No Monster

Prompt: Assumption


Hello Wednesday,

Don’t you hate it when people make assumptions about you based on your gender? As if your dangly or not bits define you as an individual? I know as a woman that many of us are frustrated about it all the time– are you gentlemen also uncomfortable when you are called shallow or unmanly because you don’t live up or down to sexual stereotypes?

We are all a little sexist, but doesn’t take a lot of effort to challenge yourself. Just pause when you make an assumption about whether the doctor or author defaults to being male. Think twice before assuming that all women are natural nurturing caregivers and men are not. Take a breath.

In the spirit of assumptions, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which only is connected to today’s prompt?

cartoon out for lunch

cartoon professor bouncy

cartoon skulls in corner


Just a pile of old skulls. It would comfort me for sure.

~~FP

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Too Many Stops

Prompt: Fluff

garden Jenny Beck

Virginia couldn’t deny Cash access to his daughter, no matter what he’d been up to. She was still furious, yes, and couldn’t bear to face him and listen to his apologies and supplications, which would be sincere and heart-felt. And completely irrelevant.

Cash tended to focus on the latest of his transgressions, ignoring the string of mistakes and fuck-ups, some merely annoying, some damaging and humiliating, that led to this place of remorse and repentance. He was late picking up the babysitter— was that a sin worthy of packing up and leaving, taking his beloved daughter away too?

He would promise to be prompt, when that wasn’t the issue at all. And Virginia would have to explain, yet again, that it wasn’t one action it was many— the train they were riding on made too many stops, and so they would never, ever reach their destination.

Meanwhile, Virginia hated listening to herself rattle off the times he’d been late, had behaved like a besotted teenager with other women, forgotten planned events, disregarded legitimate concerns about their home and finances, refused to liaise with his parents and instead allowed them to intrude and interfere. It wasn’t like her to nag and complain; he was turning her into a shrew, and she didn’t like it. She was tired of it. She was tired of him.

So she had the child-minder, Devon, take Virginia’s car and deliver Echo with all her paraphernalia to Cash at the house, and arranged for Devon to pick her up again at the agreed time, six o’clock in the evening.

“There’s no one here,” Devon said.

Virginia held the phone close to her ear. “Say again?”

“There’s no one home, it’s twenty after six, no one’s around,” Devon said. Her voice sounded subdued and calm— if someone was to panic, it wouldn’t be her.

When Cash’s cellphone clicked into the answering service, Virginia called his parents, and when there was no reply, she called the police, who reluctantly told her there was nothing they could do at the moment— they were married, shared a house, he was the father, wasn’t he?

Devon drove Virginia’s BMW X3 the half-mile to Cash’s parents’ house— it was a beautiful, sprawling, white gabled home with an expanse of perfectly manicured lawn in the front, surrounded by azalea and rhododendrons which had been photographed one spring and published in a national home and garden magazine. Devon hadn’t seen the house before. It reminded her of the one she and her old friends had squatted in back in the 90’s.

She walked around most of the perimeter of the house, by the pool, the tennis courts, past the pond and the strange topiary (which Cash had told her gave him nightmares as a child), and what looked like stables, though there were no animals. Twilight was settling upon the estate, and lights, triggered electronically, started turning on automatically inside the house and around the grounds, bathing everything in a golden glow.

If Cash hadn’t brought his baby Echo to his parents, where had he taken her?

Something caught Devon’s eye… something bright and incongruous, a small, fluorescent orange object near the poolhouse. She approached and picked up a plump, fuzzy orange rabbit toy, as soft as the real thing, from the tile.

The door was ajar, and, bunny in hand, Devon pushed it open, and saw Echo’s care bag and toy bag dumped by the entrance to the showers. There was a kind of lounge further in, with a blue sofa, a small fridge, and a flat screen TV. The room was unlit— only the light from the string of bulbs surrounding the pool outside illuminated the room.

Cash was sprawled on the sofa, on his back, with Echo on top of him, her face nestled into his neck, both of them deep in sleep. Cash had his mouth open. A small trickle of vomit dried on Echo’s cheek.

His phone was on a table, vibrating. That would be Virginia.

Devon picked it up.


Unscheduled

Prompt: Later

surreal flight

Nate sat in Row 17, Seat C, on his way to visit his father, who may or may not be dying. His sister said he was fading fast, but he’d faded fast before. Two years ago, Nate had sat with him for the last hour of his life, stared at his grey stubbly unresponsive face, wondering, honestly, if he wanted him to live or die, until Pop revived and went on to survive this last hour, and more hours, and even moved back into his apartment.

He didn’t like the air on planes. It dried out his nasal passages and his brain. His headache started within the first ten minutes of the flight. He asked for tea and the attendant brought him coffee. When he pointed out the error, the steward said, “Well excuse me”, as if Nate had been rude or attacked him. Migraine number two.

Nate had long legs, prone to cramps. When a different flight attendant came by and asked him to switch seats at the request of a married couple who wanted to sit together, even though it meant a window seat for Nate, he said, sorry, no. The attendant rolled her eyes, and then ignored his call button, when he wanted a glass of water to take his allergy medication.

Beside him was a lovely woman, very attractive, but she hadn’t bathed for a very long time. Or perhaps she was a particularly nervous traveller. Nate didn’t know. He wasn’t hostile, but he truly wanted the oxygen mask to drop. Something to muffle the unpleasantness.

Who knows what kind of upbringing his father had? Probably as fucked up as Nate’s. Because Pop believed in toughening up his son, which he interpreted as being distant, critical, strict, and unapproachable. Even when Nate was a man, with responsibilities and a career to maintain, his father did not alter his attitude. You are not good enough, why should I love you? Nate plugged in his headphones, listened to a podcast of a politician describing why the world was ending.

There was no tequila on the flight, so Nate had some vodka with lime.

They were over Cleveland, and Nate remembered a chat with his father about a girl he wanted to marry.

He ordered another couple of tiny vodka bottles, and the flight attendant said, Don’t you think you’ve had enough?

Nate thought, Fuck you, but didn’t say it. He was sitting quietly, throwing back drinks which were pleasantly numbing. What difference did it make to the attendant?

“Just bring them,” Nate said. “Ok?”

“Well sir, I can’t do that, but please have a glass of apple juice courtesy of the American Airways.”

“Are you kidding me?”

The flight attendant stared at him with shark’s eyes. Dead. Bored. Disengaged.

He thought of his father, a white sheet and one of those hospital greyish-blue waffled blankets pulled up to his chin, in a grey room with artificial light, with a long-unused machine with dials and lights and wires nearby, and the option of an ancient fat portable television to watch, and a bed tray with meatloaf dinner and apple juice pushed away in disgust, and an environment too noisy and too bright to sleep, and resentment building up inside his father like masses of bodies pushing forward, unstoppable, as at a riot.

“Give me the fucking drink,” said Nate.

The plane made an unscheduled stop in Cleveland, and Nate was taken away in handcuffs, which was a new experience. He shouldn’t have shouted and threatened, obviously; the airline has to take their precautions.

He sat in a small, overheated room at the Cleveland airport, waiting to be processed. Perhaps, he thought, his father would die while Nate was restrained for acting irresponsibly on a flight. His sister might tell him why Nate was not there. His father could then die content, knowing he was right all along.

Parent Pair

Prompt: Invitation

chick-and-egg

“I’m not going.”

“Of course you are, it’s all about you.”

“It’s not about me, it’s about the baby,” said Virginia. She combed her hair while seated in front of her vanity mirror in the master bedroom of the coachhouse. She looked like a duchess from an English mini-series. “This is about your parents and their friends, and I refuse to play Madonna when I’m dead tired.”

“You’re hormonal,” said Cash, immediately regretting it.

“And you’re not, Mr Morning Sickness, Tender Nipple Man, Moody Bastard?”

“That was because I love you and Echo,” Cash said.

“They didn’t ask me, they just planned and invited. I had no say or warning. I’m tired Cash. I might even be fucking hormonal. I want to have a glass of Guinness and maybe a nap today. Fall asleep in front of the TV.”

“Babe,” said Cash. “Father and Mummy are just proud of you, of us. They want to celebrate their first grandbaby. Aren’t you proud? Don’t you want to celebrate?”

Virginia rolled her eyes so hard they almost flew out of their sockets. “You take the baby to the party.” Virginia looked at her watch. “She’ll most likely sleep through the whole thing.”

“Me?”

“You, the baby’s father and half of her parent-pair.”

“What if she wakes up?” said Cash.

“Then the world will end,” said Virginia.

“People will bring expensive gifts,” Cash said.

“Fantastic. I’ll write the thank-you notes.”

“I love you,” said Cash.

“Good,” said Virginia.

Where Rage Lives

Prompt: Subdued
Warning: Offensive Language

anger-abstract

Jeremy’s father started to have tantrums as if he was a toddler, except he was a grown man, advanced in age but still strong, and so was a danger to himself and others when he flew into these blind rages.

It was probably a kind of dementia, his doctor told Jeremy. Jeremy disagreed. He was just a selfish, violent asshole, and the older he got, the worse he got. “Right,” said the doctor. “He loses the filter. He can’t help it.”

So Jeremy tried hard not to hate his father. He tried hard to understand him. He generally failed to do both. It was much better since Xavier moved in; Xavier had a serenity about him, or perhaps it was just an indifference to the insults and rantings of an old man. But with Xavier around to look after him, Jeremy all but abandoned his plans to get his father into a nursing home and out of his life. Working two jobs was not the brilliant savings plan Jeremy had envisioned. There was no way to fast-track his father out of the apartment and into an institution far away from him.

Jeremy resigned himself to the unforgivable plan of cohabiting with this father. He felt terrible about it, and realized it was not a good solution for either of them. Unless, Jeremy realized, he could arrange schedules with Xavier and the airline so that he rarely had to see his father face to face.

He worked the late afternoon shifts and the overnight shifts as often as he could. For a week at a time he would not see his father at all, arriving home when his father was in bed and leaving again before they had time to confront one another.

The tantrum came one afternoon towards the end of that quiet (for Jeremy) week. He was awakened from a dead sleep, having returned home pumped up from a bomb scare at the airport. He’d played video games in his room until he literally fell into bed unconscious.

“Don’t you— don’t you talk to me like that, you spic!” His father. Jeremy put the pillow over his head.

Then some furniture scraping, and finally, something picked up and hurled against the wall. It sounded like the building was imploding. Jeremy dragged himself up and into the kitchen, where he was startled to see blood streaming from his father’s nose.

Xavier stood near the back door, a frying pan in his hand. A loaf of bread had been emptied and scattered around the room. Blood covered the front of his father’s shirt.

“See what he does? You leave me alone with this… thing, day after day!” His father wiped blood from his nose with a shirt sleeve, and then kicked over a kitchen chair. “Faggots, both of you, abusing an old man, both of you!”

“Xavier?” Jeremy said quietly.

Xavier shook his head. “I did nothing. He requested his lunch, I prepared it. He did not like it. He threw it.”

“Fucking teenage faggot!”

“I said, ‘Why do that Mr Connor? This is what you say you want.’ I don’t know, he forgot? He—“

“Call the police!” said his father. “Get this wetback deported.”

“You didn’t hit him,” Jeremy asked.

“I did not,” said Xavier. “The plate he threw hit me, though, so…” He held up the frying pan, indicating its purpose was to shield himself from flying objects.

“Are you seriously going to believe that filthy foreign thug over me?”

“Dad, go lie down for a little bit. Really. I’ll bring you some tea.”

“Shut the fuck up,” said his father. He suddenly looked at his sleeve, and the knocked over chair, and Xavier by the door with a frying pan. “Just leave me alone.” The blood seemed to have stopped flowing and Jeremy handed his father a fistful of paper towels.

Subdued, Jeremy’s father shuffled out of the kitchen.

“How often has this been happening?” Jeremy said.

“Just a few times,” said Xavier, placing the pan carefully on top of the stove. “He just goes off like a firework. Boom. Pop. Pow.”

“His nose?”

“I think is a nose bleed,” said Xavier. He started picking up pieces of bread from the floor. “Your father is angry.”

“He is always angry,” said Jeremy.

“Why?”

That is a good question, Jeremy thought. It wasn’t all dementia, or lack of filters, or a vile temperament. He knew this for a fact, because he himself was full of anger towards his father. Rage, suppressed. He understood how anger felt, but was ignorant about where it lived and how it flourished.

He helped Xavier clean up the kitchen. He ate a grilled cheese sandwich that Xavier prepared. He took a cup of strong tea into his father’s room. His dad lay under the covers, in his clothes, blood clotting around his nostrils, sound asleep. Jeremy put the cup on the bedside table. His father, he knew, would awake and be enraged by cold tea.

 


Pretty Little Head

Prompt: Cheat

Warning: Adult content

father knows best -patriarchal-families

Even a comfortable chair, a weak cocktail from Margaret, Bud’s thanking him for his advice about the car, Betty’s kiss on the cheek, and Kitten crawling into his lap and wanting a hug, could not chase away the dark cloud that hung over Jim Anderson. His warm smile seemed cooler, more forced. He seemed distracted. The family circle that greeted him was not enough this day.

“Daddy, what’s wrong?” asked the ever-perceptive Kitten. Precocious child, Jim thought. We’ll have to teach her the benefits of remaining silent even when you want to speak. Maybe next episode.

“Nothing sweetheart.” Jim tousled her dark, wavy hair. “Daddy’s just had a long day at the office!” He grinned at her, showing teeth, which Kitten did not find comforting.

While the children set the table for dinner, Margaret sat on the edge of the comfortable chair and asked her husband what was going on at the General Insurance Company that was causing him such angst. It was unlike her husband to be anything but cheerful and commanding when he walked through the front door, set down his briefcase, and put on his favourite cardigan sweater.

“Oh, layoffs,” said Jim, reaching for a cigarette. “Nothing to worry your pretty little head about.” And Margaret indeed had a pretty little head, with curls as shiny as satin and a young woman’s complexion.

“I see,” said Margaret. “And your secretary, the other pretty little head, is she still giving head?”

“I beg your pardon!” Jim said, sitting up and almost spilling his Tom Collins. He mashed out his cigarette in the ashtray and glared at his wife. “How dare you?”

Betty poked her head around the door. “Hey, are we all okay in here?” she asked with a bright smile.

“Of course, darling,” Jim and Margaret said in unison. They had said that many times, in unison, over the course of their marriage.

Margaret said, “I would be happy so see that pretty little head ousted from your office, but then her place would be filled by another pretty little head, much like the last one.”

“Just because they are pretty….”

“Oh, shut up, Jim. I know all about it. I’m tired of it. That’s why I’m heading off to visit my old college chum, in Paris, for six weeks. I’ve left full instructions for laundry, housecleaning, garden maintenance, cooking —including recipes, shopping lists, and a few casseroles in the freezer— and also the children’s school schedules, the names of their teachers, the addresses of piano and dance teachers, Bud and Betty’s girlfriend and boyfriend status; and finally a list of all our creditors, including heat, electricity, tax schedule, and so on.”

“I think you should stop and think about this, Margaret. Why, I remember when I was suspicious and angry once, just like you, and I—“

“Hush, Jim.” Margaret took off her apron and laid it across his lap. “I’m packed, and the taxi should be here…” –she looked at her watch– “…any second.”

She leaned over and gave Jim a peck on the forehead.

Au revoir,” said Margaret.

Daddy

Prompt: Complicated

irises_01

“I have half a mind to cut you off,” said Angus Applegate.

Cash had heard this threat many times before. “It’s up to you,” he said, in his most sincere voice. “I wouldn’t blame you.”

“What the hell happened?” asked Angus.

“It’s complicated,” said Cash.

“That girl, is she suing?”

“I haven’t heard anything,” said Cash.

Angus stood up. He’d been bent over a bed of irises, cutting out the dead stalks and pulling brown leaves from the undergrowth. When in bloom, the irises were a brilliant spring symphony of yellow, white, and blue. Now the little blue geranium blossoms were emerging between the stalks. It would be a quieter display, more soothing, and cooler for summer.

He took off his gardening gloves and stuffed them into the pocket of his grey trousers, which were baggy and none too clean. He liked getting dirt under his fingernails on the weekends, sweating into the band of the ratty straw hat he wore, smelling the earth, the bark mulch, the greenness, and the musty smell of dead leaves. He would spend all day in the garden, if he could. Constance wanted him to retire, but by Monday morning Angus was anxious to get back to work.

“What does daddy do at the office?” Cash asked, as a child.

“Daddy earns money so we can live in this house and eat this food and have people to take care of us,” said Constance.

Maybe his love of the stuff was why he named his son Cash.

Cash was a disgrace to his given name. And he was not exactly burnishing the Applegate family name, either.

“Virginia says hello,” said Cash.

Angus brightened, then attempted to conceal it. “Bring her over for dinner; Wednesday would work for me.”

“Ok,” said Cash.

“And when you take out the boat, forget about hiring your friends and use only my crew, and also forget about charging your friends for ‘private’ cruises.”

“Yes, sir,” said Cash, without sarcasm.

So, he was off the hook from that potential money-making venture cum disaster. He was forbidden from trying to earn while on the yacht. From now on he could only use it for pleasure.

Oh, well.