Super Shorts

A tiny poem…for your listening pleasure

The ant hills were a bit flattened by the time I thought to snap a photo.

AND….

a piece of “micro-fiction” from a prompt about an idea lighting on the mind like a butterfly… for the Peninsula Writers Group spring newsletter. This is a little different from my usual style…

Cecil and Eileen Go Camping

The idea fluttered by, and by again, finally lighting on her mind for a nano-second, before fluttering off once again. The second time, the spark at the synapse was a  stronger blip. This time she could see the butterfly for a micro-second. It was an Eastern Black Swallowtail. Eileen had trained her intuitive mind to show her a specific series of butterflies when a new idea was forming. There was nothing she could do about it but wait, until the Red Admiral and Painted Lady had come and gone. When the Mourning Cloak showed up, the idea was ready for daylight.

 

“That’s crazy!” Cecil said, his lips split in a wide grin. “I’ll help.”

 

***

 

Eileen emerged naked from the tent, followed by Cecil, in the same condition, for moral support. He turned, reached back into the tent opening, and pulled out a paint brush and the jar of bait.

 

Eileen’s breathing quickened a little as Cecil opened the jar, and then more as he dipped his brush and started painting her.

 

The buzz of giant wasps could be heard from afar. Eileen’s breathing steadied. The wasps arrived. Eileen opened her arms and welcomed the sting. Soon the nightly pains would be over. The kindness of the anesthetic paralyzer acted quickly. The atoms which had combined their essences to be Eileen would soon disperse into millions of wasp larvae, some of whom would become bird shit, and others of whom would wing their way around the world.

 

Cecil didn’t know if Eileen could still hear him, but he stayed, and played his guitar for her. He sang her songs. He watched over her, until the larvae hatched, ten days later. Then he drove down the highway, to home.

 

A new story

“The river of cake batter was a nuisance,”        Officer Blando grumbled sarcastically to           himself.”

He continued mumbling as he drove away from the house, shaking his head. He knew that the river of lava was well beyond being a nuisance. It was an outright danger, and those new immigrants just didn’t understand that they needed to obey the evacuation order pronto. They thought they were far enough away from the molten rock. Akamenabar had told Officer Blando that they’d leave the following day. His family was still working on cleaning up the river of cake batter.

***************************

Commentary: This came from two sets of prompts. On March 3, 2017, we had “nuisance, river, cake.” I usually don’t do the homework for my writing group. Most of they are retired and have more time. But that day I felt smug, as I had immediately written “The river of cake batter was a nuisance.” There the sentence stood, in its loneliness, on March 22, the next time I could attend, when the prompt was a photo of a lava flow. When I read the story, one of the listeners said she saw The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That’s what I like about creative writing. It’s a new story in every reader’s mind.

Interestingly, coincidentally, NPR’s RadioLab episode for today, April 2, 2017, is about translation. The first piece is about a writer who ended up with a 700 page book that resulted from multiple translations of a 28 line poem, that had only 3 syllables per line. Check it out. https://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/745884

Something Silly: Cataboolie, the Unicorn Hunter

From some fun writing prompts at Mid Michigan Word Gatherers!

a unicorn hunter, a planet inhabited entirely by cats, a glitter gun, and “strange times at the cupcake pagoda”

Chapter 1: The Unicorn Hunter of Catatanga

Catatanga orbited Star X-teen 43, as it had since the birth of the multiverse, or at least as long as any of its cats could remember. The great mountain, Catmandu, towered over its base on the smallest of the five continents which pierced the surface of the smooth, green sea of Catatanga.

“Today!” Cataboolie told herself. “Today.” That was the only word Cataboolie needed. Indeed, using any other word would dilute the strength of her incantation. And Cataboolie had more self control than to do that.

She strapped her holster on, and slid the new device into the pocket. She looked out the sky light, and nodded, satisfied, at the complete darkness. She turned, and opened the door to the tunnel out of her lair, and started out toward Base G of Catmandu, her silent paws bringing her ever closer to the unicorn camp. Her skin tingled as she thought of the honors she would receive as she led the Unicorn through the streets of Tangatown.

Cataboolie found the rock she had scouted at the  last dark of the moon, and slipped behind it. She steadied her breath, pulled out the glitter gun, and peeked around the rock to see the circle of prancing unicorns. “Beautiful invaders,” she thought, then quietly saying, aloud this time, “Today,” she jumped out from behind the rock and sprayed the circle of white and yellow unicorns with green glitter.

“Success!” she called. This was the cats’ price for the unicorns’ settling on Catatanga. The ritual completed, Cataboolie mounted the glittering being and urged him back toward the city.

Chapter 2: Strange Times at the Cupcake Pagoda

Business went on as usual at the post card pavilion. Briskly. Catapoochi made sure of that. His photography skills were far superior to those of the other cats of Catatanga. His network of outlets gave him economies of scale that his competitors could not even dream of achieving. Now, the Annual Festival of Uncertainty had arrived. It was the biggest event of the cats’ year, and Catapoochi had every intention of using the opportunity to build up his retirement nest-egg.

Likewise, Catakowie of the sausage pavilion was doing a brisk trade. The aromas of spicy mustard and fresh hot rolls mingled with that of the meat to attract yet more customers. Tangablu had his nephew out in front of the beach paraphernalia stand, demonstrating the latest styles of sunglasses  and umbrellas. The Temple of Catachristus had a long line of devotees waiting to pray their respects.

Catapoochie looked at his pocket watch. Time to head back and make sure that Junior was keeping up with the customers. One last place to check along the way: The Cupcake Pagoda.

Catapoochi stopped and stared, along with those being pushed out of the way, as the Cupcake Pagoda expanded and bright lights flashed along the edges of both roofs. The pagoda floated off the ground. The last customers were being pushed off the floor, which was now several meters above the ground. Fortunately, the unlucky customers were encased in transparent foam bubbles, so they bounced gently as they landed on the hard planet. “Indeed!” thought Catapoochi. “Strange times at the Cupcake Pagoda!”

Good thing he had his new camera. There weren’t many who’d be able to compete with him for this postcard. Catapoochi clicked one last shot, and rushed back to relieve Junior, so his son, too, could see the miracle of the Cupcake Pagoda, with his own eyes, before it left the atmosphere of Catatanga, perhaps for good.

Happy Holidays!

 

Murderer’s Lament

The water opened in front of me. Ripples at the edge of the lake transitioned into sun-speckled wavelets. I bent down to feel the coolness, and brought my cupped hands to my face.

A small silver dart exited the brown forest of underwater plants. Pink  granite and grey feldspar protruded from the sand, carrying memories of their faraway origins.

I lifted my head. A wall of late-summer-green leaves edged the far shore, framing the emptiness of the water’s surface. A few cottages, white, turquoise, lilac and pink, punctuated the living barrier. I silently thanked the houses’ inhabitants for their contribution to what would become my lasting vision of tranquility.

It had been years since I had seen so clearly. The memory of this last moment of quiet freedom has played over and over again in the cinema of my mind, as I knew it would, long after the small fish forgot all about the looming shadow that briefly darkened its way.

Wrong about Worms!

The worm, surprised by the sudden appearance of daylight, quickly retreated into its tunnel.

“Do worms have eyes?” asked Danny.

“Hmm, good question. I don’t think so.”

“Either did I. Maybe they can sense light though. Or maybe it simply felt the air move. Or maybe it was resting against the bottom of the flower pot when you picked it up.”

I had recruited Danny to help me clean up the yard, his young skeleton being more flexible than mine, and his muscles stronger.

“It’s hard to say what a worm knows!” Danny pointed out.

“Well, it’s easy to find some verbiage about worms. But saying something meaningful and truthful requires mental wrestling,” I reminded my young neighbor.

Worms do not have vertebrae!” retorted Danny. “That did not require too much wrestling.”

I nodded, happy to hear this entity of tender years producing such a pithy aphorism, and replied to him.

“We do have vertebrae, but we are still subject to the winds of fate. Our vertebrae help us stand straight, but we can’t avoid making some wrong turns in life.”

“Yeah,” mumbled Danny. “I’m still calculating the worth of that last explosion of wrath I indulged in.”

My eyes involuntarily sought the exit to the wormhole. I knew the feeling. We had met in the advanced anger management class. Our warped personalities were both on the mend. We were cultivating our minds. Tired of having to wriggle away from the complicated conditions we had created for ourselves, we were learning new habits. We were learning how to un-braid the strands of our troubled lives. We were learning to unwrap the layers of weird circumstances that had trapped us in inner turmoil. We were learning that prose is preferable to fists. Versatility is what we can learn from the worm.

Your face is wreathed in smiles,” noted Danny.

“Versatility is what we can learn from the worm,” I cheerfully replied.

“Right!” said Danny. No damn vertebrae to get in the way.”

MUSE

Our homework assignment in writing group was to randomly pick a word from the dictionary and write something about it or with it. I usually don’t do the homework. Most of the others in the group are retired and have more time. This time, I was inspired to write something though, but “WREATHE” (the verb) just did not give me much to go on. So I turned to the “Indo-European Root” dictionary at the back of the American Heritage Dictionary that I got a few years back. Word origins are very interesting. I read and underlined the entire Indo-European and Semetic root word appendices when the book arrived.

“Wreathe” comes from the root word “wer” of which there are three unrelated versions. (They’d sound different in the original Indo-European language, but all are represented as “wer” in modern American English. Wreathe comes from “wer” #2.) This version of “wer” has to do with turning and wrapping. It’s amazing how so few root words have generated so many individual expressions of nuance in the last 5000 years or so.

The highlighted words are all derivatives from “wer” #2. Of course some of the derivations in this dictionary are (IMHO) wrong. It’s tough work and the professionals tend sometimes to ignore the obvious in favor of the obscure. Sovereign, for example, (meaning self rule) obviously comes from whatever roots generated “swa” (self) and “raj” (as in “raja, king, also like reign!) but they have a different take.

 

Super Flash Fiction

Before the end of the news broadcast, Sophia sat calmly on the couch. She rolled the tent peg loosely in her hand. As the anchor started to sign off, Sophia’s glazed eyes regained focus. “I warned him,” she thought. The meticulously detailed plan sprang into life before her.

Her grip tightened on the tent peg.

“The death will be gruesome,” she told her pet goldfish.

“After this, they will allow knives again,” Goldie answered.

THE END

 

I combined prompts from two writing exercises: “murder by tent peg,” and “before, after.” The rest of my writings from this morning were, as we say, “the compost from which the beautiful flowers of our writing might bloom.” This idea of being willing to write “compost” comes from famous writing guru Natalie Goldberg.

Change of Color

Another little flash fiction piece… The prompt at the writing group was “In August.”

In August, you changed your colors. It seemed like an insignificant change. But we should have known better. All your life, at least as long as you’ve worked here, it’s been turquoise, teal or cyan. Colors that did not even have names for most of humanity’s existence. You were a modern person, through and through. The rest of us could not even distinguish between turquoise, teal and cyan, but you would stomp your foot if we used the wrong adjective.

Anyway, after twenty-nine years of shades of blue-green, you showed up one morning in yellow. We were so shocked, we held ourselves silent. The next day, it was orange. Then tan. This patternless pattern went on for a month. Where you got the money for all the new clothes, even the nosiest gossips couldn’t fathom.

Then, yesterday, you walked in with a firetruck red dress. Alarms went off in all of our minds.

Always silent about your inner world, the color changes should have told us something, but we could only ask ourselves how, instead of why.

Now, you are gone. We miss you. We realize we never knew you as anything but an enigma.
Eventually, we’ll have to find something new to talk about at the water cooler.

Behind Falling In Love

Based on another prompt from my writing group…

I wasn’t planning on this. Falling in love with you was the last thing I wanted. Because I know our time will have to come to an end. Yet here I am, begging you not to turn the page.

Time marches on at its own pace. You are not in love with me. It’s just the name you came up with to describe the cloud of reactions to hormonal releases during the exciting events we recently experienced together.

You sound like a Buddhist.

Well that’s because the Buddhists have the most practical advice for getting over doomed or failed romances. Remind yourself that I am nothing but skin and bones, flesh and blood, urine and fecal matter, hair and fat.

That’s BS. Even the Buddhists know we have an immortal essence.

Exactly my point. But that’s not what you fell in love with. You fell in love with the experience of the effects of the hormones. It’s time to turn the page.

The emotionally entangled state is the natural one for humans. That’s why we evolved all the complex hormones that give us these sacred experiences.

No. The hormones were evolved in earlier mammals. I have come to understand that only by liberating myself from those outdated entanglements can I be free for the next exciting adventure!

 

 

 

 

Yes, Kalenko?

Brenda was tired of saying she was sorry. Her captor was unrelenting, and she’d had enough. Starting today, she would no longer apologize for something she did not do.

“Brenda, you lazy slug! The floor is covered with footprints!” shouted Kalenko.

Brenda held her breath. She was not going to apologize, even when Kalenko had evidence on his side. This was a new day. She let out the stale air, and drew in fresh. What would Kalenko do?

“Brenda! Get over here now!”

Brenda turned away from the kitchen counter to see the alleged footprints in the foyer, the origin of Kalenko’s shouts. She knew that she had mopped all the floors earlier that day, and she felt the power of self control rising in her chest.

“Yes, Kalenko?” she asked, in her sweetest voice.

He pointed to a pattern of muddy cat paw prints.

“I’ll clean it up, right away.”

“You do that,” he grunted, and walked up the stairs.

Brenda smiled. She had met her goal. She had not apologized!

She was sorry. Sorry for a lot of things. She was sorry the neighbor’s cat had smudged her clean floor. She was sorry Kalenko had her trapped here in this isolated place. She was sorry she had disobeyed her parents, and gone out alone for a walk. She was sorry every day she woke up that the inequalities in the social structure led some people to take such dreadful actions as kidnapping. Yes, she was sorry. But that didn’t mean she had to apologize. And in this case, she wasn’t going to give anyone an excuse to think she was apologizing by even admitting she was sorry!

She felt stronger now that she had beaten down her fear. Maybe, in a few more weeks, her parents would find a way to rescue her. Of course Kalenko would never give them a clue about where she was being held, until he was sure they were bringing the ransom money. There’d be plenty of sorrow to go around. As for apologies, the ones who were really responsible were unlikely to be admitting it any time soon.