Ants on a Log [Repost]

Prompt: Parallel

200553073-001

Virginia awoke suddenly with that familiar lurching in her stomach. She tumbled out of bed and just made it to the bathroom in time to see Cash crouched over the toilet, retching.

“Move!” she screamed but he couldn’t, so she vomited in one of the double sinks. His sink.

“For god’s sake, Cash,” said Virginia. “I’m the pregnant one.”

“I can’t help it, Virge,” Cash said glumly. He’d been in a mood ever since her pregnancy was confirmed. He was fatigued, sensitive, he constantly craved “ants on a log”, which was a stick of celery filled with peanut butter and dotted with raisins. He felt bloated and gassy, and yes, often awoke at six am and made a rush to the toilet bowl in a bout of morning sickness.

Virginia, meanwhile, was still modelling and had taken up go-karting. She and Cash’s sister made almost weekly trips to Hey Kart and raced around a tarmac track lined with sacks of sand. She expected the vomiting to cease after three months, so while it was awful, she wasn’t unduly upset by it. She carried on.

Cash couldn’t really concentrate on business. He was supposed to be locating and vetting a source in China that would build a prototype of the chair that Leep had invented. But he was always so tired, and farting, and snapping at people for no reason. He avoided his friends. He gloomily fussed with the decorating of the nursery when he wasn’t crying over something on the news. Only Virginia could possibly understand, and she hated it.

One morning as he dressed he looked in the mirror and was sure his abdomen was distended. He didn’t dare show Virginia.

Now he was a college-educated man, though granted, most of his college days were spent drinking and partying at the frat house. But what the fuck was this big baby belly? It wasn’t beer bloat. He hadn’t had any beer since the pregnancy. The thought of it made him nauseous. He hadn’t had much to drink at all, and his favourite fried foods were intolerable in smell. His system was too damn delicate. Sometimes he thought he was in a parallel universe.

There was only one thing to do.

He went to the kitchen and made ants on a log, many ants on many logs. He used almost a whole head of celery and half a jar of peanut butter, and when the raisins ran out he used chocolate chips. God, they were delicious.


Advertisements

Cellmates Dot Com [Repost]

Prompt: Disrupt

anne-of-green-gables-anne-and-marilla

Bonnie said, “Thank you for everything Miss Fisher, and I hate to tell you this, but you are no longer my best friend.”

“Oh dear,” said Miss Fisher, who was reading Anne of Green Gables again, and was reluctantly interrupted. She was right at the exciting part where Anne was going to save Minnie May’s life.

It was that quiet —though never really quiet— time between dinner and lights out. A number of girls, as inmates were called, had left recently, either released or transferred to other institutions, so there was a general atmosphere of luxurious space combined with a niggling fear of what was to come. The “girls”, except for the disruptors who were entertaining distractions, liked their routine and served their time in peace, then got the fuck out.

Miss Fisher wasn’t the only one serving serious time. There were other murderers, Bonnie included, though no other serial killers. Most had hope of release and living with family again. Miss Fisher had no such hope, despite the recent efforts of her lawyer.

“I found someone else,” said Bonnie.

“That’s just wonderful, dear,” said Miss Fisher. “As your ex-best friend, I am extremely happy for you.”

“He is not perfect,” said Bonnie.

“Who is?” said Miss Fisher. She sighed inwardly, and set her book aside. She sat up straight and engaged Bonnie with her eyes. Perhaps this wouldn’t take too long.

“I didn’t tell you about him,” said Bonnie, “because I know you don’t like men.”

“Yes, I can see where you might think that,” said Miss Fisher.

“You didn’t notice my engagement ring,” said Bonnie. “I’ve been wearing it for a week.”

“I’m sorry, Bonnie, I’ve been distracted,” said Miss Fisher. She thought longingly of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.

Bonnie held out her left hand. “It’s white gold, with a diamond chip.”

“Lovely,” said Miss Fisher, whose aging eyes could not really make out the tiny stone in the ring. “But who is he? Why would he become engaged to someone in prison?”

“I suppose we just fell in love,” said Bonnie. “After corresponding via Cellmates-dot-com, you know, where people write to inmates.”

“Uh huh,” said Miss Fisher, though she had never heard of it.

“We spoke on the phone, and he’s visited twice.”

“And he knows you poisoned your boyfriend?” asked Miss Fisher.

“No secrets,” said Bonnie. “You taught me that.” Bonnie gazed at her white gold and diamond chip ring. She rubbed it against the sleeve of her tunic, as if to polish it. “He is not exactly handsome, but very clean. He says I make him feel important. He tells his friends about me. They think he is crazy. Will we have conjugal rights, Miss Fisher, do you know? Gregory has asked.”

“Oh, I should think so,” said Miss Fisher. “Now Bonnie, you won’t go giving your heart away again, and be disappointed, and want to slowly murder Gregory as you did with Norman?”

“Oh no, Miss Fisher. I know killing is not the best solution,” said Bonnie.

Not the best solution, thought Miss Fisher. But often a good one.


  • Original Prompt: Tiny, October 24, 2016

anne-shirle-main

Slow Motion [Repost]

Prompt: Frantic

Carton of eggs. one dozen

He was in the supermarket when it happened. It was early in the morning, and the market had just opened its doors. He only needed bread and eggs, which he could store in the fridge at work until the end of his shift. He wanted to get home right away after work and make things right. He waved to Mrs Smithers, his neighbour, who was cheerfully pushing a trolley filled with toilet tissue. Only yesterday she had brought him a jar of her apricot jelly. It was usually just a little too sweet, he thought, but it was such a kind gesture.

First, he noticed a rumbling, as if a subway train was running underground directly beneath him; but there was no train, no subway. The structure– the floors and walls– then actually quivered, violently, and Damien lost his footing. Someone screamed. It sounded like the young cashier, Denise.

The floor was liquid beneath his feet. Cereals, cans of fruit, cases of soft drinks flew off the shelves: they flew as if there was no gravity, careening across aisles and thudding into the store manager, who was trying to run outside. Lights and generators shut off.

He frantically reached for his phone. There was a loud crash and then Mrs Smithers smashed into him, knocking the phone out of his hand. She had blood running out of her nose.

In slow motion he crawled on his hands and knees, as plaster and chunks of wallboard rained upon his shoulders. Something sharp lodged in the back of his neck. He felt the wetness on his back, but no pain.

Somehow he reached the phone and punched in the number.

He smelled smoke, heard someone praying, and the roof over the produce section collapsed, trapping a man and his teenage son, who only a few minutes ago had been arguing; something to do with a car.

He couldn’t see anything any more, and felt suddenly, terribly, weak, but he got through! He heard the voice on the other end of the line. “I love you,” he said, as loudly as he could, and then collapsed into the broken glass and rubble.

Disaster averted.


  • Image by Corbis
  • Original Prompt: Disaster, April 16,2016

The Cave-Dweller [Repost]

Prompt: Provoke

Tropical-Vacation 2

Miss Fisher was giggling. A guard, passing her cell, paused and sighed. They often giggled. They did all kinds of strange things when in solitary. Some people said it was inhumane. The guard, personally, had seen enough to make him agree with that assessment. Some of the inmates never seemed to recover from even short stays in solitary confinement. Others simply did not survive it. They had to be shipped out.

And someone like Miss Fisher? The guard shook his head. She was elderly, frail, quiet. He had been in her class for half a semester, grade four. He remembered her as strict, but kind and encouraging. She’s the one who diagnosed his dyslexia, and saved him from a lot of problems down the road. A good teacher, was Miss Fisher.

Sure, she murdered some people. Inmates weren’t at McKinnon for their health. But –as the joke went– she wouldn’t be around long enough to serve her life sentence, so why not cut her some slack?

He wasn’t sure exactly why she had been tossed in the cave, something to do with an incident in the cafeteria; no doubt something violent. People never took into consideration that violent people were often provoked. He’d seen it happen many times, it was not unusual at all.

He himself had been provoked many times. That’s what happened, they told him, when you marry a pretty girl. He was no better than half the females in this institution. Just luckier, that’s all. You know, like his friends held him back from a fight, or authorities smoothed things over. It was a small community. There but for the grace of God, and all that.

He would put a banana on Miss Fisher’s tray tonight. Strictly forbidden, but it’s not as if anyone was watching…

Miss Fisher stretched out on her bunk. It was narrow and the mattress was thin and hard, worse than the one in 177D, and the blanket scratched and wasn’t warm enough.

Still, it was fantastic to be alone. She was good at shutting out the noises around her, so after the first night, the crying and shouting that disturbed all the other cave-dwellers were not an issue for Miss Fisher. She could gather her thoughts, run some personal home movies in her head, enjoy her solitude, revel in being away from the crush of people who were always around, and be refreshed and ready when she returned to reg in a week. She giggled. They thought this was punishment. It was a fucking vacation.


  • Original Prompt: Solitude , April 28, 2016

Old People [Repost]

Prompt: Uncompromising

Birds, rose ringed parakeet psittacula krameri, Nadiad, Gujarat, India

“My parents were in the military,” Hilda said. “You know, middle east and all that. My dad got shorter.”

“Shorter?” said Zach.

They were sitting on the back porch of Bernard’s house, looking out over a tidy lawn which appeared to be the playground for a number of cats, and a lounge and back-scratching area for the dog named Maxine, who rolled around on her back and kicked her legs in the air, all with her tongue lolling out.

Lilies were in bloom along the back fence, and there were some unruly ninebark growing near the house, and pots of petunias, and a tub with a few straggly herbs. A table, possibly a picnic table, had graced the lawn at some stage, as there were symmetrical squares of dead grass. There was a sawed off stub of what had been a tree. One of the cats lolled near the stump, perhaps nursing resentments about the shade that was lost.

“Shorter, yes,” said Hilda. She sipped on one of Bernard’s home made beers, a bitter ale that was smooth and soothing. “He was a paratrooper for fifteen years. You try hard-landing a thousand times and see what it does for your posture.”

“Seriously?” said Zach. He now wanted to meet Hilda’s father. He thought he had reached old person gold with Bernard. Perhaps old people had interesting lives and interesting things to talk about. This was beyond Zach’s experience.

His own grandparents had raised him, and they were cantankerous and strict, and looked upon Zach as a criminal-in training, possibly because both his parents had been heroin addicts.

His grandmother was still alive. She liked when he visited, but she had very little of interest to say. On the other hand, he knew virtually nothing of what their lives were or had been. Only that they dragged him to church until he was a teenager and undraggable, were strict about his schooling and his friends, were tightwads when it came time to open the wallet for school clothes or trendy games and toys, and refused him guitar lessons when he asked. Never mind. He taught himself.

Bernard’s screen door hinges needed oiling— maybe, thought Zach, all screen doors did. Were there any that did not creak and complain? Bernard handed Zach a mandolin case. “There you go,” he said.

The mandolin was not only repaired, but cleaned and polished. It gleamed and smelled of almond oil. Zach felt something welling up behind his eyes. Hilda noticed. It was impossible to explain, but had to do with his father, whose mandolin was the only thing he hadn’t sold (he might have, but he gave it to his parents to hold for Zach), Zach’s relief to have it back in his possession, the kindness of Bernard, and the loving skill of the craftsman who put it back together.

“Thanks, Bernard,” said Zach. He had the forty dollars loose in his pocket, and took out the bills and handed them to Bernard.

“Great,” said Bernard, “this will feed his parakeets for the next while.”

“Yeah, good,” said Zach, still overwhelmed.

Hilda put her hand on his wrist. It felt cool. She was feeling his pulse too, Zach knew. It was something Hilda did.


  • Original Prompt: Eyes, August 19, 2016

Nine Toes [Repost]

Prompt: Restart

ice fishing Clooneys 2

“Good afternoon, Mr Parsons,” said the voice on the other end of the telephone. It wasn’t really afternoon; that was, to Charlie Parsons, a time between one pm and six pm. After that it was evening, and then night.

Charlie didn’t recognize the voice, and the timer for the frozen ham and pineapple pizza in the oven was about to sound an alarm, but he’d been raised to be moderately polite, so he accepted the “good afternoon” and then said he had no time to chat as his dinner was ready and he was hungry.

“Oh!” said the woman’s voice. “Then I’ll be brief. You did not renew your subscription to Ice Fishers’ Digest, and I’m simply calling to rectify the situation by putting the new subscription on your credit card.”

“Thanks, but I’m not renewing. Good-bye, now!” said Charlie Parsons, and almost had the phone back in its little cradle when the woman screamed.

“Hello?” he said, bringing the instrument up to his ear again.

The oven timer dinged.

“I’m sorry, Mr Parsons,” said the woman, out of breath. “I didn’t mean to startle you. But you see, the upcoming issue of Ice Fishers’ Digest has an article about celebrity ice fishing. Did you know that Amal Clooney sits for hours on end in an ice-fishing cabin, for fun?”

“Seriously? Good-bye.”

“Wait!” That scream again.

“If you don’t renew, I lose my job. I’m already living out of my car, with my seven year old daughter Amelia, who has ADD and no medication. I’m saving up to buy a tent. Please Mr Parsons! And, did you know that the kind of line you use affects the weight of the fish you catch? Little known tip, but amazing.”

“I’m sorry about your daughter, but—”

“I know where you live. I know where you work. Don’t make me come after you,” said the voice, now almost a whisper. “Plus, international ice fishing laws vary. Did you know you could inadvertently end up behind bars when visiting Finland?”

“I don’t ice-fish. I never got the damn magazine. I’m not interested. I only have nine toes and don’t want to ice-fish.”

“There is a coupon in the February issue of Ice Fishers’ Digest for two dollars off all HeatMe! sport socks. Anyway, many psychologists say fishing provides great mental health benefits, and I don’t need to tell you about the role of Omega fats in a healthy diet.”

“No, I—“

“Have you ever been impotent, Mr Parsons? Stress and a poor diet could be the culprits. You need to ice-fish. You need it.”

“Thanks but—“

“My daughter is really almost twenty, and very very attractive. How would you like to meet her for dinner tomorrow night? My treat?”

“No, I mean the ADD thing…”

“Your impotency is more of a problem than my daughter’s ADD,” said the woman.

Charlie Parsons had been looking out the window to a lime tree, whose brilliant yellow leaves were just starting to bud. He didn’t notice the smoke, and when the alarm set off he was startled and dropped the phone on the floor.

“Mr Parsons!” the voice screamed. “Mr Parsons!”

Charlie turned off the oven, opened all the windows and doors, and held a pillow to the smoke alarm until the shrill buzzing stopped. He left the phone on the tile floor, grabbed his leather jacket, and made his way to Piece o’ Pizza, as he felt his mental and physical health depended on a fresh ham and pineapple pizza, perhaps accompanied by a leafy green salad.


  • Original Prompt: Renewal, December 29, 2016

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner [Repost]

Prompt: Assay

Rockwell turkey dinner.jpg

At least Iggie and Aggie were dressed for dinner. By that I mean they had some clothes on. Iggie wore a pair of my father’s swim trunks, which looked uncomfortably tight and inflexible, and Aggie wore a pair of Julie’s terry cloth work shorts. They each had a kind of shawl, made of deerskin, which they wore fur side in, and which actually didn’t smell that bad. When ever my mother passed Aggie, sitting awkwardly in her dining chair, she wrapped the shawl a little tighter at the front, to avoid the exposure of Aggie’s nipples.

Breasts were OK at the dinner table, just not nipples. Julie wore a very low scoop-necked white sweater, which so showed off her pillowy breasts that Iggie reached across the table to touch them. His wrist was caught in a swift move by my father, who slapped a turkey drumstick into Iggie’s palm, and this seemed to diffuse the situation.

Iggie and Aggie glared at Uncle Fred, because Uncle Fred made no allowances for their sneezing and wore a healthy dollop of Old Spice anyway. Uncle Fred never made allowances, so Iggie and Aggie should not have taken this personally. Uncle Fred also resisted allowing them to touch his carefully gelled and parted hair, or poke their pinkie fingers into his ear.

We never had our devices with us at the dinner table; it was a rule. Except for Celia, who at eight years old pretty much did whatever she wanted. My mother made her put a napkin over her iPhone, and surprisingly, she complied. But she peeked at it every so often, and whatever she found there made her laugh. Iggie and Aggie looked at her with pity. They had never seen an Apple, though they seemed quite fond of apples, which they ate whole, spitting out only the stems, which still lay on the hallway floor.

When Celia realized that neither of our guests could speak or understand English, nor any language, really, she very cheerfully made child judgements of their appearance and smell. “Iggie smells like Charlie’s breath, that time he ate that dead fish that washed up on the beach,” she said.

“That,” said my father, “is very disrespectful.”

Iggie picked up the fork at the side of his plate, which he hadn’t used yet, and started to scratch his groin with it. Aggie watched him with disdain, then snatched the fork out of his hand and threw it across the room. This seemed to be some kind of personal issue, so we stayed out of it.

When it was time to go, we all stood up. Mother gave them a tupperware container of homemade chocolate chip cookies which they put in the Batman pillow case that Celia had provided. Aggie took the turkey carcass from its platter and put it in the pillow slip along with the cookies. Iggie crossed the room and picked up the fork Aggie had thrown and put it in the bag, too. Then he bit Julie in the ass. Aggie, startled by his attentions to another woman, bit Uncle Fred in the ass. They started to laugh, and we all joined in.

We must have inherited their sense of humour.


Original Prompt: Modern Families, January 10, 2016
If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?

dog and fish