Too Hot To Handle (Weekly Writing Challenge)

The Weekly Writing Challenge wanted us to keep it real. Sur-real. Challenge accepted. Surreal I can do.

“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.” -E. E. Cummings

**********

“See where that tractor is pulling off? Follow him down that road.”

“Good grief, Nathan. You really do live out here.”

“Well now you can see why I didn’t want to take the bus. Thanks for carpooling.”

“Hey man, if you’re setting all this up, least I can do is give you a ride.” Grant found his gaze slide back to his rearview mirror once more. He knew that there was a certain patch near the back of his head that liked to stand up and wave to the crowd. The more Grant tried to push it down and make it obey the pattern of the other hairs, the more likely it was to come back for a command performance. For the moment, the patch seemed to be keeping a low profile.

Grant’s had been a long one and he wasn’t done yet. First off there had been the staff meeting to discuss how they might achieve greater success and team cohesiveness in the workplace. Grant did not think that being a call-center rep really needed any cohesiveness or even a dab of Elmer’s Glue. However, he had been strongly encouraged to attend. If the first three memos stating the “voluntary” nature of the meeting had not motivated Grant, the personal invites by all four of his supervisors had done the trick. Especially when his immediate boss had asked, with eyebrow raised and a dangerous tone, “We’ll see you tomorrow, right?” Freedom to attend had no felt so menacing.

Afterwards, he had worked his eight hour shift. And the customers had been an extra kind of crazy that day. Grant could not believe, in this day and age, that he still had to convince a woman that her CD-drive was not a cup-holder, and that is why it had snapped off when she had put her latte in and the drink had spilled all over her computer and keyboard.

Who even has CD-drives anymore? Grant shook his head at the memory. A Blu-ray-drive works for everyone, but c’mon, at least get a DVD-drive. Yikes. I wonder if she has all her photos saved on floppy disc. Grant knew that on his last day he would probably talk each customer through “accidentally” reformatting their hard drives.

Grant looked out the window at the pastures that lined the road and shook his head. Cows. When was the last time I saw cows? And they’re everywhere. The only thing that had made his day, and this surprisingly long commute, worthwhile was the promise of a date. Nathan had assured him this gal would show him a hot time.

“Sizzling, man. Sunga knows things you wouldn’t believe. You’ll love her.” Since Grant’s dating life was in the midst of quite the cold spell, he agreed. What did he have to lose?

“Hey, Nathan”, Grant said as he drove by a fertilizer dealer. “Why didn’t you introduce me to Sunga before?”

“Oh, well I thought you were dating Annette”, Nathan replied. Nathan was leaning as far back as the car seat would go. Staring at the car ceiling, Grant couldn’t help but envy his coworker. He always seemed a little calmer with customers than Grant. Nathan had the answers and Grant hadn’t even figured out the questions. Grant had a lovely wife and two kids. He owned a house. Even with the salt and pepper hair that dotted his temples, he still acted young. At six foot nothing and broad shouldered, Nathan was always “that guy”. He was the guy who would crush all comers at recycling can basketball. He was the employee that actually offered useful insights in meetings. The man had his act together and it gave him a confidence that both annoyed and amazed Grant.

“Annette? Who’s Annette?” Grant tried to crane his neck backwards, but he couldn’t get a good view. He would have to hope that his nostril hairs were trim and decent. Grant wasn’t unattractive, but he was no Nathan. Grant was two inches shorter and twenty pounds heavier. His blonde hair was thicker and fuller than Grant’s brunette tresses, but that only left more ways for it to flop around and generally act unkempt. Thanks to long years of programming and sitting in front of a computer, Grant’s wrists and knuckles were wrecked. Almost every gesture or move that his hands made was accompanied by the sound of joints popping and cracking. Grant had parts of his life together, but there was certainly some assembly left.

“You know, Annette. Accounts receivable? Really nerdy?” Nathan started tapping out a rhythm on his jeans as his hands slid and slapped on his jeans.

“That Annette?” The one with the chart detailing all the Star Trek boats on her wall?”

“Ships, Grant. They’re called ships.”

Nathan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Isn’t she the one that taped big blue construction paper to her office tardisdoor until the higher-ups made her take it down?”

“Yep”, Nathan said with a smile. “The woman wanted to live in a Tardis and The Man shot her down. It was a problem even a sonic screwdriver couldn’t fix.”

Grant shook his head. “Why would you think I was dating her? I barely talk to her.”

“Well, you always open the door for her. And I see you in her office quite a bit.”

“That’s because she’s always carrying too many papers and can’t reach the door. C’mon, I’m not that big of a jerk.”

“Uh huh. And the office visits?” Nathan smiled in his own sly way as he pressed.

“Dude, her account got hacked because she opened that e-mail a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get her computer up and running again so we won’t lose any billing information.”

“Wait”, Nathan said as he sat the car seat upright. She opened the ‘FREE RABITZ’ e-mail? The one with like, four attachments on it?”

“Yep, she was the one.”

“Dear word”, Nathan said as he went back to tapping his beat. “I really thought she was smarter than that.”

“This is the point I am trying to make. And I can’t imagine Annette and I being happy with a gaggle of bunnies pit-pattering around our place.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll like Sunga. She’s amazing, fascinating, and exotic. Oh, and they’re a colony. Also known as a nest, or my personal favorite, a warren.”

“What?”

“Turn left up here. A ‘gaggle’ of rabbits? They’re called a warren.”

“How do you know this stuff?” Grant flipped his turn signal and headed down the dirt road.

“I read. My wife tells me things. The usual. We’re the house at the very end of the block. Watch out for the tar pits over there.”

Grant and Nathan were flung forward as the car jolted to a stop.

“Grant! What the… why’d you slam on the brakes.”

“Tar pits?!?”Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

“Oh, that’s right; you haven’t been to my place. Sorry. Yeah, we’ve lost a few tires to the tar pits. A few cars and bikes too. But hey, we never have to shovel the drive.” Nathan smiled, the terrain being quirky and amusing to him.

“Tar pits. Explain.” As if to emphasize his point, Grant put the emergency brake on.

Nathan sighed and turned to the driver. “Okay, here’s the thing. We’re right above this weird geothermal zone. That’s why there are tar pits on the way. And, I might as well tell you this now, the floor of my house is made of lava.”

“I’m starting to think you belong with Annette.”

“No, you’ll see”, Nathan said with a chuckle. “That’s the only reason we were able to afford this place. I admit, it took some getting used to. Right away, we knew we’d never be able to have pets. I mean, c’mon; one misstep and those furry little suckers would get all their fur singed in the lava. That’s just cruel; we couldn’t do that to a cat. And the fumes have this effect on birds. I guess it’s like canaries in the coal mines? I don’t know, but those things pass out and don’t snap out of it. But the four of us are happy by ourselves.”

“Wait, you’re not kidding. Your floor is made of lava?”

“I know, I know”, Nathan said as he waved off the shock with a gesture of his hand. “It all sounds so insane. But dude, think about the benefits. I don’t have a heating bill. Zilch. And since it is always warm, we can keep the windows propped open. That takes care of most of the fumes. You know I’m a strong believer that kids are pampered. A toxic fume here or there will build character.”

“Hey, book guy”, Grant said as he smacked Nathan on the back of the head. “What part of ‘toxic’ is not sinking in?”

“Oh, it’s fine. Just in the ‘caution’ range, not quite in the ‘hazard area’. We got it checked.”

“Well if you’re propping windows open all over the house, how do you keep burglars out?”

“Why is that always the first question people ask?” Nathan sighed. “I’ve talked about this with Alyssa time and again. People don’t want to know how the geothermal conditions powers our electronics. They don’t want to see the cool glass studio we have out in the garage where she sculpts her art. Nope, they want to know how we keep out robbers and thieves.”

“And?”

Nathan shook his head ever so slightly. “Think about it, Grant. You’re sneaking into the house. It’s late. Sure the floor looks funny, but people pick weird carpets. So you lift one leg in through the window. The smell starts to make your nose twitch, but you continue. All is quiet. Other than the glow coming from the floor, it’s nice and dark. You swing your legs in, stand on the floor, and Wammo! All of a sudden your shoes start melting. You try to make it out in time, but then it goes after your socks, makes quick work of them, and it starts to get to your feet. You’re outta there like a shot and you aren’t coming back. I’m just glad the judge found in favor of us. For guys that make their living operating outside the law, thieves can be awfully litigious. Did you know that?”

“No”, Grant said as he tried to reclaim his bearings. “Apparently I’m learning a lot today.”

“It’s good for you.”

“Wait, how do you keep from burning? Your books, your couches, do you just float around on this constant bed of coals and magma?”

“Lava, technically.”

“What?”

“Lava is above ground, magma is underground. At least, that’s the short answer.”

“Nathan, you’re killing me here.”

“I know, but what a way to go!” Nathan had spread his arms wide but soon realized his friend didn’t share his enthusiasm. “Okay, look. The short answer is we use lots of Nomex and iridium. Lava has a pretty set temperature in our place. So we reinforce all our walls and the ground around the house with iridium and we’re happy campers. The constant flow of lava and the geothermal energy powers the array of fans we have all over; you’ll see.”

“If you’ve got it all figured out, then why is there a lake of lava in your living room!” Grant could hear his voice crack, but did not care.

“You know, that’s a question Sunga still hasn’t answered to our satisfaction. We kinda just let it go.”

“Hold on”, Grant said as he turned off the car. “What does Sunga have to do with this? What is she, some sort of Volcanologist?”

“Hmm? Oh, no she’s our neighbor.”

Grant felt a sense of dread take over. “Your neighbor who lives… where?”

“Underground”, Nathan said calmly, but with a faint trace of hesitation.untitled

“Underground. Of course, because she’s what, Lava Lass?”

“Actually, she refers to herself as a Keeper of the Crust.”

“So she’s a custodian of lava?”

“Well, I’m not sure her underlings would call her that but—.”

“Underlings? She’s, their queen?”

“No”, Nathan said with some irritation. “I told you, Keeper of the Crust. C’mon, Grant, catch up. Yeah, she’s royalty, but she’s above all that.”

“Okay, you’re setting me up with royalty. Great. How am I not going to die when I set foot insider your house!?!”

“We have iridium shoes for you, duh.”

“Where are you getting all these materials?”

“Well, Sunga helped us out. She really made the home more livable. She likes us, and wants us to stay, so she really goes out of our way to make our lives easier. She’s introduced us to lots of folks in the meteorite community. That’s how we can afford all that iridium. I’m telling you man, she’s great. Smart, wise, funny. You’ll love her. Just, y’know, keep your car keys and wallet in your pocket at all times. Five seconds after you drop anything and it’s not coming back. Alyssa loves not having to vacuum, though.”

“So when you said Sunga was hot…”

“Oh, she is”, Nathan said excitedly. “You’ll love her, I know it. She’s smart, inventive, and hilarious. Nobody works harder to take care of others than she does. She’s like Mother Teresa of the underworld. Hmm. Bad choice of words. Of the netherworld? Shoot, what did she call her realm? I’ll have to ask. It’s a much better title. Ugh, Alyssa always has to remind me.”

“But Sunga, she’s not like a Tolkein dwarf or anything? No Quasimodo hump on her back?”

“No no, she looks stunning. Think a gal from a tropic with a few differences”, Nathan said waving his hand once more.

“So, the tan to beat all others?”

“Well yeah”, Nathan admitted. “I’m not going to lie to you; all those decades around magma have made her skin a bit leathery. But man, she’s got a soft spirit. Don’t you worry.”

The car was quiet. Nathan looked to Grant, opened his mouth, and then changed his mind.

If there was one thing Grant had learned from years of fielding phone calls, it was how to read silence. He looked at Nathan. Nathan wouldn’t meet his eyes. Grant cleared his throat loudly. Nathan turned to look. Grant tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. Nathan smiled.

“What?”

“What?” Nathan adopted a look of innocence.

“Don’t give me, ‘What’”, Grant replied. “I know this feeling. Any quieter and I’m going to start seeing tumbleweeds roll across our path.” Of course here, the tumbleweeds would catch on fire and keep on rolling until it was ash. “What aren’t you saying? Does she have an extra hand? No teeth?”

“I told you, she’s gorgeous.”

“Except…?”

“Well, her eyes are all black.”

“Uh huh”, Grant said as he tapped the steering wheel. “Do tell.”

“C’mon man, she lives underground most days! She has to be able to look straight at magma, lava, and navigate dark caverns. Of course her eyes are going to be a bit different. So she has black oil swishing around in her ocular cavities, so what?”

“That…”, Grant caught himself. He was intrigued.   “That actually sounds awesome.”

“I know, right!”   Nathan leaned towards Grant as he spoke excitedly. “Alyssa doesn’t get it. She’s learned to not see it but it freaked her out at first. The kids think it’s amazing. You know, like one of those lava lamps—“

“Because you’re so lacking in lava.”

“Yeah, yeah. But between you and me? It’s incredible. Like a hula-dancer who sways hula_dancerwith her eyes. Frickin’ enchanting. Don’t tell Alyssa, though. I mean, she’s probably guessed, knowing her. But still.”

“Sunga’s fun too?”

“Oh, man, are you kidding?” Nathan slapped Grant heartily on the back. “She’s the best. A little forceful for my tastes. You know, since she’s used to commanding and ordering people around all day. For you, though? I think it’ll be great.”

“Nobody’s going to toss me into a lake of burning tar?”

“Hey, if my kids can get through their toddler years in one piece, you’ll be fine. Watch your step is all.”

“Literally and figuratively.”

“Yeah, I mean it is your first date with Sunga. Don’t say anything stupid.”

“Like, ‘Is it hot in here or—‘.”

“Exactly like that. Don’t do that.”

“Got it.”

Grant sat in his car and mulled over his situation. He had already driven all this way. He really was intrigued. The house and its strange habitat sounded interesting. More so, he was curious about Sunga. If she was half as great as Nathan said she was, it would be much more fun than another night of Celebrity Jeopardy. What did he have to lose? If nothing else, he was quite sure the evening would be memorable.”

“All right”, Grant said as he turned the car back on and removed the emergency brake. “Guide me through these hazards and pitfalls.”

“Okay”, Nathan said as he pointed up the drive. “See where the smoke is coming up from that black pool there? Drive around it, not through it.”

“Understood”, Grant said as he pressed onward. “What next?”

The Mouse, the Pigeon, and the Tanka (Weekly Writing Challenge)

Technically I already answered the Weekly Writing Challenge on my other blog. But darn it, there is a story to be had here.

The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.” -Jeremy Paxman

**********

The mouse had a plan.
He’d go out into the land.
Maybe a nice man
Had left a meal he found bland.
Late night munchies from a band?

House_mouseThe mouse ventured out
Towards a quite popular park.
Though he some doubt
About escaping a lark
Or a mean dog who would bark.
 

He became angry,
clenched his jaw and got brave,
Made himself mangy,
And scurried from his enclave,
Looking for food he could save. 

It was there he saw
A rather worrisome sight.
His nerves became raw
As he neared, ready to fight,
The pigeon lit by sunlight. 

The pigeon saw him.
He cocked his head and cooed.
On a simple whim
He lifted a leg, pooed,
And ignored what had ensued.
 

The mouse crept closer
For he saw food in the lane
Right by the grocer.
The bird thought the mouse mundane.
The mouse thought, “Whatta birdbrain”. 

So he took the treats,
Gave the pigeon a quick nod,
Went down the streets,
Took a nibble of old cod,
And felt that the bird was odd. 

untitledHe’s seen the bird since.
Near a park, by a swing.
It never looks twice.
The pigeon pecks at its wing,
The mouse grabs everything. 

With his limbs so full,
Carrying back his next meal,
Pausing in the lull,
The mouse wonders, “What’s the deal?
This supposed ‘threat’ ain’t real!”

(Weekly Writing Challenge) In Which Pooh and His Friends Meet The Walking Dead

This week’s Writing Challenge wanted things set in a different locale.  I suppose I could have taken their suggestions.  But once I thought of Winnie the Pooh playing in the world of The Walking Dead, I didn’t want to imagine any other amalgams.  So, with apologies to Kirkman and Milne, that’s what you get.  (It isn’t quite an entry for The Tall Tales Tavern section, but it’s close.)

P.S.  This  is my 200th post.  ???  That’s insane.
———-

No brain at all, some of them [people], only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake, and they don’t Think.” -A. A. Milne

One day, Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Roo, and Eeyore were off on adventure. They had, at Tigger’s insistence, been visiting the nearby lands. Tigger was absolutely sure that there might be others just like him in this other place, and so they traveled until they came upon a strange scene. Christopher Robin had been forced to stay behind after a little bit, but the others had traveled on. Now, they found themselves entering a building.

It was the first building that they had seen all day that wasn’t built around a tree or a cave. The entire place was one big square with high walls made of a very grey looking stone, Owl said it was called “koncrate”, with tall fences all around. The fences were much bigger than ones around their friends’ gardens. These were big and scary and had sharp points at the top. However, with what they had just seen, Tigger had urged them all to run inside.

prison photo from Wiki Commons

prison photo from Wiki Commons

“Hurry up, hurry”, Tigger said to the others.

“You’ve gotta see this place”, declared Roo.

“We have other matters to attend to”, Rabbit said as the group entered through a large, heavy door. “What about Christopher Robin? He looked to be in quite the state.”

“Pooh, those other creatures were a bit scare- scare- scary”, said Piglet. What do you think that we should do?”

Pooh sat there and he thought. And he thought. And he thought some more. However, Pooh was a bear of very little brains. He watch as Owl flew in and perched on a rusted-metal railing.

“Owl”, Pooh said. “Did you see where they took Christopher Robin?”

“Took him?” Owl was confused. “What makes you think they took him?”

“They was gettin’ all rough with him”, Tigger said. “They was swarming him from the left, they swarmed from the right. They was on top of ‘im. Why, if I hadn’t been spending my time gettin’ Roo to safety, I could have tackled them all. Being the champion people-pulling-off-er is what Tiggers do best.”

“I wasn’t scared”, Roo said.

“Oh, that?” Owl started to chuckle. “They weren’t going to hurt him. No, that was a game that people play called pig pile.”

“Aaaaahhhhh”, the other animals all said to voice their understanding.

“It is really quite an old tradition”, Owl continued. “When a person comes to another that they haven’t seen in a while, they jump on top of him. And if there are more people around, they jump on too.”

“But Owl”, said Piglet. “What about Christopher Robin? He was making such an awful noi- noi- noise. Are you sure those were people and not Heffalumps? I couldn’t get very close but they sure did seem like they could have been Heffalumps. Or maybe even Woozles”, he said with a shudder.

“Piglet has a point”, Pooh said. “We have hunted Woozles before and they travel in groups. I have seen their footprints. Their groups keep getting bigger and bigger. I am a Bear of no brain at all, but I don’t want to dessert Christopher Robin. Of course, I don’t want to break up any family fun, either. Oh, bother.”

“Well Christopher Robin knows what he’s doing”, Rabbit said. “He would want us to trust him and to let him think of a plan.”

“I agree, Rabbit”, Pooh said. “But he was making a rather awful noise when we left him.”

“That’s not a noise”, Tigger insisted. “Why, you want a terrible noise, you should hear a Tigger on the prowl. When we’re ready to strike, there’s nothing more terrifying. We hunch back like this. We wiggle our tails, like this. And we let out an absolutely fur-crawling growl like this,

Worraworraworraworraworra!”

“Hallo there, Tigger”, Pooh said. “Would you mind doing something else? I think you have upset poor Piglet.”

“That’s because I’m fierce”, Tigger said as he wagged his tail excitedly. “I’m ready, I’m brave, I’m courageous. Who cares if those fellas were walking around missing a few arms or legs?”

“What’s wrong with someone losing a body part”, Eeyore asked.

“Oh! Eeyore! I hadn’t even seen you come in”, Rabbit said.

zombie-md“That’s okay”, the grey donkey said. “You don’t have to pay attention to me. Nobody ever does. Nobody ever remembers to check on me. Maybe they’re like me. It isn’t their fault that they don’t have an arm here or an eye there. Maybe somebody took their limb and used it as a door knocker or a back-scratcher.”

“Ar-hem”, Owl said as he flapped his wings and ruffled his neck feathers. “I hardly think that is what happened here”, he said. “Why, if something was borrowing body parts I am sure it happened entirely on accident. If the persons asked for their parts back, they would get them. Any creature can make an honest mistake like that.”

“Well I want to know what we’re going to do”, Rabbit said. “I want to go back to my home and water my garden. This building is nowhere near as warm and inviting as my place. Why, look all these drab and gray walls. There are hardly any windows. There is no color at all. And do you hear that? Those things are trying to get in. They keep moaning and throwing themselves against the fences.”

Rabbit was right. As the others stopped talking, they could hear it. A low, moaning, troubling sound of a horde trying to get enter.

“Owl”, said Roo. “What does this mean?”

Roo pointed to a sign above the door with large letters saying, PRISON RULES, followed by a number of instructions beneath it.

“Why, those are the instructions for a game that is held by the owner, a son of Pri, I imagine. That way any creature that shows up late can read those instructions and join in the fun. This Pri and his family must have quite a few parties.”

“A party? It must be nice to be invited to that kind of party”, Eeyore said. “Not that I ever was.”

“Excuse me”, Pooh said. “But has anyone else got a rumbling in their tummy?” He laughed at himself. “I should like to fill it. Piglet, are you hungry?”

“Why, yes”, Piglet said. “I think I am.”

“Well then there’s only one thing to do”, Rabbit said. “We must find the kitchen. Certainly a place this large must have one.”

“I wonder if they have any honey”, Pooh said to no one in particular.

“Oh good” Roo said, “Food!”

“That sounds like an excellent plan, only we mustn’t eat too much. I’m sure that’s listed in the rules”, Owl offered.

“Rules, thppppb.” Tigger had stuck out his tongue and was shaking his head. “Tiggers don’t like rules. We like bouncin’. So I’m going to bounce to the kitchen. And I’ll do it fast. C’mon, Roo!”

The group of friends all ran around the building. There was a series of long hallways with lots of small rooms. But there was no food behind any of the heavy doors, only uncomfortable beds and very tiny wells with a little water in each of them. Eeyore thought the metal switch at the base of the well was interesting. He could not only see his face in the water, but on the metal surface too. But then he pushed the lever and the little whirlpool in the lake tried to take his ear away. After that, he felt he would rather find some food.

Soon, they entered another room. In it, were rows of shelves. On the shelves were boxes of food, cans of food, and boxes filled with cans.

“Oh, there doesn’t seem to be any jars”, Pooh said sadly.

“This isn’t proper Tigger food”, Tigger said. “These are as bad as haycorns and thistles. Tiggers don’t eat this stuff.”

“I don’t even see a single carrot”, Rabbit said.

“Pooh”, Piglet said as he pulled at his friend’s leg. “Couldn’t we go home now? I feel my bravery is just about full for the day. I’d like to get out of this place. Maybe we could play some Poohsticks?”

“That does sound rather more inviting than this”, Rabbit offered.

“I will bow to the whims of the majority”, Owl said. “However I would like to stretch my wings and see a few more trees.”

“Tiggers don’t like being cooped up”, Tigger said. “Let’s bust outta here.”

798px-The_original_Winnie_the_Pooh_toysEveryone agreed. They missed the hundred acre woods and it was beginning to get dark out.

“Are they going to all come running towards us as soon as we open the doors?” Roo looked excited as he ran back and forth between all his friends. “Do you think they’ll try to jump on us too? I think that would be fun!”

“Oh, I don’t think they will give us much notice”, Owl said. “They didn’t seem to notice us before. They seem to prefer their own kind.”

“We don’t want to be rude”, Pooh said.

“No, of course not. We will be perfectly polite”, Rabbit said. “However, Owl is correct. They only wanted to visit with Christopher Robin. They certainly didn’t invite any of us to tea. And no wonder, if this is the kind of food that these creatures like.”

“Well, they’re not Tiggers, that’s for sure”, Tigger said.

“Pooh, do you really think it will be all right?”

“Yes Piglet”, Pooh said. “I believe that we shall all get home fine.”

“Are you sure- sure- sure?” Piglet rubbed his hooves together and started to feel quite small in such a big moment. “I’m scared.”

“Piglet, there’s no need to be scared”, Pooh said.

“There isn’t?”

“No”, Pooh said as he chuckled. “Wouldn’t you want your best friends with you when life got frightening and troubling?”

“Yes Pooh.”

“And aren’t we friends?”

“Oh yes, Pooh”, Piglet replied with a smile.

“You bet we are, ol’ buddy!” Tigger bounced and laughed happily.

“Then as long as our friends are along, everything is just fine. I’ll take care of you, and you’ll take care of me.”

“Quite right”, Rabbit said. “Now let’s head out”, he said a slight twinge of his whiskers.

“Besides”, Eeyore said. “If they are all going to jump on somebody and take away their tails, it will probably happen to me. That’s how it always goes.”

Roo ran to the door and pulled on it. He pulled again. And he pulled some more. Tigger and Rabbit came alongside and they pulled too. The door was a lot heavier from the inside than it had been on the outside.

Owl flew up high and urged them on. Roo pulled on the door. Tigger pulled on Roo. Rabbit pulled on Tigger. Piglet pulled on Rabbit. Pooh pulled on Piglet. And Eeyore pulled on Pooh. Finally, the door began to open.

The friends ran out, Owl flew ahead, and the gate was opened. A sea of strange people walked up. They never even looked at the animals. They rudely shuffled forward, a tired look in their eyes and a strong hunger in their bellies. Soon, there were no people left outside.

Sensing that no one wanted to talk with them, the animals headed home. Roo jumped around and talked to Tigger about what appendages he would like to do without. Eeyore looked and made sure his tail hadn’t been trampled on or had gone missing.

Owl flew just above Rabbit. The two talked about what reason there might be for the unemotional creatures ignoring them so rudely. (Eventually they decided that they would only have people for dinner and tea, not animals such as themselves. As Rabbit offered, they lacked his refined sense of taste.) Piglet, still anxious over what they had seen, held Pooh’s hand tightly.

Pooh was confused. He could have sworn he had seen Christopher Robin in the crowd. But when he had walked by, his friend hadn’t waved at all. Christopher Robin had sauntered by; the same tired look in his eyes that the rest of the people had. Perhaps this new game has him tired, Pooh thought to himself. It will all work out once I get some food in my tummy. Pooh was almost certain that there was honey at home. Or perhaps Rabbit would offer him some. Maybe they could all have a picnic under Owl’s tree.

Soon, the seven friends would all be home and they could forget all about those unwelcoming creatures. They still had each other. What more could they want than that?

 

(Here, we’ll end on something a little cheerier.  It’s all in good fun!)

Dough is Better than “D’oh!” (Weekly Writing Challenge)

No really. You should use the Weekly Writing Challenge.  Do it!  Or don’t.

“Nothing can bring peace but yourself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

———-

Work was vexing Alan. Traffic had been terrifying, as usual. Sleep was not nearly abundant enough. And purring kittens were not allowed at work.

However, no one ever said Alan couldn’t make cookie dough at his desk. His hands and soul found a tranquil peace in the kneading and gnashing.

 

lead_chocolate_chip_cookie_dough_560px

Football is for the Birds (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(The Weekly Writing Challenge wanted me to go all gonzo.  This, if you ask me, is a perfect way to describe sports fans.)

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter S. Thompson

**********

There are energies that refuse to be contained.  They ignore the laws of physics, the urgings of common decency, and they defy all logic.  Such is the boundless exuberance that I experienced last Friday.

Walking into work I was cheerfully greeted by my coworkers.  The normal uniform of black pants, replete with the array of creases and minor stains that come from work wear and iron-shunners, was joined by bright blue t-shirts.  These tops, all shiny and covered in hashtags and the giant number “12” on them, echoed loudly the celebratory nature of most of the city.

If spirit were mid-rif tops, you could see all of Seattle's belly-buttons.

If spirit were mid-rif tops, you could see all of Seattle’s belly-buttons.

I, a person who does not mind being the odd man out, ignored the choice to dress differently.  I tucked my black polo shirt into my black pants, kicked on my black shoes, paid my hair that I assumed was still combed, and went out onto the busy floor.

Customers bustled back and forth with the sort of amped-up attitude that is normally saved for Black Friday shoppers.  Outside on the streets, random citizens could be heard to bellow “Sea-HAWKS” as forcefully as possible to no one in particular.  Like some sort of tribal call from one hilltop village to the surrounding clans, he hoped that his boisterous call would be answered in kind by a likewise enthused comrade in spirit.

Seattle: Where the subtle need not apply (image from here)

Seattle: Where the subtle need not apply (image from here)

If a painter had wanted to capture the scene, she would have only needed three colors; blue, green, and black (The black is to paint all the “other” objects.  Trees, people, lakes; that sort of thing).  All the buildings with high-tech lights have changed their palettes.  The twin-tower hotel has one building rimmed with green, the other in blue.  Pacific Science Center’s arches are blue.  Little blue flags decorate small office windows but beam with big pride.  Even the Space Needle is not immune.  The body is alit with a blue hue while the very top is taking a hint from the nearby construction cranes.  Yes, much like its leaner but buffer cousins, the Seattle landmark is topped with a giant blue flag with the number “12” flapping and billowing for all to see.

Back inside my store, things were not much different.  There was a constant wave of blue and green filling up peripheral visions.  Scarfs, beanies, jackets, hoodies, caps, baby onesies; all were clad in a two-tone color scheme.  If you were to look for a guy in a Seahawks jacket, you were sure to have many fellows to choose from.  The variables changed.  Some jackets were faded with age and some had flaking letters.  The new converts were easy to find; their apparel was fresh and crisp, much like their recent interest in the NFL.

A woman, dutifully clad in a Seahawks scarf, had been excitedly chittering and chattering to one of my more sports-loving coworkers.  As she made her way towards the exit, she turned her attention to me.

“How ‘bout those Hawks, eh?”  The woman smiled merrily in front of me.  It was difficult to tell if she was missing a few teeth or if they were off from the color that chompers usually have.  Her glasses were small but thick, and her matted white hair lay limply by her cheeks, like a pom-pom ready to be shaken back to life.

Image from here

Image from here

“It’s quite a thing”, I added.  My hope was to be agreeable, but not to reveal my level of disinterest.

“They’re gonna win it on Saturday!”  She said as her teeth displayed her fervor.

“Well, they just might”, I added.

“Naw”, she said as her excited eyes danced and her head swooshed from side to side as she shook her locks in rebuttal.  “Them other folks don’t know how to play in the weather.  Our boys do.  They’re gonna win!”

I considered offering the bevy of clichés that ran through my head.  However, as pertinent as counting eggs before they are hatched and pride coming before the fall was, I couldn’t do it to her.  I feigned a slight smile and replied, “They just might.”

Still somewhat irked by my lack of interest, she realized I had been as cooperative as I was going to be and she bounded off to find a fellow supporter to root with.

“What’s going on?”  My coworker approached me out of curiosity.  A delightful, warm, and charming woman looked quite cute in her brand new Seahawks shirt.  She had gone all out; the area under her eyes was covered in blue decals, her short brown hair was pulled back in a Seahawks headband, and the wrist was adorned in a blue Seahawks jumbo-sized rubber-band.

“Oh, I wasn’t giving her the response she wanted”, I replied with a shrug.

“And why not?”  The small gal, about a foot shorter than me, moved a few inches closer to me.

“I just don’t root for anyone”, I answered.  “I don’t have a team.”

seahawks-hd-blue-wallpaper“The Seahawks are your team!”  The response was not so much an offering of help, but an edict.  Her normally adorable eyes grew large and serious.  The unspoken message of her unblinking look spoke louder than our Guinness record-breaking fans; get on board.  Now.

Clearly, there was no such thing as “somewhat” supporting “my” team.  Only complete and utter excitement would sate the passionate community around me.  Forget going the whole nine yards; only one hundred yards would content the rabid devotees that threatened to overwhelm me if I didn’t hungrily rush the field with them.  When surrounded by sports fans that are yearning for a championship, the rest of us must tread lightly least we are accused of foul play.

Being a Good Friend (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(It’s not my typical way of writing a story, but the Weekly Writing Challenge wanted me to be all personal.  So, I’ll tell part of a story that’s been three hundred and fifty years in the making.)

When we really want to hear, and be heard by, someone we love, we do not go rushing into noisy crowds.  Silence is a form of intimacy.  That’s how we experience it with our friends and lovers.  As relationships grow deeper and more intimate, we spend more and more quiet time alone with our lover.  We talk in low tones about the things that matter.”  Brent Hill, Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality

**********

“Why do I feel like I’m always the one talking when we get coffee?”

“I always feel like I’m unloading on you.”

“Now, don’t tell anyone else I said this.”

Much of my life is spent not talking.  As someone who slings coffee twenty hours a week, you’d be amazed, stunned, and entertained at the things people tell me.  When I go on a walk with a friend, odds are that they’ll have more to say than I will.  Oh sure, I have my opinions.  I spend hours a day thinking and arranging my thoughts.  However I can almost guarantee that I’ll be the quiet one.  And what can I say; it’s all in my upbringing.

Now, my quiet stance can be traced to my family numerous ways.  For one thing, we’re all nerds.  My brother, my sister, my mom, my dad, the in-laws; every adult wears glasses.  For each child that’s born, you should simply start taking bets on when they’ll get the ol’ four-eyes nickname.  It’s a foregone conclusion.  Our idea of “family visiting” is sitting in the same room reading our books or surfing our laptops.  That’s quality together time on our world.  Doctorates, analyzers, engineering degrees; we’ve got ‘em all.  I was taught about DOS prompts (ask your parents) when I was five.  We’re nerds who always have our noses in a computer screen or a book.  However, I think our religious upbringing plays the biggest role in me being slow to speak.

Nine generations ago my family started being Quakers (or Friends, if you prefer).  They tried it out a few hundred years ago, it worked for them, and it carried forward.  Now, here I sit, content with my religion.  Some family members have found different routes that work better for them.  (We still love each other regardless.  Honest.)  For me, I can’t imagine anything other than Quakerism.  I don’t like every single thing about my church, but the history works well.  I like how they treated Native Americans, women in leadership, and their roots in The Underground Railroad.  Also, and perhaps most pertinently to this, they are big on sitting and listening.

800px-Treaty_of_Penn_with_Indians_by_Benjamin_WestThere are two kinds of Quaker service, programmed and unprogrammed.  Programmed will flow like most church services.  There is a message, some songs, and announcements.  But my favorite part is where, for at least ten minutes after the message, we sit and listen.  We listen to the thoughts in our heads, to what God’s telling us, and to what our fellow congregants feel led to share.  Go with me Sunday morning and you’ll sit in a large room with a solid chunk of silence.  In this busy world, it’s quite freeing.

Unprogrammed is a more extended version of those ten or so minutes.  There is no planned message, no edict on how to proceed.  The gathering simply sits and enjoys the quiet until someone feels like they have something to share.  Many times there will be an hour where no one says anything.  Whichever service one attends, programmed or not, there is a concentrated effort to spend time in silence.

That works for me.  I wake up at four in the morning and spend a good thirty minutes reading my Bible, scratching the cat, and making very little noise.  When I get on the bus, that’s another thirty minutes for me to sit still, not listen to music or read, and try to filter out the noises in the world.  By the time I’m at work, I’m about as calm and centered as I can be.

When I find something that bothers me, I sit with it.  I turn it around in my head.  I try to figure out how this one incident fits into the big picture.  I can’t guarantee that I refrain from outbursts altogether, but my go-to behavior is to be quiet and think it out.  Save the discussions until I’ve fully formulated my thoughts.

That’s how I end up being the listener with most of my friends.  Even in school I was the quiet one, though comics certainly helped that along.  But when my friends and I go for a walk, odds are they will be saying what is important to them.  I’ll take what they say and try to listen.  If I feel like I have something to say, then I will.  However most times I’m supposed to be shut the sam hill up and let them vent.  I find that my friends need less advice in their lives and more hugging, so that’s what I do.

And yes, I realize that sometimes it is hard to get a conversation out of me.  I can go months without chatting with a new coworker.  I can spend three days sitting at home without calling or checking in with anybody.  I see the downside to the way I do things.  I’m certainly not the exciting one at any party.  Yet from where I’m sitting, I think it’s better to keep my trap shut, process all my thoughts, and then be sociable.  It’s worked for eight other generations of Quakers, so I’ll take my cue from them.

6 Words Make 7 Stories (Weekly Writing Challenge)

Once again, the Weekly Writing Challenge gets me to do things a little differently.  Most of it was a request for video content, and I’ll certainly give that a go if the muse whaps me upside the head.  For now, the 6-word story appealed to me more.  And you get 7 of them.  Why?  42 is a great number, that’s why.

“I know that you’re probably sore/ ‘Cause I didn’t write any more
I just didn’t get to complete it/ So that’s why I gotta repeat it” -Weird Al, “(This Song’s Just) Six Words Long”

**********

He flexed his biceps, she yawned.

dado_6The miserably wet cat yowls outside.

Children gasp as the page turns.

Man measures doorway and cabinet; curses.

The aliens land, look around, leave.

The camera started up without film.

He watched his ex-girlfriend drive away.

The Dating Game (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Weekly Writing Challenge is your friend.  Take advantage of it.  I do!)

But when the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.” -Mark Twain

**********

Greg picked up the fork in front of him and cursed.  It wasn’t anything that the fork had done in particular, but the sheer pronged nature of the utensil vexed the man.  Greg tried to gauge his reflection in the metallic surface, but the gaps in between the metal made this effort difficult.  It felt as though there was a little tweak of hair on the back part of his head that was sticking up.  He reached up, attempting to comb it down with his right hand while the fork was nearly strangled in Greg’s left.

Exhaling angrily, Greg’s frustration was evident.  Hearing a giggle, he quickly put the fork back on the table.  He didn’t care that the silverware was no longer uniform in what had been its carefully placed arrangement.  Greg was too concerned about any embarrassment that he might have earned.  He glanced from table to table, hoping that everyone else in the fancy restaurant was too focused on their tiny portions and shiny gold-accented plates to have taken in his grooming performance.

The waitress walked up to his table and refilled the water glass without asking.  She smiled briefly and then moved on to the next patron without a word.  Greg sighed and crumpled up the cloth napkin that resided on his lap in a jumbled mess.  How am I supposed to be engaging and interesting when the waitress, someone who is paid to be nice, barely even gives me the time of day?  This was not a good idea.

The notion of a dating service was not one that appealed to Greg.  He didn’t relish meeting new people.  He was a baseball referee.  He spent all his days surrounded by people, most of them drunk and loud.  The last thing he wanted to do when he got home was talk sports, or even worse; partake in small talk.  However there was only so much going back to an empty apartment that Greg could stand.  He was a solid provider; not prone to wild outbursts or violence like so many overpaid celebrities that tore up the stadiums.  Greg had it on good authority that he was highly dateable.  No less than three of his friends had said so.  It had taken a few beers for them to admit as much, but the friends had stated it after only a few prodding attempts from Greg.

REFEREEA striped uniform and a chrome-plated whistle were hardly the most alluring of attire, so Greg knew that meeting someone at work was unlikely.  He realized that he would have to enlist some outside help.  That was where the dating service came into play.

Greg had sat through the pre-game ceremonies that they had called, “initiation”.  He had detailed what he looked for in a woman, doing his best not to limit any potential candidates.  “Smart, fun, cute”, he had said with a shrug.  Skin color?  Religion?  Any beliefs that might clash with his?  Greg had shrugged and replied, “Well, I’d prefer if they weren’t too crazy.  I mean, I guess I’m looking for somebody who would appreciate me and want to spend time with me.  Someone… um, who’s fun, and smart.  Oh, and cute.”  Greg had felt his face turn red when he realized how repetitive he sounded.  The depersonalization of finding true love grated on him.

I hope she hasn’t ditched me, Greg considered.  It’s one thing to accept the awkwardness of a date that someone else sets up for you.  But to be stood up and left sitting alone?  She wouldn’t do that.  Would she?

The notion dawned on Greg that he really didn’t know anything about Sophia.  The phone message had been short and unhelpful.  A chipper voice had his voicemail, brushing the “perfect woman” for him in broad strokes.  “She’s got a great personality, really wonderful, and we just love her here at the office.  She’s got some fun opinions and she’s just great.  Sophia’s beautiful, of course, and has a spirit that really stands out.  I think you two will have a great time.”  Greg had hung up on his voice mail that morning, unconvinced.  Well isn’t that just great.  He marveled at how the staff could use dozens of phrases to say absolutely nothing; all in a cheery and lively voice, of course.

“Excuse me, are you Greg?”

Greg was startled awake at the tall figure that had placed her hand tentatively on the vacant chair.  He blinked himself back into full consciousness.  He blinked again.  Still trying to make sense of the sight across from him, Greg gulped down what moisture was left in his quickly drying throat.  Then he blinked a third time.

“Greg”, the woman prompted with a warm smile on her face.

“Yeah.  I mean, yes.  Please, have a seat”, he replied.  Greg was shocked at the person that he was to share a date with.  The analytical, realistic, pessimistic side of himself had calculated the odds in his head.  His picture of a “Sophia” was a short person, cute in a tank top, and probably easily distracted by pretty things.  She would be many things, all of which could be gathered under the umbrella of “sorority girl”; with an emphasis on the “girl”.  The woman that stood confidently in his line of sight was already proving Greg quite wrong.

Sophia stood at a solid six feet at least, but she confidently wore high heels and her hair was swept up on top of her head.  If she was abnormally blessed in height, she seemed determined to embrace it.  Her smile seemed born of an inner voice that said, “Hey, how are ya?” in that natural way that Greg most clearly lacked.  She was no beanpole; even Greg could see that she had some curves to her.  Yet, like the rest of her demeanor, she appeared to own them.  Greg wondered to himself how someone this enticing upon first meeting was still single.

“Do you mind if I take a seat?”  Sophia began to pull the chair backwards.  Greg cursed to himself.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he said half standing up.  “Please, please.”  Brilliant Greg.  Forget to stand up to greet her, and then forget to get the chair for her.  That’ll make a great first impression.

“Have you ever been to this place before?”  Sophia smiled.  She unfolded the napkin with a quick gesture and placed it lightly on her lap.

“No, I don’t really eat out much”, Greg admitted.  “They said you recommend this joint and I figured that was alright by me.”

Sophia laughed and made a move for the menu.  “Yes, I can honestly tell you that this ‘joint’ is one of my favorite haunts.  Don’t you just love sushi?”

“It’s a pretty decent food”, Greg said as he cursed himself again.  “What do you think I should try”, he asked, hoping to get back into her good graces.

sushi“Oh, I’ve always been a fan of their California rolls.”

A kind force must have been looking over Greg, for the waiter returned before Greg could blurt out a clumsy joke about Rolls Royce cars.

“What do you say, Greg?  Shall I order us up two plates?”

Greg nodded, watching as Sophia went to work.  He stared at her and soon noticed that he was unable to keep up with her orders.  A blur of high-society words came into their conversation as the woman about town and the experienced waiter bandied back and forth about various side dishes, fish freshness, and wine pairings.  Greg found himself blinking again and pulled out a piece of paper.  Holding the cheat-sheet just under the table cloth on his lap, he skimmed the list for any question that might spark a conversation.

“I really think you’ll enjoy the food here”, Sophia offered as the waiter returned to the kitchen.

“What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?”  Even Greg noticed how awkwardly he had blurted out the question.

A look of confusion came over Sohpia’s face.  There was a definite pause as she took in the question that had been asked of her.

Stupid, Greg.  Put her on the spot before you even know anything about her.  Stupid.

“You’re not going to waste any time are you?  Just jump right in, huh?”  Sophia laughed and pulled her chair in closer.  Greg had thrown down the gauntlet and now Sophia was contemplating picking it up.  “Fair enough; I’ll play along.”

“No, it was an insensitive question.  We can talk about something else.”

“Oh, come on.  This’ll be fun!”  A playful and daring light was obvious in Sophia’s eyes and Greg once again questioned how this had all worked out.  Maybe blind dates aren’t so bad after all?

White_House_Front_Dusk_Alternate“Okay”, Sophia began.  “I’ve got one.  It was a year or two ago and my grandfather was invited to The White House.  You see, he was one of the last living survivors of World War II.  The whole family got to go and we were all so excited.  I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, but I still wanted to look regal, you know?  I wanted to bring the glamor if I was going to meet The President”, she said with a laugh.

“Well, sure”, Greg said in a way that showed he didn’t know what else to say.

“There were a few other families before us.  The Fourth of July is quite a big day around The Oval Office, as you might guess.  All these men in suits with sunglasses, my mom worrying that we were keeping ‘Him’ from running the country.  It was overwhelming, but delightful”, Sophia explained with an unbridled excitement in her voice.

“Anyways, in my attempt to look elegant but still keep Grandma from thinking I was a hussy, I chose this long white dress.  It was sleeveless, flowing, and I paired it with what I thought were a classy pair of sandals.  You have to plan these things just right, don’t you?”

“Of course”, Greg answered.  Be agreeable.  Forget the fact that this woman has met The President while you were probably home drinking a beer and watching pay-per-view.  Just smile and nod.

“In all the waiting around, wouldn’t you know it?  I had to go to the bathroom.  The assistants were all perfectly nice and they showed me the way.  I was about to go in the door when along comes The First Lady!  I mean, of all people!  Secret Service wanted me to wait but The First Lady wouldn’t hear of it.  She looped her arm around mine and pulled me in.  After I had taken care of things, I tried to leave as quickly as possible.  I mean, I couldn’t maintain my composure at being in the same room with her!  Could you?”

“Not likely”, Greg answered.  Thankfully, the food had appeared with surprising quickness.  Greg started to put food in his mouth so the temptation to say something stupid would be lessened.

“She stops me, and she tells me how great it is that I’m there.  She appreciates how I’m setting an example for the younger generation and goes on about how much she likes my attire.  I of course have no idea what she’s talking about.  I was there for Grandpa, not myself.  I asked her what she meant.  And are you ready for this?  She thought I was Wonder Woman!  Apparently she mistook my dress for a toga.”

“Mmm”, Greg murmured as he chewed eagerly on his food.  He could understand The First Lady’s mix-up.

“I didn’t know what to do.  I tried to explain that I wasn’t a model or an actress or anything.  I was just a granddaughter!  But how do you explain to the most important woman in the country that she’s mistaken?  Then she took me out to the reception room and told all these dignitaries’ kids that I was Wonder Woman.  That I was there just for them on the special holiday!  I turned beat red when my Grandpa arrived and we had to sort the whole thing out.  The First Lady had a great sense of humor about it though.  She wouldn’t stop apologizing and we laughed about it for quite a time after.  But being introduced by Wonder Woman; it was all so embarrassing.  I still have a picture of The President, The First Lady and myself at home.”

“That’s quite a story”, Greg said as he finished off the last of his rolls.

“How’s the fish?”

“Quite good”, Greg replied.

“And you?”  Sophia reached for her plate as she prompted Greg.  “What’s your tale societal woe?”

“I have to think about that for a moment”, Greg said as he scooped up the green pile from his plate and thrust it into his mouth without a thought.

“Greg!”

There was a moment of calmness.  To be truthful it was more of a millisecond.  In that infinitesimally minute amount time, Greg was confused.  He saw a shocked expression come across Sophia’s face.  He felt the green paste land on his tongue and do something to his taste buds.  Then, scant seconds later, all the sound and sights in the room vanished as all his senses turned toward his mouth.  All he could feel was the excruciating pain that overcame his mouth.  His tongue was on fire.  His eyes watered, trying to douse the inferno that had when his lips had closed and the fork had wisely retreated.  It was in that formerly calm moment that Greg learned what a heaping mound of wasabi would do to a man.

“Aaaaah!!!”  Greg screamed as the agony became too much for him.  He clamped his hands on to the table, pulling the tablecloth towards him as he reached for anything that might bring him relief.  He spat the green offender out and chugged down the water that had been four gallons short of what he needed to put out the blaze on his tongue.  He chugged down the wine and felt a sense of relief coming.  The worst of it was over, but a painful tingling remained in his mouth.

There, on the formerly pristine tablecloth, lay the aftereffects of what had just happened.  In a big white circle, surrounded by crystal glasses and fine cutlery was a green blob, now looking rather disturbing and on display for the world to see.  Many of the surrounding patrons took up the invitation and craned their necks; gasping and chuckling were audible from nearby.

Sophia’s eyes grew wide while Greg’s still welled up from the sensory overload.  Neither of the two could take their gaze off of that wasabi bull’s eye on the giant target before them.

“Huh”, Sophia finally replied.  “Guess we now your most embarrassing moment, don’t we?”

A Good ‘ol, Sci-Fi, Country Song (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(The Daily Post asked for dystopian concepts.  As a musical.  I can’t really pass that up.)

Let me be by myself in the evening breeze
Listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever, but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in” -Cole Porter

**********

Well folks I’m gonna tell ya ‘bout this crazy little tripimages
You can call me a dadgum liar; I don’t give a rip.
See now I done seen things that you wouldn’t never believe,
But I promise my aim in all this is not to deceive.
 
It weren’t too long ago when I done woke up with a start,
I felt a shock that darn near wrecked my achey-breaky heart.
I found myself stuck inside a plexi-glass contraption,
And you can bet I did my best to leap into action.
 
I banged on the walls, I kicked and punched with all of my might,
But computer screens and numbers were all that was in sight.
I cried out for some fella or gal to come set me free,
But instead this voice piped in like a machine from T.V.
 
“You’ve been out for forty years.  Relax, we’ll take care of you.”
That’s what that there computer claimed it was going to do.
Well I hollered and I bellowed and I screamed, “Let me out!”
I wanted my freedom; I made sure that there was no doubt.
 
1331806738305313089sad%20robot-mdWell that hunk of gears and switches just wouldn’t let me go
And it worked and toiled tirelessly just to tell me so.
“We want to keep you healthy and restore your damaged hide.
Why would you fight against us only to go back outside?”
 
On and on they bragged about the benefits of their pod,
And how they could make improvements to my broken-down bod.
They told me if I stayed inside their high-tech, so-safe cage,
I’d never have to worry about my health or old age.
 
The blasted machine just outright refused to understand
That I’m a good ol’ boy who likes to roam across the land.
Gimme dirt under my boots, gimme the wind in my hair
Gimme farms that smell like a flatulent cow’s derrière.
 
I want snow that I can shovel or drive my pick-up in,
And I want women in bars that tend to tempt me to sin.
You can keep your tubes and nobs that look ever-so pretty,
I’ll take a piece of beef jerky that tastes rather gritty.
 
That new-fangled machine kept refusing to let me be.
It kept on about better living through technology.
It offered to inject these strange fluids into my arms
And claimed it would protect me from disease and other harms.
 
I laughed at the thing and couldn’t stop from shaking my head.
I offered up this rather solid argument instead.
I tell it if this is the future they got it backwards,
That ain’t the end destination that mankind should head towards.
 
cowgirl-GraphicsFairy1We want nasty crud and strange dirt under our fingernail
We want to hear the tin roof fighting off the storming hail
We want to stub our toe and yell when the dog starts to bark
And we want to love on somebody when the lights go dark.
 
I said plainly that living that long just ain’t worth a thing
If you can’t get in a fight or have a fun little fling.
I know it thought its circuits and chips were on the right track
If that was the world I was offered, I’d rather go back.
 
Take me away from all that stupid purification,
Let me see people reflect the tastes of their own nation,
 I don’t care too much for gears that are silent and stealthy.
Shoot, I need at least some of my food to be unhealthy.
 
So them computers gave up, they unplugged all of their gear,
And they used some fancy time machine to send me back here.
Now I’m back in the present and I sure would like to think,
That one of you fine folks would go and buy me a tall drink.

Dependably Durable (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(If you don’t make a habit out of checking The Daily Post, you really should.  They help with my writing more times than I care to admit.  This week is no different.)

O Day of days when we can read! The reader and the book, either without the other is naught.“ –Ralph Waldo Emerson

**********

Book Review The Fifth AssassinMiranda pulled a grocery bag out from under her kitchen sink.  She laid it on the table next to her trusty scissors, masking tape, and her crisp new copy of Brad Meltzer’s The Fifth Assassin.  She had a regiment that each new book went through after it arrived at her doorstop.  The procedure had worked every previous time and she was not about to take chances now.

With a few quick folds, confident cuts, and strategically placed pieces of tape, the stalwart and robust construction paper was ready for its new inhabitant.  Miranda smiled and hummed to herself as she made the last few adjustments and then placed her new book in the waiting embrace of the sturdy book cover.  The last pieces of tape were put on, but Miranda made sure that they never so much as grazed the new book itself.  She moved the paper book jacket from where she had relocated it to the bookshelf. She tittered and tsk-ed at the ornamentation.  Such decorations were for display, not for travel.

Miranda smiled at the paper-clad book that sat on the table in front of her.  She cleared off the errant lengths and scraps cast off from the brown bag and let them fall slowly into the recycling bin.  She had gotten what she wanted from the former grocery bag.   After she meticulously put the scissors back in their drawer and the tape back on the shelf, all that remained was her prize.  She smiled at the anticipation of tearing through the new suspense novel, albeit gently and with respect for the white pages.

The book sat on the table, a tone of daring calling from behind the thick brown cover like a siren trying to lull in sailors at sea.  In an almost imperceptible voice, it beckoned to Miranda.  C’mon.  Gimme a read.  You know you want to.  Just give in.  You don’t really think you’re going to be able to wait it out, do you?  Succumb to the temptation Miranda!

As much as she wanted to dive into her newest purchase, she knew she would have to wait.  She had endured a long day at the office and her brain was done for the night.  Miranda knew herself well enough to play out what would happen if she tried to start any reading.  She would wake hours later with a string of drool right down the middle of the page.  Her book’s new binding would ha be stressed from the weight of her head pressing against it.  Once was enough to teach her a lesson.  She had all of Meltzer’s books.  She had devoured The Inner Circle and had waited impatiently for the years to pass until this new book was available.  Miranda could wait another twelve hours to learn all about The Fifth Assassin.

She turned the lights in her house off one by one.  A quiet and still mood encompassed Miranda’s home and she was lulled into a quiet sleep as she thought about how unfortunate the title of the book was.  Any book with the word “assassin” in the title was bound to attract attention.  Resting her head on her pillow and closing her eyes, she could see picture various scenes playing out.

On the bus there were plenty of strangers that plucked nonsensical conversations out of the air at the slightest cue.  Miranda half-dreamt of crazed people accusing her of being pro-gun because she was reading such a book and imagined some sort of anti-N.R.A. person feeding her their views and opinions.  Instead of being allowed to read her enjoyable selection of fiction, Miranda would be forced to politely nod and “mm-hmm” along.

Public Domain due to age from WikiCommons

Public Domain due to age from WikiCommons

Then there were the conspiracy nuts.  A book with a picture of Washington, D.C., the American Flag, and that loaded word, could only add to up something lunatics would cling to fervently.  She could practically smell the wackos with their drug-addled minds telling her “the real truth, the truth they don’t want you to know” about the Kennedy assassination.  No, Miranda decided as she fluffed her pillow and pushed such awkward social interactions from her mind.  It really was better to keep the cover of her book under wraps.  After all, it had worked quite well in masking her embarrassment when she had read Fifty Shades of Grey.

The next morning arrived and brought with it an increased anticipation.  Miranda weighed the pros and cons of calling in sick for work.  Realistically, there was no earthly reason she could give that would delay the presentation that she had to give that day.  She had spent the last two weeks working late in order to prepare the ideal approach to win over the board of directors.  Yet her love for books was doing its best to push her work obligations out of her mind.  The battle of pleasure over responsibility was a short one, and Miranda regrettably slipped out of her comfortable pajamas and into pantyhose and tight shoes.

Her bus was still a good ten minutes away.  That gave Miranda five minutes to get to the bus and a five minute buffer zone for herself.  Miranda pondered at the possibilities.  She had long ago learned that writing your name on the cover of a book was just as inviting to random commuters as any provocative book title.  She didn’t want to meet anyone, she just wanted to read.  (Well, within reason.  If the guy was really cute, Miranda wasn’t going to complain.)  Still, the brown surface needed something.  Her habit was to leave the paper unadorned.  This time she just couldn’t bring herself to leave the thing alone.  How could she decorate it and still maintain some anonymity?

Looking once more to the clock on the wall, Miranda saw that her five minutes of leisure were quickly fading away.  If she was going to act, she would have to do so immediately.  Her mind still wasn’t made up.  She looked to the scraps of paper in the recycling bin.  And that’s when she saw it.

Crawling across the floor was, without a doubt, the largest spider that Miranda had ever seen in her life.  She stared at it in horror.  The body resembled some sort of grotesque Ding Dong and the legs were like flexi-straws that had been caked in brownish-gray mold.  The creature was some sort of freakish mutant love-child of a daddy longlegs and a tarantula.  She did her best to stifle her instinct to scream, but the beast was skittering along the tile floor.  Worse yet, it was making a beeline for her legs.

Acting purely on adrenaline, Miranda grabbed the closest thing to her.  The book felt heavy in her grasp and she clasped it firmly between her two hands.  Bending her knees ever so slowly, she looked the spider in what she guessed were its eyes.  She squinted; her two neatly groomed eyebrows reached towards each other to form a menacing V-shape.  Glaring at the spider, she gave it one last chance to crawl off into some dark corner in retreat.  The spider did not relent.

“Grraaaah!!!”  Miranda screamed angrily as she shifted both her hands to the back of the book and slammed it down on the floor with all her might.  Sure enough, she had hit the target dead-on.  The spider, no match for the weighty literary skill of Meltzer’s writing, was now a splatter on the homemade book cover.  The kitchen floor somehow survived relatively splatter-free.

Miranda reached for a paper towel and did her best to remove the bug’s guts, limbs, and other bodily stains from the cover.  She felt as though the germs and bits of carcass were no longer a threat.  Also, her worries about her book coming across as plain and uninteresting were over.  She checked her book over as she scurried out the door.  Happily, she found that the binding and the corners of her new hardcover were still in excellent condition.  She laughed as she thought about her high-tech friends’ and their reading methods. 

Let’s see an eReader take out a monster like that and not shatter their precious screen, Miranda thought to herself triumphantly.

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