Astonish Me

Prompt: Flick


She entered the darkened room silently, the glow of her cigarette acting as the dimmest of lamps, and saw the silhouette of a large cat crouched in front of a window draped with a thin lace curtain. She could smell embers from a now-dead dead fireplace. 

She sensed the movement to her right before she saw it, and spun on her heel, kicking hard in a fluid, violent movement — it was Nick, one moment licking his lips in triumph at tracking her down again, now reeling backward, turning, and hitting his head on the brick mantle. The cat was quick to pounce, bloodthirsty, to lick the crimson liquid pouring from his forehead like thick cream into a bowl. She could suddenly hear the tick of a clock and smell the burnt waxiness of the extinguished wick of a candle and felt a prick of fear scud along her spine.

She flicked the ash of her cigarette as the cat leapt back onto the windowsill. She felt sick, knowing Nick would survive to tell Vic about the trick she’d played, He’d once called her a hick, a foolhardy chick— now he lay ominously still at her feet. She had no choice: She pulled the Colt from her belt and heard the click as the gun was cocked. 

The cat, in silhouette, silent and angry, flicked its tail in the moonlight. 


Now that I have fulfilled my writing prompt responsibilities, in this case trying to incorporate as many ‘flick’ rhymes as I could into a rather thin story—which was the only idea that came to mind with this word prompt— may I now present a few of my favourite cartoons relating to the hero of our story, the cat, and her favourite prey?

cartoon cat editor

cartoon church mice

cartoon Astonish me


Peace and love,

~~FP

Stephan

Prompt: Didn’t mind

doorknockers

I didn’t mind when they told me to stay at home. I was used to being at home. It was my home, after all.

But they wanted to control who came and went from my home. My friend Hilary was not allowed to come to the porch with her dog, Printz, ring the doorbell, and be admitted. 

They didn’t tell me why not. 

Yet my friend Ramone was permitted to climb the stairs to my front door with his dog, James. He could come inside and have a lunch of boiled eggs and tomatoes for lunch, while James slept by the fire. We could talk about books, religion, football, and art.

Thomas and his dog Purkin could turn up unannouced and join me for a meal of ham and potatoes. We talked about music, cookery, football, and the environment. 

I was not allowed to keep a dog at my home.

Juliana, with her dog Chaucer, called on me every Thursday at 4 o’clock, and we indulged in chocolate cake and Lapsang souchong tea, and reenacted great moments from women’s sufferage. That meant taking our cake and tea via a feeding tube.

One day a woman with glasses rang the doorbell of my home, and when I opened the door she told me I was adopting a young child.

The child turned out to be a boy named Stephan and we did not share a common language. We were unable to communicate until we developed our own sign language which involved not just the hands but also our legs and feet.

Stephan played on the carpet with James, Purkin, and Chaucer when they visited my home. During the historical women’s suffrage enactments, Stephan played the part of Everett P. Wheeler.

When Stephan turned nineteen, he married a woman named Katherine, who had a dog called India. Katherine and India were not allowed to visit me in my home.

I minded that Stephan’s wife and dog could not come to my front door, ring the doorbell, and be admitted for she-crab soup and a glass of wine. 

So when I opened the door to the woman with the glasses I brought her into my home and kept her. We communicated via Stephan sign language, since I refused to let her hear the sound of my voice.

Her name was also Hilary.

 

Not Guilty

Prompt: Humans

cartoon wagging

Hello Wednesday, a little late.

To be honest, I completely forgot about my Wednesday post, since I had a very unharmonious day with our new puppy, Holly, who picked February 26 to be the worst puppy she could be, and I have the damaged clothes and broken skin and frazzled nerves to prove it. In addition, she forgot everything she ever learned about housetraining. It is a day that will live in infamy. Next February 26 I will book myself into a spa with a sensory deprivation tank and try to forget. It will be an annual event, and wine will be involved.

On Thursday, Holly was gentle as a lamb. We took her out to socialize and she met lots of other dogs and people and did very well. I talked to a professional trainer who assured me that housetraining and biting regression are common and that, after all, puppy is still just a baby at 12 weeks. Puppies are like human babies, she added, and get hyper and bratty when they are tired. She then taught puppy, in less than a minute, to come to her hand. We learned how to stop her jumping up on others, if not on us, from a woman in the parking lot. Holly and I had cuddles in the car on the way out and on the way back.

A few minutes ago, she ravaged my back and legs, unprovoked, with her needle teeth and razor claws, while pulling on my jeans and top and possibly ripping them. I haven’t looked. I can only think of spa day, 2021.

The prompt today is “human” and I keep reminding myself that I am an adult human, the most advanced species on earth, and Holly is a little baby dog who has never seen a toothbrush and who was literally bred over the millennia to be my best friend. I just checked on her and she is crashed out in the front hallway, snoring. I simply adore her when she is asleep.

Relating to today’s prompt and just a little to today’s tribulations, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon you have humans

cartoon steps

cartoon not guilty


Peace, love, and cuddles,

~~FP

Dear Santa. Grrr.

Prompt: Christmas card


Dear Wednesday,

It seems like only a year ago that I sat down and wrote Christmas letters to far-flung family and friends, regaling them with the perfection that was my previous year and wishing them even a fraction of the utopia that is the life of Fluffy.

This year I’ll treat them (and you) to a slightly different analysis of the year that was; i.e. the main occurrences in 2019 were these: 1. My dog died and 2. Men suck. 3. I got old. These do not seem to be the usual joyous events lovingly described in Christmas letters, but that’s the challenge. How to make convince people who don’t really care that my life is a exuberant dream that they should envy, when the news seems less than ebullient?

My dog was a very good dog, a black and fluffy dog. He got old before I did, and so we had to set him on his journey to the Rainbow Bridge. Sad? No, because a dog’s afterlife is a certainty: they go to a green meadow in a heaven where they can run and play with other animals, indulge in delicious treats, get belly rubs on demand, and in general  enjoy the kind of blissful existence they deserve.  People may go to heaven, hell, purgatory, or, more likely, nowhere to spend their eternity, because people are imperfect. Dogs are full of nothing but love and should (if they are not) be the centre of the Universe. If you disagree with me, you have never had a dog.

Men. I have a father, a husband, brothers, male friends, a beloved nephew… but holy shit, men suck. Think Donald Trump, incels, war-makers, sexual harassers and assaulters, arms dealers, rapists, Woody Allen, and the guy who really set me off, a piece of work by the name of Tommy Callaway, who felt entitled to slap and squeeze a reporter’s ass as he ran by her. What kind of person thinks it is ok to sexually assault a young woman or any woman, and who thinks his utterly cynical and smarmy “apology” is more meaningful than a poop bag? Tommy Callaway, that’s who. Tommy Callaway and, presumably, a huge population of men who seem to think the whole Harvey Weinstein thing, #metoo— and, one assumes, sexual assault in general, is nothing but an overrated joke. How else do you explain the man, his grope, his excuse? Men suck, that’s how. (Yet my father, husband, brothers, male friends, beloved nephew wouldn’t even dream of groping a woman— why are the good men like them never in the news? I know why, because being baseline decent is not newsworthy, so we have to hear about the Tommy Callaways grrr of the world.)

And I got old. I went to bed one night, a dewy, lithe, fluffy young woman and woke up as an ancient relic. To be honest, I am not so much a relic as fighting to wipe that thought out of my head. Every little twinge in my back, every bit of fatigue, every fleeting whiff of forgetfulness is now a reminder the size of a skyscraper that my dewy days are done. The real cherry on the top is the fact that my aging will be held against me, I will become invisible and easily dismissed while guess who will grow old with looks that become more distinguished and whose credibility increases? Men, that’s who.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my Christmas letter! I promise you that my contention that men suck in no way diminishes my great love for them. That’s what comes with extreme old age: you can hold two opposing thoughts in your ancient rattling head at the same time.

Obsessive-Compulsive Santa

cartoon dear santa

cartoon roll around santa


Peace and love,

~~FP

Lasagna

Prompt: Fear


Dear Wednesday,

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you are part of the day, and other times you are merely on the edges of it? When you are part of the day, the air moves aside as you walk, you take up space, the things you touch know you are there, you can hear the humming from inside the house, and the geese calling from the outside of the house. You feel yourself breathing. You takes steps with purpose. You have a destination.

When you are on the edges of a day it is all around you, being a day, but you stand unnoticed. You go through the motions. You look without seeing. You can’t identify sounds. You are a formless observer. You are unconnected.

Those latter days are biding time days. Waiting days. Futile days. You can never float on those days; instead you feel as if the earth might swallow you up.

That’s why god invented edibles.

I’m only half-kidding. Edibles embody a variety of legal (in these parts) herbal confections that take the edge off living on the edges of a day. In fact if used incorrectly can make you feel so much a part of the day that you can’t think separately from the day. The lines blur just a little too much. Otherwise, they relax the muscles in your face, calm your heart, allow you to move a little more lightly through the air of the day.

Plus, they can taste like black cherries.

With the calmness that edibles bring (even though I don’t have any at the moment), may I present a few of my favourite cartoons very tenuously related to the formidable prompt, “fear”?

cartoon bird feeder

cartoon beware of dog

cartoon dog following


Love, peace and calm hearts,

~~FP

Showtime

Prompt: Mirror


Dear Wednesday,

Novelists often have their protagonists gaze into a mirror and assess their sorry lives as a way to develop character and interest the reader. I don’t know anyone who actually lingers staring at themselves while pondering their existence— there’s too much else to consider: That hair, what happened? Is that a pore or a crater? When did my left eye shift so far down my cheek? Is that nose mine? Why does my smile look painful? …We might have a moment of sharp mortality when we see wrinkles canyoning across the face, but that is the most reflection I indulge in while reflecting on my reflection.

The purpose of a mirror is to paint a fine stroke of eyeliner or tame a shock of hair. We are too much inside our heads at other times to bruise our egos with life assessment and judgement.

And in the right hands, mirrors are the source of fun and pleasure, and so may I present a few of my favourite cartoons related to today’s prompt, “mirror”?

cool cat

bad dog

showtime


Peach and lug,

~~FP

Paint-by-Number

doberman hydrangea-Edit

“That looks like a paint-by-number my grandmother did,” said a man in a hat. He wore a grey raincoat and could be cast as a subway flasher, Envy thought, as he seemed the tiniest bit shifty.

“I can see how you might get that impression,” she said. She looked around for the server with the tray of white wine. Exhibit openings always attracted fresh new art aficionados, or at least those who could tolerate modern art and who liked free wine, which was ok with Envy as long as she got her fair share.

“This one is $670 though,” said the man, not taking his eyes off the small painting, which was a representation of two doberman pinschers in front of a blue hydrangea shrub.

“Framed,” said Envy.

“Does the frame cost $665?” asked the man.

Envy wondered where the featured artist, Francesco Brown, had wandered off to. He was a thoughtful and precise man, and could likely engage the man in the hat in a startling and enlightening conversation.

The pianist had started playing ragtime, which Envy detested at that particular moment as it clashed with her mood and, she felt, with the paintings on display. She signalled to Meghan, her assistant, who didn’t notice, as she was swiping at a blob of cream cheese which had dropped from a canapé onto her blouse.

“Francesco Brown,” said Envy to the man, who had turned his head to stare at her when she hadn’t responded, “paints in a somewhat primitive, two-dimensional style as a way of connecting with past sensibilities and in response to the current trend of what he calls multi-media ‘meddling’.”

“He does, does he?” said the man. He took his hands out of his pockets and Envy, in momentary panic, feared he would suddenly expose himself.

“He can explain his aesthetic better than I can. Why don’t I find him for you?” She looked around again for the tray of wine.

“Not necessary,” the man said quickly. “I’ll take it.”

“Take it?”

“I’ll buy it. This one. The dogs. It reminds me of my grandmother. She was the only one who never asked me why I collected sticks. Plus, it has a nice frame.”

Envy insisted the man in the hat meet the artist, who was charming and drew out from the man that his name was Edward, he lived in the neighbourhood, he had a dog named Cleo, he didn’t drink, and he preferred to pay by cash rather than a credit card, which made it awkward for Envy, who didn’t want to put the “sold” sticker on the picture until the money was safely in hand.

Edward didn’t seem to notice, or care, that there was no “sold” sticker on the painting of the Dobermans with Hydrangea. He said he would drop by the next morning with the cash and seemed confident the picture would be wrapped and ready to go.

But he did insist on a cup of coffee at the Starbucks next door after the event ended at nine pm. Envy agreed, and a coffee with a client was a good excuse to duck out and leave the closing up to Meghan, who hadn’t been much help at the exhibit otherwise.

They chatted briefly about the obvious topics: the exhibit (well-received), the artist (not as flaky as expected), the attendance (solid, including at least one arts writer from a small local paper), and the sales (satisfactory).

Then Edward said, sipping on his black coffee, “You are dying for a glass of wine.”

“Not drinking makes you an expert?” said Envy, a touch prickly.

“In a way, I guess so,” said Edward. “I always liked a drink after any kind of exhausting activity.”

“What kind of exhausting activity?”

“You know, like the end of a project, a speech, a big sale, lovemaking, anything emotional.”

“To be honest, I could murder one,” Envy admitted.

“I won’t keep you,” said Edward. “You just seemed interesting. Not like the women I usually meet.”

Envy stifled a yawn. That old line. She possibly got it more than most women, since she was, by any objective standard, not particularly attractive. She instinctively looked at her watch, then blushed at the inadvertent impoliteness.

“Sorry,” said Edward.

“No, I’m sorry,” said Envy. “I’m not bored, honest.” Not yet.

“Is that an engagement ring?” Edward asked, indicating the glittering tri-ruby ring on her left ring finger.

“It is,” said Envy with a sigh. “Though I don’t know if I am really engaged.”

“What’s the confusion?”

“I have the ring, but not sure if I want the marriage,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

“Because I’m safe, anonymous? I have a kind, trusting face?” suggested Edward.

For a flasher, thought Envy. But she found herself continuing, “We love each other, we do, we should get married.”

“But?”

“He thinks I’m not over my first marriage.”

“Oh. Are you?”

“Definitely, but not over the man,” Envy said. Yes, that was it. The worst combination of feelings for an engaged person ever: cynical about the institution of marriage and still clinging to the connection with the ex. Shit.

“Selfishly, I can’t help but think that puts me in third place at the very least.”

“Amazing, isn’t it, how someone who looks like me could have an interesting love life?” Envy said, much more harshly than she intended.

Edward gently set his coffee cup down and stood to his feet. “It’s been fun, Envy, but Cleo can’t walk herself, so I should run.”

Envy rigorously decided against being embarrassed or regretful, and held out her hand. “Thanks for the coffee, and see you tomorrow.”

“Right,” said Edward.

Whether he would show up at the gallery to pay for Dobermans with Hydrangea or hop the subway in his raincoat was anyone’s guess.

 

Death and Tennis

Prompt: Impossible

black dog

A scruffy black dog runs across the court, black on blue
Sniffs the crotch of the ball boy
Takes a lap
Tongue lolling
Looks for me

She serves
An ace
The black dog scoops up the green ball
Looks for me

He flies over the net
Lands softly
On soft pads
Looks for me

It is his dream
I am there
Find me.

What do you do

What do you do when your dog grows old? When his feet are tired and the pads are worn? When your words of praise are muffled in his ears, and his eyes are milky from their years of use? When his face is grizzled and his color isn’t as vibrant?

You love him.

You rub the feet that dutifully carried him by your side.

You speak your praises more loudly, so everybody else can hear the words that he can’t.

You guide him the way he has guided you, and prevent him from getting lost as you were before he came along.

You kiss his muzzle and admire the wisdom that has beset him in his later years.

And when it comes time to put him to his final rest, knowing that an irreplaceable part of your heart will follow him, you will do so knowing that you loved him.

And he loved you more.

IMG_1096


==

  • Written by Jackie Short-Nguyen