Miss Monroe Broke Her Toe*

Prompt: Jolt

electical

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.

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Surrender

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.

 

syrian-girl

What on Earth

Prompt: Unseen

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The two children were playing tag in the playground enclosure. One would chase the other, shout “You’re it!” and then would become the pursued rather than the pursuer. I don’t remember actually teaching them the game, especially as there were only two of them, but there they were, engaged in the most universal of childhood games. Chasing, catching, and switching roles.

Radical’s scant, black infant hair had evolved into a spiky, coarse russet-coloured mat (similar to my father’s), which was an odd complement to his darker, almost olive skin tone. What a contrast from his older sister, Angel, that beautiful child so pale in hair and flesh as to almost seem transparent. She was transparent, in fact, in word and deed. I suppose we had spoiled her terribly, this first child of this planet, but she somehow absorbed all the tsunamis of love and attention and transformed it into a sense of security, confidence, and a belief that no one would lie to her or do her harm, while never thinking herself the centre of the universe. Which was a misunderstanding, since all of us considered her to be exactly that.

Christopher was at the bank making a deposit, and would be along in a few minutes to take the children to lunch. Yes, of course the sperm bank. We were stocking up all manner of swimmers and eggs. We had a world to populate. Christopher was already father of two. Angel, by Sara, and Radical, my son.

Radical ran to where I was seated, almost out of breath. He closed my laptop and grinned at me, and I roughly tousled his already unruly hair. I felt a surge of affection because he was smiling at me, eye to eye. Does that seem strange? This was my first go at being a mother and I truly didn’t know what to expect, but I was surprised at little Radical’s apparent detachment, his ability to calm himself without my intervention, his serene, strange condescension; yes, even as a baby.

“I won,” said Radical.

“Superb effort!” I said in the pompous language that seemed to amuse him. I tried, I really did.

Angel appeared, wanting a drink of juice, just as Christopher came through the double doors. Angel dropped her juice, spilling it all over the floor, which we ignored, and then Christopher scooped her up in his arms, her long pale legs dangling. “How is my special Angel?” he asked.

“Raddy won,” Angel said, and seemed proud. Sometimes I found her impossibly perfect.

Radical held back, not from shyness, but to await his turn. Christopher set Angel down gently and then hauled Radical off his feet and threw him over his shoulder. “How’s my little alien?” he said, laughing, and Radical laughed too. Christopher winked at me, and then carried Radical as Angel trailed behind, out through the double doors.

I opened my laptop again. I had taken a photo of the children playing, and added it to my daily journal. The image was of Angel at the moment Radical tagged her, her face alight with joy, while Radical stretched impossibly and touched her with a lone finger.

My little alien. How on earth could Christopher think that was funny or appropriate?

But then, we weren’t on earth.

Just a Girl

Prompt: Rearrange

flapper-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 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.

Somewhere

Prompt: Trust

Maria Jose Caceres

Somewhere, a child is sick and can’t breathe, can’t cry, won’t live, will surely die. Her lungs filled with fluid, she smothers herself.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children globally.

Somewhere a pharmaceutical company earns $6.245 billion in revenue from sales of the patented vaccine, PCV 13, that successfully treats this virus.

Somewhere a Pfizer spokesperson composes an email which reads, “Pfizer is committed to making vaccines available to as many people as possible.”

Doctors Without Borders refuse a donation by this giant pharmaceutical company. Donations of this kind, say a DWB director, “are often used as a way to make others ‘pay up.’ By giving the pneumonia vaccine away for free, pharmaceutical corporations can use this as justification for why prices remain high for others, including other humanitarian organizations and developing countries that also can’t afford the vaccine.”

Somewhere a number-cruncher calculates that Pfizer returned $13.1 billion to its shareholders.

Somewhere on the Internet, there is a summary of the annual salary, shares and bonus programs available to Pfizer executives, but I was unable to find it.

When is a seemingly generous donation actually a cynical ploy by a multinational corporation to increase profits at the expense of children drowning in their own bodily fluids?

 


The Aliens

Prompt: Youth

bouncy house animated

Celia’s ninth birthday party was to be held on Saturday. She prayed all night Friday, the way she had been taught in Sunday school, that aliens would appear along with her family and school friends at her party.

Her parents organized a barbecue for the adults, with lots of chilled beer, and a bouncy house for the kids and a clown who doubled as a children’s face painter. There were hot dogs, burgers, potato salad, coleslaw, and a confetti cake with ice cream.

It was a hot day. Celia ate half a hot dog and two pieces of cake, allowed the stupid clown to paint her face so she looked like a tiger, jumped intently in the bouncy house, and later she puked into the downstairs toilet, just barely making it. She was nine now, so she cleaned up the rim of the toilet and sprayed the room with some Glade, Lavender Spring fragrance.

Aliens did not appear in the sky and lower their aircraft into Celia’s family’s back garden. She started to have doubts about the existence of God.

But then, her Uncle Fred drank something pink out of a flask that he brought. He had the clown paint his face so he looked like a Frankenstein pirate. Then he used his cigarette to pop all the blue and white balloons that attached to the fence and the eaves. He told Celia late in the afternoon that she would be better off being a lesbian. She knew what a lesbian was. She was nine now.

The aliens, Celia thought, are among us.

Childhood

Prompt: Childhood

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A- B- C- D- E- F- G
I jump rope and I don’t pee
In my pants but use the loo
That is where I also poo.

Cherries come out of a can
Peanut butter goes with jam
My kitten followed me to school
I took her home and broke the rule.

Nickels hide in birthday cakes
My dad mows and mommy rakes
I’m afraid when there’s no light
My mommy keeps it on all night.

Christmas is– oh me! oh my!
I just can’t wait! OK, I’ll try!
But hurry hurry Christmas morning!
We’ll be up early– that’s a warning.

I called my mom a stupid dope
She washed out my mouth with soap
R- E- S- P- E- C- T
Find out what that means to she.

I got sunburned at the beach
My skin peeled off in giant sheets
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
God bless mommy and daddy, and all the children all over the world, forever and ever,
Amen.