All That Kale

Daily Prompt: Puncture

To most people in the UK, if you said “I had a puncture” it would not mean any intrusion of your body, but that you had a flat tire. You don’t have to add the word “tire”. Puncture means flat tire.

When I was very young and my father lent me his powder blue Comet one summer, my girlfriends and I piled in and went for a wild ride in the countryside. Partly showing off, I took a long stretch of highway at top speed and as I slowed to accommodate a curve in the road, I had a puncture.

We were silly teenagers, had no clue how to change a tire, and we had no cellphones then, nor any way to contact my father and rescuer. So we popped the hood (international symbol for car trouble?) and stood around the car, attempting to flag down passing motorists.

Finally a man in his thirties or so stopped, and we fussed and giggled as he changed the tire, in our short cut-offs and crop tops, all legs and new boobs. We were well aware that a gaggle of teenage girls was enough to make a man stop, look, and save the day.

I have an image of this incident in my head: such an incredible, vivid cliché of an encounter. I feel a little ashamed of it now, though I’m not sure why.

And, I realized the flat tire could have happened when I was driving 20 mph over the speed limit, and could have had serious consequences. Everything is a learning experience when you are a teenager.

On to a few of my favourite cartoons!

cartoon now we wait


cartoon masher and potato


cartoon kale for nothing


Kale: I pretended to like it for over a year. But I don’t. Freedom!

Have a wonderful week.

~~FP

Agony Ant: Completely Normal Dude

Prompt: Hideout

raccoon-plush-toytabby-cat-plush

Dear Agony Ant,

I am an 18-year old man currently living in a winter hunting cabin in the woods, almost a mile from the city limits. Fortunately, I have Internet reception, which has allowed me to complete my high school education via online courses, where I did particularly well in chemistry, grammar, and gymnastics (though the latter grades were mostly honour system).

I hunt, fish, and visit the Safeway to meet nutritional needs. I have several different indoor, hunting, foraging, and public clothing sets, so I am presentable when picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy, for example, as well as properly attired for hunting rabbits. The cabin has a generator but no heat, but I find the wood burning stove adequate for my warmth needs.

My companion in the cabin is my large tabby cat, named Ferdinand. He is a competent mouser and watch-cat (alerted me to a blockage in the chimney one night, which saved us both), and is also quite affectionate. There is also a particularly friendly and persistent raccoon, who visits daily, and recently had a litter of babies, who now also visit. Unfortunately, the cat and the raccoon have not become friends, and in fact are quite hostile towards one another.

But, that is not the problem for which I am asking advice, Ms Ant. It’s my high school graduation ceremony and subsequent prom. Since I live alone (Ferdinand notwithstanding), I have very few acquaintances of either gender, yet I long to escort a date to the celebratory dance and whatever festivities might follow (specifically, sexual contact and loss of virginity).

The correspondence school is sponsoring a modest gathering in a city 55 miles from here, in the grand ballroom of the Best Western Motel there, and they need confirmation from me about my attendance and food allergy information, as well as how many rooms I will be booking for the evening.

So my questions are: a) Where does one find a non-psychotic date who is willing to attend a correspondence school prom and who is also not averse to having sex with me, a stranger, afterwards; and b) is there an outlet that will exchange a carefully fitted and stylish suit rental for dried huckleberries and 20 lbs of assorted cured squirrels, pigeon, and blue snake (which tastes a lot like chicken)?

Yours truly,
Completely Normal Dude


Dear Completely Normal Dude,

Yes, you are normal, despite the surface aberrations of living like a hermit and serving tea to raccoons. You are a horny elderly teenager who desperately wants to get laid, and even went so far as to study online so you would have justification for this compulsion, since you are so socially inexperienced that you equate prom attendance with loss of virginity.

If you are financially able (maybe shoot a few more squirrels), I suggest hiring a pretty youngish woman from a reputable escort agency to dress appropriately as your date, play the role, and initiate you into the wonders of fornication after a few grinds on the dance floor. This is a win-win-win situation: A win for you, getting your cherry picked by an expert; for your date, who will make quite a lot of cash for an easy, though time-consuming, assignment (don’t forget she will likely not want to spend the night with you at the Best Western Motel, so you will need to provide transportation at the end of your liaison); and a win for the unsuspecting young woman, identity unknown, whom you were prepared to inflict your illusory impulses upon.

As for the suit, have you considered shop-lifting? Many big box stores, which some say harm local economies, now sell jackets and pants which would suffice. Keep the berries and snake bacon for yourself, since you never know what might happen.

And may I commend you on your exquisite grammar.

Peace and love,
agony ant


Dear Agony Ant,

How did you know about the tea?

Completely Normal Dude


Dear CND,

It is my job to read between the lines. Do not become too attached to the raccoons, and not just because it could alienate and cause a breach of trust with Ferdinand. I see heartbreak ahead if you fail to realize that raccoons are wild, free spirits who will also overturn your garbage can.

Peace and Love,
agony ant

Vindictive Child

Prompt: Millions

lonely-island-and-sea-wallpaper-768x480

“Where’s the lottery ticket,” Todd’s mother asked him as soon as he came through the door from school an hour late, thus breaking the contract he’d just made with the school principal, counsellor, and social worker.

Todd put a new-looking notebook and unjacketed textbook on the table by the front door, and headed past the living room and down the hall to his bedroom.

“Todd!” called his mother. She set her drink on the same table and followed him down the hall. She didn’t knock, but pushed the door ajar, and found him exactly where she would have predicted: Lying on the unmade bed with his old Macbook in his lap.

“The ticket,” she said again.

Todd didn’t look up. “I threw it out.”

“You didn’t, the draw was yesterday, I haven’t checked the numbers yet.”

“Don’t you know the numbers?”

“Give me the ticket.”

“I ate it,” said Todd.

“Damn you,” said his mother quietly. She stepped outside the room and closed the door behind her. She passed the hall mirror on her way back to the living room. She looked good— neat, presentable, prepared. She slightly lifted an arm and sniffed. No unpleasant body odour. She breathed into her hand: Minty. She brushed her shoulders and the front of her shirt with a well-manicured hand.

She got to the front entryway where she’d left her unfinished drink, and swallowed it. It flowed down her throat like silken lava. She would have another, and watch the news, after she’d checked all the waste baskets for the missing lottery ticket. She would check the tall, plastic-lined garbage bag in the garage, too.

If she won millions she fancied a long cruise, maybe through the South Seas. It would be a lie to say she felt lucky, but she did know it was foolish to buy a lottery ticket and not check the numbers. Next time she would not leave it on the counter or anywhere that Todd might find it. He was a vindictive child, though lord knows what she’d ever done to deserve such disrespect. Even if he hadn’t seen it or touched it, why didn’t he just say so?

Vindictive child.

 


Anna Loge

Prompt: Careful

sunflowers

My name is Anna Loge. I am an historian.

Not really, I’m just a high school student. But I reside in the past, and am very, very curious about how people live in the future, especially people my age. Perhaps you are curious about a regular day in my life? Come on, let’s have a look…

My alarm clock goes for school, and I ignore it, so my mother has to keep calling and calling up the stairs to get me out of bed. Seems I need 12 hours of sleep a night or something. I get dressed— for school we have to dress as if we were going to work at an office, so that means no jeans or t-shirts or even trousers, for the girls. So I dress in a skirt and sweater, and pantyhose, since we aren’t allowed to have bare legs, either.

I have some cereal for breakfast at the kitchen table, while my mother fusses around getting lunches ready. She’s finally conceded, after all these years, that a semi-grown person like myself can have sugared cereal, which I have craved. So I eat a bowl of Capt’n Crunch. The bits are so hard and sharp and sweet that they almost make my gums bleed.

My mother has also conceded that none of us will ever, ever drink powdered milk, no matter how much money it saves, because it simply tastes horrible. So regular, homo milk it is.

I’m late as usual, so I have to run-walk to school on my own, which is about a mile away, carrying my books, lunch, and stuff, and arrive to homeroom class breathless. We say a prayer and one of the homeroom students presents a bible reading. No, we are not a religious school. That’s just how we start the day.

School— I don’t think it ever changes. Does it? Mostly it is a bore.

Teachers talk, they write things in white chalk on a blackboard, which is actually green, and they erase it with a felt brush, which merely smears the chalk dust around the board until it is a foggy mess. I write down some of it, or not, and doodle, and watch the clock.

I have a spiral-bound notebook for almost every class, and a textbook which is provided by the school. These books are recycled to a new class ever year, so we are not allowed to scribble in them, but they give us a craft paper dust cover, which we can doodle on all we want. I have a zippered pencil case, which holds a few pens and pencils, an eraser, a ruler, and a compass. I have probably used the compass once in my entire life, but there you go.

At lunch in the cafeteria I sit with a couple of friends and eat whatever my mother has made. Cheese sandwich, tuna sandwich, peanut butter and jam sandwich, whatever, and avoid the fruit. I usually eat two chocolate long john donuts instead. It’s noisy in the cafeteria and it smells like boiled potatoes. I’ve never had the hot lunch that is offered (for a fee, like any other caf); don’t think I would like it unless they served fries.

For phys-ed the gym strip is navy blue shorts and a white t-shirt. Most of us hate P.E. because we never have time to shower properly after the class, even if we’ve been running around for 40 minutes. Sometimes I turn up at the next class with wet hair.

My math teacher is new, and very enthusiastic, so his class is not boring, even though I have no idea what he is talking about. Calculus, or algebra, or trigonometry, or ? My friend and I illicitly share work in class. Both of us are hopeless, though. He always assigns homework from the textbook. Solve ten “problems”. I have a problem with problems.

I have a detention after school, because of loitering. Yes, loitering in the hallway of my own school. The principal discourages gatherings since he is a suspicious old coot. Detention takes place in a class room: you just sit there for half an hour.

So I walk home on my own, loaded down with textbooks and notebooks. Yesterday after school it rained— it was thrashing down— and just as I was putting up my umbrella, I spotted my dad’s car waiting all by itself at the curb. He’d got home from work early.

I stop at a corner store half-way to get a drink. There is a big metal cooler, and under the lid are bottles of pop, up to their midriffs in cold, sometimes iced water. I pull out an orange crush.

I walk the rest of the way home, sipping the pop with a straw. It takes another 15 or 20 minutes. It gets boring taking the same route, day after day, so I let my mind wander.

Once home I make a sandwich and go up to my bedroom and listen to a few records on the portable player, which is in a pink and grey faux leather case, write a bit in my diary, then I head over to my girlfriend’s house. She just lives across the street.

We look over a dirty novel she found in her parents’ beside table. We go outside and work on a garden we are making, just for the heck of it. We planted strawberries, raspberry canes, and sunflowers. We walk a couple of blocks to a grocery store to get a quart of milk and a pack of cigarettes for her mother.

I have to peel potatoes for dinner, a beef stew that I don’t much like. We sit at the kitchen table, my brothers across from me. My mother tries to make conversation, while my father gets frustrated with our bickering. We have fruit salad out of a can for dessert, coveting the rare and delicious red cherry halves.

I dry the dishes, since it’s my turn, then go do homework for half an hour at a little desk in my bedroom. I tell my parents I’m done (not quite, but will finish in homeroom tomorrow), and watch some TV with them and my brothers. My mother doesn’t bother much with television, and reads a book. We argue about who has to get up and change the channel. The top of the television is warm so the cat curls up and sleeps there. I ask my mother when we’ll get a colour TV  and my dad says, When hell freezes over. The people I babysit for once-a-week have a colour TV, and I think it’s cool.

My across-the-street friend calls, and I talk on the phone with her for half an hour, no longer because my father reminds me that we have a party line, for god’s sake, and they might like to use the phone sometime. The phone is a black wall phone with a dial, pretty well open to the kitchen and living room, so I stretch the cord as far as it will go so I can sit just around the corner at the foot of the stairs.

My mother asks what on earth we talk about, since I just saw her. I don’t know what we talk about really. We just chatter and gossip.

When I go to bed I read a book I took out of the library. It is a mystery whose teenage heroes ride around town on motor scooters.

Not really an extraordinary day, but not too bad, really. If you are a teenager, was your day much the same?

Best wishes,
anna-sig


  • Image by Michelle Stocker.

Random Number

Prompt: Test

lion-king

The first time Andrew clashed with his mother’s boyfriend, Randy, was when he was late coming back from a date with Sophie. He couldn’t help it, the bus was late, but Randy took it upon himself to express his disappointment on behalf of the both of them.

“A curfew is not a random number,” said Randy.

“I didn’t know you were a mathematician,” said Andrew, who sat at the kitchen table eating leftover spaghetti out of the pot. Randy worked for airport security.

“Sweetheart…” said Andrew’s mother. Who she was addressing was anyone’s guess.

“Your mother was worried.”

Andrew twirled a perfect forkful of the spaghetti, and turned to his mother, who was still in her work clothes. “Sorry about that.” He stuffed it into his mouth.

“It’s ok,” said his mother.

“It really isn’t,” said Randy.

“I think it really is,” said Andrew. He startled himself. He had never spoken to an adult like this before. Not his mother, not anyone. It felt strange, somewhere between a tickle and an electric shock. He had been brought up to be respectful, no matter what his personal feelings. His newly found granddad had fortified the belief that respect was important, because Bernard earned respect. Randy? Their relationship was quietly amicable. No real respect issue, either way. Nothing wrong with him really, Andrew thought, until now.

His mother picked up the now-empty pot and took it to the sink, then ran hot water in it to soak. She stood there, facing the sink, her back to Randy and Andrew.

Andrew wondered if this was a test, or if this was how it was going to be from now on. Would his mother withdraw, as she just did, and let Randy tell him what to do? That made no sense.

“Well,” said Randy. “Just be sure—“

“Big yawn,” said Andrew, standing up and stretching. “Tired. Church tomorrow. Night, mom.”

He left the kitchen and took the steps two at a time to his bedroom.

There was no church tomorrow. That was a joke between Andrew and his mother.

Roman Summer

Prompt: Tourist
This is another excerpt from my Nanowrimo novel about twin sisters Isabella and Catrina.

sidewalk-cafe-piazza-navona-rome3

It was as if a spotlight suddenly shone on Bella. She brightened, straightened up in her chair and I knew Santino was approaching. I put my cigarette out in the ashtray on the table and brushed damp hair away from my forehead. This was the first time I was meeting him outside the environs of his workplace, the hotel bar. I was cool. I would be cool.

“Bella,” he said, in a fine deep voice, just like a man. He seemed a man to me, though he was not any taller than Bella, rather thin, and was so close-shaven that he looked like he was too young to have started a beard. He wore his dark, not entirely clean hair in a pony tail tied at the base of his neck. He leaned over and brushed her cheeks with his lips, European style, then turned to me.

I stood up and he took my shoulders, and we exchanged air kisses on each cheek. He smelled strongly of cologne, something very citrus, very forest, and made a tiny grunting sound when he kissed. I wondered if I had tobacco breath.

He sat in the wrought iron chair next to Bella, and I saw her seek out his hand. That was bold of her I, thought. I think she did it for my benefit, to prove she was brave and their relationship was powerful. He grinned at me. He had perfect, perfectly white teeth.

I had only seen him in the muted light of the mirrored bar, when Mama and Bella and I had our pre- or after-dinner glass of wine. I saw that Santino had downy hair on his arms that caught the light. He wore a short-sleeved white shirt, like the one he wore while bartending, minus the black vest, and a pair of rather tight jeans.

Bella had burgundy-coloured fingernails; we both did, having painted them that morning. We tended, naturally, to embrace the fact that we looked alike. We harboured the idea that we could substitute each other out, at any time (this was called The Game), and no one would necessarily be the wiser. I had a sudden longing to swap with Bella right now, to be the one sitting close to a man, holding hands in a cafe in Rome, his thumb rubbing my palm, his knee nudging mine. I longed for this even though I found him rather repulsive and fearsome… all the hair, the pores, what lay between his legs, so foreign.

I wanted to be the one to stand up with him, blow a kiss to my sister still in her wrought iron chair, with her coffee on the yellow tablecloth, and steal away with Santino to his parents’ house, where he lived, and where he brought Bella after his parents returned to their jobs after the long break for lunch. I would be there instead of Bella, lying on the couch with him watching Italian television, lazily wrapped around each other. I would hear him whisper in my ear about how beautiful I was, how much he wanted me, how I made him crazy. I would feel all the flushes, all the tingles, my flesh would move by itself when he touched it. I would feel his fingers on my scalp, as he buried his face in my hair, whispering now, and his had running down my shoulder, down my arm, and around my waist.

He often whispered in Italian, and Bella had no idea what he said. “He could be saying, oh, you are such a boiled egg,” Bella said. “I’ll secretly learn Italian and see what he is really saying.”

“How could you love someone that calls you an egg?”

“He has other good qualities,” Bella told me.

We were about to turn sixteen, and I had only been kissed in the basement of Jimmy Russell’s basement, when I was eleven , and there was no love. Jimmy was fifteen and I suspect he wanted to practice his kissing skills for more worthy prey.

I didn’t know what it felt like to get down and dirty. I wanted to know. I hatched a tiny little plan.

First, I ran it by Bella, sort of.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” I said to her that night as we dipped kleenex into nail polish remover and made the burgundy polish disappear. “If we played The Game with Santino?”

Bella burst out laughing and, unfortunately, she didn’t take me seriously.

Sacrifice Canyon

Prompt: Sacrifice

buffalo

Andrew, his mother, and his mother’s new boyfriend, Randy, were spending a week tenting on the lake. The campsite, Sacrifice Canyon, was full of families, in rows of nylon tents separated only by cedar picnic tables with peeling yellow paint. Toilets and shower stalls were located in a brick building near the entrance to the campsite, by the office; showers were a dollar for seven minutes of hot water. Toilets were free.

There was a gang of kids thrown together by their parents’ choice of vacation, a group that raided orchards, made a lot of noise on the big raft the campsite floated on the lake, took long walks to the nearest grocery store, which sold popsicles and pop, and gathered around a large bonfire on the beach each evening after dark.

His new grandpa, Bernardo, had given him some girl advice, because he could tell that Andrew was a late bloomer and a bit shy, just as he was as a boy. Pick a quiet one, he said. Be nice, and don’t push it.

It turned out to be pretty good advice.

Andrew and Sophie were a couple for the week. When they walked with the gang, they walked hand in hand. When they hung out around the fire, he draped his arm over her shoulders. He didn’t push it.

Talk about things you really like, Bernardo suggested. “I really like hockey,” Andrew told Sophie, one blistering sunny day as they sat on a log on the sandy beach. Sophie liked hockey too; at least she said she did.

Give an honest compliment, Bernardo said. “You have the shiniest hair I’ve ever seen,” Andrew told Sophie. She blushed– the reddest blush he had ever seen, though he didn’t say so.

Be genuinely curious. “Does your mother blush?” Andrew asked. Sophie wasn’t angry or embarrassed by the question. She laughed out loud.

On their last night, they made plans to see each other when they got home, maybe go to a hockey game or a movie, and they exchanged text numbers, though he couldn’t text her right away because her parents had confiscated her phone for the week. Which was kind of annoying.

He lay in a sleeping bag in the backseat of Randy’s car, a Toyota Camry, which is where he slept each night (not in the tent with his mother and Randy), wishing he could text Sophie and tell her he couldn’t sleep. He’d never done that before. He thought it would probably feel good. He felt good already. He wished he could share this good with Sophie. He closed his eyes.

No, he could’t sleep, that last night at the campsite, so he slid out of the sleeping bag, and crept down to the beach, as quietly as he could, since the camp had a strict, enforced curfew.

On the way he listened to a sea of sound: snores, sighs, whispers, grunts, and coughs. It was the Sacrifice Canyon nightly, summer symphony. And when he reached the beach and the log that he and Sophie had shared in the shimmering heat of the day, he looked up and saw another sea, another symphony, of stars. It was quiet there, with only the muffled sound of the waves slapping the shore.

I really like the sky, and Sophie, and hockey, and Bernardo. Andrew stared at the stars reflected, rippling, in the lake. It might be possible to be happy, he thought. It might be possible, after all.

Then he saw the buffalo. The lake was no longer liquid– it was a vast plain of scorched yellow grass. The herd was huge, hundreds, maybe thousands of animals, dust rising in a massive cloud around them as they thundered towards the shore where Andrew sat. The sound of their hooves pounding on the hard, dry ground was deafening, surely enough to wake the world. Instead of running, Andrew stood up and faced them.

What he always remembered most vividly was their eyes. They became ghosts, spirits as they reached the sand, but for their ghostly eyes. Eyes as expressionless as a shark’s, until you looked inside, was how he described it to his grandpa.

“Andrew?” It was Randy, with a flashlight. Andrew heard the waves again, and somewhere an owl called to its mate.

They walked back to the Toyota Camry in silence and darkness, so as not to disturb the other campers.