The following is adapted from a short story I wrote in high school about a million years ago. The story itself was fun but the writing style lacked a certain...sophistication. I've toned down some of the more contrived affectations and revised all the rest.

Oh, right, the important legal stuff—Copyright © 1999 Myles Skinner – All Rights Reserved.

Remotely Possible

Without a doubt, Johnny Raymell was the most unreasonable person in the entire world. Although he was very rude, and very loud, he was also very rich and very powerful, so people often overlooked the more unsavoury aspects of his personality. In his marketing frenzy of trying to offer any imaginable cable service, he had begun with television, later branching into movies and the raymell@home computer network services. The torpor of his sedentary, television-watching lifestyle had pushed him well beyond ordinary laziness. Now, he schemed at a way to put a remote signal on everything known to man: not only home entertainment, but other people, and even the elements.

Johnny's aide, Robert, burst through the door, letting it slam behind him. "Boss, guess what! The boys down in the lab have finally done it!"

Johnny looked up at Robert with undisguised contempt. He found all other people annoying, and Robert especially so. One of these days, thought Johnny, I will shut him off. "Finally done it, have they?" said Johnny. His three double chins (or was the two triple chins?) constricted his throat, making his voice harsh and grating. "I suppose then that congratulations are in order."

Oh, no, thought Robert. Just don't try to shake my hand. Anything but that.

Johnny lifted his bulk from the chair and lumbered across the room, causing the floorboards to groan precariously under each heavy footfall. He extended his hand. Grease dripped from his fingers, collecting on the floor to congeal in a quivering mass of shortening.

Robert began to quiver like, well, like shortening on the floor. He had endured Johnny's handshake before and had not enjoyed the experience. Maybe I can get out of this, he thought. Maybe I could just quit this job, right now. But Robert knew that he lacked the confidence to stand up to his boss. He hesitated briefly, finally cringing and taking the proffered hand.

Johnny was the type of manager that believed that a double-handed shake conveyed authority, and Robert now found himself trapped in just such a two-handed menace. Robert let his arm go limp, so Johnny's vigorous shake had Robert's arm flopping about like a dying fish.

"Come on, my boy, grip, GRIP!" Johnny chortled. "You can do better than that."

Robert did not appreciate the encouragement. First of all, he knew Johnny really did not care. Secondly, he knew he simply couldn't GET a grip—Johnny's hands were just too greasy.

"Fine then, if you won't give me grip, you can just leave," said Johnny, rather petulantly, thought Robert. Happy to be out of there, Robert took the opportunity to leave.

Johnny rolled back to his chair, sitting down heavily. The hydraulics in the chair burst, spilling hydraulic fluid all over the linoleum. I need a phone, thought Johnny. Unfortunately, his old phone was now a useless heap of twisted wires and plastic—he had accidentally sat on it.

A bird flew through the open window and fluttered about the room. Johnny grabbed his television remote, dialed up a code, and pressed the big red button. (Note: these sort of devices always have a large, important-looking button on them, and it is invariably red. Nobody knows why.) The surprised bird was transformed into a telephone. Since telephones can't fly, it dropped, landing in a clattering heap on Johnny's desk.

Johnny regarded the new telephone approvingly. He was set to dial out, but was interrupted by a loud chirping sound, as if from a bird. "Yes? Hello?" said Johnny testily, picking up the receiver. "No, I do not want a free dance lesson!" He slammed the receiver back into its cradle.

Fools, thought Johnny. Dancing was too much like exercise, and people in his position don't need to exercise—they have people to do it for them. He considered this a moment, and decided to send Robert out jogging for him later. Right now, though, all he wanted was a large pizza, piled high, and he wanted it delivered.

The phone began to chirp again. "Yes? Hello?" said Johnny, even more testily than before. He hadn't turned that bird into a phone so that he could answer it all day. That was why he had turned one of his previous phones into a shoe, because he hated answering telephones, and shoes don't ring off the hook all afternoon. "Yes? Hello?" he repeated. The phone continued to chirp. Oh, right, the receiver, pick up the receiver, he thought. Next time I want a hands-free bird.

He picked up the receiver. "Oh, what?" he shouted into the phone. It was yet another one of those telephone solicitors, offering him duct cleaning, or magazine subscriptions, or some other fool thing. Johnny sat back and listened with impatience.

"So, of course, you can see how valuable our product is, so I just know you'll want to go ahead with that," said the voice on the other end of the phone. "And how would I spell your name, sir?"

"Just how it sounds," said Johnny, baiting a trap.

"And how does it sound?"

"Like this!" Johnny yelled, slamming down the receiver. He picked it up quickly before it could chirp again and dialed his favourite number. "Hello, Glutton Pizza? I want a Double Mega-Greed Pizza, extra grease, delivered. Raymell...an address? Raymell Heights...*sigh* R-A-Y-M-E...no, two L's. Don't you know who I am?...just bring it, someone will show them in...fine!" Johnny sat back, satisfied.

He sat back up again, angry with himself. He didn't like feeling satisfied; it left him uneasy, as though he'd missed something important. He sat and fumed at himself delightedly. It's amazing, he reflected, that I can always cheer myself up just by getting really mad at something.

He felt a surge of pride at this and sat back, satisfied.

Presently, there was a knock at the door. "My pizza! Bring it in!"

The door swung open. "Your pizza, Mr. Raymell."

"I said, 'bring it in!' You heard me!"

The pizza delivery boy entered, and dropped the large, cubic pizza box on the desk. He stood there, hand outstretched, waiting. Johnny pounced on the box, scooping out huge double handfuls of melted cheese and stuffing them into his mouth. He looked up at the pizza boy. "You're still here. What are you waiting for?" said Johnny, around a mouthful of grease.

"Money. Double Mega-Greed, extra grease. $54.95, please."

"That's a bit much for a pizza, isn't it?"

"No, not really. You DID order the double."

"Doesn't matter. I don't intend paying anyway."

"But you've already started eating. You have to!"

"I don't have to do anything I don't want to," Johnny whined, his stubby fingers stabbing at the remote. He pointed the remote at the pizza boy, and much as he had with the bird, changed the "channel."

Nobody saw what the change was, however, because Robert chose that moment to rush back into the office. "Boss, I didn't get to tell you before. In the lab. What they did, I mean. They've been at it for months, and they finally got a lawn dart to break the sound barrier."

Johnny found the news mildly intriguing. "A lawn dart? What kind of a sonic boom does that make, I wonder?"

"Well, actually it's more of a sonic sniffle..."

"You're a jerk, Robert. Have I ever told you that?"

"No sir, but thank you, sir."

"Fine. Shut up and pay for my pizza."

Robert fished around for his wallet. "How much was it?"


"Bit much for a pizza, isn't it?"

"Not really. I did order the Double. I'm not paying anyhow—you are. And don't forget the tip. I'm feeling generous."

"Oh, all right," said Robert, reluctantly taking three twenty-dollar bills out of his wallet.

Both Roberts looked around for the pizza boy. "Where'd he go?" they said in unison.

Both Roberts? thought Johnny. Oh, no...I couldn't have...

The Roberts stared at each other, each holding sixty dollars. "I believe this is yours," said Robert, handing the money to Robert.

"Thank you," said Robert to Robert. "Do you need change?"

"No," said Robert. "That's fine; I don't need change."

The transaction was repeated, only this time it was Robert paying Robert, and not (as before) the other way around.

Robert wasn't really bothered by the fact that he was now talking to himself—it was something he did on a regular basis anyway. Why should it bother him?

It bothered Johnny. He reached for his remote, turning one Robert into a tube of toothpaste and the other into an everlasting sand castle.

Just then, the phone chirped. "Do you have nothing better to do? Go die someplace!" shouted Johnny, by way of an answer. The salesperson, undaunted, continued with his pitch. "No," said Johnny, with exaggerated patience, "I do not want to register in a fitness course." He pointed the remote at the phone, pushing buttons more or less at random. In place of the phone was Robert, doing low-impact aerobics on Johnny's desk.

"Aaagh! Will I never be rid of this pest?" Johnny pressed more buttons. There was a 'whump!' of inrushing air as Robert was replaced by a bowl of mixed nuts. "At last, Robert, you've become useful to me," said Johnny, eating the cashews first.

The bowl of nuts began to chirp. "This is getting ridiculous!" Johnny roared. "I am NOT answering a bowl of nuts!" Angrily, he threw the remote across the room. It shattered on impact with the far wall, sending plastic shards and bits of push-buttons all over the room.

With the remote destroyed, some of the changes began to undo themselves. There were now two Roberts on the floor, and a third Robert sitting on the desk, chirping to himself.

"Hello?" said the Robert on the desk. "Hang on, I'll get him. It's for you, boss."

"What's for me?"

"The phone."

"What phone? I don't have a phone any more."

"I am the phone," said Robert in a deep and mysterious voice.

"Robert," said Johnny, "go get me my backup remote."

"Yes, boss." said all three Roberts in chorus.

"Will you get it, or shall I?" said Robert-One to Robert-Two.

"It doesn't matter, since I AM you, after all." said Robert-Two.

"It shouldn't take three to do this," yelled Johnny with impatience. "ONE OF YOU GO GET MY REMOTE!"

"But we are not three," argued Robert-One.

"Yes," Robert-Two agreed. "We are all one."

Robert-Three, still sitting on the desk, remained silent. He was having serious trouble coping with his duplicates. Not only that, but he was experiencing disturbing visions of being able to fly. He stared down at his arms, and wondered about wings.

The other two Roberts left, and returned with the controller. Whether by coincidence or consensus, the original Robert was holding the remote. He turned on his duplicates, turning one back into a phone, and the other back into a tube of toothpaste.

Johnny smiled. "Ah, only one of you—a tolerable number. Give me my remote."

"No! You're always changing me into things; let's see how you like it." And, with the press of a button, Johnny Raymell winked out of existence, much like a television being turned off.

Robert turned the phone back into a bird, and let it out the window. He changed the toothpaste back into a very surprised pizza boy, who immediately bolted from the room. He gingerly placed the remote on the desk. Trouble, he thought. It should be destroyed. (But it got rid of Johnny...) No, it's wrong and I have to get rid of it.

The internal struggle won, Robert took the television remote and vowed to get rid of it. But first, he thought, it shouldn't hurt to just check the weather channel...