Flash Fiction #148

Lance Armstrong

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

SHOW ME THE BENJAMINS

You’re going to do WHAT??!  Ride in the Tour de France?  Are you crazy?  You get winded reading an exciting novel.  Who do you think you are, Lance Armstrong?  You don’t have the legs for it.

No, what I do have is a new kind of bicycle invented by my nephew.  He says that it passes all current regulations, but will make urban cycling so easy that Grandma could do it.  They’ll change the regs for next year, but even if I just finish the race, both the bike and I will be famous, and his sales will take off.

***

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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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.

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.    😕

Out Of Touch

The good little New York, Jewish son called his momma every day while she wintered in Florida.  One day, in the middle of a conversation, he realised he couldn’t hear her.  He began clicking the hang-up button, and shouting, “Momma!  Momma, are you there?  Can you hear me?”  A technician, obviously aware of a problem on the lines, cut in and said to him, “I’m sorry sir.  You’ve been cut off.”  He replied, “I know, but should that affect my hearing?”

I don’t know how you “connected” people do it.  We were cut off from reality for a couple of days, (no smartass comments, please) and I was amazed at what I’ve grown used to, and reliant on.  The third novel of the Jack Reacher series arrived as an e-book, from the library.  The wife downloaded it to her laptop, and proceeded to put it on the son’s old Kobo, so that I could read it at my convenience.

The Kobo accepted the download, and she directed it to present it for reading.  “Restarting,” and then, nothing!   She plugged it back into the computer, but the computer wouldn’t even recognize it.  Took the little pin out, and poked it in the Reset hole in the back, poked it in the hole twice, three times, pushed it in and held it for ten seconds.  Did I mention, Nothing??!

Took it over to the electronics store.  The “Expert,” who was only a fetus last week, did exactly what we had done and then shook his head.  Apparently, the Kobo site mentions, “bricking,” where all the programs, and downloads, and commands, somehow run together, and jam the unit.  Even leaving it for six months for the battery to run down for a cold reboot, might not unjam it.  We decided to buy another one.  We thought of trading up, but decided to take a brand-new copy of the five-year-old tantrum-thrower.

We took it home.  The wife downloaded the Kobo library program to it.  It said, “Restarting,” and froze!  Damn, damn, damn!!!  The wife went to lift her laptop, and couldn’t hear the fan running in the cooling pad.  (See damn, damn, damn, above!)  Back to the electronics store the next day, for a no-charge replacement, and a $25 cooling pad.  Third time’s the charm, and I’m finally reading Reacher.

I took the wife to a Podiatric appointment Monday.  When we got home, she tried to phone the daughter.  No dial tone!  That meant that somebody, whose name is ME, had to ensure that every phone in the house is firmly on the hook.  Sometimes, the cats order pizza, while we’re out.  All phones a-okay, must mean it’s a Bell problem outside, so the wife punched in 611 on her cell phone, to reach Bell.

The home phone is Bell, but her mobile plan is with Telus, so she got the Telus office.  We’ve had problems with Bell services before, so we know the drill.  Again, ME, went around the house and unplugged all the phones except the last one used, (we know that one works!) including the DSL computer modem.  She dialled 310-BELL, and prepared to play the game.  Unplug all phones, including computer feed.  Done!  Plug back in a phone you’re sure works.  Done!   No dial tone.  The problem’s probably outside, but Bell has no other complaint, or work being done in our area.

The computer feed was working, but the phones weren’t.  How, and why unplug it?  Imagine two pipes, coming to a tee, and feeding the same tap.  Okay, then why unplug the computer?  That line may be affecting the phone line.  We need you to be home.  When would it be convenient to send out a tech?

We have appointments Tuesday and Thursday.  Could you come on Wednesday?  Sure, no problem.  The son works midnights, and hopes to sleep all day.   And if the problem’s  outside, why do we need to be home?  Bell might have to enter the house.  Okay, we hope to not see you on Wednesday.

We went to a chiropractor Tuesday morning and Costco in the afternoon.  When the son got up Tuesday evening, he told us that Bell had fixed the problem externally, and then rang the doorbell about 2:00 PM, which set the dog off, which partly woke him up, to hear the one phone ringing.  He trudged down the hall to the computer room, and heard the dog barking on the phone.  The repair tech was still outside.

We asked for a specific day and time, for a specific reason.  It was nice to get our phones and computer back a day early, but, while it was super-efficient, it was bureaucratically unreliable.  Just as we were preparing dinner, the phone rang.  It was Habibi – sorry, “Kevin” – wanting to clean my ducts.  Oh joy!  It’s a good thing we’re on that Do Not Call List.

We don’t Facebook.  We don’t Twitter, and we can live without telemarketers.  I was only without my blog, and the internet, for a little over one day.  No reading others’ posts, no comments, no likes, no online crossword, no definitions, no translation, no MapQuest, no researching arcane trivia.  I was going mad, I tell you, MAD!  For a disconnected old curmudgeon, apparently I need a lot of connecting – but I’m not getting a Bluetooth.  Even Putin thinks they’re gay.

Now that I’m back online, anybody got a comment?  Wanna click my Like button?  Anybody??  I’m feeling very lonely, and unloved, and disconnected over here.

 

 

Published Author

 

That term has a nice feel to it.  I’m a Published Author.  Of course, in my case, it has about the same significance as being the greatest dog-catcher in Enid, Oklahoma.

It all came about because H.E.Ellis solicited (no, not like that), urged and supported me to write my little fractured fairy tale about the hare and the tortoise.  She deemed my short treatise worthy to present with others in the series, on her blog-site.  I am so honored, that I’ve been running around the neighborhood telling both people who will speak to me, all about it.

Truth be told, and I do occasionally, while this is the most auspicious occurrence, it is not the first, nor the only time I have been published.  In fact there have been many times I’ve had something printed at this same rate of remuneration.  The first time I had a piece of my prose published, I was almost 18.

I was not directly involved in the submission, so I tend to ignore and forget it.  For a Grade 12 Easter-term English exam I scratched out a little, thousand-word, post-apocalyptic sci-fi piece.  It centered on a bear waking from winter hibernation.  He stood up in his little cave and bumped his head and wondered how he’d managed that.  Then he marveled at the fact that he was thinking at all.  A rabbit hopped in, and greeted him with a non-verbal, “So, you’re finally up.”

It seems, while he slept the winter away, humans had engaged in a terrible war, nukes, biological, and maybe something else.  Every human on the planet was dead, and the animals had all achieved intelligence and telepathy.  I ignored the fact that, despite the sapience and communication, animals weren’t farmers.  Some of them would still have to eat others.  This was 1962.  The Cold War was chilly.

My friend read several sci-fi pulp mags, and urged me to send it in, as a filler.  It was just a school project.  Once done, it was soon forgotten, but not by him.  He believed so strongly that he sent it in under my name….and it got printed.  I had my first job, a hundred miles away, a car I couldn’t take with me, a now-long distance girlfriend.  I came home to visit one weekend, and he excitedly handed me a twenty dollar check.  Long before quick and easy photographic proof, I cashed the check and spent the badly need money.

The Toronto Sun distributes all across Southern Ontario, from Windsor in the west, almost to Montreal.  Years ago, they had a page titled Coffee Break.  This held the comics, the horoscopes, the word jumble, the crossword puzzle and a Poet’s Corner.  Usually just eight, ten, twelve line ditties, often in unrhymed blank verse, eventually they disappeared.  I guess all the poets ran out of themes.  I saw a short poem one day from a woman thinking of leaving her man, because he didn’t express his love often, or strongly enough.  It inspired me to submit the following rebuttal.

The Strong Silent Type

I really like you.
I’m sure that I’ve shown,
And also I love you.
I thought that you’ve known.

I have trouble with words
And what I should say
Is, “I want you!  I need you!
That’s why you should stay!”

Some men speak with their voices,
But it’s a real art.
For a man who cannot,
You must hear with your heart.

Not exactly Shakespeare, more like Edgar Allan Poe,

Quoth the Rave, “Nevermore!”
To his drunken girlfriend on the barroom floor.

I once had a one-third page Second Opinion column printed in the local paper.  So long ago, I don’t remember the theme.  Probably Christian intolerance, that seems to be what I get most, and most often, irked about.  I have trouble keeping my many op-ed submissions under the acceptable 300 word limit, so the editor suggested I expand one of my more insightful, but verbose ones a bit.

Here I am, writing about Christian intolerance and look down to see that my word count is 666!  Satan looked over my shoulder and said, Ah, don’t worry about it!  It don’t mean nothing.

I’ve had hundreds of letters to the Editor published over the years, when I can be concise, as well as informed.  They’ve been on a wide range of subjects, and printed, not only in the local newspaper, but in the Toronto Sun and even in a Knife Makers magazine I subscribe to.  I used to be an opinionated young whipper-snapper.  Now I’m an opinionated old coot.

The opinions Editor at the local paper is a religiously conservative (some kind of) Mennonite.  It’s tough to get a letter printed which is negatively judgemental of Christianity and its purveyors.  At least twice though, once by phone and once by email, I have been contacted by his young assistant to submit a con argument on a religious discussion, when there’s been a week of only pro letters of support published.  I think the kid likes to tweak the old man’s tail once in a while.

I’m confident of my vocabulary and word use, spelling (I’m right nine times to Spell-check’s one), construction and punctuation, even though I’m a little heavy on subordinate clauses and commas.  I just don’t seem to believe I have the creative spark to dream up scenarios.  H.E.Ellis is enthralled by the story-telling abilities of both SightsnBytes and me.  She has suggested that we compile our *Remember When* stories, and produce an autobiographical novel.

With my small but dedicated readership, I’m not sure how large an audience I might get, but I’m starting to think about the idea more seriously.  She must know something.  She’s very small, but a much bigger Published Author than I am.  She’s a trained professional.  Don’t try this at home kids!

NoMoWriSo

The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  I first ran into it about a year ago as I began blogging.  A lady writer, whose blog I had been reading and commenting on, gave it a try.  I offered to stop bugging her for a month, but she felt she could handle both tasks.

You are expected to produce a short novel of fifty-thousand words, in thirty days, an average of 1667 words per day.  It would be a good idea to get out ahead of that, and produce 2000 words a day at the beginning, to give yourself time at the end for proofreading and editing.

H. E. Ellis has been encouraging me to “write” but the creative muse still hasn’t tasered me.  Perhaps if I come up with a story line, I may try it at a later date.  I’ve published more than twice that amount on this site; it just took me a year to do it, a thousand words at a time.

November is also Movember, when the more testosterone-laden among us, male and female, are urged to grow mustaches as evidence of support for education about, and eradication of, prostate cancer.  Much as I would like to be one of the guys, especially at my enlarged age, I can’t grow a mustache, not unless I shave off the one I already sport, and start all over again.

My father wore a mustache, pretty much all of his life.  I’ve seen photos of him during W.W. II, even before I was born, and he had a mustache then.  Without consciously copying him, I’ve also had a ‘stache since shortly after we were married.  Nothing outlandish, no Fu Manchu, no Mexican gunfighter, and definitely no David Crosby soup-strainer.  I don’t know how guys can stand those things. I hate it when one side of my mouth collapses and follows a bite of sandwich in.

Back in 1965, when I was enrolled in the Adult Education scholastic upgrade course, I didn’t shave for a week.  I came to school on the Monday, and the uptight Accounting professor demanded to know what I thought I was doing.  I explained that I was going to grow in a mustache and a neat VanDyke beard.  Oh no!  You can’t do that!  Shave it off!  It wasn’t till much later that I was appalled at the nerve of this man making judgements on what I could and could not do with my own face.

A couple of years later, after I became a husband and father, I decided to skip the beard, but grow in a mustache.  My wife actually prefers me with a beard, and has encouraged me to grow one on several occasions.  Five years or so after the mustache first appeared, I grew in a big, bushy, Grizzly Adams one, and kept it for over five years.

Many years later, I started riding motorcycles, and the beard came back each winter.  You see it in my Gravatar.  Up here on the frozen tundra, I still rode my bikes nine months a year.  I could put up with the cold, as long as the streets weren’t snowy or iced.  I found that a heavy beard below my full-face helmet kept the cold winds out.

I had three levels of gloves, from thin to insulated thick, because that’s where a motorcyclist feels the cold most.  Snowmobilers often have heaters installed in their handlebars, to keep their hands warm.  Each winter I thought about doing it to my bike, but never got around to it.  As the temperatures plunged, my rides got shorter and shorter, till I was down to just the 15 minute ride to and from work.

One year, December 21 was the last Friday I worked before Christmas.  Since there’d been no snow, I still took the bike.  The coldest day I ever rode was another year when the temperature at 6:30 AM, as I left for the shop, was minus 18 C (0 F.).  The heat dissipation fins on the engine become your best friends when you stop for a red light.

Our son has inherited some of the wife’s Italian genes.  You can’t braid the hair on his back, but he comes well supplied.  I was taking a night, Business Law course the evening he was born.  I went to the hospital after class, and looked in the nursery for my son.  I eliminated all the pink ID slips and scanned the blue ones for one with our name, but couldn’t see one.  As I went down the hall to the wife’s room, I passed this hairy little monster with motorcycle goggles, under a spotlight.  I told the wife I hadn’t seen our cute little child, but had spotted this little Hell’s-Gnome.

She said to get used to it; that was the one we had to take home.  He had been born severely jaundiced, and they put him under an ultra-violet lamp to assist in clearing the toxins.  Ordinary babies just got sleeping masks, to protect their eyes.  With the full head of hair he had, his kept slipping off, so they had to install the biker shades.  With his huge head, the wife had to hold him erect, when his aunt gave him his first haircut at three months of age.

At twelve, his Grade 8 teacher suggested that he shave off his black incipient mustache.  He did, but when he went to high school in the fall, he just let it grow.  By thirteen, he had a better mustache than any of his teachers.  At about twenty, he grew in the Grizzly Adams beard to go with it, and has not looked back in twenty years.

Neither he nor I can do anything for the cause, that we’re not already doing.  So, there you have my twin excuses.  No Mostache growing, no Writing a novel, So what?