Anniversary

Prompt: Cringe

dining silhouette

The server was very pale, with dark hair and the white shirt, black trousers, and full black apron that all the servers at Le Péché wore. He wasn’t our server— ours was a curly haired blonde, but he tapped me on the shoulder as I was raising a fork of duck confit with vanilla foam to my lips.

“Excuse me madam,” he said discreetly, into my ear, so that even my husband, celebrating with me our tenth anniversary with this ridiculously expensive night out, could not hear. It had been a tempestuous ten years, with ups as high as the stars and downs that took us to fiery depths, and everything in between. It was somewhat of a miracle that we were happily marking our tenth year of survival together. “Would it be terribly inconvenient if we moved your table?” the server asked me.

“What?” I said, “Why?”

In the same low tone, the dark server said, “We’ve had a small complaint. One of our guests does not like having you within their line of sight.”

“What?” I said again, certain I’d misheard, and waved off my husband’s enquiring face and stopped him speaking.

“I’m terribly sorry, madam, but they don’t like the way you look,” said the server. “I assure you we will place you where you will be extremely comfortable.” He nodded towards the corner near the shuttered window, where an intimate table for two, surrounded by tall potted plants, apparently awaited us.

My husband Rob followed the server’s hand and eye, and looked at me with an expression of bewilderment.

“I’m too ugly to sit here,” I told him.

“Madam,” the server said with only the slightest hint of distress. “It is only a matter of ensuring all our guests are comfortable and can enjoy the riches of Le Péché.”

“That is absurd,” said Rob, his voice just loud enough to attract the attention of other discreet diners, at their discreet, comfortable, candle-lit tables.

The server looked around nervously. “Please accept a bottle of champagne, as our guests, when we’ve settled you at your new and very comfortable table.”

I stood up. It was impossible to discern who among the “guests” might have lodged a complaint of this nature, as everyone was a dim, shimmering, discreet shadow. I looked for my friend Matt’s bald pate— he might just pull a stunt like this. No subtle lighting reflected off a shiny head.

Rob told the server we would not be paying, and so the manager appeared, and feigned shock at our situation, before accepting our departure as inevitable and inviting us back for a VIP dining experience.

“At that table?” I asked. “The one in the corner where I would face the wall?”

“Madam,” said the manager, bowing formally. “Our VIP service takes place at a specially set table, in the kitchen, where you have VIP access to all that goes on in a fine kitchen of the highest calibre, and where the chef himself serves each and every course!”

We stormed out.

In the car, as we drove to Wendy’s, I stared at myself in the mirror embedded in the visor. A plain woman with pretty eyelashes and nicely formed brows, stared back at me. “What the fuck,” I said to Rob. “Am I ugly?”

“Darling, don’t be silly,” Rob said. “But hey, that VIP table sounds kind of cool. Should we call them back?”

That’s when I realized there was no such thing as a miracle.

T-bob

Prompt: Illusion

bob hair style-Edit

When ear noodles, which required a 3D-space around and above the helix, became all the fashion, young girls started “stacking” or elongating the ear stem gradually, using string or thread. Because they wanted to hide this dangerous, somewhat deforming practice from parents and teachers, the T-bob became popular, and not just among the ear-stackers.

This presented Mimosa with an ethical problem. She was raised in a strict, Platonic (in the modern, 22nd century sense of the word, not the classical) household, where she learned rules and laws were made out of love, and disobedience caused heartbreak to those in power. She remembered the agonizing, aching remorse when her father concealed his etching income from the government. She remembered the tears of her parents when she refused to tell them what Grandpa said. Yes, she was to be obedient to Grandpa too, but her first allegiance was to her parents. Well, her second allegiance, really.

In any case, the fourteen-year old girl who sat staring at herself in the wall to wall mirror, her back to Mimosa, her hair long, thick, and curly, said, “A T-bob, please.” Mimosa ran her fingers through the girl’s hair. It was softer than it looked. She brushed it away from her face. There was a bandage around the left ear stem.

Not meaning to speak, Mimosa still said, “Oh dear.”

The girl, whose name was Lucy, looked sharply at Mimosa. She saw a short, pale, rather pudgy woman in her early twenties, who, like many hairdressers, had over-processed hair which desperately needed a trim; in this case, ash blonde in colour.

“I have to ask,” said Mimosa. “Do your parents know you are stacking?”

Lucy lowered her head, and Mimosa did not see the eye-roll. “Yes she does,” said Lucy, looking up again. “She says it’s up to me. When she was my age she got a blood tattoo, you know, right?” Mimosa hoped that tattoo was not readily visible. People wouldn’t hire you, not even for a grade C job, if you had a blood tattoo. The Plato Group had banned them, out of love and concern for the physical and mental health of the people.

“Well, this is permanent too,” Mimosa said, trying to avoid the tone and cadence of her mother’s voice, but failing. She heard her mother speak, as clearly as if she was inhabiting Mimosa’s body. “And Plato doesn’t want you to do it.”

Lucy said something about Plato that Mimosa stridently refused to hear, lest she had to report the girl. Then silence.

“Will you report me?” Lucy said suddenly. She looked around, she looked above the entrance door, where the recorders were usually placed. No one tried to hide them: What would be the point?

She looked at Mimosa, behind her, in the mirror. Even from a few feet away, Mimosa could see chocolate-coloured flecks in Lucy’s hazel eyes. They were pretty, and unusual. All around the hazel and chocolate there was white. Her own eyes were grey, like her mother’s, like her Grandpa’s eyes.

The room felt cold, and at that moment Jared, her business partner, burst into the shop, his lunch break over. “Hey Mim. And Lucy, isn’t it? I made the appointment. I’m Jared.”

Lucy did not look at him or smile. Jared paused, then went to the back lounge for a minute. Mimosa was still and quiet, her hands on the back of Lucy’s chair.

When Jared reappeared he strode to where the two young women were frozen in place.

“T-bob, Lucy? It would look fab. Mim, I’ll do it!”

“No,” said Mimosa. She put a large, clean white towel around Lucy’s shoulders, and picked up the brush again. “I will.”

New Word

Prompt: Paper

post it

Cash returned home to find Post-It notes attached to surfaces all over the house.

He was late; he knew it. But what the hell was this? He tossed his car keys on the polished hall table, and saw the first note, stuck to a little wooden box where Virginia deposited all the small bits and bobs she scooped up so they could find them again, like keys, business cards, polysporin, coins, membership cards, stray earrings, thread, beads, Tic Tacs, and all manner of reminders and odd notes.

Echo and I have gone to Annie’s for a few days, it said in Virginia’s small, rounded handwriting. She learned a new word.

She had learned a new word. When Virginia first arrived from the office, after getting the babysitter Devon’s panicked phone call, she’d heard the both hugely wonderful and hugely disappointing news. She didn’t go into the office every day, but she’d had a couple of meetings, and needed to catch up undistracted on some long overdue emails with her agent and financial advisor. Of course Echo, bless her little heart, waited for the moment Virginia was out of the house to blurt out her new word:

“Hi.”

Devon hastened to assure Virginia that was the word, after she’d seen Virginia’s face fall, but they both were well aware that “hi” was one of Echo’s first words ever. It was when Devon passed Echo, squirming and giggling, into her mother’s arms, saying, “There you go, say hi to mommy”, that Echo actually said the word that melted Virginia’s heart. “Mama.”

As Devon packed up her notebooks and textbooks, she said, “I’m really sorry, Virginia, but I have an appointment with my parole officer, and can’t be late for this one.”

After reassuring Devon and confirming that Cash hadn’t phoned or texted, Virginia paid her in bills instead of the usual cheque, adding a little extra for the stress and trouble.

 

Cash wondered what the new word was, and opened the lid of the wooden box to find another yellow note. Who knows how much you owe? it said. Cash saw one of Echo’s teething rings under the note, and when he picked it up it was still damp.

He spotted another Post-It note attached to the lampshade just inside the family room:

Come out of the darkness of your own ego.

There was a note on the flatscreen television:

Blank until turned on— like you.

The notes piled up. Cash kept each one neatly stacked, placing one on top of the other as he found them.

On the sofa:

A place to lie.

There was a longer note stuck to the mantle of the fireplace. It read:

You hate the song ‘Dust in the Wind’. It’s still true. How do you matter?

On the door of the fridge:

Fed up.

And most hurtfully, on the bedside table in the master bedroom:

When secrets don’t matter any more.

Cash sat on the bed and took out his cellphone. He put it back in his pocket again. He set the pile of notes beside him on the duvet. Driving home from the ad agency, he’d forgotten what happened at the meeting, and the dark young woman with the silky hair, and thought only of Echo, and her eyes as blue and clear as marble, the way her hand folded into a fist when she laughed, and the thin, wispy hair that they thought would never grow, and how it smelled like lilacs.

He was late, but he was often late. He should have called, but there were other times he should have called. He wasn’t a complete fool: He knew he was sometimes lax, lazy, spoiled. But he also knew how deeply he loved, how much Echo and Virginia meant to him. Surely they knew?

Annie’s cottage was a good three-hour drive. He wouldn’t text her while she was driving. This would also give him a chance to read the strange notes again, to gather his thoughts, to think of what to say to convince Virginia to bring Echo home again.

In a few minutes, he went to fix himself a sandwich. He’d taken the note down, but as he opened the fridge door he could see what she’d written as clearly and starkly as if it were etched into the surface:

Fed up.


No Pressure

Prompt: Loop


Hello Wednesday, June 21, you summer solstice,

Today is my favourite day of the year because it is the longest day of the year. Sitting outside at 10 pm with a glass of wine, watching the sun set, is worth the harsh 5 am stabs of light. Yes, I am a night person.

The word “solstice” means “sun-stopping”. Sun-stopping!  That is not a magical astronomical anomaly, alas, but but is so-called because the point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day. It is an eternal loop.

Speaking of loops, the first of my favourite cartoons this week is tenuously related to the Daily Prompt, loop:

cartoon tortoise and hare


Also eternal…

cartoon peacocks


They say people of high intelligence enjoy black humor…

cartoon chef


Welcome summer!

~~FP

Snapdragons

Prompt: Unexpected Guests (Repost)

sad dog

After coming home from a visit to the doctor, I approached my front door, key in hand, and noticed that my neighbour’s dog was peeing on my rhododendrons. He stopped, lowered his leg, and gazed at me mournfully. He was always escaping from my neighbour’s yard, and always came to pee on my plants when he did.

I entered the house. It felt cold, and I heard voices. Who else had the key to the house? Only my son, who now lived in Hamburg. I had talked to him on Skype early this morning. I heard a woman’s laugh, and it gave me the courage to move from the hall to the living room, where I encountered a man and a woman.

They were sitting close together on the couch, giggling and nudging each other, as they ate hazelnut cake. They were rather sloppy eaters, and crumbs made a path down the front of their clothes, and littered the carpet. They looked up at me and smiled silently, their mouths full.

“What is going on?” I asked. I didn’t raise my voice, despite the fact that I felt I needed an answer to the question immediately.

“We heard about the bake sale,” the man said at last.

“We heard about your cake,” said the woman simultaneously.

“The bake sale is on Tuesday. In the church basement,” I said.

“It’s delicious,” said the man. “By the way, I’m Trevor, and this is my wife, Nancy.”

I took a few steps and glanced into the kitchen, where I noticed two things: the deadbolt on the door to the garden, which was the only other entrance to the house, was still turned and locked; and the counter beside the stove was clear.

I returned to my guests and said, “How did you get in?”

“Oh,” said Trevor, and a shadow of a frown crossed his face. “The laundry room window. The thing is, when we broke the handle, we must have left a sharp edge.” He set the napkin which held the remains of the hazelnut cake on the coffee table. He stretched his left leg out and pointed to a snag in his pants. “I seem to have damaged my trousers.” He and his wife bent over the small tear with great concern. Nancy rubbed his upper arm consolingly.

“I baked four hazelnut cakes,” I said. “Don’t tell me you ate all of them.”

Nancy laughed again. “Oh heavens no. You just missed Ruth and Paul. They were most impressed.”

Trevor took his wallet out of his pants’ pocket and took out a silver toothpick, with which he delicately sought the remains of the hazelnuts stuck in his teeth.

“So you each ate a whole cake?”

“My goodness, of course we did not!” Trevor said, putting the toothpick in his pocket. “That would be piggish. The twins ate most of it.”

“The twins.”

“Yes, they would still be here, they so wanted to meet you, but Eric had to catch a plane. And you know the twins, where one goes the other follows. They are inseparable.”

“Literally,” said Nancy.

I felt a headache coming on. I went to the cupboard and took out a book. I put it in my bag. Then I went to the front door, opened it, and went outside. I closed the door behind me.

My car was parked at the curb. I went to it and started the engine. As I did so, the dog, who had been rooting around among the snapdragons, galloped like a horse to the car. I leaned over and opened the passenger door, and he jumped in.

We drove away.


  • Originally published December 15, 2015
  • Today’s prompt: Meddle

Eat Seat

Prompt: Create

food images

Josh Woodwing dimmed the lights, then strode to the presentation screen with a thin wooden pointer about half a meter in length. He grinned broadly, knowing his smile was charming, showing perfected capped and whitened teeth. “Welcome Cash and Leep! Good to see you both again. I think you’re gonna like what you see today!”

Cash waved and grinned back and Leep, a little lacking in social skills, just stared at him and his pointed stick.

There were six people at the table, not including Cash and Leep. This was a team effort, a large team effort, they were telling their clients. Look at all the people involved! Think of all the meetings and brainstormings! Look at the youth of these people— fresh, talented, hungry! They want you to succeed.

“Now your revolutionary new dining chair is new,” Josh said redundantly. “So we wanna generate some excitement.” On the screen, a grey, well-padded, faux suede chair popped into a bright lime green.

“The green colour is optional,” Tunia said. She sat at the end of the table nearest the screen. Leep couldn’t fathom what kind of name “Tunia” was. Was it short for “Petunia”? It sounded too much like “tuna” to Leep’s ears. It was distracting. He hadn’t had lunch. “We have a number of ideas for the logo colours,” she continued.

“Thanks, Tunia,” Josh said. “That’s one great thing about this plan: flexibility!”

“Go on,” said Cash. He looked at his watch. He told the babysitter he’d be back by four o’clock.

The presentation became animated, with images of food— apples, pies, turkey legs— pitched around the screen, and letters tumbling to form words, and a shapely cartoon woman looking mightily satisfied as she reclined in the green chair, which was suddenly floating on a cloud, and a manic drumbeat merged with the sound of a heavenly choir, and then…

“Introducing… Eat Seat!” Josh announced with pride.

“Eat Seat?” said Cash.

“Catchy, unforgettable!” said Tunia, clapping her hands.

“There will be a voice-over, some of the pitch ideas are in your binder,” said Josh through his beaming smile. “We want impact, contrast, buzzability!”

Cash looked at his watch again, then looked up. “I like it!” he said. “Leep?”

“But an ordinary dining chair is an ‘eat seat’,” said Leep. “The name isn’t descriptive.” Was he imagining it, or did he smell french fries?

“It jolting, attention-grabbing, makes you want more,” said Josh.

“And why are the letters in ‘Eat Seat’ so fat and black?”

“You’ve eaten your fill! You’re full and heavy!” said Tunia.

“Lime green won’t match many dining room sets,” said Leep.

“Lots of colour choices yet!” said Josh. “Orange! Sky Blue! Smooth Taupe!” The rest of the people sat at the conference table were silent, but nodding and laughing with enthusiasm, like a church congregation. “So Cash, you love it?”

“Leep has a point,” he said loyally. “Or two. What was wrong with ‘Dina-Reclina’?”

“We felt ‘Eat Seat’ was powerful, evocative, memorable,” said Tunia.

“You all are sure full of adjectives,” said Cash with a grin.

They all laughed. Cash noticed one young team member with long silky black hair, smiling at him calmly while the rest feigned encouragement. What was her name again?

“We are proud of this work,” Josh said, almost defensively.

“And so you should be,” said Cash, “but we have a few details to discuss.” Leep seemed to have a good idea of what they needed; Cash would back him up.

“Shall I arrange coffee?” asked Tunia, standing.

“Yes,” said Leep. “Any cookies or donuts?”

Cash looked at his watch.

All That Kale

Daily Prompt: Puncture

To most people in the UK, if you said “I had a puncture” it would not mean any intrusion of your body, but that you had a flat tire. You don’t have to add the word “tire”. Puncture means flat tire.

When I was very young and my father lent me his powder blue Comet one summer, my girlfriends and I piled in and went for a wild ride in the countryside. Partly showing off, I took a long stretch of highway at top speed and as I slowed to accommodate a curve in the road, I had a puncture.

We were silly teenagers, had no clue how to change a tire, and we had no cellphones then, nor any way to contact my father and rescuer. So we popped the hood (international symbol for car trouble?) and stood around the car, attempting to flag down passing motorists.

Finally a man in his thirties or so stopped, and we fussed and giggled as he changed the tire, in our short cut-offs and crop tops, all legs and new boobs. We were well aware that a gaggle of teenage girls was enough to make a man stop, look, and save the day.

I have an image of this incident in my head: such an incredible, vivid cliché of an encounter. I feel a little ashamed of it now, though I’m not sure why.

And, I realized the flat tire could have happened when I was driving 20 mph over the speed limit, and could have had serious consequences. Everything is a learning experience when you are a teenager.

On to a few of my favourite cartoons!

cartoon now we wait


cartoon masher and potato


cartoon kale for nothing


Kale: I pretended to like it for over a year. But I don’t. Freedom!

Have a wonderful week.

~~FP