The Nine Steps of Forgiveness

Prompt: Tea

Hello Wednesday,

Tea is always good for you– not only because of anti-oxidant properties, but because of the spiritual calmness that a good cuppa offers in a moment of crisis.

Coffee, meanwhile, is sometimes a miracle elixir, sometimes a perilous toxin, depending on the research and time of day. I love coffee, but it turned me into a morning monster (in all seriousness). When I had to quit caffeine, and when decaf was not considered drinkable, I turned to tea.

How dull, how boring, how English. However, people no longer had to give me a wide berth in the morning (they were, again in all seriousness, afraid of me before my first cup of coffee), and I’ve grown to like green and white teas. Sure, they taste like leaves and grass, and are anemic in colour. One gets used to that, for the sake of good health and community commitment.

May I present a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which is tangentially related to today’s word prompt, Tea?

herbal tea party

cartoon dog in car

cartoon pig ribs

It’s time to fire up the barbecue. Sorry, little pig.



The Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond

Prompt: Fishing

fisherman with fishing pole holding fish

Juan Swann ran the Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond that was just outside of Ringerville on the way to Bartlett, in Echo Valley, but business wasn’t good. For that reason he was petitioning to rent some property right on the highway close to the bridge, where the tourists stopped because of the petting zoo, the fruit and candle stands, three fast food outlets, and now the bouncy castle (only $1 for half an hour, space permitting, age 4 to 11 only).

Business was slow at the Fish Pond despite the new neon sign he’d bought, which animated a blue fish leaping out of blue water (it was cheaper to have just one colour). He had forgotten that the neon was not as effective in bright daylight as it was at, say, midnight, when no one was interested in catching a fish out of a converted above-ground swimming pool.

But he was battling the district, who, under pressure from the Pearheads in the town of Bartlett, wanted to cap the activity on the Ringerville side of the bridge before it became, as they put it, tacky. The protesters had given up on eliminating the tourist “mall”, and now simply wanted to contain it. They pressured the district board members hard; they brought new energy into the concept of lobbying, which, to be honest, had never before been a staple of the Echo Valley District.

So Juan Swann decided to take a chance, a big one.

He asked to rent a small parcel on the Bartlett side of the one lane bridge instead of the Ringerville side, for his Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond enterprise. Now this was risky, as the protesters from Bartlett were a ruthless group, having recently stolen all the animals (four llamas, six goats, two old sheep, and Fancy the Chicken) from the petting zoo. These animals had recently been found roaming the fenced acreage of Jason Hock’s miniature pony ranch, in good condition except for the peace sign shaved into one of the llamas. What mischief would they get up to with Juan’s Fish Pond?

Juan fervently hoped his proposal would appease the naysayers. His Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond concession would be elegant, it would blend with the natural environment, it would be mostly hidden behind a copse of poplar trees, with only the subtle (in the daytime) blue neon sign announcing its presence. He would take out a bank loan and build a real wood deck to surround the pond, and would let the wood weather naturally. He would put out pots of flowers and herbs, and only sell soft drinks and water. The whole operation would be tasteful, and, he hoped, profitable for both the district and for Juan Swann.

Then one evening, as Juan settled in front of the television to watch CSI Miami, there was a pounding at the front door of his white panelled prefabricated bungalow. More curious than alarmed, he went to the door and to his horror, found a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on the porch.

It was only a goldfish, perhaps five centimetres in length, but the message was clear. Beware, Juan Swann. Your Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond is not wanted, and we will do what we have to do. Beware, or you swim with the goldfish.

One Two Three Four Five

Prompt: Aimless

polar bears

It was, at first, not noticeable. Just some kids fooling around aimlessly. The Sunday sky was unseasonably blue and cloudless, and the zoo was packed with moms, dads, kids, aunts, uncles, lovers, loners, friends, the curious, the bored… The trees were in full leaf, casting dappled shade on the broad pathways and banks of purple iris. It was a perfect afternoon to amble, and look at baby howler monkeys, or zebras trying to mate, or a polar bear, in his white-painted concrete lair, pacing from one end of his raised enclosure, which was separated from the walk by a concrete moat, to the other, and then back again.

That’s what three young people did, right in front of the wire fence and stone railing, paced with their backs to the polar bear but in unison with him. One two three four five– pause– kick. Turn. One to three four five, kick. No pause when the bear was heading east; a pause only on the western pace.

One two three four five, kick. One two three four five, pause, kick. Over and over, back and forth.

An elderly man stood quietly beside them, and handed out two printed 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper stapled together, to people passing by. Some paused, and read the words on the paper, and looked at the polar bear, and at the three teenagers.

Then there were six young people, in a line. A little girl and her mother joined them. The original three moved to the front, making room for six more ghost pacers. Back and forth, silently, in neat lines.

One two three four five, pause, kick. One to three four five, kick. One two three four five, pause, kick. One two three four five, kick.

This Polar Bear, the paper read.

The polar bear, or ursus maritimus, is a mammal native to the Arctic ice sheets and the vast expanses of water that surround them. Their webbed paws make it so they are especially apt at swimming. Polar bears need to swim not only to satiate their carnivorous diet but to maintain a body mass necessary for survival in one of the coldest regions in the world.

Many well-meaning zoo patrons believe that captivity is the solution to the polar bears’ endangered status. Polar bears need their space and should not be kept in a confined area. Captivity revokes its natural instincts. They will never be able to migrate, hunt at night, or claim territorial rights. Captivity can turn out quite badly for the estimated 1,000 of them pacing on the hard, wet stone floor.

Polar bears are known to swim in excess of forty miles across the open sea. They are unable to do that in a small pool that spans less than forty yards. Polar bears are known as solitary creatures, and prefer to take long walks along ice sheets and snow drifts. They are unable to do that in captivity. They can only pace on the hard concrete floor.

In 1992, Bill Travers, the well-known English animal rights activist, coined the term zoochosis to describe the obsessive, repetitive behavior exhibited by animals held captive in zoos. Specifically, this animal-specific psychosis refers to a range of mental problems that are brought on by the stress of captivity and the inability to express natural behaviors. Symptoms of zoochosis include over grooming, neck arching, head swaying, and pacing.

The treatment of this polar bear is not moral, not ethical, and does not benefit the commonwealth.

There are many more animals that need to be saved. The panda bear. The dolphin. Not every animal can be saved but we need to do our best to give back to the animals their purpose. The purpose of the panda bear is to climb the foggy mountains of China, not a tree in a glass enclosure. The purpose of the dolphin is to swim in the vast expanses of the ocean, not in a small, enclosed tank for tourists in an amusement park. The purpose of the polar bear is to gallop along the frozen tundra, not to pace back and forth on the hard, wet stone floor while suffering in silence.

These animals have no voice. Join us. Be their voice. Call the humane society, call your representative, and visit our website.

There were twenty people now, pacing silently with the polar bear, and several hundred gathered around. Spontaneously, ten more people joined the lines, then ten more. Zoo officials stood nearby, talking into cell phones.

More people joined, and then the TV crew turned up. That encouraged more to join the silent protest. A hundred people paced.

One two three four five, pause, kick. One two three four five, kick. Again, and again.

People in the crowd held up their phones, videos were posted to the Internet, to Facebook, to YouTube, to Twitter. Two hundred people now, in silent unison, in sync with a silent pacing, polar bear.

One two three four five, pause, kick.

Once two three four five, kick.