Flash Fiction #7

 

Stepping Down, Stepping Up

jennifer-pendergast4

 

 

 

 

He still couldn’t believe the amount of work and planning that had come together to allow him to study at this prestigious little English college.

His marks were quite good and he would graduate next spring and return to America to begin his career. He particularly liked the panoramic vista from the entry arch.

He had begun to think of it as his exit arch.  College staff had taken down a sign some wag had put up, reading, “Watch the first step.  It’s a doozy.”  How prophetic, his first step out of here, after his graduation, would indeed be life-altering.

 

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

 

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Hysterical History – Part 2

A continuation of Part 1 – bringing us a little more up-to-date on the English Language, and History, through the eyes of teen students.

The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare.  Shakespeare was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday.  He never made much money, and is only famous because of his plays.  He lived at Windsor, with his Merry Wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors.

In one of Shakespeare’s famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy.  His mind is filled with the filth of incestuous sheets which he pours over every time he sees his mother.  In another play, Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill the King by attacking his manhood.  The proof that the witches in Macbeth are supernatural, is that no-one could eat what they cooked.

The clown in As You Like It is named Touchdown, and Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Writing at the same time as William Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes.  He wrote Donkey Hotey.  The next great author was John Milton.  Milton wrote Paradise Lost.  Then his wife died, and he wrote Paradise Regained.

During the Renaissance, America began.  Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America, while cursing about the Atlantic.  His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.

Later, the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrims’ Progress.  The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers.  Many people died, and many babies were born.  Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.

One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was that the English put tacks in their tea.  Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the Post without stamps.  During the War, the Red Coats and Paul Revere were throwing balls over stone walls.  The dogs were barking and the peacocks crowing.  Finally, the colonists won the war, and no longer had to pay for taxis.

Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress.  Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence.  Franklin had gone to Boston, carrying all his clothes in his pocket and a loaf of bread under each arm.  He invented electricity by rubbing two cats backwards, and declared, “A horse divided against itself cannot stand.”  Franklin died in 1790, and is still dead.

George Washington married Martha Curtis, and in due time became the Father of Our Country.  His farewell address was Mount Vernon.

Soon, the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility.  Under the Constitution, the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.

Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent.  Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin he built with his own hands.  When Lincoln was precedent he wore only a tall silk hat.  He said in onion there is strength.

Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope.  He also freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in the moving picture show.  The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor.  This ruined Booth’s career.

Meanwhile in Europe, the Enlightenment was a reasonable time.  Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.  Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton.  It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn, when apples are falling off the trees.

Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children.  In between, he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic.  Bach died from 1750 to the present.  Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel.  Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English.  He was very big.

Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf.  He was so deaf that he wrote very loud music.  He took long walks in the forest, even though everyone was calling for him.  Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

France was in a very serious state.  The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened and catapulted into Napoleon.  During the Napoleonic Wars, the crowned heads of Europe were trembling in their shoes.  Then Spanish gorillas came down from the mountains and nipped at Napoleon’s flanks.  Napoleon became ill with bladder problems and became very tense and unrestrained.  He wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn’t have any children.

The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East, and the sun sets in the West.  Queen Victoria was the longest queen.  She sat on a thorn for 63 years.  She was a moral woman who practiced virtue.  Her reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplatory of a great personality.  Her death was the final event that ended her reign.

The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions.  People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine.  The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up.

Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.  Samuel Morse invented a code of telepathy.  Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis.  Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species.  Madman Curie discovered radio.  And Karl Marx became one of the Marx Brothers.

The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.

 

Near CAT-astrophe

My dog is dumb as dirt, but he’s hyper and insecure.  He barks at everything, and has no concept of home-territory.  He yaps at butterflies and birds if they enter his yard.  He barks at and chases, but never catches the resident bunny, who always escapes through a tiny hole under the six-foot wooden fence between us and the neighbors.

I’m sure he barked one day when a cloud went in front of the sun.  Birds on the power lines across the street irk him, and, when hot-air balloons used to launch from a nearby park, we almost had to put him in the basement and feed him Valium.  That’s HIS SKY!

When I have to rush out through the French door to shut him up, and pacify the neighbors, especially at night, I have developed a technique to push it closed.  I don’t want it to slam into the frame, so I give it just enough of a quick push to just touch, or remain an inch or two ajar….usually.

When we’d had our little female cat just over a week, Dumb-Dog got mouthy one afternoon.  I rushed out, got him shut up, and forced him back inside, not realizing that the door had been open three inches.  Several minutes later we heard the most piteous yowling outside.

SDC11016Not used to freedom, little Contessa had gone exploring, down off the deck, and into the basement window-well below the living-room window.  I went out to bring her back in.  Already skittish about being picked up, and overwhelmed by the Great Outdoors, she wanted to get in the basement window.  When I tried to reach her, she started leaping for the living-room window, six feet over her head.

On about the third or fourth jump, I caught her in mid-air, and quickly turned for the door.  It was like catching the Tasmanian Devil.  She shredded both hands and wrists.  I put her back down as quickly and gently as I could.  She went back to the window-well.  I went back inside, dripping blood across the deck and kitchen floor.  The wife washed me down, applied antiseptic salve, and used up a First Aid kit worth of gauze and tape.

With her still yowling outside, I went to the garage, donned a pair of welding gauntlets I own, and sallied forth again.  Again, after several leaps, I caught her in mid-air and headed for the door.  She left marks in the heavy gloves, but settled down soon after being tossed in.  Total time spent – more than a half-hour.  Total blood lost – ???!

Fast-forward to about a week ago.  I let the dog out about 3:30 AM, as we were getting ready to go to bed.  He immediately began barking and facing the fence.  I thought the rabbit had escaped again, but he kept it up.  I went out to smack his butt and shut him up.  He wasn’t looking down the rabbit hole.  He was staring up at the neighbor’s pear tree, just beyond the fence.

I thought perhaps he’d seen a bat, so I looked up….and came eyeball to eyeball, a claw-length away from a possum as big as a refrigerator.  Okay, a bar-fridge!  Not exactly running, I headed the dog towards the house.  The door was gapped a tiny bit, and three male cats crouched inside, watching – and then I heard MEEOOW from the front gate.  Oh Shit!!

With the dog inside, I grabbed a flashlight and went back out.  Sure enough, a little pair of green eyes watched me from the fence corner.  Slowly I advanced, so as not to spook her.  Just as I leaned down to pick her up, she scuttled towards the house, and stuck her head in a spot between it, and one of my water barrels.  Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, if she can’t see danger, it can’t see her.

I dropped the flashlight, grabbed her with both hands and headed for the door, post-haste.  She’s become habituated to me handling her.  She didn’t like it, but this time she didn’t force me to leave DNA evidence behind.  In fact, the transfer went so quickly and easily that I had time to wonder if I’d just dumped somebody else’s lost cat into my house.  That’s all I’d need, one more, in a house with four cats and a dog.

Possums are not common this far north, and not in the city.  The wife says she’s seen one on the sound-berm.  I’ve seen the rare one as road-kill, but never a live one, and definitely not at moustache-hair range.  I’m lucky it was just a possum.  The neighbor lady says we now have a racoon, half as big as the dog, in the neighborhood.  All’s well that ended well, and, of course, I was able to go straight to bed and to sleep immediately, after that double-header heart-stopper.

Flash Fiction #6

It’s Only Natural

copyright-erin-leary-2He stood at the fence, looking at the little stream, enjoying the beautiful morning.  The sun was well risen, but not yet really visible, as it burned the fog from the valley.

The red-winged blackbirds held chirpy conversations.  A few dragonflies darted here and there, importantly.  The occasional frog made a political statement.

It had been a lovely summer, and the autumn was still warm.  He loved being able to come here and stand in the shade of the trees, enjoying communing with nature.

He’d better get back to the barn.  His young owner would want to saddle him soon.

Go to Rochelle Wisoff’s Addicted To Purple blog, and use the weekly picture as a prompt.  Write a 100 word complete story about it.

 

Book Review #7

The Author – Eric Flint

The Book – 1636  The Saxon Uprising

The author, Eric Flint, is a history buff, who enjoys spending hundreds of hours researching various areas and time periods, and then writing alternate-history books about them. His favorite time and place is Europe, during the Thirty Years War.  He started a series of books back in 2001, named Ring of Fire.

He studied the major players till he knew them like family, the Swedes invading the Germanies, Emperor Gustavus Adolphus, Baner, Oxenstierna – the Germans, John Georg and Wilhelm Wettin – Cardinal Richelieu and the French king’s wily brother, “Monsieur Gaston.”  Then he wondered what would happen if an impish group of intergalactic aliens moved a Virginia coal-mining town back in time and space to Thuringia in 1632  What changes would be wrought by fore-knowledge, education, critical thinking and technology?

They popped out in the middle of a campaign, and 700 Croat cavalry, attempting an attack to the Swedes’ rear, suddenly came upon the defenceless town. Fortunately, two young men, driving near the event horizon, got back soon enough to warn the residents.  A Percheron can’t keep up with a Mustang.

Coming out of the forest, the cavalry formed up in a meadow at the edge of town, with lance and sabre, to find themselves facing 40 or 50 bloody-minded Appalachian hillbilly miners.  Used to mercenaries armed with inaccurate single-shot muskets, they expected to ride over a grease-spot, or a hole where their opponents broke and ran.  But these were mountain-men, protecting their wives and daughters and their homes.

Armed with very accurate pump shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, and quickly-reloaded pistols, they taught the Croats the first new rule of warfare – Rate Of Fire – click-click, boom, click-click, boom.  This was their home!  They did not break, they did not run!  They put out a sleet-storm of high-power projectiles, quickly piling up a wall of bodies, both horse and men.  In all, they only killed 40 or 50 cavalry, barely their own number, but the horsemen had never experienced this, and it was they who broke and ran.

Next it was a favor for their new ally, the Swedish emperor, an impregnable fortress which would cost him thousands of lives to take.  They gave the job to an 18 year-old cheerleader with an eagle-eye and a sniper rifle with a telescope.  See that guy on the parapet with the plume in his hat?  Yes sir, BANG.  The guy who was beside him with the fur collar on his fancy cape?  Yes sir, BANG!  Shoot out the eyes and brains, and soon the rest want to leave town.

Not all changes were wrought through violence.  The de facto leader of the town is soon the young, miners’-union president.  Most of the aristocracy is off, playing at war, and the administrators who are left are soon faced with militia and activist groups organised on union lines.

What can five thousand uptimers do to change five million Germans, much less Swedes, French, Spanish, Italians, Dutch and English?  Like a drop of oil on a puddle, the result is quickly wide-spread and colorful.  The Thirty-Years War was fought largely because it was time for change, and the ruling classes tried to hold on to their power and privilege.  In these books, the Americans precipitate changes intentionally, and simply by existing.

As the commoners gain more strength, and the likelihood of lethal consequences for nobles in battles increases, war as a sport and an ego salve greatly reduces.  The ruling class enjoy some of the changes, but definitely not others.  Soon democratic elections are being held, medical treatment and hygiene cut deaths from plague, iron rails are cast, and VW Buses become engines for narrow-gauge railways.

Torture is officially frowned upon, Jews are set free from ghettos, and become more accepted in society, and witchcraft trials and burning at the stake fade into the past.  In a Steam-Punk way, many high-tech things are redesigned for the lower-tech capabilities.  Crude gasoline engines are assembled, Wright Brothers-level planes are built, and hot-air blimps begin transportation.

With their history books, and greater knowledge of psychology, the Americans often outthink their belligerent opponents, providing disinformation to spy networks, and doing things in unusual, non-customary ways.  Ah, so easy in books!  If only it were this easy to bring peace and harmony to the real world.

In this book, when the emperor is injured, and out of action for a couple of months, his number-two decides to take a big chunk of Germany for his personal fief.  Our union boss has been made a general in the army, so Mister Ambition assigns him and his loyal troops to subduing Poland.  He imprisons the newly-elected Prime Minister, threatens the Emperor’s daughter, and besieges the German city she’s in, thinking that there will be huge civil unrest, which he can “put down” to seize control.

The Citizens Committees keep the population angry, but under control.  The tyro general uses American organization and supply systems to provide warm clothing, boots, food and sleighs for an unheard-of winter march.  Then, to compensate for a smaller army and less battle experience, he uses walkie-talkies to direct his forces during a battle in a blinding snowstorm.  While the Swedes are away from the siege-lines, the city militia sallies forth, and takes away their fall-back position.

And they all lived happily ever after – except for the occasional beheading.  Definitely not the history expert that Flint is, I know just enough about this period to be entranced at the possible influences modern American sensibilities could exert on real live (well, actually dead) historical figures and occurrences.  Not really “science-fiction”, these books are more like historical romance/action tales, and well worth a good read.

Come Fly With Me

My grandson and his fiancée have gone to the birds – and I drove them.  They had a chance to attend an Introduction to Falconry seminar.  Both interested in exotic pets, she can use it toward a career as a vet’s assistant, or in an animal clinic.

Held in a tiny Ontario village, slightly smaller than Justin Bieber’s washroom, and just back of beyond, I volunteered to drive them.  Based on his original destination, I used MapQuest to give me a map and driving instructions.  It wasn’t there!  He called the night before, to confirm, and give me the correct address.  I beseeched MapQuest again.

It wasn’t till I’d printed the second set, that I noticed a note on the screen stating, “We can’t find the exact address.  This is an approximate location.”  I asked for 2133 Centre Rd.  MapQuest showed 967 to 1003 Centre Rd.  Then why can’t you find 2133?  Hello, Mr. Google.  Can you get me a map?  Sure!  And a street view, and driving instructions shorter by 4 Km. for not having to drive toward town, and then back out.  With the third set, we confidently set off.

They almost didn’t get to go.  With just a week left till the deadline, the group had only three registrations, and thought they’d have to cancel.  Suddenly the floodgates opened, and they ended with over thirty visitors.  The kids spent an enthralling day, getting all kinds of information, and visiting with the likes of a Kestrel, a Tawny Owl, and a Red Tailed Hawk.

I hadn’t even got out of my car before I learned a new word.  The car directly opposite me had custom licence plates that read Perlin.  A quick Smart Phone check, and the grandson informed me that it was a cross between a Peregrine Falcon, and a Merlin.  A car in the row behind me had “Peregrns” custom plates.

Aside from my car, there were four in the parking lot from Kitchener, a 40 minute drive.  Someone used a car-share vehicle to come another half-hour, from Bieber’s hometown of Stratford.  One car was from Coburg, almost 300 Km. to the east.  That was the longest drive.  There was a young woman from Thunder Bay, 1800 Km. north and west, but she flew down (in an airplane, silly) and was ferried by one of the club members.  Apparently interest in Falconry raises some strong determination.

It raises some other feelings too, at least among the females of the club.  One instructress had seven studs/rings in one ear, and five in the other, including lobe danglers with dime-sized discs, etched with her Screech Owl.  One had a Snowy Owl tattooed on the inside of her right bicep, and her Red-Tailed Hawk on the left.  A third had a full-sized tattoo of her Red-Tailed Hawk’s red tail feather from inside her left elbow, to inside her wrist.

This is horse territory, with two Dressage farms, and two ranches raising and training sulky race horses, trotters and pacers.  The property of the 1866 brick school, which is now the community center, backed up to one on the cross-road.  After the kids went in, I spent 45 minutes talking to a local resident who boards his horse there. A year younger than me, he came from up-country, not far from my home town.  We didn’t find anyone we knew in common, but did know villages and streets, shops and schools.

He’s not impressed with our local Mennonites, who often buy failed race horses, to use to pull buggies and wagons. These Children of God are well-known to starve horses, or drive them till they drop, or freeze them in blizzards, just to attend “Holy Services.”  He was complaining to another owner, up from Pennsylvania.  The puzzled visitor wanted to know what “Mennonites” were.  He thought for a second, and said, “Amish.”  The American said, “Oh yeah, ours do that too.”

There’s a lot of money in the area, evidenced by stone gates that probably cost more than my house, and houses that cost more than my entire neighborhood.  One manor house was so far back from the access road, that it couldn’t be seen.

It was a beautiful sunny, warm day.  There must be a bicycle-riding club nearby.  All day, hundreds of motorcycles and bicycles streamed by, up and down the gently rolling hills, including one racer-style tandem bike, being pumped along by a him-and-her team.  I never saw horses anywhere but on their farms, but, when traffic’s light, there was a sign showing that they use the main road for exercise.

The grandson paid for gasoline, and my time, although I donated that for free.  He offered me $10 if I wished to go somewhere to score a lunch.  I declined, having had a solid breakfast.  I needed fresh air to clear my lungs, some sunshine, and exercise to take off some of the excess I’ve already eaten.  While they hung out with some flighty characters, I went for a walk.

When the drivers/trainers take their horses and carts out, they often take along some “liquid refreshment.”  I wonder if you can be charged with DUI in a horse cart?  Not far down the road, I spotted an empty beer can in the ditch.  Worth a 10 cent refund in Ontario, I picked it out, stomped it flat, and jammed it in a back pocket.

I hadn’t gone a quarter-mile before I had to go back to the car for a shopping bag.  The pocket was crammed, and I now had 6 bottles.  I walked a half-mile to the next road, crossed over to the other side, and started back.  Halfway back I had to go to the car again, and dump the stuffed bag, so I could go back and collect a trove.  Later, shorter walks up each of the other three legs of the X gained me lesser amounts.

My “get exercise and clean up the environment” project netted me just over $15.00.  I turned them in at the Beer Store, at my end of the nearby plaza, and walked to the bank at the other end, and bought some more American cash for a hoped-for trip to Ohio in October.

It was a wonderful day for both the kids and I.  After my day-long sojourn in the sun, I returned to the house with face, neck and arms the color of a Coca-Cola can.  Yee-haw, I’m an honorary redneck.  I slathered on the silver-based burn cream the doctor insisted I needed, and woke the next day with no itch or pain, just the beginnings of a great tan, and lots of fond memories.

Beating The System

A couple in their late 60s went into the doctor’s office.  He said, “What can I do for you?”  The man said, “Will you watch us have intercourse?”  The doctor was puzzled, but agreed.  When the couple had finished, the doctor said, “There is nothing wrong with the way you have intercourse.”  He charged them $50.00, and they left.

This happened several weeks in a row.  The couple would make an appointment, have intercourse, pay the doctor the $50, and leave.

Finally, the doctor said, “What exactly are you trying to find out?”  The man said, “Oh, we’re not trying to find anything out.  She’s married, so we can’t do it at her house.  I’m married, so we can’t do it at my house. The big hotel downtown charges $100 for a room, and the fancy one by the airport wants $125.  We do it here for $50, and qualify for a $45 rebate from the Government Health Plan.

***

ME MUDDER

When my prayers were early said
Who tucked me in my widdle bed
And spanked my ass till it was red?
–ME MUDDER—

Who lifted me from my cosy cot
And set me on an ice cold pot
And made me pee if I could or not?
–ME MUDDER—

And when the morning light had come
And in my crib I dribbled some
Who wiped my tiny little bum?
–ME MUDDER—

Who did my hair so neatly part
And pressed me gently to her heart
And sometimes squeezed me till I’d fart?
–ME MUDDER—

 

***

Dear Mom and Dad:

It has been a couple of months since I left for college.  I have been remiss in writing, and I am very sorry for my thoughtlessness.  I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down.  Okay?

Well then, I am getting along pretty well now.  The skull fracture and concussion i got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed.  I only spent two weeks in the hospital.  I can see almost normally now, and only get those sick headaches once a day.

Fortunately, the fire and my jump were witnessed by the attendant at the gas station near my dorm.  He was the one who called the Fire Dept. and ambulance.  He also visited me at the hospital, and since I had nowhere to live, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment.  It’s really just a basement room, but it’s kind of cute.  He is a fine boy. We have fallen deeply in love, and are planning on getting married.  We have not set an exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.

I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents, and will love taking care of the baby as I continue my schooling.  The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend had some minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood test, and I carelessly caught it from him.  It will clear up soon with the daily penicillin injections I am taking.

I know you will welcome him into our family with open arms.  He is kind, and although not well educated, he is ambitious.  He is of a different religion from ours, and I know your oft-expressed tolerance will not permit you to be bothered by the fact that his skin is a little darker than ours.

His family background is good too.  I am told that his father is an important gun-bearer in the village in Africa from which he comes.

Now that I have brought you up-to-date, I want to tell you that there was no dormitory fire.  I did not have a skull fracture or concussion.  I was not in hospital.  I am not pregnant.  I am not engaged.  I do not have syphilis, and there is no “schvartze” in my life.  However, I did get an F in History, and an F in Science – and I wanted you to see these marks in proper perspective.

 

Your loving daughter,

 

__________________

 

Mace23042014