POEM: Plague of Dragons

picture of fire-breathing dragon on top of a building
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com
Plague of Dragons

the world opens up as a new monster
looms on the horizon, belching fire,
slaughtering victims without thought
to gender, creed, or age: the smallest
of the small, resistant to her older
brother’s charms, no longer spared
infectious breath.

not content to massacre millions by breath alone,
she melts crematoriums whose iron frames soften,
run from the heat of so many bodies burned
in so few hours, days, weeks of death; chimneys
crack from overuse, appalling mockery that mimics
hospital beds buckling from the influx of live bodies
they strain to save and might despite their failures.
Parks no longer host festivals but burning pyres
that brighten twilight like bonfires left behind
by the wyrms’ warm feasting

or colossal candles lit in earth’s cathedral
for each of those extinguished lives, bright enough
to catch the eyes of the gods in their heavens
or the demons down below.

the beast that plagued last year seems tame
beside his younger sibling, the serpent virulent
exhaling flame who does not deign to spare
the lives of children.

Will she leap across the waters, span
the ocean, leave that far off land
to spread her curse upon
our slowly awakened shores?

Does she await our recovery
only to make her scourge more felt?




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Thanks for stopping by my blog. If you’d like to read about the crafting of “Plague of Dragons,” check out my Patreon next week for a free technical breakdown of the poem.

I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be reading selections from my book, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, at Barberton Library on Saturday, September 11th at 2pm! I will also be selling and signing copies of the book for those who are interested.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and read often!

*inspired by the Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus.

CURRENT EVENTS: Books Read in 2020

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy New Year! Hopefully, 2021 will be less problematic than 2020. 

In the meantime, I’ll share the books I’ve read in the past year. Due to the recent interesting times, many of them are books I’ve read before. When I want a comfort read, I’ll often reach for old favorites: Cyrano de Bergerac and The Walking Dead graphic novels are among my favorites. Since the list is pretty long (I’ll reach 100 one of these years!), I’m listing them by title. If you would like me to go into detail about any of these books, just leave a comment or contact me on social media. I love discussing books!

If you’d like to read one of these selections yourself, I’ve included links. Many of the reads were ebooks and audiobooks via various platforms, often through local libraries. I’ve always loved digital format, but in the past year it’s been more important than ever. Enjoy the list! Maybe you’ll find something you’ll like too.

BOOKS READ 2020:

1 Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (audiobook via Librivox.org)

So Marvelously Far (poetry collection) by Nick Gardner

3 The Ugly Side of the Lake (poetry collection) by Jason Baldinger and John Dorsey

4 Triple Threat (poetry collection) by John Dorsey

5 The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (ebook via Overdrive)

6 Our House on the Sand by Elaine Schleiffer (chapbook)

7 The Answer Is Not Here by Lisa M. & Sean Thomas Dougherty (chapbook)

8 Jigsaw Con Life 3 via Beautiful Blasphemy (ebook/ mini chapbook)

9 Siron: a Kaiju Thriller by S.T. Hoover

10 Mothmaw by Faryl (Hoover) (ebook)

11 The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley (audiobook via Audible)

12 Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (ebook via manybooks.net)

13 Resident Evil volume 1: The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry (ebook)

14 Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (audiobook via Overdrive)

15 ODD LOTS, SCRAPS & SECOND-HAND, LIKE NEW Poems by Will Wells (trade paperback/poetry)

16 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (ebook via Overdrive)

17 Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Audible audiobook)

18 Paradise Lost by Milton (NOOK ebook)

19 The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (HOOPLA Digital ebook)

20 Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (ebook)

21 ETERNALS by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel via HOOPLA)

22 The Abortion by Richard Brautigan (Audible audiobook)

23 The Walking Dead vol 1: Days Gone Bye by various

24 The Walking Dead vol 2: Miles Behind Us by various

25 The Walking Dead vol 3: Safety Behind Bars by various

26 The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire

27 The Walking Dead vol 5: The Best Defense by various

28 Quintessence by William F. Devault (ebook)

29 Meat and Bone by Sandra Feen (paperback)

30 The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life

31 The Walking Dead, Vol. 7:  The Calm Before

32 The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer

33 The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain

34 The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become

35 A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. Macdonald (ebook read on NOOK app)

36 The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear The Hunters

37 The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life Among Them 

38 The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone

39 The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out

40 The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves

41 The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World

42 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

43 The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After

44 The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War

45 The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War, Part 1

46 The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War, Part 2

47 The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning 

48 The Walking Dead, Vol. 24: Life and Death

49 The Walking Dead, Vol. 25: No Turning Back 

50 The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms

51 Appalachian Frankenstein Vol 2 by John Dorsey (paperback poetry collection)

52 The Poems of Sappho: An Interpretive Rendition into English (ebook via Manybooks.net)

53 The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War

54 F**K: An Irreverent History of the F-Word by Rufus Lodge (Kindle ebook)

55 The Walking Dead, Vol. 28: A Certain Doom

56 The Walking Dead, Vol. 29: Lines We Cross 

57 Ariel by Sylvia Plath (NOOK ebook)

58 A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca (ebook via Overdrive)

59 The Walking Dead, Vol. 30: New World Order

60 The Walking Dead, Vol. 31: The Rotton Core

61 The Walking Dead, Vol. 32: Rest In Peace

62 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (ebook via Overdrive)

63 Wonder Woman volume 4: War (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

64 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 1 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

65 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 2 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

66 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 3 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

67 Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (ebook via Overdrive)

68 The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (ebook via Overdrive)

69 The Short Stories Volume One by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)

70 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)

71 Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage (Audible audiobook) 

72 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / retold in modern prose, with prefaces and notes, by Jessie L. Weston. (NOOK ebook)

73 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (NOOK ebook)

74 The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (audiobook via Audible)

75 Drop Jaw by Rikki Santer (Trade paperback)

76 Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (NOOK ebook)

77 Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Overdrive)

78 Unbound (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)

79 The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (ebook via Libby)

80 Revisionary (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)

81 Orpheus and Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr (poetry collection ebook via Hoopla Digital)

82 Fort Pitt Tunnel Blues by John Dorsey (free ebook)

83 Wonder Woman: The Circle (graphic novel via Hoopla)

84 A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen by Kari Gunter-Seymour (Trade paperback)

85 Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (ebook via Overdrive app)

86 Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (ebook via Overdrive app)

87 i saw god cooking children/ paint their bones by john compton (handcrafted chapbook via Blood Pudding Press with Sandra Feen modeling on the cover art)

88 Trekonomics by Manu Saadia by (audiobook)

89 The Circus of His Bones: Poems by Steve Brightman (Trade paperback)

90 13 Ways of Looking at Lou Reed by Steve Brightman

91 The Divine Comedy by Dante: translated by Clive James (Audible audiobook)

*Currently reading/listening to:

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Lord Byron’s Don Juan (ebook via Manybooks.net)

An Introduction to Haiku with translations and commentary by Harold G. Henderson

If you’d like to hear about my favorites from this list, a free complementary post appears on my Patreon. Until next time, stay safe and well and read often!

POEM: “Unicorn Passing in the Night”

Unicorn Passing in the Night

 

She is a study in beauty.

 

Legend says her mane glistens white

as the moon on a cloudless eve,

but she clothes herself in any color: 

champagne, azure, emerald, lilac,

red as life’s blood, or black as death itself.

 

Legend says her single snow-white horn

glistening in moonlight cures poison,

plague, fevers, and the madness of rabid dogs,

but nothing of its sharpness,

its keen knife’s edge, its pointed menace,

its ability to pierce not just the veil

of starless nights but truth and flesh.

 

Legend says she is drawn to virgins and innocence.

but today she inhales pollution from passing cars,

the rot of butchered bodies buried in ruined forests,

and the desolation of urban decay

–yet she cleanses air like trees, exhales

the perfume of springtime flowers misunderstood as weeds.

 

She leaves, breaks wind with hues of ocean blue, 

the violent violet of freshly pressed grapes,

the crimson flame of a forest fire,

the golden color of sunlight,

and the green of springtime grass

trailing moon gas in her wake.

 

If you listen closely, you can still hear her laughter.



#

This poem was a challenge taken from a conversation with the lovely poet, Constance Plumley, to write an unfunny poem about a unicorn that “farts rainbows.” I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!


*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License.

Short Story: Family Holidays

black-elf

 

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!

 

Friday Flash Revisited: Pucked Up

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

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?”

##

*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

Friday Flash Revisited: Puck’s Surprise

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

Fairies were neither prudish nor temperate by nature, but when Puck’s pranks graduated from tipping old ladies to strategically placing whoopee cushions, he crossed a line. Something needed to be done.

“But what?” asked Oberon. Puck had served as his wingman for years, so he wished to handle the situation delicately. Several compromising photos were at stake.

Titania suggested an intervention, though Oberon thought the idea unproductive.

“I agree,” called a voice. “He’ll think it’s a joke, take it as a challenge, and be worse than ever.”

“Who speaks?” called Titania.

A delicate fairy woman appeared out of the crowd and knelt before the thrones. “Buttercup, my liege.”

“Well, do you have any better ideas?” said Oberon.

She grinned.

#

Later that afternoon, Oberon searched the woods.

“Puck! Robin Goodfellow!” called Oberon. He’d thrown dignity to the wind when he told Titania that he’d fetch Puck for the party, but he didn’t dare disappoint her again. He’d never live it down.

A nearby bush moaned softly, and Oberon pushed aside some leaves. “Puck? What are you doing here? I’ve been calling for nearly ten minutes!”

The wayward fairy rubbed his temple and moaned again. “Sorry, my liege. If I had been conscious, I would never have dared keep you waiting. Do you have some aspirin?”

Oberon produced two small pink tablets. “I’m always prepared.”

Puck sat up, scratched his hairy belly, and fished around on the ground for his beer cap. Fitting it to his scalp, he popped the pills and sipped from one of the cap’s straws. “What do you need, sire? Having trouble with the Queen again?” He rose unsteadily. “You know, I could get Cobweb and Mustardseed for you. They make a mean–”

“Really, Robin, you’ve been around mortals too much! That’s depraved, even for you, and–”

“–chocolate cake.”

“What?”

“Oh…oh! You thought I meant–”

“No, of course I didn’t–”

“Of course not. Not after last time, right?” Puck nudged the King and winked with one blackened eye.

After an uncomfortable silence, the King asked, “What happened to you?”

Rubbing his forehead, Puck said, “I really don’t remember, sire. There was this party–”

“Of course,” said Oberon.

“And all I… ah, I remember. Fraternities have no sense of humor no matter what they say.”

“What did you do?” asked Oberon. “Make an ass out of yourself again?”

Puck grinned. “No, but I think I made one out of them!”

Oberon sighed. “Not the donkey head again. What is it with you and donkeys? That’s the oldest joke in the book.”

“Actually, pardon my liege, but you’re thinking of the chicken that crossed the road.”

After another pause, Oberon continued. “Anyway, you need to come to your birthday party.”

Puck perked up. “Party?”

“Oh, I know- you don’t get enough parties, do you? But yes, and Titania won’t let me cut the cake until you blow out the candles and–”

“Cake?” The color returned to his face. “Did Cobweb and Mustardseed make it?”

“I don’t know. It’s a cake: chocolate with–”

Puck took off towards the court. Thunder boomed. Puck returned, bowing low. “After you, sire.”

“That’s better,” said Oberon. “Now, let’s get some cake.”

#

The crowd formed a wide circle around the large multilayered cake. Titania sat on her throne, resting her chin in her hand.

“Can I come out yet?” a muffled voice called.

“No, not yet. You know your cue!” snapped Titania.

“Yes, your Highness,” said the cake.

Just then Oberon entered the hall, followed closely by Puck. Everyone quieted and knelt before the King. The Queen straightened up and offered her hand to Oberon, who kissed it before sitting beside her. With a small nod from the royal couple, the Fairy Court rose again.

Puck ran to the cake.

Everyone sang a tune roughly kin to ‘Happy Birthday’, and on the final line a scantily dressed fairy woman popped out of the cake. “Surprise!” she said. Puck pulled her out and kissed her passionately.

“This is going to be the best birthday ever,” he said.

She guided a straw to his lips, so he could swig more beer.

#

The next morning, Puck awoke in the arms of the lovely Buttercup. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, licked some frosting from her hair, and patted her affectionately on the butt. He grabbed his boxers from a nearby twig and started to dress. “Thanks for a good time, but I gotta split.”

Buttercup rolled over and regarded him through heavy lidded eyes. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Puck tried vainly to put on a boot before realizing it wasn’t his. “Oops. Sorry.”

Buttercup sat up. “No, but you’re going to be.”

“Hey, relax, babe. It was an honest mistake.”

“That’s not what I meant,” said Buttercup.

“Okay, whatever. Have you seen my shoe?”

“Look at your finger.”

Puck looked carefully at his finger. “What? My shoe…?”

“No,” breathed Buttercup. “Look.”

Puck looked. A small silver band glinted in the morning sun. “What the…”

“We’re married.”

That brought him up short. “Married? How much did I drink last night?”

Buttercup smirked. “Quite a bit, but that’s not the best part.”

Worried, Puck asked, “What’s the best part?”

“The binding spell I put on your ring. You’re bound to me for life. I know your tendency to stray, but from now on, wanderer…,” she smiled again, “your ass is mine.”

Puck mulled this over. He liked bad girls; maybe this would be fun.

“What do you think about open marriages?” he asked.

A wicked grin crossed her face. “I said you’d be obedient,” she cooed. “Get rid of your whoopee cushions this instant!”

“Yes, Mistress.”

##

*I hope you enjoyed this! I will be concentrating on some longer-term projects in the next month, so I thought I would repost one of my favorite Shakespeare sequels. The text has been edited slightly since its original appearance on my blog several years ago. In two weeks, I will post a followup to Puck and Buttercup’s romance.

**I realize I’m not posting on a Friday, but I felt I should post sooner since my INKubator announcement is no longer relevant.

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash Revisited: As You Liked It –or– As You Like It, Part 2

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.closeup-grapes-cfd

“Father, the seating arrangement simply must be changed.”

“Why, Rosalind! Whatever do you mean? The couples are all seated next to each other, as befits an Anniversary dinner–”

“But whose Anniversary, pray you? Nay, not just mine and Orlando’s, but others’ as well!”

“Yes, of course, my dear. Don’t you see? I seated Celia and Oliver across from you.”

“But what of Touchstone? And Audrey?”

“They’re to have an excellent feast in the adjoining room, just as lavish, I promise you.”

“In the adjoining room! You did not seem so hard a year ago.”

“Well, it simply isn’t proper to have commoners seated at the table with nobility.”

“What of the Forest Arden! There you were content to sit alongside the beasts of the forest, and indeed, have your daughter married in the same ceremony as a fool and his lady.”

“A wise man does not argue with a god, Rosalind, no matter WHAT his rank.”

“The god, Hymen, is a rather agreeable sort.”

“The god of marriage wished to marry you. I will not quibble with a god about his own business.”

“It seems uncivil, somehow, to separate the celebrations now that we are back.”

“Then we were, as you so kindly observed my dear, in the forest. Manners in town must needs differ from the forest, and indeed, differ widely from Court.”

“What will your friend, Jacques, have to say about that, I wonder?”

“No doubt he will soliloquize awhile, and then wander off to be melancholy.”

“He does love to do that sort of thing; does he not?”

“Yes, my dear, though I fear he may not wander far enough. He’s rather fond of our fool.”

“Of Touchstone? I had forgot, but mayhaps he shake Jacques from his melancholy.”

“Oh no, my dear! For his happiness is more a terror than his melancholy. God save me from his mirth.”

“Now, Father, you are not in earnest. I see the curl of your lip and the sparkle of your wit. But come now. What of Audrey and Touchstone? Shall we seat them near Celia and her Oliver?”

“That depends. Has Oliver the patience for it?”

“Dear father, he is, of course, a patient and kind man. How could he be otherwise, when sired by Sir Roland and brother to my dear Orlando?”

“That same brother, whose life he aimed to end, I recall.”

“A miracle, I grant you. No doubt, my dearest friend, Celia, tamed his rage with her beauty.”

“I should hope so, for her sake. He wooed in haste.”

Give thy thoughts no tongue. You do not suggest–”

“No, my dear. I know your friend to be honest, though I do not trust HIS mind. False face may hide what the false heart doth know.”

“Father!”

“So the seating arrangement stays the same.”

“I have not agreed to such a thing. What of Silvius and his Phoebe?”

“The shepherd! I grant you, allowances are made for a licensed fool. It is the nature of his craft to be allowed liberties, but a shepherd-”

“Married by the god, Hymen, in the same ceremony as your own daughter and her friends.”

“The god is hardly going to come to the anniversary feast, now, is he?”

“—!”

“Oh, my lord Hymen! Pardon this poor mortal. I did not observe your august presence. Of course, I shall seat them together.”

“Lord Hymen, my father and I are grateful for your interest in our humble feast. It doth-”

“Left in a flash, did he not, my dear?”

“That was laid on with a trowel.”

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.

“Too true, dear Father. They treat the world as their stage, and they are the stage managers.”

“So, my dear, I suppose you shall have your way. All the lovers shall be seated at one table, as they were wed in one ceremony.”

“What shall we feast upon? Indeed, for I mean to make merry.”

Cakes and ale, my dear! Venison, and all manner of meat. The sauces shall be rich, and our wit more so.”

“What of your brother, Frederick? Will he not dine with us?”

“He is most welcome, as always, in my house.”

“Did not my Uncle eschew meat when he vowed a monastic life?”

“He need not eat it. I shall, for my own part, eat a pound of flesh, for my salad days are well behind me.”

“But your melancholy friend, Jacques… Will he not object to the venison?”

“Mayhap my head will ache all evening, and YOU may deal with Jacques! All the world’s a stage, indeed!”

“But father, I thought him your dear friend!”

“A friend, my dear, but his philosophy is too much for my mind. Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”

“Then it is a good thing Touchstone and his lady will be seated nearby. His merry wit may counter Jacques’ philosophy.”

“Rosalind, my dear, send for the apothecary. My head doth ache.”

#

*In honor of Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s premiere of As You Like It, I can’t help reposting my flash sequel. For fun, I bolded the lines that I stole… er, borrowed from Shakespeare!

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Twisted Tales 2016: Flash Fiction with a Twist!

Twisted Tales 2016 Cover

I know it’s a bit late, but the publication of Raging Aardvark‘s flash anthology is finally here! Please visit FaceBook for the Launch Party if you’d like to congratulate the authors, and I’m including some helpful links below for purchasing the book. I’m very happy to say my flash story, Mirror, appears in this anthology!

https://www.createspace.com/6652118 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206

If you’d like a paperback copy of the book, it’s selling for only $6.25. Twisted Tales is being sold without a profit, in order to promote the art of flash fiction. If you feel generous, please write a review when you are done. Flash Fiction, for those of you not exposed to it before, is simply very short fiction–usually a complete story under a thousand words. Every year there are events for (Inter)national Flash Fiction Day, and this anthology is a celebration of both the event and the writing itself.

If you can not afford to buy the paperback, you can also read the stories online at the publisher’s personal website, linked below. Simply scroll back though the stories, and enjoy!

https://annieonwriting.wordpress.com/category/twisted-tales/

I’m very happy to have been included in this anthology, and I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I have. Now, go read some flash fiction!

 

POEM: Skeletal Remains

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“Skeletal Remains”

 

In visions of the dark night

I have dreamed of joy departed—

But a waking dream of life and light

Hath left me broken-hearted.

 

The sighing wind

gives breath to the darkness,

the stars lighting the ebony sky

like pinpricks of God’s grace

that pierce the blackened heavens

with dazzling white.

Who would dare disturb this quiet, wake those

that haunt deserted paths? Best

seek safety in the North Star, our pilot light

In visions of the dark night.

 

My eyelids close,

lids lowered against

the terrors that make me tremble and seek

solace beneath warm cotton covers.

The witching hour strikes–

a time too late for the faint-hearted

that quake and shake and turn away

from what they–what we–cannot bear to face:

the lonely dead, quiet and disregarded.

I have dreamed of joy departed—

 

What dreams may come

to those that can not face their fears?

Sheltering beneath shut lids

holds no solace for those

whose frightful visions follow them

beyond the veil of sleep: the blight

of a million cares and worries,

the looming spectre of loneliness

a demon–no longer safely tucked out of sight

But a waking dream of life and light.

 

The daytime hours

contain the demons that

haunt my nightly dreams.

I look within myself each dusk

–trapped between the sun’s escape

and the rising mercurial moon,– unguarded

yet I find imprisoned courage.

When shall I be released?

This time–too long before I meet my dear departed–

Hath left me broken-hearted.

 

*glosa of “A Dream”  by Edgar Allan Poe, written for the Day 9 prompt of #ReadWritePoetry courtesy of Cuyahoga Library, in honor of National Poetry Month

 

**image courtesy of BigFoto.com

 

Friday Flash: Blind Date Night Out

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The strikingly beautiful brunette grinned at her reflection in the magic mirror.  The low cut black dress was flattering without being too revealing; she adjusted her sheer shawl over bare white shoulders and quickly headed out the door.

She saw her target waiting in the downstairs bar, a glass of fine whisky in his hand as he looked at the crowd swaying to the slow steady rhythm of a blues ballad. He eyed the many women in the undulating mass, a gradual smile spread his lips slightly, a predator selecting his prey. Taking a sip from his drink, he stood up and turned into the brunette beauty, spilling whisky down his crisp new suit and nearly falling in the process.

“Hey, handsome,” she said, the predatory smile on her own face a perfect reflection of his own. “Oh, I’m sorry. Let me get that for you.” She ran one long, slender finger up his front; her red nail made a zipping sound as it scratched against the suddenly dry fabric. “That better?”

“Now, that you’re here, hon’,” he said, recovering quickly, “everything’s better.”

“Really? You sure? You wouldn’t rather go after that sweet young thing over there?” She gestured disdainfully at the woman he had been watching the moment before.

“No, of course not,” he said. “I thought she might be a good match for Hermes, because, you know–”

She shushed him with one red painted nail to his lips. “Hon’, no talk about the kids on ‘date night,’ remember?”

“Oh,” he said, then breathed, “you truly are a goddess.” He ogled her sleek form all the way up to her large brown eyes and full red lips. “See what you do to me? I lose my head when I’m around you.”

His wife’s smile was secretive and seductive. “So, handsome,” she purred, “let me get you another drink.” A glass of champagne suddenly appeared from nowhere. She offered him the glass with one hand, her own pina colada in the other, and they entwined arms before sipping from their drinks. “Now, where were we?”

 

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com
*I’ll admit, Hera has been on my mind a lot, ever since completing my 2016 NaNoWriMo, so I thought it’d be fun for them to have a date night where Zeus has to pick up Hera at a bar. I think she was tempted to impersonate a mortal to catch him in a dalliance, but she resisted on the advice of their marriage counselor.