Patrick Somerville

from the April 2011 issue

For thirteen years, Owen Ashworth played music under the name Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Having performed as CFTPA for the last time in December, however, Ashworth is now free to pursue other musical possibilities. We suggested it would also be the perfect time to complete some story openings we sent him, and he obliged.

PROPELLER: A sausage, a mouse, and a bird rented an apartment together in La Jolla, and divided the day’s activities among themselves. The bird spent long hours picking up change off the sidewalk and flying it home; the mouse would don his sailor outfit, bring the money to the store, and buy macaroni and other sundries; and the sausage took care of the cooking. Sometimes the mouse’s girlfriend did the dishes.

One day the bird encountered a nickel maliciously stuck to the sidewalk with chewing gum. “I’m working too hard,” she said to herself, and promptly returned to the apartment. She proposed to her roommates that they trade jobs for a day...

ASHWORTH: The roommates flatly refused. The bird was furious. Borrowing a student I.D. from her friend the sea urchin, the bird spent the better part of her Tuesday evening in the campus library’s computer lab, looking at apartment listings on Craigslist. She found a reasonably priced efficiency studio in Ocean Beach, and got a job as a birdbath attendant in a nearby public park. She found living by herself to be lonely at first, but soon came to appreciate the peace and quiet. She enrolled in an Introduction to French class at a nearby community college, and before she knew it, she was French.

PROPELLER: One afternoon, following a long walk on the beach, Jesus and St. Peter stopped in for a milkshake...

ASHWORTH: After perusing the malt shop’s lengthy menu, St. Peter quietly decided on a caramel fudge milkshake with whipped cream and extra fudge. Jesus ordered his plain. “Just a small, plain milkshake,” he said in a clear, kind voice.

“Make that two,” St. Peter said.

PROPELLER: Two friends made a pact: whoever got rich first would hire the other as his chauffeur. Shortly thereafter, one of them went to Harvard, and the other, while walking along the railroad tracks listening to his headphones, was struck by a train and killed...

ASHWORTH: Simultaneously, the Harvard friend was walking along a different railroad track and was hit by a different train. He died, too. They both went to Heaven and were overjoyed at their unexpected reunion.

They both took free classes at the Harvard Extension School’s Heaven campus and wrote a humorous essay about their terrestrial chauffer pact for the Heaven edition of The Harvard Lampoon. The essay was titled “Bro-uffeurs For (After)Life” and everybody liked it a lot.

PROPELLER: There once was a woman who couldn’t seem to find a nice guy to date. One day, on her way to the bus stop, she lifted a California Poppy to her nose and was surprised to find a very small and very handsome young man reclining therein...

ASHWORTH: She admired his tiny vest & pocket watch, & thought to herself, “what a perfect little gentleman!” The young man smiled at the enormous woman as he retrieved a microscopic tin from his vest pocket. “Would you care for an Altoid, miss?” he asked in a shrill, measured tone.

“It’s funny you should ask,” the young woman replied, pulling a high-powered microscope from her purse, “As a freelance financial consultant, I’ve been known to do a little in-vest-mint analysis.” As the smile dropped from the teensy man’s face, the woman suddenly understood why she couldn’t find a nice guy to date. Ω

Owen Ashworth