Flash Fiction #20

 

Salt Flats

 

 

 

 

Take It With A Grain Of Salt

For almost a century, the self-righteous British Raj ran the sub-continent for the financial benefit of The British East India Company. Each year, the rules became stricter, and more numerous.

Now they were told that they could not go to their ocean, and use their sunshine to evaporate the water.  They could no longer “make salt.”

Their leader, the Mahatma, told them that they must non-violently insist on their centuries-old rights. Men were beaten and imprisoned.  Bones were broken, and people died. Still the people quietly rose, like the tide itself.

And so, the great Gandhi gave birth to India.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her Wednesday picture as a prompt to write a complete story.

 

Rocky Birthday

 

newfoundland-map

<- (See Ted?  Over there!)

 

The rocky birthday isn’t mine. That will occur on the weekend, and you’ll be able to hear about it without even turning your computers on.  With all my abilities, I couldn’t organize an orgasm in a bordello, but, I kinda, sorta, wanna organize a Happy Birthday party for a blog-buddy of mine.

I would like everybody who visits this site, today, Sept. 17th, or even over the next couple of days, to click on http://sightsnbytes.wordpress.com/ and wish my friend Ted a happy birthday.  He may need some cheering up, because today he turns 51, and joins me on the wrong side of the half century mark.  I wouldn’t mind if you mentioned this post.

The rocky reference isn’t just about birthday numbers. Ted lives on Newfoundland, our easternmost province.  It juts out into the cold North Atlantic, like Canada’s ass hanging over the edge of a bed.  Its residents lovingly refer to it as “The Rock.”  Fortunately, Ted lives on the western coast area, where you’re slightly less likely to find an iceberg in your back yard bay.

Like many of us, Ted has worked at a variety of jobs, to support himself, and now, a new wife, and a stepson he cherishes, and seems to be making a great father to. He’s worked at jobs he liked, but didn’t pay great, and he’s worked at jobs he was overqualified for, didn’t like, and which didn’t pay great.  He recently published a post about them, and about going back to university as a mature student to better himself.

He’s finally obtained a job he likes and which allows him to support the wife and young’un in the style they all deserve. Things are simpler and slower on The Rock.  Used to life in urban areas where you can walk to work, he’s now dismayed at the prospect of a 45 minute commute.

His retraining was in Information Technology, I T.  He has graciously helped me, and others, with problems here on WordPress.  The pictures like the map at the top, which I now sprinkle throughout my posts, are there because he told the wife and me how. He explained it to the wife, and, a year later, she finally got it through to me.

Ted and his Rock are a little removed from the usual hustle and bustle of “civilization.” The well-written posts on his site are bucolic, and often about life at a slower pace.  They limn the fascinating life and times – the friends, and family, and neighbors – of a most interesting writer.

I suggest you visit, and sign up for a rewarding ride. Don’t forget to wish him a Happy Birthday!  I won’t.

Happy Birthday, from the old fart, ARCHON

Birthday Cake(I didn’t know which you liked more, so I got you a chocolate one.)

Apocalyptica Now!

Apocoliptica 08-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Friday, about 5 PM, I got a hurried phone request from my daughter. She and the grandson, and his fiancée, had been out, doing family stuff.  While on their way home on a bus, the fiancée had received a phone call from her mother.  A rock (?) group they all like, was making a live appearance nearby, and tickets were still available.  Would I drive them 15 miles, and return later to pick them up? Sure!

In case you haven’t guessed from the title, the group they wanted to see was Apocalyptica. For the sake of other fogeys like me, this is a quartet from Finland who render a lot of other groups’ work, including thrash and trash, death metal bands, into a more classical, three cellos and drums.  Since the fiancée is studying cello, they all were interested.

Ah, if only I was smart enough to run a smart phone. Others stood in line for hours to get tickets.  The grandson whipped out the Apple of his eye, and had tickets waiting at the box office when they arrived 15 minutes before the doors opened.

With her crutch, the daughter was allowed to sit right in front of the stage, while the youngsters weren’t that far back. The venue is an ex-movie house, holding perhaps 300 people.  The grandson wore one of the Jethro Tull concert shirts I gave him, but they both later changed for Apocalyptica tees – only $30/ea.  The wily fiancée scored not only a program signed by all four performers, but got a hug from her favorite Finnish cellist, and a photo of it.

More used to the industrial/commercial areas around the outside of the town, I haven’t been downtown for years. Smart grandson and his Smartphone come complete with maps and GPS, although, one, just-after-the nick-of time instruction, from the back seat had me going past and coming back at the venue from the other side.

Since they didn’t know how long the concert would last, I drove back home for my usual late supper. The grandson had given me $30 for my time, and gasoline.  It was well he had.  The son, who usually gasses the car up, was just finishing three weeks of vacation, and no-one had been watching the tank level.  Just as I let them out, a chime sounded, and the Fill-Me light on the dash lit up.

Canada produces more petroleum than the US. One might think that domestic gas prices would be low.  Stations in Kitchener were hovering around $1.34/liter ($5.55/US gal), as we left.  I found a Shell station at the edge of Guelph, selling for $1.22/liter ($5.07/US gal).  Still outrageous, but a $3 saving on the $30.

The opening act, which they thought was almost as good as the stars, played for an hour and a half, half an hour to dismantle the stage and reassemble it for Apocalyptica, and they played for over an hour and a half.  Throw in some schmoozing time, and the daughter called me at 12:18 AM, to be picked up.  She told me that they had hobbled up the main street, and were resting in peace, in front of a funeral home, at the intersection of XXXX Street.

Being in a different county, the City of Guelph is not laid out as strangely as Kitchener/Waterloo, still….. The referred “intersection” would seem to indicate two streets, meeting at 90 degrees.  The highway, which becomes the main street, runs due north and south.  Two blocks from city center, the four-lane street continues in a straight line – but takes a new name.  The old-named street veers off to the left at a 45 degree angle.

Since I’d missed a turn coming in, I’d also missed this peculiarity. I thought I’d reached the right spot, but, even with my driving glasses on, I didn’t spot my passengers in the dark, so I jagged to the left.  A block down, I had spotted a big old brick century-house with a large sign out front, which I thought might be the funeral home. When I pulled in, the sign told me that the place was an artisan restaurant and craft brewery.

I pulled back out, and continued down to the street behind the theater. I went into a parking lot, and turned around to go back, when I discovered two things.  First, I was now going the wrong way on a one-way street, (Who cares?  I’m the only car in sight.), secondly, the grandson, gasping for breath, and tapping on the roof of the car.

The ladies were indeed, waiting patiently(?), back at the funny intersection. The two handicapped women were a bit achy, and everyone was tired.  The grandson is used to rising at 4:45 AM, for his welding apprenticeship.  This was a BIG day for him, but a good time had been had by all.

I have published some tales of remembrance of the things I’ve been able to do over the years.  I am so happy to have been able to provide the kids the chance to make some of their own memories.    :lol:

Flash Fiction #19

 

ff

 

 

 

 

 

A Mere Reflection

One of the reasons he had bought this house was the beautiful, big, gilt-framed mirror in the main bathroom.  It was really a “Lady’s Mirror,” but he liked it.

Every time he came in, he stopped and stared into it; not from ego, he didn’t frighten small children, but he was far from handsome.  It was as if he was staring into a different world.

Suddenly, yesterday, he found himself staring out.  How could that possibly happen?  His sister came in and looked around.  He shouted, but she left.  Could no-one see him?  How was he going to get out?

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story

 

Supermarket Psychology

 

Sriacha Sauce

 

Nah, I’m not gonna talk about how stores get you to buy stuff.  This is more a report on the amateur sport of people watching.  Since I can’t get home delivery of the Toronto Sun, I go out for it Monday to Friday.  There are closer places to pick it up, but I go to a supermarket a mile down the road, because they sell it 50 cents/copy cheaper, as a loss leader.  It’s also the store which installed carts which require a quarter, and I often get the paper free, or nearly so, by putting carts away.

Since I usually have only the one item, I stand in the “Express Lane” checkout line.  This store’s express lines are 12 items or less.  Occasionally I have to remind a clerk or a customer of that.  I stood in another store’s “8 Items or less” line one day behind an entitled bitch who checked out 28 items, for just over $73.  I asked the clerk whether she had trouble counting, or just trouble saying no.  “Well, sometimes when it isn’t busy….”  “There’s me, and four others behind me, all with one or two items.  I think that counts as busy.  Do you need help from the manager??”

Watching people checking out whole cart-loads of groceries is no fun.  They buy everything.  (Almost!)  The fun comes from seeing the one or two items that people absolutely, positively, need, right now, and trying to guess why.  In my first post, I wrote of an older gentleman standing in line with a small bottle of Scope mouthwash, and a pack of Certs gum.  I still think my guess of a hot date that night was a good one.

The wife was going to brown a frozen pie shell, and fill it with instant pudding, as a dessert.  A check in the freezer revealed three boxes of frozen tart shells, but no pie shells.  Quick, over to the store for a package of pie shells – I can see that.  I understand bread, milk, eggs, meat – but some of the rest???!

A woman this week checked out only one tiny bottle of Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce.  I guess if hubby expects chili for supper, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  A man the next day purchased seven (7!) small bottles of sliced olives.  Now why didn’t he buy one large jar??  Is it pizza day at school tomorrow?  So many questions!  So many chances to be told to mind my own F…. business.

I followed a couple of women out late one Friday afternoon.  I thought they might be more than just friends.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I was disabused of my suspicion, when the manlier of the two told her companion that one of the women she worked with, hoped the same thing.  She’d had to explain that, “No, no!  I don’t like girls.  I like guys.”

I thought of KayJai, and her parties.  Each of these gals checked out two 3-liter/quart jugs of Motts Caesar Mix.  The liquor store is just across the plaza.  A 40-ouncer of cheap Vodka apiece, and it’s on to a weekend to forget.

Just yesterday, a shopper left with two, liter bottles of hydrogen peroxide.  Somebody’s going blonde tonight.  I hope it’s somebody’s girlfriend, not the dark Chicano guy who bought them.  A 9-year-old boy, all by himself, checked out behind him with 9 individual Michelina frozen fettuccini meals.  Where are Mom and Dad?  Gone away for the weekend?  Or is the scout troop coming over?

A couple of the clerks are people-watchers like me, and are absolutely mesmerized by the stuff people rush in to pick up.  It’s like a floor-show, without the $8 cover charge and two drink minimum, although one clerk told me there are days she’d pay the eight bucks, and need the drinks.  Sometimes the combinations are, to say the least, intriguing.  One can of tomato paste, and a jug of drain cleaner – Hmmm, is hubby going to make it to tomorrow??

I hope that’s for a Boy Scout baking project.  Otherwise, how many kids do you have in your house, that you need four large boxes of Corn Flakes at three in the afternoon?  Shouldn’t you be buying milk with that?  A chocolate cake, and two mousetraps??  Just what are you trying to catch, hubby stealing a slice?

I was recently up unreasonably unusually early on a Saturday morning, to take the daughter and her friend to a strawberry festival to market their wares.  I stopped into my preferred supermarket shortly after 8 AM opening, and wound up in line  with a bunch of old people.  Huh?  Whazzat?  Who, me too?

The old codger in front of me checked out a jug of orange juice, and a spray can of Pledge furniture polish.  That dust can really sneak up on you.  The white-haired winner behind me had a round loaf of Portuguese bread, and what looked like a small slab of Feta cheese.

Ever nosy tactful, I asked, “Is that breakfast?”  “Oh yes!  Toast and cheese.”  Oh, great, something else to look forward to, not being able to think about things like eating, until hunger pangs hit.  Then they all go to the McDonalds across the street, and nurse a coffee till lunch time.  People-watching is fun.  Just ask the folks who watch me.

Book Review #8

 

I recently picked up a library book for the son.  When I saw it, I asked the librarian to check that it had not, in fact, been reserved by someone else.  It just wasn’t his style.  It was about words, and language, and communication.  It looked like something I would read.  In fact, I had 25 pages read by the time he received it.

The Word Exchange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Author – Alena Graedon

The Book – The Word Exchange

The Review

The story is set in the perhaps too-near future, when the printed word is down to its last gasp. Smartphones, PDAs and tablets have all morphed together, into an emotion-reading, electronic device called a Meme.  They can call you a cab as you ride down in the elevator, or order you a lunch at the first tummy rumble.

Unfortunately, dependence on them has caused loss of focus and memory, especially of language.  It was amusingly sadly ironic that, the day I began reading the book, the Scott Adams’, Dilbert© cartoon shown below was printed.

Dilbert

 

 

The book-jacket is printed with lines and rows of seemingly random letters, like the data streams in the Matrix movies.  Close examination though, shows the occasional word, like local, bash, or asking.  Starting near the end of the top line, several lines, with no spacing, of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky are printed. “Brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe all mimsy were the boroves and the momeraths outgrabe.”

The story revolves around a daughter trying to find her boss/father, the editor of the last Dictionary to be printed in North America.  This author writes as I might – if I had an iota of inspiration and creativity.  The plot is none too deep, or believable, but she sprinkles bright and shiny words everywhere, like bits of crystal.

Within the first chapter, she has used proclivity, risible, perspicacity, sinuous, evanescing and nimbus.  One dark word among the others was verbicide – the destruction of language.  When people begin experiencing aphasia – loss of words – some passages resemble the Jabberwocky, above.   Later, she forms the neologism, Creatorium, for a place where new words and usages are produced.  She breaks the book into 26 A to Z chapters.

A for Alice, to whom Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty says, “A word means exactly what I want it to mean, no more, no less.”

B for Bartleby, a scrivener, or public secretary.

C for Communication.

D, I would have thought would be for “Dictionary”, but she made it Diachronic, a term referring to etymology, what words used to mean, why they mean what they do now, and what they are changing into, for the future.

The book comes in three segments, titled Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis.  It resembles a “found footage” movie like The Blair Witch Project.  It is footnoted, almost like a technical article.  The bottoms of pages are littered with thoughts, feelings, and explanations to the reader, almost like Shakespearean stage asides.

The heroine’s name is Ana, except it isn’t.  It’s really Anana, which is a palindrome, reading the same backward and forward.  Her father told her that the word means gentle, kind or mild in Swahili, face, in Sanskrit, lovely, in Inuit, and harmonize, in Gweno.  If you add an S to it, to make more than one of her, she becomes ananas, her father’s favorite French fruit, pineapple.

Menace is provided by The Word Exchange, the titular corporation which is buying out and eating up all print and on-line dictionaries.  Their Memes cause people to lose more and more of their language skills, but offer to “remind” you, for two cents a word; cheap now, but what will they charge when they have a monopoly?

A situation was described in the book.  I had heard of it, but halfway through the book, I got to experience it.  Coming soon, to a telephone near you, the heuristic call.  What sounds like a real, live person, is actually a computer, with a voice synthesizer, preprogrammed responses to almost limitless conversational branches, and the ability to understand key words and voice intonation.

A TV anchor’s voice, full of false bonhomie, says, “Hi!  My name is Bob.  How are you today?”  Being polite Canadians, we reply, “Fine thank you.”  Bob says, “That’s great!  I’d like to sell you a cell phone plan.”  Or maybe you say, morosely, “I’m terrible!  My Grandmother just died.”  Bob says, “Oh, that’s too bad.  I’m really sorry, but you’ll want to notify family and friends.  I’d like to sell you a new cell phone plan.”  No matter where the conversation goes, it always ends at the cell phone package….unless?

The guy in the book says, if you recognize the call, you can have fun with it.  “How are you?”  “Left-handed.”  And listen for the half-second as the computer resets itself.  “Can I sell you a cell phone package?”  “Carsick yaks, blueberries, nude skydiving, virtual monkey wrenches!”  If you supply enough non-sequitur comments, you can fugue the computer, hanging it up until a tech clears and restarts it.  Hell, I think I’ll start trying that with real live people.

Like the Synchronic Corporation’s motto in the book says, The Future is Now.  It’s time for us to put down all our electronic crutches, throw open the window and yell, “I’m mad as Hell, and….what was the rest of that?  Ah, don’t bother.  I’ll look it up.  Won’t cost much.    :?

Flash Fiction #18

campfire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Leave-taking

The summer, which had seemed so long in coming, now seemed so quickly over.  Tomorrow they would have to close up the cottage and drive back to the city.  Tuesday, the kids went back to school.  But right now, they had promised themselves one last campfire.

Before long, the neighbors joined them, and even folks from around the lake.  Children played, and built S’mores.  People sang campfire songs, and the adults relived the happy season.  Eventually, silence reigned, and people quietly contemplated the leaping flames.

Finally, the fire burned out.  Somberly, but not sadly, everyone departed, looking towards next year.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.