I Dream of Jean

Prompt: Genie

I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair
Borne, like a vapor, on the summer air;
I see her tripping where the bright streams play
Happy as the daisies that dance on her way…

The above is a lovely, sentimental song written by Stephen Foster, which was eventually punned to this:

My mother’s name was Jean, and I think of her whenever I hear either the song or the TV series theme song, and also when I hear this:

I miss my mother, and do dream about her.

And in lieu of getting all weepy, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, only the first one of which is related to the daily prompt, “genie”?

cartoon dog genie

cartoon web troll

cartoon shrink lifeguard


Have a happy, sunny week!

~~FP

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Philosophy

Prompt: Song

college campus

Dear Virginia,

Sorry I took so long to respond to your email, but the campus ISP was down for almost four days. We were also without running water for two days, which was a disaster. The administration tells us these occurrences are extremely unusual, and to happen concurrently is even more of a rarity. Anyway I’ve sat constipated and lonely with dirty hair in my room trying to fathom David Hume’s billiard balls and now think I will just make something up for the paper due tomorrow.

I don’t know why I’m taking Philosophy, though it’s probably why I’m now wondering about everything including the meaning of life and why I am wasting away my youth at this fucking college. Virge, I can hear you say, “It’s only the first semester of your first year, Envy, give it time”.

How do I give it time? My roommate is a raging germaphobe who counts Q-tips in fear I might have stolen one, and she sings “Where is Love” from the musical Oliver in her sleep. Or at least I think she is sleeping. So I can barely stay awake during the day and already struggling with most of my classes, include the ones I should breeze through like Lit and Art History, because my Lit prof is trying to bully me into participating more in class (can you image me participating to begin with? me?) and my Art History class is nothing but a series of slide shows. I get most of my sleep time there. My Spanish tutor thinks his housemate is trying to murder him, so every class is like a scene from a horror movie, where we expect a man in a moustache to jump out from behind a door wielding a kitchen knife.

Let me tell you about my new friends. Oh wait, I don’t have any. Only one guy in my Spanish class has even spoken to me, and I have no idea why he would. He’s gorgeous, you see, and well, you know what I look like.

My roommate just burst in and told me she has food poisoning from the toxins served at the cafeteria. She may be right.

It’s ironic: I picked a college as far away from my parents as would have me, and yet I’m so looking forward to Christmas and getting home and seeing you and even my worthless brother, Cash. I want to sleep in my own bed and eat real food and read a trashy novel and maybe even decide if I want to come back here in January.

Have to run. Roomie is vomiting in the trash can.

Tons of love,
Envy

——–

Dear Virginia,

I can’t even tell you how much I missed you over Christmas break. Words fail me. I’m speechless. And so on. I understand you had to take the job, and lucky you for going to the Bahamas in this weather, but oh lord I could have used a friend.

My brother picked me up at the airport, because he got his driver’s licence back. He really shouldn’t be on the road; plus I think he was a little drunk.

Anyway we get home and Millie takes my bags and leads me upstairs to my room (mother was at a meeting) except it was not my room, it was the small guest room. This room has a double bed, a wardrobe but no closet, and has blue geraniumed wallpaper that matches the bedspread. There are carpet and wallpaper samples rolled and stacked in the corner by the window, and on top of the wardrobe is a stack of old telephone books. It is the overflow guest room, in other words.

“Darling,” my mother says when she gets home, flushed from her success in choosing the theme for the cancer gala, Greece, Ancient and Modern, “we are converting your bedroom into a clay room, you could say, since I am learning to sculpt and throw pots.”

“You are? Why my room? What did you do with my stuff?” Honestly Virge, I was well and truly devastated.

“Your room faces north— the light is right, and it’s bigger than the the um, overflow guest room. I didn’t think you’d mind really, your little room was so fussy and dated, you know, with those posters and pink things and that koala bear.”

What did you do with Cocoa?

“Darling.” My mother smiled indulgently. “All your precious belongings are in boxes in the garage. Millie was very careful to pack everything.”

“Even the jewelry I made?”

“Oh,” said mother. “Did you mean to keep that?”

“Why couldn’t you set up your clay room in the basement? There’s tons of room.”

“Sweetheart, I’m not a basement kind of person…”

God, my family. Nana Appleby and my father’s cousin Uncle Gary had been assigned the actual guest rooms, even though Nana was only staying overnight Christmas Eve. I can’t begrudge her. She turns 101 in February. Uncle Gary though, what an asshole. I can only imagine he is paying to stay with us, since no one likes him.

So the decision whether or not to return to college became no decision at all. I see now how that can happen. When you have two shitty alternatives, you choose the one you are not in the middle of.

And semester two couldn’t be worse than the first. I found out the name of the guy in my Spanish class. Marcus. He’s adorable.

Tons of love,
Envy

The Adventures of Chai: The Handcuffs

Prompt: Incubate

audrey in sunglasses

“Let’s not tell mom about the handcuffs, ok?” said Chai.

Flax responded with a deeply blank stare, an odd countenance for such a young child. Perhaps, Chai thought, he was “processing” and had no energy left for facial expression. Flax was more about doing than thinking, but maybe there was a speck of growing up incubating in that tiny, terrifying boy bundle.

But would he tell mom about the handcuffs?

Her mother had been furious about the leash. No matter how much Chai explained that it had saved her brother from being hit by a car, her mother was adamant that it was unholy to put a young human being on a leash, just because he was active.

“—and unpredictable and strong and it was a harness not a leash,” Chai said.

“No,” said her mother. “Get a good grip on his hand, like a normal person.”

His sticky, gooey, gobby little hand, which slid out of hers whenever he saw something distracting, the same way a dog darted for a squirrel. Sometimes he yanked his hand away just so he could run two blocks ahead of her. She had books to carry, homework and all kinds of shit; how was she supposed to run after an almost four-year old future gold medal sprinter?

No leash, and Flax would surely end up flattened by a bus.

So Chai toured the Dollar Store, which had jumbles of unrelated merchandise on every shelf and in every corner, for ideas. By the time she reached the toy handcuffs, she had a fabric sunflower, a bottle of blue nail polish, a starfish-emblazoned mug, and a mammoth bag of caramel corn in her basket.

The handcuffs were plastic and not strong enough to contain the likes of Flax, as she found out when she flexed them and they came apart. She buried the broken pair under a stack of water pistols. Should stores even sell toy handcuffs and guns?

An hour later Chai was hovering outside the Sexxe Shoppe, wearing a scarf and a pair of her mother’s sunglasses, hoping to pass for eighteen.

The handcuffs were on a display shelf, covered in a hard plastic shell mounted on cardboard, but they looked like they were made of metal, and strong. The key had a heart-shaped handle, lest the set be mistaken for something other than intimate pleasure.

The following afternoon, she picked up Flax as usual at the daycare, and as soon as they were out the door she snapped on the polished silver handcuffs, making the two of them temporarily inseparable. Conveniently, the cuff size was completely adjustable, and the little terror was unable to slip out of them.

He was not happy, but he was never happy to be held back, even by Chai’s innocent hand.

The handcuffs were not as convenient as the leash, because she only had one hand free, but somehow she managed to get them both home safely and without incident.

The key. She’d put it in her jacket pocket. Hadn’t she?

“Just a minute, Flax!” He stopped the pulling and yanking for the duration of the blink of an eye, then leaned, suspended and squirming, away from her. With difficulty she patted down her jacket pockets, then rummaged through her bag and then scrunched up the lining of her jacket in case the key had fallen through, but there was no joyfully wanton, heart-shaped silver key to be found.

She pulled Flax back to her and checked his pockets and clothing carefully.

Fuck!

Her mother would be back briefly after work, then would dash out for her evening accounting course (hoping to get a federal job, and all that) but how could Chai manage to conceal the handcuffs from her until she could find the key?

Neither she nor Flax could get their jackets off, so Chai scribbled a note and left it on the counter: Gone to Jude’s, took Flax, see you tonite.

She somehow got Flax a snack and into the bathroom for an awkward pee, then she dragged the poor lad to the park around the corner, where they waited on a bench behind a tree until her mother’s car glided slowly by in the direction of the house, then, a few minutes later, slowly glided past again.

Chai (and Flax) retraced their steps all the way back to the daycare, then diligently searched the sidewalk and porch at the house, then every inch of the house. She found the earring she’d lost back when she had her ears pierced, and a dollar bill that was no longer in circulation, and a birthday card from last year that had fallen behind the sideboard, but she did not find a key.

It was about half past eight when Chai heard her mother slam the front door and throw her keys onto the hallway table.

“If you want to watch the end of this, don’t say a word,” she whispered sharply to Flax. They sat side by side on the couch in front of the TV, the lights dimmed, with a big bowl of caramel popcorn between them. Cars 2 was the feature film on Netflix, and held Flax’s full attention even though he’d seen it at least twice before.

Her mother paused in the doorway. “Hi chickens. What’s Flax doing up so late? Flax—“

“We’ll just watch the end of Cars, mom. It’s not a school night. I’ll get him to bed.” Chai knew her mother was dead tired. Her night classes were Thursday and Friday, along with full time teaching at Frontenac Elementary School, and she tended to sleep through most of the weekend.

Flax stuffed a handful of caramel corn into his little maw with his free hand. Their mother came up behind them, kissed the top of his head, and bid them good night.

Ok, it was a troublesome night. They slept in Chai’s bed because it was bigger, and while Flax slept soundly, he also thrashed around, farted, and hogged the covers.

And they had to get up well before their mother, whose alarm would go at ten a.m.

Chai was frantic. She thought of dragging her brother to the Sexxe Shoppe and begging for a second key, but she was pretty sure he wouldn’t be allowed onto the premises, and anyway some of the devices on display might confuse or even traumatize the little boy. She knew she’d been confused, and was a bit shaky on the traumatization. A little research would be in order when all this was sorted out, if it ever was.

Might the hardware store have a device wherewith they cut through metal as a service to their customers? How often would teenage girls come in needing liberation from handcuffs?

In desperation she called the Sexxe Shoppe on the phone, and spoke to a cheerful someone named Mandy, who sounded Chai’s age.

“Um,” said Chai.

“Honey, I’ve heard it all,” said Mandy. “What can I do ya for?”

“I lost the key to the Luxe Handkuffs. I can’t find it anywhere and I—“

“Honey, did you not press that little latch near the chain?”

“The what?”

“A safety feature, in case one or the other— well, never mind. Just find that little lever… do you see it, honey?”

“Who’re you talking to?” her mother asked as she wandered into the kitchen, clad in a purple kimono.

Flax, newly freed, bounded out of the kitchen and into the back yard, where he started digging a hole and filling it with rocks, fallen leaves, and litter.

“No one,” said Chai. “I made some tea.”

Casually, Chai pulled her jacket around her and joined Flax in the garden.

“Flax,” she said, “let’s not tell mom about the handcuffs, ok?”

Mockingbird

Prompt: Flavor

baby doll

“Look at his tiny toes,” said Mama.

I looked at its toes, they were tiny; it was tiny, smaller than my baby doll, and just as bald. its face was tiny and wrinkled, its eyes were tightly shut as if it was in pain.

When I poked it in the tummy (when Mama wasn’t looking) it didn’t cry. I could wrap my whole hand around its foot or its hand and it would disappear in my fist.

“He is so tiny and beautiful,” said Mama, not to me, but to someone else. Jesus? She held it up against her face, breathing it in.

I wasn’t tiny, not any more, not yet. Mama didn’t notice when I stopped eating. She put my cheese sandwich and fruit salad on the table. She fed it milk from her breast. She put Kentucky Fried Chicken and coleslaw in cardboard tubs on the table. She took it to the changing table and wiped its bum with a soft white cloth. She gave me a dixiecup full of vanilla ice cream and a small wooden paddle to eat with. She rocked it in her arms, walking round and round, singing “Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird”.

When I fell asleep at school, Mama said, “I’m sorry, kitty, baby kept you awake.” I didn’t hear it cry at night. It slept in Mama’s bed.

Gramma came to stay. She held it, saying, “He is so tiny!” And then she saw me watching, and took me out to the front porch, where there was a bench, and we sat down, and she took me into her lap.

“You are thin,” Gramma said. I squirmed. “What’s wrong with your eyes, kitty?” She put her face close to mine. My eyes had fallen inside my head so I could hardly see out.

Gramma wrapped me up in her arms and I disappeared, just like its tiny foot disappeared in my fist.

Gramma brought me something that moved. It was covered in soft grey fur, striped, with ears too big for its head and a tiny nose and tiny paws. It was warm and purred when I held it to my chest.

“What will you call him?” Gramma asked me.

“Moon,” I said.

“What shall we call the baby?” Mama asked me.

He wrapped a tiny hand around my finger. “Can we call him Joe, same as daddy?”

“We can,” said Mama.

Delusional

Prompt: Purple

purple

Andrew stayed in his bedroom with the door closed until the last minute.

His mother had called for him at least half an hour ago, maybe to double-check his hair, nails, and suit, and he ignored her. He would emerge, if he did at all, when there was no time left to think.

“I hope you’ll come to love him,” his mother had said. She watched too many television dramas. Her view of the world was simplistic and, frankly, annoying. That’s why she only spoke to her father, Bernard, once, one time, on the phone before dropping Andrew off on his doorstep and leaving him with a complete stranger. They mumbled at one another, and then the old guy showed him his cats, which was weird, then they drove in his cab to the zoo, as if Andrew was a kid, followed by a major freak-out on his grandfather Bernard’s part and a visit to White Spot which was the only decent part of the day. Ok, his grandfather turned out to be not awful and was closer to him now than almost anyone, but his mother had no way of knowing that would happen. People did idiotic things like that on TV, and the plot twisted and turned and everyone had a laugh and it all ended up neatly tied with a bow.

Even Andrew knew that’s not how the world worked. He would not come to love Randy. He didn’t hate him or anything, but Randy was not the sort of person Andrew could love. His mother was delusional. So was Randy, if he thought he could be an effing “father figure”. He’d tried that on, tried to tell Andrew what to do. No way.

Andrew thought about moving out, but he wasn’t finished high school. He could maybe move in with his grandfather, but had a feeling Bernard would tell him to tough it out for his mother’s sake. Sophie said something similar. “Be happy for your mom’s sake,” she’d said. Andrew tried, he really did.

He heard a knock on the bedroom door, softly at first, then more strident.

“Andrew?” His mother. “Bernard will be here in five minutes; are you ready or what?”

There was a full length mirror on the inside of the bedroom door. Andrew took all the old jeans and t-shirts off the hooks and threw them on the bed. This was the moment of truth.

There he stood, in a dark blue, single-breasted suit, with a ever-so-subtly ruffled purple shirt and navy bow tie. The shirt was a fine purple, soft yet striking, the tie was clip-on, and Andrew looked like a perfect fool. He had to wear this outfit, as one of Randy’s groomsmen. Honest to god, his mother, sometimes.

He was hard-pressed to decide which was worse, Randy joining the family, or his having to appear in public in a clown outfit chosen by a delusional mother who watched too much television and thought purple was ok.

Bernard’s old taxi backfired a lot. Andrew heard it and went to the window. It was time to go downstairs.

Makizmo

Prompt: Scent

broken-pottery

The last thing Deborah expected was the scent of Vincent. That is, the scent of his cologne, inhabiting her mother’s house like a coat of paint, assaulting her as soon as she walked through the front door.

She put the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter, where there was a note: Put cass in oven 325 back 6. Why did her mother have to write as if every character was as painful as plucking hair from the roots? It’s not as if she was busy, or even working anymore.

There was a clear pyrex dish on the counter, covered in foil. Inside looked like some kind of macaroni casserole. Leave the foil on or off? The note didn’t say. Deborah turned the oven to 325 degrees and put the casserole dish in cold. She glanced at the wall clock. Half an hour before her mother said she’d be back.

Deborah went to the cupboard, pulled out one of her mother’s china plates, and smashed it into the sink. She sat at the table and cried, drying her tears with paper towels. She carefully gathered up the delicate and unsalvageable shards of the plate and put them in the garbage can in the corner. She went into the bathroom and washed her face. She used the face cloth to scrub under her arms too, since the scent of Vincent caused her to sweat into her blouse.

Vincent smelled like lime leaves, musk, and burnt sugar. That was the fragrance, Makizmo, that he chose to wear, when he was alive. Deborah knew of no one else who wore it. Smelling it now made her think of Vincent’s arms— he was so proud of his well-toned arms, and was fond of tank tops even though Deborah thought they made him look rough and common. She thought of the way he bit her ear when they made love. She thought about his laugh, the way he threw his head back and there was just that moment of pause before the guffaw burst out. She thought about how he loved and missed his childhood dog, Chummy, and how that creature was the only sentimental topic in his repertoire. She thought about his body, his face shot off, the closed coffin at his funeral.

Vincent was gone. Deborah was on her own. She was recovering. She was back at work. She was able to pay the monthly mortgage on her little house, the one she had shared with Vincent, thanks to financial help from Uncle Al and her mother. She was moving on with her life, like every single person she ever talked to kept telling her to do.

And then her mother goes and lets Vincent back in the house.

Deborah went to her mother’s bedroom. The bed was hastily made. The scent was stronger here. She picked up a pillow and pressed it to her face. It was awash with the scent of lime leaves, musk, and burnt sugar.

She heard the front door open, and her mother call her name. Her mother, the whore who let Vincent into the house, who let Vincent sleep in her bed that day even though Deborah was to be her guest that evening.

She went to the bedroom window and drew back the curtains, throwing open the window to a gust of frigid air that raised goosebumps on her arms and neck. In a moment, she felt warm arms reach around her and pull the window closed again, then clasp her tightly, lovingly, silently.

It smelled like Vincent.

Dear Ms Roades

Prompt: Overworked

side-eye-classical-art

Dear Ms Roades,

Please excuse Todd’s absence from school yesterday, as he was suffering from diagnosable exhaustion. It had nothing to do with the police, his conflicts at home, or anything other than his devotion to completing his school assignments with promptness and competence. I would appreciate your sensitivity in this matter and hope you will leave us to attend to our own issues without your interference.

Sincerely,
Mrs. A. Caper