Free-Range

Prompt: Trace


There is a trace of rain still pooling on the bricks of the patio. It is very hot. There are weeds and thistles in the garden, which I am trying to tell myself are part of an important ecosystem.

Now that we have the daily word prompt, “trace”, out of the way, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon writer


cartoon reliable cheese


cartoon free range


Most reliable cheese. I wonder what that would be? A sturdy English cheddar? A nice mild Gouda? An inoffensive goat cheese…?

Peace and cheese,

~~FP

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Swedish Rock and Roll

Prompt: Infuse

headphones

Gordon Ping was angry.

He shaved with a hand razor, examining with disgust the crusty lines deepening around his mouth and eyes. He dressed carefully for work, re-ironing the pair of grey polyester trousers that he’d worn the day before. He wore a white polo shirt fresh out of the dryer, which smelled of lilacs. He disliked the smell of lilacs. His ex-wife left the box of dryer sheets and he was frugally using them up, and now the odor made him angry, too.

She said she didn’t like the way he looked anymore. She said his face and body told stories about his insides the way a house exterior says much about its occupants. Fuck her. He wasn’t a thatched cottage (far from it, as his hair was thinning too)— he was a man with man challenges and man problems. Maybe he didn’t spill his guts to this woman at every turn: that was down to her. She questioned his version of events, his opinions, his decisions to such an extent that it was no longer valuable to share with her. If he wanted nit-picking judgements he’d go talk to his boss.

Thomas Agent, rich asshole and micro-manager. All Gordon did was put on a cheap royal blue smock and push a cart of external mail and inter-office packages around the four floors of the company, but Agent personally conducted his three-month review and later, his annual review.

“Tell me, Gordon” — who said he could use his first name? Presumptuous asshole. “Tell me, what do you find the most challenging about your job?”

Nothing is fucking challenging about being a fucking mail boy at age 48 except the fucking people, like you. “I find many of the employees distracting. They start chatting and slow me down. It’s hard to complete my daily tasks.” Daily tasks. A helpful term he’d learned at his first review.

“And what do you see as a resolution to this problem?” Thomas Agent was a man who thought he was subtle but was as transparent as cling film. Still, he had no eyebrows, which threw Gordon off balance at times. They’d been permanently singed and traumatized into non-existence after his briefcase exploded. The authorities believed his tale of ignorance as to where the bomb came from, which seemed lazy and complacent. Anyway, he was actually lucky to be alive.

He was lucky, period. Gordon Ping had more education than this son of a bitch, but far less luck. Health problems: diabetes, lung cancer, and a host of allergies kept him off the upward ladder, and he found himself having to start over again and again. He was introverted and some mistook this for pride or disdain, which slowed his progress. Who wants to promote or work for an unlikeable man? Well, guess what? His introversion did develop into pride and disdain— why not? He was better, smarter than most of the delusional, self-seeking morons he lived and worked among. He learned to hide his disdain until it was simply no longer possible. Thus his wife telling him his face now betrayed him, and broadcast his bitter contempt instead of hiding it.

She was a hypocrite in her own right. Pretending to be feminist but refusing to help support him after the divorce. If he’d been the main breadwinner you can bet he would have had to pay alimony. But no, she could afford the lawyers and he was recovering from a collapsed lung— no contest.

So he found himself sitting faux-humbly before Thomas Agent as he sipped tea infused with ginseng, believing it to have life-enhancing properties, discussing the challenges of dropping packages clearly addressed with the recipient’s name and location to the correct cubicle.

“Well, Mr Agent,” said Gordon.

“Call me Tom, for heaven’s sake, Gordon.”

Gordon closed his eyes for two seconds. “What I see as a resolution to the challenges of my job, is: headphones.”

“Headphones?”

“Ms Cohen thinks I need to be alert and that headphones could cause mishap,” said Gordon. “I’ve asked several times.”

“Good,” said Thomas Agent. “I see where headphones could help you do your job more efficiently; thank you for the input. This could resolve the issue of complaints of slow mail delivery etc, that we’ve received about your work, Gordon.”

And so it was that Gordon Ping, 48, divorced, angry, disillusioned, got a pair of inexpensive Philips On-Ear Sound Isolating headphones, which while not high quality, did a superb job of allowing Gordon to ignore conversation, so he was able to push his little trolley among four identical floors and deliver his mail without having to communicate with humans, and instead listened to Swedish rock and roll.

It is hard to be angry when listening to Swedish rock and roll.

Mary Jones

Prompt: Reprieve

strawberry cheesecake

She had a great palate and was executive chef for a large hotel chain, until she was accused of murdering her father, mother, brother, three aunts, their two sons, and the girlfriend of one of the sons.

Now that her lawyer and best friend had overturned her conviction, she changed her name and moved to a larger community, getting a kitchen job in a new restaurant with a strange name. There were surviving family members who might not agree with her reprieve from hanging, so it seemed best to dissolve into an anonymous landscape, at least for a time.

Mary Jones. That was her new name. She liked it. She liked her job in the restaurant kitchen, doing prep and clean up and dog’s body work. She loved the zen of julienning carrots, peeling potatoes, removing pin bones from filleted fish, keeping work surfaces sparkling clean and ready. She liked her boss, Hugo, who treated her with a distant professionalism which she found very attractive.

It was a busy Friday night dinner service when someone in the restaurant died suddenly. There were screams and cries from the dining room that Mary was the first to hear. Perhaps she was attuned to the sounds of pain. She was one of the first on the scene, finding a woman on the floor beside one of the white linen covered tables, a young man, possibly her son, crouched over her and howling like an animal.

She felt her adrenaline surge. That part was natural, wasn’t it?

The woman was taken away on a stretcher in an ambulance, as if she could come back to life. Mary knew death when she saw it. In fact, there was something about that night that spoke of epiphany.

Mary had a taste for death. There was no point in denying it, or looking the other way, or pretending otherwise. While she would never admit to murdering her extended family, she was not averse to admitting to the thrill of death.

It was a dangerous taste, like a craving for fugu, the Japanese dish prepared with extreme care lest the violently deadly parts of the fish should touch human lips. Mary had a craving for life fugu.

So when Hugo asked her to package up some mushroom fettuccine for his wife, a cop who was ill and recovering at home, Mary thought a little dose of arsenic, that old-fashioned poison, might liven things up, especially since during her arrest and pretrial incarceration, the police had been rather unsympathetic, choosing to believe she was guilty and treating her as such, even before the evidence presented at her trial. Hugo’s wife might be a very nice person, but a cop was a cop.

Hugo’s wife was too ill to eat that night, apparently, but was the poisoned dish put in the refrigerator for future consumption? Would Hugo be tempted and lazy one night, and fall ill? Would his weakened wife finally feel hungry and suffer a relapse, possibly a fatal one?

Mary waited. Have you ever had a craving, maybe for fresh buttered popcorn, or a rare steak, or strawberry cheesecake, or a Bloody Caesar cocktail? And had to wait—but know that eventually, what you crave will be before you, and that the first taste, the first bite, will be a little piece of bliss?

Mary knew that feeling. She had a new life and a new taste. She waited.

Who Gets the White?

Prompt: Impression


Hello Wednesday!

A family wedding took me away for a week, and now I come back to find I have to make a fresh impression– memories are short. They really are, in this world of Internet and social media, where instant gratification matters, longform is too demanding, and relationships are fleeting. Or so they say. Who actually knows how people use the resources of the Internet?

The assumption is that our fellow humans (not us, of course) are shallow and easily distracted, susceptible to click-bait, gullible, and undiscerning. Just because much of the content we find online is less than ethical, inane, “fake”, and, well, stupid, doesn’t mean that we the people are less than ethical, inane, “fake” and stupid. We learn. We are capable of perspective. We don’t have to be stupid.

This being Wednesday, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons? The first is tenuously linked to the word prompt, “impression”, by way of Impressionism; then we wander through wine pairings and end up with cupholders.

cartoon impressionist photo


cartoon fish beef wine


cartoon halo cup holder


Happy Wednesday (and every other day of the week)!

~~FP

Dinosaur Family Unit

Prompt: Qualm

dinosaur family

I have qualms. You have qualms. Everyone has qualms. When we look at the word, the letters of the word, we realize that qualm is a word that is illegitimate because it is misunderstood.

If qualm was a real word, it would be like a crusty fungus. It would a hymn sung in Latvian. Qualm would be the clump of grass that gets stuck under your shoe. Or what the friend does who lies and then pretends it was to protect you.

A qualm is a line of verse in a free form poem that does not stand alone. It is an oak barrel used too many times to age wine. It is a mysterious lump on the back of your dog that feels like a tick but isn’t. It’s that slight breath of air from the bathroom when someone didn’t turn the fan on. A qualm is a mathematical term, meaning the flaw in the formula no one wants to recognize.

Have you ever watched a movie, and then forgot the ending? That is a qualm. A qualm is what a dinosaur family unit was called. It is that part of outer space that looks empty, but only because our telescopes aren’t strong enough.

A qualm is a reassurance from a double agent. A qualm is the unit of salt you put on the rim of a Margarita glass. It’s the sum of the ages of all your closest friends.

It is the shape of a lightning bolt, the smell of a firecracker, the velvety touch of the inside of a cat’s ear, an echo in a small room, a bullet meant for someone else.

Qualm.


Pink

Prompt: Pink

pink mobile

Cash and Virginia agreed about one thing: they wanted the nursery for Echo to be pink. They liked pink. Virginia liked it in her design and decor projects and Cash— well one of his favourite press photos was of himself a the Doral tournament with all the pros in a group photo, and Cash in a pink golf shirt looking masculine and caring. People magazine online published the pic.

Virginia supported pink ribbon causes, though she had her doubts. Breast cancer “awareness”— what was that? Were there people unaware of breast cancer? Where did the money go? As a professional model she accepted, all the same, stipends to appear and run mini marathons; she promoted the cause, for a fee, on her social media accounts. It all felt strange. How could she push the issues of the pink ribbon without succumbing to trendy and meaningless promotions that did nothing but further the images of the corporations who sponsored them?

Cash made several trips to China. He hated being away from baby Echo, but he needed to get serious about his business and the Chinese manufacturers of the prototype and possibly the contract for the mass production of the Dinex (name pending) chair. His dad was doubtful and disdainful, and he wasn’t completely sure where Virginia stood on the launch. But there was a young woman who worked for one of his contact firms, a girl with black hair as slick as a snail’s trail, who wore a pink spaghetti strap dress and looked at Cash the way Virginia had during the weeks of their early courtship.

There was a baby girl named Echo. She lay in her crib, on her back. surrounded by pink and black mobile abstracts, poking her hands and feet in the air as she learned how to move her limbs. She cared nothing about pink, and everything.

Kill the Historians

Prompt: Pursue


Hello Wednesday!

The flowers and grasses and leaves and weeds are busting out this month, after a cold April. In winter the only glorious scents were evergreen and wood smoke; now we’re assaulted by the aromas of new green growth, dirt, barbecue, spring flowers, and cut grass.

That said, I sat on the patio and read, dog at my feet, for most of the afternoon, instead of raking and pulling out thistles. Don’t you love it when the air smells soft and clean? The pursuit of happiness is not mentioned in my country’s constitution, but I think happiness is so much easier to attain if you appreciate the truly special things in life. Like a day exactly like today.

Today’s word prompt is “pursue” and the first of my cartoons is tenuously connected to this theme. Still, if you think the cartoons are political, in light of what is going on in American politics, you might be right!

cartoon feline american


cartoon king legacy


cartoon world shareholders


Have a happy and productive spring.

~~FP