I was headed toward a burrito, and my path took me across a bleak section of the city's south side — several blocks of chain stores, parking lots, and a few run-down or out-of-business shops. Crossing diagonally through a cracked and potholed parking lot, with syringes and busted bottles and weeds growing through the asphalt, a scream pierced the mid-morning air.

June 17, 2022

It wasn't a scream of terror, it was a word, "Why!" A statement, not a question, but a statement screamed.

This wasn't someone yelling. Yelling ain't screaming, and these were screams. The sound wasn't merely loud, it had scratches and rubble, elements of broken concrete, barbed wire, maybe blood. These were screams that would damage anyone's throat. Make that sound at that volume over and over, you're not going to have a normal speaking voice again, not for a long time, so I don't think anyone screams like that without really meaning it.

Even in the city, where you learn to ignore the most horrid things, I couldn't completely ignore a scream so loud, so pained, so I turned toward the sound. "Why!" the voice screamed again.

I wanted to know who was screaming "Why!", and why. Maybe, possibly I even wanted to help. Sometimes an empty-souled old man gets tired of seeing the squalor, hearing the cries. Was there anything I could do, that I'd be willing to do?

Well, I was willing to look around, see if I could spot the screamer. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but littered parking lots, traffic on the streets, old buildings and a new Popeye's, but nobody in obvious agony. Then, another scream.

Someone standing at the other end of a vast parking lot had stopped, and seemed to be doing what I was doing — looking for the source of the screams. Me and the other looker, looking around, found each other from a block's distance. He raised his hands, palms up, mystified like me. I mimicked the gesture, and the other man turned and walked away.

I thought about walking away, too. I'd come for the burrito, still two blocks off, not to do a damned good deed or something. Then came another long scream, and after a brief pause, a flurry of quick screams, "Why! Why! Why! Why! Why!" followed by another long cry of "Why!"

My half-ass diagnosis of an anonymous scream, was that these sounded like someone in mental pain, not physical. There's nothing I could do about either kind of scream, though. What could I offer? A frickin' hug? A five-dollar bill, like I'd be bribing him to shut up? I couldn't even call 9-1-1, as I didn't have a phone with me.

The nightmarish sound continued, and I continued doing nothing, just standing there, listening and looking around and wondering what to do, and wondering why I was wondering instead of walking away.

Way, way in the distance, a man was standing slouched, between two old buildings on the other end of the block. I couldn't make out his face or any detail, but exhaustion was unmistakable in his stance. Then there came another scream and I watched it as I heard it — the man stood straight for a moment, tilted back, another "Why!" sounded, and then he slouched again.

Mystery sort of solved. There's the screamer. No doubt about it, but why he was screaming? And why he was screaming "Why!"?

I'd never know without asking. Should I ask? Should I approach an unknown man in misery, and try to speak with him? A better man might've, and I'm trying to be a better man, and they weren't gonna make my burrito until I showed up and ordered it, so WTF, I took a dozen steps toward the screamer.

Then I paused to see if he'd noticed, if he'd react. If I didn't like his reaction, well, I'm fat but I can run, and the Popeye's was open. My plan was, that's where I'd go for safety if I needed to, even if it meant buying some of their shitty chicken.

It didn't come to thank, thankfully. The screamer had been watching me walk toward him, and as I looked at him he looked at me and screamed again, but this time he screamed, "No!" with absolute terror in his voice.

He was still standing, still watching me, so I gave him the same palms-up the other guy had given me, and I backed away, then walked away (at an angle, so I could keep an eye on the guy). His screaming had stopped, and he didn't want to talk about it. Understood.

He walked away, too, turned a corner behind a building, as I walked onward in the other direction, to pursue that burrito.

The burrito was disappointing, of course. Every burrito in Seattle is disappointing. It's the city specialty. There are plenty of Mexicans here, but if any of them are running a good taqueria it's not on the south side.

I'd mentioned my ongoing burrito disappointment to my flatmate Robert, and he'd promised that this particular place was authentic, and all their food was fantastic. I won't name the place, because they don't need a kick in the butt from me.

It's a taqueria, yeah, and nothing's wrong with it. I liked the decor, especially the Mexi-plaid tablecloths and some weird 3D art on the walls. The counter help was polite, the price was expensive but so's everything in the world, and there was a language barrier so it was certainly authentic. In a countertop display they offered "Free Gospel Tracts," which has to be better than gospel tracts you pay for.

But the burrito? Same as the restaurant, there was nothing wrong with it, and it was what my flatmate said, what the restaurant's sign said — a California-style burrito. It just wasn't particularly good.

If you want a good California-style burrito in Seattle, you gotta go to California.

The landlord is a cheap bastard, and there's a sign inside the house reminding us to turn off the lights when lights aren't needed. Everybody obeys the signs, and it was after sunset, the kitchen was empty, so it was dark.

I came in with a sack of groceries, mostly canned veggies and soups. The light switch is on the wrong side of the kitchen, so I didn't bother with it. I walked across the darkness toward a black shelf, where I was going to drop my sack of cans, to unload and put 'em away.

I was about to let go and enjoy the thud of dropping ten pounds or so onto the shelf, when I very barely noticed the hint of a shadow of something on the shelf. Instead of dropping the sack, I reached my hand into the shadow — would it be a jacket, a package, a trick of the darkness? My hand touched something soft, and I heard purring.

It was my flatmate L's cat, Midnight. An appropriate name; she's all black. And she's not skittish like my cat — Midnight wouldn't hide, wouldn't even move until the cans came crashing down on her. Black cat. Black shelf. Black kitchen.

I'd come one second from killing Midnight, or at least hurting her badly, and damn it, I like that cat, so screw the landlord's sign. After putting away my grocs, I clicked the little light on, over the stove, and left it on.

25 watts is a fair compromise — cheap on the electricity, but no blindness, and no dead cats.

And now, the news you need, whether you know it or not… 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

US prison workers produce $11bn worth of goods and services a year for pittance 

That's disgusting, but perfectly legal. It's what America's leadership wanted, when they wrote the disgusting 13th Amendment:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Slavery remains perfectly legal in this country. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Teslas running Autopilot involved in 273 crashes reported since last year 

Was the world crying out for cars that could drive themselves? It's always seemed like science-fiction to me, and stupid sci-fi. We're so far from the tech needed for machines to safely drive cars, and cars are not long for this world anyway — either cars will be extinct or humanity will be, long before self-driving cars are feasible.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I remember eating at automats, and enjoying it, but I was a kid. Look at all those happy customers, but the food would be awful, wouldn't it? Hard to feel too nostalgic for a ham sandwich made two days ago.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

It's the 50th anniversary of Roxy Music's first album, and to celebrate, today I learned that Roxy Music isn't a nightclub.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Geico STD story is the new McDonald's Hot Coffee story 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Here are the people publishing fascist, Nazi, white nationalist garbage with Amazon’s help. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

10 times America helped overthrow a foreign government 

♦ ♦ ♦   

Assange extradition approved by UK government 

♦ ♦ ♦

Man who took part in Capitol riot was given tour of building by Republican on January 5 

♦ ♦ ♦   

Deep Throat at 50 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...

♦ ♦ ♦

The End
Charles Kernaghan
Ingram Marshall
Paula Rego 

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...


  1. Automats : I never saw one, as far as I know. But that sort of thing is very popular in Japan. They tend to be perhaps more diligent in restocking the items, from what I see when I watch the YouTube content about them. Also, they have much, much more advanced vending machine technology now, that can combine ingredients, and almost cook a fully fresh dish.

    1. I'd try it if it's cheap, and come back if it's cheap and good.

  2. There's a "gourmet cupcake" shop called Sprinkles that has an automat outside of it. But nobody would pay attention to an "automat" so they call it a "cupcake ATM" and it is highly instagramable for the kind of people who eat gourmet cupcakes.

    1. Ever tried 'em?

      I'm not the kind of person who eats gourmet cupcakes, so I snicker at the term "cupcake ATM." Maybe they're good, but I betcha they're expensive, and for me expensive overrules good.

    2. I did go. My takeaway is that a "gourmet cupcake" is basically a cupcake pretending to be something else. Sometimes it's cake envy: cupcakes as red velvet cake, and that feels a little sad. But you will never convince me to have a hot fudge sundae cupcake in lieu of the real thing. I don't doubt their powers of cute and twee, but no cupcake can manage that kind of dessert wizardry.

      The time I went there was actually in the first days of the lockdowns. This chain tried to stay open as an "essential food service." Seniors were standing around with big reusable bags to stuff full of $5 and $10 cupcakes.

    3. > $5 and $10 cupcakes

      Oh, my -- are you suggesting that an individual cupcake could cost $5 or $10? For that price I'd expect/demand a sack of cupcakes.

      You've been there so I guess this won't be a rhetorical question -- is any cupcake forth $5?

      "Gourmet cupcake" or the made-up word "cupcakery" are indications of a shop can't buy from, behind a door they'd rather I didn't walk through.

  3. >Oh, my -- are you suggesting that an individual cupcake could cost $5 or $10? For that price I'd expect/demand a sack of cupcakes.

    Shit, man, when I was still married, Shawna and her sister dragged me to a six-dollar cupcake place, musta been 12 years ago at least. Virginia also, but more recently, took me to a $5.00 cupcake food truck in fucking Lancaster PA.

    They were very good, but six bucks will buy a lot of junk food that's equally good.

    1. Jeez, man. $6 for *one* damned cupcake feels like an invitation to violence.

      There's an overpriced and undergood taco truck usually parked between my house and the library, a truck that's disappointed me several times, and for $6 they'll sell me *two* unimpressive burritos. They suck, but at least they're not a rip-off.


🚨🚨 If you have problems posting a comment, please click here for help. 🚨🚨