Devotion [Repost]

Prompt: Time

fish

My given name is Adolph G. Zenith, though my friends always called me Zen. The “G” means nothing; my parents merely thought it gave my name more gravitas, and lacked the imagination and time, I suppose, to find a suitably, equally formidable middle name to compliment “Adolph”, and that also started with G, George, Gregory, Gerald notwithstanding. So Adolph G. Zenith it was.

You might have heard of the Zenith family. We were frequently in the news for a groundbreaking campaign for science- and bible-backed eugenics. My parents were large, powerful people who tried to live as they preached: god-fearing, white-proud, “true” Christians. Both were tall and muscular, infused with presence and charisma. Hopes for me, their son, were high.

I was not even remotely a formidable child. Instead I was plagued by allergies, was asthmatic, was very thin with delicate skin prone to dryness and sunburn, and had sparse, ash brown hair. Hardly the model Aryan boy my parents so vehemently wished for.

We travelled the country, and sometimes ventured overseas, attending rallies where my father spoke for hours at a time, sometimes replaced by my mother when he needed a drink or a bathroom break, and I was to stand proudly behind him with his “stage staff”, looking young and strong in a blue slacks and a white shirt and a blue blazer.

While preaching, my father would often take his jacket off, revealing a short-sleeved shirt, and loosen his tie, to demonstrate that he was a man of the people, sweating, passionate, and powerful; but I was not permitted to remove the blazer no matter what the temperature, because shoulder pads were sewn into the jacket, without which I would look like the underweight, bony, fragile child I was. More than once my mother had to hustle me off the stage before I fainted in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people.

They tried to bulk me up with red meat, which I was fed at least twice a day; and some fruit juices which they heard were “cleansing”, but except for potatoes there was not much in the way of vegetables set before me because they personally did not find them appealing. Nothing in my diet seemed to change my core appearance. I was not a poster child for their movement and never would be.

I grew up under a cloud of palpable disappointment, a daily routine of sighs, eye rolls, impatient instruction, and whispered, disapproving comments. I could read at an early age, and was good at spelling, and had a knack for model building and climbing trees, but not at running, swimming, aerobic exercise, weight-lifting, growing tall and blonde, or understanding or explaining the philosophy of race purity and pride.

My father was not averse to a good whack across my temple with a meaty, open hand if I transgressed, sometimes knocking me to the floor. “It’s for your own good,” my mother would say, as if I didn’t know.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the dogma or the philosophy of my father’s speeches. I developed an ability to completely tune out whatever came out of my parents’ mouths, possibly as a defence mechanism, since they often brutally smothered or slandered things that were important to me, like my love of rock and roll, my satanic curiosity about parapsychology, my devotion to fishing, and my friend René. To survive long evenings on the stage, to avoid a wallop across the head, to attempt to build a core that I recognized as me, I would zone out and travel in my mind, float across oceans, relive kind moments, play scenes from films in my head, try and communicate with René across the miles.

As a teenager, I was able to worm out of many of the stage performances, if not the sermons and some of the prominent, televised protest marches. I was still thin and unthreatening, but I was quick and newly certain that everything my parents did and said was wrong, as teenagers are, except that I felt righteous and outraged and on the side of the true god.

Zenith was not our real name. Father had it officially changed when he learned his heritage. “I’m not a Jew,” he said, “not even close, it’s passed down through the mother, my mother was not a Jew.”

“You have Jew blood,” I said, using the only phrase I knew, which now makes me cringe.

I was sixteen, and about to be kicked out of the house. He had confiscated my cellphone and laptop in order to confirm that I had not been communicating with undesirable people, and that I had no porn nor access to porn. I was angry; but more painful than the anger was the loneliness I felt without being able to text René or visit the forums that connected me to a greater world

“I have no Jew blood,” my father said, and his face flushed, and his eyes darkened. I tensed and flexed, ready to dodge a blow.

“Nothing wrong with Grampa’s blood,” I said defiantly. Grampa was a grumpy old thing, dead six years, but he was kind to me, and never hit me but once.

“You’re an ignorant fool, always have been,” said my father.

“Thanks,” I said, and instinctively ducked. For the first time, my father’s hand missed my face. He looked startled, and I felt a surge of power and confidence. This was new to me.

But I was not quick enough to avoid the next blow, which was a closed fist against my upper cheek. I fell to the floor.

“Respect,” my father said.

From the floor, I said the most hurtful thing I could think of: “Grampa’s blood is in you, you are a Jew.”

My father kicked my shoulder, hard, and I fell on my back.

He spoke to me then, in a dangerously low voice, about how the “Jew blood” had been flushed from his system, pint by pint, and he was pure, but somehow bad blood had infected me, his son. I’d heard this before, though hadn’t thought he meant it literally, which he had.

“I’m a Jew,” I said. “Thanks to you.”

He kicked my in the mouth, ostensibly to silence me, and that’s when my mother appeared from upstairs, and saw the beating had been taken too far, and banished me to my room without checking where the blood was coming from.

I didn’t ever get my phone or laptop back. And yes, I’d been communicating with undesirable people and looking at porn, so chances are I would have been booted out anyway.

Ten years later, in Portland, Oregon, I met a girl name Addy, and changed my name to Ted (short for Teddy, short for her nickname for me, “Teddy Bear”) Rickman (a family name on my Grandpa’s side), and was able to renew my friendship with René before he died.

As far as I know, my parents never tried to contact me or see what became of me. They continued touring for a while, then settled down with a congregation in a town called Green Falls, which they hoped (according to an obscure news article I found) to convert to an all-white, all Christian community. I heard nothing more, nor do I look anymore.

I supposed I was erased from their lives, and no longer inhabited their consciousness or their memories. They had the kind of minds that could exclude anything painful or conflicting or unpleasant.

I don’t have that kind of mind.

I think of them daily.


  • Original Prompt: Inhabit, August 25, 2017
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Tiny Umbrella

Prompt: None

freddie

Hello Wednesday!

In a departure from tradition, this post is not related to a prompt, nor is the post meaningfully related to the images that accompany it. (Just call me crazy and wild!) It’s just that the following has rattled around in my head for over a day now, so it’s time to let it loose:

Your family’s home
They wanna be fed
But you are confused and tired and stressed 
And would rather be dead!

We are the caterers, my friends
And we’ll keep on cooking ’til the end
We are the caterers
We are the caterers
No time for stress dreams
‘Cause we are the caterers of the world!

Who knows what it means
It’s only a dream
But when it’s night after night after night
You just wanna scream!

We are the caterers, my friends
And we’ll keep on cooking ’til the end
We are the caterers
We are the caterers
No time for stress dreams
‘Cause we are the caterers of the world!

Do you have recurring, repetitive anxiety dreams? I do, and they get so frustrating— and so boring— that I am trying new strategies to keep them at bay.

The kitchen/ cooking dream had almost faded away, once I conjured up detailed images of a singing catering crew who would pop into the middle of the stress dream as soon as I saw the dreaded big kitchen. Now my dreams are getting sneaky. The big cookpots are only slowly revealed. The ingredients and guest list keep changing…

I suppose if I dealt with the cause of this particular recurring dream it would go away for good. But for the life of me, I can’t figure it out.

Apropos of nothing, may I present, since it’s Wednesday, a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon nice wave

cartoon leo-cullum-may-i-have-a-tiny-umbrella-in-this-ernie-i-m-on-vacation-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9184361-8419447

cartoon bliss-are-you-as-excited-as-i-am-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9269896-8419449


Wishing you an excitement-filled week—

~~FP

What You Now Deserve [Repost]

Prompt: Unfair

beach shack trans

 

You will not change my mind, the letter started. Of course we vowed to share unselfishly (also to cherish one another, and a lot of other bullshit) but my darling, you are the one who broke those vows, not I.

I would never go back on my word, no matter what the temptation, what the motivation, what neglect or imaginary hurts I suffered, because I am a man of my word. Do you sincerely feel you were perfect? Because aside from the infidelity, you must remember your moodiness, your lack of unqualified support, your short temper, and your narcissism. Don’t pretend you didn’t know how much you let me down when you went out with your “friends”, when I needed you. Yes, I admit to needing a full-time partner, someone who also needs me. You chose your “friends” over me, time and time again.

And such “friends”: Obsessively creative to the point of boorishness; drug addicts, some of them; trying constantly to catch me out and prove they were smarter than me and everyone else outside the tiny, exclusive circle; pretentious, egotistical know-it-alls.

But you refused to listen to me. You, my partner in life, blatantly disqualified my opinions as unworthy, willfully dismissed my advice, and yet– and yet! –expected me to cater to your whims and hear every detail of your chaotic inner life. Not to say it was boring… but, my dear, it was. So if my eyes wandered, or I was forgetful about the minutia of your daily life, it was because of you– I am not your programmed servant.

Yet how often I felt it. You, returning from your workday, expecting a complicated meal and a sympathetic ear– as if my own work meant nothing! You, deciding when we were to have children, ignoring all previous discussions and refusing to even discuss alternatives when the test came back positive. It was if your every breath was devoted to making me feel small and insignificant.

I showed my love in all ways. Wanting you– and being rebuffed. Holding you– and feeling you go rigid with disgust. Gifts– that you put aside. Compliments in public– that you sneered at later.

I am not a mind reader. Your communication skills were lacking where I was concerned. While I tried, you made no effort to anticipate my wants and needs. So self-absorbed that you could not see the writing on the wall.

And now, you want the house. For you and Jack. So Jack doesn’t have to change schools and leave friends, or some such. It is not a disaster or even hardship to change schools, my dear; I did it many times as a child and it did nothing but make me stronger.

You are so proud of your income– go find a mansion worthy of your exalted position in life. Send our son to a fine, expensive school, out of the way, so you and your paramour don’t have to use our house, our bedroom, to perform your perversions.

I am as entitled to the house as you are. I am a recognized, contributing member of this community, every bit as much as you. Don’t use Jack as a pawn in this game. You won’t win it.

You were caught out in your infidelity, and now you must suffer the consequences. If your attorneys threaten or intimidate me in any way, I will double down. You know me. I don’t back away from a challenge. I am not a vindictive man, but a fair one. 

You will have to settle for the beach house, which is most inconvenient, I realize, since it is a great distance from your workplace and Jack’s schools, not to mention that it is more like a shack than a house: weeds as tall as a man, crumbling walls, garbage and debris on the so-called beach. Where there were once soft grains of fine sand, there are now sharp rocks and thistles– a fitting metaphor for what you have given up, and what you now deserve.

———–

He signed his name in full at the bottom of the letter, as if it was a business correspondence. She placed it on the counter, and took out her cell phone. She punched in a number, and waited for it to be answered.

“Jack sweetie?” she said. “We got the beach house!”


Attention, Shoppers

Prompt: Customer


Hello Wednesday,

I’m just passing through today; have had a busy week what with cannabis, my sister visiting, a birthday party, and decorating a fantasy home, so without further adieu please allow me to present this small collection of my favourite cartoons relating to the casual prompt, “customer”:

I know my dog would window shop if he could, and with more enthusiasm than me:

cartoon dog butcher shop

Is it me or is it crazy that there are whole aisles at the supermarket dedicated to yogurt, potato chips, and yes, water?

cartoon bill-woodman-little-dutch-boy-at-supermarket-holds-his-finger-against-a-bottle-in-the-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9191008-8419447

Me, sometime soon:

cartoon attention shoppers


Have a wonderful week— though please check in tomorrow for Throwback Thursday.

~~FP

One More

Prompt: Toys

cartoonj-b-handelsman-toy-store-is-called-childcrap-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9181666-8419447

Hello Wednesday,

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine a while back showing bunches of parents with children flooding into a big store called “Childcrap”. If you’ve ever been to those big box toy stores, or even the big toy department of any shop then you know how accurate that captionless cartoon is. Plastic everything, the worst of the Made in Chinas, gaudy colours, cheap and disposable trendy doodads.

But we adults are no less susceptible to crap toys. Our digital picture frames, our Instant Pots, our mp3 players, our golf club mitts, our milk foamers, our Moroccan hash pipes, our battery-powered thingamajigs, our air fryers, our expensive sneakers, our $50 corkscrews… bits and bobs that are fun but mysteriously transient. Every summer at our house we bring out a chips and salsa platter that plays the Mexican Hat Dance every time someone dips a tortilla chip. Well, maybe the latter example is less crap than a valuable family heirloom. Yeah, that.

In any case, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons relating to today’s casual prompt, “toys”?

cartoon two-cowboys-sitting-outside-a-saloon-with-remote-controls-watch-toy-robot-new-yorker-cartoon_u-l-pgrzy10

cartoon tom-cheney-so-many-toys-so-little-unstructured-time-new-yorker-cartoon_u-l-pgspqy0 2

cartoon paul-noth-a-bobbing-duck-toy-is-dipping-its-beak-into-a-glass-of-water-new-yorker-cartoon


Peace, love, and “adult” toys,

~~FP

He Said, She Said

Prompt: Twist

graphic business

It was meant to be an informal meeting, just to determine who had sexually harassed who, or even if such an event had occurred.

Sheryll, standing before a bank of buttons in the elevator, believed she had no reason to be nervous, so she impatiently pushed the nagging doubts from her mind. She wore a sleek black pencil skirt and perfectly tailored cashmere powder blue jacket. The HR boss, Carley Spoon, was a busy woman, no nonsense, and unlikely to let the dispute ramble on for long. It was a sensitive area, of course. Jimmy was handsome and charming. Sheryll was polished and attractive. She had worked at the station longer than he, and had a spotless reputation. So, she told herself sternly, nothing to worry about.

She realized she hadn’t pressed any floor buttons. She jabbed at 9 and felt the jolt of the elevator raising her up, leaving most of her stomach behind.

Jimmy was already there, sitting in one of the chrome and leather chairs set in a semi-circle in front of Carley’s desk. As was Carley’s assistant Terry, and another red-headed young woman who Sheryll didn’t recognize; but there was no sign of the HR manager yet. Sheryll glanced at her watch. She was a few minutes early.

She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder, and spun around.

“Hey, sorry, stay cool.” It was Molly from the art department. She was slim, dark and exotic, and most of all, ambitious. She took the attitude of acting the part of the position she hoped to attain. “I just thought I would sit in,” she said with a smile.

“Sit in?” said Sheryll.

“Yes, taking a course in Human Resources. Two nights a week.” She reached a around Sheryll to peek the office. “Nice digs!” she said.

“What?” Sheryll said, irritated, as Carley appeared from nowhere with a file folder. She beckoned Sheryll inside with a flourish of her hand, and Molly trailed in after her.

Sheryll heard Molly greet Carley Spoon with a boisterous Hi, How are you? as if they were old chums who had missed each other since last meeting. Carley didn’t answer and the room took on an awkward air.

Instead of taking a seat in the plush leather seat behind the desk, Carley perched herself on the front corner of the desk. This said: I expect this to be brief.

Terry quietly closed the door, and setting a small brushed nickel device in the center of the desktop, said, “We’re gonna record this.”

Jimmy’s chair was farthest from the door, and slightly separate from the other four chairs, which formed a cluster near the desk. As Carley went over some basics (introducing everyone and establishing basic rules), Sheryll discreetly peeked at the young man. He sat confidently, legs stretched in front of him, looking slightly surly, slightly arrogant, like a recalcitrant student at the principal’s office. He wore khaki shorts, a black t-shirt and a grey fleece jacket, perhaps feeling confident enough that he need not dress up, as Sheryll had. He was a tall man, with natural broad shoulders and the healthy glow of someone who spent a lot of time outdoors. His slightly mussed, curly hair was tied in a small pony tail at the back. Diffused sunlight streamed in, penetrating the sheer drapes on the window, and glinted like sparks of gold in the fine, blond hair of his legs and thighs.

Carley first asked Sheryll about her position and and asked her to recount what had happened that Friday afternoon. Sheryll leaned forward and spoke to the recorder on the desk. “I’m Media/Resources Manager,” she said. Carley looked at her watch.

“I went into the DVD storage library to pick something up,” she began.

“What time was this?” asked Carley politely.

“I guess around three o’clock.” She had been late back from a three-glasses of wine lunch with Tony, her best friend who was in town for the afternoon. She planned to pack some docs and DVDs into her briefcase and work on the project later, at home, after a nice long nap, or tomorrow, maybe.

“Jimmy was in there, in the corner with an order pack, picking out cuts and so on, so I went over and said hello.”

Carley was absently reading something in the file folder. “What exactly was said?”

“I believe I asked him how he was enjoying the job, or words to that effect.”

“How long have you been an intern here, Jimmy?” Carley asked.

“Three months,” he replied.

“How did you answer Ms Ross?”

“I was polite, just said it’s going good.”

“Then what?”

“Then I just—“ Sheryll began, but was interrupted.

“Then she moved in close,” Jimmy said. “She pressed up against me and her … chest rubbed on mine.”

Molly coughed.

“Oh,” said Carley. “Is that what happened, Sheryll?”

“Then,” Jimmy interrupted again, “she brushed the back of her hand against the front of my pants.” He was scowling, now, not looking at Sheryll or anyone in the room.

Carley crossed her legs. They were plump but shapely.

“Do you mean your penis area?” Carley asked.

The room was airless. Jimmy’s cheeks grew rosier. He nodded.

“That’s a yes?”

“Yes.”

“And so, Jimmy,” Carley continued. “Were you aroused by this?”

“What?” he said, sitting up straighter.

“What were you wearing that afternoon, Jimmy? Something similar to today’s outfit?” Carley asked.

“Whatever,” he said. “Yes, shorts and a t-shirt.”

“Short shorts, like what you have on now.”

Sheryll glanced at Jimmy, who still stared fiercely at something invisible near the potted fig tree on the other side of the door.

“Did you touch Ms Ross, Jimmy?”

“I pushed her back a little.”

“Where did you touch her?”

Jimmy paused. “Sort of on the hip.” he said.

“I see. Then what?”

“I left!”

“You left.” She transferred her steady, inscrutable gaze to Sheryll. “Sheryll?”

“As I recall,” said Sheryll, “I left the room first, went back to my office.”

“Did you rub on him?” Molly blurted out.

“Molly.” Carley’s voice, cold and fierce.

“Sorry,” said Molly.

“As I remember it,” Sheryll said carefully, “we said hello and he was very friendly, and put his hand on my waist. It was a little uncomfortable, but no big deal, so I left.

“Well,” said Carley after a pause, closing the file and placing it on the desk beside her. “A clear miscommunication, that’s all.” She shrugged.

“No miscommunication,” Jimmy said.

“I think you appreciate, Jimmy, that this is a ‘he said, she said’ situation,” Carley said patiently. “First, you certainly give off the vibe of someone very interested in action, from the way you dress to the way you speak and look at the women in this office.”

Jimmy rallied as if to speak. “I’m not finished,” said Carley. “In fact, you, Jimmy, have somewhat of a reputation around the sixth floor.” She paused. “Sheryll has been with us over six years, with nothing even remotely like this coming to light. You are young and young men sometimes have inappropriate urges. Let’s leave it at that. You won’t lose your job, but there will be a six week probationary period where we will watch you very closely.”

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Jimmy said.

“I’m not fucking kidding you,” Carley said.

Jimmy stood up, tore off his grey hoodie and threw it on the ground. Carley rolled her eyes. “Are you finished with your manly display?” she said, looking at Terry, who stood up and went to door. He opened it wide and the sounds of a busy office filtered back into the room.

Carley picked up the recording device, and then put it back on the desk. She stood up. “We’ll move you to another department, of course,” she said to Jimmy.

“We need an intern in Art,” Molly volunteered.

“The fuck you will,” Jimmy said. “I quit.”

“Let’s say you’re fired, and call it a draw,” said Carley.

Enraged, Jimmy strode to the door. He turned to Sheryll. Alarmed, she pressed against the back of the chair.

“And fuck YOU,” he said, jabbing a finger in the air. He stormed out.

Carley turned to Sheryll. “God, men have such tempers. I don’t know how they function.”

 

Again

Prompt: Excitement

Red-tailed_Hawk_with_moon_over_Estero_Bay_CA_-_composition_red-tail-moon-composite-2630s_(323660913)

There was nothing more exciting than absorbing the heat of the sun for an hour or two, then swinging from a rope and plunging into the deepest, coldest lake in the country.

The lake was in perpetual shade, surrounded by rocky hills leaning inward as if in conference with one another. At lakeshore, dusk came quickly, dawn was delayed, and there was always a constant shimmer of shadow no matter what the sky said.

On that day, there were no clouds, nor any haze to dilute the moon blueness of the sky. Cicadas buzzed. The air smelled like dust.

When they arrived, the cicadas halted and made note, then continued their chorus.

One of them, with very long black hair and brown skin, took the rope first and jumped from the ledge and screaming, let go and seconds later splashed into the cold waters. From above you could see her teeth flashing as she grinned and shouted encouragement.

The crows heard her, and came to watch from the trees.

The catfish stopped their glide along the lake bed and came too close to the surface, where they were quarry for the osprey.

Someone in a blue swimsuit flew across from the ledge and tumbled into the water. Her cries of delighted shock echoed back to her from the dry scrub hills.

A red-tailed hawk took a hesitant vole from a weed-choked shore.

“IT’S MEEEE,” a boy shouted as he let go of the rope, and landed in the black water so close to the brown-skinned one that she lost her breath and felt water in her lungs.

In the tall grass at the water’s edge, a juvenile seagull gathered its wings around itself, wounded, hungry, and fearful.

The last one took the rope and swung out from the ledge and forgot to let go, and came near to the ledge but not near enough to let go again, then swung slowly out until the rope hung straight as a plumb bob and the last one dangled and a crow flew up and around him, scolding.

Quail chicks were herded back to the nest by the hen, missing their afternoon forage.

The last one let go and when he came up for air he was surrounded by voices, skins, hair, scales, fur, shells, feathers, leaves, shadows, squawking, silence, and hands.

They all cried in unison, “Again!”