Before Prozac

Prompt: Polish


Dear Wednesday,

When I attended my niece’s wedding in May, I thought it was appropriate to have a pedicure and manicure as the finishing touches to my outfit. Some women wear polish all the time… I wear toe polish in the summer, and finger nail polish for weddings. When I die, my surviving family will have no need to dress me up. Weddings only.

Now the nail polish is chipping and it looks dreadful, like an old house with peeling paint.

When I remove it, my nails will breath– literally. Apparently polish suffocates the poor blobs of keratin. We should be kinder to keratin.

And with polish out of the way, here are a few of my favourite cartoons:

cartoon licking plate


cartoon prozac cat


cartoon not bad for art


Have a happy week!

~~FP

The Sharing Wall

Prompt: Distant

number_4_instructions

She honestly couldn’t remember how she got into this workshop, full of brilliant and motivated people. She didn’t remember applying for it, exactly, yet here she was, whisked away to a rather luxurious camp— an isolated, densely wooded, deeply focused retreat.

The Nobel Prize for Innovative Thought was not necessarily handed out to eminent physicists or established scientific wizards, but to anyone who presented a unique and understudied idea in a reasonably cognizant manner. Two years ago, for example, a teenage art student was granted the $200,000 prize for their Theory of Exhaustion, which explored new techniques for neutralizing aggressive white blood cells in the body. An elderly woman was a runner-up last year for her presentation, called Randomness in Nature and Art, and How it Affects Radical Pathfinding.

So, what exactly was Naomi’s reason for being here? She had no ideas, none at all, and it was all anyone talked about in the cafeteria, which was crowded and noisy and boisterous and was the heart of the camp. “Who have you teamed up with?” one young man shouted at her, in between bites of a cheese and banana sandwich. She had teamed up with exactly no one, but answered, “Oh the girls at the end of the table, I forget their names, what about you?” Then she pretended to be summoned from across the room and left the cafeteria by the side door.

Not before she saw the Sharing Wall, where the tradition was that camp participants scribbled their ideas and progress so far. Some were simply mystifying and unfathomable, equations and biological diagrams. Some were just strange, like the person who was examining the historical significance of the points in the written number “4”.

She was expected to scribble her ideas at some stage. The pressure was intense. But her head was empty of any thought but: “How can I come up with an idea? Where do ideas come from? Where can I find inspiration?”

There were no answers. She knew no one at the retreat by name. She was the only one who was an impostor, a fraud, participating in an exclusive workshop in the place of someone worthy and truly talented.

It was twilight, and she walked to the shore of the lake. There were not many others about, since most chose to spark innovative thoughts by brainstorming with others and not by sitting alone in an aluminum lawn chair on a rocky beach. Naomi looked at the sky, a gradient of deep blue above to a white light at the horizon, soft and calming. There was one bright star in the sky, no others. Below, the surface of the lake was tossed by an inconstant wind.

None of her cabin mates returned that night. She awoke alone, very early, and made her way to the cafeteria.

At the Sharing Wall, she took out a stick of charcoal and wrote: “Gradient Inspiration, Discontent, and the Incompatibility of Sandwich Ingredients”.

She was either a genius and the next winner of the Nobel Prize for Innovative Thought, or she was in a dream, and would wake up to a life of gradient, inconstant inspiration.

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

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.