Overthinking

Prompt: Roots


Wednesday! Here you are again.

It is spring, and here at home we are cleaning up last year’s weeds and debris, including those insidious roots that run under the grass and sand. We human beings think we are so smart, but roots are smarter. They come back no matter what we do to prevent them, so I have to give roots a lot of credit. We should devote more study to roots and other persistent indestructibles, like cockroaches.

Moving on from nightmare insects, another kind of root is our ancestry… we all have roots in the same primitive family that may have had the very conversation as the first of a group of my favourite cartoons:

cartoon they're all neanderthals


The other cartoons have no connection to the prompt “roots”, but it’s Wednesday, and they are about cats and dogs.

cartoon cat exec with string


cartoon dogs overthinking


Happy Wednesday!

~~FP

Just a Hint of Lime

Prompt: Champion


Since the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, which was one of the best nights of my existence, my life has lost all meaning. I was comfortable, content, smug, superior, self-congratulatory, and happy in my role as die-hard supporter of the greatest underdogs in baseball history. The Cubs previously won the World Series in 1908, you see, and that is more than a dry spell, that is lying for millennia in the desert at mid-day with your tongue hanging out. Then 2016 and the skies opened and the desert bloomed and my identity skidded into the ditch like a Harley in a rainstorm.

The upside, besides YAY!, is that so many people, of so many generations of Cubs’ fans, have said, “If only the Cubbies would win a World Series before I die”. And many passed away cruelly unfulfilled. Now, however, since 2016, people can die in peace. I am sincerely curious about the number of deaths in the months following the win, compared to other years.

Instead of dwelling on dreams fulfilled and life’s meaning erased, let’s have a look at a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which is only tenuously related to today’s prompt, Champion:

cartoon baseball symphony


 

cartoon dog food and lime water


cartoon bees outside


Have a happy week!

~~FP

Focus Group

Prompt: Nervous


Hello Wednesday,

A little while ago I listened to a sample lesson from an online course about meditation. It was the usual routine (from what I’ve sampled): starting with the relaxing of every body part, and steps deeper and deeper, a scene by a lake, drifting in a boat…

Hello? Oh right, anyway this lesson also had me slowly clench my right fist, and then suggested that I could reach the same ultra relaxed state in the future quickly by simply forming the same fist. Guess what? It works.

If I’m feeling a bit stressed or nervous, it is a good relaxation technique, providing I’m not driving or operating heavy machinery.

Relating to the theme of nervous, may I present a favourite cartoon, followed by two others that are not related, but tickled my stressless funny bone anyway:

nervous cat


dog walk


focus group


Have a healthy, stress-free week!

~~Fluffy

Heat

Prompt: Desire

ring-necked-pheasant8d

I found a new home, not far from the farm. It’s a very small three-room cottage set amid an acreage that used to be farmland, now undeveloped and overgrown, just the way I like it. Little creatures of the usually neglected kind, like field mice and quail, have set up homes here; with new species, I’m sure, finding refuge from urban sprawl, building nests and homes too. I thought I saw a pheasant fly up in all it’s feathered brilliance when I accidentally slammed the screen door on my way out to the porch with my morning coffee.

Now I’m tap-tapping on my laptop, just as fast as I use to type, yet less accurate. I don’t keyboard much anymore, since I decided my days as a human being are numbered.

But I want to write this down in case things change. In case my step-daughter Melanie ever forgives me and wants to know what happened.

God, when I am in human form I miss so much the smells of the world! I miss my courage in the face of death— the complete lack of fear about the future. As a lone woman swaying on my porch swing, tap-tapping —oh! a soft grey doe and fawn just emerged from the broken fence, and are now grazing on sweet grass and new willow— as a lone woman, I feel all the anxieties that a complex world nourishes, and long for the simplicity of Maxine.

Yes, Maxine. I have almost stopped shape-shifting into any other creature, so much have I become Maxine. She is perfect, loving, fair; she sleeps without dread and wakes with enthusiasm and gratitude. She eats with appetite, she notices everything and cares about nothing.

She is (I am) in heat right now. This is something I hadn’t anticipated, but in any case it seemed a good time to come to the cottage for a day or two. Fortune (his new name) has healed rapidly and has stopped shaking when anyone comes near; he’s plumped up, the gaps in his fur have almost gone, and he has taken a great liking to me. I’m not sure I’m ready for— I can’t even write it down. I’m not ready to procreate like a dog. There. Crazy.

Mama deer has spotted me. I don’t have the calming, magical serenity of Bernard, and so she is staring at me, utterly motionless, as deer do. Then she and her fawn make their way off the property, across the broken fence again, and disappear into a copse of silver birch, just to be sure.

It’s a dangerous world. And an absurd one.

 


  • Image: RL Kothenbeutel

Superpowers

Prompt: Criticize

cars-buried-in-snow-2-1

Fred Mullen was not the handsomest man. He was of very average height, with a slight paunch, and a face that was chronically hard to shave, who was greying in a decidedly unromantic way, and whose features were anything but symmetrical.

He was not the smartest man. No one encouraged him to go to college; they could see as clear as the moon on a cloudless night that Fred’s talent was to be mediocre.

But Fred Mullen was a loyal man. When people were kind to him, he returned the kindness with an unwavering loyalty. If people treated him with respect, he repaid that respect with trust and fidelity.

So, he sat in the driver’s seat of his green, 1994 Volvo 960 sedan and watched the man who lived at 339 Havenridge Crescent. He took pictures of the man with his cellphone. When the man got into his own car, Fred followed him a discreet distance behind.

Over the course of two weeks, just hanging out at 339 Havenridge Crescent on his off hours, Fred got to know the man’s routine. The man mostly worked at a run down auto mechanic shop, breaking down old vehicles into salvageable parts and scrap. Fred half-suspected that the cars he worked on were stolen. But that was not his business, not right now.

The man was paid in cash daily for this work.

The man was younger than Fred, and average height, just like Fred, but much thinner, though on weekends Fred followed him to the community gym, set up in the basement of the high school. Fred used his powers of invisibility to follow the man inside the gym and also peeked into the dressing room. These powers were not supernatural: Fred was simply a nondescript, forgettable, middle-aged man of no apparent consequence.

The man used the weight equipment to build up his triceps and biceps. So while he was a bit of a scrawny person, his arms were strong and well-developed. He had multiple scars on his back. Fred took a picture of the man and his back, while seeming to be talking on his cellphone.

A red-headed woman sometimes came to the house at 339 Havenridge Crescent, and sometimes stayed for several days. At the beginning of the second week of Fred’s casual surveillance, the woman moved out of the house, strapped to a stretcher and carried off in an ambulance.

Fred took pictures. It looked like she’d had a bad accident.

Fred found out the woman’s name, by speaking to the EMT driver, who was on the same bowling team as Fred.

One snowy afternoon, when Fred’s Volvo proved again to be a match for winter conditions, he was calmly observing the man’s house when two dogs appeared. One looked a little straggly, but curled up on the porch. It looked a bit like the dog Fred had occasionally seen tied up in the yard during previous visits.

A short while later an old man and a teenager arrived at the man’s house and had some kind of altercation with him at the front door. One of the dogs bit the man in the balls. Fred had to wince. He didn’t interfere, but he took pictures with his cellphone.

He put his notes and printed-off pictures into a clean, new manilla folder, and the next time he had a shift in the regular part of the prison, he left the folder under the pillow of Miss Fisher’s bunk, while the inmates were taking exercise in the indoor courtyard. He liked Miss Fisher. Always had.

Gloria

Prompt: Clean

mutt-dog-breed

Marvin Haye felt unappreciated. People didn’t realize just how much he was committed to his job, how time-consuming it was, how difficult it was for him to navigate. It’s true he inherited it in a way, when his wife died, but he expected some recognition and respect, not a sour blend of hard work and ridicule.

It was 4:45 am last Tuesday when Latoya Unger called him because her toilet backed up. She said she called the water department but no one answered. Well hell, of course no one answered. They were home in bed. Why didn’t she call a plumber? She thought it was a town issue, she said. Well hell, he was awake anyway, so, armed with his sturdiest plunger, he made his way through the sleety streets to the Unger home, where, as it happened, Geoffrey Unger was sleeping soundly in his own bed.

It’s true Geoffrey liked to linger at the Pumphouse Pub and drink a few too many pints of ale and stout, but you would think the smell alone would have awakened him. But no, Marvin could hear him snoring all the way down the hall in the bathroom.

It was a mess, and then a bigger mess, and then Marvin helped clean up some of the worst mess, before he got into his Dodge pickup and went home. He showered and had just enough time to drive Patricia to school before his breakfast meeting with a development group, who wanted to establish a relationship with the Mayor of Bartlett, since they had great vision for the town, they said.

His wife had been much better at the social side of politics than Marvin would ever be. She was naturally somewhat quiet, and her reticence was often mistaken for poise and confidence. He tended to feel awkward and inexplicably at a disadvantage, no matter what the situation. The mechanics of town politics were less of a problem; in fact he was secretly proud of how much assistance he was able to render Helen with regard to the nuts and bolts of council meetings, grants, budgets, infrastructure, and planning.

When she died, a quickly-called election installed Marvin in her place. He knew it was temporary, but he wanted to run again and win properly, despite constituents like Latoya Unger. But the respect, where was the respect?

After the breakfast meeting he met with his election committee, a small group of semi-dedicated volunteers, who looked that morning both amused and despondent. Why? Because Gloria was officially on the ballot too.

“How?” said Marvin.

Calvin giggled. Marvin hated when Calvin giggled. If he wasn’t his brother-in-law and if being on the committee didn’t help keep him out of trouble, he’d be out in a heartbeat.

“Some loophole or other,” said Susan Banes. “The thing is, we can’t really react too strongly, or people will think we have no sense of humour.”

“One of their slogans is ‘The Bitch is Back’,” said Calvin. He caught Marvin’s eye and suppressed a chuckle.

“It’ll be good for tourism,” said Randy Ptarmigan. “She’s a bonnie dog, Marvin.”

Marvin sighed. Well hell, it would be good for tourism, and in all the papers and on TV, and Marvin would look like a fool, and it just wasn’t right that he wasn’t appreciated. Not right at all.

Fortune and Forgiveness

Prompt: Fortune

headlights-and-traffic

I didn’t know anything about dogs. I only liked them, and thought they all walked beside you off-leash, like my friend’s dog. Another friend had a big old brown mutt named Fortune, and one evening I offered to take them both for a walk over to the corner store to buy some 7-Up. They heeled beautifully, straying from my side only to lift their legs on the young trees that lined the street, trees supported by sturdy poles and straps.

A busy four-lane street lay ahead, with the shop window glowing on the other side. It was dark enough that the cars had their headlights on, and I quickly saw the situation from a dog’s eyes: a blur of red and white lights, movement, some danger… go quickly to the other side!

And that’s what Fortune did. He darted into the traffic. Brakes squealed. Fortune squealed too as he was dragged beneath the wheels of a car for half a block. I think I screamed, and grabbed the other dog by the collar.

We got Fortune to the curb. I ran back to the house and got my friends and we ran back to where Fortune —alive— was bleeding.

Fortune survived, and they refused the twenty dollars I offered to help offset the vet fees (because I was a student and dead broke). Fortune would not run into traffic again, and I would not walk precious animals near giant killing machines unless the dogs were on a leash and safe.

I think of that friendly brown mutt, Fortune, whenever I hear the word. Can’t help it. I don’t think of wealth or good luck or private jets (which I think about often). Fortune the dog, so trusting, and I let him down, but he survived and forgave me… but sometimes I still kick myself around the block a few times for my unforgivable carelessness.