Still Life with Chocolate Cake

Prompt: Superpower


Hello Wednesday!

I’ve been busy with Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), having completely changed the novel almost half-way in— as if the challenge isn’t daunting enough for me as it is. So I’ve neglected Fluffy Poolity and have some catching up to do!

When I haven’t been also neglecting household duties and ignoring friends and being housebound and opening cans of soup for dinner, I’ve been rigorously trying to go Trump-free since his presidency keeps outstripping every low— subterranean—expectation. When he goes low, he then goes lower. I now talk like a millennial: I just can’t…

So it calms me to think of a world where Trump is no longer in my face. I wish the man no harm; just happily dream about his retirement, which is what I love about the following collection of sketches. Hope you enjoy too.

trump_paintings_USE_this_051917


Peace and love,

~~FP

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Perhaps the Room is Too Warm

Prompt: None, it’s NaNoWriMo!

cartton suffer writer


Dear Wednesday,

Here we go on another miserable yet wonderful adventure, also called National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done my 1600 words for the day for a novel tentatively titled Cherity, about something or other I’m not entirely sure of. Anyway, in the first chapter a bomb goes off. Fun!

In keeping with this theme of writing, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, which I did not present yesterday because it was Halloween and ghosts were more important?

cartoon-you-write-to-penny-my-darling-ex-wife-who-nurtured-me-and-suppo-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9178976-8419449

cartoon procrastinating-writer-writing-on-paper-about-his-writing-implements-and-h-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9173157-8419447

cartoon-here-it-is-my-novel-i-ll-be-interested-to-hear-your-compliments-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9181104-8419449


The middle cartoon is me around Nano: I prevaricate, procrastinate, delay, clean my keyboard, download writing apps, try to print out worksheets, order printer ink, wonder what else Staples has on sale, brush the dog, and google “What’s a cool injury”? because I am so bereft of ideas.

To any of you also starting your 50,000 word novel draft today (try it!) good luck and happy writing!

~~FP

The White Ribbon [Repost]

Prompt: Halloweeny

YPE_001
Carmen’s hazelnut cake did not take first place at the bake-off, nor even second place, but that was not the strangest part.

She knew the secret ingredient (ginger) and she used fresh hazelnuts from the tree in Paul and Ruth’s backyard; the batter was fluffy and light and the cake perfectly risen and golden tawny in colour. But the usual Hazelnut Cake won the contest yet again. It was allegedly a blind tasting so Carmen couldn’t cry foul. The second best cake came from Cheryl-Ann something, who squealed like an orgasmic pig when her name was announced.

No, the strange thing was, shortly after she returned home and put the coffee on, she heard her beloved Uncle Matt and Auntie Thomasina knocking shyly at her back door.

She knew it was them before she saw them through the glass panes. Auntie as plump as ever, he with a stern angular face masking a tender heart; in the same homely clothes they’d worn when she last saw them, so long ago, in the church.

She asked if they would like some cake and coffee and they happily agreed, and sat at the kitchen table while Carmen sliced her hazelnut cake and poured hot coffee from the electric percolator on the counter.

Auntie Thomasina and Uncle Matt chatted about their dogs, and the possibility of a thunderstorm, and about the potholes on the road leading to their home, which had lain abandoned for over twenty years.

Uncle Matt still had that exceptionally persistent cowlick in his hair, now grey, at the back of his head, only kept in place by some kind of hair shellac that Auntie Thomasina used to pick up at the pharmacy. He’s too old to worry about cowlicks, she laughed. In response, Uncle Matt took out a small blue velvet box and opened it to reveal an engagement ring, one small diamond in a setting of white gold. Would you do me the honour? he asked Thomasina.

They told Carmen who murdered them. It was their neighbour, Clement, who had been in a dispute with them over an easement. He was a nasty sort, they told Carmen. Was he still alive?

Carmen said she would definitely find out, and refilled their coffee cups.

This cake is delicious, said Uncle Matt. Is there ginger in it?

Perhaps you could bake our wedding cake?  said Auntie Thomasina.

Her cake had only taken the white ribbon, but Carmen said: “I would be delighted.”

They didn’t hear her. They were gone.


  • Original Prompt: Ghost, August 17, 2016
    Reposted with minor edits.
  • Cartoons return tomorrow!

Nona [Repost]

Prompt: NASA 

Catesby-Redheaded-Woodpecker

Well, it is confirmed. We overshot Mars. Someone miscalculated. Opposition was off and now we have a new destination. Oops.

First medical officer Rosa was crying about it. I felt little sympathy for her, because her tears demonstrated that all her chatter about Jonathan Livingston Seagull and her place in the universe and her oneness with the being that some call God, etc. was bullshit.

Since he was the first navigator, John had no time to ponder and went to work right away with course changes and trajectories. He didn’t like to ponder much, at the best of times.

First engineer Will was close to tears, because he probably knew better than anyone if this old bucket could make it to Beta Omega. Will had legendary eyelashes. As second engineer I had a good idea whether or not the craft could withstand the extra distance, too. Slim chance, I believed, but slim was better than none. I saw the cup half full, in other words, while Will saw it half empty.

As first communications officer, I had the charming task of telling the other four, whom I hadn’t seen in six weeks. Two of them, Chris and Haven, were scheduled to be rotated back to us, while Sara and Ed were going to welcome Rosa and Will. We did this rotation, ostensibly, to prevent the contempt of familiarity.

I went through the tunnel and rang the doorbell. We observed little courtesies like that on this journey. Chris opened the hatch, then reflexively checked his watch. “Hi,” I said. “Rotation is not until another three days.”

“Too bad,” said Chris. “I’m about to murder Ed.”

“I’m about to murder Rosa,” I told him.

Chris got everyone together in the dining room, and I explained the change in plans, relying on technical terms and euphemisms to mask the nuclear-strength emotional bombshell. I was met with a stunned silence. Ed spoke first.

“Beta Omega?” he said. “That’s B-O, not very auspicious.”

“Shut up, Ed,” said Chris. “What is the estimated time frame on this?”

“Two years til landing,” I said.

“Fuck,” said Sara.

“No return,” Haven, mistress of the obvious, said.

Ed, supply and distribution officer, told us fuel, food, water, and oxygen would get us there. We already knew that. We thought about it constantly and checked on it compulsively, no matter what the destination.

Sara, first science officer, looking up from her laptop, told us that Beta Omega was a friendly, and the only one. It would be possible. Just. Good old Sara. Glass half full.

Haven said, “I would like to convene a meeting at 1900 hours to discuss how to handle this.” Haven liked porn. I knew this because I knew what everyone watched, and what everyone read, and what everyone wrote.

“What’s for dinner?” I asked.

“Spaghetti,” said Chris. “My Nona’s recipe.”

We all thought a moment about Nona, and how Chris would never set eyes on her again, nor his father or sisters. Nor Alice, his niece, or Chief, his chocolate lab.

We thought a moment about our families. I thought about the woodpecker, the stupid one that woke me early on weekends by hammering on the metal chimney spout.

Some of us thought about sex. I glanced at Chris. My choice for daddy of the millennia, for the first born on the first world, the inauspiciously named B-O. He had a soft spot for Sara. I might have to do something about that.


  • Original Prompt: Longing for Gravity, February 27, 2016
    You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?

Corn for Tallness

Prompt: Express yourself


My dear Wednesday,

I (and you, and anyone) have the opportunity to express myself (yourselves) for thirty days this November, which is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, or Nano. The idea is to sit down with a fresh sheet of real or virtual blank paper and start writing— about 1600 words per day for a total of 50,000 words (about the length of Catcher in the Rye) by the end of the month. A first draft of a book. A novel. Written by me/ you.

I’ve met the challenge every five or six times I’ve “competed”— it is an honour system tally. You post your word count to the NaNoWriMo website and your finished manuscript, which they mechanically verify and then declare you a Winner. You get to print out a full colour certificate, frame it, and hang it on the wall of your office or dining room or nail it to the fence.

I am generally a “pantser” which means I start writing without the benefit of detailed outline, as opposed to a “plotter” who organizes most the structure, theme, plot, and characters ahead of time.

This year I am trying the Save the Cat formula, which divides the story into three acts with specific pivotal plot points (called Beats) in each. So I actually have a story outline, but as yet no defined hero character at all.

I realize plot and character are interactive; each forms part of the other. As the plot affects the character, so does the character affect the plot.

…So what makes a compelling character?

I await your answer.

Seriously.

Meanwhile, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, only the first of which is even tangentially related to today’s casual prompt, “express yourself”?

cartoon decorator-farming-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9180543-8419447

cartoon freshly-ground-pepper-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9476900-8419449

cartoon man-on-deserted-island-writes-tuesday-nov-27-dear-diary-still-no-si-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9168868-8419449


Peace, love, and lots of writing,

~~FP

Callexis [Repost]

Prompt: Fantastic

Face sail Catrin-Welz-Stein

It was the most worthless bit of magic I had ever come across. The most amazing too, since magic and I did not cross paths very often; but still, damn near useless, except that the magic brought her to me.

The man said his name was Isaac. I’d heard of Isaac, he was well known in the world of dark trading. It wasn’t his real name, and he had a small army of minions, including lawyers, messengers, and mules to do his bidding. My collection was well-known, and when Callexis came into his possession, he was generous enough —and shrewd enough— to make me one of the first calls he made.

She was exquisite. Not studded with a myriad of precious jewels, only jade, but beautifully, masterfully, and lovingly crafted, with intricate patterns of vine leaves twining across her cheeks and around her eyes, the gleaming polished gold set off by the brushed, and inlays of copper, whose greenish tinge was like the venerable sister to the milky jade.

Exquisite.

Of course I wanted her. I pretended to bargain. The back and forth lasted days, until, as Isaac fully realized I would, I conceded to the near-full asking price from fear another buyer would snatch her away from me.

But how to get her across the ocean and across the country? It was not my concern, as her safe delivery was an element of the price, but I still wondered, and worried, since I wanted her so badly and shuddered at the thought of her being discovered and confiscated before I held her in my hands.

I was to meet the train, and the transaction would take place in my apartment.

When we were safely ensconced in my private den, with orders not to be disturbed, I asked the gentleman— he was a distinguished-looking man in his sixties, French, by his accent —to show me Callexis. He had only a small case with him, at which I tried not to stare.

His smile was sly, but without aggression, similar to the smile of the beautiful Callexis. Instead of reaching for his case, he reached up to his face with his hands, and in the next moment he had her, in his arms.

She shimmered. She was perfect.

“What just happened?” I asked. Callexis had appeared out of thin air. I rubbed my forehead.

“I don’t know, Monsieur,” said the man, whose name I never did know. “It is not trickery, and I do not claim to understand it. It made my voyage simple, and detection impossible.”

“What did?”

“She did,” he said. And he brought her to his face again, and she disappeared!

I had no efficient way to determine if I was dreaming, awake, hallucinating, or witnessing a magic trick the likes of which I had never seen.

“It is no trick,” the man said again. He reached his hands to his head again, and when he brought them down Callexis was again in his possession.

“Does Isaac know about this?”

“He chooses not to consider it,” said the man.

We completed our transaction, and I remained in the den, alone, with Callexis. I put her on the black marble stand that I had readied for her, and sat in my high-backed chair and stared for quite some time. I got up, put her on my face, as there were loops to fit easily over the ears, and went to the mirror. There was no Callexis, just my own countenance, staring back at me in bewilderment. I felt a tingling in my scalp, barely noticeable. I removed the mask and put her back on the stand. The tingling dissipated.

What are you? I asked. What is the purpose of this worthless magic? In grand fairy tales the mask would make one invisible, it would take one to other worlds, propelled into fantastical adventures, not perform magic as mundane and pointless as the mask itself disappearing.

What is your power? I was unable to take my eyes from her face, now both glimmering brightly and cast into deep shadows by the lamplight.

Callexis stared back at me with her sly smile, a smile that was also, I suddenly realized, complicit and strangely intimate. She, here in front of me, was as different from her pictures, from the way she appeared in my dreams, as a carousel pony was from a wild stallion.

I tried to smile back, but could not.

 


Community Service

Prompt: Community

1950 Brownie Uniform

Dear Wednesday,

When I was nine or ten it became urgently necessary that I join the Brownies. This community group was a kind of junior Girl Scout troop, whose uniform was a delicious chocolate-coloured dress with a belt, a scarf, a tam; a little military in nature. On Fridays all the Brownies in my elementary school wore their cool uniforms to class and then afterward went on to their exclusive Brownie meeting. It was imperative that I become one and learn their secrets and most important of all, strut my stuff in the uniform.

It took months of pleading with my mother because the outfit wasn’t cheap, but I somehow convinced her I would be a lifelong Brownie with community-minded virtues, and also be completely out of her hair on any Brownie excursions.

A Brownie was a legendary figure, a kind of fairy. How cool is that?

A brownie or broonie (Scots), also known as a brùnaidh or gruagach (Scottish Gaelic), is a household spirit from British folklore that is said to come out at night while the owners of the house are asleep and perform various chores and farming tasks. The human owners of the house must leave a bowl of milk or cream or some other offering for the brownie, usually by the hearth.

Hmm. Details. On to my first day as a Brownie!

Oh my, the uniform was glorious. I would have badges of accomplishment all over it! I stood up straighter in my classes that first Friday, in sisterhood with the other proud Girls in Brown with the same name as a delicious moist fudgy treat!

The gathering took place in a classroom where all of the desks had been pushed against the wall to make room for the, er, big toadstool that Grey Owl, a big mean-looking lady who led the group, had placed in the center. We all sat cross-legged on the linoleum tiled floor and then I’m pretty sure that before we all paid our weekly dues (a quarter or a dime, I forget which) someone danced around that papier-mache toadstool. What kind of shit is this? was my un-Brownie-like thought.

But the Brownie Mystery Trips! These were well-organized bus excursions to unknown destinations, maybe to a farm or a zoo or a museum or a water park. Who could say? It could be anywhere!

Funny thing is, I have no memory of any of the destinations. Perhaps they were to a nuclear plant? Or a brain-wiping research facility? I do remember part of one trip though, in the bus, charging through the countryside with my fellow Brownies, all of us excited in a very Brownie, lady-like way. I pretended I was allergic to bridges. I wasn’t sure what “allergic” actually meant, but I had a vague idea and decided to scam my Brown Sisters of the Bus, so I made quite a show of sneezing every time we drove over a bridge, large or small. Grey Owl said nothing, bless her. I got blessed, often— every time I fake sneezed.

The thrill of being in a virtuous para-military community organization with cool uniforms was beginning to wear thin. The odd Mystery Trip did not truly compensate for the big toadstool, not really. The last straw were the badges. I earned only one badge during my short tour with the Brownies: Dishwashing. Dishwashing! Where were the badges for spelunking or chainsaw sculpting or archery? My mother (proudly) stitched my one badge onto the sleeve of my uniform. I think it had an image of a teacup or something on it, a tribute to my knowledge of how to properly wash, rinse and set dishes on a rack to dry.

I’m pretty sure my mother used that badge against me in retribution for an expensive uniform I only wore for a few months. I know I got way more dish duty.

May I now present a few of my favourite cartoons loosely related to today’s casual prompt, “community”?

cartoon my-client-is-willing-to-do-community-service-new-yorker-cartoon_u-l-pgs22v0

cartoon boy-scout-break-glass-1

cartoon would-you-like-to-buy-some-girl-scout-crack-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9178735-8419449


Peace and love,

~~FP