(I performed this story at the Houston Liars’ Contest about 6 months ago).
Last Friday I was taking a walk through my neighborhood when I happened to lean against a stop sign.
To my surprise, the sign started tilting, and before I could do anything, it fell into the street.
“You idiot!” a voice cried. “Look what you’ve done.”
I looked around but saw nobody except the cars passing. To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. Should I report it?
“Get me up!” the same voice cried.
“Why did you push me on the ground?”
As strange as that seemed, the voice seemed to come from the stop sign — or a tiny speaker attached to it.
“Get me up! If I get run over by one of these cars, you’re going to get in big trouble!”
The Stop sign was tall and heavy. I lifted the sign and the pole onto the grass, but it was too big and heavy to return to the upright position. The stop sign itself was barely hanging from the bracket.
“Well, aren’t you going to apologize?”
“Sorry,” I said.
“I can’t believe you broke my bracket. You owe me!”
“What do you want from me then?” I asked.
“Well … I hear the new Star Wars movie is out.”
“Rogue One. All the kids are talking about it.”
I didn’t know what to say. “So you want to watch the Star Wars movie?”
“Can’t you just wait until it comes out on DVD?”
“No, it’s always better at the theater.”
Just then a bird came over and landed on the sign sign.
“Stop that!” the sign yelled. “Get him off me please!”
I swung my hand in the general direction, and the bird flew away.
“Stupid birds!” the sign yelled. “They never obey street signs. All they do is flutter around, sing those annoying songs and land on your head when you’re trying to take a nap.”
“Don’t worry; the movie theater is indoors — no birds.”
I felt self-conscious about carrying the stop sign into my car. But once we were driving, that stop sign became a chatterbox.
“Can you turn the radio louder? I love that Lady Gaga! Why don’t you ever clean your windows? Look — Detour ahead!”
My stop sign buddy had an annoying habit of reciting the words on every single sign he noticed. “Speed Limit 35 mph. Hey, there’s no parking there between 4 and 6. Stop! What time does the movie start? Yield. Stupid human drivers.”
We were at the movie theatre. I carried the stop sign to the ticket booth. “One please,” I said.
The teenage worker looked confused. “Sir, are you bringing that inside?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Hey, you forgot to buy me a ticket,” the stop sign said.
“You don’t need one.”
“But that’s not fair! I deserve my own seat.”
“Fine, you want a ticket? I’ll get one. But no more complaining. Two tickets please.”
We entered the movie theater, ignoring the stares from people around me. As I passed the concession stand, I said, “I suppose you expect me to buy you popcorn too.”
“Of course not,” the stop sign said. “Who ever heard of a stop sign eating pop corn?”
The theater was fairly crowded, but there were still good seats. The stop sign, I am sorry to report, kept bugging me with questions.
“Which one is Darth Vader? Who is that guy? Is this supposed to be the best episode? Why are there no stop signs on that planet?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe they don’t like stop signs.”
“Barbarism! No wonder the Imperial Force is beating them.”
At the end the audience applauded, and the stop sign rattled a bit too.
As I brought him to the car, the stop sign said, “What’s next?”
“What do you mean, ‘What’s next?’ I fulfilled my end of the bargain, so I’m bringing you back to the intersection.”
“But it’s early.”
“I didn’t want to bring this up, but as a talking sign sign, I do have some special abilities. If you agree to be my chaperone for the rest of the day, I have the power to grant you 3 wishes.”
I thought about it a moment and said, “Ok, what would you like to do?”
“I’d like to see a game.”
“What kind of game? Like a game at a stadium?”
“Let’s just go to a park or something where we can watch people play basketball or volleyball.”
“Fine,” I said.
We went driving to a nearby park, and the stop sign says, “I’ve heard a lot about this thing called Bowling. Also, the people are always talking about Frappucinos. Can you find one for me?”
“Branson — is that close to here?”
“Not at all.”
“Hey, yield!” the stop sign shouted.
“Yes, sir,” I said. “By the way, my name is not “Hey.” It’s Robert.”
“Robert?” the stop sign repeated. “I guess you want to know my name too.”
“What is it?”
“It’s Stoppy McStoperson.”
“No, just kidding. My name is “Fleetwood Mac.” Like the 70s rock band. Really, that’s my name. What can I say? I’m a product of the 70s. My parents call me Fleet. Oh, stop there! Stop! Stop!”
“What is it?”
“That stop sign we just passed — she’s a knockout! Did you see her angles? They’re a perfect 45 degrees.”
“They all look the same to me,” I said.
“You have to turn around and introduce us.”
“Ok,” I said, parking the car. I carried Fleet to the stop sign at the corner. Immediately Fleet starts conversing with her.
“Comment se va?”
“Are you speaking French?” I asked.
Then he whispers, “Hey, Robert, I think we’re really hitting it off. Maybe you could bring her along to the park?”
“Even if I wanted to,” I said, “I don’t have tools to remove the sign.”
“At least can you tilt me over so that our corners can touch?”
I move the sign over until one of his corners touches with one of hers. I hear giggling and random bursts of “Je ‘t’aime.” “Tu es belle.” …“Tu me manques.”
“Time to go,” I said.
We find a park two blocks away. The basketball courts are empty, but I see a small baseball game played by boys who looked like they were in 7th or 8th grade.
“That looks like a good game,” Fleet says.
“Sure,” I say, carrying the sign over to the field.
At first the boys pay no attention, but it doesn’t take long for one of them to notice me there.
“What are you doing with the stop sign?” the boy asked.
“Long story,” I said.
The stop sign peppered me with questions. “Why are you out after 3 strikes? What happens if the catcher doesn’t catch the ball? Why do they call that guy the short stop? He doesn’t look like a real stop sign to me — and he’s very tall.”
Finally, the stop sign said, “Maybe you can ask them if I can play too.”
“You gotta be kidding me.”
“They have the home plate — they let him play. Why can’t I take his place?”
“Home plates have to be a certain size,” I explain. “Plus, you’re red!”
“Oh, sure, bring that up again! People are always discriminating because of your color. Can’t you just ask them? And remember, if you can’t persuade them, don’t expect to get your 3 wishes.”
Now, I’ll be honest with you. I wasn’t entirely confident that this stop sign had the power to grant wishes. I gave it a 50% chance. But I had already figured out my three wishes. One involved a new home. The other involved solving climate change. The third involved a weekend getaway in the Canary Islands with movie star Uma Thuman.
I called out to the teenagers.
“I got a strange proposition, ” I said. “If you’d play baseball and use this stop sign for home plate, I’d give you –” I opened my wallet, “One hundred — and sixty — dollars.”
All of them look quizzically at me. Finally the pitcher says, “Is this some kind of YouTube prank?”
“No, it’s legit… The money is yours — it’s easy money.”
The pitcher calls a huddle. Finally, the pitcher turns to me and asks, “Can you pay us in advance?”
“Play ball then.”
I put Fleet down where home plate is supposed to be and watch them play. Before the pitcher starts his windup, I hear, “Hey, Batter, hey batter batter, Swing.”
Either I’m the only one who hears Fleet’s chattering or the rest of the players were ignoring him on purpose.
One team got a batter on third. The score was tied, so everybody was on their guard.
“Stay alive outfielders!” Fleet yelled. “Easy Out, easy out.”
The next batter hit a fly ball into center field. The outfielder caught it, but noticed that the runner was rounding third and charging to home. The catcher stood guarding home plate with the ferocity of a bulldog. The outfielder hurled the ball, but it was too high! The catcher could not reach it, and the runner rushed to touch home plate.
But then the stop sign stood upright and started running – at first randomly and then in the general direction of first base. For a while, the runner was confused, but as the catcher tried to tag him out, the runner realized that he still needed to touch home plate for the score to count.
So he ran after Fleet, and so did the catcher and pretty much the whole team. Then I realized something. If this stop sign got away, I wouldn’t get my wishes. I wouldn’t get my dream vacation with Uma Thurman.
“Stop!” I called out. “What are you doing?”
But Fleet paid no attention.
“Fleet! Stop! Come back!”
Fleet paused for a moment, then announced melodramatically, “All of you guys look at me and say, he’s just a stop sign, but I’m different from all of you!
“I Don’t Stop Thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’s be better than before.
Yesterday’s gone, yesterdays gone.”
After that dramatic speech, he dashed away, probably in search of a Frappuccino. And I never got those 3 wishes!