Finding a Spine

Prompt: Believe Me


Dear Wednesday,

Where have you been? In isolation? Quarantine? Hospital? Committing treason at the Capitol? It has indeed been a much too eventful 2021, which is why I think we’ll need cut this decade some slack and perhaps start in February?

All the crybabies who resist wearing masks and bully employees who follow company or civic direction are darn tired of this continuous breech of their freakdom. Those pathetic snowflakes think no one suffers as they do from this intrusion into their constitutional right to endanger others. Were you shocked that the thugs and white supremacists who erected a gallows and smeared shit around the Capitol were maskless? Me either.

Americans pride themselves on their system when things go unimaginably wrong. Since so many people were involved in this attempted coup, from the top down, we’ll see if the criminals receive the justice they deserve– we’ll see is the system is indeed the shining idol of supreme and superior justice, or whether rampant racism, lies, and corruption will continue to thrive. What’s your guess as to what will happen? What do you believe?

Me, I believe when the sun is out and the air is fresh, and when we can still call or text or zoom our loved ones whenever we want, we should all thank the lord we are alive. Despite everything.

cartoon not who we are

cartoon find spine

cartoon flick trump


Love and peace,

~~FP

Foul Play

It is Nanowrimo, and my goal has been one story a day. After a slow start. Leep and Cash and many others of the gang have been having all kinds of (Nano) adventures. Below is the very short tale I wrote today.


Isabella_and_the_Pot_of_Basil_by_Joseph_Severn

Leep knew there were regulations about how much cash money you could deposit to a bank account before the bank had to report you. So he put five thousand into the credit union, and another five thousand into the account that he and Cash had set up for the dining chair business. 

He immediately transferred the dining chair cash to his regular account, and a week later the five thousand from the credit union. The bank did not have to report it though of course they could, if they thought it suspicious.

But Leep was pretty sure there was nothing suspicious about a transfer from a business to a personal account. And the other was routine, too. Wasn’t it?

So now he had ten thousand dollars to play with, and a lot more, a lot, hidden under the floorboards in his bedroom closet, where his gun was.

He wondered whether he should quit his job at the mill. He felt he didn’t have quite enough to retire on, and anyway, what would he do with his time? It’s true, he thought of moving down to Playa, but he’d have to go check it out first, find out what the long term expenses might be, how long he could last and what his options were if his money ran out.

Wait. If he invested it, maybe it would never run out. Did investment companies have to report large cash deposits? He would have to google it. 

Meanwhile he went to the garden centre, now all indoors for fall, and found a big bushy basil plant to take to Beth. 

On the drive to Beth’s (Lizzie in his head) he heard an update on the radio about the body found in the pond at the golf course. A woman, a doctor, slight build, dark hair. Discovered three days after Leep’s windfall, and two days after she was reported missing by her husband. There was no mention of a stolen jeep.

The report said there were signs of foul play. What did that mean? Had she been assaulted? Beaten? Sexually assaulted? 

Leep felt queasy. He’d had bacon and eggs for breakfast and now they weren’t agreeing with him. He thought of the dark haired woman in the hospital parking lot and how she screamed and waved her arms as he drove away in her jeep. 

Beth’s car was in the driveway. The basil plant felt light. He would make sure Lizzie watered it right away.

Play On

golf ball on course

Cash learned he wasn’t very good at telling people what to do, even in his position as Assistant Pro at Coventry Pines Golf and Country Club. The particular foursome holding up play were drinking beer from a cooler on one of the carts, which Cash decided to overlook, and gambling on several elements of each hole, and then arguing for ten minutes about the outcome and what each player owed or won. 

Cash authorized several groups to play through on nine and also on thirteen, while the slow foursome argued and drank at the pin, but players were stacked tighter and tighter behind them. The club Golf Pro was just starting a round with a group of VIPs, and asked Cash to take care of it, pronto.

The Pro, Colin, was under the impression that Cash had some experience with golf and golf courses, but aside from pitch and putt Cash had never held a club, and had never driven a golf cart, and knew little about the rules and regulations. He had an open, blinding smile, however, and an outdoorsy tan, and the new slick golf shirts draped beautifully on his torso, his off-the-rack golf trousers looked tailor made— in other words, he looked the part, and Colin, being a professional, assumed that the Club would hire someone qualified, and not the adult son of a colleague of a wealthy member.

Most of the time Cash hung around the Pro Shop, sometimes answering the phone and booking players’ tee times, though he’d recently been asked to do so only when the Pro Shop manager was in the toilet. He could show Pro Shop visitors some of the gear and clothing he liked, but he didn’t know about stock or discounts or how to used the cash register. He listened with intensity to the stories from players about this birdie or that bogie, laughing heartily when it seemed appropriate, and deposting countless slaps on the backs of the old boys. Except for his utter ignorance of the game, he fit right in.

Cash drove the cart to the edge of the green then approached the foursome, who were in a huddle clutching handfuls of bills. Cash picked up an empty beer can and said amiably, “How’s it going, guys?”

“Hey, Cash is it?” called out one large man. 

“Sorry to have to ask you gentlemen to play on.”

“We paid for this round like everyone else,” said a man with a yellow visor, which cast an unfortunate pallid hue on his face.

“Oh yeah, sure, sorry,” said Cash. “Pro wants you to pick up the pace for the last few holes, ok?”

“Whatever,” said the skinny man with the visor.

“No, you really have to move on to the next hole now and play a little faster. Maybe a lot faster. Please,” said Cash with a self-deprecating smile.

The large man shrugged. “Tell them to play through,” he said. 

“Yeah, or you could just step on it, like the Pro says,” said Cash, still smiling.

“This round is costing us close to six hundred,” said a man in a purple golf shirt. “So you can basically fuck off.”

“Hey Roger, the kid is just doing his job,” said the large man, who Cash finally recognized as one of the members. The Pro Shop manager ordered 3X shirts, just for him.

“Thanks guys!” said Cash, striding back to the cart. He got in and started it up, hoping to drive off in dramatic glory, but the cart slowly got up to its maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour and puttered away. 

Cash returned to the Pro Shop and went into Colin’s office to cool down. He sat down on the hard oak chair that reminded him of the furniture at his old high school. There were pictures of Colin’s wife and children, older pictures since he’d met the kids and they were teenagers now. He could hear the phone ringing; people wanting to book times probably. He wondered where the manager was and if he had sought medical help for his bladder issues.

The oak chair swivelled and pivoted backward, so Cash could lean back and rest his feet on the desk quite comfortably. He really wasn’t cut out to be Assistant Pro, doing the grunt work, and sometimes even having to do groundskeeper’s chores, which he was sure weren’t in his job description, though he’d never seen it. He would do better as the Pro, entertaining VIPs, handing out prizes after tournaments, delegating the less pleasant tasks to the assistant. And those golf carts—what was the point of them being so slow? He’d remove the governors from the motors so the staff could zip around quickly and in style.

He’d need to improve his game. He could take lessons. He could just imagine the pictures of Virginia and Echo on his desk, Echo as a baby, then a little girl, and then maybe graduating from high school. She would learn to golf too, maybe become a little golf whiz, wowing the members and wowing her grandparents. 

By that time he might have advanced to General Manager of the course, taking over Dave’s job. Dave didn’t do much, as far as Cash could tell. He was never around. He often ate dinner in the Club restaurant, the Lobster Pot. Otherwise Cash never saw him.

Yes, he could have a future here, one Virginia could be proud of. 

His cell phone buzzed abruptly. He had to think for a moment. “Cash here, Assistant Pro!”

“Where are you?” Colin asked.

“Just got back!” 

“Well get out there again. I’m standing here at three. Can you take care of it or not?”

“I did take care of it,” said Cash. “They said they’d hurry up.”

“Who is the member, is it Gordon Wall?”

“I um—is he the big guy?”

“Tell him the rules. He knows better. Get it done Cash, or get out.”

Cash stood up. The window in the office had a view of the eighteenth hole. It was deserted, the flag hanging limply. The green was the same emerald colour as Cash’s golf shirt. 

He wasn’t sure what another confrontation with the foursome would accomplish. He just wasn’t cut out for confrontation. He was better at delegating. 

He wondered where he could take lessons, other than at the Coventry Pines Golf and Country Club.

Survival

Ice on aspen leaf

When the snow fell from the sky for the first time, that November afternoon, people ran outside to welcome it. Some people cried. The experts warned: Do not become complacent! But the air was cold and clean and deadly to the virus, and even Eleanor put her bowl of flour and sugar down on the counter and stepped outside to feel the icy flakes sting her cheeks.

The children were at school, her mother asleep in bed, and her father alone in his study not wanting to be disturbed, so Eleanor waved to her neighbour Harry, who waved back and then did an awkward little jig, and Eleanor laughed so hard she felt warm tears on her face. 

She felt eyes upon her and turned towards the house, and saw her father standing in the window of his study, his face in shadow. She could not tell if he shared her elation or was disdainful of it. She waved to him, then turned her back on him before he could respond, and waved to the neighbours on the other side, two sisters who hugged each other and wept. They’d lost everyone, and wept for their loss, Eleanor suspected. They were tears of rage more than tears of relief. They didn’t see her wave. 

A chill gust of wind abruptly brushed the thin layer of snow from the sidewalk and lawn and it rose in a cloud. Eleanor, now damp and cold, went inside.

She wanted to tell her mother but did not want to disturb her sleep. She’d slept so fitfully this past week, the fever coming and going; she was too weak to eat and the doctor, looking almost as grey and exhausted as his patient, had set up an IV to keep her nourished. That helped soften the rash on her face and body, she looked less uncomfortable and angry, and her features softened as she slept.

Eleanor imagined the teachers setting the children loose outside in the snow, free to run and play for the first time in many months, and anticipated they’d return home flushed and glowing. She put the cookies, dark with molasses and cocoa, in the oven. They would be warm when when the children burst through the door.

Her father came into the kitchen. She could feel his presence before she saw him. He was a dark cloud that inhabited the house, like a ghost, steady and uncomplicated and now predictable. “I don’t believe it,” he said.

“Don’t believe what?” Eleanor said with a sigh. “That it is snowing? That winter is here?”

 “That it will make a difference,” he said. “That’s just another lie.”

“Papa, they know it will kill the virus,” Eleanor said. 

“Who is ‘they’? You are naive. You forget I survived this virus. I know what it is.”

He’d said the exact words before, but was never willing to explain what “it” was; nor how he would know more about the pathology of a deadly virus than medical experts solely by virtue of having contracted it.

“I’m not sure you did survive it,” Eleanor said in a low voice, turning away and vigorously wiping the counter top with a yellow cloth. 

“What did you say?” 

“I’m not sure you survived it,” said Eleanor, more loudly this time, turning to face him. “You are not the same, papa, you don’t smile, you have… strange ideas, you—”

“It took me a lifetime to understand the truth, that’s all,” he said, his face flushing.

“What is the truth?” Eleanor snapped.

“I’ve been used, we all have been used,” her father said darkly. “Where do you think this virus came from?”

“You are talking nonsense,” Eleanor said. “We know where mama got it, and how.” 

“It’s because of them,” said her father.

“Who?”

A shaft of late afternoon sunshine suddenly broke through the clouds and streamed through the window, blinding her father; he turned away and covered his eyes. He was still very sensitive to bright light, it was a lingering symptom of the virus and one reason he favoured his darkened study. He would battle a severe headache later on. Her mother’s bedroom was never brighter than the light a single dull bulb from a lamp in the corner could cast.

“I’m sorry, Papa,” said Eleanor as she closed the blinds, a chore she’d usually have already taken care of as the sun moved lower in the sky. It would be dark soon, and the school bus would drop the children home. The cookies were cooling on the rack, and the milk ready to be poured.

She brushed an unruly lock of hair from his forehead. It was almost time to give him another haircut. Her fussing used to irritate him, now he let her touch his face with a resigned indifference. It was a connection, however tenuous. Sometimes their eyes met, as they did this time. 

Her father was about to retreat to his study when the front door opened and slammed against the wall and a small boy flew into the house, dropping his knapsack on the floor. “There was a snowman!” he cried to his mother, who smiled and knelt and helped remove his jacket. “She let us come home early, so we could play. Will you play with me Grampa?”

Eleanor’s father said nothing, but a wisp of a smile played at the corner of his mouth. 

“It’s gonna be better now, Grampa,” the boy said solemnly as he took a seat at the kitchen table. “Miz Fitzgerald said.” He then burst into a toothy grin. Eleanor’s father almost smiled again, and touched the boy’s head as if to tousle his hair, but did not.

“Where’s your sister?” Eleanor asked, as she placed warm cookies on a small plate and set it on the table.

The boy’s grin vanished and he looked at his lap, then at his Grampa standing beside Eleanor. 

Eleanor looked quizzically at them both, one by one. The boy stared at his hands. Her father took a step towards her as if to hug her. She could feel the dark cloud that always hovered over him penetrating her like an icy wind. She thought of the sisters, hugging on their front lawn, her neighbour Harry doing a jig. Her mother lost in a fog of illness. Her daughter, learning how to climb steps two at a time. She felt her father’s arms surround her and hold her as if she were a weeping child.

The boy advanced and gently took her hand. “It’s gonna be better now, Momma.” 

It’s gonna be better.

Shine on Me

Theresa’s car wouldn’t start, her cell phone had just died, so she ran all the way home.

He was already drunk when she got there, sitting in a chair placed in front of her small aquarium and singing a made-up song to a made-up tune.

Fishy fishy you’re too small to eat
Do you have a fat sister?
I bet she’d be sweet
Covered in butter
A juicy treat
Oh fishy fishy

Or at least that’s what Theresa thought she heard. The lyrics were slurred and slowly devolved into gibberish.

“And you call yourself a poet,” she said with disgust, as she picked up two empty bottles of Jagermeister and took them to the garbage. 

“That wasn’t my best work,” her father roused himself enough to say. His eyelids were heavy; he blinked slowly. “It’s hard to write erotic poetry about fish.” He looked around. “Refill?”

Theresa wasn’t going to lecture him again. In fact she vowed to never again mention the fact that he was killing himself quickly, since it did no good at all and he was determined to either die or to do nothing to stop it. It didn’t seem to matter to him that his daughter might find it disturbing to watch her father destroy himself. She found a blanket and wrapped it around him, as he’d soon tip over like a poorly weighted statue and grow cold.

She’d tried to get medical help, withheld his pension cheques, dragged him to a counsellor, begged, pleaded, laid out a chart with graphs and pictures in the face of his indifference and resentment. Her one-bedroom apartment had become a hospice— the place her father had come to die.

When he was finally comfortable on the carpet she went into the hallway and tapped on her neighbour’s door. “Thanks Mrs. Kaling,” she said when the door opened to the full extension of the chain lock. 

“God bless,” said Mrs. Kaling, whom Theresa had never met.

Well if he was going to do it, he wasn’t going to do it with her blessing. She would not lecture, but nor would she enable, aid or abet, and if she could physically stop him she damn well would. It was her home. Her roof. Her rules. 

There was one thing she still had to tell him. When he got sick she would take him to the hospital. She would see him checked in and made comfortable. She would then leave and allow him to live his final days in a ward with other sick and dying. She was certain it would make no difference to him.

Fishy fishy, swim my way
While your fat sister and I pray
Flap your fins and tail
Shine on me, dead eyes
Small and pink and pale
Swim and shine and pray
Until you can swim no further
Shine on me, dead eye
s.

Pinch and a Burn

Dear Wednesday,

COVID-19 is bittersweet.

How so? you ask. Well, my brother and brother-in-law were here visiting from out of town for a few days, and while we share a kind of safety bubble (even long-distance) there is still no touching or close contact. I thought I was used to it.

Two out-of-town bubble groups visited for extended weekends this summer, and we all abided by rigid rules– only two people in the house at a time, social distancing, all meals and gatherings outside, constant wiping and clean-up and all that jazz– and we chuckled at the “distance hugs” and air kisses from afar.

I don’t feel so chuckley now. I miss greeting my family with a hug, comforting them with a hug, reassuring them with a hug, and all the greeting, comforting and reassuring afforded to me in return. At this stage I would welcome gearing up in a hazmat suit and giving my sister or brothers (similarly suited) a great big bear hug.

That is the bitter part.

The sweet comes from my newly nourished appreciation for those I love, and how important those routine gestures of love are. We have to convey verbally and by eye to eye contact that we care instead of relying on an extra squeeze at the end of a hug or that warm touch on the shoulder.

As an aside, if you are missing the touch of a living being, adopt a dog in need. Our puppy has been a godsend, and doesn’t seem to mind the 20 or so hugs she receives daily.

Not related to hugs or hazmat suits is todays prompt, “puncture”– and the following cartoons are only tangentially connected, if at all. Allow me to present them anyway:


Love and peace!

~~FP

Sleeping Beauty


Prompt: Briar

Hello Wednesday!

When I was a kid, fairy tales elicited the kind of reaction that they must have done hundreds of years ago: fear and awe. We had books and books of fairy tales, telling of children lost in the woods, evil wart women, betrayals and punishments, violence, trickery and lies. Disney could not completely muffle the dark underside of these stories, and so I found many of the tales disturbing enough to require a night light.

What did I think a night light accomplished, I wonder? Prevent an evil witch from entering the room? Repel impossible creatures, like dragons and malicious plants? Keep not just the strange little men from entering, but also the handsome prince, whom I did not know and didn’t want to be kissed by?

A favourite though was the tale of a young girl (a princess, I think) whose six brothers are cursed by their evil stepmother and transformed into swans. She can only break the curse by weaving each of them a shirt made of nettles, and she toils away in some anxiety because the shirts must be made within a certain time– and she doesn’t quite finish the task before the deadline. So while five of her brothers are rescued, one has a swan’s wing in place of the arm she was unable to sew in time. …So exciting! I wonder if I craved to be a heroine in the eyes of my two brothers? Anyway Disney hasn’t ruined this one for me, yet.

In the spirit of fairy tales, briars, prickles, and thorns, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?


Sweet dreams and smooth sailings!

Love,

~FP

Middle Class

Prompt: Etiquette


Dear Wednesday, a little late,

Dammit and bloody hell! I know this is not a polite way to begin a post, but WordPress is giving me grief by trying to force me to switch to their “new” block editor despite my resistance, and I am currently writing in some kind of Frankenstein classic editor hybrid, which is random and fickle and well, dammit and bloody hell! 

So how are you? 

I like today’s prompt, since it gives me a platform to promote my belief that most of the world’s ills could be solved if we all of us had good manners. Good manners means putting others at ease while still maintaining dignity yourself—imagine if politicians took up the banner!

People might say, Excuse me, sir, you look hungry and cold. Let me do my best to ease your suffering, since I am warm and well fed and understand that I am part of the same community as you! Madam, you are going to bring a newborn child into our community? Let me help you gain access to the best care possible, since resources are abundant and should not be withheld! Child, you look neglected and confused. Perhaps a humane safety net and access to a fine education can prevent tragic consequences in our community down the road! May god bless you, whether you believe in god or not, I respect your choices!

Kindness matters with regard to monumental issues as well as with small gestures. Everyone take a deep breath— a healthy breath behind a mask if need be—and go forth and save the world with good manners!

Now here are a few of my favourite cartoons, very loosely related to today’s prompt, “etiquette”:

 

 

Blame WordPress if this post is a dammit bloody hell mess, and have a happy week! 

~~FP

Uncle Peter

Prompt: Sesame


Greetings Wednesday,

We had a visitor last weekend who is seriously gluten-intolerant, which meant I stocked up on rice crackers and corn pasta. She is not a gluten-intolerant wannabe—she actually gets physically sick if she ingests wheat products. I suppose she is the envy of a new kind of hypochondriac: the gluten-free-for-no-reason club at one end, and the vegan-because-I relish-the-cure-being-worse-than-the-disease at the other. I believe the only reason (besides mild masochism) for folks to aspire to a restrictive diet is for bragging rights, unaware that the brag is incomprehensible to most rational people. I don’t mind their fantasies of dietary superiority at all; I just wish they could be brief about it.

“They” say allergies are rampant these days because children lead such protected, antiseptic lives. This could be true: I know as a child I ate dirt and played in muck and came in contact with unimaginable contamination by today’s standards, yet suffer no allergies at all. Still, a friend I played with in the muck is lactose-intolerant, and also vegetarian, but since she eschews bragging rights I know her preferences are either necessities or have justifiable reasons behind them. She and I once hitchhiked to a campsite, and one of our rides was in a cattle transport truck which stopped at a stockyard, where cattle prods were used to hustle the animals out of the truck. That was unpleasant, and she says the start of her vegetarianism. Understandable, yes?

Meanwhile I am enjoying a plethora of sesame rice crackers, deliciously crunchy morsels that go well with the cheeses my vegetarian friend gifted us: pesto cheddar, chili pepper cheddar, and smoked paprika gouda. With some cabernet Italian salami, a few plump olives, and some gently pickled cucumber ribbons we have ourselves a summer afternoon feast.

I think Covid-19 serves as a reminder to appreciate those small, more intimate moments with friends and family. And of course the family dog, or in our case, giant toddler puppy with no manners. … But that’s another story.

May I now present a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which is related to today’s prompt, “sesame”?

cartoon open sesame

cartoon military badge

cartoon uncle peter


 

As always, stay safe!

~FP