After a fierce struggle…

Prompt: Fierce

Hello Wednesday,

Finally, on this last day of August, the breeze is cool and there is little of the fierce heat of mid-summer left. Birds of unknown origin stop on the lake on their journey south. I spend the day celebrating a milestone with a friend, instead of writing. So in lieu of a story, I will share a few of my favourite cartoons:

cartoon dominatrix


cartoon corporate ladder

Finally, in keeping with the Daily Post daily prompt, “fierce”,  may I present a very puzzling cartoon by English artist and occasional New Yorker illustrator Glen Baxter:

cartoon robin hood

Bye, summer!



Prompt: Vice


Spiro was late getting into the office, which was unlike him. But it was not everyday that Frank breezed through Washington and hosted one of his irresistible private parties. Who knew who would be there or what would happen?

There were some beautiful young women there, to be sure, and that was what the jackals in the press would concentrate on, if they got wind of it. But there were also congressmen, actors, lobbyists, artists, and television stars. Spiro wasn’t one to get star struck, but for goodness sake, Columbo was there. And The Fonz!

Fran breezed into his office, after allowing him time to remove his jacket and put it on the coat tree, settle in his chair, and admire the clean, polished bare surface of his mahogany desk. He ran a tight ship, desk-wise. Everything seen to and disposed of by end-of-day. Or at least, put into an appropriate folder and tucked into a drawer.

“Golf,” said Spiro, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head.

“Two-twelve,” said Fran, flipping through the pages of his diary. “A foursome including Mr Sinatra, Mr Lebowitz, and Mr Spalding.”

“Have a seat, dear,” said Spiro. Fran eased into one of the small leather chairs in front of his desk. “What about this morning?”

“Well, you are clear until 9:45, then a meeting/photo op with that Boy Scout troop, 15 minutes set aside. Then, ironically, nothing until 10:30, meeting in Haldeman’s office, required attendance… then you speak over lunch at the Water Carrier convention: topic Freedom of the Press Ha Ha, and then… cocktails, golf, more cocktails, then dinner….” She smiled. Spiro believed Fran was too thin to be truly sexy, too old to be truly pretty, but she had a mischievous way about her which, combined with her blind obedience, Spiro found immensely charming. And she was smart, usually.

“What about the Maryland mayors?” asked Spiro. “I thought that was today.”

“Oh drat,” said Fran. “I forgot. “That should have been half an hour ago.”

“Call them now, and tell them I was called away by The President. Urgent, confidential consultation. Reschedule, tonight is ok, but tomorrow morning better. …Now, Fran.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Send Felix in.”

“Yes, sir.”

Spiro went to the cabinet and got out the box that contained the chess board and all the pieces, beautiful black and white marble. He set it up on his desk.

Felix popped his head in the door. “Everything ok, Mr Vice President?”

“Of course, no security problems when you boys are around. Feel like getting whomped at chess? It is good training for you, you know, protecting the king and queen. I’ll let you play white this time.”

“White? Ok, Mr Vice President.”

“Only until 9:30 though,” said Spiro.

“Check,” said Felix. He chuckled to himself. He made his moves almost as quickly as if it were blitz chess. It was the Vice President who mulled and stalled, humming, moving pieces around without taking his hand off them, before finally settling on where to set the piece. And then erupting in a fury if Felix promptly took his man.

“What happens if the pawn gets to the other end, again?” Spiro asked.

“They become another queen.”

“See Felix? That’s where hard work can take you. A pawn to a queen.”

“Yes, Mr Vice President.”

Magical Ingredient

Prompt: Expert

french toast 1

“I’m actually an expert in French Toast,” said Stuart, as he looked at the menu. The restaurant had only one menu for all day, so the breakfast selections were listed, even though, a warning said, they stopped serving at 11:30 am. Lunch, however, was available at dinner time, though the dinner entrees were not offered until 5:00 pm. It took a little expertise to navigate the menu at Chez Tout le Monde.

“Are you?” said Envy, actually interested. “What is the secret to perfect French Toast?”

“Well, use French bread, add a dash of vanilla to the egg and milk custard, and a dash of salt, and let the bread soak up the custard for about 4 minutes before frying in a hot, buttered pan,” said Stuart. “There, now you know everything, I might as well leave, I have nothing more to give.”

“Hold on,” said Envy. “Salt?”

“Yes, salt, the magical ingredient in all sweet dishes.”

“Ok, wow. Well yes, you may go now,” said Envy. Stuart returned her smile.

They both ordered linguine with clam sauce, and a half a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc. This lunch offering was also available at dinner, should they choose to return to Chez Tout Le Monde at a later date and time.

“So how’s the date going so far?” Stuart asked.

“Pretty good really, don’t you think?” said Envy.

“Even though I’m gay and have a boyfriend?”

Especially because you are gay and have a boyfriend,” Envy said. “But do you know any straight guys? Because I’m getting desperate.”

“Dr Chao?” said Stuart.

“He’s married, and seems happily so, as he was not thrilled when I almost asked him out,” said Envy.

“Oh dear,” said Stuart. “Marcus is a tough act to follow.”

“Yes,” Envy said with a sigh. “So gorgeous and charming and talented in many ways. A shame he tried to murder me.”

“I know, right?” said Stuart.

They both took a thoughtful sip of the wine, which was ice cold and refreshing on a warm afternoon.

“Wait,” said Stuart. “I think I do know someone. Greg’s half-brother, who I met one Thanksgiving. He’s kind of hunky and definitely free.”

“Why is he free though?”

“How cynical we are,” said Stuart. “I believe he is misunderstood. He does like his sports, can be a little bit careless in his speech, holds a few politically incorrect opinions, but has impeccable grooming.”

“I’m interested,” said Envy, not caring how desperate she sounded.

She was desperate. It had been a long time.

Pretty Little Head

Prompt: Cheat

Warning: Adult content

father knows best -patriarchal-families

Even a comfortable chair, a weak cocktail from Margaret, Bud’s thanking him for his advice about the car, Betty’s kiss on the cheek, and Kitten crawling into his lap and wanting a hug, could not chase away the dark cloud that hung over Jim Anderson. His warm smile seemed cooler, more forced. He seemed distracted. The family circle that greeted him was not enough this day.

“Daddy, what’s wrong?” asked the ever-perceptive Kitten. Precocious child, Jim thought. We’ll have to teach her the benefits of remaining silent even when you want to speak. Maybe next episode.

“Nothing sweetheart.” Jim tousled her dark, wavy hair. “Daddy’s just had a long day at the office!” He grinned at her, showing teeth, which Kitten did not find comforting.

While the children set the table for dinner, Margaret sat on the edge of the comfortable chair and asked her husband what was going on at the General Insurance Company that was causing him such angst. It was unlike her husband to be anything but cheerful and commanding when he walked through the front door, set down his briefcase, and put on his favourite cardigan sweater.

“Oh, layoffs,” said Jim, reaching for a cigarette. “Nothing to worry your pretty little head about.” And Margaret indeed had a pretty little head, with curls as shiny as satin and a young woman’s complexion.

“I see,” said Margaret. “And your secretary, the other pretty little head, is she still giving head?”

“I beg your pardon!” Jim said, sitting up and almost spilling his Tom Collins. He mashed out his cigarette in the ashtray and glared at his wife. “How dare you?”

Betty poked her head around the door. “Hey, are we all okay in here?” she asked with a bright smile.

“Of course, darling,” Jim and Margaret said in unison. They had said that many times, in unison, over the course of their marriage.

Margaret said, “I would be happy so see that pretty little head ousted from your office, but then her place would be filled by another pretty little head, much like the last one.”

“Just because they are pretty….”

“Oh, shut up, Jim. I know all about it. I’m tired of it. That’s why I’m heading off to visit my old college chum, in Paris, for six weeks. I’ve left full instructions for laundry, housecleaning, garden maintenance, cooking —including recipes, shopping lists, and a few casseroles in the freezer— and also the children’s school schedules, the names of their teachers, the addresses of piano and dance teachers, Bud and Betty’s girlfriend and boyfriend status; and finally a list of all our creditors, including heat, electricity, tax schedule, and so on.”

“I think you should stop and think about this, Margaret. Why, I remember when I was suspicious and angry once, just like you, and I—“

“Hush, Jim.” Margaret took off her apron and laid it across his lap. “I’m packed, and the taxi should be here…” –she looked at her watch– “…any second.”

She leaned over and gave Jim a peck on the forehead.

Au revoir,” said Margaret.


Prompt: Mistake

dolphin pool tiles

On moving day, Virginia realized that the cottage they were relocating to was completely furnished, thus rendering the van full of chairs, sofas, beds, lamps, tables, wardrobes, and patio furniture utterly redundant.

Cash had an “appointment” —he said he was applying for a job at the casino on the Indian reserve— so she was unable to communicate to him her displeasure at his neglecting to tell her that the place was furnished. And wow, was it furnished. For some reason, Cash’s parents (or decorator) had settled on a nautical theme, so everything was blue and white and jaunty— crisp, happy, striped sofas, anchor-patterned duvets, some kind of navigational maps under the coffee table glass; with dashes of red and yellow (a red and white lifesaver hanging on the wall, and an oil painting of pile of yellow life jackets).

It was the kind of place you might find charming for a weekend away by the seaside. But the decor was not necessarily welcome in your new, possibly permanent home in the coach house at your in-laws’ estate.

Virginia tried to call Cash. She got his voicemail. “Tell me please,” she said through clenched teeth, “where I should put this truckload of shit. I have a very good idea of where it should be shoved, so I think I will let you handle it.” She gave him the number of the moving and storage company.

Her mother and father in-law left a basket of fruit and cheese for them on the kitchen counter, wrapped in cellophane and covered in blue and white bows, with a printed message, Welcome Home, that could only have been meant for Cash, since he lived in this cottage the first time he was kicked out of college, while Virginia had never set eyes on it.

Everything about the move was such a rush. Sure, it was kind of Cash’s parents to offer the coach house, but it was also Cash’s parents who cut off what Virginia called “child support”; as in, they had paid half the rent on the glorious, spacious town house that she and Cash had shared, and Virginia paid the other half.

Mr Applegate told Virginia that he’d given Cash lots of notice. Cash said he was sure he mentioned the situation to Virginia.

“It’s not a punishment,” Mrs Applegate said. “But you know, the economy and all.” Virginia translated this to mean, it was either your house or our boat, and the boat won.

Virginia made a pot of tea. The teapot was a deep blue ceramic, and the matching cups had starfish on them. She looked out the kitchen window and saw a small plunge pool just off the patio, with ceramic tile dolphins jumping around its perimeter. That would be nice in summer.


Prompt: Witness


Inspector Spencer had had a long, tiresome day. She was afraid she’d caught her daughter’s cold, and the paperwork on one of her cases was fucked up, and her usual partner, Levinson, was busy with a midlife crisis. She was dead tired, and as she was packing up she got a phone call from Riley, at the front.

“He says he saw something regarding the Demarco murder.”

Spencer wished she could be as dedicated and single-minded as television cops, but all she could think was, Why now?

But television cops had inspired her to become a cop herself. She would work through it.

“I’ll come down,” she told Riley. “Could you please set up a room?”

“Sure thing,” said Riley.

This could be another crank confession, Spencer thought. Or maybe a break in a case that was getting embarrassing.

She was surprised.

Married with Children

Daily Prompt: Obvious

twin babies

Albert Demarco, who was the uncle of Deborah’s late husband, had taken to Lizzie and Deborah, and seemed to be around the house a lot, Leep thought.

He and Vince’s Uncle Al still hadn’t had their little chat, or interrogation, about Vincent’s murder, even after a week and a half, because sometimes Leep found he simply wasn’t available when Uncle Al was. But as Leep had become kind of a regular around Deb and Lizzie’s house (“Lizzie” only to Leep, in his mind; her name to everyone was “Beth”), he couldn’t help but notice that Uncle Al was hanging around a fair bit, too.

He knew Uncle Al was married, because he overheard this kitchen conversation:

“Beth, you look the same as you did when I first met you, at Vince and Debbie’s wedding.”

“I seriously think there is something wrong with your eyesight, then, Albert.”

An agreeable, and to Leep’s ears, a patently false chuckle from Uncle Al.

“You are just as beautiful, Beth.”

“How is Tabby, Albert?”

An almost imperceptible pause. “Just fine, Beth, at home with the twins, as always. A very competent homemaker.”

“You should bring her next time.”

“She doesn’t much like to travel. She knows I need to travel a lot, and that I meet lots of people, and she is good with it.”

“Is she really?”

“Some women are happy like that. You aren’t though. You look like you could use a night out, somewhere special, whatever you would like.”

“I could use a night alone, somewhere completely quiet, and sleep until— oh hello Leep! Thanks for bringing in the plates.”

“Thanks very much for dinner, Mrs Hernandez.”

“Please call me Beth.”

Uncle Albert drilled several holes through Leep’s head and into his brain, with the dirty look he got.

But all Leep could think about was this: I can call her Beth.