Flash Fiction #138

Confession

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

TAKING CONFESSIONS

Mom told him that college would be different and difficult.

It started innocently enough. He and his three friends, sharing an apartment – his stuff, their stuff – his food, their food.  Then one night, he had crackers….but only Marco had peanut butter.  Take a little now, and replace it after shopping tomorrow.  Only, he spent all evening at the library, and stores were closed.

Well, use a bit more, and shop for sure tomorrow. He came home empty-handed to Marco threatening to discover and beat whoever was stealing his food.

Confession is good for the soul. It’s time to come clean.

***

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

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On-Line One-Liners

Ditzy Blonde

How can you tell if a blonde is having a bad day?

She has a tampon behind her ear and she forgot
where she put her pencil.

***

How many dead hookers does it take to change a light bulb? Apparently, more than two three, because my basement is still dark.

***

If everything is under control, you’re moving too slowly.

***

Couch potato? Sounds delicious; does anyone have a recipe? I’d look for one, but I’m reclining in front of the TV.

***

Cutting a gateau into slices looks difficult; turns out it’s a piece of cake.

***

Don’t worry about parallel lines and vanishing points. It’s all a matter of perspective.

***

Yesterday, I was washing the car with my son. He said: ‘Dad, can’t you just use a sponge?’

***

Amputations cost an arm and a leg these days.

***

Atoms are made up of small subatomic particles called protons, neutrons, electrons and morons. My atoms have extra morons.

***

Never trust what an atom tells you. They make up everything.

***

You know you’re a bad driver when your GPS says, “In 400 feet, stop and let me out.”

***

I almost borrowed a book from the library called HOW to HUG; until I noticed it was volume twelve of an encyclopedia…

***

I also foolishly invested in a failing graffiti business; I didn’t see the writing on the wall.

***

I have one of those memory foam cushions, but I can’t remember where I put it.

***

Eco-friendly computers can be constructed from the outer layers of tree trunks, but they turn out to be all bark and no byte.

***

Did you hear about the scientist who froze himself down to absolute zero? He’s OK now.

***

I can’t decide if I like this variable temperature hair dryer; I’m blowing hot and cold.

***

I found a great site that sells sausages online; but the link’s broken.

***

I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. Now I’m trapped in a tiny gap next to the wall.

***

How do we know that the Earth isn’t flat? If it were, cats would have pushed everything off the edge by now.

***

I just joined the Flat Earth Society. We have members all around the globe.

 

2017 A To Z Challenge – B

Challenge2017

When I sieved out the following list of B-word prompts, I was struck by how many of them could apply to me.  Rather than choosing only one, here are some random thoughts about a few of them.

Bibliophile
blood
baggage
belief
bold
books
beach
barn
blog

Letter B

My home town is halfway up the East coast of Lake Huron, in Ontario. It has 3 miles of lovely warm, soft, white sand beach.  It has become a vacation haven, and tourism is a large part of its financial wellbeing.

The town to the south gets only 1 mile of shoreline. The tiny tourist village to the north sits in the center of 10 miles of sandy shore.  Access to the water is good, and the swimming is wonderful but, in both cases, the sand barely reaches above the water level, and their beaches are flat, hard and damp.

My mother constantly read to me as a child, and I learned to read quite young. I became a bibliophile, a lover of books.  I am also a logophile, a lover of words, but all the wonderful words are in the wonderful books, so we’ll discuss that later.

Ray Bradbury said, “Libraries raised me.” My tiny little town had a tiny little library, about the size of a medium house.  It was only open two days a week.  The volunteer librarian was a former teacher.  It was here that I learned early, the value of linguistic precision.

The fine for late books was 2 cents, biweekly.  The intent was for 2 cents, per book, for each of the 2 weekly open days.  I stood beside a man who went and got a dictionary to show the librarian that ‘biweekly’ also meant ‘every two weeks.’  He would pay 2 cents, but not the 8 cents that she demanded.

A local man became a mining engineer. He located an ore field in Northern Ontario, staked a claim, and sold the rights to a mining firm which would extract the minerals.  With the initial payout and ongoing royalties, he retired early, as the town’s richest resident.

He and his wife were great readers, but they never had children. When his wife died, and he was facing his own mortality, he donated a large portion of his fortune to the municipality, to be used to build a library in memorial to his wife.  We got a fairly large (for a small town) new library, right beside the Town Hall.  His bequest bought lots more books, and an annuity paid for hired staff.

When I moved 100 miles to Kitchener for employment, it was easy to pack my luggage. I had very little.  I also had to pack my baggage – my propensity for procrastination, my learning disorders, my neurological syndrome which causes poor physical control and lousy short-term memory, as well as my autistic-type inability to read social cues, and make and hold friends.

I am more methodical, determined, and tenacious; I would never be described as bold. Having survived an interesting, if not terribly thrilling life, now in the twilight of my years, I can put these thoughts and remembrances down, and publish them in my blog.   😀

 

Reading Challenge – 2016

Reading challenge

Oh wow, yet another post about what I read last year.  Last year, I threatened vaguely hinted that I might list what I did/did not read, that filled the above Challenge list.  Not being a great team-player/rules-follower, the results are not impressive.  The covers are all shown back at ‘It’s All Newton’s Fault’, if you want another look.

A book published this (2016) year.
N/A I’m too busy trying to catch up on about four series, so that the next ‘unread’ one is less than 5 years old and I can borrow it from the library at no charge, to be bothered with anything less than a year old.

A book you can finish in one day.
Henry Freeman – The Crusades From Beginning To End
A 156 page disappointment, with no real information, not worth the price.

A book you’ve been meaning to read.
Jonathan Kellerman – Flesh And Blood
After owning it for 15 years, I finally got around to actually reading it. (See below)  A somewhat pedantic little procedural, nowhere nearly as interesting as his wife’s mysteries.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
N/A Years ago, there was a TV ad which touted, “You can always tell a Heinz pickle, but you can’t tell a Heinz pickle nothing.”
Heinz pickle = Grumpy Old Dude

A book you should have read in school.
N/A See last year’s statement.  Perhaps some of the Sci-Fi that I’m now rereading.  Maybe I should have got to them sooner.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
Jared Diamond – Guns, Germs And Steel
More ‘recommended’ than ‘chosen’, by my online BFF, BrainRants, it was an enlightening treatise showing how White Europeans ended up owning or controlling so much of the world.

A book published before you were born.
E.E. (Doc) Smith – The Spacehounds Of IPC
With Jim Wheeler’s prompt, I am rereading some old Sci-Fi.  I think I should get extra points for this one.  It’s hard to find books that were published before I was born.  This one was from 1931.  I also reread the original Buck Rogers, from 1928.  I refuse to reread The Bible.

A book that was banned at some point.
N/A I probably have read one at some point, because some of the most supposedly inoffensive books have been banned, somewhere, sometime, including Harry Potter.  I just didn’t actively search one out.

A book that you previously abandoned.
N/A

A book that you own, but never read.
Jonathan Kellerman – Flesh And Blood
I can’t believe that I was always so far ahead with books to read, that I didn’t get around to this one for 15 years.  Then I read it, and realized why.

A book that intimidates you.
William Patterson – Robert A. Heinlein biography – Part II
This was big, and dry – but ultimately, very rewarding.

A book you’ve already read at least once.
Aside from IPC and Buck Rogers, I also reread;
Isaac Asimov – Pebble In The Sky, and Nemesis
Robert A. Heinlein – Tunnel In The Sky
A. Bertram Chandler – The Far Traveller
John Brunner – To Conquer Chaos, The World Swappers, and The Super Barbarians as well as 10 other classic science fiction books.

With all those N/As, if I hadn’t seen the list of books I did read, I might have thought I didn’t really read much.  I just don’t read a lot of what some others feel is acceptable.  You read my posts last year.  Did you have time to read anything else?  😕

Dangerous Addiction

philosopher

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone – “to relax,” I told myself – but I knew it wasn’t true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka.

I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, “What is it exactly we are doing here?”

Things weren’t going so great at home either. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She just glared at me and then stalked out and spent that night at her mother’s.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, “Archon, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don’t stop thinking here at work, you’ll have to find another job.” This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. “Honey,” I confessed, “I’ve been thinking…”

“I know you’ve been thinking,” she said, “and I want a divorce!”

“But Honey, surely it’s not that serious.”

“It is serious,” she said, lower lip aquiver. “You think as much as college professors, and college professors don’t make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won’t have any money!”

“That’s a faulty syllogism,” I said impatiently, and she began to cry.

I’d had enough. “I’m going to the library!” I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors…. they didn’t open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.

As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. “Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?” it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker’s Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was “Porky’s.” Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed… easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

<><><>

To that I say, “What the hell, one little thought can’t hurt you.” Careful brother, one little thought can lead to another.

 

THE DAY I FELL DOWN

Lighthouse

Chantry Island lighthouse off Southampton Ontario

 

Did I lead a charmed life as an active, adventurous young boy?? Did I actually put enough preventive thought and safety planning into some of my more life-and-limb-threatening activities?  Or is it just that what was, to a horrified adult retrospect, not really that dangerous?

How did some of us ever survive to grow up? Most (but not all) of my questionable young antics involved getting high – I loved to climb things.  I have written of being 9 years old, and scrambling to the topmost branches of a mighty, old oak, located on the highest elevation in town.

When I entered my teens, a trusted friend and I often crossed the river on the arching steel support trusses, beneath the new bridge, ignoring the possible 50 foot plunge to the river below. In the summer by boat, and in the winter by walking across frozen lake ice, groups of us went to an island a mile offshore, and climbed to the top of the 100 foot lighthouse.

It is possible that large rocks, and chunks of logs got up the inner stairways, and accidently fell on the roof of the attached, unused, derelict, century-old storage shed.  When the caretakers bricked up the entrance and added a steel door with a stout padlock, I went around the back, and used the 1 ½ inch copper lightning-ground cable to reach the observation level.  Apparently, only to prove I could.  These were reconnaissance missions only – no bombing runs.  The view of a flat lake, whether liquid or frozen, isn’t really that spectacular.

In the early 1950s, what passed for the cognoscenti of our little town were all agog, waiting for the release of a book. A ‘famous writer’ from Toronto, 100 miles south, had researched 8 lighthouses in the north end of Lake Huron, including ours.  When the book finally arrived at the General Store, I managed to sneak a copy off the shelf, and quickly read what he’d written.

He said that, after climbing the circular metal stairway inside the lighthouse, the view from the top was magnificent…. only; our lighthouse had solid wooden floors every ten feet, for storage, with unrailed wooden stairs ascending from level to level, East to West, then North to South, etc.

I don’t know if he ever actually set foot on the island, or just did his research from the pub. It was the first time I caught an author lying to me.  Sadly, it wasn’t the last.

Alone, and with my friend’s help, I reached the top of many of the town’s public buildings. The arena was easy, but boring.  I got to the roof of one church, and the top of the bell-tower of another.  He and I sat on the roof of the three-storey bank building at the main intersection.  When his mother was late, and he was locked out of the second floor apartment in the building next to it, we scampered up the front and went in the balcony door, or up to the roof and down through the skylight.

The view from the top of the 120 foot water tower, next to the oak on the hill, was worth it. The climb was simple.  A steel ladder reached to within 10 feet of the ground, but was right beside the overflow pipe.  A foot placed here, and a grab there, and soon we were at the top.

It was so easy that my girlfriend caught us lurking near it one evening, as she walked to the library, and wanted to know what we were up to.  When we explained, she demanded to accompany us.  With him pulling and me providing a shoulder, we all soon enjoyed the lights in the town 5 miles away.  Crazy!

The day I fell down, I started with my feet firmly on the ground. I was in Grade 7, and returned to school after a September lunch break, to find a gaggle of boys surrounding a burly Grade 8 lad.  Slowing to eavesdrop on the conversation, I heard that he was bragging that he knew a way to make someone unconscious. ‘Bet you don’t!’ ‘I bet I do!’

To prove his claim, he needed a victim willing volunteer.  Why is everyone looking at me?  “Now you need to take a deep breath and hold it.  I’m gonna get behind you and give you a bear-hug, and squeeze you really, really hard.  Don’t forget to hold your breath!”

….and I woke up with my face embedded in the blacktop. My nose was bloody.  My lips, especially the top one, were swollen, and I’d lost a tiny chip off the corner of one front incisor.  None of us, me included, really thought this thing through, did we?

“Why did you let me fall down?” “Well, you didn’t collapse.”  “How could I?  You were holding me up.”  He’d set me down, but apparently my knees were locked.  Instead of winding up in a limp pile at his feet, (would that have been any better?) I had pitched forward, like the mighty oak up the street, plowing a furrow with my face.

Nowadays, I ingest an OxyContin, and take along a pillow if I have to wind down a window in the car. Surely none of you readers were as foolish as me.  Do you have a childhood escapade you wish to admit to?   😉

Book Review #12

cymbalum mundi

This will be a review/discussion of a somewhat older book with the odd, Latin title of Cymbalum Mundi. First, let me just say that if, like me, you ever get a chance to read this book….DON’T!

Some time ago, I published a post about how The Church, at the beginning of the Renaissance, made torture a competitive sport, offering rewards, both secular and spiritual, for winners. Jim Wheeler made me aware of a book titled A World Lit Only By Fire, a history of the excesses and hypocrisies of the time.

I obtained it by asking for an inter-library loan. Within its pages, it mentioned another book which listed and mocked certain Church practices.  Always willing to learn more of the failures of the best of the Good Christians, when I returned ‘World’, I requested another special loan.

This book was written in 1537. The title is in Latin, because back then, all serious works were written in Latin, so that educated people in different countries could all read them.  I requested an English translation.  Two weeks later, I got a call to pick it up.  I left the wife in the car, and when I brought it out, I tossed it into her lap.  Fortunately, before I got out of the parking lot, she asked, “Do you read French?”

The author was a Frenchman named Bonaventure Des Periers. While he titled it in Latin, the original text is all French.  I might get the gist of a current French document, but not the detail this book required.  I immediately returned it, and the Library Lady told me, “You should have told us you wanted an English version.”   👿

Two weeks later, I got another call, and carefully checked it before taking delivery. The French copy came from the University of Waterloo, 5 miles north, in our twin city.  The second, English copy, also came from U of W.  I’ve personally borrowed from Wilfrid Laurier University, our neighbors’ second, smaller school, but let the librarians do the work on this one.

The Book – Cymbalum Mundi [The Noise of the World]
(The anticipated applause of his adoring readers)

The Author – Bonaventure Des Periers

The Review – I don’t know what I expected to get with this book, but I didn’t get it. It came with 4 pages of Foreword, 28 pages of Introduction, 5 pages of Notes, and 4 pages of Literary References – and none of it actually explained only 74 pages of allegory and allusion.

It consists of five small segments, beginning with a fake letter to a fake friend, explaining how he carefully translated this from the original Greek. This is followed by four small scenes from a Shakespeare-like play; only, A Midsummer’s Night Dream is lucid and crystal clear, compared to this.

Jupiter sends his son Mercury to Earth, to have an old book rebound. He falls in with three brigands who steal the book from his bag, by replacing it with a worthless book, the same size and shape, while they are drinking at an inn.

NOW:

Does Jupiter represent God?
Does Mercury, the Messenger, represent Jesus?
Is the book Mercury brings, the tattered Old Testament?
Does the new, rebound book represent the New Testament?
Are the thieves the rulers of the Church, who steal The Word, to sell to the masses and enrich themselves?
Is the fake book they substitute, the code of rules the Church uses to control the laity?
Is the hostess of the inn a stand-in for the Virgin Mary?
Is the real food and wine she serves them a denial of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation?

The problem is, he never actually says. One well-known historian, with a pile of evidence, says yes, while another, just as renowned, and with as big a pile of proof, says the exact opposite.  You can ‘make’ this book say anything you want it to.

I had hoped that it might show more of the excesses and failings of the Church. What it shows, is the tap-dancing necessary for any writer of this period to present some doubt, and cause people to think, without ending up chained to a post, tap-dancing on a large bonfire.

It was interesting, and in the end educational, but not really fulfilling.