Good Talk

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“Ya know, there’s just something I kind of think’s concerning about that boy, Honey…”

Gabi waited for her mother’s usual hedging manner. She pulled a fitted sheet from the laundry basket and wadded it into a fold, of sorts.

“That’s not to say I have anything against him. I think that shows real responsibility to buy a car the way he did and drive it.” Her mother absently pulled the lumpy sheet from Gabi’s side and re-folded it by its elastic corners. “Not to mention him driving you places like that. Shows a dedication and affection and such.”

Sighing, Gabi pulled a more-harmless pillowcase from the freshly laundered pile and flopped it into a square. It was passable. She decided she could chance another, and withdrew a green one. Then, a yellow.

“Mind you, boys and girls didn’t just climb into one another’s cars like that when I was your age,” her mother said. She pulled Gabi’s completed pile over to hers, straightening its wrinkles as she spoke. “Oh, sometimes a boy’s parents had a bit more to go around than others and he got his own vehicle.” She leaned forward conspiratorially to Gabi; added, “They often regretted it once there were accidents -which, accidents will happen, especially when parents encourage that sort of irresponsible behavior, spoiling a teenager like that…”

Amused, Gabi watched her mother’s train of thought derail slightly at the sight of her neatly finished laundry pile, ready for the cupboard. Gabi rose, scooping the bedding recklessly. She was rewarded with an audible cringe. Pretending ignorance, Gabi put them away and returned to the laundry, and lecture.

“Gabi,” her mother began, but left the name hanging without resolution. They started on the socks.

A blaring *HONK* sounded from outside. An entire second passed before another *HONK* *HONK* backed up the first.

Gabi dropped her unmatched socks. She scrambled to her feet and over to the entry table. Another impatient car noise called from the driveway as Gabi picked up her phone and house key.

“See, dear? That’s just the sort of problem I -”

“‘Bye, mom,” Gabi cut in, coming back and pecking her mother affectionately on the cheek. A few steps and a shuffle into sandals later, and she’d successfully gotten out the door.

“Hey, Babe,” Gabi’s boyfriend, Mike, said once Gabi was seated next to him. He put his arm around her seat to watch behind them as he backed the car down her long driveway. “What took so long?”

“Oh, nothing,” Gabi said. “Mom and I were just having a talk.”

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Keep on Giving

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I mixed a batch of cookies, with extra sweets and fat.

I rolled, and baked, and shaped them all; then cooled them on the mat.

Then, frosting-armed, I painted scenes of swirls and stripes and spots;

Remembering your favorite, I added polka dots.

The strangest thing then happened, I’m sure that you’ll agree:

One by one, those cookies ended up inside of me.

But as I sat and typed this note, hand pausing over “Send,”

I realized stealing calories makes me the best of friends.

Skinwalkers, XXIV

To say Shin breathed a little more easily would completely neglect the air quality in the metropolis slums, but Nathan did note his friend’s more casual step, his decrease in nervous clicking of the autolight he still carried.

Nathan was going to miss Shin, he realized. The slightly-older man’s antics just a tick prior had completely distracted Nathan from his selfish preoccupation with Carapace. Humor was not enough to save a man from small town occupations, however. Shin had teased about not returning from mining, but Nathan knew Shin’s levity was a flimsy veil for a very likely outcome.

Their premeal stroll was therefore tinged with an inevitable sadness, a knowledge of finality to a friendship with one of the last people whom Nathan felt knew his true person.

Thankfully.

This return trip was tinged by something else as well. Normally, he only saw traveling work crews out this early. He was accustomed to varying, dismal shades of company liners, all shuffling to or from the cement holes they slept and ate in. This suncycle, he saw an unusual number of standing, active, working clusters. The members wore colors and patterns he did not recognize. They were gathered at measured points down the paths, each participant attentive to his role.

Shin noticed the groups a few jiffs after Nathan did. “Whatch- ” he began, breaking off at the threatening glare of a man playing guard to a nearby cluster.

“Nonyer bizness,” Guard said, in case Shin were too thick to read a mere glare.

Shin and Nathan continued walking. None of their business, after all. Shin’s jolly jaunt grew more subdued with each busy crew they passed. At last, he and Nathan reached their juncture. They paused, lingering. “Whadya guess?” Shin asked, a waver to his tone.

“Dunno,” Nathan lied. His friend was leaving anyway; why concern him for his last quarter? He looked at Shin and was rewarded with the sarcastic half-smile he’d grown to count on each mundane work cycle. What could he say, after nearly a full planetcycle’s friendship? He coughed; settled on, “Stay fresh, all right?”

The half-smile became whole, retained its sarcasm. “K, Nathaniel. You, too.”

Each man turned; went his own way. Shin was most likely routing the lightest charge out to The Virginias, Nathan thought. They were the last musings he spent on Shin; for, though he worried for his friend, he felt a more urgent anxiety regarding the psychological effect he’d felt earlier from the Fastcred autoad.

His anxiety only increased as he passed group after group of workers busily installing ads all throughout the slums.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XXIII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XXV.

“…There are two entirely opposite attitudes possible in facing the problems of one’s life. One, to try and change the external world, the other, to try and change oneself. Although both attitudes are potential in everyone, most of us have become one-sided, biased toward the preferred attitude in most of our dealings…”

-Marion Milner (pseudonym Joanna Field), A Life of One’s Own, Preface.

Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Two

(One full year of Wil! Click here for the very first one.)

The dame sat stiffly on the old couch, holding onto her man’s hand like a woman holds onto her man’s hand. They looked expectant, wary. Inspector Winters nodded to them, curtly. She hoped the gesture would get them talking. She needed them to talk, or she’d never get anywhere in the case of Yesterday’s Letter.
Her informants did not relax. Or talk. The clock ticked forward. Winters would have to break the ice, or they’d be frozen up like last week’s informant: permanently. She shuddered a bit at the memory.

But, that was all that was left of the Legend of Wilhelmina: a memory. Some folks liked to think they knew the true story, regardless. You’d think a person would know what could happen or not after living, but many seemed to believe the longest yarns a body ever told no matter how old they were. It didn’t take much for a new person to come through with some new-fangled doodad, telling some heap of story about something or other -and you’d have every body in town talking about it by sundown.
Never you mind the circumstances. It didn’t even matter if the person was a flaming green dragon. If he talked real smooth and pretty, they’d lap up the lies like Farmer Brown’s poor thirsty dog on a hot Tuesday.

This was not a Tuesday. To be precise, there were no longer days measured by irrelevant identifiers like names. If the current intelligent species had persisted in archaic traditions, the day would be Friday. Once the Governing Council of Stars had reasonably determined more accurate methods of counting time, proving the system to be based on unfair emphasis on only one ancient group of peoples, further proving to be based on ancient supernatural beliefs, the current method of a ten time cycle was enacted. This we know.
These facts were known to Family Unit W1NT3R as well, and yet they still felt tired at some times during Waking and felt awake at some times during Sleeping. As precise as travel, time, and other measurements were, their bodies were still organic and subject to faulty behaviors. Perhaps the beeping machine was the better species. Of course, it needed to be built and maintained by intelligent creatures. They were not obsolete yet.

Soon, Cynthia would be obsolete. The long, twisting plastic coil ran down the couch until it stabbed into the flesh of her left hand. Its contents ran smoothly, inexorably, into her unresisting blood stream. It healed for now, but some day it would be useless. Everyone had his end.

Wil gulped and hoped this was not the end. She had long wanted to be entrusted with the Scroll of Truth-telling. With it, she could complete her level of training and move on to working directly under Grandwizard Grinzdle. With it, she, too, would know the secrets of the land, and join her parents at Couch City.
Together, they would bring peace, happiness, and light to the world. Unified and powerful, they would fight this battle to its end. Secrets would be banished. Fear would have no place. Truth and love would triumph.

“Wil,” Rob said. “I have a letter I need to show you.”

In the hand that was not holding his wife, he held a small paper rectangle. It was the envelope he had taken so quickly to his room the day before, the one Wil had entered his room to search for.

She could see that it had been forwarded by the post office, that it had been written on with cursive, and that it bent a bit over her father’s grip. After she moved closer, Wil also saw that it was addressed to her.

Rob lifted his hand, holding the letter out to her.

 

Continued from Fifty-One.
Keep reading to Fifty-Three.

One Year!

We’d like to interrupt your regularly-scheduled programming for this small announcement: Today is my one year anniversary of blogging!!!!!

For 365 days I met my goal of writing a post EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I consider this my true blogiversary, since this site was my first dive into the wonderful world of bloggerhood. At first, I thought I’d post on here and no one would see. Over time I’d work up to writing so frequently and so well that talent agents would contact me and I’d be the undiscovered superstar that childhood bullies and bad-grade English teachers would regret ever doubting.

Instead, I’ve connected with a much better thing: other people who also share a love for writing, a tendency toward mental illness, or simply a quirky perspective I understand. The potential for stardom may still be out there, but have to find it. I have to do a lot more work than show up at my computer an hour before midnight, blearily trying to think of a rhyme for Engrish.

If you’re still with me, I also need to announce another announcement. I will no longer write every day. Frankly, the stress has been high with things like, say, four active children and housekeeping and a side job and breathing in and out. Yes, I will regularly post; no, it shan’t be daily.

Thank you so much to The Academy and such, but most so to my family for surviving and supporting and to ALL OF YOU reading my words right now, before now, and in the future.

Lost and Found

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Becky always heard housefires described poetically. Tendrils of curling smoke, for example; or, flakes of softly drifting ash. Looking around, she could only think: burned, smoky, ruined.

Clearly, most poets didn’t stand in the charred remains of their own homes.

“That’s about it, ma’am,” the fire marshal said. Becky turned to him. His eyes were red beneath a sweaty, sooty hairline. Becky managed to nod, to dismiss him and his crew. Sighing, she shuffled behind them through the detritus.

“Ouch!”

A box. Squatting amongst flakes of softly drifting ash, she uncovered her fire safe. She smiled, through her tears.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

unsplash-logoGianni Zanato

Life, The Universe, and Jerseys

My adult goal was to get a vanity plate.

The opportunity presented itself when we purchased a new family car four-and-a-half years ago. Granted, the “car” was really a minivan. I had wanted my long sought-after custom license plates on a lifted pickup truck or a sports car. But beggars can’t be choosers, especially on our budget.

On the DMV’s online form, I entered three choices in order of preference. The second was HHG2G; the third was Desiato (because the van is black).

The day the plates arrived was seminal for me; I opened the envelope and saw they’d agreed to my first choice! Ecstatically, I removed the dealer-assigned ones from their screws and hung my beautiful replacements in their place. Soon enough, I drove out onto public roads and parked at public grocery stores. I felt conspicuous, but proud.

A few days later, in a parking lot, I noticed a fellow patron checking out the front of my momvan. I geared up for his inevitable question and what my happy answer would be.

“So, is that a sports jersey?” He asked. “Whose number is that?”

Flabbergasted, I did the only logical thing a non-sports-watching nerd of my caliber could do. I corrected him. “No, no. It’s from a book.”

“Oh.”

I should have noticed the loss of interest. But I didn’t. “Yeah, it’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything.”

“Oh.”

He wasn’t the first. Thanks to my fancy vanity plates, I’ve since learned that they do represent Jackie Robinson’s number. The internet says that (as of this posting) 163 NBA and ABA players have had it. So that’s cool.

I don’t get asked about my choice frequently, mostly because people don’t talk to each other the way they used to. Exactly two strangers of those who asked have heard of the book my plates are from; most others assume sports origins.

Slowly over time, I’ve forgotten the magic. I simply drive, and forget how much I might stand out with such a short insignia on my front and back bumpers.

Today, stopped at the end of a freeway offramp, I happened to look out the passenger window. An older man was pointing his finger in an upwards gesture. Since it was his index finger, I assumed good intentions and rolled down said window.

“What’s the 42 stand for?” He called. He was smiling in a friendly manner.

A split second’s thought didn’t save me. “It’s from a book,” I yelled back. “It’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything.”

His pleasant expression lessened a bit. “Oh. Okay!”

The light changed. I rolled the window back up, and off we drove.

I know I ought to just give up. When an interested party asks, I ought to say, “It’s Jackie Robinson’s number, of course. I love sports! I sports so hard; don’t you?” A part of me just can’t. It’s a small, stubborn part; but it just can’t let the literary decline of America be somebody else’s problem.

Blue Car Edited

 

Late-Night Limericks, Again

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Young Sally sold shells by the shore.
Said her mother, why sell any more?
The seashells you’ve sold
Are seven, all told.
All your summer’s been spent seeing shore.

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A woodchuck was chucking his wood.
How much wood that he chucked wasn’t good.
For woodchucks will chuck
Without giving flucks.
He chucked wood because woodchucks could.

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A pecking of peppers was picked.
Peter the Piper: the convict.
Pecking was free;
Pickling, a fee.
So
A peck-pickle Peter was tricked.

 

Photos from Unsplash.

Depression, Anxiety and Lethargy.

I am officially breaking my “no re-blog” rule with the ever-hilarious Katie. Only a woman who names her depression Betty and her bicycle Claude could aptly refer to dealing with depressive lethargy as “wading through treacle whilst carrying a donkey on (her) back.”

Katie’s even gone the extra mile this time and given some sound, anti-donkey advice.