Lock the Door

Prompt: Deny

Dear Wednesday,

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

As a young teenager, my girlfriends and I saw the Franco Zeffirelli film version of Romeo and Juliet, and one of my friends had the “record” featuring the soundtrack and highlights of the movie, which we played over and over. We were all hormonally insane, and dramatically wept and howled at the tragedy of it all. Good times.

The first of my favourite cartoons involves a different sort of denial, and far less poetic, but possibly just as tragic:

cartoon bed denial

The following have nothing to do with denial, unless doctors are delusional and bears ignore their instincts:
cartoon doctors strike

cartoon 3 bears


If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.

Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.




Prompt: Inhabit


My given name is Adolph G. Zenith, though my friends always called me Zen. The “G” means nothing; my parents merely thought it gave my name more gravitas, and lacked the imagination, I suppose, to find a suitably, equally formidable middle name to compliment “Adolph”, and that also started with G, George, Gregory, Gerald notwithstanding. But my parents were busy people, and did not have the time or inclination to pour over baby name books. So Adolph G. Zenith it was.

You might have heard of the Zenith family. We were frequently in the news for a groundbreaking campaign for science- and bible-backed eugenics. My parents were large, powerful people who tried to live as they preached: god-fearing, white-proud, “true” Christians. Both were tall and muscular, infused with presence and charisma. Hopes for me, their son, were high.

I was not even remotely a formidable child. Instead I was plagued by allergies, was asthmatic, was very thin with delicate skin prone to dryness and sunburn, and had sparse, ash brown hair. Hardly the model Aryan boy my parents so vehemently wished for. We travelled the country, and sometimes ventured overseas, attending rallies where my father spoke for hours at a time, sometimes replaced by my mother when he needed a drink or a bathroom break, and I was to stand proudly behind him with his “stage staff”, looking young and strong in a blue slacks and a white shirt and a blue blazer.

My father would take his jacket off, revealing a short-sleeved shirt, and loosen his tie, to demonstrate that he was a man of the people, sweating, passionate, and powerful; but I was not permitted to remove the blazer no matter what the temperature, because the shoulder pads were sewn into the jacket, without which I would look like the underweight, bony, fragile child I was. More than once my mother had to hustle me off the stage before I fainted in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people.

They tried to bulk me up with red meat, which I was fed at least twice a day; and some fruit juices which they heard were “cleansing”, but except for potatoes there was not much in the way of vegetables set before me because they personally did not find them appealing. I was allowed sugary drinks and pastries, but nothing in my diet seemed to change my core appearance. I was not a poster child for their movement and never would be.

I grew up under a cloud of palpable disappointment, a daily routine of sighs, eye rolls, impatient instruction, and whispered, disapproving comments. I could read at an early age, and was good at spelling, and had a knack for model building and climbing trees, but not at running, swimming, aerobic exercise, weight-lifting, growing tall and blonde, or understanding or explaining the philosophy of race purity and pride.

My father was not averse to a good whack across my temple with a meaty, open hand if I transgressed, sometimes knocking me to the floor. “It’s for your own good,” my mother would say, as if I didn’t know.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the dogma or the philosophy of my father’s speeches. I developed an ability to completely tune out whatever came out of my parents’ mouths, possibly as a defence mechanism, since they often brutally smothered or slandered things that were important to me, like my love of rock and roll, my satanic curiosity about parapsychology, my devotion to fishing, and my friend René. To survive long evenings on the stage, to avoid a wallop across the head, to attempt to build a core that I recognized as me, I would zone out and travel in my mind, float across oceans, relive kind moments, play scenes from films in my head, try and communicate with René across the miles.

As a teenager, I was able to worm out of many of the stage performances, if not the sermons and some of the prominent, televised protest marches. I was still thin and unthreatening, but I was quick and newly certain that everything my parents did and said was wrong, as teenagers are, except that I felt righteous and outraged and on the side of the true god.

Zenith was not our real name. Father had it officially changed when he learned his heritage. “I’m not a Jew,” he said, “not even close, it’s passed down through the mother, my mother was not a Jew.”

“You have Jew blood,” I said, using the only phrase I knew, which now makes me cringe.

I was sixteen, and about to be kicked out of the house. He had confiscated my cellphone and laptop in order to confirm that I had not been communicating with undesirable people, and that I had no porn nor access to porn. I was angry; more painful than the anger was the loneliness I felt without being able to text René or visit the forums that connected me to a greater world

“I have no Jew blood,” my father said, and his face flushed, and his eyes darkened. I tensed and flexed, ready to dodge a blow.

“Nothing wrong with Grampa’s blood,” I said defiantly. Grampa was a grumpy old thing, dead six years, but he was kind to me, and never hit me but once.

“You’re an ignorant fool, always have been,” said my father.

“Thanks,” I said, and instinctively ducked. For the first time, my father’s hand missed my face. He looked startled, and I felt a surge of power and confidence. This was new to me.

But I was not quick enough to avoid the next blow, which was a closed fist against my upper cheek. I fell to the floor.

“Respect,” my father said.

From the floor, I said the most hurtful thing I could think of: “Grampa’s blood is in you, you are a Jew.”

My father kicked my shoulder, hard, and I fell on my back.

He spoke to me then, in a dangerously low voice, about how the “Jew blood” had been flushed from his system, pint by pint, and he was pure, but somehow bad blood had infested me, his son. I’d heard this before, though hadn’t thought he meant it literally, which he had.

“I’m a Jew,” I said. “Thanks to you.”

He kicked my in the mouth, ostensibly to silence me, and that’s when my mother appeared from upstairs, and saw the beating had been taken too far, and banished me to my room without checking where the blood was coming from.

I didn’t ever get my phone or laptop back. And yes, I’d been communicating with undesirable people and looking at porn, so chances are I would have been booted out anyway.

Ten years later, in Portland, Oregon, I met a girl name Addy, and changed my name to Ted (short for Teddy, short for her nickname for me, “Teddy Bear”) Rickman (a family name on my Grandpa’s side), and was able to renew my friendship with René before he died.

As far as I know, my parents never tried to contact me or see what became of me. They continued touring for a while, then settled down with a congregation in a town called Green Falls, which they hoped (according to an obscure news article I found) to convert to an all-white, all Christian community. I heard nothing more, nor do I look anymore.

I supposed I was erased from their lives, and no longer inhabited their consciousness or their memories. They had the kind of minds that could exclude anything painful or conflicting or unpleasant.

I don’t have that kind of mind.

I think of them daily.

Chocolate Milk

Prompt: Caper

crosswalk graphic

Why hadn’t she thought of this before?

When ever she picked up her brother Flax from Sunny Sun Pre-School at 3:45 pm, he was a fireball of energy, because he’d been awoken from a long nap at 3:30 pm, was over his drowsies, and now wanted to find the world and change it, in the way almost-three year-olds do. His caretakers always smiled at her during the hand-over, with something like pity but not quite pity, because mostly they felt relief. She was an energetic teenager who’d only just come from a leisurely day at school, not a professional child-minder who’d had a very long, very exhausting day with hyperactive toddlers who tended to test the limits of reality and patience.

Never mind that Chai was tired too, dehydrated from dry, too-warm classrooms, dulled by robotic teachers, stressed by social angst, possibly on her period, and unable to study with Jon and Carly in Carly’s basement because she had to pick up her younger brother from Sunny Sun. She then faced a ten minute walk home, where she played the role of border collie to Flax’s herd of sheep. He had an uncanny talent for slipping his tiny hand out of hers and tearing off somewhere, trailed by Chai with her backpack heavy with textbooks and an uneaten lunch.

So this time, as soon as they were out of the nursery, she slipped his unsuspecting arms through a sea blue nylon harness, and clipped a leash to it.

“No, you don’t,” she said to Flax, as he raced to the end of the lead, lost his balance, and fell on his ass. He didn’t cry. He tried it again, and fell again. Chai shortened the leash so that the abrupt fall at the end was less violent, and Flax, bless his tiny brain, kept trying until Chai crouched down in front of him, took his flawlessly smooth cheeks between her hands, and said “Baby boy, you are tied to me now, see? You can’t just run off. See this?” (Holding up the loop at the end of the leash, wrapped around her wrist.)

Flax said, “Fuck this!” just the way their mother said it. He didn’t talk a lot, but when he did he was expressive.

He then earnestly tried to separate himself from the harness, with no success, since the clip between his shoulder blades kept the truss in place.

“Pretend you’re a doggie,” Chai suggested. “Want to go to the doggie park?”

Flax paused for a moment, then shook his head and looked, surprisingly, like he might cry or have a tantrum.

“Let’s just get home,” said Chai pleasantly, standing up again, taking his hand, and stepping into the crosswalk. Flax bolted, right into the path of an old, green Chrysler Imperial with out of state license plates, which was making a right hand turn.

Chai found that legendary super-human strength and yanked the leash so fast and so hard that Flax flew over her head and landed on a grassy boulevard behind her. Toddlers are like drunks, loose and flexible, so he broke no bones, nor suffered any injury but a bruised elbow and upper arm.

The driver of the Chrysler was less fortunate. Chai held Flax under her left arm, and with her right hand she reached into her backpack, took out the heavy, warm glass bottle of chocolate milk she hadn’t consumed at lunch, and smashed it into the driver’s side window. The window didn’t break but inexplicably popped, and warm sludge covered the driver’s glasses and dribbled down his nose, which Chai then punched.

Their mother was actually home before them this Thursday because of a stray dog on the school grounds, and as she dumped chicken pieces, potatoes, and capers into a sheet pan, while checking email on her cell phone, asked, “How was school today, my chickens?”

“Chai killed someone with chocolate milk,” Flax, out of the harness, said in a sentence that broke his world record for syllables.

“That’s nice, honey,” said their mother, setting down a bottle of olive oil and impatiently stabbing a few letters on the screen with her forefinger. “Oh, more spam. Fuck this!”

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.


Agony Ant: Completely Normal Dude

Prompt: Hideout


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


“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


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,

  • Image by Michelle Stocker.