Insomnia

Prompt: Earworm

dreams

Once there was a way,
To get back homeward.

Once there was a way
To get back home.

Sleep, pretty darling,
Dot not cry
And I will sing a lullaby.

Golden slumbers,
Fill your eyes
Smiles await you when you rise.

Sleep pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby.

My brain is oh-so-literal, judging from the soundtrack it’s put together for insomnia. But the brain forgets that the insomniac will bounce through soothing lyrics in triple time, completely neutralizing their somnolent qualities.

Still, it’s a lovely song, from the Beatles’s Abbey Road album. Lovely, but with something angry bubbling to get out. Perhaps my insomnia soundtrack should be more ragey (let it all out before sleep) or more sweet (no hidden anger).

Or I could take a pill.

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Surnames Through the Ages [Repost]

Prompt: Telephone

hotel maid

The first Thursday of every month they meet at a hotel, a different hotel every time, according to the order they appear in the old 2014 telephone directory. They alternate procuring reservations and paying in cash for one night’s accommodation and register under names selected in alphabetical order from the book Surnames Through the Ages, in the chapter, ”Most Common”.

They don’t speak to one another, except in private sign language. When they arrive, they turn on the television, fairly loud, and then play a recording on a device that she brings in her bag. The recording is mostly silent, with the occasional cough, or snore, or flush of a toilet.

They make love soundlessly.

Until one Thursday when they check in under the name “Sullivan” at the Post and Pigeon Boutique Hotel near the farmers’ market.

So intense is their passion that they both cry out at once. In horror they dress quickly, and leave separately, never to meet again.


Go Like This

Prompt: Why do you blog?


Hello Wednesday,

There are lots of tips and strategies out there for overcoming the dreaded writer’s block, many of them Internet clickbait full of obvious and unhelpful instruction (“Just sit down and write!”). I’ve been trying one of the recommended tactics— taking a break from the blank page. This is ideal for someone as lazy as myself, and has had the predictable result (a lot of blank pages).

So how about if I just sit down and write. No edits. Here goes. Any minute now. I feel it coming. Ready? Ok.

Alec Baldwin has one blue eye and one green eye. He is stockier than most people realize, and prefers jeans and a plaid cotton shirt to a crisp dark suit. He is used to the privileges of being a well-paid star and was rather abrupt in his attempt to flirt with me. 

“Sit here,” he said loudly, pointing to an empty chair across from him, as I passed by his crowded table. Sit here? I didn’t even know the man. I walked on.

I was wearing a sleeveless white and navy chevron pattern summer dress, tightly cinched at the waist, and black and white striped platform sandals. 

My sister didn’t believe that Alec Baldwin had invited me, albeit curtly, to sit at his table. In fact, she didn’t believe the man I pointed out to her was Alec Baldwin. 

On second glance, he did look a bit rough around the edges. 

But that is my sister’s role, to invade my dreams with spoilers, and this time I refused to allow it.

Alec Baldwin and his entourage were heading towards the exit on a path that had them pass right beside my sister and I. Perhaps he was leaving because the woman he chose had rebuffed him, and would try his luck elsewhere. In any case he breezed by me as if I were invisible and I felt, rather than saw, my sister’s smirk.

But in passing he clasped my hand and I was jolted along the path to the exit, and we all tumbled outside.

His blue and green eyes were about as clear and full of mischief as I could have hoped. His skin was smoother. He didn’t kidnap me. I shoplifted him.


I’ll just should go straight to the Wednesday cartoons now. Unrelated to prompts, Alec Baldwin, or writer’s block, may I present a few of my recent favourites?

 

cartoon firemen

cartoon duel

cartoon firemen


Serenity now.

~~FP

Collected Alibis

Prompt: Book


Hello Wednesday,

The Goldfinch
My Brilliant Friend
Steal Like an Artist
No Time to Spare
Calabria: The Other Italy
Interpreter of Maladies

These are all books that currently sit in my living room or on my bedside table, waiting for me to put aside my devices and pick them up and look at printed words and turn pages. Also known as, reading a book. I’ve fallen prey to that short attention span malady, where my thoughts are about as substantial as a click-bait article on my iPhone, and my concentration about as reliable as the battery on my iPhone. In other words, I was once a truly avid reader, and now I’m not.

Fortunately, I think I’ve reached the saturation point of this kind of mindless device-centric busyness. I’m now aware that it’s not just unproductive, but downright soul-destroying— and thankfully, I’ve realized that this malady is also boring.

Down with boredom, and up with books!

And on that theme, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon book get up

cartoon book badger

cartoon book alibis


~~FP

The Enchanted Villa

Prompt: should be Competition, but isn’t.

1964-cadillac-deville-convertible

Cassandra and I were late, we knew it, but she had a kind of wardrobe malfunction when the lace on her wedding gown got caught on the long back zipper, so frail and delicately sewn that it detached from the dress when I tried to fix it. My maid of honour duties were filled erratically that day.

To be fair (to me) Cassie only unzipped her etherial lacy gown because she said she needed an unholy back scratch, so perhaps it was more her fault than mine. She told me, as we rushed through the hotel towards the Enchanted Villa, that all the stress about the gown was worth the conquering of the itch in her back, which was located precisely in the middle spot between her shoulder blades, entirely unreachable by her, and satisfied fairly orgasmically by my sharp and newly manicured lacquered fingernails.

The Enchanted Villa was reached through a set of nondescript doors at the end of a long, wide hotel corridor, which opened into a double height entryway to a massive stone, or faux stone, facade representing the entrance to a castle of sorts, but a castle festooned with coloured lights which sparkled and, well, enchanted all visitors to the dimly lit foyer. Inside the Enchanted Villa we were to find the rest of the celebratory wedding party: the groom, four other bridesmaids, and five groomsmen. All of us were primed for the flutes of champagne and expensive nibbles on the terrace while we watched fireworks burst garishly over the water in the twilight and stole french kisses behind potted plants and generally revelled in our youth and privilege free from parents and tediously obligatory wedding guests.

But the arched doorway to the Enchanted Villa was locked.

“Are we that late?” asked Cassie. We both thought we could hear fireworks, somewhere. Had the group carried on without the bride? I did the compulsory rattling of the door and pounded a few times, before I suggested we contact a suitable member of the hotel staff.

Our liaison, Mr Carmichael, was no longer on the premises, a young man at the reception desk informed us; nor could he be reached even to cope with dire wedding mishaps.

Cassandra had adopted the helpless attitude of a bride without her groom (even though I knew she was far from helpless), looked at me like a Bambi and was, I’m sure, about to bleat, so I fortified my backbone and told the reception desk person that this was UNACCEPTABLE. Not only that, I said, but the bride and I had not eaten since the early morning and were weak with hunger and had counted on the delicacies promised at the Enchanted Villa to stave off fainting spells.

He seemed startled, as if he had never in his twenty years ever been confronted or criticized, which was entirely possible, and retreated behind a door marked “Manager”. When he returned he had a large smirk and a glossy box the size of a cat kennel.

“For the bride,” he said, placing it on the counter and opening the lid. Cassie and I were already half drooling and expected a box of chocolate delights, maybe some shortbread biscuits, or perhaps the ultimate jackpot, a few slabs of exotic cheeses and chunks of charcuterie.

What we saw was soap. Beautifully wrapped soap adorned with red plastic berries and polyester poinsettias, an apparent survivor of the long past Christmas season. When the young man lifted off the first soap layer of the surprise package, he revealed a second, similarly shrink-wrapped trove of lotions and potions and a tub of perfumed bath salts. Normally the sweet aroma of these would wash over you like an attack of vertigo, but there was no smell at all. Age had dimmed the Christmas spirit.

Cassie and I looked at each other. “These are made in India, very rare,” said the young man, lying.

Cassie took each of the the contents of the box out and stuffed them into what I thought was a tiny silk purse but turned out to be an expandable silk tote in lace that matched her gown.

“OK,” I said to the twenty-something. “After the Enchanted Villa reception, we were all supposed to sail, together, to Paradise Island for the night. The rest of our party might be there. How do we get to the island?”

Paradise Island was a compact 10-room condo development on a tiny offshore man-made island belonging to the hotel, a leisurely five minute journey by boat. It was Paradise because the hotel did not underestimate the idyllic ambience that strings of white fairy lights bestowed on the exterior of a building, and because each room boasted a jacuzzi tub and a mini fridge stocked with mini bottles of sparkling wine, vodka, and fruit juices, included in the tariff.

“It’s finished,” said the older gentleman in the ticket booth, once Cassie and I had trekked the length of the hotel to reach the boat launch, which was in the same wing as the Seafood and Eat It cafe.

“Finished?”

“Last sailing was half an hour ago,” he said. “Good night.”

“Wait,” I said, and physically stopped him from slamming the booth shutter down. “Look at me. I don’t normally wear green velvet. I hate green, I hate velvet. Then look at my dear friend, the bride, Cassandra, in her lace wedding gown, separated from the man she just married, heartbroken, lost…”

Cassie was concentrating on trying to scratch her back with a tube of Indian body scrub.

“Send out an SOS,” I pleaded. The man stared at me as if I was a two-headed fish. “We need food, first. We can’t think. We are hungry. We are owed food and need food and want a hot meal now.”

After five minutes, Mr Leo appeared. I turned to thank the boat launch booth man, but the booth was shuttered and he was gone.

“Ladies, allow me to apologize for the mixup regarding the sailing to the most luxurious and exotic Paradise Island,” said Mr Leo.

“The Enchanted Villa was also closed,” I reminded him. “And the wedding party is missing. No one knows where they are. Doesn’t the hotel have phones?”

“We pride ourselves on a uniquely romantic wedding experience,” said Mr Leo.

“Huh?” said Cassie, as she moisturized her hands.

Mr Leo continued. “Our associate informed me of your request and of course we can accommodate your dining needs, even at this late hour. Can I interest you in a grilled steak? We are home to a fine red meat establishment.”

I noticed there were no clocks in the hotel. I wasn’t wearing one. I guess it was late, but had no idea at all of the time. By this stage, time had no meaning or relevance.

“Follow me,” said Mr Leo, and he led us down down down into what seemed the bowels of the hotel resort, perhaps as a way to expedite our journey? We travelled through tunnels with an insufficient number of flickering wall-mounted lamps, emerging into what looked like a food court of the kind you would find at a mall, but abandoned, and we breezed past the empty taco and pizza and Chinese platter joints and then almost past what looked like the hotel’s main grill restaurant, an expansive mahoganyish clad set of rooms with tablecloth-less tables surrounding a central hub, occupied by a lone woman with a headset.

Cassandra was lagging behind the energetic Mr Leo, who was no doubt well-fed and rested and not alienated from his newly wed spouse. I took her silk purse and slung it over my shoulder, as it was both a burden and a distraction to Cassie, who had completely abandoned any sense of independence and relied entirely on me, as if I was her platoon sergeant in a war jungle.

Mr Leo approached the woman with the headphones and said, “Hello my dear, um, do you still, you know, honour the you know what, for hotel guests, if you get my meaning.”

I was astonished at his deference. She however, was not. “We are closed, and anyway need a voucher,” she said. I heard for the first time the clatter of dishes— somewhere nearby was a working kitchen. I started to salivate. I mentally urged Mr Leo to advocate for us more aggressively.

“We can eat here at this table right here,” I said helpfully, indicating the table at which Cassie had just seated herself and was rubbing her feet.

“Sorry,” said the woman. “We are not serving.”

Mr Leo looked forlorn, so I said, “I hear people in the kitchen. Just bring us whatever they are making, please, as soon as possible, right Mr Leo?”

“Come on,” said Mr Leo, “I’m sure that voucher thing can be arranged, you know, if necessary.”

The woman frowned. She turned her back on Mr Leo and said something unintelligible into her headset. Then she swung around again and said, “We can do room service.”

Cassie said, “Oh fuck” as if she had been following the conversation so far, which she hadn’t.

“Right,” said Mr Leo briskly, let’s just get you to a room!”

“I think my luggage is on Paradise Island,” Cassie said. Mr Leo didn’t hear her, as he was barrelling down the tunnel in the direction from which we had come, at marathon speed.

We crossed the main lobby of the hotel, for possibly the sixth time that day, and there was a newly parked gold Cadillac convertible in the area between the reception desk and the broad bank of windows onto the street, as part of a promotion. In it, at this apparently late hour, a porter was stretched out in the back seat, snoring. How I envied him. Cassie paused to stare, and I had to drag her away so we could catch up to Mr Leo, who was waiting impatiently by the elevators.

By this time Cassie was carrying her white sandals which so perfectly matched her wedding dress, and proclaimed to me that her feet were dead and she was too tired to go on, which I relayed to Mr Leo, who was standing right there anyway. He got a chrome luggage rack and invited Cassandra to sit on the inside platform and be transported, no problem.

We took the elevator up with Cassie perched in the luggage rack, but when we exited and tried to navigate the carpeted hallway, Cassie’s dress was too wide and long to travel without getting trampled by the wheels of the rack, so she leaned back, spread her knees, and tucked the dress between her legs. There was still enough of the stiff fabric to make a whooshing sound against the walls and room doors as we made our way down the hallway, Mr Leo seemingly telepathic about which rooms might be available, since he paused at a few, and used a key on one, much to the consternation of the occupants, a blonde man and woman who swore at him in a language I’d never heard before.

“There’s nothing!” Mr Leo finally cried when, after an interminably long time, we reached the end of yet another hallway. “I don’t know! I give up!”

“You can’t give up, Mr Leo,” I said. Cassandra’s head had dropped between her knees. She was, I assume, asleep.

My stomach had stopped growling. My feet were numb. I was so tired I couldn’t blink, lest my eyes close forever more. I stared at Mr Leo, who said he was going down to the basement to lament his failures— that there was nothing for us there. He said Cassandra made a beautiful bride, and wished the unconscious lady a happy married life. He said there were comment cards on the reception counter, and to be kind as he had tried his best.

I wheeled Cassie to the main reception area. The porter still dozed in the Cadillac convertible. The smirky young man who’d given Cassie the box of Indian toiletries was nowhere to be seen, but there was a neat box of comment cards. I took two, one each for Cassie and I, and put them in my pocket.

The front door to the street was locked, and I could see no taxis waiting at the stand in any case, so I awakened Cassie, who seemed somewhat refreshed after her nap. She put on her shoes and at my request, hot-wired the Cadillac, even though she had no driver’s licence. I took the wheel with Cassie riding shotgun and the porter napping in the back seat. I drove straight through the paned glass windows of the hotel facade and onto a nearly empty street. If there were alarm bells, I didn’t hear them.

The fresh night air was glorious, and we met no traffic nor impediments of any kind, and the porter did not wake up.


  • This story was based on an anxiety dream I had last night! I have no idea of its interpretation, and know it is not necessarily a good read, but I had to write it down just to get it out of my head.

Home Alone [Repost]

Prompt: Bedtime

laundry basket with hand

I was so terrified the first night I had to be alone in the apartment that I tried to keep busy, and even to tire myself out.

I took two loads of laundry back and forth from the communal laundry room, which was frightening in itself. A laundry room in the basement of a public building? Perfect bloody crime scene. It was a dim, colourless and chill room, despite the running of the dryers. There were no windows and one of the two lightbulbs was perpetually out, so I could barely see my shadow as I unloaded the last pile of clean clothes into a basket. I gagged at the combination of the First Day of Spring dryer sheet smell and the scent of damp dust that clogged the ventilation screen.

There was a thin film of grime on the concrete floor: Did no one ever clean this place? And for some reason there was a large once-clean plastic tarp stuffed in the corner of the room. I tried not to imagine what it was for, or consider that someone might have placed it there with deliberation, for a future purpose.

There was one entrance to the laundry room through a heavy door which was supposed to lock but didn’t. Once closed, no one in the building could hear a person scream.

Oh lord. I ran up the stairs with my basket of laundry, didn’t even take the elevator, and then slammed the door so hard once safely upstairs and in the apartment again, that the dishes in the kitchen cupboard rattled.

I vacuumed the apartment and cleaned out the inside of the dishwasher with a pitcher of water mixed with Alka-Seltzer, since I couldn’t remember what my sister told me about some naturally fizzy cleaning solution. I tried to phone her but there was no answer. I hoped she would call back, even if she thought I was asleep. As if I could sleep.

They say some serial killers operate over 10, 20, even 40 years, stalking their victims and getting to know them just enough to gain their confidence. Then boom! Look out. I didn’t care who came to the door, I would not open it. Not even if it was the kindly old woman who lived on the first floor, and whom I nodded to if I saw her in the hallway. I had never seen her face close up. She could have been anyone.

Sometime the serial killers took souvenirs of their victims. God, I didn’t want to think about it. They usually liked a type. Were there any murders over the past 40 years of young, freckly, red-headed women? I was almost sure there was. I was a type, a popular murder-victim type. Shit.

You couldn’t talk them out of it either. They were psychopaths, or something. They didn’t care. You couldn’t appeal to their conscience or sentimental side because they didn’t have either. I could say I had to live because my child was in the Intensive Care Unit weeping for her mother. A serial killer would laugh. You just had no chance. You had to hope your serial killer would at least be quick, not one that keep their prey locked up and…

The phone rang. Thank god, maybe it was my sister. Maybe she would come over. But when I got to the phone, there was no one there, just a dial tone. A dial tone!

It was after 10 pm, who would call and just hang up? No one I knew would do that. The security guy in the lobby at work, the older one with the comb-over and the big hands, would have access to my phone number, and he had been staring at me. Yesterday he had started to wave at me, but I was distracted and ignored him. Maybe that triggered something. It didn’t take much to trigger a psychopathic serial killer.

But maybe it wasn’t a serial killer. Who wanted me dead? My mind raced. Gregory at work didn’t like me. I got promoted before he did. I didn’t like him either; he wore too much cologne. Was lusting after a job enough motivation for a brutal murder? It was in films and TV. Some people were just very ambitious.

I took a hot shower to calm my nerves. That was a bad idea, for obvious reasons. I showered with the bathroom door open, and the shower curtain undrawn, so water got everywhere and if the killer was in the apartment he would have seen me naked. How was that supposed to help?

When I started to dial my sister’s number, I realized it was now close to 11 pm. She would be in bed, and start to worry about a call so late, and for what? Her younger sister, with a foolish, overactive imagination, panicking about nothing. Calm down, you silly bitch. Calm. Down.

So I watched a recording of Love, Actually before I went to bed, to get my mind off the dark and onto the frothy, but I discovered I hated that movie. What was I thinking? Hugh Grant was just a big pain in the ass. They all were.

It was too warm in the bedroom, but I dared not open a window.

A sleeping pill. No, better not. I was tired, my bones ached from weariness. It had been a long day. I was desperate for sleep. But who could sleep? I was a common serial killer victim type. They took souvenirs. I was completely alone. Someone was stalking me by phone.

Who had called? Did Gregory want me dead? Was the old lady really old, really a lady? Why hadn’t I been more friendly to the security guy at work? What was that noise? Why didn’t my sister call back? What was that big plastic tarp doing in the laundry room? Was I about to die?

…Finally, morning. Finally. Finally, daylight.

I put some coffee on, my hands trembling and weak, then went to get the newspaper. When I opened the apartment door, I noticed something. In my rush to get back into the apartment from the laundry room, I had left my key in the lock of the door. There was a pink feather dangling from it, and my key to the mailbox, and a mini-flashlight.

My key was in the lock of the outside of the door, and had been there all night.

I immediately called my sister, who, in her always empathetic way, shared my complete horror at my mistake, and didn’t laugh when I burst into tears.

Still, why had my serial killer spared me? I pondered this for the entire subway ride to work.

 


  • Original Prompt: Misstep, March 12, 2016