The Big-Vu [Repost]

Prompt: Regret

popcorn drawing

When they re-opened the Big-Vu drive-in movie theater, by the turn-off to the organic farm, people of all ages lined up in their automobiles to gain entry, park their vehicles in tidy rows in front of a massive screen, open the driver’s side window to allow placement of a speaker, and fetch popcorn and pop at the Snack Shack located in the centre of the lot.

The movie was Rocky II, which no one really enjoyed. The enjoyment was in sharing the novelty with neighbours and friends, and strangers too. Parents brought their kids already dressed in flannel pyjamas, ready to tuck into bed when they got home. Young couples snuggled and hugged and did what they dared. Jerry Plankton and his date, Dorito Samuelson, kept their seat belts on as they watched the film, happy to be able to discuss its merits and flaws in a normal, conversational tone without upsetting other movie-goers.

When the weather changed and the wind came up, and there was a smattering of rain and sleet, many patrons started up their cars again, and idled them as they felt the heat from the vents chase away the chill.

If you rushed to the Snack Shack to use the washroom, you could smell the exhaust fumes in the air. There was a line-up at the Snack Shack toilet, and no shelter from the rain, so Dorito Samuelson got wet. When she got back to Jerry’s Chrysler, she asked him to put the heat on, but gas was expensive, so he gave her a blanket instead.

Dorito Samuelson died that spring, of pneumonia. She was survived by her son Drago (Barbara) and two grandchildren, and would be missed by the Bridge and Optimist Clubs. There was no way to connect her death with the drive-in movie, but Jerry Plankton did anyway, and he regretted not turning on the car heater that night.

He wasn’t sorry when the Big-Vu drive-in theater closed again, after only eight weeks. Its time had come and gone, just like Dorito Samuelson’s.


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Rhymes with Sandwich [Repost]

Prompt: Sneaky

witch-image

This was, I think, the first weekly 100-word challenge that I submitted to an online group a while ago. The prompt was “Rhymes with Itch” and I remember the group leader being surprised that I took the challenge so literally.

Rhymes with Itch

Sneaky Footsnap was a snitch,
He had a plan to make it rich.
Bertha Cussmore was a witch,
Who made a fortune selling pitch.
Sneaky dressed up like the bitch
Certain none would note the switch.
His clever ruse had one small hitch,
Sneaky Footsnap had a twitch.
By virtue of this telling glitch
Sneaky wound up in the ditch,
Lifeless, cold, without a stitch.


Seasonal Mushrooms [Repost]

Prompt: Lie

two mushrooms

Jack wore a toupee that was obviously a toupee. It perched uneasily on the top of his head, the dark brown sides not quite blending in with the lighter brown of his own hair at the temples. The problem was, Benni noticed this on their first date but said nothing; now it was too late to point out that the hairpiece “wasn’t working” the way Jack or God intended.

They both ordered a scallop, lemon and sun-dried tomato entree, but when the server set the plates of food in front of them, it was obvious the sun-dried tomatoes were absent. There was nothing red or reddish in the dish at all. Jack had the grace to mention this to the waiter with a good degree of deftness.

“Well now, Jason is it? Jason this looks delicious, but it seems to be lacking an ingredient that was delectably described in the menu, which is to say, sun-dried tomatoes.”

Jason sighed, audibly. “We’re out of them in the kitchen. I can take it back, look for something resembling a sun-dried tomato, insist that it is one, and you eat a lie; or you can sit back and enjoy the scallops which are just fine without the sun-dried tomatoes.”

Benni said, “I would like the dish as described, and if that is not available I will have the Steak with Seasonal Mushrooms, medium rare, thank you, Jason.” Jack nodded his assent.

A louder sigh than the first one ensued. Jason begrudgingly swept up the two plates and left silently, rolling his eyes.

“What a dickhead,” said Benni. She wore a new dress, black and white, the pattern of which inadvertently made her look like a French maid. Benni noticed this had a slimming effect, but Jack’s first impression was that she was in costume. He said nothing except that she looked very nice, which she really did.

“I’m guessing they are out of Seasonal Mushrooms,” said Jack.

“I trust your intuition. There was a taco truck on the other side of the parking lot…?”

As they crossed the tarmac to Tio’s Taco’s (sic) Benni was rooting around in her black leather bag for some cash, since Jack confessed that he had none in his wallet, when they heard footsteps and shouting from the back entrance to the restaurant.

“Hey you mo-fuckers!” It was the unmistakable voice of Jason. He was waving a small slip of paper as he made what appeared to be a hostile approach. Jason was not a very tall man, but had the broad shoulders and meaty forearms of someone who worked out regularly. In truth, he had a girlfriend who was an employee at the women’s gym, She-Shape, who let him in during off-hours to use the equipment, providing he wiped it down carefully after use, which he usually did.

“Thank you Jason, for coming to say good-bye, and we do apologize for our abrupt departure, yet we are no longer motivated to eat any of the food you serve.”

“See this?” said Jason, as if he hadn’t heard Jack’s heartfelt apology. “This says, four dollars for one Shirley Temple and five-fifty for one rye and coke, seven dollars for one side salad with apples and nine-ninety-nine for the meatball/quinoa skewer, and fifty-two dollars for two Steaks with Seasonal Mushrooms, medium rare.” He put his nose only inches from Jack’s, and then slipped the receipt between them so Jack could clearly read it if he crossed his eyes.

“What are the Seasonal Mushrooms?” Benni asked.

Jason broke eye contact with Jack and stared at the French maid. “They are seasonal, out of a can, because there aren’t any growing, so they are seasonal canned mushrooms, and they are fine, as they are still mushrooms,” he growled.

“We felt the food and service lacked any justification for giving you money,” said Jack.

“Well that’s just too damn bad,” said Jason. He grabbed Benni’s purse out of her hand, found her wallet, and started pulling five and ten dollar bills from the banknote compartment. Benni simultaneously reached for her wallet and the cash, and a brief struggle ensued.

Jack then kicked Jason directly on the back of both knees, causing him to pitch forward, at which time Jack swiftly pivoted so that he could punch him in the forehead.

Instead of indulging in tacos, Jack and Benni quickly decided to get into Jack’s car and leave the parking lot while Jason was sputtering, spitting, and incapacitated.

Jack’s apartment was more professionally decorated than Benni would have expected or imagined. Muted, neutral tones combined with splashes of blinding colour, like a neon lime cushion on the grey sofa, and an original abstract oil painting in dizzying shades of yellow hung on the wall over the fireplace.

The kitchen had a concrete counter top, which Benni loathed despite best intentions. “I don’t like it, either,” said Jack, as he filled a stainless steel pot with water and set it to boil.

They had spaghetti with sardines and chick peas, which was better than it sounded, and sat out on the small balcony with their dessert Fudgsicles and coffee.

Later, Benni saw an ideal moment to bring up the bad toupee. They were having rather rough first-time sex in Jack’s king size bed, and in a moment of passion, Benni grabbed the hair at the back of Jack’s head and vigorously pulled, while gasping, “Oh Jack, oh Jack.”

Jack shouted in pain, and the hair did not come away. They stopped, and chests heaving, stared at one another. “I’m sorry,” said Benni. Jack’s hair was a mess, a strange blend of colours, and his own.

“You are not the first one to do that,” said Jack.


Voyage [Repost]

Prompt: Smell you later

portrait of a young woman

Oh, what a journey!

Everything smelled horrible and I couldn’t eat the food. It was foul. But when I could, I went up on deck where the air was a little fresher, though the smoke from the smokestacks often settled over us, dropping black ash into our lungs.

I was little, so I could get up there even when it was crowded. Unless the ship was storm-tossed, I would stay up top in the rain, underneath a box that was full of ropes (I looked). It was better than being crammed together belowdecks.

My mother dressed me like a boy, because she thought I would be safer. But you might be surprised how many men want to be with boys. I knew how to look after myself, though, I was pretty smart for a kid.

My mother had a boyfriend on the ship, though she didn’t think I knew. It was such a long, boring, unpleasant, filthy voyage that my mother welcomed this man, with his jokes and and the way he always had sugar cubes in his pocket, like a stableboy. My mother had a sweet tooth, and those sugar cubes were the closest thing to candy she was going to get.

Sometimes at night, when they thought I was asleep, they snuggled together.

One time I made it up to second class. This was very hard, unless you were half-monkey, like me, at least my mother said so. I could climb anything. I had my cleanest boy clothes on, so didn’t smell too terrible, and I climbed up through the inflatable life boats closest to the steerage deck, and made my way by ladder to the crews’ quarters, where it was easy to slip onto the second class deck.

It was pretty nice up there. People weren’t vomiting or covered in ash, or making love in dark dirty corners that smelled like pee.

I even got to meet the captain. A very pretty lady, about my mother’s age, saw me crying as I clung to the railing, breathing in the sea air. I forget why I was crying. When she asked me what was wrong I said I lost my mommy and daddy— I used those words— and she gave me a hug and said, “Well I know the captain, and he can find your parents for you.”

Meanwhile, she bought me some ice cream. Wow!

The captain quickly determined that I was steerage, that I (my mother) had only paid $30 for my passage, that I was not lost but an overly-curious girl dressed as a boy.

The captain was old, I remember that, but I mostly remember that he had a cat, whose fur was the same grey colour as the captain’s beard. He said the cat killed vermin. I asked if I could take the cat back to steerage with me. He didn’t laugh, and neither did the lady.

My mother told me my father would be waiting for us, once we docked and cleared inspection. I didn’t remember my father, not one bit, so I wasn’t sure how to feel.

I wondered how my mother would clean us up, how she would wash away the voyage, with its smells and indiscretions and adventures, and if my father would love me, or even know me. I told my mother that perhaps I could stay a boy, since fathers liked boys better.

My mother kissed me and said no, and my journey ended.


Think of the Ways [Repost]

Prompt: School

child poster pollution

Yes, children: Help the world. Think of the ways. Walk more. Don’t litter. Plant a tree. Recycle your pop cans. If you don’t, everything will die and we will all choke to death. Including puppies.

Something about the way we teach ecology to children rankles. They can be worked into a frenzy over juice boxes. Taught to fear asphyxiation if parents idle their cars beside the school waiting for the final bell. Are willing to pick a square of cellophane out of a garbage bin for the sake of recycling.

Why so much pressure on the kids, when the greater reasons for life-threatening, world-ending pollution rest in the hands of the polluters and the politicians who enable and bless them?

Certainly every little bit helps. It is important to recycle, to value trees and plants, to be aware that small changes add up.

But I don’t remember, as a child, being unable to sleep because the glaciers are melting, or having a panic attack when a juice box ends up in the trash can. Guilt and hopelessness make us panic and give us insomnia. Let’s stop loading the responsibility for a clean future, if we have a future, on six year olds.

Let’s teach them a little bit about ethics and civics. Give them relevant information that allows them to assess choices in the products they use. Let them understand the power of the consumer and of the vote and, yes, even of peaceful resistance.

Children aren’t stupid. I’ve worked with children and they constantly floored me with their wisdom and common sense. Let’s arm these children, sensibly and without terror, with the tools they need to face a real crisis and transform a future that is not as bright as it should be, or as bright as they deserve.


Original Prompt: Atmospheric, November 18, 2017

Leep the Outsider [Repost]

Prompt: Fly on the wall

wash-hands-sign

Franco the Barber had a maddening (and probably unsanitary) habit of waiting until he was out of the toilet to zip up his fly. It was as if he was in such a rush after peeing, Leep thought, that he couldn’t stop— no, he had to walk and zip; and peeing is normal and everyone knows he has to zip up so why worry?

So he was in the hallway to the living room, zipping away as he approached them where they sat in the living room, all except Leep who leaned on the doorway to the kitchen. He never felt he quite belonged. He was ever the outsider, and sitting down would mean he was part of this family group of Uncle Alberto, his nephew’s widow, Deborah, and her mother, Beth. Franco the Barber had no qualms about joining them, he exhaled heavily as he dropped into an armchair, simultaneously grabbing a handful of salted peanuts from a dish on the glass-topped side table beside him.

Did he wash his hands? Leep had a craving for something salty but would avoid the peanuts.

There was another outsider in the room: Deborah’s lawyer, Carmen.

“I don’t know why we need a lawyer here,” said Uncle Al. “We’re family.” Even though he wasn’t family, Franco grunted in agreement, which was another maddening habit, though Uncle Al didn’t seem to object.

Uncle Al was casual today. No tie, but the same dark suit and white shirt which designated him the boss of the room, over Franco’s somewhat rumpled striped suit and cobalt blue polo shirt.

Carmen had her hair in a ponytail and was clad in a cranberry red suit and black pumps. To Leep she looked a bit intimidating, so was the lawyer he might hire if he ever needed one, which wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Deborah and her mother were jean casual, as was usual for them. Deb had taken to wearing Vincent’s old jerseys, this one turquoise trimmed with black, number sixteen.

Deborah’s mother Beth, or Lizzie as Leep called her (in his head) had the courtesy to look embarrassed. She rustled up a smile for Uncle Al and said, “I was visiting Carmen on another matter and mentioned the annuity, she just offered and is not looking to make anything difficult.”

“Certainly not,” said Carmen, and she smiled at everyone in the room individually, including Leep the Outsider. He squirmed, just a little bit. She had an air about her, as if she could read your mind. Leep resolved not to gawp at Lizzie for the rest of the meeting, or think about how he wanted to frame Alberto for Vincent’s murder.

“It’s just an allowance for Debbie,” said Uncle Al, who was the only one to use her childhood name. “My nephew was a good boy and a good husband but was not good with money.”

Leep remembered Vince bragged about using a credit card for his vacations and the 46” flat screen TV and the new steering wheel on his Taurus. Poor old Deborah was probably up to her ears in debt.

“He was always on the verge of growing up,” said Lizzie.

“Mother.”

“May he rest in peace,” said Franco the Barber.

Lizzie said, “We are so grateful, Al, but I was wondering about the um…”

“Non-disclosure clause,” said Carmen.

“That is in all my documents, for business reasons,” said Uncle Al. “My lawyer insists. If he insists, I insist.”

“It’s no big deal,” ventured Franco the Barber.

“Shut up, Franco,” said Uncle Al amiably. “You’re no lawyer.”

“True,” said Franco with a chuckle.

Carmen continued. “And the visitation clause?”

“If I’m paying is it such a hardship that I see the girl and her mother once in a while?”

The discussions continued, and Leep slipped away for a few minutes, going to the toilet and fully zipping his pants before he washed his hands thoroughly, with lots of soap.

When he returned there were handshakes all around. Uncle Al looked victorious, though Leep suspected that was a strategy he employed at the end of every negotiation. Even Franco the Barber was shaking hands and grinning at Carmen the lawyer. She had probably shaken hands with worse, in her career.

Lizzie went into the kitchen to make coffee, and Uncle Al got on his cell phone to his legal adviser requesting minor changes to the contract. He wanted the revised document by six pm that evening.

Good, thought Leep. He leaned against the wall in the doorway, watching Uncle Al take Deborah’s hands and carefully kiss her on both cheeks. She blushed, but was used to his quirky formalities by now. What was important was that she and Lizzie would be looked after, no matter what happened to Alberto Demarco.


  • Original prompt: Maddening, December 16, 2016.

He was very pensive [Repost]

Prompt: Teach

grapes-690230

Todd’s mother answered the door. She stood there staring blankly at Lily-Rose, without recognition or curiosity, and said, “I’m not interested.” She started to close the door.

“Mrs Caper?” Lily-Rose said quickly. “I’m Todd’s English teacher, Ms Roades. I was just wondering how he is doing.”

“Oh,” said Todd’s mother. “Oh, well, come in.  I’m so sorry, we get so many suspicious people coming to the door!”

Do you? Lily-Rose thought, slightly ill-at-ease with the lack of some kind of immediate connection with Todd’s mother. There was always something, she found, when you met someone new, if you looked. A warmth in the eyes, a recognition of challenges shared. A camaraderie based on a flimsy but mutual instinct. She felt none of that, and neither did Mrs Caper.

Todd’s mother was tall and thin, with wavy, partially grey hair pushed behind her ears, and now that she was smiling, was not unattractive.

She stood aside and Lily-Rose tentatively entered the Caper home.

Nothing wrong with it. Clean, carefully decorated and tended. Framed pictures on the living room walls, though Lily-Rose would be hard-pressed to remember their content later.

“How is he doing?” she asked Mrs Caper.

“Well of course the flu became pneumonia,” said Mrs Caper, as if that was the established progression of life. “He has always been delicate. I’ve done my best.” She looked at her watch.

“Of course,” said Lily-Rose. She held out a small brown paper bag. “I brought some fresh grapes,” she said smiling,” it’s kind of a traditional offering.”. Mrs Caper took the bag, looked inside, and then back at Lily-Rose. There was an odd silence. “May I see him?” said Lily-Rose.

Todd’s bedroom had the usual accoutrements expected of a “normal” affluent teenager: expensive computer, posters of badly photographed women, blood-spattered heavy metal band posters, wi-fi speakers everywhere, yet the room was completely neat and in order. Mom had obviously taken her son’s weak moment as an opportunity to tidy up.

His bed was dishevelled; a sign of restless sickness and restless sleep. A pitcher of once-icy water and a clean glass were set on the bedside table. There was a small plastic tub, too, presumably to catch any stray vomit. The room was not stuffy since the window opposite the bed was wide open. The curtains moved lazily, like ghosts.

Todd looked a little pale, with not unexpected dark circles under his eyes. He looked at her with a pronounced What the Fuck expression.

Which was not surprising, since Lily-Rose and Todd had evolved into mortal enemies since the start of the spring semester. He refused any attempts at discipline, and bordered on physical threats. Lily-Rose had never experienced such hostility in her teaching career before, and needed to see where he came from. She needed to know if it was her failing, or his– or no one’s failing, but a circumstance to be endured, a problem to pass on to his next set of teachers.

“How are you feeling?” Lily-Rose asked when his mother finally retreated from the room.

He didn’t answer. He stared at the ceiling.

“I have your last test results with me,” said Lily-Rose. “And a little outline about what we are studying now, into next month.”

He then turned his gaze on her. “Get out,” he said.

“Here,” Lily-Rose said, pulling a sheet of paper out of her soft-sided briefcase, “is your answer to one of the test questions, Use ‘pensive’ in a sentence.” She read his answer: “He was very pensive.” Then she looked up and smiled.

“I thought that demonstrated a sense of humour,” she said.

“I don’t care about you, your class, what you think, who you fuck,” said Todd.

Ouch, thought Lily-Rose.

“Well, I appreciate a sense of humour,” she said. “But anyway the main reason I am here is to apologize.”

He pretended not to be interested.

“I came into the classroom when I had the flu,” said Lily-Rose. “I should have stayed home. I’m sure you caught the bug from me.”

Todd looked startled. Lily-Rose concluded he was expecting a different kind of apology. She was intensely interested in what apology Todd expected. She was missing something.

Mrs Caper came into the room, unannounced, with a thermometer. Lily-Rose stood up.

“Let me show you out,” said Mrs Caper.

They walked to the front door, and Mrs Caper said politely, “Thank you for coming.”

Lily-Rose caught her eye, and held it for a moment. “Please keep me informed,” she said.

And she walked home, thinking about the look in Mrs Caper’s eyes, and what it meant in relation to Todd. She understood it completely. It was a look of complete detachment, disinterest, distance, and disdain.

That was the look that Todd, as a child and now an adolescent, faced every day. Lily-Rose would think about it, but she believed when Todd returned to school, they might become allies instead of enemies.


  • Original Prompt: Pensive, May 19, 2016.