Prompt: Dim

Hello Wednesday,

My sixth grade English teacher, Miss Barlow, once told me I was a dim bulb. I was shocked, although not entirely certain what it meant.

I grew up so sheltered that almost every insult hurled at me as a child is embedded in my brain. Because there just aren’t that many to remember.

I sometimes pushed my mother to the end of her patience, and she said a few unkind things, which are branded on my internal skin as permanently as a cattle brand. They hurt. And yes, as I say, I grew up in a loving home, with mostly non-psychotic relatives or teachers or friends, so I did and still do feel whole, healthy, and secure.

Imagine a neglected or abused child. Imagine them long enough to go right now, maybe to a site like Charity Navigator to pick out an international children’s advocacy group to donate to, or maybe consider chipping in to Big Brothers or Big Sisters, or other local groups.

I’ve heard that one, one kind word, or moment of kind attention to an otherwise invisibly neglected child can change their life for the better, and I believe it.

Well now this post took an unexpected turn. Let’s get back to the daily prompt, dim, which is related to the first of today’s favourite cartoons, but in no way related to the others…

cartoon dim lighting

cartoon toe tapper

cartoon clown pres

For the record, Miss Barlow didn’t even know what a gremlin was, insisting it was only a brand of car and not a creature when I wrote about one for an assignment. So who’s the dim bulb?

Bye-bye February!




Just a Girl [Repost]

Prompt: Costume


I was dressed as a flapper, whatever that was, with a cloche hat and a blue fringed sleeveless dress. My older brother was a robot, a costume he made himself from cardboard boxes and silver paint. We were handed white pillow slips and told to limit our Halloween begging to a three block radius, and under no circumstances cross the busy street behind the house.

The house at the top of the block was in total darkness, as it was every Halloween, because of the owners’ religious beliefs. We got an early and annual education in the sinister side of church-going, since the idea of denying us chocolate and caramels and Tootsie Roll Pops seemed dark and ungodly.

A few doors down from them was the over-decorated house, with sheets meant to be ghosts hanging from the trees, half a dozen carved smiling pumpkins hosting flickering candles, and the black silhouettes of bats and witches on broomsticks bedecking the windows. Mr and Mrs Williams were always jovial but asked too many questions and talked to us as if we were toddlers. “Oh my goodness, what do we have here! What are you all dressed up as, little lady?” A flapper. “Oh!” Much chuckling on their part, and scowling and blushing on mine, until they move along to the next victim, who was not my brother, because he’d got his Mars bar (the full size candy bars being the only reason we bother with the Williams) and escaped from the porch.

Many houses later over on the next block was the scary place, where someone had made a graveyard out of the front garden, and the house was dimly lit inside, and you had to knock on the door in the dark, and you never could remember if the people inside had criminal records, or living children, or had somehow harmed a friend of a friend last Halloween. This night, a teenager with a scarred green face and blood dribbling from his mouth tosses packets of gum into our pillow slips. Maybe we’d skip the scary place next year.

The night wore on and there were fewer and fewer children on the street, but my brother’s stamina was legendary, and he had a special new goal: The haunted house across the busy street.

I had almost reached the status of non-girl in his eyes, as in not as dumb or as weak or as scaredy cat as a regular girl, as in almost tolerable. Was I to risk all this advancement, this near-shattering of the plastic ceiling, because I was afraid to disobey our parents, and terrified to go near the haunted house?

Hell, no.

The haunted house was only haunted late at night, when you were adrenalin-pumped and jittery, and almost ready to go home from trick-or-treating, if you could survive. By day it was a very old Victorian-style wooden house, with the requisite peeling paint and boarded up windows. Tall weeds impeded progress to a sagging front porch, which ran the width of the facade. It was a eyesore, perennially rumoured to be the new location of a Baptist church, or Harvey’s Drive In, or a pet store.

Me, my courageous brother, and his best friend, Donny, approached the house from the north, on the sidewalk, walking nonchalantly so as not to alert anyone or anything that we were possibly frightened and possibly going to do something stupid, like walk up to a house that was surely the site of past atrocities, and damned for eternity. I was trembling. Also shivering. I told my brother I was cold. “Too bad,” he said.

Donny, who was dressed as a cowboy complete with chaps and side arms, was strangely silent as we navigated through the weeds to the front door. For some reason, my brother thought it was a good idea to knock. Logic was never a strong point in my family. So he knocked on the front door. It was a cold, hollow sound.

The door flew open! There was an inferno! A piercing scream!

Donny fell backwards off the porch and landed on his head. Blood poured from his skull. My brother ran down the stairs and dove into the tall grass. I alone stood, paralyzed with fear, on the porch, staring at what I saw was some kind of industrial-strength flashlight, wielded by a boy much older, but no taller than I was. He was wrapped in dirty bandages and his face was lit from underneath, so his yellowish face was in hideous shadow.

He grabbed my pillow case, and slammed the door. The house was dark and silent again.

My brother and I dragged the bleeding Donny to our house, where our parents cleaned him up and called his mother. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” said my mother. My dad, showing more spunk than I thought him capable, went out in the car to check out the haunted house, but no one was there. Our punishment would wait.

Donny was sniffling. His head wound probably hurt. His cowboy jeans were soaking wet. No one said anything.

My brother turned on me, “You’re just a baby, screaming like that and scaring everyone.”

“I didn’t!” I felt anger tears welling to the surface, but dared not lose face by crying.

“Cry-baby scaredy cat,” said my brother. His robot head was off, but he was still wearing a crumpled silver box around his midriff. He scowled at me and took the wrapping off a Tootsie Roll for Donny, just as his mother knocked on the front door.

Donny’s face was a smeared mix of blood and sticky chocolate as his mother picked him up in her arms and carried him out, as if he was a little baby.

My brother laid out his candy haul on the kitchen table, sorting it by weight and value. My mother told him he would be sharing his bounty with me, his younger sister, since my pillow slip had been stolen. He sighed, frowned, and rearranged the piles of chocolate and wrapped candies.

“It wasn’t me, it was Donny,” I said to my brother. “I didn’t scream.”

“I know,” said my brother. “But he would have felt bad if I knew it was him.”

I feel bad because of what you said.”

“Too bad,” he told me. “You’re just a girl.”

Our punishment was harsh. No television, no playing outside after supper, so we basically had nothing to do but meditate upon our sins. Or read, which I did, so I didn’t have to think about Donny.

My brother gave me the full size Mars bar as part of my share of the loot, but it wasn’t enough. Not by a mile.

  • Original Prompt: Rearrange, October 28, 2016


Prompt: Inscrutable


As Angel began to breathe on her own, Rosa developed a cough. It was a dry, rasping, deep-lung cough, that startled Radical out of his deep sleep on the cot beside Angel’s bed.

It was only day two of the induced coma, and Rosa was pleased that Angel’s temperature had come down a little, and that her breathing was less laboured. But I was concerned for Rosa.

She shrugged off my concerns, which was very like Rosa. She was the member of the crew least interested in intimacy, and would help populate the planet out of duty, not lust. She dismissed my worry not out of courage, but from disdain for my weakness and lack of focus. Of course she cared about her health; she cared nothing, however, about my frivolous opinions.

Radical’s routine had been disrupted and he was sleeping more than he ever did before we were quarantined. This alarmed me too. Yes, we three were stuck in a small space with a sick child, but I seemed to be the only one completely unscathed. I slept well, considering. I had a good appetite. I walked the treadmill. I kept my spirits up. I tended to Angel, keeping her clean and fresh. I distracted Radical, who should have been much more restless than he was. Perhaps boredom caused his sleep cycle change?

I just wanted Angel to get well, and for us all to get out and back with the rest of the crew, back to our regular activities and duties, get the children back in school and back to their active daily life.

“How is she?” Radical asked me, climbing, uncharacteristically, into my lap as I sat by Angel’s bed. Rosa was preparing to bring the child out of the coma. Angel’s parents observed from the monitor, tense and agitated.

Radical asked me because Rosa would have ignored his question. “She is doing well, Raddy,” I said, trying to hug him. His sharp elbows and ribbed spine impeded my attempts. “Look! She is breathing just fine on her own.”

And Rosa crumpled to the floor.

Radical tumbled unceremoniously to the floor as I stood and rushed to Rosa’s side. She wasn’t breathing. I threw protocol to the wind then, for which I could have been severely reprimanded. Rightly so.

I broke quarantine and let the others into the hospital unit. Ed was second medical officer. Rosa needed him.

Christopher and Sara gave Ed a wide berth and went directly to the other side of the bed, leaning over Angel. Christopher then threw protocol to the stars, and picked their daughter up, cradling her in his arms.

Protocol didn’t matter any more.

Angel opened her eyes.

Rosa died.

I went to get a blanket for Rosa, and saw my son, Radical. He was in the shadows behind Angel’s bed, watching everything, alone and unmoving.

The Secret of Success [Repost]

Prompt: Viable


Please think about your legacy, because you’re writing it every day.Gary Vaynerchuck

All the kids had lemonade stands that summer. It was like the hottest corporate trend among the under-sixes.

In keeping with Lord Samuel’s advice of Location, location, location, my neighbor Tally and her best friend Bo set up shop in the choicest spot, right where the cars turned off the highway, and they had a heavy, dark red cooler full of store-bought ice. They charged the most for their glass of lemonade: twenty-five cents. Many cars stopped and purchased Tally and Bo’s lemonade, because of course they didn’t realize there was cheaper, and in some cases, better lemonade further down the road. Also, once Tally and Bo netted a customer, the customer didn’t tend to bother with any other beverage enterprises, because Tally’s product was consistent and always served in a friendly and appreciative manner. They patronized Tally and Bo’s lemonade stand, exclusively and regularly, even if it did cost a quarter.

Virginia and her two sisters had the best lemonade, since it was hand-squeezed, with lots of sugar but not too much, and a tiny slice of fresh lemon floating on the top, which was what her marketing people (her eldest brother) had recommended. They had the manpower to make ice themselves before opening hours, and a place to warehouse the ice, so all the components of their lemonade were fresh and hand-made, which was quite a selling point, when you come to think of it. Their profits, despite the low margin, were impressive. It was just as Henry Ford once said, The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed, though their lemonade was twenty cents per glass, not a dollar.

Cody and I had set up shop at an intersection with a stop sign, and to be competitive we charged fifteen cents a glass for our lemonade, which was made from frozen cans to save on time and expenses. Unfortunately, we skimped on the ice, and I could tell by the disappointment in the eyes of some of our clients that the missing ice was an issue, even if the lemonade was “ice cold” as advertised on the signage. Cody always smiled and said “We ran out of ice!”, a lie if ever there was one, and not very effective if it was a repeat customer, who might think we lacked in the area inventory skills, as well as salesmanship. So Cody bit his tongue, for as Steve Jobs said, Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations. We added cold Pepsi to our inventory, and just sold it by the can, thereby avoiding the necessity of stocking more paper cups.

Sales were relatively brisk at first, and aside from the ice, there were no registered complaints. But I could visualize where I wanted the business to go, and so far Cody and I were falling short.

To meet the challenge with the ice, we checked with our investors, but since I’d already got an advance on my allowance, no further loan was proffered, even though my request was backed by viable projections. I mean, once we had the ice solution, which involved finding a supplier, we would be huge: too big to fail. I found it rather short-sighted on my mother’s part, and Cody and I faced a disturbing dip in sales.

Then, a miracle happened.

The secret of success in life, said Benjamin Disraeli, is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.

When Molly had six puppies, Cody and I knew what to do.

We set up a small table with an umbrella and three chairs, which while a bit tatty from languishing in the garden shed, provided shade and a place for clients to sit and enjoy their beverages. As soon as the puppies were old enough, Cody and I put the box o’puppies in the shade of the umbrella.

There were cars lined up round the block, and people, tens or twenties of people, buying our cold but iceless lemonade, mingling and chatting, and, mostly, surrounding the puppies and waiting for their turn to cuddle one.

Tally and Bo came by, and so did Virginia, her three sisters, and her eldest brother, and while they all sniffed at the quality of our product, they appreciated our creativity, and just loved the puppies. I wasn’t bothered by their consternation, since Business is a combination of war and sport (Andre Maurois), after all.

Molly was Cody’s dog, so he supervised the puppy division, while I poured, took cash, and kept inventory. Which, needless to say, was usually depleted before our energy and ambition were, on any given day.

About a week later, my sister got a skateboard. No one else in the neigbourhood had one at that time. It was dark blue, with flames painted on the base. Cody and I closed the stand, since strategy meetings, customer service, and day-to-day operations were taking up so much of our time. We were also eager to reinvest our profits.

And as Walt Disney said, A man should never neglect his family for business.

  • Original Prompt: Legacy, March 10, 2016.

Think of the Ways

Prompt: Atmospheric

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. 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 reasons for life-threatening, world-ending pollution rest in the hands of the polluters and the politicians who 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.

Miss Monroe Broke Her Toe*

Prompt: Jolt


The illustration accompanying today’s prompt (“jolt”) prompted the above image which, in case you can’t see it, is a gif animation of power towers playing with jump ropes.

I wonder if kids play “skip” any more, or double dutch, or marbles, or hopscotch. Does anyone out there, parent or teacher, have an observation about this? As a child, playtime before school and at recess and lunch revolved around active games. Some of the skipping and double dutch games were detailed and challenging. Where I grew up all the kids had lacrosse balls too: they had multiple uses in games, especially for creative young children. Lacrosse balls are about the size of an orange, very hard with a good bounce.

An interesting thing about skip and marbles, for example, was that anyone at all could play. Get in line for your shot at facing the jump rope. If you didn’t make it, you took your turn looping the the rope for the others to skip. Got some marbles? Set up shop in the playground, or challenge another marble collector.

They were valuable lessons in cooperation, competition, and fair play. I love kids and don’t want to yell at them to get off my lawn, but what comparable activities do they now engage in at school and at play?

*Old skipping song:

Miss Monroe [referencing Marilyn Monroe, though as kids we didn’t realize that]
Broke her toe
Riding on a buffalo
The buffalo died
Miss Monroe cried
And that was the end of the buffalo ride.


Prompt: Yellow

I got a chest x-ray, and the next day took it to a room empty of reading material, including posters on the wall, where I sat alone for almost two hours. The room was painted a whitish yellow. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be thrown in jail in an empty room and suffer from lack of stimulation of any kind, this would not actually show you. It was bad, but only lasted two hours. Still, it’s like sipping sour milk. You don’t need to drink the whole glass to know it is vile.

Then a doctor, recommended for such examinations, asked me to undress and to put on a green paper robe which opened at the back. He told me to touch my toes. He had me lie down, and he lifted the hem of the paper robe so he could look at my genitals. He was conducting, he said, an inspection to see if there were any visible signs of disease.

Personally, I think the doctor was a pervert. His voice was too level, too pandering, too apologetic. He knew he was being a pervert. He liked to gaze upon people’s genitals under the guise of a necessary medical procedure which purported to eliminate those with sexually transmitted diseases from being granted permission.

Previously, I’d submitted my fingerprints for distribution to civil, state, national, and international authorities, filled out detailed forms tracing my every move and activity for the whole of my life, and been interviewed extensively by indifferent men and women.

Many people were friendly and helpful. Others, like the doctor, took advantage of people in vulnerable situations.

Now, this was what I experienced when I wanted to live in the United States. I passed inspection. My genitals were worthy of trust. I am white and had an income. And I would be comfortable if I was returned to my Canadian homeland.

Imagine a woman and a child who are not white, have no income, no home anymore, who are very likely to die by violence unless they can flee to a safe haven. They have no rights, no understanding of the kind of routines they might be subjected to, and in many cases have no advocate.

This woman and child endure a much more rigorous screening process than I did to reach the port of entry.

They are afraid, sometimes terrified by the process. I was inconvenienced. They live in constant, black dread that they might have to return to a place where they might be starved, raped, mutilated, or killed. I was bored. The pervert doctor only went so far with me, because I am white and anglo, yet I was still humiliated. But I was smiled at with sympathy sometimes, because I am a white person. Smiles are scarcer for them, yes, even for a small, frightened child.

There are millions of these women and children. They go through the process or they return to chaos. Now, in some places, they are being denied even the hope of escape. My experience was nothing. Their experience counts now.