spun around. This time, he found the source of the voice. It was the cake. “As I said, you should try me, don’t you think?”
“I was told I couldn’t,” Eugene said.
“A mere technicality,” the cake countered. “You signed no contract, made no blood oath. And believe me, I am much more delicious than any other food here, if I say so myself.” The cake had a point. Eugene hadn’t signed any agreement stipulating he wouldn’t eat the cake. Besides, it looked delicious. What harm could it do to just taste it? He’d never tried talking cake before. He carefully removed the glass case.
Immediately, the cake leapt from the pedestal, sprouting bat-like wings of cake and frosting. It dove for Eugene’s neck. The second tier lifted to reveal a set of sharp fangs. The cake hissed. Eugene, thinking quickly, shot a vine at a nearby stool and knocked the cake off course. “What in the name of Jacques Pepin is that?” it said.
“You picked the wrong chubby kid to attack, you-you… what are you?”
“I am a vampire cake, or cakepire. What’s your excuse?”
“I am the Squash! Defeater of Evil! And you will taste my wrath, evil cake!” The Squash, his feet conforming to their bulbous squash shape, swung at the cakepire, who barely flew out of his way. Eugene smashed into a wastebasket. The cakepire cackled, swooping down to Eugene’s neck. Eugene rolled out of the way just in time, leaving the cakepire to chomp on air.
“Curse you, squashboy! I will eat you yet!” the cakepire shouted.
“It’s the Squash, not squashboy, vampcake,” Eugene said.
“It’s cakepire! Get it right, my future meal,” the cakepire hissed. “Stand still, boy, and accept your fate as a vampire pastry.” Vampire pastry, Eugene, thought, that’s it!
“All right, come and get me, if you can,” he said, standing and staring the cakepire directly in the top tier. “I dare you.”
The cakepire cackled, crumbs falling from its makeshift mouth. It flew straight at Eugene, fangs bared. Eugene did not move. “Prepare for comestible eternity!” it shouted as it swooped in for the kill. Eugene ducked, shooting a vine at the blind covering the front window. The blind rattled upward, bathing the bake shop in the morning sun. The cakepire let out a high-pitched squeal and disintegrated into crumbs.
From the back room, the old woman came running. “You did it! You killed the cakepire! My master is dead! I am finally being freed from his flour thumb, to live of my own lives!” She grabbed Eugene’s head and laid a big wet smoocheroonie on his brow.
“It was my pleasure,” Eugene said, inching away from the old woman.
“Now, I can pursue my truthful passion, living out of my dreams as a, how you say, ESL instructor. Thank you, little boy! Thank you!” She planted more and more kisses on his forehead. Eugene squirmed away, nodding and smiling. Back home, a fresh pot of coffee would be brewing right about now. And he could get the taste of that cookie out of his mouth.
The next morning, out of curiosity, Eugene wandered back to the spot in the woods where the bakery had been. It was gone. No sign was left that it had ever been nestled between the poplars. Aside from a lone chocolate chip cookie, laying on the ground, untouched by man or beast.


One morning, Greg Sampson awoke to discover he’d been transformed into a ginormous cheeseburger. “What a catastrophe,” he thought. “I can’t be a cheeseburger, my parents will kill me!” But he was, in fact a cheeseburger, with a ground beef patty, melted cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup and mustard, all sandwiched between a sesame seed bun. There was no doubt about it.
He thought hard about what could have caused this cheeseburgical transmogrification. He hadn’t consumed any chemically altered foods or been cursed by a mystical vagrant, at least that he was aware of. It was a mystery. And an inconvenient one at that. Greg planned on running away, and had a packed suitcase under his bed. He’d dreamt of flying away the night before. Now, who knew how he’d get out of there?
He considered his new form in the mirror above his bureau. It reflected back a cheeseburger the size of a monster truck’s tire. “Weird,” he said, for it was. Even weirder was the fact that, when Greg had said ‘weird’, the top bun of the ginormous cheeseburger flipped up and out came his voice, deeper than normal. “I can talk,” he said, and the bun flipped up again. A large pickle flailed up and down when he spoke. Greg presumed this was now his tongue. No wonder there was a sour taste in his mouth.
There were three sharp raps at his door. “Get up, boy, time’s a wasting. No more laying about, you layabout,” his father Frank yelled.
“Uh, in a minute, Dad,” Greg said. What now? How would his parents react to his cheeseburgification? Would they flip their parental lids? Would he be sold to a fast food chain as a living mascot? Would they freeze him and feed off him from now until Lent? Greg’s parents already didn’t approve of him in human form. They often remarked that God gave them a son as opposed to something useful, like a tax return or hot water heater.
“What’s the matter with you, boy? You sound different. Beefy, even,” Frank said. “You’re not ill, are you? I won’t stand for illness in my house. Did you get beefy overnight?” Greg stumbled for a response. He was used to stumbling, being what his friends, family and teachers charitably called a klutz and a clod. This is why he played no sports, entered no academic clubs and generally kept to himself. His greatest asset was being invisible, which his recent meatamorphosis hindered greatly. As did the fact his father was about to enter his room.
“Dad! Don’t come in!” Greg yelled, but it was too late. Frank caught a glimpse of his cheeseburgated son and gasped, eyes practically propelling from their sockets.
“Guh-Guh-Greg?” he managed to stammer. “Is that you, my boy?” Greg attempted to nod, then realized he had no head or neck, and said yes. “What-how-why-when-who… Wife!” Frank shouted. Greg’s mother Nadine ran into the room, her hair still in curlers. Curlers she wouldn’t have needed once she saw her son.
“Land a Goshen!” she exclaimed, slapping her hand to her face in shock. “Where did you get that ginormous cheeseburger?”
“It’s-it’s…” Frank attempted.
“It’s me, Mom. It’s your son. I’m the ginormous cheeseburger.” Nadine goggled, as did Frank. “I don’t know how it happened,” Greg continued, “last night everything was perfectly plain, then this morning…” Greg meant to gesture to himself, but without limbs this was impossible.
“Enough insolence, change yourself back, boy, post-haste,” Frank said, regaining his composure.
“I don’t know how,” Greg said.
“Don’t talk back to me, son!” His father huffed.
“But it’s true, how am I supposed to turn back into a boy when I don’t know how I turned into a ginormous cheeseburger?” Greg asked.
“Frank, we may be overlooking something,” Nadine said. “What if our prayers have finally been answered?”
“I don’t think so, Francine, we’re both still irretrievably ugly,” Frank said, which was true of the warthog-esque duo.
“Not that prayer!” Nadine yelled, slapping her husband. “The one about the boy!”
“You’re right,” Frank said, grinning mischievously and steepling his fingers as he did when thinking up a particularly gruesome punishment. “The question is, how do we take advantage of the situation?”
“I’ll call our accountant, he’ll know what to do. Raspberries!” she exclaimed. “I think I lost my phone.” Greg sighed in relief. He knew the day would come when his parents would sell him for beans or find some other means of exploiting his admittedly limited talents. Now that this extraordinary cheeseburgening had occurred, Greg had something to contribute to the world. The trouble was he’d much prefer to keep to himself.
“I have it!” Frank cried. “We’ll create a shrine and charge admission for all to see the Ginormous Cheeseburger Boy. We’ll make millions! It’ll be like that giant umbrella, only we’ll make people pay to see it.” Frank was referring to the Crusoe Umbrella, a large statue by Claes Oldenburg in downtown Des Moines, which Greg loved and his parents hated and constantly complained about. They thought it was a humongous green monstrosity, and didn’t understand how an umbrella with four triangular holes at the top would keep you dry. It reminded Greg of Christmas tree branches, for some reason.
“Genius,” Nadine said. “Let’s get started right away.” They both grabbed an end of Greg and lifted him from the bed. Since he was so large, they had to turn him on his side and roll him out the door, through the hallway and into their weed-laden front yard. Finally, they dropped him unceremoniously in the center of the driveway.
“I envision a gazebo, with a velvet rope and- hey!” A ginormous hawk swooped down and snatched the Gregburger in its huge talons, lifting him into the sky, up, up and away to who-knows-where. Greg’s parents watched as the ginormous cheeseburger disappeared over the horizon.
“Oh, well,” Nadine said. “At least we’re rid of him. Let’s rent his room.”


The other day I had a craving for my most favorite of desserts, a root beer float. I love a root beer float, the combination of the bubbly and sharp flavor of the root beer with the smooth and creamy vanilla ice cream is just perfect. But I can never get them to taste as perfect as I picture in my mind’s taste buds. So, I’m constantly experimenting with the ingredients, adding butterscotch (too sticky) or peppermint (too overpowering) and one time I even added cinnamon toast (crumb catastrophe!) So, this time I got to thinking: what makes a root beer float so special? And then it hit me: the float! But what makes a good float? And then it hit me again: helium! So, I added a dollop of helium to my mug of root beer and generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Big mistake.

After I added the helium from the helium tank I borrowed from the balloon animal artist who lives next door, I returned the tank right away (like a good neighbor) and when I came back to drink my latest concoction, it was gone! At first, I figured foul play was involved, a thief must have snuck in and stolen it, then sold it to a pawn shop. Frustrated at my misfortune, I looked up to the heavens, and there it was, about fifteen feet and rising. It looked as if it might stop there, but then a wind blew through and took my root beer float with it.

Luckily, I knew just what to do. My good friend Buck is an expert at rope tricks, and he lived just down the street, so I ran down to his house. Sure enough, he was practicing lasso technique on his kitten Chester, who was cooperating but clearly none too pleased by it. “Buck, you have to help me!” I cried. “My root beer float is floating away!” I pointed to where it was drifting lazily above his front yard.

“No prob, pardner,” he drawled to me. “Watch this.” With that, he twirled his lasso faster and faster behind his head, and just as it appeared it would twirl no faster, he aimed it directly at the root beer float and let go. It almost worked- but not quite. The wind from the lasso pushed the float further upward and the rope fell empty to the ground. “Sorry, pal,” Buck said sheepishly, embarrassed his lasso had failed him. I told him thanks anyway and smiled, but on the inside I was sad, and angry at the float for escaping its fate. But I didn’t have time to be angry for long, as the float flew further away down the street. I thanked Buck again and raced after it.

As luck would have it, the root beer float stopped just outside of the Fire Station, where my good friend Sylvia the Fire Lady was enjoying an egg-salad sandwich. “Sylvia!” I shouted. “Look above you!” She stopped eating and looked up, went back to eating, stopped, and looked up once more, incredulous.

“How did your root beer float get all the way up there?” she asked. I explained how I had added helium and that it had worked too well. She placed her egg-salad sandwich in her pocket and ran inside the Fire Station. A moment later, she backed out, driving a fire truck with a big ladder attached. She hopped out of the truck and went around to the side, where the ladder controls were located. She pressed a few buttons and pulled a lever and the ladder lifted upwards into the sky. During this time, my root beer float had been sitting stationary in the sky, like it was on a slightly wobbly invisible table. Sylvia began climbing the ladder slowly, being careful not to fall, or to let her egg-salad sandwich fall from her pocket. It looked like this was going to work! She was almost to the top rung of the ladder when she hesitated, scrunching up her face and placing a finger under her nose. Then, she practically exploded with an enormous sneeze, that rang through the streets and set off a few car alarms, and unfortunately rocketed the root beer float even further down the street and far from her grasp.

“Bless you,” I said, though I was disappointed in losing my root beer float once more, it was no excuse not to be polite. She thanked me and apologized for not being able to help (it turned out she was allergic to heights,) and slowly climbed down the ladder, pausing partway for a few bites of egg-salad sandwich. I thanked her for trying and ran down the street chasing my root beer float.

I was almost at my wit’s end when my luck finally turned around. At this point, I was almost ten blocks from my house, and my root beer float had flown into the park. I ran in after it, and that’s when it began to slowly descend. “The helium must be wearing off!” I said to myself. Sure enough, it continued to drop until, just in front McMinton Pond, it landed safely on the ground. Gratefully, I rushed to it and took a big, long drink. It was perfect! I had never had a better root beer float in my life. But was it the helium? Or had the atmosphere added some extra flavor to it? I don’t know for certain, but I think it had something to do with racing down the street after it. I finished the root beer float while sitting by McMinton Pond, but not right away. I took my time, enjoying the taste.

The next time I make a root beer float, I’m going to add helium again and race it down the street. It just tastes better that way.