Friday, August 25

Under A Puzzled Sky

Another writing contest, this time 250 words or less. This is much harder than it sounds, as careful placement of few words, and ruthless editing, is required. I leave it to you to decide if I was successful.

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Under a Puzzled Sky

He really thought she would be the one, this time.

It was a mackerel sky, his late father would have called it. The clouds smeared and shifted moonlight into confusing shadows. He stared up from a stand of yellow pines, turning his thoughts over and over again without the distractions of the daylight world. There was a scent of approaching autumn on the wind, overlaid with the warm, decaying smell of forest duff. It was times like this when his mind asked the most questions.

He never could figure out what marked him as strange. As a child he had made no friends. It was no different now. Everyone in town knew him, but no one invited him anywhere. He worked alone, walked alone, fished alone, lived painfully alone. Women chanced upon him from time to infrequent time, but it always ended the same. It’s not you, they would say, It’s me. Which meant it really was him. Weird peculiar oddball him.

Why did everything always feel so wrong? Was there nothing but frustration and struggle? Did the world not understand him, or did he not understand the world? The world didn’t answer. There was only the melancholy thrum of frogs, the lamentations of crickets to a dying summer.

He really thought she would be the one, this time.

This time, at least, he had found a partial solution. Turning back to his work, he dumped her body in the pit and covered his questions with dirt.

Thursday, August 24

The Long Bridge, High And Terrible

It was a long bridge, high and terrible. Beneath it the canyon grinned wide with menace and contempt. He imagined skeletons broken on unforgiving rocks far below, dried corpses of those who came before, who tried and failed. Vertigo threatened his balance. The view downward induced panic. He backed away, reconsidering.

Chastised by intellect, he shrugged off uncertainty. There was nothing to fear here. The unknown always ran once challenged. Beginnings are easy, he told himself. Endings are easy. Only the span between is hard. Fool, just place your feet and cross! If the bridge failed, damn it, he would grow wings.

Daring the long bridge, high and terrible, he put pen to paper and began to write.

Tuesday, August 8

The Kingfisher Family *

I'm going on vacation in two days! I know my devoted readers, all 3.7 of you, will miss me dearly. Therefore, I offer these pictures you may refer to as you read from the Library of Tall Tales in my absence. I give you the grandeur and beauty that is The Kingfisher Family!

First, we have Princessfisher, aka Daughter Thing. She is 13, and a joy to behold, is she not? She will be rolling her eyes at my unbelieveable embarrassmentness for 9½ days with me on vacation.

Next, we have Princefisher II, aka Fart Boy. He is 15, and is not an imaginative smartass. Really. He will be testing my patience with his unbelievable embarrassmentness for 9½ days with me on vacation.

This is Princefisher I, aka Wonder Dork. He's almost as cool as he looks. He is a 20 year old college student with a girlfriend and a job, so he will be glad not to spend 9½ days with me on vacation.

Presenting HRH Queenfisher, aka Radar Woman. She keeps the rest of us from killing ourselves with stupidity and our own filth. With 60% of the family gone, and another 20% mostly MIA, Queenfisher will feel like she is spending 9½ days by herself on vacation.

This pitiful specimen, photographed on one of its better mornings, needs no introduction, but it's a damn sure bet that it needs 9½ days of vacation.

* Thanks to South Park Studio v2, which you may find HERE.

Sunday, August 6

Night Of The Living Hamsters

It appeared so innocent, so normal, so cute. But I warn you now: The End Is Nigh. We are fooled, ignorant and unprepared. Gird your loins. Stock your larder. Gather your children. The twists of this absurd and warped universe have revealed the truth unto me: The mundane is the profane.

* * * * *

As is my sorta weekly habit, words were flowing from my brain, through my fingers, and into my laptop. I was occupied with cajoling, arranging, but mostly deleting, those words when the cell phone sang the Looney Tunes theme. I picked it up, annoyed.

"Um, hi Dad." It was Son II. "Can I have a hamster?"

"A hamster? Where did this come from?"

"Um, there's a sign by the mailbox. They have 3 hamsters and the cage for fifteen dollars. I have the money."

Dad did some quick mental calculations.

3 dogs + 3 cats + 1 parrot + 1 parakeet + 1 turtle + 4 aquaria + 1 rat = pandemonium squared. "I have the money" balanced the equation.

"Okay, as long as you take care of them."

"Cool. Thanks, Dad," was all Son II said.

Later that afternoon, I was introduced to Bitey, Mayonnaise, and Captain Poo-Face. Don't ask me where the names came from. The hamsters were owned by a 15-year-old boy. If the names don't make any sense, you have never had children, or you have never met a 15-year-old boy, or you are a prude, or you should be dead.

Son II actually proved to be a shrewd businessman. The cage wasn't a cage, it was Carnivale Rodentia. The home of his newly acquired mini-pets included a hamster house, plastic running tubes, an exercise wheel, multi-level platforms, and more plastic running tubes. It wasn't just a hamster cage, it was a Rube Goldberg amusement park for toothy furballs. For fifteen dollars.

"Um, I thought Mayonnaise was sick, but he, um, just had seeds in his cheeks." Son II handed the hamster in question to me. Sure enough, his mandibular pockets were packed to bursting with foodstuffs. I stroked his furry head. Mayonnaise rested in the cup of my palm, whiskers a-twitch, black eyes a-curious, pelt a-placating. They were so damned cute. Until Son II slipped on gloves and picked up The Dark One.

"This is Bitey." True to his name, Bitey launched into his work with a vengenace. Son II shifted him from hand to hand, trying to avoid the incisors that could pierce a welder's glove, much less the finger fabric he wore. He dumped Bitey back into the cage, and removed the gloves.

"This is Captain Poo-Face." Son II cradled the last of his three fuzzwards. It lived up to his name, lying there in his hand, somewhat immobile, a hairy turd-ball. Strangely, when placed back in the cage, Captain Poo-Face took the the exercise wheel with unexplained zeal.

Congratulating Son II on his purchase, I retreated to a weekend evening of leftovers, television, and napping.

In my dreams, I heard Son II and Wife vocalizing in worried and barely intelligible sentences. "It'sdead!" one said. "It's eating it!" said the other. Shaking myself from sleep, I stumbled into the hallway. The clock said midnight, or close to it.

FLUSH. Somebody was having a tough time in the kids' bathroom.

"Is Son II sick?" I asked of Wife.

"No! One of the hamsters had babies!" said Wife. "One of them is stillborn. So Son II is flushing it."

"He just got them," I said. "And they're pregnant already? Maybe that's why somebody wanted to get rid of them."

"Yeah! Now I can breed them and make money!" said Son II. Knowing there was nothing I could do to stop Nature's way, I went back to bed.

FLUSH. "How many more of you do I have to flush?!" Son II was obviously disturbed, and just as obviously amused.

I pushed myself out of bed, and stumbled again into the light of the hallway. Wife guided me to Son II's bedroom. The hamster cage was a fur-blur of activity. The plastic running tubes were a traffic jam of hamsters. At the top of the cage, where one of the tubes terminated, was one squirming pink pencil eraser with nubs clasping at nothing. Mayonnaise, or maybe Captain Poo-Face, rolled it around, sadistically oblivious to its newborn needs. At the bottom of the cage, sawdust undulated, presumably the birthing ground of more hamsters.

"Um, what do I do?" said Son II.

"There's not anything you can do." I said. "The mom is probably young and doesn't know what to do. She will either take care of them, or she won't. But I guarantee you that either Mayonnaise or Captain Poo-Face is a girl."

We all went to bed, but I fell asleep only after hearing another FLUSH.

The next morning I asked Son II about the pencil eraser.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "But, um, Bitey's mouth is all bloody."

* * * * *

People, Hear Me!

Forget Israel and Lebanon. Disregard North Korea. Ignore Rwanda. Overlook Pakistan.

There is a fear that eclipses all else.

The Hamster Gods demand sacrifice.

Wednesday, August 2

Time Assassins, Inc.

This is my first attempt at a writing "game." The idea is to propose a subject and let others write a short story about it. It's an idea I've toyed with for some time, but someone(s) less lazy have already run with it, using pictures as the subject. This week's subject is from Tiff, who has been playing the game with Hyperion, et al.

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Time Assassins, Inc.

“So what’s the assignment this time?” Wraith folded herself into an overstuffed chair, tucking her feet between the cushions. Behind the oak desk, Boss darted a furtive and appreciative glance at TAI's top agent. Wraith returned the look with indifference. Boss coughed, flipped the desk screen toward her.

“A routine job." He tapped the screen. “This is Doctor Archibald Preston, Professor of Experimental Physics, Cromwell University, circa 1948. What you see is the beginning of unlimited energy via temporal borrowing."

"You can't be serious. It looks like a giant robot vagina."

"Hm-hrrm.” Boss snugged his tie against his throat. “Well. Great inventions start small. The steam train started by watching a tea kettle." He averted his eyes as Wraith shifted. Just to spite him, she changed her position, taking advantage of the afternoon sun streaming through the window.

"So what's the job?" she asked, enjoying his discomfort.

"Standard termination. If Preston is allowed to complete his research, temporal energy borrowing will render our time untenable." Boss tossed a thick envelope toward her. "Here is everything you need. Clothing requisition, retroactive visitation warrant, appropriate currency. Good luck."

* * * * *

The assignment was no challenge for a seasoned time assassin. It was easy to charm the male authorities. A giggle here, a kiss there, Wraith found maneuvering the 1950’s no trouble. It was a simple matter to acquire a hotel room near the physics symposium. It was simpler yet to don a uniform, carry a tray, flirt the wait staff into complacency, and deliver the fatal needle to Doctor Preston’s neck. Before the good professor’s spasms could attract attention, Wraith was on the street. She pressed the embedded recall in her wrist.

* * * * *

"Well done." Wraith grasped at the bubble that was reality, tried to force her mind back to true time. "Bring her to my office," said the voice she thought she should know. She was shoved and dragged while her brain assimilated her being with her surroundings. She was deposited on a hard chair in a dark room. After a few moments, clarity returned.

"Welcome back," said Boss. "You took longer to return than expected." His tone was unfamiliar, cold, uncaring, offensive.

"How is that my responsibility? Don't talk to me like that. You know how hard it is." Wraith shook the last blurs from her head and looked about her. There was no soft chair, only hard plastic. The wooden desk was gone, replaced with a square of grey metal. The window admitted no sunlight, only a view of yellow smoke. Boss smiled and walked behind her.

"You have done well." He whispered close, licking her ear. Wraith shuddered, recoiled. She leapt to the door, found it locked.

"Get away. What the hell is wrong with you? "

"You were always my favorite." Boss smirked and slipped a hand down her blouse. "The part you play changes every time. But you can't change time, can you?"

Tuesday, August 1

Lex Luthor Wouldn’t Stand A Chance

It isn’t easy being married to a superheroine. My wife has powers. Scary, unfathomable super powers.

Although she is only 5’2”, at night the wife becomes the Incredible Snoring She-Hulk. She can expand to four times her normal size, usurping the entire queen-size bed, magically attracting every blanket and pillow in the room. This leaves Doofus Man a small strip where he teeters on the edge, resting his head on his elbow, shivering and using the dog as a foot warmer. He dares not shove or complain, for more often than not She-Hulk will flail a thirty-pound fist, breaking his nose. If he is lucky, she will not use her super slumber powers to lace the air with weird dream talk in strange tongues.

At daybreak, She-Hulk becomes Ant Queen. Ant Queen uses her fantastic scurrying powers to zip around the house to brush her teeth, clang pots, cook eggs Benedict, reorganize the spice rack, wash unmated socks, cross-pollinate the house plants, water the driveway, pitch a circus tent, and vacuum the ceiling. All at breakneck speed. At 6:00 in the morning. Lazyass Man knows better than to complain too hard, for he is suffering from lack of sleep, and cannot protect himself from the “How Do You Think All This Gets Done” aural blast of her mighty insect powers.

Occasionally Ant Queen turns into Radar Woman. Like when Dunce Man can’t find something and yells “Honey, where’s the can opener?”

“Did you look in the junk drawer?” Of course he looked in the junk drawer. He found an ice cream scoop, various twisty ties, assorted butter tub lids (but no tubs), barbecue tongs that haven’t been used in two years, a bottle opener with that pointy end that no one ever uses, bendy straws, a stray pair of pliers, and a carnival of other plastic and metal objects.

“It’s not in the junk drawer.” With a sigh, Radar Woman enters the kitchen. Using her x-ray vision, she walks directly to the dishwasher, yanks it open, and withdraws the can opener. She hands it to Dunce Man.

“You said it was in the junk drawer.”

“No, I said ‘did you look in the junk drawer.’ Did you even try looking in the dishwasher?” She goes back to her Joan Crawford movie, but not before giving Dunce Man a look that says “How are you still alive?”

Bewildered Man does have one, and only one, kryptonite bullet in his arsenal, but it doesn’t work very well. It’s called Checkbook. Marvel Shopper is almost always successful in countering its effects with her power of Rendering Math Irrelevant. The usual scenario goes something like this:

“I thought you were only going to spend $300 on groceries?” says Bewildered Man.

“I did,” says Marvel Shopper.

“But here’s a check to Grocery Store for $188, one to Mart Store for $132, one to Drug Store for $84, and another to Cheap Store for $17. That’s about $425.”

“So? There was a twenty-for-one sale, and I HAD to buy sandals for the kids, and clothes pins for the dogs, and we ran out of oxygluten, and I needed a new pair of eye sponsors, and you told me to buy deodorant.” Bewildered Man does not try to point out that the kids already have sandals, or that the family doesn’t need the one, much less the twenty, or that deodorant doesn’t really tip the scales from $300 to $425.

“Okay. How much do you need between now and payday?”

“Just staples like milk and bread. Oh, and I need a flumble. About $40.”

“Just let me know before you go,” says Bewildered Man. Later, he will find an out-of-sequence check, taken from the supply in the desk, written for the $40 in staples, which cost $72.

Poor, mortal Stupor Dad watches his grasp on things loosen more each day. Teen Girl has now perfected the Wilting Stare Of Disdain, and the power of Stuff Boys Can’t Complain About. It’s not enough that she’s learning on her own, Mega Mom is teaching her new skills as well. The newest one they share is hypno-power over cats. Insane kitty follows Teen Girl all over the house. Dumb kitty blinks his green-eyed superiority while hugging Mega Mom. Both cats can lull Stupor Dad into petting them, just before puncturing his hand with their teeth and peeing in his shoes. The combined powers of Mega Mom and Teen Girl, along with their untrustworthy feline minions, do not bode well for Stupor Dad’s future. He doesn’t even want to think about their potential mastery over Earsplitter, the finger-shearing parrot.

So, on the female side of the house are Ultra Wife and her inscrutable sidekick, woman-in-training Daughter Thing. Together they display more superpowers than a comic book store. Just to keep the rest of the family guessing, they change powers frequently, secretly adding those that benefit them, while deleting others that might in some way prove useful to the inhabitants of the other side of the house.

On the male side of the house is Clueless Man, with his useless sidekicks Wonder Dork and Fart Boy. Their respective awesome powers are beer drinking, Jedi/Sith trivia retention, and teenage irreverence.

Couldn’t I at least have a utility belt?