Short Story: Family Holidays

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The holidays: that time of year when family and friends you avoid are suddenly thrust into your life again, when you give gifts because of obligation rather than inclination. That time of year when those unlucky souls are forced to say “I didn’t get you anything”…or worse, be told, “It’s the thought that counts.” Ouch. That joyous time when you weather your family’s disapproval for the accident of birth. Let’s face it. Holidays are high pressure: expensive both financially and emotionally. And the biggies? They can be a real bitch.

So Glumdedumpling sat, elbows resting on the long wooden table, pondering his fate. This year, it was his sorry lot to be chosen organizer of the annual family reunion. Being a youthful three-hundred sixty-seven, he had tried to shake things up. Every year the gathering was held in a different location, determined usually by the chosen elf’s home environment. For several hundred years it had been held inside large trees, because cookie elves felt comfortable there. They loved the toasty warmth of indoor rooms heated by ovens or open fires; it was dangerous in dry season, but they were slaves to tradition. The diminutive toymaker elves felt fairly comfortable there, although they tended to fan themselves a lot and sit farther from the fire. The high elf cousins had not attended in ages. The other elves pooh-poohed their sea-going cousins, but Glum figured small quarters made them claustrophobic.

So the longer time passed without the high cousins, the more Glum became like his name. Even the bonfire merrily blazing away in the middle of the forest failed to brighten his spirits. He imagined the derision of his fellow elves. “Having the gathering outside? What a unique choice!” they said. Each time they asked, “You told them high noon, right?” failure stung him like a thousand pine needles. Each time they said, “So, this high elf dish is savory instead of sweet? That’s interesting!” he knew he was guilty of the highest heresy. Savory instead of sweet for cookie-elves and toymakers? What in Santa’s name had he been thinking?

Just then, Ravensong walked so gracefully into the gathering that she seemed to glide along the forest floor. Sunlight glinted off her snow white hair; its long full mane draped her like a robe. She carried a tupperware container full of cookies and set it on one of the long wooden picnic tables. Towering over her tiny cousins, she said, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this new venue.” Her voice tinkled like a thousand bells. “Climbing inside those trees was murder on my RSI. I tell you, after that last reunion, it took me centuries to feel better. Thank goodness for aspirin and heating pads!” Her laughter was like the sweet tinny chimes of a music box as she rubbed the base of her spine.

All the other elves were struck speechless. Even among eternal beings that don’t age past young adulthood, time can drag, and it had been a long time since they’d set eyes on something so beautiful. “Are those all the cookies you brought?” asked Merrybells, one of Glum’s cookie-elf cousins. None of the elves had eaten any sweets since early morning. They sat drooling, staring with unabashed hunger at the single plastic container.

“Well, the invitation said you were serving high elf western dishes, so I thought it only fair…” She trailed off at their ravenous expressions. “The others will be along shortly,” she added, “just parking the minivans. I just thought I’d…” She shrugged. “Yes, I’m the only one that brought cookies but–”

Suddenly she was flying through the air, her white main cascading behind her as she gracelessly landed on her ass. “What the–!!!” She caught herself before uttering more. She wasn’t used to this level of indignity.

As she sat silently fuming, Glum planted himself beside her on the forest floor. The needles pricked his bottom, but he ignored the discomfort. They watched the tiny elves fight over the dozen or so cookies like starving men and women. After a couple seconds, Glum said, “Don’t blame them too much. It’s my fault. I should have planned both savory and sweet.” He paused a moment before adding, “I figured planning the reunion could count as my gifts.” He fiddled with some pine needles beside him, avoiding eye contact. “I never know what to get three hundred relatives anyway and…” He sighed. “I didn’t get you anything.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” said Ravensong with a slight pause to denote just the right amount of condescension and disapproval. They watched the other elves fight over the last few crumbs like feral wolves.

They remained quiet a little longer. They could hear the high elves walking from the parking lot, footsteps lightly crunching needles as they approached the scene of utmost bedlam. Dusting debris from her glistening robe, Ravensong finally asked, “So, why aren’t you fighting over the damn cookies too?”

“I ate a bowl of vegan cookie dough before I came,” replied Glum. “I’m on a restricted diet, so I always come prepared.”

As the high elves gathered behind Glum and Ravensong, they took in the spectacle of their tiny cousins with a mixture of aversion and bemusement. Their own robes glistened, their hair glinted with magic, and the tupperware containers they held were filled with brownies, bowls of plum pudding, and fruitcakes. A light snow began to fall, grew heavier, then finally became torrential gusts that tossed the smaller elves like snowflakes. As Glum’s miniature cousins ran for cover, Ravensong and her clan held his small hand and walked to the bonfire—which still merrily blazed away. The storm parted around them; they sat down and started sharing food.

The little elves glared with disdain from their trees, refusing to come outside. They had had enough. So much for diversity! So much for new things! This was a holiday, dammit, a time for tradition! As Glum and the high elves split the savory and sweet dishes between themselves, they smiled, chatted, and joked about the past few hundred years. Eventually the smell of warm brownies overcame the tree dwellers, they lowered their heads in shame and joined the group at the tables. Though the high elves muttered a few words of derision, they were otherwise civil and passed the brownies and plum pudding around each table. Soon, all were partaking of the holiday cheer and sweets–everything, in fact, except the fruitcakes.

Tradition was one thing, but fruitcake was another. No one in their family was that crazy.

 

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

**due to the holidays, my posts will be scheduled slightly off from the normal two weeks. My apologies. Happy holidays!

 

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POEM: The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge

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“The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge”

 
In a netherworld of eternal nights,

The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge sets

within its murky depths, the stage for yet

another act beneath its neon lights.

 

Nina Simone’s piano they replace

with guitars and mics; her solo ended.

It’s hard to run a lounge that’s attended

by those who nightly drink and also grace

 

that same stage–yet it works. Jimi and Jan

tend bar; there are drinks passed round. Martinis

and shots-they disappear like Houdinis,

as Hendrix holds the mob’s attention span

 

with variations on his famous tricks,

Joplin adjusts her maladjusted bun

of stringy brown hair, not to be outdone

by his performance–she chews swizzle sticks

 

as his feet perform feats unhygienic;

they mix drinks, change place settings, and break through

a new status quo. A bar so strange. Who

thinks it’s sanitary? Cacophonic

 

sounds echo meanwhile from the abandoned

stage. Audio being tested, Janice

eyes the mic just like a Praying Mantis

eyes its prey. Soulful melody unplanned

 

erupts as she leaps across the bar, not

waiting for the test to be done, and she

shakes her hair loose, and runs onstage–a bee

to honey. Jimi knows tonight’s her spot

 

anyway. Tomorrow is his solo

with his guitar. They will do a duo

afterwards, no hard feelings. Their pseudo-

rivalry lost to time, tunes, and tempo.

 

Smoke clouds drift, generated throughout the

room by the exhalations of humans

from every era. Through the haze, fuming,

each cigarette, each pipe, each cigar a

 

glowing red eye in the dimness. No one

seems to mind as long as the speaker works.

Janice dances with twirls and whirls and jerks;

she’s heedless, unworried that it’s been done

 

before. What’s more, when they hold Poetry

Slams, the Shelleys hold hands, recite their planned

rhymed words without one cough; a promised land

found within their eyes. Ingenuity

 

not confined to poems alone, but drinks

as well. Alcohol and opium mixed

–laudanum–preached to each free love amidst

the hungry, thirsting crowd. And Mary winks

 

to her freethinking spouse. It’s rather sweet

that after all their years together, they

still have magic. A marital display

when tending bar, moving to the quick beat

 

of words and sound, orders filled, they’re thrilled to

be around each other. Mistakes have been

put behind. Other times, the darkened den

silences them into wild watching who

 

next mounts the stage. A young man, blonde D.A.

haircut pulled smoothly back from his high cheek-

bones and blazing eyes may begin to speak

on The Method and acting in a play.

 

A full-lipped platinum blonde beauty with lips

the color of rose, may rise singing, her

voice ringing loud and long. A performer

in a billowing white dress onstage, hips

 

swaying softly as she exits to read

Shakespeare by the flickering candlelight

at her table. There, her companion’s white

hair seems to fly from his scalp at full speed,

 

the shimmering lights caught in each stray hair.

Each wrinkle he wears deeply cut within

his paper skin, yet a great youthful grin

begins, while watching her his old eyes flare.

 

As Jan finishes her set, the quiet

descends upon the crowded room. Silence

falls like a heavy curtain. The giant’s

midnight mane, baby blues, and a riot

 

of rhinestones adorning his sparkling

outfit–outshine shining spotlight. The King

has arrived. Rhythm rings, he starts to sing

Hound Dog. He sways his wide hips, hearkening

 

to the voices of his fans. He shakes and

quakes, his own voice quivers as he croons Love

Me Tender. Smiles and tears. He stands above

his audience as a man, proud and grand.

 

So many more mount the stage, work the bar,

so far beyond our home world. The artist

once known as Prince, and Bowie, guitarists

and comedians taken past our star,

 

its yellow glow- dim memory in this

land filled with neon twilight, ignited

by dreams–the only starlight provided

by its denizens. Replicators hiss,

 

create doppelgangers complete in each

detail–except for the spark of new life–

Explain their unexplained removals rife

with Why. Their originals forced to reach

 

a darkened sphere light-years away. No day

everyday, just night, they perform before

an unnoticed audience evermore

of little green men, -women too, who pay

 

to view the highlights of our alien

culture. An extraterrestrial zoo

to educate and entertain them too,

no politics, just delights mammalian.

 

They are cast into a forever lime-

light, each one a cultural icon of

their generation. Their sublime fans love

to mourn their loss on Earth, but they’re in prime

 

up there, these famous homo sapiens.

For all this artificial world’s a stage,

its eternal players forever share

spotlight within this enclosed stadium,

a neverending audience to rage

before, away, and with those stars up there.

 

 

 

*Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed my scifi stretched sonnet!

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

POEM: Aging in a Cup

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“Aging in a Cup”

 

When I was five,

there were no second thoughts

with that first cool sip

of sweet and tart–

the morning juice, the sugar rush

and tasty treat I was permitted

for the sake of a daily dose of vitamin C,

to be taken each morning

with a bowl of dry Frosted Flakes.

 

Now decades have passed,

and that cold glass of sunshine

is an act of bravery,

only possible when

taken with powder-yellow tablets;

 

stubborn determination tastes

like chalk on my tongue

and sours my stomach.

 

It’s worth it.

 

*Thank you for visiting. If you would like to meet me and some other local writers, please come to the Local Author Fair at Massillon Public Library on Saturday, November 11th, from 11am–2pm. I hope to see you there!

 

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

 

POEM: Gathering

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“Gathering”

 

Sitting by the pool

my father and his friends drink

cheap beer from cold silver cans

I fetch for them from

a white igloo cooler.

My small bare feet make wet sounds

on the pale coral-colored patio,

mini splashes for each tiny puddle

in its pock marked surface.

My mother walks back and forth

between the kitchen and through

the sliding glass doors,

getting chips and dips

and anything else the men require

as they watch the game on TV,

drinking their bicentennial cheer

with a mixture of slow sips

and large cool gulps,

regulating their temperatures

from the warm Florida sun

 

 

 

*written last April for National Poetry Month, in memory of my father.

Friday Flash: Con Games

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Buttercup, could you help me with this, please?

Really, Wesley! What am I, your mother?

What?

Can’t you get it yourself?

Well, yes, but I’d rather you helped me.

Why do you need me to do things you are perfectly capable of doing yourself?

Huh? Buttercup, don’t be ridiculous.

It’s hardly ridiculous. So far this morning, I’ve gotten your breakfast, made sure you had all your things together for the day, now I’m checking your clothes…

I don’t need you to baby me. Just because I like having someone do things for me, doesn’t mean–

When you first came to the farm, you never told me about your family. The only thing you ever said to me was, “As you wish.” You can’t base an entire romantic relationship on a single phrase.

I was a servant boy! Why would you want to hear about the servant boy’s family? For all you know, my family–

For all I know, your family could be a bunch of sociopaths. Seriously, I know nothing about you, except now you claim to be a pirate and look dashing in black, and–oh yeah–you rescued me from that obnoxious…which I never asked for, by the way. Remember, I rescued you in the swamp.

I remember you betrayed me in the swamp–

Ha.

Ha?

You heard me.

That’s not what it looked like in the movie. Want me to rewind so we can watch it again?

Nope, no time before the costume contest. Besides, the movie is totally male-centric anyway, even though it’s supposedly about me. What’s up with that?

Seriously? It’s not like you do a lot in the film other than pine for me and get kidnapped and–

EXACTLY my point. It’s skewed.

Skewed?

Obviously.

How the hell is it skewed?

I actually had a plan to catch the kidnappers, expose the prince, and you ruined the whole damn thing!

I ruined it by saving you?!

Of course.

I don’t believe this.

Right, completely unbelievable. That I would just sit and wait to be rescued and not act on my own behalf. How complacent and stupid do people think I am anyway?

You’ve read fairy tales before, right?

Yes, but this is a satire.

Still…

That’s it? That’s your comeback. How witty.

I thought you loved me.

Love you? I barely know you. This is the longest conversation we’ve ever had, and we’ve been around each other for years. Though I do admit, you do look pretty hot in black.

Well, it is roasting. In summer, I’m on fire.

Not what I meant…but I’ll take it.

So what do you want now?

Now? Well, I’d like to get to know you a little bit. Maybe if you get over yourself and we have some common interests, we might have a future.

Are you always this acerbic?

I don’t know. I didn’t have enough lines in the movie to find out.

I thought you said you had plans.

Yes, I did, but I never had many speaking lines. Hell, the movie was supposedly named after me. My name isn’t PRINCESS BRIDE; it’s just my role. My name is Buttercup–or was until recently. But I’m going by Antiope now.

Seriously. You changed you name?

No, it was always my middle name. I just never got to say it in the movie. I was actually a sleeper Amazon.

An Amazon? No, you’re not. You’re just capitalizing on the Wonder Woman movie. How many female leads are you playing anyway?

No, really.  I age well.

Fine, Does that mean you are…err…experienced?

Smooth, Wesley. Real smooth.

What do you–?

Shut up, Wesley.

Fine. By the way, did you put Amazon armor on underneath the Princess Bride dress?

Yeah, I thought it would be a cool cross-reveal during the costume contest. The Buttercup dress has Velcro in back, so I can take it off easily. I’ve even got an Amazon sword stashed in the back!

Now that’s hot!

Shut up, Wesley.

I get that we’re getting into our roles for the con, but are we going to keep role-playing all day…and night?

I said, Shut up, Wesley.

I love you too, Buttercup.

 

 

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***Due to some personal matters, I had to take an extra week to post. I apologize and hope that you enjoyed my little homage to two of my favorite movies.
***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

POEM: Moans

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“Moans”

 
The long low rumble

of never-ending hunger

for flesh

for blood

for life

              stolen too soon

 

The cry from deep within

made without tears

just tears in the flesh

tears flesh from bone

                                          with outstretched arms

 

This voiceless voice

the only thing still mine

without words

without control

over a body no longer my own

                                                          I reach out

 

You hear the approach of a monster

You hear the sound of my hunger

You hear my shuffling lament

You hear my deathless prayer

                                                        raise your arm

                                                        and grant me sweet oblivion

 

***Thank you to my followers for your patience. I know it’s been three weeks instead of my usual two, but I’ve had some technical problems and other things crop up. I’ve also been writing and editing and submitting to different markets. I hope you enjoyed this bit of dark poetry. Keep following the blog, and have a lovely week!

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash Revisited: Pucked Up

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Puck looked at the watch and pondered the nature of time.

It was almost as fickle as he was.

What marriage – or a good binding-spell brought on by too much drink and a serious lack of judgement – had bound together, time would tear asunder. At least it would if Puck had anything to do with it. Robin Goodfellow was not a fairy that would remain tied by one woman for long, no matter how fun bondage might be.

Belching loudly, he sat up, snapped his fingers and produced two ice-cold cans of his favorite fizzy intoxicant. Crumpling and tossing the empties, he re-loaded his beercap. He stood, scratched his hairy belly, and brooded over his newly acquired wife.

Buttercup lay frozen on the flowery bed, a beatific smile softening features that would otherwise have appeared harsh in the early morning light. No, who was he kidding? She looked angelic, no matter how much spandex she was wearing. Still, if he was tied to her by the terms of her nefarious binding-spell until “the end of time,” the obvious solution was to stop time, right?

Puck contemplated the charmed silver band that graced his finger. Buttercup was many things, but a fool was not one of them. In fact, he might even go so far as to say she was as shrewd and knavish as himself–a perfect match. So his solution seemed almost too easy. Was it another trap?

However, Robin Goodfellow was not known for his caution. Snagging the watch from the fairy king had been risky, but he knew his boss would be too busy “making up” with Titania to notice its absence. He removed the magically-binding wedding ring, then turned to face his lovely bride. He’d make the bitch pay, but there was no reason her punishment couldn’t be fun for both of them. He pressed a button on the watch’s side.

Time once more in motion, his blushing bride opened her eyes; her smile slowly widened as she took in his appearance.

“Hello, darling,” she said. “Want to play?”

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*I hope you enjoyed this! If you are a fellow fan of the Bard, I suggest you check out the Ohio Shakespeare Festival page and find out their schedule for the rest of this year! They are incredibly talented.

I will be concentrating on some longer-term projects in the next month, so I thought I would repost another of my favorite Shakespeare sequels. The text has been edited slightly since its original appearance on my blog several years ago.

***Today’s post is an expansion of a flash I wrote at the six minute story site as a continuation of an earlier flash, Puck’s Surprise. The kernel of today’s post is still there.

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com